Appeal of the Independent Democrats

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The Appeal of the Independent Democrats (the full title was "Appeal of the Independent Democrats in Congress to the People of the United States") was a manifesto issued in January 1854, in response to the introduction into the United States Senate of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. The Appeal was signed by then-prominent American politicians Salmon Chase, Charles Sumner, Joshua Giddings, Edward Wade, Gerrit Smith and Alexander De Witt.[1] Chase and Giddings were concerned that the bill repealed the Missouri Compromise, opening the proposed new territories of Kansas and Nebraska to slavery.[2]

The Appeal stated:

We arraign this bill as a gross violation of a sacred pledge; as a criminal betrayal of precious rights; as part and parcel of an atrocious plot to exclude from a vast unoccupied region immigrants from the Old World and free laborers from our own States, and convert it into a dreary region of despotism, inhabited by masters and slaves.[3]

Chase reviewed the history of the Missouri Compromise and argued that it had been accepted by the North only with the expectation that most of the remaining territory from the Louisiana Purchase would remain as free territory. Realizing that the Missouri Compromise was "canonized in the hearts of the American people", he called for both religious and political action in order to defeat the bill.[4]

The Appeal was originally published in the Cincinnati Gazette and widely reprinted by other newspapers throughout the country. Historian Eric Foner wrote, "Historians have tended to agree that the 'Appeal' was one of the most effective pieces of political propaganda in our history." Chase's description of an aggressive Slave Power came to be accepted in much of the North.[4]

Historian Allan Nevins wrote that Chase's language was often "grossly exaggerated" and used as an example the claim that the bill would "permanently subjugate the whole country to the yoke of a slaveholding despotism." Nevins argued that the Appeal did much to arouse Southern resentment against the anti-slavery opponents of the bill.[5]

By portraying the bill as pro-slavery aggression by Southerners against the North, it preempted Senator Steven Douglas's planned justification of the measure as an embodiment of popular sovereignty and forced most Southern Whigs in Congress to support the measure.

The Appeal launched the "anti-Nebraska" movement, later organized into the Republican Party.

Background: The “Appeal of the Independent Democrats” was written on January 19, 1854. The entire document was written by: S. P. Chase, Charles Sumner, J. R. Giddiugs, Edward Wade, Gerritt Smith, and Alexander De Witt. The document was a response to the passing of a bill that wanted to organized the Territory of Nebraska. The men all banded together to write it, because they were strong believers that this bill should not have been passed. They provided what they thought were sufficient reasons as to why history showed that slavery was awful, and how the passing of the bill would only help slavery.

Analysis: The document started by saying, “ is our duty to warn our constituents, whenever imminent danger menaces the freedom of our institutions or the permanency of the Union.” The men wanted to make it clear that what they were writing about was very important to them, and they felt the need to warn everyone of the danger of the bill. They continued on to state, “... will open all the unorganized Territories of the Union to the ingress of slavery.” They believed that if this bill should continue to be accepted, slavery would flood into the Union as well. They presented a map to the spectators, and continued to outline all the regions that slavery would flood into: “...This immense region, occupying the very heart of the North American Continent, and larger, by thirty-three thousand square miles, than all the existing free States including California…” They made the point that when Missouri applied to be a state, they did not tell the Union that they had over three-thousand slaves, which just furthered their point of slavery being unacceptable. They segwayed into the fact that eventually, Missouri was accepted. Furthermore, they admitted that they had no idea of what a suitable consequence would be for this act: “We confess our total inability properly to delineate the character:or describe tile consequences of this measure. Language fails to express the sentiments of indignation and abhorrence which it inspires;..” One of the most moving lines in the entire document was presented after they stated that, “We appeal to the people.” They continued to say, “We warn you that the dearest interests of freedom and the Union are in imminent peril” This essentially meant, “We warn you that ideas of freedom and the Union will be destroyed if this bill will continue to stay passed. They wrote that no matter what any political figure claimed, the Union could only remain intact if slavery did not rule over everyone. They continued on with, “The Union was formed to establish justice and secure the blessings of liberty.” This referred back to the Preamble to the Constitution which stated, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Lastly, one of their last lines was, “Do not submit to become agents in extending legalized oppression and systematized injustice over a vast territory yet exempt from these terrible evils.” They strongly pushed the point that if the Union succumbed to the slavery ways, then they would not live in the world that they wanted to live in anymore. They even wrote that they wanted Christians and Christian ministers to direct everyone in equality for all and acceptance. The group of men closed with, “We will not despair; for the cause of human freedom is the cause of God.” This was their final attempt at portraying their feelings of never giving up, because freedom is extremely important and was extremely important to them.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Foner p. 93-94
  3. ^ Nevins pp. 111-112.
  4. ^ a b Foner p. 94-95
  5. ^ Nevins p. 112


  • “Appeal of the Independent Democrats.” Teaching American History, Accessed 23 May 2017.
  • The Constitution of the United States. Washington, Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, 1991, Accessed 23 May 2017.
  • Full text of the "Declaration" pp 144–52
  • Foner, Eric. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War. (1970) ISBN 0-19-509497-2
  • Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union: A House Dividing 1852-1857. (1947) SBN 684-10424-5
  • Congressional Globe, 33rd Congress, 1st Session, 281 282
  • Dictionary of American History, ed. by James Truslow Adams, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940

Holt, Michael. "The Fate of Their Country"

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