Page images



ish the traffic in twenty years. In 1796, Mr. St. George Tucker, law professor in William and Mary College in Virginia, published a treatise entitled, “a Dissertation on Slavery, with a proposal for the gradual abolition of it in the State of Virginia.” In the preface to the essay, he speaks of the “abolition of Slavery in this State as an object of the first importance, not only to our moral character and domestic peace, but even to our political salvation.” In 1797 Mr. Pinkney, in the Legislature of Maryland, maintained that “ by the eternal principles of justice, no man in the State has the right to hold his slave a single hour.” In 1803, Mr. John Randolph, from a committee on the subject, reported that the prohibition of Slavery by the ordinance of 1787, was “ a measure wisely calculated to promote the happiness and prosperity of the North-western States, and to give strength and security to that extensive frontier." Under Mr. Jefferson, the importation of slaves into the Territories of Mississippi and Louisiana was prohibited in advance of the time limited by the Constitution for the interdiction of the slave trade. When the Missouri restriction was enacted, all the members of Mr. Monroe's Cabinet—Mr. Crawford of Georgia, Mr. Calhoun of South Carolina, and Mr. Wirt of Virginia—concurred with Mr. Monroe in affirming its constitutionality. In 1832, after the Southampton massacre, the evils of Slavery were exposed in the Legislature of Virginia, and the expediency of its gradual abolition maintained, in terras as decided as were ever employed by the most uncompromising agitator. A bill for that object was introduced into the Assembly by the grandson of Mr. Jefferson, and warmly supported by distinguished politicians now on the stage. Nay, we have the recent admission of the Vice-President of the seceding Confederacy, that what he calls “ the errors of the past generation,” meaning the antislavery sentiments entertained by Southern statesmen, “ still clung to many as Inte as twenty years ago).

To this hasty review of Southern opinions and measures, showing their accordance till a late date with Northern sentiment on the subject of Slavery, I might add the testimony of Washington, of Patrick Henry, of George Mason, of Wythe, of Pendleton, of Marshall, of Lowndes, of Poinsett, of Clay, and of nearly every first-class name in the Southern States. Nay, as late as 1849, and after the Union had been shaken by the agitations incident to the acquisition of Mexican territory, the Convention of California, although nearly one-half of its members were from the slaveholding States, unanimously adopted a Constitution, by which slavery was prohibited in that State. In fact, it is now triunphantly proclaimed by the chiefs of the revolt, that the ideas prevailing on this subject when the Constitution was adopted were fundamentally wrong; that the new Government of the Confederate States “ rests upon exactly the opposite ideas; that its foundations are laid and its corner-stone reposes upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man ; that Slavery-subordination to the superior race-is his natural and normal condition. This our new Government is the first in the history of the world based upon this physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” So little foundation is there for the statement, that the North, from the first, has been engaged in a struggle with the South on the subject of Slavery, or has departed in any degree from the spirit with which the Union was entered into, by both parties. The fact is precisely the reverse.


Mr. Davis, in his message to the Confederate States, goes over a long list of measures, which he declares to have been inaugurated, and gradually extended, as soon as the Northern States had reached a sufficient number to give their representatives a controlling voice in Congress. But of all these measures, not one is a matter of Congressional legislation, nor has Congress, with this alleged controlling voice on the part of the North, ever either passed a law hostile to the interests of the South, on the subject of Slavery, nor failed to pass one which the South has claimed as belonging to her rights or needed for her safety. In truth, the North, meaning thereby the anti-slavery North, never has had the control of both Houses of Congress, never of the judiciary, rarely of the Executive, and never exerted there to the prejudice of Southern rights. Every judicial or legislative issue on this question, with the single exception of the final admission of Kansas, that has ever been raised before Congress, has been decided in favor of the South; and yet she allows herself to allege“ a persistent and organized system of hostile measures against the rights of the owners of slaves," as the justification of her rebellion.

The hostile measures alluded to are, as I have said, none of them matters of Congressional legislation. Some of them are purely imaginary as to any injurious effect, others much exaggerated, others unavoidably incident to freedom of speech and the press. You are aware, my friends, that I have always disapproved the agitation of the subject of Slavery for party purposes, or with a view to infringe upon the Constitutional rights of the South. But if the North has given cause of complaint, in this respect, the fault has been equally committed by the South. The subject has been fully as much abused there as here for party purposes; and if the North has ever made it the means of gaining a sectional triumph, she has but done what the South, for the last twenty-five years, has never missed an occasion of doing. With respect to every thing substantial in the complaints of the South against the North, Congress and the States have afforded or tendered all reasonable, all possible satisfaction. She asked for a more stringent fugitive slave law in 1850, and it was enacted. She complained of the Missouri Compromise, although adopted in conformity with all the traditions of the Governinent, and approved by the most judicious Southern statesmen; and after thirty-four years' acquiescence on the part of the people, Congress repealed it. She wished for a judicial decision of the territorial question in her favor, and the Supreme Court of the United States, in contravention of the whole current of our legislation, so decided it. She insisted on carrying this decision into effect, and three new Territories, at the very last session of Congress, were organized in conformity to it, as Utah and New Mexico had been before it was rendered. She demanded a guarantee against amendments of the Constitution adverse to her interests, and it was given by the requisite majority of the two Houses. She required the repeal of the State laws obstructing the surrender of fugitive slaves, and although she had taken the extreme remedy of revolt into her hands, they were repealed or modified. Nothing satisfied her, because there was an active party in the cotton-growing States, led by ambitious men determined on disunion, who were resolved not to be satisfied. In one instance alone the South has suffered defeat. The North, for the first time since the foundation of the Government, has chosen a President by her unaided electoral



vote; and that is the occasion of the present unnatural war. I cannot appropriate to myself any portion of those cheers, for, as you know, I did not contribute, by my vote, to that result; but I did enlist under the Banner of the Union, the Constitution, and the enforcement of the laws." Under that Banner I mean to stand, and with it, if it is struck down, I am willing to fall. Even for this result the South has no one to blame but herself. Her disunionists would give their votes for no candidate but the one selected by leaders who avowed the purpose of effecting a revolution of the cotton States, and who brought about a schism in the Democratic party directly caclulated, probably designed, to produce the event which actually took place, with all its dread consequences.

REPRESENTATION OF THREE-FIFTIIS OF THE SLAVES. I trust I have shown the flagrant injustice of this wholo attempt to fasten upon the North the charge of wielding the powers of the Federal Government to the prejudice of the South. But there is one great fact connected with this subject, seldom prominently brought forward, which ought forever to close the lips of the South, in this warfare of sectional reproach. Under the old Confederation, the Congress consisted of but one House, and each State, large and small, had but a single vote, and consequently an equal share in the Government, if Government it could be called, of the Union. This manifest injustice was barely tolerable in a state of war, when the imminence of the public danger tended to produce unanimity of feeling and action. When the country was relieved from the pressure of the war, and discordant interests more and more disclosed themselves, the equality of the States became a positive element of discontent, and contributed its full share to the downfall of that short-lived and ill-compacted frame of Government.

Accordingly, when the Constitution of the United States was formed, the great object and the main difficulty was to reconcile the equality of the States, (which gave to Rhode Island and Delaware equal weight with Virginia and Massachusetts,) with a proportionate representation of the people. Each of these principles was of vital importance; the first being demanded by the small States, as due to their equal independence, and the last being demanded by the large States, in virtue of the fact that the Constitution was the work and the Government of the people, and in conformity with the great law in which the Revolution had its origin, that representation and taxation should


hand in hand. The problem was solved, in the Federal Convention, by a system of extremely refined arrangements, of which the chief was that there should be two Houses of Congress, that each State should have an equal representation in the Senate, (voting, however, not by States, but per capita,) and a number of representatives in the House in proportion to its population. But here a formidable difficulty presented itself, growing out of the anomalous character of the population of the slaveholding States, consisting as it did of a dominant and a subject class, the latter excluded by local law from the enjoyment of all political rights, and regarded simply as property. In this state of things, was it just or equitable that the slaveholding States, in addition to the number of representatives to which their free population entitled them, should have a further share in the government of the country, on account of the slaves held as property by a small portion of the ruling class ? While property of every kind in the non-slaveholding States was unrepresented, was it just that this species of property, forming a large proportion of the entire property of the South, should be allowed to swell the representation of the slaveholding States?

This serious difficulty was finally disposed of, in a manner mutually satisfactory, by providing that Representatives and direct Taxes should be apportioned among the States on the same basis of population, ascertained by adding to the whole number of free persons three-fifths of the slaves. It was expected at this time that the Federal Treasury would be mainly supplied by direct taxation. While, therefore, the rule adopted gave to the South a number of representatives out of proportion to the number of her citizens, she would be restrained from exercising this power to the prejudice of the North, by the fact that any increase of the public burdens would fall in the same increased proportion on herself. For the additional weight which the South gained in the presidential election, by this adjustment, the North received no compensation.

But now mark the practical operation of the compromise. Direct taxation, instead of being the chief resource of the Treasury, has been resorted to but four times since the foundation of the Government, and then for small amounts; in 1798 two millions of dollars, in 1813 three millions, in 1815 six millions, in 1816 three millions again, in all fourteen millions, the sum total raised by direct taxation in seventy-two years, less than an average of 200,000 dollars a year. What number of representatives, beyond the proportion of their free population, the South has elected in former Congresses I have not computed. In the last Congress she was represented by twenty members, in behalf of her slaves, being nearly oneeleventh part of the entire House. As the increasing ratio of the two classes of population has not greatly varied, it is probable that the South, in virtue of her slaves, has always enjoyed about the same proportionate representation in the House, in excess of that accruing from her free population. As it has rarely happened in our political divisions that important measures have been carried by large majorities, this excess has been quite sufficient to assure the South a majority on all sectional questions. It enabled her to elect her candidate for the Presidency in 1800, and thus effect the great political revolution of that year, and is sufficient of itself to account for that approach to a monopoly of the Government which she has ever enjoyed.

Now, though the consideration for which the North agreed to this arrangement, may be said to have wholly failed, it has nevertheless been quietly acquiesced in. I do not mean that in times of high party excitement it has never been alluded to as a hardship. The Hartford Convention spoke of it as a grievance which ought to be remedied; but even since our political controversies have turned almost wholly on the subject of slavery, I am not aware that this entire failure of the equivalent, for which the North gave up to the South what has secured to her, in fact, the almost exclusive control of the Government of the country, has been a frequent or a prominent subject of complaint.

So much for the pursuit by the North of measures hostile to the interests of the South ;-so much for the grievances urged by the South as her justification for bringing upon the country the crimes and sufferings of civil war, and aiming at the prostration of a Government admitted by herself to be the most perfect the world has

seen, and under which all her own interests have been eminently protected and



favored; for to complete the demonstration of the unreasonableness of her complaints, it is necessary only to add, that, by the admission of her leading public men, there never was a time when her “peculiar institution" was so stable and prosperous as at the present moment.*

WHY SHOULD WE NOT RECOGNIZE THE SECEDING STATES : And now let us rise from these disregarded appeals to the truth of history and the wretched subtilties of the Secession School of Argument, and contemplate the great issue before us, in its solemn practical reality. Why should we not,” it is asked, “ admit the claims of the seceding States, acknowledge their independence, and put an end at once to the war?" “Why should we not ? ” I answer the question by asking another : “Why should we?” What have we to gain, what to hope from the pursuit of that course? Peace? But we were at peace before. Why are we not at peace now? The North has not waged the war, it has been forced upon us in self-defence; and if, while they had the Constitution and the Laws, the Executive, Congress, and the Courts, all controlled by themselves, the South, dissatisfied with legal protections and Constitutional remedies, has grasped the sword, can North and South hope to live in peace, when the bonds of Union are broken, and amicable means of adjustment are repudiated ? Peace is the very last thing which Secession, if recognized, will give us; it will give us nothing but a hollow truce,-time to prepare the means of new outrages. It is in its very nature a perpetual cause of hostility; an eternal never-cancelled letter of marque and reprisal, an everlasting proclamation of border-war. How can peace exist, when all the causes of dissension shall be indefinitely multiplied; when unequal revenue laws shall have led to a gigantic system of smuggling; when a general stampede of slaves shall take place along the border, with no thought of rendition, and all the thousand causes of mutual irritation shall be called into action, on a frontier of 1,500 miles not marked by natural boundaries and not subject to a common jurisdiction or a mediating power? We did believe in peace, fondly, credulously, believed that, cemented by the mild umpirage of the Federal Union, it might dwell forever beneath the folds of the Star-Spangled Banner, and the sacred shield of a common Nationality. That was the great arcanum of policy; that was the State mystery into which men and angels desired to look ; hidden from ages, but revealed to us :

Which Kings and Prophets waited for,

And sought, but never found :

a family of States independent of each other for local concerns, united under one Government for the management of common interests and the prevention of internal feuds. There was no limit to the possible extension of such a system. It had already comprehended half of North America, and it might, in the course of time, have folded the continent in its peaceful, beneficent embrace. We fondly dreamed that, in the lapse of ages, it would have been extended till half the Western hemisphere had realized the vision of universal, perpetual peace. From that dream we have been rudely startled by the array of ten thousand armed men in Charleston Harbor, and the glare of eleven batteries bursting on the torn sky of the Union, like the comet which, at this very moment, burns “ In the Arctic sky, and from his

* See Appendix, D.

« PreviousContinue »