The Diary of Philip Hone, 1828-1851 - Vol. 2

By Phillip Hone; Allan Nevins | Go to book overview

1850
The Great Compromise; Mrs. Hone Dies; Jenny Lind

"As to myself and my concerns," wrote Hone on Jan 1, "I have much to be thankful for.My health has improved; the disease which for so long a time subdued my strength and wasted my flesh is greatly mitigated. I am stronger, but my flesh and good looks have not returned. However, I eat my allowance, drink as much as is good for me, and sleep with a good conscience ; and so the Lord be thanked." He was destined to have four months more of comparative health.

Upon national affairs the diarist looked with growing disquiet. The acquisition of a vast territory from Mexico had brought the slavery question to a point where it could not be ignored. The free-soilers were demanding the application of the Wilmot Proviso, excluding slavery from the area; the slavery advocates were demanding that the national government protect the "property rights" of all slaveholders in the common territory of the Union—the Calhoun-Davis theory.Northern agitators were calling for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.Legislatures at the North were passing personal liberty acts which made it extremely difficult to return fugitive slaves to their masters.The "irrepressible issue" could not longer be shelved.In his last message Polk implored Congress to abstain from "exciting topics of a sectional character," but this was impossible.There at once developed a bitter struggle in the House between Robert C. Winthrop of Massachusetts and Howell Cobb of Georgia over the Speakership.

"The contest for Speaker continues with accumulating violence," Hone had written on Dec. 15, 1849. "After forty ballotings there is still no prospect of an organization of the House.Madness rules the hour; faction, personal recrimination, and denunciation prevail, and men for the first time in our history do not hesitate openly to threaten a dissolution of the

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