The Abolition Of Slavery The Right Of The Government Under The War Power eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 26 pages of information about The Abolition Of Slavery The Right Of The Government Under The War Power.

“During the late war with Great Britain, the military and naval commanders of that nation issued proclamations, inviting the slaves to repair to their standard, with promises of freedom and of settlement in some of the British colonial establishments.  This surely was an interference with the institution of slavery in the States.  By the treaty of peace, Great Britain stipulated to evacuate all the forts and places in the United States, without carrying away any slaves.  If the Government of the United States had no power to interfere, in any way, with the institution of slavery in the States, they would not have had the authority to require this stipulation.  It is well known that this engagement was not fulfilled by the British naval and military commanders; that, on the contrary, they did carry away all the slaves whom they had induced to join them, and that the British Government inflexibly refused to restore any of them to their masters; that a claim of indemnity was consequently instituted in behalf of the owners of the slaves, and was successfully maintained.  All that series of transactions was an interference by Congress with the institution of slavery in the States in one way—­in the way of protection and support.  It was by the institution of slavery alone that the restitution of slaves, enticed by proclamations into the British service, could be claimed as property.  But for the institution of slavery, the British commanders could neither have allured them to their standard, nor restored them otherwise than as liberated prisoners of war.  But for the institution of slavery, there could have been no stipulation that they should not be carried away as property, nor any claim of indemnity for the violation of that engagement.”

If this speech had been made in 1860 instead of 1836, Mr. Adams would not have been compelled to rely upon these comparatively trivial and unimportant instances of interference by Congress and the President for the support and protection of slavery.  For the last twenty years, the support and protection of that institution has been, to use Mr. Adams’s words at a later day, the vital and animating spirit of the Government; and the Constitution has been interpreted and administered as if it contained an injunction upon all men, in power and out of power, to sustain and perpetuate slavery.  Mr. Adams goes on to state how the war power may be used:—­

“But the war power of Congress over the institution of slavery in the States is yet far more extensive.  Suppose the case of a servile war, complicated, as to some extent it is even now, with an Indian war; suppose Congress were called to raise armies, to supply money from the whole Union to suppress a servile insurrection:  would they have no authority to interfere with the institution of slavery?  The issue of a servile war may be disastrous; it may become necessary for the master of the slave to recognize his emancipation by a treaty of peace; can it for an instant be pretended that Congress, in such a contingency, would have no authority to interfere with the institution of slavery, in any way, in the States?  Why, it would be equivalent to saying that Congress have no constitutional authority to make peace.  I suppose a more portentous case, certainly within the bounds of possibility—­I would to God I could say, not within the bounds of probability—­”

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