Изображения страниц

The bills providing more effectually for the recovery of fugitive Slaves, and abolishing the Slavetrade in the District, were likewise passed by decided majorities; and the Senate" concurred in the House amendment, whereby two of its measures had been welded togetherYeas 31; Nays 10 (Northern Free Soil). So all the measures originally included in Mr. Clay's proposition of compromise became laws of the land.

And still the debate went on, I passed-Yeas 150; Nays 56—(all hardly interrupted by the death Southern); and then the Utah bill (July 10th) of Gen. Taylor, and the was in like manner passed-Yeas 97; accession of Vice-President Fillmore Nays 85-(mainly Northern Free to the Presidency. Repeated efforts Soil). to cut off from California all her territory south of 36° 30′; to send back her constitution to a new convention of her people, etc., etc., were made by Southern ultras, but defeated; and finally" the bill to admit California passed the Senate by 34 Yeas to 18 Nays-all Southernand the bill organizing the Territories of New Mexico and Utah, as proposed, likewise passed two days thereafter Yeas 27; Nays 10. The other measures embraced in the proposition of compromise were in like manner successively carried with little serious opposition.

When these measures reached the House, they encountered a spirited opposition; but the bill organizing the Territory of New Mexico was added as an amendment or "rider" to the bill defining the Northern boundary of Texas, and paying her ten millions for assenting to such demarkation. This was moved by Mr. Linn Boyd (Democrat), of Kentucky, and prevailed by Yeas 107, Nays 99. The bill, as thus amended, was first defeated-Yeas 99; Nays 107; but Mr. Howard, of Texas, who had voted in the negative, now moved a reconsideration, which was carried-Yeas 122; Nays 84; whereupon the Previous Question was seconded-Yeas 115; Nays 97; and the bill passed" as amended -Yeas 108; Nays 97. The California bill was next" taken up and

19 August 13th. 20 September 4th.

The propelling force, whereby these acts were pushed through Congress, in defiance of the original convictions of a majority of its members, or at least the lubricating oil wherewith the ways were rendered passable, was contained in that article of the bill proposing to the State of Texas the establishment of her Northern boundary, which reads:

"Fourth. The United States, in consideration of said establishment of boundaries, cession of claims to territory, and relinquishment of claims, will pay to the State in a stock bearing five per cent. interest, and redeemable at the end of fourteen years; the interest payable half-yearly, at the Trea

of Texas the sum of ten millions of dollars,

sury of the United States."

By this article, the public debt of Texas, previously worth in market but some twenty to thirty per cent. of its face, was suddenly raised nearly or quite to par, to the entire satisfaction of its holders-many of them members of Congress, or their very intimate friends. Corruption, thinly 21 September 7th. 22 September 9th.


disguised, haunted the purlieus and stalked through the halls of the Capitol; and numbers, hitherto in needy circumstances, suddenly found themselves rich. The great majority, of course, were impervious to such influences; but the controlling and controllable minority were not. This was probably the first instance in which measures of vital consequence to the country were carried or defeated in Congress under the direct spur of pecuniary interest.


sures essential to the existence of the Government. The attempt, therefore, of the Senate of FebruaryMarch, 1849, to dictate to the House, "You shall consent to such an organization of the territories as we prescribe, or we will defeat the Civil Appropriation bill, and thus derange, if not arrest, the most vital machinery of the Government," was utterly unjustifiable. Yet this should not blind us to the fact that differences of opinion are at times developed on questions of decided moment, where the rights of each party are equal, and where an ultimate concurrence in one common line of action is essential. Without some deference to adverse convictions, no confederation of the insurgent colonies was attainable-no Union of the States could have been effected. And where the Executive is, by according him the veto, clothed with a limited power over the making of laws, it is inevitable that some deference to his views, his convictions, should be evinced by those who fashion and mature those laws. Under this aspect, compromise in government is sometimes indispensable and laudable.

Political compromises, though they have been rendered unsavory by abuse, are a necessary incident of mixed or balanced governments that is, of all but simple, unchecked despotisms. Wherever liberty exists, there diversities of judgment will be developed; and, unless one will dominates over all others, a practical mean between widely differing convictions must sometimes be sought. If, for example, a legislature is composed of two distinct bodies or houses, and they differ, as they occasionally will, with regard to the propriety or the amount of an appropriation required for a certain purpose, and neither is disposed to give way, a partial concession on either hand is But what is known in State legisoften the most feasible mode of prac-lation as log-rolling is quite another tical adjustment. Where the object matter. A. has a bill, which he is contemplated is novel, or non-essen- intent on passing, but which has no tial to the general efficiency of the intrinsic worth that commends it to public service such as the construc- his fellow-members. But B., C., D., tion of a new railroad, canal, or other and the residue of the alphabet, have public work--the repugnance of each his "little bill;" not, perhaps, either house should suffice entirely specially obnoxious or objectionable, to defeat, or, at least, to postpone it; but such as could not be passed on for neither branch has a right to ex- its naked merits. All alike must act from the other conformity with fail, unless carried by that reciprociits views on a disputed point as the ty of support suggested by their comprice of its own concurrence in mea- mon need and peril. An understand

ing is effected between their several backers, so that A. votes for the bills of B., C., D., etc., as the indispensable means of securing the passage of his own darling; and thus a whole litter of bills become laws, whereof no single one was demanded by the public interest, or could have passed without the aid of others as unworthy as itself. Such is substantially the process whereby our statute-books are loaded with acts which subserve no end but to fill the pockets of the few, at the expense of the rights or the interests of the many.

therefor. But why Texas should be
paid Ten Millions of dollars for relin-
quishing her pretensions to territory
never possessed by, nor belonging to,
her-territory which had been first
acquired from Mexico by the forces
and then bought of her by the mon-
ey of the Union is not obvious;
and why this payment, if made at all,
should be a make-weight in a bargain
covering a variety of arrangements
with which it had no proper connec-
tion, is still less explicable.
when, on the back of this, was piled
an act to provide new facilities for
slave-catching in the Free States, os-
tensibly balanced by another which
required the slave-traders of Wash-


tion-rooms across the Potomac to that dull old dwarf of a city which had re

It was entirely proper that Congress should provide at once for the temporary government of all the territories newly acquired from Mex-ington to remove their jails and aucico; and there was no radical objection to doing this in one bill, if that should seem advisable. As the estab-cently been retroceded to Virginia, as lishment of a definite boundary between New Mexico and Texas was essential to the tranquillity and security of the Territory, that object might fairly be contemplated in the act providing a civil government

if on purpose to facilitate this arrangement, the net product was a corrupt monstrosity in legislation and morals which even the great name of Henry Clay should not shield from lasting opprobrium.



BUT, whatever theoretic or practi- | general joy the announcement that cal objections may be justly made to all the differences between the diverse the Compromise of 1850, there can be 'sections' had been adjusted and setno doubt that it was accepted and rati- tled. The terms of settlement were, fied by a great majority of the Ameri- to that majority, of quite subordinate can People, whether in the North or in consequence; they wanted peace and the South. They were intent on busi- prosperity, and were nowise inclined ness then remarkably prosperous to cut each other's throats and burn -on planting, building, trading, and each other's houses in a quarrel congetting gain-and they hailed with cerning (as they regarded it) only the


status of negroes. The Compromise had taken no money from their pockets; it had imposed upon them no pecuniary burdens; it had exposed them to no personal and palpable dangers: it had rather repelled the gaunt specter of Civil War and Disunion (habitually conjured up when Slavery had a point to carry), and increased the facilities for making money, while opening a boundless vista of National greatness, security, and internal harmony. Especially by the trading class, and the great majority of the dwellers in seaboard cities, was this view cherished with intense, intolerant vehemence.

ry S. Foote for Governor-Mr. Foote,
as Mr. Davis's colleague, though he
demurred to Mr. Clay's programme.
at the outset, having supported the
Compromise to the extent of his abil-
ity. The election occurred early in
November, 1851; when the "Union"
party won a complete triumph-the
vote being the largest ever yet polled,
and Mr. Foote elected by over 1,0001
majority. The rest of the "Union"
State ticket, with a strongly "Union"
Legislature, succeeded by still larger
majorities. Alabama, likewise, chose
a "Union" Legislature, and a "Uni-
on" majority of Congressmen. Loui-
siana, this year, elected a "Whig"
Auditor and Legislature—meaning
much the same thing. And even
South Carolina-having been sum-
moned by her chieftains (Mr. Cal-
houn being now dead) to elect a
Convention, whereby her course in
the exigency should be determined-
gave a "Coöperation" majority of
over 7,000 on the popular vote,
electing 114 "Coöperationists" to 54
unqualified "Secessionists." In oth-
er words, she voted not to attempt
Secession without the concurrence
and support of her Southern sisters—
this being the shape wherein she could,
with least sacrifice of pride or consis-
tency, indicate her disposition not to
rush madly upon the perils of Dis-
union and Civil War. Thus the tri-
umph of the Compromise in the Slave
States was complete; for it was felt
to be preposterous to make the issue
in any other States if it could not be
upheld in these.

[ocr errors]

The Compromise had been violently opposed alike from the South and from the North-of course, on opposite grounds. The "Fire-Eaters," or disciples of Mr. Calhoun, regarded it as surrendering the substance of all that was in dispute the newly acquired territories-to the North, while amusing the South with a mere shadow of triumph in the waiver of any positive, peremptory exclusion of Slavery therefrom. They resolved not to submit to it, but to rouse their section at first to theoretical, ultimately to forcible, resistance. To this end, a direct issue was made against the Compromise in Mississippi-next to South Carolina, the most intensely Pro-Slavery State in the Union-by nominating a "State Rights" ticket, headed by Jefferson Davis for Governor-Mr. Davis having opposed the Compromise in the Senate with determined pertinacity. His adversaries accepted the challenge, and nominated a "Union" ticket in opposition, headed by Hen-eral and decisive; though here, too, 17,796. These totals are obtained by adding up For Cooperation, 25,098; for Secession, the votes for delegates in the several "parishes."

1 Foote, 28,738; Davis, 27,729.

In the North, likewise, the acquiescence in the Compromise was gen

some of its cardinal provisions provoked strenuous opposition. The new Fugitive Slave Law proved especially obnoxious, both in principle and practice, to a large and earnest minority. It had been originally drafted by Senator Mason, of Virginia-a man conspicuously charged with that pro-Slavery venom which has since made him a leading Rebel-and who had already signalized himself by his efforts to render the maintenance of the Union impossible on any other terms than those of the most utter and abject devotion, on the part of the North, to the most extreme Pro-Slavery aspirations and policy of the South. He opposed, as we have seen, Mr. Clay's programme of compromise, as entirely too favorable to the North; he had been among the foremost of the Southern ultras in defeating that programme in its primitive shape; and he had stubbornly resisted the admission of California as a Free State, unless and until paid for by concessions on the part of the North. Yet his draft of a Fugitive Slave Law was adopted by the great Compromise Committee, and ultimately rushed through the two Houses with little consideration and less scrutiny. When it was reached in its order in the lower, Judge James Thompson obtained the floor-doubtless by prearrangement with Speaker Cobb-and spoke in favor of the measure as just and necessary, closing his remarks by a demand of the Previous Question. This was sustained by a majority; and the bill-with all its imperfections on its head, and without affording any opportunity for amendment


3 Democrat, of Erie, Pa. September, 12th. Samuel A. Eliot, Massachusetts, John L.


was ordered to a third reading by 109 Yeas to 75 Nays-every member from a Slave State who voted at all, voting Yea, with 28 Democrats and 3 Whigs from Free States. From the Free States 33, from the Slave States 15 members were absent, or withheld their votes; and, as the vote in the Senate stood 27 for to 12 against it, with 21 absent, it is noteworthy that it passed either House by the votes of a decided minority of the members thereof. Still, it is hardly probable that, had every member been present and voted, it would have been defeated.

This measure, so inconsiderately adopted, was specially objectionable to the humaner instincts of the Free States in these particulars :

1. It directed and provided for the surrender to the claimant of each alleged fugitive from Slavery without allowing such alleged fugitive a trial by jury; though the Federal Constitution expressly provides that

"In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be


So that, while any person, of whom damages are claimed to the amount of twenty dollars, is entitled to a trial of the issue by jury, he whose liberty, or whose wife and children, are in jeopardy, is especially denied that right by this act. He may be entirely and unimpeachably white— for this act knows nothing of color; he may be the Governor of a State, the Bishop of a great Church; he may be General-in-Chief of the armies of the Union, engaged in a momentous war; but, if any one chooses Taylor, Ohio, Edward W. McGaughey, Indiana. 6 Amendments-Article VII.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »