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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 553   View pdf image (33K)
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body and soul, flesh and blood and muscle,
time and labor and service, of a human
being?—that I have a right to control and
regulate his very volitions and turn them in
any channel at my will ?" And I must con-
fess that, not only did the reason of childhood
fail to answer in conformity with the gener-
ally received notions and traditions fostered
by this institution, but that the honest re-
flections of maturer years have taught me,
that the instincts of innocent childhood
were but in accordance with the great prin-
ciples of natural right and justice which lie
lit the basis of God's moral administration in
the affairs of men.
Is it true that because a human being is
born in Africa, and with a black skin, a man
born in Europe or America, and with a fair
skin, has the right to enslave him—to de-
prive him of his God-like and God-given lib-
erty? Is it true that because, as a race, his
intellectual status and culture falls below that
of some other races, therefore a race superior
in these respects, possesses the right to coil
the fetters of perpetual bondage around that
attribute that raises him above the brute, and
reflects, however feebly, his Creator's image?
Sir, he that claims that slavery is not a vio-
lation of natural right, must answer these
questions affirmatively. More than this—he
mast override and trample into the dust, the
very principle which constituted the founda-
tion of American independence and liberty,
and whose development, under the guardian-
ship of heaven, wrought for us our civil and
religious blessings. In that immortal docu-
ment, the enunciation of whose doctrines
sent a thrill to the oppressed of every land,
and made tyrants tremble and their thrones
to totter, certain truths are held to be self-ev-
ident, among which is this: "that all men
are created free and equal, and have an ina-
lienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness."
it is true sir, the gentleman from Prince
George's (Mr. Berry,) in advance of the ar-
gument on this question, has attempted, by
what he evidently considered a masterly and
triumphant movement of logical strategy, to
compel us to the evacuation of this high and
commanding position, and reduce us to the
humiliating alternative of fighting this battle
on ground of his own selection. But, sir,
let us reconnoitre the ground a few moments,
and I think we shall God that the marshalled
hosts of freedom have not yielded one inch ;
and that the flag of those hosts, first un-
furled to the astonished gaze of tyrants, on
the 4th of July, 1776, though oft insulted,
still floats majestically and defiantly over the
scene of the conflict.
The heavy ordnance, expressly manufac-
tured for the occasion, and laboriously drag-
ged by a superannuated team to the charge,
though heavily loaded with solid shot, was
manifestly charged with the powder of a de-
funct sophism, and the only harm done by
the big balls which slipped lazily from the
muzzle, was that occasioned by their gravi-
tation down hill, to the lower limbs of the
assaulting columns
The gentleman, assuming to speak for the
intelligent framers of that masterly docu-
ment, asserted that they only meant that all
white men were equally free to enjoy the rights
of civil government.
Mr. BERRY, of Prince George's. I think
the gentleman has misrepresented me; I am
sure not intentionally.
Mr. TODD. Not intentionally.
Mr. BERRY, of Prince George's. I stated
that this was a government of white men;
that the Constitution of the United States
was framed for their government, and their
government alone.
Mr. TODD. Then what I have stated fol-
lows legitimately from what the gentleman
has now reiterated. He asserted that they
could not be understood as asserting that all
men are alike in their mental and physical
organization—a proposition no one disputes—
that they differ, to use his beautiful and ap-
propriate metaphor, as one leaf upon the wav-
ing branch differeth from another.
But the gentleman accidentally omitted to
trace out to their legitimate results the points
presented in his simile. He will not think
unkindly of me for relieving him of the task.
It is true, sir, that the leaves differ. They
differ in form, size, color and feature. But
are they any the less leaves on that account?
Are they not all composed of the same or-
ganic substances? Are they not all supported
by the same parent stock? Do they not all
alike breathe the same atmospheric and gase-
ous nutriment? Are they not all equally
blessed with the same pearly dew drops, and
with the same bright, blessed sunshine, which
paints alike their pure and spotless robes
with the same bright beauteous colors? Did
not the same Omnipotent band fashion them
Thus, sir, I find that the points of resem-
blance are not only more numerous than the
points of diversity, but paramount—the gen-
tleman will pardon me the use of that term.
The same is true of mankind; and I conclude,.
with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson,
and all the illustrious galaxy, that our whole
race, coming from the same Creator, redeemed
by the same precious sacrifice and bound, to
the same destiny, are entitled to the same
natural inherent and inalienable rights, among
which are life, liberty and the pursuits of
And permit me just here to refer to what
the immortal Washington and others have
said upon this subject; those same illustrious
fathers of our republic, who placed their
hands to that immortal document that de-
clared us free.
Jefferson, in his Notes on Virginia, after

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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 553   View pdf image (33K)
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