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majority, presented by the chairman, took the middle ground of compromise and comparative moderation, though its prevailing tone was that of surrender, with the manifest purpose to make every concession possible to avert the impending disruption. Though dissenting from the severe arraignment of the North by the President, as unsustained by facts, it urged strongly the importance of fulfilling all constitutional obligations in the matter of returning fugitives, and expressed the belief that a very small fraction of the Northern people was opposed to such reclamation, and also satisfaction that many of the Northern States were already reviewing and revising their statute-books to rid them of all such objectionable legislation. The resolutions proposed for adoption affirmed that all attempts of State legislatures to obstruct the working of the Fugitive Slave Act should be discountenanced; suggested that the several State legislatures should revise their statutes to ascertain whether or not any were in conflict with provisions of the Constitution; disclaimed all right to meddle with slavery in the States; affirmed that there was no sufficient ground for the dissolution of the Union; declared that the faithful observance of all constitutional obligations was essential to the peace of the country; recommended that the State legislatures should revise their laws concerning the right of the citizens of one State to travel unmolested in another; and that the States should be requested to enact proper laws against the lawless invasion of one State by the citizens of another. To assure the South that the Republican party had no ulterior designs on the institution of slavery in.the States, it proposed an amendment of the Constitution denying to Congress any power to interfere with slavery "until every State in the Union, by its individual State action, shall consent to its exercise." The question of slavery in the Territories it proposed to adjust by the compromise of admitting New Mexico with its proslavery code; which, like all previous compromises, was simply another concession to slaveholding demands. Though the report appeared sufficiently Southern, containing but one seeming concession to Northern interests and wants, - its recommendation of new provisions for the protection of citizens of
one State travelling in another, it did not answer the demands of the members from Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Delaware, and North Carolina. Something more intensely Southern was requisite; and this they embodied in an elaborate report, closing with a recommendation of the "Crittenden resolutions," or a convention of the States for the amendment of the Constitution, or, in default of these, a plan for peaceful separation.
With the exception of the report signed by Washburn of Wisconsin and Tappan of New Hampshire, which alone had the true ring of freedom and fealty to human rights, each of the eight reports was apologetic and deprecatory in tone, conceding much, sacrificing Northern self-respect, and ignoring, as if they did not exist, all claims of justice and humanity. They all exhibited a feverish anxiety to escape threatened dangers, and to secure relief from the heavy pressure which had so long rested upon the nation. In the report signed by the members from Wisconsin and New Hampshire, and in those alone, was vindicated the great principle of republicanism, that the majority must rule. It affirmed, too, with dignity and a manly positiveness, the obligation resting upon the new and dominant party not to yield to the causeless clamors of those who made the election of Mr. Lincoln the pretence for their treasonable threats and arrogant demands, by granting the guaranties proposed by the majority; pleaded, against the proposed modifications of Northern statutes to calm and conciliate Southern prejudices and fears, the fact that the courts were open for appeal; and noted the marked inconsistency of Northern men who were so anxious to modify their own laws at Southern dictation, but who had never exhibited any solicitude for the repeal of Southern statutes, by which Northern men had been persistently and remorselessly deprived of the rights and immunities guaranteed by the Constitution. The amendment of the Constitution recommended by the majority it characterized as "a constitutional decree of perpetual bondage." To the proposed admission of New Mexico as a State, it adduced many grave objections, other than that of its proslavery laws. Against all the propositions of the committee,
it urged the impotence of every attempt at conciliation, because the reasons of Southern discontent, they contended, lay not in the unfriendly legislation of the North or in any real apprehension of Northern interference, but in a long-cherished purpose to leave the Union. It styled the Southern States "our sick man," for whose cure the proposed nostrums were perfectly idle"; and it closed with the remark that the Constitution needed" to be obeyed rather than amended."
The debate upon these reports could not but be earnest and eloquent. The novelty of the situation, the impending dangers to the government, dreaded by some and desired by others, the very darkness and doubts that enveloped all things and hid everything future so impenetrably from the view that men could not even conjecture what a day might bring forth, were well calculated to arouse the most sluggish and wake up the dormant energies of those most determined to remain quiet and undisturbed. If there was sensibility, it could not but be quickened; if there was talent, it could not but be called into action; if there was eloquence, it could not but speak. They who would destroy and they who would conserve the government, they who would disgrace and they who would defend the national flag, were placed in circumstances to call forth their most effective efforts. The disunion they had hitherto talked about as something contingent and, at the worst, at a distance, seemed near at hand; the secession which had been bandied about for so many years as a threat had become an accomplished fact. The "situation," then, became the absorbing subject of debate, whatever might be the specific motion or resolution before either house. Congress became the stage, and its members actors, at least in the prelude of that awful tragedy which was soon to occupy the whole land as its theatre.
Mr. Corwin, in opening the debate, said he should confine himself mainly to " an explanation of the motives which have induced the committee " to make the recommendations of the report. These "motives," it soon transpired, were based on the supposed expediency of the plan proposed, rather than upon its justice and equity. To pacify and persuade the “wayward sisters" to return to their allegiance, and to prevent others
from following their lead, and not to vindicate and protect the rights of those States which still remained loyal, was its manifest purpose. He began by an allusion to the fact that twentyeight years before, in the same house, he had been called to confront the nullification movement of South Carolina, based on the same underlying principles which now prompted the action of the seceding States, dissatisfaction with the Federal government, secession its remedy. Then the tariff was the bone of contention; now, slavery.
In the prosecution of the work of pacification and persuasion, he reminded the recusant States that they had the courts to which they could resort in all cases of the infraction of the Constitution and the laws. He recognized the right of property in man, and the rightfulness of the Fugitive Slave Act, which, he admitted and insisted, should be faithfully executed, while all personal-liberty laws and other enactments should be made to conform thereto. To the argument that Mr. Lincoln's election foreshadowed the purpose and the danger of an ultimate assault on slavery in the States by an amendment of the Constitution, he interposed for reply a consideration, both statistical and geographical, showing that the party of freedom could never command the necessary two-thirds and threefourths votes to accomplish such a purpose. The fear expressed that the people of New Mexico might be induced to root up slavery when it became a State, he sought to dissipate by the rather singular argument, for a Northern man, that the system of peonage, which he rather indorsed, would be apt to make it a slaveholding State. He closed with an elaborate argument to the effect that the Southern desire for more territory was a mistake, and that her real want was more slaves and less land.
John S. Millson of Virginia, though avowing himself a friend of slavery and "a States-rights man of the straitest sect," deprecated disunion, and pleaded earnestly for those who desired to preserve the nation intact. If a Northern State, he said, should enact the most unjust and unconstitutional laws, there were the courts and retaliating legislation, and they would involve a far less fearful and fatal course than
secession. Though he deprecated secession as among the sorest of calamities that could befall the nation, yet he would "oppose every resort to force and every attempt at coercion." Sherrard Clemens, of the same State, followed in a similar strain, deprecating secession because, he said, with truthful forecast, slavery would be "crucified if this controversy ends in the dismemberment of the Union." He would apply, he said, to the recusant States the language of Jefferson to the New England States in 1798: "A little patience, and we shall see the reign of the witches pass over, their spells dissolved, and the people recovering their true sight, restoring their government to its true principles."
John A. Bingham of Ohio addressed the House with great eloquence and force. Admitting the right of revolution, he showed, that, as this was a government of the people and not of the States, they, and not the States, could avail themselves of that primal right. Concerning the assertion that the plan proposed and adopted by the seceding States was "a peaceable remedy," though it must "blot a great people from the map of nations," he said: "You might as well talk about a peaceable earthquake which rends the earth asunder and buries its inhabitants in a common ruin. You might as well talk to me of a peaceable storm which fills the heavens with darkness and the habitations of men with desolation and death." Of the constitutional amendment proposed by the committee, he said: "This amendment, if adopted, will startle the civilized world. It is a written conspiracy against the liberties of four million men and their descendants forever." Of New Mexico he said: "She has to-day upon her statute-book two slave-codes which would bring blushes to the cheek of Caligula." With like earnestness and force Owen Lovejoy of Illinois spoke. Reverently invoking Divine aid and "the wisdom from above," he said that he seemed to stand "in the august presence of thirtytwo million people." Those who deprecated coercion he referred to the fact that the seceders had stolen United States property and had fired on a United States vessel. "Those balls," he said, "booming, hissing, disgracing and defying the flag, burn and sting to the very quick continually. And yet,