Secession Era Editorials Project


New York, Tribune [Whig]

(6 February 1854)

Southern men have always entertained a sufficiently low opinion of northern doughfaces and traitors. But if Douglas's bill should go through, they will have good reason to believe that the depth, of northern servility are unfathomable. A year ago it would have been difficult to find a man who would believe in the possibility of disturbing the Missouri Compromise. Senator Atchison at the first introduction of the Nebraska bill in the Senate intimated a desire to get Congress to allow his constituents to go into Nebraska with their slaves, but he found no encouragement for the idea in any quarter and at length came out on the floor of the Senate and declared it was useless to think of repealing that restriction and he would give up the attempt as totally impracticable. But since then, mirabile dictu! the Administration, and it is alleged, a majority of Congress have suddenly become converts to the doctrine of repeal. What one short year ago was looked upon by the most sanguine as an impossibility, is now regarded as no longer doubtful. How truly is here illustrated the fact that it is only the first step in crime that costs. When that is taken the downward descent is easy. Facilis decensus Averni.

Southern men have hitherto vented their sarcasms most lavishly upon the poor tools who have gone to Congress from the North only to sell out their principles and betray their constituents, but they have imagined there was a limit beyond which even northern Uriah Heapism would not go. But they will no longer doubt, if present prognostications are realized, that northern abasement and self-humiliation are infinite, and they will feel themselves under the necessity of inventing new terms of contempt and derision in which to clothe their ideas of the subserviency of the representatives from the free States.

We have heretofore shown that the reason for this astounding infamy is of the meanest character. That it is simply a movement to save Mr. Pierce with the ultra pro-slavery men of his party, and to give him and Mr. Douglas some political capital to begin the next Presidential Campaign with. No other possible reason can be assigned for it. The pretense that it is to carry out the doctrines of the compromise of 1850, it too shallow and transparent to deceive any man who has a thimble-full of brains. The advocates of that compromise have never before suggested such a thing, and to pretend it now is only to show what a contemptuous estimate its inventors have of the public sense.

Mr. Benton, with the characteristic directness that marks the man, and which atones for many of his defects of character, said the other day, "Whoever says that I intended the repeal of the Missouri Compromise lies, Sir; he tells a lie, Sir." We presume no man is better convinced of this truth than Mr. Douglas himself. But with what bitter disgust must he inwardly regard himself under such a stinging reproach! He is incapable of resenting this most offensive imputation of falsehood, for he knows the truth of the allegation. Mr. Douglas ought to be dismissed into an execrated obscurity for his insincerity and his utter faithlessness, here so signally rebuffed, but his position in regard to this bill constantly compels our unwilling recurrence to him. From what Mr. Benton has further said in relation to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, we presume he does not intend to vote on the question when it shall come up in the House. He has said that, "by that Compromise the South yielded all the territory north of 36* 30' to freedom, but if the North wants to surrender it back again to Slavery, the South will not refuse to take it back." He feels himself bound by the obligation; he scorns to repudiate the bargain; he contemptuously flouts the proposition to violate a solemn compact. But he sneeringly intimates that if the North desires to surrender to Slavery the vast territory secured to freedom by that compact, he is disposed to stand by and see the representatives of the free States degrade themselves by doing it, and thereby earn scorn from their contemporaries, swift vengeance from their constituents, and branded infamy from history hereafter.

It would not be surprising to see the indignant feeling of an honorable mind manifest itself in this way over such unprincipled poltroonery as the act in question would disclose, but we yet hope that not only Mr. Benton, but that every other honorable southern man will pocket their contempt for the juggling doughfaces who are mediating this monstrous treachery, and vote according to the dictates of patriotism and honor.

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