federal sedition

Federal Sedition Legislation




In 1835 the American Anti-Slavery Society undertook a massive mail campaign, sending anti-slavery literature across the South. The AAS was founded by the Tappen brothers, Arthur and Lewis of New York. Lewis Tappen had achieved national attention for his role in raising money to defend the slaves who had mutinied and killed whites aboard the Amistad. Actions like these caused some Southerners to place bounties on him. When some of the mail arrived in Charleston, it was sized by rioters and burned.  

The Jackson administration, sympathetic to the slave-owning South, attempted legislative action to restrict the dissemination of abolitionist literature. They cited the fear that this literature would stir up a slave revolt. Jackson’s Postmaster General, Amos Kendall at first perused a policy of allowing individual postmasters to use their own discretion in delivering abolitionist mail. In his 1836 postmaster’s report, he attempted to justify Federal attempts to censor the mail by saying that under international law, mail could be censored and that the various states constituted separate nations. 

Does the maintenance of slavery necessitate restrictions on individual liberty?  How does the fear of slave insurrection impact the thinking of legislators? Was slavery incompatible with the first amendment? Why or why not?

Justin Hawkins

Further Reading
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Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire (April 21, 2024) Federal Sedition Legislation. Retrieved from https://slaverylawpower.org/federal-sedition-legislation/.
"Federal Sedition Legislation." Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire - April 21, 2024, https://slaverylawpower.org/federal-sedition-legislation/
Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire August 21, 2022 Federal Sedition Legislation., viewed April 21, 2024,<https://slaverylawpower.org/federal-sedition-legislation/>
Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire - Federal Sedition Legislation. [Internet]. [Accessed April 21, 2024]. Available from: https://slaverylawpower.org/federal-sedition-legislation/
"Federal Sedition Legislation." Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire - Accessed April 21, 2024. https://slaverylawpower.org/federal-sedition-legislation/
"Federal Sedition Legislation." Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire [Online]. Available: https://slaverylawpower.org/federal-sedition-legislation/. [Accessed: April 21, 2024]
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Please be aware that many of the works in this project contain racist and offensive language and descriptions of punishment and enslavement that may be difficult to read. However, this language and these descriptions reveal the horrors of slavery. Please take care when transcribing these materials, and see our Ethics Statement and About page.

    Attempts to pass limits on anti-slavery publications, from Jackson in 1835, Calhoun in 1836, through Douglas in Jan 1860.

Incendiary Publication Bill

December 1835—Jackson in message to congress suggests passing law that will prohibit the circulation of incendiary publications into the south intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection 

Sen. Calhoun moved that this message be sent to a select committee—(5 members selected: Calhoun, King of Georgia, Mangum of North Carolina, Linn of Missouri, and Davis of Massachusetts)

Bill reported with accompanying report by Calhoun, but King, Davis, and Linn declare they did not agree with ass position in the report

Bill taken up in early April 1836—debated heavily—engrossment vote: 18 yeas, 18 nays—V.P. Van Buren broke tie in favor (yea)

Further debate, then final vote on passage—rejected—19 yeas, 25 nays (Benton, clay, Crittenden, and 4 other Southern senators voted against; Van Buren, Wright, and Buchanan (Northerners) supported)  


Congressional Globe Excerpts:

Message from the President to the Senate and House or Representatives (Dec. 8, 1835) :

In connection with those provisions in relation to the Post Office Department, I must also invite your attention to the painful excitement produced in the South by attempts to circulate through the mails inflammatory appeals addressed to the passions of the slaves, in prints, and in various sorts of publications, calculated to stimulate them to insurrection, and to produce all the horrors of a servile war.

There is doubtless no respectable portion of our countrymen who can be so far misled as to feel any other sentiment than that of indignant regret at conduct so destructive of the harmony and peace of the country, and so repugnant to the principles of our national compact, and to the dictates of humanity and religion.  Our happiness and prosperity essentially depend upon peace within our borders; and peace depends upon the maintenance, in good faith, of those compromises of the Constitution upon which the Union is founded.

It is fortunate for the country that the good sense, the generous feeling, and the deep-rooted attachment of the people in the non-slaveholding States to the Union, and to their fellow-citizens of the same blood in the South, have given so strong and impressive a tone to the sentiments entertained against the proceedings of the misguided persons who have engaged in these unconstitutional and wicked attempts, and especially against the emissaries from foreign parts who have dared to interfere in this matter, as to authorize the hope that these attempts will no longer be persisted in.  But if these expressions of the public will shall not be sufficient to effect so desirable a result, not a doubt can be entertained that the non-slaveholding States, so far from countenancing the slightest interference with the constitutional rights of the South, will be prompt to exercise their authority in suppressing, so far as in them lies, whatever is calculated to produce this evil.

In leaving the care of other branches of this interesting subject to the State authorities, to whom they properly belong, it is nevertheless proper for Congress to take such measures as will prevent the Post Office Department, which was designed to foster an amiable intercourse and correspondence between all the members of the Confederacy, from being used as an instrument of an opposite character.  The General Government, to which the great trust is confided of preserving inviolate the relations created among the States by the Constitution, is especially bound to avoid in its own action anything that may disturb them.  I would, therefore, call the special attention of Congress to the subject, and respectfully suggest the propriety of passing such a law as will prohibit, under severe penalties, the circulation in the southern States, through the mail, of incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection.” (p.10)



April 4, 1836:

Mr. CALHOUN rose to say, that, as soon as the debate on the expunging resolution would allow, he would call up the bill introduced by him to prevent the circulation of incendiary publications through the mails, and he hoped the Senate would then agree to its consideration.

April 6, 1836:


The bill to prevent the circulation through the mails of incendiary publications, was taken up as the special order.

Mr. CALHOUN briefly explained the provisions of the bill, and moved to fill up the first blank with $100, and the second blank with $1,000; which motion was agreed to.

[These sums apply to the penalty imposed on the deputy postmaster for a violation of the law, being a fine of not less than $100, and not more than $1,000.]

Mr. DAVIS said this was a very important bill, and ought not to be acted on without some deliberation.  He had hoped some gentleman would have been prepared to deliver his views at length upon it.  As for himself, he was not now prepared to speak on it.  He would move to postpone it for the present.

Mr. GRUNDY observed that he had lately turned his attention to the subject, and approved of the principles of the bill, though he did not think it altogether calculated to effect the objects it had in view.  If the gentleman from South Carolina would consent to a postponement for two or three days, he should then be prepared to offer some amendments that he thought would be satisfactory to the gentleman, and would answer the purpose intended; his duties in the committee of which he was chairman preventing him from attending the subject sooner.  Mr. G., after further consideration, and a suggestion from Mr. CALHOUD, assented to the postponement till to-morrow, and the bill was accordingly so postponed.

Mr. DAVIS did not know that he would or would not address the Senate on the subject, but if he did he should want it laid over longer than till to-morrow.  

April 7, 1836:


The Senate then took up as the special order, the bill to prohibit the circulation through the mails of incendiary publications.

Mr. DAVIS said it had been very justly asserted, that this was a measure of great importance.  The gentleman from South Carolina [Mr. CALHOUN] had given them so to understand, and he (Mr. D.) viewed it so when he moved the postponement of it yesterday, in order to have further time for consideration.  The design was to prohibit the circulation of those papers denominated as incendiary, but preventing their transmission through the mail.  He read the first section of the bill, from which it appeared that the design was to prohibit any person from putting into any post office any paper touching the subject of slavery of the character described in the bill.  He viewed this measure as a fundamental change in the policy of this Government.  It was putting the whole power of the government into the hands of the State.

They had a report from a select committee before them, of which he had expressed his disapprobation, and also of the bill when it was made.  While the report went on to show there was no power in congress to exercise the authority in a direct form, or to pass any law containing the provisions of this act, yet it assumed the power to carry into effect the laws of the State.

He objected to this measure on the ground of expediency.  The design of the Post Office establishment was to facilitate the transmission of intelligence throughout the country, to encourage intercourse, and foster a community of interest and feeling between the different portions of it.  These were the reasons that influenced the convention in granting these powers to establish post offices and post routes.  Gentlemen in the slave holding portion of the country had met with difficulties, and were placed in hazard by the circulation of pictorial representations, and ask the Government to suppress it; in doing which they propose to create an inquisitorial power in this branch of the Government.  For he held that, if a penalty was annexed, it made the duty of deputy postmaster to inquire into the character of papers put into his office, and also of whatever went out of it.  He must examine the publication under the penalties put into the bill by the gentleman from South Carolina [Mr. CALHOUN,] ranging from one hundred to one thousand dollars, at the discretion of the court, as a criminal offense.  It imposed on a set of officers a judicial character so odious in its nature, that he apprehended few would be found willing to take the responsibility of accepting the office on such terms.  It reached everything written, printed, or painted on paper, which touched the subject of slavery.  Whoever exercised the office of deputy postmaster, with these penalties hanging over his head, would naturally be vigilant in detecting papers that were prohibited, and if any were found they would be rejected and thrown out of his office.  Whatever his imagination connected with it must pass under the bar of his judgement.  It would be claiming on the part of the Government a monopoly, an exclusive right either to send such papers as it pleased, or to deny the privilege of sending them through the mail.  Once established the precedent, and where would it lead to?  The Government might take into its head to inhibit the transmission of political, religious, or even moral or philosophical publication, in which it might fancy there was something offensive, and under this reserved right contended for in this report it would be the duty of the Government to carry it into effect.  It would be an invasion of the liberties of the country, of the press, and virtually a denial of the right of trial by jury; for the person who deposits a paper in the post office is not present or inquired of when the deputy postmaster exercise the power over his rights.

If an essay upon education reached the post office, and the postmaster should find out that it was not the policy to educate slaves, and that there was a law prohibiting it, its transmission must be prohibited.  If, in a discussion of the great principles of civil liberty, slavery might happen to be incidentally mentioned or touched, its transmission must, therefore, be prohibited.  In short, there was scarcely any subject that could be approached in which it might not, in the imagination of postmasters, be construed as relating to slavery.  Whatever might be prohibited by any one Stat was, under this act, to be enforced.  Different States might have different enactments; consequently, there would be an entire want of uniformity in the laws on the subject.

There were other rights and powers to be enjoyed, equally important, with which the rights here claimed ought not to come in conflict.  Mr. D. spoke of the great difficulty in determining what were, and what were not, incendiary papers, and read an allegation, contained in a bill of indictment found by a grand jury in Alabama, against Joseph G. Williams, of New York, in September, 1835, for publication in a newspaper, and who demanded from the Executive of New York for trial under it.  The charge was, that he feloniously, wickedly, and seditiously caused to be published that “God commanded, all nature cried out, that human beings should not be held in bondage.”  Mr. D. introduced this to show how far the doctrine went, which was very important to know.  What had been alleged in the indictment would never have been thought of my any gentlemen, not a resident of a slaveholding State, as criminal.  Then where were the boundaries to show what was to be included, and what excluded, from transmission by mail?  To admit the right to suppress carried with it the right to circulate or not at pleasure.  Instead of doing it through its own power, the General Government was to use the power of the State.  The report said the power did not belong to the General Government to determine what was scandalous or libelous, or what was not, but that right belonged to the States.

Mr. D. said, wherever there were powers reposed in the Government there were corresponding duties, and spoke of the powers and duties of the post office establishment.  He denied the right of the Government to exercise a power indirectly which it could not exercise directly; and, if there was no direct power in the Constitution, he would like to know how they would get the powers of the States, which was a legislative power at most.  He asked if the State of South Carolina could give a power to the General Government not contained in the Constitution of the United States.  The act of 1803 had been quoted, by which this Government prohibited the importation of slaves from abroad.  That act was meant to inhibit slavery, and was not applicable to the non-slaveholding States.  In Massachusetts there was no occasion for the assistance of this Government.  Slaves could, and by her laws, be made free the moment they placed their feet on her shores.  It was, therefore, intended to be confined to the slave-holding States.  If there was any great existing evil, which called for a remedy, the State Legislatures could make it penal to circulate these publications; and when that should be found inadequate it would be time enough to take measure to change the whole policy of the Government.

Mr. CALHOUN said that the Senator from Massachusetts had certainly raised a very important point and he could not do justice in his argument and to himself without previously arranging the various points of it.  The Senator, however, was mistaken in his view of the subject.  It was because the subject particularly belonged to the States, and it was the duty of the General Government to aid and cooperate with them in carrying their laws into effect, that the bill was framed.  He ventured to assert that, not only did this duty result from the relations between the states and the Federal Government, but that it was an indispensable duty.  The principle was not a new one; it had been applied more than once; but it was an old principle applied to a new case.  He threw out these hints to prevent any erroneous impressions resulting from the remarks of the gentleman from Massachusetts.

On motion by Mr. CALHOUN, the Senate then adjourned.

April 12, 1836:


A Bill to prohibit the circulation through the mails of incendiary publications was taken up as the special order.

Mr. CALHOUN denied being actuated by the feelings of hostility to the Administration imputed to him by the gentleman from Georgia, [Mr. KING,] and said, if he had been actuated by them, his course would have been very different.  He had formed his opinions before he came here, and saw that it must come before Congress.  When he arrived here, and read the Presidents’ message, his apprehensions were increased on seeing that he had covered the whole ground that the Government had the sole power over the matter.  He knew the weight of General Jackson’s name, and the power of Jacksonism.  He had ever considered the Senator from Georgia [Mr. KING] as one of the most independent of the party, and enumerated sundry measures in which that gentleman and himself agreed in opinion; and, if he was not mistaken, they had heretofore agreed in every important measure, expect the case of the Protest, until they different on the question on the motion to receive the petitions on abolition; and yet he (Mr. C.) was held up as a single individual actuated alone by motives of hostility to the Administration. He [Mr. KING] had gone with the Administration on the arguments in relation to this report, and with him on the bill.  Mr. C. could assure him he would rather have his vote on the bill than his speech.  He must express his regret that, after having concurred with him in all important measures, he should say that he (Mr. C.) was influenced by opposition to the Administration, and then illustrate the declaration with a comparison from O’Connell, better suited to an Irish mob than the dignity of the Senate.

He thought, if they once acknowledged the power of Congress to suppress the transmission of these incendiary papers directly, and to say what was incendiary, it would be conceding to it the right to decide what was not incendiary, as they were in their nature correlative rights.  The gentlemen from Georgia believed the General Government had a right to decide what was incendiary; and, if it had, it followed that it had the right to decide what was not, and to force them into circulation.  Should the General Government say it has a right to enforce such a right, could Georgia resist?  If the Senator says he could, he will come nigh on nullification; nay, he even went beyond it.  We nullifiers (said Mr. C.) only go for resisting an unconstitutional set, but this would be nullifying an act which the Senator believes to be constitutional.  He saw a control in this matter more potent than the sedition law itself, and supposed, if this document went to the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads, it would be confirmed.  The gentleman from Georgia was willing to support the bill, which was in direct opposition to the message of the Executive, and he (Mr. C.) thought there was a fair prospect of its passage; and if it did pass he had then accomplished his object.

The Senator from Georgia had said that it was very extraordinary that he who was opposed to receiving abolition petitions should be in favor of this principle, and that in taking this ground he had taken ground against the position he then took.  If so, it brought him and the gentleman to the same point.  He was in favor of the reception of the petition in that case, and against this report; and he (Mr. C.) was against receiving the petition, and in favor of receiving of the report.  He was against the principle in one case, and Mr. C. in the other.  He would now meet the objections of the Senator from Massachusetts [Mr. DAVIS] against the bill.  The first and an important principle to the bill was, that slavery was solely a domestic question, belonging to the slaveholding States—to say whether the transmission of incendiary publications through the mail, to endanger the peace and safety of their citizens, should be prohibited; also, what law should be enacted to suppress their transmission.  Another principle that grew out of this right was, that it was the duty of the General Government to respect the laws of the States, and, when circumstances would permit, to cooperate with them.  He would acknowledge, if this was a new doctrine, it ought to be approached with caution.  The principle, however, was not new, which he had shown by cases cited in his report.  One was in relation to the health laws, and the other in regard to a branch of this vary subject.  The health of the State was among its reserved rights.  Health might be endangered through its commerce; and it had a right to establish quarantine laws, and the laws of the General Government might come in conflict with these quarantine laws of the State.

The laws of the General Government had been modified so as to correspond with the State laws.  He also adverted to the case of the inhabitants of St. Domingo in 1803, and the act of Congress making it penal to receive such persons as were therein described, which was a precedent fully in point.  It recognized the point, that the Government was bound to recognize the acts of the State.  South Carolina had a positive law against these colored seamen being received in her ports; and the British Minister had remonstrated for ten successive years, but finally acquiesced in the justness of the act, even against the treaty.  The gentleman from North Carolina had rested his argument on this act of 1803, which had led him to an examination of its history, and had found that it met with opposition in its passage; from which he inferred it had been fully discussed, and passed with full deliberation.

The gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr. DAVIS] had made an objection that the power claimed would be to transfer the power from the General Government to the States.  To this he replied, that the bill simply proposed that the General Government, through its agents, should not violate that law of the State; and was simply a modification that the General Government should use its power so as not to violate the laws of the State, and merely showed that the power of the General Government was not absolute over the mail; and it support of this position he said were two laws on their statute-books embracing this same principle.  It was an important right, showing that the General Government shall not exercise the right to discriminate what papers shall not be transmitted.

It had been alleged that there was a contradiction between the report and the bill.  If so, it only proved that the person who made the report was an indifferent logician.  The principles asserted were: 1st. That there was no right in the General Government to prohibit papers; 2d. That it had no right to say what papers should be transmitted; and, 3d. That those rights belong to the States.

The Senator from Georgia had said he (Mr. C.) was influenced by his opposition to General Jackson.  He (Mr. C.) had too little respect for General Jackson’s judgment, and, if he were no President of the United States, he would say, for his character, to place himself in such a position.  He illustrated, by examples of comparison, the consistency of States rights with the rights of the General Government.  The Senator from Massachusetts [Mr. DAVIS] had said that he had claimed the power, through the agency of the General Government, to do indirectly which it could not do directly; to which he replied, that the Sate was not an agent, but an independent body.  There were innumerable instances where States cooperated with the General Government.  The United States had the sole right to coin money, and the States made it penal to counterfeit United States coin.  The United States had also a right to declare war, and the States cooperated, and these rights were reciprocal.  The Senator from Massachusetts had said the laws of the General Government came in conflict.  But Mr. C. contended that the rights of the States were as clearly defined as those of the General Government.  The framers of the Constitution had wisely said that all powers not delegated to the General Government were reserved to the States.  No conflict could take place between the delegated and reserved rights, except in the single exception of concurring powers.  The conflict might be between the laws, but not between those powers.

The States prohibit the transmission of some kinds of papers, and the General Government permits all.  In such cases, which must give way!  That must be determined by the extent and magnitude of the evil to be remedied.  Those laws which related to mere accommodation must yield to necessary laws.  The laws for carrying the mail were merely for accommodation, and this law to prevent the circulation of incendiary publications was a necessary law.  It was very improper, on the part of the General Government, to endanger the peace and safety of the citizens of eleven States of this Union by the exercise of this law of accommodation, and it was proper that it should yield to the law of necessity.  He was happy to see so many advocates of States rights, and that even his old Federal friends (the honest, upright, and intelligent old Federal party) began to hold the language of State rights.  Yes, (said he,) the old Federal party—for they were an honest, consistent, and intelligent, but, at the same time, mistaken party—were coming round to State rights in proportion as the dominant party was receding from them.  As to whether the General or State Government must yield when their laws come in conflict, depended on the general circumstances of each case.  The Senator from Massachusetts had said the principle contended for might be carried into politics or religion.  He (Mr. C.) could assure the gentleman, that, if such a case should be permitted, he was prepared to sustain the States in such a conflict with the General Government.  He did not piecemeal his principles.  The bill did not make it penal for postmasters merely to receive papers, but to receive and deliver them up.  The Senator from Massachusetts objected to the inconvenience in being able to distinguish what were incendiary publications.  He saw no difficulty in that.  There only object was, that Abolitionists should not be permitted to send their matter to them.  They had reached a very important point in this question of abolition.  That ferocious band were in the possession of ample funds and a powerful press, and for the first time that instrument had been seized upon to be wielded against the peace of the South.  The General Government was now called on to say what part they would take—whether they should be on the said of the South, or on the side of their enemies?  They asked nothing but that they should respect their laws.  He was anxious that those he represented should understand whether they should rely on themselves or the Government.  He did not know whether they should come in conflict on this subject now; but, judging from human nature, he feared the time would come when they should.  Thus far, he was sorry to say, their just hopes had not been realized.  Such was the state of politics in the non-slaveholding States, that he knew the difficulty in obtaining any legislation there.  In receiving those abolition petitions, they had given Congress jurisdiction so far against them.  Was Congress against them or not?  When they had a duty to perform, and did not perform it, the non-performance was a violation of it.  He wished to see this matter decided.  If decided against them, he would say to the people of the South, “Look to yourselves; you have nothing to hope for form abroad.”  The South never would abandon the principles of the bill.  If Congress refused to adapt its actions to theirs, they would come into conflict, and the State would not yield.  This bill asserts the supremacy of the State laws, and gave a power of protection, and by its passage the evil would be cured.  He closed his remarks by hoping the Senate would excuse the unreasonable ardor of one who had so deep an interest in this subject.

Mr. DAVIS replied to Mr. CALHOUN at length, in opposition to the bill sustaining the position taken by him in his first address on the subject.  If there were no constitutional objections to the measure, he held it to be exceedingly unwise in gentlemen representing slaveholding States to establish a policy of the Government which looked exclusively to the preservation of slave property, and which would make every individual in the non-slaveholding States, who had business with the Post Office, feel that slavery was an evil in the country.  He asked the Seantor from South Carolina to forbear from pressing this evil on the attention of the people, for he regarded every step towards it as a step towards the dissolution of the Union.  The gentleman from South Carolina had referred to the precedents by which the bill was sustained; and he could not have given a stronger argument against the establishment of precedents than the attempt to make the sanitary laws precedent for assaulting the liberty of the press, as he contended that this bill did.  He knew, from the language held every day by the gentleman, that he would be the last man to be guided by precedents, to false conclusions; and he was therefore surprised that he should have adduced the sanitary laws as a precedent for this assault on the liberty of the press.  The liberty of the press was not like the other reserved rights, reserved by implication, but was reserved in express terms; it could not be touched in any manner.  Mr. D., after urging the constitutional objections to the bill, on the ground that it would abridge the liberty of the press, denied that the Post Office was established solely for the promotion of commercial and social intercourse.  It was designed by the framers of the Constitution for the dissemination of public intelligence, it occurring to them that the people would like to get accounts of the proceedings of the National and State Legislatures, and the judicial proceedings of the courts; in short, for the dissemination of the kind of general intelligence which was the foundation of a free government; for it was vain to suppose that free institutions could long be preserved without the dissemination of useful intelligence.

Mr. D. contended that it would be impossible to discriminate between publications of a dangerous tendency and those that were harmless, without exercising such a system of espionage over the Post Office as would not only greatly diminish the usefulness of that Department, by destroying the public confidence in it, but would also be fatal to the liberty of the press.  He warned gentlemen that all the assaults on the press that had ever been made in any country had always been made under the plea of strong necessity.  The press was charged with being libelous and seditious, dangerous to the public morals, and therefore, it was said that it was better to establish a censorship over it than to submit to its unrestrained abuses.  Mr. D. contended that there was a great discrepancy between the report and the provisions of the bill.  The report, he said, went on to show that this Government had no power to pass a general law prohibiting the circulation of incendiary publications, for the reason that it would abridge the liberty of the press, and there was an able argument in the report to establish this fact.  The Senator from South Carolina still adhered to that doctrine; but, while he adhered to it, he proceeded to demonstrate that the General Government might pass a law in aid of those of the States.  Now, if the General Government might do this, suppose that the States should come to the determination that the circulation of any political or religious doctrine was dangerous, and should pass laws to prevent it; then he thought that the General Government might, with as much propriety, sustain such laws by its legislation, as to pass this bill.

After Mr. DAVIS concluded, the bill was laid on the table.

April 13, 1836:


On motion of Mr. CALHOUN, the bill to prohibit the circulation of incendiary publications through the mails was taken up.

Mr. BENTON was no willing that the United States should be made a pack-horse for the Abolitionists; but it seemed to him to be going too far to invest ten thousand postmasters, 9for he believed that was about the number,) with the authority vested in them by this bill, and he could not vote for it.  The authority was such a one as would lead to things they might all regret.  He was very sorry to vote against any measure which, even in appearance, had for its object the suppression of so great an evil; but he thought this bill was not calculated to effect that object.

Mr. GRUNDY hoped that this bill might be postponed for a short time, so that gentlemen might turn their attention particularly to it, and, if it did not suit them, to offer them such a bill as they could support.  This Government was made to protect and secure the States in all their right, and, if so, it was very strange that it should permit one of its Departments to throw firebrands among them to destroy them.  The General Government was bound by solemn contract to protect them in their persons and in their property, and he wished gentlemen to examine the Constitution, and see whether it prohibited such a regulation of the Post Office Department as to prevent the transmission of these mischievous publications.  The States had no Post Office Department.  The power to establish that Department was entirely delegated to the General Government.  The power, therefore, over that Department by the General Government was complete, and could not come in conflict with the State government.  He was speaking now as to the power under the Constitution; and could it not make all constitutional provisions to regulate that Department?  He admitted that, although the power did exist, perhaps no subject was so liable to be abused or so dangerous in the exercise of it.  A power was, during last summer, exercised by the Postmaster General, and some of the postmasters, which answered the purpose; but they acted without law.  If it answered without law, it certainly would with it.

Mr. G. replied to some remarks of the Senator from Ohio, from whom he different in opinion in regard to the obligation of the States to each other concerning slaves, and cited the constitutional provision, that any person bound in service, escaping into another State, should be given up on demand.  His object, however, in rising, was to ask the Senator from South Carolina [Mr. CALHOUN] to consent to let this bill lay on the table, to be called up again on Tuesday.

Mr. NILES moved to amend the bill by striking out the first section and inserting the following:

Limiting the operation of the bill to postmasters where the newspapers prohibited are to be delivered, and also to confine it to newspapers, the design and tendency of which are to excite insurrection among the slaves.  The first section of the bill embraced papers touching on the subject of slavery, the violation of which was prohibited by any of the States.

Mr. NILES said he had offered this amendment for the consideration of the Senate, believing the bill to be wholly impracticable as it was, as well as objectionable in principle.  He did not think he could support the bill, should the amendment be adopted, as that would not change its principle; although he thought it would remove a large share of the practical evils and inconveniences which the law would occasion.  He would explain the difference between his amendment and the bill: the first section of the bill prohibits any postmaster from knowingly receiving and forwarding in the mail any newspaper, pamphlet, or other printed or written paper touching the subject of slavery, into any State, Territory, or district, the circulation of which is prohibited by the laws of such State, Territory, or district.  It also makes it unlawful for any postmaster to deliver any such prohibited newspaper when it shall have reached its destination.

The amendment confines the operation of the law to the postmasters where the inhibited paper is to be delivered.  This would secure the object of the bill, and avoid many of the evils and inconveniences which would attend it as the provision now stands.  The amendment differs in another particular from the bill: it limits and defines the description of papers which are prohibited.  The language in the bill is, “any newspaper touching the subject of slavery.” This is general and indefinite, and would embrace almost every periodical in the country.  The amendment confines the law to such papers as are designed and calculated to excite insurrection among the slaves.  These are the essential points of difference between the amendment and the first section of the bill.

Mr. GRUNDY wished the gentleman from Connecticut might consent to strike out the latter part of his amendment.  He thought the better way would to be have the postmaster not give out the incendiary papers, but keep them in the office until the owner called for them, or, on his failure to do so, to destroy them.  That modification would make it more acceptable to him, and, he had no doubt, to some others.

Mr. RUGGLES observed that one of the difficulties which, as it appeared to him, was involved in the first section of the bill, was brought to view by the amendment proposed by the Senator from Connecticut.  The great difficulty was in the postmasters determining what publications were interdicted by law, and what were not—what publications came within the prohibition, and what were excluded.  As the bill was reported, all publications touching the subject of slavery were prohibited.  The amendment proposed prohibits only those which are designed, and had a tendency to produced insurrection among the slaves.  He thought it would be more difficult to decide what were designed and had a tendency to produce insurrection, than to determine whether a publication touched the subject of slavery at all or not.  Both the bill and the amendment were exceptionable in that respect, but the amendment was more so than the provision of the bill for which it was intended as a substitute.  It would be impossible for postmasters to decide upon the design and intent of all publications passing through their hands, or deposited in their offices, with any certainty of being correct.  If this bill became a law, South Carolina might pass one law prohibiting the circulation of publications of a certain description, Virginia might pass another law, and Alabama another, and so on through all the slaveholding States, all having the same purpose in view, but differing in their details and in their terms.  Now all the postmasters in the United States would be obliged to make themselves acquainted with these State laws, and give to each a construction according to their best judgment and discretion….

Mr. NILES…He regarded the principle of the bill as unsound and dangerous, and did not think it could be modified in any way, so as to remove his objections.  This principle will work a change in the mail establishment—a change from a free institution to one restricted and subjected to a legalized system of imputation and espionage.  He would not go so far as the Senator from Massachusetts, [Mr. DAVIS,] and say that this was an infraction of the first article of the amendments to the Constitution; it might not be strictly an interference with the liberty of the press, but it was a conflict with the spirit of that provision, for circulation and publication were intimately connected; and to limit and restrict the great public channel of circulation was to impair the efficiency of the press by denying it to the only public facility of circulation provided by our laws.  The public mail, like the press, should be free—free as the air we breathe; the nature, design, and usefulness of it require this….

Mr. CALHOUN said that, in bringing this subject before the Senate, he had done his duty.  He had brought it before them with the aid of the special committee appointed for that purpose, and it depended on them whether it should pass.  All he asked was, that there should be a final vote on this subject; and this was due to those he represented, that they might distinctly know whether there was a power in this Government to arrest the evil that all acknowledged to exist; and if there be such a power, whether there was a disposition to exercise it for the remedy of that evil.  The attacks of these incendiaries was through the mails, using the press as an auxiliary.  This was an acknowledged evil, and the question was, had they the power to arrest it?  If we have no power, (said Mr. C.,) let us say so at once; but if we have the power, let us understand the extent of it, and why this power is not exercised.  Let this (said he) be told to our constituents.  Let it be told to them, if they mere convenience or inconvenience of the mails is considered of more importance than their existence.  He had done his duty, and the responsibility not rested on the majority.  He could not but be surprised at the course of the friends of the Executive.  He had heard Senators denounce this measure, recommended by the Executive, as unconstitutional, as tyrannical, or an abuse of power, who never before dared whisper a word against the Administration.  What was he to understand from this?  Was it because the present Executive was going out of power, that his influence was declining?  Was he to understand from this, that it was now for the first time discovered that the man who never erred had committed the most monstrous errors, recommending an abridgement of the liberty of the press and a tyrannical espionage over the post office?  The very thing they denounced as proposed to be done by Congress, was no informally done by one branch of this Administration.  They all knew that many of the postmasters at the North, and all of the postmasters at the South, had refused to receive those incendiary publications for transmission through the mails; yet this bill, giving the authority of law to that which was now done without authority, was denounced by Administration members as a most tyrannical abuse of power, while they did not raise a whisper against those officers of the Administration who now exercise this power.

He must express his surprise, that gentlemen who now denounce this measure, which was to legalize what had been done without authority, had sat there silent during the whole session, knowing that what they deemed such an unconstitutional abuse of power was carried on.  Why did they not introduce a resolution to inquire into these abuses?  Why did they note denounce them at first, instead of waiting until the action of Congress was proposed?  There was a strange disease in the public mind.  They permitted the Executive to do without censure what they refused to permit Congress to do.  If the Executive trampled on the laws and Constitution, not a word was said; but when Congress came to legalize what the Executive had done, and to do what he had recommended, then the liberty of the press was assaulted and the Constitution violated.  Mr. C. here referred to the President’s protest, and to the removal of the deposits, citing them as abuses of power, and spoke of the deposit banks as being a greater evil than the Bank of the United States.

… [Much of rest of debate for this day was on making this a party issue v. supporting the administration, etc.—bill was laid on the table at the end of the day, no vote]


June 8th, 1836—Final debate and vote on bill—Appendix to the Congressional Globe (p. 453-458)

[Many great speeches here, but mostly reiterating points made above about the practicality and constitutionality of the bill]

The bill was then rejected by the following vote:

YEAS—Messrs. Black, Brown, Buchanan, Calhoun, Cuthbert, Grundy, King of Alabama, King of Georgia, Mangum, Moore, Nicholas, Porter, Preston, Rives, Robinson, Tallandge, Walker, White, and Wright—19.

NAYS—Messrs. Benton, Clay, Crittenden, Davis, Ewing of Illinois, Ewing of Ohio, Goldsboeugh, Hendricks, Hubbard, Kent, Knight, Leigh, McKean, Morris, Navdain, Niles, Prentiss, Ruggles, Shepley, Southard, Swift, Tripton, Tomlinson, Wall, and Webster—25.


The Congressional Globe, January 23, 1860

The Senate


The hour having arrived for the consideration of the special order, the Senate proceeded to consider the following resolution, submitted by Mr. DOUGLAS on the 16th instant:

Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary be instructed to report a bill for the protection of each State and Territory of the Union against invasion by the authorities or inhabitants of any other State or Territory; and for the suppression and punishment of conspiracies or combinations in any State or Territory with intent to invade, assail, or molest the government, inhabitants, property, or institutions of any other State or Territory of the Union.


Invasion of states : speech of Hon. S.A. Douglas, of Illinois, on the introduction of a resolution relative to the invasion of states. Delivered in the Senate of the United States, January 23, 1860.

SPEECH. The hour having arrived for the consideration of the special order, the Senate proceeded to consider the following resolution, submitted by Mr. Douglas on the 16th instant: Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary be instructed to report a bill for the protection of each State and Territory of the Union against invasion by the authorities or inhabitants of any other State or Territory; and for the suppression and punishment of conspiracies or combinations in any State or Territory with intent to invade, assail, or molest the government, inhabitants, property, or institutions of any other State or Terri- tory of the Union. * 

Mr. DOUGLAS. Mr. President, on the 25th of November last, the Governor of Virginia addressed an official communication to the President of the United States, in which he said: 

“I have information from various quarters, upon which I rely, that a conspiracy of formidable extent, in means and numbers, is formed in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and other States, to rescue John Brown and his associates, prisoners at Charlestown, Virginia. The information is specific enough to be reliable.” ******* 

“Places in Maryland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have been occupied as depots and rendezvous by these desperadoes, unobstructed by guards, or otherwise, to invade this State, and we are kept in continual apprehension of outrage from fire and rapine. I apprise you of these facts in order that you may take steps to preserve peace between the States.” 

To this communication, the President of the United States, on the 28th of November, returned a reply, from which I read the following sentence: 

“I am at a loss to discover any provision in the Constitution or laws of the United States which would authorize me to ‘take steps’ for this purpose.” [That is, to preserve the peace between the States.”

 This announcement produced a profound impression upon the public mind, and especially in the slaveholding States. It was generally received and regarded as an authoritative announcement that the Constitution of the United States confers no power upon the Federal Government to protect each of the States of this Union against invasion from the other States. I shall not stop to inquire whether the President meant to declare that the existing laws confer no authority upon him, or that the Constitution empowers Congress to enact no laws which would authorize the Federal interposition to protect the States from invasion ; my object is to raise the inquiry, and to ask the judgment of the Senate and of the House of Representatives on the question, whether it is not within the power of Congress, and the duty of Congress, under the Constitution, to enact all laws which may be necessary and proper for the protection of each and every State against invasion, either from foreign Powers or from any portion of the United States. 

The denial of the existence of such a power in the Federal Government has induced an inquiry among conservative men—men loyal to the Constitution and devoted to the Union— as to what means they have of protection, if the Federal Government is not authorized to protect them against external violence. It must be conceded that no community is safe, no State can enjoy peace, or prosperity, or domestic tranquility, without security against external violence. Every State and nation of the world, outside of this Republic, is supposed to maintain armies and navies for this precise purpose. It is the only legitimate purpose for which armies and navies are maintained in time of peace. They may be kept up for ambitious purposes, for the purposes of aggression and foreign war; but the legitimate purpose of a military force in time of peace is to insure domestic tranquility against violence or aggression from without. The States of this Union would possess that power, were it not for the restraints imposed upon them by the Federal Constitution. When that Constitution was made, the States surrendered to the Federal Government the power to raise and support armies, and the power to provide and maintain navies, and not only thus surrendered the means of protection from invasion, but consented to a prohibition upon themselves which declares that no State shall keep troops or vessels-of-war in time of peace. 

The question now recurs, whether the States of this Union are in that helpless condition, with their hands tied by the Constitution, stripped of all means of repelling assaults and maintaining their existence, without a guaranty from the Federal Government, to protect them against violence. If the people of this country shall settle down into the conviction that there is no power in the Federal Government under the Constitution to protect each and every State from violence, from aggression, from invasion, they will demand that the cord be severed, and that the weapons be restored to their hands with which they may defend them- selves. This inquiry involves the question of the perpetuity of the Union. The means of defense, the means of repelling assaults, the means of providing against invasion, must exist as a condition of the safety of the States and the existence of the Union. 

Now, sir, I hope to be able to demonstrate that there is no wrong in this Union for which the Constitution of the United States has not provided a remedy. I believe, and I hope I shall be able to maintain, that a remedy is furnished for every wrong which can be perpetrated within the Union, if the Federal Government performs its whole duty. I think it is clear, on a careful examination of the Constitution, that the power is conferred upon Congress, first, to provide for repelling invasion from foreign countries; and, secondly, to protect each State of this Union against invasion from any other State, Territory, or place, within the jurisdiction of the United States. I will first turn your attention, sir, to the power conferred upon Congress to protect the United States—including States, Territories, and the District of Columbia; including every inch of ground within our limits and jurisdiction—against foreign invasion. In the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution, you find that Congress has power— 

“To raise and support armies; to provide and maintain a navy; to make rules for the Government and regulation of the land and naval forces; to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.” 

These various clauses confer upon Congress power to use the whole military force of the country for the purposes specified in the Constitution. They shall provide for the execution of the laws of the Union; and, secondly, suppress insurrections. The insurrections there referred to are insurrections against the authority of the United States—insurrections against a State authority being provided for in a subsequent section, in which the United States can- not interfere, except upon the application of the State authorities. The invasion which is to be repelled by this clause of the Constitution is an invasion of the United States The language is, Congress shall have power to “repel invasions.” That gives the authority to repel the invasion, no matter whether the enemy shall land within the limits of Virginia, within the District of Columbia, within the Territory of New Mexico, or anywhere else within the jurisdiction of the United States. The power to protect every portion of the country against invasion from foreign nations having thus been specifically conferred, the framers of the Constitution then proceeded to make guarantees for the protection of each of the States by Federal authority. I will read the fourth section of the fourth article of the Constitution: 

“The United States shall guaranty to every State in this Union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and, on application of the Legislature, or of the Executive, (when the Legislature cannot be convened,) against domestic violence.” 

This clause contains three distinct guarantees: first, the United States shall guaranty to every State in this Union a republican form of government; second, the United States shall protect each of them against invasion; third, the United States shall, on application of the Legislature, or of the Executive, when the Legislature cannot be convened, protect them against domestic violence. Now, sir, I submit to you whether it is not clear, from the very language of the Constitution, that this clause was inserted for the purpose of making it the duty of the Federal Government to protect each of the States against invasion from any other State, Territory, or place within the jurisdiction of the United States? For what other pur- purpose was the clause inserted? The power and duty of protection as against foreign nations had already been provided for. This clause occurs among the guarantees from the United States to each State, for the benefit of each State, for the protection of each State, and necessarily from other States, inasmuch as the guaranty had been given previously as against foreign nations. 

If any further authority is necessary to show that such is the true construction of the Constitution, it may be found in the forty-third number of the Federalist, written by James Madison. Mr. Madison quotes the clause of the Constitution which I have read, giving these three guarantees; and, after discussing the one guarantying to each State a republican form of government, proceeds to consider the second, which makes it the duty of the United States to protect each of the States against invasion. Here is what Mr. Madison says upon that subject: 

“A protection against invasion is due from every society to the parts composing it. The latitude of the expression here used seems to secure each State, not only against foreign hostility, but against ambitious or vindictive enterprises of its more powerful neighbors. The history both of ancient and modern confederacies proves that the weaker members of the Union ought not to be insensible to the policy of this article.” 

This number of the Federalist, like all others of that celebrated work, was written after the Constitution was made, and before it was ratified by the States, and with a view to securing its ratification; hence the people of the several States, when they ratified this instrument, knew that this clause was intended to bear the construction which I now place upon it. It was intended to make it the duty of every society to protect each of its parts; the duty of the Federal Government to protect each of the States; and, he says, the smaller States ought not to be insensible to the policy of this article of the Constitution. 

Then, sir, if it be made the imperative duty of the Federal Government, by the express provision of the Constitution, to protect each of the Sates against invasion or violence from the other States, or from combinations of desperadoes within their limits, it necessarily follows that it is the duty of Congress to pass all laws necessary and proper to render that guaranty effectual. While Congress, in the early history of the government, did provide legislation which it supposed to be ample to protect the United States against invasion from foreign countries and the Indian tribes, they have failed, up to this time, to make any law for the protection of each of the States against invasion from within the limits of the Union I am unable to account for this omission ; but I presume the reason is to be found in the fact that no Congress ever dreamed that such legislation would ever become necessary for the protection of one State of this Union against invasion and violence from her sister States. Who, until the Harper’s Ferry outrage, ever conceived that American citizens could be so forgetful of their duties to themselves, to their country, to the Constitution, as to plan an invasion of another State, with the view of inciting servile insurrection, murder, treason, and every other crime that disgraces humanity? While, therefore, no blame can justly be attached to our predecessors in failing to provide the legislation necessary to render this guaranty of the Constitution effectual; still, since the experience of last year, we cannot stand justified in omitting longer to perform this imperative duty. 

The question then remaining is, what legislation is necessary and proper to render this guaranty of the Constitution effectual? I presume there will be very little difference of opinion that it will be necessary to place the whole military power of the Government at the disposal of the President, under proper guards and restrictions against abuse, to repel and suppress invasion when the hostile force shall be actually in the field. But, sir, that is not sufficient. Such legislation would not be a full compliance with this guaranty of the Constitution. The framers of that instrument meant more when they gave the guaranty. Mark the difference in language between the provision for protecting the United States against invasion and that for protecting the States. When it provided for protecting the United States, it said Congress shall have power to “repel invasion.” When it came to make this guaranty to the States it changed the language and said the United States shall “protect” each of the States against invasion. In the one instance, the duty of the Government is to repel; in the other, the guaranty is that they will protect. In other words, the United States are not permitted to wait until the enemy shall be upon your borders; until the invading army shall have been organized and drilled and placed in march with a view to the invasion; but they must pass all laws necessary and proper to insure protection and domestic tranquillity to each State and Territory of this Union against invasion or hostilities from other States and Territories. 

Then, sir, I hold that it is not only necessary to use the military power when the actual case of invasion shall occur, but to authorize the judicial department of the Government to suppress all conspiracies and combinations in the several States with intent to invade a State, or molest or disturb its government, its peace, its citizens, its property, or its institutions. You must punish the conspiracy, the combination with intent to do the act, and then you will suppress it in advance. There is no principle more familiar to the legal profession than that wherever it is proper to declare an act to be a crime, it is proper to punish a conspiracy or combination with intent to perpetrate the act. Look upon your statute-books, and I presume you will find an enactment to punish the counterfeiting of the coin of the United States; and then another section to punish a man for having counterfeit coin in his possession with intent to pass it; and another section to punish him for having the molds or dies or instruments for counterfeiting, with intent to use them. This is a familiar principle in legislative and judicial proceedings. If the act of invasion is criminal, the conspiracy to invade should also be made criminal. If it be unlawful and illegal to invade a State, and run off fugitive slaves, why not make it unlawful to form conspiracies and combinations in the several States with intent to do the act? We have been told that a notorious man who has recently suffered death for his crimes upon the gallows, boasted in Cleveland, Ohio, in a public lecture, a year ago, that he had then a body of men employed in running away horses from the slaveholders of Missouri, and pointed to a livery stable in Cleveland which was full of the stolen horses at that time. 

I think it is within our competency, and consequently our duty, to pass a law making every conspiracy or combination in any State or Territory of this Union to invade another with intent to steal or run away property of any kind, whether it be negroes, or horses, or property of any other description, into another State, a crime, and punish the conspirators by indictment in the United States courts and confinement in the prisons or penitentiaries of the State or Territory where the conspiracy may be formed and quelled. Sir, I would carry these provisions of law as far as our constitutional power will reach. I would make it a crime to form conspiracies with a view of invading States or Territories to control elections, whether they do under the garb of Emigrant Aid Societies of New England or Blue Lodges of Missouri. [Applause in the galleries.] In other words, this provision of the Constitution means more than the mere repelling of an invasion when the invading army shall reach the border of a State. The language is, it shall protect the State against invasion; the meaning of which is, to use the language of the preamble to the Constitution, to insure to each State domestic tranquility against external violence. There can be no peace, there can be no prosperity, there can be no safety in any community, unless it is secured against violence from abroad. Why, sir, it has been a question seriously mooted in Europe, whether it was not the duty of England, a Power foreign to France, to pass laws to punish conspiracies in England against the lives of the princes of France. I shall not argue the question of comity between foreign States. I predicate my argument upon the Constitution by which we are governed, and which we have sworn to obey, and demand that the Constitution be executed In good faith, so as to punish and suppress every combination, every conspiracy, either to invade a State or to molest its inhabitants, or to disturb its property, or to subvert its institutions and its government. I believe this can be effectually done by authorizing the United States courts in the several States to take jurisdiction of the offence, and punish the violation of the law with appropriate punishment. 

It cannot be said that the time has not yet arrived for such legislation. It cannot be said with truth that the Harper’s Perry case will not be repeated, or is not in danger of repetition. It is only necessary to inquire into the causes which produced the Harper’s Ferry outrage, and ascertain whether those causes are yet in active operation, and then you can determine whether there is any ground for apprehension that that invasion will be repeated. Sir, what were the causes which produced the Harper’s Ferry outrage? Without stopping to adduce evidence in detail, I have no hesitation in expressing my firm and deliberate conviction that the Harper’s Ferry crime was the natural, logical, inevitable result of the doc- trines and teachings of the Republican party, as explained and enforced In their platform, their partisan presses, their pamphlets and books, and especially in the speeches of their leaders in and out of Congress. [Applause in the galleries.] 

Mr. MASON. I trust the order of the Senate will be preserved. I am sure it is only necessary to suggest to the Presiding Officer the indispensable necessity of preserving the order of the Senate ; and I give notice that, if it is disturbed again, I shall insist upon the galleries being closed entirely. 

Mr. DOUGLAS. Mr. President— 

The VICE PRESIDENT. The Senator will pause for a single moment. It is impossible for the Chair to preserve order without the concurrence of the vast assembly in the galleries. He trusts that there will be no occasion to make a reference to this subject again. 

Mr. TOOMBS. I hope that the Presiding Officer will place officers in the galleries, and put a stop to this thing. It is a very bad sign of the times. It is unbecoming this body, or the deliberations of any free people. 

The VICE PRESIDENT. The Presiding Officer has not the force at his command to place officers in the gallery. 

Mr. DOUGLAS. If the Senate will pardon me for a digression an instant, I was about to suggest to the Presiding Officer that I thought it would be necessary to place officers in different parts of the gallery, with instructions that if they saw any person giving any signs of approbation or disapprobation calculated to disturb our proceedings, they should instantly put the guilty person out of the gallery. 

The VICE PRESIDENT. That has been done. 

Mr. DOUGLAS. I was remarking that I considered this outrage at Harper’s Ferry as the logical, natural consequence of the teachings and doctrines of the Republican party. I am not making this statement for the purpose of crimination or partisan effect. I desire to call the attention of members of that party to a reconsideration of the doctrines that they are in the habit of enforcing, with a view to a fair judgment whether they do not lead directly to those consequences on the part of those deluded persons who think that all they say is meant in real earnest and ought to be carried out. The great principle that underlies the organization of the Republican party is violent, irreconcilable, eternal warfare upon the institution of American slavery, with the view of its ultimate extinction throughout the land; sectional war is to be waged until the cotton fields of the South shall be cultivated by free labor, or the rye fields of New York and Massachusetts shall be cultivated by slave labor. In furtherance of this article of their creed, you find their political organization, not only sectional in its location, but one whose vitality consists in appeals to northern passion, northern prejudice, northern ambition against southern States, southern institutions, and southern people. I have had some experience in fighting this element within the last few years, and I find that the source of their power consists in exciting the prejudices and the passions of the northern section against those of the southern section. They not only attempt to excite the North against the South, but they invite the South to assail and abuse and traduce the North. Southern abuse, by violent men, of northern statesmen and the northern people, is essential to the triumph of the Republican cause. Hence, the course of argument which we have to meet is not only repelling the appeals to northern passion and prejudice, but we have to encounter their appeals to southern men to assail us, in order that they may justify their assaults upon the plea of self-defense. 

Sir, when I returned home in 1858 for the purpose of canvassing Illinois, with a view to a re-election, I had to meet this issue of the “irrepressible conflict.” It is true that the Senator from New York had not then made his Rochester speech, and did not for four months after- wards. It is true that he had not given the doctrine that precise name and form; but the principle was in existence, and had been proclaimed by the ablest and the most clear-headed men of the party. I will call your attention, sir, to a single passage from a speech, to show the language in which this doctrine was stated in Illinois before it received the name of the “irrepressible conflict.” The Republican party assembled in State convention in June, 1858, in Illinois, and unanimously adopted Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for United States Senator. Mr. Lincoln appeared before the convention, accepted the nomination, and made a speech—which had been previously written and agreed to in caucus by most of the leaders of the party. I will read a single extract from that speech: 

“In my opinion, it [the slavery agitation] will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed.  ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this government cannot endure permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States—old as well as new, North as well as South.” 

Sir, the moment I landed upon the soil of Illinois, at a vast gathering of many thousands of my constituents to welcome me home, I read that passage, and took direct issue with the doctrine contained in it as being revolutionary and treasonable, and inconsistent with the per- petuity of this Republic. That is not merely the individual opinion of Mr. Lincoln ; nor is it the individual opinion merely of the Senator from Now York, who four months afterwards asserted the same doctrine in different language ; but, so far as I know, it is the general opinion of the. members of the Abolition or Republican party. They tell the people of the North that unless they rally as one man under a sectional banner, and make war upon the South with a view to the ultimate extinction of slavery, slavery will overrun the whole North and fasten itself upon all the free States They then tell the South, unless you rally as one man, binding the whole southern people into a sectional party, and establish slavery all over the free States, the inevitable consequence will be that we shall abolish it in the slaveholding States. The same doctrine is held by the Senator from New York in his Rochester speech. He tells us that the States must all become free, or all become slave; that the South, in other words, must conquer and subdue the North, or the North must triumph over the South and drive slavery from within its limits. 

Mr. President, in order to show that I have not misinterpreted the position of the Senator from New York, in notifying the South that, if they wish to maintain slavery within their limits, they must also fasten it upon the northern States, I will read an extract from his Rochester speech: 

“It is an Irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces; and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either entirely a slaveholding nation or entirely a free-labor nation. Either the cotton and rice fields of South Carolina, and the sugar plantations of Louisiana, will ultimately be tilled by free labor, and Charleston and New Orleans become marts for legitimate merchandise alone, or else the rye fields and wheat fields of Massachusetts and New York must again be surrendered by their farmers to slave culture and to the production of slaves, and Boston and New York become once more markets for trade in the bodies and souls of men.” 

Thus, sir, you perceive that the theory of the Republican party is, that there is a conflict between two different systems of institutions, in the respective classes of States—not a conflict in the same State, but an irrepressible conflict between the free States and the slave States; and they argue that these two systems of States cannot permanently exist in the game Union ; that the sectional warfare must continue to rage and increase with increasing fury until the free States shall surrender, or the slave States shall be subdued. Hence, while they appeal to the passions of our own sections, their object is to alarm the people of the other section, and drive them to madness, with the hope that they will invade our rights as an excuse for some of our people to carry on aggressions upon their rights. I appeal to the candor of Senators whether this is not a fair exposition of the tendency of the doctrines proclaimed by the Republican party. The creed of that party is founded upon the theory that, because slavery is not desirable in our States, it is not desirable anywhere; because free labor is a good thing with us, it must be the best thing everywhere. In other words, the creed of their party rests upon the theory that there must be uniformity in the domestic -institutions and internal polity of the several States of this Union. There, in my opinion, is the fundamental error upon which their whole system rests. In the Illinois canvass I asserted, and now repeat, that uniformity in the domestic institutions of the different States is neither possible nor desirable. That is the very issue upon which I conducted the canvass at home, and it is the question which I desire to present to the Senate. I repeat, that uniformity in the domestic institutions of the different States is neither possible nor desirable. 

Was such the doctrine of the framers of the Constitution? I wish the country to bear in mind that when the-Constitution was adopted the Union consisted of thirteen States, twelve of which were slaveholding States, and one a free State. Suppose this doctrine of uniformity, on the slavery question had prevailed in the Federal convention, do the gentlemen on that side of the House think that freedom would have triumphed over slavery? Do they imagine that the one free State would have outvoted the twelve slaveholding States, and thus have abolished slavery throughout the land by a constitutional provision? On the contrary, if the test had then been made, if this doctrine of uniformity on the slavery question had then been proclaimed and believed in, with the twelve slaveholding States against one free State, would it not have resulted in a constitutional provision fastening slavery irrevocably upon every inch of American soil, North as well as South? Was it quite fair in those days for the friends of free institutions to claim that the Federal Government must not touch the question, but must leave the people of each State to do as they pleased, until under the operation of that principle they secured the majority, and then wield that majority to abolish slavery in the’ other States of the Union? 

Sir, if uniformity in respect to domestic institutions had been deemed desirable when the Constitution was adopted, there was another mode by which it could have been obtained. The natural mode of obtaining uniformity was to have blotted out the State governments, to have abolished the State Legislatures, to have conferred upon Congress legislative power over the municipal and domestic concerns of the people of all the States, as well as upon Federal questions affecting the whole Union; and if this doctrine of uniformity had been entertained and favored by the framers of the Constitution, such would have been the result. But, sir, the framers of that instrument knew at that day, as well as we now know, that in a country as broad as this, with so great a variety of climate, of soil, and of production, there must necessarily be a corresponding diversity of institutions and domestic regulations,  adapted to the wants and necessities of each locality. The framers of the Constitution knew that the laws and institutions which were well adapted to the mountains and valleys of New England were ill suited to the rice plantations and cotton fields of the Carolinas. They knew that our liberties depended upon reserving the right to the people of each State to make their own laws and establish their own institutions, and control them at pleasure, without interference from the Federal Government, or from any other State or Territory, or any foreign country. The Constitution, therefore, was based, and the Union was founded, on the principle of dissimilarity in the domestic institutions and internal polity of the several States. The Union was founded on the theory that each State had peculiar interests, requiring peculiar legislation, and peculiar institutions, different and distinct from every other State. The Union rests on the theory that no two States would be precisely alike in their domestic policy and institutions. 

Hence, I assert that this doctrine of uniformity in the domestic institutions of the different States is repugnant to the Constitution, subversive of the principles upon which the Union was based, revolutionary in its character, and leading directly to despotism if it is ever established. Uniformity in local and domestic affairs in a country of great extent is despotism always. Show me centralism prescribing uniformity from the capital to all of its provinces in their local and domestic concerns, and I will show you a despotism as odious and as insufferable as that of Austria or of Naples. Dissimilarity is the principle upon which the Union rests. It is founded upon the idea that each State must necessarily require different regulations; that no two States have precisely the same interests, and hence do not need precisely the same laws; and you cannot account for this confederation of States upon any other principle. 

Then, sir, what becomes of this doctrine that slavery must be established in all the States or prohibited in all the States? If we only conform to the principles upon which the Federal Union was formed, there can be no conflict. It is only necessary to recognize the right of the people of every State to have just such institutions as they please, without consulting your wishes, your views, or your prejudices, and there can be no conflict. 

And, sir, inasmuch as the Constitution of the United States confers upon Congress the power coupled with the duty of protecting each State against external aggression, and inasmuch as that includes the power of suppressing and punishing conspiracies in one State against the institutions, property, people, or government of every other State, I desire to carry out that power vigorously. Sir, give us such a law as the Constitution contemplates and authorizes, and I will show the Senator from New York that there is a constitutional mode of repressing the “irrepressible conflict.” I will open the prison doors to allow conspirators against the peace of the Republic and the domestic tranquillity of our States to select their cells wherein to drag out a miserable life as a punishment for their crimes against the peace of society. 

Can any man say to us that, although this outrage has been perpetrated at Harper’s Ferry, there is no danger of its recurrence? Sir, is not the Republican party still embodied, organized, confident of success, and defiant in its pretensions? Does it not now hold and proclaim the same creed that it did before this invasion? It is true that most of its representatives here disavow the acts of John Brown ay Harper’s Ferry. I am glad that they do so; I am rejoiced that they have gone thus far; out I must be permitted to say to them that it’s not sufficient that they disavow the act, unless they also repudiate and denounce the doctrines and teachings which produced the act. Those doctrines remain the same; those teachings are being poured into the minds of men throughout the country by means of speeches and pamphlets and books, and through partisan presses. The causes that produced the Harper’s Ferry invasion are now in active operation. Is it true that the people of all the border States are required by the Constitution to have their hands tied, without the power of self-defense, and remain patient under a threatened invasion in the day or in the night? Can you expect people to be patient, when they dare not lie down to sleep at night without first stationing sentinels around their houses to see if a band of marauders and murderers are not approaching with torch and pistol? Sir, it requires more patience than freemen ever should cultivate, to submit to constant annoyance, irritation, and apprehension. If we expect to preserve this Union, we must remedy, within the Union and in obedience to the Constitution, every evil for which disunion would furnish a remedy. If the Federal Government fails to act, either from choice or from an apprehension of the want of power, it cannot be expected that the States will be content to remain unprotected. 

Then, sir, I see no hope of peace, of fraternity, of good feeling between the different portions of the United States, except by bringing to bear the power of the Federal Government to the extent authorized by the Constitution— to protect the people of all the Slates against any external violence or aggression. I repeat, that if the theory of the Constitution shall be carried out by conceding the right of the people of every Slate to have just such institutions as they choose, there cannot be a conflict, much less an ” irrepressible conflict,” between the free and the slaveholding Slates. 

Mr. President, the mode of preserving peace is plain. This system of sectional warfare must cease The Constitution has given the power, and all we ask of Congress is to give the means, and we, by indictments and convictions in the Federal courts of our several States, will make such examples of the leaders of these conspiracies as will strike terror into the hearts of the others, and there will be an end of this crusade Sir, you must check it by crushing out the conspiracy, the combination, and then there can be safety. Then we shall be able to restore that spirit of fraternity which inspired our revolutionary fathers upon every battle-field; which presided over the deliberations of the convention that framed the Constitution and filled the hearts of the people who ratified it. Then we shall be able to demonstrate to you that there is no evil unredressed in the Union for which disunion would furnish a remedy. Then, sir, let us execute the Constitution in the spirit in which it was made. Let Congress pass all the laws necessary and proper to give full and complete effect to every guaranty of the Constitution. Let them authorize the punishment of conspiracies and combinations in any State or Territory against the property, institutions, people or government of any other State or Territory, and there will be no excuse, no desire for disunion. Then, sir, let us leave the people of every State perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way. Let each of them retain slavery just as long as it pleases, and abolish it when it chooses. Let us act upon that good old golden principle which teaches all men to mind their own business and let their neighbor’s alone. Let this be done, and this Union can endure forever as our fathers made it, composed of free and slave States, just as the people of each State may determine for themselves. 

The debate was continued by Mr. Fessenden, of Maine, to whom— Mr. DOUGLAS replied. 

Mr. President, I shall not follow the Senator from Maine through his entire speech, but simply notice such points as demand of me some reply. He does not know why I introduced my resolution; he cannot conceive any good motive for it; he thinks there must be some other motive besides the one that has been avowed. There are some men, I know, who cannot conceive that a man can be governed by a patriotic or proper motive; but it is not among that class of men that I look for those who are governed by motives of propriety. I have no impeachment to make of his motives. I brought in this resolution because I thought the time had arrived when we should have a measure of practical legislation. I had seen expressions of opinion against the power from authorities so high that I felt it my duty to bring it to the attention of the Senate. I heard that the Senator from Virginia had intimated some doubt “on the question of power, as well as of policy. Other Senators discussed the question here for weeks when I was confined to my sick bed. Was there anything unreasonable in my coming before the Senate at this time, expressing my own opinion and confining myself to the practical legislation indicated in the resolution? Nor, sir, have I in my remarks gone outside of the legitimate argument pertaining to the necessity for this legislation. I first showed that there had been a great outrage; 1 showed what I believed to be the causes that had produced the outrage, and that the causes which produced it were still in operation; and argued that, so long as the party to which the gentleman belongs remains embodied in full force, those causes will still threaten the country. That was all. 

The Senator from Maine thinks he will vote for the bill that will be proposed to carry out the objects referred to in my resolution. Sir, whenever that Senator and his associates on the other side of the Chamber will record their votes for a bill of the character described in my resolution and speech, I shall congratulate the country upon the progress they are making to- wards sound principles. Whenever he and his associates will make it a felony for two or more men to conspire to run oil fugitive slaves, and punish the conspirators by confinement in the penitentiary, I shall consider that wonderful changes have taken place in this country. I tell the Senator that it is the general tone of sentiment in all those sections of the country where the Republican party predominate, so far as I know, not only not to deem it a crime to rescue a fugitive slave, but to raise mobs to aid in the rescue. He talks about slandering the Republican party when we intimate that they are making a warfare upon the rights guarantied by the Constitution. Sir, where, in the towns and cities with Republican majorities, can you execute the fugitive slave law? Is it in the town where the Senator from New York resides? Do you not remember the Jerry rescuers? Is it at Oberlin, where the mob was raised that made the rescue last year and produced the riot? 

Mr. FESSENDEN. I stated, and I believe it was all said on the matter, that I was dis- posed to agree with the Senator in his views as to his question of power; and that, with my views, I should go very far—far enough to accomplish the purpose-to prevent the forming of conspiracies in one State to attack another. I did not understand the Senator to say any- thing about conspiracies to run away with slaves; nor did I understand him to say anything about the fugitive slave law. How I should act in reference to that matter I do not know; I will meet it when it comes; but I ask the Senator whether that was a part of his first speech, or whether it is a part of his reply? 

Mr. DOUGLAS. The Senator will find it several times repeated in my first speech and the question asked: Why not make it a crime to form conspiracies and combinations to run off’ fugitive slaves, as well as to run off horses, or any other property? I am talking about conspiracies which are so common in all our northern States, to invade and enter, through their agents, the slave States, and seduce away slaves and run them off by the underground railroad, in order to send them to Canada. It is these conspiracies to perpetrate crime with impunity, that keep up the irritation. John Brown could boast, in a public lecture in Cleveland, that he and his band had been engaged all the winter in stealing horses and running them off from the slaveholders in Missouri, and that the livery stables were then filled with stolen horses, and yet the conspiracy to do it could not be punished. 

Sir, I desire a law that will make it a crime, punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary, after conviction in the United States court, to make a conspiracy in one State, against the people, property, government, or institutions, of another. Then we shall get at the root of the evil. I have no doubt that gentlemen on the other side will vote for a law which pretends to comply with the guarantees of the Constitution, without carrying any force or efficiency in its provisions. I have heard men abuse the fugitive slave law, and express their willingness to vote for amendments ; but when you came to the amendments which they desired to adopt, you found they were such as would never return a fugitive to his master. They would go for any fugitive slave law that had a hole in it big enough to let the negro drop through and escape; but none that would comply with the obligations of the Constitution. So we shall find that side of the Chamber voting for a law that will, in terms, disapprove of unlawful expeditions against neighboring States, without being efficient in affording protection. 

But the Senator says it is a part of the policy of the northern Democracy to represent the Republicans as being hostile to southern institutions. Sir, it is a part of the policy of the northern Democracy, as well as their duty, to speak the truth on that subject. I did not suppose that any man would have the audacity to arraign a brother Senator here for representing the Republican party as dealing in denunciation and insult of the institutions of the South. Look to your Philadelphia platform, where you assert the sovereign power of Congress over the Territories for their government, and demand that it shall be exerted against those twin relics of barbarism—polygamy and slavery. 

Mr. FESSENDEN. Let me suggest to the Senator that he is entirely changing the issue between him and me. I did not desire to say, and I did not say, that the Republicans of the North were not unfriendly to the institutions of slavery. I admitted myself that 1 was; I trust they all are. It is not in that respect that I accuse the Democracy of the North of misrepresenting the position of the Republican party. It was in representing that they desired to interfere with the institution in the southern States. That is the ground; that they were opposed to southern rights. That they do not think well of slavery as it exists in this country, I do not undertake to deny. I do not know that southern gentlemen expect us to be friendly to it. I apprehend that they would not think very well of us if we pretended to be friendly to it. If we were friendly to the institution, we should try to adopt, we certainly should not oppose it; but what I charged upon the northern Democracy was, that they misrepresented our position. That we were opposed to the extension of slavery over free territory,, that we called it a relic of barbarism, I admit; but I do deny that the Republican party, or the Republicans generally, have ever exhibited a desire or made a movement towards interfering with the right of southern men, the States, or any constitutional rights that they have anywhere. That is the charge I made. 

Mr. DOUGLAS. Mr. President, for what purpose does the Republican party appeal to northern passions and northern prejudices against southern institutions and the southern people, unless it is to operate upon those institutions? They represent southern institutions as no better than polygamy; the slaveholder as no better than the polygamist; and complain that we should intimate that they did not like to associate with the slaveholder any better than with the polygamist. I can see a monstrous lowering of the flag in the Senator’s speech and explanation. I would respect the concession, if the fact was acknowledged. This thing of shrinking from positions that every northern man knows to be true, and arraigning men for slander for telling the truth to them 

Mr. FESSENDEN. I know it not to be true. Mr. 

DOUGLAS. You may know it down in Maine, but you do not know it in Illinois. I have always noted that those men who were so far off from the slave States that they did not know anything about them, are most anxious for the fate of the poor slave. Those men who are so far off that they do not know what a negro is, are distressed to death about the condition of the poor negro. [Laughter.] But, sir, go into the border States, where we associate across the line, where the civilities of society are constantly interchanged; where we trade with each other, and have social and commercial intercourse, and there you will find them standing by each other like a band of brothers. Take southern Illinois, southern Indiana, southern Ohio, and that part of Pennsylvania bordering on Maryland, and there you will find social intercourse, commercial intercourse, good feeling; because those people know the condition of the slave on the opposite side of the line; but just in proportion as you recede from the slave States, just in proportion as the people are ignorant of the facts, just in that’ pro- portion party leaders can impose on their sympathies and honest prejudices. 

Sir, I know it is the habit of the Republican party, as a party, wherever I have met them, to make the warfare in such a way as to try to rally the whole North on sectional grounds against the South I know that is to be the issue, and it is proven by the speech of the Senator from New York, which I quoted before, and that of Mr. Lincoln, so far as they are authority. I happen to have those speeches before me. The Senator from Maine has said that neither of these speeches justified the conclusion that they asserted that the free States and the slave States cannot coexist permanently in the same Republic. Let us see whether they do or not. Mr. Lincoln says: 

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this Government cannot endure permanently, half slave and half free.”

Then he goes on to say they must all be one thing or all the other, or else the Union cannot endure. What is the meaning of that language, unless it is that the Union cannot permanently exist, half slave and half free—that it must all become one thing or all become the other? That is the declaration. The declaration is that the North must combine as a sectional party, and carry on the agitation so fiercely, up to the very borders of the slaveholding States, that the master dare not sleep at night for fear that the robbers, the John Browns, will come and set his house on fire, and murder the women and children before morning. It is to surround the slaveholding States by a cordon of free States—to use the language of the Senator; to hem them in, in order that you may smother them out. The Senator avowed, in his speech to-day, their object to be to hem in the slave States, in order that slavery may die out. How die out? Confine it to its present limits; let the ratio of increase go on by the laws of nature; and just in proportion as the lands in the slaveholding States wear out, the negroes increase, and you will soon reach that point where the soil will not produce enough to feed the slaves; then hem them in and let them starve out—let them die out by starvation. That is the policy—hem them in, and starve them out. Do as the French did in Algeria, when the Arabs took to the caverns—smoke them out, by making fires at the mouths of the caverns, and keep them burning until they die The policy is to keep up this agitation along the line; make slave property insecure in the border States; keep the master constantly in apprehension of assault, till he will consent to abandon his native country, leaving his slaves behind him, or to remove them further South. If you can force Kentucky thus to abolish slavery, you make Tennessee the border State, and begin the same operation upon her. 

But, sir, let us see whether the Senator from New York did not proclaim the doctrine that free States and slave States cannot permanently exist in the same Republic. He said: 

“It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces; and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either a slaveholding notion or entirely a free-labor nation.” 

The opposing conflict is between the States; the Union cannot remain as it now is, part free and part slave. The conflict between free States and slave States must go on until there is not a slave State left, or until they are all slave States. That is the declaration of the Senator from New York. The Senator from Maine tried to make the Senate believe that I had misrepresented the Senator from New York and Mr. Lincoln, of Illinois, in stating that they referred to a conflict between States. He said that all they meant was that it was a conflict between free labor and slave labor in the same State. Now, sir, let me submit to that man’s candor whether he will insist on that position. They both say the contest will go on until the States become all free or all slave. Then, when is the contest going to end? When they become all slave? Will there not be the same conflict between free labor and slave labor, after every State has become a slave State, that there is now? If that was the meaning, would the conflict between slave labor and free labor cease even when every State had become slaveholding? Have not all the slaveholding States a large number of free laborers within their limits; and if there is an irrepressible conflict between free labor and slave labor, will you remove that conflict by making the States all slave? Yet, the Senator from New York says that they must become all slave or all free before the conflict ceases. Sir, that shows that the Senator from New York meant what I represented him as meaning. It shows that a man who knows the meaning of words, and has the heart to express them as they read, cannot fail to know that that was the meaning of those Senators. The boldness with which a charge of misrepresentation may be made in this body will not give character to it when it is contradicted by the facts. I dislike to have to repel these charges of unfairness and misrepresentation ; yet the Senator began with a series of innuendoes, with a series of complaints of misrepresentation, showing that he was afraid to meet the real issues of his party, and would make up for that by personal assaults and innuendoes against the opposite party. 

He goes back to a speech of mine in opposition to the Lecompton constitution in which I said that if you would send that constitution back and let the people of Kansas vote for or against it, if they voted for a free State or a slave State I would go for it without caring whether they voted slavery up or down. He thinks it is a great charge against me that I do not care whether the people vote it up or vote it down. 

Mr. FESSENDEN. The Senator is mistaken as to the speech to which I referred. It was one of his speeches made on his southern tour that I referred to. 

Mr. DOUGLAS. The idea is taken from a speech in the Senate—the first speech I made against the Lecompton constitution. It was quoted all over Illinois by Mr. Lincoln in the canvass, and I repeated the sentiment each time it was quoted against me, and repeated it in the South as well as the North. I say this: if the people of Kansas want a slave State, it is their business and not mine ; if they want a free State, they have a right to have it; and hence, I do not care, so far as regards my action, whether they make it free State or not; it is none of my business. But the Senator says he does care, he has a preference between freedom and slavery. How long would this preference last if he was a sugar plan- ter in Louisiana residing on his estate, instead of living in Maine? Sir, I hold the doctrine that a wise statesman will adapt his laws to the wants, conditions, and interests of the people to be governed by them. Slavery may be very essential in one climate and totally useless in another. If I were a citizen of Louisiana I would vote for retaining and maintaining slavery, because I believe the good of that people would require it. As a citizen of Illinois I am utterly opposed to it, because our interests would not be promoted by it. I should like to see the Abolitionist who would go and live in a southern country that would not get over his scruples very soon and have a plantation as quickly as ho could get the money to buy it. 

I have said and repeat that this question of slavery is one of climate, of political economy, of self-interest, not a question of legislation. Wherever the climate, the soil, the health of the country are such that it cannot be cultivated by white labor, you will have African labor, and compulsory labor at that. Wherever white labor can be employed cheapest and most profitably, there African labor will retire and white labor will take its place. 

You cannot force slavery by all the acts of Congress you may make on one inch of territory against the will of the people, and you cannot by any law you can make keep it out from one inch of American territory where the people want it. You tried it in Illinois. By the ordinance of 1787, slavery was prohibited, and yet our people, believing that slavery would be profitable to them, established hereditary servitude in the Territory by territorial legislation, in defiance of your Federal ordinance. We maintained slavery there just so long as Congress said we should not have it, and we abolished it at just the moment you recognized us as a State, with the right to do as we pleased. When we established it, it was on the supposition that it was for our interest to do so. When we abolished it, we did so because experience proved that it was not our interest to have it. I hold that slavery is a question of political economy, to be-determined by climate, by soil, by production, by self-interest, and hence the people to be affected by it are the most impartial jury to try the fact whether their interest requires them to have it or not. 

But the Senator thinks it is a great crime for me to say that I do not care whether they have it or not. I care just this far: I want every people to have that kind of government, that system of laws, that class of institutions, which will best promote their welfare, and I want them to decide for themselves ; and so that they decide it to suit themselves, I am satisfied, without stopping to inquire or caring which way they decide it. That is what I mean by that declaration, and I am ready to stand by it. 

The Senator has made the discovery—I suppose it is very new, for he would not repeat anything that was old, after calling me to account for expressing an idea that had been heard of before—that I reopened the agitation by bringing in the Nebraska bill in 1854; and he tries to put the responsibility of the crimes perpetrated by his political friends, and in violation of the law, upon the provisions of the law itself. We passed a bill to allow the people of Kansas to form and regulate their own institutions to suit themselves. No sooner had we placed that law on the statute-book than his political friends formed conspiracies and combinations in the different New England States to import a set of desperadoes into Kansas to control the elections and the institutions of that country in fraud of the law of Congress. 

Sir, I desire to make the legislation broad enough to reach conspiracies and combinations of that kind; and I would also include combinations and conspiracies on the other side. My object is to establish firmly the doctrine that each State is to do its own voting, establish its own institutions, make its own laws without interference, directly or indirectly, from any outside power. The gentleman says that is squatter sovereignty. Call it squatter sovereignty, call it popular sovereignty, call it what you please; it is the great principle of self- government on which this Union was formed, and by the preservation of which alone can it be maintained. It is the right of the people of every State to govern themselves and make their own laws, and be protected from outside violence or interference, directly or indirectly. Sir, I confess the object of the legislation I contemplate is to put down this outside interference; it is to repress this ” irrepressible conflict;” it is to bring the Government back to the true principles of the Constitution, and let each people in this Union rest secure in the enjoyment of domestic tranquillity without apprehension from neighboring States. I will not occupy further time. 

Motion on January 24th to postpone taking up the resolution.  Senator Brown [of Mississippi?] moved so since the resolution called for “the introduction of a bill which is now before the proper committee” [Judiciary] and therefore the “subject of the resolution is disposed of; and, hence, it may as well be laid aside”.  Motion approved by voice vote (no roll call).  No bill appears to be reported from the committee on this matter.


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