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upon the subject of slavery is taken up. This occurred in 1790, the first Congress that assembled under the present Constitution, and was had upon the memorial of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. The report of the committee, and the final action of Congress upon that subject, will be found in this chapter.
The Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, drawn by Messrs. Madison and Jefferson, defining the rights and powers of the general government and the States, are next given.
From this period till the application of Missouri for admission into the Union, in 1820, the question of slavery was not agitated in Congress to any considerable extent. This was the first discussion ever had in that body on the power of Congress to restrict slavery in the territories of the United States. A succinct and careful history of the difficulty is given, together with extracts from the speeches of the most prominent statesmen of that time who participated in it, embracing nearly the entire speech of General Pinckney, who was the only member of Congress, at that time, who was a member of the Convention that framed the Constitution. In this connection, also, the reader will find the opinions of Mr. Madison, Mr, Jefferson, Mr. Monroe, General Harrison, and others, upon the power of Congress to restrict slavery in the national territories.
From this period, down to 1854, the various phases of slavery agitation is traced, and the views of Clay, Calhoun, Benton, Cass, Dickinson, Seward, Marcy, John Quincy Adams, Silas "Wright, Daniel Webster, and other of the eminent statesmen of the times, of both political parties, are given. A history of the KansasNebraska bill; extracts from the opinion of the court in the Dred Scott case, and other opinions of the courts in reference to slavery; the inaugural addresses of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison; and the farewell addresses of Washington and Jackson; may also be found.
Since 1854, the Whig party, as a national organization, has ceased to exist, and the Republican party, organized particularly with reference to the slavery question, has taken its place. I have compiled nothing save the resolutions of the Presidential conventions, subsequent to that period, for the reason that congressional discussions since that time are so familiar to the people, that a synopsis, within the scope of this book, must be too meagre for general interest. I have endeavored to give a fair and faithful compilation of the views and opinions of the eminent statesmen of the country, of both parties, from the organization of the government to 1854, while both of the great political parties were organized upon a basis that embraced the South as well as the North. The base of the structure is laid in the organization of the government itself, and the views of the men who framed it. Let the reader first examine well the base, and then, step by step, ascend to the summit, examining, as he ascends, the best lights he can obtain, and then, like a rational, thinking, independent man, form his own conclusions with reference to this question, and act accordingly. Keeping in view the peace and welfare of the country, he will hardly act amiss, for there can be no safer guides for the « present, than the lights and precedents of the past.
I can hardly expect that this volume will escape partisan censure and criticism. Extremists, both North and South, I have no doubt, will condemn it. This I cannot help; I only ask the reader to remember, that it is a compilation of the opinions of those who laid, broad and deep, the foundations of civil and religious liberty, and of those eminent statesmen who succeeded them, and who have shed a halo of fadeless glory around the character of the American nation. If I be the subject of reproach for the compilation, what would be meted out to those patriots and sages, were they now upon earth, and should they again proclaim the doctrines of their day and generation1? It is not I who speak, but rather the voice of the immortal dead, a voice from the tombs of those great spirits, who, through the perils of war and revolution, established a government, the freest and the happiest on earth, and bequeathed it to us. Let us heed their admonitions, emulate their virtues, and profit by their examples.