Sir, this effort is impotent as tyrannical. Convictions of the heart cannot be repressed; utterances of conscience must be heard: they break forth with irrepressible might. As well attempt to check the tides of ocean, the currents of the Mississippi, or the rushing waters of Niagara. The discussion of slavery will proceed wherever two or three are gathered together,—by the fireside, on the highway, at the public meeting, in the church. The movement against slavery is from the Everlasting Arm. Even now it is gathering its forces, soon to be confessed everywhere. It may not be felt yet in the high places of office and power; but all who can put their ears humbly to the ground will hear and comprehend its incessant and advancing tread.So much had been said by slaveholders and Northern compromisers with the object of setting public opinion against antislavery men, to the effect that they were sectional in spirit and policy and without any comprehensive patriotism, that he emphasized at the outset the ‘sectional’ character of slavery and the ‘national’ character of freedom,—qualities stamped on the early history of the nation, and determining the principles of construction to be applied to all constitutional questions which pertained to slavery. After this introduction, lasting fifteen or twenty minutes, he entered on his main argument. For the next hour he discussed the true relations of the national government to slavery, showing, by authorities and reason, that the institution was in its nature against common right and the universal sense of justice, existed only under positive and clearly expressed provisions of law, and was local and limited in its sphere; that the framers of the Constitution, including Washington, were outspoken against it, and were in sentiment and aim ‘abolitionists;’ and that in harmony with their declared views was the public opinion of that day, as appearing in literature, in the church, in the early legislation of Congress, and in the memorials of Abolition societies. As the District of Columbia had not been acquired by the government when it was organized in 1789, and the territories were then all under the Ordinance of 1787, he declared: ‘At this moment, when Washington took his first oath to support the Constitution of the United States, the national ensign, nowhere within the national territory, covered a single slave. Then, indeed, was slavery sectional and freedom national.’ As conclusions from these premises, he insisted that slavery could
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