"Now, the powers delegated by the several States to the Confederate Government, which is their common agent, are enumerated in the eighth section of the Constitution; each power being distinct, specific, and enumerated in paragraphs separately numbered. The only exception is the eighteenth paragraph, which by its own terms is made dependent on those previously enumerated, as follows: '18. To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers,' etc.
"Now the war-powers granted to the Congress are conferred in the following paragraphs: No. 1 'gives authority to raise revenue necessary to pay the debts, provide for the common defense, and carry on the Government,' etc. No. 11, 'To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.' No. 12, 'To raise and support armies, but no appropriations of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years.' No. 13, 'To provide and maintain a navy.' No. 14, 'To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.'
"It is impossible to imagine a more broad, ample, and unqualified delegation of the whole war power of each State than is here contained, with the solitary limitation of the appropriations to two years. The States not only gave power to raise money for the common defense, to declare war, to raise and support armies (in the plural), to provide and maintain a navy, to govern and regulate both land and naval forces, but they went further, and covenanted, by the third paragraph of the tenth section, not 'to engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.'
"I know of but two modes of raising armies within the Confederate States, viz., voluntary enlistment and draft, or conscription. I perceive, in the delegation of power to raise armies, no restriction as to the mode of procuring troops. I see nothing which confines Congress to one class of men, nor any greater power to receive volunteers than conscripts into its service. I see no limitation by which enlistments are to be received of individuals only, but not of companies, or battalions, or squadrons, or regiments. I find no limitation of time of service, but only of duration of appropriation. I discover nothing to confine Congress to waging war within the limits of the Confederacy, nor to prohibit offensive war. In a word, when Congress desires to raise an army, and passes a law for that purpose, the solitary question is under the eighteenth paragraph, viz., 'Is the law one that is necessary and proper to execute the power to raise armies?'
"On this point you say: 'But did the necessity exist in this case? The conscription act can not aid the Government in increasing its supply of arms or provisions, but can only enable it to call a larger number of men into the field. The difficulty has never been to get men. The States have already furnished the Government more than it can arm,' etc.
"I would have very little difficulty in establishing to your entire satisfaction that the passage of the law was not only necessary, but that it was absolutely indispensable; that numerous regiments of twelve months' men were on the eve of being disbanded, whose places could not be supplied by raw levies in the face of superior numbers of the foe, without entailing the most disastrous results; that the position of our armies was so critical as to fill the bosom of every patriot with the liveliest apprehension; and that the provisions of this law were effective in warding off a pressing danger. But I prefer to answer your objection on other and broader grounds.
"I hold that, when a specific power is granted by the Constitution, like that now in question, 'to raise armies,' Congress is the judge whether the law passed for the purpose of executing that power is 'necessary and proper.' It is not enough to say that armies might be raised in other ways, and that, therefore, this particular way is not 'necessary.' The same argument might be used against every mode of raising armies. To each successive mode suggested, the objection would be that other modes were practicable, and that, therefore, the particular mode used was not 'necessary.' The true and only test is to inquire whether the law is intended and calculated to carry out the object; whether it devises and creates an instrumentality for executing the specific power granted; and, if the answer be in the affirmative, the law is constitutional. None can doubt that the conscription law is calculated and intended to 'raise armies'; it is, therefore, 'necessary and proper' for the execution of that power, and is constitutional, unless it comes in conflict with some other provision of our Confederate compact.
"You express the opinion that this conflict exists, and support your argument by the citation of those clauses which refer to the militia. There are certain provisions not cited by you, which are not without influence on my judgment, and to which I call your attention. They will aid in defining what is meant by 'militia,' and in determining the respective powers of the States and the Confederacy over them.
"The several States agree 'not to keep troops or ships of war in time of peace.' They further stipulate that, 'a well-regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.'
"'That no person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia when in actual service in times of war or public danger.'
"What, then, are militia? They can only be created by law. The arms-bearing inhabitants of a State are liable to become its militia, if the law so order; but, in the absence of a law to that effect, the men of a State capable of bearing arms are no more militia than they are seamen.
"The Constitution also tells us that militia are not troops, nor are they any part of the land or naval forces; for militia exist in time of peace, and the Constitution forbids the States to keep troops in time of peace, and they are expressly distinguished and placed in a separate category from land or naval forces in the sixteenth paragraph above quoted; and the words land and naval forces are shown by paragraphs 12, 13, and 14, to mean the Army and Navy of the Confederate States.
"Now, if militia are not the citizens taken singly, but a body created by law; if they are not troops; if they are no part of the Army and Navy of the Confederacy, we are led directly to the definition, quoted by the Attorney-General, that militia are 'a body of soldiers in a State enrolled for discipline.' In other words, the term 'militia' is a collective term meaning a body of men organized, and can not be applied to the separate individuals who compose the organization.
"The Constitution divides the whole military strength of the States into only two classes of organized bodies: one, the armies of the Confederacy; the other, the militia of the States.
"In the delegation of power to the Confederacy, after exhausting the subject of declaring war, raising and supporting armies, and providing a navy, in relation to all which the grant of authority to Congress is exclusive, the Constitution proceeds to deal with the other organized body, the militia; and, instead of delegating power to Congress alone, or reserving it to the States alone, the power is divided as follows, viz.: Congress is to have power 'to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Confederate States, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.'
"'To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the Confederate States; reserving to the States respectively the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia, according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.'
"Congress, then, has the power to provide for organizing the arms-bearing people of the State into militia. Each State has the power to officer and train them when organized.
"Congress may call forth the militia to execute Confederate laws; the State has not surrendered the power to call them forth to execute State laws.
"Congress may call them forth to repel invasion; so may the State, for the power is impliedly reserved of governing all the militia, except the part in actual service of the Confederacy.
"I confess myself at a loss to perceive in what manner these careful and well-defined provisions of the Constitution, regulating the organization and government of the militia, can be understood as applying in the remotest degree to the armies of the Confederacy, nor can I conceive how the grant of exclusive power to declare and carry on war by armies raised and supported by the Confederacy is to be restricted or diminished by the clauses which grant a divided power over the militia. On the contrary, the delegation of authority over the militia, so far as granted, appears to me to be plainly an additional enumerated power intended to strengthen the hands of the Confederate Government in the discharge of its paramount duty, the common defense of the States.
"You state, after quoting the twelfth, fifteenth, and sixteenth grants of power to Congress, that 'these grants of power all relate to the same subject-matter, and are all contained in the same section of the Constitution, and, by a well-known rule of construction, must be taken as a whole and construed together.'
"This argument appears to me unsound. All the powers of Congress are enumerated in one section, and the three paragraphs quoted can no more control each other by reason of their location in the same section than they can control any of the other paragraphs preceding, intervening, or succeeding. So far as the subject-matter is concerned, I have already endeavored to show that the armies mentioned in the twelfth paragraph are a subject-matter as distinct from the militia mentioned in the fifteenth and sixteenth as they are from the navy mentioned in the thirteenth. Nothing can so mislead as to construe together, and as a whole, the carefully separated clauses which define the different powers to be exercised over distinct subjects by the Congress.
"But you add that, 'by the grant of power to Congress to raise and support armies without qualification, the framers of the Constitution intended the regular armies of the Confederacy, and not armies composed of the whole militia of all the States.'
"I must confess myself somewhat at a loss to understand this position. If I am right that the militia is a body of enrolled State soldiers, it is not possible in the nature of things that armies raised by the Confederacy can 'be composed of the whole militia of all the States.' The militia may be called forth in whole or in part into the Confederate service, but do not thereby become part of the 'armies raised' by Congress. They remain militia, and go home when the emergency which provoked their call has ceased. Armies raised by Congress are of course raised out of the same population as the militia organized by the States, and to deny to Congress the power to draft a citizen into the army, or to receive his voluntary offer of services, because he is a member of the State militia, is to deny the power to raise an army at all; for, practically, all men fit for service in the army may be embraced in the militia organization of the several States. You seem, however, to suggest, rather than directly to assert, that the conscript law may be unconstitutional, because it comprehends all arms-bearing men between eighteen and thirty-five years; at least, this is an inference which I draw from your expression, 'armies composed of the whole militia of all the States.' But it is obvious that, if Congress have power to draft into the armies raised by it any citizens at all (without regard to the fact whether they are, or not, members of militia organizations), the power must be coextensive with the exigencies of the occasion, or it becomes illusory; and the extent of the exigency must be determined by Congress; for the Constitution has left the power without any other check or restriction than the Executive veto. Under ordinary circumstances, the power thus delegated to Congress is scarcely felt by the States. At the present moment, when our very existence is threatened by armies vastly superior in numbers to ours, the necessity for defense has induced a call, not for 'the whole militia of all the States,' not for any militia, but for men to compose armies for the Confederate States.
"Surely there is no mystery in this subject. During our whole past history, as well as during our recent one year's experience as a new Confederacy, the militia 'have been called forth to repel invasion' in numerous instances, and they never came otherwise than as bodies organized by the States with their company, field, and general officers; and, when the emergency had passed, they went home again. I can not perceive how any one can interpret the conscription law as taking away from the States the power to appoint officers to their militia. You observe on this point in your letter that, unless your construction is adopted, 'the very object of the States in reserving the power of appointing the officers is defeated, and that portion of the Constitution is not only a nullity, but the whole military power of the States, and the entire control of the militia, with the appointment of the officers, is vested in the Confederate Government, whenever it chooses to call its own action "raising an army," and not "calling forth the militia."'
"I can only say, in reply to this, that the power of Congress depends on the real nature of the act it proposes to perform, not on the name given to it; and I have endeavored to show that its action is really that of 'raising an army,' and bears no semblance to 'calling forth the militia.' I think I may safely venture the assertion that there is not one man out of a thousand of those who will do service under the conscription act that will describe himself while in the Confederate service as being a militiaman; and, if I am right in this assumption, the popular understanding concurs entirely with my own deductions from the Constitution as to the meaning of the word 'militia.'
"My answer has grown to such a length, that I must confine myself to one more quotation from your letter. You proceed: 'Congress shall have power to raise armies. How shall it be done? The answer is clear. In conformity to the provisions of the Constitution, which expressly provides that, when the militia of the States are called forth to repel invasion, and employed in the service of the Confederate States, which is now the case, the State shall appoint the officers.
"I beg you to observe that the answer which you say is clear is not an answer to the question put. The question is, How are armies to be raised? The answer given is, that, when militia are called upon to repel invasion, the State shall appoint the officers.
"There seems to me to be a conclusive test on this whole subject. By our Constitution, Congress may declare war, offensive as well as defensive. It may acquire territory. Now, suppose that, for good cause and to right unprovoked injuries, Congress should declare war against Mexico and invade Sonora. The militia could not be called forth in such a case, the right to call it being limited 'to repel invasions.' Is it not plain that the law now under discussion, if passed under such circumstances, could by no possibility be aught else than a law to 'raise an army'? Can one and the same law be construed into a 'calling forth the militia,' if the war be defensive, and a 'raising of armies,' if the war be offensive?
"At some future day, after our independence shall have been established, it is no improbable supposition that our present enemy may be tempted to abuse his naval power by depredations on our commerce, and that we may be compelled to assert our rights by offensive war. How is it to be carried on? Of what is the army to be composed? If this Government can not call on its arms-bearing population otherwise than as militia, and if the militia can only be called forth to repel invasion, we should be utterly helpless to vindicate our honor or protect our rights. War has been well styled 'the terrible litigation of nations.' Have we so formed our Government that in this litigation we must never be plaintiffs? Surely this can not have been the intention of the framers of our compact.
"In no respect in which I can view this law can I find just reason to distrust the propriety of my action in approving and signing it; and the question presented involves consequences, both immediate and remote, too momentous to permit me to leave your objections unanswered.
The operation of this law was suspended in the States of Kentucky, Missouri, and Maryland, because of their occupation by the armies of the Federal Government. The opposition to it, where its execution was continued, soon became limited, and before June 1st its good effects were seen in the increased strength and efficiency of our armies. At the same time I was authorized to commission officers to form bands of "Partisan Rangers," either of infantry or cavalry, which were subsequently confined to cavalry alone. On September 27, 1862, all white men between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five were placed in the military service for three years. All persons subject to enrollment might be enrolled wherever found, and were made subject to the provisions of the law. Authority was also given for the reception of volunteers from the States in which the law was suspended. On February 11, 1864, it was enacted by Congress that all white men between the ages of seventeen and fifty should be in the military service for the war; also, that all then in the service between the ages of eighteen and forty-five should be retained during the war. An enrollment was also ordered of all persons between the ages of seventeen and eighteen and between forty-five and fifty years, who should constitute a reserve for State defense and detail duty. On February 17th all male free negroes between the ages of eighteen and fifty years were made liable to perform duties with the army, or in connection with the military defenses of the country in the way of work upon the fortifications, or in Government works for the production or preparation of materials of war, or in military hospitals. The Secretary of War was also authorized to employ for the same duties any number of negro slaves not exceeding twenty thousand.
In the operation of the military laws we found the exemption from military duty accorded by the law to all persons engaged in certain specified pursuits or professions to be unwise. Indeed, it seems to be indefensible in theory. The defense of home, family, and country is universally recognized as the paramount political duty of every member of society; and, in a form of government where each citizen enjoys an equality of rights and privileges, nothing can be more invidious than an unequal distribution of duties or obligations. No pursuit nor position should relieve any one who is able to do active duty from enrollment in the army, unless his functions or services are more useful to the defense of his country in another sphere. But the exemption from service of entire classes should be wholly abandoned.
The act of February 17, 1864 (above mentioned), which authorized the employment of slaves, produced less results than had been anticipated. It, however, brought forward the question of the employment of the negroes as soldiers in the army, which was warmly advocated by some and as ardently opposed by others. My own views upon it were expressed freely and frequently in intercourse with members of Congress, and emphatically in my message of November 7, 1864, when, urging upon Congress the consideration of the propriety of a radical modification of the theory of the law, I said:
"Viewed merely as property, and therefore as the subject of impressment, the service or labor of the slave has been frequently claimed for short periods in the construction of defensive works. The slave, however, bears another relation to the state—that of a person. The law of last February contemplates only the relation of the slave to the master, and limits the impressment to a certain term of service.
"But, for the purposes enumerated in the act, instruction in the manner of camping, marching, and packing trains is needful, so that even in this limited employment length of service adds greatly to the value of the negro's labor. Hazard is also encountered in all the positions to which negroes can be assigned for service with the army, and the duties required of them demand loyalty and zeal.
"In this aspect the relation of person predominates so far as to render it doubtful whether the private right of property can consistently and beneficially be continued, and it would seem proper to acquire for the public service the entire property in the labor of the slave, and to pay therefor due compensation, rather than to impress his labor for short terms; and this the more especially as the effect of the present law would vest this entire property in all cases where the slave might be recaptured after compensation for his loss had been paid to the private owner. Whenever the entire property in the service of a slave is thus acquired by the Government, the question is presented by what tenure he should be held. Should he be retained in servitude, or should his emancipation be held out to him as a reward for faithful service, or should it be granted at once on the promise of such service; and if emancipated what action should be taken to secure for the freed man the permission of the State from which he was drawn to reside within its limits after the close of his public service? The permission would doubtless be more readily accorded as a reward for past faithful service, and a double motive for zealous discharge of duty would thus be offered to those employed by the Government—their freedom and the gratification of the local attachment which is so marked a characteristic of the negro and forms so powerful an incentive to his action. The policy of engaging to liberate the negro on his discharge after service faithfully rendered seems to me preferable to that of granting immediate manumission, or that of retaining him in servitude. If this policy should commend itself to the judgment of Congress, it is suggested that, in addition to the duties heretofore performed by the slave, he might be advantageously employed as a pioneer and engineer laborer, and, in that event, that the number should be augmented to forty thousand.
"Beyond this limit and these employments it does not seem to me desirable under existing circumstances to go.
"A broad, moral distinction exists between the use of slaves as soldiers in defense of their homes and the incitement of the same persons to insurrection against their masters. The one is justifiable, if necessary, the other is iniquitous and unworthy of civilized people; and such is the judgment of all writers on public law, as well as that expressed and insisted on by our enemies in all wars prior to that now waged against us. By none have the practices of which they are now guilty been denounced with greater severity than by themselves in the two wars with Great Britain, in the last and in the present century, and in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, when an enumeration was made of the wrongs which justified the revolt from Great Britain. The climax of atrocity was deemed to be reached only when the English monarch was denounced as having 'excited domestic insurrection among us.'
"The subject is to be viewed by us, therefore, solely in the light of policy and our social economy. When so regarded, I must dissent from those who advise a general levy and arming of the slaves for the duty of soldiers. Until our white population shall prove insufficient for the armies we require and can afford to keep in the field, to employ as a soldier the negro, who has merely been trained to labor, and, as a laborer, the white man accustomed from his youth to the use of arms, would scarcely be deemed wise or advantageous by any; and this is the question now before us. But should the alternative ever be presented of subjugation, or of the employment of the slave as a soldier, there seems no reason to doubt what should then be our decision. Whether our view embraces what would, in so extreme a case, be the sum of misery entailed by the dominion of the enemy, or be restricted solely to the effect upon the welfare and happiness of the negro population themselves, the result would be the same. The appalling demoralization, suffering, disease, and death, which have been caused by partially substituting the invaders' system of police for the kind relation previously subsisting between the master and slave, have been a sufficient demonstration that external interference with our institution of domestic slavery is productive of evil only. If the subject involved no other consideration than the mere right of property, the sacrifices heretofore made by our people have been such as to permit no doubt of their readiness to surrender every possession in order to secure independence. But the social and political question which is exclusively under the control of the several States has a far wider and more enduring importance than that of pecuniary interest. In its manifold phases it embraces the stability of our republican institutions, resting on the actual political equality of all its citizens, and includes the fulfillment of the task which has been so happily begun—that of Christianizing and improving the condition of the Africans who have by the will of Providence been placed in our charge. Comparing the results of our own experience with those of the experiments of others who have borne similar relations to the African race, the people of the several States of the Confederacy have abundant reason to be satisfied with the past, and to use the greatest circumspection in determining their course. These considerations, however, are rather applicable to the improbable contingency of our need of resorting to this element of assistance than to our present condition. If the recommendation above, made for the training of forty thousand negroes for the service indicated, shall meet your approval, it is certain that even this limited number, by their preparatory training in intermediate duties, would form a more valuable reserve force in case of urgency than threefold their number suddenly called from field-labor, while a fresh levy could to a certain extent supply their places in the special service for which they are now employed."
Subsequent events advanced my views from a prospective to a present need for the enrollment of negroes to take their place in the ranks. Strenuously I argued the question with members of Congress who called to confer with me. To a member of the Senate (the House in which we most needed a vote) I stated, as I had done to many others, the fact of having led negroes against a lawless body of armed white men, and the assurance which the experiment gave me that they might, under proper conditions, be relied on in battle, and finally used to him the expression which I believe I can repeat exactly: "If the Confederacy falls, there should be written on its tombstone, 'Died of a theory.'" General Lee was brought before a committee to state his opinion as to the probable efficiency of negroes as soldiers, and disappointed the probable expectation by his unqualified advocacy of the proposed measure.
After much discussion in Congress, a bill authorizing the President to ask for and accept from their owners such a number of able-bodied negro men as he might deem expedient subsequently passed the House, but was lost in the Senate by one vote. The Senators of Virginia opposed the measure so strongly that only legislative instruction could secure their support of it. Their Legislature did so instruct them, and they voted for it. Finally, the bill passed, with an amendment providing that not more than twenty-five per cent. of the male slaves between the ages of eighteen and forty-five should be called out. But the passage of the act had been so long delayed that the opportunity was lost. There did not remain time enough to obtain any result from its provisions.
[Footnote 194: Article I, section 10, paragraph 3.]
[Footnote 195: Ibid., section 9, Part XIII.]
[Footnote 196: Ibid., section 9, paragraph 16.]
[Footnote 197: Section 8, paragraph 15.]
[Footnote 198: Ibid., paragraph 16.]
[Transcriber's Note: There is no Appendix A.]
THE OREGON QUESTION.
Extracts from speech of Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, in the House of Representatives, February 6, 1846, on the resolution to terminate the joint occupation of the Oregon Territory.
Mr. Chairman: In negotiations between governments, in attempts to modify existing policies, the circumstances of the time most frequently decide between success and failure.
How far the introduction of this question may affect our foreign intercourse, the future only can determine; but I invite attention to the present posture of affairs. Amicable relations, after a serious interruption, have been but recently restored between the United States and Mexico. The most delicate and difficult of questions, the adjustment of a boundary between us, remains unsettled; and many eyes are fixed upon our minister at Mexico, with the hope that he may negotiate a treaty which will remove all causes of dispute, and give to us territorial limits, the ultimate advantages of which it would be difficult to over-estimate.
If, sir, hereafter we shall find that, by this excited discussion, portentous of a war with England, unreasonable demands upon the part of Mexico should be encouraged, the acquisition of California be defeated, that key to Asiatic commerce be passed from our hands for ever—what will we have gained to compensate so great a loss? We know the influence which Great Britain exercises over Mexico; we should not expect her to be passive, nor doubt that the prospect of a war between England and the United States would serve to revive the former hopes and to renew the recent enmity of Mexico.
Sir, I have another hope, for the fulfillment of which the signs of the times seem most propitious. An unusually long exemption from a general war has permitted the bonds of commerce to extend themselves around the civilized world, and nations from remote quarters of the globe have been drawn into that close and mutual dependence which foretold unshackled trade and a lasting peace. In the East, there appeared a rainbow which promised that the waters of national jealousy and proscription were about to recede from the earth for ever, and the spirit of free trade to move over the face thereof.
In perspective, we saw the ports of California united to the ports and forests of Oregon, and our countrymen commanding the trade of the Pacific. The day seemed at hand when the overcharged granaries of the West should be emptied to the starving millions of Europe and Asia; when the canvas-winged doves of our commerce should freely fly forth from the ark, and return across every sea with the olive of every land. Shall objects like these be endangered by the impatience of petty ambition, the promptings of sectional interest, or the goadings of fanatic hate? Shall the good of the whole be surrendered to the voracious demands of the few? Shall class interests control the great policy of our country, and the voice of reason be drowned in the clamor of causeless excitement? If so, not otherwise, we may agree with him who would reconcile us to the evils of war by the promise of "emancipation from the manufacturers of Manchester and Birmingham"; or leave unanswered the heresy boldly announced, though by history condemned, that war is the purifier, blood is the aliment, of free institutions. Sir, it is true that republics have often been cradled in war, but more often they have met with a grave in that cradle. Peace is the interest, the policy, the nature of a popular government. War may bring benefits to a few, but privation and loss are the lot of the many. An appeal to arms should be the last resort, and only by national rights or national honor can it be justified.
To those who have treated this as a case involving the national honor, I reply that, whenever that question shall justly be raised, I trust an American Congress will not delay for weeks to discuss the chances, or estimate the sacrifices, which its maintenance may cost. But, sir, instead of rights invaded or honor violated, the question before us is, the expediency of terminating an ancient treaty, which, if it be unwise, it can not be dishonorable, to continue. Yet, throughout this long discussion, the recesses and vaulted dome of this hall have reechoed to inflammatory appeals and violent declamations on the sanctity of national honor; and then, as if to justify them, followed reflections most discreditable to the conduct of our Government. The charge made elsewhere has been repeated here, that we have trodden upon Mexico, but cowered under England.
Sir, it has been my pride to believe that our history was unstained by an act of injustice or of perfidy; that we stood recorded before the world as a people haughty to the strong, generous to the weak; and nowhere has this character been more exemplified than in our intercourse with Mexico. We have been referred to the treaty of peace that closed our last war with Great Britain, and told that our injuries were unredressed, because the question of impressment was not decided. There are other decisions than those made by commissioners, and sometimes they outlast the letter of a treaty. On sea and land we settled the question of impressment before negotiations were commenced at Ghent. Further, it should be remembered that there was involved within that question a cardinal principle of each Government. The power of expatriation, and its sequence, naturalization, were denied by Great Britain; and hence a right asserted to impress native-born Britons, though naturalized as citizens of the United States. This violated a principle which lies at the foundation of our institutions, and could never be permitted; but, not being propagandists, we could afford to leave the political opinion unnoticed, after having taught a lesson which would probably prevent any future attempt to exercise it to our injury. Let the wisdom of that policy be judged by subsequent events....
Mr. Davis then proceeded to state and argue at length the historical questions involved, making copious citations from original authorities. He continued:
Waiving the consideration of any sinister motive or sectional hate which may have brought allies to the support of the resolution now before us, I will treat it as simply aiming at the object which in common we desire—to secure the whole of Oregon to the United States.
Thus considered, the dissolution of the Oregon convention becomes a mere question of time. As a friend to the extension of our Union, and therefore prone to insist upon its territorial claims, I have thought this movement premature; that we should have put ourselves in the strongest attitude for the enforcement of our claims before we fixed a day on which negotiations should be terminated. That nation negotiates to most advantage which is best prepared for war. Gentlemen have treated the idea of preparation for war as synonymous with the raising of an army. It is not so; indeed, that is the last measure, and should only be resorted to when war has become inevitable; and then a very short time will always be, I trust, sufficient. But, sir, there are preparations which require years, and can only be made in a state of peace. Such are the fortifications of the salient points and main entrances of our coast. For twenty-odd years Southern men have urged the occupation of the Tortugas. Are those who have so long opposed appropriations for that purpose ready to grant them now in such profusion that the labor of three years may be done in one? No, sir; the occasion, by increasing the demand for money elsewhere, must increase the opposition. That rock, which Nature placed like a sentinel to guard the entrance into the Mediterranean of our continent, and which should be Argus-eyed to watch it, will stand without an embrasure to look through.
How is the case in Oregon? Our settlements there must be protected, and under present circumstances an army of operations in that country must draw its food from this; but we have not a sufficient navy to keep open a line of communication by sea around Cape Horn; and the rugged route and the great distance forbid the idea of supplying it by transportation across the mountains. Now, let us see what time and the measures more pointedly recommended by the President would effect. Our jurisdiction extended into Oregon, the route guarded by stockades and troops, a new impulse would be given to immigration: and in two or three years the settlement on the Willamette might grow into a colony, whose flocks and herds and granaries would sustain an army, whenever one should be required.
By agencies among the Indian tribes, that effective ally of Great Britain, which formerly she has not scrupled to employ, would be rendered friendly to our people. In the mean time, roads could be constructed for the transportation of munitions of war. Then we should be prepared to assert, and effectively maintain, our claims to their ultimate limits.
I could not depreciate my countrymen; I would not vaunt the prowess of an enemy; but, sir, I tell those gentlemen who, in this debate, have found it so easy to drive British troops out of Oregon, that, between England and the United States, if hostilities occur in that remote territory, the party must succeed which has bread within the country....
Mr. Chairman, unfortunately, the opinion has gone forth that no politician dares to be the advocate of peace when the question of war is mooted. That will be an evil hour—the sand of our republic will be nearly run—when it shall be in the power of any demagogue, or fanatic, to raise a war-clamor, and control the legislation of the country. The evils of war must fall upon the people, and with them the war-feeling should originate. We, their representatives, are but a mirror to reflect the light, and never should become a torch to fire the pile. But, sir, though gentlemen go, torch in hand, among combustible materials, they still declare there is no danger of a fire. War-speeches and measures threatening war are mingled with profuse assurances of peace. Sir, we can not expect, we should not require, our adversary to submit to more than we would bear; and I ask, after the notice has been given and the twelve months have expired, who would allow Great Britain to exercise exclusive jurisdiction over Oregon? If we would resist such act by force of arms, before ourselves performing it we should prepare for war.
Some advocates of this immediate notice have urged their policy by reference to a resolution of the Democratic Baltimore Convention, and contended that the question was thereby closed to members of the Democratic party. That resolution does not recommend immediate notice, but recommends "the reannexation of Texas" and the "reoccupation of Oregon" at the "earliest practicable period." The claim is strongly made to the "whole of Oregon"; and the resolution seems directed more pointedly to space than time. Texas and Oregon were united in the resolution; and, had there been a third question involving our territorial extension, I doubt not it would have been united with the other two. The addition of territory to our Union is part of the Democratic faith, and properly was placed in the declaration of our policy at that time. To determine whether that practicable period has arrived is now the question; and those who cordially agree upon the principle of territorial enlargement have differed, and may continue still to differ, on that question. Sir, though it is demonstrable that haste may diminish but can not increase our chances to secure the whole of Oregon, yet, because Southern men have urged the wisdom of delay, we have had injurious comparisons instituted between our conduct on Texas annexation and Oregon occupation. Is there such equality between the cases that the same policy must apply to each? Texas was peopled, the time was present when it must be acquired, or the influences active to defeat our annexation purpose would probably succeed, and the country be lost to us for ever. Oregon is, with a small exception, still a wilderness; our claim to ultimate sovereignty can not be weakened during the continuance of the Oregon convention. That ill-starred partnership has robbed us of the advantages which an early occupation would have given to our people in the fur-trade of the country, and we are now rapidly advancing to a position from which we can command the entire Territory. In Texas annexation we were prompted by other and higher considerations than mere interest. Texas had been a member of our family: in her infancy had been driven from the paternal roof, surrendered to the government of harsh, inquisitorial Spain; but, true to her lineage, preserved the faith of opposition to monarchical oppression. She now returned, and asked to be admitted to the hearth of the homestead. She pointed to the band of noble sons who stood around her and said: "Here is the remnant of my family; the rest I gave a sacrifice at the altar of our fathers' God—the God of Liberty." One, two, three, of the elder sisters strove hard to close the door upon her; but the generous sympathy, the justice of the family, threw it wide open, and welcomed her return. Such was the case of Texas; is there a parallel in Oregon?
But who are those that arraign the South, imputing to us motives of sectional aggrandizement? Generally, the same who resisted Texas annexation, and now most eagerly press on the immediate occupation of the whole of Oregon. The source is worthy the suspicion. These were the men whose constitutional scruples resisted the admission of a country gratuitously offered to us, but who now look forward to gaining Canada by conquest. These, the same who claim a weight to balance Texas, while they attack others as governed by sectional considerations.
Sir, this doctrine of a political balance between different sections of our Union is not of Southern growth. We advocated the annexation of Texas as a "great national measure"; we saw in it the extension of the principles intrusted to our care; and, if in the progress of the question it assumed a sectional hue, the coloring came from the opposition that it met—an opposition based, not upon a showing of the injury it would bring to them, but upon the supposition that benefits would be obtained by us.
Why is it that Texas is referred to, and treated as a Southern measure merely, though its northern latitude is 42 deg.? And why has the West so often been reminded of its services upon Texas annexation? Is it to divide the South and West? If so, let those who seek this object cease from their travail, for their end can never be obtained. A common agricultural interest unites us in a common policy, and the hand that sows seeds of dissension between us will find, if they spring from the ground, that the foot of fraternal intercourse will tread them back to earth.
The streams that rise in the West flow on and are accumulated into the rivers of the South; they bear the products of one to the other, and bind the interests of the whole indissolubly together. The wishes of the one wake the sympathies of the other. On Texas annexation the voice of Mississippi found an echo in the West, and Mississippi reechoes the call of the West on the question of Oregon. Though this Government has done nothing adequate to the defense of Mississippi, though by war she has much to lose and nothing to gain, yet she is willing to encounter it, if necessary to maintain our rights in Oregon. Her Legislature has recently so resolved, and her Governor, in a late message, says, "If war comes, to us it will bring blight and desolation, yet we are ready for the crisis." Sir, could there be a higher obligation on the representative of such a people than to restrain excitement—than to oppose a policy that threatens an unnecessary war?...
Mr. Chairman, why have such repeated calls been made upon the South to rally to the rescue? When, where, or how, has she been laggard or deserter?
In 1776 the rights of man were violated in the outrages upon the Northern colonies, and the South united in a war for their defense. In 1812 the flag of our Union was insulted, our sailors' rights invaded; and, though the interests infringed were mainly Northern, war was declared, and the opposition to its vigorous prosecution came not from the South. We entered it for the common cause, and for the common cause we freely met its sacrifices. If, sir, we have not been the "war party in peace," neither have we been the "peace party in war," and I will leave the past to answer for the future.
If we have not sought the acquisition of provinces by conquest, neither have we desired to exclude from our Union such as, drawn by the magnet of free institutions, have peacefully sought for admission. From sire to son has descended our federative creed, opposed to the idea of sectional conflict for private advantage, and favoring the wider expanse of our union. If envy and jealousy and sectional strife are eating like rust into the bonds our fathers expected to bind us, they come from causes which our Southern atmosphere has never furnished. As we have shared in the toils, so we have gloried in the triumphs, of our country. In our hearts, as in our history, are mingled the names of Concord, and Camden, and Saratoga, and Lexington, and Plattsburg, and Chippewa, and Erie, and Moultrie, and New Orleans, and Yorktown, and Bunker Hill. Grouped together, they form a record of the triumphs of our cause, a monument of the common glory of our Union. What Southern man would wish it less by one of the Northern names of which it is composed? Or where is he who, gazing on the obelisk that rises from the ground made sacred by the blood of Warren, would feel his patriot's pride suppressed by local jealousy? Type of the men, the event, the purpose, it commemorates, that column rises, stern, even severe in its simplicity; neither niche nor molding for parasite or creeping thing to rest on; composed of material that defies the waves of time, and pointing like a finger to the source of noblest thought. Beacon of freedom, it guides the present generation to retrace the fountain of our years and stand beside its source; to contemplate the scene where Massachusetts and Virginia, as stronger brothers of the family, stood foremost to defend our common rights; and remembrance of the petty jarrings of to-day are buried in the nobler friendship of an earlier time.
Yes, sir, and when ignorance, led by fanatic hate, and armed by all uncharitableness, assails a domestic institution of the South, I try to forgive, for the sake of the righteous among the wicked—our natural allies, the Democracy of the North. Thus, sir, I leave to silent contempt the malign predictions of the member from Ohio, who spoke in the early stage of this discussion, while it pleases me to remember the manly and patriotic sentiments of the gentleman who sits near me [Mr. McDowell], and who represents another portion of that State. In him I recognize the feelings of our Western brethren; his were the sentiments that accord with their acts in the past, and which, with a few ignoble exceptions, I doubt not they will emulate, if again the necessity should exist. Yes, sir, if ever they hear that the invader's foot has been pressed upon our soil, they will descend to the plain like an avalanche, rushing to bury the foe.
In conclusion, I will say that, free from any forebodings of evil, above the influence of taunts, beyond the reach of treasonable threats, and confiding securely in the wisdom and patriotism of the Executive, I shrink from the assertion of no right, and will consent to no restrictions on the discretion of the treaty-making power of our Government.
SPEECHES, AND EXTRACTS FROM SPEECHES, OF THE AUTHOR IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES DURING THE FIRST SESSION OF THE THIRTY-FIRST CONGRESS, 1849-1850.
Speech of Mr. Davis, of Mississippi, in the Senate of the United States, on the resolutions of compromise proposed by Mr. Clay, January 29, 1850:
I do not rise to continue the discussion, but, as it has been made an historical question as to what the position of the Senate was twelve years ago, and, as with great regret I see this, the conservative branch of the Government, tending toward that fanaticism which seems to prevail with the majority in the United States, I wish to read from the journals of that date the resolutions then adopted, and to show that they went further than the honorable Senator from Kentucky has stated. I take it for granted, from the date to which the honorable Senator has alluded, he means the resolutions introduced by the honorable Senator from South Carolina [Mr. Calhoun], not now in his seat, and to which the Senator from Kentucky proposed certain amendments. Of the resolutions introduced by the Senator from South Carolina, I will read the fifth in the series, that to which the honorable Senator from Kentucky must have alluded. It is in these words:
"Resolved, That the intermeddling of any State or States, or their citizens, to abolish slavery in the District, or any of the Territories, on the ground, or under the pretext, that it is immoral or sinful, or the passage of any act or measure of Congress with that view, would be a direct and dangerous attack on the institutions of all the slaveholding States."
Such is the general form of the proposition. It was variously modified, but never, in my opinion, improved. On the 27th, the fifth resolution being again under consideration, Mr. Clay, of Kentucky, moved to amend the amendment by striking out all after the word "resolved," and insert:
"That the interference, by the citizens of any of the States, with a view to the abolition of slavery in this District, is endangering the rights and security of the people of the District; and that any act or measure of Congress designed to abolish slavery in this District would be a violation of the faith implied in the cessions by the States of Virginia and Maryland; a just cause of alarm to the people of the slaveholding States, and have a direct and inevitable tendency to disturb and endanger the Union.
"And, resolved, That it would be highly inexpedient to abolish slavery within any district of country set apart for the Indian tribes, where it now exists, or in Florida, the only Territory of the United States in which it now exists, because of the serious alarm and just apprehensions which would be thereby excited in the States sustaining that domestic institution; because the people of that Territory have not asked it to be done, and, when admitted into the Union, will be exclusively entitled to decide that question for themselves; because it would be in violation of the stipulations of the treaty between the United States and Spain of the 22d of February, 1819; and, also, because it would be in violation of a solemn compromise, made at a memorable and critical period in the history of this country, by which, while slavery was prohibited north, it was admitted south, of the line of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude."
But this resolution was not finally adopted. Upon the motion of Mr. Buchanan to amend said amendment, by striking out the second clause thereof, commencing with the word "resolved," it was determined in the affirmative, and finally the resolution which here follows was substituted in place of the second clause:
"That the interference by the citizens of any of the States, with a view to the abolition of slavery in this District, is endangering the rights and security of the people of the District; and that any act or measure of Congress designed to abolish slavery in this district, would be a violation of the faith implied in the cessions by the States of Virginia and Maryland; a just cause of alarm to the people of the slaveholding States, and have a direct and inevitable tendency to disturb and endanger the Union."
This was the form in which the resolution was finally adopted, passing by a vote of thirty-six to eight. Here, then, was fully and broadly asserted the danger resulting from the interference in the question of slavery in the District of Columbia, as trenching upon the rights of the slaveholding States. Twelve years only have elapsed, yet this brief period has swept away even the remembrance of principles then deemed sacred and necessary to secure the safety of the Union. Now, an honorable and distinguished Senator, to whom the country has been induced to look for something that would heal the existing dissensions, instead of raising new barriers against encroachment, dashes down those heretofore erected and augments the existing danger. A representative from one of the slaveholding States raises his voice for the first time in disregard of this admitted right. Nor, Mr. President, did he stop here. The boundary of a State, with which we have no more right to interfere than with the boundary of the State of Kentucky, is encroached upon. The United States, sir, as the agent for Texas, had a right to settle the question of boundary between Texas and Mexico. Texas was not annexed as a Territory, but was admitted as a State, and, at the period of her admission, her boundaries were established by her Congress. She, by the terms of annexation, gave to the United States the right to define her boundary by treaty with Mexico; but the United States, in the treaty made with Mexico subsequent to the war with that country, received from Mexico not merely a cession of the territory that was claimed by Texas, but much that lay beyond the asserted limits. Shall we, then, acting simply as the cogent of Texas in the settlement of this question of boundary, take from the principal for whom we act that territory which belongs to her, to which we asserted her title against Mexico, and appropriate it to ourselves? Why, sir, it would be a violation of justice, and of a principle of law which is so plain that it does not require one to have been bred to the profession of law to understand it. The principle I refer to is, that an agent can not take for his own benefit anything resulting from the matter in controversy, after having acquired it as belonging to the principal for whom he acts. The agent can not appropriate to himself rights acquired for his client. The right of Texas, therefore, to that boundary was made complete by the treaty of peace, which silenced the only rival claim to the territory. It was distinctly defined by the acts of her Congress, before the time of annexation; and I have only to refer to those acts to show that the boundary of Texas was the Rio Bravo del Norte, from its mouth to its source. What justice, or even decent regard for fairness, can there be, now that Texas has acceded to annexation upon certain terms, to propose a change of boundary, in violation of those terms, and by the power we hold over her as a part of the Union? Can this power extend so far as to take from her a portion of her territory, or to assert that there is a portion to which she is not entitled?
These constitute with me two great objections to the propositions of the honorable Senator from Kentucky; but, without stating all the objections that I have, and they are very many, I will merely point out a few of the prominent points to which I object in the argument of the Senator. He assumes as facts things which are mere matters of opinion, and, I think, of erroneous and injurious opinion. But, deferring the discussion to another occasion, I desire at present merely to notice the assertion of the honorable Senator, that slavery would never under any circumstances be established in California. This, though stated as a fact, is but a mere opinion—an opinion with which I do not accord. It was to work the gold-mines on this continent that the Spaniards first brought Africans to the country. The European races now engaged in working the mines of California sink under the burning heat and sudden changes of the climate to which the African race are altogether better adapted. The production of rice, sugar, and cotton, is no better adapted to slave-labor than the digging, washing, and quarrying of the gold-mines.
We, sir, have not asked that slavery should be established in California. We have only asked that there should be no restriction; that climate and soil should be left free to establish the institution or not, as experience should determine. Sir, after the agitation of the subject within these halls and elsewhere has prevented the introduction of slavery—by preventing the emigration of slaveholders with their property—are we now to be told that the question is settled? More than that: when we have acquired territory over which the Constitution of the United States is thereby extended, and which the citizens of the United States have a right to occupy, and to establish therein what laws they please, in accordance with the principles of the Constitution—in which they have a right to establish what institutions they please—it is now claimed that the municipal regulations which previously existed shall still govern the people, and that a portion of the citizens of the United States shall thus be precluded from going there with their property. This rule has, however, in discussion here, only been applied to the property of slaveholders; as though slaves were the only property under the laws of Mexico prohibited from entering California. It is to be remembered that the late Secretary of the Treasury, in a report to Congress, stated that the Mexican law prohibited the entrance of some sixty articles of commerce; this was prohibition by law of Congress, and slavery has never been so prohibited. It never has been prohibited by the Mexican Congress in California; and the only prohibition ever issued was that contained in the edict of a usurper, under the specious pretext that it was necessary, in order to oppose the invasion of the country by Spain. This decree was recognized by a subsequent Congress, so far as to pass a law authorizing payment for slaves so liberated. It was the emancipation of all the slaves in Mexico; an act, if you please, of abolition, not of prohibition; not, whatever construction may be placed upon it, done in the forms of law and requirements of their Constitution. But we have not proposed to inquire into the legality of the abolition, neither has any Southern man asked that that decree should be repealed, or that those liberated under its provisions should be returned to slavery. We only claim that there shall be an equality of immunities and privileges among citizens of all parts of the United States; that Mexican law shall not be applied so as to create inequality between citizens, by preventing the immigration of any.
But, sir, we are called on to receive this as a measure of compromise! Is a measure in which we of the minority are to receive nothing a compromise? I look upon it as but a modest mode of taking that, the claim to which has been more boldly asserted by others; and, that I may be understood upon this question, and that my position may go forth to the country in the same columns that convey the sentiments of the Senator from Kentucky, I here assert that never will I take less than the Missouri compromise line extended to the Pacific Ocean, with the specific recognition of the right to hold slaves in the territory below that line; and that, before such Territories are admitted into the Union as States, slaves may be taken there from any of the United States at the option of their owners. I can never consent to give additional power to a majority to commit further aggressions upon the minority in this Union; and will never consent to any proposition which will have such a tendency, without a full guarantee or counteracting measure is connected with it. I forbear commenting at any further length upon the propositions embraced in the resolutions at this time.
Remarks of Mr. Davis, of Mississippi, in the Senate of the United States, on the question of the reception of a memorial from inhabitants of Pennsylvania and Delaware, presented by Mr. Hale, of New Hampshire, praying that Congress would adopt measures for an immediate and peaceful dissolution of the Union. February 8, 1850.
Mr. President: I rise merely to make a few remarks upon the right of petition, and to notice the error which I think has pervaded the comparisons that have been instituted between certain resolutions which were presented by the Senator from North Carolina and the petition which it is now proposed shall be received. The resolutions which were presented from North Carolina were published in yesterday's paper, and, after reading them, I think they refer to a state of case which the people of North Carolina might properly present as their grievance. They were resolutions for preserving the Union, calling upon Congress to take all measures in its power for that purpose. This was all legitimate. They had a right to petition Congress for a redress of grievances; and, if it were in our power to redress those grievances, if it were within the legitimate functions of our legislation, we were bound to receive the petition and respectfully consider it. This case is exactly the reverse. Here is no grievance, unless the Union is a grievance to those who petition. And they call upon Congress to do that which every one must admit Congress has no power to do—to dissolve peaceably the union of the States. Then, sir, in the first place, there is no grievance; in the next place, there is no power; and, beyond all that, it is offensive to the Senate. It is offensive to recommend legislation for the dissolution of the Union—offensive to the Senate and to the whole country. If this Union is ever to be dissolved, it must be by the action of the States and their people. Whatever power Congress holds, it bolds under the Constitution, and that power is but a part of the Union. Congress has no power to legislate upon that which will be the destruction of the whole foundation upon which its authority rests.
I recollect, a good many years ago, that the Senator from Massachusetts [Mr. John Davis], who addressed the Senate this morning, very pointedly described the right of petition as a very humble right—as the mere right to beg. This is my own view. The right peaceably to assemble, I hold as the right which it was intended to grant to the people; that was the only right which had ever been denied in our colonial condition. The right of petition had never been denied by Parliament. It was intended only to secure to the people, I say, the right peaceably to assemble, whenever they choose to do so, with intent to petition for a redress of grievances.
But, sir, the right of petition, though but a poor right—the mere right to beg—may yet be carried to such an extent that we are bound to abate it as a nuisance. If the avenues to the Capitol were to be obstructed, so that members would find themselves unable to reach the halls of legislation, because hordes of beggars presented themselves in the way calling for relief, it would be a nuisance that would require to be abated, and Congress, in self-defense, would be compelled to remove them. But such a collection of beggars would not be half so great an evil as the petitions presented here on the subject of slavery. They disturb the peace of the country; they impede and pervert legislation by the excitement they create; they do more to prevent rational investigation and proper action in this body than any, if not all, other causes. Good, if ever designed, has never resulted, and it would be difficult to suppose that good is expected ever to flow from them. Why, then, should we be bound to receive such petitions to the detriment of the public business; or, rather, why are they presented? I am not of those who believe we should be turned from the path of duty by out-of-door clamor, or that the evil can be removed by partial concession. To receive is to give cause for further demands, and our direct and safe course is rejection.
Yes, sir, their reception would serve only to embarrass Congress, to disturb the tranquillity of the country, and to peril the Union of the States. By every obligation, therefore, that rests upon us under the Constitution, upon every great principle upon which the Constitution is founded, we are bound to abate this as a great and growing evil. This petition, sir, was well described by the Senator from Pennsylvania as being spurious; and I have been assured of the fact, from other sources of information, that petitions are sent round in reference to other subjects—of temperance, generally—and, after a long list of names has been obtained, the caption is cut off, and the list of signatures attached to an abolition caption and sent here to excite one section of the Union against the other, to disturb the country, and distract the legislation of Congress, to execute which we have our seats in this Chamber. For the reasons first stated, I voted to receive the resolutions that were presented by the Senator from North Carolina, and for the reasons I have just given shall vote to reject this petition.
Conclusion of speech of Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, in the Senate of the United States, on the resolutions of Mr. Clay, relative to slavery in the Territories, etc., February 13 and 14, 1850.
... Sir, it has been asked on several occasions during the present session, What ground of complaint has the South? Is this agitation in the two halls of Congress, in relation to the domestic institutions of the South, no subject for complaint? Is the denunciation heaped upon us by the press of the North, and the attempts to degrade us in the eyes of Christendom—to arraign the character of our people and the character of our fathers, from whom our institutions are derived—no subject for complaint? Is this sectional organization, for the purpose of hostility to our portion of the Union, no subject for complaint? Would it not, between foreign nations—nations not bound together and restrained as we are by compact—would it not, I say, be just cause for war? What difference is there between organizations for circulating incendiary documents and promoting the escape of fugitives from a neighboring State and the organization of an armed force for the purpose of invasion? Sir, a State relying securely on its own strength would rather court the open invasion than the insidious attack. And for what end, sir, is all this aggression? They see that the slaves in their present condition in the South are comfortable and happy; they see them advancing in intelligence; they see the kindest relations existing between them and their masters; they see them provided for in age and sickness, in infancy and in disability; they see them in useful employment, restrained from the vicious indulgences to which their inferior nature inclines them; they see our penitentiaries never filled, and our poor-houses usually empty. Let them turn to the other hand, and they see the same race in a state of freedom at the North; but, instead of the comfort and kindness they receive at the South, instead of being happy and useful, they are, with few exceptions, miserable, degraded, filling the penitentiaries and poor-houses, objects of scorn, excluded in some places from the schools, and deprived of many other privileges and benefits which attach to the white men among whom they live. And yet they insist that elsewhere an institution which has proved beneficial to this race shall be abolished, that it may be substituted by a state of things which is fraught with so many evils to the race which they claim to be the object of their solicitude! Do they find in the history of St. Domingo, and in the present condition of Jamaica, under the recent experiments which have been made upon the institution of slavery in the liberation of the blacks, before God, in his wisdom, designed it should be done—do they there find anything to stimulate them to future exertion in the cause of abolition? Or should they not find there satisfactory evidence that their past course was founded in error? And is it not the part of integrity and wisdom, as soon as they can, to retrace their steps? Should they not immediately cease from a course mischievous in every stage, and finally tending to the greatest catastrophe? We may dispute about measures, but, as long as parties have nationality, as long as it is a difference of opinion between individuals passing into every section of the country, it threatens no danger to the Union. If the conflicts of party were the only cause of apprehension, this Government might last for ever—the last page of human history might contain a discussion in the American Congress upon the meaning of some phrase, the extent of the power conferred by some grant of the Constitution. It is, sir, these sectional divisions which weaken the bonds of union and threaten their final rupture. It is not differences of opinion—it is geographical lines, rivers and mountains—which divide State from State, and make different nations of mankind.
Are these no subjects of complaint for us? And do they furnish no cause for repentance to you? Have we not a right to appeal to you as brethren of this Union? Have we not a right to appeal to you, as brethren bound by the compact of our fathers, that you should, with due regard to your own rights and interests and constitutional obligations, do all that is necessary to preserve our peace and promote our prosperity?
If, sir, the seeds of disunion have been sown broadcast over this land, I ask by whose hand they have been scattered? If, sir, we are now reduced to a condition when the powers of this Government are held subservient to faction; if we can not and dare not legislate for the organization of territorial governments—I ask, sir, who is responsible for it? And I can with proud reliance say, it is not the South—it is not the South! Sir, every charge of disunion which is made on that part of the South which I in part represent, and whose sentiments I well understand, I here pronounce to be grossly calumnious. The conduct of the State of Mississippi in calling a convention has already been introduced before the Senate; and on that occasion I stated, and now repeat, that it was the result of patriotism, and a high resolve to preserve, if possible, our constitutional Union; that all its proceedings were conducted with deliberation, and it was composed of the first men of the State.
The Chief-Justice—a man well known for his high integrity, for his powerful intellect, for his great legal attainments, and his ability in questions of constitutional law-presided over that Convention. After calm and mature deliberation, resolutions were adopted, not in the spirit of disunion, but announcing, in the first resolution of the series, their attachment to the Union. They call on their brethren of the South to unite with them in their holy purpose of preserving the Constitution, which is its only bond and reliable hope. This was their object; and for this and for no other purpose do they propose to meet in general convention at Nashville. As I stated on a former occasion, this was not a party movement in Mississippi. The presiding officer belongs to the political minority in the State; the two parties in the State were equally represented in the numbers of the Convention, and its deliberations assumed no partisan or political character whatever. It was the result of primary meetings in the counties; an assemblage of men known throughout the State, having first met and intimated to those counties a time when the State Convention should, if deemed proper, be held. Every movement was taken with deliberation, and every movement then taken was wholly independent of the action of anybody else; unless it be intended, by the remarks made here, to refer its action to the great principles of those who have gone before us, and who have left us the rich legacy of the free institutions under which we live. If it be attempted to assign the movement to the nullification tenets of South Carolina, as my friend near me seemed to understand, then I say you must go further back, and impute it to the State rights and strict- construction doctrines of Madison and Jefferson. You must refer these in their turn to the principles in which originated the Revolution and separation of these then colonies from England. You must not stop there, but go back still further, to the bold spirit of the ancient barons of England. That spirit has come down to us, and in that spirit has all the action since been taken. We will not permit aggressions. We will defend our rights; and, if it be necessary, we will claim from this Government, as the barons of England claimed from John, the grant of another Magna Charta for our protection.
Sir, I can but consider it as a tribute of respect to the character for candor and sincerity which the South maintains, that every movement which occurs in the Southern States is closely scrutinized, and the assertion of a determination to maintain their constitutional rights is denounced as a movement of disunion; while violent denunciations against the Union are now made, and for years have been made, at the North by associations, by presses and conventions, yet are allowed to pass unnoticed as the idle wind—I suppose for the simple reason that nobody believed there was any danger in them. It is, then, I say, a tribute paid to the sincerity of the South, that every movement of hers is watched with such jealousy; but what shall we think of the love for the Union of those in whom this brings us corresponding change of conduct, who continue the wanton aggravations which have produced and justify the action they deprecate? Is it well, is it wise, is it safe, to disregard these manifestations of public displeasure, though it be the displeasure of a minority? Is it proper, or prudent, or respectful, when a representative, in accordance with the known will of his constituents, addresses you the language of solemn warning, in conformity to his duty to the Constitution, the Union, and to his own conscience, that his course should be arraigned as the declaration of ultra and dangerous opinions? If these warnings were received in the spirit in which they are given, it would augur better for the country. It would give hopes which are now denied us, if the press of the country, that great lever of public opinion, would enforce these warnings, and bear them to every cottage, instead of heaping abuse upon those whose love of ease would prompt them to silence—whose speech, therefore, is evidence of sincerity. Lightly and loosely, representatives of Southern people have been denounced as disunionists by that portion of the Northern press which most disturbs the harmony and endangers the perpetuity of the Union. Such, even, has been my own case, though the man does not breathe at whose door the charge of disunion might not as well be laid as at mine. The son of a Revolutionary soldier, attachment to this Union was among the first lessons of my childhood; bred to the service of my country, from boyhood to mature age, I wore its uniform. Through the brightest portion of my life I was accustomed to see our flag, historic emblem of the Union, rise with the rising and fall with the setting sun. I look upon it now with the affection of early love, and seek to preserve it by a strict adherence to the Constitution, from which it had its birth, and by the nurture of which its stars have come so much to outnumber its original stripes. Shall that flag, which has gathered fresh glory in every war, and become more radiant still by the conquest of peace—shall that flag now be torn by domestic faction, and trodden in the dust by sectional rivalry? Shall we of the South, who have shared equally with you all your toils, all your dangers, all your adversities, and who equally rejoice in your prosperity and your fame—shall we be denied those benefits guaranteed by our compact, or gathered as the common fruits of a common country? If so, self-respect requires that we should assert them; and, as best we may, maintain that which we could not surrender without losing your respect as well as our own.
If, sir, this spirit of sectional aggrandizement—or, if gentlemen prefer, this love they bear the African race—shall cause the disunion of these States, the last chapter of our history will be a sad commentary upon the justice and the wisdom of our people. That this Union, replete with blessings to its own citizens, and diffusive of hope to the rest of mankind, should fall a victim to a selfish aggrandizement and a pseudo-philanthropy, prompting one portion of the Union to war upon the domestic rights and peace of another, would be a deep reflection on the good sense and patriotism of our day and generation. But, sir, if this last chapter in our history shall ever be written, the reflective reader will ask, Whence proceeded this hostility of the North against the South? He will find it there recorded that the South, in opposition to her own immediate interests, engaged with the North in the unequal struggle of the Revolution. He will find again, that, when Northern seamen were impressed, their brethren of the South considered it cause for war, and entered warmly into the contest with the haughty power then claiming to be mistress of the seas. He will find that the South, afar off, unseen and unheard, toiling in the pursuits of agriculture, had filled the shipping and supplied the staple for manufactures, which enriched the North. He will find that she was the great consumer of Northern fabrics—that she not only paid for these their fair value in the markets of the world, but that she also paid their increased value, derived from the imposition of revenue duties. And, if, still further, he seeks for the cause of this hostility, it at last is to be found in the fact that the South held the African race in bondage, being the descendants of those who were mainly purchased from the people of the North. And this was the great cause. For this the North claimed that the South should be restricted from future growth—that around her should be drawn, as it were, a sanitary cordon to prevent the extension of a "moral leprosy"; and, if for that it shall be written that the South resisted, it would be but in keeping with every page she has added to the history of our country.
It depends on those in the majority to say whether this last chapter in our history shall be written or not. It depends on them now to decide whether the strife between the different sections shall be arrested before it has become impossible, or whether it shall proceed to a final catastrophe. I, sir—and I only speak for myself—am willing to meet any fair proposition—to settle upon anything which promises security for the future; anything which assures me of permanent peace, and I am willing to make whatever sacrifice I may properly be called on to render for that purpose. Nor, sir, is it a light responsibility. If I strictly measured my conduct by the late message of the Governor, and the recent expressions of opinion in my State, I should have no power to accept any terms save the unqualified admission of the equal rights of the citizens of the South to go into any of the Territories of the United States with any and every species of property held among us. I am willing, however, to take my share of the responsibility which the crisis of our country demands. I am willing to rely on the known love of the people I represent for the whole country, and the abiding respect which I know they entertain for the Union of these States. If, sir, I distrusted their attachment to our Government, and if I believed that they had that restless spirit of disunion which has been ascribed to the South, I should know full well that I had no such foundation as this to rely upon—no such great reserve in the heart of the people to fall back upon in the hour of accountability.
Mr. President, is there such incompatibility of interest between the two sections of this country that they can not profitably live together? Does the agriculture of the South injure the manufactures of the North? On the other hand, are they not their life-blood? And think you, if one portion of the Union, however great it might be in commerce and manufactures, was separated from all the agricultural districts, that it would long maintain its supremacy? If any one so believes, let him turn to the written history of commercial states: let him look upon the moldering palaces of Venice; let him ask for the faded purple of Tyre, and visit the ruins of Carthage; there he will see written the fate of every country which rests its prosperity on commerce and manufactures alone. United we have grown to our present dignity and power—united we may go on to a destiny which the human mind cannot measure. Separated, I feel that it requires no prophetic eye to see that the portion of the country which is now scattering the seeds of disunion to which I have referred will be that which will suffer most. Grass will grow on the pavements now worn by the constant tread of the human throng which waits on commerce, and the shipping will abandon your ports for those which now furnish the staples of trade. And we who produce the great staples upon which your commerce and manufactures rest, we will produce those staples still; shipping will fill our harbors; and why may we not found the Tyre of modern commerce within our own limits? Why may we not bring the manufacturers to the side of agriculture, and commerce, too, the ready servant of both?
But, sir, I have no disposition to follow this subject. I certainly can derive no pleasure from the contemplation of anything which can impair the prosperity of any portion of this Union; and I only refer to it that those who suppose we are tied by interest or fear should look the question in the face and understand that it is mainly a feeling of attachment to the Union which has long bound, and now binds, the South. But, Mr. President, I ask Senators to consider how long affection can be proof against such trial, and injury, and provocation, as the South is continually receiving.
The case in which this discrimination against the South is attempted, the circumstances under which it was introduced, render it especially offensive. It will not be difficult to imagine the feeling with which a Southern soldier during the Mexican war received the announcement that the House of Representatives had passed that odious measure, the Wilmot Proviso; and that he, although then periling his life, abandoning all the comforts of home, and sacrificing his interests, was, by the Legislature of his country, marked as coming from a portion of the Union which was not entitled to the equal benefits of whatever might result from the service to which he was contributing whatever power he possessed. Nor will it be difficult to conceive, of the many sons of the South whose blood has stained those battle-fields, whose ashes now mingle with Mexican earth, that some, when they last looked on the flag of their country, may have felt their dying moments embittered by the recollection that that flag cast not an equal shadow of protection over the land of their birth, the graves of their parents, and the homes of their children, so soon to be orphans. Sir, I ask Northern Senators to make the case their own—to carry to their own firesides the idea of such intrusion and offensive discrimination as is offered to us—realize these irritations, so galling to the humble, so intolerable to the haughty, and wake, before it is too late, from the dream that the South will tamely submit. Measure the consequences to us of your assumption, and ask yourselves whether, as a free, honorable, and brave people, you would submit to it?
It is essentially the characteristic of the chivalrous that they never speculate upon the fears of any man, and I trust that no such speculations will be made upon the idea that may be entertained in any quarter that the South, from fear of her slaves, is necessarily opposed to a dissolution of the Union. She has no such fear; her slaves would be to her now, as they were in the Revolution, an element of military strength. I trust that no speculations will be made upon either the condition or the supposed weakness of the South. They will bring sad disappointments to those who indulge them. Rely upon her devotion to the Union, rely upon the feeling of fraternity she inherited and has never failed to manifest; rely upon the nationality and freedom from sedition which have in all ages characterized an agricultural people; give her justice, sheer justice, and the reliance will never fail you.
Then, Mr. President, I ask that some substantial proposition may be made by the majority in regard to this question. It is for those who have the power to pass it to propose one. It is for those who are threatening us with the loss of that which we are entitled to enjoy, to state, if there be any compromise, what that compromise is. We are unable to pass any measure, if we propose it; therefore I have none to suggest. We are unable to bend you to any terms which we may offer; we are under the ban of your purpose: therefore from you, if from anywhere, the proposition must come. I trust that we shall meet it, and bear the responsibility as becomes us; that we shall not seek to escape from it; that we shall not seek to transfer to other places, or other times, or other persons, that responsibility which devolves upon us; and I hope the earnestness which the occasion justifies will not be mistaken for the ebullition of passion, nor the language of warning be construed as a threat. We cannot, without the most humiliating confession of the supremacy of faction, evade our constitutional obligations, and our obligations under the treaty with Mexico to organize governments in the Territories of California and New Mexico. I trust that we will not seek to escape from the responsibility, and leave the country unprovided for, unless by an irregular admission of new States; that we will act upon the good example of Washington in the case of Tennessee, and of Jefferson in the case of Louisiana; that we will not, if we abandon those high standards, do more than come down to modern examples; that we will not go further than to permit those who have the forms of government, under the Constitution, to assume sovereignty over territory of the United States; that we may at least, I say, assert the right to know who they are, how many they are—where they voted, how they voted—and whose certificate is presented to us of the fact, before it is conceded to them to determine the fundamental law of the country, and to prescribe the conditions on which other citizens of the United States may enter it. To reach all this knowledge, we must go through the intermediate stage of territorial government.
How will you determine what is the seal, and who are the officers, of a community unknown as an organized body to the Congress of the United States? Can the right be admitted in that community to usurp the sovereignty over territory which belongs to the States of the Union? All these questions must be answered before I can consent to any such irregular proceeding as that which is now presented in the case of California.
Mr. President, thanking the Senate for the patience they have shown toward me, I again express the hope that those who have the power to settle this distracting question—those who have the ability to restore peace, concord, and lasting harmony to the United States—will give us some substantial proposition, such as magnanimity can offer, and such as we can honorably accept. I, being one of the minority in the Senate and the Union, have nothing to offer, except an assurance of cooeperation in anything which my principles will allow me to adopt, and which promises permanent, substantial security.
Speech of Mr. Davis, of Mississippi, in the Senate of the United States (chiefly in answer to Mr. Fessenden, of Maine, on the message of the President of the United States transmitting to Congress the "Lecompton Constitution" of Kansas), February 8, 1858:
I wish to express not only my concurrence with the message of the President, but my hearty approbation of the high motive which actuated him when he wrote it. In that paper breathes the sentiment of a patriot, and it stands out in bold contrast with the miserable slang by which he was pursued this morning. It may serve the purposes of a man who little regards the Union to perpetrate a joke on the hazard of its dissolution. It may serve the purpose of a man who never looks to his own heart to find there any impulses of honor, to arraign everybody, the President and the Supreme Court, and to have them impeached and vilified on his mere suspicion. It ill becomes such a man to point to Southern institutions as to him a moral leprosy, which he is to pursue to the end of extermination, and, perverting everything, ancient and modern, to bring it tributary to his own malignant purposes. Not even could that clause of the Constitution which refers to the importation or migration of persons be held up to public consideration by the Senator [Mr. Fessenden] in a studied argument, save as a permission for the slave-trade. Then, everything that is most prominent in relation to the protection of property in that instrument he holds to have been swept away by a statute which prohibited the further importation of Africans. The language of that clause of the Constitution is far broader than the importation of Africans. It is not confined or limited at all to that subject. It says:
"The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year 1808, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person."
That was a power given to Congress far broader than the slave-trade; and yet the Senator gravely argues that, when that prohibition against the further importation of Africans took place by act of Congress, thenceforward the constitutional shield, which had been thrown over slave property, fell. Sir, it is the only private property in the United States which is specifically recognized in the Constitution and protected by it.
There was a time when there was a higher and holier sentiment among the men who represented the people of this country. As far back as the time of the Confederation, when no narrow, miserable prejudice between Northern and Southern men governed those who ruled the States, a committee of three, two of whom were Northern men, reporting upon what they considered the bad faith of Spain in Florida, in relation to fugitive slaves, proposed that negotiations should be instituted to require Spain to surrender, as the States did then surrender, all fugitives escaped into their limits. Hamilton and Sedgwick from the North, and Madison from the South, made that report—men, the loftiness of whose purpose and genius might put to shame the puny efforts now made to disturb that which lies at the very foundation of the Government under which we live.
A man not knowing into what presence he was introduced, coming into this Chamber, might, for a large part of this session, have supposed that here stood the representatives of belligerent States, and that, instead of men assembled here to confer together for the common welfare, for the general good, he saw here ministers from States preparing to make war upon each other; and then he would have felt that vain, indeed, was the vaunting of the prowess of one to destroy another. Or if, sir, he had known more—if he had recognized the representatives of the States of the Union—still he would have traced through this same eternal, petty agitation about sectional success, that limit which can not fail, however the Senator from New York (Mr. Seward) may regret it, to bring about a result which every man should, from his own sense of honor, feel, when he takes his seat in this Chamber, that he is morally bound to avoid as long as he retains possession of his seat.
To express myself more distinctly: I hold that a Senator, while he sits here as the representative of a State in the Federal Government, is in the relation of a minister to a friendly court, and that the moment he sees this Government in hostility to his own, the day he resolves to make war on this Government, his honor and the honor of his State compel him to vacate the seat he holds.
It is a poor evasion for any man to say: "I make war on the rights of one whole section; I make war on the principles of the Constitution; and yet, I uphold the Union, and I desire to see it protected." Undermine the foundation, and still pretend that he desires the fabric to stand! Common sense rejects it. No one will believe the man who makes the assertion, unless he believes him under the charitable supposition that he knows not what he is doing.
Sir, we are arraigned, day after day, as the aggressive power. What Southern Senator, during this whole session, has attacked any portion, or any interest, of the North? In what have we now, or ever, back to the earliest period of our history, sought to deprive the North of any advantage it possessed? The whole charge is, and has been, that we seek to extend our own institutions into the common territory of the United States. Well and wisely has the President of the United States pointed to that common territory as the joint possession of the country. Jointly we held it, jointly we enjoyed it in the earlier period of our country; but when, Senator from New York [Mr. Seward], though I did not believe that natural causes, if permitted to flow in their own channel, would have produced any other result than the introduction of slave property into the Territory of Kansas, I am free to admit that I have not yet reached the conclusion that that property would have permanently remained there. That is a question which interest decides. Vermont would not keep African slaves, because they were not valuable to her; neither will any population, whose density is so great as to trade rapidly on the supply of bread, be willing to keep and maintain an improvident population, to feed them in infancy, to care for them in sickness, to protect them in age. And thus it will be found in the history of nations, that, whenever population has reached that density in the temperate zones, serfdom, villenage, or slavery, whatever it has been called, has disappeared.
Ours presents a new problem, one not stated by those who wrote on it in the earlier period of our history. It is the problem of a semi-tropical climate, the problem of malarial districts, of staple products. This produces a result different from that which would be found in the farming districts and cooler climates. A race suited to our labor exists there. Why should we care whether they go into other Territories or not? Simply because of the war which is made against our institutions; simply because of the want of security which results from the action of our opponents in the Northern States. Had you made no political war upon us, had you observed the principles of our confederacy as States, that the people of each State were to take care of their domestic affairs, or, in the language of the Kansas bill, to be left perfectly free to form and regulate their institutions in their own way, then, I say, within the limits of each State the population there would have gone on to attend to their own affairs, and would have had little regard to whether this species of property, or any other, was held in any other portion of the Union. You have made it a political war. We are on the defensive. How far are you to push us?
The Senator from Alabama [Mr. Clay] has been compelled to notice the resolutions of his State; nor does that State stand alone. To what issue are you now pressing us? To the conclusion that, because within the limits of a Territory slaves are held as property, a State is to be excluded from the Union. I am not in the habit of paying lip-service to the Union. The Union is strong enough to confer favors; it is strong enough to command service. Under these circumstances, the man deserves but little credit who sings paeans to its glory. If, through a life, now not a short one, a large portion of which has been spent in the public service, I have given no better proof of my affection for this Union than by declarations, I have lived to little purpose, indeed. I think I have given evidence, in every form in which patriotism is ever subjected to a test, and I trust, whatever evil may be in store for us by those who wage war on the Constitution and our rights under it, that I shall be able to turn at least to the past and say, "Up to that period when I was declining into the grave, I served a Government I loved, and served it with my whole heart." Nor will I stop to compare services with those gentlemen who have fair phrases, while they undermine the very foundation of the temple our fathers built. If, however, there be those here who do really love the Union, and the Constitution, which is the life-blood of the Union, the time has come when we should look calmly, though steadily, the danger which besets us in the face.