Confederate States of America - Veto Message February 28, 1861 (Slave Trade)


EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, February 28, 1861.

Gentlemen of Congress: With sincere deference to the judgment of Congress, I have carefully considered the bill in relation to the slave trade, and to punish persons offending therein, but have not been able to approve it, and therefore do return it with a statement of my objections. The Constitution (section 7, article I.) provides that the importation of African negroes from any foreign country other than slave-holding States of the United States is hereby forbidden, and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same. The rule herein given is emphatic, and distinctly directs the legislation which shall effectually prevent the importation of African negroes. The bill before me denounces as high misdemeanor the importation of African negroes or other persons of color, either to be sold as slaves or to be held to service or labor, affixing heavy, degrading penalties on the act, if done with such intent. To that extent it accords with the requirements of the Constitution, but in the sixth section of the bill provision is made for the transfer of persons who may have been illegally imported into the Confederate States to the custody of foreign States or societies, upon condition of deportation and future freedom, and if the proposition thus to surrender them shall not be accepted, it is then made the duty of the President to cause said negroes to be sold at public outcry to the highest bidder in any one of the States where such sale shall not be inconsistent with the laws thereof. This provision seems to me to be in opposition to the policy declared in the Constitution - the prohibition of the importation of African negroes - and in derogation of its mandate to legislate for the effectuation of that object. Wherefore the bill is returned to you for your further consideration, and, together with the objections, most respectfully submitted.


Richardson, James D.
A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy
Including the Diplomatic Correspondence 1861-1865
Nashville : United States Publishing Company, 1905
127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.