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´╗┐Title: The Relations of the Federal Government to Slavery - Delivered at Fort Wayne, Ind., October 30th 1860
Author: Edgerton, Joseph K. (Joseph Ketchum), 1818-1893
Language: English
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Delivered at Fort Wayne, Ind., October 30th 1860.

President of the Federal Convention of 1787 to the President of


The publication at this time of a speech of the Presidential Canvass of
1860, may seem uncalled for, and be imputed to other than the motives
that influence me. I nevertheless submit it to the candid consideration
of the public, and especially of such as having heretofore entertained
wrong views on the chief question involved in the canvass of 1860 and
the position of the lamented DOUGLAS, may desire truthful information.
The speech at the time of its delivery was intended as a vindication of
that noble-hearted, but then much-abused and misrepresented patriot. The
grave of DOUGLAS now shields him from the shafts of partisan animosity.
Even his enemies concede, that in his last and self-sacrificing efforts
to unite the Democracy of the North in support of an insulted government
and outraged constitution, he earned the meed due to eminent patriotism.
A perusal of the following pages may, perhaps, convince some, before
doubting, that DOUGLAS was as wise a statesman and as true a patriot in
November, 1860, as he was in May, 1861, when the people of Chicago with
one accord united in a grand ovation to do him honor, not as a partisan
leader, but as a pillar and hope of the Republic in its day of mortal
peril. If what I have written shall induce but even a few candid men to
think better of the departed DOUGLAS, as a statesman and patriot, than
they were wont to think, I will be more than rewarded for my own labor
in his vindication. But I have other motives than this.

The time is not far distant, and I would gladly accelerate its advance,
when the conservative sentiment of the nation will revive and have
utterance, and demand the re-enthronement of the spirit of compromise
and peace--the guardian genius of the unity of the nation. Men of
extreme and violent opinions, both North and South, whose fanaticism,
folly and ambition have brought our great American Republic to its
present sad estate, must give way before the incoming tide of a just
public opinion on the relations of the Federal government to slavery.
The people of the United States have neither the heart nor the means for
a protracted warfare with each other in regard to negro slavery. The war
is mainly the result of misunderstandings and erroneous opinions in both
the slaveholding and non-slaveholding sections of the Union, which
dispassionate investigation will remove. When the deluded men of the
South shall come to understand by abundant evidence, which the good
sense and patriotism of true Union men will furnish, that the spirit of
the war on the part of the loyal States is one springing not from hatred
to the Southern people and their institutions, but from earnest love of
the Federal Union, and a determination to defend and re-establish it in
all the integrity of its principles, they will gladly return to their
first love and welcome the protection of the banner which has ever been
the symbol of the power and glory of the United American people. If,
however, the war on the part of professedly loyal men shall be guided by
any other feeling than love for the Union and a sacred regard for all
the obligations of its Constitution, the preservation of the Union will
be impossible. The non-slaveholding States may, perhaps, bind the
seceded States to them by the stern power of military subjugation, as
Poland is bound to Russia, or Hungary to Austria, but the subjugation of
one section of the Republic by another will never unite their people in
the fraternal bonds of a true Federal Union.

The traditions and historic glory that surround the Federal Government
as our fathers formed it, are yet dear to the hearts of the whole
American people. That government still belongs to them--it is their
heritage, and they, I trust, will yet restore and preserve it. The
horoscope of the future daily brightens with hopeful signs, not the
least of which is the fact that the President of the United States, who
was elected to his high office upon a declaration of political
principles logically involving the extermination of slavery as existing
in fifteen States of the Federal Union, and which could not therefore be
carried out without making the Union "a divided house," has himself
become the supporter of a constitutional and conservative policy in
regard to slavery. Let us thank God and take courage. If the government
will but stand firmly on constitutional ground, we will not despair of
the Republic.

It is also due to truth to say that one object I have in the present
publication is to disabuse the minds of some of my fellow-citizens,
whose good opinion I value, who have been misled by false statements
charging me with sympathy with the Southern rebellion. The opinions now
published were the result of patient investigation, and are still held
with earnest conviction, confirmed by the events of the past year. Of
their justice and patriotism, and whether or not they are the opinions
of a sympathizer with rebellion, candid men will judge.

The speech is published with a few verbal alterations, as it was
delivered, for the reason that in that form its true spirit can best be
understood. Due allowance will therefore be made for its style, which is
that of a popular address.

     FORT WAYNE, IND., December, 1861.


Fellow-Citizens:--In early youth, almost in boyhood I may say, I
attached myself to the Whig party. It was a conservative, rather than a
progressive party, but it was one of noble principles and aims, and it
had noble leaders, the greatest of whom now sleep in death. It was, and
therefore I loved it, eminently a party for the Union and Constitution.
It was a _national_, not a _sectional_ party.

With the death of Webster and Clay, the Whig party, like a headless
army, was broken and dispersed. Its victories and defeats are alike
things of the past. Its history is written in the annals of the nation.
The question of its patriotism is enrolled in the Capitol. Posterity
will do it justice.

Bound by no party ties, I appear before you neither as a partisan nor a
politician, but as an American citizen, to state freely my views upon
the great political question that agitates our country and threatens its
national existence, and to give you the reasons which constrain me to
sustain Stephen A. Douglas and the National Democratic party, which he
leads, in the presidential election near at hand, and I trust I will
have your patient and candid attention.

The Federal government, under the existing Constitution of the United
States, went into operation on the 4th of March, 1789, under the
administration of George Washington as first President. It is
seventy-one years since that event. During that period the number of the
States has increased from thirteen to thirty-three, and another will
soon be added to the number when Kansas, now waiting at the door of the
Union with a republican and a free Constitution, shall come in "on an
equal footing with the original States in all respects whatsoever."

When the Constitution was adopted, the area of the United States was
820,680 square miles. At the present time that area has been increased
to 2,963,666 square miles, or, I may say 3,000,000 of square miles--a
territory ten times as large as that of France and Great Britain
combined, and equal in extent to the empire of the Romans, or of

At equal pace with the expansion of our territory has moved on and
spread out the tide of human life, bearing on its bosom the religious
faith of the christian, and the laws and institutions of the Celtic and
German races purified by christianity and the love of freedom.

At the first census in 1790, the population of the United States
amounted to within a fraction of 4,000,000 of people. In 1860 it will
reach, if not exceed 30,000,000, and it is no vain boast to say, that in
no other nation of equal population, is there so much of individual
freedom, or so large an aggregate of rational, substantial, human

Such are the fruits of over seventy years trial and experience of the
Federal Union and Constitution, and the heart of every true American
patriot swells with a just and noble pride as he contemplates them, and
more than this, it swells with an earnest longing--an ardent
desire--that prompts him as he looks into the future, to breathe to the
Sovereign Ruler of the Universe, the prayer--"God save the Union and the

No American heart that honors God, and truly loves America and the human
race, has ever yet dared to think, much less to say, of the Constitution
of the United States, as William Lloyd Garrison has said, "_It is a
covenant with death and an agreement with hell._"

The United States embrace a territory not touching either extreme of
torrid heat or artic cold, but within those extremes--various in soil,
in climate, in productions--a land we may say in the oriental style of
Scripture language, "flowing with milk and honey," "a land of corn, and
wine and oil," fitted by Providence for the home of races of differing
constitutions, habits, capacities and pursuits; and practically we know,
that within our borders we have alike the European, the Asiatic, the
aboriginal American and the African races, with all their strongly
marked constitutional peculiarities; but our system of State and Federal
Government can give to each race the measure of power and protection due
to each.

The admirer of natural scenery, who from some commanding point of view,
surveys an expanse of mountain and valley, and plain and lake and river,
clothed in the summer sunlight, does not pause and check his pleasing
and elevated emotions, to note with cynical eye, each stagnant pool, or
noxious weed, or unsightly decaying tree that may lie within the limits
of the noble vision. He rather admires the harmony and beauty of the
whole, though he may know that there are within the scene before him
imperfect, unbeautiful and unwholesome things. Such is the feeling of
the patriot of well-balanced mind, when he contemplates the Union and
the Constitution as they are. While he knows the imperfection of all
work of human hands, he accepts and admires in the political work of our
fathers, the grandeur and symmetry of the whole, and will not condemn or
destroy it because it is not in all its parts a perfect work.

But such is not the feeling of every American mind. There are men
assuming to be philosophical and practical statesmen--men who rank with
a great political party as their representative men, who in all their
views and studies of the American Union, see only or chief of all, "_the
mean and miserable rivulet of black African slavery, stealing along
turbid and muddy, as it is drawn from its stagnant sources in the Slave
States_." I quote the language of William H. Seward, in his speech at
Chicago on Oct. 2d, 1860.

This Republican statesman, familiar with the pages of history, which
teaches him that the rivulet of domestic servitude has run among the
nations almost coeval with the stream of time; familiar by personal
observation with the aspect and condition of the civilization of
Europe, where constitutional freedom is almost unknown; familiar also
with the history, the institutions and the society of every portion of
the American Union, and with the blessings which that Union, above all
other systems of government the world has ever known, confers upon its
people; sees all the glories of the Union dimmed, all its harmony
destroyed, all its substantial benefits turned like Dead sea fruit to
ashes and bitterness, when he beholds "the mean and miserable rivulet of
black African slavery, stealing along turbid and muddy from its stagnant
sources in the Slave States."

With this _one idea_ ruling his mind, Mr. Seward labors in the Senate
and before the people with all the learning and ability he possesses to
rouse one half of the nation against the other to dam up, dry up or blot
out "this mean and miserable rivulet." From Boston to Kansas, like
another Peter the Hermit, he preaches a crusade against the institutions
and people of the Southern States. He proclaims an irrepressible
conflict between free labor and slave labor, between Free States and
Slave States, between white suffrage and equality and black suffrage and
equality, and he utters as he goes the atrocious sentiment, not of the
statesman, but of the demagogue, "_Henceforth I put my trust not in my
native countrymen, but I put it in the exile from foreign lands_." I,
the oracle of the Republican party, in effect says Mr. Seward, will not
trust as the conservators of the American principle of freedom and the
American system of free government, the sons of the men who fought the
battles of American Independence, but I and they will trust the exiles
from foreign lands--from Europe, from Asia and from Africa, to establish
here upon the battle fields, rich with the blood of our fathers, the
principles of universal suffrage and universal equality.

Mr. Seward hangs out the signal of uncompromising conflict. This, in
effect, if not in words, says he, is the Holy Land of freedom and
universal equality. Infidels and barbarians possess it in all its
Southern borders, and hold there black christians their coequals in all
the rights of men in an inhuman bondage. Let us then by the aid of the
exiles from foreign lands overcome the infidels and barbarians, and
plant in all that fair domain the standard of the higher law, of
universal suffrage and universal equality; and forthwith all through the
North, Republican _Wide-Awakes_ muster their forces for this great
political crusade. I am drawing no fancy picture. What I say is but a
legitimate comment upon the language of Mr. Seward in his Chicago
speech, already referred to, and in other speeches he has made during
his recent pilgrimage through the North-west. Mr. Seward is the
self-constituted exponent of the _higher law_ in its application to
political parties and measures, and to Constitutions and systems of
government, but in his pursuit of one idea, he seems to forget that the
sacred volume to which we all look as the source of our best and truest
knowledge of the will and purposes of Providence concerning man, if it
clearly reveals to us any thing, clearly reveals this fact, which all
human history confirms: that man is not a perfect being; that this earth
is not a perfect state; that disorder, and imperfection, and inequality,
and change must ever pervade it, and mark all human institutions. This
earth and its mortal life is but the threshhold--the vestibule of human
destiny--that reaches far into the eternal ages. Believe, as he may, in
human equality or in the perfectibility of humanity, no such theory has
ever yet been realized, nor will it ever be realized in this
probationary state of man. Philosophy may teach--political constitutions
may declare, and political parties may attempt to enforce as a practical
truth, that all men are equal. No such theory will ever find a perfect
realization in any system of human government.

In his speech at Chicago, before referred to, Mr. Seward vauntingly
asserts, as the idea or creed of the Republican party, as if to that
party alone were committed the oracles of freedom--"That civilization is
to be maintained and carried on upon this continent by Federal States,
based upon the principles of free soil, free labor, free speech, equal
rights and universal suffrage." I pause but a moment here to note the
pregnant meaning of this authoritative declaration of the representative
man of the Northern sectional party. It means no less than that there
shall be no Federal States on this continent where free soil, free
labor, free speech, equal rights and universal suffrage shall not
prevail. In other words it means that domestic servitude as now known in
the Southern States of the American Union, _shall be abolished_, and
that there shall be equal rights and universal suffrage among all the
races who may inhabit the American continent. Herein is the end or
ultimate goal of the higher law of Mr. Seward, and its coadjutor, "the
irrepressible conflict."

Conceding that all these ends shall have been attained and African
slavery forever blotted out, still will the doctrine of human equality,
which lies at the base of the whole abolition movement in this country,
be as far from its perfect realization as now, for the reason that it is
not the will of Providence that such a doctrine can ever support a
permanent system of human society; and yet, because of its supposed
conflict with this utopian theory of equality, it is, that the Federal
Constitution, which has been called by George Washington "the palladium
of American liberty," has been pronounced by the radical apostle of
abolition, "a covenant with death and an agreement with hell."

In pursuit of this delusive theory of equality and universal suffrage,
the masses of the Republican party, who would deem it an insult to be
charged with entertaining the traitorous sentiments of Garrison, are
inaugurating and sustaining a political movement, the inevitable result
of which will be to destroy the Union and Constitution as they are. That
the abolition of slavery is the necessary logical result and end of the
political doctrines of Mr. Seward, no man who understands the force of
language can deny, and until it shall have been fully explained how this
end is to be attained consistently with the peace, the safety and
constitutional rights of the slaveholding States, and how we are to deal
with the millions of the African race, who by the establishment of free
labor, free speech, free soil, equal rights and universal suffrage, are
to become the peers of their masters and of each and every one of us, I
shall fail to believe that the abolition of slavery by any Federal
action can coexist with the American Union under its present Federal

I shall not pause now to speak in detail as to what are to be the fruits
of the irrepressible conflict, nor shall I stop to inquire as to the
purity or sincerity of the motives of Mr. Seward and his compeers in
their crusade. When the christian crusaders of the middle ages
precipitated the hosts of Europe upon Asia, the weary, wayworn soldiers
of those countless hosts, as they traversed the burning sands of Syria,
doubtless thought they were doing God service--their cause in their
minds, was the cause of christianity and of humanity, and as Godfrey of
Bouillon set the standard of the cross upon the walls of Jerusalem,
recovered from the power of the infidel Moslem, he was ready like Mr.
Seward, when he contemplates the results of the repeal of the Missouri
compromise in the victories of the Republican party, to take up and
exult in the song of Miriam, the prophetess. But as history proves in
the case of the old crusades, so will it prove in the case of the
crusade of abolition, that any premature attempt by material or
political armaments to forestall and hurry on the great purposes and
movements of Providence, cannot succeed. History tells us the result of
the crusades.

"Every road leading to Palestine was drenched with blood, and along its
dreary track lay scattered at no distant intervals the skeletons and the
wrecks of nations. After four years of toil and misery and victory,
Jerusalem was conquered by the crusaders; but as their conquests were
not the work of wisdom and prudence, but the fruit of a blind enthusiasm
and an ill-directed heroism, they laid the foundation of no permanent
settlements, and in fact soon melted away like frost-work in the sun."

For seven hundred years since the crusades to free the christian people
of Asia from Moslem rule, that rule has been maintained in all its
despotic power.

When will men learn by severe experience that political and religions
ideas have conquered more in defence than in offence and aggression, and
that reason is the true leader of ideas, and the paths of peace their
certain way to victory?

In this one idea then of "black African slavery," as Mr. Seward calls
it, we have reached the central fact, or as Abraham Lincoln would say,
"_the particular spot_" upon which sectional parties are staking the
destiny of the American Union. All other political questions have sunk
to insignificance when compared with this. It would seem as if reckless
men were determined that from "this mean and miserable rivulet," are to
go out the poisonous waters that shall blast the fair face of this
promised land of freedom.

"Slavery agitation, in my opinion," says Abraham Lincoln, "will not
cease until a crisis has been reached and passed. 'A house divided
against itself cannot stand.'" We are now in the midst of that crisis.
It is the pendency of that crisis which has prompted me to address you
to-night. For the first time in the history of the government, we have
the spectacle of purely sectional parties struggling for the control of
the Federal government, each determined to warp and bend to its own
sectional end, the Constitution and power of the Federal Union. Never
before could patriotic citizens so earnestly lay to heart the counsel of
Washington to avoid the formation of sectional parties.

On the 17th of September, 1796, exactly nine years after he, as
President of the Convention and Deputy from Virginia, had signed his
name to the Federal Constitution, Washington thus addressed his

"The unity of government which constitutes you one people is now dear to
you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your
real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace
abroad, of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very liberty which
you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that from different
causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many
artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this
truth--as this is the point in your political fortress against which the
batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and
actively (though often covertly and insidiously), directed, it is of
infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of
your National Union to your collective and individual happiness; that
you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to
it,--accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium
of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation
with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a
suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly
frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion
of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now
link together the various parts."

_Fellow-Citizens, the portentous evil which Washington thus deprecated
in his Farewell Address to the people of the United States is now upon
us. I repeat we are in the midst of the crisis of sectional parties. How
shall it be passed, so that the Union shall not fall?_

It seems to me that no man who knows our history, who understands truly
the genius of our people, and who understands also the principles upon
which the Union and the Constitution are based, can fail to believe that
it is not by the conflict of sectional parties and their triumph, but by
the defeat of sectional parties by a stronger and more patriotic
national party, that the divided house can be reconciled and the house
itself made to stand in safety. The safety of the Union depends upon
maintaining the Federal government in the hands of a national party,
which shall carry out the spirit of the Federal Constitution. A solemn
responsibility rests upon every citizen in this regard.

I propose then to inquire--

1st--What is the true spirit of the Constitution, and what the true
policy of the Federal government on the subject of slavery? and,

2d--How do the parties and the candidates now before the people stand in
regard to it?

I wish distinctly to say that I do not propose to consider the question
of slavery in its moral or religious aspects, but as a political
question under the Federal Constitution.

As to my personal opinion in regard to slavery, I am free to say I
consider it an evil, which I hope will be eradicated from the earth, but
I do not regard it as the greatest of evils, nor do I consider that it
requires political action from the Federal government. On the contrary,
I believe that while the question of slavery might be safely agitated,
with a view to political action, in a consolidated or imperial
government, or even in an American Federal State, it cannot under our
Federal system of government be safely or rightly agitated as a national
question. Its agitation as such has done more to alienate and embitter
the two sections of our Union--more to rouse the spirit of slavery
aggression and extension, and to tighten the bonds and increase the
burdens of the slave, than it has done to effect emancipation. Slavery
is an evil permitted by Providence for ends that time will reveal. From
this form of social evil, he is still educing good, far more good to the
slaves, as a class, than to the masters as a class. It must not be
suddenly nor rashly dealt with. Like a disease that pervades the blood
or the whole constitution of a man, it needs not, for it cannot be
reached by, the exterminating knife or cautery of the surgeon; it
requires the gradual, purifying and alterative influences of gentle
medicines, that work their way almost imperceptibly to the very
principle and seat of the malady.

For my part, while I yield to no man in my love of liberty and the
rights of man, I frankly say I had rather that the "rivulet of African
slavery" flow on for five hundred years to come, than to see around me
the fragments of a dissevered Union. In that Union, and the silent
steady workings of its glorious principles, more than in the conflict
of antagonist and angry parties, rest the hopes, not alone of African
emancipation, but of unborn nations.

The American Union grew out of the exigencies of the times. A common
cause and a common danger united the colonies first in resistance to the
aggressions and exactions of the British government, and finally in the
overthrow of its power over them. With the declaration of their
independence, came the conviction of the necessity of their permanent
Union, and this conviction after much of doubt and debate, resulted in
the adoption of the Articles of Confederation by the final ratification
of Maryland, on 1st March, 1781, which continued in force until the
present Constitution went into operation.

So long as the States were engaged in the war of the Revolution,
although the confederation was found to be in many things weak and
imperfect, amid the dangers and anxieties of those years of trial its
defects were overlooked or supplied by the earnest patriotism of our
fathers, and it accomplished its end in the triumph of independence. But
it was not long after the peace of 1783, when the Congress came to carry
on the Federal government with reference to the ends of peace and the
commercial policy and general prosperity of the United States, that it
was found that the Articles of Confederation could no longer answer as
the Constitution of the United States. A leading writer of that day in
addressing the public upon the subject, after enumerating many of the
defects of the Confederation with reference to the powers of the
Congress, summed up the whole in these brief words, "In short, they may
declare everything but do nothing."

Judge Story remarks in speaking of this period of our history--"That the
confederation had at least totally failed as an effectual instrument of
government. It stood the shadow of a mighty name."

Judge Marshall on the same subject says--"The confederation was
apparently expiring from mere debility."

Judge Story further says--"_It is, indeed, difficult to over-charge any
picture of the gloom end apprehension which pervaded the public
councils, as well as the private meditations of the ablest men of the

It was under such circumstances that the convention for forming the
present Constitution of the Union was called.

Into this convention were brought by the delegates of the States, the
same unceasing jealousy and watchfulness, which had marked the formation
of the confederation, in respect to the powers to be confided to the
general government.

In the Articles of Confederation it had been declared "that each State
retained its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power,
jurisdiction and right not expressly delegated to the United States."

The States were generally unwilling to surrender anything of their
internal sovereignty. They claimed then as they claim now, full right
and power to regulate their own domestic institutions in their own way,
and were willing to surrender to the general government only such powers
as were necessary to the complete efficiency of a Federal government in
attaining the purposes of the Union. These were in the language of
Alexander Hamilton:

"The common defence of the members; the preservation of the public peace
as well against internal convulsions as external attacks; the regulation
of commerce with other nations and between the States; the
superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with
foreign countries."

The difficulty of obtaining a ratification of the Constitution by the
people of the States, was not less than the difficulty of framing it in
convention. Georgia, New Jersey and Delaware unanimously approved the
Constitution. It was supported by large majorities in Pennsylvania,
Connecticut, Maryland and South Carolina. It was carried in
Massachusetts, New York and Virginia only by a small majority. North
Carolina and Rhode Island were the last to adopt it, and the former at
first rejected it.

In the address of the convention to Congress on presenting the
Constitution with the recommendation for its submission to and approval
by the States, the convention say: "The Constitution which we now
present, _is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual
deference and concession_ which the peculiarity of our political
situation rendered indispensable." In these few words of the framers of
the Constitution, expressing its reason or spirit, we find the true
guide to its interpretation and administration. The spirit of
compromise, so far as relates to the clashing views or conflicting
interests of different States or sections of the Union, pervades the
Constitution in every part, and especially is this the case in reference
to the now all-absorbing question of negro slavery.

What was the state of this institution at the adoption of the
Constitution, and how did the Constitution deal with it?

The first introduction of African slaves into the American colonies was
in 1620. The total number imported by means of the African slave trade
between 1715 and 1790, was about 300,000. When the Constitution was
ratified in 1790, the total number of slaves in all the States and
territories was near 700,000. All the States ratifying the Constitution,
except Massachusetts, held slaves; Virginia the largest number--over
293,000; New Hampshire the smallest number--158. Even the granite hills
of New Hampshire were not then free from the feet of bondmen.

Our fathers were not responsible for the existence of slavery in their
midst. As already stated, the introduction of slaves had commenced in
1620, 156 years before the declaration of independence, and the
institution had under the patronage of the British government,
insidiously grown up and strengthened itself, especially in the Southern
States, which were adapted to negro labor. There it had interwoven
itself with the entire fabric of the social and domestic relations, and
could not be suddenly or rashly severed without involving greater evils
than its own existence.

It is undoubtedly true that a large number of the framers of the
Constitution were themselves slaveholders, among them George Washington
himself. With these men domestic slavery, though it might have been
regarded as an evil, was certainly not looked upon as a mortal sin, nor
were they, whatever might have been their theoretical opinions,
practical believers in the doctrine of universal equality of rights or
universal suffrage.

Here then, coeval with the organization of the Federal government, was
the domestic institution of slavery, existing in all the States but one,
and embracing over one sixth of their entire population. There were two
very plain methods by which it might have been dealt with. One was by an
express declaration of the Constitution, affirming as the Republican
sectional party affirm, that slavery is a relic of barbarism, and
therefore slavery shall be abolished in all the States and territories
of the American Union. Another method was to have declared in the
Constitution, as ultra men of the South now declare, that slavery is a
benign institution, deserving of protection, encouragement and extension
by the Federal government, and therefore slavery shall be protected and
extended in all the States and territories of the American Union. Had
the constitutional convention been a sectional and not a national
organization; had its members been governed by a sectional and not a
national spirit, they would doubtless have taken one or the other of the
horns of this dilemma, but in that "_spirit of amity, mutual deference
and concession_," which governed their lofty patriotism, they took
neither of the extremes. They took the position that the institution of
domestic slavery was of local origin and of local concern--a matter
directly pertaining to the internal sovereignty of each State; that it
was not a legitimate subject for national or Federal legislation, and so
far as related to its extension or its abolition within the States, they
left it where they found it, with the people of the States whom it most
concerned, the Congress assuming only the right, after the period of
twenty years, to prohibit the importations of slaves from beyond the
limits of the United States. The political reason of this prohibition is
apparent. Without it the principle of non-intervention with slavery by
the Federal government which pervades the Constitution, could not have
been carried out. So long as the foreign traffic in slaves was made
lawful to any of the States, slavery was nationalized. American slave
ships, engaged in a lawful commerce, and bearing the national flag,
would be as much entitled to national protection as any other of the
American mercantile marine. Permission of the African slave trade was
essentially intervention in favor of slavery, and the right to prohibit
it, and the exercise of that right, in no wise conflict with the
principle of non-interference with it within the States.

There are but four provisions of the Constitution wherein the subject of
slavery is alluded to, viz: Art. 1, sec. 2; art. 1, sec. 9; art. 4, sec.
2; and art. 5.

It is plain from these provisions--

1st--That the slaveholding States are entitled under the Constitution to
representation in the national legislature upon three-fifths of their
slaves, so long as slavery exists in those States; and they are subject
to direct taxation accordingly.

2d--That the right under State laws to import slaves into _the then
existing_ States, was guaranteed for twenty years, or until 1808, and
the guarded concession of the right involved the converse, that after
1808 the foreign slave trade was to be prohibited by Congress, for the
reason already assigned, and any attempt by Congress now to open the
African slave trade, would be as direct a moral violation of this
compromise of the Constitution as if the Congress were to attempt
directly to abolish slavery in any State.

3d--It is equally plain that the right of slave owners to recover
fugitive slaves, escaping from the State where they are held, _under the
laws thereof_, into another, is guaranteed.

The Federal Constitution so far as relates to the subject of slavery
within the United States, involves the three propositions stated and
nothing more, and there is nothing in these in the least degree
expressing or implying a right in Congress to abolish or establish
slavery in any State or territory of the Union. On the contrary, the
whole tenor of the Constitution is, slavery is the creation of _local
law_, and Congress is to let it alone.

Now as to the question of slavery in the territories and the power and
policy of the Federal government concerning it there.

The power to acquire territory for the purpose of colonization or the
creation of States was not expressly granted to the Federal government,
either by the Articles of Confederation or by the Constitution, but it
has been largely exercised under both systems of government. The acts of
the government of the Confederation in accepting cessions from several
of the States of unoccupied territory, claimed by them in the west, and
organizing territorial governments therein, were declared in 1788, by as
high authority as James Madison, to be "_without the least color of
constitutional authority_." But as has been the case with many other
usurpations of the Federal and other governments, the value of the ends
to be attained seems to have justified the usurpation in the public

The territory acquired by Congress under the Confederation was territory
which was claimed by or belonged to certain of the original States. The
territory acquired under the Constitution has been foreign territory.
Louisiana was acquired in 1803 from France, Florida in 1819 from Spain,
Texas in 1846 by annexation as a State, a portion of Oregon in 1846 by a
boundary treaty, and a large territory including New Mexico, Utah and
California by treaty with Mexico in 1848.

The purchase of Louisiana was a measure of Mr. Jefferson, but so serious
were his doubts as to the constitutionality of the purchase, that he
advised an amendment of the Constitution, but no such amendment was
attempted, and the purchase was finally made and acquiesced in, upon the
principle that the end justified the means. It seems now, however, to be
generally conceded that the power of the Federal government to acquire
territory, exists by implications either in the treaty making power or
in the power to admit new States. In view of the only legitimate end
and purpose of all such acquisitions, it is natural to look upon the
power of acquiring as an incident of the power to admit new States.

The right or claim of some of the States, viz: New York, Virginia,
Massachusetts, Connecticut, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia
to a vast extent of waste and unoccupied territory, as embraced in their
original charters or territorial limits, was a subject of serious
concern in the Congress of the Confederation, and constituted for some
time the only obstacle to the ratification of the Articles of
Confederation. Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey, which had no such
territory, were especially jealous on this subject, the two former
peremptorily insisting upon the restriction of the boundaries of such of
the States as claimed to extend to the Mississippi River or South Sea,
to moderate limits, and that the property in the soil of the western
territories should be held by the Federal government for the common
benefit of all the States, as the same, to use the language of Delaware,
"_had been gained by the blood and treasure of all_."

To remove this subject of contention, New York was the first to tender
on 7th March, 1780, a surrender of her claim in western territory. On
6th Sept., 1780, the Congress, by resolution, recommended to the States
concerned "a liberal surrender of a portion of their territorial claims,
since they cannot be preserved entire without endangering the stability
of the general confederacy." On 10th October, 1780, the Congress, by
resolution, defined the condition upon which the cession of territory
was asked, declaring that "such territory shall be disposed of for the
common benefit of the United States, and be settled and formed into
distinct republican States, which shall become members of the Federal
Union, and have the same rights of sovereignty, freedom and independence
as the other States."

Governed by that noble patriotism and devotion to the good of the Union,
which marked the whole course of the revolution, and the foundation of
the general government, all the States rose above the dictates of
selfishness and State pride, and laid upon the altar of the Union, gifts
that have grown to empires. The surrender of territory asked for by New
Jersey, Maryland and Delaware, and recommended by Congress, was made.
All the States but Georgia had ceded prior to the adoption of the
Constitution. The cession of Georgia was completed in 1802. With the
immense domain of fair and fertile lands, thus freely given to the
Federal government by individual States, it was able to discharge the
debts of the war of the revolution, and in various ways to provide for
the common defence and promote the general welfare of the United States.
No man in whose bosom glows a generous sentiment, can read the record of
that period of our national history without feeling his heart swell with
admiration and affection for the fathers of the Republic. Would that
their sons would ever honor their memory by an imitation of their noble
example of devotion to the Union!

In this surrender of territory to the general government, we distinctly
mark, and it is for that purpose I have related the history, the same
"spirit of amity, and of mutual deference and concession," which
pervades the Constitution, and I would dwell here a moment to ask you,
and especially sectional Republicans, who think that no good thing can
come out of the Nazareth of the South, to note another fact: that of all
the territory ceded to the United States by individual States, for the
common benefit of the Union, by far the largest part was owned by what
were then and are now Slave States. Massachusetts, New York, and
Connecticut claimed largely, but without possessory right. Virginia,
North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia had superior claims to nearly
all. The splendid empire that now embraces the States of Ohio, Indiana,
Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky and Wisconsin was most of it once the
property of the sovereign State of Virginia. Yet Virginia, then the
largest slaveholding State of the Union, laid all this vast territory at
the feet of the Union, with no other reward than the consciousness of
love of country. She did not even stipulate for the preservation of her
own "_peculiar institution_." Virginia has not alone given to the nation
Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Harrison, Clay, Henry, Marshall,
heroes, statesmen and Presidents, whose valor aided to win our
independence, and whose wisdom laid deep and broad the foundations of
our Union, but by her magnanimity she added to the Union six of its
noblest States, and from their citizens at least she should never hear
the cry that taunts her with slavery. Rather let that cry go forth from
puritan and abolition Massachusetts, as her sons read over her ancient
Quaker laws, or count up the nefarious gains their slave-trading fathers
made, while enjoying the twenty years lease of the African slave trade,
granted by the Federal Constitution. Ridicule as we may the family pride
or State pride of Virginia, or the sometimes Quixotic chivalry of her
sons, they have reason to be proud of their noble mother, for her great
names belong to American fame, and her history is our nation's glory. In
view of all the past, I hope that day may never come when Virginia shall
cease to be one of the Union as our fathers made it.

Over the territory thus acquired, the Congress of the Confederation had
adopted two systems of government; viz: the ordinance of April 23, 1784,
prepared by Thomas Jefferson, soon superseded by the more celebrated
ordinance of July 13, 1787, prepared by Nathan Dane of Massachusetts. In
its extent the first ordinance covered _all territory_ ceded or to be
ceded; the second ordinance covered only the territory north west of the

I shall not refer to the Jefferson ordinance of 1784, further than to
note these points concerning it.

First--It provided for temporary government, by which the people of the
territory might regulate their own internal affairs free from the
control of Congress; and,

Second--It did not prohibit slavery--a provision for that purpose having
been stricken out by the vote of Southern States. This ordinance was
superseded, as before stated, by that of July 13, 1787.

On the terms of this ordinance and its subsequent recognition under the
Constitution, rests much of the argument of the advocates of
Congressional intervention to prohibit slavery in the territories. This
ordinance, as you doubtless all know, forever prohibited slavery in all
the North west territory, but contained also the proviso for the
surrender of fugitive slaves. I ask you to note in regard to the

First--It applied only to territory acquired from Virginia north of the
Ohio, and it was unanimously adopted; and it was a sufficient legal and
moral ground for its recognition by the Congress after the adoption of
the Federal Constitution, that the ordinance, whether made with or
without authority, was in its terms a compact between _all the States_,
and was recognized by all the States as such by tacit assent, if not
express legislation. It was expressly so recognized by Virginia, Georgia
and North Carolina. Consent had cured the usurpation of the Congress, if
such it was, as Madison affirmed, and therefore, the ordinance, when the
Constitution took effect, was legally and constitutionally _an
engagement of the United States, under the Confederation_, binding upon
the Federal government by express provision of the sixth article of the
Constitution, declaring that "all debts contracted and engagements
entered into before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid
against the United States under this Constitution, as under the
Confederation." It was upon this legal ground, as well as upon the
ground that Indiana was not adapted to and did not need slave labor,
that Congress refused to allow the petitions of Indiana while a
territory, which petitions were approved by William Henry Harrison, for
a suspension for a term of years of the sixth article of the ordinance
of 1787, prohibiting slavery. It was a compact to which all the States
were parties, and by its express terms, could not be repealed or
suspended without their common consent.

Second--The prohibition of the ordinance, applied to territory
substantially free from slavery, and which it was well understood was
not adapted to slave labor. It raised no such question, as would have
been raised, if it had been applied to territory where slavery then
largely existed, or which was adapted to negro slave labor. It is,
therefore, no precedent for Congressional action in such a case. The
precedent of one case is not a rule of decision for another, unless the
two are substantially alike. This noble ordinance of 1787, then rather
affirmed a principle of freedom, than imposed a necessary practical
prohibition, for it may be well to know, that notwithstanding the
ordinance, there were as late as 1810, in Indiana, 237 slaves, and as
late as 1820, in Illinois, 917 slaves, but upon a soil fitted by nature
for the vigorous growth of freedom, African slavery, the tree of tropic
climes, could not grow, and it withered and died, as it had done before
in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New
York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In connexion with the ordinance of 1787, another point may be alluded to
here. In a very able speech made by Mr. Upham of Massachusetts, in
opposition to the Kansas and Nebraska bill in the House of
Representatives on 10th of May 1854, the point is made, that the
prohibition of slavery in the ordinance of 1787, and the provisions of
the Constitution regarding slavery, were the result of a bargain between
the North and the South, by which the North gained on one hand exclusion
of slavery from the North-west territory, and the right first to tax,
and after twenty years to prohibit the African slave trade, and the
South on the other hand gained the right to representation in slaves,
the right to continue to import them for twenty years, and the right
forever to reclaim fugitive slaves. According to this theory, the slave
representation, the reclamation of fugitive slaves, and the right to
twenty years of the African slave trade, were, to use Mr. Upham's
language "the equivalent paid by the free States to the Slave States, in
consideration of the abandonment by the Slave States of all claim to
extend their slavery beyond their own limits." It is undoubtedly true,
that the ordinance of 1787 and the Constitution were almost concurrent
acts, but the facts of history will not sustain Mr. Upham's assumption
of a bargain to the extent stated, yet it has sufficient basis to
warrant the point, that the ordinance of 1787 was a compact and a
compromise, and was never intended by the South as a concession of any
right or power in Congress arbitrarily to prohibit slavery in any
territory of the United States. It may be true that for their consent to
have slavery excluded from the North-west territory, the South received
an equivalent, but the exclusion and the equivalent applied only to the
North west territory, and as to all territory thereafter acquired, the
question remained the same as before the ordinance of 1787, and must
depend on the Constitution itself, unaffected by the precedent of the
ordinance. Let us consider the question under the Constitution.

It was resolved at the Republican Convention of 1856 in Philadelphia,
and I do not understand the Republican party of 1860 to have abandoned
the position, "That the Constitution of the United States confers upon
Congress sovereign power over the territories of the United States for
their government, and that in the exercise of this power, it is both
_the right_ and _the duty_ of Congress _to prohibit_ in the territories,
those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery."

This sweeping assertion of sovereign power in Congress over citizens of
the United States in territories, of course affirms that Congress can do
for the territories all or even more than a State government can do for
a State. Mr. John Pettit, late United States Senator from Indiana, has
made the broadest assertion of Congressional sovereignty, for he has
said and endeavored to prove that it is "_absolute, unconditional,
unlimited authority_"; such, in fact, as would enable the Federal
government to sell the citizens of the territories into slavery. Power
to do an act is one thing--a constitutional right to do it is another. I
do not concede Mr. Pettit's authority for Congressional sovereignty,
even though he be one of Mr. Buchanan's Judges in Nebraska, but it is
interesting to note, by way of parenthesis, how wonderfully Republican
doctrine on one extreme, and Buchanan or Breckinridge doctrine on the
other, work together to a common center, Congressional or Federal
government despotism.

It is vain to look for any express warrant for any such power in the
Constitution, except in the language of the 3d section of the 4th
article, declaring that--"_The Congress shall have power to dispose of
and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or
other property of the United States_."

Assuming that this is a grant of power to govern the people of United
States territory, in the ordinary sense of sovereign legislative power,
such as that possessed by the States for example, this anomalous
conclusion would follow: that there are under the Constitution two
distinct systems of government--one a strictly defined and limited
Federal government over the States, with a right of representation in
the governed; another a municipal government, almost arbitrary in its
character over the citizens in the territories as mere colonists,
without any right of representation in the governed. There is no
foundation for this conclusion. When the Constitution was adopted, the
territories were recognized as incipient or inchoate States. It was with
reference to them that the power to admit new States was incorporated in
the Constitution. People migrating to those territories carried with
them the inherent rights of self-government and the guarantees of the
Constitution. The Constitution was intended for the territories as much
as for the States that made it. Congress has no power but what it
derives from the Constitution. If it can acquire territory and govern
it, it can do so only by virtue of and in accordance with the
Constitution. We cannot suppose that the framers of the Constitution, or
the people of the States who spake through it, looking as many of them
did, to the fair lands of the west, as their own future homes and the
homes of brothers and children, where fortunes broken in the
revolutionary struggle might be retrieved, would impose on themselves or
those brothers and children a colonial bondage to the Federal
government, worse than that from which they had just escaped. Jealousy
of the power of the Federal government, as already shown, had been the
great drawback to the confederacy and to the formation of the
Constitution, and had carefully guarded in the Constitution the rights
of the States as to all matters of internal sovereignty, and it must be
so construed as equally to guard the rights of the people of the
territories or inchoate States, or the Constitution becomes incongruous
and inconsistent. Power of exclusive legislation was conferred on
Congress, as to certain defined localities acquired for specific
purposes, such as a seat of government, arsenals, &c., all other powers
of legislation were Federal, not municipal--powers to govern the States
or their people for national or Federal purposes, not powers to govern
the people in the States for internal or domestic purposes. This
reasonable view of the Constitution forces the conclusion that we must
regard the power to make rules and regulations as to the territory and
other property of the United States, as relating solely to the
protection and disposal of the public territory as land or property, and
we must therefore find the power to govern the territories involved or
implied, as it doubtless is in the power to admit new States. The end of
acquiring territory is the formation of States, and the powers of
territorial government, so far as power was conferred upon Congress,
must have had reference to that end. Therefore it is, that the duty and
the function of Congress are alike filled in the civil government of a
territory, when the Congress shall have defined a mode or an
organization by which the citizens in a territory shall be able to
exercise their inherent right of self-government in accordance with the
principles of the Constitution. No man pretends that Congress has any
power of legislation over the internal or domestic affairs of a
sovereign State. All matters of internal sovereignty are left to the
people of such State, and there is no reason to be found in the
Constitution or in the nature of the case, why Congress should have any
greater power over the internal or domestic concerns of citizens in a
territory than it has over those of citizens in a State. It is not true
that the territories are outside of the Constitution, and become
entitled to it and its sacred bill of rights by grace of an act of
Congress. That is, indeed, strange doctrine to apply to an American
citizen standing on his own territorial soil, which Congress had no
right to acquire or govern at all, except by virtue of the Constitution,
and it assumes too much, for this reason: All power not granted to
Congress is reserved to the States or the people; and if the territories
are not under the Constitution, there is no right in Congress to govern
them at all, and that right rests in the States or the people who settle
the territories. On the contrary, if the territories be under the
Constitution, then must they be governed according to its principles and
bill of rights, and not arbitrarily, and all powers of government over
them not granted to Congress are in the people of the territories
themselves. Powers of municipal legislation as to internal affairs, as
already stated, are not granted, therefore are they in the people. If
this doctrine of arbitrary Congressional sovereignty be correct, then
have citizens in the territories no constitutional rights, and no
franchise except at Congressional discretion--they may be put and kept
under martial law as long as Congress pleases, and this without respect
to population--they may be sold into slavery according to John
Pettit--and this system of military provincial government may be kept up
so long as the Federal government can control an army to carry it out.
Does any man believe there is any constitutional right in Congress to do
any such thing? The statement of the proposition is its best refutation.
How much more logical and consistent then, is it to refer the powers of
Congress to legislate for the territories, to the end of all legislation
either for acquiring or governing territory, viz: the formation of
States, equal in sovereignty on all questions to the original States. If
then, the question of domestic slavery be a local question to be decided
by the people of the States as they see fit, and such the whole theory
of the Constitution assumes it to be, it is equally a local question to
be decided by the people of the territories as they see fit. If the
people of a territory when they come to form a State Constitution, are
competent and have the right to decide the slavery question for
themselves, as all concede to be the case, then there is no argument
consistent with the principle on which our institutions are based, of
any avail to show, that the same territorial people have not equal right
and capacity under a territorial government, and before they form a
State Constitution, to decide the question of slavery for themselves by
local legislation. If the people of a territory are competent to make a
Constitution without the assent of Congress, for a stronger reason they
are competent to make a law below the dignity of a Constitution. It will
not do for any man to contend that mere change of residence from a State
to a territory, so changes the moral and intellectual character of the
man, as to unfit him for the exercise of self-government, or the high
duties of founder of a State. The experience of the nation disproves
this position. Some of the strongest and best minds known to American
history have grown up on the frontier and among the hardships of border
life. High mental cultivation or the refinements and elegancies of
social life are not necessary to the founders of States. Heroic and
manly virtues, and intellectual powers, are often developed amid the
trials which beset the emigrant and the pioneer. Like the oak which
takes deeper root from the rockings of the storm, true manhood enlarges
and strengthens itself by the conflict with adversity and privation.
History records the obligations Ohio and Kentucky owe to Daniel Boone
and Simon Kenton. Beneath the leathern hunting shirts of those bold
pioneers beat the hearts of heroes. They were types of many squatter
sovereigns known to history, and of many more

     "Illustrious masters of a name unknown."

In the territory of Indiana, William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor,
two of the Presidents of the United States, laid in early manhood the
basis of character that has made them famous. If you would know of what
material squatter sovereigns are made, look over the territorial history
of the North-west. Look to the early history of Ohio, Indiana and
Illinois. Of one of these squatter sovereigns, Manasseh Cutler, of
Hamilton, Massachusetts, it has been said, "Beneath the shelter of the
covered wagon in which he started from his village home in Massachusetts
to found Marietta, the imperial State of Ohio was wrapped up. He was
truly a philosopher and a patriarch. He was more than a statesman--he
was the founder of a State."

What says Judge Burnett, of Cincinnati, himself a squatter sovereign, of
the first territorial legislature of the North-west territory? He says:

"In choosing members to the first Territorial Legislature, the people in
almost every instance, selected their strongest and best men in their
respective counties. Party influence was scarcely felt; and it may be
said with confidence, that no legislature has been chosen under the
State government which contained a larger proportion of aged,
intelligent men, than were found in that body. Many of them, it is true,
were unacquainted with the forms and practical duties of legislation;
but they were strong-minded, sensible men, acquainted with the condition
and wants of the country, and could form correct opinions of the
operation of any measure proposed for their consideration." He further
adds, "several members of that assembly were men of the first order of
talents; and, with scarcely an exception, they would all be now
estimated as well qualified for State legislation." Away then with the
idea that there are not in the manly form, the courageous and generous
heart, the clear and self-reliant, though, perhaps, untutored mind of
the pioneer of the forest and prairie, "native countryman," though he
may be, equally with "the exile from foreign lands," or the residents of
towns and cities, the inherent right of self-government, and the
elements that lay broad and deep the foundations of free and sovereign
States! As for me, I had rather trust the interests of American liberty
and the destiny of American institutions to the keeping of the men, who
in the encounter of hardships that make men heroes, have opened in the
wilderness the pathway of civilization, and made its waste places to
blossom like the rose, than to trust these priceless treasures to the
keeping of many of the merchant princes of our eastern cities, whose
warehouses and whose homes are palaces, "whose ledger is their Bible and
whose gold is their God"; or to the still worse keeping of such Federal
administrations as that of James Buchanan--a man in whose veins,
according to his own boast, never flowed a drop of democratic blood.

It is not to such men I would commit the welfare of the territories of
the United States. Rather let freeborn white men govern them _in their
own way_, unawed by Federal armies sustaining Lecompton Constitutions,
and I have no fear of the domestic institutions that will be formed in
the territories, nor any fears for the Union and the Constitution.

To sum up what I have said on this part of my argument, the proposition
is simply this: The Constitution, considered as a whole, and interpreted
as it should be, as the act of a moral person, made for great moral and
political ends, and not by the mere technical rules which lawyers or
impracticable theorists would apply to it, requires that the people of a
territory or inchoate State of the United States, preparatory to their
admission to the rank of a full grown State within the Union, shall have
as full power, through a legislature of their own choosing, to deal with
the subject of domestic slavery, and with other subjects of domestic
concern, as is possessed by the people of States in the Union. In other
words, I say, that whatever may be the right and duty of Congress under
the Constitution to guard and protect the territories from internal or
foreign violence, and to maintain their allegiance to the Union, it is
neither the right nor duty of Congress, under the Constitution, to
interfere with the question of slavery or any other domestic question,
so long as the people of the territories are faithful to their
allegiance to the Constitution and the Federal Republic.

I now proceed to state and confirm by brief historic evidence a
proposition already implied in what I have said upon the compromise
character of the Constitution and the ordinance of 1787. It is this: The
action of the Federal government on the subject of slavery has been
essentially compromise action. It recognizes the principle of the
co-existence and extension of Free States and Slave States, under and
within the confederacy, leaving the ultimate of the question of
abolition or extension, not with the Congress, but with the people of
the several States. Congress has never rightfully taken sides on this
question; for while on the one hand slavery has been forbidden in some
territories, it has been permitted in others. Slave territory and free
territory have alike been acquired by treaty, and Slave States and Free
States alike admitted to the Union. The action of Congress is therefore
no precedent for absolute slavery prohibition or indefinite slavery
extension. Having never been exercised but by way of compromise it
commits the government to neither extreme and is not a conclusive
precedent for the constitutional power of Congress over the subject.

I shall briefly notice the facts of history bearing on this proposition.

The territory now covered by the States of Tennessee, Alabama, and
Mississippi, was ceded to the United States by North Carolina and
Georgia prior to 1803, and accepted by the United States, on the
condition that Congress should extend over it a government, and
ultimately divide it into States, on the principles of the ordinance of
1787, _except as to slavery_, and territorial governments were
afterwards organized over it as slave territory. While, therefore,
Congress had in 1787 assumed, by a compact of the original States, to
prohibit slavery north-west of the Ohio River, it had also within twelve
years after the adoption of the ordinance of 1787 and the Constitution,
by express contract agreed not to prohibit it in all territory south of
the Ohio, and by the admission of Kentucky and Tennessee as Slave States
prior to 1800, could not prohibit it there.

Up then to the time of the purchase of Louisiana in 1803, the Ohio River
was the compromise line between free and slave territory--_a line of
agreement_, rather than arbitrary legislation.

Louisiana was all slave territory, and by the 3d article of the treaty
for its acquisition, its inhabitants were to come into the Union as soon
as possible on equal terms with other citizens, and in the meantime
their rights of religion, liberty and property were to be maintained and

In this territory, the boundaries of which were subsequently defined by
treaties with Spain and Great Britain, were included the present States
of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, and the
territories of Kansas, Nebraska, &c.

Soon after this acquisition, territorial governments were organized over
the southern portion of the territory, without prohibition of slavery.
In 1812, Louisiana was admitted as a Slave State, and Arkansas and
Missouri were subsequently organized as territories without prohibition
of slavery.

In 1819, Florida was acquired by treaty with Spain, with the same
stipulation, as in the treaty in regard to Louisiana, that the
inhabitants were to have the rights and privileges of citizens of the
United States and be admitted into the Union; and soon after the
territory of Florida was organized without prohibition of slavery.

From 1787 until the Missouri question came up, no successful attempt was
made by Congress to prohibit slavery in any territory of the United
States. In 1817, Missouri applied for admission to the Union. Her
admission as a Slave State was strenuously contested, and to the act
authorizing her to form a State Constitution was appended a provision
applying the 6th or anti-slavery section of the ordinance of 1787 to all
the territory ceded by Louisiana, outside of the limits of Missouri, and
north of 36 deg. 30 min. north latitude, or the southern boundary of
Missouri. The adoption of this act, fixing a geographical line between
Free States and Slave States, has been called a compromise. The
proposition was beyond doubt made in the spirit of compromise, and
received the support of compromise men, but the North who insisted upon
the exclusion of Missouri with a slave constitution, generally voted
against the act in its final passage, and the South, for the sake of
getting Missouri in with a slave constitution, as generally voted for
it. The compromise was not acceptable to either side, and when Missouri
presented her Constitution in 1821 for the approval of Congress, her
admission was again opposed by Northern men, and made conditional upon
her declaration by solemn act of her legislature, that a clause of her
Constitution relating to free negroes and mulattoes, should not be
construed to authorize any law violating the privileges and immunities
of any citizen of either of the States of the Union, under the
Constitution of the United States. Missouri made the declaration
required, and by proclamation of the President, became a State on August
10th, 1821. The resolution of Congress of 2d March, 1821, was beyond
doubt the real condition or compromise upon which Missouri was admitted,
and it was in this compromise and not in that of 1820, that Henry Clay
took part. Strange as it may seem; it is nevertheless true, that
notwithstanding the alleged compromise of 1820, an attempt was made in
1821 by Northern men in Congress to override that compromise,--that
"sacred compact," that "plighted faith," that "landmark of
freedom,"--and to keep Missouri out of the Union, because she had
adopted in her Constitution a provision to prevent free negroes or
mulattoes from coming to or settling in the State--a provision which is
contained in the present Constitutions of Indiana and Illinois, and has
been enforced in Constitutions or legislation of other Northern States,
and was sanctioned by the people of Indiana in 1851, when submitted to
them as a distinct proposition, by a vote of 100,976 for it, to 21,066
against it. By that vote, Indiana as late as 1851 affirmed that Missouri
was right and Congress wrong in the great conflict of 1821.

The high and sacred character of a national compact has been claimed for
the Missouri act of 6th March, 1820. No man who will calmly and
intelligently and without prejudice examine its history, can fail to see
that however expedient it might have been at the time, there is no
compact--no sacred character about it. Looking on the whole question as
one of constitutional power and policy, I am free to say I think the
South and not the North were in the right in the Missouri controversy.

What are the plain facts? In 1803 the territory embracing Missouri had
been acquired as slave territory. It had been organized by Congress in
1804 as slave territory. The inhabitants under the foreign and
territorial law had acquired and held slaves, as rightfully as they were
held in any State. No prohibition of slavery had been extended over the
territory. By the treaty with France and the settled policy of the
Federal government, the territory of Missouri, when it had attained a
sufficient population, was entitled to admission as a State on an equal
footing with the original States. In 1817 Missouri asked of Congress
authority to form a State Constitution, preparatory to her admission to
the Union. Her case was in all its cardinal and essential features
precisely parallel to that of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and
Louisiana, which had already been admitted as Slave States without
question, and how was she met? Northern men in Congress, in effect said
to her, if you choose to come into the Union as a Free State, we will
let you in; if not, we will keep you out, and under our arbitrary power
of government, until you get rid of your slaves. We don't believe in
slavery, and don't mean to have any more barbarian slaveholders in our
company. Northern men in Congress, in violation of the spirit and policy
of the Constitution, which recognized slavery as a purely local
institution, endeavored to compel a full grown sovereign State to
abolish slavery. That is the whole point of the case. It is not
surprising that this position and attempt of the North should have
awakened a spirit of resistance in the South that shook the Union to
its very center. Whatever might be the opinion of Northern men as to the
power of Congress over slavery in the territories, or as to the
expediency of prohibiting it, it was too late to apply their doctrine to
Missouri. She was ripe for admission to the Union as a State, with
domestic institutions formed to suit her people, and formed, too, under
the eye and sanction of Congress, and Congress had no right to make her
State sovereignty dependent on the carrying out _as to other territory_,
of the Northern idea of prohibiting slavery. The case of Missouri should
have been decided on its own merits.

In view of all the facts, and of its proposed restraint upon the
constitutional power of new States besides Missouri, I fully believe the
Supreme Court of the United States correctly laid down the law in the
Dred Scott decision, declaring the 8th section of the act of 6th March,
1820, being the prohibition of slavery, to be unconstitutional and void,
for the simple reason that it was the right _of the people_ of those new
States to make a constitution or laws for or against slavery as they saw
fit, and not the right of the Congress, which has no power under its own
Constitution to make State Constitutions.

The principle of compromise embraced in the Missouri line, whether legal
or not, calmed the agitation of the question of slavery, which had,
during the Missouri struggle, assumed a dangerous form. It shut out
slavery in the vast region north of 36 deg. 30 min., not adapted to
slave labor, and permitted it south of that line where slavery had taken
or was likely to take root. Therefore when Arkansas applied in 1836 for
admission as a Slave State, she came in without serious controversy,
though northern opposition in Congress was not even then silent.

Between the establishment of Texan independence in 1836 and her
annexation to the United States in 1845, in view of the latter event,
the question of slavery extension became one of absorbing interest to
the nation. The Democratic party recognized it in the 7th article of
their platform in their National Convention of 1840, taking the true
ground of non-intervention by Congress. In 1843 the Liberty party, so
called, organized upon the distinct ground of opposition to slavery. In
1844 the Democratic party reaffirmed their platform of 1840, and
declared in favor of annexing Texas, and its candidates were sustained
by the people. In 1845 the Congressional agitation was resumed on the
question of annexing Texas. It resulted in the annexation, upon the
compromise of extending the Missouri compromise line of 36 deg. 30 min.
across the Texan territory, leaving a disputed boundary north of that
line, which was adjusted in 1850 by making 36 deg. 30 min. the north
boundary of Texas.

In 1846 the question of prohibition again came up in Congress on the
bill to organize a territorial government for Oregon, and was kept in
agitation until Oregon was forced, for self-protection to form a
provisional government; and after a proposition of Mr. Douglas,
sustained by the Senate, to extend the Missouri compromise line to the
Pacific, had been voted down in the House by northern votes, the Oregon
bill was finally passed in 1848, with the proviso of the ordinance of
1787 against slavery, the South voting in a body against its
passage--not because they expected slavery to go there, but because they
wanted the Missouri line of compromise extended to the Pacific.

In 1846 and 1847 the slavery agitation raged fiercely in the nation and
in Congress upon the question of applying a slavery prohibition in the
form known as the Wilmot proviso to all the territory to be acquired
from Mexico under the treaty, the negotiations for which were then
pending. The Wilmot proviso was voted down, and the treaty was
consummated Feb. 2, 1848, and Mexican territory, embracing California,
Utah and New Mexico was acquired without prohibition of slavery, but the
territory was free under the Mexican law, and all Mexican inhabitants
who should elect to become citizens of the United States, were entitled
to become so at the proper time to be judged of by Congress, and to be
incorporated into the Federal Union according to the principles of the

At the commencement of the session of the XXXIst Congress in 1849, the
slavery agitation had reached a degree of intensity before unknown. The
territory acquired from Mexico, in consequence of this agitation had
been left without civil government. California, full of northern
emigrants in search of gold, had in the absence of any action of
Congress, exercised her inherent right of self-government and formed a
State Constitution prohibiting slavery, and was asking admission to the
Union. Utah and New Mexico were ripe for territorial governments. The
Texan boundary was unsettled. The South was opposing the admission of
California as a Free State and insisting on its division, and demanding
the distinct legalization of slavery in the territories south of the
Missouri line of 36 deg. 30 min., and the extension of that line to the
Pacific, and demanding also a more stringent fugitive slave law, and the
North was demanding the admission of California and the establishment of
the Wilmot proviso over all the territory to be organized, and demanding
also the immediate abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.

The contest for speaker in the House continued from the 3d to the 22d
December, 1849, resulting in the election of Howell Cobb over R. C.
Winthrop. So ominous of trouble were the signs of the political sky,
that President Taylor, in his annual message, took occasion to caution
the Congress against the introduction of topics of a sectional
character, and to repeat the solemn warning of Washington against
furnishing any ground for characterizing parties by geographical

The history of the legislation of 1850 is too well known to need detail
here. It resulted in another compromise, by which six important measures
all involving the slavery question were adopted. These were

1. The admission of California as a free State.

2. The settlement of the Texas boundary, limiting its northern line to
36 deg. 30 min.

3. The formation of territorial government for Utah, and

4. The like for New Mexico.

5. The abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia, and

6. The Fugitive slave law.

California, Utah, New Mexico and Texas all embraced territory on both
sides of the Missouri Compromise line. California was the first State
south of that line that had ever asked for admission to the Union with a
Constitution excluding slavery.

The cardinal feature of the Compromise of 1850 was the abandonment of a
geographical line to separate free and slave territory, and the distinct
recognition of the principle of non-intervention by Congress with
slavery. The compromise in terms recognized the right of the people of
the territories to be admitted to the Union with or without slavery as
they might desire--that was its very essence as distinguished from the
Compromise of 1820.

The principle of non-intervention in the territories had been logically
involved, in the national platforms of the democratic party since 1840,
but it had never until 1850 received the direct sanction of the

The legislation of 1850 must be regarded as one of the most memorable
events in our constitutional and political history. It received the aid
and sanction of some of the ablest and wisest statesmen the nation has
ever known.--There were men in the Senate taking part in the controversy
that resulted in the compromise, whose political lives had commenced
when the fathers of the Republic were ruling its affairs. Clay, Benton,
Webster and Calhoun were there, and the South and the North alike were
represented by their ablest men. It had become their high duty to settle
by an enduring principle the future policy of the nation as to the
organization of territorial government for the national domain, and as
to the admission of new States. The antagonisms of the North and South,
fostered on the one hand by the spirit of abolition, and on the other by
the spirit of slavery extension; and still more fostered by the long
continued and unconstitutional attempts of Congress to deal with the
question, by splitting the difference between the contending sections,
could no longer be reconciled by a boundary line. With every fresh
acquisition of national territory, the zeal of the contending power
overleaped the congressional boundary, and demanded more for its own
sectional policy.

In the Congress of 1850 the Northern or Free soil party insisted on the
absolute prohibition of slavery in all the new territory acquired from
Mexico. They were able as they had been before when Mr. Douglas
proposed, and the South voted for it, to vote down the project of
extending the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific. The South with
such Northern men as were opposed to the Wilmot proviso, were able to
defeat that. Neither the Missouri Compromise nor the Wilmot proviso
could be carried.--The "irrepressible conflict," long encouraged by
selfish political schemers or over-zealous, if not fanatical theorists,
had reached a crisis, and the nation looked on in fear.

Then it was that the great and patriotic men who carried the compromise
of 1850, said to the South and to the North, we will henceforth make no
line over the national domain to mark out the boundary between Free
States and Slave States. Before the law of the Constitution, both Free
States and Slave States are equal. The territory of which we are the
trustees belongs neither to Northern institutions, nor to Southern
institutions. We will not interfere, for we have no right to interfere,
to give it exclusively to either. It is now free territory by the
Mexican law. We will not extend slavery over it, nor will we exclude
slavery from it; but we open the territory to citizens of all the States
alike. It is their common property. The land is all before them where to
choose; let them go in with their wives and their children, their men
servants and their maid servants, their goods and their cattle, and the
stranger that is within their gates, and form such domestic institutions
as may suit their wants and desires, consistent with republican
government and the Federal Constitution, which is for them, as for us,
the supreme law. Let _the people_, who are to constitute States in all
that wide domain, decide for themselves, for they will best know, what
fundamental or temporary laws they want, and the Federal government will
protect them in their free choice. When they come to us matured, as
California now is, into republican States, we will admit them to our
common Union on an equal footing with the original States in all
respects whatsoever, "with or without slavery, as their Constitution may
prescribe at the time of their admission."

Here at last was found the true solution of the question of slavery in
its relations to the Federal government, and it was adopted by the
Congress and accepted by the nation; for both the Democratic and Whig
parties, then the great dividing political parties, united upon it as
common ground in the presidential canvass of 1852. One party, however,
styling itself the _Free Soil Democracy_, the remnant of the party that
had in 1848 supported Martin Van Buren for the presidency upon the
Buffalo platform of "_no more Slave States--no more Slave Territory_,"
did meet in convention, at Pittsburgh, on 11th August, 1852, to denounce
in no measured language the compromise of 1850 and slavery in general. I
notice this party now only to refer you at your leisure to its platform,
and to ask you to note that the President of the Convention was Henry
Wilson of Massachusetts, and its nominees for President and
Vice-President were John P. Hale of New Hampshire, and George W. Julian
of Indiana. Two of these gentlemen are now Republican Senators in
Congress, and the third, Mr. Julian, a member elect from Indiana to the
House of Representatives in Congress. These gentlemen were known in 1852
as _Free Soil Abolitionists_, in 1860 they are known by the more
fashionable and pleasant-sounding name of Republicans.

The principle of non-intervention, on which the compromise of 1850 was
based, was in itself so simple, so just, so consistent with the
Constitution and the democratic theory of our institutions, that it
could not but prevail. Out of 3,143,679 votes cast for President in
1852, Mr. Hale received 155,825, leaving 2,987,854 as the popular vote
in favor of the compromise of 1850.

I rejoice to know that in that great struggle to establish sound and
enduring constitutional principle, to rule the Federal government on the
question of slavery, the Whig party and its noble old leaders, were as
they had ever been, on the side of the Union and the Constitution. The
compromise of 1850 was with Webster and Clay the crowning achievement of
illustrious lives, and having accomplished this great work, they soon--

     "Sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust,
     Drew around them the drapery of the couch of death,
     And laid down to pleasant dreams,"

full of years and full of honors.

The compromise of 1850 touched the true principle of dealing with
slavery, but it was not a perfect work. It left upon the statute book of
the nation, legislation still operating over United States territory,
directly opposed to the principle of non-intervention, which the nation
had almost unanimously approved. The principle of the compromise of
1850, and the principle of permission or prohibition involved in a
geographical line to divide Free and Slave States, were directly
inconsistent with each other, and sooner or later this inconsistency had
to be met and removed. For the Congress to say, as they did in the
compromise of 1850, that the people of Texas, Utah and New Mexico,
should be admitted to the Union as Free States or as Slave States, as
they might choose, and at the same time to affirm as they did by
retaining, or at least not formally erasing, the Missouri compromise
line and the Oregon prohibition, that the people of Kansas, Nebraska and
Oregon, and all the north-west territories should come into the Union as
Free States or not at all, was a glaring inconsistency, and
discrimination, not in favor of the North, but in favor of the South.
Men in Oregon wanting domestic slaves could not have them. Men in Utah
and New Mexico wanting slaves could have them or not, as they pleased.
One man in the nation was found able enough, and brave enough, and
patriotic enough to grapple with this question and bring it to the test,
and carry out to its logical results the doctrine of the compromise of
1850; and that he bore himself bravely and well through the trying
ordeal, and against fearful odds, even his bitterest foes must admit.

Stephen A. Douglas, of Illinois, was but 37 years of age when he stood
in the United States Senate, one of the ablest of the supporters of the
compromise of 1850. His own hand had drawn the bills to admit California
as a Free State, and to organize Utah and New Mexico. Among the
venerable princes of the Senate, he was their equal, and Henry Clay, the
noblest Roman of them all, moved by Mr. Douglas' magnanimity on that
occasion, pronounced him to be "the most generous man living."

In 1854 Mr. Douglas carried through the Congress of the United States
and through a parliamentary warfare, in which no other man than he could
have triumphed, the bill to organize the territories of Kansas and
Nebraska, declaring inoperative and void the Missouri geographical
compromise line, and affirming the true intent and meaning of the Kansas
and Nebraska act to be, "_to leave the people of any State or territory
perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their
own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States_."

In this short "_stump speech in the belly of the bill_," as Thomas H.
Benton and Republican orators after him have, by way of ridicule, been
pleased to call it, is the key to the law which must ever govern its
true interpretation, and it puts to the rout all the arguments that have
been made to prove that non-intervention and popular or territorial
sovereignty are not in the Kansas and Nebraska bill, except in small

A measure so radical and far-reaching as the formal annulling of the
Missouri compromise line, could not fail to meet at first with terrific
opposition. It broke in on old habits and ways of thinking--it stirred
up men's opinions to the roots--it took thought from the surface and
forms of things to their substance--it brought democracy to the test. It
put to the nation the pregnant questions: Are the rights of white men
and black men, the claims of freedom and humanity to be trusted to the
white men of the American territories, as well as American States, or
are they not? Are free white American citizens in American territories,
as well as American States, competent to decide the question of African
slavery or not? Are they competent to govern themselves or not? It did
more than this; it laid the ax of Anglo-Saxon democracy at the root of
the tree of African slavery.

No man was more sincerely opposed to the annulling of the Missouri
compromise line than myself; but I am free to say, that with my
prejudices in favor of freedom and Free States, and the reputed
sacredness of the Missouri line, I did not look on both sides of the
question. I condemned Mr. Douglas and I condemned him unheard. I have
endeavored to retrieve that error by a more thorough examination, and I
am now convinced that he was in the right and his opponents were in the
wrong, and to that conviction will the nation come at last.

The defeat of Fremont and the condemnation of the Republican or
Philadelphia platform of 1856 by a majority upon the popular vote of
1,371,430 votes, was an unequivocal endorsement by the people, not only
of the compromise of 1850, but of the Kansas and Nebraska bill in its
erasure of the Missouri line. Had James Buchanan been a wise statesman
and a patriot, as I fear he is not; had he carried in his veins "a
single drop of democratic blood," Kansas under the operation of the
principle of non-intervention by Congress, and intervention by its own
people with the question of slavery, would now have been a Free State
within the American Union, the first trophy of legitimate popular
sovereignty, and a great national party with Stephen A. Douglas at its
head would have been existing and triumphant, standing upon firm
constitutional ground, knowing no North and no South, but regarding and
protecting equally the constitutional rights of all the States.

But it was not at once so to be. Mr. Buchanan and Southern statesmen of
ultra views, aided by a few Northern politicians, were infatuated enough
to suppose that the two-edged sword of popular sovereignty that was
sheathed in the Kansas bill, was to be wielded by the Federal
administration, and not by the people of Kansas, and made to cut but one
way and that way in favor of slavery. And they were equally infatuated
when they found that they could not force upon the people of Kansas the
fraudulent Lecompton Constitution, to suppose that the power of
self-government, which had been conceded to the people of the
territories, could be nullified by the dogma of the sovereignty of the
Supreme Court.

Mr. Buchanan and his compeers should have known before they passed the
Kansas bill, that when the people of an American State or territory once
laid their hands upon the power to form and regulate their domestic
institutions in their own way, they held the power upon which free
institutions and slave institutions alike rested in the American States,
and that that power and its free exercise could never be taken from the
people by any Supreme Court or the dogma of any political party, and any
systematized attempt to take it away would be met by resistance that
would shiver the Union to fragments. The sovereignty of the people or
true democracy, like the elements of fire and water, is a gentle and a
genial thing, when the hand of representative government rests kindly
upon it, but if that hand dares to essay a wrong, then will the power of
the people become like the burning lava of the volcano, when its pent-up
fires escape, or the resistless waves of the ocean, when the storm moves
over its depths. The courts may guide and direct and check the popular
will, but when a great political idea, like that of the rightful
sovereignty of the States, either in the Union or in the territories,
has taken root and settled into a well-defined opinion in the popular
mind, the courts must let it alone; it is for them then to follow the
popular will, not to lead it. Law is the voice of the people. Let the
courts that assume to be the oracles of the law, see to it that they
mistake not the people's voice, especially on those great political
questions that touch the fountains of a nation's life.

The attempt of Mr. Buchanan's administration to force slavery upon
Kansas by means of the Lecompton Constitution, against the real
sentiment of the people, and against the true intent and meaning of the
organic law of Kansas, and failing in that, the attempt to override the
principle of popular sovereignty, by means of a false construction of
the Dred Scott decision, roused to renewed zeal and combined all the
Northern elements of opposition to slavery, and in the excitement of
angry passion that has followed, the great compromise of 1850, and the
true character of that measure, and its legitimate consequent, the
erasure of the Missouri compromise line, have been obscured in the
public mind, and both have lost their hold upon the calm judgments of
the people. Why is this? Are not the laws that now stand upon the
statute book of the nation, as the compromise measures of 1850, the same
as they were in 1852, when they were endorsed by nearly 3,000,000 of
votes--almost the unanimous vote of the nation? Is the law of the Kansas
and Nebraska act, annulling the Missouri compromise line, a different
law from what it was in 1856, when it was triumphantly sustained against
Fremont and the Philadelphia platform? No man can say the laws are not
the same. As they were then, so are they now. If right in principle and
good then, they are equally right and good now. Were the people
senseless or did they mean nothing when they endorsed those laws? No man
dare say that. Why is it then that the Democratic party, which triumphed
in 1852 and in 1856 on these very measures, is now a divided and broken
army and almost panic-stricken, and its opponents, the advocates of
Congressional prohibition of slavery, with a man at their head without a
record as a statesman and almost unknown to the nation, carrying in
their train all the fiercest elements of anti-slavery agitation, are
already boasting of sure success? No satisfactory answer can be given to
these questions, except the fact that the administration of James
Buchanan, false to the principles on which it was placed in power, has
attempted by intervention in favor of slavery, to destroy the very
principle which is the life of the compromise of 1850 and of the Kansas
and Nebraska law of 1854. Those great measures and their ablest and most
consistent champion, have alike been stabbed in the house of their
friends. By the course of the Buchanan administration, the people of the
North have been made to believe that the principle of non-intervention
is a sham; that the compromise of 1850 and the erasure of the Missouri
line in 1852 were fraudulent schemes to cheat the people into a consent
to extend slavery all over the national territory; and the cry is echoed
all through the North: the nation's plighted faith is broken, the
landmarks of freedom are removed, the barbarism of slavery will spread
over the land! Is there reason in this cry, for argument it cannot be
called? There is none. Why the very fact that the acts of the Federal
executive have had power to produce this strange delusion and wild
commotion of the public mind, is itself a potent argument for holding
fast to the principle of the compromise of 1850, and rallying the people
again to its support, so that the President and the Congress may no
longer disturb the people by tampering with the local question of
slavery. Again I say, there is nothing in this cry of the extension of
the barbarism of slavery; it is as senseless as it is dangerous to the
nation's peace. All that is is done by the legislation of 1850 and 1854,
is to establish a governing principle in regard to slavery in the
territories, which is exactly the same as the principle which governs
slavery in the States under the Constitution. The laws of 1850 and 1854
plant slavery no where, nor do they extend it any where into the
national domain. They leave the national territory _free_.

What better authority can we have on this point than that of Henry Clay,
whose influence perhaps as much as that of any other man, helped to
carry the compromise of 1850? Did he mean in voting for that compromise,
by which the principle of non-intervention was adopted as to territory
both North and South of the Missouri compromise line of 36 deg. 30 min.,
to extend slavery into such territory? Hear what he said on the question
in the Senate of the United States. He said in answer to a demand of
Jefferson Davis for a positive provision for the admission of slavery
south of the Missouri compromise line:--"Coming as I do from a Slave
State, it is my solemn, deliberate and well-matured determination that
no power--no earthly power--shall compel me to vote for the positive
introduction of slavery either south or north of that line. Sir, while
you reproach, and justly too, our British ancestors for the introduction
of this institution upon the continent of America, I am, for one,
unwilling that the posterity of the present inhabitants of California
and New Mexico shall reproach us for doing just what we reproach Great
Britain for doing to us. If the citizens of those territories choose to
establish slavery, I am for admitting them with such provisions in their
constitutions; but then it will be their own work and not ours, and
their posterity will have to reproach them and not us, for forming
constitutions allowing the institution of slavery to exist among them."
In the same paragraph, Mr. Clay further says, "I believe that slavery no
where exists within any portion of the territory acquired by us from
Mexico." So much for the testimony of Henry Clay! Now, who shall say
that the compromise of 1850 was a law to extend slavery over the free
territory covered by it? and if not, then for the same reason, the
Kansas and Nebraska act was not a law for extending slavery over the
free territory north of the Missouri line. What the law of 1850 did for
the territory acquired from Mexico, the same did the law of 1854 do for
the Louisiana territory acquired from France. No man can show a
substantial difference, except that the Kansas and Nebraska law more
clearly recognizes the right of the people to decide the question of
slavery. Again, I would ask of the men who make this cry of the
extension of slavery, to answer in candor: If the Missouri line was a
landmark for freedom, was it not also a landmark for slavery? Was not
the country south of 36 deg. 30 min., under the law of March 6th 1820,
as impliedly devoted to slavery as the country north of it was to
freedom? Up to 1848, when California, to which northern men had been
led, not more by the love of freedom than by the lust of gold, had
declared herself a Free State, had a Free State ever been made south of
the Missouri line? Was it not the almost sure result of that line to
prevent men who favor Free States from going south of it to demonstrate
by experience that Free States could grow and prosper even in a southern
clime? Had free labor a fair chance to raise its standard in the south,
and try its strength beneath a burning sun, so long as Congress had
virtually doomed the land of the south to slave labor, by declaring that
the region of free land and free labor was north of the Missouri line?
Is it not slavery rather than freedom that needs the protection of
positive law? Does the north, guarded as it is by nature's irrepealable
law, and by the self-poised and self-reliant strength of its freeborn
sons, need the Federal power to guard its soil from the feet of slaves?
Is slavery more progressive and expansive than freedom? and are the men
who form Free States afraid to meet the men who form Slave States on
common ground and take an even chance for control? In a word, do the men
who build up free institutions need any thing more from the Federal
government than that it should place in their hands the ax and the sword
of democracy, and let them alone?

It is astonishing to me that men who profess the sentiments expressed by
conservative men of the Republican party, if they are sincere in their
desire that slavery should die out, should fail to see that the
compromise of 1850 and the Kansas and Nebraska law are alike based upon
the only principle by which the ultimate extinction of slavery on this
continent must take place. All that freedom needed, and all that it
could constitutionally claim, was the withdrawal of the national
intervention in favor of slavery, which intervention existed so long as
a geographical line marked out by Congress existed over the national
domain to separate Free and Slave States; and the leaving of the
question of slavery to the local legislatures; by them only had it been
or could it be created, and by them only had it been or could it be
abolished. When the national territory was made free by the law of
non-intervention, slavery was left entirely to the local law, and as
freedom is the rule and slavery the exception, the chances were three to
one in favor of free institutions in every new State.

And yet it is for bringing the slavery agitation to this result--a
result of which the men of the South upon their own principles cannot
complain, and of which their best men do not complain, and of which the
North has no reason to complain, but rather to rejoice, that Stephen A.
Douglas, the ablest statesman of whom this nation can boast since
the mighty intellect of Webster ceased to speak in words of
power, has been covered all over with the vilest and bitterest
denunciation--denunciation that would seem to be more the outpouring of
personal malignity than the voice of mere partisan hostility. It is for
this result that Douglas has been outlawed by a professedly Democratic
administration, and the Democratic party itself broken up by Southern
disunionists, aided by that same administration. BUT A NATION'S

I have thus, I fear tediously to you, brought you to the last act of the
great national drama of slavery agitation.

Let us now briefly review the ground, sum up the points, and see how we
stand for the final struggle near at hand.

These are the propositions I have aimed to establish:

1. Slavery existed in all the States of the Union when it was formed,
and no power was conceded to Congress, under the Confederation to
interfere with it.

2. The Jefferson ordinance of 1784, the first act of Congress relating
to the territory of the United States, conceded to the people of the
territories as inchoate States, full power of internal legislation, and
did not prohibit slavery.

3. The Dane ordinance of 1787, applied only to territory not adapted to
negro slave labor; it was adopted under an implied power, if any, in the
Congress of the Confederation. Viewed on strict constitutional grounds,
it was a usurpation, like many other powers exercised by the old
Congress, but it was in terms a compact more than a legislative act,
and as such by consent of all the States concerned, became binding on
the government and the States under the Constitution. It is, therefore,
no precedent for mere legislative acts of Congress, prohibiting or
permitting slavery in any territory.

4. The Constitution, like the Union itself, is the result, as declared
by its framers, of "a spirit of amity and of mutual deference and
concession." It recognizes slavery as a lawful institution under local
law, in the basis of representation and taxation--in the right to
continue the African slave trade until 1808, and in the right to reclaim
fugitive slaves; but it concedes to Congress no express power to
establish, or to prohibit, or abolish slavery in the States.

5. The territory acquired by the Federal government, has been acquired
under the power to admit new States. The end of acquisition was to make
new States, not colonies nor provinces. Hence, whether the power in
Congress to govern such territory is derived from the power to make
needful rules and regulations concerning the territory or other property
of the United States, or the power to admit new States, or any other
express power, the power must be exercised with reference to its only
legitimate end, the formation and admission of new States, in all
respects of internal sovereignty equal to the original States; and the
Constitution rightfully interpreted therefore, requires Congress to do
no more as to legislation for the territories than to provide for
territorial governments, through which the people may form and regulate
their own internal affairs, subject only to the Constitution of the
United States, and to admit them as States whenever ripe for that event.
The object of providing territorial governments is to enable the
territorial people to exercise self-government, and if fit for it as to
one class of domestic institutions, they are fit for it as to another;
if fit to define the relations and rights of husband and wife, of parent
and child, of guardian and ward, they are equally fit to define them as
to master and servant.

6. If there be precedents in the action of Congress for prohibiting
slavery, there are equal precedents for permitting it or extending it.
Slavery was extended by acquiring Louisiana and Florida; it was extended
by admitting Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana,
Missouri, Arkansas, Florida and Texas as Slave States; and the history
of the Federal government in regard to slavery shows that the power of
Congress to prohibit slavery has been exercised as to territory not
adapted to slave labor, and the power to permit it has been exercised as
to territory adapted to negro slave labor, and the criterion by which
the question of prohibition or permission has been determined, has been
the wants and consequent wishes of the white people of the territories.
The whole question, therefore, resolves itself into the consent or
non-consent of the local authority; and herein lies the absurdity of
both extreme sectional dogmas of Congressional power to prohibit and
Congressional power to permit, both conceding ultimate power in the
State legislatures to establish or prohibit slavery, and denying it to
the territorial legislatures, in the face of the admitted fact that it
is not the Congress, but the local authority that must ultimately

7. Assuming that there is in Congress a discretionary or sovereign power
to govern the territories, sound policy requires such government to be
administered in that "spirit of amity and mutual deference and
concession," in which the Constitution itself was conceived and adopted;
and the absolute prohibition of slavery in all the national territory in
which Free States and Slave States have a common right and common
interest, is in direct conflict with the spirit of the Constitution.

Lastly--Compromise is demonstrated to be the principle of the
Constitution and the policy of the Federal government in regard to
slavery. A Congressional geographical line is not the true mode of
compromise, as such a line implies the right of slavery to exclusive
possession on one side of the geographical line, and is therefore in
favor of slavery and against freedom. The question as a constitutional
one, is not a question between freedom and slavery, but a question of
constitutional authority, growing out of the clear and fundamental
distinction in the Constitution, between the powers of legislation for
local or domestic purposes and the like powers for national or Federal
purposes. The true principle of compromise on the part of the Federal
government is neutrality, non-interference, non-intervention, or the
leaving of the question to be fairly determined in the local
jurisdiction where it arises. A geographical line is arbitrary and not
adapted to varying circumstances or events; the principle of local
sovereignty involved in that of national non-intervention, is
self-adjusting and of universal application; it applies to all cases and
all times, and is in itself, the only principle consistent with the
theory of the government, which is that the people of each State and
community have the right and capacity to regulate their own internal
affairs, subject only to their respective fundamental laws or
Constitutions of government and to the nation's organic law. This
principle was the basis of the compromise laws of 1850, and of the
erasure of the Missouri line in 1854, and has been endorsed by large
majorities of the people both North and South.

Now, how do the parties and candidates seeking from the people the power
to control the Federal government, stand on this great subject that
divides the nation?

I shall not presume to weary your patience by dwelling on this question.
Men who read and think with calm unbiased minds, cannot fail to see how
they stand.

I have now only to say:

1. Looking to the men who formed it, and who lead it, the platform on
which it stands, and the end which it contemplates, I regard the
organization headed by Breckinridge and Lane as essentially a sectional
slavery extension party, bound through the Federal judiciary, backed by
the Federal government, to extend slavery into all the territories of
the United States, with or without the assent of the people, and if need
be to accomplish this end, bound to legalize slavery under the Federal
Constitution in every State of the Union, and to open the floodgates of
the African slave trade under the protection of the national banner.
This is the logical end of the Breckinridge and Lane platform. Its
practical end will be the destruction of the American Union, for no man
in his senses can believe that the Federal government, either through
its President, or its Congress, or its Supreme Court, can ever make
negro slavery lawful for one hour, where the free white people of any
State will that it shall not be. If slaveholders are ever to reach the
throne of national power on this continent, which the Breckinridge party
are aiming to erect for them, they will wade to that throne through
battle fields flowing with human blood.

This Breckinridge and Lane party holds within its bosom the rankest
disunionists and most ultra advocates of the African slave trade. Its
true watch cry, whatever it may pretend in the North, is "_National
Slavery or Disunion_."

With this view of the Breckinridge party, I cannot therefore say that I
admired the good taste or consistency of my Republican friends, when in
this city a few nights ago, they encouraged by loud applause, the
virulent harangue of Jesse D. Bright, the Indiana leader of the
Breckinridge faction, not I presume because they approved his
sentiments, but because he abused Stephen A. Douglas.

2. Looking to the men who formed it, and who now represent it as its
leading oracles, Seward, Hale, Sumner, Wilson, Chase, Giddings, Wade,
Lovejoy, not forgetting John A. Andrews of Massachusetts, with his negro
guard of wide-awakes, nor excepting John Brown, the martyr, nor
excepting the comparatively unknown Abraham Lincoln, whom the crisis of
the divided house has made famous--and looking also to the Philadelphia
and Chicago platforms on which the party stands, with their logical
inconsistencies, and the end which those platforms, as well as the
public addresses and working machinery of their advocates contemplate--I
regard the so-called Republican party, whose candidates are Lincoln and
Hamlin, as essentially a sectional, slavery prohibition and slavery
abolition party, bound by political action, through the power of the
Federal government; _first_, to prohibit slavery in all the territories
of the United States; _second_, to admit no more Slave States, and
ultimately by State action and Federal action too, when the Free States
have become three-fourths of the whole, and sufficiently powerful to
make the Federal Constitution what they please, to abolish slavery in
all the States, so that, to use the language of William H. Seward at
Chicago, on 2d October instant, "_Civilization may be maintained and
carried on, on this continent by Federal States, based on the principles
of free soil, free labor, free speech, equal rights and universal
suffrage_." This is _the creed_ of the Republican party as declared by
Mr. Seward, and he affirms that it is _a positive party_ that will take
no more compromises in geographical lines or squatter sovereignties.

This is the logical end of the platforms of the Republican party; the
practical end, following the attempt to realize the other, will be
disunion, with all the dire results portrayed by Daniel Webster, when in
that great effort of his majestic intellect, his defence of the American
Union, he prayed that when "his eyes should be turned to behold for the
last time the sun in heaven, he might not see him shining on the broken
and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered,
discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched,
it may be, in fraternal blood!"

I am conscious that many Republicans, whom I esteem and respect, may
object to this opinion of their party and platforms. Be that as it may,
the opinion is a sincere one, and I believe can be sustained by a fair
analysis of the records of Republican leaders and of the proceedings of
the party.

It is vain to deny that with the masses of that party, Seward is their
representative man, and that without the abolition strength, which he
and Sumner, Hale, Greeley, Wade, Lovejoy, Giddings, and all that class
of politicians bring to the Republican ranks, they would not have a hope
of success in the North. The cohorts of abolition are the Zouaves of
the Republican camp. It is their enthusiasm, their fiery zeal, and
intolerant hate of all southern institutions, that give the Republican
party no small amount of its power. The nomination of Lincoln over
Seward was a trick of expediency, like the nomination of Fremont. The
real leaders of the Republican organization have points too sharply
defined to be trusted as candidates before the nation. Obscure men are
sought, who from their very want of being known, fail to concentrate the
deadly fire that would pour upon the real leaders if shown in the open
field. The Republicans are shrewd enough to know that candidates
sometimes win where principles would fail; hence if you would know their
principles and real leaders, look _behind_, not _on_ their candidates.

3. Looking to the men who formed it, and who lead it, and to the
platform on which it stands, I regard the Bell and Everett or Union
party as it is called, as a very respectable and honorable party, mostly
composed of men of the old Whig faith, who truly love the Union and the
Constitution, and will do all they can to preserve both, and who would
manage the ship of state admirably well, so long as the sky was bright,
the sea was calm, and nought but fair and gentle breezes filled the
flowing sails; but who would be scarcely competent to guide that noble
and richly laden ship in unknown seas, amid tropic or arctic storms, or
when surrounded by the pirate crafts of the African slave trade, or the
wildly drifting fire ships of political abolition. In such seas, amid
such storms, and surrounded by such assailants, the ship of state wants
men upon the quarter deck of far reaching thought, of iron wills, of
hearts that know not fear; men whom storms cannot frighten and foes
cannot conquer--such men as will nail "the Union" to the mast and die
ere it comes down.

Lastly, my friends--Looking to the men who now compose and sustain it,
and to the platform on which it stands, I regard the National Democratic
party, lead by Stephen A. Douglas--I mean the party of the people, not
of the politicians--as the truly democratic and national--not
sectional--party of this country; a party that in the august presence
of the nation and its Federal Constitution, knows no North and no South,
but the Union, the whole Union and nothing but the Union, and whose
motto is not "_Liberty first and Union afterwards_," but that glorious

Firmly convinced of the correctness of my opinions on the question
dividing the nation, I appeal in all kindness to the Whigs and
Democrats, now ranging under Republican banners, and perhaps under the
uniform of Republican wide-awakes, and I ask them, Whigs and Democrats,
who alike in 1852 and in 1856 sustained the compromise principle of
Congressional non-intervention with slavery: why have they changed their
ground? Why do they now support a party whose real motto is "No more
slave territory--no more Slave States," and whose candidates are
northern sectional men only? Is that the motto, or are these the
candidates for a Union in which there are North States and South States,
Free States and Slave States, all equal in the house of the nation, and
in the nation's fundamental law?

A fearful responsibility rests on every citizen who, by his vote or his
acts, aids in the first triumph of a party whose creed and whose men are
sectional. On that rock will the Union, if ever, be wrecked, and towards
that rock it is rapidly drifting now.

I ask again, where does the real National Democratic party of the
people, headed by Douglas, now stand on the question of slavery? I
answer, and no man can truthfully gainsay it, it stands where it stood
in 1840-44-48, and 1852-56. It stands where it stood in 1850, when it
aided to pass the great national compromise. It stands where it stood in
1854, when to carry out that compromise to its logical results, it
erased the Missouri compromise line of 1820, because _that_ was not a
constitutional line of national brotherhood and peace, but a legislative
line of division and sectional strife. It stands where it stood in 1856,
when the sectional platform and the feeble candidate of the Philadelphia
Convention fell before it. It stands where it will stand, with its
banner of Union and national peace waving over it, until patriotic Whigs
and patriotic Democrats, North and South, who in 1852 made up the
2,987,000 votes that endorsed the compromise of 1850, awaking from the
delusion and misunderstanding which have gathered over that great
measure of national peace, shall affirm it again as a permanent and
enduring law that shall bind together the now divided house of the
American Union. Then, indeed, will "the crisis" of Abraham Lincoln and
"the irrepressible conflict" of William H. Seward be passed in safety,
and the Union again arise and shine in the full sunlight of permanent


     The following article from the Fort Wayne Daily Sentinel of
     September, 1861, is now reprinted on account of its relation to
     the subject discussed in the preceding pages, and as a further
     exposition of the views of the writer upon the position of
     parties in the last presidential election. The defeat of the
     Breckinridge party, on the one hand, has led to its attempt in
     the South, by armed rebellion to disintegrate the Republic,
     because its Federal power could not be used to nationalize
     slavery; the success of the Republican party, on the other
     hand, has led to what the preceding and following arguments
     foreshadowed as its result, the consolidation of a power in the
     Federal government that is rapidly undermining the glorious
     constitutional fabric erected by our fathers, and paving the
     way for a central government, sustained not so much by the
     free, unbought love of the people, as by the strength of its
     military power to crush out resistance to its authority. The
     times demand of every true lover of his country TO READ AND
     THINK. "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." Let not the
     people be deceived! When the Federal government assumes the
     power by military or other force to blot out the sovereignty of
     Federal States, (a proposition already before the Federal
     Congress), it strikes a blow at the life of American democracy,
     which exists in the constitutional sovereignty of the States.
     When that is slain, which God forbid! over its dead body,
     surrounded by fields of carnage, after a perhaps brief reign of
     ANARCHY, will rise an IMPERIAL MONARCHIAL POWER, of whose
     dealings with _the people_ we have no better instructor than
     the great teacher, "History," which is "philosophy teaching by
     examples." Let us take heed!


Democracy and Anti-Democracy or, the Nation vs. the States and the

       *       *       *       *       *

There are three distinct antagonistic parties now struggling for the
control of the national government:

1st. A slavery extension party, ostensibly headed by Breckinridge.

2d. An abolition of slavery party, ostensibly headed by Lincoln, but
more truly represented by Seward.

3d. A non-intervention with slavery party, headed by Douglas.

So far as relates to any possible political action in regard to slavery,
in these three grand divisions are really merged all shades of opinion
from the anti-slavery fanaticism of Garrison and Gerritt Smith, to the
pro-slavery fanaticism of Yancey, Garlden and Keitt.

The organization headed by Bell and Everett seems to have no distinctive
principle, except fidelity to the Union. It is a party of vague
outlines, and without tangible substance.

Each of the three distinct parties (as do also the Bell and Everett
party) assume to stand upon the common ground of the constitution and to
justify their principles and measures by that sacred instrument, "the
palladium of American liberty."

1st. The Breckinridge or Southern sectional theory, claiming the Dred
Scott decision as its justification, is, that slavery is a benign
national institution, to be fostered and protected by the Federal
government "wherever its constitutional authority extends;" and the
logical sequence from the Dred Scott decision, as construed in the
South, is, that this national institution involves an inviolable right
of property, and is carried by force of the constitution into _all the
States and Territories_, and is there to be protected by the Federal
government, and this idea is entirely consistent with the Breckinridge
platform adopted at Baltimore on the 28th June last. A necessary result
of the establishment of this theory will be the reopening of the African
slave trade.

2d. The Lincoln and Seward or Northern sectional theory, is, that
slavery is a relic of barbarism, antagonistic to the principles and
policy of the nation, and is to be annoyed, assailed, and ultimately
annihilated by the Federal government wherever its constitutional
authority extends.

To sum up the two theories in a few words:

Slavery, according to Breckinridge and his school, is a _national good_,
to be encouraged and protected by the national strong arm.

Slavery, according to Lincoln and Seward, is a _national evil_, gigantic
and portentous, to be combatted and slain by the same strong arm.

That the South will permit slavery to be abolished in all the States by
violence or starvation; or that the North will permit slavery to be
established in all the States by judicial decision or otherwise, no man
in his senses believes--hence looking to the legitimate results _of
their doctrines_, both the Breckinridge and Lincoln parties _are
essentially disunion parties_. Constant conflict and ultimate disunion
are the natural sequents of their antagonism. As neither can hope to
conquer the other, the Union, the common bond and roof tree of both,
must be divided and fall.

3d. The Douglas or truly conservative theory, resting upon the limited
powers of the Federal constitution, as a compact of confederation, among
sovereign and independent States, assumes that so far as the United
States, _as a Nation_, are concerned, domestic slavery is neither a
national good to be protected, nor a national evil to be crushed out; it
is a local domestic institution, existing at the formation of the
confederacy, in all the States, "under the laws thereof," and its good
or evil, concerns only the local sovereignties or people with whom it
exists or may exist. The Federal government not having been ordained or
established to form or control the domestic institutions of the people
of the confederated States, is equally powerless to destroy or to extend
slavery. Its destruction or extension must be the work of local law, not
of the Federal constitution, nor of Federal law made under it.

Let us re-state the points:

The Breckinridge or slavery extension party would _nationalize_ slavery,
by making its existence commensurate with the obligations of the Federal

The Lincoln or abolition party would _denationalize_ it, by destroying
it by prohibition where it is not, and by starvation where it is.

The Douglas or non-intervention party would denationalize it, by leaving
the people in the respective localities, be they States or territories,
to deal with it as they see fit.

Therefore, Breckinridge would use the national government to force
slavery on an unwilling people.

Lincoln and Seward would use the same power to prevent a people who may
desire domestic slavery from having it.

Douglas would not use the same power, either to permit or destroy, but
recognizing the right and capacity of the people to govern themselves,
would leave them to decide _for themselves_ as to what domestic
institutions they would or would not have.

There can be no mistaking as to which of the three parties occupies the
true democratic ground on this subject. To rightly decide that question,
we have only to reach the central and fundamental idea of the nature of
the Federal Constitution, upon which each party bases itself.

The political history of the United States, since the Confederation,
shows that as well in the formation, as in the interpretation and
administration of the Federal Constitution, two parties have existed,
representing two different political ideas--the one, State
Sovereignty--the other, National Sovereignty, or, Confederation against
Consolidation; or, democratic government in _the States_ against an
Imperial government in _the Nation_.

The advocates of a consolidated National government, the leading mind
among whom was Alexander Hamilton, were, until after the publication of
the Federalist, known as the National party. After that publication, and
about 1790, they took the name of Federalists. Their opponents, who
favored a Federal Union of limited and clearly defined powers, in
preference to a strong National Government, were at first called
Federalists, but afterwards took the name of Republicans, or, Democrats.
The master spirit of this party was Thomas Jefferson. Principles adverse
to those of Hamilton prevailed in the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
Hamilton's plan of government was not adopted, and by express vote of
the Convention the term, "United States Government," was adopted in lieu
of "National Government," as originally proposed, to distinguish the
system to be formed.

The men of the Convention were men of great intellectual power and lofty
patriotism, but also men of concession and compromise, and it is not
therefore surprising that their different views should be so far
reflected in the Constitution, their common work, as to lead to
occasional difficulty in its interpretation. The Constitution is not so
clearly expressed, that he who runs may read its meaning. The wisest and
best men of the nation have differed as to its true construction, and
their differing interpretations are mainly the result of adherence to
one or the other of the adverse principles already stated--the one
aiming to amplify the jurisdiction of the Federal government by liberal
or latitudinarian construction--the other aiming to limit it by strict

The National, or Hamilton, school of politicians hold that the
Constitution is not a compact between the States, but a system of
National Government ordained and established by the People of the United
States--and Mr. H. asserted "that it belongs to the discretion of the
national legislature to pronounce upon the subjects which concern the
GENERAL WELFARE." John Adams, an ultra Federalist, in his letters to
Roger Sherman in 1789, attempted to show that the Federal government is
"a monarchial republic," or, "limited monarchy," and contended that the
President should have been an integral part of the national legislature
by being invested with an absolute veto power.

The Democratic, or Jefferson school of politicians, on the contrary,
hold that the Constitution is a compact between sovereign and
independent States, and the government formed by it one of strictly
limited and defined powers, delegated by the States.

Among the eminent men who have adopted _the national_ theory of the
constitution, were Mr. Hamilton, Chief Justice Marshall, Justice Story
and Mr. Webster, and to their great abilities and powers of argument,
may in part be attributed the fact that the decisions of the Supreme
Court of the United States on constitutional questions of a political
character, have favored the national or anti democratic theory of
interpretation. These great men were federalists, and no one can doubt
that their general political views have given shape and color to their
legal arguments and opinions.

The people, to whose welfare democratic principles are vital, have not
always yielded to the opinions and reasoning of the Supreme Court, or of
the Federal school of statesmen and jurists; but have gradually from
time to time by their clearly expressed will in the popular elections,
imposed just restraints upon the action of the Federal government. They
have thus repeatedly voted down a National Bank, a high protective
tariff, a national system of internal improvements, and other kindred
measures, based, like the attempt to abolish slavery, upon the same
constitutional theory, that the Federal government is one of general or
discretionary powers; or as Mr. Hamilton expressed it, "that it belongs
to the discretion of the national Legislature to pronounce upon the
subjects which concern the general welfare."

The Democratic principle of limited and specific power in the Union, for
Federal purposes, and general sovereignty in the people of the States,
for all local and domestic purposes, has taken deep root in the minds of
the people, and has received their frequent endorsement.

The Democratic party have recognized this principle in their platforms,
and in the platform of 1852 at Baltimore, and in that of 1856 at
Cincinnati, and in that of 1860 at Charleston, they incorporated as one
of the main foundations of their political creed, the constitutional
doctrines of Jefferson and Madison as expressed in the Virginia and
Kentucky resolutions of 1797 and 1798 and Mr. Madison's report of
1799-1800, which are expressly opposed to the Hamilton theory of a
consolidation of the States into one sovereignty, "_the obvious tendency
and inevitable result of which would be_," as Mr. Madison says, "_to
transform the republican system of the United States into a monarchy_."

It is beyond doubt, this democratic doctrine of the sovereignty of the
people of the States which has, more than any other, given to the
Democratic party its strength with the people, and enabled the States
themselves to grow and prosper, while the nation, as the symbol of their
united sovereignty, has made the name of "The United States," known, and
honored, and feared in every land.

Accordingly, then, as theories or principles of national politics favor
or oppose the consolidation of power in the Federal government, upon
matters of domestic concern or internal policy, to the denial or
exclusion of the power of the people of the States or territories over
the same matters, so are those theories or principles, and the measures
based upon them, practically favorable or opposed to true democratic
principles of government.

Apply, then, this test to the Breckinridge and Lincoln doctrines, and we
need not be at a loss to determine to what class of political theories
they belong.

The Breckinridge and Lincoln platforms both rest upon the same idea,
viz: That there is a power in the Federal government or constitution,
derived from implication, not from express language, in reference to the
subject matter of domestic slavery, _above the power of the people of
the States or territories to control_--or, to state the point a little
differently: On this one subject of purely domestic concern the Federal
government is stronger than the people.

The Federal government, virtually say the Breckinridge party, must every
where protect, but can no where prohibit slavery: The same government,
in effect say the Lincoln party, must prohibit slavery, but can no where
establish or legalize it:

True it is, that the Breckinridge party in the 3d article of their
platform say: "That when the settlers of a territory having an adequate
population, _form a State constitution_," the State "ought to be
admitted into the Federal Union, whether its constitution prohibits or
recognizes the institution of slavery;" but at the same time they so
construe the Dred Scott decision as to affirm that the right of property
in slaves is guaranteed by the Federal constitution, and therefore
protected every where, where that constitution is the supreme law. If
so, of what avail is it for a State constitution or State law to
prohibit slavery? The prohibition would be a nullity under the Federal

True it is also, that the Lincoln party affirm in the 4th article of the
Chicago platform, the necessity of maintaining "the right of each State
to order and control its own domestic institutions, according to its own
judgment exclusively;" but in the 8th article of the same platform, they
affirm the right and duty of Congress, _by legislation_, to maintain the
territories in their normal condition of freedom, and they deny "_the
authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any
individual, to give legal existence to slavery in any territory of the
United States_."

The pretense then of conceding sovereignty to the people of the States
"to order and control" the domestic institution of slavery, when that
sovereignty is denied to the same people while in a territory, is a
piece of transparent hypocrisy. Does not any sensible man know that
prohibition of domestic slavery in a territory, is essentially
prohibition of it in a State to be formed of that territory? As the twig
is bent by Congress in the territory, so will the tree be inclined in
the State. If slavery does not exist in a State at its organization, it
will never exist there, unless forced there by the Federal government
under the Breckinridge construction of the constitution.

But again: If Congress, as the Chicago platform affirms, because of the
provision of the Federal constitution (5th amendment) that "no person
shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of
law," cannot legalize slavery in a territory, where as the Republican
platform of 1856 asserts, Congress has "sovereign power," how can a
State legislature, in the face of the same constitutional prohibition or
principle, (as old as _magna charta_) legalize slavery in any State
where such legislature has equally sovereign power? It may be answered
to this question, that the Supreme Court of the United States have
decided that the amendment to the constitution containing the clause
above quoted, does not apply to the State governments; but this answer
does not cover the whole ground, for we may ask again: how can Congress,
if it has no power to legalize slavery in a territory, constitutionally
admit to the Union a new State formed from such Territory with a
constitution legalizing slavery? Suppose, for example, such a
constitution provides. "The right of the people to hold slaves is hereby
declared, and such right shall never be defeated or impaired." The State
constitution has no vitality, as such, until the State is admitted to
the Union--the act of admission makes the constitution a law, and a law
for slavery. Congress therefore in accepting such a constitution from a
new State, where slavery had not before existed, as effectually
legislates slavery into such State as if a special Congressional act
were passed for that purpose. Consistency then, with the Chicago
platform would seem to require, that Congress should refuse, for want of
constitutional power, to admit any State with a slavery constitution. I
here incidentally ask another question: if the constitution, as is
asserted, gives Congress _sovereign power_ over the territories, where
is the obligation on Congress ever to permit a territory to rise above
its territorial condition, and become a State, except on such terms as
Congress may impose? What is constitutionally to prevent Congress from
erecting and continuing territorial governments until the territories
_under the sovereign power of Congress_, outnumber and overshadow the
States, and the national government becomes an Imperial power, like the
Roman or British Empires, with hundreds of tributary States or

I ask again: If the normal condition of all the territories of the
United States is that of freedom, and if Congress cannot legalize
slavery in any territory, can the Federal government bring slaves under
the power of Congress by acquiring territory governed by foreign slave
laws, as were the territories of Florida and Louisiana? Does the foreign
slave code continue to exist _proprio vigore_ in the absence of express
recognition by the Federal government; or does the force of the
constitution itself annul upon the acquisition of the territory, the
local law of slavery, and abrogate all treaty or legislative provisions,
if any, for its continuance? In other words can the Federal government,
by simple act of acquisition, or expressly by treaty, legislative act,
or judicial decision, enact or continue in force a foreign slave code
over territory acquired by the United States, "the normal condition of
which is that of freedom?" I would be glad to know what the Chicago
platform means by that expression. Does it mean that slavery cannot
exist in any territory of the United States over which the constitution
extends? or if it does exist there by virtue of a foreign local law at
the time of acquisition, does it mean that Congress can abrogate the
right of property under that law and make the territory free?

If the Republican platform really means that the Federal government
cannot legalize slavery by acquiring slave territory; and cannot
legalize slavery in any territory already acquired; and cannot admit a
State with a slavery constitution, does not the same platform drive the
Republican party to the doctrine that domestic slavery _has not_, and
_cannot have_ any legal existence in any State or territory where it did
not exist by local law when the Federal constitution became operative?
What then becomes of the asserted "right of each State to order and
control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment

I put all these questions by way of suggestions, not assertions, and
leave the respective advocates of the Lincoln and Breckinridge platforms
to answer them consistently with the Union and the Constitution.

Examine them in any light to which they may be presented, the
Breckinridge and Lincoln doctrines equally lead to the same
anti-Democratic result:--Sovereign power in the Federal constitution and
government, superior to the power of the people of the States and
territories, over the domestic institution of slavery. Directly opposed
to this position is the one held by Mr. Douglas; absence of power in
Congress, and full power in the people of the States and territories to
deal with all their domestic institutions and local affairs. Which is
the Democratic position?

     J. K. E.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Relations of the Federal Government to Slavery - Delivered at Fort Wayne, Ind., October 30th 1860" ***

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