The republication of the following articles has not been assented to from any desire to prolong the discussion with those who entertain different opinions. But it is believed that they may contribute in some slight degree to the adjustment of a subject which cannot remain unadjusted, without serious danger to the public institutions of the country. At all events, it is right that those citizens who believe in the doctrines here expressed, should be heard to the full extent of the general willingness to hear.
The matters here discussed connect themselves more or less closely with questions that, for years past, have been written and spoken upon so constantly, and so bitterly, between the South and a certain portion of the North, that we see it at length absorbing the universal attention of the people. It has engendered between the two sections a hatred so intense and so rancorous, that many politicians, who count themselves sagacious, look forward — some with exulting hope, and others with dread and terror — to the election of a President whose popularity shall be derived wholly from the fact that he has no respect for the opinions, and no regard for the asserted rights of fifteen States. It must either stop altogether, or else grow worse from day to day; for in such a contest, where men abuse each other at the safe distance of a thousand miles, it is vain to look for moderation of tone or decency of language. Hatred will be paid back with hatred. If the heart of one party festers with spite, that of the other will continue to swell with indignation, until harmony becomes impossible. Such feelings must necessarily produce violence, bloodshed, and rapine.
No: some have already found in assassination and robbery the natural outlet for a passion which they shared in common with thousands of their political associates; and when another individual adjudged the slaveholders to be worthy of death, and published a book to urge the immediate execution of his sentence, he reasoned logically enough from the premises which had been furnished in abundance by the pulpit, the press, and the rostrum of his party. When you put the wolf's head on the shoulders of one class, you have no rights to blame another for killing them.
Already has this unnatural hostility become so strong, that the feelings with which men generally regard the foreign enemies of their country are tame and quiet in comparison. The war of 1812 was provoked by twenty years' of insult to the American flag, by the long continued spoliation of American property on the high seas, and by the enslavement of more than six thousand American citizens. In some places the war itself was conducted by the enemy with such a ferocious disregard of humanity, that Englishmen themselves have been ashamed of it ever since. Yet at no period of that contest was there half as much denunciation of England as there is now of the South. It is very certain that the ministers of religion, the public men and dominant political parties of New England, spoke of Great Britain, then, with a forbearance and a charity which are in very remarkable contrast with the unceasing maledictions which they are now pouring out on their own countrymen.
This passionate malice perverts the entire character of persons otherwise disposed to be orderly, dutiful, and loyal, if not patriotic. It "turns their milk of human kindness into gall," and so blunts their moral perceptions, that in the plainest cases they do not perceive the difference between right and wrong. Men and women, who are by nature far from being incapable of virtuous emotions, and who have been brought up with all the lights of Christianity blazing around them, have learned to thirst for the blood of their fellow-beings, and to admire those who wantonly shed it. The intellect, as well as the heart, withers under the curse of this bigoted feeling. When a man, even of good capacity, becomes saturated with it, he drivels like an idiot. If this truth were perceptible only in a few sporadic cases
4of itinerant lecturers or wild politicians, it might be less lamentable. But it has spread like an epidemic, and large communities, with schools and churches among them, have become its victims. If any one doubts this, a little reflection upon well known facts of very recent occurrence will convince him. John Brown, a coarse-grained ruffian, whose name had years before been infamous for his many treacherous murders, who was a self-confessed thief, and "a most toad-spotted traitor," organized in Canada a plot for the overthrow of the American Government, and the plunder of its property. With a supply of arms, large enough to furnish a formidable force, and hoping for men of all colors to wield them, he and his confederates sneaked upon a peaceful and undefended village in Virginia at midnight, and commenced the work of murder and robbery. The public authorities overpowered, arrested, tried, and hung him. It is almost incredible, but true, nevertheless, that on the character of this abandoned and impenitent wretch, eloquent eulogies have been pronounced, and funeral sermons preached, full of extravagant praise. The name of Washington is mentioned in some of them only to show how contemptible Washington was when compared with John Brown, while others blasphemously assert that Christ alone was his equal. This is accompanied with such abuse of those who stopped his bloody career, as to leave no doubt whatever that, in the opinion of his abolition friends, he was not only a good man, but so very good that the people of Virginia were morally bound to stand still and let him butcher them and their families, without resistance and without punishment. What influence but that of the most degrading superstition could bring the faculties of any reasoning creature down so low as this? But it was not of these extreme fanatics that I meant to speak. It seems that nearly the whole people of Massachusetts are filled with admiration for what they regard as "the rare heroism" of Brown's character. No such wholesale charge should be made against the intelligence and morality of any civilized people on the globe, without the most unanswerable proof. It is not the enemies of Massachusetts who make it in this case; it comes from their own Senator, who is a man of veracity and a faithful representative of his constituents. He has publicly, over his own name, in the newspapers of the country, declared it to be his conviction that, though the people of Massachusetts "deplore and condemn" his act, "they are nearly unanimous in their sympathy for the fate of Brown, and in the admiration of his personal qualities." That fanaticism must be, indeed, far gone which can make the whole population of an American State sympathize with a cold-blooded assassin, and admire the personal qualities of a thief. The frightful delusion which two hundred years ago sacrificed the lives of innocent people for witchcraft by the score, begins to look respectable. The fierce hatred of Quakers and Baptists which publicly lashed the naked backs of women, and strangled them to death for preaching the gospel, may find some apology in the barbarism of the age; but what can be said for the dwarfing prejudice which, in the middle of the nineteenth century, confounds all distinction between a felon and a hero?
Such is the nature of the conflict. If it be truly irrepressible, how long will our Government be able to abide the rough handling which it will be sure to get? If our fathers had foreseen the fatal degeneracy of their sons, they would scarcely have thought it worth while to organize a political system depending for success upon the good will and mutual respect which then prevailed among all the members of the confederacy. The States are not held together by physical force; it is the kindlier law of attraction which thus far has made us one great nation. Brute strength is not sufficient for the purpose; and if it were, the exercise of it would result in calamities far greater than any which could follow from a peaceful dissolution.
I know that there are quarters where the expression of a doubt concerning the perpetuity of the Union is always answered with sneers — sometimes with insult. By some it is regarded as causeless timidity; by others it is considered a mere partisan trick. But it should not be forgotten that our ablest and our boldest men have acted under the influence of this opinion. The great heart of Washington himself, in times far less portentous than these, was often oppressed with it; and Jefferson declared that the first agitation of the slavery question in Congress had waked him like a fire-bell in the night, and filled him with apprehensions for the country. A Roman citizen, accused of holding mistaken opinions, thought it a sufficient apology that he had erred with Cato. My error, if it be one, is shared
5with hundreds of American statesmen, each one of whom is wiser and a better man than Cato ever was.
The danger can be averted in one way only; and that is by ascertaining and settling the legal rights of the respective parties. We cannot convince the ultra bigots. "Ephraim is joined to his idols — let him alone." When a man's heart becomes thoroughly saturated with this sort of hatred, it is quite impossible that he should be changed so as to make him "bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness."
To some dear falsehood, hugs it to the last."
But the great body of the American people are eminently law-abiding and conservative. They know very well that they have everything to lose and nothing to gain by opposing the laws. An overwhelming majority, North as well as South, will yield their private judgment to that public wisdom which the Constitution embodies; and in no part of the country will they in their present temper defer to anything else. The political influence which bad men have acquired over a portion of them will dissolve like a dream as soon as they become entirely satisfied that they are to be engaged in a conflict against law. Every American citizen, therefore, who exerts himself, however feebly, to correct popular errors on this subject, by a just exposition of the Constitution and laws, may claim at least the one merit of having meant well for his country.
It is worth a little more time to state the principal points which have been lost and won in the discussion of the slavery question during the last few years.
1. Slavery within the limits of a State cannot be legally interfered with by any power but that of the State itself. The contrary of this has never been seriously asserted by any respectable body of men; and the representatives of the Republican party have solemnly denied that they entertain such a doctrine. This positive disclaimer was needed, however, and came in good time; for the formation of a party which lives on agitation concerning slavery in the States is hard to account for if its founders believe they have nothing to do with it.
2. Congress has no power to abolish or interdict slavery in a federal territory. If authority can settle anything, there will be no further controversy on this point. Congress itself has solemnly asserted it on the statute-book; the Executive has added its deliberate approval; the Supreme Court has declared it to be incontestably true; and the American people, after having a long and earnest discussion of it, to the almost total exclusion of other topics, gave their verdict in its favor at the presidential election of 1856. Those who still think it ought to have been decided differently can hardly contend for their private views in the face of the public judgment, without being conscious of a mischievous purpose; since they must know that a decision so made and so sanctioned can never be reversed.
3. The people of all the Territories have a right, "acting through the legally and fairly expressed will of a majority of actual residents, and whenever the number of their inhabitants justifies it, to form a constitution, with or without domestic slavery, and be admitted into the Union upon terms of perfect equality with the other States." This is the language of the Cincinnati platform. It was thoroughly examined and fully approved by the people in the canvass of 1856. If that were all, the answer might be that the popular decision may be reversed on another vote. But the justice, fairness, and truth of the proposition is so clear that it has commanded the unqualified assent of the opposition themselves. Every Republican member of the last Congress in both houses voted in some form or another for the admission of Kansas, with or without slavery, as a majority of her people might determine.
4. Congress having no power to interfere with slavery in the territories, cannot bestow it on a Territorial Legislature. This is not controverted by the opposition. It seems strange that it should have been denied anywhere. But the authority of the Supreme Court and a little further reflection will soon dispel whatever doubts may yet be lingering in the minds of a few.
5. The Territorial governments are not sovereign, but public corporations, having no powers except what are given by the organic acts which create them, and therefore they have, and can have, no authority to divest the right of property in
6slaves or any thing else. This has never been denied by any public man of great reputation, unless the Harper article of Mr. Douglas be a denial. But he has not directly contradicted it in any of the replies he made to the "Observations." On the contrary, he has several times in the course of this controversy, and often elsewhere, admitted that a Territorial government is not sovereign. We may therefore fairly conclude that sovereignty in the Territories is an obsolete idea.
Assuming these legal propositions to be true, and assuming also that the Republican party intend to redeem the pledge which their representatives in Congress have given not to violate the Constitution or laws of the General Government, they must soon begin to see that there is nothing left upon which they can raise a quarrel with their brethren. They would not abolish slavery in the States, and they cannot, directly or indirectly, reach it in the Territories by means of any legislation to which they can constitutionally resort. They must leave it in the latter case to be determined by the people of the Territories when they form a State constitution, or afterwards by their legislature, upon such terms and conditions as the constitution may impose. The Federal Constitution, as expounded by the Supreme Court, is higher authority than any anti-slavery convention. Besides that, it furnishes a better rule and a safer one for the adjustment of the subject. It does not put property in the Territories at the mercy of a party majority in the States; nor does it allow one portion of the settlers in a Territory to exercise the unlimited power of robbing the rest. It secures the legal rights of all concerned, and yet leaves the destinies of every new State in the hands of its own people, to be shaped according to their will legally expressed, under such restraints only as are imposed on every government which is not meant to be a despotism. We are not yet compelled to dismiss all belief that the opposition will in the fullness of time acknowledge the superior wisdom, sagacity, and justice of the Democratic party on this as on other subjects. Whenever that shall be the case, the exciting hope of the patriot will revive, and the gratifying prospects of the country will open again as brightly as ever. Then shall we see this "mighty and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks," in preparation for a future career whose prosperity and glory shall dim even the splendors of the past.
Every one knows that Mr. Douglas, the Senator from Illinois, has written and printed an elaborate essay, comprising thirty-eight columns of Harper's Magazine, in which he has undertaken to point out the "dividing line between federal and local authority." Very many persons have glanced over its paragraphs to catch the leading ideas without loss of time, and some few have probably read it with care.
Those who dissent from the doctrines of this paper owe to its author, if not to his arguments, a most respectful answer. Mr. Douglas is not the man to be treated with a disdainful silence. His ability is a fact unquestioned; his public career, in the face of many disadvantages, has been uncommonly successful; and he has been for many years a working, struggling candidate for the Presidency. He is, moreover, the Corypheus of his political sect, the founder of a new school, and his disciples naturally believe in the infallible verity of his words as a part of their faith.
The style of the article is, in some respects, highly commendable. It is entirely free from the vulgar clap-trap of the stump, and has no vain adornment of classical scholarship. But it shows no sign of the eloquent Senator; it is even without the logic of the great debater. Many portions of it are very obscure. It seems to be an unsuccessful effort at legal precision, like the writing of a judge who is trying in vain to give good reasons for a wrong decision on a question of law which he has not quite mastered.
With the help of Messrs. Seward and Lincoln, he has defined accurately enough the platform of the so-called Republican party; and he does not attempt to conceal his conviction that their doctrines are in the last degree dangerous. They are, most assuredly, full of evil and saturated with mischief. The "irrepressible conflict" which they speak of with so much pleasure between the "opposing and enduring forces" of the Northern and Southern States, will be fatal, not merely to the peace of the country, but to the existence of the Government itself. Mr. Douglas knows this, and he knows also that the Democratic party is the only power which is or can be organized to resist the Republican forces or oppose their hostile march upon the capital. He who divides and weakens the friends of the country at such a crisis in her fortunes assumes a very grave responsibility.
Mr. Douglas separates the Democratic party into three classes, and describes them as follows:
"First. Those who believe that the Constitution of the United States neither establishes or prohibits slavery in the States or Territories beyond the power of the people legally to control it, but ‘leaves the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.’
"Second. Those who believe that the Constitution establishes slavery in the Territories, and withholds from Congress and the Territorial Legislature the power to control it, and who insist that, in the event the Territorial legislature fails to enact the requisite laws for its protection, it becomes the imperative duty of Congress to interpose its authority and furnish such protection.
"Third. Those who, while professing to believe that the Constitution establishes slavery in the Territories beyond the power of Congress or the Territorial legislature to control it, at the same time protest against the duty of Congress to interfere for its protection; but insist that it is the duty of the judiciary to protect and maintain slavery in the Territories without any law upon the subject."
We give Mr. Douglas the full benefit of his own statement. This is his mode of expressing those differences, which, he says, disturb the harmony and threaten the integrity of the American Democracy. These passages should, therefore, be most carefully considered.
The first class is the one to which he himself belongs, and to both the others he is equally opposed. He has no right to come between the second and third class. If the difference which he speaks of does exist among his opponents, it is their business, not his, to settle it or fight it out. We shall therefore confine ourselves to the dispute between Mr. Douglas and his followers on the one hand, and the rest of the Democratic party on the other, presuming that he will be wiling to observe the principle of non-intervention in all matters with which he has no concern.
We will invert the order in which he has discussed the subject, and endeavor to show —
1. That he has not correctly stated the doctrine held by his opponents; and,
2. That his own opinions, as given by himself, are altogether unsound.
I. He says that a certain portion of the Democratic party believe, or profess to believe, that the Constitution establishes slavery in the Territories, and insist that it is the duty of the judiciary to maintain it there without any law on the subject. We do not charge him with any intention to be unfair; but we assert, that he has in fact done wrong to, probably, nineteen-twentieths of the party, by attempting to put them on grounds which they never chose for themselves.
The Constitution certainly does not establish slavery in the Territories, nor anywhere else. Nobody in this country ever thought or said so. But the Constitution regards as sacred and inviolable all the rights which a citizen may legally acquire in a State. If a man acquires property of any kind in a State, and goes with it into a Territory, he is not for that reason to be stripped of it. Our simple and plain proposition is, that the legal owner of a slave or other chattel may go with it into a Federal Territory without forfeiting his title.
Who denies the truth of this, and upon what ground can it be controverted? The reasons which support it are very obvious and very conclusive. As a jurist and a statesman, Mr. Douglas ought to be familiar with them, and there was a time when he was supposed to understand them very well. We will briefly give him a few of them.
1. It is an axiomatic principle of public law, that a right of property, a private relation, condition or status, lawfully existing in one State or country, is not changed by the mere removal of parties to another country, unless the law of that other country be in direct conflict with it. For instance: A marriage legally solemnized in France is binding in America; children born in Germany are legitimate here if they are legitimate there; and a merchant who buys goods in New York, according to the laws of that State, may carry them to Illinois and hold them there under his contract. It is precisely so with the status of a negro carried from one part of the United States to another; the question of his freedom or servitude depends on the law of the place where he came from, and depends on that alone, if there be no conflicting law at the place to which he goes or is taken. The Federal Constitution therefore recognizes slavery as a legal condition wherever the local governments have chosen to let it stand unabolished, and regards it as illegal wherever the laws of the place have forbidden it. A slave being property in Virginia, remains property; and his master has all the rights of a Virginia master wherever he may go, so that he go not to any place where the local law comes in conflict with his right. It will not be pretended that the Constitution itself furnishes to the Territories a conflicting law. It contains no provision that can be tortured into any semblance of a prohibition.
2. The dispute on the question whether slavery or freedom is local or general, is a mere war of words. The black race in this country is neither bond nor free by virtue of any general law. That portion of it which is free is free by virtue of some local regulation, and the slave owes service for a similar reason. The Constitution and laws of the United States simply declare that everything done in the premises by the State governments is right, and they shall be protected in carrying it out. But free negroes and slaves may both find themselves outside of any State jurisdiction, and in a Territory where no regulation has yet been made on the subject. There the Constitution is equally impartial. It neither frees the slave nor enslaves the freeman. It requires both to remain in statu quo, until the status already impressed upon them by the law of their previous domicil shall be changed by some competent local authority. What is competent local authority in a Territory will be elsewhere considered.
3. The Federal Constitution carefully guards the rights of private property against the Federal Government itself, by declaring that it shall not be taken for public use without compensation, nor without due process of law. Slaves are private property, and every man who has taken an oath of fidelity to the Constitution, is religiously, morally, and politically bound to regard them as such. Does anybody suppose that a Constitution which acknowledges the sacredness of private property so fully would wantonly destroy that right, not by any words that are found in it, but by mere implication from its general principles? It might as well be asserted that the general principles of the Constitution gave Lane and Montgomery a license to steal horses in the valley of the Osage.
4. The Supreme Court of the United States has decided the question. After solemn argument and careful consideration, that august tribunal has announced its opinion to be, that a slaveholder, by going into a Federal Territory, does not lose the title he had to his negro in the State from which he came. In former times, a
9question of constitutional law once decided by the Supreme Court was regarded as settled by all, except that little band of ribald infidels, who meet periodically at Boston, to blaspheme the religion and plot rebellion against the laws of the country. The leaders of the so-called Republican party have lately been treading close on the heels of their abolition brethren; but it is devoutly to be hoped that Mr. Douglas has no intention of follow their example. In case he is elected President, he must see the laws faithfully executed. Does he think he can keep that oath by fighting the judiciary?
5. The legislative history of the country shows that all the great statesmen of former times entertained the same opinion, and held it so firmly that they did not even think of any other. It was universally taken for granted that a slave remained a slave, and a freeman a freeman, in the new Territories, until a change was made in their condition by some positive enactment. Nobody believed that a slave might not have been taken to and kept in the Northwest Territory, if the ordinance of 1787 or some other regulation had not been made to prohibit it. The Missouri restriction of 1820 was imposed solely because it was understood (probably by every member of that Congress) that, in the absence of a restriction, slave property would be as lawful in the eye of the Constitution above 36° 30' as below; and all agreed, that the mere absence of a restriction did, in fact, make it lawful below the compromise line.
6. It is right to learn wisdom from our enemies. The Republicans do not point to any express provision of the Constitution, nor to any general principle embraced in it, nor to any established rule of law, which sustains their views. The ablest men among them are driven, by stress of necessity, to hunt for arguments in a code unrevealed, unwritten, and undefined, which they put above the Constitution or the Bible, and call it "higher law." The ultra abolitionists of New England do not deny that the Constitution is rightly interpreted by the Democrats, as not interfering against slavery in the Territories; but they disdain to obey what they pronounce to be "an agreement with death and a covenant with hell."
7. What did Mr. Douglas mean when he proposed and voted for the Kansas-Nebraska bill repealing the Missouri restriction? Did he intend to tell southern men that, notwithstanding the repeal of the prohibition, they were excluded from these Territories as much as ever? Or did he not regard the right of a master to his slave perfectly good whenever he got rid of the prohibition? Did he, or anybody else at that time, dream that it was necessary to make a positive law in favor of the slaveholder before he could go there with safety?
To ask these questions is to answer them. The Kansas-Nebraska bill was not meant as a delusion or a snare. It was well understood that the repeal alone of the restriction against slavery would throw the country open to everything which the Constitution recognized as property.
We have thus given what we believe to be the opinions held by the great body of the Democratic party: namely, that the Federal Constitution does not establish slavery anywhere in the Union; that it permits a black man to be either held in servitude or made free, as the local law shall decide; and that, in a Territory where no local law on the subject has been enacted, it keeps both the slave and the free negro in the status already impressed upon them, until it shall be changed by competent local authority. We have seen that this is sustained by the reason of the thing, by a great principle of public law, by the words of the Constitution, by a solemn decision of the Supreme Court, by the whole course of our legislation, by the concession of our political opponents, and finally, by the most important act in the public life of Mr. Douglas himself.
Mr. Douglas imputes another absurdity to his opponents when he charges them with insisting "that it is the duty of the judiciary to protect and maintain slavery in the Territories, without any law upon the subject." The judge who acts without law acts against law; and surely no sentiment so atrocious as this was ever entertained by any portion of the Democratic party. The right of a master to the services of his slave in a Territory is not against law nor without law, but in full accordance with law. If the law be against it, we are all against it. Has not the emigrant to Nebraska a legal right to the ox-team, which he bought in Ohio, to haul him over the plains? Is not his title as good to it in the Territory as it was in the State where he got it? And what should be said of a judge who tells him that he is not protected, or that he is not maintained, in the possession of his property "without any law upon the subject?"
II. We had a right to expect from Mr. Douglas at least a clear and intelligible
10definition of his own doctrine. We are disappointed. It is hardly possible to conceive anything more difficult to comprehend. We will transcribe it again, and do what can be done to analyze it.
"Those who believe that the Constitution of the United States neither establishes nor prohibits slavery in the States or Territories beyond the power of the people legally to control it, but ‘leaves the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.’"
The Constitution neither establishes nor prohibits slavery in the States or Territories. If it be meant by this that the Constitution does not, proprio vigore, either emancipate any man's slave, or create the condition of slavery and impose it on free negroes, but leaves the question of every black man's status, in the Territories as well as in the States, to be determined by the local law, then we admit it, for it is the very same proposition which we have been trying to prove. But if, on the contrary, it is to be understood as an assertion that the Constitution does not permit a master to keep his slave, or a free negro to have his liberty, in all parts of the Union where the local law does not interfere to prevent it, then the error is not only a very grave one, but it is also absurd and self-contradictory.
The Constitution neither establishes nor prohibits slavery in the States or Territories beyond the power of the people legally to control it. This is sailing to Point-No-Point again. Of course, a subject which is legally controlled, cannot be beyond the power that controls it. But the question is, what constitutes legal control, and when the people of a State or Territory are in a condition to exercise it.
The Constitution of the United States * * * * leaves the people perfectly free, * * * and subject only to the Constitution of the United States. This carries us round a full circle, and drops us precisely at the place of beginning. That the Constitution leaves everybody subject to the Constitution, is most true. We are far from denying it. We never heard it doubted, and expect we never will. But the statement of it proves nothing, defines nothing, and explains nothing. It merely darkens the subject, as words without meaning always do.
But notwithstanding all this circuity of expression and consequent opaqueness of meaning in the magazine article of Mr. Douglas, we think we can guess what his opinions are or will be when he comes to reconsider the subject. He will admit (at least we will not undertake to deny) that the status of a negro, whether of servitude or freedom, accompanies him wherever he goes, and adheres to him in every part of the Union until he meets some local law which changes it.
It will also be agreed that the people of a State, through their Legislature, and the people of a Territory, in the constitution which they may frame preparatory to their admission as a State, can regulate and control the condition of the subject black race within their respective jurisdictions so as to make them bond or free.
But here we come to the point at which opinions diverge. Some insist that no citizen can be deprived of his property in slaves, or in anything else, except by the provision of a State constitution or by the act of a State Legislature; while others contend that an unlimited control over private rights may be exercised by a Territorial Legislature as soon as the earliest settlements are made.
So strong are the sentiments of Mr. Douglas in favor of the latter doctrine, that if it be not established, he threatens us with Mr. Seward's "irrepressible conflict," which shall end only with the universal abolition or the universal dominion of slavery. On the other hand, the President, the Judges of the Supreme Court, nearly all the Democratic members of Congress, the whole of the party South, and a very large majority North, are penetrated with a conviction, that no such power is vested in a Territorial Legislature, and that those who desire to confiscate private property of any kind must wait until they get a constitutional convention or the machinery of a State government into their hands. We venture to give the following reasons for believing that Mr. Douglas is in error:
The Supreme Court has decided that a Territorial Legislature has not the power which he claims for it. That alone ought to be sufficient. There can be no law, order, or security for any man's rights, unless the judicial authority of the country be upheld. Mr. Douglas may do what he pleases with political conventions and party platforms, but we trust he will give to the Supreme Court at least that decent respect, which none but the most ultra Republicans have yet withheld.
The right of property is sacred, and the first object of all human government is to make it secure. Life is always unsafe where property is not fully protected. This is the experience of every people on earth, ancient and modern. To secure
11private property was a principle object of Magna Charta. Charles I. afterwards attempted to violate it, but the people rose upon him, dragged him to the block, and severed his head from his body. At a still later period another monarch for a kindred offense was driven out of the country, and died a fugitive and an outcast. Our own Revolution was provoked by that slight invasion upon the right of property which consisted in the enaction of a trifling tax. There is no government in the world, however absolute, which would not be disgraced and endangered by wantonly sacrificing private property even to a small extent. For centuries past such outrages have ceased to be committed in times of peace among civilized nations.
Slaves are regarded as property in the Southern States. The people of that section buy and sell, and carry on all their business, provide for their families, and make their wills and divide their inheritances on that assumption. It is manifest to all who know them, that no doubts ever cross their minds about the rightfulness of holding such property. They believe they have a direct warrant for it, not only in the examples of the best men that ever lived, but in the precepts of Divine Revelation itself; and they are thoroughly satisfied that the relation of master and slave is the only one which can possibly exist there between the white and the black race without ruining both. The people of the North may differ from their fellow-citizens of the South on the whole subject, but knowing, as we all do, that these sentiments are sincerely and honestly entertained, we cannot wonder that they feel the most unspeakable indignation when any attempt is made to interfere with their rights. This sentiment results naturally and necessarily from their education and habits of thinking. They cannot help it, any more than an honest man in the North can avoid abhorring a thief or housebreaker.
The jurists, legislators, and people of the Northern States, have already sacredly respected the right of property in slaves held by their own citizens within their own jurisdiction. It is a remarkable fact, very well worth noticing, that no Northern State ever passed any law to take a negro from his master. All laws for the abolition of slavery have operated only on the unborn descendants of the negro race, and the vested rights of masters have not been disturbed in the North more than in the South.
In every nation under heaven, civilized, semi-barbarous, or savage, where slavery has existed in any form at all analogous to ours, the rights of the masters to the control of their slaves as property have been respected; and on no occasion has any government struck at those rights, except as it would strike at other property. Even the British Parliament, when it emancipated the West India slaves, though it was legislating for a people three thousand miles away, and not represented, never denied either the legal or the natural right of the slave owner. Slaves were admitted to be property, and the Government acknowledged it by paying their masters one hundred millions of dollars for the privilege of setting them free.
Here, then, is a species of property which is of transcendent importance to the material interests of the South — which the people of that region think it right and meritorious in the eyes of God and good men to hold — which is sanctioned by the general sense of all mankind among whom it has existed — which was legal only a short time ago in all the States of the Union, and was then treated as sacred by every one of them — which is guaranteed to the owner as much as any other property is guaranteed by the Constitution; and Mr. Douglas thinks that a Territorial Legislature is competent to take it away. We say, No; the supreme legislative power of a sovereign State alone can deprive a man of his property.
This proposition is so plain, so well established, and so universally acknowledged, that any argument in its favor would be a mere waste of words. Mr. Douglas does not deny it, and it did not require the thousandth part of his sagacity to see that it was undeniable. He claims for the Territorial governments the right of confiscating private property on the ground that those governments ARE sovereign — have an uncontrollable and independent power over all their internal affairs. That is the point which he thinks is to split the Democracy and impale the nation. But it is so entirely erroneous, that it must vanish into thin air as soon as it comes to be examined.
A Territorial government is merely provisional and temporary. It is created by Congress for the necessary preservation of order and purposes of police. The powers conferred upon it are expressed in the organic act, which is the charter of its existence, and which may be changed or repealed at the pleasure of Congress. In most of those acts the power has been expressly reserved to Congress
12of revising the Territorial laws, and the power to repeal them exists without such reservation. This was asserted in the case of Kansas by the most distinguished Senators in the Congress of 1856. The President appoints the Governor, judges, and all other officers whose appointment is not otherwise provided for, directly or indirectly, by Congress. Even the expenses of the Territorial government are paid out of the Federal treasury. The truth is, they have no attribute of sovereignty about them. The essence of sovereignty consists in having no superior. But a Territorial government has a superior in the United States Government, upon whose pleasure it is dependent for its very existence — in whom it lives, and moves, and has its being — who has made, and can unmake it with a breath.
Where does this sovereign authority to deprive men of their property come from? This transcendent power, which even despots are cautious about using, and which a constitutional monarch never exercises — how does it get into a Territorial Legislature? Surely it does not drop from the clouds: it will not be contended, that it accompanies the settlers, or exists in the Territory, before its organization. Indeed, it is not to the people, but to the government of a Territory, that Mr. Douglas says it belongs. Then Congress must give the power at the same time that it gives the Territorial government. But not a word of the kind is to be found in any organic act that was ever framed. It is thus that Mr. Douglas's argument runs itself out into nothing.
But if Congress would pass a statute expressly to give this sort of power to the Territorial governments, they still would not have it; for the Federal Government itself does not possess any control over men's property in the Territories. That such power does not exist in the Federal Government needs no proof: Mr. Douglas admits it fully and freely. It is, besides, established by the solemn decision of Congress, by the assent of the Executive, and by the direct ratification of the people acting in their primary capacity at the polls. In addition to all this the Supreme Court have deliberately adjudged it to be an unalterable and undeniable rule of constitutional law.
This acknowledgment that Congress has no power, authority, or jurisdiction over the subject, literally obliges Mr. Douglas to give up his doctrine, or else to maintain it by asserting that a power which the Federal Government does not possess may be given by Congress to the Territorial government. The right to abolish African slavery in a Territory is not granted by the Constitution to Congress; it is withheld, and therefore the same as if expressly prohibited. Yet Mr. Douglas declares that Congress may give it to the Territories. Nay; he goes further, and says that the want of the power in Congress is the very reason why it can delegate it — the general rule, in his opinion, being that Congress cannot delegate the powers it possess, but may delegate such "and only such, as Congress cannot exercise under the Constitution!" By turning to pages 520 and 521, the reader will see that this astounding proposition is actually made, not in jest or irony, but solemnly, seriously, and, no doubt, in perfect good faith. On this principle, as Congress cannot exercise the power to make an ex post facto law, or a law impairing the obligation of contracts, therefore it may authorize such laws to be made by the town councils of Washington city, or the levy court of the District. If Congress passes an act to hang a man without trial, it is void, and the judges will not allow it to be executed; but the power to do this prohibited thing can be constitutionally given by Congress to a Territorial Legislature.
We admit that there are certain powers bestowed upon the General Government which are in their nature judicial or executive. With them Congress can do nothing, except to see that they are executed by the proper kind of officers. It is also true that Congress has certain legislative powers which cannot be delegated. But Mr. Douglas should have known that he was not talking about powers which belonged to either of these classes, but about a legislative jurisdiction totally forbidden to the Federal Government, and incapable of being delegated, for the simple reason that it does not constitutionally exist.
Will any body say that such a power ought, as a matter of policy, or for reasons of public safety, to be held by the provisional governments of the Territories? Undoubtedly no true patriot, nor no friend of justice and order, can deliberately reflect on the probable consequences without deprecating them.
This power over property is the one which in all governments has been most carefully guarded, because the temptation to abuse it is always greater than any other. It is there that the subjects of a limited monarchy watch their king with the greatest jealousy. No republic has ever failed to impose strict limitations
13upon it. All free people know, that if they would remain free, they must compel the government to keep its hands off their private property; and this can be done only by tying them up with careful restrictions. Accordingly our Federal Constitution declares that "no person shall be deprived of his property except by due process of law," and that "private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation." It is universally agreed that this applies only to the exercise of the power by the Government of the United States. We are also protected against the State government by a similar provision in the State constitutions. Legislative robbery is therefore a crime which cannot be committed either by Congress or by any State Legislature, unless it be in flat rebellion to the fundamental law of the land. But if the Territorial governments have this power, then they have it without any limitation whatsoever, and in all the fulness of absolute despotism. They are omnipotent in regard to all their internal affairs, for they are sovereigns, without a constitution to hold them in check. And this omnipotent sovereignty is to be wielded by a few men suddenly drawn together from all parts of America and Europe, unacquainted with one another, and ignorant of their relative rights. But if Mr. Douglas is right, those governments have all the absolute power of the Russian Autocrat. They may take every kind of property in mere caprice, or for any purpose of lucre or malice, without process of law, and without providing for compensation. The Legislature of Kansas, sitting at Lecompton or Lawrence, may order the miners to give up every ounce of gold that has been dug at Pike's Peak. If the authorities of Utah should license a band of marauders to despoil the emigrants crossing the Territory, their sovereign right to do so cannot be questioned. A new Territory may be organized, which southern men think should be devoted to the culture of cotton, while the people of the North are equally certain that grazing alone is the proper business to be carried on there. If one party, by accident, by force, or by fraud, has a majority in the Legislature, the negroes are taken from the planters; and if the other set gains a political victory, it is followed by a statute to plunder the graziers of their cattle. Such things cannot be done by the Federal Government, nor by the governments of the States; but if Mr. Douglas is not mistaken, they can be done by the Territorial governments. Is it not every way better to wait until the new inhabitants know themselves and one another; until the policy of the territory is settled by some experience; and, above all, until the great powers of a sovereign State are regularly conferred upon them and properly limited, so as to prevent the gross abuses which always accompany unrestricted power in human hands?
There is another consideration which Mr. Douglas should have been the last man to overlook. The present administration of the Federal Government, and the whole Democratic party throughout the country, including Mr. Douglas, thought that, in the case of Kansas, the question of retaining or abolishing slavery should not be determined by any representative body without giving to the whole mass of the people an opportunity of voting on it. Mr. Douglas carried it further, and warmly opposed the constitution, denying even its validity, because other and undisputed parts of it had not also been submitted to a popular vote. Now he is willing that the whole slavery dispute in any Territory, and all questions that can arise concerning the rights of the people to that or other property, shall be decided at once by a Territorial Legislature, without any submission at all. Popular sovereignty in the last Congress meant the freedom of the people from all the restraints of law and order — now it means a government which shall rule them with a rod of iron. It swings like a pendulum from one side clear over to the other.
Mr. Douglas's opinions on this subject of sovereign Territorial governments are very singular; but the reasons he has produced to support them are infinitely more curious still. For instance, he shows that Jefferson once introduced into the old Congress of the Confederation a plan for the government of the Territories, calling them by the name of "New States," but not making them anything like sovereign or independent States; and though this was not embodied in the Constitution, nor adopted by any subsequent Congress, nor even afterwards referred to by Jefferson himself, yet Mr. Douglas argues upon it as if it had somehow become a part of our fundamental law.
Again: He says that the States gave to the Federal Government the same powers which as colonies they had been willing to concede to the British Government, and kept those which as colonies they had claimed for themselves. If he will read
14a common school history of the Revolution, and then took at Art. 1, sec. 8, of the Constitution, he will find the two following facts fully established: 1. That the Federal Government has "power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises;" and 2. That the colonies before the Revolution utterly refused to be taxed by Great Britain; and so far from conceding the power, fought against it for seven long years.
There is another thing in the article which, if it had not come from a distinguished Senator, and a very upright gentleman, would have been open to some imputation of unfairness. He quotes the President's message, and begins in the middle of a sentence. He professes to give the very words, and makes Mr. Buchanan say: "That slavery exists in Kansas by virtue of the Constitution of the United States." What Mr. Buchanan did say was a very different thing. It was this: "It has been solemnly adjudged by the highest judicial tribunal known to our laws, that slavery exists in Kansas by virtue of the Constitution of the United States." Every body knows that by treating the Bible in that way you can prove the non-existence of God.
The argumentum ad hominem is not fair, and we do not mean to use it. Mr. Douglas has a right to change his opinions whenever he pleases. But we quote him as we would any other authority equally high in favor of truth. We can prove by himself that every proposition he lays down in Harper's Magazine is founded in error. Never before has any public man in America so completely revolutionized his political opinions in the course of eighteen months. We do not deny that the change is heartfelt and conscientious. We only insist that he formerly stated his propositions much more clearly, and sustained them with far greater ability and better reasons than he does now.
When he took a tour to the South, at the beginning of last winter, he made a speech at New Orleans, in which he announced to the people there that he and his friends in Illinois accepted the Dred Scott decision, regarded slaves as property, and fully admitted the right of a Southern man to go into any Federal Territory with his slave, and to hold him there as other property is held.
In 1849 he voted in the Senate for what was called Walker's amendment, by which it was proposed to put all the internal affairs of California and New Mexico under the domination of the President, giving him almost unlimited power, legislative, judicial, and executive, over the internal affairs of those Territories. (See 20th Cong., p. .) Undoubtedly this was a strange way of treating sovereignties. If Mr. Douglas is right now, he was guilty then of most atrocious usurpation.
Utah is as much a sovereign State as any other Territory, and as perfectly entitled to enjoy the right of self-government. On the 12th of June, 1857, Mr. Douglas made a speech about Utah, at Springfield, Illinois, in which he expressed his opinion strongly in favor of the absolute and unconditional repeal of the organic act, blotting the Territorial government out of existence, and putting the people under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, like a fort, arsenal, dockyard, or magazine. He does not seem to have had the least idea then that he was proposing to extinguish a sovereignty, or to trample upon the sacred rights of an independent people.
The report which he made to the Senate, in 1856, on the Topeka constitution, enunciates a very different doctrine from that of the Magazine article. It is true that the language is a little cloudy, but no one can understand the following sentences to signify that the Territorial governments have sovereign power to take away the property of the inhabitants:
"The sovereignty of a Territory remains in abeyance, suspended in the United States, in trust for the people until they shall be admitted into the Union as a State. In the mean time they are admitted to enjoy and exercise all the rights and privileges of self-government, in subordination to the Constitution of the United States, AND IN OBEDIENCE TO THE ORGANIC LAW passed by Congress in pursuance of that instrument. These rights and privileges are all derived from the Constitution, through the act of Congress, and must be exercised and enjoyed in subjection to all the limitations and restrictions which that Constitution imposes."
The letter he addressed to a Philadelphia meeting, in February, 1858, is more explicit, and, barring some anomalous ideas concerning the abeyance of the power and the suspension of it in trust, it is clear enough:
"Under our Territorial system, it requires sovereign power to ordain and establish constitutions and governments. While a Territory may and should enjoy all the rights of self-government, in obedience to its organic law, it is NOT A SOVEREIGN POWER. The sovereignty of a Territory remains in abeyance, suspended in the United States, in trust for the people when they become a State, and cannot be withdrawn from the hands of the trustee and vested in the people of a Territory without the consent of Congress."
The report which he made in the same month, from the Senate Committee on Territories, is equally distinct, and rather more emphatic against his new doctrine:
"This committee in their reports have always held that a Territory is not a sovereign power; that the sovereignty of a Territory is in abeyance, suspended in the United States, in trust for the people when they become a State; that the United States, as trustees, cannot be divested of the sovereignty, nor the Territory be invested with the right to assume and exercise it, without the consent of Congress. If the proposition be true that sovereign power alone can institute governments, and that the sovereignty of a Territory is in abeyance, suspended in the United States, in trust for the people when they become a State, and that the sovereignty cannot be divested from the hands of the trustee without the assent of Congress, it follows, as an inevitable consequence, that the Kansas Legislature did not and could not confer upon the Lecompton convention the sovereign power of ordaining a constitution for the people of Kansas, in place of the organic act passed by Congress."
The days are passed and gone when Mr. Douglas led the fiery assaults of the opposition in the Lecompton controversy. Then it was his object to prove that a Territorial Legislature, so far from being omnipotent, was powerless even to authorize an election of delegates to consider about their own affairs. It was asserted that a convention chosen under a Territorial law could make and ordain no constitution which would be legally binding. Then a Territorial government was to be despised and spit upon, even when it invited the people to come forward and vote on a question of the most vital importance to their own interests. But now all things have become new. The Lecompton dispute has "gone glimmering down the dream of things that were," and Mr. Douglas produces another issue, brand new from the mint. The old opinions are not worth a rush to his present position: it must be sustained by opposite principles and reasoning totally different. The Legislature of Kansas was not sovereign when it authorized a convention of the people to assemble and decide what sort of a constitution they would have; but when it strikes at their rights of property, it becomes not only a sovereign, but a sovereign without limitation of power. We have no idea that Mr. Douglas is not perfectly sincere, as he was also when he took the other side. The impulses engendered by the heat of controversy have driven him at different times in opposite directions. We do not charge it against him as a crime, but it is true that these views of his, inconsistent as they are with one another, always happen to accord with the interests of the opposition, always give to the enemies of the Constitution a certain amount of "aid and comfort," and always add a little to the rancorous and malignant hatred with which the Abolitionists regard the Government of their own country.
Yes; the Lecompton issue which Mr. Douglas made upon the Administration two years ago is done, and the principles on which we were then opposed are abandoned. We are no longer required to fight for the lawfulness of a Territorial election held under Territorial authority. But another issue is thrust upon us, to "disturb the harmony and threaten the integrity" of the party. A few words more, (perhaps of tedious repetition,) by way of showing what that new issue is, or probably will be, and we are done.
We insist that an emigrant going into a Federal Territory retains his title to the property which he took with him, until there is some prohibition enacted by lawful authority. Mr. Douglas cannot deny this in the face of his New Orleans speech, and the overwhelming reasons which support it.
It is an agreed point among all Democrats that Congress cannot interfere with the rights of property in the Territories.
It is also acknowledged that the people of a new State, either in their constitution or in an act of their Legislature, may make the negroes within it free, or hold them in a state of servitude.
But we believe more. We believe in submitting to the law, as decided by the Supreme Court, which declares that a Territorial Legislature cannot, any more than Congress, interfere with rights of property in a Territory — that the settlers of a Territory are bound to wait until the sovereign power is conferred upon them, with proper limitations, before they attempt to exercise the most dangerous of all its functions. Mr. Douglas denies this, and there is the new issue.
Why should such an issue be made at such a time? What is there now to excuse any friend of peace for attempting to stir up the bitter waters of strife? There is no actual difficulty about this subject in any Territory. There is no question upon it pending before Congress or the country. We are called upon to make a contest, at once unnecessary and hopeless, with the judicial authority of the nation. We object to it. We will not obey Mr. Douglas when he commands us to assault the Supreme Court of the United States. We believe the court to be right, and Mr. Douglas wrong.
Another edition of these "Observations" being called for, an opportunity is afforded of adding some thoughts suggested by the attempted reply of Mr. Douglas, and by some criticisms of a different kind which have appeared in other quarters.
Mr. Douglas charges us with entertaining the opinion that "all the States of the Union" may confiscate private property — a doctrine which he denounces as a most "wicked and dangerous heresy." He championizes the inviolability of property, and invokes the fiery indignation of the public upon us for ascribing to the States any power of taking it away. Now mark how plain a tale will put him down.
There is no such thing and nothing like it on all these pages, from the first to the last. Mr. Douglas was merely flourishing his lance in the empty air. He had no ground for his assertion, except a most unauthorized inference of his own from our denial that the power existed in the Territories. The Territories must wait till they become sovereign States before they can confiscate property; that was our position. Therefore, says the logic of Mr. Douglas, all the States in the Union may do it now. What right had he to make imputations of heresy founded upon mere inference, when our opinion on the very point was directly expressed in words so plain that mistake was impossible? The following sentences occur on page 12:
"All free people know, that if they would remain free, they must compel the government to keep its hands off their private property; and this can be done only by tying them up with careful restrictions. Accordingly our Federal Constitution declares that ‘no person shall be deprived of his property except by due process of law,’ and that ‘private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation.’ It is universally agreed that this applies only to the exercise of the power by the Government of the United States. We are also protected against the State governments by a similar provision in the State constitutions. Legislative robbery is therefore a crime which cannot be committed either by Congress or by any State Legislature, unless it be done in flat rebellion to the fundamental law of the land."
The close of the same paragraph shows why it was important that no attempt should be made to exercise such power by a Territory:
"Is it not every way better to wait until the new inhabitants know themselves and one another; until the policy of the Territory is settled by some experience; and, above all, until the great powers of a sovereign State are regularly conferred upon them and properly limited, so as to prevent the gross abuses which always accompany unrestricted power in human hands?"
Mr. Douglas certainly read these passages, for he borrowed a phrase from them, and put it into his own speech. He ought to have understood them. If he both read and understood them, why did he allege that this pamphlet favored the dangerous heresy referred to? Let the charity which "thinketh no evil" find the best excuse for him it can.
That the government of a sovereign State, unrestricted and unchecked by any constitutional prohibition, would have power to confiscate private property, even without compensation to the owner, is a proposition which will scarcely be denied by any one who has mastered the primer of political science. Sovereignty, which is the supreme authority of an independent State or government, is in its nature irresponsible and absolute. It cannot be otherwise, since it has no superior by whom it can be called to account. Mere moral abstractions or theoretic principles of natural justice do not limit the legal authority of a sovereign. No government ought to violate justice; but any supreme government, whose hands are entirely free, can violate it with impunity. For these reasons it is that the Saxon race have been laboring, planning, and fighting, during seven hundred years, for Great Charters, Bills of Rights, and Constitutions, to limit the sovereignty of all the governments they have lived under. Our ancestors in the old country, as well as in America, have wasted their money and blood in vain to establish constitutional governments, if it be true that a government without a constitution is not capable of doing injustice. They know better than that. They understood very well that a sovereign government, no matter by whom its power is wielded, may do what wrong it pleases, and "bids its will avouch the deed."
Now, what is the constitutional prohibition which can anywhere be found to restrain "Popular Sovereignty in the Territories" (if there be such a thing there) from confiscating any citizen's property? There is none. A Territory has no constitution of its own; and nobody would be absurd enough to say, that it is governed by the constitution of another State. Will it be said, that the provision in the Federal Constitution, which forbids the taking of private property without compensation, can be used so as to restrain a Territorial sovereignty? Certainly not. The Supreme Court have decided, (in Barron vs. The City of Baltimore, 7 Peters, 243) that the clause referred to applies exclusively to the exercise of the power by the Federal Government. The rule was so laid down by Chief Justice Marshall. It was concurred in by the whole Court; and its correctness has never been denied or doubted by any judge, lawyer, or statesman from the time of the decision to this day. If, therefore, there be a sovereignty in the Territories, it is sovereignty unlimited by any constitutional interdict. This implies a power in the Territories infinitely greater than that of any other government in all North America.
The simple and easy solution of all this difficulty is furnished by the Supreme Court, and adopted by the Democratic party as the true principle governing the subject. It is this: That the Territories are not sovereignties, but their governments are public corporations, established by Congress to manage the local affairs of the inhabitants, like the government of a city, established by a State Legislature. Indeed, there is probably no city in the United States whose powers are not larger than those of a Federal Territory. The people of a city elect their own mayor, and, directly or indirectly, appoint all their municipal officers. But the President appoints the Chief Executive of a Territory, as well as the judges. He may send them there from any part of the Union, and in point of fact they are generally strangers to the inhabitants when first chosen. They are in no way responsible to the Territory or its people, but to the Federal Government alone, and they may be removed whenever the President thinks proper. The Territorial legislature is sometimes (and only sometimes) elected by the people; but why? Because Congress has been pleased to permit it by the organic act. The power that gives this privilege could withhold it, too. It is always coupled with restrictions and regulations which could never be imposed on a sovereignty by any authority except its own. The organic act generally prescribes the qualifications of voters, and divides the territory into districts; and the action of the legislative body itself is controlled by the veto power of a Governor appointed by the President and removable at his pleasure. It is too clear for possible controversy, that a Territory is not a sovereign power, but a subordinate dependency. It cannot deprive a man of his property without due process of law, or without just compensation, for two reasons: 1. It has no sovereign power of its own; and, 2. The Federal Government being forbidden by the Constitution to exercise such power itself, cannot bestow it on a Territory. The Constitution of the United States protects a man's property from being plundered by a Territorial legislature, just as a State constitution protects it from robbery by the authorities of a city corporation.
It should be noted that when this question was before the Supreme Court of the United States, there was some difference of opinion among the judges, on the question whether Congress might, or might not, legislate for a Territory in such a manner as to take away the right of property in slaves. A majority of two-thirds or more held the negative; and Mr. Douglas admits that the majority was clearly right. But no member of the court expressed the opinion, nor was it even thought of by the counsel, that the Territories had any such inherent and natural power of their own. Indeed, there is no judge of any grade or character, nor any writer on law or government, who has ever asserted or given the least countenance to this notion of popular or any other kind of sovereignty in the Territories.
Some trouble will be saved in this part of the argument, by the fact that, since the first publication of this pamphlet, Mr. Douglas denies and repudiates all claim of sovereignty for the Territories. He even says that he never did regard them as sovereigns. His words spoken at Wooster, Ohio, and written out by himself, are these:
"I NEVER claimed that Territorial governments were sovereign, or that the Territories were sovereign powers."
Of course this is not to be understood as a mere naked denial that he had previously used those very words. We have no right to charge Mr. Douglas with
18adopting the exploded system of morality, which allows a man to cover up the truth under an equivoque. We are bound to take his denial fairly, as meaning that he never thought the Territories had the rights and powers which belong to sovereign governments. Let us see how this assertion will stand the test of investigation.
We do not deny that the article in Harper is extremely difficult to understand. Its unjointed thoughts, loose expression, and illogical reasoning, have covered it with shadows, clouds, and darkness. But we will not admit that it has no meaning at all. It is scarcely possible to mistake the general purpose of the author. That purpose undoubtedly was to prove that the States and Territories, so far as concerns their internal affairs, have political rights and powers which are precisely equal. In fact, he declares, in so many words, that Pennsylvania and Kansas are subordinate to the Constitution "in the same manner and to the same extent." He not only levels the Territories up to the States, but levels the States down to the Territories. If Kansas has slavery by virtue of the Constitution, he insists that, by the same reasoning, Pennsylvania has it too. Now we know Pennsylvania to be a sovereign; and if Kansas be her equal, then Kansas must necessarily be a sovereign also.
But look at the last sentence, which is the grand summary of this whole doctrine:
"The principle under our political system is, that every distinct political community, loyal to the Constitution and the Union, is entitled to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of self-government, in respect to their local concerns and internal polity, subject only to the Constitution of the United States."
Here the States and Territories are placed on a footing of perfect equality. There is no distinction made between them. If the States are sovereign, so are the Territories. Besides, the "rights, privileges, and immunities," which he describes, as pertaining to every distinct political community, (that is, to both States and Territories,) are sovereign rights, and nothing else. Any community which has the independent and uncontrollable right of self-government, with respect to its local concerns and internal polity, must be, quoad hoc, a sovereign.
Again: Mr. Douglas, in his speech at Cincinnati, made so lately as the 9th September last, used the following unmistakable language:
"Examine the bills and search the records, and you will find that the great principle which underlies those measures, (the compromise of 1850,) is the right of the people of each State and each Territory, WHILE A TERRITORY, to DECIDE the slavery question for themselves."
Is not this claiming sovereignty for the Territories? Can the slavery question be decided without legislating upon the right of property? And can a subordinate government do that? If the Territories have power to decide whether a man shall keep his property or not, where did the power come from? Surely not from Congress, through the organic acts. They must have it, then, upon what Mr. Douglas calls a great principle, and that great principle can be nothing else than "Sovereignty in the Territories." Thus it is seen that Mr. Douglas makes a tour to the West, and on his way back he contradicts what he said as he went out.
There are but two sides to this controversy: The Territories are either sovereign powers by natural or inherent right, or else they are political corporations, owing all the authority they possess to the acts of Congress which create them. It is not possible to believe that Mr. Douglas wrote thirty-eight columns in a magazine to prove the truth of the latter doctrine. Nobody but himself and his followers were ever accused of denying it. If he did not deny it, and plant himself upon the opposing ground of sovereignty in the Territories, then there was no dispute, or cause of division, between him and the Democratic party; and he has, consequently, been engaged in raising an excitement about nothing; trying to toss the ocean of politics into a tempest, without having even a feather to waft, or a fly to drown.
But that is not all. Mr. Douglas has continually used the very word sovereignty with reference to the Territories. This sovereignty in the Territories he has asserted and re-asserted so often, that the phrase is in great danger of becoming ridiculous by the mere frequency with which he repeats it. For many months he has not made a speech or written a letter for the newspapers on any other subject. It heads his elaborate article in Harper; it is vociferated into the public ear from the stump; and it stares at us in great capitals from the hand bills which call the people to his meetings. Unless it be acknowledged, he predicts the hopeless division of the party, and even threatens to refuse its nomination for the Presidency.
19Now, all at once, the subject-matter of the whole controversy is admitted to be a nonentity. He "checks his thunder in mid-volley," and owns that there is no sovereignty in a Territory any more than in a British colony. Other persons may have ridden their hobbies as hard as Mr. Douglas; but since the beginning of the world no man ever dismounted so suddenly.
"Sovereignty in the Territories," of which we have heard so much, is generally, if not always, coupled by Mr. Douglas with the prefix of "Popular." This last word appears to be used for the mere sake of the sound, and without any regard whatever to the sense. It does not mean that the people or inhabitants of the Territories have any supreme power independent of the laws, or above the regularly constituted legal authorities. They cannot meet together, count themselves, and say: We are so many hundreds or so many thousands, and we must therefore be obeyed; the law is in our voice, and not in the rules which our Government has made to control us." Something like this view was vaguely entertained in times when the Lecompton constitution was opposed. But that is gone by. Mature reflection has left mobocracy without a defender. Nobody now insists that the right to make or annul laws and constitutions can be exercised in voluntary mass meetings or at elections unauthorized by law. Mr. Douglas himself says: "It can only be exercised where the inhabitants are sufficient to constitute a government, and capable of performing its various functions and duties — a fact to be ascertained and determined by Congress." The sovereignty, then, is in the government, if it be anywhere. But Mr. Douglas now says it is not there; and he is right. That being the case, where is it?
When Mr. Douglas, in his speech at Wooster, was repudiating and denying the doctrine of sovereignty in the Territories, and resuming his old position, that they are not sovereign powers, it would have been well to fall back upon something a little more intelligible than his reports to the Senate, or his anti-Lecompton letter to Philadelphia. Here is the way he describes sovereignty in his report of 1856:
"The sovereignty of a Territory remains in abeyance, suspended in the United States, in trust for the people until they shall be admitted into the Union as a State."
What do these words mean, and in what possible way can they help us to a knowledge of the matter under consideration? Abeyance is good law French, and signifies the peculiar condition of an estate after one tenant has died, and before his successor is competent to take it. But what application can it have, even by analogy, to a sovereignty which never existed? It seems, too, that this sovereignty is suspended in the United States — that is, hung or dependent from something in the United States, and not independent like every other sovereignty under heaven. But the most marvellous part of the business is, that one government which is sovereign is represented as a trustee of the sovereignty of another government which is admitted not to be sovereign. This is the talk of a man who has too much learning. These technical terms of the common law were invented by English conveyancers and real property lawyers, for the purpose of expressing the artificial relations which men sometimes bear to lands, tenements, and hereditaments; but they are wholly inapplicable to such a subject as the sovereignty of a State or nation. We might as well call Territorial sovereignty a contingent remainder, an executory devise, or a special fee tail.
There is some confusion of ideas on another subject. Mr. Douglas and his disciples ascribe to certain Democrats (to the President among others) the belief that the Constitution establishes slavery in the territories; and, to sustain this accusation, they quote from a message in which the EXISTENCE of slavery in the Territories by virtue of the Constitution is asserted on the authority of the Supreme Court. Now we are in the wrong, if the expression that a thing exists by virtue of the Constitution be equivalent to saying that the Constitution has established it. There is not only a substantial, but a wide and most obvious difference. The Constitution does not establish Christianity in the Territories; but Christianity exists there by virtue of the Constitution; because when a Christian moves into a Territory, he cannot be prevented from taking his religion along with him; nor can he afterwards be legally molested for making its principles the rule of his faith and practice.
We have said, and we repeat, that a man does not forfeit his right of property in a slave by migrating with him to a Territory. The title which the owner acquired in the State from whence he came must be respected in his new domicil as
20it was in the old, until it is legally and constitutionally divested. The proposition is undeniable. But the absurd inference which some persons have drawn from it is not true, that the master also takes with him the judicial remedies which were furnished him at the place where his title was acquired. Whether the relation of master and slave exists or not, is a question which must be determined according to the law of the State in which it was created; but the respective rights and obligations of the parties must be protected and enforced by the law prevailing at the place where they are supposed to be violated. This is also true with respect to rights of every other kind. Two merchants living in the same town may buy their goods in different States. Can it be doubted that the title of each depends on the law of the State where he made his purchase? But the law of larceny and trespass is the law of a forum common to both, and must necessarily be the same. The validity of a man's marriage is tried by the standard of the law which prevailed in the country where it was solemnized; but if he beats his wife, she must seek protection from the law of the place where they live.
Some of Mr. Douglas's partisans, and nearly all of the anti-slavery opposition, contend that property in slaves cannot exist so as to entitle it to the protection of the same laws which secure the right of property in other things. For their benefit we shall briefly show how impossible it is to admit the distinction which they insist upon.
What is property? Whatever a person may legally appropriate to his own exclusive use and transfer to another by sale or gift. By the laws of the southern States, negroes are within this definition, and the Constitution of the United States not only recognizes the validity of the State laws, but it aids in carrying them out. The framers of the Constitution, seeing that slaves were liable to one danger from which all other property was exempt, namely, that of being seduced away by the offer, in other States, of legal shelter from the pursuit of their owners, agreed that the Federal Government should guarantee their re-delivery to the exclusive possession of the persons entitled to them as proprietors. The law, then, of the States in which they are and the Constitution of the Federal Government, to all legal intents and purposes, pronounce that slaves are property. Beaten here, our adversaries convert it from a legal to a theological question. But when they appeal from the Constitution to the Bible, they are equally dissatisfied with the decision they get. Nothing is left them but that "Higher Law," which has no sanction nor no authority, Divine or human. Those who reject the Constitution must be content to follow guides who are stone-blind. They are men who aspire to be wise above what is written, and thereby press themselves down to the extremest point of human folly. They turn their backs on all the light which the world has, or can have; they go forth into outer darkness, and wander perpetually in a howling wilderness of error.
But Mr. Douglas is guiltless of this heresy at least. He concedes that slaves are precisely like other property, so far as regards the legal remedies and constitutional rights of the owner. He professes to take the fundamental law of the land for his guide upon that point. Let his practice, then, correspond with his faith; let him "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith he is called;" let him make no more appeals to popular prejudice for a sovereignty which does not exist; above all things, let him never, by the slightest suggestion, encourage any Territorial government to undermine the rights of the citizen by legislation which is "unfriendly" to the security of either property or life. We must not palter with the Constitution in a double sense, but obey it, support it, defend it, earnestly and faithfully, like men who believe in it and love it. Whosoever attempts to trifle with its principles, or weaken the obligation of its guarantees, will find, sooner or later, that he has fixed a stain upon his political character which "there is not rain enough in the sweet heavens" to wash out.
Rejoinder to Senator Douglas's Last.
As briefly as possible, eschewing all matters personal or quasi personal, and without introduction or preface, I shall notice the only points in Mr. Douglas's last pamphlet that are worthy of attention.
He denies that his views on "Sovereignty in the Territories," as expressed in Harper's Magazine, are inconsistent with those of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott Case. I aver, on the contrary, that he could not have made such a denial if he had not totally misunderstood either his own opinions or those of the court; for they are in direct conflict with one another. A plain issue of fact is thus made up between us, and it is triable by the record. Let us look at it.
The court, after demonstrating in the clearest manner that the Federal Government had no authority or jurisdiction to abolish slavery in a Territory, proceeded to say what Mr. Douglas himself has quoted on page 530 of the Magazine:
"And if Congress itself cannot do this — if it is beyond the powers conferred on the Federal Government — it will be admitted, we presume, that it could not authorize a Territorial government to exercise them. It could confer no power on any local government established by its authority to violate the provisions of the Constitution."
This is in substance the very identical proposition which Mr. Douglas, on page 520, pronounces it to be "as plausible as it is fallacious." He adds, that "the reverse of it is true as a general rule;" and then supports his assertion by another assertion the most singular that ever was placed on record by any man having the slightest pretensions to a knowledge of our government; namely, that Congress could confer upon a Territory such powers, "and ONLY such as Congress cannot exercise under the Constitution!" There is the record; and I am perfectly sure that no tolerably sensible man in this nation, except Mr. Douglas, will doubt for a moment, that it places him and the court in an attitude of perfect antagonism.
But then he says he defended the court in more than one hundred speeches. It can scarcely be necessary to say, that arguments on a question of law are valued according to their weight, and not according to their number. The count of Mr. Douglas's speeches on the Illinois stump was, no doubt, faithfully kept; but, when he claims credit for their orthodoxy, he must show something more than scores on a tally paper. He might as well come, with his Harper article in one hand and a two-foot rule in the other, ready to demonstrate his concurrence with the court by showing that it contains two thousand eight hundred and eighty square inches of surface. Without reference to the superficial measure of one or the carefully enumerated repetitions of the other, we may safely presume that the quality of his spoken arguments was not better than that of his written essay; and in this latter Mr. Douglas not only opposes the court, but, what is much worse, he charges it with holding his opinions. This is a deep and serious injury; for how would the judges of that great tribunal be able to look their country in the face, if they had ever said, that a power over private property, forbidden to the Federal Government, might be delegated by Congress to a Territorial legislature?
The whole dispute (as far as it is a doctrinal dispute) between Mr. Douglas and the Democratic party lies substantially in these two propositions: 1. The owner of a slave may remove with him, as with other property, into a Territory without forfeiting his title. 2. The government of a Territory has and can have no power to deprive the inhabitants of their private property, whether in slaves or anything else.
I. The "axiomatic principle of public law" that a man, going from one country into another, retains in the latter, (if there be no conflicting law,) all the rights of property which he had in the former, is so universally acknowledged, that nobody thinks worth while to prove it. At all times, in all countries, and by all persons, it is taken and acted upon as a postulate. I certainly had not, until very lately, the remotest suspicion that any man on this side of China would doubt it. All the intercourse between the States, and with foreign countries, depends on it. Without it, the traveller must lose all right to his trunk whenever he passes the border of his own State; and when a foreigner lands among us, he may be robbed of his purse by the first loafer that meets him on the wharf. Importation and exportation would cease, and the commerce of the whole world would suddenly come to a dead pause, if a man might not prove his right to personal property in one country by showing that he was the legal owner of it in another from whence he brought it. This principle is to the commercial world what the law of gravitation is to the material universe; it cannot be abolished without hurling the whole system into ruin.
Mr. Douglas does not admit this "axiomatic principle," nor does he deny it, though he writes a great deal about it. But he is unusually clear and explicit in
22his assertion that "it has no application to, and does not include, slavery." I insist that he is utterly mistaken. Slaves being recognized as property by the Constitution, and made so by the local laws of those States which have power to regulate their condition, there can be no constitutional or legal reason given for excepting them from the operation of a rule which applies to property in general. Mr. Douglas's argument in favor of such discrimination between slaves and other property is a total failure, and no plausible argument can ever be made on that side, except one founded on the "higher law," or the doctrines taught by that new religion, of which Saint Ossawattomie is the apostle and the martyr.
It has never been held that any kind of property can be introduced into a State or Territory whose laws oppose the owner's right; a liquor-dealer in New York cannot take brandy to Portland, if the Maine law forbids it. So, a relation formed in one country must cease when the parties go to another, in which such a relation is illegal; a Turk may be the lawful husband of many wives in Constantinople, but he cannot keep them if he changes his residence to Western Europe, or to the American States. So it undoubtedly is with slavery. No man in his senses ever contended that a Virginian, going to live in Pennsylvania, could take his slaves with him, and keep them there in spite of the Pennsylvania law. But if he goes to Kentucky, where the law is not opposed to slavery, it is equally clear that he retains all the dominion over them which he had before his removal. The right of property, no matter where it accrued, continues to be sacred and inviolable until it comes in collision with a law which divests it. In a Federal Territory there can be no such collision with the right of a slaveholder, because there is no conflicting law there on that subject.
All authority, as well as all reason and common sense, is in favor of this doctrine. It was the very point of the Dred Scott case. Dred was the slave of Dr. Emerson, in Missouri, and was taken by his master to a Federal Territory, where there was no valid law which either expressly authorized or expressly interdicted the holding of slaves. The Court held that Dred Scott's status in Missouri was not changed, nor the right of his master divested, by his removal to the Territory. The principle was applied to the case of a slave just as it would be applied to any other property. It is half a score of times repeated by the judges, that there can be no distinction between slave and other property. The other authorities to the same point are conclusive and overwhelming. Any person who desires to see all the learning of the subject may consult "Cobb on slavery," where it is arranged in an order so lucid, and discussed with so much ability, that nothing further need be desired.
There is one other authority directly to the point which I cite, not only for its own intrinsic value, but also because it will probably be esteemed very highly by Mr. Douglas himself. It is an extract from a speech of his own, delivered in the Senate on the 23d of February last. The legal equality of slave property and other property was then asserted by him in the following fashion:
"Slaves, according to that decision, [the Dred Scott decision,] being property, stand on an equal footing with all other property. There is just as much obligation on the part of the Territorial legislature to protect slaves as every other species of property — as there is to protect horses, cattle, dry-goods, liquors, &c. If they have a right to discriminate as to the one, they have as to the other; and whether they have got the power of discrimination or not is for the court to decide if any one disputes it. * * If there is no power of discrimination on other species of property, there is none as to slaves. If there is a power of discrimination as to other property — and I think there is — then it applies to slave property. In other words, slave property is on an equal footing with all other property."
In the face of all of this, in the teeth of his own words so recently uttered, in defiance of the Supreme Court, and all judicial authority, Mr. Douglas now declares that the "axiomatic principle of public law," which enables a man to remove his property from place to place, wherever the local law does not forbid its coming, is not applicable to slaves. To sustain himself in making this distinction, he produces two short passages, both of which have been picked out of one paragraph in Story's "Conflict of Laws." These passages (will the reader believe it?) merely show that a slave becomes free when taken to a country where slavery is not tolerated by law! Judge Story cites cases decided in England, France, Scotland and Massachusetts, to prove, that the laws of those countries, being opposed to slavery, will dissolve the relation between master and slave when brought in contact with it. I say, that slaves may be taken to Kansas or Kentucky without being emancipated. Mr. Douglas, with great gravity and complacency, answers me, that I am wrong, because slavery is not tolerated in England or Massachusetts. No instance of a non sequitur so glaring and so palpable has ever before fallen under my notice.
Mr. Douglas forbears to burden his pages with "the long list of authorities," which he says are cited by Judge Story. It is a curious fact that not a single one
23of those authorities touches the question in controversy between us. They all, without exception, refer to cases in which there was a direct conflict between the law of the country where the slave came from, and the law of the country to which he was taken. No one of the writers referred to has outraged common sense by saying or hinting that slaves are made free by mere removal without any such conflict of law. The quotation from the opinion of the Supreme Court in Prigg vs. Pennsylvania is made with the same rashness and with no nearer approach to the point.
The public will doubtless be somewhat surprised by Mr. Douglas's unique mode of dealing with books. For myself, I am inexpressibly amazed at it. I have no right to suppose that he intended to insult the intelligence of his readers, or to impose upon their ignorance, by making a parade of learning and research which he did not possess. But how shall we account for quotations like those? I am obliged to leave the riddle unread.
II. Assuming that slaves taken from a slaveholding State into a Territory continue to be slaves, can the rights of their owners be afterwards divested by an act of the Territorial legislature? They can certainly, if the Territories are sovereign States; if not, not. On this question Mr. Douglas has placed himself in a most peculiar position. Heretofore he has alternately affirmed and denied the sovereignty of the Territories. In his last pamphlet he seems to think the middle way safest; he admits that they are not sovereign, but asserts that they have "the attributes of sovereignty." This is not at all ingenious. It must be apparent to the dullest understanding that a government which has the attributes of sovereignty, is sovereign.
Sovereignty is the supreme authority of an independent State. No government is sovereign which may be controlled by a superior government. As applied to political structures, supremacy and sovereignty are convertible terms. To prove this I will not refer to "the primer of political science;" it is found in all the horn books. Every half-grown boy in the country who has given the usual amount of study to the English tongue, or who has occasionally looked into a dictionary, knows that the sovereignty of a government consists in its uncontrollable right to exercise the highest power. But Mr. Douglas tries to clothe the Territories with the "attributes of sovereignty," not by proving the supremacy of their jurisdiction in any matter or thing whatsoever, but merely by showing that they may be, and some of them have been, authorized to legislate within certain limits, to exercise the right of eminent domain, to lay and collect taxes for Territorial purposes, to deprive a citizen of life, liberty, or property as a punishment for crime, and to create corporations. All this is true enough, but it does by no means follow that the provisional government of a Territory is, therefore, a sovereign in any sense of the word. A city council may legislate, but the city is still subordinate to the State which gave it political being. The right of eminent domain is delegated every day to private corporations, but no turnpike company pretends to be a sovereign State. The courts in many places have authority to create corporations, the sheriff of a county has power to imprison or hang malefactors, and the supervisors of a township can levy taxes; but I think no judge, sheriff, or supervisor, has ever claimed the purple or the diadem on any such ground. Governments always act by their agents, but the agent, whether it be an individual officer or a political corporation, like a city or a Territory, is not in any case sovereign, supreme, and uncontrollable. Thus the arguments of Mr. Douglas, which he elaborates through page after page with wearisome pains, are but touched with the finger of investigation, and they disappear forever.
And these are of them."
Mr. Douglas, the senator, the statesman, the struggling candidate for the presidency, should not have borrowed from the lawyerlings and small wits of the Abolition party the stale, often-repeated, and worn-out assertion that emigrants cannot have a right to the property they take with them, because it will introduce into the Territory or State where they settle, all the conflicting laws of the different States from whence they came. Nothing could be less worthy of his high place in the councils of the nation. He ought to know that goods of various kinds are going continually into each State from all the other States of the Union, without producing any such effects. He does know that nearly all the personal property within the limits of a new Territory has come there from abroad under the protection of the axiomatic principle which he thinks proper to sneer at; and he never heard that any difficulty or confusion was produced by it.
I never said that an emigrant to a Territory had a right to his property without
24a remedy; but I admit that he must look for his remedy to the law of his new domicil. It is true that he takes his life, his limbs, his reputation, and his property, and with them he takes nothing but his naked right to keep them and enjoy them. He leaves the judicial remedies of his previous domicil behind him. It is also true, that in a Territory just beginning to be settled, he may need remedies for the vindication of his rights above all things else. In his new home there may be bands of base marauders, without conscience or the fear of God before their eyes, who are ready to rob and murder, and spare nothing that man or woman holds dear. In such a time it is quite possible to imagine an abolition legislature whose members owe their seats to Sharp's rifles and the money of the Emigration Aid Society. Very possibly a legislature so chosen might employ itself in passing laws unfriendly to the rights of honest men, and friendly to the business of the robber and the murderer. I concede this, and Mr. Douglas is entitled to all the comfort it affords him. But it is an insult to the American people to suppose, that any community can be organized within the limits of our Union who will tolerate such a state of things. If it shall ever come to that, Mr. Douglas may rest assured, that a remedy will be found. No government can possibly exist, which will allow the right of property to go unprotected; much less can it suffer such a right to be exposed to "unfriendly legislation."
Mr. Douglas thinks that a Territory may exclude slaves, or interfere with the rights of the owners, because, in some of the organic acts, the general grant is made of authority over "all rightful subjects of legislation." This is not the least unaccountable of his strange notions. In such an act nothing is taken by implication, nor could the power in question be given even by express words, for it is forbidden by the Constitution to the Federal Government itself. The logic so peculiar to Mr. Douglas, which infers the power to give from the want of possession, may sustain such a construction of a statute; but nothing else will.
A "plan" relating to the Territories was offered to Congress by Mr. Jefferson in 1784. It was a mere project, in the form of resolutions, embodying certain abstract propositions in anticipation of settlements yet to be made in the wilderness. It did not establish any government, temporary or permanent, but provided how the settlers, when they would go there, might petition Congress and get themselves organized. There is not a word in any of the resolutions about sovereignty or slavery. They were passed in April, 1784, but three years afterwards they were repealed; the whole "plan" was rejected by Congress, and another plan totally different (the famous ordinance of 1787) was substituted in its place. Mr. Douglas, in Harper, referred to this plan, and expended column after column of dreary comment upon it. It was ridiculously inapplicable to his argument; like his quotation from Story, it had no more to do with the subject before him than the Edict of Nantes. I referred to it merely as showing how he could wander from the point. But he allows his righteous soul to be vexed at me for saying it was rejected. It was rejected; for though Congress assented to the resolutions when first offered, the plan was repudiated before a single principle of it went into operation. Mr. Douglas says that it "stood on the Statute-book unrepealed and irrepealable." I take it for granted, that he would not have made such an allegation if he had known what I now tell him: that it was, in fact, repealed in 1787 by the unanimous vote of the whole Congress. — (Jour. Cong., vol. 4, page 754.)
I have regarded this dispute as on a question of constitutional law, far, very far, above party politics. But I am tempted to vindicate the Democracy from the imputation which Mr. Douglas casts upon that party when he claims the Cincinnati platform as favoring his creed. It contains no word of the kind. I may also add, that every Democrat who desires to preserve "the unity of the faith in the bonds of peace" will disapprove the odious charge which Mr. Douglas flings at the President, of agreeing with him on this subject. The calm, clear judgment of Mr. Buchanan was never for a moment imposed on, nor his love for the Constitution shaken, by his heresy. Neither in his Sanford letter, nor in his letter of acceptance, nor his Inaugural Address, nor in any other paper, public or private, did he ever give the remotest countenance to such doctrine. He has often said, that the people of the Territories had the right to determine the question of slavery for themselves, but he never said, nor intimated, that they could do so before they were ready to form a State constitution.
I will not follow Mr. Douglas any further at present. But I must not be understood as assenting to the numerous assertions upon which I am silent. There is scarcely a sentence in this whole pamphlet which does not either propound an error, or else mangle a truth. I do not charge him, however, with wilful misstatements of either law or fact.