scope and to spread wherever its advocates and supporters could carry it.

The position of things at the time helped on the excitement. The south, jealous of the advancing progress of the free states, had insisted all along that Congress should admit a slave state as often as they admitted a free state; and this practice, had been followed. Alabama had been the last admitted, and that was a slave state; so that now the advocates of the other side claimed that Missouri, according to rule, ought to come in as a free state. At this date, there were only ten slave states, whilst the free numbered twelve; another, which was free, was soliciting admission; so that unless Missouri could be secured, the southern members felt that slavery was threatened with extinction by the action of Congress, in opposition, as they averred, to the original compromise of the Constitution. Besides, the following year the census was to be taken, and a new distribution of the Representatives would be made: already there were a hundred and five members from free states, opposed to

only eighty from slave states;

so that if Missouri were not secured amongst the latter, the opponents of slavery would have so undoubted a majority in both Houses of Congress as to enable them to do what they pleased, whether the south liked it or not. Whilst, to add to this embroilment, the presidential election was approaching, and if Missouri were not admitted, there would be votes lost or gained for some of the candidates.

It would be impossible within the brief space at our command, to enter

at all fully into the arguments adduced by able and eloquent members of Con gress on both sides of this vexed question. The most that we can do, is to present a brief abstract of the argument, referring the reader for fuller information to the debates of Congress, and the speeches of such men as Rufus King, Henry Clay, John Randolph, William Pinkney, John Sergeant, and the like. Mr. Benton, in his "Thirty Years' View," devotes a chapter to this subject, which is worth consulting, and comparing with other authorities.

On the side of the south it was urged, that Congress had no right to impose restrictions on this subject; that the Constitution recognized slavery as existing and as entitled to protection; that the slaves, as a class, are contented, happy, and well provided for, far more so than the half-starved laboring popnlation of Ireland and Great Britain; that, even admitting slavery to be an* evil, its abolition at the south would be a greater calamity than its continuance; that the addition of Missouri to the Union would not increase the number of slaves, but only diffuse them over a larger space; that the people of that state are entitled to have slaves by the clause in the treaty ceding Louisiana to the United States; that legislation on this topic is a right of which they cannot be deprived, so that if they prefei slavery, they have the power to insist upon it within their own bounds. These and the like arguments were amplified, and pressed with eloquence, earnestness, and zeal; it being evident that on the settlement of the question now, would, in great measure, depend the Ch. ID.]

political strength and efficiency of the several sections of the Union.

The opponents of slavery-extension combated the views of southern members with equal zeal and energy. They urged, that it was plain, from the tendency of things in the United States, slavery was discountenanced and disliked; it was opposed entirely to the genius of free institutions, and could not be looked upon otherwise than as a temporary evil to be got rid of as soon as possible; and however true it might be that the Constitution recognized slavery, that could only be urged with respect to the original thirteen states, respecting which there was now no point of difference; but to propose to extend the evil of perpetual bondage over a territory of greater dimensions than the original United States, and over unborn millions of the human family, was too revolting to be entertained by freeman for a moment. The northern and western members also held, that Congress certainly possessed the power of legislation on this subject as respects the admission of new states, and could impose restrictions, as they saw fit, upon states formed out of the vast territory which constituted the public domain, and was under the governance of the national legislature. Congress, they held, not only possessed the power, but was bound by every consideration of uprightness and love of freedom, to put a stop to the further extension of slavery. They urged too, with force, that the slave trade would be carried on, and slaves would be smuggled in, despite the law, if the area of human


bondage were to be enlarged; and some went so far, in reply to menaces of a dissolution of the Union if the south were not gratified, as to declare, that they would much prefer that to seeing the increase of territory cursed with slavery and its detestable evils.

Thus the battle raged. Our abstract above given can furnish no idea of the intense excitement, the bitterness, the furiousness of declamation and personal abuse that prevailed day after day, and week after week, while this topic engrossed all the thoughts and all the attention of Congress. The Senate, no less than the House, was fully occupied with this exciting question. There, new features were added to the debate by uniting the bill for the admission of Maine to that for the admission of Missouri. Mr. William Pinkney, of Maryland, was the great and truly eloquent advocate on the one side; and Mr. Rufus King, of New York, sustained the views of the north, and ably set forth the principles of the men who like himself desired to see a limit fixed to the progress of slavery*

After continuing from the opening of Congress till the beginning of March, great fears began to be entertained respecting the possibility of giving independent existence to either Maine or Missouri, in time for them to join in the next election. Maine loudly and justly complained, that a matter affecting her so intimately, was

* For the speeches of Mr. King and Mr. Pinkney, on the Missouri Question, the reader may refer to Moore's "American Eloquence " voL ii., pp. 44-51, and 114-129


made contingent upon another, with which she had not naturally any connection. The spirited appeal which was made to Congress in behalf of Maine, had not, however, any effect, for the opponents of restriction deemed their chances of success greater by insisting upon the consideration of the cases of Maine and Missouri together.

Henry Clay, as a matter of course, took a deep interest in this engrossing subject. He urged the admission of Missouri, but, while holding that the subject of her domestic slavery belonged to her, declared most emphatically his detestation of the system to be so great, that were he a citizen of Missouri, he would never consent to a state constitution which did not provide for its extinction. He plead for conciliation and compromise, believing that the safety of the Union required mutual sacrifices. As Mr. Colton says, in a panegyrical strain, when speaking of Henry Clay's share in the work of effecting a settlement of the question, he was the "one man of truly national feeling; calm, but not indifferent; with lofty, but dignified and not less anxious port, looking down upon the scene, as one of deep and unutterable concern. Often did he rise to hush the tempest, and call back reason to its useful offices. He stood up, a mediator between the conflicting parties, imploring, entreating, beseeching. On one occasion, during these debates, Mr. Clay spoke four hours and a half; pouring forth an uninterrupted and glowing torrent of his thoughts and feelings, with captivating and convincing power."

Wearied with the strife, and alarmed

at the prospect before them, other members were willing to join with Mr. Clay in an effort to effect an arrangement which should put an end to the contest. The Senate and the House disagreed in several important particulars, and both seemed disposed to insist upon their amendments and prop ositions. A committee of the two Houses on their disagreement was appointed, and they reported a recommendation to the Senate to recede from their amendments, and also a recommendation to the two Houses to strike out of the bill for the admission of Missouri the clause prohibiting the further increase of slavery in that state, and to substitute for it, that, in all the territory of Louisiana north of 36° 30', slavery shall be for ever prohibited. This clause as to the dividing line was introduced by Jesse B. Thomas, senator from Illinois. On the Senate's amendment to strike out the restrictive clause, the vote was ninety in favor, to eightyseven against; and on the question as to the line of 36° 30', one hundred and thirty-four voted in favor of that line to only forty-two against it *

The cabinet held grave and earnest deliberation over the proposed "compromise." By it, slavery was "forever" prohibited north of the line determined upon, and the president and his advisers held, that the measure waa entirely constitutional; but, as we learn from Mr. Adams's diary, the question

* For some sharp and bitter strictures on Mr. Clay's course, as speaker, in regard to the Missouri Compromise, from the pen of the irate Virginian himself, sea Garland's "Life of John Satdolph," Vol iL, pp. 128133.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

was raised in the cabinet as to whether the prohibition was meant to extend only to the territories, or to the states formed out of the territories in coming years. Some took one view, some another, as well in the cabinet as in the country generally; and it augured but badly for future peace on this subject, that a door of litigation and dispute was thus left open.

It was the 6th of March, 1820, when this bill for the admission of Missouri became a law; the bill admitting Maine was signed three days earlier. Northern writers generally hold, that the victory in this contest was really and substantially on the side of the slaveholding states, and that the north gave way in a spirit of forbearance and with great reluctance. Senator Benton, on the other hand, affirms,* that the Missouri Compromise "was all clear gain to the anti-slavery side of the question, and was done under the lead of the united slave vote in the Senate, the majority of that vote in the House of Representatives, and the undivided sanction of a southern administration. It was a southern measure, and divided free and slave soil far more favorably to the north than the ordinance of 1787. That divided about equally; this of 1820 gave about all to the North. It abolished slavery over an immense extent of territory where it might then legally exist, over nearly the whole of Louisiana, left it only in Florida and Arkansas Territory, and opened no new territory to its existence. It was an immense concession to the

* Benton's " Thirty Teari View" voL i., p. 6.

non-slaveholding states; but the genius of slavery agitation was not laid." As we shall see, when we come nearer our own day, the Missouri Compromise did not have the effect of settling the vexed question between the north and the south, and did not prevent the ultra southern men from the mad attempt to sever the bonds which hold our glorious Union together.

Notwithstanding the large amount of time consumed in the discussion of the subject of slavery, Congress found opportunity for several important acts of legislation. The tariff of 1816 had not produced the beneficial results which had been looked for by the advocates of protection to domestic manufactures. The disposition to attempt great operations without adequate capital, had led many to venture largely, upon credit alone, and they were, of course, prostrated at the first crisis in financial affairs. The president, as we have intimated on a previous page (p. 323), was inclined to favor legislation on this subject, which was accordingly taken up and discussed with much earnestness and ability, both for and against the policy of protective duties. Separate committees were appointed for trade and manufactures, heretofore intrusted to the watchfulness of one and the same; and the speaker of the House zealously and energetically plead in behalf of the "American system." Mr. Baldwin, the chairman of the committee on manufactures, reported three bills, for the purpose of giving farther encouragement to American manufactures: one, revising the tariff, and mat ing it still more decidedly protective

another, abolishing credit for duties on imported manufactures; and a third, imposing a heavy duty on auction sales of foreign manufactured goods. Under the influence of Mr. Clay, the first and last passed the House by respectable majorities; the second was negatived; but as the Senate rejected the tariff bill, the auction duty bill was not sent to them; and the whole subject, on the motion of Mr. Baldwin, was postponed to the next session.

Petitions and memorials in great numbers were presented in favor of a uniform bankrupt law. The northern and eastern members generally advocated the passage of such a law, as their constituents had been the principal sufferers during the late derangement in the finances of the country; the southern and western members, however, opposed the adoption of any law of the kind, and so the measure was not carried.

About the middle of February, Mr. Crawford, secretary of the treasury, presented a report on the subject of the national currency. It was ably written; its statements were carefully digested; and its suggestions seemed to be wise and judicious in the present state of the country. The reader who desires to understand the complicated and difficult subject of the currency, will find it to his advantage to examine this report. The Revolutionary pensioners being larger in number than was expected, some new regulations were made respecting them, and the secretary of the treasury was to judge, on a sworn valuation of their means of support, whether the United States could with propriety

continue their pensions. On Mr. Clay's motion, an outfit and salary were voted to enable the president to send a minister or ministers to the newly established governments in South America. There was also voted a new appropriation for the Cumberland Road; and delinquents in the public offices were placed more directly within reach of punishment. Besides these, an act of great importance was passed, by which the plan of credit sales of public lands, 'which had led to speculations, injurious alike to the pretended purchasers and to the revenue, was abolished after the 1st of July; half-quarter sections were offered for sale, and the price was reduced to $1.25 per acre. By a special law, piracy was not only more strenuously denounced, but the foreign slavetrade was declared to be piracy, and a capital offence. Provisions were also made for the taking of the census, which were far more complete in their arrangements than any that had been acted upon before; and promised a much more useful contribution to the statistics of the Union. And after an active and laborious session, Congress adjourned, on the 15th of May, to meet again in November.

Previously to the adjournment of Congress, a caucus was held with re spect to the candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency; but it was speedily ascertained, that Monroe and Tompkins would obtain the largest amount of suffrages, and they were accordingly named for re-election by unanimous assent.

It seems proper, in this place, to make mention of the lamentable death

« 上一頁繼續 »