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1 During the preceding discussion in the Conference, Gov. S. P. Chase, of Ohio (February 6th), after stating frankly to the Southern Commissioners that those from the Free States could not surrender the principle of Slavery Restriction as to the territories, and that, if they did, it would do no good, as their constituents would disavow and repudiate them, proceeded as follows:
Aside from the Territorial question — the question of Slavery outside of Slave States--I know of but one serious difficulty. I refer to the question concerning fugitives from service. The clause in the Constitution concerning this class of persons is regarded by almost all men, North and South, as a stipulation for the surrender to their masters of slaves escaping into Free States. The people of the Free States, however, who believe that slaveholding is wrong, cannot and will not aid in the reclamation, and the stipulation becomes therefore a dead letter. You complain of bad faith; and the complaint is retorted by denunciations of the cruelty which would drag back to bondage the poor slave who has escaped from it. You, thinking Slavery right, claim the fulfillment of the stipulation; we, thinking Slavery wrong, cannot fulfill the stipulation without consciousness of participation in wrong. Here is a real difficulty; but it seems to me not insuperable. It will not do for us to say to you, in justification of non-performance, ‘The stipulation is immoral, and therefore we cannot execute it;’ for you deny the immorality, and we cannot assume to judge for you. On the other hand, you ought not to exact from us the literal performance of the stipulation when you know that we cannot perform it without conscious culpability. A true solution of the difficulty seems to be attainable by regarding it as a simple case where a contract, from changed circumstances, cannot be fulfilled exactly as made. A court of equity in such a case decrees execution as near as may be. It requires the party who cannot perform to make a compensation for non-performance. Why cannot the same principle be applied to the rendition of fugitives from service? We cannot surrender-but we can compensate. Why not, then, avoid all difficulties on all sides, and show respectively good faith and good will, by providing and accepting compensation where masters reclaim escaping servants and prove their right of reclamation under the Constitution? Instead of a judgment for rendition, let there be a judgment for compensation, determined by the true value of the services, and let the same judgment assure freedom to the fugitive. The cost to the National Treasury would be as nothing in comparison with the evils of discord and strife. All parties would be gainers.
If the South wish any concession from me, they won't get it — not a hair's breadth of it. If they come to my house for it, they will not find it. I concede nothing. * * * No matter what may be said at the Syracuse Convention, or any other assemblage of insane persons. I never would consent that there should be one foot of Slave Territory beyond what the old Thirteen States had at the time of the formation of the Union. Never, never The man can't show his face to me, and prove that I ever departed from that doctrine. He would sneak away, or slink away, or hire a mercenary Heep, that he might say what a mercenary apostate from liberty Daniel Webster has become. He knows himself to be a hypocrite and a falsifier. * * * All that I now say is, that, with the blessing of God, I will not now nor hereafter, before the country or the world, consent to be numbered among those who introduced new Slave Power into the Union. I will do all in my power to prevent it.Mr. Clay's deliberate and emphatic declaration that he would never consent nor be constrained “to vote for the positive introduction of Slavery either south or north of that line” (36° 30′), will be found on page 205.
3 See page 381.
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