« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
the effrontery to declare, in his Jefferson-city speech, that he “has seen no danger to the slave property of any State in this Union from the action of Congress ;" then, nineteen years ago, in his speech on Foot's resolutions, averred, with every appearance of deliberation, that the passage of a general emancipation law by Congress was not only “by no mean improbable," but, on the contrary, absolutely certain, in the event of the success of certain measures then on foot.”. When we held our meeting in the Senate chamber, a resolution had been introduced in the House of Representatives, the object of which was to repeal all acts or parts of acts which recognise the existence of slavery, or which authorize the selling or disposing of slaves in the District of Columbia ; and almost enough votes had been cast in support of this resolution to carry it triumphantly through. At this period, also, a resolution had passed the House, by a vote of 107 to 80, instructing the Committee on Territories forthwith to report bills providing for the exclusion of slavery from California and New Mexico. This had been followed up by a bill providing for the taking of the votes of the inhabitants of the District of Columbia, inclusive of slaves and free negroes, upon the question whether slavery should not be abolished therein. A resolution had passed the House, by a vote of 98 to 88, directing the Committee on the District of Columbia to report a bill so soon as practicable, prohibiting the slave trade in said District. Upon all these several questions, much exciting debate had occurred, and the language of reproach and menace had been freely and fiercely employed by certain abolition members. Various new recruits also, had, in the progress of these transactions, been seen to take their stand amid the ranks of our enemies. Mr. Benton affects to think that there was nothing in the least degree alarming in this state of things; though, I repeat, he had expressed his fears of the passage of a general emancipation law by Congress as early as 1830, yea, had asserted that the passage of such a law was most absolutely certain in the event of the success of measures then on foot.” We of the meeting did not agree with Mr. Benton. We saw dangers, in the most appalling form, about us and around us, and that there was absolute necessity for looking at once to our own safety and that of our constituents. We believed the Union itself to be in imminent peril, and we resolved to do all in our power to preserve it from destruction. The meeting which has been so much denounced was accordingly convoked. No secrecy whatever was observed or enjoined ; or the contrary, the utmost publicity was sought to be given to the whole affair.
Mr. Benton asserts, in his Jefferson-city speech that our meeting was gotten up by Mr. Calhoun. A statement more groundless could not have been hazarded. So far as I know or believe, Mr. Calhoun had no participancy whatever in getting up this particular meeting, nor do I believe that he knew it was to be assembled until most of those whose presence was desired had been already summoned. I gave an account of this meeting, as to its origin and objects, on the 23d day of February last, which no one undertook at the time to call in question, and which I do not believe that even the redoubtable Senator from Missouri will ever be rash enough to deny in my hearing. In reply to Mr. Dayton, of
Sen. Dọc. Họ
New Jersey, who had evidently received some misrepresentations in regard to its character, thus did I express myself :
“Mr. President, the honorable Senator from New Jersey permitted several allusions to drop from his lips, which have induced me to suppose that he designed to reflect somewhat upon the proceedings of a body which lately assembled in this city, called the Southern Convention. Now, Mr. President, though I can declare without affectation, that I regard myself as among the humblest of those who participated in the deliberations of that august assembly, yet, as I had a very particular connection with it, and have been made from accidental circumstances, more the subject of coarse denunciation and ruffianly ridicule than any other member of it, I beg leave to avow my whole respon. bility in this affair, and to incur all the discredit to which the public may judge me entitled by reason of my acts. I avow then, sir, (as I find I am charged in various newspapers with doing,) that I did, in conjunction with a worthy friend of mine, (also a member of this body,) enter the Hall of Representatives, in order to summon the southern members of that body to meet in this chamber, at night, (for that was the only time when such a meeting could
be possibly held,) for the purpose of taking into grave consideration the various aggressions upon our rights which had been perpetrated, or which were in a course of being perpetrated by wicked and unscrupulous men, and for the counteraction of which it was obvious that the most prompt and vigorous measures were necessary. Yes, sir, I did perform this subordinate ministerial part of summoning the southern members of the House of Representatives. I summoned whigs and I summoned democrats. I myself summodal, directly or indirectly, the representatives of nine of the sovereign States of the Union. Moreover, I talked freely with those whose presence I requested, in explanation of the objects of the contemplated meeting. I could confidently appeal to them, and each of them, whether in all I said I hinted at disunion. Well, sir, that convention assembled. Much debate occurred, and much division sprang up, chiefly on minor points, such as the time most proper for decided action against our adversaries, and the mode in which such action should take place. I maintain and defy contradiction) that there was not a single sentiment uttered in that body that, fairly and dispassionately considered, if made known to the world, could bring the least discredit upon the assembly in which it was announced.
“ And address was sent forth to the people of the South, every statement of which is true beyond contradiction—every argument of which is of irresistible cogency-every sentence and line of which is marked with high-toned patriotism and devout regard for the Union. This ad. dress, sir, was subscribed by a large number of the southern members of Congress present. It was not subscribed, for different reasons, by others, whose refusal to subscribe it is, I hope, capable of satisfactory explanation to their respective constituents. I feel bound to go further, and say, that there are among those who thought it not politio, under all the circumstances of the case, to subscribe the address, (as preliminary to its publication,) some of the most worthy men and unquestion •
patriots' to be found in the Republic. And now, sir, the address has gone forth—it has performed its high office. The South is roused up to a circumspect and scrutinizing survey of the dangers which threaten her present peace and future safety. Our enemies stand paralyzed by the moral energy so suddenly and so imposingly displayed by southern Senators and Representatives, and the contemporaneous legislative resolves of nearly all the Southern States of the confederacy. At last there is some prospect of pacification, of compromise, of the final settlement of the most distracting and dangerous question which has been agitated in our times. Darkness is fleeing away, and light is beginning to beam upon us.
Who shall dare to denounce those who met in that convention as traitors to the Constitution and the Union ? Who shall presume to arraign now the sound intentions of that noble body of southern gentlemen and patriots? Who among all those that so fraternally co-operated for the defence and vindication of southern rights and southern honor, will ever cease to be proud that he was one of that glorious Southern Convention, the members of which dared, in spite of maledictions, misrepresentations, and ridicule, to perform a high and sacred duty to their constituents and country, by which those constituents and that county have been, in all probability, rescued from dan. gers which could not have been effectually warded off save by the means so providentially adopted, and so fearlessly put in exercise ?
Mr. Benton complains that he was not invited to attend the meeting of the southern members of Congress. I should have thought that a man of his sagacity would have been able to account for this failure to secure his valuable presence, without feeling himself compelled to impute unworthy designs to those who got up the meeting. I will enlighten him though a little on this point. He was not invited to be present, because he was known to be hostile to the adoption of all defensive measures against abolition and free soil hostility ; because it was as well known then as it is now, that he was a free soil man in opinion and feeling ; because he was known to be in secret correspondence with the enemies of the South, and had already entered into a compact with certain abolition and free soil managers, to sacrifice southern honor and southern prosperity upon the altar of his own poli. tical advancement. It was known to some of us at that period, as well as it now is from his own confession at Jefferson city, that his 56 personal sentiments were against slavery.” We had perfectly ascertained, and I had charged the fact upon him in public debate, not when he was absent, but when present-in sight, and not ten feet distantthat he had openly avowed the Wilmot Proviso faith. His formal declaration at Jefferson city, that “it is absurd to deny the power to Congress to legislate as it pleases upon the subject of slavery in Terri. tories," was not at all necessary to assure us that such was his opinion; and, therefore, we did not perceive any advantage which could accrue from his presence or counsels. Indeed, he avows that he would not have attended the meeting had he been summoned. Therefore, no consequence, good or bad, could have proceeded from our not inviting him. It is most evident, now at least, if it was not so before his late speech, that we could not have at all profited by his suggestions ; for does he not, even in that same speech, use this language, “I have seen no danger to the slave property of any State in this Union by the action of Congress, and cannot contribute to alarm the country by engaging in discussions which assert or imply danger ?” These are his very words, and, if sincerely spoken, his presence among us would have been as little beneficial as are his present free soil speeches in Missouri.
But is he sincere in thus declaring? I cannot believe that he is. I think I can prove that he is not, and by his own spoken words, in the best and most approved speech of his political life. I allade to the one he delivered in the Senate of the United States during the winter of 1830-nineteen years ago-upon Foot's resolutions. Then, there was not a single member of either House of Congress who was not an open and avowed abolitionist. The free soil question, in its present terrible form, had not been even heard of. Wilmot himself was a boy ; Hale, Seward, and Tuck were, I should suppose, searcely grown up to manhood ; John Quincy Adams had not concluded to figure in the House of Representatives ; Giddings had not yet become a name of fearful augury. Full six years after the delivery of this speech, Martin Van Buren, in his inaugural speech as President, voluntarily pledged himself to veto any bill providing for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, if such a monstrum horrendum of congressional legislation should ever dare to show its accursed visage at the White House. Thes Mr. Benton, who now sees no “danger whatever to the slave property of any State in the Union from the action of Congress," whilst making a speech on the subject of the public lands, went out of his way to erpress himself as follows:
“ The annihilation of the States, under a doctrine which would dras all their conflicts into the federal judiciary, and make its decisions binding on the States, and subject to the penalties of treason all who resisted the execution of those decrees, would produce that consequence. It would annihilate the States! It would reduce them to the abject condition of provinces of the federal empire. It would enable the dominant party in Congress at any moment to execute the most frighiful designs. Let us suppose a case-one by no means improbable; ; on the contrary, absolutely certain, in the event of certain measures now on foot. The late Mr. King, of New York, when a member of the American Senate, declared upon this floor that slavery in these United States, in point of law and right did not exist, and could not exist. under the nature of our free form of government; and that the Supreme Court of the United States would thus declare it. This declaration was made about ten years ago, in the crisis and highest paroxysm of the Missouri agitation. Since then we have seen this declaration repeated and enforced, in every variety of form and shape, by an organized party in all the non-slaveholding States. Since then we have seen the principles of the same declaration developed in legislative proceedings in the shape of committee reports and public debate in the halls Congress. Since then we have had the D'Auterive case, and seen a petition presented from the chair of the House of Representives, Mr. John W. Taylor being Speaker, in which the total destruction of all the States that would not abandon slavery was expressly represented as a sublime act. With these facts before us, and myriads of others, which I cannot repeat, but which are seen by all, the probability of a federal legislative act against slavery rises in the scale and assumes the character of moral certainty, in the event of the success of certain designs show on foot. So much for what may happen in Congress.”
Then, in 1830, Mr. Benton, the present deliverer of Calhounias, said, in the same speech
“A geographical party, and chiefly a political caste, are incessantly at work on the subject. Their operations pervade the States, intrude into this chamber, display themselves in innumerable forms, and the thickening of the signs announces the forthcoming of some extraordinary movement.
Again, he said in the same debate
“I foresee that this subject is to act a great part in the future poli. tics of this country ; that it is to be made one of the instruments of a momentous movement—not for dividing the Union, something more practicable, more damnable than that,” &c., &c.
Then he saw danger—then he saw ground for alarm—then he saw worse than disunion itself in the prospect of the future. Now the same gentleman says, amidst all the superadded dangers of the present period, “I have made no slavery speeches in Congress, and do not mean to make them. Property is timid ; and slave property above all. It is not right to disturb the quietude of the owner, to harass him with groundless apprehensions. It is a private wrong to disturb a single individual by making him believe, untruly, that his property is insecure. It becomes a public evil to disturb a whole community. It creates a general uneasiness, generates animosities, deranges business, and often leads to hasty and improvident legislation.” How charmingly philosophical! He is afraid of producing excitement by making slavery speeches in Congress; then why, pray, does he undertake to deliver anti-slavery speeches in the bosom of the slave States of the South? If this sort of property be so timid, then why go near it to alarm it? If “ it is a public evil to disturb a whole community," then how dare he to disturb the whole slaveholding community of the South by keeping up this fierce agitation in their midst? Why disturb them still more by presuming to hold out open encouragement to their enemies to prosecute their dire schemes of hostility against them, in despite of the noble teachings of a Cass, a Buchanan, a Dallas, and a Dickinson, and others ?
But I assert that it is not true, in point of fact, that Mr. Benton has not “ made slavery speeches in Congress." In his better days, when the pro-slavery side of the question was the strong side-when yet he had not forfeited forever the confidence and kindness of the South, by bis opposition to Texan annexation_his heartless persecution of several