Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Predominance Of Slavery, N.Y. Times, Oct. 3, 1856

Speech of Wm. H. Seward at Detroit, Michigan, Oct. 2, 1856

[SEWARD, William Henry, a Senator from New York; born in Florida, Orange County, N.Y., on May 16, 1801; after preparatory studies, graduated from Union College in 1820; studied law; admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Auburn, N.Y., 1823; member, State senate 1830-1834; unsuccessful Whig candidate for governor in 1834; Governor of New York 1838-1842; elected as a Whig to the United States Senate in 1849; reelected as a Republican in 1855 and served from March 4, 1849, to March 3, 1861; unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 1860; Secretary of State in the Cabinets of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson 1861-1869; while Secretary of State concluded the convention with Great Britain for the settlement of the Alabama claims and the treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska; died in Auburn, Cayuga County, N.Y., October 10, 1872; interment in Fort Hill Cemetery. - Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.]

"...It is my purpose to show you on this occasion that the slaveholding class of the American people is systematically and successfully perverting the administration of the Government, especially in regard to the Territories, so as to change the Constitution, and endanger the stability, welfare and liberty of the Union.
First, insomuch as this proposition must seem to you bold, if not new, I shall show from general principles that it may possibly be true, and secondly, I shall establish its truth by undeniable demonstration.
First--The proposition may be true. Property* is an essential element of civil society. So is liberty, which properly understood is only the equal security of all citizens against oppression. How to adjust the balance between property and liberty in States is the great problem of government. Property is always jealous of enlarged liberty, and especially so when it is based on relations subversive of natural justice, which is nothing more than equality among men. Property, therefore, has always a bias towards oppression, and it derives power to oppress from its own nature, the watchfulness of its possessors, and the ease with which they can combine. Liberty is exposed to the danger of such oppression by means of the inconsiderateness and the jealousies which habitually prevail among subjects or citizens. In every State all the property classes sympathize with each other through the force of common instincts of fear, cupidity and ambition, and are easily marshalled under the lead of one which becomes dominant, and represents the whole.
Wherever the rights and duties of the property classes are defined and regulated, with sufficient constraints to prevent oppression, and liberty is at the same time so bounded as to secure property against social or individual aggression, there the people are free and the State is Republican. When this balance is not accurately adjusted liberty is abridged and a property class administers the government, in the form of an aristocracy, or a monarchy, or a despotism. The mere mention of the names of Switzerland, Venice, France, (her various alternations being remembered,) Great Britain and Russia furnishes all needful illustrations of these positions. Human nature and the physical elements of society are everywhere the same. It is, therefore, possible that social and political errors and evils which have frequently existed elsewhere may find entrance here.
Secondly.--The allegation of perversion of the Government by the slave property class which I have made is true. First, let us see whether such a direction of Government as it describes was designed or expected by its founders. On the contrary, they laid the foundation of the States, not in property--much less in slave property--but in the natural rights or political equality of men. They establish few safeguards of property, knowing how apt it is to take care of itself, while they built strong bulwarks around liberty, knowing how easily Liberty is overthrown. The Declaration of Independence, which no weak or wicked citizen then dared to pronounce a series of abstractions, recited as the fundamental truth of the great political society which it ushered into the presence of nations, that "All men are created equal"--"endowed by their creator with the inalienable rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," and that "Governments are instituted among men to secure those rights," and derive their powers only "from the consent of the governed."
The Convention which framed the Constitution submitted it to the American people by a letter bearing the signature of George Washington, in which its character was defined with a steady hand in a clear light. "Individuals," said the Convention, "entering into society must give up a share of Liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend as well on situation and circumstances as on the object to be attained. In all our deliberations on this subject, the object which the Convention has kept steadily in view was the consolidation of the Union, in which is involved our posperity, felicity, safety, perhaps our national existence. This important consideration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds, led each State in the Convention to be less rigid on points of inferior magnitude than might have been otherwise expected." An analysis of the Constitution, especially including its amendments, justifies this declaration, that the points on which liberality of concession to property was exercised were only those of inferior magnitude, and that neither prosperity, felicity, safety nor national existence was intended to be put at hazard for the preservation of a mere remnant of shadow of liberty. The people, speaking in the Constitution, declared their high objects in that great transaction in words simple, majestic and comprehensive,"To form a perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity." They boldly and directly laid the axe to the roots of privileges and of classes, they broke the very mainsprings of aristocracy, or at least they attempted to do so by ordaining that "no title of nobility shall be granted by the United States or by any State," and that "Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Although the people well know that nearly every fourth person in the new Republic was actually a slave, and that perhaps one of every twenty persons was a slaveholder, and so they well understood the existence among themselves of a caste and class, yet they pertinaciously refused to recognize either, and on the contrary treated of all the subjects of the Government under the common and promiscuous description of "persons," thus confounding classes, and recognizing only men. While they aimed at an ultimate extinction of that caste and the class built upon it by authorizing Congress to prohibit the importation of "persons" who were slaves after 1808, and to tax it severely in the meantime, and while they necessarily left to the individual States the management of the domestic relations of all classes and castes existing therein, they especially declared what should be the rights and relations of all "persons," so far as they were to be affected by the action of the Federal Government which they were establishing. "The privilege of the writ of habeus corpus shall not be suspended unless when in case of rebellion or invasion the public security shall require it." "No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed." "No capitation or other direct tax shall be laid unless in proportionto the census." "The United States shall guarantee to every State in the Union a republican form of government." "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated." They ordained "trial by jury," prohibited "excessive bail and excessive fines, and cruel and unusual punishments," and "reserved to the States and to the people the powers of government not expressly delegated to the United States." ..."
Published: October 3, 1856
Copyright The New York Times
* - Speaking of "Property" -

"...All property, indeed, except the savage's temporary cabin, his bow, his match coat, and other little acquisitions absolutely necessary for his subsistence, seems to me the creature of public convention. Hence the public has the right of regulating descents and all other conveyances of property, and even of limiting the quantity and uses of it. All the property that is necessary to a man for the conservation of the individual and the propagation of the species is his natural right, which none can justly deprive him of; but all property superfluous to such purposes is the property of the public, who by their laws have created it, and who may, therefore, by other laws, dispose of it whenever the welfare of the public shall demand such disposition. He that does not like civil society on these terms, let him retire and live among savages. He can have no right to the benefits of society who will not pay his club towards the support of it...."

- Benjamin Franklin, Dec. 25, 1783 letter to Robert(?) Morris. [The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 6.]

The Debates in the Federal Convention, "...the love of power, and the love of money...", June 02, 1787

The Debates in the Federal Convention, "Life & liberty were generally said to be of more value, than property.", July 05, 1787

The Debates, "Personal Rights Vs. Property Rights", August 7, 1787

The Debates in the Federal Convention, "...they will become the tools of opulence and ambition...", Aug. 7, 1787

"...Suppose one of our Indian Nations should now agree to form a civil Society; each Individual would bring into the Stock of the Society little more Property than his Gun and his Blanket, for at present he has no other. . . . Private Property therefore is a Creature of Society, and is subject to the Calls of that Society, whenever its Necessities shall require it, even to its last Farthing . . . but the important ends of Civil Society, and the personal Securities of Life and Liberty, these remain the same in every Member of the society; and the poorest continues to have an equal Claim to them with the most opulent, whatever Difference Time, Chance, or Industry may occasion in their Circumstances..."

- Benjamin Franklin, Queries and Remarks respecting Alterations in the Constitution of Pennsylvania, 1789 Writings 10:55--60.

James Madison, “Property,” - "He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person", March 29, 1792

"...It was aimed at restraining and checking the powers of wealth and privilege. It was to be a charter of liberty for human rights against property rights. The transformation has been rapid and complete. It operates today to protect the rights of property to the detriment of the rights of man. It has become the Magna Charta of accumulated and organized capital.' ..."

- Adamson v. People Of State Of California, U.S. Supreme Court, (Justice Black, Douglas and Swayne in Dissent), June 23, 1947.



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