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Senators from the slaveholding States: You are politicians as well as statesmen. Let me remind you, therefore, that political movements in this country, as in all others, have their times of action and reaction. The pendulum moved up the side of freedom in 1840, and swung back again in 1844 on the side of slavery, traversed the dial in 1848, and touched even the mark of the Wilmot Proviso, and returned again in 1852, reaching even the height of the Baltimore Platform. Judge for yourselves whether it is yet ascending, and whether it will attain the height of the abrogation of the Missouri Compromise. That is the mark you are fixing for it. For myself, I may claim to know something of the North. I see in the changes of the times only the vibrations of the needle, trembling on its pivot. I know that in due time it will settle; and when it shall have settled it will point, as it must point forever, to the same constant polar star, that sheds down influences propitious to freedom as broadly as it pours forth its mellow but invigorating light. Mr. President, I have nothing to do, here or elsewhere, with personal or party motives. But I come to consider the motive which is publicly assigned for this transaction. It is a desire to secure permanent peace and harmony on the subject of slavery, by removing all occasion for its future agitation in the Federal Legislature. Was there not peace already here? Was there not harmony as perfect as is ever possible in the country, when this measure was moved in the Senate a month ago 2 Were we not, and was not the whole nation, grappling with that one great, common, universal interest, the opening of a communication between our ocean frontiers, and were we not already reckoning upon the quick and busy subjugation of nature throughout the interior of the continent to the uses of man, and dwelling with almost rapturous enthusiasm on the prospective enlargement of our commerce in the East, and of our political sway throughout the world 2 And what have we now here but the oblivion of death covering the very memory of those great enterprises, and prospects, and hopes? Senators from the non-slaveholding States: You want peace. Think well, I beseech you, before you yield the price now demanded, even for peace and rest from slavery agitation. France has got peace from Republican agitation by a similar sacrifice. So has Poland; so has Hungary; and so, at last, has Ireland. Is the peace which either of those nations enjoys worth the price it cost? Is peace, obtained at such cost, ever a lasting peace? Senators from the slaveholding States: You, too, suppose that you are securing peace as well as victory in this transaction. I tell you now, as I told you in 1850, that it is an error, an unnecessary error, to suppose, that because you exclude slavery from these Halls to-day, that it will not revisit them to-morrow. You buried the Wilmot Proviso here then, and cele
brated its obsequies with pomp and revelry. And here it is again to-day, stalking through these Halls, clad in complete steel as before. Even if those whom you denounce as factionists in the North would let it rest, you yourselves must evoke it from its grave. The reason is obvious. Say what you will, do what you will, here, the interests of the non-slaveholding States and of the slaveholding States remain just the same; and they will remain just the same, until you shall cease to cherish and defend slavery, or we shall cease to honor and love freedom | You will not cease to cherish slavery. Do you see any signs that we are becoming indifferent to freedom 7 On the contrary, that old, traditional, hereditary sentiment of the North is more profound and more universal now than it ever was before. The" slavery agitation you deprecate so much is an eternal struggle between Conservatism and Progress, between Truth and Error, between Right and Wrong. You may sooner, by act of Congress, compel the sea to suppress its upheavings, and the round earth to extinguish its internal fires, than oblige the human mind to cease its inquirings, and the human heart to desist from its throbbings. Suppose then, for a moment, that this agitation must go on hereafter as heretofore. Then, hereafter as heretofore, there will be need, on both sides, of moderation; and to secure moderation, there will be need of mediation. Hitherto you have secured moderation by means of compromises, by tendering which, the great Mediator, now no more, divided the people of the North. But then those in the North who did not sympathize with you in your complaints of aggression from that quarter, as well as those who did, agreed that if compromises should be effected, they would be chivalrously kept on your part. I cheerfully admit that they have been so kept until now. But hereafter, when having taken advantage, which in the North will be called fraudulent, of the last of those compromises, to become, as you will be called, the aggressors, by breaking the other, as will be alleged, in violation of plighted faith and honor, while the slavery agitation is rising higher than ever before, and while your ancient
friends, and those whom you persist in regard
ing as your enemies, shall have been driven together by a common and universal sensé. of your injustice, what new mode of restoring peace and harmony will you then propose ? What Statesman will there be in the South, then, who can bear the flag of truce 3 What Statesman in the North who can mediate the
direction of those peaceful armies away from Nebraska. So long as you shall leave them room on hill or prairie, by river side or in the mountain fastnesses, they will dispose of themselves peacefully and lawfully in the places you shall have left open to them ; and there they will erect new States upon free soil, to be forever maintained and defended by free arms, and aggrandized by free labor. American slavery, I know, has a large and ever-flowing spring, but it cannot pour forth its blackened tide in volumes like that I have described. If you are wise, these tides of freemen and of slaves will never meet, for they will not voluntarily commingle; but if, nevertheless, through your own erroneous policy, their repulsive currents must be directed against each other, so that they needs must meet, then it is easy to see, in that case, which of them will overcome the resistance of the other, and which of them, thus overpowered, will roll back to drown the source which sent it forth. “Man proposes, and God disposes.” You may legislate and abrogate and abnegate as you will; but there is a Superior Power that overrules all your actions, and all your refusals to act; and, I fondly hope and trust, overrules
them to the advancement of the happiness,
greatness, and glory of our country—that overrules, I know, not only all your actions, and all your refusals to act, but all human events, to the distant, but inevitable result of the equal and universal liberty of all men.