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Nor is the Territory belonging to the United States any new thing. We made of it an express mention, and empowered Congress to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting it; of which we have treated before. Consequently, these things cannot be touched nor altered by any majority of the people to the prejudice, I do not say of the minority, but of a single citizen.
Majority is nothing else but the mode of ascertaining the truth, or the will of the community about what must be done in given subjects of common interest. This mode is, not only the best that human prudence could devise, but is indispensable, the only one that may be used in republican governments. The voters being all equal among themselves, their votes also must, of necessity, be all of equal weight. And whenever they happen to be divided, it is plain that the majority must carry the point; because, not only there is a reasonable presumption, but necessity forces on us the conviction, that the right decision is with the greater number. There is, in fact, no reason why of ten voters, all other things being equal, four should be preferred to six but there is, on the contrary, a very good reason, why six should be preferred to four: and that reason is just because six is more than four.
It may, and does happen, that the few see better than the many, or even one better than a great multitude; but, when a general rule must be fixed to ascertain the will of the people in what equally affects every individual, and the rule be based upon the principle of individual suffrage, there can be no other way to proceed rightly, but this: "What the greater number agree and concur in, that is good for the community, and that must be done.”
All this, however, must necessarily be understood in those matters only, which, in the Government's first organization, have been submitted to the popular vote. For, when the matter itself cannot be the subject of discussion and suffrage, either because it has been pre-occupied and decided by the whole people at the time when they first
formed the government, or because it is not of public interest, but affects only a portion of the community; then, it is manifest, majority or minority have nothing at all to do with such a case. It cannot be so much as proposed to the popular assembly against the will of the parties concerned; and far less can it be treated and deliberated upon by any majority, let it be never so large.
To assert or maintain the contrary to this were nothing less than to take away the very foundation of republican governments, and put in its stead the basis of a despotism which, in its action and effects, would be far worse than any tyranny.
I have before hinted that, in order to measure the weight of suffrages, or compare majority with minority, and decide that the latter must acquiesce in the judgment and will of the former, expressed in the form and manner prescribed by the Constitution, the subject matter must be such as equally to interest all the citizens of the Union. This not only is dictated by Reason and sound Policy, but the contrary is absolutely impossible being just. Now, Slavery is not a common concern in the Union, but is exceptional, belonging only to one portion of its members. And how can, consistently with justice, that whole portion of the people who are not concerned in Slavery, legislate upon it to the prejudice of that other portion of the people who are the only ones interested in it?
Had you invited the Slaveholding States to meet and determine between themselves, Whether Slavery is to be excluded from the common territories of the Union, that being accounted final decision, which two thirds, or any majority of them should agree to, it would have been less evil; although such a proposal on your part would still have been unjust and unconstitutional,-those States having a perfect right of refusing to act upon your call. But to propose an amendment to the Constitution, to be made by your own agency and vote, upon a matter in which you have no interest whatever, except a self-assumed one, and a deter
mined, well-known will of putting it down, while the decision, if made to your satisfaction, is to bear exclusively against that portion of the community who are the only interested in it,-upon a matter, moreover, which has already been taken in hand and positively determined by the Constitution itself,-appears to us to be such a thing as we know not how to characterize, nor by what name to call.
If you are sure of your numbers, the question is already decided; and by finding some easier way of collecting the votes than is to formally assemble the people in a convention, you might as well enact the law excluding Slavery from the Territories at once. By this means, besides saving time and trouble, you would not add to the injustice of the enactment the greatly aggravating circumstance of making us, as it were, your accomplices. For, when you use the form of calling the people into a solemn convention, it seems that, by covering what you do with a cloak of legality, you intend to appear so as if you acted by the authority and power given you by the Constitution.
We know not whether the world would believe that this instrument had any part in the deed, either by occasioning, or authorizing, or sanctioning it; although it were not for your interest that they should believe so. Certain it is, however, that such a deed would stand before mankind as a monument, that in the United States of America one portion of the people have, by a solemn enactment, dispossessed the other portion of their fellow-citizens, who are unwilling, of rights which their common law had secured to all.
We forbear mentioning the disastrous effects which such a glaring injustice could not fail to produce in both public and private affairs. The least bad, and we wish it were the only one, would be the final dissolution of the Union,-perhaps immediate, but surely at no long time afterward. Although the sooner were this effected, under the circumstances, the better would it be for all.
As to its effects abroad, we believe that, in the estimation of the world, there is nothing which a people would be
deemed not capable of doing, who could, not only connive at such a deed, but do it themselves. By a natural consequence, everybody would be afraid to treat, or have anything to do with them, except when compelled by necessity, or sure of present advantage,-which could not be but to their loss.
But the evils which it would cause among themselves and their posterity in all matters whatever, are too numerous to be mentioned, as they are too great to be adequately estimated. The Lord Bacon, whose words I value more when, seated in common conveyances, he makes excursions on law or politics, than when, mounted on his hobby, he intends to travel through the fields of Natural Science, gives a rather strange interpretation to that proverb of Solomon: "Fons turbatus pede, et vena corrupta, est justus cadens coram impio," saying: "Here is noted that one judicial and exemplar iniquity in the face of the world doth trouble the fountains of justice more than many particular injuries passed over by connivance." The fountains of justice can never, indeed, be troubled by any iniquity on the part of men; they should not be fountains, if they could; but if he means to point to the comparative effect of bad examples, he speaks wisely and truly. With still more truth we say, however, that one single public, as it were, governmental injustice does incomparably more harm to a community than a great number of private ones unpunished put together.
So long as your animosity against the South in regard to Slavery has been confined to expression of opinions,-to debates, even in Congress and on public measures,--to acts and injuries perpetrated by private individuals, or even bodies of men,-it was a bad thing, indeed, to be effectually repressed or punished, and its recurrence prevented. But yet, though unpunished or unnoticed, it might be regarded as the working of human passions which can nowhere be wholly subdued,-vicissitudes that will ever occur in large communities of men, especially one like ours. But the
moment any such thing should be embodied in a law, and, as it were, sanctioned in principle,-when especially it should be covered with the name of amendment, appended to the Constitution, and thus made to take its lustre, so to say, from the light reflected by the gold of that instrument, —that moment it would change its character as well as its influence. It would then represent the morality and the ideas of justice, not of private persons, how numerous soever, in the community, but of the people in a body, of the community itself, of its Government, of its very laws.
But suppose the amendment were proposed and enacted according to your wish: notwithstanding so great a success, you would have gained nothing after all. As it is certain that to exclude Slavery from the common territories, the slaveholders being unwilling, would be a partial destruction of the rights guaranteed to the confederate States and their citizens, so it is likewise certain that the partial destruction of those rights would be an alteration made in some of the articles of the Act of Confederation which bound them together when they formed the Union. Now, the last article of this act ordains that "Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States, in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them." The question of Slavery in States or Territories has not been by the Confederation submitted to the United States in Congress assembled; nor has it been submitted to them by the Constitution afterward: therefore, no State, who should be unwilling, could be bound to abide by the disposition embodied in your amendment.
But there is more in that article. For, after declaring, "The articles of this confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual,” it immediately subjoins, "Nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them, unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the Legislature of every State." As, then, the amendment excluding Slavery from the Territories