Preamble and Resolutions of the Southern Convention, November 18, 1850

Series: (Series 2153, Florida Secretary of State, Territorial and Early Statehood Records, 1821-1878)

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Civil War

Preamble and Resolutions of the Southern Convention, November 18, 1850



Nov OCTOBER 18TH, 1850

The following Preamble and Resolutions were reported by the Committee on Resolutions, and adopted by the Convention:
We the delegates assembled from a portion of the States of this Confederacy, make this exposition of the causes which have brought us together, and of the rights which the States we represent are entitled to under the compact of union.

We have amongst us two races, marked by such distinctions of color, and physical and moral qualities, as forever forbid their living together on terms of social and political equality.

The black race have been slaves from the earliest settlement of our country, and our relations of master and slave have grown up from that time. A change in those relations must end in convulsion, and the entire ruin of one or both races.

When the constitution was adopted, this relation of master and slave, as it exists, was expressly recognized and guarded in that instrument. It was a great and vital interest involving our very existence as a separate people, then as well as now.

The States of this Confederacy acceded to that compact each one for itself, and ratified it as States.
If the non-slaveholding States, who are parties to that compact, disregard its provisions and endanger our peace and existence by united and deliberate action, we have a right, as States, there being no common arbiter, to secede.

The object of those who are urging on the Federal Government in its aggressive policy upon our domestic institutions is beyond all doubt, finally to overthrow them, and abolish the existing relation between master and slave. We feel authorized to assert this from their own declarations, and from the history of events in this country for the last few years.

To abolish slavery or the slave trade in the District of Columbia—to regulate the sale and transfer of slaves between the States—to exclude slaveholders with their property from the territories—to admit California under the circumstances of the case, we hold to be all parts of the same system of measures, and subordinate to the same end they have in view, which is openly avowed to be, the total overthrow of the institution.
We make no aggressive move. We stand upon the defensive. We invoke the spirit of the Constitution, and claim its guarantee—Our rights—our independence—the peace and existence of our families—depend upon the issue.

The Federal Government has within a few years acquired, by treaty and by triumphant war, vast territories. This has been done by the councils and the arms of all, and the benefits and rights belong alike and equally to all the States. The Federal Government is but the common agent of the States united, and represents the conjoined sovereignty over subject matter granted and defined in the compact.

The authority it exercises over all acquired territory, must, in good faith, be exercised for the equal benefit of all the parties. To prohibit our citizens from settling there with the most valuable part of our property, is not only degrading to us as equals, but violates our highest constitutional rights.
Restrictions and prohibitions against the slaveholding States it would appear, are to be the fixed and settled policy of the Government—and those states that are hereafter to be admitted into the Federal Union from their extensive territories will but confirm and increase the power of the majority; and he knows little of history who cannot read our destiny in the future if we fail to do our duty now, as free people.

We have been harassed and insulted by those who ought to have been our brethren in their constant agitation of a subject vital to us and the peace of our families. We have been outraged by their gross misrepresentation of our moral and social habits, and by the manner in which they have denounced us before the world.  We have had our property enticed off and the means of recovery denied to us by our co-States. We have been denied our rights in the Territories of the Union, which we were entitled to as political equals under the constitution. Our peace has been endangered by incendiary appeals. The Union instead of being considered a fraternal bond, has been used as the means of striking at our vital interests.

The admission of California, under the circumstances of the case confirms an unauthorized and revolutionary seizure of public domain, and the exclusion of near half the States of the Confederacy from equal rights therein—destroys the line of 36 30 which was originally acquiesced in as a matter of compromise and peace, and appropriated to the Northern States 120,000 square miles below that line, and is so gross and palpable a violation of the principles of justice and equality as to shake our confidence in any security to be given by that majority who are now clothed with power to govern the future destiny of this confederacy.

The recent purchase of territory by Congress from Texas, as low down as 32 degrees on the Rio Grande, also indicates that the boundaries of the slaveholding States are fixed, and our doom proscribed, so far as it depends upon the will of a dominant majority, and nothing now can save us from a degraded destiny but the spirit of freemen who know their rights and are resolved to maintain them, be the consequences what they may.
We have no powers that are binding upon the States we represent. But in order to produce system and concerted action, we recommend the following resolutions, viz:

Resolved, That we have ever cherished, and do now cherish a cordial attachment to the constitutional Union of the States and that to preserve and perpetuate that Union uninjured, this Convention originated and has now re-assembled.

Resolved, That the Union of the States is a Union of equal and independent sovereignties, and that the powers delegated to the Federal Government, can be resumed by the several States, whenever it may seem to them proper and necessary.

Resolved, That all the evils anticipated by the South, and which occasioned this Convention to assemble have been realized, by the failure to extend the Missouri line of Compromise to the Pacific Ocean; By the admission of California as a State; By the organization of Territorial Governments for Utah and New Mexico, without giving adequate protection to the property of the South; By the dismemberment of Texas; By the abolition of the slave trade and the emancipation of slaves carried into the District of Columbia for sale.

Resolved, That we earnestly recommend to all the parties in the slaveholding States, to refuse to go into, or countenance any National Convention, whose object may be to nominate candidates for the Presidency and Vice Presidency of the United States, under any party denomination whatever, until our constitutional rights are secured.

Resolved, That in view of these aggressions, and of those threatened and impending, we earnestly recommend to the slaveholding States, to meet in Congress or Convention, to be held at such time and place as the States desiring to be represented, may designate, to be composed of double the number of their Senators and Representatives in the Congress of the United States, entrusted with full power and authority to deliberate and act with the view and intention of arresting farther aggression, and if possible, of restoring the Constitutional rights of the South, and if not to provide for their future safety and independence.

Resolved, That the President of this Convention be requested to forward copies of the forgoing preamble and resolutions to the Governors of each of the slaveholding States of the Union, to be laid before their respective Legislatures at their earliest assembling.

CHAS. J. McDONALD, President
REUBEN CHAPMAN, Vice President
E. G. EASTMAN, Secretary