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ized portion of the white race. It was regarded as an axiom in morals as well as in politics, which no one thought of disputing, or supposed to be open to dispute."1
In these words, solemnly and authoritatively uttered by the Chief Justice of the United States, humanity and truth were set at, nought, and the whole country was humbled. "Then I and you and all of us fell down, whilst bloody Slavery flourished over us."
I quote his words fully, so that there can be no mistake. Here, then, is his expressed assertion, that at the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and the adoption of the National Constitution in 1789, in Europe as well as in our own country, colored men were regarded as having "no rights which the white. man was bound to respect." Now, Sir, this is false,terribly false. It is notorious that there were States of the Union, where, at the adoption of the Constitution, colored persons were free, and even in the enjoyment of the electoral franchise, while in England the Somerset case had already decided that there could be no distinction of persons on account of color, and Scotland, France, and Holland had all declared the same rule. Even Spain had spoken by the voice of some of her best children. So had Portugal. So also had Italy, and the Catholic Church. On this point there is no question. And yet this Chief Justice, whom you would honor with a marble bust, had the strange effrontery to declare that at that time, as well abroad as at home, colored men were regarded as having no rights which the white man was bound to respect"; and this he said to justify a brutal inter
pretation of the Constitution. Search judicial annals and you find no perversion of truth more flagrant.
Sir, it is not fit, it is not decent, that such a person should be commemorated by a vote of Congress, especially at this time, when Liberty is at last recognized. If you have money to commemorate the dead, let it be in honor of the defenders of Liberty gathered to their fathers. There was John Quincy Adams. There, also, was Joshua R. Giddings. Let their busts be placed in the Court-Room, where with marble lips they can plead always for human rights, teaching judge and advocate the glory and the beauty of justice. Then will you do something not entirely unworthy of a regenerated land, something to be an example for future times, something to help fix the standard of history.
I know that in the Court-Room there are busts of the other Chief Justices. Very well. So in the Hall of the Doges, at Venice, there are pictures of all who' filled that high office in unbroken succession, with the exception of Marino Falieri, who, although as venerable from years as Taney, was deemed unworthy of a place in the historic line. Where his picture should have been is a vacant space, testifying always to the justice of the Republic. Let such a vacant space in our Court-Room testify to the justice of our Republic, and may it speak in warning to every one who would betray Liberty!
The appropriation was vindicated by Mr. Trumbull, Mr. Reverdy Johnson, of Maryland, and Mr. Carlile, of West Virginia. It was opposed by Mr. Hale, of New Hampshire, Mr. Wilson, of Massachusetts, and Mr. Wade, of Ohio. Mr. Sumner then obtained the floor.
AT last I have the floor again. I rose at once to reply to the Senator from Maryland [Mr. JOHNSON], when he made his objurgatory vindication of the proposed bust; but the floor was given to others. And now, as I look at the clock, I see that I can only begin what I have to say.
Again let me declare that I am sorry to be drawn into this debate. But they who seek to canonize one of the tools of Slavery are responsible. Taney shall not be recognized as a saint by any vote of Congress, if I can help it.
The Senator has a bad cause, and I inferred that he thought so himself, first, because he talked so loud, and, secondly, because he became personal. A good cause would have been discussed in softer voice, and without personality. The Senator becomes personal easily. In the sweep of his movement, he brushed against my distinguished friend from New Hampshire [Mr. HALE], and also against my colleague and myself, simply because we could not join in this oblation to the author of the Dred Scott decision. The Senator from New Hampshire and my colleague have already answered him in proper terms. But I say for my colleague what he could not say for himself. He can bear gibes for not being a lawyer. He is not, like the Senator, a counsellor of the Supreme Court of the United States, but in all the duties of Senator he is in every respect the equal of the Senator from Maryland.
Here Mr. Sumner was arrested by the Vice-President announcing that the hour fixed for a recess had arrived. The consideration of the bill was never resumed, and it expired with the session. Had opportunity occurred, Mr. Sumner would have continued:
I have already said that Chief Justice Taney, in pronouncing that fatal judgment, falsified history. Judicial error is aggravated by such a falsification; and here the evidence is complete. His statement is precise, that for more than a century before the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of our Constitution people of the African race had "been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations"; and this unhappy asseveration culminates in the words, "and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit." And he adds: “This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race. It was regarded as an axiom in morals, as well as in politics, which no one thought of disputing or supposed to be open to dispute." This is plain, though failing in the precision which belongs to the bench. But how untrue! All this naturally ends in shutting out the unhappy African from citizenship, involving the right to sue in the courts of the United States.
Unhappily, at that time Slavery prevailed extensively; but it had already received many blows, while the rights of the African were asserted not only by individuals, but by communities. Nay, more, from the beginning, the axiom of the Chief Justice, which, according to him, no one supposed open to dispute, had been assailed. Great authorities, great names, together with legislative and judicial bodies, stood forth against it.
There is Massachusetts, my own honored Commonwealth. From the earliest days of her history Slavery
found little favor with her Legislature or her people. As early as 1645 the Legislature sent back two negroes brought from Guinea in a Boston ship, and the next year repeated its testimony against "the heinous and crying sin of man-stealing." In the same spirit, John Eliot, the apostle to the Indians, presented a memorial to the Governor and Council against selling captured Indians into slavery, saying, "To sell souls for money seemeth to me a dangerous merchandise."2 In 1701, Boston desired her Representatives in the General Court "to promote the encouraging the bringing of white servants, and to put a period to negroes being slaves."3 At the same time Chief Justice Sewall, of a family constant in warfare with Slavery, published a tract entitled "The Selling of Joseph a Memorial," where he maintained that "originally and naturally there is no such thing as Slavery," and that "these Ethiopians, as black as they are, seeing they are the sons and daughters of the first Adam, the brethren and sisters of the last Adam, and the offspring of God, they ought to be treated with a respect agreeable."4 In this spirit, the judicature of Massachusetts, in 1770, made haste against Slavery, by declaring the principle of Emancipation, according to one authority, two years before the famous Somerset case in England.5 This was followed, in 1780, by the Declaration of Rights, announcing that "all men are born free and equal," which the same judicature interpreted as abolishing
1 Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay, Vol. III. pp. 49, 84.
2 Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, Vol. X. p. 452, Appendix.
3 Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc., 2d Ser. Vol. VIII. p. 184.
4 Historical Magazine, June, 1864, Vol. VIII. pp. 195, 197: first printed Boston, 1700.
5 Washburn, Judicial History of Massachusetts, p. 202.