He thanked God that he was permitted, after a long sickness, to take his stand upon that floor in renovated health, at a time when his services might prove most valuable to his constituents.
He would not now speak in passion.
It would not befit the solemn and portentous issues of the hour.
They were in the midst of great events.
It might be that they were in the dying days of the Republic
and he would not therefore utter, even in a whisper, one word which might tend to bring down the impending avalanche upon the quiet homes of the people.
He would at the same time speak as a Southern man, identified with all the interests of the South
He would speak as a Western Virginian, and as the custodian of those who were not old enough to know the perils to which they were exposed, by those who were now riding on the crest of the popular wave, but who were, nevertheless, destined to sink into the very trough of the sea to a depth so unfathomable that not a bubble would ever rise, to mark the spot where they went so ignominiously down.
Well might those who had inaugurated the revolution which was now stalking over the land, cry out with uplifted hands for peace, and deprecate the effusion of blood.
It was the inventor of the guillotine who was its first victim, and the day was not far off when they would find among their own people, those who would have to rely upon the magnanimity of that population, whom they had most cruelly outraged and deceived.
He had not the heart to enter into a detail of the arguments, or to express the indignant emotions, which rose to his lips for utterance.
But before God, and in his inmost conscience he believed that Slavery would be crucified, should this unhappy controversy end in a dismenmbermelt of the Union
If not crucified, it would carry the death-rattle in its throat.
It remained to be seen whether treason could be carried out with the same facility with which it has been plotted.
There was a holy courage among the minority of every State that might be for the time overwhelmed.
was not dead, but slept; and ere long the stone would be rolled away from the mouth of the tomb, and they would witness all the glories of a resurrection.
It would not be forgotten, that among the clans of Scotland
, beacon fires used to be lit by concerted signals from crag to crag, in living volumes of flame, yet expiring even in its own fierceness, and sinking into ashes as the fagots which fed them were consumed.
To such a picture as that might be likened a rebellion such as political leaders sometimes excite for a brief hour; but the fires of rebellion burnt out with the fagots, and all was cold and dark again.
There was a striking contrast between such a movement, between such a rebellion as he alluded to, and the uprising of the masses of the people in vindication of violated rights.
As great a difference as there was between Snug, the joiner, and Bottom, the weaver, who “could roar you as fierce as a lion, or coo you as gently as a sucking-dove.”
One was the stage-trick of a political harlequin, the other was a living reality — the one was a livid and fitful flame, the other was a prairie on fire, finding in every step of its progress food for its all-ravening maw. In the present emergency, before this political conspiracy, it might be that he would stand alone with his colleague, (Mr. Wilson
.) Let it be so. He sought no office.
His political race was very nearly voluntarily run. History would record the proceeding of this turbulent period, and time — the gentle but infallible arbiter of all things earthly — would decide the truth.
Upon that he would take his stand.
They lived in an age of political paradoxes.
Broad, expansive love of country had become a diseased sentimentality.
Patriotism had become a starveling birdling, clinging with unfledged wings around the nest of twigs where it was born.
A statesman must now not only narrow his mind and give up to party what was meant for mankind, but he must recede as submissively as a blind horse in a bark mill to every perverted opinion which sits, whip in hand, on the revolving shaft, at the end of which he is harnessed.
To be a diamond of the first water, he must stand in the Senate House
of his country, and in the face of a forbearing people, glory in being a traitor and a rebel.
He must solemnly proclaim the death of the nation to which he had sworn allegiance, and with the grave stolidity of an undertaker, invite its citizens to their own funeral.
Ife must dwarf and provincialize his patriotism to the State
on whose local passion he thrives, to the country where he practises court, or to the city where he flaunts in all the meretricious dignity of a Doge of Venice
He can take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States
, but he can enter with honor into a conspiracy to overthrow it. He can, under the sanctity of the same oath, advise the seizure of forts and arsenals, dockyards and ships, and money belonging to the Union
, whose officer he is, and find a most loyal and convenient retreat in State authority and State allegiance.
He was ready to laugh in their faces if they only told him that, before the time when he was “muling and puking in his nurse's armss” there lived a very obscure person named George Washington
, who, before he died, became eminent by perpetrating the immortal joke of advising the people of the United States
, that it was of infinite moment, that they should properly estimate the immense value of their national Union--that they should cherish a cordial, habitual and inmmovable attachment to it — that they should watch itsprcservation with jealous anxiety, discountenance whatever might suggest a suspicion that it could in any event be abandoned, and indignantly frown down the first dawning attempt to alienate any portion of the country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which linked together its various parts.
saw into the future, and discovered that disastrous period in our history against which le warned his countrymen when he told them to “beware of geographical parties.”
These extreme parties, North and South, had at last met. Their differences had been created and carried on by systematic perversions of each other's aims and objects.
In the North
it had been represented that the South
desired and intended to monopolize with slave territory all the public lands, and to drive there — from free labor, to convert every free State into common ground for the recapture of colored persons as slaves who were free, and to put the Federal Government
in all its departments under the control of a slave oligarchy.
These and all other stratagems that could be resorted to aroused antagonistic feeling, which were welded with turbulent passions.
As they planted so they reaped.
Now that victory had been won by the Republican party, and the Government
must be administered upon national policy; the fissures in the ground occupied by them became apparent, and hence there would necessarily be a large defection in its ranks among the more ultra of its adherents, who were, as a general thing, ideal, speculative, and not practical men. Out of actual power, a party was apt to be radical.
Vest it with power, and it became conservative.
This was the ordeal through which the Republican
, like all other parties, was now passing, and he hoped for the peace of the country, and the triumph of practical, rather than ideal policy and measures.
Herein consisted the
almost insuperable difficulty of coming to any feasible adjustment upon the existing discontents.
The bulk of politicians, North and South, were bound by a past record and past professions.
They were, in fact, thinking all the while “what Mrs. Grundy
The people themselves understood the cause of the difficulty, and if they but once interfered, the country would be saved.
What was the difficulty now?
He appealed whether it was not that in the hands of ultras, North and South, the slaveholder had been used as a shuttledore, who, for purposes utterly dissimilar, had been banded from South Carolina
, and from Massachusetts
back again to South Carolina
, until now the last point of endurance had been reached?
Every violent word uttered North had been sent South, and the South
had responded in the spirit.
The abolitionist himself had been granted an audience in every Southern city, at every Southern political meeting, and the most violent insulting, agrarian speeches repeated even in the hearing of the slaves themselves.
Was it not humiliating to confess, that the very people who would burn in effigy, if not at the stake, a postmaster who would dare to distribute a copy of abolition speeches, honor as among their chief defenders the candidates who could quote the most obnoxious passages from all who had made Southern politics a vast hot-bed for the propagation of abolition sentiments?
The two great sections of the nation stood at that moment towards each other like two encamped armies, waiting the orders to engage.
The patriot planned, deplored, and appealed, but found little succor in the only quarter whence succor could come.
The abolitionist revelled in the madness of the hour.
He saw the cracks in the iceberg at last.
To him the desert and the battle-field were alike welcome.
He had knelt down in the desert with the camels, for a speck in the far distance showed that the simoom was coming.
He looked into the future as into a dark cloud in the morning, when nothing but the early lark was on the wing.
But soon history, like the light of the eastern horizon, would curtain back that cloud, and paint in blood's ruddiest tints field and forest, hamlet and city, the very mountains to their pine-crowned tops, and the great ocean itself, as an ensanguined flood, where brother contending with brother should find a nameless sepulchre.
No anaconda, with his filthy folds around the banyan tree, threw out the venomous tongue and yearned with fiercer passion for the crushed bone and the pulpy flesh than he, the abolitionist, now expectant of his prey, yearned for this long-proposed repast Well might he cry that the day of jubilee had come.
Well might he marshal his hosts to the last great war of sections and of races.
Defeated, stigmatized, insulted, scoffed at, ostracized and gibbeted by his countrymen, he now gloated over the most fearful of all retributions.
His deadliest foes in the South
had now struck hands in a solemn league of kindred designs, and with exultant tramp, stolidly marched, adorned, like a Roman ox, with the garlands of sacrifice, to their eternal doom.
At this moment, when a sudden frenzy had struck blind the Southern
people, this picture could not even be realized in all its horrors.
When he looked at his country, and its present distracted and desolate condition, and its possible fate, he felt almost ready to close the quick accents of speech, and allow the heart to sink down voiceless in its despair.
He would refer them to the words of Lloyd
garrison, and demand what answer would be given to them.
then referred to an article in the Liberator
, which appeared a few days after the secession of South Carolina
, in which garrison said that “the last covenant with death was annulled, and the agreement with hell broken, by the action of South Carolina
herself ;” closing with an appeal to Massachusetts
, ending with the words, “How stands Massachusetts
at this hour in reference to the Union
?--in an attitude of hostility.”
then quoted from a. speech of Wendell Phillips
, delivered in the Music Hall
, at Boston
, a few days ago, in which Phillips
declared, “We are Disunionists, not for any love of separate confederacies,” &c., ending with a reference to South Carolina
, “and Egypt
will rejoice that she has departed.”
The people had, therefore, arrayed against them these knights of a new crusade.
The Constitution of the United States
was the sanctified Jerusalem
against which their deluded cohorts battled.
They contended that the only mode to over-throw slavery was to overthrow the constitution.
These men claimed that their allegiance was only due to the States wherein they lived.
They claimed to be States' rights men of the strictest sect, and they would wield the legislative power of the State
for the extinction of slavery, as South Carolina
professed to wield it for the perpetuation of slavery.
In this crisis it was meet that Massachusetts
, so largely partaking of the common glory in the past--Massachusetts
, where the first blood for American liberty had been shed — should rise superior to the convulsions of the hour, and give an earnest at least that the spirit of conciliation, of inter-State comity, of fraternal affection, was not yet wholly lost.
As the worn traveller in the midst of the snows of the Alps
lingered with delighted gaze upon the friendly light which peered from the windows of the convent where from the desolation of the storm around him he might at last find repose, so did he hail the little gleam of hope in the future.
gave statistics of population and slavery in the Border States
and in the Gulf
States, for the purpose of showing, as he said, that there was an irreversible law of population governing the question, and that the South
wanted population and capital rather than territory.
If secession were allowed to be carried out, he would show them a Southern Confederacy from which every man would turn back affrighted and pale, because it would be on the bloody hand that his rights of property would have to depend.
Slavery cannot expand rapidly, either within the Union
or without the Union
, so long as slaves remained at their present high prices.
The only mode by which slavery could ever expand, was to reduce the price, and have a new source of supply.
That was, in fact, the real design of the coast States.
, in proof of this, referred to all the Southern Conventions
of late years, and cited the admissions of Messrs. Miles
, and Crawford
, in the House
, to show that the object was the re-opening of the slave-trade.
Suppose, said he, that they do not get, out of the Union
, this equality which they now claim?
That is a little problem in the Rule of Three, which will be ciphered out if these events are much longer pending.
The Border Slave States might as well be prepared first as last for the realization of the truth.
But where was slavery to expand?
If the South
left the Union
, she would never get as much of the present territory as he could grasp in his hand.
A war of thirty years would never get it back, nor could there ever be extorted from the North
a treaty giving the same guarantees to slavery that it now had. Where was slavery to expand?
Not to Central America
, for England
sovereignty over one-half her domain.
Not to Mexico
, for England
had caused the abolition of slavery there also.
Their retiring confederates ought not to forget the events of 1834, when George Thompson
, the English
abolitionist, was sent to enlighten the dead conscience of the American
In this connection he cited a letter from Thompson
, of Tennessee
, in which was this sentence: “The dissolution of the Union
is the object to be kept steadily in view.”
In the event of a Southern Confederacy, there will be, besides the African slave-trade, other elements of discord and agitation.
Slavery was the great ruling interest of the extreme States, while the other States had other great interests which could not be lightly abandoned.
It would be for the interest of the coast States to have free trade in manufactured goods; but how would that operate on the mechanical and manufacturing industry of Missouri
There would be, therefore, in the proposed Union, an antagonism quite as great as there ever has been in this.
But if manufactories were to be protected and encouraged in the Border Slave States
, their white population would increase so fast that they would be but nominally Slave States, and would finally become Free States.
He appealed to the North
to guarantee by constitutional enactments the principle secured by the decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott
Let us feel, he said, that we have a country to save instead of a geographical section to represent.
Let us act as men, and not as partisans, and the old Constitution, now in the trough of the sea, with battered masts and sails, will weather the storm.--Times
, Jan. 23.