Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

nent. He would warn him, not in the language of defiance, which all brave and wise men despised, but he would warn him in the language of a solemn sense of duty, that if there was ‘a spirit aroused in the North in relation to this subject,” that spirit would encounter another spirit in the South full as stubborn. He would tell them that, when this question was forced upon the people of the South, they would be ready to take up the gauntlet. He concluded by urging on the gentleman from Vermont to ponder well on his course before he ventured to proceed.” Mr. SLADE continued his remarks, when Mr. DAwson, of Georgia, asked him for the floor, that he might move an adjournment—evidently to carry off the storm which he saw rising. Mr. SLADE refused to yield it; so the motion to adjourn

could not be made. Mr. SLADE continued, and was proceeding

to answer his own inquiry, put to himself—what was slavery # when Mr. DAwson again asked for the floor, to make his motion of adjournment. Mr. SLADE refused it: a visible commotion began to pervade the House—members rising, clustering together, and talking with animation; Mr. SLADE continued, and was about reading a judicial opinion in one of the Southern States which defined a slave to be a chattel, when Mr. WISE called him to order for speaking beside the question—the question being upon the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and Mr. SLADE's remarks going to its legal character, as property in a State. The Speaker, Mr. John WHITE, of Kentucky, sustained the call, saying it was not in order to discuss the subject of slavery in any of the States. Mr. SLADE denied that he was doing so, and said he was merely quoting a Southern judicial decision as he might quote a legal opinion delivered in Great Britain. Mr. RoBERTSON, of Virginia, moved that the House adjourn. The Speaker pronounced the motion (and correctly) out of order, as the member from Vermont was in possession of the floor and addressing the House. He would, however, suggest to the member from Vermont, who could not but observe the state of the House, to confine himself strictly to the subject of his motion. Mr. SLADE went on at great length, when Mr. PETRIKIN, of Pennsylvania, called him to order; but the Chair did not sustain the call. Mr. SLADE went on, quoting from the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitutions of the several States, and had got to that of Virginia, when Mr. WISE called him to order for reading papers without the leave of the House. The Speaker decided that no paper objected to could be read without the leave of the House. Mr. WISE then said: “That the gentleman had wantonly discussed the abstract question of slavery, going back to the very first day of the creation, instead of slavery as it existed in the District, and the powers and duties of Congress in relation to it. He was now examining the State Constitutions to show that as it existed in the States it was against them, and against the laws of God and man. This was out of order.” Mr. SLADE explained, and argued in vindication of his course, and was about to read a memorial of Dr. FRANKLIN, and an opinion of Mr. MADISON on the subject of slavery, when the reading was objected to by Mr. GRIFFIN, of South Carolina; and the Speaker decided they could not be read without the permission of the House. Mr. SLADE, without asking the permission of the House, which he knew would not be granted, assumed to understand the prohibition as extending only to himself personally, said: “Then I send them to the clerk; let him read them.” The Speaker decided that this was equally against the rule. Then Mr. GRIFFIN withdrew the objection, and Mr. SLADE proceeded to read the papers, and to comment upon them as he went on, and was about to go back to the State of Wirginia, and show what had been the feeling there on the subject of slavery previous to the date of Dr. FRANKLIN’s memorial: Mr. RHETT, of South Carolina, inquired of the Chair what the opinions of Virginia fifty years ago had to do with the case? The Speaker was about to reply, when Mr. WISE rose with warmth, and said: “He has discussed the whole abstract question of slavery; of slavery in my own district; and I now ask all my colleagues to retire with me from this hall.” Mr. SLADE reminded the Speaker that he had not yielded the floor; but his progress was impeded by the condition of the House, and the many exclamations of members, among whom Mr. HALSEY, of Georgia, was heard calling on the Georgia delegation to withdraw with him; and Mr. RHETT was heard proclaiming that the South Carolina members had already consulted together, and agreed to have a meeting at three o'clock in the committee room of the District of Columbia. Here the Speaker interposed to calm the House, standing up in his place and saying: - “The gentleman from Vermont had been reminded by the Chair that the discussion of slavery, as existing within the States, was not in order; when he was desirous to read a paper and it was objected to, the Chair had stopped him; but the objection had been withdrawn, and Mr. SLADE had been suffered to proceed; he was now about to read another paper, and objection was made; the Chair would, therefore, take the question on permitting it to be read.” Many members rose, all addressing the Chair at the same time, and many members leaving the hall, and a general scene of noise and confusion prevailing. Mr. RHETT succeeded in raising his voice above the roar of the tempest which raged in the House, and invited the entire delegations from all the slave States to retire from the hall forthwith, and meet in the committee room of the District of Columbia. The Speaker again essayed to calm the House, and again standing up in his place, he recapitulated his attempts to preserve order, and vindicated the correctness of his own conduct, seemingly impugned by many: “What his personal feelings were on the subject (he was from a slave State) might easily be conjectured. He had endeavored to enforce the rules. Had it been in his power to restrain the discussion, he should promptly have exercised the power; but it was not.” Mr. SLADE, continuing, said the paper which he wished to read was of the Continental Congress of 1774. The Speaker was about to put the question on leave, when Mr. CoST JoHNSON, of Maryland, inquired whether it would be in order to force the House to vote that the member from Vermont be not permitted to proceed? The Speaker replied it would not. Then Mr. JAMEs J. McKAY, of North Carolina—a clear, cool-headed, sagacious man—interposed the objection which headed Mr. SLADE. There was a rule of the House, that when a member was called to order he should take his seat; and if decided to be out of order, he should not be allowed to speak again, except on leave of the House. Mr. McKAY judged this to be a proper occasion for the enforcement of that rule; and stood up and said: “That the gentleman had been pronounced out of order in discussing slavery in the States; and the rule declared that when a member was so pronounced by the Chair, he should take his seat, and if any one objected to his proceeding again, he should not do so unless by leave of the House. Mr. McKAY did now object to the gentleman from Vermont proceeding any further.” Redoubled noise and confusion ensued, a crowd of members rising and speaking at once, who eventually yielded to the resounding blows of the Speaker's hammer upon the lid of his desk, and his apparent desire to read something to the House, as he held a book (recognized to be that of the rules) in his hand. Obtaining quiet so as to enable himself to be heard, he read the rule referred to by Mr. McKAY ; and said that, as objection had now for the first time been made under that rule to the gentleman's resuming his speech, the Chair decided that he could not do so without the leave of the House. Mr. SLADE attempted to go on; the Speaker directed him to take his seat until the question of leave should be put. Then Mr. SLADE, still keeping on his feet, asked leave to proceed as in order, saying he would not discuss slavery in Virginia. On that question, Mr. ALLEN, of Vermont, asked the yeas and nays. Mr. RENCHER, of North Carolina, moved an adjournment. Mr. ADAMs, and many others, demanded the yeas and nays on this motion, which were ordered, and resulted in 106 yeas and 63 nays—some fifty or sixty members having withdrawn. This opposition to adjournment was one of the worst features of that unhappy day's work; the only effect of keeping the House together being to increase irritation, and multiply the chances for an outbreak. From the beginning, Southern members had been in favor of it, and essayed to accomplish it, but were prevented by the tenacity with which Mr. SLADE kept possession of the floor; and now, at last, when it was time to adjourn any way —when the House was in a condition in which no good could be expected, and great harm might be apprehended, there were sixty-three members—being nearly one-third of the House—

willing to continue it in session. They were:

“Messrs. ADAMs, ALEXANDER, H. ALLEN, J. W. ALLEN, AxCRIGG, BELL, BIDDLE, BoND, BoRDEN, BRIGGs, W. B. CALHOUN, CoFFIN, CorwiN, CRANSTON, CURTIs, CUSHING, DARLINGTON, DAVIES, DUNN, Evans, EveRETT, Ewing, J. FLETCHER, FILLMORE, GooDE, GRENNELL, HALEY, HALL, HASTINGS, HENRY, HEROD, HoFFMAN, LINCOLN, MARVIN, S. MASON, MAXWELL, McKENNAN, MILLIGAN, M. MoRRIs, C. MoRRIS, NAYLOR, Noyes, OGLE, PARMENTER, PATTERSON, PECK, PHILLIPs, Potts, Potter, RARIDEN, RANDOLPH, REED, RIDGwAY, TUSSEL, SHEFFER, SIBLEY, SLADE, STRATTON, TILLINGHAST, ToI.AND, A. S. WHITE, J. WHITE, E. WHITTLESEY—63. “The House then stood adjourned; and as the adjournment was being pronounced, Mr. CAMPBELL, of South Carolina, stood up on a chair, and calling for the attention of the members, said: “He had been appointed, as one of the Southern delegation, to announce that all those gentlemen who represented slaveholding States, were invited to attend the meeting now being held in the District Committee room.” Members from the slaveholding States had repaired in large numbers to the room in the basement, where they were invited to meet. Various passions agitated them—some violent. Extreme propositions were suggested, of which Mr. RHETT, of South Carolina, in a letter to his constituents, gave a full account of his own—thus: “In a private and friendly letter to the editor of the Charleston Mercury, amongst other events accompanying the memorable secession of the Southern members from the hall of the House of Representatives, I stated to him, that I had prepared two resolutions, drawn as amendments to the motion of the member from Vermont, whilst he was discussing the institution of slavery in the South, ‘declaring that the Constitution having failed to protect the South in the peaceable possession and enjoyment of their rights and peculiar institutions, it was expedient that the Union should be dissolved; and the other, appointing a committee of two members from each State to report upon the best means of peaceably dissolving it.’ They were intended as amendments to a motion, to refer with instructions to report a bill, abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia.

« ZurückWeiter »