Download e-book for kindle: Arguing about Slavery: The Great Battle in the United States by William Lee Miller

By William Lee Miller

ISBN-10: 0394569229

ISBN-13: 9780394569222

A blow-by-blow new version of the conflict royal that raged in Congress within the 1830s, while a small band of representatives, led through President John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, hired problematic stratagems to outwit the Southern (and Southern-sympathizing) sponsors of the successive "gag" principles that had lengthy blocked debate near to slavery.

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The very first of these truths is that all members of the human family are created equal. And "from that equal creation" certain human rights are derived. Those rights are inherent-they cannot be "alienated"-and they are universal. Through the Continental Congress, using Jefferson's pen, the new Ameri­ cans took the case straight to the creation, and to nature, and explicitly tied it to equality and extended it to all humankind. These sweeping assertions placed on the defensive any lingering half­ suggested subliminal notion that the relevant liberties were really j ust those of the colonists in British America, or of Englishmen, or of whites, or of property holders, or of males-that the equality we asserted did not extend to servants or the poor or women or the black residents of this or of 24 ARG U I N G AB O U T S LAVERY other continents, that self-government and human rights applied only in a limited sphere.

And the House did decide, by a voice vote, to table Mr. Fairfield's petition. So much for the I 72 ladies from Maine. Congressman Fairfield, still doing his duty for his constituents, then presented another petition of the same kind, this time from the same num­ ber-I72-of gentlemen praying for the same thing: abolition of slavery in the District. No doubt sensing, from the previous action, the mood of 32 ARG U I N G A B O U T S LAVERY the House, this time Fairfield himself moved that the petition be laid on the table.

The people shall choose those who shall speak for them, and in an institu­ tion-a legislature-in which the members' freedom to speak shall be pro­ tected in order that they can dispute and reason and argue and determine the law of the land. Many of our fundamental public freedoms began as freedoms for parliament, for the people's legislature. The people were guaranteed freedom of "conscience," first of all, and freedoms by which that conscience might be expressed: freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

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Arguing about Slavery: The Great Battle in the United States Congress by William Lee Miller


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