The New Nullification
New York, Ohio, and Massachusetts, by their Legislatures, have commenced the movement which the Black Republicans as a party initiated as the basis of the late Presidential campaign- that of nullifying the constitution of the United States, so far as it restates to the rights of the slaveholder to reclaim the property guaranteed to him by that instrument in any part of the Union where he may find it. The decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case is taken as the immediately moving cause for this action, and the proceedings to which we allude have special reference to that decision, and the principles upon which it is found.
In the State of New York this movement has made no further progress yet then the passage of sundry declaratory resolutions. A law was proposed to carry them into effect, but after passing one branch of the Legislature, it failed for lack of time to consider it in the other. An idea of the character of the movement in that State may be drawn from the remarks of Mr. Speaker Littlejohn, who said he recognized no power under Heaven that can make a man a slave, and no constitution, no law that can deprive a man of his personal rights and liberty; and as a citizen of New York, he would not permit a fugitive from the South to be taken from the limits of that State. No power, he contended, could compel him to acquiesce in any such attempt.
In the Massachusetts Legislature a bill has been reported by a select committee, to which the subject of the Dred Scott decision was referred, which, while it makes a citizen of every person coming into the commonwealth, “except aliens, paupers and fugitives from justice or service,” proposes to enact that “any person having been held to service as a slave in any other State or country, and not having escaped from any other State or country, and not having escaped from any other State of the United States, in which he was held to service or labor, under the laws thereof, coming into Massachusetts, or new being therein, shall forthwith be and become free”
The Legislature of Ohio has passed a bill making it a penitentiary offence to claim or hold slaves in that State, or to undertake to carry away there from, as a slave, any person of color; and the Senators and Representatives from that State in Congress were requested to vote against the admission of any State to the Union, unless slavery is excluded by its constitution.
What is inchoate in New York, and under consideration in Massachusetts, has been completed in Ohio. In all these States the complexion of the legislature is the same-Black Republican; and the movement being the same in them all, must be regarded as a party movement, and illustrative of the character, principles, and designs, of that party.
In has been asked wherein does this course differ from that proposed by the farthest-going and the most radical of the Abolitionists of the North? We confess we cannot see a shade of difference. Garrison, the President of the American Anti Slavery Society, calling the annual meeting in New York, on the 12th inst, takes for this theme his old war-cry against the constitution and the laws, “no union with slaveholders, religious or political.” What less than this does the legislation of New York, Ohio and Massachusetts proclaim?
The constitution of the United States says one thing. These legislatures assert another. The conflict between them is plain, patent, and clearly defined. The slaveholder has rights guaranteed to him by the one, which the others say they will interpose their utmost authority to resist, and deprive him of. To the decision of the sole interpreter of the constitution they boldly and solemnly except. Against the power that is to carry it into execution they declare they are ready and determined to rebel. We know not hot how far they who are but holding this course of action in contemplation will, in the end, carry their treason. Nor can we say with certainty to what extent other legislatures may side with them in that course. We but state the case as we find it made to our hands, and as calling for the consideration of all, who have the interests of the republic at heart.
The issue thus made is, in our opinion, though delicate a very easy one to meet and to treat. The constitution and the law are so clearly on one side of the case that we cannot imagine there can be any room for doubt or hesitation on the part of those who are sworn to support the one and to execute the other; nor do we see how the threatened danger to either can ever assume a formidable shape, in the eyes of an enlightened, honest and patriotic administration. As that man of iron will, to whom his political friends now accord the honor of having been a staunch defender of the integrity of the Union, and the inviolability of its sacred charter, is known to have said, in another trying exigency in the affairs of the Republic: “The constitution; it must and shall be preserved!”