I tell you that, with that verdict of the people in my pocket, and standing on the plat-form on which these candidates were elected, I would suffer anything before I would compromise in any way. I deem it no case where we have a right to extend courtesy and generosity.
The absolute right, the most sacred that a free people can bestow upon any man, is their verdict that gives him a full title to the office he holds.
If we cannot stand there, we cannot stand anywhere; and, my friends, any other verdict would be as fatal to you as to us.
The venerable and Union-loving John J. Crittenden
, of Kentucky
--the Nestor of the Bell-Everett
party — who had first entered Congress as a Senator forty-four years before — who had served, at different times, no less than twenty years, in the upper House of Congress; and who, after filling, for a season, the post of Attorney-General
under Gen. Harrison
, and again under Mr. Fillmore
, was now, in his fullness of years, about to give place to a Democrat,1
elected because of the greater confidence of the slaveholding interest in the Democratic
than in the adverse party — came forward to tender his
peace-offering; and no anti-Republican in Congress or in the country could have risen whose personal character and history could have more disposed the Republicans to listen to him with an anxious desire to find the acceptance of his scheme compatible with their principles and their sense of public duty.
His olive-branch was as follows:
A Joint Resolution proposing certain amendments to the Constitution of the United States:
Whereas, serious and alarming dissensions have arisen between the Northern and the Southern States, concerning the rights and security of the rights of the slaveholding States, and especially their rights in the common territory of the United States; and whereas, it is eminently desirable and proper that these dissensions, which now threaten the very existence of this Union, should be permanently quieted and settled by constitutional provisions, which shall do equal justice to all sections, and thereby restore to the people that peace and good — will which ought to prevail between all the citizens of the United States: Therefore,
Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled (two-thirds of both Houses concurring), That the following articles be, and are hereby, proposed and submitted as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of said Constitution, when ratified by Conventions of three-fourths of the several States:
In all the territory of the United States now held, or hereafter acquired, situate north of latitude 36° 30′, Slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, is prohibited, while such territory shall remain under territorial government.
In all the territory south of said line of attitude, Slavery of the African race is hereby recognized as existing, and shall not be interfered with by Congress, but shall be protected as property by all the departments of the territorial government during its continuance.
And when any territory, north or south of said line, within such boundaries as Congress may prescribe, shall contain the population requisite for a member of Congress, according to the then Federal ratio of representation of the people of the United States, it shall, if its form of government be republican, be admitted into the Union, on an equal footing with the original States; with or without Slavery, as the Constitution of such new State may provide.
Art. 2. Congress shall have no power to abolish Slavery in places under its exclusive jurisdiction, and situate within the limits of States that permit the holding of slaves.
Art. 3. Congress shall have no power to abolish Slavery within the District of Columbia, so long as it exists in the adjoining States of Virginia and Maryland, or either, nor without the consent of the inhabitants, nor without just compensation first made to such owners of slaves as do not consent to such abolishment.
Nor shall Congress, It any time, prohibit officers of the Federal Government, or members of Congress whose duties require them to be in said District, from bringing with them their slaves, and holding them as such during the time their duties may require them to remain there, and afterward taking them from the District.