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ment of State he made a parting speech in glorification of the Compromise and himself. On this occasion he recapitulated the arguments in favor of the concession to Slavery of all it really wanted. This he described as the highest patriotic virtue; as the sacrifice which all good men were called upon to make for the satisfaction of their own country and of expectant Europe and posterity. He concluded this oration in the following self-denying and martyrly strain.
“For myself, I propose to abide by the principles which I have avowed. I shall stand by the Union and all who stand by it. I shall do justice to the whole country, according to the best of my ability, in all I say, and shall act for the whole country in all I do. Í
propose to stand on the Constitution, and I need no other platform. I shall know but our country. The ends I aim at, by the blessing of God, shall be my country's, my God's, and truth's. I was born an American, I live an American, and I shall die an American. But I mean, to the extent of my abilities, to perform the duties incumbent upon me in this character, whether public or private, to the end of my career, and I mean to do this with an absolute disregard of personal consequences. What are personal consequences? What is the amount of all the good or evil that could betide an individual, in comparison with the good or evil which, in a crisis like this, may happen to a great nation? Sir, let the consequences be what they may to me, I am careless. No man can hardly suffer too much, and no man can fall too soon, if he suffers or if he falls in defence of the liberties and the constitution of his country.”
That is to say, Mr. WEBSTER is willing to encounter the present certainty of the Secretaryship of State and the possible contingency of the Presidency, provided Slavery could be allowed the chance of extending her limits and Fugitive Slaves enough be seized and carried back to the patriarchal blessings from which they had ignorantly fled !
Of course, the progress of this Compromise matter could not have been delayed so long without a vigorous and determined opposition on the part of the better portion of the Senators. Messrs. SEWARD, HALE, and Chase, distinguished themselves by the courage and constancy with which they opposed the tide which appeared to be sweeping everything before it, and which did, in effect, afterwards have unrestricted sway. In the course of the discussions, Mr. SEWARD had moved that New Mexico should be admitted upon Proclamation of the President, on the ground that it was an independent State under Mexico, and that by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, she was entitled to as high a political estate as she enjoyed at that time, and in the course of his
speech had uttered the new and startling heresy that there was a “higher law” than the Constitution. This was received with the indignation it was fitted to inspire. Mr. Pratt, of Maryland, intimated that expulsion was the just due of the offender, and it has became the slang term of contempt for the extravagances of conscientious fanatics. A singular commentary on the character of our institutions ! And the more emphatic, inasmuch as Mr. SEWARD and Mr. HALE, while vindicating the doctrine of a higher law than the Constitution, would neither of them take the ground that there was anything in the Constitution opposed to that higher law! Thus virtually admitting that the seizing of men who had had love of liberty and energy enough to reinvest themselves with their natural rights and stripping them of those rights and replunging them into the hell of Slavery, is not forbidden by the higher law! Blackstone and Paley, and all writers on Law and Ethics, teach us that when a human enactment contravenes a Divine Law it is ipso facto void, and disobedience is obligatory upon all to whom it is addressed. In all other countries this is well understood and acted upon. In this, it is the main business of priests and politicians to prove by Scripture or by argument, either, that the law of man is of superior obligation to the law of God, or that acts which the moral sense of impartial mankind shrinks from as crimes of the most enormous and the most cowardly guilt, are innocent and praiseworthy. This is owing to the unyielding nature of our iron Constitution and its implacable compromises. Men are met at the threshold of public life and required to swear to perform certain specific acts before they can put their foot over it. They are then obliged to defend them all on their merits; or, to declare their intention to do them, though they acknowledge their iniquitous character; or, to violate their oath, when brought to the test, by refusing to perform them. The idea of refusing to exercise political power when it can only be obtained by a promise to use it for cruel and wicked purposes, seems to occur only to a few fanatics. And yet it seems hard to understand how men who acknowledge the things done to be wrong, can maintain their integrity and self-respect in any other way, or how, in a country where such is the Supreme Law of the Land, men of honor can exert political power except outside of it, and for the purpose of abrogating it.
By means of the various elements of opposition which were brought to bear upon the disposition of Mr. Clar's resolutions, combining southern zeal for greater latitude to Slavery with northern resolution to curb its dominion, they were finally, July thirty-first, reduced from
the goodly array originally introduced to the single item of a Territorial government for Utah. This result was welcomed by the lovers of liberty throughout the country. It was hoped that a substantial victory had been gained over the common enemy of the race in its strongest hold. But they who had watched the history of the Slave power from its first incorporation with our National institutions, though they rejoiced, did so with trembling. And the event showed their prophetic hearts had foreboded but too truly. Though the whole fagot was rejected by the Senate for various reasons, still the separate rods of which it was composed were soon brandished over us. In about ten days from the final disposition of the Omnibus Bill, August ninth, the bill admitting California passed to be engrossed, and, as an equivalent, the Texas and New Mexico question was “settled” by an act granting the former about seventy thousand square miles of territory, to which she had no shadow of right, and ten millions of dollars to console her for having extorted no more! A territory equal to all New England, well adapted to the abuses of Slavery, and, when erected into a State, as of course it will be in due time, completely destroying the shadow of proportion secured by the Resolutions of Texan Annexation in the possibility of a Free State north of the magic line there described ! And for this Bill, Mr. WINTHROP, the Senator appointed by the Governor in Mr. WEBSTER's place, the two Senators from Rhode Island, and one from Vermont voted, – without whose votes it could not have been carried. This on the ground of its being a peace measure ! One which it was best to pass rather than have a collision with Texas ! Good encouragement, surely, to all brawling nullifiers at the South to persevere in their threats and gasconades, for they will be sure to prevail in the end. We are not sure that, in its remote consequences, this concession to Texas will not be fraught with more disasters than all the other "peace measures" put together. The Bills admitting New Mexico and Utah, as Territories, without any restriction as to Slavery, were passed about the same time.
But the crowning glory of the Slave Power and the damning infamy of the North was the new Bill for thrusting those who had nobly vindicated their title to freedom, by achieving it for themselves, back into the condition of beasts of burden and articles of household stuff. This price at which our southern brethren were willing to consent to submit to the insult of California's electing to be a Free State, we think worth recording at length in the Appendix to this Report. A stronger proof of the despotism which is masked under the
Constitution of the United States could hardly be imagined. The right of Habeas Corpus denied, evidence taken in another State admitted to settle a question of personal liberty by the uncertain marks of personal identity, the decision of a Commissioner made final, the infliction of heavy fines and imprisonment as the punishment of the simplest duties of common humanity, make an aggregation of crimes which has well entitled this Act the Bill of Abominations. No amendment of any importance could be made in it, it was accepted and passed, August twenty-third, substantially as it came from the hands of the craftiest and wickedest of the Slaveholders. As a piece of diabolical ingenuity, for the accomplishment of a devilish purpose, it stands without a rival among all the tyrannical enactments or edicts of servile parliaments or despotic monarchs. Only Twelve were found to record their voices against its passage, while Twenty-seven gave it the stamp of law. How deeply disgraceful is it to our nation that a law in some such shape is justified by the terms of the fundamental law, and that it is to its details rather than to its principle that men content to acknowledge allegiance to the Constitution must limit their condemnation. Those details are indeed such as may well make us blush for the barbarism of the nation of which we have the misfortune to be members. These are the tests that try our vain-glorious braggings and show
that change our countenance and send us away ashamed ; or would do so, if the national brow were not of bronze, as its heart is of iron. It is such as these that strip the delusive veil from the face of the Mokanna Republic of the Western Continent, and it stands revealed, instead of a Prophet of God appointed for the deliverance of the oppressed of all the world, a juggling Fiend, a moral Monster, that battens on the blood and misery of the poor and helpless. It is the professions of the nation done into English translated into the vernacluar - made level to the meanest understanding. The Model Republic is shown to be the Model Dungeon, with thirty wards, for the torture of the Innocent. The Home of the Free is the place where their three million Slaves have no Home. The Land of the Brave is the land where those faithful to its Institutions are bound to be the most cowardly of miscreants to be the tools of the most dastardly of tyrants. The Refuge of the Oppressed is the refuge where the most wretched of all the victims of Oppression can have no help, save in defiance and despite of the Laws of the Land.
In the House, the important business of the session, which had occupied so long a portion of the time of the Senate, was perfunctorily
us as we are
despatched. The Territorial bills came first in order. The Texas Boundary bill came up on the third of September. It filled three days with an excited debate. Its enemies took every means to defeat it. The history of the motions to lay upon the table, to amend by substitution, by the incorporation of the Wilmot Proviso, and all the other devices of parliamentary tactics, would occupy an unprofitable space in so brief an abstract as we can afford. At the close of September fourth, the House had refused to pass the bill to a third reading by a vote of one hundred and twenty-six, to eighty. But, on the morning of the fifth, this vote was reconsidered by a vote of one hundred and thirty-one, to seventy-five. At the close of that day the third reading was again refused by a vote of one hundred and seven, to ninety-nine. On a motion to reconsider this vote, the Speaker, though intensely southern and disgracefully partial, was obliged to rule it out of order, one such motion having been already made. On the sixth, the House, on Appeal, reversed the decision of the Speaker by a vote of one hundred and twenty-three, to eighty-three. Under the pressure of the Previous Question (moved by Mr. Howard, of Texas,) the bill was then passed to a third reading by a vote of one hundred and eight, to ninety-eight! An instance of parliamentary tergiversation unexampled we believe even in the annals of Congress, and only to be accounted for by the omnipotent presence of Texas Scrip, which rose at once from almost nothing to more than par. It was finally passed by a vote of one hundred and seven, to ninety-seven. The Territorial bill for New Mexico was incorporated with this bill in the course of its eventful history and its title amended accordingly. On the seventh, the California bill came up, and after various attempts to amend it into a shape yet more acceptable to Slavery and to diminish the extent of territory it protected, the bill finally passed by a vote of one hundred and fifty, to fifty-seven. The Utah bill being the next in order, a short but desperate fight was had over it. Mr. WENTWORTH moved the Wilmot Proviso, as he had done for California, but with as little success. Propositions on the other side to allow Slaveholders to carry in their Slaves until a State government was formed, to repeal all laws prohibiting Slavery west of the Mississippi, etc., etc., were also voted down, and the bill passed by a vote of ninety-seven, to eighty-five.
The way was now clear for the Crowning Mercy of the Fugitive Slave law. The manner in which it was disposed of may be briefly told, but should be forever remembered. On the twelfth of September, the Senate Bill was taken up and read. Mr. Thompson,