« EdellinenJatka »
ABOLITION OF THE COASTWISE SLAVE-TRADE.
SPEECHES IN THE SENATE, ON AN AMENDMENT TO THE CIVIL APPROPRIATION BILL, JUNE 24 AND 25, 1864.
MAY 2, 1862, Mr. Sumner gave notice that he should, at an early day, ask leave to introduce a bill to abolish the coastwise traffic in slaves under the flag of the United States; and he added, "In giving this notice, I desire to say that there is a disgracef statute which exists unrepealed, and my object is to remove it from the statute-book."
March 22, 1864, he reported from the Committee on Slavery and Freedmen a bill to prohibit commerce in slaves among the several States, and the holding or transporting of human beings as property in any vessel within the jurisdiction of the National Government, which was read and passed to a second reading. At the same time he said that he did this as a report in part on "a large number of petitions calling upon Congress to provide by legislation for the extinction of Slavery."
The bill reported was as follows.
A BILL to prohibit commerce in slaves among the several States, and the holding or transportation of human beings as property in any vessel within the jurisdiction of the National Government.
"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there shall be no commerce in slaves among the several States, by land or by water; and any person attempting or aiding to transport slaves, as an article of commerce, from one State to another State, or any person who shall take part in such commerce, either as seller, buyer, or agent, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, being convicted thereof before any court having competent jurisdiction, shall suffer imprisonment for not more than five years, and be fined not exceeding five thousand dollars, one half of such fine to go to the informer; and every slave so treated as an article of commerce among States shall be free.
"SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That no human being shall be held or transported as property in any vessel on the high seas, or sailing coastwise,
or on any navigable waters within the jurisdiction of the United States; and every vessel violating the provisions of this act shall be forfeited to the United States; and every master of such vessel consenting to such violation shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof subject to the penalties hereinbefore provided, one half of the fine to go to the informer; and every human being so held or transported as property shall be free.
"SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That all acts or parts of acts inconsistent herewith, including especially so much of an act approved March second, one thousand eight hundred and seven, as regulates the coastwise slave-trade, are hereby repealed."
Failing to obtain an opportunity for this bill in the Senate, Mr. Sumner determined to move it on an appropriation bill.
June 24th, the Senate having under consideration the bill making appropriations for dry civil expenses of the Government, Mr. Sumner moved the following amendment :
"And be it further enacted, That sections eight and nine of the Act entitled 'An Act to prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States from and after the first day of January, in the year of our Lord 1808,' which sections undertake to regulate the coastwise slave-trade, are hereby repealed."
Mr. Sherman, who had succeeded Mr. Fessenden as Chairman of the Finance Committee, "would not oppose the amendment on an ordinary bill," but he trusted "the Senate would keep this bill free from these disputed, extraneous, political questions."
Mr. Sumner replied:
R. PRESIDENT,-I am sorry that the Senator objects to this amendment. It is true, his objection is of form; but I venture to say that no such objection should be made to such a proposition, especially at this stage of the session.
In moving it now on an appropriation bill, I follow approved precedents. There is no rule of order against it; nor is there any rule of usage. On the contrary, it is in conformity with both order and usage.
The Senator wishes to keep the Appropriation Bill free from extraneous matter. But this is not sufficient
reason for excluding my amendment, unless the Senator is ready, for the sake of form, to sacrifice substance. If it be important that my amendment should prevail, and if at this late stage of the session it may be difficult to carry it otherwise, then am I clearly right in moving it, as I now do, and the Senator is wrong in opposing it. An appropriation bill is like a "through train,” and while its special office is to appropriate money, yet it may carry anything required by the public good.
Why, Sir, there is hardly ever an appropriation bill that is not compelled to take passengers in this way. It has been so during the present session repeatedly; and if the Senator will read the "Statutes at Large," he will find that the usage has prevailed for years. It is no new thing. I do not begin it.
If it were necessary to furnish examples, I might point to my friend, the Senator from New Hampshire [Mr. HALE], who gained one of his proudest triumphs in this Chamber, securing to him the sympathy and gratitude especially of sailors, by moving on an appropriation bill the abolition of the lash in the naval and commercial marine of the United States. Had he been driven to wait a special act for this purpose, I fear he would have been waiting to this day. And the example of the Senator has been followed by the Senator from Iowa [Mr. GRIMES], who, on an appropriation bill, moved and carried the abolition of grog in the navy.
But I am not without personal experience under this head. I trust that I shall not take too great a liberty, if I adduce it even in detail. I was chosen to the Senate for the first time immediately after the passage of the infamous Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. If I re
ceived from the people of Massachusetts any special charge, it was to use my best endeavors to secure the repeal of that act. I began the work in the first session that I was here. Disappointed in various efforts to bring the question directly before the Senate on a bill or resolution, I ventured at last on the advice of eminent Senators who differed from me in sentiment, but who appreciated candidly the obligations of my position to move the repeal on an appropriation bill. A debate ensued, which lasted till late in the evening. It may not be uninteresting to know that on the ayes and noes there were but four votes in the affirmative, Mr. Chase, Mr. Hale, Mr. Sumner, and Mr. Wade. This was 26th August, 1852. Such was the weakness of our cause at that time.
But please remark, that, throughout the protracted and sometimes acrimonious debate, it was never for a moment objected that the proposition was "not germane to the bill," or that it was not completely in order. Had any such thing been tenable, had there been the least apology for it, had it not been utterly unreasonable, be assured, Sir, it would have been made the excuse for stifling the discussion. The two political parties had just made their nomination for President. Franklin Pierce was the candidate of the Democrats, and Winfield Scott of the Whigs. Both had united on platforms declaring the Compromise measures, including the Fugitive Slave Act, "a finality" not to be opened or discussed. But they were opened and discussed on that day.
Mr. Hunter, of Virginia, was at the time Chairman of the Committee on Finance. He was in many respects a remarkable person, with a mind enlarged some
what by study and long experience in public affairs, and with a temper not easily disturbed. Looking back upon his conduct of the business entrusted to him, there can be no question of his ability or fidelity. There was neither weakness nor indifference in that mildness of sway. He understood completely the duties of his position, was a jealous guardian of the appropriation bills, and was, moreover, a most determined thick-and-thin partisan of Slavery in all its pretensions. But I do not recollect that he interposed any objection to the time or place of my motion; and though the Fugitive Slave Bill was part of his political and social creed, I am sure that he allowed the debate to close without any criticism upon my course, or a single impatient word. All this now belongs to history, and I mention it as a precedent for the present hour.
My motion that day was discussed on its merits, and I trust my motion to-day will be discussed in the same way.
I seek to remove from the statute-book odious provisions in support of Slavery. Whoever is in favor of those provisions, whoever is disposed to keep alive the coastwise slave-trade, or to recognize it in our statutes, will naturally vote against my motion. And yet let me say that I am at a loss to understand how, at this moment, at this stage of our history, any Senator can hesitate to unite with me in this work of expurgation and purification. At all events, I trust the Senator from Ohio will not set up an objection of form to prevent the success of this good work. He must not be more severe against Freedom now than was the representative of Slavery who occupied his place when I moved the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Bill.