Disunion! The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859

By Elizabeth R. Varon | Go to book overview

5
Oh for a Man Who Is a Man:
DEBATING SLAVERY 'S EXPANSION

When the fractious Twenty-seventh Congress came to a close, the antislavery lobby in the House (Adams, Slade, Giddings, and ten others) promulgated an address to the “people of the free states” on the subject of Texas annexation. The project of annexing Texas may have been on the political backburner during the 1841–43 session, they warned, but it was “by no means abandoned.” Rather, proslavery forces were steadily mounting an annexation campaign by which the “undue ascendancy of the Slave-holding power in the Government [would] be secured and riveted beyond all redemption.” As proof, John Quincy Adams and his allies quoted from speeches and letters by Henry Wise, Thomas W. Gilmer, and others in which they professed that annexation was constitutional and was the perfect means to extend slavery. Sounding an alarm in tones conspicuously similar to proslavery appeals for vigilance against abolitionist encroachments, the antislavery lobby implored Northerners not to be lulled into a “false and dangerous security.” Unless Northerners united, without distinction of party, the “nefarious project” of annexation would succeed; this would not only “result in a dissolution of the union,” the authors of the address proclaimed, “but fully … justify it.” The address found favor among moderates as well as hardcore abolitionists. Horace Greeley's antislavery Whig newspaper, the New York Tribune (which

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