Page images
PDF
EPUB

so far as the cause of civil liberty is concerned, because I indulge the hope that they have already reached the last stage of their onward career. I willingly turn from this view of the subject, to direct your attention to what has been done, and what may be rcquired, to prevent further cvils from this cause.

The people of this State continue to cherish an unabated attachment to the federal compact. The many signal advantages they have derived from it, and the many they still look for, bind them to a course of fraternal conduct towards their sister States, and lay them under the highest and most sacred obligations to fulfil in good faith, and to the utmost extent of its requirements, all the duties it imposes on them, and to abstain from all practices incompatible with these duties, or contrary to the spirit of any of its provisions.

Acting upon these principles, our fellow-citizens very generally feel it to be their solemn duty, whatever they may think of slave. ry in the abstract, or in its actual condition in any section of the Union, to leave its treatment, as it was left in their case, entirely and forever to the people of the States in which it exists. These States are not only entitled to the exclusive control of the subject, but, as they are immediately affected by it, they, and they only, best understand the proper mode of treating it; and it requires but a small share of good feeling towards them, and of diffidence in ourselves, to satisfy us that the matter may be safely left to the wisdom and humanity of those to whom it exclusively belongs.

If this State could be brought to think that the advantages it derives from the federal constitution, are not a sufficient compensation for the restraints imposed by that instrument; if, for the sake of displaying a morbid and fanatical spirit of false philanthropy, even at the risk of encountering the danger and incurring the responsibility of an attempt to reform the institutions of other States, it should be willing to give up these advantages, honor and duty would require it, before entering on such an experiment, to call upon the other States to release it from the solemn engagements it contracted in becoming a member of the Union; but so long as the people of this State cling to the advantages which this compact secures to them; so long as they profess to regard it as the source of their highest earthly good, and the object of their most cherished aspirations, they will, I trust, ever regard it as due

alike to duty, to consistency, and to honor, to fulfil in its spirit every injunction it imposes, and to respect and observe with the utmost fidelity, all the great principles on which it is founded.

Under the influence of the foregoing considerations, and others of a kindred nature, our constituents have expressed their enlightened and deliberate judgment upon the subject under consideration. With an earnestness and unanimity never before witnessed among us, they have, without distinction of sect or party, in their primary assemblies, and in various other ways, expressed their attachment to the constitution of the federal government; their determination to maintain its guarantees; their disapprobation of the whole system of operations set on foot by the abolitionists; their affection for their brethren of the South; and their fixed purpose to do all that in them lies, consistently with law and justice, to render these sentiments effectua). It is not to be believed that these manifestations of public sentiment have been or will be disregarded by those who have engaged in, or given countenance to the abolition proceedings.

I am fully pereuaded that the powerful energies of public opinion, as it has been called forth throughout the whole state, have already produced most salutary effects, in disabusing many persons who had inconsiderately concurred in the visionary schemes of the abolitionists.

When the very small number that still adhere to this cause, sec that the immense majority of the people of this State, including certainly a proportionate amount of intelligence and worth, and embracing men of all sects in religion, and of all parties in politics, are utterly and irreconcilably opposed to them; and that their measures are regarded with the deepest repugnance by all who affectionately cherish the Union and harmony of the States; including among them philanthropists at least as enlightened and sincere as any of themselves; they will, it is confidently hoped, be induced to pause in their career, and to sacrifice on the altar of their common country, the opinions and motives which have hitherto prompted them to exertions regarded with so much abhorrence by so great a majority of their fellow-citizens.

When, to the just influence which may reasonably be anticipated from the sentiments of the people, so unitedly and powerfully

expressed, and rendered still more efficacious, as I think they might and should be, by the opinions and views of their assembled representatives, is added the overwhelming weight of thë arguments addressed to the reason and the consciences of those who yet adhere to the abolition cause, it would be imputing to them a deplorable degree of mental blindness and fanatical delusion, not to expect a general abandonment of their wild schemes. All but those who are confirmed in fanaticism or reckless of consequences, it is believed, will be constrained by the decided and constantly increasing force of public opinion, to give up their dangerous attempts to act on the institutions of other States. Those who may not be thus reclaimed or controlled, will be too few in number and in influence, I am persuaded, to excite apprehension.

Relying on the influence of a sound and enlightened public opinion to restrain and control the misconduct of the citizens of a free government, especially when directed, as it has been in this case, with unexampled energy and unanimity to the particular evils under consideration, and perceiving that its operations have beon thus far salutary, I entertain the best hopes that this remedy, of itself, will entirely remove these evils, or render them comparatively harmless. But if these reasonable expectations should, unhappily, be disappointed; if, in the face of numerous and striking exhibitions of public reprobation, elicited from our constituents by a just fear of the fatal issues in which the uncurbed efforts of the abolitionists may ultimately end, any considerable portion of these misguided men shall persist in pushing them forward to disastrous consequences, then a question, new to our confederacy, will necessarily arise, and must be met. It must then be determined how far the several States can provide, within the proper exercise of their constitutional powers, and how far in sulfilment of the obligations resulting from their federal relations, they ought to provide, by their own laws, for the trial and punishment by their own judicatories, of residents within their limits, guilty of acts therein, which are calculated and intended to excite insurrection and rebellion in a sister State. Without the power to pass such laws, the States would not possess all the necessary means for preserving their external relations of peace among themselves, and would be without the ability to fulfil in all instances, the sacred obligations which they owe to each other as members of the Federal Union. Such a power is the acknowledged attribute of sovereignty, and the

exercise of it is often necessary to prevent the embroiling of neighboring nations. The general government is at this time exercising that power to suppress such acts of the citizens of the United States, done within its jurisdiction, in relation to the belligerent authorities of Mexico and Texas, as are inconsistent with the relations of

peace and amily we sustain towards those States. Such a power, therefore, belonged to the sovereignty of each of the States, before the formation of the Union, and as far as regards their relation to each other, it was not delegated to the general government. It still remains unimpaired, and the obligations to exercise it have acquired additional force from the nature and objects of the federal compact. I cannot doubt that the Legislature possesses the power to pass such penal laws as will have the effect of preventing the citizens of this State and residents within it, from availing themselves, with impunity, of the protection of its sovereignty and laws, while they are actually employed in exciting insurrection and scdition in a sister State, or engaged in treasonable enterprises, intended to be executed therein.

I have recently received from the Governor of the State of South Carolina, a copy of a report and resolutions, in relation to the proceedings of the abolitionists, adopted by the Legislature of that State ; and I herewith transmit them to you, in compliance with the request therein contained.

I have also received from the Governor of Alabama, a requisition to deliver up to that State, a person residing in the State of New-York, charged with the crime of distributing and publishing in the State of Alabama, a seditious paper designing and intending to incite the slave population of that State to insurrection and rebellion. The accused was not an actual fugitive from justice, and it did not appear that he had any other participation in the alleged crime than what arose from acts done within this State. I was, therefore, convinced that neither the constitution or law's of the United States, nor of this State, imposed on me the duty, or conferred the right, to surrender him, and I declined to do so. A difference of opinion between the chief executive officers of the two States, in relation to an official obligation, due to one from the other, is much to be regretted: and the friendly relations subsisting between them render it proper that I should communicate the fact to you, together with the views of the Governor of Alabama,

in support of the claim he has made on behalf of that State. herewith transmit the documents and correspondence relative to this case.

In discharging the various and responsible duties, devolved on you as legislative guardians of this State, I shall give you my cheerful co-operation, in the confident hope that your labors will subscrve the best interests and advance the general welfare of our constituents.

W. L. MARCY.

Albany, January 5, 1836.

« PreviousContinue »