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government of God. And thus she possesses the first, last, and chief element of democratic or republican states—impartial civil liberty—that element which favors the creation of wealth, without which a state must be powerless; the equalization of property, without an approximation to which a state is exposed to oppression; the diffusion of knowledge, without which republican institutions cannot be preserved; and the development of strength, courage, and enterprise, without which a state cannot flourish. New Mexico has adopted the system that is best fitted to maintain war, and the system that is best adapted to secure peace. New Mexico, therefore, might well have aspired, even under Mexican sway-much more may she aspire under the fostering care of the United States—to such greatness as the free states in this Union have attained—such greatness as is attainable by only purely democratic states.
New Mexico, pressed by the encroachment of Texas, and by the jealousy of the slave states, implores from us protection of her territory and of her constitution. This bill of compromise compromises her claims by dividing her territory right and left, boldly assigning a part to undisguised slavery, and the rest insidiously to exposed freedom. Sir, if I concur in giving any government to New Mexico, it must be as good a one as she has already. Although the drama of our conquest in Mexico falls into successive acts, conducted by different performers, it is nevertheless one whole transaction; and if this bill shall pass, that transaction, so far as New Mexico is concerned, will be a conquest of a free republic, and the conversion of it in whole or in part into a slave state.
What is New Mexico that she should be thus wronged ? An unoffending rival, prostrate at our feet? I pray you, senators, for the sake, if not of justice, at least of magnanimity, to exercise your power over her by sparing her—to punish by forgiving her the crime of loving liberty too well. Her ancient charter contains the glowing words established by the consent of mankind as the foundation of all true government, which Jefferson made our own—“All men naturally were born free, and were, by privilege above all the creatures, born to command, and not to obey earthly authority, not derived from their own consent.” That charter is in our hands.
If we rase all that out, and give the charter back to New Mexico,
a mutilated and lifeless thing, we shall have repeated the crime of the partition of Poland, the crime of the subversion of the recent brief, but brilliant republic of Italy; we shall have emulated the Stuart, who seized the charters of the free corporations of England, and thereby lost a throne; and shall have surpassed the Guelph, who interpolated taxation without representation into the Constitution of Britain, and thereby lost the empire which we enjoy. Sir, it would be an act so unjust and so tyrannical, that, upon the principles of our own separation from Great Britain, it would work a forfeiture of our title altogether. Hear what the good Las Casas said to the Emperor Charles the Fifth, concerning these very possessions :
"Notwithstanding your grant of all these countries from the Pope, and your title by conquest, you have yet no right over them, unless you do in the first place, as the principal end, regard their good. The reason is, that regard is to be had to the principal end and the cause for which a superior or universal lord is set over them, which is their good and profit, and not that it should turn to their destruction and ruin; for if that should be, from thenceforward that power would be tyrannical and unjust, as tending more to the interest and profit of the lord, than to the public good and profit of the subjects, which, according to natural reason and the laws of God and man, is abhorred, and deserves to be abhorred."
Sir, I beg those citizens of the metropolis in the state from which I come, who have requested me to vote for this bill, to consider it in these respects, and then to “examine me, and say how look I, that I should seem to be lacking in justice and humanity so much as this fact comes to.”
But it is said that the ordinance of 1787 is unnecessary in New Mexico, and therefore is an abstraction, and that it gives offence.
I cannot yield implicit faith to those who assure me that peculiarities of soil and climate in New Mexico exclude slavery. They are combined with other statesmen who deny that point; and this bill concedes away the point itself. It expressly covenants to admit New Mexico as a slave state, if she shall come in that character. I cannot surrender a just and benevolent purpose to arguments which knit contradictions as closely as words can lie together. I know that there are slaves at this moment in Utah ; and I know, moreover, that the discovery of a few flakes of gold, or of a few grains of silver, or even of a few lumps of coal in the unexplored recesses of New Mexico, would be followed by a new revelation of the will of the Almighty in regard to it.
Sir, perhaps those who excuse this measure can point me to a tyrant who ever deprived his subjects of what he deemed neces
sary for them. A Roman Emperor thought one neck was enough for the Roman people, when he wished they had but one that he might destroy the body politic at a blow. Perhaps they can point me to any act conferring or declaring human rights that was not an abstraction. It was observed by one of the founders of the commonwealth of England, that the promulgation of those rights had always “been in terms not concrete, but abstract."*
Our own experience is the same. There is the Declaration of Independence, with its solemn recital of the natural equality of men, and of the inalienability of their essential rights. There is the Constitution of the United States, beginning with its sublime summary of the objects of the government, and ending with its jealous bill of personal rights. What were these but abstractions ? There is the same bill of rights in every constitution; and even the constitutions of many of the slave states hopefully assert abstractions of equality, which, for want of only a complete development of political justice, are not yet reduced to the concrete by established laws.
Perhaps, moreover, the apologists can show me some act decla-, ratory of human rights that did not give offence. The tyrant of France took umbrage at the noble motto which Algernon Sydney inscribed in the album of the king of Denmark:
-Manus HÆC, INIMICA TYRANNIS,
ENSE PETIT PLACIDAM SUB LIBERTATE QUIETEM. Nay, Algernon Sydney expiated with his life the offence of writing as mere abstractions the fundamental principles of our own Constitution; and among them was the Wilmot Proviso, thus expressed by that immortal patriot : “The liberty of one man cannot be limited or diminished by one or by any number of men, and none can give away the right of another.”
Equal justice always excites fear, and therefore always gives offence; otherwise its way would be smooth and its sway universal. The abstractions of human rights are the only permanent foundations of society. It is by referring to them that men determine what is established because it is right, in order to uphold it forever; and what is right only because it is established, in order that they may lawfully change it, in accordance with the increase of knowledge and the progress of reason. The abstraction now in question is the right of all the members
of a state to equal political freedom. That is the Wilmot Proviso --that is the proviso of freedom-call it by whatever name you will. If it ever was right at any time, in any place, under any circumstances, it is right always, in all places, and under all circumstances. It can be renounced safely nowhere. Certainly New Mexico is not the region, nor is hers the soil, nor hers the clime, where it should be renounced. New Mexico is the very field of the contest. If we surrender here, where we have all the vantage, where else shall we find ground on which to make resistance?
We have taken a breathing spell from annexation of territory to divide the gains. This division once made, no matter how, the national instinct-an instinct fostered by democratic sentiments and sympathies, and invigorated by martial ambition—will hurry us on again, in a career that presents few formidable obstacles. Whatever seemed attractive to the slave states in Louisiana, in Florida, in Texas, in New Mexico, and in California, is surpassed in the valley of Mexico, in Yucatan, in Cuba, in Nicaragua, in Guatemala, and in other states of Central America. There are fields native to the tobacco plant, to the rice plant, to the cotton plant, and to the sugar cane, and the tropical fruits; and there are even mines of silver and of gold. There the climate disposes to indolence, indolence to luxury, and luxury to slavery. There those who can read the Wilmot Proviso only in the rigors of perpetual winter, or in arid sands, will fail to discern its inhibition. Our pioneers are already abroad in those inviting regions ; our capital is making passages through them from ocean to ocean; and within ten years those passages will be environed by American communities, surpassing in power and wealth, if not in numbers, the unsettled and unenterprising states now existing there. You will say that national moderation will prevent further annexation. But national moderation did not hold us back from the Mississippi, nor from the Nueces, nor from the Rio Grande, nor from even the coast of the Pacific ocean. The virtue grows weaker always as the nation grows stronger.
The demand of the slave states for a division line of 36° 30', elsewhere across the continent, between slavery in the south and freedom in the north, betrays the near expectation of these conquests. The domestic production and commerce in slaves will supplant the African slave trade, and new slave states will surround the Gulf of Mexico and cover its islands. Those new states,
combined with slave states already existing, will constitute a slave empire, whose seat of commerce on the Crescent levee will domineer not only over the southern portion of the continent, but, through the Mississippi and its far-reaching tributaries, over the broad valley that stretches away from the foot of the Alleghanies to the base of the Rocky Mountains.
This, sir, is the dream of the slaveholder, and this is the interpretation thereof. I know full well that it is woven of the stuff that all “dreams are made of.” I know how hopeless would be the attempt to establish and to maintain such states, and an empire composed of such states. But I know that nothing seems to slavery impossible, after advantages already won; and that calamities, distant, and therefore derided, will not deter it from the prosecution of its purpose, or extinguish the hope of success.
There is a sound maxim which teaches that every government is perpetually degenerating toward corruption, from which it must be rescued at successive periods by the resuscitation of its first principles and the re-establishment of its original constitution. The blood is not more native to the heart than the principle of the equality of men contained in the ordinance of 1787 to the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution of the United States confers no power upon Congress to deprive men of their natural rights and inalienable liberty. I shall, therefore, insist upon applying the proviso, not only where it is necessary to save a territory from slavery, but even where its application might be waived, as a means of preserving and renewing the Constitution itself. It cannot be bad political husbandry to stir the earth and apply fresh mould to the roots of the vine our forefathers planted, when its branches are spreading themselves abroad and clustering upon the states which surround us.
Cherishing these opinions, I have struggled, and I shall struggle to the last, to extend the ordinance of 1787 over New Mexico. If I fail in that, I shall not then surrender it by entering into the riddling covenant contained in this bill ; but shall fall back, as I did in the case of California, upon the people of the territory, and leave New Mexico in the mean time under the protection of her ancient laws, deeming her “more safe in sitting free, though without guard, in open danger, than enclosed in a suspected safety.” This, sir, will be non-intervention-such non-intervention as you and I can practice and can justify; not voluntary, self-imposed