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ballot box, that I am induced, upon this occasion, to address yon.
There have been three epochs in the history of our country at which the spirit of abolition displayed itself. The first was immediately after the formation of the present federal government. When the Constitution was about going into operation, its powers were not well understood by the community at large, and remained to be accurately interpreted and defined. At that period numerous abolition societies were formed, comprising not merely the Society of Friends, but many other good men. Petitions were presented to Congress praying for the abolition of slavery. They were received without serious opposition, referred, and reported upon by a committee. The report stated that the general government had no power to abolish slavery as it existed in the several States, aud that these States themselves had exclusive jurisdiction over the subject. The report was generally acquiesced in, and satisfaction aud tranquillity ensued; the abolition societies thereafter limiting their exertions, in respect to the black population, to offices of humanity within the scope of existing laws.
The next period when the subject of slavery and abolition, incidentally, was brought into notice and discussion, was on the memorable occasion of the admission of the State of Missouri into the Union. The struggle was long, strenuous, and fearful. It is too recent to make it necessary to do more than merely advert to it, and to say that it was finally composed by one of those compromises characteristic of our institutions, and of which the Constitution itself is the most signal instance.
The third is that in which we now find ourselves, and to which various causes have contributed. The principal one, perhaps, is British emancipation in the islands adjacent to our continent. Confounding the totally different cases of the powers of the British Parliament and those of our Congress, and the totally different conditions of the slaves in the British West India Islands and the slaves in the sovereign and independent States of this confederacy, superficial men have inferred from the undecided British experiment the practibility of the abolition of slavery in these States. All these are different. The powers of the British Parliament are unlimited, and often described to be omnipotent. The powers of the American Congress, on the contrary, are few, cautiously limited, scrupulously excluding all that are not granted, and above all, carefully and absolutely excluding all power over the existence or continuance of slavery in the several States. The slaves, too, upon which British legislation operated, were not in the bosom of the kingdom, but in remote and feeble colonies, having no voice in Parliament. The West India slaveholder was neither representative nor represented in that Parliament. And while I most fervently wish complete success to the British experiment of West India emancipation, I confess that I have fearful forebodings of a disastrous termination of it. Whatever it may be, I think it must be admitted that, if the British Parliament treated the West India slaves as freemen, it also treated the West India freemen as slaves. If, instead of these slaves being separated by a wide ocean from the parent country, three or foifr millions of African negro slaves had been dispersed over England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, and their owners had been members of the British Parliament—a case which would have presented some analogy to that of our own country—does any one believe that it would have been expedient or practicable to have emancipated them, leaving them to remain, with all their embittered feelings, in the United Kingdom, boundless ns the powers of the British Parliament are? ******
And now, Mr. President, allow me to consider the sev eral oases in which the authority of Congress is invoked by these abolition petitioners upon the subject of domestic slavery. The first relates to it as it exists in the District of Columbia. The following is the provision of the Constitution of the United States in reference to that matter:
"To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such District (not exceeding ten miles square,) as may by cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of government of the United States."
This provision preceded, in point of time, the actual cessions which were made by the States of Maryland and Virginia. The object of the cession was to establish a seat of government of the United States, and the grant in the Constitution of exclusive legislation, must be understood, and should be always interpreted, as having relation to the object of the cession. It was with a full knowledge of this clause in the Constitution, that those two States ceded to the general government the ten miles square constituting the District of Columbia. In making the cession, they supposed that it was to be applied, and applied solely, to the purposes of a seat of government, for which it was asked. When it was made, slavery existed in both those commonwealths, and in the ceded territory, as it now continues to exist in all of them. Neither Maryland nor Virginia could have anticipated, that, whilst the institution remained within their respective limits, its abolition would be attempted by Congress without their consent. Neither of them would probably have made an unconditional cession if they could have anticipated such a result.
From the nature of the provision in the Constitution, and the avowed object of the acquisition of the territory, two duties arise on the part of Congress. The first is, to render the District available, comfortable, and convenient, as a seat of government of the whole Union; the other is, to govern the people within the District so as best to promote their happiness and prosperity. These objects are totally distinct in their nature, and, in interpreting and exercising the grant of the power of exclusive legislation, that distinction should be constantly borne in mind. Is it necessary, in order to render this place a comfortable seat of the general government, to abolish slavery within its limits? No one can or will advance such a proposition. The government has remained here near forty years without the slightest inconvenience from the presence of domestic slavery. Is it necessary to the well-being of the people of the District, that slavery should be abolished from amongst them f They not only neither ask nor desire, but are almost unanimously opposed to it. It exists here in the mildest and most mitigated form. In a population of 39,834, there were, at the last enumeration of the population of tho United States, but 6,119 slaves. The number has not probably much increased since. They are dispersed over the ten miles square, engaged in the quiet pursuits of husbandry, or in menial ofl5r.es in domestic life. I? it were necessary to the efficiency of this place as a seat of the general government, to abolish slavery, which is utterly denied, the abolition should be confined to the necessity which prompts it, that is, to the limits of the city of Washington itself. Beyond those limits, persons concerned in the government of the United States have no more to do with the inhabitants of the District, than they have with the inhabitants of the adjacent counties of Maryland and Virginia which lie beyond the District.
To abolish slavery within the District of Columbia, whilst it remains in Virginia and Maryland, situated as that District is, within the very heart of those States, would expose them to great practical inconvenience and annoyance. The District would become a place of refuge and escape for fugitive slaves from the two States, and a place from which 'a spirit of discontent, insubordination and insurrection, might be fostered and encouraged in the two States. Suppose, as was at one time under consideration, Pennsylvania had granted ten miles square within its limits, for the purpose of a seat of the general government: could Congress, without a violation of good faith, have introduced and established slavery within the bosom of that Commonwealth in the ceded territory, after she had abolished it so long ago as the year 1780? Yet the inconvenience to Pennsylvania in the case supposed, would have beeri*much less than that to Virginia and Maryland, in the case we are arguing.
It was upon this view of the subject that the Senate, at its last session, solemnly declared, that it would be a violation of implied faith, resulting from the transaction of the cession, to abolish slavery within the District of Columbia. And would it not be? By implied faith, is meant, that when a grant is made for one avowed and declared purpose, known to the parties, the grant should not be perverted to another purpose, unavowed and undeclared, and injurious to the grantor. The grant in the case we are considering, of the territory of Columbia, was for a seat of government. Whatever power is necessary to accomplish that object, is carried along by the grant. But the abolition of slavery, is not necessary to the enjoyment of this site as a seat of the general government. The grant in the Constitution of exclusive power of legislation over the District, was made to insure the exercise of an exclusive authority of the general government, to render this place a safe and secure seat of government, and to promote the well-being of the inhabitants of the District. The power granted ought to be interpreted and exercised solely to the end for which it was granted. The language of the grant was necessarily broad, comprehensive, and exclusive, because all the exigencies which might arise to render this a secure seat of the general government, could not have been foreseen and provided for. The language may possibly be sufficiently comprehensive to include a power of abolition; but it would not at