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I have said that there was no danger of error.
A nation, a race, interesting from consanguinity—interesting by a thousand ties—finds its virtues increased, and the condition of its people meliorated, by the labors of Theobald Matthew. Where among the living do we find a man whose works of benevolence have so speedily and gloriously followed him?
I should join in this homage—in this act of reverenceact of reverence to virtue alone, if no other reason was offered ; but I must say with all freedom, and I trust that the freedom will be conceded to me as I concede equal freedom to others, that since it is objected that this act of respect shall not be allowed, because of the particular opinions of the person who is the subject of it, in regard to slavery, I must be allowed to say, with all respect, that I hope the American Senate will give evidence, by the unanimity with which they pass this resolution, of this sentimentwhich is almost unanimous, I believe, amongst us—that if slavery be an error, if it be a crime, if it be a sin, we deplore its existence among us, and deny the responsibility of its introduction here; and, therefore, that we shall not withhold from virtue the meed which is its due, because it happens to be combined in the person of one who exhibits a devotion not more to virtue than to the rights of man.
DISCIPLINE IN THE NAVY,
DECEMBER 30, 1849.
I HAVE the honor to present a petition from mercantile and shipping houses in the city of Baltimore, having 237 names appended to it, praying for the abolition of the use of intoxicating liqnors in the navy of the United States. I submit also a petition from certain mercantile houses in the city of Baltimore, signed by 250 names, praying for the abolition of flogging in the naval service of the United States. I move the reference, and take this occasion to express my concurrence in the sentiments expressed by the Senator from Massachusetts in relation to this subject, and to say that, in my judgment, whoever is allowed the privilege of admin
istering intoxicating liquors to others daily, and of inflicting upon them corporeal chastisement for offences, has it in his power to exercise over them the control that a master exercises over his slave. I do not believe it necessary that such a relation should be established either in the army or the navy; and since it has been sometimes said that the practice of flogging in the navy must be continued because no substitute has been found for it, I beg leave to say, and your own recollection, Mr. President, will bear witness to the fact that in the penitentiary system in the state of New York the practice of corporeal punishment has been abolished, and that discipline has been maintained with as much success with regard to labor and moral conduct as when corporeal punishment prevailed.
There was a struggle for twenty years to abolish this punishment in the prisons, which was resisted upon the ground that discipline could not be maintained without it. Five or ten years ago the punishment was prohibited, and it has never been resorted to since. There has nevertheless been, during that time, the same quiet, the same order, that prevailed before. Public sentiment seems to have entirely acquiesced in the reform which has been made, as useful, humane, and benevolent. The first argument that I have ever heard against it was that of the Senator from Florida, who read from the report of one of the wardens of one of the prisons, and drew an inference from that report, that it was the judgment of that officer that it was expedient to return to the old system. I beg leave to say to him, without detaining the Senate, that a more careful perusal of that document would show that the punishment substituted was the use of the shower-bath; and that the evil complained of was, that the mode of applying it has been so unnecessarily harsh as to have resulted in producing, as the keeper supposed, insanity in eight cases; and the keeper went on to say that he had, therefore, in a great degree, discontinued that form of punishment, and had resorted to solitary confinement as a substitute, which had been successful. The argument of the Senator from Florida, therefore, was based merely upon the fact that, having occasion to find some other punishment than flogging, they had not, in the first instance, arrived at that which was the right
THE RIGHT OF PETITION.
FEBRUARY 6, 1860.
Note.—MR. HALE. I bave also received a petition from inhabitants of Pennsylvania and Delaware, stating that they believe that the federal constitution, in giving its support to slavery, violates the divine law and makes war upon human rights, and is inconsistent with republican principles; and that the attempt to unite slavery and freedom in one body politic has already brought upon the country great and manifold evils, and has fully proved that no such union can exist but by the sacrifice of freedom to the supremacy of slavery. They respectfully ask Congress to propose without delay some plan for the immediate and peaceful dissolution of the American Union.
THE VICE-PRESIDENT. The question will be on the reception of this petition.
MR. SEWARD moved that the petition be received and referred to a committee, with instructions to report that Congress had no power or motive to act for the dissolution of the Union. And on that motion, said:
MR. PRESIDENT :-I have considered the course taken by a distinguished and lamented statesman in the other House upon the occasion of the presentation of petitions of a character similar to that of the petition which is now presented—I mean the late John Quincy Adams, and I am satisfied, as he was, that the memorial ought to be received, by way of vindicating the right of petition. I have no more sympathy than he had with the object of a petition which prays for a dissolution of this Union. I have no fear of a dissolution of the Union. I believe that it was not made by madmen, nor can madmen destroy it; and I believe none but madmen would petition for its dissolution; and my rule always is, in regard to madmen, never to have any controversy with them.
I desire that the issue involved in this question shall be distinctly understood. It is this. On the one side of the House, it is the proposition that this petition shall not be received; that is, it is a virtual rejection of the petition. On the other side, it is proposed that the petition shall be received, and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, with instructions to report that the Senate has not the power nor the disposition to entertain the question. There is no question whether the Union ought to be dissolved at all; we are unanimous against that. Under these circumstances, I shall vote for the reception of the petition, for the reasons I have stated.
MR. FOOTE. Will the honorable Senator vote for the reception of a petition which he announced the other day, in our hearing, to be devised by madmen?
Mr. SEWARD. I have never yet seen the petition of any human being that I would not receive, and I do not know that I ever shall. It is not enough to justify me in refusing to hear any human being, that I have not the power to grant the prayer of his petition. The Constitution imposes no restriction or modification upon the right of petition. Petitions presented by madmen are very harmless, and the way to render them more harmless is to hear them, and give them an answer—a civil answer. It is a soft answer that turns away wrath. I believe that if no petitions upon the subject of slavery had been rejected, there would never have been a petition for the dissolution of the Union. So long as you suffer those who are disunionists to maintain a false issue upon the right of petition, so long do I believe that that right will be misused and perverted for such purpose. It is for that reason that I desire to receive this and all other petitions.
The distinguished Senator from Michigan [Mr. Cass] has adverted to one or two cases, and he asks, by way of a parallel, whether we would receive petitions under such circumstances-as, for instance, petitions to declare that there is no God? Well, sir, I have seen an incident very similar to that tried in legislative experience. I have seen large masses of men agitated by what they regarded as dangers of the union of the Church and the State, growing out of the employment of chaplains in legislative bodies. I have seen then petitions presented, and a great public effort made to compel the attention of the legislative body to a discussion of the question. They were received and kindly examined, and a disposition made of them, in accordance with the views of the legislative body.
The result on that occasion was a complete termination of the agitation. I remember also petitions presented to legislative bodies to prohibit the reading of the Bible in the common schools, and the question then arose as to the wisest way to dispose of them. Some wished to reject and others to receive them and give them an answer. They were received, and a calm and elaborate answer made to them. That was more than ten years ago, and no petition of the kind has been since presented. No petition for the dissolution of the Union will be again presented, if we receive this, and give the answer to it that is in the mouth as well as in the heart of every member of this body. It is a simple question of reasons. We are not above giving reasons to our fellow men. George Washington himself was not above giving a reason why this Union should not be dissolved. He gave such reasons earnestly and fully in his Farewell Address. The Senate of the United States, in my humble judgment, is not above the petition of the humblest citizen of the United States, and the declaration that they cannot and will not entertain the dissolution is a question upon which they might, with great propriety and with great advantage, act at this time.
NOTE.—The reception of the petition was denied : Ayes, 3. Nays, 51.—ED
GRANTING LANDS TO EMIGRANTS.
JANUARY 30, 1850.
Note.—Mr. Seward had submitted the following resolution :
Resolved, That the conduct of Austria and of Russia, in the war in which those powers bave subverted the nationality and the liberties of Hungary, has been marked by injus. tice, oppression, and barbarity, which justly deserve the condemnation of mankind, while they commend the Hungarian people to the sympathies of other nations, and especially of republican states; and that the Committee on the Public Lands be directed to inquire and report on the propriety of setting apart a portion of the public donjain to be granted, free of all charges, to the exiles of Hungary already arrived, and hereafter to arrive, in the United States, as well as to the exiles fleeing from oppression in other European countries.
Mr. PRESIDENT: It will be recollected that, at a very early day in the session, the distinguished Senator from Michigan, (Mr. Cass,] introduced a resolution, in which it was proposed to instruct the Committee on Foreign Relations, to consider and report upon the expediency of suspending diplomatic relations with Austria; on which occasion that honorable senator enforced the resolution by a speech of surpassing power and interest; and that the grounds upon which he recommended the suspension of diplomatic intercourse with Austria were the oppression and barbarity of Austria