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great importance, and it involves the consideration of many important questions. The amendment which I offer is for the purpose of making the proposition of the committee clear and plain. I was aware that a construction might be placed upon it different from that which the committee intended; and it is due to the frankness which is manifested here, that the purposes of the committee should be made plain. There ought to be no ambiguity in a constitutional provision. Some of the most important constitutional questions decided by the Supreme Court have been questions of construction. Lawyers would differ about the construction to be given the committee's proposition. I think the Supreme Court has placed a construction upon the terms used here, which would be conclusive. A similar question arose in the Dred Scott case. There the question was upon that article in the Constitution which confers on Congress the power “to dispose of and to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territories or other property belonging to the United States.” The Court in that case decided that the provision had no bearing on the controversy in that case, because the power given by that provision, whatever it might be, was confined, and was intended to be confined, to the territory which, upon the adoption of the Constitution, belonged to or was claimed by the United States, and was within their boundaries, as settled by the treaty with Great Britain. With this clause in the Constitution, therefore, it could have no influence upon the territory afterward acquired from a foreign government. I think this decision conclusive, and that the proposition, if incorporated into the Constitution, would refer only to the territory now owned by the United States. It was the wish of the representatives of some States in the committee that the word “future” should be inserted in the report. I was opposed to it: it was so odious to me to put words into the Constitution, or to propose to do so, which should go forth to the world as an indication that this Government proposes to acquire new territory in any way. I have said that the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case decided that the words “the territories” in the Constitution only applied to the then existing territory. I think they decided wrong in this respect, though I agree to the correctness of the decision in that case in the main; but such as it is, the decision is binding upon this Conference and the people. Mr. JoHNSON here read a portion of the opinion of Judge TANEY delivered in the Dred Scott case, and continued: You perceive that Judge TANEY turns the question upon the construction of the word “the.” Had the word “any” been used in its place, he must have held that the provision applied to future, as well as the then existing territory. Rinowing that it was the purpose of the majority of the committee to exclude future territory from the operation of this proposition, and that it was due to the committee and the Convention that their purposes should be carried out, I offer my amendment as applicable to the sixth line of the proposition as well as the first. In discussing the merits of this report, in its application to the existing condition of the country, I have to say a word to my Southern friends. You have sought to extend this provision to territory which shall be hereafter acquired. You have had a decisive vote and have been beaten in this Conference. The fight has been a fair one; the question has been thoroughly understood. We ought to acquiesce in the decision of the majority. We cannot change this decision if we would; and if we could change it, the proposition amended as you would prefer to have it, would never pass Congress. The repeated action of that body, during its present session, shows this conclusively. Accepting this decision then, as definitive, can we not settle the question with reference to existing territory Shall we settle it? Settle it fairly—recognizing and acknowledging the rights of all, and remain brethren forever with the Free States From my very heart, I say yes. (Applause.) The proposition as it now stands covers all the territory we have. The whole ground, the whole trouble, which has brought this country into its present lamentable condition—has arisen over this question. I believe if it had been disposed of or settled in some way before, many States would have been kept in the Union that have now gone out. And why should we not settle it? We have now a territory extensive enough to sustain two hundred millions of people—embracing almost every climate, fruitful in almost every species of production—rich in all the elements of national wealth, and governed by a Constitution that has raised us to an elevation of grandeur that the world has never before witnessed. That we should separate to the destruction of such a Government, on account of territory we have not got, and territory that we do not want, is not, I believe, the patriotic sense of the South. But this proposition does not stand by itself alone. It is connected, and must be construed, with the provision relating to the acquisition of future territory. The second section of the committee's proposition provides that territory shall not be acquired by the United States, unless by treaty, nor, with unimportant exceptions, unless such treaty shall be ratified by four-fifths of all the members of the Senate. Is not that guaranty enough for us? Should we not act unreasonably if we required further guaranty in this respect? For myself, I should have preferred that the consent of two-thirds of the Senate only should be required, and that that two-thirds should comprise a majority both from the free and slave States. Mr. RUFFIN:—At the proper time I shall move such an amendment. Mr. JOHNSON:—If such an amendment is proposed I shall vote for it. I know there will be objections raised to it, but they will be far outweighed by the advantages it will give to the South. But the objection of Mr. BALDw1N is opposed here, and it is one which must be answered. He says this is the wrong way to propose amendments to the Constitution—that our action is inconsistent with that instrument. He does not claim that it is prohibited by the letter, but by the spirit of the Constitution. Where does he get the spirit but from the letter? There are two methods of proposing amendments to the Constitution provided by that instrument. Let us see what they are. Mr. JoHNson here read the article of the Constitution providing for amendments, and continued: One is where two-thirds of Congress deem it advisable to propose amendments; the other is where the States themselves propose them. My learned brother would have us believe that the members of Congress, acting under their official oaths, must each be satisfied that each amendment proposed is proper to be incorporated in the instrument, before they should propose them; and he maintains that there is a difference, in fact, in the two methods prescribed. What right has this body, if there is any force in this objection, to submit his proposition to the States? If what we propose is revolutionary, then what he proposes is revolutionary. I reply to him, with all respect for his legal ability, and with all the humility which becomes me, and insist that he is wrong. He refers to the opinion of Judge CoLLAMER. I hold Judge Collam ER in much respect, and his opinion in great honor here, but his statements are at war with the objections made by the gentleman from Connecticut. Judge CoLLAMER maintains that it is the duty of Congress to propose amendments, not to recommend them. It would be entirely proper, according to his opinion, for Congress to propose amendments which they would not adopt themselves. I go somewhat farther, and insist that it is the duty of Congress to propose amendments whenever desired by any State or any considerable section of the Union. If we have no right to suggest a line of action to Congress, no right to petition Congress, no right to ask Congress to propose amendments, as the gentleman insists, we had better go home, or rather, I should say, we should never have come here. There are twenty States represented in this Conference. I have no doubt other States would have been here, but for the shortness of the time. But how and why are we here? We have come here on the invitation of Virginia; her resolutions are our constitution. We have come here at her instance. For what purpose did she ask us to come here? under what circumstances did she pass these resolutions? Wirginia saw that the country was going to ruin—that one State had already seceded, and several others were about to follow. She saw there were circumstances affecting the condition of the South which aroused her to frenzy—not madness, but the frenzy which falls on every patriotic mind when it witnesses a country going to destruction. She saw the country was going to ruin with rapid steps, and that its ruin must be accomplished unless her friends in the free States would come forward, and consent to put into the Constitution additional guarantees which would satisfy the people of the slave States that their rights were secure. See what she did—what she said. She expresses it as her deliberate opinion, “that unless the unhappy controversy which now divides the States of this Confederacy shall be satisfactorily adjusted, a permanent dissolution of the Union is inevitable; and the General Assembly, representing the wishes of the people of the Commonwealth, is desirous of employing every reasonable means to avert so dire a calamity, and determined to make a final effort to restore the Union and the Constitution, in the spirit in which they were established by the fathers of the Republic.” Therefore she invites all States, whether slaveholding or nonslaveholding, who were willing to unite with her in an earnest ef. fort to adjust the unhappy controversies in the spirit of the Constitution, to come together to secure that adjustment. She asks us to agree to some suitable adjustment. She does not leave us to suggest what that adjustment shall be. She tells us herself. She requests us to adopt it, and to submit it to Congress. She does not ask that Congress should call a convention, for Congress could not. Try, if we can, says Virginia, to come to some settlement of these unhappy controversies, and send that settlement to Congress, that Congress may submit it to the country. Virginia invited you here. She told you just what she wanted. She says if you cannot consent to that, then let her commissioners come home and report the result. If this cannot be done, if the mode of adjustment indicated by her cannot be substantially carried out, then our whole authority is at an end. This matter of amending the Constitution is not as intricate and difficult a work as gentlemen imagine. Arethere not twelve amendments to the Constitution already? Were they submitted to the people by each member of Congress acting under his official oath Or were they submitted in the very way the gentleman would avoid? Were they not brought into the Constitution by outside pressure? The Constitution has been amended. I wish to mark how it was done, and then note why it was done. There was a time when fears were entertained that wrongs might be done to different sections of the Union under the Constitution as it then stood. Congress listened to those fears, and did not hesitate to propose amendments suggested from outside its own body—to submit them to the people for adoption. It was necessary, in the judgment of Congress, to do this, in order to restore confidence. It was done, and confidence was restored. Is not that precisely our case now? Is not confidence lost in the North and in the South?—not exactly lost, perhaps, but shaken. The credit

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