The joint select committee to which was referred the memorials of the Legislatures of the States of Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, New York and Connecticut, relative to the existence of domestic slavery in a portion of the States of the Union have duly considered the Same and now report1
That they fully appreciate the feelings of anxiety and alarm which have been produced in the Slave holding States by the misguided and incendiary movements of the abolitionists; they deeply regret that causes of excitement should have been given; and are truly solicitous to aid, by all proper means, in quieting apprehension upon the subject of slavery, and in suppressing the causes from which it has arisen. They concur unanimously in the opinion that the purposes of the abolitionists are highly reprehensible, and that their ends, even if peaceably attained, would be productive of the most deleterious consequences to every portion of our Union.
But it is believed that instead of succeeding in their wild and visionary schemes, the advocacy and dissemination of their doctrines and opinions have been, and will continue to be most disasterous to the slaves. Your committee cannot conceive how any true friend to the black man, can hope to benefit him through the instrumentality of abolition societies. Before their organization, changes were rapidly taking place in public opinion of a character the most favourable to the amelioration of the condition of our coloured population. Throughout the Slave States they had already been elevated in the Scale of morality and intelligence far above the low estate of their fathers and kindred in their native land. Not only was their condition as slaves made far more tolerable than it had been
<Page 2>but the bosom of the christian and the philanthropist dilated with increasing hope that the time was fast approximating^approaching^ when by the resistless force of public sentiment, operating through colonization societies, and with the assent of their present masters, they should be released from thraldom, and returned moral and intelligent to their own benighted land, to Scatter there the blessings of liberty, of learning, and of religion. Contemplating the subject in this aspect the hearts of christian freemen yielded a willing assent to the belief, that providence in its inscrutable wisdom, would, through the agency of the Slaves, effect the redemption of Africa from pagan darkness, idolatry and barbarism. This hope rose brilliant before us, and guided by its light, we turned in imagination from the miserable abodes of wretchedness and squallid want, which have heretofore denoted the habitation of the emancipated black man in America, to the contemplation of a nation of freemen scattered over Afric’s sunny shores, enjoying in peace, and in security the blessings of civilized life. The intelligent slave himself, for such there are, instead of deploring his situation in America as the most hopeless and degraded, rejoiced that his servitude was to be the precurser of freedom and of happiness to his kindred beyond the ocean. These are a few of the desirable results which we confidently believe would have been produced by the colonization societies, had they been permitted to persue, undisturbed, the even tenor of their way. They violated no public law; outraged no private right; appealed to no vulgar prejudices; excited no angry and malignant feelings. They were silently, but surely winning their way upon public opinion, and entwining powerfully around the affections of the people. We may ask where now are the hopes that brightened upon the philanthropist?
<Page 3>where the prospects of liberty that gladdened the heart of the slave? and where the energies of the voluntary associations which promised him release from his manacles?
Your committee turn with feelings of sincere regret to the abolition societies, and bid you seek there a ready answer to all. They have forged new fetters for the black man, and added an hundred fold to the rigors of slavery. They have scattered the fire brands of discord and disunion among the different States of the confederacy. They have excited the most rancorous and embittered feelings among the citizens of the same community. They have aroused the turbulent passions of the monster mob, whose actings have been marked by every deed of atrocity, and whose fury has no discriminated in its victims. They have threatened the violation of the sacred rights of private property, and have pertinaciously insisted upon doctrines, which if reduced to practice, would deluge our country in blood, rend the Union asunder, and bring desolation upon all that was won by the valor, and hallowed by the blood of our fathers. The corrective of these evils is to be sought for at the bar of public opinion, and your committee confidently believe that that tribunal will firmly, and powerfully pronounce the rebuke which is so richly merited, and allay all further cause of anxiety and alarm.
We hold that the citizens of the slave holding states are no more amenable for the existence of the evil of slavery, than are those of the non slave holding states. It was introduced by our common ancestors, and came from them to us, with the invaluable charter of our liberties, as a part of our heritage. our constitution, which was the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable, recognizes its existence in express terms, and certainly guarantees, to the States
<Page 4>where it does exist, its continuance, without inference on the part of the National Government. No rights which were not surrendered by the States at the formation of the constitution, can now be wrested from them without their consent ^without their consent,^ and any effort to divest them must be regarded as a violation of that sacred instrument. We would say in the language of the immortal Washington “let every violation of the constitution be reprehended. If defective, let it be amended, but not suffered to be trampled upon while it has an existence.”2 Whilst, therefore, we deeply deplore the condition of that unfortunate race of our fellow men, whose lots are cast in thraldom in a land of liberty and peace, we hold that the arm of government has no power to strike their fetters from them. We are confident that an overwhelming majority of our fellow citizens would spurn indignantly the man who would urge upon them an interference with the rights of property in other states. We believe that the people of Illinois are Sincerely attached to the federal constitution, and that they would not tamely look upon its open infraction. We believe that they have a deep regard and affection for our brethren of the South, and that upon any proper occasion they would fly to their assistance. But as your committee are not aware of the existence of abolition societies in this State, they deem a decided expression of opinion all that is, at this time, demanded
Therefore, Resolved by the General assembly of the State of Illinois that we highly disapprove of the formation of abolition societies, and of the doctrines promulgated by them.
Resolved that the right of property in slaves is secured to the slave holding states by the federal constitution, and that they cannot be deprived of that right without their consent.
Resolved that the general government has no power to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia against the consent of the citizens of said district.
Mr Brownings Rept[Report]
Jany[January] 12. 1837
on Domestic Slavery
Jany[January] 12. 1837
on Domestic Slavery
Laid on Table
1On December 29, 1836, Governor Joseph Duncan transmitted the memorials to the House of Representatives. The House Journal offers no clue as to the content of these documents, but subsequent action by the House and Senate suggest that they were critical of abolitionist societies. Particularly galling to some was the American Anti-Slavery Society, which was flooding the mails with pamphlets condemning slavery and slaveholders, and was in the midst of a petition drive to abolish the slave trade in the District of Columbia. Southern legislatures and pro-slavery forces in the North were clamoring for legislatures in the North to join them in opposing the American Anti-Slavery Society and in condemning abolitionism.
The House referred the governor’s communication and associated documents to a joint select committee to consist of seven representatives and four senators. The House immediately selected its representatives on the joint committee, and the Senate, after voting down a motion to indefinitely postpone consideration, named its participants on December 30.
Illinois House Journal. 1836. 10th G. A., 1st sess., 134; Illinois Senate Journal. 1836. 10th G. A., 1st sess., 129-30.
2A slightly amended version of a quote written by George Washington in 1786.
George Washington to Henry Lee, Jr., 31 October 1786, in W. W. Abbot and Dorothy Twohig, eds., The Papers of George Washington: Confederation Series, April 1786-January 1787 (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1995), 4: 319.
3The handwritten version of the report and resolutions found here was presented in the Senate by Orville H. Browning. James H. Ralston presented the identical report and resolutions in the House of Representatives. The House and Senate published the report and resolutions in full in their respective journals. The Senate tabled the report and proposed resolutions, but on January 13, the House referred the proposed resolutions to a select committee of five. The select committee reported back the resolutions on January 20 with an amendment to each resolution. The House Journal provides no text for these amendments. The House readily concurred in the amendments to the first and second resolutions, respectively, but the amendment to the third sparked debate and numerous amendments from the floor. Abraham Lincoln moved to amend the second clause of the amendment by inserting after the word “Congress,” the words, “unless the people of said District petition for the same.” Lincoln’s motion failed and, after amendment to the first clause, the House concurred in the third resolution as amended. The House concurred in the amendment to the fourth resolution, and adopted the resolutions of the joint select committee as amended by a vote of 77 yeas to 6 nays, with Lincoln voting nay. The Senate concurred on January 25 by a vote of 32 yeas to 0 nays. On January 30, the General Assembly delivered the report of the joint select committee and the resolutions to Governor Duncan.
The House Journal did not printed the text of the final resolutions, but the resolutions as modified did not satisfy Lincoln and Daniel Stone, who issued a protest six weeks later, after the General Assembly had passed, among other important pieces of legislation, an act to move the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield, and an act creating the Illinois Internal Improvement System.
Illinois House Journal. 1836. 10th G. A., 1st sess., 241-44, 248-49, 309-11, 415; Illinois Senate Journal. 1836. 10th G. A., 1st sess., 195-98, 262, 277, 297, 313, 316.
Handwritten Document, 6 page(s), Folder 503, GA Session 10-1, Illinois State Archives (Springfield, IL) ,