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the repose and liberties of the country. By sustaining the amendment, the House would have decided, that slaves are property; and then in such cases as the one under consideration, to be paid for by the United States.

From this brief statement of the question, and the various points made by members in debate, the discussion assumed an interesting, yet alarming tendency; and engaged the most prominent speakers from all sections of the country. Many lamented the wide range of the debate, and all, the spirit manifested in stirring up a question, which, it was feared, might, at no distant period, lead to consequences fatal to our national confederacy. As such perilous principles were involved, it is not singular that an excitement was manifested among members. The South had been violent; the North endeavored to assuage the angry elements, by argument and persuasion. Its power and eloquence were nearly expended: it was then Mr. Burges spoke, commanding general attention; and invoked the spirit of patriotism, to come over the House and dwell there, that the sanctuary of Freedom might be protected.

Previous to this time, Mr. Burges had spoken but twice on any important question. His health had been exceedingly delicate; and for the greater part of the former session, he had been confined to his chamber. Added to which, his domestic afflictions seemed to paralyze mental effort, and to make him feel indifferent to fame, and the pursuits of ambition. It is true, he had spoken on the Judiciary Bill. He had pleaded, too, for the survivors of the revolutionary army-the venerable band who won their glory in the stormy years of war: he had implored that the protecting arm of Government, might, "like the bright bow of Heaven," visit them with tokens of relief-that their descendants for whom was established a broad basis of independence, "might give them one look of kindness, and pour one beam of gladness on the melancholy twilight of their days."

But this was the first time, except on the questions referred to, that he had displayed his strong intellect in debate. Members who had heard him on either of those occasions, expressed confidence in his abilities. When, however, he concluded the

argument on the claim of Marigny D'Auterive, admiration pervaded the whole assembly. Although men of commanding talents and moral influence, mingled in the deliberations of that Congress, yet, Mr. Burges was among the first in the graces of oratory, the science of government, varied learning, and firm, unyielding patriotism.

The whole duty of a member of Congress in relation to private claims is, to hear patiently, and decide justly. The Report of the Committee, the explanations of the Chairman, and the discussions on the part of members whose constituents are immediately interested in the claim, furnish all the facts and evidence necessary for a correct decision. In relation, however, to the claim of Marigny D'Auterive, the amendment offered by Mr. Gurley introduced a new question, one which few who took part in important debates, could refuse to discuss. It is natural to conclude, therefore, as before intimated, that upon such a topic, principles of constitutional construction, dangerous to popular rights and repose, would be introduced. They were introduced, and urged with all the violence peculiar to interested advocates. The discussion had created an excitement in the Southern section of the Union. People in that quarter were surprised that the legality of a claim to such persons as are, by their laws, held to servitude or labor, should be questioned. This excitement originated in a misapprehension; for no such opinions were uttered during the debate. The question itself as discussed, was not a demand for services rendered, nor for goods delivered; but, for deterioration of a slave, produced by an accident in the service of the United States.

Mr. Burges commenced his speech thus:

"Sir, before any further consideration of this subject, permit me to solicit your attention to some examination of some of the things, which have been pressed into this debate, and associated with it. Every person who hears what I say now, and every person who may hear what I have said in this debate, and who has any interest in the kind of property connected with this claim, is, by the Constitution of the United States, and by the laws of the several States where he resides,

entitled to be fully quieted in the possession of that interest. No gentleman who has spoken here has questioned their rights, or intimated a wish to disturb their possession, or call into discussion their title. No man here has claimed for the Congress of the United States the constitutional right to legislate concerning the nature, the acquisition, the tenure, transfer, or evidence, of any kind of property, in any one of the several States. I pray of you, Sir, to let me be at pains, and task the patience of this House, while I endeavor to show the utter absurdity of any attempt at any such kind of legislation. All property in any one of these United States, is comprehended in either things real, or things personal. Things real are those legal relations existing between lands and the owners of them. The fee simple is the highest order of this relation. Different, complex, and conditional relations of this class, require no description. Other relations are free-hold, and less than free-hold, for a greater or less number of years. To these may be added estates in possession or in expectancy; and as well those owned by a single, as a greater number of tenants. The tenure by which the several relations to lands are holden, the title by which they may be claimed, and the manner in which titles shall be proved, are each large departments of jurisprudence, and have exercised the best skill and most profound wisdom of legislation, in other countries, and in each of these United States. Property in things personal, is that estate, which, in this country, we may have in any thing other than land. It is either in possession or in action. You either have it in your own hands, or in the hands of those to whom you have entrusted it. Your goods, wares, and merchandise-your flocks, herds, and the fruits of your lands; the instruments of your agricultural, mechanic, manufacturing, or commercial industry; in short, the avails of your land, the results of your capital, the proceeds of your labor, are one great portion of individual wealth, called property in things personal. Another great portion of it consists in the infinite variety of claims which men have on other men, for money, goods, or labor, either by force of contracts, or by enactments or adjudications of law. Among these are notes, bills,

bonds, records, together with the infinite variety of legal implications, by which labor, goods, or money, are due from one man to another. To these should be added the labor and service due by any one person to any other person, either by contract or for a limited time, or by law, and for time unlimited.

"Now, Sir, which class of all these various descriptions of property, in either things real, or things personal, falls within the legislative jurisdiction of this Congress? Concerning which one class of them all, or what article in any one of them, can we enact any law, in any degree or respect altering its nature, or tenure, or title; the manner of acquiring, or transferring, or the evidence whereby it shall be secured in possession of one person, or reclaimed and recovered, when in the possession of another? Where are our statutes concerning tenures, and title deeds, descents and devises, and distributions? Where those of contracts, either parol or in writing; whether simple or sealed? Where, in fine, are those codes of laws, under which persons are bound to labor or service, in any one of the several States in this Union? All these laws are found, and sufficiently numerous, for all the exigencies of property, or persons, in each of all these States; either in the pure civil, common, or canon law; or as the same may, for greater convenience, have been, from time to time, altered by any of the respective Legislatures of these States. In the statute, and other books of legal learning of these States, and not in the statute books of the United States, are such laws to be found. Truly, Sir, why should they be found in the statute books of the United States, when it is clear as the light, that all these matters and things are of the several States, and not of the United States legislative jurisdiction?


"What gentleman, Sir, on this floor, has claimed for the Congress of the United States, the right to enact any such laws? Not one. All must disclaim all such right. For good reason, too; because the Constitution has given us no such right. Except concerning the exclusive jurisdiction of ceded territory, the legislative power of Congress seems confined to raising and disbursing revenue, for common defence and general welfare; together with the legislation incidental and auxiliary


to those great objects. Who, then, Sir, will contend-who has contended-that Congress can make any law altering, or impugning, or invalidating, those laws of any of the States creating that legal relation called property, between any of the good people of those States, and any person, matter, or thing? Why, then, this excitement! All men may sit quietly, in all and each of the States, under the protection of their laws; for one kind of property is as perfectly secure to its "owner as another. If, however, any jealousy of Northern People still exists in the minds of Southern People, be in patience with me: I will make one effort more to remove all cause for such feeling. It is true, laws cannot always protect, because they cannot always control. Morals, manners, habits, interest, make men what they are; and, when these are known, men are known: and, in any given state of events, their actions may become, with certainty and safety, a subject of calculation. Laws, indeed, may slumber; morals are vigilant as consciousness; interest watchful as the principle of self-preservation. For the purposes of what I would now say, the whole Northern communities may be regarded in one or another of three descriptions of persons. To neither of these classes can any motive, inconsistent with fair integrity, be objected. The first class is least numerous. They, of all men, think and act the least consequentially. If the thing they would have done be, by itself, honest and desirable, their mental vision never comprehends those eternal adjuncts of all human events, the things which must go before, and the things which must follow after them. They have, indeed, zeal -unbounded zeal-but they are entirely without that knowledge and wisdom indispensable to the accomplishment of any great enterprise. Slavery they regard as an evil, and Freedom as a good—indeed, as all wise, good, and prudent men in our country regard them. Immediate and universal emancipation is their only remedy for every case and condition of slavery. They say nothing, and think nothing, of the legal rights of masters thus at once extinguished; nor ask what condition of servitude could equal the wretchedness of a million and a half of slaves at once thrown out of the employment and the support,

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