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 18

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Speech | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription 18
now called on to exercise as much a violation of it as
to pass an ex post facto law or bill of attainder here ?
I ask gentlemen if they believe this Constitution
would ever have received the sanction of a single Slave-
State, if it had been suspected for a moment that this
power now claimed was given to Congress by it ?
But, sir, admitting for the sake of argument that
the Constitution places no limitation to the power of
" legislation " in the District of Columbia : I ask how
far that power will, of itself, extend ? What are the
great objects of all human legislation ? To protect life,
liberty, and property. Can we, under this definition,
assume the power wantonly to destroy them ? It is
true property is sometimes seized as a penalty for mis-
demeanors ; and liberty, and even life, are forfeited for
crimes. But does this warrant Congress, or any legis-
lative body in this country, at its free will and plea�s-
ure to confiscate the estate of a peaceful and unoffend-
ing citizen, or imprison him or take away his life
without offence ? Sir, monstrous as these propositions
are, they are not more monstrous, nor would they be
more fatal in their consequences, than that which these
petitioners ask us now to adopt. And here let me say,
in answer to the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr.
Cushing), that I can see no difference between the con-
stitutional power to abolish the internal Slave-trade
and the power to abolish Slavery itself. If the slave-
owner is deprived of the full use of his property, un-
less that use impairs the rights of others, you can as
well deprive him of the property itself. The principle
in both cases is the same. But for the reasons I have
already mentioned, I will not dwell on this branch of
the subject.