Stephen Arnold Douglas.

A brief treatise upon constitutional and party questions and the history of political parties, as I received it orally from the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas online

. (page 6 of 11)
Online LibraryStephen Arnold DouglasA brief treatise upon constitutional and party questions and the history of political parties, as I received it orally from the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas → online text (page 6 of 11)
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sion of Kansas into the Union, under the Topeka
Constitution, was substituted, and sent to the Senate
for concurrence. The Senate disagreed to the
amendment of the House, and the bill was lost by
the disagreement of the two Houses. It was evi
dent during all the proceedings that the Republicans
were as anxious to ~keep the Kansas question open as
the Democrats were to close it, in view of the ap
proaching Presidential election.

The Kansas question became the all-absorbing
question in the Presidential election of 1856, and
came near defeating the election of Mr. Buchanan.
"When the result of the Presidential election was
known, the public mind settled down into the gen
eral belief that he would insure a fair expression of
the popular opinion in Kansas, in the settlement of
their domestic institutions. During the winter of
1856 and 1857, the Territorial Legislature of Kansas
passed an act providing for the election of delegates
to a Convention to frame a Constitution prepara
tory to their admission into the Union. By this act
it was provided that there should be a registry
made of all the legal voters in each of the counties


of the Territory, with a view of insuring a fair elec
tion, and of excluding all illegal voters; and that
when said registry should be completed, it should
be the duty of the Governor to apportion the dele
gates among the different counties, in proportion
to the number of legal voters as shown by the reg

Soon after his inauguration Mr. Buchanan ap
pointed Eobert J. Walker Governor and F. P. Stan-
ton Secretary of the Territory of Kansas. Mr.
Stanton repaired to the Territory immediately, and
performed the duties of Governor until the arrival
of Mr. Walker, who was detained at Washington
several weeks. When the registry of legal voters
was returned to Mr. Stanton, he made the apportion
ment in accordance with the returns, although it
was subsequently shown that fifteen counties, being
nearly one-half of the counties in the Territory,
had been omitted in the returns, no votes having
been registered in those counties. When Mr.
Walker was first appointed Governor he declined
to accept the appointment, but was induced to re
consider, 1 at the personal solicitation of Mr. Buchan
an, and of other friends, and at last consented to
accept it, on the condition that upon the compari
son of opinions between himself, the President, and


his Cabinet, it should be found that they concurred
in the policy that the Constitution to be formed by
the convention, which had been provided for, should
be submitted to the people for ratification or rejec
tion, at a fair election, to be held in pursuance of
law, for that purpose, before it should be sent to
Congress for acceptance. Mr. Buchanan and his
entire Cabinet agreed to this condition as the line
of policy to be pursued by the Federal administra
tion. Governor Walker, while yet at Washington,
prepared his inaugural address to the people of
Kansas, in which he urged the people of all parties
in Kansas to vote for delegates at the election which
was about to be held, with the assurance that the
convention would assemble only for the purpose of
framing a Constitution to be submitted to the people
for ratification or rejection, and not for the purpose
of adopting a Constitution to be put in force with
out ratification. In this inaugural address, Gov
ernor Walker assured the people of Kansas that in
the event that the Constitution should not be sub
mitted to the people for ratification, and should not
be ratified by a majority of the legal voters at such
election, he would use his best efforts to defeat the
admission of Kansas under such Constitution, and
that he was authorized to say that the President and


every member of his Cabinet endorsed this position.
When Governor Walker left Washington en route
for Kansas, he stopped one day in Chicago to con
sult with me, as he stated, at the request of the
President, and to see whether I would endorse and
sanction the line of policy upon which they had
agreed in respect to the submission of the Constitu
tion to the people ; and in order that I might under
stand precisely what that position was, Governor
Walker read his inaugural address to me, as slightly
modified ty interlineations in the handwriting of
the President of the United States himself. I said
to Governor Walker that while I did not precisely
comprehend what right the President and his Cabi
net had to interfere with the convention, by insist
ing that the Constitution should be submitted to the
people, yet as a Senator who would have to vote for
or against the admission of Kansas under the Consti
tution, I had no hesitation in saying that I should
require satisfactory evidence that the Constitution
was the act and deed of the people of Kansas, and
a faithful embodiment of their will, and that I
should regard a ratification by the people at a fair
election held for that purpose as the best evidence
of that fact. With this assurance Governor Walker
proceeded to Kansas, and published his inaugural


address, containing these pledges on behalf of him
self and of the President and his Cabinet, that the
Constitution must be submitted to the people before
Kansas could be admitted into the Union under it.

When the fact was made known to Governor
Walker that there conld not be a fair election of
delegates by the whole people of Kansas, for the
reason that nearly one-half of the counties had
been omitted in the registration of votes, and con
sequently deprived of the privilege of electing dele
gates to the convention, he issued an address to the
people, in which he acknowledged the great wrong
which had been done them in the omission to regis
ter all the votes in all the counties, and regretted
that he had no power, under the law, to correct
the error, and appealed to the people to go to the
polls, and vote in those counties where a registry
had been made, and to trust to the fair dealing of
the convention, with the assurance which had been
given by the President and his Cabinet, and which
he renewed for himself, that the whole people of
Kansas would have an opportunity of voting for or
against the Constitution, when it should be submit
ted to the people for ratification or rejection. Many
of the people of Kansas, still being sceptical, and
doubting whether such an opportunity would be


afforded them, called upon the candidates for dele
gates to pledge themselves in writing to agree to no
Constitution which should not be submitted to the
people for ratification. In the county of Douglas,
which was the largest in the Territory, such a
pledge was prepared, signed, and published by
John Calhoun, who was subsequently president of
the convention, and by all of his associates on the
ticket, and upon that pledge they were elected dele
gates. It is believed, and I am very certain, that
similar pledges were given in several other counties,
and during the entire canvass for the election of
delegates it was conceded that the convention was
merely to frame a Constitution, and submit it to the
people for ratification, and not to put it in operation
without ratification.

During that summer, and before the Lecompton
Convention assembled, a convention was held, com
posed of delegates from all the counties in the Ter
ritory, to nominate a delegate to Congress, to be
supported by the Democratic party at the October
election ; and with a view of securing the votes of
the entire Democratic party, free State men as well
as proslavery men, a resolution was adopted by a
vote of forty to one, pledging the Democratic party

to submit the Constitution, which should be framed


by the Lecompton Convention, to the people for
ratification or rejection. The Lecompton Conven
tion assembled two or three weeks previous to the
Territorial election, which was to be held on the
first Monday in October, for the election of a dele
gate to Congress, and for members of the Territorial
Legislature, and after organizing by the election of
officers, and the appointment of committees, and
reference to them of the various parts of the pro
posed Constitution, the convention adjourned, or
took a recess, until after the October election, for
the purpose, as it was subsequently avowed, of as
certaining whether the proslavery party or free
State party had a majority in the Territory, so far
as that fact could be determined by the results fur
nished by that election. When it became known
that the Freesoil party had carried the election by
an overwhelming majority, the convention then de
termined that they would not submit the Constitu
tion to ths people, for fear that it would be rejected
if they did so, and therefore determined to submit
only one clause, which recognized and established
the institution of slavery in the Territory, and this
clause was submitted in such a form as compelled
every man who voted for it or against it, to vote
for the whole Constitution at the same time, and in


the event his vote was challenged, to take an oath
to support that Constitution. By this trick, for I
can fairly call it so, no man was permitted to vote
for or against the slavery clause without voting for
the Constitution, when there were provisions in the
Constitution itself, elsewhere : , and in other parts,
than the slavery clause, recognizing and establishing
slavery, so that it would he a slave State, whether
the proslavery clause was adopted or rejected.

When Congress assembled in December, 1857,
the President of the United States, in his annual
message, recommended to Congress to admit Kansas
into the Union under the Lecompton Constitution,
without reference to the question whether the pro-
slavery clause should or should not be adopted, and
without submitting the Coiistitution to the ratifica
tion or rejection of the people.

The moment the Secretary of the Senate had
concluded the reading of the message, Mr. Douglas
rose, and expressed his dissent from so much of the
message as related to the admission of Kansas under
the Lecompton Constitution, and on the next day he
delivered a speech, in which he gave his reasons for
such dissent. He objected to the admission of
Kansas, under that Constitution, not because of any
particular provisions which it contained, but because


there was no satisfactory evidence that it was the act
and deed of the people of Kansas, or that it em
bodied their willy but, on the contrary, that there
was abundance of evidence which warranted the con
clusion, that at least two-thirds, if not four-fifths of
the entire population of Kansas were irreconcilably
opposed to it. He stated that his opinions or action
on the admission of Kansas under that Constitution
would not be in the slightest degree affected by the
vote which was to be had on the 21st of that month,
for or against the pro-slavery clause, for the reason
that they had a right to be heard in respect to the
other provisions of the Constitution, as well as that
one. In other words, lie maintained that Congress
had no right to force a Territory into the Union as
a State, against their wishes, or to force upon them
a Constitution or institutions against their wills.

After the result of the election of the 21st of De
cember, on the adoption of the pro-slavery clause,
was made known, Mr. Calhoun, president of the
Convention, who was also Surveyor-General for the
Territories of Kansas and Nebraska, a Federal office
holder, and therefore under the influence of Mr.
Buchanan, holding office by his appointment, in
stead of complying with the directions of the Le-
compton Convention, to transmit the Constitution


direct to Congress, took it to the President of the
United States, who himself transmitted it to Con
gress, accompanied by a special message, in which
he gave his reasons for the admission of Kansas into
the Union under it. It was in this message that
Mr. Buchanan declared, that it had been decided
by the highest judicial tribunal in the land, " that
slavery exists in Kansas ly virtue of the Constitu
tion of the United States" and therefore that Kansas
was at that moment as much a slave State as
Georgia or South Carolina, and that there was no
possible mode in whicli slavery could be abolished
therein, or excluded therefrom, but by the admission
of Kansas into the Union as a State.

The Senate passed the bill for the admission of
Kansas under the Lecompton Constitution, which
was amended in the House of Representatives, by
striking out all after the enacting clause, and substi
tuting another bill, which is known as the Critten-
d en-Montgomery amendment, in consequence of its
having been offered by Mr. Crittenden in the Senate,
where it was rejected, and renewed in the House by
Mr. Montgomery, of Pennsylvania. The Senate
refused to agree to the amendment of the House,
and after much contention between the two Houses,
a Committee of Conference was appointed, composed


of three members from each House, who prepared
and reported to their respective Houses a substitute
for the entire bill, which is known as the English

/ o

amendment, and which was concurred in by the
two Houses, and became the law of the land.

This bill, as it passed, provided in substance
that an election should be held in Kansas, for or
against the acceptance of certain land grants which
were made in the bill to the proposed State of
Kansas, for the purposes of education and internal
improvements ; and if at such election a majority of
the votes cast should be in favor of the acceptance
of said land grants, such vote should be deemed a
ratification of the Lecompton Constitution, and evi
dence a desire to come into the Union under it ; but
that, in the event a majority of the votes at that
election should be cast against the land grants, the
people of Kansas should remain in a territorial con
dition until the Territory should contain ninety-
three thousand four hundred and twenty inhabit
ants. At the election provided for in the bill, the
people rejected the land grants by a majority of
eight to one, and consequently rejected the Lecomp
ton Constitution, and thus it died.

The Montgomery amendment provided, in sub-
stance, that the Lecompton Constitution should be


submitted to the legal voters of Kansas for ratifica
tion or rejection, at a fair election to be held for
that purpose, and if at such election a majority of
the votes should be cast in favor of this measure,
the President of the United States should issue his
proclamation declaring Kansas a State of the Union,
on an equal footing with the original States ; but if
a majority of the votes at such election should be
cast against the measure, then the people of Kansas
were at liberty to proceed to call another Conven
tion, and frame a new Constitution, with which,
when submitted to and ratified by the people, Kansas
should be admitted into the Union. The chief dif
ference between this measure and the English bill,
consisted in the fact, that under the Crittenden
amendment, if Kansas rejected the Lecompton Con
stitution, she could proceed at once to make a new
one, and come into the Union with the same popu
lation ; but by the English bill, if Kansas accepted
the Lecompton Constitution, she could come into
the Union with thirty-five thousand people, but if
she rejected it, she must stay out until she had
ninety-three thousand four hundred and twenty.
The adoption of the Crittenden-Montgomery amend
ment, and the refusal to pass the Senate bill for the
admission of Kansas under the Lecompton Consti-

tution, was a defeat of the administration, for they
staked every thing upon the admission of Kansas
under the Leeompton Constitution, without sending
it back to the people for ratification or rejection.
When defeated in this attempt, they took shelter
under the English bill, by submitting the question
to the people of Kansas in an indirect and unfair
manner ', but still in such a manner as enabled the
people of Kansas to reject it, by voting against the
land grants, which they ardently desired, and which
were a bribe to have them vote for it, accompanied
with a penalty, if they did not, of being obliged to
remain out of the Union until they had ninety-three
thousand four hundred and twenty inhabitants.
Here was a bribe and a threat. The rejection of
the English bill by the people of Kansas rendered
the defeat of the administration complete in all re
spects, and was equivalent to an unconditional rejec
tion of the Leeompton Constitution by the Congress
at first, with the exception that they gained the
provision of the English bill, forcing Kansas to re
main out of the Union until it should have a largely
increased population.

I supported the Crittenden- Montgomery amend
ment, which would have carried out fully all my
wishes and principles, but I opposed violently the
English bill.


Question. In 1852 both "Whigs and Democrats
endorsed the compromise measures. What became
of the Whig party after the defeat of Scott, and
what was the origin of the Eepublican and Know-
Nothing parties ?

Answer. The Whigs were so badly beaten, hav
ing carried only four States, that they were utterly
dispirited, and very unwisely broke up their party
organization and disbanded. Soon after, in 1854,
the Kansas-Nebraska Bill came before the country,
and there arose an anti-Nebraska party, into which
most of the Whigs went. This party kept the name
Anti-Nebraska for more than a year and a half, and,
in 1856 ? took the name of the Republican party.

In the spring of 1854, pending the Nebraska
Bill, the Know-Nothing party arose silently and
secretly. The first that was known of it was, when
in parts of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, New Orleans,
and other places, persons were elected to office who
were not in nomination, and not known to be run
ning till after elected, and when in Washington peo
ple were driven from the polls. This party gave vi
tality and strength to the Republican party. Nearly
all the Republicans throughout the country went
into its lodges ; and a member from Tennessee, by

some means, got hold of the names of the Repub-


lican members of Congress who were members, and
made a speech in the House, in which he called
them by name and defied them to deny it. The
party struck terror everywhere among the Demo
crats, and threatened to gain absolute possession of
the Government. I tried to get the Democrats in
caucus to denounce it, but they refused, and were
afraid. General Cass said to me that I had enough
to contend with, and could not carry on my shoul
ders opposition to this new element. I was the first
Democrat to make a speech against it. I did so at
Independence Hall, Philadelphia. The party re
ceived the name Know-Nothing, because its mem
bers were instructed to answer u I know nothing "
to all questions put to them. It had not principles
to make a party no great issues. It first split be
tween the North and South Americans on the sla
very question, and it finally died quickly, being
nothing more nor less than the present Republican
party merged into it.

I refer you to my speeches in the Senate for the
whole argument on the Kansas-Nebraska Act. I
passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act myself. I had the
authority and power of a dictator throughout the
whole controversy in both houses. The speeches
were nothing. It was the marshalling and direct-


ing of men, and guarding from attacks, and with a
ceaseless vigilance preventing surprise.

In opposition, Seward's and Simmer's speeches
were mere essays against slavery. Chase, of Ohio,
was the leader. Bell never made a speech that was
an argument.


The name of Squatter Sovereignty was first ap
plied by Mr. Calhoun, in a debate in the United
States Senate in 1848, between himself and General
Cass, in respect to the right of the people of Cali
fornia to institute a government for themselves after
the Mexican jurisdiction had been withdrawn from
them, and before the laws of the United States had
been extended over them. General Cass contended
that in such a case the people had a right, an inher
ent and inalienable right, to institute a government
for themselves and for their own protection. Mr.
Calhoun replied, that with the exception of the na
tive Californians, the inhabitants of that country
were mere squatters upon the public domain, who
had gone there in vast crowds, without the authority
of law, and were in fact trespassers as well as squat
ters upon the public lands, and to recognize their


right to set up a government for themselves was to
assert the doctrine of Squatter Sovereignty. The
term had no application to an organized Territory
under the authority of Congress, or to the powers
of such organized Territory, but was applied solely
to an unorganized country whose existence was not
recognized by law. On the other hand, what is
called Popular Sovereignty in the Territories, is a
phrase used to designate the right of the people of
an organized Territory, under the Constitution and
laws of the United States, to govern themselves in
respect to their own internal polity and domestic



UNMISTAKABLE indications were given, in the
convention which framed the Federal Constitution,
of radical differences of opinion in respect to the
character of the Federal Government which they
were about to form, and which subsequently, to
some extent, entered into the formation of political

There were two parties in the convention ar
rayed upon the same question, whether a national
Government should first be established for the
United States, or whether the system of confeder
ated and sovereign States should be continued, with
such modifications as experience had proven to be

Alexander Hamilton was the leader of the ex-


treme national party, who wished to establish a
strong national Government, and proposed to elect
a President for life ; Senators for life ; members of
the House for a long term of years ; the Governors
of the States to be appointed by the President of
the United States, and all legislative enactments by
the States to be subject to the approval or disap
proval of the United States. Mr. Madison and Mr.
Randolph, of Virginia, while they did not go to the
full length of Mr. Hamilton's views, leaned strongly
in that direction ; while Mr. George Mason, of Vir
ginia, the Eutledges of Carolina, and others, were
content with the Articles of Confederation, with
slight modifications. Jealousies also arose between
the large States and the small ones ; the former con
tending for a voice in the Federal Government in
proportion to population, while the latter insisted
that each State, being a sovereign power, should
have an equal voice in the Federal Government,
without reference to population. These conflicting
interests prevented either party from carrying out
its entire plan, and coerced a compromise, in which
all yielded more or less of their opinions. The re
sult was the present Constitution. General Wash
ington was neutral, though leaning to the strong
Government, the Federal side.


After the Federal Government was organized,
the school of politicians of which Colonel Hamilton
was the head, endeavored to make the present Con
stitution, Try construction, mean what they would
have made it, if they had wielded the power in the
convention, while the extreme State Rights men en
deavored to curtail the powers of the Federal Gov
ernment by the opposite rules of construction ; while
others, of which Mr. Madison was the most distin
guished, endeavored to give the Government a fair
trial under the Constitution as it had been made
and adopted.

The first question of any considerable import
ance which brought these two systems into conflict,
was the charter of the Bank of the United States

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Online LibraryStephen Arnold DouglasA brief treatise upon constitutional and party questions and the history of political parties, as I received it orally from the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas → online text (page 6 of 11)