The Committee of Thirty-Three

Boston Daily Advertiser, January 21, 1861

The failure of the “committee of thirty-three” to agree upon any scheme for adjusting the political difficulties referred to it for solution, appears to have created an impression that the committee was a failure, and that its deliberations were fruitless. We cannot see the matter in this light, however. If the committee had [sic] done nothing else, it has performed a very essential public service and one which, as affairs go, may be of more importance than we now see, in enabling the House to transact the regular routine business of the session, which has to be finished to keep the wheels of government in motion. With political topics of such absorbing interest in every one’s mind at a session which must close peremptorily on the fourth of March, and leave the country with its new House of Representatives yet to be completed at the summer elections in several States, it is a matter of no trifling moment that this committee has kept the topic of the day in a measure out of the House of Representatives, until the other business of the country is in such condition that the House can safely launch out upon that boundless sea of discussion.

This is an incidental service, however—originally designed, we suppose, by those who have led in the business of the session, but still apart from that field of usefulness in which the public have looked for the return for the labors of the committee. But in spite of this acknowledged failure to agree upon any scheme of settlement, it appears to us that the committee has rendered very essential service in exposing the real purposes of the secessionists, and in showing what can be done to check the further spread of their treasonable movements. Without reviewing minutely proceedings yet fresh in the minds of all, we may state, as a fact within the recollection of any reader, that the committee drew from the representatives of seceding States the confession, that they do not hold themselves bound to stand by the result of a fair and constitutional election, that they are not embarking in treason because of unfriendly legislation on the part of northern States, because of any apprehended dangers from northern aggression, or because of any rights withheld in the territory of the United States, but that they have undertaken disunion for the sole reason that they have resolved to extend slavery into territory not yet owned by the United States.

That we do not exaggerate when we thus state the result of the committee’s labor is plain, we think, from the character of those measures to which a majority of the committee would have agreed, had the representatives of disaffected States consented to them. The committee were ready to advise the repeal of the personal liberty acts, to insert in the Constitution a denial of all rights in Congress to interfere with slavery in the States except with the consent of every State in the Union, and to close up now and forever, on unobjectionable terms, the question of slavery in all territories now within our limits. The committee were thus ready by an exhaustive process to settle the slavery question in all its necessary relations, to bring the North forward as far as concession can go without palpable sacrifice of principle, and to offer a really just and practicable middle ground for accommodating the differences of the two sections. This failed to pacify the advocates of secession, and the failure was a plain demonstration of the real object for which they have taken their present dangerous stand.

It is gaining a great point, we think, that the committee has thus served to bring our real difficulty so plainly before the country. The record has thus been made up against the party of secession in the most effective manner, and should convince every one that as for that party no plan of action which can be offered can satisfy their demands. It appears to us, however, that the committee has also served to disclose a basis of action, on which much may be done to strengthen the Union party in other Southern States, which are not yet openly the prey of treason. The committee has shown that the majority of the Republican party as represented in Congress is ready to make a fair and reasonable settlement of all questions now open, in the spirit of conciliation and equity. Even a gentleman of such tenacity of opinion and purpose as Mr. Adams of this State only asks to be satisfied that some good result is attainable, in order to give his active support to such a plan, some leading features of which have been suggested by himself. And it fortunately happens that at this juncture the country has assurances to the same effect from the lips of the leading cabinet officer of the future administration. We feel that substantial ground is thus pointed out on which the North and a large part of the South can unite for the preservation of the Constitution and the Union. We shall not yet admit that love of country is so far lost in either section, that this great purpose will be sacrificed, either for a punctilio, or from sympathy with a wide-spread frenzy, nourished by the most unholy passions and leading to political and social ruin.