« 上一頁繼續 »
possessor of fonr thousand—such were the numbers. The rights of the owners over this multitude of human beings was that of life and death, without protection from law or mitigation from public sentiment.
The scourge, the cross, the fish-pond, the den of the wild beast, and the arena of the gladiator, was the lot of the slave, upon the slightest expression of the master's will.
A law of incredible atrocity made all slaves responsible with their own lives for the life of their master; it was the law that condemned the whole household of slaves to death, in case of the assassination of the master—a law under which as many as four hundred have been executed at a time.
And the slaves were the white people of Europe, and of Asia Minor, the Greeks and other nations, from whom the present inhabitants of the world derive the most valuable productions of the human mind.
Christ saw all this—the number of slaves—their helpless condition—and their white color, which was the same with his own; yet he said nothing against slavery; he preached no doctrines which led to insurrection and massacre; none which, in their application to the state of things in our country, would authorize an inferior race of blacks to exterminate that superior race of whites, in whose ranks he himself appeared upon earth.
He preached no such doctrines, but those of a contrary tenor, which inculcated the duty of fidelity and obedience on the part of the slave—humanity and kindness on the part of the master. His apostles did the same.
St. Paul sent back a runaway slave, Onesimus, to his owner, with a letter of apology and supplication.
He was not the man to harbor a runaway, much less to entice him from his master; and least of all, to excite an insurrection.
SESSION OF CONGRESS OF 1839—THE GAG RULE—SLAVER* AGITATION IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, AND RETIRING OF SOUTHERN MEMBERS FROM THE HALL.
(From, "Benton's Thirty Years' View.")
The most angry and portentous debate which had yet taken place in Congress, occurred at this time, in the House of Representatives. It was brought on by Mr. William Slade, of Vermont, who, besides presenting petitions of the usual abolition character, and moving to refer them to a committee, moved their reference to a select committee, with instructions to report a bill in conformity to their prayer. This motion, inflammatory and irritating in itself, and without practical legislative object, as the great majority of the House was known to be opposed to it, was rendered still more exasperating by the manner of supporting it. The mover entered into a general disquisition on the subject of slavery, all denunciatory, and was proceeding to speak upon it in the State of Virginia, and other States, in the same spirit, when Mr. Legare, of South Carolina, interposed, and hoped the gentleman from Vermont would allow him to make a few remarks before he proceeded further. He sincerely hoped that the gentleman would consider well what he was about, before he ventured on such ground, and that he would take time to consider what might be its probable consequences. He solemnly entreated him to reflect on the possible results of such a course, which involved the interests of a nation and a continent. Ho would warn him, not in the language of defiance, which all 21 (321)
brave and wise men despised, but he would warn him in the language of a solemn sense of duty, that if there was a spirit aroused in the north in relation to this subject, that spirit would encounter another spirit in the south, full as stubborn. He would tell them, that, when this question was forced upon the people of the south, they would be ready to take up the gauntlet. He concluded by urging on the gentleman from Vermont to ponder well on his course before he ventured to proceed.
Mr. Slade continued his remarks, when Mr. Dawson, of Georgia, asked him for the floor, that he might move an adjournment—evidently to carry off the storm which he saw rising. Mr. Slade refused to yield it; so the motion to adjourn could not be made. Mr. Slade continued, and was proceeding to answer his own inquiry, put to himself— What was slavery? when Mr. Dawson again asked for the floor to make his motion of adjournment. Mr. Slade refused it. A visible commotion began to pervade the House—members rising, clustering together, and talking with animation.
Mr. Slade continued, and was about reading a judicial opinion in one of the southern States, which defined a slave to be a chattel, when Mr. Wise called him to order for speaking beside the question—the question being upon the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and Mr. Slade's remarks going to its legal character, as property, in a State. The Speaker, Mr. John White, of Kentucky, sustained the call, saying it was not in order to discuss the subject of slavery in any of the States. Mr. Slade denied that he was doing so, and said he was merely quoting a Southern judicial decision, as he might quote a legal opinion delivered in Great Britain.
Mr. Robertson, of Virginia, moved that the House adjOurn. The Speaker pronounced the motion (and correctly) out of order, as the member from Vermont was in possession of the floor and addressing the House. He would, however, sugges* to the member from Vermont, who could not but observe the state of the House, to confine himself strictly to the subject of his motion.
Mr. Slade went on, at great length, when Mr. Petrikin, of Pennsylvania, called him to order; but the Chair did not sustain the call. Mr. Slade went on, quoting from the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitutions of the several States, and had got to that of Virginia, when Mr. Wise called him to order for reading papers without the leave of the House. The Speaker decided, that no paper, objected to, could be read without the leave of the House.
Mr. Wise then said: That the gentleman had wantonly discussed the abstract question of slavery, going back to the very first day of the creation, instead of slavery as it existed in the District, and the powers and duties of Congress in relation to it. He was now examining the State Constitutions, to show, that as it existed in the States, it was against them, and against the laws of God and man. This was out of order.
Mr. Slade explained, and argued in vindication of his course, and was about to read a memorial of Dr. Franklin, and an opinion of Mr. Madison on the subject of slavery, when the reading was objected to by Mr. Griffin, of South Carolina; and the Speaker decided they could not be read without the permission of the House.
Mr. Slade, without asking the permission of the House, which he knew would not be granted, assumed to understand the prohibition as extending only to himself personally, said—" Then I send them to the clerk: let him read them." The Speaker decided that this was equally against the rule.
Then Mr. Griffin withdrew the objection, and Mr. Slade proceeded to read the papers, and to comment upon them as he went on, and was about to go back to the State of Virginia, and show what had been the feeling there on the subject of slavery, previous to th» date of Dr. Franklin's memorial.
Mr. Rhett, of South Carolina, inquired of the Chair what the opinions of Virginia fifty years ago had to do with the case?
The Speaker was about to reply, when Mr. Wise rose with warmth, and said—" He has discussed the whole abstract question of slavery: of slavery in Virginia; of slavery in my own district; and I now ask all my colleagues to retire with me from this hall."
Mr. Slade reminded the Speaker that he had not yielded the floor; but his progress was impeded by the condition of the House, and the many exclamations of members, among whom Mr. Halsey, of Georgia, was heard calling on the Georgia delegation to withdraw with him; and Mr. Rhett was heard proclaiming, that the South Carolina members had already consulted together, and agreed to have a meeting at three o'clock, in the committee room of the District of Columbia. Here the Speaker interposed to calm the House, standing up in his place and saying:
.' The gentleman from Vermont had been reminded by the Chair that the discussion of slavery, as existing within the States, was not in order; when he was desirous to read a paper and it was objected to, the Chair bad stopped him; .but the objection had been withdrawn, and Mr. Slade had been suffered to proceed ; he was now about to read another paper, and objection was made; the Chair would therefore take the question on permitting it to be read."
Many members rose, all addressing the Chair at the same time, and many members leaving the hall, and a general scene of noise and confusion prevailing.
Mr. Rhett succeeded in raising his voice above the roar of the tempest which raged in the House, and invited the delegations from all the slave States to retire from the hall