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DANIEL WEBSTER ON THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE.
Among the productions of Mr. Webster's pen which do not appear in his collected works, is a pamphlet published by Sewell Phelps, at No. 5 Court st., Boston, in 1819. It is entitled “A Memorial to the Congress of the United States on the subject of restraining the increase of Slavery in new States to be admitted into the Union, prepared in pursuance of a vote of the inhabitants of Boston and its vicinity, assembled at the State House on the 3d of December, A.D. 1819.” The memorial is signed by Daniel Webster, George Blake, Josiah Quincy, James T. Austin, and John Gallison.
"To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, in Congress assembled : "The undersigned, inhabitants of Boston and no bearing on the present question. The power, its vicinity, beg leave most respectfully and hum- then, of Congress over its own territories is, by bly to represent: That the question of the intro- the very terms of the Constitution, unlimited. It duction of Slavery into the new States to be formed may make all 'needful rules and regulations,' on the west side of the Mississippi River, appears which of course include all such regulations as to them to be a question of the last importance to its own views of policy or expediency shall from the future welfare of the United States. If the time to time dictate. If, therefore, in its judg. progress of this great evil is ever to be arrested, ment it be needful for the benefit of a territory to it seems to the undersigned that this is the time to enact a prohibition of Slavery, it would seem to arrest it. A false step taken now cannot be re- be as much within its power of legislation as any traced; and it appears to us that the happiness of other act of local policy. Its sovereignty being unborn millions rests on the measure which Con- complete and universal as to the territory, it may gress on this occasion may adopt. Considering exercise over it the most ample jurisdiction in this as no local question, nor a question to be de- every respect. It possesses in this view all the cided by a temporary expedièncy, but as involv- authority which any State Legislature possesses ing great interests of the whole United States, over its own territory; and if any State Legislaand affecting deeply and essentially those objects ture may, in its discretion, abolish or prohibit of common defense, general welfare, and the per- Slavery within its own limitą, in virtue of its genpetuation of the blessings of liberty, for which eral legislative authority, for the same reason the Constitution itself was formed, we have pre-Congress also may exercise the like authority sumed, in this way, to offer our sentiments and over its own territories. And that a State Legisexpress our wishes to the National Legislature. lature, unless restrained by some constitutional And as various reasons have been suggested provision, may so do, is unquestionable, and has against prohibiting Slavery in the new States, it been established by general practice. * may perhaps be permitted to us to state our rea “The creation of a new State, is, in effect, a pons both for believing that Congress possesses compact between Congress and the inhabitants of the constitutional power to make such prohibition the proposed State. Congress would not probably a condition, on the admission of a new State into claim the power of compelling the inhabitants of tho Union, and that it is just and proper that they Missouri to form a Constitution of their own, and should exercise that power.
come into the Union as a State. It is as plain that "And in the first place as to the constitutional the inhabitants of that territory have no right of adauthority of Congress. The Constitution of the mission into the Union as a State without the conUnited States has declared that Congress shall sent of Congress. Neither party is bound to form have power to dispose of and make all needful this connection. It can be formed only by the rules and regulations respecting the territory or consent of both. What, then, prevents Congress, other property belonging to the United States; as one of the stipulating parties, to propose its and nothing in this Constitution shall be so con- terms? And if the other party assents to these strued as to prejudice the claims of the United terms, why do they not effectually bind both parStates or of any particular State.' It is very ties? Or if the inhabitants of the Territory do not well known that the saving in this clause of the choose to accept the proposed terms, but prefer claims of any particular State was designed to to remain under a Territorial Government, has apply to claims by the then existing States of ter- Congress deprived them of any right, or subjected ritory which was also claimed by the United them to any restraint, which, in its discretion, it States as their own property. It has, therefore, I had not authority to do? If the admission of new
States be not the discretionary exercise of a con- an admission into the Union was supposed to confer. stitutional power, but in all cases an imperative The memorialists, after this general survey, duty, how is it to be performed? If the Consti- would respectfully ask the attention of Congress to tution means that Congress shall admit new States, the state of the question of the right of Congress does it mean that Congress shall do this on every to prohibit Slavery in that part of the former Terapplication and under all circumstances? Or if ritory of Louisiana, which now forms the Missouri this construction cannot be admitted, and if it Territory. Louisiana was purchased of France by must be conceded that Congress must in some re- the Treaty of the 30th April, 1803. The third spects exercise its discretion on the admission of article of that Treaty is as follows: "The inhanew States, how is it to be shown that that dis- bitants of the ceded Territory shall be incorpocretion may not be exercised in regard to this sub-rated into the Union of the United States, and adject as well as in regard to others ?
mitted as soon as possible, according to the prinThe Constitution declares, “ that the migration ciples of the Federal Constitution, to the enjoyment or importation of such persons as any of the States of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of now existing, shall think proper to admit, shall not citizens of the United States; and in the meantime be prohibited by the Congress, prior to the year they shall be maintained and protected in the free 18081” It is most manifest that the Constitution enjoyment of their liberty, property, and the re, does contemplate, in the very terms of this clause, ligion which they profess." that Congress possesses the authority to prohibit Although the language of this article is not the migration or importation of slaves; for it very precise or accurate, the memorialists conceive limits the exercise of this authority for a specific that its real import and intent cannot be mis. period of time, leaving it to its full operation ever taken. The first clause provides for the admis: afterward. And this power seems necessarily in- sion of the ceded territory into the Union, cluded in the authority which belongs to Congress, and the succeeding clause shows this must be ac
to regulate commerce with foreign nations and cording to the principles of the Federal Constitution ; among the several States.” No person has ever and this very qualification necessarily excludes the doubted that the prohibition of the foreign slave idea that Congress were not to be at liberty to impose trade was completely within the authority of Con- any conditions upon such admission which were gress since the year 1808. And why? Certainly consistent with the principles of that Constitution, only because it is embraced in the regulation of and which had been or might justly be applied to foreign commerce; and if so, it may for the like other new States. The language is not by any reason be prohibited since that period between means so pointed as that of the Resolve of 1780; the States. Commerce in slaves, since the year and yet it has been seen that that Resolve was 1808, being as much subject to the regulation of never supposed to inhibit the authority of ConCongress as any other commerce, if it should see gress, as to the introduction of slavery. And it fit to enact that no slave should ever be sold from is clear, upon the plainest rule of construction, one State to another, it is not perceived how its that in the absence of all restrictive language, a constitutional right to make such provision could clause, merely providing for the admission of a be questioned. It would seem to be too plain to territory into the Union, must be construed to aube questioned, that Congress did possess the thorize an admission in the manner, and upon the power, before the year 1808, to prohibit the migra- terms which the Constitution itself would justify. tion or importation of slaves into the territories, This construction derives additional support from (and in point of fact it exercised that power) as the next clause. The inhabitants "shall be adwell as into any new States; and that its authority, mitted as soon as possible, according to the prinafter that year, might be as fully exercised to pre- ciples of the Federal Constitution, to the enjoyvent the migration or importation of slaves into ment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities any of the old States. And if it may prohibit of citizens of the United Siates." The rights, advannew States from importing slaves, it may surely, tages, and immunities here spoken of, must, from as we humbly submit, make it a condition of the the very force of the terms of the clause, be such admission of such States into the Union, that they as are recognized or communicated by the Constishall never import them. In relation, too, to its tution of the United States ; such as are common own Territories, Congress possesses a more exten- to all citizens, and are uniform throughout the sive authority, and may, in various other ways, United States. The clause cannot be referred to effect the object. It might, for example, make it rights, advantages, and immunities derived excluan express condition of its grants of the soil, that sively from the State Government, for these do its owners shall never hold slaves; and thus pre not depend upon the Federal Constitution. BAvent the possession of slaves from ever being con- sides, it would be impossible that all the rights, nected with the ownership of the soil.
advantages, and immunities of citizens of the dif. As corroborative of the views which have been ferent States could be at the same time enj already suggested, the memorialists would re- by the same persons. These rights are different spectfully call the attention of Congress to the in different States; a right exists in one State history of the national legislation, under the Con- which is denied in others, or is repugnant to other federation as well as under the present Constitu- rights enjoyed in others. In some of the States, tion on this interfering subject. Unless the me- a freebolder alone is entitled to vote in elections ; morialists greatly mistake, it will demonstrate the in some a qualification of personal property is sufsense of the nation at every period of its legisla- ficient; and in others age and freedom are the tion to have been, that the prohibition of Slavery sole qualifications of electors. In some states, 10 was no infringement of any just rights belonging citizen is permitted to hold slaves: in others he to free States, and was not incompatible with the possesses that power absolutely; in others it is enjoyments of all the rights and immunities which limited. The obvious meaning, therefore, of the
clauso is, that the rights derived under the Fedo- tension of that inequality of representation, which
sures, and who cannot balance a temporary or Upon the whole, the memorialists would most trifling convenience, if there were such, against a respectfully submit that the terms of the Constitu- permanent, growing and desolating evil. We tion, as well as the practice of the Governments cannot forbear to remind the two Houses of Conunder it, must, as they humbly conceive, entirely gress that the early and decisive measures adoptjustify the conclusion that Congress may prohibited by the American Government for the abolition the further introduction of Slavery into its own terri- of the slave-trade are among the proudest memotories, and also make such prohibition a condition rials of our nation's glory. That Slavery was of the admission of any new State into the Union. ever tolerated in the Republic is, as yet, to be at
If the constitutional power of Congress to tributed to the policy of another Government. make the proposed prohibition be satisfactorily No imputation, thus far, rests on any portion of the shown, the justice and policy of such prohibition American Confederacy. The Missouri Territory seem to the undersigned to be supported by plain is a new country. If its extensive and fertile and strong reasons. The permission of Slavery field shall be opered as a market for slaves, the in a new State necessarily draws after it an ex- Government will seem to become a party to a
traffic which, in so many acts, through so many | lieved from it without consequences more injuriyears, it has denounced as impolitic, unchristian, ous than the suffering of the evil. But to permit inhuman. To enact laws to punish the traffic, it in a new country, where yet no habits are and at the same time to tempt cupidity and ava- formed which render it indispensable, what is it, rice by the allurements of an insatiable market, is but to encourage that rapacity, and fraud, and inconsistent and irreconcilable. Government by violence, against which we have so long pointed such a course would only defeat its own purposes, the denunciations of our peual code? What is it, and render nugatory its own measures. Nor can but to tarnish the proud fame of the country? the laws derive support from the manners of the What is it, but to throw suspicion on its good people, if the power of moral sentiment be weak- faith, and to render questionable all its professions ened by enjoying, under the permission of Gov- of regard for the right of humanity and the liberernment, great facilities to commit offenses. The ties of mankind ? laws of the United States have denounced heavy As inhabitants of a free country—as citizens penalties against the traffic in slaves, because of a great and rising Republic-as members of a such traffic is deemed unjust and inhuman. We Christian community-as living in a liberal and appeal to the spirit of these laws: We appeal to enlightened age, and as feeling ourselves called this justice and humanity: We ask whether they upon by the dictates of religion and humanity, ought not to operate, on the present occasion, we have presumed to offer our sentiments to Conwith all their force ? We have a strong feeling gress on this question, with a solicitude for the of the injustice of any toleration of Slavery. Cir- event far beyond what a common occasion could cumstances have entailed it on a portion of our inspire." community, which cannot be immediately ra
ADMISSION OF TEXAS.
MISSOURI COMPROMISE RE-AFFIRMED.
A joint resolution for annexing Texas to the Union was passed March 1, 1845. The third article, of the second section of said resolution reaffirms the Missouri compromise principle in the following words :
" And such States as may be formed out of that portion of the said territory lying south of 86° 80' north latitude, commonly known as the Missouri compromise line, shall be admitted into the Union with or without slavery, as the people of each State asking admission may desire. And in such State or States as shall be formed out of said territory north of said Missouri compromise line slavery or involuntary servitude (except for crimes) shall be prohibited.”
The joint resolution for the admission of the State of Texas, passed December 29, 1845, admitted the new State, the people thereof having by deputies in Convention assembled, with the consent of the existing Government, adopted a constitution, and assented to and accepted the proposals, conditions, and guaranties contained in the first and second sections of said resolution.
And on the same day an act was approved extending the laws of the United States over the State of Texas.
As a portion of the proceedings of Congress on the annexation of Texas, have an important bearing on the Nebraska question, we extract the following from the Congressional Globe, (page 193,) detailing the action of the House of Representatives, Jan. 25, 1845 :
The question being on the Joint Resolution to admit Texas into the Union,
Mr. Milton Brown, (of Tennessee,) submitted the following as an amendment to it: Strike out amendment of Mr. Weller to the original resolution, and insert as follows : JOINT RESOLUTION declaring the terms on which Congress will admit Texas into the Union as a
State. Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled.
Third, New States of convenient size, not exceeding four in number, in addition to said State of Texas, and having sufficient population, may hereafter by consent of the said State be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions of the Federal Constitution. And such States as may be formed out of that portion of said territory lying South of thirty-six degrees, thirty minutes, North latitude, commonly known as the Missouri Compromise line, shall be admitted into the Union, with or without Slavery, as the people of each State asking admission may desire.
Mr. Douglass, (of Illinois,) asked the gentleman from Tennessee to accept the following as a modification of his amendment, to come in after the last clause :
And in such States as shall be formed out of said territory, north of said Missouri compromise line, slavery or involuntary servitude, except for crime, shall be prohibited.
Mr. Brown accepted the modification.
House of REPRESENTATIVES, Jan. 23, '45.
Mr. Douglas, (of Illinois,) moved to amend the amendment of Mr. Weller, by substituting therefor the resolutions he had the honor to introduce a few days since.
The resolutions of Mr. Douglas are in the following words:
treaty of 1803, for the purchase of Louisiana.
8th. And be it further resolved, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to affect, or in any way interfere with, the sixth section of the act, approved the sixth of March, 1820, admitting the State of Missouri into the Union, and commonly called the Missouri Compromise, that act having been passed and approved prior to the ratification of the treaty commonly called the Texas treaty, by which Texas was coded to Spain.