• Letter to Henri Gregoire

     |  Roots of the Slavery Crisis

    Letter to Henri Gregoire Letter to Henri Gregoire 1 Thomas Jefferson The Constitution specified that Congress could not prohibit the importation of slaves until 1808. President Jefferson signed the bill to bring about this prohibition in March 1807 and it went into effect on January 1, 1808. Writing here a year later, he maintains hopes for an end to slavery itself. February 25, 1809 Sir: I have received the favor of your letter of August 17th, and with it the volume you were so kind as to send me on the "Literature of Negroes." Be assured that no person living wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a complete refutation of the doubts I have myself entertained and expressed on the grade of understanding allotted to them by nature, and ...
  • Letter to Edward Everett

     |  Roots of the Slavery Crisis

    Letter to Edward Everett Letter to Edward Everett 1 James Madison In this 1830 response to Massachusetts statesman Edward Everett, Madison maintains that a state does not possess the authority to strike down as unconstitutional an act of the federal government. The contrary doctrine, known as nullification, would take on later significance. August 28, 1830 I have duly received your letter in which you refer to the "nullifying doctrine," advocated as a constitutional right by some of our distinguished fellow citizens; and to the proceedings of the Virginia Legislature in 98 and 99, as appealed to in behalf of that doctrine; and you express a wish for my ideas on those subjects. I am aware of the delicacy of the task in some respects; and ...
  • Speech on Reception of Abolition Petitions

     |  Roots of the Slavery Crisis

    Speech on Reception of Abolition Petitions Speech on Reception of Abolition Petitions 1 John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) The number of slaves in America had grown from 700,000 in 1790 to over two million in 1830. Northern opposition to slavery was growing in the 1820s and 1830s, as it became clear that hopes for a withering away of slavery were unrealistic. This elicited a similarly strong response from slavery's foremost advocates. In 1836, the House of Representatives passed a "gag rule" that tabled abolition discussions. Here, Senator John C. Calhoun champions a similar resolution in the Senate. His argument became the linchpin of what came to be called the "positive good" school of thought regarding slavery, one all but absent from the debates of the two previous ...
  • Speech on the Oregon Bill

     |  Roots of the Slavery Crisis

    Speech on the Oregon Bill Speech on the Oregon Bill 1 John C. Calhoun Even worse than political errors such as the Northwest Ordinance, Calhoun argues here, are theoretical errors, chief of which is the equality principle of the Declaration of Independence. June 27, 1848 ...I turn now to my friends of the South, and ask: What are you prepared to do? If neither the barriers of the constitution nor the high sense of right and justice should prove sufficient to protect you, are you prepared to sink down into a state of acknowledged inferiority; to be stripped of your dignity of equals among equals, and be deprived of your equality of rights in this federal partnership of States? If so, you are woefully degenerated from your sires, and will well ...
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