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services may be required.” The claimant was authorized to pursue and seize fugitives either upon a duly-issued process or without process, where that could be done; and upon being taken before a court or commissioner, it became the duty of that officer to hear and determine the case in a summary manner, and upon satisfactory proof of the identity of the fugitive and that the alleged service or labor was really owing, to issue to the claimant a certificate setting forth the facts, and authorizing the claimant to use the force proper and necessary to remove the fugitive; this certificate to be final and conclusive in all respects. And in no trial or hearing under the act was the testimony of the fugitive to be admitted in evidence. Any person who should knowingly or willingly obstruct, hinder, or prevent the arrest of a fugitive slave; or who should rescue or attempt to rescue a fugitive slave; or who should aid or abet or assist a fugitive slave, directly or indirectly, to escape; or who should harbor or conceal a fugitive slave, so as to prevent discovery or arrest of such fugitive slave, after notice or knowledge that the person was a fugitive slave—was to be subject to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars and imprisonment not exceeding six months; and, moreover, was to forfeit and pay to the party losing the fugitive, by way of civil damages, the sum of one thousand dollars, precisely. The fees of the commissioner were to be ten dollars in each case where a certificate authorizing the removal of the fugitive was delivered to the claimant; and only five dollars in cases where, in the opinion of the commissioner, the proof was not sufficient to warrant the delivery of such certificate. This bill was denounced in the North with great vehemence by journals and men of all parties, and by none more conspicuously than by Democratic newspapers in Ohio. It was declared to be an insult and a menace upon the Northern people; that it transformed them from freemen into a nation of slave-catchers; that it offered bribes to public officers; that it abrogated the right of trial by jury; that it was a dangerous attack upon the personal liberty of every citizen of a free State; that, in a word, it was a “bill of abominations.” Mr. Chase opposed the bill with peculiar and persevering earnestness. “It seems to be taken for granted,” he said with a good deal of bitterness, “that but one class of rights are to be
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regarded by us—the rights of masters. . . . I do not believe that a slave-claimant can go into any State of this Union, and seize a person under the protection of its laws, and upon meré assertion that the person seized is a fugitive from service, carry him off without process by private force. I deny utterly that such a proceeding is warranted by the Constitution.” He declared that such an enactment must lead to the most serious difficulties; that it would stir up tumult; that so far from making slave-property more secure, it would surely make it less so. This latter declaration Mr. Butler, of South Carolina, conceded to be true. He offered an amendment to the bill denying the right of reclamation in the Territories of the Union, and confining it to cases of escape from one State into another State. “If slaveholding is condemned by the law of Nature, as the decisions of the courts even of slave States declare it is; if slavery is a local institution, created by State law and dependent upon State law for its continuance and existence, let us act upon this principle as if we believed in it, and declare that slavery cannot be extended beyond State jurisdiction, and deny to its support the power of the national Government in the Territories.” For this amendment there was a solitary vote; that of Mr. Chase himself l and forty-one Senators voted against it—including . Hamlin, afterward Vice-President of the United States, and Dayton, afterward minister to the court of France. He offered another amendment, the effect of which would be—if adopted— to admit a trial by jury upon the question whether an alleged fugitive really owed service in another State. Claims of right in the services of individuals found under the protection of the laws of a free State, he declared, ought to be investigated in the same manner as other claims of right, and the defense to the claim to the custody and service of any man ought to be as free from embarrassment as any other defense against any other claim. “If the most ordinary controversy,” he said, “involving a contested claim to twenty dollars must be decided by a jury, surely a controversy which involves the right of a man to his liberty, should have a similar trial.” But of course his amendment was rejected, and in a very summary way too. At last all the measures recommended by the committee became laws, though not in the forms in which they were recom
mended. They were intended to compose the whole slavery agitation; to be a complete and final adjustment of all the questions growing out of the subject. A number of the friends of the measures signed a compact, pledging themselves to vote for no man for any office who would in any way renew the agitation. Among these were Henry Clay, Howell Cobb, Alaxander H. Stephens, Robert Toombs, and Humphrey Marshall. The first session of the Thirty-first Congress ended on the 30th day of September, 1850, after ten months of continuous and exciting labors; and five-sixths of the whole session was devoted to the consideration and discussion of the slavery question in some one of its various phases—a portentous fact, showing how full of dangers the subject was and how difficult it was to compose them. . . . There was very little discussion of the slavery question during the whole of the Thirty-second Congress. Some memorials were presented, praying the repeal of the fugitive slave law, but of course no action was had in that direction. Mr. Sumner took his seat in the Senate at the beginning of this Congress, and signalized his advent by a powerful speech in advocacy of the immediate repeal of the fugitive slave act. His speech occasioned a profound sensation among Senators, and was variously characterized. Mr. Badger, of North Carolina, said it was the most extraordinary speech ever heard in the Senate; Mr. Douglas said it was an assault upon the Constitution; Mr. Weller, of California, said it counseled to murder; Mr. Chase said it marked an era in American history. “It would distinguish the day when the advocates of that theory of governmental policy and constitutional construction,” which, he said, Mr. Sumner had so ably defended, “no longer content to stand on the defensive in the contest with slavery, boldly attacked the very citadel of its power, in attacking that doctrine of finality, which two of the political parties of the couptry, through their national organizations, were attempting to establish as the impregnable defense of its usurpations.” A strong effort was made to organize a territorial government in Nebraska. A bill passed the House for that purpose. It contained no prohibition of slavery, but received the support of antislavery members because they believed that slavery was
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excluded from the Territory by operation of the Missouri Compromise Act. On the last night of the second session—March 3, 1853—Mr. Douglas moved in the Senate to take up this bill. He said that for eight years he had been pressing it, beginning when he was in the House of Representatives; that it was very dear to his heart, and of immense magnitude and of great import to the country. Of its infinite great magnitude and import to the country how little the Senator then knew l But his motion was not successful. In the course of a very brief debate upon it, Mr. Atchison, a pro-slavery Senator from Missouri— afterward notorious for his participation in the border-wars of Kansas—made an important statement. One of his objections to the bill was, he said, that under it the Compromise of 1820 —the Missouri restriction upon slavery extension—would be operative unless especially rescinded; and of that there was no hope or prospect. He declared the Missouri Compromise to have been a great error, for which, however, there was no remedy and to which the South must submit.
C EIAPTER XV.
“THE ERA of SLAVE-HUNTING”—SECOND SESSION OF THE THIRTYSECOND CONGRESS—MEETING OF THE NATIONAL CONVENTIONS OF THE WHIG AND DEMOCRATIO PARTIES IN 1852—THEIR DEOLARATIONS AND NOMINATIONS-MR. CHASE's LETTER. To B. F. BUTLER, OF NEw YoFK—ACTION OF THE NEw York DEMooRACY-THE VIEWS OF MOR. CHASE TOUCHING THAT ACTION.— NATIONAL FREE-SOIL CONVENTION AT PITTSBURG-ITS PLATFORM-TEIE ELECTION OF GENERAL PIERCE-FORECAST OF THE FUTURE.
Th; compromise measures of 1850 were promptly followed by what has been aptly called “the era of slave-hunting.” The enforcement of the fugitive slave act was marked by much excitement and some not serious disorder in Northern States; but enough to make the act peculiarly obnoxious to many others than the antislavery agitators. While there was a general and perhaps decided acquiescence in the compromise, this particular feature of it kept alive irritation, and counteracted, at least partially, the influence of the scheme of adjustment as a whole. The capture of “Shadrach” at Boston, and his rescue by some friends of his own race and color, were the occasion of a real excitement; a good deal intensified by the action of the President (Mr. Fillmore), who issued a proclamation, calling on the people to be active and vigilant in enforcing the laws, meaning of course the fugitive slave law very particularly; while the Secretaries of War and of the Navy fulminated general orders, addressed to the military and naval branches