John A. (John Adams) Dix.

Speeches and occasional addresses (Volume 1) online

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ordinance of 1787 was framed and passed. The tenure
of slaves ovi^ned by the inhabitants of the territory and
held within it was sanctioned by the courts. The prohibi-
tion was construed to extend only to persons born or brought
into the territory subsequently to the adoption of the ordi-

The situation of California and New Mexico is entirely
different. Mexico long" since abolished slavery throughout
her limits. The abolition was first publicly proclaimed by
President Guerrero in 1829, in pursuance, as the decree
declares, of extraordinary powers vested in him. It was
again declared to be abolished by an act of the sovereign
Congress in 1837, and again by the Constitution of 1844*.
Though, as a nation, but imperfectly civilized, struggling
against the embarrassments of bad government, and dis-
tracted by internal dissensions, arising, in a great degree,
out of the heterogeneous character of her population, Mex-
ico has, nevertheless, placed her institutions on the broad
foundation of human liberty, by declaring all within her
limits to be free.

To permit slavery to be carried into California and New
Mexico would be to annul this declaration, and to reestablish
slavery where it has been abolished. I cannot consent to
any settlement of this question which can by possibility
have such a result.

Mr. Berriex. I desire to inquire of the Senator from New York
if he intends to assert that the proclamation of President Guerrero
was issued under any power specially delegated to him in reference to
this subject ?

I will answer the Senator with pleasure. I take the de-
cree as I find it. I said that the first public declaration was
made by President Guerrero in 1829, in pursuance, as his
decree stated, of extraordinary powers conceded to him.
I am under no obligation to inquire further in relation to
the matter, or to look behind the act for the authority on
which it was founded.


Mr. Berrien. I ask the question with a view of ascertaining
whether the Senator was disposed to contend that shivery was abol-
ished in New Mexico by virtue of any other power tlum this procla-
mation ?

I suppose it was abolished by virtue of the authority on
which the decree was made. I liave the decree, and will
read it, if the Senator from Georgia desires it.

Mr. Berrien. The Senator is not aware, perhaps, of the fact, that
the power granted to the President was given him for the purpose of
repelling invasion, and had no other object. I would propound another
question : If slavery was abolished by force of the proclamation of
President Guerrero, in 1829, what slavery remained in Mexico to
be abolished by the act of the sovereign Congress, and whence did the
sovereifTu Congress derive the power to do that which belonged to the
municipal authorities of the several States exclusively ?

1 prefer not to answer the inquiry of the Senator; it will
require a diversion from the course of my remarks, which I
do not care to make.^ I repeat, the first public declaration
that slavery was abolished was made in 1 829 ; the next by
the Congress of 1837; ^.nd they were virtually reaffirmed
by the constitution of 184<4<. I do not design now to go
beyond the limits of these executive, legislative, and constitu-
tional acts, to inquire into the authority upon which they
rested. I stated, when I was interrupted, that the effect of
carrying slavery into California would be to subvert the
prohibition contained in tliese acts. This is the first great
objection. The second is, that it would be unjust to the
community at large, by promoting the multiplication of a race
which adds neither to the intellectual nor physical power
of the body politic, and which excludes free labor as far as
it extends the labor of slaves. I consider this one of the
greatest objections to it. It should be our object to promote,
in every constitutional way, the extension of free labor,
and the most effectual is to devote the unoccupied spaces of
the West to the white race. The third objection is, that it
would be unjust to California and New Mexico. They have
no slaves. I believe I am authorized to say, they desire none.

1 See Appendix, No. 5.


Mr. FooTE. I would inquire of the Senator from New York, if he
considers that any injustice will result to California and New Mexico,
bj allowing the people of those territories to do with this matter as they
please ?

I am in favor of doing what the fathers of the Repubhc
(lid in relation to the Northwestern territory, — of prevent-
ing the extension to California of what they considered, and
what I consider, a great evil. If we carry slavery into New
Mexico and California, we shall do it against the wishes
of the people there. They have no slaves now, and we
should plant slavery where it does not exist. We should
stand before the world in the same relation in which Great
Britain stood to her American colonies. She allowed sla-
very to be carried into those colonies against their wishes,
and, in some instances, against their earnest remonstrances.

The introduction of slavery into California and New
Mexico, as I conceive, would be the more indefensible, as
there is nothing in the soil and climate which renders the
labor of the African race necessary, — notliing that makes
it unsafe or oppressive for whites to be employed in pro-
ductive industry under any of its forms. New Mexico
consists, for the most part, of mountains, with narrow valleys
between, which require to be watered by artificial means.
There is no need of the African race. A large portion of
California is elevated and broken. It yields nothing to the
production of which slave labor is even claimed to be indis-
pensable. Much of the value of that territory consists in
the maritime valley which lies on the Pacific. It is about
five hundred miles long, and one hundred and fifty wide,
with an area of some seventy-five thousand square miles.
The breezes from the Pacific moderate the temperature, and
the mountains on the east, rising to the height of thousands
of feet, collect and precipitate the moisture of the atmosphere,
and pour it down in fertilizing streams into the valley below.
It is said by Fremont to bear a strong resemblance to Italy
in soil, chmate, and capacity for production. It is perhaps


the finest region of the same extent in the western hemisphere.
The vine, the olive, and the fig-, the infinite variety of fruits
and grains which are produced within the trojjics, are to he
found in California. Nature has, in a word, lavished upon
it her choicest gifts. In the recent discoveries of gold,
there is much to be deplored. Let us hope that it will soon
become exhausted, and that the steady j)ursuits of agricul-
tural, commercial, and mechanical industry, by which alone
nations are made prosperous, may constitute the sole objects
of application. There is no need of blacks in California ;
the white race can labor there without difficulty. The pro-
ductions are such as to require the care and intelligence of
the more intellectual race. It would be a perversion of the
purposes of nature, in more senses than one, to carry slaves

I believe this will be the effect of the amendment of the
Senator from Wisconsin, but not by virtue of any right con-
ferred by the Constitution. I do not acknowledge the exist-
ence of any such right. I speak of practical effects. Slaves
have been carried, and always will be carried, wherever they
are not prohibited. Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri are
in the same range of States. The fortieth parallel of lati-
tude divides them all. The influences of soil and climate are
much the same in each. From the first three, slavery has
been excluded by the ordinance of 1787- The last has been
overrun with slavery for want of a prohibition. The fate
of California in this respect will be settled by similar laws.
I believe we shall, by the amendment under consideration,
lay the foundation of a contest among the inhabitants of
California, far more disastrous than their present disorgani-
zation, I hold it to be our duty to settle this question our-
selves, instead of sending it out to the Pacific to distract
our countrymen in laying the foundation of a new govern-

I have but one more consideration to present in connec-
tion with this topic ; and I submit whether this ought not


to weigh much with us all 1 When the war with Mexico
was commenced, we were charged with the intention of ac-
quiring territory with a view to carrying slaves into it.
The charge was denied. We repelled the imputation, as
doing injustice to our motives. Yet, in the very first at-
tempt to establish a government for that territory, the right '
is insisted upon — the purpose is confessed. Whether the
Mexican government was aware of this imputation, I do
not know ; but in the negotiation with Mr. Trist, the Mexi-
can commissioners wished us to stipulate not to carry slavery
into the territory which was proposed to be ceded.

Mr. FooTE. Will the honorable Senator from New York allow me
to propound a question to him ? That question is this : Who, from
the South, either here or elsewhere, has avowed any such purpose ?
Had Southeni Senators insisted upon anything but that Congress shall
not legislate on the subject of slavery in the territories at all ? Have
we asked Congress to legislate for the introduction of slavery, or
avowed any purpose of doing anything except to resist unconstitutional
encroachment ?

I was speaking of an avowed purpose to carry slaves into
California ; and I thought I understood the Senator from
Mississippi not only as asserting the right, but as supporting
his argument by contending that a portion of the country
was likely to become a slaveholding region.

Mr. FooTE. I said this,'on that point: It is well known that slavery
is adapted to only a small portion of this territory. Believing this to
be the case, I urged that the moderation and forbearance of the >South,
in order to establish a territorial government affording protection to
the people of these territoi-ies, is strikingly exhibited in her not urging
her right, in any shape or form, to be authorized specially by law to
carry slaves there. We ask nothing but to be let alone.

T cannot consent to go into this discussion now. I said,
that whether the Mexican government was aware of the
imputation cast upon us, I did not know ; but that in the
negotiation with Mr. Trist, the Mexican commissioners
wished us to stipulate that we should not allow slavery to
be established in any territory they should cede to us. T


will read a brief extract from a letter addressed by Mr.
Trist to Mr. Buchanan upon this subject, while the negotia-.
tion was pending. It is dated the 4th September, 1847,
and is contained in a document printed by order of the

" Among the points which came under discussion was the exclusion
of slavery from all territory which should pass from Mexico. In the
course of their remarks on the subject, I was told, that, if it were pro-
posed to the people of the United States to part with a jiortion of their
territory in order that the Inquisition should be therein established, the
proposal could not excite stronger feelings of abhorrence than those
awakened in Mexico by the prospect of the introduction of slavery in
any territory parted with by her."

I could make no comment on this correspondence, if I
were disposed, which would be half so eloquent as the facts.
These Mexicans, whom we have been accustomed to consider
half-civilized, vanquished in the field, driven from their capi-
tal, compelled to make peace with us almost on our own
terms, and forced to cede a portion of their territory, im-
plore us not to carry slavery into it. Sir, I ask how should
we stand before the world, liberal and enlightened as we
are, proclaiming to mankind the principle of human liberty
as one of the inalienable rights of our race, if we were to
disregard these entreaties \

Mr. JNIason. Does the Senator refer to the petition which has been
presented from New Mexico ?

No,* sir; I refer to Mr. Trist's negotiation in Mexico, and

the representations made to him during an interview with

the Mexican commissioners.

Mr. KusK. I wish to ask the honorable Senator whether he does
not know that the Mexican commissioners negotiated the treaty under
the influence of an agent of the British government ?

I suppose thefe can be no doubt that the treaty is in strict
accordance with the feelings and wishes of the Mexican
people on this subject. Their repeated declarations in re-
spect to the abolition of slavery prove it, under whatever
influences the treaty may have been framed.



Mr. President, two years ago, when I first addressed the
Senate upon this subject, under the instructions of the State
of New York, I said that, by no instrumentality of hers,
should slavery be carried into any portion of this conti-
nent which is free. I repeat the declaration now : by no act,
by no acquiescence of hers, shall slavery be carried where
it does not exist. I said at the same time, that, in whatever
manner this question should be settled, if it should be de-
cided against her views of justice and right, her devotion to
the Union and to her sister-States should remain unshaken
and unimpaired. Speaking in her name, and for the last
time within these walls, I repeat this declaration also. She
does not believe in the possibility of disunion. I am thankful
that her faith is also mine. My confidence is founded upon
the disinterestedness of the great body of the people, who
derive their subsistence from the soil, and whose attachment
is strong in proportion to their close communion with it.
They have incorporated with it the labor of their own hands.
It has given them back wealth and health and strength, —
health to enjoy, and strength to defend what they possess.
In seasons of tranquillity and peace they are unseen, too
often, perhaps, forgotten ; but it is in their silent and sober
toil that the public prosperity is wrought out. It is only in
the hour of peril that they come forth from a thousand hills
and valleys and plains to sustain with strong arms the coun-
try they have made prosperous. In them the Union will
find its surest protectors. They are too virtuous and too
independent to be corrupted. They are spread over too
broad a surface for the work of seduction. It is in towns
and public assemblies, where men are concentrated, that the
tempter can with more assurance sit down, as of old, in the
guise of friendship, and whis])er into the unsuspecting or
the willing ear the lesson of disobedience and treachery.
From this danger the great body of the people are secure.
And let us be assured that they will never permit the ban-
ner which floats over them at home, and carries their name


to every sea, to be torn down, either by internal dissension
or external violence. Such is my firm, my unalterable con-
viction. But, if I am mistaken in all this, — if the span-
gled field it bears aloft is destined to be broken up, — then
my prayer will be, that the star which represents New York
in the constellation of States may stand fixed until every
other shall have fallen !


The following is a copy of Mr. Jefferson's plan : —

The committee appointed to prepare a plan for the tempoi-ary: govern-
ment of the Western Territory, have agreed to the following resolutions :

Resolved, That the territory ceded or to be ceded by individual States
to the United States, whensoever the same shall have been purchased
of the Indian inhabitants, and offered for sale by the United States, shall
be formed into distinct States, bounded in the following manner, as
nearly as such cessions will admit, — that is to say : northAvardly and
southwardly by parallels of latitude, so that each State shall compre-
hend, from south to north, two degrees of latitude, beginning to count
from the completion of thirty-one degrees north of the equator : but
any territory northwardly of the forty-seventh degree shall make part
of the State next below ; and eastwardly and westwardly they shall be
bounded, those on the Mississippi by that river on one side, and the
meridian of the lowest point of the rapids of Ohio on the other ; and
those adjoining on the east by the same meridian on their western side,
and on tlieir eastern by the meridian of the western cape of the mouth
of the Great Kanawha ; and the territory eastward of this last merid-
ian, between the Ohio, Lake Erie, and Pennsylvania, shall be one State.

That the settlers within the territory so to be purchased and offered
for sale, shall, either on their own petition, or on the order of Congress,
receive authority from them, with appointments of time and place for
their free males, of full age, to meet together for the purpose of estab-
lishing a temporary government, to adopt the constitution and laws of
any one of these States, so that such laws nevertheless shall be subject
to alteration by their ordinary legislature ; and to erect, subject to a
like alteration, counties or townships for the election of members for
their legislature.

That such temporary government shall only continue in force in any


State until it shall have acquired twenty thousand free inhabitants ;
when, giving due proof thereof to Congress, they shall receive from
them authority, with appointrments of time and place, to call a conven-
tion of representatives to establish a permanent constitution and gov-
ernment for themselves : Provided, That both the temporary and jjer-
manent governments be established on these principles as their basis :
1. [That they shall forever remain a part of the United States of
America ;] 2. That, in their persons, property, and territory, they shall
be subject to the government of the United States in Congress as-
sembled, and to the Articles of Confederation in all those cases in
which the oi-iginal States shall be so subject ; 3. That they shall be
subject to pay a part of the Federal debts contracted or to be con-
tracted, to be apportioned on them by Congress according to the same
common rule and measure by which apportionments thereof shall be
made on the other States ; 4. That their respective governments shall
be in republican forms, and shall admit no person to be a citizen who
holds any hereditary title ; 5. That after the year 1800 of the Christian
era there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of
the said States, otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the
party shall have been duly convicted to have been personally guilty.

That, whensoever any of the said States shall have, of free inhab-
itants, as many as shall then be in any one of the least numerous of the
thirteen original States, such State shall be admitted by its delegates
into the Congress of the United States on an equal footing with the
said original States : after which the assent of two thirds of the United
States in Congress assembled shall be requisite in all those cases where-
in, by the Confederation, the assent of nine States is now required :
Provided, The consent of nine States to such admission may be ob-
tained according to the eleventh of the Articles of Confederation.
Until such admission, by their delegates into Congress, any of the said
States, after the establishment of their temporary government, shall
have authority to keep a sitting member in Congress, with right of de-
bating but not of voting.

That the territory northward of the forty-fifth degree, that is to say,
of the completion of forty-five degrees from the equator, and extend-
ing to the Lake of the Woods, shall be called Sylvania.

That of the territory under the forty-fifth and forty-fourth degrees,
that which lies westward of Lake Michigan, shall be called MiCHi-
GAXiA ; and that which is eastward thereof, within the peninsula
formed by the lakes and waters of Michigan, Huron, St. Clair, and
Erie, shall be called Cherronesus, and shall include any part of the
peninsula which may extend above the forty-fifth degree.

Of the territory under the forty-third and forty-second degrees, that
to the westward, through which the Assenisipi or Rock river runs, shall


be called Assenisipia ; and that to the eastward, in which are the foun-
tains of the Muskingum, the two Miamies, of the Ohio, the Wabash,
the Illinois, the Miami of tlie Lake, and Sandusky i-ivers, shall be called

Of the territory which lies under the forty-first and fortieth degrees,
the western, through which the river Illinois runs, shall be called Illi-
NOiA ; that next adjoining to the eastward Saratoga ; and that be-'
tween this last and Pennsylvania, and extending from the Ohio to Lake
Erie, sliall be called Washington.

Of the territory which lies under the thirty-ninth and thirty-eighth
degrees, to which shall be added so much of the point of land within
the fork of the Ohio and Mississippi as lies under the thirty-seventh
degree, that to the westward, within and adjacent to which are the con-
fluences of the rivers Wabash, Sliawanee, Tanissee, Ohio, Illinois,
Mississippi, and Missouri, shall be called Polypotamia ; and that to
the eastward, further up the Ohio, otherwise called the Pelisipi, shall
be called Pelisipia.

That the preceding articles shall be formed into a charter of compact,
shall be duly executed by the President of the United States in Con-
gress assembled, under his hand and the seal of the United States,
shall be promulgated, and shall stand as fundamental constitutions be-
tween tlie thirteen original States and those newly described, unaltera-
ble but by the joint consent of the United States in Congress assembled,
and of the particular State within which such alteration is proposed to
be made.

This- paper is indorsed as follows, in a different handwrit-
ing, supposed to be that of a clerk : " Report — Mr. Jefferson,
Mr. Chase, Mr. Howell."

Washington, February 20, 1849.

I certify, that, at the request of my father, and with the permission
of Mr. Buchanan, Secretary of State, the foregoing copy of " a plan
for the temporary government of the Western Territory " was made
by me from the original, deposited in the State Department among the
archives of the Congress of the Confederation ; and that I compared
the copy with the original, with the assistance of Lund Washington,
Jr., Esq., and found it correct. Morgan Dix.


The following is the vote on the anti-slavery clause of Jef-
ferson, above given, April 19, 1784: —


New HampsMre Mr. Foster, ay )

Mr. Blanchard, ay ) ^'

Massachusetts P. . Mr. Gerry, ay 1

Mr. Patridge, ay j ^^'

Rhode Island Mr. Ellery, av )

Mr. Howell, ay ] ^^^

Connecticut Mr. Sherman, ay )

Mr. Wadsworth, ay ) ' ^'

New York Mr. De Witt, ay \

Mr. Paine, ay j ^^'

New Jersey Mr. Dick, ay *

Pennsylvania Mr. Mifflin, ay )

]\Ir. IMontgomery, ay >■ ay.

Mr. Hand, ay )


Maryland jNIr. INIcHenry, no

]Mr. Stone, no j

Virginia Mr. Jefferson, ay )

Mr. Hardy, no >-no.

INIr. Mercer, no )

North Carolina JNIr. Williamson, ay ) ,.

Mr. Spaight, no

South Carolina Mr. Read, no

Mr. Beresford, no
[^Journals of Congress, ( Way Sf Gideon,) Vol. IV. p. 373.]


The following is a copy of Mr. King's proposition : —

" That there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in
any of the States described in the resolve of Congress of the 23d of
April, 1784, otherwise than in punishment of crimes whereof the party
shall have been personally guilty ; and that this regulation shall be an
article of compact, and remain a fundamental principle of the Consti-
tution, between the thirteen original States and each of the States de-
scribed in the said resolve of the 23d of April, 1784."

On the question for commitment, the yeas and nays being
required by Mr. King, the vote was as follows : —

New Hampshire Mr. Foster, ay ^

Mr. Long, ay j ^'

Massachusetts Mr. Holten, ay


]\Ir. King, ay j ^^'

Rhode Island Mr. Ellery, ay )

Mr. Howell, ay j ^^'

* The asterisk opposite the name of could not be represented by less than
Mr. Dick, of New Jersej', indicates that two members or delegates. (See sect. 2,
the vote was not counted, as a State art. 5, of the Articles of Confederation.)

Online LibraryJohn A. (John Adams) DixSpeeches and occasional addresses (Volume 1) → online text (page 39 of 40)