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On his return to Boston, after the memorable session of 1851-2, the warmest welcome was extended to him from every quarter. In addressing the State Convention of the Free-Soil Party of Massachusetts, held at Lowell, on the 16th of September, 1852, he delivered one of his most striking speeches, some portions of which we reproduce. It was on the eve of the national election.
Mr. President and fellow-citizens of Massachusetts:—I should be dull indeed were I insensible to this generous, overflowing, heart-speaking welcome. After an absence of many months, I have now come home, to breathe anew the invigorating Northern air, to tread again the free soil of our native Massachusetts, and to enjoy the sympathy of friends and fellow-citizens. But, while glad in your greetings, thus bounteously lavished, I cannot accept them for myself. I do not deserve them. They belong to the cause which we all have at heart, and which binds us together. [168]

Against Freedom both the old parties are now banded. Opposed to each other in the contest for power, they concur in opposing every effort for the establishment of Freedom under the National Constitution. Divided as parties, they are one as supporters of slavery. On this question we can have no sympathy with either; but must necessarily be against both. They sustain slavery in the District of Columbia; we are against it. They sustain the coastwise slave trade under the National Flag; we abhor it. They sustain the policy of silence on Slavery in the territories; we urge the voice of positive prohibition. They sustain that paragon of legislative monsters—unconstitutional, un-unchristian and infamous—the Fugitive Slave Bill; we insist on its repeal. They concede to the Slave Power new life and protection; we cannot be content except with its total destruction. Such, fellowciti-zens, is the difference between us.

And now, if here in Massachusetts, there be any persons, who, on grounds of policy or conscience, feel impelled to support slavery, let them go and sink in the embrace of the old parties. There they belong. But, on the other hand, all who are sincerely opposed to slavery —who desire to act against it—who seek to bear their testimony for Freedom,—who long to carry into public affairs those principles of morality and Christian duty which are the rule of private life,—let them come out from both the old parties, and join us. In our third party, with the declared friends of Freedom, they will find a place in harmony with their aspirations.

But there is one apology, which is common to the supporters of both the old parties, and which is often in their mouths when pressed for their inconsistent persistence in adhering to these parties. It is dogmatically asserted that there can be but two parties; that a third party is impossible, particularly in our country, and that, therefore, all persons, however opposed to Slavery, must be content in one of the old parties. This assumption, which is without any foundation in reason, has been so often put forth, that it has acquired a certain currency; and many, who reason hastily, or who implicitly follow others, have adopted it as the all-sufficient excuse for their conduct. Confessing their own opposition to slavery, they yet yield to the domination of party, and become dumb. All this is wrong morally, and, therefore, must be wrong practically.

Party, in its true estate, is the natural expression and agency of different forms of opinion on important public questions; and itself assumes different forms precisely according to the prevalence of different [169] opinions. Thus in the early Italian republics there were for a while the factions of the Guelphs and Ghibellins, supporters of the Pope and the Emperor; also of the Whites and the Blacks, taking their names from the color of their respective badges, and in England, the two factions of the white and red roses, in which was involved the succession to the crown. But in all these cases the party came into being, died out, or changed with the prevailing sentiment. If there be in a community only two chief antagonist opinions, then there will be but two parties, embodying these opinions. But as other opinions practically prevail and seek vent, so must parties change or multiply. This is so strongly the conclusion of reason and philosophy, that it could not be doubted, even if there were no examples of such change and multiplication. But we need only turn to the recent history of France and England, the two countries where opinion has had the freest scope to find such examples.

Thus, for instance, in France—and I dwell on this point because I have observed myself, in conversation, that it is of practical importance —under Louis Philippe, anterior to the late Republic, there was the party of Legitimists, supporters of the old branch of Bourbons; the party of Orleanists, supporters of the existing throne; these two corresponding at the time in relative rank and power to our Whigs and Democrats. But besides these, there was a third party, the small band of republicans, represented in the legislature by a few persons only, but strong in principles and purposes, which in February, 1848, prevailed over both the others. On the establishment of the Republic the multiplicity of parties continued until, with the freedom of opinion and the freedom of the press, all were equally overthrown by Louis Napoleon, and their place supplied by the enforced unity of despotism.

In England, the most important measure of recent reform, the abolition of the laws imposing a protective duty on corn, was carried only by a third party. Neither of the two old parties could be brought to adopt this measure and press it to a consummation. A powerful public opinion, thus thwarted in the regular channel, found an outlet in another party, which was neither Whig nor Tory, but which was formed from both these parties, and wherein Sir Robert Peel, the great Conservative leader, took his place, side by side, in honorable coalition, with Mr. Cobden, the great Liberal leader. In this way the Corn Laws were finally overthrown. The multiplicity of parties in England, engendered by this contest, still continues. At the general election for the new Parliament which has just taken place, the strict lines of [170] ancient parties seemed to be effaced, and many were returned, not as Whigs and Tories, but as Protectionists and anti-Protectionists.

Thus, by example in our own day we may confirm the principle of political philosophy, that parties must naturally adapt themselves in character and number to the prevailing public opinion.

Now at the present time in our country, there exists a deep controlling conscientious feeling against Slavery. You and I, sir, and all of us confess it. While recognizing the Constitution, we desire to do everything in our power to relieve ourselves of responsibility for this terrible wrong. We would vindicate the Constitution and the National Government which it has established, from all participation in this outrage. Both the old political parties, forgetful of the sentiments of the Fathers and of the spirit of the Constitution, not only refuse to be in any degree the agents or representatives of our convictions, but expressly discourage and denounce them. Thus baffled in their efforts for utterance, these convictions naturally seek expression in a new agency, the party of Freedom. Such is the party, which, representing the great doctrines of Human Rights, as enunciated in our Declaration of Independence, and inspired truly by the Democratic sentiment, is now assembled here under the name of the Free Democracy.

The rising public opinion against Slavery cannot now flow in the old political channels. It is strangled, clogged, and dammed back. But if not through the old parties, then over the old parties, this irresistible current shall find its way. It cannot be permanently stopped. If the old parties will not become its organ, they must become its victim. The party of Freedom will certainly prevail. It may be by entering into, and possessing one of the old parties, filling it with our own strong life; or it may be by drawing from both to itself the good and true who are unwilling to continue members of any political combination when it ceases to represent their convictions. But, in one way or the other, its ultimate triumph is sure. Of this let no man doubt.

At this moment we are in a minority. At the last popular election in Massachusetts, there were twenty-eight thousand Free-Soilers, forty-three thousand Democrats, and sixty-four thousand Whigs. But this is no reason for discouragement. According to recent estimates, the population of the whole world amounts to about eight hundred millions. Of these only two hundred and sixty millions are Christians, while the remaining five hundred and forty millions are mainly Mahometans, Brahmins and Idolaters. Because the Christians are in this minority, that is no reason for renouncing Christianity and for surrendering to the false [171] religions; nor do we doubt that Christianity will yet prevail over the whole earth, as the waters cover the sea. The friends of Freedom in Massachusetts are likewise in a minority; but they will not, therefore, renounce Freedom, nor surrender to the political Mahometans and idolaters of Baltimore; nor can they doubt that their cause, like Christianity, will yet prevail.

Our cause commends itself. But it is also commended by our candidates. In all that makes the eminent civilian or the accomplished statesman fit for the responsibilities of government, they will proudly compare with any of their competitors, while they are dear to our hearts as able, well-tried, loyal supporters of those vital principles of Freedom which we seek to establish under the Constitution of the United States. In the Senate, Mr. Hale is admitted to be foremost in aptitude and readiness of debate, whether in the general legislation of the country, or in the constant and valiant championship of our cause. His genial and sun-like nature irradiates the antagonism of political controversy, while his active and practical mind, richly stored with various experience, never fails to render good service.

Of Mr. Julian, our candidate for the Vice-Presidency, let me say simply that, in ability and devotion to our principles, he is a worthy compeer of Mr. Hale. To vote for such men will itself be a pleasure. But it will be doubly so when we reflect that in this way we bear our testimony to a noble cause, with which the happiness, welfare and fame of our country are indissolubly connected.

With such a cause and such candidates, let no man be disheartened. The tempest may blow, but ours is a life-boat which cannot be harmed by wind or wave. The genius of Liberty sits at the helm. I hear her voice of cheer saying, ‘Whoso sails with me comes to shore.’

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