Secession Era Editorials Project


New York, Tribune [Whig]

(16 February 1854)

It would be impossible to find a more honest and impartial set of journals than those in the Federal City, which are supporting Nebraska and aiming to get the public printing. The Evening Star is as busy and as spunky as the rest in both these pursuits. Of late, that journal has taken to abusing THE TRIBUNE. A few days ago it copied a portion of our remarks upon the probable attitude that Henry Clay would assume upon the infamous proposition to repeal the Missouri Compromise, were he now alive and in the Senate. To these observations The Star appends the following comments:

"Now, it is well known to many persons at this time in Washington, that while the Compromise of 1850 was under consideration, Henry Clay was accustomed to talk freely of the utter incompatibility of the Compromise of 1820 with it, and to express his gratification at the fact that its enactment would restore the policy of the Government upon the Slavery question, violated, and indeed, ignored in the Missouri act, which he regarded as unjust, if not unconstitutional, and only to be tolerated as the sole alternative for preventing a dissolution of the Union at the time of the enactment. In one of his speeches in favor of the law of 1850, he distinctly held positions synonymous with what we present above as his views of the law of 1820, as expressed thus in private conversation among his friends."

Everybody who associated with Mr. Clay, or who is familiar with his public declarations during the contests of 1850, knows that this is a gross misrepresentation of the illustrious Kentucky Statesman. In his published speeches made at that time may be found his memorable declaration, that under no circumstances would he ever vote to extend Slavery into Territory now free. Those who heard that declaration will never forget the commanding manner and impassioned tone in which it was pronounced. It had been urged in various quarters that Mr. Clay's plan of settlement for the difficulties of that period was tantamount to legislating Slavery into free territory. Mr. Clay promptly repelled this allegation, and in doing it the fire of his youth returned: his frame glowed with preternatural excitement, and rising to his full hight , with his countenance beaming with indignation, and his eyes flashing with fire, he hurled back the imputation that his efforts led to any such result, closing in the expressive language we have quoted.

But we nail this misrepresentation of The Star to the counter by the following direct and emphatic testimony to the point in question: Senator Cooper, of Pennsylvania, was one of the famous Committee of Thirteen that originated the Compromise measures, of which Mr. Clay was Chairman. Mr. Cooper states that the question of the effect of these measures upon the Compromise of 1820 came up and was discussed in that Committee, and that every member of it, and Mr. Clay especially, explicitly declared that the proposed Compromise of 1850 did not in any degree affect or impair the legislation of 1820, for no reference was made or intended thereto: and Mr. Clay even went so far, we understand, as to instance the salutary influence and stable character of the Compromise of 1820, which he declared no one thought of disturbing, as furnishing a happy precedent for the series of measures then under consideration.

This misrepresentation of Mr. Clay's views on this subject is however no worse than the daily misrepresentations of the paid organs of the Government in regard to every other point in the existing controversy. The world has seen barefaced lying and excessive ingenuity at distortion practiced before. But we doubt if it ever saw anything quite equal to the current misrepresentations on the Missouri Compromise. The falsehoods are so transparent, and the expositions of modern political history so monstrous, however, that they will recoil on the heads of their authors, and need give but little concern to the friends and supporters of the great measure at which they are aimed.

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