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more and Donelson carried Maryland only. Fremont and Dayton
w T ere successful in all the New England States by large majorities,
and in New York, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Buchanan
obtained the electors in five of the Free States New Jersey, Pennsyl-
vania, Indiana, Illinois, and California. New Jersey and California
were lost to the Republicans in consequence of the u American " vote,
and Indiana was carried by the Democrats by a majority of only
1,809, and Pennsylvania by 925. The popular vote was 1,838,169 for
Buchanan, 1.341,264 for Fremont, and 874,534 for Fillmore. With the
people Mr. Buchanan was in a minorit}^ the combined opposition ex-
ceeding his vote by 377,629. These results astounded and mortified
the Democrats. The loss of New York and Ohio was an unexpected
blow. The narrow majority in Pennsylvania was scarcely more con-
soling. In Michigan the reverse was aggravated by the choice of
Chandler as the successor of Cass in the United States Senate. The
sacrifice involved the loss of ten States that had been carried by
Pierce in 1852 Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut,
New York, Maryland, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. It w r as
no recompense for this loss that Buchanan carried Kentucky and Ten-
nessee. Under all the circumstances the moral triumph was with the
Republicans. They had entered the campaign without any well-
grounded hopes of success, but determined to win the battle if the
victory could be won. When the fight was over they felt and acted
as if it had been won. The actual victory at the polls, in their view,
was only postponed. So far from being discouraged were they, that
it was seen that the conflict in the battle of Freedom against Slavery
in the Territories was to be fought to the end. Mr. Buchanan came
to the Presidency with an almost solid North against a solid South.
The battle had been fought without flinching and without compro-
mise, and with a full understanding of the fact that the platform,
" Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Men," was an incitement, if not an in-
vitation, to Southern revolt in case of their success. They w r ent into a
contest that had become a necessity of national preservation and in-
tegrity. Beaten in their first campaign, they were resolved to con-
tinue the fight in Kansas and on the floors of Congress, and four years



later, with a " rail-splitter " for a candidate, they won a signal

In looking back at a campaign, so bitter in its conduct and so
momentous in its consequences, one can not fail to marvel at the
fanaticism and the virulence inspired by slavery. It was to be ex-
pected, perhaps, that Fremont as the candidate of a new, bold, and
aggressive party, should be depicted in lurid colors, but it is impos-
sible now, without regard to party or to sections, to recall the terms
in which he was denounced without a sense of shame. In the hostile
journals, North and South, he was described as a vain, shallow, pre-
tentious, " w T oolly-horse," " mule-eating," " free-love," " nigger-em-
bracing," black Republican; an extravagant, insubordinate, reckless
adventurer; a financial spendthrift, and a political mountebank. All
this has no significance now, except as it points to the passion that
was behind it. But what is more remarkable than the abuse of the
black Republicans and their candidate in the newspapers and in
political speeches was the obloquy heaped upon the North and upon
Northern statesmen even in the Senate. " I have said that the neces-
sity of political position," said Senator Mason, of Virginia, in his re-
pty to Sumner, " alone brings me into relations with men upon this
floor who elsewhere I cannot acknowledge as possessing manhood in
any form. I am constrained to hear here depravity, vice in its most
odious form, uncoiled in this presence, exhibiting its loathsome de-
formities in accusation and villification against the quarter of the
country from which I come; and I must listen to it because it is a
necessity of my position, under a common Government, to recognize
as an equal, politically, one whom to see elsewhere is to shun and de-
spise." Sumner himself could use invective more scathing than this,
and his philippics sometimes w r ere not free from vituperation, but even
his arraignment of South Carolina and its Senator fell short of im-
puting a want of manhood to, and charging depravity and vice upon,
the majority of the American people and their representatives, for
no other reason than their opposition to the extension of slavery. In
the eyes of the South every man was a scoundrel, or worse, who dared
to oppose the Slave Power, and such epithets were freely employed
in the campaign of 1856, with equal facility in the Senate at Wash-
ington and in the bar-rooms of Missouri. The South was so sincerely
in earnest that few men in the Southern Democracy were capable of
perceiving that their ardor and their virulence were ludicrous, or that
their denunciations of Northern " fanatics " betrayed a more unrea-
soning and intolerable fanaticism than that which they imputed to
their adversaries. And yet when the tragi-comedy they were then
playing had closed as one of the most terrible tragedies in history, a


Southern historian calmly assumed that " the slavery question really
involved but little of moral sentiment"; that the repeal of the Mis-
souri Compromise was " scarcely more than a matter of principle, or
sentiment"; and that the doctrine of "Popular Sovereignty" had
been imposed on the Southern people by the " arts of an able and elo-
quent demagogue." But what the South never realized until it was
vanquished was that the Republican party was a young giant at its
birth, and that the bitterness with which it was assailed constantly
added to its strength and power.



The Dred Scott Decision Pro-Slavery Attitude of the Supreme
Court Effects of the Decision Kansas Governors Reeder, Shan-
non, Geary, and Walker The Lecompton Constitution Demo-
cratic Opposition to It Failure of the Conspiracy Douglas and
Lincoln The Congress of Secession Union Soldiers in Congress-
Confederate Military Leaders Prominent Men in the 36th Con-
gress Political Effects of the Lecompton Conspiracy John
Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry Attempts to Hold the Repub-
lican Party Responsible for Brown's Acts Helper's Book, " The
Impending Crisis " Republican Strength, not Weakness, Results.

R. BUCHANAN'S administration opened with an apparent
triumph even greater than the repeal of the Missouri Com-
promise. This was the decision of the Supreme Court of
the United States in the Dred Scott case. Dred Scott, a
negro, was held as a slave in Missouri by Dr. Emerson, an army sur-
geon. This was in 1834. In that year the surgeon was transferred to
Rock Island, Illinois, and took his slave with him. Two years later
Dr. Emerson was sent to Fort Snelling, in what is now Minnesota,
and again carried Dred along with the rest of his personal effects.
At Fort Snelling he met Major Taliaferro, who had in his service a
black woman known as Harriet. The doctor bought this woman from
the major, and with his consent she was married to his other slave,
Dred. Two children were born to this slave couple Eliza, on a Mis-
sissippi steamboat and north of the Missouri line, and Lizzie at Jef-
ferson Barracks, in Missouri. The entire family was afterwards sold
to John A. H. Sanford, of the city of New York. On this state of facts
Dred afterward brought suit for his freedom in the Circuit Court of
St. Louis county, and obtained a verdict and judgment in his favor.
This was reversed by the Missouri Supreme Court, and taken on ap-
peal to the Supreme Court of the United States. The case was heard
by the Supreme Court at Washington in May, 1854, and should have
been decided early in 1856, but in view of the conflict in Kansas and
the pending Presidential election, judgment was deferred until after
Mr. Buchanan's inauguration. Although the decision had not been
announced at the time of the inauguration, Mr. Buchanan alluded to
it in his inaugural address as a final settlement of the question of
slavery in the Territories, and declared his intention to submit to it,


as was the duty of all good citizens. When the announcement was
made the decision was received with indignation and scorn through-

c* &

out the North. The Court not only undertook to remand Dred Scott
back to slavery, but assumed the right to settle the status of all the
Territories belonging to the United States as Slave Territory. The
act of Congress prohibiting slavery north of 36 degrees 30 minutes
was declared unconstitutional and void. Thus was not only the re-
peal of the Missouri Compromise approved by the highest judicial
tribunal in the land, but its re-enactment was forbidden.

The opinion of the Court was pronounced by Chief Justice Taney.
Tauey had been appointed to the position he then held twenty years
before by President Jackson, whose flexible instrument he had been

in Jackson's conflict with the Bank
of the United States. He was a State-
Rights, Pro-Slavery partisan. Apart
from his conclusions his opinion was,
perhaps, the most extraordinary doc-
ument that ever came from the high-
est judicial tribunal of a free people.
It has since been claimed for him
he was sincere in all his declarations.
But this is the plea that was justly
derided of the man who " did not
know it was loaded." Three of the
Associated Justices who were from
the South Justice Wayne, of Geor-
gia; Justice Daniel, of Virginia, and
Justice Campbell, of Alabama, con-
curred with the Chief Justice in all

his conclusions, and Justice Catron, of Tennessee, concurred in the
judgment so far as Dred Scott was concerned, holding that his two
years' residence in Illinois had given him no right to freedom; but he
dissented from the Chief Justice's notion that Congress had no power
to govern the Territories. Justice Catron held, however, that slave-
holders had an indefeasible right to carry their slaves into, and hold
them in, the Territories belonging to the United States. Thus his
dissent resolved itself into a mere quibble. It will be observed that
these five justices, a majority of the Court, were all from the Slave
States. The conclusions of Justice Nelson, of New York, and Justice
Grier, of Pennsylvania, involved the absurdity of according to Con-
gress the right to establish slavery in the Territories, but not to pro-
hibit it. The dissenting judges were Justice McLean, of Ohio, and
Justice Curtis, of Massachusetts. Practically the Court stood seven



to two, although Justice Catron manifested a gleam of independence
in sustaining the power of Congress over the Territories.

This decision gave a powerful impetus to the Republican party at
the very outset of Mr. Buchanan's administration, and was an essen-
tial element in its development and growth. If the decision had been
announced before the Presidential election, it is probable Mr. Bu-
chanan would have been defeated. Coming after his inauguration, it
served to keep alive the issues upon which he had been chosen, even
apart from the continued outrages in Kansas. William Pitt Fessen-
den declared, in a speech in the Senate, his belief that in the event
of Fremont's election, " we should never have heard of a doctrine so
utterly at variance with all truth, so utterly destitute of all legal
logic, so founded on error, and unsupported by anything resembling
argument." It is doubtful whether this assumption is in keeping with
the temper of the time, even on the Bench of the Supreme Court. The
Slave Power was desperate. All its expedients had failed, or were on
the verge of failure. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise was suffi-
cient to carry slavery into the Territories, but not to keep it there.
It was evident that in the race of emigration the South could not com-
pete with the North. If the people of the new Northwest had control
over their own institutions in its territorial condition, it was inevi-
table that all the new States would be Free States. The edict of the
Supreme Court was aimed at this condition, the Court holding that
" it was unconstitutional for Congress to decree freedom for a Terri-
tory of the United States," but in reaching this conclusion the Court
went beyond the real question at issue in the case of Dred Scott, and
thus the decision became a political subterfuge for providing slavery
with a bulwark in the Territories. The motives were such as should
not have influenced a judicial tribunal. The effect was what might
have been expected, and instead of proving of value to the South it
provoked the intense hostility of the North.

With slavery unalterably fixed upon all the Territories as their
normal condition by a decision of the Supreme Court, the next step
wasto force a Pro-Slavery Constitution upon Kansas. When the 35th
Congress met in December, 1857, the Territory had already had three
Governors Andrew H. Reeder, Wilson Shannon, and John W T . Geary.
All of them were Democrats all were from the North, and all had
failed. None of them was disposed at the outset to resist the wish
of the South to make Kansas a slave State, if it could be done with
any decent regard for the rights of the people of the Territory; but
each revolted in turn at the methods employed by the minions of the
Slave Power. Reeder had become as hateful to the turbulent element
as the most hated Abolitionist, and after his election as Delegate in



Congress by the Free State men he was impelled to escape from the
Territory in disguise to save his life. Shannon gave almost as great
offense by his impotent attempts at fairness, and in September, 1856,
was superseded by Geary. If Geary had consented to join in the
effort to fasten slavery upon Kansas by means of the Lecompton
Constitution, he might have retained his office and received the sup-
port of the administration. He chose to resign on the day that Mr.
Buchanan was inaugurated, and Robert J. Walker, of Mississippi,
was appointed in his place. Mr. Walker was born in Pennsylvania,
but he had lived in the South from early manhood, and was a South-
ern man in sympathy and interest. He was a man of great ability and
large experience. He had been for ten years a Senator from Missis-
sippi, and Secretary of the Treasury under President Polk. If any

man could govern the Territory in the
interest of the South, and at the same
time hold the wavering Democrats in
the North true to their party allegi-
ance, it was believed that he was the
man. He soon found, however, that
the task committed to him was be-
yond his powers without the sacrifice
of his own honor, and what Keeder
and Geary had done under Pierce he
was compelled to do, with even greater
effect, under Buchanan.

The Lecompton Constitution was
framed by a fraudulent Convention
called by a fraudulent Legislature.
It provided for the admission of Kan-
sas as a Slave State, without regard to the wishes of the people
of the Territory. It is now T almost universally conceded that
this Constitution was adopted by votes, the majority of which w r ere
never cast at all, or had been cast by men who were not citizens of
Kansas. The Free State men refused to have anything to do with a
contrivance so fraudulent as this so-called Constitution, and had re-
fused to vote. The Lecompton Constitution was received by the
President late in January, 1858, and by him transmitted to Congress
on the 2d of February, with a message declaring Kansas as much a
Slave State as Georgia, or South Carolina; recognizing the invaders
from Missouri as rightly entitled to form a Constitution for the State,
and treating the anti-slavery people of Kansas as in rebellion against
lawful authority. The effects of this message, and the attempt to force
the admission of Kansas as a Slave State, w r as a schism in the Demo-



cratic part}- that never was healed. The first to refuse to sustain the
iniquity was Senator Douglas. Douglas had gone to great lengths to
give the control of Kansas to the South; he had applauded and up-
held the Dred Scott decision, and Mr. Lincoln charged that he as-
sented to it before it was pronounced. It w r as, of course, more im-
portant to the South to secure Kansas as a Slave State than to carry
Illinois for Mr. Douglas, but for Mr. Douglas the loss of Illinois meant
the close of his public career. He had made great sacrifices for the
South, and now he w r as asked to sacrifice himself. He determined,
therefore, to make a bold stand, not so much against slavery as
against the iniquity by which its triumph was to be enforced.
" Rarely in our history," says Mr. Elaine, in his " Twenty Years of
Congress," " has the action of a single person been attended by a
public interest so universal; applause so hearty in the North, by de-
nunciation so bitter in the South." Following the lead of Douglas in
the Senate were Broderick of California, Stuart of Michigan, and
Piigh of Ohio; and in the House, such inflexible Democrats as John
B. Haskin and Horace F. Clark of New York, John Hickman and
Henry Chapman of Pennsylvania, and Samuel S. Cox of Ohio but
altogether only twelve who finally refused to yield. Douglas was the
leader, but Broderick was the soul of this little band of Independent
Democrats. Elected to the Senate as the colleague of William M.
Gwin, in 1856, Broderick instinctively took sides against the arro-
gant domination of the Southern wing of the party of which Uwin
was a leader, and joined Douglas in opposition to the Lecomptou
policy of the administration. His course aroused fierce hostility in
California, and these resentments led to his death in 1859, in a duel
deliberately planned for his destruction. The opposition availed
nothing in the Senate, and the Lecompton bill was passed by a vote
of 33 to 25. In the House the resistance was more effective, and the
administration, with all its power, w^as unable to force the passage of
the bill without a Proviso submitting the entire Constitution to a vote
of the people. The Senate concurred in this amendment, and the
struggle was over. The Pro-Slavery men were defeated, and Kansas
in the end became a Free State.

The struggle over the Lecompton Constitution in Congress lasted
three months. The effect of the episode upon the Democratic party
was disastrous. In the North the Democracy was rent by dissensions
and torn by faction. In the South Douglas was denounced with a
malevolence as great as that heaped upon Fremont two years be-
fore. While he regained something of his old popularity in the Free
States, there were few signs of relenting among Northern Republi-
cans. The Illinois Republicans were especially unforgiving. They


attributed his hostility to the Lecompton Constitution to the instinct
of self-preservation, and prepared to contest his return to the Senate.
The candidate named to oppose him was Abraham Lincoln. The two
men \vere utterly unlike each other. Douglas was small of stature,
with long and grizzled hair, and his admirers were fond of calling
him " the little giant." In manner he was frank, hearty, cordial, af-
fable; in debate he was bold, dashing, fearless, fluent, never hesitat-
ing for a word or a phrase, aggressive, and sometimes arrogant.
Douglas was 45 years old and Lincoln was 49. The latter was very
tall, very angular, and his beardless face was dark and seamed. His
head, poised on a very long neck, was massive. In manner he was
bright and alert; in disposition good-tempered and generous; and in
speech clear, direct, and simple, with a vein of quaintness underlying
his arguments that was neither wit nor humor, but a blending of

both, and very effective with Western audi-
ences. He had need of all the gifts that na-
ture had bestowed upon him for the forensic
contest that was before him. Douglas was
everywhere known as a debater of remark-
able skill. He was fertile in resources, and
a master of logic, and no one excelled him in
the employment of fallacy and the use of
sophistry. To meet him in debate was to
court destruction in the first encounter. Lin-
coln was not only anxious to run the risk, but
determined to meet his antagonist in joint
discussion. After some preliminary spar-
STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS. ring, the terms of the great contest were

arranged. It was agreed that the two candi-
dates should meet on the same platform, and appeal to the
same audiences. It was a battle of the giants. The two
men were always promptly on the field, and wherever they
went they were met by vast outpourings of the people. There were
seven of these joint debates, and when they were over the friends of
each claimed the victory for their own champion. In dignity, good-
humor, and gentleness, Lincoln unquestionably had the better of his
antagonist, for Douglas frequently resorted to the use of epithets
and insinuation, and habitually spoke of the Republican party as
" Black Republicans." Douglas saved his seat in the United States
Senate, but Lincoln won the moral victory, and his defeat paved the
way for the marvelous career that has made his name immortal.

While the forensic contest between Douglas and Lincoln was in
progress in Illinois the election of the 36th Congress was pending



the Congress of Secession. In the House of Representatives of that
extraordinary Congress there were 109 Republicans, 101 Democrats,
26 Americans, and 1 who was still known as a Whig. William Pen-
nington of New Jersey, a Republican, and a man of splendid presence,


but a poor parliamentarian, was chosen Speaker after a bitter con-
test lasting two months. Among the Representatives were many
members, on both sides of the floor, who afterward became conspicu-
ous in the war between the States. Among these were Oilman Mars-
ton, and Mason W. Tappan, of New Hampshire, each of whom led a


well-equipped regiment to the field, and served conspicuously during
the war; Orris S. Ferry, of Connecticut, also a soldier, and afterward
a Senator; Daniel E. Sickles, who organized the " Excelsior Brigade "
and achieved the proud distinction of becoming one of the heroes of
Gettysburg; John Cochrane, also a Democrat, but a sturdy Unionist,
as became one of his Revolutionary ancestry; and Alfred Ely, who
was captured by the famous " Black Horse Cavalry," after the first
battle of Bull Run, and hurried to the Confederate capital, with the
cry of " On to Richmond "all of New York; Philip B. Fouke, John
A. Logan, and John A. McClernand, three Democratic members from
Illinois, all Union soldiers, and two of them especially conspicuous;
Cadwalader C. Washburn and Charles H. Larrabee, of Wisconsin,
the one a Republican and the other a Democrat, but both in the
Union army; and Colonel William Vandever and Samuel 11. Curtis,
of Iowa, the latter the hero of Pea Kidge. As a Delegate from Wash-
ington Territory was Isaac I. Stevens, a graduate of West Point, and
a splendid soldier, who fell at the head of his division at Chantilly,
Virginia, in 1862. In the Senate there was only one conspicuous
figure of the war of which the 36th Congress was the prelude Ed-
ward D. Baker, who fell at Ball's Bluff, in the autumn of 1861. It is a
meager list, it must be confessed, and there were among them as many
Democrats as Republicans. In later Congresses were seen the faces
of sun-browned warriors from the field and battle-scarred veterans of
the strife.

In the Senate, from the beginning until near the close of Mr. Bu-
chanan's administration, sat Jefferson Davis, the chief conspirator of
that stirring epoch, and the soul of the impending conflict. With him
were some of the members of his future Cabinet, and others who were
to sit as members of the so-called Confederate Congress, but there
were only three, aside from Vice-President Breckinridge, who aspired
to military command Wigfall, of Texas, who was at the firing on
Fort Sumter; Toombs, of Georgia, who commanded a brigade 1 under
Longstreet; and Clingman, of North Carolina, but none of them was
really efficient or distinguished in the war they helped to precipitate.
In the House almost every Southern State had a general some of
them a number of generals. Of the Virginia delegation Roger A.

Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 61)