Secession Era Editorials Project
THE NEBRASKA QUESTION.
Raleigh, North Carolina, Register [Whig]
(1 February 1854)
In the Senate, on the 23d ult.,
Mr. DOUGLAS, from the Committee
on Territories, reported a substitute for the bill which was brought forward
by him a short time since for the organization of Nebraska territory.
The leading features of the substitutes are stated as follows by
the Washington Sentinel:
1. The organization of two territories within the present
limits of Nebraska, the one to be called Kansas
and the other Nebraska.
2. A definite, distinct, and positive repeal of the restriction
of the Missouri Compromise.
DOUGLAS' first bill, it will be remembered,
left the question of slavery, while in the territorial condition, in
abeyance. It was provided that, when the territory, or any portion
of it, shall apply for admission into the Union, that it
may be admitted, with or without slavery, as its constitution shall
determine. The uncertainty which hung around this bill rendered
it generally unpopular, and various amendments were proposed of a pro-slavery
as well as anti-slavery character. At length, however, the bill was
withdrawn by the mover, and the one above noticed substituted in its
place. The proposition to repeal the Missouri Compromise act
will not fail to awaken the smothered fires of political anti-slavery
from Maine to Iowa, with
all its fearful consequences to the peace and happiness of the country.
It is said to have received the quasi approval of the Administration.
Possibly, however, this may only be a momentary phase in the vascillating
policy of Gen. Pierce's Cabinet, which may be
discarded as suddenly as it has been adopted.
Early in December, the Washington Union announced that
the Compromise of 1850 was not to be regarded as a part
of the Democratic Platform; that it was a matter about
which democrats might differ without forfeiting their
allegiance to the party, and that Gen'l Pierce could not
have been elected if he had been placed unqualifiedly upon it.
This official declaration produced a universal feeling of disgust
and indignation, by the system of barefaced hypocrisy which it exposes
in the demagogues who mislead the democratic party; and the
organ has been forced into various hollow explanations, but without
satisfying any honest man. Now, we have another swing of the
pendulum to the opposite point on the compass. This constant
alternation from heat to cold, and from cold to heat, is the certain
characteristic of weakness and recklessness -- weakness of purpose
and recklessness of principle.
The object of Senator DOUGLAS, in proposing the repeal
of the Missouri Compromise, is, of course, the manufacture
of Southern popularity, and yet it is not expected that slavery will be
extended into either of the territories which this bill proposes to
establish. This is the opinion of the Charleston Mercury,
the Washington Union, and the Richmond Examiner.
It is true, that the
adjacent State of Missouri nominally tolerates
slavery; but the majority of her people, of her presses, and of her
politicians, are lamentably hostile to it, and are now publicly debating
the propriety of its removal. North of Missouri,
lies the free State of Iowa, which is rapidly filling
up with the roving population which is peculiar to the
West, and which, with Missouri,
will supply the pioneer class which always keeps in advance of matured
civilization. Slaveholders are men of property, and cannot afford
to risk their property, by going into a territory in which a hundred
inhabitants to one are against the institution. This is perhaps
the proportion of the non-slaveholders to those owning slaves who will
emigrate to the territory. The possibility of establishing
slavery, therefore, is exceedingly remote, even with the restrictive
The Southern portion of the country, if Fremont's report
can be relied upon, is anything but desirable for settlement by slaveholders
or non-slaveholders. That portion to be called Kansas,
which lies west of Missouri, he describes
as for the most part a miserable barren region, destitute of trees,
and almost of vegetation. It has none of the characteristics
of the prairies, except this absence of forest trees. The
State of Missouri includes nearly all the fertile lands
in the same parallels, between the Mississippi and
the Rocky Mountains.
With these views of the matter, we confess
that we somewhat doubt the utility of disturbing the Missouri
Compromise, which was acquiesced in by the South
as the condition of the admission of Missouri into
the Union -- though we hardly know what modification our
views may yet undergo. The North may say, that,
by attempting to repeal the slavery restrictive clause, the South
has violated a solemn compact, and it will be difficult to repel the
charge. They will claim, as a matter of course, to be released
from that and the more recent compromise, and will attempt to introduce
the Wilmot Proviso into the territorial Governments now
existing, or which may be in future organised, South of 36 deg. 30 minutes.
This bill, at all events, will be the rallying cry for another
anti-slavery agitation which will throw all that have preceded it in the shade.
In this connection, we quote, simply as an indication of Southern
sentiment, the views of that conservative and able journal,
the Baltimore American:
"A calm ensued, (after 1850,) but
the ambitious politicians willed that the calm should be of brief
duration. They have now re-opened the slavery question,
and set the ball of agitation in motion on the Nebraska territorial
bill. -- Why was it necessary to so frame that bill as
to cause a clause to be put in it to repeal, or to declare superseded
and made null and void, the Missouri Compromise of 1820,
which compromise forbade the introduction of slavery into any territory,
acquired with the purchase of Louisiana,
north of 36¦ 30' of north latitude? Nebraska
lies north of that line. It is said that the compromise
of 1820, making this restriction, is unconstitutional.
If it is not unconstitutional, it is at least repealable.
If it is not unconstitutional, it cannot prevent the people of
Nebraska from holding property in slaves,
if they choose to take slavery there with them. If it is
repealable, and the people of Nebraska
shall decide to ask for admission into the Union, as
a slave State, it will be time enough for Congress to
agitate and act on the subject, when the necessity for such agitation
and action arises. -- Why could not, and why should not, the
Nebraska bill be framed as were the territorial bills for
New Mexico and Utah?
Those bills contained no clause relative to the Missouri
Compromise, or to the question whether slavery might or might
not go there. That vexed question was wisely deferred to the
future decision of the people of those territories. Why could
not the same vexed question be deferred to the future decision of the
people of Nebraska? Because the
ambitious political aspirants of the democratic party
would not suffer it to be so deferred. They want more
agitation; they court it, and they mean to have it, that they may:
"Ride the whirlwind and direct the storm."
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