previous next
[124] foster an amicable intercourse and correspondence between all the members of the confederacy, from being used as an instrument of an opposite character. The General Government, to which the great trust is confided of preserving inviolate the relations created among the States by the Constitution, is especially bound to avoid, in its own action, any thing that may disturb them. I would therefore call the special attention of Congress to the subject, and respectfully suggest the propriety of passing such a law as will prohibit, under severe penalties, the circulation in the Southern States, through the mail, of incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection.

Had the President been asked to justify his charges against his fellow-citizens of having “attempted to circulate, through the mails, inflammatory appeals, addressed to the passions of slaves, in prints,” etc., etc., he must have answered that he had heard or read charges to this effect, and had believed them. But it was in vain that the Abolitionists remonstrated, and protested, and called for proofs. The slaveholding interest detested and feared them; the mob was in full cry at their heels; and it was the seeming interest of the great majority of speakers and writers to join in the hunt.1

Governor Marcy followed in the footsteps of his party chief. In his Annual Message of January 5, 1836--five weeks later than the foregoing — he said:

Relying on the influence of a sound and enlightened public opinion to restrain and control the misconduct of the citizens of a free government, especially when directed, as it has been in this case, with unexampled energy and unanimity, to the particular evils under consideration, and perceiving that its operations have been thus far salutary, I entertain the best hopes that this remedy, of itself, will entirely remove these evils, or render them comparatively harmless. But, if these reasonable expectations should, un-happily, be disappointed; if, in the face of numerous and striking exhibitions of public reprobation, elicited from our constituents by a just fear of the fatal issues in which the uncurbed efforts of the Abolitionists may ultimately end, any considerable portion of these misguided men shall persist in pushing them forward to disastrous consequences, then a question, new to our confederacy, will necessarily arise, and must be met. It must then be determined how far the several States can provide, within the proper exercise of their constitutional powers, and how far, in fulfillment of the obligations resulting from their federal relations, they ought to provide, by their own laws, for the trial and punishment by their own judicatories, of residents within their limits, guilty of acts therein, which are calculated and intended to excite insurrection and rebellion in a sister State. * * * I cannot doubt that the Legislature possesses the power to pass such penal laws as will have the effect of preventing the citizens of this State and residents within it from availing themselves, with impunity, of the protection of its sovereignty and laws, while they are actually employed in exciting insurrection and sedition in a sister State, or engaged in treasonable enterprises, intended to be executed therein.

A legislative Report responsive to these recommendations was made in May following, just at the close of the session, which assumed to pledge the faith of the State to pass such laws as were suggested by the Governor, whenever they shall be requisite! This report was duly forwarded to the Southern Governors, but not circulated at large, nor was any such action as it proposed ever taken-or meant to be. Governor Edward Everett (Whig), of Massachusetts, sent2 a Message to the Legislature of his State, communicating the demands of certain Southern States that anti-Slavery inculcations in the Free States should be legally suppressed, and saying:

Whatever by direct and necessary operation

1 “Now we tell them [the Abolitionists] that when they openly and publicly promulgate doctrines which outrage public feeling, they have no right to demand protection of the people they insult. Ought not, we ask, our city authorities to make them understand this — to tell them that they prosecute their treasonable and Beastly plans at their own peril?” --New York Courier and Enquirer, 11th July, 1834.

2 January 6, 1836.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Marcy (1)
Edward Everett (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
January 6th, 1836 AD (1)
January 5th, 1836 AD (1)
July, 1834 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: