« PreviousContinue »
after circumstances fully sustained. The occasion was too important, the opportunity too favorable for the selfishness of the greedy and hungry leaders of the old Whig party, now thoroughly demoralized in every sense, not to make themselves acceptable to the Democracy. In a body as one man, or like automatons moved by machinery, they all fell into line, and went to work with all their might and main, in season and out of season, to aid in this mischievous, wicked, nefarious work.
JOHN BELL, OF TENNESSEE.
There was one man who has the credit of having resisted it, but it is not so; and that was John Bell, of Tennessee. The running debate between himself and Mr. Toombs in the Senate will show that he attended their secret caucuses, and gave them all the aid and comfort he could impart. He had the will, but not the courage to face the storm that was rising up not only in the North, but in his own State of Tennessee, through the combined efforts of those of his colleagues in the House, Etheridge, Cullom, and Bung.
"He was prepared to vote with his friends on the repeal of the Missouri Compromise on the ground of its unconstitutionality, but was not exactly prepared to vote for that bill because it violated our treaty obligations with the Indians;" this was repeated several times in my hearing during his speech on the bill, though possibly not to be found in his published speech, which did not appear for some five or six weeks after its delivery, when the Northern storm had nearly reached its height, and it was found to be a dangerous experiment for any aspiring politician to face it; and for this, as well as for his unsuccessful efforts to dodge the final vote, this gentleman was afterward honored with. a nomination for the Presidency upon the platform of “The
Union, the Constitution, and the Enforcement-of the Laws." The nomination he accepted, the platform he adopted, and stood firmly upon it while there was a hope that it would lead him into office; but the moment it failed to do that, he kicked the platform from under his feet, and was among the first to join in breaking down the Union, trampling upon the Constitution, and resisting, by a resort to civil war, the enforcement of the laws; and for this man I was fool enough to vote (for which God forgive me), and I labored for his success day and night, because I thought if he was unselfish in nothing else, and was politically to be relied on for nothing else, he was to be trusted for his devotion to the Union; and I owe an apology now, which is here tendered to all those whom I may have misled on this subject as I was misled myself.
But I was misled by Mr. Bell himself, who, in a speech. delivered in Memphis in August, 1859, had said, "I am willing to co-operate with the Black Republicans of the North for the sake of preserving this government and perpetuating the American Union. I am willing to co-operate with the corrupt and profligate leaders of the Democracy to accomplish the same desirable object." It was such language as this that secured him the confidence of the friends of the Union. It was such sentiments as these that secured him the nomination and support of the Union party of the United States; and yet, in less than one year from the time he made that speech, he was found actively co-operating with these same corrupt and profligate leaders of Democracy to destroy the Union.
HISTORY OF THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE.
As several generations have passed away, and others sprung up to supply their places, and millions of the foreign
population have sought a home upon our shores since the adoption of the Missouri Compromise in 1820, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the number of our people who understand the nature of this memorable compact between the North and the South is quite limited, and in this view it is deemed important that the history of this Compromise, and its repeal as the proximate cause of the war, should be given in this letter; and I know of no more convenient form in which it can be given than by copying here what I said in what is known as my African Church speech, delivered in 1856. The present is a propitious time for its close study. Speaking of the Democrats, I said,
"They have made the issue for themselves, and I stand here to-night ready to address an argument to you, the people of Richmond, and through you to the people of the state, including persons of all parties whose minds are open to conviction, and who are unprejudiced and impartial-to those who are anxious, at least willing to ascertain the truc condition of things in this country, and to be governed by their convictions.
"All arguments are thrown away upon those benighted, ignorant, and besotted partisans who prefer party to country; but if there are any here of the Democratic party, or of any other party, whose minds are open to conviction, and who prefer their country to their party, I think I may say, that before I have concluded, if they will give me their patient attention, I will show them that, instead of coming forward with a boldness and audacity, defying all shame, singing that sweet siren song which we have heard periodically for the last twenty years of 'help us to save the Union,' this Democratic party would bow their heads in shame, and ask forgiveness for the past, and more especially would they ask forgiveness of the South, and, like honest men and
patriots, if there was patriotism among them, they would acknowledge their incapacity to administer the government with credit to themselves or advantage to the country, and ask to be relieved of the responsibilities resting upon them. 'They have said that the great issue in this contest was, and should be, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. I permit the party to make their own issue, and I meet them. Let us see how that issue stands. I am gratified that the opportunity is at length afforded me of addressing an argument on this subject to all true friends of the South, for the public press has been closed to all arguments except upon one side, and that the wrong side; and it would be strange indeed if the people were not misled under such cir
"Now let me ask you, first, what was this Missouri Compromise? What were the circumstances under which it was adopted? What were its fruits? By whom were they enjoyed? And what has been the effect of its repeal?
"I set out with the declaration, as being the most conscientious conviction of my best judgment, feeble and imperfect as I acknowledge and know it to be, but I set out with the declaration that, according to the best convictions of my judgment, that Missouri Compromise, at the time and under the circumstances it was adopted, was for the peace of the country, for the interests of the South, and for the perpetuity of the Union-beyond all question, the best and wisest measure that ever obtained the sanction of an American Congress; and that, consequently, its repeal, with the consequences and circumstances that have grown out of it, was the most wanton, the most mischievous, the most suicidal, and the most unpardonable act that ever was committed by the representatives of the people.
"In tracing the history of this Missouri Compromise, it
will be necessary that I shall go back to the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and even a little beyond that. At the time of the formation of the Constitution, and of the United States government under it, there was a large territory lying northwest of the Ohio River, known as the Northwestern Territory. This was provided for by those who participated in the Revolution, and in the formation of the Constitution, by the application of what has since been known as the Wilmot Proviso-that is to say, that slavery in all the territory then belonging to the United States should be prohibited. That law has been recognized, and has been in practical operation, with no attempt to interfere with it, from that time to this—that is, from 1787 down to 1856. In the year 1803, by a treaty that was negotiated during the administration of Mr. Jefferson, we acquired from the government of France what was known as the Louisiana Territory. This territory constituting no part of the Northwestern Territory, which had been provided for by the Ordinance of 1787, gave rise to extreme difficulties between the North and the South in reference to this question of slavery. Out of a portion of that territory acquired from Louisiana the State of Missouri was formed, and she asked for admission into the Union. The Northern States having at that time acquired a superiority in numbers, had it in their power to refuse the admission of Missouri, except upon the condition that slavery should be excluded, or, in other words, that the Ordinance of 1787 should be applied. also to that territory. It was necessary to settle the question in some form. It was obliged to be settled, either by the minority or by the majority, in Congress, and we of the South unfortunately constituted the minority. At length this far-famed Missouri Compromise was introduced, not by the North, but by the South, pretty much under the same