Connecticut Congressman Supports J.Q. Adams’ Fight Against the “Gag Rule” on Abolition Petitions (SOLD)
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“There is not perhaps any one thing more justly and better served by the Constitution than the sacred right of Petition”and the right of Petitioning implies the right of being heard” ELISHA HALEY.
Autograph Letter Signed, House of Representatives, Washington, February 5, 1837, with integral leaf addressed to Adam Larrabee of Connecticut. 1 p.
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“With respect to the abolition Petition which you mentioned that was presented by Mr. Adams, I only say, Sir, that your opinion as to my motive in voting as I did was well founded. There is not perhaps any one thing more justly and better served by the Constitution than the sacred right of Petition, and the right of Petitioning implies the right of being heard. If the Petition has been referred to a Committee with instructions to Report their opinion on the subject I think would have been the proper course. I have had two abolition Petitions sent to me which I have presented to the House which was laid on the table under a resolution of the House. I have also one Remonstrance against the abolition of Slavery which could not be read but was laid on the Table, which was signed by more than 200 men....”
In 1836 southern Congressmen passed a “gag rule” providing that the House automatically table petitions against slavery. Adams contended that these “Gag Rules” were a direct violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution, and refused to be silenced on the question, fighting for repeal with indomitable courage, in spite of the bitter denunciation of his opponents. Each year the number of anti-slavery petitions received and presented by him increased; perhaps the climax was in 1837, when Adams presented a petition from twenty slaves to end slavery in Washington, D.C. On Feb. 6, 1837, the House censured Adams for violating the ‘Gag Rule’ and submitting the petition. Adams defended himself with remarkable keenness and ability and tirelessly fought the rule for eight years until finally he obtained its repeal in 1844.
Elisha Haley served numerous terms in the House of Representatives and was later a member of the State Senate. Captain Adam Larrabee graduated from the United States Military academy at West Point in 1811, and served with distinction in the war of 1812. In the campaign of the St. Lawrence river, as a first-lieutenant of artillery, he took part in the attack on La Colle Mills, and was shot through the lungs (on March 30, 1814). The bullet was removed, and is preserved as a relic in the state historical department at Des Moines.