John D. C. (John Dewitt Clinton) Atkins.

Speech of Hon. J.D.C. Atkins of Tennessee, on the position of tendency of parties online

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The House being in Comoiittee of the "Whole on the state of the TJnion-^Mr. ATKINS

Mr. Chairman : It may not be altogether unprofitable at this particular
juncture to review briefly some of the leading events of the history of parties,
and to analyze some of their peculiar characteristics. The time seems aus-

The American Statesman who would progress safely in the science of politi-
cal government, is not unlike the mariner who explores an unknown sea.
Even jn the midst of the most placid waters, under the most auspicious sky,
and with the most prosperous gales, he should oast anchor and take his reckon-
ing of both wind and current.

Whither are ws tending ? is a question often propounded in political Cir-
cles. It is generally asked by politicians whose little barks have been ship-
wrecked upon the shoal of expediency ; for the man who pursues principle,
although he may for a time sink beneath the wave of popular sentiment, will
surely rise again. Right principles never lead to wrong results. I have no
solicitude whatever to know whither we are tending, so far as the great national
party, with which I stand identified, is concerned. Its past history is to my
mind a sufiicient guarantee of what its future will be. But whither are the
Opposition parties tending, for there are several factions of them ?

The history of American politics presents two distinguishing and leading
facts. One is, that there have never been but two political parties in this
country formidably contending for the mastery at the same time. The other
is, that the Democratic party has always been one of these, while the Opposi-
tion party has changed its name and principles to suit the temper of the times.
The one is a party of expediency, while the other is a party of principle ; the
one advocates the interests of the few at the expense of the many ; the other
advocates the greatest good to the greatest number ; the one sustains the in-
terests of favored classes, the other sustains the interests and rights of the
people. The one is founded in high Federal aristocracy; the other is the
offspring of Democracy; the one is styled the "people's party," while the
other is the party of the people. The grounds of difference between these
two parties were plainly defined by the respective administrations of the elder
Adams and Thomas Jefferson ; a difference so broad and deep that it struck to

Printed by Lemuel Towers.

the very basis of g-overnmeut itself. It is refresliing in tLese days of political
degeneracy to return to the original fountains of political lore, like pilgrims to
the Holy Land. Our views of Federalism and Democracy become more vivid
and distinct the nearer we approach the primitive days of the Republic.

The Adams or Federal party favored a strong consolidated and central Gov-
ernment ; a Government or nation of 2^eopce, viewing the States in the light of
dependencies or provinces ; w^hile the Jetfersouian or Democratic party re-
garded the central Government as a Union of free, sovereign, and independect
States, as a limited sovereignty, as a commissioned agent, with no powers
only those expressly delegated and nominated in the Federal Constitution.
The cue adhered to a strict construction of that instrument, the work of great,
fifood, and patriotic men ; the other would construe it latitudinously — finding a
£:rant of power to engraft upon the policy of the country almost any measure
which expediency might suggest, or ambition demand, although in clear viola-
tion of its letter and spirit, and often of doubtful utility.

Of these I might mention various instances, long since exploded, and against
which the fiat of the American people has been unmistakably pronounced.
The shades even of a United States Bank and distribution, and their kindred
brood of political heresies, do not now enter within the walls of this Capitol.
But I will forbear to exhume these buried memories over which the mantle of
oblivion has been long since thrown by the hand of the nation, further than
they may serve to illustrate the argument I am about to submit.

As a Representative of a southern constituency, with a heart whose every
pulsation beats jealously for the honor of my beloved section, in the Union, or
out of it, shoulcl I live to see that evil hour, there is one truth of which I am
most earnestly convicted, and that is, that the South " owes the Iliad of all her
woes" to this libertinous-latitudinous construction of the Constitution. And I
declare here to-day, if this Union is ever dissolved — if that " bright particular
star" shall disappear from its central position, and go darkling through chaos,
no more to light the nations of the earth in their march to civilization and
constitutional liberty, the historian must date its decline to this unfortunate
and fatal principle.

Mr. Chairman, it is my purpose to show that the Democratic party has ad-
ministered this Government successfully and prosperously, and in strict ac-
cordance with the Constitution. And that the inequality that has, from
time to time, crept into the Federal legislation of the country has been
efi'ected by the Opposition party during the occasional intervals when it was in
power, and when the Democracy failed to have a working majority — that in-
equality being always unjust and oppressive to the South. In other words,
that the Democratic party has always come boldly up to the maintenance of
southern rights and southern honor. True, in almost every contest in which
the eouality of the southern States with their northern sisters has been brought
in question, a small portion of the northern Democracy have hung fire, and, in
some few instances, taken shelter ia the camp of the enemy — but still the re-
cords of the country testify that the great body of it has been firm and true to
the integrity of the Constitution, while the Opposition, I care not by what
name they are designated, are the unyielding enemies of our constitutional
rio-hts and equality. I allude to the northern wing of the Opposition — the
southern wing of the late Whig party was largely in the minority — and though
it had the good of the country in view, yet it was so weak and powerless it
fell an easy victim to the corruptions of its more powerful northern allies. And
though for some time they presented the strange anomaly of acting together,
yet the two parts were vitally repugnant to each other — the lesser was borne
along by the greater body through the prejudice and influence of the party

Yiatee and pal-ty machinery, until southern Wliigs could go no further, without
xiishonoring their section and degrading themselves. In that long list are
found the names of some of the purest patriots — the wisest statesmen — and
the most exalted intellects of the land.

The same is true of the American party, which is only another form of
opposition to the Democracy, with this difference^ — that there is a wing of it in
the South which boldly proclaims its purpose to affiliate and unite with the
Black Republican party in the overthrow of the Democratic party, and are no
doubt daily laying their plans, and making their treaties of amity and union.
But I will treat of this hereafter.

What has been the effect of Democratic policy upon the history of this
Republic, whether commercially, politically, or socially? How have the rights
of the South fared under Democratic Administrations? And what has been
the policy of the Opposition in reference to the same great interests ?

It has always been a cardinal principle of the Democratic party to oppose
all monopolies and class legislation ; not only because they are wrong in prin-
ciple, but because they invariably operate unequally upon the people. For
this service the South should be peculiarly grateful, as the discrimination is
always against that section. What southern statesman does not know that
the North has always had the advantage of the South in the laws and treaties
reeulatino- the commerce of the United States with foreiofu nations? What
natural law of commerce, or in other words, what rule of justice compels south-
ern merchauis to buy ships of northern ship-builders, instead of purchasing in
the cheapest market, although it be a foreign one? What natural law of
commerce compels our cotton to go by New Yoi'k before it can be shipped for
Liverpool, submitting to the most onerous coasting freights, when it v.'ould be
nearer its port of destination at Charleston or Savannah, if it were not forced to
take that circuitous route ' Why do our northern merchants, and northern
ports, reap almost the entire benefit from the tonnage of the United States?

The House will remember how the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr.
Burlingame) was exercised a tew days since for fear that this monopoly, which,
by our navigation laws, is secured to New England merchants' would be re-
stricted. The gentleman admitted that "ships could be built thirty per cent,
cheaper in the Biitish Provinces than in the United States, and he contended
that every interest demanded protection in this respect ; for, if the building of
ships stopped, the tonnage of the country would sink, and it was a law that
when the tonnage of the country fell, freights went up." Here is a monopoly
of thirty per cent, that the South and West have to pay to New England com-
merce by way of protection. Just think of it, the southern and western people,
under the operation of our navigation laws, are denied the privilege of buying
or employing foreign bottoms, but are forced to pay tribute to New England
cupidity. It is the woi-st form of protection. No wonder that southern com-
merce languishes under such odious discriminations ! No wonder that New
England's rock-bound coast has become an Arcadia, when southern labor and
capital are forced by law to be expended in enriching and adorning it.

Millions have been paid our northern seamen in the shape of Government
bounty for catching codfish. Money actually taken out of the pockets of all
the people, and especially the South, to pay a certain class of men to catch fish
and sell them to us. I am glad to find that a Democratic Senate has passed a
bill repealing the law, and I trust that the House will concur in that judgment,
in wiping from the statute-book an act that imposes an unjust tax upon the
southern people, for which they do not receive even the cold thanks of the
beneficiaries, but rather their curses. The partiality in Federal legislation for the
North, is evinced again, in the immense sums of money that are lavished upon

norilievn rivers and harbors it is seen again in the large and munificent land
giants that have been voted by Congress upon northern raihoads — it is seen in
trie disproportionately large number of custom-houses, court-houses, and other
public buildinirs — the North has nearly three, while the South has one; and half
of thera exist only on the statute-book, having no " local habitation." At the
origin of the Government, the South had two ports that surpassed New York
as 'commercial marts, but by a regular system of favoritism, Nevv' York has
been made the great commercial emporium of this country. Look at the im-
mense outlays of public money in erecting her public buildings — the untold
millions spe'nt upon her harbor and shipping — her immense army of office-
holders who must necessarily live upon the Federal treasury — the princely and
extravagant donations made in establishing her ocean mail lines — all tending to
raake that city the great heart of the trade and commerce of this country, not
onlv with forei-yu nations, but even among the States, one with another.

It Tennessee would purchase a State bond of Geoi-gia, the first step is to as-
certain its value in New York. Why do nearly all of our European importa-
tions first land at this great centre, thence to radiate all over the nation ? Have
we not skillful navigators, and experienced merchants ? Look to the statute-
book, and you will find the true cause in your laws upon commerce and navi-
gation. The same is true of all your splendid schemes of internal improvement.
The North has got nearly the lion's share.

But, sir, I ask to be indulged just here, in calling your attention to another
marked and striking instance of the inequality of Federal legislation in favor of
the North ; the more grievous and burdensome on account of its universality,
affectinc; every branch of industrial pursuit for the benefit of one — the mauu-
facturiua". I allude to the eflect of a protective tariff" upon the people at large,
and U130U the South especially. Does any sane man, no matter of what latitude,
at this late day, deny that every kind of a tariff" is a tax ? Does anybody deny
that this tax is collected from the hard earnings of the great mass of the people
ruder the specious name of revenue, by which the favored few are protected
4»p4 enriched, who need no protection ? And will any one deny that any sort
of a tariff" atfording incidental protection, does not operate unequally and op-
pressively upon the South and West, the producing sections, for the benefit of the
i\Otth and East? If he does, I would advise him to go back to the political primer,
and learn anew political economy. Of course, the higher the tariff", the more bur-
densome to the people of the South, who pay largely over their share of the
duty. Of all the Machiavelian schemes to pamper the lordly aristocrats of the
North and East, at the expense of their toiling millions who are not operatives,
and to grind to dust the interests of the South and West, I must say it is to be
found in the operations of a protective tariff. But I do not mention this sub-
ject with the view of entering into an argument upon its details, further than
to show its injustice to the South, and for the additional purpose of reminding
the country that the Democratic party has always opposed this, and all
kindred measures of class legislation, such as bankrupt laws. United States
Banks, &;c., &c., as subversive of that principle of equality, without which lib-
erty is imperfect.

But I have taid that the South pays largely over its proportionate share of
the revenues collected by duties upon imports. Where is the proof? In the
first place, the South has only about two-thirds the population of the North ;
or, in other words, the North has fifty per cent, more population than the
South. The North has eighteen millions, while the South has only twelve
millions, including slaves.

The Eeport of the Secretary of the Treasury shows that the United States, in
1857, exported, in round numbers, "$279,000,000, excluding gold and foreign

mercbandise, re-exported. Of this amount, the sum of $158,000,000 yras the
clear product of the South — articles that can only be raised in the South. We
have §80,000,000 worth of exports, the productions of the forest, provisiour-, (fee.
Suppose that one-third of them are of Southern products there is for the South :
$185,000,000, while the North has only about 895,000,000 of exports." The
total amount of imports for the same period is -$333,000,000, which is more
than half paid for by Southern exports. When we take into consideration the
excess of population in the North, and the excess (nearly one hundred per
cent.) of exports from the South, and that the North has grown rich on of the
South, in being the factor of the South — exchanging its products for foreign
importations, we must conclude that the fault lies in our system of imposts,
and that it operates most unequally upon the South — making its people the
tax-payers, and those of the North the tax-gatherers.

According to population, the South should pay sixty-six cents to one dollar
for the North — whereas, as our exports pay for our imports, the South pays
as 185 to 95, nearly'one hundred per cent. Add the excess of Northern popu-
lation, and we have for the South to pay in the ratio of 218 to 95 for the
North. It is a safe calculation to say, that the South pays two-thirds of the
revenue that supports this Government, while more than three-fourths of it is
expended upon the North. Is there justice or uniformity in this? The Con-
stitution says that " all duties, imposts, and excises, shall be uniform throughout
the United Stales." As before observed, the North has managed to become
the factor of the South, and, in exchanging its products for foreign importations,
heavy reductions are made upon them by way of commissions, <fec., when the
foreign importation in turn, under the operation of the tariff, is made to pay a
heavy duty upon its arrival at the custom-house, when it is bought by the
merchant, and from him by the Southern planter; or, to express it ditTerently,
is returned to the planter, with still another per cent. Thus it is, that South-
ern labor and capital, under the operation of Federal legislation, are made to
contribute largely over their share to the maintenance of the G-overnment ; and,
at the same time, enriches the commercial men and manufacturers of the North,
exacting tithes where none are due, to fill the coffers of a bloated aristocracy.
And yet a crusade is preached' from the hustings and the pulpit, in almost
every town and hamlet in the North, against the slave labor of the South, not
kuowinfif, in the phreuzy of their fanaticism, that they are smiting the hand that
feeds them.

Notwithstanding the liberal policy of the Democratic party towards each
State and section of this Confederacy, applying as it well could the principle of
equal and exact justice to all, it has, nevertheless, in its attempts to do justice to
the Southern States, been met at every step with the most relentless and deter-
mined opposition by a party in the North, whatever other principles it may
have entertained, and by whatever other name it may have been recog-
nized, is deeply imbued with the sentiment of anti slavery. It has resisted
the commercial progress and the territorial expansion of the South from the
origin of the Government.

The liberal mind would have supposed that this bitter enmity should have
been spared the South, having been the principle actor in. the Revolution —
having baptized its fields with the best blood of its sons, and consecrated them
to the genius of American liberty ; and having consented to ordain a constitu-
tion and enter a Union of confederated States, each sovereign and independent
over its own internal afi"airs, consisting of both free and slave. But so bold
and reckless has abolitionism become, after having warred upon slavery in every
possible form, having almost completed its serpentine work of encircling the
South, it boldly rears its hydra-head, and with its hissing tongue it tells the


Soutli tliat it intends to storm its reiy citadel, Seward, tbe great Representa-
tive man of Xorthern Abolitionism, proclaims upon the floor of the Senate that
the battle has been fought and won, imd that henceforth the southern States
will hold the relation of conquered provinces to our northern sister States, or
neighbors ; that the slave States must be abolitiouized, and that our tobacco,
cotton, rice, and sugar-fields must be tilled exclusively by free labor. What,
eruaucipnte our slaves? Of course, turn them loose among us. I will notcon-
temph^te so horrid and revolting a picture ; and yet such are the designs of

Twenty years heuee, or sooner, there will be the constitutional num-
ber of free States required to amend the Federal Constitution, when the
solid bulwarks of the Supreme Court are to be undermined and reconstructed
upon an abolition basis, and the institutions of the South will be at the fana-
tical mercy of abolitionism. This view preceeds upon the idea that no more
slave States are to be admitted, abolitionism swears it ;. the heavens may fall,
but another slave State will never be admitted into this Union, if abolitionism
can prevent it. Has not the door of the Union been slammed in the very face of
the slave constitution of Kansas — and, strange to say, southern men rejoice at it !
The original twelve slave States, with a magnanimity that challenges our admi-
ration, did not insist upan uniformity of laws and institutions, but were content
that Massachusetts should regulate her own internal affairs to suit herself. To
have acted otherwise would have been false to their high character, and to the
gallant heroes who fell upon the memorable field of Bunker Hill, and to
the brave spirits who met the advanced guard of the British army upon
the. plains of Lexington and Concord. And yet this great high-priest has
spoken at Rochester, and the oracle is caught up throughout all Abolitiondom,
that slave labor and free labor are incompatible in this Confederacy of States,
and thit the Democratic party, being the " natural ally of slavery^ viust be over-
come.'''' Sir, who of the many reckless, defeated, and disappointed politicians of
the South are ready to assist in breaking down this Democratic party, that
Seward says is the natural ally of slavery, and thus enable these Free-Soil traitors
to tear down the temples of the South, and desecrate her altars with their
unhallowed hands? But, for fear I may do the distinguished Senator from New
York injustice, I quote from his speech, made at Rochester, some time in the
autumn of 1858. He is represented, in his own party newspapers, in speaking
of the collision between the systera of free labor in the North and slave labor in
the South, to have said :

"Shall I tell you what this collision means? They who think that it is accidental,
laanecessary, the work of interested or fanatical agitators, and therefore ephemeral,
mistake the case altogether. It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring
forces, and it means that the United i:ta,tes 'must and will, sooner or later, become either
entirchj a slavekolding nation, or entirely a free-labor nation. Either the cotton and rice
fields of South Carolina, and the snsar plantations of Louisiana, will ultimately be tilled
bv free labor, and Charleston and Xew Orleans become marts for legitimate merchandise
aione, or else the rye fields and wheat fields of Massachusetts and Xew Tork must again
be surrendered by their farmers to slave culture and to the production of slaves, and
Boston and XewYork become once more markets for trade in the bodies and souls of
men. It is the failure to apprehend this great truth that induces so many unsuccessful
attempts at final corapromLse between the slave and free States, and it is the existence
of this great fact that renders ail such pretended compromises when made, vain and

In order to break down the Democratic party at the North, abolition ora-
tors describe it before the people as a party identified with the slave power,
and that the ulterior object is to plant slavery in the free States. Such was
the idea in Mr. Seward's speech. The Senator has been greatly imposed upon
as to the future aims of the southern people. No suck desire exists in any

glare State. Nor do I uuderstand it to be the mission of the Democratic j^arty
to go about planting slavery, or preventing its being planted by the people
wherever a majority of them may desire to do so. I understand it, however,
to be the true principles of that party, to interpose no restrictions upon the
rights of the people of a State, upon that sulject, one way or the other. Nor
does the Democratic party deny the right ot the people of a Territory, when
they come to ordain a State Constitution, to exercise complete sovereignty
over that and all other domestic queatioL;s.

Slave labor and free labor are opposing forces, says Mr. Seward. Let us
look at this question for a moment. Republicans say that slavery sits like a
vampire upon the energies of the South, and retards her progress. They do
not believe it when they say it; for opposition to slavery with them has be-
come a trade — a profession ; they get office by it ; as was well said a short
time since by the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. Jenkins,) " they get their
bread by it." The northern masses are made to believe that slavery is the Pan-
dora's box of all their ills. New England operatives will yet learn that with-
out cotton they are without bread. If the South will withold her cotton from
New England manufactures, public sentiment may he revolutionized. Without
cotton, the proi.'uet of slav^e labor, the manufacturing thousasdi of the North,

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Online LibraryJohn D. C. (John Dewitt Clinton) AtkinsSpeech of Hon. J.D.C. Atkins of Tennessee, on the position of tendency of parties → online text (page 1 of 3)