« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
ate by ill-health, and General Taylor had died and been succeeded by Mr. Fillmore. By what marvellous construction this jumble of measures was accepted as a compromise remains an impenetrable mystery. What did it concede to the North ?this only, that the Slave-market within the District of Columbia should be shifted to the outside. What did it secure to the South ? (1) A renunciation on the part of Congress of all right to interfere with the internal Slave-trade ; (2) an exemption of California, New Mexico, and Utah, from all restriction as to Slavery ; (3) the revolting Fugitive Slave Law. We know nothing more unaccountable in political history, than the sudden prostration of the free-soil party at this crisis of American affairs. That they could for a moment look on the terms vouchsafed by Mr. Clay as any thing short of ignominious surrender is the clearest proof of weakness, pusillanimity, and division. The prohibition of slavery which Congress refused to apply was imposed upon California by her gold. The social state produced by the nature of her wealth is incompatible with “involuntary servitude;" and at her own desire she was admitted as a free State. Economical necessity, not moral or political tendency, determined her happier fate.
The disgraces of 1850, however, seemed as if they must really be the last. The very matter of contention,—it was supposed, was exhausted. The land that remained for Federal disposal was North of 36° 30', and was shielded from controversy by the settlement of 1820. Consoled by this assurance, Boston permitted her streets to become the hunting-ground of the slave-catcher, and lent her courts, her officers, her citizens in aid of his pursuit. She performed her odious engagement; but is disappointed of her virtuous reward Emboldened by invariable success, and aided by a Pierce administration, the Southern leaders resolved to push their advantage : and to organise the remainder of the Northwest Territory without any regard to the Missouri Ordinance. The events are too recent, and have been too fertile in astonishing results, to need recital. In May 1854, the Act to organise the territories of Nebraska and Kansas was passed, expressly leaving it open to the inhabitants to introduce slavery, if they chose. This violation of the Law of 1820 was carried in the Lower House by 113 votes against 100, and in the Upper by 35 against 13. The debate, often discreditable to the temper of the Legislature, was redeemed by a speech from Mr. Seward, Senator of New York, so calm, masterly, and high-minded, as to leave the strongest pression of his statesmanlike character.
The original rule of American usage undoubtedly was, that the Federal government is the government of the territories.
Under protection of this principle the whole power of the Union had again and again been brought to bear upon a particular region on or before its candidature for admission to the system, and imposed conditions to guard the general well-being against special and local interests. The democratic leaders are intent on subverting this rule of Constitutional law: and, under cover of their doctrine, the slaveholding interest, which is essentially local, has escaped the ban of the general Legislature, and carried its cause into its own sectional court. This was a safe game, so long as the geographical conditions favoured their “institution,” and kept the Yankees off. There could be no doubt how the Texan adventurers would settle the labour-question, when left open to them. But it was otherwise with Kansas, which yields no tropical products; where, as in Missouri, the hemp and tobacco fields would supply the chief employment of the African labourer; and whither the Northern emigrant is as likely to find his way as the Southern. In such a region, slavery was not secured by merely throwing it open to local choice. If it was to be determined by vote upon the spot, there must be a dash made at the suffrage, and the ballot-box be made to speak in the right sense. The enterprise organised for this purpose, under the auspices of a Senator and acting Vice-President of the United States (Atchison), reads like a romance even to those who are most credulous of political and personal infamy. We need not repeat a thrice-told tale: how armed bands from a neighbouring State carried the polling-booths at the point of the bowie-knife, and created a Legislature by votes of which four-fifths were illegal : how this spurious Assembly enacted, on behalf of slavery, laws suppressing all liberty of speech, of the press, or of political action,-in terms and under penalties paralleled perhaps in the paroxysms of tyrannical rage, but without example in any written code: how the real settlers, not content with repudiating the acts of this body, elected one of their own, which met at Topeka, and pronounced in favour of free labour :--and how the President of the United States, after dispersing the Topeka Assembly by military force, and owning the fraud and violence of the terrorist parliament, proceeded to recognise and execute its atrocious enactments, and to invest with official authority the ruffians who procured them. The important questions are, first, what has been the action and temper of Congress in relation to these outrageous transactions ? and next,-since new elections have taken place in the very midst of the Kansas excitement,--what is the political verdict of the Nation on the most palpable issue of right or wrong ever submitted to a people?
To reach a summary answer to the first question, we must
cut through a tangle of parliamentary obstruction and complication, which almost makes one despair of representative government. Majority reports and minority reports, -votes registered and votes rescinded, --considerations adjourned and reconsiderations laid on the table, -contradictory bills entering the lists at the opposite doors of the bicameral legislature and annihilating each other in the lobby between,-strings of amendments, that differ merely in word and postpone defeat only by renewing and multiplying it,—motions of adjournment, of “higher privilege,” of reference to committees,-all conceivable devices for disturbing deliberation and hindering action, confuse the records of Congress, and attest the fatal predominance of party passion. It is not wonderful that the result was purely negative. The Lower House, having sent a commission of inquiry into Kansas, and learned every thing from an elaborate report, recognised the acts of the Topeka Assembly, and passed (by a majority of two) a Bill to admit Kansas as a free State. The Senate, on the other hand, recognised the usurping Legislature, and passed (by a majority of 33 against 12) a Bill for constituting Kansas through its officials and authority, and so determining the soil to slavery. As neither House would agree to the measure of the other, the controversy stands over for legislative decision under the new régime. Meanwhile, the measures of the ruffian-parliament are in possession: the free settlers have been driven out, the United States' troops are on the spot to protect the political gains of lawlessness and crime: and an invasion which, in its conception and execution, has exhausted the varieties of infamy, retains a complete success. That Congress could terminate its session and disperse from Washington, leaving in this condition a territory under its charge, strikes us as either an unexampled dereliction of public duty, or an alarming proof of incapacity. The brutal assault on Mr. Sumner, for exposing the degenerate departure of the South from every noble American tradition, was the act of an individual; it might proceed from any fortuitous savage thrown into the House by the lottery of a general election; and only proves the real inner power, the agitating sway of accomplished intellect and noble speech over dumb passions and strong arms. The virtual impunity of the assailant, and his return to Washington as the accepted hero of his State, are serious signs of a corrupted social sentiment. But the legislative abandonment of Kansas to a triumphant terrorism, which has brought the very name of Law into contempt, under a federal executive prostituted to the service of conspiracy and fraud, indicates political or moral incompetency for the highest functions of a civilised State.
And now, as to the second question ; what verdict has the Nation, by its recent suffrage, pronounced upon these things ? It has given to the Slave-interest some thirty more votes in the Lower House, and a four years' additional lease of the Executive administration. It is impossible to break the force of this tremendous fact. The Northern power, roused by the intensest provocation, united by incontestable danger, fresh from the detection of shameless designs, has strained her moral resources to the utmost ;-and has been signally defeated. The ballotboxes of the Union have emphatically declared in favour of EXTENSION of Slavery ;-extension over their own free soil; and extension by seizure of what is not their own ;-in both instances at the cost of violated faith, and with disregard of positive engagements both national and international. Never was an election cast more entirely on a single intelligible issue. For months it had been the sole domestic topic of discussion ; had touched the zeal of the coldest ; had extinguished political neutrality and moral indifference, and forced every one to take sides. The struggle in Kansas and the half-perpetrated murder on the floor of the Senate-house kept one phase of the question before the electors: the Ostend Manifesto recommending the appropriation of Cuba, and signed by Mr. Buchanan, fixed attention on the other. If ever, then, the preponderating sentiment of a people can be inferred from the balance of their franchise, we may surely apply the test on occasion of the recent election. The inference must always be qualified by a
. remembrance of the peculiar distribution of the suffrage in the States. The number of representatives sent by each State to the Lower House,—and in like manner the number of electors it contributes to the electoral College which chooses the President,-is in the ratio of its population ; New York, as highest in the census, sending 35; Pennsylvania, which is next, 27; and so on.
In the free states (where, on an average, 14,472 voters choose one representative), the elections must perfectly express the dominant opinion of the male adult citizens. The franchise is regarded there as a purely personal right, and is in no way qualified by property. In the slave-states, the aggregate of votes can never exceed two-thirds of the male adult population the white man having a vote on his own account, and, if a proprietor, three additional votes for every set of five slaves possessed by him. Of the votes thus constituted, 8,896 suffice to appoint one representative. The general result of this arrangement is, that there are 90 members for the slavestates, each one of whom represents 68,725 whites; and 144 members for the free-states, each one of whom represents 91,935 whites. The votes conferred by the mere possession of slaves, -resting on property-right as distinguished from personal,are sufficient to return 30 members to the House. As there are not more than 92,257 owners of ten slaves and upwards, it is evident that the Southern representation must practically be in the hands of an oligarchy: the more so, as the degraded condition of the “white trash” that hang on the outskirts of the estates, and form the rabble of the towns, reduces them to mere tools of neighbouring power. In judging of the moral significance of an election, allowance must be made for these things. But in computing political prospects, they are factors in the calculation, instead of deductions from the result : for they are fixed data in the Constitution, which spread wherever it goes. The inequality of condition they establish between the Northern and the Southern element in the Commonwealth only gives intenser interest to their political competition for new soil.
There is a prevailing impression, we believe, that Mr. Buchanan's election has been carried by a narrow majority; and that, in that respect, it presents a very favourable contrast with the previous defeat of General Scott' by Mr. Pierce. The impression arises from limiting the comparison to the electoral vote; which gave the Chair to Buchanan by 174 against 114 for Fremont; to Pierce, in 1852, by 254 against 42 for Scott. When we pass behind these figures, and count out of the ballot boxes the tickets of the popular vote, we meet with a very different result. At this primary pole, Pierce received 1,590,490 votes against 1,378,589 for Scott. Buchanan has received 1,649,362 votes against 1,168,174 for Fremont :-the victor rising considerably above, the vanquished falling yet farther below, the corresponding numbers at the previous election. The decisiveness of the popular pronunciamento becomes still more conspicuous when we observe that Buchanan could have spared more than four-fifths of his votes in the slave States, and yet have polled a large majority over his antagonist. Not a solitary vote was cast for Fremont except in the free States : and even here on his own ground, the balance was so even, that Buchanan, with little more than a sixth of his remaining votes, would have turned it against him. The free-State return for Fremont amounted to 1,168,174; for Buchanan to 1,036, 247; who wanted, therefore, from the rest of the Union but 131,927 votes; but actually received thence 613,115. The truth, then, cannot be disguised that, of the inhabitants of free soil, nearly one-half have no desire to prevent the extension of slavery, but will support it under the severest tests that shame and disgust can apply. Even the State of William Penn gave so decided a preponderance to the successful candidate, that he would still have carried its suffrage, had the