The Kansas controversy.
What is known as the Kansas Controversy
was a marked era in the political history of the Union
It illustrated most powerfully the fact that the slavery question really involved but little of moral sentiment, and indicated a contest for political power between two rival sections.
When Mr. Buchanan
came into the Presidential office
, in 1S57, lie at once perceived that the great point of his administration would be to effect the admission of Kansas
into the Union
, and thus terminate a dispute which was agitating and distracting the country.
In September, 1857, the people of the Territory
had called a Convention at Lecompton
to form a Constitution.
The entire Constitution was not submitted to the popular vote; but the Convention
took care to submit to the vote of the people, for ratification or rejection, the clause respecting slavery.
The official vote resulted: For the Constitution
, with slavery, 6,226; for the Constitution
, without slavery, 509.
Under this Constitution, Mr. Buchanan
recommended the admission of Kansas
into the Union
; and indeed he had reason to hope for it in view of the principles which had governed in his election.
The argument on the other side was that the entire Constitution had not been submitted to the people, and that the principle of “popular sovereignty” had been invaded by the Convention
, in not representing all the voters of the Territory
, and in not submitting the entire result of their labours to a vote of the people.
The Anti-Slavery or Free State party had also their Constitution to advocate, an instrument framed in 1855, at Topeka
, which had been submitted to the people, and ratified by a large majority of those who voted.
But the facts were that scarcely any but Abolitionists went to the polls ; and it was notorious that the Topeka Constitution
was the fruit of a bastard population that had been thrown into the Territory
by the “Emigrant aid Societies” of New England
In his first message to Congress, Mr. Buchanan
surveyed the whole ground of the controversy.
He explained that when he instructed Gov. Walker
, in general terms, in favour of submitting the Constitution
to the people, he had no other object in view beyond the all-absorbing topic of slavery; lie considered that under the organic act --known as the Kansas
bill — the Convention
was bound to submit the all-important question of slavery to the people; lie added, that it was never his opinion, however, that, independently of this act, the Convention
would be bound to submit any portion of the Constitution
to a popular vote, in order to give it validity; and he argued tho fallacy and