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THE MISSOURI QUESTION.
In December, 1818, Congress received a petition from the legislature of the territory asking admission into the Union. On the 19th February, 1819, while the bill was under discussion for the admission, an amendment was offered "proTiding that the further introduction of slavery, or involuntary servitude be prohibited in said State." Adopted, 87 to 76 votes in the House. Another amendment, "That all children born in said State, after admission thereof, shall be free after the age of twenty-five years." Adopted, 79 to 67. The Senate struck out this amendment, 22 to 16. Each House adhered obstinately to its position and the bill was lost.
At the next session Mr. Taylor of New York offered a resolution raising a committee to report " a bill prohibiting the further admission of slaves into the territory west of the Mississippi." This proposition was postponed. In the mean time, a bill was introduced for the admission of Maine into the Union, which passed the House. The Senate tacked a section admitting Missouri to the Maine bill. On the 18th January, 1820, Mr. Thomas of Illinois introduced in the Senate the celebrated slavery restriction, excluding slavery forever from all territory north of 36° 30' north latitude. After an exciting debate it was referred to a select committee. The motion to exclude slavery from Missouri was lost in the Senate, 16 to 27.
On the 17th February, Mr. Thomas's amendment, excluding slavery from the territory north of 36° 30' passed the Senate, Ayes 34; Noes 10. It was moved in the House by Mr. Storrs of New York. The bill for the admission of both Maine and Missouri, with the restriction of slavery in territories West, in lieu of applying it to the State, then passed the Senate. Mr. Macon of North Carolina, and Mr. Smith of South Carolina, being the only Southern Senators that voted against it. The House subsequently agreed to the Senate bill by a vote of 134 to 42, and thus ended the agitation for that session. The restriction thus engrafted upon the territorial law was repealed in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854; but was not, as will be seen, and as has been generally understood by the people, a part of Mr. Clay's Compromise, by which Missouri was finally admitted into the Union.
At the session of 1821, Missouri presented her Constitution to Congress. It contained a clause excluding free colored people from the State. The question was at once raised, that her Constitution was not republican in form, as required by the Constitution of the United States. The Senate voted to admit and the House refused. Committees of conference were appointed, of which Mr. Clay was chairman in the House, and Mr. Holmes of Maine, in the Senate. On the 26th of February, 1821, Mr. Clay, from the Joint Committee, reported a resolution for the admission of Missouri, upon condition that the clause in her Constitution prohibiting free negroes from coming into or remaining in the State, should never be construed to authorize the passage of any law by which any citizen of any other State should be excluded from any privileges to which such citizen is entitled under the Constitution of the United States. This resolution passed the House the same day by a vote of 87 to 31.
The resolution was called up in the Senate on the 27th, and finally passed in that body on the 28th of February, 1821, by a vote of 28 to 14. Missouri accepted the condition imposed by the resolution of Mr. Clay, and on the 10th of August, 1821, President Monroe issued bis proclamation declaring the admission of Missouri complete according to law. This resolution of Mr. Clay was, properly speaking, the Missouri Compromise, and of itself had nothing to do, whatever, with the question of slavery in the territories. That question bad been settled nearly a year prior to the passage of this resolution, under which that State became a member of the confederacy.
For the purpose of showing what the doctrine of the Southern States, and of that party in the North that acted with the South in that struggle, was upon the subject of the power of Congress to restrict slavery in the territories, we make the following extracts from the speeches of those most prominent in that debate, North and South. The reader will of course understand, that those who advocated the power of restriction in Congress, used, necessarily, the same arguments that are used at the present time upon that subject. It is only in reference to what was, at that time, claimed as the national view of the slavery question, that we compile this chapter; and, in compiling it, we have sought to give the opinion of those who, from their position and talents, may be fairly supposed to have reflected that view at that day. Some of the extracts refer to the State restriction, which was abandoned, but most are upon the amendment of Mr. Thomas, of the Senate, introduced in the House by Mr. Storrs, of New York, involving the constitutional power of Congress to prohibit slavery in the territories. This was the first debate ever had in Congress upon the subject.
January 26, 1821. The Bill for the admission of Missouri into the Union being under consideration, Mr. Storrs, of New York, offered the following proviso:
"And provided further, and it is hereby enacted, That, forever hereafter, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude. (except in the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,) shall exist in the territory of the United States, lying north of the 38th degree of north latitude, and west of the river Mississippi, and the boundaries of the State of Missouri, as established by this act: Provided, That any person escaping into the said territory, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed, in any of the States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed, and conveyed, according to the laws of the United States in such case provided, to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid."
Mr. Meigs, of New York, said:—It is now at least twenty years, that I have, with some pain and apprehension, remarked the increasing spirit of local and sectional envy and dislike between the North and South. A continued series of sarcasms upon each other's circumstances, modes of living, and manners, so foolishly persevered in, has produced at length that keen controversy which now enlists us in masses against each other on the opposite sides of the line of latitude.
Gentlemen may dignify it by whatever titles they please. They may flatter themselves that all is logic, reason, pure reason. But certain I am, that it is neither more nor less than sectional feeling.
Feeling, sir, however gravely dignified, has brought us in hostility to this singular line, of combat, and we, who are, you know sir, "but children of a larger growth," are now most aptly comparable to those celebrated and eternal factions of "Up-Town and Down-Town Boys." I put this observation to every one who hears me, with the wish that he may apply his own recollections and reflections to it.
Gentlemen may exhaust all their arguments, all their eloquence upon the question before us; they may pour ont every flower of rhetoric upon it; but, sir, I view their labors as wholly vain, and I fear that their flowers will bet found to be the most deleterious and the most poisonous in the whole range of botany. They poison the national affection.
Reason divided by parallels of latitude! Why, sir, it is easy for prejudice and malevolence, by aid of ingenuity, to erect an eternal, impenetrable wall of brass between the North and South, at the latitude of thirty-nine degrees! But, in the view of reason, there is no other line between them than that celestial arc of thirty-nine degrees which offers no barrier to the march of liberal and rational men.
It is forgotten that the enlightened high priest, the archbishop of one belligerent, goes to the temple of the Almighty and chants " Te Deum laudamus," for the victory obtained by his country, with carnage and devastation, over the enemy; while the archbishop of another belligerent is at the same time entering the house of God, and singing also, "Te Deum laudamus pro victoria," upon the other side of the line, the creek, or the river? We, who know these things, should profit by our knowledge, learn liberality, and practice it. It is true, and I glory in the knowledge of the truth, that in matters of religion, this country has, in its constitutions, attained a high point of reason and liberality.
Men, after forty or sixty years of religious intolerance, here, at last, may worship the Creator in their own way. What a privilege! how dearly acquired I how much to be prized I It fills us with astonishment, when we reflect how hard it is for us to refrain from forcing by power our opinions upon our brother men! how readily each individual imagines that the light is alone in his own breast, and how enthusiastically he engages in propagating it among mankind by all possible means, fancying, dreaming that he is a prophet, a vicegerent of Almighty God.
January 27, 1830. Mr. Holmes, of Massachusetts, rose and spoke as follows:—Mr. Chairman: When a man is