The Great Conspiracy

“Article II. Congress shall have no power to abolish Slavery in places
under its exclusive jurisdiction, and situate within the limits of
States that permit the holding of Slaves.

“Article III. Congress shall have no power to abolish Slavery within
the District of Columbia; so long as it exists in the adjoining States
of Virginia and Maryland, or either, nor without the consent of the
inhabitants, nor without just compensation first made to such owners of
Slaves as do not consent to such abolishment. Nor shall Congress, at
any time, prohibit officers of the Federal government, or members of
Congress whose duties require them to be in said District, from bringing
with them their Slaves, and holding them as such during the time their
duties may require them to remain there, and afterward taking them from
the District.

“Article IV. Congress shall have no power to prohibit or hinder the
Transportation of Slaves from one State to another, or to a Territory in
which Slaves are, by law, permitted to be held, whether that
transportation be by land, navigable rivers, or by the sea.

“Article V. That in addition to the provisions of the third paragraph
of the second section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the
United States, Congress shall have power to provide by law, and it shall
be its duty to provide, that the United States shall pay to the owner
who shall apply for it, the full value of his Fugitive Slaves in all
cases where the Marshal, or other officer whose duty it was to arrest
said Fugitive, was prevented from so doing by violence or intimidation,
or where, after arrest, said Fugitive was rescued by force, and the
owner thereby prevented and obstructed in the pursuit of his remedy for
the recovery of his Fugitive Slave under the said clause of the
Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof.

[“No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws
thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any Law or
Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but
shall be delivered up on claim of the Party to whom such Service or
Labour may be due.”–Art. IV., Sec. 2, P 3, U. S. Constitution.]

“And in all such cases, when the United States shall pay for such
Fugitive, they shall have the Right, in their own name, to sue the
county in which said violence, intimidation, or rescue, was committed,
and recover from it, with interest and damages, the amount paid by them
for said Fugitive Slave. And the said county, after it has paid said
amount to the United States, may, for its indemnity, sue and recover
from the wrong-doers or rescuers by whom the owner was prevented from
the recovery of his Fugitive Slave, in like manner as the owner himself
might have sued and recovered.

“Article VI. No future amendment of the Constitution shall affect the
five preceding articles; nor the third paragraph of the second section
of the first article of the Constitution, nor the third paragraph of
the second section of the fourth article of said Constitution; and no
amendment shall be made to the Constitution which shall authorize or
give to Congress any power to abolish or interfere with Slavery in any
of the States by whose laws it is or may be, allowed or permitted.

[“Representatives and Direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the
several States which may be included within this Union, according
to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to
the whole Number of Free Persons, including those bound to Service
for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not Taxed, three-fifths
of all Other Persons,” etc.–Art. 1., Sec. 2, P 3, U. S.

“And whereas, also, besides those causes of dissension embraced in the
foregoing amendments proposed to the Constitution of the United States,
there are others which come within the jurisdiction of Congress, and may
be remedied by its legislative power; And whereas it is the desire of
Congress, as far as its power will extend, to remove all just cause for
the popular discontent and agitation which now disturb the peace of the
Country and threaten the stability of its Institutions; Therefore:

“1. Resolved by the Senate and house of Representatives in Congress
assembled, that the laws now in force for the recovery of Fugitive
Slaves are in strict pursuance of the plain and mandatory provisions of
the Constitution, and have been sanctioned as valid and Constitutional
by the judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States; that the
Slaveholding States are entitled to the faithful observance and
execution of those laws; and that they ought not to be repealed, or so
modified or changed as to impair their efficiency; and that laws ought
to be made for the punishment of those who attempt, by rescue of the
Slave, or other illegal means, to hinder or defeat the due execution of
said laws.

“2. That all State laws which conflict with the Fugitive Slave Acts of
Congress, or any other Constitutional Acts of Congress, or which, in
their operation, impede, hinder, or delay, the free course and due
execution of any of said Acts, are null and void by the plain provisions
of the Constitution of the United States; yet those State laws, void as
they are, have given color to practices, and led to consequences, which
have obstructed the due administration and execution of Acts of
Congress, and especially the Acts for the delivery of Fugitive Slaves;
and have thereby contributed much to the discord and commotion now
prevailing. Congress, therefore, in the present perilous juncture, does
not deem it improper, respectfully and earnestly, to recommend the
repeal of those laws to the several States which have enacted them, or
such legislative corrections or explanations of them as may prevent
their being used or perverted to such mischievous purposes.

“3. That the Act of the 18th of September, 1850, commonly called the
Fugitive Slave Law, ought to be so amended as to make the fee of the
Commissioner, mentioned in the eighth section of the Act, equal in
amount in the cases decided by him, whether his decision be in favor of,
or against the claimant. And, to avoid misconstruction, the last clause
of the fifth section of said Act, which authorizes the person holding a
warrant for the arrest or detention of a Fugitive Slave to summon to his
aid the posse comitatus, and which declares it to be the duty of all
good citizens to assist him in its execution, ought to be so amended as
to expressly limit the authority and duty to cases in which there shall
be resistance, or danger of resistance or rescue.

“4. That the laws for the suppression of the African Slave Trade, and
especially those prohibiting the importation of Slaves into the United
States, ought to be more effectual, and ought to be thoroughly executed;
and all further enactments necessary to those ends ought to be promptly
The Peace Conference, or “Congress,” it may here be mentioned, was
called, by action of the Legislature of Virginia, to meet at Washington,
February 4, 1861. The invitation was extended to all of such “States of
this Confederacy * * * whether Slaveholding or Non-Slaveholding, as are
willing to unite with Virginia in an earnest effort to adjust the
present unhappy controversies in the spirit in which the Constitution
was originally formed, and consistently with its principles, so as to
afford to the people of the Slaveholding States adequate guarantees for
the security of their rights”–such States to be represented by
Commissioners “to consider, and, if practicable, agree upon some
suitable adjustment.”

The Conference, or “Congress,” duly convened, at that place and time,
and organized by electing ex-President John Tyler, of Virginia, its
President. This Peace Congress–which comprised 133 Commissioners,
representing the States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts,
Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware,
Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio,
Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Kansas–remained in session until
February 27, 1861–and then submitted the result of its labors to
Congress, with the request that Congress “will submit it to Conventions
in the States, as Article Thirteen of the Amendments to the Constitution
of the United States, in the following shape:

“Section 1. In all the present territory of the United States, north of
the parallel of 36 30′ of north latitude, Involuntary Servitude, except
in punishment of crime, is prohibited. In all the present territory
south of that line, the status of Persons held to Involuntary Service or
Labor, as it now exists, shall not be changed; nor shall any law be
passed by Congress or the Territorial Legislature to hinder or prevent
the taking of such Persons from any of the States of this Union to said
Territory, nor to impair the Rights arising from said relation; but the
same shall be subject to judicial cognizance in the Federal Courts,
according to the course of the common law. When any Territory north or
south of said line, within such boundary as Congress may prescribe,
shall contain a population equal to that required for a member of
Congress, it shall, if its form of government be republican, be admitted
into the Union on an equal footing with the original States, with or
without Involuntary Servitude, as the Constitution of such State may

“Section 2. No territory shall be acquired by the United States, except
by discovery and for naval and commercial stations, depots, and transit
routes, without the concurrence of a majority of all the Senators from
States which allow Involuntary Servitude, and a majority of all the
Senators from States which prohibit that relation; nor shall Territory
be acquired by treaty, unless the votes of a majority of the Senators
from each class of States hereinbefore mentioned be cast as a part of
the two-thirds majority necessary to the ratification of such treaty.

“Section 3. Neither the Constitution, nor any amendment thereof, shall
be construed to give Congress power to regulate, abolish, or control,
within any State, the relation established or recognized by the laws
thereof touching Persons held to Labor or Involuntary Service therein,
nor to interfere with or abolish Involuntary Service in the District of
Columbia without the consent of Maryland, and without the consent of the
owners, or making the owners who do not consent just compensation; nor
the power to interfere with or prohibit Representatives and others from
bringing with them to the District of Columbia, retaining, and taking
away, Persons so held to Labor or Service; nor the power to interfere
with or abolish Involuntary Service in places under the exclusive
jurisdiction of the United States within those States and Territories
where the same is established or recognized; nor the power to prohibit
the removal or transportation of Persons held to Labor or Involuntary
Service in any State or Territory of the United States to any other
State or Territory thereof where it is established or recognized by law
or usage; and the right during transportation, by sea or river, of
touching at ports, shores, and landings, and of landing in case of
distress, shall exist; but not the right of transit in or through any
State or Territory, or of sale or traffic, against the laws thereof.
Nor shall Congress have power to authorize any higher rate of taxation
on Persons held to Labor or Service than on land. The bringing into the
District of Columbia of Persons held to Labor or Service, for sale, or
placing them in depots to be afterwards transferred to other places for
sale as merchandize, is prohibited.

“Section 4. The third paragraph of the second section of the fourth
article of the Constitution shall not be construed to prevent any of the
States, by appropriate legislation, and through the action of their
judicial and ministerial officers, from enforcing the delivery of
Fugitives from Labor to the person to whom such Service or Labor is due.

“Section 5. The Foreign Slave Trade is hereby forever prohibited; and
it shall be the duty of Congress to pass laws to prevent the importation
of Slaves, Coolies, or Persons held to Service or Labor, into the United
States and the Territories from places beyond the limits thereof.

“Section 6. The first, third, and fifth sections, together with this
section of these amendments, and the third paragraph of the second
section of the first article of the Constitution, and the third
paragraph of the second section of the fourth article thereof, shall not
be amended or abolished without the consent of all the States.

“Section 7. Congress shall provide by law that the United States shall
pay to the owner the full value of the Fugitive from Labor, in all cases
where the Marshal, or other officer, whose duty it was to arrest such
Fugitive, was prevented from so doing by violence or intimidation from
mobs or riotous assemblages, or when, after arrest, such Fugitive was
rescued by like violence or intimidation, and the owner thereby deprived
of the same; and the acceptance of such payment shall preclude the owner
from further claim to such Fugitive. Congress shall provide by law for
securing to the citizens of each State the privileges and immunities of
citizens in the several States.”
To spurn such propositions as these–with all the concessions to the
Slave Power therein contained–was equivalent to spurning any and all
propositions that could possibly be made; and by doing this, the
Seceding States placed themselves–as they perhaps desired–in an
utterly irreconcilable attitude, and hence, to a certain extent, which
had not entered into their calculations, weakened their “Cause” in the
eyes of many of their friends in the North, in the Border States, and in
the World. They had become Implacables. Practically considered, this
was their great mistake. The Crittenden Compromise Resolutions covered
and yielded to the Slaveholders of the South all and even more than they
had ever dared seriously to ask or hope for, and had they been open to
Conciliation, they could have undoubtedly carried that measure through
both Houses of Congress and three-fourths of the States.

[“Its advocates, with good reason, claimed a large majority of the
People in its favor, and clamored for its submission to a direct
popular vote. Had such a submission been accorded, it is very
likely that the greater number of those who voted at all would have
voted to ratify it. * * * The ‘Conservatives,’ so called, were
still able to establish this Crittenden Compromise by their own
proper strength, had they been disposed so to do. The President
was theirs; the Senate strongly theirs; in the House, they had a
small majority, as was evidenced in their defeat of John Sherman
for Speaker. Had they now come forward and said, with authority:
‘Enable us to pass the Crittenden Compromise, and all shall be
peace and harmony,’ they would have succeeded without difficulty.
It was only through the withdrawal of pro-slavery members that the
Republicans had achieved an unexpected majority in either House.
Had those members chosen to return to the seats still awaiting
them, and to support Mr. Crittenden’s proposition, they could have
carried it without difficulty.”–Vol. 360, Greeley’s Am. Conflict.]

But no, they wilfully withdrew their Congressional membership, State by
State, as each Seceded, and refused all terms save those which involved
an absolute surrender to them on all points, including the impossible
claim of the “Right of Secession.”

Let us now briefly trace the history of the Compromise measures in the
two Houses of Congress.

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