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a fugitive slave, is unconstitutional and void. It purports to punish, as a public offense against the State, the very act of seizing and removing a slave by his master, which the Constitution of the United States was designed to justify and uphold.” “The constitutionality of the act of Congress (1793) relating to fugitives from labor has been affirmed by the adjudications of the State tribunal, and by those of the courts of the United States."
SLAVERY IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
December 12, 1831. This being the first day of the session for presenting petitions, a great number were presented. Among others,
Mr. Adams, of Massachusetts, (ex-President of the United States) presented fifteen petitions, all numerously subscribed, from sundry inhabitants of Pennsylvania, all of the same purport, praying for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia, and moved that the first of them should be read, and it was read accordingly.
Mr. A. then observed that it had doubtless been remarked that these petitions came, not from Massachusetts, a portion of whose people he had the honor to represent, but from the citizens of the State of Pennsylvania. He had received the petitions many months ago, with a request that they should be presented ; and, although the petitions were not of his immediate constituents, he had not deemed himself at liberty to decline presenting their petitions, the transmission of which to him manifested a confidence in him for which he was bound to be grateful. From a letter which had accompanied these petitions, he inferred that they came from members of the Society of Friends, a body of men than whom there was no more respectable and worthy class of citizens; none who more strictly made their lives a commentary on their professions; a body of men comprising, in his firm opinion, as much of human virtue, as little of human infirmity, as any other equal number of men of any denomination on the face of the globe. The petitions, Mr. A. continued, asked for two things : the first was the abolition of slavery; the second, the abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia. There was a traffic of slaves carried on in the District, of which he did not know but that it might be a proper subject of legislation by Congress, and he therefore moved that the petition he had the honor of presenting, should be referred to the committee on the affairs of the District of Columbia, who would dispose of them as they, upon examination of their purport, should deem proper, and might report on the expediency of granting so much of the prayer of the petitioners as referred to the abolition of the slave trade in the District.
As to the other prayer of the petitioners, the abolition by Congress of slavery in the District of Columbia, it had occurred to him that the petitions might have been committed to his charge under an expectation that it would receive his countenance and support. He deemed it, therefore, his duty to declare that it would not. Whatever might be his opinion of slavery in the abstract, or of slavery in the District of Columbia, it was a subject which he hoped would not be discussed in the House ; if it should be, he might perhaps assign the reasons why he could give it no countenance or support. At present, he would only say to the House, and to the worthy citizens who had committed their petitions to his charge, that the most salutary medicines, unduly administered, became the most deadly of poisons. He concluded by moving to refer the petitions to the committee for the District of Columbia.
December 19, 1831. Mr. Doddridge, from the commit tee for the District of Columbia, made the following report, which was read and concurred in by the House :
The committee for the District of Columbia have, according to order, bad under their consideration the memorials of sundry citizens of the State of Pennsylvania, to them referred, praying the passage of such law or laws by Congress,
as may be necessary for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade within the said District, and beg leave to report thereon, in part.
Considering that the District of Columbia is composed of cessions of territory made to the United States by the States of Virginia and Maryland, in both of which States slavery exists, and the territories of which surround the District, your committee are of an opinion, that until the wisdom of State governments shall have devised some practicable means of eradicating or diminishing the evil of slavery, of which the memorialists complain, it would be unwise and impolitic, if not unjust, to the adjoining States, for Congress to interfere in a subject of such delicacy and importance as is the relation between master and slave.
If, under any circumstances, such an interference on the part of Congress would be justified, your committee are satisfied that the present is an inauspicious moment for its consideration. Impressed with these views, your committee
. offer for the consideration of the House the following (resolution :]
Resolved, That the committee for the District of Columbia be discharged from the further consideration of so much of the prayer of the memorialists—citizens of the State of Pennsylvania asking the passage of such law or laws as may be necessary for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade within said District--as relates to the first of these objects, the abolition of slavery within said District.
December 21, 1835, petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, being under discussion, Hon. John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts,-rose and said he hoped the motion to reconsider this vote would not prevail; and he expressed this hope for the very reason which the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Patton), had assigned for voting in favor of the motion. It appears to me (said Mr. A)., that the ouly way of getting the question from the view of the House and of the nation, is to dispose of all petitions on the subject in the same way. This is not a new opinion; I assumed this position in my very first act as a member of this House, from the very time when I first took my seat as a member of 22d Congress. At that time fifteen petitions were transmitted to me, not from my own constituents, but from citizens of the Society of Friends in the State of Pennsylvania, with a request that I should present them to the House. Sir, I did so in homage to the sacred right of petition-a right which, in whatever manner it may be treated by other members of this House, shall never be treated by me other than with respect.
But, sir, not being in favor of the object of the petitions, I then gave notice to the House and to the country, that upon the supposition that these petitions had been transmitted to me under the expectation that I should present them, I felt it my duty to say I should not support them. And, sir, the reason which I gave at that time for declining to support them was precisely the same reason which the gentleman from Virginia now gives for reconsidering this motion-namely, to keep the discussion of the subject out of the House. I said, sir, that I believed this discussion would be altogether unprofitable to the House and to the country ; but, in deference to the sacred right of petition, I moved that these fifteen petitions, all of which were numerously signed, should be referred to the committee on the District of Columbia, at the head of which was, at that time, a distinguished citizen of Virginia, now, I regret to say—and the whole country has occasion to regret—no more. These petitions were thus referred, and after a short period of time, the chairman of the committee on the District of Columbia made a report to this House, which report was read, and unanimously accepted ; and nothing more has been heard of these petitions from that day to this. In taking the course I then took, I was not