William Henry Wadsworth.

...Speech of Hon. W.H. Wadsworth, at Flemingsburg, Kentucky, June 13, 1868 (Volume 2) online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibraryWilliam Henry Wadsworth...Speech of Hon. W.H. Wadsworth, at Flemingsburg, Kentucky, June 13, 1868 (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 2)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook




\ n-f^ii^




Pntlished by the Union EepnWicao Congreesional Committee, Washington, D. C.





Fellow- Citizens : A small portion of the i
great Union people of the United States, we
have met here to-day to choose our leaders,
declare our faith, and give our reasons. The
duty of speaking has devolved ujwii me.
However much I may have wished to avoid
that duty I have not been able to do so, and
?.vsx here to-day to discharge it to the best of
my ability.

We are here t,o ratify with great cheerful-
ness, " shut up in measureless content," the
nomination of Grant and Colfax for Presi-
dent and Vice Presidentof the United States.
To ratify their nomination with the resolu-
tions upon which they stand, i>romulgatcd
by the Convention that presented their
names to the people. To ratify their nom-
ination as a testimony in some small degree
of our gratitude to them for their distin-
gxiished services in the field and in the
Legislature, in the great struggle with rel)el-
lion. We are here to ratify their nomina-
tion upon their well known public lives and
history, because the names of Grant and
Colfax arc familiar as household words.
One, the General of all the armies of the
Union ; the other, the Speaker of the House
of Representatives, and for many years of
his life, though still a young man, holding a
seat in the national Legislature.

I n.eed not speak of General Grant to you,
my fellow-citizen.s. The events in which
he has been a conspicuous actor, and known
throughout the world, are surely known to
all of you, placing him beyond the reach of
feeble calumny. Suffice it to say that com-
ing up from the ranks of the people his
whole life has been one of honesty, fidelity
to duty, and patriotism to our common
counti"}', signalized in the two wars — the war
with Mexico and the great war just tcrmi-
nat<>d. In the providence of God it fell to
his lot t« play the foremost part in the sup-
pression of the rebellion — excelling where
all did well, leading the heroes to whom our
gratitude is forever due.

We ratify their nomination? because of the
future services we expect at the hand of these
nominees. We ratify their nomination, be-
cause of the confidence we have in their hon-
esty, their ability, and their courage. We
rotil^their nomination, because hitherto they

have always been successful, and the world
demands success of its leaders. Merit, how •
ever great, is always topped by success.


The deeply interesting question for us to
answer is, how Union men of Kentucky are
going to act in this contest? With refer-
ence, perhaps, to a larger portion of the
Union body at least, there can be no ques-
tion. They have always been in the front
of the right wing of the Union party through-
out this whole contest. But it is an inter-
esting question with regard to another very
respectable and influential body of Unioii
men of this State to know what part they are
going to take in this contest; where they
will pitch their tent ; where they will choose
their company for the future, because things
have proceeded in onr Srate politics to tlie
point where we must decide between what
they call the Democratic party and the Na-
tional Union Republican party. There are
many persons of Union sentiments who
think it the duty of the Union people of the
State to give their support to the Democratic
party, as they call it, here in this Common-
wealth of ours.

The very first task I propose to myself is
to examine reasons why any of us should do
so ; and I propose to do this in a spirit of
candor and frankness, but with respect to-
wai'd the gentlemen wlio differ with me. and,
I tru.st, with respect to that party itself.

The Democratic party of the United
States governed this country for thirty years,
almost without interruption. You are my
witnesses that they misgoverned it. You
are my witnesses that they sowed broadcast
the seeds of the bloody liarvest we reaped
in the war just closed. You are my wit-
nesses that this party, honored so beyond
measure by a generous and confiding peo-
ple, at last betrayed their trust, and broke
this people in pieces by cruel and bloody
war. For many years prior to 18G0, the
controlling element of the party had been
molding public sentiment, and shaping the
policy of the Government, with a view to
secession and rebellion, ending g» fatally to
the people.



AVhen at last a majority of the people of
the United States had got tired of being thus
ruled, and elected to power a party opposed
to the spread and rule of slavery, this same
imperious power revolted against the only
friend the institution had in the world — the
Constitution of the United States. Giving
up the support of this Constitution, with the
Supreme Court and a majority of the Con-
gress to back it, the rulers and upholders of
the Democratic party for a generation re-
volted, drew the sword of civil war against
the Union, the ideas and tendencies of the
age, and the Father of men. For nearly
thirty years the Democratic party had gov-
erned us here in the South with a rod of iron,
in the sole interest of slavery, with a view
to secession. This party organized a Presi-
dential campaign in the interests of seces-
sion and rebellion, with Breckinridge as
leader, that Douglas might be defeated or
Mr. Lincoln more surely elected, having long
before declared that if he was elected they
would revolt and dissolve our Union. They
destroyed their party to precipitate the de-
struction of their country. They went into
the rebellion upon the fact of Mr. Lincoln's
election, and the Democrats of the North,
spurned and abandoned by their rebel allies,
lost all power and. influence in the country.


War broke out, and all right-minded peo-
ple, under the lead of Lincoln and Douglas,
Crittenden and Guthrie, rose up to meet this
daring attack upon the Union and the free-
dom and progress which it represented. The
people everywhere rallied to the country's
cause, and when 75,000 men were called for,
above 300,000 came to the rescue. Now, at
this time the Democratic party seemed to
have been blotted from the political map.
It had no existence till the anti-slavery
policy of tlie Government was developed by
the events of the v;ar.

The Democratic party seized this opportu-
nity to organize, and many of us in Ken-
tucky, alarmed for the result, gave it our
:-ycipi;thy, regarding the Democi'ats of the
'. , orth then in arms against their late leaders
of the South, and thus friends to the Union
and the war against rebellion, as friends also
to the Constitution. We came to their aid
speedily in the border States, and in the
election in 1862 they elected members from
nearly all the districts in some of the States,
and came with a few votes of having the
House of Representatives. At once the old
leaders, with the old sympathies, champicm-
ed the party, and began to declare their op-
position to the war, in many ways throwing
their influence into the scale on the side of
the enemy. Instead of supporting the Gov-
ernment in the prosecution of the war, they

pursued ,a policy evidently designed to stop
and abandon it ; of course there were many
exceptions, but I speak of what I believe to
be the real power of the party. The next
Congressional elections were disastrous. The
Presidential election came on.

They met in National Convention and
nominated for President a worthy man, a
soldier of the Union, once of great popular-
ity, a gentleman alv>-ays honoral'le in my
eyes — I mean George B. McClellan. He
was compelled to rei^udiate the party plat-
form, and declare that the war for the Union
must never be abandoned. But we were de-
feated. Notwithstanding such evident dis-
gust by that party for the principles we cher-
ished, still, with other portions of the Union
people of the South, the Union Democracy
of Kentucky gave its support to the Demo-
cratic party North throughout the war.


The war terminated at last, owing to the
valor of our soldiers and the genius of our
commanders — in spite of all opposition,
covei't and open — in favor of the Union.
Now, mark what followed, you that have
any hope of comfort or honor in the Demo-
cratic party. In Kentucky, men left the
State and swore allegiance to a foreign, rebel
power, but left their wives, sisters, daughters
and property behind in our midst, under and
to our protection ; and these men continual-
ly invited and ))rought war around our fire-
sides and in the midst of their own families,
plundered our fields and stables, massacred
om* inhabitants and burned our towns ; at
last, conquered in battle, they returned to
the homes they had abandoned. The Union
party in power in the State of Kentuckj', in
a generous spirit, xiesirous of healing all the
wounds of the body politic, and restoring a
solid peace to our afflicted Commonwealth,
forgave them all the penalties of the law,
and restored to them the franchise.

They were scarcely warm in their seats
before that same Legislature was urged, by
ambitious aspirants among them, to call a
State Convention. By a voice almost unan-
imous it refused to do so, pronouncing in-
stinctively against its polic}', for a reason
they did not fully recognize at the time, but
which must now be apparent, viz : In such
a Conveniion, the sympathies of rebellion
and those of Unionism would never harmon-
iously interflow and fuse together. If called
there must be a disintegration of the hetero-
geneous elements that composed it. So the
Convention was refused. Then these enfran-
chised rebels and their sympathizers who
staid at home and lent their aid as they safe-
ly could, to divide the LTnjon, called a State
Convention, not of the Union Democratic

party that had voted for McClelhm, tut call-
ed a Democratic Convention proper of the
men who were fresh from the rebellion, who
had voted for Jefferson Davis, editors, ex-
Congressmen and officers in the late rebel
army, who had been for five years denounc-
ing the Democratic party, while the Union
men of Kentucky gave it their support, call-
ing it very vile names indeed ; who had
been denouncing the Union and fighting it
with fire and sword, and had declared if we
would give them a sheet of blank paper on
which to write their own terms, they would
not live with us again. These people called
a State Convention and made a nomination
for clerk of the Court of Appeals, and coun-
ty officers of pure unadulterated Democrats
and opponents of the war.

Now was the time to test the fidelity of our
late Democratic allies North ; to test the
sincerity of their sympathy with the Union
men of the South, and the cause which they
loved. Wc( were entitled to their sympathy
and support in this contest with those who
came fresh and red from the criminal rebel-
lion. Here was the crucial test which was
to prove whether the Democracy of tlie
North was a Union party and would support
the Union Democratic party or the rebel
Democratic party of Kentucky.

You know the result. We were deserted.
The Democrats of the North would not go
forward, and taught by the war to something
better than the resolutions of '98 and slavery,
they gave up the Union and the future ;they
embraced the past, and returned like a dog
to his vomit. They entered the contest on the
side of those who had been most conspicuous
in the ranks of the enemies to the Union,
andthrewoverboard,without remorse of con-
science, those Union men who had stood by
them in the hour of their difficulties.

The act signalized at once the inevitable
sympathies of the Democratic party. North
as well as South. The controlling power in
that party through the war was opposed to it.
While many of them, I gratefully remember,
proved their devotion to the country in the
legislative forum and by going into the field;
but the real, vital, energetic forces in the
party gave its sympathy to the war against
the Union, denied the right of the Govern-
ment to put down the rebellion, acknowl-
edged the right of a State to secede, many
denouncing the war as unholy ; the editor
of their most popular newspaper, exceeding
the license of^ the press and the bounds of
decency, even justified the assassination of
the President of the United States, the kind-
est enemy that ever struck a foe and wept.

In this first opportunity to show whether
for the future they would build their party
upon a Union basis, or whether they would
}ook to rebel sympathizers in the South ior

support, they repudiated true Union men,
and took up with their adversaries.

It is a question, gentlemen, how far we
who stood for the Union, will ever find for
ourselves forgiveness and acceptance in a
party controlled by our adversaries- But
such considerations as these are of minor
importance. If by giving our support to the
Democratic party we could accomplish great
public ends important to the welfare of the
people ; to do this we should be ready to
sacrifice all personal, considerations. The
service demanded of us by this Democratic
party of Kentucky, is indeed onerous and
bitter. We must silence our sympathies for
the Union cause and the men who sustained
it. We must forget that those who died in
the great battles, died honorably, in a good
cause, and against a bad one. As to the
living, we niu.st forget their services in the
war and what is due to them, preferring those
who fought for the rebellion. We must for-
get their generous zeal, and die great pro-
vocations that prompted to any excess they
may have committed, and while we exag-
gerate the one, we must overlook the other.
We must not recall rebel atrocities, assas-
sinations of unarmed citizens, the slaughter
and starvation of prisoners, the burning of
houses, towns. Court Houses, fair grounds.
&c., but pass that over. All this we must
bo required to do and ?nu.<it do when we join
that party. We must fetch and carry for it,
thankful for a smile or a crumb, and be
ready above all to lick the feet that kick us.


I will speak, then, with your indulgence,
upon the ideas upon which the Democratic
party intend to administer the affairs of
40,000,000 of people, now soon to be 100,-

What are their ideas of the rights of men?
Upon what principles would they build the
future? The idea of the Democratic party
i.s that one man should have the right to
buy and sell another, that they should have
the right to buy and sell women and chil-
dren, to sell the husband away from the
wife, the child from its mother. These are
their ideas, and they are persecuted men if
you deny them the exercise of these rights.
Their idea is that the late enemies of the
United States in the rebel States are enti-
tled to exclusive political power and privi-
leges tberein by laws made to secure the
same, und that you have established a des-
potism if you require them to be shared
equally with loyal men.

With regard to emancipation and recon-
struction, the party has no equivocal record.
It is opposed to these mea.sures, thinks them
wrong. Now, if the people give the party
power, what will they do for us to correct

these wrongs? Will they repeal reconstruc-
tion, turn out the States, and give the power
to the rebels therein exclusively? And as to
emancipation, will they pay us for our slaves,
or, as some boast, re-enslave the blacks?
If their opposition to these fads is to be made
effectual and means anything, it means this:
If they cannot undertake these tasks we
should not look to that party to save us from
negro suffrage, or to make us compensation
for our losses. The question is already deci-
ded without me ; you may say in spite of me.
If we must join the Democratic party to
get relief from negro suffrage, it must be be-
cause we expect them in some way to undo
what has been done. Some of us have large
expectations from the Democratic party in
the work of reaction. Wo expect, I believe,
the public debt to be repudiated. Our
slaves, too, are not hopelessly lost. With
regard to that species of personal property,
we may perhaps have to realize the expecta-
tions of a very distinguished gentleman not
very far from Flemingsburg who, while they
were rejoicing over the last fall eleetion in
Ohio, instructed his friends just to keep still,
that they would get their niggers back yet.
In examining what Union men are to ex-
pect at the hands of the Democracy, I speak
not of the finances, though that is a deeply
interesting subject ; but you and I know that
here and now we are principally concerned
in knowing what are the ideas that are to
govern this present and that great future
that looms up before us. What shall the
generations of the future have to thank or
to curse us for ? What are the principles
that are in the future to interpret the rights
of the citizens of the United States? What
shall become of the declaration of our fathers
promulgated in 1776, that "All men are
born free and equal, endowed by their Crea-
tor with certain inalienable rights' — rights
which they have no right to part with — the
basis upon which this Government is to be
restored and maintained, is the deeply in-
teresting subject here in Kentucky.


Now, if we give the Democratic party
power in this country for the next four years,
what do they propose to do in that event
with regard to the rebel States restored to
the Government? If thoy elect their can-
didate he will be installed into power in 1869.
I ask what would be the state of things which
would confront them when they should thus
attain power. This Union will be restored,
built up, upon principles of right or wrong,
as you may believe, but built solidly, com-
pactly, every State with a constitution, a
government, Legislature, judicial and exe-
cutive officers ; witli Senators and Repre-

sentatives in Congress, admitted by the
party governing the nation, and recognizedi
and in full operation. With this restoratiou
of the Union, for which the people have or
ganized so long, completely accomplished ;
restored, if you please, upon equal rights to
all and exclusive privilege to none staring
them in the face, what will they do ?

That state of things will meet them in
1869. It has been done ; freedom to the
black man, and the ballot to guard it, has
already been given to him in the rebel States.
He already votes ; he already makes Consti-
tutions ; he already helps make Governors,
Legislators and Congressmen,in ten States of
the Union. Pie has done it in Tennessee for
more than two years. He will do it, though
every man and woman in Kentucky rise up
and swear he shall not do it.

Now, when they get into power, will they
turn these ten States out of the Uiwon ?
Will they get up a counter revolution, and
turn these Governors out, the Legislatures
out, and expel from Congress their Senators
and members? Will *^,hey then pass recon-
struction bills with suffrage upon a white
basis, making this a white man's Govern-
ment instead of a Government of the Lord
God of Heaven for all men ? Will they do
it? I put it to Democrats not only in Ken-
tucky, but I put it to Democrats in the
North. These pe'ople who call themselves
Democrats in Kentucky are ready for any-
thing. If an opportunity presented itself,
they would fight again for the Confederacy
and for slavery. But I put it to the Demo-
crats of the whole country. If my feeble
voice could roach them I would appeal to
them (some of them I know are patriotic
and worthy men.) Will you break up this
Union thus built up, because you do not
like the manner in which it has been built
up? Will you break it up^notto enlarge
the rights of mankind, not to establish the
doctrine made possible by the war, that one
class of men have no right to rule another
class of men, not to declare that all men are
created free and equal, but to go back over
the dreary loastc of the civil war, to the loorn
out shams of the past? Noiv, a ])arty en-
gaged in this business of j^idling down Con-
stitidinns and expelling States loould be la-
boring not to extend sikffrage, bid to restrict
it ; not to strengthen the bonds of the Union,
bid toimt the i^olitical p)ower of these States
in the hands of the enemies of the Uninti.
You would not do it to afford the soldiers
who fought the battles of the Union the
means of protection, or to give them power
to hold in check those who fought against it?
Now, if these are the issues upon which this
campaign is to be fought, let them write it
in the platform, make their nominaiious
upon it, and put it fairly before the people.

I have proclaimed, and yet proclaim, that
when this Union is restored I shall accept
the work whether Hike it or not ; but surely
t shall never be so untrue to the American
idea as to make war upon a restored Union
because it is too liberal and democratic.
Rather, with ample faith in the American
people, and genuine love toward them, go
to work and build upon whatever ground is
given us to build upon. I will never embark
with any party in a revolution to break up
the restored Union.

Therefore, my friends and fellow-citizens,
when General Grant in his letter of accept-
ance — although modest, noble, and worthy
of him — says " let us have peace," this sen-
tence is full of pregnant meaning ; it means
that the acceptance and protection of a re-
stored Unton founded on that broad basis of
equal rights to all and exclusive privileges to
none, is the only means and hope of peace.

Why, then, should I and the Union men
of Kentucky embark our fortunes with the
Democratic party of Kentucky, or their al-
lied elsewhere, who would restrict the basis
of suffrage in the ten States, and give exclu-
81 VQ political power to gentlemen in the
South who, for thirty years, ruled the coun-
try only. to betray and ruin it? Do I wish
the restoration of that party in the South
which built up a despotic public sentiment:
that repressed all freedom of thought and
speech and every generous emotion com-
mon to the heart of mankind, and kept our
society crystalized in forms that belonged to
the far past ; that made the interests of the
white masses subordinate to the institution
of slavery ; a party that persecuted every lib-
eral statesman. North and South — men like
Henry Clay, for instance — because they were
dot willing to repress their love of freedom.

Do we want that Democratic leadership
back here again, to go through the scenes
we have gone through ? Ah ! forsake such
a thought. The Southern leaders and their
ideas belonged to the past. We cannot call
them back. Shall we fight against Jehovah,
the Lord of Hosts, whose words are down on
•as, saying, "I will rule. If you will help me,
well and good; if not, without you." Shall
I do it ? No ; I have had my mind made up
distinctly for two years that I would not do
it, that I wa-s wrong in trying to persuade
myself it was my duty to do it. I know no
useful function the Democratic party- can
perform, except to disband — or advance.


I have had a little experience (\ "■. all
have had,) and it opened my eyes, 'i u. or-
ganization is against us, Union men. ■ We
are not of it. Try it, you will know it at
last. It will use you, humiliate you and
fchrow you aside. It has oersecuted our

brethren everywhere throughout the State ;
turned them out of office ; put Confederates
over them, and only because they were Con-
federates. They rejected and overslaughed
Union men in the l!)emocratic party of Ken-
tucky: were Conservatives — Conservative
enough, Heaven knows. The only stain
upon their record was, they had been for the
war against rebellion ; this, their chief hon-
or, marred all their fortunes.

Day by day we have seen Unionism under
the persecutions of this party decline, *ill
now it is much reproach to have stood for
our Government. We could bear it for our-
selves ; O Union men, but we have friends
fallen in the great battle, and for their sakes,
since they were dear to us, we would have
their cause forever honorable. I had some,
laid low by criminal brothers' hands, that I
must lament even with my heart. They rise
up beforeme now ; I see them as once I saw
them instinct with life, walking with fronts


Online LibraryWilliam Henry Wadsworth...Speech of Hon. W.H. Wadsworth, at Flemingsburg, Kentucky, June 13, 1868 (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 2)