Disunion appeared to be imminent, unless the “loyal people, casting off the spirit of party, should, in a special manner, avow their unfailing fidelity to the Union
, and their abiding faith in the Constitution
The meeting was held accordingly; called to order by the President
of the Common Council, prayed for by Bishop Potter
, and the speaking initiated by Mayor Henry
, who, after cautioning his hearers to discard “all sordid
views,” and to avow their “unbroken attachment to the Union
,” and their determination to “leave no honest effort untried to preserve its integrity,” proceeded to set forth the provocations to Secession, and the proper means of counteracting it, after this fashion:
My fellow-citizens, I should be false to the position in which you have placed me — I should be recreant to my sense of duty — if I withheld an avowal of the truth which this occasion demands.
I speak to you frankly, my fellow-citizens; I tell you that, if, in any portion of our confederacy, sentiments have been entertained and cherished which are inimical to the civil rights and social institutions of any other portion, those sentiments should be relinquished and discountenanced.
(Cheers.) The family discipline which you choose to adopt for your own fireside, whilst it does not violate the law under which you dwell, is your rightful prerogative; and you are prompt to resist the officious intermeddling of others, however well intended.
(Applause.) The social institutions of each State in this Union are equally the rightful prerogatives of its citizens; and, so long as those institutions do not contravene the principles of your Federal compact, none may justly interfere with, or righteously denounce them.
(Applause.) The efficient cause of the distracted condition of our country is to be found in the prevalent belief of the citizens of the South that their brethren of the North are, as a community, arrayed against a social institution which they regard as essential to their prosperity.
You are ready to aver truthfully that such belief is mistaken and unfounded; but it becomes all who are actuated by an earnest brotherhood to see to it that, where public sentiment has been misled, it shall be restored to its standpoint of twenty-five years since.
The misplaced teachings of the pulpit, the unwise rhapsodies of the lecture-room, the exciting appeals of the press, on the subject of Slavery, must be frowned down by a just and law-abiding people.
(Great applause.) Thus, and thus only, may you hope to avoid the sectional discord, agitation, and animosity, which, at frequently recurring periods, have shaken your political fabric to its center, and, at last, have undermined its very foundation.
Hon. Joseph R. Ingersoll
(old-line Whig, but anti-Lincoln) followed in a far less humiliating strain, but urging the immediate, unconditional repeal of the State
act antagonistic to the Fugitive Slave Law
; which proposition was hailed with enthusiastic cheers.
He closed as follows:
We are all one country.
It is a farce to suppose that this country will be divided.
(Applause.) It will be united in peace or in war. (Applause.) You may see, perhaps, legions brought against legions, in a domestic fury that shall be worse than the fury of a foreign enemy, and they will be united in doing harm.
While we, in the center of the country, will endeavor to interpose kindness and peace, in order to restore the country to the situation in which it was left at the death of Washington, let us be determined to maintain the rights of the whole country, and extend the feeling of fellowship over all the land.
Judge George W. Woodward1
spoke next, commencing by an assault on Mr. Lincoln
's premonition that “the Union
must become all Slave or all Free,” and proceeding to indicate the exclusion of Slavery from the territories as a dogma which must be given up, or the Union
Here is his statement and condemnation of the policy inaugurated by Thomas Jefferson
The inexorable exclusion of slave property from the common territories, which tho Government holds in trust for the people of all the States, is a natural and direct step