Encyclopedia of Slavery and Abolition in the United States - M
MADISON, James, 1751-1836, Virginia, founding father, fourth President of the United States. American Colonization Society, President, 1833-1837. Madison stated that it was his “earnest prayer, that every success may reward the labors of an institution… so noble in its object of removing a great evil from its own country.”
(Burin, 2005, p. 10; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 165-171; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 6, Pt. 2, p. 182; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, pp. 7, 24, 107, 180, 183, 187)
MAHAN, Asa, 1799-1889, Ohio, clergyman, abolitionist, first president of Oberlin College 1835-1850. Vice President, American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), 1834-1835.
(Mabee, 1970, pp. 218, 403n25; Appletons’, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 176; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 6, Pt. 2, p. 208; Dumond, 1961, p. 165; Abolitionist)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MAHAN, Asa, clergyman, b. in Vernon, N.Y., 9 Nov., 1800. He was graduated at Hamilton college in 1824, and at Andover theological seminary in 1827. On 10 Nov., 1829, he was ordained pastor of the Congregational church in Pittsford, N. Y., and in 1831 he was called to the pastorate of a Presbyterian church in Cincinnati, Ohio. He accepted the presidency of Oberlin in 1835, with the chair of intellectual and moral philosophy, and the assistant professorship of theology, but after fifteen years was chosen president of Cleveland university, Cleveland, Ohio, and professor of mental and moral philosophy there. In 1855 he resumed pastoral work, and had charge of Congregational parishes at Jackson in 1855-'7 and at Adrian in 1857-'60. He was president of Adrian college, Mich., in 1860-'71, and since then has resided in England. President Mahan has received the degree of D. D. from Hillsdale in 1858, and that of LL. D. from Adrian in 1877. He has been an active advocate of the religious views that are known as Perfectionist, and has published “Scripture Doctrine of Christian Perfection” (Boston, 1839). His other works include “System of Intellectual Philosophy” (New York, 1845); “The Doctrine of the Will” (Oberlin, 1846); “The True Believer: his Character, Duties, and Privileges” (New York, 1847); “The Science of Moral Philosophy” (Oberlin, 1848); “Election and the Influence of the Holy Spirit” (New York, 1851); “Modern Mysteries Explained and Exposed” (Boston, 1855); “The Science of Logic” (New York, 1857); “Science of Natural Theology” (Boston, 1867); “Theism and Anti-Theism in their Relations to Science” (Cleveland, 1872); “The Phenomena of Spiritualism scientifically Explained and Exposed” (New York, 1876); “Critical History of the late American War” (1877); “A System of Mental Philosophy” (Chicago, 1882); and “Critical History of Philosophy” (New York 1883). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 176.
MALVIN, John, 1793-1880, African American, abolitionist, community and civil rights activist. Active participant in the Underground Railroad in Ohio. Member of the Cleveland Anti-Slavery Society and Vice President of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society. Active in the Negro Convention Movement.
(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 7, p. 473)
MANN, Horace, 1796-1859, Boston, Massachusetts, educator, political leader, social reformer. U.S. Congressman, Whig Party, from Massachusetts. Co-founder of the Young Men’s Colonization Society in Boston. Co-founded monthly paper, The Colonizationist and Journal of Freedom. He defended the American Colonization Society and its policies against criticism by William Lloyd Garrison. Opposed extension of slavery in territories annexed in the Mexican War of 1846. Said, “I consider no evil as great as slavery...” Argued against the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Reelected to Congress and served from April 1848 until March 1853.
(Mabee, 1970, pp. 64, 157, 160, 168, 170, 171, 261, 294, 409n9; Appletons’, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 190-191; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 6, Pt. 2, p. 240; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 14, p. 424; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, p. 204)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MANN, Horace, educator, b. in Franklin, Mass., 4 May, 1796; d. in Yellow Springs, Ohio, 2 Aug., 1859. His father was a farmer in limited circumstances, and the son was forced to procure by his own exertions the means of obtaining an education. He earned his school-books when a child by braiding straw, and his severe and frugal life taught him habits of self-reliance and independence. From ten years of age to twenty he had never more than six weeks’ schooling during any year, and he describes his instructors as “very good people, but very poor teachers.” He was graduated at Brown in 1819, and the theme of his oration, “The Progressive Character of the Human Race,” foreshadowed his subsequent career. After his graduation he was tutor in Latin and Greek in Brown, entered the Litchfield , Conn., law-school in 1821, and in 1823 was admitted to the bar, opening an office in Dedham, Mass. He was elected to the legislature in 1827, and in that body was active in the interests of education, public charities, and laws for the suppression of intemperance and lotteries. He established through his personal exertions the State lunatic asylum at Worcester, and in 1833 was chairman of its board of trustees. He continued to be returned to the legislature as representative from Dedham till his removal to Boston in 1833, when he entered into partnership with Edward G. Loring. In the practice of his profession he adopted the principle never to take the unjust side of any cause, and he is said to have gained four fifths of the cases in which he was engaged, the influence that he exerted over the juries being due in a great measure to the confidence that all felt in his honesty of purpose. He was elected to the state senate from Boston in 1833, was its president in 1836-'7, and from the latter year till 1848 was secretary of the Massachusetts board of education. While in the legislature he was a member and part of the time chairman of the committee for the revision of the state statutes, and a large number of salutary provisions were incorporated into the code at his suggestion. After their enactment he was appointed one of the editors of the work, and prepared its marginal notes and its references to judicial decisions. On entering on his duties as secretary to the Massachusetts board of education he withdrew from all other professional or business engagements and from politics. He introduced a thorough reform into the school system of the state, procuring the adoption of extensive changes in the school law, establishing normal schools, and instituting county educational conventions. He ascertained the actual condition of each school by “school registers,” and from the detailed reports of the school committees made valuable abstracts that he embodied in his annual reports. Under the auspices of the board, but at his own expense, he went to Europe in 1843 to visit schools, especially in Germany, and his seventh annual report, published after his return, embodied the results of his tour. Many editions of this report were printed, not only in Massachusetts, but in other states, in some cases by private individuals and in others by legislatures, and several editions were issued in England. By his advocacy of the disuse of corporal punishment in school discipline he was involved in a controversy with some of the Boston teachers that resulted in the adoption of his views. By his lectures and writings he awakened an interest in the cause of education that had never before been felt. He gave his legal opinions gratuitously, superintended the erection of a few buildings, and drew plans for many others. In his “Supplementary Report” (1848) he said: “From the time I accepted the secretaryship in June, 1837, until May, 1 848, when I tendered my resignation of it, I labored in this cause an average of not less than fifteen hours a day; from the beginning to the end of this period I never took a single day for relaxation, and months and months together passed without my withdrawing a single evening to call upon a friend.” In, the spring of 1848 he was elected to congress as a Whig, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of John Quincy Adams. His first speech in that body was in advocacy of its right and duty to exclude slavery from the territories, and in a letter in December of that year he said: “I think the country is to experience serious times. Interference with slavery will excite civil commotion in the south. But it is best to interfere. Now is the time to see whether the Union is a rope of sand or a band of steel.” Again he said: “I consider no evil as great as slavery, and I would pass the Wilmot proviso whether the south rebel or not.” During the first session he volunteered as counsel for Drayton and Sayres, who were indicted for stealing seventy-six slaves in the District of Columbia, and at the trial was engaged for twenty-one successive days in their defence. In 1850 he was engaged in a controversy with Daniel Webster in regard to the extension of slavery and the fugitive-slave law. Mann was defeated by a single vote at the ensuing nominating convention by Mr. Webster's supporters; but, on appealing to the people as an independent anti-slavery candidate, he was re-elected, serving from April, 1848, till March, 1853. In September, 1852, he was nominated for governor of Massachusetts by the Free-soil party, and the same day was chosen president of Antioch college, Yellow Springs, Ohio. Failing in the election for governor, he accepted the presidency of the college, in which he continued until his death. He carried that institution through pecuniary and other difficulties, and satisfied himself of the practicality of co-education. His death was hastened by his untiring labors in his office. He published, besides his annual reports, his lectures on education, and his voluminous controversial writings, “A Few Thoughts for a Young Man” (Boston, 1850); “Slavery: Letters and Speeches” (1851); “Powers and Duties of Woman” (1853); and “Sermons” (1861). See “Life of Horace Mann,” by his wife (1865); “Life and Complete Works of Horace Mann” (2 vols., Cambridge, 1869); and “Thoughts selected from the Writings of Horace Mann” (1869). His lectures on education were translated into French by Eugène de Guer, under the title of “De l'importance de l'éducation dans une république,” with a preface and biographical sketch by Edouard R. L. Laboulaye (Paris, 1873). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 190-191.
MARRIOT, Charles, Athens, New York, Society of Friends, Quaker, radical abolitionist. Member of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), member of the Executive Committee, 1840-1842, Manager, 1834-1838.
(Drake, 1950, pp. 160, 162; Mabee, 1970, pp. 186, 387n11; Abolitionist)
MARTINEAU, Harriet, 1802-1876, Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society (BFASS), delegate of the (Garrisonian) Anti-Slavery Society, Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.
(Dumond, 1961, p. 286; Mabee, 1970, p. 53; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 14, p. 613)
MASON, George, 1725-1792, statesman. Virginia Constitutionalist. Slaveholder who himself opposed slavery on moral grounds. Authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Opposed the U.S. Constitution because of the stand on the issue of slavery. Mason wrote: “Slavery discourages arts and manufactures. The poor despise labor when performed by slaves. They [slaves] prevent the immigration of whites, who really enrich and strengthen a country. They produce a pernicious effect on manners. Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of heaven on a country.” Mason did not sign the U.S. Constitution and stated during the Virginia Ratifying Convention debate: “Under the royal government, this evil was looked upon as a great oppression, and was one of the great causes of our separation from Great Britain. Its exclusion has been a principal object of this state and most of the states in the Union. The augmentation of slaves weakens the states; and such a trade is diabolical in itself and disgraceful to mankind… As much as I value a union of all the states, I would not admit the Southern States into the Union unless they agree to the discontinuance of this disgraceful trade, because it would bring weakness, and not strength, to the Union.”
(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 241-242, 721-722; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 6, Pt. 2, p. 361; Bruns, 1977, pp. 389, 522-523; Dumond, 1961, pp. 24, 28, 41; Locke, 1901, pp. 89f, 90n, 93; Mason, 2006, pp. 33-34, 250n140, 293-294n157; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 14, p. )
MASSACHUSETTS ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY
See also New England Anti-Slavery Society
Chapter: “Activity of the Abolitionists. - Action of Northern Legislatures,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:
During the years of 1834 - 35 the operations of the New England Antislavery Society, which had, owing to the formation of the American Society, taken the name and become the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, were conducted on a more extended scale than ever. It employed efficient agents, while several other gentlemen of capacity, zeal, and eloquence largely contributed to the advancement of the cause. Its fourth annual meeting was held in January, 1836, in the city of Boston. Its committee of arrangements had been refused the use of all the churches and halls large enough to accommodate its members; and they were compelled to hold the meeting in their little room in Washington Street, used for ordinary purposes, for the meetings of the executive committee, and for other assemblages during the year. Earnest and radical antislavery speeches were made by Professor Charles Follen, William Goodell, Rev. Cyrus P. Grosvenor, Rev. Orange Scott, Henry C. Wright, and others.
Its fifth anniversary was held in January, 1837, in the loft of the stable attached to the Marlborough Hotel. Its report, which was very elaborate, was read by Mr. Garrison. The meeting was addressed by Amos Dresser, who gave a narrative of the cruel treatment he had received in Tennessee, the recital of which excited deep and tearful emotion. Rev. Samuel J. May eloquently referred to the fact that the Society could not secure a comfortable place of' meeting in this native city; that every church and hall had been closed against them, and that they were driven into a stable. The legislature had been applied to for the use of the hall of the House of Representatives for an evening meeting of the Society; and its application had been successful, the members from Boston, however, generally voting against it. Referring to this fact, Henry B. Stanton wittily said “When Boston votes we go into a stable, but when the State votes we go into the State House." ·
On the evening of the 25th of January, the pioneer antislavery society; as its friends affectionately styled it, assembled, for the first time, in the hall of the House of Representatives. Rev. Orange Scott was the first speaker. He maintained that the sum and substance of antislavery doctrines are that “slavery is sin and must be immediately abandoned." Mr. Stanton spoke in support of resolutions in favor of the immediate abolition of slavery and of the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, and of the right of petition. While he was speaking an effort was made to create a disturbance by persons near the entrance of the hall. But Mr. Stanton, after a moment's pause, proceeded in his speech with great eloquence and power, completely subduing the mob spirit and enchaining the attention of the audience. The reporter failed in his task, because, as he said, “he would not attempt to report a whirlwind or a thunder-storm." Ellis Gray Loring made a learned argument in support of a resolution, declaring that allegiance to his country, to liberty, and to God required that every man should be an abolitionist and should openly espouse the antislavery cause.
The debate of granting the use of' the hall to the society, in which several members participated, and' in which Mr. Ruggles of Fall River spoke with commanding eloquence and power for the right of free discussion, and the speeches made during the evening, exerted a potent influence on the members of the legislature, the effects of which were manifested before the close of the session. The society continued its meeting during the next day, and speeches breathing the spirit of self-consecration and devotion to the cause were made. It was especially manifested in the speech of Rev. Mr. Root of Dover, New Hampshire. “The great moral war," he said, "is but begun. The collision of truth with error, of duty with expediency, will produce commotion; but truth and duty must and will prevail. Should my name reach the next generation, let it be found in connection with abolition. I would sooner be execrated as a Tory of the Revolution than be known hereafter as one who stood aloof from the movements now in progress for laying the last stone of the yet unfinished Temple of Liberty. But above all, when I am summoned to judgment, let me then be found to have been the unflinching friend of God's poor."
Mr. May commenced with great plainness of speech upon the fact that in the city of Boston the cause of impartial liberty was shut out from all the halls and churches under the control of its citizens. He referred to the fact that the colored and other citizens of .Massachusetts suffered serious abridgment of their privileges, that slaveholders might not be disturbed in their unrighteousness. He maintained, too, that the citizens of New England were implicated in the sin of slavery, and were forbidden to repent and do works meet for repentance. He avowed his readiness to wear the chain himself, rather than remain silent in view of the great wrongs man was inflicting on his fellow.
Mr. Garrison, referring to the accusation made against him of using harsh language, declared that he was not eager to repel that accusation, for he could not suffer himself to be turned aside from the warfare against merciless oppressors to discuss the proprieties of diction with captious critics. “Who," he asked,” are my accusers? The entire South, reeking with pollution and blood, - slaveholders, slave-dealers, slave-drivers, recreant priests, and lynch committees, Northern apologists for crime, and terror-stricken recreants to liberty, -- all charge me with using hard language! Am I to give heed to such instructors, or aim to suit their tastes? While millions are groaning in bondage, and women are sold by the pound in our country, it is solemn trifling to think of sitting down coolly to criticize the phraseology of those who are pleading and toiling for their deliverance."
Resolutions were introduced by Mr. Stanton censuring the action of members of Congress who had voted to deny the right of petition; applauding John Quincy Adams; calling upon the whole people of the Commonwealth to rally to the rescue of the Constitution and to the cause of God's perishing poor ; invoking the legislature to request their representatives to vote for the immediate abolition of slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia; and summoning the people to vote for no member of the national or State legislature who is not in favor of the freedom of speech and of the press, and of the right of petition. He declared that the resolutions were not designed to have a partisan bearing; but that they spoke of the duties, not of a party, but of all parties and creeds.
Rev. Robert B. Hall approved of all the resolutions but the last. That he opposed because he deprecated political action, which would, he thought, excite much clamor and do much harm. Mr. Garrison expressed much surprise at such sentiments from one of the original signers of the declaration adopted by the convention at Philadelph1a, in which it was expressly proclaimed that Abolitionists were to use “moral and political action “for the removal of slavery. He avowed that Abolitionists ought not to vote for any man who would not maintain the right of petition and vote for the abolition of slavery when Congress had the power. Abolitionists, he maintained, had nothing to do with politics, as understood among politicians and political parties of the day; but “they have something to do with politics so far as relates to this question."
Mr. Stanton proclaimed that the motto of Abolitionists is: '' Duty is ours, -- consequences are God's." Political action, he contended, was then bad, and would be, though Abolitionists should remain silent. “Shall the people," he asked, “so act as to renovate the politics of this country, and thus save out liberties; or shall they slumber on until they have passed away forever?" The resolutions were unanimously passed, with the exception of the last, and that passed with only the dissenting vote of Mr. Hall. That vote fully and unreservedly committed the members of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society to political action for the removal of slavery where Congress possessed the power under the Constitution of the United States, and is very significant, especially as viewed in connection with the opposite non-voting policy so loudly and so consistently proclaimed afterward by the same individuals.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 356-360.
MASSACHUSETTS STATE LEGISLATURE, OPPOSITION TO ANNEXATION OF TEXAS AS A TERRITORY AND AS A SLAVE STATE
Chapter: “Vermont and Massachusetts. --John P. Hale. -- Cassius M. Clay,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:
Several State legislatures had passed resolutions against the annexation of Texas. Those of Vermont and Massachusetts were among the first to express opposition to the growing demands of the Slave Power. They had vindicated the right of petition and freedom of debate; pronounced in favor of the abolition of slavery and the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, the prohibition of the coastwise slave-trade, and of slavery in the Territories; and against the annexation of Texas; and the admission of any more slave States. Indeed, for several years their voice had been clear and distinct in behalf of freedom.
The uncompromising, aggressive, and persistent action of the Abolitionists, the brave fight of John Quincy Adams in Congress for the right of petition and of the freedom of debate, and the clearly pronounced sentiments of her legislature, had placed Massachusetts not only in a conspicuous, but in a leading, position among her sister States. This was acknowledged by friend and foe, --by the first with hope and trust, by the latter with hatred and hostility. The Democratic Party, however, though at first joining in resistance to slaveholding demands, had early yielded to the seductive influences of power, while the Whigs continued firmly to maintain their position. The latter had proclaimed their unalterable determination to resist the consummation of the Texan scheme, and had fought with unity and vigor the presidential contest of 1844, upon which its immediate fate depended. But, after the defeat of Mr. Clay and the popular triumph of the friends of annexation, defections in the Whig party began to manifest themselves.
When the legislature assembled in 1845, Governor Briggs called attention to the impending danger of annexation. Resolutions were promptly reported by Joseph Bell, a lawyer of eminence and a gentleman of conservative opinions, denying the constitutional power of Congress to annex a foreign nation by legislation; declaring that such act of annexation would have no binding effect upon the people of Massachusetts; and affirming that she "will never consent, where she is not already bound, to place her own free sons on any other basis than that of perfect equality with freemen; and, last of all, and more than all, she will never by any act or deed give her consent to the further extension of slavery to any portion of the world."
These unequivocal declarations received the emphatic indorsement of a four-fifths vote in the House. When they came up for consideration in the Senate, Mr. Wilson of Middlesex County moved an amendment to the effect that, if Texas should be admitted by a legislative act, that act could and ought to be repealed at the earliest possible moment. After an earnest debate, that amendment was rejected by a vote of twenty-four to eight; in the minority were Charles Francis Adams, Linus Child, and Nathaniel B. Borden. The resolutions were then unanimously adopted.
Nor were the protestations of the people of Massachusetts confined to these declarations of her legislature. A State convention, called by gentlemen of capacity, experience, and large influence, without distinction of party, was held on the 29th of January, in Faneuil Hall. It was large in numbers and strong in talent and character. All portions of the Commonwealth were represented by delegates differing widely in opinions on other subjects, but going to Faneuil Hall in the spirit of self-devotion worthy of the cause that brought them together. John M. Williams, an aged and venerable jurist, presided. An address of great vigor and force, portions of which were dictated by Mr. Webster, was prepared by Charles Allen of Worcester, and Stephen C. Phillips of Salem. It was unanimously adopted by the convention and widely circulated.
Referring to the grave issues involved in annexation, to a war that, it seemed, must inevitably follow the adoption of the Joint Resolution, which had already passed the House, it expressed the hope that the day might " never dawn which shall behold the glorious flag of this Union borne on foreign battlefields to sustain in the name of liberty the supremacy of its eternal foe." It affirmed that “Massachusetts denounces the iniquitous project in its inception and in every stage of its progress, its means and its end, and all the purposes and pretenses of its authors."
An anti-Texas committee was appointed, for the purpose of making an earnest, and, if possible, successful effort to combine and make effective the public sentiment of the free States against the consummation of a scheme known to be wicked in its purpose, corrupt in its means, dishonorable in its character, and believed to be disastrous in its consequences.
The discussions were marked by great freedom, earnestness, solemnity, and determination. Thoughtful men filled the hall. Speakers and hearers partook of a common sentiment. They realized as never before the imminence of the impending calamity, the gravity of the occasion, and the pregnant issues of the hour. But these speeches, eloquent and graphic as they were, rather increased than diminished the feeling of public danger and impotency which pervaded that assembly, so that, when the illusive battle-cry of “repeal " was raised by Linus Child, a sense of relief ran through the hall, and a gleam of light seemed to illumine the darkness of the immediate future.
While the struggle for the annexation of Texas by Joint Resolution was in progress, the friends of that measure left no means untried which political chicanery or menace could suggest. The President elect made no concealment of his purpose; and it was distinctly understood that those Democrats who opposed the measure had little to expect from his administration. Even those in New York who had signed the secret circular which alone made Mr. Polk's election possible were soon made to feel the force of that displeasure which the Slave Power usually inflicted on those who resisted its authority.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 621-624.
Chapter: “Texas Admitted as a Slave State,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.
Antislavery men were humiliated, but not disheartened, by the success of the annexation plot. While they comprehended in some degree the fearful significance of that baleful triumph, and the purposes and power of the men who achieved it, they felt constrained by an imperative sense of the duty they owed their country and humanity to continue the struggle. Two days after the Joint Resolution had been approved by the President, Charles Francis Adams proposed, in the Senate of Massachusetts, the inquiry whether any further action should be taken. A few days afterward he reported from a special committee resolutions declaratory of the position and purposes of that Commonwealth. They affirmed that Massachusetts refused to acknowledge the act of annexation as binding or legal; that it put at hazard the predominance of the principles of liberty. When they came up for consideration, a motion was made by Mr. Clifford that they be laid upon the table. But this motion received but five votes, and the resolutions were then adopted by both Houses. It was evident, however, that a portion of the Whig party gave them a reluctant support.
On the 4th of March, Mr. Wilson introduced an order requesting the Committee on the Judiciary to report a bill making it a penal offence to surrender a slave escaping from Texas and taking refuge in Massachusetts. Mr. Lawrence of Hampshire County reported against the proposed legislation. The report was sustained by himself and other senators, on the ground that no action was required, that it was a question to be determined by the courts whenever a case contemplated by the order should arise.
Mr. Wilson moved to recommit the report with instructions. He would, he said, provide by law that the moment a man held as a slave in Texas stepped upon the soil of Massachusetts, his liberty should be as sacred as his life. He would make it a high crime to molest him, and he would treat him as a felon who should make the attempt. Massachusetts had proclaimed that the Joint Resolution admitting Texas should have no binding force upon her. Whether constitutional or not, Texas would instantly demand the guaranties of the Constitution. He would " meet the issue at once, and declare that the soil of Massachusetts should not be the Texan slaveholder's hunting-ground. The panting fugitive from that region should find in Massachusetts a city of refuge, and his pursuing master a felon's cell. Everything indicated an impending struggle between freedom and slavery that would absorb the mighty energies of the nation; and in that contest it was fit that Massachusetts should lead." But the motion failed, and the adverse report was then accepted.
When the legislature adjourned in the spring of 1845, there were ·marked indications of a wide divergence touching slavery among the leading Whigs of the Commonwealth. After the defeat of Mr. Clay, a portion of the wealthy and influential members of the party, especially those connected with the commercial, manufacturing, and monetary interests of the State, positively refused to take part in the efforts made to defeat annexation, or to prevent the admission of Texas as a slaveholding State. When the call for the anti-Texas meeting in Faneuil Hall was circulated in the legislature by Mr. Wilson, ex-Governor Lincoln, then president of the Senate, and several other members of the party, peremptorily refused to affix their names to it. They said that they had fought annexation so long as it was an open question, and they had been defeated by the Abolitionists who withheld their votes from Mr. Clay. Abbott Lawrence and Nathan Appleton, representative men, and especially influential with the manufacturing interest, took no part in that meeting. It was well understood, too, that ex-Governor Davis, Mr. Winthrop; and several other eminent Whigs did not concur in that action, and manifested much coldness towards those who did. On the 4th of July, when the feelings of grief and indignation were fresh in the hearts of the people, and their murmurs still filled the air, Mr. Winthrop took occasion, in Faneuil Hall, to give utterance to the sentiment, " Our country, however bounded," which was understood to be the expression of his acceptance of the result, and a tacit rebuke of those of his political associates who did not readily acquiesce in the same policy.
Though Texas had promptly accepted the conditions of annexation, and her territory had become an integral portion of the Republic, she was not actually a State of the Union. The free States had a majority of fifty in the House of Representatives. Why should not another stand be made for freedom and the country? The defection of so many of their leaders in the political and commercial circles, and their readiness to acquiesce in the great iniquity, was indeed disheartening and ominous. But they were not the majority, and it was hoped they did not represent it. It was certainly worth the trial for the chance of defeating a nefarious project even at the last moment and, at the same time, for the opportunity of ascertaining whether the same appliances which had debauched and subdued the government had corrupted and conquered the people.
Nor was there a more fitting field in which that trial could be inaugurated than Massachusetts. Though the efforts were crowned with no great success, and few in other States seemed disposed to join in the attempt, there is a mournful satisfaction in tracing the steps of those earnest men who would bow to nothing but the inevitable, and yield only when resistance was manifest folly. There was something heroic in the closing though ineffectual struggles of that great conflict. And if readers are sometimes tempted to smile at their bold, defiant, and hopeful words, with so feeble a following, and a foe in front rampant with victory, audacious in his insolence, with a nation at his beck, a little study of the situation will change that feeling to sympathy as they consider how hopeless was the task those brave men were undertaking, how absolutely " forlorn " was the hope they were attempting to lead.
On the 1st of August, the anniversary of West India emancipation, several meetings were held by the Abolitionists of Massachusetts. The recent crime of the Slave Power, which had insulted the reason and ·outraged the patriotism and conscience of the antislavery men of the North, contributed not only to increase their numbers but greatly to deepen their interest. At the meeting in Dedham Mr. Garrison presided. 11 Pungent, vigorous, and eloquent speeches were made by himself, Theodore Parker, and Edmund Quincy.
A large meeting was held at Leicester, which was addressed by Samuel May, Jr. In a speech full of faith and hope in the ultimate triumph of the cause of emancipation, although the omens in that hour of defeat were far from auspicious, he said that they had come together to acquire new courage and zeal in their warfare. He would have their faith increased in moral power and in the living truth of Christ, and he would send "forth words of instruction, exhortation, and rebuke, until Slavery utters her last groan, and expires, never to know a resurrection."
Wendell Phillips, in reply to the oft-repeated assertion that the church was right in nine cases out of ten, and that slavery was but " one case," referred to the fact that one sixth of the population of the country was now held as property, subject to the cruelest treatment and to the grossest outrages, and all unprotected by law or by public opinion. In such a condition of affairs he maintained that the church either remained silent, or, if it spoke at all, it denounced the friends of the slave as infidels. "I will not," he said, "have for mine the Christianity of this land, with its negro pew in the corner of every church, and its negro hate in the corner of every heart. And yet I am a Christian. I hang all my hopes on the faith of my fathers; and I should feel myself forever disgraced if I failed to rebuke the moral dwarfs which have now come into our fathers places,"
On that day a large assemblage gathered at Waltham. Francis Jackson, president of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, presided. The meeting was-addressed, by Jonathan Walker, who had been fined, imprisoned, and branded in the right hand for assisting slaves to escape in Florida. But in spite of all the barbarities which he had borne, he avowed that as-long as life remained that “branded hand" should be raised against slavery. In response to the question, often asked why Captain Walker broke the laws of Florida, John Weiss, then the Unitarian clergyman of Watertown, said that man was more than constitutions; and Christ was greater than Hancock or Adams "our Northern apathy," he truly said, "heated , the iron, forged the manacles, and built the pillory." William Henry Channing, in a speech of graceful eloquence and beauty, said that the republic was the child of promise, but slavery was denationalizing the people, and that it proclaimed itself autocrat and dictator. The Constitution, he said, had been tried and found to be an instrument of slaveholding usurpation, and the annexation of Texas absolved the people from its support.
Rev. Caleb Stetson agreed with Mr. Channing that the bond of union had been broken, but the government of Massachusetts was under the rule of the cotton aristocracy, and if " the fiery cross was raised the people would prove recreant." William I. Bowditch, in a thoughtful and temperate speech, urged the friends of the slave to apply the great reformatory principle of Jove to the slaveholder. "Let us," he also said, "fearlessly and constantly extend the principle of human brotherhood to the despised and oppressed slave, and let us here solemnly pledge ourselves to follow out these great principle; and resolve, Constitution or no ,Constitution, custom or no custom, that nothing shall ever induce us to acquiesce in or tolerate slavery."
Mr. Wilson, then a senator from Middlesex County, said that the calamity and disgrace of annexation had come upon the country through the treachery of Northern men; that even the representative of Concord and Lexington had proved recreant.
To the question what should be done, he said," Act; hold meetings in every district; town, and county of the State. Oppose the admission of Texas into the Union as a slaveholding State, and appeal to the people of the free states to arrest the consummation of the great iniquity. Say to the men of the South, ' You are warring against civilization, against humanity, against the noblest feelings of the heart, the holiest impulses of the human soul, and the providence of God ; and the conflict must ultimately end in your defeat.' "
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that it was the office of power to protect, to help, to preserve; and that it was the ruin of power to oppress and injure. It was the property of government to govern, of the sun to shine, of moral power to strengthen, raise, and refine. The Persian poet has said, “Beware of the cries of the orphan, for his cries reach the throne of the Almighty.” The oppressed had the power to destroy prosperity and overturn stately edifices. Those who hoped and trusted were ever proved right, and he would have Massachusetts take the attitude of “a sublime patience," and trust "in principle, honor, and justice, Father than in the combinations of physical power." On the motion of Mr. Bowers of Concord, afterward a captain in the civil war, a committee was appointed to make arrangements for a meeting, to be held on the third Wednesday of August, to protest against the admission of Texas as a State. As no action was taken by the committee, the meeting was not held.
Early in September, Mr. Wilson, who had been appointed one of its members, prepared a call and obtained the signatures of a large number of gentlemen of character and influence for a meeting to be held at Concord, on the 22d of that month, to " take into consideration the encroachments of the Slave Power, and recommend such action as justice and patriotism shall dictate to resist those encroachments and arrest the progress of events so rapidly tending to that fearful consummation when slavery shall have complete control over the policy of the government and the destiny of the country." Men of all parties, sects, and pursuits were invoked to “devote one day to the country and the oppressed." "Let old age," it said; " with its garnered treasures of wisdom and experience, be there; let manhood in its maturity and vigor be there ; let youth with its high hopes and aspirations be there, to devise such measures and awaken such a spirit as shall free the country from the dominion, curse, and shame of slavery."
The convention was large, earnest, and united. Elisha Huntington, mayor of Lowell, and afterward lieutenant-governor of the State, presided; and Mr. Wilson reported a preamble and a series of resolutions. The preamble set forth the character of slavery and the aggressions of the Slave Power. It closed by “distinctly presenting the issue to the people of the free States of an unconditional and pusillanimous submission, or a determined and constitutional resistance." This paper had been prepared by Samuel Hunt, a Congregational clergyman, then a resident of Natick, who had always in the pulpit, in religious and political organizations, and at the ballot-box, acted for the slave and against the domination of his master.
The resolutions declared: " We solemnly announce our purpose to the South, and to the execution of that purpose we pledge ourselves to the country and before Heaven, that, rejecting all compromise, without restraint or hesitation, in our private relations and in our political organizations, by our voices and our votes, in Congress or out, we will use all practicable means for the extinction of slavery on the American continent." The resolutions were unanimously adopted, and a committee, of which E. Rockwood Hoar, afterward Attorney-General of the United States, was chairman, was appointed to confer with the general committee appointed by the anti-Texas Convention held in the preceding January in Faneuil Hall, and with other opponents of slavery and of annexation, to endeavor to have meetings held, and in other ways to organize an efficient resistance to the final consummation of that measure.
A letter was received from Charles Francis Adams, urging unity and concert of action. In the midst of doubts and discouragements, he said that he had but one single word of hope to present, and that word was "union." "Let the people," he said, "'throughout the length and breadth of this great land, feel that without it their industry, their property, nay, even their lives and liberty, may in the course of time fall under the oligarchy of two hundred thousand owners of slaves."
A letter was also received from John G. Whittier. He said he was no blind worshipper of the Union, and as an Abolitionist he was shut out from its benefits. “But I see nothing," he I said, "to be gained by an effort necessarily limited, sectional, and futile to dissolve it. The moral and political power requisite for doing it could far more easily abolish every vestige of slavery."
Conciliatory, earnest, and eloquent speeches were made by William A. White, Stephen C. Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, William Henry Channing, and other gentlemen. An adjourned meeting was held at Cambridgeport, which was well attended, and was addressed by several gentlemen. The convention then adjourned to meet in Lyceum Hall in Cambridge, and took measures to secure the attendance of the opponents of annexation from other sections of the State.
On the 21st of October the convention reassembled. Henry Wilson presided, and Colonel William Schooler acted as secretary. On taking the chair, Mr. Wilson made a hopeful appeal for prompt, bold, and united action. "Let us," he said, "at once take an advanced step against the Slave Power. Let us act and, as far as we have the constitutional right, go in favor of emancipation. Let us make it the cardinal doctrine of our creed, the sun of our system. Let us inscribe emancipation on the banners under which we rally in letters of light. Let us go to the country on that issue. We shall reach the heart and conscience of the people. They will come to the rescue, and we shall lay the foundations of an enduring triumph."
Mr. Garrison presented a resolution, asserting that it would be the constitutional duty of the legislature of Massachusetts promptly to declare that, if the illegal act of annexation should be consummated, it was null and void. Mr. Stetson affirmed that he would meet the issue ·of the admission of Texas as a slave State with an "everlasting No." Mr. Garrison came to the meeting, he said; to learn the spirit of Middlesex, and not to give his own plans. As a peace man he had no difficulties. He would submit, but he would never sanction or acquiesce.
William. A. White spoke with great earnestness and animation. “Let us go on," he said, “rallying the country as we go. Like those Spartans who passed the night of their resolution to sacrifice themselves for their country in prayer and song, and then went forth in the morning joyfully; though they knew it was to die, let us gladly devote ourselves to the salvation of our country."
Mr. Adams said it did not become them to speak in very strong terms, in view of the divided condition of the Commonwealth. "We fought the battle last year," he said, "and lost it; and I will not say why we lost it. But I will say that your own situation is owing to your own party divisio1is; and I will add that unless you can agree to act together, you will always be defeated. in like manner. Look at Massachusetts, divided into I know not how many parties, and then look at the South, United in all that concerns slavery as the heart of one."
Wendell Phillips favored Mr. Garrison's resolutions, though Mr. Adams had declared that they could not be made the basis of union and action. "As long," he said, "as men lie in the lap of Delilah, they may be sure they will have their locks shorn. What cares the South for all you can do while under the sceptre? “He expressed a belief that disunion must come, as Calhoun wanted it at one end of the Union and Garrison wanted it at the other, " and it was written in the counsels of God."
Resolutions were reported by the business committee in favor of instructing the committee appointed at Concord, together with such members as might be appointed at that time, to correspond with individuals in different parts of the State with a view to calling county and State conventions. The convention Urged unity and co-operation. During a recess a conference was held. Ellis Gray Loring was chairman, and Edmund Quincy was secretary. A large State committee was appointed; of which Charles Francis Adams was chairman. This committee at once' entered upon its duties, an address to the people was issued, a form of remonstrance against the admission of Texas as a slave State was sent to every part of the Commonwealth, and to other States. A weekly paper, called the "Texas Chain Breaker," edited by Elizur Weight, was established. Public meetings were held, and speeches of rare eloquence and power were delivered by some of the most gifted men of the Commonwealth. Petitions signed by tens of thousands were sent to this committee, and Henry Wilson and John G. Whittier were commissioned to carry them to Washington.
On the 4th of November Faneuil Hall was thronged by the citizens of Boston, to protest against the admission of Texas as a slave State. Charles Francis Adams presided. Resolutions drawn up by Charles Sumner were presented by John G. Palfrey. They distinctly set forth that annexation was sought for increasing the market in human flesh, for extending and perpetuating slavery, and for securing political power, and they protested against the admission of Texas as a slave State " in the name of God, of Christ, and of humanity." These resolutions were supported in earnest, learned, and eloquent. speeches by Mr. Palfrey, Mr. Sumner, Mr. Phillips, Mr. Stanton, Mr. Hillard, Mr. Channing, and Mr. Garrison.
This was the first public participation of Mr. Sumner in that great conflict in which he subsequently bore a part so important and honorable. His speech and the resolutions from his pen were based on the fixed and indestructible principles of justice, humanity, and moral rectitude. Stating that the object of the meeting was to strengthen the hearts and hands of those opposed to the admission of Texas into the family of States, and referring to the voices of discouragement they heard, that all exertion would be in vain, he declared that their efforts could not fail to accomplish great good, as no act of self-sacrifice and devotion to duty can ever be without its reward. Such an act as theirs, he said, must ever stand as a landmark, and “future champions of equal rights and human brotherhood will derive new strength from these exertions." “Massachusetts," he said,” must continue foremost in the cause of freedom; nor can her children yield to dalliance with slavery. They must resist it at all times, and be forearmed against its fatal influence." He closed by expressing the hope that it might be hereafter among the praises of Massachusetts that '' on this occasion she knew so well how to say ' No! ' "
This attempt, however, to rally the people of Massachusetts and, if possible, of the free States, resulted in the most disheartening revelation of sentiments and purposes among the leaders and in the ranks of the Whig party. Indeed, little was found that was calculated to inspire courage and confidence. Prominent and honored members not only positively declined to take any part in the movement themselves, but discouraged the efforts of others. Abbott Lawrence, in his reply to the anti-Texas committee, said, “I have opposed the annexation of Texas, and continued my opposition so long as it was an open question. I deem further action on my part useless, as a majority of the people have decided in favor of annexation, and Texas now virtually composes a part of the Union." Nathan Appleton went still further. He referred to the fact that he saw among the parties engaged in the movement many who had distinguished themselves as Abolitionists; and he doubted whether the abolition movement was “reconcilable with duty under the Constitution." At any rate he thought it had produced nothing but evil, banded the South into a solid phalanx, exasperated the feelings of slaveholders, increased the severity of their slave laws, postponed the period of emancipation in the Northern slave States, and secured the election of Mr. Polk and the admission of Texas into the Union. "I cannot,'' he said, "take part in this Texas movement. For all practical purposes, as far as the people are concerned, I consider the question as settled. I have opposed it, and contributed funds to oppose it so long as there appeared a chance of preventing it. Massachusetts has done her duty, and her senators and representatives will continue to do theirs. Beyond that I cannot think it good policy to waste our efforts upon the impossible." These sentiments expressed the views and feelings of a large class of Massachusetts Whigs. Although no division took place at the State convention of that year, and its resolutions were distinct and full in their condemnation of annexation, and of the continued aggressions of the Slave Power, it was seen and felt that there were radical differences in the party, and that a conflict was certain, and a rupture probable in the near future.
The XXIXth Congress met on the 1st of December, 1845. On the 10th Mr. Adams presented remonstrances from Massachusetts against the admission of Texas into the Union as a slave State, and moved their reference to a select committee. But the House, by a vote of one hundred and fifteen to seventy-two, laid them on the table. The next day a large number of similar memorials, signed by thousands, were presented by Mr. Adams and other members, but they shared the same fate.
On the 16th the House proceeded to the consideration of the Joint Resolution, reported by Mr. Douglas, chairman of the Committee on Territories, for the admission of Texas as a State into the Union. The previous question, with indecent haste, was immediately moved, and sustained by eighteen majority, and the bill ordered to a third reading by a majority of eighty-four. On its final passage, Mr. Julius Rockwell of Massachusetts, a member of the Committee on Territories, contrived to obtain the floor, and spoke earnestly and eloquently against it. He declared that amidst all the heat and dust, amidst all the misrepresentations, intrigues, and violent efforts to which the Texan question had given occasion, there stood out one honest feature on the part 'of the government, and that was the clear, distinct, and open avowal, that the motive was the preservation of domestic slavery. Massachusetts dissented from the measure on that very ground. She objected to annexation because that had been the purpose in urging it, and was likely to prove its actual effect. As one called to represent in part the people of his ancient Commonwealth, he must enter his " solemn protest against the extension of slavery, as an evil directed against the truest interests of his country as militating directly against her prosperity and freedom, and darkening that national character which she ought to hold up to all nations arid ages-of the world; as being in opposition to the Constitution which had preserved us hitherto in concord; as against the principles of the fathers of the republic, who lived themselves in slaveholding States, who would have saved us, if they could, from so great an evil, and who openly confessed that they trembled for their country when they remembered that God is just. The vote was then taken, and the resolution of admission was adopted by a majority of eighty-five. In that minority of fifty-six there were only three members of the Democratic Party; Preston King, Bradford R. Wood, and Horace Wheaton, of the State of New York.
On the 22d of December Mr. Ashley of Arkansas reported to the Senate from the Judiciary Committee the House resolution, and that body proceeded at once to its consideration. Mr. Webster rose and declared that he had felt it to be his duty " steadily uniformly, and zealously to oppose it." He closed his brief speech by saying: " I agree with the unanimous opinion of the legislature of Massachusetts; I agree with the great mass of her people; I reaffirm what I have said and written during the last years at· various times against this annexation. I here record my own dissent and opposition; and I here express and place on record, also, the dissent and protest of the State of Massachusetts."
But all arguments were unavailing, and the protests, however impressively pronounced, by States or statesmen, could not avert the impending blow. The slaveholders had the “giant’s strength," and they did not hesitate to "use it like a giant," however "tyrannous" it might appear. By a vote of thirty-one to fourteen the Joint Resolution was passed, and Texas became a State of the American Union. And the saddest page in this gloomy record, the bitterest ingredient in this cup of humiliation, was the large support the measure received from the free States. It seemed as if the demon of slavery had power over the souls as well as the bodies of men, and by his infernal sorceries had bound the one as completely as the other. But there were those who still had faith in God and in the power of truth, and who still believed that, in some way they were not able to forecast, this great wrong would be righted and till haughty power be overborne. At any rate they meant to struggle in. the, great endeavor, and, hope in God, for success.
The Massachusetts Anti-Texas Committee issued an address to the public. “Massachusetts,” it said, “had done her part honestly, conscientiously, and manfully, to sustain the true principles of the Puritans of New England.” Affirming that annexation had been accomplished by slavery, it said: “Slavery has corrupted liberty in her fountain seat; slavery has hardened the hearts of this generation of political leaders, so that they heed no warning except it should be a miracle from heaven. Slavery has infused its pestiferous venom into the veins of the body politic in the free States to such an extent that they see not what mere instruments of tyranny it is making of their people.”
This address from the pen of Charles Francis Adams closed with the declaration: “The contest about Texas has been fought and lost, the Constitution trampled under foot, and the Spirit of Liberty is driven from her natural home; but unnumbered fields yet remain, each of which should be the subject of a greater contest than the last, until either the institution of slavery shall be overthrown, or else the Samson of the North, intoxicated by the cup of worldly prosperity, and enfeebled by his dalliance with the harlot, shall ultimately perish amidst the crumbling of the edifice which he had made for his protection.”
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 636-649.
MASSACHUSETTS STATE LEGISLATURE, OPPOSITION TO SLAVERY
Please note that this entry includes two chapters:
· Wilson, “Slavery Aggressions. – ‘Conscience’ Whigs. – ‘Barnburners,’” 1872
· Wilson, “Action in Massachusetts,” 1872
Chapter: “Slavery Aggressions. – ‘Conscience’ Whigs. – ‘Barnburners,’” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:
Among the most potent instrumentalities of slaveholding ascendency was the doctrine of State rights as defined and defended by Southern statesmen. By it the slavery propagandists gained concessions, silenced objections, and conciliated support they could not have hoped for without such an auxiliary. And yet this influence was not always adverse, and the advocates and defenders of human rights sometimes gained advantages from their relations to the State they could not have secured single-handed and alone. By a wise use of the power which State organization gave the few friends of freedom, in New Hampshire, John P. Hale was placed on the floor of the United States Senate, there to enunciate principles and to vindicate a policy far in advance of the average sentiment and purpose of the people he represented. Antislavery resolutions and legislation had been adopted by several Northern States more positive and pronounced than were demanded, or hardly justified, by the current opinions and convictions of those Commonwealths. In no State did this policy of using such influence become more effective than in Massachusetts.
When the legislature of Massachusetts assembled in January, 1846, Governor Briggs laid before it a series of resolutions which had been adopted by the legislature of Georgia concerning slavery and the legislative action of Massachusetts for the protection of its colored citizens in the slave-holding States. On motion of Mr. Wilson of Natick they were referred to a special committee, consisting of two Senators and five Representatives. Soon thereafter Mr. Wilson introduced an order instructing that committee to report a preamble setting forth the crime of slavery and the aggressions of the Slave Power, and a resolution declaring the opposition of Massachusetts to the longer continuance and further extension of slavery in America, and her unalterable determination to use every constitutional power for its entire extinction.
This motion encountered stern opposition, in which both Democrats and Whigs united. It was denounced as a measure to please "a little knot of political Abolitionists." Mr. Wilson urged its adoption in a speech of some length, setting forth the necessities of the case and the importance of taking an advanced position. "The issue," he said,” is now clearly made up. Slavery assumes to direct and control the nation. The friends of freedom must meet the issue. Freedom and slavery are now arrayed against each other. We must destroy slavery, or slavery will destroy liberty. We must restore our government to its original and pristine purity. The contest is a glorious one. Let us be cheered by the fact that the bold and daring efforts of the Slave Power to arrest the progress of free principles has awakened and aroused the nation. That power has won a brilliant victory in the acquisition of Texas; yet it is only one in its long series of victories over the Constitution and liberties of the country. Other fields are yet to be fought; and if we are true to the country, to freedom, and to humanity, the future has yet a Waterloo in store for the supporters of this unholy system." He called upon the members of his party to accept these vital and living issues, and abide the result, whether it were victory or defeat. If we gain the one, he said; let us enjoy and improve it; if the result be adverse, we shall have the glory at least of having “deserved success. Whatever others may do, I am willing to act with any man or set of men, Whig, Democrat, Abolitionist, Christian, or Infidel, who will go for the cause of emancipation."
After a speech expressive of his abhorrence of slavery and his sympathy with the objects of the resolution, Peleg W. Chandler, a leading member of the House, from Boston, moved to strike out the instructing clause of the order. Mr. Wilson accepted this amendment, and the order in that form was referred to the committee. But the committee was reluctant. A reactionary spirit pervaded the legislature, which seemed adverse to further efforts. After a delay of several weeks Mr. Wheatland reported that “the annexation of Texas to the United States, in a moral point of view, was a great evil, and one which Massachusetts resisted as long as resistance would do any good. The evil has come; and a majority of your committee are of the opinion that further action in the matter is not called for." This terse and laconic report was sanctioned by six of its seven members.
Mr. Wilson made a minority report, setting forth that; by the action of the two houses of Congress; Texas had been blended and indissolubly connected with the Republic; that every act in its history, from its first inception to its final consummation, had been a deep disgrace; that the fermenting of discord, the levying of troops; the speculation in lands; the dark intrigues which had been plotted, presented a mass of rottenness and corruption ; and that the object of annexation was confessed to be the extension and perpetuation of human bondage. Inspired by that purpose; the South, he said, has “won one of the most brilliant victories in her long series of victories over the Constitution of the country and the liberties of the people. Our Union is not the Union our fathers made, That Union has been trampled beneath the iron heel of the triumphant Slave Power. We stand on the threshold of a new Union, which the annexation of a foreign nation has created. A new page is opened in the history of the Republic. Already the victorious hand of the Slave Power points the way to further acquisitions. In this crisis of the country; has Massachusetts nothing to say, nothing to propose, nothing to do? Shall we, indeed, now give up the struggle, confess ourselves vanquished, think that all is lost? Shall Massachusetts, how that annexation is accomplished, erase all her solemn protests, shut up as a great mistake the history of a fifty years struggle against the influences of slavery, and by quiet submission and a change of policy obtain the forgiveness of the Slave Power? Or shall she yet trust in justice and truth, and, however the lights of other States may waver, stand herself unfaltering on the lofty eminence she has never yet deserted or betrayed, and use free speech, the free press, the free ballot, the freedom of remonstrance, and her other rights and powers; narrow though they be, in such a manner as finally to blot out the greatest disgrace and the most fruitful source of danger which was ever entailed on any nation?"
The report of the committee was accepted by the Senate without a division, and sent, together with Mr. Wilson's minority report, to the House. It was at first accepted; but Mr. Wilson, who was absent when the vote was taken, moved a reconsideration. After an animated discussion of some length, the motion to reconsider was agreed to by a majority of twenty-six. Mr. Wilson then moved as a substitute his original resolution, and it was carried by a vote of one hundred and forty-one to fifty-two. The amendment being returned to the Senate, Mr. Willard of Worcester County moved its indefinite postponement. An excited and sharp debate sprung up. Mr. Cary of Suffolk County stoutly opposed the resolution, declaring that Massachusetts “must submit," and cease passing antislavery resolutions.
To this remark E. Rockwood Hoar of Middlesex replied: “It is as much the duty of Massachusetts to pass resolutions in favor of the rights of man as in the interests of cotton,"--a remark from which arose the popular designation of “cotton “Whigs. In the course of the debate Mr. Wheatland, referring to the resolutions of former years, said: "I have voted for some of those resolves, but I have never approved of them." Mr. Shepherd of Bristol County, a representative of the cotton-manufacturing interest, then especially sensitive on all questions which had any bearing upon the tariff, opposed both that and kindred resolutions. Mr. Hopkinson of Middlesex County, Mr. Watts of Suffolk County, and Mr. Borden of Bristol County, advocated the resolution in able, earnest, and manly speeches. But timid counsels prevailed, and the resolution was indefinitely postponed. Thus the reactionary section of the Whig party compelled the legislature to adjourn without putting on record any condemnation of the fresh aggressions of the Slave Power, then becoming so frequent and so flagrant.
This action of the legislature could not but tend further to alienate and divide the party. Mr. Winthrop's vote in favor of the declaration of war against Mexico, a few days afterward, tended in the same direction. Nor did the proclamation of Governor Briggs, inviting the citizen soldiers to enroll themselves, and to be in readiness to respond to the calls of the government, heal or prevent these divisions. But these growing antagonisms revealed themselves more clearly in the Whig State convention, which was held in September in Faneuil Hall. There was no division of opinion on candidates, though there was a sharp contest on the platform. Before it was reported, Mr. Sumner, in response to loud calls, addressed the convention. He spoke with great power and eloquence against slavery in all its forms, against the aggressions of the Slave Power, and in denunciation of the war. With graceful force and beauty he thus appealed to Mr. Webster:--
"There is a Senator of Massachusetts whom we had hoped to welcome here to-day, whose position is one of commanding influence. Let me address him with the respectful frankness of a constituent and a friend: You have, sir, already acquired by your various labors an honorable place in the history of our country. By the vigor, argumentation, and eloquence with which you have upheld the Union and that interpretation of the Constitution which makes us a nation you have justly earned the title of Defender of the Constitution. By the successful and masterly negotiation of the Treaty of Washington, and by your efforts to compose the strife of the Oregon boundary, you have earned another title, - Defender of Peace. There are yet other duties which claim your care, whose performance will be the crown of a life of high public service. Let me ask you, when you next take a seat in the Senate, not to forget them. Dedicate, sir, the golden years of experience which are yet in store for you to removing from your country its greatest evil. In this cause you shall find inspirations to eloquence higher than any you have yet confessed."
At the close of Mr. Sumner's speech there were loud calls from the friends of Mr. Winthrop and the approvers of his course. In an able, adroit, and eloquent speech, besides defining his own course, he took special pains to express his uncompromising opposition to more slave States or more slave territory.
There were two reports from the Committee on Resolutions --one presented by J. Thomas Stevenson, and the other moved by Stephen C. Phillips as a substitute. The series proposed by Mr. Phillips closed by the following unequivocal announcement: that the Whigs of Massachusetts make the declaration that they must be hereafter regarded as the decided and uncompromising opponents of slavery; that they are opposed to " its extension," and " will maintain their opposition at any political hazard "; that they " are opposed to its continuance where it already exists "; and that they will " continue in all constitutional measures that can promote its abolition."
The substitute was opposed by Linus Child, who, though he had previously acted with the antislavery party, and had electrified the anti-Texas meeting in Tremont Temple by the cry of “repeal," now acted with the conservatives. On the other hand, the policy of not only maintaining past declarations, but of taking an advanced position, was forcibly advocated by Charles Francis Adams and Charles Allen. Referring to the recent triumphs of the Slave Power, Mr. Allen said the question is “not whether slavery shall be endured, but whether liberty shall be endured, upon the American Continent," and he said he would “resist to the death any further encroachments on the area of freedom." But Mr. Phillip's amendment was rejected by a majority of forty-seven.
The antislavery men, though in the minority, were strong in character, capacity, confidence, as well as in the justice of their cause. Indeed, so formidable had their demonstration in the convention become, that the conservative leaders trembled for its effect on the integrity of the party. Hurried conferences were held, and it was decided to invoke the presence and potential influence of Daniel Webster,--if not to overawe, at least" to conciliate and persuade. Obeying the summons, the great Senator soon made his appearance, amid the most uproarious applause.
Listening to a speech from the stern and inflexible Charles Allen, and comprehending the situation, he saw that harmony was the great necessity. In a speech of scarcely five minutes length, couched in felicitous and fitly chosen language, and delivered with a mien and manner imposing, impressive, and so peculiarly his own, he uttered the words so often quoted and so well remembered. He said that whenever and wherever the Whigs of Massachusetts assembled there was "an odor of liberty” he loved to inhale, an avowed attachment to our country which warmed a heart then old, but which still beat in accordance with human freedom, whether at home or abroad. Others," he said,” rely on other foundations and other hopes for the welfare of the country; but, for my part, in the dark and troubled night that is upon us I see no star above the horizon promising light to guide us but the intelligent, patriotic, united Whig party of the United States."
But that little speech was little only in length. Its very brevity carried with it its most profound and pregnant meaning. Its silence was more expressive than its utterance; for it revealed, more clearly than words, the policy of the hour,--the statesmanship which had ruled the country for half a century, and of which its author was an acknowledged chief, and one of its last exponents, -the statesmanship of submission, and surrender. Standing in Faneuil Hall, with its thronging memories of early patriotism and heroic sacrifices for liberty, in the presence not only of an excited auditory of the old Commonwealth, deeply moved by the perils of the crisis, but of the flagrant outrage of the Slave Power, dismembering a neighboring republic, involving the nation in a bloody war, professedly to extend slavery, what counsel did he give? Out of the depths of his capacious mind and large experience he could then, as before and afterward, draw no other remedy for the evils of the state than the same that had been urged from the founding of the Republic, and always in the name and behalf' of oppression and wrong. Union was his only watchword for that dark hour, of strife, his only talisman to heal the diseases of his country, his only charm to conjure with.
Mr. Webster’s counsels and influence prevailed, and the party went into the conflict under the guidance and inspiration of its conservative leaders. Mr. Winthrop was nominated for Congress for the Boston district. The antislavery men, however, would not give him their support, and Mr. Sumner published a sharp letter severely censuring his vote on the Mexican war. He condemned that vote as a violation of obligation, though it had been given with the majority, as voting with the majority cannot of itself make it right. In all ages supple and insane majorities," he said,” have been found to sanction injustice… Majorities smiled at the persecution of Galileo, stood by the stake of Servetus, administered the hemlock to Socrates, and called for the crucifixion of our Lord aloft on the throne of God, and not below in the footprints of a trampling multitude of men, are to be found the sacred rules of right, which no majorities can displace or overturn." "And the question returns," he adds,” Was it right to vote for an unjust and cowardly war, with falsehood in the cause of slavery? " He reminded him, too, that his famous sentiment, " Our country however bounded," offered in Faneuil Hall, extended, as it were, in advance, the hand of fellowship to Texas, and sharply characterized the pregnant sentence by telling him that he had connected his name " with an epigram of dishonest patriotism." The nomination was offered to Mr. Sumner; but, he declining, it was given to Dr. Samuel G. Howe. He accepted it, though he knew that the votes would be few and the reproaches would be many. But the same heroism which a quarter of a century before carried him to Greece inspired him, in a cause he deemed equally sacred, to accept the leadership of the forlorn hope which now summoned the philanthropic and the patriotic to the rescue. Mr. Winthrop, however, was triumphantly elected by an increased majority.
Defeated in the convention and before the people, the antislavery Whigs still continued the fight; in the face of great odds, however, as the commercial, the manufacturing, and the monetary interests, the party press and party organization, were unmistakably against them. The Boston " Daily Whig," edited by Mr. Adams, and the Dedham " Gazette," edited by Mr. Keyes, --journals of limited circulation, but conducted with great ability, --were their main and almost only channels of communication with the public. The conflict proceeded, and the divergence between the two wings of the Whig party became wider and wider.
The legislature of 1848, like that of 1847, was pervaded by this same reactionary spirit, though the friends of freedom were still active and persistent. A special committee on slavery and the Mexican war was appointed, of which Mr. Hayden, former editor of the Boston “Atlas," was chairman. A series of resolutions, general in their scope and tenor, were reported, and adopted by nearly a unanimous vote. It was thought, however, by the more radical members, that the condition of things growing out of the war demanded that the utterances of the legislature should be more definite and emphatic. Consequently Mr. Keyes, failing to secure such an utterance from the committee, made a minority report, which he asked the Legislature to adopt as the sense of the House. The report and his speech accompanying it were marked with great vigor-and power of argument and language. The House received the report, and ordered it to be printed. Mr. Hayden, regarding this action as a reflection and rebuke upon his committee, resigned his place. Mr. Giles of Boston made another report from the same committee. The House, however, adopted, by a decisive majority, the report and resolutions of Mr. Keyes, slightly amended by the Senate. They were substantially the same in sentiment and spirit as those presented by Mr. Phillips to the Faneuil Hall convention, and which had been rejected by that body. It was therefore felt by die antislavery Whigs, that, though they were in a minority, they had achieved a substantial victory under the bold and skillful leading of Mr. Keyes.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 114-123.
Chapter: “Action in Massachusetts,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:
The exacting demands of Southern legislatures and journals, with the purposes and plans disclosed by Southern leaders in Congress, excited grave apprehensions. The friends of freedom saw the necessity of arousing the people to at once stimulate and sustain their representatives in the stern strife in which they found themselves already involved. On the llth of January, Mr. Wilson of Natick introduced into the legislature of Massachusetts resolutions declaring slavery to be a crime against humanity and a sin against God, and that its immediate abolition was the first and highest duty of every government under which it existed. Slavery was declared a mere local institution; and Congress was invoked to repeal all laws which sanctioned it, and the Massachusetts Senators and Representatives were called upon to vote for all measures that would absolve the people from responsibility for its existence. They were referred to a joint committee. No report being made by that committee, Mr. Wilson, on the 4th of February, introduced an order instructing the Committee on the Judiciary to report forthwith a resolution declaring that Massachusetts was unalterably opposed to any compromise with slavery, and instructing her Senators in Congress to oppose the compromise resolutions, and any other proposition that gave the sanction of the Federal government to slavery, or made the people of the free States responsible, in any degree, for its existence.
The resolutions gave rise to an animated debate. Among the speakers was Samuel Hoar of Concord, whose character, candor, and cogency of argument, always commanded attention. He specially counselled unity of action. They were advocated, too, by Mr. Barry, author of a history of Massachusetts, in a calm but earnest speech. Mr. Wilson said an emergency had arisen, and prompt action was demanded. The looked-for compromise had been introduced into the Senate by Mr. Clay, -- a compromise in direct hostility to the sentiments of Massachusetts, -- “sentiments recorded in her annals, and enthroned in the hearts of her people.'' Analyzing the compromise resolutions, Mr. Wilson pronounced them derogatory to the American name and American character, and he declared that now was the time for Massachusetts to utter her indignant No to a scheme which was intended to give further security and protection to slavery, by new contracts, agreements, and adjustments. On the 12th of February, Mr. Hillard, chairman of the Joint Special Committee, presented several resolutions. The report declared that the feeling against slavery was universal among the people of the New England States; that, by giving assent to the introduction of slavery into regions now free, “we should feel that we were guilty of a sin before God and man, for which there is no compensation and no equivalent. The sting of self-reproach would make our material prosperity of little value. The consciousness of wrong-doing would pursue us through all the path of life, and impair the flavor of our daily bread. If we are called upon to do wrong or suffer wrong, we prefer to suffer wrong." The report closed with the avowal that “we will not buy temporal blessings with the price of what we deem wrong-doing. We will endure the shadow of sorrow, but not the stain of guilt."
Deeming the resolutions not sufficiently explicit and adapted to the exigencies of the crisis, and declaring that the significance of speaking at that time consisted in “speaking to the question," Erastus Hopkins of Northampton made a minority report. In it were reaffirmed the oft-proclaimed opinions which had received the almost universal assent of the people of the Commonwealth, faithfully characterized the position of the administration, pointed out the wide divergence of the two, and declared that Massachusetts could accept no compromise which involved any abandonment of principles so firmly held and so oft repeated. Although Mr. Hillard's report had received the indorsement of a caucus of the Whig members of the legislature, yet, when it came up for consideration in the House, Myron Lawrence, a leading member, objected to it as being too pointless, while that of the minority was perhaps too pointed; though with slight modifications he preferred the latter. A successful motion to recommit was made; Mr. Hillard's resolutions were abandoned; the resolutions of Mr. Hopkins were, in substance, agreed to by the committee, and reported to the House.
While the subject thus lingered in the legislature, there was a growing uneasiness among the people, lest the golden moment of timely protest and effective action should pass by unimproved, and the voice of Massachusetts be silent, or, at best, speak with bated breath. A call was therefore issued by the Free Soil Central Committee for a mass convention, to be held in Faneuil Hall on the 27th of February. The committee called upon the people to “throng” to the convention from all portions of the State, for they alone, it said, could “avert the timid action of their representatives, and reassure the opponents of slavery extension."
The convention was called to order by Mr. Wilson, chairman of the committee, and Mr. Palfrey was made president. On taking the chair, the latter addressed the convention at length. Referring to the rumor, then rife, that Mr. Webster had prepared a compromise which Southern Senators had approved, he said: "There is no name among contemporaries, there is no name in history, so great, so illustrious, so potent, that it will not wither, like Jonah's gourd, under the influence of such an act as is now supposed to be performed." Recurring to the early history of Massachusetts and to Thomas Hutchinson, whom he designated “the Daniel Webster of his day in ability and station, superiority and influence," he asked: “Who knows anything of him now?" He said that history had hardly preserved his name, that he did not live in the hearts of the people, because, when the trial came, he was not true to Massachusetts. But Adams and Hancock and Warren, the men who had struggled for liberty, were “embalmed in the idea of patriotism," and will “live in the affections of posterity."
The Committee on Resolutions consisted of Richard H. Dana, Jr., Stephen C. Phillips, Samuel Hoar, John G. Whittier, Charles Sumner, and Milton M. Fisher. Mr. Wilson addressed the convention, congratulating it upon the character and numbers of those who had assembled at the call of patriotism, and reminded it of the pressing necessities which demanded immediate and decisive action. He said that every breeze from the South came freighted with the threats of the arrogant advocates of bondage to dissolve the Union, and to plunge the country into civil war, unless permitted to extend over the new Territories a system abhorred of man and ac cursed of God. Intelligence had come that Northern representatives were hesitating, faltering, either intimidated by the clamor and threats or seduced by the blandishments of power. " Rumors are rife," he said, " that there are Achans in the camp of Massachusetts, that her principles, her honor, and her name all are to be laid, a votive offering, on the unhallowed shrine of the Slave Power, to appease the wrath of traitors to humanity, to the country, and to God. But whatever others may do, come what may come, our path of duty is as clear as the track of the sun across the heavens. Union or no union, peace or no peace, compromises or no compromises, let us march boldly up to the extreme verge of our constitutional rights in resistance to the extension of human bondage over the Territories of the Republic."
Mr. Hopkins spoke strongly against all compromises. He said that the antagonism that existed was an antagonism between right and wrong, and that no compromise was allowable and no compromise was possible. Seth Webb, Jr., said he would say to the representatives of Massachusetts in Congress that we remain immovable; that so long as we live we have but one plan, and that plan is, " no more slavery on the continent of America, at all hazards, under all circumstances, and without reference to a line of latitude or a line of longitude. That is our principle. It is not accommodated to executive or legislative influence. It does not bend to meet Mr. Clay's plan, or Mr. Webster's plan, or anybody's plan. It is as straight as a straight line. It is as even as a principle of eternal justice." He would say to the representatives of Massachusetts that the first symptom of vacillation, of uncertainty, of faltering, seals their political death-warrant for time, if not for eternity.
The address and resolution, reported by Mr. Dana, traced with great clearness the action of Massachusetts, and enjoined upon its members of Congress to adhere to the principle, “No more slave States, no more slave territory." Mr. Adams said that political opposition to slavery had grown from small beginnings, though steadily and stubbornly resisted by material interests, until it attracted the attention and occupied the thoughts of the country. It had a principle of vitality which defied all attempts to destroy it, and bore a charmed life. He thought the supporters of the administration had reached that condition where the remark of Mr. Webster, levelled against the Democratic party four years before, was applicable then, -- that " the predictions of the last year's almanac respecting the state of the weather were as reliable as any prediction he could make of the course of that party on the question of slavery for a month at a time." In reply to the allegation that what they insisted upon, but were asked to" sacrifice, was only a “sentiment," he said that all the principles of morals and religion which ennoble human life were abstract sentiments. " When, therefore, I am asked," he said, " as in this instance, to sign and seal a bond to my own shame, by surrendering a portion of that which distinguishes mankind from the brutes that perish, the sense of right and wrong in action, this is the moment for me to come forward and reiterate an everlasting No." He predicted that no combinations made at the seat of government could crush out the sentiment that breathed in the verse of every poet that beamed on the historic page, and was sung to the praise of the Most High.
Stephen C. Phillips, too, indignantly spurned the impious and impudent demand to surrender “a long-cherished and honored principle, a principle to which we must adhere as long as we adhere to our political integrity, as long as we call ourselves Christians." He inquired if they could stand up in Faneuil Hall, in the midst of its hallowed associations, counsel any other course of action, and ask God to sustain them in any policy but that of adherence to the right, of fidelity to the 1 counsels of our fathers. Edward L. Keyes made an eloquent and brilliant speech, in which he contended that the Whig party, as it then stood, was not, and had not been, in any proper sense, an antislavery party; and that the men who had extorted antislavery resolutions from it in years past then stood outside of it, " loathing its hypocrisy." The address and resolutions were then unanimously adopted.
In the meantime, Mr. Webster had made his 7th of March speech, which so aggrieved the people of the Commonwealth, filling some with indignation, others with alarm, and all with doubts. It deepened and intensified the feeling in the legislature. A few days afterward, the resolutions of Mr. Hopkins coming up for consideration, Mr. Schouler avowed his readiness to vote for them, but expressed the hope that the vote might be taken 'without debate and without division. He was then editor of the “Atlas," the leading Whig organ of the Commonwealth, and in whose columns Mr. Webster's speech and course had been sharply criticised. Mr. Hopkins concurred in his suggestion, declared that the committee had framed the resolutions in the hope that they would receive the hearty approbation of the House, as it was important, he said, to act with unity and harmony in that great crisis of the country.
Mr. Branning of Tyringham, though a prominent member of the Democratic Party, indorsed the sentiments of the resolutions, but, naturally enough, insisted that Massachusetts should utter the same sentiments in Washington as in Boston, and that her representatives in Congress should be committed to the same policy to which it was sought to commit the legislature. He therefore moved an amendment, instructing the Senators of Massachusetts to support the principles of the resolutions. Denouncing the custom of passing unmeaning resolutions, he declared that those before the House would be powerless without his amendment, and that if the legislature meant anything by its action, it would instruct Daniel Webster, though he had set himself above “instructions."
The amendment was strongly opposed by Mr. Hopkins, who appealed to the House to vote it down. He made a vigorous reply to Mr. Branning, and sharply criticised the action of the Democracy. Mr. Hoar followed in opposition to the amendment, appealing to the House to forget all party ties, and to go for freedom with a united front.
Mr. Boutwell, then the acknowledged leader of the Democratic Party in the House, sustained the amendment, expressing, too, the opinion that the language of the resolutions was not felicitous. He thought it wrong to indorse all that had been said in past years, and pronounced the quotation from the resolves of 1845 "rank nullification." He distinctly avowed his readiness to vote for the Wilmot proviso, for the abolition of slavery and the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, and for the immediate and unconditional admission of California.
James M. Stone, a Free Soil member from Charlestown, afterward Speaker of the House, made a vigorous speech, urging the necessity of action, condemning Mr. Webster's course, and stigmatizing him as “a recreant son of Massachusetts, who misrepresented her in the Senate." Myron Lawrence, much to the surprise of the House, came to the rescue. Though, in years past, he had given his assent to similar resolutions, and had even expressed his approval of those then before the House, with their sentiments antagonistic to those just proclaimed by Mr. Webster, he spoke approvingly of the Senator's course, affirming that he " stood on national and constitutional grounds," and that his " conduct could be defended." The course of Mr. Lawrence could be explained only by a consideration of his great regard for Mr. Webster, and the uncertainty with which his course had involved the future policy of the Whig party.
Mr. Wilson said he had hoped the resolutions would pass without a dissenting voice; and that then a resolution, instructing Mr. Webster to vote for the Wilmot proviso and against Mason's Fugitive Slave Bill or resign his seat, would be introduced and passed. But the amendment had been introduced, it must be met, and he should vote for it. He declared that Mr. Webster, in his speech, had simply, but hardly, stated the Northern and national side of the question, while he had earnestly advocated the Southern and sectional side; that his speech was Southern altogether “in its tone, argument, aim, and end." He said Mr. Webster could not still the troubled ocean, for “he is but a bubble, a feather upon the heaving billows of popular commotion, lashed into fury by the spirit of liberty, which Abolitionists had generated by the labors of twenty years. He joins John C. Calhoun in rebuking them as deluded men. The truths which they have nursed and breathed into the people will live; the work of their hands will endure after his petty compromises shall have passed away from the remembrance of mankind." He said that Mr. Webster, with his large experience, lofty position, giant intellect, and great name, might have spoken words which, in that crisis, would have rallied the people, struck a blow for liberty, and linked his memory with the cause of human progress, and won the love and admiration of succeeding ages. But he had shrunk from duty, and joined in compromises. “Whatever may be the issue," he said,” of the present contest, slavery must die sooner or later. In that purer and better age, the memory of the men, however honored now, who have labored to perpetuate a system loathed of man and abhorred of God, will be odious to the people. Daniel Webster will be a fortunate man if God in his sparing mercy shall preserve his life long enough for him to repent of this act and efface this stain on his name."
Moses Kimball of Boston expressed his regret that Mr. Lawrence should have announced his willingness to indorse the sentiments enunciated in Mr. Webster's speech, and to support the course he had taken. Mr. Earle, a Free Soil member from Worcester, then editor of the “Spy," sustained the amendment, and distinctly presented the issues involved in the contest. The amendment, though supported by others, was rejected by a majority of thirty-five. The resolutions, after being modified by certain amendments of Mr. Boutwell, were adopted by an almost unanimous vote, only six voting in the negative. When they came up in the Senate for consideration, Henry L. Dawes, afterward a prominent member of Congress, offered an amendment in favor of giving fugitive slaves trial by jury. Amasa Walker offered an amendment condemnatory of Mr. Webster's course, and spoke in its defence; though it was vigorously opposed by Mr. Dawes, Mr. Upham, and Mr. Hillard, on the ground that in such a contest it was better to deal with principles than with men. Mr. Wood, a Free Soil member from Plymouth County, said that in that great crisis Massachusetts had been betrayed, and her honor had been tarnished u through the open desertion of one of her Senators and the silent acquiescence of the other." She had faltered, was in a false position, and, if she had never spoken before, she should speak then.
Joseph T. Buckingham, a Free Soil member from Middlesex County, moved to amend the resolutions by incorporating into them words which had been uttered by Mr. Webster, to the effect that the opposition of the people of Massachusetts to the extension of slavery and the increase of slave representation is "general and universal," having " no reference to lines of latitude or points of the compass "; and that they " will oppose all such extension and all such increase in all places, and at all times, under all circumstances, against all inducements, against all supposed limitations of great interests, against all combinations, against all compromises." In support of this amendment, Mr. Buckingham made a carefully prepared speech. He was then an old man, had been long connected with the public press, and for thirty years had been the personal and political friend of Mr. Webster. Holding one of the most vigorous and polished pens of his time, he had, as a journalist, he said, “in days of darkness and depression as well as in those of prosperity and sunshine," recommended Mr. Webster to the people as the greatest man of the age, and the fittest man for the highest office of the nation. He claimed him as his Mentor and his guide, and said that the ears of his understanding had drunk in “his words of sympathy for suffering humanity, of his abhorrence of the system of slavery, of his detestation of the ambition that was striving to extend the Slave Power over new Territories and secure the mastery of the free States." After thus referring to the long and pleasant intimacies of the past, he said: “But this happy intercourse in all probability is at an end. To use the em phatic expression of Horace Mann in reference to one whose friendship was withdrawn from him, 'We are now on opposite sides of the moral universe.' I am content it should be so. I expect no friendly recognition from any man who would justify the entrance of a slave-hunter into New England, or who would seek in the Constitution authority or apology for such diabolical employment." After further debate, in which the amendment was eloquently supported by Mr. Dawes and Mr. Upham, it was sustained by a majority of ten.
The resolutions were then referred to a select committee, of which Mr. Upham was chairman. In their new draft, Mr. Dawes's resolution in favor of a jury trial for slaves was modified, and Mr. Buckingham's amendment was entirely left out. This change was opposed by Dawes, Buckingham, and Walker, but was sustained by a majority of six; and they were then passed, as reported by the committee, with only four dissenting votes. They were concurred in by the House, and received the sanction of the governor.
The action of Mr. Webster was also strongly condemned by a public meeting in Faneuil Hall on the 25th of March, over which Samuel E. Sewall presided. Resolutions were introduced by Theodore Parker, in which the speech of the 7th of March was declared to be “alike unworthy of a wise states man and a good man." In support of his resolutions Mr. Parker delivered an argument of great thoroughness and force. Wendell Phillips followed in a critical examination of the salient points of Mr. Webster's speech.
Petitions were presented to the legislature, asking that Mr. Webster be instructed to vote for the Wilmot proviso and against Mr. Mason's Fugitive Slave Bill. The committee to whom they were referred having reported adversely, Mr. Wil son moved to strike out its recommendation, and insert resolutions setting forth that Mr. Webster, having declared in the Senate that the prohibition of slavery in New Mexico would be "useless, senseless, and nugatory," that he would "not vote for it, and that he would support the pending Fugitive Slave Bill with all its provisions to the fullest extent," be requested to vote against the organization of any Territorial governments without an express provision forever excluding slavery, and to use " the first, the last, and every occasion " to defeat the bill for the recapture of fugitive slaves. When they came up for consideration, Mr. Wilson, remarking that they were couched in respectful language, said they simply asked their Senator to vote for the recorded principles of Massachusetts--, principles which its legislature had asserted and reasserted with votes approaching unanimity.
Mr. Schouler said he deemed the resolutions wholly unnecessary. The legislature had almost unanimously declared in favor of the principles embodied in them, and their Senators could not fail to understand its views and the wishes of the people. They were further opposed by Charles Theodore Russell of Boston. He was in favor of applying the Wilmot proviso to the Territories, and against Mason's Fugitive Slave Bill; but he deemed it child's play for the legislature to allude in any way to Mr. Webster. Mr. Earle said, if the legislature meant anything by the resolutions it had adopted after full discussion and with such unanimity, it ought to say to Mr. Webster, who had proved false to the oft-repeated sentiments of Massachusetts that he should listen to, heed, and obey the voice of the people. The vote was then taken, and the resolutions were rejected by a large majority.
Mr. Wilson then moved a reconsideration of the vote. He declared that he had offered the resolutions in good faith, and unbiased, he trusted, by party feelings. Mr. Webster had abandoned the well-known principles of Massachusetts, and her legislature, if sincere, should say to her Senator: "We, the representatives of the people you represent, request you to vote for freedom in the Territories, and against that cruel and infamous measure now pending in the Senate for the recapture of fugitives fleeing from oppression." He warned the majority that, if they defeated those resolutions, if they shrank from the duty then imposed upon them by imperiled liberty, the betrayed people of Massachusetts would hold them to the strictest accountability. The people of Massachusetts will never sustain the position taken by Mr. Webster, nor will they uphold those who follow his lead or apologize for him." He said that, if the majority of that legislature did not rebuke the efforts making by Mr. Webster to sacrifice the cause of liberty, they would themselves be discarded by an indignant people. "I will," he said, " go out from this hall, and unite with any party or body of men to drive you from power, re buke Daniel Webster, and place in his seat a Senator true to the principles and sentiments of the Commonwealth." The vote on reconsideration was then taken, and the motion was rejected by the decisive majority of sixty-two. Thus in that crisis the legislature of Massachusetts shrank from meeting the issue, so defiantly and almost contemptuously presented by their Senator. This failure to instruct, or even to request, Mr. Webster, not only to support the undoubted sentiments of the legislature and of the people, but to adhere to his own pledges, so often and emphatically made, exercised, no doubt, an important influence on the subsequent action of the State. It emboldened the Senator and his supporters in their disregard of what was manifestly the popular sentiment, and pre pared the way for, and largely aided in procuring, the defeat of the Whig party in the election of that year.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 247-258.
MATTHEWS, Stanley, 1824-1889, lawyer, jurist, newspaper editor, anti-slavery activist, soldier and U.S. Senator. Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1881-1889. Assistant editor of the anti-slavery newspaper, the Cincinnati Morning Herald, the first abolitionist paper there. Served in the Union Army, attaining the rank of Colonel, commanding both a regiment and a brigade.
(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 262; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 6, Pt. 2, p. 418)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MATTHEWS, Stanley, jurist, b. in Cincinnati, Ohio, 21 July, 1824. He was graduated at Kenyon college in 1840, studied law, and was admitted to the bar, settling in Maury county, Tenn. He shortly afterward returned to Cincinnati, early engaged in anti-slavery movements, and in 1846-'9 was an assistant editor of the “Cincinnati Herald” the first daily anti-slavery newspaper in that city. He became judge of the court of common pleas of Hanover county in 1851, was state senator in 1855, and in 1858-'61 was U. S. attorney for the southern district of Ohio. In March, of the last-named year, he was commissioned lieutenant-colonel of the 23d Ohio regiment, and served in West Virginia, participating in the battles of Rich Mountain and Carnifex Ferry. In October, 1861, he became colonel of the 57th Ohio regiment, and in that capacity commanded a brigade in the Army of the Cumberland, and was engaged at Dobb's Ferry. Murfreesborough, Chickamauga, and Lookout Mountain. He resigned from the army in 1863, to become judge of the superior court of Cincinnati, and was a presidential elector on the Lincoln and Johnson ticket in 1864, and on the Grant and Colfax ticket in 1868. In 1864 he was a delegate from the presbytery of Cincinnati to the General assembly of the Presbyterian church in Newark, N. J., and as one of the committee on bills and overtures reported the resolutions that were adopted by the assembly on the subject of slavery. He was defeated as Republican candidate for congress in 1876, and in the next year was one of the counsel before the electoral commission, opening the argument in behalf of the Republican electors in the Florida case, and making the principal argument in the Oregon case. In March he was elected U. S. senator in place of John Sherman, who had resigned. In 1881 he was appointed associate justice of the U. S. supreme court. Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888.
MATTISON, Hiram, 1811-1868, Norway, Herkimer County, New York, clergyman, reformer, abolitionist. Sought to exclude slaveholders from church membership in Methodist denomination.
(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 262; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 6, Pt. 2, p. 423)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MATTISON, Hiram, clergyman, b. in Norway, N. Y., 11 Feb., 1811; d. in Jersey City, N.J., 24 Nov., 1868. He entered the Methodist ministry in 1835, was appointed agent of the American Bible society for the state of New Jersey in 1841, and, resuming pastoral work the next year, was successively stationed in Watertown and Rome, N. Y. From 1846 till 1860 he was largely employed in the preparation of works on astronomy and in lecturing. In 1856-'7 he was pastor of churches in Adams and Syracuse, N. Y., and took an active part in anti-slavery movements. By correspondence with the Methodists of Great Britain in 1859, he obtained the names of about 85,000 petitioners to the general conference of 1860, praying that body to extirpate slavery from the Methodist Episcopal church, and a like paper from 45,000 petitioners in central New York was largely due to his efforts. In November, 1861, he withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal church, because, as he affirmed, of its toleration of slave-holding, soon afterward becoming pastor of St. John's independent Methodist church of New York city. He returned to his former connection in 1865, and was stationed in Jersey City, where he vehemently opposed the claims of the Roman Catholic church, and published a tract on the case of Mary Anne Smith, a Methodist, whose father, a Roman Catholic, he alleged, had unjustly caused her arrest and detention in a Magdalen asylum, in New York city. His controversies with the Roman Catholics led to his appointment in 1868 as district secretary to the American and foreign Christian union. His numerous works include “The Trinity and Modern Arianism” (New York, 1843); “Tracts for the Times” (1843); “Elementary Astronomy, accompanied by Maps” (1846); Burritt's “Geography of the Heavens,” edited and revised (1850); “High-School Astronomy” (1853); “Spirit-Rapping Unveiled” (1854); “Sacred Melodies” (1859); “Impending Crisis” (1859); “Immortality of the Soul” (1866); “Resurrection of the Body” (1866); “Defence of American Methodism” (1866); and “Popular Amusements” (1867). See “Work Here, and Rest Hereafter, a Life of Rev. Hiram Mattison,” by Rev. Nicholas Vansant, with an introduction by Rev. Edward Thomson (New York, 1870). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 262.
MAY, Abby, 1800-1877, Boston, Massachusetts, abolitionist, temperance activist and women’s suffrage advocate. Wife of abolitionist and transcendentalist Amos Bronson Alcott. Mother of novelist Louisa May Alcott.
MAY, Samuel Joseph, Reverend, 1797-1871, Brooklyn, Connecticut, reformer, abolitionist leader, temperance advocate, clergyman, early advocate of women’s rights. Unitarian minister. Organized local auxiliary of the American Colonization Society. May was an advocate for immediate, uncompensated emancipation of slaves. Vice president, 1848-1861, and founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, December 1833. Agent of the New England Anti-Slavery Society, an officer of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. May was opposed to both the annexation of Texas and the Mexican War. He adamantly opposed both the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law and actively advocated resistance to it. Active in Underground Railroad in Syracuse, New York. In 1851, he helped rescue a fugitive slave, Jerry McHenry, from the federal government. Early supporter of William Lloyd Garrison. In 1856, he joined the anti-slavery Republican Party, supporting John Frémont for the presidency of the United States.
(Bruns, 1977, p. 456; Drake, 1950, p. 176; Dumond, 1961, pp. 182, 211-212, 273, 276; Filler, 1960, pp. 34, 44, 59, 65-66, 216; Mabee, 1970, pp. 12, 13, 20, 22-24, 26, 28, 29, 35, 37, 43-48, 78-79, 93, 124, 132, 149, 156, 168-170, 232, 272, 287, 289, 296, 300, 307, 308, 310, 359, 360, 368; Sernett, 2002, pp. 63, 102, 132, 134-144, 175, 176, 274-275, 312-313n39; Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 273; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 6, Pt. 2, p. 447; American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985, pp. 585-586; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. II. New York: James T. White, 1892, p. 313; May, Samuel Joseph. Memoir of Samuel Joseph May. Boston, 1873; May, Samuel Joseph, Recollections of the Anti-Slavery Conflict. Boston, 1868; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 169. Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, p. 127)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MAY, Samuel Joseph, reformer, b. in Boston, Mass., 12 Sept., 1797; d. in Syracuse, N. Y., 1 July, 1871. He was graduated at Harvard in 1817, studied divinity at Cambridge, and in 1822 became pastor of a Unitarian church at Brooklyn, N. Y. He was early interested in the anti-slavery cause, wrote and preached on the subject, and in 1830 was mobbed and burned in effigy at Syracuse for advocating immediate emancipation. He was a member of the first New England anti-slavery society m 1832, and, when Prudence Crandall (q. v.) was proscribed and persecuted for admitting colored girls to her school in Canterbury, Conn., he was her ardent champion. He was also a member of the Philadelphia convention of 1833 that formed the American anti-slavery society, and signed the “Declaration of Sentiments,” of which William Lloyd Garrison was the author. In 1835 he became the general agent of the Massachusetts anti-slavery society, for which, by a union of gentleness and courage, he was peculiarly fitted, and in this capacity he lectured and travelled extensively. He was pastor of the Unitarian church at South Scituate, Mass., in 1836-'42, and became at the latter date, at the solicitation of Horace Mann, principal of the Girls' normal school at Lexington, Mass. He returned to the pulpit in 1845, and from that date till three years previous to his death was pastor of the Unitarian society in Syracuse, N.Y. Mr. May was active in all charitable and educational enterprises, and did much to increase the efficiency of the public-school system in Syracuse. He published “Education of the Faculties” (Boston, 1846); “Revival of Education” (Syracuse, N. Y., 1855); and “Recollections of the Anti-Slavery Conflict” (Boston, 1868). See “Memoir of Samuel Joseph May,” edited by George B. Emerson, Samuel May, and Thomas J. Mumford (Boston, 1873). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 273.
MAY, Samuel Jr., Leicester, Massachusetts, abolitionist. American Anti-Slavery Society, Executive Committee, 1849-1864, Corresponding Secretary, 1854-1860, Vice President, 1840-1848. Counsellor, Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.
MCCRUMMELL, James, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, abolitionist. Manager, 1833-1837, and founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, December 1833.
(Dumond, 1961, p. 329; Mabee, 1970, p. 21; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 161; Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833)
MCDOUGALL, Francis Harriet Whipple Green, 1805-1878, author, poet, reformer, abolitionist. Women’s rights advocate, labor rights activist.
(American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985, pp. 558-559; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 4, Pt. 1, p. 542)
MCHENRY, JERRY, FUGITIVE SLAVE CASE
Chapter: “Workings of the Fugitive Slave Act,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:
A similar case was that of Jerry McHenry, commonly known as the “Jerry rescue," which occurred at Syracuse, New York, in October, 1851. He had resided in that place for several years, but he was arrested and taken before the commissioner as a fugitive from slavery. On the trial, the agent was alone permitted to testify, while Jerry was not allowed to make any explanation, or to say one word in his own behalf. Seizing his opportunity, he ran from the room; but was pursued, overtaken, and, although he fought fearfully, was overpowered. He was thrown upon a wagon and, with two policemen sitting upon him, taken back, frantic with rage. In the meantime, there was a meeting of some twenty or thirty persons, among whom were such men as Gerrit Smith and Rev. Samuel J. May, to devise a plan for his rescue. That which was adopted and successfully carried out was to wait till evening, surround the court-room, break the doors and windows, rush in, overpower the officers, in the melee take the prisoner to the house of a friend, and conceal him until his rescuers were prepared to carry him to a place of safety. But prostrated by the excitement and by his exertions, he was compelled to remain thus concealed for a week, and was subsequently sent to Canada.
The United States officials, incensed at their ill-success, determined to punish those who had thus defied and defeated their patriotic zeal. Eighteen of the best citizens of Syracuse were indicted and summoned to appear at Auburn to answer for their offence. They were escorted by nearly a hundred of the most respectable men and women of the place. Being required to give sureties, William H. Seward promptly headed the list, which was speedily made up of the leading citizens of the State.
So defiant and acknowledged an attempt to prevent the execution of the law, in the very place where Mr. Webster had just declared that it must be executed, rendered the “Jerry rescue” famous, and greatly incensed the friends of the Fugitive Slave Act. The United States district-attorney summoned several of the indicted to appear for trial at Buffalo and Albany. Although Smith, May, and Wheaton publicly acknowledged in the papers that they rendered all the assistance they could in the rescue of Jerry, and avowed their readiness for trial, resting their defence upon the " unconstitutionally and extreme wickedness " of the law, nothing came of the attempt.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 327-328.
MCKIM, James Miller, 1810-1874, reformer, abolitionist, editor, clergyman, educator. Founding member and anti-slavery agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS). Manager, AASS, 1843-1853. Lectured on anti-slavery in Pennsylvania. Publishing agent, Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. Editor, Pennsylvania Freeman.
(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 136; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 6, Pt. 2, p. 103; Dumond, 1961, pp. 188, 393n26; Mabee, 1970, pp. 202, 269, 273, 289, 303, 305, 342, 421n14; Yellin, 1994, pp. 76, 161-162, 162n, 168, 287; Friend of Man, February 1, 1837; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 15, p. 115)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
McKIM, James Miller, reformer, b. in Carlisle, Pa., 14 Nov., 1810; d. in West Orange, N. J., 13 June, 1874. He studied at Dickinson and Princeton colleges, and in 1835 was ordained pastor of a Presbyterian church at Womelsdorf, Pa. A few years before this the perusal of a copy of Garrison's “Thoughts on Colonization” had made him an Abolitionist. He was a member of the convention that formed the American anti-slavery society, and in October, 1836, left the pulpit to accept a lecturing agency under its auspices. He delivered addresses throughout Pennsylvania, although often subjected to obloquy, and even danger from personal violence. In 1840 he removed to Philadelphia, and became the publishing agent of the Pennsylvania anti-slavery society. His office was subsequently changed to that of corresponding secretary, in which capacity he acted for a quarter of a century as general manager of the affairs of the society, taking an active part in national as well as local anti-slavery work. Mr. McKim's labors frequently brought him in contact with the operations of the “underground railroad,” and he was often connected with the slave cases that came before the courts, especially after the passage of the fugitive-slave law of 1850. In the winter of 1862, immediately after the capture of Port Royal, he was instrumental in calling a public meeting of the citizens of Philadelphia to consider and provide for the wants of the 10,000 slaves that had been suddenly liberated. One of the results of this meeting was the organization of the Philadelphia Port Royal relief committee. He afterward became an earnest advocate of the enlistment of colored troops, and as a member of the Union league aided in the establishment of Camp William Penn, and the recruiting of eleven regiments. In November, 1863, the Port Royal relief committee was enlarged into the Pennsylvania freedman's relief association, and Mr. McKim was made its corresponding secretary. In this capacity he travelled extensively, and labored diligently to establish schools at the south. He was connected from 1865 till 1869 with the American freedman's union commission, and used every effort to promote general and impartial education at the south. In July, 1869, the commission having accomplished all that seemed possible at the time, it decided unanimously, on Mr. McKim's motion, to disband. His health having meantime become greatly impaired, he soon afterward retired from public life. In 1865 he assisted in founding the New York “Nation.” Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 136.
MCLEAN, John, 1785-1861, Morris County, New Jersey, jurist, attorney. U.S. Supreme Court Justice, January 1830-. Dissented against the majority of Justices on the Dred Scott case, stating that slavery was sanctioned only by local laws. Free Soil and later Republican Party candidate for President of the U.S.
See also Dred Scott, Supreme Court and Slavery.
(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 144; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 6, Pt. 2, p. 127; National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, 1839, Vol. 4)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MCLEAN, John, jurist, b. in Morris county, N. J., 11 March, 1785; d. in Cincinnati, Ohio, 4 April, 1861. In 1789 his father, a poor man with a large family, removed to the west and settled, first at Morganstown, Va., subsequently at Nicholasville, Ky., and finally, in 1799, on a farm in Warren county, Ohio. Young McLean worked on the farm that his father had cleared till he was sixteen years old, then received private instruction in the classics for two years, and at the age of eighteen went to Cincinnati to study law, and, while acquiring his profession, supported himself by writing in the office of the clerk of the county. In the autumn of 1807 he was admitted to the bar, and began practice at Lebanon. In October, 1812, he was elected to congress from his district, which then included Cincinnati, by the Democratic party, defeating two competitors in an exciting contest, and was re-elected by the unanimous vote of the district in 1814. He supported the Madison administration, originated the law to indemnify individuals for the loss of property in the public service, and introduced an inquiry as to pensioning the widows of fallen officers and soldiers. He declined a nomination to the U. S. senate in 1815, and in 1816 was elected judge of the supreme court of the state, which office he held till 1822, when President Monroe appointed him commissioner of the general land-office. In July, 1823, he was appointed postmaster-general, and by his energetic administration introduced order, efficiency, and economy into that department. The salary of the office was raised from $4,000 to $6,000 by an almost unanimous vote of both houses of congress during his administration. He was continued in the office by President John Q. Adams, and was asked to remain by Gen. Jackson in 1829, but declined, because he differed with the president on the question of official appointments and removals. President Jackson then tendered him in succession the war and the navy departments, and, on his declining both, appointed him an associate justice of the U. S. supreme court. He entered upon his duties in January, 1830. His charges to grand juries while on circuit were distinguished for ability and eloquence. In December, 1838, he delivered a charge in regard to aiding or favoring “unlawful military combinations by our citizens against any foreign government with whom we are at peace,” with special reference to the Canadian insurrection and its American abettors. The most celebrated of his opinions was that in the Dred Scott case, dissenting from the decision of the court as given by Chief-Justice Taney, and enunciating the doctrine that slavery was contrary to right and bad its origin in power, and that in this country it was sustained only by local law. He was long identified with the party that opposed the extension of slavery, and his name was before the Free-soil convention at Buffalo in 1848 as a candidate for nomination as president. In the Republican national convention at Philadelphia in 1856 he received 196 votes for the same office to 359 for John C. Frémont. In the Republican convention at Chicago in 1860 he also received several votes. He published “Reports of the United States Circuit Court” (6 vols., 1829-'55); a “Eulogy on James Monroe” (1831); and several addresses. Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888.
Biography from National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans:
THE subject of this notice is ·one of those remarkable men, who, · by the force of their own independent exertions, have risen from obscurity into great reputation, and into the highest offices in the nation. History has been said to be philosophy teaching by example; and this is more eminently true with regard to Biography, where every lineament of the character is marked with more distinctness, and is seen under a clearer light.
JOHN McLEAN was born 11th March, 1785, in Morris County: New Jersey. When he was about four years of age his father removed to the western country. He remained a year at Morgantown in Virginia, and then removed to that part of the State which has since been erected into the State of Kentucky. He first settled on Jessamine, near where the town of Nicholasville is now situated; but in 1793 he removed to the neighborhood of Mayslick, where he continued to reside until the year 1797, when he emigrated to the then northwestern territory (now Ohio), and settled on the farm on which the son now lives. At an early age John was sent to school, and made unusual proficiency for one whose general opportunities were so limited.
The old gentleman being in narrow circumstances, and having a pretty large family, was unable to send John from home to be educated. He continued, therefore, to labor on the farm until he was about sixteen years of age, when his father consented to his placing himself successively under the instruction of the Reverend Matthew E. Wallace and of Mr. Stubbs, by whose assistance he made great advance in the study of the languages. During this period, his expenses, both for board and tuition, were defrayed by himself; for so limited were the circumstances of his father, that he generously refused any assistance from him.
When about eighteen years of age young Mclean went to write in the clerk's office of Hamilton County. This employment, at the same time that it would enable him to support himself, would also initiate him into the practical part of the law, the profession on which he had already fixed his ardent and aspiring mind. The arrangement was, that he should write in the office for three years, but reserving a certain portion of each day for study; and at the same time he was to prosecute the study of law under the direction of Arthur St. Clair, an eminent counsellor, and son of the illustrious General of that name. It is in this way that a mind animated by a genuine ambition, and firm and determined in its purposes, is frequently able to overcome the greatest difficulties, and to show with how much ease industry and virtue can triumph over all the disadvantages of obscurity and poverty.
During his continuance in the office, young McLean was indefatigable in the prosecution of his double duties. He also became a member of a debating society, the first which was formed in Cincinnati; and it is a fact entitled to notice, that most of the young men who contributed to its formation have since distinguished themselves in the public service of their country. Young Mclean took an active part in the discussions which were held in this society. The notice which his efforts attracted still further confirmed him in the determination which he had already taken not to aim at any ordinary mark, but to make the highest intellectual distinction the prize of his ambition.
In the Spring of 1807 Mr. Mclean was married to Miss Rebecca Edwards, daughter of Dr. Edwards, formerly of South Carolina; a lady who, to the most amiable manners, unites the utmost benevolence of character, and who has presided over the cares of a large family with the greatest judgment and discretion.
In the fall of the same year Mr. Mclean was admitted to the practice of the law, and settled at Lebanon. Here he immediately attracted notice, and soon rose into a lucrative practice at the bar. In October, 1812, he was elected to congress in the district in which he resided, by a very large majority over both his competitors. From his first entrance upon public life Mr. Mclean was identified with the democratic party. He was an ardent supporter of the war and of the administration of Mr. Madison; not that he was the blind and undistinguishing advocate of every measure which was proposed by his party; for he who will take the trouble to turn over the public journals of that period, will find that his votes were mainly given in reference to principle, and that the idea of supporting a dominant party, merely because it was dominant, did not influence his judgment, or withdraw him from the high path of duty which he had marked out for himself. He was well aware that the association of individuals into parties was sometimes absolutely necessary to the prosecution and accomplishment of any great public measure. This he supposed was sufficient to induce the members composing them, on any little difference with the majority, to sacrifice their own judgment to that of the greater number, and to distrust their own opinions when they were in contradiction to the general views of the party. But as party was thus to be regarded as itself only an instrument for the attainment of some great public good, the instrument should not be raised into greater importance than the end, nor any clear and undoubted principle of morality be violated for the sake of adhering to party. Mr. Mclean often voted against his political friends; and so highly were both his integrity and judgment estimated, that no one of the democratic party separated himself from him on that account, nor did this independent course in the smallest degree diminish the weight which he had acquired among his own constituents.
The first session which he attended was the extra session in the summer after the declaration of war. At this session, the tax bills were passed to sustain the war. The law which was passed to indemnify individuals for property lost in the public service was originated by Mr. Mclean, and very naturally contributed to add to the reputation with which he had set out in public life. At the ensuing session he introduced a resolution, instructing the proper committee to inquire into the expediency of giving pensions to the widows of the officers and soldiers who had fallen in the military service, which was afterwards sanctioned by law. At this session he also delivered a very able and effective speech in defence of the administration in the prosecution of the war. This was published in the leading journals of that day, and gave an earnest of the future eminence which our subject was destined to attain.
Mr. Mclean was a member of the committees of foreign relations and on the public lands.
In the fall of 1815 he was re-elected to Congress with the same unanimity as before. During the same year he was solicited to become a candidate for the senate, which he declined, inasmuch as the House seemed at that time to present the widest arena for the display of talents and for the acquisition of public fame. Mr. Mclean was at this period barely eligible to a seat in the senate, having just attained his thirtieth year.
Finding that the expenses of a family were greater than the compensation he received as a member of Congress, and having no other resources than were derived from his personal exertions, he consented to become a candidate for the bench of the Supreme Court of Ohio, and was elected to that office in 1816, unanimously. The duties of this station he discharged with great ability. His mind seemed to combine all the leading qualities which are requisite in a Judge, and his advancement to the office was felt to be a public advantage to the whole State. Meanwhile his reputation abroad was increasing in proportion; and in the summer of 1822 Mr. Monroe appointed him Commissioner of the General Land Office. The emoluments of this office were larger than the salary of Judge. This was a consideration which was entitled to great weight. Judge Mclean had a growing family, whom he was anxious to educate; and at the same time that he would now be better able to accomplish this darling object, the schools in the district would present a better opportunity for attaining the higher branches of education. He remained in this station, however, only until the first of July, 1823, when he was appointed Postmaster-General.
Many of his friends endeavored to dissuade him from accepting this office. They urged that the former incumbents had found its duties exceedingly arduous, while at the same time they were not exempted from a large share of that abuse and calumny which is so often wantonly and indiscriminately heaped upon the public servants. It was agreed by many that no one could acquire reputation in the office. But Judge McLean determined to repose upon the virtue and intelligence of the people, and he went into the office with the determination of devoting his days and nights to the discharge of its duties.
The finances of the department were in a low condition, and it did not possess the public confidence. But immediately order was restored, and the public confidence revived. And it soon became evident how easy it is to manage the most complicated business when the requisite ability and industry are put in requisition for the task. In a short time the finances of the department were in a most flourishing condition; despatch and regularity were given to the mails, and the commercial intercourse of the whole country was prosecuted with the utmost celerity and ease. Inefficient contractors were dismissed, and the same course was adopted with regard to the post-masters and other agents of the department. Judge Mclean controlled the entire action of the department. The whole correspondence was superintended and directed by him. He gave his undivided and personal attention to every contract which was made or altered. All appointments, all charges against postmasters, were acted on by him. In short, there was nothing done, involving the efficiency or character of the department, which was not done under his immediate sanction.
When he accepted the office, the salary of the Postmaster-General was four thousand dollars. A proposition was made to increase it to six thousand, and was sanctioned by the House of Representatives, by an almost unanimous vote, in 1827. There were, indeed, very few votes against it; and some of the members who were opposed to it, regretted that they were compelled to pursue that course. In the senate, the bill passed also, almost unanimously. Mr. Randolph voted against it, and said the salary was for the officer and not for the office; and he proposed to vote for the bill if the law should be made to expire when Judge Mclean left the department.
During the whole period that the affairs of the department were administered by Judge McLean, he had, necessarily, a most difficult part to act. The country was divided into two great parties, animated by the most determined spirit of rivalry, and each bent upon advancing itself to the lead of public affairs. A question of great import was now started, whether it was proper to make political opinions the test of qualification for office. Such a principle had been occasionally acted upon during preceding periods of our history, but so rarely, as to constitute the exception rather than the rule. It had never become the settled and systematic course of conduct of any public officer. Doubtless every one is bound to concede something to the temper and opinions of the party to which he belongs, otherwise party would be an association without any connecting bond of alliance: but no man is permitted to infringe any one of the great rules of morality and justice for the sake of subserving the interests of his party. It cannot be too often repeated, nor too strongly impressed upon the public men of America, that nothing is easier than to reconcile these two apparently conflicting views. The meaning of party is that it is an association of men for the purpose of advancing the public interests. Men flung together, indiscriminately, without any common bond of alliance, would be able to achieve nothing great and valuable; while, united together, to lend each other mutual support and assistance, they are able to surmount the greatest obstacles, and to accomplish the most important ends. This is the true notion of party. It imports combined action, but does not imply any departure from the great principles of truth and morality. So long as the structure of the human mind is so different in different individuals, there will always be a wide scope for diversity of opinion as to public measures; but no foundation is yet laid in the human mind for any material difference of opinion as to what constitutes the great rule of justice.
The course which was pursued by Judge Mclean was marked by the greatest wisdom and moderation. Believing that every public officer held his office in trust for the people, he determined to be influenced by no other principle8, in the discharge of his public duties, than a faithful performance of the trust committed to him. No individual was removed from office by him on account of his political opinions. In making appointments, where the claims and qualifications of individuals were equal, and at the same time one was known to be friendly to the administration, he felt himself bound to appoint the one who was friendly. But when persons were recommended for office, it was not the practice to name, as a recommendation, that they were friendly to the administration. In all such cases the man who was believed to be the best qualified was selected by the department.
On the arrival of General Jackson at Washington, after his election, and when he was about selecting the members of his cabinet, Judge Mclean was sent for to ascertain whether he was willing to remain at Washington. Gen. Jackson having stated the object he had in view in requesting an interview, the Judge remarked to him, before he submitted any proposition on the subject, that he was desirous to explain to him the line of conduct which he had hitherto pursued. He observed, that the General might have received the impression from some of the public prints that the Postmaster-General had wielded the patronage of his office for the purpose of advancing 'the General's election to the Presidency: that he wished it distinctly to be understood that he had done no such · thing, and that if he had pursued such a course, he would deem himself unworthy of the confidence of the President elect, or of any honorable man. The General replied with warm expressions of regard and confidence, that he approved of his course, and wished him to remain in the post-office department. He at the same time expressed regret that circumstances did not enable him to offer the Judge the Treasury department. The War and the Navy departments were subsequently tendered to him, but he declined them both. Afterwards Gen. Jackson sent for him, expressed great regret at his leaving Washington, and made unbounded professions of friendship if he would consent to remain. But the Judge's resolution had been taken, and he was determined to adhere to it. The spirit of party had become unusually bitter and acrimonious, and threatened to overleap all the fences with which it had been hitherto confined. He believed that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for him to pursue the even and measured course which he had hitherto followed with so much credit to himself and advantage to the nation. Retirement from political life seemed, under such circumstances, most desirable. The President, however, wishing to avail himself of abilities which had been exerted so long in behalf of the public welfare offered him the place of Judge of the Supreme Court, the highest judicial station in the country; and on his signifying that he would accept, he was immediately nominated, and the nomination ratified by the senate.
Soon after this appointment many of the public journals in the northern, middle, and western states introduced his name to the public as a candidate for the presidency at the succeeding election. Many of the opposition papers adhered to Mr. Clay, and the name of Mr. Calhoun was brought out in some parts of the South. The Anti-Masonic party showed a strong disposition to rally upon Judge McLean, and it was clear that that party could not elect, unless the other elements pf opposition should unite with them.
The Anti-Masons met in convention in the fall of the year 1831, and Judge Mclean addressed a letter to the members of the convention, declining a nomination. In this letter he declared, that " If by a multiplicity of candidates, an election by the people should be prevented, he should consider it a national misfortune. In the present agitated state of the public mind, an individual who should be elected to the chief magistracy by less than a majority of the ·votes of the people, could scarcely hope to conduct successfully the business of the nation. He should possess in advance the public confidence, and a majority of the suffrages of the people is the only satisfactory evidence of that confidence."
Shortly after the re-election of Gen. Jackson, his name was again brought forward, in the first instance by a nomination of the people in Baltimore, which was followed by similar nominations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, and several other States. A majority of the members of the Ohio legislature also nominated him for the same place. At length, in August, 1835, he addressed a letter to the chairman of one of the principal committees, in which he expressed the same sentiments he had declared on the preceding occasion. He was aware that this course would discourage his friends, but he was not desirous to attain the office, except on such terms as would enable him to carry out those principles which would elevate and tranquillize the political action of the country.
Judge Mclean has been a member of the Supreme Court for more than seven years, during the whole of which he has been eminently distinguished for his learning, ability, and eloquence. If there is any one field of jurisprudence in which he is more distinguished than another, it may be said to be constitutional law1 in which, though there is less opportunity for the display of mere learning, there is at any rate wider scope for the exercise of the power of reasoning and investigation. There is no human reputation more enviable than that which is acquired in this office. Independently of the permanent tenure of the station, the opportunities are so frequent for the exertion of the highest intellectual ability, that it would seem to offer greater temptations to ambition than even the office of chief magistrate.
Judge Mclean is still in the vigor of life, and unless withdrawn from this high station by the solicitations of his countrymen, may continue for many years to discharge its duties with the same ability and wisdom which have uniformly distinguished him.
Source: Longacre, James B. & James Herring, National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans. Philadelphia: American Academy of Fine Arts, 1834-1839
MCLEOD, Alexander, 1774-1833, New York, anti-slavery activist, clergyman. Presbyterian minister. Wrote, “Negro Slavery Unjustifiable, A Discourse by Alexander McLeod,” A.M., Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Congregation in the City of New York New York, 1802.
(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 145; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 6, Pt. 2, p. 131; Baird, “Collection of Acts,” p. 818; Dumond, 1961, pp. 80, 87, 348; Locke, 1901, pp. 45, 90; Mason, 2006, pp. 14, 133, 231, 261-262n12)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
McLEOD, Alexander, clergyman, b. in the island of Mull, Scotland, 12 June, 1774; d. in New York city, 17 Feb., 1833. His father, Rev. Niel McLeod, was the entertainer of Dr. Samuel Johnson on the latter's visit to Mull. The son came to this country while yet young, was graduated at Union college in 1798, licensed to preach in the following year, and ordained over two churches—one in New York and one in Wallkill, N. Y. The latter charge he soon resigned; but he retained the former, the first Reformed Presbyterian church of New York, until his death. McLeod was long well known among the clergy of New York city, and was eminent both as a writer and as a preacher. He was for some time one of the editors of the “Christian Magazine.” Among his published works are “Negro Slavery Unjustifiable” (New York, 1802); “The Messiah” (1803); “Ecclesiastical Catechism” (1807); “On the Ministry” (1808); “Lectures on the Principal Prophecies of the Revelation” (1814); “View of the Late War” (1815); “The Life and Power of True Godliness” (1816); and “The American Christian Expositor” (2 vols., 1832-'3). A memoir of McLeod was published by Samuel B. Wylie, D. D. (New York, 1855). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 145.
MERCER, Margaret, 1791-1846, Lynchburg, Virginia, abolitionist, anti-slavery activist, reformer, educator. Active supporter of the American Colonization Society in Lynchburg. Slaveholder who freed her slaves in 1846 and paid their way to Liberia. Raised money for colonization. Daughter of the Governor of Maryland, John Francis Mercer.
(Burin, 2005, pp. 34, 38, 39, 60, 67, 103-104, 115; Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 301; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 6, Pt. 2, p. 546; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, pp. 110-231; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 15, p. 331)
MEXICAN AMERICAN WAR
Chapter: “Mexican War. -Wilmot Proviso,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:
Having consummated the work of annexation, the government was forced to accept the logical sequences of its action. Among them, in spite of all hopes and assurances to the contrary, was a war with Mexico. Thrice had she notified the United States that annexation would be deemed by her just cause for war. Nor was there reasonable ground of expectation that she would not be true to her word. On the 6th of March, therefore, four days after the joint resolution was signed, the Mexican minister made a formal protest and demanded his passports, while the minister of the United States at Mexico was refused all official intercourse.
By annexation, therefore, the government had placed itself in a position requiring extreme delicacy, tact, and skill to prevent actual hostilities. That delicacy, tact, and skill seemed to be wholly wanting in President Polk and Secretary Buchanan. This, with the same reckless disregard of the rights of Mexico and amenities of good neighborhood, which had been displayed in the act of annexation, appeared more glaringly in the matter of boundaries; so that, if Mexican forbearance had swallowed the affront put upon her by the former, she could not, with any show of self-respect, have submitted without an appeal to arms to the latter. By the joint resolution of annexation, the adjustment of all questions of boundary was assumed by this government. Ordinary prudence would have suggested that, in settling them, something was due to the wounded feelings and sense of outraged justice of the Mexican people. And yet nothing seemed further from the policy pursued.
Texas had claimed the Rio Grande as her western limit, though she had never exercised actual control over either New Mexico or the country lying between the Nueces and the Rio Grande. The groundless character of the claims of Texas to the Rio Grande as its western boundary was even admitted by some friends of the measure. While the Tyler treaty was pending in the Senate, Mr. Woodbury of New Hampshire said, in his speech in favor of its ratification, that Texas could," by a mere law, acquire no title to more than she· had conquered from Mexico and actually governed. Hence, though her law included more than ancient Texas, she could hold and convey only that, or, at the uttermost, what she holds jurisdiction over." Silas Wright, also of the same party, referring to the boundaries of Texas, declared that “they embraced a country to which Texas had no claims, over which she had never asserted jurisdiction, and which she had no right to cede." Mr. Benton denounced the treaty as an attempt to seize two thousand square miles of Mexican territory by the incorporation of the left bank of the Rio del Norte, which would be an act of direct aggression for the consequences of which the United States must stand responsible. In his speech in support of the joint resolution, Mr. Ingersoll, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, asserted that the stupendous deserts between the river Nueces and the Rio Grande were “the natural boundary between the Anglo-Saxon and the Mauritanlan races. There ends the Valley of the West, there Mexico begins, “and he affirmed that that gigantic boundary would be sacred while peace remained, "or until the spirit of conquest rages." Indeed, Mr. Ashley of Arkansas, a zealous supporter of annexation, boldly avowed in the Senate that Judge Ellis of Texas, a member of the convention which framed the constitution, said to him that Texas extended its boundaries to the Rio Grande "solely and professedly with a view of having a large margin in her negotiations with Mexico, and not with the expectation of retaining them as they now exist on their statute-book." This device, though unworthy of a great nation, eminently befitted the men and their purpose who employed it.
In ordering, therefore, General Taylor to pass a portion of his forces westward of' the river Nueces, which was done before annexation was accomplished, President Polk put in peril the peace and the good name of the country. In his Annual Message of December of that year he stated that American troops were in position on the Nueces, "to defend our own and the rights of Texas." But, not content with occupying ground on and westward of the Nueces, he issued, on the 13th of January, 1846, the fatal order· to General Taylor to advance and " occupy positions on or near the left bank of the Rio del Norte." That movement of the army from Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande, a distance of more than one hundred miles, was an invasion of Mexican territory, --an act of war for which the President was and must ever be held responsible by the general judgment of mankind.
Nor can there be reasonable doubt that that order plunged the two countries into actual hostilities. True, Mr. Van Buren had said that annexation "would draw after it a war with Mexico," and Mr. Clay had expressed the opinion that “annexation and war with Mexico are identical”; but whatever might have been the legal status of the two countries, actual hostilities did not exist. The facts render it apparent that peace could have been preserved by a wise, prudent, and moderate policy. But that march into territory inhabited by Mexicans, who hastily fled before the advancing forces, the erection of batteries on the left bank of the Rio Grande, commanding the public square of Matamoras, meant more than "to defend our own and the rights of Texas." It could only mean, it did mean, the acquisition of more territory in which to establish 'slavery, and by which the further expansion and development of slaveholding institutions could be promoted.
General Taylor was requested by Ampudia, the commander of the Mexican forces, to return to the Nueces, the western boundary of Texas proper, "while," he said, and “our governments are regulating pending questions relative to Texas." He was not required to withdraw his armies into the territories of the United States, but simply to return to the position in Texas held by him during many months. To that request he replied, that he was acting under the orders of his government. But he was, nevertheless, on Mexican soil, in the state of Tamaulipas, among the Mexican people. Early in May General Arista, who had assumed command of the Mexican forces, crossed the Rio Grande, attacked General Taylor, was defeated at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, and then recrossed the river, leaving the American army in complete possession of its lower bank. Can there be a question that the administration, by both the laws of man and of God, must be held responsible for the guilt and blood of that most nefarious war?
On the 11th of May President Polk sent a special message to Congress communicating the information that Mexico had refused the offer of peaceful adjustment; that the military forces had been ordered to retire; and that the Mexican general had declared our refusal casus belli; that hostilities had commenced, and that he should prosecute them. The President referred, also, to the action between the American and Mexican forces, and invoked “Congress to recognize the existence of war, and to place, at the disposal of the executive the means of prosecuting the war with vigor." Mr. Houston, claiming as "Texan territory" up to the Rio Grande, proclaimed that “American blood had been shed on American soil. That soil had been consecrated before to them, and their rights must be maintained." The position of these two men gave weight to their statements which was manifestly wanting in the words themselves. Those, however, with whom either slavery or party was paramount to all other claims were prepared to accept conclusions, though they did not bear the test of close scrutiny or answer the demands of either justice, humanity, or a true patriotism.
In the Senate, Mr. Speight, a Democratic member from Mississippi, moved to print twenty thousand copies of the message. The debate upon that motion was earnest and eminently suggestive, as it revealed in the various opinions expressed both the task the propagandists had undertaken in order to secure a favorable vote, and also the process by which it was accomplished. Nor is it doubtful that many approached it with grave solicitude, doubts, and misgivings. On the one hand, the slavery propagandists and members of the Democratic party could not but be anxious about the consequences of a policy which had been adopted in spite of the protests and damaging admissions of many, even of their most eminent leaders. Subservient as the North had shown itself, they must have felt that there was danger of going too far. On the other hand, the Southern Whigs, though on the record averse to annexation, felt the danger of putting in peril either slavery or party by persisting too strenuously in opposition to what was rapidly becoming a Southern measure, and manifestly only a question of time. They remembered the war of 1812 as the rock on which the Federal party, by its opposition, was wrecked; and they were naturally chary of making a like mistake.
Mr. Calhoun was sincerely opposed to the proposed war. Though his policy had provoked it, he shrank from its legitimate consequences. But he had trusted to diplomacy, and had supposed that the liberal use of money in Mexico's necessities would lead to the relinquishment of Texas without resort to arms. But, though he had been potent in causing the complications of the hour, he found himself powerless in restraining or shaping the consequences. He had raised the whirlwind, but he could not direct the storm. Other men, more reckless, audacious, and self-seeking, with ulterior purposes and schemes, desired war for its own sake and its prospective results. He, dreading those results, counselled moderation and dignity. Availing himself of the distinction between hostilities and war, he claimed that the latter had not yet intervened. As it was its prerogative alone to determine, it should be left to Congress to decide whether or not war had actually began.
But there were others less cautious and, if not more oblivious of principle, more reckless of consequences. Among them was Mr. Clayton of Delaware. Though a Whig, opposed to annexation, and disavowing all responsibility for the war that resting alone, he claimed, on the President, -he hastened to give in his adhesion, and to say that he was quite ready and willing to fight it out; as if, in such a case, any action of the President could absolve him from his obligation to oppose what both his reason and conscience condemned as wrong in principle and impolitic in practice. “I do not mean to express," he said,” any opinion as to sending troops to the Rio Grande by voting supplies. In a similar strain, John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, another Whig senator,--patriotic, but impulsive and intensely Southern, --expressed the sentiment that more distressing intelligence had never been communicated by any President. The importance of the event, he said, did not consist in the amount of precious blood that had been shed, but in the bad examples and the evil consequences to republicanism and liberty everywhere. “I hope," he said,” to find my country in the right; however, I will stand by her, right or wrong." The declarations of Mr. Clayton were warmly applauded by General Cass, who declared that he had spoken "like an American senator and like an American patriot." Mr. Morehead of North Carolina, another Whig senator, expressed surprise that General Cass should regard Mr. Clayton's remark as worthy of special gratulation. "I trust," he said, "'that that is a common sentiment entertained by every member of the Senate." He thought, however, that "war” did not exist, as Congress alone had power to declare it.
These sentiments of leading Southern Whigs, not to speak of those of Northern Democrats like General Cass, revealed the process by which the Slave Power, in the hands of an inconsiderable fraction of the nation, contrived to control the action of the government, in support of a policy in clear antagonism to every professed principle on which that government was founded, and by which it was also enabled to push the most extreme and obnoxious measures through the national legislature. Tenacious, unyielding, and inexorable, it had so succeeded in getting into its hands the reins and rod of party discipline, and in so debauching the public sentiment, that no loyalty to the higher law, no breadth of statesmanship, not even fealty to party itself, was permitted to stand in the way of its behests. “Right or wrong," its battles must be fought and its policy must be sustained.
In the House a bill was introduced by Mr. Haralson, chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs, authorizing the President to accept the services of fifty thousand volunteers, and appropriating ten million dollars. The same differences of opinion existed there as in the Senate respecting the actual state of affairs between the two nations. "Was it war, or only a state of hostilities? The President, strangely oblivious of the claims of truth, had said that “Mexico had invaded our territory and shed the blood of our citizens on our own soil." As the slave propagandists had approved and applauded his order authorizing General Taylor to advance to the left bank of the Rio Grande, they were determined also that Congress should indorse that action and share that responsibility. To effect that purpose, Linn Boyd, a Kentucky Democrat, afterward Speaker of the House, offered a substitute for the first section of the bill, affirming that “by the act of the Republic of Mexico a state of war exists between that government and the United States." This amendment being agreed to by nearly a party vote, the bill was put upon its final passage, and passed almost unanimously, only fourteen voting against it.
Considering the offensive form in which the measure was presented, not only being in direct conflict with sentiments repeatedly avowed by those who supported it, but plainly falsifying the truth of history, this vote was sadly suggestive of the national demoralization, and of degrading party vassalage. For the Democratic majority, dominated by the Slave Power, had seized the occasion not only to proclaim its devotion to Southern interests, and, if possible, to place the minority in a false position, but that minority made it too apparent that fealty to party was stronger than regard for principle, and that there was a greater solicitude to maintain the integrity of the former than to obey the dictates of the latter. The character of the bill and the embarrassment of Southern Whigs were well expressed by Garrett Davis of Kentucky, then an earnest and trusted friend of Henry Clay. On his request to be excused from voting, after expressing the opinion that the relief of the troops must have been already secured or their fate sealed long before help could be sent by Congress, and indicating his willingness to vote supplies for the war, he said that there could be no valid objection to giving a day to the consideration of the act, though· denied by "the haughty and domineering majority." "I protest solemnly," he said," against defiling the measure with the unfounded statement that Mexico began the war." “Had the amendment been rejected," he said “I doubt not the bill would receive the unanimous vote of the House. But that was not the object of its authors. Their purpose was to make the Whigs vote against the measure, or force them to aid in throwing a shelter over the administration."
On the 12th the bill was reported to the Senate by Mr. Benton, chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs. Several amendments and modifications' were offered, but rejected; and it was passed, the same day, by a vote of forty to two, John Davis of Massachusetts and Thomas Clayton of Delaware alone voting against it. Thus hurriedly was the Mexican War assumed, its origin falsified, and the nation committed to its prosecution with all its guilt and peril, and its uncertain cost of blood and treasure.
The fourteen members of the House and the two members of the Senate who voted against the measure were bitterly assailed. Stephen A. Douglas, a rising member from the West, who from that time onward mingled largely in the strife, till its culmination in the Rebellion, characterized them as “hypocrites, traitors, and cowards." They had, however, an advocate in Charles Hudson of Massachusetts, who denounced in fitting terms the craven sentiment that it was treason to criticize the government in time of war. He avowed his purpose to utter his sentiments, “regardless of frowns or sneers,'' or "the dogmatical declarations and awful nods of Mr. Douglas." The preamble, he said, was utterly false as a whole, and false in each of its recitals, and the war itself was “a crime of deepest dye." He warned those in power to ' look well to it that " public execration did not fall upon their heads, and to remember that blood shed for unrighteous purposes will cry from the ground to Him ' who bringeth the princes to nothing, and taketh up the isles as a very little thing.' “
Though the war was prosecuted with considerable vigor, its progress and results did not keep pace with the wishes of those who had urged it upon the nation, or with the general expectation of its advocates. It was also consuming more time, costing more money, and giving the people more opportunity to study its character, purposes, and prospective results, which, under the teachings of the opponents of slavery, they were improving, than had been anticipated. Accordingly, on the 8th of August, ten days before the close of the session, the President sent a special message to Congress asking an appropriation of two millions of dollars, "for the purpose of settling our differences with Mexico.'' He expressed the opinion that the chief obstacle would be the adjustment of boundaries between the two countries.
A bill being introduced by Mr. McKay, chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, to carry into effect the President's recommendation, a brief and sharp debate followed. Hugh White of New York avowed his unwillingness to give his sanction to the bill unless amended so as to forever preclude the possibility of extending slavery. Mr. Winthrop of Massachusetts arraigned the supporters of the administration for their attempts to place their opponents in a false position.
Several Democratic members, who had been cajoled into a vote for annexation by the shallow device of the Walker amendment, on the presence that the choice proposed by that amendment would be left to the new administration, had been greatly chagrined, besides being made the subjects of much censorious remark, when they saw the measure actually consummated by the hasty action of Tyler and Calhoun, which they had supposed would be left to the more deliberate and care fully considered movements of Mr. Polk and Mr. Buchanan they saw now not only evidences of a similar policy, but themselves summoned to the ignoble task of carrying forward and helping to consummate a fraud, of which they had already unwittingly been made the agents and the victims.
If, therefore, they could not retrieve the past, they were anxious to save the future. They saw that the war was prosecuted by men intent on the acquisition of territory, which, though free by Mexican law, would be made slave by the new theory of Mr. Calhoun, that the Constitution carried slavery into all national territory, acquired or to be acquired, unless prohibited by positive law. They believed that President Polk was seeking territory, not to extend freedom and free institutions, but slavery and those peculiar to the South. Something they saw must be done in that supreme moment of the crisis to retrieve the false step they had taken arid to avert the impending evil.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 7-16.
MIFFLIN, Warner, 1745-1798, Virginia, Elder of the Society of Friends, Quaker, abolitionist leader. Delegate of the Delaware Abolition Society. Lobbied to pass 1782 Virginia law for private manumission of slaves. Wrote A Serious Expostulation with the Members of the House of Representatives of the United States.
(Basker, 2005; Bruns, 1977; Drake, 1950, pp. 75-76, 93, 95, 105, 107-108, 112-113; Dumond, 1961, pp. 20, 76; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 319-320; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 6, Pt. 2, p. 608)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MIFFLIN, Warner, reformer, b. in Accomac county, Va., 21 Oct., 1745; d. near Camden, Del., 16 Oct., 1798, was the son of Daniel Mifflin, a planter and slave-owner, and the only Quaker within sixty miles of his plantation. The son early cherished an interest in behalf of the slaves. .In giving an account of his conversion to anti-slavery views, he writes of himself: “About the fourteenth year of my age a circumstance occurred that tended to open the way for the reception of those impressions which have since been sealed with indelible clearness on my understanding. Being in the field with my father's slaves, a young man among them questioned me whether I thought it could be right that they should be toiling in order to raise me, and that I might be sent to school, and by and by their children must do so for mine. Some little irritation at first took place in my feelings, but his reasoning so impressed me as never to be erased from my mind. Before I arrived at the age of manhood I determined never to be a slave-owner.” Nevertheless, he did become the owner of slaves—some on his marriage through his wife's inheritance, and others from among his father's, who followed him to his plantation in Delaware, whither the son had removed and settled. Finally, determining that he would “be excluded from happiness if he continued in this breach of the divine law,” he freed all his slaves in 1774 and 1775, and his father followed the example. The son, on the day fixed for the emancipation of his slaves, called them one after another into his room and informed them of his purpose to give them their freedom, and this is the conversation that passed with one of them: “Well, my friend James,” said he, “how old art thou?” “I am twenty-nine and a half years, master.” “Thou should’st have been free, as thy white brethren are, at twenty-one. Religion and humanity enjoin me this day to give thee thy liberty; and justice requires me to pay thee for eight years and a half service, at the rate of ninety-one pounds, twelve shillings, and sixpence, owing to thee; but thou art young and healthy; thou had’st better work for thy living; my intention is to give thee a bond for it, bearing interest at seven and a half per cent. Thou hast now no master but God and the laws.” From this time until his death his efforts to bring about emancipation were untiring. Through his labors most of the members of his society liberated their slaves. He was an elder of the Society of Friends, and travelled from state to state preaching his anti-slavery doctrines among his people, and in the course of his life visited all the yearly meetings on the continent. He was much encouraged in his work by the words of the preamble of the Declaration of Independence. Referring to these, he writes: “Seeing this was the very substance of the doctrine I had been concerned to promulgate for years, I became animated with hope that if the representatives were men, and inculcated these views among the people generally, a blessing to this nation would accompany these endeavors.” In l782 he appeared before the legislature of Virginia, and was instrumental in having a law enacted that admitted of emancipation, to which law may be attributed the liberation of several thousand negroes. In 1783 he presented a memorial to congress respecting the African slave-trade, and he subsequently visited, in the furtherance of his work, the legislatures of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware. In 1791 he presented his noted “Memorial to the President, the Senate, and the House of Representatives of the United States” on the subject of slavery, and, on account of some reflections that were cast on him, he published a short time afterward his serious expostulations with the house of representatives in relation to the principles of liberty and the inconsistency and cruelty of the slave-trade and slavery. These essays show the undaunted firmness and zeal of the writer, his cogent reasoning and powerful appeals to the understanding and the heart. From conviction he was against war, and on principle opposed the Revolution. On the day of the battle of Germantown he was attending the yearly meeting of the Quakers at Philadelphia, and the room in which they were assembled was darkened by the smoke of the battle. At this meeting the Friends renewed their “testimony” against the spirit of war, and chose Mifflin to undertake the service of communicating it to Gen. Washington and Gen. Howe. To perform this duty, he had to walk in blood and among the dead bodies of those that had fallen in the fight. In his conversation with Washington he said: “I am opposed to the Revolution and to all changes of government which occasion war and bloodshed.” After Washington was elected president, Mifflin visited him in New York, and in the course of the interview the president, recollecting an assertion of Mifflin’s at Germantown, said: “Mr. Mifflin, will you please tell me on what principle you were opposed to the Revolution?” “Yes, Friend Washington, upon the principle that I should be opposed to a change in the present government. All that was ever gained by revolution is not an adequate compensation for the poor mangled soldiers, for the loss of life or limb.” To which Washington replied: “I honor your sentiments; there is more in that than mankind have generally considered.” With reference to Mifflin, Brissot, in his '”New Travels in the United States of America” (London, 1792), says: “I was sick, and Warner Mifflin came to me. It is he that first freed all his slaves; it is he who, without a passport, traversed the British army and spoke to Gen. Howe with so much firmness and dignity; it is he who, fearing not the effects of the general hatred against the Quakers, went, at the risk of being treated as a spy, to present himself to Gen. Washington, to justify to him the conduct of the Quakers; it is he that, amid the furies of war, equally a friend to the French, the English, and the Americans, carried succor to those who were suffering. Well! this angel of peace came to see me.” Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 319-320.
MILLER, Jonathan Peckham, 1797-1874, Montpelier, Vermont, reformer, abolitionist, Manager, 1834-1837, American Anti-Slavery Society.
(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 328; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 6, Pt. 2, p. 632)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MILLER, Jonathan P., reformer, b. in Randolph, Vt., in 1797; d. in Montpelier in 1847. He was educated at the University of Vermont and became a lawyer. In 1824 he went to Greece as a volunteer, and after the siege and fall of Missolonghi in April, 1826, he returned to Vermont and lectured through New York and the New England states for the benefit of the Greek cause. At the solicitation of the Boston and New York Greek committee Col. Miller went to Greece a second time as their general agent, and distributed several cargoes of provisions and clothing to the suffering Greeks, returning to Montpelier, Vt., in 1827. He introduced anti-slavery resolutions into the Vermont legislature in 1833. He was a delegate from his state to the world's anti-slavery convention in London in 1840, and from that time until his death gave a large part of his time and fortune to the furtherance of the anti-slavery cause. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 328.
MILLER, Samuel Freeman, 1816-1890, lawyer, jurist, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, voted for Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery. Supported emancipation. Leader of the Republican Party. Appointed by Abraham Lincoln as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 328-329; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 6, Pt. 2, p. 637; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 15, p. 516; Congressional Globe)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MILLER, Samuel Freeman, jurist, b. in Richmond, Ky., 5 April, 1816. He was graduated at the medical department of Transylvania university, Ky., in 1838, practised for a short time, and afterward became a lawyer. He was strongly in favor of emancipation, and did much to further that cause, and, although he took no part in politics, the course of public affairs induced him to remove in 1850 from Kentucky to Iowa, where he became a leader of the Republican party. He was offered and declined numerous offices, and devoted himself to his profession, in which he took high rank. In 1862 he was appointed by President Lincoln associate justice of the U. S. supreme court, which office he still (1888) occupies. He was the orator at the constitutional centennial celebration at Philadelphia. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 328-329.
MILLS, Samuel John, 1783-1818, Torrington, Connecticut, clergyman. Founded schools for African American children. Member of the American Colonization Society (ACS). Went to Africa on behalf of the ACS to found colony.
(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 333; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 1, p. 15; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, pp. 18-19, 28, 37-47 passim, 156)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MILLS, Samuel John, clergyman, b. in Torringford, Conn., 21 April,1783; d. at sea, 16 June, 1818, was graduated at Williams in 1809, and at Andover theological seminary in 1812. While in college he determined to devote his life to missionary work, and in 1810 addresses that he and several of his classmates made before the General association of Massachusetts resulted in the formation of the American board of commissioners for foreign missions. During 1812-'13 he was exploring agent of the Massachusetts and Connecticut missionary societies in the west and southwest, and in 1814-'15 missionary and Bible agent in the southwest. While in New Orleans during the early part of 1815 he was unable to purchase a single Bible in that city, and, in consequence, he procured a supply in both the French and English languages, and distributed many. Finding that seventy or eighty thousand families at the south and west were destitute of a Bible, he suggested the formation of a national society. His efforts contributed to the establishment of the American Bible society in May, 1816, and meanwhile, on 21 June, 1815, he was ordained. Subsequently the education of the colored people claimed his attention, and in 1816 the synod of New York and New Jersey established a school for the education of young men of color that wished to be preachers and teachers of their race. After the school was established Mr. Mills became its agent in the middle states, and was successful in obtaining funds for its support. The American colonization society was founded on 1 Jan., 1817, and Mr. Mills was chosen to explore in its behalf the coast of western Africa, and select the most eligible site for a settlement. He reached Africa in March, 1818, spent two months on that continent, and began his homeward voyage in May. Mr. Mills was called the “Father of foreign mission work in Christian America.” He published an account of his two visits to the south (Andover, 1815). See “Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel J. Mills,” by Gardner Spring (New York, 1854). Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888.
MILNOR, James, 1773-1844, Pennsylvania, New York, opponent of slavery, lawyer, clergyman. Member of U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania, 1811-1813. Milnor was an officer in the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society in 1798. Member of New York auxiliary of the American Colonization Society.
(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 334; Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, p. 40)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MILNOR, James, clergyman, b. in Philadelphia, 20 June, 1773; d. in New York city, 8 April, 1844. His parents were members of the Society of Friends. He entered the University of Pennsylvania, but, owing to family embarrassments, was not graduated. He began the study of law in 1789, in Philadelphia, and was admitted to the bar in 1794. He began practice in Norristown, Pa., but removed to Philadelphia in 1797, where he soon obtained a large practice. In 1805 he entered political life. He was elected a member of the select council of his native city, re-elected for three years in 1807, and became president of the council in 1808. He was then chosen a member of congress, serving from 4 Nov., 1811, till 3 March, 1813, and, being strongly Federalist in his principles, opposed the second war with Great Britain, in 1812. Soon after returning home he became a candidate for orders in the Protestant Episcopal church. While studying for the ministry he busied himself effectively as catechist and lay reader. He was made deacon, 14 Aug., 1814, and priest, 27 Aug., 1815, by Bishop White. He was elected assistant minister in St. Peter's and the United churches, Philadelphia, in 1814, but two years later he accepted the rectorship of St. George's church, New York city, where he remained until his death. He received the degree of D. D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1819. He visited Europe in 1830 as delegate to the British and Foreign Bible society. His remaining years were spent in parochial work and in aiding the various charitable institutions in Philadelphia. Dr. Milnor's publications were “Oration on Masonry,” before the Grand lodge of Pennsylvania (1811); “Thanksgiving-Day Sermon” (1817); “A Plea for the American Colonization Society” (New York, 1826); “Sermon on the Death of De Witt Clinton, Governor of New York” (New York, 1828); and “A Charitable Judgment of the Opinions and Conduct of Others Recommended,” which was delivered on the Sunday before his death (1844). See a “Memoir,” by the Rev. John S. Stone, D.D. (New York, 1855). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV.
MINER, Myrtilla, 1815-1864, New York, educator, philanthropist, abolitionist. Opened Normal School for Colored Girls in Washington, DC, in 1851. Minor was opposed to slavery.
(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 336; Encyclopedia Britanica; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 1, p. 23)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MINER, Myrtilla, philanthropist, b. in Brookfield, Madison co., N. Y., 4 March, 1815; d. in Washington, D. C., 17 Dec., 1864. She began teaching when fifteen years of age, and was afterward employed in a school for the education of planters' daughters in Whitesville, Wilkinson co., Miss. She remained there two years, became familiar with the evils of slavery, and determined to devote her life to the elevation of the negro race. She decided to found a normal school for free colored girls in Washington, although she had but $100 with which to meet expenses. On 3 Dec., 1851, the school was opened in a small apartment with six pupils. During the second month the number of pupils increased to forty, and in 1853 a permanent location for the school with increased accommodation was purchased for $4,300, Harriet Beecher Stowe contributing $1,000 from the proceeds of the sale of “Uncle Tom's Cabin.” Thenceforth the school was a great success. In 1860 indications of approaching civil war led to the temporary abandonment of the school, and in 1861 Miss Miner went to California for the benefit of her health, but met with an accident there and returned to die in Washington. While she was absent in California in 1863, congress passed an act for the incorporation of her normal school. She had suffered severe persecution in consequence of her efforts to elevate the colored people. Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888.
MINKINS, SHADRACH, FUGITIVE SLAVE CASE
Chapter: “Workings of the Fugitive Slave Act,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:
Perhaps the two cases under the Fugitive Slave Act which attracted most attention, excited most deeply and widely the public thought and feeling, were those of Simms and Shadrach. Though Boston was the centre of operation, the whole State, and the nation even, were more or less agitated by their progress, because the governments of both, in their legislative and executive departments, were involved.
In February, 1851, Shadrach, a colored waiter at the Cornhill Coffee House, was arrested under a warrant issued by George T. Curtis, United States Commissioner, on the com plaint of John de Bree of Norfolk, Virginia, a purser in the navy. Seth J. Thomas, a Democratic lawyer, appeared for the claimant; Samuel E. Sewall and Ellis Gray Loring, eminent lawyers, who had twenty years before aided in the formation of the New England Antislavery Society, Charles G. Davis, Richard H. Dana, Jr., Charles List, and Robert H. Morris, appeared for the alleged fugitive. After the reading of the papers, in which it was declared that he had escaped in the May preceding, the commissioner postponed the further consideration of the case till the 18th, and remanded the prisoner to the custody of the deputy-marshal. While the counsel were conferring with him, the stairway was crowded with a large number of colored persons. After all persons had re tired but the officers, Charles G. Davis and Elizur Wright, the door was forcibly opened by a body of colored men, under the lead of Lewis Hayden, who acted at the suggestion of Mr. Davis, the prisoner was seized, carried away in triumph, and sent to Canada, where he arrived in safety. The excitement was intense. The facts were telegraphed to Washington, with the inquiry, “What is to be done?" On the 18th the President issued a proclamation calling upon all well-disposed citizens, and commanding all officers, civil and military, in the vicinity of this outrage, to aid and assist in quelling this and all similar combinations, and to assist in capturing the abovenamed persons, while the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy directed all military and naval officers to yield all practicable assistance.
A resolution was introduced by Mr. Clay, calling upon the President to lay before the Senate any information in his possession relating to the rescue of the alleged fugitive slave Shadrach, and to communicate what means he has adopted to meet the exigencies of the case, and whether any further legislation is required. Upon this resolution there arose an ex cited and angry debate. Mr. Clay declared that he had been “shocked” and “inexpressibly distressed” by that act of a few negroes in Boston, “who possess no part in our political system." Mr. Davis of Massachusetts expressed the opinion that it would be found that the people were disposed at all times to maintain the laws of the country and good order, although the Fugitive Slave Act was offensive even to law-abiding people. Mr. Clay again indignantly denounced “that negro mob which dared to lay their sacrilegious hands, in the sanctuary of justice, upon the very sword of justice itself, and to wave it over its officers and ministers." Mr. Hale ex pressed the hope that the President would leave the execution of the laws in Boston to the people of that city, without invoking the aid of the army or navy. After further de bate, in which several Senators participated, the resolution was adopted.
Three days afterward, the President replied by a special message, in which he stated the facts of the case, the action he had taken, and also gave the assurance that the law should be faithfully executed. Mr. Clay seized the occasion to ex press the high satisfaction he felt in seeing the faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Act. It had been executed everywhere, he said, except in the city of Boston, where there had been a failure on two occasions. He censured what he was pleased to call the guilty parties "in high or low places, in public or private, who instigated, incited, and stimulated those poor, black, deluded mortals and miserable wretches." Mr. Hale thought the President felt pretty sure that he had made his administration ridiculous by his proclamation, and had sent them a labored essay to vindicate what could not be vindicated. He looked upon the whole subject as “entirely misplaced, misconceived, ill-judged, impolitic, improper, injudicious, and weak." The remarks of Mr. Hale irritated Mr. Clay, who lost his temper, and made, in reply, a personal and undignified attack.
Mr. Chase said it was somewhat remarkable that Mr. Clay, who had so vehemently denounced agitation and agitators, should have furnished, with one exception, the occasion for every debate on slavery during the session. He maintained that the obligation imposed by the Constitution in respect to fugitives from labor was a compact between the States, to be executed by the States, just as other compacts in the same article are to be executed in good faith; but that each State is to judge of the extent of its own obligations and of the particular legislation required to fulfil them. He said the States had laws for the reclamation of escaping servants, and that the Supreme Court, in the case of Prigg against Pennsylvania, had decided that the States had no constitutional power to legislate on that subject. That decision, he said, “swept the whole of this legislation from the statute-books," and practically expunged the fugitive-slave clause from the Constitution. Mr. Douglas said he held white men then within range of his sight “responsible for the violation of the law in Boston. It was done under their advice, under their teaching, under their sanction, under the influence of their speeches." He expressed the hope that, when the trial came on, the punishment would fall upon the leading white conspirators instead of their ignorant, simple-minded, and abused tools and instruments. He charged the Abolitionists with arming negroes with bowie-knives and pistols to resist the execution of the Fugitive Slave Law.
Mr. Clay affirmed that the compromise measures had worked miracles, and that they had made thousands of converts even among the Abolitionists. “Peace," he said, " has been produced to an extent surpassing my most sanguine expectations." He denounced the Abolitionists as disunionists. Mr. Chase disavowed all connection with any class of persons who desired the dissolution of the Union. He admitted that there were Abolitionists who regarded the Constitution as at war with moral obligation and the supreme law; but he was not one of them. Jefferson Davis held that it was a reflection upon the good faith of the States which had made a contract for the surrender of fugitive slaves that it had been found necessary to enact such a law. He declared that if the State of Massachusetts sanctioned the action of the negro mob in Boston she was virtually out of the Union, and he would not give a dollar to coerce her back. Foreshadowing coming events and his own subsequent career, he said he would “let her go, go in peace, go in good-will, go with all the kind and proud remembrances which cluster around her early history." The message was then referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, which reported on the last day of the session that further legislation was not necessary.
Five persons engaged in that rescue were indicted for the offence. Among them were John Scott and Lewis Hayden. They were tried before Judge Sprague. Though an able jurist, his course and bearing conveyed the impression that he had predetermined their conviction. They were ably de fended by John P. Hale and Richard H. Dana, Jr., and the jury failed to agree. The jurors were required to declare that they held no views on the Fugitive Slave Act which would prevent their bringing in a verdict according to the facts. The evidence in the case of Mr. Hayden was very strong, and the judge's charge against him very clear. His counsel were surprised at the failure of the jury to agree upon a verdict of guilty. The jury, it was understood, at first stood eleven for conviction. Several years after the trial, Mr. Dana addressed a public meeting in Concord. At its conclusion, Francis E. Bigelow, a citizen of that town, was introduced to Mr. Dana by Judge Hoar, and stated that he was on the jury which tried Hayden, and also that he was the juror who refused to convict. Referring to the testimony of witnesses who " swore they saw the prisoner help Shadrach into a carriage, which was traced over Cambridge bridge, and into West Cambridge, where he was put into another carriage and driven to Concord, and there put into a wagon at night and driven to Sudbury," he said, " I drove that wagon over to Sudbury." Elizur Wright and Charles G. Davis, who were present in the court room when Shadrach was rescued, and the colored lawyer, Robert H. Morris, were put on trial, but the government utterly failed in the effort to prove anything against them.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 329-333.
THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE (1819-1821)
See also Clay, Henry
Please note that this entry includes four chapters:
· Turner, “The Missouri Compromise (1819-1821), “1906
· Wilson, “The Missouri Struggle: The Compromises,” 1872
· Wilson, “Admission of Missouri: Attempt to Introduce Slavery into Illinois,” 1982
· Wilson, “Compromise Measures of 1850,” 1872
Chapter: “The Missouri Compromise (1819-1821),” by Frederick Jackson Turner, in Rise of the New West, 1906:
IN the dark period of the commercial crisis of 1819, while Congress was considering the admission of Missouri, the slavery issue flamed out, and revealed with startling distinctness the political significance of the institution, fateful and ominous for the nation, transcending in importance the temporary financial and industrial ills. The advance of settlement in the United States made the slavery contest a struggle for power between sections, marching in parallel columns into the west, each carrying its own system of labor.1 By 1819 the various states of the north, under favorable conditions of climate and industrial life, had either completely extinguished slavery or were in the process of emancipation;2 and by the Ordinance of 1787 the old Congress had excluded the institution in the territory north of the Ohio River. Thus Mason and Dixon's line and the Ohio made a boundary between the slave-holding and the free streams of population
1 For previous questions of slavery, see Channing, Jeffersonian System (Am. Nation, XII.), chap. viii.
2 See map, p. 6.
that flowed into the Mississippi Valley. Not that this line was a complete barrier: the Ordinance of 1787 was not construed to free the slaves already in the old French towns of the territory; and many southern masters brought their slaves into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois by virtue of laws which provided for them under the fiction of indented servants. 1 Indeed, several efforts were made in the territory of Indiana at the beginning of the nineteenth century to rescind the prohibition of 1787; but to this petition Congress, under the strange leadership of John Randolph, gave a negative;2 and, after a struggle between the southern slavery and antislavery elements by which the state had been settled, Indiana entered the Union in 1816 as a free state, under an agreement not to violate the Ordinance of 1787.
Illinois, on her admission in 1818, also guaranteed the provisions of the Ordinance of 1787, and, not without a contest, included in her constitution an article preventing the introduction of slavery, \ but so worded that the system of indenture of negro servants was continued in a modified form. The issue of slavery still continued to influence Illinois elections, and, as the inhabitants saw well-to-do planters pass with their slaves across the state to recruit the property and population of Missouri, a movement (1823-1824) in favor of revising their constitution so as to admit slavery required the most vigorous
1 Harris, Negro Servitude in Ill., 10; Dunn, Indiana, chaps. ix., x.
2 Ibid., chap. xii.; Hinsdale, Old Northwest, chap. xviii.
opposition to hold the state to freedom. The leader of the antislavery forces in Illinois was a Virginian, Governor Coles (once private secretary to President Madison), who had migrated to free his slaves after he became convinced that it was hopeless to make the fight which Jefferson advised him to carry on in favor of gradual emancipation in his native state.1 In both Indiana and Illinois, the strength of the opposition to slavery and indented servitude came from the poorer whites, particularly from the Quaker and Baptist elements of the southern stock, and from the northern settlers.
In Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, ever since the decline of the tobacco culture, a strong opposition to slavery had existed, shown in the votes of those states on the Ordinance of 1787, and in the fact that as late as 1827 the great majority of the abolition societies of the United States were to be found in this region. 2 But the problem of dealing with the free negro weighed upon the south. Even in the north these people were unwelcome. They frequently became a charge upon the community, and they were placed under numerous disabilities. 3 The idea of deporting freedmen from the United
1 Harris, Negro Servitude in Ill., chap. iv.; Washburne, Coles, chaps. iii., v.
2 Dunn, Indiana, 190; Bassett, in Johns Hopkins Univ. Studies, XVI., No. vi.; cf. Hart, Slavery and Abolition (Am. Nation, XVI.), chap. xi.
3 McMaster, United States, IV., 558; Gordy, Political Hist. of U. S., II., 405.
States found support both among the humanitarians, who saw in it a step towards general emancipation, and among the slave-holders who viewed the increase of the free negroes with apprehension. To promote this solution of the problem, the Colonization Society 1 was incorporated in 1816, and it found support, not only from antislavery agitators like Lundy, who edited the Genius of Universal Emancipation at Baltimore, but also from slave-holders like Jefferson, Clay, and Randolph. It was the design of this society to found on the coast of Africa a colony of free "blacks, brought from the United States. Although, after unsuccessful efforts, Liberia was finally established in the twenties, with the assistance of the general government (but not under its jurisdiction), it never promoted state emancipation. Nevertheless, at first it met with much sympathy in Virginia, where in 1820 the governor proposed to the legislature the use of one-third of the state revenue as a fund to promote the emancipation and deportation of the negroes.2
The unprofitableness of slavery in the border states, where outworn fields, the decline of tobacco culture, and the competition of western lands bore hard on the planter,3 now became an argument
1 McPherson, Liberia; McMaster, United States, IV., 556 et seq.
2 Jefferson, Writings (Ford's ed.), X., 173, 178; Niles Register' R, XVII., 363; King, Life and Corresp. of King, VI., 342; Adams, Memoirs, IV., 293.
3 See chap. iv. below; Hart, Slavery and Abolition (Am. Nation, 1 XVI.), .chap. iv.
in favor of permitting slavery to pass freely into the new country of the west. Any limitation of the area of slavery would diminish the value of the slaves and would leave the old south to support, under increasingly hard conditions, the redundant and unwelcome slave population in its midst. The hard times from 1817 to 1820 rendered slave property a still greater burden to Virginia. Moreover, the increase of the proportion of slaves to whites, if slavery were confined to the region east of the Mississippi, might eventually make possible a servile insurrection, particularly if foreign war should break out. All of these difficulties would be met, in the opinion of the south, by scattering the existing slaves and thus mitigating the evil without increasing the number of those in bondage.
It was seen that the struggle was not simply one of morals and of rival social and industrial institutions, but was a question of political power between the two great and opposing sections, interested, on the one side, in manufacturing and in the raising of food products under a system of free labor; and, on the other, in the production of the great staples, cotton, tobacco, and sugar, by the use of slave labor. Already the southern section had shown its opposition to tariff and internal improvements, which the majority of the northern states vehemently favored. In other words, the slavery issue was seen to be a struggle for sectional domination.
At the beginning of the nation in 1790, the population of the north and the south was almost exactly balanced. Steadily, however, the free states drew ahead, until ·in 1820 they possessed a population of 5,152,000 against 4,485,000 for the slaveholding states and territories; and in the House of Representatives, by the operation of the three-fifths ratio, the free states could muster 105 votes to but 81 for the slave states. Thus power had passed definitely to the north in the House of Representatives. The instinct for self-preservation that led the planters to stand out against an apportionment in their legislatures which would throw power into the hands of non-slaveholders now led them to seek for some means to protect the interests of their minority section in the nation as a whole. The Senate offered such an opportunity: by the alternate admission of free and slave states from 1802 to 1818, out of the twenty-two states of the nation eleven were slaveholding and eleven free. If the south retained this balance, the Senate could block the action of the majority which controlled the lower House.
Such was the situation when the application of Missouri for admission as a state in 1819 presented to Congress the whole question of slavery beyond the Mississippi, where freedom and slavery had found a new fighting-ground. East of the Mississippi the Ohio was a natural dividing-line; farther west there appeared no obvious boundary between slavery and freedom. By a natural process of selection, the valleys of the western tributaries of the Mississippi as far north as the Arkansas and Missouri, in which slaves had been allowed while it was a part of French and Spanish Louisiana (no restraints having been imposed by Congress), received an increasing proportion of the slave-holding planters. It would, in the ordinary course of events, become the area of slave states.
The struggle began in the House of Representatives, when the application of Missouri for statehood was met by an amendment, introduced by Tallmadge of New York, February 13, 1819,1 providing that further introduction of slavery be prohibited, and that all children born within the state after admission should be free at the age of twenty-five years.2 Tallmadge had already shown his attitude on this question when in 1818 he opposed the admission of Illinois under its constitution, which seemed to him to make insufficient barriers to slavery. Brief as was the first Missouri debate, the whole subject was opened up by arguments to which later discussion added but little. The speaker, Henry Clay, in spite of the fact that early in his political career he had favored gradual emancipation in Kentucky, led the opposition to restriction. His principal reliance was upon the arguments that the evils of slavery would be mitigated by diffusion, and that the proposed restriction was unconstitutional. Tallmadge and Taylor, of New York, combated these
1 Annals of Cong., 15 Cong., 2 Sess., I., 1170.
2 See amended form in House Journal, 15 Cong., 2 Sess., 272.
arguments so vigorously and with such bold challenge of the whole system of slavery in new territories, that Cobb, of Georgia, declared, "You have kindled a fire which all the waters of the ocean cannot put out, which seas of blood can only extinguish."1 The first clause of Tallmadge's motion was carried (February 16, 1819) by a vote of 87 to 76, and the second by 82 to 78.2 Taylor was emboldened to offer (February 18) to the bill for the organization of Arkansas territory an amendment by which slavery should be excluded, whereupon McLane, of Delaware, tentatively proposed that a line should be drawn west of the Mississippi, dividing the territories between freedom and slavery. Thus early was the whole question presented to Congress. In the Senate, Tallmadge's amendment was lost (February 27) by a vote of 22 to 16, several northern senators adhering to the south; and Congress adjourned without action. 3
The issue was then transferred to the people, and in all quarters of the Union vehement discussions took place upon the question of imposing an antislavery restriction upon Missouri. Mass-meetings in the northern states took up the agitation, and various state legislatures, including Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and even the slave state of Delaware, passed resolutions with substantial
1 Annals of Cong., 15 Cong., 2 Sess., I., 1204.
2 Ibid., 1214.
3 But Arkansas was organized as a territory without restriction.
unanimity against the further introduction of slaves into the territories of the United States, and against the admission of new slave states. Pennsylvania, so long the trusted ally of the south, invoked her sister states "to refuse to covenant with crime" by spreading the "cruelties of slavery, from the banks of the Mississippi to the shores of the Pacific." From the south came equally insistent protests against restriction. 1
No argument in the debate in 1819 was more effective than the speech of Rufus King in the Senate, which was widely circulated as a campaign document expressing the northern view. King's antislavery attitude, shown as early as 1785, when he made an earnest fight to secure the exclusion of slavery from the territories,2 was clearly stated in his constitutional argument in favor of restriction on Missouri, and his speech may be accepted as typical.3 But it was also the speech of an old-time Federalist, apprehensive of the growth of western power under southern leadership.
He held that, under the power of making all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory and other property of the United States, Congress had the right to prohibit slavery in the
1 Niles' Register, XVII., 296, 307, 334, 342-344, 395, 399, 400, 416; Ames, State Docs. on Federal Relations, No. 5, p. 4.
2 McLaughlin, Confederation and Constitution (Am. Nation, X.), chap. vii.
3 Niles' Register, XVII., 215; King, Life and Corresp. of King, VI., 690.
Louisiana purchase, which belonged to the United States in full dominion. Congress was further empowered, but not required, to admit new states into the Union. Since the Constitution contained no express provision respecting slavery in a new state, Congress could make the perpetual prohibition of slavery a condition of admission. In support of this argument, King appealed to the precedent of the Ordinance of 1787, and of the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, all admitted on the conditions expressed in that ordinance. In admitting the state of Louisiana in 1812, a different group of conditions had been attached, such as the requirement of the use of the English language in judicial and legislative proceedings.
The next question was the effect of the Louisiana treaty, by which the United States had made this promise: "The inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States, and admitted as soon as possible, according to the principles of the Federal constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States; and in the mean time they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property and the religion which they profess." 1 King contended that, by the admission of Missouri to the Union, its inhabitants would obtain all of the "federal" rights which citizens of the United States derived from its
1 U.S. Treaties and Conventions, 332.
Constitution, though not the rights derived from the constitutions and laws of the various states. In his opinion, the term property did not describe slaves, inasmuch as the terms of the treaty should be construed according to diplomatic usage, and not all nations permitted slavery. In any case, property acquired since the territory was occupied by the United States was not included in the treaty, and, therefore, the prohibition of the future introduction of slaves into Missouri would not affect its guarantees.
Could Missouri, after admission, revoke the consent to the exclusion of slavery under its powers as a sovereign: state? Such action, King declared, would be contrary to the obligations of good faith, for even sovereigns were bound by their engagements. Moreover, the judicial power of the United States would deliver from bondage any person detained as a slave in a state which had agreed, as a condition of admission, that slavery should be excluded.
Having thus set forth the constitutional principles, King next took up the expediency of the exclusion of slavery from new states. He struck with firm hand the chord of sectional rivalry in his argument against the injustice to the north of creating new slave-holding states, which would have a political representation, under the "federal ratio," not possessed by the north. Under this provision for counting three-fifths of the slaves, five free persons in Virginia (so he argued) had as much power in the choice of representatives to Congress and in the appointment of presidential electors as seven free persons in any of the states in which slavery did not exist. The disproportionate power and influence allowed to the original slave-holding states was a necessary sacrifice to the establishment of the Constitution; but the arrangement was limited to the old thirteen states, and was not applicable to the states made out of territory since acquired. This argument had been familiar to New England ever since the purchase of Louisiana. Finally, he argued that the safety of the Union demanded the exclusion of slavery west of the Mississippi, where the exposed and important frontier needed a barrier of free citizens against the attacks of future assailants.
To the southern mind, King's sectional appeal unblushingly raised the prospect of the rule of a free majority over a slave-holding minority, the downfall of the ascendency so long held by the south, and the creation of a new Union, in which the western states should be admitted on terms of subordination to the will of the majority, whose power would thus become perpetual. 1 When the next Congress met, in December, 1819, the admission of Alabama was quickly completed; an.cl the House also passed a bill admitting Maine to the Union, Massachusetts having agreed to this division of the ancient commonwealth, on condition
1 King, Life and Corresp. of King, VI., 205, 267, 279, 288, 329, 339-344, 501; Jefferson, Writings (Ford's ed.), X., 162, 172, 280; Tyler, Tylers, I., 316.
that consent of Congress should be obtained prior to March 4, 1820. The Senate, quick to see the opportunity afforded by the situation, combined the bill for the admission of Maine with that for the unrestricted admission of Missouri, a proposition carried (February 16, 1820) by a vote of 23 to 21. Senator Thomas, who represented Illinois, which, as we have seen, was divided in its interests on the question of slavery, and who, as the vote showed, could produce a tie in the Senate, moved a compromise amendment, providing for the admission of Missouri as a slave state and for the prohibition of slavery north of 36° 30’ in the rest of the Louisiana purchase; and on the next day his amendment passed the Senate by a vote of 34 to 10.
The debate in the Senate was marked by another speech of Rufus King, just re-elected a senator from New York by an almost unanimous vote. With this prestige, and the knowledge that the states of Pennsylvania and New York stood behind him, he reiterated his arguments with such power that John Quincy Adams, who listened to the debate, wrote in his diary that "the great slave-holders in the House gnawed their lips and clenched their fists as they heard him.'' 1 The case for the south was best presented ·by William Pinkney, of Maryland, the leader of the American bar, a man of fashion, but an orator of the first rank. His argument, on lines that the
1 Adams, Memoirs, IV., 522; see Cong. Globe, 30 Cong,, 2. Sess., App. 63-67,
debates had made familiar, was stated with such eloquence, force, and graphic power that it produced the effect of a new presentation. Waiving the question whether Congress might refuse admission to a state, he held that, if it were admitted, it was admitted into a union of equals, and hence could not be subjected to any special restriction.1 Without denying the danger of the extension of slavery, he argued that it was not for Congress to stay the course of this dark torrent.' "If you have power," said he, "to restrict the new states on admission, you may squeeze a new-born sovereign state to the size of a pigmy." There would be nothing to hinder Congress "from plundering power after power at the expense of the new states," until they should be left empty shadows of domestic sovereignty, in a union between giants and dwarfs, between power and feebleness. In vivid oratory he conjured up this vision of an unequal union, into which the new state would enter, "shorn of its beams," a mere servant of the majority. From the point of view of the political theory of a confederation, his contention had force, and the hot-tempered west was not likely to submit to an inferior status in the Union. Nevertheless, the debates and votes in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 seem to show that the fathers of the Constitution intended to leave Congress free to impose limitations on the states at admission.2
1 Annals of Cong., 16 Cong., 1 Sess., I., 389 et seq.
2 Elliot, Debates, V., 492.
In the meantime, the House of Representatives was continuing the discussion on the old lines. Although the arguments brought out little that had not been stated in the first Missouri debate, they were restated day after day with an amplitude and a bitterness of feeling that aggravated the hostility between the rival forces. Even under this provocation, most southern members expressed their opinions on the morality and expediency of slavery in language that affords a strange contrast to their later utterances: in almost every case they lamented its existence and demanded its dispersion throughout the west as a means of alleviating their misfortune. Although most of the men who spoke on the point were from the regions where cotton was least cultivated, yet even Reid, of Georgia, likened the south to an unfortunate man who "wears a cancer in his bosom." 1 Tyler of Virginia, afterwards president of the United States, characterized slavery as a dark cloud, and asked, "Will you permit the lightings , of its wrath to break upon the South when by the ; interposition of a wise system of legislation you , may reduce it to a summer's cloud?" 2 John Randolph, the ultra-southerner, was quoted as saying, that all the misfortunes of his life were light in the balance when compared with the single misfortune of having been born a master of staves. In addition to the argument of "mitigation by
1 Annals of Cong., 16 Cong., 1 Sess., L; 1025.
2 Ibid., II., 1391.
diffusion," the south urged the injustice of excluding its citizens from the territories by making it impossible for the southern planter to migrate thither with his property. On the side of the north, it was argued with equal energy that the spread of slaves into the west would inevitably increase their numbers and strengthen the institution. Since free labor was unable to work in the midst of slave labor, northern men would be effectively excluded from the territories which might be given over to slavery. Economic law, it was urged, would make it almost certain that, in order to supply the vast area which Ji it was proposed to devote to slavery, the African slave-trade would be reopened. As the struggle waxed hot, as the arguments brought out with increasing clearness the fundamental differences between the sections, threats of disunion were freely exchanged.1 Even Clay predicted the existence of several new confederacies.2 Nor were the extremists of the north unwilling to accept this alternative. 3 But the danger of southern secession was diminished because Monroe was ready to veto any bill which excluded slavery from Missouri.4
While still engaged in its own debates, the House received the compromise proposal from the Senate. At first the majority remained firm and refused to accept it.1
1 Adams, Memoirs, V., 13, 53; Benton, Abridgment of Debates, XIII., 607.
2 Adams, Memoirs, IV., 526.
3 King, Life and Corresp. of King, VI., 274, 286, 287, 387.
4 Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., App. 67.
March 1, 1820, the House passed its own bill imposing the restriction on Missouri, by a vote of 91 to 82. By the efforts of the compromisers, however, a committee of conference was arranged, which on the very next day resulted in the surrender of the House. The vote on striking out the restriction on Missouri was 90 to 87. New England gave 7 ayes to 33 nays; the middle states, 8 to 46; the south cast 58 votes for striking out, and none against it; the northwest gave all its 8 votes against striking out the restriction; while the 17 southwestern votes were solidly in favor of admitting Missouri as a slave state.
Thus, while the southern phalanx in opposition remained firm, enough members were won over from the northern ranks to defeat the restrictionists. Some of these deserters 2 from the northern cause were influenced by the knowledge that the admission of Maine would fail without this concession; others, by the constitutional argument; others, by the fear of disunion; and still others, by the apprehension that the unity of the Democratic party was menaced by the new sectional alignment, which included among its leaders men who had been prominent in the councils of the Federalists. By the final solution, it was agreed (134 to 42) to admit Missouri.
1 Woodburn, in Am. Hist. Assoc., Report 1893, p. 251-297.
2 See King, Life and Corresp. of King, VI., 29r, 329; Benton, View, I., 10; Adams, Memoirs, V., 15, 307. Randolph applied to them the term "doughfaces."
as a slave state and Maine as a free state; while all of the rest of the territory possessed by the United States west of the Mississippi and north of 36° 30' was pledged to freedom.
Yet the fate of the measure was uncertain, for some of Monroe's southern friends strongly urged him still to veto the compromise. 1 The president submitted to the cabinet the question whether Congress had the right to prohibit slavery in a territory, and whether the section of the Missouri bill which interdicted slavery forever in the territory north of 36° 30' was applicable only to the territorial condition, or also to states made from the territory. John Quincy Adams notes in his diary that "it was unanimously agreed that Congress have the power to prohibit slavery in the Territories"; though he adds that neither Crawford, Calhoun, nor Wirt could find any express power to that effect given in the Constitution.2 In order to avoid the difficulty arising from the fact that Adams alone believed the word "forever" to apply to states as well as territories, the president modified the question so that all would be able to answer that the act was constitutional, leaving each member to construe the section to suit himself.
Although apparently the Missouri struggle was thus brought to a conclusion, it is necessary to take note of two succeeding episodes in the contest,
1 Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., App. 64.
2 Adams, Memoirs, V., 5.
which immediately revived the whole question, embittered the antagonism, threatened the Union, and were settled by new compromises. In her constitution, Missouri not only incorporated guarantees of a slavery system, but also a provision against the admission of free negroes to the state. Application for admission to the Union under this constitution in the fall of 1820 brought on a contest perhaps more heated and more dangerous to the Union than the previous struggle. Holding that Missouri's clause against free negroes infringed the provision of the federal Constitution guaranteeing the rights of citizens of the respective states, northern leaders reopened the whole question by refusing to vote for the admission of Missouri with the obnoxious clause. Again the north revealed its mastery of the House, and the south its control of the Senate, and a deadlock followed. Under the skillful management of Clay, a new compromise was framed, by which Missouri was required, through her legislature, to promise that the objectionable clause should never be construed to authorize the passage of any laws by which any citizen of either of the states of the Union should be excluded from the enjoyment of any of the privileges and immunities to which such citizen was entitled under the Constitution of the United States. This Missouri accepted, but the legislature somewhat contemptuously added that it was without power to bind the state.1
1 Niles' Register, XX., 388, cf. 300.
While this debate was in progress, and the problem of the status of Missouri, which had already established a constitution and claimed to be a state, was under consideration, the question of counting the Missouri vote in the presidential election of 1820 was raised. For this a third compromise was framed by Clay, by which the result of the election was stated as it would be with and without Missouri's vote. Since Monroe had been elected by a vote all but unanimous, the result was in either case the same; this theoretical question, nevertheless, was fraught with dangerous possibilities. Missouri was finally admitted by the proclamation of President Monroe, dated August 10, 1821, more than three years from the first application for statehood.
In a large view of American history, the significance of this great struggle cannot be too highly emphasized. Although the danger passed by and the ocean became placid, yet the storm in many ways changed the coast-line of American politics and broke new channels for the progress of the nation. The future had been revealed to far-sighted statesmen, who realized that this was but the beginning not the end, of the struggle. "This momentous question," wrote Jefferson, "like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. It is hushed, indeed, for the moment. But this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. A geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper." 1
John Quincy Adams relates a contemporaneous conversation with Calhoun, in which the latter1 took the ground that, if a dissolution of the Union should follow, the south would be compelled to form an alliance, offensive and defensive, with Great Britain, though he admitted that it would be returning pretty much to the colonial state. . When Adams, with unconscious prophecy of Sherman's march through Georgia, pressed Calhoun with the question whether the north, cut off from its natural outlet upon the ocean, "would fall back upon its rocks bound hand and foot, to starve, or whether it would not retain its powers of locomotion to move southward by land," Calhoun answered that the southern states would find it necessary to make their communities military.2
To Adams himself the present question was but a "title page to a great tragic volume.'' He believed that, if dissolution of the Union should result from the slavery question, it would be followed by universal emancipation of the slaves, and he was ready to contemplate such a dissolution of the Union, upon a point involving slavery and no other, believing that "the Union might then be reorganized on the fundamental principle of emancipation."
1 Jefferson, Writings (Ford's ed.), X., 157.
2 Adams, Memoirs, IV., 530, 531.
“This object " wrote he, "is vast in its compass, awful in its prospects, sublime and beautiful in its issue. A life devoted to it would be nobly spent or sacrificed." 1 Looking forward to civil war, he declared: “So glorious would be its final issue, that as God shall judge me I do not say that it is not to be desired." 2 But as yet he confided these thoughts to his diary.
The south was far from contented with the compromise, and her leading statesmen, Calhoun especially, came bitterly to regret both the concession in the matter of admitting federal control over slavery in the territories, and the division of the Louisiana purchase into spheres of influence which left to the slave-holding section that small apex of the triangle practically embraced in Arkansas. While the north received an area capable of being organized into many free states, the south could expect from the remaining territory awarded her only one state.
Among the immediate effects of the contest was its influence upon Monroe, who was the more ready to relinquish the American claim to Texas in the negotiations over Florida, because he feared that the acquisition of this southern province would revive the antagonism of the northern antislavery forces.3
The south learned also the lesson that slavery needed defence against the power of the majority,
1 Adams, Memoirs, IV., 531.
2 Ibid., V., 210.
3 Monroe, Writings, VI., 127; cf. Adams, Memoirs, V., 25, 54, 68.
and that it must shape its political doctrine and its policy to this end. But it would be a mistake to emphasize too strongly the immediate effect in this respect. Slavery was not yet accepted as the foundation of southern social and economic life. The institution was still mentioned with regret by southern leaders, and there were still efforts in the border states to put it in the process of extinction. South Carolina leaders were still friendly to national power, and for several years the ruling party in that state deprecated appeals to state sovereignty.1 In the next few years other questions, of an economic and judicial nature, were even more influential, as a direct issue, than the slavery question. But the economic life of the south was based on slavery, and the section became increasingly conscious that the current of national legislation was shaped by the majority against their interests. Their political alliances in the north had failed them in the time of test, and the Missouri question disclosed the possibility of a new organization of parties threatening that southern domination which had swayed the Union for the past twenty years.
The slavery struggle derived its national significance from the west, into which expanding sections carried warring institutions.
1 See chap. xviii. below.
2 Adams, Memoirs, IV., 529; King, Life and Corresp. of King, VI., 501; Jefferson, Writings, X., 175, 193 n.; cf. chap. xi. below; Hart, Slavery and Abolition (Am. Nation, XVI.), chap. xviii.
Source: Turner, Frederick Jackson, Rise of the New West. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 14, 149-171. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.
Chapter: “The Missouri Struggle: The Compromises,” by Wilson, Henry, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.
THE necessities of the West and the permanent interests of the nation required that the United. States; should possess and control the Mississippi River from its sources to the Gulf. The acquisition of Louisiana in 1803, by which that control was obtained, with the full possession of a. vast and fertile territory, was a measure of transcendent importance. Wherever settlements had been made, however, slavery had gained a foothold, and it soon became apparent, that the geographical position and fertile soil of this extensive domain would greatly strengthen the Slave-holders, who had already secured a large if not a commanding influence in the general government. They who believed in the perpetuity of the system, and desired to see it protected and strengthened, enthusiastically welcomed this large addition of territory, with the increased value of their slaves which it promised, and uthe augmentation of political power it foretokened. But far-seeing statesmen in the North, though conceding the national advantages of the purchase, rightly dreaded, as the event proved, its influence on the free institutions of the country. They plainly foresaw that it would intensify the haughty and exacting spirit of the class that had assumed, all too successfully, to direct and give character to the policy of the government.
The Louisiana Purchase was divided by act of Congress into two territories by the thirty-third parallel of latitude. That part which lay south of the parallel was called Orleans, and the part which lay north of it was called Louisiana. When the Territory of Orleans was admitted as a State, in 1812, it was called Louisiana, and the Louisiana Territory received the name of the Missouri Territory.
On the 16th of March, 1818, petitions were presented to the House of Representatives by citizens of Missouri, praying that the Territory might be permitted to form a constitution and be admitted into the Union. These memorials were referred to a select committee, of which Mr. Scott, Territorial Delegate, was chairman. This committee reported a bill on the 3d of April; but no action was taken at that session. At the next session a memorial was received from the Territorial legislature, praying that Missouri might be permitted to form a State constitution; and the House, in February, 1819; proceeded to the consideration of a bill to authorize it to form a constitution and enter the Union.
Mr. Tallmadge of New York offered an amendment providing that all persons born after the admission of the State should be free; and also providing for the gradual emancipation of persons then held as slaves. This amendment led to a sharp and prolonged debate, when Mr. Tallmadge modified his amendment so as to provide that the further introduction of slavery be prohibited, and that all children born within the State after its admission shall be free at the age of twenty-five years. Mr. John W. Taylor of New York, afterward Speaker of the House, maintained that Congress had full power to prohibit the introduction of slavery as a condition of admission, and that it would be wise to use that power. He reminded the opponents of prohibition that they had often disclaimed the sin of the original introduction of slavery, and had thrown it back upon their ancestors. "If they have tried slavery," he said, "and found it a curse; if they desire to dissipate the gloom with which it covers their land, I call upon them to exclude it from the territory in question plant not its seeds in this uncorrupt soil; let not our children, looking back to the proceedings of this day, say of us, as we have been constrained to say of our fathers, ' We wish their decision had been different.' "
Mr. Clay, then Speaker of the House, earnestly opposed the amendment, and emphatically asserted that Congress had no right whatever to prescribe any condition to the newly organized States, but must admit them by a single act, leaving their sovereign rights unrestricted. Mr. Fuller of Massachusetts, a lawyer of eminence, father of Margaret Fuller D'Ossoli, thought the amendment implied nothing more than that the constitution of Missouri should be republican. He maintained with clearness and ability that the exclusion of all colored men from political freedom and making them property was a palpable invasion of right and an utter abandonment of principle and duty.
It was strenuously maintained by Philip P. Barbour of Virginia, afterward Speaker of the House and judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, that Congress had no constitutional right to enact the proposed amendment; and, if it had the power, it would be highly impolitic and unjust to exercise it. This eminent lawyer and jurist, however, expressly admitted that Congress, having the power to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the Territories, had also the power to “establish the principle now proposed “in the embryo State, while it continued to be a Territory.
"An opportunity is now presented," said Mr. Livermore of New Hampshire, "if not to diminish, at least to prevent the growth of a sin that sits heavy on the soul of every one of us, By embracing this opportunity we may retrieve the national character, and in some degree our own. But if we suffer it - to pass unimproved, let us at least be consistent, and declare that our Constitution was made to impose slavery, and not to establish liberty. Let us no longer tell idle tales about the abolition of slavery; away with colonization societies, if their design is only to rid us of free blacks and turbulent slaves. Have done, also, with Bible societies, whose views are extended to Africa and the East Indies, while they overlook the deplorable condition of our sable brethren within our own borders. Make no more laws to prohibit the importation of the slaves, for the world must see that the object of such laws is alone to prohibit the glutting of a prodigious market of the flesh and blood of man, which we are about to establish in the West, and to enhance the price of sturdy wretches, raised like black cattle and horses, on our own plantations, for sale." The amendment was sustained by the Committee of the Whole by a vote of seventy-nine to sixty-seven.
On the 16th of the same month this ear .nest and exciting debate was resumed. Mr. Scott, the delegate from Missouri, spoke at great length against the prohibition of slavery. He talked of the Ides of March, and warned Congress that the amendment was "big with the fate of Caesar and of Rome." Mr. Colston of Virginia was especially excited and violent. He accused Mr. Livermore of speaking to the galleries, and, by his language, of attempting to excite a servile war; and insolently declared that he was " no better than Arbuthnot and Ambrister, and deserved no better fate." During that debate Mr. Cobb of Georgia asserted with much feeling that if the friends of the amendment persisted the Union would be dissolved. ''They were kindling a fire," he said, " which all the waters of the ocean could not extinguish. It could be extinguished only in blood."
The debate was closed by the mover of the amendment in a speech-of great boldness and vigor. In reply to Mr. Cobb he said: “If a dissolution of the Union must take place, let it be so! If civil war, which gentlemen so much threaten, must come, I can only say, Let it come! My hold on life is probably as frail as any man who hears me; but while that life lasts it shall be devoted to the service of my country, to the freedom of man. If blood is necessary to extinguish any fire which I have assisted to kindle, I can assure gentlemen, while I regret the necessity, I shall not forbear to contribute my mite.'' The portion of the amendment forbidding the introduction of slavery was then adopted by a vote of eighty-seven to seventy-six. The second portion of the amendment, by which children born after the admission of the State should be made free at the age of twenty-five, was adopted by eighty-two to seventy-six, and the bill was then passed by ninety-seven to fifty-six.
The Senate, on the 27th of February, struck out of the bill that portion of Mr. Tallmadge's amendment making children free, born after the admission of the State, by thirty-one to seven; and the portion excluding slavery, by twenty-two to sixteen.
The House, by a majority of two, refused to concur with the Senate in striking out the prohibition. The Senate, however, adhering to its amendment, Mr. Taylor moved that the House adhere to its disagreement, and sustained his motion by a vigorous speech, in which he was strongly supported by Mr. Tallmadge, and Mr. Mills of Massachusetts. The House adhered by twelve majority, and the bill was lost.
In the following December Mr. Robertson of Kentucky moved that the House appoint a committee to consider the expediency of establishing a Territorial government over so much of the Missouri Territory as lay south of the parallel of 36° 30'. The committee, being appointed, reported a bill providing a Territorial government for the southern part of the Missouri Territory, to be called the Territory of Arkansas. When it came up for consideration, Mr. Taylor moved the prohibition of slavery in the proposed Territory. This amendment gave rise to a heated debate. Mr. Clay expressed his deep regret at its introduction, and charged its supporters with being under the influence of negrophobia. Mr. Nelson of Virginia charged its friends with fighting behind a masked battery. It was, he thought, an entering wedge to prepare the way for an attack by Congress on the property of masters in their slaves in the several States.
An earnest appeal was made by Mr. Taylor for the inhibition of slavery. Mr. Walker of North Carolina declared if Southern men were prohibited from taking their slaves into the Territory, their " land would be an uncultivated waste, a fruitless soil " ; but if its slaves were freely permitted to go beyond the Mississippi, then " your lands," he said, " will be sold, your soil will be cultivated, and your country will flourish." Louis McLane of Delaware denied the power of Congress to prohibit slavery in the Territories, or to make such prohibition a condition of admitting a State into the Union. He even maintained the extreme position of denying the right of any State to emancipate slaves. He asked: " What would be said of the legislature of the State of Delaware or Maryland, if, by law, they were to declare all the slaves within their limits to be free? Could it be pretended for a moment that they would have any right to do so?"
So much of Mr. Taylor's amendment as prohibited the introduction of slavery was rejected by the close vote of seventy to seventy-one ; but so much as provided that all children born slaves should be free at the age of twenty-five was agreed to by a majority of two. Mr. Williams of North Carolina moved a reconsideration; but his motion failed by the same majority. It was then moved by Mr. Robertson to recommit the bill to a select committee, with instructions to strike out the amendments; and this motion was carried by the casting vote of the Speaker. The committee to whom the bill was recommitted consisted of Robertson of Kentucky, Silsbee and Mills of Massachusetts, Burwell of Virginia, and Lowndes of South Carolina. Thus Mr. Clay, who had been in favor of excluding slavery from Kentucky, and who professed to believe " slavery to be a wrong, a grievous wrong, no contingency can make right," not only secured this recommitment by his casting vote, but constituted the committee hostile to the humane provisions of the amendment. This action reveals and illustrates the sacrifices of principle and of conscience which the aspiring public men of the nation have been compelled to make, in order to secure the favor and support of the exacting and dominating Power which so long and so completely dictated what the policy and who the rulers of the nation should be.
The committee reported in favor of striking out the amendment; but the House, by a majority of two, voted to sustain it. It was then moved by Mr. Taylor that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude should be introduced into the Territory. This amendment was supported by Mr. Pitkin of Connecticut, and opposed by Mr. Whitman of Massachusetts, who had voted for the prohibition of slavery in Missouri·. It was lost, however, by a vote of eighty-six to ninety. It was then proposed by Mr. Taylor to prohibit slavery in all the territory north of 36° 30’; but after an excited debate he withdrew his proposition, and the bill passed without any restriction. When it came up for consideration in the senate, Mr. Roberts of Pennsylvania moved to prohibit slavery. His amendment was defeated by a majority of five, and Arkansas became a slave-holdiug Territory, and the South again triumphed.
The XVIth Congress met on the 6th of December, 1819. On motion of Mr. Scott, the memorials in favor of the admission of Missouri as a State were referred to a select committee, consisting of himself, Robertson of Kentucky, Terrill of Georgia, Strother of Virginia, and De Witt of New York, one member only being from the free States. On the 9th Mr. Scott reported a bill for its admission on an equal footing with the original States.
In the Senate the memorial of the Territorial legislature of Missouri was referred to the Judiciary Committee, of which, Mr. Smith of South Carolina was chairman. This committee reported the House bill for the admission of Maine, with an amendment authorizing the people of Missouri to form a State constitution. The bill coming up for consideration, Mr. Roberts of Pennsylvania moved to recommit it, with instructions to leave out the amendment. This motion was supported by Mellen and Otis of Massachusetts, Burrill of Rhode Island, Dana of Connecticut, and opposed by Smith of South Carolina and Lloyd of Maryland, but was lost by a majority of seven.
The consideration of the bill was resumed in the Senate, and Mr. Roberts moved to amend it by the provision that the introduction of slavery should be absolutely and irrevocably prohibited, supporting his amendment in a very able and forcible speech. Mr. Elliot of Georgia, however, declared the contemplated restriction to be “unauthorized by the Constitution, in contravention of a solemn treaty; and opposed by the suggestions of sound policy." Mr. Lowrie of Pennsylvania said, if the alternative, as intimated by the opponents of slavery restriction, were a dissolution of the Union or the extension of slavery over the whole Western territory, "I will choose the former, though the choice is one that fills my mind with horror." The proposition was advocated by Morrill of New Hampshire, Mellen of Massachusetts, and Burrill of Rhode Island; and opposed by Walker of Georgia, Macon of North Carolina, and Pinkney of Maryland.
Mr. Otis of Massachusetts, though he had voted for the admission of Missouri at the previous session, now made a most earnest and eloquent speech in favor of prohibition closing with the declaration that he was " unable to agree to any measure which should counteract the spirit of the age by increasing the mischief of slavery to a degree boundless in extent and perpetual in duration, and to entail on posterity a scourge for which we reproach the memory of our ancestors." Mr. Ruggles of Ohio declared, in the same strain, that “this day's legislation is not to perish with us, -it is to endure for centuries. The people of Missouri fifty years hence will trace, not to a British king, not to a corrupt British Parliament, but to Congress, the evils of slavery."
On the other hand, with equal if not greater positiveness and feeling, Southern members opposed the amendment. Mr. Smith of South Carolina characterized the efforts against the extension of slavery as “the misguided influences of fanaticism and humanity." Mr. Van Dyke of Delaware, though his State had adopted resolutions in favor of the restriction, now' made a constitutional argument against the amendment. Mr. James Barbour of Virginia, afterward Secretary of War, and Minister to England under the administration of John Quincy Adams, spoke at great length against the restriction. Though, like most of the Virginia statesmen of that day, admitting that slavery was mixed with good and evil, --the latter greatly predominating, -- he charged that the advocates of restriction were violating the Constitution, trampling underfoot the plighted faith of the nation, inflicting an immeasurable act of injustice of one half of the country, and laying the foundation of' an incurable hatred. Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky, afterward Vice-President of the United States, declared that “the friends of prohibition would check the progress of humanity, tighten the bands of the captive, prolong the time of slavery, and augment its evils, excite every discordant passion of the soul, and produce jargon, animosity, and strife." The vote was then taken on Mr. Roberts's amendment prohibiting slavery in Missouri and it was defeated by nine majority.
During the debate Rufus King, who had again entered the Senate from New York, made two elaborate and powerful speeches in favor of the inhibition of slavery in the new States. They were regarded as the fullest, most thorough, and exhaustive presentations made in that debate. John Quincy Adams, who heard them, said that he unraveled with ingenious and subtle analysis many sophistical tissues of the slaveholders, and laid down the position of the natural liberty of man, and its incompatibility with slavery; and that the great slaveholders gnawed their lips and clenched their fists as they heard him. William Pinkney, the distinguished Maryland lawyer and orator,-who had declared, thirty years before, that " if slavery continues fifty years longer its effects will be seen in the decline of the spirit of liberty in the free States," addressed the Senate for three hours, in a speech of great eloquence and power, against its prohibition in Missouri.
The Senate having by a majority of two voted to join Maine and Missouri in the same bill, Mr. Thomas of Illinois moved an amendment providing that in all the country ceded by France to the United States north of 36° 30' there should be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude. Mr. Trimble moved to amend the amendment by excluding slavery from all the territory west of the Mississippi River, excepting Louisiana; Arkansas, and Missouri; but it was rejected. Mr. Thomas's amendment was adopted by a decided majority, and the bill was passed by a vote of twenty-four to twenty.
The bill was taken up in the House on the 26th of January, and Mr. Storrs moved to amend it so as to prohibit slavery north of the parallel of 38° west of the Mississippi. Mr. Taylor, moving, as an amendment, that there should be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the State, made an elaborate argument in its support. He was immediately followed by Mr. Holmes, who, though a representative from Massachusetts, was found willing to lead off in the opposition. He declared, if he was reduced to the alternative of holding slaves in Missouri or violating the Constitution of his country, he would not permit “a doubt to cloud his choice." Thus was opened that remarkable debate in the popular branch of Congress which, estimated by the test of substantial ability or of wide-spread and far-reaching results, finds few equals in the legislative history of the nation.
Freedom found worthy representatives and advocates. Pennsylvania, true to her then proud and traditional pre-eminence, spoke manly words through the distinguished representative and lawyer of Philadelphia, John Sergeant, who said that he was not afraid of what is called popular excitement. Believing that all history teaches that revolutions are not the work of men, but of time and circumstances, he said; “Nothing can present a more frightful indication than public indifference to such a question as this. It is not by rigorously maintaining great moral and political principles in their purity that we incur danger." "Let the standard of freedom," he said, " be planted in Missouri by the hands of the Constitution, and let its banner wave over the heads of none but freemen, --men retaining the image impressed upon them by their Creator, and dependent upon none but God and the laws. Then, as our republican States extend, republican principles will go hand in hand with republican practice, the love of liberty with the sense of justice." ·
Mr. Hemphill, also of Pennsylvania, made a learned ·and exhaustive argument in favor of Mr. Taylor's amendment. Mr. Cook of Illinois believed the measure had originated in the best and noblest motives, -motives dictated by humanity and the well-being of the nation. Though opposing the popular feeling of Missouri, he said: “I believe, if the voice of futurity could be heard, I should receive her approbation and her gratitude. She might come from the wilderness, with her locks wet with the dews of the night, and knock at your door for admittance till she falls with weakness; and, unless she comes in the white robes of freedom and a pledge against the future evils of slavery, with my consent she will not be admitted."
On the other hand, Slavery put forth her strong men to plead her cause and dragoon the government into submission 1o her haughty behests. Of course Mr. Clay's clarion voice was heard loudest in the din of strife, summoning his countrymen, in the sacred name of patriotic devotion to the nation, to follow his lead, as he consecrated talents, position, and influence at the shrine of the exacting Power that claimed the cruel sacrifice. He spoke for four hours against the expediency and right of restriction. Mr. McLane of Delaware spoke in the same strain. Mr. Reid of Georgia declared that the welfare and security of the citizens forbade emancipation; though he would hail the day as the most glorious in its dawning which should behold, with safety to its white citizens, the black population placed on the high elevation of equal rights and clothed with the privileges of American citizens.
Mr. Hardin of Kentucky accused the advocates of prohibition of fighting under false colors. “It would be more magnanimous," he said, '' to haul down the colors on which are engraven humanity, morality, and religion, and unfurl the genuine banner, on which is written a contest for political consequence and mastery." General Smythe of Virginia, whose speeches were more remarkable for length and dulness than for other qualities, declared that he would not apologize for the length of his speech on that occasion; for he had spoken " to preserve our citizens from massacre, our wives and daughters from violation, and our children from being impaled by the most inhuman of savages."
John Tyler, afterward President of the United States, always a pliant instrument of the Slave Power, and a rebel in the late rebellion, appealed to the Northern republicans to pause and remember that their triumph was to be over their firm and steadfast friends of the South. He maintained that slaves were guaranteed as property in the Constitution. Northern gentlemen, he said, should “not forget themselves. Rail at slavery as much as you please. I point you to the Constitution, and say to you that you have not only acknowledged our right to this species of property, but you have gone much further and have bound yourselves to rivet the chains of the slave." He told the friends of prohibition that they might return to their constituents and receive votes of thanks; but, instead of blessings, the deepest curses of posterity would be uttered against their destructive policy.
In the midst of the debate, which had run for nearly a month, the House bill for the admission of Maine was returned, with an amendment authorizing the people of Missouri to form a State government. Mr. Taylor moved that the House disagree, while Mr. Scott moved that it be referred to the committee of the whole, which had under consideration the Missouri bill. After a brief debate, Mr. Scott's amendment was rejected by a decisive majority. The House resuming the consideration of the Maine and Missouri bill, John Randolph made a long speech against the Senate's amendment excluding slavery north of 36° 30'. The next day the House disagreed to the Senate's amendment uniting the bills for the admission of Maine and Missouri, while so much of the amendment as prohibited slavery from territory north of 36° 30' was disagreed to, and the debate was resumed.
Mr. Plummer of New Hampshire, in reply to Mr. Clay, who had warned the men of New England not to intrude upon him their New England notions, declared that those notions were liberty, equality, and the rights of man. "These are the notions," he said, " which we must cast aside when we leave our happy homes, and which, if by chance they find their way into this hall, are to be repelled with the charge of fanaticism, folly, and negrophobia. Sir, if there be any madness in this case, it is the madness of those who hug slavery to their bosoms. If there be any infatuation, it is the infatuation of those who are willing to dissolve the Union rather than not extend this pestiferous institution beyond the Mississippi." Mr. Fuller of Massachusetts said, if Missouri would be strong in war, let her invite only freemen, who will defend their families and their freedom; “not slaves, who can seek their own happiness only by withering the arm that holds them in bondage."
On the 28th of February it was announced to the House that the Senate insisted on its amendment; when, on motion of Mr. Taylor, it was voted to adhere to its disagreement by a majority of twenty one. Proceeding to the consideration of the bill, the House rejected Mr. Storrs's amendment excluding slavery from territory north of 36° 30'. Mr. Allen of Massachusetts moved to amend the bill by striking out the word “white," so as to extend the privilege of voting to all male citizens, supporting his amendment by a speech of some length. His amendment, however, received only his own vote. Both Mr. Clay and Mr. Storrs sought such a modification of Mr. Taylor's amendment, already adopted, as to make it a mere recommendation. 'Though they supported their proposition with great earnestness, it failed of receiving the sanction of the House. On the next day Mr. Storrs moved his amendment, providing that Mr. Taylor's amendment should be offered for the free acceptance or rejection of Missouri; but it was rejected. Mr. Taylor's amendment was then agreed to by eight majority; the bill was ordered to a third reading, and on the 1st of March it was passed by a vote of ninety-one to eighty-two.
On the same day the House agreed to a conference, asked for by the Senate, on the bill for the admission of the State of Maine. The Senate appointed on the Committee of Conference Thomas of Illinois, Pinkney of Maryland, and Barbour of Virginia. The House added Holmes and Parker of Massachusetts, Taylor of New York, Lowndes of South Carolina, and Kinsey of New Jersey.
The next day the Missouri bill was taken up in the Senate, and, on motion of Mr. Barbour, so much of the bill as prohibited slavery was stricken out by twenty-seven to fifteen. Mr. Thomas moved to amend the bill by adding a section excluding slavery north of 36° 30'. Mr. Trimble moved to amend that amendment by prohibiting slavery in all territory ceded by France, excepting Louisiana, Missouri, and Arkansas. His motion, however, received only twelve votes, and the amendment of Mr. Thomas was adopted.
On the same day Mr. Holmes, from the committee of conference, reported to the House that the Senate secede from its amendment to the bill for the admission of Maine; and that the House strike out from the bill authorizing the people of Missouri to form a constitution the prohibition of slavery, and insert the inhibition of slavery in all the territories ceded by France north of the parallel of 36° 30'. The report was laid upon the table, and the House proceeded to the consideration of the Senate's amendments to the Missouri bill. The question was so divided as to be first taken on striking out the prohibition of slavery in that State. Mr. Lowndes spoke briefly in support of the compromise recommended by the committee of conference. He declared that its adoption would restore tranquility to the country, -a result demanded by every consideration of discretion, of moderation, of wisdom, and of virtue. Mr. Holmes of Massachusetts spoke for the compromise, and Mr. Adams of the same State against it. Kinsey of New Jersey, Stevens of Connecticut, and Mercer of Virginia earnestly advocated the compromise. On the question of striking out the restriction the vote stood yeas ninety, nays eighty seven; not a single member from the slave States voting for prohibition, and fourteen members from the free States voting against it. Though the legislatures of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania had adopted resolutions in favor of such prohibition, seven members from those States recorded their votes against the sentiments embodied in them. New England, too, furnished several representatives who thus proved, themselves false to the claims of humanity, the rights of man, and the permanent interests of the country. The motion to concur with the Senate in inserting in the bill the clause inhibiting slavery in the territory acquired from France north of 36° 30' was then agreed to by a vote of one hundred and thirty-four to forty-two.
Throughout the long struggle the President and his cabinet had manifested the deepest interest. On the passage of the bill he submitted to them the question: “Has Congress the constitutional power to prohibit slavery in a Territory?” To this question an affirmative answer was given, though all but Mr. Adams were of the opinion that the word "forever " in the prohibitory clause did not interfere with the right of any State that might be organized from that territory to prohibit or establish slavery. Having received from all the members of his cabinet the opinion that the proviso forever prohibiting slavery north of the parallel of 36° 30' was constitutional, President Monroe affixed his signature to the bill.
The victory of the Slave Power was now complete; slavery was fastened upon the Territory of Arkansas and the new State of Missouri; and the dark cloud, surcharged with its numberless wrongs and woes, rolled heavily across the Mississippi. Under the skillful lead of her distinguished sons and champions, in both the legislative and executive departments of government?, the slaveholding South imposed upon the country, t1ms basely betrayed and subdued, another compromise, --a compromise, however, to be kept only so long as the interests of the vile and false system which exacted it could be promoted by it; then to be ruthlessly broken and treated as a thing of naught.
This Missouri struggle, which so aroused and called into action the vital forces of freedom and slavery, demonstrated the startling fact that the race of Southern statesmen who believed slavery to be a temporary evil, to be abolished at some future time and in some yet unforeseen way, had passed away. It revealed a new class, who had learned either to believe that it was" a positive good," or so to “conquer their prejudices" as to subordinate their convictions to the assumed necessities of the system and the intolera1rt demands of that rapidly increasing power. President Monroe, who believed that slavery “preyed on the vitals" of the State which tolerated it, opposed the Missouri restriction. Several of his Cabinet actively labored to defeat it. Even John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State, favored the Missouri Compromise, “believing it to be," he said,” all that could be effected under the present Constitution, and from extreme unwillingness to put the Union in hazard." He stated that “the impression produced on his mind by the progress of the discussion was, that the bargain between freedom and slavery contained in the Constitution of the United States was morally and politically inconsistent with the principles on which alone our Revolution could be justified; cruel and oppressive by riveting the chains of slavery, by pledging the faith of freedom to maintain ·and perpetuate the tyranny of the master; and grossly unequal and impolitic by admitting that slaves are at once enemies to be kept in subjection, property to be secured and returned to its owners, and persons not to be represented themselves, but for whom their 'masters are privileged with nearly a double share of representation. The consequence has been that this slave representation has governed the Union. Benjamin's portion above his brethren has ravened as a wolf. In the morning he has devoured the prey, and in the evening has divided the spoil."
Mr. Jefferson, who was the father of the party then in power, wielding a potential influence in its councils, though he had once prepared a plan for the prohibition of slavery which was designed to secure to freedom all the territory from the Lakes to the Gulf, became alarmed and shrunk appalled before the fury of the strife, declaring that it fell upon his ear " like the fire-bell at midnight." He, too, yielded to the pressure, and condemned the men who were battling for the very principles he had himself so grandly enunciated and ably defended. Mr. Madison, also, the calm and judicious statesman who would not allow the word " slave" to desecrate the Constitution, trembled for the fate of the Union, menaced by the madness of the slave-masters, and threw the weight of his great name in favor of a policy which would subject Missouri to the same influences which had so sadly blighted and despoiled his once proud commonwealth.
Never before had the antislavery sentiment of the North ·been so quickened and aroused. Popular meetings were holden, in which Federalists and Democrats enthusiastically and cordially united. Public addresses were made, and petitions and memorials were sent to Congress. The citizens of Boston assembled and voted to memorialize Congress to restrain the increase of s1avery in new States to be admitted into the Union. This memorial, drawn up by Daniel Webster, set forth that" the happiness of unborn millions was at issue"; that the admission of slavery into a new country encouraged "rapacity, fraud, and violence," tarnished "the proud fame of the country," ,and rendered questionable ail " professions of regard for the rights of humanity or the liberties of mankind." This calm and dignified paper, in which the issues were put with great discrimination and emphasis, closed with this manly and earnest appeal : "As inhabitants of a free country, as citizens of a great and rising republic, as members of a Christian community, as living in a liberal and enlightened age, and as feeling ourselves called upon by the dictates of religion and humanity, we have presumed to offer our sentiments to Congress on this question with a solitude for, the event far beyond what a common occasion could inspire."
These sentiments, so strongly and eloquently expressed, were entertained with singular unanimity, not alone by the people of Massachusetts, but by the people of New England and of the entire North. The legislatures of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ohio, and Indiana passed resolutions affirming the power and duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in the States to be carved out of Western territory. These resolutions, adopted with little opposition, were based upon the indestructible principles of humanity, justice, and liberty. The legislature of Pennsylvania, without a dissenting vote, supported the humane and enlightened policy of prohibiting slavery in Missouri. Their resolutions proclaimed with emphasis that " they are persuaded that to open the fertile regions of the West to a servile race would tend to increase their numbers beyond all past example, would open a new and steady market for the lawless venders of human flesh, and render all schemes for obliterating this foul blot upon the American character useless and unavailing." They denounced the attempt to bring Missouri into the Union as a slaveholding State as a measure "to spread the crimes and cruelties of slavery from the banks of the Mississippi to the shores of the Pacific." And they invoked the several States, "by the duty they owe to the Deity, by the veneration which they entertain for the memories of the founders of the Republic, and by a tender regard for posterity, to protest against its adoption, to refuse to covenant with crime, and to limit the range of an evil that already hangs in awful boding over so large a portion of the Union Nor was the South less united and determined. Its leaders were, indeed, more persistent and adroit. Compact in organization, united in purpose and plan, in full possession of the government, and, as might be expected in support of such a crime against nature and religion, not over-scrupulous, they found means to alarm and persuade, if not to corrupt, Northern men to betray their section, blight the hopes of their people, and sacrifice the, permanent interests of the whole country. Mortified at their betrayal, aggrieved at their defeat, and apprehensive in view of these demonstrations of slaveholding power, the more thoughtful Northern men began to comprehend more clearly the radical incompatibility between slave and free institutions. Governor Wolcott of Connecticut, in his address to the legislature of that State, thus expressed the growing conviction: "It cannot have escaped your attention that a diversity of habits and principles of government exist in this country; and I think it is evident that slavery is gradually forming those distinctions which, according to invariable laws of human action, constitute the characteristic difference between aristocratical and democratical institutions." These differences, wrought by slavery, in the ideas, social life, and institutions of the North and South, so distinctly revealed in the Missouri struggle, continued, in their development, to become more and more antagonistic and divergent, until, after the conflicts of forty years, the two systems grappled in the bloody struggle of civil war.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 135-152.
Chapter: “Admission of Missouri: Attempt to Introduce Slavery into Illinois,” by Wilson, Henry, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:
This action of Congress having left Missouri free to establish, guard, and perpetuate the slave system, the convention framing the Constitution not only established slavery, but provided in that instrument that it should be the duty of the general assembly, as soon as might be, to pass such laws as were necessary to prevent free negroes or mulattoes on any pretext whatever from coming into or settling in the State. Elated by their great triumph its framers proposed the violation, not only of the common principles of humanity, but of the rights of citizenship, as guaranteed by the Constitution, of the United States.
The second session of the XVI. Congress convened on the 13th of November, 1820. The next day the President sent to the Senate a copy of the constitution of Missouri. It was referred to a select committee, of which Mr. Smith of South Carolina was chairman. On the 29th the committee reported a resolution for the admission of Missouri. The chairman stated that the constitution was republican in form, and he trusted it would at once be acted upon, and the members of the new State promptly admitted to the national councils. Mr. Eaton of Tennessee moved that its consideration be postponed, in order that he might examine it, to see if it were conformable in all respects with the Constitution of the United States. He suggested that "there were controverted points in it." Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky did not object to the postponement. "The question,'' he said, "swallows up, in fact, every other; and, until it is settled, we cannot go on with the ordinary business of the session." It was remarked by Mr. Barbour of Virginia that he had supposed the question had been decided at the last session. So fully persuaded was he of the fact that he had supposed that “accursed would be the hand that would again open this fountain of bitter waters." The motion prevailed, and the question came up again on the 6th of December. Although Mr. Barbour suggested that the mind of every senator was fully made up, and the question could be decided without debate, "the controverted points” in the constitution were at once revealed.
Mr. Eaton moved to add a proviso that " nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to give the assent of Congress to any provision of the constitution of Missouri, if any such there be, that contravenes the clause in the Constitution of the United States which declares that ' the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several States.'" A proviso was then moved by Mr. Wilson of New Jersey, referring specifically to the objectionable clause in the constitution of Missouri; but it received the votes of only nine members. Mr. Eaton's proviso was then lost.
Mr. Burrill of Rhode Island, a dissenting member of the committee, then addressed the Senate. He was a ripe scholar and an eminent lawyer, by whose early death his State and the nation sustained a serious loss. Speaking with clearness and precision, he maintained that the act admitting Missouri was in the nature of a contract between the United States and the people of Missouri; and it was competent for Congress, and it was its duty, to see if that contract had been faithfully fulfilled. Referring to the obnoxious clause, he said he conceived it to be “entirely repugnant to the Constitution of the United States. In Massachusetts there is no distinction of color, and all possess precisely the same rights. Can it be possible for Missouri, consistently with the Constitution, to exclude any of those citizens of Massachusetts from the State. The States of this Union are not independent nations. When they framed the Constitution they used the language ' We, the people.' Sanction this improper clause now, and you sanction it for all time to come; and, however we may desire hereafter to avoid it, it will be irrevocably fixed."
Mr. Smith, chairman of the committee, followed in an elaborate speech of great length. “The history of the ancient world,'' he said,” affords no precedent. As no example is found in the history of any other nation, and this being the first time when this question has occurred in our own government, whether free negroes and mulattoes are citizens, we must ascertain their status from the Constitution of the United States and the State constitutions. They furnish a mass of evidence, which none but a sceptic can doubt, that they have been considered a part of the body politic neither by the general government nor the State governments." Of the self -evident truths of the Declaration of Independence, he significantly asked: “If this were a declaration of independence for the blacks as well as the whites, why did you not all emancipate your slaves at once and let them join you in the war?” Referring to the naturalization laws, he maintained that they were for white persons only. He showed that in several of the free States white inhabitants only were allowed political privileges. By a full and mortifying recital of national as well as State legislation, he was able to show how strangely and cruelly the nation had discriminated for the whites and against the blacks. He closed by presenting a tabular statement, procured from the custom-house in Charleston, South Carolina, of the names of all the vessels, and their owners, which had entered that port during the four years ending in 1807. From that statement it appeared that citizens of Rhode Island had imported eight thousand slaves,-one fifth of all which had been brought into the country; "thus showing,'' he said," that those people who most deprecate the evils of slavery and the traffic for human flesh can sell human flesh with an easy conscience when a profitable market can be found."
John Holmes of Maine, who had, as representative, from Massachusetts, at the preceding session, labored so efficiently to defeat prohibition in Missouri and to compromise the rights of freemen now made a specious argument, in which he maintained that Missouri had not impaired her claim for admission by prohibiting the entrance of free negroes and. mulattoes. Asserting that States might enact laws, against paupers and vagabonds, he alleged that it was safe to assume that manumitted slaves would become such. He also maintained that free negroes and mulattoes were not citizens within the meaning and intent of the Constitution, and contended that no one could be a citizen unless he had not agency in the formation and administration of the laws; that free negroes and mulattoes had not that agency, and therefore were not citizens; and hence their exclusion by Missouri was not an infraction of the Constitution.
Mr. Otis of Massachusetts replied in a speech of great elegance and force. To Mr. Holmes's definition of citizenship and argument thereon he replied that if an unjust State government might " create odious and other· distinctions between its privileged and other classes,"' that certainly could not divest them of "the right of protection in life, liberty, and property, of residence, and inheritable blood." The resolution after further debate, was passed by eight majority.
In the House of Representatives Mr. Scott, early in the session, presented the constitution of Missouri, which was referred to a select committee, of which Mr. Lownd.es of South Carolina was chairman. A report was promptly made ill favor of its admission as a State. It was the subject of continuous debate for several days. Mr. Sergeant of Pennsylvania made a very able speech in opposition to its adoption. Referring to the clause of the Constitution giving to the citizens of one State the privileges and immunities of citizens in other States, he declared his inability to see how that could be constitutional which forbade a citizen of Massachusetts” to set his foot in the State of Missouri." The simple privilege of locomotion is all that is asked for now; and surely that it must be one of the privileges and immunities of citizenship. This learned lawyer and able and upright statesman said unequivocally that this clause of the constitution of Missouri respecting free people of color was " a plain and palpable infraction of the Constitution of the United States "; that the plain course, then, was not to receive the constitution"; and that it was "the duty of this House to reject it.''
Mr. Storrs of New York who had steadily voted, at the previous session, against the restriction of slavery in Missouri; avowed it to be his intention to vote against the admission of that State, because her constitution was repugnant to the Constitution of the United States. He made a learned and able speech, in which he maintained that the clause in the Constitution which secured to the citize1is of each State the privileges and immunities of the citizens of the several States is " laid deep in the structure of the government," " is capable of no construction which does not plainly denote the universality of its operation and its uniform application to individual right throughout every portion of the nation." The same sentiments were maintained by Mr. Hemphill of Pennsylvania and Mr. Mallory of Vermont.
These views were combated by Lowndes, by Philip P. Barbour and Archer of Virginia, and by McLane of Delaware, in elaborate but specious arguments. Mr. Barbour considered free persons of color as a nondescript class. In some States they have some civil rights, in others none; in some States they have some political rights, in others none. Mr. Lowndes: said: "No federal privileges had been conferred upon that degraded caste of our population, rejected as they were in every State from social and political privileges, either by the protection of law or the feelings of society."
Mr. Cook of Illinois made the point, that Congress, in co1isideration of military services; had granted land bounties for lands in Missouri1 some of which had been received by free people of color. They had thus acquired a foe simple of the soil. These rights even the United States could not take away or infringe; and yet Missouri, a subordinate power, proposed virtually to do that very thing. This encroachment he pronounced "both unjustifiable and unconstitutional."
The debate was brought to a close on the 13th of December, and the resolution of admission was rejected by a majority of fourteen. This result produced much excitement. Mr. Lowndes immediately arose and said, with deep feeling: “I do not wish to be disrespectful to a majority of the House; but I feel it my duty to call on them, having rejected the resolution proposed by a committee of their appointment, to devise and propose the means necessary to protect the Territory." The deep emotion exhibited by Mr. Lowndes, one of the ablest and certainly one of the most courteous and moderate of Southern statesmen, was fully shared by the representatives and people of the slaveholding States, who, with like' feelings, were less choice and courteous in their modes of expression.
In the latter part of January Mr. Eustis of Massachusetts proposed that Missouri should be admitted on condition that she should expunge from her constitution the clause discriminating against free people of color. After various motions the proposition was rejected by a vote approaching unanimity. Mr. Clay, who had been absent during the first weeks of the session, then immediately arose ·and gave notice that he should move to take up the Senate resolution. On the 29th he made the promised motion, and supported it in an earnest and powerful argument, in which he denied that there was any repugnance between the clauses so often referred to in the constitutions of the United States and of Missouri.
An amendment was then offered by Mr. Foote of Connecticut, providing that Missouri should be admitted on condition that she should expunge the objectionable clause. This amendment, after various motions and modifications, was rejected by a decided majority. Other amendments were offered, and the debate ranged over the general subjects of the evils of slavery, the rights of the South, the balance of power, and the obligations and value of the Union. When the several amendments which had been offered and debated were rejected, Mr. Clay moved that the Senate resolution should be referred to a select committee of thirteen. This motion was agreed to; the committee was appointed, and he was made its chairman.
The committee made an early report. Referring to the conflicting views entertained .by members, this report declared that the committee thought it best that, without either side abandoning its opinion, an endeavor should be made to frame an amendment to the Senate resolution, which, without compromising either, should guard and guarantee the rights of both. The gist of the resolution was contained in a fundamental condition and two provisos. It declared that " the said State shall never pass any law preventing any description of persons from going to and settling in the said State who now are or may become citizens of any State of the Union; provided that the State, by solemn public act, shall declare its assent to this fundamental condition, and provided that this act shall not be so construed as to take from Missouri any right or power exercised by any of the original States." After exciting debates and various proposed amendments, the resolution was brought to a vote, and rejected by eighty yeas to eighty-three nays. This vote was strangely significant of the state of public sentiment, and the almost even balance of parties in that excited contest. Thus the report of the select committee was at first rejected in the committee of the whole, then accepted by the House, then rejected on the third reading, reconsidered, and then finally defeated by six majority.
During this close and desperate struggle several earnest and powerful speeches were made. Among them was one by Charles Pinckney. Referring to the fact that he was a member of the convention that framed the Constitution of the United States, he avowed that "the article on which so much stress is laid, and on the meaning of which the whole of the question is made to turn, and which is in these words, The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities in every State, having been made by me, it is supposed I must know or perfectly recollect what I meant by it. In answer, I say that at the time I drew the clause of the Constitution I knew that there did not then exist such a thing in the Union as a black or colored citizen; nor could I then have conceived it possible such a thing could ever have existed in it; nor do I how believe one does exist in it.'' In defence of this explicit statement he proceeded to define what constituted it citizen in his own State, in which the black man was certainly not so regarded. He then charged upon the North, upon the New England States, even; that the black man was not so regarded after the abolition of slavery there. Referring to the cruel laws and practices of the free States he maintained that, so far from treating free co1ored persons as citizens, the people of those States deemed any admixture of blood or any connection with them to be a disgrace.
This second defeat of the prop6sition for the admission of Missouri deepened and intensified the sectional feeling in Congress and in the country. Mr. Brown of Kentucky sought by resolution to repeal the slavery restriction embodied in the Missouri Compromise of the preceding session. He made an elaborate speech in support of his proposition; but it was defeated by a decisive vote.
On the 22d of February Mr. Olay made another effort to semi.re the admission of Missouri by moving for the appointment of a joint special committee of the two Houses to consider the subject and report wh1tt action can be taken or agreed upon concerning it. After an hour's debate the motion was agreed to, and a committee of twenty three on the part of the House was chosen: by ballot. The Senate concurred in the vote by a large majority, and chose seven men, at the head of whom was John Holmes of Maine. The joint committee reported a resolution, which its chairman, Mr. Clay, considered its being the same in effect as that reported by the committee of thirteen. It was very briefly considered, the previous question was moved-, and the bill passed by a majority of six. The resolutioi1 was sent to the Senate, and passed by the decided vote of twenty-eight to fourteen. Thus the determined purpose, persistency, and tact of the Slave Power, sustained by the active influences of the President and his cabinet, again triumphed.
The legislature of Missouri promptly complied with the conditions of the compromise, Which required that the fourth clause of the twenty-sixth section of the third article of the constitution submitted on the part of said State to Congress shall never be construed to authorize the passage: of any law, and that no law shall be passed in conformity the veto, by which any citizen of either of the States in this Union: shall be excluded from the enjoyment of any of the privileges and immunities to which such citizen is entitled under the Constitution of the United States.''
Thus was closed the Missouri controversy, which lasted more than two years, and which had stirred the country to its profoundest depths. The debates were earnest, able, and often eloquent. Seldom has any question drawn out a debate in Congress so elaborate arid exhaustive. Not only were the conflicting principles of freedom and slavery at issue, and the interests of the two sections at stake ; but the passions, prejudices, and pride of both sides were thoroughly aroused. The personal and pecuniary interests of the Southern members and those they represented were immediately and seriously involved. The South was a unit. Her representatives were therefore impelled to put forth the most strenuous efforts. In that great struggle it was admitted that slavery, rather than freedom, commanded the services not only of the most earnest but of the most eloquent debaters of both Houses, and of statesmen of the largest experience and most commanding influence in the country.
During this Missouri struggle a conspiracy was formed to make Illinois a slave State. Both of her Senators were natives of the South, and they had pertinaciously opposed the prohibition of slavery in Missouri, while her Representative was its earnest and eloquent advocate. A majority of its settler’s at that time unquestionably approved of the action of their Senators. Illinois had been largely settled by emigrants from the South, who carried with them their love of slavery and their unreasoning prejudices against free negroes. In 1807 the Territorial legislature of Indiana made it lawful for any owner or possessor of any negroes or mulattoes above fifteen years of age to bring them into that Territory, which then included the present State of Illinois. Within thirty days he was required to take such negro before the clerk of the county court and enter into an. agreement· with the latter by which he was to serve him a given number of years. If the negro refused to enter into such an agreement, he was to be taken back within sixty days to the place from which he came. This act provided, further, that any owner or possessor of negroes under fifteen years of age was authorized to hold the males till they were thirty-five, and the females until they were thirty-two years of age, "to service and labor." It also provided that the children born of these registered servants should be held to like service, the males till they were thirty years and the females till they were twenty-eight years of age. When Illinois became a Territory it reaffirmed these laws. By their inhuman provisions Southern masters could take their slaves into this Territory, and compel them to enter into contracts to serve them a number of years, exceeding their natural lives, or be sent back to perpetual servitude. Their children under fifteen years of age and those born after entering the Territory were also doomed to the same service for a period of years. This was practically involuntary servitude, and in direct violation of the ordinance of 1787. Such was the public sentiment, and so great were the difficulties in the way of asserting their rights, that many negroes were held in a bondage as severe as any that prevailed in the Southern States.
By the constitution of Illinois, adopted in 1818, suffrage was limited to free white persons; the introduction of slavery was forbidden, and it was provided that no contracts should be made for a longer period than one year. It provided, however, that all preceding contracts should be valid; but it required that the children of such registered servants should become free at the lawful age. On the admission of the State the legislature had hastened to enact a code of black laws, most of which were taken from the slave codes of Virginia and Kentucky, from which States most of the settlers had emigrated. Fines were imposed upon persons bringing negroes into the State; and negroes found without certificates of freedom were doomed to be sold into slavery for one year. Free negroes were compelled to give sureties, and when convicted of any petty offences, they were to be punished with stripes. These degrading laws were often cruelly enforced, and for more than forty years they continued to disgrace the statute-book of that rising State.
After the admission of Missouri, emigrants from Virginia and Kentucky, with their long trains of teams and negroes, passed through portions of the State on their way to Missouri. Many of them were men of wealth and education, and as they passed along with their droves of negroes, they did not fail to remind the settlers and land speculators that they had been excluded from purchasing their lands and settling among them by the prohibition of slavery. Of course these land-owners envied the good fortune of Missouri. Feeling that the prospects of Illinois had been blasted by freedom, they nursed the desire to make it a slave State. This purpose was carried into the election of 1822. The legislature was carried by the friends of slavery, though, on account of dividing their votes between two candidates, they failed to carry either of their candidates for governor, and Edward Coles was elected to the gubernatorial chair by the friends of freedom. Mr. Coles was a native of Virginia, a gentleman of culture and character, had emancipated his slaves, moved with them to Illinois in 1818, and settled them upon lands which he had given them. He had been private secretary of Mr. Madison, was the personal friend of Mr. Jefferson, and an uncompromising emancipationist.
There were in Illinois a few French settlers holding slaves, to whom, by common consent, neither the constitution of the State nor the principle of the ordinance of 1787 had been applied. When the legislature met, Governor Coles recommended the emancipation of these slaves. This recommendation incensed the advocates of slavery, and they sought to amend the constitution. To call a convention for that purpose required a two-thirds vote of both branches of the legislature, ratified by a vote of the people. They had the requisite vote in the Senate, but lacked one vote in the House. They had two purposes, -to carry the convention, and to elect a proslavery candidate for the United States Senate. There were two contestants for one of the counties, one of them would vote for their candidate for the Senate, but would not vote for the convention; the other would vote for the convention, but not for the candidate. They admitted the contesting member that was willing to vote for their candidate for the Senate, and after using his vote for that purpose expelled him from the House and admitted the other. By this audacious trick and reckless profligacy of principle the advocates of slavery, true to its instincts of fraud and violence carried their point, and the call for the convention wits submitted to the people Having accomplished this purpose, with low bred and indecent effrontery they formed a disorderly procession, under the lead of the lieutenant-governor; several judges and a majority of the legislature, of the rowdy elements of the capital, and “ with blowing of horns and beating of drums and tin pans," they marched to the residence of the governor and to those of the other members in sympathy with him, to insult, by their riotous demonstrations, those opposed to making Illinois a slave State, But Governor Coles and his friends were hot to be intimidated, They were father strengthened than shaken in their purpose to exclude from Illinois a system that inspired such displays of its ferocious and brutalizing influence upon every one enlisted in its advocacy and support. They appealed to the people not to ratify the action of the legislature. Papers were established; and Governor Coles, David Blackwell, Thomas Lippincott, George Churchill, Morris Birkbeck, Judge Lockwood, and other leading men made public addresses and prepared articles for the press and pamphlets for circulation against the suicidal policy of giving that great commonwealth to slavery. The Methodist and Baptist clergy, many of whom had been Southern men who had seen and experienced the evils of the system, labored zealously and effectively for the same good purpose. After an excited and bitter contest; of more than fifteen months, the proposed convention was voted down by a majority of more than two thousand. The victory was complete and final. The friends of liberty throughout the country, dejected by the results of the Missouri struggle, found some compensation in the thought that Illinois had been saved to freedom.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 153-164.
Chapter: “Compromise Measures of 1850” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:
Though the sharp and protracted struggle in the House on the question of the Speakership, the extreme opinions advanced in the speeches of Southern men, and the sudden and alarming changes in the votes of Northern members, had attracted the deep attention of the country, the great interest of the nation was concentrated on the Senate. The presence in that body of so many men of age, eminent ability, and long experience in public affairs, naturally excited in the minds of the people a desire to learn the views they entertained and the policy they proposed to pursue.
On the 27th of December, Mr. Foote introduced a resolution declaring it to be the duty of Congress to provide Territorial governments for California, Deseret, and New Mexico. A few days later, Mr. Hale offered an amendment securing to the inhabitants of these Territories those privileges and liber ties guaranteed to the citizens of the Northwest by the ordinance of 1787. To Mr. Foote's remark that he was opposed to putting "the yoke of the Wilmot proviso on the necks of free men,” Mr. Hale replied that he too “would keep the yoke off the necks of the people."
On the 4th of January, 1850, Mr. Mason of Virginia introduced into the Senate a bill to carry out more effectually the provision of the Constitution in relation to fugitives from service or labor, and asked thereon a speedy report from the Committee on the Judiciary. This was the famous Fugitive Slave Act, which was subsequently adopted, and which excited so much feeling in the free States. On the 16th of the same month, Mr. Benton introduced a bill to reduce the boundaries of the State of Texas to an area of one hundred and fifty thousand square miles. On the same day, Mr. Foote introduced a bill providing Territorial governments for California, Deseret, and New Mexico; and for the formation of a new State, with the consent of Texas, to be called Jacinto. In support of his bill he spoke with great vehemence, and condemned in unmeasured terms, not only the people of the free States, but Mr. Benton, whom he characterized as the Catiline of the Senate, “the leader who had scattered confusion and discord through the Democratic ranks." He also characterized his bill as treason to the South, because it would open again the agitation of the Wilmot proviso in regard to a portion of Texas, all of which had been secured by the annexation resolution. He closed with a vehement invective against Mr. Benton, who, he said, was more responsible than any man, living or dead, for the then present unhappy state of things.
On the 21st of January, the President sent a message to Congress in reply to a resolution calling for information. In it he made the statement that, in the absence of legislative authority, he had not felt authorized to disturb the arrangement entered into by his predecessor, Mr. Polk ; that he had freely communicated to the two Territories his wish that they might express their unbiased desires in their respective constitutions, to be submitted to Congress ; that, being admitted under such constitutions, the agitating questions could be quietly settled and peace restored; and that the rejection of the application of California for any reason outside of herself would be an invasion of her rights.
On the next day, a memorial was presented from the legislative council of Deseret for admission into the Union. Both it and Mr. Foote's resolution were referred to the Committee on Territories. On the same day, Mr. Cass, the defeated Democratic candidate for the Presidency in 1848, made a very able speech, which attracted much attention. Its sentiments, his high position in both the party and the government, and the commanding influence at that time of party leaders with the rank and file, contributed to this result. He stigmatized the resolution introduced by Mr. Foote as “an abstract one, calling for no actual legislation." He opposed Mr. Hale's amendment, maintained that it was both unconstitutional and inexpedient, and avowed his purpose to take no part in placing that "barren" proviso on the statute-books. He had, however, been instructed by the legislature of his State to vote for the measure, though opposed to it himself. As he recognized the right of instructions, he found himself in the dilemma of being compelled either to vote against the instructions of his State or the convictions of his judgment, or to resign his seat in Congress. He avowed his purpose to choose the latter. "When the time comes," he said,” and I am required to vote upon this measure as a practical one, I shall know how to reconcile my duty to the legislature with my duty to myself, by surrendering a trust I can no longer fulfil."
On the 29th of January, Mr. Clay presented a series of eight resolutions, as the basis of what he called a compromise for the settlement of pending issues that were distracting and disturbing the country. The resolutions proposed to admit California without reference to slavery; to establish Territorial governments without any restriction or condition; to fix the western boundary of Texas on the Rio Grande; to provide for the payment of the debt of Texas to a limited amount, on condition that she should relinquish her claim to any part of New Mexico; to declare it inexpedient to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; to prohibit the introduction of slaves into the District to be sold as merchandise or transported to other markets ; to make more effectual provision for the recovery of fugitive slaves; and to declare that Congress has no power to prohibit or obstruct the domestic slave-trade between the States.
Mr. Clay prefaced the presentation of his resolutions by saying that they proposed an amicable arrangement of all questions in controversy between the free and slave States. He then admitted that there had been some irregularity in adopting the constitution of California, as no enabling act had been passed; but that this condition precedent had been dispensed with in the case of Michigan, and might be again. He maintained that slavery did not exist in the territory acquired from Mexico; and that, from causes entirely independent of legislation, it was not likely to exist there. Texas, he maintained, had “a plausible claim to portions of New Mexico”; and he asserted that “honor, justice, and truth “to her creditors required the assumption of her debts. He was opposed to the abolition of slavery in the District, without the consent of Maryland and of the people of the District, and without compensation. By the abolition of the slave-trade it was not intended to prevent the traffic among its inhabitants; but to prevent the slave-trader of other places from coming into the District " to establish his jails and put on his chains, and sometimes to shock the sensibilities of our nature by a long train of slaves passing through that avenue from the Capitol to the residence of the chief magistrate."
Repeating the remark that he had bestowed upon the subject "the most anxious, intensely anxious consideration," he claimed that his plan was founded upon “a spirit of mutual conciliation and concession." He thought the North should be willing to make greater sacrifices than could be required of the South. And why? “he asked.” With you, gentlemen Senators of the free States, what is it? An abstraction, a sentiment, a sentiment, if you please, of humanity and philanthropy, but a sentiment without danger, hazard, or loss. How is it on the other side? In the first place, there is an almost incalculable amount of property to be sacrificed. And, besides, the social intercourse, habits, safety, life, everything is at hazard."
Though he had invoked calm and careful consideration, a sharp debate at once sprung up. Mr. Foote entered an immediate protest, because he said the resolutions only declared it "inexpedient" to abolish slavery in the District, thereby implying that Congress had the " power " ; and because they asserted that slavery " did not now exist " in the Mexican territory and " was not likely to go there." But he was somewhat mollified by the resolution recommending more stringent legislation for the recovery of fugitive slaves, and to that he gave his hearty approval. Mr. Mason, too, saw but one resolution he could heartily approve. He deeply regretted the admission that slavery did not exist in that Territory. It conceded the whole question at once that the Southern people could not go into the Territories and take their slave property with them. He avowed his purpose never to assent to that proposition.
In his dissent, Jefferson Davis revealed both his fundamental ideas upon the subject of slavery, and also much of the philosophy of the great Rebellion in which he subsequently bore so prominent a part. He opposed the resolutions because they ignored those offered by Mr. Calhoun in 1838 which affirmed that any act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia would be a violation of the faith implied in its cession by the States of Virginia and Maryland. “Twelve years," he said,” only have elapsed; yet this brief period has swept away even the remembrance of principles then deemed necessary to secure the safety of the Union. We are called upon to receive this as a measure of compromise. Is a measure in which we of the minority are to receive nothing a measure of compromise? I look upon it as but a modest mode of taking that the claim to which has been more boldly asserted by others. I here assert that never will I take less than the Missouri compromise line extended to the ocean, with the specific recognition of the right to hold slaves below that line; and that before such Territories are admitted as States, slaves may be taken there from any of the United States, at the option of their owners."
In reply, Mr. Clay expressed his regret that Mr. Davis should declare, as his ultimatum, the extension of the Missouri compromise line to the Pacific, and a positive provision for the admission of slavery south of that line. He made, too, this admission, remarkable as coming from a slaveholder, and remarkable for its sharp contrast with the position that the Northern Democrats and many Northern Whigs were about to adopt : "Coming from a slave State, I owe it to myself, I owe it to truth, I owe it to the subject, to say that no earthly power could induce me to vote for a specific measure for the introduction of slavery where it had not before existed, either south or north of that line. While you reproach, and justly too, our British ancestors for the introduction of this institution on 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 the same thing which we reproach Great Britain for doing to us."
Mr. Davis replied sharply, insisting that after what had taken place the question should be put at rest by declaring that south of the line of the Missouri compromise slavery should be permitted by law.
On the 5th of February, the Senate proceeded to the consideration of the resolution. Mr. Clay spoke for two days, skilfully expatiating on the perils of the hour, enunciating his grand plan of compromise, and prescribing his sovereign panacea for the "fire-gaping wounds" of "the endangered and bleeding country." He was warmly applauded by the listening Senate and the crowded auditory that filled the chamber, lobbies, and galleries.
Mr. Houston of Texas, though a Southern man who had done much to strengthen slavery, extend its bounds, and increase its power, had failed to indorse all the wild schemes of the propagandists; and for this he had been taunted with dereliction of duty to his section. In a speech, near the beginning of the debate, he vindicated his questioned fealty, and claimed that his patriotism embraced the whole country. He expressed the wish, if the Union must be dismembered, that its ruins might be the monument of his grave. He desired no epitaph written to tell that he survived the ruins of the Union.
Mr. Berrien endeavored to establish the invalidity of the Mexican decree abolishing slavery, and the unconstitutionality of any attempt on the part of Congress to exclude it from the Territorial possessions of the United States. Concerning the return of fugitive slaves, he took the advanced position that it would, in all probability, before a great lapse of time, become a question how far the Congress of the United States is or is not obliged, if it does not provide ample means for their restoration, to make compensation for such as could not be recovered. Professing the warmest attachment to the Union, which was undoubtedly sincere, he closed by an expression of his readiness to bow to the will and share the fortunes of the people of Georgia. “I cannot," he said, " separate myself from a gallant and patriotic people, the protectors of my infancy, and those who have in manhood ex tended to me a generous and unwavering support, which commands all my gratitude. Beneath the soil of Georgia the ashes of my parents and my children repose, and there too my own must shortly rest. Whether in weal or woe, the lot of her people shall be mine."
Mr. Benton, on the other hand, defended the validity of the decrees of Mexico abolishing slavery. Citing authorities, full, clear, and unanswerable, he established beyond all cavil that slavery had been abolished in California and New Mexico before their acquisition ; that nobody could carry slaves into them to be held under the Mexican laws; and that slavery could not exist there except by positive law thereafter to be passed.
On the 28th, John Bell, a Whig Senator from Tennessee, presented a series of resolutions as a basis of compromise. It was immediately moved by Mr. Foote to refer the resolutions to a select committee of thirteen, six members to be selected from the North and six from the South, and one to be chosen by the twelve, for the purpose of maturing a com promise for the adjustment of all the pending differences growing out of the institution of slavery.
The debate continued for months. The country was deeply moved. In the halls of Congress, in the legislatures of the States, and through the press, the issues at stake received a most thorough and critical examination. The legislatures of the free States, excepting Iowa, had adopted resolutions in favor of the Wilmot proviso, while the slave States, excepting Delaware, had adopted those against it. The issues were thus clearly denned and distinctly presented. The expectation that Calhoun and Webster were to address the Senate and the country upon topics which had become the general themes of conversation aroused expectation and intensified the prevailing excitement.
On the 4th of March, a speech prepared by Mr. Calhoun was read by Mr. Mason, the former being too feeble to deliver it himself. His eminence as a public man, his intense devotion to slavery, his extreme opinions touching the rights of the States, his illness, betokening the near approach of death, invested his words with special gravity and importance. Though the hand of mortal disease was upon him, and he was to die within the month, this effort was marked with his usual characteristics of thought and language, leaving none to doubt the meaning of his last vindication of the South, his last indictment of the North. He began by the expression of a belief, which he had long entertained, that the agitation of the question of slavery would end in disunion. He said that the country had been brought to confront the greatest and gravest question: How can the Union be preserved? There was, he declared, "universal discontent," and that "universal discontent "had not been caused by demagogues or political parties, as the tendency of demagogues and parties, powerful as they are, had been to keep everything quiet. There was something deeper and more potent, and that was the prevailing belief that the South could not remain in the Union “with safety and honor." That belief, he maintained, had been caused by this long-continued agitation, and the loss of the equilibrium between the free and the slave States. He then went into a minute calculation of the growing disparity between Northern and Southern States, and drew most gloomy conclusions from his horoscope of the future. That disparity had been occasioned, he affirmed, partly by natural causes and partly by hostile legislation. The ordinance of 1787, the Missouri compromise, the exclusion of slavery from Oregon, the systems of revenue and disbursement, and the growing centralization of power, had given the North a decided ascendency in every department of the government. In his view, this Northern preponderance threatened serious evils to the South. He traced the agitation from small beginnings, till “now the fanatical party," he said,” has become an object of courtship to both the great parties." He strenuously opposed Mr. Clay's plan of adjustment, and sharply criticised the policy of the administration, charging it with having accepted the non-intervention platform of its opponents.
Disunion, he asserted, would not come by a single blow; it must be the work of time. But it had already begun, and some cords had been snapped. The Methodist and Baptist denominations had already divided; the Presbyterian denomination had not been entirely broken, but some strands that bound it had given way. The Episcopal Church alone remained unbroken. The disruption of political parties would follow, unless remedies were applied. That remedy was not to be found in eulogies on the glorious Union, not by invoking the name of Washington, not by the compromise measures of Mr. Clay, and not by the policy of the administration. The North had only to will it, and it could save the Union " by conceding to the South an equal right in the acquired territory, by causing the stipulations in regard to fugitive slaves to be faithfully fulfilled," by ceasing to agitate the slave question, and by supporting an amendment of the Constitution " which will restore to the South in substance the power she possessed of protecting herself before the equilibrium between the sections was destroyed by the action of this government."
He maintained that, if the stronger section could' not agree to settle the difficulties between the sections on the broad principles of justice, they should let the States separate and part in peace. If the men of the North were opposed to such peaceful separation, they should say so; and then the South would know what to do when the controversy was reduced to the question of “submission or resistance." If the North remained silent, and California was admitted, the South would be compelled, he said, “to infer that you intend to exclude us from the whole of the acquired territory, with the intention of destroying irretrievably the equilibrium between the two sections. We would be blind not to perceive, in that case, that your real objects are power and aggrandizement, and infatuated not to act accordingly."
Singular, extravagant, and even wild, as were these positions and the proposed conditions of peace of the great states man, he was more consistent than were some of his critics. There was, at least, “method in his madness." Even his extreme opinions were but logical deductions from the principle admitted by the framers of the Constitution, that the slavery they had determined to continue under the new government they were forming must be protected and guarded against the natural exigencies of such a system. Hence the provisions to suppress servile insurrections and to return the escaping fugitive. Mr. Calhoun's demand was the application of a similar principle to new exigencies he was beginning to discover. He saw that, in spite of the compromises, in spite, too, of the almost unquestioned ascendency with which the Slave Power had controlled the government for more than half a century, the slave States were passing, by the operation of nature's laws, into a hopeless minority. The waste, material, mental and moral, and the blasting presence of slavery were telling upon them, as, though starting side by side with the free States, they were falling signally behind in the race of life. To compensate for these losses, to preserve the equilibrium which these laws were constantly tending to disturb, he proposed the violent remedy of an amendment of the Constitution to restore by arbitrary enactment what the laws of nature and Providence were ever tending to destroy.
Of course, it was a natural and proper reply that, whatever the spirit and logic of the Constitution required, it did not demand concessions so violent and humiliating. Though it promised much, too much, it did not promise that. It did, indeed, pledge every American citizen, North or South, to take up arms, if called upon, against the heroic bondmen who, driven to madness by oppression, should rise against their oppressors, however degrading and galling such a service, and however contrary to the convictions of justice and the better promptings of the soul; but it did not promise or pledge that all should join in this crusade against the natural laws of matter and mind, agree to make up for the waste which slavery always occasioned, and endeavor to restore the equilibrium it was ever tending to destroy. That was not “nominated in the bond”; and, however logical and necessary were Mr. Calhoun's demands, he could not urge in their behalf the ever present plea of “the compromises of the Constitution." That the foremost statesman of the South saw no other help or ground of hope revealed the fearful straits of the system he would conserve, and the sad plight of the nation which had incorporated it as a recognized element of the body politic. Subsequent events, however, have shown that the most farseeing and the most sensitive to national guilt and danger had then but very imperfect conceptions of the magnitude of the evil that burdened the land, and of the fearful peril that hung over it.
It was certainly a remarkable circumstance that, in the hour of strife, the three aged statesmen, Clay, Calhoun, and Webster, associated in the public mind for more than a third of a century as orators and leaders of commanding power and influence, should have then been members of the Senate. Clay and Calhoun had spoken, and their words had been flashed through the land to inspire some and dishearten others. The friends of liberty, who were maintaining a fearful contest for the preservation of principles underlying the institutions of their country, had received from them nothing to encourage, but everything to alarm.
All eyes were now turned toward Mr. Webster. He had claimed the Wilmot proviso as his "thunder”; and, when it had been voted down, in its application to the Mexican acquisition, he had characterized the vote refusing its application to le territory acquired from Mexico as “ominous, portentous." He had written, too, to friends in Massachusetts that he intended to ask Southern men to file their specifications, and low wherein the North had failed to fulfil its constitutional obligations, and had expressed his purpose to meet charges of ad faith and aggression, when made. He had consulted with Joshua R. Giddings, Thaddeus Stevens, and other antislavery members, touching his course of action; had given them to understand that he would sustain by speech and vote their doctrines of opposition to slavery extension and domination, and had received from them assurances that by so doing he would endear himself to the friends of freedom, and that they would gladly follow his lead. “He even submitted," says Mr. Giddings in his History of the Rebellion, " the skeleton of his speech to the inspection of one or more leaders of that party, who pronounced it satisfactory, and Free-Soilers anticipated that he would lend his influence in favor of carrying forward the great moral enterprise of redeeming the nation from the thraldom of human bondage." But rumors were rife that he was even then wavering under the pressure of the hour; and the compromisers were beginning to hope that he was to prove faithless to these pledges and to those afforded by his former acts and recorded opinions.
The 7th of March came, and with it the speech so anxiously expected. The Senate chamber and all the avenues leading to it were thronged with an eager auditory. Commencing his speech with great dignity and solemnity of manner, in words of forceful eloquence, which none knew better how to choose, he alluded to the "strong agitations" and the " very considerable dangers" of the fearful tempest then raging, in which "the imprisoned winds are let loose," and "the East, the West, the North, and the stormy South all combine to throw the whole ocean into commotion, to toss its billows to the skies, and disclose its profoundest depths." Claiming to speak from the impulses of a patriotic heart, he challenged the attention of his countrymen. “I speak to-day," he said, “for the preservation of the Union.’ Hear me for my cause. ' “
He passed rapidly over the events that had transpired from the declaration of war against Mexico to the unanimous adoption by California of its constitution excluding slavery. This he regarded as the main cause of the existing agitation, inasmuch as one of the first fruits of a war provoked in the interests of slavery was this Territory, clamoring for admission as a free State. He then went into an historical view of slavery, and reverted to the recent disruption of the ecclesiastical ties of some of the leading denominations. That result he regret ted, and considered needless, because men could be found, he thought, "equally sincere and virtuous on both sides." And yet he maintained that it was obvious there was occasion for grave apprehension from the religious element of the strife. He alluded to the public sentiment at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, when there was little difference of sentiment between the North and the South, both deeming slavery a moral and political evil, as was clearly shown by the ordinance of 1787. But a great change had taken place, both North and South. Slavery, he said, had now become “the Christian institution, no evil, no scourge, but a great social, religious, and moral blessing The age of cotton became the golden age of our Southern brethren." Referring to the charge made by Mr. Calhoun that the political power was in the hands of the North, he made this singular admission, certainly very singular considering the purpose of his speech: “It has acted very liberally and kindly, or weakly ; for they have not exercised that power five times in the history of the government." “From the adoption of the Constitution the politics of the country have been under Southern lead." He averred that measures avowedly in the interest of slavery were carried through Congress because the Democratic Party, North and South, made slavery a test of fealty. In this, and thus far, Mr. Webster seemed to be consistent with his former self, although he had already laid down propositions which were to constitute the point of his new departure on that unexpected and returnless voyage for which, to the great grief of former friends, he that day changed his course.
Having maintained that they were bound to carry out in good faith that act of the government he had so steadily opposed and severely characterized, which had doomed " the vast, illimitable Texas to slavery “; and that every foot of land in the United States was then fixed by some irrepealable law as free or slave territory, he was prepared, on these assumptions as premises, to take his new position. He gratuitously volunteered his opinion that the government was bound to divide Texas into four slaveholding States as soon as Congress could be brought to a vote, without being very careful as to the number of inhabitants. Believing slavery to be excluded by the laws of nature in California and New Mexico, he said he would not vote for its exclusion, because it would be “idle, a taunt to our Southern brethren," and because he “would not reaffirm a law of nature," " nor re-enact the will of God." This point he stated and reiterated in various forms of expression and with very emphatic utterance. He then alluded to the grievances of which the two sections complained, and of which he thought they had reason to complain. Among the causes of Southern discontent and complaint was the unwillingness of the people of the North to execute promptly and heartily the law for the rendition of fugitive slaves. “The South," he said,” has been injured in this respect, and has a right to complain." Though his “judgment " was and had been that the duty of returning fugitive slaves belonged to the "States," yet, in deference to a contrary opinion of the Supreme Court he should support the Fugitive Slave Act, then before the Senate, "with all its provisions, to its fullest extent." He called upon all, “not carried away by any fanatical idea," to do the same, as” a question of morals" and” a question of conscience." Another cause of Southern complaint he avowed to be the action of Northern legislatures upon the subject of slavery. He not only condemned the practice, but volunteered the expression of his purpose not to heed any instructions from that source. Abolition societies were also declared to be a cause of complaint. Such societies he condemned as not "useful," but tending to make the chains of slavery more galling.
Of the grounds of Northern complaint he specified only two, the change in the Southern mind on the subject of slavery, and the imprisonment of Northern colored seamen in Southern ports. He alluded to the mission of Samuel Hoar of Massachusetts to South Carolina, to test in the courts the constitutionality of the law of that State imprisoning colored seamen; but he had no word of rebuke for the outrage committed on that venerable man, eminent alike for his personal worth and legal attainments. And even his brief references to the imprisonment of Massachusetts seamen and the outrage on Mr. Hoar were not spoken in the Senate, nor were they printed in the papers south of New England. They were either strangely forgotten, or not deemed of sufficient importance, or they were left out by design. They were, however, interlined, in his own handwriting, in a revised copy of his speech, and sent by the hand of his intimate friend, Peter Harvey, to General William Schouler, then editor of the Boston “Atlas," in which paper the speech, as amended, first appeared.
After an eloquent portrayal of the evils of disunion, the impossibility of peaceful secession, and the fearful responsibility resting upon Congress to avert such a calamity, with an expression of his willingness to purchase, at a fair price, a portion of Northern Texas for the organization of a free State, and to vote for an appropriation for the colonization of free persons of color, he closed with one of his grand perorations, resplendent with both thought and diction. It was a speech of masterly power; and it fell heavily on the friends of truth, justice, and freedom, then battling against fearful odds for their maintenance and supremacy. Disappointed and grieved by his sudden defection, thousands who had loved, honored, and followed him as a trusted leader, now with indignant hearts left him in the hands of his new-found friends, who had won to the service of the Slave Power his great name, his exalted position and rare gifts of eloquence, afterward to be ungratefully repaid with neglect and forgetfulness.
In estimating the causes of this sudden and disastrous change in his course, it must be borne in mind that Mr. Webster was among the recognized aspirants for the Presidency. His commanding talents and large public service justified both the desire and the hope that the country would deem him worthy of that elevation. It is known, too, that he had felt keenly his failure to secure the nomination of 1848. He had also the growing conviction, as he mournfully expressed it, that there was “no North," and that the South alone was in earnest. At his time of life, too, he might naturally expect that the coming election would afford him his last chance. In this state of mind, the flattering assurances of Southern men exerted an undue influence, and persuaded him to enter upon a path in a direction contrary to all the teachings and practices of his previous life. Reconciling him further to this change were his apprehensions of the disastrous consequences of further disregard of Southern demands. He had become convinced that the South must be pacified. He was a true patriot, he loved the Union, and had gained a national reputation as its sturdy defender. The “great expounder of the Constitution “was the title which he had, by common consent, nobly won and worn. He seemed, too, to have comprehended more fully than most the true construction of the state, gauged more accurately the great and grave dangers which threatened the Republic, and weighed more carefully the fearful consequences which must follow its disruption. “I have not accustomed myself," he said, in the impassioned and impressive peroration of his great reply to Hayne, “to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether with my short sight I can fathom the depth below. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant that in my day, at least, that curtain may not rise! God grant that on my vision never may be opened what lies behind! When my eyes shall be turned to behold for the last time the sun in heaven, may I 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, with fraternal blood!”
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 231-246.
Chapter: “Compromise Measures of 1850 (continued)” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:
At that time of timidity, wavering, and weakness in both Houses of Congress, President Taylor stood firm, collected, and resolutely determined to maintain the authority of the government. Aggrieved, on the one hand, at what he regarded the ungenerous conduct of Mr. Clay, Mr. Webster, and other leading Whigs, he was deeply moved, on the other, by demands he deemed to be both unpatriotic and personally offensive. Mr. Hamlin, then a Democratic Senator from Maine, states that, making a business call upon the President, he met Toombs, Stephens, and Clingman just retiring from an interview. On entering the President's room, he found him walking the floor, greatly excited and indignant. He told Mr. Hamlin that the men who had just retired had been making demands concerning the policy of his administration, accompanied with intimations that the South would not submit unless they were acceded to. He accompanied this statement with the declaration that, if there were any such treasonable demonstrations on the part of the Southern leaders and people, he would put it down by the whole power of the government, even if he was obliged to put himself at the head of the army to do it. Thurlow Weed, who called at the executive mansion immediately afterward, found the President still in a state of excitement, and he too received the assurance of his purpose to maintain the Union and the government at all hazards. These statements received significance from a letter written by General Taylor to Jefferson Davis, dated Monterey, and August 16, 1847. In this letter he says that his “position, feelings, and associations, independent of pecuniary considerations," were with the South ; and that, while he would " respect the feelings of the non-slaveholding States," he would be " equally careful that no encroachments were made on the rights of the citizens of the slaveholding States." After expressing his convictions of the gravity of the slavery issue, and his willingness that it should be the subject of free and full discussion, he said: " But the moment they go beyond that point, when resistance becomes right and proper, let the South act promptly, boldly, and decisively, with arms in their hands if necessary, as the Union in that case will be blown to atoms, or will be no longer worth preserving."
That the President, so unequivocally committed to South ern interests and holding views so decided, not to say defiant, should have taken, with such determination, his stand for the Union, as indicated by the statements of Mr. Hamlin and Mr. Weed, affords conclusive evidence that there were, in his view, no Northern aggressions; that the cry of Southern danger and alarm was simulated, or, at least, unfounded; and that the real foes to be resisted were at the South, and not in the North.
On the 8th of March, Mr. Walker of Wisconsin, who had yielded the floor to Mr. Webster on the previous day, ad dressed the Senate. He had been chosen an antislavery, Wilmot-proviso Democrat. But he had become alarmed by the wild clamors that filled the land, and was more than half persuaded to allow what he thought were the claims of patriotism to override those of justice and humanity, should they come in conflict. At any rate, he made a most passionate appeal in behalf of the Union, while his imprecations upon those who would lay sacrilegious hands upon this ark of the nation's safety were violent and fearful. “May he," he said,” who takes the first step toward this horrid consummation suffer through life all the tortures of despair and wretchedness! May sight forsake his eyes and hearing his ears! May leprous scales cling to his wretched carcass, while disease, want and hunger, thirst and cold, feed upon his vitals! And in his last hour may he have no kindly hand to smooth his pillow, no kindred smile to light his exit to the grave! Nay, sir, may he have no pillow on which to die, no grave in which to repose! And in the dread tribunal of eternity may he barely merit the mediatorial interposition of Jesus at the throne of God! For such a wretch the Saviour scarcely died. This, sir, is my curse for the would-be destroyer of this Union and Republic. If he be in this chamber, which I cannot believe, the curse is for him ; and, if I could add to my tongue the sting of the scorpion, the fire that is never quenched, the gall that is persistent through eternity, I would make that curse more poignant, more burning, more bitter."
Thus passionately and wildly did this Northern Senator and his friends of compromise talk, as, with threats and imprecations and appeals to patriotism and peace, they darkened and encumbered the path of those who sought, by adherence to principle, rather than by bowing the knee to slavery, their country's safety and sure prosperity. This weakness of the Wisconsin Senator was promptly and sternly rebuked by the legislature of his State.
On the llth of March, Mr. Seward made a masterly speech in favor of California, union, and freedom. Referring to California as “more populous than the least and richer than several of the greatest of our thirty States," he asked and answered, with impressive force, the question: “Shall California be received? Yes; every new State is welcome. But California, that comes from the clime where the west dies away into the rising east, -- California, which bounds at once an empire and a continent, -- California, the youthful queen of the Pacific, in the robes of freedom, gorgeously inlaid with gold, -- is doubly welcome." Deducing from the calculations of political arithmetic that in our century there would be two hundred millions of people within the limits of the United States, he said the question arose, Shall that great people be one people, or be broken into conflicting nations ? “The world contains no seat of empire so magnificent as this; and yet it seems to me the perpetual unity of our empire hangs on the decision of this hour. Commerce is the god of boundaries, and no man now living can foretell his ultimate decree." He avowed his opposition to the proposed compromise measures, because he deemed “all legislative compromise radically wrong and essentially vicious." At the bare thought of such a compromise being effected, he said: “It seems to me as if slavery had laid its 'paralyzing hand upon myself, and the blood were coursing less freely than its wont through my veins." He pronounced Mr. Calhoun's proposition to restore and retain the political equilibrium to be both impracticable and entirely subversive of the principle of democratic institutions. The equilibrium, he said, was lost in 1787, and, if restored, would be lost again. He earnestly deprecated, and condemned as unfounded and undemocratic, the arbitrary division of States into free and slave. He combated the asserted obligation of Mr. Webster that Congress was bound to create four additional States out of Texas.
Mr. Seward affirmed that the simple, single, bold, and awful question is: Shall we, with our knowledge and experience of slavery, in founding institutions for countless millions establish, or admit by sufferance, human bondage? No Christian, free to act, would do it. Alluding to Mr. Webster's professed willingness to leave the question of slavery to be determined by the laws of nature, and his unwillingness to reenact the will of God, he said: “There is no climate uncongenial to slavery; . . . there is no enactment which is just which is not a reenactment of the law of God." He then went into a very careful, dispassionate, and eloquent consideration of the allegation that disunion could be averted only as Southern feeling could be propitiated and Southern demands met. While admitting danger, he contended that there was no sure escape but in just action and a firm trust in the super intending providence of God, “The Constitution," he said, " regulates our stewardship; the Constitution devotes the domain to union, to justice, to defence, to welfare, and to liberty. But there is a higher law than the Constitution, which regulates our authority over the domain, and devotes it to the same noble purposes. The territory is a part, no inconsiderable part, of the common heritage of mankind, bestowed upon them by the Creator of the universe. We are his stewards, and must so discharge our trust as to secure in the highest attainable degree their happiness." This public recognition by a Senator of the United States that the laws of the Creator were “higher " than those of human enactment excited much astonishment and indignation, and called forth, in Congress and out of it, measureless abuse upon its author. But the flippant taunt and sneer concerning the “higher law," instead of damaging him, did but reveal how deeply debauched had become the mind and heart of a Christian people through the demoralizing influences of slavery and its compromises.
On the 13th and 14th, Mr. Douglas made a speech of great vigor in favor of the compromises, though he dissented from the extreme views of Mr. Webster and their Southern advocates. He replied with much effect to the speeches of Mr. Webster and Mr. Calhoun. Concerning Mr. Webster's ad mission that the annexation of Texas fixed, pledged, fastened, and decided it to be slave territory forever, he declared that there never was such torturing of language and such perversion of its meaning. He affirmed that there was “no guaranty, no pledge, no intimation of the kind." Gladly and gratefully accepting Mr. Webster's doctrine that the law of physical geography superseded the necessity of the Wilmot proviso, making it both " senseless and useless " to reaffirm an ordinance of nature and re-enact the will of God in 1850, he asked how it had been needful in 1847, when Mr. Webster claimed it as his invention, and entered a caveat against its use, as stealing his " thunder." Saying that, according to the admission of Mr. Seward, the Wilmot proviso had given New York to General Taylor, he directed attention to the fact that it was discarded as senseless and useless by the Senator from Massachusetts.
Referring to Mr. Calhoun's speech on “Northern aggressions and Southern grievances," he combated many of its assumptions and assertions. He pronounced Mr. Calhoun's device for maintaining the equilibrium between the North and the South to be “impracticable," and “destructive of the great principles of popular equality." He contended that slavery had been abolished by Mexican law in the acquired territories, and that they were thus free. He closed his speech-- certainly one of the most vigorous and effective he ever made-- by paying a high compliment to Mr. Clay, whom he characterized as the pioneer in the work of harmonizing the people.
On the 18th and 19th of March, Mr. Badger of North Carolina delivered an able, moderate, and patriotic speech. He claimed that he had “the heart and hand of a brother” for every portion of the American people, whether in the East or the West, the North or the South. He opposed the Wilmot proviso, referred to the emphatic pledges of resistance given by some of the Southern legislatures, and demanded modification of the laws for the more effectual rendition of fugitive slaves. He expressed his apprehension growing out of the proposed Nashville convention. “If that convention," he said, "shall meet under such circumstances, in my judgment, the Union is from that day dissolved. I do not say that dis solution will follow instantly. I do not say but a connection --an external union-- may be maintained, and linger on for a few years longer; but the meeting of that convention will be to our institutions, in the language of Napoleon, the “beginning of the end." He said that it was upon its face a step toward a distinct organization of the Southern States, separating them from the mass of their countrymen. Though he denied the right of a State to secede from the Union, he expressed the opinion that the Union could not be continued by force; for the forced connection of reluctant communities would not deserve the name of union. While he entertained gloomy apprehensions for the future, he trusted that some basis of harmonious co-operation might yet be found. Of his fidelity to the Union and of his fraternal feelings toward his Northern brethren there could be no doubt. And yet it was manifest then, as it was afterward, when he went into the Rebellion, that these sentiments were subordinated to what he had learned to regard as the paramount claims of slavery and of his State.
Mr. Dayton of New Jersey, though regretting the Mexica war, that had " brought much territory and much trouble," justified his vote for the treaty "negotiated" by Mr. Trist, "not only without authority, but against authority," for the reason that the continuance of the war would have brought additional territory, better fitted for slave than free labor. He admitted that the citizens of the North and the South had equal rights in that territory; but he asserted that the very equality of right repelled the idea that the minority in interest should have absolute control, as would be the practical result of allowing slaves to be taken there. That, he said, would be “neither equality nor equity." He alluded with becoming dignity and force to the superficial, not to say flippant, assertion of Mr. Clay, that Northern opposition to slavery was a mere " sentiment," by reminding the Senate of the weighty interests and momentous considerations involved in the decision of the question. “We are about now," said Mr. Dayton,” to lay the foundations of other commonwealths. The North says it is our duty, as statesmen and as men, to lay their foundations in such wise that our children and our children's children, to the remotest generation, may rise up and call us blessed." Northern feeling, he assured them, was no sickly sentiment, but judgment and sound discretion. “When we are laying the foundation of empires, the question is not how a few may live in ease ; but the question is, how the many may best live, increase, beautify, and fructify the earth."
A few days later, Mr. Hunter of Virginia presented a philosophical view of the subject from the Southern stand-point. Speaking in deprecatory terms of the current attacks on slavery, he predicted that their logical results must be disastrous to the government and the nation. Comparing the condition of Southern slaves with the laboring populations of Europe, he contended that the real servitude of the latter was no less "involuntary" than that of the former. "The child," he said, with too much truth, “inherits it as certainly from his parents, by the force of circumstances, as if it descended by positive law. What chance has the child for moral culture or social advancement who is sent to labor at six, eight, or ten years of age, and labors twelve, fourteen, and sixteen hours a day, as a living fixture to a spinning-machine ? . . . . The Southern slave has a far better chance to become a freeman by emancipation, than the child of the lowest class of English laborers has to rise above the condition of his fathers."
Alluding to the fact that slavery was acknowledged " in governments embracing a majority of the civilized world," he contended that, being admitted into the Constitution of the United States, it might be permitted " without giving just cause of offence to the most fastidious conscience " ; as if the constitutions of earth could set aside the laws of Heaven ! Insisting that the “abstract principles” of human rights, which led to attacks upon their social organization, must cause the overthrow of every existing government, he said: “But, be this as it may, -- be the public opinion of the North or of the world whatever it may, -- our constitutional rights cannot and ought not to be affected by such considerations. It is so ' nominated in the bond,' and we are entitled to the faithful stipulation in that contract. If obligations higher than the Constitution forbid you to fulfil its stipulations, then you are bound in honor to say that ' the contract into which we have entered is improvident; our consciences forbid us to execute what we have engaged to do; we have no right, therefore, to hold you to your engagements; let us then dissolve the contract, and give and obtain a mutual discharge.' '
Mr. Hale made an elaborate argument, occupying two days, in vindication of the principles, measures, and acts of antislavery men. Expressing his regret at differing from Mr. Webster, he said he had the consolation, while dissenting from his views in 1850, to agree with him in 1848. In support of this allegation, he quoted the following words from Mr. Webster's speech in 1848: “My opposition to the increase of slavery in this country, or to the increase of slave representation in Congress, is general and universal. It has no reference to the lines of latitude or to the points of compass. I shall op pose all such extension and all such increase, in all places, at all times, under all circumstances, even against all inducements, against all supposed limitation of great interests, against all combinations, and against all compromises." Mr. Hale expressed his entire agreement in that sentiment, while he widely differed from the antagonistic sentiments uttered by the same voice more recently. “The Senator," said he, “discovers all at once that the laws of God take care of the proviso. Where were the laws of God when the Oregon bill was under consideration? Were not those laws in as full operation in 1848 as in 1850? Does not the law of God take care of the proviso up to 49 as well as below 36 30' ? The Senator says he would not re-enact the laws of God. Would he enact laws in repudiation and condemnation of the laws of God? All the laws we pass must be in accordance with or against the Divine will. Yet the Senator declares he would not reenact the laws of God. Well, sir, I would. When he tells me that the law of God is against slavery, it is a most potent argument why we should incorporate it with any Territorial bill."
Mr. Hale then proceeded to denounce, in the severest language, the proposed Fugitive Slave Act. He thought a bill of such a character could not possibly pass the Senate, as it proceeded entirely on the assumption that there were no rights in the Constitution except the “rights of slavery." He solemnly affirmed that, much as he loved the Union, much as he reverenced its institutions, and fond as were the memories that clung around its early histories, he would sacrifice them all before he would consent that the citizens of his native State should "at one blow be stripped of every right that is dear to them and for which their fathers bled and died."
He expressed the same condemnation as others had done of Mr. Calhoun's proposition to recover by constitutional amendment "a fancied equilibrium” which the South had been gradually losing for the last sixty years. He charged agitation upon Southern Senators and Representatives, who fired the hearts of the Southern people, who never knew they were wronged and insulted until they were told so from the city of Washington.
Mr. Hale closed by setting forth the principles and aims of the Free Soil party, with which he was identified and of which he was an eloquent and trusted champion. “We desire action," he said, “not out of the Constitution, or against the Constitution, but in and under it. We desire to see the Constitution carried out as intended by its framers, and to see it administered in the spirit in which it was formed. We desire to see, also, the abolition of slavery effected throughout the world. This is what we desire and aim at. And, firmly believing in the providences of God, we trust the day will yet dawn upon this country when the word ‘slavery ' shall be a word without a meaning; and when those whose efforts are for universal freedom shall have, as their fathers had in the days of the Revolution, the earnest and hearty sympathy of those who live in the slaveholding States; and when any section of the Union will join hands with the other in spreading abroad the principles of humanity, philosophy, and Christianity, which shall elevate every son and daughter of the human race to that liberty for which they were created and for which they were destined by God. These opinions, sir, we entertain, and these hopes we cherish; and we do not fear to avow them, here, now, always, and forever."
Salmon P. Chase was one of the two Free Soil members of the Senate. He had been a leading and most influential member of the Buffalo convention in 1848, by which the Free Soil party was organized. On the 26th and 27th of March he addressed the Senate in an argument of great ability, research, and eloquence. He announced at the outset these two propositions: It is our duty to abstain from interference with slavery in the States; it is our duty to prohibit its extension into national territory, and its continuance where we are constitutionally responsible for its existence.
Taking a rapid survey of slavery aggression and acquisition, he reached the conclusion that, had it not been for the inhibition of the ordinance of 1787, every foot of land west of the Alleghany Mountains would have been slave soil. He not only contended, with Mr. Seward, that the doctrine of the equilibrium between the North and South was an impossibility, but that such an idea never entered the minds of the framers of the Constitution. In this connection he sharply controverted the idea of Mr. Webster that Congress was obliged to carve four additional slave States from Texas, as the act only provided that such States "may" be formed with the consent of Congress. Referring to Mr. Webster's early commitment to the Wilmot proviso, and to his frequent and reiterated assertion of its principle, and to his recently avowed dependence upon the laws of nature and physical geography, he said: “If it is useless to re-enact the will of God now, why was it not then? If it is so clearly seen now, why was it not then?”
He sharply rebuked the cry of disunion, declaring it was made to alarm the timid, the sensitive, and the unreflecting; to afford excuses for concessions, and thus to secure advantages which the sober judgment and enlightened conscience of the government would never yield. “We of the West," he said, "are in the habit of looking upon the Union as we look upon the arch of heaven, without a thought that it can ever decay or fall." “It may be," he said in closing, “you will succeed here in sacrificing the claims of freedom by some settlement carried through the forms of legislation. But the people will unsettle your settlement. It may be that you will determine that the Territories shall not be secured by law against the ingress of slavery. The people will reverse your determination. It may be that you will succeed in burying the ordinance of freedom. But the people will write upon its tomb: ' I shall rise again.' And the same history which re cords its resurrection may also inform posterity that they who fancied they killed the proviso only committed political suicide."
On the 8th of April, Mr. Benton spoke against Mr. Clay's compromise measures, and in favor of the unrestricted admission of California. He objected to the compromise measures “in the lump," although he was quite ready to take the ingredients in detail. He referred to the fact that, under his lead, in 1836, Congress converted a large extent of free soil into slave soil by the annexation of the Platte country to Missouri. "By that act of annexation," he said,” a part of the Missouri compromise-- line one hundred miles of it on a straight line --was abolished; and a new line substituted, nearly three hundred miles long on its two sides, cutting deep into free soil and converting it into slave soil." He referred to the recovery of Texas by Northern votes, which carried slavery “from the Sabine to the Rio Grande, from the Red River to the Bay of Matagorda, from the frontiers of Louisiana to the frontiers of New Mexico --, ten degrees of longitude ,-- above four hundred miles on a straight line." He referred to other acts in favor of slavery which had been carried by Northern votes, and declared that all idle fears and groundless accusations sank into nothing in the presence of such facts. He then went on to say that " these fears are idle, this agitation groundless; that Congress has no design to disturb slave property; that there is no necessity for any settlement or adjustment about it, no necessity for compromising California into the Union by a grand scheme of settling the whole slavery agitation at the expense of her honor, dignity, and rights."
He stated that his opposition to the extension of slavery dated back to 1804, when he studied the subject of African slavery in a Virginia book, Tucker's edition of Blackstone's Commentaries, in which was a tract of fifty pages in “total condemnation of the institution, and a plan for its extinction in Virginia." “The men of that day," he said, u were not enthusiasts or fanatics. They were statesmen and philosophers. They knew that the emancipation of the black slave was not a mere question between master and slave --, not a question of property merely, but a question of white and black, -- between races, -- and what was to be the consequences to each race from a larger emancipation. And there the wisdom, not the philanthropy, of Virginia balked fifty years ago; there the wisdom of America balks now. And here I find the largest objection to the extension of slavery, -- to planting it in new regions where it does not now exist. The incurability of the evil is the greatest objection to the extension of slavery. It is wrong for the legislature to inflict an evil which can be cured; how much more to inflict one that is incurable, and against the will of the people who are to endure it forever! I quarrel with no one for supposing slavery a blessing; I deem it an evil, and would neither adopt it nor impose it on others. Yet I am a slaveholder, and among the few members of Congress who hold slaves in this District."
For clearness of statement, force, grasp, power, and fulness of information, this speech was superior to any speech de livered in the Senate during the session. When, then, it is remembered that Mr. Benton was born and raised in a slave State, that he lived in and represented a slave State, it contrasted strongly and strangely with the speeches of several Northern Senators, and entitled him to the considerate regard of his countrymen.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 259-271.
Chapter: “Compromise Measures of 1850 (continued)” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:
THE debate having run on for nearly three months, the Senate proceeded to vote on the original proposition, made by Mr. Foote, for the appointment of a select committee of thirteen. It was so modified as to refer to that committee the resolutions submitted by Mr. Clay and Mr. Bell. After motions to refer it to the Committee on Territories, to lay it on the table, and to amend it in several particulars, had been defeated, it was adopted by a majority of eight, and the Senate proceeded to the election of the committee. Mr. Clay was chosen chairman, and it was completed by the election of Cass, Dickinson, Bright, Democrats, and Webster, Phelps, and Cooper, Whigs, from the free States; King, Mason, Downs, Democrats, and Mangum, Bell, and Berrien, Whigs, from the slave States. It was a strong committee, composed of Senators of ability and large experience in public affairs; and yet on it the principle of the Wilmot proviso had no ear nest and tried advocate, whom its friends could implicitly trust. Mr. Phelps was, indeed, fully committed to it; yet, though a man of rare ability, and equaled by few as a lawyer and forensic debater, his unfortunate habits impaired the public confidence. Nor did his course on this committee raise him in popular estimation.
On the 8th of May, Mr. Clay reported a bill of thirteen sections. It provided for the admission of California, the establishment of Territorial governments in Utah and New Mexico, and the adjustment of the boundaries between New Mexico and Texas. The committee also reported a bill for the prohibition of the slave-trade in the District of Columbia. Mr. Clay accompanied the bill with a report explanatory of its several distinct, separate, but incongruous measures. In the debate which followed, it transpired that the committee were not in full accord.
Mr. Benton, who dealt damaging blows, thus humorously describes the committee and its work. " There is," he said, " no contention to be reconciled, no distraction to be com posed, no misery to be assuaged, no lost harmony to be re stored, no lost happiness to be recovered. If there was, the committee is not the party to give us these blessings. Their example and precept do not agree. They preach concord, and practice discord. They recommend harmony to others, and disagree among themselves. They propose a fraternal kiss to us, and give themselves rude rebuffs. Scarcely is the healing report read and the anodyne bills, or pills, laid on our tables, than fierce contention breaks out in the ranks of the committee itself. They attack each other. They give and take fierce licks. The great peacemaker himself fares badly, stuck all over with arrows, like the man on the first leaf of the almanac. Here in our presence, in the very act of consummating the marriage of California with Utah, New Mexico, Texas, the fugacious slaves of the States and the marketable slaves of this District, in this very act of consummation, as in a certain wedding-feast of old, the feast becomes a fight, the festival a combat, and amiable guests pummel each other."
An exhaustive and exhausting debate followed, which continued nearly three months. On the bill or some of its numerous amendments nearly every Senator spoke. The House, too, engaged in the general contest, until both Congress and the country were alike wearied and impatient. Though the subject was introduced into Congress in December, a final vote was not reached until the last day of July. Nor did the measure adopted bear much resemblance to that at first introduced. Indeed, only so much as referred to the Mormon territory of Utah remained. When, therefore, the pretentious measure on which Mr. Clay and his grand committee of thirteen had bestowed so much anxious thought and care had passed the Senate, and was sent to the House, it had been so shorn and reduced that it was received with peals of laughter from both friend and foe. And yet, though failing to pass the Senate as a whole, the debate and votes rendered it apparent that the separate measures of which it was com posed could be carried, and that slavery, in the name of compromise, was to be again victorious. This conviction be coming general, the friends of slavery grew bolder and more audacious, and the friends of freedom correspondingly dis heartened and depressed.
The death of General Taylor, which took place on the 9th of July, largely contributed to the success of the slaveholding interest. He had felt deeply aggrieved at the action of Mr. Clay, Mr. Webster, and other leading Whigs, who had joined the extreme advocates of Southern rights in resisting the policy of his administration. He thought, and so did several members of his Cabinet, that their course was influenced quite as much by personal as by public considerations. How much the action of several leading Whigs was controlled or modified by personal disappointments, grievances, and aspirations will never be fully disclosed. That General Taylor had resolved to defeat the consummation of their purposes there can be no doubt whatever. Indeed, he had distinctly announced this policy. “Whatever dangers," he said, "may threaten this Union, I shall stand by and maintain it in its integrity to the fullest extent of the obligations imposed and the power conferred on me by the Constitution." This patriotic position and the course of events were rapidly and necessarily placing him in a position of antagonism to the extreme demands of the Slave Power. His sudden death was, therefore, more deeply regretted by antislavery men, even by those who had opposed and deprecated his election, than by any other portion of his countrymen. A portion of the Whig party, who had, with hesitation and misgivings, stood by him in his refusal to yield to slaveholding demands, hastened to abandon that position.
The Vice-President, Mr. Fillmore, who had been suddenly called, in that great crisis of public affairs, to the executive chair, was a man of respectable abilities, but of conservative tendencies. He had professed opposition to the extension of slavery, to slavery and the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, to the domestic slave-trade, and to the annexation of Texas. While Mr. Seward represented the radical and progressive portion of the Whig party in New York, Mr. Fillmore acted with the conservative portion, or, in the political par lance of that day, the “Silver Greys." He possessed little power in his State, and when he succeeded General Taylor he had little influence in the nation. On his accession to the Presidency, though a Northern man, he abandoned at once the policy of his predecessor, changed his constitutional advisers, placed Mr. Webster at the head of his Cabinet, and accepted, without qualification or reservation, the policy of the Slave Power, of which Mr. Webster had become the foremost advocate.
Mr. Webster's abandonment of his State, section, and life-long principles occasioned both grief and indignation. Murmurs of disapprobation and mutterings of discontent were heard among those accustomed to follow his lead. To quiet these manifestations, he visited Boston a few weeks after his “7th of March “speech. From the balcony of the Revere House he told his fellow-citizens that he should “take no step backward," and that they " must learn to conquer their prejudices." In letters to friends and in speeches he had enforced these declarations of his purposes and their duties. On the 17th of July, a few days before he left the Senate to take his place at the head of the Cabinet, he alluded to these “prejudices," and declared that they arose from misinformation and from those “incessant efforts made for twenty years to pervert the public judgment." He said that there had arisen “an exaggerated sense of the evils of the reclamation of slaves." This exaggerated sense had been produced, he declared, by "the incessant attrition of Abolition doctrine, Abolition presses, and Abolition lecturers upon the common mind." “No drum-head," he said, “in the longest march, was ever more incessantly beaten than the feelings of the public in certain parts of the North. They have been beaten every month, every day, and every hour by the din and roll and rub-a-dub of Abolition presses and Abolition lecturers; and that it is which has created these prejudices." In a similar strain he proceeded, ridiculing and belittling this "extraordinary" sensitiveness at a law “not objectionable unless the Constitution is objectionable."
These utterances reveal in the clearest light the spirit and purpose with which Mr. Webster entered the Cabinet. Is it at all surprising that a man of Mr. Fillmore's character and antecedents, with little heart or will, should have yielded to the imperious purpose of the Secretary to maintain his new position, and to act the new part he had chosen? At once the administration entered upon its work. The strong were pro scribed, the weak seduced, the patronage of the government was unsparingly used, the press subsidized, and even the pulpit was not beyond the reach of its sacrilegious hand, until, in the strong language of Simeon Draper of New York, “no Whig could have the confidence of the administration unless his heel was bathed in negro's blood." The compromise measures, under influences thus openly and fearlessly directed, were soon consummated. The triumphant Slave Power reigned supreme. The friends of freedom, defeated but not disheartened, could only " bide their time," and still struggle on, sustained mainly by their “unfaltering trust “in the ultimate triumph of the sacred cause.
The long, able, and intensely exciting debate, while revealing more than usual the individuality of those who participated in it, and the slight shades of difference resulting from that individuality, was marked by the enunciation of three leading ideas or lines of thought. Clay, Cass, Douglas, Badger, Cooper, John Bell, Sam Houston, and Underwood supported the compromise measures on moderate and patriotic grounds, with a purpose to secure, if possible, the object aimed at in a conciliatory manner, and to provoke as few and small conflicts as practicable with the feelings, principles, and interests of those they were compelled to oppose.
They were opposed by such men as Hale, Seward, Chase, John Davis of Massachusetts, Dayton, Baldwin, Truman Smith, and a few others, on the broad ground of principle; because their proposed policy came in conflict with the claims of Christian morality, the doctrine of human rights and of free institutions, and because it was hostile to the safety and best interests of the nation. Mr. Benton opposed it, not so much from principle as on the alleged ground that it was both impolitic and incongruous. Besides, with him there were evidently personal considerations, and his characteristic egotism and self-assertion were very apparent. Should, Jefferson Davis, Downs, Butler, and Clemens opposed the compromises, because they did not meet their extreme opinions on the subject of slavery, and because of their determined purpose to submit to no measures that did not recognize those views and incorporate them into the policy of the government.
As early as the 25th of March, Mr. Douglas had reported from the Committee on Territories a bill for the admission of California. An unsuccessful motion was soon made by Mr. Benton, but opposed by Mr. Clay, to proceed to its consideration. Nor was it called up again until after the defeat of the compromise bill. It was then taken up, and Mr. Turney, a Democratic Senator from Tennessee, a man of extreme views and feelings, moved to limit the southern boundary of the proposed State to 36 30', and to extend the line of the Missouri compromise to the Pacific. Though his motion was at first rejected, yet, after several days' debate and the passage of the Texas boundary bill, it was adopted on the 12th of August by almost a two-thirds vote.
A protest was presented by Hunter of Virginia, signed by his colleague and himself, Butler and Barnwell of South Carolina, Atchison of Missouri, Turney of Tennessee, Davis of Mississippi, Soule of Louisiana, and Morton and Yulee of Florida. They protested, they said, because the right of the slaveholding States to a common and equal enjoyment of the new State had been denied, and because all propositions had been defeated which had been made to obtain a recognition of their rights to its common enjoyment or to a fair division thereof. They closed with the assertion that the exclusion of slavery from the Territory was fatal to the peace and equality of the States, and “must lead, if persisted in, to the dissolution of that confederacy in which the slaveholding States have never sought more than an equality, and in which they will not be content to remain with less."
Mr. Winthrop of Massachusetts, who had entered the Sen ate in place of Mr. Webster, immediately raised the question of its reception, and denied the right of Senators to spread upon the journal the reasons that influenced their votes. Mr. Benton grappled with the doctrines of the protest itself. He denounced it as a sectional protest. "We have seen," he said, " sectional meetings of members of Congress, sectional declarations by legislative bodies, sectional conventions, sectional establishments of the press here, and now the introduction of this protest, also sectional, and not only connecting itself in time and circumstances, but connecting itself by its arguments, by its facts, and by its conclusions, with all these sectional movements." He considered it a part of a system, a link in a chain of measures, all tending to the dissolution of the Union; and he protested against entering upon the journal "the portentous measure," from which such calamitous events might flow. After a debate of two days, the protest, on motion of Mr. Norris of New Hampshire, was laid on the table by three majority. Nor did resistance end with this protest. When John C. Fremont and William M. Gwin, Senators-elect, presented their credentials, twelve Southern Senators made objection, and voted to refer them to the Judiciary Committee.
This incoherent as well as lawless course of the slave propagandists and the too obsequious government were illustrated by the course pursued in regard to New Mexico and its boundaries. Texas, claiming the Rio Grande for its southern boundary, though that river included an immense territory over which it had never exercised any jurisdiction, was calling upon the general government for an armed force to defend her frontier against the Indians, while it was at the same moment threatening to send troops to enforce her authority in New Mexico against Federal jurisdiction. It is stated by Thomas Ewing of Ohio, member of General Taylor's Cabinet, that President Polk issued an order on the last night of his Presidency directing the military commandant in New Mexico to surrender the Territory to Texas whenever the authorities of that State should demand it. The order was discovered in the summer by a member of the Cabinet, and the President's attention called to it at one of its meetings. Turning to Mr. Crawford, Secretary of War, he said: “Revoke the order at once, and direct the commandant to defend the country and people against all who may attack or assert dominion over them, whether Navajos or Texans, until Congress or the Supreme Court shall order otherwise." Mr. Ewing states that the order was at once issued; and though Toombs, Stevens, and other South ern leaders endeavored to persuade him to revoke it, and re store that of Mr. Polk, their request was peremptorily refused. When asked what he would do if Texas should send an armed force to take it, he replied that he would defend it with all the means in his power, a purpose on which Toombs remarked: “The worst of it is, he will do it." When the compromise bill was pending, Mr. Benton, who was unquestionably better informed in regard to the geography and physical characteristics of the Territory whose boundaries were then the subject of dispute than any other public man, declared that the line fixed upon in that bill “cut off the legs of New Mexico and amputated her at the hips."
On the 5th of August, Mr. Pearce of Maryland introduced a bill proposing the establishment of the northern and western boundaries of Texas, and the payment of ten million dollars for the relinquishment of her claims on New Mexico. He avowed himself to be one of those who did not believe in the validity of the Texan claim; but he felt it to be his duty to regard with much deference the opinions of other Senators. He therefore very inconsistently, not to say profligately, proposed to settle the boundaries in such a way as to give to
Texas several thousand square miles which really belonged to New Mexico and ten million dollars for the relinquishment of her unfounded pretensions. This proposition owed much of its significance, however, to the fact that Texas bonds had at that time only a speculative value, and had been sold as low as seventeen cents “upon the dollar." The next day, a message was sent to Congress by the President covering correspondence with Texan authorities, and recommending “an amicable adjustment and immediate settlement of their claims “by al lowing an indemnity to Texas, “not unreasonable and extravagant, but fair and liberal."
This bill was pressed with great vigor, and on the 9th of August it passed the Senate by a majority of ten. When it reached the House, Mr. Giddings seized the earliest moment to declare his unalterable opposition to its passage. It relinquished, he said, to Texas and slavery, forty thousand square miles lying within the ancient boundaries of New Mexico. He referred to the rumor that it was to pass by the votes of Northern Whigs, who, he reminded them, had always denied that Texas had any claim to New Mexico. He asserted that Mr. Webster was the master spirit of the administration, and had “stamped his image and superscription upon its policy." He referred, with expressions of mingled mortification and alarm, to the zeal and co-operation of Southern members, and to the divided and paralyzed condition of those from the North, seemingly incapable of any united and vigorous effort.
On the 4th of September, Mr. Boyd of Kentucky submitted an amendment providing a Territorial government for New Mexico. The bill was referred to the committee of the whole by a majority of two. This was considered equivalent to its rejection; though, on motion of Hiram Walden of New York, the vote was reconsidered by the same majority. Mr. Boyd's amendment was then rejected by a majority of eight, and the bill refused a third reading by forty-six majority. He then moved a reconsideration of the vote by which the bill was lost; and, pending the vote, the House adjourned amid great excitement. The next day the reconsideration was carried by a decisive majority, and the vote defeating the amendment to organize a Territorial government was reconsidered by a majority of seven. It was then moved by Mr. Toombs to amend the amendment so as to provide that the Constitution, the statutes of the general government, and the common law existing in the British colonies on the 4th of July, 1776, should be the exclusive law of the Territories on the subject of slavery. John Wentworth, a Democratic member from Illinois, moved to so amend that amendment as to exclude slavery from all territory acquired from Mexico by the treaty of Gaudalupe-Hidalgo. But his motion was lost by a majority of forty-one. So much, too, of Toombs's amendment as made the Constitution, statutes, and the common law the exclusive laws on the subject of slavery was also rejected. Boyd's amendment was agreed to by seven majority, and the bill, as amended, was defeated by a majority of eight.
Mr. Howard of Texas moved to reconsider the vote; but the Speaker ruled the motion out of order. Mr. Howard appealed, and the House adjourned. The next day, the Speaker declaring the reason of his decision to be the fact that the vote had already been reconsidered, Mr. Howard maintained that the rule applied to the substance, and not to the mere name, and that the bill had been so changed by its amendment as not to be in reality the same. The decision of the Chair was reversed by a majority of forty. The bill was then reconsidered by thirty-eight majority. Mr. Morris of Ohio called for the reading and enforcement of the rule excluding persons from the floor of the House, expressing the wish that Texan bondholders would take notice of the fact. The bill was then passed by a majority of eleven.
Mr. Giddings, ever watchful and observant of the action of Congress touching slavery, states that no person not present could form a correct idea of the scenes presented during the three days on which that measure was pending. Many members felt that the appropriation was a robbery of the Treasury for the benefit of Texas and the holders of her bonds. South ern members tauntingly declared that they could carry any measure “that put money in the pockets of Northern members." Texan scrip, which had so rapidly appreciated during the pendency of the measure, instantly, on its passage, rose to par value. How much influence those bonds exerted in the passage of the boundary bill and kindred measures can never be known. Many who bore an honorable part in that great struggle then entertained, and continued to entertain, the conviction that some of their associates in both Houses were actuated by corrupt motives. The extraordinary action and conflicting votes on a measure so radical in its nature, so distinctly denned, and so clearly apprehended, can never be fully explained on any other theory.
The separate measures of the Omnibus Bill, if “incongruous," were so far alike that they breathed the spirit of both slavery and compromise. It was their design to save both. Nor was there any very good reason why the same body which rejected them " in the lump " should have accepted them in detail, except the fact that, in the then chaotic and substantially revolutionary state of the public mind, men could be successfully dragooned or persuaded to support the parts, each by itself, who shrunk from them combined into one comprehensive whole. Indeed, so homogeneous were these measures practically regarded, in more than one instance the passage of one prepared the way for another.
This was the case in the passage of the Texas boundary bill, which, with its ten million dollars, rendered easy the pas sage of the other compromise measures. The Senate had followed it by the prompt passage of the bill for the admission of California, and- then by bills for organizing Territorial governments for Utah and New Mexico, though an effort made by Mr. Chase to incorporate the Wilmot proviso into the Utah bill was defeated by a majority of five.
On the 7th of September, the next day after the passage of the Texas boundary bill, the House proceeded to the consideration of the bill for the admission of California. It had been violently and persistently opposed for more than six months ; but the passage of the ten-million bill had so mollified the South and united the North, that, with scarcely a word of de bate, it passed on the same day by a vote of one hundred and fifty to fifty-six.
The Utah bill was then taken up. The first section provided that, when admitted as a State, it should be with or without slavery, as its constitution should prescribe. Mr. Stevens of Pennsylvania moved to strike out that provision, but his motion was lost by a majority of twenty-seven. The Wilmot proviso was moved by Mr. Wentworth of Illinois, but it failed of a majority by nine votes. It was then moved by Graham N. Fitch, a Democratic member from Indiana, that the Mexican law prohibiting slavery should remain in full force in the Territory. John S. Millson, a Democratic member from Virginia, moved to amend the amendment, providing that no law or usage in the Territory should destroy or impair any rights of property or any relations of persons recognized in any of the States; but his amendment was rejected by a large majority. Mr. Seddon, of the same State, denounced the vote on Millson's amendment, and declared that it showed “the presence of non-intervention to be a mere sham, -- a trap to catch easy, credulous compromisers of the South."
The Southern members were now divided into two hostile factions, and they were beginning to manifest considerable bitterness of feeling toward each other. Mr. Toombs took fire at the remarks of Mr. Seddon. He affirmed that, if any outrage had been committed on the South, it had been through the agency of her own sons. It was then moved by Seddon that, previous to the formation of a State constitution, there should be no prohibition of the immigration into it of any citizens with property recognized as such by the laws of any State. In support of his motion, he made an extreme South ern speech, in which he said the slaveholding States on any other issue would be lowered from their proud position and dignity. Toombs replied sharply, avowing his readiness to go before the people of the South upon the question that divided them. Mr. Brown of Mississippi, simulating apprehension of Southern defeat, advised his friends to yield gracefully, and go to the people, closing with the declaration: “So help me God, I am for resistance." Mr. Welborn of Georgia made an unsuccessful attempt to have an amendment adopted authorizing the Territorial legislature to protect slavery. Similar amendments proposed by Fitch and Seddon were defeated, and the bill was passed by twelve majority. As the Senate bill for the organization of the Territorial government of New Mexico, without any inhibition of slavery, had been incorporated into the Texas boundary bill, and that amendment had been concurred in by the Senate, Territorial governments were thus provided for Utah and New Mexico with no restriction upon slavery; and the South was again triumphant.
From this maze of stormy debate and conflicting purposes, of propositions and counter propositions, of amendments now rejected and now adopted, measures defeated in mass and triumphant in detail, the very history of which bewilders by its complexity, there is deducible not only the humiliating fact that craft, courage, and combination in the wrong were too much for timidity, indecision, and divided counsels in the right, but a tolerably clear perception may be gained of the fiery trial of principle and patriotism through which the true men of that day were called to pass. To decide correctly, maintain an inflexible adherence to principle, and fealty to the primal truths of human rights and free institutions, the patriotic and freedom-loving men of that day were compelled not only to confront threats of treason and civil war, to see the majority of Northern men wavering around them, generally in the name of patriotism and in the assumed interests of peace, but to listen to most thrilling appeals to their love of country, to their veneration for the memory of the fathers, and to their generosity toward their brethren who, it was claimed, were only involved in a system entailed by a common ancestry.
Perhaps nothing exerted a more demoralizing influence upon Congress than the course of Mr. Clay. So ready was he to change, so oblivious of moral considerations did he appear, with his determined purpose to effect some compromise of the pending questions, that he altered his course and presented new propositions no less than five times during that debate. It followed, then, naturally, as a consequence of his great personal popularity, his traditional and magnetic power over men, that they who had so long looked up to him as their trusted leader and guide should be bewildered by a policy so tortuous and unprincipled.
To add to the general bewilderment and demoralization that prevailed, the Southern extremists were abandoning their vaporing and abstractions, and were rapidly approaching, in words at least, toward open and avowed treason. Indeed, in the debate on the admission of California, Mr. Clemens of Alabama announced the baldest doctrines of secession. Alluding to the prospective action of his State, he said, “I am the servant, not the leader, of the people. Whatever they shall do I shall do, in spite of executive menaces and of all the bloody pictures other hands may exhibit to our view. If she determines to resist the law by force, by secession, by any means, I am at her service, in whatever capacity she desires to employ me. If this be treason, I am a traitor, a traitor who glories in 'the name." He denied that the general government had any right to coerce a sovereign State. “Individuals," he said, " not States, are the subject of coercion." In this language was clearly foreshadowed the doctrines of secession and State inviolability, which culminated ten years later in the Rebellion, and which became the accepted creed of that great treason. Indeed, no careful reader of these debates can fail to detect the lurking and growing disloyalty of the Southern mind, and to learn that rebellion and civil war had become even then only a question of time. The elements of disunion were there, and it only needed the electric contact to produce the explosion. The power of cohesion was becoming weaker and weaker, and there was wanting only some sudden quickening of the repellent force to rend asunder the national fabric. Passion and prejudice had existed for long years, and there was required only the exasperating touch of some special cause of angry discontent for them to become madness and frenzy, whose frantic cries drowned not only the monitions of conscience and reason, but the clearest dictates of ordinary prudence and common-sense.
In June of that year, Mr. Toombs made the strangely extravagant declaration that the political equality the South demanded was worth a thousand unions, even if each union was a thousand times more valuable than the present Union. “Deprive us of this right," he said,” appropriate this common property to yourselves, -- it is then your government, not mine." In the same spirit he made a similar declaration seventeen years later: “I am its enemy, and I am willing, if I can, to bring up my children and my constituents to the altar of Liberty, and, like Hamilcar, swear them to eternal hostility to your foul domination. Give us our just rights, and we are ready, as heretofore, to stand by the Union, every part of it and its every interest. Refuse it, and I, for one, will strike for independence." This declaration and the cries of "Good!” revealed clearly the temper of the times.
Mr. Holmes of South Carolina made an impassioned speech, not only defending the right and expediency of secession, but boastfully vaunting the power of the Southern States to maintain it; while he drew, in dark and forbidding colors, the future condition of the North, New England especially, predicting that its doom would be that of Venice, Palmyra, and other cities of the Old World, whose glory and prosperity must be numbered among the things that were. Mr. Morse of Louisiana expressed the desire for something more substantial than complimentary votes. “A union," he said, with daring and shameless effrontery, " is not worth a curse as long as distinction exists between negroes and horses."
Nor were threats of disunion confined to the floor of Congress, or to the columns of an inflammatory press. There were movements of a more general character in the same direction. While this debate was in progress in Congress, a call was issued for a convention; and in June such a convocation was held in Nashville, Tennessee, composed of representatives of a portion of the Southern States, and convened to consider the questions at issue between the two sections. Though not so avowed, it was generally regarded as disunion in sentiment and purpose. Judge Sharkey presided. In its address were noted, as grounds of solicitude, if not of com plaint, the facts that the North did not recognize the inferiority of the African to the Caucasian race; that its sympathies were not naturally with the South; and that, if the South yielded, everything was lost. It declared that “a sectional despotism, totally irresponsible to the people of the South, constituted of the representatives of the non-slaveholding States, ignorant of our feelings, condition, and institutions, reigns in Washington." It was clear, it maintained, to the dullest vision, that the South was “in subjection to an intolerable, detestable, sectional despotism." It expressed a willing ness to extend the line of the Missouri compromise to the Pacific. It adjourned to meet again in November.
Its adjourned meeting was held at the time appointed, and continued in session a week. But it was inharmonious, and it failed to agree upon a common platform. Its members found it easier to dissent from accepted doctrines of friends and supporters of the Federal government, than to agree among themselves. Langdon Cheves, a man of extreme views, affirmed, in speech and resolution, that the only remedy for the South was secession by the joint action of the Southern States. “We can scatter our enemies," he said, “like autumnal leaves. California will become a slave State, and we will form the most splendid empire on which the sun shines." Before adjourning, the convention adopted resolutions condemning the acts of Congress, affirming the right of secession, and recommending a general congress of the Southern States. There was also a meeting at Washington of the more violent of the Southern members of Congress, for the purpose of concentrating and giving expression to their extreme opinions, and also of combining their forces in opposition to the admission of California.
Though the Nashville convention and this meeting of the Southern members of Congress did not accomplish all their sanguine movers aimed at, they indicated very clearly the state and drift of the Southern mind; and, taken in connection with the debates in Congress, revealed the wide-spread feelings and sentiments of defection, the gravity of the issues at stake, the dangers which threatened the peace and prosperity of the nation, and the practical difficulties of the hour.
The language of Mr. Soule of Louisiana, though less defiant, was no less calculated to disturb the public mind in its excited state of restless apprehension ; and all the more from the fact that he had been regarded moderate in his opinions, and less extreme of purpose. But he had yielded to the sectional pressure, and consequently his words seemed more pregnant and suggestive. On the simple resolution to admit California with her own freely selected constitution he said: “But, sir, we have gained something by bringing the question, in all its nakedness, to the test. It is now undisguised, unmasked. There it stands alone, without any seeming object of compromise or adjustment. This measure will pass, I have no doubt; but its consummation will be the consummation of one of the most grievous, the most revolting, and the most un justifiable wrongs that can be inflicted upon a people, living, as we do, under a constitutional compact which proposes to establish justice and promote the general welfare. It will remain a monument of legislative recklessness and oppression; it will shame history to record it. Sir, I do not wish to heat, by any remarks of mine, the excitement which already prevails to such an alarming extent throughout the country. God alone knows to what a pitch it may reach when the official gazetteer shall proclaim to the nation, as the law of the land, the ac cursed measure which, in the madness of your impatience, you seem so eager to pass."
More potent, however, than menaces were appeals to the finer feelings, the love of country, veneration for the past, grateful memories of former favors, and fraternal regard for the descendants from a common ancestry, the heirs of a com mon heritage. Of that class perhaps the most effective were those of Mr. McDowell of Virginia. He had distinguished himself by his eloquent plea for emancipation in the Virginia convention in 1832, and had acquired a national reputation by his ardent patriotism, his broad and statesmanlike views in pleading for the best interests of his own Commonwealth, his genial manners, and his fascinating oratory. When, therefore, near the close of that great debate, on the 3d of September, he felt constrained to make the appeals which fell from his impassioned lips, there is little wonder that his words made a profound impression.
“Whatever the opinions," he said,” I have expressed or entertain upon the institution of slavery in the abstract, I have never doubted for a moment that, as white and black races now live together in the Southern States, it is an indispensable institution for them both." Asserting that emancipation would lead, “through the heart-burnings and passions of human nature, to a war of colors, the bloodiest and cruelest of all wars," he contended that a servile condition was “the only happy and suitable one for themselves or their masters." He said the Wilmot proviso destroyed “all equality between the citizens of the slaveholding and free States," and therefore could be insisted on only by disregarding the spirit and purpose of the compact between them. He appealed to Congress, therefore, "to relieve the South from the flagitious wrong which the 'proviso ' threatens against her."
Leaving the domain of argument, which he presented in a variety of forms, and ascending into the higher regions of the sensibilities and of moral obligation, he appealed to the fraternal feelings which had hitherto existed, and to the grateful memories of the years when they struggled against a common foe, for the cultivation of a common heritage, and the upbuilding of the fabric of a national unity. Proudly referring to the prominent part performed by Virginia, and the sacrifices she made for the common weal, he asked: Shall all this be forgot ten? " Whatever that Union or country is," he said, "whatever the peace it has bestowed, whatever the developments of happiness and energy it has encouraged, whatever the radiance it had shed upon the principles of human government, whatever the power of organization and defence it has given to the spirit of freedom among the masses of mankind, whatever the throbbing heart of liberty it has lit up in the heart of the world, -- whatever in these and all things else that country is, it is the common offspring of the cares, contributions, counsels, and labors of you both Who of us," he demanded, " without the putting forth of every faculty of soul and body to prevent it, could see it go down, down, under some monstrous struggle of brother with brother, an eternal crush upon ourselves, an eternal example for the shuddering, the admonition, the horror, and the curse of universal man ? .... In this hour, so full of interest, our mother country comes into our very midst, and, taking each by the hand, says to each, Son, give me, give me thine heart.' Can we not give it, freely, proudly give it all? " Referring to the dying exclamation of Lieutenant Hale, executed as a spy in the Revolution, " O, it is a bitter, bitter thing to die; and how bitter, too, to know that I have but one life to live which I can give to my country," he exclaimed: " Give us only this spirit for our work here," and it shall be " crowned with a long futurity of thank fulness and rejoicing."
With such appeals sounding in their ears, it is not so very strange that the words " union," " patriotism," too often became the synonymes of hostility to human rights, and that the words " liberty " and " emancipation " fell into disrepute and became the objects of popular distrust and hate. Sharing, too, in the prejudice against the oppressed race, and becoming more and more aware how indissolubly slavery was linked with the very existence and fortunes of the republic, it is not as wonderful as it is distressful that such a man as Mr. Winthrop should make the sacrifice of consistency in voting for a bill giving to Texas tens of thousands of square miles, then free, to become slave territory, and millions of dollars for which, he admitted, she had no just claim. His apology, too, for such action, did much to discourage the wavering and embarrass those who aimed to be true to their convictions and faithful to the best interests of the country. "If I should vote for this measure," said Mr. Winthrop on that occasion, “I feel that it is one of the largest concessions I can make to that spirit of conciliation and forbearance which I have ever been disposed to cherish in regard to these sectional subjects. It will be from the most earnest desire to remove every cause of contention from our midst, and to restore harmony and concord to our country and to its public councils. It will be from a devoted attachment to this Union, and from a willing ness to sacrifice to its preservation everything, everything but principle."
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 272-290.
Chapter: “Compromise Measures of 1850 (continued)” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:
The desire of slaves to escape from their condition of servitude was natural and inevitable. Provision must therefore be made to guard against its influence and to prevent such escapes. This provision could not, however, be made without mutual co-operation. It was simply impossible for the owner of a single slave to maintain a watch so constant and unintermitted as to prevent his escape. Much less could it be done when one became the owner of scores or hundreds. Slavery, therefore, necessarily became a social matter, and men were obliged to join hand and hand in its guilt, or to relinquish it altogether. Accordingly, when the Constitution was formed, the slave-masters imperiously demanded and obtained an article recognizing that necessity and providing for its relief. The iniquity of striking hands with the oppressor was then “framed into law," and at the very outset the government pledged itself to this ignoble and wicked service. The same motives, too, which required its enactment, were always present, not only to demand its enforcement, but to increase the stringency of its provisions. But such hard and cruel pro visions were as much at war with the humane and Christian principles of Northern men as with the comfort, safety, and rights of their Southern victims. It was not strange, therefore, that the increasing numbers of these human chattels, who were reasserting their claims to themselves, were finding friends to help them on toward the north star and freedom, and that, from time to time, Congress was besieged with petitions and appeals to render this provision of the Constitution and the fugitive-slave law of 1793 more stringent and effective. But no additional legislation was actually secured until it was incorporated with the compromise measures of 1850.
Early in January, 1850, Mr. Mason had introduced a bill to provide for the more effectual execution of the clause of the Constitution for the rendition of fugitives from service. This had been referred to the Judiciary Committee, and Mr. Butler had reported the bill, with some amendments. But it had been laid upon the table; nor was it called up again until the 19th of August. Mr. Mason then offered an amendment, in the shape of a substitute for the original bill, containing eight sections, which was afterward substantially adopted.
In the explanations given, it appeared that the bill proposed by the committee of thirteen had been incorporated into the amendment proposed by Mr. Mason. It was remarked by Mr. Cass that in the committee the general wish was expressed to retain the main features of the act of 1793, which had been in force for sixty years, and of which the four leading pro visions were, the right to arrest the fugitive where found, the right to take him before a magistrate when arrested, the duty of the magistrate to examine the case and commit him to the custody of the master, and the right of the master to remove him. He desired that this law should be continued, and that any additional features deemed necessary should be added as amendments. Mr. Webster had prepared a provision giving to the fugitive a jury trial. Mr. Dayton offered an amendment which, he said, was substantially the same that had been prepared by Mr. Webster. A sharp debate sprang up between Mr. Mason and Mr. Dayton on the necessities of the case, the relative merits of their respective amendments, and the difficulties interposed by the public sentiment to jury trials.
Mr. Chase said he should vote for the amendment, though he presumed it would not satisfy the friends of the measure, as it seemed to be taken for granted that but one class of rights was to be regarded, "the rights of masters." He admitted that difficulties had arisen; but he thought they had resulted from attempts to seize alleged fugitives without any process. To this Mr. Mason replied, “It is perfectly lawful to do so." Mr. Dayton's amendment was rejected by a vote of more than two to one. Mr. Chase offered an amendment, which Mr. Mason characterized as a plan to “substitute a trial by jury on the question of claim or no claim"; but it was rejected without a division. An amendment was then offered by Mr. Winthrop of Massachusetts, which Mr. Mason asserted involved “the admission of the testimony of the alleged fugitive "; and that, too, was rejected.
The debate was renewed on the 20th, when Mr. Pratt of Maryland offered an amendment, the purport of which was, in the language of the mover, to " provide, if the United States do not pass a law sufficiently efficient to carry out the obligation, on the part of the Federal government, to deliver to the owner his slaves when they escape, that it shall pay the owners out of the coffers of the national treasury for the noncompliance with this obligation." This amendment was fitly characterized by Mr. Butler as “a proposition to make the government an underwriter, to repair the losses of the losers of slaves." In the course of the debate much was said of the difficulty of executing laws which are in conflict with the popular sentiment. Mr. Pratt denounced a sentiment which Mr. Seward had uttered not long before in Ohio. Referring to the laws which required the surrender of the fugitive slave at his fireside to his relentless pursuer, the Senator from New York had said: " Reform your own code, extend a cordial welcome to him who lays his weary limbs at your own door, and defend him as you would your household gods." Mr. Pratt thought little harmony could exist in the country where such counsels were given by men high in station. His amendment was, however, lost by a large majority.
On the 23d, Mr. Underwood of Kentucky moved to strikeout all after the enacting clause, and to substitute a new bill which he had prepared. It was condemned by Mr. Mason, who characterized it as but little more stringent than the law of 1793; and it was rejected. Various amendments were offered, among which was one by Jefferson Davis, that was subsequently adopted, making the government responsible for the expenses of the slave's delivery. Another amendment was agreed to, on motion of Mr. Mason, imposing a fine of one thousand dollars upon a marshal who should neglect to use all proper means for the arrest of the fugitive, and making him responsible for his full value, if he should escape, with or without his assent.
Mr. Davis of Massachusetts then offered an amendment to the effect that, in case colored seamen should be imprisoned in Southern ports, it should be the duty of the United States district-attorney to sue out writs of habeas corpus, and the duty of the United States judges to hear such cases. He then fully presented the facts and the treatment which Mr. Hoar, as the agent of Massachusetts, had received. He showed that this outrage was all the more aggravated by the fact that he had not been appointed until after two unavailing attempts had been made to secure the services of lawyers in Charleston to bring such cases before the United States courts. He commented on the conduct of the citizens of Charleston, and upon the action of the legislature of South Carolina in passing a law denying the writ of habeas corpus. “There," said Mr. Davis, “the question stands, from that day to this. The doors of the courts of justice stand closed, and apparently forever closed."
Mr. Winthrop then made a brief but very cogent speech, re minding the Senate that the subject was not a new one; that William Wirt, as Attorney-General of the United States, had pronounced those laws unconstitutional; and that the time had not long elapsed since colored persons had been regarded not only as citizens, but as voters in several of the Southern States. The amendment was lost by a vote of thirteen to twenty-four, and the bill was passed, only twelve voting against it. The fact that only thirteen could be found to vote for an amendment in which the rights of Northern freemen were so intimately involved certainly betrayed the strength of party discipline and the strangely craven spirit of the North ern members, who could thus ignore the claims of their own constituents and bow their necks to the haughty and domineering policy of the Slave Power. There were twenty-one members, too, of the Senate, who did not vote either for or against the measure. Mr. Benton states that most of those Senators would have voted to amend the act of 1793, in order to render it more efficient; but that a class of members, constituting themselves the particular guardians of the slave States, and claiming to lead and control all things in their own way, had made " a complex, cumbersome, expensive, annoying, and ineffective bill," which he and others declined to support. This action of one third of the Senate upon a measure so vital in its effects, not only upon the slave, but also upon free persons of color, as well as upon the entire people of the Northern States, was a weak and wicked shirking of responsibility, a pusillanimous shrinking from the discharge of legislative duty, indefensible and humiliating.
On the 12th of September the bill was taken up for consideration in the House, and James Thompson, a Democratic member from Pennsylvania, who, previous to his election, gave antislavery pledges, which, however, he did not keep, spoke in its favor; and then, " for the sake," as he said, " of giving the House the fullest opportunity to test its sense of the bill," moved the previous question, which was sustained. All debate being thus cut off, the bill was passed by a vote of one hundred and nine to seventy-six. Thirty-three Northern members were absent, or, in legislative parlance, “dodged “the vote. A smaller proportion, indeed, than in the Senate proved recreant to their trust, but enough to reveal the sad demoralization of that body. Thirty-one Northern members voted for that cruel, abhorrent, and wicked measure. Among this number were three Northern Whigs, Edward W. McGaughey of Indiana, John L. Taylor of Ohio, and Samuel A. Eliot of Massachusetts. John J. Crittenden, the Attorney-General, gave a written opinion in favor of its constitutionality, when it received the executive signature and became a law. Thus summarily and precipitately was consummated that act which carried so much alarm, anxiety, and sorrow into the humble homes of the colored people, both fugitive and free, and which caused so much indignation and concern among the humane and conscientious of the land.
On the 3d of September the Senate proceeded to the consideration of the bill authorizing the city authorities of Washington and Georgetown to abate the traffic in slaves brought into the District of Columbia for sale. Though this was the only one of the compromise measures that favored freedom in the least, it did not propose to interfere with the traffic between the inhabitants themselves. They could still sell their slaves to each other, or to such as desired to take them from the District. Mr. Hunter made a long speech in opposition, in which he not only enunciated his own extreme views on the subject of slavery, but exposed the inconsistent and untenable position of those who exhibited so much virtuous indignation against the traffic in slaves, while they de fended the system which made it. He represented the bill as “one of a series of measures which must end in the abolition of slavery in the District." He denied its constitutionality, and its justice as well. He then went into an earnest defence of the slave-trade, both foreign and domestic. He admitted that there were cases of hardship; but he made the strange declaration: "I do not believe that the slave-trade between the States has worked, upon the whole, a wrong. But, on the contrary, I think I can show that it has been the source of great benefit, not only to the whites in those States, but particularly to the slaves themselves; " while of the foreign slave-trade, and the efforts to suppress it, he said: " I think this but another instance of the mischief which has so often been done by what I call sentimental legislation." He alluded to the inconsistency of allowing the trade between the States and of prohibiting it in the District. And he made the unanswerable point: “If it be wrong to sell a slave from another State in the District, it is wrong to do so in Virginia; if it be wrong to sell from one State to another, it is wrong to sell a slave from one man to another." “Yes, sir," he said, “if all these things be wrong, it will not be difficult to show that the institution of slavery cannot be right."
Mr. Clay replied, maintaining the constitutionality of the bill. He recognized the fact that the slave-trade, which the gentleman had just defended, “has met with the almost unanimous detestation of mankind “; while of the “sentimental legislation," of which Mr. Hunter had spoken, he said,” My opinion is that all legislation should be the result of both the head and the heart."
Mr. Downs moved to postpone further consideration of the subject, on the ground that the whole session had been taken up with the subject of slavery, without giving attention to anything else; but his motion was rejected. Mr. Pearce then offered an amendment providing that any one inducing or aiding a slave to escape shall be imprisoned not more than ten nor less than two years; that any person convicted of aiding a slave to escape shall pay to his owner his full value; and that the authorities shall have power to prevent the coming in of free persons of color, and of ejecting those now in, not conforming to regulations that had been or might be adopted.
A long debate here sprang up between Pratt, Mason, and Clay, upon the actual state of the laws in the District as affected by the laws of Virginia and Maryland; in which Mr. Clay remarked, that, whatever the laws might have been, one fact was plain, -- the traffic of slaves was now carried on in the District. Mr. Mason made this singular and extraordinary admission, for an ultra-defender of slavery as he was: " None can condemn more than I do the practice which has been denounced here and elsewhere of dealing in slaves." There were quite a number of amendments offered and debated, some being rejected and others adopted, none, however, greatly affecting the principles of the bill. Unlike the other measures of the compromise, it received support from both sections of the country, since it was the only one in which freedom was not the loser.
An amendment was introduced by Mr. Seward, which proved an exception and which caused a spirited debate. It was in the form of a bill abolishing slavery in the District, appropriating two hundred thousand dollars for compensation, and providing for an election to ascertain the will of its inhabitants. Mr. Mangum said: “There has been no time within twenty-five years I would not have voted for the abrogation of the slave-trade here I have now changed my course. I shall not vote for it. I am satisfied, from developments that are made, that it is impossible to satisfy certain gentlemen. To attain their objects, they would wade through the blood, knee deep, of the whole South, and over the wreck of the Union."
Mr. Dawson did not know how much importance should be attached to the motion. “It might be," he said, " an emanation of disappointed political ambition, mere effort to hold on to one plank in the wreck of a recently established political platform and to save a sinking party." Mr. Dayton thought the amendment “a crude, ill-digested, and hastily considered affair," and he should vote against it. Mr. Atchison of Missouri called attention to the fact that the gentleman from New Jersey refused to vote for the amendment, not because he was opposed to it on principle, but because it was ill-timed. Mr. Chase said there had been unnecessary feeling, though he admitted that he shared in the idea that "this bill is a step toward the abolition of slavery itself, and gentlemen deceive themselves if they suppose this is the last step."
Mr. Foote considered it “a proposition to dissolve the Union," though he thanked Heaven that it had no prospect of success. "Faction," he said, "driven to the wall, fanaticism permanently detached from politics, our Republican in situations are gloriously triumphant over all enemies, secret and open." Mr. Winthrop replied very effectively: "If I vote against this amendment it will not be because I regard it a proposition to dissolve the Union. If the emancipation of a few hundred slaves on this little patch of territory which you may almost cover with your pocket-handkerchief, can be an entering wedge to rive this vast Union asunder, it must be the operation of some awful and mysterious principle, and not the operation of the act itself." He proceeded at some length, arguing its constitutionality; but he regretted the introduction of the amendment as a crude and unseasonable proposition, indiscreet, ill-digested, and impracticable; not only sure to be rejected itself, but liable to defeat the bill, which certainly was a good to be desired.
The next, day Mr. Seward stated his reason for introducing his amendment, which was that the bill for the abolition of the slave-trade introduced by the committee of thirteen had been so changed by amendments that he could not vote for it. Being assured that the bill would probably pass in its original shape, he would withdraw the amendment; but as unanimous consent was necessary, and that was refused, he could not do it. He proceeded to defend his amendment on the ground that it was an eminently proper act, constitutional and opportune; for he believed that “for the performance of such a duty the first time and the first occasion which offers is the right one." Mr. Butler could but regard the bill of the committee as really tending to the general abolition of slavery as Mr. Seward's amendment. “It is not the entering wedge," he said,” that generally splits the timber; but it prepares the way for the final effect."
An acrimonious debate was carried on during the day, in which a sharp colloquy sprang up between the Senators from New Hampshire concerning certain resolutions of its legislature. Mr. Hale rejoiced at the opportunity to vote, in accordance with the instructions of his constituents, for the abolition of slavery in the District. He said that others might wear all the honors and all the laurels to be acquired by compromising; but he desired to associate his humble name with all the odium, the reprobation, the abuse, and the calumny that belonged to the avowal that he was ready to vote for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. John Bell expressed the conviction that slave property in the District had diminished in value by the large accession of free people of color; and he thought that, under the circumstances, very stringent legislation was required for the security of that kind of “property." He thought if slavery was abolished in the District, agitation would be renewed, and the fires of controversy would be re kindled so long as the District was left open for the admission and residence of free negroes. “It will soon come to pass," he said, " that Congress itself will not find it convenient, if safe, to sit here, beset and surrounded by an overgrown population of colored inhabitants, degraded in caste, and for the most part idle, vicious, and mischievous."
Mr. Butler attacked the free States in their vulnerable point, their unjust discrimination against color, and asked whether colored citizens of Massachusetts were allowed to serve in its State militia or on its juries. The remainder of that and the most of the next day were occupied with a debate on the imprisonment of colored seamen in Southern ports, in which Mr. Winthrop bore himself with dignity against the assaults of several Southern Senators, and met their arguments and criticisms with force and eloquence. Mr. Seward's amendment was rejected, and the question was taken from the committee of the whole and reported to the Senate.
Mr. Clay said he hoped the Senate would not agree to Mr. Pearce's amendment, though reported from the committee. He made an earnest appeal to his Southern friends to support the bill. As this was one of a series of compromise measures, and as the others had passed by Northern aid, concerning this, on which their friends of the free States were sensitive and solicitous, he contended that they should consult their wishes and repay them for their concession. A very able debate ensued. Mr. Hale pointed out the cruel provisions of Mr. Pearce's amendment, and maintained that any person might be convicted and sent to the penitentiary for not less than two years for reading to his slave the Declaration of In dependence, -- or the simple account of the advent of Him who came to preach deliverance to the captives and the opening of prison-doors to them who are bound.
Mr. Badger replied, admitting and vindicating the fact that such a person might be convicted for reading to his slave the Declaration of Independence. Mr. Ewing strongly opposed the amendment. He averred that his judgment revolted against it, that it was wrong, that it offended the moral sense of men who looked upon it without any personal interest. Mr. Mason asserted that this discussion had about convinced him that the North was not willing to carry out in good faith the necessary regulations which slavery required, and that the incompatibility between the two sections was too great to allow them to live together under a common government. The question finally reached a vote, and the amendments were rejected by the small majority of four. The question was then taken on the engrossment of the bill; and on the 16th of September, 1850, it was carried by a vote of thirty-two to nineteen.
The bill was reported to the House on the 17th. Mr. Brown of Mississippi offered the Pearce amendment, but it was rejected by forty-one majority, and the bill was passed by a majority of sixty-five, a number of Northern Whigs dodging the vote. Thaddeus Stevens immediately arose and gravely made the suggestion, the grim humor of which spoke volumes of unwritten yet most unwelcome history, that the Speaker send one of his pages to inform those members that they could return with safety, as the slavery question had been disposed of.
The measures which were to heal the “five gaping wounds “of the country had now been adopted. The compromisers had achieved a complete victory, and the champions of the Slave Power thought they had settled for years the disturbing questions growing out of the interests and necessities of slavery. They were exultant over victories already won, and looked forward with augmented confidence to other triumphs yet to be achieved.
Though defeated, the representatives of the antislavery sentiment of the country were not disheartened. Overborne in deed by numbers then, they knew such questions were never settled until they were settled right. Reason and conscience told them that the forces of the material and moral world were acting with them, and would still fight the battles of truth and freedom, whoever might falter or fail. They turned trustfully to the future, and committed the sacred cause to the “sober second thought " of the people and to the providence of God.
Mr. Hale in the Senate and Mr. Julian in the House, the Free Soil candidates for President and Vice-President two years thereafter, gave expression to this sentiment and purpose. Toward the close of the conflict, Mr. Hale, alluding to the fact that there had never been a Congress in which the influence of slavery had been more potent, said: “Gentlemen flatter themselves that they have done a great deal for the peace of the country. Everybody is pleased but a few wild fanatics. Let not gentlemen deceive themselves. The pen of inspiration teaches us that there was a time when a set of men cried, Peace, peace, when there was no peace.' Let me tell you, there is no peace to them who think they have successfully dug the grave in which the hopes, the rights, and the interests of freedom are buried. No, sir; that peace will be short, and that rejoicing will most assuredly be turned into mourning."
On the eve of the adjournment, Mr. Julian spoke at length and with much force of thought and strength of expression on the “healing measures of the present session," and gave his reasons for opposing them. Of the Texas boundary bill he said: “It is neither more nor less than the extension of slavery by an act of Congress." Alluding to the threat of war as the probable consequence of not voting for the measure, he replied : "I stand opposed to the war spirit and the war mania; and yet there are things more to be dreaded than war, -- the betrayal of sacred trusts, shrinking from just responsibility, a pusillanimous surrender of rights, the extension of slavery by the Federal government, -- and, more specific, it is less to be deplored than the dastardly and craven spirit which would prompt the representatives of twenty millions of people to cower and turn pale at the bandit treaty of slave holders, and give them millions of acres and millions of gold as a peace-offering to the vandal spirit of slaveholding aggression." He declared, in reply to the charge that the “Wilmot proviso was conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity," that it was rather conceived in the brains of such patriots as Henry Vane and Algernon Sydney, and brought forth in the glorious fruits of the Revolution of 1776. "If I thought," he said, “with some, that, for other reasons, slavery could not gain a foothold in our Territories, I would still insist on the proviso as a wholesome and needful reassertion, in the present crisis, of the principles on which our government was founded."
He paid special attention to the Fugitive Slave Act, and seldom has that abhorrent law been more fitly characterized. Comparing it with the act of 1793 he said: " A tissue of more heartless and cold-blooded enactments never disgraced a civilized people, throwing around the slaveholder every protection, as if the institution had the stamp of divinity, while it so hedges about the way of the poor fugitive with nets and snares as to leave him utterly without hope. And “these," he said,” are the fruits of this unparalleled and protracted struggle, brought forth after a congressional incubation of nine months. These are the healing measures which are to dry up the ' gaping wounds ' that have threatened to bleed the nation to death. On the contrary, the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act will open a fresh wound in the North, and it will continue to bleed as long as the law stands unrepealed."
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 291-303.
THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE, REPEAL OF – SEE THE KANSAS-NEBRASKA BILL (1853-1854)
MITCHELL, P. J., Justice of the New York Supreme Court. Stated in court decision that slaves transported from Virginia through New York City were free when they entered the state, because “slavery was contrary to the natural right of freedom.”
(Dumond, 1961, pp. 317, 407n6)
MITCHELL, Robert Byington, 1823-1882, lawyer, political leader, Union soldier. Member of the Kansas Territorial Legislature, 1857-1858. Active in Free State anti-slavery movement in Kansas in 1856. Colonel, 2nd Kansas Volunteers. Commander 13th U.S. Army Division. Fought in Battle of Perryville. 1865-1867 Governor of New Mexico.
(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 346; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 1, p. 60; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 15, p. 625)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MITCHELL, Robert B., lawyer, b. in Richland county, Ohio, 4 April, 1823; d. in Washington, D. C., 26 Jan., 1882. He was educated at Washington college, Pa., and then studied law. During the Mexican war he served in the Ohio volunteers as 1st lieutenant, and on its conclusion he resumed the practice of his profession. In 1856 he moved to Kansas, and took an active part with the free-state men in their struggle with the pro-slavery party. He was a member of the territorial legislature in 1857-'8, and treasurer in 1858-'61. At the beginning of the civil war he was made colonel of the 2d Kansas volunteers, and was severely wounded at the battle of Wilson's Creek. On his recovery he raised a regiment of cavalry, and was commissioned brigadier-general of volunteers on 8 April, 1862. He was given command of the 13th division of Gen. Don Carlos Buell's army, and participated in the battle of Perryville. During 1865-'7 he was governor of New Mexico, and, after completing his term of office, settled in Washington, D. C., where he remained until his death. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 346.
MONTANA, ADMISSION AS A FREE STATE
Chapter: “Meeting of XXXVIIIth Congress. — War Legislation,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1878:
Still another illustration of the extended and minute ramifications of slavery in the body politic, so long as it was a recognized fact in the nation and government, of the wide sweep of the principle of freedom, even though but partially admitted, and of the difficulty and delicacy of adjusting legislation to the new order of things, was afforded by a debate in the Senate upon a bill to provide a temporary government for Montana, begun on the 31st of March, 1864. An amendment, offered by Mr. Wilkinson of Minnesota, to strike out the words " white male inhabitant," and to insert "male citizen of the United States," had been agreed to; but on reading the bill a third time, and on a call of Mr. Saulsbury for the yeas and nays, a sharp debate arose, in which Mr. Johnson of Maryland and Mr. Sumner of Massachusetts spoke with some sharpness, not to say acerbity of feeling. Mr. Johnson having suggested that if it was the object of the mover to "put beyond all doubt" that Africans should be permitted to vote, he had better substitute the words, "all black men " for "all citizens," because the Supreme Court had decided, in the Dred Scott case, that " a person of African descent is not a citizen of the United States." Mr. Sumner said: " I take it that each branch of the government can interpret the Constitution for itself. I think that Congress is as good an authority in its interpretation as the Supreme Court, and I hope that Congress, in its legislation, will proceed absolutely without any respect to a decision which has already disgraced the country, and which ought to be expelled from its jurisprudence." Subsequently he expressed the thought still more strongly, adding: "And God forbid that Congress should consent to wear the strait-jacket of the Dred Scott decision! "
"Mr. President," responded Mr. Johnson, "if the opinion of the Senator of Massachusetts was conclusive upon all such questions, guided, and controlled the public mind, it might be considered now as settled that the decision of the Supreme Court in that case was a disgrace. But I have yet to be ad vised that the honorable member, either by nature or education, has attained so much intellectual celebrity or possesses such transcendent mental ability as to be able to pronounce ex cathedra against a decision pronounced by the Supreme Court of the United States. There are many men, the equals of the honorable member, to say the least, intellectually, who think that that decision was anything but an outrage."
Mr. Hale, with his unfailing wit and good humor, however, came to the rescue. " I do not," he said, " propose to enter into this discussion, but simply to make a single remark, in which I am compelled to differ from my honorable friend from Massachusetts. He says that the Dred Scott decision was a disgrace to the Supreme Court of the United States. I do not believe that I think any better of that decision than he does; I think it was an outrage upon the civilization of the age, and a libel upon the law; but I do not think it was a disgrace to the Supreme Court of the United States." He expressed, however, with Mr. Sumner, the conviction that the amendment involved an important principle, and that, while the colored men were fighting the nation's battles, the nation should thus recognize their manhood and rights as citizens of the Republic.
Others, however, equally earnest and decided in their antislavery convictions and purposes, like Trumbull and Wade, doubted the policy of urging it at that time; the former declaring it to be " the merest abstraction," from which no good could arise. After long discussion, however, the amendment was lost.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 3. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1878, 430-431.
MONTGOMERY, James, 1814-1871, Ashtabula County, Ohio, radical/militant abolitionist, Union Army Colonel in the Civil War. In 1854, became leader of a local Free State organization. In 1857, organized a “Self Protective Company” to oppose pro-slavery settlers.
See also Kansas Conflict.
(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 369; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 1, p. 97)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MONTGOMERY, James, pioneer, b. in Ashtabula county, Ohio, 22 Dec., 1814; d. in Linn county, Kan., 6 Dec., 1871. He came with his family early in life to Kentucky, and taught, ultimately becoming a Campbellite preacher. Later he devoted himself to farming, but in 1854 went to southern Kansas, where he was one of the earliest settlers. His residence in Linn county was burned by the Missourians in 1856, and this resulted in his taking an active part in the disturbances that followed. The retaliatory visits into Missouri were frequently led by him, and his discretion, courage, and acknowledged ability gained for him the confidence and support of the southern counties. His enrolled company included nearly 500 men, all of whom were old residents of the territory, and consequently familiar with the peculiar mode of fighting that was followed on the border. Capt. Montgomery was one of the acknowledged leaders of the free-state cause during 1857-'61. Next to John Brown he was more feared than any other, and a contemporary sketch of the “Kansas Hero,” as he was then called, says: “Notwithstanding every incentive to retaliate actuates them to demand blood for blood, yet Montgomery is able to control and direct them. He truly tempers justice with mercy, and he has always protected women and children from harm, and has never shed blood except in conflict or in self-defence.” In 1857 he represented his county in the Kansas senate, and at other times he was a member of the legislature. At the beginning of the civil war he was made colonel of the 10th Kansas volunteers, but soon afterward was given command of the 1st North Carolina colored volunteers. These troops he led on a raid from Hilton Head into Georgia in July, 1863, and at the battle of Olustee, Fla., on 20 Feb., 1864, was one of the few officers that escaped with his life. Horace Greeley says of his regiment and the 54th Massachusetts: “It was admitted that these two regiments had saved our little army from being routed.” At the close of the war he returned to Kansas and passed the last years of his life at his home in Linn county. Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888.
MORRIL, David Lawrence, 1772-1849, theologian, physician, statesman. U.S. Senator from New Hampshire. U.S. Senator from December 1817-March 1823. Opposed extending slavery into the new territories stated in debate in Congress in 1819: “The states now existing which have thought proper to admit slavery, may retain their slaves as long as they please; but, after the commencement of 1808, Congress may by law prohibit the importation of any more, and restrain those who are then in servitude to the territory or States where they may be found.” Opposed the Fugitive Slave Law and supported actions to suppress the illegal slave trade.
(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 408; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 1, p. 195; Dumond, 1961, p. 105; 16 Cong., 1 Sess., 1819-1820, p. 139; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 15, p. 880)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MORRIL, David Lawrence, senator, b. in Epping, Rockingham co., N. H., 10 June, 1772; d. in Concord, N. H., 28 Jan., 1849. After receiving an academical and medical education, he began to practise at Epsom, Merrimack co., N. H., in 1793, but in 1800 turned his attention to the study of theology, was licensed to preach, and served as pastor of the Congregational church at Goffston, N. H., from 1802 till 1811. From 1807 till 1830 he again practised medicine, and he sat as a representative in the general court from 1808 till 1817, being elected speaker in 1816. He was chosen U. S. senator as an Adams Democrat, and served from 1 Dec., 1817, till 3 March, 1823, when he was sent to the state senate and elected its president. In 1824 he was a candidate for governor, and, there being no choice by the people, he was elected by the convention. In the two following years he was chosen by the people. In 1831 he removed to Concord, where he edited the “New Hampshire Observer,” a religious journal. He received the honorary degree of M. D. from Dartmouth college in 1821, and that of LL. D. from the University of Vermont in 1825. He was connected with many charitable, medical, and agricultural associations, and published several sermons, orations, and controversial pamphlets. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 408.
MORRILL, Lot Myrick, 1813-1883, lawyer, statesman, temperance advocate, opposed slavery, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, 1876, two-term Republican Governor of Maine, U.S. Senator, 1861-1869. Joined the Republican Party due to his position against slavery and its expansion into the new territories. Supported the bill in Congress that emancipated slaves in Washington, DC. Voted for Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery. After the war, he supported higher education for African Americans. In 1866, he supported voting rights for African Americans in Washington, DC.
(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 408-409; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 1, p. 149; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 15, p. 884; Congressional Globe; Biographical Directory of the United States Congress)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MORRILL, Lot Myrick, secretary of the treasury, b. in Belgrade, Kennebec co., Me., 3 May, 1813; d. in Augusta, Me., 10 Jan., 1883, entered Waterville college (now Colby university) in 1835, but did not remain through the year. He then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1839. He removed to Augusta, established himself in practice, and was an active member of the Democratic party in Maine. In 1854 he was elected to the legislature, and on his re-election in 1856 he was chosen president of the senate. Subsequently Mr. Morrill denounced the course of his party on the question of slavery in Kansas, severed his connection with his former associates, was nominated in 1857 by the Republicans for governor, and elected by over 15,000 majority. He was twice re-elected. In 1860 Gov. Morrill was chosen to the U. S. senate to fill the vacancy caused by Hannibal Hamlin's election to the vice-presidency. He entered the senate, 17 Jan., 1861, was placed on important committees, and attended the Peace conference of that year. During the two that followed he took an active part in public affairs, and in 1863 was elected senator for the term that ended in 1869. In the Republican caucus for a successor, Mr. Morrill was defeated by a single vote: but, as William P. Fessenden died in 1869, Morrill was appointed to serve out the remainder of Fessenden's term. In 1871 he was again elected senator, and in the discharge of his duties devoted much attention to financial questions. He opposed the bill for inflating the currency, which was vetoed by President Grant, and was in favor of the resumption act of 1875. He was noted as being a hard worker in committee-rooms, and was especially familiar with naval and Indian affairs. On Sec. William W. Belknap's resignation, President Grant asked Senator Morrill to take a seat in the cabinet, but he declined. In June, 1876, he was made secretary of the treasury. In November, 1876, he made an address to the moneyed men of New York from the steps of the sub-treasury department, and in his annual report in December he urged immediate and yet gradual contraction of the currency, and declared that specie payments could be resumed in 1879. When Mr. Hayes became president in 1877 he offered Mr. Morrill a foreign mission, but it was declined. He was appointed in March collector of customs for Portland district, Me., which post he held at the time of his death. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 408-409.
MORRIS, Gouverneur, 1752-1816, Pennsylvania, statesman, diplomat, founding father, opponent of slavery. He called slavery a “nefarious institution… the curse of Heaven on the state where it prevailed…a defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity.” Working with John Jay, Morris tried to abolish slavery in the State of New York.
(Bruns, 1977, pp. 520-521; Dumond, 1961, pp. 28, 38, 40-41; Zilversmit, 1967, pp. 139-140; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 1, p. 209; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 15, p. 896; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 415-416)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MORRIS, Gouverneur, senator, b. in Morrisania, N. Y., 31 Jan., 1752; d. there, 6 Nov., 1816, was graduated at King's (now Columbia.) college in 1768, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1771. At the age of eighteen he published a series of anonymous newspaper articles against a project, then before the New York assembly, for raising money by issuing bills of credit. He was a delegate to the 1st Provincial congress in 1775, and early attracted attention by a report and speech on the mode of issuing a paper currency by the Continental congress, the chief suggestions of which that body subsequently adopted. He served on the committee that drafted the state constitution in 1776, and the following year took the seat of his half-brother, Lewis, in the Continental congress, which he held until 1780. When the army was in winter-quarters at Valley Forge, Mr. Morris spent some time there as one of a committee that had been appointed to examine, with Gen. Washington, into the condition of the troops. He was also chairman of a committee of five in 1779 whose duty was to consider despatches from the American commissioners in Europe, and whose report formed the basis of the treaty of peace. In the early part of 1780 he published a series of essays signed '”An American,” in the “Pennsylvania Packet,” on the state of the national finances, which were then at their lowest ebb. In May of the same year he was thrown from his carriage in Philadelphia, where he was then residing, and his leg was so severely injured that it had to be amputated. To a friend who called the next day to offer consolation, and who pointed out the good effects that such a trial might produce on his character by preventing him from indulging in the pleasures and dissipations of life, he replied: “My good sir, you argue the matter so handsomely, and point out so clearly the advantages of being without legs, that I am almost tempted to part with the other.” During the remainder of his life he wore a wooden leg, which once proved valuable to him. Being assailed by the Paris mob with cries of “Aristocrat” during the French revolution, while he was driving through the streets of that city, he turned the taunts into cheers by thrusting his wooden leg out of the carriage-window and shouting: “An aristocrat! Yes, one who lost his limb in the cause of American liberty. “In 1781 Robert Morris (q. v.) was placed at the head of the finances of the nation, which hitherto had been managed by a committee of congress. His first act was to appoint Gouverneur Morris his assistant. The latter accepted the office, and fulfilled its duties three years and a half. In 1786, on the death of his mother, he purchased from his brother, Staats Long, the Morrisania estate, which he henceforth made his home. (See illustration.) In 1787 he took his seat as a delegate in the convention that framed the U. S. constitution, the draft of that instrument being placed in his hands for final revision. On 18 Dec., 1788, Morris sailed for France, and reached Paris on 3 Feb. following, where he was engaged in the transaction of private business for the next two years. In January, 1791, he went to England, having been appointed by President Washington a confidential agent to negotiate with the British government regarding certain unfulfilled articles of the treaty of peace. Conferences were prolonged till September without result. During his stay in London he was made U. S. minister to France. Being succeeded in that office by James Monroe in August, 1794, he made an extensive tour throughout Europe, and while at Vienna used strenuous efforts to obtain the release of Lafayette from confinement in the fortress of Olmütz. He returned to this country toward the close of 1798, and the following spring was elected to the U. S. senate from New York, to fill a vacancy, and served from 3 May, 1800, till 3 March, 1803. During this period he actively opposed the abolition of the judiciary system and the discontinuance of direct taxation, but favored the purchase of Louisiana. He was an active advocate of New York's great canal project, and acted as chairman of the canal commissioners from their first appointment in 1810 until his death. Morris, like many energetic men, was in the habit of expressing his opinions with a freedom that often involved him in difficulties, which his gift of sarcasm tended to increase. His openness and sincerity of character, however, were held by his friends to atone for these defects. Of his abilities as a public speaker James Renwick says in his “Life of Clinton”: “Morris was endowed by nature with all the attributes necessary to the accomplished, orator, a fine and commanding person, a most graceful demeanor, which was rather heightened than impaired by the loss of one of his legs, and a voice of much compass, strength, and richness.” In person he so closely resembled Washington that he stood as a model of his figure to Houdon, the sculptor. When on his death-bed he said: “Sixty-five years ago it pleased the Almighty to call me into existence here, on this spot, in this very room; and how shall I complain that He is pleased to call me hence?” On the day of his death he asked about the weather. Being told it was fine, he replied (his mind, like Daniel Webster's, recurring to Gray's “Elegy”): “A beautiful day; yes, but
‘Who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing, anxious being ere resigned,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind?’”
He was the author of “Observations on the American Revolution” (1779); “An Address to the Assembly of Pennsylvania on the Abolition of the Bank of North America” (1785); “An Address in Celebration of the Deliverance of Europe from the Yoke of Military Despotism” (1814); an “Inaugural Discourse” before the New York historical, society on his appointment as its president, and funeral orations on Washington, Hamilton, and Gov. George Clinton. He also contributed, toward the close of his life, political satires in prose and verse to the newspaper press. See “Memoirs of Gouverneur Morris, with Selections from his Papers and Correspondence,” by Jared Sparks (3 vols., Boston, 1832), and “Gouverneur Morris,” by Theodore Roosevelt, in the “American Statesman Series” (1888). His granddaughter, ANNIE CARY, is now (1888) preparing for publication the “Journals and Letters” of her grandfather. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 415-416.
MORRIS, Thomas, 1776-1844, Cincinnati, Ohio, Virginia, first abolitionist Senator, 1833, vice president of the Liberty Party, abolitionist, Ohio lawmaker 1806-1830, Chief Justice of the State of Ohio 1830-1833, U.S. Senator 1833-183?. Executive Committee, American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (A&FASS), 1840-1844. Vice President of the American Colonization Society (ACS), 1839-1841. Fought for right to petition Congress against slavery.
(Dumond, 1961, pp. 92, 135, 243, 244, 286, 300; Mitchell, 2007, pp. 11, 18, 23-24, 27; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 48; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 15, p. 916; Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 418; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 1, p. 226)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MORRIS, Thomas, senator, b. in Augusta county, Va., 3 Jan., 1776; d. in Bethel, Ohio, 7 Dec., 1844. His father was a Baptist clergyman of Welsh descent. The son removed to Columbia, Ohio, in 1795, entered the service, as a farm-hand, of Rev. John Smith, first U. S. senator from Ohio, and in 1800 settled in Clermont county. While engaged in farming be studied law, and in 1804 was admitted to the bar. He was elected to the legislature in 1806, was continuously a member for twenty-four years, became eminent in his profession, was a judge of the supreme court, and was chosen U. S. senator in 1832. He was an ardent opponent of slavery, engaged in important debates with John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay in defence of the right of petition and the duty of the government to favor abolition, and was active in support of the freedom of the press. His anti-slavery sentiments being distasteful to the Democratic party, by whom he was elected, he was not returned for a second term, and in March, 1839, he retired. He was nominated for vice-president by the Liberal party at the Buffalo convention in August, 1844. His death occurred a month after the election. Mr. Morris was an energetic politician, and a fearless champion of liberty and the right of individual opinion. See his “Life and Letters,” edited by his son, Benjamin F. Morris (Cincinnati, Ohio, 1855). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 418.
MOTT, Abigale Lydia, Albany, New York, abolitionist, American Anti-Slavery Society, Executive Committee, 1840-1841, Vice-President, 1858-1864. Co-founded Rochester Anti-Slavery Society. Sister of Lucretia Mott.
MOTT, James, 1778-1868, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, philanthropist, merchant, women’s rights activist, Society of Friends, Quaker, abolitionist, husband of Lucretia Mott. Manager and Vice President of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Co-founder, Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Soceity. Free Produce Society of Pennsylvania. Association for Advocating the Cause of the Slave.
(Drake, 1950, pp. 118, 140, 154; Mabee, 1970, pp. 9, 131, 305, 345, 406n13; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 387-388, 464; Yellin, 1994, pp. 69, 82, 276-278, 287, 294-295, 306, 313, 318-319, 333; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 441; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 1, p. 288; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 16, p. 19)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MOTT, James, philanthropist, b. in North Hempstead, L. I., 20 June, 1788; d. in Brooklyn, N. Y., 26 Jan., 1868. At nineteen he became a teacher in a Friends' boarding-school in Dutchess county, N.Y. He removed to New York city, and in 1810 to Philadelphia, and became a partner of his wife's father in mercantile business, in which he continued more than forty years, retiring with a competency. He was a participant in the movement against slavery and one of the earliest friends of William L. Garrison. In 1833 he aided in organizing in Philadelphia the National anti-slavery society, and in 1840 was a delegate from the Pennsylvania society to attend the World's anti-slavery convention at London, where he was among those who ineffectually urged the admission of the female delegates from the Pennsylvania and other societies. In 1848 he presided over the first Woman's rights national convention, at Seneca Falls, N.Y. He was a member of the Society of Friends, and in later life aided in maturing the plans of government and instruction for the Friends' college at Swarthmore, near Philadelphia. He published “Three Months in Great Britain.” Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 441.
MOTT, Lucretia Coffin (Mrs. James Mott), 1793-1880, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Society of Friends, Quaker, radical abolitionist, reformer, suffragist, women’s rights activist, co-founder and first president of the Philadelphia Female American Anti-Slavery Society, member of the Association of Friends for Advocating the Cause of the Slave, member of the Hicksite Anti-Slavery Association, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Wrote memoir, Life, 1884.
(Bacon, 1999; Drake, 1950, pp. 140, 149, 154, 156, 157, 172, 176; Mabee, 1970, pp. 3, 13, 31, 68, 77, 94, 186, 188, 189, 201, 204, 224, 225, 226, 241, 289, 314, 326, 350, 374, 378; Palmer, 2001; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 42, 47, 157, 387-388, 416, 464, 519; Yellin, 1994, pp. 18, 26, 43, 74, 159-162, 175-176, 286-287, 301-302, 327-328; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 441; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 1, p. 288; American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985, pp. 595-597; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 16, p. 21; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. II. New York: James T. White, 1892, pp. 310-311; Cromwell, Otelia. Lucretia Mott. 1958.)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
MOTT, Lucretia, reformer, b. on the island of Nantucket, Mass., 3 Jan., 1793; d. near Philadelphia, Pa., 11 Nov., 1880, was descended through her father, Capt. Thomas Coffin, from one of the original purchasers of the island. When she was eleven years old her parents removed to Boston, Mass. She was educated in the school where Mr. Mott was teaching, and became a teacher there at the age of fifteen. In 1809 she joined her parents, who had removed to Philadelphia, where she married in 1811. In 1817 she took charge of a small school in Philadelphia, and in 1818 appeared in the ministry of the Friends, and soon became noted for the clearness, refinement, and eloquence of her discourses. In the division of the society, in 1827, she adhered to the Hicksite branch. She early became interested in the movement against slavery, and remained one of its most prominent and persistent advocates until the emancipation. In 1833 she assisted in the formation at Philadelphia of the American anti-slavery society, though, owing to the ideas then accepted as to the activities of women, she did not sign the declaration that was adopted. Later, for a time, she was active in the formation of female anti-slavery organizations. In 1840 she went to London as a delegate from the American anti-slavery society to the World's anti-slavery convention, but it was there decided to admit no women. She was received, however, with cordiality, formed acquaintance with those most active in the movement in Great Britain, and made various addresses. The action of the convention in excluding women excited indignation, and led to the establishment of woman's rights journals in England and France, and to the movement in the United States, in which Mrs. Mott took an active part. She was one of the four women that called the convention at Seneca Falls, N. Y., in 1848, and subsequently devoted part of her efforts to the agitation for improving the legal and political status of women. She held frequent meetings with the colored people, in whose welfare and advancement she felt deep interest, and was for several years president of the Pennsylvania peace society. In the exercise of her “gift” as a minister, she made journeys through New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and into Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana, where she did not refrain from denouncing slavery. She was actively interested in the Free religious associations formed in Boston about 1868, and in the Woman's medical college in Philadelphia. See her “Life,” with that of her husband, edited by her granddaughter, Anna Davis Hallowell (Boston, 1884). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 441.
MUDGE, Benjamin Franklin, 1817-1879, lawyer, geologist, educator abolitionist, temperance and anti-slavery activist. Protected fugitive slaves. Mayor of Lynn, Massachusetts.
MYERS, Stephen, 1800-?, African American, newspaper editor and publisher, abolitionist, freed from slavery in his youth. Chairman of the Vigilance Committee of Albany, New York, which aided fugitive slaves. His home was a station on the Underground Railroad. Worked with leading African American abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. Community leader in Albany, New York. Publisher of the newspaper, The Elevator. Also published The Northern Star and Freeman’s Advocate.
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