Numero Uno—“Note that something can be, even if it is not, while something [simply] is. That which only can be [but is not] is said to be in potentiality; that which already is is said to be in actuality. But there are two kinds of being, namely the essential, or substantial being of the thing, as for a man to be, and this is just to be, without any qualification. The other kind of being is accidental being, such as for a man to be white, and this is [not just to be, but] to be somehow.
And it is with respect to both kinds of being that something is in potentiality. For something is in potentiality toward being a man, as the sperm and the menstrual blood; and something is in potentiality toward being white, as a man. Both that which is in potentiality in respect of substantial being and that which is in potentiality in respect of accidental being can be said to be matter, as the sperm can be said to be the matter of man and the man the matter of whiteness. But they differ in that the matter that is in potentiality in respect of substantial being is called matter from which [something is made – materia ex qua], while that which is in potentiality in respect of accidental being is called matter of which [something is made – materia in qua].
Again, properly speaking, what is in potentiality toward accidental being is called a subject, while that which is in potentiality toward substantial being is properly called matter. And it is significant that what is in potentiality toward accidental being is called a subject, for we say that an accident is in a subject, while of substantial form we do not say that it is in a subject.
So matter differs from subject in that a subject does not have being from what comes to it, as it has complete being in itself. For example, a man does not have [his] being from [his] whiteness; but matter has being from what comes to it, for matter in itself does not have complete being, indeed, it does not have any being, as the Commentator says in the second book of On the Soul. And so, absolutely speaking, form gives being to matter, but the subject gives being to the accident, even if sometimes the one term is taken for the other, i.e. “matter” for “subject”, and vice versa.
Just as everything that is in potentiality can be called matter, so everything from which something has being, whether accidental or substantial being, can be called a form; just as a man, who is white in potentiality, will be actually white by whiteness, and the sperm, which is a man in potentiality, will be actually a man by the soul. And since form makes something actual, form is also called actuality. That which makes something actual in accidental being is accidental form, and that which makes something actual in substantial being is substantial form.
Since generation is motion towards form, to these two kinds of form there correspond two kinds of generation: to substantial form there corresponds generation absolutely speaking, while to accidental form there corresponds generation with qualification. For when the substantial form is introduced, something is said to come to be, without further qualification. But when an accidental form is introduced, we do not say that something comes to be, without qualification, but that something comes to be this; just as when a man becomes white, we do not say that he comes to be, absolutely speaking, but that he comes to be white. And to these two kinds of generation there correspond two kinds of corruption, namely corruption in an absolute sense, and corruption with qualification. Generation and corruption absolutely speaking are only in the category of substance, while those with qualification are in the other categories.
And since generation is a kind of mutation from non-being into being, and corruption, conversely, should be from being to non-being, generation starts not from just any kind of non-being, but from a non-being that is a being in potentiality: for example, a statue is generated from bronze, which can be a statue, but is not actually a statue.
So for generation three things are required: a being in potentiality, which is matter, non-being in actuality, which is privation, and that by which the thing will be actual, namely form. Just as when from bronze a statue is formed, the bronze, which is in potentiality toward the form of the statue, is matter; its being amorphous is called privation; and its shape, on account of which it is called a statue is its form, though not its substantial form, for the bronze was already actual even before the introduction of this form or shape, and its existence does not depend on this shape, but is an accidental form. For all artificial forms are accidental, because art works only on what is supplied by nature already in complete existence.
So there are three principles of nature, namely matter, form and privation; of which one is that to which generation proceeds, namely form, and the other two are those from which generation proceeds. Therefore, matter and privation are the same in their subject, but differ in their concepts. For the very same thing that is bronze is amorphous before the advent of the form; but it is for different reasons that it is called bronze and amorphous.
Therefore privation is called a principle not per se[in its own right] but per accidens[by coincidence], namely because it coincides with matter, just as we say that this is per accidens: the doctor builds a house, for he builds not insofar as a doctor, but insofar as a builder, who happens to be a doctor.
But there are two kinds of accidents: namely necessary [accident], which is not separated from its subject, as risibility from man, and not necessary [accident], for example, whiteness, which can be separated from man. Therefore, though privation is a per accidens principle, it does not follow that it is not required for generation, because matter is never stripped of privation; for insofar as it is under one form, it has the privation of another, and conversely, as in fire there is the privation of the form of air.
We should know that even if generation proceeds from non-being, we do not say that its principle is negation, but that it is privation, for a negation does not determine its subject. For that it does not see can be said also of non-beings, as [when we say that] a chimera does not see, and also of beings which are naturally inept to have sight, as of stones. But a privation can be said only of a determinate subject, in which the opposite habit is naturally apt to occur, for example, only those can be said to be blind that are naturally apt to see.
And since generation does not proceed from non-being absolutely speaking, but from a non-being in some subject, and not in just any kind of subject, but in a determinate subject (for it is not from just any kind of non-being that fire is generated, but from that kind of non-fire in which the form of fire is apt to come to be), we say that privation is a principle.
But it differs from the others in that the other two are principles both of being and of coming to be. For in order that a statue is generated there has to be bronze, and in the end there has to be the form of the statue, and further when the statue already exists, these two also have to exist. However, privation is only the principle of coming to be, but not of being, for while the statue is still coming to be, it is necessary that the statue does not yet exist. For if it already existed, it would not be coming to be, for what is still coming to be does not yet exist, apart from processes. But when the statue already exists, there is no privation of the shape of the statue, for affirmation and negation cannot stand together, and similarly neither can privation and habit.
Again, privation is a principle per accidens, as was explained above, and the other two are principles per se. From what has been said it is clear, then, that matter differs from form and privation in its concept. For matter is that in which form and privation are thought to be, as it is in the bronze that form and formlessness are thought to be.
Sometimes matter is named with privation, and sometimes without it. For example, the concept of bronze, when it is the matter of the statue, does not imply privation: for when I call something bronze, this does not imply that it is amorphous or formless. On the other hand, the concept of flour does imply the privation of the form of bread, for when I call something flour, this does signify an amorphousness or formlessness opposite to the form of bread.
And since in the process of generation matter or the subject remains, but privation or what is composed of matter and privation does not, that matter which does not imply privation in its concept is permanent, while that matter which does is transient.
We should know that some matter has some form, for example, the bronze, which is matter in respect of the statue, but bronze itself is composed of matter and form; wherefore bronze is not called prime matter, for it has matter. But that matter which is thought of without any kind of form or privation as subject to all forms and privations is called prime matter, because there is no other matter before it. And this is also called hyle.
Now, since [any] definition and cognition is [obtained] by form, prime matter cannot be cognized or defined in itself, only by comparison, as when we say that prime matter is that which is to all forms and privations as bronze is to the form of the statue and to the lack of this form. And this matter is called prime matter without qualification.
For something can be called prime matter in respect of a genus, as water is the prime matter of all liquids. But it is not prime matter without qualification, for it is composed of matter and form, so it has matter prior to it.
We have to know that prime matter, and even form, is not generated, nor corrupted, for every generation proceeds to something from something. That from which generation proceeds is matter, and that to which generation proceeds is form. Therefore, if either matter or form were generated, then matter would have matter and form would have form, and so on, in infinitum. So properly speaking only the composite substance is generated.
We also have to know that matter is said to be numerically one in all things. But something is said to be numerically one in two ways. First, that is said to be numerically one which has one determinate form, e.g., Socrates; but prime matter is not said to be numerically one in this way, for in itself it does not have any form. Second, a thing can also be said to be numerically one because it lacks those dispositions which make things numerically different, and it is in this way that matter is said to be numerically one.
We should know that although matter does not have in its nature some form or privation, as in the concept of bronze neither shape nor the lack of some shape is included; nevertheless, matter is never stripped of form or privation, for sometimes it is under one form, while sometimes it is under another. But in itself it can never exist, since, as in its concept it does not have any form, it does not have actual existence – for something can have actual existence only by its form -, but it is only potentially. So nothing in actual existence can be called prime matter.
From what has been said it is clear, then, that there are three principles of nature, namely matter, form and privation. But these three are insufficient for generation, for nothing drives itself into actuality, e.g., a chunk of bronze, which is in potentiality to become a statue, does not make itself into an actual statue, but it needs a sculptor, who brings out the form of the statue from potentiality to actuality. Neither would the form bring out itself from potentiality to actuality (and I am speaking here about the form of the thing being generated, which we call the end of the generation), for the form does not exist until it has come to be, but what is acting is already existing during the process of generation. So it is necessary to have another principle beside matter and form that acts, and this is called the efficient or moving cause, or the agent or the principle of motion. And since, as Aristotle says in the second book of his Metaphysics, whatever acts does so only with intending something, there has to be also a fourth [principle], namely that which is intended by the agent, and this is called the end.
We have to know, however, that every agent, natural as well as voluntary, intends some end. But from this it does not follow that all agents recognize this end, or deliberate about the end. For to recognize the end is necessary only for those agents whose acts are not determined, but which can have alternatives for [their] action, namely, voluntary agents; and so they have to recognize their ends by which they determine their actions. However, the actions of natural agents are determined, so it is not necessary that they elect the means to an end. And this is what Avicenna illustrates with his example of the guitar player, who need not deliberate any plucking of the strings, because these are determined for him, for otherwise there would be delays between the single sounds, which would result in dissonance.
Now a voluntary agent rather appears to deliberate than a natural agent. Whence by locus a maiori it follows that [if even voluntary agents, who rather appear to deliberate, sometimes do not deliberate their actions, then neither do natural agents. Therefore] it is possible for a natural agent to intend some end without deliberation. And this kind of intending an end is nothing, but to have a natural inclination towards it.
From what has been said, then, it is clear that there are four kinds of causes, namely material, efficient, formal and final. And although the terms “principle” and “cause” can be used interchangeably, as is said in the fifth book of the Metaphysics, in the Physics Aristotle distinguished four causes and three principles. For [there] he took causes to comprise both extrinsic and intrinsic ones. Now matter and form are said to be intrinsic to the thing, for they are constituent parts of the thing; but the efficient and the final cause are said to be extrinsic, for they are outside of the thing. But [in this passage of the Physics] he took only the intrinsic causes to be principles. On the other hand, privation is not counted among the causes, for privation is a per accidens principle, as we said. So when we speak about the four causes, we mean the per se causes, but also the per accidens causes are reduced to the per se ones, for whatever is per accidens is reduced to what is per se.
But even if in the first book of his Physics Aristotle calls the intrinsic causes principles, as he says in the eleventh book of his Metaphysics, properly speaking the extrinsic causes are principles and the intrinsic causes that are parts of the thing are elements, and both can be called causes. But sometimes these terms are used interchangeably. For every cause can be called a principle and every principle can be called a cause, though the concept of a cause seems to add something to that of principle in its ordinary sense, for whatever is first can be called a principle, whether there results some existence from it or not. For example, a craftsman can be called the principle of a knife, as from his work there results the being of the knife. But when something turns from black to white, we can say that blackness is the principle [beginning] of this change – and generally speaking everything from which some change begins can be called a principle – still, from this blackness there did not result the being of whiteness. But only that is called a cause from which there follows the being of a posterior thing; so we say that a cause is from the being of which there results the being of something else.
And so that first from which the motion starts cannot be called a cause per se, even if it is a principle, wherefore privation is posited among principles, though not among causes, for privation is that from which generation starts. But [privation] can also be called a cause per accidens, insofar as it coincides with matter, as was said above. However, only those things are called properly elements that are causes of which the thing is composed, which are properly material, and not just any material causes, but only those of which the thing is primarily composed. We do not say, for example, that his members are the elements of a man, for the members themselves are also composed of others; but we do say that earth and water are elements, for these are not composed of other bodies, but it is from them that all natural bodies are primarily composed. Therefore Aristotle in the fifth book of the Metaphysics says that an element is something from which a thing is primarily composed, is in the thing, and is not divided according to form.
The first particle of this definition, namely, “something from which a thing is primarily composed”, is evident from what has been just said. The second particle, namely, “is in the thing”, is put here to distinguish elements from that kind of matter which is totally corrupted in generation. For example, bread is the matter of blood, but blood is not generated, unless the bread from which it is generated passes away; so the bread does not remain in the blood, whence bread cannot be said to be an element of blood. But elements somehow have to remain, since they do not pass away, as it is said in the book On Coming to Be and Passing Away. The third particle, namely, that an element is not divided according to form, is meant to distinguish an element from those things that have parts different in form, i.e., in species, as, for example, a hand, the parts of which are flesh and bones, which are different in species. But an element is not divided into parts that differ in species, as water, of which every part is water. For it is not required for something to be an element that it should be indivisible in quantity, but it is sufficient, if it is not divisible according to species; but if something is indivisible also in this way, then it is also called an element, as letters are called the elements of expressions. So it is clear that “principle” covers more than “cause”, and “cause” more than “element”. And this is what the Commentator says in the fifth book of the Metaphysics.
Now having seen that there are four genera of causes, we have to know that it is not impossible for the same thing to have several causes: like a statue, the causes of which are both the bronze and the sculptor, but the sculptor as efficient, while the bronze as its matter. Neither is it impossible for the same thing to be the cause of contraries. For example, the pilot can be the cause both of the salvation and of the sinking of the ship, but of the one by his presence, while of the other by his absence. We also have to know that it is possible that something be both cause and effect in respect of the same thing, but not in the same way: for walking is the cause of health as its efficient, but health is the cause of walking as its end: for we take a walk sometimes for the sake of our health. Again, the body is the matter of the soul, while the soul is the form of the body. Also, the efficient is said to be the cause of the end, for the end comes to be by the operation of the agent, but the end is the cause of the efficient, insofar as the agent operates only for the sake of the end. Whence the efficient is the cause of the thing that is the end, say, health; but it does not cause the end to be the end; as the doctor causes health, but he does not cause health to be the end. On the other hand, the end is not the cause of the thing that is the efficient, but is the cause for the efficient to be efficient: for health does not cause the doctor to be a doctor (and I am speaking about the health that is produced by the operation of the doctor), but it causes the doctor to be efficient, so the end is the cause of the causality of the efficient, for it causes the efficient to be efficient, and similarly, it causes matter to be matter and form to be form, for matter does not receive form, except by the end, and form does not perfect matter, except by the end. Whence it is said that the end is the cause of all causes, for it is the cause of the causality of all causes. For matter is said to be the cause of form, insofar as the form exists only in matter; and similarly, form is the cause of matter, insofar as matter has actual existence only by the form. For matter and form are correlatives, as is said in the second book of Physics. They are related to the composite substance, however, as parts and as simple to the composite.
But since every cause is naturally prior to its effect, we should know that something is called “prior” in two ways, as Aristotle says in the sixteenth book of his On Animals. And by this difference something can be called both prior and posterior in respect of the same thing, and both cause and effect. For something is said to be prior to something else in respect of generation and time, and again, in respect of substance and completion. Now since the operation of nature proceeds from what is imperfect to what is perfect and from what is incomplete to what is complete, what is imperfect is prior to what is perfect in respect of generation and time, but what is perfect is prior in completion. So we can say that a man is prior to a boy in substance and perfection, but the boy is prior to the man in generation and time. But although among generable things that which is imperfect is prior to what is perfect, and potentiality is prior to act (considering the same thing that is imperfect prior to becoming perfect, and is in potentiality, prior to becoming actual), nevertheless, absolutely speaking, what is actual and perfect is necessarily prior: for what reduces that which is in potentiality to actuality is in actuality, and what perfects the imperfect, is itself perfect. Now matter is prior to form in generation and time: for that to which something is coming is prior to what is coming to it. Form, however, is prior to matter in perfection, since matter has no complete existence, except by the form. Similarly, the efficient is prior to the end in generation and time, for it is from the efficient that motion starts toward the end. But the end is prior to the efficient, insofar as it is efficient, in substance and completion, for the action of the efficient is completed only by the end. So these two causes, namely, matter and the efficient, are prior in generation; but the form and the end are prior in perfection.
And we should note that there are two kinds of necessity: absolute necessity and conditional necessity. Absolute necessity proceeds from those causes that are prior in generation, which are matter and the efficient: for example, the necessity of death derives from matter and the disposition of the contrary components of the body; and this is called absolute, because it cannot be impeded. And this type of necessity is also called the necessity of matter. Conditional necessity, on the other hand, proceeds from those causes that are posterior in generation, namely, form and the end. For example, we say that conception is necessary, if a man is to be generated; and this is conditional, for it is not necessary for this woman to conceive, unless under this condition, namely, that if a man is to be generated. And this is called the necessity of the end.
We should also know that three causes can coincide, namely the form, the end and the efficient, as is clear in the generation of fire. For fire generates fire, so fire is the efficient, insofar as it generates; again, fire is form, insofar as it makes actual that was previously potential, and again, it is the end, insofar as it is intended by the agent, and insofar as the operation of the agent is terminated in it. But there are two kinds of ends, namely the end of generation and the end of the thing generated, as is clear in the generation of a knife. For the form of the knife is the end of its generation; but cutting, which is the operation of the knife, is the end of the thing generated, namely of the knife. Now the end of generation sometimes coincides with two of the above-mentioned causes, when something is generated by something of the same species, as when man generates man, and olive generates olive. But this may not be understood for the end of the thing generated.
We should know, however, that the end coincides with the form numerically, for it is numerically the same item that is the form of the generated thing and that is the end of generation. But with the efficient it does not coincide numerically, but can coincide specifically. For example, when a man generates a man, then the generating man and the generated man are numerically different, but are specifically the same. But matter does not coincide with the others, because matter, since it is a being in potentiality, is by its very nature imperfect, while the other causes, since they are actual, are by their nature actual; but what is perfect and what is imperfect never coincide.
Now having seen that there are four kinds of causes, namely, efficient, material, formal and final, we have to know that any of these kinds is divided in various ways. For some causes are called prior and some are called posterior, as when we say that the art of medicine and the doctor are both causes of health, but the art is the prior, while the doctor is the posterior cause; and similarly in the case of formal and the other kinds of causes.
Note here that in our inquiry we always have to go back to the first cause, as when we ask: Why is he healthy? The answer is: because the doctor cured him. And then, further: How did he cure him? The answer is: by his knowledge of medicine. And we should know that it is the same thing to say that a cause is posterior and that it is proximate, or that a cause is prior and that it is remote. So these two divisions of causes, namely, into prior vs. posterior and into proximate vs. remote, signify the same. But we should know that the more universal cause is always called the remote cause and the more specific cause is called the proximate cause. For example, we say that the proximate form of man is what his definition signifies, namely rational, mortal animal, but his more remote form is animal and the even more remote one is substance. For all superiors are forms of the inferiors. Similarly, the proximate matter of the statue is bronze, while the more remote is metal and the even more remote one is body.
Again, some causes are per se, others are per accidens. A per se cause of a thing is its cause insofar as such, as the builder is the cause of the house, or the wood is the matter of the bench. A cause per accidens is one that coincides with the cause per se, as when we say that the doctor is building. For the doctor is a cause per accidens of the building, because he is building not insofar as a doctor, but insofar as coincides with the builder. And the situation is similar in all other cases.
Again, some causes are simple, some are composite. Something is called a simple cause, when it is named only by the name of the per se cause, or only by the name of the per accidens cause, as when we say that the builder is the cause of the building, and similarly when we say that the doctor is the cause of the building. But a cause is called composite, when we name it by the name of both, as when we say that the builder-doctor is the cause of the building.
But also that can be called a simple cause, according to Avicenna’s exposition, which is a cause without the addition of anything else, as the bronze of the statue, for the statue is made of bronze, without the addition of any other matter; or when we say that the doctor causes health, or the fire causes heat. We have a composite cause, however, when the cooperation of many things is needed for causation; e.g. one man cannot move a ship, but many can, or one stone does not make a house, but many stones do.
Again, some causes are actual, some are potential. An actual cause is one that is actually causing the thing, as when the builder is actually building, or the bronze, while the statue is actually being made of it. A potential cause, on the other hand, is what is not actually causing the thing, but can cause it, like the builder, when he is actually not building. And we should know that the actual cause and its effect should exist at the same time, so that if one of them exists, also the other is necessarily exists. For if the builder is actually working, then he has to be building, and if the act of building actually takes place, it is necessary that the builder be actually working. But this is not necessary in the case of merely potential causes.
We should know further that a universal cause is compared to a universal effect and a singular cause is compared to a singular effect. For example, we say that a builder is the cause of a building in general, but also that this builder is the cause of this building in particular.
We should also know that we can speak about the agreements and differences of the principles in terms of the agreements and differences of what they are the principles of. For some things are numerically identical, as Socrates and this man, pointing to Socrates; some things are numerically different, and specifically the same, as Socrates and Plato, who, although are both humans, are nevertheless numerically distinct. Again, some things differ specifically, but are generically the same, as a man and a donkey both belong to the genus of animals; still others are the same only analogically, as substance and quantity, which do not agree in some genus, but agree only analogically: for they agree only in that they are beings. But being is not a genus, because it is not predicated univocally, but analogically.
To understand this better, we have to know that it is in three ways that something can be predicated of several things: univocally, equivocally and analogically. Something is predicated univocally, if it is predicated by the same name and according to the same concept or definition, as “animal” is predicated of a man and a donkey. For both of them are said to be animals, and both are animated sensible substances, which is the definition of animal. Something is predicated equivocally, if it is predicated of several things by the same name, but according to different concepts, as “dog” is predicated both of the barking animal and of the constellation, which agree only in this name but not in the definition or signification of this name: for what is signified by a name is its definition, as is said in the fourth book of the Metaphysics. Finally, something is predicated analogically, if it is predicated of several things, the concepts of which are different, yet are related to the same thing. For example, “healthy” is said of the body of animals and of urine and of food, but it does not signify the same in all these cases. For it is said of urine, insofar as it is a sign of health, of the body, insofar as it is the subject of health, and of the food, insofar as it is the cause of health; but all of these concepts are related to one and the same end, namely, health. For sometimes those that agree analogically, i.e., proportionally, are related to the same end, as is clear in the above example, but sometimes they are related to the same agent, as when “healer” is said of someone who operates by the art of medicine, as a doctor, or without it, as a midwife, or even of the instruments, but always in relation to the same agent, namely the art of medicine. Again, sometimes they are related to the same subject, as when “being” is predicated of substance, of quality, of quantity and of the other categories. For it is not wholly the same concept according to which a substance is said to be a being, and a quantity and the rest, but all these are said to be beings only in relation to substance, which is the subject of all of them. So “being” is said primarily of substance, and only secondarily of the rest. Whence “being” is not a genus, for no genus is predicated primarily and secondarily of its species, but “being” is predicated analogically. And this is what we said, namely, that substance and quantity differ generically, but they are the same analogically.
Now of those that are numerically the same, also the form and matter is numerically the same, as Tully’s and Cicero’s. Of those, however, that are specifically the same, but numerically distinct, also the matter and form are numerically distinct, but specifically the same, like Socrates’s and Plato’s. Similarly, of those that are generically the same, also the principles are generically the same: like the soul and the body of a donkey and of a horse differ specifically, but are the same generically. Again, in a similar manner, of those that agree only analogically, also the principles agree only analogically. For matter and form or potentiality and actuality are the principles both of substance and of the other categories. Now the matter of substance and that of quantity, and, similarly, their forms differ generically, and agree only analogically or proportionally in that the matter of substance is to substance as the matter of quantity is to quantity. But just as substance is the cause of other categories, so are the principles of substance the principles of the rest.” Thomas Aquinas, On the Principles of Nature; translated by Gyula Klima
Numero Dos—“Mr President,—I wish to speak to-day, not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man, but as an American, and a member of the Senate of the United States. It is fortunate that there is a Senate of the United States; a body not yet moved from its propriety, not lost to a just sense of its own dignity and its own high responsibilities, and a body to which the country looks, with confidence, for wise, moderate, patriotic, and healing counsels. It is not to be denied that we live in the midst of strong agitations, and are surrounded by very considerable dangers to our institutions and government. The imprisoned winds are let loose. The East, the North, and the stormy South combine to throw the whole sea into commotion, to toss its billows to the skies, and disclose its profoundest depths. I do not affect to regard myself, Mr. President, as holding, or as fit to hold, the helm in this combat with the political elements; but I have a duty to perform, and I mean to perform it with fidelity, not without a sense of existing dangers, but not without hope. I have a part to act, not for my own security or safety, for I am looking out for no fragment upon which to float away from the wreck, if wreck there must be, but for the good of the whole, and the preservation of all; and there is that which will keep me to my duty during this struggle, whether the sun and the stars shall appear, or shall not appear for many days. I speak to-day for the preservation of the Union. ‘Hear me for my cause.’ I speak to-day, out of a solicitous and anxious heart, for the restoration to the country of that quiet and that harmony which make the blessings of this Union so rich, and so dear to us all. These are the topics that I propose to myself to discuss; these are the motives, and the sole motives, that influence me in the wish to communicate my opinions to the Senate and the country; and if I can do any thing, however little, for the promotion of these ends, I shall have accomplished all that I expect.Mr. President, it may not be amiss to recur very briefly to the events which, equally sudden and extraordinary, have brought the country into its present political condition. In May, 1846, the United States declared war against Mexico. Our armies, then on the frontiers, entered the provinces of that republic, met and defeated all her troops, penetrated her mountain passes, and occupied her capital. The marine force of the United States took possession of her forts and her towns, on the Atlantic and on the Pacific. In less than two years a treaty was negotiated, by which Mexico ceded to the United States a vast territory, extending seven or eight hundred miles along the shores of the Pacific, and reaching back over the mountains, and across the desert, until it joins the frontier of the State of Texas. It so happened, in the distracted and feeble condition of the Mexican government, that, before the declaration of war by the United States against Mexico had become known in California, the people of California, under the lead of American officers, overthrew the existing Mexican provincial government, and raised an independent flag. When the news arrived at San Francisco that war had been declared by the United States against Mexico, this independent flag was pulled down, and the stars and stripes of this Union hoisted in its stead. So, Sir, before the war was over, the forces of the United States, military and naval, had possession of San Francisco and Upper California, and a great rush of emigrants from various parts of the world took place into California in 1846 and 1847. But now behold another wonder.
In January of 1848, a party of Mormons made a discovery of an extraordinarily rich mine of gold, or rather of a great quantity of gold, hardly proper to be called a mine, for it was spread near the surface, on the lower part of the south, or American, branch of the Sacramento. They attempted to conceal their discovery for some time; but soon another discovery of gold, perhaps of greater importance, was made, on another part of the American branch of the Sacramento, and near Sutter’s Fort, as it is called. The fame of these discoveries spread far and wide. They inflamed more and more the spirit of emigration towards California, which had already been excited; and adventurers crowded into the country by hundreds, and flocked towards the Bay of San Francisco. This, as I have said, took place in the winter and spring of 1848. The digging commenced in the spring of that year, and from that time to this the work of searching for gold has been prosecuted with a success not heretofore known in the history of this globe. You recollect, Sir, how incredulous at first the American public was at the accounts which reached us of these discoveries; but we all know, now, that these accounts received, and continue to receive, daily confirmation, and down to the present moment I suppose the assurance is as strong, after the experience of these several months, of the existence of deposits of gold apparently inexhaustible in the regions near San Francisco, in California, as it was at any period of the earlier dates of the accounts. It so happened, Sir, that although, after the return of peace, it became a very important subject for legislative consideration and legislative decision to provide a proper territorial government for California, yet differences of opinion between the two houses of Congress prevented the establishment of any such territorial government at the last session. Under this state of things, the inhabitants of California, already amounting to a considerable number, thought it to be their duty, in the summer of last year, to establish a local government. Under the proclamation of General Riley, the people chose delegates to a convention, and that convention met at Monterey. It formed a constitution for the State of California, which, being referred to the people, was adopted by them in their primary assemblages, Desirous of immediate connection with the United States, its Senators were appointed and representatives chosen, who have come hither, bringing with them an authentic constitution of the State of California; and they now present themselves, asking, in behalf of their constituents, that it may be admitted into this Union as one of the United States. This constitution, Sir, contains express prohibition of slavery, or involuntary servitude, in the State of California. It is said, and I suppose truly, that, of the members who composed that convention, some sixteen were natives of, and had been residents in, the slave-holding-States, about twenty-two were from the non-slave-holding States, and the remaining ten members were either native Californians or old settlers in that country. This prohibition of slavery, it is sad, was inserted with entire unanimity.
It is this circumstance, Sir, the prohibition of slavery, which has contributed to raise, I do not say it has wholly raised, the dispute as to the propriety of the admission of California into the Union under this constitution. It is not to be denied, Mr. President, nobody thinks of denying, that, whatever reasons were assigned at the commencement of the late war with Mexico, it was prosecuted for the purpose of the acquisition of territory, and under the alleged argument that the cession of territory in which proper compensation could be obtained by the United States from Mexico, for the various claims and demands which the people of this country had against that government. At any rate, it will be found that President Polk’s message, at the commencement of the session of December, 1847, avowed that the war was to be prosecuted until some acquisition of territory should be made. As the acquisition was to be south of the line of the United States, in warm climates and countries, it was naturally, I suppose, expected by the South, that whatever acquisitions were made in that region would be added to the slave-holding portion of the United States. Very little of accurate information was possessed of the real physical character, either of California or New Mexico, and events have not turned out as was expected. Both California and New Mexico are likely to come in as free States; and therefore some degree of disappointment and surprise has resulted. In other words, it is obvious that the question which has so long harassed the country, and at some times very seriously alarmed the minds of wise and good men, has come upon us for a fresh discussion; the question of slavery in these United States.
Now, Sir, I propose, perhaps at the expense of some detail and consequent detention of the Senate, to review historically this question, which, partly in consequence of its own importance, and partly, perhaps mostly, in consequence of the manner in which it has been discussed in different portions of the country, has been a source of so much alienation and unkind feeling between them. We all know, Sir, that slavery has existed in the world from time immemorial. There was slavery, in the earliest periods of history, among the Oriental nations. There was slavery among the Jews; the theocratic government of that people issued no injunction against it. There was slavery among the Greeks; and the ingenious philosophy of the Greeks found, or sought to find, a justification for it exactly upon the grounds which have been assumed for such a justification in this country; that is, a natural and original difference among the races of mankind, and the inferiority of the black or colored race to the white. The Greeks justified their system of slavery upon that idea, precisely. They held the African and some of the Asiatic tribes to be inferior to the white race; but they did not show, I think, by any close process of logic, that, if this were true, the more intelligent and the stronger had therefore a right to subjugate the weaker.
The more manly philosophy and jurisprudence of the placed the justification of slavery on entirely different grounds. The Roman jurists, from the first down to the fall of the empire, admitted that slavery was against natural law, by which, as they maintained, all men, of whatsoever clime, color, or capacity, were equal; but they justified slavery, first, upon the ground and authority of the law of nations, arguing, and arguing truly, that at that day the conventional law of nations admitted that captives in war, whose lives, according to the notions of the times, were at the absolute disposal of the captors, might, in exchange for exemption from death, be made slaves for life, and that such a servitude might descend in their posterity. The jurists of Rome also maintained, that, by the civil law, there might be servitude or slavery, personal and hereditary; first, by the voluntary act of an individual, who might sell himself into slavery; secondly, by his being reduced into a state of slavery by his creditors, in satisfaction of his debts; and, thirdly, by being placed in a state of servitude or slavery for crime. At the introduction of Christianity, the Roman world was full of slaves, and I suppose there is to be found no injunction against that relation between man and man in the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ or of any of his Apostles. The object of the instruction imparted to mankind by the founder of Christianity was to touch the heart, purify the soul, and improve the lives of individual men. That object went directly to the first fountain of all the political and social relations of the human race, as well as of all true religious feeling, the individual heart and mind of man.
Now, Sir, upon the general nature and influence of slavery there exists a wide difference of opinion between the northern portion of this country and the southern. It is said on the one side, that, although not the subject of any injunction or direct prohibition in the New Testament, slavery is a wrong; that it is founded merely in the right of the strongest; and that it is an oppression, like unjust wars, like all those conflicts by which a powerful nation subjects a weaker to its will; and that, in its nature, whatever may be said of it in the modifications which have taken place, it is not according to the meek spirit of the Gospel. It is not “kindly affectioned”; it does not “seek another’s, and not its own”; it does not “let the oppressed go free.” These are the sentiments that are cherished, and of late with greatly augmented force, among the people of the Northern States. They have taken hold of the religious sentiment of that part of the country, as they have, more or less, taken hold of the religious feelings of a considerable portion of mankind. The South, upon the other side, having been accustomed to this relation between the two races all their lives, from their birth, having been taught, in general, to treat the subjects of this bondage with care and kindness, and I believe, in general, feeling great kindness for them, have not taken the view of the subject which I have mentioned. There are thousands of religious men, with consciences as tender as any of their brethren at the North, who do not see the unlawfulness of slavery; and there are more thousands, perhaps, that, whatsoever they may think of it in its origin, and as a matter depending upon natural right, yet take things as they are, and, finding slavery to be an established relation of the society in which they live, can see no way in which, let their opinions on the abstract question be what they may, it is in the power of the present generation to relieve themselves from this relation. And candor obliges me to say, that I believe they are just as conscientious, many of them, and the religious people, all of them, as they are at the North who hold different opinions.
Why, sir, the honorable Senator from South Carolina (Mr. Calhoun) the other day alluded to the separation of that great religious community, the Methodist Episcopal Church. That separation was brought about by differences of opinion upon this particular subject of slavery. I felt great concern, as that dispute went on, about the result. I was in hopes that the difference of opinion might be adjusted, because I looked upon that religious denomination as one of the great props of religion and morals throughout the whole country, from Maine to Georgia, and westward to our utmost western boundary. The rest was against my wishes and against my hopes. I have read all their proceedings and all their arguments; but I have never yet been able to come to the conclusion that there was any real ground for that separation; in other words, that any good could be produced by that separation. I must say I think there was some want of candor and charity. Sir, when a question of this kind seizes on the religious sentiments of mankind, and comes to be discussed in religious assemblies of the clergy and laity, there is always to be expected, or always to be feared, a great degree of excitement. It is in the nature of man, manifested by his whole history, that religious disputes are apt to become warm in proportion to the strength of the convictions which men entertain of the magnitude of the questions at issue. In all such disputes, there will sometimes be found men with whom every thing is absolute; absolutely wrong, or absolutely right. They see the right clearly; they think others ought so to see it, and they are disposed to establish a broad line of distinction between what is right and what is wrong. They are not seldom willing to establish that line upon their own convictions of truth and justice; and are ready to mark and guard it by placing along it a series of dogmas, as lines of boundary on the earth’s surface are marked by posts and stones. There are men who, with clear perceptions, as they think, of their own duty, do not see how too eager a pursuit of one duty may involve them in the violation of others, or how too warm an embracement of one truth may lead to a disregard of other truths equally as important. As I heard it stated strongly, not many days ago, these persons are disposed to mount upon some particular duty, as upon a war-horse, and to drive furiously on and upon and over all other duties that may stand in the way. There are men who, in reference to disputes of that sort, are of opinion that human duties may be ascertained with the exactness of mathematics. They deal with morals as with mathematics; and they think what is right may be distinguished from what is wrong with the precision of an algebraic equation. They have, therefore, none too much charity towards others who differ from them. They are apt, too, to think that nothing is good but what is perfect, and that there are no compromises or modifications to be made in consideration of difference of opinion or in deference to other men’s judgment. If their perspicacious vision enables them to detect a spot on the face of the sun, they think that a good reason why the sun should be struck down from the heaven. They prefer the chance of running into utter darkness to living in heavenly light, if that heavenly light be not absolutely without any imperfection. There are impatient men; too impatient always to give heed to the admonition of St. Paul, that we are not to “do evil that good many come”; too impatient to wait for the slow progress of moral causes in the improvement of mankind. They do not remember that the doctrines and the miracles of Jesus Christ have, in eighteen hundred years, converted only a small portion of the human race; and among the nations that are converted to Christianity, they forget how many vices and crimes, public and private, still prevail, and that many of them, public crimes especially, which are so clearly offences against the Christian religion, pass without exciting particular indignation. Thus wars are waged, and unjust wars. I do not deny that there may be just wars. There certainly are; but it was the remark of an eminent person, not many years ago, on the other side of the Atlantic, that it is one of the greatest reproaches to human nature that wars are sometimes just. The defence of nations sometimes causes a just war against the injustice of other nations.
In this state of sentiment, upon the general nature of slavery, lies the cause of a great part of those unhappy divisions, exasperations, and reproaches which find vent and support in different parts of the Union. But we must view things as they are. Slavery does exist in the United States. It did exist in the States before the adoption of this Constitution, and at that time.
Let us, therefore, consider for a moment what was the state of sentiment, North and South, in regard to slavery, at the time this Constitution was adopted. A remarkable change has taken place since; but what did the wise and great men of all parts of the country think of slavery then? In what estimation did they hold it at the time when this Constitution was adopted? It will be found, Sir, if we will carry ourselves by historical research back to that day, and ascertain men’s opinions by authentic records still existing among us, that there was then no diversity of opinion between the North and the South upon the subject of slavery. It will be found that both parts of the country held it equally an evil, a moral and political evil. It will not be found that, either at the North or at the South, there was much, though there was some, invective against slavery as inhuman and cruel. The great ground of objection to it was political; that it weakened the social fabric; that, taking the place of free labor, society became less strong and labor less productive; and therefore we find from all the eminent men of the time the clearest expression of their opinion that slavery is an evil. They ascribed its existence here, not without truth, and not without some acerbity of temper and force of language, to the injurious policy of the mother country, who, to favor the navigator, had entailed these evils upon the Colonies. I need hardly refer, Sir, particularly to the publications of the day. They are matters of history on the record. The eminent men, the most eminent men, and nearly all the conspicuous politicians of the South, held the same sentiments; that slavery was an evil, a blight, a scourge, and a curse. There are no terms of reprobation of slavery so vehement in the North at that day as in the South. The North was not so much excited against it as the South; and the reason is, I suppose, that there was much less of it at the North, and the people did not see, or think they saw, the evils so prominently as they were seen, or thought to be seen, at the South.
Then, Sir, when this Constitution was framed, this was the light in which the Federal Convention viewed it. That body reflected the judgment and sentiments of the great men of the South. A member of the other house, whom I have not the honor to know, has, in a recent speech, collected extracts from these public documents. They prove the truth of what I am saying, and the question then was, how to deal with it, and how to deal with it as an evil. They came to this general result. They thought that slavery could not be continued in the country if the importation of slaves were made to cease, and therefore they provided that, after a certain period, the importation might be prevented by the act of the new government. The period of twenty years was proposed by some gentleman from the North, I think, and many members of the Convention from the South opposed it as being too long. Mr. Madison especially was somewhat warm against it. He said it would bring too much of this mischief into the country to allow the importation of slaves for such a period. Because we must take along with us, in the whole of this discussion, when we are considering the sentiments and opinions in which the constitutional provision originated, that the conviction of all men was, that, if the importation of slaves ceased, the white race would multiply faster than the black race, and that slavery would therefore gradually wear out and expire. It may not be improper here to allude that, I had almost said, celebrated opinion of Mr. Madison. You observe, Sir, that the term slave, or slavery, is not used in the Constitution. The Constitution does not require that “fugitive slaves” shall be delivered up. It requires that persons held to service in one State, and escaping into another, shall be delivered up. Mr. Madison opposed the introduction of the term slave, or slavery, into the Constitution; for he said that he did not wish to see it recognized by the Constitution of the United States of America that there could be property in men. Now, Sir, all this took place in the Convention in 1787; but connected with this, concurrent and contemporaneous, is another important transaction, not sufficiently attended to. The Convention for framing this Constitution assembled in Philadelphia in May, and sat until September, 1787. During all that time the Congress of the United States was in session at New York. It was a matter of design, as we know, that the Convention should not assemble in the same city where Congress was holding its sessions. Almost all the public men of the country, therefore, of distinction and eminence, were in one or the other of these two assemblies; and I think it happened, in some instances, that the same gentlemen were members of both bodies. If I mistake not, such was the case with Mr. Rufus King, then a member of Congress from Massachusetts. Now, at the very time when the Convention in Philadelphia was framing this Constitution, the Congress in New York was farming the Ordinance of 1787, for the organization and government of the territory northwest of the Ohio. They passed that Ordinance on the 13th of July, 1787, at New York, the very month, perhaps the very day, on which these questions about the importation of slaves and the character of slavery were debated in the Convention at Philadelphia. So far as we can now learn, there was a perfect concurrence of opinion between these two bodies; and it resulted in this Ordinance of 1787, excluding slavery from all the territory over which the Congress of the United States had jurisdiction, and that was all the territory northwest of the Ohio. Three years before, Virginia and other States had made a cession of that great territory to the United States; and a most munificent act it was. I never reflect upon it without a disposition to do honor and justice, and justice would be the highest honor, to Virginia, for the cession of her northwestern territory. I will say, Sir, it is one of her fairest claims to the respect and gratitude of the country, and that, perhaps, it is only second to that other claim which belongs to her; that from her counsels, and from the intelligence and patriotism of her leading statesmen, proceeded the first idea put into practice of the formation of a general constitution of the United States. The Ordinance of 1787 applied to the whole territory over which the Congress of the United States had jurisdiction. It was adopted two years before the Constitution of the United States went into operation; because the Ordinance took effect immediately on its passage, while the Constitution of the United States, having been framed, was to be sent to the States to be adopted by their Conventions; and then a government was to be organized under it. This Ordinance, then, was in operation and force when the Constitution was adopted, and the government put it in motion, in April, 1789.
Mr. President, three things are quite clear as historical truths. One is, that there was an expectation that, on the ceasing of the importation of slaves from Africa, slavery would begin to run out here. That was hoped and expected. Another is, that, as far as there was any power in Congress to prevent the spread of slavery in the United States, that power was executed in the most absolute manner, and to the fullest extent. An honorable member (Mr. Calhoun), whose health does not allow him to be here to-day—
A SENATOR. He is here.
I am very happy to hear that he is; may he long be here, and in the enjoyment of health to serve his country! The honorable member said, the other day, that he considered this Ordinance as the first in series of measures calculated to enfeeble the South, and deprive them of their just participation in the benefits and privileges of this government. He says, very properly, that it was enacted under the old Confederation, and before this Constitution went into effect; but my present purpose is only to say, Mr. President, that it was established with the entire and unanimous concurrence of the whole South. Why, there it stands! The vote of every State in the Union was unanimous in favor of the Ordinance, with the exception of a single individual vote, and that individual vote was given by a Northern man. This Ordinance prohibiting slavery for ever northwest of the Ohio has the hand and seal and every Southern member in Congress.
It was therefore no aggression of the North on the South. The other and third clear historical truth is, that the Convention meant to leave slavery in the State as they found it, entirely under the authority and control of the States themselves.
This was the state of things, Sir, and this the state of opinion, under which those very important matters were arranged, and those three important things done; that is, the establishment of the Constitution of the United States with a recognition of slavery as it existed in the States; the establishment of the ordinance for the government of the Northwestern Territory, prohibiting, to the full extent of all territory owned by the United States, the introduction of slavery into that territory, while leaving to the States all power over slavery in their own limits; and creating a power, in the new government, to put an end to the importation of slaves, after a limited period. There was entire coincidence and concurrence of sentiment between the North and the South, upon all these questions, at the period of the adoption of the Constitution. But opinions, Sir, have changed, greatly changed; changed North and changed South. Slavery is not regarded in the South now as it was then. I see an honorable member of this body paying me the honor of listening to my remarks; he brings to my mind, Sir, freshly and vividly, what I have learned of his great ancestor, so much distinguished in his day and generation, so worthy to be succeeded by so worthy a grandson, and of the sentiments he expressed in the Convention in Philadelphia.
Here we may pause. There was, if not an entire unanimity, a general concurrence of sentiment running through the whole community, and especially entrained by the eminent men of all parts of the country. But soon a change began, at the North and the South, and a difference of opinion showed itself; the North growing much more warm and strong against slavery, and the South growing much more warm and strong in its support. Sir, there is no generation of mankind whose opinions are not subject to be influenced by what appear to them to be their present emergent and exigent interests. I impute to the South no particularly selfish view in the change which has come over her. I impute to her certainly no dishonest view. All that has happened has been natural. It has followed those causes which always influence the human mind and operate upon it. What, then, have been the causes which have created so new a feeling in favor of slavery in the South, which have changed the whole nomenclature of the South on that subject, so that, from being thought and described in the terms I have mentioned and will not repeat, it has now become an institution, a cherished institution, in that quarter; no evil, no scourge, but a great religious, social, and moral blessing, as I think I have heard it latterly spoken of? I suppose this, Sir, is owning to the rapid growth and sudden extention of the COTTON plantations of the South. So far as any motive consistent with honor, justice, and general judgment could act, it was the COTTON interest that gave a new desire to promote slavery, to spread it, and to use its labor. I again say that this change was produced by causes which must always produce life effects. The whole interest of the South became connected, more or less, with the extension of slavery. If we look back to the history of the commerce of this country in the early years of this government, what were our exports? Cotton was hardly, or but to a very limited extent, known. In 1791 the first parcel of cotton of the growth of the United States was exported, and amounted only to 19,200 pounds. It has gone on increasing rapidly, until the whole crop may now, perhaps, in a season of great product and high prices, amount to a hundred millions of dollars. In the years I have mentioned, there was more of wax, more of indigo, more of rice, more of almost every article of export from the South, than of cotton. When Mr. Jay negotiated the treaty of 1794 with England, it is evident from the twelfth article of the treaty, which was suspended by the Senate, that he did not know that cotton was exported at all from the United States.
Well, Sir, we know what followed. The age of cotton became the golden age of our Southern brethren. It gratified their desire for improvement and accumulation, at the same time that it excited it. The desire grew by what it fed upon, and there soon came to be an eagerness for other territory, a new area or new areas for the cultivation of the cotton crop; and measures leading to this result were brought about rapidly, one after another, under the lead of Southern men at the head of the government, they having a majority in both branches of Congress to accomplish their ends. The honorable member from South Carolina (Mr. Calhoun) observed that there has been a majority all along in favor of the North. If that be true, Sir, the North has acted either very liberally and kindly, or very weakly; for they never exercised that majority efficiently five times in the history of the government, when a division or trial of strength arose. Never. Whether they were out-generalled, or whether it was owing to other causes, I shall not stop to consider; but no man acquainted with the history of the Union can deny that the general lead in the politics of the country, for three fourths of the period that has elapsed since the adoption of the Constitution, has been a Southern lead.
In 1802, in pursuit of the idea of opening a new cotton region, the United States obtained a cession from Georgia of the whole of her western territory, now embracing the rich and growing States of Alabama and Mississippi. In 1803 Louisiana was purchased from France, out of which the States of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri have been framed, as slave-holding States. In 1819 the cession of Florida was made, bringing in another region adapted to cultivation by slaves. Sir, the honorable member from South Carolina thought he saw in certain operations of the government, such as the manner of collecting the revenue, and the tendency of measures calculated to promote emigration into the country, what accounts for the more rapid growth of the North than the South. He ascribes that more rapid growth, not to the operation of the time, but to the system of government and administration established under this Constitution. That is matter of opinion. To a certain extent it may be true; but it does seem to me that, if any operation of the government can be shown in any degree to have promoted the population, and growth, and wealth of the North, it is much more sure that there are sundry important and distinct operations of the government, about which no man can doubt, tending to promote, and which absolutely have promoted, the increase of the slave interest and the slave territory of the South. It was not time that brought in Louisiana; it was the act of men. It was not time that brought in Florida; it was the act of men. And lastly, Sir, to complete those acts of legislation which have contributed so much to enlarge the area of the institution of slavery, Texas, great and vast and illimitable Texas, was added to the Union as a slave State in 1845; and that, Sir, pretty much closed the whole chapter, and settled the whole account.
That closed the whole chapter and settled the whole account, because the annexation of Texas, upon the conditions and under the guaranties upon which she was admitted, did not leave within the control of this government an acre of land, capable of being cultivated by slave labor, between this Capitol and the Rio Grande or the Nueces, or whatever is the proper boundary of Texas; not an acre. From that moment, the whole country, from this place to the western boundary of Texas, was fixed, pledged, fastened, decided, to be a slave territory for ever, by the solemn guaranties of law. And I now say, Sir, as the proposition upon which I stand this day, and upon the truth and firmness of which I intend to act until it is overthrown, that there is not at this moment within the United States, or any territory of the United States, a single foot of land, that character of which, in regard to its being free territory or slave territory, is not fixed by some law, and some irrepealable law, beyond the power of the action of the government. Is it not so with respect to Texas? It is most manifestly so. The honorable member from South Carolina, at the time of the admission of Texas, held an important post in the executive department of the government; he was Secretary of State. Another eminent person of great activity and adroitness in affairs, I mean the late Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. Walker), was a conspicuous member of this body, and took the lead in the business of annexation in cooperation with the Secretary of State; and I must say that they did their business faithfull and thoroughly; there was no botch left in it. They rounded it off, and made as close joinerwork as ever was exhibited. Resolutions of annexation were brought into Congress, fitly joined together, compact, efficient, conclusive upon the great object which they had in view, and those resolutions passed.
Allow me to read a part of these resolutions. It is the third clause of the second section of the resolution of the 1st of March, 1845, for the admission of Texas, which applies to this part of the case. That clause is as follows:—
New States, of convenient size, not exceeding four in number, in addition to said State of Texas, and having sufficient population, may hereafter, by the consent of said State, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions of the Federal Constitution. And such States as may be formed out of that portion of said territory lying south of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude, commonly known as the Missouri Compromise line, shall be admitted into the Union with or without slavery, as the people of each State asking admission may desire; and in such State or States as shall be formed out of said territory north of said Missouri Compromise line, slavery or involuntary servitude (except for crime) shall be prohibited.
Now, what is here stipulated, enacted, and secured? It is, that all Texas south of 36° 30′, which is nearly the whole of it, shall be admitted into the Union as a slave State. It was a slave State, and therefore came in as a slave State; and the guaranty is, that new States shall be made out of it, to the number of four, in addition to the State then in existence and admitted at that time by these resolutions, and that such States as are formed out of that portion of Texas lying south of 36′ 30′ may come in as slave States. I know no form of legislation which can strengthen this. I know no mode of recognition that can add a tittle of weight to it. I listened respectfully to the resolutions of my honorable friend from Tennessee (Mr. Bell). He proposed to recognize that stipulation with Texas. But any additional recognition would weaken the force of it; because it stands here on the ground of a contract, a thing done for a consideration. It is a law founded on a contract with Texas, and designed to carry that contract into effect. A recognition now, founded not on any consideration or any contract, would not be so strong as it now stands on the face of the resolution. I know no way, I candidly confess, in which this government, acting in good faith, as I trust it always will, can relieve itself from that stipulation and pledge, by any honest course of legislation whatsoever. And therefore I say again, that, so far as Texas is concerned, in the whole of that State south of 36° 30′, which, I suppose, embraces all the territory capable of slave cultivation, there is no land, not an acre, the character of which is not established by law; a law which cannot be repealed without the violation of a contract, and plain disregard of the public faith.
I hope, Sir, it is now apparent that my proposition, so far as it respects Texas, has been maintained, and that the provision in this article is clear and absolute; and it has been well suggested by my friend from Rhode Island (Mr. Greene), that that part of Texas which lies north of 36° 30′ of north latitude, and which may be formed into free States, is dependent, in like manner, upon the consent of Texas, herself a slave State.
Now, Sir, how came this? How came it to pass that within these walls, where it is said by the honorable member from South Carolina that the free States have always had a majority, this resolution of annexation, such as I have described it, obtained a majority in both houses of Congress? Sir, it obtained that majority by the great number of Northern votes added to the entire Southern vote, or at least nearly the whole of the Southern vote. The aggregate was made up of Northern and Southern votes. In the House of Representatives there were about eighty Southern votes and about fifty Northern votes for the admission of Texas. In the Senate the vote for the admission of Texas was twenty-seven, with twenty-five against it; and of those twenty-seven votes, constituting the majority, no less than thirteen came from the free States, and four of them were from New England. The whole of these thirteen Senators, constituting within a fraction, you see, once half of all the votes in this body for the admission of this immeasurable extent of slave territory, were sent here by free States.
Sir, there is not so remarkable a chapter in our history of political events, political parties, and political men as is afforded by this admission of a new slave-holding territory, so vast that a bird cannot fly over it in a week. New England, as I have said, with some of her own votes, supported this measure. Three fourths of the votes of liberty-loving Connecticut were given for it in the other house, and one half here. There was one vote for it from Maine, but, I am happy to say, not the vote of the honorable member who addressed the Senate the day before yesterday (Mr. Hamlin), and who was then a Representative from Maine in the House of Representatives; but there was one vote from Maine, ay, and there was one vote for it from Massachusetts, given by a gentleman then representing, and now living in, the district in which the prevalence of Free Soil sentiment for a couple of years or so has defeated the choice of any member to represent it in Congress. Sir, that body of Northern and Eastern men who gave those votes at that time are now seen taking upon themselves, in the nomenclature of politics, the appellation of the Northern Democracy. They undertook to wield the destinies of this empire, if I may give that name to a republic, and their policy was, and they persisted in it, to bring into this country and under this government all the territory they could. They did it, in the case of Texas, under pledges, absolute pledges, to the slave interest, and they afterwards lent their aid in bringing in these new conquests, to take their chance for slavery or freedom. My honorable friend from Georgia (Mr. Berrien), in March, 1847, moved the Senate to declare that the war ought not to be prosecuted for the conquest of territory, or for the dismemberment of Mexico. The whole of the Northern Democracy voted against it. He did not get a vote from them. It suited the patriotic and elevated sentiments of the Northern Democracy to bring in a world from among the mountains and valleys of California and New Mexico, or any other part of Mexico, and then quarrel about it; to bring it in, and then endeavor to put upon it the saving grace of the Wilmot Proviso. There were two eminent and highly respectable gentlemen in the Senate, (I refer, and I do so with entire respect, for I entertain for both of those gentlemen, in general, high regard, to Mr. Dix of New York and Mr. Niles of Connecticut,) who both voted for the admission of Texas. They would not have that vote any other way than as it stood; and they would have it as it did stand. I speak of the vote upon the annexation of Texas. Those two gentlemen would have the resolution of annexation just as it is, without amendment; and they voted for it just as it is, and their eyes were all open to its true character. The honorable member from South Carolina who addressed us the other day was then Secretary of State. His correspondence with Mr. Murphy, the Chargé d’Affaires of the United States in Texas, had been published. That correspondence was all before those gentlemen, and the Secretary had the boldness and candor to avow in that correspondence, that the great object sought by the annexation of Texas was to strengthen the slave interest of the South. Why, Sir, he said so in so many words–
MR. CALHOUN. Will the honorable Senator permit me to interrupt him for a moment?
MR. WEBSTER. Certainly.
MR. CALHOUN. I am very reluctant to interrupt the honorable gentleman; but, upon a point of so much importance, I deem it right to put myself rectus in curia. I did not put it upon the ground assumed by the Senator. I put it upon this ground: that Great Britain had announced to this country, in so many words, that her object was to abolish slavery in Texas, and, through Texas, to accomplish the abolition of slavery in the United States and the world. The ground I put it on was, that it would make an exposed frontier, and, if Great Britain succeeded in her object, it would be impossible that that frontier could be secured against the aggressions of the Abolitionists; and that this government was bound, under the guaranties of the Constitution, to protect us against such a state of things.
MR. WEBSTER. That comes, I suppose, Sir, to exactly the same thing. It was, that Texas must be obtained for the security of the slave interest of the South.
MR. CALHOUN. Another view is very distinctly given.
MR. WEBSTER. That was the object set forth in the correspondence of a worthy gentleman not now living (Mr. Upshur), who preceded the honorable member from South Carolina in the Department of State. There repose on the files of the Department, as I have occasion to know, strong letters from Mr. Upshur to the United States minister in England, and I believe there are some to the same minister from the honorable Senator himself, asserting to this effect the sentiments of this government; namely, that Great Britain was expected not to interfere to take Texas out of the hands of its then existing government and make it a free country. But my argument, my suggestion, is this; that those gentlemen who composed the Northern Democracy when Texas was brought into the Union saw clearly that it was brought in as a slave country, and brought in for the purpose of being maintained as slave territory, to the Greek Kalends. I rather think the honorable gentleman who was then Secretary of State might, in some of his correspondence with Mr. Murphy, have suggested that it was not expedient to say too much about this object, lest it should create some alarm. At any rate, Mr. Murphy wrote to him that England was anxious to get rid of the constitution of Texas, because it was a constitution establishing slavery; and that what the United States had to do was to aid the people of Texas in upholding their constitution; but that nothing should be said which should offend the fanatical men of the North. But, Sir, the honorable member did avow this object himself, openly, boldly, and manfully; he did not disguise his conduct or his motives.
MR. CALHOUN. Never.
MR.WEBSTER. What he means he is very apt to say.
MR. CALHOUN. Always, always.
MR. WEBSTER. And I honor him for it. This admission of Texas was in 1845. Then, in 1847, flagrante bello between the United States and Mexico, the proposition I have mentioned was brought forward by my friend from Georgia, and the Northern Democracy voted steadily against it. Their remedy was to apply to the acquisitions, after they should come in, the Wilmot Proviso. What follows? These two gentlemen (Messrs. Niles and Dix), worthy and honorable and influential men, (and if they had not been they could not have carried the measure,) these two gentlemen, members of this body, brought in Texas, and by their votes they also prevented the passage of the resolution of the honorable member from Georgia, and then they went home and took the lead in the Free Soil party. And there they stand, Sir! They leave us here, bound in honor and conscience by the resolutions of annexation; they leave us here, to take the odium of fulfilling the obligations in favor of slavery which they voted us into, or else the greater odium of violating those obligations, while they are at home making capital and rousing speeches for free soil and no slavery. And therefore I say, Sir, that there is not a chapter in our history, respecting public measures and public men, more full of what would create surprise, more full of what does create, in my mind, extreme mortification, than that of the conduct of the Northern Democracy on this subject…
But now that, under certain conditions, Texas is in the Union, with all her territory, as a slave State, with a solemn pledge, also, that, if she shall be divided into many States, those States may come in as slave States south of 36° 30′, how are we to deal with this subject? I know no way of honest legislation, when the proper time comes for the enactment, but to carry into effect all that we have stipulated to do. I do not entirely agree with my honorable friend from Tennessee (Mr. Bell), that, as soon as the time comes when she is entitled to another representative, we should create a new State. On former occasions, in creating new States out of territories, we have generally gone upon the idea that, when the population of the territory amounts to about sixty thousand, we would consent to its admission as a State. But it is quite a different thing when a State is divided, and two or more States made out of it. It does not follow in such a case that the same rule of apportionment should be applied. That, however, is a matter for the consideration of Congress, when the proper time arrives. I may not then be here; I may have no vote to give on that occasion; but I wish it to be distinctly understood, that, according to my view of the matter, this government is solemnly pledged, by law and contract, to create new States out of Texas, with her consent, when her population shall justify and call for such a proceeding, and, so far as such States are formed out of the Texan territory lying south of 36° 30′, to let them come in as slave States. That is the meaning of the contract which our friends, the Northern Democracy, have left us to fulfil; and I, for one, mean to fulfil it, because I will not violate the faith of the government.
What I mean to say is, that the time for the admission of new States formed out of Texas, the number of such States, their boundaries, the requisite amount of population, and all other things connected with the admission, are in the free discretion of Congress, except this; to wit, when new States formed out of Texas are to be admitted, they have a right, by legal stipulation and contract, to come in as slave States.
Now, as to California and New Mexico, I hold slavery to be excluded from those territories by a law even superior to that which admits and sanctions it in Texas. I mean the law of nature, of physical geography, the law of the formation of the earth. That law settles for ever, with a strength beyond all terms of human enactment, that slavery cannot exist in California or New Mexico. Understand me, Sir; I mean slavery as we regard it; the slavery of the colored race as it exists in the Southern States. I shall not discuss the point, but leave it to the learned gentlemen who have undertaken to discuss it; but I suppose there is no slavery of that description in California now. I understand that peonism, a sort of penal servitude, exists there, or rather a sort of voluntary sale of a man and his offspring for debt, an arrangement of a peculiar nature known to the law of Mexico. But what I mean to say is, that it is impossible that African slavery, as we see it among us, should find its way, or be introduced, into California and New Mexico, as any other natural impossibility. California and New Mexico are Asiatic in their formation and scenery. They are composed of vast ridges of mountains, of great height, with broken ridges and deep valleys. The sides of these mountains are entirely barren; their tops capped by perennial snow. There may be in California, now made free by its constitution, and no doubt there are, some tracts of valuable land. But it is not so in New Mexico. Pray, what is the evidence which every gentleman must have obtained on this subject, from information sought by himself or communicated by others? I have inquired and read all I could find, in order to acquire information on this important subject. What is there in New Mexico that could, by any possibility, induce any body to go there with slaves? There are some narrow strips of tillable land on the borders of the rivers; but the rivers themselves dry up before midsummer is gone. All that the people can do in that region is to raise some little articles, some little wheat for their tortillas, and that by irrigation. And who expects to see a hundred black men cultivating tobacco, corn, cotton, rice, or any thing else, on lands in New Mexico, made fertile only by irrigation? I look upon it, therefore, as a fixed fact, to use the current expression of the day, that both California and New Mexico are destined to be free, so far as they are settled at all, which I believe, in regard to New Mexico, will be but partially for a great length of time; free by the arrangement of things ordained by the Power above us. I have therefore to say, in this respect also, that this country is fixed for freedom, to as many persons as shall ever live in it, by a less repealable law than that which attaches to the right of holding slaves in Texas; and I will say further, that, if a resolution or a bill were now before us, to provide a territorial government for New Mexico, I would not vote to put any prohibition into it whatever. Such a prohibition would be idle, as it respects any effect it would have upon the territory; and I would not take pains uselessly to reaffirm an ordinance of nature, nor to reenact the will of God. I would put in no Wilmot Proviso for the mere purpose of a taunt or a reproach. I would put into it no evidence of the votes of superior power, exercised for no purpose but to wound the pride, whether a just and a rational pride, or an irrational pride, of the citizens of the Southern States. I have no such object, no such pupose. They would think it a taunt, an indignity; they would think it to be an act of taking away from them what they regard as a proper equality of privilege. Whether they expect to realize any benefit from it or not, they would think it at least a plain theoretic wrong; that something more or less derogatory to their character and their rights had taken place. I propose to inflict no such wound upon any body, unless something essentially important to the country, and efficient to the preservation of liberty and freedom, is to be effected. I repeat, therefore, Sir, and, as I do not propose to address the Senate often on this subject, I repeat it because I wish it to be distinctly understood, that, for the reasons stated, if a proposition were now here to establish a government for New Mexico, and it was moved to insert a provision for a prohibition of slavery, I would not vote for it.
Now, Mr. President, I have established, so far as I proposed to do so, the proposition with which I set out, and upon which I intend to stand or fall; and that is, that the whole territory within the former United States, or in the newly acquired Mexican provinces, has a fixed and settled character, now fixed and settled by law which cannot be repealed; in the case of Texas without a violation of public faith, and by no human power in regard to California and New Mexico; that, therefore, under one of other of these laws, every foot of land in the States or in the Territories has already received a fixed and decided character…
Mr. President, in the excited times in which we live, there is found to exist a state of crimination and recrimination between the North and the South. There are lists of grievances produced by each; and those grievances, real or supposed, alienate the minds of one portion of the country from the other, exasperate the feelings, and subdue the sense of fraternal affection, patriotic love, and mutual regard. I shall bestow a little attention, Sir, upon these various grievances existing on the one side and on the other. I being with the complaints of the South. I will not answer, further than I have, the general statements of the honorable Senator from South Carolina, that the North has prospered at the expense of the South in consequence of the manner of administering this government, in the collecting of its revenues, and so forth. These are disputed topics, and I have no inclination to enter into them. But I will allude to other complaints of the South, and especially to one which has in my opinion just foundation; and that is, that there has been found at the North, among individuals and among legislators, a disinclination to perform fully their constitutional duties in regard to the return of persons bound to service who have escaped into the free States. In that respect, the South, in my judgment, is right, and the North is wrong. Every member of every Northern legislature is bound by oath, like every other officer in the country, to support the Constitution of the United States; and the article of the Constitution (Art. IV Sect. 2) which says to these States that they shall deliver up fugitives from service is as binding in honor and conscience as any other article. No man fulfills his duty in any legislature who sets himself to find excuses, evasions, escapes from this constitutional obligation. I have always thought that the Constitution addressed itself to the legislatures of the States or to the States themselves. It says that those persons escaping to other States “shall be delivered up,” and I confess I have always been of the opinion that it was an injunction upon the States themselves. When it is said that a person escaping into another State, and coming therefore within the jurisdiction of that State, shall be delivered up, it seems to me the impost of the clause is, that the State itself, in obedience to the Constitution, shall cause him to be delivered up. That is my judgment. I have always entertained that opinion, and I entertain it now. But when the subject, some years ago, was before the Supreme Court of the United States, the majority of the judges held that the power to cause fugitives from service to be delivered up was a power to be exercised under the authority of this government. I do not know, on the whole, that it may not have been a fortunate decision. My habit is to respect the result of judicial deliberations and the solemnity of judicial decisions. As it now stands, the business of seeing that these fugitives are delivered up resides in the power of Congress and the national judicature, and my friend at the head of the Judiciary Committee (Mr. Mason) has a bill on the subject now before the Senate, which, with some amendments to it, I propose to support, with all its provisions, to the fullest extent. And I desire to call the attention of all sober-minded men at the North, of all conscientious men, of all men who are not carried away by some fanatical idea or some false impression to their constitutional obligations. I put it to all the sober and sound minds at the North as a question of morals and a question of conscience. What right have they, in their legislative capacity or any other capacity, to endeavor to get round this Constitution, or to embarrass the free exercise of the rights secured by the Constitution to the persons whose slaves escape from them? None at all; none at all. Neither in the forum of conscience, nor before the face of the Constitution, are they, in my opinion, justified in such an attempt. Of course it is a matter for their consideration. They probably, in the excitement of the times, have not stopped to consider of this. They have followed what seemed to be the current of thought and of motives, as the occasion arose, and they have neglected to investigate fully the real question, and to consider their constitutional obligations; which, I am sure, if they did consider, they would fulfill with alacrity. I repeat, therefore, Sir, that here is a well-founded ground of complaint against the North, which ought to be removed, which is now in the power of the different departments of this government to remove; which calls for the enactment of proper laws authorizing the judicature of this government, in the several States, to do all that is necessary for the recapture of fugitive slaves and for their restoration to those who claim them. Wherever I go, and whenever I speak on the subject, and when I speak here I desire to speak to the whole North, I say that the South has been injured in this respect, and has a right to complain; and the North has been too careless of what I think the Constitution peremptorily and emphatically enjoins upon her as a duty…
Then, Sir, there are the Abolition societies, of which I am unwilling to speak, but in regard to which I have very clear notions and opinions. I do not think them useful. I think their operations for the last twenty years have produced nothing good or valuable. At the same time, I believe thousands of their members to be honest and good men, perfectly well-meaning men. They have excited feelings; they think they must do something for the cause of liberty; and, in their sphere of action, they do not see what else they can do than to contribute for an Abolition press, or an Abolition society, or to pay an Abolition lecturer. I do not mean to impute gross motives even to the leaders of these societies, but I am not blind to the consequences of their proceedings. I cannot but see what mischiefs their interference with the South has produced. And is it not plain to every man?… We all know the fact, and we all know the cause; and every thing that these agitating people have done has been, not to enlarge, but to restrain, not to set free, but to bind faster, the slave population of the South…
Again, Sir, the violence of the Northern press is complained of. The press violent! Why, Sir, the press is violent everywhere. There are outrageous reproaches in the North against the South, and there are reproaches as vehement in the South against the North. Sir, the extremists of both parts of this country are violent; they mistake loud and violent talk for eloquence and for reason. They think that he who talks loudest reasons best. And this we must expect, when the press is free, as it is here, and I trust always will be; for, with all its licentiousness and all its evil, the entire and absolute freedom of the press is essential to the preservation of the government on the basis of a free constitution. Wherever it exists there will be foolish and violent paragraphs in the newspapers, as there are, I am sorry to say, foolish and violent speeches in both houses of Congress. In truth, Sir, I must say that, in my opinion, the vernacular tongue of the country has become greatly vitiated, depraved, and corrupted by the style of our Congressional debates. And if it were possible for those debates to vitiate the principles of the people as much as they have depraved their tastes, I should cry out, “God save the Republic!”
Well, in all this I see no solid grievance, no grievance presented by the South, within the redress of the government, but the single one to which I have referred; and that is, the want of a proper regard to the injunction of the Constitution for the delivery of fugitive slaves.
There are also complaints of the North against the South. I need not go over them particularly. The first and gravest is, that the North adopted the Constitution, recognizing the existence of slavery in the States, and recognizing the right, to a certain extent, of the representation of slaves in Congress, under a state of sentiment and expectation which does not now exist; and that, by events, by circumstances, by the eagerness of the South to acquire territory and extend her slave population, the North finds itself, in regard to the relative influence of the South and the North, of the free States and the slave States, where it never did expect to find itself when they agreed to the compact of the Constitution. They complain, therefore, that, instead of slavery being regarded as an evil, as it was then, an evil which all hoped would be extinguished gradually, it is now regarded by the South as an institution to be cherished, and preserved, and extended; an institution which the South has already extended to the utmost of her power by the acquisition of new territory. Well, then, passing from that, every body in the North reads; and every body reads whatsoever in the newspapers contain; and the newspapers, some of them, especially those presses to which I have alluded, are careful to spread about among the people every reproachful sentiment uttered by any Southern man bearing at all against the North; every thing that is calculated to exasperate and to alienate; and there are many such things, as every body will admit, from the South, or some portion of it, which are disseminated among the reading people; and they do exasperate, and alienate, and produce a most mischievous effect upon the public mind at the North…
There is a more tangible and irritating cause of grievance at the North. Free blacks are constantly employed in the vessels of the North, generally as cooks or stewards. When the vessel arrives at a Southern port, these free colored men are taken on shore, by the police or municipal authority, imprisoned, and kept in prison till the vessel is again ready to sail. This is not only irritating, but exceedingly unjustifiable and oppressive… The North thinks such imprisonments illegal and unconstitutional; and as the cases occur constantly and frequently, they regard it as a great grievance.
Now, Sir, so far as any of these grievances have their foundation in matters of law, they can be redressed, and ought to be redressed; and so far as they have their foundation in matters of opinion, in sentiment, in mutual crimination and recrimination, all that we can do is to endeavor to allay this agitation, and cultivate a better feelings and more fraternal sentiments between the South and the North.
Mr. President, I should much prefer to have heard from every member on this floor declarations of opinion that this Union could never be dissolved, than the declaration of opinion by any body, that, in any case, under the pressure of any circumstances, such a dissolution was possible. I hear with distress and anguish the word “secession,”” especially when it falls from the lips of those who are patriotic, and known to the country, and known all over the world, for their political science. Secession! Peaceable session! Sir, your eyes and mine are never destined to see that miracle. The dismemberment of this vast country without convulsion! The breaking up of the fountains of the great deep without ruffling the surface! Who is so foolish, I beg every body’s pardon, as to expect to see any such thing? Sir, he who sees these States, now revolving in harmony around a common centre, and expects to see them quit their places and fly off without convulsion, may look the next hour to see the heavenly bodies rush from their spheres, and jostle against each other in the realms of space, without causing the wreck of the universe. There can be no such thing as a peaceable secession. Peaceable secession is an utter impossibility. Is the great Constitution under which we live, covering this whole country, is it to be thawed and melted away be secession, as the snows on the mountain melt under the influence of a vernal sun, disappear almost unobserved, and run off? No, Sir! No, Sir! I will not state what might produce the disruption of the Union; but, Sir, I see as plainly as I see the sun in heaven what that disruption itself might produce; I see that it must produce war, and such a war as I will not describe, in its twofold character.
Peaceable secession! Peaceable secession! The concurrent agreement of all the members of this great republic to separate! A voluntary separation, with alimony on one side and on the other. Why, what would be the result? Where is the line to be drawn? What States are to secede? What is to remain American? What am I to be? An American no longer? Am I to become a sectional man, a local man, a separatist, with no country in common with the gentlemen who sit around me here, or who fill the other house of Congress? Heaven forbid! Where is the flag of the republic to remain? Where is the eagle still to tower? or is he to cower, and shrink, and fall to the ground? Why, Sir, our ancestors, our fathers and our grandfathers, those of them that are yet living amongst us with prolonged lives, would rebuke and reproach us; and our children and our grandchildren would cry out shame upon us, if we of this generation should dishonor these ensigns of the power of the government and the harmony of that Union which is every day felt among us with so much joy and gratitude. What is to become of the army? What is to become of the navy? What is to become of the public lands? How is each of the thirty States to defend itself? I know, although the idea has not been stated distinctly, there is to be, or it is supposed to be possible that there will be, a Southern Confederacy. I do not mean, when I allude to this statement, that any one seriously contemplates such a state of things. I do not mean to say that it is true, but I have heard it suggested elsewhere, that the idea has been entertained, that, after the dissolution of this Union, a Southern Confederacy might be formed. I am sorry, Sir, that it has ever been thought of, talked of, or dreamed of, in the wildest flights of human imagination. But the idea, so far as it exists, must be of a separation, assigning the slave States to one side and the free States to the other. Sir, I may express myself too strongly, perhaps, but there are impossibilities in the natural as well as in the physical world, and I hold the idea of a separation of these States, those that are free to form one government, and those that are slave-holding to form another, as such an impossibility. We could not separate the States by any such line, if we were to draw it. We could not sit down here to-day and draw a line of separation that would satisfy any five men in the country. There are natural causes that would keep and tie us together, and there are social and domestic relations which we could not break if we would, and which we should not if we could…
…Sir, I am ashamed to pursue this line of remark. I dislike it, I have an utter disgust for it. I would rather heard of natural blasts and mildews, war, pestilence, and famine, than to hear gentlemen talk of secession. To break up this great government! to dismember this glorious country! to astonish Europe with an act of folly such as Europe for two centuries has never beheld in any government or any people! No, Sir! no, Sir! There will be no secession! Gentlemen are not serious when they talk of secession.
…Sir, I wish no to make two remarks, and hasten to a conclusion. I wish to say, in regard to Texas, that if it should be hereafter, at any time, the pleasure of the government of Texas to cede to the United States a portion, larger or smaller, of her territory which lies adjacent to New Mexico, and north of 36°30′of north latitude, to be formed into free States, for a fair equivalent of money or in the payment of her debt, I think it an object well worthy the consideration of Congress, and I shall be happy to concur in it myself, if I should have a connection with the government at that time.
I have one other remark to make. In my observations upon slavery as it has existed in this country, and as it now exists, I have expressed no opinion of the mode of its extinguishment or melioration. I will say, however, though I have nothing to propose, because I do not deem myself so competent as other gentlemen to take lead on this subject, that if any gentleman from the South shall propose a scheme, to be carried on by this government upon a large scale, for the transportation of free colored people to any colony or any place in the world, I should be quite disposed to incur almost any degree of expense to accomplish that object. Nay, Sir, following an example set more than twenty years ago by a great man (Mr. Rufus King), then a Senator from New York, I would return to Virginia, and through her to the whole South, the money received from the lands and territories ceded by her to this government, for any such purpose as to remove, in whole or in part, or in any way to diminish or deal beneficially with, the free colored population of the Southern States. I have said that I honor Virginia for her cession of this territory. There have been received into the treasury of the United States eighty millions of dollars, the proceeds of the sales of the public lands ceded by her. If the residue should be old at the same rate, the whole aggregate will exceed two hundred millions of dollars. If Virginia and the South see fit to adopt any proposition to relieve themselves from the free people of color among them, or such as may be made free, they have my full consent that the government shall pay them any sum of money out of the proceeds of that cession which may be adequate to the purpose.
And now, Mr. President, I draw these observations to a close. I have spoken freely, and I meant to do so. I have sought to make no display. I have sought to enliven the ocassion by no animated discussion, nor have I attempted any train of elaborate argument. I have wished only to speak my sentiments, fully and at length, being desirous, once and for all, to let the Senate know, and to let the country know, the opinions and sentiments which I entertain on all these subjects…
And now, Mr. President, instead of speaking of the possibility or utility of secession, instead of dwelling in those caverns of darkness, instead of groping with those ideas so full of all that is horrid and horrible, let us come out into the light of day; let us enjoy the fresh air of Liberty and Union; let us cherish those hopes which belong to us; let us devote ourselves to those great objects that are fit for our consideration and our action; let us raise our conceptions to the magnitude and the importance of the duties that devolve upon us; let our comprehension be as broad as the country for which we act, our aspirations as high as its certain destiny; let us not be pigmies in a case that calls for men. Never did there devolve on any generation of men higher trusts than now devolve upon us, for the preservation of this Constitution and the harmony and peace of all who are destined to live under it. Let us make our generation one of the strongest and brightest links in that golden chain which is destined, I fondly believe, to grapple the people of all the States to this Constitution for ages to come. We have a great, popular, constitutional government, guarded by law and by judicature, and defended by the affections of the whole people. No monarchical throne presses these States together, no iron chain of military power encircles them; they live and stand under a government popular in its forms, representative in its character, founded upon principles of equality, and so constructed, we hope, as to last for ever. In all its history it has been beneficent; it has trodden down no man’s liberty; it has crushed no State. Its daily respiration is liberty and patriotism; its yet youthful veins are full of enterprise, courage, and honorable love of glory and renown. Large before, the country has now, by recent events, become vastly larger. This republic now extends, with a vast breadth, across the whole continent. The two great seas of the world wash the one and the other shore. We realize, on a mighty scale, the beautiful description of the ornamental border of the buckler of Achilles:—
Now, the broad shield complete, the artist crowned With his last hand, and poured the ocean round; In living silver seemed the waves to roll, And beat the buckler’s verge, and bound the whole.”
Numero Tres—“Comrades and Friends:
I think I cannot open my address more appropriately than by stating my experience in my long connection with the reform movement.
It was during the great railroad strike of 1877 that I first became interested in what is known as the ‘Labor Question.’ I then thought as many thousands of earnest, sincere people think, that the aggregate power, operating in human society, known as government, could be made an instrument in the hands of the oppressed to alleviate their sufferings. But a closer study of the origin, history and tendency of governments, convinced me that this was a mistake.
I came to understand how organized governments used their concentrated power to retard progress by their ever-ready means of silencing the voice of discontent if raised in vigorous protest against the machinations of the scheming few, who always did, always will and always must rule in the councils of nations where majority rule is recognized as the only means of adjusting the affairs of the people.
I came to understand that such concentrated power can be always wielded in the interest of the few and at the expense of the many. Government in its last analysis is this power reduced to a science. Governments never lead; they follow progress. When the prison, stake or scaffold can no longer silence the voice of the protesting minority, progress moves on a step, but not until then.
I will state this contention in another way: I learned by close study that it made no difference what fair promises a political party, out of power might make to the people in order to secure their confidence, when once securely established in control of the affairs of society that they were after all but human with all the human attributes of the politician. Among these are: First, to remain in power at all hazards; if not individually, then those holding essentially the same views as the administration must be kept in control. Second, in order to keep in power, it is necessary to build up a powerful machine; one strong enough to crush all opposition and silence all vigorous murmurs of discontent, or the party machine might be smashed and the party thereby lose control.
When I came to realize the faults, failings, shortcomings, aspirations and ambitions of fallible man, I concluded that it would not be the safest nor best policy for society, as a whole, to entrust the management of all its affairs, with all their manifold deviations and ramifications in the hands of finite man, to be managed by the party which happened to come into power, and therefore was the majority party, nor did it then, nor does it now make one particle of difference to me what a party, out of power may promise; it does not tend to allay my fears of a party, when entrenched and securely seated in power might do to crush opposition, and silence the voice of the minority, and thus retard the onward step of progress.
My mind is appalled at the thought of a political party having control of all the details that go to make up the sum total of our lives. Think of it for an instant, that the party in power shall have all authority to dictate the kind of books that shall be used in our schools and universities, government officials editing, printing, and circulating our literature, histories, magazines and press, to say nothing of the thousand and one activities of life that a people engage in, in a civilized society.
To my mind, the struggle for liberty is too great and the few steps we have gained have been won at too great a sacrifice, for the great mass of the people of this 20th century to consent to turn over to any political party the management of our social and industrial affairs. For all who are at all familiar with history know that men will abuse power when they possess it. For these and other reasons, I, after careful study, and not through sentiment, turned from a sincere, earnest, political Socialist to the non-political phase of Socialism — Anarchism — because in its philosophy I believe I can find the proper conditions for the fullest development of the individual units in society, which can never be the case under government restrictions.
The philosophy of anarchism is included in the word “Liberty,” yet it is comprehensive enough to include all things else that are conducive to progress. No barriers whatever to human progression, to thought, or investigation are placed by anarchism; nothing is considered so true or so certain, that future discoveries may not prove it false; therefore, it has but one infallible, unchangeable motto, “Freedom”: Freedom to discover any truth, freedom to develop, to live naturally and fully. Other schools of thought are composed of crystallized ideas — principles that are caught and impaled between the planks of long platforms, and considered too sacred to be disturbed by a close investigation. In all other “issues” there is always a limit; some imaginary boundary line beyond which the searching mind dare not penetrate, lest some pet idea melt into a myth. But anarchism is the usher of science — the master of ceremonies to all forms of truth. It would remove all barriers between the human being and natural development. From the natural resources of the earth, all artificial restrictions, that the body might be nurtures, and from universal truth, all bars of prejudice and superstition, that the mind may develop symmetrically.
Anarchists know that a long period of education must precede any great fundamental change in society, hence they do not believe in vote begging, nor political campaigns, but rather in the development of self-thinking individuals.
We look away from government for relief, because we know that force (legalized) invades the personal liberty of man, seizes upon the natural elements and intervenes between man and natural laws; from this exercise of force through governments flows nearly all the misery, poverty, crime and confusion existing in society.
So, we perceive, there are actual, material barriers blockading the way. These must be removed. If we could hope they would melt away, or be voted or prayed into nothingness, we would be content to wait and vote and pray. But they are like great frowning rocks towering between us and a land of freedom, while the dark chasms of a hard-fought past yawn behind us. Crumbling they may be with their own weight and the decay of time, but to quietly stand under until they fall is to be buried in the crash. There is something to be done in a case like this — the rocks must be removed. Passivity while slavery is stealing over us is a crime. For the moment we must forget that was are anarchists — when the work is accomplished we may forget that we were revolutionists — hence most anarchists believe the coming change can only come through a revolution, because the possessing class will not allow a peaceful change to take place; still we are willing to work for peace at any price, except at the price of liberty.
And what of the glowing beyond that is so bright that those who grind the faces of the poor say it is a dream? It is no dream, it is the real, stripped of brain-distortions materialized into thrones and scaffolds, mitres and guns. It is nature acting on her own interior laws as in all her other associations. It is a return to first principles; for were not the land, the water, the light, all free before governments took shape and form? In this free state we will again forget to think of these things as “property.” It is real, for we, as a race, are growing up to it. The idea of less restriction and more liberty, and a confiding trust that nature is equal to her work, is permeating all modern thought. From the dark year — not so long gone by — when it was generally believed that man’s soul was totally depraved and every human impulse bad; when every action, every thought and every emotion was controlled and restricted; when the human frame, diseased, was bled, dosed, suffocated and kept as far from nature’s remedies as possible; when the mind was seized upon and distorted before it had time to evolve a natural thought — from those days to these years the progress of this idea has been swift and steady. It is becoming more and more apparent that in every way we are “governed best where we are governed least.”
Still unsatisfied perhaps, the inquirer seeks for details, for ways and means, and whys and werefores. How ill we go on like human beings eating and sleeping, working and loving, exchanging and dealing, without government? So used have we become to “organized authority” in every department of life that ordinarily we cannot conceive of the most common-place avocations being carried on without their interference and “protection.” But anarchism is not compelled to outline a complete organization of a free society. To do so with any assumption of authority would be to place another barrier in the way of coming generations. The best thought of today may become the useless vagary of tomorrow, and to crystallize it into a creed is to make it unwieldy.
We judge from experience that man is a gregarious animal, and instinctively affiliates with his kind co-operates, unites in groups, works to better advantage, combined with his fellow men than when alone. This would point to the formation of co-operative communities, of which our present trades-unions are embryonic patterns. Each branch of industry will no doubt have its own organization, regulations, leaders, etc.; it will institute methods of direct communications with every member of that industrial branch in the world, and establish equitable relations with all other branches. There would probably be conventions of industry which delegates would attend, and where they would transact such business as was necessary, adjourn and from that moment be delegates no longer, but simply members of a group. To remain permanent members of a continuous congress would be to establish a power that is certain soon or later to be abused.
No great, central power, like a congress consisting of men who know nothing of their constituents’ trades, interests, rights or duties, would be over the various organizations or groups; nor would they employ sheriffs, policemen, courts or jailers to enforce the conclusions arrived at while in session. The members of groups might profit by the knowledge gained through mutual interchange of thought afforded by conventions if they choose, but they will not be compelled to do so by any outside force.
Vested rights, privileges, charters, title deeds, upheld by all the paraphernalia of government — the visible symbol of power — such as prison, scaffold and armies will have no existence. There can be no privileges bought or sold, and the transaction kept sacred at the point of the bayonet. Every man will stand on an equal footing with his brother in the race of life, and neither chains of economic thralldom nor metal drags of superstition shall handicap the one to the advantage of the other.
Property will lose a certain attribute which sanctifies it now. The absolute ownership of it — “the right to use or abuse” — will be abolished, and possession, use, will be the only title. It will be seen how impossible it would be for one person to “own” a million acres of land, without a title deed, backed by a government ready to protect the title at all hazards, even to the loss of thousands of lives. He could not use the million acres himself, nor could he wrest from its depths the possible resources it contains.
People have become so used to seeing the evidences of authority on every hand that most of them honestly believe that they would go utterly to the bad if it were not for the policeman’s club or the soldier’s bayonet. But the anarchist says, “Remove these evidence of brute force, and let man feel the revivifying influences of self responsibility and self control, and see how we will respond to these better influences.”
The belief in a literal place of torment has nearly melted away; and instead of the direful results predicted, we have a higher and truer standard of manhood and womanhood. People do not care to go to the bad when they find they can as well as not. Individuals are unconscious of their own motives in doing good. While acting out their natures according to their surroundings and conditions, they still believe they are being kept in the right path by some outside power, some restraint thrown around them by church or state. So the objector believes that with the right to rebel and secede, sacred to him, he would forever be rebelling and seceding, thereby creating constant confusion and turmoil. Is it probable that he would, merely for the reason that he could do so? Men are to a great extent creatures of habit, and grow to love associations; under reasonably good conditions, he would remain where he commences, if he wished to, and, if he did not, who has any natural right to force him into relations distasteful to him? Under the present order of affairs, persons do unite with societies and remain good, disinterested members for life, where the right to retire is always conceded.
What we anarchists contend for is a larger opportunity to develop the units in society, that mankind may possess the right as a sound being to develop that which is broadest, noblest, highest and best, unhandicapped by any centralized authority, where he shall have to wait for his permits to be signed, sealed, approved and handed down to him before he can engage in the active pursuits of life with his fellow being. We know that after all, as we grow more enlightened under this larger liberty, we will grow to care less and less for that exact distribution of material wealth, which, in our greed-nurtured senses, seems now so impossible to think upon carelessly. The man and woman of loftier intellects, in the present, think not so much of the riches to be gained by their efforts as of the good they can do for their fellow creatures.
There is an innate spring of healthy action in every human being who has not been crushed and pinched by poverty and drudgery from before his birth, that impels him onward and upward. He cannot be idle, if he would; it is as natural for him to develop, expand, and use the powers within him when no repressed, as it is for the rose to bloom in the sunlight and fling its fragrance on the passing breeze.
The grandest works of the past were never performed for the sake of money. Who can measure the worth of a Shakespeare, an Angelo or Beethoven in dollars and cents? Agassiz said, “he had no time to make money,” there were higher and better objects in life than that. And so will it be when humanity is once relieved from the pressing fear of starvation, want, and slavery, it will be concerned, less and less, about the ownership of vast accumulations of wealth. Such possessions would be but an annoyance and trouble. When two or three or four hours a day of easy, of healthful labor will produce all the comforts and luxuries one can use, and the opportunity to labor is never denied, people will become indifferent as to who owns the wealth they do not need. Wealth will be below par, and it will be found that men and women will not accept it for pay, or be bribed by it to do what they would not willingly and naturally do without it. Some higher incentive must, and will, supersede the greed for gold. The involuntary aspiration born in man to make the most of one’s self, to be loved and appreciated by one’s fellow-beings, to “make the world better for having lived in it,” will urge him on the nobler deeds than ever the sordid and selfish incentive of material gain has done.
If, in the present chaotic and shameful struggle for existence, when organized society offers a premium on greed, cruelty, and deceit, men can be found who stand aloof and almost alone in their determination to work for good rather than gold, who suffer want and persecution rather than desert principle, who can bravely walk to the scaffold for the good they can do humanity, what may we expect from men when freed from the grinding necessity of selling the better part of themselves for bread? The terrible conditions under which labor is performed, the awful alternative if one does not prostitute talent and morals in the service of mammon; and the power acquired with the wealth obtained by ever so unjust means, combined to make the conception of free and voluntary labor almost an impossible one. And yet, there are examples of this principle even now. In a well bred family each person has certain duties, which are performed cheerfully, and are not measured out and paid for according to some pre-determined standard; when the united members sit down to the well-filled table, the stronger do not scramble to get the most, while the weakest do without, or gather greedily around them more food than they can possibly consume. Each patiently and politely awaits his turn to be served, and leaves what he does not want; he is certain that when again hungry plenty of good food will be provided. This principle can be extended to include all society, when people are civilized enough to wish it.
Again, the utter impossibility of awarding to each an exact return for the amount of labor performed will render absolute communism a necessity sooner or later. The land and all it contains, without which labor cannot be exerted, belong to no one man, but to all alike. The inventions and discoveries of the past are the common inheritance of the coming generations; and when a man takes the tree that nature furnished free, and fashions it into a useful article, or a machine perfected and bequeathed to him by many past generations, who is to determine what proportion is his and his alone? Primitive man would have been a week fashioning a rude resemblance to the article with his clumsy tools, where the modern worker has occupied an hour. The finished article is of far more real value than the rude one made long ago, and yet the primitive man toiled the longest and hardest. Who can determine with exact justice what is each one’s due? There must come a time when we will cease trying. The earth is so bountiful, so generous; man’s brain is so active, his hands so restless, that wealth will spring like magic, ready for the use of the world’s inhabitants. We will become as much ashamed to quarrel over its possession as we are now to squabble over the food spread before us on a loaded table. “But all this,” the objector urges, “is very beautiful in the far off future, when we become angels. It would not do now to abolish governments and legal restraints; people are not prepared for it.”
This is a question. We have seen, in reading history, that wherever an old-time restriction has been removed the people have not abused their newer liberty. Once it was considered necessary to compel men to save their souls, with the aid of governmental scaffolds, church racks and stakes. Until the foundation of the American republic it was considered absolutely essential that governments should second the efforts of the church in forcing people to attend the means of grace; and yet it is found that the standard of morals among the masses is raised since they are left free to pray as they see fit, or not at all, if they prefer it. It was believed the chattel slaves would not work if the overseer and whip were removed; they are so much more a source of profit now that ex-slave owners would not return to the old system if they could.
So many able writers have shown that the unjust institutions which work so much misery and suffering to the masses have their root in governments, and owe their whole existence to the power derived from government we cannot help but believe that were every law, every title deed, every court, and every police officer or soldier abolished tomorrow with one sweep, we would be better off than now. The actual, material things that man needs would still exist; his strength and skill would remain and his instinctive social inclinations retain their force and the resources of life made free to all the people that they would need no force but that of society and the opinion of fellow beings to keep them moral and upright.
Freed from the systems that made him wretched before, he is not likely to make himself more wretched for lack of them. Much more is contained in the thought that conditions make man what he is, and not the laws and penalties made for his guidance, than is supposed by careless observation. We have laws, jails, courts, armies, guns and armories enough to make saints of us all, if they were the true preventives of crime; but we know they do not prevent crime; that wickedness and depravity exist in spite of them, nay, increase as the struggle between classes grows fiercer, wealth greater and more powerful and poverty more gaunt and desperate.
To the governing class the anarchists say: ‘Gentlemen, we ask no privilege, we propose no restriction; nor, on the other hand, will we permit it. We have no new shackles to propose, we seek emancipation from shackles. We ask no legislative sanction, for co-operation asks only for a free field and no favors; neither will we permit their interference.(‘?) It asserts that in freedom of the social unit lies the freedom of the social state. It asserts that in freedom to possess and utilize soil lie social happiness and progress and the death of rent. It asserts that order can only exist where liberty prevails, and that progress leads and never follows order. It asserts, finally, that this emancipation will inaugurate liberty, equality, fraternity. That the existing industrial system has outgrown its usefulness, if it ever had any is I believe admitted by all who have given serious thought to this phase of social conditions.
The manifestations of discontent now looming upon every side show that society is conducted on wrong principles and that something has got to be done soon or the wage class will sink into a slavery worse than was the feudal serf. I say to the wage class: Think clearly and act quickly, or you are lost. Strike not for a few cents more an hour, because the price of living will be raised faster still, but strike for all you earn, be content with nothing less.” Lucy Parsons, “The Principles of Anarchism:” https://theanarchistlibrary.
Numero Cuatro—“‘Gypsy woman told my mama, before I was born / You got a boy-child comin’, gonna be a son-of-a-gun.’ Gordon Parks’s life makes Willie Dixon’s old blues song ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ sound like a documentary. In 1910, a fortuneteller traveling through rural Kansas predicted the arrival and rich life of Andrew Jackson Parks’s seventh son — ‘You’re going to have another child — and he’s going to be a very special one.’ That’s how the story was told to Gordon Parks by his older brother Clemmie. Gordon, born a couple years after the auspicious pronouncement, was Poppa Jack Parks’s 15th child, the 10th with his second wife, Sarah. And the gypsy lady was right. He would become one of the most celebrated African-American artists of the 20th century, accomplished and revered as a photographer, writer, composer and movie director.
But the child’s destiny was by no means obvious. After Sarah died, Parks, then 15, was sent from the family farm in Fort Scott, Kan. (he’d remember it as ‘the mecca of bigotry’), to live in Minnesota with an older sister and her resentful husband. It wasn’t long before he was thrown into the street, hungry and broke, with nothing but a switchblade in his pocket. In the years that followed, he roamed the country, tackling a dizzying array of the grueling jobs available to a young black man without a high school diploma, including whorehouse piano player, waiter, busboy, traveling jazz band musician, Civilian Conservation Corps grunt, and House of David basketball player.
It wasn’t until he was 27 that Parks’s future began to reveal itself. While working as a Pullman porter, crisscrossing America on the North Coast Limited, he became transfixed by Dorothea Lange’s photos in a passenger’s left-behind magazine. Soon after, on a stop in Chicago, a newsreel of a sinking gunship and a personal appearance by its cameraman sealed his fate. After the train pulled into Seattle, Parks found his first camera, his ‘weapon of choice,’ in a pawnshop window. Parks’s untrained talent was quickly recognized and encouraged. Dual career paths defined the course of his life: he shot fashion photography for money, while documenting poverty and injustice, first in Chicago’s South Side ghettos. An exhibit of his photos won him a coveted Julius Rosenwald Fellowship, his ticket onto Roy Stryker’s all-star team of white, mostly college-educated Farm Security Administration photographers, including Lange. After politics closed down the F.S.A. project, Stryker took Parks with him to the Office of War Information (O.W.I.). There, Parks’s attempts to follow the Black 332nd Fighter Group into combat were stymied by government obstacles intended to minimize publicity for the black fliers.
It’s at this point that Parks ended his first autobiography, “A Choice of Weapons” (1966). Since then, he has written three additional memoirs. “A Hungry Heart” finds the 93-year-old writer looking backward once more over the groundbreaking victories and painful losses of a long and productive life. In it, he tells old stories anew and revisits key episodes, adding fresh details and perspective in a stripped-down anecdotal style. This is not a book about photos, but about the people in the viewfinder.
Parks was a one-man wrecking crew of racial barriers. After the O.W.I. and jobs at Vogue and Standard Oil, he became Life’s first black photographer. There he took on 52 assignments in his first 18 months alone. While Parks was photographing the black revolution, Malcolm X asked him to be godfather to one of his daughters (accepted) and Eldridge Cleaver invited him to serve as the Black Panthers’ minister of information (turned down). In 1969, encouraged by John Cassavetes, he became the first black American to helm a major studio film when he wrote, directed and composed the soundtrack for the movie version of his coming-of-age novel, “The Learning Tree.” His next film, “Shaft” (“Hotter than Bond, Cooler than Bullitt”), established the liberated image of the new black male action hero. Both films were named to the National Film Registry, “The Learning Tree” in the inaugural list of 25 films in 1989. (Sadly, it and “The Crowd,” King Vidor’s silent, are the only titles still unavailable in the United States on DVD.)
On the personal front, Parks failed to balance time on the road with a stable family life. Proud that he’s remained friends with all three of his former wives, he’s also honest about his weakness. His eye for beauty kept him in trouble: ‘Let’s just say that if an attractive woman was dancing before me, I found it extremely difficult to allow her to dance alone.’ The greatest loss for Parks, the father of four, was the death of his older son, Gordon Jr., the director of ‘Superfly,’ killed in a plane crash while on location in Africa in 1979.
A Hungry Heart, in addition to being a testimony to Parks’s wit, sensitivities and vast armory of talents, is a treatise on the value of encouragement. The miracle of his life is what he’s achieved with the opportunities he was given. In 1952, the conductor Dean Dixon, having premiered Parks’s ‘Symphonic Set for Piano and Orchestra’ in the courtyard of the Doge’s Palace in Venice, told Time magazine: ‘We should hear more from Gordon Parks.’ Happily, we have again.” John Wranovics, “Weapon of Choice;” about Gordon Park’s A Hungry Heart, in the New York Times Book Review, 2006