Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Antecedents of the Freeport Doctrine

In Parties, Slavery, and the Union in Antebellum Georgia, Anthony Gene Carey points out that the "idea that territorial legislatures could exclude slavery by hostile inaction" was circulating in Georgia long before Stephen A. Douglas made it famous at Freeport, Illinois. All of the quotes within the paragraph date to August and September 1856:
Many Democrats considered quibbling over different interpretations of popular sovereignty a futile exercise. "If the majority of the people of a Territory have the right to fix the character of their domestic institutions," the Millidgeville Federal Union asked, "what practical difference will it make either to the North or to the South whether the will of the majority is expressed through a Territorial Legislature or a [state constitutional] convention; will not the results in both cases be the same?" Union Democrat and former congressman Junius Hillyer considered it "a waste of time for us to be splitting hairs, and drawing legal distinctions, for slavery will exist in Kansas just as the legislature of the territory may be in favor of it or opposed to it." To exist anywhere, the Athens Southern Banner declared, the institution of slavery needed "laws to protect it." If the people of a territory opposed slavery, their legislature could easily exclude it by refusing to enact the necessary laws to protect slave property.
About the illustration, entitled Congressional Surgery, Legislative Quackery:
A rare anti-North satire, probably dealing with either the Crittenden Compromise or the Douglas Compromise. Proposed in December 1860 in the form of several constitutional amendments, the former called for restoration of the Missouri Compromise line and prohibition of slavery north of it. Stephen Douglas's compromise, an alternative proposed immediately thereafter, offered two similar amendments but also advocated settlement of the slavery issue by popular sovereignty. "Congressional Surgery" reflects the viewpoint of the lower South, which rejected both compromises. "Doctor North" (Pennsylvania congressman Thaddeus Stevens) sits with hands folded in a chair at left, a young black crouching beside him. On the doctor's desk rests a wooden leg labeled "Constitutional Amendment." The Doctor says, "Help you! Of Course! We will first, with your assistance, take you off your legs, & then fix you up nicely on these Constitutional Amendments." His patient "South," a tall bearded man with his left arm in a sling, replies, "Can't see it." Behind the desk are several crutches and bookshelves holding a bottle of "Black Draught" and a skull.

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