Page:The American Review Volume 02.djvu/567

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1845.]
549
Its Position and Duties.

will try to put this point briefly in a clear light. A clause of an Article in the Constitution of Texas (See Art. viii., Sec. 1) holds this language. "The Legislature shall have no power to pass laws for the emancipation of slaves, without the consent of their owners; nor without paying their owners, previous to such emancipation, a full equivalent in money," &c.

Now, let every lover of his own State and of our Confederacy—in whatever section of the Union—fairly consider what is implied in those words marked in italics. They embrace a position and a law, such as should belong to no State in the Union, and such as no State, nor any part of the citizens of any State, could now be persuaded to assume. It will be perceived that, by the construction of the language, the law contained in the clause stands absolute, entirely unconnected with any modification by contingent or supposed conditions (of compensation, general consent, or otherwise,) but nakedly setting forth, that under no possible change of circumstances shall the State dissolve an institution unquestionably subject to constant and unforeseen changes, but shall allow any possible fraction of its original supporters, one-fifteenth, or one-twentieth, (the rest assenting to its dissolution,) to maintain it still in existence—if so determined—and that even though they might be offered a reasonable compensation for the loss of property therein. Now the institution of slavery has been secured to each State of this Confederacy, as long as such State shall choose to continue it, by the most solemn guaranties of the Federal Constitution; and no one has any right to urge its abolition, except through the action of each State by itself. It will also be remembered that, by the Missouri Compromise, the contingency was deliberately provided for of new Slave-holding States arise to within certain prescribed limits—lines of latitude and longitude considerately traced out—within which the same institution should be indefinitely recognized and upheld. But most assuredly the idea would have been scouted then in connection with this Compromise, as it would now by any State in the Union, that it, or any State yet to arise should, in the most solemn constitutional forms, bind itself never to allow the Legislature to act even upon the expediency of abolishing either this or any other social institution or condition of things, so confessedly open to modifications by time and circumstance. It would be considered, as it is, an unwarranted and most dangerous introduction into our Republic, of an entirely new and unrepublican feature. This, then, may undoubtedly furnish occasion, unless Texas remove the clause from her constitution, of re-opening the question to the consideration of Congress. And it is not a point for party discussion. Not only the Whigs will be called upon to consider it, but all of the opposing party, possessing any knowledge whatever of the nature of our confederation, cannot fail to speak strongly upon it. We only hope that, in the discussion to which this provision of the Constitution of Texas may give rise, there will be no angry or unkind feelings of either a party or sectional nature.

Another topic that will provoke no little discussion will be that of the public debt of Texas. The resolution of Annexation expressly stipulates against its assumption by the United States; yet there is a prevailing sentiment, that the new State must not come in with the stigma of repudiation; and, inasmuch as Texas cannot out of her public lands, the only property she reserves, provide the means of discharging the debt, or even of paying the interest upon it with punctuality, it has been suggested, that these lands should be ceded by her in fee to the United States for a sum that will suffice to extinguish the debt. This is a suggestion by no means free from difficulties. Not the least of these is the uncertainty of, and the apparent impossibility of ascertaining the amount of, that debt—so great seems to have been the carelessness of the accounting and recording officers of the Texas Treasury.

Another and perhaps more formidable objection will arise from the very general persuasion that the calculation upon such a provision for the debt of Texas entered largely into the schemings and intrigues which prompted and mainly accomplished annexation. This will be a strong ground of opposition to any arrangement, in any shape, by which the United States shall be made instrumental in redeeming this debt.

The feeling, too, which at the close of our revolutionary war was so strongly appealed to against discharging at par, or dollar for dollar, a debt of which the evidences had been so much depreciated as to pass for not more than one-fourth or