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DELIVERED IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, APRIL 7-8, 1856.
PRINTED AT THE CONGRESSIONAL GLOBE OFFICE.
The Senate, as in Committee of the Whole, having under consideration the bill to authorize the people of the Territory of Kansas to form a constitution and State government, preparatory to their admission into the Union, when they have the requisite population
[able under the temptations presented by the Kansas-Nebraska act; or, in other words, that the re→ sponsibility for all the acts of violence which have been committed or threatened rests with the Congress which passed that act. On the other hand, the majority report places the responsibility where I am disposed to place it-upon those who oper ate at a safe distance, and expose themselves to none of the dangers of the strife which they foment and promote.
Mr. GEYER said: Mr. President, my position, as the sole representative of the people of Missouri in this Chamber, will not permit me to decline a participation in a debate which has no other attractions for me. I engage in it, there fore, as a work of necessity rather than one of taste and inclination. The circumstances under which it was inaugurated indicate the purpose to make political capital out of the disturbances in Kansas, with a view to the pending elections, State and Federal. In such a controversy I could have no disposition to engage here in the Senate; but the debate has embraced questions of enduring interest, of the legislative history and power of Congress in respect to the Territories, the constitutional and political relations of the States and people of this Union towards each other, and their reciprocal obligations and duties, as well as of the events in Kansas since the organization of the government in that Territory. Upon some of these topics I intend to address the Senate, and especially on those which more immediately concern the people of Missouri.
Mr. President, the minority report undertakes to apologize for my constituents, as well as for those who engaged in the contest at the instigation or under the patronage of associations in the other States, but does it on an assumption that I cannot admit, and I feel a stronger desire to vindicate them against that apology than all else which has been said in this Chamber. I cannot agree that they have yielded to a temptation, which it is said this law presented, and the encouragement it gave to acts of violence and disorder; and that they have been unable to restrain themselves when unprovoked by assaults from another quarter; nor will I consent to accept for them a defense intended for their assailants, and which for that purpose only, regards the acts of both parties as justifiable, if not praiseworthy.
All agree that there have been disturbances in Kansas, but we disagree as to their origin, nature, and extent. The honorable Senator from New Hampshire [Mr. HALE] opened this discussion by a bold denunciation of the President of the United States as the instigator of mob violence in Kansas. This was followed by the Senator from Massachusetts, [Mr. WILSON,] the Senator from Illinois, [Mr. TRUMBULL,] and the Senator from Iowa, [Mr. HARLAN,] in an attempt to throw on the people of Western Missouri the entire responsibility for these disturbances.
In order to sustain the conclusions of the minority report, its author goes back a great distance, and brings under review "the action of Congress in relation to all those thirteen Territories" which are now States of the Union, and affirms that "it was conducted on a uniform principle to settle by a clear provision the law in relation to the subject of slavery, by which it was expressly prohibited or allowed to remain, not leaving it in any one of those cases open to controversy-that this was done under a power too clear to be doubted, and resulted in securing peace and prosperity that by the act of the 6th of March, 1820, a contract was made that Missouri should be admitted without prohibition, and slavery forever abolished in the rest of the territory ceded by France, north and west of that Statethat under this arrangement Missouri was admitted
The subject having been referred to the Committee on Territories, we have two reports. That of the minority is founded on theory, differing from all others, and affirms that the acts of all parties engaged in the disturbances were justifi
as a slaveholding State, Arkansas organized as a Territory, and slavery allowed therein, and afterwards admitted as a slaveholding State. That in 1850 a second contract was made, the slaveholding States agreeing that the organization of New Mexico and Utah as Territories without prohibition should, together with the existing laws, settle forever the whole subject-that both the contracts, called compromises, were broken and disregarded by the act of 1854-that this measure is a novel experiment, as well as a breach of faith, proclaiming an open course for a race of rivalship, provoking and encouraging a struggle for political supremacy, the necessary consequence of which was strife in the Territory organized, and in that struggle it was justifiable, and even commendable, for all persons to engage individually, or by organized associations." These propositions I
shall take leave to controvert.
The first attempt, under the Constitution, to settle, by a clear provision, the law on the subject of slavery in a Territory, was in 1819, in the case of Arkansas during the first agitation of the Missouri question. The first enactment of Congress prohibiting slavery anywhere was not in any act for the organization of a territorial government, but in the act of March 6, 1820, authorizing the people of Missouri to form a State government.
All the territory northwest of the Ohio was embraced by the ordinance of 1787, passed by the Congress of the Confederation. It contains two distinct parts: the first is an organic law for the temporary government of the whole district. The second consists of articles of compact between the original States and the people and States, in the said Territory, to provide, among other things, "for the establishment of States and permanent government therein, and for their admission to a share in the Federal councils on an equal footing with the original States." This compact, the sixth article of which prohibits slavery in the Territory, it was declared should "remain forever unalterable unless by common consent." Though the ordinance was passed without constitutional authority, it was regarded as a compact by Congress in their subsequent legislation under the Constitution. The obligation of the compact being recognized, the organization of Territories within the tract of country embraced by the ordinance was made to conform to it; that is to say, hibition, which was declared to be perpetual, was not repealed.
There was no provision settling the law on the subject of slavery in any of the acts authorizing any of the territorial governments south of the Ohio, and east of the Mississippi. Where the government was to be similar, or conform to the ordinance of 1787, the sixth article of the compact was excepted. The acts for the organization of temporary governments west of the Mississippi, prior to the year 1836, contain no provision, directly or indirectly, concerning slavery. In all these Territories east and west of the Mississippi there was no provision expressly prohibiting, or allowing slavery. All left it to be regulated by the local law, that is, non-intervention, the principle of the Kansas-Nebraska act, and of the compromise of 1850.
It appears, then, that in seven of the thirteen Territories named in the minority report, there was no provision in the organic laws settling the question of slavery, to which must be added New Mexico and Utah, making nine out of eighteen, organized before the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act, without prohibition or express recognition of slavery. It should be remembered also, that the whole of the other nine were covered either by the compact of 1787, or the so-called compromise of 1820, recognized as such by the southern States, until they were obliged to surrender all hope that it would be observed, convinced by successive repudiations that it never had been regarded by the other parties as obligatory on them. It is worthy of remark, also, that Congress did not undertake, nor did the southern States ever ask them, to establish, or even to recognize, slavery by law anywhere.
But it is enough that, in all the Territories where slavery actually existed to any considerable or general extent, and in at least two where it did not in fact exist-making nine out of eighteen -there was no interference with the subject by Congress. So that the act of 1854 is not "a novel experiment."
The legislation of Congress in relation to the Territories is claimed in the minority report to "furnish a practical cotemporaneous construction" of the Constitution, establishing the power of Congress in the Territories on the subject of slavery to be absolute and unlimited, and that, beyond the possibility of doubt or apology for skepticism. This position the honorable Senator from Vermont [Mr. COLLAMER] has attempted to reinforce in his speech, and, as I entertain a very different opinion, I propose to examine the precedents upon which he relies.
The ordinance of 1787 embraced all the territory northwest of the Ohio; and, although it was recognized by Congress after the adoption of the Constitution in the acts organizing territorial governments in that district of country, it was not reenacted. The new government was bound by all the contracts of the Confederation. That obligation, in respect to the ordinance of 1787, was recognized by Congress in the acts referred to, which assented to the organic law already in force, but did not attempt to reenact or repudiate any "article of the compact between the original States and the people and States in the Territory. These acts of Congress were passed in the execution of a contract of recognized obligation, not under an independent power of legislation. And here I take occasion to remark, that what occurred in respect to the recognition of the compact of 1787 occurred also in respect to the supposed compromises at a later period. It appears that southern representatives, when they suppose that they have made a contract, do not seek for excuses to escape from its obligation, (although it be not legal,) while it is observed by other parties. Although the original compact was without constitutional authority, they did not scrutinize the powers of the Confederation in order to contest the legal validity of the sixth article, or any other of the compact or organic law contained in the ordinance; it was enough for them
was actually existing to any considerable or general extent," as in Arkansas, "to suffer it to remain." In that case there was a well-sustained effort on the part of the northern Representatives to impose a prohibition, and finally there was a tie vote-eighty-eight to eighty-eight. Arkansas was saved by the casting vote of the Speaker. A majority of all the Representatives of every nonslaveholding State, with perhaps one exception, in favor of the prohibition.* This, according to the minority report, was a violation of principle by every State, a majority of whose Representatives voted to prohibit slavery in Arkansas; and the decision against the prohibition must be regarded as a construction of the Constitution against the power claimed.
The eighth section of the act of 1820, called the Missouri compromise, was not passed in the execution of any power to organize territorial governments. It is either a compact, or an ordinary provision of law; if the former, it is not a precedent for any act prohibiting slavery in the Territories under the Constitution, independent of a compact. As an ordinary act of Congress, it depends for its effect wholly on the Constitution. As a compact it may not be legally obligatory, but it imposes a moral obligation on the parties independent of the law. The act in question is a precedent only as an ordinary act of legislation, passed, as the Senator from Vermont says, by the southern States, and being repealed, or, more properly, declared "inoperative and void" by a constitutional act of Congress, it ceases to be a precedent of any authority.
to know that a compact was intended, and they recognized the moral obligation to observe it. So, for thirty years after the Missouri compromise so-called, and until they lost all hope of its recognition or observance by the other parties, they adhered to it with unwavering fidelity.
1 passed over the act of 2d August, 1789, because, although the honorable Senator from New Hampshire claimed it to be a reenactment of the ordinance of 1787, the proposition was abund-voted antly refuted by the honorable Senator from Georgia, [Mr. TooMBS,] whose interpretation of the act I understood to be assented to by the honorable Senator from Iowa, [Mr. HARLAN;] and that is, to adapt the ordinance to the present Constitution by transferring to the executive department of the new government the power of appointing and removing officers vested by the ordinance of the Congress of the Confederation, and to provide for the case of vacancies in the office of Governor. This is all that was intended or accomplished by the act.
The honorable Senator from Vermont [Mr. COLLAMER] endeavors to sustain his proposition, that the disputed power over slavery in the Territories is established by the cotemporaneous construction of the Constitution, by referring to the act of 1798, providing for the government of Mississippi Territory, the first instituting a territorial government independent of any compact, and in territory over which the United States exercised jurisdiction, though Georgia claimed adversely. That act did not purport to prohibit or regulate slavery in the Territory, but left it to the local law by excluding the sixth article of the ordinance of 1787. The assertion of a general power over the subject is inferred by the Senator from a clause prohibiting the introduction of slaves from any place "without the United States." Was not the honorable Senator aware that this clause depends on the power to regulate commerce, to prohibit the foreign slave trade, except in States existing at the adoption of the Constitution, prior to 1808, and everywhere in the United States afterwards?
There was an attempt to abolish slavery in Arkansas in 1819, in direct opposition to the principle which the honorable Senator from Vermont says was uniform, that is, "where slavery
The legislation of Congress respecting slavery in the Territories, embraced by the eighth section of the act of 1820, is to be referred to the obligation of the supposed compact, and not to the assertion of a constitutional power independent of any compact. The prohibition of slavery north of 360 30′ in Texas was by compact. between that State and the United States. Its validity depends upon the power of Texas, and not upon any independent act of Congress, under the Constitution. On the other hand, the acts for the organization of New Mexico and Utah are precedents against the exercise of the power claimed.
The act of 26th March, 1804, providing for the government of the Territory of Orleans, (part of Louisiana,) was referred to by the Senator for the same purpose. It contains the same provision, The Senator from Iowa relies upon the acts of enacted under the same power, and prohibits also Congress enabling the people of the respective the introduction of slaves which had been imported States of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, to form into the United States against law, after the 1st constitutions; providing that they should not be May, 1798, or by any person other than a citizen repugnant to the ordinance of 1787, as examples of the United States, bona fide emigrants, and of the legislative construction of the Constitution, settlers. Of this act it is enough to say, that it in favor of the power claimed over the Territowas not passed under any claim of power to pro-ries; but it is obvious that the clause in question hibit or establish slavery in a Territory, but is was intended only to recognize the obligation of to be referred to the power before-mentioned. the compact, and not the exertion of an indeThe honorable Senator omitted, however, to state pendent power under the Constitution, otherwise that the act was repealed in less than a year by it must be regarded as nothing less than an the act of 3d March, 1805, and therefore it is not attempt to dictate a constitution, the assertion of available as a precedent, still less does it afford a power which no Senator here will attempt to evidence of the cotemporaneous construction maintain. claimed.
There is, however, a precedent in which the authority to dictate the provisions of a State constitution was asserted by Congress, independent
* See Appendix, No. 1.