Page images
PDF
EPUB

DO UGLAS

TEPHEN ARNOLD DOUGLAS was born at Brandon in the State of Vermont in 1813. He studied for three years at the Academy of Canandaigua, and in 1833 settled in Jacksonville, Illinois, where, for a time, he supported himself by keeping a school. Called to the bar in 1834, he quickly obtained a lucrative practice, and in the following year was chosen Attorney-General of the State. In 1835 he was elected a member of the Legislature and five years later became Secretary of State of Illinois. He was a Judge of the Supreme Court of the State from 1841 until 1843, when he resigned the office to become a Representative in the Federal Congress. In 1847 he was sent from Illinois to the United States Senate. In 1852, and again in 1856, he received strong support as a candidate for the Presidency in the Democratic National Convention. In January, 1854, he reported to the Senate what became known as the Nebraska Bill, a measure which repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and declared the people of any Territory free to regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States. In 1867 Douglas distinguished himself by his opposition to the admission of Kansas into the Union under the Lecompton Constitution, and in the following year engaged in a close and exciting contest for the United States Senatorship with Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate. He was successful in this struggle, but alienated most of the slaveholding States, who refused to support him for the Presidency in 1860. The Democratic National Convention, held in that year, was rent asunder, but Douglas was nominated by one of the fragments, and received a large popular vote. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, he urged all patriotic men to sustain the Union and the Constitution. He died at Chicago on June 3, 1861, only a little more than forty-eight years old.

ON THE KANSAS-NEBRASKA Bll L

UNITED STATES SENATE, MARCH 3, 1854

T HAS been urged in debate that there is no necessity for these territorial organizations; and I have been called upon to point out any public and national considerations which require action at this time. Senators

seem to forget that our immense and valuable possessions on the Pacific are separated from the States and organized Territories on this side of the Rocky Mountains by a vast wilderness, filled by hostile savages—that nearly a hundred thousand emigrants pass through this barbarous wilderness every year, on their way to California and Oregon—that these emigrants are American citizens, our own constituents, who are entitled to the protection of law and government, and that they are left to make their way, as best they may, without the protection or aid of law or government. The United States mails for New Mexico and Utah, and official communications between this government and the authorities of those Territories, are required to be carried over these wild plains, and through the gorges of the mountains, where you have made no provisions for roads, bridges, or ferries to facilitate travel, or forts or other means of safety to protect life. As often as I have brought forward and urged the adoption of measures to remedy these evils, and afford security against the damages to which our people are constantly exposed, they have been promptly voted down as not being of sufficient importance to command the favorable consideration of Congress. Now, when I propose to organize the Territories, and allow the people to do for themselves what you have so often refused to do for them, I am told that there are not white inhabitants enough permanently settled in the country to require and sustain a government. True; there is not a very large population there, for the very reason that your Indian code and intercourse laws exclude the settlers, and forbid their remaining there to cultivate the soil. You refuse to throw the country open to settlers, and then object to the organization of the Territories, upon the ground that there is not a sufficient number of inhabitants. . . .

I will now proceed to the consideration of the great principle involved in the bill, without omitting, however, to notice some of those extraneous matters which have been brought into this discussion with the view of producing another anti-slavery agitation. We have been told by nearly every Senator who has spoken in opposition to this bill, that at the time of its introduction the people were in a state of profound quiet and repose, that the antislavery agitation had entirely ceased and that the whole country was acquiescing cheerfully and cordially in the compromise measures of 1850 as a final adjustment of this vexed question. Sir, it is truly refreshing to hear Senators, who contested every inch of ground in opposition to those measures, when they were under discussion, who predicted all manner of evils and calamities from their adoption, and who raised the cry of appeal, and even resistance, to their execution, after they had become the laws of the land—l say it is really refreshing to hear these same Senators now bear their united testimony to the wisdom of those measures, and to the patriotic motives which induced us to pass them in defiance of their threats and resistance, and to their beneficial effects in restoring peace, harmony, and fraternity to a distracted country. These are precious confessions from the lips of those who stand pledged never to assent to the propriety of those measures, and to make war upon them, so long as they shall remain upon the statute book. I well understand that these confessions are now made, not with the view of yielding their assent to the propriety of carrying those enactments into faithful execution, but for the purpose of having a pretext for charging upon me, as the author of this bill, the responsibility of an agitation which they are striving to produce. They say that I, and not they, have revived the agitation. What have I done to render me obnoxious to this charge 2 They say that I wrote and introduced this Nebraska Bill. That is true; but I was not a volunteer in the transaction. The Senate, by a unanimous vote, appointed me chairman of the Territorial Committee, and associated five intelligent and patriotic Senators with me, and thus made it our duty to take charge of all Territorial business. In like manner, and with the concurrence of these complaining Senators, the Senate referred to us a distinct proposition to organize this Nebraska Territory, and required us to report specifically upon the question. I repeat, then, we were not volunteers in this business. The duty was imposed upon us by the Senate. We were not unmindful of the delicacy and responsibility of the position. We were aware that, from 1820 to 1850, the abolition doctrine of Congressional interference with slavery in the Territories and new States had so far prevailed as to keep up an incessant slavery agitation in Congress, and throughout the country, whenever any new Territory was to be acquired or organized. We were also aware that, in 1850, the right of the people to decide this question for themselves, subject only to the Constitution, was submitted for the doctrine of Congressional intervention. This first question, therefore, which the committee were called upon to decide, and indeed the only

question of any material importance in framing this bill,

was this: Shall we adhere to and carry out the principle recognized by the compromise measures of 1850, or shall we go back to the old exploded doctrine of Congressional interference, as established in 1820, in a large portion of the country, and which it was the object of the Wilmot Proviso to give a universal application, not only to all the territory which we then possessed, but all which we might hereafter acquire? There are no alternatives. We were compelled to frame the bill upon the one or the other of these two principles. The doctrine of 1820 or the doctrine of 1850 must prevail. In the discharge of the duty imposed upon us by the Senate, the committee could not hesitate upon this point, whether we consulted our own individual opinions and principles, or those which were known to be entertained and boldly avowed by a large majority of the Senate. The two great political parties of the country stood solemnly pledged before the world to adhere to the compromise measures of 1850, “in principle and substance.” A large majority of the Senate—indeed, every member of the body, I believe, except the two avowed Abolitionists (Mr. Chase and Mr. Sumner)—profess to belong to one or the other of these parties, and hence were supposed to be under a high moral obligation to carry out “the principle and substance” of those measures in all new Territorial organizations. The report of the committee was in accordance with this obligation. I am arraigned, therefore, for having endeavored to represent the opinions and principles of the Senate truly– for having performed my duty in conformity with parliamentary law—for having been faithful to the trust imposed in me by the Senate. Let the vote this night determine whether I have thus faithfully represented your opinions. When a majority of the Senate shall have passed the bill— when the majority of the States shall have indorsed it through their representatives upon this floor—when a majority of the South and a majority of the North shall have sanctioned it—when a majority of the Whig party and a majority of the Democratic party shall have voted for it— when each of these propositions shall be demonstrated by

« PreviousContinue »