From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
The Crittenden Compromise was an unsuccessful proposal introduced by Kentucky Senator John J. Crittenden on December 18, 1860. It aimed to resolve the U.S. secession crisis of 1860–1861 by addressing the grievances that led the slave states of the United States to contemplate secession from the United States.
It guaranteed the permanent existence of slavery in the slave states and addressed Southern demands in regard to fugitive slaves and slavery in the District of Columbia. It proposed extending the Missouri Compromise line to the west, with slavery prohibited north of the 36° 30′ parallel and guaranteed south of it. The compromise included a clause that it could not be repealed or amended.
The compromise was popular among Southern members of the Senate, but it was generally unacceptable to the Republicans, who opposed the expansion of slavery beyond the states where it already existed into the territories. The opposition of their party's leader, President-elect Abraham Lincoln, was crucial. Republicans said the compromise "would amount to a perpetual covenant of war against every people, tribe, and state owning a foot of land between here and Tierra del Fuego." The only territories south of the line were parts of New Mexico Territory and Indian Territory. There was considerable agreement on both sides that slavery would never flourish in New Mexico. The South refused the House Republicans' proposal, approved by committee on December 29, to admit New Mexico as a state immediately. However, not all opponents of the Crittenden Compromise also opposed further territorial expansion of the United States. The New York Times referred to "the whole future growth of the Republic" and "all the Territory that can ever belong to the United States, — the whole of Mexico and Central America". 
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate rejected Crittenden's proposal. It was part of a series of last-ditch efforts to provide the Southern states with sufficient reassurances to forestall their secession during the final session of Congress prior to the Lincoln administration taking office.
The Crittenden proposals were also discussed in February 1861 at the peace conference, the final formal effort to avert the start of war, only to fail again as the provision guaranteeing slave-ownership throughout all Western territories and future acquisitions proved too unpalatable for Lincoln and the Republicans.
A February 1861 editorial in the Charleston Courier (Charleston, Missouri) summed up the mood prevalent in Southern-leaning border counties as the Crittenden proposals went down in defeat: "Men at Washington think there is no chance for peace, and indeed we can see but little, everything looks gloomy. The Crittenden resolutions have been voted down again and again. Is there any other proposition which will win, that the South can accept? If not—there comes war—and woe to the wives and daughters of our land; beauty will be but an incentive to crime, and plunder but pay for John Brown raids. Let our citizens be prepared for the worst, it may come." This statement, made by the paper's editor, George Whitcomb, came in response to a fiery letter to the editor from Congressman John William Noell, the area's Representative in Congress, excoriating "disunion".