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the eminent men of the time the clearest expression of their
opinion that slavery is an evil. They ascribed its existence
here, not without truth, and not without some acerbity of tem
per and force of language, to the injurious policy of the mother
country, who, to favor the navigator, had entailed these evils
upon the Colonies. I need hardly refer, Sir, particularly to the
publications of the day. They are matters of history on the
record. The eminent men, the most eminent men, and nearly
all the conspicuous politicians of the South, held the same sen
timents ; that slavery was an evil, a blight, a scourge, and a
curse. There are no terms of reprobation of slavery so vehe
ment in the North at that day as in the South. The North
was not so much excited against it as the South; and the



334 SPEECH OF THE TTH OF MARCH, 1850,

reason is, I suppose, that there was much less of it at the
North, and the people did not see, or think they saw, the evils
so prominently as they were seen, or thought to be seen, at the
South.

Then, Sir, when this Constitution was framed, this was the
light in which the Federal Convention viewed it. That body
reflected the judgment and sentiments of the great men of the
South. A member of the other house, whom I have not the
honor to know, has, in a recent speech, collected extracts from
these public documents. They prove the truth of what I am
saying, and the question then was, how to deal with it, and
how to deal with it as an evil. They came to this general,
result. They thought that slavery could not be continued in
the country if the importation of slaves were made to cease,
and therefore they provided that, after a certain period, the
importation might be prevented by the act of the new govern
ment. The period of twenty years was proposed by some gen
tleman from the North, I think, and many members of the Con
vention from the South opposed it as being too long. Mr.
Madison especially was somewhat warm against it. He said
it would bring too much of this mischief into the country to
allow the importation of slaves for such a period. Because
we must take along with us, in the whole of this discussion,
when we are considering the sentiments and opinions in which
the constitutional provision originated, that the conviction of
all men was, that, if the importation of slaves ceased, the
white race would multiply faster than the black race, and
that slavery would therefore gradually wear out and expire.
It may not be improper here to allude to that, I had almost
said, celebrated opinion of Mr. Madison. You observe, Sir,
that the term slave, or slavery, is not used in the Consti
tution. The Constitution does not require that " fugitive
slaves" shall be delivered up. It requires that persons held
to service in one State, and escaping into another, shall be
delivered up. Mr. Madison opposed the introduction of the
term slave, or slavery, into the Constitution ; for he said that
he did not wish to see it recognized by the Constitution of
the United States of America that there could be property
in men.

Now, Sir, all this took place in the Convention in 1787 ; but



FOR THE CONSTITUTION AND THE UNION, 335

connected with this, concurrent and contemporaneous, is an
other important transaction, not sufficiently attended to. The
Convention for framing this Constitution assembled in Phila
delphia in May, and sat until September, 1787. During all
that time the Congress of the United States was in session at
New York. It was a matter of design, as we know, that the
Convention should not assemble in the same city where Con
gress was holding its sessions. Almost all the public men
of the country, therefore, of distinction and eminence, were
in one or the other of these two assemblies; and I think it
happened, in some instances, that the same gentlemen were
members of both bodies. If I mistake not, such was the case
with Mr. Rufus King, then a member of Congress from Massa
chusetts. Now, at the very time when the Convention in Phil
adelphia was framing this Constitution, the Congress in New
York was framing the Ordinance of 1787, for the organiza
tion and government of the territory northwest of the Ohio.
They passed that Ordinance on the 13th of July, 1787, at
New York, the very month, perhaps the very day, on which
these questions about the importation of slaves and the char
acter of slavery were debated in the Convention at Phila
delphia. So far as we can now learn, there was a perfect con
currence of opinion between these two bodies ; and it resulted
in this Ordinance of 1787, excluding slavery from all the terri
tory over which the Congress of the United States had juris
diction, and that was all the territory northwest of the Ohio.
Three years before, Virginia and other States had made a ces
sion of that great territory to the United States ; and a most
munificent act it was. I never reflect upon it without a dis
position to do honor and justice, and justice would be the high
est honor, to Virginia, for the cession of her northwestern ter
ritory. I will say, Sir, it is one of her fairest claims to the
respect and gratitude of the country, and that, perhaps, it is
only second to that other claim which belongs to her; that
from her counsels, and from the intelligence and patriotism of
her leading statesmen, proceeded the first idea put into practice
of the formation of a general constitution of the United States.
The Ordinance of 1787 applied to the whole territory over
which the Congress of the United States had jurisdiction. It
was adopted two years before the Constitution of the United



336 SPEECH OF THE ?TH OF MARCH, 1850,

States went into operation ; because the Ordinance took effect
immediately on its passage, while the Constitution of the United
States, having been framed, was to be sent to the States to be
adopted by their Conventions ; and then a government was to
be organized under it. This Ordinance, then, was in operation
and force when the Constitution was adopted, and the govern
ment put in motion, in April, 1789.

Mr. President, three things are quite clear as historical truths.
One is, that there was an expectation that, on the ceasing of the
importation of slaves from Africa, slavery would begin to run
out here. That was hoped and expected. Another is, that, as
far as there was any power in Congress to prevent the spread
of slavery in the United States, that power was executed in the
most absolute manner, and to the fullest extent. An honorable
member,* whose health does not allow him to be here to-day

A SENATOR. He is here.

I am very happy to hear that he is ; may he long be here,
and in the enjoyment of health to serve his country ! The hon
orable member said, the other day, that he considered this Ordi
nance as the first in the series of measures calculated to enfeeble
the South, and deprive them of their just participation in the
benefits and privileges of this government. He says, very prop
erly, that it was enacted under the old Confederation, and before
this Constitution went into effect ; but my present purpose is
only to say, Mr. President, that it was established with the en
tire and unanimous concurrence of the whole South. Why,
there it stands! The vote of every State in the Union was
unanimous in favor of the Ordinance, with the exception of a
single individual vote, and that individual vote was given by a
Northern man. This Ordinance prohibiting slavery for ever
northwest of the Ohio has the hand and seal of every South
ern member in Congress. It was therefore no aggression of the
North on the South. The other and third clear historical truth
is, that the Convention meant to leave slavery in the States
as they found it, entirely under the authority and control of the
States themselves.

This was the state of things, Sir, and this the state of opin-

* Mr. Calhoun.



FOR THE CONSTITUTION AND THE UNION. 337

ion, under which those very important matters were arranged,
and those three important things done; that is, the establishment
of the Constitution of the United States with a recognition of
slavery as it existed in the States ; the establishment of the or
dinance for the government of the Northwestern Territory, pro
hibiting, to the full extent of all territory owned by the United
States, the introduction of slavery into that territory, while leav
ing to the States all power over slavery in their own limits ;
and creating a power, in the new government, to put an end to
the importation of slaves, after a limited period. There was
entire coincidence and concurrence of sentiment between the
North and the South, upon all these questions, at the period
of the adoption of the Constitution. But opinions, Sir, have
changed, greatly changed; changed North and changed South.
Slavery is not regarded in the South now as it was then. I see
an honorable member of this body paying me the honor of lis
tening to my remarks ; * he brings to my mind, Sir, freshly and
vividly, what I have learned of his great ancestor, so much dis
tinguished in his day and generation, so worthy to be succeeded
by so worthy a grandson, and of the sentiments he expressed
in the Convention in Philadelphia.!

Here we may pause. There was, if not an entire unanimity,
a general concurrence of sentiment running through the whole
community, and especially entertained by the eminent men of
all parts of the country. But soon a change began, at the North
and the South, and a difference of opinion showed itself; the
North growing much more warm and strong against slavery,
and the South growing much more warm and strong in its sup
port. Sir, there is no generation of mankind whose opinions
are not subject to be influenced by what appear to them to be
their present emergent and exigent interests. I impute to the
South no particularly selfish view in the change which has come
over her. I impute to her certainly no dishonest view. All that
has happened has been natural. It has followed those causes
which always influence the human mind and operate upon it.
What, then, have been the causes which have created so new a
feeling in favor of slavery in the South, which have changed the

* Mr. Mason of Virginia.

f See Madison Papers, Vol. III. pp. 1390, 1-128, et seq.

VOL. v. 29



338 SPEECH OF THE TTH OF MARCH, 1850,

whole nomenclature of the South on that subject, so that, from
being thought and described in the terms I have mentioned and
will not repeat, it has now become an institution, a cherished
institution, in that quarter; no evil, no scourge, but a great re
ligious, social, and moral blessing, as I think I have heard it lat
terly spoken of? I suppose this, Sir, is owing to the rapid
growth and sudden extension of the COTTON plantations of
the South. So far as any motive consistent with honor, justice,
and general judgment could act, it was the COTTON interest
that gave a new desire to promote slavery, to spread it, and
to use its labor. I again say that this change was produced
by causes which must always produce like effects. The
whole interest of the South became connected, more or less,
with the extension of slavery. If we look back to the history
of the commerce of this country in the early years of this gov
ernment, what were our exports ? Cotton was hardly, or but to
a very limited extent, known. In 1791 the first parcel of cotton
of the growth of the United States was exported, and amounted
only to 19,200 pounds.* It has gone on increasing rapidly, un
til the whole crop may now, perhaps, in a season of great prod
uct and high prices, amount to a hundred millions of dollars.
In the years I have mentioned, there was more of wax, more
of indigo, more of rice, more of almost every article of export
from the South, than of cotton. When Mr. Jay negotiated the
treaty of 1794 with England, it is evident from the twelfth ar
ticle of the treaty, which was suspended by the Senate, that he
did not know that cotton was exported at all from the United
States.

Well, Sir, we know what followed. The age of cotton be
came the golden age of our Southern brethren. It gratified their
desire for improvement and accumulation, at the same time that
it excited it. The desire grew by what it fed upon, and there
soon came to be an eagerness for other territory, a new area or
new areas for the cultivation of the cotton crop ; and measures
leading to this result were brought about rapidly, one after an
other, under the lead of Southern men at the head of the gov
ernment, they having a majority in both branches of Congress to

* Seybert s Statistics, p. 92. A small parcel of cotton found its way to Liv
erpool from the United States in 1784, and was refused admission, on the ground
that it could not be the growth of the United States.



FOR THE CONSTITUTION AND THE UNION. 339

accomplish their ends. The honorable member from South
Carolina * observed that there has been a majority all along in
favor of the North. If that be true, Sir, the North has acted
either very liberally and kindly, or very weakly ; for they never
exercised that majority efficiently five times in the history of the
government, when a division or trial of strength arose. Never.
Whether they were out-generalled, or whether it was owing to
other causes, I shall not stop to consider ; but no man acquaint
ed with the history of the Union can deny that the general lead
in the politics of the country, for three fourths of the period that
has elapsed since the adoption of the Constitution, has been a
Southern lead.

In 1802, in pursuit of the idea of opening a new cotton re
gion, the United States obtained a cession from Georgia of the
whole of her western territory, now embracing the rich and grow
ing States of Alabama and Mississippi. In 1803 Louisiana
was purchased from France, out of which the States of Louisi
ana, Arkansas, and Missouri have been framed, as slave-holding
States. In 1819 the cession of Florida was made, bringing in
another region adapted to cultivation by slaves. Sir, the hon
orable member from South Carolina thought he saw in certain
operations of the government, such as the manner of collecting
the revenue, and the tendency of measures calculated to pro
mote emigration into the country, what accounts for the more
rapid growth of the North than the South. He ascribes that
more rapid growth, not to the operation of time, but to the sys
tem of government and administration established under this
Constitution. That is matter of opinion. To a certain extent
it may be true ; but it does seem to me that, if any operation
of the government can be shown in any degree to have pro
moted the population, and growth, and wealth of the North, it
is much more sure that there are sundry important and distinct
operations of the government, about which no man can doubt,
tending to promote, and which absolutely have promoted, the
increase of the slave interest and the slave territory of the South.
It was not time that brought in Louisiana; it was the act of
men. It was not time that brought in Florida ; it was the act
of men. And lastly, Sir, to complete those acts of legislation

* Mr. Calhoun.



340 SPEECH OF THE 7-ra OF MARCH, 1850,

which have contributed so much to enlarge the area of the in
stitution of slavery, Texas, great and vast and illimitable Tex
as, was added to the Union as a slave State in 1845 ; and that,
Sir, pretty much closed the whole chapter, and settled the whole
account.

That closed the whole chapter and settled the whole account,
because the annexation of Texas, upon the conditions and under
the guaranties upon which she was admitted, did not leave
within the control of this government an acre of land, capable
of being cultivated by slave labor, between this Capitol and the
Rio Grande or the Nueces, or whatever is the proper boun
dary of Texas ; not an acre. From that moment, the whole
country, from this place to the western boundary of Texas, was
fixed, pledged, fastened, decided, to be slave territory for ever, by
the solemn guaranties of law. And I now say, Sir, as the
proposition upon which I stand this day, and upon the truth and
firmness of which I intend to act until it is overthrown, that
there is not at this moment within the United States, or any
territory of the United States, a single foot of land, the charac
ter of which, in regard to its being free territory or slave terri
tory, is not fixed by some law, and some irrepealable law, be
yond the power of the action of the government. Is it not so
with respect to Texas ? It is most manifestly so. The honor
able member from South Carolina, at the time of the admission
of Texas, held an important post in the executive department
of the government ; he was Secretary of State. Another emi
nent person of great activity and adroitness in affairs, I mean
the late Secretary of the Treasury,* was a conspicuous member
of this body, and took the lead in the business of annexation, in
cooperation with the Secretary of State ; and I must say that
they did their business faithfully and thoroughly ; there was no
botch left in it. They rounded it off, and made as close joiner-
work as ever was exhibited. Resolutions of annexation were
brought into Congress, fitly joined together, compact, efficient,
conclusive upon the great object which they had in view, and
those resolutions passed.

Allow me to read a part of these resolutions. It is the third
clause of the second section of the resolution of the 1st of March,

* Mr. Walker.



FOR THE CONSTITUTION AND THE UNION. 341

1845, for the admission of Texas, which applies to this part of
the case. That clause is as follows :

" New States, of convenient size, not exceeding four in number, in
addition to said State of Texas, and having sufficient population, may
hereafter, by the consent of said State, be formed out of the terri
tory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions
of the Federal Constitution. And such States as may be formed out of
that portion of said territory lying south of thirty-six degrees thirty min
utes north latitude, commonly known as the Missouri Compromise line,
shall be admitted into the Union with or without slavery, as the people
of each State asking admission may desire ; and in such State or States
as shall be formed out of said territory north of said Missouri Compro
mise line, slavery or involuntary servitude (except for crime) shall be
prohibited."

Now, what is here stipulated, enacted, and secured ? It is,
that all Texas south of 36 30 , which is nearly the whole of it,
shall be admitted into the Union as a slave State. It was a
slave State, and therefore came in as a slave State ; and the
guaranty is, that new States shall be made out of it, to the
number of four, in addition to the State then in existence
and admitted at that time by these resolutions, and that such
States as are formed out of that portion of Texas lying south
of 36 30 may come in as slave States. I know no form of
legislation which can strengthen this. I know no mode of
recognition that can add a tittle of weight to it. I listened re
spectfully to the resolutions of my honorable friend from Ten
nessee.* He proposed to recognize that stipulation with Texas.
But any additional recognition would weaken the force of it ;
because it stands here on the ground of a contract, a thing
done for a consideration. It is a law founded on a contract
with Texas, and designed to carry that contract into effect. A
recognition now, founded not on any consideration or any
contract, would not be so strong as it now stands on the face
of the resolution. I know no way, I candidly confess, in which
this government, acting in good faith, as I trust it always will,
can relieve itself from that stipulation and pledge, by any hon
est course of legislation whatever. And therefore I say again,
that, so far as Texas is concerned, in the whole of that State

* Mr. Bell.
29*



342 SPEECH OF THE 7ra OF MARCH, 1850,

south of 36 30 , which, I suppose, embraces all the territory
capable of slave cultivation, there is no land, not an acre, the
character of which is not established by law; a law which
cannot be repealed without the violation of a contract, and
plain disregard of the public faith.

I hope, Sir, it is now apparent that my proposition, so far as
it respects Texas, has been maintained, and that the provision
in this article is clear and absolute ; and it has been well sug
gested by my friend from Rhode Island,* that that part of
Texas which lies north of 36 30 of north latitude, and which
may be formed into free States, is dependent, in like manner,
upon the consent of Texas, herself a slave State.

Now, Sir, how came this? How came it to pass that
within these walls, where it is said by the honorable member
from South Carolina that the free States have always had a
majority, this resolution of annexation, such as I have de
scribed it, obtained a majority in both houses of Congress?
Sir, it obtained that majority by the great number of Northern
votes added to the entire Southern vote, or at least nearly the
whole of the Southern vote. The aggregate was made up of
Northern and Southern votes. In the House of Representa
tives there were about eighty Southern votes and about fifty
Northern votes for the admission of Texas. In the Senate the
vote for the admission of Texas was twenty-seven, and twenty-
five against it ; and of those twenty-seven votes, constituting
the majority, no less than thirteen came from the free States,
and four of them were from New England. The whole of
these thirteen Senators, constituting within a fraction, you see,
one half of all the votes in this body for the admission of this
immeasurable extent of slave territory, were sent here by free
States.

Sir, there is not so remarkable a chapter in our history of
political events, political parties, and political men as is afford
ed by this admission of a new slave-holding territory, ,so vast
that a bird cannot fly over it in a week. New England, as I
have said, with some of her own votes, supported this meas
ure. Three fourths of the votes of liberty-loving Connecticut
were given for it in the other house, and one half here. There

* Mr. Greene.



FOR THE CONSTITUTION AND THE UNION. 343

was one vote for it from Maine, but, I am happy to say, not
the vote of the honorable member who addressed the Senate
the day before yesterday,* and who was then a Representative
from Maine in the House of Representatives ; but there was
one vote from Maine, ay, and there was one vote for it from
Massachusetts, given by a gentleman then representing, and
now living in, the district in which the prevalence of Free
Soil sentiment for a couple of years or so has defeated the
choice of any member to represent it in Congress. Sir, that
body of Northern and Eastern men wiio gave those votes at that
time are now seen taking upon themselves, in the nomenclature
of politics, the appellation of the Northern Democracy. They
undertook to wield the destinies of this empire, if I may give
that name to a republic, and their policy was, and they persist
ed in it, to bring into this country and under this government
all the territory they could. They did it, in the case of Texas,
under pledges, absolute pledges, to the slave interest, and they
afterwards lent their aid in bringing in these new conquests, to
take their chance for slavery or freedom. My honorable friend
from Georgia,! in March, 1847, moved the Senate to declare
that the war ought not to be prosecuted for the conquest of
territory, or for the dismemberment of Mexico. The whole of
the Northern Democracy voted against it. He did not get a
vote from them. It suited the patriotic and elevated senti
ments of the Northern Democracy to bring in a world from
among the mountains and valleys of California and New
Mexico, or any other part of Mexico, and then quarrel about
it ; to bring it in, and then endeavor to put upon it the saving
grace of the Wilmot Proviso. There were two eminent and
highly respectable gentlemen from the North and East, then
leading gentlemen in the Senate, (I refer, and I do so with en
tire respect, for I entertain for both of those gentlemen, in gen
eral, high regard, to Mr. Dix of New York and Mr. Niles of
Connecticut,) who both voted for the admission of Texas.
They would not have that vote any other way than as it stood ;
and they would have it as it did stand. I speak of the vote
upon the annexation of Texas. Those two gentlemen would
have the resolution of annexation just as it is, without amend-

f Mr. Berrien.



Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 33 of 53)