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Full text of "State of the Union. Speech of Hon. Justin S. Morrill, of Vermont, in the House of Representatives, February 18, 1861"

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STATE OF THE UNION. 



SPEECH 



OF 



HON. JUSTIN S. MORRILL, OF VERMONT, 



IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, FEBRUARY 18, 18G1. 



The House having under consideration the report from 
the select coniniittee of thirty-three — 

Mr. MORRILL said: 

Mr. Speaker: It is useless to disguise, and trai- 
torous to increase, the gravity of tlie occasion. 
Against the Government established by Wash- 
ington, a rebellion, formidable in its proportions 
and portentous in its results, is even now buck- 
ling on its armor, and with vigorous diplomacy 
courting allies. I am painfully aware how vain 
forme would be the attempt to stay tliis down- 
ward revolution; and, if I cannot arrest it, I will 
do nothing to accelerate its execrable speed. I 
do not underrate the martial spirit of the South; 
and those who imagine there is nothing to be 
dreaded by the tocsin that assembles the North in 
arms, know little of the fire that now lies concealed 
in northern ice. "Let but a single gun be fired 
in this capital," to use th^ words of one of my 
correspondents, "and there would not be men 
enough left at home in the North to milk the 
cows." It is growing too evident that in each 
section of our country the war-dogs only need to 
be let loose to cut the Gordian knot we have so 
long unsuccessfully struggled to untie. Expect- 
ant heroes, the cavaliers and the roundheads, al- 
ready stand on tiptoe to vindicate their respective 
claims; on one side the eagerness /ocouunejice, and 
on the other the reluctance to leave off, a fratricidal 
war. He that does not pause ere he scars the 
pages of history with such acontest, is amadman. 
It is not because I doubt the mettle of my own 
people that I pause, but because I know their 
pluck. Therefore, not until all hope of the Union 
shall pass away, will I whet the edge of animos- 
ities by imitating the bad example of some gen- 
tlemen in sending forth the war-whoop, instead of 
sober arguments and reasonable conclusions. 



Recognizing the fact that there appeared to be 
an organized plan to revolutionize and break up 
the Government, a conspiracy to blot out the Dec- 
laration of Independence and subvert the Consti- 
tution, I voted in favor of raising the committee 
of thirty-three, when it was proposed, in order to 
give those who represented that portion of our 
country loudest in their complaints an opportu- 
nity to be heard to the utmost latitude; and not 
because any real grievance was visible to me — 
always excepting that some men were about to 
go out of office, and others were about to come in. 
I would consider the complaints of a single indi- 
vidual; and could not, therefore, reject unheard 
those of whole Slates. The R.epresentativ<:s from 
the disafl'jgcted section were each our equals, and 
respectable in numbers, and therefore, if they pro- 
posed it, entitled to the right of being heard. I 
do not regret that vote. This opportunity has 
been granted; and yet, I confess, while there is a 
fertility of apprehensions, no real grievance has 
been made manifest. Our admirable and complex 
form of Government in all its operations has ex- 
hibited as little friction, as Httle of local hardship, 
as any ever devised by the wit of man. 

It is undeniably true that, if the late election had 
resulted in the defeat of Mr. Lincoln, no revolu- 
tion would have been precipitated, and no new 
guarantees to slavery would have been required 
at our hands. But, while we have been victori- 
ous in the campaign, we are invited to submit to 
what would not even have been suggested had 
we been defeated; ay, and invited to submit to 
what nearly two thirds of the popular vote of the 
Democratic party itself rejected; for one million 
three hundred and sixty-five thousand nine hun- 
dred and seventy-six Democrats, in voting for 
Mr. Douglas, voted against the protection of sla- 



very in the Territories; and only eight hundred 
and forty-seven thousand nine hundred and fifty- 
three for Mr. Breckinridge, in favor of it. Under 
these circumstances, the demand made is a hu- 
miliation to which no party can submit. In 1820 
the Missouri compromise was established, and 
its repeal was never agitated by the North. In 
1823 John duincy Adams was defeated on charges 
of extravagance, although the expenditure was 
not one sixth of what we now witness; but the 
North submitted. In 1832 General Jackson was 
reelected on the ground of hostility to the United 
States Bank; and when the bank went down, all 
acquiesced. In 1844 Mr. Polk was elected be- 
cause he was in favor of " the reannexation of 
Texas," and "extending the area of freedom;" 
and when Texas came in, with four slave States 
extended on its banner, even then there was no 
rebellion. In 1848 the Wilmot proviso was de- 
feated; but no secession followed. In 1854 the 
Missouri compromise was repealed; and yet the 
Union stood firm, notwithstanding this combined 
blunder and crime. In 1860 Mr. Lincoln was 
elected, because he was opposed to the extension 
of slavery into the Territories, and opposed to the 
general maladministration of the Government for 
the last eight years That verdict of the people 
cannot be reversed, excejit by the people them- 
selves, four years hence. I trust it may never be 
reversed. Meantime it must be accepted by all 
order-loving. Constitution-obeying men. If the 
South did not mean to abide by the result — only 
on the principle of " heads I win, tails you lose" 
— they should not have courted the issne, nor 
made the appeal to the ballot-box. Having par- 
ticipated in the election, it is too late to reject the 
verdict. They will find consolation in the best 
of books, " The patient abiding of the righteous 
shall be turned to gladness." 

Whatever fate may betide our country , the Dem- 
ocratic party has much to do to redeem itself from 
the odium of the present crisis, and I would urge 
it to that patriotic end. A Democratic President 
has not used his high prerogative to estop the dis- 
memberment of the Republic, but only to license 
anarchy. He has looked benignly on secession. 
Like a clever old man, with unruly sons, he has 
deprecated their conduct by saying, " Don't; but 
if I were you I would, and I can't help it if you 
do." It is not a difficult feat for the officers and 
crew to scuttle and sink the staunchest of ships; 
and any Government may go down when its own 
officers betray their trust, or lapse into corruption 
and imbecility. The names of those now or re- 
cently in command, will have a page not to be 
envied in future history. Nor will it be lost sight 



of that secession was begotten and nursed by the 
wolves of the Democratic party. The true men 
of this party must now take care of their own rep- 
utation. 

Mr. Speaker, not having been able to coincide 
with the honorable chairman, who presented the 
views of the majority of the committee of thirty- 
three, nor yet altogether with the views of any of 
the minority reports, I feel it to be my duty to 
take this method of explaining what, in my judg- 
ment, should be done, and what should not be 
done, with the various subjects upon which we 
shall soon be called upon to act. 

And first let me say, that the course of those 
occupying extreme positions in the South, before 
and especially since ourassembling here, has made 
it embarrassing for me, or any of us who would 
preserve the Constitution in all its vigor, to listen 
even to words of conciliation ; while anything like 
compromise has never been possible for a moment. 
Compromises are under the ban of all parties, and 
to the advocates of secession, who mean re volution, 
more odious than to any other. If any State or 
States may withdraw their Senators and Repre- 
sentatives, seize forts, ships, arsenals, mints, hos- 
pitals, and dock-yards, whenever an election term- 
inates adversely to their political opinions, and 
then demand terms — fundamental changes of or- 
ganic laws — before they will return to their alle- 
giance, what is our Constitution, with all its his- 
toric splendor, worth.' Should such a course obtain 
the sanction of serious concessions, the national 
Government would be forever destroyed, and each 
member of the family, as they acquired strength 
and mettle for disobedience, might in turn defy 
the law and order of the paternal roof unless some 
portion of authority was abdicated, and some por- 
tion of the estate was set apart for exclusive en- 
joyment. I will do nothing to commit our Repub- 
lic to this crumbling process of mutiny and decay; 
I will do nothing to admit the doctrine of seces- 
sion as the extreme medicine of the Constitution. 
No one who desires the continuance of the Union 
should consent to put it in a position of mere suf- 
ferance — tenant at will — of one State, nor even a 
dozen States. Self-preservation forbids that our 
system should be inoculated with any such virus. 
If the seceding States desire to quit the Union, 
and to quit it forever, let them propose constitu- 
tional amendments for that purpose, and calmly 
submit them to the people. This is the only mode 
by which the end aimed at can be reached with- 
out civil war, and the utter demoralization of all 
the parties who choose to maintain the present 
Constitution. 
I know that the existence of a party, as com- 



pared with the existenceof the Union, is a matter 
of utter insignificance. But, at this time, there is 
but one party which can be relied upon as an en- 
tirety, and in all its integrity, in favor of the Union 
. and the Constitution as it is. If this party fails 
. in its duty, or lacks the courage equal to its mis- 
sion, either the Union will be destroyed, or the 
Constitution will be so changed that it might cost 
less to abandon our inheritance thus incumbered 
than to support it. Union men , in whatever party 
now to be found, should acknowledge the neces- 
sity and unite with us in rescuing the Govern- 
ment from its present dangers; and when we reach 
calmer seas, we shall have ample time to fight 

• about political differences as practical issues arise. 

• "Whether Representatives here show that patri- 
otism or not, I feel sure the people will rally un- 
der no other banner than the " stars and stripes." 

For one, I cannot make what appears to me to 

I be concessions, nor consent to any measure that 

shall lower the moral and political standard, of the 

, great majority in the North. The South shall 

• have all its rights; but I am commissioned to sur- 
render none. When the principles upon which I 
was elected a member of this House become dan- 
gerous to the country, I shall deem it my duty to 
resign and go home ; but while I believe them vital 
to its preservation, they will continue to be as- 
serted. Measures intended for humiliation, forc- 
ing the majority to capitulate to the minority, 
will have no countenance from me. But, outside 
of this, being victors, we can afford to bo frank 
and magnanimous, and do and say what we mean. 
Rather, we cannot afford anything less. If some 
future republican traveler from Naples or St. Pe- 
tersburgh shall ever come here to sketch the ruins 
of this temple of liberty, let him have no data to 
note that it was shattered by mere perversity of 
temper. Let the rock upon which we split — sla- 
very extension — and no other, be marked on the 
map. The assailants of the Union are now in the 
wrong, and we must keep them so. I will not shut 
my eyes to the fact that several States, with ap- 
parent and sudden sanction of their people, have 
started to leave us, with the intent never to return. 
Other fixed stars of the Republic, with fear of 
change, are perplexing the world. What I can 
properly do to restore harmony, although it may 
prove fruitless, I shall try. I will deal in truth, 
frankness, and conciliation; and shall favor such 
measures as will not compromise, in my judg- 
ment, the great principles of human liberty upon 
which our Government was established — if such 
shall be accepted as an adjustment of present diffi- 
culties. Whatever I might do under ordinary cir- 
cumstances, neither more nor less, I shall feel it 



incumbent upon me to do now. To the people of 
the South our party has been most pertinaciously 
misrepresented ; and I am willing to tell them that 
we intend them no harm; that, if Jefferson and 
Jackson were not dangerous, their apprehensions 
are unfounded as to Mr. Lincoln. I am, there- 
fore, willing to give a congressional certificate that 
we have been slandered; that the Republican party 
of to-day is no blacker than the Republican party 
which J for twenty-four years in succession , found 
in Virginia successful candidates for the Presi- 
dency; and that Mr. Hamlin is as immaculately 
white as is the gentleman from Ohio, [Governor 
CoRwiN.] I feel sure the southern people, goaded 
by calumnious oratory, have made a suicidal 
plunge; and I would give time for sober truth to 
rise and reassert its empire. Not standing on the 
soulless punctilio that they ought to have known 
better than to leap into such turbid and bottomless 
waters, let us fling them at least the driftwood that 
may float them to the sjiore. If they can have a 
chance to return by their own volition, it will cost 
less than to plunge in after them, and they will be 
better associates in all time to come. 

It is not to those States now in armed revolt 
that I would offer the calumet; for they are not 
entitled even to an explanation to save them from 
suicide. They have not asked it; they have ap- 
pealed to no tribunal save that of force. But the 
border States have, as yet, done nothing to earn 
our hate, something rather to elicit praise; and to 
them, made glorious by ancestral renown, and by 
i a common fame, precious by holding the ashes of 
heroes and statesmen whom we have loved with 
that wonderful love, "passing the love of wo- 
men," to thein\et us give assurances of a faithful 
redemption of all the obligations imposed upon 
us by the Constitution we have sworn to support, 
and that fraternal sympathy that shall leave them 
no excuse for seeking a foreign home. 

Among the resolutions reported by the com- 
mittee, not all of which received my assent, there 
was one — 

" That the several States be rpspeotlully requested to 
cause their statutes to be revised, with a view to ascertain 
if any of them are in conflict with, or tend to embarrass or 
liinder the execution ui' tlie laws; of the United States ;" 

to which I did assent, because it is respectful 
in its tone, pertinent to States South as well as 
North; and because my own State had already^ 
oi-dered precisely this thing to be done before we 
assembled here. Moved by her own sense of pro- 
priety, Vermont will, in her own good time, do 
whatsoever is right — because it is right. 1 have 
not given critical attention to what are called per- 
sonal liberty bills, for none of them, nor anything 

S 



4 



else, has prevented the execution of the fugitive 
slave law, though repugnant to a large share of 
the legal and moral sense of the country, which 
the President says has been executed in every coji- 
testedcase. That cannot be said of the neutrality 
laws to prevent fillibusterism, nor of the laws for 
the suppression of the African slave trade. 

So far as the legislation of Vermont is con- 
cerned, I think it has been intended to maintain 
her reputation as the purest democracy in the 
world, the very sanctuary of liberty, and to throw 
around all her inhabitants, however humble, the 
safeguards of the writ of habeas corpus and trial 
by jury, as well as to prevent the nefarious crime 
of kidnapping from being committed within her 
bordLM's. 

Such laws as these are common^ and ought to 
be, to all the States. They are merely legislative 
authority to enforce a bill of rights, " dear to free- 
men and formidable to tyrants only," and stand, 
as the flaming sword to defend the rights of man, 
as recognized in all our republican constitutions, 
whenever they shall be a.ssailed. 

By the decision of the Supreme Court in the 
case of Prigg vs. Pennsylvania, which subsequent 
events have rendered historical, it was decided 
that the master could seize his slave as any other 
property, wherever found, if there was no State 
lawagainstit. Much of the legislation complained 
of was therefore set in motion, to compel masters 
to resort to United States authority, and prevent 
the possibility of lawless seizure of free black men. 
In the same case, it was decided that the legisla- 
tion of Congress excludes all State legislation on 
the subject. Free State Legislatures, therefore, 
very generally prohibited their officers from aid- 
ing or assisting in such business. If this shows a 
lack of comity, it was in pursuance of this decis- 
ion of the Supreme Court. It is true, also, that 
the rigors of the fugitive slave act of 1850 multi- 
plied and intensified such statutes. If, however, 
in doing this, State Legislatures have transcended 
the object aimed at, and any of their statutes con- 
flict with tiuit section of the Constitution of the 
United States wliich declares, that " no person 
held to service or labor in one State, under the 
laws thereof, escaping uito another, shall, incon- 
sequence of any law or regulation therein, be dis- 
charged from such service or labor," they should 
be repealed without debate. It is never to be for- 
gotten, and especially not now, that the " Con- 
stitution and the laws of the United States which 
shall be made in pursuance thereof" is *' the su- 
preme law of the land," "anything in the con- 
stitution or laws of any State to the contrary 
notwitlistanding. " 



One of the propositions of the committee, as 
offered by the distinguished gentleman from Mas- 
sachusetts, is to provide an amendment to the 
Constitution which shall forbid any possible fu- 
I ture interference with slavery in the States where 
j it exists. Such, unquestionably, is the true mean- 
I ing of the Constitution now. I know of no party 
' having the remotest intention of giving it any 
' other construction. The Republican party, of all 
' others, bound themselves in the most solemn form 
by the fourth resolution of the Chicago platform, 
i thus: 

" Tliat the maintenance Inviolate of the rights of the 
I States, and especially the riglit of each State to order and 
; control it3 own domestic institutions according to its own 
judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power 
■ on which the perfection and endurance of our political 
' fabric depends; and we denounce the lawless invasion by 
armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter 
j under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes." 

< That is explicit, and among cool men would 
be so regarded. Unfortunately, all men at this 

I time are not cool. The resolution unanimously 
adopted by this House on the 11th of February 
last is even more explicit. Every member. Re- 
publicans inclusive, for once in harmony. 

i '^Rcsolced, That neither Congress nor the people or gov- 
ernment of any non-slaveholding State has the constitu- 
tional riglu to legislate upon, or interfere with, slavery in 

j any slaveholding State in the Union." 

Surely, after this, the possibility of deception 
must be considered eff'ectually throttled. Only 
those who desire to be cheated can be cheated. 

i I have been unwilling to consider any amend- 

' ment to the Constitution, lest a master work 
should be botched by joui-neyinen; and I have 

j tolerated the idea at this point alone, not because 
I thought it necessary, but that, if accepted as 
an adjustment of present difticulties, it might, 

! by perpetuating a part of our present Constitu- 
tion — reenacting it, if you please — perpetuate the 
whole. But I have, as yet, had no assurances 
that this will be taken in any larger sense than of 
" good so for as it goes." To secure my support, 
it must be taken as afull and final settlement. To 
that end , guarantees against the heresies of seces- 
sion would be indispensable. 

I know of no one who claims or desires the 
constitutional power to interfere with the domes- 
tic institutions of any State. Whenever the af- 
firmative of tiiat doctrine shall be maintained, it 
will be in some remote age, when all State rights 
shall have become extinct, and the spirit of the 
people so tamed as to be ready to submit to im- 
perial despotism. Then the Federal Government 
may as easily establish slavery in a free State as 
to abolish it in a slave State. 



The particular form which this proposition has 
assumed appears to me objectionable, and unne- 
cessarily complicated; and all that part which 
makes a discrimination between the States should 
be stricken out. But, if the substance of such a 
declaration could serve the great purpose of con- 
ciliation in the present exigencies of the country, 
I would go to the extreme verge of liberality in 
order to give it my assent. We are either in favor 
of ultimate interference with slavery in the States 
where it exists, or we are against it. Now, if 
against it — though we may consider it surplus- 
age — why may we not put the subject beyond 
even the power of willful misrepresentation ? As 
a mere matter of taste, I would not vote for it; 
but I would be willing to sacrifice taste for the 
Union. The proof is abundant that southern men 
have indulged, and do indulge, in serious charges, 
if not real apprehensions, on this point; and if 
the measure proposed would carry healing on its 
wings, it appears to me to be one that may be 
tendered without sacrifice. I presume, however, 
it will fail to receive that support from gentlemen 
of the South which would indicate that it is suffi- 
cient for the evils complained of; and then it will 
be useless to offer as a remedy what the patient 
avows will be flung out of the window, and may 
properly be abandoned. Should the seceding 
States stand aloof, it would be vain to attempt to 
give efficacy to this measure, as its only induce- 
ment — general cooperation — would be wanting. 

If it be said that this would be a surrender of any 
principle, I ask how ? We have already solemnly 
abjured it. It is not, unless you intend to accom- 
plish an unconstitutional end by constitutional 
means, and the chance of doing that even, can be 
computed by tracing out the process. As it re- 
quires three fourths of all the States to carry any 
amendment of the Constitution, with fifteen slave 
States sure to vote against it, no amendment au- 
thorizing interference with slavery in the States 
could succeed, until the whole number of States 
amounted to sixty, and of these it would require 
the entire concurrence of forty-five. It is unne- 
cessary to spend more time in discussing a meas- 
ure that cannot pass, and which, if it could pass, 
would not give the slave States one whit more of 
security than they now practically enjoy. 

The present fugitive slave law, confided to ma- 
gistrates unknown to the Constitution, who, it was 
assumed, would need five dollars more^o be per- 
suaded to decide a case in favor of slavery than 
for freedom, merciless in its summary process, 
and with no trial by jury, compulsory upon all 
citizens to join in the hunt of any runaway, so 
obnoxious in its features that it would almost 



seem to have been made repulsive by design, has 
yet been held by the highest judicial tribunals le- 
gally and technically constitutional. Such being 
the decision, nullification by inferior courts or 
Legislatures is no remedy for its faults, as their 
action is itself a nullity. The amendments pro- 
posed by the committee, although they may not 
reach to the extent of amelioration that they might 
have done without impairing the constitutional 
purpo-ses of the law, are yet steps in the right 
direction; and though they will not secure alac- 
rity in the ordinary execution of the law, so long 
as life and liberty are more precious than prop- 
erty, they will remove the general excuse for mobs. 
No proposition to amend the law of 1850 would 
be likely to fail of being an improvement; and 
these amendments ought not to be refused by any 
just legislator, unless other provisions of an ob- 
jectionable character shall be ingrafted upon them 
in their'progress through this House, calculated 
to defeat substantial improvements here tendered. 

Another proposition of the committee is an en- 
abling act for the admission of the Territory of 
New Mexico as a State in the course of the ensu- 
ing year. I am ready to admit that this would 
practically dispose of all the territory we now 
have to which the slaveholding States set up any 
claim in their ultimatum of a restoration of the 
Missouri line; but it leaves open what they hold 
to be the paramount question of the disposal of 
territory hereafter to be acquired, and will not there- 
fore be satisfactory, even if the question that it 
would become a slaveholding State was free of 
doubt. 

The fatal objection to this measure is that the 
civilization of the territory is unequal to the task 
of supporting a State government. I trust that 
they are making progress in wealth and education ; 
but there is no evidence present showing either 
their capacity or desire to embark in the experi- 
ment. 

To be entirely frank, I do not think it can ever 
practically become a slave State. It must forever 
remain a pastoral country. Whatever its mines, 
real or fabulous, may attract, its tillage land, skirt- 
ing the borders of streams only, its arid wastes 
destitute of water, can never support a popula- 
tion, much beyond its present numbers; nor can 
a cheaper labor be substituted for that which now 
prevails. 

By the organic act passed ten years ago, in 
addition to the rights obtained by treaty, New 
Mexico obtained the right of admission into the 
Union with or without slavery; and during eight 
years of that time, the whole Federal patronage 
of the_Government has succeeded in permanently 



6 



forcing into that Territory eleven slaves only, ten 
of whom arc women. With this state of facts I 
cannot but think whenever, sooner or later, the 
subject shall be discussed, as it would be at the 
formation of a constitution, and all outside pres- 
sure on tiie people shall be removed, they will 
decide the question in favor of human freedom. 
But any people willing to vote peon servitude 
upon themselves, as they do in New Mexico, are 
hardly to be trusted with the destinies of a State. 

Under ordinary circumstances I should vote 
against enabling New Mexico to come into the 
Union at the present time; and I cannot find any- 
thing in the present condition of affairs to release 
me from the obligation of doing so now. It has 
not been made apparent, if this measure could 
receive the entii-e vote of this side of the House, 
that it would be acceptable as a measure of adjust- 
ment. But were it otherwise, I should not vote 
for it; because it wears the appearance of an eva- 
sion of principles heretofore made prominent, and 
which I am unwilling to vail in a cloud. 

There is another proposition, founded upon the 
same section in the Constitution upon which the 
law for the return of persons held to service es- 
caping into another State is based, in relation to 
fugitives from justice, which, in my opinion, 
would in practice prove unsatisfactory, and in- 
stead of curing present irritations, would multiply 
them tenfold. Heretofore, the requisition has 
been made by the chief executive officer of one 
State upon the chief executive officer of another 
State. It is now pi-oposed to make this requisi- 
tion " upon the district judge of the United States 
of the district " in which the criminal may be 
found, whose duties are so defined and limited 
as necessarily to give the criminal laws of local 
Legislatures a wider and even national application, 
and at the same time blots out the sovereignty 
of a State altogether. If it be solely a judicial 
question to be determined, I answer that the Gov- 
ernors of most States are apt to be as able jurists 
as the judges of these district courts; nor can po- 
litical prejudices be avoided by the change, for 
judges are now often appointed as much in ref- 
erence to their political affinities as to their legal 
knowledge. The demand must be made by a 
Governor, and it is proper that it should be re- 
sponded to by an equal. Under the present prac- 
tice, Governors surrender fugitives from justice 
when the charge alleged would be a crime in the 
State to which they have fled. That would seem j 
to be a rule far less liable to abuse than the one | 
proposed, and as equal and just as can be devised, j 
I trust this most exceptionable project to change I 
the old law will receive the decided negative of I 



all sides of the House, and of State-rights men 
especially. 

Failing of success in the late election of Presi- 
dent, though still maintaining supremacy in both 
branches of Congress, the southern States now 
demand as their ultimatum, and as a condition 
precedent of their faithful adherence to the present 
Constitution, a recognizance and protection of 
slaves as property in all the territory we now have, 
or may hereafter acquire, south of 36° 30', north 
latitude. This is, in part, the Crittenden compro- 
mise. It is proposed to make this a part of the 
Constitution. So far as it would be a revival of 
the Missouri compromise, it would certainly seem 
expedient to place it where it could not become 
"inoperative and void" through the action of the 
party now renewing the proposition, as well as 
safe from the reach of the Supreme Court, lest 
history should repeat itself. But what is the ne- 
cessity for this measure.' Slavery has already 
obtained a foothold in all this Territory, protected 
by the Territorial Legislature, and hedged in by 
impending decisions of the Supreme Court. Is 
it not enough that this is a fact, but must the min- 
ority be forced to concede the fate of an empire 
not yet within our grasp } The conclusion is irre- 
sistible that it is not, after all, a contest about the 
condition of what we now possess, but whether 
we shall hereafter acquire territory now free, and 
force slavery into it without allowing the con- 
quered people to say even whether they will tol- 
erate it or not. This invasive purpose, too, is to 
be announced in advance, and emblazoned in the 
very forehead of our Constitution. 

The whole of this claim, as must have been 
foreseen , will meet with an emphatic denial . There 
is no part of it worthy of the sanction of a great 
and high-minded people. If the desire was sim- 
ply room for the expansion of slavery into New 
Mexico, that is practically enjoyed already. If 
the desire reaches beyond that; if it is Sonora and 
Chihuahua that is hunted in the distance, let those 
who mean it avow it. Then the question would 
be squarely presented, whether those Mexican 
provinces must be obtained at the cost of break- 
ing up the Union or not; whether secession or 
Mexico should be conquered; whether South 
Carolina or Cuba mustbe bought. Not until after 
the present dangerous fit of indigestion shall have 
passed away, can the American people be induced 
to swallow more of the disjointed limbs of priest- 
ridden Mexico; and I trust their hunger in that 
direction is forever appeased. I knew a man once 
who was always in litigation about the boundary 
lines of his land, and a neighbor said of him, that 
he believed " if the cap'n owned all Paradise he 



would quarrel with the devil just for a little strip 
more for a hog pasture !" Have we not enough ? 
Then let us not quarrel about any more little 
strips. But, come what may, the North will stand 
by the declaration of Henry Clay, and " no 
earthly power can compel them to vote for the 
positive introduction of slavery, either south or 
north of that line," (36° 30 .) 

I do not propose to marshal the resources of the 
free States, nor to consider how tolerable might 
be their condition when left alone, or after the 
withdrawal of the slave States, and the accession 
of the Canadas and other British provinces — the 
failure of the first being the only possible hinder- 
ance to the last — but I wish to make a way-side 
remark touching the threat of sending certain 
States to "Coventry." 

I know it is the fashion of some parties to sneer 
at New England, to talk of a reconstruction of a 
Union with this part left out, "sloughed off;" but 
this imbecile spite does not even excite pity. It 
will be found that almost every free State has its 
New England within its borders, and thus leav- 
ened, some for aught I know, are in advance of 
the Puritan stock. It is evident the politicalJonah 
would not be disposed of, even if "down east " 
were to be thrown overboard. They remember 
the fable of members rebelling against the head, 
'but will let others make the application. New 
England makes no apology for the past, and will 
indulge in no envy for the future; but having no 
invincible sectional hatreds, if any can do better 
than herself, she will bid them God speed. It 
might be pertinent to remind those who flippantly 
talk of ostracizing such a people, that when the 
old Greek philosopher was banished from Sinope, 
he retorted: And I condemn you to sfay in Sijiope. 
Certainly Vermont begs for no concessions, asks 
no guarantees. For years and in her infancy she 
stood alone, and such a doom, now in her matur- 
ity, were it possible to be enforced, would have 
no terrors for her, as almost each one of her in- 
habitants possesses within their own homes the 
means — industry and unconquerable will — of ab- 
solute independence. She can both feed and clothe 
herself with the plow, the loom, and the anvil, 
«o matter whether cotton or wool, flax or hemp, 
is king. 

These taunts do not arise from a positive dis- ', 
like to the thrift of New England character, nor 
to their eminence in all the highways of modern 
civilization, for among the most seductive argu- 
ments addressed by secessionists to Georgia, to 
North Carolina, to Virginia, and to Maryland, 
each in turn, we find this: that they will become 
the new New England of the cotton heptarchy; 



but the disgust arises from the obstinate vote of 
New England; and, though I am for conciliation, 
I cannot honestly say that I foresee any millen- 
nium at hand when they will have repented of the 
fanaticism they have so long manifested in the 
persecutionof the prophets of modern democracy, 
as that party will, I fear, continue to furnish 
abundant provocation. 

There seems to be a tenacity of purpose, by 
some amendment of the Constitution , to foist the 
word slavery into that instrument, in order to se- 
cure to it, by a prolific brood of logical inferences, 
a higher degree of protection as property. Not 
content with the language of the Constitution, it 
is hoped to make the rose, not more aromatic, but 
still entitled to higher consideration under another 
name. I have not time to discuss the length and 
breadth of this apparently very innocent propo- 
sition, and will only say that the language of the 
framers of the Constitution was well chosen, ex- 
pressed all they intended, and all we intend now 
and forever. Whether slaves are merely prop- 
erty or persons, in the language of Sterne, " Dis- 
guise thyself as thou will, still, slavery, said I, 
still thou art a bitter draught." 

The idea of a reconstruction of the Constitu- 
tion held out by the architects of ruin, who now 
bear despotic sway in the South, to those who 
hesitate to break away from the ark of our cove- 
nant, is a fraud in its southern aspect, as South 
Carolina and the autocratic Yanceys have already 
imperiously indicated, and wholly fallacious in 
its northern aspect, as time will surely proclaim. 
The leaders in the cotton States mean something 
far diflTerent from a reconstruction, and nothing 
less than revolution and its consequences have 
been invoked from the outset. They may snatch 
some parts of our system of government; but, 
like the fortresses they have siezed, they will be 
converted to unwonted uses; and, stiff" with the 
embroidery of new devices, seek protection no 
longer against majorities, but against piinorities. 
Once escaped from the power of majorities, good 
care will be taken that minorities are henceforth 
handcuffed. 

But, to suppose that nineteen free States would 
consent to give slavery greater power or privi- 
leges, under a reconstruction of the Constitution, 
than was consented to seventy years ago, when 
there was but one free State, is simply absurd. 
It is a libel upon the age. Who will contend that, 
though all other nations have been steadily ad- 
vancing to a higher plane of freedom, the Amer- 
ican people have relapsed from their own key- 
note.' While the North does not, and will not, 
seek to retract or avoid any point in the present 



8 



compact, if the question is ever opened, it would 
be all opened; and property represented on one 
side of Mason and Dixon's line would be on the 
other, or none at all. Open all these questions, 
and the grievances of the North, now dumb, 
would find voice, and, unless redressed by con- 
stitutional guarantees, relief would be snatched 
in the separation already ofTered. Tiiere is no 
reactionary spirit that can extort greater submis- 
sion to slavery from the present age than was 
conceded by Franklin and Sherman, Hancock 
and Adams. 

If the Sou til would live in peace and escape the 
agitation of the subject of slavery, they have only 
to cease thrusting forward their aggressive policy 
of its extension — a policy that cannot escape the 
stern and enlightened resistance of all Christen- 
dom. In a speech made by me at the last session 
of Congress, I showed that the South already 
enjoyed her full share of territory in proportion to 
her population, and that, should all the remainder 
be appropriated to the use of the North, it would 
be only at last a fair and equal division. There 
is no inequality or injustice to slaveholders in the 
exclusion of slaves from the Territories. As the 
London Times aptly suggests, " the South is not 
to be excluded from Territories unless the South- 
rons consider themselves in the light, not of slave- 
holders, but of slaves." 

Mr. Speaker, I speak not of the sacrifice of 
blood and treasure it cost to create our present 
Union — not of the glories in its civil history; not 
of its emment prowess in military and naval ex- 
ploits; not of its grandeur and power among the 
great nations of the earth; not of its accumula- 
tions of legal learning; nor yet of the illuminated 
chapters in its administrative precedents, to all 
of which, though American character is only yet 
in the bud, secession bids adieu forever; but I will 
ask, what higher gauge of prosperity can a south- 
ern military republic hold out than we have wit- 
nessed and now hold within our grasp in these 
United States .' In what part of the world is labor 
more remunerative, or wealth less impeded by 

,lS:l';lV..l-.l! 



taxation .> Is there any denial of this in the plant- 
ing States.' Why, sir, they have incontestably 
grown rich. Have not the number of their slaves 
quadrupled, and their value more than quadru- 
pled, in threescore years and ten.' The advance 
of the American people in national and individual 
wealth — the standing marvel of the world — is such 
that it hhs for forty years attracted, and still con- 
tinues largely to attract, the enterprising emigrant 
from every nation and tongue on the globe. The 
average scale of the comforts of life here obtained, 
the enjoyments incident to cultivated society here 
so widely diffused, find no parallel in any other 
land. These things may be bravely altered, but 
are they likely to be altered for the better? New 
inventions do not always enthrone the inventors. 
While it is obvious that no single right which is 
now claimed to be withheld can be secured through 
the doors of secession, the only new right which 
will belong to this attitude will be the right to 
make war upon the United States. 

Let me appeal, then, to all parties, to try to live 
under that Union a little longer which has notA 
only secured our property , guarded so well all our 
material interests, but which has received the com- 
mendation of the enlightened world and given to 
us a name not surpassed in all the monuments of 
history. Give us another span of seventy years, 
and prolong the hopes of mankind in the possi- . 
bility of man's power of self-government. Do not 
let us break up the model with which patriots, 
though with unequal steps, in contiguous as well 
as far distant countries, have struggled and a^e 
struggling to mold institutions like those among 
which our own still live the leading example. 
But if all our attempts to put off the evil day shall 
fail, and this matchless form of free Government 
is to be put to the extremest peril, it will rally all 
the vigor remaining in its Constitution in behalf 
of self-preservation. It cannot abnegate its power, 
and it will not die willingly. The great heart of 
the nation will confront all dangers, and survive, 
I trust, to cover friends and foes with countless 
blessings. --•,.>•• 



I