To the heated imagination of the Honorable William Jones something still remained to be explained, and he remained anxious to continue the conversation on the topic foremost in his mind.
“Look around here, gentlemen,” said he, extending an eloquent arm. “Behold them mountings. Look at them trees surrounding this valley of secrets. The spoils of war belongs to him that has fit—the captives of the bow and spear are his’n. How said Brennus the Gaul, when he done vanquished Rome? ‘Woe to the conquered!’ said he. ‘Woe to them that has fell to our arms!’ Now it’s the same right here. Look at—”
“I was just going to remark,” suavely broke in Judge Clayton, “that of the many mountain views of our southern country, this seems to me one of the most satisfactory. I have never seen a more restful scene than this, nor a morning more beautiful. But, Missouri!” he added almost with mournfulness. “What a record of strife and turmoil!”
Dunwody nodded. “As when Missouri was admitted, for instance,” he said smilingly.
“Precisely!” rejoined Clayton, biting meditatively at a plucked grass stem. “The South gets a state, the North demands one! When Missouri came in, Illinois also was admitted—one free against one slave state. Politics,—nothing more. Missouri would break the balance of power if she came alone and unpaired as a slave state, so the North paired her with Maine, and let her in, with a string tied to her! Slavery already existed here, as in all these other states that had been admitted with it existent. What the North tried to do was to abolish slavery where it had already existed, legally, and under the full permission of the Constitution. All of the Louisiana Purchase had slavery when we bought it, and under the Constitution Congress could not legislate slavery out of it.”
The younger men of the party listened to him gravely, even eagerly. Regarding the personal arbitrament of arms which they now faced, they were indifferent; but always they were ready to hear the arguments pro and con of that day, when indeed this loosely organized republic had the giant wolf of slavery by the ear.
“But they claimed the right of the moral law!” said Dunwody finally.
“The moral law! Who is the judge of that? Governments are not run by that. If we overthrow our whole system of jurisprudence, why, I’ve nothing to say. That’s anarchy, not government. The South is growing faster relatively than the North. The politicians on both sides are scared about the balance of power, and they’re simply taking advantage of this cry of morality. They’re putting the moralists out as cat’s-paws to the fire!” Judge Clayton almost abandoned his usual calm.
“I imagine,” ventured Doctor Jamieson, “that Missouri had as good a right to come in unrestricted as Louisiana had in 1812, or Arkansas in 1836.”