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sion into the Union, and her application brought the question of extending the policy of the Ordinance of 1787 to that State, and to other new States in the region acquired from France, to a direct issue. The House of Representatives insisted on a prohibition against the further introduction of slavery in the State, as a condition of her admission. The Senate disagreed with the House in that demand. The non-slaveholding States sustained the House, and the slaveholding States sustained the Senate. The difference was radical, and tended towards revolution.
One party maintaine' that the condition demanded was constitutional, the other that it was unconstitutional. The public mind became intensely excited, and painful apprehensions of disunion and civil war began to prevail in the country. *
In this crisis, a majority of both Houses agreed upon a plan for the adjustment of the controversy. By this plan, Maine, a nonslaveholding State, was to be admitted; Missouri was to be admitted without submitting to the condition before mentioned ; and in all that part of the Territory acquired from France, which was north of the line of 36 deg. 30 min. of north latitude, slavery was to be forever prohibited. Louisiana, which was a part of that Territory, had been admitted as a slave State eight years before; and now, not only was Missouri to be admitted as a slave State, but Arkansas, which was south of that line, by strong implication, was also to be admitted as a slaveholding State. I need not indicate what were the equivalents which the respective parties were to receive in this arrangement, further than to say that the slaveholding States practically were to receive slaveholding States, the free States to receive a desert, a solitude, in which they might, if they could, plant the germs of future free States. This measure was adopted. It was a great national transaction— he first of a class of transactions which have ince come to be thoroughly defined and well inderstood, under the name of compromises. My own opinions concerning them are well snown, and are not in question here. According o the general understanding, they are marked y peculiar circumstances and features, viz: First, there is a division of opinion upon ome vital national question between the two Houses of Congress, which division is irreconilable, except by mutual concessions of intersts and opinions, which the Houses deem contitutional and just. Secondly, they are rendered necessary by mpending calamities, to result from the failure f legislation, and to be no otherwise averted lan by such mutual concessions, or sacriCeS. Thirdly, such concessions are mutual and
to the Union.
equal, or are accepted as such, and so become conditions of the mutual arrangement. Fourthly, by this mutual exchange of conditions, the transaction takes on the nature and character of a contract, compact, or treaty, between the parties represented; and so, according to well-settled principles of moralit and public law, the statute which embodies it is understood, by those who uphold this system of legislation, to be irrevocable and irrepealable, except by the mutual consent of both, or of all the parties concerned. Not, indeed, that it is absolutely irrepealable, but that it cannot be repealed without a violation of honor, justice, and good faith, which it is presumed will not be committed. Such was the Compromise of 1820. Missouri came into the Union immediately as a slaveholding State, and Arkansas came in as a slaveholding State, sixteen years afterward. Nebraska, the part of the Territory reserved exclusively for free Territories and free States, has remained a wilderness ever since. And now it is proposed here to abrogate, not, indeed, the whole Compromise, but only that part of it which saved Nebraska as free terri tory, to be afterwards divided into non-slave holding States, which should be admitted in And this is proposed, notwithstanding an universal acquiescence in the Compromise, by both parties, for thirty years, and its confirmation, over and over again, by many acts of successive Congresses, and notwithstanding that the slaveholding States have peaceably enjoyed, ever since it was made, all their equivalents, while, owing to circumstances which will hereafter appear, the non-slaveholding States have not practically enjoyed those guarantied to them. This is the question now before the Senate of the United States of America. It is a question of transcendent importance. The proviso of 1820, to be abrogated in Nebraska, is the Ordinance of the Continental Congress of 1787, extended over a new part of the national domain, acquired under our present Constitution. It is rendered venerable by its antiquity, and sacred by the memory of that Congress, which, in surrendering its trust, after establishing the Ordinance, enjoined it upon posterity, always to remember that the cause of the United States was the cause of Human Nature. The question involves an issue of public faith, and national morality and honor. It will be a sad day for this Republic, when such a question shall be deemed unworthy of grave discussion and shall fail to excite intense interest. Even if it were certain that the inhibition of slavery in the region concerned was unnecessary, and if the question was thus reduced to a mere abstraction, yet even that abstraction would involve the testimony of the United States on the expediency, wisdom, morality, and justice, of the system of human bondage, with which this and other portions of the world have been
so long afflicted; and it will be a melancholy day for the Republic and for mankind, when her decision on even such an abstraction shall command no respect, and inspire no hope into the hearts of the oppressed. But it is no such abstraction. It was no unnecessary dispute, no mere contest of blind passion, that brought that Compromise into being. Slavery and Freedom were active antagonists, then seeking for ascendency in this Union. Both Slavery and Freedom are more vigorous, active, and self-aggrandizing now, than they were then, or ever were before or since that period. The contest between them has been only protracted, not decided. It is a great feature in our national Hereafter. So the question of adhering to or abrogating this Compromise is no unmeaning issue, and no contest of mere blind passion now. . To adhere, is to secure the occupation by freemen, with free labor, of a region in the very centre of the continent, capable of sustaining, and in that event destined, though it may be only after a far-distant period, to sustain ten, twenty, thirty, forty millions of people and their successive generations forever! To abrogate, is to resign all that vast region to chances which mortal vision cannot fully foresee; perhaps to the sovereignty of such stinted and short-lived communities as those of which Mexico and South America and the West India Islands present us with examples; perhaps to convert that region into the scene of long and desolating conflicts between not merely races, but castes, to end, like a similar conflict in Egypt, in a convulsive exodus of the oppressed people, despoiling their superiors; perhaps, like one not dissimilar in Spain, in the forcible expulsion of the inferior race, exhausting the State by the sudden and complete suppression of a great resource of national wealth and labor; perhaps in the disastrous expulsion, even of the superior race itself, by a people too suddenly raised from slavery to liberty, as in St. Domingo. To adhere, is to secure forever the presence here, after some lapse of time, of two, four, ten, twenty, or more Senators, and of Representatives in larger proportions, to uphold the policy and interests of the non-slaveholding States, and balance that ever-increasing representation of slaveholding States, which past experience, and the decay of the Spanish American States, admonish us has only just begun; to save what the nonslaveholding States have in mints, navy yards, the military academy and fortifications, to balance against the capital and federal institutions in the slaveholding States; to save against any danger from adverse or hostile policy, the culture, the manufactures, and the commerce, as well as the just influence and weight of the national principles and sentiments of the slaveholding States. To adhere, is to save, to the non-slaveholding States, as well as to the slaveholding States, always, and in every event, a
right of way and free communication across the continent, to and with the States on the Pacific coasts, and with the rising States on the islands in the South Sea, and with all the eastern nations on the vast continent of Asia. To abrogate, on the contrary, is to commit all these precious interests to the chances and hazards of embarrassment and injury by legislation, under the influence of social, political, and commercial jealousy and rivalry; and in the event of the secession of the slaveholding States, which is so often threatened in their name, but I thank God without their authority, to give to a servile population a La Vendee at the very sources of the Mississippi, and in the very recesses of the Rocky Mountains. Nor is this last a contingency against which a statesman, when engaged in giving a Constitution for such a Territory, so situated, must veil his eyes. It is a statesman’s province and duty to look before as well as after. I know, indeed, the present loyalty of the American People, North and South, and East and West. I know that it is a sentiment stronger than any sectional interest or ambition, and stronger than even the love of equality in the non-slaveholding States; and stronger, I doubt not, than the love of slavery in the slaveholding States. But I do not know, and no mortal sagacity does know, the seductions of interest and ambition, and the influences of passion, which are yet to be matured in every region. I know this, however: that this Union is safe now, and that it will be safe so long as impartial political equality shall constitute the basis of society, as it has heretofore done, in even half of these States, and they shall thus maintain a just equilibrium against the slaveholding States. But I am well assured, also, on the other hand, that if ever the slaveholding States shall multiply themselves, and extend their sphere, so that they could, without association with the nonslaveholding States, constitute of themselves a commercial republic, from that day their rule, through the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative powers of this Government, will be such as will be hard for the non-slaveholding States to bear; and their pride and ambition, since they are congregations of men, and are moved by human passions, will consent to no Unior in which they shall not so rule. The slaveholding States already possess th mouths of the Mississippi, and their territory reaches far northward along its banks, on on side to the Ohio, and on the other even to thi confluence of the Missouri. They stretch thei dominion now from the banks of the Delaware quite around bay, headland, and promontory to the Rio Grande. They will not stop, as though they now think they may, on the sum mit of the Sierra Nevada; nay, their arme pioneers are already in Sonora, and their eye are already fixed, never to be taken off, on th island of Cuba, the Queen of the Antilles. }
we of the non-slaveholding States surrender t
them now the eastern slope of the Rocky
fully reclaimed, and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service, as aforesaid.’
“Under this section, as in the case of the Mexican law in New Mexico and Utah, it is a disputed point whether slavery is prohibited in the Nebraska country by valid enactment. The decision of this question involves the constitutional power of Congress to pass laws prescribing and regulating the domestic institutions of the various Territories of the Union. In the opinion of those eminent statesmen who hold that Congress is invested with no rightful authority to legislate upon the subject of slavery in the Territories, the 8th section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri is null and void; while the prevailing sentment in large portions of the Union sustains the doctrine that the Constitution of the United States secures to every citizen an inalienable right to move into any of the Territories with his property, of whatever kind and description, and to hold and enjoy the same under the sanction of law. Your Committee do not feel themselves called upon to enter into the discussion of these controverted questions. They involve the same grave issues which produced the agitation, the sectional strife, and the fearful struggle of 1850. As Congress deemed it wise and prudent to refrain from deciding the matters in controversy then, either by affirming or repealing the Mexican laws, or by an act declaratory of the true intent of the Constitution, and the extent of the protection afforded by it to slave property in the Territories, so your Committee are not prepared now to recommend a departure from the course pursued on that memorable occasion, either by affirming or repealing the 8th section of the Missouri act, or by any act declaratory of the meaning of the Constitution in respect to the legal points in dispute.”
This report gives us the deliberate judgment of the Committee on two important points. First, that the Compromise of 1850 did not, by its letter or by its spirit, repeal, or render necessary, or even propose, the abrogation of the Missouri Compromise; and, secondly, that the Missouri Compromise ought not now to be abrogated. And now, sir, what do we next hear from this Committee ? First, two similar and kindred bills, actually abrogating the Missouri Compromise, which, in their report, they had told us ought not to be abrogated at all. Secondly, these bills declare on their face, in substance, that that Compromise was already abrogated by the spirit of that very Compromise of 1850, which, in their report they had just shown us, left the Compromise of 1820 absolutely unaffected and unimpaired. Thirdly, the Committee favor us, by their chairman, with an oral explanation, that the amended bills abrogating the Missouri Compromise are identical with their previous bill, which did not abrogate it, and are only made to differ in phraseology, to the end that the provisions contained in their previous, and now discarded, bill, shall be absolutely clear and certain.
I entertain great respect for the Committee itself, but I must take leave to say that the inconsistencies and self-contradictions contained in the papers it has given us, have destroyed all claims, on the part of those documents, to respect, here or elsewhere.
The recital of the effect of the Compromise of 1850 upon the Compromise of 1820, as finally revised, corrected, and amended, here in the
ace of the Senate, means after all substantially what that recital meant as it stood before it was perfected, or else it means nothing tangible or worthy of consideration at all. , What if the spirit, or even the letter, of the Compromise laws of 1850 did conflict with the Compromise of 1820? The Compromise of 1820 was, by its very nature, a Compromise irrepealable and unchangeable, without a violation of honor, justice, and good faith. The Compromise of 1850, if it impaired the previous Compromise to the extent of the loss to free labor of one acre of the Territory of Nebraska, was either absolutely void, or ought, in all subseqent legislation, to be deemed and held void. What if the spirit or the letter of the Com promise was a violation of the Compromise of 1820? Then, inasmuch as the Compromise of 1820 was inviolable, the attempted violation of it shows that the so-called Compromise of 1850 was to that extent not a Compromise at all, but a factitious, spurious, and pretented Compromise. What if the letter or the spirit of the Compromise of 1850 did supersede or impair, or in any way, in any degree, conflict with the Compromise of 1820? Then that is a reason for abrogating, not the irrepealable and inviolable Compromise of 1820, but the spurious and pretended Compromise of 1850. Mr. President, why is this reason for the proposed abrogation of the Compromise of 1820 assigned in these bills at all? It is unnecessary. The assignment of a reason adds nothing to the force or weight of the abrogation itself. Either the fact alleged as a reason is true or it is not true. If it be untrue, your asserting it here will not make it true. If it be true, it is apparent in the text of the law of 1850, without the aid of legislative exposition now. It is unusual. It is unparliamentary. The language of the lawgiver, whether the sovereign be Democratic, Republican, or Despotic, is always the same. It is mandatory, imperative. If the lawgiver explains at all in a statute the reason for it, the reason is that it is his pleasure—sic volo, sic jubeo. Look at the Compromise of 1820. Does it plead an excuse for its commands? Look at the Compromise of 1850, drawn by the master-hand of our American Chatham. Does that bespeak your favor by a quibbling or shuffling apology 7 Look at your own, now rejected, first Nebraska bill, which, by conclusive implication, saved the effect of the Missouri Compromise. Look at any other bill ever reported by the Committee on Territories. Look at any other bill now on your calendar. Examine all the laws on your statute books. Do you find any one bill or statute which ever came bowing, stooping, and wriggling into the Senate, pleading an excuse for its clear and explicit declaration of the sover•eign and irresistible will of the American People? The departure from this habit in this solitary case betrays self-distrust, and an attempt on the part of the bill to divert the
public attention, to raise complex and immaterial issues, to perplex and bewilder and comfound the People by whom this transaction is to be reviewed. Look again at the vacillation betrayed in the frequent changes of the structure of this apology. At first the recital told us that the eighth section of the Compromise act of 1820 was superseded by the principles of the Compromise laws of 1850—as if any one had ever heard of a supersedeas of one local law by the mere principles of another local law, enacted for an altogether different region, thirty years afterwards. On another day we were told, by an amendment of the recital, that the Compromise of 1820 was not superseded by the Compromise of 1850 at all, but was only “inconsistent with ” it — as if a local act which was irrepealable was now to be abrogated, because it was inconsistent with a subsequent enactment, which had no application whatever within the region to which the first enactment was confined. On a third day the meaning of the recital was further and finally elucidated by an amendment, which declared that the first irrepealable act protecting Nebraska from slavery was now declared “inoperative and void,” because it was inconsistent with the present purposes of Congress not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom. But take this apology in whatever form it may be expressed, and test its logic by a simple
The law of 1820 secured free institutions in the regions acquired from France in 1803, by the wise and prudent foresight of the Congress of the United States. The law of 1850, on the contrary, committed the choice between free and slave institutions in New Mexico and Utah—Territories acquired from Mexico nearly fifty years afterward—to the interested cupidity or the caprice of their earliest and accidental occupants. Free Institutions and Slave Institutions are equal, but the interested cupidity of the pioneer is a wiser arbiter, and his judgment a surer safeguard, than the collective wisdom of the American People and the most solemn and time-honored statute of the American Congress. Therefore, let the law of freedom in the territory acquired from France be now annulled and abrogated, and let the fortunes and fate of Freedom and Slavery, in the region acquired from France, be, henceforward and forever, determined by the votes of some seven hundred camp followers around Fort Leavenworth, and the still smaller number of trappers, Government schoolmasters, and mechanics, who attend the Indians in their seasons of rest from hunting in the passes of the Rocky Mountains. Sir, this syllogism may satisfy you and other Senators; but as for me, I must be content to adhere to the earlier system. Stare super antiquas vias.
There is yet another difficulty in this new theory. Let it be granted that, in order to carry out a new principle recently adopted in New Mexico, you can supplant a compromise in Nebraska, yet there is a maxim of public law which forbids you from supplanting that compromise, and establishing a new system there, until you first restore the parties in interest there to their statu quo before the compromise to be supplanted was established. First, then, remand Missouri and Arkansas back to the unsettled condition, in regard to slavery, which they held before the Compromise of 1820 was enacted, and then we will hear you talk of rescinding that Compromise. You cannot do this. You ought not to do it, if you could ; and because you cannot and ought not to do it, you cannot, without violating law, justice, equity, and honor, abrogate the guarantee of freedom in Nebraska. There is still another and not less serious difficulty. You call the Slavery laws of 1850 a compromise between the slaveholding and non-slaveholding States. For the purposes of this argument, let it be granted that they were such a compromise. It was nevertheless a compromise concerning slavery in the Territories acquired from Mexico, and by the letter of the compromise it extended no further. Can ou now, by an act which is not a compromise $o the same parties, but a mere ordinary law, extend the force and obligation of the principles of that Compromise of 1850 into regions not only excluded from it, but absolutely protected from your intervention there by a solemn Compromise of thirty years’ duration, and invested with a sanctity scarcely inferior to that which hallows the Constitution itself? Can the Compromise of 1850, by a mere ordinary act of legislation, be extended beyond the plain, known, fixed intent and understanding of the parties at the time that contract was made, and yet be binding on the parties to it, not merely legally, but in honor and conscience? Can you abrogate a compromise by passing any law of less dignity than a compromise ? If so, of what value is any one or the whole of the Compromises? Thus you see that these bills violate both of the Compromises—not more that of 1820 than that of 1850. * Will you maintain in argument that it was understood by the parties interested throughout the country, or by either of them, or by any representative of either, in either House of Congress, that the principle then established should extend beyond the limits of the territories acquired from Mexico, into the territories acquired nearly fifty years before, from France, and then reposing under the guarantee of the Compromise of 1820? I know not how Senators may vote, but I do know what they will say. I appeal to the honorable Senator from Michigan, [Mr. CAss, than whom none performed a more distinguished part in establishing the Compromise of 1850, whether he so
intended or understood. I appeal to the honorable and distinguished Senator, the senior representative.from Tennessee, [Mr. BELL, who performed a distinguished part also. Did he so understand the Compromise of 1850? He is silent. I appeal to the gallant Senator from Illinois? [Mr. SHIELDs.] He, too, is silent. I now throw my gauntlet at the feet of every Senator now here, who was in the Senate in 1850, and challenge him to say that he then knew, or thought, or dreamed, that, by enacting the Compromise of 1850, he was directly or indirectly abrogating, or in any degree impairing, the Missouri Compromise ? No one takes it up. I appeal to that very distinguished—nay, sir, that expression falls short of his eminence—that illustrious man, the Senator from Missouri, who led the opposition here to the Compromise of 1850. Did he understand that that Compromise in any way overreached or impaired the Compromise of 1820? Sir, that distinguished person, while opposing the combination of the several laws on the subject of California and the Territories, and Slavery, together, in one bill, so as to constitute a Compromise, nevertheless voted for each one of those bills, severally; and in that way, and that way only, they were passed. Had he known or understood that any one of them overreached and impaired the Missouri Compromise, we all know he would have perished before he would have given it his support. Sir, if it was not irreverent, I would dare to call up the author of both of the Compromises in question, from his honored, though yet scarcely grass-covered grave, and challenge any advocate of this measure to confront that imperious shade, and say that, in making the Compromise of 1850, he intended or dreamed that he was subverting, or preparing the way for a subversion of, his greater work of 1820. Sir, if that eagle spirit is yet lingering here over the scene of his mortal labors, and watching over the welfare of the Republic he loved so well, his heart is now moved with more than human indignation against those who are perverting his last great public act from its legitimate uses, not merely to subvert the column, but to wrench from its very bed the base of the column that perpetuates his fame. And that other proud and dominating Senator, who, sacrificing himself, gave the aid without which the Compromise of 1850 could not have been established—the Statesman of New England, and the Orator of America— who dare assert here, where his memory is yet fresh, though his unsettered spirit may be wandering in spheres far hence, that he intended to abrogate, or dreamed that, by virtue of or in consequence of that transaction, the Missouri Compromise would or could ever be abrogated? The portion of the Missouri Compromise you propose to abrogate is the Ordinance of 1787 extended to Nebraska. Hear what Daniel Webster said of that Ordinance