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The result having been presented on the same day to the Senate, it was referred to a committee consisting of Crittenden, Bigler, Thomson, Seward, and Trumbull. On the next day the majority of the committee reported in favor of the recommendation of the convention, Seward and Trumbull dissenting. Several resolutions and amendments were offered, and a general, earnest, and acrimonious debate ensued. Joseph Lane of Oregon, Democratic candidate for Vice-President on the Breckinridge ticket, made a very violent speech, taking the most extreme Southern ground. Andrew Johnson of Tennessee replied in a strong Union speech, in which he denounced those who had seized the arsenals and other United States property as traitors. The speech made a deep impression on the country, bringing its author to favorable notice, and contributing, no doubt largely if not mainly, to his subsequent elevation. Mr. Baker of Oregon made an eloquent, earnest, and pathetic appeal in favor of compromise.
No vote, however, was taken. On motion of Mr. Douglas the report was laid aside for the purpose of taking up the House Resolution, reported by the committee of thirty-three; and the propositions of the Peace Congress, brought forth with so much labor and anxiety, if they did not fall still-born, were left to sleep in " the tomb of the Capulets."
AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION.
General uncertainty and diversity of opinion. — Montgomery. — Alleged inconsistency. Barrett. Republican hopes. Slaveholding changes. — Remedies sought. Republican disclaimers. - Northern yielding and concessions. Committee of thirty-three. Proposed -Trimble, Stokes. Three facts. amendment. Brief debate. Kilgore, Stanton. Charles Francis Adams,
It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to construct any single theory that will satisfactorily account for many of the sayings and doings, the sentiments, purposes, and plans, of the men and parties, sections and schools, involved in the long and heated conflict that at length culminated in the late Rebellion and civil war. In reviewing the history of those days, especially the utterances on record, both North and South, by men at each extreme, and by the far larger number occupying intermediate positions, the most noteworthy facts and features thereof are the confusion of ideas, the conflicts of purposes, and the lack of any well-defined plans that received the advocacy and support of any considerable number. Soon after the report of the committee of thirty-three had been made, Mr. Montgomery of Pennsylvania thus gave expression to his view of public opinion: "I think that every impartial observer who has witnessed our deliberations since the commencement of the session will admit that there is nothing like unity of sentiment or concurrence of opinion among us. Day after day is spent in the delivery of speeches, many of which only tend to increase our troubles and add fuel to the flame of public discord"; and he expressed "the doubt whether any speech that has been made or that will be made will change the vote or opinion of a single member."
To this discordance of views was added what was freely charged to be lack of logical consistency and consentaneousness in the opinions and purposes expressed, especially by those Republicans who were free to disclaim any purpose to infringe upon State-rights and interfere with slavery where existing, but who did not conceal impatience at their alleged constitutional obligations to share in the work of oppression, and their confident expectation that the system would soon yield to the potent influences of reform and pass away. A house divided against itself cannot stand,'" said Mr. Lincoln. "I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union will be dissolved. I do not expect the house to fall. But I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other." Similar sentiments and expectations had been freely and confidently expressed by large numbers and leading members of the new party that was soon to assume the reins of power. And all such sentiments, wishes, and expectations were well remembered and faithfully reported within hearing of those whose cherished system was thus menaced. Near the close of the session Mr. Barrett of Missouri addressed the House in a long and carefully elaborated speech, into which were introduced a mass of such utterances culled from leading Republicans. He quoted Mr. Seward as saying that "slavery is not and cannot be perpetual; that it will be overthrown either peacefully and lawfully under this Constitution, or it will work the subversion of the Constitution together with its own overthrow," with a large number of similar expressions from the same individual at different times and places. He quoted largely, too, from Mr. Lincoln, and reached the conclusion that "he was the very embodiment of the sentiments of Mr. Giddings and Mr. Curtis, and of the Abolition party generally." He quoted Mr. Sumner as saying that slavery is such a grievous wrong that it should be "encountered wherever it can be reached; and the battle must be continued without truce or compromise until the field is entirely won." He quoted Mr. Burlingame of Massachusetts as saying that after we shall have elected a President who shall be "the tribune of
the people, and after we have exterminated a few doughfaces from the North, then, if the slave Senate will not give way, we will grind it between the upper and nether millstone of our power." From these sentiments, and a large number of like character expressed by others, he drew the conclusion that a party "composed of such materials, announcing such sentiments, fighting such battles, must have an object far beyond the prevention of slavery in a Territory where it can never exist."
That these gentlemen had given expression to such sentiments, and that they honestly regarded slavery as deserving such condemnation and confidently looked forward to its extinguishment, was historically true, though they were equally sincere in their disavowals of any purpose to infringe upon State-rights or to meddle with slaveholding where it legally existed. If there was inconsistency it was not intentional. The inconsistency concerning which many had more self-misgivings was the seeming complicity their support of the compromise might imply or involve. But they reconciled themselves by the consideration that, being estopped from interference by constitutional restrictions, what they could not reach by political agencies would yield to moral forces, and that the laws of nature and the workings of Providence would prove more than a match for even slaveholding persistence and astuteness and non-slaveholding indifference and subserviency. Nor did they hesitate to give expression to these hopes, and indicate with great confidence the reasons therefor. That on some points they miscalculated and were too sanguine may be admitted, for on such a subject no prescience less than divine could accurately forecast the future. Their confident expectations were, however, made note of by the propagandists, and used with no small effect to poison the Southern mind as well as to fire the Southern heart against the North and what they were pleased to characterize its ulterior purposes. They found, also, in the relative advancement and growing preponderance of the free States in population, wealth, and the elements of a superior civilization, too many corroborative arguments in harmony with these antislavery reasonings and expectations to justify
supineness or the neglect of those measures demanded to meet, circumvent, or overcome what they so much feared. Nor were they neglectful. As on nothing has the Southern mind been more deeply exercised, so to nothing has Southern thought, scholarship, and statesmanship been more thoroughly devoted. It has been the staple of Southern literature, the subject on which the resources of Southern rhetoric and eloquence have been most lavishly expended. The danger to be apprehended from the growing strength of the free North, its alleged unfriendliness to slavery, and its ulterior purpose to effect its overthrow, afforded the problem that challenged investigation, and demanded remedial measures, both commensurate and prompt.
The only alternative presented, it was claimed, was secession, or some assurance that this growing preponderance of the free States should never be used, or taken advantage of, to the detriment of slavery. The secession leaders contended that the only adequate remedy was in separation. Others at the South, equally intent on conserving the system, shrunk from that violent remedy, and contended that there were strength and wisdom enough in what they termed Northern and Southern conservatism to devise and execute some plan by which slavery could be placed beyond the reach of intermeddlers, however fanatical or numerous. But what? What new contrivance could there be? For two generations the Slave Power had held control and dictated the legislation it desired, and an obsequious nation had done little less than record its edicts and clothe with the sanctions of law its behests. Even the Republican party, in its platform on which Mr. Lincoln had just been elected, had disclaimed any purpose to interfere with the system in the States where it existed, and had declared "that the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of powers on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend." What new guaranties were demanded, or required, or were possible?