Freedom Is National, Slavery Is Sectional
James Rood Doolittle of Wisconsin
United States Senate, January 3 1860

To the gentlemen upon the other side of the Chamnber, I would say in all frankness, I do not doubt your sincerity when you tell me that you believe in that opinion. I do not doubt your integrity when you tell me that the South has changed its ground on this question; but when I concede to you that, you must concede the same to me and those who act with me on this side of the Chamber. I believe what I now say, that every Administration of the Government, from the beginning to 1847, has officially asserted or exercised this power. I believe that not only the supreme court of every free State, but the supreme court of every slave State in this Union, that ever gave an opinion on the question, previous to 1847, has always maintained that slavery rests upon local law, and local law alone; that the Constitution is not a general charter to carry slavery all over the Territories of the Union. No case, I believe, previous to 1847, can be found when the supreme court of any State, North or South, has taken the ground that the Constitution of the United States, of its own force, carries the law of slavery into the Territories of the Union. They, and all of them, whenever they have spoken at all, have conceded to Congress the unquestioned and unquestionable power to legislate for the Territories of the Union....

Now, gentlemen, when you tell us that we must renounce our opinions, when you say to us in substance that the life-long opinions which we have ever advocated, which our fathers taught us, which your fathers taught us also, we must surrender; that we must bow down and worship a political dogma which to-day declares that the Constitution of the United States, of its own force, carries slavery into every Territory which we now have, or which we may ever hereafter acquire, we tell gentlemen we cannot conscientiously change our opinions; and because you accompany this with the declaration that, if we do not change our opinions, but will maintain them and act upon them, and elect a man who believes as we believe President of the United States, you will break up this Confederacy, we tell you frankly, gentlemen, that does not change our opinion either; we are not to have our opinion changed by any such argument as that. It is an argument which, instead of being addressed to our manhood, is addressed to the want of it; and we give our friends of the South to understand distinctly that, on this question, our opinions are unchanged, and this last argument has only made them the more fixed and determined.

We still believe that freedom is national, that slavery is sectional and local, and rests upon local law alone. We do not believe that, if we should acquire Canada to-morrow, there is any such slave-extending power in the Constitution of the United States as will, of its own force, at once repeal the laws of Canada against slavery, and establish it there, so that a man from Virginia or South Carolina could take his slaves at once into the Territory of Canada, and hold them there beyond the power of Congress, or any other human power, protected by the Federal Constitution. Nor do we believe that the Constitution, of its own force, has any such power as to repeal the Mexican laws in the Territory of Utah, California, New Mexico, or any other territory we may acquire from Mexico; that the Constitution, of its own force, repeals those laws which abolished slavery there; and that the Constitution reestablished the law of slavery, so that you can take your slaves into any one of those Territories, without any positive law authorizing it, and hold them there by virtue of the Constitution.


The Congressional Globe, The Official Proceedings of Congress, Published by John C. Rives, Washington, D. C.
Thirty-Sixth Congress, 1st Session,
New Series...No. 19, Wednesday, January 4, 1860,
New Series...No. 20, Wednesday, January 4, 1860, pages 304-305.