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Sir, this is the Senate of the United States, an important body, under the Constitution, with great powers. Its members are justly supposed, from age, to be above the intemperance of youth, and from character to be above the gusts of vulgarity. They are supposed to have something of wisdom, and something of that candor which is the handmaid of wisdom. Let the Senator bear these things in mind, and let him remember hereafter that the bowie-knife and bludgeon are not the proper emblems of Senatorial debate. Let him remember that the swagger of Bob Acres and the ferocity of the Malay cannot add dignity to this body. The Senator has gone on to infuse into his speech the venom which has been sweltering for months—ay, for years; and he has alleged facts that are entirely without foundation, in order to heap upon me some personal obloquy. I will not go into the details which have flowed out so naturally from his tongue. I only brand them to his face as false. I say, also, to that Senator, and I wish him to bear it in mind, that no person with the upright form of man can be allowed—(Hesitation).
Mr. Douglas—Say it.
Mr. Sumner—I will say it—no person with the upright
form of man can be allowed, without violation to all de
cency, to switch out from his tongue the perpetual stench of offensive personality. Sir, that is not a proper weapon of debate, at least, on this floor. The noisome, squat, and nameless animal, to which I now refer, is not a proper model for an American Senator. Will the Senator from Illinois take notice?
Mr. Douglas—I will; and therefore will not imitate you, sir.
Mr. Sumner—I did not hear the Senator.
Mr. Douglas—I said if that be the case I would cer. tainly never imitate you in that capacity, recognizing the force of the illustration.
Mr. Sumner—Mr. President, again the Senator has switched his tongue, and again he fills the Senate with its offensive odor. . .
Mr. Douglas—I am not going to pursue this subject further. I will only say that a man who has been branded by me in the Senate, and convicted by the Senate of falsehood, cannot use language requiring a reply, and therefore I have nothing more to say.
UDAEI PHILIP BENJAMIN was born in St. Croix, West Indies, in 1811. Soon after his birth, his parents, who were English Jews, emigrated to the United States, and the boy grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina. After spending three years at Yale College, he entered upon the study of the law, and in 1832 was admitted to the bar in New Orleans. He was twice sent from Louisiana to the United States Senate, first in 1853 as a Whig, and again in 1859 as a Conservative. After the death of John C. Calhoun he was the most powerful champion of the legal claims of slavery under the Constitution. He resigned his seat in the United States Senate on February 21, 1861, and accepted the appointment of Attorney-General in the provisional government of the Confederate States. He was next made Secretary of War, and, ultimately, Secretary of State, which last-named position he held until the Confederacy collapsed. After the fall of Richmond, he escaped to the Bahamas, whence he reached Liverpool. Admitted to practice at the English bar, he soon acquired a lucrative practice, and rose to eminence. He died in Paris, in 1884. The speech which we here reproduce was one of the weightiest defences of the doctrine of the right of property in slaves.
ON THE PROPERTY DOCTRINE, OR THE RIGHT OF PROPERTY IN SLAVES
SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, MARCH 11, 1858
R. PRESIDENT, the whole subject of slavery, so far as it is involved in the issue now before the country, is narrowed down at last to a controversy on the solitary point, whether it be competent for the Congress of the United States, directly or indirectly, to exclude slavery from the Territories of the Union.
The Supreme Court of the United States have given a negative answer to this proposition, and it shall be my first effort to support that negation by argument, independently of the authority of the decision. It seems to me that the radical, fundamental error which underlies the argument in affirmation of this power, is the assumption that slavery is the creature of the statute law of the several States where it is established; that it has no existence outside of the limits of those States; that slaves are not property beyond those limits; and that property in slaves is neither recognized nor protected by the Constitution of the United States, nor by international law. I controvert all these propositions, and shall proceed at once to my argument. Mr. President, the thirteen Colonies, which on the 4th of July, 1776, asserted their independence, were British colonies, governed by British laws. Our ancestors in their emigration to this country brought with them the common law of England as their birthright. They adopted its principles for their government so far as it was not incompatible with the peculiarities of their situation in a rude and unsettled country. Great Britain then having the sovereignty over the Colonies, possessed undoubted power to regulate their institutions, to control their commerce, and to give laws to their intercourse, both with the mother and the other nations of the earth. If I can show, as I hope to be able to establish to the satisfaction of the Senate, that the nation thus exercising sovereign power over these thirteen Colonies did establish slavery in them, did maintain and protect the institution, did originate and carry on the slave trade, did support and foster that trade, that it forbade the Colonies permission either to emancipate or export their slaves, that it prohibited them from inaugurating any legislation in diminution or discouragement of the institution—nay, sir, more, if, at the date of our Revolution I can show that African slavery existed in England as it did on this continent, if I can show that slaves were sold upon the slave mart, in the Exchange and other public places of resort in the city of London as they were on this continent, then I shall not hazard too much in the assertion that slavery was the common law of the thirteen States of the Confederacy at the time they burst the bonds that united them to the mother country. . . . This legislation, Mr. President, as I have said before, emanating from the mother country, fixed the institution upon the Colonies. They could not resist it. All their right was limited to petition, to remonstrance, and to attempts at legislation at home to diminish the evil. Every such attempt was sternly repressed by the British crown. In 1760, South Carolina passed an act prohibiting the further importation of African slaves. The act was rejected by the crown; the Governor was reprimanded; and a circular was sent to all the governors of all the Colonies, warning them against presuming to countenance such legislation. In 1765, a similar bill was thrice read in the Assembly of Jamaica. The news reached Great Britain before its final passage. Instructions were sent out to the royal Governor; he called the House of Assembly before him, communicated his instructions, and forbade any further progress of the bill. In 1774, in spite of this discountenancing action of the mother government, two bills passed the Legislative Assembly of Jamaica; and the Earl of Dartmouth, then Secretary of State, wrote to Sir Basil Keith, the Governor of the Colony, that “these measures had created alarm to the merchants of Great Britain engaged in that branch of com