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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 629   View pdf image (33K)
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sat here two weeks after enacting that very
clause, they pass the most outrageous viola-
tion of the principles embodied in it that was
ever shown upon the pages of American his-
But it is contended that this Convention is
omnipotent, and may do everything and any-
thing; may get over all laws, and may get
over the Constitution. I anticipate this ar-
gument somewhat, for I see no other way for
this outrageous measure to be defended ex-
cept by asserting mat a Convention being
omnipotent, we may do this or anything else.
But there is no sovereignty, however it may
he organized, that can rob the people of their
rights of life and property. That is a princi-
ple of fundamental right that the people can-
not be stripped of. According to my idea—
I do not know how it is with my negro-loving
friends—the right of your person, of your life",
of your property, is a natural right, a divine
right. Judge Story says, vol. 3, page 68,
that no authority, no sovereignty, no power,
can deprive a citizen or person of property,
except for commission of crime, or for some
public use, which must be designated and
justified. The right of this Convention to
take away slave property, in violation of law,
in violation of the Constitution, involves the
right to take away any other kind of pro-
perty. With the same propriety the Conven-
tion could take away from me my land, my
horses, my wagons, my money, my stocks,
anything I have, because property in slaves
is just as surely guaranteed to the citizen as
any other property that he holds. It is then
manifestly absurd to assume that this Con-
vention can do this.
Let me illustrate this point. Suppose the
laboring classes of the State of Maryland
were to organize themselves into a political'
party, and were to become numerous and
powerful to such an extent that they were
enabled to wield the political power of the
State of Maryland, Then suppose they were
to say to the wealthy farmers, and all others
engaged in agricultural pursuits—" You shall
not employ or use labor-saving machines;
you shall not have reapers to reap your
grain or mowers to cut your grass; because
those implements, by reducing the number
of hands necessary to be employed, operate
against our interests; we will not, there
fore, allow you to use reapers and mowers
we have the power, and we will call a
Convention, and we will have a provision put
in the Constitution which shall provide that
these labor-saving machines shall not be used
because they operate against the interests of
the laboring classes; and more than that
we will not only provide that yon shall no
use them, but we will take away from you
those which you now have, and we will not pay
you fur them either." Now, that is a per
fectly parallel case in every respect. I defy
gentlemen to show any discrepancy in prin
ciple between the two cases. Would that be
just and proper?
The gentleman. (Mr. Cushing) who spoke
yesterday said, that in South Carolina they
had passed laws that a negro coming there
from a Northern State should bethrown into
prison; and that a gentleman sent down
there from a Northern State to investigate
the constitutionality of those laws, was pro-
hibited from exercising the duty for which he
was sent there. And he spoke of that as a
most flagrant outrage upon the rights of citi-
zens, and upon the principles of liberty and
humanity generally.
He also said that he was in Massachusetts
upon the occasion of the return of a fugitive
slave to his master; and he saw the soldiers
seize that fugitive who had fled so many
hundred miles to gain his freedom, and take
him down to a vessel and send him off. And
he avowed that if lie had been a citizen of
Massachusetts, he would, regardless of the
law and the Constitution, have resisted the
law and the Constitution. Now, sir, I do
not doubt it. It is just such gentlemen as he
who have brought on us all these troubles.
He boldly declared here in this Convention
in broad daylight, that he would have op-
posed the return of that fugitive had he been
a citizen of Massachusetts. The law of the
land said be should be returned; he says he
would have opposed the law. Just such
political preachers as he have been the
exciting cause, and are the head and front of
all the evils that afflict the land to-day. And
I charge him and his coadjutors with being
the exciters of the rebellion; for if there had
never been an abolitionist, in my opinion,
there never would have been a secessionist.
But the great argument in favor of emanci-
pation is, that slavery is the chief corner-
stone of the rebellion; the keystone of the
arch which supports all this mighty move-
ment in the South; that supports the feeling
of opposition to the Government in this
State; that it is the root of all evil; the sum
of all villainies; and no matter how and by
what means, it must be disposed of. And it
is proposed to do it violently and suddenly
and without due process of law, without any
just compensation, and in opposition to all
common principles of justice.
Now, are we never going to learn wisdom
from the history of the past? Are we never
going to learn anything from the history of
other nations and past ages, and all the teach-
ings of similar proceedings under similar cir-
cumstances? Is there an instance in the musty
tomes of antiquity, or in all the volumes of
modern history, to show that a people has ever
been won back by force? Can you create affec-
tion, or conciliate public feeling, or produce
harmony and concord and love, by violent
measures and unjust and oppressive acts? That
policy was tried by the British Government
in reference to the colonies. And it drove

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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 629   View pdf image (33K)
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