Secession Era Editorials Project


Charleston, South Carolina, Mercury [Democratic]

(23 January 1854)

The indications thicken that the organization of this proposed Territory is to be attended with a renewal of strife. Mr. SUMNER, Abolition Senator from Massachusetts, has given notice that he will move the WILMOT Proviso as an amendment to Mr. DOUGLAS'S bill. Resolutions have been introduced into the Senate of Ohio, in favor of an express prohibition of slavery in the Territory, and instructing the Senators and Representatives of that State to act accordingly. In New York city a public meeting has been called to back the anti-slavery movement. This is the beginning on that side.

On the other side, the Washington correspondents of the Baltimore Sun and the New York Herald, both state, in substance, that "General CASS has authorized his friends to say that he will not only vote for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise as far as it interferes with the Compromise of 1850, which allows Southern planters to go at once with their property into new Territories, but will make a speech in the Senate, declaring that that portion of the Missouri Compromise is unconstitutional."

The President's position in this case cannot be doubted, and Senator DOUGLAS is not likely to be driven from his ground. The present prospect, therefore, is that the Free- soilers will be left in the lurch. But they will not fail for want of desperate struggling to succeed. They have become used to victory in these sectional contests, and have come to think it certain, that if they denounce the South with sufficient violence, she will always submit and apologise. We shall see.

But the position of Free-soilism on this question of Nebraska, is interesting. We have no more of the "higher law," of the Declaration of Independence about all men being born equal, or of that profound theological dogma, settling the right to hold slaves by the golden rule. The natural religion of Abolitionism is all laid aside, and the South is appealed to in the name of the binding obligation of the Missouri Compromise -- an act of Congress. It is a prodigious fall from the clouds, for such high-reaching spirits as the Free-soilers.

We commented on this argument some days since, in reply to the New York Evening Post. That journal professed to be horrified that the South should dream of desecrating so sacred a compact as the Missouri Compromise. The moral aspect of the case was alone brought forward and insisted on by the Post. In reply we showed that the Free-Soilers, in every case since then, had ostentatiously shown their scorn of the Missouri Compromise. That in organizing Oregon, which was a part of the Louisiana purchase, and therefore came under the Missouri Compromise, they had insisted on inserting the Wilmot Proviso, and when an amendment was offered on the part of the South, specifying as a reason for the prohibition of slavery, that the Territory lay to the north of the Compromise line, it was thrown out with derision by the North, proving their determination not to acknowledge the least respect for that settlement. We showed how, in the division of Utah from New Mexico, there was still more explicitly avowed a determination to blot out all memory and respect for that line, and that the division was fixed thirty miles north of it, with the triumphant avowal that they would not leave the South even the consolation of having it named in an act of Congress. We showed that the South had been willing to give to that line the dignity of a treaty boundary between the two sections, though it left the North three-fourths of all the Territories. It was acknowledged in the admission of Texas; and the Nashville Convention, which passed for the extreme expression of Southern opinion, demanded nothing more than that the Missouri Compromise line should be extended to the Pacific Ocean. The South has uniformly tried to enforce the Compromise; the north has uniformly contemned it. We say now it is abolished for ever; it has been broken over and over by the North, and they have no right to allude to it.

And what answer is made to this plain statement? The Evening Post, which opened its attack by an appeal to the highest ground of political morals, as soon as it meets our answer on that ground, turns round and defends itself by legal quibbles. Oregon was part of Louisiana, and as slavery was prohibited there by the Missouri Compromise, there was no wrong in re-enacting the prohibition; and no wrong in throwing out Mr. BURT'S amendment", because that only stated the well-known geographical fact that the Territory lay North of 36d. 30m. But if this line was sacred to the North, why purposely and perserveringly refuse to name it? Again, the Post argues, New Mexico and California did not belong to the United States at the time of the Missouri Compromise, and therefore, legally, they had nothing to do with it; and the North has not violated that law by refusing to incorporate that Compromise into their organization.

As a legal question, we admit the Post is right. But what becomes of the appeal to good faith? What becomes of the argument so warmly urged at the commencement, that the Missouri Compromise was a treaty of the North and South, settling the limits between them. Let that Compromise then be only a law of Congress. It is, in the first place, an unconstitutional law, and by stripping it of its moral meaning, and reducing it down to the proportions of an act of Congress, it ought, for every reason, to be expunged from the statute book. The same power that enacted it, is fully competent to repeal it; and as the last moral barrier has been thrown down, and it stands, by the admission of the Post, upon its mere strength of an act of Congress, and that an act in derogation of the rights and the equality of the States, the North and the South ought to unite in sweeping it into the rubbish of extinct legislative anomalies -- a law whose spirit has been uniformly scoffed at by the majority, and whose letter is manifestly against the Constitution.

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