« PreviousContinue »
the slave-holders to secure the surrender of Utah and New Mexico to the chances of slavery. It was understood that General Taylor was opposed to the compromise measures of 1850. The most offensive of those measures was the Fugitive Slave bill.
When these measures of compromise and conciliation had passed into statutes, and thus were made binding upon the country, their advocates and supporters North and South announced a peace—absolute and continuing peace-upon the subject of slavery. On that declaration the Democratic party achieved an easy victory in 1852.
One generation of men had been witnesses of and participants in the series of contests upon the subject of slavery, commencing in 1820 and ending in 1850.
In every instance the demand of the South had been accompanied by a threat that in case of failure the Union should be dissolved. By this threat, and by the assertion of its power to elect a President of either party, it subjected the political organizations of the country to its will, and reduced an entire generation of statesmen to a condition of moral and political servitude. In the presence of an attempt to nullify the laws of the Union, and, under the lead of General Jackson, a successful resistance was made in 1832 to the demand of the slaveholders. Their policy, however, was not changed. Indeed, the leaders in the treasonable scheme of nullification, including Mr. Calhoun, were soon restored to public confidence and advanced to new places of trust and power. In fine, as nullification was a means by which the slave-holders attempted to assert their power in the government of the country, and as the leaders in nullification were the leaders of the Democratic party of the South, and as the Democratic party of the country was dependent upon the Southern Democracy, the National Democratic party had no alternative but to recognize the leaders in nullification as leaders also in political affairs. Hence the defeat of nullification as a movement did not work the defeat and exile from politics of the leaders and apostles of that heresy. As long as slavery was a force in politics, and as long as the Democratic party was subject to that force, the leaders of the South were sure of place and power in the government of the country.
When the thirty-second Congress was about to end, a bill was introduced for the organization of the Territory of Nebraska. This bill was reported by Senator Richardson, a Democrat from Illinois, and it was supported by Senator Douglas from the same State. That bill recognized the exclusion of slavery, and, therefore,
it was defeated under the lead of Senators from the South. Soon after the organization of the Thirty-third Congress in December, 1853, bills were introduced for the organization of the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska. Senator Dixon, a Whig from Kentucky, gave notice of an amendment abrogating the Missouri Compromise.
That suggestion was adopted by Senator Douglas of Illinois, and he thus became the responsible author of the scheme to repeal the compromise of 1820.
It was claimed that the concessions made in the bills for the organization of Utah and New Mexico were an abandonment of the principles of the compromise of 1820, inasmuch as the inhabitants of those Territories were endowed with power to establish or prohibit slavery. The claim had some foundation in the fact that all of Utah and part of New Mexico were north of the parallel 36° 30', but there was a careful concealment of the claim when the compromise measures of 1850 were before Congress and the country. It is a violent presumption that Mr. Webster and others whose opinions were in harmony with northern opinion, anticipated the claim thus based on the compromise measures of 1850, but it is no compliment to their intelligence to assume that they did not comprehend the nature and scope of the concession then made.
At the opening of the Thirty-third Congress President Pierce congratulated the country upon the settlement of the slavery controversy, and he volunteered the pledge that the repose then enjoyed should suffer no check if he had the power to avert it. The sincerity of his pledge cannot be questioned, but in proportion to its sincerity is the evidence of the power of slavery in compelling him to violate it, and to involve his administration and the country in the horrors of civil war on the plains of Kansas.
Mr. Douglas was the champion of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Many artful phrases were coined in the vain hope that the true intent and meaning of the act might be concealed from the public. The great facts could not be concealed. By the compromise of 1820 a vast region of country had been dedicated to freedom. By the repealing act of 1854 that country had been opened to slavery.
In the then excited condition of the public mind, the Territories were made the theatres of civil war.
The supporters of slavery and the devotees of freedom were invited to a contest of arms for the adjustment of a question which might and should have been settled by Congress. But if it had been so settled,
the conflict would have been continued between the two forms of civilization, born, one of freedom, and the other of slavery. Without the spirit of prophecy, the declaration may be made safely that the civilization born of freedom would have triumphed in the end.
The repeal of the Missouri Compromise precipitated and made inevitable the contest of arms between the two forms of civilization, and in that contest the civilization of freedom was victorious.
It is no answer to say that the population of the North exceeded the population of the South. That excess was due to its superior civilization as certainly as was its supremacy in commerce, in manufactures, and in the inventive arts.
The words of repeal are these: "That the Constitution and all laws of the United States which are not locally inapplicable, shall have the same force and effect within the Territory of Kansas as elsewhere within the United States, except the eighth section of the Act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March sixth, eighteen hundred and twenty, which, being inconsistent with the principles of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the States and Territories, as recognized by the legislation of eighteen hundred and fifty, 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."
It is no exaggeration to say that never elsewhere has a sentence of the English language been so freighted with consequences as was this. It invited the representatives of thirty million people to bloody strife on the borders of Missouri and the plains of Kansas; it annihilated the Whig party; it divided the Democratic party of the North; it organized, consolidated, and made invincible the Republican party of the Union, and finally it involved the country in a civil war, in which not less than two million American citizens took part, and not less than four hundred thousand gave their lives. All this was the fruit of the alliance between the slave-holders of the South and the Democratic party of the North.
THE ORGANIZATION OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, THE CONTEST IN KANSAS, AND THE ELECTION OF 1856.
THE formation of a new political party, or the regeneration of an old one, is due always to events, and not to the schemes and purposes of men, except as events sometimes originate in such purposes and schemes.
It is a weak exhibition of genius and an utter waste of power, to attempt the creation of a new party by the force of mere will. On the other hand, when events demand a new party, or the re-organization of an old one, all resistance is borne down speedily.
The Republican party was the child of events. The pro-slavery provisions of the Constitution, the foreign slave-trade, the acquisition of Louisiana, the Missouri Compromise, the nullification scheme of South Carolina, the colonization and annexation of Texas, the Mexican War, the contest over the admission of California, the compromise measures of 1850, and finally the repeal of the Missouri compromise in 1854, were the events which rendered the formation of an anti-slavery party inevitable.
Its name was an incident only, and an unimportant incident; its principles and its purposes were the vital facts. No one can say why its organization was so long delayed; no one can say why its organization was not yet farther postponed.
During the colonial period and the years of confederation, the antagonism between slavery and freedom, or rather between the institutions of slavery and the institutions of freedom, had not taken form; but the inherent antagonism was organized in and developed under the Constitution, and for seventy years a struggle for the mastery went on. In every contest slavery had triumphed, and in every contest its victory was ue to an alliance with one or both of the old political parties,-more frequently with the Democratic party.
This experience had destroyed confidence in the aged, this history
had engendered suspicions in the young. Consequently, upon the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, the Democratic party of the North was divided, and the Whig party, as a national organization, ceased to exist.
As these bodies of Democrats and Whigs had rebelled against the political parties with which they had been identified, and for the same cause, they were driven necessarily into an alliance for self-defense as well as for the purpose of forming a barrier to the progress of slavery.
Neither men nor parties are the masters of events, and it is quite certain that the majority of the Republican party did not, at the time of its organization, anticipate its career and power in changing the institutions and controlling the fortunes of the country. There was, in the nature of the case, entire agreement upon the question of slavery extension, and a general concurrence in the opinion that persons arrested as fugitives from service should be surrendered only upon a verdict of a jury; but there was a divided sentiment as to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and a very general opposition to any interference with the institution in the States where it then existed.
It is to be admitted that the history of the Republican party is a singular commentary upon its first declaration of principles at Philadelphia, in 1856. There is in that declaration no reference to slavery in the States, to slavery in the District of Columbia, or to the rendition of fugitives from service. It demands the admission of Kansas as a Free State, and it denounces the proceedings in that / territory, and especially the military and judicial usurpations, by! which the people had been deprived of life, liberty, and property, without due process of law. Slavery and polygamy in the territories were condemned, and the projects for a railway to the Pacific Ocean, and the improvement of the rivers and harbors, were commended as within the scope of national authority. The platform was silent upon the questions of protection and free trade.
These declarations seem ridiculously weak and unaggressive, when measured and judged by the great movements and policies which the Republican party has originated, defended, and carried forward to final success. It met the enemy, however, at the point of attack. The South asserted its right to establish slavery in all the Union,in the territory of Washington as well as in Kansas.
The Philadelphia platform declared that it was the legal right and the political and moral duty of the national government to prohibit