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The Abolition or Anti-Slavery party of the United States first made its appearance in national polities in the Presidential contest of 1840. It nominated James G. Birney, of Michigan, as its candidate for the Presidency, and Francis J. Lemoyne, of Pennsylvania, for the Vice-Presidency. It polled seven thousand votes. In 1844, Mr. Birney was again its candidate, and it polled 62,140 votes. In 1848, with Martin Van Buren as the Presidential candidate of the Buffalo Convention, and Garrit Smith as that of the more ultra anti-slavery men, it polled 296,232 votes. In 1852, John P. Hale, its nominee, polled 157,296 votes. In 1856, the candidate of the Republican party, John C. Fremont, supported by the entire Abolition party, polled 1,341,812 votes. The next election resulted in the elevation of Mr. Lincoln, the present incumbent, to the Presidency of the United States. The first Abolition petitions to Congress were a memorial of Quakers, praying the abolition of the slave trade, presented by Mr. Fitzsimmons, of Pennsylvania, on the 11th of February, 1790, and a memorial to the same effect of Quakers, of New York city, presented by Mr. Lawrence, of New York. Mr. Hartly, of Pennsylvania, seconded by Mr. White, of Virginia, moved the reference of the first petition, which was opposed by Messrs. Stone, of Maryland; Smith, Tucker and Burke, of South Carolina; Baldwin and Jackson, of Georgia, who were in favor of its going to the table. Messrs. Fitzsimmons and Hartly, of Pennsylvania; Parker, Madison and Page, of Virginia; Lawrence, of New York; Sedgwick, of Massachusetts; Boudinot, of New Jersey; Sherman and Huntington, of Connecticut, favored a reference. Those who opposed it expressed the fear that action indicating an interference with this kind of property would sink it in value and be injurious to a great number of citizens, particularly of the Southern States.--They deprecated the disposition of the class represented by the petitioners to meddle with concerns with which they had something to do. On the next day, a memorial of the Pennsylvania Society for promoting the abolition of slavery, &c., signed Benjamin Franklin, President, was presented and read. The debate on the memorial of the day before was resumed. Mr. Tucker, of South Carolina, said it contained an unconstitutional request, and feared its commitment would be a very alarming circumstance to the Southern States, for if it was to engage Congress in an unconstitutional measure it would be considered an interference with their rights, making them uneasy under the Government, and causing them to lament that they had ever put additional power into their hands. He was surprised to see another memorial on the same subject, signed by a man (Benjamin Franklin) who ought to have known the Constitution better. Mr. Smith, of South Carolina, amongst other things, said that the States would never have entered into the Confederacy unless their property had been guaranteed to them, for such is the state of agriculture in that country that, without slaves, it must be abandoned. He complained that a gentleman could hardly bring his servants to Northern cities but there are persons trying to seduce them to leave him. Mr. Page, of Virginia, advocated the reference, relying upon the virtue of Congress that they would exercise no unconstitutional authority, and, after a long debate, the memorials were referred — yeas, forty-three; nays, eleven. The committee to whom it was referred made a report, which was referred to the committee of the whole House, which amended the report of the select committee, and resolved, among other things,-- "That Congress have no authority to interfere in the emancipation of slaves, or in the treatment of those within any of the States, it remaining with the several States to provide any regulations therein which humanity and true policy may require." Another Quaker petition was presented on the 26th of November, 1792, which led to another debate displaying the same seeds of the "irrepressible conflict." In January and November, 1797, the same subject came up again with similar debates. On the 21st of January, 1805, Mr. Logan, of Pennsylvania, presented a similar memorial of the Quakers, with the additional prayer that Congress may adopt effectual measures to prevent the introduction of slavery into the territories of the United States. On the 12th of February, 1827, Mr. Barney, of Maryland, presented a memorial of certain citizens of Baltimore praying that all children thereafter born of parents held in slavery in the District of Columbia shall be free at a certain age. Mr. Dorsey, of Maryland, conceived the memorial breathed the general spirit of emancipation, and though its request began with the District, its ulterior purpose went much farther. On the 12th of December, 1831, Mr. J. Q. Adams presented fifteen petitions, from numerous inhabitants of Pennsylvania, for the abolition of slavery in the District and of the slave trade therein. The petition was referred to a committee, which asked to be discharged from its consideration. Several petitions for the same object from citizens of Ohio were presented to the Senate by Mr. Morris, of that State, January 7, 1836. An animated debate ensued. Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Buchanan opposed the reception of the petitions on the ground that they slandered one-half the Union, and because they aimed at a violation of the Constitution. Mr. Buchanan said: ‘ "If any one principle of constitutional law can, at this day, be considered as settled, it is that Congress had no right, no power, over the question of slavery in those States where it exists. The property of the master in his slave existed in full force before the Federal Constitution was adopted. It was a subject that then belonged, as it still belongs, to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Southern States. These States, by the adoption of the Constitution, never yielded to the General Government any right to interfere with the question. It remains where it was previous to the establishment of a Confederacy." ’ The debate was resumed on subsequent days, the advocates of reception putting their case principally in "the sacred right of petition." The petition was received — ayes, 36; noes, 10--and its request rejected — ayes, 34; nays, 6. On the 25th of May, 1836, the House adopted — yeas, 182; nays, 9--a resolution declaring "that Congress possesses no constitutional authority to interfere in any way with the institution of slavery in any of the States of this confederacy"; another — yeas, 132; nays, 45--that Congress ought not to interfere with slavery in the District; and another — yeas, 117; nays, 68--directing all abolition petitions to be laid on the table. In 1837, Mr. Slade, of Vermont, moved the reference to a select committee of two, memorials praying the abolition of slavery in the District. Mr. Slade made a pertinacious effort to make the presentation of abolition petitions the ground of agitation and action against slavery in the Southern States. These petitions now began to pour in, in hundreds, and were signed by hundreds of thousands of persons. A most stormy scene ensued, which ended, finally, however, in the adoption of a resolution--135 yeas to 60 nays — to lay abolition petitions on the table. On the 28th January, 1840, the Twenty-first Rule was adopted — ayes, 114; noes, 108--that no abolition petition shall be received by the House or entertained in any way whatever. On the 3d of December, 1844, the rule was rescinded on motion of Mr. Adams-- ayes, 108; noes, 80. On the 25th of February, 1850, Mr. Giddings, of Ohio, presented two petitions from Abolitionists, respectfully asking the House to "devise and prepare, without delay, some plan for the immediate, peaceful dissolution of the American Union." It was decided by a vote of yeas 8, nays 162, not to receive the petition. Upon the 1st of February, 1850, the same petitions, praying a dissolution of the Union, were presented in the Senate by Mr. Hale, of New Hampshire. But three Senators voted for the reception of the petition, viz: Messrs. Chase, Hale and Seward.
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