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CHAPTER VI.

1838-Mr. Calhoun's Resolutions-Sustained by Franklin Pierce, Senator from New Hampshire-Mr. Pierce's speech.

Texas had declared her independence in 1836, and our Government had acknowledged it, October 22, 1837. The question of her annexation was before the people. Gen. Jackson and the South were in favor of it, Mr. Adams and the North against it. Petitions and memorials poured into Congress from the North by hundreds and thousands on the subject.

On the 19th of December, 1837, Mr. Swift presented to the Senate a memorial and resolutions from the Legislature of Vermont protesting against the annexation of Texas, or the admission of any more slave States, and insisting on the abolition of slavery in the District, and in all Territories of the United States.

Mr. Calhoun, on the 27th, presented a series of resolutions, six in number, counter to the object of the memorial from Vermont, and upon these resolutions occurred the most intensely interesting and exciting of all the debates ever yet held on the subject. They mark the divergence into different paths of the three greatest intellects of their day, Calhoun, Webster, and Clay—all of them true men and sincere patriots-but each looking from a different standpoint. They also define the position of Franklin Pierce, who not only voted straight out for each one of Mr. Calhoun's propositions, except the last (which was laid on the table on motion of Mr. Preston, of South Carolina, who thought that "branch of the subject would be more appropriately discussed in connection with the resolutions introduced by him for the annexation of Texas"), but spoke most em

phatically in favor of them. The resolutions were as follows:

"1. Resolved, That in the adoption of the Federal Constitution, the States adopting the same acted, severally, as free, independent, and sovereign States; and that each for itself, by its own voluntary assent, entered the Union with the view to its increased security against all dangers, domestic as well as foreign, and the more perfect and secure enjoyment of its advantages, natural, political, and social.

"2. Resolved, That in delegating a portion of their powers to be exercised by the Federal Government, the States retained, severally, the exclusive and sole right over their own domestic institutions and police, and are alone responsible for them, and that any intermeddling of any one or more States, or a combination of their citizens, with the domestic institutions and police of the others, on any ground, or under any pretext whatever, political, moral, or religious, with the view to their alteration or subversion, is an assumption of superiority not warranted by the Constitution, insulting to the States interfered with, tending to endanger their domestic peace and tranquillity, subversive of the object for which the Constitution was formed, and, by necessary consequence, tending to weaken and destroy the Union itself.

"3. Resolved, That this Government was instituted and adopted by the several States of this Union as a common agent, in order to carry into effect the powers which they had delegated by the Constitution for their mutual security and prosperity; and that, in fulfillment of this high and sacred trust, this Government is bound so to exercise its powers as to give, as far as may be practicable, increased stability and security to the domestic institutions of the States that compose this Union; and that it is the solemn duty of the Government to resist all attempts by one portion of the Union to use it as an instrument to attack the domestic institutions of

another, or to weaken or destroy such institutions, instead of strengthening and upholding them, as it is in duty bound to do.

"4. Resolved, That domestic slavery, as it exists in the Southern and Western States of this Union, composes an important part of their domestic institutions, inherited from their ancestors, and existing at the adoption of the Constitution, by which it is recognized as constituting an essential element in the distribution of its powers among the States; and that no change of opinion or feeling on the part of the other States of the Union in relation to it can justify them or their citizens in open and systematic attacks thereon with the view of its overthrow; and that all such attacks are in manifest violation of the mutual and solemn pledge to protect and defend each other, given by the States respectively, on entering into the Constitutional compact which formed the Union, and as such is a manifest breach of faith and a violation of the most solemn obligations, moral and religious.

"5. Resolved, That the intermeddling of any State or States or their citizens, to abolish slavery in this District or any of the Territories on the ground, or under the pretext, that it is immoral or sinful, or the passage of any act or measure of Congress with that view, would be a direct and dangerous attack on the institutions of all the slaveholding States.

"6. Resolved, That the Union of these States rests on an equality of rights and advantages among its members; and that whatever destroys that equality, tends to destroy the Union itself; and that it is the solemn duty of all, and more especially of this body, which represents the States in their corporate capacity, to resist all attempts to discriminate between the States, in extending the benefits of the Government to the several portions of the Union; and that to refuse to extend to the Southern and Western States any advantage which would tend to strengthen, or render them more secure,

or increase their limits or population by the annexation of new Territory or States, on the assumption or under the pretext that the institution of slavery, as it exists among them, is immoral or sinful, or otherwise obnoxious, would be contrary to that equality of rights and advantages which the Constitution was intended to secure alike to all the members of the Union, and would, in effect, disfranchise the slave-holding States, withholding from them the advantages, while it subjected them to the burdens, of the Government.""

Mr. Calhoun took the ground that the only safety for the Republic lay in the preservation of the rights of the States. He would not argue "with fanatics who would violate any moral or political principle to obtain their ends." He offered these resolutions to see what could be done the alien and sedition law was defeated by a series of brief, summary and abstract resolutions-he Idid not wish these resolutions to be considered as a Southern measure-he "hoped that the vote that would be given upon them would be a Northern and Western, as well as a Southern vote," and that it would tend to avert "this fatal tide of fanaticism." He declared himself "to be a firm and unflinching supporter of the Union"-that he wished the Senate to decide if there were any neutral ground upon which all the friends of the Union might rally-that the disease of Abolitionism must be fought in the non-slave-holding States where it originated-and where, by means of incendiary and slanderous publications, it was "infusing a deadly poison into the minds of the rising generation, implanting in them feelings of the most deadly hatred, instead of affection and love, for one-half of the Union.""

The first four resolutions passed by large majoritiesMr. Clay, Mr. Pierce and Mr. Buchanan all voting for them-Mr. Webster against. He said: "He admitted the necessity of some definite action on the subject on

1 Cong. Globe, 25th Cong., Sess. 2, p. 55.

2

Idem, p. 75.

the part of Congress; but his objection to the adoption of the resolutions now under consideration was based solely on the belief that they were at variance with the correct interpretation of the Constitution."

"If the resolutions could be modified to meet the constitutional requisitions, asserting that the Constitution permitted slavery, and protected the institution, he would vote for them. The doctrines here set forth he viewed as a sweeping declaration against the letter and spirit of the Constitution.""

When the fifth resolution came up for consideration, it was opposed on various grounds. Hon. Franklin Pierce spoke warmly in its support.

He stated in his speech that "The Senate had come at length to the ground on which this contest was to be determined. The District of Columbia was now emphatically the battle-field of the Abolitionist, and the resolution immediately under consideration, with, perhaps, some modifications in phraseology, would present the true issue here and to the country-an issue which would raise, not a mere question of expediency, but one of a much higher character, in which the public faith is directly involved. . I have no hesitation in saying that I consider slavery a social and political evil, and most sincerely wish that it had no existence upon the face of the earth; but it is perfectly immaterial how it may be regarded, either by you or myself; it is not for us to sit in judgment, and determine whether the rights secured to the different States by the Constitution are blessings or otherwise: it is sufficient for the argument that they are rights, which the inhabitants do not choose to relinquish.

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"Mr. President, yielding to my inclination, I would here take leave of this irritating subject, now and forever; but the manner in which it appears to be connect

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