The Congressional Globe, Volume 13, Part 2: Twenty-Eighth Congress, First Session Page: 66
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APPENDIX TO THE CONGRESSIONAL GLOBE.
28th Cong 1st Sess.
Abolition Petitions—Mr. Belser.
H. of Reps.
which was assented to by all the parties to the com-
pact? It seemed to him that good faith on the part
of the contracting parties requires them to carry out
this compact of government in its spirit and letter.
Suppose, said he, that the people of the South were to
pour in their petitions into this hall, asking Congress
to pass a law forcing slavery on the people of the
non-slaveholding States: what, he would ask,
would the abolitionists think'of it? Would they say
that the slaveholders had such a right' Would
they declare the right to beseech on such a subject
inalienable? No! he would venture to say, that the ,
petitioners would be told that they had no right to
ask for. the passage of such a law; and yet the same
compact which would prevent Congress from es-
tablishing slavery among the people of the North,
guaranties slavery to the people of the South.
He heard the gentleman from New York, [Mr.
Beardsley,] a short time since, proclaim on this
floor that slavery was "a great moral and political
evil;" and that, by virtue of the power given in the
Constitution of the United States to are end that
instrument, in his opinion slavery could be abolish-
ed in this Government, and still the integrity of this
Union be preserved. Hear the language of the gen-
"The Constitution (said Mr. Beardsley) au-
thorizes its own change and amendment, and de-
clares the mode in which amendments may be made.
This is not all: It also declares, in most explicit and
emphatic terms, that amendments, when thus made,
become valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of
the Constitution. There is no limit to this power
of amendment which in any degree bears upon this
question. Each and every part, with a few speiafied
exceptions, may thus be changed and modified; and
still the Constitution will exist, in all its plenitude of
obligation and of power."
He would do the gentleman from New York
the justice to say that he was opposed to the
exercise of any such power at present. He would,
however, tell the gentleman to "lay not the flatter-
ing unction to his soul" that slavery could be got
rid of it) this peaceable way; that, whenever the
period arrived when a bill of that kind should pass
the Congress of the United States, if Southern men
remained on this floor after it, they would have to
call "on the rocks and the mountains to hide them"
from the indignation of their people. Yes, they
would put a mark on that Representative who would
remain in this hall after such an event, as indelible
as that, which, in the beginning of the world, was
placcd on the brow of the first murderer. There
was but one way of abolishing slavery; that was, by
disunion—a word which comprehends within itself all
our dangers. They could not get rid of it, or of the
slave representation 011 this floor, except by the
right of revolution; and whenever they attempted to
c xercise iliat extra-constitutional right to the des-
truction of Southern institutions, the hills which di-
vide, the slaveholding from the non-slaveholding
'States of this Union will soon become "the dark hills
(/ death; and the streams which Jiua between, like the
•aiders 0) F.gypt, will be crimsoned with blood."
J le had'recently understood that cadi of the two
great parties m the State of New York were trying,
(>y tin:])' papers in Albany, to see that their friends
011 this floor, should have the credit of defeating this
rule in the House of Representatives. What did
this mean' Was it possible that those from the
"Empire State" who had heretofore stood shoulder
to shoulder with the South on this question, in this
the hour of trial, were about to abandon her.' He
would not believe it as long as he could think other-
wise. Were those papers of which he had spoken
catering for the abolition vote'1 Was it essential to
party success that these incendiaries should be couit-
ed? It really would seem so.
lie proceeded to refer to some of the argu-
ments nf another gentleman from New York, [Mr.
ntvrs;] with one portion of which he agreed, and
with another portion he differed. He had under-
stood the gentleman to say that he was opposed to
the immediate abolition of slavery m this country,
because, as soon as such an emancipation took
place, his State would be overrun with a worth-
less population; but, at the same time, he [Mi.
Da\i&] thought that Congress had the constitution-
al power 10 abolish slavery in the District of Colum-
bia; because it did not rightfully exist here, as it did
an the States.
[Mr. Davis here rose to explain, and stated that,
in his opinion, slavery could not legally exist in the
District of Columbia, or in any Territory of the
United States; and he stated that opinion merely
that his votes on slavery in the District or any Ter-
ritory might not be misunderstood. He held that
slavery can only exist in a State, and by the laws
of a State; but that Congress has no power to make
or unmake slavery, in the States or out of the States;
that the Constitution gave Congress no power to
make or maintain slavery; that when the District
of Columbia was ceded and accepted, slavery ceased
by that act—by operation of law within it—because
the Constitution gives no power to continue it; and
Congress has no more right to make a slave, than
to make a king, within the District, And so of the
Territories. When ceded, all in them, however legal
beforehand, ceased on the cession, that was incon-
sistent with the Constitution—the same as royal
authority, and the like. All such things ceased to
exist by operation of law; and, until Territories be-
come States, they cannot have or make slaves. I
hold [said Mr. D.] that the General Government
has no power over slavery, in the States nor out of
them, except as to runaways, &c.; and that it can-
not make, or permit, in its districts or territories,
one man to be a slave of one or many men, or one
or many men to be slaves of one or many other
Mr. Belser continued. He differed with the
gentleman from New York [Mr. Davis] as to his
construction of the Constitution. He believed that
slavery, by virtue of the cessions from the States
of Maryland arid Virginia, had a constitutional ex-
istence in the District of Columbia. At the time of
the adoption of the Constitution, the District of Co-
lumbia did not exist as a permanent seat of govern-
ment, but it was a component part of the States of
Maryland and Virginia. The Constitution author-
ized Congress to accept of these States territory
not exceeding ten miles square, in which was to be
located the Capitol of the Union; and, in the ces-
sions from Virginia and Maryland, it was agreed
that their regulations should be and remain in full ef-
fect, until Congress should otherwise determine.
These laws have never been changed; they still re-
main operative; and Congress has continued to rec-
ognise them, as essential to the maintenance of the
compromises of the Constitution.
He agreed with the gentleman, [Mr. Davis,] that
no greater evil could befall the non-slaveholding
States of the North than an immediate emancipa-
tion. And he went farther than the gentleman from
New York; for he believed that neither immediate
nor prospective liberation would benefit that portion
of the Union. He asked gentlemen who were in fa-
vor of immediate emancipation, what was to become
of this degraded population? Were they to remain
in the South, and be a plague upon them, worse
than the locusts of Egypt'—or was there to bo
amalgamation laws passed in this country, and the
two races to be united? One or the other race must
prevail. And would gentlemen receive our slaves at
the North? The gentleman [Mr. Davis] had al-
ready said he should consider it as the greatest ca-
lamity that could come on that section, "to have it
flooded with these blacks; and well had he observed
While discoursing on this subjcct, he w-ould ask
other honorable gentlemen what had become of the
two thousand millions of dollars raised from the great
staple of the South, the product of slave labor' But
a small portion of it had found its way into the na-
tional treasury, in payment for the public lands,
while the increase of the slaves had added nothing
to its wealth, in the aggregate. It did not remain
in the South. If it did, they would be the richest
people on the face of the globe; but, instead of be-
ing the richest, they were the poorest. By the si-
lent operation of the tariff, of the banking system,
and the system of exchanges, it had gone to build
up the great cities of New York, Philadelphia, and
Boston, and other large commercial places. What,
then, he would ask gentlemen, was to be gained by
abolishing slavery in the Southern States'
But (said Mr. B.) the principles laid down by the
gentleman from New York [Mr. Bf.ardsley] in re-
gard to the District of Columbia, goes further than
Birney, or Gerritt Smith, or any other avowed
abolitionist has ever gone, because, with emancipa-
tion, they are willing to pay for the slaves in the
District, but the gentleman from New York claims
the right for Congress to do it when disposed, with-
[Mr. Beardsley explained, and said he did not
say pay, but legislate on the subject.]
Mr. Belser then turned his attention to the
speech of the gentleman from New York, and read
from it as follows:
" I shall not stop here [said Mr. Beardsley] to
inquire whether the States could abolish it, (slavery,)
without providing remuneration to the slaveholder;
that is a different question. That they have the
power to do it, either with or without, is as plain as
words can make it. And why should they not'
Cannot they pass a law to do it' They may
pay the master or not; but cannot they take
the slave compulsorily from the master? Surely
they can; and that is enough to give Congress jurisdic-
tion of the subject in this District."
He thought that this language of Mr. Beards-
ley was without limitation; that it asserted
everything which he was contending for, when
the gentleman from New York explained to the
But, said he, if you have the right to legislate,
you have the right to pay; there is no difference.
And he took him on that ground. Where is the
money to come from to pay? Out 6f the public
treasury—from the revenue of the customs? There
is where it must come from, if you pay at all, as the
British Government has done. Are the people to be
taxed to gratify the abolition fanatics?
But the gentleman contended for "exclusive juris-
diction" of Congress over the District of Columbia.
There was a difference (said Mr. B.) between "ex-
clusive jurisdiction" and "unlimited jwioer;" and that
was the error into which the gentleman had fallen.
There were powers forbidden, and powers not dele-
gated, in the Constitution; neither of which Congress
could exercise. "Exclusive jurisdiction" could only
be exercised by Congress within the delegated powers;
and Congress could go no further than these limits,
because the powers not delegated by the Constitution
had been reserved te the respective States, and to the
people. The Constitution says what Congress may
do, and it says what it shall not do. It says Con-
gress "shall pass no law granting a title of nobility,
no ex post facto law, no bill of attainder," &c.; but if
the gentleman's doctrine of "exclusive jurisdiction"
is true to the extent for which he contends for it,
Congress can perform all these functions within the
District of Columbia.
The gentleman had also, in opposition to the de-
cision of the honorable Speaker of this House, con-
tended for the doctrine that, where a petition was
presented, embracing matter which was legal and
right, and other matter illegal and incorrect, this
House was bound to receive it. By the way of test-
ing the principle, let him suppose that a man wanted
a deed of trust executed to him, and that he incorpo-
rated in it, with that which was fair, that which was
fraudulent also: the rule of law was, that the pen-
alty of the act should be the forfeiture of the whole
of the right accruing under the instrument. This
principle ran through all legal proceedings; and he
defied gentlemen to point to a single authority to the
contrary in the pages of the law.
They had been told that there were but few abo-
litionists in the non-slaveholding States. Mr. B.
had been "a looker-on in Vienna" at some of their
meetings, and he had made up his mind that the
greater portion of the North considered slavery as
a great moral and political evil. They of the South
viewed it as justified by the laws of God and man;
and when their preachers were excluded from the
temples of the North—when they had recently seen,
not a movement of a few scattered abolitionists, but
the Legislature of Massachusetts—that renowned
Commonwealth—desiring to have the basis of rep-
resentation changed on this floor, he asked, (and he
put the question emphatically to the Southern por-
tion of this House,) what they were to expect upon
this subject? The tempest was raging among them;
and the abolitionists would never be satisfied until
they had wrapped this Union in flames, and converted
it into one vast Golgotha. He told gentlemen who
were disposed to maintain the integrity of the Union,
that there was but one way to do it, and that was
to stand up and resist these incendiaries. "Nero
fiddled while Rome was burning;" but these aboli-
tionists are more demoniac than Nero—they would
revel while applying the torch to the temple.
Mr. B. said, as our forefathers formed it, ho ad-
mired the Union. It was a Government, as it came
fiom their hands, of compromises, of checks and
balances—one tvhich had tio model on the globe. He
had never yet seen the day when he was prepared
"to calculate its value;" and he still, from his heart,
desired that the time, was far distant when it would
fall into its original elements. It was instituted to
preserve "life, liberty, and property;" to furnish an
asylum for the oppressed of all nations; and, if let
alone, well would it perform its office.
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United States. Congress. The Congressional Globe, Volume 13, Part 2: Twenty-Eighth Congress, First Session, book, 1844; Washington D.C.. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth2368/m1/76/: accessed August 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.