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My course, sir, and that of my friends generally, at discussion than that he had the honor to represent. Yet home as well as on this floor, has been consistent in op- he had remained silent till the course of the debate left posing any interference upon this subject. It is true, him no alternative but to overcome his reluctance, almost sir, that resolution pa-sed that Assembly; passed, too, invincible, to trouble the House, or incur the imputation sir, for purposes and by means which I am not permit. of shrinking from the discharge of his duty. ted to discuss bere; but, having been sent to the other He was sincerely grateful to the gentleman from branch of the Legislature for their concurrence, it slept, Pennsylvania (Mr. INGERSOLL) for the generous impulse I believe, in the same family vault with those mentioned which had prompted his effort to tranquillize the South. yesterday by the honorable gentleman (Mr. ADAMS) of For one, he thanked him for the warm sympathy he had Massachusetts, “the tomb of the Capulets." After this expressed for the southern people, and the disposition explanation, sir, the gentleman is welcome to all the he had evinced to do them justice. He had hoped the "gulls he may catch by that fly”-to all the benefits gentleman from Pennsylvania would, indeed, bave gone which he can appropriate to himself in this, the next to the root of the mischief. But he was sorry to say or any other campaign. Having said thus much in reply that the measure he had proposed was not calculated to to my colleague, and being on the floor, said Mr. M., 1 attain his object, and had wholly disappointed the exbeg leave to add that my own opinions on this subject pectations he had raised. What did the gentleman proare in accordance with those of my constituents with pose? In effect, to declare that Congress had no power whose views I am acquainted, or ought to be presumed to liberate slaves within the limits of those States which to be so; and, sir, I may claim some acquaintance with authorize them to be held as property! And had it the people of the State of New York. Sir, said Mr. M., come to that? Were we to accept, as a mighty boon, a I am fully warranted in saying that, from my acquaint- recognition of the right of our citizens to hold their own ance with that people, there is not one person in five property, guarantied by their own State laws, and by hundred, among a population of more than two millions the federal constitution itself? Nothing could more of people in that Siate, who is in favor of abolition, or strikingly prove how rapid had been the strides of faany other interference with the rights of master and naticism and usurpation tban the fact that a member of slave in the South. Among the political friends with that House should deem it necessary gravely to offer whom I have uniformly acted, (the republicans,) I have such a resolution. The right of the States to mould never known one--no, sir, not a single one. Sir, said their domestic institutions, in this respect, to suit them. Mr. M., there is no constitutional ambiguity, to my mind, selves, was not to be drawn in question. The petitionon this subject; for, while it is admitted that Congress ers themselves had not ventured to ask for any direct have exclusive power “of legislation in all cases what. interference with the States. They had only prayed ever," in the District of Columbia, the constitution has for the abolition of slavery in this District, and our prohibited any of our interference with the local institu- right to do that was the question we were called upon tions of the States. The Union and constitution, sir, were to decide. the result of concession and compromise. The subject Mr. R. said he was gratified to hear from all quarters under debate formed one of the points. We agreed; / of the House the strongest avowals of hostility to the we entered into the compact with our southern breth schemes of those who were seeking to disturb the peace ren; and the question now presented by them to us of the country. But it was obvious to remark that the the real question (when the argument is pushed to the action of the House did not correspond with these profull extent) propounded to us of the North--is, whether fessions. No measures were proposed to put down the we will live up to the bargain we have made, to the com- agitators, or secure our tranquillity. There seemed an pact and union we have entered into? For myself, for evident desire to elude the real question. He little ex. my constituents and friends, I answer, without hesitation / pected such a disposition would have been evinced by or mental reservation, that, under all circumstances and the gentleman from Massachusetts, (Mr. Adams.] That in every vicissitude, good or evil, we will--we will, gentleman was among the last to whom he could have though the heavens fall. What more need I say? (said ascribed a willingness-in his own emphatic language-Mr. M.) I will ask gentlemen to believe us sincere. to dorge any question, or withhold his candid judgment Why suspect our sincerity? What motive haye we to in upon it. If gentlemen are really desirous of allaying terfere in concerns that do not concern us! Sir, the the apprehensions of the South, the question made by people of New York can have no motive for such inter the petitioners must be met. It will not do to give it the ference
go-by. If, as he hoped, a majority should decide against The few misguided men in the North, who are desi the right of Congress to interfere in this matter, here or rous of intruding their misdirected philanthropy upon elsewbere, quiet might be restored. But if they were the South, have political and party purposes to subprepared to assert the right, it was high time the southserve. Sensible of their own want of consideration in ern people should know it. Not that they might sever their own community, of their own destitution of politi the Union. · He would take occasion to say they were cal integrity and patriotism, they seek even infamous as much attached to the Union--he could speak for his notoriety in attempts to destroy the institutions of their own State--as those who dwelt north of Mason and Dixcountry. I have placed my vote on our State legisla on's line; but they ought to know the ground on which tive journals against them, and I shall repeat that vote they stood, that they might at once appeal to their on your journal as often as I may have opportunity. | brethren of the other States for such an amendment of
Mr. Speaker, I have deprecated this debate, and de. the constitution as might effectually guaranty their propplored the spirit in which it is conducted. Shall it erty and their peace. He could not consent they should come to this, that an American Congress shall be ban- / remain in doubt on this vital question--that the flame dying epithets springing from youthful or excited feel should be merely smothered for the present, to break ings? Is it necessary, sir, to accuse any individual of out at some other time. It was for that reason he bad crimes, and stigmatize him with epithets, that shall uniformly voted against every attempt to evade a direct with me be nameless! For myself, sir, I cannot con- decision, and should give his cordial support to the mo. sent to such an employment; and I trust that we may tion of his colleague [Mr. Patron) now under considercond:ict our further proceedings in such manner as willation. avoid it.
The right of Congress to abolish slavery in the District Mr. ROBERTSON, of Virginia, said no part of the of Columbia had, so far as he had heard, scarcely been Union was more deeply interested in the subject under I noticed, until adverted to this morning by the gentle
man from New York, (Mr. GRANGER,] and the gentle. Virginia and Maryland would ever have consented to a man from Pennsylvania, (Mr. INGERSOLL.] He did not transfer of their citizens, subjecting them to be disposunderstand them as affirming the right, nor could he sessed of their property, or be exiled from their homes, learn precisely upon what ground others maintained it. at the will of a Legislature in whose election they had What did the petitioners intend by praying for the aboli no voice. Let us suppose the District had been ceded tion of slavery? They meant, he presumed, not that by States whose institutions did not admit of slavery-the citizens of the District might manumit their slaves, by New York and Pennsylvania. What would have but that Congress should, with or without their consent, been thought of a petition from the South to establish emancipate them. None would contend that this could slavery within the limits of the grant? It would have be done without compensating the owners. Such a pro been regarded, as it ought, as asking a violation of law, ceeding would be simply to confiscate their property. and a breach of good faith. Yet the same authority Nor could it be taken from them against their consent, which was supposed to warrant the abolition of slavery although its full value should be paid. The United by Congress, would seem to warrant its establishment; States had no power under the constitution to take and the one attempt would be no less a breach of good private property, unless for public use. In proposing faith than the other. to wrest this kind of property from the owner, it was Mr. R. said he had not thought it relevant or proper not intended to appropriate it to the use of the United to discuss the general question of slavery; still less had States. They had no occasion for it. The object was, he considered himself at liberty to vindicate the right on the contrary, as property, to destroy its use-to an of the slaveholding States to mould their domestic nibilate it.
institutions, in accordance with their views. He could Should the owner even be willing to surrender it for recognise no authority in Congress to call any State to a just compensation, he knew of no rightful authority to answer at its bar for the exercise of this undoubted apply the public funds to the purchase or emancipation right. Ile excepted to the jurisdiction of the tribunal. of slaveg. 'He doubted whether the United States could | He felt bound to oppose the attempt at the threshold. lawfully become a slaveholder. It did not vary the case In doing, this, however, he was very far from desiring to say the purchase would be made with the benevolent to abridge the sacred right of petition. The gentlepurpose of emancipating them. If they could purchase, | man froni Massachusetts (Mr. Adams] need feel no they might hold; if they could buy, they might sell; if alarm. That right would not be invaded, or an attempt they could emancipate, they might prescribe the con- / made to destroy the liberty of speech or of the press. ditions of emancipation. And what conditions, he There was no danger of another sedition law. Yet desired to know, was it expected to impose? He knew some limits even to the freedom of speech and the press of no clause in the constitution by which the restraints had at all times existed, and seemed essential to the to be laid upon emancipated slaves were defined; nor protection of society. One who should counsel or comwhich gave to it power to create another distinct and mand another to commit a murder, or who should print anomalous class, in addition to that already existing in and circulate slanderous imputations upon character, this District, of persons nominally free, but politically would scarcely be permitted to plead the liberty of slaves. Or was it designed to make them absolutely speech or the press in bar of a prosecution. Still less and really free to confer on them all the privileges of ought such a defence to avail those who would instigate citizenship? Were they to be admiited to the council the massacre of a whole community. board? To take their seats in the jury box! To be Gentlemen had complained of the warmth manifested elevated to the bench? To be eligible to all the offices in this debate by members from the South. Great alof Government? Were they to be introduced into our lowances, he thought, ought to be made, if, situated as social circles? The southern people, while they retain. they were, they could not wholly repress their feelings, ed their present feelings, would never tolerate such a or view this subject as calmly as those who inhabit cool. state of society. Those feelings were deeply interwoven er regions, and are more distant from the scene of danin their nature, and would continue to have their in ger. But whatever beat might be exhibited on this ocfluence, possibly, till the Ethiopian should change his casion, party feeling at least should not be mingled with skin, or the leopard his spots.
it. Considerations of infinitely greater magnitude than The eighth section of the first article of the constitu. the petty interests of party influenced the people of tion was regarded by some as conferring on Congress the South. They were contending for the preservation supreme authority over the District. It was true it gave of their property, for the security of their lives. He to it exclusive legislation over the ten miles square, but would confidently appeal to his colleague (Mr. MASON) exclusive was not synonymous with unlimited. It must who came from that section of the State in which the still legislate within constitutional limits. It could no new sect had celebrated its orgies in the blood of wo. more transcend those limits within the District, than be- men and children, to say whether the movement on this yond it. It had no more power to confiscate the prop- subject in Virginia was regarded as one of a party charerty of its inhabitants, than to subject them to ex post acter? No, sir. From one extremity of the State to facto laws, or deprive them of the liberty of speech or the other the people had met together, without rethe press.
spect to party distinctions, to consult on their comThe gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. INGERSOLL | mon interest and safety, and had concurred in one had adverted to a clause in the Virginia act of cession. universal expression of execration and abhorrence for That clause was intended to prevent the United States the enemies of our peace. It was true, as had been from acquiring an interest in the soil, or interfering often repeated, a firebrand had been cast among us. with landed titles. Its literal import might seem, at the But it came not from the South: it came from the first blush, to warrant the construction alluded to, be North; or rather from a small band of ruffians which cause it was confined in terms to land only. But that the North harbors in its bosom. The South desired to construction was not warranted by the true spirit of the extinguish it: to leave no spark alive that, at some fuinstrument, or of the constitution, though the right of ture day, might be blown into a flame to consume the the citizens to their lands was expressly guarantied. | temple of our peace, our union, and our liberty. But it by no means followed that all other property was Mr. JOHNSON, of Louisiana, not perceiving that any left at the miercy of Congress. The constitution pro good could result from prolonging the debate, felt a retected all private property against seizure, unless re- luctance in saying any thing upon the subject; but, quired for public use. It is not to be believed that I coming from a State, from its peculiar situation, more
deeply interested in the question than any other, and for we now hear of loads of such petitions. The knowing the intense excitement recently produced first one presented at this session was disposed of as among his constituents, by the daring attempts of the those presented at the last session, having been laid upon fanatics of the North to stimulate their slaves to insur- the table without debate. Thus it appears that, notrection, he considered it his duty to offer a few rewithstanding both the courses now proposed to be purmarks. He had the honor, in part, he said, to represent sued have heretofore been adopted, conveying the stronga brave and patriotic people, ardently attached to the est evidence of the opinions and feelings of this House, the union of the States; but they are also attached to their abolitionists are not satisfied. They appear to be deterfamilies and to their rights of property, and are pre- mined to persevere, session after session, until they pared to defend them when assaileil from any quarter. effect their object. Are we not called upon, then, by They would not look on silently, and permit their lives every consideration that can operate upon men who are and properties to be endangered by the lawless pro attached to the Union, and wish to allay the angry feelceedings of a wicked and contemptible set of fanatics, ings which prevail, and to restore harmony among the of a different section of the Union, who are unacquaint people, to put an end to this agitating question, by eied with them and with the condition of their slaves, iher rejecting at once this and all such petitions, or by who are in a happy situation compared with the peasant. adopting a resolution declaring that Congress does not ry and operatives in any other part of the world. lle possess the power of legislating upon the subject. If would not discuss the power of Congress to abolish | the abolitionists, in defiance of public opinion, and of slavery in the District of Columbia. lle concurred in the decisive votes of this House, shall continue to send the opinion expressed by the honorable member from their incendiary petitions here, and to keep alive the South Carolina, (Mr. T'HOMPSON,] that the members from apprehensions of the people of the South, let them be the southern States should not, on any occasion, argue rejected with indignation. He had no constitutional such a question. He would as soon discuss a proposi- scruples in voting to reject their petitions. When pretion to divest the people of the southern States of iheir sented, they are in possession of the House, to be dislands, or of a proposition to abolish the Government. posed of as it may deem proper. But they may be with But he would say to the abolitionists, and entertaining propriety rejected, without impairing the right of petithe opinions he did he could not say less, that the ex. tion, on another ground. They contain matter disre. ercise of such a power by Congress would convulse the spectful to the members of this body, from the nonwhole Union. The people of the South would not sub- slaveholding States, insulting to the people of the South, mit to such an act. They do not believe that Congress and are calculated to produce the most disastrous conpossesses the power to legislate upon the subject; and sequences to the couniry. He hoped that the motion they know that such an act of legislation would be im to reconsider the vote referring the petition to the Commediately followed by an attempt to emancipate all the mittee on the District of Columbia would prevail, and slares in the Union. Under these circumstances, it that it would be rejected, and that a resolution similar would be their duty to meet the question at once; and to the one proposed by the gentleman from Georgia knowing the feelings of the people of the slaveholding | would be adopted. States, as he did, he had no hesitation in saying that, Mr. WISE, of Virginia, rose, he said, to express his if such an attempt should ever seriously be made here hearty concurrence not only in the views of his colleague, to effect the views of the abolitionists in this respect, it [Mr. Robertson, ] but in his expression of thanks to the will be met by the united power of the whole South, I honorable gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. INGERSOLL] and with a spirit becoming a high-minded people, act. for his kind motives and sentiments and sympathies 10ing in defence of every thing dear to them. He did wards the South. But, sir, (said Mr. W.,) at the same time pot make these remarks from disrespect to any member that I ascribe all proper motives to the gentleman, and of this honorable body; on the contrary, it afforded give him the right band of fellowship for his noble and kind him great pleasure to bear testimony to the honorable feeling towards us, he must permit me to inform the and kind feelings manifested in relation to this question, House of the fact that I have already astonished the lionby the members from the non-slaveholding States genel orable gentleman by informing him, that if I were to rally, towards their fellow-citizens of the South; all of vote for the resolutions wbich he has offered, declaring them seem to reprobate the incendiary publications. tbat Congress has no power of legislation over the subAnd whatever difference of opinion may exist as to theject of slavery in the States, I should be scouted-scout. extent of the right of petition, or as to the power of ed, sir-from the district and by the people whom I Congress to legislate upon the subject, he did not be
sent. lieve that five members of this llouse--indeed, he hoped To declare that Congress has no power to abolish that not one member-desired, under the existing state slavery in the States! Has it come to this? Is the quesof things, to see the measure proposed by the petition. tion already pushed beyond the Rubicon? Has it passed ers adopted.
through the District of Columbia, crossed the Potomac, Is it not important, then, in every point of view, and reached the shores of Virginia? If it has, that is that a course should now be pursued that shall put what I wish to know-what the South should know. this question to rest forever-that will allay the ex. But, no, sir, that is not the meaning of the gentleman cited feelings which prevail, and restore harmony to froin Pennsylvania, though that would be the interprethe Union? How is this to be effected? Not by re tation of my constituents. He means tranquillity, peace, ferring the petitions to the Committee on the District confidence, and union. We mean precisely the same of Columbia, as proposed by the honorable gentle thing; and his resolutions only show how little the good man from Massachusetts, (Mr. Adams,] nor by laying and the patriotic of both the North and the South under. them on the table, as proposed by other gentlemen. stand each other upon this delicate subject. His reso
Similar petitions bad been referred to that committee lutions would be the farthest from giving us tranquillity, at a former session, and an able report made adverse to peace, and confidence, as a guard and guarantee of our the prayer of the petitioners, which was unanimously rights and safety. Sir, the gentleman has every qualifi. adopted by this House; yet, at the ensuing session, á cation, like his own great physicians of Philadelphia, of number of petitions of the same character were present a good physician, but the opportunities of observation ed, and laid upon the table, by a vote approaching to l and information have not enabled him or them to judge unanimity. Did these proceedings silence the abolition of southern complaints. He must first see and talk with ists? No. They seem to have stimulated their zeal; 1 us, and feel our pulse, before he can prescribe.
The gentleman says by adopting his resolutions we shall but to violate its constitution; and they will then see it is avoid all doubtful questions, and simply declare truths and 1 vain 10 petition. Sir, it is not becaure these petitions principles which are adınitted by all, and never were are insulting to us that I object to their presentation-1, doubted by any. And that, sir, is exactly wbat the South for one, could not be insulied by the ravings of madmen: can never consent to. We can never consent to declare it is not because they endanger our property and lives merely those of our rights which no one can, and which we are fully able to protect ourselves; but it is because no one shall ever doubt, and to abandon those which are they ask us to violate the constitution-to break the cov." continually attacked, and which thousands are continu enant of our Union, and to destroy that Union itself, that ally endeavoring, even under the right of petition, the I would not entertain them for a moment as subjects of freedom of debate, the freedom of the press, the legislation. freedom of religion, and the power of the constitution, to So far has this matter gone that nothing will now destroy. To adopt the resolutions of the gentleman, satisfy the South but the settlement of this vexed queswould be to imply that a doubt existed as to our powers tion-" Has Congress the power to abolish slavery in the of legislation over slavery in the States, where none ever District of Columbia?" If these petitions prayed for the did exist--as to which the case was, and ever lias beeri, a passage of a law undeniably unconstitutional-if they clear one; and woull conclude us forever upon this de- I prayed for the establishment of a religion, the union of batable and doubtful ground of the ten miles square. church and state, an ex post facto law, or a bill of attainWe wish to exclude all such conclusions, and to setile der—they would be harinless; for there could be no only the questions upon which some doubt is pretended., prospect of action upon them to shake the very foundaHere, in this District, is the doubi, the only doubt, on tion of the Government. They might be received in this subject, which we can ever admit, even by implica- safely, and might be laid on the table without fear of cation; and it is this doubt, here, which the South wishes their being ever called up. But, sir, they pray for that to be settled. It is not the way, sir, to tranquillize the which they say, and some on this Aoor say, they may public mind, to leave doubtful questions unsettled, much rightfully claim to have granted to them. They pray less to start doubts where they were never dreamed of. 1 for the abolition of slavery in this District; they pray for We must grapple with this question, though it grapples what it is said they have the right to petition; they pray with the vitals of the constitution.
for the blood of the covenant! Upon their skirts, not The North is mistaken: we are not understood. Sir, upon ours, say we, be the blood of that covenant, if it we are not afraid of this question, or of its discussion, must be shed - a sacrifice to raving fanaticism and folly! because we wish to explain our feelings and opinions, When must the controversy end) What security is there and desire them to be more fully known, and to be bet. | that the fearful controversy is not yet to commence? Can ter understood. Some are for laying these petitions on | we be quiet whilst the question is mooted-"Has Conthe table, and others are for putting them to sleep, by | gress the power to abolish slavery in the District of Coreferrring them to a committee. Would either course lumbia?” That is the question. We say no. Who here settle the question? I know it will not. I know my says ay? own people, and I know it is their fixed determination 1 I will show, sir, by the constitution, that there is no to allow of no doubt in regard to this matter. Their such power in Congress. Congress is created the Legiswish is not that this subject shall be discussed for effect, lature of the Union, with certain specific powers of nato answer or subserve any sinister purpose, or to arouse tional legislation granted; and the powers not delegated any unnecessary excitement; but alone with a view to a to the United States nor prohibited to the States are re. settlement of this strife forever, by obtaining from Con served to the States or to the people. Over the people gress a declaration, not of war, but of peace and safety. of the States of this Union the powers given to Congress We bring not the subject before you; but, on the con are enumerated and limited. Among the granted powtrary, we wish to protest, and call on you to protest ers is the power-with us, against these petitions which come here, against “To exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatour peace, property, and lives, bringing with them civil
soever, over such district, &c., as may by cession of pardiscord and danger of disunion. We invite not the sub- ticular States, &c., become the seat of Government of the ject, but wish Congress to say with us to the North, United States, and to exercise like authority over all * Hold off!" Yes, sir, that is our feeling. In the midst places purchased, by the consent of the Legislature of of servile insurrection, we would say to the North, ihe Staie in which the same shall be, for the erection of “ Hold off!” Above the cries of midnight murders, we | forts,” &c. would cry to the North, “Hold off!" When the torch Thus Congress is constituted a Legislature in two charof the incendiary shall make the darkness of midnight acters and in a twofold relation. glitter with the blaze of our dwellings," to light assassins | It is a national Legislature for the Union, with specific to their victims, we will, with an infant in one hand and ) and enumerated powers. And, the weapon of defence in the other, still cry to the ! It is a local Legislature, with “exclusive legislation. North, is cold oil!" And, sir, if Congress will but in all cases whatsoever, over" the District of Columbia. take up the subject and adopt a resolution which I shall In order to decide this great and serious question corin due time offer, disclaiming all power to grant the rectly, all that we have to do is to bear in mind the fact prayers of these petitioners, you will, before it is too of this double relation of Congress, and the proper dislate, say to the North, “ Hold off!"
tinction between Congress as a national and Congress as There is one other way to settle this question, and to a local Legislature. give permanent security for the peace and s.fety, not of Do these petitions come to us in the one character or the South alone, but of the whole country. To say to in the other? They cannot come to us as the Legislature such petitioners it is inexpedient, it is dangerous, to grant of the Union, for it will not be contended that there is your prayers, is to say a vain thing, as long as they live any such power enumerated or implied even in the conunder the conviction that you have the power to do stitution, as that which they ask of us to exercise as the whay they ask. Tell me noi, sir, that such advice and national Legislature. They are sent to us as the local such wisdom will allay the fire of fanaticism. It is worse Legislature for the District; and what do the words “to than vain to reason with infatuation. They will cease exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever" to inflame the country only when they are convinced mean? that their owa efforts are vain. Say to them, “You are These words certainly give to Congress alone, exclunot only asking us to disturb the peace of the country, | sively, the power to legislate for the District of Colum
bia. No State can legislate for it, and the District, not the party to whom such service or labor may be due.” being represented, cannot legislate for itself. The ques. Here is a most important provision, one of the sacred tion is, what power of legislation is given? To what ex compromises of the Union--the guarantee of slave proptent may Congress in its local character legislate?
erty. Will it be contended that this provision of the It is readily admitted that Congress, as a local Legis. constitution, so sacred to the South, can be nullified by Jature, has to some extent a power of legislation over the local Legislature of this District? That it could pass the people of the District, which it has not as a national a law in the District-not being a State-which would Legislature over the people of the States. This clause free every fugitive slave "the moment he set his foot on of the constitution undoubtedly does not mean that the | the soil" Sir, the bare possibility of this construction enumerated powers of Congress, to legislate over the is enough to account for all the sensitiveness of the South States only, shall be exercised exclusively over the Dis. on this question of abolition here. Admit this constructrict; for many of these powers, belonging to the nationaltion of unlimited legislation over the District, and it is Legislature, are wholly inapplicable, and all wholly in- plain and obvious that every fugitive slave, at least from adequate to the various obj-cts of municipal regulations the States, as well as all slaves in the District, will be for which Congress alone can and must provide by law free too soon for the safety of this Government. The in the District. But whilst the constitution does give | faith, the compromise, the guarantee, the constitution, "exclusive" legislation over the District, it does not de.
station over the District, it does not de which our fathers pledged and made with each other, fine the powers of that legislation. It is true, it uses will be gone forever. And who can say that fanatics the sweeping, and, to many minds, the absolute terms, and incendiaries have not hall this cinning to mark this "in all cases whatsoever;" but still the question remains, device for universal emancipation that they would not is this legislation absolute and unlimited-is it supreme have the heart to mutilate the plain letter of the constiand uncontrolled? Does the constitution make this local tution by this verbal criticism? Can there be a doubt Legislature a "supreme power” to'prescribe" any "rule but that we would be rent asunder by the "entering of civil conduct" in the District of Columbia, as Parlia. | wedge" of abolition in the District? Can there be a ment may in the kingdom of Great Britian?
doubt that this power would be claimed? This claim of Surely there is enough good sense and sound logic in abolition in the District is not an indirect but a direct this House to ward off the conclusion that, because the claim of the power of abolition in the States. He who power of this local Legislature is undefined, it is, there says that it would be merely "inexpedient” to abolish tore, unchecked and unrestrained. Do any contend slavery in the District, says that it would be merely "infor such a proposition? If so, let us follow out its re-l expedient" to abolish slavery in the States. sults to the most monstrous absurdities.
Again: The constitution prohibits the States from There are certain clauses of the constitution of the
n clauses of the constitution of the doing many ac's, without mentioning the District of United States which restrain Congress, as the national | Columbia. “No State shall enter into any treaty, alli: Legislature, from passing certain laws: As that which ance, or confederation; grant letters of margue and forbids the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the reprisal; coin money," &c.-(Sec. 10, art 1.) Will it passage of a bill of attainder or ex post facto law; a law he said that the local Legislature of this District can do respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting any of these acts? Certainly the District of Columbia the free exercise thereof; or abriolging the freedom of can do what none of the States of this Union can do, if speech or of the press; or the right of the people to this construction of the phrase "exclusive legislation in assemble and petition; or the right of the people to keep all cases whatsoever,” as contended for necessarily by and bear arms; or the right to be secure in persons, those who attempt to abolish slavery here, be the core houses, papers, and effects: As in that which says: rect construction of the constitution. In short, if this "Nor shall private property be taken for public use, construction of these words be correct, there is no rewithout just compensation.” Will it be contended that straint upon the general powers of Congress in favor of the local Legislature of the District of Columbia has un civil rights and privileges in this District; there is no limited power to pass laws impairing any of these rights? | prohibition of the passage of partial laws, by the local
Again: to go further. Congress is prohibited from Legislature of this District, injuriously affecting, in fact passing certain laws, partial in their operation as be destroying, all the rights and equality of the States. tween the States, eo nomine: As in that clause which None of the reciprocal and mutual duties and obligations provides that "No tax or duty shall be laid on articles of the people of the States belong to the people of the exported from any State. No preference shall be District of Columbia; and the local Legislature of the given to the ports of one State over those of another; ( District of Columbia, distinct from the Legislature of the nor shall vessels bound to or from one State, be Union and the State Legislatures, may do what neither obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties, in another.” | the Legislature of the Union nor the State Legislatures Can the local Legislature for the District of Columbia may do, and what the constitution never intended should pass a law taxing articles exported from Alexandria? | be done by any power in the country. The District of Can it give a preference to the ports of the District Columbia might be either the most favored and free, or over those of the States of the Union, because this pref. the most enslaved and oppressed, of any portion of the erence is prohibited as between one State only and United States; and there would be an uncontrolled, iranother? Can it oblige vessels to or from the States to responsible, and uniaxed despotism at once established, enter, clear, or pay duties, in the District?
without the slow pace of progressive steps, to glut upon Again, sir, the constitution requires certain doties all that is free and all that is fair in this happy land! and obligations from one State to another to be dis. Such a construction cannot prevail unless there be a set. charged and observed. "The citizens of each State tled determination not to keep the good faith of the shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citi. | federal compact. zens in the several States." Can the local Legislature of If, then, such a construction is absurd, and this clause this District deprive any citizen of a State of any of his of the constitution does not confer absolute power of privileges and immunities, because the District, eo nom- legislation, by what is the local legislation of Congress ine, is not named in this clause? And sono person held restrained, and how far? I think, sir, from what has to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, been said, we may lay down some general rules, at least, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any which restrain legislation over the District. I would say, law or regulation therein, be discharged from such sir, 1st, that nothing which Congress is expressly proservice or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of 1 hibited by the constitution from doing as a national