American Eloquence, Volume III. (of 4) - Studies In American Political History (1897)
Author: Various
1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse



Edited with Introduction by Alexander Johnston

Reedited by James Albert Woodburn

Volume III. (of 4)




SALMON PORTLAND CHASE On The Kansas-Nebraska Bill —United States Senate, February 3, 1854.

EDWARD EVERETT On The Kansas-Nebraska Bill —United States Senate, February 8, 1854.

STEPHEN ARNOLD DOUGLAS On The Kansas-Nebraska Bill —United States Senate, March 3, 1854.

CHARLES SUMNER On The Crime Against Kansas —United States Senate, May 20, 1856.

PRESTON S. BROOKS On The Sumner Assault —House Of Representatives, July 14, 1856.

JUDAH P. BENJAMIN On The Property Doctrine And Slavery In The Territories —United States Senate, March 11, 1858.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN On The Dred Scott Decision —Springfield, Ills., June 26, 1857.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN On His Nomination To The United States Senate —At The Republican State Convention, June 16,1858.

THE LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATE DOUGLAS In Reply To Lincoln—Freeport, Ills., August 27, 1858.

WILLIAM H. SEWARD On The Irrepressible Conflict—Rochester, N. Y., October 25, 1858.


JOHN PARKER HALE On Secession; Moderate Republican Opinion —United States Senate, December 5, 1860.

ALFRED IVERSON On Secession; Secessionist Opinion —United States Senate, December 5, 1860.

BENJAMIN WADE On Secession, And The State Of The Union; Radical Republican Opinion—United States Senate, December 17, 1860.

JOHN JORDON CRITTENDEN On The Crittenden Compromise; Border State Unionist Opinion—United States Senate, December 18, 1860.

ROBERT TOOMBS On Secession; Secessionist Opinion —United States Senate, January 7, 1861.

SAMUEL SULLIVAN COX On Secession; Douglas Democratic Opinion —House Of Representatives, January 14, 1861.

JEFFERSON DAVIS On Withdrawal From The Union; Secessionist Opinion —United States Senate, January 21, 1861.


WILLIAM H. SEWARD — Frontispiece From a photograph.

SALMON P. CHASE — From a daguerreotype, engraved by F. E. JONES.

EDWARD EVERETT — From a painting by R. M. STAIGG.

STEPHEN A. DOUGLASS — From a steel engraving.

JEFFERSON DAVIS — From a photograph.


The third volume of the American Eloquence is devoted to the continuation of the slavery controversy and to the progress of the secession movement which culminated in civil war.

To the speeches of the former edition of the volume have been added: Everett on the Nebraska bill; Benjamin on the Property Doctrine and Slavery in the Territories; Lincoln on the Dred Scott Decision; Wade on Secession and the State of the Union; Crittenden on the Crittenden Compromise; and Jefferson Davis's notable speech in which he took leave of the United State Senate, in January, 1861.

Judged by its political consequences no piece of legislation in American history is of greater historical importance than the Kansas-Nebraska bill. By that act the Missouri Compromise was repealed and the final conflict entered upon with the slave power. In addition to the speeches of Douglas and Chase, representing the best word on the opposing sides of the famous Nebraska controversy, the new volume includes the notable contribution by Edward Everett to the Congressional debates on that subject. Besides being an orator of high rank and of literary renown, Everett represented a distinct body of political opinion. As a conservative Whig he voiced the sentiment of the great body of the followers of Webster and Clay who had helped to establish the Compromise of 1850 and who wished to leave that settlement undisturbed. The student of the Congressional struggles of 1854 will be led by a speech like that of Everett to appreciate that moderate and conservative spirit toward slavery which would not persist in any anti-slavery action having a tendency to disturb the harmony of the Union. That this conservative opinion looked upon the repeal of the Missouri Compromise as an act of aggression in the interest of slavery is indicated by Everett's speech, and this gives the speech its historic significance.

Judah P. Benjamin may be said to have been the ablest legal defender of slavery in public life during the decade of 1850-60. His speech on the right of property in slaves and the right of slavery to national protection in the territories was probably the ablest on that side of the controversy. Lincoln's speech on the Dred Scott Decision has been substituted for one by John C. Breckinridge on the same subject; this will serve to bring into his true proportions this great leader of the combined anti-slavery forces. No voice, in the beginnings of secession and disunion, could better reflect the positive and uncompromising Republicanism of the Northwest than that of Wade. The speech from him which we have appropriated is in many ways worthy of the attention of the historical student.

We may look to Crittenden as the best expositor of the Crittenden Compromise, the leading attempt at compromise and conciliation in the memorable session of Congress of 1860-61. Crittenden's subject and personality add historical prominence to his speech. The Crittenden Compromise would probably have been accepted by Southern leaders like Davis and Toombs if it had been acceptable to the Republican leaders of the North. The failure of that Compromise made disunion and war inevitable. Jefferson Davis' memorable farewell to the Senate, following the assured failure of compromise, seems a fitting close to the period of our history which brings us to the eve of the Civil War.

The introduction of Professor Johnston on "Secession" is retained as originally prepared. A study of the speeches, with this introduction and the appended notes, will give a fair idea of the political issues dividing the country in the important years immediately preceding the war. Limitations of space prevent the publication of the full speeches from the exhaustive Congressional debates, but in several instances where it has seemed especially desirable omissions from the former volume have been supplied with the purpose of more fully representing the subjects and the speakers. To the reader who is interested in historical politics in America these productions of great political leaders need no recommendation from the editor.

J. A. W.


OF OHIO. (BORN 1808, DIED 1873.)


FEBRUARY 3, 1854.

The bill for the organization of the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas being under consideration—Mr. CHASE submitted the following amendment:

Strike out from section 14 the words "was superseded by the principles of the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures, and; so that the clause will read:

"That the Constitution, and all laws of the United States which are not locally inapplicable, shall have the same force and effect within the said Territory of Nebraska as elsewhere within the United States, except the eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March 6, 1820, which is hereby declared inoperative."

Mr. CHASE said:

Mr. President, I had occasion, a few days ago to expose the utter groundlessness of the personal charges made by the Senator from Illinois (Mr. Douglas) against myself and the other signers of the Independent Democratic Appeal. I now move to strike from this bill a statement which I will to-day demonstrate to be without any foundation in fact or history. I intend afterward to move to strike out the whole clause annulling the Missouri prohibition.

I enter into this debate, Mr. President, in no spirit of personal unkindness. The issue is too grave and too momentous for the indulgence of such feelings. I see the great question before me, and that question only.

Sir, these crowded galleries, these thronged lobbies, this full attendance of the Senate, prove the deep, transcendent interest of the theme.

A few days only have elapsed since the Congress of the United States assembled in this Capitol. Then no agitation seemed to disturb the political elements. Two of the great political parties of the country, in their national conventions, had announced that slavery agitation was at an end, and that henceforth that subject was not to be discussed in Congress or out of Congress. The President, in his annual message, had referred to this state of opinion, and had declared his fixed purpose to maintain, as far as any responsibility attached to him, the quiet of the country. Let me read a brief extract from that message:

"It is no part of my purpose to give prominence to any subject which may properly be regarded as set at rest by the deliberate judgment of the people. But while the present is bright with promise, and the future full of demand and inducement for the exercise of active intelligence, the past can never be without useful lessons of admonition and instruction. If its dangers serve not as beacons, they will evidently fail to fulfil the object of a wise design. When the grave shall have closed over all those who are now endeavoring to meet the obligations of duty, the year 1850 will be recurred to as a period filled with anxious apprehension. A successful war had just terminated. Peace brought with it a vast augmentation of territory. Disturbing questions arose, bearing upon the domestic institutions of one portion of the Confederacy, and involving the constitutional rights of the States. But, notwithstanding differences of opinion and sentiment, which then existed in relation to details and specific provisions, the acquiescence of distinguished citizens, whose devotion to the Union can never be doubted, had given renewed vigor to our institutions, and restored a sense of repose and security to the public mind throughout the Confederacy. That this repose is to suffer no shock during my official term, if I have power to avert it, those who placed me here may be assured."

The agreement of the two old political parties, thus referred to by the Chief Magistrate of the country, was complete, and a large majority of the American people seemed to acquiesce in the legislation of which he spoke.

A few of us, indeed, doubted the accuracy of these statements, and the permanency of this repose. We never believed that the acts of 1850 would prove to be a permanent adjustment of the slavery question. We believed no permanent adjustment of that question possible except by a return to that original policy of the fathers of the Republic, by which slavery was restricted within State limits, and freedom, without exception or limitation, was intended to be secured to every person outside of State limits and under the exclusive jurisdiction of the General Government.

But, sir, we only represented a small, though vigorous and growing, party in the country. Our number was small in Congress. By some we were regarded as visionaries—by some as factionists; while almost all agreed in pronouncing us mistaken.

And so, sir, the country was at peace. As the eye swept the entire circumference of the horizon and upward to mid-heaven not a cloud appeared; to common observation there was no mist or stain upon the clearness of the sky.

But suddenly all is changed. Rattling thunder breaks from the cloudless firmament. The storm bursts forth in fury. Warring winds rush into conflict.

"Eurus, Notusque ruunt, creberque procellis Africus."

Yes, sir, "creber procellis Africus"—the South wind thick with storm. And now we find ourselves in the midst of an agitation, the end and issue of which no man can foresee.

Now, sir, who is responsible for this renewal of strife and controversy? Not we, for we have introduced no question of territorial slavery into Congress—not we who are denounced as agitators and factionists. No, sir: the quietists and the finalists have become agitators; they who told us that all agitation was quieted, and that the resolutions of the political conventions put a final period to the discussion of slavery.

This will not escape the observation of the country. It is Slavery that renews the strife. It is Slavery that again wants room. It is Slavery, with its insatiate demands for more slave territory and more slave States.

And what does Slavery ask for now? Why, sir, it demands that a time-honored and sacred compact shall be rescinded—a compact which has endured through a whole generation—a compact which has been universally regarded as inviolable, North and South—a compact, the constitutionality of which few have doubted, and by which all have consented to abide.

It will not answer to violate such a compact without a pretext. Some plausible ground must be discovered or invented for such an act; and such a ground is supposed to be found in the doctrine which was advanced the other day by the Senator from Illinois, that the compromise acts of 1850 "superseded "the prohibition of slavery north of 36 deg. 30', in the act preparatory for the admission of Missouri. Ay,sir, "superseded" is the phrase—"superseded by the principles of the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures."

It is against this statement, untrue in fact, and without foundation in history, that the amendment which I have proposed is directed.

Sir, this is a novel idea. At the time when these measures were before Congress in 1850, when the questions involved in them were discussed from day to day, from week to week, and from month to month, in this Senate chamber, who ever heard that the Missouri prohibition was to be superseded? What man, at what time, in what speech, ever suggested the idea that the acts of that year were to affect the Missouri compromise? The Senator from Illinois the other day invoked the authority of Henry Clay—that departed statesman, in respect to whom, whatever may be the differences of political opinion, none question that, among the great men of this country, he stood proudly eminent. Did he, in the report made by him as the chairman of the Committee of Thirteen, or in any speech in support of the compromise acts, or in any conversation in the committee, or out of the committee, ever even hint at this doctrine of supersedure? Did any supporter or any opponent of the compromise acts ever vindicate or condemn them on the ground that the Missouri prohibition would be affected by them? Well, sir, the compromise acts were passed. They were denounced North, and they were denounced South. Did any defender of them at the South ever justify his support of them upon the ground that the South had obtained through them the repeal of the Missouri prohibition? Did any objector to them at the North ever even suggest as a ground of condemnation that that prohibition was swept away by them? No, sir! No man, North or South, during the whole of the discussion of those acts here, or in that other discussion which followed their enactment throughout the country, ever intimated any such opinion.

Now, sir, let us come to the last session of Congress. A Nebraska bill passed the House and came to the Senate, and was reported from the Committee on Territories by the Senator from Illinois, as its chairman. Was there any provision in it which even squinted toward this notion of repeal by supersedure? Why, sir, Southern gentlemen opposed it on the very ground that it left the Territory under the operation of the Missouri prohibition. The Senator from Illinois made a speech in defence of it. Did he invoke Southern support upon the ground that it superseded the Missouri prohibition? Not at all. Was it opposed or vindicated by anybody on any such ground? Every Senator knows the contrary. The Senator from Missouri (Mr. Atchison), now the President of this body, made a speech upon the bill, in which he distinctly declared that the Missouri prohibition was not repealed, and could not be repealed.

I will send this speech to the Secretary, and ask him to read the paragraphs marked. The Secretary read as follows:

"I will now state to the Senate the views which induced me to oppose this proposition in the early part of this session.

"I had two objections to it. One was that the Indian title in that Territory had not been extinguished, or, at least, a very small portion of it had been. Another was the Missouri compromise, or, as it is commonly called, the slavery restriction. It was my opinion at that time—and I am not now very clear on that subject—that the law of Congress, when the State of Missouri was admitted into the Union, excluding slavery from the Territory of Louisiana north of 36 deg. 30', would be enforced in that Territory unless it was specially rescinded, and whether that law was in accordance with the Constitution of the United States or not, it would do its work, and that work would be to preclude slave-holders from going into that Territory. But when I came to look into that question, I found that there was no prospect, no hope, of a repeal of the Missouri compromise excluding slavery from that Territory. Now, sir, I am free to admit, that at this moment, at this hour, and for all time to come, I should oppose the organization or the settlement of that Territory unless my constituents, and the constituents of the whole South—of the slave States of the Union,—could go into it upon the same footing, with equal rights and equal privileges, carrying that species of property with them as other people of this Union. Yes, sir, I acknowledge that that would have governed me, but I have no hope that the restriction will ever be repealed.

"I have always been of opinion that the first great error committed in the political history of this country was the ordinance of 1787, rendering the Northwest Territory free territory. The next great error was the Missouri compromise. But they are both irremediable. There is no remedy for them. We must submit to them. I am prepared to do it. It is evident that the Missouri compromise cannot be re-pealed. So far as that question is concerned, we might as well agree to the admission of this Territory now as next year, or five or ten years hence."—Congressional Globe, Second Session, 32d Cong., vol. xxvi., page 1113.

That, sir, is the speech of the Senator from Missouri (Mr. Atchison), whose authority, I think, must go for something upon this question. What does he say? "When I came to look into that question"—of the possible repeal of the Missouri prohibition—that was the question he was looking into—"I found that there was no prospect, no hope, of a repeal of the Missouri compromise excluding slavery from that Territory." And yet, sir, at that very moment, according to this new doctrine of the Senator from Illinois, it had been repealed three years!

Well, the Senator from Missouri said further, that if he thought it possible to oppose this restriction successfully, he never would consent to the organization of the territory until it was rescinded. But, said he, "I acknowledge that I have no hope that the restriction will ever be repealed." Then he made some complaint, as other Southern gentlemen have frequently done, of the ordinance of 1787, and the Missouri prohibition; but went on to say: "They are both irremediable; there is no remedy for them; we must submit to them; I am prepared to do it; it is evident that the Missouri compromise cannot be repealed."

Now, sir, when was this said? It was on the morning of the 4th of March, just before the close of the last session, when that Nebraska bill, reported by the Senator from Illinois, which proposed no repeal, and suggested no supersedure, was under discussion. I think, sir, that all this shows pretty clearly that up to the very close of the last session of Congress nobody had ever thought of a repeal by supersedure. Then what took place at the commencement of the present session? The Senator from Iowa, early in December, introduced a bill for the organization of the Territory of Nebraska. I believe it was the same bill which was under discussion here at the last session, line for line, word for word. If I am wrong, the Senator will correct me.

Did the Senator from Iowa, then, entertain the idea that the Missouri prohibition had been superseded? No, sir, neither he nor any other man here, so far as could be judged from any discussion, or statement, or remark, had received this notion.

Well, on the 4th day of January, the Committee on Territories, through their chairman, the Senator from Illinois, made a report on the territorial organization of Nebraska; and that report was accompanied by a bill. Now, sir, on that 4th day of January, just thirty days ago, did the Committee on Territories entertain the opinion that the compromise acts of 1850 superseded the Missouri prohibition? If they did, they were very careful to keep it to themselves. We will judge the committee by their own report. What do they say in that? In the first place they describe the character of the controversy, in respect to the Territories acquired from Mexico. They say that some believed that a Mexican law prohibiting slavery was in force there, while others claimed that the Mexican law became inoperative at the moment of acquisition, and that slave-holders could take their slaves into the Territory and hold them there under the provisions of the Constitution. The Territorial Compromise acts, as the committee tell us, steered clear of these questions. They simply provided that the States organized out of these Territories might come in with or without slavery, as they should elect, but did not affect the question whether slaves could or could not be introduced before the organization of State governments. That question was left entirely to judicial decision.

Well, sir, what did the committee propose to do with the Nebraska Territory? In respect to that, as in respect to the Mexican Territory, differences of opinion exist in relation to the introduction of slaves. There are Southern gentlemen who contend that notwithstanding the Missouri prohibition, they can take their slaves into the territory covered by it, and hold them there by virtue of the Constitution. On the other hand the great majority of the American people, North and South, believe the Missouri prohibition to be constitutional and effectual. Now, what did the committee pro-pose? Did they propose to repeal the prohibition? Did they suggest that it had been superseded? Did they advance any idea of that kind? No, sir. This is their language:

"Under this section, as in the case of the Mexican law in New Mexico and Utah, it is a disputed point whether slavery is prohibited in the Nebraska country by valid enactment. The decision of this question involves the constitutional power of Congress to pass laws prescribing and regulating the domestic institutions of the various Territories of the Union. In the opinion of those eminent statesmen who hold that Congress is invested with no rightful authority to legislate upon the subject of slavery in the Territories, the eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri is null and void, while the prevailing sentiment in a large portion of the Union sustains the doctrine that the Constitution of the United States secures to every citizen an inalienable right to move into any of the Territories with his property, of whatever kind and description, and to hold and enjoy the same under the sanction of law. Your committee do not feel themselves called upon to enter into the discussion of these controverted questions. They involve the same grave issues which produced the agitation, the sectional strife, and the fearful struggle of 1850."

This language will bear repetition:

"Your committee do not feel themselves called upon to enter into the discussion of these controverted questions. They involve the same grave issues which produced the agitation, the sectional strife, and the fearful struggle of 1850."

And they go on to say:

"Congress deemed it wise and prudent to refrain from deciding the matters in controversy then, either by affirming or repealing the Mexican laws, or by an act declaratory of the true intent of the Constitution and the extent of the protection afforded by it to slave property in the Territories; so your committee are not prepared now to recommend a departure from the course pursued on that memorable occasion, either by affirming or repealing the eighth section of the Missouri act, or by any act declaratory of the meaning of the Constitution in respect to the legal points in dispute."

Mr. President, here are very remarkable facts. The Committee on Territories declared that it was not wise, that it was not prudent, that it was not right, to renew the old controversy, and to arouse agitation. They declared that they would abstain from any recommendation of a repeal of the prohibition, or of any provision declaratory of the construction of the Constitution in respect to the legal points in dispute.

Mr. President, I am not one of those who suppose that the question between Mexican law and the slave-holding claims was avoided in the Utah and New Mexico Act; nor do I think that the introduction into the Nebraska bill of the provisions of those acts in respect to slavery would leave the question between the Missouri prohibition and the same slave-holding claims entirely unaffected.' I am of a very different opinion. But I am dealing now with the report of the Senator from Illinois, as chairman of the committee, and I show, beyond all controversy, that that report gave no countenance whatever to the doctrine of repeal by supersedure.

Well, sir, the bill reported by the committee was printed in the Washington Sentinel on Saturday, January 7th. It contained twenty sections; no more, no less. It contained no provisions in respect to slavery, except those in the Utah and New Mexico bills. It left those provisions to speak for themselves. This was in harmony with the report of the committee. On the 10th of January—on Tuesday—the act appeared again in the Sentinel; but it had grown longer during the interval. It appeared now with twenty-one sections. There was a statement in the paper that the twenty-first section had been omitted by a clerical error.

But, sir, it is a singular fact that this twenty-first section is entirely out of harmony with the committee's report. It undertakes to determine the effect of the provision in the Utah and New Mexico bills. It declares, among other things, that all questions pertaining to slavery in the Territories, and in the new States to be formed therefrom, are to be left to the decision of the people residing therein, through their appropriate representatives. This provision, in effect, repealed the Missouri prohibition, which the committee, in their report, declared ought not to be done. Is it possible, sir, that this was a mere clerical error? May it not be that this twenty-first section was the fruit of some Sunday work, between Saturday the 7th, and Tuesday the 10th?

But, sir, the addition of this section, it seems, did not help the bill. It did not, I suppose, meet the approbation of Southern gentlemen, who contended that they have a right to take their slaves into the Territories, notwithstanding any prohibition, either by Congress or by a Territorial Legislature. I dare say it was found that the votes of these gentlemen could not be had for the bill with that clause in it. It was not enough that the committee had abandoned their report, and added this twenty-first section, in direct contravention of its reasonings and principles. The twenty-first section itself must be abandoned, and the repeal of the Missouri prohibition placed in a shape which would not deny the slave-holding claim.

The Senator from Kentucky (Mr. Dixon), on the 16th of January, submitted an amendment which came square up to repeal, and to the claim. That amendment, probably, produced some fluttering and some consultation. It met the views of Southern Senators, and probably determined the shape which the bill has finally assumed. Of the various mutations which it has undergone, I can hardly be mistaken in attributing the last to the amendment of the Senator from Kentucky. That there is no effect without a cause, is among our earliest lessons in physical philosophy, and I know of no causes which will account for the remarkable changes which the bill underwent after the 16th of January, other than that amendment, and the determination of Southern Senators to support it, and to vote against any provision recognizing the right of any Territorial Legislature to prohibit the introduction of slavery.

It was just seven days, Mr. President, after the Senator from Kentucky had offered his amendment, that a fresh amendment was reported from the Committee on Territories, in the shape of a new bill, enlarged to forty sections. This new bill cuts off from the proposed Territory half a degree of latitude on the south, and divides the residue into two Territories—the southern Territory of Kansas, and the northern Territory of Nebraska. It applies to each all the provisions of the Utah and New Mexico bills; it rejects entirely the twenty-first clerical-error section, and abrogates the Missouri prohibition by the very singular provision, which I will read:

"The Constitution and all laws of the United States which are not locally inapplicable shall have the same force and effect within the said Territory of Nebraska as elsewhere within the United States, except the eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March 6, 1820, which was superseded by the principles of the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures, and is therefore declared inoperative."

Doubtless, Mr. President, this provision operates as a repeal of the prohibition. The Senator from Kentucky was right when he said it was in effect the equivalent of his amendment. Those who are willing to break up and destroy the old compact of 1820 can vote for this bill with full assurance that such will be its effect. But I appeal to them not to vote for this supersedure clause. I ask them not to incorporate into the legislation of the country a declaration which every one knows to be wholly untrue.

I have said that this doctrine of supersedure is new. I have now proved that it is a plant of but ten days' growth. It was never seen or heard of until the 23d day of January, 1854. It was upon that day that this tree of Upas was planted; we already see its poison fruits. * * *

The truth is, that the compromise acts of 1850 were not intended to introduce any principles of territorial organization applicable to any other Territory except that covered by them. The professed object of the friends of the compromise acts was to compose the whole slavery agitation. There were various matters of complaint. The non-surrender of fugitives from service was one. The existence of slavery and the slave-trade here in this District and elsewhere, under the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress, was another. The apprehended introduction of slavery into the Territories furnished other grounds of controversy. The slave States complained of the free States, and the free States complained of the slave States. It was supposed by some that this whole agitation might be stayed, and finally put at rest by skilfully adjusted legislation. So, sir, we had the omnibus bill, and its appendages the fugitive-slave bill and the District slave-trade suppression bill. To please the North—to please the free States—California was to be admitted, and the slave depots here in the District were to be broken up. To please the slave States, a stringent fugitive-slave act was to be passed, and slavery was to have a chance to get into the new Territories. The support of the Senators and Representatives from Texas was to be gained by a liberal adjustment of boundary, and by the assumption of a large portion of their State debt. The general result contemplated was a complete and final adjustment of all questions relating to slavery. The acts passed. A number of the friends of the acts signed a compact pledging themselves to support no man for any office who would in any way renew the agitation. The country was required to acquiesce in the settlement as an absolute finality. No man concerned in carrying those measures through Congress, and least of all the distinguished man whose efforts mainly contributed to their success, ever imagined that in the Territorial acts, which formed a part of the series, they were planting the germs of a new agitation. Indeed, I have proved that one of these acts contained an express stipulation which precludes the revival of the agitation in the form in which it is now thrust upon the country, without manifest disregard of the provisions of those acts themselves.

I have thus proved beyond controversy that the averment of the bill, which my amendment proposes to strike out, is untrue. Senators, will you unite in a statement which you know to be contradicted by the history of the country? Will you incorporate into a public statute an affirmation which is contradicted by every event which attended or followed the adoption of the compromise acts? Will you here, acting under your high responsibility as Senators of the States, assert as a fact, by a solemn vote, that which the personal recollection of every Senator who was here during the discussion of those compromise acts disproves? I will not believe it until I see it. If you wish to break up the time-honored compact embodied in the Missouri compromise, transferred into the joint resolution for the annexation of Texas, preserved and affirmed by these compromise acts themselves, do it openly—do it boldly. Repeal the Missouri prohibition. Repeal it by a direct vote. Do not repeal it by indirection. Do not "declare" it "inoperative," "because superseded by the principles of the legislation of 1850."

Mr. President, three great eras have marked the history of this country in respect to slavery. The first may be characterized as the Era of ENFRANCHISEMENT. It commenced with the earliest struggles for national independence. The spirit which inspired it animated the hearts and prompted the efforts of Washington, of Jefferson, of Patrick Henry, of Wythe, of Adams, of Jay, of Hamilton, of Morris—in short, of all the great men of our early history. All these hoped for, all these labored for, all these believed in, the final deliverance of the country from the curse of slavery. That spirit burned in the Declaration of Independence, and inspired the provisions of the Constitution, and the Ordinance of 1787. Under its influence, when in full vigor, State after State provided for the emancipation of the slaves within their limits, prior to the adoption of the Constitution. Under its feebler influence at a later period, and during the administration of Mr. Jefferson, the importation of slaves was prohibited into Mississippi and Louisiana, in the faint hope that those Territories might finally become free States. Gradually that spirit ceased to influence our public councils, and lost its control over the American heart and the American policy. Another era succeeded, but by such imperceptible gradations that the lines which separate the two cannot be traced with absolute precision. The facts of the two eras meet and mingle as the currents of confluent streams mix so imperceptibly that the observer cannot fix the spot where the meeting waters blend.

This second era was the Era of CONSERVATISM. Its great maxim was to preserve the existing condition. Men said: Let things remain as they are; let slavery stand where it is; exclude it where it is not; refrain from disturbing the public quiet by agitation; adjust all difficulties that arise, not by the application of principles, but by compromises.

It was during this period that the Senator tells us that slavery was maintained in Illinois, both while a Territory and after it became a State, in despite of the provisions of the ordinance. It is true, sir, that the slaves held in the Illinois country, under the French law, were not regarded as absolutely emancipated by the provisions of the ordinance. But full effect was given to the ordinance in excluding the introduction of slaves, and thus the Territory was preserved from eventually becoming a slave State. The few slave-holders in the Territory of Indiana, which then included Illinois, succeeded in obtaining such an ascendency in its affairs, that repeated applications were made not merely by conventions of delegates, but by the Territorial Legislature itself, for a suspension of the clause in the ordinance prohibiting slavery. These applications were reported upon by John Randolph, of Virginia, in the House, and by Mr. Franklin in the Senate. Both the reports were against suspension. The grounds stated by Randolph are specially worthy of being considered now. They are thus stated in the report:

"That the committee deem it highly dangerous and inexpedient to impair a provision wisely calculated to promote the happiness and prosperity of the Northwestern country, and to give strength and security to that extensive frontier. In the salutary operation of this sagacious and benevolent restraint, it is believed that the inhabitants of Indiana will, at no very distant day, find ample remuneration for a temporary privation of labor and of emigration."

Sir, these reports, made in 1803 and 1807, and the action of Congress upon them, in conformity with their recommendation, saved Illinois, and perhaps Indiana, from becoming slave States. When the people of Illinois formed their State constitution, they incorporated into it a section providing that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall hereafter be introduced into this State. The constitution made provision for the continued service of the few persons who were originally held as slaves, and then bound to service under the Territorial laws, and for the freedom of their children, and thus secured the final extinction of slavery. The Senator thinks that this result is not attributable to the ordinance. I differ from him. But for the ordinance, I have no doubt slavery would have been introduced into Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. It is something to the credit of the Era of Conservatism, uniting its influences with those of the expiring Era of Enfranchisement, that it maintained the ordinance of 1787 in the Northwest.

The Era of CONSERVATISM passed, also by imperceptible gradations, into the Era of SLAVERY PROPAGANDISM. Under the influences of this new spirit we opened the whole territory acquired from Mexico, except California, to the ingress of slavery. Every foot of it was covered by a Mexican prohibition; and yet, by the legislation of 1850, we consented to expose it to the introduction of slaves. Some, I believe, have actually been carried into Utah and New Mexico. They may be few, perhaps, but a few are enough to affect materially the probable character of their future governments. Under the evil influences of the same spirit, we are now called upon to reverse the original policy of the Republic; to support even a solemn compact of the conservative period, and open Nebraska to slavery.

Sir, I believe that we are upon the verge of another era. That era will be the Era of REACTION. The introduction of this question here, and its discussion, will greatly hasten its advent. We, who insist upon the denationalization of slavery, and upon the absolute divorce of the General Government from all connection with it, will stand with the men who favored the compromise acts, and who yet wish to adhere to them, in their letter and in their spirit, against the repeal of the Missouri prohibition. But you may pass it here. You may send it to the other House. It may become a law. But its effect will be to satisfy all thinking men that no compromises with slavery will endure, except so long as they serve the interests of slavery; and that there is no safe and honorable ground for non-slaveholders to stand upon, except that of restricting slavery within State limits, and excluding it absolutely from the whole sphere of Federal jurisdiction. The old questions between political parties are at rest. No great question so thoroughly possesses the public mind as this of slavery. This discussion will hasten the inevitable reorganization of parties upon the new issues which our circumstances suggest. It will light up a fire in the country which may, perhaps, consume those who kindle it. * * *



(BORN 1794, DIED 1865.)



I will not take up the time of the Senate by going over the somewhat embarrassing and perplexed history of the bill, from its first entry into the Senate until the present time. I will take it as it now stands, as it is printed on our tables, and with the amendment which was offered by the Senator from Illinois (Mr. Douglas) yesterday, and which, iI suppose, is now printed, and on our tables; and I will state, as briefly as I can, the difficulties which I have found in giving my support to this bill, either as it stands, or as it will stand when the amendment shall be adopted. My chief objections are to the provisions on the subject of slavery, and especially to the exception which is contained in the 14th section, in the following words:

"Except the 8th section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March 6, 1820, which was superseded by the principles of the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures, and is hereby declared inoperative."

On the day before yesterday the chairman of the Committee on Territories proposed to change the words "superseded by" to "inconsistent with," as expressing more distinctly all that he meant to convey by that impression. Yesterday, however, he brought in an amendment drawn up with great skill and care, on notice given the day before, which is to strike out the words "which was superseded by the principles of the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures, and is hereby declared inoperative," and to insert in lieu of them the following:

"Which being inconsistent with the principle of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the States and Territories, as recognized by the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures, is hereby declared inoperative and void; it being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States."

* * * * *

Now, sir, I think, in the first place, that the language of this proposed enactment, being obscure, is of somewhat doubtful import, and for that reason, unsatisfactory. I should have preferred a little more directness. What is the condition of an enactment which is declared by a subsequent act of Congress to be "inoperative and void?" Does it remain in force? I take it, not. That would be a contradiction in terms, to say that an enactment which had been declared by act of Congress inoperative and void is still in force. Then, if it is not in force, if it is not only inoperative and void, as it is to be declared, but is not in force, it is of course repealed. If it is to be repealed, why not say so? I think it would have been more direct and more parliamentary to say "shall be and is hereby repealed." Then we should know precisely, so far as legal and technical terms go, what the amount of this new legislative provision is.

If the form is somewhat objectionable, I think the substance is still more so. The amendment is to strike out the words "which was superseded by," and to insert a provision that the act of 1820 is inconsistent with the principle of congressional non-intervention, and is therefore inoperative and void. I do not quite understand how much is conveyed in this language. The Missouri restriction of 1820, it is said, is inconsistent with the principle of the legislation of 1850. If anything more is meant by "the principle" of the legislation of 1850, than the measures which were adopted at that time in reference to the territories of New Mexico and Utah—for I may assume that those are the legislative measures referred to—if anything more is meant than that a certain measure was adopted, and enacted in reference to those territories, I take issue on that point. I do not know that it could be proved that, even in reference to those territories, a principle was enacted at all. A certain measure, or, if you please, a course of measures, was enacted in reference to the Territories of New Mexico and Utah; but I do not know that you can call this enacting a principle. It is certainly not enacting a principle which is to carry with it a rule for other Territories lying in other parts of the country, and in a different legal position. As to the principle of non-intervention on the part of Congress in the question of slavery, I do not find that, either as principle or as measure, it was enacted in those territorial bills of 1850. I do not, unless I have greatly misread them, find that there is anything at all which comes up to that. Every legislative act of those territorial governments must come before Congress for allowance or disallowance, and under those bills without repealing them, without departing from them in the slightest degree, it would be competent for Congress to-morrow to pass any law on that subject.

How then can it be said that the principle of non-intervention on the part of Congress in the subject of slavery was enacted and established by the compromise measures of 1850? But, whether that be so or not, how can you find, in a simple measure applying in terms to these individual Territories, and to them alone, a rule which is to govern all other Territories with a retrospective and with a prospective action? Is it not a mere begging of the question to say that those compromise measures, adopted in this specific case, amount to such a general rule?

But, let us try it in a parallel case. In the earlier land legislation of the United States, it was customary, without exception, when a Territory became a State, to require that there should be a stipulation in their State constitution that the public lands sold within their borders should be exempted from taxation for five years after the sale. This, I believe, continued to be the uniform practice down to the year 1820, when the State of Missouri was admitted. She was admitted under the stipulation. If I mistake not, the next State which was admitted into the Union—but it is not important whether it was the next or not—came in without that stipulation, and they were left free to tax the public lands the moment when they were sold. Here was a principle; as much a principle as it is contended was established in the Utah and New Mexico territorial bill; but did any one suppose that it acted upon the other Territories? I believe the whole system is now abolished under the operation of general laws, and the influence of that example may have led to the change. But, until it was made by legislation, the mere fact that public lands sold in Arkansas were immediately subject to taxation, could not alter the law in regard to the public lands sold in Missouri, or in any other to where they were they were exempt.

There is a case equally analogous to the very matter we are now considering—the prohibition or permission of slavery. The ordinance of 1787 prohibited slavery in the territory northwest of the Ohio. In 1790 Congress passed an act accepting the cession which the State of North Carolina had made of the western part of her territory, with the proviso, that in reference to the territory thus ceded Congress should pass no laws "tending to the emancipation of the slaves." Here was a precisely parallel case. Here was a territory in which, in 1787, slavery was prohibited. Here was a territory ceded by North Carolina, which became the territory of the United States south of the Ohio, in reference to which it was stipulated with North Carolina, that Congress should pass no laws tending to the emancipation of slaves. But I believe it never occurred to any one that the legislation of 1790 acted back upon the ordinance of 1787, or furnished a rule by which any effect could be produced upon the state of things existing under that ordinance, in the territory to which it applied.

I certainly intend to do the distinguished chairman of the committee no injustice; and I am not sure that I fully comprehend his argument in this respect; but I think his report sustains the view which I now take of the subject: that is, that the legislation of 1850 did not establish a principle which was designed to have any such effect as he intimates. That report states how matters stood in those new Mexican territories. It was alleged on the one hand that by the Mexican lex loci slavery was prohibited. On the other hand that was denied, and it was maintained that the Constitution of the United States secures to every citizen the right to go there and take with him any property recognized as such by any of the States of the Union. The report considers that a similar state of things now exists in Nebraska—that the validity of the eighth section of the Missouri Act, by which slavery is prohibited in that Territory, is doubtful, and that it is maintained by many distinguished statesmen that Congress has no power to legislate on the subject. Then, in this state of the controversy, the report maintains that the legislation of Congress in 1850 did not undertake to decide these questions. Surely, if they did not undertake to decide them, they could not settle the principle which is at stake in them; and, unless they did decide them, the measures then adopted must be considered as specific measures, relating only to those case and not establishing a principle of general operation. This seems to me to be as direct and conclusive as anything can be.

At all events, these are not impressions which are put forth by me under the exigencies of the present debate or of the present occasion. I have never entertained any other opinion. I was called upon for a particular purpose, of a literary nature, to which I will presently allude more distinctly, shortly after the close of the session of 1850, to draw up a narrative of the events that had taken place relative to the passage of the compromise measures of that year. I had not, I own, the best sources of information. I was not a member of Congress, and had not heard the debates, which is almost indispensable to come to a thorough understanding of questions of this nature; but I inquired of those who had heard them, I read the reports, and I had an opportunity of personal intercourse with some who had taken a prominent part in all those measures. I never formed the idea—I never received the intimation until I got it from this report of the committee—that those measures were intended to have any effect beyond the Territories of Utah and New Mexico, for which they were enacted. I cannot but think that if it was intended that they should have any larger application, if it was intended that they should furnish the rule which is now supposed, it would have been a fact as notorious as the light of day.

* * * * *

And now, sir, having alluded to the speech of Mr. Webster, of the 7th March, 1850, allow me to dwell upon it for a moment. I was in a position the next year—having been requested by that great and lamented man to superintend the publication of his works—to know very particularly the comparative estimate which he placed upon his own parliamentary efforts. He told me more than once that he thought his second speech on Foot's resolution was that in which he had best succeeded as a senatorial effort, and as a specimen of parliamentary dialectics; but he added, with an emotion which even he was unable to suppress, "The speech of the 7th of March, 1850, much as I have been reviled for it, when I am dead, will be allowed to be of the greatest importance to the country." Sir, he took the greatest interest in that speech. He wished it to go forth with a specific title; and, after considerable deliberation, it was called, by his own direction, "A Speech for the Constitution and the Union." He inscribed it to the people of Massachusetts, in a dedication of the most emphatic tenderness, and he prefixed to it that motto—which you all remember—from Livy, the most appropriate and felicitous quotation, perhaps, that was ever made: "True things rather than pleasant things"—Vera progratis: and with that he sent it forth to the world.

In that speech his gigantic intellect brought together all that it could gather from the law of nature, from the Constitution of the United States, from our past legislation, and from the physical features of the region, to strengthen him in that plan of conciliation and peace, in which he feared that he might not carry along with him the public sentiment of the whole of that, portion of the country which he particularly represented here. At its close, when he dilated upon the disastrous effects of separation, he rose to a strain of impassioned eloquence which had never been surpassed within these walls. Every topic, every argument, every fact, was brought to bear upon the point; and he felt that all his vast popularity was at stake on the issue. Let me commend to the attention of Senators, and let me ask them to consider what weight is due to the authority of such a man, speaking under such circumstances, and on such an occasion, when he tells you that the condition of every foot of land in the country, for slavery or non-slavery, is fixed by some irrepealable law. And you are now about to repeal the principal law which ascertained and fixed that condition. And, sir, if the Senate will take any heed of the opinion of one so humble as myself, I will say that I believe Mr. Webster, in that speech, went to the very verge of the public sentiment in the non-slaveholding States, and that to have gone a hair's-breadth further, would have been a step too bold even for his great weight of character.

* * * * *

I conclude, therefore, sir, that the compromise measures of 1850 ended where they began, with the Territories of Utah and New Mexico, to which they specifically referred; at any rate, that they established no principle which was to govern in other cases; that they had no prospective action to the organization of territories in all future time; and certainly no retrospective action upon lands subject to the restriction of 1820, and to the positive enactment that you now propose to declare inoperative and void.

I trust that nothing which I have now said will be taken in derogation of the compromises of 1850. I adhere to them; I stand by them. I do so for many reasons. One is respect for the memory of the great men who were the authors of them—lights and ornaments of the country, but now taken from its service. I would not so soon, if it were in my power, undo their work, if for no other reason. But beside this, I am one of those—I am not ashamed to avow it—who believed at that time, and who still believe, that at that period the union of these States was in great danger, and that the adoption of the compromise measures of 1850 contributed materially to avert that danger; and therefore, sir, I say, as well out of respect to the memory of the great men who were the authors of them, as to the healing effect of the measures themselves, I would adhere to them. They are not perfect. I suppose that nobody, either North or South, thinks them perfect. They contain some provisions not satisfactory to the South, and other provisions contrary to the public sentiment of the North; but I believed at the time they were the wisest, the best, the most effective measures which, under the circumstances, could be adopted. But you do not strengthen them, you do not show your respect for them, by giving them an application which they were never intended to bear.

* * * * *

A single word, sir, in respect to this supposed principle of non-intervention on the part of Congress in the subject of slavery in the territories. I confess I am surprised to find this brought forward, and stated with so much confidence, as an established principle of the Government. I know that distinguished gentlemen hold the opinion. The very distinguished Senator from Michigan (Mr. Cass) holds it, and has propounded it; and I pay all due respect and deference to his authority, which I conceive to be very high. But I was not aware that any such principle was considered a settled principle of the territorial policy of this country. Why, sir, from the first enactment in 1789, down to the bill before us, there is no such principle in our legislation. As far as I can see it would be perfectly competent even now for Congress to pass any law that they pleased on the subject in the Territories under this bill. But however that may be, even by this bill, there is not a law which the Territories can pass admitting or excluding slavery, which it is of in the power of this Congress to disallow the next day. This is not a mere brutum fulmen. It is not an unexpected power. Your statute-book shows case after case. I believe, in reference to a single Territory, that there have been fifteen or twenty cases where territorial legislation has been disallowed by Congress. How, then, can it be said that this principle of non-intervention in the government of the Territories is now to be recognized as an established principle in the public policy of the Congress of the United States?

Do gentlemen recollect the terms, almost of disdain, with which this supposed established principle of our constitutional policy is treated in that last valedictory speech of Mr. Calhoun, which, unable to pronounce it himself, he was obliged to give to the Senate through the medium of his friend, the Senator from Virginia. He reminded the Senate that the occupants of a Territory were not even called the people—but simply the inhabitants—till they were allowed by Congress to call a convention and form a State constitution.

* * * * *

A word more, sir, and I have done. With reference to the great question of slavery—that terrible question—the only one on which the North and South of this great Republic differ irreconcilably—I have not, on this occasion, a word to say. My humble career is drawing near its close, and I shall end it as I began, with using no other words on that subject than those of moderation, conciliation, and harmony between the two great sections of the country. I blame no one who differs from me in this respect. I allot to others, what I claim for myself, the credit of honesty and purity of motive. But for my own part, the rule of my life, as far as circumstances have enabled me to act up to it, has been, to say nothing that would tend to kindle unkind feeling on this subject. I have never known men on this, or any other subject, to be convinced by harsh epithets or denunciation.

I believe the union of these States is the greatest possible blessing—that it comprises within itself all other blessings, political, national, and social; and I trust that my eyes may close long before the day shall come—if it ever shall come—when that Union shall be at an end. Sir, I share the opinions and the sentiments of the part of the country where I was born and educated, where my ashes will be laid, and where my children will succeed me. But in relation to my fellow-citizens in other parts of the country, I will treat their constitutional and their legal rights with respect, and their characters and their feelings with tenderness. I believe them to be as good Christians, as good patriots, as good men, as we are, and I claim that we, in our turn, are as good as they.

I rejoiced to hear my friend from Kentucky, (Mr. Dixon), if he will allow me to call him so—I concur most heartily in the sentiment—utter the opinion that a wise and gracious Providence, in his own good time, will find the ways and the channels to remove from the land what I consider this great evil, but I do not expect that what has been done in three centuries and a half is to be undone in a day or a year, or a few years; and I believe that, in the mean time, the desired end will be retarded rather than promoted by passionate sectional agitation. I believe, further, that the fate of the great and interesting continent in the elder world, Africa, is closely intertwined and wrapped up with the fortunes of her children in all the parts of the earth to which they have been dispersed, and that at some future time, which is already in fact beginning, they will go back to the land of their fathers, the voluntary missionaries of Civilization and Christianity; and finally, sir, I doubt not that in His own good time the Ruler of all will vindicate the most glorious of His prerogatives, "From seeming evil still educing good."


OF ILLINOIS. (BORN 1813, DIED 1861.)


SENATE, MARCH 3, 1854.

It has been urged in debate that there is no necessity for these Territorial organizations; and I have been called upon to point out any public and national considerations which require action at this time. Senators seem to forget that our immense and valuable possessions on the Pacific are separated from the States and organized Territories on this side of the Rocky Mountains by a vast wilderness, filled by hostile savages—that nearly a hundred thousand emigrants pass through this barbarous wilderness every year, on their way to California and Oregon—that these emigrants are American citizens, our own constituents, who are entitled to the protection of law and government, and that they are left to make their way, as best they may, without the protection or aid of law or government. The United States mails for New Mexico and Utah, and official communications between this Government and the authorities of those Territories, are required to be carried over these wild plains, and through the gorges of the mountains, where you have made no provisions for roads, bridges, or ferries to facilitate travel, or forts or other means of safety to protect life. As often as I have brought forward and urged the adoption of measures to remedy these evils, and afford security against the damages to which our people are constantly exposed, they have been promptly voted down as not being of sufficient importance to command the favorable consideration of Congress. Now, when I propose to organize the Territories, and allow the people to do for themselves what you have so often refused to do for them, I am told that there are not white inhabitants enough permanently settled in the country to require and sustain a government. True; there is not a very large population there, for the very reason that your Indian code and intercourse laws exclude the settlers, and forbid their remaining there to cultivate the soil. You refuse to throw the country open to settlers, and then object to the organization of the Territories, upon the ground that there is not a sufficient number of inhabitants. * * *

I will now proceed to the consideration of the great principle involved in the bill, without omitting, however, to notice some of those extraneous matters which have been brought into this discussion with the view of producing another anti-slavery agitation. We have been told by nearly every Senator who has spoken in opposition to this bill, that at the time of its introduction the people were in a state of profound quiet and repose, that the anti-slavery agitation had entirely ceased, and that the whole country was acquiescing cheerfully and cordially in the compromise measures of 1850 as a final adjustment of this vexed question. Sir, it is truly refreshing to hear Senators, who contested every inch of ground in opposition to those measures, when they were under discussion, who predicted all manner of evils and calamities from their adoption, and who raised the cry of appeal, and even resistance, to their execution, after they had become the laws of the land—I say it is really refreshing to hear these same Senators now bear their united testimony to the wisdom of those measures, and to the patriotic motives which induced us to pass them in defiance of their threats and resistance, and to their beneficial effects in restoring peace, harmony, and fraternity to a distracted country. These are precious confessions from the lips of those who stand pledged never to assent to the propriety of those measures, and to make war upon them, so long as they shall remain upon the statute-book. I well understand that these confessions are now made, not with the view of yielding their assent to the propriety of carrying those enactments into faithful execution, but for the purpose of having a pretext for charging upon me, as the author of this bill, the responsibility of an agitation which they are striving to produce. They say that I, and not they, have revived the agitation. What have I done to render me obnoxious to this charge? They say that I wrote and introduced this Nebraska bill. That is true; but I was not a volunteer in the transaction. The Senate, by a unanimous vote, appointed me chairman of the Territorial Committee, and associated five intelligent and patriotic Senators with me, and thus made it our duty to take charge of all Territorial business. In like manner, and with the concurrence of these complaining Senators, the Senate referred to us a distinct proposition to organize this Nebraska Territory, and required us to report specifically upon the question. I repeat, then, we were not volunteers in this business. The duty was imposed upon us by the Senate. We were not unmindful of the delicacy and responsibility of the position. We were aware that, from 1820 to 1850, the abolition doctrine of Congressional interference with slavery in the Territories and new States had so far prevailed as to keep up an incessant slavery agitation in Congress, and throughout the country, whenever any new Territory was to be acquired or organized. We were also aware that, in 1850, the right of the people to decide this question for themselves, subject only to the Constitution, was submitted for the doctrine of Congressional intervention. This first question, therefore, which the committee were called upon to decide, and indeed the only question of any material importance in framing this bill, was this: Shall we adhere to and carry out the principle recognized by the compromise measures of 1850, or shall we go back to the old exploded doctrine of Congressional interference, as established in 1820, in a large portion of the country, and which it was the object of the Wilmot proviso to give a universal application, not only to all the territory which we then possessed, but all which we might hereafter acquire? There are no alternatives. We were compelled to frame the bill upon the one or the other of these two principles. The doctrine of 1820 or the doctrine of 1850 must prevail. In the discharge of the duty imposed upon us by the Senate, the committee could not hesitate upon this point, whether we consulted our own individual opinions and principles, or those which were known to be entertained and boldly avowed by a large majority of the Senate. The two great political parties of the country stood solemnly pledged before the world to adhere to the compromise measures of 1850, "in principle and substance." A large majority of the Senate—indeed, every member of the body, I believe, except the two avowed Abolitionists (Mr. Chase and Mr. Sumner)—profess to belong to one or the other of these parties, and hence were supposed to be under a high moral obligation to carry out "the principle and substance" of those measures in all new Territorial organizations. The report of the committee was in accordance with this obligation. I am arraigned, therefore, for having endeavored to represent the opinions and principles of the Senate truly—for having performed my duty in conformity with parliamentary law—for having been faithful to the trust imposed in me by the Senate. Let the vote this night determine whether I have thus faithfully represented your opinions. When a majority of the Senate shall have passed the bill—when the majority of the States shall have endorsed it through their representatives upon this floor—when a majority of the South and a majority of the North shall have sanctioned it—when a majority of the Whig party and a majority of the Democratic party shall have voted for it—when each of these propositions shall be demonstrated by the vote this night on the final passage of the bill, I shall be willing to submit the question to the country, whether, as the organ of the committee, I performed my duty in the report and bill which have called down upon my head so much denunciation and abuse.

Mr. President, the opponents of this measure have had much to say about the mutations and modifications which this bill has undergone since it was first introduced by myself, and about the alleged departure of the bill, in its present form, from the principle laid down in the original report of the committee as a rule of action in all future Territorial organizations. Fortunately there is no necessity, even if your patience would tolerate such a course of argument at this late hour of the night, for me to examine these speeches in detail, and reply to each charge separately. Each speaker seems to have followed faithfully in the footsteps of his leader in the path marked out by the Abolition confederates in their manifesto, which I took occasion to expose on a former occasion. You have seen them on their winding way, meandering the narrow and crooked path in Indian file, each treading close upon the heels of the other, and neither venturing to take a step to the right or left, or to occupy one inch of ground which did not bear the footprint of the Abolition champion. To answer one, therefore, is to answer the whole. The statement to which they seem to attach the most importance, and which they have repeated oftener, perhaps, than any other, is, that, pending the compromise measures of 1850, no man in or out of Congress ever dreamed of abrogating the Missouri compromise; that from that period down to the present session nobody supposed that its validity had been impaired, or any thing done which endered it obligatory upon us to make it inoperative hereafter; that at the time of submitting the report and bill to the Senate, on the fourth of January last, neither I nor any member of the committee ever thought of such a thing; and that we could never be brought to the point of abrogating the eighth section of the Missouri act until after the Senator from Kentucky introduced his amendment to my bill.

Mr. President, before I proceed to expose the many misrepresentations contained in this complicated charge, I must call the attention of the Senate to the false issue which these gentlemen are endeavoring to impose upon the country, for the purpose of diverting public attention from the real issue contained in the bill. They wish to have the people believe that the abrogation of what they call the Missouri compromise was the main object and aim of the bill, and that the only question involved is, whether the prohibition of slavery north of 36 deg. 30' shall be repealed or not? That which is a mere incident they choose to consider the principle. They make war on the means by which we propose to accomplish an object, instead of openly resisting the object itself. The principle which we propose to carry into effect by the bill is this: That Congress shall neither legislate slavery into any Territories or State, nor out of the same; but the people shall be left free to regulate their domestic concerns in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.

In order to carry this principle into practical operation, it becomes necessary to remove whatever legal obstacles might be found in the way of its free exercise. It is only for the purpose of carrying out this great fundamental principle of self-government that the bill renders the eighth section of the Missouri act inoperative and void.

Now, let me ask, will these Senators who have arraigned me, or any one of them, have the assurance to rise in his place and declare that this great principle was never thought of or advocated as applicable to Territorial bills, in 1850; that from that session until the present, nobody ever thought of incorporating this principle in all new Territorial organizations; that the Committee on Territories did not recommend it in their report; and that it required the amendment of the Senator from Kentucky to bring us up to that point? Will any one of my accusers dare to make this issue, and let it be tried by the record? I will begin with the compromises of 1850, Any Senator who will take the trouble to examine our journals, will find that on the 25th of March of that year I reported from the Committee on Territories two bills including the following measures; the admission of California, a Territorial government for New Mexico, and the adjustment of the Texas boundary. These bills proposed to leave the people of Utah and New Mexico free to decide the slavery question for themselves, in the precise language of the Nebraska bill now under discussion. A few weeks afterward the committee of thirteen took those two bills and put a wafer between them, and reported them back to the Senate as one bill, with some slight amendments. One of these amendments was, that the Territorial Legislatures should not legislate upon the subject of African slavery. I objected to that provision upon the ground that it subverted the great principle of self-government upon which the bill had been originally framed by the Territorial Committee. On the first trial, the Senate refused to strike it out, but subsequently did so, after full debate, in order to establish that principle as the rule of action in Territorial organizations. * * * But my accusers attempt to raise up a false issue, and thereby divert public attention from the real one, by the cry that the Missouri compromise is to be repealed or violated by the passage of this bill. Well, if the eighth section of the Missouri act, which attempted to fix the destinies of future generations in those Territories for all time to come, in utter disregard of the rights and wishes of the people when they should be received into the Union as States, be inconsistent with the great principles of self-government and the Constitution of the United States. it ought to be abrogated. The legislation of 1850 abrogated the Missouri compromise, so far as the country embraced within the limits of Utah and New Mexico was covered by the slavery restriction. It is true, that those acts did not in terms and by name repeal the act of 1820, as originally adopted, or as extended by the resolutions annexing Texas in 1845, any more than the report of the Committee on Territories proposed to repeal the same acts this session. But the acts of 1850 did authorize the people of those Territories to exercise "all rightful powers of legislation consistent with the Constitution," not excepting the question of slavery; and did provide that, when those Territories should be admitted into the Union, they should be received with or without slavery as the people thereof might determine at the date of their admission. These provisions were in direct conflict with a clause in the former enactment, declaring that slavery should be forever prohibited in any portion of said Territories, and hence rendered such clause inoperative and void to the extent of such conflict. This was an inevitable consequence, resulting from the provisions in those acts, which gave the people the right to decide the slavery question for themselves, in conformity with the Constitution. It was not necessary to go further and declare that certain previous enactments, which were incompatible with the exercise of the powers conferred in the bills, are hereby repealed. The very act of granting those powers and rights has the legal effect of removing all obstructions to the exercise of them by the people, as prescribed in those Territorial bills. Following that example, the Committee on Territories did not consider it necessary to declare the eighth section of the Missouri act repealed. We were content to organize Nebraska in the precise language of the Utah and New Mexico bills. Our object was to leave the people entirely free to form and regulate their domestic institutions and internal concerns in their own way, under the Constitution; and we deemed it wise to accomplish that object in the exact terms in which the same thing had been done in Utah and New Mexico by the acts of 1850. This was the principle upon which the committee voted; and our bill was supposed, and is now believed, to have been in accordance with it. When doubts were raised whether the bill did fully carry out the principle laid down in the report, amendments were made from time to time, in order to avoid all misconstruction, and make the true intent of the act more explicit. The last of these amendments was adopted yesterday, on the motion of the distinguished Senator from North Carolina (Mr. Badger), in regard to the revival of any laws or regulations which may have existed prior to 1820. That amendment was not intended to change the legal effect of the bill. Its object was to repel the slander which had been propagated by the enemies of the measure in the North—that the Southern supporters of the bill desired to legislate slavery into these Territories. The South denies the right of Congress either to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, or out of any Territory or State. Non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the States or Territories is the doctrine of the bill, and all the amendments which have been agreed to have been made with the view of removing all doubt and cavil as to the true meaning and object of the measure. * * *

Well, sir, what is this Missouri compromise, of which we have heard so much of late? It has been read so often that it is not necessary to occupy the time of the Senate in reading it again. It was an act of Congress, passed on the 6th of March, 1820, to authorize the people of Missouri to form a constitution and a State government, preparatory to the admission of such State into the Union. The first section provided that Missouri should be received into the Union "on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatsoever." The last and eighth section provided that slavery should be "forever prohibited" in all the territory which had been acquired from France north of 36 deg. 30', and not included within the limits of the State of Missouri. There is nothing in the terms of the law that purports to be a compact, or indicates that it was any thing more than an ordinary act of legislation. To prove that it was more than it purports to be on its face, gentlemen must produce other evidence, and prove that there was such an understanding as to create a moral obligation in the nature of a compact. Have they shown it?

Now, if this was a compact, let us see how it was entered into. The bill originated in the House of Representatives, and passed that body without a Southern vote in its favor. It is proper to remark, however, that it did not at that time contain the eighth section, prohibiting slavery in the Territories; but in lieu of it, contained a provision prohibiting slavery in the proposed State of Missouri. In the Senate, the clause prohibiting slavery in the State was stricken out, and the eighth section added to the end of the bill, by the terms of which slavery was to be forever prohibited in the territory not embraced in the State of Missouri north of 36 deg. 30'. The vote on adding this section stood in the Senate, 34 in the affirmative, and 10 in the negative. Of the Northern Senators, 20 voted for it, and 2 against it. On the question of ordering the bill to a third reading as amended, which was the test vote on its passage, the vote stood 24 yeas and 20 nays. Of the Northern Senators, 4 only voted in the affirmative, and 18 in the negative. Thus it will be seen that if it was intended to be a compact, the North never agreed to it. The Northern Senators voted to insert the prohibition of slavery in the Territories; and then, in the proportion of more than four to one, voted against the passage of the bill. The North, therefore, never signed the compact, never consented to it, never agreed to be bound by it. This fact becomes very important in vindicating the character of the North for repudiating this alleged compromise a few months afterward. The act was approved and became a law on the 6th of March, 1820. In the summer of that year, the people of Missouri formed a constitution and State government preparatory to admission into the Union in conformity with the act. At the next session of Congress the Senate passed a joint resolution declaring Missouri to be one of the States of the Union, on an equal footing with the original States. This resolution was sent to the House of Representatives, where it was rejected by Northern votes, and thus Missouri was voted out of the Union, instead of being received into the Union under the act of the 6th of March, 1820, now known as the Missouri compromise. Now, sir, what becomes of our plighted faith, if the act of the 6th of March, 1820, was a solemn compact, as we are now told? They have all rung the changes upon it, that it was a sacred and irrevocable compact, binding in honor, in conscience, and morals, which could not be violated or repudiated without perfidy and dishonor! * * * Sir, if this was a compact, what must be thought of those who violated it almost immediately after it was formed? I say it is a calumny upon the North to say that it was a compact. I should feel a flush of shame upon my cheek, as a Northern man, if I were to say that it was a compact, and that the section of the country to which I belong received the consideration, and then repudiated the obligation in eleven months after it was entered into. I deny that it was a compact, in any sense of the term. But if it was, the record proves that faith was not observed—that the contract was never carried into effect—that after the North had procured the passage of the act prohibiting slavery in the Territories, with a majority in the House large enough to prevent its repeal, Missouri was refused admission into the Union as a slave-holding State, in conformity with the act of March 6, 1820. If the proposition be correct, as contended for by the opponents of this bill—that there was a solemn compact between the North and the South that, in consideration of the prohibition of slavery in the Territories, Missouri was to be admitted into the Union, in conformity with the act of 1820—that compact was repudiated by the North, and rescinded by the joint action of the two parties within twelve months from its date. Missouri was never admitted under the act of the 6th of March, 1820. She was refused admission under that act. She was voted out of the Union by Northern votes, notwithstanding the stipulation that she should be received; and, in consequence of these facts, a new compromise was rendered necessary, by the terms of which Missouri was to be admitted into the Union conditionally—admitted on a condition not embraced in the act of 1820, and, in addition, to a full compliance with all the provisions of said act. If, then, the act of 1820, by the eighth section of which slavery was prohibited in Missouri, was a compact, it is clear to the comprehension of every fair-minded man that the refusal of the North to admit Missouri, in compliance with its stipulations, and without further conditions, imposes upon us a high, moral obligation to remove the prohibition of slavery in the Territories, since it has been shown to have been procured upon a condition never performed. * * *

Mr. President, I did not wish to refer to these things. I did not understand them fully in all their bearings at the time I made my first speech on this subject; and, so far as I was familiar with them, I made as little reference to them as was consistent with my duty; because it was a mortifying reflection to me, as a Northern man, that we had not been able, in consequence of the abolition excitement at the time, to avoid the appearance of bad faith in the observance of legislation, which has been denominated a compromise. There were a few men then, as there are now, who had the moral courage to perform their duty to the country and the Constitution, regardless of consequences personal to themselves. There were ten Northern men who dared to perform their duty by voting to admit Missouri into the Union on an equal footing with the original States, and with no other restriction than that imposed by the Constitution. I am aware that they were abused and denounced as we are now—that they were branded as dough-faces—traitors to freedom, and to the section of country whence they came. * * *

I think I have shown that if the act of 1820, called the Missouri compromise, was a compact, it was violated and repudiated by a solemn vote of the House of Representatives in 1821, within eleven months after it was adopted. It was repudiated by the North by a majority vote, and that repudiation was so complete and successful as to compel Missouri to make a new compromise, and she was brought into the Union under the new compromise of 1821, and not under the act of 1820. This reminds me of another point made in nearly all the speeches against this bill, and, if I recollect right, was alluded to in the abolition manifesto; to which, I regret to say, I had occasion to refer so often. I refer to the significant hint that Mr. Clay was dead before any one dared to bring forward a proposition to undo the greatest work of his hands. The Senator from New York (Mr. Seward) has seized upon this insinuation and elaborated, perhaps, more fully than his compeers; and now the Abolition press, suddenly, and, as if by miraculous conversion, teems with eulogies upon Mr. Clay and his Missouri compromise of 1820.

Now, Mr. President, does not each of these Senators know that Mr. Clay was not the author of the act of 1820? Do they not know that he disclaimed it in 1850 in this body? Do they not know that the Missouri restriction did not originate in the House, of which he was a member? Do they not know that Mr. Clay never came into the Missouri controversy as a compromiser until after the compromise of 1820 was repudiated, and it became necessary to make another? I dislike to be compelled to repeat what I have conclusively proven, that the compromise which Mr. Clay effected was the act of 1821, under which Missouri came into the Union, and not the act of 1820. Mr. Clay made that compromise after you had repudiated the first one. How, then, dare you call upon the spirit of that great and gallant statesman to sanction your charge of bad faith against the South on this question? * * *

Now, Mr. President, as I have been doing justice to Mr. Clay on this question, perhaps I may as well do justice to another great man, who was associated with him in carrying through the great measures of 1850, which mortified the Senator from New York so much, because they defeated his purpose of carrying on the agitation. I allude to Mr. Webster. The authority of his great name has been quoted for the purpose of proving that he regarded the Missouri act as a compact, an irrepealable compact. Evidently the distinguished Senator from Massachusetts (Mr. Everett) supposed he was doing Mr. Webster entire justice when he quoted the passage which he read from Mr. Webster's speech of the 7th of March, 1850, when he said that he stood upon the position that every part of the American continent was fixed for freedom or for slavery by irrepealable law. The Senator says that by the expression "irrepealable law," Mr. Webster meant to include the compromise of 1820. Now, I will show that that was not Mr. Webster's meaning—that he was never guilty of the mistake of saying that the Missouri act of 1820 was an irrepealable law. Mr. Webster said in that speech that every foot of territory in the United States was fixed as to its character for freedom or slavery by an irrepealable law. He then inquired if it was not so in regard to Texas? He went on to prove that it was; because, he said, there was a compact in express terms between Texas and the United States. He said the parties were capable of contracting and that there was a valuable consideration; and hence, he contended, that in that case there was a contract binding in honor and morals and law; and that it was irrepealable without a breach of faith.

He went on to say:

"Now, as to California and New Mexico, I hold slavery to be excluded from these Territories by a law even superior to that which admits and sanctions it in Texas—I mean the law of nature—of physical geography—the law of the formation of the earth."

That was the irrepealable law which he said prohibited slavery in the Territories of Utah and New Mexico. He went on to speak of the prohibition of slavery in Oregon, and he said it was an "entirely useless and, in that connection, senseless proviso."

He went further, and said:

"That the whole territory of the States of the United States, or in the newly-acquired territory of the United States, has a fixed and settled character, now fixed and settled by law, which cannot be repealed in the case of Texas without a violation of public faith, and cannot be repealed by any human power in regard to California or New Mexico; that, under one or other of these laws, every foot of territory in the States or in the Territories has now received a fixed and decided character."

What irrepealable laws? One or the other of those which he had stated. One was the Texas compact; the other, the law of nature and physical geography; and he contended that one or the other fixed the character of the whole American continent for freedom or for slavery. He never alluded to the Missouri compromise, unless it was by the allusion to the Wilmot proviso in the Oregon bill, and therein said it was a useless and, in that connection, senseless thing. Why was it a useless and senseless thing? Because it was reenacting the law of God; because slavery had already been prohibited by physical geography. Sir, that was the meaning of Mr. Webster's speech. * * *

Mr. President, I have occupied a good deal of time in exposing the cant of these gentlemen about the sanctity of the Missouri compromise, and the dishonor attached to the violation of plighted faith. I have exposed these matters in order to show that the object of these men is to withdraw from public attention the real principle involved in the bill. They well know that the abrogation of the Missouri compromise is the incident and not the principle of the bill. They well understand that the report of the committee and the bill propose to establish the principle in all Territorial organizations, that the question of slavery shall be referred to the people to regulate for themselves, and that such legislation should be had as was necessary to remove all legal obstructions to the free exercise of this right by the people. The eighth section of the Missouri act standing in the way of this great principle must be rendered inoperative and void, whether expressly repealed or not, in order to give the people the power of regulating their own domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution.

1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse