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kindness, that I wish Southern gentlemen should consider this
matter calmly and deliberately. There are none in this chamber,
certainly, who desire the dissolution of this Union, nor in the
other house of Congress. But all the world out of doors is
not as wise and patriotic as gentlemen within these walls. I
am quite aware that there are those who raise the loudest
clamor against the Wilmot Proviso, and other restrictions upon
slavery, that would be exceedingly gratified, nevertheless, to
have that restriction imposed. I believe there are those scattered
all along from here to the Gulf of Mexico who would say, " Let
them put on further restrictions ; let them push the South a
little further, and then we shall know what we have to do."
But, again, the Southern States gain what they think impor
tant and gratifying; that is, an exemption from a derogatory
inequality. They find themselves placed where they wish to be
placed, and, as far as the territories are concerned, relieved from
what they consider the Wilmot yoke. This appeases a feeling
of wounded pride ; and they gain, too, the general restoration
of peace and harmony in the progress of the government, in the
beneficial operations of which they have a full share. One of
the evils attendant upon this question is the harsh judgment
passed by one portion of the Union upon another, founded, not
on the conduct of the North or South generally, but on the
conduct of particular persons or associations in each part re
spectively. Unjust charges are made by one against the other,
and these are retaliated by those who are the objects of them.
Accusations made by individuals in the North are attributed by
the South to the whole North indiscriminately. On the other
hand, extravagant individuals at the South utter objectionable
sentiments ; and these are bruited all over the North as South
ern sentiments, and therefore the South is denounced. In the
same way, sentiments springing from the Abolitionists of the
North, which no man of character and sense approves, are


spread in the South ; and the whole North are there charged with
being Abolitionists, or tinctured with Abolitionism. Now, one
side is just as fair and as true as the other. It is a prejudice of
which both sides must rid themselves if they ever mean to come
together as brethren, enjoying one renown, one destiny, and ex
pecting one and the same destiny hereafter. If we mean to live
together, common prudence should teach us to treat each other
with respect.

The Nashville Address has been alluded to, and it has been
charged upon the whole South, as a syllabus of Southern senti
ments. Now, I do not believe a word of this. Far be it from
me to impute to the South, generally, the sentiments of the
Nashville Convention. That address is a studied disunion ar
gument. It proceeds upon the ground that there must be a sep
aration of the States, first, because the North acts so injuriously
to the South that the South must secede ; and, secondly, even
if it were not so, and a better sense of duty should return to
the North, still, such is the diversity of interest, that they can
not be kept together.

MR. BARXWELL (interposing). Will the honorable Senator refer to
that portion of the address which contains the sentiment which he de
clares implies the desire for disunion in any event whatever ; for that I
understand is the charge against the address ?

What I understand about this address is this. I say the argu
ment of the address is, that the States cannot be kept together;
because, first, the general disposition of the North is to invade
the rights of the South, stating this in general language merely ;
and then, secondly, even if this were not so, and the North
should get into a better temper in that respect, still no perma
nent peace could be expected, and no union long maintained,
on account of the diversity of interests between the different
portions of the Union. There is, according to the address, but
one condition on which people can live together under the same
government ; and that is, when interests are entirely identical.
An exact identity of interest, according to its notions, is the only
security for good government.

MR. BARXWELL. With regard to the first part, the honorable Senator
is correct, and I have no doubt at all that it is the character of the ad
dress, that, unless a great change be produced in the temper of the


Northern people, and the treatment which they give to us on account
of our institutions, no permanent union between us can exist. With
regard to the latter part, I contend that the address contains no such
sentiment. It states distinctly that, in the position which the different
portions of the Union occupy with regard to each other, with the want
of that identity of interest between them, it is absolutely essential to the
South that its sectional interests should be independent of the control of
the North.

And what does that mean but separation ?

MR. BARNWELL. Not at all. It means what I have always alleged,
that the North has no right to interfere with the institution of slavery.
If that interference is stopped, we do not contend that there is any ne
cessity for a dissolution of the Union. But if it is persisted in, then the
opinion of the address is, and I believe the opinion of a large portion of
the Southern people is, that the Union cannot be made to endure.

It is hardly worth while, as the paper is not before us, for the
honorable member from South Carolina and myself to enter
into a discussion about this address. If I understand its argu
ment, it is as I expressed it, that, even if the North were better
behaved, there is a want of identity of interests between the
North and the South which must soon break up the Union. As
far as regards the gentleman s remark, that the North must
abstain from any interference with the peculiar institutions of
the South, why, every sensible man in the North thinks exactly
so. I know that the sensible men of the North are of opinion,
that the institution of slavery, as it exists in the States, was in
tended originally to be, has ever been, and now justly is, entirely
out of the scope and reach of the legislation of this government;
and this every body understands.

But I was saying that I can and shall impute no sentiment
of disunion to the South, generally. Why, whom do I sit
among? With whom have I been associated here for thirty
years ? With good Union men from the South. And in this
chamber, and in late years, have there not been men from the
South who have resisted every thing that threatened danger to
the Union ? Have there not been men here that, at some risk
of losing favor with their constituents, have resisted the Mexican
war, the acquisition of territory by arms, nay, men who played
for the last stake, and, after the conquest was made, resisted the


ratification of the treaty by which these territories were brought
under the control of this government ? Sir, with these recol
lections, which do so much honor to the character of these gen
tlemen, and with these acts, which attest the entire loyalty of
the great body of the South to the Union, I shall indulge in no
general complaint against them; nor, so far as^ it comes within
the power of my rebuke, will I tolerate it. They have the
same interests, they are descended from the same Revolutionary
blood, and believe the glory of the country to be as much theirs
as ours ; and I verily believe they desire to secure as perpetual
an attachment to the North as the most intelligent men of the
North do to perpetuate such an attachment to the South. I
believe that the great masses of the people, both North and
South, aside from the influence of agitation, are for the Union
and for the Constitution ; and God grant that they may remain
so, and prevent every thing which may overturn either the one
or the other !

I was sorry to hear, because I thought it was quite unjust,
that all the folly and madness of the recent expedition to Cuba
was chargeable upon the South, generally. The South had
nothing more to do with it than Massachusetts, or the city of
Boston, or the city of New York. It is unjust to say that such
a violation of the law was perpetrated by the South, or found
more apology or justification in the general Southern mind, than
it found in New York or in Massachusetts.

MR. BUTLER (in his seat). Not a bit more.

Now, the Senator from Connecticut told the truth the other
day, and I am obliged to him for it. I do not mean that it is
unusual for him, but I mean that it is a great deal more un
usual, in the course of this debate, to hear the real truth spoken,
than to hear ingenious sophisms and empty abstractions. But
he told us the truth in respect to these territorial acquisitions ;
that it was not the North or the South that were the real
authors of that conquest, but that it was the party who sup
ported Mr. Polk for the Presidency, and who supported his
measures while in the Presidency. The South, undoubtedly, as
the party most in favor of the administration, took the lead ;
and that part of the North that upheld the administration fol
lowed, not as little lulus followed his father, "non passibus


cequis" but with the same stride as its leaders. And therefore
I was glad that my honorable friend from Connecticut, in
stead of giving us a normal, stereotyped speech against the
South, told the truth of these transactions.

There are other topics, which I pass over. I said something
formerly about the imprisonment of the black citizens of the
North engaged in navigation, who go South, and are there ar
rested. That is a serious business, and we see that England
has complained of it, as violating our treaty with her. I think
it is an evil that ought to be redressed ; for I never could
see any necessity for it, and I am fully persuaded that other
means can be taken to relieve the South from alarm without
committing an outrage upon those who, at home, are considered
as American citizens. At the same time, I am bound to say
that I know nothing in the world to prevent any free citizen of
Massachusetts, imprisoned under the laws of South Carolina,
from trying the question of the constitutionality of that law,
by applying at once to any judge of the United States for a
writ of habeas corpus. I do not think, therefore, that there was
any great necessity of making it a matter of public embassy.
I think that was rather calculated to inflame feeling than to do
good. But I must say, as I have said heretofore, that the gen
tleman who went from Massachusetts * was one of the most
respectable men in the Commonwealth, bearing an excellent
character, of excellent temper, and every way entitled to the
regard of others to the extent to which he has enjoyed the re
gard of the people of Massachusetts.

Sir, I was in Boston some month or two ago, and, at a
meeting of the people, said, that the public mind of Massachu
setts, and the North, was laboring under certain prejudices, and
that I would take an occasion, which I did not then enjoy, to
state what I supposed these prejudices to be, and how they had
arisen. I shall say a few words on the subject now. In the
first place, I think that there is no prejudice on the part of the
people of Massachusetts or of the North, arising out of any
ill-will, or any want of patriotism or good feeling toward the
whole country. It all originates in misinformation, false repre
sentation, and misapprehensions arising from the laborious

* Mr. Hoar.


efforts that have been made for the last twenty years to per
vert the public judgment and irritate the public feeling.

The first of these misapprehensions is an exaggerated sense
of the actual evil of the reclamation of fugitive slaves, felt by
Massachusetts and the other New England States. What
produced that sentiment ? The cases do not exist. There has
not been a case within the knowledge of this generation, in
which a man has been taken back from Massachusetts into
slavery by process of law, not one ; and yet there are hundreds
of people, who read nothing but Abolition newspapers, who sup
pose that these cases arise weekly ; that, as a common thing,
men, and sometimes their wives and children, are dragged back
from the free soil of Massachusetts into slavery at the South.

MR. HALE (interposing). Will the honorable Senator allow me to
ask him a question ? Is he not mistaken in the point of fact in regard
to the State of Massachusetts ? I recollect something occurring in
Massachusetts, not more than three or four years ago, in relation to a
man by the name of Pearson, and that there was a large public meet
ing on the subject in Faneuil Hall.

I will state how that was. That was a case of kidnapping
by some one who claimed, or pretended to claim, the negro,
and ran away with him by force. What I mean to say is, that
there has been no man, under the Constitution and laws of the
country, sent back from Massachusetts into slavery, this gen
eration. I have stated before, and I state now, that cases of
violent seizure or kidnapping have occurred, and they may
occur in any State in the Union, under any provisions of law.

Now, Sir. this prejudice, created by the incessant action on
the public mind of Abolition societies, Abolition presses, and
Abolition lecturers, has grown very strong. No drum-head, in
the longest day s march, was ever more incessantly beaten and
smitten, than public sentiment in the North has been, every
month, and day, and hour, by the din, and roll, and rub-a-dub
of Abolition writers and Abolition lecturers. That it is which
has created the prejudice.

Sir, the principle of the restitution of runaway slaves is not
objectionable, unless the Constitution is objectionable. If the
Constitution is right in that respect, the principle is right, and
the law providing for carrying it into effect is right. If that be

VOL. v. 37


so, and if there be no abuse of the right under any law of Con
gress, or any other law. then what is there to complain of?

I not only say, Sir, that there has been no case, so far as I
can learn, of the reclamation of a slave by his master, which
ended in taking him back to slavery, this generation, but I
will add, that, so far as I have been able to go back in my re
searches, so far as I have been able to hear and learn in that part
of the country, there has been no one case of false claim. Who
knows in all New England of a single case of false claim having
ever been set up to an alleged fugitive from slavery ? It may
possibly have happened ; but I have never known it nor heard
of it, although I have made diligent inquiry ; nor do I believe
there is the slightest danger of it, for all the community are
alive to, and would take instant alarm at, any appearance of
such a case, and especially at this time. There is no danger of
any such violence being perpetrated.

Before I pass from this subject, Sir, I will say that what seems
extraordinary is, that this principle of restitution, which has
existed in the country for more than two hundred years without
complaint, sometimes as a matter of agreement between the
North and the South, and sometimes as a matter of comity,
should all at once, and after the length of time I have men
tioned, become a subject of excitement. I have in my hand a
letter from Governor Berkeley, of Virginia, to Governor Win-
throp, of Massachusetts, written in the year 1644, more than
two hundred years ago, in which he says that a certain gentle
man, naming him, had lost some servants, giving their names,
whom he supposes to have fled into the jurisdiction of Mas
sachusetts ; and the member from Kentucky * will be pleased to
learn that it contains a precedent for what he considers to be
the proper course of proceeding in such cases. Governor Berke
ley states that the gentleman, the owner of the slaves, has made
it appear in court that they are his slaves and have run away.
He. goes on to say, " We expect you to use all kind olHce?
for the restoration to their master of these fugitives, as we
constantly exercise the same offices in restoring runaways to
you." At that day I do not suppose there were a great many
slaves in Massachusetts; but there was an extensive system of

* Mr. Clav.


apprenticeship, and hundreds of persons were bound apprentices
in Massachusetts, some of whom would run away. They
were as likely to run to Virginia as anywhere else ; and in such
cases they were returned, upon demand, to their masters. In
deed, it was found necessary in the early laws of Massachu
setts to make provision for the seizure and return of runaway
apprentices. In all the revisions of our laws, this provision re
mains ; and it is in the Revised Statutes now before rne. It
provides that runaway apprentices shall be secured upon the
application of their masters, or any one on their behalf, and put
into jail until they can be sent for by them ; and there is no
trial by jury in the case, either. I say, therefore, that the ex
aggerated statement of the danger and mischief arising from
this right of reclaiming slaves is a prejudice, produced by the
causes I have stated, and one which ought not longer to
haunt and terrify the public mind.

With great respect for those who differ from me, I will also
state, that I think it is a prejudice to insist with so much
earnestness upon the application of the Wilmot Proviso to
these Territories of New Mexico and Utah, because of its ob
vious inapplicability, and the want of all reasonable necessity
for making that application in the manner proposed, and as it
is deemed offensive and affronting to the South.

Another prejudice against the South is just exactly that which
exists in the South against the North, and consists in imputing
to a whole portion of the country the extravagances of individu
als. I will say only, before I depart from this part of the case,
that the State in wljose representation I bear a part is a Union
State, thoroughly and emphatically ; that she is attached to the
Union and the Constitution by indissoluble ties : that she con
nects all her own history from colonial times, her struggle for
independence, her efforts for the establishment of this govern
ment, and all the benefits and blessings which she has enjoyed
under it, in one great attractive whole, to w T hich her affections
are constantly and powerfully drawn. All these make up a his
tory in which she has taken a part, and the whole of which she
enjoys as a most precious inheritance. She is a State for the
Union ; she will be for the Union. It is the law of her destiny ;
it is the law of her situation ; it is a law imposed upon her by
the recollections of the past, and by every interest for the present
and every hope for the future.


Mr. President, it has always seemed to me to be a grateful
reflection, that, however short and transient may be the lives of
individuals, states may be permanent. The great corporations
that embrace the government of mankind, protect their liberties,
and secure their happiness, may have something of perpetuity,
and, as I might say, of earthly immortality. For my part, Sir,
I gratify myself by contemplating what in the future will be
the condition of that generous State, which has done me the
honor to keep me in the counsels of the country for so many
years. I see nothing about her in prospect less than that which
encircles her now. I feel that when I, and all those that now
hear me, shall have gone to our last home, and afterwards, when
mould may have gathered upon our memories, as it will have
done upon our tombs, that State, so early to take her part in the
great contest of the Revolution, will stand, as she has stood
and now stands, like that column which, near her Capitol, per
petuates the memory of the first great battle of the Revolution,
firm, erect, and immovable. I believe, Sir, that, if commotion
shall shake the country, there will be one rock for ever, as solid as
the granite of her hills, for the Union to repose upon. I believe
that, if disasters arise, bringing clouds which shall obscure the
ensign now over her and over us, there will be one star that will
but burn the brighter amid the darkness of that night ; and I
believe that, if in the remotest ages (I trust they will be infinite
ly remote) an occasion shall occur when the sternest duties of
patriotism are demanded and to be performed, Massachusetts
will imitate her own example ; and that, as at the breaking out
of the Revolution she was the first to offer the outpouring of
her blood and her treasure in the struggle for liberty, so she
will be hereafter ready, when the emergency arises, to repeat and
renew that offer, with a thousand times as many warm hearts,
and a thousand times as many strong hands.

And now, Mr. President, to return at last to the principal and
important question before us, What are we to do ? How are
we to bring this emergent and pressing question to an issue and
an end? Here have we been seven and a half months, disput
ing about points which, in my judgment, are of no practical
importance to one or the other part of the country. Are we to
dwell for ever upon a single topic, a single idea ? Are we to
forget all the purposes for which governments are instituted, and


continue everlastingly to dispute about that which is of no es
sential consequence? I think, Sir, the country calls upon us
loudly and imperatively to settle this question. I think that the
whole world is looking to see whether this great popular gov
ernment can get through such a crisis. We are the observed of
all observers. It is not to be disputed or doubted, that the eyes
of all Christendom are upon us. We have stood through manv
trials. Can we not stand through this, which takes so much
the character of a sectional controversy ? Can we stand that ?
There is no inquiring man in all Europe who does not ask him
self that question every day, when he reads the intelligence of
the morning. Can this country, with one set of interests at the
South, and another set of interests at the North, and these in
terests supposed, but falsely supposed, to be at variance ; can
this people see what is so evident to the whole world beside,
that this Union is their main hope and greatest benefit, and that,
their interests in every part arc entirely compatible ? Can they
see, and will they feel, that their prosperity, their respectability
among the nations of the earth, and their happiness at home,
depend upon the maintenance of their Union and their Con
stitution ? That is the question. I agree that local divisions
are apt to warp the understandings of men, and to excite a
belligerent feeling between section and section. It is natural,
in times of irritation, for one part of the country to say, If you
do that, I will do this, and so get up a feeling of hostility and
defiance. Then comes belligerent legislation, and then an ap
peal to arms. The question is, whether we have the true patri
otism, the Americanism, necessary to carry us through such a
trial. The \vhole world is looking towards us with extreme
anxiety. For myself, I propose, Sir, to abide by the principles
and the purposes which I have avowed. I shall stand by the
Union, and by all who stand by it. I shall do justice to the
whole country, according to the best of my ability, in all I say,
and act for the good of the whole country in all I do. I mean
to stand upon the Constitution. I need no other platform. 1
shall know but one country. The ends I aim at shall be my
country s, my God s, and Truth s. I was born an American ;
I will live an American; I shall die an American; and I intend
to perform the duties incumbent upon me in that character to
the end of my career. I mean to do this, with absolute di.-re-


gard of personal consequences. What are personal consequen
ces ? What is the individual man, with all the good or evil that
may betide him, in comparison with the good or evil which may
befall a great country in a crisis like this, and in the midst of
great transactions which concern that country s fate ? Let the
consequences be what they will, I am careless. No man can
suffer too much, and no man can fall too soon, if he suffer or
if he fall in defence of the liberties and Constitution of his




Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 42 of 53)