previous next

Xxiv. “conciliation” in Congress.

the XXXVIth Congress reconvened for its second and last session on Monday, December 3, 1860, and President Buchanan transmitted his fourth and last Annual Message next day. After briefly stating therein that the year then closing had been one of general health, ample harvests, and commercial prosperity, he plunged into the great political controversy of the day after this fashion:
Why is it, then, that discontent now so [368] extensively prevails, and the Union of the States, which is the source of all these blessings, is threatened with destruction? The long-continued and intemperate interference of the Northern people with the question of Slavery in the Southern States has at length produced its natural effects. The different sections of the Union are now arrayed against each other; and the time has arrived, so much dreaded by the Father of his Country, when hostile geographical parties have been formed. I have long foreseen, and often forewarned my countrymen of the now impending danger. This does not proceed solely from the claims on the part of Congress or the Territorial Legislatures to exclude Slavery from the territories, nor from the efforts of different States to defeat the execution of the Fugitive Slave law.

All or any of these evils might have been endured by the South without danger to the Union (as others have been), in the hope that time and reflection might apply the remedy. The immediate peril arises, not so much from these causes, as from the fact that the incessant and violent agitation of the Slavery question throughout the North for the last quarter of a century has at length produced its malign influence on the slaves, and inspired them with vague notions of freedom. Hence, a sense of security no longer exists around the family altar. This feeling of peace at home has given place to apprehensions of servile insurrection. Many a matron throughout the South retires at night in dread of what may befall herself and her children before the morning. Should this apprehension of domestic danger, whether real or imaginary, extend and intensify itself until it shall pervade the masses of the Southern people, then disunion will become inevitable. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and has been implanted in the heart of man by his Creator for the wisest purpose; and no political union, however fraught with blessings and benefits in all other respects, can long continue, if the necessary consequence be to render the homes and the firesides of nearly half the parties to it habitually and hopelessly insecure. Sooner or later, the bonds of such a Union must be severed. It is my conviction that this fatal period has not yet arrived; and my prayer to God is, that He would preserve the Constitution and the Union throughout all generations.

But let us take warning in time, and remove the cause of danger. It cannot be denied that, for five-and-twenty years, the agitation at the North against Slavery in the South has been incessant. In 1835, pictorial handbills and inflammatory appeals were circulated extensively throughout the South, of a character to excite the passions of the slaves; and, in the language of Gen. Jackson, “to stimulate them to insurrection, and produce all the horrors of a servile war.” This agitation has ever since been continued by the public press, by the proceedings of State and County Conventions, and by Abolition sermons and lectures. The time of Congress has been occupied in violent speeches on this never-ending subject; and appeals, in pamphlet and other forms, indorsed by distinguished names, have been sent forth from this central point, and spread broadcast over the Union.

How easy would it be for the American people to settle the Slavery question forever, and to restore peace and harmony to this distracted country!

They, and they alone, can do it. All that is necessary to accomplish the object, and all for which the Slave States have ever contended, is, to be let alone, and permitted to manage their domestic institutions in their own way. As sovereign States, they, and they alone, are responsible before God and the world for the Slavery existing among them. For this, the people of the North are not more responsible, and have no more right to interfere, than with similar institutions in Russia or in Brazil. Upon their good sense and patriotic forbearance, I confess I greatly rely.

How a sane man could talk in this way, in full view of the Texas, Nebraska, and Kansas struggles of the last few years, and of the persistent efforts to acquire Cuba, and “regenerate” Central America in the interest of the Slave Power, is one of the problems reserved for solution in some future and higher existence. To expose its inconsistency with notorious facts were a waste of time and effort; to lose temper over it were even a graver mistake: the proper, fittest frame of mind wherein to contemplate it is one of silent wonder.

Mr. Buchanan proceeded to argue that the election of Mr. Lincoln “does not of itself afford just cause for dissolving the Union ;” that “from the very nature of his office, and its high responsibilities, he must necessarily be conservative;” that [369] no single act has ever passed. Congress, unless we may possibly except the Missouri Compromise,1 impairing, in the slightest degree, the rights of the South in their property in slaves; that no such act could be passed, in the present or in the next Congress; that the Dred Scott decision had covered all the ground contended for by the Slave States, rendering null and void a recent act of the Legislature of Kansas, abolishing Slavery in that Territory; that all acts of State Legislatures intended to defeat the execution of the Fugitive Slave law were nullities, the Supreme Court having so decided and sustained that law at every point; nevertheless, the States that have passed such acts ought, and should be urged, to repeal them; that, should they not be repealed, “the injured States” “would be justified in revolutionary resistance to the Government of the Union” (for unfaithfulness to constitutional obligations by those whom that Government could not control); that there is no reserved or constitutional right of State Secession from the Union, which was clearly intended to be perpetual; that the Federal Government is required, and the States expressly forbidden, to do many things essential to the idea of sovereignty; that the Federal Government “has precisely the same right to exercise its power for the people of all these States, in the enumerated cases, that each one of them possesses over subjects not delegated to the United States ;” that the Federal Constitution is a part of the Constitution of each State, and is binding upon the people thereof; that the people of States aggrieved or oppressed by Federal power have the right of revolutionary resistance, but no other — and yet, if any State should see fit to secede from and defy the Union, there is no help for it! Let us hear Mr. Buchanan more fully on this point:

What, in the mean time, is the responsibility and true position of the Executive? He is bound by solemn oath, before God and the country, “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed;” and from this obligation he cannot be absolved by any human power. But what, if the performance of this duty, in whole or in part, has been rendered impracticable by events over which he could have exercised no control? Such, at the present moment, is the case throughout the State of South Carolina, so far as the laws of the United States to secure the administration of justice by means of the Federal Judiciary are concerned. All the Federal officers within its limits, through whose agency alone these laws can be carried into execution, have already resigned. We no longer have a District Judge, a District Attorney, or a Marshal, in South Carolina. In fact, the whole machinery of the Federal Government necessary for the distribution of remedial justice among the people has been demolished, and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to replace it.

The only acts of Congress on the statute-book, bearing upon this subject, are those of 28th February, 1795, and 3d March, 1807. These authorize the President, after he shall have ascertained that the Marshal, with his posse comitatus, is unable to execute civil or criminal process in any particular case, to call out the militia and employ the Army and Navy to aid him in performing this service, having first, by Proclamation, commanded the insurgents to “disperse, and retire peaceably to their respective abodes, within a limited time.” This duty cannot, by possibility, be performed in a State where no judicial authority exists to issue process, and where there is no Marshal to execute it; and where, even if there were such an officer, the entire population would constitute one solid combination to resist him.

But why cannot the President appoint [370] a new District Judge, a new Marshal, to replace those who have resigned? If no one of the vicinage will or dare accept these trusts, why not fill them from loyal States? If these shall be resisted, will it not be at the proper peril of the insurgents? If the Federal Government can be driven out of a State, and compelled to stay out, by the cheap process of bullying two or three Federal officers into resigning, and bullying others out of daring to take their places, is ours a real government at all?

The President, proceeding, set forth the main issue as follows:

The question, fairly stated, is: Has the Constitution delegated to Congress the power to coerce into submission a State which is attempting to withdraw, or has actually withdrawn, from the confederacy? If answered in the affirmative, it must be on the principle that the power has been conferred upon Congress to declare and to make war against a State. After much serious reflection, I have arrived at the conclusion that no such power has been delegated to Congress, or to any other department of the Federal Government. It is manifest, upon an inspection of the Constitution, that this is not among the specific and enumerated powers granted to Congress: and it is equally apparent that its exercise is not “ necessary and proper for carrying into execution” any one of these powers.

The contrast between this logic and that of Gen. Jackson in like circumstances2 has already been noted. But it is difficult to realize that such transparent sophistry can have deceived even its author. The President had already truly stated that

The Executive has no authority to decide what shall be the relations between the Federal Government and South Carolina. He has been invested with no such discretion. He possesses no power to change the relations heretofore existing between them; much less to acknowledge the independence of that State.

The act of Secession, so called, was therefore — at least, so far as the President was concerned — a simple nullity. He could know South Carolina only as one of the States composing our Union, whose citizens were consequently citizens of the United States, and bound to uphold their Constitution and obey their laws. If any or many of those citizens chose to break and defy those laws, it was his simple and imperative duty to cause them to be faithfully executed, at whatever inconvenience or peril to the law-breakers. No President had ever suggested or imagined that the opposition of any State to the Fugitive Slave law, for example, could absolve him from the duty of enforcing that law. This is the President's duty in the premises, and the whole of it,--to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” 3 The Constitution and laws being, by express provision, “the supreme law of the land; * * * anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding,” 4 the real question was not--“Has the Constitution delegated to Congress the power to coerce a State?” but “Has any State a reserved, inherent power to coerce the Union into acquiescence in the overthrow of the Federal Constitution, the subversion of the laws, and the destruction of our Nationality?” The President is bound to know no legitimate power within the Union acting in hostility to the Constitution and laws he has solemnly sworn to uphold and enforce. Whoever and whatever stands in the way of such enforcement, he can regard only as law-breakers, insurgents, and traitors. [371]

Of course, having decided not to perform his sworn duty, the President proceeded to lecture the people whom he thus betrayed on the duty of buying off the banded traitors by new concessions and guarantees; saying:

The fact is, that our Union rests upon public opinion, and can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war. If it cannot live in the affections of the people, it must one day perish. Congress possess many means of preserving it by conciliation; but the sword was not placed in their hand to preserve it by force.

But, if it cannot be “cemented,” can it be uncemented, dissolved, and destroyed, “by the blood of its citizens, shed in civil war?” If it can, then is it the most stupendous mockery and sham which ever duped and deluded mankind.

His panacea for the ills experienced or imminently impending was an “explanatory amendment” of the Constitution, which should operate as a “final settlement” of the true construction of the Federal pact on three special points:

1. An express recognition of the right of property in slaves in the States where it now exists or may hereafter exist.

2. The duty of protecting this right in all the common territories throughout their territorial existence, and until they shall be admitted as States into the Union, with or without Slavery, as their Constitution may prescribe.

3. A like recognition of the right of the master to have his slave, who has escaped from one State to another, restored and “delivered up” to him, and of the validity of the Fugitive Slave law enacted for this purpose, together with a declaration that all State laws impairing or defeating this right are violations of the Constitution, and are consequently null and void.

Behind this pitiable exhibition was an elaborate opinion5 from Hon. Jeremiah S. Black, of Pennsylvania, Mr. Buchanan's Attorney-General, sustaining and elaborating the President's most fatal errors. After setting forth, in a most grudging and technical fashion, the occasions in which the President is authorized to use force in support of the violated laws of the land, Mr. Black proceeds as follows:

But what if the feeling in any State against the United States should become so universal that the Federal officers themselves (including Judges, District Attorneys, and Marshals) would be reached by the same influence, and resign their places? Of course, the first step would be to appoint others in their stead, if others could be got to serve. But, in such event, it is more than probable that great difficulty would be found in filling the offices. We can easily conceive how it might become altogether impossible. We are, therefore, obliged to consider what can be done in case we have no Courts to issue judicial process, and no ministerial officers to execute it. In that event, troops would certainly be out of place, and their use wholly illegal. If they are sent to aid the Courts and Marshals, there must be Courts and Marshals to be aided. Without the exercise of these functions, which belong exclusively to the civil service, the laws cannot be executed in any event, no matter what may be the physical strength which the Government has at its command. Under such circumstances, to send a military force into any State, with orders to act against the people, would be simply making war upon them.

That is to say: A little rebellion may be legally and constitutionally repressed; but a great one cannot be.

‘If we have no Courts’ where they are needed, we should constitute them; and, “if we have no ministerial officers,” we should appoint them. The President is expressly clothed with the requisite power, and has no right to refrain from exercising it. If no man now living in South Carolina dare serve as District Judge or Marshal, then one should be sent thither who has no repugnance and [372] no fear, and be backed by a competent force. The President could have found a thousand qualified persons to take either position, had he chosen. The fact that the insurgents were locally formidable — even omnipotent — only hightened the imperative necessity of dealing with them promptly and sternly. And, if jurors could not there be found to render verdicts according to law, then the culprits should be removed to some region where treason, at the worst, was not universal. But “The slothful man says, there is a lion in the way;” and he who has determined not to do his duty, will never lack excuses for repudiating it.

Mr. Black closed his disorganizing opinion as follows:

If it be true that war cannot be declared, nor a system of general hostilities carried on, by the Central Government against a State, then it seems to follow that an attempt to do so would be ipso facto an expulsion of such State from the Union. Being treated as an alien and an enemy, she would be compelled to act accordingly. And, if Congress shall break up the present Union by unconstitutionally putting strife, and enmity, and armed hostility, between different sections of the country, instead of the “domestic tranquillity” which the Constitution was meant to insure, will not all the States be absolved from their Federal obligations? Is any portion of the people bound to contribute their money or their blood to carry on a contest like that?

The right of the General Government to preserve itself in its whole constitutional vigor, by repelling a direct and positive aggression upon its property or its officers, cannot be denied. But this is a totally different thing from an offensive war to punish the people for the political misdeeds of State Governments, or to prevent a threatened violation of the Constitution,or to enforce an acknowledgment that the Government of the United States is supreme. The States are colleagues of one another; and, if some of them should conquer the rest and hold them as subjugated provinces, it would totally destroy the whole theory upon which they are now connected.

If this view of the subject be as correct as I think it is, then the Union must utterly perish at the moment when Congress shall arm one part of the people against another, for any purpose beyond that of merely protecting the General Government in the exercise of its proper constitutional functions.

Strange as it must now seem, this assertion. of the radical impotence of the Government, this avowal of a fixed purpose to “let the Union slide,” on the part of the President and his legal adviser, were received in Congress with general and concerted taciturnity on the part of the upholders, and with a bounteous display of indignation on that of the banded assailants, of the National life. Mr. A. R. Boteler,6 of Virginia, moved a reference of so much of the Message as related to our National perils to a Select Committee of one from each State; which in due time prevailed, and a very fair Committee was appointed — Thomas Corwin, of Ohio, Chairman ; with a large preponderance of the more moderate ‘Republicans’ and pro-Slavery men in its composition. Mr. Speaker Pennington, who framed the Committee, was strongly inclined to “ conciliation,” if that could be effected on terms not disgraceful to the North; and at least six of the sixteen Republicans placed on the Committee desired and hoped that an adjustment might yet be achieved. No member of extreme anti-Slavery views was associated with them.

But it was soon evident that no “concession” or “ conciliation” was desired by a large portion of the pro-Slavery [373] members. Mr. Clingman of N. C.--who came into Congress as a “Whig” of very moderate views regarding Slavery, but had finally turned Democrat under the impulse of zeal for “ Southern Rights,” and been thereupon promoted from the House to the Senate, and who had changed from Douglas to Breckinridge toward the end of the Presidential canvass just closed — assailed the Message, so soon as it had been read, and broadly intimated that no concession would satisfy the South. The repeal of all “Personal liberty bills,” etc., he observed, “would not be satisfactory to the State from which I come.” He protested against “waiting for an overt act” before seceding, and against further parley or negotiation between the Free and the Slave States. Said he:

They want to get up a free debate, as the Senator from New York [Mr. Seward] expressed it, in one of his speeches. But a Senator from Texas told me the other day that a great many of these free debaters were hanging from the trees of that country [Texas]. I have no doubt they would run off a great many slaves from the Border States, so as to make them Free States; and then, Sir, when the overt act was struck, we should have a hard struggle. I say, therefore, that our policy is not to let this thing continue. That, I think, is the opinion of North Carolina. I think the party for immediate secession is gaining ground rapidly. It is idle for men to shut their eyes to consequences like this, if anything can be done to avert the evil, while we have power to do it.

Messrs. Albert G. Brown, of Mississippi, Louis T. Wigfall, of Texas, and Alfred Iverson, of Georgia, spoke in a similar strain, but even more plainly. Said Mr. Iverson:

Gentlemen speak of concession — of the repeal of the Personal Liberty bills. Repeal them all to-morrow, and you cannot stop this revolution. It is not the Liberty laws but the mob law which the South fears. They do not dread these overt acts; for, without the power of the Federal Government, by force, under Republican rule, their institution would not last ten years; and they know it. They intend to go out of this Union, and he believed this. Before the 4th of March, five States will have declared their independence, and he was satisfied that three other States would follow as soon as the action of their people can be had. Arkansas will call her Convention, and Louisiana will follow. And, though there is a clog in the way in the “lone star” of Texas, in the person of her Governor, who will not consent to call the Legislature, yet the public sentiment is so strong that even her Governor may be overridden; and, if he will not yield to that public sentiment, some Texan Brutus may arise to rid his country of this old, hoary-headed traitor. [Great sensation.] There has been a good deal of vaporing and threatening; but they came from the last men who would carry out their threats. Men talk about their eighteen millions; but we hear a few days afterward of these same men being switched in the face, and they tremble like a sheep-stealing dog. There will be no war. The North, governed by such far-seeing statesmen as the Senator from New York [Mr. Seward], will see the futility of this. In less than twelve months, a Southern Confederacy will be formed; and it will be the most successful Government on earth. The Southern States, thus banded together, will be able to resist any force in the world. We do not expect war; but we will be prepared for it; and we are not a feeble race of Mexicans either.

Messrs. Crittenden, of Kentucky, and Saulsbury, of Delaware, both spoke pleadingly for “conciliation” and the Union, but to deaf ears.

A caucus of Southern members was held on Saturday evening, December 8th; but it only served to develop more clearly the broad line of demarkation between the Unionists and the Disunionists. Messrs. Albert G. Brown, of Mississippi, and John Slidell, of Louisiana, were among the most fierce for Secession. Messrs. Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, and James M. Mason, of Virginia, favored further efforts, or, at least, further waiting, for conciliation. Messrs. Crittenden, Bayard, [374] and several other “Border-State” Senators, more earnestly urged this course.

Monday, December 9th, being “ resolution day” in the House, was signalized by the broaching of several new devices for saving the Union. Mr. John Sherman, of Ohio, suggested a faithful observance, on all hands, of the requirements and compromises of the Constitution, with an immediate division of the territories into embryo States, with a view to their prompt admission into the Union. Mr. John Cochrane, of New York, revived the old scheme of dividing the territories between Free and Slave Labor on the line of 36° 30′. Mr. English, of Indiana, proposed substantially the same thing. Mr. Noell, of Missouri, proposed an abolition of the office of President of the United States, and a division of the Union into three districts, each to elect one member of an “Executive Council,” to which the functions of President should be intrusted. He suggested, moreover, a “restoration of the equilibrium between the Free and Slave States,” by a division of several of the latter into two or more States each. Mr. Thomas C. Hindman,7 of Arkansas, proposed to so amend the Constitution as to protect slave property in the territories, etc., etc., and that any State which should pass an act impairing or defeating the operation of the Fugitive Slave law should thereupon be deprived of her right of representation in Congress. Mr. Charles H. Larrabee, of Wisconsin, proposed a Convention of the States. All these projects were referred to the Grand Select Committee aforesaid.

That Committee, December 13th, after four days earnest deliberation, united in a resolve, moved by Mr. Justin S. Morrill, of Vermont, as a substitute for one moved by Mr. William McKee Dunn, of Indiana, affirming the necessity of proffering to the Slave States “additional and more special guarantees of their peculiar rights and interests.” Mr. Morrill's affirmation was as follows:

Resolved, That, in the opinion of the Committee, the existing discontents among the Southern people, and the growing hostility among them to the Federal Government, are greatly to be regretted; and that any reasonable, proper, and constitutional remedies, necessary to preserve the peace of the country and the perpetuation of the Union, should be promptly and cheerfully granted.

Twenty-two votes were cast for this proposition, including those of all the members from Slave States who voted. Two (Messrs. Boyce, of South Carolina, and Hawkins, of Florida) were absent. Mr. Jefferson Davis was present, but did not vote. The Nays (eight) were all Republicans.

On motion of Mr. Garnett B. Adrain (Douglas Democrat) of New Jersey, the House,8 by 151 Yeas to 14: Nays:

Resolved, That we deprecate the spirit of disobedience to the Constitution, wherever manifested; and that we earnestly recommend the repeal of all statutes by the State Legislatures in conflict with, and in violation of, that sacred instrument, and the laws of Congress passed in pursuance thereof.

Mr. Owen Lovejoy (Republican) of Illinois, hereupon proposed this counterpart to the foregoing:

Whereas, The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land, and ready and faithful obedience to it a duty of all good and law-abiding citizens: Therefore,

Resolved, That we deprecate the spirit [375] of disobedience to the Constitution, wherever manifested; and that we earnestly recommend the repeal of all nullification laws; and that it is the duty of the President of the United States to protect and defend the property of the United States.

The Yeas were 124; the Nays none--most of the Southern members refusing to vote.

Mr. Isaac N. Morris (Democrat) of Illinois, next moved

That we have seen nothing in the past, nor do we see anything in the present, either in the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency, or otherwise, to justify a dissolution of the Union, etc., etc.

On this, the Yeas were 115 ; Nays 44. Two of the Nays were Northern Democrats.9

On the same day, a resolve, by Mr. Lazarus W. Powell, of Kentucky, proposing a Committee of Thirteen on the absorbing topic, came up in the Senate, and Mr. Benjamin F. Wade, of Ohio, uttered some weighty words on the general subject. Having shown that the Government had hitherto been under the control of the Slave Power--that the personal rights and safety of Northern men of anti-Slavery views were habitually violated in the South--that the present pointed antagonism between the Free and the Slave States had been caused by a great change of opinion, not at the North, but at the South, he continued:

The Republican party holds the same opinion, so far as I know, with regard to your “peculiar institution” that is held by every civilized nation on the globe. We do not differ in public sentiment from England, France, Germany, and Italy, on the subject of Slavery.

I tell you frankly that we did lay down the principle in our platform, that we would prohibit, if we had the power, Slavery from invading another inch of the free soil of this Government. I stand to that principle to-day. I have argued it to half a million of people, and they stand by it — they have commissioned me to stand by it; and, so help me God, I will I say to you, while we hold this doctrine to the end, there is no Republican, or Convention of Republicans, or Republican paper, that pretends to have any right in your States to interfere with your peculiar and local institutions. On the other hand, our platform repudiates the idea that we have any right, or harbor any ultimate intention, to invade or interfere with your institution in your own States. * * *

I have disowned any intention, on the part of the Republican party, to harm a hair of your heads. We hold to no doctrine that can possibly work you any inconvenience — any wrong — any disaster. We have been, and shall remain, faithful to all the laws — studiously so. It is not, by your own confessions, that Mr. Lincoln is expected to commit any overt act by which you may be injured. You will not even wait for any, you say; but, by anticipating that the Government may do you an injury, you will put an end to it — which means, simply and squarely, that you intend to rule or ruin this Government. * * *

As to compromises, I supposed that we had agreed that the day of compromises was at an end. The most solemn we have made have been violated, and are no more. Since I have had a seat in the Senate, one of considerable antiquity was swept from our statute-book; and when, in the minority, I stood up here, and asked you to withhold your hands — that it was a solemn, sacred compact between nations — what was the reply? That it was nothing but an act of Congress, and could be swept away by the same majority which enacted it. That was true in fact, and true in law; and it showed the weakness of compromises. * * *

We beat you on the plainest and most palpable issue ever presented to the American people, and one which every man understood; and now, when we come to the capital, we tell you that our candidates must and shall be inaugurated — must and shall administer this Government precisely as the Constitution prescribes. It would not only be humiliating, but highly dishonorable to us, if we listened to any compromise by which we should set aside the honest verdict of the people. When it comes to that, you have no government, but anarchy intervenes, and civil war may follow; and all the evils that human imagination can raise may be consequent on such a course as that. The American people would lose the sheet-anchor of their liberties whenever it is denied on this floor that a majority, fairly given, shall rule. I know not what others may do; but [376] I tell you that, with that verdict of the people in my pocket, and standing on the plat-form on which these candidates were elected, I would suffer anything before I would compromise in any way. I deem it no case where we have a right to extend courtesy and generosity. The absolute right, the most sacred that a free people can bestow upon any man, is their verdict that gives him a full title to the office he holds. If we cannot stand there, we cannot stand anywhere; and, my friends, any other verdict would be as fatal to you as to us.

The venerable and Union-loving John J. Crittenden, of Kentucky--the Nestor of the Bell-Everett party — who had first entered Congress as a Senator forty-four years before — who had served, at different times, no less than twenty years, in the upper House of Congress; and who, after filling, for a season, the post of Attorney-General under Gen. Harrison, and again under Mr. Fillmore, was now, in his fullness of years, about to give place to a Democrat,10 elected because of the greater confidence of the slaveholding interest in the Democratic than in the adverse party — came forward to tender his peace-offering; and no anti-Republican in Congress or in the country could have risen whose personal character and history could have more disposed the Republicans to listen to him with an anxious desire to find the acceptance of his scheme compatible with their principles and their sense of public duty. His olive-branch was as follows:

A Joint Resolution proposing certain amendments to the Constitution of the United States:

Whereas, serious and alarming dissensions have arisen between the Northern and the Southern States, concerning the rights and security of the rights of the slaveholding States, and especially their rights in the common territory of the United States; and whereas, it is eminently desirable and proper that these dissensions, which now threaten the very existence of this Union, should be permanently quieted and settled by constitutional provisions, which shall do equal justice to all sections, and thereby restore to the people that peace and good — will which ought to prevail between all the citizens of the United States: Therefore,

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled (two-thirds of both Houses concurring), That the following articles be, and are hereby, proposed and submitted as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of said Constitution, when ratified by Conventions of three-fourths of the several States:

article 1. In all the territory of the United States now held, or hereafter acquired, situate north of latitude 36° 30′, Slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, is prohibited, while such territory shall remain under territorial government. In all the territory south of said line of attitude, Slavery of the African race is hereby recognized as existing, and shall not be interfered with by Congress, but shall be protected as property by all the departments of the territorial government during its continuance. And when any territory, north or south of said line, within such boundaries as Congress may prescribe, shall contain the population requisite for a member of Congress, according to the then Federal ratio of representation of the people of the United States, it shall, if its form of government be republican, be admitted into the Union, on an equal footing with the original States; with or without Slavery, as the Constitution of such new State may provide.

Art. 2. Congress shall have no power to abolish Slavery in places under its exclusive jurisdiction, and situate within the limits of States that permit the holding of slaves.

Art. 3. Congress shall have no power to abolish Slavery within the District of Columbia, so long as it exists in the adjoining States of Virginia and Maryland, or either, nor without the consent of the inhabitants, nor without just compensation first made to such owners of slaves as do not consent to such abolishment. Nor shall Congress, It any time, prohibit officers of the Federal Government, or members of Congress whose duties require them to be in said District, from bringing with them their slaves, and holding them as such during the time their duties may require them to remain there, and afterward taking them from the District. [377]

Art. 4. Congress shall have no power to prohibit or hinder the transportation of slaves from one State to another, or to a territory in which slaves are, by law, permitted to be held, whether that transportation be by land, navigable rivers, or by the sea.

Art. 5. That, in addition to the provisions of the third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the United States, Congress shall have power to provide by law, and it shall be its duty to provide, that the United States shall pay to the owner who shall apply for it, the full value of his fugitive slaves in all cases where the marshal, or other officer whose duty it was to arrest said fugitive, was prevented from so doing by violence or intimidation, or where, after arrest, said fugitive was rescued by force, and the owner thereby prevented and obstructed in the pursuit of his remedy for the recovery of his fugitive slave under the said clause of the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof. And in all such cases, when the United States shall pay for such fugitive, they shall have the right, in their own name, to sue the county in which said violence, intimidation, or rescue, was committed, and recover from it, with interest and damages, the amount paid by them for said fugitive slave. And the said county, after it has paid said amount to the United States, may, for its indemnity, sue and recover from the wrong-doers or rescuers by whom the owner was prevented from the recovery of his fugitive slave, in like manner as the owner himself might have sued and recovered.

Art. 6. No future amendment of the Constitution shall affect the five preceding articles; nor the third paragraph of the second section of the first article of the Constitution; nor the third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article of said Constitution; and no amendment shall be made to the Constitution which shall authorize or give to Congress any power to abolish or interfere with Slavery in any of the States by whose laws it is, or may be, allowed or permitted.

And whereas, also, besides those causes of dissension embraced in the foregoing amendments proposed to the Constitution of the United States, there are others which come within the jurisdiction of Congress, and may be remedied by its legislative power; And whereas, it is the desire of Congress, as far as its power will extend, to remove all just cause for the popular discontent and agitation which now disturb the peace of the country and threaten the stability of its institutions: Therefore,

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress assembled, That the laws now in force for the recovery of fugitive slaves are in strict pursuance of the plain and mandatory provisions of the Constitution, and have been sanctioned as valid and constitutional by the judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States; that the slaveholding States are entitled to the faithful observance and execution of those laws; and that they ought not to be repealed, or so modified or changed as to impair their efficiency; and that laws ought to be made for the punishment of those who attempt, by rescue of the slave, or other illegal means, to hinder or defeat the due execution of said laws.

2. That all State laws which conflict with the fugitive slave acts of Congress, or any other Constitutional acts of Congress, or which, in their operation, impede, hinder, or delay, the free course and due execution of any of said acts, are null and void by the plain provisions of the Constitution of the United States; yet those State laws, void as they are, have given color to practices, and led to consequences, which have obstructed the due administration and execution of acts of Congress, and especially the acts for the delivery of fugitive slaves; and have thereby contributed much to the discord and commotion now prevailing. Congress, therefore, in the present perilous juncture, does not deem it improper, respectfully and earnestly, to recommend the repeal of those laws to the several States which have enacted them, or such legislative corrections or explanations of them as may prevent their being used or perverted to such mischievous purposes.

3. That the act of the 18th of September, 1850, commonly called the Fugitive Slave law, ought to be so amended as to make the fee of the Commissioner, mentioned in the eighth section of the act, equal in amount in the cases decided by him, whether his decision be in favor of or against the claimant. And, to avoid misconstruction, the last clause of the fifth section of said act, which authorizes the person holding a warrant for the arrest or detention of a fugitive slave to summon to his aid the posse comitatus, and which declares it to be the duty of all good citizens to assist him in its execution, ought to be so amended as to expressly limit the authority and duty to cases in which there shall be resistance, or danger of resistance or rescue.

4. That the laws for the suppression of the African Slave-Trade, and especially those prohibiting the importation of slaves into the United States, ought to be more effectual, and ought to be thoroughly executed; and all further enactments necessary to those ends ought to be promptly made.


A white man and an Indian, says the legend, once went hunting in partnership; and the net product of their joint efforts was a turkey and an owl, which were to be divided between them. “I will take the turkey,” said the white man, “and you may have the owl; or you may have the owl, and I'll take the turkey.” “Ah, but,” demurred the Indian, “you don't say ‘turkey’ once to me.”

I. For a generation, the Free North had been struggling against a series of important measures, forming a system of public policy, whereof the purpose and necessary effect were the diffusion and aggrandizement of Slavery. Mr. Crittenden, by cooperating therein, to a certain extent, had clearly affirmed, to that extent, the right and justice of this resistance. He had earnestly opposed the violation of our public faith solemnly plighted to the Creek and Cherokee Indians; he had struggled manfully against the annexation of Texas. True, he had not openly condemned and resisted the repudiation of the Missouri Compact; but his studied silence on that topic, in view of the Southern furor in favor of the Nebraska Bill, proves clearly his tacit concurrence in the Northern repugnance to that measure. So also with regard to the projected purchase or seizure of Cuba. Yet this struggle of the North, its importance and its justice, are utterly ignored in this plan of “ adjustment” and “conciliation;” while the South is proffered guarantees of the perpetuity of Slavery in the District of Columbia as well as in the Slave States, with the utmost facilities and aids to slavehunting ever known in any country. The show of concession, in the foregoing project, to Northern convictions, relates to the ‘mint, anise and cummin’ of the great controversy; it proffers to the Free States no guarantee on a single point ever deemed by them essential. Then as to the territories: Mr. Crittenden's proposition, in substance, is, that the North shall not merely permit, but establish and guarantee, Slavery in all present and future territories of the Union south of 36° 30′. The direct incitement herein proffered, the strong temptation held out, to fillibustering raids upon Mexico, Central America, Cuba, Hayti, etc., could never be ignored. The Slave Power would have claimed this as a vital element of the new compromise — that she had surrendered her just claim to all territory north of 36° 30′ for the conceded right to acquire and enjoy new territory south of that line, and would have insisted on her “pound of flesh” --a rigorous fulfillment of the compact. Her Sam Houstons, William Walkers and Bickleys would have plotted at home and plundered abroad, in the character of apostles, laboring to readjust the disturbed equilibrium of the Union by acquiring for the South that to which she was entitled by the Crittenden Compromise.

II. The essence and substance of Mr. Crittenden's “ adjustment” inhere in his proposition that, of the vast territories acquired by us from Mexico, with all that may be acquired hereafter, so much as lies south of the parallel 36° 30′, shall be absolutely surrendered and guaranteed to Slavery. But this very proposition was made, on behalf of the South, by Gen. Burt, of S. C., in 1847, and was then defeated by the decisive vote of [379] 114 to 82--not one Whig, and but four Democrats, from the Free States, sustaining it.11 It was defeated again in the next Congress, when proposed by Mr. Douglas, in 1848: Yeas 82; Nays 121; only three Democrats and no Whig from Free States sustaining it.12 The Republican party was now required, in the year 1861, to assent to a partition of the territories, and an establishment of Slavery therein, which both the Whig and the Democratic parties of the Free States had repeatedly, and all but unanimously, rejected before there was any Republican party. Thus the North, under the lead of the Republicans, was required to make, on pain of civil war, concessions to Slavery which it had utterly refused when divided only between the “conservative” parties of fifteen or twenty years ago.

III. The vital principle of this, as of all compromises or projects of conciliation proposed from the South to the North, was this: “ You shall regard Slavery as we do, and agree with us that it is beneficent and right. We will concede that it is not desirable nor profitable in your harsh climate, on your rugged soil; and you must concur with us in affirming that it is the very thing for our fervid suns and fertile vales. Then we will go forward, conquering, annexing, settling, planting, and filling the markets of the world with our great staples, while you shall be amply enriched by our commerce and by our constantly expanding markets for your food and manufactures.” In other words, Slavery was henceforth to be regarded, on all hands, as the basis at once of our National industry and our National policy.

IV. As a part of this compact, the North was to silence her lecturers, muzzle her press, chloroform her pulpits, and bully her people into a silence respecting Slavery, which should be broken only by the utterance of vindications and panegyrics. Already the great publishing houses of our Northern cities had been very generally induced to mutilate the works they from time to time issued, by expunging from them every passage or sentiment obnoxious to the fastidious, exacting taste of the slaveholders. Some of our authors--Mr. James K. Paulding conspicuous among them — had revised their own works, and issued new editions, wherein their old-time utterances adverse to Slavery had been supplanted by fulsome adulations of the system or vehement abuse of its opponents. Our Missionary, Tract, and other religious organizations, had very generally been induced to expurgate their publications and their efforts of all anti-Slavery ideas. Our great popular churches had either bent to the storm or been broken by it. And now, the work was to be completed by a new and comprehensive “adjustment,” taking the place and, in part, the name of that “Compromise” which the Slave Power had first forced upon the North and then coolly repudiated; an adjustment which was to bind the Free States over to perpetual complicity in slaveholding, and perpetual stifling of all exposure of, or remonstrance against, the existence, the domination, and the diffusion of Slavery.

These strictures are neither impelled nor colored by any unkindly feeling toward Mr. Crittenden, whose [380] patriotism and fairness they are not designed to impeach. He doubtless considered carefully and well what the South could be induced to accept; and he undoubtingly believed this to be embodied and presented in his plan of compromise. A slaveholder himself; born, educated, and living amid the influences of the institution; he could not or did not realize that his conditions would seem inadmissible to any but the narrowest and most miserable fanatics. Assuming his premises, regarding the matter exclusively from his standpoint, and putting conscience and consistency entirely out of the question, his proposal was fair enough; and its cordial adoption would doubtless have exhilarated the stock market, and caused general rejoicing on exchanges and around the dinner-tables of merchant princes. Its advocatesd, with good reason, claimed a large majority of the people in its favor, and clamored for its submission to a direct popular vote. Had such a submission been accorded, it is very likely that the greater number of those who voted at all would have voted to ratify it.

But, on the other hand, these facts deserve consideration:

I. The Democratic and “Conservative” politicans who united on the Crittenden Compromise, and clamored for its adoption, had had control of Congress and the Federal Executive through seven-eighths of our past national history. If this were the true panacea for our troubles respecting Slavery, why had they not applied it long ago? Why not adopt it under Polk or Fillmore, Pierce or Buchanan, without waiting to the last sands of their departing power? Why not unite upon it as their platform in the Presidential contest of 1860? Why call upon the Republicans to help them do, after forty years of controversy, what they might themselves have done, without help, almost any time during those forty years? Why repudiate, against the most urgent remonstrances, in 1854, a compromise which, so far as it went, was substantially identical with this, and now ask those whom they then overbore to unite with them in ratifying another and a worse, in 1861?

II. The “Conservatives,” so called, were still able to establish this Crittenden Compromise by their own proper strength, had they been disposed so to do. The President was theirs; the Senate strongly theirs; in the House, they had a small majority, as was evinced in their defeat of John Sherman for Speaker. Had they now come forward and said, with authority: “Enable us to pass the Crittenden Compromise, and all shall be peace and harmony,” they would have succeeded without difficulty. It was only through the withdrawal of pro-Slavery members that the Republicans had achieved an unexpected majority in either House. Had those members chosen to return to the seats still awaiting them, and to support Mr. Crittenden's proposition, they could have carried it without difficulty.

III. But it was abundantly evident that the passage of this measure would not restore the Union. Several States had already plunged into Secession, their oracles avowing that they wanted no concession, and would be satisfied with none. Every suggestion that they should wait for some overt act, at least for some official declaration, from Mr. Lincoln, [381] had been spurned by them. They made haste to secede, from fear that concessions would be offered — that their pretexts for disruption would somehow be obviated. To send concessions after them, in their scornful, imperious, insulting stampede, would be inviting them to heap new and more dishonoring indignities on the nation they were defying. It was, in fact, to justify their past treason, and incite them to perseverance and greater daring in the evil way they had chosen.

IV. Our “conservative” Supreme Court, by its Dred Scott decision, had denied to Congress all power to exclude Slavery from a single acre of the common territories of the Union; it had held the Missouri Compromise invalid on this very ground; and now, the North was called to reenact and extend that very line of demarcation between Free and Slave territory which the Court had pronounced a nullity. True, Mr. Crittenden proposed that the new compromise should be ingrafted upon the Constitution; but that only increased the difficulty of effecting the adjustment, without assuring its validity. For, if the new Southern doctrines respecting property, and the rights of property, and the duty of protecting those rights, and the radical inability of the Government to limit or impair them, be sound, then the guarantee to Free Labor of the territory north of 36° 30′, must prove delusive. Indeed, Mr. Jefferson Davis, at a meeting of the Select. Committee framed to consider these very resolutions, proposed, on the 26th of December, the following:

Resolved, That it shall be declared, by amendment of the Constitution, that property in slaves, recognized as such by the local law of any of the States of the Union, shall stand on the same footing, in all constitutional and Federal relations, as any other species of property so recognized; and, like other property, shall not be subject to be divested or impaired by the local law of any other State, either in escape thereto, or by the transit or sojourn of the owner therein. And in no case whatever shall such property be subject to be divested or impaired by any legislative act of the United States, or any of the territories thereof.

When the Senate came to act13 upon Mr. Crittenden's proposition, Mr. Anthony, of Rhode Island--a very moderate, conservative Republican-made a new overture which ought to have closed the controversy. Announcing his intention to vote for the substitute proposed by Mr. Daniel Clark, of New Hampshire, as “abstractly true,” and more in accordance with his idea of the mode in which our troubles should be composed, Mr. Anthony proceeded:

I believe, Mr. President, that, if the danger which menaces us is to be avoided at all, it must be by legislation; which is more ready, more certain, and more likely to be satisfactory, than constitutional amendment. The main difficulty is the territorial question. The demand of the Senators on the other side of the chamber, and of those whom they represent, is, that the territory South of the line of the Missouri Compromise shall be open to their peculiar property. All this territory, except the Indian reservation, is within the limits of New Mexico, which, for a part of its northern boundary, runs up two degrees beyond that line. This is now a slave territory; made so by territorial legislation; and Slavery exists there, recognized and protected. Now, I am willing, so soon as Kansas can be admitted, to vote for the admission of New Mexico as a State, with such Constitution as the people may adopt.

This disposes of all the territory that is adapted to slave labor, or that is claimed by the South. It ought to settle the whole question. Surely, if we can dispose of all the territory that we have, we ought not to [382] quarrel over that which we have not, and which we have no very honest way of acquiring. Let us settle the difficulties that threaten us now, and not anticipate those which may never come. Let the public mind have time to cool; let us forget, in the general prosperity, the mutual dependence and the common glory of our country, that we have ever quarreled over the question that we have put at rest; and perhaps when, in the march of events, the northern provinces of Mexico are brought under our sway, they may come in without a ripple on the political sea, whose tumultuous waves now threaten to ingulf us all in one common ruin.

In offering to settle this question by the admission of New Mexico, we of the North who assent to it propose a great sacrifice, and offer a large concession. We propose to take in a State that is deficient in population, and that possesses but imperfectly many of the elements of a member of the Union, and that will require, in one form or another, even after its admission, the aid of the General Government. But we make the offer in a spirit of compromise and good feeling, which we hope will be reciprocated.

And now, Mr. President, I appeal to Senators on the other side, when we thus offer to bridge over seven-eighths of the frightful chasm that separates us, will you not build the other eighth? When, with outstretched arms, we approach you so near, that by reaching out your hands you can clasp ours in the fraternal grasp from which they should never be separated, will you, with folded arms and closed eyes, stand upon extreme demands which you know we cannot accept, and for which, if we did, we could not carry our constituents?

There was no response to this; and the Senate, after having refused--30 to 25--to postpone the subject to take up the Kansas Admission bill, proceeded to vote on Mr. Clark's substitute, which was in these words:

Resolved, That the provisions of the Constitution are ample for the preservation of the Union, and the protection of all the material interests of the country; that it needs to be obeyed rather than amended; and that an extrication from our present dangers is to be looked for in strenuous efforts to preserve the peace, protect the public property, and enforce the laws, rather than in new guarantees for peculiar interests, compromises for particular difficulties, or concessions to unreasonable demands.

Resolved, That all attempts to dissolve the present Union, or overthrow or abandon the present Constitution, with the hope or expectation of constructing a new one, are dangerous, illusory, and destructive; that, in the opinion of the Senate of the United States, no such reconstruction is practicable; and, therefore, to the maintenance of the existing Union and Constitution should be directed all the energies of all the departments of the Government, and the efforts of all good citizens.

The vote was now taken on this substitute, which was adopted, as follows:

Yeas.--Messrs. Anthony, Baker, Bingham, Cameron, Chandler, Clark, Collamer, Dixon, Doolittle, Durkee, Fessenden, Foot, Foster, Grimes, Hale, Harlan, King, Seward, Simmons, Sumner, Ten Eyck, Trumbull, Wade, Wilkinson, and Wilson-25 [all Republicans].

Nays.--Messrs. Bayard, Bigler, Bragg, Bright, Clingman, Crittenden, Fitch, Green, Gwin, Hunter, Johnson, of Tennessee, Kennedy, Lane, of Oregon, Mason, Nicholson, Pearce, Polk, Powell, Pugh, Rice, Saulsbury, and Sebastian-23 [all Democrats, but two Bell-Conservatives, in italics].

Messrs. Iverson, of Georgia, Benjamin and Slidell, of Louisiana, Hemphill and Wigfall, of Texas, and R. W. Johnson, of Arkansas--who had voted just before against taking up the Kansas bill-had now absented themselves or sat silent, and allowed Mr. Clark's resolves to supplant Mr. Crittenden's, which were thus defeated. They doubtless did this in obedience to a resolve, preconcerted with Messrs. Davis, Toombs, etc., to accept no adjustment or concession which did not receive the vote of a majority of the Republicans.

In the last hours of the session,14 the subject was called up by Mr. J. M. Mason, of Virginia, when Mr. Clark's substitute aforesaid was reconsidered and rejected-22 to 14-in order to have a direct vote on the [383] Crittenden proposition; which was then defeated: Yeas 19 [‘Conservatives’]; Nays 20 [Republicans]; as before. Several more Southern Senators had meantime seceded and left.

Mr. Lazarus W. Powell, of Kentucky, having moved15 the appointment of a Select Committee of Thirteen on the crisis at which the country had now arrived, the Senate assented, and Vice-President John C. Breckinridge16 appointed Messrs. Powell, Hunter, Crittenden, Seward, Toombs, Douglas, Collamer, Davis, Wade, Bigler, Rice, Doolittle, and Grimes on said Committee-five of the thirteen Republicans (in italics). Mr. Davis [Jefferson] asked to be excused from serving, but finally consented. The Committee met two or three days thereafter, and held several animated sessions, but to little purpose. Mr. Crittenden's main proposition — the line of 36° 30′--was voted down after full discussion: Yeas Messrs. Bigler, Crittenden, Douglas, Rice, and Powell-5; Nays, Messrs. Davis, Doolittle, Collamer, Wade, Toombs, Grimes, and Hunter--7: absent, Mr. Seward. Messrs. Hunter, Toombs, and Davis, it is said, would have supported it, had it been proposed and sustained by the Republicans. The remaining propositions of Mr. Crittenden received generally a majority of the whole number of votes, but were not considered adopted; the Committee having agreed upon a rule that nothing should be so considered that did not receive a majority both of the Republican and the anti-Republican votes. When the Committee met again,17 Mr. Seward submitted the following proposition:

First. No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress any power to abolish or interfere, in any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to service or labor by the laws of such State.

This was adopted by the following vote:

Yeas--Messrs. Powell, Hunter, Crittenden, Seward, Douglas, Collamer, Wade, Bigler, Rice, Doolittle, and Grimes-11.

Nays--Messrs. Davis and Toombs-2.

Second, The Fugitive Slave law of 1850 shall be so amended as to secure to the alleged fugitive a trial by jury.

This, having been amended, on motion of Mr. Douglas, so as to have the alleged fugitive sent for trial to the State from which he was charged with escaping, was voted down-all the Republicans and Mr. Crittenden sustaining it; all the rest opposing it.

Mr. Seward18 further proposed, and the Republicans sustained, the following :

Resolved, That, under the fourth section of the fourth article of the Constitution, Congress should pass an efficient law for the punishment of all persons engaged in the armed invasion of any State from another by combinations of individuals, and punishing all persons in complicity therewith, on trial and conviction, in the State or District where their acts of complicity were committed, in the Federal Courts.

This was negatived by the solid vote of the anti-Republican members.

It can hardly be necessary to trace further the abortive proceedings of this Committee. They came to nothing, through no want of good — will on the part of a majority of its members, but because most or all of those from the South could or would accept nothing as sufficient short of an utter and shameful repudiation by the Republicans of the vital principle of their party — the consecration of [384] the Territories to Free Labor. Thus: Mr. Robert Toombs, of Georgia, having submitted a series of propositions, which were, in substance, the Breckinridge platform, without waiting a vote or any decisive action thereon, made haste to telegraph to Georgia, for effect upon her approaching election, as follows:

Washington, Dec. 23, 1860.
I came here to secure your constitutional rights, and to demonstrate to you that you can get no guarantee for those rights from your Northern confederates.

The whole subject was referred to a Committee of thirteen in tie Senate. I was appointed on the Committee, and accepted the trust. I submitted propositions, which, so far from receiving a decided support from a single member of the Republican party of the Committee, were all treated with derision and contempt.

A vote was then taken in the Committee on amendments to the Constitution, proposed by Hon. J. J. Crittenden; and each and all of then were voted against, unanimously, by the Black Republican members of the Committee.

In addition to these facts, a majority of the Black Republican members of the Committee declared distinctly that they had no guarantees to offer; which was silently acquiesced in by the other members.

The Black Republican members of the Committee are representative men of the party and section, and, to the extent of my information, truly represent them.

The Committee of thirty-three on Friday adjourned for a week, without coming to any vote, after solemnly pledging themselves to vote on all the propositions then before them, that day. It is controlled by the Black Republicans, your enemies, who only seek to amuse you with delusive hopes until your election, that you may defeat the friends of Secession.

If you are deceived by them, it shall not be my fault. I have put the test fairly and frankly. It is decisive against you now. I tell you, upon the faith of a true man, that all further looking to the North for security for your constitutional rights, ought to be instantly abandoned.

It is fraught with nothing but ruin to yourselves and to your posterity. Secession, by the 4th day of March next, should be thundered from the ballot-box by the unanimous voice of Georgia, on the 2d day of January next. Such a voice will be your best guarantee for liberty, tranquillity, and glory.

Though it is neither essential nor practicable here to record all the abortive projects of “ conciliation” submitted to Congress at this fruitlessly fruitful session, that presented by Mr. C. L. Vallandigham, of Ohio, deserves notice, as the fullest and most logical embodiment yet made of Mr. Calhoun's subtle device for enabling a minority to obstruct and baffle the majority under a political system preserving the forms of a republic.

Mr. V., after a preamble, setting forth “the tendency of stronger governments to enlarge their powers and jurisdiction at the expense of weaker,” “and of majorities to usurp and abuse power, and oppress minorities ;” also affirming that “sectional divisions can no longer be suppressed,” etc., etc., proposed19 that Congress should recommend to the States a radical change of the Federal Constitution, by adding thereto as follows:

article XIII: Sec. 1. The United States are divided into four sections, as follows:

The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island. Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania ; and all new States annexed and admitted into the Union or formed or erected within the jurisdiction of said States, or by the junction of two or more of the same or of parts thereof, or out of territory acquired north of said States, shall constitute one section, to be known as the North.

The States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Kansas, and all new States annexed or admitted into the Union, or erected within the jurisdiction of any of said States, or by the junction of two or more of the same, or of parts thereof, or out of territory now held or hereafter acquired north of latitude 36° 30′ and east of the crest of the Rocky Mountains, shall constitute another section, to be known as the West.

The States of Oregon and California, and

[385] [386] ceive the wisdom of dividing a legislature into two ‘houses’--once compared said device to that of a Dutchman, who, having a loaded wagon stuck fast in a bog, hitched a span of horses to either end and “whipped up both ways.” It is not certain that he might not have thus extricated his load-or, at least, overturned it; for even our old Confederation, though a feeble and vicious, was not an impossible frame-work of government. We could not have so rapidly increased in wealth or power under it; yet we need not have permanently held in the scale of nations a lower rank than that of Switzerland or Sweden. But this project of Mr. Vallandigham, if adopted, would have given us a government which no civilized people could have endured through a quarter of a century — a government embodying in an aggravated form all the vices of the old Confederation, with few or none of its virtues — a government requiring a President, yet rendering his election a rare and happy accident — a Congress wherein the passage of a single act of any decided importance would be the event of a decade — a rule hardly to be endured, yet not to be escaped without a revolution. For the chief end of this, as of nearly every kindred contrivance of the session, was the construction of a balance whereby three hundred thousand slaveholders would weigh down twenty millions of freemen, and a section which systematically repels immigration, degrades industry, and discourages improvement, be rendered enduringly equal in power and consideration with one cherishing a policy radically antagonistic to this. Yet this inevitable disparity in growth and strength between the Free and the Slave States was the basis of all Southern discontent with the Union, and to counteract or overbear it the object of every device for the removal of Southern grievances and the redress of Southern wrongs.

The House Committee of Thirty-three encountered the same obstacles, and achieved a like failure, with its counterpart in the Senate. Mr. Albert Rust, of Arkansas, submitted to it20 a proposition which was substantially identical with Mr. Crittenden's, and which he presented as the ultimatum of the South. It was voted down some days afterward: Yeas 12; Nays 15: no Republican sustaining it. On the 18th, Mr. Henry Winter Davis, of Md., offered the following, which was adopted unanimously:

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives, That the several States be respectfully requested to cause their statutes to be revised, with a view to ascertain if any of them are in conflict with, or tend to embarrass or hinder, the execution of the laws of the United States, made in pursuance of the second section of the IVth Article of the Constitution of the United States, for the delivering up of persons held to labor by the laws of any State and escaping therefrom; and the Senate and house of Representatives earnestly request that all enactments having such tendency be forthwith repealed, as required by a just sense of constitutional obligations, and by a due regard for the peace of the Republic. And the President of the United States is requested to communicate these resolutions to the Governors of the several States, with the request that they will lay the same before the Legislatures thereof respectively.

Mr. Thomas Corwin, of Ohio, from a majority of this Committee, made an elaborate report, on the 14th of January, 1861, favoring concession [387] and compromise, but not the line of 36° 30′ Messrs. C. C. Washburne, of Wisconsin, and Mason W. Tappan, of N. H., tendered a minority report, setting forth that, in view of the Rebellion, now in progress, no concessions should be made. They closed by submitting the resolve which had been offered in the Senate by Mr. Clark, of N. H., and which has already been given.

Messrs. Birch, of California, and Stout, of Oregon, submitted a separate minority report, proposing a Convention of the States to amend the Federal Constitution. This proposal had been voted down by 15 to 14 in the Committee, and it was likewise voted down in the House: Yeas 64; Nays 108.

The Crittenden proposition was moved in the House, as a substitute for Mr. Corwin's, and rejected: Yeas 80; Nays 113.

The conclusions of the Grand Committee, as reported by Mr. Corwin and sustained by the House, were as follows:

1. Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all attempts, on the part of the Legislatures of any of the States, to obstruct or hinder the recovery and surrender of fugitives from labor, are in derogation of the Constitution of the United States, inconsistent with the comity and good neighborhood which should prevail among the several States, and dangerous to the peace of the Union.

2. [Mr. H. Winter Davis's proposition, already given on page 386.]

3. Resolved, That we recognize Slavery as now existing in fifteen of the United States, by the usages or the laws of those States; and we recognize no authority, legally or otherwise, outside of a State where it so exists, to interfere with slaves or Slavery in such States, in disregard of the rights of their owners or the peace of Society.

4. Resolved, That we recognize the justness and propriety of a faithful execution of the Constitution, and laws made in pursuance thereof, on the subject of fugitive slaves, or fugitives from service or labor, and discountenance all mobs, or hindrances to the execution of such laws; and that citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.

5. Resolved, That we recognize no such conflicting element in its composition, or sufficient cause from any source for a dissolution of this Government; that we are not sent here to destroy, but to sustain and harmonize, the institutions, and to see that equal justice is done to all parts of the same; and, finally, to perpetuate its existence on terms of equality and justice to all the States.

6. Resolved, That the faithful observance, on the part of all the States, of all their constitutional obligations to each other, and to the Federal Government, is essential to the peace of the country.

7. Resolved, That it is the duty of the Federal Government to enforce the Federal laws, protect the Federal property, and preserve the Union of these States.

8. Resolved, That each State is requested to revise its statutes, and, if necessary, so to amend the same as to secure, without legislation by Congress, to citizens of other States traveling therein, the same protection as citizens of such State enjoy; and that she also protect the citizens of other States traveling or sojourning therein against popular violence or illegal summary punishment, without trial, in due form of law, for imputed crimes.

9. Resolved, That each State be also respectfully requested to enact such laws as will prevent and punish any attempt whatever in such State to recognize or set on foot the lawless invasion of any other State or territory.

10. Resolved, That the President be requested to transmit copies of the foregoing resolutions to the Governors of the several States, with a request that they be communicated to their respective Legislatures.

The Speaker decided Mr. Corwin's report an indivisible proposition, and the House, after refusing to lay it on the table, finally passed it by the decisive majority of 83: Yeas 136; Nays 53: the proportion of Republicans to anti-Republicans being about the same in the Yeas as in the Nays.

Mr. Corwin further reported a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution, whereby any future [388] amendment giving Congress power over Slavery in the States is forbidden; which was defeated, not receiving the requisite two-thirds-Yeas 123; Nays 71. It was reconsidered, however, on motion of Mr. Daniel Kilgore, of Indiana, seconded by21 Mr. Benjamin Stanton, of Ohio; adopted: Yeas 133; Nays 65: and the Senate concurred: Yeas 24; Nays 12.

This closed the efforts in Congress to disarm the sternly purposed Rebellion, by yielding without bloodshed a substantial triumph to the Rebels.

At this session, after the withdrawal of Southern members in such numbers as to give the Republicans a large majority in the House and a practical control of the Senate, three separate acts were passed, organizing the Territories of Colorado, Nevada, and Dakotah respectively — the three together covering a very large proportion of all the remaining territory of the United States. All these acts were silent with regard to Slavery; leaving whatever rights had accrued to “the South” under the Constitution, as interpreted and affirmed by the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott decision, not merely unimpaired, but unassailed and unquestioned, by any Federal legislation or action. The passage of these acts in this form was certainly intended to soothe the prevalent madness, and to strengthen the Unionists of the South, especially of the Border States; though it does not seem to have had any such effect. And, indeed, it is not probable that any concession could have been made, after the withdrawal of Toombs, Davis, etc., from Washington, that would not have evoked the stern answer-“ Too late!”

1 The Ordinance of 1787, reaffirmed under the Constitution in 1789, is thus clearly affirmed by Mr. Buchanan to be not in derogation of “Southern rights.” This, be it remembered, as well as the Missouri Compromise itself, had the hearty support of the entire South.

2 See pages 94-100.

3 Federal Constitution, Art. II., § 3.

4 Ibid. Art. VI., § 2. See also Webster's Reply to Hayne, pages 86-8.

5 Dated November 20, 1860.

6 From the Potomac district next above Washington; originally a “ Whig” ; then “American” ; elected to this Congress and supported for Speaker as “Union” ; now, zealous for “concession” and “peace” ; an open traitor from the day of Virginia's secession.

7 Since, a Rebel Brigadier.

8 December 17th.

9 Daniel E. Sickles of New York; Thomas B. Florence, of Pennsylvania.

10 John C. Breckinridge; closen to take Mr. Crittenden's seat on the 4th of March, 1861.

11 See pages 196-7.

12 See pages 197-8.

13 January 16, 1861

14 March 2, 1861.

15 December 5, 1860.

16 December, 20, 1860.

17 December 24th.

18 December 26th.

19 February 7, 1861.

20 December 17th.

21 February 28, 1861.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
United States (United States) (25)
South Carolina (South Carolina, United States) (7)
Ohio (Ohio, United States) (7)
Texas (Texas, United States) (6)
New Jersey (New Jersey, United States) (5)
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (5)
New Hampshire (New Hampshire, United States) (4)
Kentucky (Kentucky, United States) (4)
Kansas (Kansas, United States) (4)
Indiana (Indiana, United States) (4)
Arkansas (Arkansas, United States) (4)
Wisconsin (Wisconsin, United States) (3)
Washington (United States) (3)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (3)
Oregon (Oregon, United States) (3)
Mississippi (Mississippi, United States) (3)
Mexico (Mexico, Mexico) (3)
Louisiana (Louisiana, United States) (3)
Illinois (Illinois, United States) (3)
Cuba (Cuba) (3)
Vermont (Vermont, United States) (2)
Rhode Island (Rhode Island, United States) (2)
North Carolina (North Carolina, United States) (2)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (2)
Central America (2)
California (California, United States) (2)
Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Switzerland (Switzerland) (1)
Sweden (Sweden) (1)
Slave (Canada) (1)
Russia (Russia) (1)
Nevada (Nevada, United States) (1)
Missouri (Missouri, United States) (1)
Minnesota (Minnesota, United States) (1)
Michigan (Michigan, United States) (1)
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Maine (Maine, United States) (1)
Iowa (Iowa, United States) (1)
France (France) (1)
Florida (Florida, United States) (1)
England (United Kingdom) (1)
Delaware (Delaware, United States) (1)
Connecticut (Connecticut, United States) (1)
Colorado (Colorado, United States) (1)
Brazil (Brazil) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
John J. Crittenden (22)
Jefferson Davis (9)
William H. Seward (8)
Robert Toombs (7)
Thomas Corwin (7)
James Buchanan (7)
Lazarus W. Powell (6)
Stephen A. Douglas (6)
Daniel Clark (6)
Benjamin F. Wade (5)
David Hunter (5)
Alexander H. Rice (4)
Abraham Lincoln (4)
Grimes (4)
Doolittle (4)
Jacob Collamer (4)
Bigler (4)
Anthony (4)
C. L. Vallandigham (3)
Alfred Iverson (3)
John C. Breckinridge (3)
Jeremiah S. Black (3)
Louis T. Wigfall (2)
John Slidell (2)
John Sherman (2)
Saulsbury (2)
James K. Polk (2)
Justin S. Morrill (2)
James M. Mason (2)
R. W. Johnson (2)
Claiborne F. Jackson (2)
House (2)
Millard Fillmore (2)
Henry Winter Davis (2)
J. J. Crittenden (2)
Thomas L. Clingman (2)
Albert G. Brown (2)
James A. Bayard (2)
Wilson (1)
Wilkinson (1)
Webster (1)
C. C. Washburne (1)
William Walkers (1)
Trumbull (1)
R. Toombs (1)
W. Tappan (1)
Charles Sumner (1)
Stout (1)
Benjamin Stanton (1)
Simmons (1)
Daniel E. Sickles (1)
William K. Sebastian (1)
Dred Scott (1)
Albert Rust (1)
George E. Pugh (1)
Franklin Pierce (1)
William Pennington (1)
Pearce (1)
James K. Paulding (1)
Noell (1)
A. O. P. Nicholson (1)
Isaac N. Morris (1)
Owen Lovejoy (1)
Charles H. Larrabee (1)
Henry S. Lane (1)
Daniel Kilgore (1)
Booth Kennedy (1)
Cherokee Indians (1)
Sam Houstons (1)
Thomas C. Hindman (1)
John Hemphill (1)
Robert Y. Hayne (1)
John Hawkins (1)
William Henry Harrison (1)
James Harlan (1)
John P. Hale (1)
Gwin (1)
Green (1)
Henry D. Foster (1)
Samuel A. Foot (1)
Thomas B. Florence (1)
John Fitch (1)
Fessenden (1)
Eyck (1)
English (1)
Durkee (1)
William McKee Dunn (1)
Archibald Dixon (1)
H. Winter Davis (1)
John Cochrane (1)
Chandler (1)
Chairman (1)
Simon Cameron (1)
John C. Calhoun (1)
E. R. Burt (1)
Texan Brutus (1)
Bright (1)
Braxton Bragg (1)
William W. Boyce (1)
A. R. Boteler (1)
Birch (1)
Bingham (1)
Judah P. Benjamin (1)
John Bell (1)
Edward D. Baker (1)
Garnett B. Adrain (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: