Constitution," and to have become "canonized in chap.xix. the hearts of the American people as a sacred thing which no ruthless hand would ever be reckless enough to disturb," all seemed, in the public mind, to fix his position definitely; no one im-agined that Douglas would so soon become the subject of his own anathemas.
The full personal details of this event are lost to history. "We have only a faint and shadowy outline of isolated movements of a few chief actors, a few vague suggestions and fragmentary steps in the formation and unfolding of the ill-omened plot.
As the avowed representative of the restless and ambitious elements of the country, as the champion of " Young America," Douglas had so far as possible in his Congressional career made himself the apostle of modern "progress." He was a believer in " manifest destiny" and a zealous advocate of the Monroe doctrine. He desired — so the newspapers averred—that the Caribbean Sea should be declared an American lake, and nothing so delighted him as to pull the beard of the British lion. These topics, while they furnished themes for campaign speeches, for the present led to no practical legislation. In his position as chairman of the Senate Committee on Territories, however, he had control of kindred measures of present and vital interest to the people of the West; namely, the opening of new routes of travel and emigration, and of new territories for settlement. An era of wonder had just dawned, connecting itself directly with these subjects. The acquisition of California and the discovery of gold had turned the eyes of the whole civilized world to the Pacific coast. Plains
chap. xrx. and mountains were swarming with adventurers and emigrants. Oregon, Utah, New Mexico, and Minnesota had just been organized, and were in a feeble way contesting the sudden fame of the Golden State. The Western border was astir, and wild visions of lands and cities and mines and wealth and power were disturbing the dreams of the pioneer in his frontier cabin, and hurrying him off on the long, romantic quest across the continent.
Hitherto, stringent Federal laws had kept settlers and unlicensed traders out of the Indian territory, which lay beyond the western boundaries of Arkansas, Missouri, and Iowa, and which the policy of our early Presidents fixed upon as the final asylum of the red men retreating before the advance of white settlements. But now the uncontrollable stream of emigration had broken into and through this reservation, creating in a few years well-defined routes of travel to New Mexico, Utah, California, and Oregon. Though from the long march there came constant cries of danger and distress, of starvation and Indian massacre, there was neither halting nor delay. The courageous pioneers pressed forward all the more earnestly, and to such purpose that in less than twenty-five years the Pacific Eailroad followed Fremont's first exploration through the South Pass.
Douglas, himself a migratory child of fortune, was in thorough sympathy with this somewhat premature Western longing of the people; and as chairman of the Committee on Territories was the recipient of all the letters, petitions, and personal solicitations from the various interests which were seeking their advantage in this exodus toward the
THE REPEAL OF THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE 337
setting sun. He was the natural center for all the chap.xix. embryo mail contractors, office-holders, Indian traders, land-sharks, and railroad visionaries whose coveted opportunities lay in the Western territories. It is but just to his fame, however, to say that he comprehended equally well the true philosophical and political necessities which now demanded the opening of Kansas and Nebraska as a secure highway and protecting bridge to the Eocky Mountains and our new-found El Dorado, no less than as a bond of union between the older States and the improvised " Young America" on the Pacific coast. The subject was not yet ripe for action during the stormy politics of 1850-1, and had again to be postponed for the presidential campaign of 1852. But after Pierce was triumphantly elected, with a Democratic Congress to sustain him, the legislative calm which both parties had adjured in their platforms seemed favorable for pushing measures of local interest. The control of legislation for the territories was for the moment com- ; pletely in the hands of Douglas. He was himself chairman of the Committee of the Senate; and his special personal friend and political lieutenant in his own State, William A. Eichardson, of Illinois, was chairman of the Territorial Committee of the House, He could therefore choose his own time and mode of introducing measures of this character in either house of Congress, under the majority control of his party—a fact to be constantly borne in mind when we consider the origin and progress of uthe three Nebraska bills."
The journal discloses that Eichardson, of Illinois, chairman of the Committee on Territories of the vol. I.--22
chap. xix. House of Representatives, on February 2, 1853, Fe£%63, introduced into the House "A bill to organize the p. 474. Territory of Nebraska." After due reference, and some desultory debate on the 8th, it was taken up and passed by the House on the 10th. From the discussion we learn that the boundaries were the Missouri River on the east, the Rocky Mountains on the west, the line of 36° 30' or southern line of Missouri on the south, and the line of 43°, or near the northern line of Iowa, on the north. Several members opposed it, because the Indian title to the lands was not yet extinguished, and because it embraced reservations pledged to Indian occupancy in perpetuity; also on the general ground that it contained but few white inhabitants, and its organization was therefore a useless expense. Howard, of Texas, made the most strenuous opposition, urging that since it contained but about six hundred souls, its southern boundary should be fixed at 39° 30', not to trench upon the Indian reservations. Hall, of Missouri, replied in support of the bill: " We want the organization of the Territory of Nebraska not merely for the protection of the few people who reside there, but also for the protection of Oregon and California in time of war, and the Tio,dp. ik?' protection of our commerce and the fifty or sixty thousand emigrants who annually cross the plains." He added that its limits were purposely made large to embrace the great lines of travel to Oregon, New Mexico, and California; since the South Pass was in 42° 30', the Territory had to extend to 43° north. The incident, however, of special historical significance had occurred in the debate of the 8th, when a member rose and said: "I wish to inquire
THE REPEAL OF THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE339
of the gentleman from Ohio, [Mr. Giddings], who, chap.xix. I believe, is a member of the Committee on Territories, why the Ordinance of 1787 is not incorporated in this bill 1 I should like to know whether he or the committee were intimidated on account "g of the platforms of 1852 V To which Mr. Gridcimgs ep.5«. replied that the south line of the territory was 36° 30', and was already covered by the Missouri Compromise prohibition. " This law stands perpetually, and I do not think that this act would receive any increased validity by a reenaetment. There I leave the matter. It is very clear that the territory included in this treaty [ceding Louisiana] must be forever free unless the law be repealed." With this explicit understanding from a member of the committee, apparently accepted as conclusive by the whole House, and certainly not objected to by the chairman, Mr. Richardson, who was carefully watching the current of debate, the bill passed ibia.,Feb. on the 10th, ninety-eight yeas to forty-three nays. p* 665-' Led by a few members from that region, in the main the West voted for it and the South against it; while the greater number, absorbed in other schemes, were wholly indifferent, and probably cast their votes upon personal solicitation.
On the following day the bill was hurried over to the Senate, referred to Mr. Douglas's committee, and by him reported back without amendment, on February 17th; but the session was almost ended before he was able to gain the attention of the Senate for its discussion. Finally, on the night before the inauguration of President Pierce, in the midst of a fierce and protracted struggle over the appropriation bills, while the Senate was without
chap. xix. a quorum and impatiently awaiting the reports of a number of conference committees, Douglas seized the opportunity of the lull to call up his Nebraska bill. Here again, as in the House, Texas stubbornly opposed it. Houston undertook to talk it to death in a long speech; Bell protested against robbing the Indians of their guaranteed rights. The bill seemed to have no friend but its author when, perhaps to his surprise, Senator D. E. Atchison, of Missouri, threw himself into the breach.
Prefacing his remarks with the statement that he had formerly been opposed to the measure, he continued : " I had two objections to it. One was that the Indian title in that territory had not been extinguished, or at least a very small portion of it had been. Another was the Missouri Compromise, or, as it is commonly called, the Slavery Restriction. It was my opinion at that time — and I am not now very clear on that subject — that the law of Congress, when the State of Missouri was admitted into the Union, excluding slavery from the territory of Louisiana north of 36° 30', would be enforced in that territory unless it was specially rescinded ; and whether that law was in accordance with the Constitution of the United States or not, it would do its work, and that work would be to preclude slaveholders from going into that territory. But when I came to look into that question, I found that there was no prospect, no hope, of a repeal of the Missouri Compromise excluding slavery from that territory. . . I have always been of opinion that the first great error committed in the political history of this country was the
THE BEPEAL OF THE MISSOURI COMPEOMISE341
Ordinance of 1787, rendering the North-west Terri- chap. xix. tory free territory. The next great error was the Missouri Compromise. But they are both irremediable. . . We must submit to them. I am prepared to do it. It is evident that the Missouri Compromise cannot be repealed. So far as that question is concerned, we might as well agree to the admission of this territory now as next year, or five or ten years hence."
Mr. Douglas closed the debate, advocating the passage of the bill for general reasons, and by his silence accepting Atchison's conclusions ; but as «Giojt>e," the morning of the 4th of March was breaking, an i853?p0.im. unwilling Senate laid the bill on the table by a vote of twenty-three to seventeen, here, as in the House, the West being for and the South against the measure. It is not probable, however, that in this course the South acted with any mental reservation or sinister motive. The great breach of faith was not yet even meditated. Only a few hours afterwards, in a dignified and stately national ceremonial, in the midst of foreign ministers, judges, senators, and representatives, the new President of the United States delivered to the people his inaugural address. High and low were alike intent to discern the opening political currents of the new Administration, but none touched or approached this particular subject. The aspirations of " Young America" were not towards a conquest of the North, but the enlargement of the South. A freshening breeze filled the sails of " annexation" and " manifest destiny." In bold words the President said: " The policy of my Administration will not be controlled by any timid forebodings of evil from expansion.
chap. xix. Indeed, it is not to be disgnised that our attitude as a nation and our position on the globe render the acquisition of certain possessions not within our jurisdiction eminently important for our protection, if not in the future essential for the preservation of the rights of commerce and the peace of the world." Eeaching the slavery question, he expressed unbounded devotion to the Union, and declared slavery recognized by the Constitution, and his purpose to enforce the compromise measures of 1850, adding, " I fervently trust that the question is at rest, and that no sectional or ambitious or fanatical excitement may again threaten the durability of our institutions, or obscure the light of our prosperity."
When Congress met again in the following December (1853), the annual message of President Pierce was, upon this subject, but an echo of his inaugural, as his inaugural had been but an echo of the two party platforms of 1852. Affirming that the compromise measures of 1850 had given repose to the country, he declared, " That this repose is to suffer no shock during my official term, if I have the power to avert it, those who placed me here may be assured." In this spirit, undoubtedly, the Democratic party and the South began the session of 1853-4; but unfortunately it was very soon abandoned. The people of the Missouri and Iowa border were becoming every day more impatient to enter upon an authorized occupancy of the new lands which lay a day's journey to the west. Handfuls of squatters here and there had elected two territorial delegates, who hastened to Washington with embryo creden-
THE EEPEAL OF THE MISSOUKI COMPROMISE343
tials. The subject of organizing the West was chap.xix. again broached ; an Iowa Senator introduced a territorial bill. Under the ordinary routine it was referred to the Committee on Territories, and on the 4th day of January Douglas reported back his second Nebraska bill, still without any repeal*of the Missouri Compromise. His elaborate report, accompanying this second bill, shows that the sub-ject had been most carefully examined in com- gre88-mittee. The discussion was evidently exhaustive, going over the whole history, policy, and constitutionality of prohibitory legislation. Two or three sentences are quite sufficient to present the substance of the long and wordy report. First, that there were differences and doubts; second, that these had been finally settled by the compromise measures of 1850; and, therefore, third, the committee had adhered not only to the spirit but to the very phraseology of that adjustment, and refused either to affirm or repeal the Missouri Compromise.
This was the public and legislative agreement announced to the country. Subsequent revelations show the secret and factional bargain which that agreement covered. Not only was this territorial bill searchingly considered in committee, but repeated caucuses were held by the Democratic leaders to discuss the party results likely to grow out of it. The Southern Democrats maintained that the Constitution of the United States recognized their tight and guaranteed them protection to their slave property, if they chose to carry it into Federal Territories. Douglas and other Northern Democrats contended that slavery was subject
Senator Benjamin, Senate Debate, May
8, 1860. " Globe,"
Douglas, pamphlet in reply to
Judare Black, October, 1859, p. 6.
" Globe," Jan. 16,1854,
to local law, and that the people of a Territory, like those of a State, could establish or prohibit it. This radical difference, if carried into party action, would lose them the political ascendency they had so long maintained, and were then enjoying. To avert a public rupture of the party, it was agreed " that the Territories should be organized with a delegation by Congress of all the power of Congress in the Territories, and that the extent of the power of Congress should be determined by the courts." If the courts should decide against the South, the Southern Democrats would accept the Northern theory; if the courts should decide in favor of the South, the Northern Democrats would defend the Southern view. Thus harmony would be preserved, and party power prolonged. Here we have the shadow of the coming Dred Scott decision already projected into political history, though the speaker protests that "none of us knew of the existence of a controversy then pending in the Federal courts that would lead almost immediately to the decision of that question." This was probably true; for a " peculiar provisionw was expressly inserted in the committee's bill, allowing appeals to the Supreme Court of the United States in all questions involving title to slaves, without reference to the usual limitations in respect to the value of the property, thereby paving the way to an early adjudication by the Supreme Court.
Thus the matter rested till the 16th of January, when Senator Dixon, of Kentucky, apparently acting for himself alone, offered an amendment in effect repealing the Missouri Compromise. Upon this provocation, Senator Sumner, of Massachusetts,
THE REPEAL OF THE MISSOURI COMPEOMISE345
the next day offered another amendment affirm- chap.xix. ing that it was not repealed by the bill. Commenting on these propositions two days later, the Administration organ, the " Washington Union," declared they were both "false lights," to be avoided by all good Democrats. By this time, however, the subject of "repeal" had become bruited about the Capitol corridors, the hotels, and the caucus rooms of Washington, and newspaper correspondents were on the qm vive to obtain the latest developments concerning the intrigue. The secrets of the Territorial Committee leaked out, and consultations multiplied. Could a repeal be carried! Who would offer it and lead it? What divisions or schisms would it carry into the ranks of the Democratic party, especially in the pending contest between the "Hards" and " Softs" in New York 1 What effect would it have upon the presidential election of 1856 f Already the " Union " suggested that it was whispered that Cass was willing to propose and favor such a " repeal." It was given out in the " Baltimore Sun " that Cass intended to " separate the sheep from the goats." Both statements, were untrue; but they perhaps had their intended effect, to arouse the jealousy and eagerness of Douglas. The political air of Washington was heavy with clouds and mutterings, and clans were gathering for and against the ominous proposition. So far as history has been allowed a glimpse into these secret communings, three principal personages were at this time planning a movement of vast portent. These were Stephen A. Douglas, chairman of the Senate Committee on Territories; Archibald Dixon, Whig Senator from Kentucky;
chap. xix. and David R. Atchison, of Missouri, then president pro tempore of the Senate, and acting Yice-President of the United States. "iFor myself,' said the latter in explaining the transaction, 'I am entirely devoted to the interest of the South, and I would sacrifice everything but my hope of heaven to advance her welfare.' He thought the Missouri Compromise ought to be repealed; he had pledged himself in his public addresses to vote for no territorial organization that would not virtually annul it; and with this feeling in his heart he desired to be the chairman of the Senate Committee on Territories when a bill was introduced. With this object in view, he had a private interview with Mr. Douglas, and informed him of what he desired — the introduction of a bill for Nebraska like what [sic] he had promised to vote for, and that he would like to be the chairman of the Committee on Territories in order to introduce such a measure; and, if he could get that position, he would immediately resign as president of the Senate. Judge Douglas requested twenty-four hours to consider the matter, and if at the expiration of that time he could not introduce such a bill as he (Mr. Atchison) proposed, he would resign as chairman of the Territorial Committee in Democratic caucus, and exert his influence to get him (Atchison) appointed. At the expiration of the given time, Senator Douglas signified his intention to introduce such a bill as had been spoken of."1
Senator Dixon is no less explicit in his description of these political negotiations. "My amend-
i Speech at Atchison City, September, 1854, reported in the "Parkville Luminary."
THE BEPEAL OF THE ..MISSOURI COMPBQMISE,347
ment seemed to take the Senate by surprise, and chap.xix. no one appeared more startled than Judge Douglas himself. He immediately came to my seat and courteously remonstrated against my amendment, suggesting that the bill which he had introduced was almost in the words of the territorial acts for the organization of Utah and. New Mexico; that they being a part of the compromise measures of 1850 he had hoped that I, a known and zealous friend of the wise and patriotic adjustment which had then taken place, would not be inclined to do anything to call that adjustment in question or weaken it before the country.
"I replied that it was precisely because I had been and was a firm and zealous friend of the Compromise of 1850 that I felt bound to persist in the movement which I had originated; that I was well satisfied that the Missouri Restriction, if not expressly repealed, would continue to operate in the territory to which it had been applied, thus negativing the great and salutary principle of nonintervention which constituted the most prominent and essential feature of the plan of settlement of 1850. We talked for some time amicably, and separated. Some days afterwards Judge Douglas came to my lodgings, whilst I was confined by physical indisposition, and urged me to get up and take a ride with him in his carriage. I accepted his invitation, and rode out with him. During our short excursion we talked on the subject of my proposed amendment, and Judge Douglas, to my high gratification, proposed to me that I should allow him to take charge of the amendment and ingraft it on his territorial bill. I acceded to the
chap. xix. proposition at once, whereupon a most interesting interchange occurred between us.
" On this occasion Judge Douglas spoke to me in substance thus: ' I have become perfectly satisfied that it is my duty, as a fair-minded national statesman, to cooperate with you as proposed, in securing the repeal of the Missouri Compromise restriction. It is due to the South; it is due to the Constitution, heretofore palpably infracted ; it is due to that character for consistency which I have heretofore labored to maintain. The repeal, if we can effect it, will produce much stir and commotion in the free States of the Union for a season. I shall be assailed by demagogues and fanatics there without stint or moderation. Every opprobrious epithet will be applied to me. I shall be probably hung in effigy in many places. It is more than probable that I may become permanently odious among those whose friendship and esteem I have heretofore possessed. This proceeding may end my political career. But, acting under the sense of the duty which animates me, I am prepared to make the sacrifice. I will do it.'
" He spoke in the most earnest and touching manner, and I confess that I was deeply affected. I said to him in reply: ' Sir, I once recognized you as a demagogue, a mere party manager, selfish and intriguing. I now find you a warm-hearted and sterling patriot. Go forward in the pathway of duty as you propose, and though all the world desert you, I never will.'"1
Such is the circumstantial record of this remark-
1 Archibald Dixon to H. S. Foote, October 1, 1858. "Louisville Democrat" of October 3, 1858.
THE REPEAL OF THE MISSOUKI COMPROMISE349
able political transaction left by two prominent chap.xix. and principal instigators, and never denied nor repudiated by the third. Gradually, as the plot was developed, the agreement embraced the leading elements of the Democratic party in Congress, reenforced by a majority of the Whig leaders from the slave States. A day or two before the final introduction of the repeal, Douglas and others held an interview with President Pierce,1 and obtained from him in writing an agreement to adopt the movement as an Administration measure. Fortified with this important adhesion, Douglas took the fatal plunge, and on January 23 introduced his third Nebraska bill, organizing two territories instead of one, and declaring the Missouri Compromise " inoperative." But the amendment — monstrous Caliban of legislation as it was—needed to be still
1 Jefferson Davis, who was awith them to the Executive Man-
member of President Pierce'ssion, and, leaving them in the
Cabinet (Secretary of War), thus reception-room, sought the Presi-
relates the incident: "On Sun-dent in his private apartments,
day morning, the 22d of January,and explained to him the occa-
1854, gentlemen of each com-sion of the visit. He thereupon
mittee [House and Senate Com-met the gentlemen, patiently
mittees on Territories] called atlistened to the reading of the bill
my house, and Mr. Douglas,and their explanations of it, de-
chairman of the Senate Commit-cided that it rested upon sound
tee, fully explained the proposedconstitutional principles, andree-
bill, and stated their purpose toognized in it only a return to
be, through my aid, to obtain anthat rule which had been in-
interview on that day with the fringed by the Compromise of
President, to ascertain whether1820, and the restoration of
the bill would meet his approba- which had been foreshadowed by
tion. The President was knownthe legislation of 1850. This
to be rigidly opposed to the re-bill was not, therefore, as has
ception of visits on Sunday forbeen improperly asserted, a
the discussion of any politicalmeasure inspired by Mr. Pierce
subject; but in this case it was or any of his Cabinet."—Davis,
urged as necessary, in order to"Rise and Fall of the Confed*-
enable the committee to makeerate Government," Vol. I., p.
their report the next day. I went28.
chap. xix. further licked into shape to satisfy the designs of the South and appease the alarmed conscience of the North. Two weeks later, after the first outburst of debate, the following phraseology was substituted: "Which being inconsistent with the
1864, p. 421. principle of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the States and Territories, as recognized by the legislation of 1850 (commonly called the Compromise measures), is hereby declared inoperative and void; it being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution " — a change which Benton truthfully characterized as " a stump speech injected into the belly of the Nebraska bill." l
The storm of agitation which this measure aroused dwarfed all former ones in depth and intensity. The South was nearly united in its behalf, the North sadly divided in opposition. Against protest and appeal, under legislative whip and spur, with the tempting smiles and patronage of the Administration, after nearly a four months' parliamentary struggle, the plighted faith of a
i We have the authority of ex-withdraw or withhold from him
for stating that Mr. Douglas (who tion support, and told Mr. Ham-
was on specially intimate termslin that he intended to get from
with him) told him that the Ian-him something in black and white
guage of the final amendment towhich would hold him. A day or
the Kansas-Nebraska bill repeal-two afterwards Douglas, in a con-
ing the Missouri Compromise wasfldential conversation, showed
written by President FranklinMr. Hamlin the draft of the
Pierce. Douglas was apprehen-amendment in Mr. Pierce's own
sive that the President wouldhandwriting.
THE REPEAL OF THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE351
generation was violated, and the repealing act passed — mainly by the great influence and example of Douglas, who had only five years before so fittingly described the Missouri Compromise as being " akin to the Constitution," and " canonized in the hearts of the American people as a sacred thing which no ruthless hand would ever be reckless enough to disturb."
THE DEIFT OF POLITICS
chap. xx. fT^HE repeal of the Missouri Compromise made _jL the slavery question paramount in every State of the Union. The boasted finality was a broken reed; the life-boat of compromise a hopeless wreck. If the agreement of a generation could be thus annulled in a breath, was there any safety even in the Constitution itself ? This feeling communicated itself to the Northern States at the very first note of warning, and every man's party fealty was at once decided by his toleration of or opposition to slavery. While the fate of the Nebraska bill hung in a doubtful balance in the House, the feeling found expression in letters, speeches, meetings, petitions, and remonstrances. Men were for or against the bill — every other political subject was left in abeyance. The measure once passed, and the Compromise repealed, the first natural impulse was to combine, organize, and agitate for its restoration. This was the ready-made, common ground of cooperation.
It is probable that this merely defensive energy would have been overcome and dissipated, had it not at this juncture been inspirited and led by the faction known as the Free-soil party of the country,