The Abolition of Slavery

William Lloyd Garrison
The Abolition Of Slavery The
Right Of The
by Various

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Of The
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Title: The Abolition Of Slavery The Right Of The Government Under
The War Power
Author: Various
Editor: William Lloyd Garrison
Release Date: March 12, 2006 [EBook #17971]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by the University of Michigan as part of the "Making of
America" digital library (

By William Lloyd Garrison and Others

Extracts from the speech of John Quincy Adams, delivered in the U.S.
House of Representatives, April 14 and 15, 1842, on War with Great
Britain and Mexico:--
What I say is involuntary, because the subject has been brought into the
House from another quarter, as the gentleman himself admits. I would
leave that institution to the exclusive consideration and management of
the States more peculiarly interested in it, just as long as they can keep
within their own bounds. So far, I admit that Congress has no power to
meddle with it. As long as they do not step out of their own bounds,
and do not put the question to the people of the United States, whose
peace, welfare and happiness are all at stake, so long I will agree to
leave them to themselves. But when a member from a free State brings
forward certain resolutions, for which, instead of reasoning to disprove
his positions, you vote a censure upon him, and that without hearing, it
is quite another affair. At the time this was done, I said that, as far as I
could understand the resolutions proposed by the gentleman from Ohio,
(Mr. Giddings,) there were some of them for which I was ready to vote,
and some which I must vote against; and I will now tell this House, my
constituents, and the world of mankind, that the resolution against
which I would have voted was that in which he declares that what are
called the slave States have the exclusive right of consultation on the
subject of slavery. For that resolution I never would vote, because I
believe that it is not just, and does not contain constitutional doctrine. I
believe that, so long as the slave States are able to sustain their
institutions without going abroad or calling upon other parts of the
Union to aid them or act on the subject, so long I will consent never to
interfere. I have said this, and I repeat it; but if they come to the free

States, and say to them, you must help us to keep down our slaves, you
must aid us in an insurrection and a civil war, then I say that with that
call comes a full and plenary power to this House and to the Senate
over the whole subject. It is a war power. I say it is a war power, and
when your country is actually in war, whether it be a war of invasion or
a war of insurrection, Congress has power to carry on the war, and must
carry it on, according to the laws of war; and by the laws of war, an
invaded country has all its laws and municipal institutions swept by the
board, and martial law takes the place of them. This power in Congress
has, perhaps, never been called into exercise under the present
Constitution of the United States. But when the laws of war are in force,
what, I ask, is one of those laws? It is this: that when a country is
invaded, and two hostile armies are set in martial array, the
commanders of both armies have power to emancipate all the slaves in
the invaded territory. Nor is this a mere theoretic statement. The history
of South America shows that the doctrine has been carried into
practical execution within the last thirty years. Slavery was abolished in
Columbia, first, by the Spanish General Morillo, and, secondly, by the
American General Bolivar. It was abolished by virtue of a military
command given at the head of the army, and its abolition continues to
be law to this day. It was abolished by the laws of war, and not by
municipal enactments; the power was exercised by military
commanders, under instructions, of course, from their respective
Governments. And here I recur
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