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Discriminating duties with Porlugal-Slavery in the District of Columbia.
(Marcu 2, 1836.
WEDNESDAY, March 2.
tions, did he feel himself at liberty to make them known A message was received from the President of the
to the Senate. He would not even have alluded to United States enclosing a communication from the Sec
their letter, but it related to a public subject in which retary of State on the subject of the discriminating du
the country was deeply interested, and accompanied ties with Portugal; which was ordered to be referred to
the memorial which they had requested him to present the Committee on Commerce.
to the Senate. The following is an extract from this The following is a copy of the message:
“ Although we have not the pleasure of thy acquaintWashington, Feb. 29, 1836.
ance, permit us on this occasion to express our satisfac. To the Senate and House of Representatives of the Uni- tion with thy remarks in the Senate some weeks since, ted States:
in which the opinion was forcibly sustained that no senI transmit a report ofthe Secretary of Stale, communi-sible man at the North would advocate the right of Con. cating an application from the chargé d'affaires of Portu. gress to interfere with the subject of slavery in the slave gal for the passage by Congress of a special act abolish. States themselves. We are fully persuaded this is the ing discriminating duties upon the cargoes of Portuguese fact in our neighborhood. vessels imported into the United States from those parts “In a pretty extensive acquaintance with the friends of the dominions of Portugal in which no discriminating of abolition in this city, we unhesitatingly declare that duties are charged upon the vessels of the United States we have never heard such an opinion advocated, and we or their cargoes; and providing for a return of the dis- defy our opponents to point out a man that has ever criminating duties which have been exac:ed upon the circulated any publication calculated to produce discord cargoes of Portuguese vessels thus circumstanced, since in the southern States. the 18th of April, 1834. I also transmit a copy of the “ But whilst we fully recognise this view, we are correspondence which has taken place on the subject aware that the constitution guaranties to us the right of between the Department of State and the chargé d'af. | memorializing Congress on any subject connected with faires of Portugal.
the welfare of the District of Columbia, and we intend The whole matter is submitted to the discretion of ever to exercise it in the spirit of charity and good seel. Congress, with this suggestion, that, if an act should be ing." passed, placing the cargoes of Portuguese vessels com. Mr. B. believed this statement to be true. Although ing from certain parts of the territories of Portugal on all the people of Pennsylvania were opposed to slavery the footing of those imported in vessels of the United in the abstract, yet they would not sanction any attempts States, or deciding upon the propriety of restoring the to excite the slaves of the southern States to insurrection duties beretofore levied, and the time to which they and bloodshed. Whilst they know their own rights, shall be restored, regard should be had to the fact that and would maintain them, they never would invade the the decree of the 18th of April, 1834, which is made rights of others which had been secured by the federal the basis of the present application, took effect in the constitution. He was proud to say this had always been islands of Madeira and the Azores many months after the character and the conduct of the State which he had its promulgation; and to the more important fact that, in part the honor to represent in her relations with her until the 1st of February instant, an indirect advantage sister States. was allowed by Portugal to importations from Great
Mr. B. said he felt himself justified in declaring that Britain over those from other countries, including the Pennsylvania was perfectly sound upon this question, United States.
Abolitionists there may be in Pennsylvania, but it had ANDREW JACKSON. never been his fate to meet a single one. If we have a ABOLITION OF SLAVERY.
man amongst us who desires, by the circulation of in
cendiary publications and pictures throughout the slave. The Senate proceeded to consider the petition of the holding States, to produce a servile insurrection, and Society of Friends in l'ennsylvania, praying for the abo. thus to abolish slavery, he knew him not. In the lanlition of slavery in the District of Columbia.
guage of the letter he had just read, whatever might be The question being on the motion of Mr. Calhoun the case further north, he might defy any gentleman to that the petition be not received,
point out a man in Pennsylvania who has ever circulated Mr. BUCHANAN said it was not now his intention to any publication calculated to produce discord in the repeat any thing he had said on a former occasion in re. southern States. He had lieard within the last few gard to the abolition of slavery in this District. The days that emissaries were now travelling throughout remarks which he had then made, after much reflection, Pennsylvania for the purpose of propagating the docstill met his entire approbation. He would not now have trine of immediate abolition. He thought lie might alluded to them, were it not for the misapprehension venture to predict that they would fail in their attempts. which still appeared to prevail upon this floor in regard Although he did not mean at present to discuss the to the state of northern feeling on this subject. Those general question, yet the Senator from South Carolina remarks had, be believed, been more extensively cir. (Mr. Preston) must permit him to say that, in his reculated throughout Pennsylvania than any which he had marks of yesterday, he had done much to dignify the ever made upon any occasion. If they had been cen cause of abolition, and to give its supporters a char. sured any where in that State, by any party, the fact acter which they did not deserve. was unknown to him. On the contrary, he had strong Mr. B. was not so well able to judge what effect those reasons to believe they had been received with general remarks might produce on the South; but he protested approbation.
against the accuracy of the statements which that gentleMr. B. said he was not in the habit of using private man had made in regard to the condition of northern Jetters to sustain any position which he might take upon feeling on this subject. His information had been inthis foor or elsewhere. He would say, however, that, correct. If the gloomy coloring of the picture which he since he had presented the memorial now the subject had presented could be considered any ihing but a fancy of consideration before the Senate, he had received an. sketch, the South might believe that the time had other memorial of a similar character from the city of arrived when it would be their duty to decide whether Philadelphia. This memorial had been transmitted to it was not necessary to dissolve this Union, for the pro. him by two gentlemen whose names and character would tection of their rights. Mr. B. thought far otherwise. be the strongest guarantee for the truth of their asser. This crisis has not arrived, and, he trusted, never would
MARCH 2, 1836.]
Slavery in the District of Columbia.
arrive. The force of public opinion will prostrate this therefore, the constitution would not be violated by such fanatical and dangerous spirit. He must say, however, a refusal. that the enemies of the cause of abolition at the North Does not the Senator perceive that, if this doctrine had a right to expect that gentlemen from the South can be maintained, the right of petition is gone for ever? would not adopt a course which might tend to increase It is a mere empty name.
The Senate would possess our difficulties. They ought to permit us to judge for the power of controlling it at their will and pleasure. ourselves in this matter, and to throw no obstacles in our No matter what may be the prayer of any petition, no way which the nature of the subject does not necessarily matter how just may be the grievances of the people present.
demanding redress, we may refuse to hear their com. Let it once be understood that the sacred right of plaints, and inform them that this is one of our preroga. petition and the cause of the abolitionists must rise or tives; because, to refuse to receive their petition is not Trust fall together, and the consequences may be fatal. the passage of a law abridging their right to petition. I would, therefore, warn southern gentlemen to reflect How can the gentleman escape from this consequence? seriously in what situation they place their friends to the Is the Senate to be the arbiter? Are we to decide what North, by insisting that this petition shall not be received. the people may petition for, and what they shall not
We have just as little right to interfere with slavery bring before us? Is the servant to dictate to the master? in the South as we have to touch the right of petition. Such a construction can never be the true one. Whence is this right derived? Can a republican Gov. The most striking feature of this argument is, that the ernment exist without it? Man might as well attempt to very article of the constitution which was intended to exist without breathing the vital air. No Government guard the right of petition with the most jealous care is possessing any of the elements of liberty has ever exist. thus perverted from its original intention, and made the ed, or can ever exist, unless its citizens or subjects enjoy instrument of destroying this very right. What we can. this right. From the very structure of your Governmen', not do by law, what is beyond the power of both Houses from the very establishment of a Senate and flouse of of Congress and the President, according to the gentleRepresentatives, the right of petition naturally and man's argument, the Senate can of itself accomplish. necessarily resulted. A representative republic, estab The Senate alone, if his argument be correct, may Jished by the people, without the people having a right abridge the right of petition, acting in its separate capacito make their wants and their wishes known to their ty, though it could not, as one branch of the Legisla. servants, would be the most palpable absurdity. This ture, consent to any law which would confer upon itself right, even if it were not expressly sanctioned by the this power. constitution, would result from its very nature. It could What is the true history and character of this article not be controlled by any action of Congress, or either of the constitution? In the thirteenth year of the reign branch of it. If the constitution had been silent upon of that “royal scoundrel," Charles II, as the Senator the subject, the only consequence would be, that it from Virginia [Mr. LEIGH) has justly denominated bim, would stand in the very front rank of those rights of the an act of Parliament was passed abridging the right of people which are expressly guarantied to them by the petition. It declared that "no petition to the King or ninth article of the amendments to that instrument, in either House of Parliament, for any alteration in church serted from abundant but necessary caution. I shall or state, shall be signed by above twenty persons, unread this article. It declares that "the enumeration in less the matter thereof be approved by three justices of the constitution of certain rights shall not be construed the peace, or the major part of the grand jury in the to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” It county; and in London by the lord mayor, aldermen, would, without any express provision, have stood in the and common council; nor shall any petition be presented same rank with the liberty of speech and of the press, by more than ten persons at a time." Each Senator and have been entirely beyond the control of the Gov. will readily perceive that the right of petition was thus ernment. It is a right which could not bave been in. laid almost entirely prostrate at the feet of the Sovefringed without extinguishing the vital spirit of our in- reign. The justices of the peace, and the sheriff's who stitutions. If any had been so bold as to attempt to selected the grand juries, were his creatures, appointed violate it, it would have been a conclusive argument to and removed at his pleasure. Out of the city of London, say to them that the constitution has given you no power without their consent, no petition for an alteration in over the right of petition, and you dare not touch it. church or state could be signed by more than twenty
The Senator from South Carolina (Mr. Calhoun) bas individuals. At the revolution of 1688, the bill of rights justly denominated the amendments to the constitution guarantied to English subjects the right of petitioning as our bill of rights. The jealousy which the States en the King, but the courts of justice decided that it did tertained of federal power brought these amendments not repeal the statute of the second Charles. This stat. into existence. They supposed that, in future times, ute still remained in force at the adoption of the federal Congress might desire to extend the powers of this Gov: constitution. Such was the state of the law in that ernment, and usurp rights which were not granted them country, from which we have derived most of our insti. by the people of the States. From a provident caution, tutions, when this amendment to the constitution was they have, in express terms, denied 1o Congress every adopted. sort of control over religion, over the freedom of speech Although the constitution, as it came from the hands and of the press, and over the right of petition. The of its framers, gave to Congress no power to touch the first article of the amendments declares that “Congress right of petition, yet some of the States to whom it was shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, submitted for ratification, apprehending that the time or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging might arrive when Congress would be disposed to act the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of like the British Parliament, expressly withdrew the the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the subject from our control. Not satisfied with the fact Government for a redress of grievances."
that no power over it had been granted by the constituNow, sir, what is the first position taken by the Senator tion, they determined to prohibit us, in express terms, from South Carolina against receiving this memorial from ever exercising such a power. This is the true desire to quote him with perfect accuracy. He says that history of the first article of our bill of rights. the constitution prohibits Congress from passing any law Let me put another case to the Senator from South to abridge the right of petition; that to refuse to receive Carolina. Some years since, as a manager on the part this petition would not be to pass any such law, and that, l of the House of Representatives, I had the honor to ap
Slavery in the District of Columbia.
[Manca 2, 1836.
pear before this body, then sitting as a high court of tional lawyers; but they feel oppression, and know when impeachment. In that case, the accused, when sitting they are aggrieved. They present their complaints to as a district judge of the United States, bad brought an us in the form of a petition. I ask, by what authority attorney of his court before him by an attachment for can we refuse to receive it? Tbey have a right to contempt, and, without any trial by jury, had convicted spread their wishes and their wants before us, and to him of a libel, and sentenced him to imprisonment. / ask for redress. We are bound respectfully to consider The judge was acquitted; and at the moment I thought their request; and the best answer which we can give this decision had 'placed the freedom of the press in them is, that they have not conferred upon us the powe danger. If the sedition law were clearly unconstitution er, under the constitution of the United States, to grant al, and nobody now doubts it; if Congress could not con. them the relief which they desire. On any other prin. fer upon the courts of the United States, by express ciple we may first decide that we have no power over enactment, any power over the question of libel, I a particular subject, and then refuse to hear the peti. thought it monstrous that a judge, without the interven tions of the people in relation to it. We would ibus tion of a jury, under highly excited feelings, should be place the constitutional right of our constituents 10 peti. permitted to try and to punish libels committed against tion at the mercy of our own discretion. himself according to his will and pleasure. My appre Again, sir, we possess the power of originating hensions were of but short duration. A few days after amendments to the constitution. . Although, therefore, the acquittal of this judge, the Senate, without one dis. we may not be able to grant the petitioners relief, such senting voice, passed a bill, not to create a new law, a petition may induce us to exercise this power, and 10 but declaratory of what the old law, or rather what the ask for a new grant of authority from the States. constitution was, under which no federal judge will ever The gentleman's third proposition was, that we are again dare to punish a libel as a contempt. The consti not bound to receive this petition, because it is no grier. tutional provision in favor of the liberty of the press was ance to the citizens of any of the States that slavery exthus redeemed from judicial construction.
ists in this District. But who are to be the judges, in Now, sir, we must all admit that libels of the grossest the first instance, whether the people are aggrieved or character are daily published against the Senate and its not? Is it those who suffer, or fancy they suffer, or the individual members. Suppose an attempt should be Senate? If we are to decide when they ought to feel made to bring one of these libellers before us, and to aggrieved, and when they ought to be satisfied, if the punish him for a contempt, would the gentleman from tribunal to whom their petitions are addressed may re. South Carolina contend that we miglit do so without fuse to receive them, because, in their opinion, there violating the constitution, and that we might convict was no just cause of complaint, the right of petition is him and sentence bim to imprisonment, because such a destroyed. It would be but a poor answer to their peconviction and sentence would not be the passage of a titions to tell them they ought not to have felt aggrier. law abridging the freedom of the press? The gentle ed, that they pre mistaken, and that, therefore, their man's excited feelings upon the subject of abolition complaints would not be received by their servants. have led his judgment astray. No construction can be I may be asked, (said Mr. B.,) is there no case in correct which would lead to such palpable absurdities. which I would be willing to refuse to receive a petition?
The very language of this amendment itself contains I answer that it must be a very strong one indeed to. the strongest recognition of the right of petition. In justify such a refusal. There is one exception, how. the clearest terms, it presupposes its existence. How ever, which results from the very nature of the right it. can you abridge a right which had no previous existe self. Neither the body addressed nor any of its memence! On this question I deem the argument of my bers must be insulted, under the pretext of exercising friend from Georgia (Mr. King) conclusive. The this right. It must not be perverted from its purpose, amendment assumes that the people bave the right to and he made the instrument of degrading the body to petition for the redress of grievances, and places it be. which the petition is addressed. Such a petition would yond the power of Congress to touch this sacred right. I be in fraud of the right itself, and the necessary power The truth is, that the authors of the amendment be. of self-protection and self-preservation inherent in every lieved this to be a Government of such tremendous pow. legislative body confers upon it the authority of defender, that it was necessary, in express terms, to withdrawing itself against direct insults presented in this or any from its grasp their most essential rights. The right of other form. Beyond this exception I would not go;. every citizen to worship his God according to the dic. and it is solely for the purpose of self-protection, in my tates of his own conscience, his right freely to speak opinion, that the rules of the Senate enable any of its and freely to print and publish his thoughts to the world, members to raise the question whether a petition shall and his right to petition the Government for a redress be received or not. If the rule has any other object in of grievances, are placed entirely beyond the control of view, it is a violation of the constitution. the Congress of the United States, or either of its I would confine this exception within the narrowest branches. There may ibey ever remain! These funda. I limits. The acts of the body addressed may be freely mental principles of l berty are companions. They rest canvassed by the people, and they may be shown to be upon the same foundation. They must stand or must unjust or unconstitutional. These may be the very fall together. They will be maintained so long as reasons why the petition is presented. To speak his American liberty shall endure.
mind is every freeman's right.” They may and they The next argument advanced by the gentleman is, ought to express themselves with that manly independ. that we are not bound to receive this petition, because ence which belongs to American citizens. To exclude to grant its prayer would be unconstitutional in this ar.
their petition, it must appear palpable that an insult to gument I shall not touch the question, whether Congress the body was intended, and not a redress of grievances. possess the power to abolish slavery in the District of Extreme cases have been put by lie Senator from Columbia or not. Suppose they do not, can the gentle. South Carolina. Ridiculous or extravagant petitions man maintain the position that we are authorized by may be presented; though I should think that scarcely the constitution to refuse to receive a petition from the a sane man could be found in this country who would people, because we may deem the object of it uncon. ask Congress to abolish slavery in the State of Georgia. stitutional. Whence is any such restriction of the right in such a case I would receive the petition, and consiga of petition derived? Who gave it to us? Is it to be it at once to that merited contempi which it would de. found in the constitution? The people are not constitu
The constitution secures the right of being
MARCH 2, 1836.]
Slavery in the District of Columbia.
heard by petition to every citizen; and I would not na urge the motion which he has made? I wish I could abridge it because he happened to be a fool.
persuade him to withdraw it. We of the North honest. The proposition is almost too plain for argument, that ly believe, and I feel confident he will not doubt our sin. if the people have a constitutional right to petition, a cerity, that we cannot vote for his motion without vio. corresponding duty is imposed upon us to receive their lating our duty to God and to the country--without dis. petitions. From the very nature of things, rights and regarding the oath which we have sworn to support duties are reciprocal. The human mind cannot con- the constitution. This is not the condition of those who ceive of the one without the other. They are relative advocate his motion. It is not pretended that the conterms. If the people have a right to command, it is stitution imposes any obligation upon them to vote for the duty of their servants to obey. If I have a right to this motion. With them it is a question of mere expe. a sum of money, it is the duty of my debtor to pay it to diency; with us, one of constitutional duty. I ask genme. If the people have a right to petition their repre- tlemen of the South, for their own sake, as well as for sentatives, it is our duty to receive their petition. that of their friends in the North, to vote against this
This question was solemnly determined by the Senate motion. It will place as all in a false position, where more than thirty years ago. Neither before nor since neither their sentiments nor ours will be properly unthat time, so far as I can learn, has the general right of derstood. petition ever been called in question, until the motion The people of the North are justly jealous of their now under consideration was made by the Senator from rights and liberties. åmong these, they hold the right South Carolina. Of course I do not speak of cases em. of petition to be one of the most sacred character. I braced within the exception which I have just stated. would say to the gentlemen of the South, why, then, will No Senator has ever contended that this is one of them.
you array yourselves, without any necessity, against this To prove my position, I shall read an extract from our
right? You believe that we are much divided on the journals. On Monday, the 21st January, 1805, “Mr. question of abolition; why, then, will you introduce Logan presented a petition, signed Thomas Morris, another element of discord amongst us, which may do clerk, in behalf of the meeting of the representatives your cause much harm, and which cannot possibly do it of the people called Quakers, in Pennsylvania, New any good? When you possess an impregnable fortress, Jersey, &c., stating that the petitioners, from a sense of if you will defend it, why take shelter in an outwork, Teligious duty, had again come forward to plead the where defeal is certain? Why select the very weakest cause of their oppressed and degraded fellow-men of position, one on which you will yourselves present a the African race; and on the question, “Shall this pe divided front to the enemy, when it is in your power to tition be received?" it passed in the affirmative: yeas 19, choose one on which you and us can all unite! You will
thus afford an opportunity to the abolitionists at the North * The yeas and nays being required by one fifth of to form a false issue with your friends. You place us in the Senators present
such a condition that we cannot defend you, without in. " Those who voted in the affirmative are,
fringing the sacred right of petition. Do you not per“ Messrs. Adams, Massachusetts; Alcott, New Ilamp- ceive that the question of abolition may thuis be indisso. shire; Bayard, Delaware; Brown, Kentucky; Condict, lubly connected, in public estimation, with a cause which New Jersey; Franklin, North Carolina; Hillhouse, Con. we can never abandon. If the abolitionists themselves necticut; Howland, Rhode Island; Logan, Pennsylvania; had been consulted, I will venture to assert, they ought Maclay, Pennsylvania; Mitchell, New York; Pickering, to have advised the very course which has been adopted Massachusetts; Plumer, New Hampshire; Smith, Ohio; by their greatest enemies. Smith, Vermont; Stone, North Carolina; Sumpter, The vote upon this unfortunate motion may do almost South Carolina; White, Delaware; Worthington, Ohio. equal harm in the South. It may produce an impression " And those who voted in the negative are,
there, that we who will vote against the motion are not “Messrs. Anderson, Tennessee; Baldwill, Georgia; friendly to the protection of their constitutional rights. Bradley, Vermont; Cocke, Tennessee; Jackson, Geor- It may arouse jealousy and suspicion, where none ought gia; Moore, Virginia; Smith, Maryland; Smith, New to exist; and may thus magnify a danger which has York; Wright, Maryland.
already been grea:ly exaggerated. In defending any “So the petition was read.”
great cause, it is always disastrous to take a position The Senate will perceive that I have added to the which cannot be maintained. Your forces thus become names of the members of the Senate that of the States scattered and inefficient, and the enemy may obtain poswhich they each represented. The Senator from South session of the citadel whilst you are vainly attempting to Carolina will see that, among those who, upon this oc. defend an outpost. I am sorry, indeed, ibat this motion casion, sustained the right of petition, there is found the has been made. name of General Sumpter, bis distinguished predeces. I shall now proceed to defend my own motion from sur. I wish him, also, to observe that but seven Sena. the attacks which have been made upon it. It has been tors from the slaveholding States voted against receiving equally opposed by both extremes. I have not found, the petition; although it was of a character well calcu- upon the present 'occasion, the maxim to be true, that lated to excite their hostile and jealous feelings.
" in medio tulissimus ibis." The Senator from Louisiana, The present, sir, is a real controversy beiween liberty (Mr. Ponten,) and the Senator from Massachusetts, [lir. and power. In my humble judgment, it is far the most Websten,] seem both to believe that little, if any, differimportant question which has been before the Senate ence exists between the refusal to receive a petition, since I have had the honor of occupying a seat in this and the rejection of its prayer after it has been received. body. It is a contest between those, however uninten. Indeed, the gentleman from Louisiana, whom I am tionally, who desire to abridge the right of the people, bappy to call my friend, says he can see no difference in asking their servants for a redress of grievances, and at all between !hese motions. At the moment I heard those who desire to leave it, as the constitution left it, this remark, I was inclined to believe that it proceeded free as the air. Petitions ought ever to find their way from that confusion of ideas which sometimes exists in into the Senate without impediment; and I trust that the the clearest heads of that country from which he derives decision upon this question will result in the establish- his origin, and from which I am myself proud to be de. ment of one of the dearest rights which a free people scended.' What, sir, no difference between refusing to can enjoy
receive a request at all, and actually receiving it and Now, sir, why should the Senator from South Caroli- I considering it respectfully, and afterwards deciding,
Slavery in the District of Columbia.
[MARCH 2, 1836.
without delay, that it is not in your power to grant it! without any delay. This is always done in a plain case, There is no man in the country, acquainted with the by a competent judge. And yet, who ever heard that meaning of the plainest words in the English language, this was treating the petitioner with disrespect? In who will not recognise the distinction in a moment. order to be respectful to these memorialists, must we
If a constituent of that gentleman should present to go through the unmeaning form, in this case, of refer. him a written request, and he should tell him to go about ring the memorial to a committee, and pretending to his business, and take his paper with him, that he would deliberate, when we are now all fully prepared to not have any thing to do with him or it: this would be decide? to refuse to receive the petition.
I repeat, too, that I intended to make as strong a mos On the other hand, if the gentleman should receive | tion in this case as the circumstances would justify. It this written request of his constituent, read it over care. is necessary that we should use every constitutional effully and respectfully, and file it away among his papers, fort to suppress the agitation which now disturbs the bul, finding it was of an unreasonable or dangerous charac- land. This is necessary, as much for the happiness and ter, he should inform him, without taking further time future prospects of the slave as for the security of the to reflect upon it, that the case was a plain one, and that
Before this storm began to rage, the laws in he could not, consistently with what he believed to be regard to slaves had been greatly ameliorated by the his duty, grant the request: this would be to reject the slaveholding States; they enjoyed many privileges which prayer of the petition.
were unknown in former times. In some of the slave TI is as much difference between the two cases, States prospective and gradual emancipation was pub. as there would be between kicking a man down stairs licly and seriously discussed. But now, thanks to the who attempted to enter your house, and receiving him efforts of the abolitionists, the slaves have been deprived politely, examining his request, and then refusing to of these privileges; and, whilst the integrity of the comply with it.
Union is endangered, their prospect of final emancipa. It has been suggested that the most proper course tion is delayed to an indefinite period. To leave this would be to refer this petition to a committee. What question where the constitution has left it, to the slave. possible good can result from referring it? Is there a holding States themselves, is equally dictated by a hu. Senator on this floor who has not long since determined mane regard for the slaves as well as for their masters. whether he will vote to abolish slavery in this District or There are other objections to the reference of this not? Does any gentleman require the report of a com- memorial to a committee, which must, I think, be conmittee, in order to enable him to decide this question? clusive. I ask the Senate, after witnessing the debate Not one.
upon the present question, to what conclusion could By granting the prayer of this memorial, as I observed this committee arrive? if they attempted to assert any on a former occasion, you would establish a magazine of principle beyond the naked proposition before us, that gunpowder here, from which trains might be laid into the prayer of the memorialists ought not to be granted, the surrounding States wbich would produce fearful ex. we would be cast into a labyrinth of difficulties. It plosions. In the very heart of the slaveholding States would be confusion worse confounded. If we wish to themselves you would erect an impregnable citadel from obtain a strong vote, and thus at the same time tranquil. whence the abolitionists might securely spread through. | lize the South and the North upon this exciting topic, out these States, by circulating their incendiary pamph. the reference of it to a committee would be the most lets and pictures, the seeds of disunion, insurrection, unfortunate course which we could adopt. Senators are and servile war. You would thus take advantage of divided into four classes upon this question. Tbe first the generous confidence of Virginia and Maryland in believe that to abolish slavery in this District would be ceding to you this District, without expressly forbidding a violation of the constitution of the United States. Congress to abolish slavery here whilst it exists within should the commitiee recommend any proposition of a their limits. No man can, for one moment, suppose that less decided character, these Senators would feel it to they would have made this cession upon any other terms, be their duty to attempt to amend it, by asserting ibis had they imagined that a necessity could ever exist for principle; and thus we should excite another dangerous such a restriction. Whatever may be my opinion of the and unprofitable debate. The second class, although power of Congress, under the constitution, to interfere they may not believe that the subject is constitutionally with this question, about which at present I say nothing, beyond ihe control of Congress, yet they think that the I shall as steadily and as sternly oppose its exercise as if acts of cession from Maryland and Virginia to the United I believed no such power to exist.
States forbid us to act upon the subject. These gentleIn making the motion now before the Senale, lin- men would insist upon the affirmance of this proposi. tended to adopt as strong a measure as I could, con- tion. The third class would not go as far as either of sistently with the right of pelition and a proper respect the former. They do not believe that the subject is for the petitioners. I am the last man in the world who placed beyond the power of Congress, either by the would, intentionally, treat these respectable constituents constitution or by the compacts of cession, yet they are of my own with disrespect. I know them well, and as firmly opposed to granting the prayer of the petition, prize them highly. On a former occasion I did ample whilst slavery continues to exist in Maryland and Vir. justice to their character. I deny that they are aboli- ginia, as if they held both these opinions. They know tionists. I cannot, however, conceive how any person that these States never would have ceded this territory cuuld have supposed that it was disrespectful to them to of ten miles square to the United States upon any other refuse to grant their prayer in the first instance, and condition, if it bad entered into their conception that not disrespeciful to refuse to grant it after their memo. Congress would make an attempt sooner to convert it rial bad been referred to a committee. In the first case into a free District. Besides, they are convinced that to their memorial will be received by the Senate, and will exercise this power at an earlier period would seriously be filed among the records of the country. That it has endanger not only the peace and harmony of the Union, already been the subject of sufficient deliberation anil but its very existence. This class of Senators, whilst debate, that it has already occupied a due portion of they entertain these opinions, which ought to be entire. the time of the Senate, cannot be doubted or denied. ly satisfactory to the South, could never consent to vote Every one acquainted with the proceedings of courts for a resolution declaring that to act upon the subject of justice must know that often, very ofien, when peti. would be a violation of the constitution or of the con. lions are presented to them, the request is refused pacts. The fourth class, and probably nct the least