« AnteriorContinuar »
whole union, and with particular reference to the permanent security of the southern people, and the gradual improvement of the condition of the black population. So far as local considerations should have any weight, they should constrain the assembled representatives of the people, and every writer and speaker on the subject, to consult with peculiar tenderness amul solicitude, the great interests of those parts of our country, where slavery now exists. This inay be done with little apprehension; for, unless we are entirely deceived, the great interest of the whole union will be best promoted, in reference to this! subject, by the very measures, which will exert a permanently salutary influence on the southern states,
It may bo well to premise here, that slavery is universally admitted to be, as judge Washington bas well expressed it, an inherent vice in any community, where it exists. We should not wish to use stronger language concerning it, than has been osed by Mr. Jefferson, himself a native and inhabitant of a slave-holding state, and the possessor of numerous slaves. Few abler arguments have been made, and few more eloquent appeals been delivered, in behalf of the blacks of our southern country, than were heard in the Legislature of South Carolina, about a year since, from one of the Charleston members. There are, in the slave-lolling states, gentlemen of great worth and respectability, whose hearts are deeply engaged in the design of mitigating the evils of slavery, and in preparing the way for its gradual abolition. May the blessing of the Almighty rest tipon thiem, give them wisdom, zcal, and perseverance, and crown their labor's with success.
During the last session of Congress, a bill was introduced for admitting the territory of Missouri into the union as a state. An amendment was added, in the House of Representatives, prohibiting the extension of slavery within the limits, which the contemplated state had assigned to it. The Senate rejected this amendment, and, the House adhering to it, the bill was lost. In the course of the summer, emigrants from the southern states into the Missouri territory have felt a deep interest in the decision of the question, and havo exerted all the influence in their power. The voice of these emigrants, and of a majority of the inhabitants of the territory, is now decidedly and strongly in favor of the admission of slavery; though the delegate from that territory stated, about a year since, that it was then extreinely doubtful on whichi sidle the majority was. A very general interest bas been felt on the subject, in every part of the country; and meetings have been held, in most of our principal towns, to offer memorials to Congress respecting it. Several legislative bodies have also expressed their opinion upon it, and transmitted their resolutions to the representatives and senators from their respective states. While we are writing the subject is under consideration in both houses of Congress, and even now a decision may have taken place, which will probably affect the condition of the countless millions, who will inhabit this great continent, centuries after the present generation shall have passed away.
The principal objection to the contemplated restriction rests upon its alleged unconstitutionality; though there are persons, who urge against it reasons of expediency, justice and laumanity.
It is not our design to enter at large into the constitutional argument. The speeches of Mr. King, which have been very extensively circulated, and the memorial of inhabitants of Boston and the vicinity, written by the Hon. Daniel Webster, contain most luminous exhibitions of facts and reasoning, and prove, in a manner which appears to us entirely unanswerable, that the proposed restriction is constitutional. Though others should not view these documents in exactly the same light with ourselves, all will adınit, we should think, that they are composed with candor as well as ability; and that they are free from any reflections, which tend to inflamne party animosity, or keep up local distinctions. He, who reads these documents, will find, unless we mistake, the following positions clearly established: viz. That Congress has the power of making laws for all the territories of the United States, in as full a manner as any state legislature for the territory under its jurisdiction;-that slavery, in any territory of the United States, is as proper a subject of legislation for Congress, as slavery, in any state, for the legislature of that state; that, while Congress may admit new states into the union, it may as freely refuse to adınit-them, unless their admission promises to be a public benefit; that, on this subject, Congress is bound by the same discretion as on other subjects of legislation, that is, by a regard to the good of the whole union;—that, when a new state is admitted into the union, such conditions may be imposed, as shall seem just, and reasonable, and suited to the circumstances of the territory to be admitted; in the same manner as conditions are imposed by a state, when it consents to a division of its territory;-that, in fact, conditions have been imposed in every instance of a new state admitted to the union, or of a state consenting to a division of its territory;that the constitution implicitly gives Congress the power of prohibiting the importation of slaves subsequently to the year 1808, and into territories and new states, previously to that period;—that if Congress may probibit new states from importing slaves, it may make it a condition of admitting new states into the union, that they never shall permit such importation;-that in the year 1787, the old Congress passed an ordinance, with the unanimous consent of Delaware, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia, five slavo holding states, and a like consent of all the other states represented in that Congress, by which slavery was to be forever excluded from the territory northwest of the river Ohio, which territory has since been formed into the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, on the basis of that ordinancc;—that Vermont was admitted into the union in 1791, without any condition respecting slavery, for the obvious reason that slavery had been many years before excluded by the state constitution; that in the cessions made by North Carolina and Georgia of the territory, out of which the states of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama have been formed, it was expressly stipulated that Congress should not prohibit slavery in this territory, thus admitting, that without such stipulation, Congress would have possessed the same power which had been exercised by the old Congress of 1787;—that the admission of Kentucky into the union was merely consequent upon the division of an old state, and therefore slavery could no more be excluded from one part than froin the VOL. XVI.
ether, or from the Carolinas; that the treaty, by wbich Louisiana was ceded to the United States, contains nothing on this subject, which restrains Congress froin exercising the same power over that territury, which bad been exercised over the north western territory;and that, in the admission of the state of Louisiana into the union, very great and important conditions were imposed, without a question as to their constitutionality;--conditions as plainly limiting state sorereignty, as any which could be made on the subject of slavery.
If these positions are undeniable, as we believe them to be, it seems perfectly clear, that Congress bas the power now attempted to be exercised, and has actually exercised the same power, and other similar powers, in a variety of cases, and without a single objection.
There is a clause in the constitution, which has not been much referred to in discussions on this subject, the spirit of which appears to us to demand of Congress an interference on the present occasion. It is in these words: "I'he United States shall guarantee to every state in the union, a republican form of government.” Now it is manifest, that slavery is, in its nature, adverse to a free goverument. No process of reasoning can make the subject clearer, than it is made by simply stating it. Will any man pretend, that the island of Jamaica, though it should renounce its allegiance to Great Britain, and form a constitu. tion of government called republican, would have, with its twenty slaves to one white man, a republican government in the full and proper sense of the term? “But,” we shall be asked, “do you deny that the form of government in the southern states is republican." No; we do not deny it absolutely; but we say with judge Washington, one of the ablest and most upright men, by whose public services our country is honored, that slavery is an inherent vice in our community; that it is hostile to our republican institutions; that it is utterly at war with the first sentence of our Declaration of Independence; and that it is inconsistent with a perfectly republican government. Slavery in the old states was an evil, which the constitution could not remedy; but when new states are formed, the same evil does not exist, and may easily be forever excluded. Congress is therefore bound, by the spirit of the clause just quoted, to interpose for the perpetuation of free and truly republican government, in all the new states. And it would be entirely within the power of the United States to demand of every new state, not only that involuntary servitude should be forever prohibited, but that no class of persons should be from their birth excluded from all possibility of sharing in the powers of government. Our people talk feelingly of the wretched condition of the peasantry in soine parts of Europe; yet all these peasants have at least a quali. fied property in the produce of the lands, which they cultivate; and they enjoy, to some extent, the disposal of their own time, and exercise a discretion respecting the management of their affairs. It is not Ho with the negro slave. He has no right, no property, no time, that he can claim as his own. That great parliamentary debater, Mr. Fox, has usually been considered as a vehement champion of civil liberty, and a determined opposer of political despotism: yet he declared, in one of his speeches on the slave-trade, that the tyranny of the worst government in the world, where the will of the prince was unlimited, and his character detestable, was absolutely nothing compared with the monstrous evils of domestic slavery. This was the purport of bis declaration; we do not remember the words. Should we admit, that in the ardor of debate, his zeal prompted expressions somewhat extravagant, it cannot be denied, that there is a great distinction be. tween political and domestic slavery; and that, to those who suffer it, the latter is incomparably the greatest evil. We only observe further, what is particularly to our purpose, that the familiar contemplation of slavery,—a state in which all the rights of the slave are habitually disregarded,-rights we mean, as they appear in the eye of God and, of reason, and as they are stated in the first paragraph of our Declaration of Independence,-is in the highest degree unfavorable to the first principles of political liberty and of a republican government.
An objection to the contemplated restriction has found its way into the southern papers to this effect: “The territory west of the Missis. sippi was purchased from the public treasury, and is public property. The southern people have a right to enjoy this property; but this they cannot do, unless permitted to remove thither with their slaves. It would be unjust, therefore, to deny them this privilege.”
Our southern brethren are not aware, perhaps, that northern people express themselves very differently, with respect to this same public property. They say, "that they wish to migrate to Missouri; that This territory was purchased in part by themselves, and that they have a right to enjoy it; but that they cannot think of removing into a slave country, and of exposing their posterity to the tremendous evils of a slave population. If slavery is to be admitted, they are virtually excluded, which they deem altogether unjust.” There is certainly as much truth and reason in this statement, as in the other.
The fact is, however, that so far as the more question of public property is concerned, Congress have an unquestionable right, for reasons which shall appear sufficient to the assembled wisdom of the nation, not only to exclude slavery from Missouri, but to prevent the settlement of the western territories for an indefinite period. Indeed, Congress has always acted upon this principle. As the territories of the United States are the property of the nation, and to be disposed of as the will of the nation shall direct, this will is one and indivisible, and to be expressed, not by the southern people, or the northern people, or the western people, but by the national legislature. Accordingly, Congress has always determined, and always must determine when the lands comprised in these territories shall be surveyed; when they shall be offered for sale; on what terms they shall be sold; and by what tenure they shall be held. Not a hundredth part of the territory west of the Mississippi bas yet been surveyed. Congress might, if it should see fit, refuse to survey any more, for fifty years to come, and thenceforward indefinitely; and it might forbid the settlement of unsurveyed Jands by any persons except the aboriginal inhabitants. It might refuse to sell any lands now unsold, and persist in this resolution indefinitely. Before the cession of Louisiana, Mr. Jefferson said, in a public message to Congress, that the people of the United States owned land enough for their posterity to the thousandth generation. Congress might be of the same opinion, without violating any obliga
tion, conventional or moral. The public lands might all be sold, with the express condition, that they should never be cultivated by slaves; and any other condition might be imposed, not inconsistent with the nature of a republican government. This doctrine is supported by the uniform and unquestioned practice of Congress, and by the plainest attributes of ownership. Such an owner as our great and growing nation is not compellable to part with property; and whenever public property is disposed of, the owner may sell on such terms as shall best promote the public good; of which terins the national legislature is to be the judge.
In regard to the expediency of excluding slaves from Missouri, and other new states, we shall confine ourselves to a few topics, which have not been sufficiently considered, in reference to the momentous results of the question now pending.
1. The people of this country do not seem to be sufficiently aware of the immense multitudes of persons, both freemen and slaves, whose condition is to be affected by the present measures. When we speak of the future population of our country, its greatness seems incredible, merely because the subject is now, and because the world has never before seen the rise of such an empire: at least, history has brought down to us no memorial of such an empire, as will probably exist, a century hence, between the rocky mountains and the Atlantic. No reasonable man can see, why our whole country, on an average, should not be as populous as Massachusetts Proper now is. For ourselves, we believe it will be much more populous. Nor can any man assign a cause, why population should not advance for a hundred years to come, as it has done for a hundred years past. Should that be the case, in seventy years from this day, the people within the present limits of our country will amount to eighty millions; of whom about thirteen millions will be slaves, on the supposition that slaves increase in the same ratio as the whole population. The free colored people will, at that period, probably not be fewer than two millions, making a black population of fiftcen millions, exclusive of the slaves, who may be unlawfully imported into the United States within the same period; and who, with their descendants, will probably amount to two millions, and may greatly surpass that number. It is quite within the limits of possibility, that the child now in his cradle may be president of the United States, when this amazing augmentation of our numbers shall have actually taken place; and the close of the present century may leave within our borders one hundred millions of human beings to enter upon the cares and duties of the next age. Ought this consideration to be disregarded, on yo momentous a question as that of freedom and slavery? How cautinus should be the legislator of the present day, lest his improvidence, or his compliance with selfish importunities, or his resort to temporary expediency, sbould justly expose his memory to the bitter reproaches of countless millions yet to be born?
It has been estimated, that the soil of Ohio is capable of sustaining four millions of persons, in a state of abundance; and of exporting provisions enough to feed two millions more. We have not been able to ascertain the exact limits of Missouri, as it is conteinplated to be