Kansas. University.

Seminary notes published by the Seminary of historical and political science online

. (page 48 of 62)
Online LibraryKansas. UniversitySeminary notes published by the Seminary of historical and political science → online text (page 48 of 62)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

matter of plain, geometric, as well as
political progression, for his party to
march forward from humble beginning to-
grandest success. "See!" he exclaims,,
"our vote is already larger than tkat cast
for Birney in 1844. We may not, indeed,
carry the country this time, but we will
surely reach the final triumph quicker
than the Republican party did !"

Now, as the premises of my visionary
fitiend are incorrect, his conclusions will
quite likely be fallacious. His theory I


think scarce needs to be analyzed, but
simply examined, and it crumbles to pieces
at a touch. One little defect in the chain
is quite apparent. The vote for John P.
Hale in 1852, was only 155,825, being but
little more than half that cast for Van
Buren four years before. If this was. a
'f revolution" it went ^'backward" pretty
fast. But the Republican party whose
gallant and dashing campaign with the
Pathfinder in .1856 gave glorious earnest
of its triumph in i860 was not the party
of Garrison and Phillips, nor by , any
means its legitimate successor even.
Whatever its unconscious mission, may
-have been in. the decrees of fate .or the
providence of God, neither its principles
nor its policies were identical with those
of . the early Abolitionists. In fact, its
objects were quite distinct even from
those of the Liberty party of 1844, which
party was again quite sharply de-fined in
policy from that of Garrison and^his im-
mediate followers. They, indeed, could
scarce be said ever to have constituted a
political party at all. They were a dis-
tinct class to themselves; very earnest,
zealous and uncompromising-in their sin-
gle ideal — unrelenting war upon slavery.
That they aimed to exterminate at .the
earliest possible moment. As to how its
abolition should come about they cared
nothing, so it came speedily. For the
Constitution of the United States which
s,tood in. the way with its unfortunate
guarantees, they cared naught, proclaim-
ing , it "a covenant with death and an
agreement with hell." Generally they re-
fused to vote at all, considering indeed
the government 30 . defiled with slavery
that no political party could be formed
qn such a basic idea as this. In some
respects the Abolitionists of that school
■^ere the Nihilists of America in the last
generation. It is not to be wondered at
that Wendell Phillips should become in
his later days the defender and eulogist of
the Russian Nihilists of that era.

Now the Republican party came into
existence as a constitutional party, with

many disti'nct and sharply defined pur-
poses and policies. Undoubtedly ' the
main one • of these was to preclude the
extension of slavery into the te^rritories.
This may have been intended only as a
means toward an end. The ulterior
thought (as Lincoln developed it) to
confine the I disease within circumscribed
limits — shut off the circulation and yOu
may iri time thereby eradicate it from the
system. Undoubtedly the ultimate hope
was to get rid of slavery, but it was all to
be worked out through the operation of
consequent natural causes, without ■ con-
vulsion or revolution.

The Garrisonian Abolitionists were a
very limited nuniber indeed, and I should
say, up to .1850 at least, of limited direct
influence. Herein I am not taking into
account the latent influences they may
have inspired. I am inclined to think
that these, eventually amounted to a great
deal. But, the speeches of Giddings and
Phillips and the ■ editorials of Garrison
reached but comparatively few, and even
of these, many were aroused by them
rather to a violent antagonism than to
conviction and discipleship.. Upon this
point I; cannot refrain from referring to
myown early recollections. I was born
and grew up , to manhood in a region of
country peculiarly susceptible to influ-
ences of this anti-slavery agitation, a dis-
trict cornering on two slave states —
Chester County, Pennsylvania. This coun-
ty possessed more free blacks than aAy
other in the United States. It.\yas largely
peopled by a sect. which, from its religious
faith and traditions would iiaturally be
most averse to human slaver)^ It held
indeed many who were strongly so in
feeling, and a considerable number who
were active and zealous Abolitionists.
The .Underground Ra:ilroad's main- line
ran right across the district and its
branches zigzagged over it in all direc-
tions. Whittier wrote of this section —

" Wbere Chester's oak and walnut shades
With slavery-laden breezes stir,
And by the brooks and in tlie glades
Of Bucks and honest Lancaster,
Are heads that think, and hearts that feel-
Flints to. the.AbolitionsteeJ."



and he proceeds to give mention to some
of these zealots by name — "the Coates,
the Whitsons, and the Fussels. " And
these Abolition Hicksite Quakers came
fairly, by their anti-slavery blood, for , as
we read that there, are 'Mother heroes be-
fore Agamemnon." so there were many
consistent emancipationists before the
days of Garrison and Parker. It had
long been the mission of the Quaker Soci-
ety to bear testimony against all outrages
upon humanity, slavery among the rest.
As a religious body they had .never tem-
porized with the evil as. had done others,
but they had been outspoken in all official
utterances and consistent to the extent of
disownment of members who held slaves.
Elias Hicks had preached emancipation
in the beginning of this century, among
slaveholders themselves, and sometimes
to such effect as resulted in manumission^
whilst Benjamin Lundy had spent his. life
of toil and travel in noble and self-sacri-
ficing effort to arouse the minds and con-
sciences of men, both north and South, to
a realization of the wrongs and dangers of

But notwithstanding all this, the number
of pronounced Abolitionists was compara-
tively few, as I remember, even in Chester
County, and in the minds of those who
were not connected with them in sym-
pathy, prejudice was strong against them
to the extent of odium. To the ordi-
nary apprehension in those days "Abo-
litionist" was largely associated with
•" Amalgamationist," and was thereby
held in. scorn as one who "would be
willing to marry his daughter to a nigger."
■Even the venerable quaker meeting held a
large proportion of rather conservative
"hunker" Whigs. Respectable broad-
brim, close cropped, wearing his natty
shad-belly coat, looked with distrust on
these ".long-haired men and short-haired
women," whose spirits moved them eter-
nally but on one single subject — slavery.
Faction ran high, discussions waxed hot
over. these questions, but a large majority
.of these people voted for Harry Clay in

i8zi.4, and in 1848 — an ardent old hunker
one day boastfully announced in London-
Grove meeting, ".Western Quarterly goes
for Taylor."

I recall too, as significant perhaps, that
the editor of the old Whig newspaper, the
party hack of our district, (the man by the
way, to whom. Bayard Taylor was once
bound as "printer's devil") when chroni-
cling a discussion in congress wherein
brave old Giddings was foully berated by
some southern Whig — fulsomely toadied
to the slaveholder as one who had "han-
dled the pestiferous agitator without
gloves." I have little doubt that a
thousand concurring recollections could
yet be appealed to, instancing the preval-
ence of popular prejudice against the
Abolitionists — east, west and north, as
well as intensified to hatred in the south,
down to the year 1850 and later.

;]: . * * >ic *

If then my presumption be correct, and
the net result of all these years of toil and
obloquy suffered by this trio and their
disciples in anti-slavery cause had appar-
ently effected so little — whence came that
great upheaval of politics, the tremendous
uprising of the northern people that ensued
but a few years later? Certainly in 1850
and a few years thereafter, the cause, not
only of Abolition but even of any form of.
active anti-slavery, seemed to have reached
its lowest ebb. If the tinie in our politi-
cal history immediately succeeding the
second election of President Monroe has
been appropriately named "the era of
good feeling" among the people of the
United States — certainly the period suc-
ceeding the passage of the "Compromise
measures of 1850" was the era of appar-
ent unanimity of feeling between the t-wo
great parties, on the slavery question.
Both had determined that sla.very agita-
tion was a great danger to party supremacy.
The Whigs had finally come to the con-
clusion that any opposition to slavery
was worse than a crime — that it was a
political blunder. They therefore, in
common with the Democrats concluded



to "conclude "^ tipon it. The^ would
quiet agitation by '* stamping it out."
Greeley says of this, period, that "whilst
during the canvass of 1848 the sentiment
oi opposition to slavery extension seemed
stronger than ever before, yet in the fol-
lo-wing year the Free-soil party rapidly
disintegrated and the Free-soil Whigs fell
away from a decided open and inflexible
maintenance of the principles of restric-
tion. "

In the struggle that ensued upon the
admission of California with its free con-
stitution and the organization of the terri-
tories, New Mexico and Utah (acquired in
the Mexican war), Mr. Clay submitted his
famous Compromises, which were finally
adopted. California came in as a free
state with even a portion of territory south
&f j6^ deg^. 30 min. ;- — the Territories were
organized silent as to slavery restriction —
the Slave-trade (though not Slavery) was
abalished in the District of Columbia; —
Texas was given a sop of $10,000,000,
ostensibly for lands she never owned — and
the Fugitive Slave Law was passed ! As
Greeley sums it up, "the net product was
a corrupt monstrosity which even the
great name of Henry Clay should not
shield from lasting approbrium." But
this dose, fearful as it was, seemed to
serve for awhile as a most potent soporifi^e
to the conscience of the North, as well as
a stupefying potion to the physical and
moral system of the Whig party.

For a time, however, there can be no
doubt that it was accepted and ratified by
the people of both sections. It promised
political peace — cessation from the pesti-
lent agitation of the slavery question which
had long interfered with business, dis-
turbed trade relations, embroiled families
and societies and even distracted the
churches. The latter, though giving ex-
pression to anti-slavery views in the out-
set, ended inevitably (to quote Greeley
again) by adapting Christianity to Slavery,
since that seemed more profitable than
endeavoring to make Slavery square with
Christianity. A thousand changes had

been rung on Paul and Onesinms, and the
text "Cursed be Canaan," till it was final-
ly decided as most fitting that Ham should
be fried on the plantations and broiled im
southern swamps, through his descendants
to the latest generation !

The two great parties vied with each
other now as to which should endorse this
settlement in the most servile terras, as a
finality. It proved ultimately a finality
indeed to that party whose great founder
and leader, Henry Clay, had framed and
fathered it ! When by dint of his Coim-
proraise and the help of Webster and oth-
ers, he had succeeded in getting his party
on substantially the same platform with
the Democratic — that of the Compromise
measures of 1850, the people discovered
that there really was no use but for one
party on that platform, and swung the
Whig party off, regardless of the fact that
it was now so far removed from the solid
ground of principle that, in the fall, it
would inevitably break its venerable neckt
That was the catastrophe which resulted
and the Whigs discoTered' it — in the elJee-
tion of 1852 !

And yet another disco^very was made
soon after. The Slavery Question was
not yet settled — its agitation still contin-
ued. Unfortunately — or fortunately — it
was like Banquo's ghost, it "would not
down;" like "Truth crushed to earth," it
rose again ! Whilst the period from 185a
to 1855 is apparently the darkest in ooar
history, so far as faith in the nationality
of freedom was concerned, yet, as a form-
ative period it was not less pregnant witli
results than any other like number of
years in our political existence. I venture
to suggest three potent forces working
toward the evolution of the Republican
party and the downfall of Slavery: —

I. — ^The sectional pride, — the honesty
manly sectional pride, — of the North,, and
its extreme intensification through frfoe
Kansas struggle.

II. — The death of the Whig party.

III. — The literature of anti-slavery.

I am fully aware with respect to the


first named that the protest may be made
that there aever was such a thing as a
sectioELal feelrng in the North, but that it
was confiaed wholly to the opposite sec-
tion of the Union ! I will not for a mo-
ment deny that it existed in the South pri-
marily, and that it grew and flourished
here, 'excited partly through envy of the
superior prosperity of the North, but
chiefly through nervous apprehension of
assaults upon their pet institution. In
season and out of season, this feeling of
sectionalism was exhibited; — in church, in
convention, in society, everywhere — but
especially in the halls of Congress. So
pronounced did it become that ardent
politicians came to declare that party alle-
giance was as nothing to them in compari-
son with devotion to the South and Slav-
€ry ! Every public measure came to this
touchstone — would the interest of their
peculiar institution be in any wise affected
by it? No new State could be admitted
without slavery, unless by virtue of com-
pensatory bargain as to other territory.
Compromises were made to gain the profit
of one new slave state, and as ruthlessly
broken where promised the possible chance
of another thereby. Was it to be expect-
ed that this could go on from decade to
decade and no strong feeling of sectional
antagonism be aroused? In the early
days of the Republic it had been conceded
that slavery was lecal, and probably tran-
sient. Now, in view of the profit of sugar
and rice and cotton, and the consequent
enhanced value of slaves, the South came
to cling to it as her joy and pride. Like
9. doting mother with a bete noir, a "holy
terror " of a child, she insisted on its being
given the full freedom of the house she
had entered. It was "Love me, love my
dog "—and hunt him up for me, too, if he
strays away !

There came a time at last when the
North grew weary and indignant at these
claims, pressed with so much fury and
^'damnable iteration." The only wonder
is that they stood it so long. They knew
that their own civilization was respectable

in the eyes of the world, being founded on
a basis consistent with the principles of
the Declaration of Independence and the
enlightened spirit of the age — and that the
only weak spot in the armor of the Union
was where it had been corroded by the
acrid virus of slavery. They saw their
own section prosperous and relatively
gaining rapidly in wealth, population and
• all things that evidence material and intel-
lectual progress. In the race for material
prosperity, Freedom, it was apparent,
could far outstrip Slavery. Why should
the free North in Congress be forever con-
tending and conceding and apologizing?
They did a good deal of that, in the
course of thirty years or^so, but it became
very irksome. They stood up for their
section sometimes, and voted for it in
Congress — as the records of those strug-
gles will show; — rarely successfully, it is
true. The time came when some of them
would no longer accept taunts and insults
tamely, and such men as John Quincy
Adams, Old Ben Wade, Burlingame, Hick-
man, Grow and Thaddeus Stevens demon-
strated that their faces were not ^ 'dough,"
being too "cheeky" to be smitten on
"both" with impunity!" The execution
of the odious Fugitive Slave Law, the out-
rageous violation of the sanctity of the
Missouri Compromise by the passage of
the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, leading to a
direct issue and struggle for empire be-
tween North and South, intensified the
feeling of Northern indignation to the
highest degree. It transferred a large
part of the struggle from the halls of Con-
gress to these Kansas prairies. Outside
of anti-slavery feelings that we may or
may not have possessed, it is vividly im-
pressed on my remembrance that we from
the North unitedly stood for our section,
and were proud of it. We came to com^
prehend distinctly with Lowell's Hosea
Bigelow — '-

" Wby, it's jest as plain as Aggers—
Clear as one and one make two, —
Chaps that make black slaves of niggers
Want to make white slaves of you."

I leave this branch of my subject by



summarizing the feelings so inadequately
expressed, into two words — indignation
and determination — "dander" and "grit."

-f* ^ ')» '1^ 'I* ,

Biit, if- the powerfully aroused feeling
of the North gave the motive, the down-
fall of the Whig party afforded the ripe
occasion for the forming of the Republi-
can. "Ilfaut vivre'" — "it was necessary
that I should live," pleaded in extenuation
the convicted thief, in the days when rob-
bery was a capital crime in France. ^'■Je
n' en vois pas le ?iecessite" — "I don't see
the necessity," retorted the judge — and
proved it, by having him decapitated on
the spot ! The Nation here was the judge,
and saw no necessity for the Whig party,
as such, to live— so it died.

But, in a system of government like
ours, it is requisite that there should be
at least two great parties, and there was
an absolute necessity for a new one to
contest the administration of that govern-
ment, upon the basis of living issues, with
the degenerate Democracy ! For a time
the • projected and disunited elements of
the Whig party seemed floating aimlessly
in space, " formless and void. " Then the
whorls of the nebula began to aggregate
and solidify around the feeling of outraged
northern pride. "The chaos of a mighty
world was rounding into form" — and from
that new political world, slavery should
be excluded ! Chemically speaking, the
freed elements sought another union, form-
ing a new compound. Its bright crystals
were already shooting in every -direction
toward the formation of a new Party,
whose base should be inflexible hostility
to the extension of slavery !

A futile effort had just been made to
meet the exigencies for a new division, by
the organization of the "Native" or
" Know Nothing" party. It was certainly
a strong evidence of this necessity, that
such a dark-lantern monstrosity as that
really seemed for the m'oment to gain a
standing place in American politics. . Soon
succeeding this abortion, however, came
the vigorous babe, Republicanism. The

minds of a large share of the people of
the North were ready to hail its advent
with enthusiasm. They saw that this was
to be the only man-child that stood a
chance of entering into the kingdom; — the
heir— and they embraced it eagerly.
Whilst thousands of northern Democrats,
lovers of their own section and contem-
ners of Slavery, who had long fretted
under the Southern domination in, their
party and unsuccessfully struggled against
it in press and convention, now gladly saw
the day of their political emancipation
close at hand, yet by far the larger acces-
sions were from the ranks of that old
party whose early traditions all favored
the policy of gradual emancipation. A
large share of the northern Whigs went
into the Republican movement with ardor
from the outset. Indignation at the Ne-
braska-bill rascality, and the subsequent
outrages even upon the free speech and
free ballot of Popular Sovereignty in Kan-
sas, swept them together with, as has been
intimated, a goodly porton of Free-soil
northern Democrats, in a resistless tide of
feeling, clear over the vanishing land-
marks of old party association. Seeing
so large a body of their old party asso-
ciates going this way, a great many other
Whigs, though rather indifferent at heart
to the slavery question, concluded to join
the procession. It was the tradition of
their youth and the habit of their lives to
be. "fernenst the Loco-focos." They had
always been fighting the Democrats, and
they went with, the crowd. My old Whig
party-hack, the Chester County,. Pa.,
newspaper editor, who had always abused
Giddings, now kept quick step with the
Party that was to include so many of Gid-
dings' associates. It would be a- cold day
indeed when he should be left behi-nd.

But, a good many of the old Whigs
were not so alert. They were quite bewil-
dered by the hurried , march of events
which, had somehow, left that supreme
issue, " Tlie Tariff," in' the rear, and -was
now pressing on toward a goal that they
had 'for long years been taught to dread,


the possible goal of Abolition. Almost
pathetic, indeed was their predicament.
"Where shall I go?" was the burden of
their political cry — as uttered indeed in a
speech at this time by one of the old
school of Whig statesmen and politicians.
"He who hesitates is lost" — and this was
exemplified by this type of Whigs, espe-
cially at the South, gravitating pretty
surely into the ranks of their life-time
enemy, the Democratic party, through
force of sympathy with its conservative
(pro-slavery) position. On the other
hand, thousands of young men just enter-
ing political life and free from bonds of
party, were inevitably attracted to the new
one of freedom and progress; It counted
for something, it was worth a good deal,
to these to have a live cause to contend
for. Full of the inspiration of youth and
hope, they followed the banner of the
Pathfinder, Fremont, and shouted the bat-
tle cries of "Free Soil, Free Speech, Free

■^ -^ >;c ;{; ^

For, if the clearing away of the wreck
of the Whig Party, gave new opportunity
to old and young alike, and if the spur of
awakened pride in their insulted section,
the North, had stimulated thousands to a
realizing sense of the deteriorating and
dangerous influences of Slavery and a
determination that its limit of blight and
curse should hereafter be circumscribed,
a stronger and more persuasive force had
for years been exercised on the minds
especially of the youth of the North. This
influence, though silent yet one of the
mightiest, was henceforth to be felt in
politics and history — the influence of
American literature. The young man who
read and thought now breathed an atmos-
phere antagonistic to Slavery !

I confess that, in the outset of under-
taking this essay, it was my purpose to
devote it chiefly to an estimate of this
influence upon the slavery question, and
to tracing the growth and developments
in American literature of the anti-slavery
idea. So much time has been consumed

already, however, that I can scarcely do
more than simply suggest this to your con-
sideration. For my part, I esteem this
one of the potent and controlling influ-
ences of the anti-slavery struggle. When
it came to be understood that the best
brain of the country was on that side;
when the great writers of America, rever-
enced for their genius wherever the Eng-
lish language was spoken ; — the finest
essayists, poets and orators; men whose
elevated thought and most eloquent ex-
pression ennobled every subject they
touched; — when these came to devote all
their great powers to the cause of the
downtrodden, the despised slave in our
own land, rather than to abstract sympa-
thy with the wrongs and woes of the dis-
tant though classic and historic Greek —
then the day of redemption of the African
bondman in free America was already
dawning I

The essays of Channing ; the verse of
Longfellow ; Whittier's noble lyrics, now
burning in invective, and again, inexpres-
sibly tender in compassion ; Lowell's mag-
nificent affluence of homely irony, ex-
pressed in his Bigelow papers; — these hint
the names of only a few great leaders of
the noble choir innumerable that sang for
Freedom. It was the power of those who
"make the songs of the Nation." That
even those whose voices were in the minor
key touched some hearts strangely, I, for
one, can bear testimony. A boy of those
days, whose treacherous memory will
scarce recall a single word of fiery Aboli-
tion lectures he listened to, can yet repeat

Online LibraryKansas. UniversitySeminary notes published by the Seminary of historical and political science → online text (page 48 of 62)