Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Davis, John Bell, Benton, and every member present from the Slave States, with Messrs. Cameron, of Pennsylvania; Douglas, of Illinois; Bright, of Indiana; Dickinson, of New York; and Fitzgerald, of Michigan, from Free States-to 21 Nays, including Messrs. Webster, of Massachusetts, Hamlin, of Maine, Dix, of New York, and Breese, of Illinois. The bill, thus amended, passed the Senate by 33 Yeas to 22 Nays.

cluding Messrs. Calhoun, Jefferson | the minority. So the bill was returned to the Senate with its amendment struck out; and that body thereupon receded-Yeas 29; Nays 25-from its amendment, and allowed the bill to become a law in the shape given it by the House. On this memorable division, Messrs. Benton, Bright, Cameron, Dickinson, Douglas, Fitzgerald, Hannegan, Spruance, of Delaware, and Houston, of Texas, voted to yield to the House, leaving none but Senators from Slave States, and not all of them, insisting on the partition demanded. So Oregon became a Territory, consecrated to Free Labor, without compromise or counterbalance; and the Free States gave fair notice that they would not divide with Slavery the vast and hitherto free territories then just acquired from Mexico.

But the House, on its return, thus amended, utterly refused (August 11th) to concur in any such partition of the territories of the Union, on the line of 36° 30', between Free and Slave Labor. The proposition of Mr. Douglas, above cited, was rejected by the decisive majority of 39: Yeas 82; Nays 121-only three" members from Free States voting in

XV.

THE COMPROMISE OF 18 50.

Slavery Restriction.

It is among

the traditions of the canvass that he, some time in 1848, received a letter from a planter running thus: "Sir : I have worked hard and been frugal all my life, and the results of my industry have mainly taken the form of slaves, of whom I own about a hundred. Before I vote for President, I want to be sure that the candidate I support will not so act as to divest me of my property." To which the General, with a dexterity that would have done credit to a diplomatist, and would have proved

14 NEW YORK.-Ausburn Birdsall-1. PENNSYLVANIA.-Charles Brown, Charles J. Ingersoll-2.

GEN. ZACHARY TAYLOR was inaugurated as President on the 4th of March, 1849. He had received, as we have seen, both an electoral majority and a popular plurality, alike in the Free and in the Slave States, mainly by reason of his persistent and obstinate silence and reserve on the vexed question of Slavery in the Territories. He had written letters -not always wise nor judicious during the canvass, mainly in its early stages; but they were not calculated, decisively, to alienate either the champions or the opponents of

WHIG ZEAL FOR SLAVERY RESTRICTION.

exceedingly useful to Mr. Clay, responded: "Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I, too, have been all my life industrious and frugal, and that the fruits thereof are mainly invested in slaves, of whom I own three hundred. Yours," etc. South Carolina did not see fit to repose her faith in him; no more did Texas his own son-in-law, Jefferson Davis, went against him: so did the great body of Slavery Propagandists; yet it is, nevertheless, true that he received many more votes at the South than would have been given for Mr. Webster, or even Mr. Clay.

In the Free States, very many Northern Whigs' had refused to support him, and given their votes to Van Buren as an open, unequivocal champion of Slavery Restriction; and it was by the votes thus diverted from Gen. Taylor that Ohio, with perhaps Indiana and Wisconsin also, were given to Gen. Cass. The great body of the Northern Whigs, however, had supported the nominees of

1 Among those Whigs who took this course in New York City, the names of Willis Hall, Joseph L. White, Philip W. Engs, and Wilson G. Hunt, are conspicuous.

The following are extracts from Mr. Webster's speech at Abingdon, Mass., Oct. 9, 1848:

"The gentlemen who have joined this new party, from among the Whigs, pretend that they are greater lovers of Liberty and greater haters of Slavery than those they leave behind them. I do not admit it. I do not admit any such thing. [Applause.] I think we are as good Free Soil men as they are, though we do not set up any such great preeminence over our neighbors. * * There was an actual outbreak, years ago, between these two parties of the Democracy of New York, and this 'Barnburning' party existed long before there was any question of Free Soil among them-long before there was any question of the Wilmot Proviso, or any opposition by that party to the extension of Slavery. And, up to the Annexation of Texas, every man of the party went straightforward for that Annexation, Slavery Extension and all.

199

their party, not fully satisfied with Gen. Taylor's position on the Slavery question, but trusting that the influence necessarily exerted over his Administration by the desires and convictions of the far greater number of its supporters, whether in or out of Congress, led by such determined Slavery Restrictionists as Mr. Webster and Gov. Seward, would insure his political adhesion to the right side. Many acted or voted in accordance with this view who were not exactly satisfied with it; and the Whig canvassers were doubtless more decided and thorough in their "Free Soil" inculcations than they would have been had their Presidential candidate been one of themselves. Mr. Webster' claimed "Free Soil" as a distinctive Whig doctrine, and declared that, were the Whigs to join the peculiar "Free Soil" organization, they would only make that the Whig party with Martin Van Buren at its head. Gov. Seward' declared the Slavery question the great, living, and pre

"But the Whigs, and they alone, raised a strong opposition to the measure. I say the Whigs alone-for nobody else, either in the East, West, South, or North, stirred a finger in the cause or, at least, made so small an effort that it could not be discerned until the Whigs roused the people to a sentiment of opposition to the further spread of the Slave Power. Then this portion of the New York Loco-Focos, these Barnburners, seized upon this Whig doctrine, and attached to it their policy, merely to give them the predominance over their rivals. ***

"In this Buffalo platform, this Collect of the new school, there is nothing new. * * * Suppose all the Whigs should go over to the Free Soil party: It would only be a change of name; the principles would still be the same. But there would be one change which, I admit, would be monstrous-it would make Mr. Van Buren the head of the Whig party. [Laughter.]"

3 In his speech at Cleveland, Ohio, October 26, 1848, Gov. Seward said:

"A sixth principle is, that Slavery must be abolished. I think these are the principles of the Whigs of the Western Reserve of Ohio. I

National parties, and urged the duty of abolishing Slavery as a reason for supporting Gen. Taylor. Mr. Washington Hunt' wrote an elaborate letter to Ohio, urging the duty of standing by Whig principles by electing Gen. Taylor, and by choosing at the same time members of Congress who would inflexibly resist, and legislate to prohibit, the Extension of Slavery. At no time previously,' had Whig inculcations throughout the Free States been so decidedly and strongly hostile to the Extension of Slavery, and so determined in requiring its inhibition by Congress, as during the canvass

dominant issue between the two | alienation of many Northern Democrats from their former devotion to Southern ideas and docility to Southern leadership. This alienation was further evinced in the coalitions formed the next summer between the Democratic and Free Soil parties. of Vermont and Massachusetts, which in Vermont proved too weak to overcome the Whig ascendency, but in Massachusetts ultimately triumphed in the election of George S. Boutwell (Democrat), as Governor, and Charles Sumner (Free Soil), as Senator. In New York, a fusion was with difficulty effected (in 1849) of the parties which had in 1848 supported Van Buren and Cass respectively-the nominal basis of agreement being a resolve of mutual hostility, to the

of 1848.

Among the results of that canvass was—as we have seen—a temporary

am not now to say for the first time that they are mine. * * *

"There are two antagonistic elements of society. in America, Freedom and Slavery. Freedom is in harmony with our system of government, and with the spirit of the age, and is therefore passive and quiescent. Slavery is in conflict with that system, with justice, and with humanity, and is therefore organized, defensive, active, and perpetually aggressive.

"Freedom insists on the emancipation and development of labor; Slavery demands a soil moistened with tears and blood-Freedom a soil that exults under the elastic tread of man in his native majesty.

"These elements divide and classify the American people into two parties. Each of these parties has its court and its scepter. The throne of one is amid the rocks of the Alleghany Mountains; the throne of the other is reared on the sands of South Carolina. One of these parties, the party of Slavery, regards disunion as among the means of defense, and not always the last to be employed. The other maintains the Union of the States, one and inseparable, now and forever, as the highest duty of the American people to themselves, to posterity, to mankind," etc., etc.

"The party of Freedom seeks complete and universal emancipation."

Then a Whig member of Congress; since, Governor of New York.

5 Mr. James Brooks, Editor of The New York Express, reported to the New York Whig State Convention of 1847 (October 6th), an Address condemning the objects of the Mexican War

then raging, which was unanimously adopted. In the course of it, he said:

"Fellow Citizens: Disguise the Mexican War as sophistry may, the great truth cannot be put down, nor lied down, that it exists because of the Annexation of Texas; that from such a cause we predicted such a consequence would follow; and that, but for that cause, no war would have existed at all. Disguise its intents, purposes and consequences, as sophistry may struggle to do, the further great truth cannot be hidden, that its main object is the conquest of a market for slaves, and that the flag our victorious legions rally around, fight under, and fall for, is to be desecrated from its holy character of Liberty and Emancipation into an errand of Bondage and Slavery. * * *We protest, too, in the name of the rights of Man and of Liberty, against the further extension of Slavery in North America. The curse which our mother country inflicted upon us, in spite of our fathers' remonstrances, we demand shall never blight the virgin soil of the North Pacific. * * * * We will not pour out the blood of our countrymen, if we can help it, to turn a Free into a Slave soil; we will not spend from fifty to a hundred millions of dollars per year to make a Slave market for any portion of our countrymen. * * The Union as it is, the whole Union, and nothing but the Union, we will stand by to the last-but No More Territory is our watchword-unless it be Free."

*

The last Convention of the Cass Democrats, or "Hunkers," which was held at Syracuse in September, 1849, proposing a conciliatory course toward the "Barnburners," as an overture to

GEN. TAYLOR ON THE NEW TERRITORIES.

201

local exceptions; but in the main the Democratic party was materially strengthened by the rapid and general disintegration of the Free Soil party, and by the apparent falling away of the Whigs of the Free States from a decided, open, inflexible maintenance of the principle of Slavery Restriction. Gen. Taylor's election had exhausted the personal popularity based on his achievements as a soldier; his attitude as a slaveholtler, and his tacit negation of the principle aforesaid, were awkward facts; and, though the President himself could not be justly accused of doing or saying any thing clearly objectionable, yet each successive State election of 1849 indicated a diminished and declining popularity on the part of the new Administration.

Extension of Slavery. There were | indefensible by the lapse of a year since the complete restoration of peace. Meantime, the discovery of gold in California was already attracting swarms of adventurers to that country and rendering its speedy and extensive colonization inevitable. That it should soon receive a suitable and legitimate civil government was imperative. New Mexico, likewise, having a population of sixty thousand, mainly native-born, and divested by our conquest of a civil government substantially of her own choice, had a right to expect an early and complete deliverance from military rule.

Neither Mr. Webster nor Gov. Seward had a seat in Gen. Taylor's Cabinet, though either, doubtless, might have had, had he desired it. Mr. Webster remained in the Senate, where Messrs. Clay and Calhoun still lingered, and Gov. Seward first took his seat in that body on the day of Gen. Taylor's inauguration.

The proper organization of the spacious territories recently acquired from Mexico necessarily attracted the early and earnest attention of the new President and his official counselors. It could not be justifiably postponed; for the military rule that had thus far been endured by those territories, exceptional at best, had been rendered anomalous and

wards a neutral basis of reunion with them, adopted the following:

"Resolved, That we are opposed to the extension of Slavery to the free territories of the United States; but we do not regard the Slavery

The new Administration appears to have promptly resolved on its course. It decided to invite and favor an early organization of both California and New Mexico (including all the vast area recently ceded by Mexico, apart from Texas proper) as incipient States, and to urge their admission, as such, into the Union at the earliest practicable day. Of course, it was understood that, being thus organized, in the absence of both slaveholders and slaves, they would almost necessarily become Free States.

According to this programme, Mr. Thomas Butler King' was dispatched to California on the 3d of April, 1849, as a special agent from the Executive, with instructions to favor the early formation of a State Constitution and Government. The President, in a Special Message to Congress on the 21st of January, 1850, replying to a resolution of inquiry from the

question, in any form of its agitation, or any opinion in relation thereto, as a test of political faith, or as a rule of party action."

For most of the ten years preceding, a Whig member of Congress from Georgia.

House, stated that he had sent Mr.
King "as bearer of dispatches," and

added:

"I did not hesitate to express to the people of those territories my desire that each territory should, if prepared to comply with the requisitions of the Constitution of the United States, form a plan of a State constitution, and submit the same to Congress, with a prayer for admission into the Union as a State; but I did not anticipate, suggest, nor authorize, the establishment of any such government without the assent of Congress; nor did I authorize any government agent or officer to interfere with, or exercise any influence or control over, the election of delegates, or over any convention, in making or modifying their domestic institutions, or any of the provisions of their proposed constitution. On the contrary, the instructions giv

en by my orders were, that all measures of domestic policy adopted by the people of California must originate solely with them selves; and, while the Executive of the United States was desirous to protect them in the formation of any government, republican in its character, to be, at the proper time, submitted to Congress, yet it was to be distinctly understood that the plan of such government must, at the same time, be the result of their own deliberate choice, and originate with themselves, without the inter

ference of the Executive."

In his Annual Message, transmitted some weeks previously, the President had said:

66

in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.' By awaiting their action, all causes of uneasiness may be avoided, and confidence and kind feeling preserved. With a view of maintaining the harmony and tranquillity so dear to all, we should abstain from the introduction of those exciting topics of a sectional character which have hitherto produced painful apprehensions in the public mind; and I repeat the solemn warning of the first and most illustrious of my predecessors against furnishing any ground for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations.""

It would seem that this programme might have secured the support of a majority in Congress and commanded the assent of the country. It insured, almost inevitably, to the champions of Free Labor a practical triumph in the organization and future character of the vast territories recently acquired, while according full scope to that "Popular Sovereignty" whereof Gen. Cass, Mr. Douglas, and other Democratic chiefs, were such resolute champions.

But Congress was not disposed to regard with favor any policy recommended by the Administration; while the Slave Power was fully determined, maugre any theory or profession, to exact a partition of the newly acquired territories, or a consideration for surrendering the alleged right to plant Slavery therein. There was an Opposition majority in the Senate; and the House, after a tedious contest, wherein the especial "Free Soil" or Buffalo Platform members refused to support either Mr. Winthrop (Whig), or Mr. Cobb (Democrat), for the speakership, was finally organized under the Plurality rule, whereby, after taking three more ballots, the highest number of votes was to elect. This rule was

"No civil government having been provided by Congress for California, the people of that territory, impelled by the necessities of their political condition, recently met in convention, for the purpose of forming a constitution and State government, which, the latest advices give me reason to suppose, has been accomplished; and it is believed that they will shortly apply for the admission of California into the Union as a sovereign State. Should such be the case, and should their constitution be conformable to the requisitions of the Constitution of the United States, I recommend their application

to the favorable consideration of Congress. "The people of New Mexico will also, it is believed, at no very distant period, present

themselves for admission into the Union.

Preparatory to the admission of California and New Mexico, the people of each will have instituted for themselves a republican form of government, laying its foundations

in such principles, and organizing its powers adopted, by 113 Yeas to 106 Nays.

* December 22, 1849.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »