John Upfold Pettit.

Speech of Hon. John U. Pettit, of Indiana, on the restoration of the Missouri compromise online

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oracles, but it remains true that it requires in the
slave a perpetual crucifixion of the duties of
Christian life. But, in the sense of political econ-
omy, and in its social life, so far as connected
with thateconomy, which is the politician's scope,
except in money, it is an unmixed evil — to the
slave, the middle class, the master — paralyzing
every relation and interest, in which good econ-
omy (by which is meant the greatest happiness
of those governed in a State) consists. Its only
profit is as a mercenary institution, and there it is
limited to a few.

History abounds in parallels, and is forever re-
producing itself. It is nowhere more instructive
than when, in its numerous examples, it paints
the weakness and decline that slavery introduces
into a State, before its final catastrophe — the
strong contrasts it makes on the canvass, of the
riches, dissipation, power, and authority, of the
few, and the vice, degradation, and sufferings, of
the masses.

Mr. Bancroft, eminent more as the illustrator
of our history than as the head of our diplomacy,

" In the early periods of Rome, Cincinnatus, at work in
his field, was the model of patriotism. Agriculture and
war were the labor and office of freemen. Little farms
studded the country, and nursed an independent race.
But, in the time of the Gracchi, the plow was in the hand?
of the slave. The greater number of freemen were excluded
from employment by the increase of slavery, and its ten-
dency to confer the exclusive possession of the soil on the
few. The palaces of the wealthy towered in the landscape
in solitary grandeur — the plebeians hid themselves in mis-
erable hovels. Deprived of all the dignity of freeholders,
they could not even hope for occupation, for the opulent
landowner preferred rather to make use of his slaves.
Tiberius Gracchus saw the inhabitants of the Roman State


divided into the few wealthy nobles, the many indigent ■
citizens, the still more numerous class of slaves. Reason- [
tng correctly, he perceived that it was slavery which
crowded the poor man out of employment, and barred the |
way to his advancement. In the midst of a land corrupted
and impoverished by slavery, it was the purpose of Grac-
chus, by the agrarian law, to create a Roman yeomanry by
Increasing the number of landed proprietors. It was de-
signed to create in Italy a yeomanry, instead of slaves, to
substitute free laborers, to plant liberty, to perpetuate the
Boman Commonwealth, by identifying its principles with
the culture of the soil. Graeohus claimed it for the free. I

"Philanthropy, when it contemplates a slave holding
country, may have its first sympathies excited for the
leaves — but it is a narrow benevolence which stops there.
The needy freeman is in a worse condition. The slave
has his task, and also his home and his bread. He is the
member of a wealthy family. The indigent freeman has
neither labor, nor house, nor food ; and, divided by a broad
gulf from the upper class, he has neither hope nor ambi-
tion. He is so abject, that even the slave despises him.
For the interes't of the slaveholder is diametrically opposite
to that of the free laborer. The slaveholder is the com-
petitor of the free laborer, and, by the lease of slaves, takes
the bread from his mouth. The wealthiest man in Rome
was the competitor of the poorest carpenter. The patri-
cians took away the business of the sandal-makers. The
existence of slavery made the opulent owners of bond-
men the rivals of the poor ; greedy after the profits of their
labor, and monopolizing those profits through their slaves.
In every community where slavery is tolerated, the poor
freeman Will always be found complaining of hard times.

" Slavery tends to diminish tire frequency of marriages
in the class of masters. In a State where emancipation is
forbidden, the slave population will perpetually gain in
relative numbers." * * * * "The position is certain
and universal ; nowhere was it more amply exemplified
than in Rome."

But slavery had then, as now, its pimps, and j
parasites, and hirelings. Even the poor whites
themselves became silent cowards, as they do
now, before their rich and powerful oppressors; i
and the Atchisons and Shannons of Roman sla- 1
very were permitted to slay the pure and incom- i
parable tribune of the people, Gracchus, the free- |
soiler, as he went up the steps of the capitol; and ,
his corpse, like the carcass of a dog, was dragged ,
through the streets and tossed contemptuously
into the yellow Tiber.

But vengeance followed the spoliators of the
poor whites in Italy. Shut out from labor and
from owning lands, it was necessary to feed them
from the public granaries. These were to be filled
by the labor of slaves. Bancroft says:

" It was a greater burden than the fruits of slavery could
bear. The deficiency was supplied by the plunder of for-
eign countries. The Romans, as a nation, became a band
Of robbers."

Is this the destiny of our own, the last and best
of all republics? to linger in weakness from day
to day with this political canker at its vitals, and
to perish finally in crime?

The parallel desolation has begun here, and, if
uncured, will have the same catastrophe.

Said Senator Preston, of South Carolina, in
in 1836:

"No southern man can journey, as I have done, through
the northern States, ami witness the prosperity, the industry,
the public spirit, which they exhibit; the sedulous cultiva-
tion of those arts by which life is made comfortable and

resp iCtable, Without feelings of deep sadness and shame,
as he remember! his own neglected and desolate Inline.
There no dwelling is to lie sien abandoned, no farm uncul-
tivated, nu man idle, no waterfall even unemployed. Every

person and everything performs a part toward the grand
result, and the whole land is covered with fertile fields, with
manufactories, and canals, ami railroads, and public edi-
fices, and towns and cities." * * "The population

becomes, as it were, a single set of muscles, animated by
one heart, and directed by a common sensorium.

"How different the condition of things in the South!
Here, the face of the country wears the aspect of prema-
ture old age and decay. No improvement is seen going or.,
nothing is done for posterity, no man thinks of anything
beyond the present moment." Our lands are yearly tasked
to their utmost capacity of production, and when ex-
hausted, are abandoned for the youthful West."

Slavery has no invention or skill. " Idleness,
treachery and theft," Mr. Bancroft says, "are
its vices." In that wonderful store-house of
American invention, the Patent Office, the follow-
ing are the figures of practical invention:
North, from 1790 to 1849, inclusive, 14,559 patents.
South, from 1790 to 1847, " 2,475 "

North, for 1855 1,684 "

South, for 1855 2-22 "

A free and slave population are, relatively, con-
servative and progressive. In the one there is
industry, invention, skill, general comfort, prog-
ress. In the other, speaking of it as a whole,
these are wanting, and everything stands still.
They resemble the different conditions in physics,
of inertia and momentum.

But the worst fact of slavery, in its political
relation, is the weakness it gives a State, as against
a foreign enemy. The condition of the slave is
not the paradise it seems to be to some benevolent
minds. It may be unreasonable in him not to oe
contented with his lot, after a long endurance of
ignorance, degradation and suffering, and when his
manly and moral sensibilities ought to be blunted.
But reasonable or not, the slave is not contented
with his condition; and it is because he is not,
and often turns his eyes in the night-watches to
the north star, that fugitive slave laws are neces-
sary to compel him into a bondage he seeks every
opportunity to fly from. The slave is in our
social and political system, but forms no part of
it. A native of the soil and among his kind, he
is without family, or home, or country. His
heart, however it may be subdued by law from
expressing itself in overt acts, is at war with the
surrounding circumstances by which he is op-
pressed; and he only bides his time and waits his
opportunity to rise in the ferocity of his untamed
nature, and confront his oppressor. As against
a foreign enemy, he is our enemy in the midst of
the garrison; and just as much as we extend sla-
very, we strengthen an internal foe against our
peace, happiness, and safety. It is painful to
indicate this point of greatest national danger and
weakness; but, forewarned, if we are wise, we
may be forearmed.

An example of the fugitive and dangerous na-
ture of this property, before slavery had become
augmented to its present alarming numbers, oc-
curred during our last war with Great Britain,
and is preserved in much angry diplomacy that
followed the treaty of Ghent. One of the articles
of that treaty stipulated, on the part of the British
Government, compensation for all property taken
by the enemy, and remaining in its hands at the
exchange of ratifications. Under this clause com-
pensation was claimed for fugitive slaves at that
moment remaining with the armed forces of the
enemy, not for all who had become scattered and
fugitive during the progress of the war, but such
only as adhered to the armed enemy at the mo-


ment of the exchange of ratifications. An award
of the Emperor of Russia, to whom the construc-
tion of so much of the treaty was referred, re-
quired payment for this class of fugitives from the
British Government, which, November 13, 1826,
settled the amount by convention at §1,204,960.
Proofs had already be%n made, and were on the
files of our State Department, of the presence of
the following fugitives with the enemy at the
time of exchanging the ratifications of the treaty:

w S ' a ,' es -. s '<™« ^veraze. Amount.

Maryland 714

Virginia ] 721

South Carolina ' ]o

Georgia g33

Louisiana 259

Mississippi 22

Delaware 2

Alabama 13

Alexandria 3











3,582 yl 75,370

Almost an army of brawny men, recruited from
our own midst, at a season of languishing mari-
time warfare, inflamed by a sense of life-long in-
juries, invoked to a ferocious revenge, and, rather
than again be subdued to slavery, prepared to
make the terrible resistance of despair..

The persevering reproach brought against our
republican honor, of maintaining slavery in our
midst, at this age of knowledge and humanity,
found a generous consideration and even protec-
tion against our accusers, so long as we replied !
the difficulty of dealing with it now, as a practi- '
cal evil, and the compulsion against our remon- '
etrances by which it was first introduced here-
because such an answer implied that we only i
wished and waited for a safe means of extrica-
tion. But we now revive the reproach, and take-
to ourselves, nationally, the ignominy of main- 1
taming slavery, when we take sides with its prop- I
option, and insist on it as a social and political !
blessing; for, if it be a blessing, there is no I
longer any reproach in having brought it here; 1
and, having stripped ourselves of this cover, we i
stand in nakedness to be chastised by the scorn i
and condemnation of all mankind.

This brings me to the language of eminent !
force and truth of the gentleman from Georgia,
par. Warner:] ° ',

"There is not a slaveholder, in this House or out of it, but I
• S^n'T? • P8rfeCt . | y wel ! *?t whenever slavery is tonAncd
rrdlun certain special limits. Us future existence is doomed '•
VLTJZ " 1 uest,on of l ™e « to its final destruction:
6LAVIRY cannot be confined within certain specified


And if slavery, in its struggle for life, is to ex-
pand all over the Territories, and fill the master's
? I have shown that, proceeding

in its present augmented ratio, colonization will
fill the whole domain before the end of the present
generation. And after slavery, along with it,
shall have spread over all our Territories, what
then ? Is not the present a mere palliative, and a
postponement of the evil time? Slavery will then
be crowded, and fall back on itself. What shall
then be its cure? Shall we then extend the his-
torical parallel, and enter on a life of robbery? or
shall another Spartacus arise and lead away the
hosts of slaves from our midst? or another Eunus
erect his cruel tribunal, and bring the masters to
indiscriminate judgment for the whole past? or
shall we endure in our own midst, at desolated
hearths, and in the presence of our fields spoiled
by war and rapine, another St. Domingo?

Warned by all this, no other Shannon shall
swarm his barbarians on the Wakarusa, to insult,
alarm, plunder, rob, and murder the people of
his charge, for the fault of loving liberty and
the laws too well, nor another Pierce joyfully
convey to Congress, after having compelled the
ignominious submission, that the affairs of the
Territory are arranged " in the most satisfactory
manner. J

National honor, peace, happiness, and union,
will be safe by going back and taking lessons of
the past. This cause is the people's. It, too,
has its representative champion. Educated into
a personal knowledge of servitude and its in-
stincts his vows, young as Hannibal's, were
recorded against it. Fremont has honored his
country; he has served science, which serves all
mankind; he has explored a wilderness, and made
its features familiar as a friend's; he has ascend-
ed rivers to their springs, and climbed to mountain
tops that looked down on the Pacific, resting in
its immense basin quietly as a child in arms- he
has enlarged knowledge. In all this, he has
maintained the modesty of true merit; and in a
time-serving age, he is as much remarkable for
what he has not been, as for what he has been and
is. But his best tale to remembrance is, that he
conquered and laid the foundations of a free State
at that uttermost limit of our empire. We trust
the qualities he has displayed, and his honorable
tame for his inflexible devotion to the ri°-ht; for
this "good old cause" repels the maxims of pri-
vate outrage for party, or of national robbery for
national gain, but adheres to truth older than
Christianity, and as pure— that told by Solon to
the wise men at the feast of the tyrant of Cor-
inth, that that is the best republic where an
injury to the humblest citizen is an injury to the
whole State; and that other, uttered by Socrates
in the saddler's shop at Athens, that nothing
whatever can be sound in politics that is not
sound in the morals of private life.






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Online LibraryJohn Upfold PettitSpeech of Hon. John U. Pettit, of Indiana, on the restoration of the Missouri compromise → online text (page 6 of 6)