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Speech Of Mr. Giddings, Of Ohio: In House Of Representatives...

Speech Of Mr. Giddings, Of Ohio: In House Of Representatives... image Speech Of Mr. Giddings, Of Ohio: In House Of Representatives... image
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Mr. Giddings snid that i gentleman not now in his seat (the Hon. Win. li. Calhoun.of j Massachusetts) had intondfd to presen', eome objections to the bilí now before the House. As tlmt gentleman (said he) is absent, I fee! ít my duty to state such ohjectoii9 as exist in my own mind. In order to be unders-tood, I will bnefly relate some historien I faets that have a bearing on the subject. As early as 1811 Congress, by secret resolution, auíhorised the President to take possession of the Floridas "in rase an arrangement conld be made witli the local aulhorities oflhó provínoos for delivering possession of the same, or any part thereof, to the United States."- By virlue of this act Gen. Matthews invaded Last Florida in the year 1812. While there, the men under his command committed al! thoee depredations which too conimonly altend the march of an invading arrny. Théy were not restrained by the laws of the Territory nor by hise of necessity. They property which we never fnrnish for our troops, and for which, when taken from our citizens by our officers or soldiers, we grant no compensation . ! Nor did they stop here. They went further, j and inlerfered with Uw personal relations of i the people and brought away their slaves. What disposition was made of the slaves does not appear . I fear they were not restored to liberty. They were probably held in servitude by their captor?, and they, or their descendants are most likely in bondage in thnt Territorv or some neighboring State, f n 1814 General Jackson invtfded the Territory of West da, and similar depredations were commiUcd Í by the troops under his command. In I81C he ngain invaded East Florido, when like depredations were committed.j .In 1819 the United State,-, by her then Sec i retary chístate, John Quincy Adums, enterec! into a treaty uith his Catholic Alajosty, nctin"by his Minister Plenipotentiary, Do'n Ohis, by wliich Florida was ceded to the United States. The last clause of the ninth article of the treaty is as folio ws: "The United States wil! cnuse eatisfaction to be mnde for the injuries, if any, which by process of law sl.nll be establÍ9ned to have boen swfiered by the Spanish officers, and the individual Spanish inhabitante, by the late operationsof the American anny in Florida." In !823Congress passeda law lo carry into effect this clause of the treaty. At this time all departmentB of the Government nppear to have concurred in tJieir construction of this provisión of the treaty. They Jimited it to the oppratioos of the American army in 1318 under General Jackson, as its terrns plainly import. But I understand that all payment for slaves, killed or stolen either by ti e army or by the fóllowérs of Genernl Jackeon's camp, was refused By the Treasury Department.- The people of Florida, however, were not satisfied with this ümitation, particulnrly those who had suffered tinder the invasión by Gen. Matlhews. Tliey applied for indernni'ty also under the law, and tiioir claims were rejected. They Ihen applied for the purpose of exlending ! indemnity to those who suffered loses bv the operations of the army under Gen. Matthews in 1C12 and in 1813.This was nn act eniirely graluitous. The Jfisscs occasioned by the army under General Matthews hnd not been embraced in the trea ty, and Congresd went altogelher bcyoml our stipulations witfi Spain in passing the law of I 1814. Under this law, as well as tliat of 1323, all kinds of property vvere paid for, luit no ?aymenls were inado, as I onderstand, for persons who had been either killed or stolen up to the year 1833, when the Secretary of theTreasury found ñimself so strongly beset by elaveholders, who cluimed to have lost sla ves during the cumpnigns n East Florida under General Matthews and General Jackson, that hereferred the subject to the i hen Attorney General, Félix Giundy, who 6eems to have arrived at the vcry satisfactory conclusión that men wero property, (vide opinions of the Attorney General, vol. vi. Ex. doe. 2nd session, 26th Congress.) He seems not o:ily to have considered men as property, but he nppea's to have supposed that steajing thetn constituted ji part o!' the operations of our armies in Florida. This lenrned opinión was deemcd satisfactory, and thedoorsof our Trearnry were thrown open to the slaveholderp, and the money acquirèi) by the toil of Nonhern freemen was htnded over in payment for the bones and sinews of their fellow men Tliis, eir, is the history, and we nre now n6ked to takc another step, and pay for the losses sustnined in West Fjorida by reason of' invasión of General Jackson in 1814. We are, by this bill, not only asked to pay lor all properly used, taken, and destroyed by his army, and by the followers of his entnp, but we are asked to pay for the slaves killed imdJen by his army, and those who followed it. The House j!l bear in mind that the Government holds tself responsible only for the authorised acts of its aents. The commander of an nrmy may mpress provisions for its support, f tliey are not furnished by the Government; or he may i mpress teams lo transport hisboggapeañdnrms whcn they are not otherwise provided. Bul he cannot go brvond thaf, and take propcrty uot allowed to an árrav by the hws of the country. If he tnke my fnmily picturep, or any oihér article which we do not ordinarily provide for our armies, it is a tresspass, for which he alone is Hable. As before remarked, I understand thnt property of every deteription was pair] for under these acts or Congreso, whether it was tnketi by order of the conimnndinrr officer or by the followers of the camp, or whether it was property ordinarily allotved 10 an arn.y, or such anieles as wc never fumish to our troops. Thispractice of the Government wiih our own citizens is the same as in private lifc- If our ao-ent keep within the bouuds of his authority, we hold ourselves responsible for the acls; if he transcetid bis authorily we are not bound. Now, if the House deeire to go íurther than wc have bcci accustoined to gowith our own citizens, and grnnt lo the people of Florida iiidemnitv for all acts cununiïled by our army, or by those wlio followed the camp of General Jackson, upon property w nch they were authorued lo lake, or upon they had no auihority to take, I shall not object. It is to that feature in the bill which f-ecks to grant to the people of West t lon.Ia ïndemnity for the xlaves stolen by the army and by the fbllower of the nrniv under üeneral Jackson in I814 to which I object - i oppose this provisión oí' the bill for ihe reason thnt it seeks to oveiturn the entire pracUcc of Condesa since ilie adoption of the Ocnstitution; and, in my opinión, 3 3 i ble violation of the cönstitutional rights of the ! peoploof the frec Slalea. It is, therefore, an ' unyieldmg sense of duty that constrains u.e to oppose the passage of this bill - n bill which ! s to take from the pockets of my constituentsand the people ofthe free S'tate.? their money and apply it in payment ïbr human ! Jtesli. i do it from no wish to s'ir up strifo ! by agifatiög tvhat isjrenerally cilled "the delicate queslton," hut I do il n defence of th constitutional rights of the people of the free btates. I deern the subject of paramount importance to the nation, and particularl y to those Stnlcs. I have hnd no acrency in bringinp forward this bill. That has been done by others. lis oassnpre is urged upon ns; and we must silently pennit it to beeoine a law, nr we must arrnv ourselves in opposition to its furtlier prÖgreK Gentlemen from ihc free Siales must selpct the position which they desire to occupv.- They must, by tbir vote?, nid in takingr money rrom the pockets of their constituents and handinfr it over to those who claim the bodies, the flesh and blood of their fellow men as properti, or they must stand forlh in defence of the interests and the honor ofthe Northern States, and of the Federal Constituí ion. I will remark furt hor, thnt the qiiestions ofthe consUtutionnl rights ofthe people of the eeveral States in regard to slavery are pressinoupon us from so mony directions thnt thefr oiïciission cannot miichlonger oe delayed. The nuinberof bilis now upon our cálendcr which invohc those qnes'ionsforbidsall hope of the ngitation of this matter. Again. if we look for a moment to the various parts ofthe Union, and mark the lho.i exists both at the North and at the Soutli, the intonsity of which is incrensing daily, from conflicting interest and collwionn of siippjise'd rights, wc must conclude that every dictate of patriot ïbm impels us to the speedy ad)ustment of these difficuhies. This feeling is constantly gathering strength throusrdout our country and every delny wil] add to its alreadv accu" miilnted force, and will increase theditíiculties of allaying it. I therefore deern the present time the most favorable for adjusting those difficulties, from which we have so long shrunk with a tremulous delicacy. Jf, howcver, we hnve not the moral courage to meet those important qtiestions in this Hall, ond to decide upon theiT} as statesmen and patriots, it reqiiires no inspiration to foresee that ihe People will assume to themselves the responsibility ! which they have assigned to us. J shall no't presume lo prediet the manner of the adjudicaiion, nor when that event shall take , place.tur, if we pass this bil!, sha]] wo not acid to the feelings of the Nortli, which have ajready renched a pomt whore they cannot be trifl.d with? I ask gentlemen of 'the Nor:h whe:her i they nre prej-ared to take the money of thoir constitnrrns and pay for sfavcs killed by Jw ■ army of General J.ickson, or stolen by the fol lowrrs of bis camp? Are geni lomen of oit her poütical party from the free States pronnred to thrust iheir hands info the pocket;; of 'their constituents for money to hand over toihe slavehoiders of Florida as a compensation for slaves? If, sir, we are prepare:! to do this, let us do it openly and fearlessly; let us place ourseJves before the world in" (hat altitnde; et there be no dodging or skiJking; let ns say by oiir acts that we think our constituents wíl] submit to it, thnt thev liave not the spirit to resist, nor the independence to oppbée such violation of their ritrhts; let this he made the snw, and the ret--ilt will not be doubtfnl. In al! sincerity 1 ask Southern gentlemen if they bclieve we enn cornpel tho sturdy sons of lilierty at the North, whose fathers'and brothers feil in the late war, and who were thrown penny less upon the world to contrihute a portion of their properrv, acquired by toil, to pay the slnveholdera of Florida for negroes entice'd away by the followers of General Jack?o;vs camp? If we pass this bill in its present form] adopt a new principie into our legislaron - one that has not heretofore been known in an American Con;rr!ss - one that, up to this day, has been denied fcTrepudiated by thiá House. I trust that gentlemen wil) notice this important facf, and that they will be prepared to say by their vote upon the passage of this bill whether they are willing to oveTturn the principies which hnve guided ourjiationnl legiyhtion for more than half a centtirv. I nm not prepared to into a minute examination j of ali claims for sla ves f hnt have been I ted to Congress since the ndoption of our C( n stitution. The Jeading cases were ablynmined bv my hijrhly respected predecesor the Ifon. E. Whittlesey, in n report which he, as chairman nf the Committee on Claim?, made to tbis House n irt.-JO, (vide 3d vol. Reporte, lst Session 21st Congres, No. 401.) I will send tlis report to the Clerk's tiible, wit ha rpqncst thntjlé reíd it (o the Itouse. [The Clerk hero read the report óf the Committee of Claims, ninrie pon tlie memoriai of Frnncis Lnrch. VVhen the réading was close,Mr. Giddinjra resnmed.J Tliecnse presenfed by this report is one of tl)9 very strongest chnrncter. I'Viincis Lnrch owned a slave, which Iip hrld ns property urxlor t lie lavvs ot Loüisinna. This clave, while driving a horse and cart belonin? to his mnster. was, on the day of the bnitle of New ()rleans, impressed with the hore and cnrt intn the public Fervire by orrler of the cotrunaod(Jinpr officer. Diirinp the baltle the slave and horse were killed and the cart destroyed by rannon shot. Mr. Lvch applied to Cinrress for compensnUon. The Committee of Claim?, composed of members both from tlie slave and free S'ates, reported 'm favor of pnyingf for the horse and cart, and aiainst anv compensnlion for the tlave. They cnme ti this conclusión nfter fiom'ihe I ter of ihe Treasnry Ihat sl.-ives fiad nevcr beer j paid for by the i'cdcral Guvcruinciit duting jof the lioiito upoi) thisniiPf ""wn j l..d come befnre then 1 JT" tico of gentlemen J.eact o t oí' "' Ifilff.whrnannitompt we mide fo 'n" mdemimy for slaves killed a ihe nublase" vice J bia atteropt was opposed by severa! bo,ul,ermombere, BIIIonsr „hrmMr McCoy.otVuowK,; a)daucll , f of reasoning brotigl.t to bear ainst tllt. plicatjpn Lat only fortymembers voted for Í W h.ttlesoy,tl 1 1 u„ o the year líjjo n tmvmenc W ;v s k,hM in the pub'ic scrvi cor o he rZl Dy Loiiijrea. I hnvc carefuÜy c.vainined thp proceedmn of this body sino,, the c e of this report a„d so havo „tlnen, bnt we arknowlediicd any obliga pn reinupo the United States o pay for ,!.hvo.. ol tbo con? trary, the records of rlie Commitlee of Claims show cqnclüaivejy tfmf, „p to the CongresP, tliat eoiUDiftlee froni 179 I (the dato of its carhest record,) Ji-is rejected everycJaiiM pre?ented to them for compensaiion on accoÉB ofslaveslost.n the pubï.c service, wh,tíf uey had been impre.ed i„t0 the service or md entered t by con.cnt of their .„sters. I hereforesay without hn.i.alion, that, frora he mee .ncr of the rtrst Ccra in 1739 ,m to this ( ay. the prbcticë of Qongress on tl L subject been „n.tbrro. All appii4ion8 n! tfemmty forïbp loss of sla ves' have. been rejocted, u-.thont exceptión: and I appeal to gom ornen to maintaji, iIlvio];ite this uSaLro! wi.irh by universal consent bas now beconiê !aw wal, us. Lay not vihlent hand-s „pon a role thus sanctioned by the wisdom of our preeïecessors for more than fifty yenre The report whicli has been r'ead gbedca of it ns a delicate questiob'! and of ni,]ne to thccxcit.ementalreudy e.xistino-." The com mitte, like other members, wore in the hnbit o, npproacluncr this subjpct with a kind of horror whicli their imnffinations secm to have ihrown around it. They appear to have been iimv.hnsr to examine m. detail the principies onwliichtliey Baped their report; but the precedents wéro establishod by those Whó as1sis!ed in framinjr the Constifution. Their have been npproved nnd followed dou-n to tbis day. and h my opinión shouW not n,w be departed frotn. Thóse eages and pntnots who f ra mecí the consiilüiipn muit have nnderstood their oiv,i „tenüons in fmmmg it; and, bein? goided by the most puro luve of country, wh.Ie subsoq.ienlly 1 this Hall, Uieip decisio,, on this point are cerlamly entitled to great weight. Bnt, overwhclmins s the buthority ofthese pecedentfiP, and condusive as the former practice oí this House would secm to be, there are other and fur strong-er nrgumèofs to be drawf) from the constitution ifseif. But, before entering upon this pari of the argument; I propose lo examine briefly the rnnxim which prevails eo generalJy in the slave States that "slovcsareproperUj.' This sayinrr js ffequently made by gentlemen from the South, nnd is somefimes repeated hy those -of the North. The Constitiition of Ohio declarea íhal "man is created f ree, and is endmoed bu h í Cantor with a righl l; the nninlerruptd ywment of Ufe, Uberly, and the pursuil oí uoppiness.'' JJ lus Constitution my eolleagnes and mvi self havc ofien svvorn tó support. How, f hen we con cali man proprrt,: nd eay thnt as such he belongg to Ji:a fellow man, a matter u Inch I cannot readilv compreliend. But t is jwiid that Kentuckv, Jnd alt tho ot.her slave Mates-, bytlioirlovvs have dedared n portion ot thoir peoplc t be tho property of tlie othra. Hero is tho conflict betweèn ihe Jaws of Kentucky nnd OJiio. They are at' voriance vith each othtT, and cannot be rcconcüer!. Yct, í-ir, as 1 prjfer the doctrine of our Constitntion, I imy enjoy the blessinirs of übertv while I remain i: that State. ]f I piefer th'n slavery of Kentncky, 1 muy nro lothat State & participnte in its privileges and livn und-T her laws. While, ihcn, tho peppja of Ohio canno!; demand of me the adoption of thcir politicm! füith. thnt man is endqwed by his Croatorwit!i Iherigbtto enjoy his life and his liberty, neilher can the penpln of Kentucky forcé iipon me, while a oitizen of Oho,the doctrine tlmt man can hokl property n vían Theso laws ofKentqcky are' 'm 'forcé within lier territory, but not m' Oliio. The laws of ühin are in forcé within that State, but hnvo no validity in Kentncky, Bit it is said that we are bound to consider plaves a property bpcaupe lilis law oftlieslave States has decía red them snch. If that be the case, then are the peopleoftlie slave States bound to consider man ƒ, becansé tlie pammonnt law of Ohio hns dcclared hint so. Sir, our law ík as binding upon the pcople Kentucky as the Inws State are upon the people of Ohio. We acknowledrre no superionty in our sister State, nor do we claim any f'or ourown. We stand upon the pame Ieví?í, éñjoyingI íjuül rightN. nnn mnintnii)ii)r nn equai inaepen. (íeiice. Ifslie can dcmnud of lis a portion of onr substanro to pny íier peopjo for the loss of slaven, mav we not dominfl of her ciüzens n porfioii of ihvir wcal'h to compénsate our poople f'ir (lie loss of onr .ons. onr brotbers, onrhii.-bnníl.s, nni) fathers, killed in tlelending cr citizens, (perlinps lier slnves) npainst a fo'eí!ii pnc:ny? ís tlio slavo more valuablo than (i frcenmn? Or is tlie loss of n slavo of more ítnportiuice 10 tlio coúntry than thnt of'n frecman? IIus tlio nalion a (peper interest rn n o. Iives of slures than it has in tliose of frepmi'ri? Thnt (liíTorence in ihe laws of tho severnl Statos existed at the fornintion of. the Cojstitulinn. liad l lie frnmersi ot' i lint ia.trument nfended to overlurn th( doctrine of the frec Stnte.s and ol' tlio crvilized wurld in this respect thcy wonld Imvn lecn likfly to leave snnio ovidences of thnt fnct in the Constitutinn tself, orín tlio debates ófthe Cunvention that frrunodit. The distinetion cannot do obliterntedbymnnl "Tíic human form divine" is diatinct fronri nll otlior earthly beinge and tliiiiírs. This dislinction was sanclioned and estiibüslied wlien the voioe of the Almighty proclninifid toman. "ÏJiwe dominion oi'cr thc fish of Ihe sea and over the Jovh of ike air. md ov r tlif ailllt; and over alt thc atrlh, and over (■■) crrrping thing that crcepetk vpon Ihe earth!" 'Tin,' buysíáir Williitui Blacks'.onc, "an


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