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SENATE.] ===--shall wilfully transgress State laws deemed absolutely necessary to secure the States, within which they exist, from servile insurrection. This bill did not affect, in the slightest degree, any of the non-slaveholding States. Neither did it apply to any of the slaveholding States, except those within which the danger of insurrection had become so imminent as to compel them to pass laws of the character referred to in the bill. Of the policy and justice of passing such a bill he could not doubt, provided we possess the power. No person would contend that this Government ought to become the instrument of exciting insurrection within any of the States, unless we were constrained to pursue this course by an overruling constitutional necessity. The question then is, Does any such necessity exist? Are we bound by the constitution of the United States, through our post offices, to circulate publications among the slaves, the direct tendency of which is to excite their passions and rouse them to insurrection? Have we no power to stay our hand in any case? Even if a portion of this Union were in a state of open rebellion against the United States, must we aid and assist the rebels, by communicating to them, through our Post Office Department, such publications and information as may encourage and pronote their designs against the very existence of the confederacy itself? If the constitution of the United States has placed us in this deplorable condition, we must yield to its mandates, no matter what may be the consequences. Mr. B. did not believe that the constitution placed us in any such position. Our power over the mails was as broad and general as any words in the English language could confer. The constitution declares that “Congress shall have power to establish post offices and post roads.” This is the only provision which it contains touching the subject. After the establishment of these post offices and post roads, who shall decide upon the purposes for which they shall be used? He answered, Congress, and Congress alone. There was no limitation, no restriction whatever, upon our discretion contained in the bond. We have the power to decide what shall and what shall not be carried in the mail, and what shall be the rates of postage. He freely admitted that, unless in extreme cases, where the safety of the republic was involved, we should never exercise this power of discrimination between what papers should and should not be circulated through the nail. The constitution, however, has conferred upon us this general power, probably for the very purpose of meeting these extreme cases; and it is one which, from its delicate nature, we shall not be likely to abuse. He differed entirely from the report of the Senator from South Carolina, [Mr. CAlhou N,] as to the source whence the power was derived to pass this bill. No action of the State Legislatures could either confer it or take it away. It was perfect and complete in itself under the federal constitution, or it had no existence. With that Senator he entirely concurred in opinion, that the sedition law was clearly unconstitutional. Congress have no power to abridge the freedom of the press, or to pass any law to prevent or to punish any publication whatever. He understood the freedom of the press to mean precisely what the Senator from Massachusetts had tated. But does it follow, as the gentleman contends, that because we have no power over the press, that therefore we are bound to carry and distribute any thing and every thing, which may proceed from it, even if it should be calculated to stir up insurrection or to destroy the Government’ So far as this Government is concerned, every person may print, and publish, and circulate, whatever he pleases; but are we therefore compelled to become his agents, and to circulate for
[Jun 1, 8, 1836.
him every thing he may choose to publish? This is the question. Any gentleman upon this floor may write what he thinks proper against my character; but because he can exercise this liberty, am I therefore bound to carry and to circulate what he has written? So any individual within the broad limits of this Union, without previous restraint and without danger of punishment from the Federal Government, may publish what is calculated to aid and assist the enemies of the country in open war; but does it follow, as a necessary consequence, that this very Government is bound to carry and circulate such publications through its mails? A more perfect non sequitur never had been presented to his mind. It was one thing not to restrain or punish publications; it was another and an entirely different thing to carry and circulate them after they have been published. The one is merely passive, the other is active. It was one thing to leave our citizens entirely free to print and publish and circulate what they pleased, and it was another thing to call upon us to aid in their circulation. From the prohibition to make any law “abridging-the freedom of speech or of the press,” it could never be inferred that we must provide by law for the circulation through the post office of every, thing which the press might publish. And yet this is the ar. gument both of the Senator from Massachusetts and the Senator from South Carolina. If this argument were well founded, it was very clear to his unind, that no State law could confer upon Congress any power to pass this bill. We derived our powers from the federal constitution, and from that alone. If under its provisions we had no authority to pass the bill, we could derive no such authority from the laws of the States. why, then, did Mr. B. vote for a bill to prevent the circulation of publications prohibited by State laws? Not because we derived any power from these laws; but, under the circumstances, they contained the best rule to guide us in deciding what publications were dangerous. The States were the best judges of what was necessary for their own safety and protection; and they would not call for the passage of this bill, unless they were firmly convinced that the situation in which they were placed imperiously demanded it. They were willing to submit to a great evil in depriving themselves of information which might be valuable to them, in order to avoid the still greater evil that would result from the circulation of these publications and pictorial representations among their slaves. Such a law would not be permitted to exist after the necessity for it had ended. He was therefore willing, upon this occasion, to refer to the laws of the States, not for the purpose of conserring any power on Congress, but merely for a description of the publications which it should be unlawful for our deputy postmasters within these States to circulate. This bill was in strict conformity with the recommen dations contained in the President's message on this subject, which had, he believed, found favor every where. The principles of this message, which had been pronounced unconstitutional by the Senator from South Carolina, [Mr. Calhoun,) had, be believed, been highly commended in a resolution passed by the Legislature of that State. He would read an extract from the President's message: “In connexion with these provisions in relation to the Post Office Department, I must also invite your attention to the painful excitement produced in the South by attempts to circulate through the mails inflammatory appeals addressed to the passions of the slaves, in prints and in various sorts of publications, calculated to stimulate them to insurrection, and to produce all the horrors of servile war. “There is, doubtless, no respectable portion of our countrymen who can be so far misled as to feel any JUNE 8, 1836.]
Incendiary Publications. [S EN At o
other sentiment than that of indignant regret at conduct so destructive of the harmony and peace of the country, and so repugnant to the principles of our national com|. and to the dictates of humanity and religion. Our appiness and prosperity essentially depend upon peace within our borders—and peace depends upon the maintenance, in good faith, of those compromises of the constitution upon which the Union is founded. It is fortunate for the country that the good sense, the generous feeling, and the deep-rooted attachment of the people of the non-slaveholding States to the Union, and to their fellow-citizens of the same blood in the South, have given so strong and impressive a tone to the sentiments entertained against the proceedings of the misguided persons who have engaged in these unconstitutional and wicked attempts, and especially against the emissaries from foreign parts who have dared to intersere in this matter, as to authorize the hope that those attempts will no longer be persisted in. But if these expressions of the public will shall not be sufficient to effect so desirable a result, not a doubt can be entertained that the non-slaveholding States, so far from countenancing the slightest interference with the constitutional rights of the South, will be prompt to exercise their authority in suppressing, so far as in them lies, whatever is calculated to produce this evil. “In leaving the care of other branches of this inter. esting subject to the State authorities, to whom they properly belong, it is nevertheless proper for Congress to take such measures as will prevent the Post Office Department, which was designed to foster an amicable intercourse and correspondence between all the mem. bers of the confederacy, from being used as an instrument of an opposite character. The General Government, to which the great trust is confided of preserving inviolate the relations created among the States by the constitution, is especially bound to avoid, in its own action, any thing that may disturb them. I would, therefore, call the special attention of Congress to the subject, and respectfully suggest the propriety of pass. ing such a law as will prohibit, under severe penalties, the circulation in the southern States, through the mail, of incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection.” In reply to Mr. WebstER, Mr. B. said that he did not think there was any vagueness in that part of the bill on which the gentieman had commented, except what arose from the nature of the subject. It is vague, says the gentleman, because it contains no description of the publications the circulation of which it intends to prohibit, except the words “touching the subject of slavery.” On this foundation he had erected a considerable portion of his argument. Mr. B. acknowledged that if the bill contained no other description than this, it would be impossible to carry it into execution. But this was not the fact. The subsequent language restricted this vague description; because it confined the operation of the bill to such publications only, “touching the subject of slavery,” as were prohibited from circulation by the laws of the respective States. We have (said Mr. B.) wisely and properly referred, for the description of the offence, to the laws of the dif. ferent States which will be embraced by the bill. It was just, it was politic, it was treating those States with a proper degree of respect, to make our law conform with their laws, and thus to take care that no conflict should arise between our deputy postmasters and their State authorities. Could the gentleman from Massachusetts himself make the bill more explicit? He could not do it, consistently with the principles upon which it was founded, without incorporating into its provisions all the laws of all the States who had thought Proper to pass laws upon this subject. Our deputy
postmasters were resident citizens of those States. They were bound to know the State laws under which they lived; and all that this bill requires is, that they shall not violate them. The Senator from Massachusetts has contended that any newspaper which had been sent to an individual by mail, and was deposited in a post office, was his property; and we had, therefore, no right to say it should not be delivered. But this was begging the question. It was taking that for granted which remained to be proved. If Congress, as he (Mr. B.) had contended, possessed the incontestable power of declaring what should and what should not be circulated through the mails, no man could have the right to demand from any post office that which the law had declared should not thus be circulated. If we can, without violating the constitution, say that these inflammatory publications, tending to excite, servile war, shall not be distributed by our postmasters among the individuals to whom they are directed, no question of property could then arise. No man can have a property in that which is a violation of law. It then becomes a question, not of property, but of public safety. Admit the gentleman's premises, that we have no right to pass any law upon this subject, and he can establish his position that a property exists in those publications whilst in the post offices. Without this admission his argument entirely fails. He felt as reluctant as any man could feel, to vote for any law interfering with the circulation through the mails of any publication whatever, no matter what might be its character. But if the slaves within any southern State were in rebellion, or if a palpable and well-founded danger of such a rebellion existed, with his present convictions, should he refuse to prevent the circulation of publications tending to encourage or excite insurrection, he would consider himself an accomplice in their guilt. He entertained no doubt whatever of the power of Congress to pass this bill, or of the propriety of exercising that power. He would not have voted for the bill which had been reported by the Senator from South Carolina, [Mr. Calhoux,] because he thought it a measure far beyond what was required by the necessity of the case. This bill, whilst it was sufficiently strong to correct the evil, would be confined in its operations to those States within which the danger existed. Mr. DAVIS stated at length his objections to the passage of the bill. Senators assumed that there were no difficulties in the way, because the post office power gave to Congress the right to decide what should be carried in the mails. On a former occasion, he had said all that was proper in regard to this matter. He then drew the attention of the Senate to the constitutional question involved, and demonstrated, as he thought, that there was no authority in the constitution to pass this bill, or any thing like it. The language of the constitution was very simple: it only said that Congress should have the power to establish post offices and post roads. Now, what was a post office, in the meaning of the constitution? To understand this, it would be necessary to ascertain what was the meaning held at the time the constitution was adopted. You had a post office at the time the constitution was made, and a press also; and the provision in the constitution was made in reserence to both these known things. The object in establishing the post office, then, was to send abroad intelligence throughout the country; and it was intended for the transmission of newspapers, pamphlets, judicial and legislative proceedings, and all matters emanating from the press, relating to politics, literature, and science, and for the transmission of private letters. It would be, therefore, in his opinion, in conflict with the provision of the constitution giving Congress the power to establish the post office, as well as an abridgment of the
freedom of the press, to carry into effect the provisions of the bill. The Senator from Pennsylvania reiterated the argument used the other day by his friend from Georgia, that you have no right to diffuse publications through the ageney of the post office, for the purpose of exciting a servile war. Now, let me tell the gentleman (said Mr. D.) that this is an old argument against the liberty of the press, and that it has been used whenever it was thought necessary to establish a censorship over it. The public morals were said to be in danger; it was necessary to prevent licentiousness, tumult, and sedition; and the public good required that the licentiousness of the press should be restrained. All these were the plausible pretences under which the freedom of the press had been violated in all ages. Now, they knew that the press was at all times corrupt; but when they came to decide the question whether the tares should be rooted up, and the wheat along with it, those who had decided in favor of liberty had always decided that it was better to put up with a lesser evil than to draw down upon themselves one of such fearful magnitude as must result from the destruction of the press. Mr. D. contended that the power to be given to the deputy postmasters to decide what should and what should not be distributed from the post office, gave them a dangerous discretion over a very delicate matter, and that the power was one highly susceptible of abuse, and always liable to misconstruction. Mr. GRUNDY observed that this bill was intended simply to prevent any officer of the Government, who should violate the laws of the States in which he resided, from sheltering himself under the post office law. As the bill now stood, the objections with regard to abridging the freedom of the press had no application whatever. There was no provision in the bill interfering with the printing or publishing any matter whatever, nor was it even pretended that Congress possessed the power of doing so. It was not even said that certain publications, no matter how incendiary in their character, should not be deposited in the post office and transmitted through the mails. Therefore, all the objections that he had heard to the bill sell to the ground. In this bill the Government simply said to the individual in its employ, “We will not help you to do an act in violation of the laws of the State in which you live.” - That was the ground on which the bill was framed, and it could not be pretended that this was an abridgment of the liberty of the press. It was only the Government declining to assist an individual in the violation of the law, and that was the whole bill. The Government under the constitution had an entire control of the Post Office Department. It had the power to regulate what matters should be carried through the mails, and what should not. We say to every body that to these slaveholding States you may transmit through the mails what you please; but if you transmit to one of our officers what is prohibited by the laws of the state in which he resides, we shall say to that officer, you shall not put on the mantle of the Government to assist you in the violation of that law; you shall be subject to the penalties of the State laws, besides removal from office. In fact, there was not the slightest pretext for saying that this bill violated in the remost degree the freedom of the press. Nolling should be carried in the mails but what was proper for transmission through them; but if there was any thing sent through them tending to excite insurrection and bloodshed, how could there be an objection to the passage of a law, saying that it should not be delivered out from the post office. The gentleman from Massachusetts objected to the vagueness of the bill in saying what shall not be distributed from the post offices. How could the matter, he
asked, be made more specific? When the publication arrived at the post office where it was prohibited, and was about to be handed out, the State law would be consulted, and, by it, it would be decided whether it was in violation of the State law or not, and it could thus be determined whether it was proper for delivery. He should not say any thing as to the report; he did not concur in it farther than that this was a great evil, and should be corrected in the mildest way that it could be done. This bill did not affect any individual but those of the post offices of the States where laws have been passed prohibiting publications and pictorial representations, calculated to excite insurrection among the slaves. He was opposed to the original bill, because it interfered with what publications should be deposited in, as well as delivered from, the post offices. But it was only at the delivery office where this bill would operate, and the postmaster at such office would be operated on by the laws of the State in which it is situated. If this bill was not passed, nothing could be done, and the post office would be made (for there were persons wicked enough to do it) the medium through which to send firebrands throughout the country.
Mr. CLAY said that he considered this bill totally unnecessary and uncalled-for by public sentiment; and in this he differed with the Senator from Pennsylvania, [Mr. Buch ANAN;] for he believed that the President's message on the subject had met with general disappro: bation; that it was unconstitutional; and, if not so, that it contained a principle of a most dangerous and alarming character. When he saw that the exercise of the most extraordinary and dangerous power had been as: sumed by the head of the Post office, and that it had been sustained by this message, he turned his attention to the subject, and inquired whether it was necessary that the General Government should, under any circumstances, exercise such a power, and whether he possessed it; and, after much reflection, he had come to the conclusion that they could not pass any law interfering with the subject in any shape or som whatever.
The evil complained of was the circulation of papers having a certain tendency. The papers, unless circulated: did no harm, and while in the post office or in the mail they were not circulated—it was a circulation solely which constituted the evil. It was the taking them out of the mail, and the use that was to be made of them, that constituted the mischief. Then it was perfectly competent to the State authorities to apply the remedy. The instant that a prohibited paper was handed out, whether to a con or sojourner, he was subject to the laws which might compel him either to surrender them or burn them: He considered the bill not only unnecessary, but as * law of a dangerous, if not a doubtful, authority. . . .
it was objected that it was vague and indefinite in to character, and how is that objection got over? The bill provided that it shall not be lawful for any deputy post; master, in any state, Territory, or District of the United States, knowingly to deliver to any person whatever, any pamphlet, "newspaper, handbill, or other printed paper or pictorial representation, touching the subject of slavery, where, by the laws of the said State, Ferritory, or District, their circulation is prohibited. Now, what could be more vague and indefinite than this description? Now, could it be decided, by this description; what publications should be withheld from distribution? The gentleman from Pennsylvania said that the lows of the States would supply the omission. He thought the senator was premature in saying that there would be precision in State laws, before he showed it by produ: cing the law. He had seen no such law, and he did not know whether the description in the bill was applicable or not. There was another objection to this part of the June 8, 1836.)
bill; it applied not only to the present laws of the States, but to any future laws that might pass. Mr. C. denied that the bill applied to the slaveholding States only; and went on to argue that it could be applied to all the States, and to any publication touching the subject of slavery whatever, whether for or against it, if such publication was only prohibited by the laws of such State. Thus, for instance, a non-slaveholding State might prohibit publications in defence of the institution of slavery, and this bill would apply to it as well as to the laws of the slaveholding States; but the law would be inoperative: it declared that the deputy postmaster should not be amenable, unless he knowingly shall deliver, &c. Why, the postmaster might plead ignorance, and of course the law would be inoperative. But he wanted to know whence Congress derived the power to pass this law. It was said that it was to carry into effect the laws of the States. Where did they get such authority? He thought that their only authority to pass laws was in pursuance of the constitution; but to pass laws to carry into effect the laws of the States, was a most prolific authority, and there was no knowing where it was to stop: it would make the legislation of Congress dependent upon the legislation of twenty-four different sovereignties. He thought the bill was of a most dangerous tendency. The Senator from Pennsylvania asked if the post office power did not give them the right to regulate what should be carried in the mails. Why, there was no such power as that claimed in the bill; and if they passed such a law, it would be exercising a most dangerous power. Why, if such doctrine prevailed, the Government might designate the persons,” or parties, or classes, who should have the benefit of the mails, excluding all others. It was too often in the condemnation of a particular evil that they were urged on to measures of a dangerous tendency. All must agree as to the dangerous consequences of persons residing out of certain States transmitting to them incendiary publications, calculated to promote civil war and bloodshed. All must see the evil, and a great evil it was, and he hoped that a stop would be put to it; but Congress had no power to pass beyond the constitution for the purpose of correcting it. The States alone had the power, and their power was ample for the purpose. He hoped never to see the time when the General Government should undertake to correct the evil by such measures as the one before them. If (said Mr. C.) you can pass this law to prohibit the delivery through the post office of publications touching the subject of slavery, might they not also pass laws to prohibit any citizen of New York or Massachusetts from publishing and transmitting through the mail any thing touching that subject? If you may touch the subject of slavery at all, why not go to the root of the evil? Suppose one of the southern States were to pass a law of this kind; would you not be called upon by all the arguments now used in favor of this bill, to carry such law into effect? Mr. C. concluded by saying that the bill was calculated to destroy all the landmarks of the constitution, establish a precedent for dangerous legislation, and to lead to incalculable mischief. There was no necessity for so dangerous an assumption of authority, the State laws being perfectly competent to correct the evil complained of. He must say that, from the first to the last, he was opposed to the measure. Mr. CALHOUN could not concur with the views taken by the Senators from Massachusetts and Kentucky, that this bill would comprehend in its provisions an publications touching the subject of slavery. In order to bring any publication within the provisions of the bill two qualifications were necessary. The first was, that it must relate to the subject of slavery; and the next
- was, that it must be prohibited by the laws of the state
to which it is transmitted. He thought that this was the view that would be taken of t by the courts. The object of this bill was to make it the duty of the postmasters in the States to conform to the laws of such States, and not to deliver out papers in violation of their laws. The simple question was, had this Government the power to say to its officers, you shall not violate the laws of the States in which you reside? Could it go further, and make it their duty to co-operate with the States in carrying their laws into effect? This was the simple question. Now could any man doubt that Congress possessed the power to pass both measures, so that their officers might not come into conflict with the State laws? Indeed, he looked upon measures of this kind to prevent conflicts between the General and State Governments, which were likely to ensue, as essentially necessary; for it was evident that when such conflicts took place, the State must have the ascendancy. Mr. C. then briefly recapitulated the principles on which this bill was founded, and contended that it was in aid of laws passed by the States as far as Congress had the power constitutionally to go, and assumeed no power to prohibit or interfere with the publication or circulation of any paper whatever; it only declared that the officers of the Government should not make their official stations a shield for violating the State laws. Was there any one there who would say, that the States had not the power to pass laws prohibiting and making penal, the circulation of papers, calculated to incite insurrection among their slaves? It being admitted that they could, could not Congress order its officers to abstain from the violation of these laws? We do not (said Mr. C.) pass a law to abridge the frecdom of the press, or to prohibit the publication and circulation of any paper whatever—this has been done by the States already. The inhibition of the constitution was on Congress, and not on the States, who possessed full power to pass any laws they thought proper. They knew that there were several precedents to sanction this bill. Congress had passed laws to abstain from the violation of the health laws of the States. Could any one say that the constitution gave to Congress the power to pass quarantine laws? He had not adverted to the message of the President on this subject, because he believed that the President acted from the best motives, and that that part of the message was drawn up without sufficient reflection. Ise denied, however, that this message was in conformity with the constitution. It would be directly abridging the liberty of the press for Congress to pass such laws as the President recommended. One part of the message he would refer to, which was in these words: “I would, therefore, call the special attention of Congress to the subject, and respectfully suggest the propriety of passing such a law as will prohibit, under sewere penalties, the circulation in the southern States, through the mail, of incendiary publications, intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection.” This was clearly unconstitutional; for it not only recommended the prohibition of publications and circulation of incendiary papers, (abridging the freedom of the press,) but it recommended also the infliction of severe penalties, which powers were expressly prohibited by the constitution. On no other principle could this ever be defended, than that it was simply abstaining from a violation of the laws of the States. The Senator from Kentucky contended that this bill was useless; and he (Mr. C.) agreed that it was so in one sense, and that was, with or without this bill, the southern States would execute their own laws against the circulation of such papers. It was a case of life and death with them; and did any body suppose that they would permit so many magazines in their bosom to blow. them to destruction, as these Post offices must be, if SENATE.)
these ineendiary publications continued to be circulated through them? While the southern States contained so many postmasters opposed to their institutions, as it was in his own State, where almost every postmaster was opposed to it, it was absolutely necessary for them to take effectual measures for their own security. It was the assertion of the principle, that the States had a right to protect themselves, which made the bill valuable in his eyes; it prevented the conflict which would be likely to take place between the General and State Governments, unless some measure of the kind should be adopted. The States had a right to go to the extent of this bill; and they would be wanting to themselves and to posterity if they omitted to do it. It was on the doctrine of State rights and State intervention that he supported this bill, and on no other grounds. The Senator from Massachusetts objected to the returning of these papers whose delivery was prohibited. He regretted this as much as the Senator did; but his objection was, that it did not go far enough: he thought that these papers should be delivered to the prosecuting officers of the States, to enable them to ferret out the designs of the incendiaries. Mr. WEBSTER remarked, that in general it might be safely said, that when different gentlemen supported a measure admitted to be of a novel character, and placed their defence of it on different and inconsistent grounds, a very simple person might believe, in such case, that there were no very strong grounds for adopt: ing the measure The Senator from Pennsylvania and the Senator from South Carolina, not only placed their defence of the bill on opposite grounds, but each opposed the principles on which the other founded his support of it. Where the object to be gained was apparently good, and the case urgent, as it was represent: ed to be, how could limitations of power stand against powerful opponents, which have always been orging to despotism? Now, against the objects of this bill he had not a word to say; but with constitutional lawyers there was a great difference between the object and the means to carry it into effect. It was not the object to be gained, but the means to attain it, which they should look to; for though the object might be good, the means might not be so. His objections went to the means, and not to the object, and he did not yield the argument because the object was a good one, and the case was urgent. It was better to limit the power, and run the risk of injury from the want of it, than to give a power which might be exercised in a dangerous manner: The Senator from Pennsylvania said that this bill was calling on Congress to do nothing but to abstain from violating the laws of the States. It was one thing, said the Senator, for Congress to abstain from giving these incendiary papers circulation, and another to pass laws saying that they shall not be published. But if Congress had no mail through which these papers could be transmitted, what did the gentleman mean by Congress abstaining from giving them circulation? It meant that Congress should interfere, and create an especial exception as to what should be transmitted by their ordi. nary channel of intelligence, and that that exception should be caused by the character of the writing or publication. He contended that Congress had not the power, drawn from the character of the paper, to decide whether it should be carried in the nail or not; for such decision would be a direct abridgmont of the freedom of
the press. He confessed that he was shocked at the doctrine. He looked back to the alien and sedition
laws, which were so universaily condemncq throughout the country; and what was their object? Certainly to prohibit publications of a dangerous tendency. [Mr. W. here quoted the sedition law, to show the objects it intended to effect.] But the deputy postmasters, Mr.
W. said, must look into the newspaper mail to see if there were any publications in it touching the subject of slavery, calculated to excite insurrections among the slaves. Now, said Mr. W., the country would have been rent into atoms if the sedition law, instead of saying that papers should not be published in such and such a way, had declared that the deputy postmasters should have the power to search the mails to see if they contained any publications calculated to “bring the Government into disrepute, promote insurrection, and lead to foreign war,” the evils the sedition law intended to guard against. All the papers described in the law of '99 were unlawful by the laws of any of the States; and yet that law, which had created so much excitement, and met with such general reprobation, contained nothing like the power claimed by this bill. Any law distinguishing what shall or shall not go into the mails, sounded on the sentiments of the paper, and making the deputy postmaster the judge, he should say was expressly unconstitutional, if not recommended by gentlemen of such high authority. This bill, said Mr. W., went beyond the recommendation of the President; for his recommendation was, that the person who circulated the papers described by him, should be punished by severe penalties. Now, this was the old law of liberty; there was not a word of previous restraint in it as imposed by this bill. Mr. W. then went into an argument to show the vagueness of the bill in describing the paper the delivery of which was prohibited. Under it it was impossible to determine what publications should be prohibited: abolition pamphlets were to be stopped at the South, and anti-abolition papers were to be stop: ped at the North. In reply to Mr. Buch ANAN, he said that he did not assume that these prohibited publications either were or were not property. All he said was, that they ought not to make the deputy postmasters the judge, and take away the property without the authority of law. What he bad to say was, that it was a question of property or no property; and that they could not make the deputy postmasters the judge of the fact, as he could not be a judge of property known to the constitution and the law. Mr. RUCHANAN said he had not anticipated, when he first addressed the Senate upon this subject, that he should have occasion to make any further remarks; but the Senator from Massachusetts had replied to his argument in such a special manner, that he felt himself constrained to reply to some of his remarks. Now, per; mit me to say, (continued Mr. B.,) that he has not at all met the point of my argument. He has invested this subject with an air of greater importance and responsi: bility than it deserves; he has played around it with all his powers, but without touching the real question involved in the discussion. Congress has no power (says the gentleman) to pass any law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press. Granted. He most freely admitted that Congress had no power to touch the press at all. We can pass no law whatever either to prevent or to punish any publication, under any circumstances whatever. The sedition law violated this principle. It punished libels against the Federal Government and its officers; and having met with general reprobation, it was repealed, or permitted to expire by its own limitation, he did not recollect which. Mr. B. said he admitted these premises of the gentleman in their broadest extent; but did they justify his conclusions? In order to maintain his argument, he must prove that the constitution, in declaring that Con: gress' shall not pass any law abridging the freedom of the press, has thereby, and from the force of these terms alone, commanded us to circulate and distribute,