Secession Era Editorials Project

The Present Crisis.

Detroit, Michigan, Free Press [Democratic]

(9 February 1854)

When the democratic party of this country is undivided, it is invincible. When no sectional question is interposed to distract its organization, its adherents comprise a large majority of the American people. It has never been prostrated except through the treachery of some of its members. It never can be defeated, in a national contest, only by dissentions growing out of sectional issues.

The slavery question has for twelve years past been a prolific source of difficulty. In 1848 it was the rock upon which the hopes of all true democrats were wrecked. With all the military force which Gen. Taylor's name was calculated to excite, and did excite, he would have met a Waterloo defeat had not the democratic party been split by the introduction of the abolition element into its counsels. New York and Pennsylvania, not to enumerate several small States, a majority of whose people are undeniably democratic, could not have been seduced from their allegiances except under the pressure of just such a tornado of excitement as that which then swept over the land.

With this history before us, and considering subsequent events, what is the duty of the democratic party in the present crisis? If, in 1852, Franklin Pierce, standing upon the broad platform of Congressional non-intervention in the domestic affairs of the States and Territories, was elevated to the Presidential office by an unprecedented majority over a candidate brought forward and supported by a combination of whigs and abolitionists, what is the lesson to be learned from the event? Is it not to adhere to a policy which, just in itself, has afforded, and will continue to afford, a rallying point for the democracy of the north and the south, the east and the west? Is it not to hold on with unyielding tenacity to those principles and measures which form a platform as broad as the Union? Is it not to maintain, thoroughly and in good faith, the compromise measures of 1850?

When abolitionism shall be finally crushed out of Congress, no other question can soon arise whose tendency will be to disturb the relations of cordiality which naturally subsist between the two great divisions of the country. The three past years have been peaceful. The acerbities of feeling, fruit of sectional agitation, have been softened -- the rough corners of prejudice have been smoothed -- and the people of the north and south have become better acquainted. Abolitionism, in the meantime, has fallen into insignificance and contempt, and whiggery, holding to the atrocious doctrines of William H. Seward, is inanimate.

The preservation, intact, of the compromise measures of 1850 is the only hope of continued peace, and of the permanent ascendancy of the democratic party. Those measures cannot be fully preserved except by the application of their principles to every new Territory that shall be organized. Abolitionism cannot be wholly kept out of Congress only as a uniform rule shall govern territorial legislation. The Wilmot proviso, or, what is the same thing, the Missouri compromise, cannot be formed upon one territory and not applied to another. Partial laws are repugnant to the moral sense of every citizen, and no independent people will submit to them.

We do not wonder that Mr. Douglas' Nebraska bill encounters the fierce and imbittered opposition of the abolitionists and northern whigs in Congress. Its passage will be the death-knell of their future hopes. They well know that by no means, save a continuation of slavery agitation, can they divide and conquer the democratic party. They know that, united, it is impregnable. For these reasons, as well as to establish for all time a great and correct principle of government, should Mr. Douglas' bill have the willing and cordial concurrence of democrats every where. For these reasons should it become a law. Once passed -- its principles once finally adopted as the settled policy of the country -- and the Spirit of agitation may hang its harp upon the willow. -- Peace and concord, union and harmony, will be its consequences. Then, indeed, will there be no north, no south, but one common country.

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