Some of the apologists for the proposed repeal of the Missouri restriction endeavor to excuse this piece of iniquity by a suggestion well worthy of those who make it. They tell us in effect that this Pierce-Douglas proposition for opening Nebraska to the slaveholders is after all only a tub thrown out to whale. It will prove they hint a mere unavailing concession, well enough to tickle and amuse our irritable southern brethren with -- as good a prescription to keep them quiet as bread pills, of being perfectly harmless and of costing nothing. This Nebraska Territory, they suggest, is not a region in which slaveholders will be likely to settle. Hold your tongues, say these adroit tricksters, bent it would seem on tricking everybody; hold your tongues, let the Presidency be secured to the Pierce-Douglas dynasty. However we may legislate there can be no doubt that Nebraska will be settled by non-slaveholders, and when State Constitutions come to be framed, Slavery will be prohibited and all will be right again.
This it will be observed is
There may, no doubt, be those northern opponents of the spread of Slavery, and at the same time very polite friends of the South, who may esteem this laceration of northern feeling as a trifle compared with putting the South into good humor, and at the same time securing another presidential term to Mr. Pierce, and the successorship to Mr. Douglas -- and all this without any sacrifice except one of feeling merely. But, then, are these opponents of Slavery so perfectly satisfied that no other sacrifice will be required? Is it so certain that if we open Nebraska to the slaveholders, giving them a chance, as Mr. Calhoun expressed it in the case of New Mexico, to get in with their slaves, is it perfectly certain that we may not find ourselves in the predictament of the unwary rabbit who admitted a viper into his hole? In the case of New Mexico and Utah, the argument was very plausible that the physical character of those territories was such as effectually to prohibit the immigration of slaveholders. And besides, there was the Mexican law abolishing slavery to serve as an additional barrier. But the physical character of Nebraska, at least of that part of it which first will be settled, and which is likely to decide the social and political character of the whole region, is very different. The best, at all events the most accessible portion of that Territory lies in the same latitude with Missouri and adjoins it. The law of God did not and does not keep slaveholders out of Missouri. Though comparatively but a handful of the population, they contrive to rule that State pretty effectually, and even to hold such a man as Mr. Benton under their thumb; and why should they not do the same thing in Nebraska?
Mr.Webster, in his famous 7th of March speech, ascribed the change of sentiment on the subject of Slavery which has taken place in the southern States within the last forty years solely to extension of the cultivation of cotton. In a certain point of view this is a correct enough account of the matter, and yet it lies open to criticism: for, in the first place, Mr. Webster ascribes to the whole South, including South Carolina and Georgia, a hostility to slavery in the early days of the Republic which never existed except in Maryland and Virginia, and partially in North Carolina; and, in the second place, he entirely omits to explain how the change of opinion growing out of the extension of the cultivation of cotton happens to have principally exhibited itself in those States in which no cotton is cultivated. The remote cause of that change of opinion, which he made so prominent a topic, was no doubt the extension of the cultivation of cotton; but as it is most strikingly exhibited in the more northern of the slave States, so its immediate cause was the introduction into those States of business of rearing slaves for sale; a business resulting of rearing slaves for the extension of the cultivation of cotton, and -- according to the common operation of all half- measures -- of the abolition of the African slave trade. Mr.Webster was cautious of offending the polite ears of his southern auditors by the slightest allusion to so delicate a topic. Nevertheless the fact is, that beside the great slaveholding staples of cotton, sugar, rice and tabacco, there is another, the chief one of all the border slaveholding States in which of the late years they have supplanted the coast of Guinea. We mean the breeding of slave children for sale to the cotton planters. Everybody knows that it is profits of this business, which alone in a financial point of view make Slavery worth sustaining in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri are beginning to go into the same business, and why is not the Territory of Nebraska just as well adapted for it?
As there is no conceivable business more calculated to extinguish every sentiment of humanity and every feeling of self-respect than that of breeding slave children for sale, so the cotton-growing devotees of Slavery, and would-be lords and masters of the Union, very well know that the greater extension they can give to this discreditable business, the firmer hold they shall obtain upon those States and Territories in which it prevails, and the greater predominancy over them. Nebraska is not fit for growing cotton and sugar. So much the better; then it never can become a competitor and a rival of those States that are. But, change it into a slave-breeding district, and it is effectually yoked forever to the car of slaveholding dominion, standing much in the same relation to the slave purchasing States that the poor white non-slaveholders of the South do to the rich slaveholders. Hence it is very easy to understand the great zeal of the cotton members of Congress for the Nebraska fraud. Repeal the Missouri Proviso, and not only is Nebraska prevented from being settled by a free white population, laboring with their own heads -- a class of persons so generally despised throughout the slave States, and allowed so merely nominal a share of political influence -- but while firmly bound to the slaveholding interest, this is accomplished in such a way as to remove all danger that this vast region will ever become anything else than a mere humble, subservient vassal of the cotton-growing South.
It is not to be supposed that Messrs. Pierce and Douglas have
ever reflected much upon any results of their proposed fundamental law for
Nebraska, except such as are personal to themselves.
If they have looked any further than the next Presidential election it was
only to one Presidential election beyond.
It might therefore be unfair to charge them with deliberately plotting any
consequences of their proposed measure not bearing upon personal Presidential
If Nebraska were a country like Louisiana or Texas, fit for the growth of
sugar or cotton, where the employment of slave labor promised, temporarily at
least, very great returns, as the world goes there might be, if there were no
compacts nor compromises in the way, something to be said in favor of letting
slaveholders into it.
Surely it is not any regard to the interests of Nebraska that has prompted
the introduction of Douglas's clause of repeal into the bill for organizing
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