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Chapter 4:

  • The sectional equilibrium.
  • -- how disturbed in 1820. -- contest on the admission of Texas. -- Compromise measures of 1850. -- declaration of a “Finality.” -- President Pierce's Administration. -- the Kansas -- Nebraska bill. -- repeal of “the Missouri Compromise.” -- origin of the Republican party in the North. -- composition and character of this party. -- amazing progress of the Anti-slavery sentiment in the North. -- New interpretation of the Kansas -- Nebraska bill by Senator Douglas. -- intended to court the Anti-slavery sentiment. -- doctrine of “non-intervention” in the Territories. -- the “Dred Scott decision.” -- “the Kansas controversy.” -- the Lecompton Convention. -- the Topeka Constitution. -- President Buchanan's position and arguments. -- opposition of Senator Douglas. -- his insincerity. -- the Northern Democratic party demoralized on the slavery question. -- Douglas' doctrine of “popular sovereignty.” -- “a short cut to all the ends of Black Republicanism.” -- Douglas as a demagogue. -- the true issues in the Kansas controversy. -- important passages in the Congressional debate. -- settlement of the Kansas question. -- Douglas' foundation of a New party. -- his demagogueical appeals. -- the true situation. -- loss of the sectional equilibrium. -- serious temper of the South. -- “the John Brown raid.” -- identity of John Brown's provisional Constitution and ordinances with the subsequent policy of the Republican party. -- curious foreshadow of Southern subjugation. -- the descent on Harper's Ferry. -- capture and execution of Brown. -- his declaration. -- Northern sympathy with him. -- alarming tendency of the Republican party to the Ultra -- Abolition school. -- “the Helper book.” -- sentiments of sixty-eight Northern congressmen. -- the conceit and insolence of the North. -- affectation of Republicans that the Union was a concession to the South. -- hypocrisy of this party. -- indications of the coming catastrophe of disunion. -- the presidential canvass of 1860. -- declarations of the Democratic party. -- the Charleston Convention. -- Secession of the Southern delegates. -- the different presidential tickets. -- election of Abraham Lincoln. -- analysis of the vote. -- how his election was a “sectional” triumph. -- ominous importance of it in that view. -- arguments for sustaining Lincoln's election. -- Seward's argument in the Senate. -- Lincoln's election a geographical one. -- how there was no longer protection for the South in the Union. -- the Anti-slavery power compact and invincible. -- another apology for Lincoln's election. -- fallacy of regarding it as a transfer of the Administration in equal circumstances from the South to the North. -- how the South had used its lease of political power. -- Senator Hammond's tribute. -- power in the hands of the North equivalent to sectional despotism. -- the North “acting in mass.” -- the logical necessity of disunion

The wisest statesmen of America were convinced that the true and intelligent means of continuing the Union was to preserve the sectional equilibrium, and to keep a balance of power between North and South. That equilibrium had been violently disturbed, in 1820, at the time of the Missouri Compromise. The relative representations of the North and South in the United States Senate were then so evenly balanced that it came to be decisive of a continuance of political power in the South whether Missouri should be an addition to her ranks or to those of her adversary. The contest ended, immediately, in favour of the South; but not without involving a measure of proscription against slavery.

Another struggle for political power between the two sections occurred on the admission of Texas. The South gained another State. But the acquisition of Texas brought on the war with Mexico; and an enormous addition to Northern territory became rapidly peopled with a population allured from every quarter of the globe.

On the admission of California into the Union, the South was persuaded to let her come in with an anti-slavery Constitution for the wretched compensation of a reenactment of the fugitive slave law, and some other paltry measures. The cry was raised that the Union was in danger. The appeals urged under this cry had the usual effect of reconciling the South to the sacrifice required of her, and embarrassed anything like resistance on the part of her representatives in Congress to the compromise measures of 1850. South Carolina threatened secession; but the other Southern States were not prepared to respond to the bold and adventurous initiative of Southern independence. But it should be stated that the other States of the South, in agreeing to what was called, in severe irony, the Compromise of 1850, declared that it was the last concession they would make to the North; that they took it as a “finality,” and that the slavery question was thereafter to be excluded from the pale of Federal discussion.

In 1852 Franklin Pierce was elected President of the United States. He was a favourite of the State Rights Democracy of the South; and it was hoped that under his administration the compromise measures of 1850 would indeed be realized as a “finality,” and the country be put upon a career of constitutional and peaceful rule. But a new and violent agitation was to spring up in the first session of the first Congress under his administration.

The Territory of Nebraska had applied for admission into the Union. Mr. Stephen A. Douglas, Senator from Illinois, reported from the Committee [65] on Territories a bill which made two Territories-Nebraska and Kansas-instead of one, and which declared that the Missouri Compromise Act was superseded by the compromise measures of 1850, and had thus become inoperative. It held that the Missouri Compromise act, “being inconsistent with the principles of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the States and Territories as recognized by the legislation of 1850, commonly called the Compromise Measures, is hereby declared inoperative and void; it being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.” The bill passed both houses of Congress in 1854.

The Kansas-Nebraska bill, involving as it did the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, was taken by the South as a sort of triumph. The latter measure, being viewed as an act of proscription against the South, was justly offensive to her; although indeed the repeal was scarcely more than a matter of principle or sentiment, as the sagacious statesmen of the South were well aware that the States in the Northwest were likely, from the force of circumstances, to be settled by Northern people, and to be thus dedicated to their institutions.1 But it was then supposed that the phraseology of the Kansas-Nebraska bill was not liable to misconstruction; and that when it was declared that the people of the Territories were to determine the question of slavery, it meant, of course, that they were to do so in the act of forming a State Constitution and deciding upon other institutions of the State as well as that of slavery.

In the North, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise was the occasion of a furious excitement. Mr. Douglas was hung in effigy in some of their towns, execrated by Northern mobs, and even threatened with violence to his person. The anti-slavery sentiment of the North was rapidly developed in the excitement; a new party was organized with reference to the question of slavery in the Territories; and thus originated the famous Republican party-popularly called the Black Republican party-which was indeed identical with the Abolition party in its sentiment of hostility to slavery, and differed from it only as to the degree of indirection by which its purpose might best be accomplished. This party comprised the great mass of the intellect and wealth of the North. It was also the [66] Protectionist party. Its leaning was in favour of strong government, and whatever there might be of aristocracy in the North belonged to it.

The new party sprung at once into an amazing power. In the Presidential canvass of 1852, which had resulted in the election of Mr. Pierce, John P. Hale, who ran upon what was called the “straight-out” Abolition ticket, did not receive the vote of a single State, and but 175,296 of the popular vote of the Union. But upon the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, Abolitionism, in the guise of “Republicanism,” swept almost everything before it in the North and Northwest in the elections of 1854 and 1855; and in the Thirty-first Congress, Nathaniel Banks, an objectionable Abolitionist of the Massachusetts school, was elected to the speakership of the House.

In the mean time, the language of the Kansas-Nebraska bill was the subject of no dispute. No one supposed that from this language there was to originate an afterthought on the part of Mr. Douglas, and that, by an ingenious torture of words, this measure was to be converted into one to conciliate the anti-slavery sentiment of the North, and to betray the interests of the South. This afterthought was doubtless the consequence of the rapid growth of the Black Republican party, and the conviction that the Democratic party in the North could only recover its power by some marked concession to the sectional sentiment now rapidly developing on the subject of slavery.

It should be noticed here that the doctrine of “non-intervention,” which prohibited Congress from interfering with the question of slavery in the Territories, had been affirmed by a judicial decision in the Supreme Court of the United States. In the famous “Dred Scott case,” a negro demanded his freedom on the ground of legal residence beyond the latitude of 36° 30' N.-the line of the Missouri Compromise. The Supreme Court pronounced that Congress had no power to make that law; that it was therefore null and void ; and declared “that the Constitution recognizes the right of property in a slave, and makes no distinction between that description of property and other property owned by a citizen ;” and further, that every citizen had the clear right to go into any Territory, and take with him that which the Constitution recognized as his property.

So far the rights of the South in the Territories were thought to be plain; the design of the Black Republican party to exclude slavery therefrom by the Federal authority had been pronounced unconstitutional by the highest judicial authority in the country; and the Kansas-Nebraska bill was thought to be a plain letter, which taught that slavery was the subject of exclusive legislation by States, or by Territories in the act of assuming the character of States. But the South only stood on the threshold of a new controversy-another exhibition of the ingenuity of the anti-slavery sentiment to assert itself in new methods and on new issues.


The Kansas controversy.

What is known as the Kansas Controversy was a marked era in the political history of the Union. It illustrated most powerfully the fact that the slavery question really involved but little of moral sentiment, and indicated a contest for political power between two rival sections.

When Mr. Buchanan came into the Presidential office, in 1S57, lie at once perceived that the great point of his administration would be to effect the admission of Kansas into the Union, and thus terminate a dispute which was agitating and distracting the country. In September, 1857, the people of the Territory had called a Convention at Lecompton to form a Constitution. The entire Constitution was not submitted to the popular vote; but the Convention took care to submit to the vote of the people, for ratification or rejection, the clause respecting slavery. The official vote resulted: For the Constitution, with slavery, 6,226; for the Constitution, without slavery, 509. Under this Constitution, Mr. Buchanan recommended the admission of Kansas into the Union; and indeed he had reason to hope for it in view of the principles which had governed in his election.

The argument on the other side was that the entire Constitution had not been submitted to the people, and that the principle of “popular sovereignty” had been invaded by the Convention, in not representing all the voters of the Territory, and in not submitting the entire result of their labours to a vote of the people. The Anti-Slavery or Free State party had also their Constitution to advocate, an instrument framed in 1855, at Topeka, which had been submitted to the people, and ratified by a large majority of those who voted. But the facts were that scarcely any but Abolitionists went to the polls ; and it was notorious that the Topeka Constitution was the fruit of a bastard population that had been thrown into the Territory by the “Emigrant aid Societies” of New England.

In his first message to Congress, Mr. Buchanan surveyed the whole ground of the controversy. He explained that when he instructed Gov. Walker of Kansas, in general terms, in favour of submitting the Constitution to the people, he had no other object in view beyond the all-absorbing topic of slavery; lie considered that under the organic act --known as the Kansas-Nebraska bill — the Convention was bound to submit the all-important question of slavery to the people; lie added, that it was never his opinion, however, that, independently of this act, the Convention would be bound to submit any portion of the Constitution to a popular vote, in order to give it validity; and he argued tho fallacy and [68] unreasonableness of such an opinion, by insisting that it was in opposition to the principle which pervaded our institutions, and which was every day carried into practice, to the effect that the people had the right to delegate to representatives, chosen by themselves, sovereign power to frame Constitutions, enact laws, and perform many other important acts, without the necessity of testing the validity of their work by popular approbation.

These views appeared reasonable enough. But Mr. Buchanan found that they were opposed by many members of Congress who had actively supported him in his canvass, and chief and leader among them the distinguished author of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, Mr. Douglas. This man had assembled an opposition under the captivating term of “popular sovereignty;” but these words had a certain narrow and technical party meaning, and covered a remarkable and ingenious design upon the power and interests of the South.

It had long been evident to intelligent observers that the Northern Democratic party, of which Mr. Douglas some time ago had been the acknowledged leader, was becoming demoralized on the slavery question. This party had formerly acted with the South for political power. In the depression of that power and the rapid growth of the anti-slavery party in the North, it had no hesitation in courting and conciliating the ruling element. This disposition was accommodated by the controversy which lad taken place between Mr. Douglas and the administration of Mr. Buchanan. The anti-slavery sentiment in the North was conciliated by the partisans of the former in adopting a new principle for the government of the Territories, which was to allow the people to determine the question of slavery in their Territorial capacity, without awaiting their organization as a State, and thus to risk the decision of the rights of the South on the verdict of a few settlers on the public domain. This doctrine was violently entitled by Mr. Douglas “popular sovereignty;” but it was more justly described by Gov. Wise of Virginia, as “a short cut to all the ends of Black Republicanism.”

It is thus seen that Mr. Douglas had tortured the language of the Kansas-Nebraska bill into the sense that the unorganized population of a Territory might decide the question of slavery as against the State interests of the South; thus indicating to the North that this measure might quite as easily and readily exclude slavery as the intervention of Congress, the right of which the Black Republican party claimed.

Mr. Douglas was an able and eloquent demagogue. He imposed his doctrine upon the minds of not a few of the Southern people by the artfulness of its appeals to the name of a principle, which had none of the substance of justice or equality. He raised in Congress what was called the Anti-Lecompton party, pledged to the exclusion of Kansas under the Lecompton Constitution, and insisting on the right of Territorial legislation [69] on the subject of slavery. For six months the Kansas question occupied Congress, and held the country in anxiety and suspense. It was a contest for political power between North and South. The mere industrial interests or morals of slavery had nothing to do with it.

The sum of the controversy was that the South struggled for the principle of equality in the Territories, without reference to the selfish interests of slavery, and even with the admission of the hopelessness of those interests in Kansas; while the North contended for the narrow selfish, practical consequence of making Kansas a part of her Free-soil possessions. This was evident in the debates in Congress. At one stage of the discussion, Mr. English, of Indiana, asked the question: “Is there a Southern man here who will vote against the admission of Kansas as a Free State, if it be the undoubted will of the people of that Territory that it shall be a Free State--if she brings here a Constitution to that effect?” --and there was a general response “Not one” from the Southern side of the House. At another period of the debate, Mr. Barksdale of Mississippi put the question to Black Republican members whether they would vote for the admission of Kansas into the Union with a Constitution tolerating slavery “if a hundred thousand people there wished it.” Mr. Giddings of Ohio replied that he “would never vote to compel his State to associate with another Slave State.” Mr. Stanton, his colleague, added: “I will say that the Republican members of this House, so far a I know, will never vote for the admission of any Slave State north of 36° 30'.”

The result of the dispute was the report of a bill for the admission of Kansas, which became a law in June, 1858, and substantially secured nearly all that the North had claimed in the matter. The people were authorized to form a new Constitution. Kansas did not come into the Union until nearly three years afterwards, just as it was going to pieces; and then it came in with an anti-slavery Constitution, and President Buchanan, consistently, signed the bill of admission.

But the trouble did not end with the solution of the Kansas difficulty. The true character of that event, and the debates which had attended it in Congress, convinced the South that it could hardly expect, under any circumstances, the addition of another Slave State to the Union. The pernicious doctrines of Mr. Douglas were used to erect a party which, while it really pandered to the anti-slavery sentiment of the North, imposed upon the South by cheap expressions of conservatism, and glozed statements of its designs. Mr. Douglas proclaimed his views to be in favour of non-intervention by Congress on the subject of slavery; he avowed his continued and unalterable opposition to Black-Republicanism ; his principles were professed to be “held subject to the decisions of the Supreme Court” --the distinction between judicial questions and political questions [70] being purposely clouded; and his friends, with an ingenious sophistry that had imposed upon the South for thirty years with success, insisted that the support of Stephen A. Douglas was a support of the party in the North which had stood by the South amid persecution and defamation.

But it was evident to reflecting minds that, either by the policy of the Black Republican party, or the shorter device of the Douglas Democracy for the government of the Territories, the sectional equilibrium of the Union was lost. A disposition was shown to calculate the real value of a Union which, by its mere name and the paraphrases of demagogues, had long governed the affections of the people, but in which, it was now seen, the South must constantly descend in political power; in which she paid a tribute to the North in unequal taxations and in the courses of trade, estimated by a Northern writer at two hundred millions of dollars a year; and in which she was constantly enduring insult, occupied the position of an inferiour, and was designated as the spotted and degraded part of America.

The John Brown raid.

Other events were to repeat and enlarge the shock given to the Union by the Kansas controversy. In October, 1859, occurred the famous John Brown raid into Virginia, ill which an old man, who had obtained in Kansas the notoriety of a horse-thief and an assassin, invaded the State of Virginia at Harper's Ferry with a band of outlaws, declared his purpose to free the slaves, and commenced with a work of blood the first acts of sectional rebellion against the authority of the United States. It seems that this man, who had the singular combination of narrow sagacity, or cunning with visionary recklessness that is often observed in fanatics, had, in 1858, summoned a convention in West Canada, in which he proposed to substitute a plan of action entitled “Provisional Constitution and Ordinances” for all other governments then in existence in the United States.

This fanatical instrument has a very curious interest from its general similitude to that “plan of action” which was afterwards adopted by the Government at Washington in its great war upon the South, and its subsequent programme of subjugation.

The main point of the preamble of John Brown's Constitution was to announce the fact that the new government especially contemplated the accession of “the proscribed, oppressed, and enslaved” people of the United States. And this, and the qualification for membership in a following article, intimated that not sex, colour, age, political or social condition would be at all considered against any one. [71]

The powers of the central Congress were defined in this instrument after the strictest school of Consolidation; and the existence of the States was nowhere practically acknowledged.

In article 17 we find the following provision:

It shall be the duty of the President and Secretary of State to find out, as soon as possible, the real friends, as well as enemies of this organization in every part of the country; to secure among them inn-keepers, private postmasters, private mail contractors, messengers and agents, through whom may be obtained correct and regular information constantly.

The remaining articles of the Constitution develop a plan to build up on the ruins of existing laws and institutions a despotism, in which the “enemies of the government” are to be deprived of their capacity to do further evil by the loss of their liberty and property, while the loyal citizens are to form a sort of aristocratic fraternity, whose patriotic duty it will be to punish disloyalty at all hours and upon all occasions “promptly and effectually,” and “without the formality of a complaint.” The confiscation of the property of all slaveholders and “other disloyal persons” is directed; and here, too, we find prescribed oaths of neutrality and allegiance, registering, &c.

This curious foreshadow of the policy of the North, which was to supplant the Constitution of the United States, originated in a convention of thirty-five fanatics, of whom ten where white men and the remaining twenty-five negroes of various shades of colour. John Brown, having thus prefaced his expedition into Virginia, collected a small company of insurgents, black and white, on a farm he had rented near Harper's Ferry, hoping that, as he invaded Virginia, the blacks would flock to his standard, and be armed there with the pikes and rifles he had provided for his recruits.

At half past 10 o'clock, Sunday night, 17th October, 1859, the Potomac was crossed, and, proceeding with military method, the party seized first the watchman guarding the railroad bridge at Harper's Ferry, and, posting pickets at certain points, occupied the arsenal and armory building. A white confederate, named Cook, went out in command of a party for the purpose of getting black recruits from the adjoining estates of slaveholders. He arrested Col. Lewis Washington in his house, and brought in some other hostages in the persons of prominent citizens. In the meanwhile, Brown's pickets from time to time arrested and brought into his presence all who, from motives of curiosity or otherwise, had ventured within his military lines. These were retained as prisoners in one of the armory buildings. The pickets having captured one of the watchmen on the bridge, when the one who was to relieve him made his appearance, they challenged him. He, alarmed, at once retreated without obeying [72] their command to stand. Finding words of no avail, the outlaws fired upon the fugitive, and brought him to the ground. Upon examining their victim, they discovered that he was a mulatto and mortally wounded.

About three o'clock in the morning, the Baltimore train arrived. This was halted for two or three hours, and finally, after much expostulation, allowed to pass. The news soon reached Washington; and Col. Robert E. Lee, then lieutenant-colonel of the Second Cavalry, was despatched to command the regular troops concentrating at Harper's Ferry. Accompanied by his aid, Lieut. J. E. B. Stuart-afterward the world-renowned cavalry chief of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia-he set out on a special train, and sent a telegraphic despatch to the U. S. Marines, in advance of him, directing them what to do. Other troops — the militia from Virginia and Maryland-had promptly reached the scene, and when Col. Lee arrived during the night, were awaiting his orders to act. He immediately placed his command within the armory grounds, so as to completely surround the fire-engine house where the insurgents had taken refuge. In it, Brown and his party had confined Col. Washington, Mr. Dangerfield, and some other citizens whom they had surprised and captured the night before; and therefore to use the cannon upon it now would be to endanger the lives of friends as well as foes.

Accordingly, at daylight, Col. Lee took measures to attempt the capture of the insurgents, if possible, without bloodshed. At seven in the morning he sent his aid, Lieut. Stuart, to summon them quietly to surrender, promising only protection from violence and a trial according to law. Brown refused all terms but those which he had more than once already asked for, namely: “That he should be permitted to pass out unmolested with his men and arms and prisoners, that they should proceed unpursued to the second toll-gate, when they would free their prisoners, and take the chances of escape.” These concessions were, of course, refused.

At last, perceiving all his humane efforts to be of no avail, Col. Lee gave orders for an attack. A strong party of marines advanced by two lines quickly on each side of the door. When near enough, two powerful men sprung between the lines, and, with heavy sledge-hammers, attempted to batter down the doors, but failed. They then took hold of a ladder some forty feet long, and, advancing on a run, brought it with tremendous effect upon the door. At the second blow it gave way, and immediately the marines rushed to the breach as a volley from within came right upon them. One man, in the front, fell mortally wounded, and sharp and rapid was the firing from within from the insurgents, now driven to desperation. The next moment the gap was widened, and the marines poured in. As Lieut. Stuart entered the door, a voice cried out, “I surrender.” Brown said, “One man surrenders, give him quarter!” and at the same [73] time fired his piece. The next moment Stuart's sword had entered his skull, and the desperate outlaw was stretched bleeding. The other insurgents were quickly secured; and the liberated citizens, who had held up their hands to designate themselves to the marines, and thus escape their fire, were hailed with shouts of congratulation as they passed out of the building.

While suffering from a wound supposed to be mortal, Brown made the following admissions to Governor Wise of Virginia:

I never had more than twenty-two men about the place at one time; but had it so arranged, that I could arm, at any time, fifteen hundred men with the following arms: two thousand Sharp's rifles, two hundred Maynard's revolvers, one thousand spears. I would have armed the whites with the rifles and revolvers, and the blacks with the spears; they not being sufficiently familiar with other arms. I had plenty of ammunition and provisions, and had a good right to expect the aid of from two to five thousand men, at any time I wanted them. Help was promised me from Maryland, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Virginia, and Canada. The blow was struck a little too soon. The passing of the train on Sunday night did the work for us; that killed us. I only regret that I have failed in my designs; but I have no apology to make or concession to ask now. Had we succeeded, when our arms and funds were exhausted by an increasing army, contributions would have been levied on the slaveholders, and their property appropriated to defray expenses and carry on the war of freedom.

On the 2d of December, 1859, having been tried at Charleston, Virginia, and condemned, Brown was conducted to the gallows, and there, in sight of the beautiful country, a portion of which he had hoped one day to possess, he suffered the extreme penalty of the law. He died with the unnatural firmness of a fanatic-but as many in the North interpreted it, with the exalted courage of a martyr.

It had been said in some Northern newspapers that the John Brown raid and its expiation would have a good effect in opening the eyes of the people to the crime and madness of Abolition doctrines. But subsequent events were quite to the contrary. The Northern elections of the next month showed no diminution in the Black Republican vote. The manifestations of sympathy for John Brown could not be contained, and took place openly in many of the Northern cities and towns. Upon the day appointed for his execution, a motion for adjournment, out of respect to the sacredness of the day, was lost in the State Senate of Massachusetts by only three votes; while in many of the towns the bells of the churches were tolled, and congregations assembled to consecrate the memory of their hero. The body was carried to North Elba in New York, and after it was unsigned to the grave, many of the New England clergy allotted [74] John Brown an apotheosis, and consigned his example to emulation as one not only of public virtue, but of particular service to God.

But a much graver series of events was to show the real sympathy of the North with John Brown's “plan of action,” and to attest the rapid tendency of the Black Republican party to the worst schools of Abolition. At the meeting of Congress in December, 1859, the Black Republicans nominated to the speakership of the House Mr. Sherman of Ohio, who had made himself especially odious to the South, by publicly recommending, in connection with sixty-eight other Republican Congressmen, a fanatical document popularly known as Helper's book. This publication, thus endorsed by Black Republicans, and circulated by them in the Northern elections, openly defended and sought to excite servile insurrections in the South; and it was with reason that the entire Southern delegation gave warning that they would regard the election of Mr. Sherman, or of any man with his record, as an open declaration of war upon the institutional of the South; as much so, some of the members declared, as if the John Brown raid were openly approved by a majority of the House of Representatives.

This book, which even Mr. Seward, the leader of the Black Republican! party, had recommended, along with others, urged the North to exterminate slavery, and at once, without the slightest compensation, in language vs which the following is a specimen, addressed to the Southerners: “Frown sirs; fret, foam, prepare your weapons, threaten, strike, shoot, stab, bring on civil war, dissolve the Union; nay, annihilate the solar system, if you will-do all this, more, less, better, worse-anything; do what you will sirs-you can neither foil nor intimidate us; our purpose is as fixed as the eternal pillars of heaven; we have determined to abolish slavery, and — so help us God-abolish it we will!”

Some other extracts from this infamous book we may place here to indicate its character, and the importance of the act of the Black Republican party in endorsing it as a campaign document:

Slavery is a great moral, social, civil, and political evil, to be got rid of at the earliest practicable period .... Three-quarters of a century hence, if the South retains slavery, which God forbid! she will be to the North what Poland is to Russia, Cuba to Spain, and Ireland to England .... Our own banner is inscribed-No cooperation with slaveholders in politics; no fellowship with them in religion; no affiliation with them in society; no recognition of pro-slavery men, except as ruffians, outlaws, and criminals. . .. . We believe it is, as it ought to be, the desire, the determination, and the destiny of the Republican party to give the death-blow to slavery. .... In any event, come what will, transpire what may, tho institution of slavery must be abolished. .... We are determined to abolish slavery at all hazards — in defiance of all the opposition, [75] of whatever nature, it is possible for the slaveocrats to bring against us. Of this they may take due notice, and govern themselves accordingly.

... It is our honest conviction that all the pro-slavery slaveholders deserve to be at once reduced to a parallel with the basest criminals that lie fettered within the cells of our public prisons. .... Compensation to slave-owners for negroes! Preposterous idea — the suggestion is criminal, the demand unjust, wicked, monstrous, damnable. Shall we pat the blood-hounds for the sake of doing them a favour? Shall we feed the curs of slavery to make them rich at our expense? Pay these whelps for the privilege of converting them into decent, honest, upright men?

Such was the language, endorsed by sixty-eight Northern Congressmen, applied to the South: to that part of the Union indeed which was the superiour of the North in every true and refined element of civilization; which had contributed more than its share to all that had given lustre to the military history of America, or the councils of its senate; which, in fact, had produced that list of illustrious American names best known in Europe: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Marshall, Clay, Calhoun, Scott, and Manry.

The fact was that insult to the South had come to be habitual through every expression of Northern opinion; not only in political tirades, but through its lessons of popular education, the ministrations of its church, its literature, and every form of daily conversation. The rising generation of the North were taught to regard the Southerner as one of a lower order of civilization; a culprit to reform, or a sinner to punish. A large party in the North affected the insolent impertinence of regarding the Union as a concession on the part of the North, and of taunting the South with the disgrace which her association in the Union inflicted upon the superiour and more virtuous people of the Northern States. There were no bounds to this conceit. It was said that the South was an inferiour part of the country; that she was a “plague-spot;” that the national fame abroad was compromised by the association of the South in the Union; and that a New England traveller in Europe blushed to confess himself an American, because nearly half of the nation of that name were slaveholders. Not a few of the Abolitionists made a pretence of praying that the Union might be dissolved, that they might be cleared, by the separation of North and South, of any implication in the crime of slavery. Even that portion of the party calling themselves Republicans, affected that the Union stood in the way of the North. Mr. Banks, speaker of the House in the Thirty-first Congress, was the author of the coarse jeer--“Let the Union slide ;” and the New York Tribune had complained that the South “could not be kicked out of the Union.” --We shall see in the light of subsequent events how this Northern affectation for disunion was a lie, a snare to the South, and a hypocrisy unparalleled in all the records of partisan animosity. [76]

It would have been more or less than human nature if the South had not been incensed at expressions in which her people were compared with “mad-dogs” --with “s small-pox, as nuisances to be abated,” or classed with gangs of “licensed robbers,” “thieves,” and “murderers.” But it was not only the wretched ribaldry of the “Helper book” that was the cause of excitement; the designs there declared of war upon the South, and recommended by an array of Black Republican names, were the occasion of the most serious alarm. It is true that Mr. Sherman, the “Helper book” candidate for the speakership of the House, was finally withdrawn, and one of his party, not a subscriber to the book, elected. But the fact remained that more than three-fourths of the entire Northern delegation had adhered to Mr. Sherman for nearly two months in a factious and fanatical spirit. Such an exhibition of obstinate rancour could not fail to produce a deep impression on the South; and the early dissolution of the Union had now come to be a subject freely canvassed in Congress and in the country.

We have thus, in a rapid summary of political events from 1857 to 1860-the Kansas controversy, the John Brown raid, and the “Helper book” imbroglio-enabled the reader to discover and combine some of the most remarkable indications of the coming catastrophe of Disunion. In the historical succession of events we shall see that occurrence rapidly and steadily advancing, until at last the sharp and distinct issue of a sectional despotism was forced upon the South, and war precipitated upon the country.

The Democratic party of the South had cooperated with the Democratic party of the North in the Presidential canvass of 1856, upon the principles of the platform adopted by the National Democratic Convention assembled in Cincinnati, in June of that year. They expressed a willingness to continue this cooperation in the election of 1860, upon the principles of the Cincinnati platform; but demanded, as a condition precedent to this, that the question of the construction of this platform should be satisfactorily settled. To this end, the Democratic party, in several of the Southern States, defined the conditions upon which their delegates should hold seats in the National Convention, appointed to meet at Charleston, on the 23d of April, 1860. The Democracy in Alabama moved first and adopted a series of resolutions, the purport of which was afterwards embodied in the instructions administered by some of the other Cotton States to their delegations to the National Convention.

The most important of these resolutions were as follows:

Resolved, That the Constitution of the United States is a compact between sovereign and co-equal States, united upon the basis of perfect equality of rights and privileges.

Resolved, further, That the Territories of the United States are common property, ti [77] which the States have equal rights, and to which the citizens of any State may rightfully emigrate, with their slaves or other property, recognized as such in any of the States of the Union, or by the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved, further, That the Congress of the United States has no power to abolish slavery in the Territories, or to prohibit its introduction into any of them.

Resolved, further, That the Territorial Legislatures, created by the legislation of Congress, have no power to abolish slavery, or to prohibit the introduction of the same, or to impair by unfriendly legislation the security and full enjoyment of the same within the Territories; and such constitutional power certainly does not belong to the people of the Territories in any capacity, before, in the exercise of a lawful authority, they form a Constitution, preparatory to admission as a State into the Union; and their action in the exercise of such lawful authority certainly cannot operate or take effect before their actual admission as a State into the Union.

When the Convention met at Charleston two sets of resolutions were represented:


Resolved, That the platform at Cincinnati be reaffirmed with the following resolutions:

Resolved, That the Democracy of the United States hold these cardinal principles on the subject of slavery in the Territories: First, that Congress has no power to abolish slavery in the Territories. Second, that the Territorial Legislature has no power to abolish slavery in any Territory, nor to prohibit the introduction of slaves therein, nor any power to exclude slavery therefrom, nor any power to destroy and impair the right of property in slaves by any legislation whatever.


Resolved, That the platform adopted by the Democratic party at Cincinnati be affirmed, with the following explanatory resolutions:

First. That the government of a Territory, organized by an act of Congress, is provisional and temporary; and, during its existence, all citizens of the United States have an equal right to settle with their property in the Territory, without their rights, either of person or property, being destroyed or impaired by Congressional or Territorial legislation.

Second. That it is the duty of the Federal Government, in all its departments, to protect, when necessary, the rights of persons and property in the Territories and wherever else its constitutional authority extends.

Third. That when the settlers in a Territory, having an adequate population, form a State Constitution, the right of sovereignty commences, and being consummated by admission into the Union, they stand on an equal footing with the people of other States; and the State thus organized, ought to be admitted into the Federal Union, whether its Constitution prohibits or recognizes the institution of slavery.

The Convention refused to accept either of the foregoing resolutions, and adopted, by a vote of 165 to 138, the following as its platform on the slavery question: [78]

1. Resolved, That we, the Democracy of the Union, in Convention assembled, hereby declare our affirmance of the resolutions unanimously adopted and declared as a platform of principles by the Democratic Convention at Cincinnati, in the year 1856, believing that Democratic principles are unchangeable in their nature, when applied to the same subject-matters; and we recommend as the only further resolutions the following:

Inasmuch as differences of opinion exist in the Democratic party as to the nature and extent of the powers of a Territorial Legislature, and as to the powers and duties of Congress under the Constitution of the United States, over the institution of slavery within the Territories:

2. Resolved, That the Democratic party will abide by the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States on the questions of constitutional law.

This platform being unsatisfactory to the Southern delegates, a body of them seceded, and called a new Convention at Baltimore, on the 18th of June. The Cotton States all withdrew from the Charleston Convention; but the Border States remained in it, with the hope of effecting some ultimate settlement of the difficulty. But the reassembling of the Convention at Baltimore resulted in a final and embittered separation of the opposing delegations. The majority at Charleston exhibited a more uncompromising spirit than ever; and Virginia, and all the Border Slave States, with the exception of Missouri, withdrew from the Convention, and united with the representatives of the Cotton States, then assembled in Baltimore, in the nomination of candidates representing the views of the South. Their nominees were John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky for President, and Joseph Lane of Oregon for Vice-President.

The old Convention, or what remained of it, nominated Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois for President, and Benjamin Fitzpatrick of Alabama for Vice-President. The latter declining, Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia was substituted on the ticket.

A Convention of what was called the Constitutional Union party met in Baltimore on the 9th of May, 1860, and nominated for President and Vice-President John Bell of Tennessee and Edward Everett of Massachusetts. Their platform consisted of a vague and undefined enumeration of their political principles, as, “The Constitution of the Country, the Union of the States, and Enforcement of the Laws.”

The National Convention of the Black Republican party was held at Chicago in the month of June. It adopted a platform declaring freedom to be the “normal condition” of the Territories; and protesting especial attachment to the Union of the States. The Presidential ticket nominated by the Convention was, Abraham Lincoln of Illinois for President, and Hannibal Hamlin of Maine for Vice-President.

The great majority of the Southern Democracy supported the Breckinridge ticket; it was the leading ticket in all the Slave States except Missouri; but in the North only a small and feeble minority of the Democratic [79] party gave it their support. In several States, the friends of Douglas, of Breckinridge, and of Bell coalesced, to a certain extent, with a view to the defeat of Lincoln, but without success, except in New Jersey, where they partially succeeded.

The result of the contest was, that Abraham Lincoln received the entire electoral vote of every free State, except New Jersey, and was, of course, elected President of the United States, according to the forms of the Constitution.

The entire popular vote for Lincoln was 1,858,200; that for Douglas, giving him his share of the fusion vote, 1,276,780; that for Breckinridge, giving him his share of the fusion vote, 812,500; and that for Bell, including his proportion of the fusion vote, 735,504. The whole vote against Lincoln was thus 2,824,874, showing a clear aggregate majority against him of nearly a million of votes.

The analysis if the vote which elected Mr. Lincoln showed plainly enough that it was a sectional triumph; and it was in view of that ominous fact , rather than in any less important resentment, or with any especial reference to the declaration of principles in the Chicago platform, that the South proposed to repudiate for herself the result of the election, and to go out of a Union now plainly converted into a means of deliberate sectional oppression.

There has been much loose and plausible protest against this course of the South, in which it has been said that it was essentially revolutionary and refractory; that Mr. Lincoln had been elected according to the forms of the Constitution by a majority of the electoral college, and that the South was bound by honour and in precedent to submit to the result of an election legitimately and constitutionally accomplished. This view was pronounced by Mr. Seward, in the Senate of the United States. “Was the election illegal?” he asked. “No; it is unimpeachable. Is the candidate personally offensive? No; he is a man of unblemished virtue and amiable manners. Is an election of President an unfrequent or extraordinary transaction? No; we never had a Chief Magistrate otherwise designated than by such election, and that form of choice is renewed every four years. Does any one even propose to change the mode of appointing the Chief Magistrate? No; election by universal suffrage, as modified by the Constitution, is the one crowning franchise of the American people. To save it they would defy the world.”

But it was surprising to find a man of Mr. Seward's pretension to statesmanship using such a loose and superficial argument to sustain an election, the sectional significance of which, kept out of view, was really the important point, and, of itself, terminated the constitutional existence of the Union.

True, Mr. Lincoln was the choice of the majority of the electoral [80] college. But his election was almost purely geographical. The South had sustained a defeat, not at the hands of a party, but at those of the Northern power. Every Northern State but New Jersey had voted for Mr. Lincoln; every Southern State had voted against him. Hie was not known as a statesman, whose name might therefore be one of national significance; he was known only as a partisan, and the election of such a man in such a character was plainly to declare war against the other side.

In the face of this sectional triumph there was plainly no protection for the South in the future. There was none in power; for the superiour political strength of the North was now beyond dispute. There was none in public opinion; for that, all the political history of America showed, was the slave of the majority. There was none in the courts; for the Dred Scott decision had been denounced in the Chicago platform as a dangerous heresy, and the doctrine upon which Mr. Lincoln had been elected had been actually declared illegal by the supreme judicial authority of the country.

In Congress the Northern States had 183 votes; the South, if unanimous, 120. If then the North was prepared to act in a mass its power was irresistible; and the election of Mr. Lincoln plainly showed that it was prepared so to act and to carry out a sectional design. The antislavery power in the North was now compact and invincible. A party opposed to slavery had organized in 1840, with about seven thousand voters; in 1860, it had polled nearly two million votes, and had succeeded in electing the President of the United States. The conservative party in the North had been thoroughly corrupted. They were beaten in every Northern State in 1860, with a single exception, by the avowed enemies of the South, who, but a few years ago, had been powerless in their midst. The leaders of the Northern Democratic party had, in 1856 and in 1860, openly taken the position that freedom would be more certainly secured in the Territories by the rule of non-intervention than by any other policy or expedient. This interpretation of their policy alone saved the Democratic party from entire annihilation. The overwhelming pressure of the anti-slavery sentiment had prevented their acceding to the Southern platform in, the Presidential canvass. Nothing in the present or in the future could be looked for from the so-called conservatives of the North; and the South prepared to go out of a Union which no longer afforded any guaranty for her rights or any permanent sense of security, and which had brought her under the domination of a section, the designs of which, carried into legislation, would destroy her institutions, and even involve the lives of her people.

Such was the true and overwhelming significance of Mr. Lincoln's election to the people of the South. They saw in it the era of a sectional domination, which they proposed to encounter, not by revolution, properly [81] so called, not by an attempt to recover by arms their constitutional rights in the Union, but simply to escape by withdrawal from the confederation, and the resumption of their original character of independent States.

But again it was urged by the apologists of Mr. Lincoln's election that such escape of the South from its results was unfair, in view of the fact that during most of the preceding period of the Union, the South had held in its hands the administration at Washington, and had but little reason now to complain that it had passed to those of the rival section.

This view was not without plausibility, and yet as fallacious as that which appealed to the prescriptive rule of majorities in America. The South had held political power at Washington for a long time; but that power threatened nothing in the North, sought nothing from it, desired to disturb nothing in it. It had no aggressive intent: it stood constantly on the defensive. It had no sectional history: it was associated with a general prosperity of the country. “Do not forget,” said Senator Hammond of South Carolina, when Mr. Seward boasted in the United States Senate that the North was about to take control at Washington,--“it can never be forgotten — it is written on the brightest page of human history — that we, the slaveholders of the South, took our country in her infancy, and, after ruling her for sixty out of seventy years of her existence, we shall surrender her to you without a stain upon her honour, boundless in prosperity, incalculable in her strength, the wonder and the admiration of the world. Time will show what you will make of her; but no time can ever diminish our glory or your responsibility.”

When the South held power, it was only to the North a certain absence from office, a certain exclusion from patronage. But when the North was to obtain it, acting not as a party, but a people united on a geographical idea, it was something more than a negative evil or disappointment to the South; it was the enthronement at Washington of a sectional despotism that threatened the institutions, the property, and the lives of the people of the Southern States. Power in the hands of the South affected the patronage of a political party in the North. Power in the hands of the North affected the safety and happiness of every individual in the South.-It was simply determined by the South to withdraw from a game where the stakes were so unequal, and where her loss would have been ruin.

1 As a general rule the South could not compete with the North in the race of emigration to new countries. Nor was it her interest, being a sparsely settled and agricultural country, to do so. A recent English commentator on the American Union (Mr. Spence) well observes:

It is an unfortunate result of the complex politics of the Union that the political instinct of the South is driven to oppose its material interest. It must expand while the North expands, or succumb. It cannot seek expansion from choice or interest, but is driven to it by the impulse of political self-preservation.

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