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Your stern old hate of tyranny, your deep contempt of crime.

One flourish of a pen,
And fetters shall be riveted on millions more of men.

One drop of ink to sign a name, and Slavery shall find
For all her surplus flesh and blood a market to her mind.

Awake New England! While you sleep, the foe advance their lines,
Already on your stronghold's wall their bloody banner shines.

Awake and hurl them back again in terror and despair!
The time has come for earnest deeds: we 've not a man to spare."

If the Whigs had nominated Webster that May, on a platform opposing both
annexation and disunion, they would have gained more votes at the North
than they would have lost at the South. They might possibly have carried
that election; and their strength in the Border States would have
enabled them, sooner or later, to check the extension of slavery without
bringing on civil war. Their platform was silent about Texas, as well
as about the Union; their chief candidate, Clay, had already made
compromises in the interest of the South in 1820 and 1833; he did so
again in 1850; and he admitted, soon after the convention, that he
"should be glad to see" Texas annexed, if it could be done without war.
This failure of the Whigs to oppose the extension of slavery, together
with their having made the tariff highly protective in 1842, cost them
so many votes in New York and Michigan that they lost the election.

Negligence and dissension at the North had enabled the South to set
aside Van Buren in favour of Polk at the Democratic convention. The
party was pledged to annex Texas; and Northern members were appeased
by a crafty promise that all which was worth having in British America,
west of the Rocky Mountains, should be acquired also. The declaration
in the platform of 1840, that the government ought not "to foster one
branch of industry to the detriment of others," was repeated in 1844, as
often afterwards, but it was so cunningly explained away in Pennsylvania
that this State voted for the President who signed the low-tariff bill
of 1846.

The election of 1844 strengthened the influence of the South. Texas was
soon annexed by the same Congress which had refused to do so
previously, and was admitted like Florida, as a slave State, in spite of
remonstrances made by the legislatures of Massachusetts and Vermont, as
well as by two-thirds of the Unitarian ministers.

In March, 1846, Polk's army invaded Mexico; her soldiers resisted; the
Democrats in Congress voted that she had begun the war, which lasted for
the next eighteen months; and the Whigs assented reluctantly. Most of
the volunteers were Southerners, and there was much opposition at the
North to warfare for the extension of slavery. The indignation was
increased by the publication of Whittier's pathetic poem, _The Angels
of Buena Vista_, as well as of that series of powerful satires, Lowell's
_Biglow Papers_, The greatest achievement of literary genius thus far
in America was the creation of _Birdofre-dom Sawin_; and no book except
Mrs. Stowe's famous novel did so much for emancipation.

A foremost place among abolitionists was taken by Parker in 1845, when
he began to preach in Boston. His first sermon against the war with
Mexico was delivered the same month as the publication of the first of
the _Biglow Papers_, June, 1846.

Early in 1847 he spoke with such severity, at an indignation meeting in
Faneuil Hall, that his life was threatened by drunken volunteers. Other
preachers that year in Massachusetts followed his example so generally
as to win praise from the Garrisonians, as well as from the most
patriotic abolitionists; and great effect was produced by his _Letter to
the People_, which showed, early in 1848, that slavery was ruining the
prosperity, as well as the morals, of the South. More about his work
may be found in Chapter V. There we shall see how active the
Transcendentalists were in carrying on the revolt begun by Channing. The
most important victory for liberty recorded in this chapter was that
of 1844 over the protectionists. The defeat of the Garrisonians was
due largely to their mistakes; and there was urgent need of a new
anti-slavery movement on broader ground.




CHAPTER IV. EMANCIPATION

THE revolutionary movements of 1848 did much to encourage love of
liberty in America, where the anti-slavery agitation was now becoming
prominent in politics. The indignation against the Mexican war increased
as it was found that nothing would be done to keep the promise of 1844,
that Great Britain should be excluded from the Pacific. The purpose of
the South, to enlarge the area of slavery but not that of freedom, was
so plain that the northern Democrats proposed the Wilmot Proviso, by
which slavery would have been forbidden in all territory acquired
from Mexico; and they actually carried it through the House of
Representatives, with the help of the Whigs, in 1846. Similar action was
taken by the legislatures of New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware,
and seven other States. The Senate was so unwilling to have slavery
prohibited anywhere as to oppose, merely on this account, a bill for
giving a territorial government to Oregon.

I. Many of the New York delegates to the national Democratic convention
in 1848 came pledged to "uncompromising hostility to the extension of
slavery," and were so badly treated that they withdrew. Cass was
nominated as a friend to the South; the Mexican war was declared "just
and necessary"; and abolitionism was denounced, as it had been in 1840
and 1844. Van Buren was nominated soon after by the anti-slavery
Democrats. A similar movement had already been made by Sumner, Wilson,
and other men who were known as "conscience Whigs," and who had some
support from Clay and Webster. Both these candidates for the presidency
were set aside in favour of a slave-holder, who had been very successful
in conquering Mexico, but never cast a vote. In fact, General Taylor had
taken so little interest in politics, that he was supported in the North
as a friend, and in the South as an enemy, to the Wilmot Proviso. No
opinion on this or any other question could be extorted from the
majority; Wilson declared in the convention that he should do all he
could to defeat its nominee; the conscience Whigs made an alliance with
the Van Buren Democrats; and the new movement was joined by the "Liberty
men," whose vote of sixty thousand had decided the election of 1844.
Thus was formed the Free Soil party, whose fundamental idea, like that
afterwards held by the Republicans, was preservation of the Union by
checking the extension of slavery.

Douglass and other Garrisonists were present at the Free Soil
convention, where he was invited to speak. The new party pledged itself
to "Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labour, and Free Men." The national
Government was to relieve itself of "all responsibility for slavery,"
and begin by prohibiting its extension. There should be "no more slave
States," "no more slave territory," and "no more compromises with
slavery." The convention also demanded that Oregon should be organised
as a territory with free labour only; and this was granted at once by
President Polk and both Houses of Congress. Most of the members of the
convention were Transcendental enough to think that wisdom must be
spontaneous; and their scorn of political machinery left it to be used
for making Van Buren the candidate. Lowell, who was then at his height
of productiveness, complained that,

"He aint half anti-slav'ry 'nough";

but Whittier exclaimed, that September:

"Now joy and thanks forever more!
The dreary night has well-nigh passed:
The slumbers of the North are o'er:
The giant stands erect at last!"

The anti-slavery vote was nearly five times as large as in 1844. Cass
would have been elected if the Free Soilers had supported him in
New York. Their hostility gave that State, as well as Vermont and
Massachusetts, to Taylor, who thus became President. He also carried
Georgia and seven other Southern States; but the West was solidly
Democratic. It was not an anti-slavery victory, but a pro-slavery
defeat.

II. The first question before the new President and Congress was about
California. The discovery of gold, before the country was ceded by
Mexico, had brought in crowds of settlers, but scarcely any slaves.
Unwillingness to have another free State prevented Polk and his Senate
from allowing California to have any better government than a military
one; and this was deprived of all authority by the desertion of
the soldiers to the diggings. The settlers knew the value of a free
government, and made one independently. The constitution which they
completed in October, 1848, was so anti-slavery that it was not
sanctioned for nearly two years by Congress. Meantime there was no legal
authority in California to levy taxes, or organise fire departments,
or arrest criminals. Robberies and conflagrations were numerous; the
mushroom cities were not graded, paved, or lighted; the uncertainty of
titles to land caused fights in which lives were lost; and criminals
became so desperate that several were lynched by a Vigilance Committee.

The duty of admitting California as a free State was urged upon the
new Congress in December, 1849, by Taylor, who promised to make an
unexpectedly good President. This plan had become so popular at the
North that it was recommended by the Democratic State conventions of
Massachusetts and Wisconsin, as well as by the legislature of every
Northern State, except Iowa. The House of Representatives could
easily have been carried; for the Whigs and Free Soilers constituted
a majority, and would have had some help from Northern Democrats. The
Senate would probably not have consented until after another appeal to
the people; but this might have been made with success at the elections
of 1850.

Taylor had carried Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia,
North Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware. The last two States had
permitted some Free Soil votes to be cast; this was also the case in
Virginia; and anti-slavery meetings had been held publicly in St. Louis.
The pro-slavery defeat in 1848 encouraged Southerners who knew the
advantage of free labour to agitate for emancipation. The convention
held for this purpose in Kentucky, in 1849, was attended by delegates
from twenty-four counties; and its declaration that slavery was
"injurious to the prosperity of the Commonwealth," was endorsed
by Southern newspapers. Clay himself proposed a plan of gradual
emancipation; and such a measure was called for, according to the
_Richmond Southerner_ (quoted in Hoist's _Constitutional History_, vol.
iii., p. 433), by "two-thirds of the people of Virginia." Admissions
that "Kentucky must be free," that "Delaware and Maryland are now in a
transition, preparatory to becoming free States," and that "Emancipation
is inevitable in all the farming States, where free labour can be
advantageously used," were published in 1853, at New Orleans, in De
Bow's _Industrial Resources of the Southern and Western States_ (vols.
i., p. 407; ii., p. 310; Hi., p. 60). A book which was written soon
after by a North Carolinian named Helper, and denounced violently in
Congress, shows how much those Southerners who did not hold slaves would
have gained by emancipation; and what was so plainly for the interest of
the majority of the voters would have been established by them, sooner
or later, if it had not been for the breaking out of civil war.

How much danger there was, even in 1849, to slave-holders is shown by
their threats to secede. They wished to increase the hostility between
North and South in order to check the spread southwards of Northern
views. It was in this spirit that Senators and Representatives from the
cotton States demanded a more efficient law for returning fugitives.
Most of the thirty thousand then at the North had come from Maryland,
Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri; and these States were invited to act
with their southern neighbours against abolitionism.

There were very few secessionists at this time, except in South
Carolina, Mississippi, and Texas. President Taylor was so popular at
the South, and so avowedly ready to take command himself against rebels,
that no army could have been raised to resist him. Webster declared,
in February, 1850, that there was no danger of secession; and the same
opinion was held by Benton of Missouri, Seward, and other Senators.
There was not enough alarm at the North to affect the stock-market. All
that the Whigs needed to do for the Union was to sustain it with all the
strength which they could use for that purpose at the South. If they had
also insisted that California should be admitted unconditionally, they
would soon have had support enough from Northern Democrats in Congress.
The demand for a national party of freedom was urgent. The Free Soilers
were too sectional; but the Whigs had so much influence at the South
that they could have checked the extension of slavery without bloodshed;
and this would have ensured the progress of emancipation.

III. All this might have been done if Clay's hatred of the
abolitionists, who had refused to make him President, had not made him
try to cripple them by another compromise. He proposed that California
should be admitted at once and without slavery; that it should be
left to the settlers in Utah and New Mexico to decide whether these
territories should ultimately become free or slave States; that Texas
should receive a large sum of money, as well as a great tract of land
which she had threatened to take from New Mexico by force; and, worst
of all, that a new fugitive-slave bill should be passed. The law then
on the statute books left the question whether the defendant should
be enslaved to be decided by a magistrate elected by the people or
appointed by the governor; and the court was so apt to be restricted
by local legislation or public opinion, that recovery of fugitives was
practically impossible in New England. The new law retained the worst
provision of the old one; namely, that no jury could be asked to decide
whether the defendant had ever been a slave. The principal change was
that the judge was to come into such close relations with the national
administration as to be independent of the people of the State.
In short, fugitive slaves were to be punished, and disloyal Texans
rewarded, in order that California might get her rights.

This plan was approved by Webster, who hoped that the grateful South
would make him President, and then help him restore those protective
duties which had been removed in 1846. Other Northerners called the
compromise one-sided; and so did men from those cotton States which
were to gain scarcely anything. President Taylor would yield nothing
to threats of rebellion. It was not until after his death that Clay's
proposals could be carried through Congress; and it was necessary to
present them one by one. The bill by which California was admitted, in
September, 1850, was sandwiched in between those about Texas and the
fugitives. The latter were put under a law by which their friends were
liable to be fined or imprisoned; but the new Fugitive Slave Act
had only three votes from the northern Whigs in the House of
Representatives; and there were only four Senators who actually
consented to all Clay's propositions.

The compromise seemed at first to have silenced both secessionists and
abolitionists. The latter were assailed by worse mobs in Boston and New
York than had been the case in these cities for many years. The rioters
were sustained by public opinion; enthusiastic Union meetings were
held in the large cities; and Webster's course was praised by leading
ministers of all denominations, even the Unitarian. Abolitionism had
apparently been reduced to such a position that it could lead to nothing
but civil war. Parker complained, in May, 1850, that the clergy were
deserting the cause. Phillips spoke at this time as if there were no
anti-slavery ministers left. I once heard friendly hearers interrupt him
by shouting out names like Parker's and Beecher's. He smiled, and began
counting up name after name on the fingers of his left hand; but he soon
tossed it up, and said with a laugh, "I have not got one hand full yet."

Webster's friends boasted that Satan was trodden underfoot; but the
compromise was taken as an admission by the Whigs that their party had
cared too little about slavery. Many of its adherents went over, sooner
or later, to the Democratic party, which had at least the merit of
consistency. About half of the Free Soilers deserted what seemed to be
a lost cause; but few if any went back to help the Whigs. The latter did
not elect even three-fourths as many members of Congress in November,
1850, as they did in 1848; and they fared still worse in 1852.
Democratic aid enabled the Free Soilers in 1851 to send Sumner to
represent them in the Senate, in company with Hale and Chase. Seward had
already been sent there by the anti-slavery Whigs, and had met Webster's
plea for the constitutionality of the new Fugitive Slave Law by
declaring that "There is a higher law than the Constitution."
Sumner maintained in Washington, as he had done in Boston, that the
Constitution as well as the moral law forbade helping kidnappers. He was
never a disunionist; but he insisted that "Unjust laws are not binding";
and he was supported by the mighty influence of Emerson.

The effects of Transcendentalism will be so fully considered in the
next chapter but one, that I need speak here merely of what it did to
encourage resistance to the new law which made philanthropy a crime.
The penalties on charity to fugitives were so severe as to call out much
indignation from the rural clergy at the North. In November, 1850, the
Methodist ministers of New York City agreed to demand the repeal of the
law; and Parker wrote to Fillmore, who had been made President by
Taylor's death, that among eighty Protestant pastors in Boston there
were not five who would refuse hospitality to a slave. The first hunters
of men who came there met such a resistance that they did not try to
capture the fugitives. A negro who was arrested was taken by coloured
friends from the court-house; and a second rescue was prevented only by
filling the building with armed hirelings, surrounding it with heavy
chains under which the judges were obliged to stoop, and finally calling
out the militia to guard the victim through the streets of Boston. A
slaveholder who was supposed to be trying to drag his own son back to
bondage, was shot dead by coloured men in Pennsylvania. Other fugitives
were rescued in Milwaukee and Syracuse. The new law lost much of its
power in twelve months of such conflicts; and it was reduced almost to a
dead letter by Personal Liberty bills, which were enacted in nearly
every Northern State. The compromise was not making the North and South
friends, but enemies.

The hostility was increased by the publication of the most influential
book of the century. _Uncle Tom's Cabin_ had attracted much attention as
a serial; and three thousand copies were sold on the day it appeared
in book form, March 20, 1852. There was a sale that year of two hundred
thousand copies, which were equally welcome in parlour, nursery, and
kitchen. Dramatic versions had a great run; and one actress played
"Little Eva" at more than three hundred consecutive performances. Some
of the most effective scenes were intended to excite sympathy with
fugitive slaves.

The total number of votes for all parties did not increase one-third as
fast between 1848 and 1852 as between 1852 and 1856, when many of "Uncle
Tom's" admirers went to the polls for the first time. The Whigs were
so much ashamed of their party, that they permitted every State, except
Massachusetts, Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee to be carried by
the Democrats. The latter had the advantage, not only of unity and
consistency as regards slavery, but of having made their low tariff
so much of a success that there was another reduction in 1857. The two
parties had been made nearly equal in Congress by the election of 1848;
but the proportion was changed four years later, to two to one, and the
beaten party soon went to pieces.

The Free Soil candidates and platform were singularly good in 1852; yet
the vote was but little more than one-half as large as in 1848. There
was no election between 1835 and 1865 when anti-slavery votes seemed so
little likely to do any immediate good. The compromise looked like an
irreparable error; and many reformers thought they could do nothing
better than vote with the Democrats for free trade.

IV. The victors in 1852 might have had many years of supremacy, if they
had kept true to the Jeffersonian principle of State rights. They were
consistent in holding that the position of coloured people in each State
ought to be determined by the local majority. The rights of Northerners
had been invaded by the new law, which forbade hospitality to fugitives
and demanded participation in kidnapping; but this wrong might have been
endured if the South had not denied the right of Kansas to become a free
State. This was guaranteed by the compromise of 1820, which had been
kept by the North. Early in 1854, Senator Douglas of Illinois proposed
that the compact should be repudiated, and that it should be left for
future settlers to decide whether there should be freedom or slavery in
a region ten times as large as Massachusetts, with a fertile soil and a
climate warm enough for negro labour.

There was such prompt and intense indignation throughout the North
at this breach of faith, that Douglas said he could find his way from
Chicago to Boston by the light of the bonfires in which he was burned in
effigy. The difference of opinion between city and country clergy ceased
at once. An Episcopalian bishop headed the remonstrance which was signed
by nearly every minister in New York City. Two other bishops signed
the New England protest in company with the presidents of Yale, Brown,
Williams, and Amherst, with the leaders of every Protestant sect,
and with so many other clergymen that the sum total rose above three
thousand, which was four-fifths of the whole number. Five hundred
ministers in the North-west signed a remonstrance which Douglas was
obliged to present; and so many such memorials came in from all the free
States, as to show that there was very little pro-slavery feeling left
among the clergy, except in the black belt north of the Ohio.

One-half of the Northern Democrats in the House of Representatives
refused to follow Douglas. Leading men from all parties united to form
the new one, which took the name of Republican on July 6, 1854, and
gained control of the next House of Representatives. It was all the
more popular because it began "on the sole basis of the non-extension
of slavery." Victory over the South could be gained only by uniting
the North; but Garrison still kept on saying, "If we would see the
slave-power overthrown, the Union must be dissolved." On July 4, 1854,
two days before the Republican party adopted its name, he burned the
Constitution of the United States amid several thousand spectators. Then
it was that Thoreau publicly denied his allegiance to Massachusetts,
which was already doing its best to save Kansas.

Emigrants from New England were sent into that territory so rapidly that
the Douglas plan seemed likely to hasten the time when it would be a
free State. The South had insisted on the rights of the settlers; but
they were outvoted, in November, 1854, and afterwards, by bands of armed
Missourians, who marched off when they had carried the election. The
Free State men were then supplied with rifles; and an anti-slavery
constitution was adopted by the majority of actual residents.
The minority were supported by the President, as well as by the
"border-ruffians"; two rival governments were set up; and civil war
began early in 1855. Lawrence, the principal town in Kansas, was sacked
by command of the United States Marshal, the most important buildings
burned, and much private property stolen. Five settlers, whose threats
of violence had offended John Brown, were slain in cold blood by him and
his men, in retaliation for the Lawrence outrage, in May, 1856. Anarchy
continued; but the new State was not admitted until 1861.

Prominent among the Northerners who insisted on the right of Kansas to
govern herself, was Sumner. His speech in the Senate in May, 1856,
was so powerful that half a million copies were printed as campaign


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