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Secession Era Editorials Project

Furman University Department of History

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Compromises.

Hartford, Connecticut, Daily Courant [Whig]

(16 May 1854)

As their name implies, compromises are settlements of difficulties by mutual concessions. Each side gives up to the other something upon which it had insisted, often with much zeal. Of course no compromise is entirely acceptable to those who form it. Neither side has obtained that for which it had been contending, having mutually given away on some points, and therefore neither side feels satisfied at first. The violent leaders of both parties who have carried on the controversy are the first to complain. Moderate men have stepped in with moderate councils and, having prevailed, are looked up to as leaders.

But as time goes on, especially where equal and mutual concessions have been made, the compromise, as first only acquiesced in, becomes a part of the policy of the nation and is considered every year as more sacred, until practice under it makes it to be considered as a permanent and unalterable agreement.

Such was the feeling of the Whig party at the North at the Compromise Measures of 1850. -- Many of the concessions which they made to the South were exceedingly distasteful to them. They opposed them bitterly at first, but finally acquiesced in them because they were Compromises, dependent on mutual concessions. Besides, the Whig party is not a party of a single idea. They have more than one object in view as a National Party. -- These objects are as important, in their estimation, to the prosperity of the nation as the subject of slavery on which the compromises were made. -- The Whigs of the North are as much opposed to the extension of the area of slavery, as any other set of men. But they are a party of principles, not of a principle, and they feel that other things are to be contended for in consulting the good of the whole country. On this account, they submitted to the compromises of 1850.

Such was the feeling of the North at the Compromise of 1820. A concession had been made. -- Many of them were opposed to it. But, being a concession on their side, and having received what was considered an equivalent concession on the part of the South, their opposition soon died away and they acquiesced in it and proceeded to act in good faith under it.

Such was the feeling of the whole nation at that greatest Compromise Measure of all -- the Constitution of the United States -- here, mutual concessions and mutual forbearance were necessary and were practised, and the nation prospered under them.

No Confederacy can exist without Compromises and concessions. Two antagonistic parties -- we mean, antagonistic in one point -- must make mutual concessions on that one point if they intend live peaceably together. Such has been the principle on which our Government has been carried on. Without it, we should have been an insignificant collection of independent states with no power or importance. Under those compromises between the North and South, on that point on which they are antagonistic, the nation has prospered and has been kept united.

A dark spot now arises in the history of our country. The South, having elected a Northern President devoted to their interests who is supported by a section of the North equally devoted to their interests, have stept over the boundary of the Compromises and insist upon the abrogation of that of 1820, by which a violent contest was pacifically settled. They have obtained their share of the benefits of this Compromise and now demand of us to relinquish ours. By so doing they have aroused a sprit which will not easily be quieted. This movement has shown that there can be no faith kept by them -- and that no terms of contract and no compromise are felt binding upon them when they can be changed by a vote of Congress or bullied out of the North.

The consequences arising from this movement are, that the whole slavery agitation has been reopened by the South themselves and what the end will be no one can predict; that the North are aroused up to a more determinate resistance to the extension of the area of slavery, than they have ever before been, being chained down by what appeared to them was a sacred compact; that no future Compromise can ever be made between the two antagonistic parties, for the North can never place confidence in the declarations or agreements of men who would uphold the violation of the Missouri Compromise; and that there is danger not only of the loss of the Compromise measures of 1850, but of the still greater Compromise of the Constitution. The voluntary destruction of one of these compacts by the South will weaken the obligatory force of the rest on the minds of the North. We fear lest the vote on the Nebraska bill will prove "the beginning of the end" of the permanency of the American confederation.

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