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THE VOICE OF MISSOURI
The people of Missouri have just preached the most eloquent sermon on the Slavery question which has yet been heard in these United States. A sermon we call it, for deliberate utterance of a great popular conviction, by a body of independent citizens, has a solemnity beyond the average solemnity of mere discourses from the sacred desk, and when the ballot becomes, as in this case, the instrument of a great pacific revolution in the social condition of a State, its verdict rises, in the eyes of all political conflicts, into a higher region, and assumes a moral dignity, which must grow with the flight of years, and be recognized at least in the records of national history.
The great debate between Free and Slave labor in this country, however it may be degraded for a time by partisan passions, is secular in its importance and in its consequences. It cannot be disposed of by angry speeches, by inflammatory leaders, by violence, or by popular clamors. Petty politicians cannot forever continue to make it the vehicle of their own paltry and personal desires. Headstrong sectionalists cannot forever continue to lash themselves and these about them into senseless fury over its difficulties and its excitements. It involves the welfare of vast and organized communities—the life and the mutual relations of mighty commonwealths are concerned in its issues. In one word, it is a question, not of politics, but of statesmanship, in must be finally disposed of on the arena of practical action and of material interests.
The truth which all judicious thinkers, who sincerely love their country, have for years been endeavoring to impress upon the parties most nearly and most intensely involved—upon the slaveholding communities, that is, of the Southern States. All efforts in this direction have, up to the present time, been fruitless. The Southern States have grown constantly less and less willing to believe that the Northern opposition to the extension of Slavery, and the Northern condemnation of the [illegible] States in the great race of progress; and he further proved, by a comparison of county with county, that this melancholy result was clearly due to the existence of Slavery. And he therefore pronounced himself fearlessly and openly the advocate of emancipation in Missouri, and the enemy “of the monstrous doctrine of the extension of Slavery over the patrimony of the free white laborers of this country.” The speech of Mr. Brown was indorsed with emphasis by the City for which he spoke. St. Louis elected a Mayor of the same faith, and, after a spirited contest, named as her representative in the National Congress Mr. Francis P. Blair, Jr.,--a young and able Southern man—the open and resolute friend of the same manly and sensible doctrines. What was then done by St. Louis has been ratified by Missouri. The death warrant of Slavery in Missouri, signed by the city, has now been countersigned by the State. The people, who, in November last, voted by a majority of 10,000 for Mr. Buchanan and a truce, have voted now, by a majority of 2,000, for Mr. Rollins and a peace. In the election of a Governor, pledged against the blind propagandism of Slavery, and supported by the advocates of Emancipation, Missouri has warned the whole South that it is time for Southern men to retrace their recent steps, and to accept the great National necessity of a fair, and calm, and honorable examination of the question of Slavery in its economical and statesmanlike aspects. Most earnestly do we hope that the voice of this great State may be heeded by her sister States of the South. When the very borderers of Missouri brand “Border Ruffianism” by the election of a man who denounced upon his brow by a triumphant majority given to one of his most uncompromising opponents, is it too much for us to hope that Mississippi may yet learn patience, and Carolina become amenable to reason?
The future of this country lies hidden in this hope. And we, for our part, can safely promise our Southern brethren that the intemperance of the North will be put down whenever the South will show itself quietly equal to the arguments and the self-control demanded by the exigencies of our National condition.
Situation itself, could possibly have originated in, and been maintained by, any feelings but those of sectional jealousy, or a Pharisaic pride of superior philanthropy.
The skepticism of the South, which is in every aspect of the matter so deplorable, has not, as we are ready to admit, been without a certain extenuation in the language and the tone of many Northern men conspicuously prominent among the leaders of Northern sentiment. This, however, through a most unfortunate, was an inevitable condition of the controversy. For while on the one hand the intrinsic in justice of the system of Slavery could not fail to crop out all over the system into acts of individual outrage and forms of isolated oppression, which, in the nature of things, must attract the attention and kindle the indignation of parties foreign to the system. On the other hand, honorable and right-minded Slaveholders, educated within the circle of the system, and personally conscious of a sincere desire to do their duty in life, as that duty appeared to them, unavoidably resulted from the assaults made upon them and theirs, by men in whom they recognize no apostolic superiority of personal character. So long, therefore, as opposition to the extension of Slavery proceeded almost exclusively from the Northern States, it really was difficult for the patriotic observer to see in what way an appeal to the rational intelligence of the Slaveholding States could possibly be made, and not less difficult for him to conceive in what way the matter could ultimately be brought, without such an appeal o a peaceful and permanent settlement.
In this posture of affairs, Missouri, herself a slaveholding States, and the Northern outpost of slavery, in the defence of which the angry slaveholding interest had made the most reckless demonstrations, comes forward to declare herself in favor of a statesmanlike and practical discussion of the whole question. Two years ago the name of Missourian was a synonyme throughout the country for illegal violence and striped face propagandism in behalf of slavery. Mobs of Missourian boderers, led on by an ex-Senator of the State, poured across her frontier to impose the institution of slavery by force, upon a neighboring Territory. Two years ago the action of men claiming to represent Missouri, and in representing Missouri to represent the South, almost convinced the civilized world that slavery in the United States had become a religion, a fanaticism, a passion—that it was to be planted all over the continent by armed men, and that its banners like those of Ismail, were to be heralded by the sword and shielded by the flame.
Out of the state of things arose the most tremendous agitation which this country has ever known. The coldest and the most sage trembled in looking upon the storm, and the calm which followed it has been rather welcomed as a lull than hailed as a pacification.
But the first violence of the Pro-Slavery tempest had hardly subsided along the borders of Missouri before a reaction began within that State herself, of which the first great step has just now been victoriously taken. The city of St. Louis was the first to discern the danger which dwells in such blindness as ruled the counsels of Atchison and of the Southern invaders of Kansas. Her representative in the Legislature of the State, Mr. Gratz Brown, delivered a speech in the Capitol, during the last Winter, to which we alluded at the time, with earnest satisfaction. In that speech he declared that Missouri had been aroused by the recent proceedings on her border to consider what the Institution was for which she was called upon to sacrifice her self-respect, her love of liberty, and her reverence for law. He, for himself, had examined it. He had studied the question of the Institution of Slavery, both on its abstract merits and as it affected the welfare of Missouri, and he had come to the conclusion that Slavery was neither in itself a sound and profitable Institution, nor to Missouri a blessing and a strength. He demonstrated, with the eloquence of facts, that Missouri, with all her magnificent natural endowments, had fallen behind her neighbor.