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.
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.
Here, again, as I conceive, gentlemen forget that this government is a republican one, resting exclusively in the intelligence and virtue of the People.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We are laying the foundations of a government, which we hope may outlast the Pyramids.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If there be any plausible reason for supposing that we have the right to legislate on the slave interests of the District, you cannot put down the investigation of the subject out of doors, by refusing to receive petitions.
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.