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AYEs.—Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Kansas—10.
Noes.—Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia–11.
On the last day of the session, Mr. Franklin, of Pennsylvania, moved the adoption of the following resolution:
“Resolved, as the sense of this Convention, that the highest political duty of every citizen of the United States is his allegiance to the Federal Government, created by the Constitution of the United States, and that no State of this Union has any constitutional right to secede therefrom, or to absolve the go's such State from their allegiance to the Government of the United ales. Mr. Ruffin, of North Carolina, moved to postpone the consideration of the same indefinitely, and the resolution was thereupon postponed by the following vote: AYEs.—Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia—10. Noes.—Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania—7. For these reasons and others the Commissioners from Massachusetts supported the proposition originally made by Kentucky, and introduced by Mr. Baldwin, of Connecticut, recommending a national convention for the purpose of revising the Constitution, and of providing for the exigencies likely to arise from the changed and perilous condition of the country. This measure offered an opportunity for consideration by the people, and for careful deliberation by the convention that might be constituted for the purpose. It is highly probable that, after the lapse of three-fourths of a century, a convention of delegates from all the States would by general consent propose amendments to the Constitution; and it is also probable that such a convention would at once tend to strengthen the feeling of brotherhood among the people of various sections, while the discussion of the principles of the Government would render its preservation of paramount concern to all. This measure of peace and union was rejected. The undersigned are constrained by the force of many facts and circumstances to believe that an exciting cause of the present difficulties, and a serious obstacle to their removal, is the possible acquisition of Mexico and Central America. The proceedings of the Convention furnish evidence upon this point. The proposition to restore the Missouri Compromise, which guaranteed freedom north of the parallel 36° 30' north latitude, but furnished no protection to slavery south of that line, was rejected by the aid of the unanimous support of the slaveholding States. The proposition to settle the territorial question by the admission of New Mexico as a State, was summarily discouraged by the South in the committee. The suggestion of one of the Commissioners from Massachusetts, that if the Convention would leave the territorial question out of view, the difficulties concerning the rights and relations of the existing States might be adjusted, did not meet with a favorable response from the slaveholding section of the country. It is to be observed further, that the various propositions and amendments which were in any degree acceptable to the slave States guaranteed slavery south of said line. It did not seem to the undersigned of signal importance, whether this guarantee was limited to our present territories, or made in words to apply to all future acquisitions. Whenever the line of slave States from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean shall be formed, an effectual barrier will have been raised against the migration of freemen southward. Nor can it be assumed, that either with or without constitutional prohibition, the limits of the republic are not to be further extended; and if the proposed line be established by the Constitution, the fairest portions of North America will be given up irrevocably to African slavery. Nor is the limitation of the right of a sovereign State to fix its own boundaries, which involves the right to acquire territory, consistent with its honor in peace, or compatible with its dignity and necessities in time of war. The American people are fully forewarned that it is unwise to rely upon constitutional prohibitions against the acquisition of territory; nor can such prohibitions always withstand the assaults of a determined and desperate majority when acting in harmony with the tendencies of public opinion, and the real or supposed necessities of the country. With these views, and with this experience in mind, the undersigned did not regard with favor the provisions contained in the second section of the proposed article of amendment. It is also to be observed that by this section territory may be acquired for naval and commercial stations, depots, and transit routes, without a resort to the treaty-making power. These provisions seem to be broad enough to permit the summary annexation of Cuba, and portions of Central America and Mexico, by a simple law or joint resolution of Congress. Thus, these two sections considered together, furnished no additional securities against territorial acquisitions, while they effectually established and protected slavery in all territory, present and future, south of the parallel 36° 30' north latitude. By the first section, the common law was to be so changed, that a condition of slavery would be assumed in regard to all the African race within the Territories, and the laws of the several slave States would be enforced against all persons of that race who might be carried from the existing slave States into the Territories. The language is ambiguous, but this interpretation seems to be warranted; and, in the opinion of the undersigned, the courts would render an interpretation adequate to the result just indicated. It is thus seen that the only method of establishing and protecting slavery in the Territories, is to provide for the execution, within their limits, of the laws of the several slave States. This section also incorporates into the Constitution of the United States the existing laws and usages of New Mexico relating to slavery, and renders them irrepealable during the territorial condition.
By the second section, the Senators are divided into two classes, those who represent the slaveholding, and those who represent the non-slaveholding States of the Union, and a majority of each class is required as a part of the two-thirds majority necessary for the acquisition of territory by treaty. A full exposition of this proposition would show that it is a complete and dangerous departure from the principles of the Government, and sure to effect its complete dissolution. When the Senate becomes two separate and distinct bodies, and when the existence of the institution of slavery determines where the line of division shall be, then the Government, for all practical purposes, is at an end. This proposition was introduced by Mr. Summers, of Virginia; and Virginia, by its delegates, also introduced and supported a kindred proposition, by which “all appointments to office in the Territories lying north of the line 36° 30', as well before as after the establishment of Territorial Governments in and over the same, or any part thereof, shall be made upon the recommendation of a majority of the Senators representing at the time the non-slaveholding States; and in like manner, all appointments to office in the Territories which may lie south of said line of 36° 30', shall be made upon the recommendation of a majority of the Senators representing at the time the slaveholding States.” We cannot hesitate to declare the opinion, carefully formed, that this policy of dividing the Senate into two classes, is fraught with dangers to the country more to be dreaded than the bold and defiant measures of those men and States that are arrayed in open hostility to the Union. This measure is a part of the policy of Mr. Calhoun, by which the Government was to be changed, and the executive department so divided that nothing could be done without the concurrence of two Presidents, one representing the slaveholding and one representing the non-slaveholding States. The third section contains several provisions for strengthening and securing slavery in the District of Columbia and in the several States and Territories. It gives to representatives and others the right to bring their slaves into the District of Columbia, retain, and take them away, even after slavery may have ceased to exist in that District by the constitutional action of Congress. It secures the slave-trade between States and Territories in which slavery is established or recognized by law or usage, with the right of transit through free States, by sea or river, and of touching at ports, shores, and landings, and of landing in case of distress; reserving, however, to the States and Territories the power to prohibit the transit of slaves and the sale or traffic therein. Thus the transportation of slaves would be a right as broad as the limits of the republic, unless it should be restrained by the laws of individual States, which acts might readily be regarded as a breach of comity. The fourth section of the article gives to the States the power of concurrent legislation with the United States for the rendition of fugitive slaves, thus introducing a new topic of agitation into every State, without in any degree relieving Congress of its duty in this particular. The fifth section prohibits the foreign slave-trade, and makes it the duty of Congress to pass laws to prevent the importation of slaves, coolies, or persons held to service or labor. As Congress has already, by the Constitution, full power to regulate the migration or importation of persons from other countries, there is no reason for such constitutional provisions upon the subject. It alone remains to enact proper laws and secure their faithful and prompt execution. The sixth section declares that certain sections of the proposed article of amendment, and certain provisions of the Constitution relating to slavery, shall not be amended or abolished without the consent of all the States. The undersigned, being of opinion that no such stipulation ought to be made, and that if made, it would not be binding upon the country, did not hesitate to give the vote of the State against the proposition. The seventh and last section of the proposed article of amendment is in the following words: “Congress shall provide by law that the United States shall pay to the owner the full value of his fugitive from labor, in all cases where the marshal, or other officer, whose duty it was to arrest such fugitive, was prevented from so doing by violence or intimidation from mobs or riotous assemblies, or when, after arrest, such fugitive was rescued by like violence or intimidation, and the owner thereby deprived of the same; and the acceptance of such payment shall preclude the owner from further claim of such fugitive. Congress shall provide by law for securing to the citizens of each State the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several States.” In a Convention duly called and assembled for the revision of the Constitution, the undersigned would have assented to this section; and in declining to vote thereon they intended to so declare to their associates from the slaveholding States. The undersigned thus set forth the doings of the Convention, and some of the reasons by which their conduct was controlled. It was not their fortune to concur with the action of the Convention. The concessions demanded by the discontented States, seemed to be inconsistent with honor, justice, and freedom, and calculated to render permanent the existing causes of disturbance. A Union restored by unmanly concessions, would be productive of bitter criminations and lasting hostilities, and would contain within itself the seeds of a violent death. But the undersigned are bound to say that the differences in the Convention were, in the main, differences of opinion, and not of purpose. Loyalty to the Constitution and the Union was general; and the undersigned do not doubt that the act of Virginia, in inviting a conference with her sister States, will be productive of beneficial results to the country. The Commissioners from Massachusetts were much impressed by the fact, which their personal intercourse with gentlemen from all the slaveholding States brought to their knowledge, that the present difficulties of the country were not caused by the pressure of grievances supposed to be actually existing; but rather by the fear of future interference with Southern rights, caused by entire misapprehension of the purposes of the people of the free States. Misrepresentation of those purposes, proceeding from among ourselves, whether prompted by ignorance of Northern sentiment, or by sinister motives, are greatly to be deprecated. The undersigned entertain no doubt that the intercourse between the different sections of the country, through their representatives in Convention, had a most salutary influence in correcting false views of Northern sentiment, and in assuring our brethren of the South that there is no purpose among the people of those States, who, upon principle, oppose the extension of slavery, to disturb or touch with an unfriendly hand the domestic relations of any other States of the Union. In the present exigency of public affairs, each State should be careful to perform its whole duty freely and faithfully to its sister States and to the country; and then may it well and fearlessly demand, whether the Union contain many States or few, that the Government shall be administered according to the principles of equality and justice which characterize the Constitution formed by our fathers, and which will prove a sufficient security in all the trials and perils of our national existence.