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[196] fact that slavery has existed under all physical conditions; and that it was the duty of the national government, carrying out the policy of the Ordinance of 1787, not to weigh chances, but to exclude by positive law the possibility of its becoming an institution of new States.1 Not content with assumptions and with votes against the prohibition,2 he undertook to belittle it by arts of speech, by offensive and disparaging epithets. In his first public statement of his new position, and in later speeches and appeals to the public, he made light of it as ‘a mere abstraction,’ ‘a ghostly abstraction,’ ‘a naked possibility,’ ‘no matter of principle,’ and of ‘no real practical importance.’3 In this new direction he did not stop with the territorial question, but joined the Southern party on another measure, hitherto a subordinate subject among their grievances, and volunteered his support of Mason's fugitive-slave bill, ‘with all its provisions, to the fullest extent.’4 He intimated his purpose to offer some amendments which would qualify its harshness, and later proposed one securing to the alleged fugitive a trial by jury; but his speeches and letters of subsequent date make it clear that the bill unamended would have received his vote.5

He turned aside from the pending questions,—Clay's Compromise measures,—and committed himself on a matter irrelevant to the discussion, by affirming the obligation imposed by the resolutions of annexation to create four more slave States out of Texas.6 He put himself in antagonism with President Taylor's plan of admitting California as a State independently, as she had a right to be admitted; and he objected to her admission

1 The territorial legislature of New Mexico in 1859 established slavery. Von Holst, vol. III. p. 500, note.

2 He voted, June 5, 1850, against applying the prohibition to Utah and New Mexico, when moved by Seward. Webster's Works, vol. v. pp. 382, 383.

3 Webster's Works, vol. v. pp. 421, 422, 423, 436; vol. II. pp. 547, 562; Webster's Private Correspondence, vol. II. p. 370—; Curtis's, ‘Life of Webster,’ vol. II. p. 438.

4 As the speech was first published, he pledged himself to support the bill with Butler's amendment; but in a revision the relative pronoun ‘which’ was transferred so that he appeared to pledge himself to support it only as amended by himself. The transfer of the relative pronoun led to a controversy in the newspapers,——--Boston Courier, May 6, 1850 ‘Advertiser,’ May 7; ‘Atlas,’ May 8 and 9; Moses Stuart's ‘Conscience and the Constitution,’ p. 67.

5 In a letter, May 15, 1850 (Webster's Works, vol. VI. p. 557), he treated the State personal liberty laws as ‘an insuperable difficulty’ in the way of a jury trial. He uniformly defended the Fugitive Slave Act, and applauded Eliot's vote for it. Private Correspondence, vol. II. pp. 387. 380.

6 Webster's Works, vol. v. pp. 341, 350.

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