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FOR MARCH, 1850.
POLICY OF THE NATION IN REGARD TO SLAVERY AND
PRESIDENT TAYLOR'S SPECIAL MESSAGE ON THE TERRITORIES.
MR. CLAY'S RESOLUTIONS AND SPEECH,
WE APPROACH the subject before us with portant that can be entered upon; it feelings of unfeigned anxiety; it is not our must be impartial, and purely deliberative; intention to discuss it at large, or to weary from a point of view at once humans and the reader by repeating what has been alrea- prudent, but from which the interest of the dy said, or demonstrating in new forms of nation as a whole shall be seen as paraargument what is already established. We mount to that of any one of its members; do not feel called upon to show, that the a point of view which needs no apology on general government must not interfere his part who assumes it, and which, if corwith the State sovereignties, nor directly or rectly taken, with a sufficient knowledge of indirectly attempt any modification of their facts and a proper determination to abide institutions ; nor do we feel obliged to enter by the great laws of nature and necessity, again upon a demonstration of the full pow- must lead to a conclusion, final, salutary, ers of the central government over the ter- and that defies exception. ritories of the nation. We look at these The first of these lines of policy is that things as established, and we are willing which has been advocated, and is strongly that those who differ with us in regard to urged, by the majority of Northern legisthem, should continue to differ; awaiting lators, namely the suppression and prevenfor them, on our part, the slow but cer- tion of slavery in all territories of the Unitain triumph of reason and common sense. ted States, by an act of the central governThe seed of truth has been sown; nature ment.
propose to discuss the expediand time will cause it to grow and to pre- ency of such a measure ; not its constituvail.
tionality; since we have already claimed What we now offer to our readers is an for the national government a full and abenquiry into the relative merits of three solute sovereignty over the territories of distinct lines of policy which have been the nation. We have used the word “ proposed to be followed by the nation in pediency” as of large import, and having a the treatment of slavery and its extension. moral, as well as a prudential significance The enquiry is at present the most im- and value.
*National Intelligencer, Jan. 220, 1850. National Intelligencer. Also, Congressional Summary of this number. See page 320.
VOL. V. NO. III.
The experience of every moral being | though a bare majority might establish it, will have taught him that there are situa- or something resembling it, if its passage tions in life from which the line of abstract by such a feeble power served only to rally justice, in its narrow and restricted sense, its adversaries to crush it with a second cannot be pursued. There are virtues in effort, the measure would have been imconduct, which, under the names of mer- politic : it involves too much to be trusted cy, generosity, forbearance, and long suf- on a bare majority. fering, are claimed to be among the high- Those who desire, not for factious ends est attributes of humanity, revealing traits nor from any passion of revolution stimuof divinity in man, and obtaining for himlated by vain theories, to witness the final a respect which is denied to the merely extinction of slavery within the Union—to just and retributive.
A measure may witness the extinction of an evil by the be constitutional, but it may be ill-timed substitution of a good—the extinction of or inhumane : it may be constitutional, slavery by the only possible humane and and yet smack of arbitrary power,-of equitable method, rendering justice, alike oppression : it may, like the Wilmot to the slave and his master,—the method Proviso, carry with it a sentiment of dis- of amelioration-would do well to consider respect towards the minority ; seeming to whether violent attacks upon that instituimpugn the motives and discredit the tion, are not more likely to prolong its exintentions of great numbers — numbers istence than to effect their own truly huforming a third part of the entire moral mane purpose: Such attacks are impolitie. and intellectual force of the nation. It It matters not whether an offensive
agmay be impolitic, as creating formidable gression be direct or oblique ; whether it dangers for the Commonwealth; enemies, be couched in courteous or opprobrious plotters for disunion, conspirators, upon language; whether it be a measure atwhom the law has no grasp, and against tached to a bill, or the bill itself; whether which the nation cannot defend itself. it be a block thrown before the wheels, or Such a measure, it seems to us, would be a clog attached behind them : if its moa legislative act passed in Congress by a tive be insult and aggression, that motive mere majority, at the present moment, will be penetrated by those against whom abolishing slavery, if it exists, and forbid- it is directed, and the insult will be the ding it if it does not exist, in every por- more bitterly felt as it is more ingeniously tion of the national territory. We hold contrived. to, and have steadily defended, the consti- Let Northern constituents, before they tutionality of such a measure, and under “instruct their Senators or advise their Repother circumstances, we should advocate its resentatives” to adopt the measure that is immediate adoption : our first objection to so offensive to the South, consider how it is its impolicy.
that measure originated : it was adopted Measures are impolitic when they de- under the supposition that the war with feat the end for which they are adopted. Mexico originated in a secret and unavowThey may be just and lawful in themselves, ed intention of the South to extend the but fatal in their consequences.
area of slavery. The majority of SouthThey are impolitic, when their adoption ern Senators and Representatives disavowat the present time will ensure their rever- ed that intention : a proviso was brought sal and hopeless defeat at a future time. forward wbich gave them the lie direct : They are impolitic when, notwithstanding which said to them, “if you insist upon the their intrinsic justice, appearances are acquisition of territory it shall not at least against them. If, for example, appear- be slave territory.? ances are such against the measure called The South openly disavowed this intenthe Wilmot Proviso, that it is regarded by tion: a proviso was brought forward, as a those against whom it is directed, as an public act, founded upon the supposition that insult, or as a stroke for power, or a the majority of the South had been guilty measure not calculated for itself, but for of a falsehood. We have said, the majority: certain results not foreseen by the public A few there were, certainly, among Southgenerally and serving factious ends, it ern Representatives, who intimated such would be impolitic to pursue it. Even intentions as those against which the Pro
viso was directed, but they were a minor- argued that it was no law, but the effort ity ; they were few in number; individu- of a feeble majority to establish a fundaally of little weight; and we do not remem- mental law ?—the effort of the majority ber that their intentions were openly ex- of two or three to establish a principle pressed in the councils of the nation. It of legislation for all future times ? " Would was, then, against the unavowed intentions it not be easy for a Congress, roused by of the entire South that the Proviso was such considerations, to rescind the Prodirected; it was an aggravation, and no- viso ? thing more: had it passed, as a political Money was to have been appropriated measure it was worthless and ineffectual. for the addition of new territories to the
To understand its merit and effect as a Union, on the condition that, in the law, we have first to observe, that it is a event of acquiring such territories, slavery fact that slavery had been abolished in all should not be permitted or established the territories of the Mexican Republic upon them. Should not be established by long previous to the cession of any part of whom ? — by the general government? those territories to the United States. It But in case the majority of the succeeding is unnecessary to enter here upon any his- year chose to disregard the Proviso, before torical examination of the proceedings of whom lies the appeal ? The Proviso was the Mexican Government for the effectual not to be a clause in the Constitution, but abolition of slavery in its territories. an act of a mere majority, reversible by a are not to enquire whether slavery, de facto, succeeding majority; it was the mere maexisted in defiance of the laws of Mexico, jority of one year attempting to control the in any part of that Republic. If such majority of the next; it was, therefore, in slavery did exist, it was unlawful ; a local | this sense, an impolitic measure, -as its evil, and not to be taken into the account very enactment would have weakened the after the cession of any portion of Mexico cause it was intended to support, and would to the United States.
have drawn on the party of the South to The Proviso was directed (it follows of attempt a direct legislation in favor of the necessity) against the possibility of the es- establishment of slavery in the territories. tablishment, by Act of Congress, of slavery It was the evident supposition of the Proin territories where it did not exist,-in viso that such an attempt would be made, territories ceded by a Republic which had and the supposition that it would be made finally abolished that institution. The Pro- couched in the form of law, would have viso rested upon the supposition that it was ensured its being made. a competent act for the general government It was a sullen spirit of opposition, a susof the Union to re-establish slavery in a picious and a sullen spirit which dictated region in which it had been abolished by the form of the Proviso—a childish pluckthe laws of another country; and, upon ing at the skirts of one who has irresistibly the supposition that Congress might, nay, | moved by us. It implied, indeed, had it probably would, perpetrate such a mischief. passed, a full confidence in the right of ConHad the Proviso become a law it would gress to legislate for the territories, but its have been ineffectual. If the succeeding movers did not rely upon the direct exerCongress had been determined, as the movers tion of that right; it expressed in them a of the Proviso imagined they might be, up- fear that when the territory was acquired, on establishing slavery in any part of the it would not be in their power to prevent territories, it would have been as easy the extension of slavery upon it; it was a to rescind the Proviso as to do the confession of weakness. If we are resolved thing so much feared. Would such a Con- that no part of the new territories shall be gress have allowed itself to be shackled by given up to the South, and deem it not only such a Proviso? Would not the South then constitutional, but politic, to wrest them have argued for, as they have now against, away—if we hold the consequences of such the full sovereignty of the nation over its a measure in light estimation, let us legisterritory? Nay, would not they have claim- late effectually. If you can obtain a maed that this Proviso was an attempt to de- jority for a Proviso attached to a bill, you feat the just and necessary legislation of can obtain a majority for an entire bill. succeeding ages ? Would they not have. We say, then, bury the Proviso out of sight,