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Virginia came forward.

Nevertheless, when every right of property and every right of government was at stake, Virginia took counsel, not of her fears, but of her patriotic love for the Union, which she had done so much to enlarge; for which she had stripped herself of the whole northwest territory. She had given not principalities, but empires to the general government. What those who now condemned her had sacrificed for the Union was far less legible. Her voice was raised for peace. She pointed out that every practical issue which could possibly arise on the slavery question had been settled by the inexorable logic of events; that Kansas had already prohibited slaves, and it might be added negroes; that no territory north of Kansas could possibly be expected to do otherwise, but to allay apprehension she reiterated the proffer of the South to stipulate against admission on such terms. The relation to this subject of the territory south of Kansas was fixed by the compromise of 1850, and it was not the South which desired to disturb it. Virginia said to the North: ‘The only thing left open to possible agitation the South will stipulate in your favor.’

The North claimed all the territories for their citizens and their institutions. The South was content to ask no more than the right of ingress into a part or one-half of the territories for her citizens and their property. The South said: ‘You blame us for effacing from the statute-book the dead letter of the Missouri compromise. Very well, then; we will restore that letter in form which you have so invariably repudiated in fact. Lawless as we deem it, for the sake of the Union we will seek to make it lawful by consent;’ and the offer was disdained. The answer to the Peace Conference was the fleet of war despatched to Charleston; the proclamation of the 15th of April, 1851, the transfer of the construction of the Constitution from the bench to the bayonet; the silence of the laws by the arms of the United States. Not until the compact of the Constitution was shattered beyond the reach of surgery by the summons of the North to armed war against the South did Virginia declare that an order of things ‘outside the Constitution’ was no compact for her.

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