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revise their respective enactments, and to modify or repeal any laws which may be found to be in conflict with the Constitution and laws of the United States.
Resolved, That the President of this Convention is requested to send a copy of the foregoing preamble and resolutions to the Governor of each of the States, with the request that the same be communicated to the Legislature thereof.
Mr. RANDOLPH:—I must now insist upon having my resolution, offered yesterday, considered. Congress is about adjourning, and, if we do not close our labors to-day, we cannot have our propositions acted upon under the rules of the Senate and House of Representatives. They can be kept out on the objection of any member. I do not wish to debate the resolution, and I hope the debate will not be continued in the general manner it was yesterday. Mr. FIELD:—There seems to be a disposition to stop debate now, after nearly the whole time has been occupied by the other side. Yesterday the whole session was occupied by a general discussion of this question. It is my right to debate it as generally as other gentlemen have done. I shall avail myself of that right. I may not speak thirty minutes, but I will not submit to the imposition of a different rule upon me, if I can avoid it, from that which has been imposed upon others. The first question is on striking out the last clause of the resolution. On that I have nothing to say except that I ask for a vote by States. A vote by States was then taken, and resulted as follows: AYES.—Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont—12. NoFs.—Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia–8. Mr. CLAY:—I move to lay the whole subject upon the table. It is useless to attempt to stop discussion in this way. Mr. CHASE—I call for a vote by States. The motion of Mr. Clay prevailed by the following vote. AYES.—Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Virginia, and New Hampshire —10. NoFs.—Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pensylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee—9.
Mr. McCURDY:—There is really but one question that ought to engage the attention of this Conference. All others may be settled in half an hour. This question is a great one, and assumes a variety of forms. I wish to vote upon it understandingly, and I want some information from the committee which has had it in charge. I ask that committee whether they are not proposing a change in the Constitution, which, if adopted, will operate as a direct and effectual protection of slavery in all the territories of the United States ? This appears to me to be the true question for our consideration. I wish to know what meaning is attached by its friends to one part of the proposed article. It states that “the status of persons owing service or labor as it now exists shall not be changed by law,” &c.; and again, “that the rights arising out of said relations shall be subject to judicial cognizance in the Federal courts according to the common law.” The status, then, shall not be changed. By that term I suppose condition is intended. I understand that perfectly. There shall be no law to change the condition, to impair the rights of the slaveholder; but shall there be no law to protect these rights? Now, what is intended by this ' Why not make this provision plain, and not leave it open to any question of construction ? The ghost of the old trouble rises here, and will not down at the bidding of any man. I believe under this article the institution of slavery is to be protected by a most ingenious contrivance. The common law, administered according to the pro-slavery view, is to be called in for its protection. Now I ask the chairman of the committee reporting these propositions what he means by the common law # The common law, as we understand it, is the law of freedom—not of slavery. But I do not here propose to discuss that question. I wish to know how the truth really is. How does the committee, how do the friends of this proposition understand it ! By the common law a slave is still a man: a person, and not a personal chattel. He may owe service, as a child to its parent, an apprentice to his master, but he is still a person owing service. He is all the time recognized as a man. As such he may own and hold property, take it by inheritance and dispose of it at pleasure, by will or by contract. All these rights, all the principles on
which they are founded, are in direct antagonism to slavery. The
It is not my purpose to enter into a general discussion of the subject. This point struck me as important, as needing elucidation. If I am wrong in this construction, the committee will correct me. Mr. EWING:-The proposition contained in the first article of the proposed amendment, is copied from the CRITTENDEN resolutions in substance. It is true that the language is somewhat changed, but the legal effect is identical in both the propositions. The term “status,” &c., as there used is not applicable to all the territory of the United States. It only extends to that portion of the territory south of 36° 30'. It crushes out liberty nowhere. It changes nothing—no rights whatever. Again, whatever may be the status of the person in the State from which he comes, that is preserved in the territory, and that alone. It is precisely similar to the case of a contract to which the lea, loci gives the construction, and the lew for; its execution. I like the common law. I have made it my study. I like the use of this term here. It was a good system when not as perfect as it is now. The common law of England even tolerated slavery until it was abolished. The colliers of the North of England were once, to all intents and purposes, as much slaves as any negro on the Southern plantations, except in the matter of separation of families. I can refer you to a precedent on this subject, which you will find in a book of no very high authority. I mean the novel, Red Gauntlet. The general principle applicable here is this: Whenever you establish the right—no matter how, if you establish it—the common law asserts the remedy. There is no crushing out about it. The simple proposition is this: Slavery exists already in that little worthless territory we own below the proposed line. Will we agree that it shall remain there just as it is now, so long as the territorial condition continues? That is all. There is no mystery or question of construction about it. Mr. FIELD:—The questions now before the Conference I suppose arise upon the report presented by the majority of the committee, and upon the motion to substitute for that report the propositions of the minority of the same committee. I propose to add to this report the three following propositions; and I will read them for the information of the Conference.
I. “Each State has the sole and exclusive right, according to its own judgment, to order and direct its domestic institutions, and to determine for itself what shall be the relation to each other of all persons residing or being within its limits.
II. “Congress shall provide by law for securing to the citizens of each State the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.
III. “The union of the States under the Constitution is indissoluble; and no State can secede from the Union, or nullify an act of Congress, or absolve its
citizens from their paramount obligations of obedience to the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
These additions would render the majority report much more acceptable to the northern people than it is in its present shape, though even then, I am bound to declare, I could not support it. I prefer the substitute. In what I have now to say, I shall not confine myself to a discussion of these propositions, but availing myself of the latitude of debate hitherto allowed to gentlemen who have addressed the Conference in favor of the report of the majority of the committee, I shall endeavor to bring to the notice of this body, more fully than I have yet done, my views upon the general question presented for our consideration. For myself, I state at the outset that I am indisposed to the adoption, at the present time, of any amendment of the Constitution. To change the organic law of thirty millions of people is a measure of the greatest importance. Such a measure should never be undertaken in any case, or under any circumstances, without great deliberation and the highest moral certainty that the country will be benefited by the change. In this case, as yet, there has been no deliberation; certainly not so far as the delegates from New York are concerned. The resolutions of Virginia were passed on the 19th of January. New York (her Legislature being in session) appointed her delegates on the 5th of February. We came here on the 8th. Our delegation was not full for a week. The amendments proposed were submitted on the 15th. It is now the 20th of the month. We are urged to act at once without further deliberation or delay. To found an empire, or to make a constitution for a people, on which so much of their happiness depends, requires the sublimest effort of the human intellect, the greatest impartiality in weighing opposing interests, the utmost calmness in judgment, the highest prudence in decision. It is pro