As the October vote had been the turning-point in the local popular struggle in the Territory, this adoption of the Crittenden-Montgomery substitute, by a total vote of 120 to 112 in the House of Representatives, was the culmination of the National intrigue to secure Kansas for the South. It was a narrow victory for freedom; a change of 5 votes would have passed the Lecompton bill and admitted the State with slavery, and a constitutional prohibition against any change for seven years to come. With his authority to control election returns, there is every reason to suppose that Calhoun would have set up a pro-slavery State Legislature, to choose two pro-slavery senators, whom in its turn the strong Lecompton majority in the United States Senate would have admitted to seats; and thus the whole chain of fraud and usurpation back to the first Border-Ruffian invasion of Kansas would have become complete, legal, and irrevocable, on plea of mere formal and technical regularity.
Foiled in its main object, the Administration made another effort which served to break somewhat the force and humiliation of its first and signal defeat. The two Houses of Congress having disagreed as stated, and each having once more voted to adhere to its own action, the President managed to make enough converts among the anti-Lecompton Democrats of the House to secure the appointment of a committee of conference. This committee devised what became popularly known as the “English bill,” a measure which tendered a land grant to the new State, and provided that on the following August 3d the people of Kansas might vote “proposition accepted” or “proposition rejected.” Acceptance should work the admission of the State with the Lecompton Constitution, while rejection should postpone any admission until her population reached the ratio of representation required for a member of the House. “Hence it will be argued,” exclaimed Douglas, “in one portion of the Union that this is a submission of the constitution, and in another portion that it is not.” The English bill became a law; but the people of Kansas once more voted to reject the “proposition” by nearly ten thousand majority.