The Life of John J. Crittenden, With Selections from His Carrespondence and Speeches

Author: John Jordan Crittenden  | Date: 1871

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Explanation of the Crittenden Compromise (1861)

BY SENATOR JOHN JORDAN CRITTENDEN

THE resolutions were proposed in the pure spirit of compromise, and with the hopes of preserving or restoring to the country peace and union. They were the result of the joint labors of, and consultation with, friends having the same object in view; and I believe if those measures thus offered had been at a suitable time promptly adopted by the Congress of the United States, it would have checked the progress of the rebellion and revolution, and saved the Union.

For myself, I had no objection to including in their scope all after-acquired territory, because that made a final settlement of the distracting question of slavery in all time to come, and because I hoped that such a provision—by prohibiting slavery in all the acquired territory north of the line of 36° 30′ of north latitude, and allowing it in all south of that line—would have the effect of preventing any further acquisition of territory, as the Northern States would be unwilling to make any southern acquisitions, on which slavery was to be allowed, and the Southern States would not be inclined to increase the preponderance of the North by northern acquisitions. And thus I hoped that the provision respecting future territory would prevent any further acquisitions of territory, and I did not desire that any more should be made.

These were my reasons for submitting the proposition in relation to future acquired territory. But my great object was compromise,—compromise on terms satisfactory, as far as possible, to all parties and all sections; and when I found that this provision in my resolutions was much and particularly objected to, and might prove an obstacle to their adoption, I determined, in my anxiety for compromise, that I would not insist upon it, but would consent to have it stricken out.

To accomplish the great object I had in view, the peace and union of the country, I would, rather than have witnessed their total failure, have yielded to any modification of my resolutions that would not, in my judgment, have destroyed their essential character and their pacifying effect. Indeed, I intended, if opportunity had been afforded me, to make several amendments in the phraseology of those resolutions, in order to render their language as little offensive as possible.

I wish to see reconciliation and union established. It was of no importance by whose resolutions or by whose measures it was brought about, so that the great end was accomplished.

It was in that spirit, that when the Peace Conference or Convention, that met at Washington upon the invitation of the State of Virginia, made a report to Congress of the resolutions or measures recommended by them for the restoration of peace and union, I at once determined to support their measures rather than those I had before proposed. I did this, not only because their propositions contained, as I thought, the substance of my own, but because they came with the high sanction of a convention of twenty-one States, and would, therefore, be more likely to be acceptable to Congress and the country. Besides that, I felt myself somewhat bound to act with this deference to a convention so distinguished. I had ascertained to my satisfaction that the resolutions would not be adopted in the Senate.

Mrs. Chapman [Ann M.] Coleman, (Philadelphia, 1871), II, 296–297.

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Chicago: John Jordan Crittenden, The Life of John J. Crittenden, With Selections from His Carrespondence and Speeches, ed. Mrs. Chapman [Ann M.] Coleman in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903), Original Sources, accessed December 2, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=58WEZHG565JKWWR.

MLA: Crittenden, John Jordan. The Life of John J. Crittenden, With Selections from His Carrespondence and Speeches, edited by Mrs. Chapman [Ann M.] Coleman, Vol. II, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 4, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1903, Original Sources. 2 Dec. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=58WEZHG565JKWWR.

Harvard: Crittenden, JJ, The Life of John J. Crittenden, With Selections from His Carrespondence and Speeches, ed. . cited in 1903, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 2 December 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=58WEZHG565JKWWR.