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You well know, sir, that when the Constitution was submitted to the People of the respective States for their adoption or rejection, it awakened the warmest debates of the several State conventions.
When we fled from the oppressions of kings and parliaments in Europe, to found this great Republic in America, we brought with us the laws and the liberties, which formed a part of our heritage as Britons.
We are laying the foundations of a government, which we hope may outlast the Pyramids.
Upon the Constitution, upon the pre-existing legal rights of the People, as understood in this country and in England, I have argued that this House is bound to revive the Petition under debate.
This Republic was called into being, organized, and is upheld, by a great political doctrine.
These our great natural rights we keep to ourselves; we will not have them tampered with; respecting them we give to you no commission whatsoever.
The winged words uttered in this House have gone forth to the world, on their mission of good or of evil.
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.
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