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Debate In Congress--french Question

Debate In Congress--french Question image
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Tho debate in our National Legislatura on tlie French qucstion has elicitec! much interest.'in consequence of the relation that has existcd betvveen the countrios during and since our revolutionary struggle ; in which Trance laid us under lasting obligations ; and for the sympathy we naturally feel for a peoplo just emerging from under the power of despotisin The resolution of congratularon upon her new position, has no doubt beon gratifying to every American citizen. But vvhen an amendment was propofed to congratúlate her upon the high stand she had taken relative to the great "cardinal Republican principie, that there should be neitlier slavery or involuntary servitude except for crime." She was taking a step far in advance o{ the position we occupy, and a proposition to noticc it so signally, called down the indignation of Southern aristocracy upon the man wbohad the gencrosity to move the amendment, and those who had the courage to sustain hitn. Mr. Ashman defends himself against the attack in a mantier that does credit to a son of New Englanc!. As we Imvo not room to give the debate in full, we shall endeavor to give a summary review, by making some few short extracts, and leave our readers to make their own inferences with regard to the position in which the slave system and its influences have placed our country. " He claimed to live under a repubHcan Government, where all were entitled to equal privileges and equal rights, and, as a mernber of this House, he claimed the right frcely to discuss anv topic that came legidmately within their action ; and the gentleman from Virginia greatly mistook his character ïf he supposed that either denunciation or coarse abuee could deter him from the exercise of his rights. He sympathized with the down-trodden humanity of France, and the expression of his sympathy was the exercise of a legitímate right, wlien such resolutions were before tliis body. Why, the resolutions of the gentleman frotn Cliio [Mr. Cummings] might be supposed to contémplate the precise object which he had in view in prepareing his amendrnent, The gentleman frotn Ohio, in his third resolution, expressed the hope that the down-trodden humanity of France might succeed in breakin" down all forms of tyranny and oj)pression ; and what was that but a prayer that sluvery shall cease 1 Did the gentleman from Ohio, or the gentleman from Virginia, or any other gentleman, say that the three hundred thousn.nd slaves that exist in the French West India islands were not down-trodden humanity 1 if'those gentlemen did deny it, he would ask their attoution to description given of it by a gentleman who now held a high position in the new Government of France. He desired them to listen to what M. Lamartine, the F.-ench Minister of Foreign Aft'airs, had said oí' it, in a well-known book which he had published. What was the House, by the proposal of these resolutinns, asked tck-do 1 To congratúlate France on the atlempt to form a republican Güvernraent. Now, wlien the charter of their new Government was stuck on the point of a bayonet, and handed about for adoption, M. de Lamartine said : "I propose to form a Government, not definitive, but provisional - a Government charge, first of all, with tbc task of stanching the blood which flows, of putting a stop to civil war - a Government which we appoint without putting aside any portion of our indignation ; and in the next place, a Government, on which we shall impose theduty ofconvoking and consulting the People in its totality - all that poseess the title of man, the rights of a citizen " Whon such was the declaration of the great popular leader, and we congratúlate the Peo pie of France on the adoption of such a Government, and while the President in bis message called that Government a Republic, wliy should not Congress say, with Lamartine, that everything which possessed the form oï humanity ought to be a citizen] The decress of the Provisional Governtncnt liad been sent to the Government of the United States, and the President had transmitted them to Congress. Among them was one which gave instant freedom to three hundred thousand downt.rodden human beings in the French colomes, Why, in congratulating France on what she had achieved, must we stint our praise so as to withold all commondaüon on this reform also 1 Why, at such a moment, when the glad of liberty to three liundred thousand low creatures are sounding to the islands of the Caribbean sea, may not one voice in this hall, dedicated to Liberty itielf, swell the shout that goes up to Heaveu in thankfullness and rejoicing 1 Mr. A said that in what he had done he had not only manifestod his own feelingaand those of his c-onstituents, but there was a gentleman ïin-h in the contidonce of the present Admiuiatration, the exponent of' ita policy and principies at the Court of St. James, who was at this moment undoubtedly fully sympatluzmg and fraternizing with Lamartine in all tnat had (neii done in France with referenco lo slavery. He was placed at the Court of the greatest power of' Europe with a fuil luiowledge of his sentiments on this suflject, because ho had solemnly and publicly avoived tliem. In 183i, Mr. Bancroft, the present minister to England, and late Secrctary of the Navy, was proposed as a candidate for Congress in the district Mr. A. represents ; and he put íorth a printed address to the people, announcing the principies whic;i would govern his action. Mr. A. wo'd read a short extract from that address to show what was then the Democratie doctrine, and that the principie üf the amendment of Mr. A. was fully accorded in by the accredited pluuipotentiary of Mr. Polk's Administrtioii : " If í'urtlior great reforms in society are expected, they must come fröra the people.- rflaves are cupital ; the slaveholder is a capitalist. Free fatoor will be the first to (iemand the abolition of slavery ; capital will be the last to concedo it. We would not interiore WÜh the domestic regulations of' New Orleans or of Algiers ; but we may demand the instant ahoi-ition i)f the slave trado in the District of Columbia, and should assist freo labor to recover its rights in the capital of the country." _ ' Hore was a declaration of principies tliat carao í'ully up to auy which Mr. A. had avowed ; and could it bo doubted that this üemocratic functionary was even now shaking hands with Lamartine, and thanking him, in the nnme of' free labor, in the name of Liberty and Democracy for this plodge to abolish olavory in the colonios. Hero was an expo6tion of the Democratie 'aith, made by a most unquestionable Democrat, who now represented this country at the jourt of London. And while it was proposed to congratúlate France on having overturïod hpr monarchical Government, Mr. A. claimed the right, which our minister is probibly exercising, to congratúlate her on having emancipated her slaves. The gentleman írom Virginia thought that VIr. A's. amendment implied an insult on all lie republican States of the South. Mr. A. aid ihat, by the Declaration of' Independence 'reedom was declared an inalienable right of man, and this was held to be an insult to the Southern States. In 1776, all the enlightened nd patriotic-representution from Virginia united in publishing to the world, as their belief md principie of action, that "all men were oreated equal, and possessed of certain inalienable rights, among which were life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Was it an insult to the slaveholding States to adopt the Declaration of Independence 1 to jass the Ordinance of 17S7 ? to pass the resolution admitting Louisiana into the Union ? or that admitting Missouri] or that admitting Texas 1 Yet in all these cases therc were restnetion on the existence of slavery wichin ■ciiain limits. Or was it an insult when the last House of Representativos, which the gentleman would claim as a Democratie Congress mserted a clause into the Constitution of' Orejon, forever prohibiting slavery in this Terri:ory, or to insert a similar restriction in Mexico in the three million bilí t The gentleman and his friends had forced the House and the country into a war which seemed likely to end in the acquisition of territory, and they would then cali upon Congress to make laws tbr t. And when that carne, he was much mistaken if they would notfind that the people of the North would take their stand to a man on that point. They had resisted the war, but the war had been forced upon them ; and when it should be attempted to forcé them to allow the existence of slavery in the new territory, and thus prepare a now accessior of slaveholding States, and slaveholding power and predominancQ, it would be resisted, and they would do all which constitutionally they could do to prevent the extensión of the institution of slavery in this Union. Mr. Bayly resumed the floor, and proceeded vfith tiis remarks. The gentleman had referred to tlie remarks of the French Minister; liad quoted from his book what he had said on the subject oí'slavery in the West India islands Now, he (Mr. B.] begged leave to say to the House, that he attached precisely the same importance to Lamarline's descriplion of slavery in the West Indies that he did to the constant descriptions of slavery in the Southern States by the gentleman and his associates on this floor. He had never livod in those colonies ; he knew nothing of their condition ; he was precisely as ignorant of it as the gentleman from Massachusetts and those who operated witli him ware of the condition of slavery in the Southern States ; and his presumptions wouid never supply the place of knowledge. He attached precisely the same importance to the opinions of Lamartine upon a subject which he did not understand, that he did to the opinions so often expressed here by a class precisely in the same category. The gentleman had expressed some surprise that the resolutions of the gentleman from Ohio contained a virtual congratulalion at this abolition movement in France. The gentleman said, when he (Mr. B.) pro nounced his amendment a libel on one-half of the States of this Union, he was virtually saying that tlie üeclaration of Indepeiulence was equally a libel. Wliat was the i-esolution of tli(! gentleman, as modified by lus fnend from Ohio [Mr Scheuck ?] It was a declaration that slavery, domestic slavery, va3 a violation of a cardinal republican principie. He said that thai declaralion wras a libel on one-half of the States of this Union, because it affirmed that those States were living in the habitual violation of a cardinal republican principie ; and he maintained it stil]. But had the gentleman's resolution any analogy to the Declaration of Independence 1 Did the Declaration of Independence speak of anything else than political riglits 1 When the Declaration of Independence declared that all men are born equal.did it mean to assert the untrulh that all men are in fact born equal in their moral and physical condition? Did it mean to say that the idiot was born equal in every respect with the man of genius? In what were they equal? Equal in stature 1 in intellect? in any gift of God ? The Declaration of Independence never meant to assert any such absuidity as that. It meant to assert that men are equal in their native political rights. That was what it declared, and that was all it declared ; and thare was no ingenuity which could torture the Decliiration of Independence into having the remotest allusion to the institulion of domestic slave-y. The gentleman from Massachusetts bad referred to (lie was sorry he [Mr. Ashmun] had rcferred to so many miscellaneous subjects in tliis connection, for it had betrayed hitn into a discursiveness of debate which he hoped he was not much accustomed to) and asked him if the Oregon bill, wilh the anti-slavery restric'ion, was a libel on the Southern Slates 1 Ele resTCÍted that the gentleman had made it necessary for liinl to refer to the circumstanees under which that anti-slavery restncuon was put in the bill. It had been in notie of the Territorial bilis that had preceded t, exccpt the Wisconsin bill, and there in so loosa and o-eneral phraseology that it had escaped the attertion of the House. Tho elïbrt hid been abandoned in the case of the Iowa bill. and had never been renewed. When the Oregon bill came into this House in 1815, reported by a. gentleman from a slave State, and from a cornmitteo the majority of wliom were from non-s!aveholding States, there was no such restrietion in it. It was placed there - and he reoretted it - on the motion of a gentleman whose elevated personal character, whose elegant accomplishments, whose urbauity, whose ability, whose statesmanship ought to have tnado him scorn to have participated in any such procoed'mgs- by the gentleman who then as now, represented the city of Boston. It was brought there against all precedent, againstall necessity - circumstances which he regretted as he regretted the source from vvhieh it came. Ii' it had como from such a source as ihis amendment, he should have oxpected nothing better; but he confessed he was disappointed mortified, to seo it come from the sourco from which it did. O?" Hon. John P. Halo will please accept ou tlmnks, in consideraron of his favour, of some valauble public documsnts, received last week.