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Sam Houston Senate Speech, February 15, 1854

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Sam Houston speech opposing the Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854


instruction. If its dangers serve not as beacons, they will
evidently fail to fulfill the object of a wise design. When
the grave shall have closed over all, who are now endeav-
oring to meet the obligations of duty, the year 1850 will be
recurred to as a period filled with anxious apprehension. A
successful war had just terminated. Peace brought with it
a vast augmentation of territory. Disturbing questions
arose, bearing upon the domestic institutions of one portion
of the Confederacy, and involving the constitutional rights
of the States. But, notwithstanding differences of opinion
and sentiment, which then existed in relation to details and
specific provisions, the acquiescence of distinguished citi-
zens, whose devotion to the Union can never be doubted,
has given renewed vigor to our institutions, and restored a
sense of repose and security to the public mind throughout
the Confederacy. That this response is to suffer no shock du-
ring any official term, if I have power to avert it, those who
placed me here may be assured.”

Can anyone suppose that the Executive of the
United States has abandoned his principles, in
order to advance the repeal of the Missouri
compromise, or that he would sanction with his
approval an act of repeal, if the Congress of the
United States should pass one? I deny it, sir. I
have seen fugitive charges from the press that I
was opposing the Administration. I have felt
bound to fortify myself with irrefutable testimony
in regard to that matter. I plant myself, and shall
remain, upon the principles avowed by this Demo-
cratic Administration. But, sir, if it were oppos-
ing the whole world, with the convictions of my
mind and heart, I would oppose to the last by all
means of rational resistance the repeal of the
Missouri compromise, because I deem it essential
to the preservation of this Union, and to the very
existence of the South. It has heretofore operated
as a wall of fire to us. It is a guarantee for our
institutions. Repeal it, and there will then be no
line of demarkation [sic]. Repeal it, and you are put-
ting the knife to the throat of the South, and it
will be drawn. No event of the future is more
visible to my perception than that, if the Missouri
compromise is repealed, at some future day the
South will be overwhelmed.

I do not wish to be sectional. I do not wish
to be regarded as for the South alone. I need not
say that I am for the whole country. If I am, it
is sufficient without rehearsing it here. But, sir,
my all is in the South. My identity is there.
My life has been spent there. Every tendril that
clusters around my heart, every chord [sic] that binds
me to life or hope, is there; and I feel that it is
my duty to stand up in behalf of her rights, and,
if possible, to secure every guarantee for her safety
and her security.

I claim the Missouri compromise, as it now
stands, in behalf of the South. I ask Senators to
let its benefits inure to us. I do not want it taken
away. The South has not demanded it. In all
the canvass of last year, did any southern man
demand the repeal of the Missouri compromise?
Has any newspaper said so? Has any voice pro-
claimed it? No! And I appeal to Senators, who
sympathize with us in our necessities and in our
apprehensions, to remember that we have not
asked for the repeal. Suppose a candidate for the
Presidency of the United States, during the last
canvass, at the last moment, when there was barely
time enough left to send the news over the wires
to the various parts of the Union, had proclaimed
that he was in favor of the repeal of the Missouri
compromise, how many States would he have re-
ceived? How many votes would have indorsed [sic]
him? I care not who the candidate might have
been; I care not if it had been General Jackson or
General Washington, they could not have secured
the indorsement [sic] of the American people.

I am now called upon to vote for the repeal of
the Missouri compromise, which I esteem every-
thing to the South—under which it has prospered,
and in which we have always acquiesced since
its adoption—which the South united in apply-
ing to Texas when it was admitted into the Union;
and even Texas has prospered under the infliction.
Texas was a party to the compact, and she has
not repealed her part of it; she has not assented to
the repeal, and I, as her representative, never will.
I may be voted down, but I will submit to the in-
fliction of a calamitous dispensation. I will yield,
if not cheerfully, I at least will “acquiesce.”

Why will this prove injurious to the South? It
is not worth while to review before intelligent gen-
tlemen the circumstances under which the Mis-
souri compromise was formed. The necessities
of the country were great, its emergencies alarm-
ing, and it was adopted by the voice of the repre-
sentatives of the American people, as a compact
between the North and the South. Since that time,
an inequality greater than then existed between
the North and the South, numerically and politi-
cally, has grown up, and continues to grow. The
preponderance in favor of northern influence and
northern votes is every day in progress of increase,
and must continue so in after times. It is not to
cease. The vast northwestern portion of our con-
tinent, unadapted to slave labor, will not be filled
up by southern men with slaves, and northern
people will increase that preponderance until the
North is connected with California, through the
valleys and gorges of the Rocky Mountains.

As an evidence that we have nothing to hope
for from the increase of the States, unless such
may be formed out of Texas or New Mexico, the
honorable chairman of the Committee on Territo-
ries concedes, as I understand him, the fact that
Nebraska and Kansas will never be inhabited by
a slave population. He thinks the chances de-
cidedly against their ever being filled with slave-
holders. I think so too. I think the South have
to overcome a law of nature more potent than geo-
graphical obstacles, before ever that country will
be filled by a slave population. Then is it for the
benefit of the South that this restriction should be
repealed? No. The North do not demand it.
Will the South be benefited by it? There is no
more doubt in my mind that Indiana and Illinois
are non-slaveholding States, than that Nebraska
and Kansas will always be such.

Well, sir, what is it giving to the South? They
have not demanded it. Is it giving them a toy or
a bauble? Are you to amuse them as you amuse
children, by giving them a rattle to tickle the ears
of the little fellows? [Laughter.] No, sir; this
is a grave subject. They have not asked for bread,
that you can offer them a stone; or a fish, that you
can give them a serpent.

The day, I fear, must come in the progress of
our country—though God forbid that it ever
should—that great trials and emergencies will
grow up between the North and the South. The
South is in a minority. She cannot be otherwise.
The laws of nature and of progress have made her
so. If the South accede to the violation of a com-
pact as sacred as this, they set an example that
may be followed on occasions when they do not
desire it. If you take away the sanctity of the

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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