Against the Bill Admitting California as a State

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We, the undersigned Senators, deeply impressed with the importance of the occasion, and with a solemn sense of the responsibility under which we are acting, respectfully submit the following protest against the bill admitting California as a State into this Union, and request that it may be entered upon the Journal of the Senate. We feel that it is not enough to have resisted in debate alone a bill so fraught with mischief to the Union and the States which we represent, with all the resources of argument which we possessed; but that it is also due to ourselves, the people whose interest have been intrusted to our care, and to posterity, which even in its most distant generations may feel its consequences, to leave in whatever form may be most solemn and enduring, a memorial of the opposition which we have made to this measure, and of the reasons by which we have been governed, upon the pages of a journal which the constitution requires to be kept so long as the Senate may have an existence. We desire to place the reasons upon which we are willing to be judged by generations living, and yet to come, for our opposition to a bill whose consequences may be so durable and portentous as to make it an object of deep interest to all who may come after us.

We have dissented from this bill because it gives the sanction of law, and thus imparts validity to the unauthorized action of a portion of the inhabitants of California, by which an odious discrimination is made against the property of the fifteen slaveholding States of the Union, who are thus deprived of that position of equality which the constitution so manifestly designs, and which constitutes the only sure and stable foundation on which this Union can repose.

Because the right of the slaveholding States to a common and equal enjoyment of the territory of the Union has been defeated by a system of measures which, without the authority of precedent, of law, or of the constitution, are manifestly contrived for that purpose, and which Congress must sanction and adopt, should this bill become a law.

Because, to vote for a bill passed under such circumstances, would be to agree to a principle, which may exclude forever hereafter, as it does now, the States which we represent from all enjoyment of the common territory of the Union; a principle which destroys the equal rights of their constituents, the equality of their States in the Confederacy, the equal dignity of those whom they represent as men and as citizens in the eye of the law, and their equal title to the protection of the Government and the constitution.

Because the admission of California as a State into the Union, without any previous reservation assented to by her of the public domain, might involve an actual surrender of that domain to, or, at all events, places its future disposal at the mercy of that State; and, as no reservation in the bill can be binding upon her until she assents to it, her dissent 'hereafter' would in no manner affect or impair the act of her admission.

Because all the propositions have been rejected which have been made to obtain either a recognition of the rights of the slaveholding States to a common enjoyment of all the territory of the United States, or to a fair division of that territory between the slaveholding and non-slaveholding States of the Union—every effort having failed which has been made to obtain a fair division of the territory proposed to be brought in as the State of California.

But, lastly, we dissent from this bill, and solemnly protest against its passage, because, in sanctioning measures so contrary to former precedent, to obvious policy, to the spirit and intent of the Constitution of the United States, for the purpose of excluding the slaveholding States from the territory thus to be erected into a State, this Government in effect declares, that the exclusion of slavery from the territory of the United States is an object so high and important, as to justify a disregard not only of all the principles of sound policy, but also of the constitution itself. Against this conclusion we must now and forever, protest, as it is destructive of the safety and liberties of those whose rights have been committed to our care, fatal to the peace and equality of the States which we represent, and must lead, if persisted in, to the dissolution of that confederacy, in which the slaveholding States have never sought more than equality, and in which they will not be content to remain with less.


R. M. T. HUNTER, Virginia.


R. B. BARNWELL,[typo?] South Carolina.

H. L. TURNEY, Tennessee.

PIERRE SOULE, Louisiana.




D. L. YULEE, Florida.

Senate Chamber, August 13,1850.

^This in fact refers to Robert Woodward Barnwell 

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).