“Nebraska.” Editorial.


This editorial from the New York Tribune argues that the Whig party must push back against the proposed Nebraska act (later to become the Kansas-Nebraska Act) as a moral necessity in order to assure the state’s entrance into the union as a free state.


[1] The special organ of the Administration backs up Douglas’s Nebraska Bill [2]. This is natural. In fact it is a godsend to The Union to have a subject on which it can denounce the Free-Soilers [3] and pledge itself anew to lick the feet of the Slaveholders. Its Hunker [4] friends have been crowding it hard lately for its devotion to the Softs, and the Abolition proclivities which they charge upon it.

We hear from Washington that Douglas’s Bill is likely to be supported by some Northern Whigs. We shall not be surprised at any turn affairs may take at Washington. It takes pluck to resist a strong adverse current in political affairs. And this is too much to expect of a good many gentlemen who find their way to Washington. It is vastly easier to go with the tide always than to stem it. But why Northern men who have steadily sustained the doctrine of the Wilmot Proviso [5] should now abandon it, is past our art to discover. Is it said that every State has a right to establish institutions of whatever kind and color it chooses, and that what a State may do after it has become a member of the Union, it may do in its incipient steps to become one? There is plausibility in the suggestion, and on this ground the course recommended in Douglas’s Bill will be concurred in by Northern Whigs, if concurred in at all. But how wide will be such a departure, from sound doctrine? There was a solemn compact made between North and South, on the admission of Missouri [6], that there should never be a Slave State north of the 36*30′. It was clearly and unequivocally agreed that Slavery should never pollute the great North-west Territory, and up to this time, the idea of departing a hair’s breadth from this explicit stipulation and compact, would have been scouted by the entire North and by every honorable man in the South. Why, even Mr. Webster himself voted promptly and squarely to apply the Proviso to the bill establishing the Territorial Government of Oregon. But what do we now hear? That Northern men and Northern Whigs even, are conspiring to abandon the only consistent, honorable and manly ground, when the compact of which we speak is basely and treacherously assailed. We shall believe it when we see the votes. It is because the friends of the immortal ordinance of 1787 [7] perceive that their resistance to the truckling temper of the times will avail nothing that they propose to run and dodge, and scour before the blatant and imperious wrath of negrodom, and its allies, that they propose such an ignominious abdication of their principle? If the doctrine of Proviso was ever good, it is good now. If it was good for the North-west in 1787, and good to fail to assert it and to adhere to it for Nebraska, is to play coward or traitor, or both.

It is said that Douglas’s Bill will not make Nebraska a Slave State? How do we know that? If Congress avows its purpose in advance to disregard a solemn obligation, designed to forever exclude Slavery from that Territory, and coquettes with the stipulations of a sacred compact, instead of resolutely enforcing it, we may expect to see this inebriated political morality taken advantage of, and desperate efforts made to reconquer for Slavery a Territory whose defenses have been deliberately torn down to invite invasion and subjection to remorseless servitude. But, on the other hand, it is safe to insist upon the doctrine of discountenancing and excluding Slavery therefrom. The moral force of the application of the Proviso to the Territorial Government of Nebraska will make assurance doubly sure that when it is created into a State, it will be a Free State. We cannot conceive how intelligent and conscientious men, who possess a real regard for the great doctrines of human freedom, can excuse themselves for such an abandonment as that which we have been apprised is in contemplation. We shall not believe such desertion possible till we are called upon to record the abject capitulation.




New York Tribune


[1] Tribune. New York, NY. 10 January 1854. 

[2] Stephen Douglas, then Senator from Illinois. See The Kansas-Nebraska Act in this archive. 

[3] The Free Soil party was only active during the 1848 and 1852 elections. Their only issue was opposition to the expansion of slavery into western territories. 

[4] The Hunkers were the pro-slavery faction of the New York State Democratic Party. 

[5] The Wilmot Proviso, named for Democratic Representative David Wilmot, was an unsuccessful bid to prohibit slavery in the territory acquired by the United States at the end of the Mexican War. 

[6] See the Missouri Compromise in this archive. 

[7] The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established a government for the northwest territories and advised a method of admitting new states into the territory.  

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