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upholders of the Fugitive Slave Act, they now demand its unconditional repeal.
There is another circumstance worthy of especial remark. This petition proceeds mainly from persons connected with trade and commerce. Now it is a fact too well known in the history of England, and of our own country, that these persons, while often justly distinguished by individual charities, have been lukewarm in opposition to Slavery. Twice in English history did “the mercantile interest" frown upon endeavors to suppress the atrocity of Algerine Slavery; steadfastly in England it sought to baffle Wilberforce's great effort for the abolition of the African slave-trade; and at the formation of our own Constitution, it stipulated a sordid compromise, by which this same detested, Heaven-defying traffic was saved for twenty years from American judgment. But now it is all changed, - at least in Boston. Representatives of "the mercantile interest” place themselves in the front of the new movement against Slavery, and, by their explicit memorial, call for the removal of a grievance which they have bitterly felt in Boston.
Mr. President, this petition is interesting to me, first, as it asks a repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act, and, secondly, as it comes from Massachusetts. That repeal I shall be glad, at any time, now and hereafter, as in times past, to sustain by vote and argument; and I trust never to fail in any just regard for the sentiments or interests of Massachusetts. With these few remarks I would gladly close. But there has been an arraignment, here to-day, both of myself and of the Commonwealth which I represent. To all that has been said of myself or the Commonwealth, so far as it is impeachment of either, so far as it subjects either to any real censure, I plead openly, for myself and for Massachusetts, “Not guilty." But pardon me, if I do not submit to be tried by the Senate, fresh from the injustice of the Nebraska Bill. In the language of the Common Law, I put myself upon “God and the country," and claim the same trial for my honored Commonwealth.
So far as the arraignment touches me personally, I hardly care to speak. It is true that I have not hesitated, here and elsewhere, to express my open, sincere, and unequivocal condemnation of the Fugitive Slave Act. I have denounced it as at once a violation of the law of God, and of the Constitution of the United States; and I now repeat this denunciation.
Its violation of the Constitution is manifold; and here I repeat but what I have often said. Too often it cannot be set forth, so long as the infamous statute blackens the land.
It commits the great question of human freedom, — than which none is more sacred in the law,- not to a solemn trial, but to summary proceedings.
It commits this great question, not to one of the high tribunals of the land, but to the unaided judgment of a single petty magistrate.
It commits this great question to a magistrate appointed, not by the President with the consent of the Senate, but by the Court, - holding his office, not during good behavior, but merely during the will of the Court, — and receiving, not a regular salary, but fees according to each individual case.
It authorizes judgment on ex parte evidence, by affidavit, without the sanction of cross-examination.
It denies the writ of habeas corpus, ever known as the palladium of the citizen.
Contrary to the declared purposes of the framers of the Constitution, it sends the fugitive back "at the public expense.
Adding meanness to the violation of the Constitution, it bribes the Commissioner by a double fee to pronounce against Freedom. If he dooms a man to Slavery, the reward is ten dollars; but saving him to Freedom, his dole is five dollars.
This is enough, but not all. On two other capital grounds do I oppose the Act as unconstitutional: first, as it is an assumption by Congress of powers not delegated by the Constitution, and in derogation of the rights of the States; and, secondly, as it takes away that essential birthright of the citizen, trial by jury, in a question of personal liberty and a suit at Common Law. Thus obnoxious, I have always regarded it as an enactment totally devoid of all constitutional, as it is clearly devoid of all moral obligation, while it is disgraceful to the country and the age. And, Sir, I have hoped and labored for the creation of such a Public Opinion, firm, enlightened, and generous, as should render this Act practically inoperative, and should press, without ceasing, upon Congress for its repeal. For all that I have thus uttered I have no regret or apology, but rather joy and satisfaction. Glad I am in having said it; glad I am now in the opportunity of affirming it all anew. Thus much for myself.
In response for Massachusetts, there are other things. Something surely must be pardoned to her history. In Massachusetts stands Boston. In Boston stands Faneuil Hall, where, throughout the perils which preceded the Revolution, our patriot fathers assembled to vow themselves to Freedom. Here, in those days, spoke James Otis, full of the thought that “the people's safety is the law of God."1 Here, also, spoke Joseph Warren, inspired by the sentiment that “death with all its tortures is preferable to Slavery.” 2 And here, also, thundered John Adams, fervid with the conviction that “consenting to Slavery is a sacrilegious breach of trust.” 3
1 See Madison's Debates, August 28, 1787.
Not far from this venerable hall - between this Temple of Freedom and the very court-house to which the Senator [Mr. JONES] has referred — is the street where, in 1770, the first blood was spilt in conflict between British troops and American citizens, and among the victims was one of that African race which you so much despise. Almost within sight is Bunker Hill; further off, Lexington and Concord. Amidst these scenes a Slave-Hunter from Virginia appears, and the disgusting rites begin by which a fellow-man is sacrificed. Sir, can you wonder that our people are moved ?
“Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious,
Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man.” It is true that the Slave Act was with difficulty executed, and that one of its servants perished in the mad
On these grounds the Senator from Tennessee charges Boston with fanaticism. I express no opinion on the conduct of individuals ; but I do say, that the fanaticism which the Senator condemns is not new in Boston. It is the same which opposed the execution of the Stamp Act, and finally secured its repeal. It is the same which opposed the Tea Tax. It is the fanaticism which finally triumphed on Bunker Hill. The 1 Rights of the British Colonies (Boston, 1764), p. 10.
2. Letter to Edmund Dana, March 19, 1766: Loring's. Hundred Boston Orators, 2d ed., p. 51. 3 Dissertation on the Canon and Fendal Law: Works, Vol. III. p. 463.
Senator says that Boston is filled with traitors. That charge is not new. Boston of old was the home of Hancock and Adams. Her traitors now are those who are truly animated by the spirit of the American Revolution. In condemning them, in condemning Massachusetts, in condemning these remonstrants, you simply give proper conclusion to the utterance on this floor, that the Declaration of Independence is "a self-evident lie." Here I might leave the imputations on Massachu
But the case is stronger yet. I have referred to the Stamp Act. The parallel is of such aptness and importance, that, though on a former occasion I presented it to the Senate, I cannot forbear from pressing it again. As the precise character of this Act may not be familiar, allow me to remind the Senate that it was an attempt to draw money from the Colonies through a stamp tax, while the determination of certain questions of forfeiture under the statute was delegated, not to the Courts of Common Law, but to Courts of Admiralty, without trial by jury. This Act was denounced in the Colonies at its passage, as contrary to the British Constitution, on two principal grounds, identical in character with the two chief grounds on which the Slave Act is now declared to be unconstitutional: first, as an assumption by Parliament of powers not belonging to it, and an infraction of rights secured to the Colonies; and, secondly, as a denial of trial by jury in certain cases of property. On these grounds the Stamp Act was held to be an outrage.
The Colonies were aroused against it. Virginia first declared herself by solemn resolutions, which the timid thought “ treasonable,"
treasonable,” —— yes, Sir,“ treasonable,” 1
1 Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts, Vol. III. p. 119.