Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates

By Harry V. Jaffa | Go to book overview

Chapter VII
The Repeal of the Missouri Compromise III WHAT DOUGLAS INTENDED ON JANUARY 4, 1854

OF ALL criticisms of Douglas's course in 1854, none appears on its face to be more devastating than that drawn from the evidence of the 1853 Nebraska bill. "In 1853" said Lincoln at Peoria, "a bill to give [ Nebraska ] a territorial government passed the House of Representatives [by a vote of 98 to 43, with 20 affirmative votes from slave states], and, in the hands of Judge Douglas, failed of passing the Senate only for want of time. This bill contained no repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Indeed, when it was assailed because it did not contain such repeal, Judge Douglas defended it in its existing form."1 In the principal Senate speech for the 1853 bill Senator Atchison of Missouri had spoken thus:

Now, sir, I am free to admit at this moment, at this hour, and for all time to come, I should oppose the organization or the settlement of that Territory unless my constituents and the constituents of the whole South, of the slave States of the Union, could go into it upon the same footing, with equal rights and equal privileges, carrying that species of property with them...Yes, sir, I acknowledge that that would have governed me, but I have no hope that the restriction will ever be repealed.2

Because, Atchison continued, the tide of population would roll over the Nebraska frontier in defiance of law, unless law was

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