St. Louis Missouri Enquirer - August 4, 1819
Volume III, Issue 114, Page 3, Column 2
Transcribed by Lisa K. Gendron
Territory of Missouri, Jefferson County, July Term 1819
The Grand Jurors empanelled and sworn to enquire for the body of the county of Jefferson, believing it to be their duty to present all matters of public grievance to their fellow citizens, do respectfully represent, that although they have ever felt the greatest respect for, and placed the utmost confidence in the government of the United States, yet they cannot remain silent when they see, or believe they see any attempt made to infringe upon the rights of the states or the people. We have beheld with equal surprise and neglect the attempt made in the last Congress, to dictate to the people of Missouri an article in their constitution, prohibiting the further introduction of slavery in their state, or debar them from the rights of state sovereignty if they would not submit to such a restriction.
That slavery is an evil we do not pretend to deny, but on the contrary would most cheerfully join in any measures to abolish it, provided those measures were not likely to produce greater evils to the people, than the one complained of: but we hold the power of regulating this matter - of applying a remedy to this evil, to belong to the states and to the people and not to Congress.
The constitution of the United States, which creates Congress, gives to it all its powers, and limits those of the states; and although that constitution empowers Congress to admit new states into the Union, yet it does neither by express grant nor necessary implication, authorize that body to make the whole or any part of the constitution of such states.
Whenever a new state is admitted into the Union, it comes in under the federal constitution - becomes one of the United States, and consequently must possess the sovereign power of regulating all matters not delegated to Congress by the federal constitution. And as the toleration of slavery is a subject which is left to be regulated entirely by the old states, if Congress take from a new state the right of sovereignty over this subject, it is clearly a violation of the constitution and an attack upon state sovereignty and the rights of the people.
The right of holding slaves, although it may not be a natural right, is one which is allowed by the federal constitution - is one which those states that would take from us the power of exercising our own discretion on the subject, can resume at pleasure: and being denied to us under the laws of the country when in possession of Spain and France, is also secured by the Treaty of Cession.
We do therefore consider, that if Congress should impose the contemplated restriction, it would be transcending their constitutional powers, depriving the people of Missouri of their inherent and constitutional rights and breaking the pledged faith of the nation.
William Bates, Foreman
Thomas L. Bevers
William F. Roberts
John M. Eagelburger
Berry T. Hansall