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with him. We only insist that he shall not be empowered to sell her after taking her there.
Senator Badger had called slavery a "patriarchal institution," and extolled the beauty of this simple and natural relation between master and servant. To this Senator Seward replied:
Sir, I quite admire the simplicity of the patriarchs. But they nevertheless had some peculiar institutions quite incongruous with modern republicanism, not to say Christianity; namely, a latitude of construction of the marriage contract, which has been carried by one class of so-called patriarchs into Utah.' Certainly no one would desire to extend that “peculiar institution” into Kansas-Nebraska.
On February 23, Senator Pettit delivered a speech in favor of the bill which is notable only for his blunt characterization of the preamble of the Declaration of Independence as “a self-evident lie.” On the following day, Senator Sumner delivered a long and carefully prepared address against the bill called “The Landmark of Freedom,” which he prefaced by an extemporary reply to Senator Pettit's remark.
Sir, it is a palpable fact that men are not born equal in physical strength or mental capacities. But as all are equal in the sight of God, so are all equal in natural inborn rights. It is a vain sophism to adduce against this vital axiom of Liberty physical or mental inequalities, or the unhappy degradation to which, in violation of a common brotherhood, some men are doomed. To deny the Declaration of Independence is to rush on the bosses of the shield
For intensely interesting debates on the political relation of Mormon Polygamy to Slavery, although not vital to the present subject, see Great Debates in American History, vol. viii., chapter si.
of the Almighty, which, in all respects, the supporters of this measure seem to do.
He disproved the argument that slavery would not flourish, if introduced, in Kansas-Nebraska, by citing Missouri in the same latitude, where there were now 87,422 slaves, although there had been few in its Territorial condition.
The Missouri Compromise, he said, had become a part of our fundamental law, irrepealable by any common-legislation. He appealed to the Senators of the South by the memory of her great statesmen who had so regarded it, not to stain her honor by repealing it. He denied that the prohibition of slavery was, in any just sense, an infringement of local sovereignty.
Slavery, as an infraction of the immutable law of nature, cannot be considered a natural incident of sovereignty in a democracy founded, as is ours, on natural right. Slavery is not a national institution; by the decision of the Supreme Court and the common law it is a local municipal institution.
Slavery is not a domestic relation any more than is polygamy. A polygamist in a State may not enter the national territory with his harem.
In vain, sirs, you plead that this bill is proposed by a Northern Senator. It is one of the melancholy tokens of the political power of slavery that, like the magnetic mountain in Arabian story, under whose attraction iron bolts were drawn from distant vessels, it loosens those principles which render Northern character staunch and seaworthy by bringing under its spell “Northern men with Southern principles.” Sir, no such man can speak for the North. [Prolonged applause in the galleries.]
Mr. President, pass this bill, and it will be in vain that you say the slavery question is settled. Sir, nothing can be settled which is not right.
Defeat the bill, and you will truly promote the harmony you desire. Banished from its usurped foothold under the national government, slavery will no longer enter, with distracting force, into national politics, making and unmaking Presidents. Then Liberty will have at last whereon to stand and move the world.
Senator Butler spoke in favor of the bill on the same day. His chief arguments were that the Missouri Compromise had proved, instead of a soothing salve, a thorn in the flesh of the South; that whatever benefits it proposed to the South had been nullified; and that it was unconstitutional.
He addressed himself to the subject of Liberty, extolled by the Massachusetts Senator.
Liberty! Sir, liberty is like fire, which may be used to warm and illuminate the temple in which it is kindled, or to be the means of its destruction. The vestal fire may be used by profane intruders to kindle the consuming torch and brand.
He charged Senators Chase and Wade with taking inconsistent positions. The one said that negro slaves would pollute the soil of the Territories, making it offensive to Northern settlers, yet the other held that negroes were the equals of white men, and to be so received by them."
History refutes the equality of the white man and negro. Who ever heard of an African statesman, general, poet?
* This is a juggling of the terms “negro" and "slave," and an imputation to another of the speaker's own interpretation of “equality."
* As Wendell Phillips showed, in his eloquent eulogy of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Liberator of Haiti, there was at least one negro who was a statesman and general. Frederick Douglass, son of a pure negress, had already made a reputation as an eloquent orator. Alexander Dumas, a quadroon, was writing his wonderful romances containing a grandiose strain which critics attribute to his African blood, and there were a few, though minor, negro poets already recorded in literary history.
Here the speaker departed from the issue by arraigning Northern reformers for their various and vagarious “isms,” notably Woman Suffrage. He sarcastically commented on Senator Seward's doctrine of the “higher law” of obedience to conscience rather than to human statutes, first enunciated by him in a speech on the Omnibus Bill in March, 1850.
I must deny the claim of the Senator to be the author of that law. Sir, its first teacher was the serpent who whispered it to Eve in Eden, and lost Paradise to her and her posterity.
At the close of his speech Senator Butler praised Senator Douglas for his authorship of the bill, his tactful presentation of it to the Senate, and his energy in pressing it to a decision.
After changes made by Senator Douglas in the bill stating clearly, but in less objectionable form, the substitution of the principle of Popular Sovereignty for that of the Missouri Compromise, and specifically denying that the bill legislated slavery into a Territory or State, the measure was passed on March 3, 1854, by a vote of 37 to 14.
The debate in the House was long and violent. Many amendments were proposed to delay final action, and, in order to dispose of these, the leader in favor of the measure, Alexander H. Stephens (Ga.), on May 20, got the bill out of the Committee of the Whole by successfully moving that the enacting clause be stricken out, and then bringing before the House the question of agreeing to this action. The Senate bill was then passed by 113 votes to 100. Northern votes for the
Men like Booker T. Washington, the great educator of his race, and Paul Lawrence Dunbar, as true a poet as America has produced, arose later to disprove Senator Butler's claim.
measure were all Democratic. President Pierce approved the law on May 24, 1854.
Douglas had prophesied when he introduced the measure that he would be reviled and perhaps mobbed by his constituents for it, but declared that he would carry it through for the sake of the Union whatever might be the consequences to himself. His prediction was largely fulfilled. As he said, after passage of the bill he "traveled from Washington to Chicago by the light of his burning effigies," and when he reached the Illinois metropolis he found its press and public sentiment solidly arrayed against him. Nevertheless he had a meeting called at which he attempted to justify his action; however, he was hooted down by the assembly. He thereupon announced that he would speak in the State capitol at Springfield on October 5. He did so, and, at the close of the address, it was stated that Abraham Lincoln would reply to him, for this inveterate antagonist of Douglas was unable to keep his resolution not to reënter politics, so great was his indignation over the breach of faith in the repeal of the compact between North and South made in 1820 on slavery.
On the day appointed Lincoln spoke for three hours, delivering a scathing philippic against the KansasNebraska bill. Douglas himself confessed that it surpassed in ability and severity the arraignments he had received in the Senate. Unfortunately the speech was not recorded. However, its argument has been preserved, undoubtedly in more finished form, in a speech which Lincoln delivered at Peoria two weeks later (October 16), and in the joint debate with Douglas in 1868.'
* For the Peoria speech the reader is referred to any of the editions of the complete works of Lincoln.