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LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN,
His Speech at the Cooper Institute.
Slavery in Mississippi.
“No great while after the adoption of the original Constitution, North Carolina ceded to the Federal Government the country now constituting the State of Tennessee ; and a few years later Georgia ceded that which now constitutes the States of Mississippi and Alabama. In both deeds of cession it was made a condition by the ceding States that the Federal Government should not prohibit slavery in the ceded country. Besides this, slavery was then actually in the ceded country. Under these circumstances, Congress, on taking charge of these countries did not absolutely prohibit slavery within them. But they did interfere with it—take control of it even there, to a certain extent. In 1798, Congress organized the Territory of Mississippi. In the act of organization they prohibited the bringing of slaves into the Territory, from any place without the United States, by fine and giving freedom to slaves so brought. This act passed both branches of Congress without yeas and nays. In that Congress were three of the thirty-nine' who framed the original Constitution. They were John Langdon, George Read, and Abraham Baldwin. They all, probably, voted for it. Certainly they would have placed their opposition to it upon record, if, in their understanding, any line dividing local from Federal authority, or any thing in the Constitution, properly forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in Federal territory.
"In 1803, the Federal Government purchased the Louisiana country. Our former territorial acquisitions came from certain of our own States; but this Louisiana country was acquired from a foreign nation. In 1804, Congress gave a territorial organization to that part of it which now constitutes the State of Louisiana. New Orleans, lying within that part, was an old and comparatively large city. There were other considerable towns and settlements, and slavery was extensively and thoroughly intermingled with the people. Congress did not, in the Territorial Act, prohibit slavery;
His Speech at the Couper Institute.
Slavery in Louisiana.
The Missouri Question.
but they did interfere with it-take control of it--in a more marked and extensive way than they did in the case of Mississippi. The substance of the provision therein made, in relation to slaves, was:
"First. That no slave should be imported into the territory from foreign parts.
"Second. That no slave should be carried into it who had been imported into the United States since the first day of May, 1798.
Third. That no slave should be carried into it, except by the owner, and for bis own use as a settler; the penalty in all the cases being a fine upon the violator of the law, and freedom to the slave. “ This act also was passed without yeas and
In the Congress which passed it, there were two of the thirty-nine.' They were Abraham Baldwin and Jonathan Dayton. As stated in the case of Mississippi, it is probable they both voted for it. They would not have allowed it to pass without recording their opposition to it, if, in their understanding, it violated either the line proper dividing local from Federal authority or any provision of the Constitution.
"In 1819–20, came and passed the Missouri question. Many votes were taken, by yeas and nays, in both branches of Congress, upon the various phases of the general question. Two of the 'thirty-nine'-Rufus King and Charles Pinckneywere members of that Congress. Mr. King steadily voted for slavery prohibition and against all compromises, while Mr. Pinckney as steadily voted against slavery prohibition and against all compromises. By this Mr. King showed that, in his understanding, no line dividing local from Federal au. thority, nor any thing in the Constitution, was violated by Congress probibiting slavery in Federal territory; wbile Mr. Pinckney, by his votes, showed that in his understanding there was some sufficient reason for opposing such prohibition
in that case.
His Speech at the Cooper Institute.
Views of the Original "Thirty-Nine."
“ The cases I have mentioned are the only acts of the 'thirty-nine,' or of any of them, upon the direct issue, which I have been able to discover.
“To enumerate the persons who thus acted, as being four in 1784, three in 1787, seventeen in 1789, three in 1798, two in 1804, and two in 1819–20—there would be thirty-one of them. But this would be counting John Langdon, Roger Sherman, William Few, Rufus King, and George Read, each twice, and Abraham Baldwin four times. The true number of those of the 'thirty-nine' whom I have shown to bave acted upon the question, which, by the text they understood better than we, is twenty-three, leaving sixteen not shown to have acted upon it in any way.
“Here, then, we have twenty-three out of our thirty-nine' fathers who framed the government under which we live, who bave, upon their official responsibility and their corporal vaths, acted upon the very question which the text affirms they 'understood just as well, and even better than we do now;' and twenty-one of them—a clear majority of the 'thirty-nine'-so acting upon it as to make them guilty of gross political impropriety, and wilful perjury, if, in their understanding, any proper division between local and Federal authority, or any thing in the Constitution they had made themselves, and to support, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the Federal territories. Thus the twenty-one acted; and, as actions speak louder tban words, so actions under such responsibility speak still louder.
“Two of the twenty-three voted against Congressional prohibition of slavery in the Federal Territories, in the instances in which they acted upon the question. But for what reasons they so voted is pot known. They may have done so because they thought a proper division of local from Federal authority, or some provision or principle of the Constitution, stood in the way; or they may, without any
IIis Speech at the Cooper Institute.
Views of the “Thirty-Nine" on Slavery.
such question, have voted against the prohibition, on what appeared to them to be sufficient grounds of expediency. No one who has sworn to support the Constitution, can conscientiously vote for what he understands to be an unconstitutional measure, however expedient he may think it; but one may and ought to vote against a measure which he deems constitutional, if, at the same time, he deems it inexpedient. It, therefore, would be unsafe to set down even the two who voted against the prohibition, as having done so because, in their understanding, any proper division of local from Federal authority, or any thing in the Constitution, forbade the Federal Govornment to control as to slavery in Federal Territory.
“The remaining sixteen of the 'thirty-nine,' so far as I bave discovered, have left no record of their understanding upon the direct question of Federal control of slavery in the Federal Territories. But there is much reason to believe that their understanding upon that question would not have appeared different from that of their twenty-three compeers, had it been manifested at all.
"For the purpose of adhering rigidly to the text, I have purposely omitted whatever understanding may have been manifested, by any person, however distinguished, other than the 'thirty-nine' fathers who framed the original Constitution; and, for the same reason, I have also omitted whatever understanding may have been manifested by any of the * thirty-nine' even, on any other phase of the general question of slavery. If we should look into their acts and declarations on those other phases, as the foreign slave-trade, and the morality and policy of slavery generally, it would appear to us that on the direct question of Federal control of slavery in Federal Territories, the sixteen, if they had acted at all, would probably have acted just as the twenty-three did. Among that sixteen were several of the most noted antislavery men of those times—as Dr. Franklin, Alexander
LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
His Speech at the Cooper Institute.
Federal control of Slavery.
Hamilton, and Governeur Morris—while there was not one now known to have been otherwise, unless it may be John Rutledge, of South Carolina.
“The sum of the whole is, that of our 'thirty-nine' fathers who framed the original Constitution, twenty-one-a clear majority of the whole-certainly understood that no proper division of local from Federal authority nor any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control slavery in the Federal Territories, while all the rest probably bad the same understanding. Such, unquestionably, was the understanding of our fathers who framed the original Constitution; and the text affirms that they understood the question better than we.
“But, so far, I have been considering the understanding of the question manifested by the framers of the original Constitution. In and by the original instrument, a mode was provided for amending it; and, as I have already stated, the present frame of government under which we live consists of that original, and twelve amendatory articles framed and adopted since. Those who now insist that Federal control of slavery in Federal territories violates the Constitution, point us to the provisions which they suppose it thus violates; and, as I understand, they all fix upon provisions in these amendatory articles, and not in the original instrument. Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case, plant themselves upon the fifth amendment, which provides that 'no person shall be deprived of property without due process of law ;' while Senator Douglas and his peculiar adherents plant themselves upon the tenth commandment, providing that 'the powers not granted by the Constitution are reserved to the States respectively, and to the people.'
“Now, it so happens that these amendments were framed by the first Congress which sat under the Constitution—the identical Congress which passed the act already mentioned, enforcing the prohibition of slavery in the north-western