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should not Congress prohibit this traffic? We hear much of the cruelty of the African slave-trade. Our laws denounce against those engaged in it the punishment of death. Is it less cruel, less deserving of punishment, to tear fathers, mothers, children, from their homes and each other, in Maryland and Virginia, and transport them to the markets of Louisiana and Mississippi? If there be a difference in cruelty and wrong, is it not in favor of the African and against the American slave-trade * Why, then, should we be guilty of the inconsistency of abolishing that by the sternest prohibition, and continuing this under the sanction of national law?” Touching the proposition to make more effectual provision for the extradition of fugitive slaves, he inquired where in the Constitution power was conferred upon Congress to legislate on the subject? “I know,” he said, “to what clause I shall be referred. I know I shall be told that “no person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom said service or labor may be due.” But this clause contains no grant of legislative power to Congress. . . . The clause is one of compact; and if this opinion be correct, the power of legislation and the duty of legislation must be with the States, and not with Congress.” When Mr. Butler asked, “if some of the States refused to pass laws to comply with the obligation of the compact, where the remedy was ?” Mr. Chase answered distinctly and without equivocation, that he knew of no remedy where a State refused to perform the stipulation. “The obligation of the compact, and the extent of the compact are, as in every other case of treaty stipulation, matters which address themselves exclusively to the good faith and sound judgment of the parties to it. . . . I repeat that the clause in relation to fugitives. from labor is a clause of compact. For many years after the adoption of the Constitution it was so regarded. It was not much discussed, and the limits of the respective powers of the State and Federal Governments under it were not very accurately settled. But nearly all the States legislated under it, and provided such methods for the extradition of
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fugitives as they deemed consistent with the security of the personal rights of their own citizens. . . . “But if it be granted that Congress has the power to legislate, are we bound to exercise it? We have power, without question, to enact a bankrupt law, but no one proposes such a law; and if proposed, no one would feel bound to vote for it simply because we have power to enact it. We have power to declare war; but to declare war without just cause, would be not a duty but a crime. The power to provide by law for the extradition of fugitives is not conferred by any express grant. We have it, if we have it at all, as an implied power, and the implication which gives it to us is, to say the least, remote and doubtful. We are not bound to exercise it. We are bound, indeed, not to exercise it, unless with great caution and with careful regard, not merely to the alleged right sought to be secured, but to every other right which may be affected by it. Were the power as clear as the power to coin money or regulate commerce, still it should not be exercised to the prejudice of any right which the Constitution guarantees. We are not prepared, I hope, and I trust we never shall be prepared, to give the sanction of the American Senate to the bill and the amendments now upon our table—a bill which authorizes and requires the appointment of two hundred and sixty-one commissioners, and an indefinite number of other officers, to catch runaway slaves in the State of Ohio; which punishes humanity as a crime; which authorizes seizure without process, trial without a jury, and consignment to slavery beyond the limits of the State without opportunity of defense and upon ex-parte testimony. Certainly no such bill can receive my vote.” He argued at length the question of slavery in the Territories, contending that the possibility of its entrance ought to be excluded by a positive prohibition. He paid some particular attention to the doctrine of Mr. Webster that physical law had excluded it from Utah and New Mexico. “Is it true,” he asked, “that any law of physical geography will protect the new Territories from the curse of slavery' Peonism was there under the Mexican law, and if peonism were not there to warn us what may be expected if slavery be not prohibited, could we, as rational legislators, find an excuse in the physical circumstances of the country for abandoning the [Wilmot] proviso? It is said to be “Asiatic information and scenery.” Are there no slaves in Asia? But the soil is cultivated by “irrigation.’ Well, will this fact, if it be a fact, that the sun shines from a cloudless sky, and waters to refresh the earth must be drawn from the streams which snow-capped hills supply: will this exclude slavery? But the lands are poor. Sir, who knows that? Much of the vast region over which we are to extend territorial government is wholly unexplored. In other parts there is, as everywhere else, good land and poor land. Certainly there are mines, and in no employment has slave-labor been more commonly or more profitably used. Let us take care that we do not deceive ourselves, or mislead others. Neither soil, nor climate, nor physical formation, nor degrees of latitude, will exclude slavery from any country. Can any gentleman name a degree of latitude beyond which slavery has not gone, or any description of country to which it has not, at some time, found access?” He concluded thus: “Honesty is the best policy; justice the highest expediency; and principle the only proper basis of union in a political organization. Holding fast as I do to democratic principles; believing firmly that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights to life and liberty, I desire to see those principles carried out boldly, earnestly, resolutely, in the practical administration of affairs. I wish to see the powers of this Government exercised for the great objects which the Constitution indicates—for the perfection of our Union; for the establishment of justice; for the common defense; for the security of liberty. “We of the West are in the habit of looking upon the Union as we look upon the arch of heaven, without a thought that it can ever decay or fall. With equal reverence we regard the great Ordinance of Freedom, under whose benign influence, within little more than half a century, a wilderness has been converted into an empire. OHIO, the eldest born of the Constitution and the Ordinance, cleaves and will cleave faithfully to both. And now that the time has come when vast accessions of free territory demand the application of those principles of the Ordinance, to which she is indebted for her prosperity and power, to guard them against the blighting influence of slavery,
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she will insist that the same protection shall be extended to the Territories which was extended to her.
“Nor are these the sentiments of Ohio alone. They are the sentiments of the people throughout the free States. Here and there the arts or the fears of politicians or capitalists may suppress their utterance—but they live and will live in the hearts of the masses. There is no great and real change in those opinions and convictions which placed a majority pledged to free soil in the other wing of the Capitol. It may be, however, that you will succeed here in sacrificing the claims of freedom by some settlement carried through the forms of legislation. But the people will unsettle your settlement. It may be that you will determine that the Territories shall not be secured by law against the ingress of slavery. The people will reverse your determination. It may be that you will succeed in burying the Ordinance of Freedom. But the people will write upon its tomb, Resurgam—“I shall rise again’—and the same history which records its resurrection may also inform posterity that they who fancied they had killed the proviso, had only committed political suicide.”
BILLS SUBMITTED BY THE SENATE COMMITTEE OF THIRTEEN-NONINTERVENTION WITH SLAVERY IN THE TERRITORIES-JEFFERson DAVIS's PROPOSITION — countER-PROPOSITION BY MR. CHASE—SPEECH OF ME. CHASE ON THE SUBJECT-THE TEXAS Boundary—FUGITIVE SLAVE ACT of 1850—MR. CHASE's opPOSITION TO IT-ADOPTION OF THE COMPROMISE OF 1850“A coxspleTE AND FINAL ADJUSTMENT’—MR. SUMNER's ADVENT INTO THE SENATE–INTRODUCTION BY MIR. DOUGLAS OF THE BILL, ORGANIZING A TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT IN NEBRASKA.
HE Senate committee of thirteen, along with their report, submitted bills designed to carry into effect their several recommendations—alleging at the same time that they “ had endeavored to present a comprehensive plan of adjustment, which, removing all causes of existing excitement and agitation, leaves none to divide the country and disturb the general harmony.” The accompanying bills were really six in number—1. For the admission of California; 2. For the organization of a territorial government in Utah; 3. For the organization of a territorial government in New Mexico; and 4. Establishing the boundaries of Texas—these four different measures being included, however, in one bill of thirty-nine sections. A fifth made further provision for the return of fugitive slaves, and the sixth abolished the slave-trade in the District of Columbia. Slavery in Utah and New Mexico was thus disposed of in the bills organizing those Territories: “The legislative power of the Territory shall extend to all rightful subjects of legisla