Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond, of South Carolina >> Speech on the Justice of Receiving Petitions for the Abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia >> Page 17

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Page 17

Speech | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription 17
pass that by, then. But I think we should not receive
it still, because it asks us to do what we have no con-
stitutional power to do ; and what, if we had the
power, it would be ruinous to a large portion of this
confederacy, and ultimately destructive to all our in-
stitutions, for us to do.
The constitutional power to abolish Slavery and the
Slave-trade in this District, is claimed by virtue of the
clause which gives to Congress " exclusive legislation "
here. I admit at once, that under that clause Con-
gress has full power, so far as " legislation " is concern-
ed, over this District, except where it is limited by the
letter or the spirit of the Constitution in other por-
tions of that instrument, or by the contracts made
with the States of Virginia and Maryland in the acts
of cession by those States. As this point has been
ably, and I think satisfactorily, discussed, both in this
House and another portion of the Capitol, I will take
but a single view of it at this time. All the powers
given by the Constitution are trust powers, and should
be construed in connection with each other, and in
reference to the great objects they were intended to
accomplish. Now, I ask, if any member of this House,
having before him these clauses of the Constitution
forbidding the passage of laws, even by the States, to
prevent the arrest of " persons held to labor " in the
other States forbidding " Congress to take private
property " even " for public uses without just compen-
sation," and recognizing slaves as property, entitled to
representation only as three fifths, and not as persons
entitled to full representation, can say that it will
not be a violation of the letter and the whole spirit of
the Constitution to assume the power which you are