Article Title

The Nebraska Bill. Abolitionism.


Newspaper Title


Publication Date


Publication Place

Washington, D. C.

Event Topic

Nebraska Bill (Jan-May 1854)

Political Party



free state


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his proposition is regarded by abolitionists as a death-blow totheir hope of making the slavery question available forfuture political excitement.

Document Type

Article (Journal or Newsletter)

Full Text Transcription

It will take nobody by surprise to know that theNew York Tribune is down upon Judge Douglas'sNebraska bill with its usual fanatical bitterness. Any propositionwhich had for its object the permanent protection ofthe country against the slavery agitation would excite thehostility and provoke the assaults of that organ ofabolitionism. The fact that it has come forward so promptlyto denounce the measure of peace and compromise soably presented by Judge Douglasis conclusive that his proposition is regarded by abolitionists as a death-blow totheir hope of making the slavery question available forfuture political excitement. The course of the Tribunemore than ever confirms us in the importance which weattach to the Nebraska report and bill. In our judgment,the adoption of the principles of that bill by a uniteddemocratic vote would be hailed by the patriotic lovers ofthe Union throughout the country as the crowning act ofour party. It would dispel the idle charge that our unionat Baltimore was a mere temporary expedient to securethe spoils of office. It would vindicate and illustrate thepurity and excellence of the motives and principles of theconvention which harmonized and united upon the principlesof the Baltimore platform. It would prove to everymember of the democratic party that the union effectedby that platform was intended to be permanent. It wouldremove from our ranks all pretext for internal strife anddissension in regard to the slavery question, and withdrawfrom our whig antagonists the only capital on which theynow seek to give efficiency to their opposition.

The denunciations of the Tribune are directed againstthat clause in the Compromise, proposed to be inserted inthe Nebraska bill, which says:

"When admitted as a State, the said Territory, or anyportion of the same, shall be received into the Union, withor without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe atthe time of their admission."

The great principle of submitting the question to thedecision of the people, when they are prepared foradmission into the Union as a State, is here distinctlyrecognised. To this principle the Tribune objects, anddenounces it as a base submission to the slave power.That journal would deny to the people the right of self-government --for that is the real purport of the newhigher law set up by the Tribune. Against the exercise bythe people of a State of this fundamental right abolitionrelies upon the ordinance of 1787. The bill ofJudge Douglas distinctly recognises that right, and on thatground the issue is made up. But we have nodisposition to enter into an argument on the question. Whatwe desire is that the real issue shall be distinctlyunderstood and properly appreciated. We would not avoidthat issue, or seek to temporize with it. The democracynow have it in their power to drive the lastnail into the coffin of abolitionism, and we trustthat the opportunity will be neither shunned norunnecessarily postponed. We wish to see the seal of realityimpressed upon the covenant of union entered into atBaltimore. If the Democratic party by that covenant hasnot forever proscribed and repudiated abolitionism, wecare not how soon we are undeceived. We haveproclaimed the election of Franklin Pierce as thedeath-knell of the slavery agitation. We repose withunshaken confidence upon that conviction, and we areconfirmed in it when we see the organ of the fanatica lagitators assailing with mad ferocity a proposition which looks to the permanency of that repose on the slaveryquestion which now reigns in the public mind. But webelieve we can effect more by showing to our democraticreaders the position of the Tribune, than by any argumentof our own. We therefore republish what that journal says:

Slavery in the Field.

An overt attempt is set on foot in Mr. Douglas'sNebraska bill to override theMissouri Compromise. The eighth section ofthe act admitting Missouri as a State is as follows:

"In all that territory ceded byFrance to the United States, under thename ofLouisiana, which lies north of 36 degreesand 30 minutes north latitude, not included within the limits ofthe State contemplated by this act, slavery and involuntaryservitude, otherwise than in the punishment of crime whereof theparties shall have been duly convicted, shall be, and is hereby,forever prohibited: Provided, always, that any personescaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimedin any State or Territory of the United States,such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the personclaiming his or her labor or service, as aforesaid."

This plain and unequivocal declaration that neither slaverynor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in ourNorth-west Territories isunceremoniously hustled aside by Mr. Douglas,who makes the Compromise measures of 1850 the scape-goatfor his sin in doing it. He says that:

"A proper sense of patriotic duty enjoins upon yourCommittee the propriety and necessity of a strict adherenceto the principles, and even a literal adoption of theenactments of that adjustment in all their Territorialbills, so far as the same are not locally inapplicable"

And hence he proceeds to incorporate the following provisionrespecting Nebraska into his bill at the start:

"When admitted as a State, thesaid Territory, or any portion of the same, shall bereceived into the Union with or without slavery, as theirConstitution may proscribe at the time of their admission."

It is not to be expected of men who live for the solepurpose of enjoying official station, that they shall everbe manly, noble or independent. They slavishly cowerbefore every storm that threatens their opinions withpopular condemnation, and make haste to trim their sailsto catch the passing breeze of public favor. It iseverywhere assumed among such that subjection to theslaveholding interest is now our only sure path topolitical honors and distinction. In the struggle of 1850,the great Northern anti-Slavery sentiment was inundated andoverwhelmed in consequence of the succumbing temper andfaithlessness of rotten leaders. With their own hands theydestroyed the dykes and let the waters flow in and washaway the rich fruits of years. The XXXIst Congressinaugurated the era of submission to Slavery. Since then, everything has gone on swimmingly in this line.Not only was the Slavery question compromised, but thecharacter, reputation, and principles of hundreds of ourpublic men were also compromised by the same operation. There was a general debauch and demoralization throughoutall political circles, as was clearly manifested in thetriumphant run of Gen. Pierce. The demoralizationcontinues. It is not to be expected, therefore, that weshall see, for the present, in the acts of public men whoplace success before principle, anything but unmanlysubmission to the demands of the slave power. If Gen.Taylor had lived, and the Wilmot Proviso doctrine hadsubstantially triumphed, as it would have done through theinstrumentality of his policy relative to our Mexicanacquisitions, then we should have seen the reverse of whatwe now see. Instead of finding Mr. Douglasdown on his marrow-bones at the feet of slavery, we should seethe same man standing up firm and strong in behalf of theglorious old Ordinance of 1787. Freedom's battlewas fought and lost in 1850, and the cowards and traitors haveall run to the winning side.

But although anti-Slavery is weak in political circles, itwas never stronger with the masses of the people. The greatheart of the country is sound. Thousands and millions oftrue men all over the North wait but the occasion for apractical demonstration of their power, to show how firm istheir attachment to the principles of freedom, andhow deeply they scorn the shallow fools who have theimpertinence to talk about "crushing out" those principles.We expect to see Slavery go on pressing and pushing theadvantages it derived from the adjustment of 1850, till areaction is created that will again convulse the country toits center. Slavery is imperious, encroaching, truculent,belligerent. Its own conduct will thus ultimately generatean explosive force that must blow it to atoms. Thismovement of Douglas to override and virtually repeal theMissouri Compromise is one step in this direction.

We denounce every attempt to remove the salutaryrestriction upon the introduction of Slavery into theNorth-West, and above the line of 36 [degrees] 30 [minutes]below which the Missouri Compromise confines it, whetherinsidious and hesitant, or open and flagrant, a breach ofsolemn compact between the North and the South, inevitablyopening a door to a fresh and fierce agitation. Let theCountry take notice that this convulsion is not commencedon the side of Freedom.

Edited/Proofed by

Main text entered and proofed by Lloyd Benson, Tribune text entered by Jeff Bollerman and proofed by Lloyd Benson




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The Nebraska Bill. Abolitionism.

his proposition is regarded by abolitionists as a death-blow totheir hope of making the slavery question available forfuture political excitement.