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The right of petition, I have said, was not conferred on the People by the Constitution, but was a pre-existing right, reserved by the People out of the grants of power made to Congress.
The right of petition is an old undoubted household right of the blood of England, which runs in our veins.
The proceedings of this House in 1790, in reference to petitions on the matter of the slave trade, and of slavery in the States, have been cited. It has been said that those petitions were not received.
The Normans came over, lance in hand, burning and trampling down every thing before them, and cutting off the Saxon dynasty and the Saxon nobles at the edge of the sword; but the right of petition remained untouched.
Some of them, in accepting the proposed plan of government, coupled their acceptance with a recommendation of various additions to the Constitution, which they deemed essential to the preservation of the rights of the States, or of the People.
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.
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