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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 550   View pdf image (33K)
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enough to give the Federal Government a
bonus of twenty or thirty millions worth of
property. Ah I but we are met here: But
you must save the Union—make any sacrifice
for that. Mr. President, is the salvation of
this Union and this country dependent upon
whether 87,189 negroes are freed or not? If
this be the prop and support relied upon for
the salvation of the country, it is weak in-
deed, Their argument is fallacious. If the
salvation of the country depended upon the
freeing of the negroes, then indeed is the
country virtually saved, for the fact is patent
that the negro is virtually in fact, if not in
law, free already. So, after all, the majority
of this House cannot take the credit entirely
to themselves of having accomplished this
great progressive work of freeing the negro.
The work in fact was completed, and Mary-
land citizens are now called together as adepts,
skilled in this kind of knowledge, to give the
finishing touch to the work.
Men seem to have lost all idea of right and
justice. These great principles, the sure and
only true foundations upon which any gov-
ernment can be based securely, seem tor the
present hidden and engulfed in the carnival
of blood by which we are surrounded. Man
seems to have lost sight of the rights of his
fellow man, and in the whirl and excitement
of a general destruction, grasps all that be
can for his own personal advancement and
Again, Mr. President, we are told that this
property is now required for public use, not
that of the State, but that of the General
Government. What will our friends that
claim to owe paramount allegiance to the
Constitution and laws of the United States
do? Truly, if they free the negro upon this
principle, they leave themselves in an unen-
viable dilemma. What will they do with
that article of the Constitution of the United
States, which, says: "Nor shall private prop-
erty be taken for public use without just com-
pensation?" But a few hours since, and this
Constitution was asserted to be the paramount
and supreme law of the land, and State Con-
stitutions and State laws, so far as they con-
travened that instrument, were nullities.
Then they violate by this article the very
principles they have asserted. If the Consti-
tution of the United States be the paramount
and supreme law, then, as it acknowledges
our right to this property, until it is changed
the action of this body amounts to a mere no-
thing. The right of property in slaves will
still exist unfettered, uninterrupted, and pro-
tected by the Constitution of the United States.
That Constitution guarantees to us this spe-
cies of property
Again, we are told that it. is a matter of
public necessity that slavery should be abol-
ished. I would propound a question to my
legal brethren—what is the difference be-
tween public use and public necessity? How
would a court of law construe the two? Is
there any lawyer in this body that will assert
that under the one, the owner would be enti-
tled to compensation and not under the other.
I humbly apprehend that the words "neces-
sity " and "use," as they are here connected,
would be defined by any honest, intelligent
judge to mean one and the same thing, to
have one and the same signification.
Again, we are told that the abolition of
slavery is caused by the present war, that it
follows as a natural consequence attendant on
this war, I cannot agree with such deduc-
tions as these. Government is made and in-
tended to protect its citizens in times of war
as well as in times of peace. The Govern-
ment of the United States stands bound un-
der this obligation to the citizens of Mary-
land. I would ask the majority of this house
if the government has become too poor to pay
for this properly if they require it? If it be
able to pay for it, why then commit such a
flagrant act of injustice upon the citizens of
this State? Men who have toiled and labored
for years, yea, for a lifetime, and have invested
the proceeds of their labor in property guar-
anteed to them by the Constitution of the
United States, recognized and secured to them
by the laws of our own State, are now to be
deprived and stripped of that property with-
out color of law, or even a shadow of right.
But, Mr. President, I will not dwell upon the
manifold excuses and pleas urged by the domi-
nant party tor the destruction of this right of
property. We can learn a lesson from the old
fable of the wolf and the lamb.
Again, Mr. President, this principle of de-
stroying the property of citizens is dangerous
in the extreme. It now truly only destroys
the right of the master to his slave. But if
the power exists by which this species of
property can be taken from its owner, how
long will it be before it will be exercised in
depriving us of some other kind? How long
will a man be secure in his home; and his
other property.? If we have a right without
just compensation and just cause, thus rudely
and ruthlessly to strip a man of his well-de-
fined and vested rights, what safety, what se-
curity remains for us that those which now
exist will continue for any durable time?
How long will it be before some fanatic will
rise in the land and deify the horse or the
cow as they have already deified the negro ?
Yea, tis truly an age of progress, and I fear
tis tending faster in the direction of barbar-
ism and heathenism than in that of moral
I would ask the gentlemen what they in-
tend doing with the negro after he is free?
Does the past experience of years convince us
that his condition is bettered? Does it not
teach us that squalid poverty, want, vice and
infamy in a majority of cases soon claim the
negro as their victim? How has this poor
creature been treated by his professed North-

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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 550   View pdf image (33K)
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