Phillips, Wendell 1811-1884Orator and reformer; born in Boston, Mass., Nov. 29, 1811; son of John Phillips, the first mayor of Boston; graduated at Harvard College in 1831, and at the Cambridge Law School in 1833, and was admitted to the bar in 1834. At that time the agitation of the slavery question was violent and wide-spread, and in 1836 Mr. Phillips joined the abolitionists. He conceived it such a wrong in the Constitution of the United States in sanctioning slavery that he could not conscientiously act under his attorney's oath to that Constitution, and he abandoned the profession. From that time until the emancipation of the slaves in 1863 he did not cease to lift up his voice against the system of slavery and in condemnation of the Constitution of the United States. His first great speech against the evil was in Faneuil Hall, in December, 1837, at a meeting “to notice in a suitable manner the murder, in the city of Alton, Ill., of Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy, who fell in defence of the freedom of the press.” Mr. Phillips was an eloquent, logical, and effective speaker. He conscientiously abstained from voting under the Constitution, and was ever the most earnest of “Garrisonian abolitionists.” He was an earnest advocate of other reforms—temperance, labor, and other social relations. He was president of the American Anti-slavery Society at the time of its dissolution, April 9, 1870. He died in Boston, Mass., Feb. 2, 1884.
The War for the Union.In December, 1861, Mr. Phillips delivered a patriotic address in Boston, which is here reprinted, somewhat abridged.
Ladies and Gentlemen,—It would be impossible for me fitly to thank you for this welcome; you will allow me, therefore, not to attempt it, but to avail myself of your patience to speak to you, as I have been invited to do, upon the war. Whence came this war? You and I need not curiously investigate. While Mr. Everett on one side, and Mr. Sumner on the other, agree, you and I may take for granted the opinion of two such opposite statesmen—the result of the common-sense of this side of the water and the other— that slavery is the root of this war. I know some men have loved to trace it to disappointed ambition, to the success of the Republican party, convincing 300,000 nobles at the South, who have hitherto furnished us the most of the Presidents, generals, judges, and ambassadors we needed, that they would have leave to stay at home, and that 20,000,000 of Northerners would take their share in public affairs. I do not think that cause equal to the result. Other men before Jefferson Davis and Governor Wise have been disappointed of the Presidency. Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and Stephen A. Douglas were more than once disappointed, and yet who believed that either of these great men could have armed the North to avenge his wrong? Why, then, should these pygmies of the South be able to do what the giants I have named could never achieve? Simply because there is a radical difference between the two sections, and that difference is slavery. A party victory may have been the occasion of this outbreak. So a tea-chest was the occasion of the Revolution, and it went to the bottom of Boston Harbor on the night of December 16, 1773; but that tea-chest was not the cause of the Revolution, neither is Jefferson Davis the cause of the rebellion. If you will look upon the map, and notice that every slave State has joined or tried to join the rebellion, and no free State has done so, I think you will not doubt substantially the origin of this convulsion. . . . I know the danger of a political prophecy—a kaleidoscope of which not even a Yankee can guess the next combination —but for all that, I venture to offer my opinion, that on this continent the 
system of domestic slavery has received its death-blow.
Let me tell you why I think so. Leaving out of view the war with England, which I do not expect, there are but three paths out of this war. One is, the North conquers; the other is, the South conquers; the third is, a compromise.
Now, if the North conquers, or there be a compromise, one or the other of two things must come—either the old Constitution or a new one.
I believe that, so far as the slavery clauses of the Constitution of ‘89 are concerned, it is dead.
It seems to me impossible that the thrifty and painstaking North, after keeping 600,000 men idle for two or three years, at a cost of $2,000,000 a day; after that flag lowered at Sumter; after Baker, and Lyon, and Ellsworth, and Winthrop, and Putnam, and Wesselhoeft have given their lives to quell the rebellion; after our Massachusetts boys, hurrying through ploughed fields and workshops to save the capital, have been foully murdered on the pavements of Baltimore—I cannot believe in a North so lost, so craven as to put back slavery where it stood on March 4 last.
But if there be reconstruction without those slave clauses, then in a little while, longer or shorter, slavery
dies—indeed, on other basis but the basis of ‘89 she has nothing else to do but to die. On the contrary, if the South—no, I cannot say conquers—my lips will not form the word—but if she balks us of victory; the only way she can do it is to write Emancipation on her banner, and thus bribe the friends of liberty in Europe to allow its aristocrats and traders to divide the majestic republic whose growth and trade they fear and envy.
Either way, the slave goes free.
Unless England flings her fleets along the coast, the South can never spring into separate existence, except from the basis of negro freedom; and I for one cannot yet believe that the North will consent again to share his chains.
Exclusively as an abolitionist, therefore, I have little more interest in this war than the frontiersman's wife had, in his struggle with the bear, when she didn't care which whipped.
But before I leave the abolitionists let me say one word.
Some men say we are the cause of this war. Gentlemen, you do us too much honor!
If it be so, we have reason to be proud of it; for in my heart, as an American, I believe this year the most glorious of the republic since ‘76.
The North, craven and contented until now, like Mammon, saw nothing even in heaven but the golden pavement; today she throws off her chains.
We have a North, as Daniel Webster said.
This is no epoch for nations to blush at. England might blush in 1620, when Englishmen trembled at a fool's frown, and were silent when James forbade them to think; but not in 1649, when an outraged people cut off his son's head.
Massachusetts might have blushed a year or two ago, when an insolent Virginian, standing on Bunker Hill, insulted the Commonwealth, and then dragged her citizens to Washington to tell what they knew about John Brown; but she has no reason to blush to-day, when she holds that same impudent Senator an acknowledged felon in her prison-fort.
In my view, the bloodiest war ever waged is infinitely better than the happiest slavery which ever fattened man into obedience.
And yet I love peace.
But it is real peace; not peace such as we have had, not peace that meant lynch-law in the Carolinas and mob-law in New York; not peace that meant chains around Boston court-house, a gag on the lips of statesmen, and the slave sobbing himself to sleep in curses.
No more such peace for me; no peace that is not born of justice, and does not recognize the rights of every race and every man. . . .
Now, how do we stand?
In a war— not only that, but a terrific war—not a war sprung from the caprice of a woman, the spite of a priest, the flickering ambition of a prince, as wars usually have; but a war inevitable; in one sense nobody's fault; the inevitable result of past training, the conflict of ideas, millions of people grappling each other's throat, every soldier in each camp certain that he is fighting for an idea which holds the salvation of the world—every drop of his blood in earnest.
Such a war finds no parallel nearer than that of the Catholic and Huguenot of France, or that of aristocrat and republicans in 1790, or of Cromwell and the Irish, when victory meant extermination.
Such is our war. I look upon it as the commencement of the great struggle between the disgusted aristocracy and the democracy of America.
You are to say to-day whether it shall last ten years or seventy, as it usually has done.
It resembles closely that struggle between aristocrat and democrat which began in France in 1789, and continues still.
While it lasts it will have the same effect on the nation as that war between blind loyalty, represented by the Stuart family, and the free spirit of the English constitution, which lasted from 1660 to 1760, and kept England a secondrate power almost all that century.
Such is the era on which you are entering.
I will not speak of war in itself— I have no time; I will not say with Napoleon, that it is the practice of barbarians; I will not say that it is good.
It is better than the past.
A thing may be better, and yet not good.
This war is better than the past, but there is not an element of good in it. I mean, there is nothing in it which we might not have gotten better, fuller, and more perfectly in other ways.
And yet it is better than the craven past, infinitely better than a peace which had pride for its father and subserviency for its mother.
Neither will I speak of the cost of war,
although you know we shall never get out of this one without a debt of at least $2,000,000,000 or $3,000,000,000. . . .
You know that the writ of habeas corpus, by which government is bound to render a reason to the judiciary before it lays its hands upon a citizen, has been called the high-water mark of English liberty.
Jefferson, in his calm moments, dreaded the power to suspend it in any emergency whatever, and wished to have it in “eternal and unremitting force.”
The present Napoleon, in his treatise on the English constitution, calls it the gem of English institutions.
Lieber says that the habeas corpus, free meetings like this, and a free press are the three elements which distinguish liberty from despotism.
All that Saxon blood has gained in the battles and toils of 200 years are these three things.
But today, Mr. Chairman, every one of them —habeas corpus, the right of free meeting, and a free press—is annihilated in every square mile of the republic.
We live to-day, every one of us, under martial law. The Secretary of State puts into his bastile, with a warrant as irresponsible as that of Louis, any man whom he pleases.
And you know that neither press nor lips may venture to arraign the government without being silenced.
At this moment, 1,000 men, at least, are “bastiled” by an authority as despotic as that of Louis—three times as many as Eldon and George III.
seized when they trembled for his throne.
Mark me, I am not complaining.
I do not say it is not necessary.
It is necessary to do anything to save the ship.
It is necessary to throw everything overboard in order that we may float.
It is a mere question whether you prefer the despotism of Washington or that of Richmond.
I prefer that of Washington.
But, nevertheless, I point out to you this tendency because it is momentous in its significance.
We are tending with rapid strides, you say inevitably—I do not deny it; necessarily—I do not question it; we are tending towards that strong government which frightened Jefferson; towards that unlimited debt, that endless army.
We have already those alien and sedition laws which, in 1798, wrecked the Federal party, and summoned the Democratic into existence.
For the first time on this continent we have passports, which even Louis Napoleon pronounces useless and odious.
For the first time in our history government spies frequent our great cities.
And this model of a strong government, if you reconstruct on the old basis, is to be handed into the keeping of whom?
If you compromise it by reconstruction, to whom are you to give these delicate and grave powers?
Reconstruct this government, and for twenty years you can never elect a Republican.
Presidents must be wholly without character or principle, that two angry parties, each hopeless of success, contemptuously tolerate them as neutrals. . . .
What shall we do?
The answer to that question comes partly from what we think has been the cause of this convulsion.
Some men think—some of your editors think—many of ours, too—that this war is nothing but the disappointment of 1,000 or 2,000 angered politicians, who have persuaded 8,000,000 of Southerners, against their convictions, to take up arms and rush to the battle-field; no great compliment to Southern sense!
They think that, if the Federal army could only appear in the midst of this demented mass, the 8,000,000 will find out for the first time in their lives that they have got souls of their own, tell us so, and then we shall all be piloted back, float back, drift back into the good old times of Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan.
There is a measure of truth in that.
I believe that if, a year ago, when the thing first showed itself, Jefferson Davis and Toombs and Keitt and Wise, and the rest, had been hung for traitors at Washington, and a couple of frigates anchored at Charleston, another couple in Savannah, and a half-dozen in New Orleans, with orders to shell those cities on the first note of resistance, there never would have been this outbreak, or it would have been postponed at least a dozen years; and if that interval had been used to get rid of slavery, we never should have heard of the convulsion. . . . I do not consider this a secession.
It is no secession.
I agree with Bishop-General Polk—it is a conspiracy, not a secession.
There is no wish, no intention to go peaceably and permanently off. It is a
conspiracy to make the government do the will and accept the policy of the slaveholders.
Its root is at the South, but it has many a branch at Wall Street and in State Street. It is a conspiracy, and on the one side is every man who still thinks that he that steals his brother is a gentleman, and he that makes his living is not. It is the aristocratic element which survived the Constitution, which our fathers thought could be safely left under it, and the South to-day is forced into this war by the natural growth of the antagonistic principle.
You may pledge whatever submission and patience of Southern institutions you please—it is not enough.
South Carolina said to Massachusetts in 1835, when Edward Everett was governor, “Abolish free speech—it is a nuisance.”
She is right—from her stand-point it is. That is, it is not possible to preserve the quiet of South Carolina consistently with free speech; but you know the story Sir Walter Scott told of the Scotch laird, who said to his old butler, “Jock, you and I can't live under this roof.”
“And where does your honor think of going?”
So free speech says of South Carolina today.
Now I say you may pledge, compromise, guarantee what you please.
The South well knows that it is not your purpose—it is your character she dreads.
It is the nature of Northern institutions, the perilous freedom of discussion, the flavor of our ideas, the sight of our growth, the very neighborhood of such States, that constitutes the danger.
It is like the two vessels launched on the stormy seas.
The iron said to the crockery, “I won't come near you.”
“Thank you,” said the weaker vessel; “there is just as much danger in my coming near you.”
This the South feels; hence her determination; hence, indeed, the imperious necessity that she should rule and shape our government, or of sailing out of it. I do not mean that she plans to take possession of the North, and choose our Northern mayors; though she has done that in Boston for the last dozen years, and here till this fall.
But she conspires and aims to control just so much of our policy, trade, offices, presses, pulpits, cities, as is sufficient to insure the undisturbed existence of slavery.
She conspires with the full intent so to mould this government as to keep it what it has been for thirty years, according to John Quincy Adams— a plot for the extension and perpetuation of slavery.
As the world advances, fresh guarantees are demanded.
The nineteenth century requires sterner gags than the eighteenth.
Often as the peace of Virginia is in danger, you must be willing that a Virginian Mason shall drag your citizens to Washington, and imprison them at his pleasure.
So long as Carolina needs it, you must submit that your ships be searched for dangerous passengers, and every Northern man lynched.
No more Kansas rebellions.
It is a conflict between the two powers, aristocracy and democracy, which shall hold this belt of the continent.
You may live here, New York men, but it must be in submission to such rules as the quiet of South Carolina requires.
That is the meaning of the oftrepeated threat to call the roll of one's slaves on Bunker Hill and dictate peace in Faneuil Hall.
Now, in that fight, I go for the North—for the Union.
In order to make out this theory of “irrepressible conflict” it is not necessary to suppose that every Southerner hates every Northerner (as the Atlantic monthly urges). But this much is true: some 300,000 slave-holders at the South, holding 2,000,000,000 of so-called property in their hands, controlling the blacks and befooling the 7,000,000 of poor whites into being their tools—into believing that their interest is opposed to ours—this order of nobles, this privileged class, has been able for forty years to keep the government in dread, dictate terms by threatening disunion, bring us to its verge at least twice, and now almost break the Union in pieces. . . .
Now some Republicans and some Democrats—not Butler and Bryant and Cochrane and Cameron; not Boutwell and Bancroft and Dickinson and others—but the old set—the old set say to the Republicans, “Lay the pieces carefully together in their places; put the gunpowder and the match in again, say the Constitution backward instead of your prayers, and there never will be another rebellion!”
I doubt it. It seems to me that like causes will produce like effects.
If the reason of the war is because we are two nations, then the cure must be to
make us one nation, to remove that cause which divides us, to make our institutions homogeneous.
If it were possible to subjugate the South, and leave slavery just as it is, where is the security that we should not have another war in ten years? Indeed, such a course invites another war, whenever demagogues please.
I believe the policy of reconstruction is impossible.
If it were possible, it would be the greatest mistake that Northern men could commit.
I will not stop to remind you that, standing as we do today, with the full constitutional right to abolish slavery—a right Southern treason has just given us—a right, the use of which is enjoined by the sternest necessity—if after that, the North goes back to the Constitution of ‘89, she assumes, a second time, afresh, unnecessarily, a criminal responsibility for slavery.
Hereafter no old excuse will avail us. A second time with open eyes, against our honest interests we clasp bloody hands with tyrants to uphold an acknowledged sin, whose evil we have fully proved.
Reconstruction is but another name for the submission of the North.
It is her subjugation under a mask.
It is nothing but the confession of defeat.
Every merchant, in such a case, puts everything he has at the bidding of Wigfall and Toombs in every cross-road bar-room at the South.
For, you see, never till now did anybody but a few abolitionists believe that this nation could be marshalled, one section against the other, in arms.
But the secret is out. The weak point is discovered, Why does the London press lecture us like a school-master his seven-year-old boy?
Why does England use a tone such as she has not used for half a century to any power?
Because she knows us as she knows Mexico, as all Europe knows Austria—that we have the cancer concealed in our very vitals.
Slavery, left where it is, after having created such a war as this, would leave our commerce and all our foreign relations at the mercy of any Keitt, Wigfall, Wise, or Toombs.
Any demagogue has only to stir up a pro-slavery crusade, point back to the safe experiments of 1861; and lash the passions of the aristocrat, to cover the sea with privateers, put in jeopardy the trade of twenty States, plunge the country into millions of debt, send our stock down 50 per cent., and cost thousands of lives.
Reconstruction is but making chronic what now is transient.
What that is, this week shows.
What that is, we learn from the tone England dares to assume towards this divided republic.
I do not believe reconstruction possible.
I do not believe that the cabinet intend it. True, I should care little if they did, since I believe the administration can now more resist the progress of events than a spear of grass can retard the step of an avalanche.
But if they do, allow me to say, for one, that every dollar spent in this war is worse than wasted, that every life lost is a public murder, and that every statesman who leads States back to reconstruction will be damned to an infamy compared with which Arnold was a saint, and James Buchanan a public benefactor.
I said reconstruction is not possible.
I do not believe it is, for this reason; the moment these States begin to appear victorious, the moment our armies do anything that evinces final success, the wily statesmanship and unconquerable hate of the South will write “Emancipation” on her banner, and welcome the protectorate of a European power.
And if you read the European papers of to-day, you need not doubt that she will have it. . . .
The value of the English news this week is the indication of the nation's mind.
No one doubts now that should the South emancipate, England would make haste to recognize and help her. In ordinary times, the government and aristocracy of England dread American example.
They may well admire and envy the strength of our government, when, instead of England's impressment and pinched levies, patriotism marshals 600,000 volunteers in six months. The English merchant is jealous of our growth; only the liberal middle classes sympathize with us. When the two other classes are divided, this middle class rules.
But now Herod and Pilate are agreed.
The aristocrat, who usually despises a trader, whether of Manchester or Liverpool, as the South does a negro, now is secessionist from sympathy, as the trader is from interest.
Such a union no middle class can checkmate.
The only danger of war with England is, that, as soon as England
declared war with us, she would recognize the Southern Confederacy immediately, just as she stands, slavery and all, as a military measure.
As such, in the heat of passion, in the smoke of war, the English people, all of them, would allow such a recognition even of a slave-holding empire.
War with England insures disunion.
When England declares war, she gives slavery a fresh lease of fifty years. Even if we had no war with England, let another eight or ten months be as little successful as the last, and Europe will acknowledge the Southern Confederacy, slavery, and all, as a matter of course.
Further, any approach towards victory on our part, without freeing the slave, gives him free to Davis.
So far, the South is sure to succeed, either by victory or defeat, unless we anticipate her. Indeed, the only way, the only sure way, to break this Union, is to try to save it by protecting slavery.
“Every moment lost,” as Napoleon said, “is an opportunity for misfortune.”
Unless we emancipate the slave, we shall never conquer the South without her trying emancipation.
Every Southerner, from Toombs up to Fremont, has acknowledged it. Do you suppose that Davis and Beauregard, and the rest, meant to be exiles, wandering contemned in every great city in Europe, in order that they may maintain slavery and the Constitution of ‘89?
They, like ourselves, will throw everything overboard before they will submit to defeat—defeat from Yankees.
I do not believe, therefore, that reconciliation is possible, nor do I believe that the cabinet have any such hopes.
Indeed, I do not know where you will find the evidence of any purpose in the administration at Washington.
If we look to the West, if we look to the Potomac, what is the policy?
If, on the Potomac, with the aid of twenty governors, you assemble an army and do nothing but return fugitive slaves, that proves you competent and efficient.
If, on the banks of the Mississippi, unaided, the magic of your presence summons an army into existence, and you drive your enemy before you a hundred miles farther than your second in command thought it possible for you to advance, that proves you incompetent, and entitles your second in command to succeed you.
Looking in another direction, you see the government announcing a policy in South Carolina.
What is it?
Well, Mr. Secretary Cameron says to the general in command there: “You are to welcome into your camp all comers; you are to organize them into squads and companies; use them any way you please—but there is to be no general arming.”
That is a very significant exception.
The hint is broad enough for the dullest brain.
In one of Charles Reade's novels, the heroine flies away to hide from the hero, announcing that she never will see him again.
Her letter says: “I will never see you again, David.
You, of course, won't come to see me at my old nurse's little cottage, between eleven in the morning and four in the afternoon, because I sha'n't see you.”
So Mr. Cameron says there is to be no general arming.
But I suppose there is to be a very particular arming.
But he goes on to add: “This is no greater interference with the institutions of South Carolina than is necessary, than the war will cure.”
Does he mean he will give the slaves back after the war is over?
I don't know.
All I know is, that the Port Royal expedition proved one thing—it laid forever that ghost of an argument, that the blacks loved their masters—it settled forever the question whether the blacks were with us or the South.
My opinion is that the blacks are the key of our position.
He that gets them wins, and he that loses them goes to the wall.
Port Royal settled one thing—the blacks are with us and not with the South.
At present they are the only Unionists.
I know nothing more touching in history, nothing that art will immortalize and poets dwell upon more fondly—I know no tribute to the stars and stripes more impressive than that incident of the blacks coming to the water-side with their little bundles, in that simple faith which had endured through the long night of so many bitter years.
They preferred to be shot rather than driven from the sight of that banner they had so long prayed to see. And if that was the result when nothing but General Sherman's equivocal proclamation was landed on the Carolinas, what should we have seen if there had been 18,000 veterans with Fremont, the statesman-soldier of this war, at their head, and over them the stars and stripes,
gorgeous with the motto, “Freedom for all, freedom forever!”
If that had gone before them, in my opinion they would have marched across the Carolinas and joined Brownlow in east Tennessee.
The bulwark on each side of them would have been 100,000 grateful blacks; they would have cut this rebellion in halves, and while our fleets fired salutes across New Orleans, Beauregard would have been ground to powder between the upper millstone of McClellan and the lower of a quarter-million of blacks rising to greet the stars and stripes.
McClellan may drill a better army —more perfect soldiers.
He will never marshal a stronger force than those grateful thousands. . . .
When Congress declares war, says John Quincy Adams, Congress has all the power incident to carrying on war. It is not an unconstitutional power—it is a power conferred by the Constitution; but the moment it comes into play it rises beyond the limit of constitutional checks.
I know it is a grave power, this trusting the government with despotism.
But what is the use of government, except just to help us in critical times?
All the checks and ingenuity of our institutions are arranged to secure for us men wise and able enough to be trusted with grave powers—bold enough to use them when the times require.
Lancets and knives are dangerous instruments.
The use of the surgeon is, that when lancets are needed somebody may know how to use them, and save life.
One great merit of democratic institutions is, that, resting as they must on educated masses, the government may safely be trusted in a great emergency, with despotic power, without fear of harm or of wrecking the State.
No other form of government can venture such confidence without risk of national ruin.
Doubtless the war power is a very grave power; so are some ordinary peace powers.
I will not cite extreme cases—Louisiana and Texas.
We obtained the first by treaty, the second by joint resolutions; each case an exercise of power as grave and despotic as the abolition of slavery would be, and unlike that, plainly unconstitutional—one which nothing but stern necessity and subsequent acquiescence by the nation could make valid.
Let me remind you that seventy years' practice has incorporated it as a principle in our constitutional law, that what the necessity of the hour demands, and the continued assent of the people ratifies, is law. Slavery has established that rule.
We might surely use it in the cause of justice.
But I will cite an unquestionable precedent.
It was a grave power, in 1807, in time of peace, when Congress abolished commerce; when, by the embargo of Jefferson, no ship could quit New York or Boston, and Congress set no limit to the prohibition.
It annihilated commerce.
New England asked, “Is it constitutional?”
The Supreme Court said, “Yes.”
New England sat down and starved.
Her wharfs were worthless, her ships rotted, her merchants beggared.
She asked no compensation.
The powers of Congress carried bankruptcy from New Haven to Portland; but the Supreme Court said, “It is legal,” and New England bowed her head.
We commend the same cup to the Carolinas to-day.
We say to them that, in order to save the government, there resides somewhere despotism.
It is in the war powers of Congress.
That despotism can change the social arrangement of the Southern States, and has a right to do it.
Now, this government, which abolishes my right of habeas corpus—which strikes down, because it is necessary, every Saxon bulwark of liberty—which proclaims martial law, and holds every dollar and every man at the will of the cabinet—do you turn round and tell me that this same government has no rightful power to break the cobweb—it is but a cobweb— which binds a slave to his master—to stretch its hands across the Potomac and root up the evil which for seventy years has troubled its peace and now culminates in rebellion?
I maintain, therefore, the power of the government itself to inaugurate such a policy; and I say in order to save the Union, do justice to the black.
I would claim of Congress—in the exact language of Adams, of the “government” —a solemn act abolishing slavery throughout the Union, securing compensation to the loyal slave-holders.
As the Constitution forbids the States to make and allow nobles, I would now, by equal authority, forbid them to make slaves or allow slave-holders.
People may say this is a strange language for me—a disunionist.
Well, I was a disunionist, sincerely, for twenty years; I did hate the Union, when Union meant lies in the pulpit and mobs in the streets, when Union meant making white men hypocrites and black men slaves.
I did prefer purity to peace—I acknowledge it. The child of six generations of Puritans, knowing well the value of Union, I did prefer disunion to being the accomplice of tyrants.
But now, when I see what the Union must mean in order to last, when I see that you cannot have Union without meaning justice, and when I see 20,000,000 of people, with a current as swift and as inevitable as Niagara, determined that this Union shall mean justice, why should I object to it?
I endeavored honestly, and am not ashamed of it, to take nineteen States out of this Union, and consecrate them to liberty, and 20,000,000 of people answer me back, “We like your motto, only we mean to keep thirty-four States under it.”
Do you suppose I am not Yankee enough to buy Union when I can have it at a fair price?
I know the value of Union; and the reason why I claim that Carolina has no right to secede is this: we are not a partnership, we are a marriage, and we have done a great many things since we were married in 1789, which render it unjust for a State to exercise the right of revolution on any ground now alleged.
I admit the right.
I acknowledge the great principles of the Declaration of Independence, that a State exists for the liberty and happiness of the people, that these are the ends of government, and that, when government ceases to promote those ends, the people have a right to remodel their institutions.
I acknowledge the right of revolution in South Carolina, but at the same time I acknowledge that right of revolution only when government has ceased to promote those ends.
Now, we have been married for seventy years. We have bought Florida.
We rounded the Union to the Gulf.
We bought the Mississippi for commercial purposes.
We stole Texas for slave purposes.
Great commercial interests, great interests of peace, have been subserved by rounding the Union into a perfect shape; and the money and sacrifices of two genrations have been given for this purpose.
To break up that Union now is to defraud us of mutual advantages relating to peace, trade, national security, which cannot survive disunion.
The right of disunion is not matter of caprice.
“Governments long established,” says our Declaration of Independence, “are not to be changed for light and transient causes.”
When so many important interests and benefits, in their nature indivisible and which disunion destroys, have been secured by common toils and cost, the South must vindicate her revolution by showing that our government has become destructive of its proper ends, else the right of revolution does not exist.
Why did we steal Texas?
Why have we helped the South to strengthen herself?
Because she said that slavery within the girdle of the Constitution would die out through the influence of natural principles.
She said: “We acknowledge it to be an evil; but at the same time it will end by the spread of free principles and the influence of free institutions.”
And the North said: “Yes; we will give you privileges on that account, and we will return your slaves for you.”
Every slave sent back from a Northern State is a fresh oath of the South that she would secede.
Our fathers trusted to the promise that this race should be left under the influence of the Union, until, in the maturity of time, the day should arrive when they would be lifted into the sunlight of God's equality.
I claim it of South Carolina.
By virtue of that pledge she took Boston and put a rope round her neck in that infamous compromise which consigned to slavery Anthony Burns.
I demand the fulfilment on her part even of that infamous pledge.
Until South Carolina allows me all the influence that 19,000,000 of Yankee lips, asking infinite questions, have upon the welfare of those 4,000,000 of bondsmen, I deny her right to secede.
Seventy years has the Union postponed the negro.
For seventy years has he been beguiled with the promise, as she erected one bulwark after another around slavery, that he should have the influence of our common institutions.
I know how we stand to-day, with the frowning cannon of the English fleet
ready to be thrust out of the port-holes against us. But I can answer England with a better answer than William H. Seward can write.
I can answer her with a more statesmanlike paper than Simon Cameron can indite.
I would answer her with the stars and stripes floating over Charleston and New Orleans, and the itinerant cabinet of Richmond packing up archives and wearing apparel to ride back to Montgomery.
There is one thing and only one, which John Bull respects, and that is success.
It is not for us to give counsel to the government on points of diplomatic propriety, but I suppose we may express our opinions, and my opinion is, that, if I were the President of these thirty-four States, while I was, I should want Mason and Slidell to stay with me. I say, then, first, as a matter of justice to the slave, we owe it to him; the day of his deliverance has come.
The long promise of seventy years is to be fulfilled.
The South draws back from the pledge.
The North is bound in honor of the memory of her fathers, to demand its exact fulfilment, and in order to save this Union, which now means justice and peace, to recognize the rights of 4,000,000 of its victims.
And if I dared to descend to a lower level, I should say to the merchants of this metropolis, Demand of the government a speedy settlement of this question.
Every hour of delay is big with risk.
Remember, as Governor Boutwell suggests, that our present financial prosperity comes because we have corn to export in place of cotton, and that another year, should Europe have a good harvest and we an ordinary one, while an inflated currency tempts extravagance and large imports, general bankruptcy stares us in the face.
Do you love the Union?
Do you really think that on the other side of the Potomac are the natural brothers and customers of the manufacturing ingenuity of the North?
I tell you, certain as fate, God has written the safety of that relation in the same scroll with justice to the negro.
The hour strikes.
You may win him to your side; you may anticipate the South; you may save 12,000,000 of customers.
Delay it, let God grant McClellan victory, let God grant the stars and stripes over New Orleans, and it is too late.
It is not power that we should lose, but it is character.
How should we stand when Jeff Davis has turned that corner upon us—abolished slavery, won European sympathy, and established his Confederacy?
Bankrupt in character—outwitted in statesmanship.
Our record would be, as we entered the sisterhood of nations— “Longed and struggled and begged to be admitted into the partnership of tyrants, and they were kicked out!”
And the South would spring into the same arena, bearing on her brow— “She flung away what she thought gainful and honest, in order to gain her independence!”
A record better than the gold of California or all the brains of the Yankee.
Righteousness is preservation.
You who are not abolitionists do not come to this question as I did—from an interest in these 4,000,000 of black men. I came on this platform from sympathy with the negro.
I acknowledge it. You come to this question from an idolatrous regard for the Constitution of ‘89.
But here we stand.
On the other side of the ocean is England, holding out, not I think a threat of war—I do not fear it—but holding out to the South the intimation of a willingness, if she will but change her garments, and make herself decent, to take her in charge, and give her assistance and protection.
There stands England, the most selfish and treacherous of modern governments.
On the other side of the Potomac stands a statesmanship, urged by personal and selfish interests, which cannot be matched, and between them they have but one object—it is in the end to divide the Union.
I do not forget the white man, the 8,000,000 of poor whites, thinking themselves our enemies, but who are really our friends.
Their interests are identical with our own. An Alabama slaveholder, sitting with me a year or two ago, said: “In our northern counties they are your friends.
A man owns one slave or two slaves, and he eats with them, and sleeps in the same room (they have but one), much as a hired man here eats with the farmer he serves.
There is no difference.
They are too poor to send their sons north for education.
They have no newspapers, and they know nothing but what they are told by us. If you could
get at them, they would be on your side, but we mean you never shall.”
In Paris there are 100,000 men whom caricature or epigram can at any time raise to barricade the streets.
Whose fault is it that such men exist?
The government's; and the government under which such a mass of ignorance exists deserves to be barricaded.
The government under which 8,000,000 of people exist, so ignorant that 2,000 politicians and 100,000 aristocrats can pervert them into rebellion, deserves to be rebelled against.
In the service of those men I mean, for one, to try to fulfil the pledge my fathers made when they said, “We will guarantee to every State a republican form of government.”
A privileged class, grown strong by the help and forbearance of the North, plots the establishment of aristocratic government in form as well as essence—conspires to rob the nonslave-holders of their civil rights.
This is just the danger our national pledge was meant to meet.
Our fathers' honor, national good faith, the cause of free institutions, the peace of the continent, bid us fulfil this pledge—insist on using the right it gives us to preserve the Union.
I mean to fulfil the pledge that free institutions shall be preserved in the several States, and I demand it of the government.
I would have them, therefore, announce to the world what they have never yet done.
I do not wonder at the want of sympathy on the part of England with us. The South says, “I am fighting for slavery.”
The North says “I am not fighting against it.”
Why should England interfere?
The people have nothing on which to hang their sympathy.
I would have government announce to the world that we understand the evil which has troubled our peace for seventy years, thwarting the natural tendency of our institutions, sending ruin along our wharves and through our workshops every ten years, poisoning the national conscience.
We well know its character.
But democracy, unlike other governments, is strong enough to let evils work out their own death—strong enough to face them when they reveal their proportions.
It was in this sublime consciousness of strength, not of weakness, that our fathers submitted to the well-known evil of slavery, and tolerated, until the viper we thought we could safely tread on, at the touch of disappointment starts up a fiend whose stature reaches the sky. But our cheeks do not blanch.
Democracy accepts the struggle.
After this forbearance of three generations, confident that she has yet power to execute her will, she sends her proclamation down to the Gulf —freedom to every man beneath the stars.
and death to every institution that disturbs our peace or threatens the future of the republic.
The following is an extract from his oration on Garrison:
His was an earnestness that would take no denial, that consumed opposition in the intensity of its convictions, that knew nothing but right. As friend after friend gathered slowly, one by one, to his side, in that very meeting of a dozen heroic men to form the New England Anti-slavery Society, it was his compelling hand, his resolute unwillingness to temper or qualify the utterance, that finally dedicated that first organized movement to the doctrine of immediate emancipation. He seems to have understood—this boy without experience—he seems to have understood by instinct that righteousness is the only thing which will finally compel submission; that one, with God, is always a majority. He seems to have known it at the very outset, taught of God, the herald and champion, Godendowed and God-sent to arouse a nation, that only by the most absolute assertion of the uttermost truth, without qualification or compromise, can a nation be waked to conscience or strengthened for duty. No man ever understood so thoroughly—not O'Connell nor Cobden— the nature and needs of that agitation which alone, in our day, reforms states. In the darkest hour he never doubted the Omnipotence of conscience and the moral sentiment. And then look at the unquailing courage with which he faced the successive obstacles that confronted him! Modest, believing at the outset that America could not be as corrupt as she seemed, he waits at the door of the churches, importunes leading clergymen, begs for a voice from the sanctuary, a consecrated  protest from the pulpit. To his utter amazement, he learns, by thus probing it, that the Church will give him no help, but, on the contrary, surges into the movement in opposition. Serene, though astounded by the unexpected revelation, he simply turns his footsteps, and announces that “a Christianity which keeps peace with the oppressor is no Christianity,” and goes on his way to supplant the religious element which the Church had allied with sin by a deeper religious faith. Yes, he sets himself to work— this stripling with his sling confronting the angry giant in complete steel, this solitary evangelist—to make Christians of 20,000,000 of people! I am not exaggerating. You know, older men, who can go back to that period; I know that when one, kindred to a voice that you have heard to-day, whose pathway Garrison's bloody feet had made easier for the treading, when he uttered in a pulpit in Boston only a few strong words, injected in the course of a sermon, his venerable father, between seventy and eighty years, was met the next morning and his hand shaken by a much-moved friend. “Colonel, you have my sympathy. I cannot tell you how much I pity you.” “What,” said the brusque old man, “what is your pity?” “Well, I hear your son went crazy at ‘Church Green’ yesterday.” Such was the utter indifference. At that time bloody feet had smoothed the pathway for other men to tread. Still, then and for years afterwards, insanity was the only kind-hearted excuse that partial friends could find for sympathy with such a madman!