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forthwith, and meet in the committee room of the District of Columbia. The Speaker again essayed to calm the House, and again standing up in his place, he recapitulated his attempts to preserve order, and vindicated the correctness of his own conduct—seemingly impugned by many. "What his personal feelings were on the subject (he was from a slave State) might easily be conjectured. He had endeavored to enforce the rules. Had it been in his power to restrain the discussion, he should promptly have exercised the power; but it was not.
Mr Slade continuing, said the paper which he wished to read was of the Continental Congress of 1774. The Speaker was about to put the question on leave, when Mr. Cost Johnson, of Maryland, inquired whether it would be in order to force the House to vote that the member from Vermont be not permitted to proceed? The Speaker replied it would not. Theu Mr. James J. McKay, of North Carolina, a clear, cool-headed, sagacious man—interposed the objection which headed Mr. Slade.
There was a rule of the House, that when a member was called to order, he should take his seat; and if decided to be out of order, he should not be allowed to speak again, except on leave of the House. Mr. McKay judged this to be a proper occasion for the enforcement of that rule; and stood up and said:
"That the gentleman had been pronounced out of order in discussing slavery in the States; and the rule declared that when a member was so pronounced by the chair, he should take his seat, and if any one objected to his proceeding again, he should not do so, unless by leave of the House. Mr. McKay did now object to the gentleman from Vermont proceeding any further."
Redoubled noise and confusion ensued—a crowd of members rising and speaking at once—who eventually yielded to the resounding blows of the speaker's hammer upon the lid of his desk, and his apparent desire to read something to the House, as he held a book (recognized to be that of the rules) in his hand. Obtaining quiet, so as to enable himself to be heard, he read the rule referred to by Mr. McKay; and said, that as objection had now for the first time been made under that rule to the gentleman's resuming his speech, the Chair decided that he could not do so without the leave of the House. Mr. Slade attempted to go on; the Speaker directed him to take his seat until the question of leave should be put. Then, Mr. Slade still keeping his feet, asked leave to proceed as in order, saying he would not discuss slavery in "Virginia. On that question Mr. Allen, of Vermont, asked the yeas and nays.
Mr. Rencher, of North Carolina, moved an adjournment. Mr. Adams, and many others, demanded the yeas and naya on this motion, which were ordered, and resulted in 106 yeas and 63 nays—some fifty or sixty members having withdrawn. This opposition to adjournment was one of the worst features of that unhappy day's work—the only effect of keeping the House together being to increase irritation, and multiply the chances for an outbreak.
From the beginning Southern members had been in favor of it, and essayed to accomplish it, but were prevented by the tenacity with which Mr. Slade kept possession of the floor: and now, at last, when it was time to adjourn any way—when the House was in a condition in which no good could be expected, and great harm might be apprehended, there were sixty-three members—being nearly one-third of the House—willing to continue it in session.
The House then stood adjourned; and as the adjournment was being pronounced, Mr. Campbell, of South Carolina, stood upon a chair, and calling for the attention of members, said:
"He had been appointed as one of the Southern delegation, to announce that all those gentlemen who represented slaveholding States, were invited to attend the meeting now being held in the district committee room."
Members from the slaveholding States had repaired in large numbers to the room in the basement, where they were invited to meet. Various passions agitated them— some violent. Extreme propositions were suggested, of which Mr. Rhett, of South Carolina, in a letter to his constituents, gave a full account of his own—thus:
"In a private and friendly letter to the Editor of the Charleston Mercury, amongst other events accompanying the memorable secession of the Southern members from the Hall of the House of Representatives, I stated to him, that I had prepared two resolutions, drawn as amendments to the motion of the member from Vermont, whilst he was discussing the institution of slavery in the South declaring, that the Constitution having failed to protect the South in the peaceable possession and enjoyment of their rights and peculiar institutions, it was expedient that the Union should be dissolved; and the other, appointing a committee of two members from each State, to report upon the best means of peaceably dissolving it! They were intended as amendments to a motion to refer with instructions to report a bill abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. I expected them to share the fate, which inevitably awaited the original motion, so soon as the floor could have been obtained, viz., to be laid upon the table. My design in presenting them, was to place before Congress and the people, what in my opinion, was the true issue upon this great and vital question; and to point out the course of policy by which it should be met by the Southern States."
But extreme counsels did not prevail. There were members present, who well considered that, although the provocation was great, and the number voting for such a firebrand motion was deplorably large, yet it was but little more than one-fourth of the House, and decidedly less than one-half of the members from the free States: so that, even if left to the free State vote alone, the motion would have been rejected.
But the motion itself, and the manner in which it was supported, was most reprehensible—necessarily leading to disorder in the House, the destruction of its harmony and capacity for useful legislation, tending to a sectional segregation of the members, the alienation of feeling between the North and South; and alarm to all the slave holding States. The evil required a remedy, but not the remedy of breaking up the Union; but one which might prevent the like in future, while administering a rebuke upon the past. That remedy was found in adopting a proposition to be offered to the House, which if agreed to, would close the door against any discussion upon abolition petitions in future, and assimilate the proceedings of the House, in that particular, to those of the Senate. This proposition was put into the hands of Mr. Patton of Virginia, to be offered as an amendment to the rules at the opening of the House the next morning.
It was in these words:
"Resolved, That all petitions, memorials and papers, touching the abolition of slavery or the buying, selling or transferring of slaves, in any State, District or Territory, of the United States, be laid on the table, without being debated, printed, read or referred, and that no further action whatever shall be had thereon."
Accordingly, at the opening of the House, Mr. Patton asked leave to submit the resolution—which was read for information.
Mr. Adams objected to the grant of leave.
Mr. Patton then moved a suspension of the rules—which motion required two-thirds to sustain it; and unless obtained, this salutary remedy for an alarming evil (which was already in force in the Senate), could not be offered. It was a test motiou, and on which the opponents of abolition agitation in the House required all their strength: for unless two to one, they were defeated.
Happily the two to one were ready, and on taking the yeas and nays, demanded by an abolition member (to keep his friends to the track, and to hold the free State antiabolitionists to their responsibility at home), the result stood one hundred and thirty-five yeas to sixty nays—the full two-thirds, and fifteen over. The yeas on this important motion, were:
Messrs., Hugh J. Anderson, John J. Andrews, Chiles G. Atherton, William Beatty, Andrew Beirne, John Bell, Bennet Bicknell, Richard Biddle, Samuel Birdsall, Ratliff Boon, James W. Bouldin, John C. Brodhead, Isaac H. Bronson, Andrew D. W. Bruyn, Andrew Buchanan, John Calhoun, C. C. Cambreleng, Wm. B. Campbell, John Campbell, Timothy J. Carter, Wm. B. Carter, Zadok Casey, John Chambers, John Chaney, Reuben Chapman, Richard Cheatham, Jonathan Cilley, John F. H. Claiborne, Jesse F. Cleaveland, Wm. K. Clowney, Walter Coles, Thomas Corwin, Robert Craig, John W. Crockett, Samuel Cushman, Edmund Deberry, John J. DeGraff, John Dennis, George C. Dromgoole, John Edwards, James Farrington, John Fairfield, Jacob Fry, Jr., James Garland, James Graham, Seaton Grantland, Abr'm. P. Grant, William J. Graves, Robert H. Hammond, Thomas L. Hamar, James Harlan, Albert G. Harrison, Richard Hawes, Micajah T. Hawkins, Charles E. Haynes, Hopkins Holsey, Orrin Holt, George W. Hopkins, Benjamin C. Howard, Edward B. Hubly, Jabez Jackson, Joseph Johnson, Wm. Cost Johnson, John W. Jones, Gouverneur Kemble, Daniel Kilgore, John Klingensmith Jr., Jacob Lawler, Hugh S. Legare, Henry Logan, Francis S. Lyon, Francis Mallory, James M. Mason, Joshua L. Martin, Abram P. Maury, Wm. S. May, James J. McKay, Robert McClcllan,