Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

were an attempt by violence to introduce them. True freedom is only where the law is supreme, and the law is supreme only where the people reverence it, and feel themselves bound by their duty to God to obey it.

SLAVERY AND THE MEXICAN WAR.*

[From Brownson's Quarterly Review for July, 1847.]

We always read Mr. Rhett's speeches with interest, and rarely withont instruction. He ranks high among the most eminent of South Carolina's gifted sons, is high-minded and honorable, one of the few—alas! very few—of our public men who act always from principle. He may sometimes be unsound in his views, but he always aims at truth and justice, and acknowledges that in politics, as in every thing else, a man should always act under a deep and abiding sense of moral obligation.

The speech before us is earnest, able, and eloquent,—the production of the statesman and the constitutional lawyer. It is on a subject of great and almost fearful interest, which is every day forcing itself more and more directly upon the attention of the American people. It is contined, indeed, principally to the inquiry, Where vests the political sovereignty, under our system of government? but it raises this inquiry only in its bearing on the great and absorbing question of slavery. The question of slavery is becoming for us, through the influence of causes no longer controllable, the qnestion of questions, which can henceforth be blinked with safety by no section of the Union, but which must be met and in some way disposed of, or it will dispose of the Union itself. How it is to be met and disposed of it is not easy to say, and not for us to attempt to say.

As conductor, some years since, of the Boston Quarterly Review, we took frequent occasion to express our views of the abolitionists; and though inany, many changes have come over us, and we can hardly be recognized by our readers as the same man that we were then, our estimation of them remains unaltered, except that, if possible, we now hold them in still greater detestation. They are the worst enemies of their country, and the worst enemies, too, of the slave. They are a band of mad fanatics, and we have no language strong enough to express our abhorrence of their principles and proceedings. But we cannot shut our eyes to the fact, that they have the sympathy of a large portion of the people of the free states, and that in several of the northern states they are already powerful enough to make it an object for demagogues to bid for their suffrages. Both political parties pander to them. Even the administration seems to court them; for it has appointed from this commonwealth scarcely an individual to a proininent office in its gift, not selected from the abolition section of its friends, -certainly, no one distinguished for his bold and resoluté opposition to abolition movements.

*Speech of the Hon. R. B. RuETT, of South Carolina, on the Oregon Territory Bil, excluding Slavery from that Territory,--the Missouri Compromise being proposed and rejected. Delivered in the House of Representatives of the United States, January 14, 1847.

In the Whig party the tendency to abolitionism, or to court the abolitionists, is, perhaps, still more decided than in the Democratic party. In Maine, New Hampshire, Verinont, Connecticut, the party, at least just before elections, is almost avowedly abolitionist, and would be in this state, were it not for a few distinguished leaders, whose influence we are sorry to see daily declining. Young Whigdom in all the free states, composed of young men and boys, not to say young misses, who are soon to be the Whig party itself, is virtually an abolition party, and its leaders are nearly as far gone as Garrison, Phillips, Leavitt, and Abby Foster.

All the sects, if we except, perhaps, High Church Episcopalians, are either already carried away by the abolition fanaticism, or rapidly yielding to it. The great body of Unitarian ministers in New England, once a respectable and conservative body of men, exerting, indeed, a bad influence on religion, yet highly commendable for political and social virtues, are almost to a man now mad and fanatical socialists and abolitionists. If some few yet hold out, they are timid, and without influence on the general action of the body of which they are members. Nearly all the men from Protestant theological seminaries come out infected, and, wherever settled as ministers, seek to enlist their congregations in the movement. Only the church, which cart be surprised by no new moral or social question, which

young has nothing to learn from experience, and whose doctrines on all subjects are long ago determined and fixed, remains unaffected by the fanaticism around her, and pays no attention to the decisions of modern casuists.

Add to this the new aspect the question assumes through the anticipated extension of American territory by conquests from Mexico, and the bravest must admit that there is serious cause for alarm. The slave-holding states contend that the territories of the United States not yet erected into states belong to all the states in common, and must be as open to their citizens to settle and occupy with their property, as to the citizens of the free states; and there is a very general determination on the part even of the most moderate of the citizens of the free states to resist the further extension of the slave system. The majority of them will not seek to disturb it where it now legally exists, but they feel, that, for the sake of humanity and the honor of the American states, they ought resolutely to oppose all efforts to open new territory to it. If any new territory shall be acquired by the Union, a conflict is likely to come, whose shock may shiver the Union, and reduce it to its primitive elenients.

For ourselves, we adopt no extreme views on the question of slavery. We have no sympathy with the abolitionists ; we entertain not for a moment even one of their fundamental principles

. Man, we are ready to maintain, may have property in man, a valid right to the services of his slave,thongh no dominion over his soul ; slavery is not malum in se and in no case justifiable; there is nothing in slavery that necessarily prevents the slave-holder from being a true and pious Christian; and where the master is a true Christian, and takes care that his people are instructed and brought up in the true Christian faith and worship, slavery is tolerable, and for negroes, perhaps, even more than tolerable. Many of the laws of the slave-holding states on slavery are unnecessary, unjust, cruel, and disgraceful; a large body of the slave-holders are deeply censurable for neglecting to recognize and respect marriage among their people, and for bringing them up in heathenism or heresy ; but we have no sympathy with those who denounce them because they are slaveholders, and we have no reason to suppose that they cannot, in the moral, social, and religious'virtues, compare favorably with their brethren of the North; and, whatever repugnance we may feel, personally, to the slave system, we are fully convinced that the greatest disservice they could do their slaves would be to grant them immediate emancipation ; which would be as cruel as for a father to turn his children out upon the world, at a tender age, to take care of themselves.

But the great body of the people of the free states are in principle opposed to the whole system of involuntary servitude." All their feelings and convictions are against it

. They may not, the majority of them, as we have said, seek to disturb it where it now has a legal existence; but they shrink from its further extension within the bounds of the Union. They regard it as inconsistent with their professions of liberty and equality, and they feel acutely the hypocritical taunts of foreigners. They cannot endure the thought of consenting to pour ont their blood and treasure to extend its area, and sooner than do so they are not unlikely to join in the enterprise to overthrow it where it is now established. If we have not mistaken the feeling in the free states, the determination is fixed, even in the minds of the warmest and least hesitating friends of the South, that there shall be no further extension of the slave territory of the Union, and no more slave states admitted into the 'Union. Whatever we may think of such a determination itself, we regard it as madness to deny its existence, and idle to attempt to withstand it.

But here arises a serious difficulty. The territories of the United States not yet erected into states belong to all the states in common, and must, in justice, be open alike to the citizens of each, who may wish to occupy them. Congress can make no discrimination between the states, in prescribing the conditions on which the territories may be settled and occupied. If the citizens of non-slave-holding states are left free to settle and occupy them with their property, the citizens of the slave-holding states must also be left free to settle and occupy them with theirs. The fact, that the latter recognize property in slaves, while the former do not, cannot be taken into the account. Congress has no authority to define property, to say what shall or shall not be property, but is bound to respect as property, for the citizens of each state, what their state defines to be property, . One state cannot define it for another; for, in relation to the others, each state is an independent sovereign, and its definition of property within its own limits must be respected by all others, as well as by the Union. Hence, in the territories which belong to no state in particular, but of which all are tenants in common, no state can have any right to make its system of property prevail over that of any of the others; and congress, being bound to respect the system of each for the citizens of each, cannot prefer the system of one to the exclusion of the system of another. Then congress can make no law which would prohibit the citizens of slave-holding states from emigrating to the territories and occupying them with their property in slaves, any more than it can prohibit the citizens of the non-slave-holding states from occupying them with their property in horses and mules, sheep and cattle. The famous Wilmot proviso was, therefore, unconstitutional, and could not have been passed without a usurpation of power.

But it is contended, on the other hand, that the general government is the sovereign of the territories belonging to the United States, and therefore may prohibit slavery in them, if it chooses. This position would seem to be supported by the ordinance erecting the old Northwest Territory, by the Missouri compromise, as it is called, and the exercise by the general government of sovereign powers in the erection of territorial governments. But the erection of territorial governments does not imply plenary sovereignty, and may be defended on the ground of a sovereignty within the limits of the constitution ; and the precedents established by the ordinance and the compromise, if unconstitutional, cannot be pleaded.

Mr. Rhett, in the speech before us, denies that the general government holds the sovereignty of the territories in question, and he does it on the ground, that the general sovereignty exercised by the Union vests, not in the Union itself, but in the states severally which have created the Union. But this, though conceded, would not of itself, be decisive of the case. It matters not, so far as the exercise of sovereignty by the Union is concerned, whether that sovereignty vests originally in it, or be only delegated to it. If the states have delegated to it the sovereignty in full of the territories, it can exercise all the sovereignty over them it could, if it were sovereign in its own right. But there is, as we shall by and by show, no express delegation of such sovereignty, and the sovereignty in its full sense over them must vest where, and only where, under our system, the plenary sovereignty in general is vested. If it is in the Union, then the Union is sovereign over the territories by its own right, and can exercise plenary sovereignty over them, unless the constitution ordains to the

« AnteriorContinuar »