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[146] descent held to service within the District, immediately upon its passage. Those owners of slaves who had not sympathized with us were allowed ninety days to prepare and present to commissioners appointed for that purpose the names, ages, and personal description of their slaves, who were to be valued by commissioners. No single slave could be estimated to be worth more than three hundred dollars. One million dollars was appropriated to carry the act into effect. All claims were to be presented within ninety days after the passage of the act, and not thereafter; there was no saving clause for minors, femmes covert, insane or absent persons. On his approval of the act, the Executive of the United States sent a message to Congress, in which he said:
I have never doubted the constitutional authority of Congress to abolish slavery in the District, and I have ever desired to see the national capital freed from the institution in some satisfactory way. Hence there never has been in my mind any questions upon the subject, except those of expediency, arising in view of all the circumstances.

For the previous twenty-five or thirty years the subject had again and again been presented in Congress, and was always rejected. One of the incidents that led to our withdrawal from the Union was the apprehension that it was the intention of the United States government to violate the constitutional right of each state to adopt and maintain, to reject or abolish slavery, as it pleased. This step showed the justness of our apprehensions.

Among the rights guaranteed to every citizen of the United States, including the District of Columbia, was the right of property. No one could be deprived of his property by the government, except in the manner prescribed and authorized by the Constitution. Its words are these:

No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.1

Whenever it was necessary in the administration of affairs that the government should take private property for public use, it had the right to take that private property on the condition of making compensation for it, and on no other condition. Also, it could not be taken except for public use, even by making just compensation for it; nor could it be taken to be destroyed. The simple and sole condition on which the inviolability of private property could be broken by the government itself was, that it was necessary for public use. Otherwise, there was no constitutional right on the part of the government to take the property at all.

Again, this property, thus necessary, must be taken by due process of

1 Constitution of the United States, Article V.

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