Goode for Atchison, Part Three

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

When last we left George Goode (parts 1, 2), he spoke out against Francis Blair, Jr. Blair supported Thomas Hart Benton for the Senate seat then occupied by David Rice Atchison, late of Kansas election stealing. Goode understood Blair as arguing

That the free States are more prosperous than the slave States; that he is in favor of Kansas being a free State, because of the greater prosperity attending that condition; and, further, because, if made a free State, the advantages to Missouri would be much greater than if it were made a slave State-as a necessary corollary, he would have Missouri to be a free State. The whole may be reduced to a simple syllogism-the greater prosperity is to be found in States that are free. Mr Blair is in favor of the greatest prosperity, therefore, he is in favor of all States being free-Kansas and Missouri included, of course.

Blair and the other Bentonians insisted that they had no truck with abolitionism, but Good summarized his argument fairly. He used standard abolitionist arguments. He supported the largest, most immediate abolitionist goal in the minds of Missourians of the time. Maybe Blair didn’t care for the label, but if he couldn’t put any daylight between himself and the abolitionists then why pretend a distinction existed?

Goode could have taken a page from B.F. Stringfellow’s Negro-Slavery, No Evil (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). His lengthy defense of slavery (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) drew on census figures to show just how well the institution worked out economically. He could have done the same drawing on plantation ledgers. The antislavery movement simply had it wrong here; slavery generated tremendous profits for the slaveholders.

Instead he engaged in a lengthy and fairly rambling alternative history of Congress’ power over slavery. Goode would have his audience believe that Jefferson never intended to bar slavery from the west, as the Northwest Ordinance he wrote covered only half the western territories. Goode simply ignored that Jefferson tried to bar slavery from all the west first and took the Northwest alone as a consolation prize. From there he went through the usual parade of antislavery offenses. The North broke faith with the Missouri Compromise when it did not vote overwhelmingly in favor of Arkansas’ statehood. It did so again when it demanded freedom for the Mexican Cession.  Only in the Kansas-Nebraska Act did the nation finally come  back to what Goode considered the proper position on regulating slavery:

We claim that the interference by the Federal Government with the institution of slavery, is authorized in but two cases:

1. Taxation as a basis of representation in the slave States.

2. The obligation of the free States to restore fugitive slaves to their lawful owners.

Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton

This deals with Kansas, Atchison, Benton, and Blair only by implication. Goode then moves further abroad to assail a different politician entirely, a James S. Rollins who held that Congress had the power to bar slavery from the territories but ought not exercise it. One couldn’t get on George Goode’s good side by only agreeing with him on the preferred outcome. You had to agree all the way down or you amounted to a secret free soiler:

the gentleman says that if to believe in the power of Congress to legislate on Slavery in the Territories is to make one a Free-Soiler, he pleads guilty to the charge; but, if to believe that to exercise such power is inexpedient, unjust, and unpatriotic, then he is no Free-Soiler.-Now, the gentleman must feel that his position is not defensible by fair argument, or he would not resort to the shallow artifice of trying to make it appear that he is called a Free-Soiler, the patriotism of himself and others impeached, and odious epithets applied to him and them for no other reason, as he would have us believe, than an honest difference of opinion as to the much questioned right of Congress to legislate on the subject of Slavery in the Territories. It cannot be necessary to say to men of sense and fairness, that it is not the fact; and no one knows better than the gentleman himself that there is no foundation for such a conclusion.

Goode would settle only for agreement top to bottom. Everybody else might turn abolitionist. Goode drove the matter home by linking his new opponent back to Thomas Hart Benton, producing a letter where he called Benton’s loss of a senate seat a national calamity. There, by even the most charitable reading, Goode broke his initial promise to avoid comment on the dispute between Benton’s and Atchison’s parties.


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