American Eloquence, Volume 3 Studies In American Political History (1897) online

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Produced by David Widger



Edited with Introduction by Alexander Johnston

Reedited by James Albert Woodburn

Volume III. (of 4)

V. - THE ANTI-SLAVERY STRUGGLE (Continued from Vol. II.)



SALMON PORTLAND CHASE On The Kansas-Nebraska Bill
- United States Senate, February 3, 1854.

EDWARD EVERETT On The Kansas-Nebraska Bill
- United States Senate, February 8, 1854.

STEPHEN ARNOLD DOUGLAS On The Kansas-Nebraska Bill
- United States Senate, March 3, 1854.

CHARLES SUMNER On The Crime Against Kansas
- United States Senate, May 20, 1856.

PRESTON S. BROOKS On The Sumner Assault
- House Of Representatives, July 14, 1856.

JUDAH P. BENJAMIN On The Property Doctrine And Slavery In The
Territories - United States Senate, March 11, 1858.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN On The Dred Scott Decision
- Springfield, Ills., June 26, 1857.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN On His Nomination To The United States Senate
- At The Republican State Convention, June 16,1858.

DOUGLAS In Reply To Lincoln - Freeport, Ills., August 27, 1858.

On The Irrepressible Conflict - Rochester, N. Y., October 25, 1858.


JOHN PARKER HALE On Secession; Moderate Republican Opinion
- United States Senate, December 5, 1860.

ALFRED IVERSON On Secession; Secessionist Opinion
- United States Senate, December 5, 1860.

BENJAMIN WADE On Secession, And The State Of The Union; Radical
Republican Opinion - United States Senate, December 17, 1860.

JOHN JORDON CRITTENDEN On The Crittenden Compromise; Border State
Unionist Opinion - United States Senate, December 18, 1860.

ROBERT TOOMBS On Secession; Secessionist Opinion
- United States Senate, January 7, 1861.

SAMUEL SULLIVAN COX On Secession; Douglas Democratic Opinion
- House Of Representatives, January 14, 1861.

JEFFERSON DAVIS On Withdrawal From The Union; Secessionist Opinion
- United States Senate, January 21, 1861.


WILLIAM H. SEWARD - Frontispiece From a photograph.

SALMON P. CHASE - From a daguerreotype, engraved by F. E. JONES.

EDWARD EVERETT - From a painting by R. M. STAIGG.

STEPHEN A. DOUGLASS - From a steel engraving.

JEFFERSON DAVIS - From a photograph.


The third volume of the American Eloquence is devoted to the
continuation of the slavery controversy and to the progress of the
secession movement which culminated in civil war.

To the speeches of the former edition of the volume have been added:
Everett on the Nebraska bill; Benjamin on the Property Doctrine and
Slavery in the Territories; Lincoln on the Dred Scott Decision; Wade
on Secession and the State of the Union; Crittenden on the Crittenden
Compromise; and Jefferson Davis's notable speech in which he took leave
of the United State Senate, in January, 1861.

Judged by its political consequences no piece of legislation in American
history is of greater historical importance than the Kansas-Nebraska
bill. By that act the Missouri Compromise was repealed and the final
conflict entered upon with the slave power. In addition to the speeches
of Douglas and Chase, representing the best word on the opposing sides
of the famous Nebraska controversy, the new volume includes the notable
contribution by Edward Everett to the Congressional debates on that
subject. Besides being an orator of high rank and of literary renown,
Everett represented a distinct body of political opinion. As a
conservative Whig he voiced the sentiment of the great body of the
followers of Webster and Clay who had helped to establish the Compromise
of 1850 and who wished to leave that settlement undisturbed. The student
of the Congressional struggles of 1854 will be led by a speech like that
of Everett to appreciate that moderate and conservative spirit toward
slavery which would not persist in any anti-slavery action having a
tendency to disturb the harmony of the Union. That this conservative
opinion looked upon the repeal of the Missouri Compromise as an act of
aggression in the interest of slavery is indicated by Everett's speech,
and this gives the speech its historic significance.

Judah P. Benjamin may be said to have been the ablest legal defender of
slavery in public life during the decade of 1850-60. His speech on
the right of property in slaves and the right of slavery to national
protection in the territories was probably the ablest on that side of
the controversy. Lincoln's speech on the Dred Scott Decision has been
substituted for one by John C. Breckinridge on the same subject; this
will serve to bring into his true proportions this great leader of the
combined anti-slavery forces. No voice, in the beginnings of secession
and disunion, could better reflect the positive and uncompromising
Republicanism of the Northwest than that of Wade. The speech from him
which we have appropriated is in many ways worthy of the attention of
the historical student.

We may look to Crittenden as the best expositor of the Crittenden
Compromise, the leading attempt at compromise and conciliation in the
memorable session of Congress of 1860-61. Crittenden's subject and
personality add historical prominence to his speech. The Crittenden
Compromise would probably have been accepted by Southern leaders like
Davis and Toombs if it had been acceptable to the Republican leaders
of the North. The failure of that Compromise made disunion and war
inevitable. Jefferson Davis' memorable farewell to the Senate, following
the assured failure of compromise, seems a fitting close to the period
of our history which brings us to the eve of the Civil War.

The introduction of Professor Johnston on "Secession" is retained as
originally prepared. A study of the speeches, with this introduction
and the appended notes, will give a fair idea of the political issues
dividing the country in the important years immediately preceding the
war. Limitations of space prevent the publication of the full speeches
from the exhaustive Congressional debates, but in several instances
where it has seemed especially desirable omissions from the former
volume have been supplied with the purpose of more fully representing
the subjects and the speakers. To the reader who is interested in
historical politics in America these productions of great political
leaders need no recommendation from the editor.

J. A. W.


OF OHIO. (BORN 1808, DIED 1873.)


FEBRUARY 3, 1854.

The bill for the organization of the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas
being under consideration - Mr. CHASE submitted the following amendment:

Strike out from section 14 the words "was superseded by the principles
of the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures, and;
so that the clause will read:

"That the Constitution, and all laws of the United States which are not
locally inapplicable, shall have the same force and effect within the
said Territory of Nebraska as elsewhere within the United States, except
the eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri
into the Union, approved March 6, 1820, which is hereby declared

Mr. CHASE said:

Mr. President, I had occasion, a few days ago to expose the utter
groundlessness of the personal charges made by the Senator from Illinois
(Mr. Douglas) against myself and the other signers of the Independent
Democratic Appeal. I now move to strike from this bill a statement
which I will to-day demonstrate to be without any foundation in fact
or history. I intend afterward to move to strike out the whole clause
annulling the Missouri prohibition.

I enter into this debate, Mr. President, in no spirit of personal
unkindness. The issue is too grave and too momentous for the indulgence
of such feelings. I see the great question before me, and that question

Sir, these crowded galleries, these thronged lobbies, this full
attendance of the Senate, prove the deep, transcendent interest of the

A few days only have elapsed since the Congress of the United States
assembled in this Capitol. Then no agitation seemed to disturb the
political elements. Two of the great political parties of the country,
in their national conventions, had announced that slavery agitation was
at an end, and that henceforth that subject was not to be discussed in
Congress or out of Congress. The President, in his annual message, had
referred to this state of opinion, and had declared his fixed purpose to
maintain, as far as any responsibility attached to him, the quiet of the
country. Let me read a brief extract from that message:

"It is no part of my purpose to give prominence to any subject which may
properly be regarded as set at rest by the deliberate judgment of the
people. But while the present is bright with promise, and the future
full of demand and inducement for the exercise of active intelligence,
the past can never be without useful lessons of admonition and
instruction. If its dangers serve not as beacons, they will evidently
fail to fulfil the object of a wise design. When the grave shall have
closed over all those who are now endeavoring to meet the obligations of
duty, the year 1850 will be recurred to as a period filled with anxious
apprehension. A successful war had just terminated. Peace brought with
it a vast augmentation of territory. Disturbing questions arose, bearing
upon the domestic institutions of one portion of the Confederacy, and
involving the constitutional rights of the States. But, notwithstanding
differences of opinion and sentiment, which then existed in relation
to details and specific provisions, the acquiescence of distinguished
citizens, whose devotion to the Union can never be doubted, had given
renewed vigor to our institutions, and restored a sense of repose and
security to the public mind throughout the Confederacy. That this repose
is to suffer no shock during my official term, if I have power to avert
it, those who placed me here may be assured."

The agreement of the two old political parties, thus referred to by the
Chief Magistrate of the country, was complete, and a large majority of
the American people seemed to acquiesce in the legislation of which he

A few of us, indeed, doubted the accuracy of these statements, and the
permanency of this repose. We never believed that the acts of 1850 would
prove to be a permanent adjustment of the slavery question. We believed
no permanent adjustment of that question possible except by a return to
that original policy of the fathers of the Republic, by which slavery
was restricted within State limits, and freedom, without exception or
limitation, was intended to be secured to every person outside of State
limits and under the exclusive jurisdiction of the General Government.

But, sir, we only represented a small, though vigorous and growing,
party in the country. Our number was small in Congress. By some we were
regarded as visionaries - by some as factionists; while almost all agreed
in pronouncing us mistaken.

And so, sir, the country was at peace. As the eye swept the entire
circumference of the horizon and upward to mid-heaven not a cloud
appeared; to common observation there was no mist or stain upon the
clearness of the sky.

But suddenly all is changed. Rattling thunder breaks from the cloudless
firmament. The storm bursts forth in fury. Warring winds rush into

"_Eurus, Notusque ruunt, creberque procellis Africus_."

Yes, sir, "_creber procellis Africus_" - the South wind thick with storm.
And now we find ourselves in the midst of an agitation, the end and
issue of which no man can foresee.

Now, sir, who is responsible for this renewal of strife and controversy?
Not we, for we have introduced no question of territorial slavery into
Congress - not we who are denounced as agitators and factionists. No,
sir: the quietists and the finalists have become agitators; they who
told us that all agitation was quieted, and that the resolutions of the
political conventions put a final period to the discussion of slavery.

This will not escape the observation of the country. It is Slavery that
renews the strife. It is Slavery that again wants room. It is Slavery,
with its insatiate demands for more slave territory and more slave

And what does Slavery ask for now? Why, sir, it demands that a
time-honored and sacred compact shall be rescinded - a compact which has
endured through a whole generation - a compact which has been
universally regarded as inviolable, North and South - a compact, the
constitutionality of which few have doubted, and by which all have
consented to abide.

It will not answer to violate such a compact without a pretext. Some
plausible ground must be discovered or invented for such an act; and
such a ground is supposed to be found in the doctrine which was advanced
the other day by the Senator from Illinois, that the compromise acts of
1850 "superseded "the prohibition of slavery north of 36° 30', in the
act preparatory for the admission of Missouri. Ay,sir, "superseded" is
the phrase - "superseded by the principles of the legislation of 1850,
commonly called the compromise measures."

It is against this statement, untrue in fact, and without foundation in
history, that the amendment which I have proposed is directed.

Sir, this is a novel idea. At the time when these measures were before
Congress in 1850, when the questions involved in them were discussed
from day to day, from week to week, and from month to month, in this
Senate chamber, who ever heard that the Missouri prohibition was to be
superseded? What man, at what time, in what speech, ever suggested the
idea that the acts of that year were to affect the Missouri compromise?
The Senator from Illinois the other day invoked the authority of Henry
Clay - that departed statesman, in respect to whom, whatever may be the
differences of political opinion, none question that, among the great
men of this country, he stood proudly eminent. Did he, in the report
made by him as the chairman of the Committee of Thirteen, or in any
speech in support of the compromise acts, or in any conversation in the
committee, or out of the committee, ever even hint at this doctrine of
supersedure? Did any supporter or any opponent of the compromise
acts ever vindicate or condemn them on the ground that the Missouri
prohibition would be affected by them? Well, sir, the compromise acts
were passed. They were denounced North, and they were denounced South.
Did any defender of them at the South ever justify his support of them
upon the ground that the South had obtained through them the repeal of
the Missouri prohibition? Did any objector to them at the North ever
even suggest as a ground of condemnation that that prohibition was swept
away by them? No, sir! No man, North or South, during the whole of
the discussion of those acts here, or in that other discussion which
followed their enactment throughout the country, ever intimated any such

Now, sir, let us come to the last session of Congress. A Nebraska bill
passed the House and came to the Senate, and was reported from the
Committee on Territories by the Senator from Illinois, as its chairman.
Was there any provision in it which even squinted toward this notion of
repeal by supersedure? Why, sir, Southern gentlemen opposed it on
the very ground that it left the Territory under the operation of the
Missouri prohibition. The Senator from Illinois made a speech in defence
of it. Did he invoke Southern support upon the ground that it superseded
the Missouri prohibition? Not at all. Was it opposed or vindicated
by anybody on any such ground? Every Senator knows the contrary. The
Senator from Missouri (Mr. Atchison), now the President of this body,
made a speech upon the bill, in which he distinctly declared that the
Missouri prohibition was not repealed, and could not be repealed.

I will send this speech to the Secretary, and ask him to read the
paragraphs marked. The Secretary read as follows:

"I will now state to the Senate the views which induced me to oppose
this proposition in the early part of this session.

"I had two objections to it. One was that the Indian title in that
Territory had not been extinguished, or, at least, a very small portion
of it had been. Another was the Missouri compromise, or, as it is
commonly called, the slavery restriction. It was my opinion at that
time - and I am not now very clear on that subject - that the law of
Congress, when the State of Missouri was admitted into the Union,
excluding slavery from the Territory of Louisiana north of 36° 30',
would be enforced in that Territory unless it was specially rescinded,
and whether that law was in accordance with the Constitution of the
United States or not, it would do its work, and that work would be to
preclude slave-holders from going into that Territory. But when I came
to look into that question, I found that there was no prospect, no
hope, of a repeal of the Missouri compromise excluding slavery from that
Territory. Now, sir, I am free to admit, that at this moment, at this
hour, and for all time to come, I should oppose the organization or
the settlement of that Territory unless my constituents, and
the constituents of the whole South - of the slave States of the
Union, - could go into it upon the same footing, with equal rights and
equal privileges, carrying that species of property with them as other
people of this Union. Yes, sir, I acknowledge that that would have
governed me, but I have no hope that the restriction will ever be

"I have always been of opinion that the first great error committed
in the political history of this country was the ordinance of 1787,
rendering the Northwest Territory free territory. The next great error
was the Missouri compromise. But they are both irremediable. There is no
remedy for them. We must submit to them. I am prepared to do it. It is
evident that the Missouri compromise cannot be re-pealed. So far as that
question is concerned, we might as well agree to the admission of this
Territory now as next year, or five or ten years hence." - _Congressional
Globe_, Second Session, 32d Cong., vol. xxvi., page 1113.

That, sir, is the speech of the Senator from Missouri (Mr. Atchison),
whose authority, I think, must go for something upon this question. What
does he say? "When I came to look into that question" - of the possible
repeal of the Missouri prohibition - that was the question he was looking
into - "I found that there was no prospect, no hope, of a repeal of the
Missouri compromise excluding slavery from that Territory." And yet,
sir, at that very moment, according to this new doctrine of the Senator
from Illinois, it had been repealed three years!

Well, the Senator from Missouri said further, that if he thought it
possible to oppose this restriction successfully, he never would consent
to the organization of the territory until it was rescinded. But, said
he, "I acknowledge that I have no hope that the restriction will ever be
repealed." Then he made some complaint, as other Southern gentlemen have
frequently done, of the ordinance of 1787, and the Missouri prohibition;
but went on to say: "They are both irremediable; there is no remedy for
them; we must submit to them; I am prepared to do it; it is evident that
the Missouri compromise cannot be repealed."

Now, sir, when was this said? It was on the morning of the 4th of March,
just before the close of the last session, when that Nebraska bill,
reported by the Senator from Illinois, which proposed no repeal, and
suggested no supersedure, was under discussion. I think, sir, that all
this shows pretty clearly that up to the very close of the last session
of Congress nobody had ever thought of a repeal by supersedure. Then
what took place at the commencement of the present session? The Senator
from Iowa, early in December, introduced a bill for the organization
of the Territory of Nebraska. I believe it was the same bill which was
under discussion here at the last session, line for line, word for word.
If I am wrong, the Senator will correct me.

Did the Senator from Iowa, then, entertain the idea that the Missouri
prohibition had been superseded? No, sir, neither he nor any other man
here, so far as could be judged from any discussion, or statement, or
remark, had received this notion.

Well, on the 4th day of January, the Committee on Territories, through
their chairman, the Senator from Illinois, made a report on the
territorial organization of Nebraska; and that report was accompanied by
a bill. Now, sir, on that 4th day of January, just thirty days ago, did
the Committee on Territories entertain the opinion that the compromise
acts of 1850 superseded the Missouri prohibition? If they did, they were
very careful to keep it to themselves. We will judge the committee by
their own report. What do they say in that? In the first place they
describe the character of the controversy, in respect to the Territories
acquired from Mexico. They say that some believed that a Mexican law
prohibiting slavery was in force there, while others claimed that the
Mexican law became inoperative at the moment of acquisition, and that
slave-holders could take their slaves into the Territory and hold
them there under the provisions of the Constitution. The Territorial
Compromise acts, as the committee tell us, steered clear of these
questions. They simply provided that the States organized out of these
Territories might come in with or without slavery, as they should elect,
but did not affect the question whether slaves could or could not be
introduced before the organization of State governments. That question
was left entirely to judicial decision.

Well, sir, what did the committee propose to do with the Nebraska
Territory? In respect to that, as in respect to the Mexican Territory,
differences of opinion exist in relation to the introduction of slaves.
There are Southern gentlemen who contend that notwithstanding the
Missouri prohibition, they can take their slaves into the territory
covered by it, and hold them there by virtue of the Constitution. On the
other hand the great majority of the American people, North and South,
believe the Missouri prohibition to be constitutional and effectual.
Now, what did the committee pro-pose? Did they propose to repeal the
prohibition? Did they suggest that it had been superseded? Did they
advance any idea of that kind? No, sir. This is their language:

"Under this section, as in the case of the Mexican law in New Mexico
and Utah, it is a disputed point whether slavery is prohibited in the
Nebraska country by valid enactment. The decision of this question
involves the constitutional power of Congress to pass laws prescribing
and regulating the domestic institutions of the various Territories
of the Union. In the opinion of those eminent statesmen who hold that
Congress is invested with no rightful authority to legislate upon the
subject of slavery in the Territories, the eighth section of the act
preparatory to the admission of Missouri is null and void, while the
prevailing sentiment in a large portion of the Union sustains the
doctrine that the Constitution of the United States secures to every
citizen an inalienable right to move into any of the Territories with
his property, of whatever kind and description, and to hold and
enjoy the same under the sanction of law. Your committee do not
feel themselves called upon to enter into the discussion of these
controverted questions. They involve the same grave issues which
produced the agitation, the sectional strife, and the fearful struggle
of 1850."

This language will bear repetition:

"Your committee do not feel themselves called upon to enter into the
discussion of these controverted questions. They involve the same grave
issues which produced the agitation, the sectional strife, and the
fearful struggle of 1850."

And they go on to say:

"Congress deemed it wise and prudent to refrain from deciding the
matters in controversy then, either by affirming or repealing the
Mexican laws, or by an act declaratory of the true intent of the
Constitution and the extent of the protection afforded by it to slave

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