Congressional debate, Wednesday.speech from the Senator of Texas--Conduct of the Republicans — resolutions offered in the House for amending the Constitution.
The debate in Congress Wednesday is interesting. In the Senate, Mr. Wigfall, of Texas, made a warm speech, in which he said: If the people of the North desire it, this Union can be saved; but this Union is not to be saved by flattery, either on the floor of the Senate or from the stump. You cannot save the Union by singing hosannas. You cannot save it by making Fourth of July speeches.--You have got to come down to the work and do something practically. The people of the different slaveholding States, especially the Cotton States, are dissatisfied with the present government as about to be administered by the incoming Administration. There is nothing that can satisfy them except by amending the Constitution, and these amendments must be made by the Northern States unanimously, or they will not be satisfied, and I say here they ought not to be. It amendments to the Constitution which would secure us everything we ask, were ratified by fifteen slave and ten non-slaveholding States, it would be considered part of the Constitution; but if eight non-slave States vote against it, and yet its ratification made it a part of the Constitution, we would say at once here were amendments to the Constitution which were distasteful to eight non-slaveholding States, and which they would probably disregard, as they disregard the present Constitution. Suppose that amendments were proposed, and fifteen slave States ratify them; suppose, also, that the non-slaveholding States ratify them, but that New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and other border States, refuse ratification, why, what practical use would they be to use? None. What is the use of discussing what we would be satisfied with, when nothing has been offered us?--What is the use, when we do not believe we will be permitted to retain the Senators we now have? The Republicans deny that under the Constitution slaves are recognized as property. If we could believe they would go to their constituents and urge the ratification of proper amendments, we believe the Gull States would suspend their action. Certainly so, if the amendments be carried out in good faith. If they will cease preaching the irrepressible conflict doctrine and declare slaves to be property, that they shall be delivered up when claimed as fugitives, that abolition societies shall be abolished and abolition presses be suppressed, that abolition speeches shall no longer be made, and that we shall not have pirates and murderers sent among our women and children, when such an honest effort is made to meet the demands of the South, there is a prospect of giving them a fair consideration. [Roars of laughter from the galleries and the Republican Senators.] He continued, saying — Senators may laugh in our faces. [Renewed laughter from the whole house.] My friends from Kentucky, Missouri, and other Union-saving friends may look and see derision depicted in their countenances when I make this proposition. [Laughter.] I trust they will understand. The Latin maxim says, "Learn, even from your enemies, some wisdom." I have told the people whom I represent, long, long ago, that they will not be permitted to keep that which they have now; that they are regarded as poltroons, and that you talk of coercion, and of binding this glorious Union, as you call it, with cords of hemp. Yet you petition that his glorious Union shall continue. Stop with in your borders those flaming presses and public speakers who excite the people against us I say to those States that you shall not-- that's the word I choose to use, and I represent the feeling and determination of the people I represent — I say you shall not permit men to excite your citizens by making John Brown speeches and bringing strychnine within the limits of the State I represent. You shall not publish newspapers and pamphlets to excite our slaves to insurrection. You shall not publish newspapers and pamphlets to excite our slaveholders against the slave, or slaveholder against non-slaveholder. We will have peace, and if you do not offer it to us, we will quietly have our rights under the constitutional compact or withdraw from the Union and establish a government for ourselves. If you then persist in aggression, these sovereign States will settle the question, and when you laugh at these impotent efforts, little as you regard them, I tell you emphatically that Cotton is King. [Laughter, and some applause in the galleries.] The President said the Sergeant-at-Arms will clear the galleries if it occurs again. Mr. Hale said--Mr. President, that threat was made one, two or three times yesterday --now is the time to carry it out. Mr. Wigfall said — If the exhibition of feeling in the galleries occur again they should be cleared, and once being cleared we will proceed. I trust the Senate will act upon t-- decency is looked for. Mr. Davis hoped the Senator would be permitted to proceed. I think we attach too much importance to the expression of the galleries. I take it for granted that those warned yesterday did not repeat it. Yesterday there was one set, to-day there is a new set. We will get them all instructed after a while. [Laughter from Senators.] Mr. Wigfall resumed — I say Cotton is King, and that cotton waves his sceptre not only over thirty-three States, but over the Island of Great Britain and over Continental Europe. There is no crowned head, either upon that Island or Continent, that does not bend the knee in fear, and acknowledge allegiance to that power. Five millions of people in Great Britain live upon cotton. You may make short crops of grain, and they can husband their supply, but exhaust the supply of cotton one week, and all England will starve. They will not burst open barns, but burn whole towns. We can direct the trade of two hundred and fifty millions to our own ports instead of Boston, Philadelphia and New York, if we go out of the Union. Our imports will amount to two hundred and fifty millions, and forty per cent, upon that pours into our treasury one hundred million dollars; twenty per cent, gives fifty millions. What tariff we will accept I expect to know in a few months, and in another chamber. [Laughter in the galleries.] You suppose numbers constitute the strength of the government. I tell you that it is the almighty dollar. When your operatives are turned out; when your capitalists are broken, will you go to direct taxation? When you cease to have exports will you have imports? Your factories will then be burnt down; your capitalists will go to the wall. I know you do not regard us in earnest. I would save the Union if I could, but it is my deliberate impression — and I have been studying the character of the people you represent for years past — that it cannot be saved. Now, the question is, can the Union be saved? I have always been a Union man — I am now a Union man — not from any silly notion that it is of divine origin; not that blood was shed for it; not because it is an inheritance from our fathers; for it is neither the one or the other. This Union is a compact between the States. It is a treaty between the States for their common defence and domestic tranquility. They agreed to the organization of a certain government, and they made a wise distribution. They vested in the State governments the powers necessary to protect the liberty and well-being of the citizens. All States that are Republican, or Democratic, monarchial, aristocratic, slaveholding or non-slaveholding, agricultural, commercial or manufacturing, can live under one Constitution, as when the old thirteen States ratified and made it binding between them. By the late election it would seem as if the North thought themselves responsible for the domestic institutions of all the States. One State has not a right to call out the army and navy, or negotiate with a foreign power, to coerce another. Do you suppose we are to be amused with the clap-trap of Fourth-of-July orations? As a nation inheriting rights we have passed that point. When these eight cotton States withdraw from the Union, as they will in the next two months, and meet in Convention and adopt a Federal Government, and establish a foreign department, I shall advocate the adoption of that same Constitution that was ratified by the old thirteen States. I have no doubt that when Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, Kentucky and other border States see what we have done, they will come into the Union, and not many months will elapse before this beautiful fabric will again be the scene of our discussions, and in which we will not only consider these matters pertaining to our domestic affairs, but foreign relations. Mr. W. here read extracts from the Constitution and laws of South Carolina previous to the inauguration of the first President of the United States. The immediate cause of secession is the election of a Black Republican President. The people of the North must know that the present state of affairs has been brought about by means of the Helper book, and the teachings of the Senator from New York, the preaching of the followers, or rather the pretended followers of Christ, and the teaching in your schools of your children to hate our institutions. The Senator from New York told his Wide-Awake prætorians that their services could not be dispensed with after the election. They would be needed to secure the fruits of the victory. A half million men in uniform are being drilled for the purpose of organization to sweep the country in which I live with fire and sword. Mr. Seward here arose and said — I want to know the ground and place where that took place. [Laughter in the galleries.] Mr. Wigfall said he had seen it reported in the newspapers. Mr. Seward replied that he did not say what was published in the newspapers. I do remember to have read a letter, which I received from some unknown person in the Southern States, professing to impute such a meaning to something I said in some speech of mine.--But I cannot tell what I may have said that could have been perverted so as to imply that I ever said or intimated that the Wide A wakes were being kept organized, or disciplined, or uniformed, or associated at all, to secure the fruits of their victory. I think I can say safely that I never said anything which could be so construed fairly. I hope the Senator will excuse me. I hope that the reply will not be deemed as putting myself to any obligation to explain anything hereafter. [Applause.] Mr. Wigfall continued, and said the denial of the Senator is all I ask. I only saw a report of his speech. In regard to the coming administration it will have one-half of the Senate, the Cabinet and the diplomats on its side. A great deal has been said about this being a land of liberty, and of a people who boast that they have a right to govern themselves. Well, you will have an opportunity to make the experiment. [Laughter.] For myself, I don't believe that I owe allegiance to the U. States. I believe I owe allegiance to my State, and to that State allegiance shall be given. Mr. Wigfall having concluded, the Senate went into Executive session, and shortly thereafter adjourned. House of Representatives.--The Speaker, pursuant to the order of yesterday, called the States for the submission of propositions relative to the present condition of the country. Nearly two dozen different propositions were presented and referred to the Special Union Committee. Many of them proposed amendments to the Constitution on the slavery question, and all looking to conciliation. Mr. Thayer submitted a series of resolutions, declaring, among other things, that the representatives of the people regard it as a duty to forget all parties and sections, and devote themselves honestly and earnestly to the cause of the country; that any citizens of this republic willing to barter the public welfare for their own advantage, thus creating animosity between the States, are wholly unworthy of the honor and confidence of the American people; that the present unfriendly feeling which exists has risen from the usurpations of Congress and the Executive; that the rights of American citizens are above Congress and the President, and Territorial governments should not be compelled to derive their powers from their consent; that there shall be no legislation whatever on the subject of slavery; that every Congressional District shall be entitled to one Presidential Elector, and each State to two on general ticket. Mr. John Cochrane submitted a preamble declaring that a conflict of opinion, dangerous to the peace and prosperity of the Union, has risen, concerning the true intent and meaning of the Constitution relative to African slavery, and proposing amendments to the Constitution to the following effect: To establish a dividing line similar to the Missouri Compromise, prohibiting Congress from passing laws interfering with the inter-State slave trade, or the rights of slaveholders in transition temporarily sojourning in non-slaveholding States, and declaring that all State laws in any degree impairing or infringing on the Fugitive Slave law are null and void. Mr. Adrian submitted a series of resolutions declaratory of the doctrine of non-intervention as the true remedy. That all State laws in conflict with the Constitution and laws of Congress ought to be repealed. That the Fugitive Slave Law and all other laws of the land ought to be respected and obeyed, and no obstacle thrown in the way of their execution. That the Constitution is the result of conciliation and compromise, and can only be preserved by the exercise of a similar spirit. Mr. Morris, of Pennsylvania, offered a resolution instructing, the Union Committee to inquire and report as to whether the State Personal Liberty bills are in conflict with the Constitution, and further, to inquire whether the Fugitive Slave Law is susceptible of amendment so as to ascertain more certainly the actual condition of the fugitive. Mr. Stewart, of Maryland, offered a preamble setting forth the principles on which the government is founded. That when it threatens to become destructive to the great objects which it was intended to accomplish, every State should be placed in a condition to provide for its own security; that there is good reason to believe that certain States are about to withdraw from the Union, &c, and concluding with a resolution instructing the Select Committee to inquire, among other things, whether any measure can be adopted to preserve the Constitution in its purity and secure Southern rights. If this is not possible, then as to a reasonable and just mode of settlement with the separated parts. Mr. Leake offered a resolution that the Constitution ought to be amended so that Congress may have no jurisdiction over the question of domestic slavery in the States and Territories, District of Columbia, arsenals and dockyards; that it shall be the duty of Congress efficiently and adequately to protect it by legislation where it exists; that no Territorial government has power to legislate with the subject; that the right of master over a slave, while temporarily sojourning or intransitive through a non-slaveholding State, shall be guaranteed and protected; that fugitive slaves shall be delivered up or be paid for by the States in which they are rescued. Mr. Smith, of Virginia, offered a resolution instructing the Committee to inquire as to the policy of declaring out of the Federal Union any member thereof which may aim to nullify an act of Congress. Mr. Jenkins offered a resolution instructing the Committee to inquire as to the expediency of amending the Fugitive Slave Law, with a view to a prompt rendition of fugitive slaves, and a proper compensation to the owners of those not returned. Also, the propriety of providing, by a Constitutional amendment or a Congressional enactment, for the protection of the rights of slaveholders in the common Territories, &c. Mr. Cox submitted the following: Whereas. One of the chief and just complaints on the part of the slaveholding States of this Confederacy is a refusal or neglect and failure of certain Executives of the Northern States to deliver fugitives from justice, indicted for treason, murder, and slave-stealing in said slave States; therefore, Resolved. That the Committee of Thirty three for the establishment of comity between the States, be required to consider what, if any, further legislation is necessary to carry out the second clause of the second section of the fourth article of the Constitution, for the delivery of fugitives from justice who shall flee from one State and be found in another, on demand of the Executive authority of the State from which such fugitive shall have fled. And that such inquiry be made with a special view to punish all Judges. Attorneys, Generals, Executive or other State officers, who shall impede the execution of said clause of the Constitution, either in respect to delivery of felons who may be indicted for treason or murder in attempted slave insurrections, or who may be indicted for slave-stealing. Mr. Hutchins offered a resolution instructing the Committee to report what legislation is necessary to give full effect to that part of the Constitution which provides that the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several States; and also, what legislation is necessary to secure to all people — whether residing or traveling through any State--the full benefit of that part of the Constitution which secures them against unreasonable searches and seizures in the absence of probable cause. Mr. Sherman offered a series of resolutions, that the only true and effective remedy for the dissensions that now exist between the several States and the people thereof, is the faithful observance by the several States and the people thereof of all the compromises of the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof; and that the Special Committee of Thirty-three be instructed to inquire whether any State or the people thereof have failed to obey and enforce the obligations imposed by the Constitution; and if so, the reason thereof, and whether any legislation is required to secure such enforcement. Resolved, That to avoid all further controversies in regard to the several Territories of the United States, said Committee divide said Territories into States of convenient size, with a view to their prompt admission into the Union on an equal footing with the original States. Mr. Bingham offered a resolution that the Select Committee of Thirty-three report to this House such additional legislation as they may deem necessary to suppress and put down armed rebellion against the laws and authority of the United States, to protect the property thereof against unlawful seizure, and the citizens thereof against unlawful violence. Mr. Mallory offered a resolution of instructions for constitutionally establishing a line similar unto the Missouri Compromise, providing for the admission of States, and prohibiting the interference of Congress with slavery. Mr. Stevenson offered a resolution that the Committee inquire into the expediency of amending the Fugitive Slave Law by declaring it a felony to resist the Federal officers in its execution, or attempting to rescue the fugitive while in custody of the United States officers. Mr. English offered a resolution that the territory of the United States should be equally divided between the slave and non-slaveholding States; slavery to be recognized in the one and prohibited in the other section; that the right of property in slaves shall not be destroyed or impaired by Congressional agitation; that whenever a slave is rescued the owner shall be allowed the double value of the slave, recoverable in a State Court. Mr. Kilgore offered a resolution of instructions to the Committee to inquire into the expediency of so amending the Fugitive Slave Law as to provide for the right of trial by jury where the alleged fugitive claims to be free.--When citizens of non-slaveholding States assist in the escape of a fugitive, or a forcible rescue, the owner of the slave to be indemnified, and the persons thus acting to be subject to a criminal prosecution; and that the Committee propose such other amendments as may be thought necessary to give satisfaction without destroying the efficiency of the law or impairing the constitutional rights of any citizen of the United States. Mr. Holman offered a resolution declaring that the right of secession was wholly unwarranted by the letter and spirit of the Constitution; that mutual and common obligations render it obligatory on the Federal Government to enforce, in good faith, the laws enacted pursuant to its authority; and instructing the Committee to inquire whether any action is necessary (in view of the present condition of public affairs) against an attempt by any State to nullity the laws necessary for the existence of the Confederacy. Mr. Davis, of Indiana, presented a petition asking Congress to preclude Congress from legislation on slavery, &c. Mr. Niblack offered a resolution providing indemnity for slaves rescued by force or violence; and that the Committee report, by bill or otherwise. Mr. McClelland offered the following: ‘ Resolved. That the Committee of Thirty-three be instructed to inquire and report whether Congress has the constitutional power to make the people of any particular State or municipal corporation therein, liable to indemnity the owner of any slave escaping into such State, and who has been rescued from rightful custody by force or otherwise; and also, whether it is expedient to establish a special Federal police for the purpose of executing the laws of the United States and promptly suppressing any unlawful resistance thereto; and also, whether any further legislation is required to secure a prompt, certain and full enforcement of the guarantees of the Constitution; or whether an amendment of the Constitution is necessary for that purpose. ’ Mr. Noel offered resolutions instructing the Committee to take into consideration the propriety and necessity of abolishing, by an amendment to the Constitution, the office of President, and of establishing in lieu thereof an Executive Council, consisting of three members, to be elected by districts composed of contiguous States as near as practicable; each member of said Council to be armed with a veto power such as is now vested in the President; and if such plan be deemed practicable by said Committee, that they report to this House such details thereof as may be necessary to accommodate the same to the existing Constitution of the United States. Also, resolved, That said Committee also be requested to take into consideration the means necessary, if any can be devised, to restore the equilibrium between the free and the slave States in the Senate; and particularity whether this end can be accomplished by a voluntary division on the part of some of the slave States into two or more States. Mr. Hindman proposed amendments to the Constitution expressly recognizing property in slaves where slavery now or may hereafter exist, and the express denial to the Federal Government to prohibit or interfere with it anywhere, or restrict trade in slaves between the States; also an express agreement to protect slavery wherever the Federal jurisdiction extends, and the protection of slaves while passing through free States; shy State defeating or impairing the Fugitive Slave law not to be entitled to representation in Congress until its nullifying laws be repealed, &c. Mr. Larrabee offered a resolution recommending the several States to call a Convention for making amendments to the Constitution, to the end that the people may thus be enabled to confer together, in the manner provided in the establishment of the government, and adopt such measures as, in their wisdom, may be proper to promote the common welfare of the States. The above propositions were severally read and referred to the Union Committee. Mr. Bonham said he had received a notice to attend a meeting of the Committee on Military Affairs on Friday. As he did not expect to remain much longer a member of Congress, he felt it due to resign his position as a member thereof, in order that the vacancy may at once be filled. He did not adopt this course owing to any dissatisfaction with the Committee; he should always cherish a lively recollection of their uniform and courteous kindness toward him. He was excused. The House passed the bill making further provision in relation to incorporated Land Offices, and a bill extending the time for Oregon to select certain lands.