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Xiv. The Wilmot Proviso.


Mr. Polk succeeded Mr. Tyler as President of the United States, March 4, 1845. No change in the policy of the former with regard to Annexation was made, or, with reason, expected. The agent so hastily dispatched to Texas by Mr. Tyler to speed the consummation of the decreed union, was not, of course, recalled. The new President was doubtless gratified to find his predestined work, in which he had expected to encounter some impediments at the hands of Northern members of his own party, so nearly completed to his hand. On the 18th of June, joint resolutions, giving their final consent to Annexation, passed both Houses of the Congress of Texas by a unanimous vote; and [186] this action was ratified by a Convention of the People of Texas on the ensuing 4th of July.

The XXIXth Congress met at Washington December 1, 1845, with a strong Democratic majority in either branch. John W. Davis, of Indiana, was chosen Speaker of the House by 120 votes to 72 for Samuel F. Vinton (Whig), of Ohio, and 18 scattering. On the 16th, a joint resolve, reported on the 10th from the Committee on Territories by Mr. Douglas, of Illinois, formally admitting Texas as a State into our Union, was carried by the decisive vote of 141 to 56. The Senate concurred, on the 22d, by 31 Yeas to 13 Nays.

Thus far, the confident predictions of War with Mexico, as a necessary consequence of our annexing Texas, had not been realized. Technically and legally, we might, perhaps, be said to have been at war ever since we had determined on Annexation; practically and in fact, we were not. No belligerent action on the part of Mexico directly followed the decisive step, or its official promulgation. Our commerce and our flag were still welcomed in the Mexican ports. The disposable portion of our little army, some 1,500 strong, under Gen. Zachary Taylor, commander of the Southwestern department, in obedience to orders from Washington, embarked (July, 1845) at New Orleans, and landed, early in August, at Corpus Christi, on Aransas Bay, near the mouth of the Nueces, which was the extreme western limit of Texan occupation.1 The correspondence between the Secretary of War (Gov. Marcy) and Gen. Taylor, which preceded and inspired this movement, clearly indicates that Mr. Polk and his Cabinet desired Gen. Taylor to debark at, occupy, and hold, the east bank of the Rio Grande, though they shrank from the responsibility of giving an order to that effect, hoping that Gen. Taylor would take a hint, as Gen. Jackson was accustomed to do in his Florida operations, and do what was desired in such manner as would enable the Government to disavow him, and evade the responsibility of his course. Gen. Taylor, however, demanded explicit instructions, and, being thereupon directed to take position so as to be prepared to defend the soil of our new acquisition “to the extent that it had been occupied by the people of Texas,” he stopped at the Nueces, as aforesaid. Here, though no hostilities were offered or threatened, 2,500 more troops were sent him in November. Official hints and innuendoes that lie was expected to advance to the Rio Grande continued to reach him, but he disregarded them; and at length, about the 1st of March, he received positive orders from the President to advance. [187] He accordingly put his column in motion on the 8th of that month, crossing the arid waste, over one hundred miles wide, that stretches south-westward nearly to the Rio Grande, and reached the bank of that river, opposite Matamoras, on the 28th. Here2 he erected Fort Brown, commanding Matamoras — the Mexicans, under Ampudia, being at the same time engaged in throwing up batteries on their side. These being completed, Ampudia (April 12th) addressed Gen. Taylor, requiring him to return to the Nueces forthwith, there to remain “while our Governments are regulating the pending question relative to Texas;” with a warning that his refusal would be regarded by Mexico as a declaration of war. Gen. Taylor courteously replied that he was acting under instructions that were incompatible with the Mexican's requirement. Ampudia was soon after superseded by Arista, who, early in May, crossed the Rio Grande at the head of 6,000 men, and, on the 8th, attacked Gen. Taylor's 2,300 at Palo Alto, and was badly defeated. Retreating to a strong position at Resaca de la Palma, a few miles distant, he was there attacked next day by Gen. Taylor, who routed his forces, after a sharp conflict, and drove them in disorder across the river. The Mexican loss in these two affairs was 1,000 men, with eight guns, and a large amount of baggage. The undisturbed possession of the entire left bank of the Rio Grande was among the “spoils of victory.”

President Polk (May 11th) communicated some of these facts to Congress in a Special Message, wherein he averred that the Mexicans had “at last invaded our territory, and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil.” Congress, two days afterward, responded, by the passage of an act, calling out 50,000 volunteers, and appropriating $10,000,000 for the prosecution of the struggle thus begun, with a preamble, running,

Whereas, by the act of the Republic of Mexico, a state of war exists between that Government and the United States, Be it enacted, etc.

Only 14 votes in the House, and 2 in the Senate were cast against this bill, though several members (among them Mr. Calhoun) refused to vote on it at all; and a motion in the House to strike out the preamble was sustained by nearly every member elected as a Whig.

Congress remained in session till the 10th of August; before which time, it had become evident that Mexico, distracted and enfeebled by so many revolutions, could make no effective resistance to the progress of our arms. President Polk, not without reason, believed that a treaty of peace might be negotiated with her rickety government, whereby, on the payment of a sum of money on our part, not only the boundary of the Rio Grande, but a very considerable [188] acquisition of hitherto Mexican territory beyond that river, might be secured. He accordingly (August 8) sent a Special Message to Congress, asking that a considerable sum be placed at his disposal for these purposes. A bill was immediately reported and considered in Committee of the Whole, making appropriations of $30,000 for expenses of negotiations, and $2,000,000, to be used at the discretion of the President, in making such a treaty. This bill seemed on the point of passing through all its stages without serious opposition.

But what should be the Social or Labor system of the territories about to be acquired? This question could be no longer postponed nor evaded. Hitherto, Slavery had entered upon each succeeding struggle for a new territory with the great advantage of prior possession. Virginia, which claimed the ownership of most of the territory North-west of the Ohio, and between that river and the Mississippi, was a Slave State, and her outlying territories, it might fairly be argued, inherited her domestic institutions; Alabama and Mississippi were, in like manner, constructively slaveholding at the outset, by virtue of the laws of North Carolina and Georgia, from which States they were cut off. Louisiana (including Missouri) had come to us slaveholding from France; so had Florida from Spain; while Texas had been colonized and revolutionized mainly by Southerners, who imprinted on her their darling “institution” before we had any voice in the matter. In the case of each, it had been plausibly and successfully contended that their Slavery was no concern of ours — that it was established and legalized before we were empowered to speak in the matter, and must be upheld until those more immediately interested should see fit to abolish it. This consideration had prevailed even in the recent instance of Texas, where all partition had been refused, all real compromise scouted, on the assumption that Slavery was already in possession, and did not care to divide what was wholly its own.

The case was now decidedly altered. Mexico had utterly abolished Slavery some twenty years before; and every acre that she should cede to us beyond the Rio Grande would come to us free soil. Should it so remain, or be surrendered to the domination and uses of Slavery? It was well known that Mr. Calhoun had elaborated a new dogma adapted to the exigency, whereby the Federal Constitution was held to carry Slavery into every rood of Federal territory whence it was not excluded by positive law. In other words, every citizen of any State had a constitutional right to migrate into any territory of the Union, carrying with him whatever the law of his own State recognized as property; and this must, therefore, be guarded and defended as his property by the Federal authorities of and within said territory. Should this view not be precluded by some decided protest, some positive action, it was morally certain that President Polk, with every successor of like faith, would adopt it, and that the vast and, as yet. nearly unpeopled regions about to be acquired from Mexico would thus be added to the already spacious dominions of the Slave Power.

There was a hasty consultation, in [189] default of time or opportunity for one more deliberate, among those Democratic members from Free States who felt that the extreme limit of justifiable or tolerable concession to Slavery had already been reached; wherein Messrs. Hamlin, of Maine, George Rathbun, Martin Grover and Preston King, of New York, David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, Jacob Brinckerhoff and James J. Faran, of Ohio, McClelland, of Michigan, and others, took part; as the result of which, Mr. Wilmot moved to add to the first section of the bill the following:

Provided, That, as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty that may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the Executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall first be duly convicted.

This Proviso was adopted in Committee by 80 Ays to 64 Noes — only three members (Democrats), it was said, from the Free States, passing through the tellers in response to the call for the Noes. The bill was thereupon reported to the House; and Mr. Rathbun, of New York, moved the Previous Question on its engrossment (so as to preclude a motion to strike out this Proviso). This was met by Mr. Tibbatts, of Kentucky, with a motion that the bill do lie on the table--in other words, that the original measure, but a moment since deemed so vital, be voted down, in order to kill the Proviso. This was defeated on a call of the Yeas and Nays — all the members from Slave States but Messrs. William P. Thomasson and Henry Grider (Whigs), of Kentucky, voting to lay on the table, with Messrs. John Pettit, of Indiana, and Stephen A. Douglas, John A. McClernand (Democrats), of Illinois, and Robert C. Schenck (Whig), of Ohio, making 79; while the Yeas (comprising all the Whigs but one, and nearly all the Democrats from Free States, with the two Kentucky Whigs aforesaid), were 93. The bill was thereupon ordered to be engrossed for a third reading by 85 Yeas to 80 Nays, passed, and sent to the Senate, then in the last hours of the session. On its being taken up, Mr. Dixon H. Lewis, of Alabama (a close adherent of Mr. Calhoun), moved that the Proviso aforesaid be stricken out; whereupon Mr. John Davis (Whig), of Massachusetts, rose to debate, and persisted in speaking, as though against time, until noon, which had been concurrently fixed as the hour of adjournment; so the session terminated, and the bill and proviso failed together. It is probable that President Polk would have vetoed the bill, because of the Proviso, had they then passed.

Mr. Davis died3 not many years afterward, and no explanation of his course in this instance was ever given to the public. He may have desired only to defeat some obnoxious measure which would have come up and which would probably have passed if this bill had been promptly disposed of. It is certain that Gen. Cass, then a Senator, complained, on his homeward journey, of Mr. Davis having defeated a measure which should have been passed, so as to preclude all further controversy with regard to the Extension of Slavery. [190]

More than a year thereafter, with a Baltimore Convention and a Presidential election in immediate prospect. Gen. Cass was interrogated by Mr. A. O. P. Nicholson, of Tennessee, with regard to his opinion of the Wilmot Proviso. In his reply,4 Gen. C. says.

The Wilmot Proviso has been before the country for some time. It has been repeatedly discussed in Congress and by the public press. I am strongly impressed with the opinion that a great change has been going on in the public mind upon this subject, in my own as well as others, and that doubts are resolving themselves into convictions, that the principle it involves should be kept out of the National Legislature, and left to the people of the confederacy in their respective local governments.

This letter is notable as the first clear enunciation of the doctrine termed Popular (otherwise squatter) Sovereignty--that is, of the lack of legitimate power in the Federal Government to exclude Slavery from its territories. Gen. Cass's position was thoroughly canvassed, six months after it was taken, in a letter5 from Martin Van Buren to N. J. Waterbury and other Free Soil Democrats of his State, wherein he said:

The power, the existence of which is at this late day denied, is, in my opinion, fully granted to Congress by the Constitution. Its language, the circumstances under which it was adopted, the recorded explanations which accompanied its formation — the construction it has received from our highest judicial tribunals, and the very solemn and repeated confirmations it has derived from the measures of the Government — leave not the shadow of a doubt in my mind in regard to the authority of Congress to exercise the power in question. This is not a new opinion on my part, nor the first occasion on which it has been avowed. While the candidate of my friends for the Presidency, I distinctly announced my opinion in favor of the power of Congress to abolish Slavery in the District of Columbia, although I was, for reasons which were then, and are still, satisfactory to my mind, very decidedly opposed to its exercise there. The question of power is certainly as clear in respect to the Territories as it is in regard to the District; and, as to the Territories, my opinion was also made known in a still more solemn form, by giving the Executive approval required by the Constitution to the bill for the organization of the Territorial Government of Iowa, which prohibited the introduction of Slavery into that Territory.

The XXXth Congress assembled December 6th, 1847, when Robert C. Winthrop (Whig), of Massachusetts, was chosen Speaker of the House by a majority of one; and, on the 28th of February ensuing, Mr. Harvey Putnam, of New York, having moved an independent resolve embodying the substance of the Wilmot Proviso, Mr. Richard Brodhead, of Pennsylvania, moved that the same do lie on the table, which prevailed — Yeas 105, Nays 93--twenty-five Democrats and one “ Native” (L. C. Levin) from the Free States voting with the entire South to lay on the table; all the Whigs and a large majority of the Democrats from Free States against it.

Peace with Mexico having been made,6 Government for Oregon being before Congress at this session, and referred in the Senate to a Select Committee, Mr. John M. Clayton, of Delaware, from that Committee, reported it with amendments establishing Territorial Governments also for New Mexico and California. An original feature of this bill was a proposition embodied therein that all questions concerning Slavery in those Territories be referred directly to the arbitration of the Supreme Court of the United States. This measure [191] passed the Senate by the strong vote of 33 Yeas to 22 Nays — all from Free States--but, on its reaching the House, Mr. Alex. II. Stephens, of Georgia, moved that it do lie on the table, which prevailed; Yeas 112 (30 of them Democrats from Free States; 8 Whigs from Slave States; and 74 Whigs from Free States); Nays 97; (21 Democrats from Free States, with all the Democrats, and all but 8, as aforesaid, of the Whigs, from Slave States). As the Court was then constituted, there was little room for doubt that its award would have been favorable to Slavery Extension; hence this vote. Mr. Clayton's Compromise, thus defeated, was never revived.

The Democratic National Convention for 1848 assembled at Baltimore on the 22d of May. Gen. Lewis Cass, of Michigan, received 125 votes for President on the first ballot, to 55 for James Buchanan, 53 for Levi Woodbury, 9 for John C. Calhoun, 6 for Gen. Worth, and 3 for Geo. M. Dallas. On the fourth ballot, Gen. Cass had 179 to 75 for all others, and was declared nominated. Gen. William O. Butler, of Kentucky, received 114 votes for Vice-President on the first ballot, and was unanimously nominated on the third. Two delegations from New York presenting themselves to this Convention — that of the Free Soilers, Radicals, or “Barnburners,” whose leader was Samuel Young, and that of the Conservatives or “Hunkers,” whose chief was Daniel S. Dickinson — the Convention attempted to split the difference by admitting both, and giving each half the vote to which the State was entitled. This the “Barnburners” rejected, leaving the Convention and refusing to be bound by its conclusions. The great body of them heartily united in the Free Soil movement, which culminated in a National Convention at Buffalo,7 whereby Martin Van Buren was nominated for President, with Charles Francis Adams, of Massachusetts, for Vice-President.

The regular Democratic or Cass and Butler Convention reiterated most of the resolves of its two predecessors, adding two or three in commendation of the War with Mexico; warmly congratulated France on her recent return to a republican form of government, and ambiguously indorsed the new Popular Sovereignty discovery as follows:

Resolved, That in the recent development of this grand political truth, of the sovereignty of the people and their capacity for self-government, which is prostrating thrones and erecting republics on the ruins of despotism in the Old World, we feel that a high and sacred duty is devolved, with increased responsibility, upon the Democratic party of this country, as the party of the People, to sustain and advance among us Constitutional Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, by continuing to resist all monopolies and exclusive legislation for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many, and by a vigilant and consistent adherence to those principles and compromises of the Constitution which are broad enough and strong enough to embrace and uphold the Union as it was, as it is, and the Union as it shall be, in the full expansion of the energies and capacity of this great and progressive people.

At this Convention, the Calhoun or extreme Southern dogma of the constitutional right of each slave-holder to remove with his slaves into any Federal Territory, and hold them there in defiance of Congress [192] or any local authority, was submitted by Mr. William L. Yancey, of Alabama, in the following guise:

Resolved, That the doctrine of noninterference with the rights of property of any portion of the people of this confederacy, be it in the States or Territories thereof, by any other than the parties interested in them, is the true Republican doctrine recognized by this body.

The party was not yet ready for such strong meat, and this resolve was rejected: Nays 216; Yeas 36--South Carolina 9; Alabama 9; Georgia 9; Arkansas 3; Florida 3; Maryland 1; Kentucky 1; Tennessee 1.

The Whig National Convention assembled in Philadelphia, June 7th. Gen. Zachary Taylor, of Louisiana, had on the first ballot 111 votes for President to 97 for Henry Clay, 43 for General Scott, 22 for Mr. Webster, and 6 scattering. On the fourth ballot (next day), Gen. Taylor had 171 to 107 for all others, and was declared nominated. Millard Fillmore, of New York, had 115 votes for Vice-President, on the first ballot, to 109 for Abbott Lawrence, of Massachusetts, and 50 scattering. On the second ballot, Mr. Fillmore had 173, and was nominated. No resolves affirming distinctive principles were passed; repeated efforts to interpose one affirming the principle of the Wilmot Proviso being met by successful motions to lay on the table.

The Buffalo or Free Soil Convention was as frank and explicit in its declaration of principles as its more powerful rivals had been ambiguous or reticent. The following are its most material averments:

Resolved, That the Proviso of Jefferson, to prohibit the existence of Slavery after 1800, in all the Territories of the United States, Southern and Northern; the votes of six States and sixteen delegates, in the Congress of 1784, for the Proviso, to three States and seven delegates against it; the actual exclusion of Slavery from the Northwestern Territory, by the Ordinance of 1787, unanimously adopted by the States in Congress; and the entire history of that period, clearly show that it was the policy of the Nation not to extend, nationalize, or encourage, but to limit, localize, and discourage Slavery; and to this policy, which should never have been departed from, the Government ought to return.

Resolved, That our fathers ordained the Constitution of the United States, in order, among other great National objects, to “establish justice, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty;” but expressly denied to the Federal Government, which they created, all constitutional power to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due legal process.

Resolved, That, in the judgment of this Convention, Congress has no more power to make a slave than to make a king; no more power to institute or establish Slavery, than to institute or establish monarchy: no such power can be found among those specifically conferred by the Constitution, or derived by just implication from them.

Resolved, That it is the duty of the Federal Government to relieve itself from all responsibility for the existence or continuance of Slavery, wherever the Government possesses constitutional authority to legislate on that subject, and it is thus responsible for its existence.

Resolved, That the true, and, in the judgment of this Convention, the only safe means of preventing the extension of Slavery into territory now Free, is to prohibit its extension in all such territory by an act of Congress.

In the event, Gen. Taylor was chosen President, receiving the votes of New York, Pennsylvania, and thirteen other States, choosing 163 Electors. The strong Free Soil vote for Van Buren ensured to Gen. Cass the votes of Ohio, and of every other State North-west of the Ohio, most of them by a plurality only over Taylor. Gen. Cass carried fifteen States, choosing 137 Electors. Mr. Van Buren carried no Electors, but [193] received a respectable support in every Free State, Rhode Island and New Jersey excepted. New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont, each gave a larger popular vote to him than to Gen. Cass; Wisconsin gave him nearly as many as Gen. Taylor. The entire popular vote (South Carolina not casting any) stood — Taylor and Fillmore, 1,360,752; Cass and Butler, 1,219,962; Van Buren and Adams, 291,342. Gen. Taylor had a majority of the Electoral and a plurality of the Popular vote, both in the Free and in the Slave States respectively.

The struggle for the organization of the territories was resumed in Congress the ensuing Winter; and, though there had been very few changes of members, there had been a very considerable change of feeling on the part of a great many Democrats from Free States. They indignantly felt that, by the vote cast for Gen. Taylor in the South, the services and sacrifices of their party had been ungratefully requited. That eight of the fifteen Slave States should cast their votes for the Whig candidate for President, leaving Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi to be carried against him by the very leanest majorities, was not the entertainment to which they had been invited when they risked their ascendency at home, and their seats, by voting for Gag-Rules, and against the establishment by law of Freedom in the Territories. Some of them were permanently alienated, though the far greater number were but temporarily estranged, from the councils of their Southern chiefs. But the change was made evident, soon after the assembling of the XXXth Congress for its second session, when, (December 13, 1848), on motion of lion. Joseph M. Root, of Ohio, the House

Resolved, That the Committee on Territories be instructed to report to this House, with as little delay as practicable, a bill or bills providing a territorial government for each of the Territories of New Mexico and California, and excluding Slavery therefrom.

This passed by Yeas 108, including every Whig, and all but eight of the Democrats8 from Free States; Nays 80--all from the Slave States but the eight aforesaid.

A further evidence of the altered feeling of the House was afforded, when, a few days thereafter, the following was, during the morning hour, moved by Mr. Daniel Gott, of New York:

Whereas, the traffic now prosecuted in this metropolis of the Republic in human beings, as chattels, is contrary to natural justice, and the fundamental principles of our political system, is notoriously a reproach to our country throughout Christendom, and a serious hindrance to the progress of republican liberty among the nations of the earth: Therefore,

Resolved, That the Committee on the District of Columbia be instructed to report [194] a bill, as soon as practicable, prohibiting the Slave-Trade in said District.

The Previous Question having been required and ordered, this resolution was adopted by Yeas 98 to Nays 88. Hereupon there was a call for the Southern members to leave the Hall, and various demonstrations of the sort, which resulted in a meeting of members from the Slave States; which resulted in an address to their constituents, drafted and reported by Mr. Calhoun; which resulted in nothing. The House Committee on the District, being Pro-Slavery, of course took good care not to report as instructed above.

The Territorial bill for California, foreshadowed and commended by Mr. Root's resolve, was reported by Caleb B. Smith, of Indiana, on the 20th, and that for New Mexico followed on the 3d of January, 1849. An effort (January 15), by Mr. Julius Rockwell, of Massachusetts, to make the former a special order, failed, lacking a two-thirds vote, but received the vote of nearly every member from the Free States--114 to 71. The bill was finally taken out of Committee of the Whole on the 26th of February, and engrossed for a third reading next day; when Mr. R. K. Meade, of Virginia, moved that it do lie on the table, which was decisively negatived; and then the bill passed the House by 126 Yeas to 87 Nays. Mr. Aylett Buckner (Whig of Kentucky), who had made a forcible and thorough-going speech in favor of excluding Slavery from the Territories, voted with his Whig colleague, Green Adams, and all the Whigs and all but four9 of the Democrats from the Free States, in the affirmative; while all the members present from the Slave States but Messrs. Adams and Buckner voted in the negative: so that the House divided very nearly on Mason and Dixon's line. But Mr. Buckner paid for his speech and vote on this occasion with his seat. He had succeeded in 1847, over his Democratic opponent, by 386 majority; he was thrown out in 1849 by 1140 majority. Mr. Adams did not stand for re-election. And the bill thus passed was not even considered in the Senate — a motion by Mr. Douglas (February 28), that it be taken up for reference, having been promptly voted down by 28 Nays to 25 Yeas.

For the Pro-Slavery majority in that Senate had already resolved on their course, and it did not lie at all in this direction. They believed that their opportunity was at hand; that the more especial friends of the incoming Administration were anxious to have the Slavery question settled — that is, the opposition to Slavery Extension defeated or withdrawn, that being the way such questions were usually settled — in order to make matters smooth and pleasant for the powers soon to be; and they knew that the irritation of the Northern Democrats against the South for giving a majority of its votes for Gen. Taylor as against Gen. Cass had been gradually dying out under the pressure of social influences and of party necessities. They believed that, if a proper issue were made, the Northern repugnance to the organization of the Territories in profound silence as to Slavery, might be overcome. They had, therefore, determined to [195] fasten to the Civil and Diplomatic Appropriation bill, a “rider,” organizing the new Territories with no restriction on or impediment to the introduction of Slavery, calculating that a sufficient number of the Northern friends of the Administration would permit this to pass rather than see the Government crippled and the President constrained to call an extra session of Congress — always a portent of evil to the party in power. Accordingly, the great Appropriation bill having passed the House, and been reported to and several days debated in the Senate, Mr. Walker, of Wisconsin, moved to add a section extending the laws of the United States over “the territory west of the Rio del Norte, acquired from Mexico by the treaty of February 22, 1848,” and authorizing the President to “prescribe and establish all proper and needful regulations for the enforcement” of the Constitution and laws in said Territory; as also “to appoint and commission such officers as may be necessary to administer such laws,” etc., etc. This passed the Senate by 29 Yeas10 to 27 Nays; but the bill being thus returned to the House, the Senate's amendment was there (March 2) rejected: Yeas 100 (thirteen of them from Free States) to Nays 114 (all from Free States). The bill was then returned in its original shape to the Senate. The Senate insisted on its amendment, and asked a conference, which was granted, but nothing came of it. The Committee reported to either House its inability to agree, and was discharged.

Mr. McClernand (Democrat), of Illinois, now moved that the House recede from its non-concurrence in the Senate's amendment, which prevailed — Yeas 111; Nays 106; whereupon Mr. Richard W. Thompson (Whig), of Indiana, moved that the House do concur with the Senate with an amendment, which was, in fact, a substitute for the Senate's project, and of which the gist was a provision that “until the 4th of July, 1850, unless Congress shall sooner provide for the government of said Territories, the existing laws thereof shall be retained and observed” --in other words, that the laws of Mexico, whereby Slavery was abolished throughout her entire area, should continue in force in said Territories of New Mexico and California. The Senate's amendment, as amended, was then agreed to: Yeas 110; Nays 103. And thus the bill, late at night of what was necessarily the last day of the session, was returned to the Senate.

The majority of that body were fairly caught in. their own snare. They had vociferously protested that Congress should not adjourn without providing for the government and quiet of the new territories; and had threatened to defeat the General Appropriation bill and leave the Government penniless if this were not acceded to by the House. And here was the bill proposing to do just what they had insisted must be done, and could not with safety be postponed. It was only objectionable in that it provided (as was done in the case of Louisiana and Florida) that the social conditions which had existed prior to our acquisition should remain unchanged until Congress, or the People more [196] immediately interested, should see fit to change them. But this was exactly what the majority determined should not be, and were working to prevent. Yet they did not care to make up an issue with the House majority on this point, and go to the country on the defeat of the chief Appropriation bill, and consequent embarrassment of the Government, for no other reason than that the House had refused to unite in opening the Territories to Slavery. And so, after spending most of the night in heated discussion — much of it mere talking against time — the Senate, toward morning, struck out of the Appropriation bill its materially amended amendment, and passed the bill as it originally came from the House — at all events, with no provision for the organization or government of New Mexico and California. And thus ended the Administration of Mr. Polk, along with the XXXth Congress.

the action of the XXIXth and XXXth Congresses respectively with regard to the Territory of Oregon, though proceeding simultaneously with the incidents already recorded in this chapter, and involving essentially identical principles, requires distinct presentation, that the two diverse and somewhat conflicting threads of narrative may not be blended in hopeless entanglement. That action, briefly summed up, was as follows:

At the first session of the XXIXth Congress, Mr. Stephen A. Douglas reported to the House (August 6, 1846) a bill organizing the Territory of Oregon, whereof the northern boundary had just been fixed at latitude 49° by treaty with Great Britain. The bill, as reported, was silent respecting Slavery; but, while under discussion in Committee of the Whole, the following amendment was added:

And neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in said Territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.

In the House, on coming out of Committee, the Yeas and Nays were demanded on this amendment, which was sustained: Yeas 108; Nays 44--only three or four Northern Democrats and five or six Southern Whigs being found among the Nays, whereof the residue were Southern Democrats. The bill, as thus amended, passed the House, but went to the Senate so near the close of the session that, though referred to and reported by the Committee on Territories, no further action was had thereon.

On the assembling of this Congress for its second session, Mr. Douglas again reported to the House a bill to provide a Territorial Government for Oregon, which was read twice, and sent to the Committee of the Whole; where it was debated through the 11th, 12th, and 14th of January, and ordered to be taken out of Committee on the 15th. On that day, Gen. Armistead Burt, of South Carolina, moved (having already done so in Committee of the Whole) this addition to the clause inhibiting Slavery, as above given:

Inasmuch as the whole of the said Territory lies north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude, known as the line of the Missouri Compromise.

The object of this amendment was to obtain from the House a recognition of the parallel 36° 30′ as a dividing line between Slave and Free territory across the entire continent, [197] or so far as our possessions might extend. The House voted down Gen. Burt's proposition: Yeas 82; Nays 114--every member from the Slave States, with four11 Democrats from Free States, voting in the affirmative; while every Whig from the Free States, with every Democrat from those States but the four aforesaid, voted in the negative. The bill thereupon passed the House by 134 Yeas to 35 Nays — all from Slave States; but, on reaching the Senate, it was referred, reported, sent back again, and finally, on the last day of the session, laid on the table — Yeas 26; Nays 18--there to sleep the sleep of death.

In the next (XXXth) Congress, Mr. Caleb B. Smith (Whig), of Indiana (since Secretary of the Interior, under President Lincoln), was chairman of the Committee on Territories; and a bill creating a Territorial Government for Oregon, and prohibiting Slavery therein, was reported by him on the 9th of February, 1848. This bill was made a special order five weeks thereafter, but was so pertinaciously resisted by the Slavery Extensionists that it could not be got out of Committee till August 1; when an amendment made in Committee, striking out that clause of the original bill whereby the provisions of the Ordinance of ‘87 were extended to this Territory — in other words, Slavery was prohibited therein — was negatived; Yeas 88; Nays 114. On this division, Mr. John W. Houston (Whig), of Delaware, voted with the majority, which was otherwise entirely composed of members from Free States; eight12 Democrats from Free States voted in the minority, otherwise composed of all the members from Slave States present, Mr. Houston, of Delaware, excepted. The bill then passed the House by a “sectional” vote — Yeas 128; Nays 71.

In the Senate, Mr. Douglas13 promptly (August 5th) reported this bill with amendments, and a proposition from Mr. Foote, of Mississippi, that it “do lie on the table,” was defeated by 15 (ultra Southern) Yeas to 36 Nays. Among the amendments reported by Mr. Douglas was a reproduction in substance of Gen. Burt's, defeated the year before in the House, which now received but two votes — those of Messrs. Bright and Douglas. Mr. Douglas thereupon moved to amend the bill, by inserting as follows:

That the line of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes of north latitude, known as the Missouri Compromise line, as defined in the eighth section of an act entitled, “An Act to authorize the people of the Missouri Territory to form a Constitution and State Government, and for the admission of such State into the Union, on an equal footing with the original States, and to prohibit Slavery in certain Territories, approved March 6, 1820,” be, and the same is hereby, declared to extend to the Pacific Ocean; and the said eighth section, together with the compromise therein effected, is hereby revived, and declared to be in full force, and binding, for the future organization of the Territories of the United States, in the same sense, and with the same understanding, with which it was generally adopted.

This was carried by 33 Yeas — including [198] Messrs. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis, John Bell, Benton, and every member present from the Slave States, with Messrs. Cameron, of Pennsylvania; Douglas, of Illinois; Bright, of Indiana; Dickinson, of New York; and Fitzgerald, of Michigan, from Free States--to 21 Nays, including Messrs. Webster, of Massachusetts, Hamlin, of Maine, Dix, of New York, and Breese, of Illinois. The bill, thus amended, passed the Senate by 33 Yeas to 22 Nays.

But the House, on its return, thus amended, utterly refused (August 11th) to concur in any such partition of the territories of the Union, on the line of 36° 30′, between Free and Slave Labor. The proposition of Mr. Douglas, above cited, was rejected by the decisive majority of 39: Yeas 82; Nays 121--only three14 members from Free States voting in the minority. So the bill was returned to the Senate with its amendment struck out; and that body thereupon receded--Yeas 29; Nays 25--from its amendment, and allowed the bill to become a law in the shape given it by the House. On this memorable division, Messrs. Benton, Bright, Cameron, Dickinson, Douglas, Fitzgerald, Hannegan, Spruance, of Delaware, and Houston, of Texas, voted to yield to the House, leaving none but Senators from Slave States, and not all of them, insisting on the partition demanded. So Oregon became a Territory, consecrated to Free Labor, without compromise or counterbalance; and the Free States gave fair notice that they would not divide with Slavery the vast and hitherto free territories then just acquired from Mexico.

1 Hon. Charles J. Ingersoll, a leading Democratic representative in Congress from Pennsylvania, and a zealous annexationist, in a speech in the house, January 3, 1845, said:

The territorial limits are marked in the configuration of this continent by an almighty hand. The platte, the Arkansas, the red, and the Mississippi Rivers * * * these are naturally our waters, with their estuaries in the Bay of Mexico. The stupendous deserts between the Nueces and the Bravo rivers, are the natural boundaries between the Anglo-Saxon and the Mauritanian races. there ends the valley of the West. There Mexico begins. * * * We ought to stop there, because interminable conflicts must ensue, either on our going South or their coming North of that gigantic boundary. While peace is cherished, that boundary will be kept sacred. Not till the spirit of conquest rages, will the people on either side molest or mix with each other.

2 The following is extracted from a letter written by one of our officers, soon after Gen. Taylor's arrival on the Rio Grande, and before the outbreak of actual hostilities:

camp opposite Matamoras, April 19, 1846.

Our situation here is an extraordinary one. Right in the enemy's country, actually occupying their corn and cotton fields, the people of the soil leaving their homes, and we, with a small handful of men, marching with colors flying, and drums beating, right under the very guns of one of their principal cities, displaying the star-spangled banner, as if in defiance, under their very nose, and they, with an army twice our size, at least, sit quietly down, and make not the least resistance, not the first effort to drive the invaders off. There is no parallel to it.

3 At Worcester, Mass., April 19th, 1854.

4 Dated Washington, December 24, 1847.

5 Dated Lindenwald, June 20, 1848.

6 By the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, February, a bill providing a Territorial 1848.

7 August 9, 1848.

8 The members from Free States (all Democrats), who had voted at the last session to lay the Wilmot Proviso on the table, and who now voted for the principle as above, were as follow:

Maine.--Asa W. H. Clapp, James S. Wiley--2. New York.--Frederick W. Lord--1. Ohio.-Thomas Richey--1. Indiana.-Charles W. Cathcart, Thomas J. Henley, John L. Robinson, William W. Wick--4. Illinois.--Robert Smith--1. Messrs. Clark and H. Williams, of Maine, Birdsall and Maclay, of New York, Brodhead and Mann, of Pennsylvania; Pettit, of Indiana; Ficklin and McClernand, of Illinois, who voted with the South at the former session — now failed to vote. Mr. D. S. Jackson, of New York, who then voted with the South, had been succeeded by Mr. H. Greeley, who voted with the North.

9 Messrs. Samuel A. Bridges of Pennsylvania, and William Kennon, jr., John K. Miller, and William Sawyer, of Ohio. Messrs. Chas. Brown, Chas. J. Ingersoll, and other such, did not vote.

10 Including only Messrs. Dickinson of New York, A. C. Dodge of Iowa, Douglas of Illinois, Fitzgerald of Michigan, and Hannegan of Indiana (all Democrats), from Free States.

11 PENNSYLVANIA.--Charles J. Ingersoll--1. Illinois.--Stephen A. Douglas, Robert Smith--2. Iowa.--S. C. Hastings--1. In all, 4.

12 NEW York.--Ausburn Birdsall--1. Ohio.--William Kennon, jr., John K. Miller--2. Illinois.--Orlando B. Ficklin, John A. McClernand, William A. Richardson--3. Indiana.--John L. Robinson, William W. Wick--2.

13 Recently transferred from the House; now chairman of the Senate's Committee on Terri, tories.

14 NEW York.--Ausburn Birdsall--1. Pennsylvania.--Charles Brown, Charles J. Ingersoll--2.

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