Secession Era Editorials Project

Explicit.

Detroit, Michigan, Free Press [Democratic]

(11 February 1854)

In the Senate, on Tuesday, the Territorial bill being under consideration, Mr. Douglas moved to amend the fourteenth section of the bill, by striking out these words in reference to the eighth section of the Missouri act of 1820 -- "which was superseded by the principles of the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures, and is hereby declared inoperative." -- and to insert in lieu thereof the following:

-- "which being inconsistent with the principles of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the States and Territories as recognized by the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures, is hereby declared inoperative and void, it being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the constitution of the United States."

The language is plain, unequivocal and distinct; and presents the question untrammeled by subtleties and freed from technicalities. If those Senators who believe the Missouri act unconstitutional had scruples about voting for Mr. Douglas' bill as it at first stood, by reason of the fear that they thereby might be regarded as tacitly admitting the constitutionality of that act, it seems to us that the above amendment removes all ground for such scruples. Every man who dispassionately examines the subject will find himself brought to the conclusion that the Missouri law is inconsistent with the compromise measures of 1850, and, without touching the constitutional question, Mr. Douglas' amendment so declares.

But the chief beauty of this amendment is that it presents the naked issue of Congressional non-intervention in the domestic affairs of the Territories. The intent and meaning of the Nebraska act is declared to be "not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the constitution of the United States."

The whole question thus rests upon its merits, and upon its merits it must be decided. It is useless to cavil about the binding force of the Missouri act; for that and the compromise measures of 1850 cannot both stand. One must give way for the other. The former is in effect the exploded Wilmot proviso -- the latter maintains the doctrine of Congressional non-intervention.

We are glad that this amendment has been offered, for it presents the real issue of the present controversy in such terms that every man can understand it. Shall, or shall not, the people of the Territories be permitted to manage their own affairs in their own way? That is the question, and we put it to the people of Michigan.


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