History of the United States eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 731 pages of information about History of the United States.
of the House of Representatives, and one hundred and five of the two hundred and ninety-five electors of President and Vice-President of the United States.”  Then he considered the slave power in the Supreme Court.  “That tribunal,” he exclaimed, “consists of a chief justice and eight associate justices.  Of these, five were called from slave states and four from free states.  The opinions and bias of each of them were carefully considered by the President and Senate when he was appointed.  Not one of them was found wanting in soundness of politics, according to the slaveholder’s exposition of the Constitution.”  Such was the Northern view of the planting interest that, from the arena of national politics, challenged the whole country in 1860.

[Illustration:  DISTRIBUTION OF SLAVES IN THE SOUTHERN STATES]

SLAVERY IN NATIONAL POLITICS

=National Aspects of Slavery.=—­It may be asked why it was that slavery, founded originally on state law and subject to state government, was drawn into the current of national affairs.  The answer is simple.  There were, in the first place, constitutional reasons.  The Congress of the United States had to make all needful rules for the government of the territories, the District of Columbia, the forts and other property under national authority; so it was compelled to determine whether slavery should exist in the places subject to its jurisdiction.  Upon Congress was also conferred the power of admitting new states; whenever a territory asked for admission, the issue could be raised as to whether slavery should be sanctioned or excluded.  Under the Constitution, provision was made for the return of runaway slaves; Congress had the power to enforce this clause by appropriate legislation.  Since the control of the post office was vested in the federal government, it had to face the problem raised by the transmission of abolition literature through the mails.  Finally citizens had the right of petition; it inheres in all free government and it is expressly guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution.  It was therefore legal for abolitionists to present to Congress their petitions, even if they asked for something which it had no right to grant.  It was thus impossible, constitutionally, to draw a cordon around the slavery issue and confine the discussion of it to state politics.

There were, in the second place, economic reasons why slavery was inevitably drawn into the national sphere.  It was the basis of the planting system which had direct commercial relations with the North and European countries; it was affected by federal laws respecting tariffs, bounties, ship subsidies, banking, and kindred matters.  The planters of the South, almost without exception, looked upon the protective tariff as a tribute laid upon them for the benefit of Northern industries.  As heavy borrowers of money in the North, they were generally

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History of the United States from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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