December 19, 1860: Greeley responds to Crittenden

Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley

Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune ran some editorial comment about Crittenden’s Compromise proposal on
Dec. 19, 1860:

As Mr. Crittenden is a moderate man, as he avows his attachment to the Union, and his determination to stand by it, it is fair to presume that his propositions are the best the South is disposed to offer. They hardly, however, deserve the name of compromise, as that term presupposes some mutual concessions. Mr. Crittenden’s plan grants to the South that freedom shall be the rule where nature itself prohibits Slavery, and agrees that Northern Commissioners shall not be bribed to decide in favor of the claimants for fugitive slaves.

On the other hand it provides, on the part of the South, that the Republican party shall give up what it has contended for for years, and at last gained: it limits the power of Congress in the District of Columbia, not the people thereof, or of the country as large, but the people of two contiguous States; it takes away from the non-slaveholding states their rights, under the common law, to prohibit the existence of slavery therein otherwise than in the case of fugitives; it recommends such States to repeal all laws to prevent the kidnapping of their most defenseless citizens; and finally, it makes these important concessions to Slavery perpetual.

We greatly mistake the temper of the House if such a compromise will meet with its approbation, and we altogether miscalculate the strength of the Republicans of the North if there be any possibility of their meeting with the assent of two-thirds of the people.

In another article on the same page, the Tribune elaborates on the implied claim that the people have spoken against expansion of slavery into the territories.

A great deal is attempted to be made of the fact that though Mr. Lincoln has been chosen President of the United States, he had only a minority of the popular vote in his favor. This is true, but it is also true, that on the great issue raised at the late Presidential Election, those who now undertake to dictate terms to the nation, and to demand concessions and guarantees as the sole condition of their continuance in the Union, were out voted, on the most liberal calculation in their favor, at least two to one.

The great question at issue in the late Presidential election was the relation of Slavery to the Territories of the United States. It was insisted by the ultra Southern politicians that Constitution of the United States, by its own force, carried Slavery into all the Territories, and that no power exists anywhere, either in Congress or in the Territorial Legislatures, to exclude it; while on the other hand, Congress is bound to protect it there. It was upon this issue, and in behalf of this doctrine, that the secession from the Democratic Convention took place at Charleston and Baltimore, and that the seceders, repudiating the nomination of Mr. Douglas by the majority of that Convention, brought Mr. Breckinridge into the field.

The case is very fairly and correctly stated by Mr. Senator Iverson, in his late speech in the Senate. After declaring that the States now moving for secession will never be satisfied with any concession made by the North that does not fairly recognize, not only the existence of Slavery as it now is, but also “the right of the Southern people to emigrate to the common Territories with their slave property, and their right to Congressional protection while in the Territory.” Mr. Iverson adds “The recent battle in the North was fought upon that very issue. Mr. Breckinridge’s friends put him upon the very ground of protection of slave property, and it was on that ground he carried the Cotton States.”

The Tribune goes on to show that, even if you count all the Bell votes as on the side of extension of slavery into the territories, the combined Lincoln/Douglas vote was 3,134,980, while Breckinridge and Bell polled 1,548,094. Opposition to Constitutional protection of slavery in the territories won by 2 to 1.

This entry was posted in Horace Greeley, John J. Crittenden. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *