صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

States, to test the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania law. That court decided, fully and promptly, all the points in the case, and to the full vindication of all the rights of a slaveholder, under the recaption clause in the Constitution. The points decided cover all the ground, and, besides, show precisely in what particular the act of 1793 required to be. amended, to make it work out its complete effect under the Constitution, independent of all extrinsic aid. The points were these:

"The provisions of the act of February 12th, 1793, relative to fugitive slaves, is clearly constitutional in all its leading provisions, and, indeed, with the exception of that part which confers authority on State magistrates, is free from reasonable doubt or difficulty. As to the authority so conferred on State magistrates, while a difference of opinion exists, and may exist on this point, in different States, whether State magistrates are bound to act under it, none is entertained by the Court that State magistrates may, if they choose, exercise that authority, unless forbid by State legislation." "The power of legislation in relation to fugitives from labor is exclusively in the national legislature."

"The right to seize and retake fugitive slaves, and the duty to deliver them up, in whatever State of the Union they may be found is, under the Constitution, recognized as an absolute positive right and duty, pervading the whole Union with an equal and supreme force, uncontrolled and uncontrollable by State sovereignty or State legislation. The right and duty are co-extensive and uniform in remedy and operation throughout the whole Union. The owner has the same exemptions from State regulations and control, through however many States he may pass with the fugitive slaves in his possession in transitu to his domicile. "The act of the legislature of Pennsylvania, on which the indictment against Edward Prigg was founded, for carrying away

a fugitive slave, is unconstitutional and void. It purports to punish, as a public offense against the State, the very act of seizing and removing a slave by his master, which the Constitution of the United States was designed to justify and uphold." "The constitutionality of the act of Congress (1793) relating to fugitives from labor has been affirmed by the adjudications of the State tribunal, and by those of the courts of the United States."



December 12, 1831. This being the first day of the session for presenting petitions, a great number were presented. Among others,

Mr. Adams, of Massachusetts, (ex-President of the United States) presented fifteen petitions, all numerously subscribed, from sundry inhabitants of Pennsylvania, all of the same purport, praying for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia, and moved that the first of them should be read, and it was read accordingly.

Mr. A. then observed that it had doubtless been remarked that these petitions came, not from Massachusetts, a portion of whose people he had the honor to represent, but from the citizens of the State of Pennsylvania. He had received the petitions many months ago, with a request that they should be presented; and, although the petitions were not of his immediate constituents, he had not deemed himself at liberty to decline presenting their petitions, the transmission of which to him manifested a confidence in him for which he was bound to be grateful. From a letter which had accompanied these petitions, he inferred that they came from members of the Society of Friends, a body of men than whom there was no more respectable and worthy class of citizens; none who more strictly made their lives a commentary on their professions; a body of men comprising, in his firm opinion, as much of human virtue, as little of human infirmity, as any other equal number of men of any denomination on the face of the globe.

The petitions, Mr. A. continued, asked for two things:

the first was the abolition of slavery; the second, the abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia. There was a traffic of slaves carried on in the District, of which he did not know but that it might be a proper subject of legislation by Congress, and he therefore moved that the petition he had the honor of presenting, should be referred to the committee on the affairs of the District of Columbia, who would dispose of them as they, upon examination of their purport, should deem proper, and might report on the expediency of granting so much of the prayer of the petitioners as referred to the abolition of the slave trade in the District.

As to the other prayer of the petitioners, the abolition by Congress of slavery in the District of Columbia, it had occurred to him that the petitions might have been committed to his charge under an expectation that it would receive his countenance and support. He deemed it, therefore, his duty to declare that it would not. Whatever might be his opinion of slavery in the abstract, or of slavery in the District of Columbia, it was a subject which he hoped would not be discussed in the House; if it should be, he might perhaps assign the reasons why he could give it no countenance or support. At present, he would only say to the House, and to the worthy citizens who had committed their petitions to his charge, that the most salutary medicines, unduly administered, became the most deadly of poisons. He concluded by moving to refer the petitions to the committee for the District of Columbia.

December 19, 1831. Mr. Doddridge, from the committee for the District of Columbia, made the following report, which was read and concurred in by the House :

The committee for the District of Columbia have, according to order, had under their consideration the memorials of sundry citizens of the State of Pennsylvania, to them referred, praying the passage of such law or laws by Congress,

as may be necessary for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade within the said District, and beg leave to report thereon, in part.

Considering that the District of Columbia is composed of cessions of territory made to the United States by the States of Virginia and Maryland, in both of which States slavery exists, and the territories of which surround the District, your committee are of an opinion, that until the wisdom of State governments shall have devised some practicable means of eradicating or diminishing the evil of slavery, of which the memorialists complain, it would be unwise and impolitic, if not unjust, to the adjoining States, for Congress to interfere in a subject of such delicacy and importance as is the relation between master and slave.

If, under any circumstances, such an interference on the part of Congress would be justified, your committee are satisfied that the present is an inauspicious moment for its consideration. Impressed with these views, your committee offer for the consideration of the House the following [resolution :]

Resolved, That the committee for the District of Columbia be discharged from the further consideration of so much of the prayer of the memorialists-citizens of the State of Pennsylvania asking the passage of such law or laws as may be necessary for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade within said District-as relates to the first of these objects, the abolition of slavery within said District.

December 21, 1835, petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, being under discussion, Hon. John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts,-rose and said he hoped the motion to reconsider this vote would not prevail; and he expressed this hope for the very reason which the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Patton], had assigned for voting in favor of the motion. It appears to me (said Mr. A)., that the only way of getting the question from the

« السابقةمتابعة »