previous next
[295] not exist in the territories or on the high seas, under the national flag, or in the District of Columbia, or be allowed in new States to be admitted; and that ‘nowhere under the Constitution can the nation, by legislation or otherwise, support slavery, hunt slaves, or hold property in man.’ Referring to the recent political conventions, he said:—

And now an arrogant and unrelenting ostracism is applied, not only to all who express themselves against slavery, but to every man unwilling to be its menial. A novel test for office is introduced which would have excluded all the fathers of the republic,—even Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin! Yes, sir; startling it may be, but indisputable. Could these revered demigods of history once again descend upon earth and mingle in our affairs, not one of them could receive a nomination from the national convention of either of the two old political parties! Out of the convictions of their hearts and the utterances of their lips against slavery they would be condemned.

The remaining and principal part of his speech, consuming two hours and a half, was an arraignment of the Fugitive Slave law, which he called a bill, and never a law, thereby intending to stamp it as a nullity. He showed that the provision concerning fugitives from service was not, as claimed by its partisans, one of the original compromises of the Constitution; and that it was not deemed at the time of special importance, being introduced late in the session of the convention, and passed without debate. He noted that the same indifference attended the passage of the Fugitive Act of 1793, which drew little attention at the time; and next he passed to the Act of 1850, of which he thus spoke:—

At last, in 1850, we have another Act, passed by both Houses of Congress, and approved by the President, familiarly known as the Fugitive Slave bill. As I read this statute I am filled with painful emotions. The masterly subtlety with which it is drawn might challenge admiration if exerted for a benevolent purpose; but in an age of sensibility and refinement, a machine of torture, however skilful and apt, cannot be regarded without horror. Sir, in the name of the Constitution which it violates, of my country which it dishonors, of humanity which it degrades, of Christianity which it offends, I arraign this enactment, and now hold it up to the judgment of the Senate and the world. Again, I shrink from no responsibility. I may seem to stand alone; but all the patriots and martyrs of history, all the fathers of the republic, are with me. Sir, there is no attribute of God which does not take part against this Act.

Encountering the objection that the Supreme Court had declared in the Prigg case the power of Congress to legislate for

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 Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Thomas Jefferson (1)
Franklin (1)
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.
1850 AD (2)
1793 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: