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FREEDOM AND PUBLIC FAITH.

SPEECH

OF

WILLIAM H. SEWARD,

ON THE

ABROGATION OF THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE,

IN THE

KANSAS AND NEBRASKA BILLS.

SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, FEBRUARY 17, 1854.

WASHINGTON, D. C.
BUELL & BLANCHARD, PRINTERS.

1854.

SPEECH OF WILLIAM H. SEWARD.

MR. PRESIDENT :

lantic side of the continent, while on the west, The United States, at the close of the Rev- as on the east, only an ocean separates us from olution, rested southward on the St. Mary's, the nations of the old world. It is not in my and westward on the Mississippi, and possess- way now to speculate on the question, how ed a broad, unoccupied domain, circumscribed long we are to rest on these advanced posiby those rivers, the Alleghany mountains, and tions. the great Northern lakes. The Constitution Slavery, before the Revolution, existed in all anticipated the division of this domain into the thirteen Colonies, as it did also in nearly all States, to be admitted as members of the Union, the other European plantations in America. but it neither provided for nor anticipated any But it had been forced by British authority, for enlargement of the national boundaries. The political and commercial ends, on the American People, engaged in reorganizing their Govern- People, against their own sagacious instincts of ments, improving their social systems, and policy, and their stronger feelings of justice and establishing relations of commerce and friend humanity. ship with other nations, remained many years They had protested and remonstrated against content within their apparently ample limits. the system, earnestly, for forty years, and they But it was already foreseen that the free naviga- ceased to protest and remonstrate against it tion of the Mississippi would soon become an only when they finally committed their entire urgent public want.

cause of complaint to the arbitrament of arms. France, although she had lost Canada, in An earnest spirit of emancipation was abroad chivalrous battle, on the Heights of Abraham, in the Colonies at the close of the Revolution, in 1763, nevertheless, still retained her ancient and all of them, except, perhaps, South Caroterritories on the western bank of the Mississip- lina and Georgia, anticipated, desired, and depi. She had also, just before the breaking out signed an early removal of the system from the of her own fearful revolution, re-acquired, by country. The suppression of the African slave a secret treaty, the possessions on the Gulf of trade, which was universally regarded as anMexico, which, in a recent war, had been cillary to that great measure, was not, without wrested from her by Spain. Her First Consul, much reluctance, postponed until 1808. among those brilliant achievements which While there was no national power, and no proved him the first Statesman as well as the claim or desire for national power, anywhere, first Captain of Europe, sagaciously sold the to compel involuntary emancipation in the whole of these possessions to the United States, States where slavery existed, there was at the for a liberal sum, and thus replenished his treas- same time a very general desire and a strong ury, while he saved from his enemies, and trans- purpose to prevent its introduction into new ferred to a friendly Power, distant and vast communities yet to be formed, and into new regions, which, for want of adequate naval States yet to be established. Mr. Jefferson proforce, he was unable to defend.

posed, as early as 1784, to exclude it from the This purchase of Louisiana from France, by national domain which should be constituted the United States, involved a grave dispute con- by cessions from the States to the United States. cerning the western limits of that province; He recommended and urged the measure as and that controversy, having remained open ancillary, also, to the ultimate policy of emanuntil 1819, was then adjusted by a treaty, in cipation. There seems to have been at first no which they relinquished 'Texas to Spain, and very deep jealousy between the emancipating accepted a cession of the early-discovered and and the non-emancipating States ; and the pollong-inhabited provinces of East Florida and icy of admitting new States was not disturbed West Florida. The United States stipulated, by questions concerning slavery. Vermont, a in each of these cases, to admit the countries non-slaveholding State, was admitted in 1793. thus annexed into the Federal Union.

Kentucky, a tramontane slaveholding comThe acquisitions of Oregon, by discovery and munity, having been detached from Virginia, occupation, of Texas, by her voluntary annex- was admitted, without being questioned, about ation, and of New Mexico and California, in the same time. So, also, Tennessee, which cluding what is now called Utah, by war, coin- was a similar community separated from North pleted that rapid course of enlargement, at the Carolina, was admitted in 1796, with a stipulaclose of which our frontier has been fixed near tion that the Ordinance which Mr. Jefferson the centre of what was New Spain, on the At- I had first proposed, and which had in the mean

time been adopted for the Territory northwest ry, and in due time, though at successive periof the Ohio, should not be held to apply within ous, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and her limits. The same course was adopted in Wisconsin, States erected within that Territory, organizing Territorial Governments for Missis- have come into the Union with Constitutions in sippi and Alabama, slaveholding communities their hands forever prohibiting slavery and inwhich had been detached from South Carolina voluntary servitude, except for the punishment and Georgia. All these States and Territories of crime. They are yet young; but, neverthewere situated southwest of the Ohio river, all less, who has ever seen elsewhere such States were more or less already peopled by slave as they are! There are gathered the young, holders with their slaves; and to have excluded the vigorous, the active, the enlightened sons slavery within their limits would have been a of every State, the flower and choice of national act, not of preventing the introduction every State in this broad Union; and there of slavery, but of abolishing slavery. In short, the emigrant for conscience sake, and for freethe region southwest of the Ohio river present- doma's sake, from every land in Europe, from ed a field in which the policy of preventing the proud and all-conquering Britain, from heartintroduction of slavery was impracticable. broken Ireland, from sunny Italy, from mercuOur forefathers never attempted what was im- rial France, from spiritual Germany, from practicable.

chivalrous Hungary, and from honest and But the case was otherwise in that fair and brave old Sweden and Norway. Thence are broad region which stretched away from the already coming ample supplies of corn and banks of the Ohio, northward to the lakes, and wheat and wine for the manufacturers of the westward to the Mississippi. It was yet free, East, for the planters of the tropics, and even for or practically free, from the presence of slaves, the artisans and the armies of Europe; and and was nearly uninhabited, and quite unoccu- thence will continue to come in long succespied. There was then no Baltimore and Ohio sion, as they have already begun to come, railroad, no Erie railroad, no New York Cen- statesmen and legislators for this continent. tral railroad, no Boston and Ogdensburgh rail- Thus it appears, Mr. President, that it was road; there was no railroad through Canada; the policy of our fathers, in regard to the originnor, indeed, any road around or across the al domain of the United States, to prevent the mountains; no imperial Erie canal, no Wel- introduction of slavery, wherever it was pracland caval, no lockages around the rapids and ticable. This policy encountered greater diffithe falls of the St. Lawrence, the Mohawk, and culites when it came under consideration with the Niagara rivers, and no steam navigation on a view to its establishment in regions not inthe lakes or on the Hudson, or on the Missis- cluded within our original domain. While sippi. There, in that remote and secluded slavery had been actually abolished already, by region, the prevention of the introduction of some of the emancipating States, several of slavery was possible; and there our forefathers, them, owing to a great change in the relative who left no possible national good unattempted, value of the productions of slave labor, had did prevent it. It makes one's heart bound fallen off into the class of non-emancipating with joy and gratitude, and lift itself up with States; and now the whole family of States mingled pride and veneration, to read the his-was divided and classified as slaveholding or tory of that great transaction. Discarding the slave States, and non-slaveholding or free trite and common forms of expressing the na- States. A rivalry for political ascendency was tional will, they did not merely “vote," or

vote," or soon developed ; and, besides the motives of “ resolve," or " enact.” as on other occasions, interest and philanthropy which had before but they

ORDAINED,” in language marked at existed, there was now on each side a desire to once with precision, amplification, solemnity, increase, from among the candidates for adand emphasis, that there “shall be neither sla-mission into the Union, the number of States in very nor involuntary servitude in the said Ter- their respective classes, and so their relative ritory, otherwise than in the punishment of weight and influence in the Federal Councils. crime, whereof the party shall have been duly The country which had been acquired from convicted.” And they further ORDAINED and France was, in 1804, organized in two Terrideclared that this law should be considered a tories, one of which, including New Orleans as COMPACT between the original States and the its capital, was called Orleans, and the other, People and States of said Territory, and forever having St. Louis for its chief town, was called remain unalterable, unless by common consent. Louisiana. In 1812, the Territory of Orleans The Ordinance was agreed to unanimously. was admitted as a new State, under the name Virginia, in re-affirming her cession of the ter- of Louisiana. It had been an old slaveholding ritory, ratified it, and the first Congress held colony of France, and the prevention of slavery under the Constitution solemnly renewed and within it would have been a simple act of confirmed it.

abolition. At the same time, the Territory of In pursuance of this Ordinance, the several Louisiana, by authority of Congress, took the Territorial Governments successively establish- name of Missouri; and, in 1819, the portion ed in the Northwest Territory were organized thereof which now constitutes the State of Arwith a prohibition of the introduction of slave- kansas was detached, and beame a Territory,

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