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Bell’s Record.


September/October 1860

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, October 1, 1860.

Bell’s Record.

Since the Constitutional Union party is without a platform, we must look for its principles in the record of its candidate for the Presidency.  That record has been recently compiled by a committee of Mr. Bell’s political friends, and has appeared in all or most of the journals which support him, including the Evening News.  Having no platform, the leaders of the new party have found it all the more essential to furnish the public with a full and exact record of Mr. Bell’s political life.  Nor are we disposed to think that such a publication is an ineffective substitute for a series of general resolutions.  The principles acted upon by a public man, throughout a protracted career of Congress, are certainly as correct indications of what his policy would be, if elected President, as platform declarations.  At all events, so far as John Bell is concerned, we can look for his principles nowhere, except in his speeches and the lists of ayes and noes on the journals of Congress.  In a recent letter of his, he refers an inquirer to published.

Well, it shows plainly enough, that on the paramount question of slavery Mr. Bell and Mr. Breckinridge occupy now the same position, precisely.  The former is entitled to be considered the stronger pro slavery man, for he has been a champion of the Calhoun theory that the Constitution carries slavery into the Territories proprio vigore, and is entitled to protection there, much longer than Mr. Breckinridge.  That such is his opinion, we refer for proof to the following emphatic declaration of the Louisville Journal:

We hold that Congress possesses the undoubted power to protect the rights of property of every kind in the Territories of the Union, and that it is the unquestionable duty of Congress to exercise this power whenever it is necessary.  And we hold that the right of slave property in the Territories is just as sacred as the right of property of any other sort.  John Bell’s record, as compiled under his own eye, for the special purpose of setting forth in an authentic form his opinion on the minor issues of our politics, and as recently published at length in our columns, commits him unequivocally and indisputably to this very doctrine.

He is committed, we are told, “unequivocally and indisputably to this doctrine.”  There is, therefore, as we have remarked, no difference whatever in relation to slavery between Breckinridge and Bell.  They stand abreast in the very foremost rank of slavery extensionists.  Indeed the friends of Mr. Bell in the South are pressing his claims as the most advanced pro-slavery candidate in the field, and we must do them justice to say that their arguments in support of the bad eminence assigned him are incontrovertible.  Congressional protection for slavery in all the Territories is the principle of which he is the exponent and representative par excellence.  He was one of the earliest converts to Calhounism; and he has proved his faith in that creed by more than one speech and by many votes.  In the struggle springing from the annexation of Texas, he acted with Calhoun and Jefferson Davis against Webster and Benton.  Before Calhoun took the ground that the Constitution extended over all Territories simultaneously with their annexation to the United States, he (Calhoun) was the author of a scheme to so extend it by act of Congress.  The object of this was to override the local law against slavery throughout the broad domain acquired from Mexico, by the Constitution, which, according to Calhoun, is a pro-slavery instrument.  John Bell supported this movement, and for the same reason that governed its author in originating it.  The Senate voted for it in the shape of an amendment to the civil and diplomatic appropriation bill.  This amendment was rejected by the House, and on the question arising in the Senate to recede from the amendment, Mr. Bell voted in the negative.  When the new theory appeared in its ultimate development; when the light dawned upon the slavery extensionists, and the Constitution grew not merely dark, but black with the excess of that peculiar light, Mr. Bell was not dazzled even for a moment.  He saw as soon as anybody, that the Constitution goes of itself everywhere that our flag goes, and that it carries the inevitable nigger along with it, as Christian in his progress carried that oppressive load on his shoulders, or as Canute in his flight through the void carried that terrible red and ever growing spot on his shroud.

The great fact is also indisputable that Mr. Bell voted for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise.  When that proposition came up by itself, he cast his vote in its favor, along with Douglas, Atchison, and Davis.  Much of his popularity among the class styling themselves Conservatives, arises from the notion that he was opposed to the abrogation of the Missouri Compromise.  The error has been occasioned by his vote against the Kansas-Nebraska bill on its passage.  He objected to a part of the bill relating to the Indian reservations, and for this reason he voted in the negative on the final vote.  On the main question—that which has kept the country in a state of turmoil for nearly seven years—he stood with the extreme Southern men and their instrument, Stephen A. Douglas.

We cannot, therefore, perceive how opponents of slavery extension can vote for Mr. Bell anymore than for Mr. Breckinridge or Mr. Douglas.  We are assuming, of course, that personal predelictions have but little weight in such a contest as the present one.  There are great principles, undoubtedly, in conflict.  Hence the Republican who votes for Bell renounces the Republican creed, and can no longer be considered a Republican.  The Clay Whig who votes for him repudiates all the teachings of Clay upon the question of slavery.  In fact the opinions of the great Whig statesman upon that, as upon industrial questions are truly represented by Lincoln in all its important aspects.  Judging from the “record” as well as from the evils involved in the barely possible contingency of a failure to elect a President by the popular vote—of casting the election into Congress, where anarchy and strife might ensue, we cannot believe Bell will receive the support of any party but that of the downright slavery extensionist, to which support he has at least as strong claims as any other candidate in the field.