The Civil War in Texas: An Exhibit from the Texas State Library and Archives

Before the War | 1860: Big Trouble | Secession! | 1861: Opening Act | Dissent

1862: Fiery Trial | 1863: The Tide Turns | 1864: No Way Out | End of the Ordeal | Further Reading


Sam Houston Senate Speech, February 15, 1854

Page 3

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Sam Houston speech opposing the Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854


to General Gadsden, of South Carolina, on the
25th of September, 1849.

Then, sir, as a further expression of my opinion
at the time I acted on this compromise in 1848, I

“Legislation in Congress, on the subject of slavery in
the Territories, is, in my opinion, useless and injudicious.
The line of demarkation [sic] between the free and slave States
is fixed by the compromise. The right of the States lying
south of that line to be admitted with the institution of
slavery, if the people asking such admission require it, can-
not be questioned. The spirit of the rule would, in my
opinion, be infringed, should Congress, by law, attempt to
exclude the institution from any territory south of that line.
I assert the principle that Congress has no right to legislate
upon the subject of slavery in any of our Territories of this
Union. It is an institution of exclusively domestic regu-
lation, subject alone to the control, jurisdiction, and au-
thority, of the several States, each acting independently for
itself. Congress would have the same right to impose
slavery upon a State unwilling to receive it, as to exclude
it from one desirous of retaining it.”

Mr. President, my opposition to this bill, I
trust, will not be deemed of a factious or imperti-
nent character, growing out of the present condi-
tion of the country, nor a disposition to oppose a
measure introduced into this body. I do not
know, nor do I pretend to know, the origin of this
measure. I do not conceive that there was the
slightest necessity for its introduction; and when
I saw the question for repeal come up—for in fact
it was that from the first—of the Missouri com-
promise, I foresaw the consequences which must
necessarily arise from it—the agitation which
must be renewed in this country, and which I,
with every other public functionary, with every
private man, had deprecated as one of the greatest
misfortunes that could happen to us. Sir, I was
not prepared for this; and when it did come up
in the shape and form which it has assumed, I
had no alternative left but either to adhere to the
principles which I had formerly avowed and acted
upon, and upon which Texas was admitted, or to
abandon them and vote for a contrary principle,
repealing the acts which I had formerly recog-
nized. Sir, if this gives offense to any, I regret
it in the extreme. I took my ground early upon
the compromise bill of 1850. I am not behind
any man in my devotion to it. But, previous to
its adoption, I had taken my position upon the
Missouri compromise, and I stand there estab-
lished as firmly as I now stand upon the compro-
mise of 1850. I am the only Senator upon this
floor who voted “straight out,” as they say, for
every measure of the final compromise, and then
for the whole collectively. A Senator then from
Pennsylvania, [Mr. Sturgeon,] voted also for
every provision contained in the bill. When I
voted for that, I did not suppose that I was voting
to repeal the Missouri compromise.

Well, sir, I regarded it as a finality and a set-
tlement of this mooted question, this source of agi-
tation, I thought then that it was a finality. And
when the Senator from Mississippi, [Mr. Foote,]
at a subsequent session, introduced his “finality
resolutions,” as they were called, I opposed them
on the ground that they were useless, and but an
affirmance of what had already been enacted, and
therefore a work of supererogation. I did not; and I
have lived to see it indorsed by the American people.
Important events have transpired since it was
adopted. Prominent gentlemen throughout the
country have expressed their opinions. The whole
community, under its soothing, benign influence,
had become calm and tranquil. Not a voice of dis-
content was heard throughout our broad land. All
was peace, all harmony, or, if not harmony, it was
acquiescence. One discordant note of agitation was
not heard. No State Legislature, no political con-
vention, no county meeting, no cabal, pronounced
against it. Even the extremists had acquiesced,
and the country was reposing in peace. The last
elections had transpired in the country; and of the
members of Congress elected, I doubt whether
more than two seats, on the other end of the Cap-
itol, are occupied by those who had advocated any
change or disturbance of that measure. All had
either advocated and approved it, or had acquiesced
in its finality. There was no excitement on the

But what must be the consequence if an attempt
to repeal the Missouri compromise is urged upon
us? Will it produce no excitement? Has it pro-
duced none? If my opposition to a measure which
I conceive fraught with danger to the whole sec-
tion from which I come is misconstrued to be agi-
tation, I am responsible to my constituents. Can
any one doubt that agitation will be consequent
upon the adoption of this measure? Has not the
Missouri compromise been of great benefit to the
country? Has it not wrought wonderful changes?
For more than a third of a century it has given
comparative peace and tranquility to us to an ex-
tent which would never have been enjoyed had
that compact not been entered into. I can well
recollect the scenes which transpired at its adop-
tion. I know what fearful apprehensions were
entertained by the most sagacious, patriotic, and
wise men in the land. Those apprehensions were
entertained for the safety and preservation of this
Union; and when that pacification was completed;
when the compact was solemnly entered into be-
tween the North and South, it was ratified by
the national will. It was not resisted by one
Legislature in the States, nor was it opposed by
individuals. All acquiesced in it; and what has
been the result to our country? Sir, the conse-
quences are too magnificent to be contemplated,
too wide and expanded to be embraced at a glance.
Our territory has extended for hundreds of miles
along the Atlantic sea-board; from Georgia to the
Rio Grande. Our vast domain has been spread
from the Atlantic to the Pacific, embracing thou-
sands of miles of sea-board there. In numbers we
have outstripped all former examples by the in-
crease of our population. Our rapid strides in
wealth, in commerce, and in high renown, is un-
exampled in the annals of the world. Has not
this grown out of the Missouri compromise, or is
it not consequent upon it? You may say that
these things are not its necessary consequences,
but at all events they have resulted since it was
adopted, and since the country has been harmon-
ized by the influences which have emanated from
it. Sir, it has been of vast importance to the
prosperity and glory of this country from that
time to the present. Its results are impressed upon
the American mind and heart, and the nation’s feel-
ings and pride have united in sanctioning the ben-
efits resulting from the adoption of that measure.
It is a compact, a solemn compact. Shall we retain
it, or shall we throw it aside? Shall we teach dis-
regard of compromises? What is there which

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Image enlarged 150%. Speech of Hon. Sam Houston of Texas, Delivered in the Senate of the United States, Feb. 14 and 15, 1854.

Page last modified: February 18, 2016