IT IS established (so far as large majorities in both houses of Congress can establish it), that the power to check the progress of a slave population within the territories of the United States, exists by the Constitution; but admitted that it was not expedient to exert that power in regard to Missouri and Arkansas. The latter depended on many considerations of no ordinary importance: the safety and feelings of the white population in several of the States appeared to be involved in it, and the rights and feelings of others were as deeply concerned in the subject at large. In this conflict of interests, among persons who possibly desired the same ultimate issue, though their views of it were diametrically opposed, a spirit of conciliation prevailed and a compromise was effected.
The people of those sections of country in which there are few or no slaves or persons of color, very imperfectly appreciate the wants, necessities or general principle of others differently situated. Collectively, the latter deprecate slavery as severely as the former, and dread its increase-but individual cupidity and rashness acts against the common sentiment, in the hope that an event which everybody believes must happen, may not happen in their day. It is thus that too many of us act about death; we are sure it must come, yet we commit wrong to acquire property, just as if we should hold and enjoy it forever! That the slave population will, at some certain period, cause the most horrible catastrophe, cannot be doubted-those who possess them act defensively in behalf of all that is nearest and dearest to them, when they endeavor to acquire all the strength and influence to meet that period which they can; and hence the political and civil opposition of these to the restriction which was proposed to be laid on Missouri, &c. They have the offensive population, and no feasible plan has yet been contrived to rid them of it, if they were disposed so to do. Will the people of any of the States, so much alive to humanity, pass acts to encourage emancipation by agreeing to receive the emancipated-what will they do, what can they do, to assist the people of others to relieve themselves of their unfortunate condition? It is easy to use severe terms against the practice of slavery-but let us first tell the Southern people what they can safely do to abolish it, before we, by wholesale, condemn them.
No one can hate slavery more than I do-it is a thing opposed to every principle that operates on my mind, as an individual-and, in my own private circle, I do much to discourage it. I am, also, exceedingly jealous of it, so far as it affects my political rights as a citizen of the United States, entitled to be fairly and fully represented, and no more. But I can make great allowances for those who hold slaves in districts where they abound-where, in many cases, their emancipation might be an act of cruelty to them and of most serious injury to the white population. Their difference of color is an insuperable barrier to their incorporation within the society; and the mixture of free blacks with slaves is detrimental to the happiness of both, the cause of uncounted crimes. Yet I think that some have urged their defensive character too far-without a proper respect for the rights and feelings of others, whose business it is also to judge on the matter, as applicable to an extension of the evil. But we advocated the compromise, as fixing certain points for the future government of all the parties concerned; believing that the moral and political evil of spreading slavery over Missouri and even in Arkansas, was not greater than that which might have arisen from restriction, though to restrict was right in itself. The harmony of the Union, and the peace and prosperity of the white population, most excited our sympathies. We did not fear the dreadful things which some silly folks talked of, but apprehended geographical oppositions which might lead to the worst of calamities. We had no pleasant feeling on the compromise, for bad was the best that could be done. Nevertheless, we hoped that the contest was at an end, and that things would settle down and adapt themselves to the agreement which necessity imposed.
Thus situated, it was with no little concern that we saw in the constitution which Missouri was about to offer for the sanction of Congress, new causes of collision. The objectionable provisions cannot be of any use to the new State, as to the things which they aim at. We are willing to believe that they were unthinkingly introduced; but they have the appearance of braving opposition, and of manifesting a spirit which the meekest man feels disposed to resist-to say nothing of one of them as being contrary to the Constitution of the United States-that to prevent the emigration and settlement of free blacks and mulattoes. It appears that some of the former and a number of the latter are entitled to bounty lands, for services rendered in the late war: if their lots should be in Missouri, it is idle to pretend they may not settle upon and enjoy them, if they please. But we are not disposed to examine the subject in detail-the principle adopted by the convention of Missouri, to give our opinion of it in a few words, is destructive of the federative character of our great compact, and may just as well apply to the exclusion of persons with black hair or blue eyes; and no one can seriously apprehend injury from the emigration of free people of color to a slave-holding state. It would be about as reasonable as to expect that the Mississippi will discharge her waters into the lakes, instead of naturally to disembogue them into the Gulf of Mexico.
The result, in the House of Representatives, was anticipated; but we did think that both Houses, with large majorities, would have so decided, as to striking out the offensive provisions, for the sake of harmony, in the spirit of the compromise: all would then have been well, and a great deal of time, trouble and anxiety saved. We totally reject the idea that anything which it is the business of Congress to do, should be left to the judiciary or any other power. With due deference to the eminent gentleman who proposed it, we regret that he did it; for had his plan been adopted, who can tell where the precedent would have stopped? But we think it more strange that, because Missouri was empowered to make a constitution, it should be argued that Congress was bound to accept it. Why, then, are constitutions offered, referred to committees, and sanctioned by both Houses? All this is mere mummery, if they are to be accepted at any rate-as contended for by some of the members. No one wishes harm to the people of Missouri-they are of our own kindred and lineage; they may have urged their claims imprudently, and, in our belief, have mistaken their true interests-but they have a right to judge for themselves; and if that judgment is repugnant to the general opinion or principle on the matter, they will yield it, we trust, to the law, and respect the majority.
We had written thus far when we first saw the resolution offered by Mr. Eustis, in the House of Representatives, on Tuesday last…. It precisely meets our wishes, so far as it goes, and may accomplish all that either party is really just now disposed to contend for. The anti-restriction members, as well as others, regretted the existence of certain clauses in the constitution of Missouri, as unnecessary, and calculated only to create doubts and excite opposition. Let them be expunged by the unanimous voice of Congress, and then we shall hope for an obliteration of the feelings which this unfortunate controversy has given birth to, and that all will be willing to disavow sectional interests within the body of the Republic; the peace and prosperity of which can only be maintained by a spirit of forbearance and moderation: and, if we must differ in opinion, let us differ like rational beings, and grant to others the rights which we assume for ourselves, always recollecting that the fairly expressed will of the majority must govern.
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