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which have shaped the Federal policy for the last two
years, and may determine it for many years to come.
Those principles were such as the attitude assumed by
the Republicans, as the opponents of the policy of the
South, naturally called for ; and therefore, to appreciate


the Republican position, it will be necessary to advert
briefly to the course which Southern policy had pre-
viously pursued.

And first, you must bear in mind that the question
at issue in the past contests respecting slavery in the
United States, has not been, as is frequently supposed
in this country, whether slavery should be abolished
or maintained, but whether it should be restricted to
its present limits or extended. From the foundation
of the Union down to the present hour, or more
correctly, down to the recent proclamation of Mr.
Lincoln, no considerable politician has proposed to
interfere with slavery in the States where it is already
established.* All the efforts of the party opposed to
slavery on the one hand, and of the Slave party on the
other, have been directed exclusively to the " terri-
tories," as the field of their opposing principles. And
here I must interrupt my statement for a moment, to
explain, for the benefit of those who have not paid
much attention to American politics, the peculiar sig-
nification which the word " territory " bears in the
United States. In the political nomenclature of the
United States, "territory" does not signify what it
signifies with us simply the area of a country, but a
certain portion only of that area existing under certain
conditions ; these conditions being, that society in it

* Even the abolitionists shrunk from going this length : their pro-
gramme was the abolition of slavery in the district of Columbia, and
wherever else the Federal authority is competent to abolish it ; and as
regards the rest, that is, the States where slavery is already established
separation. The language of Southern politicians would indeed frequently
suggest that the aim of the anti-slavery party went the length of com-
plete abolition ; but it is well known that this language is used merely for
the purposes of agitation. No educated man in the South believes it.

P. E. G


should not yet have been organized under a distinct
local government subordinate to the general government
of the United States, and called a " state" government.
A " territory," in short, is a portion of the domain of
the Union which is not yet a "state." Thus in the
political discussions of the United States, "territory"
is always opposed to "state;" a "state" being for all
local purposes under its own government, while a
" territory," having no local government, comes
directly for all purposes whatever under the control of
the Central or Federal authority.* The "territories"
are in short the unsettled portions of the public
domain those vast regions which, beyond the line of
the States, stretch away to the Pacific. Now it is
this portion of the domain of the United States which
has always formed the battle-ground of the contend-
ing forces of slavery and freedom ; and I have now
to call your attention to the series of pretensions
advanced by the Slave party in its attempts upon
these possessions.

When the Union was founded, as I have already
intimated, the Slave interest was content with a merely
local toleration. Over the districts owned by the
state authorities it was permitted, at the discretion of
those authorities, to extend itself; but from that which
was properly the public domain from that portion of
the country which belonged, not to the particular
States, but to the Central Government slavery was

* Constitution of the United States, art. iv. sec. 3. " With respect
to the vast territorities belonging to the United States, Congress has
assumed to exercise over them supreme ppvvers of sovereignty. Exclusive
and unlimited power is given to Congress by the Constitution, and
sanctioned by judicial decisions." Kent's Commentaries, vol. i. p. 422.


absolutely excluded. What renders the case more
striking is, that the whole of this land, then known as
the " North-western territory," had been ceded to the
central authority by a Slave state the State of
Virginia ; while the first resolution providing for its
government, and which contained the anti-slavery
clause which was subsequently enacted, was brought
forward by a native of the same state, Jefferson, him-
self not merely a Southern, but a slaveholder. If in
those times the Slave party entertained the pretension
which they have recently advanced, of making slavery
a national institution, and securing for it protection in
all parts of the Union, this would have been a favour-
able opportunity for advancing such a claim. But
no such claim was advanced. On the contrary, the
leading statesman of the leading Slave state took the
initiative in proposing that slavery should be for ever
excluded from all the "territories" of the Union.
Jefferson's resolution was lost ; but within three years
the celebrated Ordinance of 1787, containing the anti-
slavery clause, was passed, and passed unanimously,
securing to freedom the whole of the vast region to
which it applied. It thus appears that, at the opening
of the United States history, the Slave party was
content with a local toleration. It advanced no pre-
tensions on the "territories" of the Union.*

At an early period in the present century, however,

* " In the territories north-west of the river Ohio, and as separate ter-
ritories were successively formed, Congress adopted and applied the
principles of the ordinance of the Confederation Congress of the date
of the 1 3th July, 1787. That ordinance was framed upon sound and
enlightened maxims of civil jurisprudence." Kent's Commentaries, vol. i.
PP- 423-4.

G 2


we find a change in this state of things. With a vast
extension of the cotton cultivation, Slave interest in
the Republic rapidly grew ; new Slave states were
created; and by 1818 the pretension was openly
advanced to carry slavery without restriction into the
" territories." The form in which this pretension was
brought forward was in the demand for the admission
of Missouri to the Union as a Slave state. The
demand called forth strong opposition in the Northern
States ; a violent political contest ensued ; and the
result was a compromise the celebrated " Missouri
compromise " under which the Slave party gained its
immediate object, the admission of Missouri, but on
the express condition, that in future, slavery should not
be introduced into the " territories " north of a certain
parallel of latitude. This was the first great achieve-
ment of the Slave party. It amounted practically to
a division of the then " territories " of the Republic
between freedom and slavery. In this position the
question remained till about the year 1850, at which
time the entire of the territory which, under the
Missouri compromise, fell to the share of the South
having been appropriated, the determination was
formed to repeal the Missouri compromise, with a view
to the extension of slavery into the portion of the
territory reserved by that compact to the Free States.
The Missouri compromise, therefore, was denounced
by the South as " unconstitutional ; " and the doctrine
was advanced that the proper arbiters for determining
the question of slavery or no-slavery in the " terri-
tories," were, not the Federal Government, but the
settlers. To this doctrine was given the appropriate


name of " Squatter Sovereignty ;" and a bill embody-
ing it was introduced and passed in 1854, a bill, by
which the unsettled lands were virtually thrown open
to be scrambled for by the contending parties. This
was the second step accomplished by the Slave Power
in its career of aggression. The " territories," which
had originally been the exclusive field of freedom, and
which had afterwards been divided between the op-
posing claimants, were now thrown open to slavery
throughout their whole extent.

The prospects of slavery were now promising, yet
the "hoped-for results were not realized. The measure
of 1854, though it threw open the " territories " to
slavery, did not go the length of establishing slavery
in those domains : it left this to be decided by the
settlers ; and on actual trial it was proved that, in the
business of colonization, the Slave States were no
match for the Free. The experiment was made, as
is well known, in Kansas, and, in spite of the most
unscrupulous use of every expedient which intrigue
and armed violence, backed by the connivance of the
Federal Government, then in the hands of the South-
ern party, could furnish, the defeat of the Slave party
in its attempt to seize the "squatter sovereignty" was
ignominious and complete.

There was need, therefore, once again to reconsider
the situation. The doctrine of" squatter sovereignty"
was accordingly without hesitation put aside, and in
its place a new doctrine was propounded. A slave, it
was said, is by the Constitution recognized as property;
but property is property in one part of the Union as
much as in another, and the first duty of government


is to protect property, and to protect it wherever
its jurisdiction extends. From these premises the
conclusion was drawn that it was the duty of the
Federal Government to protect slavery in all parts of
the Union in the " territories" as well as in the states,
and in the Free States as well as in the Slave.

This was the last and culminating pretension of the
Slave Power : it amounted to no less than a demand
to convert the whole Union into one great slave-
holding domain. Not only was this pretension
advanced, but an important step was taken towards
making it good. By dint of packing the courts of
justice with Southern partisans, a decision was obtained
from the Supreme Court of the United States the
notorious Dred Scott decision which fully bore out
the views of the Slave party. It was laid down, first,
that there was no difference between a slave and other
kinds of property ; and secondly, that all American
citizens might settle with their property in any part of
the Union in which they pleased.

Something more, however, than a judicial decision
was required to make good the designs of the Slave
party. It had need of a government which should be
prepared to act upon the principles thus enunciated.
This it was which they resolved to obtain at the last
presidential election ; and it was because they failed in
this object that secession was proclaimed.

You have now before you the career of aggression
against which the Free States, under the lead of the
Republican party, at length rose in resistance ; and in
view of this you will understand the position which this
party assumed. As the aim of the South was slavery-


extension, so the ground taken by the Republican
party in its opposition to the South was the non-
extension of slavery. I say the non-extension, not the
abolition of slavery ; for the Constitution had guaran-
teed slavery in the States where it already existed,
and it was no part of the policy of the Republican
party to violate the Constitution. Slavery, therefore,
in the States was not directly threatened ; but the
doctrine of the Dred Scott decision was repudiated,
and it was declared that for the future slavery should
be excluded from all the " territories " of the Republic.
This was the ground taken by the Republican party :
it was on these principles that Mr. Lincoln was raised
to power : and it was because these principles tri-
umphed that the South seceded.

But here it will perhaps occur to some of those
whom I address, that this Republican policy, after all,
scarcely deserves the importance which I have attri-
buted to it. Proposing merely to confine slavery
within its present domain, it leaves the existing body
of the evil, it will be thought, absolutely untouched
nay, under the Constitution, protected against all ex-
ternal assaults ; so that, even supposing the Repub-
licans triumphant, slavery would still remain erect and
unassailable ; and this view of the case may suggest
the suspicion that such consequences as those which
followed the Presidential contest can scarcely be due
to a cause apparently so disproportioned to the alleged
result as the policy which I have described.

But it will not be difficult to show that the Re-
publican policy involves far more than at first meets
the eye, and contains, in fact, quite enough to account


for the explosion which followed its successful asser-
tion. It is a fact, familiar to the people alike of the
Free and of the Slave States, that for the profitable
working of slavery, as it exists in the Southern States,
a constant succession of fresh soils is a fundamental
necessity. This is a consequence of the methods of
cultivation practised under slavery methods of culti-
vation, through the effect of which the soil, after a
short series of years, becomes impoverished, necessi-
tating the emigration of the planters with their slaves
to new fields. Hence it follows, that, if slavery could
only be confined permanently within its existing limits,
a radical change in its industrial system would, after
some time, be forced upon the South a change which
would involve, as its consequence, a substitution of
free for servile labour. Now this would entail social
as well as economical consequences, and would, in fact,
be equivalent to the downfall of the social aristocracy
of the South. Against this the whole body of slave-
holders will, it may well be believed, strive as a
single man. To accept the Republican policy would
be for the slave-holders to sign the death-warrant
of their system, and, with it, of their power. But,
further, in addition to the economic effects of the
Republican policy, it would have had certain political
consequences, which, perhaps, were still more vividly
present to the minds of the Southern leaders. Under
the Constitution of the United States, the Senate
is the most powerful branch of the Legislature. Re-
presentation in it is in proportion to States each
State, whatever its size or population, sending just
two senators to Congress. Under these circum-


stances, supposing slavery to be confined permanently
within the States where it at present exists, the repre-
sentation of the Slave States in the Senate could
never exceed its present number ; and inasmuch as,
with the growth of population in the Northern States,
the number of Free States is constantly increasing, it
is evident that, under the operation of the principle
of restriction proposed by the Republican party, the
political influence of the Free States would rapidly
preponderate in the general government. Moderate,
therefore, and almost timid, as seemed the programme
of the Republicans, it nevertheless involved conse-
quences for the South of the most serious moment.
By prohibiting the creation of new Slave States, it re-
pressed effectually the political influence of the Slave
party in the Union; while, by confining slavery
within its existing confines, it provided for its ulti-
mate extinction even in those States where it is
now established.*

Reverting, now, to the history of the movement,
which we have carried up to the point at which the
civil war broke out, I have to ask you to follow me
while I indicate the course of the Northern policy,
under the lead of the Republican party, since that time.

When the news of the impending outbreak first
reached this country, the feeling of the public here,

* All this is fully recognized by the advocates of the South.
"Although," says the Hon. James Williams, "it is not to be supposed
that the object of the great body of Americans who are enlisted in that
(the Anti-Slavery) conflict is primarily to achieve a triumph of their
policy in the Republic, yet such would be the effect of a successful effort
to impair by degrees, and finally to destroy, the institution of slavery in
the Southern American States." The South Vindicated, p. 53.


as you will doubtless remember, though not of a very
energetic character, on the whole, went with the
North. It being understood that a contest was about
to break out between the Free and Slave States, it
was at once assumed (naturally enough, considering
that we were not at that time acquainted with the
antecedents of the contest) that the North was taking
up arms to put down slavery. A very short time was
sufficient to dispel this illusion. One of Mr. Lincoln's
first acts, upon entering on the government, was a
declaration that he had no intention to interfere with
slavery where it was established. By this avowal
the flow of public sentiment favourable to the North
was at once arrested. It was now assumed that the
war was quite unconnected with slavery ; and after
a short period of hesitation, our sympathies, under
the skilful management of certain Southern engineers,
set steadily to the Southern side.

In view now of the facts of the case, as I have just
recalled them to your recollection, I ask you if our
early expectation was not unreasonable ? And I will
not shrink from also asking you if our later con-
clusion was not unjust ? We expected that the North
should at once have thrown itself into an anti-slavery
crusade. Was this a reasonable expectation ? Uni-
versal emancipation the abolition of slavery in the
States where it had been established had never been
any part of the Northern programme. On the con-
trary, the Republican party, of which Mr. Lincoln was
the representative, though embarked in a policy which
aimed at the immediate restriction, and threatened
in its ultimate results the very existence, of slavery


a policy which those who were most concerned,
the slaveholders, at once recognized as fatal had
always disavowed this design, had always declared
its determination to abide by the Constitution. I
might perhaps even go further than this, and with
the fuller knowledge of the case which we have since
acquired, I think I might asJc you, whether, at the
stage of the business which we are now considering
while civil war was yet but pending, while the
chance still remained of accomplishing the desired ob-
ject by peaceable and constitutional means it would
have been wise, whether it would have been justifiable,
to have resorted at once to revolutionary measures,
and to have put forward a manifesto which must
inevitably have had the effect of rendering peaceful
emancipation impossible ?

But, secondly, I will ask you if our later conclusion
was not unjust ? It is true, the North did not take
up arms directly and explicitly to abolish slavery. It
took up arms to defend the Constitution the Con-
stitution under which the American people had grown
from three to thirty millions, and under which those
thirty millions, but for this slavery-born conspiracy,
might long have lived together in harmony and peace;
it took up arms to defend the Union the Union
which gave to the American people the status of a
Great Power in the world ; it took up arms, finally,
to chastise a band of conspirators, who sought to
retrieve by civil convulsion a political defeat. These,
and not the abolition of slavery, were undoubtedly the
motives which inspired the Northern rising. Neverthe-
less it is still, I maintain, true that the destruction of


slavery was comprised in the programme of the North.
It is often said here, the North would gladly have
given up everything would have surrendered the
whole cause of freedom if it could only thereby have
bribed the South to return. It would indeed have
given up much : it was prepared to make it actually
did make humiliating I am forced to say it dis-
graceful concessions. Nay, there are people in the
North who would undoubtedly have gone all needful
lengths, and, for the sake of the commercial gains aris-
ing from the Southern connection, would have gladly
accepted the yoke of a Southern dictator. There are
people there who would still do this. All this is too
true. But let us do the North justice. There are
others, and these the most numerous the party in
whose hands the government is, fortunately for the
interests of mankind, at present placed, who refused
to exist upon these terms, who, from first to last,
have stood firmly by what has been throughout the
grand stake of the struggle the destination of the
" territories." The offer of returning to the Union
on the terms of receiving the " territories " was twice
made by the South, and was twice rejected let that
never be forgotten : it was made, first, when the
Crittenden compromise was tendered ; and it was
made, secondly, on the occasion of the interview of
the Southern deputies with Mr. Lincoln, immediately
before the breaking out of the war. A strong light
has recently been thrown upon that meeting. One
of those very Southern deputies, Mr. Ex-Governor
Moorhead, is now in England, and has given his
version of what then took place ; and what is the


story of this Southern Ex-Governor ? He ridicules
Mr. Lincoln's attitudes, which, it seems, were un-
gainly ; he tells us of some uncouth and decidedly
bad jests perpetrated by the President ; but, as to
the real business of the hour, his testimony is, that
not one word was said at that critical moment about
free trade ; not one word about the Morrill tariff;
it was all about slavery, and the discussion was ulti-
mately brought to this point would the " territories "
be abandoned? Give up the "territories" to be
overrun by slave-holders and slaves, and the Union
may be restored ; but refuse this, and the Union
shall be severed. In that critical hour the Illinois
rail-splitter might be forgetful of the graces and
sugared amenities of diplomatic intercourse, but he
stood firm by the grand principle of the Republican
party.* Where slavery now exists, there, he said,
it may remain, so long as it can sustain itself, but
beyond that limit it shall not move. This was Mr.
Lincoln's position, rather than abandon which he took
the chance of disruption of the Union and civil war;
and in this resolution he has been backed up by the
vast majority of the Northern people. Therefore,

* " He " (Mr. Lincoln) " said that he was willing to give a constitutional
guarantee that slavery should not be molested in any way directly or
indirectly in the States ; that he was willing to go further and give a
guarantee that it should not be molested in the district of Columbia ; and
that he would go still further, and say that it should not be disturbed in the
docks, arsenals, forts, and other places within the slave-holding States ;
but as for slavery in the territories, that his whole life was dedicated in
opposition to its extension there ; that he was elected by a party which
had made that a portion of its platform, and he should consider that he
was betraying that party if he ever agreed, under any state of the case, to
allow slavery to be extended in the territories.'' Speech of Ex-Governor


I say, it is not true that the North was willing to
surrender everything if the South. would only return
to the Union. The North always stood firm by its
Republican programme a programme, which, modest
and reasonable as it seems and is, really goes to
the heart of the matter, and contains a principle,
which, if made good, will ultimately stifle the mon-
ster of slavery in its own lair.

Well, I say, and I have always said, that, whatever
might have been the ostensible, or even the actual,
issues joined, the war was always in its essence an
anti-slavery war. And now I will ask if experience
has not borne out that opinion. I ask you to look at
the measures which have been passed within the
present year by Mr. Lincoln's government. In March
last the first overture towards a settlement of the
question was made. Mr. Lincoln addressed Congress,
inviting it to join him in an offer of co-operation in a
plan of emancipation, to be made to the legislatures of
the Slave States an invitation which both Houses of
Congress accepted by large majorities. A little later,

Online LibraryJohn Elliott CairnesPolitical essays → online text (page 7 of 27)