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Chapter 28: the Oregon question.

In the Thirtieth Congress the most important issue was the question of admitting the Territory of Oregon into the Union. Mr. Davis took a conspicuous part in the debates.

On June 23d he offered, as an amendment to the twelfth section of the pending bill to admit Oregon, a resolution declaring that “nothing contained in this act shall be so construed as to authorize the prohibition of domestic slavery in said Territory while it remains in the condition of a Territory in said United States.”

He regarded the pending bill as unconstitutional, and the twelfth section of it as an unwarranted attempt to exercise by indirection a power not delegated to the Federal Government, and subversive of the equal rights of the States. He denied that there was any intention to force slavery on Oregon, as was charged by the opponents of the proposed amendment, asserting that the South only desired to show the ground on which she had [380] stood from the commencement of the Confederation, and arguing, further, that she should be let alone. He made a great speech in support of the amendment on July 12th.

He said:

As to the introduction of slavery into Oregon, no Southern Senator had ever asked it. The fact that the slave is property which his owner may carry away with him into any part of the Union was that which they were desirous to see recognized. The clause in the Constitution relative to the regulation of commerce was a constitutional admission that the slave is property. It is because slaves are considered property that the importation of slaves from Africa has been carried on under the sanction of this clause in the Constitution. The words ‘slave or any other property,’ in the Constitution, are conclusive on this point. If the existence of the slave as property be admitted, what power has Congress to interfere with it? He denied that there was any such power in Congress. Congress had no power to change the condition or to strip the master of his right in his property. Entering a Territory with this property, the citizen has a right to its protection.

On the acquisition of a Territory the condition of slavery was not changed. The [381] Government acquired no new power over it, but stood merely in the position of an agent for its protection.

As to the inviolability of the law which prevailed in a Territory when acquired, he admitted that until abrogated the existing law or municipal regulation must remain in force within the Territory itself. He denied that there was any power in Congress, or in the people of the Territory, to interrupt the slave system. He regarded the course pursued by the Northern States in relation to fugitive slaves as an outrage on justice and in violation of that principle of the equality of the States which is guaranteed by the Constitution. The owner of a slave when he entered some of these States, if he took his slave with him, was either exposed to the mortification of seeing his slave seduced from his side or seized and carried away by violence. If the opponents of slavery wished to emancipate the slaves, they were taking the wrong course. Slavery could not be abolished without a series of preliminary preparations; and during these preparations great dangers would menace the people of the South. The most judicious course was to let the institution alone, and permit it to spread itself through the adjacent States, so that it might assume a new and more liberal character. [382] The practical and useful emancipation of the slave will not be the labor of one generation. The slave must be made fit for his freedom by education and discipline, and thus made unfit for slavery. As soon as he becomes unfit for slavery the master will no longer desire to hold him as a slave.

What remedy has been proposed by the opponents of slavery? What good have they done? They have abducted slaves but emancipated none. Do they expect to persuade the South to give up slavery? It is probably for the political advantage of the section in which the agitation against slavery originates. The spirit of concession exhibited by the South had failed to produce a corresponding spirit in the North. The latter still continue to assail the South as influenced only by a desire to increase the slave power and obtain still greater political influence in the scale of States.

He insisted that the disorder and agitation which prevailed in the Southern States was not of domestic origin, but came from New England and from Great Britain. He asserted it to be the duty of the United States to protect the property of a slave-owner during the transit from one State to another. The resolutions of the States which favored abolition were adopted entirely with a view to obtaining [383] additional political power, and imposed on the South the strongest obligation to rise in self-defence.

He referred to the fraternal feeling which induced the Southern States to make common cause with the North in the war of the Revolution. The South had no especial cause of complaint; it was flourishing by its trade with Great Britain. But it was actuated by fraternal feeling and principle to take up arms; and now was she to be asked to give up her domestic institutions? The South asked for no new guarantee; no new security; but she desired that the Constitution should be preserved from violation.

Senators,” he said,

have treated this amendment as a proposition to force slavery into the Territory of Oregon. Sir, I had no such purpose, no such desire; and surely the most ingenious must fail to extract any such meaning from its letter. It is but a distinct avowal of the ground uniformly maintained by all statesmen of the strict construction school, and adhered to by Southern men generally, throughout the entire period of our confederate existence. Its direct aim is to restrain the Federal Government from the exercise of a power not delegated — its ultimate effect, to protect those rights which have been guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. There is [384] nothing directory, or enactive, or proposed for enactment.

It is restrictive and directed against a prohibition which is covertly contained in the bill. Though it is not expressly declared that slavery shall be prohibited in Oregon, this could be virtually enacted by the twelfth section of the bill, which gives validity and operation to the laws enacted by ‘the Provincial Government established by the people’ who inhabit that Territory. It is known that one of the laws passed by the people of Oregon prohibits slavery. To give validity to these laws is, therefore, equivalent to the passage of a law by Congress to prohibit slavery in that Territory. Does Congress possess such power?

If the right to migrate with their property to territory belonging to the United States attaches equally to all their citizens, and if, as I have been credibly informed, citizens have migrated with their slaves to Oregon, to pass the bill before us, without amendment, is equivalent to the abolition of slavery by the Federal Government. Entertaining this opinion I submitted an amendment to meet the case distinctly and singly. Now, for the first time in our history, has Congress, without the color of compact or compromise, claimed to discriminate in the settlement of Territories, [385] against the citizens of one portion of the Union and in favor of another. This, taken in connection with all which is passing around us, must excite the attention of Senators to the fact, and force on our minds the conclusion, that herein is sought to be established a precedent for future use. Here, upon the threshhold, we must resist, or abandon forever the claim to equality of right and consent to be a marked caste, doomed, in the progress of national growth, to be dwarfed into helplessness and political dependence. As equals the States came into the Union, and by the Articles of Confederation equal rights, privileges, and immunities were secured to the citizens of each; yet, for asserting that, in this case, the Federal Government shall not authorize the destruction of such equality, we have been accused of wishing to claim for the citizens of the Southern States unusual rights under the Constitution. This accusation comes badly from those who insist on provisions for exclusion; and cannot find its application to a demand that nothing shall be done to affect the constitutional rights of property. We do not ask of the Federal Government to grant us privileges, but to forbear to interfere with existing rights — rights which existed anterior to the formation of the Constitution, which were recognized in that instrument, and [386] which it is made the duty of the Federal Government, as the agent of our Union, to protect and defend.

Such obligations as belong to other species of property, no more nor less, we claim as due to our property in slaves. Nor can this claim be denied without denying the property right to which it attaches. This, it has been contended, is the creation of local law, for which such laws were made; and with an air of concern we are told that it is not proposed to interfere with slavery as it exists in the States, because the Constitution secures it there. Sir, slavery is sustained, but was not created by the local law of the States in which it exists; nor did those States ask of the Federal Government to secure or maintain it within their borders; beyond their own jurisdiction, and there only, is the protection of Federal laws required. Before the formation of our confederacy slavery existed in the colonies, now the States of the Union; and but for the Union the States would have no legal recognition beyond the limits of the territory of each. But when the fathers of the republic had achieved its independence, they sought to draw closer the bonds of Union, and to remove all cause for discord and contention. For this holy purpose they met in counsel and [387] formed the Constitution under which we live. This compact of Union changed the relation of the States to each other in many important particulars, and gave to property and intercourse a national character. Property in persons held to service was recognized; in various and distinct forms it became property under the Constitution of the United States, was made coextensive with the supremacy of the Federal laws, its existence subject only to the legislation of sovereign States, possessing powers not drawn from, but above the Constitution. Thus provision was made for the recovery of fugitive slaves, and the question of right to such property was as absolutely precluded as the guilt or innocence of one charged with “treason, felony, or other crime.” In both cases it was made the duty of the State authorities to deliver up the fugitive on demand of the State from which the felon fled in the one case, and of the person to whom the labor is due in the other.

Mr. Davis here quoted the Second Section of the Fourth Article of the Constitution, and the Ninth Section of the First Article, and continued:

Could there be a more distinct recognition of the property right in slaves? Here is not only a permission to import, but a duty to be laid upon them as a subject of commerce. [388] The fact that an exception was made against the entire control of such importation by Congress is conclusive that but for such exceptions it would have been embraced in the general grant of powers to the Federal Government to regulate commerce. If the framers of the Constitution had intended to recognize no other than the right to recapture fugitives — if they had denied the right of property in persons — they would not have used the word importation, as found in the clause of the Constitution just cited. In further support of this opinion I would refer to the fact that the exception was so strictly construed that laws prohibiting such importation into Territories not included in the exception were enacted .. ..

To those who argue against this existence of the property in slaves beyond the limits of the States which they inhabit, as an unequal obligation and unusual right, I will render the admission that but for the Constitution the right to property in slaves could not have been extended beyond the State which possessed them. But gentlemen should recollect that all the territory northwest of the river Ohio, from which five non-slave-holding States have been carved, was originally the property of Virginia, and but for the compact of our Union the institutions [389] of that State would have extended over it. This territory, thus interposed between the North Atlantic States and the vast region which has been acquired west of the Mississippi, must have prevented those States from all such acquisition. What, under this contingency, would have been the relative size of the slave-and non-slave-holding territory? The answer to this inquiry should silence complaint of advantages accruing to the South from the guarantees of the Constitution.

To avoid the possibility of misconstruction, I repeat that we do not seek to establish slavery upon a new basis; we claim no such power from the Federal Government. We equally deny the right to establish or to abolish slavery. We only ask that those rights of property which existed before the Constitution, and which were guaranteed by it, should be protected. If it can be shown that the Southern States would, as independent sovereignties, have possessed no rights of extension, or that the right of territorial acquisition was transferred to the Federal Government, subject to the condition that it should be used for the benefit of the Northern States exclusively, then, we shall have what has not yet been presented, a foundation for the assumption that from all territory [390] thus acquired slavery or involuntary servitude should be forever excluded. Sectional rivalry, stimulated by the desire for political aggrandizement, party zeal, local jealousies, and fanaticism, maddened by recent success, have each brought their contribution to the mass of assertion which has been heaped upon the claim of the South to an equal participation with the North in the enjoyment of the territory belonging in common to the State. But assertion is not proof; abuse is not demonstration; and that claim, sustained by justice and supported by the staff of truth, stands yet unbent beneath the mountain of error which has been accumulated upon it.

The various modes which have been proposed to exclude slave-holders from entering territory of the United States with their property, may be referred to three sources of power the Federal Government, the territorial inhabitants, and the law of the land anterior to its acquisition by the United States.

The Federal Government can have no other powers than those derived from the Constitution. It is the agent of the States; has no other authority than that which has been delegated; cannot, by the character of its creation and the nature of its being have any inherent, independent power. To the Constitution, as the letter of authority for this [391] Federal agent, one must look for every grant of power. All which is not given is withheld; all which is prohibited is doubly barred. It is not to be supposed that sovereign States, when forming a compact of Union, would confer upon the agent of such compact a power to control the destiny of the States; nor is it in keeping with the avowed objects ‘to insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, and promote the general welfare,’ that it should be used to destroy the balance of power between the States. Were one portion of the Union to increase while the other remained stationary, the result would be reached, in the course of years, which led to the war of our Revolution and the separation of the colonies from the mother country. What would it profit a minority to have representatives in Congress, if opposed to a majority of mastering strength, and of will, as well as power, to sweep away all the protecting barriers of the Constitution? It was not for representation in Parliament that the fathers of the republic dissolved the political band which connected them with the parent government, but to maintain the freedom and equality which could not be secured by a hopeless minority in common legislation --to defend their inalienable rights from aggression by those who were irresponsible to [392] them — that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. To such men it was of paramount importance, in forming a general Government, to guard against interference with domestic institutions, and to preserve such equality among the different sections and interests as would secure each from aggression by the others. This purpose is deeply graven on the Constitution, pervades it as a general spirit, and appears both in its grants and prohibitions. Thence arose the different basis of representation in the two houses of Congress; the limitation of the power to regulate commerce among the States; the prohibition against interference with private property; against discrimination in favor of one part over another; the partial representation of persons held to service; and the many other provisions which will occur to Senators, illustrative of the design to preserve such equality as is necessary to prosperity, to harmony, to union among sovereigns. ...

The question, then, is reduced to this: Has the Federal Government, under the grants of the Constitution, power to prohibit ‘slavery’ in the Territories of the United States? The right to property in slaves being recognized by the Constitution, the question is convertible into another: Has the [393] Federal Government the right to exclude a particular species of property from the territory of the United States, and thus confine the enjoyment of its advantages to a portion of their citizens? A proposition so repugnant to justice, so violative of the equal rights which every citizen of the United States has in the common property, so destructive of the equality in privileges and immunities secured by the Constitution, would seem to be answered by its statement. Yet, palpable as the outrage appears, it has been perpetrated in legislative resolutions by eleven States of the Union, bound by the Federal compact to recognize the coequality of the States, and repeatedly asserted by Senators in this chamber, pledged to maintain the Constitution. This Federal Government, designed to render more perfect the Union of the States, and to promote their common defence, is thus to become the most formidable enemy of some, the great seedsman of discord among all.

The Union of the States into one confederacy gave no power to destroy local rights of property, or to change the condition of persons; but much to protect and preserve the existing rights of property and relative condition of persons, by extending the limits [394] of their recognition and enlarging the provisions for their security. Thus the Federal Government cannot take ‘private property,’ except for ‘public use,’ and by making ‘just compensation’ therefor. The States cannot pass laws to impair the obligation of contracts. Duties cannot be imposed on articles of commerce passing from the limits of one State to another; nor apprentices, indentured servants, or slaves, by escaping into another State, be discharged from their obligations under the laws of that from which they fled. In these and similar instances the Federal Government can do, and has done, much which is beyond the power of a State, to protect and enlarge the value of property. To determine what shall be property, what the condition of persons, are functions of sovereignty beyond its delegated authority, which can only be exercised by a sovereign State within its limits, and beyond that, by the majority of States required to amend the Constitution. I deny, then, that the Federal Government may say to any class of citizens, you shall not emigrate to Territory which belongs in common to the people of the United States; equally deny that it can say what property shall be taken into such Territory, or legislate so as to impair, after his arrival in the Territory, any of [395] the pre-existing rights of the emigrant to the property lie may carry with him.

Many of the reasons and principles presented to establish the absence of power in the Federal Government to exclude slavery from Territory belonging to the United States bear with force against the second class of opinions — that the power rests in the territorial inhabitants. In the unwearied search of those who, from the foundation of our Government, have sought, in every quarter, for the fountains of power by which the sovereignty of the States might be submerged, this, until recently, remained undiscovered. When Territorial governments were first established in the Territories, now the States of the Northwest, a very different doctrine obtained, and quite opposite was the practice under it. Then, though the foreign inhabitants were mainly those who had taken part with us in the wars against Great Britain, they were not considered so capable of self-government as to be intrusted with the power of local legislation; and the restricted governments, established in Indiana and Michigan, were required to adopt the laws of some State in the Union for their rule and government. Thus, in relation to French settlers at Vincennes, and Canadian refugees in Michigan, it was decided. [396]

Now, Sir, for whom is it proposed to reverse the decision, not only so far as to recognize local legislation, but to admit the power to pass fundamental laws controlling the action of Congress, and determining the future policy and institutions of Oregon? For a small settlement, composed to a large extent of the late dependents of the Hudson Bay Company, subjects of the British crown; the very men who were arrayed against us to dispute our right to the soil; the same who, by fraud and violence, wrested from our citizens their property and possessions on the Columbia River; the same who, in violation of the faith of our treaty with Great Britain for the joint occupancy of Oregon, made regulations the effect of which was to destroy the valuable furs in that portion of the country which they expected to become exclusively the property of the United States, while they were preserved in that which was expected to pass, at a subsequent date, to the sovereignty of Great Britain. So much for those who formed a large, if not controlling, part of the population of Oregon, when the policy of excluding slavery was adopted there.

Shall they be permitted to sit in judgment on the constitutional rights of American citizens? Shall they decide the future institutions of our Territory? ... [397]

I have said that the power to prohibit the introduction into Oregon of slavery, as recognized under the Constitution, is such control over property and persons as can only be exercised by sovereignty. If this be correct, the proposition to leave the whole subject to the territorial inhabitants is equivalent to acknowledging them to be sovereign over the Territory. If they are so by their own right, then it is not ‘territory belonging to the United States.’ If it be territory of the United States, Congress has no right to surrender the sovereignty of the States over to it; no right to intrust to other hands the formation of the institutions which are in future to characterize it. In connection, however, with this proposition, I have spoken of one portion of the territorial inhabitants as men having no claim upon our confidence, and suggested that there were other inquiries than those connected with their patriotism which required consideration in relation to the other portions of the settlers in Oregon.

Are they statesmen? Have they such political experience and wisdom that the settled practice of the country should be changed in order that they may fix the fundamental principles on which their future institutions shall rest; that they may lay the corner-stone of that republican edifice which [398] is in aftertime to overlook the Pacific? Or are they, as we have reason to believe them, missionaries of religion, whose studies have been devoted to subjects which, however high and holy have not been those which would qualify them for the labor of forming temporal governments? And, beyond these, traders, trappers, adventurers in the forests and on the mountains, whose pursuits and character have least led them to anticipate, or to value, the forms and blessings of civil government? . . .

To the citizen who presses beyond the limits of civilization to open up to cultivation and settlement the forest domain of the United States, I have always been willing to extend protection, and such peculiar advantages over other joint owners of the common stock as are due to the services he has rendered to the common interests. But the civil rights, the political principles of the Government are not to be transferred to those who shall be first in the race to reach newly acquired possessions, or who shall by accident be found upon them. To point this opinion by a single application, I will refer to a large body of American citizens, who, under the control of religious enthusiasm, have gone beyond the limits of State jurisdiction to found a sectarian colony in the unexplored wilderness of [399] the Flamath Lake. My remarks will, of course, be understood to apply to the Mormons, and I introduce the case to ask if any one is prepared to welcome the consequences to civil and religious liberty which would flow from the exercise of sovereignty by them over the country of which they may take possession?

Mr. Davis then showed the fallacy of the theory that the inviolability of the law, as it exists at the period of acquisition of new territory, could convey the power to exclude slavery from a Territory of the United States; although under this principle slavery could be established in Oregon, as it had existed under the laws both of France and Spain in the provinces and at the dates referred to. But, as he demonstrated, “the laws of a proprietor, as far as they conflict with the principles of the Constitution, are abrogated by the fact of acquisition; that territory of the United States is the common property of all the people of the United States; that sovereignty of the territory remains with them until it is admitted as an independent State into the Union; and that each citizen of the United States has an equal right to emigrate into such territory, carrying with him any species of property recognized by the Constitution until sovereignty attaches it to the [400] Territory by its becoming a State, or until the sovereign States, by agreement or by compact, shall regulate specifically the character of property which shall be admitted into any particular Territory.”

This was the earliest formal announcement of principles, in reference to this subject, which Mr. Davis maintained with unwavering consistency during every subsequent phase of the territorial controversies.

Mr. Davis in this debate, also, for the first time in Congress, discussed the burning question of negro slavery. He said:

It has been usual for Southern men to decline any discussion about the institution of domestic slavery, in the midst of which they have grown up, and of which they may be supposed to know something, however vituperative and unfounded the accusation made against it. Agreeing in the general propriety of the course, I, nevertheless, propose on this occasion to depart from the ordinary practice.

The question is forced upon us by our Northern brethren to such extent that silence, if persevered in, might be construed into admission of the truth of their accusations. In debates of Congress, by the press, by legislatures of the States, in the pulpit, and in primary assemblies it has become customary [401] to denounce slavery as a political evil, as a burden on the Government; as the sin and opprobrium of the nation; as destructive of good order and human advancement; as a blighting curse on the section where it exists; and a gangrene, extending its baleful influences to every portion of the Union. Now, sir, upon what do these assumptions rest? Have we been less faithful as citizens? Have riots, conflagrations, or destruction of private property been more frequent in the slave than in the non-slave States? Have their churches been less harmonious, their divines less pious, their statesmen less eminent, their soldiers less efficient than yours? If not, then why this unwarrantable denunciation, why this unfounded assumption? If it be a sin, you are not otherwise involved than by your connection with its introduction; with its existence you have nothing to do. As owners of the commercial marine, you were the importers of Africans; you sold them in the South. You are parties to a compact which recognizes them as property throughout the United States, and secures to their owners rights which, but for the Confederation, would have been local. Show, then, your repentance, if you feel any, for having contributed to the increase of this property, by observing the obligations imposed by the circumstances of [402] the case upon you, and the rights recognized in the fundamental, paramount laws of our Union. The Constitution did not create the institution of domestic slavery; it was no part of the object for which it was formed to determine what should be the property; but an important portion of its duty to generalize and protect the rights of citizens beyond the limits of State jurisdiction. From this duty have arisen all the intermediate acts in relation to slave property. Yet, at this late period of the practice under our Constitution, Senators assert that slavery is so purely local that, if a master pass with his slave into the limits of a State, or Territory, where such slavery is not recognized by local law, the slave by that act becomes free. This is in keeping with the legislation of those States in which the legal and constitutional obligation to surrender fugitive slaves have been nullified. It is in keeping with the repeated declaration, here made with the condescending air of a sovereign granting a favor, that there is no intention to interfere with slavery as it exists in the States; but that its further extension cannot be permitted.

Do Senators forget that the Government is but the agent, the creature of the States; that it derives its power from them; not they their rights and institutions from it? [403]

Slavery existed in the States before the formation of the Constitution; it needed no guarantee within their limits; its recognition beyond this was part of the more perfect Union; as its protection against all enemies whomsoever is part of the common defence for which that Constitution was adopted.

There is not a more prominent feature in the Federal compact than the prohibition of the States to interfere with commerce. But if a citizen of Maryland cannot pass through Pennsylvania or Ohio, on his way to Kentucky or Missouri, without submitting his property to the test of those States through which he is merely travelling, the right of free commerce among the States has no practical value. The right to uninterrupted transit is not varied by the character of the property — the power is the same, whether the question arise upon a slave or a bale of goods. There is no discretionary power, and a total prohibition would be less offensive than an insidious distinction, claiming to spring from a moral superiority. Each State is responsible for its own institutions. The sovereignty and co-equality of all the States forbid the idea of moral responsibility on the part of one for the acts of another.

If slavery be a sin, it is not yours. It does not rest upon your action for its origin, [404] or your consent for its existence. It is a common law right to property in the service of man; it traces back to the earliest government of which we have any knowledge, either among Jews or Gentiles. Its origin was divine decree — the curse upon the graceless son of Noah. Slavery was regulated by the law given through Moses to the Jews. Slaves were to be of the heathen, and with their offspring to descend by inheritance; thus, in the main particulars, being identical with the institution as it exists among us. It was foretold of the sons of Noah that ‘Japheth should be greatly extended, that he should dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan should be his servant.’

Wonderfully has the prophecy been fulfilled; and here, in our own country, is the most striking example. When the Spaniards discovered America, they found it in possession of the ‘Indians.’ Many tribes were enslaved, but the sons of Shem were not doomed to bondage. They were restless, discontented, and were liberated, because they were unprofitable. Their places were supplied by the sons of Ham, brought across the broad Atlantic for this purpose. They came to their destiny and were useful and contented. Over the greater part of the continent, Japheth now sits in the tents of Shem [405] and in extensive regions Canaan is his servant.

Let those who possess the best opportunity to judge, the men who have grown up in the presence of slave institutions, as they exist in the United States, say, if their happiness and usefulness do not prove their present condition to be the accomplishment of an All-wise decree. It may have for its aid the preparation of that race for civil liberty and social enjoyment.

Compare the slaves in the Southern States with recently imported Africans as seen in the West Indies, and who can fail to be struck with the increased improvement of the race; whether physically, morally, or intellectually considered? Compare our slaves with the free blacks of the Northern States, and you will find the one contented, well provided for in all their physical wants, and steadily improving in their moral condition; the other miserable, impoverished, loathsome for the deformity and disease which follow after penury and vice, covering the records of the criminal courts, and filling the penitentiaries. Mark the hostility to caste, the social degradation which excludes the able from employment of profit and trust, and leaves the helpless to want and neglect. Then turn to the condition of this race in the States of the [406] South, and view them in the relation of slaves. There, no hostility exists against them-the master is the natural protector of his slave; and public opinion, common feeling, mere interest would not allow him to neglect his wants. Those who urge that the exclusion of slavery from the Territories does not exclude the slaveholder, because he may dispose of his property before emigration, show such inability to comprehend the attachment which generally subsists between a master and his slaves, that I will only offer to them interest as a motive for the care which is extended to those of the sick, and adequate provision to all. Such is the difference between the condition of the free and slave blacks under conditions most favorable to emancipation. Does it warrant the desire on the part of any friend of that dependent race to hasten upon them responsibilities, for which they have shown themselves so unequal? If any shall believe that the sorrow, the suffering, the crime which they witness among the free blacks of the North have resulted from their degradation by comparison with the white race around them, to such I would answer: Does the condition of St. Domingo, of Jamaica give higher evidence? Or, do the recent atrocities in Martinique encourage better hopes? [407]

Sir, this problem is one which must bring its own solution. Leave natural causes to their full effect, and when the time shall arrive at which emancipation is proper, those most interested will be most anxious to effect it. But as the obligation is mutual, so must the action be joint; and it is quite within the range of possibility that the masters may desire it when the slaves will object, as was the case when the serfs of Russia refused to be liberated by their landlords.

Leave the country to the South and West open, and speculation may see in the distant future slavery pressed by a cheaper labor to tropical regions, where less exertion being required to secure a support, their previous preparation will enable them to live in independent communities.

They must first be separated from the white man, be relieved from the condition of degradation which will always attach to them while in contact with a superior race, and they must be elevated by association and instruction; or, instead of a blessing, liberty would be their greatest curse. Under these considerations, I cannot view the policy proposed to confine them to the present limits of the free States, as having one point, either of humanity or sound policy, to recommend it, or that it can do otherwise than perpetuate [408] slavery even beyond its natural terms in the States where it now exists.

Thus, inch by inch, did this patriot sentinel dispute our enemy's advance, knowing, nevertheless, that the devotion he manifested to his own people and section was not the road to national honors.

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