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H. OF R.]
Right of Petition.
(FEB. 11, 1837.
much here to try our patience, if not to abate our zeal abhorrence of the movements of modern abolitionists? in the good cause. We bad heard entirely too much of A petition was there very recently presented to enlarge blood and disunion; too much hurling of defiance, to the political rights of free negroes; emanating, no doubt, afford us encouragement, to stimulate us to renewed from the same sources that are constantly agitating us vigor in the path of dutySir, there are many South. here; and eo instanti that it was presented, its prayer ern gentlemen who do not seem to appreciate our posi. was indignantly rejected by an almost unanimous vote tion at the North. We now have, and always will have, of the popular branch of the New York Legislature. fools and fanatics there, as well as elsewhere. We There was little or no sympathy for abolitionists there, know we can keep them in subjection, if their arms are New York is sound to the coré upon this subject; and not nerved, and their ranks are not ihickened, by the in. he had no fear that she would ever become otherwise. discretion of our Southern brethren. It is at the North An honorable gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. where the battle against the abolitionists is to be fought. CUSHING] had favored is with a very eloquent and able We will do the work for you, my friends from the speech, a few days ago; but the great defect of it was, South, nobly and gallantly; but, in the name of justice, that it did not meet ihe true question. Admit that the cheer and encourage us with your kindness and friend right of petition is pre-existent 10 and independent of ship, instead of irritating us wiih menace, with denuncia- the constitution, the question still recurs, whether it is tion, and ebullitions of defiance. Do not propose meas. not to freemen, and to freemen alone, that it attaches. ures so harsh and unreasonable as to drive from us any The constitution secures to the people the right peaceof that great moral thinking mass of Northern popula. ably to assemble and petition the Government for a retion, that now sustains and encourages us in our efforts dress of grievances. Had any one, before to-day, ever to put down the abolitionists. Think, gentlemen, be. dreamed that the appellation of the per ple" embraced / fore you speak; look before you leap. Recollect that slaves! Sir, I hesitate not to declare that, were la Southern the boldest measures are not always the wisest and most man, I would not submit to the doctrine that slaves have politic measures. Do not unconsciously play into the a right to petition, if Congress were ever mad enough to hands of Northern incendiaries, by asking us to vote for sanction it. Nay, I go further, and declare that, as a propositions which our constituents of the North may re. Northern man, I would not submit to it. I would not gard as violations of the constitution. Do not ask us to, brook the degradation of listening to and entertaining deny to (reemen the right of petition, however deluded that which it belongs to freemen alone to address to us. they may be. Be assured that you are not, by such a The honorable gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Adcourse, subserving the great interest you bave so near AMS] had fancied and stated some cases in which it at heart. It is calculated to increase our difficulties at might be expedient to entertain a petition from a slave. home, and reinforce the enemy you wish 10 subdue. Sir, said Mr. V., I could have hoped that that gentleman conjure Southern gentlemen to think of, to appreciate, was too sound a logician to suppose that extreme and these considerations. They are dictated by a spirit of far-fetched cases against a proposition prove its unsound. friendship, by a spirit of fidelity to the constitution. On the contrary, the maxim exceptio probat regu. Think you not that harsh speeches and harsh measures lam was a sound maxim of law and philosophy. The operate against your cause! An honorable gentleman gentleman had supposed the case of a slave wandering from South Carolina, (Mr. PINCKNEY,] in the ardor of or driven into a foreign country, and there cruelly op. debate, had resorted to a simile which, if true, might pressed. He asks, would you not entertain a peiition rather have been waived. Ile told us that he would as for his relief? Suppose, sir, you should here pass & soon believe that a cow or a horse, a dog or a cal, had broad and sweeping resolution, that petitions should not A right to petition, as that a negro slave bad a right to be received from slaves, and that any gentleman who petition this House. Speeches like these, and measures should thereafter present such petition would be regardthat are akin to them, furnish texts from which aboli ed as insulting the House. Suppose tbat, after this, a tionists will write and preach whole volumes. Let South- gentleman should rise in his place, and state that he had ern gentlemen temper their valor with a little discre. received a petition from an American slave in a foreign tion, and, my word for it, all will yet be well. We of country, who was there most cruelly oppressed; that he the North, the great mass of the North, will fulfil the had endeavored to find his master, but had not been compact to the letter and spirit. We recognised your able to find him; that he submilled it, most respectfully, property in slaves when we entered into solemn cov. to the House, to determine whether it would receive enant and union with you. We solemnly agreed that such petition, and the House were to determine, as ! slaves should form part of the basis of your representa. matter of grace and favor, that the petition should be tion on this floor; and, until we become wretches, and received: would this extreme case prove the unsoundwholly insensible to the obligations of covenant and ness of the general proposition that slaves have constituduty, we will faithfully fulfil the compact.
tionally no right to petition? No, sir; it would not milIt was necessary that he should say a few words as to itate against the soundness of the general rule. But, the right of slaves to petition. He was surprised that even in such a case, the proper course would be for the any intelligent gentleman bad seriously contended for slave to lay his case before our minister or consul abroad. this right. It was wholly inconsistent with the idea of Let the minister or consul communicate the facts to your property in slaves, which all who understood the rela- Executive, and, if be regards it as a case requiring legistion of master and slave must admit to exist. A slave | lative interposition, let him communicate it to Congress. is not a citizen in the eye of the constitution. His po- | I deny, therefore, that, even under such extreme cirlitical existence is merged in that of his master. He cumstances, a slave would, as matter of strict right, have cannot prosecute in your courts of justice; he cannot a right directly to petition Congress. And was it indeed petition your legislative assemblies. Sir, I know enough so very strange that this right of petition was not a uniof the sentiments of the State which I have the honor versal right? He appealed to his friends and colleagues in part to represent to feel assured, that before slavery from the North, whether there were not some persons was abolished in New York, a proposition to present a in our section of the Union legally incapable of petitionpetition from slaves to the New York Legislature would ing even your courts of justice. An infant, a person have been regarded as an insult. It would have awaken- under twenty-one years of age, can there only petition ed there as great a measure of indignation as bas been a judicial tribunal by his guardian or next friend Tell here exhibited within the last five days. Sir, what has me not, then, that the right of petition to courts of justhe Legislature of New York lately done to indicate its | tice or legislative bodies is a universal right; that it is gern abord zenled ta ser
FEB. 11, 1837.1
OF DEBATES IN CONGRESS.
ican Congregg. .
(f/. of R. Dtly agitings
Right of Petition.
that his valuable and influential name had thus arrived already dwelt too long upon it. To discuss it was paying diary purposes; and the gentleman very promptly re. too much respect to it. It was a point which he could turned him a letter, requesting him to withdraw his have hoped would never have been mooted in an Amer.
here, and was perverted to most mischievous and incen.
name, and informed him of the circumstances under which Sir, said Mr. V., let me not be misunderstood. At the
he had thoughtlessly put his signature to this petition. me time that I regret the indiscretions that flow from
Before the abolition question had become one of fearful the deep feeling of the South upon this agitating subject, I feel every disposition to make very liberal allow-day presented to him in his shop this petition, and he
interest or notoriely, a mulatto man, a barber, who was
accustomed every morning to shave the petitioner, one ances for the feeling which there prevails, and which is signed it hastily, and without the least reflection. the parent of these indiscretions to which I have advert.
A great proportion of the other petitioners signed it, efits and is disposed to fulfil the obligations that result portion of the North which is able to appreciate the ben presented here, the friends of the abolitionists claim, and
Be assured, sir, that all that stanch and thinking | no doubt, thoughtlessly as did this gentleman; and when from our glorious Union regard the sensitiveness of our
gentlemen from the South seem too readily to sear, ihat Southern brethren as being by no means unnatural. A
petitions like these constitute something like evidence great portion of the South imagines that a conspiracy is hoped that we had had too much experience upon this
of public opinion at the North. He (Mr. V.) could have going on in the non-slaveholding States against their point, within the las: four years, to confide too readily in
more than this: that instruments are the force of such evidence. We could not so soon bave Southern shar pened, to be put in the hand of the forgotten the food of petitions, the countless names of That this Ave, zna to be raised against his master petitioners, which were poured in upon us during the he (M. able that the natural fears of our Southern friends should anxiely for the restoration of the deposites to the Bank
apprehension was a deep if not a growing one memorable panic session. From these documents it far as his experience and observation extended, he felt little magnify the dangers that actually existed? So of the United States, and that not one tenth of the elec
tors of this country would sustain the President in this justified in saying that ihe abolitionists had the faculty great measure, The election, the true test of public of making a great deal of noise, and creating the great. | opinion, came on, and where then were these armies he heard verp little of them. Once in a while they why, then, sir
, with all the lessons of experience before would honor,
im with a paper, which served to other us, telling us how deceptive is that evidence of public office but to ht a candle or ignite a segar.
opinion which is derived from petitions, should our evidence of the fact which some South friends from the South so reaclily take alarm from abo. ern gentlemen were constantly putting to us, that the lition petitions. We have had excitements at the North, consequence, he must confess that he (Mr. over our region; excitements that originaled in the best
and purest feelings of our nature, but which, unfortu1.) had no personal knowledge of its actual existence.
what he knew of them, he would say that they | nately for the results which they at first promised, soon seemed to be very
Well versed in the game of “brag;" became interningled with the political struggles of the but when their actual hand came to be tested, it would day. He need hardly say that he alluded to the antiturn out not to be by a tenth part so formidable as they masonic excitement, which was a pure and hallowed inpretended. Dd tine number of petitions and the num. dignation at a most barbarous outrage upon the person ber of petitioners wsi ose names were paraded to us here
of an American citizen, and remained so until old political strength? We was speaking in the hearing of men who form any just criterion by which to determine their hacks, broken-down politicians, mounted the whirlwind
which it raised, for the purpose of riding into those high 'were jou familiar Were procured to with the facility with which names places which they could never reach without some most
urnatural and factitious aids. It had its day in the dable Falcones to these petitions Furnished any just State where it originated, and was now on the wane.
Sir, you can get thousands of signatures Though pure in its inception, the moment it was pervert. in every community to almost any petition, praying for ted to political purposes, the people had sagacity enough the most preposterous objects in nature. One of the Fisest and most acca rate observers of men and things
to see the mischievous ends to which it was attempted to
be prostituted, and firmness enough to resist, and sucthat this or any other country had ever produced once remarked that he trad made it a point never to pay much
cessfully resist, its onward strides. Imposing as it once
was, pure as it was in its origin, it could not secure, attention or attach much importance to any paper or
to those who mounted it as a hobby, political power petition that had more than one name or signature to it; in the State where it had its bir li. Sir, the fale of that there was no responsibility any where, when vast numbers thus united.
that excitement is to the friends of the Union, the friends Petitions formed the most falla- of the South at the North, an ample guarantee that the were so in relation to ordinary matters, he had knowledge there to party purposes. cious evidence in the world of public opinion. If they abolition excitement can never be successfully perverted
It has not the alinient of princally so in relation to this subject. He had had abundant enough to feel authorized to say that they were emphati- ciple and justice lo sustain and feed it, which, before it
was turned to politic:l ends, the anti-masonic excitement mad and impracticable work. They had never done him curing political power, though deñagogues and unprinevidence of it since the abolitionists had com nenced their coulj boast. It cannol, it will not, be a means of se. the honor to intrust him (Mr. V.) with any of their pe- cipled men may endeavor to render it so, A great matiments too well VP on this question to intrust him with titions for presentation here. Perbaps they knew his sen- jority of the Northern people are a reading, a thinking, them. A petition from his district hail, however, been tached to the Union, and will not cuniribute to any
and a reasoning people. They are devotedly at. presented by one of his colleagues, at the last session of state of things that might possibly blot out a star or a Congress. He had had the curiosity to cast his eye over | stripe from the banner ibat Anals over it. When mad it, and found it headed by a most influential gentleman. Mr. Y. immediately addressed him a note, informing him
or desperate men shall propose to turn the abolition exVOL. XI[,-109
citement to parly purposes, we know, sir, thal with the
JI. OF R.)
Right of Petition.
(Feb. 11, 1837.
people of the North discomfiture will be their doom. olitionists would be collected, to be sert forth and scatThe weapons of truth, of argument, and of patriotism, trred among their slaves! They would not, sir, hesitate are against them. We will then be, as we have hitherto to give the natural and the proper answer. We would been, faithful to our Southern brethren. We will tell then appeal to their sense of justice, and ask them our constituents of the obligations imposed upon them whether, by abolishing slavery in the District of Colum. by the constitution. We will tell them that the free. bia, while all the circumjacent country, with which this men of the Norih and the freemen of the South fought | District was once connected, is deeply interested in shoulder to shoulder, in the great struggle of the Revo slave property, while Virginia and Maryland are both lution, for the rich blessings we now enjoy; that when slaveholding States, we would not violate the spirit of your independence was announced to ihe world, each the compact by which Maryland and Virginia ceded Siate was sovereign and independent, and that the insti. Their jurisdiction over this District to the United States; tution of domestic slavery thien existed in most, if not in whether, by abolishing slavery in this District, we would all, of the old thirteen Siates; that the warm climale of not commit a gross fraud, nay, perpetrate a shocking the Southern States disabled the white man from effi- outrage, upon iwo of the old thirteen States that have ciently laboring there; and that this circumstance had such strong claims upon our justice and our affection; contributed to render the slave property of the South the one having given birth to Washington, the other a great and most vital interest; that common safely having contributed her full quota of gallant actors upon and common interest required a bond of union for almost every battle field of the Revolution. And to Slates that had so freely poured out their blood and these questions, too, be assured, sir, we would receive, treasure for the rich inheritance we now enjoy; that our from a vast majority of the people of the North, the re. Southern friends would not enter into such bond of ply which good faith and a deep-rooted love for the union with us without some stipulations or pro: Union would dictate. visions, in the articles of union, by which their Mr. V. said that he had been very unexpectedly drawn properly in slaves, this great Southern interest, might into this debate. He had had no intention to speak, till be saved from losses and hazards, that might other- he had heard the remarks of the gentleman from South li u ise bave resulted from the Union; that, for the Carolina, (Mr. Pickens.) He could not reconcile it with great purposes of "forming a more perfect Union, his sense of duty, as a Northern man, to sit still, after establishing justice, insuring domestic Tranquillity, pro- the speech which that honorable gentleman had deviding for the common defence, promoting the gene
livered. ral welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty to He had said that he had heard too many threats of themselves and their posterily,” the people of the Uni- blood and disunion since he had bad ihe honor of a seat ted States did solemnly ordain and establish a constitu- bere. Had we been told by a gentleman from the South tion for the United States of America. That ihis sacred that the Potomac would soon be the dividing line, and justrument expressly recognises this property in slaves, that its waters would be crimsoned with blood? These und establishes it as part of the basis of representation threats had ceased to frighten any body. When he (Mr. on this floor; that it prohibited Congress, prior to the v.) had first entered this House, he always felt a holy year 1808, from passing any law to preclude the import | horror when gentlemen presented to us the dreadful alalion of slaves into the States, that it compels the peo- ternative of disunion! But, sir, it had no power longer ple of one State to deliver up to the owners fugitive to shake his nerves. He had become used to it; for it slaves from another Siale. We will appeal to the du- bad become quite an old story. Threats of disunion had ties and obligations that Auw from this solemn compact, become as familiar here as household words. Gentlethis sacred instrument, which has been the source of so men almost daily talked about setting up for themselves, much bappiness and prosperity, and will boldly ask the "as flippantly as maids do talk of puppy dogs," and no people of the North,“ will you dishonor those fathers one was longer disturbed by it. He would not longer who, in ordaining the constitution, were actualed by the permit himself to be troubled with the apprehension of bigli and affectionale motive of securing the blessings even the possibility of disunior. The North, though it of liberty to themselves and their posterily,' by violating had a few weak and deluded men, and ofticious women, one jot or little of the covenants into which they entered would sacredly regard and faithfully fulfil all the obliga. for such high and hallowed purposes?" S.r, we know tions that resulted from the “Union." There was pawhal will be the response. They will greet us with triotism enough at the North, and patriotism and discre. Vieir benedictions for our exertions here to save the tion enough at the Sowh, to save inis glorious fabric of constitution, and nobly say to us, “we will not dishonor our Union. Delusion and fanaticism would have only a our fathers by violating wbal they have so wisely and brief and harmless career, solemnly ordained; we will not, from a false and misiaken Mr. THOMPSON, of South Carolina, accepted the philanthropy, do or suffer to be done aught that may modified amendment of Mr. TAILOR, as a modification iend to tear and scatter into fragments our great and of the original resolution. glorious Union."
Mr. CAVE JOHNSON demanded the previous quesa And suppose, sir, that we should then be told that tion; which was seconded; and the main question, being the abolitionists, in the petitions they address to Con- on the adoption of the resulutions, was ordered without gress, do not propose to interfere with slavery in the States; that they only ask for the abolition of slavery in Mr. VANDERPOEL asked for the yeas and näys on the District of Columbia. We would still cuntinue our the main question; which were orderid. expostulations, with a perfect confidence of triumpli and A division of the question having been ordered, the
We would iell our friends of the North, that first resolution, as modified, was then taken up, as folwhen Virginia and Maryland ceded to the United States lows: juriseliction over this len miles square, they were both, “An inquiry having been made, by an honorable gen. and now are, slaveholding States. We would ask them, teman from Massachusetts, whether a paper, which he had Virginia and Maryland imagined ibat the American held in his hand, purporting to be a pelition from cerCongress would have emancipaied the slaves of this Dis- tain slaves, and declaring themselves slaves, came within trict, while slavery with them was a great and vital in- the order of the House of the 18111 of January, and the said terest, think you that they would ever have ceded their jur sdiction over this territory, and thus make it the led that, in a cuse so extraordinary ard novel, lie would
paper not having been received by the Speaker, he sta: great armory where the weapons of incendiaries and ub. I take the advice and counsel of the blouse :
FE. 11, 1837.1
OF DEBATES IN CONGRESS.
1734 -ot, sir, beste
Right of Petition.
(H. OF R. folk
" Resolved, that this House cannot receive the said pe. | McComas, McKay, McKeon, McLene, Mercer, Miller, a large class of citizens of the South and West, and the \ Page, Parks, Patterson, Patton, F. Pierce, James A. constitution of the United States." tition without disregarding its own dignity, the rights of | Monigomery, Moore, Morgan, Muhlenberg, Owens, The question being taken thereon, it was adopted, by | Rencher, Joseph Reynolds, Richardson, Robertson, Ro.
Pearce, Pearson, Pettigrew, Peyton, Phelps, Pinckney, yole of yeas 160, nays 35, as follows:
gers, Schenck, William B. Shepard, A. H. Shepperd, YEAs-Messrs. Alford, Chilton Allan, Anthony, Ash, Shields, Shinn, Sickles, Spangler, Standefer, Taliaferro,
shley, Bean, Bell, Black, Bockee, Boon, Bouldin, Bo. Taylor, Thomas, J. Thomson, W. Thompson, Turrill, Campbell, Carter, Casey, John Chambers, Chaney, Chap | Weeks, White, E. Whittlesey, T. T. Wbittlesey, L. vee, Boy!, Bunch, Bynum, John Calhoon, Cambreleng, Underwood, Vanderpoel, Wagener, Ward, Webster,
an, Chapin, N. H. Claiborne, John F. H. Claiborne, | Williams, S. Williams, Yell, Young-162.
Nays-Messrs. Adams, Heman Allen, Beaumont, Bor-
So the second resolution was adopted.
[When the name of Mr. Wise was called, that gentle. man rose in his place and declined to vote, for the rea.
son that he held that Congress had no power to interfere, Jones, Keno
Jarvis, Jenifer, Joseph Johnson, R. in any way, with the subject of slavery.]
Jolinson, Henry Jubnson, John W.
* To the Editors of the National Intelligencer:
GENTLEMEN: Having failed in numerous and pressing Moses Mason, Samson Mason, Maury, McComas, Mc- urday last, for the purpose of giving reasons for my neg. Moore, Morgan, Muhlenberg, Owens, Page, Parks, Pat. slaves to petition Congress, I feel impelled, by considerterson, Patton, Franklin Pierce, James A. Pearce, Pear ations peculiar to this case, and by the relation in which son, Peyton, Pbelps, Pinckney, Rencher, John Reynolds, I stand to the question of slavery, to ask the privilege of Jos. Reynolds, Richardson, Robertson, Rogers, Schenck, briefly presenting to the public, through your paper, ler
, Standeler, Sutherland, Taliaferro, Taylor, Thomas, sionin John Thomson
The first resolution, after reciting that Mr. Adams had Vanderpoels Thomas The Whitesey, Lewis Williams, Sherrod Wil present a petition purporting to be from slaves, declares
hisener, Ward, Webster, Weeke, White, inquired of the Speaker whether it would be in order to Tiams, Wise, Pell, Young-160.
" That this House cannot receive the said petition withams, Heman Allen, Beaumont, Bond, out disregarding its own dignity, the rights of a large Clark, Crane, Cushing, Darlington, Denny, Ev. tion of the United States."
The resolution contains three propositions: ans, Samuel S. Harrison, Hazeltine, Henderson, Herod, William Jackson, Janes, Lincoln, Love, McKennan, 1. That, in receiving the petition, the House would Morris, Parker, Dulee J. Pearce, Phillips, Poits, Rus. disregard its own dignity; sell, Slade, Sloane, sey-35. Spangler, Sprague, Elisha Whittle. 3. That it would disregard the rights of a large class
of citizens at the South and West; and The second resolution was then taken up, as fol. 3. That it would disregard the constitution of the Unilows:
ted States. • Resolved, that slaves do not possess the right of pe
These several propositions, let it be observed, have constitution."
containing not the Mr. HALEY mo out a division. d to lay it on the table. Lost, with slightest allusion to it whatever. In affirming the prop
ositions, therefore, no reference was bad to the ques. resolution, and decided as follows: then taken on the adoption of the tion, whether the prayer of the petition was respectful
or insulting, lawful or unlawful, proper or improper. Bean, Bell, Black,
YEAS-Messrs. Alford, Chilton Allan, Ash, Ashley, / The simple, naked fact, that it was signed by slaves, Bovee, Bojd, Buncb.
Bockee, Bond, Boon, Bouldin, formed the foundation, and the only fuundation, for the breleng, Campbell, Carr, Carter, Casey, G. Chambers, it were signed by slaves residing within the District over
Burns, Bynum, J. Calhoon, Cam- propositions contained in the resolution. No matter if J. Chambers, Chaney, Chapman, Chapin, Childs, N. | which Congress have exclusive jurisdiction, and whose Connor, Corwin, Craig, Cramer, Crary, Cushing, Cushio and no matter if it prayed even for protection from the
H. Claiborne, Cleveland, Coles, legislation necessarily acts directly upon their rights; mar, Dawson, Deberry, Doubleday, Dromgoole, Dun. exercise of the most excessive cruelty, for liberation lap, Elmore, Fairheld, Farlin, Fowler, French, Fry, from confinement by slave.dealers in the dungeons of Galbraith, J. Garland, R. Garland, Gholson, Gillet, Glas. the public prisons in this District, or for rescue from cock, Grabam, Grantland, Graves, J. Hall, Hamer, Han. | ibreatened transportation lv, and sale in, a foreign counnegan, Hardin, Harlan, Harper, A. G. Harrison, Haw. | try. No matter if it were for any or for all of these kins, Haynes, Herod, Holsey, Holt, Hopkins, Howard, objects; to receive it, the resolution affirms, would be Howell, Hubley, Huntington, Huntsman, Jarvis, Jenifer, disregarding the dignity of the House, the rights of a J. Johnson, R. M. Johnson, C. Johnson, H. Johnson, J. , large class of citizens, and the constitution of the United is, Lincoln, Logan, Lnyall, Lucas, Lyon, A. Mann, J. promitted by receiving a prayer for mercy, and, I may sing, Lawler, Lay, G. Lee, J. Lee, T. Lee, L. Lea, Lew. Kilgore, Klingensmith, Lane, Lan- States.
Now, how would the dignity of the House be comI
respect to a petition the purpost of whose prayeros noe
The question was
H. Claiborne, J. F.
W. Jones, Kennon,
Mann, Martin, W.
H. OF R.]
Case of R. M. Whilney.
[Feb. 11, 1837.
CASE OF R. M. WHITNEY. The SPEAKER informed the House that the Sergeant-at-arms, in obedience to the order of the House
and the warrant of the Speaker, had arrested Reuben M. Whitney, who was then in custody, and waiting the order of the llouse.
slave? What sort of legislative dignity is that which ing a party with the other slave States to the constitu. shuts the door in the face of "a man and a brotlier," tior, which recognises the existence of slavery, and merely because he is "in bonds?" Can there, on the makes it ibe basis of representation, it cannot rightfully contrary, be a spectacle more truly dignifie:l than that do any thing which shall tend to the abolition of slavery of a legislative body bending its ear to the supplications in the other states, and thereby deprive them of their of the poor, the helpless, and the oppressed? How slave representation in the Congress of the United States. beautifully and appropriately are mercy and justice illus- This may now seem a very strained construction; but trated, when neither wealth, nor power, nor patronage, passion and interest have pushed sensible men to stran. comes in aid of the prayer for their exercise.
ger absurdities than this. And how, in the next place, does the mere fact that a The second resolution to which I have referred de petition is from slaves render ils reception a disregard clares “ That slaves do not possess the right of petition of the rights of a large class of citizens at the South and secured to the people of the United States by the conWest, and of the constitution of the United States? If stitution." the citizens of the South and West have, under the con- What does this resolution mean? Does it mean mere. stitution, rightsin regard to their slaves, does it follow that ly that the guaranty of the right of petition to "the peo. they are without limit? and that beyond that limit, what. ple," in the constitution, does not extend to slaves! For ever it may be, other rights may not exist? If the slave ilie sake of the argument, let it be admitted that it does has no right to liberty, (I speak of a conventional right) noi-that the assumption is correct (which bas been has he none to supplicate that precious boon at the made in the debate, but which I do not admit) that "the hands of any power which may rightfully grant it? And people," whose right of petition the constitution de. has he no right to life? none to exemption from exces. clares shall not be abridged, means merely “We the sive crurlty? and none to implore protection to the one people” who formed the constitution, and not slaves, and security to the other? Is there no power on earth, How does this admission affect the question? The exto which he may look for help in these extremities? istence of the right of petition, as has been often said in
To "disregard," in any sense applicable to this sub- the debate, does not depend upon the guaranty of the ject, the righis of the South and West, is to invade constitution. It is a right which is before and above all those rights; and can we invade them in the legitimate constitutional guaranties. It has its foundation in the exercise of powers granted in the constitution? That de pendencies inseparable from the social state. If the constitution invests Congress with the power of exclu. constitution does not expressly guaranty it to slaves, sive legislation over this District. Does not that power neither, let it be remembered, does it take it from them. necessarily involve the right and the duty of hearing And shall I attempi, by my vote, to do what the framers petitions from the governed, and from all the governed?
of the constitution did not think proper to do, in the Would it not be a very strange kind of Government formation of that instrument? which could not, or would not, hear such petitions? if it was intended by the resolution to assert merely
If the hearing of petitions from the governed in the that slaves have not the benefit of the constitutional Territories of the United States consequentially affects guaranty of the right of petition, why was not the decthe interests of the South and West, is it a consequence laiation made in language intelligible and unambiguous? of which the South and West have a right to complain? Such language was avoided. The right of petition, and They were parties to the constitution which created ihe not the constitutional guaranty stands forward as the exclusive Government, and they must abide its conse. prominent subject of the resolution. The right is one quences. Suppose the inhabitants of this District should thing-its guaranty another. The right is incident to continue to press Congress, as more than eleven hun. all Governments, instantly attaching to the relation of dred of them did in 1828, to abolish slavery and the governor and governed, the moment that relation comes slave trade within its limits; and should, as in that peti- to exist. But it may, or it may nos, be guarantied. If tion, denounce, in severe and almost unmeasured terms, it is, that guaranty is a mere supervening incident to the the enormities of both; would this be an invasion of the right. And it is in this light that I regard the allusion rights of the South and West, and a disregard of the to it in the resolution. The denial, by that resolution, constitution? Did Congress evince such disregard in of the right of petition, is not essentially affected by adreceiving that petition, and ordering it to be printed? ding that the right is one which has been secured to the And what is the difference in principle, so far as con- people of the United Stales by the constitution. It is, cerns this argument, between that case and the presents after all, the right of petition, in its great, original, esEleven hundred free white citizens of this Districi be- sential qualities and incidents, which is really denied. sought Congress to abolish slavery and the slave trade Siripped of its non.commital disguise, then, the reso. within its limits, and pressed it by abolition arguments. lution siands out neilber more nor less ihan a broad de. Did not this tend, according to the argument of the op- nial of all right in slaves to petition. I will give no vote ponents of the right of slave petition, to create uneasi- which can be even tortured into such a denial. ness among the slaves in the South and West, and thus Having said thus much, I owe it to myself to add tha', affect "the rights of a large class of citizens” in those whatever may be the right of the slave to petition, I am sections of the country?
clear that no countenance should be given to any at. There is great looseness in the reasoning which infers tempts to exercise it. Such altempis can do the slave violations of the constilution from possible and remote no goud. From the nature of the case, bis deliverance consequences of a particular course of legislation. Ad- must arise from some other quarter. In the whole his. mit the soundness of the reasoning in this case, and shut tory of the abolition of the slave trade and slavery by the doors of Congress upon petitions from the bond and Great Britain, I am not aware that the right of slaves 10 the free of this Dist ct, touching the subject of slavery, petition bas ever been claimed or brought in question. merely because of their remule tendency to the abolition And, if all the slaves in the land could be made to bear of slavery in the States, (for that is the argument,) and me, I would say to them, “entertain not, for one mowhat shall we have next? Why, the docirine that no ment, the thought of petitioning the Government for State can abolish slavery within its limits, because, be- liberly, much less of making any effort to obtain it by