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character and condition of the people of color, by encouraging their intellectual, moral, and religious improvement, and by removing public prejudice, that thus they may, according to their intellectual and moral worth, share an equality with the whites, of civil and religious privileges; but this Society will never, in any way, countenance the oppressed in vindicating their rights by resorting to physical force.
ARTICLE IV.-Any person who consents to the principles of this Constitution, who contributes to the funds of this Society, and is not a Slaveholder, may be a member of this Society, and shall be entitled to vote at the meetings.
[The remaining six articles are purely formal.]
John Quincy Adams On The Right OF PETITION
AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH, 1838
The questions of Texas, strict construction of the constitution, and slave-holding had become so important by 1838 that Congress gave much attention to the problems. The most important features of the discussion were best expressed by ex-President John Quincy Adams, who was serving as a member of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts. The speech was primarily upon the right of petition, and the freedom of speech and debate, and extended over many days, interrupted by other business, from June 16 to July 7, 1838. The importance of the speech caused several large issues to be circulated in pamphlet form. These included also the interruptions of other members of the House, and copies of various petitions that had been presented to the House. The following selections of the most significant pertions of the speech are reprinted from the pamphlet issued by Gales & Seaton of Washington in 1838. (See page 78.)
The report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on the Texas subject, with amendments proposed thereto by Mr. Thompson and Mr. Adams, again coming up for consideration
Mr. Adams rose and said: The proposition moved by my colleague (Mr. Cushing] is to recommit the resolution reported by the Committee on Foreign Affairs, with
certain instructions. I shall be entirely satisfied if the decision of the House shall be in favor of that proposition. My introduction of an amendment to the amendment now pending is only in consequence of the gentleman from South Carolina's having moved instructions to the committee to quite a different end from that sought by my colleague. I do not wish, in the present stage of the debate, to introduce the general question of the annexation of Texas to the Union. I particularly desire the House to so understand me. The proposition of my colleague is this:
That the report and accompanying papers be recommitted to the same committee, with instructions to make report thereon in full as to the merits of the questions presented by the resolutions of the Legislatures of the several States of Tennessee, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio, and Massachusetts, and of the various petitions before the House on the subject of Texas.
His desire is, that the subject be recommitted, in order to have a deliberate report on the merits of the several resolutions of State Legislatures, and of the numerous private memorials, petitions, and remonstrances which had, at different periods of the session, been referred to the committee. That also is my desire. The resolution he offered does not involve the general question: it seeks only the recommitment of the subject, and of the various documents relating thereto, which have been sent to that committee, but which the committee have not taken into consideration.
I take it for granted, when the general question comes up, (unless we are again to have the previous question called upon us, and all debate smothered, as happened when it was up before,) the question will be divided, and taken first on the recommitment, and then on the different proposition of instruction, in their order. I now state that my only object, at present, is to recommit the subject to get a report upon it.
It was in this view
that I found it necessary to take issue with the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Dromgoolel on the question of the rights of this House, of the rights of members of this House, and of the rights and duties of the committees of this House.
When the subject first came up, I rose in my place and inquired of the Speaker, not of the gentleman from Virginia, whether the committee had given as much as five minutes' consideration to the several resolutions of the Legislatures of sovereign States of this Union, and the very numerous memorials and petitions of individual citizens which had been, by order of this House, referred to their consideration? When I put that question to the Chair, the gentleman from Virginia rose, and denied my right to do so, and declared that he would not be catechised by me. I said, at the time, that the reluctance of the committee to answer that question was, of itself, sufficient for me, and that I trusted it would be sufficient for this House and for the American People. It was a concession that the committee never had taken these papers into consideration at all. That, I trust, will be the deliberate conviction of the People of the United States.
But this inference is not enough. The gentleman from Virginia assumed a general principle as to the rights of this House, the rights of members of this House, and the rights and duties of committees of this House. My question was not personal to the gentleman from Virginia. I did not ask what consideration he had given to these documents; I asked whether the committee had considered the memorials of the thousands and hundreds of thousands of American citizens, and the solemn resolutions of the Legislatures of not a few of the States of this Union, which had been sent to them that they might be considered. The only answer is that of an individual, that "he will not be catechised.” This is not the answer to which I was entitled; and I demand