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CHAPTER XVI.

MEETING OF THE THIRTY-THIRD CONGRESS IN DECEMBER, 1853–EXTRACT FROM THE MEssage of PRESIDENT PIERCE—PLEDGEs HIMSELF IN BEHALF OF THE QUIET AND HARMONY OF THE COUNTRY-NEBRASELA BILL INTRODUCED INTO THE SENATE BY Mr. DOUGLAS-EXTRACTS FROM THE REPORT WHICH ACCOMPANIED THE BILL–REPEAL OF MISSOURI RESTRICTION PROPOSED By MR. Dixon, of KENTUCKY—MR. SUMNER's countER-PROPOSITION.—DENUNCLATIONS BY THE “washDNGTON UNION” of THE AMENDMENTs of SENATORs DIXON AND sum NER—“THE SOUTH wind THICK witH STORM'—MR. Douglas PROPOSES THE REPEAL OF THE MISSOURI RESTRICTION.—MODIFICATION OF THE ALLEGED GROUND OF REPEAL-THE ADMINISTRATION PLEDGES rtsELF To THE PRINCIPLE of “NON-INTERVENTION” EMBODIED IN THE NEBRASKA BILL.

Pio PIERCE, in his first annual message, submitted to Congress on the 6th of December, 1853, felicitated his countrymen upon the prevailing peace and quiet. “We are not only at peace with all the world,” he said, “but in regard to political affairs, we are exempt from any cause of serious disquietude in our domestic relations. The controversies which have agitated the country heretofore, are passing away with the causes that produced them and the passions they had awakened; or, if any trace of them remains, it may be reasonably hoped that it will only be perceived in the zealous rivalry of all good citizens to testify their respect for the rights of the States, their devotion to the Union, and their common determi

PLEDGES OF PRESIDENT PIERCE. 135

nation that each one of the States, its institutions, its welfare, and its domestic peace, shall be held alike secure under the sacred aegis of the Constitution.” He declared his fixed purpose to maintain, so far as responsibility rested with him, the quiet and harmony of the country. “It is no part of my purpose to give prominence,” he said, “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 fulfill the object of a wise design. When the grave shall have closed over all 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.” These were the pledges of President Pierce made to the people of the country on the 6th of December, 1853. On the 4th of January, 1854, Mr. Douglas, of Illinois, chairman of the Committee on Territories, reported in the Senate a bill for establishing a government in the Territory of Nebraska. This bill contained no express repeal of the Missouri Compromise restriction, nor did it prohibit slavery; but was accompanied by a report, in which the committee said that they refrained from entering upon any controversy with respect to the constitutional validity of the Missouri restriction (which had been questioned), as “it would involve the same issues which produced the agitation, the sectional strife, and the fearful struggle of 1850. As 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-property—so we are not prepared to recommend a departure from the course pursued on that memorable occasion, either by affirming or repealing the eighth section of the Missouri act, or by any act declaratory of the meaning of the Constitution in respect to the legal points in dispute,” but the committee submitted a section at the same time, in these words: “That in order to avoid all misconstruction, it is hereby declared to be the true intent and meaning of this act, so far as the question of slavery is concerned, to carry into practical operation the following propositions and principles, established by the compromise measures of one thousand eight hundred and fifty, to wit: First. That all questions pertaining to slavery in the Territories, and in the new States to be formed therefrom, are to be left to the decision of the people residing therein, through their appropriate representatives. Second. That “all cases involving title to slaves’ and “questions of personal freedom,’ are referred to the adjudication of the local tribunals, with the right of appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. Third. That the provisions of the Constitution and the laws of the United States in respect to fugitives from service, are to be carried into faithful execution in all the ‘organized Territories’ the same as in the States.” On the 16th of January Mr. Dixon, a Whig Senator from Kentucky, gave notice that when the Nebraska Bill should come up for consideration, he should move as an amendment, that so much of the Missouri Compromise Act as excluded slavery from the territory ceded by France to the United States, which lies north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes, should not be construed to apply to the act for organizing a territorial government in Nebraska, but that the citizens of the several States and Territories should be at liberty to take and hold their slaves within any of the Territories or of the States to be formed from them. Mr. Dixon afterward explained that he was a pro-slavery man from a slaveholding State, and represented a slaveholding con

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stituency; and that it was his purpose to maintain their rights whenever any question affecting them was brought before the people. Where slavery was concerned, he declared he was neither Whig nor Democrat. The next day—Tuesday, January 17th—Mr. Sumner gave notice that he should move as an amendment to the bill that nothing contained in it should be construed to abrogate or in any way contravene the section in the Missouri Compromise Act, which forever prohibited slavery in all the territory ceded by France lying north of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes. Mr. Douglas gave notice at the same time that he should, on the next Monday (January 23d), move to take up the Nebraska Bill. He said he gave this notice in order to call the attention of Senators to the subject. The newspaper organ of General Pierce's Administration— the Washington Union, on Friday, January 20th–denounced the proposed amendments of both Mr. Dixon and Mr. Sumner, as coming from members of two parties irreconcilably opposed to Democratic ascendency. “It may be well for us to scrutinize with care the movements of those who are our uniform opponents. That abolitionists would rejoice to see the fires of discord rekindled by the revival of the slavery agitation, no one can doubt. Those who have perused the extracts from Senator Sumner's speech, which we lately published, will be slow to suppose that agitation is not his object in offering his amendment. On the other hand, there is nothing in the past history of the Whig party which ought to make it offensive in us to say, that of late years its only hopes of ascendency have been based upon the slavery agitation in some one of its forms. . . . Prudence, patriotism, devotion to the Union, the interest of the Democratic party, all suggest that that public sentiment which now acquiesces cheerfully in the principles of the Compromise of 1850, should not be inconsiderately disturbed. The triumphant election of President Pierce shows that on this basis the hearts and the judgments of the people are with the Democracy. We venture to suggest that it is well worthy of consideration, whether a faithful adherence to the creed which has been so triumphantly indorsed by THE PEOPLE, does not require all good Democrats to hesitate and reflect maturely upon any proposition which any member of our party can object to as an interpolation upon that creed. In a word, it would be wise in all Democrats to consider whether it would not be safest to let well enough alone. To repeal the Missouri Compromise might, and according to our view, would clear the principle of congressional non-intervention of all embarrassment; but we doubt whether the good thus promised is so important that it would be wise to seek it through the agitation which necessarily stands in our path. Upon a calm review of the whole ground, we yet see no such reasons for disturbing the Compromise of 1820, as could induce us to advocate either of the amendments proposed to Mr. Douglas's bill.” In the same article the Union said, however—“It will be remembered that the bill, as proposed by Mr. Douglas, reënacts and applies to Nebraska the clause on slavery adopted in the Compromise of 1850. That clause is silent as to the question of slavery during the territorial condition of the inhabitants, but expressly recognizes and asserts their right to come into the Union as a State, either with or without the 'institution of slavery, as they may determine in their constitution.” So far the peace of the country was undisturbed by a new slavery agitation. But now what?—

44 Eurus, Notusque ruunt, creberque procellis,
Africus,”

said Mr. Chase, quoting. “Yes, sir, ‘creter procellis Africus’ —the south wind thick with storm.” On Monday, the 23d of January, Mr. Douglas asked permission to make a report from the Committee on Territories, in relation to the Nebraska Bill, which had been set apart for consideration that day. He said that the committee had concluded to recommend the division of the proposed Territory of Nebraska into two Territories, and to change—of course—the boundary; the second to be called Kansas. “We have prepared our amendment,” he said, “in the form of a substitute, to come in lieu of the bill which we have already reported. We have also incorporated into it one or two other amendments, which make the provisions of the bill upon other and more delicate questions clear and specific, so as to avoid all conflict of opinion.” He asked that the substitute be printed, so that Senators could

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