William D. (William Darrah) Kelley.

Speech of Judge Kelley, delivered at Spring Garden Hall, Tuesday evening, September 16, 1856 online

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Online LibraryWilliam D. (William Darrah) KelleySpeech of Judge Kelley, delivered at Spring Garden Hall, Tuesday evening, September 16, 1856 → online text (page 1 of 4)
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SEPTEMBER 16, 1856




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Have you heard the news from Maine, boys? I
(Great applause.) Such were the words with ,
which I commenced an address to the friends j
of Polk, Dallas, and Shuuk, in 1844, about I
this season of the year, in the district of
Spring Garden ; and the Democratic news
that had come that day, — the day succeeding
a gubernatorial and congressional election —
was esteemed as the sure presage of victory
to the party, as we esteem the news to-day.

We live in curious times, politically, my
friends. Why is it that the Democratic star of
Hie East, and the young Democratic Giant of
the West, have wheeled into line and put them-
selves on either side of the Whig Gibraltar,
Vermont? Why stand Democratic Maine and
Iowa, supporting Whig Vermont? There is a
significance in the fact. It tells, to those who
understand it, the whole secret of the uprising
of the people which has made a party (so far
as Pennsylvania is concerned but a few weeks
old,) the master of the destinies of the Com-
monwealth, and the party to settle the coming
national election. (Immense applause.)

The Whigs of old and the Democrats of old,
however they differed upon other questions,
agreed upon one; — indeed, their agreement
was so entire that, no question was made upon
that subject. They differed as to a National
Bank; they differed as to Tariff; they differed
aa to the distribution of the public lands; they
differed as to the improvement of rivers and
harbors by the General Government ; but the)'
agreed as the patriots who framed the Consti-
tution and who gave our government consis-
tency by the earliest action under it — they
agreed between themselves, and with the great
men who had moved before them, that slavery
was a local domestic State institution ; that,
being such, the General Government had no
concern with it within the limits of any one of
the States. They agreed, in esteeming it a
great social and political evil. They held that
the Territories, being the common property of
the States and of the people, and having been
confined by the Constitution of the United
States to Congress, (it having been made the
duty of Congress to make all necessary regu-
lations for the Territories,) it was the business
of Congress to legislate for the Territories, and
to exclude from them so great a social and
political evil as Slavery. There was no diver-
sity of opinion on this subject among those
who achieved the freedom of our country.
There was no diversity of opinion upon this
subject among those who established the con-
federacy and governed the country during the
existence of the confederation. There was no
disagreement among the earlier members of

Congress during the administration of Getjrge
Washington, or between that great man and
and the great men who made up his cabinets.
I have stated the doctrine held by them all* —
that the States were sovereign and independent
— that over the institutions of the States Con-
gress had no control — that the Territories were
the common property of the States, and that
it was the duty of Congress to legislate for
the Territories ; and by all their actions they
showed that they agreed in the opinion, that,
it being the duty of Congress to legislate for
the Territories, it was their duty to legislate
in such a manner as should promote the wel-
fare of the people, and, therefore, to exclude
Shivery from the common domain. (Laud

I shall not detain you by dwelling upon the
circumstances of the great ordinance of 1787,
which gave freedom to Ohio, Indiana, Michi-
gan, Wisconsin and Illinois. That Territory
was the property of Virginia, a slave State,
and, had no confederation taken place, no
Union been framed, it would have been slave
territory, as the mother State was. It was
ceded, though in the southern portions of it
were contained considerable numbers of slavey,
especially in Illinois. It was ceded first to the
confederacy, and subsequently to the United
States; Thomas Jefferson himself drafted the
ordinance by which "involuntary servitude,
except as punishment for crime," was pro-
hibited from all that territory forever. That
was the draft of the great Virginia Democratic
statesman. Quibblei s tell you that that was
the action of the confederacy. 1 tell you that
it was the action of the confederacy, and his-
tory tells you that the first Congress assembled
under our Constitution made that the law of
Congress which had been made the ordinance
of the confederacy. It was re-enacted, in tfie
very language t f Jefferson, as the sixth sec-
tion of the Act for the Government of the
Northwestern Territory.

The territory ceded by North Carolina and by
Kentucky, was ceded with stipulations, and
Congress was not free to legislate beyond
these stipulations ; but there came a time
when Congress was required to legislate for
the territories, and it came speedily. We ac-
quired the Louisiana territory. We bought it:
Mr. Jefferson taking an active part in its pur-
chase, he having succeeded Washington and
Adams in the presidential chair. Now, what
were the provisions for the government of
that torritory, thus acquired by purchase ? It
was slave territory. The French had admitted
slavery into Louisiana ; it had its existence
there ; money was invested in slavery ; the
habits of the people were adapted to slave-

labor. That territory, slave territory as it
was, was acquired by purchase in 1803; and in
1801, Thomas Jefferson being President, the
Congress of the United States legislated upon
the subject. Did they legislate upon the
subject of slavery in the territories — for, mark
you, we are now called "traitors" and " dis-
unionists," because we assert the doctrine
that it is the duty of Congress to legislate upon
the subject or slavery in the territories. Upon
that one proposition all the grave charges are
based; and I propose to show you that if we
are traitors and disunionists, our great ex-
emplar was George Washington; that the next
in rank and perhaps even greater in efficiency
in this work, was Thomas Jefferson ; that we
have had in the treasonable and disunion ranks
every president, beginning with Washington
and ending with Millard Fillmore. If we are
a set of traitors and disunionists, the first
great set were Washington and his cabinet,
and the Senate and Congress of his day ; and
the last who legislated especially upon the
subject were James K. Polk with his cabinet,
(of whom James Buchanan was one,) and the
congress of their day ; so that if we are trai-
tors and disunionists, we have a brilliant ex-
ample and a bright array of patriotio names
to lead us on. (Great applause.)

But, my friends, if I were asked to sum up
in a single phrase, from patriotic lips, the sen-
timent that prevades and controls the Repub-
lican party, I should utter it in the language
of the Whig Expounder of the Constitution
— " Liberty and Union, one and inseparable
—now and forever." (Immense enthusiasm ) If
I were asked to express the one point upon
which the opinions, the convictions, the will
of that party are more thoroughly settled and
more vehemently active than any other, I
would answer in the language of the good old
eage and statesman, the Democratic leader —
Andrew Jackson — " the Union — it must and
shall be preserved." (Vociferous applause.)

Having, in brief terms, disposed of the first
legislation on the subject of territories, I now \
cOme to that of the territory of Louisiana: the
first acquired after the establishment of the
Constitution of the United States. What was
the action of Congress with reference to that
territory ? What was done may be found
(United States Statutes at large, vol. 2, p. 283)
in an Act approved March 26, 1804, entitled
" An act erecting Louisiana into two territories,
and providing for the temporary government

By this Act, all south of the parallel line of
33 degrees, being the present State of Loui-
siana, was organised by itself under the name
of the "Territory of Orleans."

In respect to this Territory of Orleans, the
10th section prohibits the bringing in of slaves
from a foreign country ; also the bringing in
of slaves from any part of the United States,
who may have been brought into the United
States after the 1st of May, 1798 ; and finally
provides as follows :

" No slave or slaves, shall directly or indi-
rectly be introduced into said territory, except

by a citizen of the United States, removing
into said territory for actual settlement, and
being at the time of such removal a bona fide
ownerof such slave or slaves ; and every slave
imported or brought into said territory, con-
trary to the provisions of this Act, shall there-
upon be entitled to and receive his or her

It is said that slavery is a subject upon
which congress has no right to legislate. Here
they did legislate, and said that nobody but a
citizen of the United States should bring a
slave there ; that he must bring it as his own
property, and be able to show that it was his
property ; that he must come for actual set-
tlement — in other words, that no slave should
be imported into that State, by the slavedealer,
whether he came from Cuba or Virginia —
whether he came from Africa or the northern
slave States. It allowed the citizen who owned
slaves and who was going into Louisiana to
settle, to take his slaves with him ; but it
allowed no slave to enter the territory by any
other means than that ; and had a slave been
taken into that territory as they have been
taken into Kansas, the habeas corpus would have
issued, and the great judge of that day, John
Marshall, would have given the slave his free-
dom. (Applause.)

The law of that day is the law of to-day ;
and yet are not slaves carried into Kansas,
and is there not there as Chief Justice a man
whose infamies will redeem the character of
Jeffries in history? (A voice — "that's so,"
and applause.) And yet. Democrats, you are
asked to vote to sustain him : and, Americans,
you are asked to give a half-vote, or not to
vote against him. There is the position of
the parties. The Republicans come up and
say, " Kansas is free ; it is the land of free-
dom; it is free by the law of God and the law
of man, and being free, we mean to exercise
all the power with which under God and the
Constitution of our country we are invested,
to secure its freedom to the white man for-
ever." (Tremendous cheering.) We ask you
to join us in the work.

Now, my friends, from that time, down till
near the close of Mr. Polk's administration,
any other doctrine than that which I have
asserted, had never been uttered in either
House of Congress. I take it that my Demo-
cratic friends will receive the opinions of
James Buchanan as pretty sound, and I will
quote from one of the last, if not the very last
speech which he made while representing the
State of Pennsylvania in the Senate of the
United States. It was during the administra-
tion of John Tyler, when the "Texas bill"
was under consideration. It was proposed to
admit Texas into the Union, and it was agreed
in the resolutions of the House, that so muck
of Texas as lay south of the line of 86 degrees
30 minutes, should be admitted as States
when the people thereof saw fit to divide it,
and ask admission to the Union ; but that from
so much of it as lay north of that line, slavery,
or (to use the language of the ordinance of
Jefferson) "involuntary servitude, except as


punishment for crime," should be prohibited
forever. Mr. Buchanan was speaking upon
those resolutions

"Was it desirable," said he, "again to
have the Missouri question brought home to
the people to goad them to fury ?"

What was that Missouri question? When
Congress had prohibited the extension of
slavery north of 80 degrees 30 minutes, while
the whole North had stood up almost as one
man resisting — or at any rate when every man
from the North, with a solitary exception, who
had voted to give up one inch of territory to
slavery North or South of that line had been
left out of the succeeding Congress, the whole
South had voted for it — every Southern Sena-
tor and all the Southern Representatives ex-
cept 13 — and it had been made. It was of
that legislation, excluding slavery from all the
Territories North of 3b' degrees 30 minutes,
that Mr. Buchanan was now speaking.

"Was it desirable," said he, " again to
have the Missouri question brought home to
the people, to goad them to fury ? That ques-
tion between the two great interests in our
country had been well discussed and well de-
cided, and from that momenthe had set down
his foot on the solid ground' then established,
and there he would let the question stand for-
ever. Who could complain of the terms of
that compromise ?

" It was then settled that North of 36 de-
grees 30 minutes, slavery should be forever pro-
hibited. The same line was fixed upon in the
resolutions recently received from the House
of Representatives, now before us. The bill
from the House for the establishment of Ter-
ritorial government in Oregon excluded slavery
altogether from that vast country."

Is our position treasonable? ("No, no.")
Is it one calculated to promote disunion ? If
it is, James Buchanan was, I presume, of dis-
creet age when he made that speech in the
Senate of the United States, although, in re-
gard to some of his speeches, it is said he
was a boy when he made them, and there-
fore ought not to be held responsible. (Laugh-

I have read that brief quotation to show
you what the doctrine was when we were upon
the threshold of the agitation that now dis-
turbs the country. It was in 1845 that Mr.
Buchanan made the speech from which I have
quoted, On the 19th of February, 1847, John
0. Calhoun arose in the Senate of the United
States, and, without business before the Sen-
ate to whicli the resolutions referred, proposed
these resolutions:

" Resolved, That the Territories of the
United States belong to the several States
composing the Union, and are held by them
a* their joiat and common property.

" Resolved, That Congress, as the joint
agent and representative of the States of this
Union, has no right to make any law or do any
act whatever that shall directly, or by its ef-
fects, make any discrimination between the
States of this Union, by which any of them
shall be deprived of its full and equal right in

any territory of the United States, acquired or
to be acquired.

" Resolved, That the enactment of any law
— and here is the first germ of the present
doctrine of the South, and the present agita-
tion of the whole country — " Resolved, That
the enactment of any law which should di-
rectly, or by its effects, deprive the citizens of
any of the States of this Union from emigrat-
ing, with their property, into any of the Terri-
tories of the United States, will make such
discrimination, and would, therefore, be a vio-
lation of the Constitution, and the rights of
the States from which such citizens emigrated,
and in derogation of that perfect equality
which belongs to them as members of this
Union, and would tend directly to subvert the
Union itself."

When these resolutions were read, the Sena-
tor from Missouri, "Old Bullion" — a Senator
from the slave State — denounced them as a
"firebrand." The next day Mr. Calhoun
pressed them to a vote. Mr. Benton opposed
the proposition. Mr. Calhoun expressed his
surprise that Mr. Benton, as the representa-
tive from a Southern State, should oppose the
resolutions, but added, " I shall know where
to find the gentleman." "Yes, sir; yes, sir,"
said "Old Bullion," " always know whereto
find me — by the side of my country and the
Union — always there." (Loud applause.) Six
years later that brave old man writing upon
the subject, says:

"Ostensibly the complaint (expressed in
these resolutions,) was that the emigrant from
the slave State was not allowed to carry his
slave with him ; in reality it was that he was
not allowed to carry the State law along ivilh him
to protect his slave. Placed in that light, which
is the true one, the complaint is absurd ; pre-
sented as applying to a piece of property, in-
stead of the law of the State, it becomes spe-
cious — has deluded whole communities, and
has led to rage and resentment, and hatred of
the Union."

Mr. Benton looked upon them as a " fire-
brand" when they were introduced, and writ-
ing quietly in his closet, six years thereafter,
he expressed himself as I have just read.

Who is the author of the Kansas-Nebraska
bill? Stephen A. Douglas — I don't know what
"A." stands for. I have heard it is for Ar-
nold, but I don't believe he could have been
so fitly named at his christening. Stephen A.
Douglas is the author of that Bill, but does Ste-
phen A. Douglas believe, or did he believe, that
Congress had no right to legislate on the subject
of slavery in the Territories? Were these the
doctrines in which he was reared in the bosom
of the Democratic party of Illinois and of the
Union ? No, my friends ; he was reared in the
sound Constitutional doctrine which I have ut-
tered here to-night, and I will prove it to you.
In 1848 Congress was engaged in establish-
ing a government for the Territory of Oregon.
A territorial bill had passed the lower House
containing no provision on the subject of sla-
very. It came up to the Senate, and Mr. Hale
at once moved the "Jefferson Proviso;" in


other words, he moved to insert the clause
that " involuntary servitude, except as pun-
ishment for crime, should be prohibited within
the Territory forever." Did Stephen A.Douglas
rise in his seat and argue that that was uncon-
stitutional ? Did he rise and say that Cougress
had no power under the Constitution to legis-
late upon the subject of slavery in the Terri-
tories ? No, my friends ; but he arose and
offered an amendment, to wit : the extension
of the Missouri Compromise line through the
Territories of New Mexico, Utah and Cali-
fornia, then recently acquired, to the Pacific
ocean. Now, mark you, I am upon the point,
has Congress the right and is it its duty to le-
gislate upon the subject of slavery in the Ter-
ritories ? Mr. Douglas moved as an amend-
ment to Mr. Hale's proposition :

"That the line of thirty-six degrees and
thirty minutes of north latitude, known as
the Missouri Compromise line, as defined by
the eighth section of an act entitled, 'An act
to authorize the people of the Missouri Terri-
tory to form a constitution and State govern-
ment, and for the admission of such State into
the Union, on an equal footing with the
original States, and to jirohibil slacery in cer-
tain Territories,' approved March 6, 1820, be,
and the same is hereby declared to extend to the
Pacific Ocean; and the said eighth section, to-
gether with the compromise therein effected,
is hereby revived, and declared to be in full
force and binding, for the future organization
of the Territories of the United States, in the
same sense, and with the same understanding,
with which it was originally adopted."

Mr. Douglas, having proposed the amend-
ment, voted for it. Now, is he not a pretty
Senator? (Laughter.) Is there another such
"artful dodger" in so criminal a matter, in
this whole broad country, as this same Ste-
phen A. Douglas, the author of the Kansas -
Nebraska bill? (Many voices, "no," "no.")
No, there is not. There he was in 1848 ready
to legislate upon the subject.

What was done? Now, mark, Mr. Polk
was President ; James Buchanan was Secre- ;
tary of State. Mr. Douglas was willing to
legislate upon the subject of slavery; there
was no denial of the right. It was one year '
after the introduction of Calhoun's resolu-
tions, but the " Jefferson proviso" was applied
to Oregon, and James K. Polk, by and with
the advice and consent of his cabinet, signed
the bill; and on signing it, he sent in a spe-
cial message to the Congress of the United
States, assigning his reasons for doing so. I
will take the liberty of detaining you with a
short extract from that message:

" When Texas was admitted into our Union,
the same spirit of compromise which guided
our predecessors in the admission of Missouri,
a quarter of a century before, prevailed with-
out any serious opposition. The joint resolu-
tion for annexing Texas to the United States,
approved March the first, one thousand eight
hundred and forty-five, provides that such
States as may be formed out of that portion
of said territory lying south of thirty-six de-

grees thirty-minutes north latitude, commonly
known as the Missouri Compromise line, shall
be admitted into the Union with or without
slavery, as the people of each State asking
admission may desire. And in such State or
States as shall be formed out of sahl territory
north of the Missouri Compromise line,
slavery or involuntary servitude [except for crime)
shall be prohibited. The Territory of Oregon
lies far north of thirty-six degrees thirty
minutes — the Missouri and Texas Compromise
line. Its southern boundary is the parallel
of forty-two, leaving the intermediate distance
to be three hundred and thirty geographical
miles. And it is because the provisions of
this bill are not inconsistent with the terms
of the Missouri Compromise, if extended from
the Rio Grande to the Pacific ocean, that I
have not felt at liberty to withhold my sanc-

Now, gentlemen, did Mr. Buchanan believe
that it was unconstitutional to legislate upon
the subject of slavery in the Territories? If
so, pray, why did he not make it known by
his resignation from Mr. Polk's cabinet? Why
did he let the responsibility rest upon him of
sanctioning, as a cabinet minister, an uncon-
stitutional act .' He did not doubt either the
riyht or the duty; nor do I believe that in his
inmost heart he doubts either now; but ambi-
tion has misled him —

''Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself,
And falls on the other side." (Applause.)

Now lfet me leave Congress and Senators,
and the doings of our legitimate government,
and take a peep at the illegitimate government
of the country— that organization which esta-
blishes platforms of party, by which to over-
ride all law and even the Constitution itself.
Let me carry you to the Baltimore Convention
of 1848, at which Lewis Cass was nominated
for the Presidency, and William 0. Butler for
the Vice-Presidency.

I have shown you that Congress had not
abandoned the safe and Constitutional doc-
trine given us in the example of Washington,
Jefferson and Jackson ; and I have shown you
by Mr. Polk's action, that he and Mr. Bu-
chanan had not yet abandoned it.

The Convention had been at work four days.
It had succeeded in making its nominations,
and was adopting its platform, when Mr.
Yancy, of Alabama, following in the wake of
his great master, John C. Calhoun, introduced
this resolution:

''Resolved, That the doctrine of non-inter-
ference with the rights of property of any por-
tion of this confederation, be it in the States
or in the Territories, by any other than the
parties interested in them, is the true repub-
lican doctrine recognized by this body."

That is, that Congress has no right to inter-
fere : that the slave-owner had a right to take
his slaves, and Congress had no right to inter-
fere. Did the Democratic Convention of 1848
accept that doctrine ? Were they willing to
go before the people upon that issue ? No ;


they tabled that resolution. They did more, !
they negatived it by a vote of 24(5 against it, !
to 36 for it.

Now we have seen " squatter sovereignty"
rejected in the Senate of the United States, j
when first introduced by Mr. Calhoun, in
1^47. In May, 1848, we find it excluded from \
the doctrines of the Democratic party by the i
great political Sanhedrim assembled at Balti-
more, in a slave State. Now I go on a little !
farther in that year, and I come to that time, j
near its close, when James K. Polk, (Mr.
Buchanan's great chieftain, as he then was,) i
presented his last message to the Congress of j
the United States. Had he yielded to Mr. J
Calhoun, or to Mr. Yancy, or did he still
stand by the experience of the past ? The fol- :
lowing extract from that message will show j

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Online LibraryWilliam D. (William Darrah) KelleySpeech of Judge Kelley, delivered at Spring Garden Hall, Tuesday evening, September 16, 1856 → online text (page 1 of 4)