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Speech Of Mr. Giddings Of Ohio

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[CONCLUDED.] In looking back to the darker and more barbarous ages, when war was regarded as the only honorable employment of mankind, we find that slavery existed ; and the prisoner captured in war, and held as a slave by his captor, was considcred as property. At that period, when moral darkness enshrouded the minds of tnen, and shut out from them an understanding of their natural rights, the opinión thatslaves were property was general, and no one doubted its correctness. 1 say noonc. I mean none but the learned. I except the philosophers; for Aristotle, in his day, with a mind enlighiened by reflection, although he lived in a barbarous age, long prior to the Christian Ern, denied the doctrine so zealously maintained in ibis Hall to-day by Southern gentlemen. The Immaculate Nazarene declared that one object of bis divine mission was, " to proclaim liberty to tha captive." - He, too, combated this doctrine of oppression, which, through ages and centuries of intellectual darkness, robbed a portion of our race of their inalienable rights, and which is now advocated in ibis body with more zeal than it was among the Jews eighteen hundred years since. Even at a comparatively recent period, some learned and intelligent men held to this doctrine, now so abhorrent to every IViend of freedom. As late as 1749, Lord Hardwicke, of England, held that trover lay in the English courts for a slave brought from the West Indies into England. When, in L770, Granville Sharpo pubüsbed his first essays, denying this doctrine, il was looked upon as ullraism, as opposed to the doctrine of English law, to ihe principies espressed by Lord Hardwicke, and Sharpe was regarded is a fanatrc. At that time,, no lawyer dared to rise in a British court and deny that man could hold property in man on British soil. When, in 17G9, Sommersett was brought ti before Lord Mansfield on a habeas corpus and the sole claim for his freedom was the great fundamental truth, that God had crea ted him fiee, and tliat no positive statute ex isted in England by which he could be de prived of ihat liberty which God had given him, his lordship saw the force of t his heav en-born truth ; his brilliant tnind comprehen tlcd its hearing, and the effect it must have on mankind. Still he hesitnted, remandec Sommersett, and endeavored to avoid a di reet decisión of the point by advising the par ties to compromise the matter. For mor than two years he refused to declare the o pinion of the court. At length he gave judg ment in favor of the natural and inherent righ of man tothe enjoyment of liis liberty. Speak ing of slavery, he said, " it is so odions tha nothïng but positivo law can be suffered lo sup vori it." On the 4th of July, 1776, our fathers assembled in solemo coivocalion, denied the doctrine so strenuously advocated liere today, and vvith unanimous voice proclaimed it a " self-evident truth" that " all men are born equal ; ihat ihey are endowed by their Crealor with certain inalienable rights ; ihat among those rights are lile, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Sir, no evasión, no sophism, can break the force or impair the perspicuity of this language. ít proclaimed slavery to be a Irans. gression of the laws of nature and of nature's God. These undying iruths took strong hold upon the public mind of this nation, and of civilized man. They strike aL the existence of'property in man. Wherever these truths are acknowledged, slavery itself cannot exist. Eleven years after these doctrines were recognised as the basis of American liberty and government, the present Constitution was adopted. The framers of ihat instrument had passed through a seven years' war, had encountered danger and toil, and great suffering to establish upon a permanent basis the doctrines they had proclaimed in 1776. We have now reached an important period of our history, as regards this doctrine of propertij in man. Mr. Madison, in his Papers, informs us, that on " Wednesday, August 22, llie Convention proceeded to consider the report of the Coinmittee of Detail, in relation to duties on exports, a capitalion tax, and a navigation act. The fourth section reported was as fóllows : " ' No tax or duty shall bo laid by the Legislature on anieles exponed from any State or on the migration nor iaiportaiiou of such persons as the several States shall think proper to admit ; nor shall such migralion nor importation be prohibited.' " Mr. Gerry thought we had nothing to do with the conduct of the States as to slavery, bui we onght to bc carcful nol to give awj tanction." Sir, will mernbers from Massachusetts, the auccessorsC'f Gerry, here to-day, maintain the doctrine which he laid down ? Will tiiciy refuse all sanclion of slavery, by refusing to legishle in its favor P Will they discard the proposition betore us, as an indignity to the representatives of freemen ? I trust they will. Mr. Madison informs us ihat " Mr. Sherman, (of Connecticut) was ppposed lo any tax on slaves, as making the matter worse, because it implicd they were propertij." Sir, Mr. Sherman, that patriot of distinguished ability, of the most unsullied purity, of the highest davotion to our country, would do no fict which would sanction slavery, or imply that slaves were property. Since that day, more than sixty year3 have elapsed. - Sbennan has long since been gathered to his fathors. His precepts and examples are left on record for our instruction. Liglit anc knowledge have progressed. mankind are advancing in refniernent; yet, sir, au honorable member of this Hou3e from Connecticut, a successor of her favorite and distinguishec Sherrn2n, the pre3et ehairmaii of an imporant comtnittec of this body, one who has long iervod heic, nnd who il about to be ransferred to the other end of ihe Capilol, ilenily unites in reporling to this body a bilí o tax his corulituents and the people of the Vorth to pay for the body of a iellow-man as iroperty. Sir, when thnt gentleman gets ino the Senate, he and I shall be separated rom each other. I shall be unable to follow lim there, but I would now remind him of he example of his illustrious precdecessor, nd I would ask him if he intends to oppose o-day the doctrine of Sherman in 1787. I appeal to the members from Connecticut o come forward to-day in support of the docrine which Sherman proclaimed at the adopion of the Constitution. Will they acknowledge, in direct terms, by voting (br this bill, bat slaves are property under the Federal Uonstitution ? Sherman would do no act that could imply such an acknowledgement. But et us trace the proceedings of the Convention a litile further. The discüssion, il will be obserred, turned upon the peculiar phraseology of the second )art of the report, which, in classifying slaves is merchandise, seerned to imply that they were yroerUji No one expressed a deslíe hat such an idea should be imbodied in the üonstitution ; on the contrary, there was a nanifest desiie, on the part ol the members of the Convention, to shape the phraseology as to exclude the conslruction given to it by Mr. Sherman. Mr. Madison, tseems agreed with that gentleman. He thns reports himsell": "Mr. Madison ibought it wrong to admit n the Constitutiorï thé dea that there could je property ia man. I " Colonel Masón, (in answer to Mr. erneur Morris.) Tlie provisión, as it now i stands, was necessary for the case of convicts, ] in order to prevent the introduction of them. " Still, the Convention was not satisfied, and it was finally agreed, nem. con., to have the clause read : "'But a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not excecding ten dollars for each person.' " And then the second part, as smended, was agreed to." Th'us, sir, the Convention that framed the Constitution expreased theirdenial thatslaves were property. They have left no doubt on that point ; they wou ld use no language vvhicli could leave an implication of the doctrine now contended for by Southern gentlemen. Il was discarded by the ril, but it is now urged upon us. " Mr. Madison thought it wrong to adrait in the Consiitution the idea that Uiere could be property in trien." Sir, the gentlemen frotn South Carolina, [Mr. Woodvvard,] asked with great emphasis " if any mernber of that Conveniion was so supid as to doubt the propriety of holding property in men?" I answer, James Madison, the father of the Constitution, a Southern man, and afterwards President of the United States, has left on record his denial of that doctrine. I stand here now the advocate of the principie raaintained in 1776 - maintained by the estira Convention tbat framed the C.onstilution ín L7S7, including the ïllustrious JMadison, and öherman, and Lrerry. Where are the representatives of Virginia today ? Where the successors of Washington, of Jefterson, of Henry, and of Madison ? - Sir, the representativos of that " Old Dominon," the raotlier of slatesmen and of States, now stand here as the advocates of oppression, degrudation, and abject slavery. They, sir, denying the doctrines of the Constitution - ihe doctrines of Washington and his comlatriots - insist, that one portion of mankind Tiay own the otlier as property. Ah! sir, Virginia has fallen ; " the fine gold has become dim." Her sons no longer lead the ïosts of freedom ; they have become hostile to the sentiments of their faihers ; her people ireed tnen, like oxen, for the shambles ; drive women to market, and traflïc in babes and children ; moral darkness broods over ler, and physical desolaiion reigns throughout her dominion. Sir, these arguments can have little effect upon Soulhern men. They cannot and will not take any definite posilion on this subject. To-day, they will insist that slaves are not persons, but properly. To-morroiv, should a different question come before us, they will insist that slaves are not property, but persons. [ have for ten years been striving to find out vvhat definite principies Southern men hold on this subject, but I find that they refuse to adhere to any principie whatever. They are someiimes one way and sometimes the other. " Everything by turns, and iiothing long," as the saying is. And now, sir, as an illuslration of what I have stated, I venture to proclain) ihat not a member soul!) of Mason and Dixon's line dare rise in bis place and say that he adopts the doctrine, either tliat slaves are persons or that they are property. Il' such a member be present, I challenge him to rise in his place and say which side of this queötiou he will espouse and adhere to ; and I now offer for that purpose to yicld the floor. fMr. Giddinffs paused.l Mr. Woodward, of South Carolina, rose and stated, in substance, tliat slaves were regarded as both persons and property. Mr. Giddings. Yes, they are a sort of arnphibious animal - neither one nor the olher, butcoinposedof both. They are partij persons and parlly things ; part human and part inanimaie. Well, sir, this I cal! " sitting on the fencc." I was aware that gentlemen could not be provoked to take any fixed position in regard to slavery. The trutli is, slavery itself is an anomaly. It is opposed to all moral principie, as well as to natural rights, and can be reconciled to no rulo of propriely. - But to return to the Constitution. In every instance in which reference to slaves is made in the Constitution, they are termed -persons. Thus, in fixing the ratio of represontation, it provides that " the nnmber of free persons, including thoss bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths oí all other persons" It is clear that the framers not only regarded slaves as persons, but they wure spoken of as othcr persons, thus placing them upon same general basis as freemen. In the ninth section of the first article, the Constitution provides, that " themigrationor importation ofsuchper?9fl-s as any of the States shall (hink proper to dmit, shall not be prohibited until ihe year 1808," &c. Here, again, the languags is curefully used lo distinguís!) slaves from iroperty. Again, in the second section oí lie ihird anide, the Constitution provides : ' No pcrson held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, and escaping nto another, shall, by any law or regulation hereof, be discharged fiom such service or abor." Thus, in every instance in which the Constitution refers to slaves, the are designaed as persons, contradistinguishing them (rom iroperty. We are not only informed that the romers regarded it as wrong to admit in the Constitution " that there could be property n man," but they carefully employed such anguage, in framing that instrument, as to reclude such a presumption. So clear have hey left this subject, that no man who examines it can have doubts. Nor s the subect left at this point. The construction of he Constituiion belongs to the judicial jianch of the Government. In the case of Groves vs. Slaughter and oihers, (15 Peters's Reports, 449,) this question came distinctly before the Supreme Couit of the United States. The constitution of Mississippi had prohibited the introduction of slaves into that State after a certain day. Slaves were taken there and sold on a credit, after the time allowed by the constitution of that State, Suit was commenced on the nole given in consideration of the slaves. The defence set up, that the contract was illegal and oíd under the conslhution of that State, ■vhicli prohibited the sale therein of slaves ( 'rom without the State. The reply to this ( vas, that slaves were property, and therefore ( :he State of Mississippi had no power to j bibit their introduction into the State, as the s poer to regúlate commerce between the ( States belonged only to Congress. In ] ding the law, Judge McLean said : 1 " By the laws of certain States, slaves are tréated as property ; and the constitution of Mississippi prohibits their being brougtn inlo that State by citizens of other States for sale or as merchandise. Merchandise is a comprehensive term, and may include every ' ticle of traffic, whether foreign or domeslic, which is properly embraced by a commercial ' rugulation. But if slaves are considered in some of the States as merchandise, that cannot divest them of the leading and controlling quality of persons, by which they are designated in the Constitution. The character of property is given them by the local law. - This law is respected, and all rights under it are protected by the Federal authorities ; but the Constitution acts upon slaves as persons, and not as property." If slaves be property, elave markets may be opened in Boston, and Massachusetts will have no power to prohibit these revolting scènes which are witnessed in this city. If the doctrine contended for by Southern men be correct, no State can exelude slave markets ïrom ita territory, or consécrate its soil to freedom. It well lieeomes Southern gentlemen to examine this subject before they base theinselves upon the principie that slaves are property. Let that be established, and Congress will have power to prohibit the internal slave trade at its pleasure. We may then take slaves from iheir maslers, as we do other property. Gentlemen from the slave States, being accustomed to regard slaves as property, under their State laws, draw no distinction between the laws of the slave States and those of the Federal Government. Persons educated in the slave States, coming into the office of President, or inlo either of the Executive Departments, or into either House of Congress, are likely to bring with them the views imbibed in such States. Thus we find that in some instances the President of the United States and other officers of the Government have at times, without examination, regarded slaves as property; and, in some instances, have paid the public funds for such slaves, not only without authority of law, but in opposition to the spirit and letter of the Federal Compact. The same officers, after having their attention called particularly to the subject, have seen their error, changed their practice, and refused to regard slaves as property. So, also, in some of our treaties, slaves are referred to in connection with other property. Such language is used in the treaty of Ghent, to which I called the attention of this committee in the early part of my remarks. - But in these cases the languagn was employed without reference to the relation which slavery holds to the Federal Constitution, as coiilradistinguished from the churacter it possesses under the government of the States in which it exists. But if we examine ihe subject a littie more closely, we shall find that slaves are not regarded merely as property in any part of the country. In every State of the Union they are punishable for crime, under the State laws. Such is not tlie case witli any species of property. Murder may be committed upon slaves in any Siate, and the murderer lianged therefor. But no such punishment applies to the killing of any other species of pioperty. Slaves in such States are, however, for certain purposes, under their laws. regarded as a " jtcculiar kind of proper ty.'" - But the laws of those States are locaï, and have no bearing upon the relations which the Federal Government holds to the institution. Slavery is the creature of municipal law, and can extend no further than such muniepal enactment has forcé. It is, therefore, slrictly confined to the jurisdiction creating it. So s'rictly is ibis rule of law observed by courts ol justice, that if a slave escapo from his master on to free soil, but for a moment, he becomes free forever. Tlius, in the case of Forbes vs. Cochran et al., (vide 2 Barnwell &Creswull. 44S,) Bayley, justice, remarked, " Siavery is a local law, and therefore, if a man wish to preservé his slavo3, let him attach tliem to him by afFection, or make fast the bars of their prison, or livet well their chains ; for the instant they get beyond the limits where slayery is recognised by the local laws, they have broken their chain3, they have escaped from prison, they are free." - The same principies were decidcd ïn thö case of Sommerselt, (see volume 20, State Trials) and are reconised by the courts of the ted States, and by those of nearly all the several States of thia Union. Property may be taken by the owner from one State to another; but if a man voluntarily take his slave or send him to a free State, the moment he enters such State, he becomes a freeman. From that moment the ma3ter's power over him ceases, and he can no more be enslaved. - The property in such oase is instantaneously transformed into a pcrson. But to examine this queslion a litlle further. Suppose the alavés of South Carolina, or of all the slaves States, should rise in the plenitude of their power, assert their own riglits, and enslave the whites, they would then become the oters, and their present masters would be tratnformed into property, according to this siaveholding logic. But I find I have no time to pursue this part of the subjec further. The gentleman from Mississippi [Mr. Chapman] has cited a case where the tvventyeighth Congress passed a law directing payment to be made to Depeyster and another for a slave lost in the Florida war. This rase is cited as a precedent to show that we have recognised slaves as property. I myself advocate the observance of precedent as strongly as any member of this House. I would deal out equal jusiice to all who apply for it. It is, therefore, proper that we should look to the former practice of this body in relation to the question. After the close of the late war with Engand, in the year 1816, a law was passed alowing compensation to the owners of prop;rty lost or destroyed in the public service ' Juring the existence of hostilities. Pending . :he bill, ai amendment wasofFered, providing Tor the payment of slaves lost in the public service. After discussion, the amendment ivas rejected in Committee of the Whole, only thirty rising in its favor. Yes, sir ; al that lime, only thirty members of this House regarded slaves as propeity. Many petitions were subsequently presented, calling on Congress to pay for slaves killed in the public service, but no committee could be found to report id favor ofsucJi a claim. Ir. 1828-'29, the case of D'Autueire came befoie the committee of Claims. - The petitioner owned a slave, a horse, and a cart. On the day of the batlle at New Orleans, they were pressed into public service. Th? Slave and horse were killed, and the cart destroyed, bythe cannon-shot by die enemy. The owner then appüed to Congress for compensation. The comtniltee reported in favor of paying for the horse and cart, but agninst paying for the slave. When the bill came up in the House an amendment was offered, giving compensation for the slave. Thesubwas debated for weeks. Those who opposed the amen ment, based their objection upon the distinct principie that slaves were not propeity. And the bill was finally laid upon the table by a large majority. At a more recent period, in 1832, Francis Larche, of New Orleans, presented a claim precisely similar to that just quoted, and it was referred to the Cominitlee of claims. - The committee, in reporting upon the case, say they "had caused examination to be made at the Treasury Department, to see if slaves who had been killed in public service during the revolutionary War had been paid for ; and they learned that no such instance could be found." They also cite many cases to which compensation had been refused. These cases were of the character to obtain the most favorable consideration ; but no committee could in that day be found willing lo admit the moral and constitutional absurdity, that under our Federal compact, slaves could be regarded as property. Yet, sir, they had not the advantages which we possess. "The Madison Papers," setting forth the views of those who frained the Constitution, were not then published ; nor had the subject at that time been adjudicated in the supreme Court. I wish the ear of every member of this body, when Iassure them and the country that, IV om 17S9 down to 1.842, the committee of this body uniformly rejected all claims for slaves lost in the public service, regarding them as persons, and not as property. In the 27th Congress, the claim of James W atson for slaves was committed to the Committee of claims, of which I was myself an humble memLer. The friends of the claim, by sorae means, learned that that committee had always reported against the payment for slaves. They therefore obtained the transfer of that case to the committee on Indian Affairs, who reported a bill to pay for the slaves clamed byjWntson.Thatreport,madesix years since, was thefirstin favorof paying for slaves as property, so far as my knowledge extends, ever made to this body, under our present Constitution, or prior to its adoption. During that Congress, one other of the like character was made by the Committee on Territories. The bill last mentioned was rejected on a cal! of the yeasand naya, after full diacussion, only thirty-six votes being given in its favor. No final vote was ever taken on any other case of the kind, exeept on one referred to by the gentleman from Maryland, [Mr. Chapman,] which passed ihe 2Stli Congress. I was myselfawure of the nature of that bill, and so was the late venerable meniber from Massachusetts, [.Mr. Adam?.] now deceased. We both intendöd to have made known to the House ts charac'.er ; but i was called away on one of those days when private bilis vvere under considerador), and Mr. Adam's attention was diverted from it by some means, and the bill passed the House sub silento, no one objecting to t ; and I presume no: a member of the body present who understood both tho character of the bill and the practice of the House on snch claims, was conscious of its patsage. If sucli members were here, they suffered it to pass without calling the attention of the House to it. - Being as it were, itiaa smuggled through this bodjr, il c;iii have no foroe as a precedent. - The whole practiceof Congress, when acting understandingly, frwm the adoption of the Constiïutioii to this dny, bas been a deinal of the doctrine that slaves are property under our Federal Constitution. The decisionsofour courts are to the same effect. - The Constitution itscll', in every instance in wliich it refers to thcm, dcnominates Aera persons, and not properly. The Declaralion of Independence declares them to have been created equol with oursdves. The sentiment of the eivilized world recognizes them as men is brethren. Yet we aro called on to disregard all ihese considerations, and to enter upon an inquiry of the title by which one man holds anotheras property, and determine the value ofchattelized humanity. Northern members now see the respectful petilions of tens of thousands of iheir own constituents, praying to be released from the support ol slavery, disregarded and treated with silent contempt. They are sent to our committees ; there they remain forever. From Ihat bourne " no traveller returns." The vo'ce of humanity is there silenced ; and those pciilions, at the bidding of the slave power, sleep the sleep of death. No effort of ours, no artífice of legislation which we can exert, can get the subject before the House. No exhibilion of the crimes, the appalling guilt of the slave trade carried on in this city before our eyes and before the nation, can provoke these committees to permit this body to pass judgment either for oragainst the prayers ol hundreds of thousands of Northern loveis of free(Jom ; bul a single slaveholder sends his petition hete, praying us lo involve our people in the burden of slavery in Maryland ; to take the fuóda of Northern philanthropists to pay for human flesh ; and your committees - even Northern men on those commitlees - unite in favor of the measure ; and tliis wholc body is at once engaged upon a bilí to involve our people still more in the expense and in the crime of supporting that institiition, not merely in this District, but in Maryland. Will Northern Whigs, will Northern Democrats, meekly bovv to such dictation ? Will we continue to do the bidding of Southern masters and, in our official character, enter upon this proposed slave trade? No ; self-respect lorbids it. Northern sentiment forbids it. The Conslitulion, our oath of office, the nge in wbich we live, the opinions of civilized men, the laws of nature, and the voice of God, forbid tliat we should prostitute the dignity of our station thus to uphold oppression and encourage crime.