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tives, may, if they see fit, prohibit the existence of slavery therein.” As it has of late become a matter of doubt in the minds of some gentlemen who voted for and supported the Nebraska Bill, as to whether any one had ever suggested, while it was pending, that under its provisions the people of the territories, through their Legislature, would have the power to legislate upon the subject of slavery; and as the action of the Senate upon this amendment of Mr. Chase has been quoted by all the Republican papers, by executive officers and authority, and has even been published in official journals over the signature of an intelligent senator (possibly by others), as conclusive evidence that the Senate did not intend to concede any such power in the Territorial Legislature, it is necessary for the sake of truth, if not of justice, and not for the purpose of contradicting the statement or calling in question the veracity of any person, that a somewhat extended notice of what took place on this amendment should be given. For a more clear understanding of what occurred it should be borne in mind that the bill had been reported with an amendment—the latter in the nature of a substitute for the former. The substitute was the measure which the friends of the bill were maturing. The general question pending was on the adoption of the substitute in lieu of the bill. Pending . that question it was in order to amend the substitute, which was of itself a pending amendment. Beyond an amendment to an amendment parliamentary law does not admit a proposal to amend. Consequently Mr. Chase's motion was an amendment to an amendment, and was not of itself open to amendment, unless he voluntarily modified his own motion. In proposing his amendment Mr. Chase thus stated its “design:” “Now, I desire to have the sense of the Senate upon the question, whether
or not, under the limitations of the Constitution of the United States, the people of the territories can prohibit the existence of slavery.”
Mr. Pratt, of Maryland, promptly responded:
. “The principle which the senator from Ohio has announced as the principle of his amendment is, that the question shall be left entirely and exclusively to the people of the territories whether they will prohibit slavery or not. Now, for the purpose of testing the sincerity of the senator, and for the purpose of deducing the principle in his amendment correctly, I propose
to amend it by inserting after the word ‘prohibit' the words ‘or introduce'' " so that if my amendment be adopted, and the amendment of the senator from Ohio, as so amended, be introduced as part of the bill, the principle which he says he desires to have tested here will be inserted in the bill, that the people of the territories shall have power either to introduce or prohibit slavery as they may think proper. I suppose the question will be first taken on the amendment which I offer to the amendment.”
Messrs. Seward and Chase at once raised the question that as an amendment (Chase's) to an amendment (the substitute) was pending, no further amendment was in order; and the Chair necessarily ruled Mr. Pratt's motion out of order. After some debate
Mr. Shields said: If the honorable senator (Mr. Chase) will permit me, I will suggest to him, if he wishes to test that proposition, to put the converse, as suggested by the honorable senator from Maryland, and then it will be a fair proposition. Let the senator from Ohio accept the amendment of the senator from Maryland, for the purpose of testing the question.
Mr. Chase: I was about to state why I could not accept the amendment of the senator from Maryland. I have no objection that the vote should be taken upon it, and it is probable that it would receive the Sanction of a majority here; but with my views of the Constitution I cannot vote for it. I do not believe that a Territorial Legislature, though it may have the power to protect the people against slavery, is constitutionally competent to introduce it.
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Mr. Badger, of North Carolina, having called for the reading of the amendment, said:
Mr. President : I have understood, I find correctly, the purport of the amendment offered by the honorable senator from Ohio. The purpose of the amendment and the effect of the amendment, if adopted by the Senate and standing as he proposes, are clear and obvious. The effect of the amendment and the design of the amendment are to overrule and subvert the very proposition introduced into the bill upon the motion of the chairman of the Committee on Territories. Is not that clear? The provision as it stands, since the amendment has been adopted, is an unrestricted and unreserved reference to the territorial authorities or the people themselves to determine upon the question of slavery; and therefore by the very terms, as well as by the obvious meaning and legal operation of that amendment, to enable them either to exclude or to introduce or allow slavery.
“If therefore, the amendment proposed by the senator from Ohio were appended to the bill in the connection in which he introduces it, the necessary and inevitable effect of it would be to control and limit the language which the Senate has just put into the bill, and to give it this construction: that though Congress leaves them to regulate their own domestic institutions as they please, yet, in regard to the subject matter of slavery, the power is confined to the exclusion or prohibition of it. I say this is both the legal effect and the manifest design of the amendment. The legal effect is obvious upon the statement. The design is obvious upon the refusal of the gentleman to incorporate in his amendment what was suggested by my honorable friend from Maryland, the propriety and fairness of which was instantly seen
by my friend from Illinois (Mr. Shields). Is it proposed by the senator to test the question whether these people, shall expressly have authority to determine for themselves upon the existence of this domestic relation? If so, and the language just put into the bill is not sufficiently explicit, in his estimation, is it not beyond all question that you should put in the words “or introduce?" Under the bill, as it stands, the people may regulate their domestic relation as they see fit; but, says the amendment of the senator from Ohio, that shall enable them, under the Constitution, to prohibit slavery. What is the effect of that amendment but to modify, reduce, restrain, and bring down the latitude of authority conferred upon them by the previous language just incorporated into the bill.” + :k + “Now, sir, the true, direct, and manly course to meet this question is that suggested by my honorable friend from Illinois (Mr. Shields). Put in your amendment that the people of the territories shall be at liberty to exclude or introduce, and if there is anything in the Constitution of the United States which disables a territorial government from introducing slavery, if the honorable senator believes that, if he is sincere in that opinion, there sits a tribunal below us who will pass upon the validity and constitutionality of any act that we may pass. “I have no hesitation, therefore, in saying that I shall vote against the amendment of the senator from Ohio. The clause as it stands is ample. It submits the whole authority to the territory to determine for itself. That, in my judgment, is the place where it ought to be put. If the people of these territories choose to exclude slavery, so far from considering it as a wrong
done to me or to my constituents, I shall not complain of it. It is their own business.”
The debate then became general, and the Senate adjourned without taking the question.
The debate upon the general character of the bill continued from day to day until the 2d of March, when the amendment proposed by Mr. Chase again was noticed.
Mr. Badger again referring to it used the following strong language:
“The language of the bill, as amended upon the motion of the honorable chairman of the Committee on Territories, is full, complete, and ample, giving the people of these territories, through their governments, the unrestricted and unqualified right to decide upon all their domestic relations, slavery included; and then the honorable senator from Ohio, as if he supposed that either we were so dull that we could not understand, or that the public were so purblind that they could not see, proposes to add, as an amendment explanatory of the previous language, that they shall have power to prohibit slavery. He knows, sir, he means, sir, that that language, so standing, shall have, as in the court below it would have, the necessary effect of controlling, limiting, and restraining the former language, so that the territories should have no right over this subject but to prohibit slavery. If it does not mean this—if he does not intend this—why did he refuse to insert the words which the instinctive candor and openness of my honorable friend from Illinois (Mr. Shields) suggested “to prohibit or allow slavery?' Sir, no member of this body who is in favor of the bill need be in the least troubled.
“The senator from Ohio feels himself bound, in order to resist the introduction of slavery into any territory, to disavow the obligation of all compacts, to resist the performance of every engagement, to disavow any, however solemn, stipulations. He can never mean but one thing by any amendment which he offers to this bill, and that thing is mischief to the measure.” “Mr. Cass said. * * * Well, sir, the honorable senator from Ohio proposes to insert a provision to take from the people the power of allowing slavery.” “Mr. Chase. No, sir.” “Mr. Cass. Certainly; that is the effect of it. You allow them the power to prohibit slavery by your amendment, but not to establish it. The original provision, as it stands, gives them both powers, subject to the limitations of the Constitution. Then the effect of the amendment of the honorable senator from Ohio, if adopted, would be to throw doubts upon the preceding provision. If we give them both powers, and then, afterwards, in clearer language give but one, it is a strong intimation that we destroy the effect of our own previous provision. It casts a doubt upon it. The true view, therefore, is to repeat both, if repetition is necessary.” “Mr. Mason, of Virginia, said: I understand the senator from Ohio to say that the object of this amendment, and the object of all the other amendments which he has offered to the bill, was to place the whole subject of legislation, in its most ample form, in the hands of the people of the territories; and yet he offered, I think, as an amendment, a proposition to authorize that people to legislate for the prohibition of slavery, and refused the suggestion which came from a senator, on this floor to give the alternative to the same people, in their discretion, to legislate for the admission of slavery. That thing has been exposed upon this floor over and over again.”
The discussion again wandered from the amendment to a variety of topics, some of them personal in their nature. At half past six o'clock p.m. the Senate proceeded to vote on the amendment, which was rejected as follows:
Yeas—Messrs. Chase, Dodge, of Wisconsin, Fessenden, Fish, Foot, Hamlin, Seward, Smith, Sumner and Wade, 10.
Nays—Messrs. Adams, Atchison, Badger, Bell, Benjamin, Brodhead, Brown, Butler, Clay, of Alabama, Clayton, Dawson, Dixon, Dodge, of Iowa, Douglas, Evans, Fitzpatrick, Gwin, Houston, Hunter, Johnson, Jones, of Iowa, Jones, of Tennessee, Mason, Morton, Norris, Pettit, Pratt, Rusk, Sebastian, Shields, Slidell, Stuart, Toucey, Walker, Weller, and Williams, 36.
This is the history of the origin, progress, and fate of the Chase amendment. It proposed to allow the people of the territories to “prohibit” slavery, but denied to them the power to “introduce.” It was, in effect, a restriction of the powers of the Legislature to a prohibition, when the object of the bill was to leave the Legislature free and unrestricted in the exercise of all constitutional legislation to prohibit or introduce. As General Cass said, it was a proposition to take from the Legislature the power to admit slavery
This amendment has lately been drawn from the records, and paraded before the country as conclusive testimony that the Senate, including Mr. Douglas, in framing the KansasNebraska Act, were so opposed to any recognition of the power of the Territorial Legislature to prohibit slavery, that a direct proposition to that effect was voted down by a majority of nearly four to one. When the candid reader remembers that the searcher after the history of that amendment had to read the speeches of its mover, and of Messrs. Badger and Cass, as to its purpose, its design and its effect, he will hardly credit the statement that a learned senator, who was a member of the Senate in 1854 when the bill passed, has had the courage in 1859 to present the amendment, and the vote rejecting it, as direct and positive evidence that the Senate, by a vote of thirty-six to ten, decided that the Territorial Legislature should not be permitted to legislate to the exclusion of slavery. That the readers of this book may judge for themselves how universal was the “unsoundness” of senators upon the subject which Dr. Gwin has recently made his specialty, some extracts have been made from speeches on the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. Before giving these extracts, however, it should be stated that the only object sought to be established by quoting them is— that when the bill was under consideration it was conceded by all its friends, that unless the Constitution of the United States rendered such legislation void, the legislatures of the territories were, by the express terms of the bill, authorized to legislate for the introduction, prohibition, exclusion, protection and encouragement of African slavery within their territorial limits. The members of the Senate were divided into three classes upon the question of power, viz.: 1. Those who denied the power of Congress to legislate to extend slavery, but claimed that Congress had the power to prohibit; and that the Territorial Legislature, deriving all its powers from Congress, could not legislate except to prohibit slavery. This class was represented by Mr. Chase. 2. Those who denied the power of Congress to legislate to prohibit slavery, but claimed that Congress had the power, and should, when necessary, legislate for the protection of slave property, which, being recognized by the Constitution, must under all just considerations of the equality of the States, be admissible to the territories—the common property of all the States; and that the Legislature of the Territory, being the creature of Congress, could not exercise powers or authority