« PreviousContinue »
Senators generally treated the election of the previous Noveni. ber as having been a virtual decision against the equality and rights of the slaveholding States. The Republican members disavowed this construction, and proclaimed their willingness to adopt any just and proper measures which would quiet the apprehensions of the South, while they insisted that the authority of the Constitution should be maintained, and the constitutional election of a President should be respected. At the opening of the session Mr. Powell, of Kentucky, in the Senate moved the reference of that portion of the President's Message which related to the sectional difficulties of the country, to a select committee of thirteen. This resolution being adopted, Mr. Crittenden immediately afterwards introduced a series of joint resolutions, embodying what came to be known afterwards as the Crittenden Compromise—proposing to submit to the action of the people of the several States the following amendments to the Constitution :
1. Prohibiting slavery in all the territory of the United States north of 36° 30', and protecting it as property in all territory south of that line ; and admitting into the Union, with or without slavery as its Con. stitution might provide, any State that might be formed out such territory, whenever its population should be sufficient to entitle it to a member of Congress.
2. Prohibiting Congress from abolishing slavery in places under its exclusive jurisdiction within Slave States.
3. Prohibiting Congress from abolishing slavery within the District of Columbia, so long as slavery should exist in Virginia or Maryland; or without the consent of the inhabitants or without just compensation to the owners.
4. Prohibiting Congress from hindering the transportation of slaves from one State to another, or to a territory in which slavery is allowed.
5. Providing that where a fugitive slave is lost to his owner by violent resistance to the execution of the process of the law for his recovery, the United States shall pay to said owner his full value, and may recover the same from the county in which such rescue occurred.
6. These provisions were declared to be unchangeable by any futuro amendment of the Constitution, as were also the existing articles relating to the representation of slaves and the surrender of fugitives.
Besides these proposed amendments of the Constitution Mr. Crittenden's resolutions embodied certain declarations in affirmance of the constitutionality and binding force of the fugitive slave law-recommending the repeal by the States of all bills, the effect of which was to hinder the execution of that law, proposing to amend it by equalizing its fees, and urging the effectual execution of the law for the suppression of the African slave trade.
These resolutions were referred to the Committee of Thirteen, ordered on Mr. Powell's motion, and composed of the following Senators:
Messrs. Powell, Huntex Crittenden, Seward, Toombs, Douglas, Collamer, Davis, Wade, Bigler, Rice, Doolittle, and Grimes.
On the 31st of December, this Committee reported that they “had not been able to agree upon any general plan of adjustment.” The whole subject was nevertheless discussed over and over again during the residue of the session; but no, final action was taken until the very day of its close. On the 21st of January, Messrs. Yulee and Mallory, of Florida, resigned their seats in the Senate because their State had passed an ordinance of secession, and on the 28th Mr. Iverson, of Georgia, followed their example. Messrs. Clay and Fitzpatrick, of Alabama, and Mr. Davis, of Mississippi, followed next, and on the 4th of February Messrs. Slidell and Benjamin, of Louisiana, also took their leave.
In the House of Representatives the debates took the same general direction as in the Senate. On the first day of the session a résolution was adopted, by a vote of 145 to 38, to refer so much of the President's Message as related to the perilous condition of the country, to a committee of one from each State. This committee was appointed as follows:
Corwin of Ohio.
Dunn of Indiana
A great variety of resolutions were offered and referred to this committee. In a few days the committee reported the following series of resolutions, and recommended their adoption :
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all attempts on the parts of the Legislatures of any of the States to obstruct or hinder the recovery and surrender of fugitives from service or labor, are in derogation of the Constitution of the United States, inconsistent with the comity and good neighborhood that should prevail among the several States, and dangerous to the peace of the Union.
Resolved, That the several States be respectfully requested to cause their statutes to be revised, with a view to ascertain if any of them are in conflict with or tend to embarrass or hinder the execution of the laws of the United States, made in pursuance of the second section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the United States for the delivering up of persons held to labor by the laws of any State and escaping therefrom; and the Senate and House of Representatives earnestly request that all enactments having such tendency be forthwith repealed, as required by a just sense of constitutional obligations, and by a due regard for the peace of the Republic; and the President of the United States is requested to communicate these resolutions to the
Governors of the several States, with a request that they will lay the same before the Legislatures thereof respectively.
Resolved, That we recognize slavery as now existing in fifteen of the United States by the usages and laws of those States; and we recognize no authority, legally or otherwise, outside of a State where it so exists, to interfere with slaves or slavery in such States, in disregard of the rights of their owners or the peace of society.
Resolved, That we recognize the justice and propriety of a faithful execution of the Constitution, and laws made in pursuance thereof, on the subject of fugitive slaves, or fugitives from service or labor, and discountenance all mobs or hinderances to the execution of such laws, and that citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.
Resolved, That we recognize no such conflicting elements in its composition, or sufficient cause from any source, for a dissolution of this Government; that we were not sent here to destroy, but to sustain and harmonize the institutions of the country, and to see that equal justice is done to all parts of the same; and finally, to perpetuate its existence on terms of equality and justice to all the States.
Resolved, That a faithful observance, on the part of all the States, of all their constitutional obligations to each other and to the Federal Gov. ernment, is essential to the peace of the country.
Resolved, That it is the duty of the Federal Government to enforce the Federal laws, protect the Federal property, and preserve the Union of these Stat
Resolved, That each State be requested to revise its statutes, and, if necessary, so to amend the same as to secure, without legislation by Congress, to citizens of other States travelling therein, the same protection as citizens of such State enjoy; and also to protect the citizens of other States travelling or sojourning therein against popular violence or illegal summary punishment, without trial in due form of law, for imputed crimes.
Resolved, That each State be also respectfully requested to enact such laws as will prevent and punish any attempt whatever in such State to recognize or set on foot the lawless invasion of any other State Territory.
Resolved, That the President be requested to transmit copies of the foregoing resolutions to the Governors of the several States, with a request that they be communicated to their respective Legis. latures.
These resolutions were intended and admirably calculated to calm the apprehensions of the people of the slaveholding States as to any disposition on the part of the Federal Government to interfere with Slavery, or withhold froin them any of their constitutional rights; and in a House controlled by a large Republican majority, they were adopted by a vote of ayes 136, noes 53. Not content with this effort to satisfy all just complaints on the part of the Southern States, the same committee reported the following resolution, recommending such an amendment of the Constitution as should put it forever,out of the power of the Government or people of the United States to interfere with Slavery in any of the States :
Be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of both Houses concurring), That the following article be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which, when ratified by three-fourths of said Legislatures, shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the said Constitution, namely:
Art. 12. No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize, or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of per sons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.
This resolution was adopted by a vote of 133 to 65—more than two-thirds in its favor. This closed the action of the House of Representatives at this session on this important subject, though it had previously adopted, by a unanimous vote, the following declaratory resolution :
Resolved, That neither the Federal Governinent nor the people, or the governments of the non-slaveholding States, have the right to legislate upon or interfere with Slavery in any of the slaveholding States in the Union.
The action of the Senate was somewhat modified by the intervening action of a Peace Conference, which assembled at