The National and State elections of 1848 had come and gone.
The Free-soil Party, which was afterwards to control the government, and give an entirely new direction to public affairs, was slowly forming, and where-ever the great issues were made and met, the friends of Freedom had been steadily gaining ground.
as it may seem, the hardest work in this great battle had to be fought in Massachusetts
, where Mr. Sumner
was the acknowledged leader of the Liberal host.
Clothed with no official dignity or power, to give prestige to his words or actions, he was already commanding a national influence which made every speech delivered in Massachusetts
effective far beyond the bounds of the State
John Quincy Adams
had died at his post, the last undismayed champion of the Revolutionary school
of Freedom, his heart still burning with the love of liberty, and the eloquent utterances of freedom still fresh from his lips.
But his son, Charles Francis
, had already come forward in the same spirit, to tread in the steps of his father, and in all quarters the roused spirit of insulted American liberty was no longer to cower back from the presence of her foes.
But there was yet lacking, as there always is in such reforms, a practical plan of operations, to give effect to the efforts of the friends of freedom.
By the great majority of them, the radical Anti-slavery men were still looked upon as fanatical, and generally, as hostile to the Constitution
; many of them, like Mr. Garrison
, regarding it as the chief impediment, not only to emancipation, but to the spread of slavery itself.
Much had been done at Buffalo
by the enunciations made in the Platform, and the nomination of candidates pledged to resist the further encroachments of slavery; and around them a large body of voters had gathered at the ballot-box.
But the great mass of the people had yet no clear idea of any practical plan of operations, that could be carried out without open war upon the Constitution
At this time—September 12, 1849—a Free-soil Convention met at Worcester
, and Mr. Sumner
was invited to present an address explaining and vindicating
the Free-soil movement, and that address was adopted by the Convention
As nothing appeared at the time which put forth so clearly, or with so much power, the great issue which was coming before the nation, we shall make as copious extracts from that address, as our space will admit; for it will give every reader a better understanding of the state of public feeling at the time, and serve as a chart for tracing the early progress of the mighty movement then starting, which will hereafter doubtless be regarded as the most important feature in the political history of this nation, since the adoption of the Federal Constitution
Omnipresent, as Mr. Sumner
then declared the great issue to be, wherever any political election occurred, it was never to cease to challenge attention, until, in his own language, ‘at least two things are accomplished: first
, the divorce of the Federal Government
from all support or sanction of Slavery; and secondly
, the conversion of this government, within its Constitutional limits, to the cause of Freedom, so that it shall become Freedom's open, active, and perpetual ally.’
Impressed by the magnitude of these interests,—devoted to the triumph of the righteous cause,—solicitous of the true welfare of the country,—animated by the example of the Fathers of the Republic, and desirous of breathing their spirit into our Government, the Free Democracy of Massachusetts, in Convention assembled at Worcester, now address their fellow-citizens throughout the Commonwealth.
Imperfectly, according to the necessity of the occasion—earnestly, according to the fulness of their convictions—hopefully, according to the confidence of their aspirations, they will proceed to unfold the reasons of their appeal.
They now ask your best attention.
They trust, through this, to secure your votes.
Our Party a permanent National Party.—Fellow-citizens; we make our appeal as a National party, established to promote principles deemed to be of paramount importance to the country.
our place as a distinct party, we simply give form and direction, in harmony with the usage and the genius of popular governments, to a Movement which stirs the whole country, and does not find an adequate and constant organ in either of the other existing parties.
In France, under the royalty of Louis Philippe, the faithful friends of the yet unborn Republic, formed a band together, and by their publications, speeches, and votes, sought to influence the public mind.
Few at first in numbers, they became strong by united political action.
In England, the most brilliant popular triumph in her history, the repeal of the monopoly of the Corn Laws, was finally carried, by means of a newly-formed, but wide-spread political organization, which combined men of all the old parties, Whigs, Tories, and Radicals, and recognized opposition to the Corn Laws as a special test.
In the spirit of these examples, the friends of Freedom have come together, in wellcom-pacted ranks, to uphold their cherished principles, and, by combined efforts, according to the course of parties, to urge them upon the Government, and upon the country.
All the old organizations have contributed to our numbers, and good citizens have come to us, who have not heretofore mingled in the contests of party.
Here are men from the ancient democracy, believing all that any democracy must be a name only, no better than sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal, which does not recognize, on every occasion, the supremacy of Human Rights, and which is not ready to do and to suffer in their behalf.
Here also are men, who have come out of the Whig party, weary of its many professions, and of its little performance, and especially revolting at its recent sinister course with regard to the cause of Freedom; believing all that, in any devotion to Human Rights, they cannot err. Here also, in solid legion, is the well-tried band of the Liberty Party, to whom belongs the praise of first placing the cause of Freedom under the guardianship of a special political organization, whose exclusive test was opposition to Slavery.
In thus associating and harmonizing from opposite quarters, in order to promote a common cause, we have learned to forget former differences of opinion, and to appreciate the motives of each other.
We have learned how trivial are the matters on which we may disagree, compared with the Great Issue on which we all agree.
Old prejudices have vanished.
Even the rancors of political antagonism have been changed and dissolved, as in a potent alembic, by the natural irresistible affinities of Freedom.
In our union we have ceased to wear the badges of either of the old organizations.
We have become a party, distinct, independent,
permanent, under the name of the Free Democracy.
Thus in our very designation expressing our devotion to Human Rights, and especially to Human Freedom.
Professing honestly the same sentiments, wherever we exist, in all parts of the country, East and West, North and South, we are truly a National party.
We are not compelled to assume one face at the South and another at the North; to blow hot in one place, and blow cold in another; to speak loudly of Freedom in one region, and vindicate Slavery in another; in short, to present a combination, in which the two extreme wings profess opinions, on the Great Issue before the country, diametrically opposed to each other.
We are the same everywhere.
And the reason is, because our party, unlike the other parties, is bound together in support of certain fixed and well-defined principles.
It is not a combination, fired by partisan zeal, and kept together, as with mechanical force, by considerations of political expediency only; but a sincere, conscientious, inflexible union for the sake of Freedom.
The Address shows that all the old Issues which had hitherto divided the country were obsolete; that the Bank, the Sub-Treasury, the Public Lands
, had disappeared from the political field, and that even the Tariff question could not draw a distinguishing line.
The devices of party could no longer stave off the Great Issue.
Politicians could by no subterfuge escape it. Office-seekers could not dodge it by any trick.
It would mix itself up in every election.
Wherever men met to speak of public affairs, it would come up, in city, village, field, workshop—everywhere the question sounded in the ears of men, would be, ‘Are you for Freedom, or against it?’
And now, instead of these superseded questions, which were connected for the most part only with the material interests of the country, and which, though not unimportant in their time, all had the odor of the dollar, you are called to consider a cause which is connected with all that is divine in Religion, with all that is pure and noble in Morals, with all that is truly practical in Politics.
Unlike the other questions, it is
not temporary or local in its character.
It belongs to all times, and to all countries.
It is an everlasting link in the golden chain of Human Progress.
It is a part of the great Movement, under whose strong pulsations all Christendom now shakes from side to side.
It is a cause, which, though long kept in check throughout our country, as also in Europe, now confronts the people and their rulers, demanding to be heard.
It can no longer be avoided, or silenced.
To every man in the land it now says, with clear penetrating voice, ‘Are you for Freedom, or are you for slavery?’
And every man in the land must answer this question when he votes.
The next point to which attention was directed, was the Anti-slavery sentiments of the Founders of the Republic
, where a plain recital of facts is given.
At the period of the Declaration of Independence there were upwards of half a million of colored persons held in slavery in the United States.
These unhappy people were originally stolen from Africa, or were the children of those who had been so stolen, and, though distributed throughout the whole country, were to be found in the largest numbers in the Southern States.
But the spirit of Freedom was then abroad in the land.
The fathers of the Republic, leaders in the War of Independence, were struck with the impious inconsistency of an appeal for their own liberties while holding in bondage their fellowmen, ‘guilty of a skin not colored like their own.’
In private and in public they did not hesitate to bear their testimony against the atrocity.
The following resolution, passed at Darien, in Georgia, in 1775, and preserved in the American Archives, (Vol.
I., 4th series, p. 1134,) speaks, in tones worthy of freemen, the sentiments of the time: ‘We, therefore, the representatives of the extensive district of Darien, in the Colony of Georgia, having now assembled in Congress, by authority and free choice of the inhabitants of the said District, now freed from their fetters, do resolve;—To show the world that we are not influenced by any contracted or interested motives, but by a general philanthropy for all mankind, of whatever climate, language, or complexion, we hereby declare our disapprobation and abhorrence of the unnatural practice of Slavery in America, however the uncultivated state of our country, or other specious arguments may plead for it; a practice founded in injustice and cruelty, and highly dangerous to our liberties as well as lives, debasing part of our fellow-creatures below men, and corrupting
the virtue and morals of the rest, and as laying the basis of that liberty we contend for (and which we pray the Almighty to continue to the latest posterity) upon a very wrong foundation.
We, therefore, resolve to use our utmost endeavors for the manumission of our slaves in this colony, upon the most safe and equitable footing for the masters and themselves.’
Would that such a voice could be heard once more from Georgia!
The spirit of Virginia
is spoken of, as it found expression through Jefferson
, who by his precocious and immortal words against slavery, enrolled himself among the earliest Abolitionists of the country.
In the Declaration of Independence he embodied sentiments, which, when practically applied, will give Freedom to every Slave throughout the land.
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident,’ says our country speaking by his voice, ‘that all men are created equal—that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights—that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’
And again, in the Congress of the Confederation, he brought forward, as early as 1784, a resolution to exclude Slavery from all the territory ‘ceded or to be ceded’ by the States of the Federal Government, and including the territory now covered by Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.
Lost at first by a single vote only, this measure was substantially renewed at a subsequent day by a son of Massachusetts, and in 1787 was finally confirmed, in the Ordinance of the North-Western Territory, by a unanimous vote of the States and their respective delegates.
The same spirit is discerned in the Federal Constitution
which was adopted in 1788, where express provision was made for the abolition of the slave-trade, the discreditable words slave
being allowed no place in that sacred instrument; while a clause subsequently added, specifically declared that ‘no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.’
It is evident, from a perusal of the debates on the Federal Constitution, that Slavery, like the slave trade, was regarded as temporary; and
it seems to have been supposed by many that they would both disappear together.
Nor do any words employed in our day denounce it with an indignation more burning than that which glowed on the lips of the fathers.
Mr. Morris, of Pennsylvania, said in Convention, that ‘he would never concur in upholding domestic slavery.
It is a nefarious institution.’
In another mood, and with mild judicial phrase, Mr. Madison ‘thought it wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea of property in man.’
And Washington, in a letter written near this period, says, with a frankness worthy of imitation, ‘There is but one proper and effectual mode by which the abolition of slavery can be accomplished, and that is by legislative action, and this as far as my suffrage will go, shall never be wanting.’
When the earliest Congress assembled, under the Constitution
, a petition was early presented from the Abolition Society of Pennsylvania
, signed by Benjamin Franklin
, as President
This venerable man, whose active life had been devoted to the welfare of mankind at home and abroad, who both as a philosopher and a statesman had arrested the attention of the world,—who had ravished the lightning from the skies, and the sceptre from a tyrant,—who, as a member of the Continental Congress, had set his name to the Declaration of Independence, and as a member of the Convention, had again set his name to the Federal Constitution,—in whom, more perhaps than in any other person, the true spirit of American institutions, at once practical and humane, was embodied,—than whom no one could be more familiar with the purposes and aspirations of the founders,—this veteran, eighty-four years of age, within a few months only of his death, now appeared by his petition at the bar of that Congress, whose powers he had helped to define and establish.
‘Your memorialists,’ he says, and this Convention now repeats the words of Franklin, ‘particularly engaged in attending to the distresses arising from slavery, believe it to be their indispensable duty to present this subject to your notice.
They have observed with real satisfaction that many important and salutary powers are vested in you for promoting the welfare and securing the blessings of liberty to the people of the United States; and as they conceive that these blessings ought rightfully to be administered, without distinction of color, to all descriptions of people, so they indulge
themselves in the pleasing expectation, that nothing which can be done for the relief of the unhappy objects of their care, will be either omitted or delayed.’
And the memorialists conclude as follows: ‘Under these impressions they earnestly entreat your serious attention to the subject of Slavery; that you will be pleased to countenance the restoration of liberty to those unhappy men, who alone, in this land of Freedom, are degraded into perpetual bondage, and who, amidst the general joy of surrounding freemen, are groaning in servile subjection; that you will promote mercy and justice towards this distressed race, and that you will step to the very verge of the power vested in you for Discourag-Ing every species of traffic in the persons of our fellow-men.’
The Address also makes the assertion—which is an historical fact not often alluded to—that at the time, nowhere, under the Federal Government, did slavery exist
. It was in States only, skulking beneath the shelter of local laws, that it was allowed to remain.
But the country had changed from Anti-slavery to Pro-slavery.
The generous sentiments which filled the souls of the early patriots, had been impressed upon the government they founded, as it was upon the coin they circulated—the image and superscription of Liberty.
But the blessings of Freedom being secured to themselves, the freemen of the land grew indifferent to the freedom of others: they ceased to think of the slaves.
The slave-masters were but few in numbers, even in the slave States; but by persevering union among themselves, and through skilful tactics carrying their influence with whatever party was in power, to promote their personal interests, they succeeded through a long period of years, in obtaining control of the Federal Government
, which resulted in a fundamental change in its character.
The Usurpations and Aggressions of the Slave Power.—Look at the extent to which this malign influence has predominated.
States are far inferior to the Free States in population, in wealth, in education, in libraries, in resources of all kinds, and yet they have taken to themselves the lion's share of the offices of honor and profit under the Constitution.
They have held the presidency for fifty-seven years, while the Free States have held it for twelve years only.
But without pursuing the exposition of this game of political ‘sweep-stakes,’ which the Slave Power has perpetually played, let us present what is more important, as indicative of its spirit—the aggressions and usurpations by which it has turned the Federal Government from its original character of Freedom, and prostituted it to Slavery.
The following catalogue is given, which should be carefully noticed:
Early in this century, when the District of Columbia was finally occupied as the national capital, the Slave Power succeeded, in defiance of the spirit of the Constitution, and even of the express letter of one of its amendments, in securing for Slavery, within the District, the countenance of the Federal Government.
Until then Slavery had existed nowhere within the exclusive jurisdiction of this Government.
It next secured for Slavery another recognition under the Federal Government, in the broad territory of Louisiana, purchased from France.
It next placed Slavery again under the sanction of the Federal Government, in the territory of Florida, purchased from Spain.
Waxing powerful, it was able, after a severe struggle, to dictate terms to the Federal Government, in the Missouri Compromise, compelling it to receive that State into the Union with a slave-holding Constitution.
It instigated and carried on a most expensive war in Florida, mainly to recover fugitive slaves, thus employing the army of the United States as slave-catchers.
It wrested from Mexico the Province of Texas in order to extend Slavery, and triumphing over all opposition, finally secured its admission into the Union with a Constitution making Slavery perpetual.
It next plunged the country in war with Mexico, in order to gain new lands for Slavery.
With the meanness, as well as the insolence of tyranny, it has compelled the Federal Government to abstain from acknowledging the
neighbor republic of Hayti, where slaves have become freemen, and established an independent nation.
It has compelled the Federal Government to stoop ignobly and in vain, before the British Queen, to secure compensation for slaves, who, in the exercise of the natural rights of man, had asserted and achieved their Freedom on the Atlantic ocean, and afterwards sought shelter in Bermuda.
It has compelled the Federal Government to seek to negotiate treaties for the surrender of fugitive slaves, thus making it assert property in human flesh.
It has joined in declaring the foreign slave trade piracy, but insists upon the coastwise slave trade, with the sanction of the Federal Government.
For several years it rejected the petitions to Congress adverse to Slavery, thus, in order to shield Slavery, practically denying the right of petition.
It denies to the free colored citizens of Massachusetts the privileges secured to them under the Constitution of the United States, by imprisoning them, and sometimes selling them into Slavery.
It insulted and exiled from Charleston and New Orleans, the honored representatives of Massachusetts who were sent to those places in order to throw the shield of the Constitution over her colored citizens.
It has, by the pen of Mr. Calhoun, as Secretary of State, in formal dispatches, made the Republic stand before the nations of the earth as the vindicator of Slavery.
It has put forth the hideous effrontery that Slavery can go to all newly acquired territories, and have the protection of the national flag.
Such are some of the usurpations and aggressions of the Slave Power!
By such steps the Federal Government has been perverted from its original purposes, its character changed, and its powers subjected to Slavery.
It is pitiful to see Freedom suffer at any time from any hands.
It is doubly pitiful when she suffers from a Government, whose earliest energies were inspired by her breath, and who learned by her teachings to be strong.
So the struck eagle, stretched upon the plain,
A frightful, but a true picture, is drawn of the evils of slavery, where it existed; not least of which was that for the husband and wife there is no marriage.
The mother has no assurance that her infant child will not be torn from her breast, since for all who bear the name of Slave, there is nothing which they can call their own. But the bondman is not the only sufferer—he does not sit alone, in his degradation.
No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
Viewed his own feather on the fatal dart,
And winged the shaft that quivered in his heart.
Keen were his pangs, but keener far to feel,
He nursed the pinion which impelled the steel,
While the same plumage that had warmed his nest
Drank the last life-drop of his bleeding breast.
By his side is his master, who, in the debasing influences on his own soul, is compelled to share the degradation to which he dooms his fellow-man.
‘He must be a prodigy,’ says Jefferson, ‘who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances.’
And this is not all. The whole social fabric is disorganized; labor loses its dignity; industry sickens; education finds no schools; religion finds no churches; and all the land of Slavery is impoverished.
The address then reaches the main question, that was soon to be determined, and which constituted the rallying-cry of the rising Party.
Shall Slavery be extended?—And now at last the Slave Power threatens to carry Slavery to the vast regions of New Mexico and California, existing territories of the United States, already purged of this evil by the express legislation of the recent Mexican government.
It is the immediate urgency of this question that has contributed to arouse the country to the successive aggressions of the Slave Power, and to its undue influence over the Federal Government.
This is without doubt the most pressing form in which the Great Issue can be presented.
Nor can it be exaggerated.
These territories, excluding Oregon, embrace upwards of five hundred thousand square miles.
The imdensity of this tract may be partially comprehended, when we consider that Massachusetts contains only 7,800 miles, all New England
only 66,280, and all the original thirteen States, which declared independence, only 352,000.
And the distinct question is presented, whether the Federal Government shall carry to this imperial region the curse of Slavery, with its monstrous brood of ignorance, poverty, and degradation; or Freedom, with her attendant train of blessings.
The only remedy that can be applied:—It thus became plain enough, that in order to secure freedom in the Territories, slavery there must be prohibited by an Act of Congress.
A direct Prohibition by Congress necessary to prevent Extension of Slavery.—An attempt has been made to divert attention from this question, by denying the necessity of legislation by Congress to prevent the extension of Slavery to California, on the ground that the climate and physical condition of the territory furnish natural obstacles to its existence there.
This is a weak device of the enemy.
It is well known that Slavery did exist there for many years, until excluded by law,—that California lies in the same range of latitude as the Slave States of the Union, and it may be added also, as the Barbary States of Africa,—that the mineral wealth of California creates a demand for slave labor, which would overcome any physical obstacles to its introduction,—that slavery has existed in every country from which it was not excluded by the laws or religion of the people,—and still further, it is an undeniable fact, that slaves have already been taken into California and publicly sold there at enormous prices, and thousands are now on their way thither from the Southern States and from South America.
In support of this last statement numerous authorities might be adduced.
It is stated that a member of Congress from Tennessee has recently declared, that, within his own knowledge, there would be taken to California, during the summer just passed, from ten to twelve thousand slaves.
And another person states, from reliable evidence, that whole families are moving with their slaves from Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri. Mr. Rowe, under date of May 13, at Independence, Mo., on his way to the Pacific, writes to the paper, of which he was recently the editor, the Belfast Journal, Maine,—‘I have seen as many as a dozen teams going along with their families of slaves.’
And Mr. Boggs, once Governor of Missouri, now a resident of California, is quoted as writing to a friend at home as follows,—‘If your sons will bring out two or three negroes, who can cook and attend at a hotel,
your brother will pay cash for them at a good profit, and take it as a great favor.’
The Wilmot Proviso next receives the notice of the address.
An obscure member of Congress from the State of Pennsylvania, but who became a powerful champion of the new Party, had introduced a resolution prohibiting the extension of slavery over soil then free.
This measure was earnestly endorsed, in the following words:
To the end that the country and the age may not witness the foul sin of a Republic dedicated to Freedom, pouring into vast unsettled lands, as into the veins of an infant, the festering poison of Slavery, destined as time advances, to show itself only in cancers and leprous disease, we pledge ourselves to unremitting endeavors to procure the passage of the Wilmot Proviso, or some other form of Congressional legislation, prohibiting slavery in the territories, without equivocation or compromise of any kind.
But the Worcester men advanced still further, and pressed upon the public the question of moral responsibility in ‘opposition to Slavery wherever we are responsible for it,’ standing upon the ground of principle that Slavery is wrong; that no human legislation can elevate into respectability the blasphemy of tyranny, that man can hold property in his fellow-man:
Wherever we are responsible for Slavery, we oppose it. Our opposition is co-extensive with our responsibility.
In the States, Slavery is sustained by local laws; and although we may be compelled to share the stigma which its presence inflicts upon the fair fame of the country, yet it receives no direct sanction at our hands.
We are not responsible for it there.
The Federal Government, in whom we are represented, is not responsible for it there.
The evil is not at our own particular doors.
But Slavery everywhere under the Constitution of the United States—everywhere under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Government—everywhere under the national flag—is at our own particular
The freemen of the North are responsible for it equally with the traffickers in flesh, who haunt the shambles of the South.
Nor will this responsibility cease, so long as Slavery continues to exist in the District of Columbia, in any territories of the United States, or anywhere on the high seas, beneath the protecting flag of the Republic.
The fetters of every slave within these jurisdictions are bound and clasped in part by the votes of Massachusetts.
Their chains, as they clank, seem to say, ‘Massachusetts helps commit this outrage.’
They were not satisfied with even a complete ‘Divorce of the Federal Government from Slavery’—that it should no longer receive its sanction or support:—
Federal Government must be on the side of Freedom.—In accomplishing these specific changes, a new tone would be given to the Republic.
The Slave Power would be broken, and Slavery driven from its present intrenchments under the Federal Government.
The influence of such a change would be incalculable.
The whole weight of the Government would then be taken from the side of Slavery, where it has been placed by the Slave Power, and put on the side of Freedom, according to the original purposes and aspirations of its founders.
This of itself is an end for which we should labor earnestly, in the spirit of the Constitution.
Let it never be forgotten, as the pole-star of our policy, that the Federal Government must be placed openly, actively and perpetually, on the side of Freedom.
It must be openly on the side of Freedom. There must be no equivocation, concealment, or reserve in its opinions.
It must not, like the witches in Macbeth, ‘palter in a double sense.’
Let it avow itself distinctly and firmly as the enemy of Slavery, and thus give to the friends of Freedom, now struggling throughout the Slave States, the advantage of its countenance.
It must be actively on the side of Freedom. It should not be content with bearing its testimony openly.
It must act. Within the constitutional sphere of its influence, it must be felt as the enemy of Slavery.
Let it now study to exert itself for Freedom as zealously and effectively as for many years it has exerted itself for slavery.
It must be perpetually on the side of Freedom. It must not be uncertain, vacillating or temporary, in this beneficent policy.
Let it be
fixed and constant in its hostility to Slavery, so that hereafter it shall know no change.
Other national matters engaged the attention of the Convention, such as cheap postage; the abolition of all Unnecessary offices and salaries; the election of civil officers, as far as practicable, by the people; the improvement of rivers and harbors, and a general Homestead Law for actual settlers.
But these were all of a subordinate character.
The administration of Gen. Taylor having now commenced, its Pro-slavery character was severely exposed, in the following passage:
In support of these principles, we felt it our duty to oppose the election of General Cass and General Taylor—both of them being brought forward under the influence of the Slave Power; the first, as openly pledged against the Wilmot Proviso, and the second, as a large slaveholder and recent purchaser of slaves, who was not known, by any acts or declared opinions, to be hostile in any way to Slavery, or even against its extension, and who, from his position, and from the declarations of many of his friends and neighbors, was supposed to be friendly to that institution.
General Taylor was elected by the people.
And now, while it becomes all to regard his administration with candor, we cannot forget our duty to the cause which has brought us together.
His most ardent supporters will not venture the assertion, that his conduct will bear the test of the principles of our party.
We look in vain for any token that the Federal Government, while in his hands, will be placed, openly, actively, and perpetually, on the side of Freedom.
Indeed, all that his ‘Free Soil’ supporters vouchsafe, in his behalf, is the assurance, that the ‘Second Washington’ will not assume the responsibility, if the Wilmot Proviso should receive the sanction of both branches of Congress,—if it should prevail in the House of Representatives, and then, in that citadel of slavery, the American Senate—of arresting its final passage by the Presidential Veto!
This is all. The first Washington freely declared his affinity with Anti-Slavery Societies, and said, that in support of any legislative measure for the abolition of Slavery, his suffrage should never be Wanting.
But the character of the Administration may be inferred from other circumstances.
First.—The Slave Power continues to hold its lion's share in the cabinet, and in the diplomatic posts abroad, thus ruling the country at home, and representing it in foreign lands.
The number of votes cast in the Slave States, exclusive of South Carolina, where the electors are chosen by the Legislature, at the last Presidential election, was 845,050, while the number of votes cast in the Free States was 2,027,006.
And yet there are four persons in the cabinet from the Slave States, and three only from the Free States, while a slave-holding President presides over all. The diplomatic representation of the country at Paris, St. Petersburg, Vienna, the Hague, Brussels, Frankfort, Madrid, Lisbon, Naples, Chili, Mexico, is now confided to persons from Slave-holding States; and at Rome, our Republic is represented by the son of the great adversary of the Wilmot Proviso, and in Berlin, by a late Senator, who was rewarded with this high appointment in consideration of his services to Slavery; while the principles of Freedom abroad are confined to the anxious care of the recently appointed Minister to England.
But this is not all. Secondly.—The administration, through one of its official organs at Washington, has made the President threaten to ‘frown indignantly’ upon the movements of the friends of Freedom at the North, though he has had no word of indignation, and no frown, for the schemes of disunion openly put forth by the friends of Slavery at the South.
Thirdly.—Mr. Clayton, as Secretary of State, in defiance of justice, and in mockery of the principles of the Declaration of Independence, has refused a national passport to a free-colored citizen, alleging that by a rule of his Department, passports are not granted to colored persons.
In marked contrast are the laws of Massachusetts, recognizing such persons as citizens; and also those words of gratitude and commendation, in which General Jackson, after the battle of New Orleans, addressed the black soldiers who had shared, with a ‘noble enthusiasm,’ ‘the perils and glory of their white fellow-citisens.’
Fourthly.—The Post-Office Department, in a formal communication with regard to what are called ‘incendiary publications,’ has stated that the Postmaster-General ‘leaves the whole subject to the discretion of Postmasters under the authority of State Governments.’
Here is no word of indignation at the idea that the mails of the United States are exposed to lawless interruption from the partisans of Slavery.
The Post-Office, intrusted to a son of New England, assumes an abject neutrality, when the letters intrusted to its care are rifled at the instigation of the Slave Power.
The necessity of a national organization is strongly insisted upon.
Such is the national position of the Free Democracy.
We are a national party, established for national purposes, such as can be accomplished by a national party only.
If the principles, which we have at heart, were supported openly, actively, constantly, by either of the other parties, there would be no occasion for our organization.
But whatever may have been, or whatever may now be, the opinions of individual members of these parties, it is undeniable that, as national parties, they have never opposed Slavery in any form.
Neither of them has ever sustained any measure for the abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia, but, on the other hand, discountenanced all such measures.
Neither of them has ever opposed, in any form, the coastwise slave trade under the flag of the United States.
Neither of them has opposed the extension of Slavery.
Neither of them has ever striven to divorce the Federal Government from Slavery.
Neither of them has ever labored to place the Federal Government openly, actively, and perpetually on the side of Freedom.
Nor is there any assurance, satisfactory to persons not biassed by their political associations, that either of these organizations will ever, as a national party, undertake the cause of Freedom.
There are circumstances in the very constitution of these parties which render it difficult, if not impossible, for them to act in this behalf.
Constructed subtly with a view to political success, they are spread everywhere throughout the Union, and the principles which they uphold are pruned and modified to meet existing states of sentiment in different parts of the country.
Neither can venture, as a party, to place itself on the side of Freedom, because, by such a course, it would disaffect the slave-holding support, which is essential to its political success.
The Anti-slavery resolutions, passed by the legislatures of the North, are regarded as the expressions of individual or local opinion only, and are not suffered to control the action of the national party.
To such an extent has this been carried, that Whigs of Massachusetts, professing immitigable hostility to Slavery, recently united in support of a candidate for the Presidency, in whose behalf the eminent slave-holding Whig, Mr. Berrien, had ‘implored his fellow-citizens of Georgia, Whig and Democratic, to forget for a time their party divisions, and to know each other only as Southern men.’
Fellow-citizens,—Individuals in each of the old parties strove in vain
to produce a change, and to induce them to become the exponents of the growing Anti-slavery sentiments of the country.
At Baltimore and Philadelphia, in the great Conventions of these parties, Slavery triumphed.
So strongly were they both arrayed against Freedom, and so unrelenting were they, in ostracism of its generous supporters—of all who had written or spoken in its behalf—that it is not going too far to say, that if Jefferson, or Franklin, or Washington could have descended from their spheres above, and revisited the country which they had nobly dedicated to Freedom, they could not, with their well-known and recorded opinions against Slavery, have received a nomination for the Presidency from either of these Conventions!
To maintain the principles of Freedom, as they have been set forth in this Address, it becomes necessary to borrow a lesson from the old parties—to learn from them the importance of perseverance, union, and especially of a distinct political organization in their support—and, profiting by these instructions, to direct the efforts of the Friends of Freedom everywhere throughout the country into this channel.
The charge of sectionalism against the Free-soilers is thus repelled:
Our aim is in no respect sectional, but in every respect national.
It is in no respect against the South, but against the Evil Spirit, whose chief home is at the South, that has obtained the control of the Government.
As well might it be said that Jefferson, Franklin, and Washington were sectional, and against the South.
It is true that at present a large portion of the party are at the North; but if our cause is sectional on this account, then is the Tariff sectional, because its chief supporters are also in the North.
Unquestionably there is a particular class of individuals against whom we are obliged to act. These are the slave-masters, wherever situated throughout the country, constituting, according to recent calculations, not many more than 100,000 in all. This band has for years acted against the whole country, and subjugated it to Slavery.
Surely it does not become them, or their partisans, to complain that an effort is now made to rally the whole country against their tyranny.
There are many who forget that the larger portion of the people at the South are non-slaveholders, interested equally with ourselves—nay, more than we are —in the overthrow of that power which has so long dictated its disastrous and discreditable policy to the Government.
To these we may
ultimately look for support, so soon as our Movement is able to furnish them with the needful hope and strength.
If at the present moment our efforts shall seem in any respect sectional or against the South, it is simply because the chief opponents of our principles are there.
But our principles are not sectional—they are applicable to the whole Union—nay more, to all the human race.
They are as universal as Man.
The inquiry was everywhere made, ‘Why carry the question of Slavery into State elections, since at the North we have no laws to enact on the subject?’
It is thus answered:
It is our duty so to cast our votes on all occasions, as most to promote the principles which we have at heart.
And it would be wrong in us to disregard the experience of political history, both at home and abroad, which teaches that it is through the constant, well directed organization of party, that these can be best maintained.
The influence which has already been exerted by our Movement over both the old parties, and over the general sentiment of the country, affords additional encouragement.
And still further, assuming what few will be so hardy as to deny, that it is proper for people to combine in parties to promote their cherished convictions, it follows, as an irresistible consequence, that this combination should be so made as to be most effective for the purpose in view.
What is worth doing, is worth well doing.
If men unite in constructing the powerful and complex machine of a political organization, it must be rendered complete, and thoroughly competent to do its work.
This will be admitted by all.
Fellow-citizens, the question again returns, ‘Are you for Freedom, or are you for Slavery?’
If you are for Freedom, do not hesitate to support the National party dedicated to this cause.
The Address closes with the following appeal:
Fellow-citizens: Such are our principles, and such our candidates.
Join us in their support.
Join us, all who love Freedom and hate Slavery.
Join us, all who cherish the Constitution and the Union.
Help us in our endeavors to restore to them their early virtue.
Join us, all who reverence the memory of the fathers of the Republic, and would have their spirit once more animate the land.
Join us, all who
would have the Federal Government administered in the spirit of Freedom, and not in the spirit of Slavery.
The occasion is urgent.
Active, resolute exertions must be made.
It will not become the sons of the Pilgrims.
and the sons of the Revolution, to be neutral in this contest.
Such was not the temper of their fathers.
In such a contest neutrality is treason to Human Rights.
In questions merely political, an honest man may stand neuter; but what true heart can be neuter, when the distinct question is put, which we now address to the people of Massachusetts, ‘Are you for Freedom, or are you for Slavery?’
Finally, we appeal to the moral and religious sentiments of the Commonwealth.
When these are fully moved, there can be no question of the result.
We invoke the sympathy of the pulpit in our cause.
Let it preach deliverance to the captive.
We call upon good men, of all sects and of all parties, to lend us their support.
You all agree in our principles.
Do not practically oppose them, by continuing your adhesion to a national party that is hostile to them.
Join us in proclaiming then through the new Party of Freedom.
And may God, whose service is perfect freedom, grant his succor to our cause!