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If the Constitution had abolished instantly the foreign slave-trade, if the basis of representation had been limited to free persons, and if it had been provided that the question whether an alleged fugitive from service was bound legally to perform such service should be decided by a jury, the system of slavery would have continued for years, and perhaps for generations, in the States of the Gulf of Mexico and the Lower Mississippi Valley.
Slavery would have been without political power, and therefore it never could have organized a rebellion against the Government. In a state of domestic peace there would have been no justifying cause for national interference.
In that condition of affairs, slavery would have existed in the several States until by the individual action of such States its abolition had been decreed. The effect, then, of the constitutional con. cessions to and guarantees for slavery was to endow the slave States with unequal political power for two generations, and then to dethrone them and leave them prostrate and under the absolute control of the free States.
The advantages which slavery and the slave-holding class derived from the guarantees of the Constitution were all temporary, and they all have disappeared. The compromises of the Constitution and the compromises under the Constitution are alike valueless. The annexation of Texas, the Mexican war, the struggles in Kansas, have all inured to the advantage of freedom.
When the three provisions concerning slavery were embodied in the Constitution, a conflict was inevitable. Whenever, in a free government, a conflict arises upon a topic that engages the thought of the majority, the contestants will either appropriate existing parties to their service or they will create new ones. When slavery demanded new guarantees, neither of the then existing parties was prepared to resist the demand. Hence the Republican party was a necessity, and its organization has been the instrumentality by which the people have destroyed slavery, reformed the Constitution, and reconstructed the government upon the two cardinal principles of the equality of States and the equality of men.
The contest is not ended. It will continue until the sentiments and traditions bred of slavery have disappeared from the States and communities once cursed by that institution. Hence the necessity remains for the continued existence of the Republican party. That party is the only political organization that is authorized to speak
for or to defend what has been accomplished. The measures of which it may boast and on which its claim to continuing public confidence rests, have all been resisted, and often they have been denounced by the Democratic party. Execution of those measures yet remains to be done.
The great struggle through which the nation has passed was accepted and continued by the Republican party for the purpose of abolishing those features of the Constitution which recognized injustice as a force in the government. So much has been accomplished, but injustice in the administration of the government still exists. The Democratic party as an organization profited by the injustice of slavery, and therefore it resisted the overthrow of slavery. It now profits by the intolerance and persecution that prevail in the old slave States. That intolerance and persecution it now defends.
By the agency of the Republican party, and as a constitutional right, the equality of all men before the law has been secured; but upon the Republican party rest the obligation and the duty of securing that right, as a practical and conceded right, to all the citizens of the United States.
THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE AND ITS REPEAL.
I would not be just to assume that the framers of the Constitution
foresaw the evils which have flowed from the provisions relating to slavery. Indeed, it is probable that the delegates from the South and the North alike expected the gradual destruction of the system, and that at no distant day.
Cotton-raising in the United States was then an experimental and unproductive application of labor. The total export of cotton in the year 1800 was less than 90,000 bales, weighing 215 pounds each, and the domestic consumption in factories did not exceed 500 bales. At that time there were only three spinning-mills in America. In the year 1790 there was neither domestic demand nor foreign trade in cotton. In 1764 eight bags of American cotton were seized in Liverpool upon the allegation that it could not have been grown in America. When it was released the spinners neglected it, doubting whether it could be worked profitably.
Between the year 1788 and the year 1800 two inventions were made, which added immensely to the profits of the cotton culture and to the value of slave labor. Eli Whitney invented the cottongin, and Jacob Marshall invented the cotton-press. Whitney was from Westborough, and Marshall was from Lunenburg, both in the county of Worcester and State of Massachusetts. Previous to those inventions, the seeds of cotton had been separated from the lint by hand labor or by rude mechanical devices, and the cotton destined for market had been trodden in round sacks or bags. The invention of the cotton-gin, especially, stimulated the importation of slaves from Africa, added to their value in the tobacco and grain-growing sections, inaugurated the trade in slaves between the States of the Potomac and the States of the Gulf of Mexico, and finally added the lust of gain to the love for political power, as inducements for the
extension and defense of the system of slavery. Then came into public view a class of moralists and theologians, who maintained the doctrine that the rude and savage negroes of Africa had been transferred to a school of civilization and progress, and that slavery was not only not forbidden in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, but that it was recognized and tolerated in all. Thus was slavery imbedded in the Constitution, and protected by moral, theological, and financial defenses and defenders. Law, wealth, and theology had combined for its protection.
In 1794 Congress passed penal statutes against the exportation of slaves from the United States, and prohibiting the use of American vessels for the transportation of slaves from one foreign country to another. This legislation satisfied the moral sentiment of the North, and promoted the pecuniary interests of the South.
In 1807 Congress proceeded to enforce the Constitutional inhibition against the importation of slaves. By the statute of March 2, 1807, any person found guilty of being engaged in the foreign slave-trade was liable to imprisonment for not less than five nor more than ten years, and to a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars. The penalty of forfeiture was imposed upon vessels and their equipment, when found engaged in the slave-trade.
In this statute, by the seventh section, a very important concession was made to slavery. It was provided that all negroes and mulattoes found on any vessel arrested in the slave-trade should be delivered to the authorities of the State into whose port the inculpated vessel was brought. Under this statute the State of Louisiana enacted a law that all negroes and mulattoes delivered to the Governor of that State by virtue of the statute of 1807 should be sold as slaves. The object of the seventh section of the statute of 1807 was the protection of the Slave States against the presence of free negroes. Its effect was to add to the slave population of the country. The statute of 1807 remained in force until 1819, when the captors of any vessel engaged in the slave-trade were required to deliver to the President of the United States all persons of color found on board such vessel. Provision was made for the return of such persons to the coast of Africa.
The Free States and the Slave States did not antagonize each other upon questions touching the suppression of the foreign slave-trade. Georgia and South Carolina had insisted upon the right to continue the importation of slaves from Africa as a check to the monopoly of slave labor in the northern Slave States. The continuance of the
trade for twenty years was a compromise between the Free States and the northern Slave States on one side, and the States of the extreme South on the other. Under the influence of the same motives Virginia and her associates of the border were willing to prohibit the foreign trade at the earliest day. They were also, and for the same reason, ready to provide for the return to Africa of all negroes found on board of slave-trading vessels. If Louisiana and her associates would have made them slaves, and if New York and her associates would have made them free, it was true that Virginia and her associates were not prepared to accept either alternative.
The return to Africa of all captured negroes may have been just, but manifestly it was a politic proceeding for the border Slave States. From 1789 to 1820 there was no other action by the Government of the United States which affected, or could in its results affect, the institution of slavery. Of the thirteen colonies, seven had become Free States, and six were Slave States. Of the nine new States admitted into the Union previous to the year 1820, five were Slave States, and four were Free States. Thus an absolute equilibrium of political power had been established. Eleven States were Free States, and there were eleven States that maintained slavery. The establishment of this equilibrium, and the tendency to its overthrow, were the cause or the occasion of the bitter sectional struggle which, commencing in 1820, even yet disturbs the harmony of the Republic.
The pro-slavery provisions of the Constitution gave rise to that struggle, and in its progress the antagonizing parties became sectional. The Whig party disappeared, and the Democratic party abandoned its principles.
The anti-slavery sentiment was organized in the Republican party, and so organized, it was destined to accomplish two historical results -the destruction of slavery, and the preservation of the Union.
As the Whig party, as an organization, would neither oppose nor defend slavery, it could not command efficient support either North or South. The Democratic party passed through the successive stages of Constitutional protection to slavery, non-interference by the National Government, the supremacy of the laws of nature over the question of slavery extension, and finally it subordinated its love for the Union, and yielded itself absolutely to the defense of the insti tution of slavery. With the formation of the Confederacy the Democratic party ceased to exist in the rebel States, and in the North,