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the worst governed country on earth, and that the Northern section had borne most of the evil and was the most miserable portion of it.
In the debates of the convention which framed the Constitution, apprehension was expressed that the three large States might combine against the smaller ones. Mr. Madison, in reply, said that no danger need be apprehended on that account, because such was the diversity of interest between these three large States that they could not combine. The staple of Virginia, he said, was tobacco; that of Pennsylvania was flour, and of Massachusetts FISH. The staple of Massachusetts then was fish. What are now her staples? New York, then a little State, dreading a close alliance with her great neighbors-look at her to-day! Pennsylvania, whose representative, Gouverneur Morris, spoke contemptuously of the New England States in comparison with the middle ones, especially his own, she, sir, notwithstanding a progress which none of her sons at that day anticipated, finds herself in danger of being passed by Ohio, a State not then in existence-a creation of the Constitution itself. But the South, under whose control and for whose benefit it is pretended the entire powers of the government have been exercised, though she has made no inconsiderable progress, yet, in comparison with the North, she seems to have retrograded. So striking is the disparity, that the Abolitionists are constantly asserting that the South is too feeble to uphold slavery herself, and that, if the protection which the Constitution of the United States gives were withdrawn, slavery would fall of itself.
That great disadvantages would result, Mr. Chairman, from the destruction of the Constitution, I am the last man to doubt. The evils of such a catastrophe are so great that I could not conceal them if I would, and I would not conceal them if I could. But, sir, it may well be questioned whether the calamities which it would bring would fall more heavily on us than upon others. Though the slave States are not equal to the free in population and wealth, yet the strength they have is amply sufficient for purposes of defence, either as against the North or against foreign nations. In fact, I might say with truth that the smallest republican States that have ever existed in the world, as long as they were actuated by a determined spirit, have successfully resisted invasion. Not only is the population of the South, and its extent of territory, amply sufficient for present purposes, but its chance of extending its dominions would be better than that of the free States, since we have on our southern border a feeble neighbor, while Great Britain would most probably be able to protect her colonies on the northern border of the Union. Though we have little of commercial and manufacturing wealth, yet the tariff and navigation laws which we should establish by excluding the competition of the North would soon give us both. This, and the aversion to going into what would then be a foreign, most probably a hostile country, would keep our population at home. And since the States south of the Ohio river, on both sides of the Mississippi, are quite strong enough to hold that territory, it might well be doubted if the new States on its upper waters would not find powerful inducements to unite their political with their commercial interest. But we are denounced for our bad morals, and sneered at for our weakness, from
time to time. A recent publication says, "traitors to freedom at heart, as the slave interest ever was," &c. We shall be content to exhibit to the world such morals as those of John Marshall, William Gaston, and a thousand others that I might name; such devotion to freedom as Henry, and Jefferson, and Madison, and Davie, and Rutledge exhibited ; with as much courage to defend it as Washington and the old thirteen slave States manifested in their day-such as our citizens showed since in the defence of Baltimore and New Orleans, and such as has been exhibited on the battle-fields of Mexico by the regiments from Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and South Carolina. As I have had occasion to speak rather unkindly of some of the sons of the latter State, you will pardon me, sir, for adding that an intimate acquaintance with her citizens enables me to say that there are none elsewhere more generous, liberal, frank and brave. And the late Colonel Butler-I knew him well-when he died, left nowhere a nobler soldier to defend the flag of his country.
What, Mr. Chairman, is to be the result of these attempts on the part of the North? I do not allude to interference with slavery, as it exists in the States and Territories. No sane man imagines for a moment that any action of Congress could have any other effect, except to liberate such fugtive slaves as might escape over the lines after a dissolution of the Union. But, sir, what is to be the effect of this action, if carried out, in relation to territory to be hereafter acquired? I do not pretend that any section of the Union can insist fairly that territory should be acquired for her benefit. We are, doubtless, all bound in good faith to adhere to the Constitution and Union with such boundaries as it had when we became parties to it. But I do say, that if the government should acquire territory, it takes it under the Constitution for the benefit of all, and a decree that any section or its citizens shall be excluded from all such territory, would be as great a violation of the Constitution as the government could possibly commit. Such is substantially this proposed exclusion of slavery from all territories hereafter to be acquired. Will the slave States acquiesce in this state of things; or would they suppose that a government which was capable of this would not stop short of inflicting any other wrong? Would they ever acquiesce in this radical change of the Constitution-a change, the leading object and effect of which would be to degrade them from their present position of equality?
Rufus King, of Massachusetts, said, in the debates of the convention, when the subject of slave representation was under consideration, in allusion to the position of the Southern States: "If they threaten to separate now, in case injury shall be done them, will their threats be less urgent or effectual when force shall back their demands? Even in the intervening period there will be no point of time at which they will not be able to say, Do us justice or we will separate." What will they do in this emergency? It is a most unseasonable time for you to expect us to acquiesce in such a decree of political and social degradation, now, when some of the best blood of the South has been poured out like water on that territory. I will not, sir, undertake to tell you what they will do, because I have not been commissioned by them to announce their purposes, and I would not wish to be the first to announce painful
intelligence to your ears. You, Mr. Chairman, can judge of this as well as I. You remember when Great Britain claimed theoretically supremacy over the colonies, what those thirteen slave-holding colonies did. Do you suppose that the enjoyment of liberty for more than sixty years has rendered us indifferent to is sweets; or, if you please, that domination for that period over our slaves has made us willing to change places with them? Though I will not attempt to tell you what the Southern States will do, yet, sir, it is my privilege, as a republican and a freeman, to disclose frankly my own purpose. a S
I am for maintaining our present Cone meon of government as long as any amount of human exertion can uphold it. Whatever of courage and patriotism induces the hardy mountaineer of Switzerland or Circassia, to struggle for ages against the sword of the invader in defence of the snowy mountains which shelter him-whatever an Athenian felt. due to liberty on the plain of Marathon, or the Spartan king owed to his country when he devoted himself to death at Thermopyla-this, and more than all this, I hold to be due from every American citizen to the Constitution of his country. But when a great organic change is made in that Constitution-a change which is to degrade those who have sent me to represent them here-then, sir, at whatever cost of feeling or of personal hazard, I will stand by the white race, the freemen of the South. Should we be forced away, we will control as we best can the inferior race which Providence has placed under our charge. We shall deal better by them than England does with her Irish or East Indian population. We may not find it safe to impart to them the highest degree of intellectual culture, even if they were capable of receiving it. Many of the Roman slaves were learned in physic and other sciences, but when it was proposed to distinguish the slaves by a peculiar dress, the sagacious Senate refused, fearing thus to teach them their great superiority of numbers. Nature has given our slaves a garb which distinguishes them from us, and places a barrier to social and political equality. Should they by these or other causes be driven to insurrections, we may be forced to destroy many of them, as Rome did in her servile wars. It is hardly possible that any contingency will render it necessary for the white race, in its own defence, to exterminate them, as the New Englanders did the Pequod and other Indian tribes, whom they found in their way on that territory. But, happen what may, we shall never be degraded to the level of such liberty and equality as prevails in Mexico, much less reduced to the condition of St. Domingo. The North, if she is not satisfied with the present Constitution, may go on in search of such a system as has never yet existed. She may go on with her progressive democracy, as Rome did after the days of the Gracchi; she may go on till she finds such equality as prevailed in France when Mirabeau was an orator, and Robespierre a magistrate. Whether she will then find a Cæsar or a Napoleon, or whether she will move on into some new Utopian fields of liberty, time only can disclose.
It would be vain, however, for us on either side to hope for such prosperity as we have hitherto enjoyed. If the stream of our national existence should be divided, each branch must roll a diminished volume, and would be able only to bear a lesser burden. Such a separation would be the saddest of all partings. We should feel that our way was
lonely, like that of Hagar in the desert-desolate as the wanderings of our first parents when crime had just begun. Like the exile of Bolingbroke, we should have the same revolution of the seasons, the same sun and moon, and azure vault and rolling planets above our heads, but not the same mind and the same feelings. The vast constitutional edifice reared by our ancestors, and which they fondly hoped would stand like those marvelous eastern pyramids, the monuments of forty centuries, would, like the fabled palage of Aladdin, have melted away in the mists of the morning. It would hies cult and most painful to realize our new situation. Our fleets ar s in other lands would find themselves suddenly divided into aliens, possibly enemies to each other. When the veteran Scott should chance to cross my path, am I, because he is a resident of a free State, to gaze on him only as I would on Wellington or Soult? If the gallant Worth should come in my way, shall I not take him by the hand as a countryman? If Taylor should go to the North, will he be regarded as an alien? And those that stood under him at Buena Vista-are Lincoln, and Hardin, to be separated from Clay, and McKee, and Yell, by whose sides they lived and died in defence of the banner of a common country?
Great, however, as are the perils which beset us, we have powerful allies to resist them. After the adjustment of the painful difficulty in the days of nullification was known in France, Lafayette, the friend of America, who had looked on with intense anxiety, on the first public occasion gave as a sentiment, "the good sense of the American people, which enabled them wisely to settle all domestic difficulties." We have abroad, among our people, a mass of strong, clear good sense, which in times of trial and danger has always sustained and controlled the action of the government. We have a community of interest, which it would seem that no party madness could break up. We have, too, recollections of the past, which to American feelings are stronger even than calculations of interest. Our immediate ancestors, in the establishment of our independence, and in the creation of this Constitution, performed such deeds as the world never saw; and we have fresh in our minds the recollections of their common counsels, common sufferings, common struggles, and common triumphs. There are Adams and Jefferson in counsel together; there are Bunker Hill and Yorktown; there the blood of Warren, and Montgomery, and Pulaski, and De Kalb; the genius of Franklin, and the great name of Washington; the daring of Paul Jones and Decatur, on the broad blue water, and the dying words of Lawrence. These recollections of the mighty dead stand, like giants of the olden time, to defend their Constitution. If, with all these proud recollections of the past, and such anticipations for the future as never a nation had, we can destroy this bond of Union, then we shall deserve a position as low as it may otherwise be high.
Though individuals might commend a speech like this, yet such was the state of feeling then existing in the country that neither appeal nor argument could produce any material change in the action of parties.
That portion of the Whig party in the North, which cherished the views of the old federalists, in favor of a strong central government, as a means
of obtaining pecuniary advantages over the Southern and Western States, saw that the anti-slavery agitation would give them great additional strength. The abolitionists were, of course, in favor of a consolidated government, in order that they might, through it, assail slavery in the States, and it was natural that those at the North, who wished to use the government as a great money-making machine for themselves, should seek an alliance with them.
The Northern Whigs, however, had to play a part which was attended with great risk, and required the most delicate management. If they went too far, they might show their hand to the Southern Whigs, and thus by losing the whole South, and the moderate men of the North, incur defeat. It was their purpose, if possible, to beat their opponents, the democrats, without driving off from them the freesoilers and other anti-slavery men. They were willing to take up General Taylor if he would avoid publicly committing himself, on the subject of slavery, in the Territories. His friends induced him so to act as to meet their views. He declared, in substance, that he would not veto a bill unless it was, in his view, unconstitutional. With him as a candidate they could take the position that, as the restriction of slavery or Wilmot Proviso had already been settled by repeated precedents, he would not fail to sign such a bill; and hence it was only necessary for the people of the North to be sure to elect men pledged to the proviso and other kindred measures. They relied on the fact of Taylor being a large slaveholder and his military popularity, to satisfy the Southern Whigs. But if any other candidate, among those prominent, had been nominated, a declaration of principles might have been required.
It was because I saw that Taylor's candidacy, in the attitude in which he then stood before the country, would be used to strengthen the anti-slavery movement, that I attempted to have General Scott nominated rather than Taylor. Immediately after the nomination of the latter, I was surprised to discover that Mr. Seward's special friends, though they had been ostensibly against General Taylor, were really gratified by his nomination.
To show how the desire to beat the Democratic party restrained the action of the Northern Whigs, in their anti-slavery movements, I republish a letter written for the following reason: Mr. Erastus Brooks, of the New York Express, had a controversy with Mr. Charles Francis Adams, then according to my recollection, publishing a newspaper of strong anti-slavery views, as to what would have been the course of the late ex-President John Quincy Adams, in the contest then in progress. Mr. Brooks, to sustain his position, called on me for a statement. What follows was published in the Express:
THE LATE JOHN QUINCY ADAMS AND GENERAL TAYLOR. [CORRESPONDENCE OF THE NEW YORK EXPRESS.]
WASHINGTON, July 31, 1848.
The Hon. D. P. King and Charles Hudson, of Massachussetts, have both written letters in answer to certain inquiries propounded to them as to the views of John Quincy Adams touching General Taylor and the Presidency. In a previous letter I had occasion to speak of these opinions, but not until I saw an attempt to discredit what Mr. Adams had said. I send you now a further confirmatory letter from another member of Congress-one with whom Mr. Adams was in frequent communication, and who shared his confidence and friendship. The letter not only shows no hostility to General