Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

of Mr. Taylor. The first clause of it, prohibiting the further introduction of slaves into the territory was defeated by one vote-yeas 70, nays 71. The second clause, which freed all the children of slaves, hereafter born in the territory, at the age of twenty-five years, passed by a vote of 75 to 73.1

On the 19th, Mr. Robertson, of Kentucky, with a view of obtaining an erasure of the amendment adopted on the day previous, moved to recommit the bill to a select committee with instructions to strike out the second clause. On this the vote stood 88 to 88. The Annals say: "There being an equal division, the Speaker declared himself in the affirmative and so the said motion was carried."

The House then concurred with the select committee by 89 to 87.2 This is the only recorded vote of Mr. Clay that was given on this subject whilst he was Speaker of the House-and this vote decided the question at issue so far as Arkansas was concerned, as to the prohibition of slavery there and the consequent exclusion of the Southern people from that territory. From Mr. Clay's steady advocacy of non-interference with the rights of the Southern people on this question, we see plainly what his views and sentiments were in regard to those rights, viz. their right to self-government and to their equal share in the territories. And this, notwithstanding that his own personal preference and judgment were in favor of emancipation all his life, as he evidenced when, previous to the assemblage of the Kentucky Constitutional Convention of 1799, he made speeches and wrote essays, urging emancipation as the wisest thing for the State, although he knew popular sentiment to be utterly opposed to it, and that he risked his own popularity; and again in 1849, when he wrote his celebrated emancipation letter, previous to the Convention of that year.

1 Annals of 15th Congress, Sess. 2, Vol. 1, p. 1238.

' Idem, Vol. 2, pp. 1272–73.

CHAPTER III.

1819-20-Act of 1820, commonly called "The Missouri Compromise Prohibition of slavery north of 36° 30′ offered by Mr. Thomas, of Illinois, as an offset to the admission of Missouri with her slave property into the Union-Intense excitement over the whole country-Proposition accepted as the only way to prevent disruption of the Union-Half of the Southern (and most distinguished) members of the House vote against it as being unconstitutional and unjust.

It has been the popular belief for more than half a century that Henry Clay was the author of the Act of 1820, generally known as the Missouri Compromise Act, that it was a Southern measure, and in the nature of a compact between North and South; and this belief has been made the basis of the statement that the repeal of a portion of this act by that party (the Democratic) which was in favor of doing justice to the South, at the suggestion of a Southern man and a Whig, viz., Hon. Archibald Dixon, of Kentucky, was a breach of good faith toward the North, and in violation of a compact between the North and South.

On the contrary, the facts all go to show that Mr. Clay had nothing whatever to do with the authorship of this measure; that it was not, in any sense, a Southern measure; as the prohibition of slavery in the Territories was proposed by Northern men exclusively, was opposed continuously for two sessions of Congress by every Southern man, and was finally forced upon the South by a Northern majority; not exactly at the point of the bayonet, but through the love of the South for the Union, which was so great as to impel her representatives to surrender her just rights rather than sever that Union to which her people were so devotedly attached..

The facts also show that this act was not only not a

compact between the North and South, but was not so regarded nor so treated by the North at the time, as it was repudiated by the Northern majority at the next session of Congress, in less than a year after its passage; which, of course, would not have been done had it been considered truly a compact; as was afterward claimed, purely for political purposes.

In truth, this act was not even a compromise; it was, instead, a surrender-a surrender of one right in order to secure another right which was threatened. It was a yielding up, by a weaker to a stronger power, of the rights of a third party,' which did not belong to those who yielded them. It was an unconstitutional as well as an illegal surrender, for Congress never owned what was taken away by the Northern and given up by the Southern members. While Congress had the right "to make all needful rules and regulations" for the government of the Territories, no power was ever delegated to Congress to parcel out the Territories of the United States in such a way as might deprive any of her citizens of their just rights and title therein. So that the entire Congress could have had no right to prohibit the citizens of any State from emigrating to the Territories and carrying their property with them, as such prohibition would deprive a large portion of citizens of their just and unquestionable title therein.

It was this prohibition which was repealed on the motion of Mr. Dixon in 1854-a prohibition offered solely by Northern men, opposed steadily by Southern men; and the bill for the admission of Missouri, with this prohibition attached to it, being assented to by them only when they believed the Union would be dissolved unless they did so assent; a prohibition which was at most only an act of Congress, and which we will see that it was proposed to repeal at the next session of Congress, when Missouri was refused admission into the

1 The citizens of the slave-holding States.

Union by the Northern majority notwithstanding the compact so-called.

The attention of the reader is especially invited to the statements in this chapter, even though they be a little tedious; as they bear directly on these points, and are taken from the Annals of Congress itself.

As soon as Congress assembled in December of 1819, Alabama, Maine, and Missouri appeared before it, asking for admission into the Union. Alabama was admitted at once, without question, although her Constitution made slavery perpetual. Georgia had, however, made her stipulations in the matter before she ceded her territory to the United States.

Missouri's memorials were referred to a select committee of the House, when Mr. Strong (of New York) at once gave notice that he should ask leave to introduce a bill to prohibit the further extension of slavery in the Territories.'

On the 14th of December, Mr. Taylor (of New York also) proposed that "a committee be appointed to inquire into the expediency of prohibiting by law the introduction of slaves into the Territories of the United States west of the Mississippi." He spoke of the "excited feelings" produced by the question of slavery, both in Congress and out of it, during the last session. And now, from a Northern man, Mr. Taylor, comes the first suggestion of compromise.

"If," said he, "a compromise of opposite opinions was to be effected, it appeared to him better that a Committee be appointed, etc., and the question be not taken up until the Committee had expended its best efforts, etc," 2

Mr. Scott, of Missouri (delegate), objected to "postponing the bill to February the 1st. If it were to be ultimately lost, the people of Missouri should have time to act for themselves and frame a form of government, 2 Idem, pp. 732-734.

1 16th Cong., Sess. 1, Vol. 1, p. 764.

which he was convinced they would do, without waiting again to apply to Congress for the mere means of organization."1

These echoes of passion but faintly indicate the storm of feeling which had raged over the whole country since the discussion of the question by the Congress of the year before. Town meetings had been held, city meetings, county meetings, cross-roads meetings. Memorials : from nearly all the Legislatures of the States were sent to Congress, beginning as soon as its session opened; the Northern States protesting "in the name of humanity and freedom against the further extension of slavery in the Territories, and against the admission of Missouri without the prohibition of slavery within her borders;" the Southern States protesting "in the name of justice and the Constitution against the exclusion of the South from the Territories, to which she had an equal, if not a superior, right with the North-by virtue of her treasure expended in their purchase, and of her blood shed in the maintenance of the Union-and against the depriving the citizens of Missouri of the property in their slaves, to which they were entitled both by the treaty of purchase and the Constitution of the United States;" whilst petition after petition poured into Congress from the people of the Northern States, asking for the prohibition of slavery in Missouri, and insisting that no more States be admitted without this prohibition. The most intense excitement continued to prevail every-where, and the dark and portentous shadow of the dissolution of the Union hung like a pall over the hearts and lives of men, paralyzing the industries of the country, as the winter passed on without any prospect of the settlement of the question, and seriously damaging its material interests.

The Committee which had been appointed on Mr. Taylor's motion could not come to any agreement, and,

1 16th Cong., Sess. 1, Vol. 1, p. 736.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »