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Congress may emancipate slaves in any of the in its results; for, sir, a spirit of prophecy is territories of the United States where it exists, not necessary to enable a statesman to foresee the exercise of that power is subject to the con- that all such Congressional action will awaken dition that any owner, who withholds his con- jealousies and excite alarm, which will contribsent to the act, shall be paid the value of his ute to the unnatural prolongation of the legal exslave or slaves so emancipated against his will. istence of slavery in Amercca, rivet chains fo Yet, as property in human beings as slaves is slaves, and, in its ultimate issue, might probamerely legal, whether persons imported into a bly even dissolve the Union. territory subject to the jurisdiction of the Uni- According to the principles of the Declarated States, shall be slaves there or not, must tion of Independence, principles consecrated be a question of local law, and depends, there- in the affections, and imbedded in the institufore, on the will of the law-giver, constitution- tions of the countrymen of Washington, every ally expressed. Of course the freemen of any separate community of freemen ought to regusuch territory, if permitted to exercise all leg- late their own social organization. Under the islative authority for themselves, could, with- protection of these principles, the citizens who out doubt as to the power, prohibit the institu- shall cast their lots in Arkansas ought to detion of slavery within their limits; and conse- cide for themselves whether slavery shall exist quently, Congress, as long as it shall choose to there or not, just as they would control all their legislate for any such territory, may interdict other domestic institutions and social relations the introduction of slavery as a domestic insti- at home. Against their will, Congress ought tution. But I deny that such legislation, by not to force the establishment of slavery or any Congress, would ever be NECESSARY to the pub- other domestic relation among them-against lic welfare, OR WOULD, IN ANY CASE, WITHOUT THE their will Congress ought not to prohibit slaveHEARTY CONCURRENCE OF THE SLAVE STATES, BE ry there. As long as it shall exist in any of EITHER JUST OR PRUDENT. Congress has no pow- the states of the Union, every territory of the er over slavery in any of the states of the United States, as well as each state, should be Union. Its continuance, therefore, in the allowed to participate in it or not, as each, for United States, under the guarantees of the fed- itself, may choose. Let them all alone, and eral constitution, depends altogether on the especially let it alone. This is the true and will of the respective states in which it exists. only safe policy. If, in climate, soil, and proAn expansion of its area would not, of itself, ducts, ARKANSAS be so adapted to slave labor augment its evils or prolong its existence, but as to induce a majority of the immigrants to it would certainly tend to meliorate its condition. to carry slaves with them from slave states, or Neither policy nor benevolence would circum- to incline a majority of its freemen to prefer scribe it within the states where it now exists. the institution of slavery, why not let the felt No such effort, by Congress, would be benevo- interests and inclinations of those who elect to lent, because deterioration in the value of slaves make that Southern country their home, deand an aggravation of the perils and privations cide its destiny as to the relation of slavery? incident to slavery in its best estate would be A transportation of slaves from states to territhe necessaryconsequences of all such unphilan- tories does not increase the number of slaves in thropic legislation. Nor would such legisla- the United States, nor establish a slavery that tive interference be politic. 1st. Because it did not already exist; and if left to the promptwould be inconsistent with true benevolence. ings of their own interests and feelings, the 2nd. Because it would, to a great extent, give people of Arkansas should choose to maintain to a section of the Union and one class of our the institution of slavery, Congress will not citizens a monopoly of the territories bought be responsible. What is it to Congress, or to with the money or the blood of all, and would, the cause of universal liberty, whether I shall therefore, seem to be invidious and unparental. continue with my slaves in Kentucky or re3rd. Because it would be inconsistent with the move them to Arkansas? And why should compromising spirit of the constitution-would Congress say to me, "you shall not live in be felt, by a large portion of our fellow-citizens, Arkansas unless you first sell or manumit as intended indirectly to operate to the dispar- your slaves?" Was the power to legislate agement of their property guarantied by the over that territory given for any such purpose? public faith, and might, therefore, not only al- Or could the application of it to such a purienate the affections of many from the national pose promote the harmony of the Union, or the government, but breed sectional collisions, and cause of emancipation, or the mitigation of generate and exasperate sectional parties-the slavery, or the aggregate prosperity and genmost dangerous to the Union of all others--eral welfare of the people of the United States? and on a subject most pregnant with unrea- SLAVERY IS GEOGRAPHICAL. Arkansas is in the sonable and uncompromising passions; and slave latitude. Citizens in slave states will lastly, because no such legislation can do any be more inclined than those in free states to practical good, and therefore, being gratuitous, settle there, as the people in the latter states would be the more unkind and offensive; for if will be more disposed than those of the forit could neither hasten the peaceful extinction mer, to settle in territories north of about 37 of slavery, nor improve the condition of slaves degrees, north latitude. Then, if Congress in the United States, by what just or prudent will legislate on slavery in the territories, motive of national patriotism could it be justi- sound policy and distributive justice and fied or extenuated? None but a morbid phi-equality would recommend that it draw a latlanthropy, false in its aims and perhaps fatal itudinal line, (say about 37 degrees north lati
tude) south of which slavery may exist, but north of which it shall not. I would have no insuperable objection to this, although I would prefer total abstinence from all interference on that subject. No congressional act is necessary north of that line, beyond which slavery if left to its natural current, will never run or long continue, and any unnecessary act of interference by Congress will excite jealous feelings, incompatible with the moral cement of
of this young, robust, and promising Union, and finally, in the progress of desolation, may DESTROY ITS HEART FOREVER.
Let us pause and soberly reflect before we take this rash and perilous step. Let us take counsel of our patriarchs of '88. Let us consider our memorable past, and look, with patriot's hearts and statesmen's eyes, to our eventful future. Let us do as Washington, and Franklin, and Jefferson did, and would certainly do again were they now here. And if And now, Mr. Chairman, allow me to say, we shall all take this prudent course, I feel that if the proposed restriction be pertinacious- quite sure that the provision, now, for the first ly.insisted on and maintained by the majority time, unfortunately agitated, will be rejected of Congress, that majority will heedlessly by such a vote as will rebuke all Congressional sow wind, and may, in time to come, woefully legislation on American slavery, and assure, reap the whirlwind. They may, and I fear as far as the national councils can assure, will, recklessly raise a storm that will scatter peace to our country, and to our Union the seeds of discord over this favored land-strength, and health, and hopeful influence Dragons' teeth, whose rank and pestilential over the destinies of our race, here and else crop, upas-like, may poison the vital elements where-now and evermore.
On the 17th day of December, 1819, Mr. Robertson, of Kentucky, submitted to the House of Representatives of the United States the following resolution, which was adopted:
"Resolved, That the committee on the Public Lands be instructed to inquire into the expediency of so altering the laws regulating the sales of the vacant lands of the United States, that from and after the
, no credit shall be given thereon, and a less quantity may be purchased, and at a less price than is authorized by the existing laws." After consultation, it was deemed prudent to introduce the same subject into the Senate, whereby time might be saved in the discussion and progress of a bill.
And for that purpose, Mr. Leake of Mississippi, on the 20th of December, 1819, brought the subject before the Senate by a resolution, similar, in substance, to that previously adopted by the other House, on the resotion offered by Mr. Robertson.
Before the subject had been further acted on in the House of Representatives, a bill passed the Senate changing the mode of selling the public lands. That bill was reported by the land committee of the House, with amendments striking out the provisions for cash sales, at a minimum of $1,25 an acre, and for a sale of as small a quantity as 80 acres. Upon full argument, in committee of the whole, chiefly by Mr. Clay on one side and Mr. Robertson on the other, those amendments were rejected; and, on the question whether the House would concur in the rejection, for which Mr. Robertson contended, the vote was-yeas, 135; nays, 19; and on the next day, 20th of April, 1820, the bill passed by a vote of 133 to 23, of which 23 a majority were from the West. The yeas and nays were as follows:
Yeas-Messrs. Abbott, Alexander, Allen, of Mass., Anderson, of Ky., Archer, of Md., Baker, Baldwin, Barbour, Bateman, Bayley, Beecher, Boden, Brush, Buffum, Campbell, Case, Claggett, Clark, Cobb, Crafts, Crawford, Culbreth, Cushman, Cuthbert, Darlington, Davidson, Dennison, Dewitt, Dickinson, Dowse, Earl, Eddy, Edwards, of Conn., Edwards, of Pa., Edwards, of N. C., Fay, Fisher, Floyd, Folger, Foot, Forrest, Fuller, Fullerton, Garnett, Gross, of N. Y., Gross, of Pa., Hall, of N. Y., Hall, of Pa., Hall, of Del., Hall., of N. C., Hardin, of Ky., Hazard, Hemphill, Herrick, Hibshman, Hiester, Hill, Holmes, Hooks, Hostetter, Kendall, Kinsey, Little, Linn, Livermore, Lyman, McCoy, McLane, of Del., Mallary, Marchand, Mason, Meech, Meigs, Mercer, R. Moore, S. Moore, Monell, Morton, Moseley, Murray, Neale, Nelson, of Mass., Newton, Overstreet, Parker, of Mass., Parker, of Va., Patterson, Phelps, Philson, Pickney, Pindall, Pitcher, Plumer, Rankin, Reed, Rhea, Rich, Richards, Richmond, Robertson, Rogers, Ross, Russ, Sampson, Sawyer, Sergeant, Settle, Shaw, Silsbee, Simkins, Sloan, Slocumb, Smith, of N. J., Smith, of Md., B. Smith, of Va., Smith, of N. C., Southard, Storrs, Strong, of N. Y., Swearingen, Tarr, Taylor Tomlin
son, Tompkins, Tracy, Tucker, of S. C., Tyler, Van Renssealaer, Wallace, Wendover, Williams, of Va., Williams, of N. C.—133.
Nays-Messrs. Allen, of Tenn., Ball, Bloomfield, Brown, of Ky., Bryan, Burwell, Butler, of Lou., Cannon, Cook, Crowel, Culpepper, Ford, Hackley, Hendricks, Johnson, Jones, of Tenn., McCreary, McLean, of Ky., Stevens, Trimble, of Ky., Tucker, of Va., Walker-23.
Mr. R. C. Anderson, Mr. B. Hardin, and Mr. Robertson, were the only members from Kentucky who voted for the bill.
This law was opposed as anti-Western, and when it passed, was believed to be exceedingly unpopular in the West; but with even that prospect of being proscribed, Mr. Robertson, for reasons suggested in the following speech, staked himself on the law, as its author, and predicted that time would prove it to be a blessing. And time has, long since, affixed its approving seal to that prediction. No law ever enacted by Congress has been more generally approved, or has operated more beneficently on the Union, and especially on the population and destiny of the great Valley of the Mississippi.
This law established the system under which the public lands have been sold ever since the year 1820.