« AnteriorContinuar »
slavery and the slave trade is embraced within these im- understand his argument, that the provision of the conplied limitations of legislative power? Is it not within the stitution, that "the citizens of each State shall be enticompetency of ordinary legislation? Have not slavery and tled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the the slave trade been abolished by many States of this several States,” necessarily extends to the District of Union; and that not upon the grouad, as bas been sug Columbia, and that Congress must be understood to be gested in debate, of interest merely, but because, when prohibited from disfranchising here the citizens of the thoroughly examined, the pretended right to hold and several States; that is, that it cannot deprive them of transfer men as property has been found to rest on no the privileges of citizens of the District whenever they substantial foundation? Indeed, the opposers of these come into it. It is true it cannot, because there would petitions themselves, by laboring as they do to derive a be a gross and glaring absurdity in securing, as the conprohibition to legislate on this subject from the consti- stitution does, the rights of citizensbip in each State, to tution, and from the reservations in the cessions of this citizens of every other State, and, at the same time, de. territory, manifestly betray an unwillingness to trust the nying the rights of citizenship in this District--the com. claim to exemption from congressional legislation to the mon property of all the States--to the citizens of those natural limitation of legislative power.
States. And, besides, the very act of constituting this It is said, indeed, by the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. ten miles square a District of the United States necesWise,] that the States which have abolished slavery sarily gives to the citizens of each and all the States have not violated the great principle of vested rights, common rights in it; not the rights which they each en. by taking slave property against the consent of the own- joy in their respective States--as the terms in which the ers and without compensation;" but that they have gentleman states his argument would seem to imply-'merely " adopted the post nati principle, and declared because that would constitute twenty-four different rules that rights which did not exist at the time should never of action; but the right of each resident and sojourner exist;" that is, that the issue of slaves, born after a cer. here, of being protected by the laws made for the Distain future time, should be free. Without stopping to trict, and the whole District inquire into the correctness of this, in point of fact, but, The exception, then, of a right to disfranchise a citifor the purposes of this argument, admitting it, let me zen of Virginia who may come here, rests upon a prinask what is the difference in principle between depri- ciple having no possible relation to the case in question. ving an individual of his slave by act of legislation, and of But further: The gentleman from Virginia says that the right to the issue of that slave by the same act? no person held to service or labor in a State, under the Upon common principles, an absolute right to the laws thereof, escaping into this District, can be disone, as property, necessarily carries with it a right to charged from such service or labor, but must be deliverthe other; and a farmer would resist, as equal infringe ed up to the party to whom such service or labor may ments of his rights, an attempt to take away his cattle, be due; and that this constitutes an exception from the and a claim to deprive him of their future progeny. general power to legislate "in all cases whatsoever for
It would be appropriate here to go into an examina this District. I admit it does; and why? Plainly betion of the right which is claimed to hold men as prop cause the constitution having expressly secured the right erty, and of the rightful extent of legislation on this sub to the slave-owner to reclaim his slave in any and every ject. But it opens too broad a field for the present dis- State of this Union, it would be a clear evasion of it, as cussion, and I will not enter it.
well as a manifest absurdity, to deny him that right in a It thus appears that the right to legislate on the sub- District which is the common property of the very States jects of these petitions, which is manifestly included within which his right of reclamation is secured by the within the terms of the grant of power to Congress, is constitution. The exception in this case rests, therefore, not excluded by operation of the principles which form substantially upon an express provision of the constituthe basis of ordinary exceptions to the power of legisla- tion, whick by no possibility of construction can sustain tion. What is there, then, to exclude from the sweep. the exception in question. ing grant of power to legislate "in all cases whatsoever," Again: The constitution provides that "no tax or the power in question?
duty shall be laid on articles exported from any State. · An honorable gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Wise! No preference shall be given by any regulation of comfinds various grounds of implied exclusion in the consti merce or revenue to the ports of one State over those of tution. He says there are certain admitted exceptions another; nor shall vessels bound to or from one State be to the legislative power of Congress in regard to this obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties, in another.” And District, which he enumerates; and thereupon proceeds the gentleman from Virginia contends that this prohibito infer from the fact of these exceptions, that the pow. tion must be regarded as extending to the commerce 'er in question is also excepted.
and the ports of ihe District of Columbia; and if so, his Thus, he says that Congress is prohibited by the con inference is, that an implied prohibition of the abolition stitution from suspending the writ of habeas corpus, from by Congress of slavery and the slave trade in the States passing a law respecting the establishment of religion, must also be taken to extend to this District. and from abridging the freedom of speech and of the The first clause of the provision of the constitution press, or the right of the people to be secure in their just referred to was designed to exempt the exports of persons, houses, papers, and effects, &c.; and asks if the country from taxation, and must, of necessity, be ta. these prohibitions do not extend to the power of Con-ken to extend to all the ports within it; otherwise, the gress to legislate for this District. Most certainly they entire object of the clause might be directly defeated. do; but it is for the obvious reasons that they are unlim- The remaining clauses of the provision, it will be ob. ited in their terms, and of course necessarily extend to served, have exclusive reference to the equality of priv. the whole legislation of Congress. Is there any such ileges of the several States, which they aim to preserve, limitation of the power in question? Why, when the by prohibiting Congress from favoring the commerce, convention was in the act of providing limitations to the or the ports, or navigation of one, at the expense of an. powers which had been granted to Congress, in the 8th other. This it might do, in effect, if the ports, and section of the first article of the constitution, did they commerce, and navigation of this District might be ex. omit to limit specifically the power of legislation "in all empted from the operation of the clauses in question. cases whatsoever," which had been granted to Congress Thus a preference of the port of Alexandria over that of in reference to this District ?
Baltimore would disturb the equality of privilege which : Again: The gentleman from Virginia says, if I rightly the constitution intended to preserve between Virginia Vol. XII.-129
But what has all this to do with the subject under dis-gislate for the District at all? The subjects of every-day cussion? The provisions with regard to commerce, &c., legislation for the District are subjects upon which Condo not specifically reach it; and it is only, therefore, gress has no power to legislate for the States, and are, from the supposed analogy between the implied limita- therefore, according to the gentleman's argument, subtion of the power of Congress in the cases cited, and the jects on which it has no right to legislate here. limitation sought to be established in the present case, I And how does the gentleman's second rule touch this that an argument can be drawn in favor of the latter. subject? Are the States bound, by their " duties and But where is the analogy between an implied prohibition obligations" towards each other, to refrain from abolishto abolish slavery in the States, and an express prohibi- ing slavery and the slave trade within their respective tion of a preference of the ports of one State over those limits! Nobody pretends this. of another State! There is, indeed, a prohibition in both Many States have done it, and many more may yet do cases; but here the analogy ceases. If this is sufficient it, for any thing that can be found to the contrary in the to establish the position of gentlemen, let us see what constitution. And can any greater evil result to any of other positions it may establish. Upon the same ground the slave States from the exercise of a power by Congress that Congress is prohibited from abolishing slavery in the to abolish slavery and the slave trade within the limits of State of Virginia, for example, is it also prohibited from this District, than would result from the exercise, by the forbidding in that State the sale of lottery tickets, and States, of their admitted power of doing the same thing the practice of gambling, and the crime of kidnapping? | within their limits? May not Maryland, for example, if But could it not have enacted a prohibition of these she chooses, put an end to these evils within her limits! practices in the city of Alexandria the moment it was And would not the exercise of the power be as dangerous ceded to the United States! Could it not, in fact, have to the peace of the South, as would be the exercise of rendered valueless establishments for gaming, and re the same power by Congress in regard to this District? ceptacles for the kidnapped, which had been erected And has the gentleman's third rule a more appropriate under the sanction of the laws of Virginia, if those laws application to the present question than either of the had permitted such practices? Would the gentleman others? To what purpose, in reference to this argument, from Virginia have exclaimed against the invasion of is it to say that Congress can pass no·law in reference to vested rights, the taking of private property for public this District which the States are prohibited from passuse, without compensation!
ing? Are the States probibited from passing laws abol. *Again: The gentleman from Virginia says the “localishing slavery and the slave trade within their respective Legislature of this District cannot enter into any treaty, limits? alliance, or confederation, grant letters of marque and The gentleman from Virginia says the constitution reprisal, coin money," &c.; and infers, if I understand declares that "private property shall not be taken for him, that because this disability results, as he supposes, l public use, without just compensation.” Supposing by implication, from the inhibition to the States of the this to have any application to the present case, it only exercise of these powers, therefore the assumed disabili- involves the inquiry, whether slaves can be rightfully ty of Congress to abolish slavery and the slave trade in emancipated by legislative authority, without providing this District may, in like manner, result from its want of a just compensation for their masters. This touches & power to put an end to these evils in the States.
question which I will not now discuss, namely: what is The whole of this argument rests on a false supposition the foundation of the right to the slave, which is said to with regard to the source of the inability of Congress, be vested in the master? Congress, however, are not as a Legislature for this District, to make treaties, grant asked to take private property for public use; but to letters of marque, and coin money; and falls to the free the African from the unnatural condition of being ground when it is perceived that that inability results, the property of another, to the end, not that he may not from the inhibition to the States of the exercise of become the property of the public, but the proprietor such powers, but from their utter inconsistency with both of himself. But this is not all that we are called on to the purposes for which the power to legislate over this do. We are asked to prohibit men from making mer. District was granted, and the relation which the District chandise of their fellow-men; from buying and selling eyidently bears to the Union.
them to get gain." Do gentlemen talk of a compenThe gentleman from Virginia next proceeds to lay sation to the slave merchant for the loss of such a priva down the following general rules to restrain legislation ilege! Do they even touch the subject of the slave over this District :
trade within this District? "Dare they do it? Are there 1. “That nothing which Congress is expressly pro. any "vested rights" in the way of legislation on this hibited by the constitution from doing as a national Le. subject? Is there any question about compensation" gislature, can it do as a local Legislature for the District involved !--any limitation growing out of the nature of of Columbia.”
society, and of government,” to which the gentleman 2. “ That all the duties and obligations which the from Virginia refers! --any express or implied infringeStates are bound by the constitution to discharge and ob ment of the rights of the States any kind of obstacle, serve, from one to the other, the District of Columbia, in short, but the want of a will in those who have the or its Legislature, is bound to discharge and observe to power to put down this abominable traffic? wards the States, respectively."
Having thus attempted to show that the power of 3. “That the local Legislature of the District of Co Congress to legislate on the subjects of these petitions, lumbia can do no act, or pass no law, which the States obviously included in the power to "exercise exclusive are prohibited from doing or passing, by the constitution." legislation in all cases whatsoever," is not restrained by
And how, let it be asked, do these rules affect the any natural limitations of legislative power, nor by any present question? No express prohibition to legislate express or implied limitations to be found in the constion the subject of State slavery is found in the constitu tution, the question arises, Where is the limitation to tion, unless it be in the amendment which provides that be found, for which gentlemen so earnestly contend? I "the powers not delegated to the United States by the am answered, in the acts of cession, by which the States constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are re. of Virginia and Maryland ceded the territory which forms served to the States, respectively, or to the people.” this District to the United States. These acts, say genBut if Congress cannot legislate on the subject of slavery tlemen, are conclusive upon the subject. Let us see, in this District, because the right to legislate upon it in then, if these States did, in making the cessione, actually the States is "reserved to the States, how is it to le. impose restrictions at variance with the plain language
of the constitution; and whether Congress accepted gentlemen rely? I have recited the whole; and who grants thus restricted.
will say that they embrace any restraint upon the power The cession from Virginia was made by act of the Le of Congress touching the subject under consideration? gislature of that State, on the 3d of December, 1789, in Is not the omission, upon the gentleman's own view of the following words:
the subject, decisive of the question? “Be it enacted by lhe General Assembly, That a tract But the gentleman, having looked into the grant, and of country, not exceeding ten miles square, or any lesser seeing that no such "condition and restraint" was imquantity, to be located within the limits of the State, and posed there, seeks to find it in the nature of society in any part thereof, as Congress may by law direct, and government in Maryland and Virginia;" which he shall be, and the same is hereby, forever ceded and re- says is "of itself, independent of conditions expressed linquished to the Congress and Government of the United in the acts of cession, sufficient to restrain your power States, in full and absolute right, and exclusive jurisdic- of legislation over this subject." Thus, at one moment, tion, as well of soil as of persons residing or to reside a cession was provided for in the constitution, to the thereon, pursuant to the tenor and effect of the eighth end that the ceding States might impose condition and section of the first article of the constitution of the Gov. restraint upon the legislation of Congress; and, at the ernment of the United States."
next, "the nature of society and government in MaryThis grant, it will be perceived, transfers to the United land and Virginia is of itself a sufficient restraint," withStates "exclusive jurisdiction of soil and persons residing out any thing expressed in the grant! or to reside thereon;" and adds, pursuant to the tenor But, Mr, Speaker, what is the condition of the people and effect of the eighth section of the first article of the of this District in regard to this important subject, if the constitution of the Government of the United States;" power contended for is not granted to Congress? Mary. that is, pursuant to that part of the constitution which, | land and Virginia, possessing the power to abolish slaveas we have seen, expressly grants to Congress the power | ry and the slave trade within their respective limits, had "to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatso the power of doing it within the territory which now ever." Ilere, then, instead of a restriction of the juris. composes this District. But they possess it no longer. diction contemplated in the constitution, there is, both Their jurisdiction here is extinguished. The inhabitants in direct terms and by reference to that instrument, an of the territory are transferred to the United States, enexpress and clear confirmation of it.
tirely divested of all civil jurisdiction, with no power to But, say gentlemen, there is a proviso, wbich follows legislate on this or any other subject, but subjected to this grant, that contains the limitation contended for. the "exclusive legislation" of Congress in "all cases Let us see. The proviso is as follows: “Provided that whatsoever." However much they may, at any time, nothing herein contained shall be construed to vest in desire to free the territory from the curse of slavery and the United States any right of property in the soil, or to the slave trade, they are powerless. For any thing that affect the rights of individuals therein, otherwise than they can do, by the force of law, they and their children, the same shall or may be transferred by such individuals and their children's children, to the latest time, must be to the United States.” Now, sir, is it not apparent, doomed to see among them a traffic which makes mer. upon the slightest inspection of this proviso, that it limits chandise of the bodies and the souls of their fellow-men; thie grant only go far as it extends to the soil, and was which marches through their streets, chained together, designed merely to protect the rights of individuals companies of human beings destined to the slave prison therein (that is, in the soil) from the operation of that and the slave ship; and which agonizes their moral senpart of the cession which grants "the tract of country” sibilities by a severance of all the ties which bind man to to the United States in full and absolute right?" It his fellow-man, in the most valued and endeared relations seems to me, indeed, that, so far from limiting the grant of human life. in reference to the subject-matter now under considera- I have thus shown that the power given to Congress tion, this very proviso does, in effect, confirm it; since over this subject, by the general grant in the constituan express exception of one species of right from the tion, is affected, neither by the natural limitations to the operation of the grant, and one only, would seem to exercise of legislative power, nor by any limitation, exinply an exclusion of all other exceptions. It is, indeed, | press or implied, in the constitution itself, nor by any altogether incredible that the Legislatures of Virginia contained in the cessions of this territory by the States and Maryland should have intended to restrict the Uni of Maryland and Virginia. ted States in their power over the subject of slavery, . But the petitioners are here met with another objection without using language which would directly, or by clear to granting the prayer of these petitions. It is made a implication, reach the case.
question of public safety. To begin the work of abol. The gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Wise) gives addi. ishing slavery, and to banish the detestable traffic in hu. tional force to this argument by asking--"Why was man flesh from this District, will, we are told, tend to the cession required? Why was their (the ceding States] excite a spirit of insurrection in the southern States; and consent to the purchase of places required by the con- gentlemen give full rein to their imaginations in depict. stitution, if it was not to give the states the power of | ing the horrors of rape, rapine, and murder, which will imposing condition and restraint upon your legislation follow. I do not permit myself to doubt the perfect over the ceded territory?”
sincerity of gentlemen in these gloomy forebudings. I "The power of imposing condition and restraint!” know they are in a position to see what I cannot see, Very well. If this was the purpose, the States of Vir. and feel what I cannot feel. I will not allow myself to ginia and Maryland of course understood it, and would trifle with their views or feelings on this subject, though take care to impose, in their grants, all the conditions I must be permitted to doubt the correctness of the one, and restraints upon the legislation of Congress which and the justness of the otber. they thought proper; and to do it so plainly that even And may I not well doubt? It is true I do not profess the wayfaring man need not err in regard to them. a very familiar acquaintance with the disposition of the Now, where are the conditions and restraints on which slave population, or the probable influence upon them
of a discussion of, and action upon, this subject. And * The grant from Maryland was made on the 19th of while I would hesitate to oppose my own individual opin. December, 1791. It is in the same language as the ion to the assertions of honorable gentlemen, so confi. grant from Virginia, and is limited by the same proviso. dently made, they must permit me to confront them, not -Note by Mr. S.
altogether with my own opinions, but with the authori.
ty of intelligent and respectable slaveholders them- a slave trader, who was not required to give security for selves.
his remaining in the District, and he was, soon after, I hold in my hand a petition presented to this House shipped at Alexandria for one of the southern States. in the year 1828, signed by more than eleven hundred An attempt was made by some benevolent individuals to citizens of this District, praying for the abolition of sla- have the sale postponed until his claim to freedom could very and the slave trade within its limits. It was referred be investigated; but their efforts were unavailing; and to the Committee on the District of Columbia, and re- thus was a human being sold into perpetual bondage, at mained unacted on until the last session, when it was the capital of the freest Government on earth, without called up, on motion of an honorable member from New | even a pretence of trial or an allegation of crime. Hampshire, (Mr. HUBBARD,) and ordered to be printed, "We blush for our country while we relate this diswith the names of the signers. I send it to the Chair, graceful transaction, and we would fain conceal it from and ask that it may be read by the Clerk.
the world, did not its very enormity inspire us with the Here Mr. GARLAND, of Virginia, interposed, and hope that it will rouse the philanthropist and the patriot said he should object to the reading of that and all other to exertion. We have no hesitation in believing your petitions on the subject, unless the gentleman used it as honorable body never intended that this odious law a part of his argument.
should be enforced: it was adopted with the old code Mr. SLADE replied that he intended so to use it, and of Maryland, from which, we believe, it has been exshould read it himself, but, being exhausted, he wished punged since the District was ceded to the General Gov. it read by the Clerk.
ernment. Mr. GARLAND withdrew his objection, and consent “The fact of its having been so recently executed, ed to the reading, as an act of courtesy to Mr. S. shows the necessity of this subject being investigated by The petition was then read by the Clerk, as follows: a power which we confidently hope will be ready to
correct it. " To the honorable the Senate and House of Representatives
"We are aware of the difficulties that would attend of the United States of America in Congress assembled:
any attempt to relieve us from these grievances by a "We, the undersigned, citizens of the counties of sudden emancipation of the slaves in this District, and Washington and Alexandria, in the District of Columbia, we would, therefore, be far from recommending so rash beg leave to call the attention of your honorable body a measure. But the course pursued by many of the to an evil of serious magnitude, which greatly impairs States of this confeder:icy, that have happily succeeded the prosperity and happiness of this District, and casts in relieving themselves from a similar burden, together the reproach of inconsistency upon the free institutions with the bright example which has been set tis by the established among us.
South American republics, proves, most conclusively, " While the laws of the United States denounce the that a course of gradual emancipation, to commence at foreign slave trade as piracy, and punish with death some fixed period, and to take effect only upon tho e those who are found engaged in its perpetration, there who may thereafter be born or removed into the District, exists in this District, the seat of the National Govern might be pursued without detriment to the present proment, a domestic slave trade scarcely less disgraceful in
prietors, and would greatly redound to the prosperity its character, and even more demoralizing in its influence. and honor of our country. For this is not, like the former, carried on against a bar. “ The existence among us of a distinct class of people, barous nation; its victims are reared up among the peo- who, by their condition as slaves, are deprived of almost ple of this country, educated in the precepts of the same every incentive to virtue and industry, and shut out religion, and imbued with similar domestic attachments.
from many of the sources of light and knowledge, has "These people are, without their consent, torn from
an evident tendency to corrupt the morals of the people, their homes; husband and wife are frequently separated and to damp the spirit of enterprise, by accustoming the and sold into distant parts; children are taken from their rising generation to look with contempt upon honest parents, without regard to the ties of nature; and the labor, and to depend for support too much upon the most endearing bonds of affection are broken forever. I labor of others. ' It prevents a useful and i
"Nor is this traffic confined to those who are legally class of people from settling among us, by rendering the slaves for life. Some who are entitled to freedom, and means of subsistence more precarious to the laboring many who bave a limited time to serve, are sold into un-class of whites. conditional slavery; and, owing to the defectiveness of “It diminishes the resources of the community, by our laws, they are generally carried out of the District throwing the earnings of the poor into the coffers of the before the necessary steps can be taken for their release. rich; thus rendering the former dependant, servile, and
“We behold these scenes continually taking place improvident; while the latter are tempted to become, in among us, and lament our inability to prevent them. the same proportion, luxurious and prodigal. The people of this District have, within ihemselves, no "That these disastrous results flow from the existence means of legislative redress, and we therefore appeal to of slavery among us, is sufficiently conspicuous, when your honorable body, as the only one invested by the
we contrast the languishing condition of this District, American constitution with the power to relieve us. and the surrounding country, with the prosperity of those
“Nor is it only from the rapacity of slave traders that parts of the Union which are less favored in point of the colored race in this District are doomed to suffer climate and location, but blessed with a free and indusEven the laws which govern us sanction and direct, in trious population. certain cases, a procedure that we believe is unparallel “We would, therefore, respectfully pray that these ed, in glarmg injustice, by any thing at present known grievances may claim the attention of your honorable among the Governments of Christendom. An instance body, that a law of Congress may be enacted, declaring of the operation of these laws, which occurred during that all children of slaves, born in the District of Columthe last summer, we will briefly relate.
bia after the fourth day of July, eighteen bundred and “A colored man, who stated that he was entitled to twenty-eight, shall be free at the age of twenty-five freedom, was taken up as a runaway slave, and lodged years; and that those laws, which authorize the selling in the jail of Washington city. He was advertised, but of supposed runaways for their prison fees or mains no one appearing to claim him, he was, according to tenance, may be repealed. law, put up at public auction for the payment of his jail "And, also, that laws may be enacted to prevent fees, and sold as a slaye for life! He was purchased by l slaves from being removed into this District, or brought
in for sale, bire, or transportation; without, however, I commence a system of abolition which should look to the preventing members of Congress, resident strangers, or final, and not distant, extinction of slavery in that State. travellers, from bringing and taking away with them and did that discussion produce any symptoms of insurtheir domestic servants."
rection among the slaves! No, sir. And why, indeed, Mr. PATTON inquired whether the gentleman from should it? If yoii, sir, were the owner of one hundred Vermont could infurm bim how many of the signers were slaves, and should seriously set about measures to give slaveholders.
them the boon of freedom, do you think the first intimaMr. GARLAND made a further inquiry whether the tion of it would beget in them a spirit of rebellion, and gentleman from Vermont knew if they were all inbabi that it would rise in proportion as you should advance tants of the District.
your benevolent plans towards their consummation? To * Mr. SLADE
ADE replied, he could riot inform the gentle suppose this, is to suppose-what I want evidence to be. man how many of the signers were slaveholders. He lieve of the African race--that they are so lost to gratis personally knew some of them, and knew them to be tude as to find no inducement to its exercise in such a owners of slaves. The list of names, some of which he manifestation of benevolent regard for them as this. read, embraced men of all the professions and employ
| Suffer me, sir, to dwell a few moments longer on the ments in the District-judges, lawyers, plıysicians, mer
indications of opinion in Virginia on this subject, pendchants, mechanics, and laborers.
ing the agitation of the question in the Legislature of As to the question, (said Mr, S.,) whether all the that State. While the subject was before a committee signers were inhabitants of this District, I cannot, of of the Legislature, the editor of the Richmond Enquirer, course, answer it. I can only say that the petition was a well known leading public journal at the seat of Gov. presented to this House seven years ago, and has re- ernment of Virginia, said: mained on file in the Clerk's office ever since, open to “It is probable, from what we hear, that the cominspection; and that it has been, during the past year, mittee on the colored population will report some plan among the published documents of this House; and, for getting rid of the free people of color. But is this moreover, that it purports on its face to be a petition of all that can be done? Are we forever to suffer the inhabitants of this District. Under these circumstances,
greatest evil which can scourge our land not only to reI submit whether there is not a sufficient presumption
main, but to increase in its dimensions: "We may shut that it is what it purports to be, to put gentlemen upon
our eyes and avert our faces, if we please,' (writes an proof of the contrary.
eloquent South Carolinian, on his return from the North And now, Mr. Speaker, let me entreat gentlemen to
a few weeks ago, but there it is, the dark and grow. look into this petition. I do this the more earnestly,
ing evil, at our doors; and meet the question we must because they will find the names of many there, whom, | at no distant day. God only knows what it is the part I am persuaded, they will not be inclined to charge of wise men to do on that momentous and appalling sub. either with ignorance or fanaticism; biit on whose truth ject. Of this I am very sure, that the difference-nothing and intelligence and judgment they will place the most
short of frightful-between all that exists on one side of confident reliance. They state facts which they are in a tbe Potomac, and all on the other, is owing to that condition to know, and advance opinions, the soundness
cause alone. The disease is deep seated; it is at the of which is not liable to be affected by "northern pre
heart's core; it is consuming, and has all along been judices" on this subject. They are in the midst of consuming, our vitals; and I could laugh, if I could slavery, and understand what it is. They have witness laugh on such a subject, at the ignorance and folly of ed the slave trade, and know something of its borrors:
the politician who ascribes that to an act of the Governand without any of the doubts of gentlemen in regard to ment, wliich is the inevitable effect of the eternal laws the power of Congress on this subject, and without any
of nature. What is to be done! Oh! my God! I don't of the apprehensions with regard to the effect of its dis know, but something must be done.' cussion upon the public peace and safety, which has “Yes, something must be done; and it is the part of been made the subject of such glowing descriptions and
no honest man to deny it; of no free press to affect to gloomy anticipations, here and elsewhere, they fearless
conceal it. When this dark population is growing upon ly announce the truth in regard both to slavery and us; when every new census is but gathering its appalling the slave traile, and urgently appeal to Congress, “as
number upon us; when within a period equal to that in the only body invested by the American constitution
which this federal constitution has been in existence, with power to relieve them."
those numbers will increase to more than 2,000,000 withI submit, Mr. Speaker, whether it is not time that in Virginia; when our sister States are closing their these petitioners, sustained as they are by the concur.
doors upon our blacks for sale; and when our whites are reut supplications of their northern brethren, should be moving westwardly in greater numbers than we like to heard and regarded; and whether the fact that eleven
hear of; wben this, the fairest land on all this continent, hundred citizens of this District have signed the petition for soil and climate and situation combined, might be. which has just been read, is not a sufficient reply to the come a sort of garden-spot if it were worked by the argument which has been drawn from considerations hands of white men alone, can we, ought we to sit connected with a regard to the public safety.
quietly down, fold our arms, and say to each other, But further: The subject of the abolition of slavery, . well, well, this thing will not come to the worst in our it is well known, was fully debated in the Legislature of day? We will leave it to our children and our grandVirginia in the year 1832, when the “injustice, tyranny, children and great grandchildren to take care of them. and oppression of the slave system were openly and selves, and to brave the storm? Is this to act like wise boldly maintained;* and an effort was seriously made to men? Ileaven knows we are no fanatics. We detest the
madness which actualed the Amis des Noirs. But some* The gentleman who opened the debate on the side of abolition, said: “It was a truth held sacred by every for a time, to grant their slaves liberty, he admitted to American and by every republican throughout the world, be possible; and if they do exist in any case, it may exand he presumed it could not be denied in that hall, as cuse, but not justify, the owner in holding them. The a general principle, that it is an act of injustice, tyranny, right to the enjoyment of liberty is one of the most preand oppression, to hold any part of the human race in cious, inherent, inalienable rights which pertain to the bondage against their consent. That circumstances may whole human race, and of which they can never be exist which may put it out of the power of the owners, divested, except by an act of gross injustice."