Republicans And The Crittenden Amendments Essay, Research Paper
Republicans and the Crittenden Amendments Throughout the election of 1860, Republicans professed their strong platform, a platform that included the fateful promise of nonextension of slavery. On May 16, 1860, Republicans openly proclaimed, We deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to Slavery in the United States. In the days and months following the election, the victorious Republicans held fast to their promises, including Republican President-elect Abraham Lincoln. Senator James Doolittle (R-Wisconsin) in a November 16, 1860 letter to the Senate wrote, Lincoln s election established that slavery shall not be extended into territories by any means. Simply put, Americans, through their vote (Lincoln had the largest popular vote and electoral vote totals), had voted for nonextension of slavery by electing the Republicans and their platform, and it was the Republicans duty, then, to keep their promises. Lincoln, being a Republican, would have to carry out this duty as well.Lincoln, therefore, played a major role in the defeat of six Constitutional amendments proposed by Senator James Crittenden. These amendments were proposed to appease the South. Slavery was to be prohibited north of 36° 30 , and all territories south of that line could allow slavery. All new states coming into the Union, then, could be admitted as free or slave by their own choice. Lincoln flatly rejected the scheme, feeling it unethical to abandon his party and the platform on which he had been elected. In a December 12, 1860 letter to Senator Lyman Trumbull, Lincoln wrote, Let there be no compromise on the extending of slavery Have none of it. Stand firm. The tug has to come, and now is better than at any time hereafter. Lincoln s statements, however, ran contrary to what other members of his party, most notably Senator William Seward, had said regarding compromise. Thurlow Weed, a Republican Party political boss (and staunch supporter of Seward), inquired in a November 24, 1860 editorial in the Albany Evening Journal, why not restore the Missouri Compromise ? On December 2, 1860, Seward wrote to Weed, saying, Nothing can be agreed upon in advance, but silence for the present We can keep the peace and quiet until the temper will then be favorable, on both sides, to consideration. The following day, the New York Herald reported that Senator Seward will take the earliest opportunity to introduce a bill restoring the Missouri Compromise line, extending it to the Pacific. Talk of such compromise abruptly ended, however. On December 4, 1860, Senator Trumbull wrote to Lincoln, saying A good feeling prevails among Republican senators that Republicans have no concessions to make or compromises to offer, and to take steps toward new compromises would be wrong [after having pledged none in the elections]. The following day, the public was informed of this sentiment by the New York Tribune which stated, Mr. Seward will submit no proposition. All rumors to the contrary are entirely unfounded. Lincoln, upon hearing such news, wrote to Seward, asking him to accept the position of Secretary of State. In his December 8 letter to Seward, Lincoln hinted at the previous rumors of compromise, saying, I have delayed so long to communicate this purpose in deference to what appeared to me a proper caution in this case. It is possible that Lincoln hoped his nomination of Seward would solidify the Seward s position of compromise; that Seward would remain against compromise because of his new position. Whether or not this hope was true, the effect was still the same, as from that point on, Seward, and all Republicans for that matter, were decidedly against compromise, including the Crittenden amendments. Such solidarity was evidenced just two days later by Senator Jacob Collamer (R-Vermont) in a letter to Senator Thomas Clingman (D-North Carolina), when Collamer remarked, You must let us know your terms
Support of Lincoln and his adherency to the Republican platform poured in from December 8. Thurlow Weed wrote in the Evening Journal the Republican press in this and other states responses that there must be no more compromises, no backing down The prevalent sentiment rejects all compromises. Republican Senator James Grimes wrote to his wife on that same day, saying Secessionists want to debauch the moral sentiment of the people of the North, by making them agree to the proposition that slavery is a benign constitutional system. The following day in a speech to the Senate, Senator Benjamin Wade (R-Ohio) remarked As to compromises, I supposed that we had agreed that the day of compromise was at an end. Such support for no compromise was so great that the Berks and Schuykill Journal in a December 15 editorial wrote, The great mass of the Republican Party hold[s] the conservative views so often expressed by Lincoln himself. Lincoln, all by himself, seems to have persuaded the whole of the Republican Party to stay firm on nonextension of slavery and any compromises that would lead to such extension. Henry Adams (son of a republican congressmen) made this point clear in a December 29 letter to his brother where he said, Lincoln is all right He has exercised a strong influence through several sources Lincoln s influence did not end there, though. On December 21, Lincoln wrote to Senator Trumbull that he and Thurlow Weed drew up three short resolution, which would do much good if introduced [by Seward] and unanimously supported by our friends [Republicans]. Here Lincoln was referring to the Committee of Thirteen; a Senate Committee formed to discuss the proposed Crittenden amendments. The rule of the committee stipulated that no motion could be carried out without the approval of a majority of both parties. On December 22, the New York Tribune made a public statement, saying Mr. Lincoln is utterly opposed to any concession or compromise that shall yield one iota of the position of the Republican Party on the subject of slavery Seward introduced the resolutions as instructed, as evidenced in a December 24 letter to his wife, [I] got to the capital on time to meet the Committee of Thirteen. We came to no compromise, and we shall not. We shall, therefore, see the fuller development of the secession movement Lincoln s hopes of a united Republican front as he explained in his letter to Weed had come to pass. On December 24, all five Republican Committee members voted against the Crittenden amendments (as did two democrats). But by then, South Carolina had seceded from the Union (December 20). The South Carolina Ordinance of Secession of that day read We the people of the State of South Carolina do declare and ordain, that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and the other Sates under the name of the United States of America is hereby dissolved. Had Lincoln not made his opinion known via Seward, the Republicans may have voted in favor of the Crittenden amendments, and South Carolina may have repealed its ordinance and other states most likely would not have seceded.