[Illustration: John Q. Adams]
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS,
OF MASSACHUSETTS. (BORN 1767, DIED 1848.)
ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL WAR POWER OVER SLAVERY
—HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, MAY 25, 1836.
There are, then, Mr. Chairman, in the authority of Congress and of the Executive, two classes of powers, altogether different in their nature, and often incompatible with each other—the war power and the peace power. The peace power is limited by regulations and restricted by provisions, prescribed within the constitution itself. The war power is limited only by the laws and usages of nations. The power is tremendous; it is strictly constitutional, but it breaks down every barrier so anxiously erected for the protection of liberty, of property, and of life. This, sir, is the power which authorizes you to pass the resolution now before you, and, in my opinion, there is no other.
And this, sir, is the reason which I was not permitted to give this morning for voting with only eight associates against the first resolution reported by the committee on the abolition petitions; not one word of discussion had been permitted on either of those resolutions. When called to vote upon the first of them, I asked only five minutes of the time of the House to prove that it was utterly unfounded, It was not the pleasure of the House to grant me those five minutes. Sir, I must say that, in all the proceedings of the House upon that report, from the previous question, moved and inflexibly persisted in by a member of the committee itself which reported the resolutions, (Mr. Owens, of Georgia,) to the refusal of the Speaker, sustained by the majority of the House, to permit the other gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Glascock) to record upon the journal his reasons for asking to be excused from voting on that same resolution, the freedom of debate has been stifled in this House to a degree far beyond any thing that ever happened since the existence of the Constitution of the United States; nor is it a consolatory reflection to me how intensely we have been made to feel, in the process of that operation, that the Speaker of this House is a slaveholder. And, sir, as I was not then permitted to assign my reasons for voting against that resolution before I gave the vote, I rejoice that the reason for which I shall vote for the resolution now before the committee is identically the same with that for which I voted against that.
[Mr. Adams at this, and at many other passages of this speech, was interrupted by calls to order. The Chairman of the Committee (Mr. A. H. Shepperd, of North Carolina,) in every instance, decided that he was not out of order, but at this passage intimated that he was approaching very close upon its borders; upon which Mr. Adams said, “Then I am to under-stand, sir, that I am yet within the bounds of order, but that I may transcend them hereafter.”]