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John Cochrane.

Speech of Hon. John Cochrane, of New York, on the union and the Constitution. Delivered in the House of representatives, December 20, 1859 online

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Sl^EECH



HON. JOHN COCHRAN ^'




THE UNION x\ND THE CONSTITUTION.



DELITEKED IN THE nOQSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, DECEMBER 20, 1S59.

I flo not know, ^\r. Clerk, whether it is in my power to submit anything to tliis House,
in addition to what lias been said, that can influence its opinions or control its judgment
on the grave ami important questions that are before it. K'or is it my intention to speak
at any great lengtii on llie themes that have been propounded here for the consideration
of tlie count)-y. I deem, however, tliat wliat has been suggested merits our gi'ave and
consideiate attention — not, sir, in the spirit of an idle declamation tliat may excite and
agitate while it does not decide; nor yet, sir, in any rhetorical sense, but only with a just
appreciation of truth, and a serious intent to examine, scrutinize, and argue the questions
that are l)efore us.

Sir, it has been asserted that we are in the midst of a crisis; and the evidence has been
adduced here, day upon day for these many days, and has gone througliout the country,
proving to its every f^enst; and to its every fear, that, indeed, a crisis is upon us. Indeed,
I may say, sir — and I say it witl\ all seriousness and earnestness — tliat a series of convul-
sions have visited and are visiting the Republic. At one time it is "The Impending
Crisis of the South — How to Meet it." At anotlier time it is an armed and warlike inva-
sion, perceptible to the general sense, visiting and invading the soil of a neighboring
.State. Arrd, now, the whole South, inflamed by these direful events, and exasperated to
'madness, simultaneously aiise and demand that there be a stay of action, and that they
who aspire to patriotism bend themselves to the ♦ask of lesisting the storm.

Sir, as an humble lU'presentalive of a constituency that has always stood by the Union
and the guarantees of tlie Constitution, I come forward this day and declare that, with
those constituents by my side, where danger is, there I will be; and that, whenever the
flag of rebellion or sei'vile insurreetion is elevated, we conservative men of the North
will be there to resist and suppress it. We will be there as dwellers in no one locality,
as inhabitants of no one State; but as the proud citizens of the gi'eatest Republic tho
world has ever seen. We will advance throughout its territory in every direction for
tlie sup[iression of rebellion, and to proclaim safety and establish equity for the people.

Sir, we are on the eve of important events. 1 am no alarmist. I have no belief in the
disruption of this Union. Tlie blood that has been shed, and the efi'orts that have been
made for it, are all too valuable thus to be dissipated and dispersed in a frozen air. The
Union will continue, progress, and culminate to its destined glory. But yet, none the less
are we on the eve of important events. They ai-e rife al)0ut us. They load the atmos-
pliere. They are declared in everj' newspa|)er paragraph. They are exhibited in every
cowutennnce, and heard in every speech. It is idle for gentlemen here on this occasion to
cry "peace," while peace is a delusion, or to evade the true question which the country
has presented to us, and which that countr\' wills that we determine.

I sympathize, sir, deeply symphathize with our friends at the South, who now are in
fearful trepidation of the'incendiary's torch, and of the assassin's knife, and who tremble
as upon the volcano of servile insurrection. I sympathize with those emotions of kindred
affection wliich press the father to the bosom of his wife, clasp the mother with the
daughter, and brother and sister together; and I censure and reprobate that which has
occurred and is occurring all over the North, endangering the peace of the Union, and
teaching rebellion to the Constitution. But, sir, while I sympathize with these emotions,
there are others of a more pleasant nature which engage my whole heart, and which, as
I scrutinize the horizon of the North, aspire for utterance at this fearful hour. I see there
myriads upon myriads .of sober, earnest, and fearless men gathering in their strength to
assert the dignity of the Constitution, and to maintain the integrity of the Union. It is
of no avail for gentlemen upon this floor to deny their force, or to endeavor to invalidate
their effect. What, I am asked here, is the use, what the purpose, and above all what
the efKcacv of Union tneetingsf Sir. permit me to demand in return, what is the use of
aggregated and associate.! action! Where is the use of thought, and what the propriety
of its enunciation, if there be no propriety, no use in these Union meetings? Do gentle-
men discover virtue only in our ballots? " Do they ask only for that legal determination
and decision of questions which the ballot-box furnishes? Why, sir, these meetings but
prepare the people for that very act of decision ; they are but the preliminaries of the
Hnal decree. Whoever, therefore, may conspicuously embark in and characterize with
their names the Union meetings of the North, eloquent as rtay be the speaker. ai?j4 patri-
otic the sentiments addressed'' to them, nothing is of moment saTe thdt tlife xa&st^ -wBb



compose them are the true children of the Republic, and that tho^isancls npon thousands
of those wlio hitiierto have sui?taiiied the constitution and suppoiied the Uniou, are yet
awake to their importance, nor will ]>ermit detriment to either wliile life coiitinu-s and
honor survives.

Mr. Clerk, thei'e have been many fcrave and important questions discussed recently
upon this floor, some of whicli have been pertinent and soiiie foreign to the occasion.
Many of them have beeu loaded with grave complaints, in various quarters, of the politi-
cal direction of the times observed in sections, localities, and Stale.s, and arguments have
been adduced upon this floor, and interrogatories heard and answered in the fierce con-
flicts of local grievances, and the congressional settlement of the disputes of a warm po-
litical canvass. These, however diversified, and always interesting, at lea.^t to their im-
mediate parties, have produced on my mind but the one conviction — that the Union is in
no danger. Sir, such feelings are but the efTervcscence of local excitemenl, .the irritation of
personal grief. Let theni"alone, sir. The more deeply engrossed by them are the sec-
tions, the better established and the more strong will be the Union. Itisbut the anneal-
ing process, which makes the more ductile the interests and tractaWe the opinions of
parts to the general welfare of the whole.

But among these escapades there was one of more significance than others, and to me,
I confess, matter of painful importance. I refer to the assured action and the peremptory
exclamation of the distinguished gentleman from Ohio, [Mr. ConwiN.j Wlien I entered
these doors, I supposed that on the one side and the other of the House were arrayed the
two large parties into which the politics of the country are divided, and over one of
which, I was under the impression, was installed as its recognized and admired leader an
honorable Senator from my own State — one upon whose shoulders had been imposed the
whole burden of the political contest which recently transpired within our State borders.
Must I confess it, sir? 1 was not prepared, at the moment, at least, for the sad catastrophe
which awaited him at the hands of the honorable gentleman I have referred to.

He announced to us that he was the embodiment of the great Republican party, and as
the announcement was made, methought I saw the unhappy fall of the great Senator who
formerly had controlled Republican destinies, and who, .even then, impressed his opinions
npon the party creed —

" From morn to noon lie fell, from noon to dewy eve,
A summer's day " —
while far above the majestic ruin, stretching its scaly folds full many a rood along, [laugh-
ter,] there arose the magnificent and colossal pro])ortions of tlie gentleman from Ohio.
[Renewed laughter.] Tliere he stood ; to the one of his colossal legs clung, as I thought,
the constitutional friends of the fugitive slave law ; about the other were to be seen
gathering the friends of a high protective tarilf, wliile underneath peeped about, in dire
dismay, the great forsaken multitude, who saw neither in fugitive slave law, nor yet in
higii protective tarifl", the representation of their jirinciples. Constei'nation sat in silence,
brooding over the melancholy throng : that old party ; tliat new leader; that ruin. In-
deed, sir, it was, to my devotional mind, l)ut anotlier illustration of the scriptural truth,
that pouring new wine into old bottles is destructive to the \yhole coiicern. [Laughter.]
I would now inquire, under )>erniission, sir, whether, installed, instituted, and established
in his high office, this gentle marshal, with baton in hand, is recognized by that great and
formidal)le party as its leader? I have heard suspicions that it is not so ; that some have
even doubled his infallibility. I have seen occasional signs of open mutiny ; and lam
quite sure that, if the discipline which we perceive to have ])revailed so long on that side
of the House is still to be asserted, the mutineers will be biought in open House to a
drumhead court martial, and strung up at the ta]i of the drum.

My friends of the other side, no doubt, recognize the authority of many of the public
prints that are issued daily in the State of New York, and especially of those which
emanate from the city of New York. Upon' an editorial tripod seated there is a Republi-
can Pythoness, inflated with Republican inspiration, and redolent of its principles. l>o
gentlemen doubt the Sybil of the Evening Post? t!ic oracular integrity of her principles,
or the truth of her oi'acles? Sir, t know her divine authority among them and I would
ask the House to listen, for a moment, to the oracular chant that hasproc.-eded tVom her
shrine, an<l to aiiSwer whether this new leader of a party is, in fact, recognized as such by
those whom he asjiires to command.

Says tliis print, when animadverting upon one of the honorable gentleman's public
efforts in New York :

" Even Coitwix, who is perhaps the most crotchety [that is its opinion] as well as the most popular
pliatis mine albo] of old Whiz Kepulilicans, failed to susrsrest his tariff specific. Ihougrh he connumad lui
inordiniitr time, ill giriiir/ hi-s iinr/ifor.t it 'needless leriure on the duty of o'leyiug the law of the Unid,
and recotjiii-inij thiir foii.stiUUioiml ol'liijiition^. All the unriv.iied resources of this moat eloquent and
cntertainincr orator were needed to (/nniish the iloce he so gravely administered ; and ihe fact that for two
hours he managed lo renlrain ihe " irrcpressiljje conflict" he excited in the swarming mnllitude of his
hearers, must be regarded as the highest proof of his oratorical genius. The people have got beyond the
common-place political A B C's which he inculcated with the emphasis of a discoverer."

The criticism continues :

" If the meeting had been composed of savages, entirely unacquainted with civil government, or of
John Brown.-:, eager for an invasion of llarper'.s Ferry. Mr. Cor.wiN could noi have urged, in more expos-
tulating terms, tlie duty of submission to constiuUed authority. Now, the orator does not mean any harm,
but he ought to know that «mcA eashortatwns an as out of place in a EeptMioan meeting as would be a



p!ea/or a prntective tariff. They are as insulting to the law-abiilinc;, conservative masses of the Xorth,
as a reinonslraiice Hgainsl burijlary or street fights would be when addressed to a eongregation ot Qualcera.
Truly the schoolmasler is abroad."

lint ! lie s'iiils of piojjhetie wrath were not yet <li~cliargeil 'J lie liajiless orator was
destineil 1.0 yet harsher measure ; ana however we may doubt of the contortions which
i[is|iired the judgment, there, probably, can be notie of the contortions which it produced.
The Pythoness proceed6 :

'• We have observed also in Mr. Coi'.win's recent speeches graver faults than tliose of bad taste, to which
we need but alhide. namfdy, t/ie 'ugrjiiig in of doctiineJi not recognized hy the RejnMiam creed, and
exceedingly odiouH to a liuge. jinrtion of the party. While the Uepuhlicans are disposed to make all allow-
ances for the eecentriciiies 01' men, who, like the BoHrbons, never learn or forget anything, they rather
object to an orator's Using the Uepnblican platform f<ir the purpose ot chanting the praises of Millard
I'illniore, or of inoculating the Keiiublicau organization with the exploded licrcsies of a deceased party."

Leader, where now is tiiy bsiton ? Thy followers, where? The sad spectacle of an
army without a (;hief, or a chief without soldiers, is equally to be deprecated and deplored;
and when a largely triumphant party, advancing under banners to martial music, pro-
claims its ap[)roaching triumph, would it not be well, sir, before entering upon the contest,
that the parly ^iiould be assured of a leader, and the rampant leader be fortified by a
part}-? I am no political tactician, sir; but to an unsophisticated mind, it must seem
that otherwise there will be great danger of their common discomfiture, and of a com-
)>lefe success of their adversaries.

hir, I luay be permitted now, for a very fewjnomeuts, to advert to that which T con-
ceive to be tiie grave and important question of this discussion. It is not what has
occurred in the past, nor yet is" it referable to dangers in the future. It is a question
which e.\ists in the present ; and to that question 1 would now recall the attention of
gentlemen here t.<)-day ; and 1-ask them, in all fairness and sincerity, to give attention to
iny statements; if wrong, impeach them; if right, admit them; and, above all, permit
tliem I0 have their due force and elFect. I ask, Mr. Clerk, for the reading of the resolu-
tion of lite gentleman from Missi^iri, [Mr. Cl.*uk.]

While the Clerk was looking for the resolution,

Mr. (iltoW said : We will take it in any shape you choose to put it.

Mr. .lOllN COCIIRA.NK. Oii, no, my friend ; fdo not want it in any shape. I choose
to have it in its true and real shape.

Mr. STANTO^■. I ask the gentleman from iS'ew York if he will also have the Utica
resolution read. [Lautrhter.]

Mr. .lUlLN COCllUANE. If my friend desires information of those resolutions I shall
be jilea-'^ed to a.ssist him. If he desires to aid me, I answer that I am sutheiently
informed. lie refers to the meeting at Utica — I commend him to the meeting at Phillippi.
[Laughter |

The resolution offered by Mr. Clark, of Missouri, on the first day of the session, was
read tis follows :

Whereas certain members of this House, now in nomination for Speaker, did indorse and recommend
the booU liereinuficr lueniioned, ^, • ■ <• .1

/{evolved. That the doeiniies and sentiments of a certain book, called the "Impending Crisis ot the
gouth— How to .Meet il." purporiing to have l>cen written by one llinlon U. Helper, are insurreetionarj-
mid hostile to Ibe Uoinesf e p. ace and Irampiililv of the country, and that no member of this House who
has iud.ir^ed aud recommended it, or the eom|)eud from it, is lit to be Speaker of this House.

Mr. JOHN COCHRANE. Now, Mr. Clerk, the resolution which has been read is not,
in my judgment, suHieienlly comprehensive in its terras; it is not sufficiently declaratory
of tile effect of the work to which it alludes, not only upon the individual, but on the
party of which he is a member. 'I start with the proposition that the doctrines of that
book, are the doctrinfes, in fact, of the Republican party, and that if it 's unfit to charge
with lite duties of the Speaker's chair any gentleman who has subscribed to those doc-
trines, it is equally unfit and improper that the destinies of the country should be in-
trusted to a j.arty'which jjiofesses the same princiiiles. ^'or is this a new proposition.
Kot many weeifi'since, the whole countrv was startled with an insurrectionary movement
upon the foil of Virginia, in the dand of the night the peace of a quiet Virginia hamlet
was di>turbcd. Ji. was fearfully invaded ; its citizens were affVighted, and martial law was
].ioclaiined. Though for the most part those who were directly instrumental 111 that act
have paid the forfeit ol' their crime, though many of them have expiated their gudt upon
the gallows, yet at the time the event occurred, and everywhere since, and today at the
Xorih. JSoulh, East, aud West, is the inquiry still urged, what cause was there waich
could possibly have influenced these meu to their rufiiau's work— Lo the perpetration of
Mich ineoneei\ai.le horrors? At first it was charged upon the great leader of the Kepiib-
licau party, Wili.i.vm IL Si;w.\r.i) ; that it was the true, proper, and logical eftect ot his
speech pr<'.nounced at Rochester, October 2.5, 18.38. That the true effect of that speech
may appear. I will read an extract from it:

"Free lab..r and slave Iabor-the«e antagonistic systems are continually coming iiito close contact, and
collision r->ulls. Miall 1 tell vou w hal this collision means? They who think il is accidental, unnecessary,
the work of inleresied or li.milical agitators, and therefore ephemeral, mistake the case altogether. U is
an irrepressible conflict between op|.osm(( and enduring fores, and it means that the Lnited f^UU^^mmX.
and will, sooner or later, b.cn.e eilhe? eubrelj a slav.-hol.lmg nation, or en irely a tree- bor nat^^^^^^
iMih. r the coiion an.l fi< e ti.lds of SouUi Carolina and ihe sugar pla. taUons 0I Louisiana will ultimately
be tilled bv free labor, and t'harleston and New Orleans become marls lor legiumate merchandize alone,
w else lUerye fields and wheal lields «f Massuchuseils and iJew York must again be surrendered by then:



farmers to elare culture and to the production of ilaTes, «nd Boston and New York become once more
markets lor tradw iu tliu budies and souls ol" men."

It must lie confessed that upou the careful reading of this extract from that speecli,
tliere would seem to be some cause or reason for tlie conclusion at which many arrived,
that the orator furnished tlie ineentire to those who engaged in the Harper's Ferry infa-
my. But the friends of that gentlcaiau interposed tliis plea in his helialf, namely, that it
was but a figure of rhetoric; that the collision alluded to, the irrepi-essible conflict as-
Hertcd, was hut the harmless conflict of ideas, and tliat he should not be held i-esponsible
for nulural yioience who had but counseled intellectual war. However indisposed gen-
tlemen may have previously been to give to the great Senator the benetit of this ]ilea,
for my jtart 1 am quite disposed to do it now. His friends may, for aught I shall object,
securely insist upon their jieaceful construction of a declaration of war. 1 waive the argu-
ment at this point, in view of tlie immeasurably more important evideuce now attained —
evidence which teems to fix ujion V\'illiam U. Sewaku, and upon the v.iiole Re[)ublicaii
party tlie responsibility of the murderous excesses of John Brown and liis associates in crime.

it sliould be remembered that tlie invasion of Harper's Feriy occurred on the night of
the loth of Octolier last. It was not until the 26th duy of the ensuing November that,
through tiie columns of the JS'ew Yorlc Herald, were disclosed to the country the secret
causes and tlie com[)Iicity therein of llepublican leaders. Then, for the first time, did the
j>ublic learn that a secret poison had for four months been in iiidustiious cii'culatioii
tlirough the vitals of the country; and then, for tlie lirst time, was it known that tlie
circulators were the leaders, tiie counselors and advisers of the Pie[)ublicati party. The
indisputable facts of the case may tlius be stated: A volume entitled "The Imjiending
Crisis of the South — How to Meet- it," had been published'by one Hinton liowan Heljier.
This book, having passed several editions, was at length sitbniitted to various llepublicau
gentlemen, both in Congress and elsewhere, and by them was l)oth recommended and its
«irculatioii provided for. I should here, howeyer, be permitted to premise that into what-
ever course the argument may be forced by the defence interposed, the principal fact,
above all others incontestably proved, is that the doctrines and principles of the Helper
original volume of four hundred pages, are directly sanctioned and approved of by the
llepublican party, and not merely the compendium of but two hundred pages.

1 will now, sir, direct the attention of the House to a few paragrajihs from botli the
book and compendium. I do not intend to detain the House longer than sufficient only
to learn the nature of the volume, and to infer from its character tlie doctrines held by
gentlemen upou the other side of the House. In one portion of the work, after having
spoken of the mineral and other wealth of the South, this language is held :

" But of what arnil is all this latent wealth ? Of what avail will it ever bo, so long as slavery is permit-
ted to play the dog in the manger? To these queries thers can be but one reply: Slavery niu>it be tkrot-
tltd ; the South, so ^reat and bo glorious by nauire, must be reclninied Irom her infamy and degradation ;
our cities, fields, aB<i forests must be Kept intact fram the unsparing monster; the various and ample re-
sources of our vast domain, eubterraneous as well as superficial, must bo developed, and made to contri-
but« to our pleasures and to the necessities of the world."

It is to be observed that the force, effect, and direction of this paragraph, are entirely
towards violence — towards organized physical violence. Tliere is no oratorical trope, no
figure of eloquence resorted to with which to impress more vividly the mind. That
which in it is most sigiiiticaut is, that it counsels that by an act of violence directed to-
wards the institution of slavery it must be throttled and" exterminated.

I now proceed to another extract. At another page of the book this language is used :
"The great revolutionary movenieut which was set on foot in Charlotte, Mecklenburg county, North
Carolina, on Uie 'Jutli day of May, 1776, has not yet been terminated, nor will it be, until every slave in the
Uniteil Stales is fre»'d from tlie tyranny of his master. Every vic'tim of the vile institution, whether white
or blacl<, must be reinvested with the sacred rights and privileges of which he has been deprived by aa
inhuman oligarchy. What our noble sires of thu lievolulion left unfinished it is our duty to complete."

Here once more 1 pause, and ask those within reacli of my voice, what is the plain
significance of this phraseology ? Does it contemplate jteaceable action, moral persuasion ;
does it contemplate speech-making from the stump, or law enactments within deliberative
assemblies? or rather, does it not refer to arms, to the murderous assault, the cruel inva
eion, the stern defence and the ultimate success which crowned the war of our Revolution
and blesses it to us? Sir, this language is addressed to sway the passions; and it is
intended to provoke and inflame prejudice. It is clear, distinct, and unmistakable to the
one point, that the institution of slavery, as sure as it exists, must be exterminated by
the same physical power which cast off the yoke of Great Britain, and gave these colo-
nies their freedom in the war of the Revolution.

Again, sir, says this learned doctor:

" Henceforth, sirs, we are demandants, not suppliants "We demand our rights— nothing more, nothing
leso. Jt is for you to .ieeide whether we are to have justice peaeeubly or hy vio.enc*; for, whatever con-
setjuenceii may follow, we are determined to have it one way or the other."

The ftlternative then, is this, that unless the slaves be voluntarily manumitted, unless
those in bondage are permitted to go free i-eaceably, violence will be applied to the
solution of the problem ; and total emancipation is tlius to be tlie desired result of the
action which is i»roposed by the gentlemen who indorse and respond to the doctrine of


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Online LibraryJohn CochraneSpeech of Hon. John Cochrane, of New York, on the union and the Constitution. Delivered in the House of representatives, December 20, 1859 → online text (page 1 of 3)