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whole brood of brutal, vulgar, and indecent statutes; and if this bill shall become the law of the land, it will blot out slavery forever from the national capital, transform three thousand personal chattels into freemen, obliterate oppressive, odious, and hateful laws and ordinances, which press with merciless force upon persons, bond or free, of African descent, and relieve the nation from the responsibilities now pressing upon it."
The bill, however, encountered bitter opposition from the slaveholders and their sympathizers, who thus not only reIvealed the alarm and intense hatred that rankled within of everything just and equal, but foreshadowed much that subsequent events soon developed. Among them the most violent and rancorous was Garrett Davis of Kentucky. "You have originated," he said, "in the northeast Mormonism, and free love, and that sort of ethereal Christianity which is preached by Parker and by Emerson and by others, and all sorts of mischievous isms; but what right have you to force your isms on us? What right have you to force your opinions on slavery or upon any other subject on an unwilling people? What right have you to force them on the people of this District? Is it from your love to the slaves, your devotion to benevolence and humanity, your belief in the equality of slaves with yourselves? Why do you not go out into this city and hunt up the blackest, greasiest, fattest old negro wench you can find and lead her to the altar of Hymen?" In a similar, though more decorous strain asked Mr. Kennedy of Maryland: "Why seek to impose on us principles and measures of policy which we do not want, and which tend only to still derange and embarrass us,tend further to surround us with complicated questions from which we have no escape?" Without disguise he revealed his apprehension of the effect upon his State of such a movement in the District as he impatiently inquired: "What possible benefit can occur to the North by the abolition of slavery in this District, when it is to be so deleterious and so injurious in its results to a sister State of the Union? What earthly consideration of good is to result to the people of the North, that does not bring a tenfold corresponding evil,
not only upon the people here, but upon the people of my State?" Senators," exclaimed Mr. Saulsbury of Delaware, "abandon now, at once and forever, your schemes of wild philanthropy and universal emancipation; proclaim to the people of this whole country everywhere that you mean to preserve the Union as established by the fathers of the Republic, and the rights of the people as secured by the Constitution they helped to frame, and your Union can never be destroyed; but go on with your wild schemes of emancipation, throw doubt and suspicion upon every man simply because he fails to look at your questions of wild philanthropy as you do, and the God of heaven only knows, after wading through scenes before which those of the French revolution pale their ineffectual fires,' what ultimately may be the result." "I regard the bill," said Mr. Powell of Kentucky, "as unconstitutional, impolitic, unjust to the people of the District of Columbia, and in bad faith to the people of Virginia and Maryland." Bayard of Delaware deprecated its passage as "deleterious, and most deleterious first to the city of Washington, next to the State of Maryland, then to the State of Virginia, and then, by the effect of its indirect influence, to the State of Kentucky and the State of Missouri; and if you succeed by force of arms in compelling the other slaveholding States to return to the Union, the effect will permeate through the entire mass of those States."
Another form of opposition was that of proposed amendments, factious or other, designed to embarrass or defeat. Among them was one, offered by Mr. Davis, that all persons liberated by this act should be colonized out of the United States, and that a hundred thousand dollars should be appropriated for that purpose. In defence of this amendment he made a furious speech, Mr. Doolittle of Wisconsin having moved as an amendment that only those should be colonized who "desired to go," he replied, and in his reply enunciated sentiments, feelings, and purposes with which the nation after ward became too painfully familiar. "I am better acquainted," he said, "with negro nature than the honorable Senator from Wisconsin. He will never find one slave in a hundred that will consent to be colonized when liberated. The liberation of
slaves in this District and in any State of the Union will be just equivalent to settling them in the country where they live; and whenever that policy is inaugurated, especially in the States where there are many slaves, it will inevitably and immediately introduce a war of extermination between the two races. . . . . The negroes that are now liberated, and that remain in this city, will become a sore and a burden and a charge upon the white population. They will be criminals. They will become paupers." And "the power which undertakes to liberate them ought to relieve the white community in which they reside. . . . . Whenever any power, constitutional or unconstitutional, assumes the responsibility of liberating slaves, where slaves are numerous, they establish as inexorably as fate a conflict between the races that will result in the exile or extermination of the one race or of the other." Assuming the office of prophet, he predicted that no Southern State would "submit to have those slaves manumitted and left among us." He declared, too, that the moment "you reorganize the white inhabitants of those States as States of the Union, they would reduce those slaves again to a state of slavery, or they would expel them and drive them upon you or south of you, or they would hunt them like wild beasts, and exterminate them. . . . . I know what I talk about. Never, never will they submit, by unconstitutional laws, to have their slaves liberated and domiciled with them; and the policy that attempts it will establish a bloody La Vendée in the whole of the slave States, my own included." This foreshadowing of the fiery Southron subsequent events have shown to be only too faithful, while lack of power has alone prevented the accomplishment of what he claimed to "know" would follow the policy of emancipation. Mr. Saulsbury favored the idea of uniting colonization with the emancipation, but he denied the "constitutional" right of Congress to do either, and avowed his purpose to vote against both the amendment and the bill.
Mr. Hale of New Hampshire made a very forcible speech in favor of the bill, in which he criticised with becoming dignity the too general practice of arguing and deciding the question
of emancipation on principles of mere expediency. After saying that there were no forms of scepticism so dangerous and insidious as that of not performing "plain and simple duty" for fear of the consequences; and that the question of emancipation had rarely been argued upon "the great and fundamental principles of right," he added: "The inquiry is never put, certainly in legislative circles, What is right? What is just? What is due to the individuals that are to be affected by the measure? But, What are to be the consequences? Men entirely forget to look at the objects that are to be effected by the bill, in view of the inherent rights of their manhood, in view of the great questions of humanity, of Christianity, and of duty; but by what are to be the consequences." Saying that the Senator from Kentucky had predicted the direst consequences from emancipation, he read of very different results from undoing the heavy burdens and of letting the oppressed go free, as enunciated in the prophecy of Isaiah. Though Mr. Davis's proposed amendment of colonizing the freedmen was lost, Mr. Doolittle's amendment of doing it with their consent received quite a majority of the votes cast.
To the objections urged that the bill was unconstitutional, Mr. Fessenden replied that the fundamental law of the land was "broad and clear." "Congress," he said, "under the Constitution, is gifted with all power of legislation over this District, and may do anything in it that any legislature can do in any State of the Union." Mr. Browning of Illinois expressed the same sentiment, and claimed that the right was undoubted. Even Mr. Bayard, though opposing the bill, conceded, "without the slightest reservation," that "no constitutional objection can arise to the action of Congress in abolishing slavery in this District." Various other amendments were introduced and discussed, but no important change was made, and on the 3d of April, 1862, the bill, introduced by Mr. Wilson more than three months before, was passed by a vote of twenty-nine to fourteen.
The bill was taken up in the House the next week, and gave rise to a brief but brilliant debate, in which were enunciated not only great and fundamental truths, but many beautiful
and striking thoughts. It of course encountered opposition; but that only served to render the debate more pointed and piquant. Mr. Crittenden deprecated the "mischief" the measure must produce. It would create, he said, "discontent" and be regarded as "an augury of what is to come afterward." Mr. Wickliffe of Kentucky opposed the amendment that no witness should be excluded "on account of color," and expressed the hope that the friends of the bill would "not so far outrage the laws of the District as to authorize slaves or free negroes to be witnesses in cases of this kind." He also moved the amendment, or substitute, offered in the Senate by Mr. Wright, providing for the gradual extinction of slavery. Mr. Vallandigham, after saying that there were not ten men in the XXXVIth Congress who would have recorded their votes in favor of the measure, added: "We have this bill brought forward as the beginning of a grand scheme of emancipation; and there is no calculation where that scheme will end." Mr. Wickliffe's amendment received but thirtyfour votes.
Mr. Bingham of Ohio spoke eloquently, and with more than his usual force and fervor. "We are deliberating," he said, "upon a bill which illustrates the great principle that this day shakes the throne of every despot on the globe; and that is whether man was made for government, or government was made for man. Those who oppose this bill, whether they intend it or not, by recording their votes against this enactment, reiterate the old dogma of tyrants, that the people are made to be governed, and not to govern. I deny that proposition. I deny it because all my convictions are opposed to it. I deny it because I am sure that the Constitution of my country is against it. I cannot forget, if I would, the grand utterance of one of the illustrious men of modern times, of whom Guizot very fitly said that his thoughts impress themselves indelibly wherever they fall,-standing amid the despotisms of Europe, conscious of the great truth that all men are of right equal before the law, that thrones may perish, that crowns may turn to dust, that sceptres may be broken and empires overthrown, but that the rights of men are perpetual, who proclaimed to