previous next

[362] it on by indirection; if you shall exhibit care but for a republic, respect but for a democracy; if you shall stipulate for the toleration of slavery as an existing evil by admitting assumptions to its prejudice and restrictions to its power and progress, you reinaugurate the blunder of 1789; you will combine States, whether true or not, to slavery; you will have no tests of faith; some will find it to their interest to abandon it; slave labor will be fettered; hireling labor will be free; your Confederacy is again divided into antagonistic societies; the irrepressible conflict is again commenced; and as slavery can sustain the structure of a stable government, and will sustain such structure, and as it will sustain no structure but its own, another revolution comes — but whether in the order and propriety of this, is gravely to be doubted.

Is it, then, in the just performance of your office, that you would impose a constitutional restriction against the foreign slave trade? Will you affirm slavery by reprobating the means of its formation? Will you extend slavery by introducing the means to its extinction? Will you declare to Virginia if she shall join, that under no circumstances shall she be at liberty to restore the integrity of her slave condition? that her five hundred thousand masters without slaves shall continue? that the few slaves she has shall still be subject to the requisitions of the South and West? that she shall still be subject to the incursions of white laborers, without the slaves to neutralize their social tendencies? and thus, therefore, that she must certainly submit to be abolitionized, and when so abolitionized, that she must be surely thrown off, to take her fortune with the Abolition States? Will you say the same to Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, and Tennessee? Will you declare to the State of South Carolina that, if the canker of democracy eats into her towns and cities; if her lighter lands are exposed, her forms of culture are abandoned, she must still submit to it? To Texas, that to her imperial domain no other slaves shall come than those she may extort from older States; and that she must submit to be the waste she is, or else accept the kind of labor that must demoralize the social nature of the State? Will you do this, and yet say that you erect slavery and affirm it, and, in your ministrations at its altar, own it as the true and only source of your authority? Individually, I am sure you will not. I am too well assured of your intelligent perception of the questions at issue, and of your devotion to the great cause you have espoused, to entertain a doubt on that subject; but others may, and that I may meet suggestions likely to arise, I will task your indulgence further.

Then why adopt this measure? Is it that Virginia and the other Border States require it? They may require it now, but is it certain they will continue to require it? Virginia and the rest have never yet regarded slavery as a normal institution of society. They have regarded the slave as property, but not slavery as a relation. They have treated it as a prostitution, but have never yet espoused it. Their men of intellect have exhibited enlightened views upon this subject, but their politicians who have held the public ear have ever presented it as a thing of dollars, and to be fought for, if need be, but not to be cherished and perpetuated. And it is certain that when better opinions shall prevail; that when they join, if they shall join, a Slave Republic, a Republic to perpetuate the institution, when there shall be less inducement to sell their slaves, and the assurance that when they shall sell them they will fall under the rule of a democracy which must unfit them for association in a Slave Confederacy--the people of these States may not solicit an increase of Slaves? And is it policy to preclude the possibility of such an increase? But admit the change may never come, yet against all the evils to result from the slave trade these States are competent to protect themselves. The failure of the General Government to preclude that trade by constitutional provision by no means precludes them from such a prohibition. If they may never want them, they may keep them out, without the application of a Procustean policy to all the other States of the Confederacy. It may be said that without such general restriction the value of their slaves will be diminished in the markets of the West. They have no right to ask that their slaves, or any other products, shall be protected to unnatural value in the markets of the West. If they persist in regarding the negro but as a thing of trade — a thing which they are too good to use, but only can produce for others' uses — and join the confederacy as Pennsylvania or Massachusetts might do, not to support the structure, but to profit by it, it were as well they should not join, and we can find no interest in such association.

Is it that the Cotton States themselves require it? If so, each for itself may adopt the prohibition. But they do not. The political leaders of the country are not ready for the proposition, as they were not ready for the measure of secession. Many leaders of the South, many men who meet you in Convention, have been forced to that position by a popular movement they had never the political courage to direct; and so, perhaps, in any case the whole machinery of society must start before the political hands upon the dial plate can indicate its progress; and so, therefore, as this question is not moved — as the members of this Congress are charged to perfect the dissolution of the old Government, but have not been instructed as to this permanent requisition of the new — they may be mistaken, as they would have been mistaken, if by chance they had met six months ago and spoken upon the question of secession. And they are mistaken, if, from any reference to popular feeling, they inaugurate the action now proposed. The people of the Cotton States want labor; they know that whites and slaves

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 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.
1789 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: