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MR. v.AN BUREN's ADMINISTRATION.
Mr. WAN BUREN being regarded as a Northern man with Southern principles, was not elected upon sectional issues; though both before and after his election such issues were pressed upon the attention of the people, both North and South. A
In the latter part of General JACKSON's Administration, and while the politicians were looking out upon the country for available Presidential candidates, the subject of slavery was
forced u ion of Congress, in the shape of petiti fo bolition of slave the District 9 ia.
One of these, signed by 800 ladies from the State of New York, was presented in the IIouse of Tepresentatives in February, 1835. And another in the same month was presented from Massachusetts, signed by 1,249 male citizens, and by 2,643 ladies. Petitions like these from different portions of the Northern States were pressed on the attention of both Houses of Congress for the space of four years, or until the session of Congress immediately before the next Presidential campaign. One of the last was presented by Mr. CLAY, Feb. 13, 1840, as he said “in deference to the right of petition, which he admitted in its full force. He thought the crisis of this unfortunate agitation was passed; it was certainly passed when Congress convened in December last. Whether the political uses which have since been made of it may not revive it, and revive it in a more imposing form, he was not prepared to say.” The abolition of slavery was provided for in this petition. The ground taken in the petitions generally, was, that slavery is wrong or improper, and that as by Article 1st, section 8th, Congress has power “to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over the District of Columbia,” it is bound to abolish slavery in the District. It was in Congress declared to be “the Great National Question.” The grounds of opposition to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia are the following: “The District was ceded, not to the United States, but to Congress, which can claim no rights of sovereignty, whatever the United States may: it was ceded by the ordinary Legislatures of Maryland and Virginia, which never pretended to sovereignty. We know that the sovereignty of each State resides in the people. The principle agreed on both hands, from which we are arguing, is, that Congress, in exclusive legislation over the territory, property, and people of this District, are competent to do in respect to territory, property, and people of this District, whatever the Legislatures of Maryland and Virginia are competent to do in respect to the territory, property, and people of those States respectively; and (I add and insist) no more. Therefore, in order to show that Congress has Constitutional power to abolish the rights of slave property in this District, it must first be shown that the Legislatures of those two States have, and had, at the time of their cession, Constitutional power to abolish the rights of slave property within their limits. “I can venture to say that the great body of the jurists of Virginia, as well as of the people, have always denied, and do yet deny, the Constitutional power of the ordinary Legislature to abolish the rights of slave property, without the consent of the individual owners. I do not know what opinion has been entertained in Maryland. I only know that the same reasoning is equally applicable to the legal institutions of both States. “I presume it can hardly be imagined that Congress can have derived from the acts of cession of Maryland and Virginia, that is, by virtue of those acts alone, any other or greater powers of legislation over the District, than those Legislatures themselves had at the time of the cession; in other words, that the grantee has acquired by the grant more power than the grantor had to cede.” “If the provision of the Constitution of the United States, giving power to Congress “to exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever, over such District as may, by the cession of particular States, and acceptance of Congress, become the seat of Government of the United States,’ is to be taken as the only source and the only measure of the power of Congress; if this provision is to be construed as conferring on Congress absolute, sovereign, despotic authority over the people of the District, and their private rights of property, unlimited by the just measure of authority that belonged to the State Legislatures by which the territory was ceded, unlimited by any consideration of the nature, purposes, and exigencies of the trust for which the power of exclusive legislation was given, then it willo follow that Congress may, in its wisdom, or in its folly, abolish property in lands as well as in slaves; may enact an agrarian law; nay, more, may abolish the principle of property entirely, and establish a community of goods. Now, certainly, I do not apprehend any such absurd and mischievous legislation; but it is fair, it is even necessary, to pursue this claim of power to its consequences in order to test its justice. The truth is, sir, that a grant of power of ‘exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over a territory and the people in it, does not, in the just sense of that language, as used by American law-givers, import a grant of absolute, despotic, sovereign authority, or of any authority at all to assume, abolish, or impair private rights of property. It imports a grant of the power of ordinary legislation. The proper as well as ordinary business of legislation is to regulate and secure the rights of property, never to annihilate them.”—Speech of Mr. Leigh in the Senate, Jan. 19, 1836.
PINCKNEY’s RESOLUTIONs.—Hous E OF REPRESENTATIVES,
1. Resolved, That Congress possesses no Constitutional authority to interfere, in any way, with the institution of slavery in any of the States of this Confederacy; passed by a vote of
182 to 9; of which 6 were from Wew England, and 3 from Pennsylvania. 2. Resolved, That Congress ought not to interfere in any way with slavery in the District of Columbia; passed by a vote of 132 yeas, and 45 nays. All the votes given by Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island, in the negative. And whereas it is extremely important and desirable that the agitation of this subject should be finally arrested, for the purpose of restpring tranquillity to the public mind, your committee respectfully recommend the adoption of the following resolution, viz.: 3. Resolved, That all petitions, memorials, resolutions, and papers, relating in any way, or to any extent whatever, to the subject of slavery or the abolition of slavery, shall, without be*ing either printed or referred, be laid upon the table, and that no farther action whatever shall be had thereon. This was passed by a vote of 117 to 68. All the votes given by Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island were in the negative.
VERMONT ANTI-SLAVERY RESOLUTIONS.–SENATE.
Mr. Swift, of Vermont, presented, Dec. 19, 1837, a memorial and resolutions from the Legislature of Vermont in relation to “Texas and slavery in the District of Columbia.”
Mr. KING, of Alabama, said “he considered it an infamous libel and insult upon the South, let it come from what quarter it would ; it was a false statement in relation to the people of the South, when it charged them with disregard for the laws, and he expressed his surprise that gentlemen should present papers which they could not but feel were untrue.” The memorial was withdrawn for future presentation.
It was again presented January 16. Mr. SwiFT said “he would offer no other apology than the duty he owed to the State. The Resolutions spoke for themselves; nor did Vermont require him to vindicate them on this floor. He expressed his regret, however, that they should have been so harshly assailed as they had been. Not only the sentiments contained in them, but the motives of those who adopted them, had been subjects of unjust censure and reproach.”
Mr. PRESTON, of South Carolina, “presumed the document would not have been presented unless under authority of command in obedience to higher power, where, the servant could exercise no discretion. Coming from a sovereign State, we were, he presumed, bound to treat it with respect and deference. Here was a report wantonly presented, characterized by language which, if used by an individual or senator of this body, would be rejected with disdain. In it the South is charged with immorality and irreligion; and when with becoming dignity we repel the charge, we are “uncourteous” and ‘offensive' in our language; while we are stigmatized as debauched, sensual, immoral, sinful, God-offending creatures; and when we speak of fanatics and incendiaries, we are rebuked and chidden. Was this fair? Was this proper?”
HousE.—DECEMBER 20, 1837.
The most angry and portentous debate which had yet taken place in Congress occurred at this time in the House of Representatives. It was brought on by Mr. WILLIAM SLADE, of Wermont, who, besides presenting petitions of the usual abolition character, and moving to refer them to a committee, moved their reference to a select committee, with instructions to report a bill in conformity to their prayer. This motion, inflammatory and irritating in itself, and without practical legislative object, as the great majority of the House was known to be opposed to it, was rendered still more exasperating by the manner of supporting it. The mover entered into a general disquisition on the subject of slavery, all denunciatory, and was proceeding to speak upon it in the State of Virginia, and other States, in the same spirit, when Mr. LEGARE, of South Carolina, interposed, and—
“Hoped the gentleman from Vermont would allow him to make a few remarks before he proceeded further. He sincerely hoped that gentleman would consider well what he was about before he ventured on such ground, and that he would take time to consider what might be its probable consequences. He solemnly entreated him to reflect on the possible results of such a course, which involved the interests of a nation and a conti