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France by the treaty under which Louisiana was ceded to the Union, could only get those rights admitted and those stipulations acted upon by consenting to the unfair and tyrannical law called the “Missouri Compromise.” By this agreement she consented not only to be kept out of her right, that her citizens should have the whole of the West open to them as the Northern citizens had, by allowing a line to be drawn, north of which she was not to go in time coming, but also that the line should be drawn at a parallel considerably short of what she might fairly have claimed, and which, had it gone eastward, would have excluded the States of Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. It would also have to be told how the Northern States, having so distinctly got the better of their rivals by this compromise, refused to be bound by it; how they twice refused to permit the admission of Missouri as a slave State; how the fight was renewed on the question of the admission of Arkansas, which lies due south of Missouri, as one brick lies below another in a wall; and how, when it was proposed that the line should be held to extend across the whole Continent to the Pacific, they repudiated it, and repudiated it successfully, carrying through Congress a bill for the prohibition of slavery in the State of California. It was on this last occasion, when the victorious North was using its numerical majority to enable it to throw aside, because it suited it to do so, that very compromise which in 1820 it had extorted from the weakness or the moderation of the South, that Congress listened, though unheedingly, to the dying words of one of the greatest and noblest citizens whom America has ever produced—the brilliant and accomplished Calhoun. He spoke, as it were, from the grave. His voice was too feeble to be heard ; but his sentiments, written down, were delivered to Congress by a Virginian senator, since celebrated as one of the victims of the “Trent” outrage. Like Chatham, Calhoun devoted his latest powers to the service of his country. But while Chatham's last effort was to cheer his countrymen in a just and righteous war, Calhoun's had for its object to urge his countrymen to avoid war by a still more just and righteous measure of peace.
But no orator, were it even Demosthenes, could have produced much effect in the Congress of 1850. In the Athenian Agora, or the English Parliament, though there was and is quite factiousness enough, there has always been at least a chance of getting a question discussed and a speech listened to on its own merits; but what chance was there of such a blessed result when the audience consisted merely of the delegates of wirepullers ? Even bodies which
have been supposed to be cold-blooded and deaf to eloquence, as the English House of Lords and the Grand Council of Venice, have been known to be turned from their resolutions by the speech of a single man. But there was little possibility of this happening to a collection of delegates. Calhoun charmed wisely, and under circumstances which might have been expected to double the force of the charm ; but the Northern adder stopped its ears, or rather it had no ears to stop. They had been well waxed up before. The North sent its representatives, not to listen, but to vote.
So it went on and on. Why, as I asked before, did not the South secede? She had suffered enough from the Union to have learned, that whatever its advantages might be for the North, it was of no advantage to her; and every session proved that the chance of equal legislation was growing less and less, for the majority against her was creeping up and getting higher and higher; and that majority had neither mercy nor good faith. But, as I answered myself, the South clung from sentimental motives to the Union; and she persisted in hoping against hope that things would grow better. The great party upon her connection with which she allowed herself to lean was still powerful, and generally had the upper hand. Strongly sectional on the tariff questions, the Northern Democrats were disposed to support the South on those which arose out of slavery. They were anxious to preserve the Union and to uphold the Constitution; and though, as a body, they could not resist the temptation of laying measure after measure of protection on the back of the South, in the hope that this particular measure at least might be added without breaking the creature's back, yet they felt it was rather a risk; and that it would be the height of folly to offer any further temptations to secede by stirring a question which it was doubtful whether they ought to stir even in the case of admitting new States, especially as they had very little interest in doing so. Besides this there was, as I have said before, the great social influence of the South.
It may be wondered that this party did not check the North in its attempts to oust the South from the newly-settled States more completely than it did. But the victories which the Democrats sought were rather in connection with the honours (and the spoils) of Government than in connection with the debates of Congress; and it was in Congress that the fight for the territories, and what was to be done with them, was waged. Still they did something. They succeeded, after several failures it is true, in forcing the North to adhere to its very advantageous bargain in the case of Missouri ; and they also succeeded in defeating the scandalous attempt to exclude slavery from Arkansas. When the admission of California came to be debated they were no longer in power, for the presidency and its appurtenances had fallen to the Whigs; and what was worse, their defeat had been caused by a split in their own ranks. A section of the party, headed by ex - President Van Buren, had taken up the freesoil notions, and given them, what they never had before, the character of a political watchword, and one belonging to great and respected combination. This was not a desertion to the Whigs, for the Whigs had never espoused those doctrines as a body. The lines which separated parties on the question of free soil versus slavery were not identical with, and may almost be said to have crossed, those which marked off the Whigs from the Democrats ; still, of the two parties, the Democrats, with their Southern sympathies, their adherence to the Constitution, and their horror of the Abolitionists, would naturally have been that to which the Southerners would have looked for support; and when a section of that party openly and on principle ranged itself under the banners of the enemy, it may well have been seen that the chances of getting the Missouri Compromise principle adhered to in California were poor indeed.