Secession Era Editorials Project

A Crisis.

Detroit, Michigan, Free Press [Democratic]

(27 January 1854)

It is obvious that a crisis is approaching when the good faith and sincerity of all those men in every State of the Union who have professed to stand upon the democratic platform, and who have yielded acquiescence in the compromise measures of 1850, are to be brought to a practical test. -- And we are glad that it is so. We are glad that every man's faith, who makes protestations of democratic fealty, is to be tried by the touchstone of principle; for principle is the only bond of party union and party strength. No political organization can long survive that is made up of discordant elements. If the democratic party is not now pure, it cannot be too soon purified. If there are those within its pale who look one way and row another -- whose professions are hollow and false -- the sooner expurgation shall take place, the better for the party and the country.

The question of the organization of a territorial government for Nebraska will afford the test to which we have alluded. The bill providing for such a government, reported by Mr. Douglas, from the Senate Committee on Territories, imbodies the principles of the compromise of 1850. Such is our understanding of that bill. By it, Congress simply erects a government and sets its wheels in motion, without legislating, or attempting to legislate, for the local interests of the new territory -- leaving all such legislation to the immediate representatives of the people of the territory themselves.

But it is said that Mr. Douglass' bill virtually repeals the Missouri compromise. So it does; or, so it ought, if it does not. What is the Missouri compromise? Let us see. In the first place, it provided for the admission of Missouri into the Union with a constitution tolerating slavery; and then it stipulated -

"That in all that territory ceded by France to the United States, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of 36 deg. 30 min. north latitude, not included within the limits of the State contemplated by this act, slavery and involuntary servitude, otherwise than in punishment of crimes whereof the parties shall have been duly convicted, shall be, and hereby is, prohibited forever."

This is the Missouri compromise; and the Wilmot proviso is nothing more, and nothing less, in principle. If, therefore, the Wilmot proviso is unconstitutional, (and such is the democratic doctrine,) the Missouri compromise is also unconstitutional, and should be repealed.

The compromise measures of 1850, in effect, abrogated the Missouri compromise. They declared the principle, -- and enforced it in respect to Utah and New Mexico, -- upon which new territories should be organized. That principle was the entire right and freedom of the people of the territories to regulate their own internal affairs -- to legislate for themselves -- a principle to deny the correctness of which is to deny the great fundamental doctrine of the right of the people everywhere to self government.

States are sovereign. Nobody now-a-days denies their right, whatever arbitrary restrictions Congress may have placed upon them when they were in a normal condition, to establish the institution of slavery, as well as to abolish it. This admitted, the uselessness, the folly, and the wrong of Congressional intervention in the affairs of a territory, is the more apparent. For example, the territory of Nebraska lies north of the Missouri compromise line, and if the law establishing that line is worth anything, (which we contend it is not,) slavery is inhibited in that territory; but the moment it becomes a State, slavery can be established in it, in the face of any power that can be exerted to the contrary in any quarter.

Aside from all principle involved in the doctrine of Congressional non- intervention, we have no fears that slavery will go into the territory of Nebraska. In the first place, there is a natural obstacle to it, in that the climate is not adapted to slave labor. And in the next place, it is perfectly certain that the territory will be settled by a population to whom negro servitude is distasteful; and owners of slaves will not be likely to take their property where it will not be recognized as such by the constitution of the State when a State shall be erected. Utah and New Mexico are both farther south than Nebraska, and although the doctrine of non-intervention was applied by Congress to them, there is not now a slave and never will be a slave within their borders.

But whether slavery would or would not go to Nebraska, is not the question. That must be left to the people, whom we must learn to trust. Everywhere in America they are capable, and the most capable, of managing their own affairs.

We repeat, we are glad this question has risen now, because it is time it was permanently and for all time settled. Besides, we want to know who are democrats and who are not. We want to know whose professions of acquiescence in the compromise measures of 1850 are hypocritical and false, and whose are sincere and truthful. The national democratic party has planted itself firm as a rock upon the platform of those measures. -- The administration of Gen. Pierce stands on that platform. Those who are not with us on this great vital question, are against us, and against the administration. Let us last certainly know who is who.

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