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Mr. Corwin's Majority
to some extent, the laws now
Mr. Corwin's Majority
ance. The resolves of popular assemblies in Southern Statesthe addresses of speakers to Southern audiences-the frequent and earnest refer-most careful examination of the subject, the Comences to it, by the newspaper press of the South, as a mittee have framed an amendment to the existing great and flagrant violation of the Constitution, and of laws, which, it is believed, will much improve them. the fraternal relation of the Free to the Slave States, the denunciation of those laws by Southern members of Congress, in both branches of the National Legislature, for the last three or four years-have, together, given to this subject great, and in the judgment of the Committee, undue importance. With whatever intent or design such laws may have been enacted, in any State, they cannot be regarded as having had any effect in preventing or obstructing the recapture of fugitives from labor. The laws of the United States for the recovery of fugitive slaves are executed exclusively by the United States Courts, and Commissioners appointed by them. As a necessary consequence, it follows that any State law which offers any obstacle to the full and perfect execution of the laws of the United States, would believed to be a part of the law, has given rise to much void, and of no effect whatever, and would be so declared by the United States Courts and Commissioners. Such laws, if any there be, are therefore incompetent to do any mischief whatever to any one concerned in the recapture of a fugitive slave, and at most can be considered only as an exhibition of opposition to a law which some of the States regard as containing provisions dangerous to the rights of free persons residing within their limits. While, therefore, the Committee have not been able to perceive that the State laws complained of can really affect the rights or interests of Southern people, or States, yet from an anxious desire to conciliate the feelings, as well as to protect the interests of our fellow-citizens of the South, the Committee have respectfully requested all Non-slaveholding States carefully to revise their legislative acts, and repeal all laws which come in conflict with the Constitution of the United States, or with the laws enacted by Congress for the recapture of fugitives from labor, and have submitted a resolution to that effect for adoption by the House.
The law of 1850 was supposed to contain a provision which positively required any citizen who might be called on for this purpose, to aid the owner of a fugitive, or his agent, or the Marshal of the United States, in searching for and capturing such fugitive, whether forcible resistance were apprehended or not. This idea, whether well or ill-founded, has, to a very great extent, become the popular belief in many of the States, and, in the opinion of the Committee, has had the effect to render the law distasteful and offensive. It is obvious that such belief would operate to cripple the efficiency of the law, and, to some extent, prevent its prompt and peaceful execution, where that belief prevailed. It is reasonable to suppose that this odious provision, be
"We have seen with satisfaction that the Governors of several States, within the last week, have brought the subject to the notice of their respective Legislatures, and recommended legislative action, in accordance with the views of the Committee, and we entertain no doubt that the feelings, as well as the interests, of all the Non-slaveholding States will combine to effect the great object so much desiredthe restoration of mutual respect and confidence between all the States of the Union.
"The Committee deemed it incumbent on them, in connection with the foregoing subject, to revise,
of that opposition to it, so much complained of by the South. The second section of the bill presented by the Committee, it is believed, will relieve the law from all objection of that kind, and tend materially to its easy and speedy execution, thus improving its efficiency as a remedy, by making it more acceptable to the people among whom it is to be enforced, and by whose aid, in case of forcible resistance, it is to be made effectual.
"The provisions of the first section of the bill, it is hoped, will secure the fugitive (if he alleges he is free) a fair and impartial trial, more certainly than the law as it now stands. The Committee believe that this uncertainty as to the fate of one arrested as a fugitive, has given rise to the few instances known to us, of forcible resistance to the law. The same objection to the present law has undoubtedly stimulated the passage, in most instances, of what are called Personal Liberty bills' in some of the States. It should be borne in mind, that the objections urged by the Northern people are not to a law for the recovery of fugitives who really owe labor, but they are founded in the belief that the present law may and does permit the seizure of persons who are free, and subjects them to servitude contrary to both law and right. The Committee believe it to be unjust to the Free States, to assert that any considerable number of persons in those States are opposed to the reclamation of persons who, by the laws of any State, owe labor or service to another. If any such class exists, it is that known as Abolitionists. This class asserts its opposition to the Constitution, because it does authorize the pursuit and re-capture of fugitive slaves. In whatever light the persons composing this class may be regarded, it is certain
their numbers are so small, Mr. Corwin's Majority compared with the entire voting population of the Free States, that no danger can result to the constitutional rights of any portion of the Union from their peculiar opinions, or their modes of commending them to the gen. eral public. It is certainly true that this class does not act with any of the great political parties of the day, and that its chief leaders, and most talented orators, were most strenuously opposed to the Republican party in the late Presidential contest, and denounced it and its doctrines in bitter and unsparing terms. The great mistake, which is now urging on the public mind to the wildest excesses, consists in confounding the class of men known by the name of Abolitionists with the great mass of the Republican party of the North and West. Similar to this, and growing mainly out of it, is a belief which seems to have obtained very generally in the South, that the people of the Non-slaveholding States, having succeeded in electing a President, entertain a secret design to accumulate political power in both branches of Congress, until, through Congressional action, it will abolish Slavery in the States where it may then exist. How this purpose will be accomplished, we are not informed. This prediction has been poured into the ears of excited multitudes from the mouths of popular orators, and placed before their eyes in the pages of partisan presses, until in the Southern mind it seems to have assumed the form of a plausible fact. The party charged with this purpose when it met in Convention at Chicago to nominate its candidate, previous to the last Presidential election, declared its doctrine on this point in the following words: That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each to order and control its 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 under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes. Notwithstanding the preposterous character of this idea, the Committee have deemed the belief in it, in some portions of the South, sufficiently important to demand a notice at this time.
"That nothing possible should be left unattempted, in order to efface these false impressions, by the Committee, they have prepared, and subinit, an amendment to the Constitution, whereby any power to interfere with Slavery in the States is forever denied to Congress till every State in the Union, by its individual State action, shall consent to its exercise. They entertain a confident belief that this amendment will be approved by the number of States required by the Constitution to secure its a loption. If
The Committee are well aware that the frequent agitation of the subject of Slavery, in political contests, has given rise, in the minds of many, to fearful forebodings of disunion. It has undoubtedly con tributed to the present alienation of feeling between the Northern and Western and Southern and Southwestern sections of the Republic. Investigations into the rightfulness or policy of what is properly called forced labor, when conducted by thoughtful and discreet minds, in calm temper, guided by the laws of sound morals and political philosophy, could scarcely be attended with danger to the peace of society, and might be productive of much good. It is equally true that discussion touching the constitutional powers of the Federal Government and the powers of the States over the subject of Slavery, when properly conducted, would have the effect to elicit truth rather than to endanger public tranquility. But when this subject is brought into the arena of party politics, our experience has shown that it too frequently fails to attain the desired end, without disturbing to a dangerous extent the harmony and good will, so much to be desired, between all sections of the Republic. The truth of this remark will be fully shown by a brief reference to our history. In 1821 Missouri was admitted as a Slave State, and Slavery was, at the same time, prohibited in all the Territory lying North of the parallel 36 deg. 30 min. North latitude. At that time, so great was the agi tation, that men not at all prone to regard imaginary in the light of real danger, entertained great fears for the stability of the Government. The public mind, however, became calm, and yielding to the suggestions of true patriotism, harmony was restor ed, and public prosperity advanced with rapid steps. The next event which brought the subject of Slavery into public consideration was the annexation of Texas. The Presidential election of 1844 was made to turn almost entirely upon this single question. The great majority of the people of the Free States were much dissatisfied with the result; but with their views of duty as citizens of a free Republic, they submitted with regret, but with no disposition to make improper opposition to the will of the people expressed in accordance with all the forms of law. Between this period and that of 1821, the public mind had not been agitated nor the public peace at all endangered by discussion or Federal legisla tion touching the subject of slavery.
"The late war with Mexico resulted in the acquisi
Mr. Corwin's Majority Report.
MR. CORWIN'S MAJORITY REPORT.
tion of Territory. From the moment of this acquisition the question of the occupation of the Territory ceded by the treaty of peace with Slave or Free labor, again called into action all the conflicting opinions and ideas which have been, and perhaps always will be held on the subject of Slavery, until all men shall be agreed as to the moral and economical principles on which it rests. This struggle was attended with all the angry discussions which had so signally marked the two previous contests. Then, as now, disunion was threatened-public bodies resolved on Secession, and for two years scarcely any other question of interest was known or discussed in Congress. At length, in September 1850, Congress acted finally on the subject, and a peaceful, though in some quarters, a sullen acquiescence followed. The leading spirits of all parties, at that time, however, bowed eternal fidelity to that compromise, and the public mind, at that time, had reason to hope that our dominion having reached the Pacific Ocean, future acquisition of Territory would not be desired, and, by consequence, this disturbing question would not again arise. In 1854, however, by the repeal of the law of 1-21, known as the Missouri Compromise, and the attempt to extend Slavery into Territory where, by that venerable law, it had been prohibited, this disturbing question was again opened out of the grave in which it had been buried. In 1850 this fearful spirit of discord arose. The present deplorable condition of the country bears witness to the mischief which it has wrought. We see strong and opposite parties maintaining opposite opinions on this very question-these hostile opinions are strenuously adhered to on each side, leaving little or no hope of agreement without a surrender of convictions hon: estly entertained. An adjustment founded upon legal principles, in which all will agree, seems quite impossible. The expedient of withdrawing the subject-matter of controversy from this conflict of opinion, and by another mode of settlement giving to the South and the North all that each, under existing circumstances, would expect, or should desire to obtain, seems to the Committee the best, if not the only mode of adjustment left us.
Mr. Corwin's Majority Report.
present controversy, involving the right to carry Slavery into Territory not yet formed into State Governments, one peculiarly fitted for the application of the principle just announced.
"It is contended on the one hand, that in all the Territory now in possession of the United States, not embraced within the limits of any State, and lying South of the parallel of latitude 36 deg. 30 min. North, Slavery shall be established and protected by a law of Congress. The Territory thus defined comprehends the now organized Territory of New Mexico, including Arizona, which last, by law of Congress, has been attached to and made a part of New Mexico. This Territory was organized in 1850. By its organic law, the Territorial Legislature was authorized to enact laws and report them to Congress. It was provided in the same act, that if Congress should disapprove the laws thus made, they should be null and void.
In the year 1859, the Territorial Legislature of New Mexico established Slavery in that Territory. This law was annulled at the last session of Congress, by a vote of the House, but the Senate have not yet acted upon the bill. So the law of the Territory, not having been annulled by both Houses of Congress, remains in full force, and is thus established, and now exists by law in New Mexico.
"It is further provided by the act of 1850, that New Mexico, when she is admitted into the Union, shall be admitted with or without Slavery, as her Constitution may ordain. The Committee now propose to admit New Mexico into the Union as a State, on an equal footing with the original States. By this course the faith of the nation, pledged in the act of 1850, will be preserved, and Territory lying South of the parallel 36 deg. 30 min. will be disposed of, and the subject matter of controversy removed from the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. Thus all claimed by the South will be obtained, while the Northern portion of our remaining Territory will be subject to such law as the Constitution and Congress may furnish for its government.
"By this adjustment of the present Territory of the Union, including the Territory of all the States, it will be found that the area of the Free States and Territories, including all North of the line of 36 deg. 30 min., contains 1,648,779 square miles, and a population of 19,036,739, making a population of about 11 5-10 to the square mile.
"The area of the Slaveholding States, including New Mexico, is 1,094,504 square miles, with a Fedepopulation of 9 7-10 to the square mile.
"The Committee are impressed with a belief, growing out of the admonitions furnished by our past history, that, in a Republic constituted as ours is, in all cases where parties are obstinately divided in opinion, on subjects which touch the interests, or make up the passions of different sections, it is the clear dictate of sound policy to withdraw the sub-ral ject, in every case possible, from the strife of parties, and to keep the Federal Government as far removed from any connection with it as duty to the Constitution will permit. The Commitiee deem the
By this arrangement of all the Territory owned by the United States, when New Mexico is admitted as a Slave State, that possessed by the Slaveholding States will be greater, in proportion to Federal pop
Mr. Corwin's Majority Report.
ulation, than that occupied by the Non-slaveholding States and Territories. The Committee are at a loss to conceive what more than this can be demanded or desired by the South. This settlement commends itself to our acceptance as one which demands of no one any surrender of opinion for or against Slavery, for or against any proposition of constitutional law, and withdraws, for ever, from contest between North and South all Territory which the latter desire to possess-constituting it a State, with the privilege belonging to all States, to adopt such domestic institutions as her own sense of duty and interest shall determine.
"If it be objected that the population of the proposed State is too small to justify her admission into the Union at this time, we answer that it now contains a larger white population than either of two States now in the Union, and represented in both branches of Congress. The present population of New Mexico, including New Mexico, is estimated at 105,000. This computation of era and population may not be correct, but it is based on reliable data. It may also be objected that the present resources of the Territory are not equal to the support of a State Government. If this objection has any foundation in fact, it may be easily removed by liberal donations, such as Congress has often before made to new States on their coming into the Union. The Committee consider these and other objections to this plan, which might be suggested as too insignificant to weigh for a moment against the incalculable benefit to all the States, and all the people of all the States, which it is hoped may flow from the adoption of the measures proposed. Other plans and modes of adjustment have been presented and considered by the Committee. All of them, however, involve the surrender of opinions on questions of Constitutional law, long held by a large portion of the people, and too firmly grounded in their convictions to justify a demand of their abandonment, especially when the result desired by all can be reached without that sacrifice.
"From the beginning of our deliberations it was apparent that the disposition of that portion of our Territory lying South of the parallel of 36 deg. 30 min. was the main subject of difficulty. The settlement of that question was, however, complicated with a provision much insisted on for Territory hereafter to be acquired. This did not seem to the Committee properly to belong to the subject. The Committee did not think proper to extend their consideration of the embarrassments arising out of the occupation of Territory now within our possession to Territory which might or might not hereafter be acquired. It seemed to them improper, if not absurd, while our Government was threatened with
Mr.Cerwin's Major ty Report
overthrow by an angry controversy touching the disposition of our present Territorial possessions, to employ our time in arranging for a par tition among ourselves of the Territorial dominions of neighboring nations, looking to a future which, when it shall come, will probably bring with it circumstances and conditions which could not be now foreseen, and which, therefore, should be left to the judgments of those whose duty it may become to consider and act upon them.
"The subject of Slavery in the District of Columbia, and in those places in the Slaveholding States where the Federal Government has exclusive jurisdiction, as well as the inter-State Slave-trade, have been disposed of by a resolution accompanying this report, and the reason for that disposition briefly given in the resolution itself.
"The rendition of fugitives from justice has, at all times, and especially lately, been a source of much irritation between the States, and has recently connected itself, unhappily, with the subject of Slavery. The provisions of the Constitution have been differently construed by the Governors of different States, leading to controversy unfriendly to those amiable relations which should always subsist between the States.
"To remedy this mischief, the Committee have thought it expedient to transfer the duty of acting upon the requisitions of fugitives from justice from the Governors of the States to the Courts of the United States, so as to secure a judicial construction of the Constitution, and also secure uniformity of action on the subject, and present a bill for that purpose.
The Committee have prepared several resolutions which do not propose action on any specifie subject; but which, if adopted and approved by a vote of the House, may serve to announce principles which seem in some quarters to be questioned, while their adoption may tend to correct errors and misrepresentations that have obtained a too general belief in the Southern section of the Union.
"The intrinsic difficulties which belong to the subject must be the apology of the Committee for the time consumed in coming to the conclusions now submitted to the House. If the results which we have reached should fail to accomplish the so much desired end, the Committee still entertain a confident belief that Congress will speedily adopt some measure which will be accepted by all as a just and fair basis upon which the paternal relations between all sections of the Union may be restored.
"It is proper to observe that the Committee were not unanimous on all the resolutions and bills presented; but a majority of a quorum was obtained on them all. "THOMAS CORWIN, Chairman."
The minority report of Messrs. Washburn and Tappan was a long, interesting and able argument on the resolutions agreed upon in the Committee. It protested against the several resolves looking to concessions to the slave power, believing that the disease of dis
union had become chronic and would not be cured by concessions. We can give only the closing paragraphs of the Report as embodying its conclusions:
The Minority Reports.
"Having thus expressed our views on all the propositions of the Committee that contemplate any action, we feel compelled to say, that in our judgment they are one and all powerless for permanent good. The present dissatisfaction and discontent does not arise from the fact that the North has passed personal Liberty bills, or that the Fugitive Slave law is not faithfully executed, neither does it arise from an apprehension that the North proposes to interfere with Slavery in the States where it exists.
"The treasonable purposes of South Carolina are not of recent origin. In the recent Convention of that State leading members made use of the following language, in the debate on the passage of the
Ordinance of Secession.
Mr. Parker" Mr. President, it appears to me, with great deference to the opinions that have been expressed, that the public mind is fully made up to the gr at occasion that now awaits us. It is no spasmodic effort that has come suddenly upon us, but it has been gradually culminating for a long series of years, until at last, it has come to that point when we may say the matter is entirely right."
Mr. Inglis " Mr. President, if there is any gentleman present who wishes to debate this matter, of course this body will hear him; but as to delay for the purpose of discussion, I, for one, am opposed to it. As my friend (Mr. Parker) has said, most of us here had this matter under consideration for the last twenty years, and I presume we had, by this time, arrived at a decision upon the subject.”
Mr. Keitt Sir, we are performing a great act, which involves not only the stirring present, but embraces the whole great future for ages to come. I have been engaged in this great movement ever since I entered political life am content with what has been done to-day, and content with what will take place to-morrow. We have carried the body of this Union to its last resting place, and now we wil drop the flag over its grave. After that is done, I am ready to adjourn, and leave the remaining ceremonies for tomorrow."
Mr. Rhett "The Secession of South Carolina is not an event of a day. It is not anything produced by Mr. Lincoln's election, or by non-execution of the Fugitive Slave law. It has been a matter which has been gathering head for thirty years. The election of Lincoln and Hamlin was the last straw on the back of the camel. But it was not the only one. The back was nearly broken before. The point upon which I now differ from my friend, is this: He says he thought it expedient, for us to put this great question before the world upon this simple matter of wrongs on the question of Slavery,
"Such sentiments, expressing the opinions of leading representative men in the South Carolina movement, ought to satisfy, it seems to us, any reasonable man, that the proposed measures of the majority of the Committee will be powerless for good.
"South Carolina is our sick man,' that is laboring under the influence of the most distressing
of maladies. A morbid disease which has been preying upon that State for a long series of years has at last assumed the character of acute mania, and has extended to other members of the Confederacy, and to think of restoring the patient to health by the nostrums proposed, is, in our judgment, perfectly idle.
"Bnt we hear it said something must be done or the Union will be dissolved.' We do not care to go into a nice calculation of the benefits and disadvantages to the several States arising from the Union, with a view of striking a balance between them. Should we do so, we are convinced that that balance would largely favor the Southern section of the Confederacy.
"The North has never felt inclined to calculate the value of the Union. It may not be improper to inquire in this connection whether the State of South Carolina and the other ultra Secession States have been so oppressed by our Government as to render their continuance in the Union intolerable to their citizens.
"It is not pretended that they ever lose fugitive slaves, or that any escaping from those States have not been delivered up when demanded; nor is it pretended that the Personal Liberty bills of any State have practically affected any of their citizens. Neither do they complain that they cannot now go with their slaves into any Territory of the United States. The Supreme Court has decided that they have that right.
"Is it, then, complained that their citizens, under the operation of the Federal laws, are compelled to contribute an undue proportion of the means to maintain the Government? If so, and the complaint is well founded, it is deserving of notice.
"But it is not true in point of fact. We could easily demonstrate, by official figures, that the Government of the United States annually expends, for the exclusive use and benefit of South Carolina, a much larger sum than that State contributes for the support of the Government. This same rule will hold true in regard to most of the States that are