Article Title

Senator Douglas' Speech -- The Nebraska Question.


Newspaper Title

Illinois State Register

Publication Date


Publication Place

Springfield, Illinois

Event Topic

Nebraska Bill (Jan-May 1854)

Political Party



free state


Please Note: Some editorials in this collection contain offensive language, opinions, and other content. The editorials serve as evidence of the time period in which they were created and enable us to engage in more truthful conversations about history. The views expressed in these editorials do not reflect Furman University's values or our commitment to embrace meaningful diversity and equality in all of our endeavors. If you have questions or concerns, please e-mail


the able and unanswerable speech of Judge Douglas upon the Nebraska Territorial bill

Document Type

Article (Journal or Newsletter)

Full Text Transcription

We give in our paper of this morning the able and unanswerable speech ofJudge Douglas upon the Nebraska Territorial bill,recently introduced by him in the United States senate, andby Col. Richardson in the lower house of congress. We are sure this speech will be read with the utmost care by all who take aninterest in the political movements of the day. The signs at this momentare that a faction is organizing to put down the compromise of 1850,and trample in the dust the principles upon which it is based, and which themass of the people of the United States rely upon as the onlysource of tranquility and safety. The patriotic portion of our people, withoutregard to political affinities, united in support of thecompromise of 1850, and the election of Pierce was adecided declaration in its favor. This was done because the country had notonly become heartily tired of the subject, but believed it to be dangerous tothe integrity of the Union. After the compromise wasagreed to, the honest patriots of the country made the welkin ring with rejoicings,under the belief that it implied non-intervention in its broadest sense.

Such was the belief of most of the citizens of this state, and it accords withtheir views, as it is proved by the legislative act on touching the subject, andin public meetings through a long series of years past.

There is one point in this connection upon which we will say something --that is the effort upon the part of some of the democratic pressesof the state, echoing the objections of the whig press,the Senator D. violates the wishes of his constituency in hiscourse on this question. From the whig and abolitionpress, we expected nothing less, but how any democrat, who sincerelyabides by the platform of the national democracy, and who professesto be an exponent of democratic sentiment inIllinois, can find in the principles upon which theNebraska bill is based, a violation of the creed which has hithertogoverned us, we are at a loss to divine. We will not go beyond the period of theadjustment of 1850, but will take the legal record, afterthe passage of the compromise of 1850, as evidence, not only ofIllinois democratic sentiment, but of theunderstanding which all parties had of the effect and bearingof those great measures.

At the session of the legislature of 1851 several series of resolutions uponthe subject were offered in the house, at the opening of the session, all ofwhich were referred to a select committee, who reported a series of sevenresolutions, approving of the measures of adjustment of 1850, andrepealing the resolution of the previous session instructing our senators tosupport the Wilmot proviso. Mr. Edwards, ofSangamon, who was one of the committee, offeredthe following resolution as an amendment to the series reported:

"Resolved, That our liberty and independence are based uponthe right of the people to form for themselves such a government asthey may choose; that this great privilege, the birthright offreemen, the gift of Heaven, secured to us by the blood of our ancestors,ought to be extended to future generations, and no limitationought to be applied to this power to the organization ofANY territory of the United States,of either a territorial government or a state constitution, providedthe government so established shall be republican and in conformity with theconstitution of the United States."

This resolution, with the question being upon the single resolution, passedthe house with but four opposing votes -- Messrs.Adams of Kane, Gage, Norton, andSwan -- all free-soil whigs. 61 members votingfor it, and 10 absent.

The senate having passed a similar series of resolutions, theywere taken up by the house and passed -- 49 to 11 -- supersedingthe series embracing the above. The non-intervention resolution of the senateseries was as follows:

"Resolved, that the institution of slavery was one of the principlesubjects of compromise embraced in the constitution, and thisgeneral assembly, without committing itself upon the constitutionalpower of congress to legislate upon the subject of slavery in theterritories of the United States, deem the exercise of suchpowers unnecessary and inexpedient, because the exercise of the same is calculatedto impair the happiness of the people, and endanger the perpetuity of our gloriousUnion."

Now if the compromise of 1850 was not a finality why were theseresolutions adopted by the legislature? Why were the instructions to our senatorswithdrawn? It is plain enough that the legislature considered thecompromise of 1850 as an abrogation of the law of 1820,and so in effect declared it. Do not the resolutions above assert the principle ofnon-intervention in its broadest sense? Do they no refer to the "future"organization of all territories? Do they not assert that "no limitation oughtto be applied to the power?" Have not the people ofIllinois, by the almost unanimous voice of theirrepresentatives, so construed the compromise of 1850, and affirmedthe power in question?" What we ask, has occurred since to effect a change ofconstruction? Nothing whatever, and we think that the rescinding of theinstructions alluded to amounts to direct instructions to our senators to insiston precisely the same principles as are embodied in the Douglas bill,and that in thus framing the bill the senator has responded to the directions ofhis constituents, and is deserving of their commendation as a faithful publicservant in that regard.

Had Senator Douglas acted upon any other principle he would havemerited and received the reproach and condemnation of our people, among whomwould have been found many of those who find fault with his present action.

We have given our views in full in former numbers, and will not repeat themto-day, since we have so clear an elucidation of the subject inJudge Douglas' speech. We have always believed that the territoriesshould have the same right as states in the adoption and arrangement of theirdomestic affairs, and such is the sentiment of nine-tenths of the people ofIllinois. This being the case, if our legislaturegives any expression at the present session, it should be in accordance withthe well-known popular voice. Should an opposite expression be declared, wemay regard ourselves as sold to the free-soilers and abolitionists,and hereafter ever despair of regaining our lofty position as the staunch andabsolutely invincible banner state of the democracy.

Edited/Proofed by

Entered and proofed by Lloyd Benson




This item is in the public domain, and can be used by anyone without restriction.

This document is currently not available here.


Event Location


Senator Douglas' Speech -- The Nebraska Question.

the able and unanswerable speech of Judge Douglas upon the Nebraska Territorial bill