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tude in said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” The first Congress that assembled under the constitution confirmed this ordinance in 1789. In 1800, the territorial government of Indiana was erected, and slavery expressly prohibited. In 1805, the territory of Michigan was organized, and slavery again forbidden. In 1809, similar action was had in reference to the territory of Illinois.
Wisconsin was organized in 1836, and Iowa in 1838, with the same restriction. Even in the organization of the slave territories, the general power to regulate the subject was distinctly assumed. The act of 1798, for the erection of the territory of Mississippi, prohibited the importation of slaves into the said territory from any place without the United States. This was ten years before the prohibition of the foreign slave-trade, which took place in 1808. In 1804, the territory of Orleans, (the present Louisiana,) was erected under a similar restriction, together with the prohibition of the importation of all slaves into its limits, who had been brought into the United States after the 1st of May, 1798. As if to set the matter beyond the possibility of dispute, the act of March 6th, 1820, for the admission of Missouri into the Union, and which contains the world-renowned “compromise,” has a caption which concludes with these significant words ;-"and to prohibit slavery in certain territories." Are we to believe that all this legislation has been erroneous, unconstitutional, and therefore void ? The supposition is preposterous.
It is also easy to ascertain what the opinion of the majority of the Presidents has been, and their conclusion must be of considerable value in the decision of a constitutional question. WASHINGTON approved the act of 1789, confirming the prohibition of slavery in the North-west territory. JOHN ADAMS approved the act erecting the territory of Indiana, with the same prohibition. JEFFERSON was the author of the ordinance of 1787, and signed the bills for the erection of the territories of Orleans, Michigan and Illinois. MADISON delivered a speech in the Congress of 1790, on the subject of committing the memorial of the Quakers on the slave-trade, in which he replied to those who contended that Congress should not receive the petition, because it looked to an eventual entire abolition of slavery. After enlarging upon the constitutional aspect of the question," he adverted to the western country, and the cession of Georgia, in which Congress have certainly the power to regulate the subject of slavery; which shows that gentlemen are mistaken in supposing that Congress cannot constitutionally interfere in the business in any degree whatever.” (Elliott's Congressional Debates.) MonROE signed the Missouri bill, John Quincy Adams being at the same time his Secretary of State, and giving the bill his entire
approbation. Jackson approved the act establishing Wisconsin Territory, and Van Buren that for the erection of the Territory of Iowa. HARRISON was Governor of the North-western territory under the acts of 1787 and '89, and carried out their provisions, seeing nothing unconstitutional in them. There remain, out of the whole list, only TYLER, whose opinion on the subject is not known, at least to us, and JAMES K. Polk, whose opinions and tendencies are unfortunately too well known. Even he has sanctioned, by his approving signature, the same feature in the recent Oregon bill, although under protest and with a reservation. In view
of these facts, it seems astonishing that contrary opinions should find any supporters. But it is of the nature of self-interest to be blind to the most obvious truth. The older southern states derive a considerable revenue from the new territories, where a market is opened for the increase of their stock of human beasts of burden. Restrict this market, and you not only cut off a source of revenue, but burden them with a surplus of laborers who must be fed or manumitted, and whose large increase might disturb their peace if slavery is maintained. It is lamentable indeed to note the rapid process of deterioration, which has converted Virginia, the boasted“ mother of presidents,” into a mother of bondmen, and a slave-breeder for the spreading south-west. Such, however, is the fact, and it is therefore natural that selfish motives should induce southern holders of this species of property to oppose vehemently a limitation of their market. The desire to secure their support for the high offices of the nation, has led northern statesmen to advocate their side of the question. In this way only can we possibly account for the fact that so many northern candidates have given in their adhesion to this capital political heresy. We desire to be charitable to all men, and would judge those eminent citizens as leniently as the truth will admit, but we can devise no other possible reason for their course.
The question remains ;-will their efforts be crowned with success? Will the millions of acres of new land acquired by our country be given up to slavery, and the tender mercies of the slave-power,led on by Lewis Cass or ZACHARY TAYLOR? We hope not, trust not, believe not. The conscience of this people is aroused: it cannot rise up in open rebellion against that God, who is the Father of the spirits of all flesh, and perpetrate this gigantic crime! Its sense of justice is awakened: it cannot make itself a party to the commission of this flagrant outrage upon what it has declared to be the inalienable rights of man! self-respect is wounded : it cannot consent to be forever a reproach in all christendom, and a hissing among the nations for its glaring inconsistency and hypocrisy! It is coming to a knowledge of its true interests: it cannot allow that which may soon be the
inheritance of millions of intelligent and prosperous freemen, to become the dwelling of some thousands of idle masters, and the prison of some tens of thousands of degraded serfs! The great heart of this people is roused, as it never was before, to this subject. The time of compromise is past. We want no more compromises. We have already made a covenant with evil, which hangs like a millstone round our necks, and weighs like an incubus upon our national prosperity. We once compromised with slavery, and agreed to let it alone within its then limits. It overran its borders, and spread its curse over wide and fertile regions, now states. We again effected a compromise in 1820, and agreed upon a geographical terminus, which, as any one will see by looking at a map of that period, left it no more territory, worth the taking, which it could blight with its presence, but allowing it the undisputed possession of its ill-gotten accessions. Greedy as ever, it sought new avenues to dominion, and added new territory to the Union for its own occupancy, and it now seeks for more. It is too late to talk of compromise now. We have had too much of that already. The
cry now is : no extension of slavery: and that cry will make itself heard and respected. It has already been heard to some purpose. The slave-power would fain have refused to allow the prohibition of slavery in Oregon, even at the express request of the people of the territory. Its resistance has been overcome and Oregon is free. Who believes that this result could have been accomplished, had the Utica and Buffalo conventions not been held ? How true is it that the representatives of the people are precisely what their constituents make them! So long as it was believed that the popular sentiment of the north would tolerate truckling to the slave-power, every session of Congress exhibited mortifying displays of that meanness. When once the people have risen to manifest their detestation of the miserable policy, the recreant representatives start back, frightened to their duty. Now that the freemen of the free states are speaking out almost with one voice in favor of free territory, we have no fears that their representatives will dare to give it up to the insatiable maw of slavery.
All the leadings of our past history appear to us to indicate that God, in his Providence, has intended the great central region of this continent for such a development of Humanity, by the Caucasian race, as has never yet been imagined by seer or poet. “ It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” This much, however, does seem evident,—that we are bound to preserve that soil sacred to personal freedom. Let the encroaching waves of slavery be stopped. Let the principles of Land Reform be established. Let the whole land be divided into the homesteads of free, intelligent and happy laborers, each dwelling in peace under
his own vine and fig-tree, with none to molest or make him afraid. Then will the dignity of labor be established, and the true meaning of Human Equality demonstrated. Then will occur such a harmonious development of the whole nature of man, as the world has never yet conceived. The great brotherhood of humanity will become something more than a prophecy of the heart. It will then exist in fact, and over it will rest the approving benediction of the Universal Father, like the summer sunshine on the peaceful plain. And when this is accomplished, the historian who traces back the sequence of events that led to it, will take as his starting point that which may not now appear to many to be fraught with such momentous consequences,-the assertion of freedom's rights in the adoption of the WILMOT PROVISO.