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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 1587   View pdf image (33K)
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slave be once held. I state that it is my be-
lief that if you let this institution exist even
in this mild form of apprenticeship, even in
this almost half-dead form, the result will be
that in those counties where the judges of the
orphans' court are people of their selection,
where the circuit court is a court of their
creation, those gentlemen in those counties
who entertain the idea that slavery is a be-
nign and benevolent institution, will hang
on to it by this slight thread as long as they
possibly can; and hanging on to it they will
keep up a political organization which it is
just as important should be broken up, as it
is that the institution itself should be broken
up. They will keep good their political or-
ganization, and whatever disasters may befall
us, they will unite under the banner of this
institution, in this mild and almost dead
form, and will hang on to it as long as they
can. They show every disposition to do so,
and in those counties where they have the
courts, they will do so as long as possible,
I do not say this in bitterness of spirit, or
because I have any hatred towards those peo-
ple who own slaves. Some of the warmest
friends I have in the world are men who own
slaves. I do not say this out of any hatred
or ill-will towards them. But I do say it
out of an undying hatred to that system
which, in my judgment, has brought my
country to the verge of ruin. That is my
judgment, and it is the judgment of many
gentlemen in this house, that to that system,
and to its existence in this country, we to-day
owe all the evils that now surround us. And
for that reason I am against recognizing its
existence even by the shadow of its dying
shade, in any manner, shape or form.
Mr. STIRLING. I had not intended to say
anything in regard to this matter, when I
read some time since a. substitute for this
section. But the course the debate has taken
this morning, in my judgment renders it
necessary that I should say something—not
that it is necessary that I should inflict my
views upon the house, but I wish to explain
my own position.
I must confess that I have been very much
surprised at this debate. In everything that
I have said in this body, upon the subject of
slavery, I have chosen to debate it upon po-
litical grounds only. I confess that I am
surprised to hear gentlemen who have stood
upon this floor and argued eloquent lan-
guage about the sinfulness of the institution
of slavery, who have advocated before this
convention as a proposition of law that every
slave in this State was held by a thief's title,
now get up here and advocate the holding
out this proposition as a conciliatory measure
to the disloyal element in this State, for the
purpose of bringing about ft more harmoni-
ous state of feeling. Now, while I have ut-
tered no such language 'in reference to the
sinfulness and illegality of slavery as has fal-
len from the lips of gentlemen upon this floor,
still I am opposed to the provisions contained
in this proposed section, because I believe
they are counter to tine political reasons
which have brought us to adopt the poli-
cy we have already incorporated into this
constitution. And representing a constitu-
ency which, so far as the portion I represent
is concerned, is a unit upon this subject, 1
must stand up here, if it is hut to utter a
protest against this proposition.
I have no objection to allowing the matter
to rest where the legislation of the State has
placed it, severe as I regard 'that legislation
to be. I have no objection to a provision
which meets the views I have heard expressed
upon this floor In regard to the custody of
these minor children that are helpless, and in
the bands of their masters to-day. But
there is no reciprocity in this proposition.
It is a proposition by which the master, if
he chooses, can have bound to him those
able-bodied males that constitute the great
hulk of the labor of the slaveholding coun-
ties, .and who are the very class upon which
your policy of emancipation really operates';
.while, if he chooses, he can decline to have
bound to him the helpless, whether young
or old, who are unable to render the service
he desires. I see no policy to be pursued in
regard to those who are too old to take care
of themselves. I see no proposition to have
apprenticed to the master, or to any one else,
those who are too young to take care of
themselves. But I see a proposition that
those who are able to take care of themselves,
and to assist in taking care of those others,
shall be re-enslaved to a certain extent for
the purpose of providing compensation to
those from whom they have been taken, 1
do say that if this policy is adopted it does
break up part of what we have done, not
upon a moral ground but upon a political
ground; and it Still keeps in what is actual
slavery a large class of the population of the
State, and still keeps the institution of slavery
Gentlemen say it is nothing but apprenticeship.
And what is apprenticeship, and what
are the laws about apprentices? By the con-
sent of the parents children may he appren-
ticed. And if children are vagrants and there
is nobody to take care of them, they are to be
apprenticed without the consent of the par-
ents, This is a proposition to apprentice all
persons of a certain class, whether they have
parents or not, whether they can take care of
themselves or not, whether there are those
who can and will take care of them or not—-
they are all to be apprenticed without the
consent of their parents, or without the con-
sent of any one for them. What is this bat a
modified system of slavery? When you take
these persons who have been held as slaves,
and say that as a class they shall all be ap-
prenticed to the same people who formerly

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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 1587   View pdf image (33K)
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