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When Slavery Went out of Politics

Scribner's Magazine, v. 17, January-June, 1895 (pp.346-47)

The slave-holders, notwithstanding this virtual concession of all they had demanded, were still unsatisfied. It became more and more doubtful that Kansas could be saved to slavery, although all the machinery of law, and all the trickery of politicians, and all the brute force of border raiders had been enlisted for the purpose. The Territory was satirized as "Bleeding Kansas;" it was also "The Political Graveyard of Governors." Four of these in three years had vainly been commissioned to help force slavery into the distracted and resisting Territory. In spite of violence and machinations, the people of the Territory, who were now actual settlers, did occasionally get a chance to vote; and when they voted, it was invariably against slavery. But it now became expedient that more territory for the expansion of slavery must be procured. The acquisition of Cuba by the United States, or the seizure of the Central American States, was openly advocated, and these suggestions were accepted as sound Democratic doctrine. But foreign objection summarily defeated both these schemes as soon as they took shape. It was seriously proposed by some politicians that the slave trade should be revived, and this proposition was a legitimate sequence to the insistment that congress should defend the right of property in human beings in every Territory of the United States.

This latter article of political faith was embodied in the formal platform proposed for the Democratic National Convention 1860. In that convention, however, the Anti-Lecompton men led by Stephen A. Douglas refused to accept the dictum that neither Congress nor the Territorial Legislature had a right to prohibit slavery in a Territory.

Excerpt courtesy of Kevin Dier-Zimmel.