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[225] in secret, and more openly prepared in Southern Commercial Conventions (having for their ostensible object the establishment of a general exchange of the great Southern staples directly from their own harbors. with the principal European marts, instead of circuitously by way of New York and other Northern Atlantic ports), there was still a goodly majority at the South, with a still larger at the North and Northwest, in favor of maintaining the Union, and preserving the greatest practicable measure of cordiality and fraternity between the Free and the Slave States, substantially on the basis of the Compromise of 1850.

The region lying directly westward and northwestward of the State of Missouri, and stretching thence to the Rocky Mountains, was vaguely known as the “Platte country” (from the chief river intersecting it), and its eastern frontier was mainly covered by Indian reservations, on which whites were forbidden to settle, down to a period so late as 1850. Two great lines of travel and trade stretched across it--one of them tending southwestward, and crossing the Arkansas on its way to Santa Fe and other villages and settlements in New Mexico; the other leading up the Platte, North Platte, and Sweetwater, to and through the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains, where it divides--one trail leading thence northwestward to the Columbia and to Oregon; the other southwestward to Salt Lake, the Humboldt, and California. The western boundary of Missouri was originally a line drawn due north as well as south from the point where the Kansas or Kaw river enters the Missouri; but in 1836 a considerable section lying west of this line, and between it and the Missouri, was quietly detached from the unorganized territory aforesaid and added to the State of Missouri, forming in due time the fertile and populous counties of Platte, Buchanan, Andrew, Holt, Nodaway, and Atchison, which contained in 1860 70,505 inhabitants, of whom 6,699 were slaves. This conversion of Free into Slave territory, in palpable violation of the Missouri Compromise, was effected so dexterously and quietly as to attract little or no public attention.

At the first session of the XXXIId Congress (1851-2) petitions were presented for a territorial organization of the region westward of Missouri and Iowa; but no action was had thereon until the next session, when Mr. Willard P. Hall, of Missouri, submitted1 to the House a bill organizing the Territory of Platte, comprising this region. This bill being referred to the Committee on Territories, Mr. William A. Richardson, of Illinois, from said Committee, reported2 a bill organizing the Territory of Nebraska (covering the same district); which bill, being sent to the Committee of the Whole and considered therein, encountered a formidable and unexpected Southern opposition, and was reported3 from said Committee with a recommendation that it be rejected. An attempt by Mr. John Letcher, of Virginia, to lay it on the table, was defeated by a call of the Yeas and Nays; when it was engrossed, read a third time, and passed: Yeas 98; Nays 43.

1 December 13, 1852.

2 February 2, 1853.

3 February 10th.

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