Press enter after choosing selection

Speech Of Mr. Calhoun: In The Senate, February 18, 1847

Speech Of Mr. Calhoun: In The Senate, February 18, 1847 image
Parent Issue
Public Domain
OCR Text

Mr. Calhoun he re rose and said : - Mr. President, 1 rise to ofier a set of resolutions in reference to the vorious resolutions from the State legislatures upon the subject of what thcy cali the extensión of slavery and the proviso attached tothe Houe b:ll, calLed the three million bill. Wlint I propose before I send my resolution tothe table, is to make a few explanatory remarles.Mr. President, it was aolemnly nsserted on ttiis floor some time ago, that all parties in the non-slaveholding States liad come to a fixed andsolemn determinalion upon two propositions. One wns, that thcre should ba no further admission of any State into the Union which permitied by tlieirconstiíution the existence of slnvery ; and the other wns, that slnvery shall not hereafter exist in any of the Territoriesofthe United States; the effect of which would be to the non-slaveholding States the monopoly of the public domain, to the enlire exclusión of the slaveholding S;ates. Since that declaration was made, Mr. President, we haVeabundant proof that there was a satisfnctory foundation far it. We nave recfived already solemn resol utions possed by seven of the non-slnveh'dding States - one halfof the number already in the Uniun, Iowa not bcing countej - using tho s:rongest posible language to that eflect ; and no doubt in a short space of time similar resolulions will be received trom a!l the nonslaveholding States. But we v.eod not go beyond the wal!s of Congres?. The subject has been agitated in thcother House, nnó ihoy have sent you up a bilí " prohibiting the extensión of slavery " (using the;r ow-n language) " to nny torritory whidi mny be acquired by the United States herenftc'-." At the same time, Iwo resolutions which hae been moved to extend the compromise line from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, during the present sppsion, have been rejected by a decided majority.Sir, there is no mistnking the signs of he times ; nnd it is high time that the Southern Stntcs, the slaveholding States, should inquire what is now their relative strer:gth in this Union, and what it will be if this determination should be cnrried into effect hereafter. Sir, already we nre in a minority - I use the word u we " for brevity snke - nlready we nre in a minority ín the House, in the electoral college,and, I mny say, in every department of this government, except at preent in the Sena! e of the United States- there for the present we havo an equnlity. Of the twenty-eight States, fourteen are nonslnveholding, fourteen are slaveholding. counting Delnwnre, which isdoubtful as one of the non-slaveholding States. But thisequaliiy of sirength exists only in the Senate, One of the cierta at my requesl has furnished me wiih a statpmeiit ofwhnt is the relat ive strength of fhe two descriptions of States, in the Housps of Congress, and in the electoral college. There are 228 representatives, ini-luding lowa, which is already represented there. Of these, 138 arefrom the nonslaveholding State., and 91) are from what are caüed the slave Stalen, giving a mnjority in ihe oggrognte to the former of 48. - In the electornl college there are 168 votes belonging to the non-slaveholding States, ai.d 118 to the slaveholding, giving a mnjority of 50 to the non-slaveholding.We, Mr. President, havo at present only one positionin the government, by which we may make any resistance to this aggressive policy which hns been de' elared against the south, orany other that the non-slaveholding Staies may choose to tnke And this equality in this body is of the most transient chnracter. Alrcndy Jown is fi Stnte ; but, owing to somfrdomestic cnlamity, is not yetrcpresented in this body. Whpn she appears here, there will an addition of two senators to the representativea hore of the Tion-areholding State. Alreadyconsin has pased the nitiatory stage, and will be here at the next session. This wijl add two more. making aclear majoriiyoffour in this body on the side of the non-slaveholding States, who will thus be enabled to sway every branch of this government at their will and plensure. - Buf, sir, if this aggrpssive policy be followed - if the determinntion of the nonslaveholding States is to be adbered to hereafier, and we are to be entirely excluded from the territories which we already posess, or mny possess - if this is to be the fixed policy of the government, I ask what will be our situation hereafier. Sir, there is amp'e space for 12 or 15 of the largest description of states in the territories belonging to the United States. Already a law is in course of passing though the other House creating one north of Wiscunsin. There is ampie room for another north of Iowa ; and anDther north of that ; and then that large rpgion extendingon this side of the Rocky Mountains, from 49 degrees, down to the Texan line, which may be set down fair[y as an area of twelve and a half degrees intitude - that extended región of itself is susceptible of making six, seven or eight large States. To this, add Oregon, which extends 49 to 52 degrees, whichwill give four more, and I make a very moderate calculatiun when I say that, in additionto Iowa and VVisconsin, twelve more States upon the territory already ours - without reference to any acquisitions from Mexico - mny be, and will be, shorily added to these United States. - How will we tlien stand ? There will be hut fourteenon the part of the sonth - we are to be fi.xed, limited and forever - and twenty-eight on the part of the nonslaveholding Slates ! Twenty-eight ! - Doublé our numborl And with the snme disproportion in the ether House and in the electoral college ! The governrnent, sir, will be entirely in the hands of the non-slaveholding Siates - overwhemlingly.Sir, if thïs state of things is to go on - if this delermination, so solemnly mnde. is to be persisted in, where shall we stand, as far as this federal government of ours is concerned ? Whnt, ihn, must we do? We must look to justice - to our own nterests - to the constitution. We will have no longer a shield even in equaliiy here. Now, can we rely upon the sense of justice of this body ? Ought we to rely upon this ? These are the solemn questions whieh I put on alindes. Sir, look to the past. If we nre to look to that - I will not go into the details - we will see from tho beginning of ihis government to the present day, as fnr as pecuniary resources are concerncd - so far as the disbursements of revenue is involved, it will be found that we have been a poriion of the community which has substnntially supported this govemmenl without receiving any thing like a;antnnvunt support fmm it. But why should Igo beyond this very measure itself 1 But wliy should I go beyond lliis determinalion on the part of the nonslnveholdingStntec, thnt therecaft be no further nddition to theslaveholdingstates, to prove what our condition is ? Sir, what is the entire amount of this policy ? I will not say that it ia so debigned. I will not say from what cnuset originated. I will not say whether jlind fonntcismon one side ; whether n ïostile feeling to slovery entertained by mnny not fanafical on the ot her, has produced it ; or whelher it has been the work of men, who, looking lo political power, have considered the agiiation of ihis question as the most efFectual mode of obtaining the spoils of this governinent. I look to the fa et tself. It is a policy, Mr. President, which aimstomonopolize the powers of this government and ta obtain sole possession of its patronage, Now, I ask, is there a remedy 1 Does the constitution afTord any remody ? And if not, is there nny hope 1 Mr. President, are solemn questions - not only to us, but, Iet me say to gentlemen from fhe non-slaveholding Stites, to thetn. - Sir, the day the babnee between the two sections of the country - the slavebolding Sia'e?, and the non-slaveholding States- is detroyed, is a day tint ttill not be far removed from political revolution nnarchy, civil wnr, and wide spread disaster. Thtí balance of this systenr is in the siaveholding States. They are the conservative portion - alwnys will be the conservative portion ; and with a due balance on their part mny, Cor gei.erations to come, uphold this glorious Union of ours. But if this poliry should be carried out - if we are fo be reduced to a handful - i f we are to become a mere buil ta play the presidetitiol g iroe with - to count sometliing in the Baitimore caucas - -if this is to be the result - wo ! wo! I say to this Union. Now, "sfr, I again put olemntion - does the constitution aflford ary remedy ? Is there any provisión by which tliis ogsjressive policy - boldly avowed, as if perfectly consistent with our institutions and the safety and prospenty of the United States ! - may be confronted 1 Is this a pcriicy consistent with the constitution. No, Mr. President, no! It is in all its features, dar ingly opnosed to the constitution. Wha1 is il? Ours is a federd constitution. - The States are i's constituents, and not the people. The twenty-eight Stntes - th'e Iwenty-nine Slntes (including Iowa) stand under this government as twentyñine individual?, or as twenty-nine individuals would stand to a Consolidated power. It was not made for the mere individual prosperity of the State as individual?. No, sir. It was made for highcr ends. It wns formed that every State constitutinga portion of this great Union ofoursshould enjoy all its advantages, natural and acq;iired, with greater security, and enjoy them more perfecïly. - The whole system is based on justice and pquality - perfect equaÜty between the membersof this republic. Nor can that be consistent with equality which will make this public domain a monopoly on one slde - which, in its conequ enees, would place the whole powor in one section of the Union to be wielded against the other section of the Union ? Is ihat equality ?How do we stand in reference to this territorial question - this public domain of ours? Why, sir, what is it ? It is . tlie common property oí ihe StDtes of this Union. Thny are called 'ttíe territories of the United States." And what are the ' United Staies " but the States united ? Sir, tlie.e territories are the property of the Staies united ; held jointly for their common use. And is ir consistent with equality, thatany portion of ihe partners, outnumbering another portion, shall oust them from this common propertv of theirs - shall pnss any law which shall proscribe the citizens of other portions of the Union from emigrating with their property to the territories of Jhe United Staies ? Would that be consistent - can it be consistent with themrn property, held jointly for the benefit of all ? Would t be socousdered in private hfe ? Would it not be considered the greatet outrnge in the world, nnd which any court on the face of the globe would at onre oven ule 1 Mr. President, not only is that pfoposiiinn grossly inconsistent with the constiluiion, but ihe oiher, which underlakes to say that no rnte s-hall be admitted into this Union, which shall not prohibit by itt constitution the existence of slavery, is equally a gieat outrogo against the constitution of the United States. Sir, l hold it to be a fundamenta) principie of our political system, that the people have a right to estahlish what government they may think proper for themselves ; that every state about to become a member of this Union has a right to form ts owngovernment as it piases ; and ihaty in order to be adhiitted there s but one qunlification, and that is, that the government shall bo republican. It is notso exprrs-ly prescribed by ihe inslrumreiit itself but by that great section whic'h guarantees to cvery stnte in this Union a republican form of government. Now, sir. what is proposed ? Il is praposed, from fi vagup, iiidefinite, erroneoüs, oiïd most döngeroüs conception of private individual liberty, to overrule tliis great common liberty,which a people have of framing thoir own constitution, Sir, the individual right of man is not ne.irly so essiïy ta be established by nny course of reasoning, os his common liberty. And vet, sir, there are men of'such deücae feeling on the subject of liberly- there nre men who cannot possibly bear what they cali slavery in one section of the country - (nnd it is nol so much slavery as an insiitution, indispensable" Tor the good of bolh races) - men so squeamish on this poinf, thnt they are ready to strike down the higher right of n commiiniiy to govern themselves, in order to mainfain the absolute right of individual in nll circumstancesogovern themselves. fr. President, thé resoluliotTs that 1 have proposei, present, in exact tfirms, hee grent truths. I propose to present hem the Semte, I propose ío have a vote upon them ; nnd I trust there is no gentl-eman here wha viïl refus? a direct vote upon thse propositions. It is mniily hatwe shnll know tho state' of thing-s. - h is due toourconstituents that weshuld insist upon i, and I as one, will insist upon it that the sense of ihis body shall be teken ; the body Vhich represems the states in their copacity as communities, and the members of which ure to be their special guardinns. ft is dus to tliem, sir, that there sliould be a fair expression 01 wha! ia the sonse of this body. Upon that expression mucb dopends. Iti&theonly -tand wWch co ha. IitH5 00I7posilion which we can take, which will upiio'id us in any thinglike independence - which will give us any chance at all to maintain nn equnlity in th Union, on those great principies to which I have had reference. Overrule these principies, and we will ever be a respectable portion of the communitv.Sir, here let me say a word ns to the compromiso line. 1 havo alredy considered it ns n great error - highly injurious tothesouth, becnuse it surrendered, for mere temporary purposes thoso high principies of the constitution upon which I think we ought to stand. I am agninst any compromise line. Yet I would have been willing to have continuad the compromise line. One of the resolutions in the House, to that eiTect was ofiered by my suggestion. I snid to a friend there, ('Mr. Burtj " Let us not be disturbers of this As abhorrent to my feelings as is thnt compromtse line, let it be adhered to in good faiih ; and if the other portions of the Union are willing to stand by it. It has kept peace for some time and in the circumstances, perhap--, it Would be better tokeep peace ns it is." But, sirj it was voted down by an overwhelming njajority. It was rene ved by a gentleman from a non-slaveholding statf, and ngnin voted down by anwhelming majority. Well, 1 see my way in the constitution. I cannot in the A conv oromise is but an act of Congreas. lt mny be overruled nt any time. It gives us nosecurity. But the constitution is stable. It is a rock. On it we can stand. It is a principie on which we can meet our friends from the non-slaveholding siates. It is firm ground, on which they can betíer stand in opposition to fanaticism, ihan on the sliifu'ng sands of compromise. Let us be done with compromiso. - Let us go back and s'.and upon the constitución.Well, sir, what if the decisión of this body shall deny to usthis high constitutional right, which in niy opinión is as clear as any in the instrument itself - the more defined nnd stable, indeed, because deduced from ihe entire body of the iiisirunient, and nature of the sulject to which it relates í What then ? That is a question which I will not underiak to decide. It is a questïon for our constiluents - the siaveholdingstates. A solemn and great quesiion, Mr. President. - And if the decisión should be adverse at this time l trust and do beüeve that they will tnke under solemn consideraron what they ought to do. I give no ndvice. It would be hazirdous and dangeruus for me to do so. But I may speak ns an iudividual member of that section of the Ur.ion. There 1 drew my first breath. -Thereore all my hopes. lama planter - a cotton plcnter. I nrrr a southern man and a shivehoider - a kind nnd mercifjl one I trus! - nnd none the Mrorsé for beng slaveholder. I say for one I would rathcvr meet nny ctrcmity upon eirt!) han give up one inch of our cquality - one inch of what beljngs to us os member of this grent repu!)tic Í VVhat! ac knovfrledged inferiority ! The surrender f life is noihing to sinking down into ncknowledgcd inferiority t 1 have examined this subject largely - tvidely. I íhink I see tlie future f we do not itand tip now ; and in my humble opinión, the condition of In-land is merciful nnd höppv-the condition ofdostan is peac-e and happiness - the condition of Jamaica is prosperous and happy, to tfhnt the southern sta tes wili bo if now they yield Mr. President, I desirethat these resohitions which I now send to the tab!e be read. The resolutions Werè read and are as fullows iResolved, That Congrexs, te the joint agent and representntive of the stntes of fhis Ünioii, hns no right o mnke nny luw. nrdoany acrt whatever, that shall direclly, or by itseíTect, mi,ke nny discrimination betwren the states of this Union, by which any of them sliaU be deprived of its full and equal right in any ferrifor'y of the United States, acquired or to be acquired.Resolved, Thai thé eïinctment of any law which should directly, or by its efiects, leprive the citizerïs of any of the sf'tfs if ihis Umon fröm enrigraiing with their roperty, into nny of the territories of the Jnited State-;, will mnke'sUch discrlmination, ind would, thereforp, be a violation of the constitution, and the rights of the otates from which such citizens emigrated, and iï derogntion of thftt perfect equality which belongs totherrr as membc, rs of this Ünion, and would tend directly to suhveitthe Union itelf. Resolved, That as a fur.dnmentil pr'mcipTe ín our political creed, that a peple in forming a constitution have unoooJitionaf rigbt to forrn and ndopt th 'gOroei?t whleb thay rrtay fipk bostcalcuinted to secure their liberty, prosperity, and happine?s, and thnt in contbrmity thereto, no other condition is imposed by the federal constitution on astnte n order !o be admitted into this Union, except tiiat itt constitution shnll be repub lican and that the imposition of any other by Congress would notonly be in violation, but in direct conflict with the principie on wlnch oar political system rests. Hore tho Honorable Senator resumed his sent. Mr. Benton then rose and said : Mr. President, we have some business to transact. I do not intend to avoid business for a string of abstraciionsiMr. Calhoun. The Senator says he cannot take up abstn ctions. The constltution ís an abstraciiou. Propriety is an ab.-traction. All the great rules of life are abstraclions. The Declaralion of Independence was made on an abstrnction; aud when 1 hear a man declare that he is ngainst abstract truth in a case of this kinJ, I nm prepared o know whnt his course will be! í certninly supposed thnt the Senator from Missouri, the represeniative ofaslaveholding State; would have supported these resolutions. I moved them in good faith, under a solemn conviction of wbat was due to those hom I represent; and due the whole South and the whole Union. I have as liltle desire as any Senator to obtruct public busines? All I want is a decisión befo re the three million bilí is decided. If the Senotor from Missouri wants to-morrow morning, very well. The resolutions can be taken up on Monrlay.Mr. Benton. I will pursue ir.y own course when the time comes. 1 know whnt are abstractions, and what are noU I know what business is, and What ís not I am fur going on with the business of the session ; and I say, 1 shall not vote for abstrnctions, years ahead, to the exclusión of He snys he calcula led on my course. He is mistaken. Heknows very well, from my wholo course in public life, thai I never would leave public pusiness to tnke up firebrands to set the world on fire. Mr. Caihoun. The Senntor does not atnll coinprehcnd me. I had hoped that when these rrsolutions shall be taken up, I might expect to find him supporting them. Mr. Beflton. I shnll be found in the right place.l nm on theside of my country and the Union. The resolutions were thon ordcred to be printed.


Signal of Liberty
Old News