« ZurückWeiter »
known; but they furnish all, as well as the best, lights we can get, of the opinions of the statesmen at that time. It will be seen that the “ Notes” relate almost exclusively to the slavery question, and hence we may conclude that then, as now, that subject was one of difficulty as well as delicacy. I have given the “Notes” in full, pro and con—I could do no more ; and the reader must form his own opinions,-mine would be superfluous.
Passing from the Articles of the Confederation, I have next taken up the Convention to form the present Constitution. The only debates preserved in that body were taken by Mr. Madison and Mr. Yates; the latter, however, left the Convention before its adjournment, and hence did not take them fully. I have carefully compiled, from both these sources, everything that was said and done relating to slavery, together with such other matter as seemed likely to be of interest at the present time. It will be seen that here, too, difficulties were presented, that for a while seemed likely to preclude the possibility of a union of the States on their present basis; but they were happily arranged, in a spirit of mutual concession and compromise, upon the principle of granting such powers as seemed necessary
for the good of the whole, specifically, and “reserving to the people or the States, respectively,” all powers not granted. These debates, too, are meagre, but they are sufficient to give the intelligent reader a clear notion of the intentions of the Convention, and what powers are really granted to Congress by that instrument of
government which has shed so much happiness upon our beloved country.
Pursuing the same purpose, I have next taken up the conventions of the several States to ratify the Constitution, and given everything relating to the subject of slavery that was said and done in them.
In some of these States the debates are quite full; in others but mere fragments have been preserved; and in a few, none at all. I have given everything I could find, and my facilities have not been very limited, upon this subject. The construction given to the Constitution by the wise and good men who deliberated upon its ratification, many of whom had taken part in its formation, has been carefully and fully noted. I have
omitted nothing on this subject within the scope of an ample library, and long, patient, and thorough investigation.
Leaving the Constitution at the period of its ratification by the requisite number of States, I have next taken up the Ordinance of 1787, important in the history of the country as containing the first restriction upon the spread of slavery ever adopted by these States, although it was adopted under the Articles of Confederation, before the present Constitution was framed ; still, it is deemed of importance at the present day, as furnishing a precedent for the prohibition of slavery in the Territories by the general government. This chapter was compiled by Hon. Peter Force, of Washington, from original documents, who has spent a lifetime in compiling the archives of the government, under the authority of Congress. It is unquestionably the only authentic history of that famous ordinance ever given to the country; and I desire here to express to the great American compiler, my sincere thanks for his courtesy and kindness in this behalf.
Passing from this, the first action of Congress
upon the subject of slavery is taken up. This occurred in 1790, the first Congress that assembled under the present Constitution, and was had upon the memorial of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. The report of the committee, and the final action of Congress upon that subject, will be found in this chapter.
The Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, drawn by Messrs. Madison and Jefferson, defining the rights and powers of the general government and the States, are next given.
From this period till the application of Missouri for admission into the Union, in 1820, the question of slavery was not agitated in Congress to any considerable extent. This was the first discussion ever had in that body on the power
of Congress to restrict slavery in the territories of the United States. A succinct and careful history of the difficulty is given, together with extracts from the speeches of the most prominent statesmen of that time who participated in it, embracing nearly the entire speech of General Pinckney, who was the only member of Congress, at that time, who was a member of the Convention that framed the Constitution. In this connection, also, the reader will find the opinions of Mr. Madison, Mr, Jefferson, Mr. Monroe, General Harrison, and others, upon the power of Congress to restrict slavery in the national territories.
From this period, down to 1854, the various phases of slavery agitation is traced, and the views of Clay, Calhoun, Benton, Cass, Dickinson, Seward, Marcy, John Quincy Adams, Silas Wright, Daniel Webster, and other of the eminent statesmen of the times, of both political parties, are given.
are given. A history of the KansasNebraska bill; extracts from the opinion of the court in the Dred Scott case, and other opinions of the courts in reference to slavery; the inaugural addresses of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison ; and the farewell addresses of Washington and Jackson; may also be found.
Since 1854, the Whig party, as a national organization, has ceased to exist, and the Republican party, organized particularly with reference to the slavery question, has taken its place. I have compiled nothing save the resolutions of the Presidential conventions, subsequent to that period, for the reason that congressional discussions