The Kansas Trouble in Congress – Will the South be Driven to the Wall!
It appears, from our latest Washington advices, that Mr. Pugh, of Ohio, proposes to-morrow, in the Senate, to give notice of a bill for the admission of Kansas into the Union as a slave State, upon the basis of the Lecompton constitution, and the result of the recent Territorial elections upon the question of “slavery” or “no slavery.” But in this bill Mr. Pugh proposes to embrace a section or two providing at an early day for such modifications of the said Lecompton constitution as the people of Kansas, under the sovereign authority of a State, may think fit to make.
This proposition, in the way of a compromise, may be fair enough: but it strikes us that it does not cover the whole ground. There are two other new States awaiting their admission into the Union, and they are both free States of the most decided character, viz.: Minnesota and Oregon. They should not be overlooked as a Northern balance of power, in view of the admission of Kansas as a slave State. From the adoption of slavery compromises of the federal constitution down to the present day, every adjustment of the slavery question has been made upon the basis of mutual concessions, North and South.
Take, for example, the Missouri compromise of 1820. The great difficulty there was upon the question of admitting Missouri as a slave State; but at the same time the new free State of Maine was knocking for admission at the doors of Congress, and the Southern men made good use of her as a Northern equivalent for the surrender of Missouri to the South. Thus Maine and Missouri were put together in the same bill in the Senate; and although they were separated in the House, the two States were admitted simultaneously; and this was the real substance of the Missouri compromise. The interdict excluding slavery north of 36 deg. 30 min. from all the Territories west of Missouri, was nothing more than a tub to the whale. It amounted practically to nothing, although it answered its purpose very well so long as the Territories concerned remained uninhabited except by wild Indians.
The adjustment of 1850 was upon the same principle of mutual concessions of a practical character, as between the North and South. As an equivalent for the admission of California as a free State, the South was given the Fugitive Slave law, and an equal chance of making a slave State of New Mexico, by leaving the whole subject of slavery to the people of that Territory. Ten millions of dollars were also given to Texas as an equivalent for the curtailment of the boundaries which she claimed; and as a Northern offset to this the slave barracoons and the buying and selling of niggers in the District of Columbia were abolished.
Everybody knows, however, that the South, in this adjustment of 1850, got the worst of the bargain. They can never make anything of New Mexico. A slave nigger there would eat his head off in five years, and a free nigger is worse off at Santa Fe than in Canada. The ten millions to Texas were but as a drop in the bucket; and as for the Fugitive Slave law, it has only operated to systematize the business of the Northern underground railroads. Practically, therefore, the South, in 1850, received nothing but the husks of that compromise. The golden fruits of it were all secured to the North, in the admission of all California as a free State, including her territories on both sides of the Missouri compromise line. And yet this famous line, which was practically abolished by the North in 1850, has given rise to all this Kansas fuss and fury in the North, from the repealing act of 1854, as a Southern measure.
Now, then, what are the claims of the men of the South in reference to Kansas? They claim that under the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and through the regularly constituted local authorities, recognized by the last and by the present federal administration, a slave State constitution has been adopted for Kansas, and that nothing has been done by Congress to vitiate this result. The men of the South demand, therefore, the admission of Kansas as a slave State, though the refusal of the free State party to participate in the late election, that is the fault of the free State party, and with them should rest the responsibilities and the consequences. But why should any evil consequences be apprehended, when, directly after her admission as a State, with or without the authority from Congress, the people of Kansas may proceed, under the full and absolute powers of popular sovereignty, to change their constitution? No act of Congress, and no Lecompton Convention restrictions, can impair the sovereign powers which rest with the people of a State. But between the Executive authority of the President and the legislative powers of Congress what is popular sovereignty in a Territory but an unmitigated humbug?
To give Kansas, then, the full benefits of popular sovereignty, she should be admitted at once as a State; while so far as her admission with a slave State constitution may be concerned, the gain to the North will be as two to one with the admission of Minnesota and Oregon. And this is the point upon which Mr. Pugh should rest his bill for the admission of Kansas. All sensible Northern men, under the circumstances, and for the sake of peace, will be satisfied with the temporary recognition of Kansas as a regular slave State, with two new free State coming in at the same time. With this understanding, too, that Kansas, Minnesota and Oregon shall all be admitted together upon the faith of the official constitution of each, we think that the Northern agitators and disorganizers of both houses may be silenced. It is upon this broad principle of sectional equivalents that Mr. Pugh should present and urge his bill in reference to Kansas.
On the other hand, after the recognition by the administration of the validity of all the proceedings resulting in the Lecompton constitution, and in the popular ratification of the slavery clause, it is folly to suppose that the South will consent to be overslaughed in the great result. Let the experiment be tried. Let the Senate or the House reject the Lecompton constitution as ratified by the late Kansas election, and the next proceeding will probably be the abrupt dissolution of Congress in the secession from both houses of the members from the Southern States. We should not be surprised if, with the event indicated, they were to withdraw in a body from Congress, and issue a manifesto to the Southern people and to the several Southern State Legislatures submitting to them such steps in the vindication of Southern rights, and for the redress of Northern aggressions, as may be deemed expedient.
This Kansas squabble, as it comes to a focus, is thus assuming its largest proportions as a sectional issue; and let our Northern Presidential tinkers in Congress beware lest their paltry and selfish schemes should result in the most serious disasters to the country. Let Mr. Pugh take his soundings in the manner we have indicated, and try his bill.