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PART I.

OF THE GENERAL GOVERNMENT.

CHAPTER I.

THE NEGRO QUESTION AND TERRITORIAL SELF-GOVERNMENT.

THE WILMOT PROVISO. * We have all heard that Napoleon relinquished an ardently desired gratification, because a cobbler would not sell a small piece of ground that was essential to the contemplated project:-“Let him keep it," said Napoleon, “ as a monument of the sacredness with which the rights of property are respected in France."

The same improbable story has been told of every despot that history has wished to glorify, and the repetition evinces that man everywhere honors a respect for personal rights. Our State desired a discontinuance of the retail traffic in ardent spirits, but our voters said, with Napoleon, Let it remain, as a monument of the sacredness with which personal freedom is tolerated in New York. So our State abhors slavery, but if Virginia could be despoiled by us of

• Published August 27th, 1847. Senator Dickinson's resolutions on the same subject, were offered in the United States Senate, December 14th, 1847. Senator Cass's Nicholson Letter thereon was published the same December.

a control over her domestic institutions, and compelled to abolish slavery, our voters would say, Let it remain, a monument of the sacredness with which self-government is respected in the United States. Slavery when thus viewed is not a national reproach, as some people superficially affirm; but the cobbler's hut, which, while it contrasts sadly with the other parts of our federal structure, testifies only the more unmistakably to the sovereignty of our people in their several communities—sovereign for all purposes, except that no community can domineer over even the weakest of its confederates. Nor are we just to the citizens of our Union when we attribute this liberality to constitutional necessity; we can attribute it with more truth to public sentiment, for constitutions in our country are only an embodiment of public opinion. Public sentiment, therefore, in favor of self-government, is the ultimate reason why our Federal Constitution leaves every State to be sovereign over its own domestic institutions; and by the same reason, the people of every territory within our Union are morally entitled to a like sovereignty, even should the Constitution, by a harsh construction, permit such sovereignty to be abridged. Praise where you can and censure only where you must, is an esteemed precept which Congress ought not to parody, by permitting self-governmentonly where they must, and abridging it where they can. To a sensitive mind, the helplessness of a territory, as contrasted with a State, would be a motive for protecting the inhabitants of a territory, rather than for depredating on them. Nothing, indeed, would be more detestable than to refuse self-government to our territorial offspring, after having rebelled from our parent country to obtain the right of self-government for ourselves. In that contest England refused to see anything but the ingratitude of the colonies in withholding aid from her exhausted treasury; so coercionists, in the present question of slavery,

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