Secession Era Editorials Project

Slavery in the New Territories.

Detroit, Michigan, Free Press [Democratic]

(15 January 1854)

We do not, ordinarily, deem it necessary to refute misrepresentations of what we may say, especially when such misrepresentations are of a character to furnish the antidote for their own poison. There is a paper in this city whose editor is a professed minister of the Gospel, but were we to judge of him by the tone and temper of his sheet, we should be forced to the conclusion that he is a minister of almost anything else. That paper of Friday, -- we refer to the Democrat, -- contained the following:

"This morning's Free Press has a feeble dough- faced article, advising the surrender of Nebraska to the slave power, the trampling upon the Missouri Compromise, and the entire prostration of the Northern Democratic party, at the foot of the slave power. A man who can court degradation so base, must loathe and despise himself.

The allegations above, -- that we advised "the surrender of Nebraska to the slave power, and the trampling upon the Missouri Compromise," - were made, knowing them to be false, or else they are mere images, creations of the writer's brain. Our impression is that the first of the two suppositions is true; and, were it the only exhibition of a satanic spirit in the same quarter, we should be induced to throw over it the mantle of charity; but it is not, and we therefore record it as another specimen of moral knavery of which no one but a backsliding priest would be guilty.

The bill reported by the Committee on Territories in the United States Senate, the doctrines of which we sustained, in the article to which allusion is made, contemplates that the Territory of Nebraska shall be unrestricted by Congress in respect to her domestic laws and local regulations -- that all questions of territorial legislation shall be left to the people inhabiting said territory. This is no new doctrine. It is the doctrine, emphatically, of Gen. Cass' Nicholson letter, and of the compromise measures of 1850; and its advocacy, as applied to Nebraska, neither surrenders this territory to the slave power, or tramples upon the Missouri compromise. It leaves the subject of slavery where every other local question is left - - in the hands of the people directly interested. If they elect to have slavery, the responsibility is with them. If they elect not to have it, they in like manner set upon their own responsibility. -- But whatever their decision may be, it cannot be rightfully interfered with by any other power.

The enforcement of this principle is the only truly catholic and democratic mode of dealing with the territories. It is simply recognizing, to its proper limit, the great principle of the right of the people, every where, to self-government. - Any other principle would be monarchical and arbitrary, and would, moreover, be trampling upon human rights.

We have no fear of slavery going into any of the new western territories. The growth or abatement of that institution is controled by natural laws, which human legislation cannot very much affect. If the writer in the Democrat had a more abiding confidence in Omnipotence, he would be less a fanatic, and have a better conception of his political duties under the constitution and laws of the country, than at present.

We can conceive of no degradation so loathsome as that in which a professed minister of the Gospel revels, when he so far forgets his sacred obligations as to utter and publish a deliberate lie.

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