« PreviousContinue »
COMPROMISE OF EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY.
1. The admission of California as a free State under her Constitution.
2. The establishment of Territorial governments for New Mexico and Utah, without the Wilmot proviso excluding slavery, and providing for their admission as States into the Union with or without slavery as the people should decide.
3. The recognition of the claim of Texas to near 90,000 square miles of free soil situated above the line of 36° 30''; and the payment to Texas of ten millions for her relinquishment of New Mexico.
4. The abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia.
5. A new and stringent fugitive slave law, drawn by Mason of Virginia, avowedly to humiliate the free States, and by which all the defences of personal liberty on behalf of the accused were effectually destroyed.
These measures were finally forced through Congress, and the leading politicians of both the great parties declared this should be a finality, and they drew up a paper and signed it, pledging each other to oppose any man who would not regard them as such. The great Senatorial leaders thought now, that the agitation of the slavery question was forever silenced, forgetting that the voice of justice and liberty cannot be silenced.
REPEAL OF THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE AND THE STRUGGLE FOR
THE THIRTY-THIRD CONGRESS-DOUGLAS INTRODUCES THE KANSAS
NEBRASKA Bill— DEBATE UPON IT IN THE SENATE — DOUGLAS -CHASE — SEWARD-SUMNER-TOOMBS- MASON-HUNTERSLIDELL— Houston — PASSAGE OF THE BILL-STRUGGLE OVER ITS PASSAGE IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES — BENTON RICHARDSON-CAMPBELL-WASIIBURNE-STEPHENS OF GEORGIA
- PASSAGE OF THE BILL THROUGH THE HOUSE STRUGGLE BETWEEN FREE AND SLAVE STATE MEN FOR KANSAS- GENERAL ATCHISON - John BROWN-LANE AND ROBINSON.
were to be organized, slavery had been, by the Missouri Compromise, solemnly prohibited forever; thus far, in all the violence of the conflict between free and slave labor, no hand had been “ruthless” enough to attack what was regarded as a sacred compact.
But the contest became more and more bitter. The Thirtythird Congress convened December, 1853, and its action so powerfully affected the anti-slavery agitation, by the struggle over the repeal of the Missouri restriction, that it becomes a point of departure in the anti-slavery history of the country. The action of this Congress secured the early triumph of the anti-slavery, or republican party. When Senator Douglas, as chairman of the Committee on Territories, in the bill organizing territories, introduced a section, repealing the prohibition of slavery, it startled the people of the free States,
NOTE.-I am indebted to the personal recollections of my late colleague, Hon. E. B. Washburne, for much of the material and language of the sketch of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise.
like a clap of thunder in a clear sky. Designed to extend and strengthen slavery, it was a powerful blow towards its destruction. The struggle in Congress, over this question, was so important, that it is given with such fullness of detail as will illustrate the fierceness of the conflict and the irresistible power of slavery at that time.
The Presidential election, in 1852, resulting in the election of Franklin Pierce, practically put an end to the old whig party. The celebrated compromise measures of 1850, already spoken of, were fully endorsed by that election, in his elevation to the Presidency. General Scott, who ran as the whig candidate, only received the votes of four States. It was then said, boastingly and sneeringly, that the slavery question was forever settled, and that the abolitionists and agitators were crushed. The institution, to the shame of the people, received at that election, a very full and complete recognition. The chivalry of the South, living by the sweat of unpaid toil, pampered by pride and lust, brought to their support all that was low, venal and cowardly, as well as much of a higher, but timid character.
At the opening of the Thirty-third Congress, December 5, 1853, there were in the Senate fifty-eight members; some thirty-eight democrats, seventeen whigs, only three free soilers, (Sumner, Chase and Hale,) and some four vacancies. Among the prominent whig senators, were Foote, of Vermont, Everett, of Massachusetts, Seward and Fish, of New York, Wade, of Ohio, Toombs, of Georgia, John Bell and Governor Jones, of Tennessee, Badger, of North Carolina, Judah P. Benjamin, of Louisiana, John M. Clayton, of Delaware. Among the democrats, there were Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine, Mason and Hunter, of Virginia, Clay, of Alabama, Slidell, of Louisiana, Bright and Pettit, of Indiana, Douglas and Shields, of Illinois, Cass, of Michigan, Mallory, of Florida, Rusk and Houston, of Texas, Butler, of South Carolina, and Gwin, of California. In the Ilouse, out of two hundred and thirty-three members, one hundred and fifty-nine were democrats, and seventy-four whigs. From New England, there were but few members of any very great distinction. Washburne, of Maine, was serving his second term as a whig, and Banks came in, for the first time, as a democrat from Massachusetts. From New York, there was Cutting, a man of ability, a democrat; Ilaven, a whig, of the “Fillmore” school, and Fenton, a democrat, now the Union Governor of New York. Illinois sent Douglas and Shields to the Senate. Among the members of the House were William H. Bissell, Richard Yates, and Elihu B.Washburne; the two first have since been Governors. From Missouri, the great Benton, after thirty years of service in the Senate, came into the House to give the country the benefit of his long experience and profound statesmanship.
On the 4th of January, 1854, Mr. Douglas introduced into the Senate, what was afterwards known as the KansasNebraska-bill, accompanied by a special report. On the 16th day of January, Mr. Dixon, a Senator from Kentucky, gave notice that he would offer an amendment to Mr. Douglas' bill, repealing, in distinct terms, the Missouri Compromise. On the next day, Mr. Sumner gave notice of an amendment he would offer to the bill of Mr. Douglas, declaring that nothing in the proposed act should affect the Missouri Compromise. On the 23d of January, Mr. Douglas reported a substitute for the original bill, making, instead of Nebraska Territory, the two Territories of Nebraska and Kansas. And, he added to this substitute, an amendment to that part of it declaring that the Constitution and laws of the United States, which were not locally inapplicable, should be in full force, with the following exception, which exception involved more stupendous consequences than were ever contained in any law of as many lines :
“Except the eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March 6, 1820, which was superceded by the principles of the legislation of 1850, commonly called the Compromise Measures, and is declared inoperative.”
This proposition startled the Senate and the people. It broke down the barriers which, by a sacred compact, had
been erected against the extension of slavery, and the waves of popular indignation were lashed into fury; and the excitement continued until it pervaded all the land.
The consideration of the bill was postponed by the Senate from the 24th to the 30th of January, and made a special order. During that time, an address was issued to the people, warning them of the proposed legislation, and criticising with great force and severity the provisions of Mr. Douglas' bill. This address was signed by Senators Chase and Sumner, by Giddings and Wade, Representatives from Ohio, by Gerrit Smith, a Representative from New York, and Alex. De Witt, a Representative from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The bill, coming up in the Senate, according to order, the discussion was opened by a speech from Mr. Douglas. At this time, this Illinois Senator was the idol of his party and in the zenith of his popularity, as well as in the prime of his physical and intellectual power. He was a man of an iron constitution and a strong and acute intellect. Possessed of a wonderful memory, without being a scholar, his mind was well stored with practical and accurate information. Ile never forgot anything he had ever read, or seen, or heard ; and he had that happy faculty of a politician, of always remembering names and faces. His resources were always at his command, and he needed little preparation. Of a kind aud genial disposition, with a frank, open, and cordial manner, endowed with remarkable conversational powers, bold, dashing, and somewhat reckless, he had all the qualities which go to make up a great popular leader, in a degree equal to any man of American history. As a speaker and debater, either in the Senate or on the stump, he had few equals. He spoke, always, with great fluency and power. He seized the strong points of his case, and enforced them with great vigor. Quick and ready to seize the weak points of his antagonist, he would drive them home with strong and well-applied blows, never being disposed to yield an advantage which he had once obtained. He brought to the accomplishment of his object, in the passage of his bill, his