18 Southern Historical Society Papers.
been the abstract opinions of individuals on either side; whatever may have been the ulterior designs of certain leaders of public opin- ion, in the North; whatever may have been the logical tendency of doctrines of the ' ' irrepressible conflict ' ' between liberty and slavery, and of the existence of " a law higher than the constitution," the fact remains that neither party to those controversies openly sug- gested or proposed the liberation of a solitary slave then held in bondage. All agreed that the status of slavery as it existed in the Southern States was conclusively protected by the constitution, and could not be affected or impaired by any action of the Federal gov- ernment. Every assurance was offered the Southern States that slavery within their limits should not be interfered with. In the compromise of 1850 the consideration which the Southern States received, freely offered and adopted by Northern votes, was the en- actment by Congress of a more stringent law for the return of fugi- tive slaves. Even after secession and while the war was flagrant, the Federal government emphatically proclaimed that it had no right, no power and no disposition to interfere with slavery in the Southern States. But for secession and the consequent war, and for emancipation avowedly adopted purely and solely as a war measure, there is no reason to doubt that slavery would be existing to-day just as it existed before the war, under the-full protection of the con- stitution and laws of the United States.
The true question involved in these controversies was a question of "balance of power" between the Northern and Southern States. Slavery, as a peculiar institution of the South, created a diversity and conflict of interests between the two sections, and each was eager, in the admission of the new States, to secure allies which might contribute to the advancement and protection of its own in- terests. Obviously, unless the people of the Southern States could remove to the common Territories of the Union, carrying with them their property, these would inevitably be populated by settlers from the Northern States, and would come into the Union as free States, to swell the power and influence of the opposing section. The prin- ciple for which the Southern people contended was simply the doc- trine of which we are to-day hearing so much the principle that "the constitution follows the flag," and that the Territories, being the common property of all the United States, acquired by the com- mon blood and the common treasure, the constitution guaranteed to all the people the equal right of migrating to them, and of carrying