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Sir, I am a republican; and I desire to see this House observe the principles of that democracy which is ever on the lips of its members, and which, I hope, is in their hearts, as I know and feel it is in mine, and mean it shall be in my conduct.
Sir, allusion has been made, in an early stage of this debate, to the history of the excitement which once pervaded a considerable part of the country, in reference to the transportation of the mails on the Lord's day.
Men of Virginia, countrymen of Washington, of Patrick Henry, of Jefferson, and of Madison, will ye be true to your constitutional faith?
Men of New England, I hold you to the doctrines of liberty which ye inherit from your Puritan forefathers.
It is impossible, in my mind, to distinguish between the refusal to receive a petition, or its summary rejection by some general order, and the denial of the right of petition.
I maintain that the House is bound by the Constitution to receive the petitions; after which, it will take such method of deciding upon them as reason and principle shall dictate.
I declare and protest in advance, that I do not intend, at this time at least; to be drawn or driven into the question of slavery, in either of its subdivisions or forms.
Entertaining these opinions of the course to be pursued, I beg of gentlemen to look at the question, as I have done, in a calm review of facts and of principles.
Be the responsibility on their heads who raise this novel and extraordinary question of reception, going to the unconstitutional abridgment, as I conceive, of the great right of petition inherent in the People of the United States.
And if this House is to be scared, by whatever influences, from its duty, to receive and hear the petitions of the People, then I shall send my voice beyond the walls of this Capitol for redress.
Here, again, as I conceive, gentlemen forget that this government is a republican one, resting exclusively in the intelligence and virtue of the People.
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