John A. (John Adams) Dix.

Speeches and occasional addresses (Volume 1) online

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drains, on the one hand, and accessions, on the other, are


not only likely to continue, but to increase in force. A sur-
plus population, provided for by emigration, is certain to be
regularly reproduced. Europe, therefore, will not be nu-
merically weakened by these annual drains, even though
they should be indefinitely augmented ; and every addition to
our numbers from abroad renders the force of immigration
more intense, by relaxing the ties which bind to their native
soil the kindred multitudes left behind.

For an indefinite period, then, we may calculate on large
and constantly increasing additions to our population by im-
migration ; and the natural multiplication of our own peo-
ple, under the impulse of the powerful stimulants contained
in a soil of extraordinary fertility, and in the superabundant
supply of food, will doubtless maintain our past rate of in-
crease, and give us, at the close of the present century, a
hundred millions of inhabitants.

One of the most interesting and important problems,
both for the American statesman and philosopher, is to de-
termine of what race or races this vast population shall
consist ; for on the solution which future generations shall
give to it, will essentially depend the prosperity of the com-
munity or communities they will constitute, and their
ability to maintain such a form of government as shall se-
cure to them the blessings of political liberty and an ad-
vanced civilization. In a general survey of the races by
which the earth is peopled, though the varieties are infinite,
there are but four grand divisions — the Asiatic, the Cau-
casian, the Ethiopian, and the Indian. The whole surface
of Europe, with some inconsiderable exceptions, is occupied
by the Caucasian race, — by the descendants of the energetic
and independent tribes, which, from the shores of the Cas-
pian, have, in different eras, spread themselves over Ger-
many and western Europe, and laid the foundations of
nearly all the civilization the world contains. From this
Indo-Germanic or Caucasian race we are ourselves de-
scended ; and we are doing for the New World what they


did for the Old, — spreading ourselv^es over and subduing
it, not, indeed, by arms, but by the arts of peace. In
whatever portion of Europe emigration to the United States
takes its rise, it brings witli it homogeneous currents. The
same blood fills the veins of all. If shades of variety exist
in the intellectual and physical characteristics of the mul-
titudes who come among us, it is to be traced to the influ-
ences which diversities of soil, climate, and government
have exerted upon them in the different sections of Europe
where their lot has been cast. In the great outlines of
their physiognomy, animal and moral, they are identical ;
and they are distinguishable from all other races by pecu-
liarities not to be mistaken.

I believe it to be in the order of Providence, that the
continent of North America, with the exception, perhaps,
of some inconsiderable districts, is ultimately to be peopled
by the same race which has overspread Europe, and made
it what it is in science, in art, in civilization, and in morals.
We may, by a misapplication of the means at our command,
thwart for a season the divine purpose ; we may postpone
the consunnnation of the end we have to accomplish ; but
the deeply-seated causes which are at work will ultimately
triumph over all obstacles. Years, possibly centuries, (and
what are centuries in the history of nations and empires ?)
I say possibly centuries may be necessary to complete
this process ; but it must in the end be completed. I
believe it may be satisfactorily shown that the free black
population in the Northern States does not increase by its
own inherent force. I doubt wliether it is fully reproduced.
In four of the New -England States — Vermont, New
Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut — the black
population, from 1820 to 1840, materially decreased. In
New York, Massachusetts, and Maine, there was an increase
during the same period ; but this was doubtless due to the
immigration of manumitted blacks from the South, finding
their way to the principal commercial States. Without these


accessions, the result in these States would probably have
been the same as in the four New-England States referred to.
Under the most favorable circumstances it is, and must con-
tinue to be, an inferior caste in the north. It counts
nothing in the estimate, physical or intellectual, of the
strength of the body politic. Even where the forms of
its admission to the privileges of freemen are complete,
it is an excluded class. Let the liberal and the humane do
what they may, they cannot change the unalterable law of
its destiny. Public opinion at the North — call it preju-
dice, if you will — presents an insuperable barrier against
its elevation in the social scale. My own State has recently,
by a majority of about one hundred and thirty thousand
votes in two hundred thousand, refused to place blacks on
the same footing as whites in the exercise of the elective
franchise. Illinois and Connecticut have, I believe, done
the same thing by decided votes. A class thus degraded
will not multiply. This is the first stage of retrogradation.
The second almost certainly follows. It will not be repro-
duced ; and in a few generations the process of extinction
is performed. Nor is it the work of inhumanity or wrong.
It is the slow but certain process of nature, working out
her ends by laws so steady, and yet so silent, that their
operation is only seen in their results. I am not sure that
this fact is so supported by statistical data that it can be
considered settled beyond doubt. If it were, it might solve
a great problem in population in the United States, — a
problem full of consequence and of instruction for our guid
ance, — that manumitted blacks, as a class, do not nmltiply
and perhaps are not reproduced.

Is it the part of wisdom or humanity to promote the ex
tension or increase of a race, which has its destiny written
in characters not to be mistaken or efikced, — an extension
adding nothing to the public prosperity or strength, and
enlarging the basis of human degradation and suffering 1

What is the true policy of the country, looking to its


rapid growth and to the steady extension of our people over
the unoccupied portions of this continent? Sir, there is
grave cause for reflection in the unexampled increase of our
population by its inherent force, and still more in the vast
accessions annually made to our numbers by immigration.
The public order and prosperity depend in some degree in
giving to these accessions, foreign and domestic, a uni-
form and homogeneous character. We could not divert
the current of immigration if we were disposed to do
what every dictate of humanity repels and condemns. It
is in the vast and fertile spaces of the West that our
own descendants, as well as the oppi'essed and needy mul-
titudes of the Old World, must find the food they require,
and the rewards for labor, which are necessary to give them
the spirit and the independence of freemen. I hold it to be
our sacred duty to consecrate these spaces to the multipli-
cation of the white race. Our part is to see, also, as far
as in us lies, that this new material is made to conform
to the political organization of which it is to become an
integral part. I have always believed this object would be
best accomplished by a liberal policy. The Federal gov-
ernments can do nothing in this respect. The State gov-
ernments must do all, — rather perhaps by acting upon
future generations than the present, — by establishing schools,
by the removal of restrictions upon the application of labor
and capital, and by emancipating industry, under all its
forms, from the shackles of privilege and monopoly

If we were to look to the rapid increase of our own pop-
ulation alone, without reference to external accessions, —
accessions annually increasing and with a constantly accel-
erated force, — I should hold it to be our duty to promote,
by all just and constitutional means, the multiplication of
the white race, and to discourage, as far as we properly
can, the multiplication of every other. Reason and human-
ity, acting within the limits of the Constitution, will define
the mode and extent of the agency we may exert over our


destinies in this respect. With regard to the policy of
peopling this continent by the highest race in the order of
intellectual and physical endowment, there can be no dif-
ference of opinion. No man can hesitate to say whether
the condition of this continent, in all that concerns its
government, morals, civilization, prosperity, strength and
productiveness, would be most likely to be promoted by
peopling it with the race from which we are sprung, or with
the descendants of the Ethiop and the Caffre. There may
be portions of the Southern States in which tj^e climate and
objects of cultivation require the labor of blacks. I pass
by all considerations of this character for an obvious reason.
If there are portions of the Union, which can only be cul-
tivated by the African race, they are embraced within the
territorial boundaries of organized States, over whose domes-
tic condition and relations the Federal government has no
control. The question concerns only them, and I forbear to
touch it. But conceding the necessity of slave labor there,
the concession furnishes no argument in favor of permitting
slavery to be extended to territories in which no such neces-
sity exists.

The character of the population, by which this continent
is to be occupied, is a subject of vital importance to every
section of the Union. The strength of the whole is con-
cerned, and with its strength its security from external ag-
gression and intestine disorder and violence. The nearer
the great body of our people — those especially who till
the earth — approach the same standard in intelligence and
political importance, the more likely we shall be to main-
tain internal tranquillity in peace, and bring to the common
support in war the united strength of all. A degraded
class is always, and must be, by force of immutable laws,
an element of insecurity and weakness. I will not say
that the North is as much interested in this question as the
South. But we have a very deep interest in it. Manu-
mitted slaves come to us in considerable numbers. They


will continue to do so in spite of any discouragements we
may oppose, and without the aid of compulsory legislation
on the part of the States in which they are manumitted.
All such additions to our numbers are in the highest degree
undesirable. They add nothing to our strength, moral or
physical; and, as we fill up, their tendency is to exclude
whites to the extent that they contribute to supply the de-
mand for labor. If the fifty thousand free blacks in New
York were to be withdrawn, their places would be filled by
an equal supply of white laborers. Our strength and our
prosperity would be proportionably increased by substituting
white citizens for a class laboring under civil disqualifica-
tions, and excluded, by the force of opinion, from all share
in the concerns of government. We desire and need inde-
pendent, not dependent classes. We have, then, a deep in-
terest in this question, first as a member of the common
Union, and next as a community in some respects indepen-
dent and sovereign. In both relations it concerns our per-
manent welfare, and we can never consent or contribute —
by any act, by inaction, by acquiescence, express or implied —
to the extension of slavery to regions in which it does not
now exist.

It is generally conceded that there is nothing in the cli-
mate or productions of Oregon, which requires the labor
of blacks. If this be so, slavery, if introduced, would grad-
ually give way in the competition with free labor. Not-
withstanding this inherent tendency in slavery to wear itself
out in districts to which it is not indispensably necessary, it
will be profitable for a time in new countries, where there
are lands to be brought under cultivation, and where there
is an urgent demand for labor. But for a temporary pur-
pose, — with the assurance that it must eventually be eradi-
cated, — would it not be unjust and unwise, considering the
question in its political bearing alone, to decline to exclude
it, and to make the prohibition absolute 1

Gentlemen have said this is not a practical question, —


that slaves will never be taken to Oregon. With all def-
erence to their opinions, I differ with them totally. I be-
lieve, if permitted, slaves would be carried there, and that
slavery would continue at least as long as in Maryland or
Virginia. The Pacific coast is totally different in tempera-
ture from the Atlantic. It is far milder. Lines of equal
temperature — isothermal lines, as they are technically de-
nominated — traverse the surface of earth in curves of
varied eccentricity in reference to the parallels of latitude.
These curves are nowhere, perhaps, greater than on this con-
tinent. In the latitude of Nova Scotia, which is bound
for nearly half the year in fetters of ice, snow on the Pa-
cific does not lie more than three or four weeks. In the
valley of the Wilhamette, above the 4'5th degree of north
latitude, — the parallel of Montreal, — grass grows the
whole winter, and cattle are rarely if ever housed. Green
pease are eaten at Oregon city, in the same parallel, at
Christmas. Where is the corresponding climate to be found
on this side of the continent X Where we sit — ■ near the
39th X No, sir, far to the south of us. The latitude of
Georgia gives on the Pacific a tropical climate.

When I say this is a practical question, I do not rely on
reasoning alone. The prohibition of slavery in the laws
of Oregon was adopted for the express purpose of exclud-
ing slaves. A few had been brought in ; further impor-
' tations were expected ; and it was with a view to put a stop
to them that the prohibitory act was passed.

Shall we, then, refuse to ratify this prohibition] Are
we unwilling to extend to the inhabitants of Oregon a priv-
ilege they ask for themselves X Shall we, by our judgment
solemnly pronounced here, declare that the territory of
Oregon shall be open to the introduction of slaves, unless
the people, through their legislative assembly, reenact the
prohibition \ I might go further, and ask, in reference to
a proposed amendment, whether we are prepared to say,



ao^ainst the wishes of the inhabitants, that the introduction
of slaves into Oregon shall not be prohibited \

Mr. President, I desire it not to be understood, in put-
ting- these inquiries, that I am in favor of leaving to the
inhabitants of territories the decision of a question not only
affecting them, but of vital importance to the prosperity of
the whole community. I have always regarded it as one
of the high duties of the Federal government to give direc-
tion and shape to the institutions of the inhabitants of a
territory while preparing themselves for admission into the
Union. This temporary subordination was deemed neces-
sary for the northwest territory, even though settled by the
unmixed population of the thirteen original States, trained
to self-government and to the exercise of political rights
under institutions of the most fiiultless character. How
much more necessary is such a supervision now, when ter-
ritories are becoming annexed to the Union inhabited by
the most heterogeneous races, and wholly unused to the en-
joyment or exercise of rational freedom X

An honorable Senator from North Carolina^ denomi-
nated this submission of power to the inhabitants of the ter-
ritories a republican measure, or as in accordance with the
genius of our republican institutions. Sir, it was not so con-
sidered in former times — in the earlier and better days of
the Republic. Let me state some historical facts touching
this question.

In 1805, an act was passed for the government of the
territory of Orleans. While the bill was under discussion
in the Senate, certain amendments were offered, the effect
of which would have been to give the inhabitants of the ter-
ritory of Orleans the management of their own domestic
concerns, uncontrolled by Congress. The Journal of the
Senate does not show by whom the amendments were offered ;
but on searching the records of that period, I find the
manuscript copy indorsed, " Mr. Tracy's motion to amend

1 Mr. Badger.


bill." I think this rnay be regarded as the original, to
which subsequent attempts to emancipate the territories
from the control of the Federal government, before they have
the population necessary to give them a representation in
Congress, may be referred. Whatever the doctrine may be
considered at the present day, it derived little support from
republican sources then. It was brought forward by Mr.
Tracy, an able and respectable Federalist from Connecticut.
On the division, which was called on his motion to strike
out for the purpose of inserting his amendments, it received
but eight votes, including his own. They were given by
Timothy Pickering and John Quincy Adams, of Massachu-
setts ; Uriah Tracy, the mover, and James Hillhouse, of
Connecticut; James A. Bayard and Stephen White, of
Delaware ; Simeon Olcott, of New Hampshire ; and James
Jackson, of Georgia. With the exception of Mr. Jackson,
all these gentlemen were Federalists, for it was not until
several years later that Mr. Adams acted with the Re-
publican party. Some of them were among the brightest
ornaments of the Federal party of that day, both in re-
spect to talents and private character, and all were strenu-
ous opponents of Mr. Jefferson's administration. Against
these eight ayes were twenty-four noes, given by the great
body of Mr. Jefferson's supporters and some of his oppo-
nents. Among the former were Baldwin of Georgia, Giles
of Virginia, and Smith of Maryland. The supporters of
the measure were, with one exception. Federalists, and op-
ponents of Mr. Jefferson's administration. Its opponents
were chiefly Republicans, and supporters of his administra-

At the same session of Congress, memorials were pre-
sented to both Houses from the inhabitants of the ter-
ritory of Orleans, and from the District of Louisiana.
The former prayed to be admitted immediately into the
Union, and insisted that they had a right to such admis-
sion under the treaty of cession. The latter asked for


a territorial government; the whole territory, or District
of Louisiana, as it was called, lying north of the 33d par-
allel of latitude, having been virtually subjected, in respect
to the administration of its legislative, executive, and judi-
cial powers, to the Governor and judges of the Indiana
territory. In both cases the inhabitants prayed for the
privilege of importing slaves. These memorials were re-
ferred, in the House of Representatives, to a committee of
which Mr. John Randolph was chairman.

On the 25th of January, 1805, Mr. Randolph made a
report, which will be found at page 417 of vol. 20, Ameri-
can State Papers, printed by Gales & Seaton, concluding
with a resolution, " that provision ought to be made by
law for extending to the inhabitants of Louisiana the right
of self-government." This resolution was agreed to, on the
28th of January, without a division.

Mr. Randolph's report, while asserting that " every in-
dulgence, not incompatible with the interests of the Union,"
should be extended to the inhabitants of Louisiana, and
while declaring that the object of the committee was "to
give to Louisiana a government of its own choice, ad-
ministered by officers of its own appointment," maintained
at the same time, that, in "recommending the extension
of this privilege to the people of that country, it [was]
not the intention of the committee that it should be un-
accompanied by wise and salutary restrictions. Among these
may be numbered a prohibition of the importation of for-
eign slaves, equally dictated by humanity and policy, [here
follows an enumeration of other restrictions,] to which may
be added, (for further security,) that such of the laws as
may be disapproved by Congress, within a limited time
after their passage, shall be of no force and effect."

The report of Mr. Randolph asserted, to the full extent,
the right of Congress to provide for the government of
the territories, to impose on them such restrictions as were
demanded by the interests of the Union, and to prohibit the


introduction of slaves from foreign countries, as a measure
of humanity and policy.

Such was the action of the two Houses of Congress on
this subject, involving the question of yielding to the inhab-
itants of territories the control of their own domestic affairs,
and exempting their legislation from the supervisory and
repealing power of Congress. If we regard it as a party
measure, all the republican sanctions of that day were
against it. And if we consider it as a political question, to
be determined, with regard to its complexion, by a reference
to the genius of our institutions, it is singular that those
who were most deeply imbued with the spirit of republi-
canism should have been arrayed against it.

Let me now examine for a moment the question immedi-
ately before us. A motion is made to strike out the twelfth
section of this bill. The section provides: 1st. That "the
inhabitants of the said territory shall be entitled to all the
rights, privileges, and immunities heretofore granted and
secured to the territory of Iowa, and to its inhabitants."

2d. That " the existing laws now in force in the territory
of Oregon, under the authority of the provisional govern-
ment established by the people thereof, shall continue to be
valid and operative therein, so far as the same be not incom-
patible with the provisions of this act, subject, nevertheless,
to be altered, modified, or repealed by the Governor and
Legislative Assembly of the said territory of Oregon."

Sd. That '• the laws of the United States are hereby
extended over and declared to be in force in said territory,
so far as the same or any provision thereof may be appli-

In order to see what rights, privileges, and immunities
the people of Oregon are to acquire, we must refer to the
act organizing the territory of Iowa. The twelfth section
of this act provides, '• that the inhabitants of the said terri-
tory shall be entitled to all the rights, privileges, and im-
munities heretofore granted and secured to the territory of
Wisconsin and its inhabitants," &c.


We must next have recourse to the act organizing the
territory of Wisconsin. The twelfth section of this act
provides, " that the inhabitants of the said territory shall be
entitled to, and enjoy, all and singular the rights, privileges,
and advantages granted and secured to the people of the
territory of the United States northwest of the river Ohio,
by the articles of the compact contained in the ordinance for
the government of the said territory, passed on the 13th day
of July, 1787 J and shall be subject to all the conditions
and restrictions and prohibitions in said articles of compact
imposed upon the people of the said territory."

It will be seen that there is an essential difference in the
language of the two sections. The twelfth section of the
act organizing the territory of Iowa secures the rights, priv-
ileges, and immunities secured to the territory of Wisconsin
and its inhabitants, including the ordinance of 1787? hut it
does not expressly impose the conditions, restrictions, and
prohibitions contained in that ordinance. Now, I suppose
the exclusion of slavery from the northwest territory by the
ordinance is to be referred rather to the class of restrictions
and prohibitions than to that of privileges and immunities.
Under such a construction of the act, slavery would not
have been excluded from Iowa by the twelfth section of the
act establishing a government for that territory, nor would
it be excluded from Oregon by that portion of this bill

Online LibraryJohn A. (John Adams) DixSpeeches and occasional addresses (Volume 1) → online text (page 30 of 40)