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But the relations of the Federal Government to the State Governments are not well understood, even by the native-born citizens. The Virginia and Kentucky resolutions on the one hand, and on the other the doctrines taught in Massachusetts and Connecticut during the war, and, indeed, some years before that era, if carefully studied, will assist a citizen of the States to understand our double Government, and to learn what are the powers granted to the Federal Government, and what are the rights reserved to the States.
8. While New England was meditating the separation of the States in certain contingencies, the general feeling in that section was, that a peaceful separation ought to take place, if at all; or, in the language of the Hartford Convention, that “a separation by mutual arrangement will be preferable to an alliance by constraint among nominal friends, but real enemies.” JoHN QUINCY ADAMs, in a speech delivered in the city of New York, in 1839, just fifty years after the Federal Constitution went into operation, expressed the same sentiments:
“But the indissoluble link of union between the people of the several States in this Confederation is, after all, not in the right but in the heart. If the day should ever come—may heaven avert it!—when the affections of the people in these States shall be alienated from each other—when the fraternal feeling shall give way to cold indifference, or collisions of interest shall foster into hatred—the bonds of political association will not long hold together parties no longer attracted by the magnetism of conciliated interests and friendly sympathies; and far better will it be for the people of the disunited States to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together by constraint. Then will be the time for reverting to the precedents which occurred at the formation and adoption of the ..Constitution, to form again a more perfect union by dissolving that which could no longer bind, and to leave the separate parts to be united by the law of political gravitation to the centre.”
MR. MONROE's ADMINISTRATION.
MARCH 4, 1817—MARCH 4, 1825.
THE period of Mr. Monroe's administration has been styled the “ era of good feeling.” The war had, with some reverses, been triumphantly sustained. Old sectional feuds had died out. The Federal party having ceased to exist, new political friendships had been formed. Mr. CLAY had brought from abroad an admiration of some of the institutions of Great Britain. Some of the old difficulties with that nation had been settled. The manufactures of the North had, to some extent, been protected by the tariff law of 1816, passed partly by Southern votes. The commercial interests of the North had been favored by the establishment of the United States Bank; the bill having been signed by a Southern President, who had been opposed to a bank. Business revived. Internal improvements were projected. Hopes of general prosperity were rife in the land. President Monroe made a tour through the Northern and Eastern States, and was everywhere received with demonstrations of cordiality and good will. And yet in his administration, a sectional contest arose of the most bitter and dangerous character, threatening at once the unity and peace of the country.
RESTRICTION OF SLAVERY IN MISSOURI.
Pebruary 13, 1819–The bill, enabling Missouri to form a State Government, was taken up in the House of Representa
tives; the question being on the following amendment, moved by Mr. TALLMAGE of New York: “And provided, That the further introduction of slavery or involuntary servitude be prohibited, except for the punishment of crimes, whereof the party has been duly convicted; and that all children born within the said State, after the admission thereof into the Union, shall be free at the age of twenty-five years.” Mr. TAYLOR, of New York, in favor of the amendment, after speaking on the importance of the question, said there were two points at issue: 1. Has Congress the constitutional power to
prohibit slavery as the condition of admission; 2. If the power
exists, is it wise to exercise it? His arguments were drawn from that article in the Constitution, which declares that “the Congress shall have power to dispose of, and make all needful rules respecting the territory and other property belonging to the United States; ” from the fact that slavery is wrong, being contrary to the Declaration of Independence, which asserts “that all men are created equal;” from the fact that slavery is incompatible with republican institutions. Mr. P. P. BARBOUR, of Virginia, opposed the amendment, on the ground that the Congress has no constitutional power to impose the restriction; that Congress has power to “admit new States into the Union.” “The term State has a fixed and determinate meaning. It imports the existence of a political community, free and independent, and entitled to exercise the rights of sovereignty, such as the original States enjoyed. Virginia has slaves; Pennsylvania has no slaves, but she has power to have them; ought not Missouri to have the same power in this respect that Pennsylvania has’’’ Other gentlemen who engaged in the discussion took similar grounds. The amendment passed in the Committee of the Whole, 79 to 67. On the 16th of February, the House proceeded to consider the restriction. After an able discussion, the amendment was passed by a vote of 87 to 76, on the first branch; and by a vote of 82 to 78, on the second branch. The Senate passed the bill to admit Missouri without the restriction, March 2d. On the motion to concur with the Senate, the vote was 76 yeas, 78 nays. Thus the bill failed, the Houses having failed to agree. “This,” says Benton, in the “Debates in Congress,” “was the end of the bill, and it left the Houses geographically divided, and the same division extending itself, with electric speed, to the States. It was a period of deep apprehension, filling with dismay the hearts of the steadiest patriots. It would be nine months before Congress would sit again. The agitation, great as it was, was to become greater, and no one could foresee its bounds. The movement to put the slavery restriction on Arkansas greatly aggravated the Missouri question, and seemed to menace the slave States with total exclusion from Louisiana.” It was during the agitation and suspense of the public mind, that Mr. MADIsoN wrote a letter to RoberT WALSH, dated Nov. 27, 1819, just before the meeting of Congress, from which the following is an extract: “Parties, under some denomination or other, must always be expected in a free government like ours. When the individuals belonging to them are intermingled in every part of the whole country, they strengthen the union of the whole, while they divide every part. Should a state of parties arise, founded on geographical boundaries, and other physical and permanent distinctions which happen to coincide with them, what is then to control those great repulsive masses from awful shocks against each other?” The Southern States deeply felt, that by the action of the House, their constitutional rights had been denied to them, and that language had been used and arguments employed, derogatory to their character. It was in reference to this state of things, and while the country was in a blaze of excitement, that Mr. JEFFERSON wrote, that the notes of alarm fell upon his ear like a “fire bell in the night.” “The Missouri question,” he says, “is the most portentous one that ever threatened our Union. In the gloomiest moments of the Revolutionary War, I never had any apprehensions equal to what I feel from this source.” In the early part of the next session in Congress, Jan. 3, 1820, it was proposed in the Senate to couple Missouri with Maine in one bill, the latter having applied to be admitted as
a State into the Union. To this there was great opposition on the part of Northern members, and very extensive discussion, in which the evils of slavery formed an important part of the staple of a portion of the speeches. To show the absurdity of coupling them together, Mr. Roberts of Pennsylvania said: “What do we find in the front of the Constitution of Maine? Article I. Section 1 : “All men are born free and equal, and are free to worship God in their own way.” Here is a substantial pledge to the good old faith. To her we may say, Come, sister, take your place in this constellation: the lustre of your countenance will brighten the American galaxy. But do not urge us to admit Missouri under a pretence of congeniality—with the visage of a savage, deformed with the hideous cicatrices of barbaric pride, with her features marred as if the finger of Lucifer had been drawn across it.” Mr. PINKNEY, of Maryland, in his speech on the other side, said: “New States may be admitted by Congress into this Union. What is that Union ? a confederation of States equal in sovereignty, capable of every thing which the Constitution does not forbid, or authorize Congress to forbid. It is an equal union between parties equally sovereign. * * By acceding to it, the new State is placed on the same footing as the original States. * * If it comes in shorn of its beams, crippled and disparaged beyond the original States—it is not into the original Union that it comes, for it is a different sort of union. The first was union inter pares; this is a union between disparates, between giants and a dwarf, between power and feebleness, between full-proportioned sovereignties and a miserable image of power, a thing which that very union has shrunk and shrivelled from its past size, instead of preserving it in its true dimensions.” In the Senate, the vote for uniting the two bills was 23 in favor, and 21 against; Feb. 16, 1820. At this stage of the business, it became evident, that though the Senate was willing to receive Missouri upon an equal footing with the other States, the House would persist in excluding her, unless she would consent to come into the Union with impaired sovereignty, and unable to determine what some of her internal institutions should be. What was to be done? What was done?