Secession Era Editorials Project
Out of the Woods at Last.
Charleston, South Carolina, Mercury [Democratic]
(29 May 1854)
The Nebraska-Kansas bill passed the Senate, without amendment, at a late hour of Thursday night, and as it is understood that the President was ready to sign it, the bill is doubtless a law before this. We are glad to get rid of it. It has had for us two very attractive features -- it removed the odious Missouri Restriction, and it has united the South in its support. Beyond these we have never claimed for it any advantages, and we have not concealed what we considered serious objections to its provisions, nor have we pretended that the South was likely to derive any increase of power by these Territories thus organized. If such a result should follow, so much the better, but it is not to be expected. These Territories are of vast extent, and present here and there districts well suited to tillage, but by far the greater portion of them are high and bleak table lands, scarcely deserving a better name than deserts. Their great use for all time must be for pasturage, and they can support but a meagre population by the aid of all modern improvements in agriculture. It is not to such an unhopeful scene that the Southern planters are likely to be lured, while the fertile fields of Florida and Texas invite their settlement.
The passage of the bill in the Senate was thought to be seriously endangered by the movement of Mr. PIERCE to engraft upon it the so-called "Clayton Proviso" which had been attached to the original Senate bill, but was known to be in no favor with the House, and was left out of the bill sent back to the Senate. The proviso limited the privilege of voting in the Territories to citizens of the United States. All recent Territorial bills had allowed aliens who had declared their intention to become citizens, to vote. The Clayton Proviso was therefore an innovation, and though a majority of the Senate regarded it as embodying a good and wholesome principle, that none but citizens should exercise the highest political franchise of citizens, -- yet they did not feel justified in hazarding the success of the bill by insisting upon its re-insertion. It is proper, also, to say that in reference to the great point of dispute in the bill, the slavery question, no one, from any section, pretended that the Clayton Proviso was favorable to the South. Emigrants from the North would be much more sure than emigrants from Europe, to quarrel with the Southern settlers in the new Territories, and if it was a question which of them was least likely to misuse the privilege of voting to the disadvantage of the slaveholder, we should be compelled to choose the latter.
We had desired this proviso to prevail, because we think everything which impairs the dignity and distinctive character of citizenship in a Republic, is of dangerous tendency, and there is no good reason why a different rule should be adopted in the Territories, the cradle of States, from that which has always been regarded as fundamental in the States themselves, viz: that franchises purely political, should be reserved to those who were fully admitted as members of the body politic. What should we think of allowing men to vote in a Bank corporation, on the strength of their having declared their intention to buy stock? We do not see that the thing is any better or more reasonable when transferred into the affairs of Government.
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