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On the question of the admission of California, he was equally frank:
"No civil government having been provided by Congress for California, the people of that Territory, impelled by the necessities of their political condition, recently met in convention, for the purpose of forming a constitution and State government, which the latest advices give me reason to suppose has been accomplished; and it is believed they will shortly apply for the admission of California into the Union as a sovereign State. Should such be the case, and should their constitution be conformable to the requisitions of the Constitution of the United States, I recommend their application to the favorable consideration of Congress."
The issue, as then made up between the North and the South, was this: The South opposed the admission of California as a free State, and demanded the better execution of the fugitive slave law; the North was opposed to the admission of any more slave States; demanded the abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia, and was unwilling for the execution of the fugitive slave law within the Northern States. These questions occupied the attention of Congress almost exclusively, and the excitement permeated the entire Union, and repeated threats came from Southern Senators and Representatives that if the demands of the South were not acceded to, the Southern States would withdraw from the Union; and the situation was indeed alarming, when, on the 29th of January, 1850, Henry Clay introduced ten resolutions in the Senate, as a compromise, which provided for the admission of California as a free State; the organization of the Territories of Utah and New Mexico, without reference to slavery; the abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia, and the enactment by Congress of a more stringent and effective law for the rendition of fugitive slaves.
The resolution of Mr. Clay, which related to a compromise on the slavery question, was as follows:
"Resolved, That as slavery does not exist by law, and is not likely to be introduced into any of the territory acquired by the United States from the Republic of Mexico, it is inexpedient for Congress to provide by law either for its introduction into or exclusion from any part of the said territory; and that appropriate Territorial governments ought to be established by Congress in all of the said territory, not assigned as the boundaries of the proposed State of California, without the adoption of any restriction or condition on the subject of slavery."
Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, spoke thus in opposition to the passage of the resolution:
"But, sir, we are called on to receive this as a measure of compromise! Is a measure in which we of the minority are to receive nothing, a measure of compromise? I look upon it as but a modest mode of taking that, the claim to which has been more boldly asserted by others; and that I may be understood upon this question, and that my position may go forth to the country in the same columns that convey the sentiments of the Senator from Kentucky, I here assert that never will I take less than the Missouri Compromise line, extended to the Pacific ocean, with the specific recognition of the right to hold slaves in the territory below that line; and that, before such Territories are admitted into the Union as States, slaves may be taken there from any of the United States, at the option of their owners."
Mr. Clay, with no less candor or courage, replied to Mr. Davis in these words:
"I am extremely sorry to hear the Senator from Mississippi say that he requires, first, the extension of the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific, and also that he is not satisfied with that, but requires, if I understood him correctly, a positive provision for the admission of slavery south of that line. And, now, sir, coming from a slave State, as I do, I owe it to myself, I owe it to truth, I owe it to the subject, to say that no earthly power could induce me to vote for a specific measure for the introduction of slavery where it had not before existed, either South or North of that line. Coming, as I do, from a slave State, it is my solemn, deliberate and well-matured determination that no power, no earthly power, shall compel me to vote for the positive introduction of slavery either south or north of that line. Sir, while you
reproach, and justly, too, our British ancestors for the introduction of this institution upon the continent of America, I am, for one, unwilling that the posterity of the present inhabitants of California and of New Mexico shall reproach us for doing just what we reproach Great Britain for doing to us. If the citizens of those Territories choose to establish slavery, and if they come here with constitutions establishing slavery, I am for admitting them with such provisions in their constitutions; but then it will be their own work, and not ours, and their posterity will have to reproach them, and not us, for forming constitutions allowing the institution of slavery to exist among them. These are my views, sir, and I choose to express them; and I care not how extensively or universally they are known."
Mr. Calhoun was an invalid at the time the bill was presented for the admission of California, and he brought into the Senate a written speech of great length and carefully prepared, which he was too weak to deliver, and upon his request it was allowed to be read by his friend, Senator Mason, from Virginia. We give place to the following extract, as showing the views of the great Senator upon the slavery question, as it presented itself to his mind:
"I have, Senators, believed from the first that the agitation of the subject of slavery would, if not prevented by some timely and effective measure, end in disunion. Entertaining this opinion, I have, on all proper occasions, endeavored to call the attention of each of the two great parties which divide the country, to adopt some measure to prevent so great a disaster, but without success. The agitation has been permitted to proceed, with almost no attempt to resist it, until it has reached a period when it can no longer be disguised or denied that the Union is in danger. You have thus had forced upon you the greatest and the gravest question that can ever come under your consideration. How can the Union be preserved? It is time, Senators, that there should be an open manly avowal on all sides, as to what is intended to be done. If the question is not now settled, it is uncertain whether it ever can hereafter be; and we, as the representatives of the States of this Union, regarded as governments, should come to a distinct understanding as to our respective views, in order to ascertain whether the great
questions at issue can be settled or not. If you, who represent the stronger portion, cannot agree to settle them on the broad principle of justice and duty, say so; and let the States we both represent agree to separate and part in peace. If you are unwilling that we should part in peace, tell us so, and we shall know what to do, when you reduce the question to submission or resistance. If you remain silent, you will compel us to infer by your acts what you intend. In that case, California will become the test question. If you admit her under all the difficulties that oppose her admission, you compel us to infer that you intend to exclude us from the whole of the acquired Territories, with the intention of destroying irretrievably the equilibrium between the two sections. We would be blind not to perceive, in that case, that your real objects are power and aggrandizement, and infatuated not to act accordingly."
Mr. Webster, of Massachusetts, was an earnest advocate of the compromise measure, and made a speech in support of it, which required three days for its delivery, and which produced a profound sensation throughout the country, and exercised a powerful influence in securing the passage of the bill.
During the pendency of the discussion of this bill, President Taylor died, and Vice-President Fillmore became President, which, if possible, added new alarm to the situation.
Calhoun died before the bill admitting California came to a vote. It passed the Senate by a vote of 34 ayes to 18 noes. Ten of the Senators who voted against it prepared an elaborate protest against the passage of the bill, and asked that it be spread of record upon the journal, the pith of which was in these words:
"But, lastly, we dissent from this bill, and solemnly protest against its passage, because, in sanctioning measures so contrary to former precedent, to obvious policy, to the spirit and intent of the Constitution of the United States, for the purpose of excluding the slave-holding States from the Territory thus to be erected into a State, this government in effect declares, that the exclusion of
slavery from the territory of the United States is an object so high and important as to justify a disregard not only of all the principles of sound policy, but also of the Constitution itself. Against this conclusion we must now and forever protest, as it is destructive of the safety and liberties of those whose rights have been committed to our care, fatal to the peace and equality of the States which we represent, and must lead, if persisted in, to the dissolution of that confederacy, in which the slave-holding States have never sought more than equality, and in which they I will not be content to remain with less."
The Senate declined to receive the protest, and the bill was sent to the House, where it was promptly passed, and receiving the signature of President Fillmore, California was admitted into the Union.
All this clamor about a dissolution of the Union grew out of the fact that the people of California had framed a constitution which excluded from her territory the barbarism of African slavery. This was the height and depth, the length and breadth of her offending.
The other features of Mr. Clay's resolutions of compromise continued to be the subject of debate in both branches of Congress, and, in the latter part of September, were formulated into bills which passed both houses, and receiving the approval of the President, became the law of the land. (See Benton's Thirty Years in the United States Senate.)
REPEAL OF THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE OF 1820.
This restored quiet to the country for a short time, and a short time only; for in December, 1852, when Mr. Hall, of Missouri, introduced into the House of Representatives a bill to organize the Territory of Platte out of the vast territory which was then defined as the Platte Country, the sectional fires were again rekindled. The bill was referred to the Committee on Territories, which, in February, 1853, reported a bill organizing the Territory of Nebraska. Notwithstanding the Missouri compromise had