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SPEECH

OF

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS,

OF MASSACHUSETTS, UPON

THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE, MEN AND WOMEN, TO PETITION;

ON THE

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND OF DEBATE

IN THE

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES ;

ON THE

RESOLUTIONS OF SEVEN STATE LEGISLATURES,

AND THE

PETITIONS OF MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND PETITIONERS,

RELATING TO THE

ANNEXATION OF TEXAS TO THIS UNION.

Delivered in the House of Representatives of the United States, in fragments of the morn-

ing hour, from the 16th of June to the 7th of July, 1838, inclusive.

WASHINGTON:

PRINTED BY GALES AND SEATON.

1838.

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PREFACE.

For the proper understanding of the following series of addresses to the House of Representatives of the United States, delivered in fragments of the morning hour from the 16th of June to the 7th of July, 1.838, it is necessary to advert to certain previous proceedings of the House in relation to the annexation of Texas to this Union, and to some other subjects, having, or supposed to have, a close and inseparable connexion therewith.

On the 26th of May, 1836, the House, under the screw of the previous question, had adopted a resolution reported by a select committee, of which HENRY L. PINCKNEY, of South Carolina, was the chairman:

" That all petitions, memorials, resolutions, propositions, or papers, relating in any way or to any extent whatever to the subject of slavery, or the abolition of slavery, shall, without being either printed or referred, be laid upon the table, and that no further action whatever shall be had thereon.”

Petitions for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia and the Territories, for the prohibition of the internal traffic in slaves, and against the admission into the Union of any new slave State, to the number of about twenty thousand signers, had, at an early period of the session, been referred to the committee which reported this and two other congenial resolutions. The two others they had been instructed to report. Their motive for reporting the third was expressed by themselves to be, that it was “extremely important and desirable that the agitation of this subject should be finally arrested, for the purpose of restoring tranquillity to the public mind.”

This tranquillizing resolution was adopted at so late a period of the session, that, excepting the convulsive movement by which it was carried through the House, it had little effect, and it expired with the session ; but so conspicuous were its sedative properties, that at the ensuing session (that of 1836-'37) it multiplied fivefold the anti-slavery petitions. After one or two abortive attempts to elicit from the House a refusal to receive such petitions, they were, on the 19th of January, 1837, all disposed of by repeating the gag-resolution of the preceding session.

The tranquillizing effect of this was not only to swell the flood of antislavery petitions, but to open the source of a new and abundant stream

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