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literature, and Whittier said, "It has saved the country." The orator
had attacked some of his colleagues with needless severity; and on the
day after the sack of Lawrence, he was assaulted by a Representative
from South Carolina in the Senate Chamber with such ferocity that he
could not return to his seat before 1860. This cruel outrage against
freedom of speech was universally applauded throughout the South.

There was indignation enough at the North in 1856 to have given the
election to the Republicans, if the field had been clear; but Protestant
bigotry enabled the South to choose the President who failed to
oppose rebellion. The Catholics had objected as early as 1840 to the
Protestantism which was taught, in part at their expense, to their
children in the public schools. Some ways in which this was done then
have since been abandoned; but the principal controversy has been
about using a book which is universally acknowledged to be a bulwark of
Protestantism. There would not be so much zeal at present for having
it read daily in the schools, if it has no religious influence; and our
Catholic citizens have a right to prefer that their children should be
taught religion in ways not forbidden by their Church. Pupils have not
had much moral or even religious benefit from school-books against which
their conscience rebelled, however unreasonably.

The Catholic position in 1841, according to Bishop Hughes, afterwards
Archbishop, was this: "We do not ask money from the school fund; - all
our desire is that it should be administered in such a way as to promote
the education of all" and "leave the various denominations each in
the full possession of its religious rights over the minds of its
own children. If the children are to be educated promiscuously, as at
present, let religion in every shape and form be excluded."

The Catholics soon changed their ground, and demanded that their
parochial schools should be supported by public money. This called out
the opposition of a secret society, which insisted on keeping the Bible
in the schools and excluding Catholics from office. The Know Nothings
had the aid of so many Whigs in 1854 as to elect a large number of
candidates, most of whom were friendly to the Republicans. The leaders
wished to remain neutral between North and South; but it is hard to
say whether the pledge of loyalty to the Union did not facilitate the
capture of the organisation by the insatiable South early in 1856.
Beecher had already declared that the Know Nothing lodges were
"catacombs of freedom" in which indignation against slavery was stifled.

The presidential election showed that the outburst of bigotry had
done more harm to friends than enemies of liberty. The Democrats lost
Maryland, but gained Pennsylvania and four other Northern States. This
enabled them to retain the Presidency and the Senate, as well as to
recover the House of Representatives, where they had become weaker than
the Republicans. The party of freedom polled eight times as many votes
as in 1852, and made its first appearance in the electoral colleges. It
carried eleven States. The Whigs had accepted the Know Nothing nominee;
and both these neutral parties soon dissolved.

Anarchy in Kansas had been suppressed by United States dragoons; but
they did not prevent the adoption of a pro-slavery constitution by bogus
elections. Buchanan promptly advised Congress to admit Kansas as a slave
State, and declared she was already as much one as Georgia or South
Carolina. This opinion he based on the Dred Scott decision by the
Supreme Court, that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in any
territory. Douglas insisted on the right of the people of Kansas to
"vote slavery up or down." They were enabled by the joint efforts of
Republicans and Northern Democrats to have a fair chance to say whether
they wished to become a slave State or remain a territory; and the
latter was preferred by four-fifths of the voters.

V. The South called Douglas a traitor; but leading Republicans helped
the Illinois Democrats, in 1858, to elect the Legislature which gave him
another term in the Senate. He might have become the next President if
his opponent in the senatorial contest, Abraham Lincoln, had not led the
Republican party into the road towards emancipation. On June 16, 1858,
he said, in the State convention: "A house divided against itself cannot
stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave
and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved - I do not
expect the house to fall - but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing or all the other." Seward took the same
position, four months later, in his speech about the "irrepressible
conflict." Lincoln held that summer and autumn a series of joint debates
with his opponent, before audiences one of which was estimated at twenty
thousand. The speeches were circulated by the Republicans as campaign
documents; and Lincoln's were remarkable, not only for his giving no
needless provocation to the South, but for his proving that slavery
ought not to be introduced into any new territory or State by local
elections. He represented Douglas as really holding that if one man
chooses to enslave another no third man has any business to interfere;
and he repudiated the decision in the Dred Scott case, that coloured
people "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." He had
more votes that fall than Douglas; but the latter's friends were enabled
by the district system to control the Legislature. Douglas was sent back
to the Senate. Lincoln gained the national reputation which made him
President.

The congressional elections were more favourable to the Republicans than
in 1856, for Northern indignation was growing under the stimulus, not
only of the new wrong to Kansas, but of attempts to annex Cuba and
revive the slave trade. Plans for emancipation were still discussed in
the South; and the agitation had reached even Texas. Helper's _Impending
Crisis_ had gained circulation enough in his own State, North Carolina,
to alarm the slaveholders. They knew that they constituted only
three-tenths of the Southern voters, and that the proportion was less
than one-sixth in Maryland. Helper proved that emancipation would be
greatly to the advantage of many men who held slaves, as well as of all
who did not. When this was found out by the majority in any Southern
State, slavery would begin to fall by its own weight. It had been kept
up by popular ignorance; but the prop was crumbling away. This way of
emancipation might have been long; but it would have led to friendly
relations between whites and blacks, as well as between North and South.

What was most needed in 1859 was that all friends of freedom should work
together, and that no needless pretext should be given for secession.
Garrison still insisted on disunion, and predicted that the South would
not "be able to hold a single slave one hour after the deed is done,"
but he also maintained, as most abolitionists did, that nothing would be
more foolish than trying to excite a slave insurrection. Precisely this
greatest of blunders was committed at Harper's Ferry. If the attempt had
been made six months later, or had had even a few weeks of success,
it might have enabled the slaveholders to elect at least one more
President. The bad effect, in dividing the North, was much diminished by
John Brown's heroism at his trial and execution; but great provocation
was given to the South, and especially to Virginia, which soon turned
out to be the most dangerous of the rebel States. Business men were
driven North by the dozen from cities which were preparing for war.

The quarrel between Northern and Southern Democrats kept growing
fiercer; and the party broke up at the convention for 1860 into two
sectional factions with antagonistic platforms and candidates. Douglas
still led the opposition to those Southerners who maintained that the
nation ought to protect slavery in the territories. A third ticket was
adopted by neutrals who had been Whigs or Know Nothings, and who now
professed no principle but a vague patriotism. The Republicans remained
pledged to exclude slavery from the territories; but they condemned John
Brown, and said nothing against the Fugitive Slave Law or in favour of
emancipation in the District of Columbia. Their leaders had favoured
free trade in 1857; but the platform was now made protectionist, in
order to prevent Pennsylvania from being carried again by the Democrats.
Illinois and Indiana were secured by the nomination of Lincoln. He was
supported enthusiastically by the young men throughout the North:
public meetings were large and frequent; torchlight processions were
a prominent feature of the campaign. The wealth and intellect of the
nation, as well as its conscience, were now arrayed against slavery; but
the clergy are said to have been less active than in 1856. Lincoln had
the majority in every Northern State, except New Jersey, California, and
Oregon. He also had 17,028 votes in Missouri, and 8042 in other slave
States which had sent delegates to the Republican convention. Not one
of the Southern electors was for Lincoln; but he would have become
President if all his opponents had combined against him.

VI. The South had nothing to fear from Congress before 1863, but she had
lost control of the North. Kansas would certainly be admitted sooner or
later; and there would never be another slave State, for the Republican
plan for the territories was confirmed by their geographical position.
The free States might soon become so numerous and populous as to
prohibit the return of fugitives, abolish slavery in the District
of Columbia, repeal the clause of the Constitution which allowed
representation for slaves, and forbid their transportation from State
to State. It was also probable, in the opinion of Salmon P. Chase,
afterwards Secretary of the Treasury, and of many leading Southerners,
that under Federal patronage there might soon be a majority for
emancipation in Maryland, Kentucky, and other States (see _Life of
Theodore Parker_, by Weiss, vol. ii., pp. 229, 519). The vote of thanks
given to Parker in 1855 by the hearers of his anti-slavery lecture in
Delaware, showed that abolitionism would eventually become predominant
in the Senate, as it was already in the House of Representatives.

This prospect was especially alarming to the comparatively few men who
owned so many slaves that they could not afford emancipation on any
terms. Their wealth and leisure gave them complete control of politics,
business, public opinion, and social life in the cotton States; where
both press and pulpit were in bondage. Their influence was much less
in the farming States than in 1850; but they had since come into such
perfect union among themselves, as to constitute the most powerful
aristocracy then extant. Their number may be judged from the fact that
there were in 1850 about six thousand people in the cotton States who
owned fifty slaves or more each.

It was in the interest of these barons of slavery that South Carolina
seceded soon after the election, and that her example was followed by
Georgia and all the Gulf States before Lincoln was inaugurated. The
Garrisonists wished to have them depart in peace; but there was a
strong and general preference for another compromise. Lincoln and other
Republicans insisted that the territories should be kept sacred to
freedom, and that "The Union must be preserved." The question was
settled by those aggressions on national property which culminated in
the bombardment of Fort Sumter. Lincoln's call to arms was answered by a
great uprising of the united North. Loyalty to the nation burst forth in
so fierce a flame that abolitionists who had been trying for many years
to extinguish it now welcomed it as the destined destroyer of slavery.

War had been declared for the sole purpose of suppressing rebellion; and
nothing more could at first have been attempted without violating the
Constitution. Fugitives were sent back promptly by Federal generals, and
anti-slavery songs forbidden in the camps. This policy seemed necessary
to keep the North united, and prevent secession of doubtful States.
Some of those already in revolt might thus, it was hoped, be induced to
return voluntarily, or be conquered easily. These expectations were
soon disappointed. A few of the slave States were kept in subjection
by military force; but the people of the others united in a desperate
resistance, with the aid of the slaves, who supplied the armies with
food and laboured without complaint in camps and forts. But little
was accomplished by the immense armies raised at the North; for the
discipline was at first lax, and the generals were inefficient. Many
defeats of Union armies by inferior forces showed how difficult it is
for a nation that has enjoyed many years of peace to turn conqueror.

VII. The innate incompatibility of war and liberty was disclosed by the
unfortunate fact that even Lincoln was obliged to consent unwillingly to
war measures of a very questionable sort; for instance, the conscription
and that Legal Tender Act which was really a forced loan, and which has
done much to encourage subsequent violations of the right of property by
both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. More harm than good was done
to the Union cause by arbitrary arrests for talking and writing against
the war. Phillips declared, in December, 1861, that "The right of free
meetings and a free press is suspended in every square mile of the
republic." "At this moment one thousand men are bastilled." Hale and
other Republican Senators remonstrated; and so patriotic an author as
Holmes said that teapots might be dangerous, if the lids were shut. All
political prisoners but spies were released by the President early in
1862; and there were no more arbitrary arrests except under plea of
military necessity.

Failures of Union generals encouraged opposition to the war from men who
still preferred compromise; and their disaffection was increased by
the passage, in March, 1863, of a bill establishing a conscription and
putting all the people under martial law. The commander of the military
district that included Ohio issued orders which forbade "declaring
sympathy for the enemy," and threatened with death "all persons within
our lines who harbour, protect, feed, clothe, or in any way aid the
enemies." These orders were denounced as unconstitutional at a public
meeting before more than ten thousand citizens. Many wore badges cut
from the large copper coins then in use and bearing the sacred image
and superscription of Liberty. This practice brought the nickname
"Copperheads" upon people who longed to have the South invited back
on her own terms. Such a policy was recommended at the meeting by
Vallandigham, who had recently represented Ohio in Congress. He called
upon the people to vote against the "wicked war," and said he would
never obey orders aimed against public discussion.

For this speech he was arrested at night, by soldiers who broke into
his house, tried by court-martial, and sentenced on May 7, 1863, to
imprisonment during the remainder of the war. A writ of _habeas corpus_
was refused by the United States Court, which admitted itself "powerless
to enforce obedience." At the clang of war, laws are silent.

Indignation meetings in great cities voted that "The Union cannot be
restored without freedom of speech." Loyal newspapers regretted that
Vallandigham was under "a penalty which will make him a martyr." A
petition for his release was sent to Lincoln, who had not ordered
the arrest and admitted that it was not justified by the speech. He
concluded that the culprit's behaviour towards the army had been so
dangerous that he had better be sent South, beyond the lines. This was
done at once; but the agitator was allowed to return through Canada in
the last summer of the war. Even Lincoln found it difficult to respect
individual liberty under the pressure of military necessity. A strong
government was needed; and that fact has opened the way for Congress to
interfere with private business, for instance in changing the tariff,
during the latter part of the century much more frequently and
extensively than had been done before. Another significant fact is that
the old controversy about internal improvements has died away since our
government was centralised by war; and much money is wasted under that
pretext by Congress.

VIII. The impossibility of putting down the rebellion without
interfering with slavery gradually became plain, even to men who had
formerly hated abolitionism. The only question was how to turn what
was the strength of the Confederacy into its weakness. In March, 1862,
Congress forbade the army to return fugitives; and many thousand fled
into the Union camps, where they did good service, not only as teamsters
and labourers, but even as soldiers. The number under arms amounted
finally to more than a hundred thousand; and they did some of the best
fighting that took place during the war. The colour prejudice at the
North yielded slowly; but the leading Republicans saw not only the need
of more soldiers, but the justice of setting free the wives and children
of men who were risking death for the nation. An Emancipation League was
formed during the first gloomy winter of the war; and Frederick Douglass
said on the Fourth of July amid great applause: "You must abolish
slavery, or abandon the Union"; "for slavery is the life of the
rebellion."

Lincoln was already thinking of setting free the slaves in all the
States which should continue in rebellion after the close of the year;
and his draft of a proclamation, announcing this purpose, was read
to the Cabinet on July 22, 1862. The army in Virginia had been so
unfortunate that summer as to cause a postponement; but the victory
of Antietam was followed by the publication, on September 22d, of
the formal notice that emancipation might be proclaimed on the 1st of
January. How welcome the new policy was to loyal citizens may be judged
from the approbation expressed by the clergy of all denominations, even
the New School Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Roman Catholic. When
New Year's Day dawned there was much doubt whether the promise would
be fulfilled. Abolitionists and coloured people met in Boston and other
cities, and waited hour after hour, hoping patiently. It was evening
before the proclamation began to pass over the wires. It promised
freedom to all slaves in Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida,
Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, besides most of those
in Louisiana and Virginia. Tennessee and some other States were not
mentioned, because held to have been brought back into the Union. There
was to be freedom thenceforth wherever the Stars and Stripes waved. No
wonder that the news caused great audiences to shout or weep with joy,
and many to spend the night in praise and prayer. The North was now
inspired by motives amply sufficient to justify even a war of conquest;
and her men and money were given freely, until superiority in resources
enabled General Grant to close the war in April, 1865. The revolted
States came back, one by one, and left slavery behind. Even where it had
not been formally abolished, it was practically extinct. Douglass was
right in saying "It was not the destruction, but the salvation of the
Union, that saved the slave."

An amendment to the Constitution, which swept away the last vestiges
of slavery, and made it for ever impossible in the United States, was
adopted on December 18, 1865. It had been proposed two years before;
but the assent of several States then actually in revolt would have been
necessary to secure the majority of three-fourths necessary for adoption
of an amendment. It was by no means certain that even the nominally
loyal States would all vote unanimously for emancipation. In order to
increase the majority for the Thirteenth Amendment, the admission
of Nevada and Colorado as States was voted by Congress, despite some
opposition by the Democrats, in March, 1864. Nevada had a population of
less than 43,000 in 1870. There were not 46,000 people there in 1890,
and there had been a decline since 1880. It is not likely that her
inhabitants will ever be numerous enough to justify her having as much
power in the Senate as New York or Pennsylvania. Senators who represent
millions of constituents have actually been prevented from passing
necessary laws by Senators who did not represent even twenty-five
thousand people each. Nevada is still the worst instance of such
injustice; but it is by no means the only one; and these wrongs can
never be righted, for the Constitution provides that. "No State, without
its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate."
The Thirteenth Amendment did not, I think, come into force a day earlier
than it would have done if Nevada had never been admitted, for the
_bona-fide_ States came forward with unexpected willingness. Colorado
was not fully admitted before 1876. Lincoln's favouring the bills
for admitting these States was a serious error, though the motive was
patriotic. His beauty and grandeur of character make the brightest
feature of those dark, sad years. No name stands higher among martyrs
for freedom.

IX. There is no grander event in all history than the emancipation of
four million slaves. This was all the more picturesque because done by
a conquering army; but it was all the more hateful to the former owners.
They refused to educate or enfranchise the freedmen, and tried to reduce
them to serfdom by heavy taxes and cruel punishments for petty crimes.
The States which had seceded were kept under military dictators after
the war was over; and their people were forced to accept the Fourteenth
Amendment, which gave protection to coloured people as citizens of the
United States.

In 1867 there were twenty-one Northern States; but only Maine, New
Hampshire, and Vermont gave the ballot freely to illiterate negroes
without property. Massachusetts had an educational test for all voters;
there were other restrictions elsewhere; and no coloured men could vote
in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or the North-west. In fact, very few had
ever voted anywhere when Congress gave the suffrage to all the freed men
for their own protection, with no discrimination against illiteracy.

The result of this measure in the District of Columbia was that
unscrupulous politicians gained strong support from needy and ignorant
voters of all colours. Public money was spent recklessly; taxation
became oppressive; and the public debt grew to alarming size. On June
17, 1874, when Grant was President and each branch of Congress was more
than two-thirds Republican, the House of Representatives voted, ten to
one, in favour of taking away the suffrage, not only from the blacks
who had received it seven years before, but even from the whites who had
exercised it since the beginning of the century. All local government
was entrusted to three commissioners appointed by the President and
confirmed by the Senate. There was no opposition; for the arrangement
seemed only temporary. It proved permanent. Even taxation without
representation has been thought better than negro suffrage; and the
citizens of the national capital remain in 1899 without any voice in
their own municipal government.

The problem has been still more difficult in those eleven States which
had to accept negro suffrage, in or after 1867, as a condition of
restoration to the Union. The extension of franchise made in all the
States by the Fifteenth Amendment, in 1870, seemed such a blessing to
the Republicans that Frederick Douglass was much censured for holding
that it might possibly have been attained without special supernatural
assistance. It soon became plain, however, that Congress ought to have
given the spelling-book earlier than the ballot. The suffrage proved no
protection to the freedman; for his white neighbours found that he could
be more easily intimidated than educated. Congress tried to prevent
murder of coloured voters by having the polls guarded by Federal troops
and the elections supervised by United States marshals. The _Habeas
Corpus_ Act was suspended by President Grant in districts where the
blacks outnumbered the whites. It was hard to see what liberty had
gained.

The negro's worst enemies were his own candidates. They had enormous
majorities in South Carolina; and there, as Blaine admits, they "brought
shame upon the Republican party," "and thus wrought for the cause of


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Online LibraryFrederic May HollandLiberty in the nineteenth century → online text (page 8 of 16)