Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.

167

their Savannah fund, the government of New York sent with it the request -- not, certainly, very extravagant that it might be distributed among the poorest citizens, and added the condition, without distinction of color." These unfortunate words sealed its fate. The hot blood of Savannah boiled, and by a vote of the councils the insult was met by sending back the money with a short, impertinent letter. We have had but one evidence of ill-feeling more marked than this in our own time.

On the other side, a Philadelphia insurance company, when asked at what rate it would insure some southern property, answered that its directors had concluded that they would not take any more risks south of Mason and Dixon's line.

The January number of the North American Review, in 1820, published a paper, by Judge Shaw, in defence of the restriction, which was widely circulated. It was luminous, decided and Christian in its tone, singularly applicable to the discussion just passed. It might have been reprinted,

changing the word Missouri to the word Nebraska, and would have completely met the case recently before the country. It is to be remembered, at the same time, that the introduction of African slaves by smuggling was still going on at the South. One of Judge Story's charges on the slave-trade was printed in the midst of this discussion, and in Congress it was admitted, on all hands, that large numbers of recently captured slaves were brought in by way of Galveston and the ports of Florida. Mr. King's speeches, as has been said, had also been very widely circulated. They contain a review of the policy of the government on the subject of slavery, which has been used, and to advantage, in the composition of speeches made during the present year at Washington.

At the beginning of the session, there was at the North no question whatever as to the success of the northern view, - at least so far as an arrest of the introduction of Missouri by a disagreement on the "restriction” between the branches.

Congress met on the 7th of December. It is worthy of remark, that, all the preliminaries having been adjusted, a bill passed, the very first week, for the admission of the slave state of Alabama; the questions regarding the new states of Maine and Missouri having been reserved for after discussion.

The territory of Arkansas had been organized the preceding year. The immediate question related, therefore, to the new state of Missouri, - to the present state of Iowa, and to the present territories of Minnesota, Kanzas, and Nebraska, all then known as the Missouri territory. The debates began simultaneously in both houses.

In the great discussion which followed, the southern policy and skill at tactics showed itself in an effort to unite the fate of Maine and Missouri, both of which states had applied for admission. The difference of position of the

THE MISSOURI DEBATE.

169

[ocr errors]

two is manifest. It need not be better expressed than in Mr. Otis's witty way. It fell to him to oppose the union of the Maine and Missouri bills in the Senate. GA

young lady,” he says, "no longer young, of a certain age, in fact, presents herself on her wedding day, when every one has given consent, and there is no objection to the match at all; and you delay the nuptials because a young miss in her teens has not got her corsets ready.”

The debate was conducted with great spirit on both sides. On the 14th of January, 1820, the Senate passed the bill for the admission of the district of Maine, with the addition of the bill introducing Missouri, by a vote of twenty-five to eighteen. This was the first vote taken in the Senate, and, as it was known that the House was decidedly in favor of the restriction, here was an evidence that the disagreement of the last session still continued. This vote, however, was by no means a final one; and the debate in the Senate went on side by side with that in the House, at intervals, on one proposition or another, until the beginning of March.

Unfortunately, a part only of the speeches made in the two bodies is preserved. Of the debate in the House, in particular, very little is recorded. Many of the leading speeches, however, were written out by the authors. But we have to regret, especially, the almost entire loss of that of Mr. Clay. He was then speaker, but left the chair in order to speak against the restriction, which he did with great power.

The debate was certainly marked by signal ability, and almost entirely exhausted the subject. It is remarkable to see how precisely appropriate the various speeches preserved are to the recent discussion. Indeed, one need only read them to see that they have been freely used, with and without credit, by the orators of our day, on both sides, in Congress.

An argument in favor of the restriction, not much relied upon in later times, drawn from the constitution of the United States, was pressed then with a good deal of energy. It is drawn from Sec. 9 of the first article, which provides : —

Art. 1.- Sec. 9. The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by Congress prior to the year 1808, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.

Mr. John Sergeant, of Pennsylvania, Mr. Rufus King, and other statesmen who favored the restriction, argued that the word "migration” here meant the movement of slaves from state to state, and that, therefore, the power to prevent that movement was distinctly given to Congress. Mr. Pinkney opposed this view. Mr. Otis, in his reply to Mr. Pinkney, did not insist upon it; and it has not attracted much notice in recent arguments on the subject. On the other hand, the arguments of the opponents of the restric

PECULIARITIES OF THE DISCUSSION.

171

now.

tion differed in one point from those who take similar ground

There was then no defence of the institution of slavery, except as a temporary misfortune, which should not be harshly dealt with. Mr. Clay's argument against the restriction rested on the impression, which has since proved completely fallacious, that the more widely the slaves in the country were scattered, the more rapid would be the natural decline of the institution of slavery. Mr. Pinkney, the leading opponent of the restriction in the Senate, was taunted in public because his opinions had been expressed, at an early age, in favor of the emancipation of slaves. He had made his debût in public life by a speech, in the Maryland Convention, in favor of that principle. Copies of this speech were now sent from Connecticut to every member; but Pinkney said, when he read the speech again, that it was a better speech than he had feared, and that he was glad that it was put in circulation. And in his great speech of this session he says that his effort is, not to answer any arguments on the evils of slavery, but simply to show that the restriction of those evils would rest on no rights granted in the constitution. No southern statesman attempted the defence of slavery as a permanent institution.

These two are the only important differences between the principles of the debate of that winter and those of that which has but recently closed.

In the Senate, this speech of Mr. Pinkney's was the

« ZurückWeiter »