Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

CHAPTER III.

OF THE ACQUISITION OF NEW TERRITORY.

THE ANNEXATION OF TEXAS.*

Annexation has been urged as a measure necessary to the perpetuation of Slavery, and this argument has been addressed not merely to both Houses of Congress, but obtruded upon foreign nations; and latterly, to create a common interest in such nationst in favor of slavery, the institution has been lauded as a powerful instrument of commercial superiority over Great Britain. Our statesman seems not to have suspected that his proposed slavery means of commercial advantages over Great Britain was obnoxious to a large portion of mankind. We at the North are of that portion, and nothing has so much prejudiced among us, the whole subject of Texas annexation, as its supposed connection with slavery. This has induced me to examine whether a true issue has been made up in reference to the contemplated annexation, or whether a casual incident thereof, favorable to only one interest, has, not unskillfully, been made to assume an undue prominence, and even to usurp the place of better, more direct, less contingent, and more general interests; and especially whether the claim of exclusive benefits from the measure to the South, has not reacted by artificially investing it with an exaggerated potency for evil to the North.

Published in 1844.

+ Correspondence of J. C. Calhoun, Secretary of War.

By the Constitution, no agency that touches slavery, is delegated to the General Government, except the power of prohibiting the importation of slaves into the United States

-a power which has been exercised so rigidly, that for an American vessel and crew to engage in the slave trade constitutes piracy, and is punished with death. The annexation of Texas would bring that country within the above provision, and to that extent is limitary of slavery; for she can now employ her whole marine openly, in importing slaves from Africa and elsewhere, and with no power in other nations to gainsay the traffic, unless she has for the time being surrendered the power by treaty, and of which I am not informed.

Only one other provision of the Constitution relates to slavery. In the apportionment of representation among the several States, every five slaves are enumerated as three persons. This provision is relied on more than any other, as a self-evident advantage by the South over the North ; indeed a petition has just been presented (no doubt in bitter irony) to the House of Representatives, demanding that the cattle of the free States shall be represented, as an equivalent for the representation allowed to Southern slaves. I cite this to prove that a portion of our citizens believe that the representation allowed to the slave States is aggres sive to the others. Suppose, however, the slaves of South Carolina were to escape in mass to our State, and elude reclamation, every five of them would count five; and our ratio of representation would be increased accordingly; though they would be as incapable of voting at our polls as they are at the polls of South Carolina, for not one of them would possess an unencumbered freehold of the value of two hundred and fifty dollars.

Many persons canvass this subject without discrimi

nating between the right to vote and the right to be repre. sented. The General Government leaves to every State the power of deciding who shall be voters. The slave States can give the elective franchise to their slaves, and still every five of them would count as only three, in adjusting the number of Congressional representatives to which the State is entitled, while we may withhold the right of franchise from any classes of people, and still every five of them count five, in adjusting the number of our representation. Is this an enviable difference in favor of the South, and calculated to add unduly to their power over the free States? The natural power of different Commonwealths is proportioned to the relative number of their inhabitants, irrespective of the color of their skins. This scale of power is ordained by God, in the muscles and sinews which are given nearly alike in strength to every individual ; and this test would have decided the relative power of our dif. ferent States, had not another been adopted by the Constitution; and which by counting every five slaves as only three persons, clearly takes from the slave States a natural power of greater force than the conventional power it confers. The framers of the Constitution seem to have assumed that the Federal power accorded to the slave States was a sacrifice of natural power, for they compensated it by a corresponding diminution of the burden of Eederal taxation. This compensation has failed by a change in the practice of the Government. The South might there. fore well contend that the consideration having failed, their sacrifice of natural power should fall with it. Nor can I see the propriety with which we object to slave representation, we at the North “who hold the truth to be selfident that all men are created equal.” The Constitution elevates a slave to three fifths of the constituent immuni

ties of a free man; would we quite level him with brute beasts, by casting him entirely out of the constituency of his State? That his State deprives him of liberty is no reason for us to superadd thereto, an exclusion also from being represented in Congress ?

The Constitution contains on the subject of slavery, only what I have enumerated; hence whether Texas will or not increase the number of our slave States, the North cannot be thereby injuriously affected through any agency of the General Governmeut. Thus was the subject viewed by the founders of the Constitution, or they would not have left slavery dependent on the volition of each State. Thus, also, was the subject deemed by the States themselves during a long course of years, or their number could not have increased from thirteen to twenty-six; for as the admission of new free States must be as aggressive to the South as the admission of slave States is to the North, every new State that sought admission, would have been shipwrecked between the Sylla of slavery, or the Charybdis of no slavery.

· But abandoning hypotheses, I would invite such of our citizens as are disposed to balance the good and evil of any measure, and to be governed in their preferences by the preponderance of the good, to look at the certain bene. fits that must result from the acquisition of Texas. It is in size about equal to six times the dimensions of our Empire State, with a climate said to be salubrious, and giving us a monopoly of the finest cotton land, and of the finest cotton that the world produces—an article which is yet in a giant infancy, as relates to its commercial importance to our country and the world, and its many ministrations to the comforts of the poor, and the gratification of all classes. Under the auspices of our Union, this immense country will become the

home of millions of human beings; not drawn from other regions to depopulate them, but a new growth of immortal and intelligent beings. In the birth of such an empire, with its ramified consequences to the end of time, can we see nothing but the question of slavery? Is the introduction nothing into such a region of our language, with its literature; and our laws, customs, manners, arts, religion and privileges ? Is the addition nothing, of such a territory to our home, such a multitude to our family circle, with whom we may interchange location without adopting a new allegiance; and interchange productions without the obstructions of conflicting nationality ? The acquisition of these benefits seems to expand each man of us into something more than our present stature; and to give to every mechanic, manufacturer, merchant, and cultivator of the soil, some source of additional activity and prosperity.

I know, however, that many persons believe our Union is already sufficiently large for strength; and that additional extent will only encumber us. If we examine this notion, we shall find it is founded on analogies that are not applicable to our condition. When an empire is composed of conquered nations, that are continually struggling to regain their lost independence, every new acquisition divides the strength of the conqueror, and he becomes exhausted by the division. But our Union is voluntary, and, like an arch, constitutes a reciprocation of strength which all the members yield to each, and each yields to all. Such is the result of our system thus far; and the experience of half a century of peace and war, is a safer indication of its nature than the conjectures of any theory.

But are we willing that annexation shall be obtained at the expense of a war with Mexico, and perhaps with Eng

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »