Goode for Atchison, Part Four

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

George Goode continued faithfully with his promise to comment only on the great issue of slavery in Missouri and not on the ongoing struggle between Thomas Hart Benton’s supporters of silence and non-agitation on slavery and David Rice Atchison’s proslavery, Kansas stealing radicals. He summarized the position of another of Atchison’s critics:

His objections to Senator Atchison are that he is too impulsive, and his “heated impulses might lead him astray;” but his chief objection seems to be that he (Atchison) sympathises with, and is greatly controlled by a Southern clique-men who are hostile to the best interests of this country, and who, if their counsels continue to prevail, will rend this Union asunder.

The non-partisan, taking no part in the anti-Benton/pro-Benton split, found himself tracing

the political proclivities, and identify of opinion and feeling of the gentleman from Boone with those of the Benton leader

That promise of non-partisanship held rock solid as Goode dissected what his opponent said

And here I would explain that I should not say one word in reference to what the gentleman from Boone asserted about Senator Atchison, but for his uncalled for allusion and reflection on the Southern gentleman whom he is pleased to designate as a clique-hostile to the best interests of the country. In this we see him exhibiting the same hostility to the Southern men as are habitually exhibited by teh Benton leader;-and who are these men with whom Senator Atchison associates, and whose influence, and whose alleged treasonable designs are so much to be deprecated? Mason, Hunter, Butler, and Dawson-in fine, all the Southern Senators, for all of these may be said to be the friends of Senator Atchison. And what have these men done to justify an allusion so invidious and disparaging? Nothing. The reason for their denunciation is that they are Southern gentlemen, and TRUE TO THE RIGHTS OF THE SOUTH.

The Missouri legislature’s debate over who would fill Atchison’s seat in the senate concerned the men in question, but clearly both Frank Blair and George Goode saw the issue as a debate over slavery by proxy. Would Missouri remain the northwest frontier of the South, subject to the paradoxical strains that produced extremists like Atchison in vulnerable constituencies, or would it slide away and become something more like Benton’s St. Louis, with few slaves and some day no slaves?

Remember Goode assails here a man who agrees with him on practical terms. Rollins, the gentleman from Boone, believed that Congress should not exercise the power he thought it had to make Kansas into a free territory. Goode differed only in believing that Congress had no such power. But that made Rollins a subversive.:

The gentleman from Boone, true to his proclivities, and yielding as it were unconsciously to the bias of his feelings, speaks of Senator Atchison as one unsuited to his place, attacks his opinions and acts, and seeks to depreciate his capacity, and discredit his pretensions,. The party, too, by whom he (Atchison) is supported, are likewise attacked, their actions assailed, and their motives questioned-and all this in a speech of great length and much compass of allusion-and yet, in that speech, we have nothing in condemnation of Col. Benton or his party,-that party which is led here by an avowed Free-Soiler,-whose views and opinions here boldly expressed are, as I honestly believe, subversive to the peace and prosperity of this State. The gentleman from Boone can see nothing to condemn in those views and opinions expressed by the champion of the Benton party on this floor. HE EITHER APPROVES THEM OR DARES NOT AVOW HIS ANSWER!

One struggles to read all of this and not catch Joe McCarthy’s stench rising off the words. Goode sounds like he sees a free soiler behind every bush. He spends pages attacking a man who agrees with his preferred outcome on the Kansas question over what looks like little more than a technicality.

But in all honesty, Blair’s position, and Benton’s, sound like something a free soiler in a slave state would say. That made neither foaming at the mouth abolitionists,  but they did see a future for Missouri with less slavery. Perhaps in time Missouri would have no slavery. The slave states of the North went free by such slow processes. Letting Kansas turn Missouri into an exposed salient of slavery jutting up into the North would surely leave the institution more exposed, especially as most of Missouri’s slavery took place dangerously near the border. If Kansas went free, and St. Louis continued to grow as a city just barely enslaved and filling with immigrants and northerners, Missouri’s slave power would have to take still more extreme and startling anti-democratic steps to save their property. With such a process underway, men like Rollins from Boone might easily turn free soil completely. Paranoia, and political theater, certainly informed Goode. So did genuine fears of a free future.


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