"From the rapid step of usurpation, whether we now act or not, the day of open opposition to the pretended powers of the Constitution cannot be far off, and it is that it may not go down in blood that we now call upon you to resist. We feel ourselves standing underneath its mighty protection, and declaring forth its free and recorded spirit, when we say we must resist. By all the great principles of liberty—by the glorious achievements of our fathers in defending them—by their noble blood poured forth like water in maintaining them—by their lives in suffering, and their death in honor and in glory;—our countrymen! we must resist. Not secretly, as timid thieves or skulking smugglers—not in companies and associations, like money chafferers or stock jobbers —not separately and individually, as if this was ours and not our country's cause—but openly, fairly, fearlessly, and unitedly, as becomes a free, sovereign and independent people. Does timidity ask WHEN? We answer NOW!"
These inflammatory utterances, in South Carolina especially, stirred the Southern heart more or less throughout the whole cotton belt; and the pernicious principles which they embodied found ardent advocates even in the Halls of Congress. In the Senate, Mr. Hayne, of South Carolina, was their chief and most vehement spokesman, and in 1830 occurred that memorable debate between him and Daniel Webster, which forever put an end to all reasonable justification of the doctrine of Nullification, and which furnished the ground upon which President Jackson afterward stood in denouncing and crushing it out with the strong arm of the Government.
In that great debate Mr. Hayne's propositions were that the Constitution is a "compact between the States," that "in case of a plain, palpable violation of the Constitution by the General Government, a State may interpose; and that this interposition is constitutional"—a proposition with which Mr. Webster took direct issue, in these words: "I say, the right of a State to annul a law of Congress cannot be maintained, but on the ground of the inalienable right of man to resist oppression; that is to say, upon the ground of revolution. I admit that there is an ultimate violent remedy, above the Constitution and in defiance of the Constitution, which may be resorted to when a revolution is to be justified. But I do not admit that, under the Constitution, and in conformity with it, there is any mode in which a State Government, as a member of the Union, can interfere and stop the progress of the general movement by force of her own laws under any circumstances whatever." Mr. Webster insisted that "one of two things is true: either the laws of the Union are beyond the discretion and beyond the control of the States, or else we have no Constitution of General Government, and are thrust back again to the days of the Confederation;" and, in concluding his powerful argument, he declared that "even supposing the Constitution to be a compact between the States," Mr. Hayne's doctrine was "not maintainable, because, first, the General Government is not a party to the compact, but a Government established by it, and vested by it with the powers of trying and deciding doubtful questions; and secondly, because, if the Constitution be regarded as a compact, not one State only, but all the States are parties to that compact, and one can have no right to fix upon it her own peculiar construction."
While the comparatively miserable condition of the cotton-growing States of the South was attributed by most of the Southern Free Traders solely to the Protective Tariff of 1828, yet there were some Southerners willing to concede—as did Mr. Hayne, in the Senate (1832)—that there were "other causes besides the Tariff" underlying that condition, and to admit that "Slaves are too improvident, too incapable of that minute, constant, delicate attention, and that persevering industry which are essential to manufacturing establishments," the existence of which would have made those States prosperous. But such admissions were unwilling ones, and the Cotton-lords held only with the more tenacity to the view that the Tariff was the chief cause of their condition.
The Tariff Act of 1832, essentially modifying that of 1828, was passed with a view, in part, to quiet Southern clamor. But the Southern Cotton States refused to be mollified. On the contrary, the Free Traders of South Carolina proceeded to extreme measures, putting in action that which they had before but threatened. On November 19, 1832, the leading men of South Carolina met in Convention, and a few days thereafter —[November 24,1882]—unanimously passed an Ordinance of Nullification which declared the Tariff Acts of 1828 and 1832 "Unauthorized by the Constitution," and "null, void, and no law, nor binding on this State, its officers, or citizens." The people of the State were forbidden by it to pay, after the ensuing February 1st, the import-duties therein imposed. Under the provisions of the Ordinance, the State Legislature was to pass an act nullifying these Tariff laws, and any appeal to the United States Supreme Court against the validity of such nullifying act was prohibited. Furthermore, in the event of the Federal Government attempting to enforce these Tariff laws, the people of South Carolina would thenceforth consider themselves out of the Union, and will "forthwith proceed to organize a separate Government, and do all other acts and things which sovereign and independent States may of right do."
At the subsequent meeting of the Legislature, Mr. Hayne, who had been a member of the Convention, having resigned his seat in the United States Senate, was elected Governor of the State. He declared in his message that he recognized "No allegiance as paramount to that which the citizens of South Carolina owe to the State of their birth or their adoption"—that doctrine of "paramount allegiance to the State" which in after-years gave so much trouble to the Union and to Union-loving Southerners—and declared that he held himself "bound by the highest of all obligations to carry into effect, not only the Ordinance of the Convention, but every act of the Legislature, and every judgment of our own Courts, the enforcement of which may devolve upon the Executive," and "if," continued he, "the sacred soil of Carolina should be polluted by the footsteps of an invader, or be stained with the blood of her citizens, shed in her defense, I trust in Almighty God * * * even should she stand alone in this great struggle for constitutional liberty, encompassed by her enemies, that there will not be found, in the wide limits of the State, one recreant son who will not fly to the rescue, and be ready to lay down his life in her defense." In support of the contemplated treason, he even went to the length of calling for an enrolling of volunteer forces and of holding them ready for service.
But while South Carolina stood in this treasonable and defiant attitude, arming for war against the Union, there happened to be in the Presidential chair one of her own sons—General Jackson. Foreseeing what was coming, he had, prior to the meeting of the Convention that framed the Nullification Ordinance, ordered General Scott to Charleston to look after "the safety of the ports of the United States" thereabouts, and had sent to the Collector of that port precise instructions as to his duty to resist in all ways any and all attempts made under such Ordinance to defeat the operation of the Tariff laws aforesaid. Having thus quietly prepared the arm of the General Government for the exercise of its power, he issued in December a Proclamation declaring his unalterable resolution to treat Nullification as Treason—and to crush it.
In that famous document President Jackson said of Nullification: "If this doctrine had been established at an earlier day, the Union would have been dissolved in its infancy. The Excise law in Pennsylvania, the Embargo and Non-intercourse law in the Eastern States, the Carriage-tax in Virginia, were all deemed unconstitutional, and were more unequal in their operation than any of the laws now complained of; but fortunately, none of those States discovered that they had the right now claimed by South Carolina. * * * The discovery of this important feature in our Constitution was reserved for the present day. To the statesmen of South Carolina belongs the invention, and upon the citizens of that State will unfortunately fall the evils of reducing it to practice. * * * I consider, then, the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded and destructive of the great object for which it was formed. * * * To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union, is to say that the United States are not a Nation, because it would be a solecism to contend that any part of a Nation might dissolve its connection with the other parts, to their injury or ruin, without committing any, offense."
Farther on, in his moving appeal to the South Carolinians, he bids them beware of their leaders: "Their object is disunion; be not deceived by names. Disunion, by armed force, is Treason." And then, reminding them of the deeds of their fathers in the Revolution, he proceeds: "I adjure you, as you honor their memory, as you love the cause of freedom to which they dedicated their lives, as you prize the peace of your country, the lives of its best citizens, and your own fair fame, to retrace your steps. Snatch from the archives of your State the disorganizing edict of its Convention—bid its members to reassemble and promulgate the decided expression of your will to remain in the path which alone can conduct you to safety, prosperity, and honor—tell them that, compared to disunion, all other evils are light, because that brings with it an accumulation of all—declare that you will never take the field unless the Star-spangled banner of your country shall float over you—that you will not be stigmatized when dead, and dishonored and scorned while you live, as the authors of the first attack on the Constitution of your country! Its destroyers you cannot be."
After asserting his firm "determination to execute the laws-to preserve the Union by all constitutional means"—he concludes with the prayer, "May the great Ruler of Nations grant, that the signal blessings with which He has favored, ours may not, by the madness of party, or personal ambition be disregarded and lost; and may His wise providence bring those who have produced this crisis to see the folly before they feel the misery, of civil strife; and inspire a returning veneration for that Union, which, if we may dare to penetrate His designs, He has chosen as the only means of attaining the high destinies to which we may reasonably aspire."
The firm attitude of General Jackson, together with the wise precautionary measures he had already taken, and the practical unanimity with which his declaration to crush out the Treason was hailed in most of the Southern as well as the Northern States, almost at once broke the back of Nullification.
[In this connection the following letter, written at that time by the great Chief Justice Marshall, to a cousin of his, on the subject of State Sovereignty, is of interest, as showing how clearly his penetrating intellect perceived the dangers to the Union hidden in the plausible doctrine of State Rights:
RICHMOND, May 7, 1833.
"MY DEAR SIR:
"I am much indebted to you for your pamphlet on Federal Relations, which I have read with much satisfaction. No subject, as it seems to me, is more misunderstood or more perverted. You have brought into view numerous important historical facts which, in my judgment, remove the foundation on which the Nullifiers and Seceders have erected that superstructure which overshadows our Union. You have, I think, shown satisfactorily that we never have been perfectly distinct, independent societies, sovereign in the sense in which the Nullifiers use the term. When colonies we certainly were not. We were parts of the British empire, and although not directly connected with each other so far as respected government, we were connected in many respects, and were united to the same stock. The steps we took to effect separation were, as you have fully shown, not only revolutionary in their nature, but they were taken conjointly. Then, as now, we acted in many respects as one people. The representatives of each colony acted for all. Their resolutions proceeded from a common source, and operated on the whole mass. The army was a continental army commanded by a continental general, and supported from a continental treasury. The Declaration of Independence was made by a common government, and was made for all the States.
"Everything has been mixed. Treaties made by Congress have been considered as binding all the States. Some powers have been exercised by Congress, some by the States separately. The lines were not strictly drawn. The inability of Congress to carry its legitimate powers into execution has gradually annulled those powers practically, but they always existed in theory. Independence was declared 'in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies.' In fact we have always been united in some respects, separate in others. We have acted as one people for some purposes, as distinct societies for others. I think you have shown this clearly, and in so doing have demonstrated the fallacy of the principle on which either nullification or the right of peaceful, constitutional secession is asserted.
"The time is arrived when these truths must be more generally spoken, or our Union is at an end. The idea of complete sovereignty of the State converts our government into a league, and, if carried into practice, dissolves the Union.
"I am, dear sir,
"HUMPHREY MARSHALL, ESQ.,
The Nullifiers hailed with pretended satisfaction the report from the House Committee on Ways and Means of a Bill making great reductions and equalizations of Tariff duties, as a measure complying with their demands, and postponed the execution of the Ordinance of Nullification until the adjournment of Congress; and almost immediately afterward Mr. Clay's Compromise Tariff Act of 1833 "whereby one tenth of the excess over twenty per cent. of each and every existing impost was to be taken off at the close of that year; another tenth two years thereafter; so proceeding until the 30th of June, 1842, when all duties should be reduced to a maximum of twenty per cent."—[Says Mr. Greeley, in his History aforesaid.]—agreed to by Calhoun and other Nullifiers, was passed, became a law without the signature of President Jackson, and South Carolina once more became to all appearances a contented, law-abiding State of the Union.
But after-events proved conclusively that the enactment of this Compromise Tariff was a terrible blunder, if not a crime. Jackson had fully intended to hang Calhoun and his nullifying coadjutors if they persisted in their Treason. He knew that they had only seized upon the Tariff laws as a pretext with which to justify Disunion, and prophesied that "the next will be the Slavery or Negro question." Jackson's forecast was correct. Free Trade, Slavery and Secession were from that time forward sworn allies; and the ruin wrought to our industries by the disasters of 1840, plainly traceable to that Compromise Tariff measure of 1833, was only to be supplemented by much greater ruin and disasters caused by the Free Trade Tariff of 1846—and to be followed by the armed Rebellion of the Free Trade and Pro-Slavery States of the South in 1861, in a mad attempt to destroy the Union.
GROWTH OF THE SLAVERY QUESTION.
It will be remembered that during the period of the Missouri Struggle, 1818-1820, the Territory of Arkansas was formed by an Act of Congress out of that part of the Missouri Territory not included in the proposed State of Missouri, and that the Act so creating the Territory of Arkansas contained no provision restricting Slavery. Early in 1836, the people of Arkansas Territory met in Convention and formed a Constitution under which, "and by virtue of the treaty of cession by France to the United States, of the Province of Louisiana," they asked admission to the Union as a State. Among other provisions of that Constitution was a section rendering the State Legislature powerless to pass laws for the emancipation of slaves without the consent of the owners, or to prevent emigrants to that State from bringing with them slaves. On June 15th of the same year, Arkansas was, under that Constitution, admitted to the Union as a Slave State, with the sole reservation, that nothing in the Act of admission should be "construed as an assent by Congress to all or any of the propositions contained" in the said Constitution. Long ere this, all the Northern and Middle States had made provision for the emancipation of such slaves as remained within their borders, and only a few years previous (in 1829 and 1831-32) Virginia had made strong but insufficient efforts toward the same end. The failure to free Virginia of Slavery—the effort to accomplish which had been made by some of the greatest of her statesmen—only served to rivet the chains of human bondage more securely throughout all the Slave States, and from that time on, no serious agitation occurred in any one of them, looking toward even the most gradual emancipation. On the other hand, the advocates of the extension of the Slave-Power by the expansion of Slave-territory, were ever on the alert, they considered it of the last importance to maintain the balance of power between the Slave States and the Free States. Hence, while they had secured in 1819 the cession from Spain to the United States of the Slave-holding Floridas, and the organization of the Slave Territory of Florida in 1822—which subsequently came in as a Slave State under the same Act (1845) that admitted the Free State of Iowa—their greedy eyes were now cast upon the adjoining rich territories of Mexico.
Efforts had (in 1827-1829) been made to purchase from Mexico the domain which was known as Texas. They had failed. But already a part of Texas had been settled by adventurous Americans under Mexican grants and otherwise; and General Sam Houston, an adherent of the Slave Power, having become a leading spirit among them, fomented a revolution. In March, 1836, Texas, under his guidance, proclaimed herself a Republic independent of Mexico.
The War that ensued between Texas and Mexico ended in the flight of the Mexican Army and the capture of Santa Anna at San Jacinto, and a treaty recognizing Texan independence. In October, 1836, General Houston was inaugurated President of the Republic of Texas. Close upon this followed (in August, 1837) a proposition to our Government from the Texan envoy for the annexation of Texas to the United States. President Van Buren declined the offer. The Northern friends of Freedom were as much opposed to this annexation project as the advocates of Slavery were anxious for it. Even such conservative Northern Statesmen as Daniel Webster strongly opposed the project. In a speech delivered in New York , after showing that the chief aim of our Government in the acquisition of the Territory of Louisiana was to gain command of the mouths of the great rivers to the sea, and that in the acquisition of the Floridas our policy was based on similar considerations, Mr. Webster declared that "no such necessity, no such policy, requires the annexation of Texas," and that we ought "for numerous and powerful reasons to be content with our present boundaries." He recognized that Slavery already existed under the guarantees of the Constitution and those guarantees must be fulfilled; that "Slavery, as it exists in the States, is beyond the power of Congress. It is a concern of the States themselves," but "when we come to speak of admitting new States, the subject assumes an entirely different aspect. Our rights and our duties are then both different. The Free States, and all the States, are then at liberty to accept or to reject;" and he added, "In my opinion the people of the United States will not consent to bring into the Union a new, vastly extensive and Slaveholding country, large enough for a half a dozen or a dozen States. In my opinion, they ought not to consent to it."
Farther on, in the same speech—after alluding to the strong feeling in the Northern States against the extension of Slavery, not only as a question of politics, but of conscience and religious conviction as well-he deems him a rash man indeed "who supposes that a feeling of this kind is to be trifled with or despised." Said he: "It will assuredly cause itself to be respected. It may be reasoned with; it may be made willing—I believe it is entirely willing—to fulfill all existing engagements and all existing duties—to uphold and defend the Constitution as it is established, with whatever regrets about some provisions which it does actually contain. But to coerce it into silence, to endeavor to restrain its free expression, to seek to compress and confine it, warm as it is, and more heated as such endeavors would inevitably render it,—should this be attempted, I know nothing, even in the Constitution or in the Union itself, which would not be endangered by the explosion which might follow."
In 1840, General Harrison, the Whig candidate, was elected to the Presidency, but died within a few weeks after his inauguration in 1841, and was succeeded by John Tyler. The latter favored the Slave Power; and on April 12th, 1844, John C. Calhoun, his Secretary of State, concluded with Texas a treaty of annexation—which was, however, rejected by the Senate. Meanwhile the public mind was greatly agitated over the annexation and other, questions.
[In the London Index, a journal established there by Jefferson Davis's agents to support the cause of the rebellious States, a communication appeared during the early part of the war, Dec. 4, 1861, supposed to have been written by Mr. Mason, of Virginia, in which he said: "To tell the Norths, the Butes, the Wedderburns of the present day, that previous to the year 1839 the sovereign States of the South had unalterably resolved on the specific ground of the violation of the Federal Constitution by the tariff of spoliation which the New England States had imposed upon them—to secede from the Union; to tell them that in that year the leader of the South, Calhoun, urged an English gentleman, to whom he had fully explained the position of the South, and the intolerable tyranny which the North inflicted upon it, to be the bearer of credentials from the chief persons of the South, in order to invite the attention of the British Government to the coming event; that on his death-bed (Washington, March 31, 1850), he called around him his political friends—one of whom is now in England—warned them that in no event could the Union survive the Presidential election of 1860, though it might possibly break up before that urged them to be prepared; leaving with his dying words the sacred cause of Southern secession a solemn legacy in their hands—to have told this to the Norths and Dartmouths of the present day, with more and even stronger evidence of the coming events of November, 1860, would have been like speaking to the stones of the street. In November, 1860, they were thoroughly ignorant of all the momentous antecedents of secession—of their nature, their character, their bearing, import, and consequences."
In the same correspondence the distinguished Rebel emissary substantially let out the fact that Calhoun was indirectly, through himself (Mason), in secret communication with the British Government as far back as 1841, with a view to securing its powerful aid in his aforesaid unalterable resolve to Secede from the Union; and then Mr. Mason pleads—but pleads in vain—for the armed intervention of England at this later day. Said he:
"In the year 1841 the late Sir William Napier sent in two plans for subduing the Union, to the War Office, in the first of which the South was to be treated as an enemy, in the second as a friend and ally. I was much consulted by him as to the second plan and was referred to by name in it, as he showed by the acknowledgment of this in Lord Fitzroy Somerset's letter of reply. This plan fully provided for the contingency of an invasion of Canada, and its application would, in eighteen or twenty months, have reduced the North to a much more impotent condition than it exhibits at present. At this very moment the most difficult portion of that plan has been perfectly accomplished by the South itself; and the North, in accordance with Sir William Napier's expectations, now lies helpless before England, and at our absolute mercy. Nor is there any doubt of this, and if Lord Palmerston is not aware of it Mr. Seward certainly is. We have nothing remaining to do but to stretch out our arm in the way Sir William Napier proposed, and the Northern power—power as we ignorantly call it—must come to an end. Sir William knew and well estimated the elements of which that quasi power consisted; and he knew how to apply the substantive power of England to dissolve it. In the best interest of humanity, I venture to say that it is the duty of England to apply this power without further delay—its duty to itself, to its starving operatives, to France, to Europe, and to humanity. And in the discharge of this great duty to the world at large there will not even be the dignity of sacrifice or danger."]
Threats and counter-threats of Disunion were made on either hand by the opponents and advocates of Slavery-extension through annexation; nor was it less agitated on the subject of a Protective Tariff.
The Compromise Tariff of 1833, together with President Jackson's upheaval of our financial system, produced, as has already been hinted, terrible commercial disasters. "In 1840," says competent authority, "all prices had ruinously fallen; production had greatly diminished, and in many departments of industry had practically ceased; thousands of working men were idle, with no hope of employment, and their families suffering from want. Our farmers were without markets, their products rotted in their barns, and their lands, teeming with rich harvests, were sold by the sheriff for debts and taxes. The Tariff, which robbed our industries of Protection failed to supply Government with its necessary revenues. The National Treasury in consequence was bankrupt, and the credit of the Nation had sunk very low."
Mr. Clay himself stated "the average depression in the value of property under that state of things which existed before the Tariff of 1842 came to the rescue of the country, at fifty per cent." And hence it was that Protection was made the chief issue of the Presidential campaign of 1840, which eventuated in the election of Harrison and Tyler, and in the Tariff Act of August 30, 1842, which revived our trade and industries, and brought back to the land a full measure of prosperity. With those disasters fresh in the minds of the people, Protection continued to be a leading issue in the succeeding Presidential campaign of 1844—but coupled with the Texas-annexation issue. In that campaign Henry Clay was the candidate of the Whig party and James K. Polk of the Democratic party. Polk was an ardent believer in the annexation policy and stood upon a platform declaring for the "re-occupation of Oregon and the re-annexation of Texas at the earliest practicable moment"—as if the prefix "re" legitimatized the claim in either case; Clay, on the other hand, held that we had "fairly alienated our title to Texas by solemn National compacts, to the fulfilment of which we stand bound by good faith and National honor;" that "Annexation and War with Mexico are identical," and that he was "not willing to involve this country in a foreign War for the object of acquiring Texas."
[In his letter of April 17, 1844, published in the National Intelligencer.]
As to the Tariff issue also, Clay was the acknowledged champion of the American system of Protection, while Polk was opposed to it, and was supported by the entire Free-trade sentiment, whether North or South.
As the campaign progressed, it became evident that Clay would be elected. Then occurred some of those fatalities which have more than once, in the history of Presidential campaigns, overturned the most reasonable expectations and defeated the popular will. Mr. Clay committed a blunder and Mr. Polk an equivocation—to use the mildest possible term. Mr. Clay was induced by Southern friends to write a letter—[Published in the North Alabamian, Aug. 16, 1844.]—in which, after stating that "far from having any personal objection to the annexation of Texas, I should be glad to see it—without dishonor, without War, with the common consent of the Union, and upon just and fair terms," he added: "I do not think that the subject of Slavery ought to affect the question, one way or the other." Mr. Polk, on the other hand, wrote a letter in which he declared it to be "the duty of the Government to extend, as far as it may be practicable to do so, by its revenue laws and all other means within its power, fair and just Protection to all the great interests of the whole Union, embracing Agriculture, Manufactures, the Mechanic Arts, Commerce and Navigation." This was supplemented by a letter (August 8, 1844) from Judge Wilson McCandless of Pennsylvania, strongly upholding the Protective principle, claiming that Clay in his Compromise Tariff Bill had abandoned it, and that Polk and Dallas had "at heart the true interests of Pennsylvania." Clay, thus betrayed by the treachery of Southern friends, was greatly weakened, while Polk, by his beguiling letter, backed by the false interpretation put upon it by powerful friends in the North, made the North believe him a better Protectionist than Clay.
Polk was elected, and rewarded the misplaced confidence by making Robert J. Walker his Secretary of the Treasury, and, largely through that great Free Trader's exertions, secured a repeal by Congress of the Protective Tariff of 1842 and the enactment of the ruinous Free Trade Tariff of 1846. Had Clay carried New York, his election was secure. As it happened, Polk had a plurality in New York of but 5,106 in an immense vote, and that slim plurality was given to him by the Abolitionists throwing away some 15,000 on Birney. And thus also it curiously happened that it was the Abolition vote which secured the election of the candidate who favored immediate annexation and the extension of the Slave Power!
Emboldened and apparently sustained by the result of the election, the Slave Power could not await the inauguration of Mr. Polk, but proceeded at once, under whip and spur, to drive the Texas annexation scheme through Congress; and two days before the 4th of March, 1845, an Act consenting to the admission of the Republic of Texas as a State of the Union was approved by President Tyler.
In that Act it was provided that "New States of convenient size, not exceeding four in number, in addition to the said State of Texas, and having sufficient population, may hereafter, by the consent of said State, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions of the Federal Constitution; and such States as may be formed out of that portion of said territory lying south of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude, commonly known as the Missouri Compromise line, shall be admitted into the Union with or without Slavery, as the people of each State asking admission may desire. And in such State or States as shall be formed out of said territory north of said Missouri Compromise line, Slavery or involuntary servitude (except for crime) shall be prohibited." As has been lucidly stated by another,—[Greeley's History]—"while seeming to curtail and circumscribe Slavery north of the above parallel (that of 36 30' north latitude), this measure really extended it northward to that parallel, which it had not yet approached, under the flag of Texas, within hundreds of miles. But the chief end of this sham Compromise was the involving of Congress in an indirect indorsement of the claim of Texas to the entire left bank of the Rio Grande, from its mouth to its source; and this was effected."
Texas quickly consented to the Act of annexation, and in December, 1845, a Joint Resolution formally admitting her as a State of the Union, reported by Stephen A. Douglas, was duly passed.
In May, 1846, the American forces under General Taylor, which had been dispatched to protect Texas from threatened assault, were attacked by the Mexican army, which at Palo Alto was badly defeated and at Resaca de la Palma driven back across the Rio Grande.
Congress immediately declared that by this invasion a state of War existed between Mexico and the United States. Thus commenced the War with Mexico—destined to end in the triumph of the American Army, and the acquisition of large areas of territory to the United States. In anticipation of such triumph, President Polk lost little time in asking an appropriation of over two million dollars by Congress to facilitate negotiations for peace with, and territorial cession from, Mexico. And a Bill making such appropriation was quickly passed by the House of Representatives—but with the following significant proviso attached, which had been offered by Mr. Wilmot: "Provided. That as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty that may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the Executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall first be duly convicted."
The debate in the Senate upon the Wilmot proviso, which immediately ensued, was cut short by the expiration of the Session of Congress—and the Bill accordingly failed of passage.
In February, 1848, the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was made between Mexico and the United States, and Peace reigned once more. About the same time a Bill was passed by the Senate providing Territorial Governments for Oregon, California and New Mexico, which provided for the reference of all questions touching Slavery in such Territories to the United States Supreme Court, for arbitration. The Bill, however, failed in the House. The ensuing Presidential campaign resulted in the election of General Taylor, the Whig candidate, who was succeeded upon his death, July 10, 1850, by Fillmore. Meanwhile, on the Oregon Territory Bill, in 1848, a strong effort had been made by Mr. Douglas and others to incorporate a provision extending to the Pacific Ocean the Missouri Compromise line of 36 30' of north latitude and extending to all future organizations of Territories of the United States the principles of said Compromise. This provision was adopted by the Senate, but the House struck it from the Bill; the Senate receded, and Oregon was admitted as a Free Territory. But the conflict in Congress between those who would extend and those who would restrict Slavery still continued, and indeed gathered vehemence with time. In 1850, California was clamoring for admission as a Free State to the Union, and New Mexico and Utah sought to be organized under Territorial Governments.
In the heated discussions upon questions growing out of bills for these purposes, and to rectify the boundaries of Texas, it was no easy matter to reach an agreement of any sort. Finally, however, the Compromise of 1850, offered by Mr. Clay, was practically agreed to and carried out, and under it: California was admitted as a Free State; New Mexico and Utah were admitted to Territorial organization without a word pro or con on the subject of Slavery; the State of Texas was awarded a pecuniary compensation for the rectification of her boundaries; the Slave Trade in the District of Columbia was abolished; and a more effectual Fugitive Slave Act passed.
By both North and South, this Compromise of 1850, and the measures growing out of it, were very generally acquiesced in, and for a while it seemed as though a permanent settlement of the Slavery question had been reached. But in the Fugitive Slave law, thus hastily enacted, lay embedded the seed for further differences and excitements, speedily to germinate. In its operation it proved not only unnecessarily cruel and harsh, in the manner of the return to bondage of escaped slaves, but also afforded a shield and support to the kidnapping of Free Negroes from Northern States. The frequency of arrests in the Northern States, and the accompanying circumstances of cruelty and brutality in the execution of the law, soon made it especially odious throughout the North, and created an active feeling of commiseration for the unhappy victims of the Slave Power, which greatly intensified and increased the growing Anti-Slavery sentiment in the Free States.
In 1852-53, an attempt was made in Congress to organize into the Territory of Nebraska, the region of country lying west of Iowa and Missouri. Owing to the opposition of the South the Bill was defeated. In 1853-4 a similar Bill was reported to the Senate by Mr. Douglas, but afterward at his own instance recommitted to the Committee on Territories, and reported back by him again in such shape as to create, instead of one, two Territories, that portion directly west of Missouri to be called Kansas, and the balance to be known as Nebraska—one of the sections of the Bill enacting:
"That in order to avoid all misconstruction it is hereby declared to be the true intent and meaning of this Act, so far as the question of Slavery is concerned, to carry into practical operation the following propositions and principles, established by the Compromise measures of 1850, to wit:
"First, That all questions pertaining to Slavery in the Territories, and the new States to be formed therefrom, are to be left to the decision of the people residing therein through their appropriate representatives.
"Second, That 'all cases involving title to slaves,' and 'questions of personal freedom,' are referred to the adjudication of the local tribunals with the right of appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.
"Third, That the provisions of the Constitution and laws of the United States, in respect to fugitives from service, are to be carried into faithful execution in all the 'organized Territories,' the same as in the States."
The sections authorizing Kansas and Nebraska to elect and send delegates to Congress also prescribed:
"That the Constitution, and all laws of the United States which are not locally inapplicable, shall have the same force and effect within the said Territory, as elsewhere in the United States, except the section of the Act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March 6th, 1820, which was superseded by the principles of the Legislation of 1850, commonly called the Compromise Measures, and is declared inoperative."
And when "explaining this Kansas-Nebraska Bill" Mr. Douglas announced that, in reporting it, "The object of the Committee was neither to legislate Slavery in or out of the Territories; neither to introduce nor exclude it; but to remove whatever obstacle Congress had put there, and apply the doctrine of Congressional Non-intervention in accordance with the principles of the Compromise Measures of 1850, and allow the people to do as they pleased upon this as well as all other matters affecting their interests."
A vigorous and able debate ensued. A motion by Mr. Chase to strike out the words "which was superseded by the principles of the legislation of 1850, commonly called the Compromise Measures," was defeated decisively. Subsequently Mr. Douglas moved to strike out the same words and insert in place of them, these: "which being inconsistent with the principles of Non-intervention by Congress with Slavery in the States and Territories, as recognized by the legislation of 1850 (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"—and the motion was agreed to by a vote of 35 yeas to 10 nays. Mr. Chase immediately moved to add to the amendment just adopted these words: "Under which, the people of the Territory, through their appropriate representatives, may, if they see fit, prohibit the existence of Slavery therein;" but this motion was voted down by 36 nays to 10 yeas. This developed the rat in the meal-tub. The people were to be "perfectly free" to act either way on the subject of Slavery, so long as they did not prohibit Slavery! In this shape the Bill passed the Senate.
Public sentiment in the North was greatly stirred by this direct attempt to repeal the Missouri Compromise. But by the superior parliamentary tactics of Southern Representatives in the House, whereby the radical friends of Freedom were shut out from the opportunity of amendment, a House Bill essentially the same as the Senate Bill was subsequently passed by the House, under the previous question, and afterward rapidly passed the Senate, and was approved by the President. At once commenced that long and terrible struggle between the friends of Free-Soil and the friends of Slavery, for the possession of Kansas, which convulsed the whole Country for years, and moistened the soil of that Territory with streams of blood, shed in numerous "border-ruffian" conflicts.
The Territorial Government of Kansas was organized late in 1854, and an "election" for Delegate held, at which the Pro-Slavery candidate (Whitfield) was fraudulently elected. On March 30, 1855, a Territorial Legislature was similarly chosen by Pro-Slavery voters "colonized" from Missouri. That Legislature, upon its meeting, proceeded at once to enact most outrageous Pro-Slavery laws, which being vetoed by the Free-Soil Governor (Reeder), were passed over the veto, and the Free-Soil Governor had to give place to one who favored Slavery in Kansas. But the Free-Soil settlers of Kansas, in Mass Convention at Big Springs, utterly repudiated the bogus Legislature and all its acts, to which they refused submission.
In consequence of these radical differences, two separate elections for Delegate in Congress were held by the opposing factions, at one of which was elected the Pro-Slavery Whitfield, and at the other the Free-Soiler Reeder. Furthermore, under a call issued by the Big Springs Convention, a Free-State Constitutional Convention was held in October, 1855, at Topeka, which framed a Free-State Constitution, and asked admission under it to the Union.
In 1856, the House of Representatives—which, after a protracted struggle, had elected N. P. Banks Speaker—passed a Bill, by a bare majority, admitting Kansas under her Topeka Constitution; but the Senate defeated it. July 4, 1856, by order of President Pierce, the Free-State Legislature, chosen under the Topeka Constitution to meet at Topeka, was dispersed by United States Troops. Yet, despite all oppositions, discouragements, and outrages, the Free-State population of Kansas continued to increase from immigration.
In 1857, the Pro-Slavery Legislature elected by the Pro-Slavery voters at their own special election—the Free-State voters declining to participate—called a Constitutional Convention at Lecompton, which formed a Pro-Slavery Constitution. This was submitted to the people in such dexterous manner that they could only vote "For the Constitution with Slavery" or "For the Constitution without Slavery"—and, as the Constitution prescribed that "the rights of property in Slaves now in the Territory, shall in no manner be interfered with," to vote "for the Constitution Without Slavery" was an absurdity only paralleled by the course of the United States Senate in refusing to permit the people of Kansas "to prohibit Slavery" while at the same time declaring them "perfectly free to act" as they chose in the matter.
The Constitution, with Slavery, was thus adopted by a vote of over 6,000. But in the meanwhile, at another general election held for the purpose, and despite all the frauds perpetrated by the Pro-Slavery men, a Free-State Legislature, and Free-State Delegate to Congress had been elected; and this Legislature submitted the Lecompton Pro-Slavery Constitution to the people, January 4, 1858, so that they could vote: "For the Lecompton Constitution with Slavery," "For the Lecompton Constitution without Slavery," or "Against the Lecompton Constitution." The consequence was that the Lecompton Constitution was defeated by a majority of over 10,000 votes—the Missouri Pro-Slavery colonists declining to recognize the validity of any further election on the subject.
Meanwhile, in part upon the issues growing out of this Kansas conflict, the political parties of the Nation had passed through another Presidential campaign (1856), in which the Democratic candidate Buchanan had been elected over Fremont the "Republican," and Fillmore the "American," candidates. Both Houses of Congress being now Democratic, Mr. Buchanan recommended them to accept and ratify the Lecompton Pro-Slavery Constitution.
In March, 1858, the Senate passed a Bill—against the efforts of Stephen A. Douglas—accepting it. In the House, however, a substitute offered by Mr. Montgomery (Douglas Democrat) known as the Crittenden-Montgomery Compromise, was adopted. The Senate refused to concur, and the report of a Committee of Conference—providing for submitting to the Kansas people a proposition placing limitations upon certain public land advantages stipulated for in the Lecompton Constitution, and in case they rejected the proposition that another Constitutional Convention should be held—was adopted by both Houses; and the proposition being rejected by the people of Kansas, the Pro-Slavery Lecompton Constitution fell with it.
In 1859 a Convention, called by the Territorial Legislature for the purpose, met at Wyandot, and framed a Free State Constitution which was adopted by the people in October of that year, and at the ensuing State election in December the State went Republican. In April, 1860, the House of Representatives passed a Bill admitting Kansas as a State under that Constitution, but the Democratic Senate adjourned without action on the Bill; and it was not until early in 1861 that Kansas was at last admitted.
In the meantime, the Free Trade Tariff of 1846 had produced the train of business and financial disasters that its opponents predicted. Instead of prosperity everywhere in the land, there was misery and ruin. Even the discovery and working of the rich placer mines of California and the consequent flow, in enormous volume, of her golden treasure into the Eastern States, could not stay-the wide-spread flood of disaster. President Fillmore, who had succeeded General Taylor on the latter's death, frequently called the attention of Congress to the evils produced by this Free Trade, and to the necessity of protecting our manufactures "from ruinous competition from abroad." So also with his successor, President Buchanan, who, in his Message of 1857, declared that "In the midst of unsurpassed plenty in all the productions and in all the elements of national wealth, we find our manufactures suspended, our public works retarded, our private enterprises of different kinds abandoned, and thousands of useful laborers thrown out of employment and reduced to want." Further than this, the financial credit of the Nation was at zero. It was financially bankrupt before the close of Buchanan's Presidential term.
But now occurred the great Presidential struggle of 1860—which involved not alone the principles of Protection, but those of human Freedom, and the preservation of the Union itself—between Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, the candidate of the Republican party, as against Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, the National or Douglas-Democratic candidate, John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, the Administration or Breckinridge-Democratic candidate, and John Bell of Tennessee, the candidate of the Bell-Union party. The great preliminary struggle which largely influenced the determination of the Presidential political conflict of 1860, had, however, taken place in the State of Illinois, two years previously. To that preliminary political contest of 1858, therefore, we will now turn our eyes—and, in order to fully understand it, it may be well to glance back over a few years. In 1851 the Legislature of Illinois had adopted—[The vote in the House being 65 yeas to 4 nays.]—the following resolution: "Resolved, That our Liberty and Independence are based upon the right of the people to form for themselves such a government as they may choose; that this great principle, the birthright of freemen, the gift of Heaven, secured to us by the blood of our ancestors, ought to be secured to future generations, and no limitation ought to be applied to this power in the organization of any Territory of the United States, of either Territorial Government or State Constitution, provided the government so established shall be Republican and in conformity with the Constitution of the United States." This resolution was a practical endorsement of the course of Stephen A. Douglas in supporting the Compromise measures of 1850, which he had defended as being "all founded upon the great principle that every people ought to possess the right to form and regulate their own domestic institutions in their own way," and that "the same principle" should be "extended to all of the Territories of the United States."
In accordance with his views and the resolution aforesaid, Mr. Douglas in 1854, as we have already seen, incorporated in the Kansas-Nebraska Bill a clause declaring it to be "the true intent and meaning of the Act not to legislate Slavery into any State or Territory, or 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."
His position, as stated by himself, was, substantially that the Lecompton Pro-Slavery Constitution was a fraud upon the people of Kansas, in that it did not embody the will of that people; and he denied the right of Congress to force a Constitution upon an unwilling people —without regard, on his part, to whether that Constitution allowed or prohibited Slavery or any other thing, whether good or bad. He held that the people themselves were the sole judges of whether it is good or bad, and whether desirable or not.
The Supreme Court of the United States had in the meantime made a decision in a case afterward known as the "Dred Scott case," which was held back until after the Presidential election of 1856 had taken place, and added fuel to the political fire already raging. Dred Scott was a Negro Slave. His owner voluntarily took him first into a Free State, and afterward into a Territory which came within the Congressional prohibitive legislation aforesaid. That decision in brief was substantially that no Negro Slave imported from Africa, nor his descendant, can be a citizen of any State within the meaning of the Constitution; that neither the Congress nor any Territorial Legislature has under the Constitution of the United States, the power to exclude Slavery from any Territory of the United States; and that it is for the State Courts of the Slave State, into which the negro has been conveyed by his master, and not for the United States Courts, to decide whether that Negro, having been held to actual Slavery in a Free State, has, by virtue of residence in such State, himself become Free.
Now it was, that the meaning of the words, "subject only to the Constitution," as used in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, began to be discerned. For if the people of a Territory were to be "perfectly free," to deal with Slavery as they chose, "subject only to the Constitution" they were by this Judicial interpretation of that instrument "perfectly free" to deal with Slavery in any way so long as they did not attempt "to exclude" it! The thing was all one-sided. Mr. Douglas's attitude in inventing the peculiar phraseology in the Kansas-Nebraska Act—which to some seemed as if expressly "made to order" for the Dred Scott decision—was criticized with asperity; the popularity, however, of his courageous stand against President Buchanan on the Lecompton fraud, seemed to make it certain that, his term in the United States Senate being about to expire, he would be overwhelmingly re-elected to that body.
But at this juncture occurred something, which for a long time held the result in doubt, and drew the excited attention of the whole Nation to Illinois as the great battle-ground. In 1858 a Republican State Convention was held at Springfield, Ill., which nominated Abraham Lincoln as the Republican candidate for United States Senator to succeed Senator Douglas in the National Legislature. On June 16th—after such nomination—Mr. Lincoln made to the Convention a speech—in which, with great and incisive power, he assailed Mr. Douglas's position as well as that of the whole Democratic Pro-Slavery Party, and announced in compact and cogent phrase, from his own point of view, the attitude, upon the Slavery question, of the Republican Party.
In that remarkable speech—which at once attracted the attention of the Country—Mr. Lincoln said: "We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to Slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. 'A House divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe this Government cannot endure permanently half Slave and half Free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the House to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of Slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South."
[Governor Seward's announcement of an "irrepressible conflict" was made four months later.]
He then proceeded to lay bare and closely analyze the history of all that had been done, during the four years preceding, to produce the prevailing condition of things touching human Slavery; describing it as resulting from that, "now almost complete legal combination-piece of machinery, so to speak—compounded of the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision." After stating the several points of that decision, and that the doctrine of the "Sacred right of self-government" had been perverted by the Nebraska "Squatter Sovereignty," argument to mean that, "if any one man chose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object," he proceeded to show the grounds upon which he charged "pre-concert" among the builders of that machinery. Said he: "The people were to be left perfectly free, 'subject only to the Constitution.' What the Constitution had to do with it, outsiders could not see. Plainly enough now, it was an exactly fitted niche for the Dred Scott decision to afterward come in and declare the perfect freedom of the people to be just no freedom at all. Why was the amendment, expressly declaring the right of the people, voted down? Plainly enough now, the adoption of it would have spoiled the niche for the Dred Scott decision. Why was the Court decision held up? Why even a Senator's individual opinion withheld, till after the Presidential election? Plainly enough now: the speaking out then would have damaged the 'perfectly free' argument upon which the election was to be carried. Why the outgoing President's felicitation on the indorsement? Why the delay of a re-argument? Why the incoming President's advance exhortation in favor of the decision? These things look like the cautious patting and petting of a spirited horse, preparatory to mounting him, when it is dreaded that he may give the rider a fall. And why the hasty after-indorsement of the decision, by the President and others? We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of pre-concert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen—Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James—[Douglas, Pierce, Taney and Buchanan.]—for instance—and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortices exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few—not omitting even the scaffolding, or, if a single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared yet to bring such piece in—in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck."
He drew attention also to the fact that by the Nebraska Bill the people of a State, as well as a Territory, were to be left "perfectly free," "subject only to the Constitution," and that the object of lugging a "State" into this merely Territorial law was to enable the United States Supreme Court in some subsequent decision to declare, when the public mind had been sufficiently imbued with Judge Douglas's notion of not caring "whether Slavery be voted up or voted down," that "the Constitution of the United States does not permit a State to exclude Slavery from its limits"—which would make Slavery "alike lawful in all the States." That, he declared to be Judge Douglas's present mission: —"His avowed mission is impressing the 'public heart' to care nothing about it." Hence Mr. Lincoln urged Republicans to stand by their cause, which must be placed in the hands of its friends, "Whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work—who do care for the result;" for he held that "a living dog is better than a dead lion."
On the evening of July 9, 1858, at Chicago, Mr. Douglas (Mr. Lincoln being present) spoke to an enthusiastic assemblage, which he fitly described as a "vast sea of human faces," and, after stating that he regarded "the Lecompton battle as having been fought and the victory won, because the arrogant demand for the admission of Kansas under the Lecompton Constitution unconditionally, whether her people wanted it or not, has been abandoned, and the principle which recognizes the right of the people to decide for themselves has been submitted in its place," he proceeded to vindicate his position throughout; declared that he opposed "the Lecompton monstrosity solely on the ground than it was a violation of the fundamental principles of free government; on the ground that it was not the act and deed of the people of Kansas; that it did not embody their will; that they were averse to it;" and hence he "denied the right of Congress to force it upon them, either as a Free State or a Slave State."
Said he: "I deny the right of Congress to force a Slaveholding State upon an unwilling people. I deny their right to force a Free State upon an unwilling people. I deny their right to force a good thing upon a people who are unwilling to receive it. The great principle is the right of every community to judge and decide for itself, whether a thing is right or wrong, whether it would be good or evil for them to adopt it; and the right of free action, the right of free thought, the right of free judgment upon the question is dearer to every true American than any other under a free Government. * * * It is no answer to this argument to say that Slavery is an evil, and hence should not be tolerated. You must allow the people to decide for themselves whether it is good or evil." He then adverted to the arraignment of himself by Mr. Lincoln, and took direct issue with that gentleman on his proposition that, as to Freedom and Slavery, "the Union will become all one thing or all the other;" and maintained on the contrary, that "it is neither desirable nor possible that there should be uniformity in the local institutions and domestic regulations of the different States of this Union."
Upon the further proposition of Mr. Lincoln, which Mr. Douglas described as "a crusade against the Supreme Court of the United States on account of the Dred Scott decision," and as "an appeal from the decision" of that Court "upon this high Constitutional question to a Republican caucus sitting in the country," he also took "direct and distinct issue with him." To "the reason assigned by Mr. Lincoln for resisting the decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case * * * because it deprives the Negro of the privileges, immunities and rights of citizenship which pertain, according to that decision, only to the White man," Mr. Douglas also took exception thus: "I am free to say to you that in my opinion this Government of ours is founded on the White basis. It was made by the White man for the benefit of the White man, to be administered by White men, in such manner as they should determine. It is also true that a Negro, an Indian, or any other man of inferior race to a White man, should be permitted to enjoy, and humanity requires that he should have, all the rights, privileges, and immunities which he is capable of exercising consistent with the safety of society. * * * But you may ask me what are these rights and these privileges? My answer is, that each State must decide for itself the nature and extent of these rights. * * * Without indorsing the wisdom of that decision, I assert that Virginia has the same power by virtue of her sovereignty to protect Slavery within her limits, as Illinois has to banish it forever from our own borders. I assert the right of each State to decide for itself on all these questions, and I do not subscribe to the doctrine of my friend, Mr. Lincoln, that uniformity is either desirable or possible. I do not acknowledge that the States must all be Free or must all be Slave. I do not acknowledge that the Negro must have civil and political rights everywhere or nowhere. * * * I do not acknowledge any of these doctrines of uniformity in the local and domestic regulations in the different States. * * * Mr. Lincoln goes for a warfare upon the Supreme Court of the United States because of their judicial decision in the Dred Scott case. I yield obedience to the decisions in that Court—to the final determination of the highest judicial tribunal known to our Constitution. He objects to the Dred Scott decision because it does not put the Negro in the possession of the rights of citizenship on an equality with the White man. I am opposed to Negro equality. * * * I would extend to the Negro, and the Indian, and to all dependent races every right, every privilege, and every immunity consistent with the safety and welfare of the White races; but equality they never should have, either political or social, or in any other respect whatever. * * * My friends, you see that the issues are distinctly drawn."
On the following evening (July 10th) at Chicago, Mr. Lincoln addressed another enthusiastic assemblage, in reply to Mr. Douglas; and, after protesting against a charge that had been made the previous night by the latter, of an "unnatural and unholy" alliance between Administration Democrats and Republicans to defeat him, as being beyond his own knowledge and belief, proceeded: "Popular Sovereignty! Everlasting Popular Sovereignty! Let us for a moment inquire into this vast matter of Popular Sovereignty. What is Popular Sovereignty? We recollect at an early period in the history of this struggle there was another name for the same thing—Squatter Sovereignty. It was not exactly Popular Sovereignty, but Squatter Sovereignty. What do those terms mean? What do those terms mean when used now? And vast credit is taken by our friend, the Judge, in regard to his support of it, when he declares the last years of his life have been, and all the future years of his life shall be, devoted to this matter of Popular Sovereignty. What is it? Why it is the Sovereignty of the People! What was Squatter Sovereignty? I suppose if it had any significance at all, it was the right of the people to govern themselves, to be sovereign in their own affairs while they were squatted down in a country not their own—while they had squatted on a territory that did not belong to them in the sense that a State belongs to the people who inhabit it—when it belonged to the Nation—such right to govern themselves was called 'Squatter Sovereignty.'
"Now I wish you to mark. What has become of that Squatter Sovereignty? What has become of it? Can you get anybody to tell you now that the people of a Territory have any authority to govern themselves, in regard to this mooted question of Slavery, before they form a State Constitution? No such thing at all, although there is a general running fire and although there has been a hurrah made in every speech on that side, assuming that that policy had given the people of a Territory the right to govern themselves upon this question; yet the point is dodged. To-day it has been decided—no more than a year ago it was decided by the Supreme Court of the United States, and is insisted upon to-day, that the people of a Territory have no right to exclude Slavery from a Territory, that if any one man chooses to take Slaves into a Territory, all the rest of the people have no right to keep them out. This being so, and this decision being made one of the points that the Judge (Douglas) approved, * * * he says he is in favor of it, and sticks to it, and expects to win his battle on that decision, which says there is no such thing as Squatter Sovereignty; but that any man may take Slaves into a Territory and all the other men in the Territory may be opposed to it, and yet by reason of the Constitution they cannot prohibit it; when that is so, how much is left of this vast matter of Squatter Sovereignty, I should like to know? Again, when we get to the question of the right of the people to form a State Constitution as they please, to form it with Slavery or without Slavery—if that is anything new, I confess I don't know it * * *.
"We do not remember that, in that old Declaration of Independence, it is said that 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.' There, is the origin of Popular Sovereignty. Who, then, shall come in at this day and claim that he invented it? The Lecompton Constitution connects itself with this question, for it is in this matter of the Lecompton Constitution that our friend, Judge Douglas, claims such vast credit. I agree that in opposing the Lecompton Constitution, so far as I can perceive, he was right. * * * All the Republicans in the Nation opposed it, and they would have opposed it just as much without Judge Douglas's aid as with it. They had all taken ground against it long before he did. Why, the reason that he urges against that Constitution, I urged against him a year before. I have the printed speech in my hand now. The argument that he makes, why that Constitution should not be adopted, that the people were not fairly represented nor allowed to vote, I pointed out in a speech a year ago which I hold in my hand now, that no fair chance was to be given to the people. * * * The Lecompton Constitution, as the Judge tells us, was defeated. The defeat of it was a good thing or it was not. He thinks the defeat of it was a good thing, and so do I, and we agree in that. Who defeated it? [A voice —'Judge Douglas.'] Yes, he furnished himself, and if you suppose he controlled the other Democrats that went with him, he furnished three votes, while the Republicans furnished twenty. That is what he did to defeat it. In the House of Representatives he and his friends furnished some twenty votes, and the Republicans furnished ninety odd. Now, who was it that did the work? * * * Ground was taken against it by the Republicans long before Douglas did it. The proportion of opposition to that measure is about five to one."
Mr. Lincoln then proceeded to take up the issues which Mr. Douglas had joined with him the previous evening. He denied that he had said, or that it could be fairly inferred from what he had said, in his Springfield speech, that he was in favor of making War by the North upon the South for the extinction of Slavery, "or, in favor of inviting the South to a War upon the North, for the purpose of nationalizing Slavery." Said he: "I did not even say that I desired that Slavery should be put in course of ultimate extinction. I do say so now, however; so there need be no longer any difficulty about that. * * * I am tolerably well acquainted with the history of the Country and I know that it has endured eighty-two years half Slave and half Free. I believe—and that is what I meant to allude to there—I believe it has endured, because during all that time, until the introduction of the Nebraska Bill, the public mind did rest all the time in the belief that Slavery was in course of ultimate extinction. That was what gave us the rest that we had through that period of eighty-two years; at least, so I believe.
"I have always hated Slavery, I think, as much as any Abolitionist—I have been an Old Line Whig—I have always hated it, but I have always been quiet about it until this new era of the introduction of the Nebraska Bill began. I always believed that everybody was against it, and that it was in course of ultimate extinction. * * * The great mass of the Nation have rested in the belief that Slavery was in course of ultimate extinction. They had reason so to believe. The adoption of the Constitution and its attendant history led the People to believe so, and that such was the belief of the framers of the Constitution itself. Why did those old men about the time of the adoption of the Constitution decree that Slavery should not go into the new territory, where it had not already gone? Why declare that within twenty years the African Slave Trade, by which Slaves are supplied, might be cut off by Congress? Why were all these acts? I might enumerate more of these acts—but enough. What were they but a clear indication that the framers of the Constitution intended and expected the ultimate extinction of that institution?
"And now, when I say, as I said in my speech that Judge Douglas has quoted from, when I say that I think the opponents of Slavery will resist the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest with the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction, I only mean to say, that they will place it where the founders of this Government originally placed it. I have said a hundred times, and I have now no inclination to take it back, that I believe there is no right, and ought to be no inclination in the people of the Free States, to enter into the Slave States, and interfere with the question of Slavery at all. I have said that always; Judge Douglas has heard me say it—if not quite a hundred times, at least as good as a hundred times; and when it is said that I am in favor of interfering with Slavery where it exists, I know that it is unwarranted by anything I have ever intended, and as I believe, by anything I have ever said. If, by any means, I have ever used language which could fairly be so construe (as, however, I believe I never have) I now correct it. So much, then, for the inference that Judge Douglas draws, that I am in favor of setting the Sections at War with one another.
"Now in relation to his inference that I am in favor of a general consolidation of all the local institutions of the various States * * * I have said, very many times in Judge Douglas's hearing, that no man believed more than I in the principle of self-government from beginning to end. I have denied that his use of that term applies properly. But for the thing itself, I deny that any man has ever gone ahead of me in his devotion to the principle, whatever he may have done in efficiency in advocating it. I think that I have said it in your hearing—that I believe each individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruit of his labor, so far as it in no wise interferes with any other man's rights—that each community, as a State, has a right to do exactly as it pleases with all the concerns within that State that interfere with the rights of no other State, and that the General Government, upon principle, has no right to interfere with anything other than that general class of things that does concern the whole. I have said that at all times.
"I have said, as illustrations, that I do not believe in the right of Illinois to interfere with the cranberry laws of Indiana, the oyster laws of Virginia, or the liquor laws of Maine. I have said these things over and over again, and I repeat them here as my sentiments. * * * What can authorize him to draw any such inference? I suppose there might be one thing that at least enabled him to draw such an inference that would not be true with me or many others, that is, because he looks upon all this matter of Slavery as an exceedingly little thing—this matter of keeping one-sixth of the population of the whole Nation in a state of oppression and tyranny unequaled in the World.
"He looks upon it as being an exceedingly little thing only equal to the cranberry laws of Indiana—as something having no moral question in it —as something on a par with the question of whether a man shall pasture his land with cattle, or plant it with tobacco—so little and so small a thing, that he concludes, if I could desire that anything should be done to bring about the ultimate extinction of that little thing, I must be in favor of bringing about an amalgamation of all the other little things in the Union.
"Now it so happens—and there, I presume, is the foundation of this mistake—that the Judge thinks thus; and it so happens that there is a vast portion of the American People that do not look upon that matter as being this very little thing. They look upon it as a vast moral evil; they can prove it as such by the writings of those who gave us the blessings of Liberty which we enjoy, and that they so looked upon it, and not as an evil merely confining itself to the States where it is situated; while we agree that, by the Constitution we assented to, in the States where it exists we have no right to interfere with it, because it is in the Constitution; and we are by both duty and inclination to stick by that Constitution in all its letter and spirit, from beginning to end. * * * The Judge can have no issue with me on a question of establishing uniformity in the domestic regulations of the States. * * *
"Another of the issues he says that is to be made with me, is upon his devotion to the Dred Scott decision, and my opposition to it. I have expressed heretofore, and I now repeat, my opposition to the Dred Scott decision; but I should be allowed to state the nature of that opposition. * * * What is fairly implied by the term Judge Douglas has used, 'resistance to the decision?' I do not resist it. If I wanted to take Dred Scott from his master, I would be interfering with property and that terrible difficulty that Judge Douglas speaks of, of interfering with property, would arise. But I am doing no such thing as that, but all that I am doing is refusing to obey it, as a political rule. If I were in Congress, and a vote should come up on a question whether Slavery should be prohibited in a new Territory, in spite of the Dred Scott decision, I would vote that it should. That is what I would do.
"Judge Douglas said last night, that before the decision he might advance his opinion, and it might be contrary to the decision when it was made; but after it was made, he would abide by it until it was reversed. Just so! We let this property abide by the decision, but we will try to reverse that decision. We will try to put it where Judge Douglas would not object, for he says he will obey it until it is reversed. Somebody has to reverse that decision, since it is made, and we mean to reverse it, and we mean to do it peaceably.
"What are the uses of decisions of Courts? They have two uses. As rules of property they have two uses. First, they decide upon the question before the Court. They decide in this case that Dred Scott is a Slave. Nobody resists that. Not only that, but they say to everybody else, that persons standing just as Dred Scott stands, are as he is. That is, they say that when a question comes up upon another person, it will be so decided again, unless the Court decides in another way —unless the Court overrules its decision.—Well, we mean to do what we can to have the Court decide the other way. That is one thing we mean to try to do.
"The sacredness that Judge Douglas throws around this decision is a degree of sacredness that has never before been thrown around any other decision. I have never heard of such a thing. Why, decisions apparently contrary to that decision, or that good lawyers thought were contrary to that decision, have been made by that very Court before. It is the first of its kind; it is an astonisher in legal history. It is a new wonder of the world. It is based upon falsehood in the main as to the facts—allegations of facts upon which it stands are not facts at all in many instances; and no decision made on any question—the first instance of a decision made under so many unfavorable circumstances —thus placed, has ever been held by the profession as law, and it has always needed confirmation before the lawyers regarded it as settled law. But Judge Douglas will have it that all hands must take this extraordinary decision, made under these extraordinary circumstances, and give their vote in Congress in accordance with it, yield to it and obey it in every possible sense.
"Circumstances alter cases. Do not gentlemen remember the case of that same Supreme Court, some twenty-five or thirty years ago, deciding that a National Bank was Constitutional? * * * The Bank charter ran out, and a recharter was granted by Congress. That re-charter was laid before General Jackson. It was urged upon him, when he denied the Constitutionality of the Bank, that the Supreme Court had decided that it was Constitutional; and General Jackson then said that the Supreme Court had no right to lay down a rule to govern a co-ordinate branch of the Government, the members of which had sworn to support the Constitution—that each member had sworn to support that Constitution as he understood it. I will venture here to say, that I have heard Judge Douglas say that he approved of General Jackson for that act. What has now become of all his tirade about 'resistance to the Supreme Court?'"
After adverting to Judge Douglas's warfare on "the leaders" of the Republican party, and his desire to have "it understood that the mass of the Republican party are really his friends," Mr. Lincoln said: "If you indorse him, you tell him you do not care whether Slavery be voted up or down, and he will close, or try to close, your mouths with his declaration repeated by the day, the week, the month, and the year. Is that what you mean? * * * Now I could ask the Republican party, after all the hard names that Judge Douglas has called them by, all his repeated charges of their inclination to marry with and hug negroes—all his declarations of Black Republicanism—by the way, we are improving, the black has got rubbed off—but with all that, if he be indorsed by Republican votes, where do you stand? Plainly, you stand ready saddled, bridled, and harnessed, and waiting to be driven over to the Slavery-extension camp of the Nation—just ready to be driven over, tied together in a lot—to be driven over, every man with a rope around his neck, that halter being held by Judge Douglas. That is the question. If Republican men have been in earnest in what they have done, I think that they has better not do it. * * *
"We were often—more than once at least—in the course of Judge Douglas's speech last night, reminded that this Government was made for White men—that he believed it was made for White men. Well, that is putting it in a shape in which no one wants to deny it; but the Judge then goes into his passion for drawing inferences that are not warranted. I protest, now and forever, against that counterfeit logic which presumes that because I do not want a Negro woman for a Slave I do necessarily want her for a wife. My understanding is that I need not have her for either; but, as God has made us separate, we can leave one another alone, and do one another much good thereby. There are White men enough to marry all the White women, and enough Black men to marry all the Black women, and in God's name let them be so married. The Judge regales us with the terrible enormities that take place by the mixture of races; that the inferior race bears the superior down. Why, Judge, if we do not let them get together in the Territories, they won't mix there.
" * * * Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow—what are these arguments? They are the arguments that Kings have made for enslaving the People in all ages of the World. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the People, not that they wanted to do it, but because the People were better off for being ridden! That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old Serpent that says: you work, and I eat; you toil, and I will enjoy the fruits of it.
"Turn it whatever way you will—whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the People of his Country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old Serpent; and I hold, if that course of argumentation that is made for the purpose of convincing the public mind that we should not care about this, should be granted, it does not stop with the Negro.
"I should like to know, taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle, and making exceptions to it, where will it stop? If one man says it does not mean a Negro, why not say it does not mean some other man? If that Declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute Book, in which we find it, and tear it out! Who is so bold as to do it? If it is not true, let us tear it out!" [Cries of "No, no."] "Let us stick to it then; let us stand firmly by it, then. * * *
" * * * The Saviour, I suppose, did not expect that any human creature could be perfect as the Father in Heaven; but He said, 'As your Father in Heaven is perfect, be ye also perfect.' He set that up as a standard, and he who did most toward reaching that standard, attained the highest degree of moral perfection. So I say, in relation to the principle that all men are created equal—let it be as nearly reached as we can. If we cannot give Freedom to every creature, let us do nothing that will impose Slavery upon any other creature. Let us then turn this Government back into the channel in which the framers of the Constitution originally placed it. Let us stand firmly by each other. * * * Let us discard all this quibbling * * * and unite as one People throughout this Land, until we shall once more stand up declaring that all men are created equal."
At Bloomington, July 16th (Mr. Lincoln being present), Judge Douglas made another great speech of vindication and attack. After sketching the history of the Kansas-Nebraska struggle, from the introduction by himself of the Nebraska Bill in the United States Senate, in 1854, down to the passage of the "English" Bill—which prescribed substantially that if the people of Kansas would come in as a Slave-holding State, they should be admitted with but 35,000 inhabitants; but if they would come in as a Free State, they must have 93,420 inhabitants; which unfair restriction was opposed by Judge Douglas, but to which after it became law he "bowed in deference," because whatever decision the people of Kansas might make on the coming third of August would be "final and conclusive of the whole question"—he proceeded to compliment the Republicans in Congress, for supporting the Crittenden-Montgomery Bill —for coming "to the Douglas platform, abandoning their own, believing (in the language of the New York Tribune), that under the peculiar circumstances they would in that mode best subserve the interests of the Country;" and then again attacked Mr. Lincoln for his "unholy and unnatural alliance" with the Lecompton-Democrats to defeat him, because of which, said he: "You will find he does not say a word against the Lecompton Constitution or its supporters. He is as silent as the grave upon that subject. Behold Mr. Lincoln courting Lecompton votes, in order that he may go to the Senate as the representative of Republican principles! You know that the alliance exists. I think you will find that it will ooze out before the contest is over." Then with many handsome compliments to the personal character of Mr. Lincoln, and declaring that the question for decision was "whether his principles are more in accordance with the genius of our free institutions, the peace and harmony of the Republic" than those advocated by himself, Judge Douglas proceeded to discuss what he described as "the two points at issue between Mr. Lincoln and myself."
Said he: "Although the Republic has existed from 1789 to this day, divided into Free States and Slave States, yet we are told that in the future it cannot endure unless they shall become all Free or all Slave. * * * He wishes to go to the Senate of the United States in order to carry out that line of public policy which will compel all the States in the South to become Free. How is he going to do it? Has Congress any power over the subject of Slavery in Kentucky or Virginia or any other State of this Union? How, then, is Mr. Lincoln going to carry out that principle which he says is essential to the existence of this Union, to wit: That Slavery must be abolished in all the States of the Union or must be established in them all? You convince the South that they must either establish Slavery in Illinois and in every other Free State, or submit to its abolition in every Southern State and you invite them to make a warfare upon the Northern States in order to establish Slavery for the sake of perpetuating it at home. Thus, Mr. Lincoln invites, by his proposition, a War of Sections, a War between Illinois and Kentucky, a War between the Free States and the Slave States, a War between the North and South, for the purpose of either exterminating Slavery in every Southern State or planting it in every Northern State. He tells you that the safety of the Republic, that the existence of this Union, depends upon that warfare being carried on until one Section or the other shall be entirely subdued. The States must all be Free or Slave, for a house divided against itself cannot stand. That is Mr. Lincoln's argument upon that question. My friends, is it possible to preserve Peace between the North and the South if such a doctrine shall prevail in either Section of the Union?