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territory beyond that river, might be secured. He accordingly (August 8) sent a Special Message to Congress, asking that a considerable sum be placed at his disposal for these purposes. A bill was immediately reported and considered in Committee of the Whole, making appropriations of $30,000 for expenses of negotiations, and $2,000,000, to be used at the discretion of the President, in making such a treaty. This bill seemed on the point of passing through all its stages without serious opposition.
able acquisition of hitherto Mexican | that it was established and legalized before we were empowered to speak in the matter, and must be upheld until those more immediately interested should see fit to abolish it. This consideration had prevailed even in the recent instance of Texas, where all partition had been refused, all real compromise scouted, on the assumption that Slavery was already in possession, and did not care to divide what was wholly its own.
But what should be the Social or Labor system of the territories about to be acquired? This question could be no longer postponed nor evaded. Hitherto, Slavery had entered upon each succeeding struggle for a new territory with the great advantage of prior possession. Virginia, which claimed the ownership of most of the territory North-west of the Ohio, and between that river and the Mississippi, was a Slave State, and her outlying territories, it might fairly be argued, inherited her domestic institutions; Alabama and Mississippi were, in like manner, constructively slaveholding at the outset, by virtue of the laws of North Carolina and Georgia, from which States they were cut off. Louisiana (including Missouri) had come to us slaveholding from France; so had Florida from Spain; while Texas had been colonized and revolutionized mainly by Southerners, who imprinted on her their darling “institution" before we had any voice in the matter. In the case of each, it had been plausibly and successfully contended that their Slavery was no concern of ours
The case was now decidedly altered. Mexico had utterly abolished Slavery some twenty years before; and every acre that she should cede to us beyond the Rio Grande would come to us free soil. Should it so remain, or be surrendered to the domination and uses of Slavery? It was well known that Mr. Calhoun had elaborated a new dogma adapted to the exigency, whereby the Federal Constitution was held to carry Slavery into every rood of Federal territory whence it was not excluded by positive law. In other words, every citizen of any State had a constitutional right to migrate into any territory of the Union, carrying with him whatever the law of his own State recognized as property; and this must, therefore, be guarded and defended as his property by the Federal authorities of and within said territory. Should this view not be precluded by some decided protest, some positive action, it was morally certain that President Polk, with every successor of like faith, would adopt it, and that the vast and, as yet, nearly unpeopled regions about to be acquired from Mexico would thus be added to the already spacious dominions of the Slave Power.
There was a hasty consultation, in
ORIGIN OF THE WILMOT PROVISO.
default of time or opportunity for one more deliberate, among those Democratic members from Free States who felt that the extreme limit of justifiable or tolerable concession to Slavery had already been reached; wherein Messrs. Hamlin, of Maine, George Rathbun, Martin Grover and Preston King, of New York, David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, Jacob Brinckerhoff and James J. Faran, of Ohio, McClelland, of Michigan, and others, took part; as the result of which, Mr. Wilmot moved to add to the first section of the bill the following:
"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."
This Proviso was adopted in Committee by 80 Ays to 64 Noes-only three members (Democrats), it was said, from the Free States, passing through the tellers in response to the call for the Noes. The bill was thereupon reported to the House; and Mr. Rathbun, of New York, moved the Previous Question on its engrossment (so as to preclude a motion to strike out this Proviso). This was met by Mr. Tibbatts, of Kentucky, with a motion that the bill do lie on the table-in other words, that the original measure, but a moment since deemed so vital, be voted down, in order to kill the Proviso. This was defeated on a call of the Yeas and Nays all the members from Slave States but Messrs. William P. Thom
asson and Henry Grider (Whigs), of Kentucky, voting to lay on the table, with Messrs. John Pettit, of Indiana, and Stephen A. Douglas, John A. McClernand (Democrats), of Illinois, and Robert C. Schenck (Whig), of Ohio, making 79; while the Yeas (comprising all the Whigs but one, and nearly all the Democrats from Free States, with the two Kentucky Whigs aforesaid), were 93. The bill was thereupon ordered to be engrossed for a third reading by 85 Yeas to 80 Nays, passed, and sent to the Senate, then in the last hours of the session. On its being taken up, Mr. Dixon H. Lewis, of Alabama (a close adherent of Mr. Calhoun), moved that the Proviso aforesaid be stricken out; whereupon Mr. John Davis (Whig), of Massachusetts, rose to debate, and persisted in speaking, as though against time, until noon, which had been concurrently fixed as the hour of adjournment; so the session terminated, and the bill and proviso failed together. It is probable that President Polk would have vetoed the bill, because of the Proviso, had they then passed.
Mr. Davis died not many years afterward, and no explanation of his course in this instance was ever given to the public. He may have desired only to defeat some obnoxious measure which would have come up and which would probably have passed if this bill had been promptly disposed of. It is certain that Gen. Cass, then a Senator, complained, on his homeward journey, of Mr. Davis having defeated a measure which should have been passed, so as to preclude all further controversy with regard to the Extension of Slavery.
3 At Worcester, Mass., April 19th, 1854.
This letter is notable as the first clear enunciation of the doctrine termed Popular (otherwise squatter) Sovereignty-that is, of the lack of legitimate power in the Federal Government to exclude Slavery from its territories. Gen. Cass's position was thoroughly canvassed, six months after it was taken, in a letter from Martin Van Buren to N. J. Waterbury and other Free Soil Democrats of his State, wherein he said:
"The power, the existence of which is at this late day denied, is, in my opinion, fully granted to Congress by the Constitution. Its language, the circumstances under which it was adopted, the recorded explanations which accompanied its formation-the construction it has received from our highest judicial tribunals, and the very solemn and repeated confirmations it has derived from the measures of the Government-leave not the shadow of a doubt in my mind in regard to the authority of Congress to exercise the power in question. This is not a new opinion on my part, nor the first oc
casion on which it has been avowed. While
the candidate of my friends for the Presidency, I distinctly announced my opinion in favor of the power of Congress to abolish Slavery in the District of Columbia, although I was, for reasons which were then,
4 Dated Washington, December 24, 1847. Dated Lindenwald, June 20, 1848.
and are still, satisfactory to my mind, very decidedly opposed to its exercise there. The question of power is certainly as clear in respect to the Territories as it is in regard to the District; and, as to the Terria still more solemn form, by giving the tories, my opinion was also made known in Executive approval required by the Constitution to the bill for the organization of
the Territorial Government of Iowa, which prohibited the introduction of Slavery into that Territory."
December 6th, 1847, when Robert The XXXth Congress assembled C. Winthrop (Whig), of Massachusetts, was chosen Speaker of the House by a majority of one; and, on the 28th of February ensuing, Mr. Harvey Putnam, of New York, having moved an independent resolve embodying the substance of the Wilmot Proviso, Mr. Richard Brodhead, of Pennsylvania, moved that the same do lie on the table, which prevailed-Yeas 105, Nays 93-twentyfive Democrats and one 'Native' (L. C. Levin) from the Free States voting with the entire South to lay on the table; all the Whigs and a large majority of the Democrats from Free States against it.
Peace with Mexico having been made, a bill providing a Territorial Government for Oregon being before Congress at this session, and referred in the Senate to a Select Committee, Mr. John M. Clayton, of Delaware, from that Committee, reported it with amendments establishing Territorial Governments also for New Mexico and California. An original feature of this bill was a proposition embodied therein that all questions concerning Slavery in those Territories be referred directly to the arbitration of the Supreme Court of the United States. This measure
By the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, February, 1848.
THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTIONS OF 1848.
of 33 Yeas to 22 Nays-all from Free States-but, on its reaching the House, Mr. Alex. H. Stephens, of Georgia, moved that it do lie on the table, which prevailed; Yeas 112 (30 of them Democrats from Free States; 8 Whigs from Slave States; and 74 Whigs from Free States); Nays 97; (21 Democrats from Free States, with all the Democrats, and all but 8, as aforesaid, of the Whigs, from Slave States). As the Court was then constituted, there was little room for doubt that its award would have been favorable to Slavery Extension; hence this vote. Mr. Clayton's Compromise, thus defeated, was never revived.
passed the Senate by the strong vote | half the vote to which the State was entitled. This the "Barnburners" rejected, leaving the Convention and refusing to be bound by its conclusions. The great body of them heartily united in the Free Soil movement, which culminated in a National Convention at Buffalo," whereby MARTIN VAN BUREN was nominated for President, with CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, of Massachusetts, for Vice-President.
The regular Democratic or Cass and Butler Convention reiterated most of the resolves of its two predecessors, adding two or three in commendation of the War with Mexico; warmly congratulated France on her recent return to a republican form of government, and ambiguously indorsed the new Popular Sovereignty discovery as follows:
The Democratic National Convention for 1848 assembled at Baltimore on the 22d of May. Gen. LEWIS CASS, of Michigan, received 125 votes for President on the first ballot, to 55 for James Buchanan, 53 for Levi Woodbury, 9 for John C. Calhoun, 6 for Gen. Worth, and 3 for Geo. M. Dallas. On the fourth ballot, Gen. Cass had 179 to 75 for all others, and was declared nomi
"Resolved, That in the recent development of this grand political truth, of the sovereignty of the people and their capacity for self-government, which is prostrating thrones and erecting republics on the ruins of despotism in the Old World, we feel that a high and sacred duty is devolved, with increased responsibility, upon the Democratic party of this country, as the party of the People, to sustain and advance among us Constitutional Liberty, Equality by to monopolies and exclusive legislation for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many, and by a vigilant and consistent adherence to those principles and compromises of the Constitution which are broad enough and strong enough to embrace and uphold the Union as it was, as it is, and the Union as it shall be, in the full expansion of the energies and capacity of this great and progressive people."
Gen. WILLIAM O. BUTLER, of Kentucky, received 114 votes for Vice-President on the first ballot, and was unanimously nominated on the third. Two delegations from New York presenting themselves to this Convention-that of the Free Soilers, Radicals, or "Barnburners," whose leader was Samuel Young, and that of the Conservatives or "Hunkers," whose chief was Daniel S. Dickinson-the Convention attempted to split the difference by
At this Convention, the Calhoun or extreme Southern dogma of the constitutional right of each slaveholder to remove with his slaves into any Federal Territory, and hold admitting both, and giving each them there in defiance of Congress
August 9, 1848.
or any local authority, was submitted by Mr. William L. Yancey, of 1800, in all the Territories of the United Alabama, in the following guise:
"Resolved, That the Proviso of Jefferson, to prohibit the existence of Slavery after
States, Southern and Northern; the votes of six States and sixteen delegates, in the Congress of 1784, for the Proviso, to three States and seven delegates against it; the actual exclusion of Slavery from the Northwestern Territory, by the Ordinance of 1787, unanimously adopted by the States in Congress; and the entire history of that period, clearly show that it was the policy of the Nation not to extend, nationalize, or encourage, but to limit, localize, and discourage Slavery; and to this policy, which should never have been departed from, the
Government ought to return.
Resolved, That our fathers ordained the Constitution of the United States, in order, other great National objects, to 'establish justice, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty;' but expressly denied to the Federal Government, which they created, all constitutional power to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due legal process. Convention, Congress has no more power to Resolved, That, in the judgment of this make a slave than to make a king; no more power to institute or establish Slavery, than to institute or establish monarchy: no such power can be found among those specifically conferred by the Constitution, or derived by just implication from them.
"Resolved, That it is the duty of the Federal Government to relieve itself from all responsibility for the existence or continuance of Slavery, wherever the Government possesses constitutional authority to legislate on that subject, and it is thus re
"Resolved, That the doctrine of noninterference with the rights of property of any portion of the people of this confederacy, be it in the States or Territories thereof, by any other than the parties interested in them, is the true Republican doctrine recognized by this body."
The party was not yet ready for such strong meat, and this resolve was rejected: Nays 216; Yeas 36South Carolina 9; Alabama 9; Georgia 9; Arkansas 3; Florida 3; Maryland 1; Kentucky 1; Tennes
The Whig National Convention assembled in Philadelphia, June 7th. Gen. ZACHARY TAYLOR, of Louisiana, had on the first ballot 111 votes for President to 97 for Henry Clay, 43 for General Scott, 22 for Mr. Webster, and 6 scattering. On the fourth ballot (next day), Gen. Taylor had 171 to 107 for all others, and was declared nominated. MILLARD FILLMORE, of New York, had 115 votes for Vice-President, on the first ballot, to 109 for Abbott Law-sponsible for its existence.
rence, of Massachusetts, and 50 scattering. On the second ballot, Mr. Fillmore had 173, and was nominated. No resolves affirming distinctive principles were passed; repeated efforts to interpose one affirming the principle of the Wilmot Proviso being met by successful motions to lay on the table.
The Buffalo or Free Soil Convention was as frank and explicit in its declaration of principles as its more powerful rivals had been ambiguous or reticent. The following are its most material averments:
Resolved, That the true, and, in the judgment of this Convention, the only safe means of preventing the extension of Slavery into territory now Free, is to prohibit its extension in all such territory by an act of Congress."
In the event, Gen. Taylor was chosen President, receiving the votes of New York, Pennsylvania, and thirteen other States, choosing 163 Electors. The strong Free Soil vote for Van Buren ensured to Gen. Cass the votes of Ohio, and of every other State North-west of the Ohio, most of them by a plurality only over Taylor. Gen. Cass carried fifteen States, choosing 137 Electors. Mr. Van Buren carried no Electors, but