Goode for Atchison, Part Five

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

I intended to move on from Goode’s speech today. He mostly told the Missouri legislature things they could have heard anywhere. His arguments exist in probably thousands of other period documents. While the fate of Kansas more personally concerned the slaveholders of Missouri, similar rhetoric abounded elsewhere in the South. But at least for a bit Goode goes beyond reciting the proslavery orthodoxies in isolation to speak directly about the white North and its grievance over the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Rather than constitutional musings, the outrage itself draws Goode’s attention:

My colleague, in an apologetic spirit, refers to the “exasperation, the heart-burnings, discord, and distress” of the people of the North, caused, as he tells us, by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise; he feels, as we may judge, very deeply, the wrong that he assumes has been done the North by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. He is emphatically indignant in his denunciation of all those who in any way countenanced the repeal of that measure. In this he is consistent-it has long been his fixed purpose to excuse, apologize for, and defend whatever concerns the North. The North can do nothing wrong-the South nothing right.

Given that the practice of slavery and that alone separated North and South, one struggles now to argue with such a conclusion. Men like Goode and Atchison struggled too, but from the other end. Always conscious of their identities as slaveholding men of the South, they understood calling slavery evil as calling them evil. Who among us would argue against that obvious inference? But they knew in their hearts that the wrong lay in free labor, not in slavery, and so saw antislavery arguments as perverse on top of their danger of inflaming slave revolts and patent immorality.

He can feel for the North in this matter, but we hear nothing from him in regard to the outrage perpetrated by the North at the time of the adoption of the Missouri Compromise. That Compromise originated in a spirit of political jealousy-at first, it was nothing more. The North had begun to fear the political power of the South. That power could, as they then thought, be arrested or circumscribed only by restricting slavery. To prevent the increase of slave States was the great object to be achieved. The agitation of the questions showed them the full extent of their numerical strength; they became confident-nay, insolent in their tone, and menacing in their action. They resolved among themselves that there should be no more slave States.

Goode spoke in the winter of 1855 about events then a quarter century gone. He might have said much the same thing in the winter of 1860, six years thence, or the summer of 1850 just four years past. In any of those cases, he would have the facts on his side. Antislavery northerners really did want to cordon off slavery to where it already existed and did understand that as setting it on a path to destruction. They understood slavery as a threat to the white man’s democracy, an economic drag, and a great moral evil:

The arguments by which my colleague seeks to justify his position, as to making Kansas free, are such as we might have expected from a disciple of the Free-Soil school; all these arguments are based upon the conclusion that slavery is a curse, without mitigation or hope; and that its existence is a blight upon the earth-a deadly pestilence, infecting the atmosphere of social life, and retarding our advancement in all that makes a prosperous and happy people.


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