Sunday, June 02, 2013

"The rights of the people to keep and bear arms have been infringed..."

“...Mr. Speaker, where ought candid and just men to go to find the views and purposes of the Republican party? Where, if not to their platform of principles and duties? And have not we, who are members of that party, a right to claim that we shall be judged by that, in the same manner that other parties are tried by their organic declarations and platforms? The Republicans are contented to judge the Democratic party by the platform erected at Cincinnati, and they insist that their party shall be tested by that framed at Philadelphia. But the President charges upon us opinions and aims the very reverse of those contained in that platform. He assumes that we are guilty; that our purposes are criminal; and regards our disavowal of such purposes, and the deliberate and solemn declarations of our real intentions, as false and insincere—the shams of a criminal. It has been said that men are unable to ascribe virtues to others of which they have no conception themselves. It is not impossible that the unprejudiced reader of the message may think that there is a basis of truth in the remark. We claim that our intentions and objects are to be ascertained by reference to the platform carefully constructed by a convention of delegates from some twenty States of the Union, representing as much intelligence, probity, and patriotism, as any convention that ever assembled in this country. I will read that platform; it is as follows:

"This convention of Delegates, assembled in pursuance of a call addressed to the people of the United States, without regard to past political differences or divisions, who are opposed to the repeal of the Missouri compromise; to the policy of the present Administration; to the extension of slavery into tree territory; in favor of the admission of Kansas as a free State; of restoring the action of the Federal Government to the principles of Washington and Jefferson; and for the purpose of presenting candidates for the offices of President and Vice President, do
"1. Resolve, That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in the Federal Constitution, are essential to the preservation of our republican institutions; and that the Federal Constitution, the rights of the States, and the Union of the States, shall be preserved.
"2. Resolved. That, with our Republican fathers, we hold it to be a self-evident truth that all men are endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and that the primary object and ulterior design of our Federal Government were to secure those rights to all persons within its exclusive jurisdiction; that as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that no person should be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, it becomes our duty to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it, to prevent the establishment of slavery in the Territories of the United States by positive legislation prohibiting its existence therein. And we deny the authority of Congress, of a Territorial Legislature, of any individual or association of individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory of the United States, while the present Constitution shall be maintained.
"3. Resolved, That the Constitution confers upon Congress sovereign power over the Territories of the United States for their government, and that in the exercise of this power it is both the right and the duty of Congress to prohibit, in its Territories, those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery.
"4. Resolved, That while the Constitution of the United States was ordained and established by the people in order to < form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and secure the blessings of liberty,1 and contains ample provisions for the protection of the life? liberty, and property of every citizen, the dearest constitutional rights of the people of Kansas have been fraudulently taken from them;
"Their Territory has been invaded by an armed force;
"Spurious and pretended legislative, Judicial, and executive officers have been set over them, by whose usurped authority, sustained by the military power of the Government, tyrannical nnd unconstitutional laws have been enacted and enforced;
"The rights of the people to keep and bear arms have been infringed;
"Test oaths of an extraordinary and entangling nature have been imposed, ns a condition of exercising the right of suffrage and holding office;
"The right of an accused person to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury has been denied;
"The right of the people to he secure in their persons, houses, papers, and efferts, against unreasonable searches and seizures, has been violated;
"They have been deprived of life, liberty, and property, without due process of law;
"That the freedom of speech and of the press has been abridged;
. "The right to choose their Representatives has been made of no effect;
"Murders, robberies, and arsons, have been instigated and encouraged, and the offenders have been allowed to go unpunished;
"That all these things have been done with the knowledge, sanction, and procurement of the present Administration, and that for this high crime against the Constitution, the Union, and humanity, we arraign that Administration, the President, his advisers, agents, supporters, apologists, and accessories, either before or after the facts, before the country and before the world ; and that it is our fixed purpose to bring the actual perpetrators of these atrocious outrages, and their accomplices, to a sure and condign punishment hereafter.
"5. Resolved, That Kansas should be immediately admitted as a State of the Union, with her present free constitution, as at once the most effectual way of securing to her citizens the enjoyment of the rights and privileges to which they arc entitled, and of ending the civil strife now raging in her territory.
"6. Resolved, That the highwayman's plea, that 'might makes right,' embodied in the Ostend circular, was in every respect unworthy of American diplomacy, and would bring shame and dishonor upon any Government or people that gave it their sanction.
"7. Resolved, That a railroad to the Pacific ocean, by the most central and practical route, is imperatively demanded by the interests of the whole country, and that the Federal Government ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construction, and, as an auxiliary thereto, the immediate construction of an emigrant route on the line of the railroad.
"8. Resolved. That appropriations by Congress for the improvement of rivers and harbors, of a national character, required for the accommodation and security of our existing commerce, are authorized by the Constitution, and justified by the obligation of Government to protect the lives and property of its citizens.
"9. Resolved, That we invite the affiliation and cooperation of the men of all parties, however differing from us in other respects, in support of the principles herein declared; and, believing that the spirit of our institutions, as well as the Constitution of our country, guaranties liberty of conscience and equality of rights among citizens, we oppose all legislation impairing their security."

   Here, sir, you find that the Republican party resolve that they mean to maintain the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and of the Constitution, and that "the rights of the States, and the Union of the States, shall be preserved." In the face of this declaration the President informs Congress that they intend to trample upon the rights of the States, and destroy the Union.

   They assert that it is the duty of the American people " to prevent the establishment of slavery in the Territories of the United States, by positive legislation prohibiting its existence therein;" and they deny the authority of Congress, of a Territorial Legislature, of individuals or associations, to give legal existence to slavery to any I Territory of the United States while the present i Constitution shall be maintained. They declare I that it is the right and duty of Congress, under the Constitution, to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery. Now, is there anything in all these averments and denials like inequality or injustice —that looks to sectionalism or disunion? It will be perceived that the leading, distinguishing principle of the Republican party upon the general question of slavery, is folded in the doctrine that it is the right and the duty of the General Government to prevent the extension of slavery into free territory. If this be treason, Heaven help us! We are all traitors!

   Not only are the principles and purposes of the Republican party fully and clearly expressed in the Philadelphia platform, but they have been repeated a thousand times by the presses and speakers of the party, and in the resolutions of local conventions, with constant and emphatic disavowals of the wish or purpose to interfere with slavery in the States. Why should its members alone be singled out by the President*; and his party, for reproach and opprobrium? Why arc they more obnoxious to censure than the wise, the great, and the good men, whose pathway across our political horizon, from the early morning, is luminous with similar opinions? If holding these opinions justly exposes the Republicans to the imputation of being dishonest and dangerous men, fit to be classed with the " desperate and the damned," what shall save the Father of his Country, the Author of the Declaration of Independence, and the Father of the Constitution, from being placed in the same category? Were Republican doctrines and designs more constitutional, or less pernicious in 1789 or 1820 or 1848, than in 1856? They were among the axioms, the unquestionable truths, and the fixed purposes of the Fathers; and the Republican party is but acting in the light of their examples, and carrying out their instructions. When its members remember this, I trust they will be comforted, and be able to bear themselves bravely and decorously against the assaults of one whose calumnies strike so far.
General Washington, in a letter to Robert Morris, makes use of the following language:

"I can only say, there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it, [slavery;] but there is only one proper and effectual mode in which it can be accomplished, and that is by legislative authority; and this, so far as my suffrage will go, shall never be wanting."

   Surely this justifies the Republicans in all that they propose to accomplish; for to sincerely wish for the abolition of slavery is inconsistent with a desire to extend it. The power of the General Government to restrain slavery is recognized by the act of Congress of the 7th of August, 1789, which was approved by General Washington. In 1784, in the Congress of the Confederacy, Mr. Jefferson reported a resolution to the effect "that after the year 1800 of the Christian era, there- should be neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude in ANY of said States, otherwise than in the punishment of crime whereof the said party shall have been duly convicted to have been personally guilty." It will be seen that Mr. Jefferson designed to strike a single and fatal blow to all slavery extension. That he did not consider the powers of the Government, in this regard, as impaired by the Constitution, is shown by the fact that he approved, as President, many laws—some for the organization of territorial governments with the slavery restriction—involving the existence of plenary power in Congress to legislate for the Territories.

Mr. Madison, who ought to know, from his connection with the Constitution, the objects fur which it was framed, and the powers it was designed to confer, has said:

"I Hold It Essential IN Every Point Or View, That The General Government Should Have Power To PREVENT THE INCREASE OP SLAVERY."—Madison Papers, vol. 3,|). 1391.

[THE PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE. SPEECH OF I. WASHBURN, Jr., OF MAINE, In the House of Representatives, Dec. 10, 1856, On the question of referring the President's Message to the Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union, and the printing of ten thousand copies thereof. APPENDIX TO THE CONGRESSIONAL GLOBE. Pg.35]

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