"The New Federal Constitution," Charleston (SC) Mercury, March 16, 1857, p. 2.
New York Post
Charleston (SC) Mercury
The New Federal Constitution
The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
The New Federal Constitution.
Some of the journalists who support the cause of the administration, are pleasing themselves with the fancy that the decision of the Supreme bench of the United States, in the Dred Scott case, will put an end to the agitation of slavery question. They will soon find their mistake. The feeling in favor of liberty is not so easily smothered; discussion is not so readily silenced. One specific after another has been tried, with the same view, and with the same success. The Fugitive Slave law, we were told, was to quiet all agitation, but it did not; the Nebraska bill was to stop all controversy on the slavery question, but it proved to be oil poured on the flames. The usurpation of the government of Kansas by the inroad from Missouri, was thought for a time to be a blow to the friends of liberty which they could not survive, but it only roused them to greater activity. The election of Mr. Buchanan as President, in November, was to put an end to the dispute, but since November the disputed has waxed warmer and warmer. It will never end till the cause of liberty has finally triumphed. Heap statute upon statute, follow up one Executive interference with another, add usurpation to usurpation, and judicial decision to judicial decision, the spirit against which they are levelled is indestructible. As long at the press and speech are free, the warfare will be continued, and every attempt to surpress it, by directing against it any part of the machinery of the Government, will only cause it to rage the more fiercely.
This has been the case hitherto. The more our Presidents have meddled with the matter – the more the majority in Congress have sought to stifle the discussion – the more force has been employed on the side of slavery, whether under the pretext of legal authority, as when Mr. Pierce called out the United States troops to enforce the pretended laws of Kansas, or, without that pretext, as when armed men crossed the border of that territory to make laws for the inhabitants, the more determined is the zeal by which the rights of freeman are asserted and upheld against the oligarchy. It will not cool the fiery temper of this zeal to know that slavery has enlisted the bench on its side; it will rather blow it into a stronger and more formidable flame.
Here are five slaveholding judges on the bench, despite of this neologism of slavery – men who have espoused the doctrines lately invented by the Southern politicians, and who seek to engraft them upon our code of constitutional law – men who alter our Constitution for us – who find in it what no man of common sense, reading it for himself, could ever find – what its framers never thought of putting into it – what no man discerned in it till a very few years since it was seen, with the aid of optics, sharpened by the eager desire to preserve the political ascendancy of the slave States. We feel, in reading the opinions of these men, that local political prejudices have gained the mastery of that bench, and tainted, beyond recovery, the minds of the majority of the judges. The Constitution which they now profess to administer, is not the Constitution under which this country has lived for seventy years; it is not the Constitution which Washington, Franklin and Jefferson, and the able jurists who filled the seat of justice in the calmer days of our republic, recognized; this is not the Constitution to which we have so long looked up with reverence and admiration; it is a new Constitution, of which we never heard till it was invented by Mr. Calhoun, and which we cannot see adopted by the judges of our Federal Courts without shame and indignation.
Hereafter, if this decision shall stand for law, slavery, instead of being what the people of slave States have hitherto called it, their peculiar institution, is a Federal institution, the common patrimony and shame of all the States, those which flaunt with the title of tree, as well as those which accept the stigma of being the Land of Bondage; hereafter, wherever our jurisdiction extends, it carries with it the chain and the scourge – wherever our flag floats, it is the flag of slavery. If so, that flag should have the light of the stars and the streaks of running red erased from it; it should be dyed black, and its devise should be the whip and the letter.
Are we to accept, without question, these new readings of the Constitution – to sit down contentedly under this disgrace – to admit that the Constitution was never before rightly understood even by those who framed it – to consent that hereafter it shall be the slaveholders’, instead of the freemen’s Constitution? Never! Never! We hold that the provisions of the Constitution, so far as they regard slaver, are now just what they were when it was framed, and that no trick of interpretation can change them. The people of the free States will insist on the old impartial construction of the Constitution, adopted in calmer times – the construction given it by Washington and his contemporaries, instead of that invented by modern politicians in Congress and adopted by modern politicians on the bench.
What result will grow out of this decision – to what conflicts of legislation between the States and the Federal Government it may lead – with what difficulty these clashing views may be composed, or how this last attempt to sustain in the cause of slavery, to spread it as widely and keep it in being as long as possible, may be overruled and rendered futile by causes now in operation, we do not undertake to conjecture – N.Y. Ev. Post.