Secession Era Editorials Project


New York, Tribune [Whig]

(6 January 1854)

An overt attempt is set on foot in Mr. Douglas's Nebraska bill to override the Missouri Compromise. The eighth section of the act admitting Missouri as a State is as follows:

"In all that territory ceded by France to the United States, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of 36 degrees and 30 minutes north latitude, not included within the limits of the State contemplated by this act, slavery and involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment of crim whereof the parties shall have been duly convicted, shall be, and is hereby, forever prohibited: Provided, always, that any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any State or Territory of the United States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service, as aforesaid."

This plain and unequivocal declaration that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in our North-west Territories is unceremoniously hustled aside by Mr. Douglas, who makes the Compromise measures of 1850 the scape-goat for his sin in doing it. He says that:

"A proper sense of patriotic duty enjoins upon your Committee the propriety and necessity of a strict adherence to the principles, and even a literal adoption of the enactments of that adjustment in all their Territorial bills, so far as the same are not locally inapplicable"

And hence he proceeds to incorporate the following provision respecting Nebraska into his bill at the start:

"When admitted as a State, the said Territory, or any portion of the same, shall be received into the Union with or without slavery, as their Constitution may proscribe at the time of their admission."

It is not to be expected of men who live for the sole purpose of enjoying official station, that they shall ever be manly, noble or independent. They slavishly cower before every storm that threatens their opinions with popular condemnation, and make haste to trim their sails to catch the passing breeze of public favor. It is everywhere assumed among such that subjection to the slaveholding interest is now our only sure path to political honors and distinction. In the struggle of 1850, the great Northern anti-Slavery sentiment was inundated and overwhelmed in consequence of the succumbing temper and faithlessness of rotten leaders. With their own hands they destroyed the dykes and let the waters flow in and wash away the rich fruits of years. The XXXIst Congress inaugurated the era of submission to Slavery. Since then, everything has gone on swimmingly in this line. Not only was the Slavery question compromised, but the character, reputation, and principles of hundreds of our public men were also compromised by the same operation. There was a general debauch and demoralization throughout all political circles, as was clearly manifested in the triumphant run of Gen. Pierce. The demoralization continues. It is not to be expected, therefore, that we shall see, for the present, in the acts of public men who place success before principle, anything but unmanly submission to the demands of the slave power. If Gen. Taylor had lived, and the Wilmot Proviso doctrine had substantially triumphed, as it would have done through the instrumentality of his policy relative to our Mexican acquisitions, then we should have seen the reverse of what we now see. Instead of finding Mr. Douglas down on his marrow-bones at the feet of slavery, we should see the same man standing up firm and strong in behalf of the glorious old Ordinance of 1787. Freedom's battle was fought and lost in 1850, and the cowards and traitors have all run to the winning side.

But although anti-Slavery is weak in political circles, it was never stronger with the masses of the people. The great heart of the country is sound. Thousands and millions of true men all over the North wait but the occasion for a practical demonstration of their power, to show how firm is their attachment to the principles of freedom, and how deeply they scorn the shallow fools who have the impertinence to talk about "crushing out" those principles. We expect to see Slavery go on pressing and pushing the advantages it derived from the adjustment of 1850, till a reaction is created that will again convulse the country to its center. Slavery is imperious, encroaching, truculent, belligerent. Its own conduct will thus ultimately generate an explosive force that must blow it to atoms. This movement of Douglas to override and virtually repeal the Missouri Compromise is one step in this direction.

We denounce every attempt to remove the salutary restriction upon the introduction of Slavery into the North-West, and above the line of 36 [degrees] 30 [minutes] below which the Missouri Compromise confines it, whether insidious and hesitant, or open and flagrant, a breach of solemn compact between the North and the South, inevitably opening a door to a fresh and fierce agitation. Let the Country take notice that this convulsion is not commenced on the side of Freedom.

This document was produced as part of a document analysis project by Lloyd Benson, Department of History, Furman University. (Proofing info: Entered by Jeff Bollerman, 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.