been the abstract opinions of individuals on either side; whatever may have been the ulterior designs of certain leaders of public opinion in the North
; whatever may have been the logical tendency of doctrines of the ‘irrepressible conflict’ between liberty and slavery, and of the existence of ‘a law higher than the constitution,’ the fact remains that neither party to those controversies openly suggested or proposed the liberation of a solitary slave then held in bondage.
All agreed that the status of slavery as it existed in the Southern States
was conclusively protected by the constitution, and could not be affected or impaired by any action of the Federal
Every assurance was offered the Southern States
that slavery within their limits should not be interfered with.
In the compromise of 1850 the consideration which the Southern States
received, freely offered and adopted by Northern votes, was the enactment by Congress of a more stringent law for the return of fugitive slaves.
Even after secession and while the war was flagrant, the Federal
government emphatically proclaimed that it had no right, no power and no disposition to interfere with slavery in the Southern States
But for secession and the consequent war, and for emancipation avowedly adopted purely and solely as a war measure, there is no reason to doubt that slavery would be existing to-day just as it existed before the war, under the full protection of the constitution and laws of the United States
The true question involved in these controversies was a question of ‘balance of power’ between the Northern
and Southern States.
Slavery, as a peculiar institution of the South
, created a diversity and conflict of interests between the two sections, and each was eager, in the admission of the new States, to secure allies which might contribute to the advancement and protection of its own interests.
Obviously, unless the people of the Southern States
could remove to the common Territories
of the Union
, carrying with them their property, these would inevitably be populated by settlers from the Northern States
, and would come into the Union
as free States, to swell the power and influence of the opposing section.
The principle for which the Southern
people contended was simply the doctrine of which we are to-day hearing so much—the principle that ‘the constitution follows the flag,’ and that the Territories
, being the common property of all the United States
, acquired by the common blood and the common treasure, the constitution guaranteed to all the people the equal right of migrating to them, and of carrying