Nashville Southern convention.

Resolutions and address, adopted by the Southern convention. Held at Nashville, Tennessee, June 3d to 12th inclusive, in the year 1850 online

. (page 2 of 3)
Online LibraryNashville Southern conventionResolutions and address, adopted by the Southern convention. Held at Nashville, Tennessee, June 3d to 12th inclusive, in the year 1850 → online text (page 2 of 3)
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to maintain them; and finding in the Northern States no dispo-
sition to abate their demands, the Convention in which we are
assembled, has been brought together to take counsel as to the
course the Southern States should pursue, for the maintenance
of their rights, liberty and honor.

Such is a brief, but imperfect, statement of past transactions:
and they force upon us the question, in what condition do they
place the Southern States? And first, what is their condition in
Congress? The time was when your Representatives in Con-
gress, were neither offered, nor would they endure, reproach in
your behalf. But for many years past, they have heard you in
Congress habitually reviled by the most opprobrious epithelson
account of the institution of slavery. If their spirits are yet un-
broken, they must be chilled by a sense of humiliation at the in-
sults they daily receive as your representatives. You are
arraigned as criminals. Slavery is dragged into every debate,
and Congress has become little else, than a grand instrument in
the hands of abolitionists to degrade and ruin the South. Instead
of peace and protection, aggression and insult on the South char-
acterize its proceedings and councils. And what is your condi-
tion, with respect to your sister States? Where is that respect
and comity, which (due from all nations toward each other) is
more especially due from States bound together in a confederacy,,
and which was once displayed in all their intercourse. Instead
of respect, and sympathy — denunciation and hostility, on account
of your institution of slavery, have for years past characterized
the communications addressed to you by the Northern States.
And what is your condition in the Union? The non-slavehold-
ing States stand combined, not only to wrest from you your com-
mon property, but to place upon your front, the brand of inferior-
ity. You are not to extend, on aoc&wnt oi your instiiutio: s, but
they are to increase and multiply, that the shame and sin of
slave. y, may by their philanthropic agency, be extinguished



12

t you. But the worst feature of your condition is,
progressive* As Iqw and humiliating as it now may he.
it is destined, if not arrested, to ''a lower deep.'' EJvj ry effect is
;i cause"; and the spirit of fanaticism brooks no delay in the pro-
gress it creates. If you were to yield every thinjj the North
no v requires — abolish slavery in the District; of Columbia — sub-
mit to he legislated pirates for conveying slaves from one State
to . n »'her — let trial by jury and ihe writ of Habeas Coi~pu&, wrest

; 0:1 in the Northern Sjtatesevery fugitive slave — give up
all your territories to swell Nor hern arrogance and predomi-
nance — would things stop there? These are all means aiming at
one great end — the abolition of slaver) in the States. Surre.n
dering one of these means you will but inflame the power by
w! i. h another will he pgacted — and when all are conquered,
will the evil be arrested? In til'ty years, twenty new non-slave-
holdiu;: States may he added to ihe Union, whilst some which
a'-" now slaveholding, may become non-slavehohlmg States.

v the:), will be no need as now, openly to put aside the con-
stitatiort to reach their object. If they will deign to do it, the
nn::-sia v. -holding States will then have the power by two thirds
in Congress and three fourihs of the States, to amend the con-
stitution, and then have its express sanction to consummate their
Your condition is progressive.
If from the past transactions we have narrated, we learn our con-
di Ion in the Union — they teach us also that our past policy of non-
action an ! submission 10 oggressi .11 cannot bring us peace and
si'ety. When the doors of Congress were thrown open to ftgi-
ta'io ) 0:1 the subject < f slavery, if the Southern States had moved
with energy 10 avert a state of things unconstitutional itself, and
sure'y tending to bring the slave-holding and non-s!aveh.,lding
States in o collision — altho' late, it might not have been too late
to stop >u> sequent encroachments upon our rights. But the
Sou h rn States were passive: and their forbearance has had
the effect of inspiring the Northern people with th b lief, ei-

i'.'t we value a union with them more than we value
the institution of slavery <>r that we dare not move from a

1 us inabili y to protect ours lv s. You have ungen-

gene •■ '• {to r] 'i" hi your pu] ' "' ' '.' ' "s of

t h I lonstitu ion in the Northern State*, in Ua ur e > . ... ... ..icct

yon f;:'M the agitations of slavery in Ci ngiessv have be n politi-
cally a nibilattfd or have turned your foes. \ u have tamely
acquiesced- 1 - until, to h ite and persecu e the flout .. baa bi ••onie
issport to »honor and jpower in the. Union. Yo\ baveun-

wi e y si o ' still, whilst \ ear all r year the volume of anti -slav< -

ry policy and sympathy baa swollen i to unanimity throughout
all the non-sla\ e holding Sta ea. and the sections of 1 he Union
n w ace « ach other in e em c llision. Vim have waited, until
the Constituti n of ths I nit ed -tales is in danger of being abol-
ish d- or oi beooming what, the m j -rity in Congress think
proper to makt it. 'lhat gr< a: principle on which our sysfc m of



13

free government rests — of so dividing the powers of Government
— that to a common Government, only those powers should he
granted, which must affect all the people composing it. equally
in their operation — whilst all powers overall interests local
or sectional, should be reserved to local or sectional governments-
is in danger of being uprooted from the Constitution. Local
and sectional interests absorb the time an I business of Congress,
and thus, a sectional despotism, totally irresponsible to the people
of the South — constituted of the Representatives in Congress
from the non-s!aveholding States — ignorant of our feelings, con-
dition and institutions — reigns at Washington. These are the
fruits of your past forbearance an I submission.

If we look into the nature of things, such results will not seem
to be either new or strange. There is but one condiion, in
which one people can be snfe under the dominion of another people;
and that is when their interests are entirely idenical. Then, the
domin; nt. cannot oppress the subject people, without oppress-
ing themselves. The identity of intei est between them, is the
security for right government. But as this identity can scarcely
ever exist, between any two people, history bears but one testi-
mony as to the fiteof a subject people. They have always been
compelled to minister to the prosperity and agrandizemem of
their masters. If this has always been the case under the ordin-
ary difference, of interests and feelings which exist between States,
how much more certainly must the experience of history be
realized, between the people of the Northern and Sou hern
States. Here is a difference of ciima'e and productions through-
out a territory stretching along the whole belt of the temperate
zone, affecting the pursuits a id characters of the people in-
habiting it. But the great difference — the one great difference
— the greatest which can exist among a people, is the institution
of slavery. This alone sets apart the, Southern States as a pecu-
liar people — with whom independence as to their internal policy,
is the condi ion of their existence. They must rule themselves,
or perish. Every colony in the world where African slavery ex-
isted, with one exception, has been destroyed; and if this has
been the case under the old and effete governments of Europe,
will it not prevail under the dominion of the restless people of
the Northern States? They do not practically recognise the in-
feriority of the African to the Caucasian races. They do not
realize, because the circumstances of their condition do not com-
pel them to realize, the impossibility of an amalgamation be-
tween the races. Exempt from the institution of slavery, it
is not surprising that their sympathies should be against, us,
whilst the, dogma on which they profess to build their system
of free government — the absolute rule of the majority — leaves
no barrier to their power in the affairs of the General Government,
and leads them to its consolidation. Religion too, false or real —
fires their enthusiasm against an institution, which many of
its professors believe to be inconsistent with its principles and



14

precepts. To expect forbearance from such a people, under
such circumstances,,towarcJ3 the institution of slavery, is mani-
festly vain. It they have been false to the compact made with
u^ in the constitution, and have allowed passion and prejudice to
master reason, they have only exemplified that frailty ami fallibili-
ty of our nature, which have produced the necessity of all govern-
ments, ami which, if unchecked, ever produces wrong. The in-
stitution of slavery having once entered the popular mind of the
non-slaveholding States, lor action and control, the rest is inev-
itable. If unrestrained by us, they will go on, until African
slavery will be swept from the broad and fertile South. The na-
ture of things therefore, independent of exeperience, teaches us
that there can be no safety in submission.

To submit to evils, however great, whilst they are endurable,
is the disposition of every people — especially of an agricultural
people, living apart, and having no association in their pursuits.
But the responsibility of preserving a free government rests with
all its members, whatever may be their pursuits, and not alone
with those who have the power or the will to destroy it. A mi-
nority, by submission, may as much betray the constitution, as a
majority by aggression. The constitution does not protect a ma-
jority; i'or they have all the powers of the government in their
hands and can protect themselves. The limitations of a con-
stitution are designed to protect the minority — those who have
no power, against those who have it. Hence, the great motive
and duty of selfprot'Ction is peculiar to a minority, independ-
ent ot that faith to the constitution which they owe in common
with the majority. They must protect themselves, and protect
the constitution; and if they fail in this double duty, they are at
least as culpable as those who, in aggressing upon their rights,
overthrow the constitution. And the public opinion of the world
is in conformity with these views. The oppressor is hated — but
the unresistingly oppressed is despised. More respect follows
the tyrant, than the slave who submits to his power. The south-
ern States, therefore, although a minority, are not exempt from
the responsibility of preserving the constitution, and, in preserv-
ing it, to protect themselves.

In what way shall they preserve the constitution and protect
themselves?

As a general rule, it is undoubtedly true, that when, in a gov-
ernment like ours, a constitution is violated by a majority, who
alone can violate it in matters of legislation, it cannot be restor-
ed to its integrity through the ordinary means of the government;
for these means, being under the control of the majority, are not
available to the minority. It is for this reason, that frequent elec-
tions of our rulers take place in our system of lice government,
in older that the people, by their direct intervention, may change
the majority. But this resource cannot avail us in the violations
of the constitution, which no w press and harass the South. By
changing their representatives, how can the people of the South



15

affect the majority in Congress and restore the constitution?
Their Representatives are true; and have done all that men can
do, to preserve the constitution from the aggressions of the ma-
jority. Removing them, and putting other Representatives in
Congress, could have no effect in restoring the constitution. It
has been broken by the representatives of the people of the
northern States, who sustain them in their violations of the con-
stitution. It is clear that the ballot-box in the [South is power-
less for its protection. And the same causes which induced the
violations of the constitution by the northern majoritj, prevent
its restoration to its integrity. Throughout the northern States
there has been no indication of any change in their policy. On
the contrary, the majority against the South is greater in the pre-
sent Congress than in the last, following the usual course of eve-
ry successive election for years past. Is or have we seen in the
action of the States, with few exceptions, any proot of a returning
sense of justice to us, or of reverence for the constitution. Several
of them, lest false inferences might be drawn as to their position,
have taken care lately to reiterate in the most offensive forms their
former declarations against our rights; and when a great Senator,
representing one of them, anxious for the perpetuation of the
Union, has ventured to advocate something of justice to the South,
he has been rebuked by the Legislature of the State he represents,
and virtually denounced for his fidelity to the constitution. This
resource then, under the ordinary operations of the constitution,
is of no avail. And how is it with the present Congress, the
only other source of redress in the usual administration of the
constitution? For six months it has been in session, and during
this whole period of time slavery has been the absorbing topic of
discussion and agitation. Yet nothing has been done to heal the
discontents which so justly exist in the South, or restore a bleed-
ing constitution. All we have received has been bitter denunci-
ations of our institutions by many members of Congress, and
threats to coerce us into submission. Although nothing has been
done, a report has been made in the. Senate by a committee of
thirteen members, which is now pending in that body; and as the
measures it proposes have been pressed upon the South as worthy
of her acceptance, we deem it proper to lay before you a brief
consideration of the matters it contains.

This Report embraces four distinct measures — 1st the admis-
mission of California as a State, with the exclusion of slavery
in her constitution. 2d. Territorial Governments to be erected
over the territories of Utah and New Mexico, with nearly one
half of Texas to be added to the latter. 3d. The prohibition of
the slave trade in the District of Columbia; and 4th., provisions
for the recapture of fugitive slaves in the non-slaveholding
States. To understand whether these measures are consistent
with our rights and worthy of our acceptance, each of them must
be considered separately.

The South is excluded by the bill from the whole of that part



1G

of California lying ou the Pacific, including one hundred ;ind fifty
thousand square miles el*. territory: and if this is done by the
legislation of Congress, the mode in which it is done, is of no
importance. California belongs to the United, States, and all ac-
tion by I'm individuals in that territory, whither from the Uni-
ted States or from the rest of the world, appropriating the soil 1o
themselves or erecting a government over it, is of no validity.
They constitURfl a people in no propersense of th ■ term; but are
citizf ns.of thfjStates or countries from which they have, come,
mul to which they still owe their allegiance. When therefore
Congress attempts to carry out and confirm the acts of these in-
dividuals, erecting California into a state and excluding slavery
therefrom, it is the same thing as if Congress had originally pas-
sed a law to this eifect, without the intervention of the-e indi-
viduals. The exclusion of slavery from California is done by the
ac( of Congress, and by no other authority. The constitution
of California becomes the act of Congress; and the Wilmot pro-
viso it contains, is the Wilmot proviso passed and enforced by
the legislation of Congress. Here then, is that exclusion from
this territory by the act of Congress, which almost every southern
State in the Union has declared she would not. submit to, plain-
ly and practically enforced by this bill. A free people cannot
be satisfied with the mode in which they are deprived of their
rights. A sovereign State will disdain to enquire in what man-
ner she is Stripped of her property, and degraded from an equal-
ity with her sister States. It is enough, that the outrage is done.
The mode is of little consequence. There is there fore i n the. mode
of extending the Wilmot proviso over the territory of California
presented by the bill, nothing to mitigate the indignation of the
southern S.ates, or to bailie their determination to redress the
wrong, it' indicted. They are excluded from the whole Territo-
r} r of California, a Territory extensive enough to contain four
large States.

If the Constitution proposed by California contained nothing
about slavery, would the .North allow her to enter the Union?
Such were the territorial bills proposed for California at the
last Congress, hut they rejected them, because the Sout]b was not
excluded from this territory, in express terms. Tl.c inhabitants
of this territory, have been left without any civil government,
solely because the South would not consent to be legislated out
of them with her institutions) and now that this object is accom-
plished by the Constitution presented by California, these con-
servatives — these advocates of law and order — are eager^b admit
her. without right or precedent, into the Union. We are aware
of the iaconveniencies the inhabitants of California may have
suffered for want of a civil government established by Congress ;
and therefore, are prepared to yield much on account of the cir-
cumstances in which they have been placed.

The next measure is in perfect keeping with th 18 first feature
of "the report." It takes from Texas, territory sufficient for two



17

large States, and adds them to New Mexico. What the bill con-
tains with respect to slavery will be of little consequence; for it is
designed that next winter New Mexico thus constituted, shall fol-
low the example of California, and be admitted as a State with
a Constitution excluding slavery from its limits — for without
such exclusion she cannot hope to be admitted by the non-slave-
holding States into the Union. The effect will be that territory,
over which slavery now exists, equal to two States, will be
wrested from the South, and will be given up to the non-slave-
holding States. The pretext is, that there is some doubt as to
the boundaries of Texas. Texas by her laws, when she was ad-
mitted into the Union, had but one boundary towards the West,
and that boundary was the Rio Grande. Congress in the reso-
lutions admitting her into the Union recognized this boundary, by
laying down a line of limitation between the slaveholding and
non-slaveholding States — (being the Missouri Compromise line
of 36deg. 30min. parallel of North latitude) — through that very
part of her territory, her right to which is now questioned. Her
boundary of the Rio Grande to its source alone gave her this
country: and was thus recognised and ratified by the resolutions
of annexation. To vindicate this boundary for Texas, as a mem-
ber of the Union, the Mexican war took place ; and in the trea-
ty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo, it was finally vindicated and settled,
by a clause in the treaty, designating the Rio Grande as the
boundary between Mexico and the United States. Thus by the
laws of Texas, by the legislation of Congress, and by a solemn
treaty of the United States, the Rio Grande is the western boun-
dary of Texas. Yet the pretension is set up, that her territory
does not extend to within three hundred miles of the Missouri
Compromise line, where Congress in receiving herinto the Union,,
determined that her territory should be divided between the
slaveholding and non-slaveholding States. Texas is the only
State in the Union which has the solemn guarantee of the Gov-
ernment of the United States in every possible form to her boun-
daries. Yet this is the Government which disputes them; and
under the pretext that they are very doubtful, proposes to take
from her nearly one half of her territory. It is by virtue of such
pretensions, that by the bill two States are to be taken from the
southern and given to the northern States; and this wrong is ag-
gravated; by compelling us to pay for it, through the Treasury of
the United States.

It is undoubtedly proper, that Texas should be quieted as to her
boundaries; but she should be quieted by a law of Congres,
plainly acknowledging them. If after her boundaries are settled,
the General Government, to carry out the purposes of the consti-
tution, or in good faith to fulfil all the obligations, the annexa-
tion of Texas to the Union requires, should think proper to pur-
chase any territory from Texas, the arrangement may be un-
objectionable. But any arrangement concerning her territories,
which leaves a shade of doubt as to the right of the people of
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18

the South to enter any portion of the Territory which, according'
to the terms of annexation arc now free to them, neither Texas
nor the General Government have any right to make. The
terms of annexation constitute '.ho compact of Union, between
Texas and the other States of the confederacy — and this com-
pact secures irrevocably to the people of the slaveholding States
the right of entering with their property all her territory lying
south of 88 deg. 3(Jmin. north latitude — whilst from all her terri-
tory lying north of that line, they are excluded. The bill in
the Sei.aie makes no provision for carrying out these terms of
the comj act, but leaves in doubt the right of the Southern peo-
ple, throughout all the territory pioposed to be purchased; whilst
many who support the bill declare that in effect it excludes en-
tirely the people of the Southern States from all the tenitory
purchased. The least evil therefore the bill can bring to the
people of the Southern Slates on entering it, will be contention,
harassment and litigrtion.

But you will have a very adequate conception of the impor-
tance of the territory taken from Texas by the bill, if you con-
fine your views to Texas. If you will look at the map of the
United Slates, you will perceive that the territory proposed to be
surrendered by Texas, lies throughout its whole extent along the
western frontier of the Indian Territory. This is now a slave-
holding country; and must be considered as a part of the South,
Place along their whole western boundary two non-slaveholding
States, and how long will the Indians be able to maintain the
institution of slaver)? If the agency of Congress is not used,
to abolish directly slavery in the Indian Territory, this end can be
easily accomplished by the very means now in operation against
slavery in the Southern States, which the indian will have but
little power to resist. The effect will be, that the Indian Terri-
tory, large enough for two more States, will be controlled by the
non-slaveholding States. Thus by these two points in the report
the South will lose four large States in California — two in Texas,
and two in the Indian Tenitory. Nor is this all. The non-
slaveholding Slates will be brought to the western boundary of
Missouri and Arkansas, along their whole extent, and will bouud
Texas on her whole northern and western frontier. Thus the
Southern States will be hemmed in by the non-slaveholding
States on their whole western border — a polity which they have
declared essential to the end of abolishing slavery in the South-
ern States. What can compensate the South for such enormous
wrong and spoliation?

But this is not the end of your concessions by this report. We
must not only )ield to the interests, but to the prejudices of the
northern people. Slavery existed in the District of Columbia
wrheri Congress accepted the cession of the territory composing
it from the Stales of JVlaiyland and Virginia. No one can sup-
pose that Maryland and Virginia, slaveholding States then and
slaveholding States now, could have designed to give Congress



19

any power over the institution of slavery in this territory. Inde

pendently of the wrong to the people of the District, to emanci-
pate their slaves, it would bean in olerable evil to h tve a Dis
trict between them, where emancipation prevails by the authori-
ty of C mgress. Congress, in the bill reported a-s a part ot the
so-called compromise, now begins the work of emancipa ion by


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Online LibraryNashville Southern conventionResolutions and address, adopted by the Southern convention. Held at Nashville, Tennessee, June 3d to 12th inclusive, in the year 1850 → online text (page 2 of 3)