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MR. CLAY'S PLAN OF COMPROMISE IN 1850.

after nearly three weeks' fruitless balloting, and under it Howell Cobb, of Georgia, was chosen Speaker on the 63d ballot, receiving 102 votes to 99 for Winthrop, and 20 scattering (mainly on the Buffalo platform). Mr. Cobb was one of the most determined Democratic advocates of Slavery Extension, and constituted the Committees of the House accordingly.

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Gen. B. Riley, the Military Governor of California, had issued Proclamation calling a Convention of the People of California to frame a State Constitution. Such Convention was accordingly held, and formed a State Constitution whereby Slavery was expressly prohibited. State officers and members of Congress (all Democrats) were in due course elected under it; and Gen. Taylor communicated " the Constitution to Congress, at whose doors the members elect from the new State stood for many ensuing months patiently awaiting their admission to seats. For, among the various propositions introduced at this session, looking to the same end, Mr. Clay had already submitted 12 the following basis of a proposed Compromise of all differences relating to the territories and to Slavery:

"1. Resolved, That California, with suitable boundaries, ought, upon her application, to be admitted as one of the States of this Union, without the imposition by Congress of any restriction in respect to the exclusion or introduction of Slavery within those boundaries.

"2. Resolved, That, as Slavery does not exist by law, and is not likely to be introduced into any of the territory acquired by the United States from the Republic of Mexi

co, it is inexpedient for Congress to provide by law, either for its introduction into, or exclusion from, any part of the said territory; and that appropriate territorial governments ought to be established by Con

* Since, a Confederate Major-General. 10 June 3, 1849. 11 February 13, 1850.

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gress in all the said territory not assigned State of California, without the adoption of as within the boundaries of the proposed

any restriction or condition on the subject of Slavery. 13

"5. Resolved, That it is inexpedient to abolish Slavery in the District of Columbia,

whilst the institution continues to exist in

the State of Maryland, without the consent of that State, without the consent of the people of the District, and without just compensation to the owners of Slaves within the District.

"6. But Resolved, That it is expedient to prohibit, within the District, the SlaveTrade in slaves brought into it from States or places beyond the limits of the District, either to be sold therein as merchandise, or to be transported to other markets without

the District of Columbia.

7. Resolved, That more effectual_provision ought to be made by law, according to the requirement of the Constitution, for the restitution or delivery of persons bound to

service or labor in any State, who may escape into any other State or Territory in the Union. And,

"8. Resolved, That Congress has no power to prohibit or obstruct the trade in slaves between the slaveholding States, but brought from one into another of them, depends exclusively upon their own particular laws."

that the admission or exclusion of slaves

The debate on this proposition of compromise was opened by Southern Democrats, all speaking in disparagement of its leading suggestions, or in scarcely qualified opposition to the whole scheme. Mr. H. S. Foote, of Mississippi, condemned especially the proposition "that it is inexpedient to abolish Slavery in the District of Columbia," as implying a right in Congress to legislate on that subject, which he utterly denied. demned still more emphatically the assertion that "Slavery does not now exist by law in the territories recently acquired from Mexico;" insisting that the mere fact of Annexation carried the Constitution, with all its guaranties, to all the territories ob12 January 29, 1850.

He con

13 3, 4, relate to Texas and her boundary.

tained by treaty, and secured the privilege to any "Southern slaveholder to enter any part of it, attended by his slave property, and to enjoy the same therein, free from all molestation or hindrance whatsoever." He also condemned the resolve relating to the boundaries of Texas, contending that "her right to that part of New Mexico, lying east of the Rio Grande, was full, complete, and undeniable." But he did not object to abolishing the Slave-Trade in the District, "provided it is done in a delicate and judicious manner;" and

he would consent to the admission

of California, "above the line of 36° 30'," "provided another new Slave State can be laid off within the present limits of Texas, so as to keep up the present equiponderance between the Slave and Free States of the Union, and provided further, all this is done by way of compromise, and in order to save the Union-as dear to me as any man living." Mr. J. M. Mason, of Virginia, though anxious to do his utmost for "adjusting these unhappy differences,' still more pointedly dissented from Mr. Clay's scheme. He said:

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"Sir, so far as I have read these resolutions, there is but one proposition to which I can give a hearty assent, and that is the resolution which proposes to organize territorial governments at once in these territories, without a declaration, one way or the other, as to their domestic institutions. But there is another which I deeply regret to see introduced into this Senate, by a Senator from a Slaveholding State; it is that which assumes that Slavery does not now exist by law in those countries. I understand one of these propositions to declare that, by law, Slavery is now abolished in New Mexico and California. That was the very proposition advanced by the nonslaveholding States at the last Session; combated and disproved, as I thought, by

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gentlemen from the Slaveholding States, and which the Compromise bill 1⁄4 was framed to test. So far, I regarded the question of law as disposed of; and it was very clearly and satisfactorily shown to be Senator of Kentucky. If the contrary is against the spirit of the resolution of the true, I presume the Senator from Kentucky the territories abolishing Slavery, it could would declare that, if a law is now valid in not be introduced there, even if a law was passed creating the institution, or repealing the statutes already existing a doctrine never assented to, so far as I know, until now, by any Senator representing one of the slaveholding States. Sir, I hold the that, in the last Congress, I was willing, very opposite, and with such confidence, and did vote for a bill to test this question Yet this resolution in the Supreme Court. assumes the other doctrine to be true, and our assent is challenged to it as a proposition of law."

with equal energy, objected to so Mr. Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, much of Mr. Clay's propositions as relate to the boundary of Texas, to the Slave-Trade in the Federal District, and to the concession that Slavery does not exist by law in the newly acquired territories. He added:

"But, Sir, we are called upon to receive this as a measure of compromise! As a measure in which we of the minority are to receive something. A measure of compromise! I look upon it as but a modest mode of taking that, the claim to which has been more boldly asserted by others; and, that I may be understood upon this question, and that my position may go forth to the country in the same columns that convey the sentiments of the Senator from Kentucky, I here assert, that never will I take less than the Missouri Compromise line extending to the Pacific Ocean, with the specific recognition of the right to hold Slaves in the territory below that line; and that, before such territories are admitted into the Union as States, slaves may be taken there from any of the United States, at the option of the owners. I can never consent to give additional power to a majority to commit further aggressions upon the minority in this Union; and I will never consent to any proposition which will have such a tendency, without a full guar

14 That of Mr. Clayton-laid on the table of the House, on motion of Mr. Stephens, of Georgia.

CLAY AND WEBSTER FOR COMPROMISE.

antee or counteracting measure is connected

with it."

Mr. Clay, in reply to Mr. Davis, spoke as follows:

you

"I am extremely sorry to hear the Senator from Mississippi say that he requires, first, the extension of the Missouri Com promise line to the Pacific; and, also, that he is not satisfied with that, but requires, if I understand him correctly, a positive pro vision for the admission of Slavery south of that line. And now, Sir, coming from a Slave State, as I do, I owe it to myself, I owe it to truth, I owe it to the subject, to state that no earthly power could induce me to vote for a specific measure for the introduction of Slavery where it had not before existed, either south or north of that line. Coming, as I do, from a Slave State, it is my solemn, deliberate, and well-matured determination that no power-no earthly power-shall compel me to vote for the positive introduction of Slavery, either south or north of that line. Sir, while reproach, and justly, too, our British ancestors, for the introduction of this institution upon the continent of America, I am, for one, unwilling that the posterity of the present inhabitants of California and New Mexico shall reproach us for doing just what we reproach Great Britain for doing to us. If the citizens of those territories choose to establish Slavery, I am for admitting them with such provisions in their Constitutions; but then it will be their own work, and not ours; and their posterity will have to reproach them, and not us, for forming Constitutions allowing the institution of Slavery to exist among them. These are my views, Sir; and I choose to express them; and I care not how extensively and universally they are known. The honorable Senator from Virginia (Mr. Mason) has expressed his opinion that Slavery exists in these territories; and I have no doubt that opinion is sincerely and honestly entertained by him; and I would say, with equal sincerity and honesty, that I believe that Slavery nowhere exists within any portion of the territory acquired by us from Mexico. He holds a directly contrary opinion to mine, as he has a perfect right to do; and we will not quarrel about that difference of opinion."

Messrs. William R. King, of Alabama, Downs, of Louisiana, and Butler, of South Carolina, swelled the chorus of denunciation. They

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could see nothing in Mr. Clay's proposition that looked like compromise; nothing but concession and surrender of all the rights of the South in the territories. In their view, it was only a skillful and plausible device for reconciling the South to the sacrifice of its rights, and to a concession of all the new territories to Free Labor. They were, therefore, utterly averse to it.

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The most remarkable speech elicited by these resolves was that of Mr. Webster, wherein he took ground against the Abolitionists; against the assumed Right of Instruction; against further legislation prohibitory of Slavery in the Territories; against Secession or Disunion; against whatever seemed calculated to produce irritation or alienation between the North and the South; and in favor of liberal grants by Congress in aid of the colonization by Slave States of their free colored population. His reasons for opposing any prohibitive legislation with regard to Slavery in the new territories were set forth as follows:

"Now, as to California and New Mexico, I hold Slavery to be excluded from those territories by a law even superior to that which admits and sanctions it in Texas. I mean the law of nature, of physical geography, the law of the formation of the earth. That law settles forever, with a strength beyond all terms of human enactment, that Slavery cannot exist in California or New Mexico. Understand me, Sir; I mean Slavery as we regard it; the Slavery of the colored race as it exists in the Southern States. I shall not discuss the point, but leave it to the learned gentlemen who have undertaken to discuss it; but I suppose there is no Slavery of that description in California now. I understand that peonism, a sort of penal servitude, exists there, or rather a sort of voluntary sale of a man and his offspring for debt-an arrangement of a peculiar nature known to the law of Mexico.

15 March 7, 1850.

But what I mean to say is, that it is as impossible that African Slavery, as we see it among us, should find its way, or be introduced, into California and New Mexico, as any other natural impossibility. California and New Mexico are Asiatic in their formation and scenery. They are composed of vast ridges of mountains, of great hight, with broken ridges and deep valleys. The sides of these mountains are entirely barren; their tops capped by perennial snow. There may be in California, now made free by its constitution, and no doubt there are, some tracts of valuable land. But it is not so in New Mexico. Pray, what is the evidence which every gentleman must have obtained on this subject, from information sought by himself or communicated by others? I have inquired and read all I could find, in order to acquire information on this important subject. What is there in New Mexico that could, by any possibility, induce any body to go there with slaves? There are some narrow strips of tillable land on the borders of the rivers; but the rivers themselves dry up before midsummer is gone. All that the people can do in that region is to raise some little articles, some little wheat for their tortillas, and that by irrigation. And who expects to see a hundred black men cultivating tobacco, corn, cotton, rice, or anything else, on lands in New Mexico made fertile only by irrigation?

"I look upon it, therefore, as a fixed fact, to use the current expression of the day, that both California and New Mexico are destined to be free, so far as they are settled at all; which I believe, in regard to New Mexico, will be but partially for a great length of time; free by the arrangement of things ordained by the Power above us. I have, therefore, to say, in this respect also, that this country is fixed for freedom, to as many persons as shall ever live in it, by a less repealable law than that which attaches to the holding of slaves in Texas; and I will say further, that, if a resolution or a bill were now before us to provide a Territorial government for New Mexico, I would not vote to put any prohibition into it whatever. Such a prohibition would be idle, as it respects any effect it would have upon the Territory; and I would not take pains uselessly to reaffirm an ordinance of nature, nor to reenact the will of God. I would put in no Wilmot Proviso for the mere purpose of a taunt or a reproach. I would put into it no evidence of the votes of superior power, exercised for no purpose but to wound the pride, whether a just and rational pride, or an irrational pride, of the citizens of the Southern States. I have no

such object, no such purpose. They would think it a taunt, an indignity; they would

think it to be an act taking away from them what they regard as a proper equality of privilege. Whether they expect to realize any benefit from it or not, they would think it at least a plain theoretic wrong; that something more or less derogatory to their character and their rights had taken place. I propose to inflict no such wound upon any body, unless something essentially important to the country, and efficient to the preservation of liberty and freedom, is to be effected. I repeat, therefore, Sir, and, as I do not propose to address the Senate often upon this subject, I repeat it because I wish it to be distinctly understood, that, for the reasons stated, if a proposition were now here to establish a government for New Mexico, and if it was moved to insert a provision for the prohibition of Slavery, I would not vote for it.

Mr.

"Sir, if we were now making a government for New Mexico, and any body should propose a Wilmot Proviso, I should treat it exactly as Mr. Polk treated that provision for excluding Slavery from Oregon. Polk was known to be, in opinion, decidedly averse to the Wilmot Proviso; but he felt the necessity of establishing a government for the territory of Oregon. The Proviso was in the bill; but he knew it would be entirely nugatory, since it took away no right, no describable, no tangible, no appreciable right of the South; he said he would sign the bill for the sake of enacting a law to form a government in that Territory, and let that entirely useless, and, in that connection, entirely senseless, proviso remain. Sir, we hear occasionally of the Annexation of Canada; and, if there be any man, any of the Northern Democracy, or any one of the Free Soil party, who supposes it necessary to insert a Wilmot Proviso in a territorial government for New Mexico, that man would, of course, be of opinion that it is necessary to protect the everlasting snows of Canada from the foot of Slavery by the same overspreading wing of an act of Congress. Sir, wherever there is a substantial good to be done, wherever there is a foot of land to be prevented from becoming slave territory, I am ready to assert the principle of the exclusion of Slavery. I am pledged to it from the year 1837; I have been pledged to it again and again; and I will perform those pledges; but I will not do a thing unnecessarily that wounds the feelings of others, or that does discredit to my own understanding."

It seems not a little remarkable that a man of Mr. Webster's strength should have traversed the whole ground of controversy so thoroughly

MR. CLAY'S FINAL COMPROMISE.

in a speech inevitably calculated to excite deep dissatisfaction among the great mass of his constituents, without once considering or even touching this question: "What need exists for any compromise whatever?" Admitting the correctness of his views and gen

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consider the questions raised by Mr. Clay's proposition, and also by resolves submitted a month later by Mr. Bell, of Tennessee; and on the 19th this Committee was elected by ballot and composed as follows:

Mr. Henry Clay, of Kentucky, Chairman.

eral positions with regard to Califor- Messrs. Dickinson, of N. Y., Cooper, of Pa.,

nia, New Mexico, Texas, etc., why not permit each subject demanding legislation to be presented in its order, and all questions respecting it to be decided on their intrinsic merits? He, of course, contended throughout that his position was unchanged, that his views were substantially those he had always held; yet the eagerness and satisfaction wherewith his speech was received and reprinted at Richmond, Charleston, New Orleans, and throughout the South, should, it seems, have convinced him, if the disappointment and displeasure of his constituents did not, that either he had undergone a great transformation, or nearly every one else had. His speech, though it contained little or nothing referring directly to the compromise proposed by Mr. Clay, exerted a powerful influence in favor of its ultimate triumph.

Mr. Douglas having reported" a bill for the admission of California into the Union, as also one to establish territorial governments for Utah and New Mexico, Col. Benton moved" that the previous orders be postponed, and the California bill taken up. Mr. Clay proposed the laying of this motion on the table, which was carried by 27 Yeas to 24 Nays. The Senate now proceeded, on motion of Mr. Foote, of Mississippi, to constitute a Select Committee of thirteen, to

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Phelps, of Vt.,
Bell, of Tenn.,
Cass, of Mich.,
Webster, of Mass.,
Berrien, of Ga.,

Downs, of La.,
King, of Ala.,
Mangum, of N. C.,
Mason, of Va.,
Bright, of Ind.

Mr. Clay reported 18 from said Committee a recommendation, substantially, of his original proposition of compromise, save that he now provided for organizing Utah as a distinct Territory. His report recommended the following bases of a general Compromise:

"1. The admission of any new State or States formed out of Texas to be postponed until they shall hereafter present themselves to be received into the Union, when it will be the duty of Congress fairly and faithfully mitting such new State or States. to execute the compact with Texas, by ad

"2. The admission forthwith of Califor

nia into the Union, with the boundaries which she has proposed.

"3. The establishment of Territorial Gov

ernments, without the Wilmot Proviso, for territory recently acquired from Mexico, not New Mexico and Utah, embracing all the

contained in the boundaries of California.

"4. The combination of these two last measures in the same bill.

"5. The establishment of the western and northern boundaries of Texas, and the exclusion from her jurisdiction of all New Mexico, with the grant to Texas of a pecuniary equivalent; and the section for that purpose to be incorporated in the bill admitting California, Utah and New Mexico. and establishing Territorial Governments for

"6. More effectual enactments of law to secure the prompt delivery of persons bound to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, who escape into another State; and

but, under a heavy penalty, prohibiting the
"7. Abstaining from abolishing Slavery,
Slave-Trade, in the District of Columbia."
April 5th.
18 May 8th.

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