Chapter 40: outrages in Kansas.—speech on Kansas.—the Brooks assault.—1855-1856.
Congress met Dec. 3, 1855.
The Republican senators now numbered nearly one fourth of the Senate, and their exelusion from committees was no longer attempted.
, receiving thirty two votes, was again placed on the committee on pensions, of which the other members were Jones
of New York, and Thompson
of New Jersey
's motion he was appointed one of the two members of the committee on enrolled bills.1
He spoke at length against the proposition to originate appropriation bills in the Senate, contending that it contemplated a practice which according to the best interpretation was not allowed by the Constitution
In two speeches on the mode of abrogating treaties he maintained, that, as under the Constitution
a treaty is the supreme law of the land, it could be abrogated only by act of Congress.3
the occasion which led him to introduce a resolution to this effect was President Pierce
's notice to Denmark
for terminating the treaty in relation to the Danish Sound
dues given in pursuance of a resolution of the Senate.
It was suspected at the time that Southern senators, who were urging the power of the Senate to abrogate the treaty, had in view the making of a precedent for the revocation of the treaty with Great Britain
requiring a naval force on the coast of Africa
for the suppression of the slave-trade.
had already in executive session opposed successfully Slidell
's proposition to abrogate this treaty.
His speeches defeated the proposed action in
relation to the treaty with Denmark
, and aided in establishing the rule that treaties can be abrogated only by act of Congress.
H wrote to Theodore Parker
, Jan. 3, 1856:—
This evening I dined in the company of several of the judges of the Supreme Court, and in the shuffle for seats at the table found myself next but, one to Curtis4 throughout a protracted dinner of two or three hours. I had not seen so much of him for years, and make haste to send you the pleasant impressions which I had. Commodore Morris got between me and the judge; Governor Brown of Mississippi, who believes slavery divine, on my left.
In the course of our conversation Curtis said that he had not voted since he had been a judge, and he professed entire ignorance of politics and parties.
I thought also that he showed it. My conversation with him was so agreeable that I shall call upon him, which I have not done thus far since I have been here in Washington.
Again, January 9:—
Unjust judges may at least be frightened if not condemned.
If I were not a senator, I would organize petitions to the House for the impeachment of all who have trespassed against liberty, from wisconsin to Massachusetts.
Think of this.
The presentation of the petitions would remind these judges that a power was growing in the country which would yet summon them to justice.
What are the chances of the personal liberty law?
I had hoped to challenge a discussion of that here in reply to any allusion to Massachusetts; but Gardner's message is the beginning of an embarrassing “fire in the rear,” which compels me to alter my tactics.
Again, January 20:—
The House is at a dead-lock.
The slave oligarchy now says, “Anybody but Banks.”
If the Republicans would seriously unite on another man the enemy would allow the plurality vote and a consequent election; but this would give victory to (1) the slave oligarchy, (2) the petty squad of dissentients, and (3) the American organization in contradistinction to the Republicans.
My counsel has been to stick to Banks, and leave the future to take care of itself.
The House of Representatives, which had been chosen in the summer
of 1854, when the agitation growing out of the Nebraska
bill was at its height, contained a large anti-Administration majority, which however was an unorganized mass, made up in part of Republicans and in part of Know Nothings or Americans
, who were divided into different sections,—some Northern and others Southern in their affiliations, and the Northern
division being itself separated into several
The contest for the speakership, which excited great interest in the country, lasted two months, and ended Feb. 2, 1856, on the one hundred and thirty-third ballot, after the adoption of a plurality rule, in the election of N. P. Banks
, a Massachusetts Republican,—the first national victory of the antislavery cause.5
While the election was pending, slavery was an ever-recurring topic of desultory discussion in the House
, which chiefly, however, related to the party relations of members, and particularly of the candidates.
Less bitterness was exhibited than might have been expected under the circumstances,6
and at the end of the contest Aiken
of South Carolina
, the rival candidate, who was defeated by only three votes, gracefully sought the privilege of conducting Banks
to the chair.
The passage of the Kansas
bill in 1854 opened the new territories to settlement; and the struggle in Congress between freedom and slavery was continued, without an interval, in the territory itself.
The slaveholders of western Missouri
, who had been the first to instigate the repeal of the Missouri Compromise
prohibition, making no contest for Nebraska
, where an effort would have been hopeless, at once pushed into Kansas
and took possession of the best tracts, most of them retaining their old homes in Missouri
and contemplating only a temporary sojourn in the territory.
They had started the scheme of the repeal with the full conviction that it would insure without further effort a slave State on their border; but now, with rumors abroad that the capital and enterprise of the free States were preparing to contest the issue in the territory itself, they found themselves forced to enter upon a larger project of proslavery colonization, and to invoke the co-operation of the entire slaveholding interest of the country.
Their leaders in Missouri
, late senator
and president of the Senate, who inspired the movement generally, and Stringfellow
, his lieutenant, who was energetic in the details of organization.
Secret societies were at once formed in Missouri
for the purpose of sending
companies of slaveholders to the territory, and for excluding from it all persons opposed to slavery; and the plotting extended to the cotton States of the South
Public meetings were held, in which it was proclaimed that Kansas
was already slave territory, and that antislavery colonists would not be allowed in it. The free States were equally awake to the issue.
While the Kansas
bill was pending, the plan of assisted emigration to the territory had taken form in Massachusetts
; and at the instance of Eli Thayer
, of Worcester
, a charter was granted by the Legislature to a company to be organized for the purpose.
Though it was not availed of at the time on account of inconvenient provisions, a voluntary association with able managers immediately took charge of the work.
Under their auspices a few colonies arrived in the territory in 1854, the first reaching there at the beginning of August, and the second early in September, and founding Lawrence
, a town afterwards so celebrated.
During the next spring the ‘New England
Emigrant Aid Company,’ formed under a Massachusetts charter, succeeded to the conduct of the enterprise.
Its chief functions were to supply information, cheapen transportation, and set up saw-mills and flour-mills in the territory.
This legitimate enterprise, which sent to the territory in all not more than fifteen hundred emigrants (the first party arriving in March, 1855), encountered the fierce hostility of the proslavery party, which saw slipping from its hands the prize they had thought secure.
They now determined to establish slavery in Kansas
by force, and began a series of armed incursions for the purpose of carrying the elections and terrifying the Free State
settlers into submission.
The first of these was late in November, 1854, when seventeen hundred Missourians crossed into the territory, and after voting for Whitfield
as delegate to Congress returned to their homes in Missouri
The second was in March, 1855, when to the number of five thousand they came again, marshalled and equipped like a military expedition, with Atchison
among them armed like the rest.
They distributed themselves at the polling places; forced judges of election, with bowie-knife and pistol in hand, to receive their votes; cast eighty per cent of the entire vote thrown; and when the business was finished, marched back to Missouri
The result was a legislature worthy of its origin.
It assumed the existence of slavery in the territory, adopted a barbarous slave-code, which,
copied from the statutes of slave States, declared it to be a criminal offence to deny orally or in writing the legal existence of slavery in the territory, and exacted from citizens extraordinary oaths of support of the Fugitive Slave
law. A. H. Reeder
, a Pennsylvania Democrat, the first territorial governor, had weakly given certificates of election to a majority of the members of the body; but later, realizing what a monstrous usurpation it was, he refused to sanction it upon the technical ground that it had removed the seat of government without authority.
, who was in full sympathy with the pro-slavery party, removed him in August, and put in his place a pliant instrument, Wilson Shannon
The Free State settlers treated the legislature as a spurious body from the beginning.
They skilfully avoided all recognition of its enactments, while abstaining from any forcible resistance to federal authority.
After anxious conferences as to what was best to be done in their anomalous position of contending with a usurpation which had a certain legal sanction, they initiated proceedings for the formation of a State government, following substantially the methods which had been pursued in Michigan
In October they chose