Admission of Kansas Under the Wyandott Consitution
Speech of Hon. Stephen A. Douglas,
In reply to Mr. Seward and Mr. Trumbull.
Delivered in the Senate of the United States, February 29, 1860.
Mr. President: I trust that I shall be pardoned for a few remarks upon so much of the Senator’s speech as consists in an assault on the Democratic party, and especially with regard to the Kansas-Nebraska bill, of which I was the responsible author. It has become fashionable now-a-days for each gentleman making a speck against the Democratic party to refer to the Kansas-Nebraska act as the cause of all the disturbances that have since ensued. They talk about the repeal of a sacred compact that had been undisturbed for more than a quarter of a century, s if those who complained of violated faith had been faithful to the provisions of the Missouri compromise. Sir, wherein consisted the necessity for the repeal or abrogation of that act, except it was that the majority in the northern States refused to carry out the Missouri compromise in good faith! I stood willing to extend it to the Pacific ocean, and abide by it forever, and the entire South, without one exception in this body, was willing thus to abide by it; but the free-soil element of the northern States was so strong as to defeat that measure, and thus open the slavery question anew. The men who now complain of the abrogation of that act were the very men who denounced it, and denounced all of us who were willing to abide by it so long as it stood upon the statute book. Sir, it was the defeat in the House of Representatives of the enactment of the bill to extend the Missouri compromise to the Pacific ocean, after it had passed the Senate on my own motion, that opened the controversy of 1850, which was terminated by the adoption of the measures of that year.
We carried those compromise measures over the head of the Senator from New York and his present associates. We, in those measures, established a great principle, rebuking his doctrine of intervention by the Congress of the United States to prohibit slavery in the Territories. Both parties, in 1852, pledged themselves to abide by that principle, and thus stood pledged not to prohibit slavery in the Territories by act of Congress. The Whig party affirmed that pledge, and so did the Democracy. In 1854 we only carried out, in the Kansas-Nebraska act, the same principle that had been affirmed in the compromise measures of 1850. I repeat that their resistance to carrying out in good faith the settlement of 1820, their defeat of the bill for extending it to the Pacific ocean, was the sole cause of the agitation of 1850, and gave rise to the necessity of establishing the principle of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the Territories.
Hence I am not willing to sit here and allow the Senator from New York, with all the weight of authority he has with the powerful party of which he is the head, to arraign me and the party to which I belong with the responsibility for that agitation which rests solely upon him and his associates. Sir, the Democratic party was willing to carry out the compromise in good faith. Having been defeated in that for the want of numbers, and having established the principle of non-intervention in the compromise measures of 1850, in lieu of it, the Democratic party from that day to this has been faithful to the new principle of adjustment. Whatever agitation has grown out of the question since, has been occasioned by the resistance of the party of which that Senator is the head, to the great principle which has been ratified by the American people at two presidential elections. If he was willing to acquiesce in the solemn and repeated judgment of that American people to which he appeals, there would be no agitation in this country now.
But, sir, the whole argument of that Senator goes far beyond the question of slavery even in the Territories. His entire argument rests on the assumption that the negro and the white man were equal by Divine law, and hence that all laws and constitutions and governments in violation of the principle of negro equality are in violation of the law of God. That is the basis upon which his speech rests. He quotes the Declaration of Independence to show that the fathers of the Revolution understood that the negro was placed on an equality with the white man, by quoting the clause, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men were created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Sir, the doctrines of that Senator and his party is-and I had to meet it for eight years-that the Declaration of Independence intended to recognize the negro and the white man as equal under the Divine law, and hence that all the provisions of the Constitution of the United States which recognize slavery are in violation of the Divine law. In other words, it is an argument against the Constitution of the United States upon the ground that it is contrary to the law of God. The Senator from New York has long held that doctrine. The Senator from New York has often proclaimed to the world, that the Constitution of the United States was in violation of the Divine law, and that Senator will not contradict the statement. I have an extract from one of his speeches now before me, in which that proposition is distinctly put forth. In a speech made in the State of Ohio, in 1848, he said:
“Slavery is the sin of not some of the States only, but of them all; of not one nationality, but of all nations. It perverted and corrupted the moral sense of mankind deeply and universally, and this perversion became a national habit. Habits of thought become fixed principles. No American State has yet delivered itself entirely from these habits. We, in New York, are guilty of slavery still by withholding the right of suffrage from the race we have emancipated. You, in Ohio, are guilty in the same way by a system of black laws still more aristocratic and odious. It is written in the Constitution of the United States that five slaves shall count equal to three freemen as a basis of representation; and it is written, also, IN VIOLATION OF DIVINE LAW, that we shall surrender the fugitive slave who takes refuge at our fireside from his relentless pursuer.”
There you find his doctrine clearly laid down, that the Constitution of the United States is “in violation of the Divine law,” and therefore, is not to be obeyed. You are told that the clause relating to fugitive slaves, being in violation of the Divine law, is not binding on mankind. This has been the doctrine of the Senator from New York for years. I have not heard it in the Senate to-day for the first time. I have met in my own State, for the last ten years, this same doctrine, that the Declaration of Independence recognized the negro and the white man as equal; that the negro and white man are equals by Divine law, and that every provision of our Constitution and laws which establishes inequality between the negro and the white man, is void, because contrary to the law of God.