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Sam Houston Senate Speech, February 15, 1854

Page 4

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Sam Houston speech opposing the Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854


Will give sanctity to the last compromise if you
strip the former one of all respect, tear it to atoms,
and trample it under foot? It is the principle of
truth that should be preserved. The word of one
section of the Union should be kept with the other.

In resisting this attempt to repeal the Missouri
compromise, I am acting in accordance with the
most solemn pledges given to the American people
by the Executive, and by the second functionary
of this Government; and I insist that in so doing,
I am discharging a duty which is obligatory upon
me. Though I do not attach any great importance
now to party distinctions—for it is said there are
none—yet, as I have always been a Democrat, and sup-
ported the principles affirmed by the Administration
I feel bound to vote against the proposition to disturb
the compromise of 1850. I am determined with all
earnestness and sincerity to stand by the present
Administration, upon the principles which it has
avowed, and which the second officer of this Gov-
ernment also announced in his letter of accept-
ance. Sir, I will support the Baltimore platform
though I never had any great respect for platforms
generally. We had none in Texas, unless they were
very strong and substantial, and generally rested
on the ground; so that, of course, I did not think
a great deal about them. I have always thought
that for any well constituted party, the Constitu-
tion of the United States was, perhaps, the best
platform that we could get, and upon that I plant
myself. There is precisely where I stand. But
if the Baltimore platform comes within the pur-
view of the principles of the Constitution, that does
not exclude it from my support by any means.
Therefore, I shall go for the Baltimore platform
and its finality resolutions; for this is expressly
declared in the fifth article of the platform:

“Resolved, That the Democratic party will resist all at-
tempts at renewing, in Congress or out of it, the agitation
of the slavery question, under whatever shape or color the
attempt may be made.”

Now, sir, there is an affirmation of its finality.
That puts it at rest so far as the Democratic party,
in making their nomination for the Presidency,
was concerned. Upon that declaration I supported,
with my feeble aid, the candidate of the party
placed upon that platform. And in his letter of
acceptance he recognized that as the condition of
his becoming a candidate of the party, not because
it was the platform made, but because it was in
accordance with his principles. In his letter of
acceptance he says:

“I accept the nomination upon the platform adopted by
the convention, not because it is expected of me as a can-
didate, but because the principles it embraces command the
approbation of my judgment.”

Sir, here was a reindorsement of the fifth art-
icle of the Baltimore platform, which affirmed the
finality of the compromise of 1850. Can any one
doubt the import or meaning of it? I did not.
When I saw it, I exulted that the candidate of
the Democratic party would, if elected, ratify what
had been done by the Government in 1850. I
had hoped that so long as I might be connected
with the Government, or even in the shades of
retirement, if I should have the felicity of reaching
them in quiet, I might live in peace, under my
own vine and fig tree, with none in all the land to
disturb me by agitation. Then, if that was a
finality at that time, why is it not a finality now?
What harm has resulted from the Missouri com-
promise from that time to the present? What
new intelligence has sprung upon us? What
new light has dawned which requires the annihi-
lation of a solemn compact made between the two
sections of this Republic, and from which har-
mony has resulted?

Mr. King, than whom no purer man has lived—
unsullied in his life, pure in his death, having
evidenced the most fervid patriotism throughout
his political career, and descended to the grave
with honor and glory—said in his letter accepting
the nomination of the Baltimore convention as a
candidate for the Vice Presidency:

“The platform, as made by the convention, meets my
cordial approbation. It is national in all its parts, and I am
content not only to stand upon it, but upon all occasions to
defend it.”

Is not that conclusive, not only that the Chief
Magistrate would defend the compromise of 1850,
but that, if in the event of any unfortunate con-
tingency, the second officer of the Government
should come to the Presidency, we had from him
a solemn guarantee that he would preserve that
compromise inviolate, and would put down agita-
tion whenever it might attempt to rear its angry

I know, Mr. President, at one time it was ap-
prehended that the class of politicians in our
country, denominated as Abolitionists, would at-
tempt to agitate, and, if possible, to procure a
repeal of the fugitive slave law. That was threat-
ened in the newspapers. The New York Tribune,
among others, denounced that law, and pro-
claimed to the world that it would wage unceasing
war upon it until its repeal was accomplished.
But, sir, that discordant note had died away be-
fore this Congress had assembled. The requiem
of Abolition seemed to have been sung. If there
were ultras in the South, their dissatisfactions
were silenced; they had acquiesced in this great
healing measure; and the wounds which had
afflicted the body-politic were cicatrized and well.
I rejoiced in it; every patriot in the land rejoiced
in it. All felt joyous in the accomplishment of a
consummation so devoutly to be wished. A fur-
ther assurance was given to us that peace would
be preserved, in the inaugural of the President of
the United States. He then told us, referring to
the agitation of the slavery question:

“I fervently hope that the question is at rest, and that
no sectional, or ambitious, or fanatical excitement may
again threaten the durability of our institutions, or obscure
the light of our prosperity.”

I will not be charged with opposing this meas-
ure as one meeting the approbation of the Admin-
istration, although I have seen in some prints the
assertion that it is such. It is repudiated in ad-
vance, as a measure of the Administration. The
President would not deny the principle upon which
his acceptance of the nomination was predicated;
he would not repudiate all his preconceived opin-
ions, and adopt the policy of repealing the Mis-
souri compromise. As more conclusive testi-
mony that he regards the compromise of 1850 as
a finality, I may refer to his very last message to
the Congress of the United States, in which he
uses this language:

“It is no part of my purpose to give prominence to any
subject which may properly be regarded as set at rest by
the deliberate judgment of the people. But while the pres-
ent is bright with promise, and the future full of demand
and inducement for the exercise of active intelligence, the
past can never be without useful lessons of admonition and

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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. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: August 23, 2011