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THE PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE AND THE SLAVERY QUESTION.

SPEECH OF HON. I. WASHBURN, OF MAINE.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, DECEMBER 10, 1856.

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Mr. WASHBURN, of Maine, said:

Mr. SPEAKER: I am not inclined to favor the Constitution, framed and adopted by our fathers, and proposition before the House to print an unusu-ings it has conferred, the steady support and grateful

ally large number of copies of this message. The success of the amendment to the motion of the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. CAMPBELL] would be regarded, not unfairly perhaps, as an endorsement by the House of the contents of that extraordinary paper. I propose to state briefly some of the reasons which counsel me not to be a party to such endorsement. The message opens with studied and calumnious misrepresentations of the purposes of a great, growing, and patriotic party, soon to be the dominant party in the Re- | public; it contains charges against the people of the free States of unfriendly designs and aggressions, running through many years, upon the people of the slave States, and which I believe to be without the slightest foundation in fact; it is full of sophistries and special pleadings, out of place in what should be a respectful and dignified State paper; finally and chiefly, it proclaims doctrines which I must regard as anti-republican and unconstitutional, at war with the theory of our system and the genius of our institutions.

The President says:

"Protected by the laws and usages of the Government they assail, associations have been formed in some of the States, of individuals, who, pretending to seek only to prevent the spread of the institution of Slavery into the present or future inchoate States of the Union, are really inflamed with desire to change the domestic institutions of existing States."

It is not difficult to understand to whom the President refers in this extract. The Republican party pretend to seek only to prevent the spread of Slavery into the present inchoate or future inchoate States of the Union-and this, it is not denied, is the party to which he alludes; but while pretending this, and no more, he alleges that its members are really inflamed with a desire to change the domestic institutions of existing States or, in other words, to abolish Slavery in the States in which it exists. The Republicans deny and have ever denied this imputation. They seek only to do that for which they have con. stitutional warrant, and they know and admit that they have no right to interfere with Slavery in the States. But the President tells them and the

do not participate with them in their assaults upon the claiming, for the privileges it has secured and the blessreverence of their children. They seek an object which they well know to be a revolutionary one."

They seek, says this flippant libeller, to revolutionize, to break up, and destroy, the Government under which they live, to subvert the Constitution which claims their steady support and grateful reverence. They well know what they are about. The President does not content himself with saying that the tendency of their opin ions and actions is to revolution, but he permits himself to assert that they mean it:

"They are perfectly aware that the change in the relative condition of the white and black races in the slaveholdful authority." ing States, which they would promote, is beyond their law

They are "perfectly aware" that they are engaged in an unlawful work! The first officer in the Government must entertain a very poor opinion of a large majority of the people in eleven States of the Union, including that in which he was born and educated. They understand, too, that their object is a foreign as well as an illegal one; yet so determined are they to accomplish it, that they are even prepared to resort to the means which he found so successful in subjugating unhappy Kansas, and will push on, though their path lies "through burning cities, and ravaged fields, and slaughtered populations, and all there is most terrible in foreign, complicated with civil and servile war." With all their shamming, they are downright disunionists, for they are perfectly aware "that the first step in the attempt" to emancipate the slaves, (which the President alleges they have already taken,) "is the forcible disruption of a country embracing in its broad bosom a degree of liberty, and an amount of individual and public prosperity, to which there is no parallel in history, and substituting in its place hos tile Governments, driven at once and inevitably into mutual devastation and fratricidal carnage, brotherhood into a vast permanent camp of armed transforming the now peaceful and felicitous men, like the rival monarchies of Europe and

Asia,"

country that he knows better, and that their pre-of tences are false and hypocritical; that

To accomplish their objects, they dedicate themselves to the odious task of depreciating the Government organization which stands in their way, and of calumniating, with indiscriminate invective, not only the cinzens of par: ticular States, with whose laws they find fault, but all others of their fe low-citizens throughout the country who

If this indictment can be sustained, the history the world does not furnish the record of a people more insatiate and malignant in their wickedness than the one million four hundred thousand men who compose the Republican party of the United States. Not satisfied with destroying the Union, they would follow up this great crime by consummating the work of emancipation among

a people from whom they will have been entirely without due process of law, it becomes our duty to mainseparated. The President continues:

"Well knowing that such, and such only, are the means and the consequences of their plans and purposes. they endeavor to prepare the people of the United States for civil war, by doing everything in their power to deprive the Constitution and the laws of moral authority, and to undermine the fabric of the Union by appeals to passion and sectional prejudice, by indoctrinating its people with reciprocal haired, and by educating them to stand face to face as enemies, rather than shoulder to shoulder as friends."

tain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it, to prevent the establishment of Slavery in the Territories of the United States by positive legislation prohibiting its existence therein. And we deny the authority of Congress, of a Territorial Legislature, of any individual or association of individuals, to give legal existence to Slavery in any Territory of the United States, while the present Constitution shall be maintained.

"3. Resolved, That the Constitution confers upon Con gress sovereign power over the Territories of the United States, for their government, and that in the exercise of this power it is both the right and the duty of Congress to prohibit in its Territories those twin relics of barbarism, Polygamy and Slavery "

I would comment upon this extract, did I not feel my utter inability to do justice to the subject. Of course, sir, these charges are untrue. Here, sir, you find that the Republican party I say of course, because it is morally impossible resolve that they mean to maintain the printhat they should be well founded. But aside ciples of the Declaration of Independence and of from this, their want of truth can be established the Constitution, and that "the rights of the by evidence of the strongest character that can States, and the Union of the States, shall be prebe adduced in negation of any groundless charge. served." In the face of this declaration, the Mr. Speaker, where ought candid and just men President informs Congress that they intend to to go, to find the views and purposes of the Repub-trample upon the rights of the States, and destroy lican party? Where, if not to their platform of the Union. principles and duties? And have not we, who They assert that it is the duty of the American are members of that party, a right to claim that people "to prevent the establishment of Slavery we shall be judged by that, in the same manner in the Territories of the United States, by posthat other parties are tried by their organic dec-itive legislation prohibiting its existence therein;" larations and platforms? The Republicans are and they deny the authority of Congress, of a contented to judge the Democratic party by the Territorial Legislature, of individuals or associplatform erected at Cincinnati, and they insistations, to give legal existence to Slavery in any that their party shall be tested by that framed at Territory of the United States, while the present Philadelphia. But the President charges upon Constitution shall be maintained. They declare us opinions and aims the very reverse of those that it is the right and duty of Congress, under contained in that platform. He assumes that we the Constitution, to prohibit in the Territories. are guilty; that our purposes are criminal; and those twin relics of barbarism, Polygamy and regards our disavowal of such purposes, and the Slavery. Now, is there anything in all these deliberate and solemn declarations of our real averments and denials like inequality or injusintentions, as false and insincere-the shams of tice-that looks to sectionalism or disunion? It a criminal. It has been said that men are unable will be perceived that the leading, distinguishing to ascribe virtues to others, of which they have principle of the Republican party, upon the genno conception themselves. It is not impossible eral question of Slavery, is folded in the doctrine that the unprejudiced reader of the message may that it is the right and the duty of the General think that there is a basis of truth in the remark. Government to prevent the extension of Slavery We claim that our intentions and objects are to into free territory. If this be treason, Heaven be ascertained by reference to the platform care-help us! We are all traitors! fully constructed by a Convention of delegates from some twenty States of the Union, repre senting as much intelligence, probity, and patriotism, as any Convention that ever assembled in this country. I will read that platform, so far as it relates to the general question of Slavery; it is as follows:

Not only are the principles and purposes of the Republican party fully and clearly expressed in the Philadelphia platform, but they have been repeated a thousand times by the presses and speakers of the party, and in the resolutions of local Conventions, with constant and emphatic disavowals of the wish or purpose to interfere with Slavery in the States. Why should its members alone by singled out, by the President and his party, for reproach and opprobrium? Why are promise; to the policy of the present Administration; to they more obnoxious to censure than the wise, the extension of Slavery into free territory; in favor of the great, and the good men, whose pathway the admission of Kansas as a free State; of restoring the across our political horizon, from the early mornaction of the Federal Government to the principles of Washington and Jefferson; and for the purpose of pre-ing, is luminous with similar opinions? If holdsenting candidates for the offices of President and Viceing these opinions justly exposes the Republicans

"This Convention of delegates, assembled in pursuance of a call addressed to the people of the United States, without regard to past political differences or divisions, who are opposed to the repeal of the Missouri Com

President, do

1. Resolve, That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in the Federal Cons.itution, are essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions; and that the Federal Constitution, the rights of the States, and the

Union of the States, shall be preserved.

2. Resolved. That, with our Republican fathers, we hold it to be a self-evident truth that all men are endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and that the primary object and ulterior design of our Federal Government were to secure those righis to all persons within its exclusive jurisdiction: that as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished Slavery in all our national territory, ordained that no person should be deprived of life, liberty, or property,

to the imputation of being dishonest and dangerous men, fit to be classed with the "desperate and the damned," what shall save the Father of his Country, the Author of the Declaration of Independence, and the Father of the Constitution, from being placed in the same category? Were Republican doctrines and designs more constitutional or less pernicious in 1789 or 1820 or 1848, than in 1856? They were among the axioms, the unquestionable truths, and the fixed purposes, of the Fathers; and the Republican party is but acting in the light of their examples, and carry

ing out their instructions. When its members | men as Adams, Crawford, and Calhoun, approved remember this, I trust they will be comforted, of thirty-six years ago? To the point that the and be able to bear themselves bravely and decorously against the assaults of one whose calumnies strike so far.

General Washington, in a letter to Robert Morris, makes use of the following language: "Ican only say, there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it, [Slavery) but there is only one proper and effectual mode in which it can be accomplished, and that is by legislative authority; and this, so far as my suffrage will go, shall never be wanting."

avowed principles of the Republican party-and we insist, and will insist, that no man should deny that they are its real ones-are such as we may maintain and carry out under the Constitution, I would refer the House to the decisions of the Supreme Court, which are full, clear, and decisive upon this point.

Thus have I sustained the position of the Republican party by the authority of every department of the Government, and by their acts, running through a period of sixty years from the date of its organization. I sustain them, too, by the language of the Constitution itself:

Surely this justifies the Republicans in all that they propose to accomplish; for to sincerely wish for the abolition of Slavery is inconsistent with a desire to extend it. The power of the "Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all General Government to restrain Slavery is recog-needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or nised by the act of Congress of the 7th of other property be. ong to the United States " August, 1789, which was approved by General And if, in the judgment of Congress, a "regulaWashington. In 1784, in the Congress of the tion" excluding Slavery from the territory (or Confederacy, Mr. Jefferson reported a resolution Territories) of the United States would be wise, to the effect "that after the year 1800 of the salutary, "needful"-would tend to enhance the Christian era, there should be neither Slavery value of the land as land-to create a market for nor involuntary servitude in ANY of said States, it-to encourage the settlemeat of the common otherwise than in the punishment of crime domain, and to promote the welfare of the peowhereof the said party shall have been duly con- ple emigrating thereto, and increase the wealth victed to have been personally guilty." It will and strength of the whole country-why, in the be seen that Mr. Jefferson designed to strike a name of all the canons of interpretation since the single and fatal blow to all Slavery extension. invention of language, has it not clear, express, That he did not consider the powers of the Gov-and indisputable power to make such a regulaernment, in this regard, as impaired by the Constitution, is shown by the fact that he approved, as President, many laws-some for the organization of Territorial Governments, with the Slavery restriction-involving the existence of plenary power in Congress to legislate for the Territories.

Mr. Madison, who ought to know, from his connection with the Constitution, the objects for which it was framed, and the powers it was designed to confer, has said:

“I hold it essential, in every point of view, that the General Government should have power to prevent the increase of Slavery."-MADISON PAPERS, vol. 3, p 1391.

tion?

Mr. Speaker, I have another authority to cite, in reply to the wholesale allegations by the President of criminal motives and objects on the part of the Republican party; and while I do not think so much of it as others may, I believe its introduction is fairly allowable for the use which I wish to make of it. It is the authority of the President himself. On page 6, of the pamphlet edition of his message, he says:

"I confidently believe that the great body of those who inconsiderately took this fatal step are sincerely attached to the Constitution and the Union."

What, sir! these men attached to the ConstituIs it reasonable to believe that Mr. Madison tion and the Union, who nevertheless seek an assisted in the formation of a Constitution which, object which "they well know to be revolutionas he understood it, stripped the Government of ary," and who are "perfectly aware" that they all power to prevent the extension of Slavery? can accomplish it only by means which will carry That he did not, is apparent from the official them "through burning cities," (such as Lawsanction which he felt it his duty to give to laws rence, when the agents of the President fired it,) of Congress enacted in the exercise of this author-"ravaged fields, and slaughtered populations," ity. The existence of this power was assumed and acted upon by Congress in the acts organizing the Territories of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Washington. It was in virtue of this constitutional right that the Missouri Compromise was passed in 1820; and I call the attention of the House to the fact, that the assertion has been made, and, so far as I know, never denied, that at the time of the passage of that Compromise, the President, Mr. Monroe, consulted his Cabinet upon the conEtitutionality of the measure, and that they were unanimous in deciding that it was within the constitutional power of Congresss.

Now, sir, why does the President charge the Republican party with being sectionalists and disunionists, and as seeking to revolutionize the country, when its members are only doing what | Mr. Monroe and his Cabinet, composed of such

(like those to which he may point as his handiwork on the plains of distant Kansas!) How can these men be sincerely attached to the Union, when they are seeking an object which they know must be accomplished by revolution and disunion? Sir, it is an old saying, that it is the penalty of error and falsehood to destroy themselves, and t needs no better illustration than has been furnished in his message.

Sir, all heresies-all sins of opinion, if not of practice-may be tolerated and excused, except the enormous crime of loving Liberty and hating Slavery. That is the unpardonable sin which shall not be endured, neither under this Administration nor that which is to come. Old Line Whigs-Whigs of the straightest sect; high-tariff and stiff-bauk men-those whom the Democracy have denounced for a quarter of a century as false and dangerous men, unworthy of the confi

dence of the people, though they stand covered as with a garment by their unrepented sins, have but to bow the knee to the Dagon of Slavery, and worship it as the god of their political idolatry, and they are hailed as the bright particular stars of the so-called Democratic party, put forward to places of leadership, and nominated to important offices.

Third-degree Know Nothings, in all their toggery, fresh from their fulminations against the Pope, and boarse with denouncing and deriding those who constitute, if not a majority, certainly a very large portion of the Democratic voters in free States-I mean our adopted citizens-declare that the success of Freedom in a national election is tantamount to disunion, and justifies it; and they are at once received as the willing and welcome allies and loving coadjutors of the sham Democracy.

The President says that the repeal of the Missouri Compromise has not opened a field to Slavery which was not open already to that system. "That repeal did not open to free competition of the diverse opinions and domestic institutions a field which, them; it found that field of competition already opened, without such repeal, would have been closed against in fact and in law. All the repeal did was to relieve the statute-book of an objectionable enactment, un constitu

tional in effect, and injurious in terms to a large portion

of the States."

he could by this kind of-shall I call it pettifogIs it possible that the President believes that ging?-persuade any man that the repeal of the Missouri Compromise removed no barriers to the extension of Slavery into Kansas and Nebraska? Upon this point, let me quote what the President himself has said in this message:

"An act of Congress, while it remains unrepealed, more especially if it be constitutionally valid in the judg iment of those public functionaries whose duty it is to pronounce on that point, is undoubtedly binding on the conscience of each good citizen of the Republic.

Fire-eaters and nullifiers, red with uncommon wrath, no sooner shock the ear of the civilized world with the proclamation that Slavery is a If this be true, and if it be also true that the blessing, and the very corner-stone of republican Supreme Court has decided the Missouri Cominstitutions, than they are made the oracles, law- promise to be constitutional, or, in other words, givers, and platform-builders, of the party. that the legislative power of Congress was comMr. Speaker, is it not singular that all the ag-petent to its passage, it would seem to follow that gressions and outrages, wrongs, crimes, and it was an insuperable barrier to the extension of treasons, of which the President seriously com- Slavery into those Territories. plains, should be on the part of the people of the North-the land of free schools and a free Gospel, in which it is no offence to read the Bible to the poor and lowly? To adopt the President's style of argument, I would inquire: Is it true that education leads only to error? Is it true that the Christian religion is the nursing mother of every vice and every crime? And is it not shameful that these wanton slanders, these swashing and malignant diatribes against the Northern people, should come from one who was born and educated in their midst, and who, like the cow-boys of the Revolution, can see nothing right in his own people, and nothing wrong among their opponents?

I will now call the attention of the House to some of the mis-statements of facts in regard to the alleged aggressions of the North upon the South, which I think are contained in the message. The President says:

"In the progress of constitutional inquiry and reflection, it had now at length come to be seen clearly that Congress does not possess constitutional power to impose restriction of this character upon any present or future State of the Union. In a long series of decisions, on the fullest argument, and after the most deliberate consideration, the Supreme Court of the United States had finally determined this point in every form under which the question could arise; whether as affecting public or private rights-in questions of the public domais, of religion, of Lavigation, and of servitude."

"That Compromise was repealed, and we are now called upon to adopt the new-light doctrine of the Democratic party, that Slavery is a blessing. This is the leading idea of that repeal, and the principle which Southern gentlemen will deduce from it; for, if the institution is not a blessing, they will ask, why destroy the barrier against its extension? Why remove an obstacle to the diffusion of an undoubted evil? I may be told that the restriction was unconstitutional; but, I answer, every department of the Govern ment had decided otherwise, and, besides, it was the result of a compromise binding upon the conSo this presciences of the parties who made it. tence fails; and there can be no other justification or excuse for the act than the one I have indicated that the law was immoral-that it attempted to exclude a positive blessing, a Divine institution, from a vast territory, and was an offence to God and man.

The President asks, with an air of triumph:

"Is it the fact that, in all the unsettled regions of the United States, if emigration be left free to act in this respect for itself, without legal prohibitions on either side, slave labor will spontaneously go everywhere, in pref erence to free labor? Is it tho fact, that the peculiar domestic institutions of the Southern States possess, rela tively, so much of vigor, that, wheresoever an avenue is freely open to all the world, they will penetrate, to the exclusion of those of the Northern States? Is it the fact, that the former enjoy, compared with the latter, such irresistibly superior vitality, independent of climate, soil, and all other accidental circumstances, as to be able to produce the supposed result, in spite of the assumed moral and natural obstacles to its accomplishment, and of the more numerous population of the Northern States?"

Now, so far from this assertion being correct, I understand that precisely the reverse is true, and that the Supreme Court decided in the case of the American Insurance Company vs. Canter, reported in the first volume of Peters, that Congress has full legislative power over the Territories-a power which includes the right to prohibit the existence of Slavery therein. That the Senator from Michigan [Mr. Cass] admits that there has been such a decision, is apparent from a colloquy which took place the other day between him and the Senator from Maine, [Mr. FESSEN-tempt to do so, the judicial power of the Territory DEN.]

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It is undoubtedly true, that in the absence of a restrictive law, slaves can be easily taken from Missouri into Kansas, and if, when taken there, they are held by the Courts to be property, the Territory becomes, in fact, a slave Territory. It is not a free Territory. Emigrants are not left free to act for themselves; and when they at

and the political power of the country meet them.

with the declaration, that property in slaves is ment? But, Mr. Speaker, we all know-no one protected in the Territory by the Constitution of has listened to the debates in this House during the United States. It is not an open question the last three years who is not aware-that these for the emigrant to settle for himself. The Con- terms, "equality of the States," and "equal stitution is there before him, and is against him. rights of each and all the citizens of the United There is legal prohibition on one side, as the States," are invariably used by Southern gentle.author of this message, as I will show hereafter, men as implying the constitutional existence of - contends. Although there may be twenty thou- Slavery in the Territories, or as periphrases of sand Free State men in a Territory, and but that doctrine. That these, or equivalent words, twenty slaveholders and one hundred slaves, if were used in this sense in the Cincinnati platthe former have no power under the Constitution form, will not be denied, nor will it be asserted to remove or enfranchise the slaves, the status of that they were employed in a different sense in the Territory is determined. And the fact that, the extract which I have read from the message. in absence of legal prohibitions, a few Missourians I appeal to the House, and particularly to Southcan, under the Democratic readings of the Con-ern members, for confirmation of what I now stitution, make Kansas a slave Territory in spite state. Will any gentleman deny that these terms of all the free States, has not the slightest ten-are understood to contain the dogma, that slaves dency to prove that the domestic institutions of may held under the authority of the Constitution the South have superior vigor and vitality to in all the Territories of the United States? If so, those of the North. The desire to exclude Slavery I shall be glad to hear him. from a country by legislative preventives, no The argument for this new Democratic dogma more implies the admission that it is a vigorous is as follows: "The Constitution of the United and healthy system, than the practice of vacci-States is the supreme law of the land. It guarannation commits the doctors to the theory, that a ties equality of rights to all the States, and to all man stricken with the small-pox has more power the citizens of the United States. The Terriand vigor than one in full health. Is it true, lettories are the common property of the General me ask, following the President's manner of argument, that virtue is a superior force to vice? Then, why pass laws for the suppression of the latter? Is it true that good is a mightier power in human affairs than evil? Undoubtedly; then why legislate for its protection; will it not take care of itself?

Government or of the States, and belong as much to the citizens of one State as to those of another. Now, inasmuch as the citizens of sixteen of the States, when they remove to a Territory, can hold and use therein as property whatever they owned and held as such in the States from which they emigrated, it follows that if the citiBut, Mr. Speaker, it is my chief cause of quarrel zens of the other fifteen States cannot hold and with the message, that it contains an unequivocal use as property in the Territory whatever they recognition of the extreme Southern doctrine, that owned or might have owned and used as properthe Constitution, ex proprio vigore, spreads Slaty in those State by virtue of their laws, they very over all the Territories of the United States. have not equal rights with the citizens of the The author of the message says that the peoplesixteen States. "But," it is said, "the Constituof this country have asserted in the recent election of the United States is the paramount law, tion "the constitutional equality of each and all before which all inconsistent and conflicting laws of the States of the Union, as States; they have must give way. A Territorial law or law of affirmed the constitutional equality of each and Congress prohibiting the existence of Slavery in all of the citizens of the United States, as citizens, a Territory, excludes therefrom the property of whatever their religion, wherever their birth or citizens of nearly half of the States of the Union, ⚫ their residence; they have maintained the invio-and is therefore inconsistent with the higher law lability of the constitutional rights of the different sections of the Union."

of the Constitution, which secures equal rights to all the citizens of all the States." I think I have stated fairly the Southern-and since the Cincinnati Convention I may say the Democratic-position upon this question of Slavery in the Territories. It is the misfortune of these Slavery-extensionists, South and North, that their theory has no foundation to rest upon. The constitutional underpinning does not fit the superstructure; it is a "world too wide❞ to serve that purpose.

The argument from the equal rights of the States and of the people of the States is singularly fallacious and inconsequential-indeed, its soph

When were these great and obvious truths ever disputed? The Republican party, as the President must have learned from its platform, and from the declarations of its members, contended earnestly for the equality of the States, and of all the citizens of the States, and for the maintenance of all their constitutional rights. They proclaimed everywhere, during the canvass, as they declare now, that the State of South Carolina has, in all respects, the same rights as the State of Massachusetts; that the rights of the citizens of Virginia and of New York are identical; that the former, as well as the latter, may remove into any Terri-istry is too transparent to be respectable. The tory of the United States, and when there should States and their citizens do possess equal rights be governed by the same laws. It is apparent that in and to the Territories; and the laws of the this interpretation of the rights of the States, and Territories must be such as will respect the rights of the citizens, does not include the idea or princi- of all alike. They are thus respected when the ple which the President intended to enunciate; for citizens thereof, whether born in the Territories, with what propriety could he say that that had or emigrants from free or slave States, are placed been asserted or settled, which was not an issne in upon a footing of absolute equality, both in rethe election, and which had never been con-spect to personal rights and rights to property, troverted since the foundation of the Govern- and when the same law governs all. A Territory

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