« PreviousContinue »
mental devices and methods of organization and strategy that have come to be regarded as the essentials of our American political system had their genesis. There were other questions, relating specially to the partisan acts of the Jackson administration. In particular, the National Republicans viewed with much indignation the new "spoils" doctrine so uncompromisingly proclaimed and remorselessly applied by Jackson. The slavery issue was not at that time a serious subject of party consideration; it was still believed that the Missouri Compromise had afforded a satisfactory settlement.
The Missouri Compromise, 1820
This celebrated measure, approved March 6, 1820, was an agreement between the north and south on the subject of slavery extension.
The Territory of Missouri having applied (March, 1818) for admission as a State of the Union, an excessively bitter controversy arose in Congress in relation to the proposed permission of slavery within its borders.
The claim made for authorizing slavery in Missouri was much more plausible than any subsequently put forward for its intrusion into other portions of the still
1Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams had made in all 74 removals, all but a few for cause, during the forty years of their aggregate Presidential terms. In one year, the first of his administration, Jackson removed 491 postmasters and 239 other officers, and since the new men appointed clerks and other subordinates, the sum total in that year was reckoned at more than two thousand.-Carl Schurz, Life of Henry Clay, vol. i, p. 334.
HISTORY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
unorganized national domain lying outside the geographical section in which the "peculiar institution" flourished. Slavery had already been established in Missouri Territory by the settlers, and the desire of a majority of them for its continuance without restriction was evidenced by their election of a strong pro-slavery Delegate to Congress and by the lack, throughout the long struggle on the question in that body, of any disposition on the part of Missouri to accept a compromise. Historically the prospective new State had exclusively southern antecedents; it had been an integral part of Louisiana. In the respect also of situation the south claimed a superior right to Missouri, as it was conterminus with slave territory and not adjacent to settled free territory, being separated from the latter by the Mississippi River.
From the point of view held at that period by most people except the uncompromising opponents of slavery on principle, it was considered wise to adhere politically to the spirit of slavery-neutrality shown by the framers of the Constitution and since tacitly observed, by admitting new slave States as well as new free States according to situation or local preference. It was generally conceded that if there were to be "balances" in the future, as there had been in the past, the south could not be expected to refrain from having its share agreeably to its "reasonable" claims. From these accommodating views the country was destined to have a complete awakening; but they exerted a deciding influence until the extreme southern pretensions brought about a
concentration of political anti-slavery sentiment at the north.
Up to the time of Missouri's application for admission in 1818, no exciting question had arisen concerning slavery extension. Events had not only taken a perfectly undisturbed course, but in their results had operated with singular evenness toward maintaining and perpetuating the original equilibrium between the northern and southern States. On the one hand, the "Northwest Territory"-comprising what have since become the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin-had been established by the Ordinance of 1787, and afterward firmly organized, in conformity to the principle of slavery exclusion; and identically with the occurrence of the Missouri question Maine was just coming into the Union as a free State. Offsetting these accessions to the political strength of the north were the additions to the southern system of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, with Arkansas Territory carved out of Missouri-all on the basis of slavery permission. It should be particularly remembered that at the time in question, and for many years afterward, the remainder of the national domain not as yet organized into States or in process of such formation was limited to the residuum of the old Louisiana Purchase, and its projection to the Pacific through the "Oregon Country" subject to a temporary diplomatic arrangement of equal rights of occupation with Great Britain in the latter; and that as this entire region extended northwardly, it was regarded as not to be associated with the sphere of
HISTORY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
the slavery institution. The glittering prospect of a southwestern empire for slavery in the vast area still owned by Spain, reaching from Texas on the Gulf to California on the Pacific, had not come into view.
It was decided by the southerners that the time had arrived to take a more aggressive political stand for their institution. While the existing balance of the States was not unfavorable to them in the numerical respect, there was a large and constantly increasing preponderance of population, enterprise, and wealth in the north, which had its reflection in a steadily growing superiority of northern representation in the national House of Representatives. Nothing could
appear more certain than that the balance would be still further disarranged in the future, with ultimate jeopardy to slavery even at the south, if concessions were not wrung from the north.
The south insisted that in consideration of all these circumstances it had every justification of claim to Missouri, and was unyielding in its demand for the slavery provision of the bill. That the advocates of freedom were equally determined, and in the end were able to force an advantageous compromise, was a fact of great significance for the future. Against threats of disunion which were known to be fully meant, a national opposition to the farther spread of slavery was energized which, while taking no party name, represented an unmistakable accord and resolution on the subject. The objection to slavery, formerly only sentimental, was thus made political. After the final Missouri settlement the political feeling became
quiescent, but with the certainty that it would not so continue if further provocative steps should be taken by the south.
The Compromise of 1820, adopted after two years of Congressional consideration, gave sanction to slavery in Missouri, but interdicted it elsewhere west or north of the parallel 36° 30', this line being Missouri's southern boundary.
But the contest was not yet ended. Missouri, having received authorization to come into the Union, proceeded to adopt a State Constitution which in its slavery provisions went far beyond what the northern people had expected, or were willing to tolerate—one of its clauses being a command to the Legislature to pass laws "to prevent free negroes and mulattoes from coming to, and settling in, this State, under any pretext whatever." The whole question of admission was thereupon reopened. Northern sentiment demanded that Missouri expunge the objectionable clause before being received as a State; but Congress, intimidated by renewed southern threats of secession, refused to make any such condition. Again a compromise was devised, of which Clay (then a member of the House) was the author. Missouri was not required to recede in terms from her action, but was to pledge herself to pass no law "by which any of the citizens of either of the States should be excluded from the enjoyment of the privileges and immunities to which they are entitled under the Constitution of the United States." The practical effect of this was to prevent infraction of the rights of free colored persons coming to Missouri from other