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The Anti-Slavery Examiner, Omnibus by American Anti-Slavery Society

Part 11 out of 52

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without ceasing and without restriction. Full well did the south know,
not only that the national government would probably legislate against
slavery wherever the constitution placed it within its reach, but she
knew also that Congress had already marked out the line of national
policy to be pursued on the subject--had committed itself before the
world to a course of action against slavery, wherever she could move
upon it without encountering a conflicting jurisdiction--that the nation
had established by solemn ordinance memorable precedent for subsequent
action, by abolishing slavery in the northwest territory, and by
declaring that it should never thenceforward exist there; and this too,
as soon as by cession of Virginia and other states, the territory came
under Congressional control. The south knew also that the sixth article
in the ordinance prohibiting slavery was first proposed by the largest
slaveholding state in the confederacy--that the chairman of the
committee that reported the ordinance was a slaveholder--that the
ordinance was enacted by Congress during the session of the convention
that formed the United States Constitution--that the provisions of the
ordinance were, both while in prospect, and when under discussion,
matters of universal notoriety and _approval_ with all parties, and when
finally passed, received the vote _of every member of Congress from each
of the slaveholding states_. The south also had every reason for
believing that the first Congress under the constitution would _ratify_
that ordinance--as it _did_ unanimously.

A crowd of reflections, suggest by the preceding testimony, press for
utterance. The right of petition ravished and trampled by its
constitutional guardians, and insult and defiance hurled in the faces of
the SOVEREIGN PEOPLE while calmly remonstrating _with their_ SERVANTS
for violence committed on the nation's charter and their own dearest
rights! Add to this "the right of peaceably assembling" violently
wrested--the rights of minorities, _rights_ no longer--free speech
struck dumb--free _men_ outlawed and murdered--free presses cast into
the streets and their fragments strewed with shoutings, or flourished in
triumph before the gaze of approving crowds as proud members of
prostrate law!

The spirit and power of our fathers, where are they? Their deep homage
always and every where rendered to FREE THOUGHT, with its _inseparable
signs--free speech and a free press_--their reverence for justice,
liberty, _rights_ and all-pervading law, where are they?

But we turn from these considerations--though the times on which we have
fallen, and those towards which we are borne with headlong haste, call
for their discussion as with the voices of departing life--and proceed
to topics relevant to the argument before us.

The seventh article of the amendments to the constitution is alleged to
withhold from Congress the power to abolish slavery in the District. "No
person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due
process of law." All the slaves in the District have been "deprived of
liberty" by legislative acts. Now, these legislative acts "depriving"
them "of liberty," were either "due process of law," or they were _not_.
If they _were_, then a legislative act, taking from the master that
"property" which is the identical "liberty" previously taken from the
slave, would be "due process of law" _also_, and of course a
_constitutional_ act; but if the legislative acts "depriving" them of
"liberty" were _not_ "due process of law," then the slaves were deprived
of liberty _unconstitutionally_, and these acts are _void_. In that case
the _constitution emancipates them_.

If the objector reply, by saying that the import of the phrase "due
process of law," is _judicial_ process solely, it is granted, and that
fact is our rejoinder; for no slave in the District _has_ been deprived
of his liberty by "a judicial process," or, in other words, by "due
process of law;" consequently, upon the objector's own admission, every
slave in the District has been deprived of liberty _unconstitutionally_,
and is therefore _free by the constitution_. This is asserted only of
the slaves under the "exclusive legislation" of Congress.

The last clause of the article under consideration is quoted for the
same purpose: "Nor shall private property be taken for public use
without just compensation." Each of the state constitutions has a clause
of similar purport. The abolition of slavery in the District by
Congress, would not, as we shall presently show, violate this clause
either directly or by implication. Granting for argument's sake, that
slaves are "private property," and that to emancipate them, would be to
"take private property" for "public use," the objector admits the power
of Congress to do _this_, provided it will do something _else_, that is,
_pay_ for them. Thus, instead of denying _the power_, the objector not
only admits, but _affirms_ it, as the ground of the inference that
compensation must accompany it. So far from disproving the existence of
_one_ power, the objector asserts the existence of _two_--one, the power
to take the slaves from their masters, the other, the power to take the
property of the United States to pay for them.

If Congress cannot constitutionally impair the right of private
property, or take it without compensation, it cannot constitutionally,
_legalize_ the perpetration of such acts, by _others_, nor _protect_
those who commit them. Does the power to rob a man of his earnings, rob
the earner of his _right_ to them? Who has a better right to the
_product_ than the producer?--to the _interest_, than the owner of the
_principal_?--to the hands and arms, than he from whose shoulders they
swing?--to the body and soul, than he whose they _are_? Congress not
only impairs but annihilates the right of private property, while it
withholds from the slaves of the District their title to _themselves_.
What! Congress powerless to protect a man's right to _himself_, when it
can make inviolable the right to a _dog_? But, waving this, I deny that
the abolition of slavery in the District would violate this clause. What
does the clause prohibit? The "taking" of "private property" for "public
use." Suppose Congress should emancipate the slaves in the District,
what would it "_take_?" Nothing. What would it _hold_? Nothing. What
would it put to "public use?" Nothing. Instead of _taking_ "private
property," Congress, by abolishing slavery, would say "private property
shall not _be_ taken; and those who have been robbed of it already,
shall be kept out of it no longer; and since every man's right to his
own body is _paramount_, he shall be protected in it." True, Congress
may not arbitrarily take property, _as_ property, from one man and give
it to another--and in the abolition of slavery no such thing is done. A
legislative act changes the _condition_ of the slave--makes him his own
_proprietor_ instead of the property of another. It determines a
question of _original right_ between two classes of persons--doing an
act of justice to one, and restraining the other from acts of injustice;
or, in other words, preventing one from robbing the other, by granting
to the injured party the protection of just and equitable laws.

Congress, by an act of abolition, would change the condition of seven
thousand "persons" in the District, but would "take" nothing. To
construe this provision so as to enable the citizens of the District to
hold as property, and in perpetuity, whatever they please, or to hold it
as property in all circumstances--all necessity, public welfare, and the
will and power of the government to the contrary notwithstanding--is a
total perversion of its whole _intent_. The _design_ of the provision,
was to throw up a barrier against Governmental aggrandizement. The right
to "take property" for _State uses_ is one thing;--the right so to
adjust the _tenures_ by which property is held, that _each may have his
own secured to him_, is another thing, and clearly within the scope of
legislation. Besides, if Congress were to "take" the slaves in the
District, it would be _adopting_, not abolishing slavery--becoming a
slaveholder itself, instead of requiring others to be such no longer.
The clause in question, prohibits the "taking" of individual property
for public uses, to be employed or disposed of _as_ property for
governmental purposes. Congress, by abolishing slavery in the District,
would do no such thing. It would merely change the _condition_ of that
which has been recognised as a qualified property by congressional acts,
though previously declared "persons" by the constitution. More than this
is done continually by Congress and every other Legislature. Property
the most absolute and unqualified, is annihilated by legislative acts.
The embargo and non-intercourse act, prostrated at a stroke, a forest of
shipping, and sank millions of capital. To say nothing of the power of
Congress to take hundreds of millions from the people by direct
taxation, who doubts its power to abolish at once the whole tariff
system, change the seat of Government, arrest the progress of national
works, prohibit any branch of commerce with the Indian tribes or with
foreign nations, change the locality of forts, arsenals, magazines, dock
yards, &c., to abolish the Post Office system, the privilege of patents
and copyrights, &c. By such acts Congress might, in the exercise of its
acknowledged powers, annihilate property to an incalculable amount, and
that without becoming liable to claims for compensation.

Finally, this clause prohibits the taking for public use of
"_property_." The constitution of the United States does not recognise
slaves as "PROPERTY" any where, and it does not recognise them in _any
sense_ in the District of Columbia. All allusions to them in the
constitution recognise them as "persons." Every reference to them points
_solely_ to the element of _personality_; and thus, by the strongest
implication, declares that the constitution _knows_ them only as
"persons," and _will_ not recognise them in any other light. If they
escape into free States, the constitution authorizes their being taken
back. But how? Not as the property of an "owner," but as "persons;" and
the peculiarity of the expression is a marked recognition of their
_personality_--a refusal to recognise them as chattels--"persons _held_
to service." Are _oxen "held_ to service?" That can be affirmed only of
_persons_. Again, slaves give political power as "persons." The
constitution, in settling the principle of representation, requires
their enumeration in the census. How? As property? Then why not include
race horses and game cocks? Slaves, like other inhabitants, are
enumerated as "persons." So by the constitution, the government was
pledged to non-interference with "the migration or importation of such
_persons_" as the States might think proper to admit until 1808, and
authorized the laying of a tax on each "person" so admitted. Further,
slaves are recognized as "persons" by the exaction of their _allegiance_
to the government. For offences against the government slaves are tried
as _persons_; as persons they are entitled to counsel for their defence,
to the rules of evidence, and to "due process of the law," and as
_persons_ they are punished. True, they are loaded with cruel
disabilities in courts of law, such as greatly obstruct and often
inevitably defeat the ends of justice, yet they are still recognised as
_persons_. Even in the legislation of Congress, and in the diplomacy of
the general government, notwithstanding the frequent and wide departures
from the integrity of the constitution on this subject, slaves are not
recognised as _property_ without qualification. Congress has always
refused to grant compensation for slaves killed or taken by the enemy,
even when these slaves had been impressed into the United States'
service. In half a score of cases since the last war, Congress has
rejected such applications for compensation. Besides, both in
Congressional acts, and in our national diplomacy, slaves and property
are not used as convertible terms. When mentioned in treaties and state
papers it is in such a way as to distinguish them from mere property,
and generally by a recognition of their _personality_. In the invariable
recognition of slaves as _persons_, the United States' constitution
caught the mantle of the glorious Declaration, and most worthily wears
it.--It recognizes all human beings as "men," "persons," and thus as
"equals." In the original draft of the Declaration, as it came from the
head of Jefferson, it is alleged that Great Britain had "waged a cruel
war against _human_ nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of
life and liberty in the persons of a distant people, carrying them into
slavery, * * determined to keep up a market where MEN should be bought
and sold,"--thus disdaining to make the charter of freedom a warrant for
the arrest of _men_, that they might be shorn both of liberty and

The celebrated Roger Sherman, one of the committee of five appointed to
draft the Declaration of Independence, and also a member of the
Convention that formed the United States' Constitution, said, in the
first Congress after its adoption: "The constitution _does not consider
these persons_, (slaves,) _as a species of property_."--[Lloyd's Cong.
Reg. v. 1, p. 313.] That the United States' Constitution does not make
slaves "property," is shown in the fact, that no person, either as a
citizen of the United States, or by having his domicile within the
United States' government, can hold slaves. He can hold them only by
deriving his power from _state_ laws, or from the law of Congress, if he
hold slaves within the District. But no person resident within the
United States' jurisdiction, and _not_ within the District, nor within a
state whose laws support slavery, nor "held to service" under the laws
of such state or district, having escaped therefrom, _can be held as a

Men can hold _property_ under the United States' government though
residing beyond the bounds of any state, district, or territory. An
inhabitant of the Wisconsin Territory can hold property there under the
laws of the United States, but he cannot hold _slaves_ there under the
United States' laws, nor by virtue of the United States' Constitution,
nor upon the ground of his United States citizenship, nor by having his
domicile within the United States jurisdiction. The constitution no
where recognizes the right to "slave property," _but merely the fact
that the states have jurisdiction each in its own limits, and that there
are certain "persons" within their jurisdictions "held to service" by
their own laws_.

Finally, in the clause under consideration, "private property" is not to
be taken "without _just_ compensation." "JUST!" If justice is to be
appealed to in determining the amount of compensation, let her determine
the _grounds_ also. If it be her province to say _how much_ compensation
is "just," it is hers to say whether _any_ is "just,"--whether the slave
is "just" property _at all_, rather than a "_person_." Then, if justice
adjudges the slave to be "private property," it adjudges him to be _his
own_ property, since the right to one's _self_ is the first right--the
source of all others--the original stock by which they are
accumulated--the principal, of which they are the interest. And since
the slave's "private property" has been "taken," and since
"compensation" is impossible--there being no _equivalent_ for one's
self--the least that can be done is to restore to him his original
private property.

Having shown that in abolishing slavery, "property" would not be "taken
for public use," it may be added that, in those states where slavery has
been abolished by law, no claim for compensation has been allowed.
Indeed the manifest absurdity of demanding it, seems to have quite
forestalled the _setting up_ of such a claim.

The abolition of slavery in the District, instead of being a legislative
anomaly, would proceed upon the principles of every day legislation. It
has been shown already, that the United States' Constitution does not
recognize slaves as "property." Yet ordinary legislation is full of
precedents, showing that even _absolute_ property is in many respects
wholly subject to legislation. The repeal of the law of entailments--all
those acts that control the alienation of property, its disposal by
will, its passing to heirs by descent, with the question, who shall be
heirs, and what shall be the rule of distribution among them, or whether
property shall be transmitted at all by descent, rather than escheat to
the state--these, with statutes of limitation, and various other classes
of legislative acts, serve to illustrate the acknowledged scope of the
law-making power, even where property _is in every sense absolute_.
Persons whose property is thus affected by public laws, receive from the
government no compensation for their losses, unless the state has been
put into possession of the property taken from them.

The preamble of the United States' Constitution declares it to be a
fundamental object of the organization of the government "to ESTABLISH
JUSTICE." Has Congress _no power_ to do that for which it was made the
_depository of power_? CANNOT the United States Government fulfil the
purpose _for which it was brought into being_?

To abolish slavery, is to take from no rightful owner his property; but
to "_establish justice_" between two parties. To emancipate the slave,
is to "_establish justice_" between him and his master--to throw around
the person, character, conscience, liberty, and domestic relations of
the one, _the same law_ that secures and blesses the other. In other
words, to prevent by _legal restraints_ one class of men from seizing
upon another class, and robbing them at pleasure of their earnings,
their time, their liberty, their kindred, and the very use and ownership
of their own persons. Finally, to abolish slavery is to proclaim and
_enact_ that innocence and helplessness--now _free plunder_--are
entitled to _legal protection_; and that power, avarice, and lust, shall
no longer gorge upon their spoils under the license, and by the
ministrations of _law_! Congress, by possessing "exclusive legislation
in all cases whatsoever," has a _general protective power_ for ALL the
inhabitants of the District. If it has no power to protect _one_ man, it
has none to protect another--none to protect _any_--and if it _can_
protect _one_ man and is _bound_ to protect him, it _can_ protect
_every_ man--all men--and is _bound_ to do it. All admit the power of
Congress to protect the masters in the District against their slaves.
What part of the constitution gives the power? The clause so often
quoted,--"power of legislation in all cases whatsoever," equally in the
"_case_" of defending the blacks against the whites, as in that of
defending the whites against the blacks. The power is given also by Art.
1, Sec. 8, clause 15--"Congress shall have power to suppress
insurrections"--a power to protect, as well blacks against whites, as
whites against blacks. If the constitution gives power to protect _one_
class against the other, it gives power to protect _either_ against the
other. Suppose the blacks in the District should seize the whites, drive
them into the fields and kitchens, force them to work without pay, flog
them, imprison them, and sell them at their pleasure, where would
Congress find power to restrain such acts? Answer; a _general_ power in
the clause so often cited, and an _express_ one in that cited
above--"Congress shall have power, to suppress insurrections." So much
for a _supposed_ case. Here follows a _real_ one. The whites in the
District are _perpetrating these identical acts_ upon seven thousand
blacks daily. That Congress has power to restrain these acts in one
case, all assert, and in so doing they assert the power "in _all_ cases
whatsoever." For the grant of power to suppress insurrections, is an
_unconditional_ grant, not hampered by provisos as to the color, shape,
size, sex, language, creed, or condition of the insurgents. Congress
derives its power to suppress this _actual_ insurrection, from the same
source whence it derived its power to suppress the _same_ acts in the
case _supposed_. If one case is an insurrection, the other is. The
_acts_ in both are the same; the _actors_ only are different. In the one
case, ignorant and degraded--goaded by the memory of the past, stung by
the present, and driven to desperation by the fearful looking for of
wrongs for ever to come. In the other, enlightened into the nature of
_rights_, the principles of justice, and the dictates of the law of
love, unprovoked by wrongs, with cool deliberation, and by system, they
perpetrate these acts upon those to whom they owe unnumbered obligations
for _whole lives_ of unrequited service. On which side may palliation be
pleaded, and which party may most reasonably claim an abatement of the
rigors of law? If Congress has power to suppress such acts _at all_, it
has power to suppress them _in_ all.

It has been shown already that _allegiance_ is exacted of the slave. Is
the government of the United States unable to grant _protection_ where
it exacts _allegiance_? It is an axiom of the civilized world, and a
maxim even with savages, that allegiance and protection are reciprocal
and correlative. Are principles powerless with us which exact homage of
barbarians? _Protection is the_ CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT _of every human
being under the exclusive legislation of Congress who has not forfeited
it by crime_.

In conclusion, I argue the power of Congress to abolish slavery in the
District, froth Art. 1, sec. 8, clause 1, of the constitution: "Congress
shall have power to provide for the common defence and the general
welfare of the United States." Has the government of the United States
no power under this grant, to legislate within its own exclusive
jurisdiction on subjects that vitally affect its interests? Suppose the
slaves in the District should rise upon their masters, and the United
States' government, in quelling the insurrection, should kill any number
of them. Could their masters claim compensation of the government?
Manifestly not; even though no proof existed that the particular slaves
killed were insurgents. This was precisely the point at issue between
those masters, whose slaves were killed by the State troops at the time
of the Southampton insurrection, and the Virginia Legislature; no
evidence was brought to show that the slaves killed by the troops were
insurgents; yet the Virginia Legislature decided that their masters were
_not entitled to compensation_. They proceeded on the sound principle,
that a government may in self protection destroy the claim of its
subjects even to that which has been recognised as property by its own
acts. If in providing for the common defence the United States
government, in the case supposed, would have power to destroy slaves
both as _property and persons_, it surely might stop half-way, destroy
them as _property_ while it legalized their existence as _persons_, and
thus provided for the common defence by giving them a personal and
powerful interest in the government, and securing their strength for its

Like other Legislatures, Congress has power to abate nuisances--to
remove or tear down unsafe buildings--to destroy infected cargoes--to
lay injunctions upon manufactories injurious to the public health--and
thus to "provide for the common defence and general welfare" by
destroying individual property, when it puts in jeopardy the public

Granting, for argument's sake, that slaves are "property" in the
District of Columbia--if Congress has a right to annihilate property in
the District when the public safety requires it, it may surely
annihilate its existence _as_ property when public safety requires it,
especially if it transform into a _protection_ and _defence_ that which
as _property_ periled the public interests. In the District of Columbia
there are, besides the United States' Capitol, the President's house,
the national offices, &c. of the Departments of State, Treasury, War,
and Navy, the General Post-office, and Patent Office. It is also the
residence of the President, all the highest officers of the government,
both houses of Congress, and all the foreign ambassadors. In this same
District there are also _seven thousand slaves_. Jefferson, in his Notes
on Va. p. 241, says of slavery, that "the State permitting one half of
its citizens to trample on the rights of the other, _transforms them
into enemies_;" and Richard Henry Lee, in the Va. House of Burgesses in
1758, declared that to those who held them, "_slaves must be natural
enemies._" Is Congress so _impotent_ that it _cannot_ exercise that
right pronounced both by municipal and national law, the most sacred and
universal--the right of self-preservation and defence? Is it shut up to
the _necessity_ of keeping seven thousand "enemies" in the heart of the
nation's citadel? Does the iron fiat of the constitution doom it to such
imbecility that it _cannot_ arrest the process that _made_ them
"enemies," and still goads to deadlier hate by fiery trials, and day by
day adds others to their number? Is _this_ providing for the common
defence and general welfare? If to rob men of rights excites their hate,
freely to restore them and make amends, will win their love.

By emancipating the slaves in the District, the government of the United
States would disband an army of "enemies," and enlist "for the common
defence and general welfare," a body guard of _friends_ seven thousand
strong. In the last war, a handful of British soldiers sacked Washington
city, burned the capitol, the President's house, and the national
offices and archives; and no marvel, for thousands of the inhabitants of
the District had been "TRANSFORMED INTO ENEMIES." Would _they_ beat back
invasion? If the national government had exercised its constitutional
"power to provide for the common defence and to promote the general
welfare," by turning those "enemies" into friends, then, instead of a
hostile ambush lurking in every thicket inviting assault, and secret
foes in every house paralyzing defence, an army of allies would have
rallied in the hour of her calamity, and shouted defiance from their
munitions of rocks; whilst the banner of the republic, then trampled in
dust, would have floated securely over FREEMEN exulting amidst bulwarks
of strength.

To show that Congress can abolish slavery in the District, under the
grant of power "to provide for the common defence and to promote the
general welfare," I quote an extract from a speech of Mr. Madison, of
Va., in the first Congress under the constitution, May 13, 1789.
Speaking of the abolition of the slave trade, Mr. Madison says: "I
should venture to say it is as much for the interests of Georgia and
South Carolina, as of any state in the union. Every addition they
receive to their number of slaves tends to _weaken_ them, and renders
them less capable of self-defence. In case of hostilities with foreign
nations, they will be the means of _inviting_ attack instead of
repelling invasion. It is a necessary duty of the general government to
protect every part of the empire against danger, as well _internal_ as
external. _Every thing, therefore, which tends to increase this danger,
though it may be a local affair, yet if it involves national expense or
safety, it becomes of concern to every part of the union, and is a
proper subject for the consideration of those charged with the general
administration of the government._" See Cong. Reg. vol. 1, p. 310-11.



My apology for adding a _postscript_, to a discussion already perhaps
too protracted, is the fact that the preceding sheets were in the hands
of the printer, and all but the concluding pages had gone through the
press, before the passage of Mr. Calhoun's late resolutions in the
Senate of the United States. A proceeding so extraordinary,--if indeed
the time has not passed when _any_ acts of Congress in derogation of
freedom and in deference to slavery, can be deemed
extraordinary,--should not be suffered to pass in silence at such a
crisis as the present; especially as the passage of one of the
resolutions by a vote of 36 to 8, exhibits a shift of position on the
part of the South, as sudden as it is unaccountable, being nothing less
than the surrender of a fortress which until then they had defended with
the pertinacity of a blind and almost infuriated fatuity. Upon the
discussions during the pendency of the resolutions, and upon the vote,
by which they were carried, I make no comment, save only to record my
exultation in the fact there exhibited, that great emergencies are _true
touchstones_, and that henceforward, until this question is settled,
whoever holds a seat in Congress will find upon, and all around him, a
pressure strong enough to TEST him--a focal blaze that will find its way
through the carefully adjusted cloak of fair pretension, and the
sevenfold brass of two-faced political intrigue, and _no_-faced
_non-committalism_, piercing to the dividing asunder of joints and
marrow. Be it known to every northern man who aspires to a seat in
Congress, that hereafter it is the destiny of congressional action on
this subject, to be a MIGHTY REVELATOR--making secret thoughts public
property, and proclaiming on the house-tops what is whispered in the
ear--smiting off masks, and bursting open sepulchres beautiful
outwardly, and heaving up to the sun their dead men's bones. To such we
say,--_Remember the Missouri Question, and the fate of those who then
sold the North, and their own birthright!_

Passing by the resolutions generally without remark--the attention of
the reader is specially solicited to Mr. Clay's substitute for Mr.
Calhoun's fifth resolution.

"Resolved, That when the District of Columbia was ceded by the states of
Virginia and Maryland to the United States, domestic slavery existed in
both of these states, including the ceded territory, and that, as it
still continues in both of them, it could not be abolished within the
District without a violation of that good faith, which was implied in
the cession and in the acceptance of the territory; nor, unless
compensation were made to the proprietors of slaves, without a manifest
infringement of an amendment to the constitution of the United States;
nor without exciting a degree of just alarm and apprehension in the
states recognising slavery, far transcending in mischievous tendency,
any possible benefit which could be accomplished by the abolition."

By voting for this resolution, the south by a simultaneous movement,
shifted its mode of defence, not so much by taking a position entirely
new, as by attempting to refortify an old one--never much trusted in,
and abandoned mainly long ago, as being unable to hold out against
assault however unskilfully directed. In the debate on this resolution,
though the southern members of Congress did not _professedly_ retreat
from the ground hitherto maintained by them--that Congress has no power
by the constitution to abolish slavery in the District--yet in the main
they silently drew off from it.

The passage of this resolution--with the vote of every southern senator,
forms a new era in the discussion of this question.

We cannot join in the lamentations of those who bewail it. We hail it,
and rejoice in it. It was as we would have had it--offered by a southern
senator, advocated by southern senators, and on the ground that it "was
no compromise"--that it embodied the true southern principle--that "this
resolution stood on as high ground as Mr. Calhoun's."--(Mr.
Preston)--"that Mr. Clay's resolution was as strong as Mr.
Calhoun's"--(Mr. Rives)--that "the resolution he (Mr. Calhoun) now
refused to support, was as strong as his own, and that in supporting it,
there was no abandonment of principle by the south."--(Mr. Walker, of
Mi.)--further, that it was advocated by the southern senators generally
as an expression of their views, and as setting the question of slavery
in the District on its _true_ ground--that finally when the question was
taken, every slaveholding senator, including Mr. Calhoun himself, voted
for the resolution.

By passing this resolution, and with such avowals, the south has
surrendered irrevocably the whole question at issue between them and the
petitioners for abolition in the District. It has, unwittingly but
explicitly, conceded the main question argued in the preceding pages.

The _only_ ground taken against the right of Congress to abolish slavery
in the District is, that slavery existed in Maryland and Virginia when
the cession was made, and "_as it still continues in both of them_, it
could not be abolished without a violation of that good faith which was
implied in the cession," &c. The _sole argument_ is _not_ that exclusive
_sovereignty_ has no power to abolish slavery within its jurisdiction,
_nor_ that the powers of even _ordinary legislation_ cannot do it,--nor
that the clause granting Congress "exclusive legislation in all cases
whatsoever over such District," gives no power to do it; but that the
_unexpressed expectation_ of one of the parties that the other would not
"in _all_ cases" use the power which said party had consented _might be
used "in all cases," prohibits_ the use of it. The only cardinal point
in the discussion, is here not only _yielded_, but formally laid down by
the South as the leading article in their creed on the question of
Congressional jurisdiction over slavery in the District. The _sole
reason_ given why Congress should not abolish, and the sole evidence
that if it did, such abolition would be a violation of "good faith," is
that "_slavery still continues in those states_,"--thus explicitly
admitting, that if slavery did _not_ "still continue" in those States,
Congress _could_ abolish it in the District. The same admission is made
also in the _premises_, which state that slavery existed in those states
_at the time of the cession_, &c. Admitting that if it had _not_ existed
there then, but had grown up in the District under _United States'
laws_, Congress might constitutionally abolish it. Or that if the ceded
parts of those states had been the _only_ parts in which slaves were
held under their laws, Congress might have abolished in such a
contingency also. The cession in that case leaving no slaves in those
states,--no "good faith," would be "implied" in it, nor any "violated,"
by an act of abolition. The principle of the resolution makes this
further admission, that if Maryland and Virginia should at once abolish
their slavery, Congress might at once abolish it in the District. The
principle goes even further than this, and _requires_ Congress in such
case to abolish slavery in the District "by the _good faith implied_ in
the cession and acceptance of the territory." Since according to the
spirit and scope of the resolution, this "implied good faith" of
Maryland and Virginia in making the cession, was that Congress would do
nothing within the District which should go to counteract the policy, or
bring into disrepute the "institutions," or call in question the usages,
or even in any way ruffle the prejudices of those states, or do what
_they_ might think would unfavorably bear upon their interests;
_themselves_ of course being the judges.

But let us dissect another limb of the resolution. What is to be
understood by "that good faith which was IMPLIED?" It is of course an
admission that such a condition was not _expressed_ in the acts of
cession--that in their _terms_ there is nothing restricting the power of
Congress on the subject of slavery in the District--not a _word_
alluding to it, nor one inserted with such an _intent_. This "implied
faith," then, rests on no clause or word in the United States'
Constitution, or in the acts of cession, or in the acts of Congress
accepting the cession, nor does it rest on any declarations of the
legislatures of Maryland and Virginia made at the time, or in that
generation, nor on any _act_ of theirs, nor on any declaration of the
_people_ of those states, nor on the testimony of the Washingtons,
Jeffersons, Madisons, Chaces, Martins, and Jennifers, of those states
and times. The assertion rests _on itself alone!_ Mr. Clay and the other
senators who voted for the resolution, _guess_ that Maryland and
Virginia _supposed_ that Congress would by no means _use_ the power
given them by the constitution, except in such ways as would be well
pleasing in the eyes of those states; especially as one of them was the
"Ancient Dominion!" And now after the lapse of half a century, this
_assumed expectation_ of Maryland and Virginia, the existence of which
is mere matter of conjecture with the 36 senators, is conjured up and
duly installed upon the judgment-seat of final appeal, before whose nod
constitutions are to flee away, and with whom, solemn grants of power
and explicit guaranties are when weighed in the balance, altogether
lighter than vanity!

But let us survey it in another light. Why did Maryland and Virginia
leave so much to be "_implied_?" Why did they not in some way _express_
what lay so near their hearts? Had their vocabulary run so low that a
single word could not be eked out for the occasion? Or were those states
so bashful of a sudden that they dare not speak out and tell what they
wanted? Or did they take it for granted that Congress would always act
in the premises according to their wishes, and that too, without their
_making known_ their wishes? If, as honorable senators tell us, Maryland
and Virginia did verily travail with such abounding _faith_, why brought
they forth no _works_?

It is as true in _legislation_ as in religion, that the only _evidence_
of "faith" is _works_, and that "faith" _without_ works is _dead_, i.e.
has no power. But here, forsooth, a blind implication with nothing
_expressed_, an "implied" _faith_ without works, is _omnipotent_. Mr.
Clay is lawyer enough to know that even a _senatorial hypothesis_ as to
_what must have been the understanding_ of Maryland and Virginia about
congressional exercise of constitutional power, _abrogates no grant_,
and that to plead it in a court of law, would be of small service except
to jostle "their honors'" gravity! He need not be told that the
constitution gives Congress "power to exercise exclusive legislation in
all cases whatsoever over such District." Nor that the legislatures of
Maryland and Virginia constructed their acts of cession with this clause
_before their eyes_, and that both of them declared those acts made "in
_pursuance_" of said clause. Those states were aware that the United
States in their constitution had left nothing to be "_implied_" as to
the power of Congress over the District;--an admonition quite sufficient
one would think to put them on their guard, and induce them to eschew
vague implications and resort to _stipulations_. Full well did they know
also that these were times when, in matters of high import, _nothing_
was left to be "implied." The colonies were then panting from a twenty
years' conflict with the mother country, about bills of rights,
charters, treaties, constitutions, grants, limitations, and _acts of
cession_. The severities of a long and terrible discipline had taught
them to guard at all points _legislative grants_, that their exact
import and limit might be self-evident--leaving no scope for a blind
"faith," that _somehow_ in the lottery of chances there would be no
blanks, but making all sure by the use of explicit terms, and wisely
chosen words, and _just enough_ of them. The Constitution of the United
States with its amendments, those of the individual states, the national
treaties, the public documents of the general and state governments at
that period, show the universal conviction of legislative bodies, that
when great public interests were at stake, nothing should be left to be

Further: suppose Maryland and Virginia had expressed their "implied
faith" in _words_, and embodied it in their acts of cession as a
proviso, declaring that Congress should not "exercise exclusive
legislation in _all_ cases whatsoever over the District," but that the
"case" of _slavery_ should be an exception: who does not know that
Congress, if it had accepted the cession on those terms, would have
violated the Constitution; and who that has ever studied the free mood
of those times in its bearings on slavery--proofs of which are given in
scores on the preceding pages--can for an instant believe that the
people of the United States would have altered their Constitution for
the purpose of providing for slavery an inviolable sanctuary; that when
driven in from its outposts, and everywhere retreating discomfited
before the march of freedom, it might be received into everlasting
habitations on the common homestead and hearth-stone of this free
republic? Besides, who can believe that Virginia made such a condition,
or cherished such a purpose, when at that very moment, Washington,
Jefferson, Wythe, Patrick Henry St. George Tucker, and almost all her
illustrious men, were advocating the abolition of slavery by law. When
Washington had said, two years before, Maryland and Virginia "must have
laws for the gradual abolition of slavery and at a period _not remote_;"
and when Jefferson in his letter to Price, three years before the
cession, had said, speaking of Virginia, "This is the next state to
which we may turn our eyes for the interesting spectacle of justice in
conflict with avarice and oppression--a conflict in which THE SACRED
SIDE IS GAINING DAILY RECRUITS;" when voluntary emancipations on the
soil were then progressing at the rate of between one and two thousand
annually, (See Judge Tucker's "Dissertation on Slavery," p. 73;) when
the public sentiment of Virginia had undergone, and was undergoing so
mighty a revolution that the idea of the continuance of slavery as a
permanent system could not be _tolerated_, though she then contained
about half the slaves in the Union. Was this the time to stipulate for
the _perpetuity_ of slavery under the exclusive legislation of Congress?
and that too at the _same_ session of Congress when _every one_ of her
delegation voted for the abolition of slavery in the North West
Territory; a territory which she had herself ceded to Congress, and
along with it had surrendered her jurisdiction over many of her
citizens, inhabitants of that territory, who held slaves there--and
whose slaves were emancipated by that act of Congress, in which all her
delegation with one accord participated?

Now in view of the universal belief then prevalent, that slavery in this
country was doomed to short life, and especially that in Maryland and
Virginia it would be _speedily_ abolished--are we to be told that these
states _designed_ to bind Congress _never_ to terminate it? Are we to
adopt the monstrous conclusion that this was the _intent_ of the Ancient
Dominion--thus to _bind_ the United States by an "implied faith," and
that when the United States _accepted_ the cession, she did solemnly
thus plight her troth, and that Virginia did then so _understand_ it?
Verily one would think that honorable senators supposed themselves
deputed to do our _thinking_ as well as our legislation, or rather, that
they themselves were absolved from such drudgery by virtue of their

Another absurdity of this dogma about "implied faith" is, that where
there was no power to exact an _express_ pledge, there was none to
demand an _implied_ one, and where there was no power to _give_ the one,
there was none to give the _other_. We have shown already that Congress
could not have accepted the cession with such a condition. To have
signed away a part of its constitutional grant of power would have been
a _breach_ of the Constitution. Further, the Congress which accepted the
cession was competent to pass a resolution pledging itself not to _use
all_ the power over the District committed to it by the Constitution.
But here its power ended. Its resolution would only bind _itself_. Could
it bind the _next_ Congress by its authority? Could the members of one
Congress say to the members of another, because we do not choose to
exercise all the authority vested in us by the Constitution, therefore
you _shall_ not? This would have been a prohibition to do what the
Constitution gives power to do. Each successive Congress would still
have gone to the Constitution for its power, brushing away in its course
the cobwebs stretched across its path by the officiousness of an
impertinent predecessor. Again, the legislatures of Virginia and
Maryland, had no power to bind Congress, either by an express or an
implied pledge, never to abolish slavery in the District. Those
legislatures had no power to bind _themselves_ never to abolish slavery
within their own territories--the ceded parts included. Where then would
they get power to bind _another_ not to do what they had no power to
bind themselves not to do? If a legislature could not in this respect
control the successive legislatures of its own State, could it control
the successive Congresses of the United States?

But perhaps we shall be told, that the "implied faith" in the acts of
cession of Maryland and Virginia was _not_ that Congress should _never_
abolish slavery in the District, but that it should not do it until
_they_ had done it within their bounds! Verily this "faith" comes little
short of the faith of miracles! "A good rule that works both ways."
First, Maryland and Virginia have "good faith" that Congress will _not_
abolish until _they_ do; and then just as "good faith" that Congress
_will_ abolish _when_ they do! Excellently accommodated! Did those
States suppose that Congress would legislate over the national domain,
the common jurisdiction of _all_, for Maryland and Virginia alone? And
who, did they suppose, would be judges in the matter?--themselves
merely? or the whole Union?

This "good faith implied in the cession" is no longer of doubtful
interpretation. The principle at the bottom of it, when fairly stated,
is this:--That the Government of the United States are bound in "good
faith" to do in the District of Columbia, without demurring, just what
and when, Maryland and Virginia do in their own States. In short, that
the general government is eased of all the burdens of legislation within
its exclusive jurisdiction, save that of hiring a scrivener to copy off
the acts of the Maryland and Virginia legislatures as fast as they are
passed, and engross them, under the title of "Laws of the United States,
for the District of Columbia!" A slight additional expense would also be
incurred in keeping up an express between the capitols of those States
and Washington city, bringing Congress from time to time its
"_instructions_" from head quarters--instructions not to be disregarded
without a violation of that, "good faith implied in the cession," &c.

This sets in strong light the advantages of "our glorious Union," if the
doctrine of Mr. Clay and the thirty-six Senators be orthodox. The people
of the United States have been permitted to set up at their own expense,
and on their own territory, two great _sounding boards_ called "Senate
Chamber" and "Representatives' Hall," for the purpose of sending abroad
"by authority" _national echoes_ of _state_ legislation!--permitted also
to keep in their pay a corps of pliant _national_ musicians, with
peremptory instructions to sound on any line of the staff according as
Virginia and Maryland may give the _sovereign_ key note!

Though this may have the seeming of mere raillery, yet an analysis of
the resolution and of the discussions upon it, will convince every fair
mind that it is but the legitimate carrying out of the _principle_
pervading both. They proceed virtually upon the hypothesis that the will
and pleasure of Virginia and Maryland are _paramount_ to those of the
_Union_. If the main design of setting apart a federal district had been
originally the accommodation of Maryland, Virginia, and the south, with
the United States as an _agent_ to consummate the object, there could
hardly have been higher assumption or louder vaunting. The sole object
of _having_ such a District was in effect totally perverted in the
resolution of Mr. Clay, and in the discussions of the entire southern
delegation, upon its passage. Instead of taking the ground, that the
benefit of the whole Union was the sole _object_ of a federal district,
that it was designed to guard and promote the interests of _all_ the
states, and that it was to be legislated over _for this end_--the
resolution proceeds upon an hypothesis _totally the reverse_. It takes a
single point of _state_ policy, and exalts it above NATIONAL interests,
utterly overshadowing them; abrogating national _rights_; making void a
clause of the Constitution; humbling the general government into a
subject--crouching for favors to a superior, and that too _on its own
exclusive jurisdiction_. All the attributes of sovereignty vested in
Congress by the Constitution it impales upon the point of an alleged
_implication_. And this is Mr. Clay's peace-offering, to appease the
lust of power and the ravenings of state encroachment! A "_compromise_,"
forsooth! that sinks the general government on _its own territory_ into
a mere colony, with Virginia and Maryland for its "mother country!" It
is refreshing to turn from these shallow, distorted constructions and
servile cringings, to the high bearing of other southern men in other
times; men, who in their character of legislators and lawyers, disdained
to accommodate their interpretations of constitutions and charters to
geographical lines, or to bend them to the purposes of a political
canvass. In the celebrated case of Cohens vs. the State of Virginia,
Hon. William Pinkney, late of Baltimore, and Hon. Walter Jones, of
Washington city, with other eminent constitutional lawyers, prepared an
elaborate written opinion, from which the following is an extract: "Nor
is there any danger to be apprehended from allowing to Congressional
legislation with regard to the District of Columbia, its FULLEST EFFECT.
Congress is responsible to the States, and to the people for that
legislation. It is in truth the legislation of the states over a
district placed under their control for _their own benefit_, not for
that of the District, except as the prosperity of the District is
involved, and necessary to the _general advantage_."--[Life of Pinkney,
p. 612.]

The profound legal opinion, from which this is an extract, was
elaborated at great length many years since, by a number of the most
distinguished lawyers in the United States, whose signatures are
appended to it. It is specific and to the point. It asserts, 1st, that
Congressional legislation over the District, is "the legislation of the
_States_ and the _people_," (not of _two_ states, and a mere _fraction_
of the people.) 2d, "Over a District placed under _their_ control," i.e.
under the control of the _whole_ of the States, not under the control of
_two twenty-sixths_ of them. 3d, That it was thus put under their
control "_for_ THEIR OWN _benefit_," the benefit of _all_ the States
_equally_; not to secure special benefits to Maryland and Virginia, (or
what it might be _conjectured_ they would regard as benefits.) 4th, It
concludes by asserting that the design of this exclusive control of
Congress over the District was "not for the benefit of the _District_,"
except as that is _connected_ with, and _a means of promoting_ the
_general_ advantage. If this is the case with the _District_, which is
_directly_ concerned, it is pre-eminently so with Maryland and Virginia,
who are but _indirectly_ interested, and would be but remotely affected
by it. The argument of Mr. Madison in the Congress of '89, an extract
from which has been given on a preceding page, lays down the same
principle; that though any matter "_may be a local affair, yet if it
involves national_ EXPENSE OR SAFETY, _it becomes of concern to every
part of the union, and is a proper subject for the consideration of
those charged with the general administration of the government_." Cong.
Reg. vol. 1. p. 310, 11.

But these are only the initiatory absurdities of this "good faith
_implied_." The thirty-six senators aptly illustrate the principle, that
error not only conflicts with truth, but is generally at issue with
itself. For if it would be a violation of "good faith" to Maryland and
Virginia, for Congress to abolish slavery in the District, it would be
_equally_ a violation for Congress to do it _with the consent_, or even
at the earnest and unanimous petition of the people of the District: yet
for years it has been the southern doctrine, that if the people of the
District demand of Congress relief in this respect, it has power, as
their local legislature, to grant it, and by abolishing slavery there,
carry out the will of the citizens. But now new light has broken in! The
optics of the thirty-six have pierced the millstone with a deeper
insight, and discoveries thicken faster than they can be telegraphed!
Congress has no power, O no, not a modicum, to help the slaveholders of
the District, however loudly they may clamor for it. The southern
doctrine, that Congress is to the District a mere local Legislature to
do its pleasure, is tumbled from the genitive into the vocative! Hard
fate--and that too at the hands of those who begat it! The reasonings of
Messrs. Pinckney, Wise, and Leigh, are now found to be wholly at fault,
and the chanticleer rhetoric of Messrs. Glascock and Garland stalks
featherless and crest-fallen. For, Mr. Clay's resolution sweeps by the
board all those stereotyped common-places, as "Congress a local
Legislature," "consent of the District," "bound to consult the wishes of
the District," &c. &c., which for the last two sessions of Congress have
served to eke out scanty supplies. It declares, that _as slavery existed
in Maryland and Virginia at the time of the cession, and as it still
continues in both those states, it could not be abolished in the
District without a violation of 'that good faith'_, &c.

But let us see where this principle of the _thirty-six_ will lead us. If
"implied faith" to Maryland and Virginia _restrains_ Congress from the
abolition of slavery in the District, it _requires_ Congress to do in
the District what those states have done within their bounds, i.e.,
restrain _others_ from abolishing it. Upon the same principle Congress
is _bound_, by the doctrine of Mr. Clay's resolution, to _prohibit
emancipation_ within the District. There is no _stopping place_ for this
plighted "faith." Congress must not only refrain from laying violent
hands on slavery, _itself_, and see to it that the slaveholders
themselves do not, but it is bound to keep the system up to the Maryland
and Virginia standard of vigor!

Again, if the good faith of Congress to Virginia and Maryland requires
that slavery should exist in the District, while it exists in those
states, it requires that it should exist there _as_ it exists in those
states. If to abolish _every_ form of slavery in the District would
violate good faith, to abolish _the_ form existing in those states, and
to substitute a totally different one, would also violate it. The
Congressional "good faith" is to be kept not only with _slavery_, but
with the _Maryland and Virginia systems_ of slavery. The faith of those
states not being in the preservation of _a_ system, but of _their_
system; otherwise Congress, instead of _sustaining_, would counteract
their policy--principles would be brought into action there conflicting
with their system, and thus the true spirit of the "implied" pledge
would be violated. On this principle, so long as slaves are "chattels
personal" in Virginia and Maryland, Congress could not make them _real
estate_, inseparable from the soil, as in Louisiana; nor could it permit
slaves to read, nor to worship God according to conscience; nor could it
grant them trial by jury, nor legalize marriage; nor require the master
to give sufficient food and clothing; nor prohibit the violent sundering
of families--because such provisions would conflict with the existing
slave laws of Virginia and Maryland, and thus violate the "good faith
implied," &c. So the principle of the resolution binds Congress in all
these particulars: 1st. Not to abolish slavery in the District _until_
Virginia and Maryland abolish. 2d. Not to abolish any _part_ of it that
exists in those states. 3d. Not to abolish any _form_ or _appendage_ of
it still existing in those states. 4th. _To abolish_ when they do. 5th.
To increase or abate its rigor _when, how_, and _as_ the same are
modified by those states. In a word, Congressional action in the
District is to float passively in the wake of legislative action on the
subject in those states.

But here comes a dilemma. Suppose the legislation of those states should
steer different courses--then there would be _two_ wakes! Can Congress
float in both? Yea, verily! Nothing is too hard for it! Its
obsequiousness equals its "power of legislation in _all_ cases
whatsoever." It can float _up_ on the Virginia tide, and ebb down on the
Maryland at the same time. What Maryland does, Congress will do in the
Maryland part. What Virginia does, Congress will do in the Virginia
part. Though Congress might not always be able to run at the bidding of
both _at once_, especially in different directions, yet if it obeyed
orders cheerfully, and "kept in its place," according to its "good faith
implied," impossibilities might not be rigidly exacted. True, we have
the highest sanction for the maxim that no _man_ can serve two
masters--but if "corporations have _no_ souls," analogy would absolve
Congress on that score, or at most give it only _a very small soul_--not
large enough to be at all in the way, as an _exception_ to the universal
rule laid down to the maxim!

In following out the absurdities of this "_implied_ good faith," it will
be seen at once that the doctrine of Mr. Clay's Resolution extends to
_all the subjects_ of _legislation_ existing in Maryland and Virginia,
which exist also within the District. Every system, "institution," law,
and established usage there, is placed beyond Congressional control
equally with slavery, and by the same "implied faith." The abolition of
the lottery system in the District as an _immorality_, was a flagrant
breach of this "good faith" to Maryland and Virginia, as the system
"still continued in those states." So to abolish imprisonment for debt,
and capital punishment, to remodel the bank system, the power of
corporations, the militia law, laws of limitation, &c., in the District,
_unless Virginia and Maryland took the lead_, would violate the "good
faith implied in the cession," &c.

That in the acts of cession no such "good faith" was "implied by
Virginia and Maryland" as is claimed in the Resolution, we argue from
the fact, that in 1781 Virginia ceded to the United States all her
northwest territory, with the special proviso that her citizens
inhabiting that territory should "have their _possessions_ and _titles_
confirmed to them, and be _protected_ in the enjoyment of their _rights_
and liberties." (See Journals of Congress vol. 9, p. 63.) The cession
was made in the form of a deed, and signed by Thomas Jefferson, Samuel
Hardy, Arthur Lee, and James Monroe. Many of these inhabitants _held
slaves_. Three years after the cession, the Virginia delegation in
Congress _proposed_ the passage of an ordinance which should abolish
slavery, in that territory, and declare that it should never thereafter
exist there. All the members of Congress from Virginia and Maryland
voted for this ordinance. Suppose some member of Congress had during the
passage of the ordinance introduced the following resolution: "Resolved,
That when the northwest territory was ceded by Virginia to the United
States, domestic slavery existed in that State, including the ceded
territory, and as it still continues in that State, it could not be
abolished within the territory without a violation of that good faith,
which was implied in the cession and in the acceptance of the
territory." What would have been the indignant response of Grayson,
Griffin, Madison, and the Lees, in the Congress of '87, to such a
resolution, and of Carrington, Chairman of the Committee, who reported
the ratification of the ordinance in the Congress of '89, and of Page
and Parker, who with every other member of the Virginia delegation
supported it?

But to enumerate all the absurdities into which the thirty-six Senators
have plunged themselves, would be to make a quarto inventory. We decline
the task; and in conclusion, merely add that Mr. Clay in presenting this
resolution, and each of the thirty-six Senators who voted for it,
entered on the records of the Senate, and proclaimed to the world, a
most unworthy accusation against the MILLIONS of American citizens who
have during nearly half a century petitioned the national legislature to
abolish slavery in the District of Colombia,--charging them either with
the ignorance or the impiety of praying the nation to violate its
"PLIGHTED FAITH." The resolution virtually indicts at the bar of public
opinion, and brands with odium, all the Manumission Societies, the
_first_ petitioners for the abolition of slavery in the District, and
for a long time the only ones, petitioning from year to year through
evil report and good report, still petitioning, by individual societies
and in their national conventions.

But as if it were not enough to table the charge against such men as
Benjamin Rush, William Rawle, John Sergeant, Robert Vaux, Cadwallader
Colden, and Peter A. Jay,--to whom we may add Rufus King, James
Hillhouse, William Pinkney, Thomas Addis Emmett, Daniel D. Tompkins, De
Witt Clinton, James Kent, and Daniel Webster, besides eleven hundred
citizens of the District itself; headed by their Chief Justice and
judges--even the sovereign States of Pennsylvania, New-York,
Massachusetts, and Vermont, whose legislatures have either memorialized
Congress to abolish slavery in the District, or instructed their
Senators to move such a measure, must be gravely informed by Messrs.
Clay, Norvell, Niles, Smith, Pierce, Benton, Black, Tipton, and other
honorable Senators, either that their perception is so dull, they know
not whereof they affirm, or that their moral sense is so blunted they
can demand without compunction a violation of the nation's faith!

We have spoken already of the concessions unwittingly made in this
resolution to the true doctrine of Congressional power over the
District. For that concession, important as it is, we have small thanks
to render. That such a resolution, passed with such an _intent_, and
pressing at a thousand points on relations and interests vital to the
free states, should be hailed, as it has been, by a portion of the
northern press as a "compromise" originating in deference to northern
interests, and to be received by us as a free-will offering of
disinterested benevolence, demanding our gratitude to the mover,--may
well cover us with shame. We deserve the humiliation and have well
earned the mockery. Let it come!

If, after having been set up at auction in the public sales-room of the
nation, and for thirty years, and by each of a score of "compromises,"
treacherously knocked off to the lowest bidder, and that without money
and without price, the North, plundered and betrayed, _will not_, in
this her accepted time, consider the things that belong to her peace
before they are hidden from her eyes, then let her eat of the fruit of
her own way, and be filled with her own devices! Let the shorn and
blinded giant grind in the prison-house of the Philistines, till taught
the folly of intrusting to Delilahs the secret and the custody of his

Have the free States bound themselves by an oath never to profit by the
lessons of experience? If lost to _reason_, are they dead to _instinct_
also? Can nothing rouse them to cast about for self preservation? And
shall a life of tame surrenders be terminated by suicidal sacrifice?

A "COMPROMISE!" Bitter irony! Is the plucked and hood-winked North to be
wheedled by the sorcery of another Missouri compromise? A compromise in
which the South gained all, and the North lost all, and lost it for
ever. A compromise which embargoed the free laborer of the North and
West, and clutched at the staff he leaned upon, to turn it into a
bludgeon and fell him with its stroke. A compromise which wrested from
liberty her boundless birthright domain, stretching westward to the
sunset, while it gave to slavery loose reins and a free course, from the
Mississippi to the Pacific.

The resolution, as it finally passed, is here inserted. The original
Resolution, as moved by Mr. Clay, was inserted at the head of this
postscript with the impression that it was the _amended_ form. It will
be seen however, that it underwent no material modification.

"Resolved, That the interference by the citizens of any of the states,
with the view to the abolition of slavery in the District, is
endangering the rights and security of the people of the District; and
that any act or measure of Congress designed to abolish slavery in the
District, would be a violation of the faith implied in the cessions by
the states of Virginia and Maryland, a just cause of alarm to the people
of the slaveholding states, and have a direct and inevitable tendency to
disturb and endanger the Union."

The vote upon the Resolution stood as follows:

_Yeas_.--Messrs. Allen, Bayard, Benton, Black, Buchanan, Brown, Calhoun,
Clay, of Alabama, Clay, of Kentucky, Clayton, Crittenden, Cuthbert,
Fulton, Grundy, Hubbard, King, Lumpkin, Lyon, Nicholas, Niles, Norvell,
Pierce, Preston, Rives, Roane, Robinson, Sevier, Smith, of Connecticut,
Strange, Tallmadge, Tipton, Walker, White, Williams, Wright, Young.




No. 5

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This periodical contains 3-1/2 sheets--Postage under 100 miles, 6 cts.,
over 100, 10 cts.




A civilized community presupposes a government of law. If that
government be a republic, its citizens are the sole _sources_, as well
as the _subjects_ of its power. Its constitution is their bill of
directions to their own agents--a grant authorizing the exercise of
certain powers, and prohibiting that of others. In the Constitution of
the United States, whatever else may be obscure, the clause granting
power to Congress over the Federal District may well defy
misconstruction. Art. 1, Sec. 8, Clause 18: "The Congress shall have
power to exercise exclusive legislation, _in all cases whatsoever_, over
such District." Congress may make laws for the District "in all
_cases_," not of all _kinds_; not all _laws_ whatsoever, but laws "in
all _cases_ whatsoever." The grant respects the _subjects_ of
legislation, _not_ the moral nature of the laws. The law-making power
every where is subject to _moral_ restrictions, whether limited by
constitutions or not. No legislature can authorize murder, nor make
honesty penal, nor virtue a crime, nor exact impossibilities. In these
and similar respects, the power of Congress is held in check by
principles, existing in the nature of things, not imposed by the
Constitution, but presupposed and assumed by it. The power of Congress
over the District is restricted only by those principles that limit
ordinary legislation, and, in some respects, it has even wider scope.

In common with the legislatures of the States, Congress cannot
constitutionally pass ex post facto laws in criminal cases, nor suspend
the writ of habeas corpus, nor pass a bill of attainder, nor abridge the
freedom of speech and of the press, nor invade the right of the people
to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, nor enact
laws respecting an establishment of religion. These are general
limitations. Congress cannot do these things _any where_. The exact
import, therefore, of the clause "in all cases whatsoever," is, _on all
subjects within the appropriate sphere of legislation_. Some
legislatures are restrained by constitutions, from the exercise of
powers strictly within the proper sphere of legislation. Congressional
power over the District has no such restraint. It traverses the whole
field of legitimate legislation. All the power which any legislature has
within its own jurisdiction, Congress holds over the District of

It has been objected that the clause in question respects merely police
regulations, and that its sole design was to enable Congress to protect
itself against popular tumults. But if the convention that framed the
Constitution aimed to provide for a _single_ case only, why did they
provide for "_all_ cases whatsoever?" Besides, this clause was opposed
in many of the state conventions, because the grant of power was not
restricted to police regulations _alone_. In the Virginia Convention,
George Mason, the father of the Virginia Constitution, Patrick Henry,
Mr. Grayson, and others, assailed it on that ground. Mr. Mason said,
"This clause gives an unlimited authority in every possible case within
the District. He would willingly give them exclusive power as far as
respected the police and good government of the place, but he would give
them no more." Mr. Grayson said, that control over the _police_ was
all-sufficient, and "that the Continental Congress never had an idea of
exclusive legislation in all cases." Patrick Henry said, "Is it
consistent with any principle of prudence or good policy, to grant
_unlimited, unbounded authority?_" Mr. Madison said in reply: "I did
conceive that the clause under consideration was one of those parts
which would speak its own praise. When any power is given, its
delegation necessarily involves authority to make laws to execute it....
The powers which are found necessary to be given, are therefore
delegated _generally_, and particular and minute specification is left
to the Legislature.... It is not within the limits of human capacity to
delineate on paper all those particular cases and circumstances, in
which legislation by the general legislature, would be necessary."
Governor Randolph said: "Holland has no ten miles square, but she has
the Hague where the deputies of the States assemble. But the influence
which it has given the province of Holland, to have the seat of
government within its territory, subject in some respects to its
control, has been injurious to the other provinces." The wisdom of the
convention is therefore manifest in granting to Congress exclusive
jurisdiction over the place of their session. [_Deb. Va. Con._, p. 320.]
In the forty-third number of the "Federalist," Mr. Madison says: "The
indispensable necessity of _complete_ authority at the seat of
government, carries its own evidence with it."

Finally, that the grant in question is to be interpreted according to
the obvious import of its _terms_, is proved by the fact, that Virginia
proposed an amendment to the United States' Constitution at the time of
its adoption, providing that this clause "should be so construed as to
give power only over the _police and good government_ of said District,"
_which amendment was rejected._

The former part of the clause under consideration, "Congress shall have
power to exercise _exclusive_ legislation," gives _sole_ jurisdiction,
and the latter part, "in all cases whatsoever," defines the _extent_ of
it. Since, then, Congress is the _sole_ legislature within the District,
and since its power is limited only by the checks common to all
legislatures, it follows that what the law-making power is intrinsically
competent to do _any_ where, Congress is competent to do in the District
of Columbia. Having disposed of preliminaries, we proceed to state and
argue the _real question_ at issue.


In every government, absolute sovereignty exists _somewhere_. In the
United States it exists primarily with the _people_, and _ultimate_
sovereignty _always_ exists with them. In each of the States, the
legislature possesses a _representative_ sovereignty, delegated by the
people through the Constitution--the people thus committing to the
legislature a portion of their sovereignty, and specifying in their
constitutions the amount and the conditions of the grant. That the
_people_ in any state where slavery exists, have the power to abolish
it, none will deny. If the legislature have not the power, it is because
_the people_ have reserved it to themselves. Had they lodged with the
legislature "power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases
whatsoever," they would have parted with their sovereignty over the
legislation of the State, and so far forth the legislature would have
become _the people_, clothed with all their functions, and as such
competent, _during the continuance of the grant_, to do whatever the
people might have done before the surrender of their power:
consequently, they would have the power to abolish slavery. The
sovereignty of the District of Columbia exists _somewhere_--where is it
lodged? The citizens of the District have no legislature of their own,
no representation in Congress, and no political power whatever. Maryland
and Virginia have surrendered to the United States their "full and
absolute right and entire sovereignty," and the people of the United
States have committed to Congress by the Constitution, the power to
"exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such

Thus, the sovereignty of the District of Columbia, is shown to reside
solely in the Congress of the United States; and since the power of the
people of a state to abolish slavery within their own limits, results
from their entire sovereignty within that state, so the power of
Congress to abolish slavery in the District, results from its entire
_sovereignty_ within the District. If it be objected that Congress can
have no more power over the District, than was held by the legislatures
of Maryland and Virginia, we ask what clause in the constitution
graduates the power of Congress by the standard of a state legislature?
Was the United States' constitution worked into its present shape under
the measuring line and square of Virginia and Maryland? and is its power
to be bevelled down till it can run in the grooves of state legislation?
There is a deal of prating about constitutional power over the District,
as though Congress were indebted for it to Maryland and Virginia. The
powers of those states, whether few or many, prodigies or nullities,
have nothing to do with the question. As well thrust in the powers of
the Grand Lama to join issue upon, or twist papal bulls into
constitutional tether, with which to curb congressional action. The
Constitution of the United States gives power to Congress, and takes it
away, and _it alone_. Maryland and Virginia adopted the Constitution
_before_ they ceded to the United States the territory of the District.
By their acts of cession, they abdicated their own sovereignty over the
District, and thus made room for that provided by the United States'
constitution, which sovereignty was to commence as soon as a cession of
territory by states, and its acceptance by Congress, furnished a sphere
for its exercise. That the abolition of slavery is within the sphere of
legislation, I argue,

LEGISLATION. The law, by _creating_ slavery, not only affirmed its
_existence_ to be within the sphere and under the control of
legislation, but equally, the _conditions_ and _terms_ of its existence,
and the _question_ whether or not it _should_ exist. Of course
legislation would not travel _out_ of its sphere, in abolishing what is
_within_ it, and what was recognised to be within it, by its own act.
Cannot legislatures repeal their own laws? If law can take from a man
his rights, it can give them back again. If it can say, "your body
belongs to your neighbor," it can say, "it belongs to _yourself_." If it
can annul a man's right to himself, held by express grant from his
Maker, and can create for another an _artificial_ title to him, can it
not annul the artificial title, and leave the original owner to hold
himself by his original title?

APPROPRIATE SPHERE OF LEGISLATION. Almost every civilized nation has
abolished slavery by law. The history of legislation since the revival
of letters, is a record crowded with testimony to the universally
admitted competency of the law-making power to abolish slavery. It is so
manifestly an attribute not merely of absolute sovereignty, but even of
ordinary legislation, that the competency of a legislature to exercise
it, may well nigh be reckoned among the legal axioms of the civilized
world. Even the night of the dark ages was not dark enough to make this

The Abolition decree of the great council of England was passed in 1102.
The memorable Irish decree, "that all the English slaves in the whole of
Ireland, be immediately emancipated and restored to their former
liberty," was issued in 1171. Slavery in England was abolished by a
general charter of emancipation in 1381. Passing over many instances of
the abolition of slavery by law, both during the middle ages and since
the reformation, we find them multiplying as we approach our own times.
In 1776 slavery was abolished in Prussia by special edict. In St.
Domingo, Cayenne, Guadeloupe, and Martinique, in 1794, where more than
690,000 slaves were emancipated by the French government. In Java, 1811;
in Ceylon, 1815; in Buenos Ayres, 1816; in St. Helena, 1819; in
Colombia, 1821; by the Congress of Chili in 1821; in Cape Colony, 1823;
in Malacca, 1825; in the southern provinces of Birmah, 1826; in Bolivia,
1826; in Peru, Guatemala, and Monte Video, 1828, in Jamaica, Barbadoes,
Bermudas, Bahamas, the Mauritius, St. Christophers, Nevis, the Virgin
Islands, Antigua, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Vincents, Grenada, Berbice,
Tobago, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Honduras, Demarara, and the Cape of Good
Hope, on the 1st of August, 1834. But waving details, suffice it to say,
that England, France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Austria,
Prussia, and Germany, have all and often given their testimony to the
competency of the legislative power to abolish slavery. In our own
country, the Legislature of Pennsylvania passed an act of abolition in
1780, Connecticut, in 1784; Rhode Island, 1784; New-York, 1799;
New-Jersey, in 1804; Vermont, by Constitution, in 1777; Massachusetts,
in 1780; and New Hampshire, in 1784.

When the competency of the law-making power to abolish slavery, has thus
been recognised every where and for ages, when it has been embodied in
the highest precedents, and celebrated in the thousand jubilees of
regenerated liberty, is it an achievement of modern discovery, that such
a power is a nullity?--that all these acts of abolition are void, and
that the millions disenthralled by them, are, either themselves or their
posterity, still legally in bondage?

South Carolina prohibits the working of slaves more than fifteen hours
in the twenty-four. In other words, it takes from the slaveholder his
power over nine hours of the slave's time daily; and if it can take nine
hours it may take twenty-four. The laws of Georgia prohibit the working
of slaves on the first day of the week; and if they can do it for the
first, they can for the six following.

The law of North Carolina prohibits the "immoderate" correction of
slaves. If it has power to prohibit immoderate correction, it can
prohibit _moderate_ correction--_all_ correction, which would be virtual
emancipation; for, take from the master the power to inflict pain, and
he is master no longer. Cease to ply the slave with the stimulus of
fear; and he is free.

The Constitution of Mississippi gives the General Assembly power to make
laws "to oblige the owners of slaves to _treat them with humanity_." The
Constitution of Missouri has the same clause, and an additional one
making it the DUTY of the legislature to pass such laws as may be
necessary to secure the _humane_ treatment of the slaves. This grant to
those legislatures, empowers them to decide what _is_ and what is _not_
"humane treatment." Otherwise it gives no "power"--the clause is mere
waste paper, and flouts in the face of a befooled legislature. A clause
giving power to require "humane treatment" covers all the _particulars_
of such treatment--gives power to exact it in _all respects--requiring_
certain acts, and _prohibiting_ others--maiming, branding, chaining
together, separating families, floggings for learning the alphabet, for
reading the Bible, for worshiping God according to conscience--the
legislature has power to specify each of these acts--declare that it is
not "_humane_ treatment," and PROHIBIT it.--The legislature may also
believe that driving men and women into the field, and forcing them to
work without pay, is not "humane treatment," and being Constitutionally
bound "to _oblige_" masters to practise "humane treatment"--they have
the power to _prohibit such_ treatment, and are bound to do it.

The law of Louisiana makes slaves real estate, prohibiting the holder,
if he be also a _land_ holder, to separate them from the soil.[A] If it
has power to prohibit the sale _without_ the soil, it can prohibit the
sale _with_ it; and if it can prohibit the _sale_ as property, it can
prohibit the _holding_ as property. Similar laws exist in the French,
Spanish, and Portuguese colonies.

[Footnote A: Virginia made slaves real estate by a law passed in 1705.
(_Beverly's Hist. of Va_., p. 98.) I do not find the precise time when
this law was repealed, probably when Virginia became the chief slave
breeder for the cotton-growing and sugar-planting country, and made
young men and women "from fifteen to twenty-five" the main staple
production of the State.]

The law of Louisiana requires the master to give his slaves a certain
amount of food and clothing. If it can oblige the master to give the
slave _one_ thing, it can oblige him to give him another: if food and
clothing, then wages, liberty, his own body.

By the laws of Connecticut, slaves may receive and hold property, and
prosecute suits in their own name as plaintiffs: [This last was also the
law of Virginia in 1795. See Tucker's "Dissertation on Slavery," p. 73.]
There were also laws making marriage contracts legal, in certain
contingencies, and punishing infringements of them, ["_Reeve's Law of
Baron and Femme_," p. 340-1.] Each of the laws enumerated above, does,
_in principle_, abolish slavery; and all of them together abolish it in
fact. True, not as a _whole_, and at a _stroke_, nor all in one place;
but in its _parts_, by piecemeal, at divers times and places; thus
showing that the abolition of slavery is within the boundary of

IMPLICATION. Some States recognize it in their _Constitutions_, by
giving the legislature power to emancipate such slaves as may "have
rendered the state some distinguished service, "and others by express
prohibitory restrictions. The Constitution of Mississippi, Arkansas, and
other States, restrict the power of the legislature in this respect. Why
this express prohibition, if the law-making power _cannot_ abolish
slavery? A stately farce, indeed, to construct a special clause, and
with appropriate rites induct it into the Constitution, for the express
purpose of restricting a nonentity!--to take from the law-making power
what it _never had_, and what _cannot_ pertain to it! The legislatures
of those States have no power to abolish slavery, simply because their
Constitutions have expressly _taken away_ that power. The people of
Arkansas, Mississippi, &c., well knew the competency of the law-making
power to abolish slavery, and hence their zeal to _restrict_ it.

The slaveholding States have recognised this power in their _laws_. The
Virginia Legislature passed a law in 1786 to prevent the further
importation of Slaves, of which the following is an extract: "And be it
further enacted that every slave imported into this commonwealth
contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, shall upon such
importation become _free_." By a law of Virginia, passed Dec. 17, 1792,
a slave brought into the state and kept _there a year_, was _free_. The
Maryland Court of Appeals at the December term 1813 [case of Stewart
_vs._ Oakes,] decided that a slave owned in Maryland, and sent by his
master into Virginia to work at different periods, making one year in
the whole, became _free_, being _emancipated_ by the law of Virginia
quoted above. North Carolina and Georgia in their acts of cession,
transferring to the United States the territory now constituting the
States of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, made it a condition of the
grant, that the provisions of the ordinance of '87, should be secured to
the inhabitants _with the exception of the sixth article which prohibits
slavery_; thus conceding, both the competency of law to abolish slavery,
and the power of Congress to do it, within its jurisdiction. (These acts
show the prevalent belief at that time, in the slaveholding States, that
the general government had adopted a line of policy aiming at the
exclusion of slavery from the entire territory of the United States, not
included within the original States, and that this policy would be
pursued unless prevented by specific and formal stipulation.)

Slaveholding states have asserted this power _in their judicial
decisions_. In numerous cases their highest courts have decided that if
the legal owner of slaves takes them into those States where slavery has
been abolished either by law or by the constitution, such removal
emancipates them, such law or constitution abolishing their slavery.
This principle is asserted in the decision of the Supreme Court of
Louisiana, in the case of Lunsford _vs._ Coquillon, 14 Martin's La.
Reps. 401. Also by the Supreme Court of Virginia, in the case of Hunter
_vs._ Fulcher, 1 Leigh's Reps. 172. The same doctrine was laid down by
Judge Washington, of the United States Supreme Court, in the case of
Butler _vs._ Hopper, Washington's Circuit Court Reps. 508. This
principle was also decided by the Court of Appeals in Kentucky; case of
Rankin _vs._ Lydia, 2 Marshall's Reps. 407; see also, Wilson _vs._
Isbell, 5 Call's Reps. 425, Spotts _vs._ Gillespie, 6 Randolph's Reps.
566. The State _vs._ Lasselle, 1 Blackford's Reps. 60, Marie Louise
_vs._ Mariot, 8 La. Reps. 475. In this case, which was tried in 1836,
the slave had been taken by her master to France and brought back; Judge
Mathews, of the Supreme Court of Louisiana, decided that "residence for
one moment" under the laws of France emancipated her.

Washington, in a letter to Robert Morris, dated April 12, 1786, says:
"There is not a man living, who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see
a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery; but there is only one
proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, and that is
by _legislative_ authority." In a letter to Lafayette, dated May 10,
1786, he says: "It (the abolition of slavery) certainly might, and
assuredly ought to be effected, and that too by _legislative_
authority." In a letter to John Fenton Mercer, dated Sept. 9, 1786, he
says: "It is among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by which
slavery in this country may be abolished by _law_." In a letter to Sir
John Sinclair, he says: "There are in Pennsylvania, _laws_ for the
gradual abolition of slavery, which neither Maryland nor Virginia have
at present, but which nothing is more certain than that they _must
have_, and at a period not remote." Speaking of movements in the
Virginia Legislature in 1777, for the passage of a law emancipating the
slaves, Mr. Jefferson says: "The principles of the amendment were agreed
on, that is to say, the freedom of all born after a certain day; but it
was found that the public mind would not bear the proposition, yet the
day is not far distant, when _it must bear and adopt it_."--Jefferson's
Memoirs, v. 1, p. 35. It is well known that Jefferson, Pendleton, Mason,
Wythe and Lee, while acting as a committee of the Virginia House of
Delegates to revise the State Laws, prepared a plan for the gradual
emancipation of the slaves by law. These men were the great lights of
Virginia. Mason, the author of the Virginia Constitution; Pendleton, the
President of the memorable Virginia Convention in 1787, and President of
the Virginia Court of Appeals; Wythe was the Blackstone of the Virginia
bench, for a quarter of a century Chancellor of the State, the professor
of law in the University of William and Mary, and the preceptor of
Jefferson, Madison, and Chief Justice Marshall. He was author of the
celebrated remonstrance to the English House of Commons on the subject
of the stamp act. As to Jefferson, his _name_ is his biography.

Every slaveholding member of Congress from the States of Maryland,
Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia, voted for the
celebrated ordinance of 1787, which _abolished_ the slavery then
existing in the Northwest Territory. Patrick Henry, in his well known
letter to Robert Pleasants, of Virginia, January 18, 1773, says: "I
believe a time will come when an opportunity will be offered to
_abolish_ this lamentable evil." William Pinkney, of Maryland, advocated
the abolition of slavery by law, in the legislature of that State, in
1789. Luther Martin urged the same measure both in the Federal
Convention, and in his report to the Legislature of Maryland. In 1796,
St. George Tucker, of Virginia, professor of law in the University of
William and Mary, and Judge of the General Court, published an elaborate
dissertation on slavery, addressed to the General Assembly of the State,
and urging upon them the abolition of slavery by _law_.

John Jay, while New York was yet a slave State, and himself in law a
slaveholder, said in a letter from Spain, in 1786, "An excellent law
might be made out of the Pennsylvania one, for the gradual abolition of
slavery. Were I in your legislature, I would present a bill for the
purpose, drawn up with great care, and I would never cease moving it
till it became a law, or I ceased to be a member."

Daniel D. Tompkins, in a message to the Legislature of New-York January
8, 1812, said: "To devise the means for the gradual and ultimate
_extermination_ from amongst us of slavery, is a work worthy the
representatives of a polished and enlightened nation."

The Virginia Legislature asserted this power in 1832. At the close of a
month's debate, the following proceedings were had. I extract from an
editorial article of the Richmond Whig, of January 26, 1832.

"The report of the Select Committee, adverse to legislation on
the subject of Abolition, was in these words: _Resolved_, as the
opinion of this Committee, that it is INEXPEDIENT FOR THE
PRESENT, to make any _legislative enactments for the abolition
of Slavery_." This Report Mr. Preston moved to reverse, and thus
to declare that it _was_ expedient, _now_ to make legislative
enactments for the abolition of slavery. This was meeting the
question in its strongest form. It demanded action, and
immediate action. On this proposition the vote was 58 to 73.
Many of the most decided friends of abolition voted against the
amendment; because they thought public opinion not sufficiently
prepared for it, and that it might prejudice the cause to move
too rapidly. The vote on Mr. Witcher's motion to postpone the
whole subject indefinitely, indicates the true state of opinion
in the House.--That was the test question, and was so intended
and proclaimed by its mover. That motion was _negatived_, 71 to
60; showing a majority of 11, who by that vote, declared their
belief that "at the proper time, and in the proper mode,
Virginia ought to commence a system of gradual abolition."

ordinance of '87, declaring that there should be "neither slavery nor
involuntary servitude," in the North Western territory, abolished the
slavery then existing there. The Supreme Court of Mississippi, in its
decision in the case of Harvey vs. Decker, Walker's Mi. Reps. 36,
declared that the ordinance emancipated the slaves then held there. In
this decision the question is argued ably and at great length. The
Supreme Court of La. made the same decision in the case of Forsyth vs.
Nash, 4 Martin's La. Reps. 395. The same doctrine was laid down by Judge
Porter, (late United States Senator from La.,) in his decision at the
March term of the La. Supreme Court, 1830, in the case of Merry vs.
Chexnaider, 20 Martin's Reps. 699.

That the ordinance abolished the slavery then existing there is also
shown by the fact, that persons holding slaves in the territory
petitioned for the repeal of the article abolishing slavery, assigning
_that_ as a reason. "The petition of the citizens of Randolph and St.
Clair counties in the Illinois country, stating that they were in
possession of slaves, and praying the repeal of that act (the 6th
article of the ordinance of '87) and the passage of a law legalizing
slavery there." [Am. State papers, Public Lands, v. 1. p. 69.] Congress
passed this ordinance before the United States Constitution was adopted,
when it derived all its authority from the articles of Confederation,
which conferred powers of legislation far more restricted than those
conferred on Congress over the District and Territories by the United
States Constitution. Now, we ask, how does the Constitution _abridge_
the powers which Congress possessed under the articles of confederation?

The abolition of the slave trade by Congress, in 1808, is another
illustration of the competency of legislative power to abolish slavery.
The African slave trade has become such a mere _technic_, in common
parlance, that the fact of its being _proper slavery_ is overlooked. The
buying and selling, the transportation, and the horrors of the middle
passage, were mere _incidents_ of the slavery in which the victims were
held. Let things be called by their own names. When Congress abolished
the African slave trade, it abolished SLAVERY--supreme slavery--power
frantic with license, trampling a whole hemisphere scathed with its
fires, and running down with blood. True, Congress did not, in the
abolition of the slave trade, abolish _all_ the slavery within its
jurisdiction, but it did abolish all the slavery in _one_ part of its
jurisdiction. What has rifled it of power to abolish slavery in
_another_ part of its jurisdiction, especially in that part where it has
"exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever?"

MOST CONCLUSIVE IMPLICATION. In Art. 1, sec. 3, clause 1, it prohibits
the abolition of the slave trade previous to 1808: thus implying the
power of Congress to do it at once, but for the restriction; and its
power to do it _unconditionally_, when that restriction ceased. Again;
In Art. 4, sec. 2, "No person held to service or labor in one state
under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of
any law or regulation therein, be discharged from said service or
labor." This clause was inserted, as all admit, to prevent the runaway
slave from being emancipated by the _laws_ of the free states. If these
laws had _no power_ to emancipate, why this constitutional guard to
prevent it?

The insertion of the clause, was the testimony of the eminent jurists
that framed the Constitution, to the existence of the _power_, and their
public proclamation, that the abolition of slavery was within the
appropriate sphere of legislation. The right of the owner to that which
is rightfully property, is founded on a principle of _universal law_,
and is recognised and protected by all civilized nations; property in
slaves is, by general consent, an _exception_; hence slaveholders
insisted upon the insertion of this clause in the United States
Constitution, that they might secure by an _express provision_, that
from which protection is withheld, by the acknowledged principles of
universal law.[A] By demanding this provision, slaveholders consented
that their slaves should not be recognised as property by the United
States Constitution, and hence they found their claim, on the fact of
their being "_persons_, and _held_ to service."

[Footnote A: The fact, that under the articles of Confederation,
slaveholders, whose slaves had escaped into free states, had no legal
power to force them back,--that _now_ they have no power to recover, by
process of law, their slaves who escape to Canada, the South American
States, or to Europe--the case already cited, in which the Supreme Court
of Louisiana decided, that residence "_for one moment_," under the laws
of France emancipated an American slave--the case of Fulton _vs._.
Lewis, 3 Har. and John's Reps., 56, where the slave of a St. Domingo
slaveholder, who brought him to Maryland in '93, was pronounced free by
the Maryland Court of Appeals--are illustrations of the acknowledged
truth here asserted, that by the consent of the civilized world, and on
the principles of universal law, slaves are not "_property_," and that
whenever held as property under _law_, it is only by _positive
legislative acts_, forcibly setting aside the law of nature, the common
law, and the principles of universal justice and right between man and
man,--principles paramount to all law, and from which alone law, derives
its intrinsic authoritative sanction.]

with certain restrictions, in most of the States, either by legislative
acts or by constitutional implication. THE COMMON LAW KNOWS NO SLAVES.
Its principles annihilate slavery wherever they touch it. It is a
universal, unconditional, abolition act. Wherever slavery is a legal
system, it is so only by _statute_ law, and in violation of the common
law. The declaration of Lord Chief Justice Holt, that, "by the common
law, no man can have property in another," is an acknowledged axiom, and
based upon the well known common law definition of property. "The
subjects of dominion or property are _things_, as contra-distinguished
from _persons_." Let Congress adopt the common law in the District of
Columbia, and slavery there is at once abolished. Congress may well be
at home in common law legislation, for the common law is the grand
element of the United States Constitution. All its _fundamental_
provisions are instinct with its spirit; and its existence, principles,
and paramount authority, are presupposed and assumed throughout the
whole. The preamble of the Constitution plants the standard of the
Common Law immovably in its foreground. "We, the people of the United
States, in order to ESTABLISH JUSTICE, &c., do ordain and establish this
Constitution;" thus proclaiming _devotion to_ JUSTICE, as the
controlling motive in the organization of the Government, and its secure
establishment the chief object of its aims. By this most solemn
recognition, the common law, that grand legal embodyment of "_justice_"
and fundamental right--was made the Groundwork of the Constitution, and
intrenched behind its strongest munitions. The second clause of Sec. 9,
Art. 1; Sec. 4, Art. 2, and the last clause of Sec. 2, Art. 3, with
Articles 7, 8, 9, and 13 of the Amendments, are also express
recognitions of the common law as the presiding Genius of the

By adopting the common law within its exclusive jurisdiction Congress
would carry out the principles of our glorious Declaration, and follow
the highest precedents in our national history and jurisprudence. It is
a political maxim as old as civil legislation, that laws should be
strictly homogeneous with the principles of the government whose will
they express, embodying and carrying them out--being indeed the
_principles themselves_, in preceptive form--representatives alike of
the nature and the power of the Government--standing illustrations of
its genius and spirit, while they proclaim and enforce its authority.
Who needs be told that slavery makes war upon the principles of the
Declaration, and the spirit of the Constitution, and that these and the
principles of the common law gravitate toward each other with
irrepressible affinities, and mingle into one? The common law came
hither with our pilgrim fathers; it was their birthright, their panoply,
their glory, and their song of rejoicing in the house of their
pilgrimage. It covered them in the day of their calamity, and their
trust was under the shadow of its wings. From the first settlement of
the country, the genius of our institutions and our national spirit have
claimed it as a common possession, and exulted in it with a common
pride. A century ago, Governor Pownall, one of the most eminent
constitutional jurists of colonial times, said of the common law, "In
all the colonies the common law is received as the foundation and main
body of their law." In the Declaration of Rights, made by the
Continental Congress at its first session in '74, there was the
following resolution: "Resolved, That the respective colonies are
entitled to the common law of England, and especially to the great and
inestimable privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage
according to the course of that law." Soon after the organization of the
general government, Chief Justice Ellsworth, in one of his decisions on
the bench of the United States Supreme Court, said: "The common law of
this country remains the same as it was before the revolution." Chief
Justice Marshall, in his decision in the case of Livingston _vs._
Jefferson, said: "When our ancestors migrated to America, they brought
with them the common law of their native country, so far as it was
applicable to their new situation, and I do not conceive that the
revolution in any degree changed the relations of man to man, or the law
which regulates them. In breaking our political connection with the
parent state, we did not break our connection with each other." [_Hall's
Law Journal, new series._] Mr. Duponceau, in his "Dissertation on the
Jurisdiction of Courts in the United States," says, "I consider the
common law of England the _jus commune_ of the United States. I think I
can lay it down as a correct principle, that the common law of England,
as it was at the time of the Declaration of Independence, still
continues to be the national law of this country, so far as it is
applicable to our present state, and subject to the modifications it has
received here in the course of nearly half a century." Chief Justice
Taylor of North Carolina, in his decision in the case of the State _vs._
Reed, in 1823, Hawkes' N.C. Reps. 454, says, "a law of _paramount
obligation to the statute_, was violated by the offence--COMMON LAW
founded upon the law of nature, and confirmed by revelation." The
legislation of the United States abounds in recognitions of the
principles of the common law, asserting their paramount binding power.
Sparing details, of which our national state papers are full, we
illustrate by a single instance. It was made a condition of the
admission of Louisiana into the Union, that the right of trial by jury
should be secured to all her citizens,--the United States government
thus employing its power to enlarge the jurisdiction of the common law
in this its great representative.

Having shown that the abolition of slavery is within the competency of
the law-making power, when unrestricted by constitutional provisions,
and that the legislation of Congress over the District is thus
unrestricted, its power to abolish slavery there is established.

We argue it further, from the fact, that slavery exists there _now_ by
an act of Congress. In the act of 16th July, 1790, Congress accepted
portions of territory offered by the states of Maryland and Virginia,
and enacted that the laws, as they then were, should continue in force,
"until Congress shall otherwise by law provide." Under these laws,
adopted by Congress, and in effect re-enacted and made laws of the
District, the slaves there are now held.

Is Congress so impotent in its own "exclusive jurisdiction" that it
_cannot_ "otherwise by law provide?" If it can say, what _shall_ be
considered property, it can say what shall _not_ be considered property.
Suppose a legislature should enact that marriage contracts shall be mere
bills of sale, making a husband the proprietor of his wife, as his _bona
fide_ property; and suppose husbands should herd their wives in droves
for the market as beasts of burden, or for the brothel as victims of
lust, and then prate about their inviolable legal property, and deny the
power of the legislature, which stamped them "property," to undo its own
wrong, and secure to wives by law the rights of human beings. Would such
cant about "legal rights" be heeded where reason and justice held sway,
and where law, based upon fundamental morality, received homage? If a
frantic legislature pronounces woman a chattel, has it no power, with
returning reason, to take back the blasphemy? Is the impious edict
irrepealable? Be it, that with legal forms it has stamped wives "wares."
Can no legislation blot out the brand? Must the handwriting of Deity on
human nature be expunged for ever? Has law no power to stay the erasing
pen, and tear off the scrawled label that covers up the IMAGE OF GOD?


1. IT HAS BEEN ASSUMED BY CONGRESS ITSELF. The following record stands
on the journals of the House of Representatives for 1804, p. 225: "On
motion made and seconded that the House do come to the following
resolution: 'Resolved, That from and after the 4th day of July, 1805,
all blacks and people of color that shall be born within the District of
Columbia, or whose mothers shall be the property of any person residing
within said District, shall be free, the males at the age of ----, and
the females at the age of ----. The main question being taken that the
house do agree to said motion as originally proposed, it was negatived
by a majority of 46.'" Though the motion was lost, it was on the ground
of its alleged _inexpediency_ alone. In the debate which preceded the
vote, the _power_ of Congress was conceded. In March, 1816, the House of
Representatives passed the following resolution:--"Resolved, That a
committee be appointed to inquire into the existence of an inhuman and
illegal traffic in slaves, carried on in and through the District of
Columbia, and to report whether any and what measures are necessary for
_putting a stop to the same_."

On the 9th of January, 1829, the House of Representatives passed the
following resolution by a vote of 114 to 66: "Resolved, That the
Committee on the District of Columbia, be instructed to inquire into the
_expediency_ of providing by _law_ for the gradual abolition of slavery
within the District, in such manner that the interests of no individual
shall be injured thereby." Among those who voted in the affirmative were
Messrs. Barney of Md., Armstrong of Va., A.H. Shepperd of N.C., Blair of
Tenn., Chilton and Lyon of Ky., Johns of Del., and others from slave

COLUMBIA.--In a report of the committee on the District, Jan. 11, 1837,
by their chairman, Mr. Powell of Va., there is the following
declaration:--"The Congress of the United States, has by the
constitution exclusive jurisdiction over the District, and has power
upon this subject, (_slavery_,) as upon all other subjects of
legislation, to exercise _unlimited discretion_." Reps. of Comms. 2d
Sess. 19th Cong. v. iv. No. 43. In December, 1831, the committee on the
District, Dr. Doddridge of Va., Chairman, reported, "That until the
adjoining states act on the subject, (slavery) it would be (not
_unconstitutional_ but) unwise and impolitic, if not unjust, for
Congress to interfere." In April, 1836, a special committee on abolition
memorials reported the following resolutions by their Chairman, Mr.
Pinckney of South Carolina: "Resolved, That Congress possesses no
constitutional authority to interfere in any way with the institution of
slavery in any of the states of this confederacy."

"Resolved, That Congress _ought not to interfere_ in any way with
slavery in the District of Columbia." "Ought not to interfere,"
carefully avoiding the phraseology of the first resolution, and thus in
effect conceding the constitutional power. In a widely circulated
"Address to the electors of the Charleston District," Mr. Pinkney is
thus denounced by his own constituents: "He has proposed a resolution
which is received by the plain common sense of the whole country as a
concession that Congress has authority to abolish slavery in the
District of Columbia."

the gradual abolition of slavery in the District, signed by nearly
eleven hundred of its citizens, was presented to Congress, March 24,
1827. Among the signers to this petition, were Chief Justice Cranch,
Judge Van Ness, Judge Morsel, Prof. J.M. Staughton, and a large number
of the most influential inhabitants of the District. Mr. Dickson, of New
York, asserted on the floor of Congress in 1835, that the signers of
this petition owned more than half of the property in the District. The
accuracy of this statement has never been questioned.

jury of the county of Alexandria, at the March term, 1802, presented the
domestic slave trade as a grievance, and said, "We consider these
grievances demanding _legislative_ redress." Jan. 19, 1829, Mr.
Alexander, of Virginia, presented a representation of the grand jury in
the city of Washington, remonstrating against "any measure for the
abolition of slavery within said District, unless accompanied by
measures for the removal of the emancipated from the same;" thus, not
only conceding the power to emancipate slaves, but affirming an
additional power, that of _excluding them when free_. Journal H.R.
1828-9, p. 174.

Legislature of Pennsylvania instructed their Senators in Congress "to
procure, if practicable, the passage of a law to abolish slavery in the
District of Columbia." Jan. 28, 1829, the House of Assembly of New-York
passed a resolution, that their "Senators in Congress be instructed to
make every possible exertion to effect the passage of a law for the
abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia." In February, 1837,
the Senate of Massachusetts "Resolved, That Congress having exclusive
legislation in the District of Columbia, possess the right to abolish
slavery and the slave trade therein." The House of Representatives
passed the following resolution at the same session: "Resolved, That
Congress having exclusive legislation in the District of Columbia,
possess the right to abolish slavery in said District."

November 1, 1837, the Legislature of Vermont, "Resolved, that Congress
have the full power by the constitution to abolish slavery and the slave
trade in the District of Columbia, and in the territories."

May 30, 1836, a committee of the Pennsylvania Legislature reported the
following resolution: "Resolved, That Congress does possess the
constitutional power, and it is expedient to abolish slavery and the
slave trade within the District of Columbia."

In January, 1836, the Legislature of South Carolina "Resolved, That we
should consider the abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia as
a violation of the rights of the citizens of that District derived from
the _implied_ conditions on which that territory was ceded to the
General Government." Instead of denying the constitutional power, they
virtually admit its existence, by striving to smother it under an
_implication_. In February, 1836, the Legislature of North Carolina
"Resolved, That, although by the Constitution _all legislative power_
over the District of Columbia is vested in the Congress of the United
States, yet we would deprecate any legislative action on the part of
that body towards liberating the slaves of that District, as a breach of
faith towards those States by whom the territory was originally ceded.
Here is a full concession of the _power_. February 2, 1836, the Virginia
Legislature passed unanimously the following resolution: "Resolved, by
the General Assembly of Virginia, that the following article be proposed
to the several states of this Union, and to Congress, as an amendment of
the Constitution of the United States: "The powers of Congress shall not
be so construed as to authorize the passage of any law for the
emancipation of slaves in the District of Columbia, without the consent
of the individual proprietors thereof, unless by the sanction of the
Legislatures of Virginia and Maryland, and under such conditions as they
shall by law prescribe."

Fifty years after the formation of the United States' constitution the
states are solemnly called upon by the Virginia Legislature, to amend
that instrument by a clause asserting that, in the grant to Congress of
"exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever" over the District, the
"case" of slavery is not included!! What could have dictated such a
resolution but the conviction that the power to abolish slavery is an
irresistible inference from the constitution _as it is_. The fact that
the same legislature passed afterward a resolution, though by no means
unanimously, that Congress does not possess the power, abates not a
tittle of the testimony in the first resolution. March 23d, 1824, "Mr.
Brown presented the resolutions of the General Assembly of Ohio,
recommending to Congress the consideration of a system for the gradual
emancipation of persons of color held in servitude in the United
States." On the same day, "Mr. Noble, of Indiana, communicated a
resolution from the legislature of that state, respecting the gradual
emancipation of slaves within the United States." Journal of the United
States Senate, for 1824-5, p. 231.

The Ohio and Indiana resolutions, by taking for granted the _general_
power of Congress over the subject of slavery, do virtually assert its
_special_ power within its _exclusive_ jurisdiction.

STATES. The petition of eleven hundred citizens of the District, has
been already mentioned. "March 5, 1830, Mr. Washington presented a
memorial of inhabitants of the county of Frederick, in the state of
Maryland, praying that provision be made for the gradual abolition of
slavery in the District of Columbia." Journal H.R. 1829-30, p. 358.

March 30, 1828. Mr. A.H. Shepperd, of North Carolina, presented a
memorial of citizens of that state, "praying Congress to take measures
for the entire abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia."
Journal H.R. 1829-30, p. 379.

January 14, 1822. Mr. Rhea, of Tennessee, presented a memorial of
citizens of that state, praying "that provision may be made, whereby all
slaves which may hereafter be born in the District of Columbia, shall be
free at a certain period of their lives." Journal H.R. 1821-22, p. 142.

December 13, 1824. Mr. Saunders of North Carolina, presented a memorial
of citizens of that state, praying "that measures may be taken for the
gradual abolition of slavery in the United States." Journal H.R.
1824-25, p. 27.

December 16, 1828. "Mr. Barnard presented the memorial of the American
Convention for promoting the abolition of slavery, held in Baltimore,
praying that slavery may be abolished in the District of Columbia."
Journal U.S. Senate, 1828-29, p. 24.

CONCEDED THIS POWER. The testimony of Messrs. Doddridge, and Powell, of
Virginia, Chief Justice Cranch, and Judges Morsel and Van Ness, of the
District, has already been given. In the debate in Congress on the
memorial of the Society of Friends, in 1790, Mr. Madison, in speaking of
the territories of the United States, explicitly declared, from his own
knowledge of the views of the members of the convention that framed the
constitution, as well as from the obvious import of its terms, that in
the territories, "Congress have certainly the power to regulate the
subject of slavery." Congress can have no more power over the
territories than that of "exclusive legislation in all cases
whatsoever," consequently, according to Mr. Madison, "it has certainly
the power to regulate the subject of slavery in the" _District_. In
March, 1816, Mr. Randolph of Va. introduced a resolution for putting a
stop to the domestic slave trade within the District. December 12, 1827,
Mr. Barney, of Md. presented a memorial for abolition in the District,
and moved that it be printed. Mr. McDuffie, of S.C., objected to the
printing, but "expressly admitted the right of Congress to grant to the
people of the District any measures which they might deem necessary to
free themselves from the deplorable evil."--[See letter of Mr. Claiborne
of Miss. to his constituents, published in the Washington Globe, May 9,
1836.] The sentiments of Mr. Clay, of Kentucky, on the subject are well
known. In a speech before the U.S. Senate, in 1836, he declared the
power of Congress to abolish slavery in the District "unquestionable."
Messrs. Blair, of Tenn., and Chilton, Lyon, and R.M. Johnson, of Ky.,
A.H. Shepperd, of N.C., Messrs. Armstrong and Smyth, of Va., Messrs.
Dorsey, Archer, and Barney, of Md., and Johns, of Del., with numerous
others from slave states, have asserted the power of Congress to abolish
slavery in the District. In the speech of Mr. Smyth, of Va., on the
Missouri question, January 28, 1820, he says on this point: "If the
future freedom of the blacks is your real object, and not a mere
pretence, why do you not begin _here_? Within the ten miles square, you
have _undoubted power_ to exercise exclusive legislation. _Produce a
bill to emancipate the slaves in the District of Columbia_, or, if you
prefer it, to emancipate those born hereafter."

To this may be added the testimony of the present Vice President of the
United States, Hon. Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky. In a speech before
the U.S. Senate, Feb. 1, 1820, (National Intelligencer, April 20, 1820)
he says: "In the District of Columbia, containing a population of 30,000
souls, and probably as many slaves as the whole territory of Missouri,
Why, then, this heart-rending sympathy for the slaves of Missouri, and
this cold insensibility, this eternal apathy, towards the slaves in the
District of Columbia?"

It is quite unnecessary to add, that the most distinguished northern
statesmen of both political parties, have always affirmed the power of
Congress to abolish slavery in the District: President Van Buren in his
letter of March 6, 1836, to a committee of gentlemen in North Carolina,
says, "I would not, from the light now before me, feel myself safe in
pronouncing that Congress does not possess the power of abolishing
slavery in the District of Columbia." This declaration of the President
is consistent with his avowed sentiments touching the Missouri question,
on which he coincided with such men as Daniel D. Tompkins, De Witt
Clinton, and others, whose names are a host.[A] It is consistent, also,
with his recommendation in his late message, in which, speaking of the
District, he strongly urges upon Congress "a thorough and careful
revision of its local government," speaks of the "entire dependence" of
the people of the District "upon Congress," recommends that a "uniform
system of local government" be adopted, and adds, that "although it was
selected as the seat of the General Government, the site of its public
edifices, the depository of its archives, and the residence of officers
entrusted with large amounts of public property, and the management of
public business, yet it never has been subjected to, or received, that
_special_ and _comprehensive_ legislation which these circumstances
peculiarly demanded."

[Footnote A: Mr. Van Buren, when a member of the Senate of New-York,
voted for the following preamble and resolutions, which passed
unanimously:--Jan 28th, 1820. "Whereas the inhibiting the further
extension of slavery in the United States, is a subject of deep concern
to the people of this state: and whereas, we consider slavery as an evil

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