When we consider the generous personal qualities of several of the southern Members of Congress; when we take into account their high and keen sense of personal honor, it seems difficult to imagine that they should not shrink with instinctive horror from any proposal, come from what quarter it might, to repudiate a fair, ancient and deliberate bargain, the binding force of which has been recognized and acknowledged ten thousand times over, and the entire consideration for which has already been received and enjoyed. Without appealing to southern honor or southern chivalry, it would seem to require only a very moderate portion of that ordinary and every day quality known among as simple citizens of the North as common honesty, to prevent the better part of the southern Members of Congress from either themselves setting on foot any such fraudulent scheme, or from allowing anybody else to set it on foot for them. And yet strange as it may seem to those who look only at the outside of things, it is the concurrent report of all who are familiar with the facts that out of Texas hardly a single southern Member of Congress will be found to vote against the repeal of the Missouri Restriction. Remarkable phenomenon this! Wonderful unanimity of southern Members of Congress, never exhibited except upon questions involving the interests of slave-holding, and until quite recently, not seen even upon such questions.
When did it happen, we should like to ask, that anybody proposed any
injustice or supposed injustice to the South; when did it happen that anybody
proposed, we do not say to violate but to evade the fulfillment to the utmost
letter of any bargain, or supposed bargain with the South, especially if that
bargain happened to be in favor of Slavery, that plenty of Northern Members of
Congress did not leap, indignant from their seats to protest in the loudest and
most pathetic terms against such iniquity?
An now see what return we get for all this.
Not a single southern Member of Congress except those from Texas to vote
against the repeal of the Missouri Compromise!
And mark the reason too which they have the coolness to offer for this
repudiating baseness -- which even such a man as Mr. Benton has the
coolness to offer, if indeed there was not, as we suspect, a
We could not ourselves have moved in this matter, say the southern Members of Congress; we could not in honor and justice have proposed anything of the sort; but if the North voluntarily offers us the repeal of the Missouri Compromise it won't be expected that we should refuse to take it. Perhaps not. But then we can tell what can be expected, and what will be and is expected. Among us at the North, if a man's drunken or dishonest servant coming at midnight offers to sell his master's name, to his next-door neighbor for a bottle of whisky, a set of valuable silver spoons, we do expect in such cases that before completing the purchase our neighbor will take a little time and trouble to ascertain if the person offering the spoons has any authority to sell them. To complete the bargain and take the spoons, while the owner lay fast asleep in his bed wholly unconscious of what was going on, and without any opportunity to know it, would be esteemed one of those cases in which the receiver is as bad as the thief -- nay, worse, because if there were no receiver there would be no thief.
To vote for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and to aid by his vote in carrying that repeal, is what no southern Member of Congress ever can do with honor. The very furthest that he could go with honor would be to abstain from voting at all. If a majority of the northern Members of Congress could be found base enough to vote for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise it might be said with some plausibility that the southern Members were under no obligation to come to the aid of the minority. But, for southern Members to assist by their votes in carrying the repeal against the majority of the northern Members, would be to take upon themselves the whole responsibility of the act, since but for their cooperation the measure would not have carried.
This measure is too plain to be questioned by any reasonable man; and yet in the face of all this comes the reiterated report from Washington -- All the southern Members, all at least but two or three, are counted upon as certain to vote for this repeal! Should such prove to be the case, which we will never believe, as to some of those Members from the South who call themselves Whigs till we see their names recorded in the fatal list of Yeas; but should such prove to be the case, this unanimous rascality can only be accounted for as having been produced by one or the other, or perhaps by the joint operation of two causes, neither of them particularly creditable to the parties concerned.
The relation of masters and slaves is such that, as is well enough understood, no master feels himself under any very strict obligation to deep a promise made to a slave. In fact slave-holding, from beginning to end, is a system of repudiation; and no wonder that those who begin with repudiating the Declaration of Independence and the Rights of Man should see but little binding force in their own word, no matter how solemnly pledged and ratified by no matter how many acts of Congress. Why should the white slaves of the North expect to have faith kept with them any more than with the black slaves of the South? What business have we of the North to complain that the slaveholders follow the same rule in their conduct towards us, which we encourage them to follow and sustain them in following toward their own laboring population? How absurd in us, after doing our best to help our southern brethren to banish from their hearts every suggestion of justice and honesty, to ask of them justice or honesty in their conduct toward us!
Such is the rather bitter train of reflection that may be expected to arise in many northern minds hitherto very favorably disposed toward the South, as they ponder over, that black list of Yeas for the repeal of the Missouri proviso, including all the southern votes with just northern traitors enough to make up a majority. We leave it to our judicious southern Whig friends to say whether it is wise to promote and to provoke such reflections.
There is, however, another explanation of the foreshadowed course of the southern Members of Congress, which, as it is more charitable, is also doubtless more just, though we hardly know whether our southern brethren will regard it as any more complimentary. Slave-holding is beyond question a very corrupting institution, but it can hardly yet have worked so injuriously as to have totally extinguished in the southern mind all sense of the difference between right and wrong, at least as between white men. The southern Members of Congress, at least the bulk of them, know very well the course that honor and justice demand. They know it, but they do not dare to follow it. They are not rascals -- only cowards.
And now for the reflections which this view of the subject will be likely
to suggest to the late supporters at the North of the Compromise of 1850.
Surely, they will say, in the bitterness of their hearts, things are
coming to a pretty pass.
The negroes of the South, including under that description a considerable
number of persons of quite light complexion, and
This certainly is not a view of the social and political workings of Slavery which will tend much to reconcile any body at the North to its introduction into the broad territory of Nebraska. If the southern Members of Congress think it wise and judicious to drive the whole North, Silver Grays and all, into an invincible necessity of taking this view, they will do well to cooperate with a few poor spirited, northern traitors in repealing the Missouri Compromise; at the same time we would not advise them to rely much on any great steadfastness of these same northern traitors in standing up against that storm of northern indignation, certain, as is now very evident to be raised by so tricky and treacherous a procedure.
This document was produced as part of a document analysis project by Lloyd Benson, Department of History, Furman University. (Proofing info: Entered by Ben Barnhill, Proofed by Ryan Burgess.) 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.