Kansas—The Crisis in Congress—The Old Compromise Policy of a Free State and a Slave State.
In the interval of the Christmas holidays (which the two houses of Congress have disposed of in the social festivities of the season), the Kansas imbroglio has assumed a most alarming and critical shape. The unexpected ratification of the Lecompton constitution, with the slavery clause, makes Kansas as still a slave State as South Carolina, notwithstanding the fact that four-fifths, and probably as many as nine-tenths, of the people of the Territory are opposed to the recognition of slavery. But as the refusal of the free State party to participate in the election of the 21st of December does not impair thee validity of that election, the delinquents are alone responsible for the consequences. With the power in their hands to produce a different result, they cannot justly complain should Kansas be admitted upon the basis of the Lecompton constitution as a slave State.
It is difficult to perceive how the administration, after having recognized the proceedings of the Lecompton Convention party down to the said December election, can now retreat. If a fractional vote rejecting the slavery clause would have been acceptable, that vote cannot be rejected, because it has resulted in the ratification of slavery. We presume, therefore, that the administration will adhere to the Lecompton programme, notwithstanding the unexpected and exceedingly embarrassing shape which it has assumed.
With or without any official information on the subject, this perplexing business will, doubtless, be pretty sharply discussed at both ends of the Capitol with the re-assembling of the two houses to-day. At the same time, the fact should not be overlooked that two additional elections are to come off this day in Kansas—one the election of State officers, provided for by the Lecompton constitution, and the other on the adoption of the Lecompton constitution ordered by the Territorial Legislature. At the latter election the Lecompton constitution will be submitted to the people in three forms: First—Constitution with slavery; Second—Constitution without slavery; Third—Against the constitution. Under the instructions of the President, the Governor has to recognize both elections as legal, and to use all the force at his command, if necessary, to protect the polls, and secure a full expression of opinion.
Here the question arises, is it the duty of Congress, or is it expedient on the part of Congress, to await the results of these elections, and to shape the law for Kansas accordingly? We should say no; because, as the case stands, the regularly authorized popular proceedings in reference to this Lecompton constitution were closed with the election of the 21st December. On the other hand, we are well aware that a vote for the admission of Kansas as a slave State will be a dose of wormwood to most of our Northern democratic representatives at Washington; and we may, therefore, expect a prolonged debate upon the subject, a fierce sectional agitation, and all sorts of parliamentary expedients to stave off the main question. But our Northern democratic compromisers may rely upon it that no compromise will now be acceptable to the South short of the admission of Kansas under her Lecompton constitution, including, most particularly the full recognition of the slavery cause.
Col. Forney, through his Philadelphia Press, informs us that “the President did not expect the question to take this shape, nor do we believe” says Master Forney, “that he expects that admission will be effected without a re-submission.” But we shall know more upon this point within a few days. In the meantime, the President, we apprehend, upon the receipt of the official report of the December Kansas election, will feel that he has no other resource than to accept it, and leave the issue of its final adoption or rejection to Congress. At this point, we fear, the North will be met by such a determined front on the part of the South, that the issue will speedily become the admission of Kansas with her slave State constitution, or the secession in a body from both houses of the members from the Southern States, as the initial movement to a separate Southern confederacy.
And yet there is a very simple plan of compromise at hand, as between the North and the South, and the required materials are also on the spot. It is the old plan of admitting a slave State and a free State, side by side. Thus even if Kansas should be admitted as a permanent slave State, instead of a slave State for six months or a year, the new free States of Minnesota and Oregon will be more than as two to one against her. This system of sectional State equivalents was put in practice two years after the adoption of the federal constitution, in the admission, simultaneously m of Vermont and Kentucky, and has been followed up from that day to this. Thus, in 1816, Indiana was admitted, and an enabling act was passed authorizing the people of Mississippi Territory to form a State constitution. Thus, in 1820, the acts for the admission of Maine and Missouri formed the real basis of the Missouri Compromise. Thus, within a short interval, Arkansas and Michigan were admitted; and thus, as a Northern equivalent for Florida and the admission of the Senators and representatives from the new slave State of Texas, in 1845, enabling acts were passed in reference to Iowa and Wisconsin. But as there was no Southern equivalent for the admission of California as a free State in 1850, that fact gives the South an additional claim in reference to Kansas.
In this old and frequent plan, then, of a compromise in the simultaneous admission of a provision for a free State and a slave State, or a slave State and a free State, we have only practical method for a satisfactory solution of this Kansas difficulty. The North will surely be content, for the sake of peace, to recognize Kansas as a temporary slave State, with two permanent free States coming in at the same time. Should this good old plan be discarded now, and should the Kansas Lecompton constitution be rejected because of its recognition of slavery, the next proceeding will probably be a practical Southern movement for the dissolution of the Union. When the old rule of sectional conciliation is displaced by the law of sectional coercion, the union, in fact, may be declared already at an end.