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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 humane 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. We 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 “exproposed 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. 22d, 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 him lated 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 impolitic. 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 which 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,
with all the odium and unpopularity at the Constitution, Congress has power to tached to it; never speak of it again ; what make all needful rules and regulations reyou have to do, do openly, directly and specting the Territories,"
every new manfully, and clutch no more at the tail of acquisition of Territory has led to discusthe lion, but sieze him by the jaws. sions,” whether slavery should not be pro
But it is not with the Proviso that we hibited in the new Territories. are at present occupied, it is with all and periods of excitement from this cause, every species of legislation for the preven- which have heretofore occurred, have been tion of slavery in the territories of the safely passed, but during the interval, of Union. It is against the policy, not against whatever length, which may elapse before the abstract justice or constitutionality of the admission of the Territories ceded by such measures that we are arguing. Mexico as States, it appears probable that
Deprecating, as we do, every measure similar excitement will prevail to an undue wbich will tend toward the establishment extent." The President thereupon earof slavery on the territories, and holding nestly recommends the admission of Califorbuch extension among the greatest evils to nia, as soon as may be consistent with probe combatted, we are still averse to the em- priety. ployment of the direct constitutional power The policy of the President in the treatof the government for its suppression. ment of the claims of Texas to the terri
We now invite the reader's attention to tory of New Mexico, differs not in pura brief view of the lines of policy severally pose or in principle from that offered by indicated by President Taylor in his Mes- Mr. Clay. He proposes that the territory sage of the 21st of January, and in the sub- shall be left in statu quo, defended by sequent resolutions offered by Mr. Clay, the general government from the inratouching upon the various topics in agita- sion and inroad of its barbarous neighbors, tion between the South and the North. and suffered to form itself as rapidly as
The policy of both is pacific and con- possible into a State, which shall then make ciliatory. Neither the President nor Mr. application for admission into the Union. Clay concede anything to the passions of After the admission of New Mexico as either party, but rather demand of each a State, the boundary dispute between important concessions, both to the necessi- herself and Texas can be brought beties of the times and to the higher interests fore the Supreme Court of the United of the nation as a whole.
States and adjusted by the principles of the Seriously alarmed at the prospect of a laws of nations. long continued contest between the North As it is impossible to improve upon the and the South for the possession of Cali- style of this admirable Message, or to confornia and New Mexico, the President was dense its statements, nothing but want of not slow in urging upon the people of that space has prevented our quoting it entire. territory the only course which promised “ Any attempt," say the President, “ to peace and security to the Union. The deny to the people of the State the right of Hon. Thomas Butler King, Bearer of Des- self-government, in a matter which pecupatches to California, was instructed by the liarly affects themselves, will infallibly be President to advise the people of that ter- regarded by them as an invasion of their ritory to make an early application for ad- rights; and, upon the principles laid down mission into the Union. He “did not hes- in our own Declaration of Independence, itate to express to them bis desire” that they will certainly be sustained by the great each Territory should form a plan of a mass of the American people. To assert State Constitution, and submit the same that they are a conquered people, and to Congress, with a prayer for admission as must, as a State, submit to the will of their a State. Under the Constitution, every conquerors, in this regard, will meet with State is the founder and regulater of its own no cordial response among American freemunicipal laws and domestic institutions. men. Great numbers of them are native “ The subjects thus left exclusively to the citizens of the United States, not inferior States were not designed or expected,” | to the rest of our countrymen in intellisays the President, “ to become topics of gence and patriotism ; and no language of pational agitation.” “Still, as, under menace to restrain them in the exercise of an undoubted right, substantially, guaran-, her into the adoption of a Constitution of tied to them by the treaty of cession itself, our own making. We must receive hershall ever be uttered by me, or encouraged we, the sovereignties—as an equal, and a and sustained by persons acting under my sister sovereignty ; or, if she be of our own authority. It is to be expected that, in spirit she will turn from us in contempt. the residue of the territory ceded to us by What need, then, to enact laws for the Mexico, the people residing there will, at suppression or the establishment of slavery the time of their incorporation into the in California? for that is one of the points Union as a State, settle all questions of at issue. But, perhaps, the deserts are in domestic policy to suit themselves.” danger of the slave-holder; the steep de
It is understood, that the State of Texas files and arid plains of New Mexico are in has no remedy against any decision that danger of cotton and sugar cane. Nature may be made against its claim to the has settled all that; why legislate against territory of New Mexico by the general nature ? Legislation in such a spirit, government. The question is one over shows not merely a want of magnawhich the Supreme Court has no jurisdic- nimity, but a want of prudence. If a tion; the previous decision of Congress be- law is not intended to effect an object, ing necessarily a law to them.
but merely to express a passion, it is, In regard to the admission of California, indeed, a blow struck into the air ; but Mr. Clay is explicit. He holds the same it is a shaking of the fist at the adversaryopinion and offers the same line of policy a passionate hectoring which will not fail with that adopted by the President. to rouse him to some resentful action, or at
For our own part, we confess to have least awaken contempt. been more astonished, and to have had our The general doctrine of the Resolutions confidence more deeply shaken, by South- offered by Mr. Clay is, that although the ern opposition to the admission of the new power of Congress to make laws for the sovereignty, than by any previous action territories is undeniable, it is, at the present of the extreme Southern party.
moment, and, under existing circumstanIt is understood that in California, out ces, not only inexpedient, but unnecessary of 15,000 votes or thereabouts, some 800 to legislate for them in regard to slavery. or 1000, only, were opposed to a State Con- That institution having been already forstitution adverse to slavery. Such a vote bidden by the laws of Mexico in New is equivalent to unanimity; it is the voice Mexico and California, and by the Resoluof an entire people ; it is a voice, which, if tions of Annexation in the territory lying not listened to, will perhaps make itself heard | north of 36 deg. 30 min., what need of any in other and more formidable accents. Are farther legislation upon the subject? If slathe South so jealous of State sovereignty? very must needs be brought upon the new do they hold the voice of a sovereignty in territories, let the responsibility of this introsuch high respect, in such a sacred regard, duction rest upon the new sovereignties which and do they believe that a piece of parch- are to be formed upon it.
Mr. Clay ment, or an entry in the records of Con- urges, that it is proper for both sides, in gress is the divine source from which it this great controversy, to make concessprung? Do they believe that there is no sions ; we conceive the line of policy which State, no people in California, until they, he has pointed out for us, to be at once the majority of one, have decided that there
have decided that there humane and just, and worthy of the emishall be ?
nent position, a position of mediation, in Would the revolt of any portion of an which Mr. Clay has been placed by the American Republic, and the establishment universal respect of the nation; he is held of an independent sovereignty, be a thing to be a person of sufficient dignity to offer wholly new and unheard of on this conti- resolutions of mediation and concession ; the nent? The road across the deserts is per- nation have permitted him to do this; have ilous for our troops; and how is it with applauded and encouraged him in it; and them when they arrive in California ? | already the spirit of toleration and forbearThey fraternize with the people, and desert ance begins to temper and subdue the heat to the mines. We cannot carry on a success- of party animosity in all parts of the country ful war against California ; we cannot drive I where the resolutions, and the argument