The Congressional Globe, Volume 13, Part 1: Twenty-Eighth Congress, First Session Page: 66
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the Union. Now, I will not aak the gentleman how
he voted upon a certain petition for the dissolution
of the Union. What, then, is the Union worth, in
the event of the existence of such a law? After the
issue made by the gentleman between the existence
of the Union and the law of South Carolina, I do
not see how the gentleman could vote upon the
petition for a dissolution of the Union upon the
same ground, at the very time when I am charged
with treason, perjury, or subornation of perjury.
But I do not hold it to be material.
Sir, another effort has been made, since that time
—not by the decision of the Judge of the Supreme
Court, but by negotiations with a foreign power—to
save from that species of oppression the colored
mariners in our merchant-service—the cooks and
stewards of our merchant-vessels. And this enor-
mous danger, against which is to be put the exist-
ence of the Union itself—that danger which is so
terrible in the eyes of the military gentleman of
South Carolina—what is it' Why, that the State
of South Carolina cannot maintain her power over
her slaves, because, now and then, cooks and stew-
ards of merchant-vessels come and remain within
her territory a few days together. No; they must
nab those unfortunate colored seamen, the subjects
of my State. They must also negotiate with a for-
eign power upon the subject
Sir, the people of the State of South Carolina, as
well as of the Union, have had to deal with a foreign
power; and long after the time of which I speak, an-
other remonstrance was made by the British Consul
in South Carolina, and an exertion was made to ob-
tain the repeal of that law; and in the course of the
correspondence there was something like a threat—
which we are so unwilling to hear from a foreign
power—something like a threat that it might pro-
duce a quarrel.
Sir, another gentleman of South Carolina—a gen-
tleman of high distinction—for whose memory I beg
to express my regard—the late Attorney General of
the United States, in a letter which he wrote to tho
British Consul, said: "Sir, we have made every ex-
ertion to repeal the law; and though 1 should regret
if war should be the consequence, I am sorry to
say that the endeavor is altogether unavail-
ing. This was the declaration of a gentle-
man holding a high official station in South' Caro-
lina. Whether the law was constitutional or not,
the judge pronounced it so unconstitutional that it
would not bear an argument. The State of South
Carolina has declared, by the gentleman now before
me, and the Attorney General of the United States
has stated, that, if a dissolution of the Union on one
hand; and the violation of a treaty, and war with
Great Britain on the other, should be the conse-
quence, the State would sooner undergo the dissolu-
tion or the war, than give up this unconstitutional
act. I hope, sir, that the circumstances which I
have now stated to the House will go forth to tho
whole country. I hope that this debate will be re-
ported, so that every man, woman, and child that
can read, throughout this whole Union, will read it.
I have related these facts, which are attempted to
be explained by the gentleman from South Caroli-
na as far as related to himself; and anybody who
will take the trouble to look into the documents
will find the other parts of the story are fully veri-
fied; and the gentleman admits that part relating to
himself to be true. Now, I do not wish to enter
into the question with the gentleman as to whether
the opinion of the judge of the Supreme Court, de-
livered from the bench, or the opinions of a minis-
terial officer, six or seven years afterwards, are to
be tests and standards of constitutional law. I say
that the people of Massachusetts, and the people of
all other States in this Union, have a right
to consider the opinion of the judge as the
true and correct view of the constitutional question.
The gentleman from South Carolina says that he is
satisfied, because his opinion is supported by the
Attorney General; that is enough for hira. Then
it comes to this: one man considers a thins; consti-
tutional, and another considers it unconstitutional,
and it ultimately comes to what General Jackson
once said—the thing is constitutional as he un-
derstands it. It is constitutional as it is understood
by the gentleman from Kentucky [Mr. French]
also. He entertained the House with a few con-
stitutional opinions as he understands it. [A laugh.]
Sir, I have constitutional opinions too, and so has
the Leg#lature of Massachusetts; and, sir, the gen-
tleman from Keirtucky (if I understood him yes-
terday) set his face against it as unconstitutional.
Mi. FRENCH said he would explain. Since
this subject has been up, he had stated what he
concurred in as being the fact, though he had never
said a word about the relations between the State of
Massachusetts and slavery. What he had said was
exclusively based upon what were termed abolition
petitions. He entertained the view, thatt to grant
the prayer of those petitions on the part of Con-
gress, would be unconstitutional; and that there-
fore they ought not to be received.
Mr. ADAMS said he was happy to hear the gen-
tleman's explanation, although he did not allude, in
anything in which he had said, to the resolutions of
the Legislature of Massachusetts now before the
House, but had referred to abolition petitions ask-
ing the same thing. If a thing was unconstitutional
in the mouth of petitioners coming to that House,
he thought the gentleman must certainly conclude
that it would be equally objectionable as coming
from a State Legislature; because, if unconstitu-
tional, no matter who makes the proposition, the
unconstitutionality is the same.
Mr. FRENCH said the gentleman from Massa-
chusetts was in his seat this morning, when the
House did him the kindness to per . it him to ex-
plain; and if the gentleman had listened, he would
have known that his principal purpose in rising, was
not to discuss the constitutionality of abolition peti-
tions in themselves, but as to the power of Congress
to receive those petitions; it being unconstitutional
for Congress to abolish slavery in the District of
Mr. ADAMS. The explanation of the gentle-
man leaves his position still what Judge Chase once
called a non seqmta-. It does not follow that this
House is at liberty to refuse to receive petitions, be-
cause Congress has not the power to abolish slavery.
Suppose, as is the ease with a great many petitions,
that the prayer is to amend the Constitution of the
United States; that is the object of the resolution of
Legislature of Massachusetts—an amendment of the
Constitution. Now in cases of this kind, the Con-
stitution of the United States itself provides that
Congress shall always have the power to propose
amendments to that instrument. It is not, there-
fore, unconstitutional for any petitioners to apply to
Congress, and more especially if it is put in the form
of a prayer for an amendment to the Constitution.
Everybody has the right. It is the privilege
of the people of tins country; and I will say further,
that if any one class of petitioners, from any por-
tion of the Union, deserves more respect than an-
other, it is petitioners for an amendment to the Con-
stitution. Why, sir, what would become of this
House, if every member was precluded and exclu-
ded from offering resolutions for the amendment of
the. Constitution? And I do not see but that the con-
clusion necessarily follows; for, if the gentleman's
argument is true, that the House has the right to re-
fuse to receive petitions which ask an amendment
to the Constitution, it has al«o the right to refuse to
allow members of the House to offer resolutions
having the same object.
Mr. ^ FRENCH said he would not undertake to
determine what Congress might or might not do in
regard to amendments of the Constitution.
Mr. ADAMS said he now understood the gentle-
man fully and firmly to disclaim what he under-
stood him to say yesterday. And he was glad that
he had made the avowal, for he hoped he would
not vote in future upon the question of receiving
any petition to amend the Constitution, on the
ground of violating it.
Sir, said Mr. A., I have already trespassed upon
the indulgence of the House, and therefore will say
no more than merely to repeat the declaration which
1 was most especially and particularly anxious to have
an opportunity of making; and that is, that, though
I am not in the habit, of making broad and unquali-
fied professions of devotion to the Constitution, yet
that I am so far devoted to it, that, in my opinion, the
whole purpose of my life has been to support it; and
that during tho remainder of the days which I have
to pass m life, (which must be few,) I intend, if God .
gives me the power and the faculty, to support and
maintain the Constitution. But, by saying I will
support the Constitution, I do not mean to pledge
myself that I will not bring forward resolutions of
my own, nor do I pledge myself not to bring re-
solves of the Legislature of Massachusetts for the
purpose of amending it. I conceive it to be a right
which we cannot resign; and among the powers of
this House, I do not recognise the power to refuse
resolutions for the amendment of the Constitution.
Mr. HOLMES rose and said that he did not in-
tend to make a speech, but merely wished to reply
to the allusion made by the gentleman to Orlando's
The'SPEAKER reminded the gentleman that it
was not in order for him to make any remarks with-
out leave of the House.
Mr. HOLMES said he would not detain the
House one moment; he had only one word to say.
Mr. REDING objected to the gentleman saying
a word without a suspension of the rules.
Mr. HOLMES did not wish a suspension of the
rules on his account. He only wished to say to
the gentleman from Massachusetts, that even Orlan-
do's sword was not able—
The SPEAKER. The gentleman cannot make
any remark without leave of the House.
Mr. HUDSON moved a suspension of the rules
to allow the gentleman from South Carolina to
The SPEAKER put the question on this motion
Mr. HOLMES said he did not desire a suspension
of the rules; and
Mr. HUDSON withdrew the motion.
"Mr. CAMPBELL said he would remind the
House, that his colleague only wished to reply to
an allusion that was personal, and renewed the
motion for a suspension of the rules; but, at Mr.
Holmes's request, withdrew it.
Mr. GIDDINGS threw himself on the indul-
gence of the House, and asked permission to make
a few remarks explanatory of his views on the sub-
Cries of "No, no."
Mr. SAMPLE moved for a suspension of the
rules to allow the gentleman from Ohio to address
Mr. HAMLIN demanded the yeas and nays on
that question; which, being ordered, were taken, and
resulted in—yeas 78, nays 84, as follows:
YEAS —Messrs. Adams, Barnard, Beardsley, Belser, Bid-
lack, J. Black, Buftington, Burt, Carroll, Catlin, Clingman,
Collamer, Cranston, Cross, Garret Davis, R. D. Davis, De-
berry, Dickey, Ellis, Fish, Florence, Foot, Frick, Gilmer,
\\ ilhs Green, Hardin, Harper. Hayes, Henley, Holmes, Hub-
bell, Hudson, Washington Hunt, James B. Hunt, Joseph R,
Ingersoll, Irvin, Jenks, Perley B. Johnson, Andrew Johnson,
Kennedy, Daniel P. King, McClelland, McClernand, McDow-
ell, Mcilvaine, Marsh, Edward J. Morris, Joseph Morris,
Morse, Owen, Parmcnter, Patterson, Pettit, Phcenix, Elisha
R- Potter, Charles M. Read. Rogers, Sample, Schenck, Sev-
erance, David L. Seymour, Stephens, Stetson, Thomasson,
Tilden, Vance,Vanmeter, Vinton, Weller, Wheaton, White,
"Williams, Wilkins, Winthrop,Wise, and Jos. A.Wright—78.
NAYS—Messrs. Benton, Jas. A. Black, Blaekwell, Bos-
sier, Bower, Bowlin, J. Brinkerhoff, Brodhead, A. V. Brown,
W. J. Brown, Caldwell, Campbell, R. Chapman, A. A. Chap-
man, Chilton, Clinton, Cobb, Cullom, Dana, Daniel, JohnW.
Davis, Dillingham, jr, Douglass, Duncan, Farlee, Ficklin,
French, B. Green, Grider, Hale, Hamlin, Haralson, Her-
rick, Hoge, Hopkins, Houston, Hubard, Hughes, Charles J.
Ingersoll, Jameson, Cave Johnson, George W. Jones, Pres-
ton King, Kirkpatrick, Labranche, Lewis, Lucas, Lumpkin,
McCauslen, Mae lay, MeConnell, McKay, Matthews, Moore,
Murphy, Norris, Peyton, Emery D. Potter, Purdy, Rathbun,
David S. Reid, Reding, Ritter, Robinson, Russell, St. John,
Saunders, Senter, T. H. Seymour, Simons, Slidell, Thomas
Smith, Robert Smith, Steenrod, J. Stewart, Stiles, Strong,
Taylor, Thompson, Tibbatts, Wentworth, Woodward, and
So the rules were not suspended.
Mr. BELSER, believing that the resolutions of
the Legislature of Massachusetts contained a soli-
citation on the part of that Commonwealth to dis-
solve the Union, moved to lay them on the table.
On that question he called for the yeas and nays.
The yeas and nays were accordingly ordered;
and, on taking the question, resulted m—yeas 64,
nays 104, as follows:
YEAS—Messrs. Belcer, F.dward J. Black, James A.
Black, Blaekwell, Bower, Bowlin, Boyd, Aaron V.
Brown, Milton Brown. William J. Brown, Bnrke, Burt,
Caldwell, Reuben Chapman, Agustus A. Chapman, Cobb,
Cullom, ©amel, Garrett Davis, J W. Davis, Dawson, De-
berry, Dellet. Dickinson, Ficklin. French, Hale, Haral
son, Holmes, Hopkins, Houston, Hubard, Hughes, C harles
J. Ingersoll, Jameson, George W. Jones, Kennedy, La-
branche, Lucas, Lumpkin, MaClernand, ? IcConnell, McKay,
Mathews, Moore, Norris, Peyton, D. S. Reid, Reding, Rhett,
St John, Saunders, Senter, Simpson, Slidell, Thomas Smith,
Bobert Smith, Steenrod, Stiles, Taylor, Thompson, Tib-
bats, Weller, and Woodward—C4.
NAYS—Messrs. Adams, Borringer, Barnard, Beardsley,
Benton, Bidlack, Bossier, Brudhead, Buftington, Carroll Ccu-
lm, C hilton, Clmgman, Collamer, Ctanston, Cross, D?na,
Richard D. Davis, Dean, Dickey, Dillingham, Douglass,
Duncan, Farlee, F;sh, Florence, Foot,' Foster, Frick,
Giddings, Gilmer, Willis Green, By ram Green, Gri-
der, Kamlin, Harper, Henley, Herrick, Hoge, Hubbell,
Hudson, Hungcrford, Washington Hunt, James B. Hunt,
Joseph R. Ingersoil, Irvin, Jenks, Cave Johnson, Perley
B Johnson, Andrew Johnson, Preston King, Daniel P.
King, Kirkpatrick, Leonard, McCauslen, Maclay,MeClellan.
McDowell, Mcilvaine, Marsh, Edward J. Morris, Joseph
Morris, Morse, Moseley, Owen, Parmenter, Patterson, Pe t'
tit, Phcenix, Elisha R Potter, Emery D. Potter,Pratt, Pnrdy,
Rathbun, Charles M. Read, Ritter, Robinson, Rogers, Sam-
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United States. Congress. The Congressional Globe, Volume 13, Part 1: Twenty-Eighth Congress, First Session, book, 1844; Washington D.C.. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth2367/m1/90/: accessed April 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.