Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

Thet bombshells, grape, an' powder 'n' ball

Air good-will's strongest magnets,

Thet peace, to make it stick at all,
Must be druv in with bagnets.

In short, I firmly du believe.
In Humbug generally,

Fer it's a thing thet I perceive

To hev a solid vally ;

This heth my faithful shepherd ben,

In pasturs sweet heth led me,
An' this 'll keep the people green

To feed ez they hev fed me.

[James Russell Lowell], The Biglow Papers, [First Series] (Cambridge, 1848), No. vi., 75-80.

16. Defence of the Proviso (1847)

BY REPRESENTATIVE DAVID WILMOT

Wilmot was a Northern Democrat, content to allow the South some of her demands, but unwilling to have any responsibility for more slave territory. His famous proviso, first introduced in 1846, was the bugle-call which aroused the North to the intention of the South to increase the slave states beyond Texas, and thus to extend slavery. Lincoln once boasted that he had voted for the principle of the Wilmot Proviso forty-two times in the two years of his service in the House. - Bibliography: Channing and Hart, Guide, § 196.

IR, it will be recollected by all present, that, at the last session of

Congress, an amendment was moved by me to a bill of the same

character as this, in the form of a proviso, by which slavery should be excluded from any territory that might subsequently be acquired by the United States from the republic of Mexico.

Sir, on that occasion, that proviso was sustained by a very decided majority of this House. Nay, sir, more, it was sustained, if I mistake not, by a majority of the Republican party on this floor. I am prepared, I think, to show that the entire South were then willing to acquiesce in what appeared to be, and, in so far as the action of this House was concerned, what was the legislative will and declaration of the Union on this subject. It passed this House. Sir, there were no threats of disunion sounded in our ears. It passed here and went to the Senate,

and it was the judgment of the public, and of men well informed, that, had it not been defeated there for want of time, it would have passed that body and become the established law of the land. . . .

There was then no cry that the Union was to be severed in consequence. The South, like brave men defeated, bowed to the voice and judgment of the nation. No, sir, no cry of disunion then. Why now? The hesitation and the wavering of northern men on this question has encouraged the South to assume a bolder attitude. This cry of disunion proceeds from no resolve of the South. It comes, sir, from the cowardice of the North. . .

But, sir, the issue now presented is not whether slavery shall exist unmolested where it now is, but whether it shall be carried to new and distant regions, now free, where the footprint of a slave cannot be found. This, sir, is the issue. Upon it I take my stand, and from it I cannot be frightened or driven by idle charges of abolitionism. I ask not that slavery be abolished. I demand that this Government preserve the integrity of free territory against the aggressions of slavery — against its wrongful usurpations. Sir, I was in favor of the annexation of Texas. ... The Democracy of the North, almost to a man, went for annexation. Yes, sir, here was an empire larger than France given up to slavery. Shall further concessions be made by the North? Shall we give up free territory, the inheritance of free labor? Must we yield this also? Never, sir, never, until we ourselves are fit to be slaves. The North may be betrayed by her Representatives, but upon this great question she will be true to herself-true to posterity. Defeat! Sir, there can be no defeat. Defeat to-day will but arouse the teeming millions of the North, and lead to a more decisive and triumphant victory to-morrow.

But, sir, we are told, that the joint blood and treasure of the whole country being expended in this acquisition, therefore it should be divided, and slavery allowed to take its share. Sir, the South has her share already; the instalment for slavery was paid in advance. We are fighting this war for Texas and for the South. I affirm it every intelligent man knows it - Texas is the primary cause of this war. For this, sir, northern treasure is being exhausted, and northern blood poured out upon the plains of Mexico. We are fighting this war cheerfully, not reluctantly cheerfully fighting this war for Texas; and yet we seek not to change the character of her institutions. Slavery is there: there let it remain. . .

Now, sir, we are told that California is ours; that New Mexico is ours won by the valor of our arms. They are free. Shall they remain free? Shall these fair provinces be the inheritance and homes of the white labor of freemen or the black labor of slaves? This, sir, is the issue this the question. The North has the right, and her representatives here have the power. . . . But the South contend, that in their emigration to this free territory, they have the right to take and hold slaves, the same as other property. Unless the amendment I have offered be adopted, or other early legislation is had upon this subject, they will do so. Indeed, they unitedly, as one man, have declared their right and purpose so to do, and the work has already begun. Slavery follows in the rear of our armies. Shall the war power of our Government be exerted to produce such a result? Shall this Government depart from its neutrality on this question, and lend its power and influence to plant slavery in these territories? There is no question of abolition here, sir. Shall the South be permitted, by aggression, by invasion of the right, by subduing free territory, and planting slavery upon it, to wrest these provinces from northern freemen, and turn them to the accomplishment of their own sectional purposes and schemes? This is the question. Men of the North answer. Shall it be so? Shall we of the North submit to it? If we do, we are coward slaves, and deserve to have the manacles fastened upon our own limbs.

Appendix to the Congressional Globe, 29 Cong., 2 sess. (Blair and Rives, Washington, 1847), 315 passim, February 8, 1847.

17. Extension of the Constitution (1849)

BY SENATOR ISAAC P. WALKER

Walker was elected to the Senate as an anti-slavery Democrat; but his love for the Union made him timid; his so-called "peace-offering" amendment was thought to be too favorable to the South. Southern statesmen were not unwilling to accept a tangible enactment which was in harmony with their constitutional theories. The amendment passed in the Senate but was rejected in the House. - Bibliography as in No. 16 above.

USUA

[SUALLY, sir, these general laws of the United States have been extended over Territories gradually.

But what is the state of the case before us? Let me call the attention of the Senate to this state of the case. Here we see a picture presented

which was never presented before; we see a country occupying a position which none ever occupied before it. We are witnessing developments which are new and unprecedented. Here we see interests of the most momentous kind growing suddenly into existence, and interests, too, which in their tendency, since man first existed, have had the effect more to excite the avarice and the baser passions of the human mind than any other. . . .

. . . Sir, we find here a more heterogeneous class of population than perhaps we ever found, or shall ever find, congregated, during the same space of time, in any region of the world. . . . Then, sir, this is a state of things which renders it very necessary indeed that steps extraordinary and commensurate with the emergency should be taken by us, for the purpose of accomplishing the end so desirable. . . .

. . . Now, sir, what I propose shall be done, is set forth in the amendment which I have had the honor to offer to the Senate. . .

"SEC.— And be it further enacted, That the Constitution of the United States, and all and singular the several acts of Congress . . . of a public and general character, and the provisions whereof are suitable and proper to be applied to the territory west of the Rio del Norte, acquired from Mexico by the treaty of the second day of February, eighteen hundred and forty-eight, be, and the same are hereby, extended over and given, and made in full force and efficacy in all said territory."

That is the first provision. Now, I have remarked that this general extension of the laws of the United States over the territories has generally taken place gradually, as the interests and necessities of the country to which they were to be extended grew up. But, sir, under the peculiar state of things here, it is proposed now, and in this manner, to extend them at once. Suppose, sir, that we were to propose to carry this matter through a series of years, should we not have the power to do all that is proposed to be done now? . . .

Here, sir, I beg leave to call the attention of the Senate for a moment to the remarks of the honorable Senator from New Jersey (Mr. DAYTON) upon this subject. He objects to the extension of these laws. . .

. . . his argument is, that the South claims that the Constitution gives them the right to take their slaves there and make it a slave country. . . . Sir, my feelings upon the subject of slavery are, perhaps, as well known here as those of any other Senator upon this floor. But, sir, I say before this Senate, and before high Heaven, that I feel myself incapable of entertaining any such feelings as those entertained by the Senator from New Jersey. If the Constitution will extend slavery to the land, then let it go. If by that Constitution slavery is extended, I am willing to stand by that Con

« PreviousContinue »