Imágenes de páginas

cannot safely submit to abolition even here. How could Maryland, how could Virginia submit to it? When the District of Columbia should have become a city of refuge for the slaves of the surrounding country, what earthly power could prevent the chivalrous sons of Virginia and Maryland from asserting their rights and reclaiming their property ? Members of Congress, who now shudder with horror at reading in some metropolitan newspaper, the advertisement of some negro slave for sale, might then be doomed to witness many a scene of strife, and to behold many a wounded captive borne off in chains, who, without his officious legislation, would have remained contented at home, eating the same kind of food, reposing through the same hours of the night, and working side by side with the master through the day, in the same fields, where both had been reared, in kind and sometimes affectionate regard for each other.

Look next to another of these aggressions on the rights of the south, which proposes under the pretext of regulating commerce among the States, that no slave, for no purpose, and under no circumstances whatever, shall be carried by his lawful owner, from one slave-holding State to another. That where slavery now is, there it shall forever remain, until by its own increase, it shall outnumber the opposite race, and thus by the united combination of causes-the fears of the master, the diminution in value, and the exhausted condition of the soil, the final purposes of fanaticism, whatever they may be, shall be accomplished. For this extraordinary proposition no apology can be offered ; for it is established by universal observation, that if you give to slavery but scope and compass, if you permit it to be dilated over ample space, it loses much of that oppression which even a morbid humanity could deplore. In many regions of the south, I hesitate not to declare that in point of care and anxiety-in point of abundance of food and raiment-of healthful but humble habitation, the slave is but little distinguished from the master.

Before we further pursue this enumeration of our wrongs permit me to say, that I do not include the whole north as en


arge Po

party, I freely admit many individual exceptions that challenge our highest admiration and gratitude-men who stand forth among the brightest ornaments of our age and country.

The last in the series of aggressions to which I shall call your attention, is that one commonly called the Wilmot proviso, by which Congress is called upon to prohibit every slaveholder from removing with his slaves to the territory lately acquired from Mexico-a territory as large as the old thirteen States originally composing the Union--a territory won by the common valor, and paid for out of the common treasury of the nation. Simply to state the proposition is to show its enormity. Even the brigand will make honorable divisions of the spoils among all who went willingly and bore themselves valiantly in the expedition of rapine and plunder. Will proud and independent States do less with their compeers in an expedition of honor, and duty, and patriotism? If disposed tò taunt, I might demand to know if the north, a large portion of it at least, did go willingly? Whether she did not denounce the expedition as wicked and unjust, and the acqusition barren and worthless? How then is it that she shall demand the lion's share of it to herself? Even after it had been acquired, many there were ready to abandon it and surrender it back to what they were pleased to term a weak and helpless and innocent people--more willing then to give all to Mexico, than they now are one-half of it to their own countrymen. And what has the south ever done to merit such exclusion from the common soil, the common property of the nation ? Trace her history--in peace and in war-on every battle-field, and in every council-chamber, she has been true and faithful to all her engagements to the north. Observe her more especially in the contest, by which that very territory was acquired from which she is now to be excluded. Both of your great commanders were from the south. Many subordinate generals, their “kindred thunderbolts in war," were also from the south. An equal number--nay, a majority of your invincible soldiery were from the south. Why should they be permited to gather laurels from Palo Alto to Buena Vista--from Vera Cruz to the Montezmas, why should they be required to bow their heads, and meekly to retire-excluded --driven out from the country moistened with their blood, and immortalized by their valor. Could the north point me to “the book and page”--to the very clause of the Constitution which would expressly warrant an exclusion so unequal, and so unjust, I would not yet believe that a land that bears upon her bosom the proud and lofty monument of Bunker Hill, would ever perpetrate so foul-so incomprehensibly monstrous deed. But that book--that pagethat clause can never be shown. It is vain to point us to that provision of the Constitution which declares that, “ Congress shall have power to dispose of, and make rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.” Territory means the land--the soilwhich belonged to her. The property which she might have need to dispose of. To dispose of-to sell her territory or public lands, rules and regulations might and would become necessary: they must be surveyed. The size and form of her surveys, the price which should be demanded for them, the location of the offices where the same shall be disposed of, were all among the “rules and regulations” contemplated by this section. It did not speak of political associations or governments under that tèrm. The exclusion of every such conclusion is to be found in the after declaration that nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or any particular State.” Under this clause, however, the United States may entirely prevent the formation of political associations or governments upon her territory or public lands. She may exclude the settlement of them altogether. She may choose to reserve them for after times or to hold them as uninhabited barriers between herself and some co-terminous nation. If such should not be her policy she may permit and invite their settlement with a view to political organization. But because that territory is hers, she may prescribe the description of persons, whether unnaturalized foreigners or the citizens of the United States, who may inhabit it. She may discriminate against the former on the great principles of self-defence against the formation of an organized government of foreign subjects on her own soil, within her own boundaries, hostile in sentiment, and dangerous to her republican form of government. Against and amongst her own people, she can make no such discrimination, because neither founded on necessity, consistent with the community of property, nor warranted by that perfect equality of rights secured to the people of the States by the Constitution. For the same reason, (the right of property) she may designate the boundaries within which such political associations may be formed. The land, the soil, the territory is her own, and she may therefore well determine such a question according to her own will and pleasure. All other questions preliminary to political organization and to subsequent application for admission into the Union, acted on by Congress, must be the result of strict necessity or of acquiescence on part of the people for mutual accommodation and convenience; all these questions relate chiefly to mere modes of action and sink into comparative insignificance in this discussion. But the great principle of self government inherent in every people, and the guarded and limited powers granted to the general government, would clearly indicate to my mind, that whatever Congress has done or may hereafter do in reference to introducing measures preliminary to the organization of territorial governments, she ought never to enter upon direct and immediate legislation for them. But my purpose is not here to discuss the Constitutional questions involved in the present contest between the north and the south. This is neither the time nor the occasion. I therefore pass to another, and would solemnly and earnestly enquire what the north can expect to gain by all these high and imperious demands! Does she expect thereby to wipe out the stain of what she is pleased to call the national sin of slavery? Why slavery has no nationality! It is purely a local and sectional institution. Whatever of sin may be ascribed to it can never attach in any degree to the north, until we obliterate the States and become one vast consolidated government. If it be replied that whilst this is true as to slavery in the States, yet the territory of the United States is national and the introduction of slavery there would be a

[ocr errors]

agreed to set bounds to this imputed sin, by the compromise of the Constitution, by the Missouri compromise, by the Texas compromise. And even under these we ask the north to give no affirmative sanction to the sin or other evils of slavery. All we require of her is to take no action on the subject. Will not this do them? It did the venerable men of the north sixty years ago. It satisfied them thirty years ago when Missouri came into the Union. Why not now? Let them remember too, that whether they admit slavery upon one foot of our territory or not, cannot affect the question of its sinfulness in the slightest degree. Admit slavery to-morrow into every territory north and south of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes, and you add not a single one to the number. Exclude them, and you make their number not a single one the less. The aggregate amount of sin and of suffering, as you regard it, will therefore remain the same whether you fail or succeed in this notable scheme of conscientious purgation.

Let me further enquire of the north, when she has succeeded in all her proposed measures, what she expects to accomplish for the relief of “the poor enslaved and down-trodden sons of Africa. You would shake a continent from the centre to its circumference for their relief. You would deal blow after blow on the Constitution, until you would make the Union reel and stagger like a falling and dying man, to lighten their yoke and loosen their chains; and what, I demand to know, is likely to be your successs? Deluded by your perpetual agitations, they become gloomy and discontented with their lot. Suspicion watches every look and refers every action to some settled purpose of intended insurrection. If outbreaks ensue, destitute of arms, and ignorant of their use if they had any, with no concert of action, and no leader to conduct them, they would soon be dispersed, or shot down in the fields and the highways like so many wild beasts of the forest. Thus they would perish; by famine, by the sword, by the halter; and dying, would heap curses on those who had disturbed them in their former contentment and repose.

But let us suppose that their efforts should be crowned with success so far as to secure their escape from their further bondage. Where shall

« AnteriorContinuar »