Letter to John B. Dillon

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Title: Letter to John B. Dillon
Author: Harrison, William Henry, 1773-1841
Description: Two years before he was elected president, William Henry Harrison argued for the sovereign independence of states and insisted that slavery was a matter for the states alone to consider. His position on the inability of the federal government to interfere in any way with slavery in the existing states was an expression of what historians term "the federal consensus." This was the widespread assumption, shared by most radical abolitionists as well as lawyers and judges, that the Constitution left the issue of slavery to the states and prohibited the federal government from interfering with the institution in states where it already existed. It was this consensus that made the question of slavery in the territories so urgent and vital. Even Abraham Lincoln assumed that the central government could never tamper with slavery in the states. Hence, it took an act of rebellion to finally justify limited emancipation as a war measure. In this letter, dated October 12, 1838, to John B. Dillon, Harrison states while he he never gives his political opinion for publication, states should retain sovereign independence and that slavery, by not being discussed in the Constitution, is a matter for states to decide.
Permanent Link: http://hdl.handle.net/2374.OX/62409
Date: October 12, 1838

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