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forever separated from the institution of slavery. They might take any one or all of these petitions, and he would appeal to the record to settle the question, whether in any of these cases we had violated the great constitutional right of petition; whether we had turned the petitioners out of this Hall; wheth-' er we had driven them with scorn and contempt from our doors.
What had been the proceedings of these and all similar cases? What had been the practice under the 21st rule? The petitioners in any and in all those cases had “peaceably assembled.” Had the 21st rule prevented that? When they had assembled, they had petitioned this House. Did the 21st rule prevent that? They had, as the next step, sent their petitions to their chosen and selected agent. Did we prevent that by the 21st rule? We did not. What was next? That agent, in every one of these cases, had brought their petitions here within these walls. Did the 21st rule prevent that? No. What next? The gentleman from Massachusetts rose in his place; all eyes were fixed upon him, and all ears were opened to his voice. What did he do? He presented these petitions: he stated distinctly to the House what they contained, where the petitioners resided, what were the grievancés complained of, how they reasoned upon the subject, and, finally, made known to this House what was the redress they prayed for. That was the precise process. The record showed the fact. And now the question was, whether we had abridged or in anywise violated the great right of petition in this course of proceeding? The petitioners had been heard. By themselves ? No; for they had not come here to be heard; they had been heard by their own selected agent, who came within these walls, presented their petitions, and made known their prayers. Would it, then, be pretended that we had violated their rights, or treated them with scorn when we had heard their own agent speaking for them, and stating what grievances they prayed to have redressed?
The question now which he wished to put to the gentleman from New York and others who seemed disposed to object to this 21st rule was, whether, in fact, under that rule, we had
trations of it from every domestic circle, and from the scenes of every-day life. A parent was bound to hear the complaint of her offspring; but, pausing and hearing them, she might promptly repel them. Although the child might say that the parent was precipitate, or even unkind, yet it could never say that the parent had refused to hear its complaints. Now, here was the great principle of petition. Mr. B. admitted the right in its broadest and fullest extent; and he admitted further the duty of this House to hear these petitioners. After these pe titioners were heard, (as they did hear them under this 21st rule,) the right of the people was perfect. The duty of the House then began, and that duty was to dispose of the petitions promptly or slowly, as they deemed proper.
It was a great issue, not only elsewhere but here, whether the argument was true, so often used by the gentleman from Ohio and the gentleman from Massachusetts, and now sustained by the gentleman from New York and the gentleman from North Carolina, who had come forward and endorsed the arguments used in former times upon this subject, whether by this 21st rule the great constitutional right of petition was violated, as they affirmed it was. Mr. B. denied that this right was violated, and he appealed to the record, relying upon the known practice of the House, (for what he had told them with regard to the practice upon these petitions was known to be true by every member of the House.)
But by what sort of an argument was it that the gentleman from New York maintained that the 21st rule ought to be abandoned? The gentleman told them that this was the very best way in the world to put down abolition. His great object was to put down abolition ; and the best way to do so, he told them, was to receive, to refer, and to report upon these petitions. The gentleman might as well tell him that the best way to save a city was to surrender its fortifications; or that the best way to repel an invasion was to give up all the mountain passes and strongholds where the enemy might be most readily and effectually met and overcome. Put down the spirit of abolitionists, defeat their object by doing what? By said the gentleman from New York, “ Oh, yes, let us receive them; that is the way to put them down.” What was the next thing they asked for? To have their petitions referred to the committees of the House. The gentlemen from New York and the gentleman from North Carolina also said, “Oh, yes, let us put down these abolitionists by sending their petitions to a committee to be examined and reported upon." They asked more--that they should debate these petitions. And gentlemen professing to be opposed to abolition (and Mr. B: doubted not sincerely professing) still tried to persuade the House that the best way was to yield every inch of ground, and refuse nothing but the solitary principle of relief for which they finally prayed. Now, it was impossible for Mr. B., as a Southern man, or as a statesman who had watched the
progress of this abolition question, to believe that this could be safely done.
[Mr.BEARDSLEY (Mr. Brown yielding for explanation) inquired if the gentleman said that he (Mr. BEARDSLEY) advised debate upon the subject. Surely he had never taken this position. His course was well known: it was in favor of taking the final vote upon the whole matter; and gentlemen well knew what that would be.]
Mr. Brown resumed. But did not the gentleman perceive that if they referred these petitions they must report upon them; ; and if they reported, they must debate the subject? If they began, on what principle would they avoid carrying out the regular process, involving reference, report, and debate? But why would gentlemen agree to refer these petitions at all ? They all said they were as much opposed to abolition as any one, and yet they proposed to refer the petitions to a committee which should collect facts, examine laws, and consider the subject, and see if some plan could not be devised for carrying out the views of the petitioners. If this was not the object, they could have no object at all. Why, then, would they refer, why report upon, why debate these petitions, if they did not mean finally to grant their prayer?
[Mr. CLINGMAN (Mr. B. yielding for explanation) said the gentleman had misunderstood him (Mr. C.) if he had understood him as being in favor of debating these petitions. He was averse to it; he was willing to see had enough to do to debate bills, resolutions and reports from committees. After reference, if the committee reported for or against the prayer if any gentleman chose he might then with propriety discuss the matter.]
Mr. Brown continued. He was glad the gentleman from North Carolina had had an opportunity for explanation. But did not the gentleman see that the only way to get along with this subject with safety to the South, with safety to the gentleman's own State, with safety to the portions of North Carolina bordering on the rivers of that State where the heaviest slave population was to be found, was not to go beyond the great question of the right of petition, but there to stop? to take no jurisdiction, by reference, by report, or debate over the subject? There was comparatively safe ground; and from the explanation of the gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. B. indulged strongly the hope that when they came finally to act upon the subject, he [Mr. C.] would not be found going beyond that. Mr. B. admitted, notwithstanding their rule was so plain, and notwithstanding their practice under it had been so plain, that there might be extensive misrepresentations and misconstructions of the rule of the country. Now, he asked of the gentleman from New York and of the gentleman from North Carolina, why they did not stop at that point? Why they did not propose in the report of this committee to clear up, to elucidate this subject, and make it manifest in its true light to all the people of the country, and to remove all doubts and difficulties, by going on according to their views to perfect the great right of petition? . What was requisite for that? Why, simply to declare that the petitions should be received; that would perfect the great right of petition in a manner safe to the North, and which would be safe to the South in a great degree, and it would have saved the Democracy of the North from the suspicion of their enemies of a disposition to form alliances with, or to propitiate at least, the fell spirit of ablitionism. Why did not the gentlemen pause at the point of reception, and go no farther, if their object was to clear up the misconception on the public mind ?
It might seem strange to the gentleman to whom Mr. B. had
from North Carolina, as well as others that he had laid so much stress upon not referring, not reporting, and not debating these petitions. Why, it was evident, if these petitions were received and laid upon the Speaker's table, that there, under the rule, they would lie forever. No great harm or mischief perhaps would grow out of this practice. But the very moment they referred them to a committee, that moment they took jurisdiction over them, and jurisdiction in such away as to alarm the whole country. He was opposed to an action which might result in such consequences.
The argument had been used, that if they would receive, refer, and report upon these petitions, as in ordinary cases, this would allay the excitement which now exists on this subject. Mr. B. had one conclusive answer, one irresistable argument, in his humble judgment, against this proposition: They had already tried it. Many gentlemen were here discussing this question, as though the experiment had never been made, of receiving these petitions, and referring and reporting upon them. Why, the very speech the gentleman from New York had made, if not word for word, yet argument for argument, had led to the adoption of the celebrated Pinckney resolution. Under this they had been received, referred, and reported on; a dignified, manly, respectful report had been made, and the decision of this House had been had upon the question. Now, had that allayed excitement? Had that had the tendency to put down the spirit of abolition? So far from it, the gentleman from Massachusetts, at the next session, had come within this Hall with fifty thousand petitioners at his heels. So far from it, the very moment they had adopted the Pinckney resolution, and determined to receive, refer, and report upon these petitions as they did upon all others, the abolitionists all over the country said: “Now is the time to make your effort; send men to Congress able to be the speakers of that body-able to serve upon the committee, able to speak and vindicate the abolition question. The doors of Congress are wide open; they may not long remain so. Therefore, now is the time, and put all your machinery in motion to effect your object.” And abolition had grown and flourished, and they were now