J. L. M. (Jabez Lamar Monroe) Curry.

Speech of J. L. M. Curry, of Alabama, on the election of speaker, and the progress of anti-slaveryism. Delivered in the House of Representatives, December 10, 1859 online

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Online LibraryJ. L. M. (Jabez Lamar Monroe) CurrySpeech of J. L. M. Curry, of Alabama, on the election of speaker, and the progress of anti-slaveryism. Delivered in the House of Representatives, December 10, 1859 → online text (page 1 of 2)
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DECEMBER 10, 1859.

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Mr. CURRY baring obtained the floor, said:

There are occasions, Mr. Clerk, when a whole people, like
an individual, hold their breath in suspense, anxiously awaiting
the issue of events. There are critical periods, which, like night,
intervene between successive days, and mark the destiny and the
history of a people. The excitement prevailing in the public mind
throughout this country, the manifestation of interest both here
and elsewhere, admonish ns that this, perhaps, is snch an occa-
sion. Nor does this excitement and this profound agitation of the
public mind arise from the simple question of the organization of
this House; nor from the publication and circulation of an incen-
diary pamphlet; nor, sir, except in a modified degree, from the
murderous incursion which was recently made into the Common-
wealth of Yirginia. These are but scenes in the act of a general
drama, incidents of a principle, the revelations, more or less
shadowy, of a purpose. The real canse of the agitation in the
public mind, the radix of the excitement, is the anti-slavery sen-
ment of the North, — the conviction that property in man is a sin
and a crime, that the African is the equal of the white man ; that
he is a citizen of the United States, and that he is entitled to the
privileges and immunities of other citizens. Throw over it what-
ever disguises we may, and whatever may be the immediate ac-
tion superinducing this question, here is the secret of the agitation,
and here is the cause of our differences. This is the general classi-
fication, in which there are modifications of opinion and grada-
tions of sentiment; perhaps, on the one extreme, in the maximum,
is William Lloyd Garrison ; and on the other, in the minimum, is
the distinguished Representative from Ohio, (Mr. Corwin.)

In the exercise of that charity which rej oiceth in the truth, I do not
propose to hold the Republican party responsible for the excesses
which have been committed by all men holding anti-slavery opin-
ions. I do not propose to charge any personal complicity with
John Brown, because from the bottom of my heart I do acquit
them from all connection with that raid which was made into


Virginia. I go further, and say, that I will accept the plea which
has been interposed by your attorney of record and your spokes-
man, and will allow the mantle of ignorance to cover your re-
commendation of an incendiary pamphlet. I propose, if I can, to
follow the example set me by the gentleman from Ohio, (Mr,
CoRwiN,)_and so far as I am able with my limited capacity, to rise
to the height of this great argument and treat it as a philosopher,
a statesman, and a citizen of a common country.

^ The averment I make, Mr. Clerk, is that the ideas, the princi-
ples, the politics of the Eepublican party are necessarily and in-
herently and essentially hostile to the Constitution and to the
rights and interests of the South. The arguments used assume
an antagonism between the sections, an irrepressible conflict be-
tween opposing and enduring forces; and if slavery be what you
allege it to be in your school-rooms, your pulpits," through your
public lectures, your political addresses, your leg'slative resolves,
your congressional speeches, he is the most criminal who stops
short in his career and hesitates at the exercise of the necessary
means for its extinguishment. If slavery be a crime against God
and against humanity, if it be a curse to'society, if it contain the
fruitful seeds of immedicable woes, it is as idle to talk of modera-
tion and the Constitution and non-interference with the rights of
the South as it would be to attempt to propel a skiif up the surg-
ing cataract of Niagara. Inflaming the public mind, cultivating sec-
tional hostility, impregnating the public conscience with the germ
of your doctrines, you array agencies and put in motion elements
that must have their logical development and result. The Lord
George Gordon riots of 1780, when Loudon was in the possession
of an infuriated mob, headed by a madman, and when the pro-
ceedings of Parliament were almost suspended, when " civil au-
thority was prostrated" under the influence of the savage cry of
"no popery," are but a fair illustration of the eflect of fanaticism
and folh^ The recent incursion that has been made into the State
of Virginia, although disavowed and repudiated — as I have no
doubt it honestly and conscientiously is by most, if not all, of the
gentlemen on the other side of the House — is, in my judgment,
the necessary, logical, and inevitable sequence of your principles
and your doctrines.

I propose now to address myself calmly and inoffensively to this
House and to the country, and to show the effect and the necessary
consequence of this anti-slavery agitation and feeling.

I am conscious of the fact that there are in the northern States
two distinct anti-slavery organizations — one represented by "Wil-
liam Lloyd Garrison, Phillips, May, and others ; the other repre-
sented by the Pepublican party of the N'orth ; and I repeat again,
that I do not hold the Republican party personally responsible
either for the doctrines avowed or for the measures advocated by
the G^rrisoa party, I have a different purpose in the remarks
that I shall submit to-day ; and that is, to demonstrate, if I am
able, that those of you who now shrink back from the doctrines

avowed by that party will, either yourselves or through your suc-
cessors, be driven to the assumption of these opinions. In 1835,
in an address issued by the anti slavery society of Massachusetts,
participated in by William Lloyd Garrison and others of that type
of anti-slavery men, I find recorded these sentiments :

"We have never advocated the right of physical resistance on the part of the
oppressed. We assure our assailants, that we would not sacrifice the life of a single
slave-holder to emancipate every slave in the iTnited States."

That is the opinion which was promulgated officially by Wil-
liam Lloyd Garrison, and those whom ray friend from I^ew York
(Mr. Clark) affirms are the Abolitionists proper. In 1S59, Wen-
dell Phillips, a man who deserves the high eulogium, intellectu-
ally, that was paid to him by the distin2:uished member from
Ohio, (Mr. Corwin,) in a speech made in Brooklyn uses this lan-
guage, speaking of John Brown and his incursion into Virginia:

"It is the natural result of anti-slavery teaching. For one, I accept it; I ex-
pected it."

That is the position into which the Garrisonians have been driv-
en by this volume of anti-slavery sentiment at the North. In
1852, the Whig party of the Union, in their Presidential conven-
tion — and I believe two-thirds of the Eepublican party belonged
to that organization — resolved that the compromise measures of
1850, including the fugitive slave law, were a finality, and were,
in principle and in substance, the settlement of the slavery ques-
tion. In six years from that time, you find the great State of
Ohio, through its Pepublican convention, composed of two thirds
of that same Whig party, resolving that the fugitive slave law
ought to be repealed*, as being destructive of the rights of the
States, and subversive of the moral sense of mankind. What
more, Mr, Clerk? Those Democrats who have fallen off from our
organization into the Pepublican party were committed to the
same extent by the Democratic convention of the same year ; and
yet they have been driven to the enunciation and advocacy of
extremie doctrines from which, three or four years ago, they would
have shrunk back with alarm and indignation.

Why, sir, what do M-e find? In the State of Massachusetts
thev have nullified the fus-itive slave law. I have the bill before
me in which they have, in the most particular and specific man-
ner, met the points presented in the fugitive slave bill, and have
practically and efi^ectually nullified that bill which was to carry
out the plain and unadorned letter of the Constitution. This bill
of the Legislature even goes so far that it appoints commissioners,
to be feed, paid, compensated by the State of Massachusetts, who
are to defend the slaves in the courts of Massachusetts, and any
lawyer who represents the case of the claimant is to be stricken
from the roll of attorneys and incapacitated from holding any of-
fice in the State.

And this has not been done alone in Massachusetts. In Wis-
consin there is a similar statute repealing or nullifying the fugi-
tive slave law, and preventing its execution, at least so far as the


whole power of the State can be brouglit to the accomplishment
of that purpose. There are provisions of a similar tenor in other
States of the Korth. There was one in Ohio which the Demo-
cratic party struck from the statute-book ; and Vermont has now
a similar law. I state these things not just now for the purpose
of condemning them, but to show that the Republican party has
been borne on by the progress of events and by the fanaticism of
public opinion to the admission of doctrines from which, but a
short while since, they would have recoiled with horror. But that
is not all.

A Senator from Kew York (Mr. Seward) boasted, in a speech
which he made a year ago, that upon that floor, and in this
House, there were twenty Republican Senators and a hundred Re-
publican members, while twenty years ago there were hardly so
many men in the whole northern States to avow their opinions.
If I may be allowed to make a personal allusion, in 18441 myself
stood in Fanueil Hall, and heard a speech of James G. Birney,
the Liberty party candidate for the Presidency, when there were
but twenty or thirty present to share with him his liberty-loving
sentiments ; and some of those who were there, were, like myself,
attracted by curiosity to hear a speech upon such a subject from
a candidate for such a position. It is thus that anti-slaveryism
has swelled, enlarged, and grown, until at the last presidential
election a mere political adventurer, unknown to the multitude,
without political antecedents, received one million four hundred
thousand votes in the northern States. And yet we are told, the
distinguished gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Cokwin) told us, that we-
need not have any apprehension or feel any special alarm.

Mr. Clerk, when the gentleman from Tennessee, (Mr. Nelson,)
the other day, in a speech in which, at one bound, he sprang into
the front rank of debaters of this House, eulogized the Know
IN'othing party, it was received with tumultuous applause by the
Republicans; thus publicly testifying their ancient connection
with the order. The occasion Avas not omitted in which to mani-
fest the depth and intensity of their contempt and scorn for for-
eigners and for Roman Catholics, while they have no special
repulsion for the black race. Under the constitution and laws of
Massachusetts, there is no ineligibility to disqualify a negro from
being Governor of the State. The period within which foreigners
can vote has been extended two years, while the negro is allowed
to vote, without any restriction, after he has arrived of age. I
am also informed that the word " white" has been stricken out of
the militia bill, and blacks are to stand side by side with the
whites of that State, in their military parades.

This fanaticism is becoming uncontrollable. The indications
are to be found in the underground railroads, and in the elforts
to rescue negroes in the northern States. You find them in the
contributions of large amounts of money to circulate incendiary
pamphlets throughout the South, and in the wide-spread sym-
pathy for a murderer and a traitor. You find them in the per-

sonal liberty bills, Jiahcas cor^yus bills, and mandamus bills, and
in the impeachment of judicial officers for executing the fugitive
slave law. You may think this anti-slavery sentiment a peace-
ful river, flowing quietly within its embankments, upon which
you may ride safely into place and power, but it will rise as a
flood and engulf the vessels on its bosom, and sweep away what-
ever opposes its resistless fury.

The gentleman from Ohio, (Mr. Corwin,) in his very adroit
speech, intended to mollify the hostility of the South towards Tie-
publicanism, attempted to allay our fears and quiet our appre-
hensions from the fact that there was no more territory to be
acted upon at this session of Congress. Did it not occur to the
very distinguished gentleman to inquire then, wherefore the ne-
cessity of the Republican organization, which came into existence
distinctly, avowedly, and solely for the purpose of the prevention
of slavery in the Territories? If you do not intend to inflict
wrong upon the South, or interfere with slavery, and if there be
no question upon which your doctrines can be practically applied,
dissolve your organization and put it out of your power to do us
injury. The gentleman, as well as my friend from ISTew York,
(Mr, Clark,) in his remarks to-day, was singularly infelicitous in
his definition of Abolitionism, and his explanation of the princi-
ples of the Republican party, ]3referring, I suppose, that we should
rather repose in the vagueness of a fallacy man to be tormented
with the precision of a logical definition.

Now, Mr, Clerk, I propose to fry by the test of fact and of
logic whether there be any cause for apprehension on the part of
the South, and whether there be any occasion for anxiety in re-
ference to the questions which are before the people. At the
South, with the institution of slavery in our midst, we are not
accustomed to distinguish very accurately and precisely between
the different degrees of opposition to us and to our institutions ;
but I submit to the House and the country, so far as they may
honor what I say with audience and perusal, that the measures
which are presented by the Republican party are of imminent dan-
ger to the Constitution, and the South, and the country at large.
What are those measures ? If a convention were again assembled
for the purpose of forming a Constitution of the United States,
would New England, or would New York agree to the present
provision for the delivery of fugitives from labor? Would New
York, New England, Michigan and other northern States agree
to the provision in the Constitution to suppress insurrection?
Would Massachusetts agree to the provision allowing slave re-
presentation in the Congress of the United States ?

Without speculating upon what might be done, in a conven-
tion to frame a Constitution for the United States, I ask you, gen-
tlemen, and I put it to your hearts and your consciences, whether,
if you had the power, you would not modify or repeal the fugi-
tive slave law ? Would you ? If I take the declaration of the
State of Ohio, in its Republican convention, I am authorized to


say that you would. If I take tlie declarations of your promi-
nent men, who hold high official positions as Senators, Represen-
tatives, and Governors, I am authorized to say that you would —
that that clause of the Constitution would be practically made
void, and of no etfect, by your legislation, if you had the control
of this country. I go further still. I ask you, and if necessary I
^vill pause for a reply, had you the power, would you not abolish
slavery in the District of Columbia ? Your great Senator from
ISTew York (Mr. Seward) said that he would ; and he, in time
past, introduced a bill to secure that object. I ask you, and I
press tlie question home upon you, whether, if you were in power,
you would not use the legislation of this country, and all the
functions of this Government, to abolish slavery and render slave
property insecure in the forts, arsenals, dock-yards, and other
places subject to the jurisdiction of the United States ? Ko neg-
ative response comes up that I hear.

Mr. KJLGORE. "We would not interfere at all with the present
relations of slavery in the slave States.

Mr. Curry. In the free States no legislation would be neces-
sary, but would you not in those States which have been acquired
since the formation of the Government? I believe a distinction is
made between the old thirteen States and those formed out of
territory acquired since the Revolution. I ask gentlemen, and I
know their sentiments on the subject, for their political platform
avows them^ whether they would not, by act of Congress, abolish
slavery in the Territories of this country ? K a State were formed
out of territory north or south of the Missouri line of 36° 30', and
a slave constitution presented, would gentlemen vote for its ad-
mission? I know that a colleague of the gentleman from Indiana,
(Mr. KiLGORE,) and five or six others, during the last Congress, stated
that they would not; and Ohio, Vermont, and other States have
instructed their Senators not to vote for the admission of slave-
holding States into the Union. I put it to you, and press it upon
the attention of the country, whether, if by the agencies of this
Government you were to cripple and confine us within gradually
narrowing limits, we would not then be reduced to subjection to
the negro, or forced to fly from the country of our residence?
These are your avowed opinions in the newspapers, in your official
organs, and uttered by Representatives in Congress, and yet I
am gravely told that we are to dismiss our apprehensions, and
entertain no fear as to the consequences.

Tlie vitalizing, animating principle of the Republican party is
hostility to slavery. Extension of slavery into the Territories, a
gentleman says. I accept the suggestion ; but will demonstrate
before I get through, that it has a nearer application to us than
that. For the present, I say that the vital animating principle of
the Republican party is aggressive hostility to the extension of
slavery into the Territories. That is the ligament which binds
the heterogeneous compound together. "Without it, it would fall to


pieces of its own weiglit, or Le disintegrated from want of colie-
rence and harmony. What does Mr. Seward say? I use his
name, for he is a representative man, and because his 0])inions
have not been disavowed. He says that while we leave slavery
to the States where it exists — ;iust the sentiments expressed by the
gentleman from Ohio, (Mr. Sherman,) the other day — we should
inflexibly direct the policy of this Federal Government so as to
circumscribe its limits. For what? To secure its ultimate ex-
tinction. That is the object. By confining us within this nar-
rowing circle to secure the abolition of slavery. You will not
deny that that is the purpose and efl:ect of this agitation.

Governor Chase, who was a Senator once from Ohio, and who is
now, I think, the Governor of that State — that Governor Chase,
between whom and the gentleman from Ohio, (Mr. Corwin,) there
seems to have been a sort of fraternal and political concord and
alliance — in an address which he delivered in Boston, says to his
anti-slavery friends that "we must see to it that the principles of
freedom are made to animate every function of our national Gov-
ernment, and every officer connected luith its Administration.''''
Everything is to be made subservient and auxiliary to this prin-
ciple of negro freedom. The famous English test act, by which
a man was excluded from civil ofiice unless he partook of the sa-
crament after the manner of the Church of England, is to be re-
enacted, and applied to the southern States. All who cannot
pronounce the shibboleth of Republicanism are to be proscribed
and banished from all influence in our Government and Union.
I^ou-slaveowners and Republicans are to hold all the offices.
Postmasters, marshals, district attorneys, mail agents. Federal
judges, and all other ofiicers, are to be controlled, according to
Governor Chase, by this principle of freedom. Such an expedient
would incapacitate southern men. The conscientious and Consti-
tution-loving would be excluded — the unprincipled and the traitor
would be appointed. It would be as effectual as the penal code
against the Papists of Ireland, and every Federal office would
be eftectually barred against a slaveholder. The object is to di-
vide the South into two distinct bodies, without interest, sympa-
thy, or connection, and another Ireland is to be made on this side
of the ocean, with new parties of Orangemen and Brunswick-

The gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Kellog) stated that the ob-
ject is to exert all the powers of this Government to prevent the
extension of slavery; and this Constitution which was intended to
be our protection and our defence, is to be made the instrument
of our oppression and the badge of tyranny.

I have very summarily and briefly referred to the opinions of
the Republican party, the animating principle of that party, the
sentiments which they avow, and the consequences which must
inevitably follow from their assumption of the reins of govern-
ment, if they be true to their principles and their avowals. I re-


gretted very much to hear the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr.
Nelson) say that the election of a man holding such principles to
the presidency, was not to be resisted by the South. During the
canvass of 1856, Mr. Fillmore, in a speech which he made at
Albany, after his return from Europe, used the following lan-

'•But, sir, what do we see? "We see a political party presenting candidates for
the Presidency and Vice Presidency, selected for the first time from the free States
alone, with the avowed purpose of electing these candidates by suffrages of one part
of the Union only, to rule over the whole United States. Can it be possible that
those who were engaged in such a measure can have seriously reflected upon the
consequences which must inevitably follow, in case of success? Can they have the
madness or the folly to believe that our southern brethren would submit to be gov-
erned by such a Chief Magistrate? Would he be required to follow the same
rule prescribed by those who elected him, in making his appointments? If a man
living south ofMasonand Dixon's linebe not worthj' to be President or Vice President,
would it be proper to select one from the same quarter as one of his cabinet council, or
to represent the nation in a foreign country ? Or, indeed, to collect the revenue,
or administer the laws of the United States? If not, what new rule is the President
to adopt in selecting men for office, that the people themselves discard in selecting
him ? These are serious, but practical questions, and in order to appreciate them
fully, it is only necessary to turn the tables upon ourselves. Suppose that the
South, having a majority of the electoral votes, should declare that they would only
have slaveholders for President and Vice President, and should elect such by their
exclusive sufi"rages to rule over us at the North. Do jou think we would submit to
it ? No, not for a moment. And do you believe that your southern brethren are
less sensitive on this subject than you are, or less jealous of their rights? If you
do, let me tell you that you are mistaken. And, therefore, you must see that if this
sectional party succeeds, it leads inevitably to the destruction of this beautiful fabric
reared by our forefathers, cemented by their blood, and bequeathed to us as a price-
leas inheritance."

• Such is the language of Mr. Fillmore, who had been President
of the United States, and who was at that time a candidate for
reelection. Now, sir, however distasteful it may be to my friend
from New York, (Mr. Clark,) however much it may revolt the
public sentiment or conscience of this country, I am not ashamed
or afraid publicly to avow that the election of Willi an H. Se-
ward, or Salmon P. Chase, or any such representative of the Re-
publican party, upon a sectional platform, ought to be resisted to
the disruption of every tie that binds this Confederacy together.*
The " extreme medicine of the Constitution is not to be made
our daily food," and threats of dissolution have become impo-
tent on account of their frequency. But the election of such a
man, with such sentiments, would indicate such hostility to us as
to be the assurance of our subjection, and the evidence of an ir-

* In a vei-y recent northern book, written with some ability, and exhibiting no


Online LibraryJ. L. M. (Jabez Lamar Monroe) CurrySpeech of J. L. M. Curry, of Alabama, on the election of speaker, and the progress of anti-slaveryism. Delivered in the House of Representatives, December 10, 1859 → online text (page 1 of 2)