had been spurned by them.
They made haste to secede, from fear that concessions would
be offered — that their pretexts for disruption would somehow be obviated.
To send concessions after them, in their scornful, imperious, insulting stampede, would be inviting them to heap new and more dishonoring indignities on the nation they were defying.
It was, in fact, to justify their past treason, and incite them to perseverance and greater daring in the evil way they had chosen.
Our “conservative” Supreme Court, by its Dred Scott
decision, had denied to Congress all power to exclude Slavery from a single acre of the common territories of the Union
; it had held the Missouri Compromise
invalid on this very ground; and now, the North
was called to reenact and extend that very line of demarcation between Free and Slave territory
which the Court
had pronounced a nullity.
True, Mr. Crittenden
proposed that the new compromise should be ingrafted upon the Constitution
; but that only increased the difficulty of effecting the adjustment, without assuring its validity.
For, if the new Southern doctrines respecting property, and the rights of property, and the duty of protecting those rights, and the radical inability of the Government
to limit or impair them, be sound, then the guarantee to Free Labor of the territory north of 36° 30′, must prove delusive.
Indeed, Mr. Jefferson Davis
, at a meeting of the Select.
Committee framed to consider these very resolutions, proposed, on the 26th of December, the following:
Resolved, That it shall be declared, by amendment of the Constitution, that property in slaves, recognized as such by the local law of any of the States of the Union, shall stand on the same footing, in all constitutional and Federal relations, as any other species of property so recognized; and, like other property, shall not be subject to be divested or impaired by the local law of any other State, either in escape thereto, or by the transit or sojourn of the owner therein.
And in no case whatever shall such property be subject to be divested or impaired by any legislative act of the United States, or any of the territories thereof.
When the Senate came to act1
upon Mr. Crittenden
's proposition, Mr. Anthony
, of Rhode Island
--a very moderate, conservative Republican-made a new overture which ought to have closed the controversy.
Announcing his intention to vote for the substitute proposed by Mr. Daniel Clark
, of New Hampshire
, as “abstractly true,” and more in accordance with his idea of the mode in which our troubles should be composed, Mr. Anthony
I believe, Mr. President, that, if the danger which menaces us is to be avoided at all, it must be by legislation; which is more ready, more certain, and more likely to be satisfactory, than constitutional amendment.
The main difficulty is the territorial question.
The demand of the Senators on the other side of the chamber, and of those whom they represent, is, that the territory South of the line of the Missouri Compromise shall be open to their peculiar property.
All this territory, except the Indian reservation, is within the limits of New Mexico, which, for a part of its northern boundary, runs up two degrees beyond that line.
This is now a slave territory; made so by territorial legislation; and Slavery exists there, recognized and protected.
Now, I am willing, so soon as Kansas can be admitted, to vote for the admission of New Mexico as a State, with such Constitution as the people may adopt.
This disposes of all the territory that is adapted to slave labor, or that is claimed by the South.
It ought to settle the whole question.
Surely, if we can dispose of all the territory that we have, we ought not to