Page images
PDF
EPUB

stopped with the Committee on Public Lands. A third bill to organize the Territory of Nebraska, also introduced by Douglas, was considered by the Senate Dec. 20, 1848, and recommitted.

December 13, 1852, Hall of Missouri introduced in the House a bill to organize the Territory of Platte. The bill went to the Committee on Territories, and as such was not reported. February 2, 1853, however, Richardson of Illinois reported from the committee a bill to organize the Territory of Nebraska, which passed the House Feb. 10, by a vote of 98 to 43. The Senate Committee on Territories reported the bill on the 17th, without amendments; March 4, by a vote of 23 to 17, consideration was refused. This bill did not propose to legislate slavery into the new territory. "The opposition to it came from Southern members who were preparing, but were not yet ready to announce, their next advanced claim, that the compromise of 1850 had superseded and voided that of 1820, abolished the prohibition of slavery in the territory north of the Missouri compromise line, and opened it to the operation of squatter sovereignty" (Johnston).

The thirty-third Congress met Dec. 5, 1853. December 14 Senator Dodge of Iowa introduced a bill to organize the Territory of Nebraska. The bill, which appears to have been identical with Richardson's bill of the previous session, provided for the organization of the whole region between the parallels of 36° 30′ and 43° 30′ on the south and north, Missouri and Iowa on the east, and the Rocky Mountains on the west. A substitute for this bill, with the same provision as to slavery as that which had been inserted in the Utah and New Mexico bills, was reported by Douglas, from the Committee on Territories, Jan. 4, 1854. The declaration regarding slavery was satisfactory to neither party, and on the 16th Dixon of Kentucky gave notice of an amendment explicitly exempting the proposed territory from the operation of the Missouri compromise, to which Sumner of Massachusetts responded with an amendment extending the Missouri compromise to the new territory. On the 23d Douglas reported that the committee had prepared several new amendments to the bill, changing the southern boundary from 36° 30′ to 37°, providing for two territories instead of one, and declaring the Missouri compromise inoperative in the new territories, on the ground that it had been superseded by the compromise measures of 1850. The bill as thus amended Douglas proposed to substitute for the bill previously reported. Debate in Committee of the Whole began Jan. 30. February 6 Douglas offered an amendment by which the Missouri compromise was to be declared "inconsistent" with the legislation of 1850, following this the next day with another amendment in the words of sec. 14 of the act as finally passed. This last amendment was agreed to on the 15th, by a vote of 35 to 10. March 4 the bill passed the Senate, after an all-night session, by a vote of 37 to 14.

In the meantime Representative Miller of Missouri had introduced in the House, Dec. 22, a bill to organize the Territory of Nebraska. The bill went to the Committee on Territories, from which Richardson reported, Jan. 31, a bill to organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas. A minority report, advocating the application of squatter sovereignty to the two territories, was submitted by English of Indiana. The House bill did not regularly come up for consideration until May 8, but from Feb. 14 to April 28 either the House

or Senate bill, and the general subject of territorial governments for Kansas and Nebraska, were discussed almost daily, regardless of the business nominally before the House. March 21 the Senate bill was disposed of by referring it to the Committee of the Whole, and was not again considered. May 8 Richardson called up the Kansas-Nebraska bill, thirty bills and resolutions being successively laid aside until the bill was reached. The debate continued with increasing violence until the 22d, when, by a vote of 113 to 100, the House passed the bill with amendments. Douglas championed the bill in the Senate, where the debate was attended with intense excitement and frequent disorder. The bill passed the Senate May 26, without a division, and on the 30th the act was approved.

The form of government provided by the act did not differ essentially from that contained in other territorial acts. The extracts from the act following are limited to the sections defining the boundaries of the two territories, and the status of slavery.

REFERENCES. - The text is indicated in connection with each extract, following. The House and Senate Journals, 33d Cong., 1st Sess., give the record of proceedings; both proceedings and debates are reported at length in the Cong. Globe, and appendix.

[blocks in formation]

The principal amendments which your committee deem it their duty to commend to the favorable action of the Senate, in a special report, are those in which the principles established by the compromise measures of 1850, so far as they are applicable to territorial organizations, are proposed to be affirmed and carried into practical operation within the limits of the new Territory.

The wisdom of those measures is attested, not less by their salutary and beneficial effects, in allaying sectional agitation and restoring peace and harmony to an irritated and distracted people, than by the cordial and almost universal, approbation with which they have been received and sanctioned by the whole country. In the judgment of your committee, those measures were intended to have a far more comprehensive and enduring effect than the mere adjustment of the difficulties arising out of the recent acquisition of Mexican territory. They were designed to establish certain great principles, which would not only furnish adequate

remedies for existing evils, but, in all time to come, avoid the perils of a similar agitation, by withdrawing the question of slavery from the halls of Congress and the political arena, and committing it to the arbitrament of those who were immediately interested in, and alone responsible for its consequences. With the view of conforming their action to what they regard the settled policy of the government, sanctioned by the approving voice of the American people, your committee have deemed it their duty to incorporate and perpetuate, in their territorial bill, the principles and spirit of those measures. If any other consideration were necessary, to render the propriety of this course imperative upon the committee, they may be found in the fact, that the Nebraska country occupies the same relative position to the slavery question, as did New Mexico and Utah, when those territories were organized.

It was a disputed point, whether slavery was prohibited by law in the country acquired from Mexico. On the one hand it was contended, as a legal proposition, that slavery having been prohibited by the enactments of Mexico, according to the laws of nations, we received the country with all its local laws and domestic institutions attached to the soil, so far as they did not conflict with the Constitution of the United States; and that a law, either protecting or prohibiting slavery, was not repugnant to that instrument, as was evidenced by the fact, that one-half of the States of the Union tolerated, while the other half prohibited, the institution of slavery. On the other hand it was insisted that, by virtue of the Constitution of the United States, every citizen had a right to remove to any Territory of the Union, and carry his property with him under the protection of law, whether that property consisted in persons or things. . . .

. . . a similar question has arisen in regard to the right to hold slaves in the proposed territory of Nebraska when the Indian laws shall be withdrawn, and the country thrown open to emigration and settlement. [The report quotes the section of the Missouri Enabling Act (No. 77, ante) relating to slavery, and continues]:

Under this section, as in the case of the Mexican law in New Mexico and Utah, it is a disputed point whether slavery is prohibited in the Nebraska country by valid enactment. The decision of this question involves the constitutional power of Congress to pass laws prescribing and regulating the domestic institutions

[ocr errors]

of the various territories of the Union. In the opinion of those eminent statesmen, who hold that Congress is invested with no rightful authority to legislate upon the subject of slavery in the territories, the 8th section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri is null and void; while the prevailing sentiment in large portions of the Union sustains the doctrine that the Constitution of the United States secures to every citizen an inalienable right to move into any of the territories with his property, of whatever kind and description, and to hold and enjoy the same under the sanction of law. Your committee do not feel themselves called upon to enter into the discussion of these controverted questions. They involve the same grave issues which produced the agitation, the sectional strife, and the fearful struggle of 1850. As Congress deemed it wise and prudent to refrain from deciding the matters in controversy then, either by affirming or repealing the Mexican laws, or by an act declaratory of the true intent of the Constitution and the extent of the protection afforded by it to slave property in the territories, so your committee are not prepared now to recommend a departure from the course pursued on that memorable occasion, either by affirming or repealing the 8th section of the Missouri act, or by any act declaratory of the meaning of the Constitution in respect to the legal points in dispute.

Your committee deem it fortunate for the peace of the country, and the security of the Union, that the controversy then resulted in the adoption of the compromise measures, which the two great political parties, with singular unanimity, have affirmed as a cardinal article of their faith, and proclaimed to the world, as a final settlement of the controversy and an end of the agitation. A due respect, therefore, for the avowed opinions of Senators, as well as a proper sense of patriotic duty, enjoins upon your committee the propriety and necessity of a strict adherence to the principles, and even a literal adoption of the enactments of that adjustment in all their territorial bills, so far as the same are not locally inapplicable. . . .

[The report here quotes various provisions of the compromise acts of 1850, and concludes]:

From these provisions it is apparent that the compromise measures of 1850 affirm and rest upon the following propositions -First: That all questions pertaining to slavery in the territories,

and in the new States to be formed therefrom, are to be left to the decision of the people residing therein, by their appropriate representatives, to be chosen by them for that purpose.

Second: That "all cases involving title to slaves," and "questions of personal freedom" are referred to the adjudication of the local tribunals, with the right of appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Third: That the provisions of the Constitution of the United States, in respect to fugitives from service, is to be carried into faithful execution in all "the organized territories" the same as in the States. The substitute for the bill which your committee have prepared, and which is commended to the favorable action of the Senate, proposes to carry these propositions and principles into practical operation, in the precise language of the compromise measures of 1850.

[Senate Rep. 15, 33d Cong., 1st Sess.]

No. 110. Dixon's Proposed Amendment

January 16, 1854

SEC. 22. And be it further enacted, That so much of the 8th section of .. [the Missouri Enabling Act of March 6, 1820]

...

as declares "That in all that territory ceded by France to the United States, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of 36 degrees 30 minutes north latitude, slavery and involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the parties shall have been duly convicted, shall be forever prohibited," shall not be so construed as to apply to the Territory contemplated by this act, or to any other Territory of the United States; but that the citizens of the several States or Territories shall be at liberty to take and hold their slaves within any of the Territories of the United States, or of the States to be formed therefrom, as if the said act, entitled as aforesaid, and approved as aforesaid, had never been passed.

[Cong. Globe, 33d Cong., 1st Sess., 175.]

« PreviousContinue »