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[427] groups. The contest for the speakership, which excited great interest in the country, lasted two months, and ended Feb. 2, 1856, on the one hundred and thirty-third ballot, after the adoption of a plurality rule, in the election of N. P. Banks, a Massachusetts Republican,—the first national victory of the antislavery cause.1 While the election was pending, slavery was an ever-recurring topic of desultory discussion in the House, which chiefly, however, related to the party relations of members, and particularly of the candidates. Less bitterness was exhibited than might have been expected under the circumstances,2 and at the end of the contest Aiken of South Carolina, the rival candidate, who was defeated by only three votes, gracefully sought the privilege of conducting Banks to the chair.

The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill in 1854 opened the new territories to settlement; and the struggle in Congress between freedom and slavery was continued, without an interval, in the territory itself. The slaveholders of western Missouri, who had been the first to instigate the repeal of the Missouri Compromise prohibition, making no contest for Nebraska, where an effort would have been hopeless, at once pushed into Kansas and took possession of the best tracts, most of them retaining their old homes in Missouri and contemplating only a temporary sojourn in the territory. They had started the scheme of the repeal with the full conviction that it would insure without further effort a slave State on their border; but now, with rumors abroad that the capital and enterprise of the free States were preparing to contest the issue in the territory itself, they found themselves forced to enter upon a larger project of proslavery colonization, and to invoke the co-operation of the entire slaveholding interest of the country. Their leaders in Missouri were Atchison, late senator and president of the Senate, who inspired the movement generally, and Stringfellow, his lieutenant, who was energetic in the details of organization. Secret societies were at once formed in Missouri for the purpose of sending

1 Theodore Parker wrote Sumner, Feb. 16, 1856: ‘Banks's election is the first victory of the Northern idea since 1787.’ See Sumner's letter to a Massachusetts committee, February 25 (Works, vol. IV. p. 96), expressing a similar idea.

2 There were some exceptions to this statement. McMullen, December 21. called Giddings ‘that contemptible member of the House.’ Edmundson, January 18, advanced towards Giddings, shouting, ‘Say that again!’ But the old man was unmoved and defiant. The report of the Congressional Globe, as usual in such cases, omits a part of the scene. New York Evening Post, July 15, 1856.

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E. V. Sumner (2)
Joshua R. Giddings (2)
N. P. Banks (2)
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