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´╗┐Title: Slavery: What it was, what it has done, what it intends to do - Speech of Hon. Cydnor B. Tompkins, of Ohio
Author: Tompkins, Cydnor Bailey, 1810-1862
Language: English
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                     IT INTENDS TO DO.


 Delivered in the House of Representatives, April 24, 1860.

Mr. TOMPKINS said:

Mr. CHAIRMAN: The charge is frequently made, that nothing but slavery
occupies the attention of the National Legislature. That this charge is
true to a great extent, that this subject is constantly kept before the
country, and that there is constant excitement about it, is not the
fault of the Republican party. In the first hour of the present session
of Congress, it was thrust upon the House by a member of the slavery
party; for two months a discussion was continued upon that subject, and
almost exclusively by that party--a discussion unparalleled in point of
violence and virulence in the history of Parliamentary debate. Charges
the most aggravated were unscrupulously and shamelessly made against the
best and purest men of the country, and honorable members on this floor.
Calumny and vituperation held high carnival in the legislative halls of
this great nation. The columns of the _Daily Globe_ teemed with fierce
and fiery denunciations of all who would not bow to the behests of
pro-slavery power. Depraved, corrupt, and polluted presses exerted
themselves to the utmost in the work of slander and detraction; hireling
scribblers for worse than hireling presses glutted themselves and _made
their meals on good men's names_. These spacious galleries were filled
with disloyal men, ready to applaud to the echo every threat uttered
against the Government, and every disloyal sentiment heard from this

If the Republicans here shall feel it to be their duty to discuss this
subject now; to lay bare its weakness and its wickedness; to expose the
madness and the folly of those who sustain, support, and cherish it; if
the great interests of the country have to be neglected for a time; if
ordinary legislation must be put aside, no complaint can be made against
the Republican party. That party, its principles, its men, and its
measures, have been misrepresented, and most unjustly assailed. It is
our privilege, it is our duty, to repel those assaults, that the world
may know that when the advanced guard of freedom is attacked, "our feet
shall be always in the arena, and our shields shall hang always in the

I intend to review this question for the time allowed me. I hope to do
so with fairness and candor, and not with the passion and excitement
that have characterized many speeches made this session by pro-slavery
members. I shall endeavor to show that the fathers of this Republic,
both of the North and South, were more thoroughly anti-slavery than any
political party now in the country; and that, for more than forty years
after its organization, a large majority of our prominent men were
strongly opposed to the extension of that "_patriarchal_ institution."

The debates in the Federal Convention show that the Constitution was
framed, adopted, and ratified, by anti-slavery men; that they regarded
it as an evil, yet were ashamed to acknowledge its existence in
words--thus virtually refusing to recognise property in many
Resolutions, addresses, and speeches, now to be found, establish this
very important fact, as I will show by quotations from them.

At a general meeting in Prince George county, Virginia, it was

"_Resolved_, That the African slave trade is injurious to this colony,
obstructs the population of it by free men, and prevents manufacturers
from Europe from settling among us."

At a meeting in Culpeper county, Virginia, it was

"_Resolved_, That the importation of slaves obstructs the population
with free white men and useful manufacturers."

At a meeting in Nansemond county, Virginia, it was

"_Resolved_, That the African slave trade is injurious to this colony,
obstructs the population by free men, and prevents manufacturers from
settling amongst us."

Resolutions to the same effect were adopted in Surrey county, Caroline
county; and at a meeting in Fairfax county, over which George Washington
presided, resolutions of like import were adopted.

At a very full meeting of delegates from the different counties of the
Colony and Dominion of Virginia, at Williamsburg, on the 1st day of
August, 1774, it was

"_Resolved_, that the abolition of domestic slavery is the greatest
object of desire in these colonies, where it was improperly introduced
in their infant state."

This is the language of the good and wise men of the Old Dominion in
1774; "the _abolition_ of domestic slavery was the greatest object of
their desire." Not merely to limit it, to prevent its extension, but
wholly to overthrow it. What would be said if a body of men, equally
wise, good, and patriotic, should _now_ meet in the Old Dominion, and
attempt to pass such resolutions? They would be scourged, driven by
violence from the State, and might be considered fortunate should they
escape with their lives. At a meeting in New Bern, North Carolina,
August, 1774, numerously attended by the most distinguished men of that
region, it was resolved that they would not import any slave or slaves,
or purchase any slave or slaves imported or brought into that province
by others from any part of the world. Such was the sentiment of North
Carolina in 1774, as to the evil and great wrong of slavery.

The Continental Congress, in October, 1774, resolved that they would
neither import, nor purchase any slave imported, after December of the
same year; they agreed and resolved that they would have no trade,
commerce, dealings, or intercourse whatsoever, with any colony or
province in North America which should not accede to, or should violate,
this resolve, but would hold them as unworthy the rights of freemen and
inimical to the liberties of this country.

But what is now the attitude of slaveholders? They will hold no
intercourse, they will have no dealings, with any person or State that
does not approve of slavery, and yield to its intolerant and despotic
demands; if any man, not thus approving and yielding, chances to travel
through the slave States, and there to express his sentiments, he is
subjected to the degradation and cruelty of the lash, and is driven from
the State.

October 21, 1774, the Continental Congress, in an address to the people
of Great Britain, said:

"When a nation, led to greatness by the hand of liberty, and possessed
of all the glory that heroism, munificence, and humanity, can bestow,
descends to the ungrateful task of forging chains for her friends and
children, and, instead of giving support to freedom, turns advocate for
slavery and oppression, there is reason to suspect that she has either
ceased to be virtuous, or is extremely negligent in the appointment of
her rulers."

Is not this the situation and condition of this country now? Is not a
great party now engaged in the ungrateful task of forging chains for a
large portion of the people of this country? Instead of supporting
freedom, does it not advocate slavery and oppression? Have we not reason
to suspect that too many of our countrymen have ceased to be virtuous?

By the Darien committee, Georgia, January, 1775, it was declared:

"To show the world that we are not influenced by any contracted and
interested motives, but a general philanthropy for all mankind, of
whatever language or complexion, we hereby declare our disapprobation
and abhorrence of the unnatural practice of slavery in America--a
practice founded in injustice and cruelty, and highly dangerous to our

I cannot quote at greater length from the proceedings of this committee.
Their philanthropy was without regard to complexion; they abhorred
slavery, as based on injustice and cruelty; and more, as dangerous to
our liberties. If it were founded in injustice and cruelty in 1775, it
is the same in 1860. It was dangerous to liberty _then_; no man _now_
apprehends any danger to liberty, unless from the same source. It is
daily threatened by men who are interested in slavery. Liberty cannot be
very secure where four million human beings are held in hopeless
bondage--where human blood, bone, muscle, and, I might almost say,
immortal souls, are articles of merchandise.

The historical quotations I have made bring me to the Revolution. I will
cite the opinions of some of the great actors in that great drama.
George Washington said, in his will:

"Upon the decease of my wife, it is my desire that the slaves whom I
hold _in my own right_ should receive their freedom."

Again, he said:

"I never mean, unless some particular circumstance should compel me, to
possess another slave by purchase, it being my first wish to see some
plan adopted by which slavery in this country may be abolished by law."

La Fayette, while in the prison of Magdeburg, said:

"I know not what disposition has been made of my plantation at Cayenne;
but I hope Madame de La Fayette will take care that the negroes who
cultivate it shall preserve their liberties."

Washington wrote to Robert Morris:

"It will not be conceived, from these observations, that it is my wish
to hold these unhappy people (negroes) in slavery. I can only say that
there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a
plan adopted for the abolition of it."

Again, he writes to La Fayette:

"The benevolence of your heart, my dear Marquis, is so conspicuous on
all occasions, that I never wonder at any fresh proof of it; but your
late purchase of an estate in the colony of Cayenne, with a view of
emancipating the slaves on it, is a generous and noble proof of your
humanity. Would to God a like spirit might diffuse itself generally into
the people of this country!"

Washington hoped for some plan by which slavery might be legally
abolished. Washington lauded the humanity of La Fayette in purchasing an
estate for the purpose of emancipating the negroes. I will leave it to
gentlemen on the other side to draw the comparison between the chivalry
of the South _then_ and _now_; between the licentious assumption of
thought and utterance permitted _then_, and the course of conviction and
conversion esteemed necessary and equitable _now_, towards hapless
offenders in the footsteps of predecessors so illustrious.

Patrick Henry said:

"Slavery is detested; we feel its fatal effects; we deplore it with all
the pity of humanity. I repeat again, that it would rejoice my very
soul that every one of my fellow beings were emancipated. We ought to
lament and deplore the necessity of holding our fellow men in bondage."

Charles Pinckney, Governor of South Carolina, said:

"I must say that I lament the decision of your Legislature upon the
question of the importation of slaves after March, 1793. I was in hopes
that motives of policy, as well as other good reasons, supported by the
direful effects of slavery which at this moment are presented, would
have operated to produce a total prohibition of the importation of
slaves, whenever the question came to be agitated in any State that
might be interested in the measure."

Such were the sentiments of the most enlightened, the most virtuous men
of our country in its heroic age. George Mason, of Virginia, stigmatized
the slave trade as an "infernal traffic!" He said that "slavery
discouraged manufactures; that it produced the most pernicious effect on
manners." Without intending to be personal or offensive, I think I can
pause here and properly remark, that if the effects of slavery are
changed in every other respect, the effect on manners is the same now
that it was in the last century. The epithets used by men on this floor,
their arrogant bearing towards their peers, is abundant proof that there
is no change in that respect. We have frequently heard members, this
session, speak of a great party in this country as the Black Republican
party. Legislative bodies in the slave States have so far forgotten what
should be due to the standing and dignity of a Legislature, as to call a
certain party, in their official proceedings, the "Black Republican
party." Why are men betrayed into such violations of the proprieties of
life? There can be no other reason than the one given by George Mason
eighty years ago: slavery produces a most pernicious effect upon
manners. I know it is claimed, by men in the slave States, that slavery
is necessary to the highest development of human society; but I think
the experience of members of Congress is, that slavery does not always
produce this beneficial result.

I revert to my Southern authorities upon the peculiar institution. Mr.
Iredell, of North Carolina, thus expresses himself:

"When the entire abolition of slavery takes place, it will be an event
which must be most pleasing to every generous mind, and to every friend
of human nature."

Thomas Jefferson writes:

"The spirit of the master is abating: that of the slave rising from the
dust; his condition mollifying; the way, I hope, preparing, under the
auspices of Heaven, for a total emancipation."

He continues, in his plan for a Constitution for Virginia:

"Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate, than that these
people are to be free."

In a letter to Dr. Gordon, on Lord Cornwallis's invasion of Virginia,
Mr. Jefferson says:

"He carried off also about thirty slaves, (Jefferson's.) Had this been
to give them freedom, he would have done right; but it was to consign
them to inevitable death from small-pox and putrid fever then raging in
his camp."

I conclude here my citations from the united voices of some of the best
men of the country, before and after the Revolution, against slavery as
an evil, and a great national sin, not that I have exhausted their
utterances, but that my time admits of no more.

The Republican party proclaims no doctrine so _ultra_ as theirs, uses no
language so strong as that of those Southern statesmen from whom it
gains so much information, and whose views, to a great extent, it
conscientiously accepts. We desire only to confine it within its present
limits; we ask that it shall not pollute territory now free; we know the
utter folly of appealing to the morality or humanity of a pro-slavery
party, where the rights of a black man are involved; but when you insist
on taking slaves into a free Territory, and smiting the land with this
blighting, withering curse, we plant ourselves on our constitutional
rights, and say, _thus far shall you go, and no further_.

The learned gentleman from Alabama, [Mr. CURRY,] in alluding to the
opinion of the fathers of the Republic, said:

"These, however, were but mere speculations."

Was it a mere speculation when Madison said, "we have seen a mere
distinction of color made the ground of the most oppressive dominion of
man over man?" Was it as a mere speculation that Jefferson wrote, that
Cornwallis would have been right, had he carried away his (Jefferson's)
slaves to free them? Was it a mere speculation, a wild fancy, that the
framers of the Constitution would not admit that there could be such a
thing as property in man? A mere speculation, was it, of Patrick Henry,
when he said "that slavery is detested; we feel its fatal effects; we
deplore it?" when he declared it would "rejoice his very soul, were all
his fellow beings emancipated?" Was it a mere speculation when Jefferson
wrote, and his colleagues signed, "we hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men are created equal?" No one then doubted the
truth of this declaration. More than a generation passed away before any
man dared raise his voice against it. No, sir; this was no mere
speculation, but the acknowledgment of a great "humanitarian fact." True
then, it is true now; and must remain indisputable and eternal--a pillar
of fire by night, a cloud by day, to guide and guard nations yet unborn
in the path of honor, of safety, of moral and political grandeur.

But the learned gentleman does not pause upon these "speculations." He
proceeds to tell us that circumstances are changed; that there was then
little more than half a million slaves, and scarce a pound of cotton
exported. Does the gentleman believe, or does he but attempt to lead
_us_ to believe, that the ethics of those men "without fear and without
reproach" had no sounder foundation than this: that while slaves were
few and cotton scarce, slavery might be a wrong, but with four million
slaves and four million two hundred thousand bales of cotton, it
becomes just, humane, moral?--that while negroes and cotton fill one
side of the scales, Christian truth must kick the beam on the other, and
slavery thus becomes a great "humanitarian fact?"

The right and wrong of the thing, about which there has been so much
discussion, is now easily solved. The gentleman has found an infallible
rule; it is simply to make a chemical analysis of your soil; if it will
produce cotton, you can purchase slaves and work them without violating
the laws of God or man.

We may also infer, or be induced to believe, from the honorable
gentleman's speech, that if nothing is raised but indigo and rice, the
propriety and morality of holding men in bondage is doubtful. Not such,
sir, were the "_speculations_" of the fathers of the Republic.

Lucid as is the gentleman's speech in general, there is a want of
clearness in the last point I have cited; but this is owing entirely to
the materials used in the demonstration--rice and indigo will not do;
nothing will serve but cotton; cotton ever, cotton only.

If slave labor, then, is profitable, slaveholding is equitable. Thus it
is decided, that whatever is profitable is also equitable: justice and
injustice are mere matters of profit and loss; the morality or
immorality of slavery a mere question of soil and climate.

The great authorities cited as to the evil effects of slavery on the
white race, should satisfy the most incredulous. But, says the learned
gentleman from Alabama, there were few slaves at that time, and scarce a
pound of cotton for exportation. Let us, then, pass from that period, to
one when the few slaves had become millions, and the bales of cotton
exported were estimated in like manner. In 1832, Thomas Marshall, of
Virginia, said of slavery:

"It is ruinous to the whites; retards improvement; roots out an
industrious population; banishes the yeomanry of the country; deprives
the spinner, the weaver, the smith, the shoemaker, the carpenter, of
employment and support. Labor of every species is disreputable, because
performed mostly by slaves; the general aspect of the country marks the
curse of a wasteful, idle, reckless population, who have no interest in
the soil, and care not how much it is impoverished."

Mr. Berry, of Virginia, spoke thus:

"I believe that no cancer on the physical body was ever more certain,
steady, and fatal, in its progress, than is the cancer of slavery on the
political body of the State of Virginia. It is eating into her very

The records of Southern statesmanship, sir, abound in such and stronger
expressions. Slavery had then existed in this country more than two
hundred years, yet scarce a man could be then found so bold and so
reckless as to proclaim it just and righteous, a humane, a Christian
institution. Nearly the whole civilized world united in its
condemnation; the ministers of our holy religion in the slave States
declaimed against it; their solemn petitions ascended to the throne of
God, that the country might be rid of these "bonds." But, slave labor
has become profitable in some parts of the South; the _mania_ for wealth
has seized the slaveholder's avarice, has dried up the fountain of
humanity. The lust of power and dominion deadens their consciences; a
million bales of cotton can blind their eyes alike to the flames of
perdition and the glories of Paradise. They make to themselves friends
of the Mammon of unrighteousness; they become full, and deny their
Maker, and say, who is the Lord! Concerning oppression, they speak
loftily. But they are set in slippery places; they will be cast down
unto destruction.

The gentleman from Mississippi [Mr. LAMAR] said, a few days since:

"I tell you, Mr. Chairman, that God's sun does not shine upon a nobler,
prouder, more prosperous, and elevated class of people, than the
non-slaveholders of the South."

This, I think, will be news to many non-slaveholders in the gentleman's
district. Thomas Jefferson tells us that man is an imitative animal;
therefore, if the assertion of the gentleman from Mississippi be
correct, we must wonder why slaveholders do not relieve themselves of
their negroes, that they may become equally noble, proud, prosperous,
and elevated, with the non-slaveholder. Who can compare with them on
this side of Paradise? With them, the millennium can be no object of
desire, since

    "Not a wave of trouble rolls
    Across their peaceful breasts."

Still there must be some malice in their hearts, for the honorable
gentleman states that they (the non-slaveholders) hold slavery in the
hollow of their hands; surely, were they benevolent, they would close
their hands and crush out the "institution," that their slaveholding
fellow-citizens might become as prosperous and as happy as themselves.

The assertion is frequently made, that white men cannot work in the hot
latitudes of the South, and this is offered as a reason why there should
be black slaves there. The gentleman knocks one of the strongest props
from under the institution. He tells us white men work, and raise not
only cotton, but corn and potatoes. He also informs us that after the
cotton, corn, and potatoes, are raised, the strong, brave man drives the
plow through the fallow ground. It will be seen that work during the
summer has not produced the lassitude and enervation that it has been
claimed is produced in white men by labor. We are still further
informed, that the fallow ground turned up by the strong, brave man,
discloses something more valuable than the gold of California--"'Tis the
sparkles of liberty!" We have heard of the sparkles of liberty that are
made manifest to the non-slaveholders of the South. The poor laboring
man at Columbia, South Carolina, when streams of blood issued from the
furrows plowed in his naked back by a cow-hide in the hands of a negro,
saw some of the sparkles of liberty, when, bleeding, exhausted,
besmeared with tar, and covered with feathers, he was thrust into the
cars, and left to perish in the cold. He had, no doubt, a vivid idea of
the liberty that is enjoyed by non-slaveholders in the South, when he
remembered that these cruelties and barbarities were inflicted on him
for expressing a rational and honest opinion relative to this "peculiar

The statements, and doubtless convictions, of the honorable member from
Mississippi, differ singularly from those of Senator CLAY, of Alabama,
who tells us that, in his State, "we may behold numerous fine houses,
once the abode of intelligent freemen, now occupied by slaves, or else
tenantless and dilapidated; that we may see fields, once fertile,
covered with foxtail and broom-sedge--moss growing on the walls of once
thrifty villages, and may find that 'one only master grasps the whole
domain' which once furnished homes for a dozen white families."

Hear, also, Senator HAMMOND, of South Carolina, who says of the
non-slaveholders of his State:

"They obtain a precarious subsistence by occasional jobs, by hunting, by
fishing, by plundering fields or folds, or, too often, by what is far
worse in its effects, trading with slaves, and leading them to plunder
for their benefit."

The opinions already quoted from many of the wise men of the South go
far to demonstrate that the gentleman from Mississippi is entirely
mistaken. There is, however, another test by which we can try the
accuracy of what the gentleman has said about the non-slaveholders of
the South. The census report of 1850 shows this important fact: that of
the white men in the slave States over twenty-one years of age, there is
about one in every twelve that cannot read and write; while in the free
States there is only one out of every forty-five. It must also be
remembered, that a very large number of those in the free States who
cannot read, came originally from the slave States. Take, for instance,
Massachusetts, where there are but very few persons from the slave
States, if any, and there is only one in seven hundred and seventy-eight
that cannot read and write. Take Indiana and Illinois--States that have
large populations from the slave States--Indiana, one in every fourteen
cannot read; in Illinois, one in every twenty-one and a half; and if any
one will take the trouble to examine, it will no doubt be found that
this ignorance exists almost entirely where the population from the
slave States largely predominates. I will venture the assertion, that
there can scarcely be a man found in the State of Ohio, that was born
there, who possesses intellect capable of cultivation, that cannot read;
while a very large portion of those ignorant men in the slave States
were "to the manor born."

It must also be borne in mind that, in making the estimate of the free
States, the men that perform all the labor are included. In the slave
States, the men who do nearly all the work are not included. I do not
know that any great good can come of making these comparisons. But when
the gentleman tells us that the non-slaveholders in his State are the
most prosperous and the most elevated of mankind, the inquiry is at
once presented to the mind, how elevated in the scale of existence can a
man be who can neither read nor write?

I have shown that slavery was regarded as a political, moral, and social
evil, by the founders of this Republic, and by able Southern statesmen
within thirty years; that their anxious query has been, "what is to be
done with it?" We are now asked to discredit those men, and give ear to
a modern creed, that slavery is not only necessary, but beneficent--a
divine ordinance--and that Southern non-slaveholders, even, are
prosperous and elevated just in proportion to the number of slaves owned
by their neighbors.

Not such, sir, were the "speculations" of the fathers of the Republic;
nor is the world to be deceived by such assumptions. Decree and carry
out what non-intercourse you will; surround yourselves with barriers as
impassable as the Chinese wall, or the great gulf between Dives and
Lazarus, still the evidences of your condition will exist on the
imperishable pages of history, in the records left by the mighty and
venerated dead; and the attempt to establish the belief that slavery is
a universal blessing will be received but as an aggression upon the
credulity of mankind.

Forty years ago, a slave Territory applied for admission to the Union as
a State. The friends of freedom objected that its reception would be
contrary to the policy of our Government. "Admit it," it was urged,
"with its present Constitution, and we will consent to a line of
demarkation, north of which slavery shall never pass." This was solemnly
agreed to before the whole world; and this compact, forced upon the
country by the slave power, was claimed by it as a great triumph of
slavery. Men at the North felt that this was a great aggression, a great
outrage upon freedom; yet, to give quiet and restore harmony, they
submitted, consoled by the national pledge that slavery should be
extended no further, and believing that the nation might joyously look
forward to long years of happiness and repose. But despotism is ever
restless and grasping; but twenty-five years rolled by--a very short
period in the life of a nation--ere Texas was admitted to the Union,
that slavery propagandists could have a wider field for their
operations. As everybody foresaw, war ensued; and the best blood of the
nation fattened the soil of Mexico. More than two hundred millions of
treasure were expended, and many thousand valuable lives sacrificed. All
over this land, "the sky was hung with blackness;" "mourning was spread
over the mountain tops." Territory enough was obtained to make four
large States, well adapted to the productive labor of human chattels,
and this territory was blackened over with slavery. Such a triumph ought
to have satisfied the most grasping of the friends of this "peculiar
institution;" but the world should have known that nothing short of
universal dominion would satisfy the slave owner and slave breeder. Less
than ten years after the annexation of Texas, it was discovered by
Southern men that there was a Territory west of Missouri, wherein the
peculiar institution of the South could be made profitable; but by a
solemn league and covenant this land had been, for more than a third of
a century, consecrated to freedom. This bond of national faith, this
pledge of national honor, stood in the road of their ambition.

But men whose lives are but a series violations of the dearest rights
that God has bestowed on man cannot be expected to be bound by pledges
of national faith and national honor. This time-honored compact was
annulled, the barrier between freedom and slavery broken down. The whole
country was astounded at the perfidy of the act.

But the climax was not reached. The Territory was overrun with
desperadoes; ruffians from adjoining States usurped the rights of actual
settlers, stuffed ballot-boxes with illegal votes, and elected members
of their own lawless bands to the Legislature, to enact laws by which
every friend of freedom might be driven from the country.

Innocent and unoffending men were murdered in cold blood, houses were
consumed with fire, hamlets laid in smoking ruins, homeless and
houseless innocents, women and tender children, were driven forth,
exposed to the winds and storms of heaven.

All these wrongs, all these outrages, all these crimes of blood and
deeds of horror, were committed to plant the accursed institution on the
soil that had been, by a great national act, dedicated to freedom. But
violence and arson, bloodshed and murder, failed. The black banner of
slavery is trailing in the dust. The stars and stripes wave triumphantly
over a free and joyous people. The heretofore invincible is conquered. I
have borrowed the word "aggression" to express the conduct of the South
toward the North. I do not intend to make the charge without the

1. I charge upon slavery, that the enforcement of the Missouri
compromise was an aggression upon the North.

2. I charge the annexation of Texas, whereby the Mexican war was brought
upon the country, more than two hundred millions of money were spent,
and many thousand lives sacrificed, as an aggression.

3. I charge that the adoption of the fugitive slave law, with many of
its odious and obnoxious provisions, was an aggression upon the people
of the North.

4. I charge that the decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott
case was an aggression upon the North. It was a decision made for the
benefit of slavery, and to deprive the people of the free States of
their equal rights in the Territories.

5. I charge that the repeal of the Missouri compromise line was an
outrageous aggression upon the rights of the North; disreputable to the
nation, and dishonorable to the party engaged in it; one that has
brought in its train innumerable woes, and created an excitement that
will not be allayed during the present generation.

6. I charge that the murders, robberies, and arsons, in Kansas, were
aggressions of slavery.

All these things I have charged as aggressions of slavery are national
aggressions, for which the slavery party, having control of the
administration of this Government, are responsible. I charge them as
direct, positive aggressions, on the rights of the free people of the
North. In addition to these great national aggressions, there are
numerous similar infringements upon the rights of individuals of the
North--of tarring and feathering, of whipping--acts of such barbarity
and cruelty, that it would chill a man's blood to hear them recited.

Recently, a whole community of moral, peaceable citizens were driven
from their homes, compelled to abandon their property, and seek refuge
in a free State, from the violence of slaveholders. There are, no doubt,
many good and humane men in slave States, who deprecate these wrongs;
but they dare not utter a word--every mouth must be stopped, every lip
must be sealed, every voice must be hushed, all must be silent as the
grave--the most inexorable despotism reigns supreme.

Having endeavored to show what slavery was, and what it has done, I now
propose to show what it intends to do. Its advocates claim that the
territory now belonging to the Government is the common property of all
the States, having been acquired by the common blood and treasure of
all; that, therefore, the inhabitants of the slave States have a right
to emigrate to the Territories, and take with them their slaves. I am
willing to admit that the inhabitants of one section of the country have
just the same rights in the Territories that the inhabitants of another
section have. I say it would be an act of injustice to deny one man any
right in the Territory that another man has, and would be just cause of
complaint. But I am not willing to give to a man from a slave State any
greater rights than to a man from a free State. And when I have admitted
that all have the same constitutional rights in the Territories, I have
by no means admitted that men from the South have a right to hold slaves
in the Territories. You may go, and take your slaves with you, if you
have a mind to run the risk; I say you shall not take your slave laws
with you.

I say that slavery is but the creation of some local enactment, and that
no property can exist in a human being, unless it is made so by some
law. This opinion was entertained by the founders of this Republic, and
by nearly every statesman in this country, until very recently. We hear
much said about the constitutional rights of the South; it is thundered
in our ears from the beginning to the end of the session of Congress.
What is meant by this stereotyped expression, I do not exactly
comprehend; and, I presume, many who make use of the phrase do not
understand it. If you mean by this that the Constitution of the United
States gives you the right to go into the Territories belonging to the
people of this country, and take with you not only your human chattels,
but also your bloody slave laws, I say, you have no such constitutional
rights. The Constitution of the United States nowhere recognises slaves
as property. The Supreme Court of the United States has decided that
slaves are not property under the Constitution. The Constitution gives
you the right to reclaim your slaves, if they escape into any other
State; this is all the right it gives you, and all there is in the
Constitution that can by any possibility be construed to apply to
slaves. To contend that there is any power given in the Constitution
which enables the slaveholder to take his slaves with him into a
Territory, and not only his slaves, but his slave laws, and the slave
laws of all the slave States, is an assumption of power that I am not
willing to concede to him. It is claimed that if persons from the slave
States are not permitted to go into the Territories, and take with them
their slaves and slave laws, the rights of the slave States are
violated. This cannot be. If you claim to take into the Territories the
laws of the slave States, and not only the laws, but the Constitution of
a slave State, I claim, also, that I will take the Constitution of my
State, which says there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary
servitude; and if you do not permit this, the rights of my State are
violated, if your doctrine be true.

The emigrants from every State in the Union, under the power claimed by
the slavery propagandists, would have a right to take with them all the
constitutions and all the laws of all the States. The confusion which
would follow would be worse than at the Tower of Babel. If a citizen of
any slave State leaves it, and goes into a free State or Territory to
reside, he takes with him none of the rights or powers with which his
State clothed him while he remained therein. He can take with him such
articles as, by the universal consent of mankind, are considered
property, and exercise ownership over them. When at home, I am a legal
voter; I can vote for any State or county officer, or President of the
United States. But if I cross the river, a distance of eighty rods, or
go out of my election district, or in any other direction, I have no
such privilege. The right of suffrage, which is the highest right that
ever can be exercised by a citizen, is controlled by the laws and
Constitution of each particular State. In the State of Ohio, a man need
not be a property holder to entitle him to the right of suffrage; if he
remove into a State where he must have a property qualification before
he can vote, are the rights of the State he left violated? I presume no
one will contend that they are. A man may have some power in the State
of Virginia, given by its Legislature--the right to issue paper money,
for instance; but if he remove to Ohio, he has not this right. No man
would pretend to claim that any of the rights of Virginia are infringed.

Yet the man who would make this claim, would be just as reasonable as he
who should claim that the rights of Virginia are invaded because her
slaveholders are not permitted to take slaves into Kansas or Nebraska.

I understand those Southern men, who talk so much about Southern rights,
claim not only the right to take slaves into the Territories, but they
claim the right to take slave laws and the habits and customs which are
practiced in the slave States. They claim to take laws by which four
million negroes are reduced to the condition of brutes. Six million
white men, women, and children, who have to obtain their living by
labor, are condemned to perpetual degradation and ignorance, by which
three hundred and fifty thousand slaveholders can govern and control the
destinies of the millions of people in the slave States; and not only of
those people, but of this great country of ours. They not only claim the
right to take their negroes into the Territories, but they claim to take
laws there that will deny to every man the freedom of speech and the
liberty of the press. They claim the right to seal every man's lips, and
stop every man's mouth, on questions of great national interest. They
claim to take with them the right to condemn as a felon the man who may
utter and maintain the Declaration of Independence, or the opinions of
the conscript fathers of the Republic. They claim to take with them the
right to condemn as a felon the man who dares proclaim the precepts of
our holy religion. They claim to take with them the right to strip naked
and cut into gashes the back of the man who utters opinions that do not
exactly "square and corner" with the interests of the aristocratic

A negro population is one by no means desirable, but a free white man
could live where there are negroes, and maintain his freedom; but no
white non-slaveholder can live where slave laws, customs, and habits,
pertain, and retain the rights that belong to free men in free States.

A man may live in the swamps of the torrid zone, and escape the
crocodiles, alligators, and other slimy and creeping things, but he
cannot escape the miasma and poison of the atmosphere.

If the slaveholder is permitted to go into the Territories, and take his
slave laws, habits, and customs, the people of the free States are to a
great extent excluded therefrom, and deprived of all rights therein.

But slaveholders say they will go; they will take their slaves, and
their slave code; they will establish there such a despotism as reigns
in some of the slave States; they will poison the air that surrounds the
fertile plains of the West, until freedom shall sicken and die; and we
are constantly told, that if we do not yield to their unreasonable
demands, this Union shall be dissolved.

But these threats do not move or alarm me, and for the best of all
possible reasons; I do not believe that the gentlemen who make these
threats intend to leave their places on this floor--nor, if they should,
would the country suffer any loss. The section they represent would
still remain under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and
our glorious flag would still wave over its fertile plains and lofty
mountains, its woody dells and shelving rocks, its gurgling fountains
and rippling rills. Good, loyal, and patriotic men would come here to
fill the vacant places, ready and able to discharge their duty to the
country, and to the whole country.

Notwithstanding these threats of disunion from the Democratic party, we
hear much holy horror expressed in regard to a sectional party, and
much laudation of a national, conservative party. The nationality of the
Democratic party consists in devoting all the energies and power of the
Federal Government to advancing the interests, aims, and ends, of about
one hundred thousand men. Its conservatism consists in its avowed
determination to dissolve the Union, should a majority of our people, in
the exercise of their legal and constitutional rights, elect a President
not acceptable to that party.

There are, I presume, not more than one hundred thousand men in this
country who feel any desire to extend the boundaries of slavery, or who
would, had they the power, add one other slave State to the Union. Yet
the whole power of this Government is devoted to that one object; its
entire strength concentrated in one spasmodic effort to extend slavery.
The agricultural, the manufacturing, the great commercial interests of
this country, are entirely ignored, neglected, and forgotten, that the
interests of one hundred thousand slaveholders may be advanced. The
great pursuits by which twenty-five million people live, are not
considered worthy the attention of this Democratic party; while one
hundred thousand aristocrats require its entire services. Yet this is
the great national party! While so determined upon rule is it, that if a
majority of the people should decide against it, and discharge its
members from places of trust and honor, they threaten to destroy this
Government. Such is the conservative party commended to our most
favorable consideration.

The slavery party is constantly complaining that the free States enact
personal-liberty laws, and that they do not fulfil their constitutional
obligations. Whatever acts may be passed by our Legislatures, so that
they do not interfere with the Constitution of the United States, you
have no right to complain. But if you think that Constitution violated,
you have your remedy. Send your attorneys into the free States; commence
your suits in the Federal courts, and try the validity of our statutes.
We pledge ourselves that your agents shall be kindly treated, and shall
have a fair hearing. We will not follow your example; we will not pass
laws in plain and palpable violation of your rights, and in palpable
violation of the Constitution, and then drive out, by threats or
violence, any man who may come into the State to test the validity of
such enactments.

Before you complain of us, go home and seize and hang the pirates who
are hovering around your shores, engaged in the slave trade. You may say
a jury will not convict them. Why not? Because the community sustains
them in their unholy traffic and in their violation of the laws. But if
you really desired to punish those men, you could easily devise the ways
and means--a whipping on the bare back with a raw-hide, a coat of tar
and feathers, or some other corrective that you are in the habit of
using. I would not advise these punishments; in a free State they would
not be practicable; but in States where such things are in constant use,
it is rather surprising that some person has not thought of thus
applying them. Men who commit acts declared by the whole civilized world
to be piracy, you permit to escape, while you say you will hang the man
who circulates Helper's book. Before you complain of the free States,
arrest and punish the scoundrels who so cruelly treated the Irishman at
Columbia, South Carolina, for no offence but saying that slavery was
detrimental to free labor.

Take from place and power the men whose hands and faces are reeking and
smoking with the blood of our people in Kansas, and put them to death.
Punish the thousands of others who have committed acts of violence
against free-State men, and are yet unwhipped of justice. These things
you must do, before you complain of us. I take no pleasure in these
criminations and recriminations. I know that all the States are a part
of my country; but when I hear of the wrongs and outrages perpetrated on
men merely because they will not subscribe to the doctrines you hold,
and hear you complain of us for not doing our duty as citizens, I will
let you know that you, too, "are made of penetrable stuff." I have

    "Learned to deride your fierce decree,
    And break you on the wheel you meant for me."

I do not mean to interfere with any man's legal or constitutional
rights. The people of the slave States have the right to continue
slavery there if they desire so to do. I have no right to interfere with
it. But I intend to maintain my own rights.

To draw an impassable line around slavery, and confine it within its
present limits; an absolute abolition of the African slave trade; the
Territories to be kept free for homes for free men--these measures I
regard as absolutely essential to the perpetuation of this Government,
and to the highest development of the Anglo-Saxon race. I have
endeavored to show what slavery is, what it has done, and what it
intends to do. I have also endeavored to show what are the aims and
objects of the Republican party; and if they cannot be tolerated--if
such principles cannot be sustained by the people of any section of this
country--it is the misfortune of that people. They are the principles
that ought to be sustained by all people that are fitted for civil
liberty; they are the principles on which this Government was founded;
they were baptized in the best blood of this nation; they were cherished
by the greatest names that adorn the brightest pages of the history of
our country during its patriotic and virtuous and heroic age. They were
emblazoned on every banner that waved over our army in every
battle-field of the Revolution; during the storm and darkness, they were
the bright "signet on the bosom of the cloud," the rainbow of promise
and of hope.

 _Published by the Republican Congressional Committee.
             Price 50 cents per hundred._

Transcriber's Note:

    Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. Variant
    spellings have been retained. Significant amendments to the original
    text have been listed below:

      p. 2, 'Newbern' amended to _New Bern_;
            '... meeting in New Bern, North Carolina ...'

      p. 6, 'Scot' amended to _Scott_;
            '... in the Dred Scott case ...'

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