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(title page) Remarks on the Subject of the Ownership of Slaves, Delivered By R. R. Collier of Petersburg, in the Senate of Virginia, October 12, 1863
R. R. Collier
Printed by James E. Goode
Call Number 2885 Conf. (Rare Book Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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Mr. Collier submitted the following preamble and joint resolution:
The general assembly of Virginia doth hereby declare, that negroes in slavery in this state and in the whole south, (who are withal in a higher condition of civilization than any of their race has ever been elsewhere) having been a property in their masters for two hundred and forty years, by use and custom at first, and ever since by recognitions of the public law in various forms, ought not to be, and cannot justly be, interfered with in that relation of property by the state, neither by the people in convention assembled to alter an existing constitution or to form one for admission into the Confederacy, nor by the representatives of the people in the state or the confederate legislature, nor by any means or mode which the popular majority might adopt; and that the state, whilst remaining republican in the structure or its government, can be lawfully got rid of that species of property, if ever, only, by the free consent of the individual owners; it being true as the general assembly doth further declare, that for the state, without the free consent of the owner, to deprive him of his identical property, by compelling him to accept a substituted value therefor, no matter how ascertained, or by the post nati policy, or in any other way, not for the public use, but with a view to rid the state of such property already resident therein, and so to destroy the right of property in the subject, or to constrain the owner to send his slaves out of the state, or else to expatriate himself and carry them with him, would contravene and frustrate the indispensable principles of free government: and whereas these Confederate States being now all slaveholding, may be disturbed by some act of the majority, in any one of them, in derogation of the rights of the minority, unless this doctrine above declared be interposed: therefore,
Resolved by the general assembly of Virginia, That the governor of Virginia be, and he is, hereby requested to communicate this proceeding to the several governors of the Confederate States, and to request them to lay the same before their respective legislatures, and to request their concurrence therein in such way as they may severally deem best calculated to secure stability to the fundamental doctrine of southern civilization which is hereby declared and proposed to be advanced.
Mr. Collier said the Senate could not fail to see and know that the recognition of our independence by foreign countries, is made to turn on a question of the continued existence of negro slavery in these states. He judged it to be both just to other nations, and prudent on our own part, to declare unequivocally, if such is indeed our purpose, that these states do not intend to let the condition of the black man amongst us be changed. He would have the emperor of the French and all other crowned heads know that these Confederate States will not accept, much less seek, recognition of their independence on the basis of any manner of compromise, to any extent, on this subject. He would say to one and all, in this great interest, we do and will insist strenuously on being let alone to manage it in our own way.
Mr. Collier said he would anticipate the discussion he intended, by inviting attention at once to one point involved. The chief object of the declaration of principles and policies which he proposed, was to disavow and oppose the signal fallacy which has prevailed, that the people of a republican state can, without violating the republican creed, either destroy any existing property or fail to protect it to its owners. In the politics of the country, for ten years, at least, prior to the dismemberment of the federal Union, the fallacy was seriously inculcated, by all parties, that a people intending to establish a republican state, might, in first forming or in afterwards altering their constitution, determine by constitutional provision or authorized legislation, whether slavery should continue to exist within the limits of the state. That doctrine is not only unsound, but it is an invitation to all mankind to enter the field of competition for free to the exclusion of slave labor. To get rid of that heresy is the prime object of the proposed proceeding.
With that much, only, premised, I will proceed, Mr. President and senators, at this time, to submit for your consideration, a succinct exposition of the grounds on which the main doctrine designed by the preamble to be advanced in its power on the public mind--on the moral sentiment, no less than on the intellectual judgment, of the people of these slaveholding states--should find its sure support, and quietly repose. It shall be, as succinct as the amplitude of the subject will allow. That main doctrine is that negro slaves are property, and as such, just as
much as any other property, is shut up and shielded to the owners of them, so that the enjoyment of this identity property cannot, be disturbed, except in the way and for the purposes ascertained by and defined in the provisions of our written constitutions; and that those constitutional provisions have their source and their shield in the republican creed which is no less the best supply of durable prosperity, than of public freedom. To dispense with or to repudiate those provisions which are limitations for the security of protection to minorities, alike and no less by constraint of principles on the majority in making constitutions, than on the governmental authorities in administering them, would be to convert a free system into some other not free, but arbitrary.
I shall deem it unnecessary to cite the adjudications of the federal or state courts to show that negroes in bondage are a property to their owners: that was sufficiently and well done by Hon. W. N. H. Smith of North Carolina, in the federal house of representatives, and who is now a member of the confederate house. As indicating with sufficient distinctness what kind of property is slaves it is I assert, this question will suffice--Has the master a property in his apprentice? The chief difference is that for a limited time in one, but for life in the other.
I shall deem it unnecessary to take a retrospect of negro slavery, or to survey its favored condition, in this country, as contrasted with others, but a little beyond the allusions in the preamble. The purpose of the proposed proceeding, is not to impress such facts, well known to us, any more unerrably and ineradicably than they are on us and by us already impressed to be appreciated. Nor is it the purpose to attempt to reach the outside world. To them I would only say that with us the black slave is subjected to very little of the severity, and enjoys all the advantages, or servitude. I would have them know that ours is the severe design of Napoleon, when in 1802 he said, "Had any of your philanthropic liberals come out to Egypt to proclaim liberty to the blacks, I would have hung him from the masthead." I would invite them to search the history of the black race. I would have them consider how, for six thousand years, that race has failed to erect a single fabric of civilized freedom, though Central Africa was in the national neighborhood of Egyptian and Carthaginian greatness. All the aids of the white man have failed to enable to blacks to produce or preserve civilization. No respectable state has risen in that fruitful region on the banks of the Niger or the Congo. Survey the contrast on the Euphrates and the Nile. Remember how, in half a century, the flourishing aspect and agricultural opulence of St. Domingo disappeared and left not a vestige of enterprize or industry. Behold the present condition of the Haytien republic, relapsed into the indolence and gloom of savage life. With that much to all outsiders, and having no other design with them, the purpose of the proceeding I am urging on the adoption of our whole country, is to shove off and to shut out domestic interference, so that the principle of property in respect to our slaves shall have full practical effect and fruition. There are in the matters closely grouped in the preamble, a few salient angles where I wish to plant a palisade, before I proceed with the more general inspection and fortification.
It is not within the range of my intended view, to revive a discussion of "the territorial question," which was as changeful as the moon, and had many moonstruck worshippers. There is, however, one remark looking in that direction, which I think will be by others thought to be not altogether inappropriate. I consider it very pertinent to our present situation. It was conceded by the South, in that discussion, that when a territorial people came to form a state constitution for admission into the federal Union they might have provided for the expulsion of the negro slavery then and there existing. Such was the concession by Governor Wise in his celebrated Samford letter. He defended with masterly ability our right of property in our slaves, and he fortified that defence both by constitutional analysis, and historical research blended in powerful array. He gave, however, unjustified scope to the constitutional clause respecting "the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states," which by fair interpretation, in the light of its history, applies only to the right of the individual's citizenship in the states. Yet he did make that concession, and it was fatal to his argument, and made it worth but little to the South. The same concession was insisted on in the memorable debate on the seven resolutions of Senator (now president) Davis, just before he retired from the United States senate. He gave up the principle of property in our slaves, at the point of its greatest danger. He left it exposed to the fury of the dominant majority, when the people are first forming or afterwards altering their constitution. He surrendered this stronghold of republican government in the 6th of that series of resolutions. It was adopted by a vote of 33 to 12; most of the northern senators voting for it, as all of them might. It was in these words:
"6th Resolved, That the inhabitants of a territory of the United States, when they rightfully form a constitution to be admitted as a state into the Union, may then, for the first time, like the people of a state when forming a new constitution, decide for themselves, whether slavery, as a domestic institution, shall be maintained or prohibited within their jurisdiction," &c.
The surrender involved, which now concerns us as slaveholding states, is the concession that "the people of a state when forming a new constitution," may expel slavery. That doctrine should be killed and buried out of sight. It is a stench in the nostrils of slaveholders. I deny, but will only remark to defend the denial, that slavery is not an institution; it is the ownership of the individual citizens. If it were an institute of government, then the government might rightly in point of mere power, either alter or abolish it at pleasure. Such is the clear consequence from the concession that the ownership is an institution: and still, as soon as yankee cunning suggested that the ownership was an "institution," the southern mind accepted the nomenclature as correct, and at once became burthened with the logical sequence of a power in the government to control it to the extent of removing it. Ever since the concession was made forty years ago, the South has had to combat the consequence, whilst all the weary time, she has been sustaining the cause, and as it were begging the question. Let us ignore the concession which is the cause and the consequence will cease to
result. Let us henceforth cease to concede that it is an institution, as it is not. That ownership existed before the state was formed, and the people of the state in first making or afterwards in altering their organic law, owe it that protection to which they are incontestably constrained by the principles of free government, which chiefly consist in the protection of property to its owners--all their property, except enough for the general charge and expenditure and for the public use. That much only can be taken away by the powers of taxation and impressment, and only to the exact extent the inevitable necessities of the government may demand.
The sound opinion--the logical conclusion--the view of the subject which I had been urging for five years prior to the debate in the senate on the resolutions of the senator from Mississippi, in May 1860, was in that debate expressed by Senator (not then traitor) Crittenden, as follows: "To assert my right," said Mr. C., "to go there"--any where in this republican country--"to carry my property there, and to enjoy that property, and then to say there is any body stronger or mightier or more sovereign than the constitution"--and I say than the principle of property--"that can take from me that which the constitution" --and I say its indispensable principle--"says I may have and enjoy, or can expel me from the place where the constitution allows me to go, is exceedingly inconsistent and contradictory." So said Senator Crittenden, when he was a true man.
So much, Mr. President, I have thought it proper to present on this topic. I forbear just now to say any more in the support of my view of it, except only the historical allusion in the remark that the concession so made by the South and sanctioned by her foremost defenders, was not less prejudicial and detrimental to the extension of slavery and the enlargement of "the slave power" of the South in the federal Union, than to the existence and security of slavery in the states, was the denial in that congress that negroes were property--a denial in which they, of course, became more eager, when they found we did not resist it as men in earnest to maintain their rights should have resisted it--a denial there first made in 1817, and once or twice thereafter repeated, on the occasion of slave-owners seeking by memorials to be paid for their slaves which were injured or lost to them, in Louisiana, in the war of 1812-15, when their slaves were impressed by the authority of the general government, chiefly to supply labor in the erection of fortifications at New Orleans. That was the one instance, until the war we are in now, in which that government ever repudiated the principle of property in negro slaves, (although some of the co-states did,) and then the South ought to have insisted on reparation and redress, or a dismemberment of that Union.
At this other point I wish to put up a defensive fortification. It is this, that the proposed proceeding neither in terms nor by intention trenches on the rightful powers of all governments to impress private property for "the public use." I particularly invite the attention of the senate, (and of the country, in case the general assembly shall send out the proceeding to this and the other states,) to that part of the preamble in which various plans of emancipation or riddance, and the only
ones that have ever been proposed as peaceful resorts, are reprobated. The almost unanimous expression of the world's condemnation, and our undivided detestation, of Lincoln's plan, is enough to repel that impetuous and impudent plan for accomplishing the object by military conquest. History has no blacker deed to commemorate. I thus direct attention to the end it may be seen and considered that the plans denounced are such as are not for "the public use" in their ex-appropriation of private property. This proceeding intends in the expression, and craves in the discussion, to avoid and escape the vortex of the vexed questions involved in the power of impressment of private property "for public use," and in the modes of the exercise of that power. It desires, as its terms expressly intend, to avoid that gulf-stream in the confluence of politics and legislation.
The other angle at which some special defence may, I apprehend, be properly made, is about the post nati policy. It is a legal maxim that the owner of any female animal is entitled to her increase, et alios qui nascenter ab illis. Neither authority needs be quoted nor argument urged on this head. It is referred to for the purpose of making another kind of defence--a counterguard.
It is known to the senate that it has been alleged elsewhere, and it may be supposed by some here, that Mr. Jefferson urged the execution of that policy. It is admitted by me that he was "a philanthropic liberal" in his philosophic meditations on this subject; but I am yet to find that he advocated the execution of this policy, under our written constitutions, as they then were and now are, and as I think they must ever be, whilst we are a free people, enjoying the republican creed. In his celebrated letter to Jared Sparks, in 1824, (Jefferson's works, vol. 4th, page 388,) Mr. J. says, in parenthesis, "actual property has been lawfully vested in that form, and who can lawfully take it from the possessors?" In the same letter, suggesting what he could in support of this policy, he says: "I am aware that this subject involves some constitutional scruples. But a liberal construction, justified by the object, may go far, and an amendment of the constitution, the whole length necessary." Thus, whilst he advocated the abstract policy, he conceded it could not be executed under the constitution as it then was. The proposed proceeding denies that the policy can be executed under the constitution as it still is; and it asserts in the spirit of Mr. Jefferson's question, that the increase of the female slaves are a vested property of which no earthly power can rightfully divest the lawful possessors. I admit he had a desire at heart to have the policy executed, if it could have been done consistentlywith the constitution, or if the constitution could have been made to compass the object consistently with republicanism. He did not tell us how (because he did not see) it could be done without subverting the principle of property and undermining our free system. I dissent from his heart's desire, and so do these slaveholding states solemnly protest, unless they are justly chargeable with hypocrisy. These states do adhere, and I do not doubt they will express their devotion, to the sounder philanthropy and clearer wisdom of Napoleon, as uttered in 1802, when he said: "In the West Indies, enthusiasts have delivered over the whites to the ferocity of the blacks, and yet they complain
of the victims of such madness, that they are discontented. How give liberty to the Africans, when they are destitute of any species of civilization.* * *The feelings of humanity are ever powerful with excited imaginations. But now after the experience we have had, to maintain the same policy can be the result only of overweening self-confidence or hypocrisy." And I am justified in appealing to the wisdom of that great man, because in his civil code he showed himself to be a Solon legislating for a distracted people, and a Justinian codifying the treasures of all existing and foregone jurisprudence. I will only add on this head, that though negroes with us are in a higher state of civilization, they are still unfit for self-government, if indeed by any culture they are capable of being made fit for it; that by color they are unfit to mingle with the whites as equals; that Providence has not opened the way for their deportation, and if He had, this war has very largely reduced our means to accomplish it for a century to come. To set them free and not send them away, would be grosser error than it would have been in Carthaginians to have suffered the Romans to fortify on their shore, or in the English to have allowed the French to entrench on the coast of Kent. Though the negroes would not be as formidable warriors, they would be, perhaps, as thievish as the outlandish soldiers of the yankee armies in this war.
Mr. President, with that limited defence of those points on which it occurred to me attacks might be made from misapprehension, I come now to explain, fortify and defend, if I may be fortunate to do so, the more general ground plot of the proposed proceeding. There can certainly be no doubt that it is appropriate, if the preamble shall be adopted by this general assembly, that we shall invite the concurrence of the other states. The manner in which they may elect to concur, is purposely left unadvised and unsuggested. Whilst it is not proposed or left to be fairly implied, that no state shall be admitted into the Confederacy that is not slaveholding, the notion is positively excluded that any one of the states now in the Confederacy, or that any one being slaveholding that may hereafter be admitted, shall ever be made non-withholding by any means other than by the "free consent of the individual owners." That is not a declaration that a state non-slaveholding may not of right prohibit the introduction of slaves, nor is it a denial that a slaveholding state may prohibit the introduction of any more slaves than are already owned in it. It is conceded that it was not the duty of the late federal Union to deny admission of a state from the territorial condition, because the constitution under which they applied, for admission, inhibited the migration or importation of more persons of color, the same with those who were there, to become, or continue to be, slaves of African nativity or descent. That is a rightful power, spontaneous and inherent, in every independent state or people on earth, if it be not abnegated by the organism of the state, or by treaty stipulation; and the one would be unwise, the other humiliating. It is a power which the people of the states by severally ratifying the federal constitution and so forming the late federal Union, did not relinquish. If they did, by what clause was it done? It is a right that was reserved to each state, I apprehend, unimpaired by any clause in that constitution,
except by that one which reduced the power of the general government to execute or initiate such a prohibition, prior to 1808, in the states then in the Union, or to come in before that period. Whether the foreign slave trade was prohibited by the clause to regulate commerce with foreign nations, or by that to define offences against the law of nations, or by any other, or was not prohibited at all by express grant or by necessary implication in any grant, it was never material to determine or to consider. If the power was not so granted, it nevertheless existed in the federal Union after it was formed, in virtue of the international principle that each nation has the right to regulate its foreign policy, whilst unrestricted by treaty or by self-imposed stipulations. If it was granted, the grant was cumulative only, for it would have existed as an element of an independent nation, without the grant. If it was not granted and did not exist inherently in nationality, then the framers of that constitution are exhibited in the ridiculous aspect of having restricted for a time, up to 1808, the exercise of the power to prohibit, when they did not possess the power. It has always seemed to me to be most respectful to the framers of that constitution, and only just to all the parties to it, to suppose, and so to interpret it, that in the contemplation of the framers of it, as it did not clearly contain a grant of power to prohibit the slave trade, the power existed without the grant. In this sovereign power, inherent in and accorded to every independent nation did reside unquestionably, I apprehend, the right of the old Union to prohibit the foreign slave trade. It was precisely the same power, as it was not prohibited to the states by the federal constitution, which each state had, to keep out of its limits such persons as a property, as well as it might have kept out every other kind of property which its citizens did not already possess there as a property entitled to the protection of law. In the sufficiency of the strength of that national power and international right of the federal government, irrespectively of any express or implied constitutional authority, together with the reserved right of each state to prohibit the introduction of any slaves or a larger number, the "free" states need not have had, as some of their politicians professed to have, a fear that if they tolerated slavery in the incoming states, it might be introduced into the "free" states. In the strength of the same principle of property and of that forbearing policy of the nations, the slaveholding states in the federal Union were free from any rightful interference by that government with the inter-states slave trade. The point thus explained is that the doctrine inculcated the proposed proceeding, and which point as a political tenet, denies the power to the people of the state--any of the slaveholding states, by any legislation, conventional in forming the organic law, or by the ordinary legislature in giving practical effect to the organic law, to expel pre-existing slave property or to compel its owners to retire with it beyond the limits of the state, has not the temerity or novelty of coming in conflict with that sublime policy of the civilized nations that each for itself, none for another, shall regulate its foreign relations involving its internal policy, unhindered by any other or by all others combined. I have always thought that such was the reserved right of each of the late United States, and certainly it is so in these Confederate States.
But, Mr. President, that is the right of an independent isolated state-- that is, a state untrammeled by any compact or treaty with any other. It is not the right of a state in the act of being formed out of territory belonging in common to states already in a federal Union, under a compact ratified by them. The federal compact was supreme over the settlers of such territory, and in our system it was obligatory upon them, to the extent and intendment that they who inhabited the territory should establish the republican system. That was the federal guarantee to the territorial people. That was the idea, and not that the constitution of the federal Union carried slavery into the territories, beyond the power of the people to control it, as they might control other property. The owners of the slaves, having equal privileges of citizenship with the owners of other property from any other states, carried them there, and the republican principle protected the ownership of that property, equally with that of any other property--no more or less; and the inference of Mr. Lincoln, in the discussion with Mr. Douglas, that if the constitution carried slavery into the territories, it also might carry it into the free states, was an absurdity, though it was so put, and not exposed, as to deceive thousands.
It is further claimed, Mr. president, and I ask the senate to consider it so, that the individual citizens of every state, who are slaveholders within its borders lawfully, are protected by the same principles against all the governments, foreign, federal, confederate and state, so as that their property shall not be interfered with, beyond constitutional exercises of the power of taxation, for the defined purposes, and of that other still more delicate power of impressment, regulated by law, "for the public use." This tenet reposes in the negative of the proposition that the people have surrendered to their state government the original right of property which was in the individual owners before they became an organized state. It exacts, by its philosophy and its logic, that a state in remodeling its constitution on the republican standard, has no more power to expel any species of property, than the people had to do that odious act when they first formed the republican state. It holds that such right is not given up, and cannot consistently with principle be parted with, so that the individual citizens can be molested by confiscation, or by that other tyranny next of kin to it, and which is called a substitution of value in lieu of the identical property. There is in the veritable thing itself which one owns, no matter what it is, a property--a mystic charm--which no other thing, though of greater value, does or can wear under constraint to accept it instead. I am well aware that confiscation strictly applies to the ex-appropriation of the estate of a public enemy; and that when the property of a subject or citizen is taken from him by his government, for the benefit of the public treasury, it is properly called a forfeiture: and I instance confiscation as one of the ways in which title to property may be divested, because I hold that it is founded in the same policy of violence in which a substitution of value is founded. The one is intended to weaken the belligerent power of the public enemy, the estate of whose citizens is confiscated, while the other weakens the power of the citizens, humbles them, as against their own government which is a belligerent power over them, in
the sense that government, though necessary, is an evil. It seems to me that every principle of free government, that can be appealed to and calmly consulted, will respond that it is incompatible with it; that the collective power of the community to resist the encroachments of their government, shall in detail and by parts, be crippled by a substitution of value for their identical property, by their own government. A citizen so coerced, is humbled. All that is the more manifest when it is taken into the account that the substitution cannot be effected without paying the individuals for their property, out of the public fund which, by them equally with others, has been contributed to be used in the general charge and expenditure. I am aware it is supposed by some intelligent men, who have not thoroughly investigated the subject with a view to act on it, that a negation of the right of substitution in the relation I am proposing it, is a novelty. But the mistake is theirs and not mine, even if it were a mistake to urge a novelty. Any thing that is novel, is not apt to be embraced at once; but wisdom will not refuse to investigate a proposal because it is something novel. How but by novelties has one age improved on another? The right of government, and it matters not in the principle, whether it is the citizen's own government or another with which his is negotiating--the right of government, I say, to put off the owner who is deprived of his slave property, with a restitution in the form of a price in money paid for it as an equivalent, came up to be considered in Jay's treaty. The controversy arose on the clause relating to captured negro slaves, in the seventh article of that treaty with Great Britain. In the United States it was construed to mean that the slaves in kind ought to be restored; whilst in the other country it was contended that such construction could not be allowed, because it would throw back into servitude men once made free. There was another hitch, that they had not been rightfully made free. It was maintained by Alexander Hamilton that "it does not remove the difficulty to say that compensation for the negroes might have been a sufficient substitute for them. When one party promises a specific thing to another, nothing but the thing itself will satisfy the promise. The party to whom it is made cannot be required to accept in lieu of it an equivalent, "even where it is, as to the price paid, a fair equivalent. It is the identical property in slaves which our constitutions promise to protect. I hold that the transaction of a substitution without the owner's consent, is not relieved of the injustice and odium attaching to it, when it is his own and not another government that subjects him to it. Indeed, it is but the more odious for his own government to do it. In the other case, he will not have contributed to the fund out of which he is paid; and in this case, he is not only paid out of his own public treasury, but it is further the more odious because he is deprived by the government which is promising him security of life, liberty and property--not one species and not another, nor one species in place of another--but his property, and that equally with his life and liberty. "Life, liberty and property" are nestled in the same sentence in the constitution--it cherishes them alike, as the old bird her young ones.
Let it be observed that it is in subjection to that constitution, which
promises security or property to the owner, that a state in our system acts, when she is altering her constitution, and it cannot fail to be seen and felt that this proceeding, which I ask to be adopted, is no attack on state rights. No surrender of power to the confederate government, is invited from the state. No larger surrender than the states made in coming under that government. The invocation is that the state shall abide by the principle which itself has ratified in joining the confederacy. The invocation is in behalf of the rights of the individual citizens, as against the power of the state. That's all. No question of state sights, in confederate relations, arises on the doctrine. It touches only and proposes to protect vested rights of private property, which it contends are reserved against all our governments, and must be, else our system will cease to be republican.
I desire to add a few words to exclude a possible misconception. It may probably be supposed by some that the doctrine inculcated would in its practical results perpetuate slavery. Such, I think, is not the tendency of the doctrine, nor likely to be its result; and I know that such is not its design. Its effect would be simply to stop all governmental interference with the existence of negro slavery. It would commit the whole subject to the peaceful influences of correct social principles. The myriad appliances that aggregate individual views and constitute the intertexture of public opinion, would work out the result, desired by society. Under the prevalence of the doctrine, the obstinacy of a few men could not long stand out against the will and desire of all others. A real cause, taking stronger hold than mere sickly sentiment, and adequate to induce one owner to emancipate his slaves, would not fail to control others; nor under its prevalence could the tyranny of a majority deprive the minority of their property in making new constitutions; nor in administering them, do the same acts of tyranny in that other form of substituting a compulsory and unsatisfactory equivalent in price.
Mr. President, if error unperceived by me has crept into the argument, I desire it shall be freely pointed out plainly. I invite searching but candid consideration. I believe that unless the doctrine proposed for adoption shall prevail, it will not be twenty years before this Confederacy will fall in the agitations of the same subject in which the federal Union found the rock on which it split. This Confederacy is kept together on this subject by no stronger cement than that was bound together by, originally. The principles on which it is founded, must be respected and complied with, or it will encounter ere long the same disaster--not peaceable secession, but terrible war. To secure observance of these principles, the doctrine inculcated by the proposed proceeding must be impressed on the popular judgment and heart. I would gladly espouse any better mode of making that impression, if any better than the one proposed, can be produced.
Surely I need not detain the senate to enlarge on the importance of the permanency of this Confederacy. I will only say that it seems to me, for reasons which I will point to in a few words, that it is pre-eminently important that it shall stand unconquered by force, undiscouraged by privations, undivided by treason, unchanged in the principles of
its constitution, unsullied in honor--the citadel of law and order, the fortress of freedom, the sanctuary of pure and undefiled religion. Such it is now, proudly self-pleasing and defiantly conciliating the world. It is the only ark, freighted with the rich fortunes of human freedom, that is afloat on the deluge of man's mad ambition. Its framing timber--its principles--if observed and preserved, are strong enough to buffet the raging billows of that deluge, when its fury is the wildest. It is the only polar star to which the eye of humanity in hope is turned from the oppressed nationalities, now that the federal Union has failed, and all that is left of it has fallen into a military despotism--a military despotism that is wielding the vagabonds of the population it rules, and the expatriated vagrants of other countries, who come to find in these states oportunities of plunder and murder; and as they look ahead, all is beautiful and cheering to behold, and as they look back, they see a track of desolation at which a devil would shudder. It is because we have the ark of freedom, the monarchies of the old world have not interposed to arrest the atrocities of this savage war! It is now with all the crowned heads as it was in the end of the last century, when the enmity of old England was energized by Pitt, not against France, but against republican France. Even under the strong stimulus to supply her looms with cotton--not so strong as her desire to see democratic government destroyed--old England fails to be influenced by the noble sentiments contained in the energetic note, under date of October 16th, 1862, of her minister to the French government. This was her language then: "His Magesty most sincerely laments the convulsions to which the Swiss cantons have for some time been exposed; but he can consider their late exertions in no other light than as the lawful effort of a brave and generous people to recover their ancient law and government, and to procure the re-establishment of a system, which experience has demonstrated, not only to be favorable to their domestic happiness, but perfectly consistent with the tranquility and security of other powers.
"The cantons of Switzerland unquestionably possess in the same degree as any other powers, the right of regulating their own internal concerns; and the right has in the present instance, been expressly guarantied to the Swiss nation by the treaty of Luneville, by the French government, conjointly with the other powers who were parties to that engagement. His majesty has no other desire than that the people of Switzerland, who now appear to be so generally united, should be left at liberty to settle their own internal government, without the interposition of any foreign powers." And his majesty expressly deprecated French interference "with their undoubted rights."
That right was no less clearly and incontrovertibly guarantied to these now Confederate States, by the federal constitution, than it was to Switzerland by the treaty of Luneville. But England sees a difference of value to royalty. The influence of Switzerland, against monarchy, was not formidable enough then to repress the just impulses of England in her behalf. The light of our federal republic had begun to throw its dazzling beams into the trans-atlantic abodes of absolutism. It is true that England, then, finding her remonstrances unsupported by the other powers, desisted; but in our case, and against her every interest, except
that of monarchy, she has rejected the offer of France to seek conjointly in generous mood to initiate a friendly and just mediation. But as if to confess there is no mistake in the opinion I am supporting, that the crowned sovereigns of Europe stand off in our struggle against oppression, from fear of the influence of the American example of political freedom, the emperor of France is reported to have recently declared that their subjects see in this American war that "republics or the men who administer their governments, have the same pride, passions and lust of empire that influence sovereigns." He rejoices that republicanism has never been so dead in Europe as now, and says: "We can afford to suffer much in our material interests, while this revolutionary drama of the republicans is dissolving in blood." That was the secret cause of England's declining the offer from which the emperor himself turned his face, wreathed with royalty, as soon as he could stifle his first generous impulse. We ought not to grow any more cotton, during this war, than necessary for home consumption, and so demonstrate that our love of republican constitutional freedom, is stronger than our love of "material interests."
Although, Mr. President, I have thus finished all it occurred to me at the beginning of this exposition, I would put forth in support of the plan proposed for impressing right views of the subject on the mind and heart of these states holding the African race, amongst us by descent, in bondage, I crave to be allowed to linger longer. I repeat that I do not intend to discuss the territorial question, because it has been shut out from our Confederacy for the present and probably forever. There is, however, a principle, I have already alluded to, which did underlie that question--which survives, and must be effective, or else a failure of the property-principle will be apt to ensue in any one of these states, on any occasion of its being ascertained that the non-slaveholding voters are in the majority in the state.
It will be remembered by senators, that the South, and the foremost friends of this great southern right--a right by recognition of law in many and unequivocal forms--yielded, in the discussions of that question, and made the concession in every conceivable form, by legislation and in state conventions of parties, and in primary assemblages of the people, that the territorial people having amongst them slaveholders resident, and composing however large a part, less than a majority of slaveholders, might, when they came to form their constitution to become a state in the Union, by regular or irregular admission as such, provide in that instrument that slavery should no longer exist in the incoming state. That is, it was yielded by the South that the territorial people consisting (I will say, to illustrate) of five hundred voters, 251 for and 249 against the continued existence of slavery, might provide by their proposed constitution, and that congress should admit the state so providing the minority should cease to be slaveholding in the new state. On the score of policy, had policy alone been consulted, that was exceedingly unselfish and unwise. Nay, it was fatal to the interest of the slaveholding states in the matter especially of extending the area of slavery. The North, with the much larger population, and more crowded, was likely and almost certain to send out into the territories a majority
of settlers who might, that point being yielded by the slaveholding states, have made all the new states non-slaveholding. Why did not that satisfy them? But it was the principle which was so fatally smothered by the South, that is now most valuable, because it extends itself, with clear applicability, into the question of the continuance of slavery in the states where it has been long cherished. It cannot be unobserved, on a moment's inspection of the subject, that if a people in forming their first constitution, can expel any species of property from within their territorial extent, already existing lawfully there at the time, they can also expel the same species--and if one, equally any other--when ever they alter that constitution by subsequent conventional action. It is alone the republican creed which respects no less the essential rights of property than those of persons, that prevents the expulsion of an existing property, when the state alters its constitution, no less than when the state was first organized on the republican creed for the model. It is true, I repeat the idea, whilst republican constitutions are moulded by circumstances, and must be modified to conform to the results of experience, that when the modifications dispense with the essential principles of freedom, as when the mutilation of the tribunate was reserved for the time Napoleon was to be elected first consul for life, the republic is thereby converted into a monarchy or other government that is not free.
So clear is it, that if a territorial people in forming their constitution in conformity to republican principles, might have expelled slave property, the people of the state might do the same violence in altering a constitution which did protect the existing property from such expulsion. I pray to be informed what it was but this principle of vested property, that prevented our fathers from expelling slaves when the colonies had accomplished their independence, and were constituted republican states? They deplored, what was then thought to be, the evil of slavery. I pray to be informed what it is but this principle of property, that can prevent agrarianism and anarchy. The republican form was and is the foregone conclusion to be abided by. And yet wonderful to be told for true, that these slaveholding states yielded in the discussion of the territorial question, this great principle which is the only stay and support of slavery in these states--the only breakwater against the flood of fanaticism on the subject of negro-emancipation. More wonderful it is that these states elected for their first president, the man who as senator was most conspicuous in yielding up the great principle which in all its vigor is indispensable to the safety and stability of our slave system. So deeply was the error driven into the popular mind. The wonder is that the people did not detect and reject the radical error of the politicians. I make that observation, let it be understood, in the tenor and strictness of the argument, and not with any design, much less desire, to disparage the president. Did I intend any attack on his administration, it would not be made indirectly or equivocally. My desire is coincident with the scope of the proposed proceeding on its face, to reinstate in the great heart of this Confederacy, the great principle which for a time was lost sight of.
Incidentally to demonstrate that no want of respect for the president
is intended to be displayed by that observation on his election, but with the broader purpose to show the deep political dissent from his view which the doctrine proposed is intended to advance, I will refer to another series of resolutions presented twelve years before, (in 1847) by no less true and firm a man in support of rights than John C. Calhoun himself. It is the fallacy, not to say heresy, that, in our system, the majority in making constitutions, may adjust or readjust, or jostle the principle of private property, I am dealing with, and which the doctrine I am urging contradicts and will never admit. This doctrine confronts and seeks to frustrate the idea that the Mexican law, for instance, prohibiting slavery, had any efficacy to expel or exclude negro slavery, after New Mexico and California were acquired by the United States. That soil with all upon it, after the aquisition, was under the American law--under the dominion of the federal constitution which recognized this slavery. My doctrine is the opposite of the policy of the Wilmot proviso, which was the watchword of party organizations and the synonym of sectional agitation. That policy was that no part of the territory to be acquired, should be open to the introduction of slavery, and that it should be excluded by federal legislation. My doctrine is that neither the federal government had, nor the confederate has, any authority over the subject to destroy or impair the existence or the extension of the ownership. It denies that the slavery of negroes with us is an "institution," and contends that where it lawfully is, it is an ownership by individuals--not an institute by government--and that where it was pre-existing, the government must be constituted to protect it to its owners. It maintains that the rights to and in this property, so ancient that their origin is lost in the dim haze of the most distant antiquity, should be acknowledged, respected and guarded by human governments, and that the unholy hand of human legislation shall not touch them to destroy or impair. They have their source and authenticity in the munificent ordinance of the divine government over society. Not an instance can be found in the word of God, in which such rights were ever withdrawn or intermitted under His government; for, whilst hired servants might be emancipated, bond slaves could not be. The doctrine maintains that such existing rights should be respected at all times and in all places, and that all human government should, and that republican ones must, bow before them, even as the sheaves of his brethren bowed before the sheaf of Joseph. Yet the doctrine admits that where negro slavery is not already, the government of the state may be constituted to keep it out. So it is, and in such sanctions, the proposed doctrine denies what senator Calhoun's resolution asserted, to wit: that "it is a fundamental principle of our political creed, that a people, the people of a territory or state under the federal government, or of a state under the confederate, "in forming a constitution had (or have) the constitutional right to form and adopt the government which they may think best calculated to secure their liberty, prosperity and happiness," &c. It is true it adds truly that the condition is imposed that "the constitution shall be republican." Notwithstanding this addition to the thought first expressed, as I have recited it verbatim, the resolution evidently allows the concession to be plainly
implied, that the majority in first forming and afterwards in altering their constitution, might expel (what in debating the resolution he admitted was) our "peculiar institution," although it was a pre-existing property--might expel it, if in the judgment and by the decision of that majority, it was deemed "best calculated to secure their liberty, prosperity and happiness." If the riddance would be apt to produce such effects, the individual owners would be apt to see and secure the benefit, without being compelled to it by law. The doctrine proposed oppungs that proposition--indignantly rejects and disallows that concession to any sort of compulsory emancipationists. Whence, I desire to be informed, did or do any people, under our system, federal or confederate, desire such "constitutional right?" I need not say no more than I have already, to show that the abstract right does not exist, and that the claim that it does, contravenes the manifest ordinances of the government of God. To the contrary of the existence of the "constitutional" right, my whole argument is that the fundamental policy of our system, founded on and fenced in by the republican creed, essentially is that the state must be constituted to protect pre-existing rights of property. If the majority in constituting the government, or if that when constituted, may seize on the property of its owners--on any species of property--the right to which it did not create, but was instituted to protect--nay, seize on it, not for public use, but to get rid of it--there can be no safety in society. Thus government would become a sword of subsequent destruction, instead of an ægis to protect pre-existing rights, as it should be, to the full extent they have not been parted with in organizing the state by the constitutional contract for the public good. That contract, in our system of written consitutions, defines the extent to which those pre-existing rights are parted with or impaired for the public good. There is no undefined public good to be promoted. That is the theory, and if in practice it turns out otherwise, the only alternative consistent with the theory, is to amend the forms, and supply the deficiency, of the constitutional provisions; but always and at all points in conformity with the republican model. Especially should so extensive an ægis be thrown around the property pre-existing in our slaves, and be tightened in all its circumference, now that the outside world, not knowing as we know, the nature and condition of our slaves, are blindly or perversely hostile to the existence of such property, but still more hostile to the existence of our republican system. They forget the supernal lesson of the Apostle Paul, to learn first to show piety at home.
Mr. President and Senators, I confess that my strength is not adequate (much less in the suitable limits of a speech) to the weight of this mighty subject. I trust that others will see a beauty and a power in the doctrine, which I have not been able to exhibit in their exceeding fullness. Just let its ample riches fertilize our country, and this confederate republic will be stabilitated and glorified. Then the patriot and the philanthropist alike shall walk about with pride and in safety within the folds of the gorgeous curtains of our country's grandeur. Then the philosopher and the historian shall behold the towers of her strength, and survey her palaces, and inspect her bulwarks, and tell it to the generation following, and that to the next, and this to another
that human freedom regulated by liberal laws, as liberal as nature's God allows, was her mission and the living God is her guide and shield. It was a mistaken concession by the South, that this doctrine was in theory and practice absent from the councils of the federal Union, that let in the territorial question, in the deep, protracted and angry agitation of which that Union, went down--to be rebuilt no more, I desire and predict.
The doctrine I desire to advance, Mr. President and Senators, gives the lie to the alleged justness of this war on the part of our enemy, and confronts the aim, to wit, a restoration of the Union, which the urgers on of the war proposed. Senator Sumner, in the federal senate, in 1862, with much parade of verbal elaboration, depicted how these "slave states" were urging on a war "with criminal eminence to overthrow the constitution of the United States." This doctrine proposed for your sanction, asserts that we are struggling to defend the most distinguishing characteristic of that constitution, to wit, its recognitions (amongst us) of certain human beings namely, negroes, as persons participating to a large extent in their peculiar condition and relations, the element of property. By that constitution five of them, with equality of qualifications in age and residence, were made to count in apportioning representation, only as much as three of the white race. By that constitution which was ratified by the states, when all of them but one, had that population resident in them, those creatures were allowed to be imported for nineteen years from their native country, to be made slaves in this, and so to be made a property. So far from striving to overthrow that constitution, our desire and struggle are to maintain its chief characteristics. That is our aim--to maintain, not to destroy; and the proposed proceeding defines and defends that aim. It directly confronts and resists the opposing aim of Senator Sumner and his compeers who are waging a war with criminal pre-eminence and disgraceful ill success, to obliterate that peculiar feature in that federal constitution, which is retained and fortified in the confederate. They are striving to sink the element of property in those creatures whom they will not quite receive as equals, and whom it is our duty and desire to elevate in the scale of being. If that element be sunk in them, we cannot take care of them, as we do, as the wards of civilization, subjected to discipline, if under Providence their character may be found so corrigible that they may be made vessels to bear from this country the lights of christian culture here received, to chase away the night of barbarism from their fatherland. Success by the false philanthropists to sink that element, will be subversion of that federal constitution which they with us solemnly ratified when the existence of that property in the states was more their fault than ours, if indeed it was at all our fault. He and they contend, and hence this war, that negroes are known to that constitution only as persons, and therefore that there is a difference between (he says) "the pretended property slaves and all other property." He and they are not mindful of the memorials sent up from this section to the United States senate in 1850, which Senator Seward, now their secretary of state, supported by his votes, to the effect that on account of the existence of "property claimed in man" to exist constitutionally in this section, their congress, and then ours also as much as theirs, "should frame
some plan for the immediate and peaceful dissolution of the American Union." Then, verily then, we ought to have acceded to the prayer of their memorialists. We ought not to have waited until he and they pretended not to be influenced by the fact that the laws of the state where the negro is a property in man owned by man, treat him only as a property in every relation in which he is not by exceptional stipulation required to be dealt by and with, and mostly in behalf of himself, as a person, in penal legislation. (So slow were we, as he says, to, "overthrow that constitution,") But he and they are influenced by that fact, and it is to them a stumbling-block; and hence their eager desire to obliterate state lines. He and they pretend not to see that to treat the negro, by federal law, as wholly a person, would defeat the state law, enshrined in state-rights, which treats him chiefly as a property. Why, but to get rid of that difficulty, do they desire to get rid of state lines? Thus it is, he and they seek to overthrow the constitution, the chief peculiarity of which we are struggling to maintain; whilst it is the vicious administration of the government that constitution ordained, displaying itself now in habitual and persistent exercises of usurped extra-constitutional power, which we resist. And we resist, in virtue of that high right of revolution that does not fail to move the arms of the "hearts it inspires, to win congenial and glorious success. It is the great right which their usurper seems to forget he said in the United States senate in 1848, was "to liberate the world." It is not surprising that the trans-atlantic press, being advocates of royalty, are willing that that grand old Anglo-Saxon right shall be whittled down to the puling privilege of peaceful secession, for it does not apply to them, and it is revolution that must throttle royalty and throw down its thrones. Ours is, indeed, a fierce conflict, worthy of the noble idea of revolution, in which there is much to rejoice at and much to deplore. Our strength is in this, that thrice armed is he who hath his quarrel just. They forget that their system was, as ours is, one of opinion, and not of the sword. The philosophic beholder of the disgraceful spectacle, will not fail to discern with us, as the historian says was seen in England in Cromwell's time, an unconquered spirit destined proudly to restore, as the doctrine proposed, asserts, in its full vigor, in the popular affections, the constitution in that its most distinguishing feature; whilst with them who seek its overthrow, as in France under the empire of Napoleon, is as clearly seen the well-known features of Asiatic servility that has been the grave in every age, of free government. We rejoice at what is seen here whilst we deplore their self-willed downfall. May the Almighty, in his infinite wisdom, reduce much good even for them out of the wicked war they have waged, and bring them to practice his scriptures given by inspiration for peace on earth and good will amongst men.
Let the doctrine proposed be adopted, Mr. President and senators, to wit: that the existing negro slavery in these states, is a property entitled, just as other properties are, to the protection of the encircling republican creed, from the rude touch of the numerical majority in making constitutions; let that doctrine be adhered to with undeviating fidelity and firmness by these concurrent sovereign Confederate States; and by such others as may join in with them, so that it shall not be
overcome by the temporary views and yielding policy of politicians seeking office, until it shall become national sentiment--not the sentiment of a consolidated empire, but the unanimous sentiment of the Confederate States--and we will be let alone, more and more, until the advent of the time, if such time be indeed in the contemplation of the Divine mind, when the black man shall cease to be the slave of the white. In this event we will be let alone altogether, and be troubled with holding them no longer because the angel of the Lord will then require no Hagar to return to her mistress, and the teachings of Paul will then have an end, that servants under the yoke shall count their masters worthy of all honors of obedience. Then, if that time shall ever come, onerous as the pecuniary burden of slavery on the owners is, and which the interim we should patiently bear, the relief by the riddance will be as durable as the process by which the creative Disposer of events on the earth, can accomplish it, will be peaceful. Then it will be acquiesced in by all, and not be drenched in blood, as it will be, and still fail foundering in a heaving sea of human gore, if attempted by man before the way is opened and made clear by the Son of God who reigneth with power according to the spirit of holiness. Then the emancipated owners from the ponderous pecuniary burden, will see, as other beholders, that the time has really been reached, when all shall be free, no matter what color the pilgrim shall bear on his brow and wear in all his skin. But I do not believe that time will soon come. Though not a prophet or the son of one, I venture to predict that the slavery of the colored race will remain after yet other attempts to abolish it, rising on the fleeting ascendant of ambition and crime, will have been extinguished in blood.
I hope for and expect, Mr. President and Senators, a more enlightened result of the vote of this general assembly of Virginia, on the proposed declaration of doctrine, than the Grecian philosopher expected from the Athenians, who chiding a man who had addressed them, said to him: "If you had spoken wisely, they would have given no signs of approbation." I trust I have spoken wisely, (though feebly,) and I expect that, therefore, you will approve.
Now, senators, is the accepted time--the very nick of time--to put forth this declaration of doctrine. Our right of property in our slaves has been muddled in the pool of politics. Our right and its sure defences should now be made clear and put on the right foundations, when we are just starting on a new career, and our true character and conduct on the subject are being made better known; so that all men everywhere may understand that we can have a clean conscience, and that if other nations will candidly examine the greater wrongs, (in the less lurid light of this they impute to us,) to which human beings in their midst are subjected, it behooves them most urgently to take heed to the doctrine of inspired wisdom, "TO LEARN FIRST TO SHOW PIETY AT HOME." Let the wise lessons of virtue be so inculcated as to take hold on the famiiy circle, and the neighbors will be apt to come under the influence, and will be more impressible, because they will not have been intruded upon. It is by pride and vanity that men are led to believe that domestic missions are an humbler sphere, than the operations of foreign missions. It
is real humility and pious sincerity that find the greater delight in spreading helps in all their vicinity. The spark will not fire the edifice if it goes out when it falls; nor will a coal not burning kindle a fire in the surrounding materials.
And that lesson is no less applicable to nations, than it is to individuals. They of Europe might, in their false sympathy for the blacks in ameliorated condition with us, be reminded of the treatment of that once most powerful nation in her north, Poland, the country of Sobieski, whose descendants now "want a country," whose dominions stretched from Smolensko to Swabia, and from the Baltic to the Euxine, whose frontiers, for five hundred years, in spite of gigantic displays of resisting valor, were contracted more and more, until down by hostile armies and swept by spoliations, she was partitioned out by neighboring potentates amongst themselves made powerful by territorial acquisitions (prior to the partition) wrested from herself. And old England might be reminded of the catholics of Ireland, to whom "no talents or virtues could give any hope of advancement." Those nations might be reminded of Russia's serf, and of abject subjects of despotic sway in all their borders. When the passions have cooled, by which the powerful people in the north of this continent have been plunged into this war on us the signal scandal of the age, they may be reminded of some of their national traits and transactions which do not raise them above reproach. Old England and New England might be reminded, as capping the climax of inconsistent atrocities, how they encouraged the capturing and bringing from their native home, and subjecting to servitude in this hemisphere, the original stock of Africans whose descendants, old England soon after was engaged, as New England now is, against our solemn protest, then as now, in exciting to escape from the far less severe servitude than that they were brought from, and to do it "by rising in arms and murdering us on whom they obtruded them" by a piratical commerce. New England might be reminded that it was at the instance of her representative men that the eloquent remonstrance against that "execrable commerce" was stricken from our Declaration of Independence, as it was first offered by its author, a southern slave-holder. Old England might be reminded that by acts of her parliament, in the first of charters granted by her, the British West India islands, for a long time, were supplied with negroes from Africa, who were captives in war, whose escape from detail was sale for her colonies. She might be reminded that the late United States, under the lead of these southern states, preceded her in the "race of humanity," as Wilberforce urged for her imitation, by fixing a period, in 1808, when, as he called it, "the infamous traffic" should come to an end. She and all other foreign intermeddlers, and their coadjutors in the United States, ought to remember that Mr. Hibbert, in parliament, asked what are the few carried across the Atlantic, to the multitudes who are driven across the Sahara desert, or descend into Egypt for the vast markets of the mussulman world; and that he told them then, as I tell them now: Go, if you have not benevolent work enough at home--go, civilize central Africa--abolish, if you can, that cruel practice there of selling or putting to death all captives taken in tribal wars, and you will have made a move
of some wisdom and power in checking the increase of negro slavery. This would not be a more difficult enterprize for her with the aid of the United States to accomplish, than it was for her alone to extend her empire into India from China to the Indus, blessing the inhabitants eight thousand miles from the governing power. If they would, they might more wisely, leave the increase of crime at home, augmenting as as it is, in spite of inadequate moral culture and penal vigilance that are enforced to suppress it, and directing their combined endeavors to central Africa, do more good in the cause of humanity, than they will ever find to accomplish by intermeddling with the slavery in these Confederate States. In that benighted region, they might, borne on the whirlwind of ambitious philanthropy and treading on the storms of war, succeed in erecting noble fabrics of civilization and freedom, and come off with all the pride and pomp of chivalrous exploits. She and they ought to remember that her own Wilberforce deprecated the dark dangers of immediate emancipation, and hoped that slavery would wear out gradually without the intervention of any positive law or violent act. She ought to know, full well, that, her own more considerate writers declare now that such manner of intervention will be, as it always has been hitherto, a source, of the most heart-rending and irremediable calamities. But I will close the historic page, though by having so opened it a little I have only indulged freedom of speech, and no license of interference encouraged--will close it, lest I may seem to be willing, by coming down the lapse of time to more recent events and to existing evils to forget or not be governed by, the lesson I would inculcate, that of all wisdom conducive to social virtue and promotion of peace on earth, this excels, TO LEARN FIRST TO SHOW PIETY AT HOME.
Mr. President, I thought I had finished, but find, on reviewing what I have said, I should invoke the patience of the senate to let me linger longer, the length of a few sentences, about his subject in which we are much interested. We have in these states a vast mass of human beings of two colors; the one almost equal in numbers to the other. The man of the public enemy in this war, who is in chief authority, himself being the judge, the black portion of that mass is inferior to the white. Whether in his tergiversations he will continue to hold and act to any extent on that concession, is not material, as that inferiority is a fixed fact. We would be doing violence to nature and to experience--would be guilty of rejecting superficial observation confirmed by psychological investigation--if we did not act on the fact that the blacks are inferior in their mental faculties, and so inferior as to be incapable of the sustained effort and the sedulous toil, I will not say, to rise to the dignity in the scale of human existence, of knitting together a social fabric embellished by order, law and art, but even of doing it, I will say, in any form of respectable consistency and endurance. All history shows they cannot, or will not, anywhere, produce a subsistence, if left to themselves or not subjected to the terrors of military coercion or the milder compulsion of a civil master. As I have already said, all that is well known to us. What is needed with us, is that the metal be extracted from the ore, out of the many views applicable to that vast mass of humanity, as to the principles by which its diverse parts shall be governed.
In other words, what has been needed is an accurately ascertained collect of principles applicable to negro slavery, to be the guide of popular demonstrations and of authorized legislation and consistent adjudication. As has been well said by another, all the iron ore from any Swedish mine, would not hew a block, or split a plank, or cut a mortice, until it was wrought into it hatchet, a saw, or chisel. Just so it is, and that is all, (for I suggest no new principle, but only propose to apply certain old ones,) as to this proceeding I am inviting my country to accept as the guiding and governing collect of principles to constitute the concentrated sentiment. It is the process by which the metal is extracted from the ore, and it is the product extracted. It is a small quantity of metal from a huge and confused mass of ore. It is intended to be the fine gold refined. It is, as I apprehended, the exact truth, extracted by much labor, as I know, and it is so shaped, as I trust, that they who are not tutored by a lifetime of study, may handle it with success. It is, as far as I can make it, a polished sword, which if a master workman had addressed his attention to the labor, might have produced a perfect pattern and of the best tempered steel--for the handle of which, imperfect as it has proceeded from my hands, whilst inviting others to improve it, I desire to secure the approving judgment of these slaveholding states; and for its scabbard, their affections. When drawn, it will be a two-edged sword, suited to guard against an internal as well as a foreign foe. It is a stone with which I wish this state becoming the sling, to slay the Goliah of the opposition to our safety and peace; so that all the earth may know that there is a God in whose merciful hand is the combination of events, and who is the arbiter of this political problem of momentous issues.
Senators, consider if it will not be creditable to this noble old state at this time and hereafter, to adopt the proceeding proposed. Its adoption will, in my judgment which I have come to after a thorough examination with all the lights the past has shed, whilst at first from sympathy for the slave I was disinclined to it, and not being now, nor desiring ever again to be, the owner of slaves--its adoption, I say, in my judgment so formed, is well calculated, as yet, to ensure the happiness of the masters and of the subjects of the mild bondage, by fixing the flickering justification of the owners and of the obedience of the owned, and the philanthropic wisdom of forbearance by all outsiders, on fair principles that have withstood and can withstand the scrutiny of statesmanship. Beyond the range of the conservative supremacy of that principle of property by the whites in the blacks, all experience has shown only failures of experiment and carnivals of crime. When our arms in this war for its defence shall wear the divine crown of success, though dark and dreary be the night of the struggle, if this doctrine is established as the public sentiment of these states, their Confederacy will, in the sky of human existence, and in the field of historic fame in the future, be a constellation emitting an inextinguishable light to guide mankind to higher elevation than itself attained to. Let me not be misunderstood. I do not claim that our Confederacy in the safeguard of principles which I propose, will be co-extensive with time. I know how one form has upset and wept over another. I am aware that nigh the close
of the last century, it was written, by a consent unbroken by any voice in that country, over the principal archway in the Tuilleries: "Monarchy is abolished, and will never be restored." No, I do not speak exceeding the truth. If you imagine I do, then show me any great truth once expressed, that has perished. The glory of the states of Greece and Rome, though they are fallen from their high advances, is not as if it never was. Its lustre is yet on the cliffs of time. It is this I say, that the light of any example of human government--of ours, if conserved by the application and ingraftment of right principles--the anchor of which is cast in the interests of christian civilization, however often its material fabric may be changed--will not go out, though thick shades of retrogradation may come over it for a season; and that each succeeding effort at amelioration of the conditions of men, will gather the glow of its precursor, until a system, conservative and peaceful, regular and perfect, by the resistless energy of the moral law, shall encircle all on earth.
"Fond, impious man, think'st thou yon sanguine cloud,
Raised by thy breath, hath quenched the orb of day?
To-morrow he repairs the golden flood,
And warms the nations with redoubled ray."
Some one, senators, peradventure may inquire, why, when negro slavery in these states is in the severest ordeal, and the most likely to be successful for its extinction, it has ever been subjected to, should an aspiring effort be made to sustain it? If all that be so, that it is on the eve of being extinguished, which I do not believe, still the energy and anguish of the effort to defend it, might aptly be compared to the last loving embrace, of parting friends. Though it be destined to fail for a time, I would nevertheless throw about its fall the last radiance of a resolute vindication of the principles on which it has been maintained.
On motion, by Mr. Dickinson, the preamble and resolution were referred to the committee on confederate relations. In a few days thereafter, the committee reported back the same, with a recommendation that the proposed declaration be not adopted, because forsooth, says the report, "the ordinary legislature cannot control a convention;" as if there was a proposition to that effect embraced in the preamble or the resolution! And thereupon, the report of the committee, on motion by Mr. C., was laid, on the table to afford time for reflection.
Although the connection between the subject of the foregoing remarks and senator Collier's peace proposition, is remote, he thinks it proper to here reproduce the latter, which is annexed. He has the "manliness" to reproduce that proposition, notwithstanding the attempted objurgation of its author by the parasite "Sentinel," and the snoring dissent of other sentinels asleep on the crumbling crust of a raging volcano--asleep, as dissenting sentinels must be, amid the crackling blaze of a war, the prosecution of which by the public enemy of the south, is in conflict with every interest of humanity, the world over. He reproduces that proposition in this form, before the living age, to the end, and for this, among other reasons, that such multiplication of printed copies of it, may afford it so much opportunity to reach that posterity whom the lapse of time shall acquit of passionate prejudice--a prejudice which derives no nutriment from that moral courage which is self-reliant and fails not to act with outright energy, from fear of being misrepresented. The proposition was and is and shall be to treat with coequal states recently in the Union, and not with the usurper, who is constraining them to contribute reluctantly to coerce a reunion territorially, with a knowledge that he cannot secure it in the affections of the peoples now inhabiting the two sections. The very impracticability of this peace proposition, in the event it should prove to be impracticable, would but demonstrate to the usurpers subjects and to the foreign nations, that the great crime of continuing so ruinous a war, is theirs, not ours. The rejection of the proposition by these states, should it reach them, would but show more clearly to the friends of peace among them, to whom the blame for continuing the war should attach; whilst the acceptance and success of the proposition would crown the struggle with peace speedily, and gild the retiring clouds of war with its richer glories. Should the proposition not be allowed by the usurper to reach them or be fairly considered and decided on by them, the extent of the tyranny he is exercising over them would be thereby made the more manifest. The idea that war must rage until one belligerent or the other is exhausted, and that it is in derogation of the dignity of either to stand forth and strive to assert with success, or to fail in asserting, that the sword shall no longer devour, is as erroneous to my mind and as hateful to my instincts, as the other idea, which is the main prop of monarchy, and is fast getting to be fashionable, that, as a citizen may be conscribed to the army, all his property may be impressed by the his government, immediate family be left destitute. Hateful tyranny that is, and frustrates republican freedom.
Mr. Collier submitted the following preamble and resolutions, which lie over under the rules:
Whereas, the constitution of the federal Union of the late United States, was established by the sovereign separate action of the nine states by which it was first formed, and the number of the United States was afterwards, from time to time enlarged, by the admission of other states, separately: and whereas, that Constitution failed to incorporate, or indicate any method by which any one or more of the states might peaceably retire from the obligations of federal duty imposed by it on each to every other state in the Union: and whereas, it is consistent with the republican creed, on which the whole complex system is founded, that a majority of the states might peacefully disannul the compact as to any party to it: and whereas, a conjuncture in the federal relations, of the United States, did arise in 1861, then culminating into a crisis, in which certain of the slaveholding states, by conventional action of their several sovereign people, in solemn form declared and promulged their desire and determination no longer to yield obedience to the constitution and laws of that federal Union, as authoritative, over them, in that specific form: and whereas, the executive branch of that government, with the occasional sanction of the federal legislature, in the progress of belligerent events, has proceeded by force of arms to attempt to execute its laws within the disaffected states, without applying to the states remaining in the Union, to ascertain whether they would agree that the disaffected states might depart in peace: and whereas, these, disaffected states are not, nor ever were, under any obligation to the general government, except such as was self-imposed and explicitly defined in concert and comity with the other states, each being a contracting party with every other, in a compact to which there was and is no other party and whereas, the war waged on these states, by that general government which is the creature of the states who armed it with power deemed adequate to the common protection of them all, no less in their reserved rights, than in their foreign relations--a war into which those states were thus precipitated--is yet being prosecuted with aspiring pre-eminence of craft and crime, although some of them by large and earnest expressions of public or party opinion within their borders, have shown that they are constrained to contribute to its prosecution, very much against their will and to their own great detriment: and whereas, any appropriate means, the timely use of which was omitted in the outset to prevent the war, is not only a proper resort in its progress, but is dictated and constrained to by all the sanctions of christian civilization:
1. Resolved, therefore, by the general assembly of Virginia, That three commissioners from this state to each of the states remaining in the Union, be appointed by the joint vote of the two houses of the general assembly, whose duty it shall be, under instructions to be prepared by the governor of this state, and approved by the concurrent vote of each house of the general assembly, to repair forthwith, to the capitol of each of the state, that remain in that Union and make known
to the governor of each, that the state of Virginia, appealing from the usurped power of the men who are charged with administering the government of that Union, exercised in the conduct of this war, demands of those states with whom she contracted, that they severally will, by the ballot box, as the Union was formed and enlarged, decide, as solemnly and formally as they did in that transaction, whether they will cansent that she be allowed thenceforth to be separated from them in peace: provided, however, that this state having joined other states in forming a Confederacy, and with a view to regard scrupulously the obligations contracted with her confederates, shall not proceed to carry this proceeding into full execution, unless and until a majority of them shall agree to co-act in instituting a like commission: and, to this end, the governor is authorized to communicate this proceeding to the governor of each of the Confederate States, inviting their several concurrence and co-action in this proposed mission to the late co-states; but not to the government of that Union, because it was and is the creature of the states, and should be their servant, to do their will when certainly ascertained.
2. Resolved, as the opinion of this general assembly, Thus undertaking to speak and to act for the sovereign people of Virginia, although we are but the ordinary legislature thereof, that in case the men who are charged with administering the government of the United States, shall refuse our commissioners transit and sojourn into and in those states, for the exclusive purposes of this mission, which are avowed, such failure of our effort will but demonstrate to them the fearful extent of absolute rule over them by those men, and make our effort a more memorable instance of patriotic exertion and peaceful magnanimity displayed in a well-meant attempt to cultivate peace on earth and good will among men.
3. Resolved, That in initiating this mission for peace, this general assembly doth unequivocally disavow any desire or design or willingness that the confederate administration shall relax its exertions or the people theirs, to advance and establish the cause to which we are all pledged in our fortunes and by our virtues to the utmost of our talents to use them in support of the separate independence of these states.