At the next session,1 Mr. Charles G. Atherton
, of New Hampshire
, moved the following resolutions:
Resolved, That this government is a government of limited powers; and that, by the Constitution of the United States, Congress has no jurisdiction whatever over the institution of Slavery in the several States of the confederacy.
Resolved, That the petitions for the abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia and the Territories of the United States, and against the removal of slaves from one State to another, are a part of the plan of operations set on foot to affect the institution of Slavery in the several States, and thus indirectly to destroy that institution within their limits.
Resolved, That Congress has no right to do that indirectly which it cannot do directly; and that the agitation of the subject of Slavery in the District of Columbia, or the Territories, as a means or with a view of disturbing or overthrowing that institution in the several States, is against the true spirit and meaning of the Constitution, an infringement of the rights of the States affected, and a breach of the public faith on which they entered into the confederacy.
Resolved, That the Constitution rests on the broad principle of equality among the members of this confederacy; and that Congress, in the exercise of its acknowledged powers, has no right to discriminate between the institutions of one portion of the States and another, with a view of abolishing the one and promoting the other.
Resolved, therefore, That all attempts on the part of Congress to abolish Slavery in the District of Columbia or the Territories, or to prohibit the removal of slaves from State to State, or to discriminate between the institutions of one portion of the country and another with the views aforesaid, are in violation of the Constitution, destructive of the fundamental principles on which the Union of these States rests, and beyond the jurisdiction of Congress; and that every petition, memorial, resolution, proposition, or paper, touching or relating in any way, or to any extent whatever, to Slavery as aforesaid, or the abolition thereof, shall, on the presentation thereof, without any further action thereon, be laid on the table, without being debated, printed, or referred.
, of Massachusetts
, objecting, on motion of Mr. Atherton
, the rules were suspended; and Mr. A.'s resolves duly passed, as follows: No. 1--Yeas 198; Nays 6. No. 2--Yeas 134; Nays 67--mainly, if not wholly, Northern Whigs.
The third resolution having been divided, the House
first resolved “That Congress has no right to do that indirectly which it cannot do directly,” etc.--Yeas 170, Nays 30.
The residue of the third resolve passed — Yeas 164, Nays 39.
The fourth resolve was in like manner divided, and passed in two parts, by 182 and 175 Yeas to 26 Nays.
The last of Mr. Atherton
's resolves was in like manner divided, and the former part adopted by Yeas 147 to Nays 51; and the latter or gag
portion by Yeas 127, Nays 78--Henry A. Wise
refusing to vote.
This would seem quite stringent enough; but, two years later,2
, on motion of William Cost Johnson
(Whig), of Maryland
Resolved, That upon the presentation of any memorial or petition, praying for the abolition of Slavery or the Slave-Trade in any District, Territory, or State of the Union, and upon the presentation of any resolution or other paper touching that subject, the reception of such memorial, petition, resolution, or paper, shall be considered as objected to, and the question of its reception laid on the table, without debate or further action thereon.
Resolved, That no petition, memorial, resolution, or other paper, praying for the abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia, or any State or Territory, or the Slave-Trade between the States or Territories of the United States, in which it now exists, shall be received by this House, or entertained in any way whatever.
On this proposition, the votes were — Yeas 114; Nays 108--several Northern Democrats and some Southern Whigs voting with all the Northern Whigs
in the minority.3
In a little more than ten years