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in this territory was regarded by the slaveholders as an especial bit of spitefulness, because Arkansas was considered as belonging to the peculiar domain of the south. This opinion influenced some northern representatives, and to it the easy victory of the south is to be ascribed. The arguments brought forward on both sides of the debate were the same as in that over Missouri, only the constitutional question was not raised. Taylor of New York laid stress upon the fact that the "sovereignty" of congress over the territories was "full and undisputed." M'Lane, indeed, did not unconditionally admit that congress could forbid slavery in the territories, but he could only allege in justification of his doubt that the territories. would become states in time. But when Taylor afterwards expressed his conviction that no member of the house doubted the power of congress to do this thing, then neither M'Lane' nor any other member of the house interposed any objection, and some leading slaveholders expressly admitted the right. The thing was considered, as Taylor plainly expressed it, only as "a question of policy." And yet the victory of the south was so easy. This must be closely looked at in connection with the stiff-necked strife over Missouri, if we are to rightly judge the position of the north at this time in regard to slavery. When the territorial question soon after this came up again in another and much more important form, not a blow was struck for the universally recognized right and for the unconditional supremacy of free labor.
The eighth section of the Missouri act of March 6, 1820,
In the Missouri debate he declared afterwards: "I admit it [the power to give laws to a territory] to be plenary, so long as it remains in a condition of territorial dependence, but no longer." Ibid, VI., p. 513.
provided "that in all that territory ceded by France to the United States, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of 36° 30′ north latitude, not included within the limits of the state contemplated by this act, slavery and involuntary servitude . . . shall be, and is hereby, forever prohibited." This was the second half of the socalled Missouri compromise and the responsibility for its adoption does not wholly rest upon a few weak or venal delegates from the north. Only five northern members voted against it. The north thus gave its approval by an overwhelming majority to the division of the territories between free labor and slavery. It was indeed only declared that slavery should not be allowed north of 36° 30′, but this was self-evidently equivalent to saying that south of this line no hindrance would be put in the way of the slaveholders. The first suggestion of such a compromise was made by M'Lane in February, 1819, and he then expressly declared that the territories should be "divided" between the free and slave states. It was never afterwards denied that this was a fair interpretation of the compromise. The action of the northern members can be justified from no point of view. Even in mitigation of their fault, it can only be alleged that, when they had decided to make a bargain, the one agreed upon seemed not disadvantageous, provided men did not look beyond the present time. The Louisiana territory-according to the boundaries set to it by the United States-was divided into two nearly equal parts by the line of 36° 30'. But while the Missouri question was still pending, an agreement was reached with Spain concerning the boundary line by which a great part of the southern half was lost to the United States.
How far the north soothed itself with the hope that the
1 Stat. at L., III., p. 548.
Deb. of Cong., VI., pp. 570, 571. Benj. Adams, Allen and Folger of Massachusetts, Buffum of New Hampshire, and Gross of New York.
utmost bounds of slavery had now been definitely and permanently fixed, cannot be decided. But it needed no wonderfully great political insight in order to know that the slaveholders would sooner or later bend every nerve in order to make this hope an illusion. If they did not yet. oppose the right of congress to forbid slavery in the territories, yet they showed themselves prepared to question it whenever circumstances demanded such action. Rhea of Tennessee had already used the word "unconstitutional." Smyth of Virginia went much straighter to the goal when he remarked, in relation to the constitutional provision for the territories: "This clause speaks of the territory as property, as a subject of sale. It speaks not of the jurisdiction." Yet the clearest utterance was that of the fact that the most violent opposition to the "Missouri line" came from slaveholders. No less than thirty-seven southerners voted with the five northern members against this part of the compromise.3
If men thought these signs worthy of no further atten
'Ibid, VI., p. 366. It is evident from later discussions that he must have used the expression in relation to the division of the territories by a fixed line.
* Ibid, VI., p. 487.
This fact was the foundation of the later assertion of the south that the compromise was a northern and not a southern measure. The assertion was not wholly ungrounded, if it was substantially false. Benton, the first senator from the new state, writes: "This compromise' was the work of the south, sustained by the united voice of Mr. Monroe's cabinet, the united voices of the southern senators and a majority of the Southern representatives. . . This array of names shows the Missouri compromise to have been a southern measure, and the event put the seal upon that character by showing it to be acceptable to the south.” Thirty Years View, I., p. 8. Crowninshield of Massachusetts said, in 1861, at the so-called peace convention: "Southern men forced the measure upon the north. The few northern men who voted for it were swept out of their political existence at the election which followed its passage.' (Chittenden's Report, p. 318.) If this is to be applied to those who voted for the "Missouri line", then the assertion has no historical foundation whatever.
tion, because the United States had at that time no further territorial possessions, they understood very badly the history of the Union and of slavery up to that time. Experience had already shown that the politics of the United States was not a pastoral idyl. As Louisiana and Florida had been acquired, a hand might be stretched out towards other territory. Circumstances offered any number of alluring opportunities. And if new acquisitions were ever made in southern latitudes, the slave states would doubtless claim that the Missouri line was self-evidently binding in respect to these, too. The north might thenceforth forever oppose the soundness of this logic and depend upon constitutional rights; the fact still remained that it had been indirectly stipulated in a solemn compact by the almost unanimous consent of the northern representatives that in a certain territory south of a certain line slavery should be allowed, whether or not congress forbade it. That the south knew how to use such facts had already been sufficiently shown. As surely as a slave-territory became a slave-state, so surely no veto of congress could hereafter prevent the existence of slavery "in this Union" in a state or territory lying south of 36° 30′.
The south had allowed itself to pursue a purely idealistic policy, where European relations were concerned, but where the interest of the slaveholders was touched upon, it had followed from the beginning a policy that was not only realistic in the highest degree, but wise. It took good care to demand everything forthwith. What it needed at the moment satisfied it for the moment. It propped the planks securely and then shoved them just so much farther that it could safely take the next step when it became necessary. It had done this at present and was therefore contented for the present. Up to this time the free states had always been one more in number than the slave states. Now the latter got Alabama and Missouri into the Union, and the former only Maine. The balance of power in the
A GEOGRAPHICAL PRINCIPLE.
senate was therefore fully established. Their territorial possessions were, in the meantime, ample; Florida, just acquired from Spain,' Arkansas and the rest of the southern part of the Louisiana territory balanced for a while the northwest, which, as Charles Pinckney wrote, had been inhabited until now only by wild beasts and Indians. Why express alarm now over things which could become realities only after the lapse of many years? But it did not follow from this that alarm should never be expressed over them. Reid of Georgia had already asked why a partition line should not be drawn between the two sections" to the Pacific Ocean."2
Until the time came when the Missouri compromise could no longer be considered as the "final issue" of the question whether the territories and the new states should belong to slavery or free labor, it was permanently fixed. What M'Lane praised as the simplest and therewith the happiest means of permanently adjusting the controversy, Jefferson rightly recognized as the most destructive part of the whole unfortunate compromise. April 3, 1820, he wrote to W. Short: "The coincidence of a marked principle, moral and political, with geographical lines, once conceived, I feared would never more be obliterated from the mind; that it would be recurring on every occasion and renewing irritations, until it would kindle such mutual and mortal hatred as to render separation preferable to eternal discord. I have been among the most sanguine in believing that our Union would be of long duration. I now doubt it much." This was a truly statesmanlike idea. If it could have given the text for the half of the speeches which were delivered in favor of the prohibition
1 Feb. 22, 1819. Stat. at L., VIII., p. 252, seq. The ratification of the treaty by the United States was not given until Feb. 19, 1821.
Deb. of Cong., VI., p. 502.
'Jeff., Works, VII., p. 158. Compare also the letter to Holmes of April 22, 1820, VII., p. 159.