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[348] The condition of the territory, as free or slave, was now to be unalterably fixed, and the slaveholding politicians were alive to their last opportunity. They saw clearly that a free territory which in due season would become a free State must affect injuriously the value and security of slave property in Missouri, and generally imperil the institution as a national power. They counted surely, after their experience in 1850, on the cooperation of the Democratic aspirants for the Presidency from the North; and through the influence of these leaders they were assured of the general adhesion of the Democratic party. They obtained without difficulty the hearty support of the President and his Cabinet;1 and they found in Senator Douglas of Illinois, then seeking Southern votes for the Presidency, an adroit, unscrupulous, and aggressive leader.

Douglas, chairman of the committee on territories, made a report January 4, and submitted a bill for organizing the Territory of Nebraska. The report, after discussing the opposite views of the validity of the prohibition, declined to interfere with it; and the bill as first printed in a city journal on the 7th corresponded with the report; but when it appeared again in print, three days later, it was found to contain a section conflicting with the report, which in subtle phrases affirming the sovereignty of the people of the Territory, and pledging its admission ‘with or without slavery’ at their option, was intended to annul the prohibition without expressly repealing it.2 Every day and at every step the conspirators grew in audacity. Dixon of Kentucky, a Whig, gave notice on the 16th of an

1 Except Marcy, Secretary of State, who maintained a studied reserve.

2 This clause was a repetition of the clause in the Territorial Acts of 1850, which left the decision as to slavery to the inhabitants at the time of the admission of the Territory as a State. The New York Tribune's correspondent in a letter published Jan. 7, 1854, and the ‘National Era,’ January 12, noted that the bill did not touch the prohibition until the Territory was admitted as a State,—a construction which probably prompted Dixon's amendment. New York Evening Post, January 25.

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