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

By Harry V. Jaffa | Go to book overview

Chapter XIII
The Intrinsic Evil of the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise

LINCOLN, we have said, believed in the restoration of the Missouri Compromise restriction on slavery as a supreme necessity of national policy. This necessity did not lie, however, solely or even mainly in the efficacy of the restriction as a barrier to slavery in such places as Kansas. That Lincoln, in flat contradiction to Douglas-and to some present-day historians-believed such a barrier was needed is certain. It was needed because the moral and legal opposition to slavery in free territory, and free states as well, were inseparable. Professor Randall thinks that the free states would not have tolerated a Supreme Court decision legalizing slavery within their borders because they were hostile to slavery. Lincoln, of course, would have granted as much, but Lincoln did not believe the free states could abandon their insistence upon the freedom of the territories without losing root of the conviction which was the foundation of their own freedom. For the free states to abandon the Missouri Compromise restriction could only signal a drastic change in the moral attitude toward slavery in the free states. Such a change, if it were allowed to proceed unchecked, might very well lead in the not-too-distant future to the peaceful acceptance of slavery there. We have yet to examine the thesis that there was no danger of slavery spreading to free territories or states because it would not have been profitable. For the moment we summarize Lincoln's argument by saying that Republican insistence on the maintenance of the legal barrier in Kansas and Nebraska was indispensable for maintaining

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