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DE BATES IN CON GRESS.

PART II. of vol. IV.

1478 OR 1) EBATES

IN CONGRESS. 1414

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slave into such involuntary service by contract? I have said that he cannot do it—I mean that he cannot, but in violation of the law of Nature, and of God. You cannot take his life, or wantonly injure his person; and what you cannot do yourself, even by indirection, you cannot employ another to do. If you cannot shoot him yourself, you cannot force him into a situation to be shot, even by a public enemy. And though, from personal attachment, I doubt not, he might voluntarily spill his own blood in defence of his master, yet you cannot compel him to put his life in jeopardy either in your defence, or in defence of your country. And, if tempted by the wages of his labor, or even by patriotism, to put him into the public service, against his will, by your own voluntary contract, and harm happen to him, with what justice can you ask indemnity for the loss you may sustain And when I speak of the slave going into such service against his will, I do not mean that he is forced into such service by stripes and chains. The slave, I believe, is generally a passive being, and in the habit of passive obedience. He goes where he is directed to go, and does what he is directed to do. And, it is fair to presume, that, in the present instance, the inclination of the slave was never consulted, and he was, therefore, in the service by compulsion. . But the question has been asked, and in the form of impassioned exclamation, shall the Government, in the face of the Constitution, take private property for public use, and refuse to make just compensation ? I answer, no. And you ask, was not this slave the property of D'Auterive'. I answer, yes; but he was also a man, whom neither his master, nor any military commander, nor even the Government itself, in the exercise of “transcendental power,” hal the least right to force into a place of exposure, in the face of a public enemy. And this having been done; no matter how, by impressment, if you please, since that is insisted on—not of the Government, for that cannot be pretended—but of an officer of the GoWernment, the pecuniary loss of the master is swallowed up in the outrage offered to the slave, in the wound inflicted on the Constitution and the iaw, which guarantee to every man security of life and limb. And you ask, will you refuse to make compensation for property taken for your use, because the act of the of. ficer in taking it was illegal 2 I answer, no ; not merely because the act was illegal. For, believing as I do, that all impressment of property is illegal, there are yet, probably, many losses arising from such acts, for which I would make ample compensation for the relief of the officer—but of one thing I would always first be satisfied, and that is, of the necessity which existed for the illegal act. And of the necessity of impressing a slave into the public service, I never could be satisfied—I never would be satisfied. What is a slave An animal, born and bound to perpetual servitude—degraded indeed, but yet a man—with nothing on earth that he can call his own : his very children are the property of his master ; the dew of Heaven never falls on his dwelling ; the sun itself never arises on his home, or his country even the hope of a better condition—and happily for him, perhaps, for, like a brief light, springing up in the bosom of the desponding, it sometimes serves only the more effectually to discover the darkness which envelopes it—even the hope of a better condition is buried up and extinguished in his utter degradation : What interest has such a being in the stupendous events that are passing in the world 2 What interest has he in your country None. What cares he for a foreign and invading enemy Nothing. A public enemy can take nothing from him—and, if the gentleman from Louisiana, [Mr. Livingston] who seems to be taking notes, wishes to take it down, I repeat it—a public tnemy can take nothing from him, because he has nothVol. IV.-93

ing to lose. Yes, I confess, one thing he has to lose, and only one—his life—but that a public enemy would disdain to have, if it could avoid the taking of it. And shall he be called upon to peril his life and members—which are all the law assumes to protect for him; the security of which alone form, in law, the characteristic difference between him and the lower animals ; and which nature would leave him free to defend in the absence of all positive law—shall he be called upon, I ask, to peril his life and members in the defence of a country, to which he owes neither allegiance nor gratitude : Sir, I know of no circumstances of necessity which could ever induce me to sanction, by way of indemnity, the conduct of a military officer of this Government, in the impressment of a free white citizen into the public service : for, in my judginent, the preservation of the first city in the Union might be dearly purchased, at the expense of the sacrifice of the meanest individual in it, if the blow which effected that sacrifice was struck also at the Constitution and the law. And yet, I would sooner– aye, much sooner—sanction the impressment of a free white citizen, who is under common obligations with oth. ers to defend the country that protects him, than I would the impressment of a slave, who has no interest in your country in common with the citizen, and who has nothing to defend, but that, in the defence of which nature armed him, before Government and the law had existence. What, then, are we called upon to do To pay for property taken for the public use No ; but to sanction the conduct of an officer of this Government in the impressment of a slave into the public service ; which, considering the character and condition of such slave, no circumstances of necessity can ever justify ; and which, for one, I will never consent to adopt and sanction as the act of this Government. Can it, then, vary the question of indemnity, whether the loss of the master, by the injuries to the person of his slave, was partial or total . Whether amounting to the whole value of his interest in the life of the slave, or only part of it I think not : for I think the principle is the same in both cases. The hazard to which the master's interest in his slave was put, was exposure of the person of the slave to a public enemy. This exposure was illegal, in any point of view, if effected compulsorily as to the slave, whether by impressment or , by contract with his master. And I cannot, for the life of me, therefore, see any difference in principle between indemnity for a partial loss of interest in the slave, occasioned by the destruction of an eye, and indemnity for a total loss of interest, had the same shot which put out the eye, passed through the brain, and ended his existence. It is, then, because the slave, though property, is a human being—because the master has no power over his life and members, beyond their employment, under cir. cumstances of probable safety—because neither the Gov. ernment nor its officers have the power to impress an animal having the quality of man—because human life is

not to be estimated in damages—because this Govern

ment should never give its sanction to an illegal impressment, and especially the impressment of a slave ; or to an illegal contract, and especially one that should touch the life of a human being—because this Government cannot chaffer in human life or human limbs, without danger of staining its hands with human blood—it is for these reasons that I cannot vote for this bill. One word in conclusion, I intended, when I set out, to avoid, as far as possible, every thing which might be offensive either in principle or in expression. If I have not done so, I regret it exceedingly. I solemnly appeal to God, that I would not knowingly and willingly utter a sentiment or a syllable that I believed would tend to unsettle any one correct principle upon which property in

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