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extreme South, who had been led astray by the popular fears and impulses of the hour, and who, with the loyal but overborne, might well look to them for support, since no other had been afforded them in the reign of terror under which they were suffering. In the circumstances in which the country was placed, it seemed to your Commissioners that true policy ran in the course of generous impulse; that in this matter we were dealing not with treason, but with the most devoted loyalty which invoked our aid against it; that the concessions we made, if concessions indeed they were, were made to our friends that they might be strong enough to triumph over their enemies and ours, because the enemies of the country. If, as is true, in this view of their duty your Commissioners stood in the main alone amongst the Commissioners from the Northern States, and ranged themselves by the side of the Central States of the Union, upon whom the weight of the civil strife must come if come it must, they need not assure you that no dastardly fears, no feelings of base compliance, dictated the position thus taken by them. Such motives to action neither became them nor those whom they represented. It was because of generous faith and earnest sympathy, of ties which no distance of time or space, and no difference of institutions can weaken; which in our fathers' days and our own led our heroes to hazard all for all, and at Guilford Court House, and Eutaw, and at Erie, with desperate valor to snatch victory for our common country out of the very lap of defeat; it was because our little State, with a warm heart and a ready hand, has never failed in counsel or deed to stand with the whole country in all dangers and in extremest disasters, that your Commissioners conceived that they best represented her by averting danger from those with whom they knew she would hasten to share it. If it be true that the time has arrived when our sympathy for an alien and a subject race has extinguished all sympathy for our own, and has hidden from us the ties of a common origin, common interests, and of a common glory, then, indeed, are we separated from our brethren, and the curse of slavery has fallen upon us as well as upon them. Your Commissioners found nothing in themselves to justify them in attributing such sentiments to the people of the State; and unitedly recommend the adoption by you of the amendment to the Constitution proposed by the Conference of Commissioners, as best fitted to give security and ensure peace to the country. Among the measures strenuously enforced by some of the Commissioners, in lieu of that adopted by a majority, was the calling of a General Convention. To this measure your Commissioners opposed their most earnest and determined resistance. As a measure of peace, if for no other reason, because of the long delay which it implied, it would be utterly fruitless. But the possible danger of exposing a Constitution, framed and adopted in the earlier and more conservative days of the Republic, to be torn in pieces in these times of lawless irreverence and change, is too great for any wise man willingly to encounter. The very equality of the States in the Senate, which was won by the revolutionary sacrifices and valor of the smaller States, now almost forgotten, would, in the judgment of your Commissioners, be thereby greatly endangered; and your Commissioners earnestly represent to your Honorable body that under no circumstances should this State consent to a measure which might lead to her own extinction. The Constitution of a great country, adopted, as this was, on account of diversity of interests and views, with great difficulty, should be sacred. It may and should from time to time be amended to suit a change of circumstances, but never exposed to the danger of being uptorn. It is the symbol of our strength, because the ligament of our Union. It has collected about it the reverence of three generations of our people. It is the only rallying point now for the loyalty of the remaining States; the only hope of the restoration of the States which have left us; and, in its main features, it should be, as it was designed to be, perpetual. At no time should a General Convention be invited to invade it; and, of all times, this, in the judgment of your Commissioners, would be the most dangerous. Finally, it will be found upon an inspection of the Journal of the late Conference of Commissioners, that the undersigned voted against many propositions in themselves just and expressive of their sentiments and yours, because inopportune and useless; and against others, because introduced for the very purpose of sowing dissension among the Commissioners and to prevent an agreement by majority upon anything. In this they must ask your candid construction of their conduct, looking to the crisis, the occasion, the purpose and effect of the matter upon which they were called to act; and their unwillingness to hazard an agreement upon that deemed by them necessary, by tacking to it that which, however true, was at least useless, and might in the result be dangerous. All which is respectfully submitted by - SAMUEL AMES, for self, and ALEXANDER DUNCAN, G. H. BROWNE, WILLIAM W. HOPPIN, SAMUEL G. ARNOLD, Commissioners. Providence, March 4th, 1861.
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS.
Boston, March 25, 1861. To the Honorable the Senate:
I have the honor to transmit to the General Court, for its use and information, a Report just received by me from John Z. Goodrich, Charles Allen, George S. Boutwell, Theophilus P. Chandler, Francis B. Crowninshield, John M. Forbes, and Richard P. Waters, Esquires, who were appointed Commissioners on the part of Massachusetts, under a Resolve passed the fifth day of February last, to attend a Convention of delegates from the several States of the Union, recently held at Washington.
And I embrace this opportunity to congratulate the people of the Commonwealth upon the fidelity, judgment, and ability with which the Commissioners, by whom they were represented, conducted their share of the duties of that deliberation.
And I trust that a similar intelligent, manful, and, at the same time, charitable and patriotic adherence to principles, fundamental both in morals and politics, will characterize the people of Massachusetts, and all their representatives, by whatever experiences of danger or difficulty their devotion to truth and duty may hereafter be tried.
I ask leave to call the attention of the General Court, also, to the fact that, as yet, no provision has been adopted for the payment of the expenses incident to the service with which the Commissioners were charged, and to recommend that a suitable appropriation for that purpose be made at the present session of the Legislature.
JOHN A. ANDREW.
To His Excellency John A. ANDREw, Governor, &c., &c.:
The undersigned, Commissioners appointed by your excellency, in pursuance of certain resolutions passed by the Legislature at its present session, to attend a Convention to be held in the City of Washington, with authority to confer with the General Government, or with the separate States, or with any associations of delegates from such States, having, agreeably to your excellency's instructions, repaired to Washington and conferred with the delegates of twenty other States of the American Union, now respectfully submit the following report of the proceedings of the said Convention, and of the action of the Commissioners from Massachusetts. The Convention commenced its sessions on the 4th of February, and closed its deliberations on the 27th of the same month. The Massachusetts Commissioners repaired to Washington as early as practicable after their appointment, and presented their credentials on the 8th of February. The sessions of the Convention were secret; although repeated efforts were made, with the concurrence of the undersigned, first, to remove the injunction of secrecy, then to admit the public to witness the deliberations, and then to procure a complete and accurate report of the debates and doings. These efforts failed, and the undersigned are therefore able only to transmit a copy of the Journal of the Convention.* On the 6th of February a resolution was adopted, upon the motion of Mr. Guthrie, of Kentucky, that a “committee of one from each State be appointed by the Commissioners thereof, to whom should be referred the resolutions of the State of Virginia, and the other States represented, and all propositions for the adjustment of existing difficulties between the States.” Mr. Crowninshield represented Massachusetts upon this committee. At the earliest practicable moment he called for a specific statement of the grievances complained of by the discontented States of the Union. This call elicited much dis
* An authentic copy of the Journal was not received until the 21st instant and the Commissioners did not feel prepared to make a report without an opportunity for consulting it.
cussion, but no definite response to the demand was ever made either in the committee or in Convention. On the 15th of February, Mr. Guthrie, from the committee of one from each State, made a report recommending certain amendments to the Constitution of the United States. This report was adopted in committee by a majority of five States, the delegates from Kansas not having then taken their seats in the Convention. A copy of this report may be found upon the twenty-second and twentythird pages of the Journal. After much discussion and many amendments, the several sections of the proposed article of amendment to the Constitution were finally adopted on the last day of the session. It is to be observed, however, that the report as a whole never received the sanction of the Convention, although the several sections of the article of amendment were separately approved by a majority of the States voting; and it may well be doubted whether the entire article would have been adopted by the Convention. The first section was adopted by a vote of nine States to eight; four States—New York, Indiana, Missouri, and Kansas—not voting. The other sections were approved by larger majorities. The undersigned declined to vote upon the last section, but the vote of Massachusetts, with the unanimous consent of its Commissioners, was given in thenegative upon all the others. This course seemed to be demanded, whether regard was had to the constitution of the Convention, the circumstances under which it assembled, the nature of the propositions submitted, the solution of the difficulties in which the Government and people are involved, or to the character and peace of the country in the future. The two Pacific States, whose loyalty to the Constitution and the Union is unquestioned, could not have been represented in the Convention. Other States failed to appoint Commissioners. The resolutions of the State of Virginia were passed on the 19th of January; and it was expected that within sixteen days thereafter the representatives of this vast country would assemble for the purpose of devising, maturing, and recommending alterations in the Constitution of the republic. As a necessary consequence, the people were not consulted in any of the States. In several, the Commissioners were appointed by the executive of each without even an opportunity to confer with the Legislature; in others, the consent of the representative body was secured, but in no instance were the people themselves consulted. The measures proposed were comparatively new ; the important ones were innovations upon the established principles of the Government, and none of them had ever been submitted to public scrutiny. They related to the institution of slavery; and the experience of the country justifies the assertion that any proposition for additional securities to slavery under the flag of the nation, must be fully discussed and well understood before its adoption, or it will yield a fearful harvest of woe in dissensions and controversies among the people. Nor could the undersigned have justified the act to themselves, if they had concurred in asking Congress to propose amendments to the Constitution unless they were prepared also to advocate the adoption of the amendments by the people.
It is due to truth to say that the Convention did not possess all the desirable characteristics of a deliberative assembly. It was in some degree disqualified for the performance of the important task assigned to it, by the circumstances of its constitution, to which reference has already been made. Moreover, there were members who claimed that certain concessions must be granted that the progress of the secession movement might be arrested; and on the other hand there were men who either doubted or denied the wisdom of such concessions. The circumstances were extraordinary. Within the preceding ninety days the integrity of the Union had been assailed by the attempt of six States to overthrow its authority; seven other States were disaffected, and some of them had assumed a menacing and even hostile attitude. The political disturbances had been associated with or followed by financial distress. The Convention was then a body of men without a recognized and ascertained constituency, called together in an exigency and without preparation, and invited to initiate measures for the amendment of the Constitution in most important particulars, and all at a moment when the public mind was swayed by fears and alarms such as have never before been experienced by the American people. In these circumstances the undersigned thought it inexpedient to propose amendments to the Constitution, believing that so important an act should not be initiated and accomplished without the greatest deliberation and care. Nor could the undersigned satisfy themselves that any or all of the proposed amendments would even tend, in any considerable degree, to the preservation of the Union. Although inquiries were repeatedly made, no assurance was given that any propositions of amendment would secure the return of the seceded States; and it was admitted that several of the Border States would ultimately unite with the Gulf States, either within or without the limits of the Union, as might be dictated by events yet in the future. Indeed, no proposition was in any degree acceptable to the majority of delegates from the border slave States that did not provide for the extension of slavery to the Territories, and its protection and security therein. And further, as appears from the Journal, the Convention was not prepared to deny the right of a State to secede from the Union. Mr. Field, of New York, introduced the following proposition, which, on motion of Mr. Ewing, of Ohio, was laid upon the table: “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 obligation of obedience to the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
After much debate and repeated attempts to avoid a direct vote, the following proposition was rejected:
“It is declared to be the true intent and meaning of the present Constitution that the union of the States under it is indissoluble.”