Abbildungen der Seite

cannot fulfil the stipulation without consciousness of participation in wrong. Here is a real difficulty, but it seems to me not insuperable. It will not do for us to say to you, in justification of non-performance, “the stipulation is immoral, and therefore we cannot execute it;” for you deny the immorality, and we cannot assume to judge for you.

On the other hand, you ought not to exact from us the literal performance of the stipulation when you know that we cannot perform it without conscious culpability. A true solution of the difficulty seems to be attainable by regarding it as a simple case where a contract, from changed circumstances, cannot be fulfilled exactly as made. A court of equity in such a case decrees execution as near as may be. It requires the party who cannot perform to make compensation for non-performance. Why cannot the same principle be applied to the rendition of fugitives from service : We cannot surrender—but we can compensate. Why not, then, avoid all difficulties on all sides, and show respectively good faith and good will by providing and accepting compensation where masters reclaim escaping servants and prove their right of reclamation under the Constitution ? Instead of a judgment for rendition, let there be a judgment for compensation, determined by the true value of the services, and let the same judgment assure freedom to the fugitive. The cost to the National Treasury would be as nothing in comparison with the evils of discord and strife. All parties would be gainers.

What I have just said is, indeed, not exactly to the point of the present discussion. But I refer to this matter to show how easily the greatest difficulties may be adjusted if approached in a truly just, generous, and patriotic spirit.

I refer to it also in order to show you that, if we do not concede all your wishes, it is because our ideas of justice, duty, and honor forbid, and not because we cherish any hostile or aggressive sentiments. We will go as far as we can to meet you—come you also as far as you can to meet us. Join at least in the declaration we propose. Your people have confidence in you. They will believe you. The declaration, made with substantial unanimity by this Conference, will tranquillize public sentiment, and give a chance for reason to resume its sway, and patriotic counsels to gain a hearing.

Do you say that after all what we propose embodies no substantial guarantees of immunity to slavery through the perversion of Federal powers ? We reply that we think the Constitution as it stands, interpreted honestly and executed faithfully, is sufficient for all practical purposes; and that you will find all desirable security in the legislation or non-legislation of Congress. If you think otherwise, we are ready to join you in recommending a National Convention to propose amendments to the Constitution in the regular and legitimate way. Kentucky, a slave State, has proposed such a Convention; Illinois, a free State, has joined in the proposition. Join us, then, in recommending such a Convention, and assure us that you will abide by its decision. We will join you and give a similar assurance. This, gentlemen, is the proposition we make you to-day. It is embodied in the amendment just submitted. Is it not a fair proposition ? It is a plain declaration of facts which cannot reasonably be questioned, and a plain submission of all disputed questions to the only proper tribunal for the settlement of such questions—that of the American people, acting through a National Convention. The only alternative to this proposition is the proposition that the present Congress be called upon to submit to the States a thirteenth article embodying the amendments recommended by the committee. In order to the submission of these amendments to the States by Congress, a two-thirds vote in each House is necessary. That, I venture to say, cannot be obtained. Were it otherwise, who can assure you that the new article will obtain the sanction of three-fourths of the States, without which it is a nullity? As a measure to defeat all adjustment, I can understand this proposition. As a measure of pacification, I do not understand it. There is, in my judgment, no peace in it. Gentlemen here, of patriotism and intelligence, think otherwise. I am sorry that I cannot agree with them. Gentlemen say, if this proposition cannot prevail, every slave State will secede; or, as some prefer to phrase it, will resort to revolution. I forbear to discuss eventualities. I must say, however, and say plainly, that considerations such as these will not move me from my recognized duty to my country and its Constitution. And let me say for the people of the free States, that they are a thoughtful people, and are much in earnest in this business. They do not delegate their right of private judgmont. They love their institutions and the Union. They will not surrender the one nor give up the other without great struggles and great sacrifices. Upon the question of the maintenance of an unbroken Union and a whole country they never were, and it is my firm conviction they never will be divided. Gentlemen who think they will be, even in the worst contingency, will, I think, be disappointed. If forced to the last extremity, the people will meet the issue as they best may; but be assured they will meet it with no discordant councils. Gentlemen, Mr. LINCOLN will be inaugurated on the 4th of March. He will take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States—of the whole—of all the United States. That oath will bind him to take care that the laws be faithfully executed throughout the United States. Will secession absolve him from that oath? Will it diminish, by one jot or tittle, its awful obligation? Will attempted revolution do more than secession? And if not—and the oath and the obligation remain—and the President does his duty and undertakes to enforce the laws, and secession or revolution resists, what then? War ! Civil war! Mr. President, let us not rush headlong into that unfathomable gulf. Let us not tempt this unutterable woe. We offer you a plain and honorable mode of adjusting all difficulties. It is a mode which, we believe, will receive the sanction of the people. We pledge ourselves here that we will do all in our power to obtain their sanction for it. Is it too much to ask you, gentlemen of the South, to meet us on this honorable and practicable ground? Will you not, at least, concede this to the country The question on agreeing to said amendment resulted in the following vote: AYEs.—Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont—9. Noes.—Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia–11. So the amendment was not agreed to. Mr. WILMOT:—I wish now to offer an amendment which embraces an unconditional proposition for the call of a Convention. Mr. BRONSON:—This has been voted down already. Mr. WICKLIFFE:—What changes do you gentlemen from IPennsylvania and Ohio wish to make in the report of the committee? Would you adopt that report in a General Convention? The PRESIDENT:—The Chair rules that the amendment offered by the gentleman from Pennsylvania is not in order. Messrs. WILMoT, CHASE, CORNING, and BRONSON then entered their dissents from their respective States upon the substitute offered by Mr. TUCK. Mr. WICKLIFFE:—I hope now that we may be permitted to take the vote at once upon the report of the majority. Mr. REID:—Before this vote is taken, I deem it my duty to myself and my State to make a remark. I came here disposed to agree upon terms that would be mutually satisfactory to both sections of the Union. I would agree to any fair terms now, but the propositions contained in the report of the majority, as that report now stands, can never receive my assent. I cannot recommend them to Congress or to the people of my own State. They do not settle the material questions involved; they contain no sufficient guarantees for the rights of the South. Therefore, in good faith to the Conference and to the country, I here state that I cannot and will not agree to them. Mr. CLEVELAND:-If the gentlemen from the South, after we have yielded so much as we have, assert that these propositions will not be satisfactory to the slave States, I, for one, will not degrade myself by voting for them. Mr. WICKLIFFE:—I insist now upon taking the vote. The PRESIDENT:—The rules of the Conference do not require the vote to be taken upon this proposition by sections. Mr. WICKLIFFE:—We have not heretofore adhered to the rules. Let us vote then on the whole as a proposition, and not by sections. Mr. SEDDON:—I think we should take the vote by sections. It is certainly within the discretion of the President to rule that the vote may be so taken. The rules do not apply to an article which is composed of many sections. We certainly should vote upon them separately.

Mr. BROCKENBROUGH:—I desire now to get the amendment which I have proposed once more before the Conference. I move to amend by adding to the first section a clause which shall provide that “The rights of the slave States shall be protected by all the departments of the territorial government during its continuance.” By the section as it now stands, the rights of the North are absolute; those of the South should be equally clear. It is true that the section contains a distinct recognition of the relation of master and slave, but this recognition is in negative terms. It is certainly the duty of the territorial legislature and government to protect these rights wherever they are invaded. If this is so, why not declare it in the provision? Mr. WILMOT:—I desire to ask whether this proposition is in order. Mr. BROCKENBROUGH:—I insist that it is. I assert the existence of certain rights, and I want these rights protected under the Constitution. Rights without remedies are anomalies of which the law knows nothing. Mr. WILMOT:—I feel constrained to oppose any amendment of this kind. The PRESIDENT: — The Chair is inclined to rule this amendment as not in order. Mr. RUFFIN:—Before the final vote is taken, I wish to say a word by way of explanation. My colleague says he cannot vote for the report of the committee because he does not approve the whole of it. I do not like the first article, but the report as a whole is a great improvement upon the Constitution as it now stands. I think the report ought to go before the people. If we can secure what the report proposes, we are certainly no worse off. I wish to submit it to my people, and thus have them to judge for themselves whether they will adopt it. Mr. MOREHEAD, of North Carolina:—I would not say a word were it not for the words that have fallen from my colleague–Governor REID. I came here to try to save the Union. I have labored hard to that end. I hope and believe the report of the majority, if adopted, will save the Union. I wish to carry these propositions before the people. I believe that the people of North Carolina and of the Union will adopt them. Give us

« ZurückWeiter »