Chapter XII. The Question of Slavery
The great subject before the country at
this time was slavery. It had
been the cause of trouble for many years.
In the early settlement of the American colonies, slavery
introduced through the influence of the English government.
slaves had been brought to Virginia nearly 240 years before
the time of
which I am telling you.
Many people saw from the beginning that it was an evil which
some distant day bring disaster upon the country. In 1772,
the people of
Virginia petitioned the king of England to put a stop to the
slaves from Africa into that colony. But the petition was rejected -
the king forbade them to speak of the matter any more.
Washington, Jefferson, and other founders of our nation looked
slavery as an evil. They hoped that the time might come when
be done away with - for they knew that the country would prosper
At the time of the Revolution, slavery was permitted in all
But it was gradually abolished, first in Pennsylvania and then
New England states, and afterwards in New York.
In 1787, a law was passed by Congress declaring that there
should be no
slavery in the territory northwest of the river Ohio. This
territory from which the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
and Wisconsin were formed - and so, of course, these states
states from the beginning.
The great industry of the South was producing cotton. The people
Southern states claimed that slavery was necessary, because
slaves could do the work required on the big cotton plantations.
Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana were
one by one, into the Union - and all were slave states.
In 1821, Missouri applied for admission into the Union. The
wanted slavery in this state also, but the North objected.
many hot debate's in Congress over this question. At last,
influence of Henry Clay, the dispute was settled by what has
known as the Missouri Compromise.
The Missouri Compromise provided that Missouri should be a
slave state -
this was to satisfy the South. On the other hand, it declared
the western territory north of the line which formed the southern
boundary of Missouri, should forever be free - this was to appease
But the cotton planters of the South grew more wealthy by
the labor of
their slaves. More territory was needed for the extension of
Texas joined the United States and became a slave state.
Then followed a war with Mexico - and California, New Mexico
were taken from that country. Should slavery be allowed in
At this time a new political party
was formed. It was called the "Free
Soil Party," and the principle for which it contended
was this: "No
more slave states and no slave territory."
This party was not very strong at first, but soon large numbers
and many northern Democrats, who did not believe in the extension
slavery, began to join it.
Although the Whig party refused to take any position against
extension of slavery, there were many anti-slavery Whigs who
remained with it and voted the Whig ticket - and one of these
The contest between freedom and slavery became more fierce
every day. At
last another compromise was proposed by Henry Clay.
This compromise provided that California should be admitted
as a free
state - that slavery should not be prohibited in New Mexico
and Utah -
that there should be no more markets for slaves in the District
Columbia - and that a new and very strict fugitive-slave law
This compromise is called the "Compromise of 1850." It
was in support
of these measures that Daniel Webster made his last great speech.
It was hoped by Webster and Clay that the Compromise of 1850
an end to the agitation about slavery. "Now we shall have
said. But the agitation became stronger and stronger, and peace
farther away than ever before.
In 1854, a bill was passed by Congress to organize the territories
Kansas and Nebraska. This bill provided that the Missouri Compromise
should be repealed, and that the question of slavery in these
territories should be decided by the people living in them.
The bill was passed through the influence of Stephen A. Douglas
Illinois. There was now no bar to the extension of slavery
into any of
the territories save that of public opinion.
The excitement all over the North was very great. In Kansas
actual war between those who favored slavery and those who
Thinking men in all parts of the country saw that a great crisis