Imágenes de páginas
[blocks in formation]

The Vice President resumed the Chair.

The oath prescribed by law was administered to the honorable Martin W. Bates, a senator from the State of Delaware, whose credentials were presented the 19th of January, 1857, and he took his seat in the Senate.

Mr. Clay presented the credentials of the honorable Matthias Ward, appointed a senator by the governor of the State of Texas to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of the honorable J. Pinkney Henderson.

The credentials were read; and the oath prescribed by law was administered to Mr. Ward and he took his seat in the Senate.

Mr. Reid presented the credentials of the honorable Thomas L. Clingman, elected a senator by the legislature of the State of North Carolina to fill the vacancy occasioned by the resignation of the honorable Asa Biggs.

The credentials were read; and the oath prescribed by law was administered to Mr. Clingman and he took his seat in the Senate.

Mr. Gwin submitted the following motion ; which was considered, by unanimous consent, and agreed to:

Ordered, That the Secretary inform the House of Representatives that a quorum of the Senate has assembled, and that the Senate is ready to proceed to business.

Mr. Allen submitted the following resolution; which was considered, by unanimous consent, and agreed to:

Resolved, That a committee, consisting of three members, be appointed to join such committee as may be appointed by the House of Representatives to wait on the President of the United States and intorm him that a quorum of each House has assembled, and that Congress is ready to receive any communication he may be pleased to make.

On motion by Mr. Allen, Ordered, That the committee on the part of the Senate be appointed by the Vice President; and

Mr. Allen, Mr. Slidell, and Mr. Foot were appointed.

Ordered, That the Secretary notify the House of Representatives thereof.

...... 19

On motion by Mr. Hale, Ordered, That the hour of meeting of the Senate be twelve o'clock, noon, until otherwise ordered.

A message from the House of Representatives by Mr. Allen, its Clerk:

Mr. President: I am directed by the House of Representatives to inform the Senate that a quorum of the House has assembled and is ready to proced to business.

On motion by Mr. Mason, that the Senate proceed to the consideration of the bill (S. 114) to indemnify the master and owners of the Spanish schooner Amistad and her cargo,

It was determined in the affirmative; and

The bill (S. 114) last mentioned was read the second time and considered as in Committee of the Whole.

On motion by Mr. Mason, that the further consideration of the bill be postponed to, and made the special order of the day for, Tuesday, the 14th instant,

It won datermined in the off motivo s Yeas.......................... 24 It was determined in the amrmative, , Nays .....................

On motion by Mr. Seward, The yeas and nays being desired by one-fifth of the senators present, Those who voted in the affirmative are,

Messrs. Bates, Bigler, Bright, Brown, Clay, Clingman, Davis, Fitch, Fitzpatrick, Green, Gwin, Hammond, Iverson, Jones, Kennedy, Mason, Pearce, Polk, Reid, Rice, Shields, Stuart, Thomson, of New Jersey, Ward.

Those who voted in the negative are,

Messrs. Broderick, Cameron, Chandler, Clark, Dixon, Doolittle, Durkee, Fessenden, Foot, Foster, Hale, Hamlin, Harlan, King, Seward, Simmons, Trumbull, Wade, Wilson.

A message from the House of Representatives by Mr. Allen, its Clerk:

Mr. President: The House of Representatives has passed an order for the appointment of a committee on its part, to join such committee as may be appointed on the part of the Senate, to wait on the President of the United States and inform him that a quorum of the two Houses has assembled, and that Congress is ready to receive any communication he may be pleased to make; and has appointed Mr. Florence, Mr. John Sherman, and Mr. Gartrell the committee on its part.

Mr. Jones presented the petition of E. B. Boutwell, a commander in the navy, praying compensation for certain extra services while in command of the United States steamer Colonel Harney and the United States ship John Adams.

Ordered, That it lie on the table.

Mr. Allen, from the committee appointed to join such c mmittee as may be appointed by the House of Representatives to wait on the President of the United States and inform him that a quorum of each House has assembled, and that Congress is ready to receive any communication he may be pleased to make, reported

That they had performed the duty assigned them and that the President replied that he would, at half-past one o'clock, make a communication to the two Houses of Congress.

On motion by Mr. Fitzpatrick,
Ordered, That the Senate take a recess for ten minutes.
The ten minutes' recess having expired,

The following message was received from the President of the United States, by Mr. Henry, his Secretary:

Fellow-citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:

When we compare the condition of the country at the present day with what it was one year ago, at the meeting of Congress, we have much reason for gratitude to that Almighty Providence which has never failed to interpose for our relief at the most critical periods of our history. One year ago the sectional strife between the North and the South on the dangerous subject of slavery had again become so intense as to threaten the peace and perpetuity of the confederacy. The application for the admission of Kansas as a State into the Union fostered this unhappy agitation, and brought the whole subject once more before Congress. It was the desire of every patriot that such measures of legislation might be adopted as would remove the excitement from the States and confine it to the Territory where it legitimately belonged. Much has been done, I am happy to say, towards the accomplishment of this object during the last session of Congress.

The Supreme Court of the United States had previously decided that all American citizens have an equal right to take into the Territories whatever is held as property under the laws of any of the States, and to hold such property there under the guardianship of the Federal Constitution, so long as the territorial condition shall remain.

This is now a well established position, and the proceedings of the last session were alone wanting to give it practical effect. The principle has been recognized, in some form or other, by an almost unanimous vote of both Houses of Congress, that a Territory has a right to come into the Union either as a free or a slave State, according to the will of a majority of its people. The just equality of all the States has thus been vindicated, and a fruitful source of dangerous dissension among them has been removed.

Whilst such has been the beneficial tendency of your legislative proceedings outside of Kansas, their influence has nowhere been so happy as within that Territory itself. Left to manage and control its own affairs in its own way, without the pressure of external influence, the revolutionary Topeka organization and all resistance to the territorial government established by Congress have been finally abandoned. As a natural consequence, that fine Territory now appears to be tranquil and prosperous, and is attracting increasing thousands of immigrants to make it their happy home.

The past unfortunate experience of Kansas has enforced the lesson, so often already taught, that resistance to lawful authority, under our form of government, cannot fail in the end to prove disastrous to its authors. Had the people of the Territory yielded obedience to the laws

its Topekanished bace, that

existens who have tional populwould at the

enacted by their legislature, it would at the present moment have contained a large additional population of industrious and enterprising citizens, who have been deterred from entering its borders by the existence of civil sirife and organized rebellion.

It was the resistance to rightful authority and the persevering attempts to establish a revolutionary government under the Topeka constitution which caused the people of Kansas to commit the grave error of refusing to vote for delegates to the convention to frame a constitution under a law not denied to be fair and just in its provisions. This refusal to vote has been the prolific source of all the evils which have followed. In their hostility to the territorial government they disregarded the principle, absolutely essential to the working of our form of government, that a majority of those who vote-not the majority who may remain at home, from whatever cause—must decide the result of an election. For this reason, seeking to take advantage of their own error, they denied the authority of the convention thus elected to frame a constitution.

The convention, notwithstanding, proceeded to adopt a constitution unexceptionable in its general features, and providing for the submission of the slavery question to a vote of the people, which, in my opinion, they were bound to do under the Kansas and Nebraska act. This was the all-important question which had alone convulsed the Territory; and yet the opponents of the lawful government, persisting in their first error, refrained from exercising their right to vote, and preferred that slavery should continue, rather than surrender their revolutionary Topeka organization.

A wiser and better spirit seemed to prevail before the first Monday of January last, when an election was held under the constitution. A majority of the people then voted for a governor and other State officers, for a member of Congress, and members of the State legislature. This election was warmly contested by the two political parties in Kansas, and a greater vote was polled than at any previous election. A large majority of the members of the legislature elect belonged to that party which had previously refused to vote. The anti-slavery party were thus placed in the ascendant, and the political power of the State was in their own hands. Had Congress admitted Kapsas into the Union under the Lecompton constitution, the legislature might, at its very first session, have submitted the question to a vote of the people, whether they would or would not have a convention to amend their constitution, either on the slavery or any other question, and have adopted all necessary means for giving speedy effect to the will of the majority. Thus the Kansas question would have been immediately and finally settled.

Under these circumstances, I submitted to Congress the constitution thus framed, with all the officers already elected necessary to put the State government into operation, accompanied by a strong recommendation in favor of the admission of Kansas as a Slate. In the course of my long public life I have never performed any official act which, in the retrospect, has afforded me more heartfelt satisfaction. Its admission could have inflicted no possible injury on any human being, whilst it would, within a brief period, have restored peace to

Kansas and harmony to the Union. In that event, the slavery question would ere this have been finally settled, according to the legally expressed will of a majority of the voters, and popular sovereignty would thus have been vindicated in a constitutional manner.

With my deep convictions of duty, I could have pursued no other course. It is true, that, as an individual, I had expressed an opinion, both before and during the session of the convention, in favor of submitting the remaining clauses of the constitution, as well as that concerning slavery, to the people. But, acting in an official character, neither myself por any human authority had the power to rejudge the proceedings of the convention, and declare the constitution which it had framed to be a nullity. To have done this would have been a violation of the Kansas and Nebraska act, which left the people of the Territory "perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.” It would equally have violated the great principle of popular sovereignty, at the foundation of our institutions, to deprive the people of the power, if they thought proper to exercise it, of confiding to delegates elected By themselves the trust of framing a constitution, without requiring them to subject their constituents to the trouble, expense, and delay of a second election. It would have been in opposition to many precedents in our history, commencing in the very best age of the republic, of the admission of Territories as States into the Union, without a previous vote of the people approving their constitution.

It is to be lamented that a question so insignificant, when viewed in its practical effects on the people of Kansas, whether decided one way or the other, should hare kindled such a flame of excitement throughout the contry. This reflection may prove to be a lesson of wisdom and of warning for our future guidance. Practically considered, the question is simply whether the people of that Territory should first come into the Union and then change any provision in their constitution not agreeable to themselves, or accomplish the very same object by remaining out of the Union and framing another constitution in accordance with their will? In either case, the result would be precisely the same. The only difference in point of fact is, that the object would have been much sooner attained, and the pacification of Kansas more speedily effected, had it been admitted as a State during the last session of Congress.

My recommendation, however, for the immediate admission of Kansas, failed to meet the approbation of Congress. They deemed it wiser to adopt a different measure for the settlement of the question. For my own part, I should have been willing to yield my assent to almost any constitutional measure to accomplish this object. I therefore cordially acquiesced in what has been called the English Compromise, and approved the : Act for the admission of the State of Kansas into the Union” upon the terms therein prescribed.

Under the ordinance which accompanied the Lecompton constitution the people of Kansas had claimed double the quantity of public lands for the support of common schools which had ever been previously granteu to any State upon entering the Union; and also the alter

« AnteriorContinuar »