Delivered in Lecompton, Kansas Territory, May 27, 1857.
FELLOW-CITIZENS OF KANSAS:--At the earnest request of the President of the United States, I have accepted the position of governor of the territory of Kansas. The president, with the cordial concurrence of all his cabinet, expressed to me the conviction that the condition of Kansas was fraught with imminent peril to the Union, and asked me to undertake the settlement of that momentous question, which has introduced discord and civil war throughout your borders, and threatens to involve you and our country in the same common ruin. This was a duty thus presented, the performance of which I could not decline consistently with my view of the sacred obligation which every citizen owes to his country.
The mode of adjustment is provided in the act organizing your territory--namely, by the people of Kansas, who, by a majority of their own votes, must decide this question for themselves in forming their state constitution.
Under our practice the preliminary act of framing a state constitution is uniformly performed through the instrumentality of a convention of delegates chosen by the people themselves. That convention is now about to be elected by you under the call of the territorial legislature, created and still recognised by the authority of Congress, and clothed by it, in the comprehensive language of the Organic Law, with full power to make such an enactment. The territorial legislature, then, in assembling this convention, were fully sustained by the act of Congress, and the authority of the convention is distinctly recognised in my instructions from the President of the United States. Those who oppose this course cannot aver the alleged irregularity of the territorial legislature, whose laws in town and city elections, in corporate franchises, and on all other subjects but slavery, they acknowledge by their votes and acquiescence. If that legislature was invalid, then are we without law or order in Kansas, without town, city, or county organization; all legal and judicial transactions are void, all titles null, and anarchy reigns throughout our borders.
It is my duty, in seeing that all constitutional laws are fairly executed, to take care, as far as practicable, that this election of delegates to the convention shall be free from fraud or violence, and that they shall be protected in their deliberations.
The people of Kansas, then, are invited by the highest authority known to the constitution to participate freely and fairly in the election of delegates to frame a constitution and state government. The law has performed its entire appropriate function when it extends to the people the right of suffrage, but it cannot compel the performance of that duty. Throughout our whole union, however, and wherever free government prevails, those who abstain from the exercise of the right of suffrage authorize those who do vote to act for them in that contingency, and the absentees are as much bound under the law and constitution, where there is no fraud or violence, by the act of the majority of those who do vote, as although all had participated in the election. Otherwise, as voting must be voluntary, self-government would be impracticable, and monarchy or despotism would remain as the only alternative.
You should not console yourselves, my fellow-citizens, with the reflection that you may, by a subsequent vote, defeat the ratification of the constitution. Although most anxious to secure to you the exercise of that great constitutional right, and believing that the convention is the servant, and not the master of the people, yet I have no power to dictate the proceedings of that body. I cannot doubt, however, the course they will adopt on this subject. But why incur the hazard of the preliminary formation of a constitution by a minority, as alleged by you, when a majority, by their own votes, could control the forming of that instrument?
But it is said that the convention is not legally called, and that the election will not be freely and fairly conducted. The territorial legislature is the power ordained for this purpose by the Congress of the United States; and in opposing it you resist the authority of the federal government. That legislature was called into being by the Congress of 1854, and is recognised in the very latest congressional legislation. It is recognised by the present Chief Magistrate of the Union, just chosen by the American people, and many of its acts are now in operation here by universal assent. As the governor of the territory of Kansas, I must support the laws and the constitution; and I have no other alternative under my oath but to see that all constitutional laws are fully and fairly executed.
I see in this act, calling the convention, no improper or unconstitutional restrictions upon the right of suffrage. I see in it no test-oath or other similar provisions objected to in relation to previous laws, but clearly repealed as repugnant to the provisions of this act, so far as regards the election of delegates to this convention. It is said that a fair and full vote will not be taken. Who can safely predict such a result? Nor is it just for a majority, as they allege, to throw the power into the hands of a minority, from a mere apprehension --I trust entirely unfounded--that they will not be permitted to exercise the right of suffrage. If, by fraud or violence, a majority should not be permitted to vote, there is a remedy, it is hoped, in the wisdom and justice of the convention itself, acting under the obligations of an oath, and a proper responsibility to the tribunal of public opinion. There is a remedy, also, if such facts can be demonstrated, in the refusal of Congress to admit a state into the Union under a constitution imposed by a minority upon a majority by fraud or violence. Indeed, I cannot doubt that the convention, after having framed a state constitution, will submit it for ratification or rejection, by a majority of the then actual bona fide resident settlers of Kansas.
With these views, well known to the president and cabinet, and approved by them, I accepted the appointment of governor of Kansas. My instructions from the president, through the secretary of state, under date of the 30th of March last, sustain "the regular legislature of the territory" in "assembling a convention to form a constitution;" and they express the opinion of the president that "when such a constitution shall be submitted to the people of the territory, they must be protected in the exercise of their right of voting for or against that instrument; and the fair expression of the popular will must not be interrupted by fraud or violence."
I repeat, then, as my clear conviction, that unless the convention submit the constitution to the vote of all the actual resident settlers of Kansas, and the election be fairly and justly conducted, the constitution will be, and ought to be, rejected by Congress.
There are other important reasons why you should participate in the election of delegates to this convention. Kansas is to become a new state, created out of the public domain, and will designate her boundaries in the fundamental law. To most of the land within her limits the Indian title, unfortunately, is not yet extinguished, and this land is exempt from settlement, to the grievous injury of the people of the state. Having passed many years of my life in a new state, and represented it for a long period in the Senate of the United States, I know the serious encumbrance arising from large bodies of lands within a state to which the Indian title is not extinguished. Upon this subject the convention may act by such just and constitutional provisions as will accelerate the extinguishment of Indian title.
There is, furthermore, the question of railroad grants made by Congress to all the new states but one (where the routes could not be agreed upon), and, within a few months past, to the flourishing territory of Minnesota. This munificent grant of four millions and a half of acres was made to Minnesota, even in advance of her becoming a state, under the auspices of her present distinguished executive, and will enable our sister state of the northwest speedily to unite her railroad system with ours.
Kansas is undoubtedly entitled to grants similar to those just made to Minnesota, and upon this question the convention may take important action.
These, recollect, are grants by Congress, not to companies, but to states. Now, if Kansas, like the state of Illinois, in granting hereafter these lands to companies to build these roads, should reserve, at least, the seven per cent. of their gross annual receipts, it is quite certain that so soon as these roads are constructed, such will be the large payments into the treasury of our state that there will be no necessity to impose in Kansas any state tax whatever, especially if the constitution should contain wise provisions against the creation of state debts.
The grant to the state of Illinois for the Illinois Central Railroad, passed under the wise and patriotic auspices of her distinguished senator, was made before the pernicious system lately exposed in Washington had invaded the halls of Congress; and, therefore, that state, unlike most others which obtained recent grants, was enabled to make this great reservation for the benefit of the state. This constitutes of itself a conclusive reason why these railroad grants should be reserved in the ordinance accompanying our state constitution, so that our state might have the whole benefit of the grant, instead of large portions being given to agents appointed to obtain these grants by companies substantially in many cases for their own benefit, although in the name of the state.
There is another reason why these railroad grants should thus be reserved in our ordinance.
It is to secure these lands to the state before large bodies of them are engrossed by speculators, especially along the contemplated lines of railroads. In no case should these reservations interfere with the pre-emption rights reserved to settlers, or with school-sections.
These grants to states, as is proved by the official documents, have greatly augmented the proceeds of the sales of the public lands, increasing their value, accelerating their sale and settlement, and bringing enhanced prices to the government, whilst greatly benefiting the lands of the settler by furnishing him new markets and diminished cost of transportation. On this subject, Mr. Buchanan, always the friend of the new states, in his recent inaugural, uses the following language:--
"No nation in the tide of time has ever been blessed with so rich and noble an inheritance as we enjoy in the public lands. In administering this important trust, whilst it may be wise to grant portions of them for the improvement of the remainder, yet we should never forget that it is our cardinal policy to reserve the lands as much as may be for actual settlers; and this at moderate prices. We shall thus not only best promote the prosperity of the new states, by furnishing them a hardy and independent race of honest and industrious citizens, but shall secure homes for our children and our children's children as well as those exiled from foreign shores, who may seek in this country to improve their condition and enjoy the blessings of civil and religious liberty."
Our American railroads, now exceeding twenty-four thousand miles completed, have greatly advanced the power, prosperity, and progress of the country, whilst linking it together in bonds of ever-increasing commerce and intercourse, and tending, by these results, to soften or extinguish sectional passions and prejudice, and thus perpetuate the union of the states. This system it is clearly the interest of the whole country shall progress until the states west of the Mississippi shall be intersected, like those east of that river, by a network of railroads, until the whole, at various points, shall reach the shores of the Pacific. The policy of such grants by Congress is now clearly established; and whatever doubts may have prevailed in the minds of a few persons as to the constitutionality of such grants, when based only upon the transfer of a portion of the public domain, in the language of the inaugural of the president, "for the improvement of the remainder," yet when they are made, as now proposed in the ordinance accompanying our constitution, in consideration of our relinquishing the right to tax the public lands, such grants become, in fact, sales for ample equivalents, and their constitutionality is placed beyond all doubt or controversy. For this reason, also, and in order that these grants may be made for ample equivalents, and upon grounds of clear, constitutional authority, it is most wise that they should be included in our ordinance, and take effect by compact when the state is admitted into the Union. If my will could have prevailed as regards the public lands, as indicated in my public career, and especially in the bill presented by me, as chairman of the committee on public lands, to the Senate of the United States, which passed that body, but failed in the House, I would authorize no sales of these lands except for settlement and cultivation, reserving not merely a pre-emption, but a homestead of a quarter-section of land in favor of every actual settler, whether coming from other states or emigrating from Europe. Great and populous states would thus rapidly be added to the confederacy, until we should soon have one unbroken line of states from the Atlantic to the Pacific, giving immense additional power and security to the Union, and facilitating intercourse between all its parts. This would be alike beneficial to the old and to the new states. To the working men of the old states, as well as of the new, it would be of incalculable advantage, not merely by affording them a home in the west, but by maintaining the wages of labor, by enabling the working classes to emigrate and become cultivators of the soil, when the rewards of daily toil should sink below a fair remuneration. Every new state, besides, adds to the customers of the old states, consuming their manufactures, employing their merchants, giving business to their vessels and canals, their railroads and cities, and a powerful impulse to their industry and prosperity. Indeed, it is the growth of the mighty west which has added, more than all other causes combined, to the power and prosperity of the whole country, whilst at the same time, through the channels of business and commerce, it has been building up immense cities in the eastern, Atlantic, and middle states, and replenishing the federal treasury with large payments from the settlers upon the public lands, rendered of real value only by their labor; and thus, from increased exports, bringing back augmented imports, and soon largely increasing the revenue of the government from that source also.
Without asking anything new from Congress, if Kansas can receive, on coming into the Union, all the usual grants, and use them judiciously, she can not only speedily cover herself with a network of railroads, but, by devoting all the rest to purposes of education, she would soon have a complete system of common schools, with normal schools, free academies, and a great university, in all of which tuition should be free to all our people. In that university the mechanic arts, with model workshops, and all the sciences should be taught, and especially agriculture in connexion with a model farm.
Although you ask nothing more in your ordinance than has been already granted to the other new states, yet in view of the sacrifice of life and property incurred by the people of Kansas, in establishing here the great principles of state and popular sovereignty, and thus perpetuating the Union, Congress, doubtless, will regard with indulgent favor the new state of Kansas, and will welcome her into the Union with joyful congratulations and a most liberal policy as to the public domain.
The full benefit of that great measure, the graduation and reduction of the price of the public lands in favor only of settlers and cultivators, so often urged by me in the Senate and in the Treasury Department, and finally adopted by Congress, should also be secured in our ordinance. Having witnessed in new states the deep injury inflicted upon them by large bodies of their most fertile land being monopolized by speculators, I suggest, in accordance with the public policy ever advocated by me, that our entire land tax, under the constitution, for the next twenty years should be confined exclusively to unoccupied land--whether owned by residents or non-residents--as one of the best means of guarding against a monopoly of our choice lands by speculators. I desire, in fact, to see our convention exercise the whole constitutional power of a state, to guard our rights and interests, and especially to protect the settlers and cultivators against the monopoly of our public domain by speculators.
As regards the school lands of the new states, the following views will be found in my reports of the 8th of December, 1847, and 9th of December, 1848, as Secretary of the Treasury of the United States:
"The recommendation contained in my last report for the establishment of ports of entry in Oregon, and the extension there of our revenue laws, is again respectfully presented to the consideration of Congress, together with donations of farms to settlers and emigrants, and the grant of a school section in the centre of every quarter of a township, which would bring the school-house within a point not exceeding a mile and a half in distance from the most remote inhabitants of such quarter township."
"My last report recommended the grant of one section of land for schools in every quarter township in Oregon. * * * * * * Congress, to some extent, adopted this recommendation by granting two school sections in each township, instead of one, for education in Oregon; but it is respectfully suggested that even thus extended the grant is still inadequate in amount, whilst the location is inconvenient, and too remote for a school which all can attend. The subject is again presented to the attention of Congress, with the recommendation that it shall be extended to California and New Mexico, and also to all the other new states and territories containing the public domain."
Acting upon the first of these recommendations, but not carrying them fully into effect, Congress doubled the school-section grants--an advance upon the former system. But, in my judgment, the benefits intended will never be fully realized until four school sections, instead of two, are granted in every township, locating the school section in the centre of every quarter township; thus, by only doubling the school sections, causing every section of the public domain in the new states to adjoin a school section, which would add immensely to the value of the public lands, whilst at the same time, affording an adequate fund not only for the establishment of common schools in every township, but of high schools, normal schools, and free academies, which, together with the five-per-cent. fund and university grant before referred to, would place Kansas in a few years, in point of science and education, in the front rank of the states of the American Union and of the world. This is a subject always regarded by me with intense interest, inasmuch as my highest hope of the perpetuity of our Union, and of the continued success of self-government, is based upon the progressive education and enlightenment of the people, enabling them fully to comprehend their own true interests, the incalculable advantages of our Union, the exemption from the power of demagogues, the control of sectional passions and prejudice, the progress of the arts and sciences, and the accumulation of knowledge, which is every day more and more becoming real power, and which will advance so much the great interests of our whole country.
These noble grants for schools and education in some of the new states have not produced all the advantages designed, for want of adequate checks and guards against improvident legislation; but I trust that the convention, by a distinct constitutional provision, will surround these lands with such guarantees, legislative, executive, judicial, and popular, as to require the combined action of the whole under the authority of the legislature in the administration of a fund so sacred.
It will be observed that these school sections and the five-per-cent. fund, or their equivalent, have always been made good to the new states by Congress, whether the lands were sold in trust, for Indians, or otherwise.
Upon looking at the location of Kansas, equidistant from north to south, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, I find that, within reasonable boundaries, she would be the central state of the American Union. On the north lies the Nebraska territory, soon to become a state; on the south the great and fertile Southwestern Indian Territory, soon, I hope, to become a state also. To the boundary of Kansas run nearly all the railroads of Missouri, whilst westward, northward, and southward, these routes continued through Kansas would connect her directly with Puget Sound, the mouth of the Oregon river, and San Francisco. The southern boundary of Kansas is but five hundred miles from the Gulf of Mexico, and the same railroad through the great Southwestern Indian Territory and Texas would connect her with New Orleans, with Galveston, with all the roads of Arkansas, and through Texas to San Francisco, and other points upon the Pacific; northward and eastward our lines would connect with the roads of Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota, and the lakes of the north.
It is the people of Kansas who, in forming their state constitution, are to declare the terms on which they propose to enter the Union. Congress cannot compel the people of a territory to enter the Union as a state, or change, without their consent, the constitution framed by the people. Congress, it is true, may for constitutional reasons refuse admission, but the state alone, in forming her constitution, can prescribe the terms on which she will enter the Union. This power of the people of a territory in forming a state constitution is one of vital importance, especially in the states carved out of the public domain. Nearly all the lands of Kansas are public lands, and most of them are occupied by Indian tribes. These lands are the property of the federal government, but their right is exclusively that of a proprietor, carrying with it no political power.
Although the states cannot tax the constitutional functions of the federal government, they may assess its real estate within the limits of the state. Thus, although a state cannot tax the federal mint or custom-houses, yet it may tax the ground on which they stand, unless exempted by state authority. Such is the well-settled doctrine of the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1838 Judge McLean, of the Supreme Court of the United States, made the following decision:--
"It is true the United States held the proprietary right under the act of cession, and also the right of sovereignty until the state government was established; but the mere proprietary right, if it exist, gives no right of sovereignty. The United States may own land within a state, but political jurisdiction does not follow this ownership. Where jurisdiction is necessary, as for forts and arsenals, a cession of it is obtained from the state. Even the lands of the United States within the state are exempted from taxation by compact."
By the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, so justly favorable to the rights and interest of the new states, especially those formed out of the territory acquired, like Kansas, since the adoption of the constitution, it is clear that the ownership of the public lands of such territory is viewed by the court exclusively as a proprietary right, carrying with it no political power or right of eminent domain, and affecting in no way the exercise of any of the sovereign attributes of state authority. When Kansas becomes a state, with all the attributes of state sovereignty coextensive with her limits, among these must be the taxing power, which is an inherent element of state authority. I do not dispute the title of the government to the public lands of Kansas, but I do say that this right is that of an owner only, and that, when Kansas becomes a state, the public lands are subject to taxation by state authority, like those of any individual proprietor, unless that power is relinquished by the state in the ordinance, assuming the form of a compact, by which the state is admitted into the Union.
This relinquishment of the taxing power as to the public lands, so important to the general government, and which has heretofore been exacted by Congress on their own terms from all the new states, is deeply injurious to the state, depriving her almost entirely of the principal recourse of a new state by taxation to support her government. Now that this question is conclusively settled by the Supreme Court of the United States, as a consequence of their recent decision, it is proper for the state, in making this relinquishment of the right to tax the public lands, to annex the conditions on which she consents to such exemption. This should be done in the constitution upon terms just to Kansas and to the federal government.
Should Kansas relinquish the right of taxing the public lands for equivalent, she should, in my judgment, although sustained by irresistible conclusions from the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, and sound constitutional views of state rights, place the question in its strongest form, by asking nothing more than has been granted to the other new states, including the grants for education, railroads, &c. She will thus give the highest proof that she is not governed by sordid views, and that she means to exact nothing from Congress that is unjust or unusual.
I cannot too earnestly impress upon you the necessity of removing the slavery agitation from the halls of Congress and presidential conflicts. It is conceded that Congress has no power to interfere with slavery in the states where it exists; and if it can now be established, as is clearly the doctrine of the constitution, that Congress has no authority to interfere with the people of a territory on this subject, in forming a state constitution, the question must be removed from congressional and presidential elections.
This is the principle affirmed by Congress in the act organizing this territory, ratified by the people of the United States in the recent election, and maintained by the late decision of the Supreme Court of the United States. If this principle can be carried into successful operation in Kansas--that her people shall determine what shall be her social institutions--the slavery question must be withdrawn from the halls of Congress, and from our presidential conflicts, and the safety of the Union be placed beyond all peril; whereas, if the principle should be defeated here, the slavery agitation must be renewed in all elections throughout the country, with increasing bitterness, until it shall eventually overthrow the government.
It is this agitation which, to European powers, presents the only hope of subverting our free institutions, and, as a consequence, destroying the principle of self-government throughout the world. It is this hope that has already inflicted deep injury upon our country, exciting monarchical or despotic interference with our domestic as well as foreign affairs, and inducing their interposition, not only in our elections, but in diplomatic intercourse, to arrest our progress, to limit our influence and power, depriving us of great advantages in peaceful territorial expansion, as well as in trade with the nations of the world.
Indeed, when I reflect upon the hostile position of the European press during the recent election, and their exulting predictions of the dissolution of our Union as a consequence of the triumph of a sectional candidate, I cannot doubt that the peaceful and permanent establishment of these principles, now being subjected to their final test in Kansas, will terminate European opposition to all those measures, which must so much increase our commerce, furnish new markets for our products and fabrics, and by conservative, peaceful progress, carry our flag and the empire of our constitution into new and adjacent regions indispensable as a part of the Union to our welfare and security, adding coffee, sugar, and other articles to our staple exports, whilst greatly reducing their price to the consumer.
Nor is it only in our foreign intercourse that peace will be preserved and our prosperity advanced by the accepted fact of the permanence of our government, based upon the peaceful settlement of this question in Kansas, but at home the same sentiment will awaken renewed confidence in the stability of our institutions, give a new impulse to all our industry, and carry us onward in a career of progress and prosperity exceeding even our most sanguine expectations; a new movement of European capital will flow in upon us for permanent investment, and a new exodus of the European masses, aided by the pre-emption principle, carry westward the advancing column of American states in one unbroken phalanx to the Pacific.
And let me ask you, what possible good has been accomplished by agitating in Congress and in presidential conflicts the slavery question? Has it emancipated a single slave, or improved their condition? Has it made a single state free where slavery otherwise would have existed? Has it accelerated the disappearance of slavery from the more northern of the slaveholding states, or accomplished any practical good whatever? No, my fellow-citizens, nothing but unmitigated evil has already ensued, with disasters still more fearful impending for the future, as a consequence of this agitation.
There is a law more powerful than the legislation of man--more potent than passion or prejudice--that must ultimately determine the location of slavery in this country; it is the isothermal line; it is the law of the thermometer, of latitude or altitude, regulating climate, labor, and productions, and, as a consequence, profit and loss. Thus, even upon the mountain heights of the tropics slavery can no more exist than in northern latitudes, because it is unprofitable, being unsuited to the constitution of that sable race transplanted here from the equatorial heats of Africa. Why is it that in the Union slavery recedes from the north, and progresses south? It is this same great climatic law now operating for or against slavery in Kansas. If, on the elevated plains of Kansas, stretching to the base of our American Alps--the rocky mountains--and including their eastern crest crowned with perpetual snow, from which sweep over her open prairies those chilling blasts, reducing the average range of the thermometer here to a temperature nearly as low as that of New England, should render slavery unprofitable here, because unsuited to the tropical constitution of the negro race, the law above referred to must ultimately determine that question here, and can no more be controlled by the legislation of man than any other moral or physical law of the Almighty. Especially must this law operate with irresistible force in this country, where the number of slaves is limited, and cannot be increased by importation, where many millions of acres of sugar and cotton lands are still uncultivated, and, from the ever-augmenting demand, exceeding the supply, the price of those great staples has nearly doubled, demanding vastly more slave labor for their production.
If, from the operation of those causes, slavery should not exist here, I trust it by no means follows that Kansas should become a state controlled by the treason and fanaticism of ablition. She has, in any event, certain constitutional duties to perform to her sister states, and especially to her immediate neighbor--the slaveholding state of Missouri. Through that great State, by rivers and railroads, must flow, to a great extent, our trade and intercourse, our imports and exports. Our entire eastern front is upon her border; from Missouri come a great number of her citizens; even the farms of the two states are cut up by the line of state boundary, part in Kansas, part in Missouri; her citizens meet us in daily intercourse; and that Kansas should become hostile to Missouri, an asylum for her fugitive slaves, or a propagandist of abolition treason, would be alike inexpedient and unjust, and fatal to the continuance of the American Union. In any event, then, I trust that the constitution of Kansas will contain such clauses as will forever secure to the state of Missouri the faithful performance of all constitutional guarantees, not only by federal, but by state authority, and the supremacy within our limits of the authority of the Supreme Court of the United States on all constitutional questions be firmly established.
Upon the south Kansas is bounded by the great southwestern Indian territory. This is one of the most salubrious and fertile portions of this continent. It is a great cotton growing region, admirably adapted by soil and climate for the products of the south, embracing the valleys of the Arkansas and Red rivers, adjoining Texas on the south and west, and Arkansas on the east, and it ought speedily to become a state of the American Union. The Indian treaties will constitute no obstacle any more than precisely similar treaties did in Kansas; for their lands, valueless to them, now for sale, but which, sold with their consent and for their benefit, like the Indian land of Kansas, would make them a most wealthy and prosperous people; and their consent, on these terms, would be most cheerfully given. This territory contains double the area of the state of Indiana, and, if necessary, an adequate portion of the western and more elevated part could be set apart exclusively for these tribes, and the eastern and larger portion be formed into a state, and its lands sold for the benefit of these tribes (like the Indian lands of Kansas), thus greatly promoting all their interests. To the eastern boundary of this region on the state of Arkansas, run the railroads of that state; to her southern limits come the great railroads from Louisiana and Texas, from New Orleans and Galveston, which will ultimately be joined by railroads from Kansas, leading through this Indian Territory, connecting Kansas with New Orleans, the Gulf of Mexico, and with the Southern Pacific railroad, leading through Texas to San Fransisco.
It is essential to the true interests not only of Kansas, but of Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas, Iowa and Missouri, and the whole region west of the Mississippi, that this coterminous south-western Indian territory should speedily become a state, not only to supply us with cotton, and receive our products in return, but as occupying the area over which that portion of our railroads should run which connect us with New Orleans and Galveston, and by the southern route with the Pacific. From her central position, through or connected with Kansas, must run the central, northern, and southern routes to the Pacific; and with the latter, as well as with the Gulf, the connection can only be secured by this south-western territory becoming a state, and to this Kansas should direct her earnest attention as essential to her prosperity.
Our country and the world are regarding with profound interest the struggle now impending in Kansas. Whether we are competent to self-government--whether we can decide this controversy peacefully for ourselves by our own votes, without fraud or violence--whether the great principles of self-government and state sovereignty can be carried here into successful operation--are the questions now to be determined, and upon the plains of Kansas may now be fought the last great and decisive battle, involving the fate of the Union, of state sovereignty, of self-government, and the liberties of the world. If, my fellow-citizens, you could, even for a brief period, soften or extinguish sectional passions or prejudice, and lift yourselves to the full realization of the momentous issues intrusted to your decision, you would feel that no greater responsibility was ever devolved upon any people. It is not merely shall slavery exist in or disappear from Kansas; but, shall the great principles of self-government and state sovereignty be maintained or subverted. State sovereignty is mainly a practical principle, in so far as it is illustrated by the great sovereign right of the majority of the people, in forming a state government, to adopt their own social institutions; and this principle is disregarded whenever such decision is subverted by Congress, or overthrown by external intrusion, or by domestic fraud or violence. All those who oppose this principle are the enemies of state rights, of self-government, of the constitution and the Union. Do you love slavery so much, or hate it so intensely, that you would endeavor to establish or exclude it by fraud or violence, against the will of the majority of the people? What is Kansas, with or without slavery, if she should destroy the rights and union of the states? Where would be her schools, her free academies, her colleges and university, her towns and cities, her railroads, farms, and villages, without the Union, and the principles of self-government? Where would be her peace and prosperity, and what the value of her lands and property? Who can decide this question for Kansas, if not the people themselves? And if they cannot, nothing but the sword can become the arbiter.
On the one hand, if you can and will decide peacefully this question yourselves, I see for Kansas an immediate career of power, progress, and prosperity, unsurpassed in the history of the world. I see the peaceful establishment of our state constitution, its ratification by the people, and our immediate admission into the Union, the rapid extinguishment of Indian title, and the occupancy of those lands by settlers and cultivators; the diffusion of universal education; pre-emptions for the actual settlers; the state rapidly intersected by a network of railroads; our churches, schools, colleges, and university carrying westward the progress of law, religion, liberty, and civilization; our towns, cities and villages prosperous and progressing; our farms teeming with abundant products, and greatly appreciated in value; and peace, happiness and prosperity smiling throughout our borders. With proper clauses in our constitution, and the peaceful arbitrament of this question, Kansas may become the model state of the American Union. She may bring down upon us from north to south, from east to west, the praises and blessing of every patriotic American, and of every friend of self-government throughout the world. She may record her name on the proudest page of the history of our country and of the world, and as the youngest and last-born child of the American Union, all will hail and regard her with respect and affection.
On the other hand, if you cannot thus peacefully decide this question, fraud, violence, and injustice will reign supreme throughout our borders, and we will have achieved the undying infamy of having destroyed the liberty of our country and of the world. We will become a byword of reproach and obloquy; and all history will record the fact that Kansas was the grave of the American Union. Never was so momentous a question submitted to the decision of any people; and we cannot avoid the alternatives now placed before us of glory or of shame.
May that overruling Providence who brought our forefathers in safety to Jamestown and Plymouth--who watched over our colonial pupilage--who convened our ancestors in harmonious councils on the birthday of American independence--who gave us Washington, and carried us successfully through the struggles and perils of the revolution--who assembled, in 1787, that noble band of patriots and statesmen from north and south who framed the federal constitution--who has augmented our numbers from three millions to thirty millions, has carried us from the eastern slope of the Alleghanies through the great valleys of the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri, and now salutes our standard on the shores of the Pacific--rouse in our hearts a love of the whole Union, and a patriotic devotion to the whole country. May it extinguish or control all sectional passions and prejudice, and enable us to conduct to a successful conclusion the great experiment of self-government now being made within your boundaries.
Is it not infinitely better that slavery should be abolished or established in Kansas, rather than that we should become slaves and not permitted to govern ourselves? Is the absence or existence of slavery in Kansas paramount to the great questions of state sovereignty, of self-government, and of the Union? Is the sable African alone entitled to your sympathy and consideration, even if he were happier as a freeman than as a slave, either here or in St. Domingo, or the British West Indies or Spanish America, where the emancipated slave has receded to barbarism, and approaches the lowest point in the descending scale of moral, physical, and intellectual degradation? Have our white brethren of the great American and European race no claims upon our attention? Have they no rights or interests entitled to regard and protection? Shall the destiny of the African in Kansas exclude all considerations connected with our own happiness and prosperity? And is it for the handful of that race now in Kansas, or that may be here-after introduced, that we should subvert the Union and the great principles of self-government and state sovereignty, and imbrue our hands in the blood of our countrymen! Important as this African question may be in Kansas, and which it is your solemn right to determine, it sinks into insignificance compared with the perpetuity of the Union and the final successful establishment of the principles of state sovereignty and free government. If patriotism, if devotion to the constitution and love of the Union, should not induce the minority to yield to the majority on this question, let them reflect, that in no event can the minority successfully determine this question permanently, and that in no contingency will Congress admit Kansas as a slave or free state unless a majority of the people of Kansas shall first have fairly and freely decided this question for themselves by a direct vote on the adoption of the constitution, excluding all fraud or violence. The minority, in resisting the will of the majority, may involve Kansas again in civil war; they may bring upon her reproach and obloquy, and destroy her progress and prosperity; they may keep her for years out of the Union, and, in the whirlwind of agitation, sweep away the government itself; but Kansas never can be brought into the Union with or without slavery except by a previous solemn decision, fully, freely, and fairly made by a majority of her people in voting for or against the adoption of her state constitution. Why, then, should this just, peaceful, and constitutional mode of settlement meet with opposition from any quarter? Is Kansas willing to destroy her own hopes of prosperity, merely that she may afford political capital to any party, and perpetuate the agitation of slavery throughout the Union? Is she to become a mere theme for agitators in other states, the theatre on which they shall perform the bloody drama of treason and disunion? Does she want to see the solemn acts of Congress, the decision of the people of the Union in the recent election, the legislative, executive, and judicial authorities of the country all overthrown, and revolution and civil war inaugurated throughout her limits? Does she want to be "bleeding Kansas" for the benefit of political agitators, within or out of her limits; or does she prefer the peaceful and quiet arbitrament of this question for herself? What benefit will the great body of the people of Kansas derive from these agitations? They may, for a brief period, give consequence and power to political leaders and agitators, but it is at the expense of the happiness and welfare of the great body of the people of this territory.
Those who oppose slavery in Kansas do not base their opposition upon any philanthropic principles, or any sympathy for the African race; for in their so-called constitution, framed at Topeka, they deem that entire race so inferior and degraded as to exclude them all for ever from Kansas, whether they be bond or free--thus depriving them of all rights here, and denying even that they can be citizens of the United States; for, if they are citizens, they could not constitutionally be exiled or excluded from Kansas. Yet such a clause, inserted in the Topeka constitution, was submitted by that convention for the vote of the people, and ratified here by an overwhelming majority of the anti-slavery party. This party here, therefore, has, in the most positive manner, affirmed the constitutionality of that portion of the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States declaring that Africans are not citizens of the United States.
This is the more important, inasmuch as this Topeka constitution was ratified, with this clause inserted, by the entire Republican party in Congress--thus distinctly affirming the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the Union, that Africans are not citizens of the United States; for if citizens, they may be elected to all offices, state and national, including the presidency itself; they must be placed upon a basis of perfect equality with the whites, serve with them in the militia, on the bench, the legislature, the jury box, vote in all elections, meet us in social intercourse, and intermarry freely with the whites. This doctrine of the perfect equality of the white with the black, in all respects whatsoever, social and political, clearly follows from the position that Africans are citizens of the United States. Nor is the Supreme Court of the Union less clearly vindicated by the position now assumed here by the published creed of this party, that the people of Kansas, in forming their state constitution (and not Congress), must decide this question of slavery for themselves. Having thus sustained the court on both the controverted points decided by that tribunal, it is hoped they will not approve the anarchical and revolutionary proceedings in other states, expunging the Supreme Court from our system by depriving it of the great powers for which it was created, of expounding the constitution. If that be done, we can have in fact no unity of government or fundamental law, but just as many ever-varying constitutions as passion prejudice, and local interests may from time to time prescribe in the thirty-one states of the Union.
I have endeavored heretofore faintly to foreshadow the wonderful prosperity, which would follow at once in Kansas the peaceful and final settlement of this question. But, if it should be in the power of agitators to prevent such a result, nothing but ruin will pervade our territory. Confidence will expire, and law and order will be subverted. Anarchy and civil war will be reinaugurated among us. All property will greatly depreciate in value. Even the best farms will become almost worthless. Our towns and cities will sink into decay. Emigration into our territory will cease. A mournful train of returning settlers, with ruined hopes and blasted fortunes, will leave our borders. All who have purchased property at present prices will be sacrificed, and Kansas will be marked by universal ruin and desolation.
Nor will the mischief be arrested here. It will extend into every other state. Despots will exult over the failure here of the great principles of self-government, and the approaching downfall of our confederacy. The pillars of the Union will rock upon their base, and we may close the next presidential conflict amid the scattered fragments of the constitution of our once happy and united people. The banner of the stars and stripes, the emblem of our country's glory, will be rent by contending factions. We shall no longer have a country. The friends of human liberty in other realms will shrink despairing from the conflict. Despotic power will resume its sway throughout the world, and man will have tried in vain the last experiment of self-government. The architects of our country's ruin, the assassins of her peace and prosperity, will share the same common ruin of all our race. They will meet, whilst living, the bitter curses of a ruined people, whilst history will record as their only epitaph: These were the destroyers of the American Union, of the liberties of their country and of the world.
But I do not despair of the republic. My hope is in the patriotism and intelligence of the people; in their love of country, of liberty, and of the Union. Especially is my confidence unbounded in the hardy pioneers and settlers of the west. It was such settlers of a new state devoted to the constitution and the Union, whom I long represented in the Senate of the United States, and whose rights and interests it was my pride and pleasure there, as well as in the treasury department, to protect and advocate. It was men like these whose rifles drove back the invader from the plains of Orleans and planted the stars and stripes upon the victorious field of Mexico. These are the men whom gold cannot corrupt nor foes intimidate. From their towns and villages, from their farms and cottages, spread over the beautiful prairies of Kansas, they will come forward now in defence of the constitution and the Union. These are the glorious legacy they received from our fathers, and they will transmit to their children the priceless heritage. Before the peaceful power of their suffrage this dangerous sectional agitation will disappear, and peace and prosperity once more reign throughout our borders. In the hearts of this noble band of patriotic settlers the love of their country and of the Union is inextinguishable. It leaves them not in death, but follows them into that higher realm, where, with Washington and Franklin, and their noble compatriots, they look down with undying affection upon their country, and offer up their fervent prayers that the Union and the constitution may be perpetual. For recollect, my fellow-citizens, that it is the constitution that makes the Union, and unless that immortal instrument, bearing the name of the Father of his Country, shall be maintained entire in all its wise provisions and sacred guarantees, our free institutions must perish.
My reliance also is unshaken upon the same overruling Providence which has carried us triumphantly through so many perils and conflicts, which has lifted us to a height of power and prosperity unexampled in history, and, if we shall maintain the constitution and the Union, points us to a future more glorious and sublime than mind can conceive or pen describe. The march of our country's destiny, like that of His first chosen people, is marked by the foot-prints of the steps of God. The constitution and the Union are "the cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night," which will carry us safely under his guidance, through the wilderness and bitter waters, into the promised and ever-extending fields of our country's glory. It is His hand which beckons us onward in the pathway of peaceful progress and expansion, of power and renown, until our continent, in the distant future, shall be covered by the folds of the American banner, and, instructed by our example, all the nations of the world, through many trials and sacrifices, shall establish the great principles of our constitutional confederacy of free and sovereign states.