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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 610   View pdf image (33K)
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has taken almost the exclusive monopoly of
the legislation of the State. Now, what has
endangered the institution of slavery? Four
years ago the Constitution of your country
was like a wall of fire around that institution.
As the gentleman from Baltimore city (Mr.
Cushing) said this morning, you could go
into the streets of Boston, and summon the
military force of Massachusetts to aid you to
get your slave and return him to bondage,
and however reluctant they might be to come,
atill they would come. The whole Northern
country was a hunting-ground for escaped
slaves. And there was no power in their State
governments, or in any other government, to
touch the institution of slavery. It was se-
curley walled in and hedged up on all sides.
The Constitution of the United States was
the hedge about it, the wall of fire to protect
it. But in the day of their power, in the day
of their madness, they repudiated that pro-
tection, they attempted to break down the
Constitution which protected and sheltered
them. It is their own fault that slaves have
depreciated in value; it is their own fault
that slavery is insecure. They have done it
themselves; they have worked their own de-
struction, and if slavery dies it dies in the
house of its friends. They have wrought the
ruin of their own institution. They were
not content with the security and establish-
ment of slavery in all the slave States, but
they must extend it over all the territories of
the United States; and they even contem-
plated 'the re-opening of the African slave
trade. As long as they had the control of
the Government in all its departments, they
were willing to wield it for their own pur-
poses. But the moment the sceptre passed into
other hands, that moment they took up arms
to destroy the Government which they could
no longer control. And then they raise the
piteous bowl here about the depreciation of
their slave property.
The gentleman from Charles (Mr. Edelen,)
among other arguments made. use of this:
That if slavery is abolished in Maryland, all
the slaves will be turned loose upon the soil
of this State, and there will be a tide of this
population come in here that will overrun the
State, and fearfully interfere with the rights
of white labor. But before he had proceeded
much farther he said that the negroes were
lazy and indolent—and others bore him out
in that remark —and that the most of them
would get into our penitentiaries and alms-
houses, Now, both of these propositions
cannot be correct, Either this class of our
population are not so poor and worthless and
thriftless as they are represented to be, or else
they cannot make such formidable competi-
tors for white laborers.
Now, the. emancipation of slaves in Maryland
will not add any thing to the cumber of negro's
in this State, We want now vastly more la-
bor in the State of Maryland than we have
Many of our fields are to-day uncultivated
for the want of labor. In fact there never
was a time in Maryland when we bad labor
enough. Give these people the same motives
that yon give other people to work; give
them wages for their labor, repeal your laws
disqualifying them from engaging in the same
pursuits as other men, give them an even
chance to make a livelihood, and they will
work well enough.
The gentleman from St. Mary's (Mr. Bil-
lingsley) says that this attempt to abolish
slavery in the State of Maryland is the re-
sult of a sickly sentimentality, of a morbid
philanthropy, and has no foundation in
reason and justice. Now, I can understand
why gentlemen who entertain these views
oppose this measure. And I will do them the
justice to say that had I been brought up as
they have been, had I been nurtured among
slaves, and bad my property been in slaves,
I should perhaps feel as they do. But that is
by no means certain, for there are men upon
this floor who act with me, and yet they are
slaveholders. But the presumption is that
under the same circumstances I would act as
they do. And there are many reasons why
they should do so. They have had their lot
cast in rather pleasant places. They have
not only had slaves to labor for them, but
they have had the entire control of the whole
machinery of government, state and national.
Now, the reason they oppose the intro-
duction of this article into the bill of
rights is that they know that free soil will
produce free schools; free schools will en-
gender free thought; and free thought will
elevate the masses. They think that society
is just now a great deal topsy-turvy any
way; that there is a great deal of confusion
in the old fabric, and with a view to restore
the equilibrium they are opposed to the abo-
lition of slavery, and want to keep things in
their old trim. Now, in these slave counties
where this state of things predominates, do
you see the greasy mechanic, the small-fisted
farmer, the man who has worked his way up
by his own industry, and who has acquired
a little education—do you see one of that
class of men come up here from those counties. 'Very
rarely. The controlling classes
want to hold the power they have got; and
it is but natural that they should oppose this
article. For, incorporate this provision into
your Constitution, and you will immediately
introduce free schools; and free schools will
excite free thoughts and free opinions; and
there will be a rush of free immigration into
those counties, and adifferent class of. men
will get hold of the helm. It is with this
view that they oppose this matter. They
want to hold the power of the State, and
they can only hold it by keeping the masses
in ignorance.
The gentleman from Charles (Mr. Edelen)
puts this question. How does it happen that,

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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 610   View pdf image (33K)
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