Judah P. Benjamin may be said to have been the ablest legal defender of slavery in public life during the decade of 1850-60. His speech on the right of property in slaves and the right of slavery to national protection in the territories was probably the ablest on that side of the controversy. Lincoln’s speech on the Dred Scott Decision has been substituted for one by John C. Breckinridge on the same subject; this will serve to bring into his true proportions this great leader of the combined anti-slavery forces. No voice, in the beginnings of secession and disunion, could better reflect the positive and uncompromising Republicanism of the Northwest than that of Wade. The speech from him which we have appropriated is in many ways worthy of the attention of the historical student.
We may look to Crittenden as the best expositor of the Crittenden Compromise, the leading attempt at compromise and conciliation in the memorable session of Congress of 1860-61. Crittenden’s subject and personality add historical prominence to his speech. The Crittenden Compromise would probably have been accepted by Southern leaders like Davis and Toombs if it had been acceptable to the Republican leaders of the North. The failure of that Compromise made disunion and war inevitable. Jefferson Davis’ memorable farewell to the Senate, following the assured failure of compromise, seems a fitting close to the period of our history which brings us to the eve of the Civil War.
The introduction of Professor Johnston on “Secession” is retained as originally prepared. A study of the speeches, with this introduction and the appended notes, will give a fair idea of the political issues dividing the country in the important years immediately preceding the war. Limitations of space prevent the publication of the full speeches from the exhaustive Congressional debates, but in several instances where it has seemed especially desirable omissions from the former volume have been supplied with the purpose of more fully representing the subjects and the speakers. To the reader who is interested in historical politics in America these productions of great political leaders need no recommendation from the editor.
J. A. W.
OF OHIO. (BORN 1808, DIED 1873.)
On the Kansas-Nebraska bill; Senate,
February 3, 1854.