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The truth of history, and justice to the Author of the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, Hon. Archibald Dixon, of Kentucky, alike demand, from one who was in a position to know the facts, a clear statement of the origin, the motives and the circumstances of that Repeal.
The history of the Repeal necessitates that of the Compromise itself.
So far as the writer is aware, no historian has ever given, or even attempted to give, any special account of these important measures, although they embrace in their full scope the life of a nation, and cover more than the period of a century. On the contrary, the events, motives and purposes leading up to these Acts have been mostly ignored by our historians, or else much misrepresented, and the many misstatements made have done great injustice not only to the Author of the Repeal, but also to the Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, who adopted it as his own measure, and embodied it in his Kansas-Nebraska bill, which was passed in 1854, after the greatest Congressional struggle that had as yet been recorded. Only the truth is needed for the vindication of both of these distinguished men as lofty and most sterling patriots.
Neither has any writer yet presented sufficient reasons for the extraordinary metamorphoses that took place within that perica, in both the Northern and Southern sections of our country.
The North, from being an
early advocate of secession and disunion, becoming most devoted to the Union—whilst the South, from being for years most devoted to the Union, became afterwards an advocate of secession; not only in theory, but in practice, giving her best blood to carry it into effect, and forsaking that Union, which she had done so much to form, and for which she had fought in 1812, when New England refused to do so.
It is true also, that the majority of the Southern States desired to stop the slave trade in 1787—and that the Northern States entered into a combination with a minority of the Southern States to prevent its prohibition by Congress for a period of twenty years—even putting this provision into the Federal Constitution itself. Yet afterwards, we find the North in favor of freeing the slaves of the South, many of whom had been brought into the country under this very provision ; and the South, from having regarded slavery as a most dangerous element, afterwards defending it as the very bulwark of liberty itself. In the events and causes leading up to the Missouri Compromise and its Repeal, we find the only solution of the enigma of these singular and phenomenal transformations.
In relating these events, my object has been, not to justify, nor yet to criminate, either the Northern, or the Southern, section of our country; but simply to represent facts and feelings as they actually existed ; to show the utterly irreconcilable differences between the sections upon the one subject of slavery and the absolute necessity for the establishment of that great principle of non-intervention by Congress with the domestic regulations of the States, which alone could have preserved peace between the sections, left the Constitution inviolate, and prevented the dread accession of those twin evils, secession and coercion ; which principle was asserted to be the only correct one in the Congressional legislation of 1850, and was reasserted and established, in 1854, by the Repeal, by Congress, of the Missouri Compromise Act of 1820.
This work is designed to state the facts connected with those two great measures fully, clearly, truthfully and without fear or favor. It has been written under many disadvantages, such as illness, family cares and sorrows, and at long intervals of time; the study of the subject having been begun in 1877, one year after the death of Hon. Archibald Dixon, of Kentucky, Author of the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and the beloved husband of the writer.
I will state that in writing this history, I wrote as I read, and from first impressions, sometimes finding them mistaken and subject to correction : but much oftener finding them confirmed and strengthened the more I read, and the more deeply I went into the subject.
In 1893, the partially completed manuscript, with my entire library, was destroyed by fire, and the task of rewriting it seemed an impossibility. · But owing to the kindness of friends in lending books and procuring data, I have been enabled to carry out my purpose, however imperfectly it may have been done. And I wish now to thank them for their assistance : more especially, Col. Henry Powell, of Henderson, Kentucky, who furnished me with the Congressional Records and Annals of Congress, belonging to his late honored father, Senator Lazarus W. Powell, without which I should have been unable to proceed at all; Hon. Robert L. Wilson, of Cape Girardeau, Mo., who procured for me duplicates of valuable papers lost in the burning of my residence; Hon. Wm. Wirt Henry, of Richmond, Va., through whose kindness I obtained the Act of Virginia, of 1788, found in the Appendix ; the Rev. R. M. Hayes, who sent me the data of the Methodist Conference of 1849; Vice-President Stevenson and the late Hon. Daniel Voorhees, to whose courtesy I was indebted for the permission of the Senate to have a copy made of Mr. Dixon's motion for the Repeal of the Act of 1820, made January 16, 1854; Justice John M. Harlan, who sent me some volumes from Washington City that were indispensable; Hon. Micajah Woods, of Charlottesville, Va., for autograph letter of Mr. Clay, hitherto unpublished; also Hon. Geo. Yeaman, of New York, Hon. Wm. Wirt Henry, Hon. John W. Lockett and Major John J. Reeve, of Henderson, Ky., who were most kindly critics, and offered suggestions of the greatest value.
It has been with me not only a labor of love, but of the deepest interest in the subject which so broadened and deepened with the study of it as to include far more than one set of men or measures.
Should the following pages succeed in establishing the simple truth of history, which is far more valuable than rounded periods or high-sounding phrases, such success will be a sufficient reward for all the time and labor expended on them, and the Author's aim will have been accomplished.
SUSAN BULLITT Dixon.