KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS

William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


PRE-TERRITORIAL HISTORY, Part 2

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THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE.

February 17, 1820, the Maine-Missouri bill being under consideration by the Senate, Mr. Thomas of Illinois, a uniform opponent of slavery restriction, offered, in order to conciliate the opposition in the House, an amendment to the Missouri rider, as follows:

And be it further enacted, That in all that Territory ceded by France to the United States, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude, excepting only such part thereof as is included within the limits of the State contemplated by this act, Slavery and involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall be, and is hereby forever prohibited. Provided always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any State or Territory of the United States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid."

The bill was returned to the House, where Thomas' amendment met with a worse fate than had befallen the original bill, being rejected by the overwhelming vote of 159 to eighteen. It was an insult repeated, and of the double-headed bill, in any form, the House would have none of it. The dead lock was complete. It was evidently impossible to force the admission of Missouri through the House as an amendment to the bill admitting Maine, and it had become doubtful whether, with the intense feeling of bitterness which had been engendered during the long-continued contest, its admission under any form of legislation was possible during that session. At this juncture, the House, in response to the request of the Senate, agreed to a committee of conference. The said committee reported that the Senate should forego the attempt to couple the admission of Maine and Missouri, that the House should abandon its efforts to restrict slavery in Missouri, and that both the Senate and House should concur in passing the bill to admit Missouri as a State, with the Thomas proviso before quoted, prohibiting slavery in all territory north of 36° 30'.

Weariness of the long-continued struggle; a desire to preserve unimpaired the strength of the two dominant parties (Federal and Democratic); fears of the threats of the South, reiterated at every stage of the debate, that a dissolution of the Union was imminent except the question be finally settled-all these, combined with the assurance of Southern members, whose measure it was, that the compromise was a finality, removing the dangerous question forever from the arena of national politics, resulted in the acceptance of the terms proposed by the committee. In accordance therewith, under a joint resolution, Missouri was admitted March 2, 1820, and the bill admitting Maine was passed by the Senate the same day.

The South was not only satisfied, but elated, at the result of the contest, while the belief that the settlement had fixed final metes and bounds to the encroachments of slavery gained for the compromise the general but reluctant acquiescence of the Northern people.

The debates showed a radical change of opinion on the part of the South in regard to the institution itself. The profits accruing from servile labor, with the arrogance sprung from the unnatural relations of master and slave, had, in a generation, remolded the character of the Southern whites. Conscience no longer told them of the inhumanity of the traffic. Apology had given place to justification. It was no longer an acknowledged evil, only to be endured until it could be safely eradicated, but an essential and indispensable element in the structure of Southern civilization, to be fostered and perpetuated as such. The abolition of slavery, even at any remote or indefinite time, had no advocates except among the radical and somewhat unpractical abolitionists, who, though meager in numbers, continued to cry aloud against the enormity. The conservative North sought only its restriction; the solid South, forgetful of the traditions of the fathers, boldly championed it as a heaven-sanctioned institution, to be protected and defended under the constitution so long as possible, with disunion as the alternative.

The first contest between the opposing forces resulted in gaining for the South the immediate fruits of victory - Missouri, a slaveholding State, and Arkansas, a slaveholding Territory. The remote future might bring recompense to the North, in States yet to be settled in the unknown wilds west of the Mississippi and north of 36° 30'. With that hope, based on the pledged faith of the nation, in the interests of peace and harmony, and to insure the perpetuation of the threatened Union, the compromise was accepted by the North.

There was, however, one most important advantage gained-the residue of the Louisiana purchase was, for the first time, by positive enactment, freed from the chances of the establishment of slavery within its borders, and its claims under old laws and treaties were gone henceforth. Kansas, so much as was a part of Louisiana, was a part of the territory thus solemnly pledged to freedom.

FROM 1820 TO 1852.

The changes of the next thirty years, though such as to gradually increase and intensify the antagonism of sentiment between the North and South, resulted in no flagrant violation of the Missouri compact. June 30, 1834, Congress enacted that all that part of the United States lying west of the Mississippi, and not within the States of Missouri and Louisiana or the Territory of Arkansas, should be taken for the purpose of the act to be Indian country. The territory thus set apart extended as far north as the present northern boundary of Kansas. June 7, 1836, a small triangular tract, designated as the Platte Purchase, was, by act of Congress, detached from Indian Territory and annexed to Missouri. From the mouth of the Kansas River, the line followed the course of the Missouri north to the north line of the State. This was done in direct violation of the Missouri compromise. The tract thus taken from free territory and given to the slaveholding State of Missouri, was, at its northern extremity, sixty miles wide; its length was about ninety miles, and its area not far from twenty-five hundred square miles. As the area was small, and it was desired by Missouri for the purpose of adjusting her boundary to the course of the river, through courtesy to the State, the personal favor was granted with little opposition from any quarter.

By the simultaneous admission of Michigan and Arkansas in 1836, and Iowa and Florida in 1845, the numerical equality of the free and slave States continued. At that time, the material from which to manufacture more slaveholding States had become exhausted. Quite opportunely for the South, Texas was then admitted to the Union, not, however, without a determined and earnest opposition on the part of the North.

THE ANNEXATION OF TEXAS.

The annexation of Texas brought the embers of Northern discontent, which had smoldered since the days of the Missouri contest, again to a white heat. The circumstances attending and preceding it were to the Northern mind exasperating in the extreme. Its boundaries were still in dispute with the Mexican Republic, Texas claiming a country over which she had never established jurisdiction, for exceeding in area her unquestioned domain. It was well understood that to annex Texas, with her boundaries thus in dispute, was to espouse, on the part of the United States, her territorial claims, and that to establish them, war with Mexico was inevitable. No secret was made of the fact that the whole project was in the interest of slavery aggrandizement. It was boldly announced by the Southern press, in Congress, and even in diplomatic correspondence. *

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* Hon. John C. Calhoun, Secretary of State, under date of August 12, 1844, wrote to Hon. William R. King, United States Minister at Paris, instructing him to represent to the French Government the advantages and the necessity of Annexation on many grounds, but especially on that of its tendency to uphold Slavery, primarily in Texas itself, but "ultimately in the United States and throughout the whole of this continent." - Greeley's American Conflict, vol. 1, pp. 169-70. ---------------------------------------------------------

Nevertheless, the annexation was consummated by the approval of the bill March 2, 1845. The only redeeming feature in the transaction was in the recognition of the compromise line of 36° 30', north of which slavery was prohibited. The article containing the inhibition was gall and bitterness to the Northern people, as it also provided for the formation of more slave States, and for the first time embodied in law the doctrine of squatter sovereignty. It was as follows:

Third. New States of convenient size, not exceeding four in number, in addition to the said State of Texas, and having sufficient population, may hereafter, by the consent of the provisions of the Federal Constitution, and such States as may be formed out of that portion of said territory lying south of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude, commonly known as the Missouri Compromise line, shall be admitted into the Union with or without Slavery, as the people of each State asking admission may desire; and in such State or States as shall be formed out of said territory north of said Missouri Compromise line, Slavery or involuntary servitude (except for crime) shall be prohibited.

In the war which followed, the North was subjected to the deeper humiliation of fighting to win free territory from Mexico to increase the domain of slaveholding Texas. War with Mexico was declared to exist May 12, 1845. Uninterrupted and continued victories followed the American armies, and it soon became evident that, however unjust the American cause, the United States would speedily force Mexico to terms of capitulation and submission. Accordingly, President Polk sent a special message to Congress, August 8, asking that a considerable sum of money be appropriated for the purpose of bringing about a peace, in connection with the acquisition of a large tract of Mexican territory. A bill was reported, making appropriations of $30,000 for expenses of negotiation, and $2,000,000 to be used at the discretion of the President in making the proposed treaty.

The proposed accession of territory forced the slavery question into notice in a new form. Hitherto, in all legislation, the principle had not been subject to question that the prior laws concerning slavery inhered and were perpetual unless modified or changed by special enactment. In the case of all territory hitherto acquired, except in the Virginia cession, it had been plausibly and successfully contended that, slavery being established and legalized already, it must be upheld until those immediately interested should see fit to abolish it. Under this consideration in the case of Texas, all concessions were refused by the South, since, on the basis of this doctrine, slavery was already in full possession, and cared not to gratuitously part with what was already hers.

The case was now for the first time changed. Greeley-American Conflict, p. 188 - thus details the changed conditions:

Mexico had utterly abolished slavery some twenty years before, and every acre that she should cede to us beyond the Rio Grande would come to us free soil. Should it so remain or be surrendered to the domination and uses of Slavery? It was well known that Mr. Calhoun had elaborated a new dogma adapted to the exigency, whereby the Federal Constitution was held to carry Slavery into every rood of Federal territory whence it was not excluded by positive law. In other words, every citizen of any State had a constitutional right to migrate into any territory of the Union, carrying with him whatever the law of his own State recognizes as property, and this must, therefore, be guarded and defended as his property by the Federal authorities of and within said territory. Should this view not be precluded by some decided protest, some positive action, it was morally certain that President Polk, with every successor of like faith, would adopt it, and that the vast, and as yet nearly unpeopled region about to be acquired from Mexico, would thus be added to the already spacious dominions of the Slave Power.

To avert the threatened application of Calhouns new doctrine to such free Territory as might be obtained from Mexico, the northern Democrats, after a hasty consultation, decided on a proviso, which was offered as an amendment to the bill by Hon. David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania.

THE WILMOT PROVISO.

It was as follows:

Provided, That, as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty that may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the Executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall first be duly convicted.

The above was at first adopted in committee of the whole, by vote of eighty yeas to sixty-four nays. It passed the House by a vote of ninety-three yeas to seventy-nine nays. The bill and proviso were lost in the Senate.

On the assembling of Congress in December, 1846, a new bill, appropriating $3,000,000 for negotiations, was introduced in the House. An attempt was made to adopt the "Wilmot Proviso," which, after a long, earnest and bitter debate, was defeated. The proviso met with like disaster in the Senate, and the $3,000,000 appropriation bill, after being the subject of continued and acrimonious discussion in both houses during the entire session, passed without any conditions attached. On the 2d (sic) of February, 1848, Mr. Triest, the Peace Commissioner of the United States, negotiated a peace with Mexico. By the terms of the treaty, Upper California, New Mexico, and the disputed Texan Territory between the Neuces and the Rio Grande, were acquired, and all American claims relinquished, for which Mexico was to receive the sum of $15,000,000. The territory thus acquired came to the United States with no positive slavery restriction, and brought with it a renewed discussion of the whole question, which was characterized by an intensity of feeling far exceeding that which preceded the admission of Maine and Missouri.

The bold and arrogant tone assumed by the South since the admission of Texas, the uncompromising effrontery with which it pushed every measure calculated to strengthen slavery, and the unanimity it displayed in forcing through each Southern measure, regardless of all party affiliations, had brought widespread discontent into the Northern ranks of both the Whig and Democratic parties. In the Presidential canvass of 1848, it resulted in a complete rupture of the Democratic party, and the nomination of two Presidential candidates,-Lewis Cass, by the Pro-slavery Democrats; and Martin Van Buren, by the Anti-slavery or "Free-Soil" party. They were opposed by Zachary Taylor, who commanded the undivided support of the conservative Whigs both North and South. The triangular contest resulted in the defeat of the Democratic party and the election of Gen. Taylor as President.

Pending the Presidential election, an attempt was made to organize the Territories of Oregon, California and New Mexico, which proved ineffectual.

The struggle for the organization of the Territories was resumed during the last session of the Thirtieth Congress, during the winter preceding the inauguration of President Taylor. The result of the election had wrought a marked change of feeling in the minds of many Northern members, who, wavering before or subservient to party discipline, had come out of the canvass inspired with the anti-slavery zeal of their Northern constituents, and determined to resist to the bitter end the further encroachments of the slave power. Their roused sensibilities were evinced early in the session, by the passage, December 13, 1848, by a vote of one hundred and eight to eighty, of the following:

Resolved, That the Committee on Territories be instructed to report to this House, with as little delay as practicable, a bill or bills providing a Territorial government for each of the Territories of New Mexico and California, and excluding Slavery therefrom.

A few days thereafter, the anti-slavery spirit was still further evinced by the passage of the following:

WHEREAS, The traffic now prosecuted in this metropolis of the Republic in human beings, as chattels, is contrary to natural justice and the fundamental principles of our political system, is notoriously a reproach to our country throughout Christendom and a serious hindrance to the progress of republican liberty among the nations of the earth; therefore,

Resolved, That the Committee on the District of Columbia be instructed to report a bill, as soon as practicable, prohibiting the Slave Trade in said District.

Territorial bills for the organization of both California and New Mexico were reported, with slavery prohibited, and passed, after a most acrimonious debate, running from January 3, 1849, to the 26th of February, by a vote in the House of 126 yeas to 87 nays. On reaching the Senate, the bill was amended by striking out the restriction on slavery, and attached to the general appropriation bill as a rider. In that form it was returned to the house, with the belief that it would accept the amendment rather than risk the odium of crippling the Government, and compelling the calling of an extra session. The House, equal to the emergency, amended by the Senate amendments by providing that, "until July 4, 1850, unless Congress shall sooner provide for the government of said Territories, the existing laws thereof shall be retained and observed." Thus amended by the House, the bill was returned to the Senate. Thus thwarted, and the responsibility shifted, the Senate, after a heated debate, extending far into the last night of the session, passed the appropriation bill. After striking off the much-amended rider, thereby defeating the Territorial bill at the last hour of the session.

Never before in the history of the country had such popular excitement on any political question prevailed. The North and South alike were stirred to their very depths. The spirit of uncompromising opposition was aroused on either side. The press of the North decried all further submission or yielding to the arrogant and avowed purpose to nationalize and extend the domain of the accursed institution; the Southern press, with a unanimity and simultaneousness that showed a concerted and well-conceived plan to intimidate the North and thereby weaken the determined anti-slavery sentiment and power in the coming Congress, as with one voice, threatened disunion as the result of slavery restriction in the Territories. These threats were repeated in every Southern stump speech, and reiterated in published letters from Southern statesmen. The country was in a tremor of excitement at the inauguration of President Taylor, March 4, 1849, which increased with increased discussion of the issue up to the time of the opening of the first session of the Thirty-first Congress, December 3, 1849.

The new President had no extreme personal prejudice in favor of slavery. At any rate, he had no well-defined and determined political policy for its protection and perpetuation. He was, however, the choice of the slave propagandists, as against either of the Democratic candidates; was himself a slaveholder, and although a fair-minded man of upright intentions, indicated his Southern proclivities in the selection of his immediate advisers. Henry Wilson, in "Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America," gives the following sketch of President Taylor's first Cabinet officers:

John M. Clayton, of Delaware, his Secretary of State, was able, and was regarded too, as among the most liberal of Southern public men. Mr. Crawford, of Georgia, Secretary of War, was a man of moderate abilities and extreme opinions, whose connection with the Galphin claims had strengthened suspicious in regard to his integrity entertained by some. Mr. Preston, of Virginia, had early been an advocate of gradual emancipation, for which he eloquently and earnestly pleaded in her legislature in 1832. But the Southern pressure had been too strong, and, like other ambitious statesmen of that commonwealth, he had been compelled to succumb, and become the advocate of the peculiar institution. Reverdy Johnson, of Maryland, his Attorney General, one of the ablest lawyers of the country, was fully committed to the slaveholding side of the great issue. The Secretary of the Interior, Thomas Ewing, of Ohio, had long been in public life, and was a leading member of his party. He was a Virginian by birth. Born and nurtured in poverty, he was, nevertheless, aristocratic in his tendencies. Although representing a free State, the friends of freedom expected and received little from him. William M. Meredith, of Pennsylvania, Secretary of the Treasury, was a gentleman of high character, a lawyer of distinction, but with little experience in public affairs. Jacob Collamer, of Vermont, was Postmaster General. He was a statesman of recognized ability and firmness, and was unquestionably the most decided of any member of the Cabinet in his opposition to the increasing encroachments of the Slave Power. Thus constituted, the administration was called at once to grapple with the engrossing questions then forced with such pertinacity upon the country.

The South, elated with its continued success, as shown in the admission of Texas, the prevention of slavery inhibition in the newly acquired Mexican territory, the late triumph in the Presidential election entered with renewed assurance and earnestness upon the labor of securing and preserving the fruits of its former victories. In this interest, the President, with due promptness began the work of organizing, or encouraging the organization, of State Governments in the newly acquired territory. With the intention of the part of the South of gaining a slave State, the President was induced, as early as May, 1849, to send to California, Thomas Butler King, a Whig member of Congress from Georgia, to express to the inhabitants the desire of the administration that they would at once form a constitution and ask for admission as a State. The recent discovery of gold had brought in a large population of gold-seekers and adventurers, a majority of whom were from the North. It thus happened that the mission of Mr. King, from a Southern point of view, was not an eminent success. The urgent need of an established government, Congress as yet having given them no Territorial organization, resulted in a prompt response to the wishes of the administration, as expressed by Mr. King, that they at once frame a State constitution. A proclamation was issued June 3, 1850, by Gen. Riley, Military Governor, calling a convention to form a constitution. The convention assembled, framed a constitution and submitted it to the people, by whom it was adopted, and promptly transmitted to Washington. It contained a clause expressly prohibiting slavery.

Prior to this unexpected denouement, and while the final results of Mr. King's mission were yet undeveloped, the agitation was renewed. The Thirty-first Congress, which began its first session December 3, 1849, was remarkable alike for its length, the heat of its debates on the all-absorbing question, its ultimate submission to the demands of the slave power, and the forced acceptance on the part of the North of a new compromise measure, known in history as (sic)

THE COMPROMISE OF 1850.

The House was the arena to which all eyes were turned. The results of the late election had insured the anti-slavery party in that House a large and, in the onset, a reliable and earnest working majority. It was made up, however, of members subject to different extraneous influenced-Northern Whigs and Northern Democrats, combined with eight members of the newly fledged Free-Soil party. Outside of their opposition to the encroachments of the slave power, there was no cohesive force to warrant unity of action. In the attempt to organize the House, neither the Whigs nor Democrats could elect a partisan Speaker under the majority rule, and, after fifty-nine ineffectual ballots, extending over nearly three weeks, from mere exhaustion it was decided that, after three more ballots, should they result in no choice, the candidate receiving the largest number of votes should be declared elected as Speaker. Under this compromise, Hon. Howell Cobb, of Georgia, a pronounced pro-slavery Democrat, received the solid vote of the South-102 votes, against 99 votes for Robert C. Winthrop, of Massachusetts, and twenty votes for other candidates. Thus by a division of the Northern vote, though having a majority of nineteen when combined, the first victory was won by the South, and the organization of the House completed in its interest by the appointment of committees prejudiced in its favor.

The President, in his first annual message, informed Congress of the fact that the people of California, no civil government having been provided for them, and impelled by the necessities of their political condition, had already met in convention, for the purpose of forming a State Government, which purpose he believed would be accomplished, and that they would shortly apply for admission as a sovereign State. The people of New Mexico would, he believed, at no distant period, also present themselves for admission into the Union. The message further said:

Preparatory to the admission of California and New Mexico, the people of each will have instituted for themselves a republican form of government, laying its foundations in such principles and organizing its powers in such forms as shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

By awaiting their action, all causes of uneasiness may be avoided and confidence and kind feeling preserved. With a view of maintaining the harmony and tranquility so dear to all, we should refrain from the introduction of those topics of a sectional character which have hitherto produced painful apprehensions in the public mind; and I repeat the solemn warning of the first and most illustrious of my predecessors against furnishing any ground for characterizing parties by geographical discrimination.

The programme (sic) of pacification offered by President Taylor would doubtless have found favor and support but for the jealousy entertained by the North to any proposition emanating from a Southern administration. The Southern members, moreover, were intent, at that time, on the securing of more positive safeguards than were vouchsafed in "Popular Sovereignty," as recommended in the message. It insisted on the extension of the Missouri Compromise line of 36° 30' to the Pacific, thereby securing to slavery Lower California and New Mexico. The varied phases under which the slave question was forced upon the attention of Congress, demanding definite decision by positive enactment, rendered any peaceful solution in accordance with the views of extremists on either side impossible. An angry and turbulent discussion of eight weeks had only served to intensify the antagonism of the opposing parties and increase the difficulties and obstruction in the way of a harmonious settlement. At the expiration of that time (January 29, 1850), Hon. Henry Clay presented in the Senate, as a basis of compromise, a series of eight resolutions as follows:

(1) Resolved, That California, with suitable boundaries, ought, upon her application, to be admitted as one of the States of this Union, without the imposition by Congress of any restrictions in respect to the exclusion or introduction of Slavery within those boundaries.

(2) Resolved, That as Slavery does not exist by law and is not likely to be introduced into any of the territory acquired by the United States from the Republic of Mexico, it is inexpedient for Congress to provide by law either for its introduction into or exclusion from any part of the said territory; and that appropriate territorial governments ought to be established by Congress in all the said territory not assigned as within the boundaries of the proposed State of California, without the adoption of any restriction of condition on the subject of Slavery.

The third and fourth resolutions related to fixing the boundaries of Texas, and the payment of a sum of money to her on relinquishment of her claims to any part of New Mexico.

(5) Resolved, That it is inexpedient to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, whilst the institution continues to exist in the State of Maryland, without the consent of that State, without the consent of the people of the District, and without just compensation to the owners of slaves within the District.

(6) But, Resolved, That it is expedient to prohibit, within the District, the trade in slaves brought into it from States or places beyond the limits of the District, either to be sold therein as merchandise or to be transported to other markets without the District of Columbia.

(7) Resolved, That more effectual provision ought to be made by law, according to the requirement of the Constitution, for the restitution or delivery of persons bound to service or labor in any State or Territory in the Union. And,

(8) Resolved, That Congress has no power to prohibit or obstruct the trade in slaves between the slaveholding States, but the admission or exclusion of slaves brought from one into another of them depends exclusively upon their own particular laws.

The Senate debate on these resolutions continued almost uninterruptedly for twelve weeks, lasting till beyond the middle of April. It was participated in by every member of the Senate, and was the most important and able presentation of the merits and demerits of the question, in every conceivable phase, ever made in a deliberative or legislative body. Among those who participated in the debate were many of the ablest American statesmen, as well as others, who, from their participation in and connection with the later struggles, have become prominent in American history. Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Thomas H. Benton, Lewis Cass, Salmon P. Chase, Hannibal Hamlin, John P. Hale, William H. Seward, Daniel S. Dickinson, Stephen A. Douglas, William L. Dayton, Jefferson Davis, James M. Mason, and others of scarcely less ability, vied with each other in the brilliancy of their forensic argument and eloquent appeal. The debate was watched with intense interest throughout the country, and effected more in molding the opinions of the people than all that had preceded. The scope of this work admits only of such brief mention of transpiring events as to show their influence in shaping the destiny of Kansas, and in molding the characters and establishing the convictions of the men and women who, in the critical times that followed, with unswerving faith and unflinching integrity of purpose, laid the foundations of the State upon the bed-rock of freedom, broad, and firm, and deep.

The resolutions, after a long debate, were referred (April 19, 1850), to a committee of thirteen, of which Mr. Clay was Chairman. May 8, he reported from the committee, as a basis of final compromise, the following recommendations, embodying essentially the terms of his resolutions, with the addition of a proposition for the organization of Utah as a distinct Territory.

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