Richard Parker.

Speech of Hon. Richard Parker, of Virginia, on the President's message in relation to California. Delivered in the House of Representatives, Thursday, February 28, 1850 online

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Online LibraryRichard ParkerSpeech of Hon. Richard Parker, of Virginia, on the President's message in relation to California. Delivered in the House of Representatives, Thursday, February 28, 1850 → online text (page 1 of 2)
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Tlie House being in Committee of tlie Whole on
the state of the Union, on the President's Mes-
sage communicating the Constitution of Cali-

Mr. PARKER said:

Mr. Chairman: When in December last we
assembled here from the different portions of the
Confederacy, there appeared amongst us a disposi-
tion to cultivate kind feelings with each other, and
to meet in a spirit of frankness the various que.<?-
tions of difference amongst us. And from all 1
then heard from northern gentlemen on this side
of the chauiber, I did not for a moment doubt that
an honest, and, I believed, a successful effort
would be made to accommodate, in a manner sat-
isfactory to all, the dissensions existing amongst
us in reference to the slavery question.

Diversity of opinion on this subject had for a
long time disturbed those amicable relations which
should prevail in a Confederacy of sovereign Stales,
and was threatening the very existeoce of that
Confederacy, and it was hoped — I may say the
country expected — that all her representatives
would unite in one energetic effort to restore har-
mony to our Federal councils, and by removing
the causes for disquiet and apprehension, to place
upon a yet more stable foundation the destinies of
this glorious republic. To effect this great and
hallowed work, it had the right to expect that we
should meet in this hall, as the representatives of
independent vet united States should meet, with
feelings of patriotism in our breasts, with a love
of country which would enable us to bear with
much for its welfare, with a sincere purpose to
deliberate calmly upon the troubles and the dan-
gers which surround us — in a word, in a spirit of
conciliation, as men resolved to firactice towards
each other and towards all portions of the Con-
federacy, that courtesy of demeanor and charity
of feeling so necessary for the advancement of the
public weal.

Meeting in such a spirit, and acting in accord-
ance with Its demands, we might have drawn still
more closiRly together the bonds which unite us;
we might have hoped that success would crown
our efforts, and that we might have settled, once
and forever, the only subject that could possibly
dissever the Union.

But, 1 regret to say it, these good feelings seem
to have been displaced by feelmgs of a very dif-
ferent character. And northern men and south-
ern men, in appearance, have occupied towards

each other on this floor rather the attitude of the
repn-aentatives of hostile nations than that of
members of the same legislative council.

That we from the South should speak warmly,
whenever any atlem[)t was made to restrict or en-
croach upon our rights, in a matter of such vital
concern to us, was natural — was to be expected.
In truth, we should be false to our constituents,
false to the feelinijs they entertain upon the subject
of these attacks upon our guarantied riichts, if we
did not speak in the language of firmness and d'-
lermination. We at the South do believe that, for
thfi last thirty years, you of the North, from feeluigs
of a blind, but not the less hurtful philanthropy,
with some; from an anxiety for political power with
others; and with others still, from more improper
motives, have violated, to our injury and oppres-
sion, the most sacred guarantees of the Constitu-
tion, and have assumed to this Government power^s
which never were granted to it, and never would
have been granted by that portion of the Confed-
eracy from which we come. It is our duty, then,
to warn you — not in tones of anger or defiance,
yet in the language of a fixed resolution- -that the
course you arc pursuing may involve both you
and us in one common calamity. Now, gentle-
men from the North choose to consider the lan-
guage of warning as the language of defiance, and
permit themselves to be excited beyond measure,
and, I must say, often to the perversion of our
real meaning into something intentionally offen-
sive to themselves. Thus, when my colleague
from the Richmond district, some time since called
upon the President, in the name of the Slate
which had given him birth — of the State which
had adopted him as her son — and of the State
where he had fixed his home,*and where his friends
and neighbors lived — that he, at least, should not
l)e found using the influence of his high |)osition
to fasten upon the South terms injurious to her
interests and degrading to her honor; and, to
make his appeal still moie effective, reminded the
President, that on that batile-field which has cov-
ered him with glory, and has raised him to the
highest office kno^'n to our lav/s, he was sus-
tained by men from all portions of the Union —
from the South as well as from the North —by the
brave Mississippians, as well as by the gallant
Indianians — genilemen have chosen, not willfully,
but under ihe influence of excitement, to pervert
tlie sole and only object of my colleague into one
of vaingloryingoii his |>art of the prowess nf south-
ern troops, when contrasted with troops from

other portions of the Confederacy. And under
this impression the honorable gentleman from Illi-
nois [Mr. Bissell] indulged in a strnin of re-
mark bv no meins ca!cult\ted to restore harmony
to this House — a strain of rem.nrk which grated
harshly on every southern ear. Himself a gallant
soldier, he has not been rontent to claim for those
who on that great day fought under his immediate
command, the tribute of praise to which they are
justly entitled, and which the whole country has
'ong since awarded ; but to judge him by hi.s
speech, and the manner in wiiich it was delivered,
he has virtually denied that the Mississippi regi-
ment was entitled to any praise for its bearing und
•ervices in that battle.

Mr. BISSELL. I expressly disaffirm all inten-
tion, in the remarks I submitted to ihi.s committee
on a former occa.sion, of casting any imputation
on the Mississippi regiment. I could not have
been so unjust to that regiment, or to myself. My
object solely was to remove an erroneous impres-
sion which had been created, as 1 thought, unin-
tentionally, of course, l)y the remarks of the gen-
tleman from Virginia, [Mr. Seddon,] in reference
to certain incidents of the battle of Buena Vista.
I take pleasure in saying now, as I have always
saio, that the Mississippi rejjiment bore itself as
gallantly on that field asany other rejjiment there.

Mr. PARKER resumed and said, I understood
the honora!)le gentleman as he now explains him-
Bclf. I was confident it was not his intention to
deny those services. They were too well known to
induce me to tliink for an instant that he was deny-
ing thf m. But still, under the excitement of the
moment, he did not mention thein; and if it should
chance that the honorable gentleman's speech, as
delivered here, should be the only record of the
•onflict at Buena Vista that should descend to fu-
ture times, it might appear that a southern regi-
ment had claimed the greatest honors of the day,
when, in truth, it was not even engaged in the
fight; for all that he said of that regiment Ls, that
it was a mile and a half distant from the field.
Now, v/ill the honorable gentleman wonder that
southern msn manifest occasional excitement,
when questions of the most vital concern to their
constituents are agitated here from day to day,
when so unfounded a suspicion of wrong to him
•nd others, being inrended where none was thought
of, caused him to for;iet what was due io gallant
•outhern men who, with him, bore the toils and
the danger.' - of the fight.'

But again, the honorable gentleman has thought
proper to sneer at the bravery of the southern
people. He has told us, you are biave men, I
admi ;aye ! as biaveasyour fnther.s — not braver —
who permitted a Bmull, ill-equip|)ed, enervated
body of British troops, not 4,500 in nuinl er, to
inarch to tlie se.nt of Government, burn its Capi-
tol, destroy its archives, and this almost without
a blow. Did the honorable gentleman say this by
way of taunt? And is it his settled purfiose to
arome a fteling in this House, which must neces-
sarily prerliide even the hope of arranging that
Irouble.souic question, which presses so heavily
■pon U8? If so, 1 think he mistakes his duty as
■ reftresentative, whose leading wish should ever
be to pronidie, in every proper way, and on all
■Hitalde orcHKions, the [)urpo3es for which, as the
Constitution iisell declares, this Government was
formed; 1 mean "in order to cruate a tnoie per-

fect union, establish justice, and insure domestic
f] Iranquiltily." These objects, surely, are not ad-
vanced by the course which the honorable gentle-
man from Illinois is pursuing.

And then, again, tne honorable gentleman has
informed the House and the country, that Illinois,
which furnished nine regiments for the Mexican
war, will furnish thirty-six regiments to suppress
I' and put down all tumultuous or revolutionary
I movements in the South. Why really, sir, I might
I retaliate on the honorable gentleman, and say of
{l him, what he said of sou'hern men, that he, too,
y at times indulges in a little gasconade; but I will
not do so, my object being peace and harmony. I
will, however, advise the honorable gentleman to
reflect more carefully upon the nature of the gov-
ernments under which we live, and of the relations
of the States of this Union towards each other
and towards this Federal Government, before he
asain threatens to interfere, by armed force, with
the action of independent sovereign States. Such
studies may be more useful than his enumeration
of the cohorts the North will throw upon us, in
the event, that by your own folly and injustice,
you drive us to seek for happiness apart from all
connection with you. Now, sir, I will again say
that a discussion, conducted in this temper, and with
such allusions, is much to be deprecated. The
pulilic interests cannot be advanced by it, but, on
the contrary, must sulfer from every manifestation
of bad feeling in this hall; and I therefore hope
that we will, each of us, restrict ourselves to a
fair, full, and free examination of the various ques-
tions of complaint now before us for considera-
tion. It is in this spirit I engage in an inve.sli-
gation of these several questions; but before doing
so, I would assure the honorable gentleman from
Illinois, that in what I have said of the course of
remark adopted by him the other day, it is very
far from my intention to wound his sensibilities,
or to detract in any way from the enviable posi-
j lion he has won for himself by his gallant bearing

in our war with Mexico.
' 1 have said that, for years past, we at the South
have had many and good causes of complaint for
injuries inflicted by the North.

Before, however, entering upon the considera-
tion of these topics, permit me to allude to some
of the many unfounded complaints which, since
the commencement of this session, northern repre-
sentatives have made against us of the South.

In the first place, it is asserted that in all our
former acquisitions of territory — of Louisiana, of
Florida, and of Texas — the South has been influ-
enced by the most selfish motives, and has insisted
on these additions because they would be to its
peculiar advantage; and that in each of these in-
.stances we have been guilty of aggi-essions upon
the North, Now, sir, Louisiana was purchased
to secure to the whole country, and es|iecially to
the great Northwest, the full and complete con-
y trol of the Mississippi river. This was the ncces-
H sity for its purchase-^ necessity not originating
in any intention to aggranitize the power of the
South. And so again with Florida. The inter-
ests of the whole country required the extinction
of the title of S[>Hin, whose authority over that
country was so slight, that she had abandoned it
almost emirely to bands of savages, who. led on
by unprincipled adventurers, weie giving constant
annoyance and doing serious injury to the Union


in many of its most essential interests. Btaides,
we gave for Florida other southern territory, more
important to Spain berausc more convenient to
her other possessions on this continent-, and thus
by its acquisition we did not in any degree add to
the extent of southern territory. And when it
was propo.sed to annex Texas to our Union —
Texas, which once was part of that Union — did
not the North as well as the S.Hiih epeait out
bohlly in her behalf, and demand her annexation
on grounds of high Slate policy ? Our soundest
statesmen regarded her annexation as essential to
the peace and welfare and power of the Union.
Foreign r)ations took the same view, and England
and France exhausted all the art.s of diplomacy to
prevent this great result. And gentlemen from the
North are now doin? injustice to their own patri-
otic efforts in J844, when they cite the annexation
of Texas as en evidence of southern aggression,
and say that it was eft'i-cied against the convictions
and the wishes of the North. In fact it was neither
North nor South that has made these extensions
of our empire. They are the gloVious fruits of
that republican policy which has no sectional
views, and which has ever looked, and I trust ever
will look, to the welfare of the Union, and the
wiioie Union.

And this same enlarged and catholic spirit, which
in 1844 induced the norihern Democracy to extend
the area of our Union by embracing within it the
State of Texas, has ever been reciprocated by the

In the Revolution, (he South sent her sons to
perish on northern fields, in defence of northern
soil. Yes ! in that struggle North and South stood
shoulder to shoulder by each other. The war of
1812 was waged for righis peculiarly dear to the
commercial Stales of the Noith. It was waged
for " free trade and sailors' righis" — righis in
which the South fell no peculiar concern, but
which she maintained with as much spirit as if
her own dearest interests were involved. So we
of the South stood by you in your controversy
respecting your northeastern boundary; and still
laier, though threatened with the power of Eng-
land, when the time had come for asserting your
claim to the far northern territory of Oregon.

But an honorable gentleman frojn Ohio [Mr.
Campbell] complained that the South had re-
pealed the tariff acts of 1828 and 1842, and spoke of
these acts of repeal as agp-essirms upon the North,
and u|)on northern ca[)ital. This d scovery is en-
tirely due 10 thatgenileman, and 1 feel confident no
one will contest with him the merit of having made
it. Why, sir, those acts had proved of the greatest
injury to every interest in the country, cxcepimK
the manufacturing interest only. Our selfish pol-
icy, as developed in them, had closed against us
the markets of the world, and left the lich and
varied productions of the earth to waste upon our
hands, and our shipping to rot, for want of em-
ployment, at their wharves. Their repeal has
given a new to ea(;h of these emfdoy-
menis; and, under the genial influence of our
present tariff act, the husbandman is sure to re-
ceive that reward which is due to his industry,
and our commerce, unshackled, once more whitens
every ocean, bearing i>pon its bosom the produc-
tions of every clime, and free to CDtitribute to the
comfort and relief of man wherever he is to be
found. And yet the honorable gentleman speaks

of laws llial h«ve proved thus beneficial, as ag-
gresiioiu upon the North.

I now leave the consideration of chnrge;* such
as these, and will briefly examine the ju'iiice of
those compl. tints which the entire South utters
against the North.

And, in the first place, gentlemen of the North,
permit me to direct your attention to a subject of
complaint, about which the [)e<)ple 1 repre^ent feel
the greatest anxiety and concern — I mean the con-
duct of your people, of your judges, and your
legislatures with respect to the reatoration of fugi-
tives from labor.

It is well knoWn that the Articles of Confeder-
ation cnniained no provision for the reslonition of
such of our slaves as mi^hl flee from one Slate to
anoiher. And prior to the adoption of our Con-
stitution, ihe want of such a iirovision subjected
those States most interested in slavery to great in-
convenience, annoyance, and loss. We also know
that this entire subject was carefully considered in
the Convention which framed the Constitution;
and we further know that the Constitution would
never have been adopted, had it not contained that
full and complete provision f<)r the protection of
our slave propeity which we find in it. That pro-
vision is, that " no person held to service «r labor
in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into
another, shall, in consequence of any law or regu-
lation therein, be discharged from such service or
labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the
party to whom such service or Ial>or m:iy lie due."
The object of this provision of the Constitution
is too plain t > be misunderstood, it was intended
to secure to the owner of a fugitive slave the .same
right to recapture his slave in the Stiite tr) which
he had escaped or fled, that he hod in the tate
from which he escaped. And any law or regula-
tion of any Slate, which in any way interrupts,
limits, delays, .or postpones this right, is a vioLiiion
of this Constitutional guarantee; and any conduct
on the part of the citizens of any State, which has
such an effect, is rejirehensible in the extreme, is
a violation of the supreme law of the land, and
should be punished in the most exemplary manner.
Such is thecouipact, the solemn stipulation, which
you made with us. And I now ask, how has it
been kept on your pari? Yes, although the mem-
bers of your several Slate Legislatures, and all
your Executive and Judicial officers, have each of
them sworn to support this Constitution, and, by
taking that oath, have sworn to abide by this com-
pact, and to maintain it in full force, how has it
been kept ? For many years it was construed by
your peojile according to its true intention and de-
sign; and a slave escaping into a non-slaveholding
Stale could be pursued, and, in general, as (asily
at)prehended there a's in the Siaie from which he
fled. But for many years past its obbsaiion has
l)een almost entirely disregarded; and in some of
the States every obstacle is thrown UJ the way of
the owner who goes into such States to avail him-
.«elf of a ritcht secured to him by the Constitution.
Your people interpose every difficulty in our way,
they cast every insult upon us, and, whenever it
is necessary to insure the escape of the slave, they
do not hesitate lo resort to any degree of violence
— a violence .<f)metime3 amounting to murder,
as in the case of Kennedy, of Maryland. So great,
indeed, is the violence to which we are subjected,
that I know that no one from my own disiricl


thinks of pursuing his slave into Pennsylvania — ]
ihui bein^ ihe State in which the runaway slaves [
from nriy [><irtinn of Virsinia are harbored and con-
cealed — unless he o;oes armed, prepared to sell his
life as dearly as he may, and always in apprehen-
sion lest death may be the conseqoence of his
eflTort to recover a property, which is his by the
laws of his own State; his by this provision of the
Federal Constitution. Do you say that you can- •
not suard against these acts of violence — that they
are sudden — the acts of mobs you cannot control?
In reply, ! say your law invites this violence and j
these mobs. For if, in the attempt to recover his j
slave, "any tumult", the owner is made re-
sponsible for it ; and a tumult is therefore always !
resorted to — it beins the very mode for an escape
pointed out by your laws. A§:ain, your law makes |
It hiffhiy penal in any officer or citizen in any way j
to aid the ( laiinani in the recovery of his property. I
You further deny to him the privilege of securinj^ j
his properly in any " building belonging to the
State, or to any town, city, or person therein."!
And you punish, by heavy fine or long imnrison-
men', any mauistratc who dares to comply with
the duties assigned him by the Act of Congress of

And now, can the North, which has derived so
mnoh benefit, and has grown so great under this
Federal Constitution, feel surprised that we call }
upon her, by the faith she pledged to us in that |
sacred instrument, and by the obligations she j
thereby assumed, to stand by this provision made i
for our benefit.' Or can she he surprised that her
neglect of the high obligations under which she ^
brought herself by acceptins; this Con.stitution,
has given rise to disappointment and to much
angry feeling on our part? Is she to receive all ]
the advantages of union, and yet not be held j
bound by this most .<;olemn stipulation — a stipu- j
lation so distinct, that no pretext -can cover its |j
eva.=iion ? 1;

I ask, then, not by way of favor, but as a mat {
ler of right, that our northern States do award to :
us, in spite of all real or assumed jirejudice j
against us and our institutions, precisely that |i
measure of justice which the Constitution in- !
tendrd. Let them, in this matter, act up to its I;
true intent and meaning. We a.'^k nothing more. I

Su<-h has been our devotion to the Union, that i
we have borne, with a patience that surprises our- |;
selves when we think of it, the many serious
evils inflicteil upon us by your studied denial of Jj
this our constitutional right. And such is still jj
our desire to maintain the Union, that we are |[
even now willing to forget and to forgive the jiast, !
in cnnsideratinn of justice hereafter. ||

But there is another question as important to jj
us of the South as that I have just discussed, '
scarcely less injurious to her present interests, j
and, if poHsible, far more alarming a<» to its fu-
ture effec's upon our welfare; and that is, your j|
a.'auming the right to this Government to exclude ]'.
slavery frotn the Territories of the United States. !|
These Territories are the common property of Ij
the State*', acquired by the joint blood and treas- '
ure of all, thniiigh the agency of this Govern- '
inetit. Being thus acquired, they are the [irop- j
«riy of (Hch of the Simes, and of all. They are j|
the (iropr rty of Virginia, as much as of New ..
York or MatMachiisniH, nnd are only the prop-
erly of the UtJitcd States, because the propeityof '

Virginia and of each of her sister States. And
yet, by your clamorous threats to exclude sla-
very from them by law of Congress, you have
virtually appropriated them to yourselves, to the
detriment of all the southern Stales and their in-
habitants. Is this the treatment which we de-
serve from you, our partners in this Confederacy ?^
Is not this a discrimination against the South, as
insulting to her honor as it is injurious to her in-
terests? Is it that just division to which equals
are entitled ? Is it wise or politic thus to exclude
us from all participation in the fruits of our joint
efforts ? And does not such a course hold out to
the States thus placed under the ban, the strongest
possible motive to withhold from the Federal
head all assistance in future wars, the po sible
result of which may be the acquisition of terri-
tory >

But let us leave these general, yet unanswerable,
appeals to justice and right, and examine whether
you have the power tiius to legislate. The [lowers
granted to this Federal Government are few in
number, and limited in extent: and all powers not
delegated to the United States by the Constitution,
are reserved t.) the Slates respectively, or to the
people. And whenever "a question arises concern-
' ing the constitutionality of a particular power, the
' first question is, whether the power be expressed
' in the Constitution. If it be, the question is de-
' cided. If it Ite not expressed, the next inquiry
' must be, whether it is properly an incident to an
' ex|)ress power, and necessary to its execution. If
' it be, it may be exercised by Congress. If it be
' not, Congress cannot exercise it." 'This is the
test given us by Mr. Madison, in his well kmwn


Online LibraryRichard ParkerSpeech of Hon. Richard Parker, of Virginia, on the President's message in relation to California. Delivered in the House of Representatives, Thursday, February 28, 1850 → online text (page 1 of 2)