[Illustration: JOHN CALHOUN.]
But to accomplish such marvels, they must not sit with folded hands. The price of slavery was fearless aggression. They must build on a deeper foundation than Presidential elections, party majorities, or even than votes in the Senate. The theory of the government must be reversed, the philosophy of the republic interpreted anew. In this subtler effort they had made notable progress. By the Kansas-Nebraska act they had paralyzed the legislation of half a century. By the Dred Scott decision they had changed the Constitution and blighted the Declaration of Independence. By the Lecompton trick they would show that in conflict with their dogmas the public will was vicious, and in conflict with their intrigues the majority powerless. They had the President, the Cabinet, the Senate, the House, the Supreme Court, and, by no means least in the immediate problem, John Calhoun with his technical investiture of far-reaching authority. The country had recovered from the shock of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and rewarded them with Buchanan. Would it not equally recover from the shock of the Lecompton Constitution?
It was precisely at this point that the bent bow broke. The great bulk of the Democratic party followed the President and his Southern advisers, even in this extreme step; but to a minority sufficient to turn the scale the Lecompton scandal had become too offensive for further tolerance.
In the Senate, with its heavy Democratic majority, the Administration easily secured the passage of a bill to admit Kansas with the Lecompton Constitution. Out of eleven Democratic Senators from free States, only three—Douglas of Illinois, Broderick of California, and Stuart of Michigan—took courage to speak and vote against the measure. In the House of Representatives, however, with a narrower margin of political power, the scheme, after an exciting discussion running through about two months, met a decisive defeat. A formidable popular opposition to it had developed itself in the North, in which speeches and letters from Governor Walker and Secretary