Charles Gibbons.

Speech of Hon. Charles Gibbons : delivered at National Hall, October 5th, 1860, in reply to the speech of the Hon. W. B. Reed, on the presidential question, and in vindication of the Peoples' Party online

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Online LibraryCharles GibbonsSpeech of Hon. Charles Gibbons : delivered at National Hall, October 5th, 1860, in reply to the speech of the Hon. W. B. Reed, on the presidential question, and in vindication of the Peoples' Party → online text (page 2 of 4)
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of the admission of a territory to the rank of a
Stale, in which Congress has not adhered to the
right vested in them by the Constitution, to
stipulate with the territory upon the conditions
of the boon.

" The Senate and House of Representatives of
Pennsylvania, therefore, cannot but deprecate
any departure from the humane and enlightened
policy pursued, not only by the illustrious Con-
gress which framed the Constitution, but by
their successors without exception. They are
persuaded that to open the fertile regions of the
west to a servile race would tend to increase
their numbers beyond all past example, would
open a new and steady market for the lawless
vendors of human flesh, and would render all
schemes for obliterating this most foul blot upon
the American character useless and unavailing.
Under these convictions, and in the full pcrsua-


sion that upon this topic there is but one feeling
in Pennsylvania.

^'Resolved, By the Senate and House of Re-
presentatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsyl-
vania, That the Senators of this State in the
Congress of the United States he, and they are
hereby instructed, and that the llepreseiit;i lives
of this State in the Congress of the Uiiited States
be, and they are hereby requested, to vote against
tlie admission of any territory as a State into the
Union, unless said territory shall stipulate and
agree that 'The further introduction of slavery
or involuntary servitude, except for tlie punish-
ment of crimes whereof the party shall have
been duly convicted, sliall be proliihited; and
that all children born within the said territory
after its admission into the Unidii as a State,
shall be free, but may be lield to service until
the age of twenty-five years.' "

This was the spirit of 1780 — the liberty-loving
spirit of the fathers — as full of vita ify in 1819,
RS when it was first born in the mitlst (f the
Kevolution. On the floor of Congress it found
a champion from our own ciij% who sustained it
with surpassing ability, winning lauiels in that
great contest which will crown his memory to
the latesc time.

I need hardly sa}- that I refer to the late .John
Sergeant, the Nestor of the Whigs of I'liiladel-
phia, one of the ablest lawyei-s and statesmen
that this country has ever produced. [(Cheers ]
It was my privilege to know him, and to love
him, and I do not believe that a better or a
purer man ever lived. He v;ent to his grave
honored and beloved by his fellow-citizens, and
I can say to every young man who aims at an
honorable distinction in life, and a spotless fame
after deatli, that he cannot do better than study
the character of John Sergeant, and strive to
imitate his example. [Applause.] In his great
speech on the Missouri restriction, you will find
his opinions on the extension of slavery, which
are concurrent in all respect with those em-
bodied in the resolutions of the Chicago con-
vention, and maintained by Abraham Lincoln

The Pennsylvania sentiment of 1 780 was again
expressed by the Legislature of the State, on the
22d of January, 1847, during the administration
of Governor Shunk, in the following words:

"Whereas, the existing war with Mexico may
result in the acquisition of new territory to the

"And -nhereas, measures are now pending in
Congress having in view the appropriation of
money and the conferring authority on the
treaty-making power to this end. Therefore,

^'■Resolved, liy the Senate and House of Kep-
resentat'ives of the Commonwealth of Pennsyl-
vania, in General Assembly met. That our
Senators and Representatives in Congress be
requested to vote against any measure whatever
by which territory will accrue to the Union, un-
less, as a part of the fundamental law upon
which any compact or treaty for this purpose is
based, slavery or involuntary servitude, except
for crime, shall be forever prohibited."

This resolution passed the House of Repre-
sentatives, on a call of the yeas and nays, una-
uimously. Every democrat and every whig voted

for it, ninety-five members being present. I was
then Speaker of the Semite, and very well re-
member when I entered the Senate chamber on
the day that it passed that body, I wms accosted
by Mr. Senator Bigler, who stated that he had
just received a letter from one of his political
friends in Washington, urging him to have the
resolution sent to Congress with as little delay
as possible, and he asked me to give him the
floor early in the day, for the purpose of moving
to take up the resolution. I acceded to his re-
quest, and on his motion the resolution was
taken u|). Not a syllable was uttered against
it. r.ut. neverthele>^s, Mr. Bigler made a speech
in suppoit of it, in which he took occasion to
avow his most cordial approval of the principle
it expressed, declared it to be the true Pennsyl-
vania doctrine, and that he desired to place him-
self on the record in support of it. He did so —
as you will see by refeieoce to the Senate jour-
nal of that session. It passed the Senate on a
call of the yeas and nays, almost unanimously,
three Senators only voting against it. That was
as late as 1847 — the same year tliat Mr. Uetd
published the life and correspo'ndence of his
grand fat her.

Mr. Bigler and myself voted alike on that
resolution, and as respects the principle that it
involves, I stand now, and ever expect to stand,
as I stood then [Cheers.] Mr. 13igler's name
still stands on the record — hut " negrophobia"
has turned his head, and the man has been run-
ning away from his record ever since. [Laugh-

During Die administration of Governor John-
ston, who, as Speaker of the Senate succeeded
Governor Shunk in 184M, and was elected Gov-
ernor hy the people in the same year, the
Pennsylvania doctrine of 1780 was ably sus-
tained. Mr. Reed was on confidential terms with
Gov. Johnston, who consulted him freely on all
important questions, and although not official y
conitectedwiih his administration, was generally
considered, and I believe was, the Governor's
chief adviser — whether his advice was asked
for or not. [Laughter.]

In his message of January, 1849, Gov. John-
ston used the following language on this ques-
tion :

"This fundamental law (the Constitution)
recognizes the right to hold slaves in the states
which were parties to the compact, but it makes
no further acknowledgment. It bears on its
plain and expressive page no agreement, ex-
pressed or implied, for the further extension of
human slavery. That this national wrong has
been extended witli the progress of population,
is not an argument in favor of its justice, its
constitutional right, or of the salutary efl'ects it
has produced in the territories where it has
been admitted. Shall it be still further ex-
tended ?

" To the Congress of the United States belongs
the authority to settle this important question. * *

"If slavery be in itself an infraction of hu-
man rights — if it be directly opposed to the en-
lightened spirit of our free institutions — if it
destroy the equality of power in the general
government by enlarging where it exists the
constitutional representation-r-if it possess a

direct or indirect influence against northern and
western policy and interests by promoting a
system of laws destructive of domestic industry
and vitally att'ecting free labor — if it retard the
national jirowth of population and improvement
by the appropriation of large tracts of laiid. for
the benefit of the few and to the injury of the
manj' — if it be in open defiance of tlie spirit of
the ag ■, the march of national truth and the en-
ligliiened policy of mankind — it is time to arre.>t
its further progress. Thtse it is believed nre
the settieil coo'dctior s "f our citizt^ns and their
determination to maintain them is unalterable.''^

In his message of 1850, he said :

"The consent of the free States of the Union
to its further progress would evince an igno-
rance of their interests ; of the rights of justice
and hunaanity ; and an indifference to the cha-
racter and dignity of their common country.
Where these are implicated, it is an abandon-
ment of duty to compromise "

In another message of the 22d of March,
18')0, which was an able vindication of the
Pennsylvania doctrine on the same subject,
Goverdor Johnston referred in plain teims of
approval to the Act of ls47, which prohibited
ny judg6, alderman, or justice of the peace of
this Commonwealth from taking cognizance
or jurisdiction of the case of any fugitive from
labor, under a severe penalty, denied the use
of our prisons for the detention of such fugi-
tives, and repealed tlaat part of the Act of 178U
whicli authorized the masters or owners of
slaves to bring and retain such slaves in ser-
vitude for any period of time within this Com-

The course and the opinions of Gov. John-
ston were fully endorsed and approved, not oidy
by Mr. Keed, but also by Mr. Joseph R. Inger-
Kull, at a Whig meeting held in the Chinese
Museum, on the 3d of June, 1S50. Mr. Inger-
yoU presided at tha-t meeting. He delivered a
glowing eulogy on Gov. Johnston and his ad-
ministration, and among the resolutions pre-
sented by Mr. Reed, and approved by Mr. In-
gersoll, you will find the following :

^^ Resolved, That as Pennsylvanians, citizens
of a State whose loyalty to the Union and Con-
stitution has never faltered, even when under
the farms of the Constitution her dearest inte-
rests have been sacriffced— which has always
yielded implicit obedience to every well ascer-
tained obligation of the Federal compact, kow-
ever repulsive to mere local sentiment — we
thank our chief magistrate (Gov. Johnston) for
his assertion of Pennsylvania faith and loyalty
and steady principle, in his message of the '2'J,d
March, 1850, a State paper, in its spirit and
manly patriotism worthy of the best days and
best m.en of the republic."

I beg leave to remind Mr. IngersoU and Mr.
Iteed of that State jjaper, which elicited such
high praise from them on the occasion referred
to, and went the full length of the old Pennsyl-
vania doctrine. It would be interesting to know
what they tlaink of it now. [Laugliter and

In that year Mr. Clay introduced into the
Senate a series of measures known as the com-

promise measures, intended to pacify those
southern politicians who then threatened a dis-
solution of the Union, because a free State,
formed out of part of the territory acquired
from Mexico, knocked at the doors of Congress
for admission into the Union. It was the third
great compromise whicli liberty was called upon
to make with slavery, and we were told then
that it would be the last, because it would
satisfy the South. On the evening of the 3d
of June, 1850, Mr. Reed stood up in the same
meeting to which 1 have referred, ( at which
Mr. Joseph R. IngersoU presided), read certain
resolutions besides the one which I have men-
tioned, prepared witli his accustomed skill —
and matle a speech. The meeting did not un-
derstand the real object of either— for it would
have been indiscreet in Mr. Reed to avow it.
Bat tliere was one fact which did not escape
notice. Although the eyes of the country were
then directed to Mr. Clay, and his etforts to pre-
serve the Union, which was threatened as well
by the abolitionists in the North as the pro-
slavery fanatics in the South— and although
the whigs of Philadelphia had never assembled
on any former occasion without some manifas-
tations of affection for the founder and chief of
their party, whom they loved better than any-
other living man — yet Mr. Reed, on that occa-
sion, when it was difficult to discuss his reso-
lutions without a direct reference to Mr. Clay's
position on the question of the admission of
California, did not make the slightest allusion
to liim. Tlie meeting heard his speech and
adopted his resolutions, but there was a pre-
vailing suspicion that a cat was in the meal
tub. [Laughter.] Pardon me, gentlemen, for
mentioning the part which I acted on that oc-
casion ; it is a necessary part of its history. I
was present, and the meeting called me to the
rostrum. Knowing, as I did, the Whig senti-
ment of Philadelphia, I embodied it in a single
resolution, which I presented in the following
words :

" Resolved, That while we tender to tlie Pre-
sident of the United States the assurances of
our unabated confidence in his devotion to the
welfare of the people, we cannot withhold a
public expression of our continued regard and .
admiration for Henry Clay, the patriot states-
man, whose services to the country we shall
ever hold in grateful remembrance, and whose
recent efforts to jDerpetuate and strengthen our
glorious Union have rendered his name and
his fame still more dear and illustrious. ' ' (Great

The resolution " took down the house." It
was welcomed by cheer after cheer, and Mr.
Reed came forth to define his position. Tlie
meeting was turbulent — it caught the idea that
he had concealed from them the real meaning
of his resolutions, and lie was hissed. Order
being finally restored, he made a clean bieast
of it, and declared that, if the resolution
was intended to endorse the compromise mea-
sures, he was opposed to it. His opposition
carried no weight with it— tlie resolution was
adopted almost unanimously. He turned to me
and said — with unusual excitement — " You


have endorsed the compromise measures." So

I did, (with an exception which I shall notice, J
and so I intended — for I believed they would
satisfy the South, and end the conflict which
seemed otherwise "irrepressible." It turns
out that I was mistaken. Mr. Reed, who was
then as much opposed to slavery as his grand-
father, was opposed to the concessions which
those measures made to the South.

Mr. Reed strenuously advocated the re-elec-
tion of Gov. Johnston, in 1851 ; and I hold in
my hand a printed circular, issued on the 6th
October of that year, written by him, attesting
at once his undying attachment to Whig princi-
ples, and his relentless hostility to the Demo-
cratic party, "the party which," he solemnly
assures you in ti is paper, "makes war on busi-
ness interests whenever it suits their purpo-
ses." Allow me to read a single paragraph
from Mr. Reed's pen of that date :

" Gov. Johnston is to he defeated — such is
the calculation of his enemies — by a local pre-
judice, cunningly excited about slavery. For
this there is no foundation. He is no agitator.
He stands by the old Pennsylvania doctrine,
and has, in no public act, gone as far as in for-
mer days John Sergeant, and Horace Binney.
and Samuel Breck, and Thos. P. Cope, and
William J. Duane went ; and their acts and
manly opinions did no harm to Philadelphia.
They made her respected." (Cheers and

In a letter addressed to Hon. A. G. Curtin,
dated Philadelphia, July 2ti, 1855, resigning
his position as a member of the Whig State
Committee, and published in the North Ameri-
can of August 10, 1855, Mr. Reed laid down his
own platform, in seven brief, comprehensive
articles. Referring to what had taken place in
the committee, on the subject of Know-Nothing-
ism, he says :

" To the proposition to call a Whig Conven-
tion, I cheerfully assented, meaning, as soon
as the call was determined on, f o ask the Com-

II ittee, by a manly declaration of principle, to
free that Convention, on its inception, from the
suspicion which, since this fecret party has
existed, has hung round every political body
that has met. I therefore offered and asked
the Committee to adopt the following brief but
comprehensive resolutions, every word of which
had been well considered, and for every word
of which I am willing to be responsible :

^'■Resolved, By the Whig Executive Com-
mittee of the State of Pennsylvania, that an
address be issued by this Committee, calling a

Convention to meet at Harrisburg on ,

asserting the following principles of action :

[The 1st, 2d and 3d relate exclusively to se-
cret political associations, and are condemna-
tory of them.]

" 4. The assertion of the feeling common to
every Whig of J'ennsylvania, and to very many
of other organizations, that the Nebraska and
Kansas measures of the last Congress, the ab-
rogation of the Missouri Compromise line, and,
as part of the same system, the lawless and
violent conduct of individuals since in Kansas,

especially are abhorrent to the people of the
North, and ought to be redressed.

"5. That those measures were a wanton
renewal of sectional agitation, for which, in no
sense, are the Whigs of the North, and espe-
cially the Whigs of Pennsylvania, responsible.

" 6. That the restoration of the Missouri
Compromise line ought to be demanded and
insisted on as a matter of right.

" I shall look with deep interest to the con-
stitution and action of the Convention which is
summoned to meet at Harrisburg in September.
I trust its action may be unreserved in the
enunciation of priwcijjle — conciliatory to those
who agree in principle — and Rkpublican in
every S(mse, and most so in this, that no whis-
per shall be uttered, no intimations given, that
can be construed into an interference with
religious liberty which the Constitution guards,
or with social or political rights which the Con-
stitution recognizes."

Gentlemen, Mr. Reed's record on this ques-
tion is not a brief one. It began before he was
born. CLaughter.j But I shall soon be done
with it. On the 24th of September, 1856, he
delivered a speech at a Buchanan meeting held
in the town of Somerset, in this State. It was
printed in pamjihlet form, before delivery, and
was afterwards circulated in that form very ex-
tensively. I am the fortunate owner of a copy,
which I hold in my hand. It is entitled, "The
Appeal to Pennsylvania — a Speech, by Wm. B.
Reed." Not an appeal, but tlie appeal. He put
it forth as the one great speech of the cam-
paign, that eclipsed every other speech, and
was to make his calling and election sure in
the event of Mr. Buchanan's success. (Laugh-
ter and applause. J From this speech, on the
very last page, I now read a brief autobio-
graphical sketch :

" I am a Philadelphia man, born and bred
in the metropolis of my State, which has hon-
ored me and confided in me. I have a loyal
Pennsylvania heart throbbing within me, for
all the fame and all the honor that belong to
me and mine were won in Pennsylvania.
Among the honors whi(;h Pennsylvania wears
is her Act of 1780, providing for the gradual
abolition of slavery within her limits. To that
act, as the Chief Magistrate of this Common-
wealth, is affixed the name of one who was
near and dear to me (my grandfather), and to
the great principle of that act I, and every true
Pennsylvanian, steadfastly adhere, because it
contains no word of wrong to others, but all of
duty to ourselves. It is to the principles of
that act to which Mr. Buchanan adhered when,
in the Senate of the United States, in 1836, he
said his principles as to slavery were those of
Pennsylvania. ' '

Thus Mr. Reed defined his position on the
24th September, 1856. What the great princi-
ple of the Act of 1780 was, and is, I think has
been made clear. This completes the first vol-
ume of the record — the last honor to the mem-
ory of the ancestor.

Mr. Buchanan thought the speech of 1856
worth a mission to China. (Laughter. ) I be-
lieve the question of its value gave rise to some


depend on it, a great element of its successful
action, will be the organized democracy of
Pennsylvania, the friends in ev ry county of
Breckenndge and Lane. Its integrity must be
respected. It will be time enough when, by
the spontaneous co-operation of patriotic men
through the commonwealth, Mr. Foster shall
be elected Governor, as he easily can be."

These few words pretty clearly foreshadowed
a bargain and sale. And the other night —
when the honest fritnds of Mr. Bell were
asleep, suspecting no wrong to themselves,
and no disgrace to their cause — a few scurvy
leaders, on the alert for whatever was to turn
up, caught the dulcet notes from the Breck-
inridge nursery —

"Bah! mammy black sheep
Have you any wool?"
(Roars of laughter.^

There was a moment's pause, and then a
response :

"Yes, we have, masters,
Three bags full 1" ("Great laughter. )

And the terms were settled and the bargain

sealed ! When daylight came, the scurvy Beil

I shall^ have my full reward if [ ^gt^prg leaped the ditch, expecting the whole

flock to follow and be sheared and left to the

discussion in the Cabinet. Had Mr. Reed thrown
.his grandfather and the Act of 1780 overboard,
\ mean in the Somerset speech, he would have
iWed better. CLaughter.j Judge Black was
obiged to compromise on the Chinese mission,
andMr. Reed promised himself to " do better"

Now we have his speech against Mr. Lincoln,
against all the free States — against all the citi-
sens of the free States whom Mr. Reed met
abroad dtiring what he calls his long exile —
against tlie Pennsylvania sentiment of 1780 —
against thofee acts and manly opinions of John
Sergeant and Horace Binney, and Samuel Breck
and Thomas P, Cope, and William J. Duane,
that made Ph 'iadelphia respected — and even
against the ancestor who was so near and dear
to the loving and janbitious descendant. And
all for what? Hear him, and you can judge.
I read from the last paragraph of the speech :

' ' Mine are the first words from Pennsyl-
vanian lips that have been spoken for John C.
Breckenridge. They have not been inconsider-
atly uttere.l. They are prob^ibly my last ; for
I must leave to others the active conduct of
this campaign, willing to be a private soldier
in the ranks

what I have uttered to-night shall not be in

[Shouts of laughter.]

I perceive you understand him !

Now it so hippens that Mr. Reed's were not
the first words from Pennsylvania lips that
were spoken for John C. Breckenridge. The
^•Ci-y association that he uddressed had been
organized long before. Mr. Benamin Rush
had spoken before in favor of Mr. Brekinridge
consisten ly, and I have no doubt, decently and
eloquently. I say consistently, because Mr.
Rush has always been a democrat. Mr. Reed
knew all that very well, but he takes the hon-
ors as innocently as if they belonged to him,
and puts the crown upon his own head like
another Napoleon. If Mr. Breckenridge should
happen to be President, whose lips w 11 be so
sweet as Mr. Reed's ? Whose counsel will be
sought in Pennsylvania but Mr Reed's ? The
speech will not have been in vain. He will
have his full reward.
[Cheers and laughter.]

But he makes provision for another contin-
gency. I read now from the first jjage of his

"Towards these gentl men (leaders of the
Bell and Everett party, J and their principles
so far as tiiey have been made known, we all
have a respectful feeling, which I should be
sorry to have checked by foolish letters, or
foolish speeches, imputitig sectionalism to Mr.
Breckenridge. CAdmonitoi-y rather. J

'• I believe the national sentiment of the
country will yet awaken to the necessity of
combined and effective action ; how, or by
what means, I no not pretend to say. It may
be at the last moment ; i look out for the rocks ! )
it may be on the very edge of the final con-
test. No one ought to say a word to render it
impossible. No one ought to be restless and
fidgetty in promoting it. If it does happen,

winter's cold, while they took all the turnips
to themselves. C Laughter.; The arrange-
ment of this practical little duet required the
experience of a diplomat wlio knew how to
make treaties with a people who speak a lan-
guage unintelligible outside of the wall, and
express their emotions tlirough gongs and
bells. (Laughter.j

The Chinese party is now fairly in the field,
and rallies to the support of Mr. Foster. (Tu-
multuous applause, and laughter.^ Permit
me, however, to express the opinion that those
Whigs of Philadelphia who have espoused the
cause of Mr. Bell as the exponent of their
principles, expecting to support him in good
faith, without corrupt combinations with other
parties whose doctrines and practices they have
never approved, will hesitate long before they
leap the ditch, which, when once crossed, will
separate them forever from the faith tliey have
always professed.

This little matter disposed of, Mr. Reed
draws his weapon, and orders himself to charge
upon "the common enemy" — Lincoln, and the
compact, fanatical North.

2 4

Online LibraryCharles GibbonsSpeech of Hon. Charles Gibbons : delivered at National Hall, October 5th, 1860, in reply to the speech of the Hon. W. B. Reed, on the presidential question, and in vindication of the Peoples' Party → online text (page 2 of 4)