Abraham Lincoln, Volume I eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 286 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, Volume I.
nature of a declaration of trust undertaken by the Congress of the Confederation with the granting States.  The article “was agreed to without opposition;” but almost contemporaneously, in the sessions of that convention which framed the Constitution, debate waxed hot upon the topic which was then seen to present grave obstacles to union.  It was true that many of the wisest Southerners of that generation regarded the institution as a menacing misfortune; they however could not ignore the fact that it was a “misfortune” of that peculiar kind which was endured with much complacency by those afflicted by it; and it was equally certain that the great body of slave-owners would resent any effort to relieve them of their burden.  Hence there were placed in the Constitution provisions in behalf of slavery which involved an admission that the institution needed protection, and should receive it.  The idea of protection implied the existence of hostility either of men or of circumstances, or of both.  Thus by the Ordinance and the Constitution, taken together, there was already indirectly recognized an antagonism between the institutions, interests, and opinions of the South and those of the North.

Slowly this feeling of opposition grew.  The first definite mark of the growth was the struggle over the admission of Missouri, in 1820.  This was settled by the famous “Compromise,” embodied in the Act of March 6, 1820, whereby the people of the Territory of Missouri were allowed to frame a state government with no restriction against slavery; but a clause also enacted that slavery should never be permitted in any part of the remainder of the public territory lying north of the parallel of 36 deg. 30’.  By its efficiency during thirty-four years of constantly increasing strain this legislation was proved to be a remarkable political achievement; and as the people saw it perform so long and so well a service so vital they came to regard it as only less sacred than the Constitution itself.  Even Douglas, who afterward led in repealing it, declared that it had an “origin akin to the Constitution,” and that it was “canonized in the hearts of the American people as a sacred thing.”  Yet during the long quietude which it brought, each section kept a jealous eye upon the other; and especially was the scrutiny of the South uneasy, for she saw ever more and more plainly the disturbing truth that her institution needed protection.  Being in derogation of natural right, it was peculiarly dependent upon artificial sustention; the South would not express the condition in this language, but acted upon the idea none the less.  It was true that the North was not aggressive towards slavery, but was observing it with much laxity and indifference; that the crusading spirit was sleeping soundly, and even the proselyting temper was feeble.  But this state of Northern feeling could not relieve the South from the harassing consciousness that slavery needed not only toleration,

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Abraham Lincoln, Volume I from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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