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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 311   View pdf image (33K)
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these men were for, these Southern leaders:
they were seeking nothing more nor less than
the reopening of the African slave trade.
That is what they were for, and they knew
they could not have that so long as the Con-
stitution and the laws of the United States
were in force. I have reason to know that
this is true, that they were for the reopening
of the African slave trade; and I know it
from Mr. Clay himself, a man they always
hated, and one they dogged with their perse-
cution to his grave.
Several members. That is true.
Mr. SANDS. And I will tell yon how I
know it. I desire gentlemen of the Conven-
tion to know it, for it is authentic, and of:
interest. Mr. Clay's statement was this:
That from the earliest times of his association
with these Southern gentlemen, these South-
ern politicians, there were two questions to
which they especially devoted their attention,
The first of these questions was that of cheap
labor for their cotton fields—just mark this
statement, for I have the means of authen-
ticating it; the first question was cheap labor
for the cotton field. The second was, how to
retain in their own hands, all such political
power as would enable them to use the Gov-
ernment of the United States in the interest
of slavery. Those were the two questions
they were seeking to solve. And I aver that
the method they adopted to solve them was
the most ingenious and alluring that ever
was conceived by the mind of man.
What did they say among themselves in
their private consultations? Why, said they,
the Constitution forbids the African slave
trade; the laws passed by Congress make the
African slave trade piracy, and punishable
with death. How are we to avoid this atro-
cious Constitution and these iniquitous laws?
For, mark you, if what they called their
natural source of supply of labor was opened
to them—the African coast—they could get
negroes for $30 a head. If it was not for this
terrible Constitution, which they all pro-
fessed to love so much, and the laws of Con-
gress passed in pursuance of it, then instead
of paying you $1,000 for every negro they
bought of you to put in the cotton field, they
could get one from Africa for $30. Now how
did they act about getting around this Con-
stitution and these laws?
Mr. BERRY, of Prince George's. I would
ask the gentleman if nearly all who were en-
gaged in the African slave trade, while it
existed, were not people of the North ?
Mr. SANDS. All I have to say to gentle-
men who desire to ask questions of me is,
that the books are open to them as to me,
As to this question, all I have to say is that
a slave-trader, whether he be of the North or
of the South, is to me an object of revulsion
and horror; all slave-trading is vile and
iniquitous, and ought to be abolished.
These Southern politicians wanted a plan
to avoid the Constitution and the laws. Said
they, if there wag some territory contiguous
to our BORDER=0s, which we could control, then
the African slave trade might be legalized
there, and we could eventually reap the ben-
efit of it. Said they, here is the territory of
Texas, one immense cotton field; if we can
revolutionize that and seize it, declare it
independent, run it full of slaves—for the
slave-trade is not against international law ;
only against treaty stipulations and local
laws—seize Texas, run it full of slaves from
Africa, and then all we will have to do will
be to annex it to the United States, and then
eo instanti the laws and Constitution of the
United States would be over it, and every
$30 of slave property would be turned into
the value of $1,000; and we would have two
Senators pledged to slavery, and three or
four representatives in the popular branch of
Congress, pledged irrevocably to the main-
tenance and support of slavery; and while
increasing in the proportion of $30 to $1,000
slave property there, we would have a new
accession of political power in the counting
of five imported savages as three voters. Was
not the plan ingenious? Why, the Consti-
tution they so loved was set at naught; the
laws passed under it became a dead letter.
They went to work, and it is a matter his-
torically notorious that the battles in Texas
were fought by men from the States, led by
generals from the States. They revolution-
ized Texas, filled it with negroes, and then
stood ready to carry out their nefarious
Then it was that they sent a formal deputa-
tion to Mr. Clay and informed him what they
were seeking to accomplish, after obtaining
from him first a promise of secrecy in regard
to what they were about to tell him. They
told him and then proposed to him that if he
would give the benefit of his great influence
in the Senate of the United States, in support
of their scheme, he should have, though he
bad theretofore contributed nothing towards
it, his share of the monetary proceeds and his
share of the political power which they should
control. Mr. Clay's reply to them was worthy
of the man. Listening to them until they
had laid bare before him their vile scheme in
all its details, he said to them: " Gentlemen,
you have my promise not to betray you; nor
do I believe that you meant me a personal
affront in thus approaching me. But to me
your plan appears to be the giant infamy of
the age, for it is nothing more nor less than
the practical re-opening of the African slave-
trade; and that, too, not only in violation of
our Constitution and laws, but in the face of
the moral and religious sentiments of man-
kind." That is what the noble old Kentuck-
ian said to them, I have his statement in
manuscript here in my desk, and gentlemen
can see it whenever they please. He said to
them: " No, gentlemen; no monetary consid-

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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 311   View pdf image (33K)
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