John Upfold Pettit.

Speech of Hon. John U. Pettit, of Indiana, on the restoration of the Missouri compromise online

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been sold by the King before the Revolution, and
that in the year 1763 a very large part thereof
was separated and appointed for a distinct gov-
ernment and colony by the King of Great Brit-
ain, with the knowledge and approbation of the
government of Virginia," and that its western
boundary had been otherwise declared. Con-
gress not only denied her right to the Northwest,
but to the country, also, on the southeast side of
the Ohio.

Such was the title of Virginia to the North-
west, based on a charter, judicially condemned,
the condemnation silently agreed to for one hun-
dred and fifty years, pretentiously revived during
the Revolution as a bone of contention, denied by
the Congress of the Revolution, and her title at
length received, not because it conveyed any
right, but because it settled a pertinacious claim,
and on the severe condition of leaving to Virginia
all of Kentucky, the Miami grant and Clark's

The true glory of acquiring the Northwest Ter-
ritory to the Union, much better than an exploded
paper title, with the silent dust of one hundred
and fifty years on it, belongs to the conquerors
of the British post of St. Vincent, on the Wabash, !
February 24, 1779. That post was, except De- I
troit, the only British garrison between the lakes [
and the gulf, and, strong itself, was more alarm-
ing because it sent forth the savage incursions [
that so often made the western frontier red with
the blood of its people, and lit up the midnight !
with the flames of their dwellings. Vincennes
was won by a force composed principally of the ;
colonists of Indiana and Illinois — of Kaskaskia
and the French settlements on the Wabash;
making a winter march in order to surprise it,
wading miles of freezing rivers, and exhausted
by ft ; hunger. And, although ardent

Virginians, recruited into Clark's regiment after
its return to the south side oftheOhio, and after
the victory was won, and no service of danger

was to bed !, managed to engross'the principal

part of the liberal gift of our hundred and fifty
thousand acres of land for this distinguished
service, let the hdnest fame of the conquest rest
where it belongs. I have referred briefly to these
facts, because, not content with the profits of the
assertion of this unparalleled claim, Virginia now
maintains a historic title to gratitude.

I have thus referred to the immemorial and

consistent practice of the Government, under the
Confederation and under the Constitution, on the
subject of the government of the Territories, and
especially in restraint of slavery, up to the pre-
sent Administration, that is now drawing to its
end with such universal popularity and satisfac-
tion. It has been the faith and works of Wash-
ington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe,
Jackson, and Harrison. Republicanism is con-
tent to wander with such guides. Nor have I
been able to notice similar restraints and condi-
tions imposed on the Mississippi Territory, on
Louisiana, on Minnesota, and Iowa, and I think,
with equal force on New Mexico and Utah; nor
have I referred to the uniformity of judicial de-
cisions, State and Federal, with which this neces-
sary congressional power has been maintained.
But the executive, judicial, andlegislative history
on this subject are parallels.

In answer to all this, the gentleman from Geor-
gia refers to Madison's memorandum to Walsh,
and Jefferson's letter to Holmes. Let it be noticed
that this reference is made to imply that they
thought Congress had no power on the subject
of slavery in the Territories. Let it be noticed,
too, that the point in dispute in that severe strug-
gle that preceded the adoption of the Missouri
compromise, was not of the power of Congress
over the subject of slavery in the territories, but
of its power to regulate the subject of slavery for
a State at the time of its admission into the Union.
The following extract from the memorandum to
Mr. Walsh is, then, the refutation:

'•' The power, however, be its import what it may, is ob-
viously limited to a Territory while remaining in that char-
acter, as distinct from that of a State."

The Holmes letter is a just condemnation of
freedom entering into bargains and compounding

j felony with slavery by geographical partitions.
As applied to the admission of Missouri, then
applying for admission into the Union, which,
with the restriction, was the subject of that letter,
he questions its expediency, but does not deny
the power, but admits it by speaking of it as an
"act of power." Jefferson avoided this geo-
graphical difficulty in tfie act of 1743, by pro-
posing to exclude slavery from all territory.

i Following his footsteps, if no better pacific alter-

! native is offered, we are preferred to escape geo-

; graphical differences by maintaining this complete
exclusion now.

This question is vital to the national peace,
and prosperity, and honor. Its importance gives
it a controlling position. It is now to be heard

i and submitted to the tribunal of the people. Mr.
Buchanan and Mr. Fremont are r< presentative
men. The former has been rem 'or the

convenient variety of his opinions, lie may be
characterized as holding opinions of accommoda-

• tion, not so much his bw n and for persona) use,
as to oblige others. He is always with the dock,

j but always firings up behind. He dors not lead
the van, but journeys in the rear with the provis-
ion wagons. Honored in private life, he allows
himself to be the idol of a party of great historic
renown, now recruited and principally composed
nf its hereditary enemies, debauched from its
purity and heretical to its faith. H kable


for his vicissitudes of opinion about the Missouri
compromise. He at first opposed it, because
freedom ought, he said, to have all of Louisiana.
He wrote resolutions, uttered speeches, signed
memorials. After the Missouri compromise was
passed, he heartily approved it. From this pe-
riod, he is commended by the Union for his sub-
servience to the South. When Texas was to be
annexed, he saw, with his own eyes, the hand of
Providence leading Ham's poor, enslaved chil-
dren across the Rio Grande to deliverance, and
he filled himself with gladness. When, after-
wards, the slice had been cut from the Mexican
loaf, ar.d the Wilmot proviso was offered, he was
recovered from the disease of freedom to all the
Territories that afflicted him in 1819. The Wilmot
proviso was then inexpedient, fanatical, and rev-
olutionary. He changed his mind once more,
and it ceased to be insane and improper, and then
he and Mr. Douglas were for geographical par-
ties, and pushing the line of 3G°30' to the Pacific.
At this jubilant period he wrote to the Berks
county Democracy, who have interpolated on
their creed the immortality of General Jackson,
that the Missouri compromise had once saved the
Union, and would do so again. The Missouri
compromise was repealed. On account of it he
could not contain himself for joy, on the eve of
the Cincinnati convention, and wrote so to Mr.
Slidell. Bewildered man ! He has turned round
until his head is dizzy, and now rises, after the
nomination, before a collection of friends, and
says, like Rip Van Winkle, out of his long sleep,
he is not himself, and don't know himself. He
is as unsettled in political as in domestic life. In
order to ascertain where he will next make port,
it is necessary to look at that sailing chart, the
Cincinnati platform.

Mr. Pierce's administration is admired by that
convention, and Mr. Buchanan is to do like him.
The President has divided his administration
between weakness and wickedness. I stop, in
specifying, at one accusation. The President has
permitted law and order to be trampled under foot
in Kansas, its franchises violated, its people
conquered , its villages inflamed , its people hunted ,
robbed, murdered — for the sake of extending
slavery into a Territory that he thrice said should
be kept free forever. It has not been a fault of
ignorance. He has known it, winked at it, en-
couraged it. The question is, shall a successor
be chosen to maintain the sovereignty of disorder
and crime; for such as it has been, Mr. Buch-
anan has adopted it all.

Leaving out of consideration altogether the
investigations of the Kansas committee, the ex-
ecutive minutes of Governor Reeder, kept at the
time, and communicated to the President, show
that Kansas was enslaved and conquered by the
election of March, 1855. The President had been
made aware of the armed invasion of November,

1854, and was warned of its probable repetition
in March, but his voice and influence were silent.
Compare the official census of the 3d of March,

1855, with the number of voters on 'the 27th of
the same month, as abstracted from the executive
minutes, and the proof of the invasion and con-
quest is complote.

Census of Voters in Kansas, March 3, 1855, and votes -polled
at the legislative election for Councilmcn and Represent-
atives in the Territorial Legislature, March 30, 1855:




[2,905 ;6,333







a: .2




i: "^




























































If this result is honest, the population seems
to have doubled in less than a lunar month, and
at that inclement season, when, least of all, emi-
gration takes its way to the unbroken wilderness.
The distribution of the invading force was such
as enabled it to conquer every poll but one in the

If, in spite of these figures, and the accumula-
tion of proof which establish the contrived and
effected outrage of the franchises of the citizens
of Kansas, gentlemen still persist in doubting it,
I take them for a moment, and for the sake of
argument, at their word. Let it be granted that
the election of Kansas was an honest election by
the "actual, resident inhabitants" of the Terri-
tory only. The election was an upright, undis-
turbed, unspotted act of government. The judges,
unterrified and unexpelled from their places, were
the serene, official spectators of the great repre-
sentative act of election, and voters came from
quiet homes, even on the margin of the wilder-
ness, to these scenes of peace, and registered their
creation of their own officers of legislation. Let
all this be granted.

But then follows this inevitable conclusion: if
Kansas has such an honest speed of population
that, in twenty-seven days, from the 3d of Mareh,
1855, to the 30th of March, 1855, her voting
population much more than doubled; and if, in
her infancy, she has been able to evince such a
singular decorum and ability in conducting a
popular election, now, at the end of sixteen
months, she is wise enough and populous enough
to be admitted as a State. Jefferson thought
twenty thousand a sufficient population for the
purpose. Kansas has much more. Will gentle-
men who scoff with incredulity at the wrongs of
Kansas, and believe in the fairness of this elec-
tion, now take her as she eomes, bringing her


self-created constitution, and assist in raising her
to the dignity of a State?

But I repel this affectation of unbelief. The
outrage on Kansas is obvious, transparent his-
tory. It was a comprehensive and eomplex po-
litical conspiracy, conceived in the most despised
of sordid passions, detestable in its objects, pro-
moted by bad men, defiant and rebellious to the
laws, aggressive on social and political rights,
made more efficacious by secrecy and conceal-
ment, and conducted to its consequences by such
a course of enormities as have not elsewhere
disgraced the last ages of mankind. Nor, in
order to maintain this, is it necessary to go in
search of outside sources of information — to let-
ter-writers and newspaper information, flippantly
so called, though these are the materials out of
which sober history, by its own analysis and
chemistry, will, in the quiet time to come, derive
its truth and stigmatize this offense. But the fact
is made evident by these plain , irrefragable figures ,
not of speech, but of arithmetic, and of official
exactness, set down in the foregoing tables.

Let us look at them. The Territory of Kan-
sas as organized by the Kansas act lies between
the thirty-seventh and fortieth degrees of lat-
itude. It stretches west, from the western boun-
dary of Missouri, through more than thirteen de-
grees of longitude. To state it approximately, it
is two hundred miles in breadth, and more than
eight hundred miles in length. It appears on the
map like a riband.

And now I bring the accusation, that these
unnatural boundaries were established, inconsist-
ent with the present or future interests or industry
of its inhabitants, for the purpose of aggrandizing
the interests of slavery. It does not reach down
on. the south to the line of thirty-six and a half
degrees, the old Missouri compromise line, in
order that sufficient territory might be left south
of the southern boundary of the Territory to
establish a slave State. Thus here was " a pas-
ture fresh and new," sought for and intended,
deemed certain to become a slave State in the
maturity of time, and therefore not ordained.
And on the north it did not reach to the northern
boundary of Missouri, or further, to its natural
and proper boundary, the Platte, whereby Kan-
sas, instead of being, as it is now, only one fourth
as large as Nebraska, would then have approached
it nearer in size. This was done in order that
Kansas, as it was organized, might be made more
inaccessible to northern population, that it might
be hid away from them behind the corner of
Missouri, and that Missouri, largely interested
in slaveholding, might, along its two hundred
miles of common boundary, impend its overshad-
owing influence over it. So the boundaries of
Kansas were made, nut fir a national good, but
for a sectional good— in the South, to add the
influence of a future state to the interest of a sec-
tion; in the North, and with the same object of
promo tng t] of that section, to shut

out all th from its enjoyment. The

apt condition for criminal enterprises, from the
shape ai in which the Kansas bill left

that . '!'■ v to the conspiracy.

Our d th these official figures.

The area of Kansas is about one hundred and
fifty thousand square miles. At the time of the
census, there was not so much as a voter to every
fifty square miles of territory; or suppose, which
is true, that population was confined along the
principal rivers, and had not yet stretched more
than one fourth the length of the territory, away
from the Missouri boundary, there was not yet
one voter to every twelve square miles. It would
have been extraordinary if one half the enumer-
ated voters had been present at the polls. In a
new country, population is always poor. It
earns and breaks every day its bread of life. At
the time of the Kansas election, the season of
preparation for the summer and autumnal har-
vests was on them. Living at long intervals,
new settlers communicate rarely, and do not make
common sentiment or concert action. In the
Territories, going to vote was deemed less im-
portant, from the immemorial experience of the
considerate benevolence and protection extended
by Congress over the Territories.

At the late Delegate election in Nebraska, four
times larger than Kansas, its machinery of gov-
ernment put in operation earlier, as much within
the flow of emigration, and with a navigable river
for its boundary for a thousand miles, only twelve
hundred votes were polled. Such is only an or-
dinary unconcern about elections in new com-

But, on that election day in Kansas, instead of
fifteen hundred, more than six thousand votes
were polled. On that day Kansas was conquered
— conquered by an invading enemy by the appli-
ances and under the forms of law, that had been
sanctified here for her happiness, peace, and
safety; in outrage of the guarantee to leave her
perfectly free to make and maintain her own laws
subordinate to nothing but the Constitution; in
bold defiance of the national authority, and in
subversion of the social and political rights, not
j of themselves only, but of all of us. To the
! national shame, that conquest has been permitted
j to endure. And we hesitate to vindicate the na-
tional authority that has been insulted, and remain
. deaf to the cries of distress from the youngest
child born to us out of the public domain by the
creative vigor of our laws.

At the first exercise, then, of the great act of
- sovereignty by a popular election in the Terri-
tory of Kansas, in the whole bounds of which
there were only 2,905 voters, there was the aston-
ishing result of 6,333 votes. A majority of those
who conducted that election were strangers to the
inhabitants and to the soil of Kansas. This is
your public official history. Even on the sup-
position, that every registered citizen shared in
that election, the invaders, numerically greater,
beoame the illegitimate masters of the franchises
of Kansas. The true people of the Territory
were crushed out by those who were not within
the privileges and qualifications of the organic

The invasion was only the ripening of a pre-
viously formed conspiracy. Here the offense
rises to the turpitude of crime. It was a con-
spiracy, because such masses of men could not,
otherwise, have been precipitated together on the


Territory, without preconcert, and without a
common object. It was a secret conspiracy, or,
otherwise, some curious ear or some omnipresent ]
Argus of the press would have caught a knowledge
of it, and the world been told the processes by j
which a great crime is born. It was a conspiracy i
to conquer the franchises of Kansas, and trample J
its independence under foot, because its whole j
weight was directed on the election, as the mis- 1
sile is thrown at a mark. It had no other object, '
because it sought no other object. It compre- j
hended its criminal numbers over a large terri-
tory, because such numbers could not have been j
recruited and mustered in a limited territory. \
Its appointments were made with a happy saga- '
city of criminal machinery. Its execution was j
wide-spread and far reaching, for with hands
multiplied as Briareus's, it seized by violence, at
the same moment, every ballot-box but one, of
the whole Territory. It was a conspiracy, not ]
only to subordinate the law to violence, but to
disfranchise a whole people from the protection
of the laws. It was not merely a political dis- 1
order, but a great political crime. Its whole j
muster-roll was made up in the South.

Nor is it necessary to characterize the quality
of such conquerors, when conduct and character
have such steady consistency with each other.
Society, in its own modes of purification, is all
the time sloughing away its prurient and sickly
members, who, after being trained in the schools
that lie on the road to the penitentiary and the :
gallows, for a short season cheat their manifest
destiny, and unite in criminal enterprises like this,
in morals as ragged and tatterdemalion as the
memorable regiment that dogged at Falstaff's
back through Coventry. The whisky barrel,
that new munition of modern arms, that obtrudes
itself as the center figure throughout this whole
epic, and at whose dear sides these swaggering
heroes strode, is the tell-tale of the moral dignity
of these conquerors of Kansas. And this con-
spiracy, concerted, clandestine, comprehensive,
gigantic in dimensions and organized with the
exactness, and conducted in the fashion and with
the accompaniments, of military enterprise, was
meant to undo your own work, to destroy the
popular sovereignty lately ordained for Kansas
under such specious and ostentatious words as
implied that you conferred novel and extraordi-
nary powers on the people of that Territory.
The invasion was a treasonable act, but no ex-
ecutive step has been taken to punish the offend-

The last Congress, with the arrogance that
belongs to mediocrity when suddenly raised to
authority, exalted itself above the steady and
consistently wise government of the Territories,
that had prevailed for three-score years and ten,
and of which the Missouri compromise was a
part, and repealed that measure. By similar
legislation under Washington, Jefferson, Madi-
son, and Jackson, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Mich-
igan, and Wisconsin, had come out of the wilder-
ness and entered the family of States, at once
full of happiness and riches, and ripe in freedom
and knowledge. The Missouri restriction of
1820 created a new northwest on the "sunset

side of the Mississippi," and was working out
its end. The Kansas and Nebraska bill repealed
it. It was done without any one asking for it.
It said in argument, " the people of the Territo-
ries have been permitted to make their own laws,
except on one subject — slavery. The Missouri
compromise is a congressional restraint on that
power. For the people's sake, and for their
larger liberty," it said " it shall be removed."
It was done amid universal execration and dis-
may. " Now," it said, " the people of Kansas
can determine the question for themselves."
These words were a delusion. The South was
caught in no such stupidity. It claimed , as soon as
the law was passed, that slavery might lawfully
enter the Territories, and before any Territorial
Legislature existed in Kansas, Governor Reeder
made return in his census report of one hundred
and ninety-two slaves there. The President
knew of it, and thus first acquiesced in the ex-
traordinary construction, that the people of the
Territory have no power over the subject of sla-
very. And now every Administration member
of this body, who has expressed himself on the
subject, holds that the people of the Territory
have no right to exclude slavery.

When Senator Trumbull asked Senator Doug-
las, some time ago, in the Senate, if he believed
in the power of the people of Kansas, under the
Kansas bill, to prohibit slavery, he answered, it
was a delicate judicial question he should not try
to answer. It was a judicial question under the
Missouri compromise. Senator Douglas had
maintained in the celebrated report accompany-
ing the Kansas bill — if the object was to get a
judicial question merely, why not leave the Mis-
souri compromise in force ? Or, if the Kansas
bill gives no power on that subject, why not say
it raises a judicial question, instead of that it gives
the people sovereignty over the subject of slavery ?
And if it does not give the people sovereignty on
this question, what popular sovereignty do they
enjoy, that they have not had under every terri-
torial law since 1787? And if it does give the
power, because slavery is a domestic institution,
does it also give to Utah the right of multiplying
wives by statutes? But this cry is now at an
end. The very authors of this measure, who say
the Kansas Legislature is a legal one, have lately
passed a bill repealing a portion of their laws,
and now show that they have abandoned their
dogma. Even the gentleman from Georgia, [Mr.
Stephens,] in the able argument to which I have
already referred, in which he contends for the
sovereignty of the people of Kansas, and the reg-
ularity of its Legislature, was at that very mo-
ment, in fact, denying both, by tendering to this
House a bill to repeal part of its laws. The gen-
tleman from Georgia avowed a regard for the
sovereignty of Kansas, made manifest in her
laws, while holding in hand, at the same mo-
ment, a proposition to repeal them, as if he him-
self believed in the power.

So, the conspiracy against Kansas was only a
sequel of that legislation, and both were meant
to extend slavery. And therefore it was, at its
fatal conception, the North heaved tumultuous-
ly, as if an earthquake underlaid it — because it


entered the sanctuary of an old compact and pro-
faned it — because it made slavery possible where
it had been outlawed since 1800, and, in the midst
of a century of Christianity and knowledge, in-
augurating human slavery as the controlling influ-

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Online LibraryJohn Upfold PettitSpeech of Hon. John U. Pettit, of Indiana, on the restoration of the Missouri compromise → online text (page 4 of 6)