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MR. PRESIDENT AND FELLow-CITIZENs: — YoUR kind greeting encourages the belief that you will permit me to say a few words in the first person singular. The effect of what I may say at this time, supposing it to have any effect, may depend very much upon the character in which I appear before you. But, for another and a different reason, let it be distinctly understood, that I do not, upon this occasion, represent the sentiments of any department of Harvard College, and am not here as the Royall Professor. Upon some of the topics upon which I may speak, it would have given me pleasure to have held a free conversation with my associates in the Law School, but I sedulously avoided it in order to make this disclaimer, and have no reason to suppose that they concur in my opinions, except a belief that the doctrine is sound, and that they, therefore, as wise men, must approve of it. I come before you, then, as a citizen of Cambridge, a constitutional lawyer, if you please, and especially as a Whig; as one who has been a Whig since the formation of the Whig party;-withdrawn in a measure from ordinary political contests, but known as a Whig.
It was said in 1852 that an eminent member of the Whig party prophesied that there would be no Whig party after the presidential election that year. Certain it is, that many of the friends of that great statesman did what they could to accomplish such a result by voting for the present occupant of the presidential chair. I was not “left” to do that, but supported, in good faith, the Whig candidate. When the citizens of Cambridge, in 1853, elected me a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, it was as a Whig. And at the last gubernational election, while approving to some extent the efforts of the American party, sympathizing with some of the principles of the Freesoil party, and honoring Governor Gardner for measures of his administration, which others of his friends disapproved, it did not appear expedient to separate myself from a party which still clung to existence, and I formed one of the forlorn hope which voted for the Whig nominee.
The result of that election showed very clearly that the party, as an effective party, no longer had any existence, and left to its members the inquiry, -With what party and in what connection shall a Whig hereafter endeavor to perform the duty which a good citizen owes to his country?
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 could not have had my vote, because there is no provision in it securing a trial to the fugitive on his rendition and return, and there are obnoxious sections which serve only to exasperate the citizens of the non-slave-holding States, and seem almost designed for the purpose of insult. But believing it to be, however unwise, a constitutional enactment, in my public teachings and private discourse, I have maintained the constitutionality of that law, and stopped a religious newspaper, conducted with great ability, on account of my disapproval of the encourage
ment it gave to a forcible resistance to the execution of that law. I may claim, therefore, to be a Whig, a Massachusetts Whig, a Conservative Whig, a National Whig ; perhaps as sound an expositor of Whig principles as if I were a member of the Whig State Central Committee itself. The events which have occurred within a recent period, have rendered the inquiry, “in what connection shall a whig hereafter endeavor to perform the duty which a good citizen owes to his country,” one of exceeding interest. Notwithstanding the opposition to the Compromise Measures, as they were called, of 1850, the country was settling down to a quiet acquiescence, when in 1854 came the repeal of the Missouri Compromise Act of 1820. Some of you must well recollect the circumstances which occurred in 1819 and 1820, connected with the admission of Missouri into the Union ; – the stern and determined opposition to its admission, unless coupled with a restriction of slavery within its limits. You doubtless recall the joy with which you hailed vote after vote in the House of Representatives, seeming almost to insure the triumph of freedom; and the revulsion of feeling, almost dismay, with which you learned, at last, that Missouri had been admitted without restriction, upon a compromise by which slavery was thereafter to be excluded from all territory north of 36°30' north latitude. This compromise was eminently a Southern measure, carried as such measures always are, by the aid of a few Northern votes; and it was treated for the time in the slave-holding States as something more sacred than ordinary legislative enactments;–as a kind of semi-constitutional law, securing all south of 36°30' to slavery. A proposition to repeal it would have been a crime second only to
treason. But when, after the third of a century, the time
“The slavery party in Missouri, under the lead of David R. Atchison, have long had their eyes upon the Kansas Territory, and were resolved upon the most desperate expedients to carry slavery there whenever it should be opened for settlement. Having no idea that it would ever be possible to procure the abrogation of the Missouri Compromise restriction, their plan was to keep every thing quiet as possible, until they could have every thing ready,
procure a territorial charter, slip over a sufficient number of their own men to elect a territorial legislature, and as soon as possible form a State government and get admitted to the Union, and before the people of the free States should suspect what was going on, establish slavery by an act of the new State legislature. In the latter part of 1853, almost a year before the passage of the Nebraska Bill, a public meeting was held in Platte county, Missouri, to consider the affairs of Kansas. Atchison made a speech, and was the master-spirit of the meeting; and it was “Resolved, That if the Territory shall be opened to settlement, we pledge ourselves to each other to extend the institutions of Missouri over the Territory, at whatever sacrifice of blood or treasure.” “These resolutions were published in the Platte Argus. This was long before Douglas had thought of venturing upon the repeal. The pledge there given is still operating upon those people, and its force precludes the idea that peace can ever come to Kansas, until it shall be fully admitted to the Union with its institutions all consolidated as a FREE STATE. “This meeting attracted little public attention at the time, but it furnishes the key to all the subsequent history. Atchison has since explained the process by which he bullied and terrified Pierce and Douglas into the fatal measure of repealing the restriction. The Blue Lodges began to be formed immediately after; for it was testified before the Congressional Committee, by Jordan Davison, a Missourian and a Border Ruffian, that he was in a Blue Lodge at Pleasant Hill, Missouri, in February, 1854, the avowed object being to make Kansas a slave State, while the Nebraska Bill became a law on the 30th of June, 1854, and the Emigrant Aid Society of Boston held its first meeting on the 30th of July, 1854. A resolution was adopted on the 10th of June, at Parkville, Missouri, and within that and the following month was repeatedly adopted by other meetings both in Missouri and Kansas, debarring ‘abolitionists’ from entering Kansas, -in which term they include all friends of free labor, − declaring that the institution of slavery already existed in the Territory, and recommending to slave-holders to introduce their property as fast as possible.”
You have here what purports to be a copy of a resolution passed at a public meeting in Platte County, in 1853, and then published in the Platte Argus. It seems that there can be no mistake, and that the determination was them