The contrast between the attitude of the opposers of the Nebraska Bill at the North, and its advocates at the South, is very striking, and affords much food for agreeable reflection to those who feel a just pride in the sound sense, and the calm, deliberate judgment which characterize the action of the people of the slave-holding States, upon questions of public interest.
Look to the North, and what do we realize? We
are regaled by the coarse vituperation of the New York
Tribune, and the insane ranting of Fessenden, (who
was once appropriately toasted at a free negro festival
as a "white brudder with a black heart,") the sickly
cant of Sumner, -- the detestable demagogism of Seward, --
the horrid screeching of Lucy Stone, and her
unsexed compatriots, -- the sacrilegious imprecations
of ministers who degrade the holy calling, and the
disgraceful orgies of tumultuous assemblages of all ages,
colors, and conditions, who make night hideous with
their frantic howlings. In the South, scarce a ripple
seems to agitate the surface of society. All is calmness
and equanimity. Here and there we read of
resolutions adopted by Conventions of the people, or their
legislature, but they are distinguished by no mark of
intemperance and unnecessary excitement. We hear of
no burnings in effigy, -- we witness no wild demonstrations;
we listen to no furious declamation, --
But we, of the South, do exhibit our feelings in a becoming manner. We assert our rights. We claim a fair share of the territories purchased with the common treasure of the country. But, in doing this, we show that we are controlled by reason -- not by passion. If we give expression to no idle boasts and to no intemperate threats, it is because we prefer leaving such weapons to the blusterers, fools and fanatics, to whom they appropriately belong. Bravado is no part of the game of the truly brave, chivalrous and honorable man, but it is the certain resort of those whose consciences have made them cowards.
For one unacquainted with the nature of the question at issue, and the true cause of the quarrel, to read the fierce diatribes against the South, and the vehement invocations of Northern men "to action," the inference would be forced upon him, that some monstrous wrong had been threatened by the South against their Northern brethren. A paper before us, says, that Isaac Toucey, a Connecticut Senator, who advocated the bill, has been hung in effigy, by a portion of his constituents. On his heart was a broad label, bearing the words, "Toucey, the traitor." It further remarks, that for thus betraying the "cause of freedom and his constituents" he deserved a "still more stinging rebuke." A public meeting at Leesburg, Ohio, resolves that "such member of Congress who votes for, or in any way gives countenance to, the bill for the organization of the Nebraska Territory, as reported by Senator Douglas, of Illinois, is a traitor to his country, to freedom and to God, worthy only of everlasting infamy." A remonstrance against the bill, signed by more than three thousand Clergymen of New England, characterizes it as a "great moral wrong," a "breach of faith," -- a measure full of danger to the peace and even existence of the Union, and exposing us to the righteous judgment of the Almighty. A newspaper which is everywhere regarded as the most influential organ of those who oppose the bill, asks, If the slave power, aided by a few deserters from freedom, intend to deliberately crowd and plunder the North as they propose in this Nebraska bill, how long can this government go harmoniously on?" A meeting at Amsterdam, New York, Resolves, "That the territory of Nebraska and Kansas is the sworn heritage of freedom -- That it shall never be reduced to slavery. That if by the degradation and treachery of demagogues, whom the North has honored to her own shame, freedom may be wounded in the house of her friends, we shall hold it to be our solemn duty, God helping us, through whatever peril the path may lie, to aid in restoring to the North and to humanity, all the rights and immunities of which they shall have been, through such degradation and treachery, deprived."
These are very brave words but the bigots who uttered them would run like Mexicans, if, in the attempt to carry them into execution, they were to suddenly encounter a Regiment of Mississippi Rifles. We venture to say, that they have always sympathised with the enemies of their country, when engaged in war; and will always do so. The best evidence they will ever give of their boasted courage, will be, as opportunity affords -- to waylay and murder unoffending and unsuspecting Southern citizens, who may be enticed among them to reclaim stolen property.
But seriously, -- what great wrong has been threatened by the South? What is this Nebraska bill which is the fruitful cause of all this commotion? The States comprising the Union are free and equal members of the Confederacy. The Constitution is the compact which unites them together, and it was established to "promote justice." These sovereign members of the confederacy, jointly own a large tract of country, which, in the early part of the present century, was purchased from France. All the Southern States claim, and all this bill concedes to them is, the right to enjoy this territory in common with the Northern States. They do not ask that Northern people shall be excluded therefrom, and that they themselves shall be its sole occupants. Nor do they propose to distinguish between Northern men, and say that those who hold a certain kind of property, may or may not settle with it in the territory. They do not ask Congress to confer upon them any exclusive privileges. They do not even admit that Congress possesses the power to grant them such privileges. All they claim is the right equally with Northern men to settle in the territory with such property as they may chose to take with them. Their slave property is recognized by the Constitution, for the protection of which, it especially provides. And it is authorized by a "Law" "Higher" than the wisdom of man has ever yet conceived. Southern men say, let the doors of the territory be thrown open -- give us equal privileges with the citizens of the non-slaveholding States, and let the question be decided by the people entitled to suffrage when they come to form their organic law preparatory to admission into the Union. If during the existence of the territorial governments, it be contended that we have no right to take our slaves to the territory, and an attempt be made to exclude us, the judicial tribunals of the country are open to us, and to them we will appeal, -- just as the Northern man will appeal to the event in the event an attempt is made to wrongfully prevent him from enjoying a particular species of property which he may deem useful and essential to his success.
Is this a moral "wrong"? Is it a proposition to "plunder?" Is it of a nature which should provoke reverend clergymen of the North to invoke upon our heads, and upon the Government itself, in the event of the passage of the bill, the direct wrath of Heaven? Rational, high-minded, honorable men, who comprehend the difference between right and wrong, can have no difficulty in answering. "The real "plunderers" are those men who would monopolise the territory, to the exclusion of a large portion of those who contributed to its purchase, and such will be the judgment of the civilized world.
The Northern Democrats, who have incurred the wrath of the fanatics, deserve the lasting gratitude of every true friend of the country. They are a glorious band, whose names will live, when their traducers will have been forgotten, or be remembered only to be despised. With the exception of the desertion of Bell and Houston, the Southern phalanx is still unbroken, and we look with confidence to the ultimate triumph of the measure, -- the erasure of an unconstitutional restriction from our statute books -- and the banishment of the slavery question from the National councils.
This document was produced as part of a document analysis project by Lloyd Benson, Department of History, Furman University. (Proofing info: Entered by and proofed by Lloyd Benson. .) This electronic version may not be copied, or linked to, or otherwise used for commercial purposes, (including textbook or publication-related websites) without prior written permission. The views expressed in this document are for educational, historical, and scholarly use only, and are not intended to represent the views of the project contributors or Furman University.