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[26] Congress may, by express legislation, abolish slavery, 1st, in the District of Columbia; 2d, in the Territories, if there should be any; 3d, that it may abolish the slave trade on the high seas between the States; 4th, that it may refuse to admit any new State with a constitution sanctioning slavery. Nor can it be questioned that the people of the United States may, in the manner pointed out by the Constitution, proceed to its amendment. It is, then, by constitutional legislation, and even by amendment of the Constitution, that slavery may be reached.

And here the question arises: Are there any compromises in the Constitution of such a character as to prevent action on this subject? I wish to say, distinctly, that there is no compromise on the subject of slavery, of a character not to be reached legally and constitutionally, which is the only way in which I propose to reach it. Wherever power and jurisdiction are secured to Congress, they may unquestionably be exercised in conformity with the Constitution. And even in matters beyond existing powers and jurisdiction, there is a constitutional method of action. The Constitution contains an article pointing out how, at any time, amendments may be made thereto. This is an important element, giving to the Constitution a progressive character; and allowing it to be moulded to suit new exigencies and new conditions of feeling. The wise framers of this instrument did not treat the country as a Chinese foot—never to grow after its infancy—but anticipated the changes incident to its growth. They openly declare, ‘Legislate, as you please, in conformity with the Constitution; and even make amendments in this instrument, rendered proper by change of opinion or character, following always the manner therein prescribed.’

Nor can we dishonor the memories of the revered authors of the Constitution, by supposing that they set their hands to it, believing that slavery was to be perpetual—that the republic, which, reared by them to its giant stature, had snatched from Heaven the sacred fire of freedom, was to be bound, like another Prometheus, in the adamantine chains of fate, while slavery, like another vulture, preyed upon its vitals. Let Franklin speak for them. He was President of the earliest Abolition Society in the United States, and in 1790, only two years after the adoption of the Constitution, addressed a petition to Congress, calling upon them ‘to step to the very verge of the power vested in them for discouraging every species of traffic in our fellow-men.’ Let Jefferson speak for them. His desire for the abolition of slavery was often expressed with philanthropic warmth and emphasis. Let Washington speak for them. ‘It is among my first wishes,’ he said, in a letter to

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