Arguments in speeches about the compromise of 1850
John C. Calhoun offers his version of “the nature and character of the cause by which the Union is endangered.” Calhoun asserts that one of the causes that have endangered the unity of the nation is the South’s long-standing discontent over the agitation of the slavery question. The primary cause is the North’s deliberate destruction of the balance of power between the two regions preserved in the Constitution at the nation’s birth. With that equilibrium gone, the South is left feeble and defenseless and cannot “with honor and safety” remain in the Union. (William 1972)
However, Daniel Webster in his speech he establishes himself as the champion of American nationalism. As if responding to Calhoun, he speaks for the “preservation of the Union.” The major themes of his speech are “the restoration of quiet and harmonious harmony.” He denounces the North for its failure to put into place the Fugitive Slave Law. He strongly goes against “peaceable secession,” giving practical reasons as to why it would not work. (William 1972)
On the other hand, William Henry Seward is reluctant to reiterate the compromises over slavery that enabled the Union to be established. He frankly asserts his opposition to the Compromise of 1850. He condemns all legislative compromises as “radically wrong and essentially vicious,” and emphasizes that restoration of constitutional equilibrium is “totally impracticable” and that such equilibrium never existed in the first place. (William 1972)
The three speeches by John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster and William Henry Seward share the same common facts. The admission of California to the Union as a free state, an argument on whether Slave trading or slavery itself should be prohibited in the united state and fugitive slave law are common in the three speeches. (William 1972)
Daniel Webster argument is more compelling for he conciliates the hostilities of many southerners toward a compromise that was looking more and more like an instrument of northern domination and made the proposed fugitive bill palatable to southern representatives.
William L. Barney (1972) The Road to Secession: A New Perspective on the Old South, Praeger Publishers, New York.