Resolutions Recommending Amendment of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, [4 January 1855]1
Whereas the African Slave-trade ought not to be revived by law–
And whereas the principle of non-intervention by congress, as laid down in those parts of Sections fourteen and thirtytwo of the act of congress entitled “An act to organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas” Approvedwhich reads as follows, towit requires the repeal of all laws of congress abolishing, or hindering said African Slave-trade;
and requires that all persons wishing to own slaves should be left “perfectly free” to purchase them on the coast of Africa, and to take them to, and hold them within, the Teritories of the United States, if they choose to do so,2 therefore
Resolved by the General Assembly of the State of Illinois, that our Senators in congress be instructed and, our Representatives requested, to use their best endeavors to procure the repeal of the above recited
<Page 2>parts of said Act to organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas–
Resolved further; that our said Senators be instructed, and our said Representatives requested, to procure the revival and re-enactment, of the eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March sixth, eighteen hundred and twenty–3
Resolved further, that they use their utmost endeavors to prevent the said Teritories of Nebraska and Kansas, or either of them, or any part of either of them, ever coming into this Union as a Slave-state or states–4
Resolved further, that they use their utmost ^constitutional^ endeavors to prevent Slavery ever being established in any county or place, where it does not now legally exist–
Resolved further, that our said Senators and Representatives, resist to the ^their^ utmost, the now threatened attempt to divide California, in order to erect one portion thereof into a slave state–5
Resolved by the People of the State of Illinois represented in the General Assembly:
That our Senators in Congress be instructed, and our Representatives requested, as follows, towit
1 To use their utmost endeavors to repeal so much of the fourteenth, and thirtysecond Sections of the act of congress, entitled “an act to organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas” Approved as is found in the words following, towit–
2– To use their utmost endeavors to procure the revival, and re-enactment, of the eighth Section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved, March sixth eighteen hundred and twenty–
3– To use their utmost endeavors to prevent the said Territories of Nebraska and Kansas, or either of them, or any part of either of them, ever coming into the Union as a Slave-state, or states–
4 To use their utmost endeavors to prevent domestic slavery ever being established in any county, or place, where it does not now legally exist–
5– To resist, to their utmost, the now threatened attempt to divide California, in order to erect one portion thereof into a slave-state–
6. To resist, to their utmost, the now threatened attempt to revive the African slave trade–
1Abraham Lincoln wrote this document. Although not dated, these resolutions were likely drafted to be introduced to the Illinois General Assembly. Roy P. Basler, editor of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, dated these resolutions January 4, 1855, and the editors have retained Basler’s dating. The Nineteenth Illinois General Assembly, which commenced on January 1, 1855, received several resolutions concerning the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, but Lincoln's resolutions were not introduced.
Pages one and two of this document are likely the first draft of Lincoln’s resolutions; pages four and five are likely the second draft.
Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 2:301; Illinois House Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 3, 157-58, 197, 265, 391-92; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 3, 32, 47-48.
2Article one, section nine of the United States Constitution forbid the prohibition of the international slave trade prior to 1808: “The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.” The Ninth Congress, at the second session in 1807, reviewed and passed “An Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves into any Port or Place Within the Jurisdiction of the United States, From and After the First Day of January, in the Year of Our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Eight.” The ban on the importation of enslaved persons into the U.S. thus took effect on January 1, 1808.
Section fourteen of the Kansas-Nebraska Act describes the concept of popular sovereignty for Nebraska: “That the Constitution, and all Laws of the United States which are not locally inapplicable, shall have the same force and effect within the said Territory of Nebraska as elsewhere within the United States, except the eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March sixth, eighteen hundred and twenty, which, being inconsistent with the principle of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the States and Territories, as recognized by the legislation of eighteen hundred and fifty, commonly called the Compromise Measures, is hereby declared inoperative and void; it being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to revive or put in force any law or regulation which may have existed prior to the act of sixth March, eighteen hundred and twenty, either protecting, establishing, prohibiting, or abolishing slavery.” Section thirty-two repeats the text of section fourteen verbatim, only replacing “Territory of Nebraska” with “Territory of Kansas.” Lincoln argued that the text of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, promising to allow each state to “form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way,” directly opposed the 1808 Importation Act and should be removed.
U.S. Const., art. I, § 9; U.S. House Journal. 1807. 9th Cong., 2nd sess., 638; U.S. Senate Journal. 1807. 9th Cong., 2nd sess., 164; “An Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves into any Port or Place Within the Jurisdiction of the United States, From and After the First Day of January, in the Year of Our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Eight,” 2 March 1807, Statutes at Large of the United States 2 (1845), 426-30; “An Act to Organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas,” 30 May 1854, Statutes at Large of the United States 10 (1855):282-83, 289.
3Section eight of the Missouri Compromise created the 36˚30' parallel line, dividing the northern and southern portions of the United States into free and slave states: “And be it further enacted, That in all that territory ceded by France to the United States, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude, not included within the limits of the state, contemplated by this act, slavery and involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes, whereof the parties shall have been duly convicted, shall be, and is hereby, forever prohibited: Provided always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labour or service is lawfully claimed, in any state or territory of the United States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labour or service as aforesaid.”
“An Act to Authorize the People of the Missouri Territory to Form a Constitution and State Government, and for the Admission of such State into the Union on an Equal Footing with the Original States, and to Prohibit Slavery in Certain Territories,” 6 March 1820, Statutes at Large of the United States 3 (1846):548.
4Kansas entered the Union as a free state in 1861. Nebraska entered the Union as a free state in 1867.
"An Act for the Admission of Kansas into the Union," 29 January 1861, Statutes at Large of the United States 12 (1863):126-28; “An Act for the Admission of the State of Nebraska into the Union,” 9 February 1867, Statutes at Large of the United States 14 (1868):391-92.
5California achieved statehood on September 9, 1850, as a free state per the Compromise of 1850. The first decade of California’s existence as a state contained numerous efforts to divide it into two states, one northern and one southern. Had California been accepted as two states, one free and one slave per the Missouri Compromise line, the balance of power in the Union would have remained equal. In addition, the discovery of gold in 1848 and the subsequent “Gold Rush” of 1849 created divergent sections of the state, with the northern part of California increasing in population with gold miners who leased their land and the southern part of the state with old ties to Mexico remaining less populated with citizens who owned their land.
"An Act for the Admission of the State of California into the Union," 9 September 1850, Statutes at Large of the United States 9 (1862):452-53; William Henry Ellison, “The Movement for State Division in California, 1849-1860,” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 17 (October 1913): 101-2.
Handwritten Document, 5 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).