The Slavery Controversy.
The Michigan Legislature at this session has virtually released Gen. Cass from the instructions with which the last. Legislature trammeled him on the subject of the Wilmot proviso. They not only passed a series of resolutions sanctioning his course on the slavery restriction, but on actual vote refused to approve the Wilmot proviso. Taking this in connection with the fact that Gen. Cass argued strongly against the constitutionality and expediency of the proviso, and has declared his determination to resign his seat in the Senate rather than vote for the proviso as instructed, this action of the Michigan Legislature is a very cheering indication. It is equivalent to a change in the position of the State, and a consent that Gen. Cass shall continue in his seat and vote against all laws proposing to interfere with the subject of slavery in the Territories. It gives one potent vote at least to the side of moderation and peace, and in the present state of this question, every vote is important. If the Southern Senators vote together always on the Southern questions, there will be need of only one vote to prevent the passage of anti-slavery measures. The Senators from the slave States are just on-half on the senate, and a single vote on that side from the North decisive. But there is no certainty that all the Senators from slave-holding States can be relied upon. There are some fears of both Delaware Senators, and hence more than one Northern Senator must be calculated upon to make the case sure. The action of the Pennsylvania Legislature, virtually rescinding her anti-slavery resolutions, leaves Mr. Sturgeon, of that State, at liberty to vote according to his private opinions and inclinations. These two, who are now considered settled anti-proviso votes, will be certain to divide the Senate, even if all the Senators are present, and Messrs. Wales and Spruance vote for the proviso. Of the other Senators, Mr. Douglas from Illinois, Mr. Bright of Indiana, and Mr. Dickinson of New York, are on principle inclined to vote against the proviso, either in the ground of inexpediency or uselessness, or, in the case of Dickinson, unconstitutionality. Mr. Webster, we infer, will not vote for the proviso. Any one of these votes, given to the South, or merely withheld from the North, would be decisive against the restriction, on the worst supposition that these two Delaware Senators will vote for it. We consider it, therefore, a settled thing that the proviso cannot pass the U.S. Senate at this session.
That is a landmark fixed in the progress of the settlement of these territorial questions. No law can be passed which embodies, in any form, a restriction upon the people of the territory or of the States. In relation to the existence or non-existence of slavery among them. The Wilmot proviso and all other legislation of the kind is out of the question. The, Senate strengthened by the liberal and patriotic course of Michigan and Pennsylvania, has determined that point certainty for the present, and we have reason to believe irreversibly.
So much being attained, the other disputed question as to the new territories ought to be disposed of without difficulty. The formation of territorial governments is the obvious duty of Congress. There is no difference of opinion as to the abstract point-that a form of Government prescribed by the civil power of the government ought to supersede the military usages and rules by which the authority of the United States is preserved in those regions. The argument for inaction, leaving the Territories without legislating for them at all, until they are ready to ask admission as States, has been one of present policy. It was feared that territorial governments could not be formed without Wilmot proviso; and to avoid the agitation and discord which that legislation would produce in the country, it has been urged that the Territories be left entirely to themselves.
The impossibility of passing such a restriction through the Senate simplifies this subject very much. The anti-slavery agitations are thereby disabled from effecting any thing substantial, however fiercely they may urge their own views, and even if they should succeeded in the carrying them through the House of Representatives. A bill clogged with the proviso must fail in the Senate, and the naked question will go to the House between a government for the Territories without restriction as to slavery, or no government at all. In the event that the House is obstinate the result will be at last what the non-actionists propose. But in the moderated tone of the public mind, and the milder influences that have affected the Legislature of Michigan and Pennsylvania, supported by the great influence of Mr. Webster in New England, we find assurance that the House of Representatives will not continue impracticable, but acquiesce in the Senate plan of territorial governments without restriction.
The points settled, and California admitted, the Fugitive Slave bill will remain as the only direct question in relation to slavery to be settled by Congress, and the prospects of a favorable decision on that topic have improved very much since Mr. Webster made so powerful an appeal to the North for the maintenance of their constitutional duty in this respect. Altogether the temper of Congress, and of the Northern people, is most sensibly moderated, and the signs of concord are daily more encouraging.