Stephen Arnold Douglas.

A brief treatise upon constitutional and party questions and the history of political parties, as I received it orally from the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas online

. (page 5 of 11)
Online LibraryStephen Arnold DouglasA brief treatise upon constitutional and party questions and the history of political parties, as I received it orally from the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas → online text (page 5 of 11)
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ing to Civilization and Christianity, " Thus far
mayst tliou go, and no farther !" and General Cass,
while Secretary of War, was zealous in the execu
tion of this policy. This restrictive system received
its first check in 1844, by the introduction of the
Nebraska Bill, which was served on the Secretary of
War, by its author, on the day of its introduction,
with a notice that Congress was about to organize
the Territory, and therefore he must not locate any
more Indians there. In consequence of this notice,
the Secretary (by courtesy) suspended his operations
until Congress should have an opportunity of acting


upon the bill ; and inasmuch as Congress failed to act
that session, Mr. Douglas renewed his bill and notice
to the Secretary each year, and thus prevented action
for ten years, and until he could procure action on
the bill. In the mean time the passion of the Western
people for emigration had become so aroused, that
they could be no longer restrained ; and Colonel
Benton, who was a candidate in Missouri for re
election to the Senate in 1852 and 1853, so far
yielded to the popular clamor, as to advise the emi
grants, who had assembled, in a force of fifteen or
twenty thousand, on the western border of Missouri,
carrying their tents and wagons, to invade the Ter
ritory and take possession, in defiance of the Indian
intercourse laws, and of the authority of the Federal
Government, which, if executed, must inevitably
have precipitated an Indian war with all those

"When this movement on the part of Colonel
Benton became known at Washington, the Pres
ident of the United States despatched the Commis
sioner of Indian Affairs to the scene of excitement,
with orders to the commanding officer at Fort Leav-
enworth to use the United States army in resisting
the invasion, if he could not succeed in restraining
the emigrants by persuasion and remonstrances.


The Commissioner of Indian Affairs succeeded in
procuring the agreement of the emigrants that they
would encamp on the western borders of Missouri,
until the end of the next session of Congress, in
order to see if Congress would not in the mean
time, by law, open the country to emigration.
When Congress assembled at the session of 1853-
'54, in view of this state of facts, Mr. Douglas re
newed his Nebraska Act, which was modified, pend
ing discussion, by dividing into two Territories, and
became the Kansas-Nebraska Act. from these facts
you can draw your own conclusion, whether there
was any necessity for the organization of the Terri
tory and of Congressional action at that time.

In regard to the second objection, it is proper to
remark, that if the necessity for the organization of
the Territories did in fact exist, it was right that
they should be organized upon sound constitutional
principles / and if the compromise measures of
1850 were a safe rule of action upon that subject,
as the country in the Presidential election, and ootk
of the political parties in their national conventions
in 1852 had affirmed, then it was the duty of those
to whom the power had been intrusted to frame the
bills in accordance with those principles. There
was another reason which had its due weight in the


repeal of the Missouri restriction. The jealousies
of the two great sections of the Union, North and
South, had been fiercely excited by the slavery agi
tation. The Southern States would never consent
to the opening of those Territories to settlement, so
long as they were excluded by act of Congress from
moving there and holding their slaves ; and they had
the power to prevent the opening of the country
forever, inasmuch as it had been forever excluded
by treaties with the Indians, which could not be
changed or repealed except by a two-third vote in
the Senate. But the South were willing to consent
to remove the Indian restrictions, provided the
North would at the same time remove the Missouri
restriction, and thus throw the country open to set
tlement on equal terms by the people of the North
and South, and leave the settlers at liberty to intro
duce or exclude slavery as they should think proper.
This was true ; but this power to defeat the Kansas-
Nebraska Act by refusing to make new treaties,
that is, repealing the old by consent of both par
ties, the Indians and the United States, was over
looked by loth parties^ or the Kansas-Nebraska Act-
might have been defeated. I saw this objection,
and was often on the point of letting it slip, in de
bate, but as often checked myself. In the mean


time commissioners were sent out, pending the Ne
braska Act, to make new treaties. A clause in the
act made it prospective, so as to await this result.
The treaties were made and ratified by the Senate.
Bell, of Tennessee, saw the objection, and alluded
to it ; but he did not portray or grasp it fully. I
pretended -not to be listening to his speech, but was
terribly frightened, when, on the last night of the
Kansas-Nebraska Bill he made his speech against it
(having been previously pledged to vote for it), but
at a time when the whole South was pledged to it,
and would hardly even listen to what he was saying.
In that speech, Bell, in substance, said that he did not
blame the Senator from Illinois for the part he was
acting on this occasion that Senator understood
what he was about. He had a grand scheme for
the building up of a great Northwestern empire,
which would in a few years be strong enough to
govern the whole country. His scheme contem
plated tlie extinction of the Indian title to a coun
try large enough for ten or twelve new States, which
under his guidance would soon be brought into the
Union, to swell the power of his own section. " I re
peat that I do not blame the Senator for the part he
is acting ; I only blame the South for allowing them
selves to be used as his instruments, to carry out his


grand scheme for his own section. It is said that
the Romans were in the habit of conferring a civic
crown upon every Roman consul who added a new
province to the empire. If his section of the coun
try shall prove as grateful as the Romans, he will
be entitled to ten civic crowns in gratitude for his

Immediately after the Nebraska Bill was intro
duced, and before the clause was inserted in the bill
repealing the Missouri Compromise, an appeal to
the people was prepared and published by Messrs.
Chase of Ohio, Sumner of Massachusetts, Seward
of New York, Wade, Giddings, and other leading
Freesoilers, in which they denounced the measure
as an attempt to open the whole Northern country
to slavery, and, in fact, to introduce slavery into a
country large enough for fourteen States by act of
Congress, and denouncing the author of it as a
traitor to the cause of freedom, to the North, and
to the whole country ; and appealing to the friends
of freedom, and to all who were opposed to the ex
tension of slavery, to forget all former party distinc
tions, hold public meetings, denounce the measure
and its author, send up petitions and remonstrances
from every town and hamlet in the country, urge
the Legislatures to send up instructions, and request-


ing the preachers of the gospel to denounce it in
their pulpits, and all religious men to assemble in
prayer-meetings and invoke the interposition of
divine vengeance against those who should consum
mate such a damnable crime. This appeal to the
passions of the people was prepared by its authors
secretly, and after being agreed to in caucus on the
Sabbath day, as appears from its date, was printed
and sent to every portion of the country the day
before the bill was to be taken up for discussion in
the Senate.

On the next morning, a few minutes before Mr.
Douglas was to make his opening speech in favor
of the bill, Mr. Chase and Mr. Sumner came to his
desk and appealed to his courtesy to postpone the
discussion for one week, and assigned as a reason
that they had not had time to read the ~hill and un
derstand its provisions, acknowledging that it was
their own fault and neglect that they had not done
so, and therefore that they had no other claim to ask
the postponement than the courtesy of the author
of the measure. Mr. Douglas yielded to their ap
peal, and granted the postponement. Three or four
days afterwards, he received by mail from Ohio a
printed copy of this appeal, signed by Chase and
Sumner, and bearing date several days before he had


granted the postponement, which conduct he imme
diately denounced in open Senate. They had thus
lied had got first before the country, seeking thus
ty fraud to forestall public opinion. Mr. Douglas'
friends had reproved him for granting the postpone
ment. He replied to them that it was a fair meas
ure, and that he intended to act fairly and honestly,
and to let friends and opponents all equally have an
opportunity to use their abilities, for and against the
measure, understandingly.

In response to this appeal the wildest passions
were aroused. Meetings were held, violent resolu
tions of denunciation were passed, sermons preached,
violence urged to any extent necessary to defeat the
measure. As a specimen of the tone of the anti-
Nebraska press, the New York " Tribune " threat
ened, and justified the execution of the threat, that
if the measure could not be defeated in any other
mode, the capital should have been burned over the
heads of the members, or blown up with powder.
Mr. Douglas was burned and hung in effigy in every
portion of the free States, sometimes in a hundred
different places in the same night, and nearly every
pulpit of the Protestant churches poured forth its
denunciations and imprecations upon every man
who should vote for the measure. A memorial was


presented in the Senate, among many others of the
same character, containing the signatures of three
thousand and fifty clergymen protesting against the
measure in the name of Almighty God, and implor
ing His vengeance upon the author.

When the bill passed, the Freesoil members of
the two houses immediately organized themselves
into an Emigrant Aid Association at the city of
Washington, and urged the formation of other asso
ciations in each of the free States for the purpose
of sending emigrants to Kansas. The Massachusetts
Legislature incorporated an Emigrant Aid Society,
with a capital of $5,000,000, and immediately pro
ceeded to ship emigrants to Kansas, armed with
Colt's pistols, a bowie knife, and a Bible. All the
troubles of the Territory grew out of this armed and
forced emigration. There would have been no
trouble if emigration had been left to its natural
causes and course. What I say about armed emi
grants is all true. I have seen five hundred of
them, armed, come off the ships at Chicago, and
howl and groan before my own door, with bands
around their hats inscribed "Freedom to Kansas,
down with the traitors ! " When I returned to
Chicago I was met at Buffalo by a friend, who
brought letters from other friends at Chicago, pro-


testing against my return, and warning me that I
would be inevitably killed if I did. I insisted upon
going, and did so. I arrived there in the morning,
went to my hotel, and after a few days, three or
four, issued a notice of a speech to be made by me
in front of North Market Hall. All the newspapers
in the city denounced me, and published daily arti
cles encouraging personal violence, reminding the
people that in 1850, on the passage of the com
promise measures, I had returned and succeeded in
quelling an outbreak against those measures, and
that this thing could not be done a second time.
Know-Nothingism had, pending the Nebraska Bill,
been organized in the United States for the first
time, and in Chicago the anti-Nebraska men had
organized into Know-Nothing lodges, and probably
included within those lodges nine-tenths of all the
men in the city. It was ascertained that they se
cretly determined and bound themselves by their
oaths not to allow me to speak ; and it is known
that one of these thirty or forty lodges ordered by
telegraph, and received by express from New York,
the night before I was to speak, two hundred and
fifty of Colt's revolvers. When the day arrived the
flags were hung at half-mast on the shipping in the
harbor, and for several hours before the time ap-


pointed all the church bells in the city were tolled,
at which signal the mob assembled in a force of
about ten thousand. I had forty or fifty men who
pretended to be with me privately, but not half a
dozen were so openly ; they were all afraid. At
the appointed hour I repaired to the meeting and
went upon the stand, and was greeted by that un
earthly yell taught and practised in the Know-
Nothing lodges, a howl no man can imitate. I
stood and looked at the mob until the howling
ceased. When they ceased I commenced by saying,
that " I appear before you- to-night for the purpose
of vindicating the provisions of the Kansas-Nebraska
Act." Before the sentence was ended the howl be
gan again. When it ceased I would begin, and as
soon as I commenced it was renewed. At times I
appealed to their pride, as the champions of free
speech, for a hearing ; the howling was renewed ;
at other times I would denounce them as a set of
cowards who came armed with bowie knives and
pistols to put down one man, unarmed afraid to'
hear the truth spoken, lest there might be some hon
est men amongst them who would be convinced.
At one time I got a hearing for ten or fifteen min
utes, and was evidently making, an impression upon
the crowd, when there marched in from the outside


a body of three or four hundred men with red shirts,
dressed as sailors, and thoroughly armed, who moved
through the crowd immediately in front of the
stand, and then peremptorily ordered me to leave it.
I stood and looked at them until they ceased yelling,
and then denounced them and put them at defiance,
and dared them to shoot at an unarmed man. The
pistols began to fire all around the outside of the
crowd, evidently into the air ; eggs and stones were
thrown at the stand, several of them hitting men
that were near me, and for several hours this wild
confusion and fury continued. The wonder is that
amid that vast excited crowd no one was so far excited
or maddened as to fire a ball at me. The stand was
crowded with my enemies, reporters, and news
paper men, and this was undoubtedly my best pro
tection. I stood upon the front of the stand, in the
midst of that confusion, from eight o'clock in the
evening until a quarter past twelve at night, when
I suddenly drew my watch from my pocket and
looked at it, in front of the crowd, and in a distinct
tone of voice said, at an interval of silence, " It is
now Sunday morning I'll go to church, and you
may go to hell ! " and I retired amidst the uproar,
got into my carriage and rode to. my hotel. The
crowd followed the carriage, and came near throw-


ing it off the bridge into the river as we crossed ;
they had seized it for that purpose, and lifted it, but
the driver whipped his horses violently, and dashed
through and over them, and went to the Tremont
House, where I retired to my room. The mob, at
least five thousand, followed, and commenced their
howls in Lake Street, fronting my room. The land
lord begged me to leave the house, fearing they
would burn it up, whereupon I raised my window,
walked out on the balcony, took a good look at
them, and told them that the day would come when
they would hear me^ and then bade them good

After the organization of the opposition societies
in the South and JS"orth, for the purpose of peopling
the Territory, with a view to control the first Legis
lature, President Pierce appointed Reeder, Governor
of Kansas, who, instead of calling an election for the
organization of the Territory, immediately after his
appointment, and before these hired emigrants ar
rived there, waited until late in the fall, nearly a
year, and ordered the election for the 29th of March,
1855, for the first Legislature, at a time in the winter
when many of the Eastern emigrants had returned
to their homes. They had established no homes in
Kansas, had gone in the fall, and returned in the


winter. Most of them had only gone to vote, and
return the next day. A few days before the elec
tion large bodies of men could be seen marching
from the various towns in Western Missouri to the
Kansas border, and on the election day, and the day
previous, they were crossing the Missouri River at
all points into Kansas, in armed parties some
with cannon and baggage-wagons, and took posses
sion of all the villages along the Missouri River, and
penetrated to some distance into the interior, and
thus controlled the election. "When the returns of
the election were made to Governor Reeder, pro
tests were filed against giving the certificates from
a majority of the election districts, on the ground
of fraud, violence, and illegal election, leaving seven
or eight districts uncontested where there were no
such complaints of violence and fraud. Governor
Reeder investigated the facts of each case before he
granted the certificates, and in some instances
granted certificates of election, and in other districts
issued writs for new elections to take place in the
month of May, 1855. At the election in May the
same members were reflected in a portion of the
country, while in others different candidates were
returned as elected, and they all received their cer
tificates of election from the Governor.


The Governor then issued his proclamation for
the Legislature to assemble at a town he and others
had laid out upon the military reservation at Fort
Kiley, by the connivance of the commanding officer,
who was one of the Governor's secret partners, and
who was subsequently tried by court-martial and
cashiered for his conduct. (The place was named, I
believe, Pawnee, but see on this subject my report
to the Senate of March 12, 1856.) When the Legis
lature assembled at Pawnee, they found no con
veniences at Fort Kiley, no houses to live in, with
but one house in the place, and that without a floor,
in which the Legislature was to assemble, while the
cholera was raging at the fort, which was, in conse
quence, nearly abandoned. The members camped
out on the ground, and in their wagons. The two
houses organized by the election of their officers,
and then proceeded to examine all the cases of con
tested election, deciding that the Governor had no
authority to withhold the certificates in the first
election, and to order a second, and hence confirmed
in their seats all who were elected at the first elec
tion with but one exception, a Freesoiler. The
Legislature then proceeded to remove the seat of
Government to Shawnee Mission, where there was
a settlement and buildings suitable for them to


meet in. The Governor vetoed the act, on the
ground that the Legislature had no right to remove
the seat of Government. The Legislature passed
the act over his veto, and in accordance with it as
sembled at Shawnee Mission, to which place the
Governor followed them. But when they presented
to him the bills which they had passed, for his sig
nature, he declined to receive the bills, or to recog
nize them as a lawful Legislature, not because they
had not been duly elected, but for the reason that
they were assembled in a place not authorized by
law. From this time all official relations ceased
between the Governor and the Legislature. The
Legislature proceeded to pass a full code of laws for
the Territory, and as a matter of form presented
them to the Governor for his signature, and when
he failed to return them, within the time prescribed
in the organic act, they reenacted them and declared
them to be in force without his signature. Having
concluded their legislative duties they adjourned,
and about that time President Pierce removed Gov
ernor Reeder, for the alleged reason that he had
been improperly speculating in Indian lands; and
Governor Reeder immediately denounced the acts
of the Legislature as being void, for the reason that
they had all been elected by fraud, and therefore


never constituted a Legislature ; that is, he changed
his ground, left the Democratic party, and joined
the Republicans or Freesoilers.

Immediately after the adjournment of the Legis
lature, the Freesoil party called a Convention, at
which they resolved not to recognize or obey the
laws which had been passed by the Legislature, nor
the authority of the Territorial Government estab
lished by Congress, and they provided for calling a
Constitutional Convention to frame a Constitution
for admission into the Union as a State. Delegates
were elected, and the Convention assembled at
Topeka in October of that year, 1856, and framed
a Constitution, which was submitted to the people
for ratification at an election which the Convention
ordered to be held under such regulations as should
be prescribed by an executive committee, of which
James H. Lane was chairman, and to whom the
returns were to be made and certified. As no one
voted at this election, except those who denied the
authority of the Territorial Government, the Consti
tution was, of course, ratified. At the election for
delegates to Congress, which was held about the
same time, under the authority of a law passed by
the Legislature, the Freesoilers refused to vote, al
leging as a reason, that if they voted at that elec-


tion they recognized the validity of the Territorial
authority, but ordered through their executive com
mittee another election, to be held one week there
after, at which they elected Mr. Parrott. The
others elected Whitfield. The Freesoilers pro
ceeded also to organize their State Government
under the Topeka Constitution, by the election of a
Gove'rnor and State officers, Legislature and judges.
The Legislature thus elected assembled and chose
Reeder and Lane United States Senators, who came
to Washington and brought the Constitution with
them, and demanded admission into the Union. I
had been confined by serious illness at Terre Haute,
Indiana, that session, 1855 and 1856, and until the
month of February. I arrived here (Washington)
in very feeble health. The President's annual mes
sage, and a special message which he sent to Con
gress in the month of February, 1856, in regard to
this Topeka movement, together with all other mat
ters referring to the disturbances in Kansas, were
referred to the Committee on Territories, from
which, on the 12th of March, I made an elaborate
report, in which I gave a full history of those
Kansas difficulties, together with an exposition of
the principles of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The
result was, that I reported a bill for the admission


of Kansas into the Union when she should have the
requisite population for a member of Congress,
ninety-three thousand four hundred and twenty,
and treating the Topeka Constitution as a nullity,
being the result of a revolutionary movement, and
recognizing the other, the Territorial Legislature, as
a lawful body, and refusing to review its legislative
proceedings, considering the validity of the Terri
torial enactments a judicial question, which it was
not competent for the legislative department of the
Government to decide. In the House of Bepre-
sentatives Whitn'eld was declared elected, the House
taking the same view of the Topeka Constitution as
the Senate did.

The Senate, in their anxiety to close the Kansas
controversy, at once substituted a bill introduced by
Mr. Toombs, of Georgia, for the bill reported by the
Committee on Territories. I acquiesced, and we
passed Mr. Toombs' bill by a strict party vote.
The bill provided that the people of Kansas might
at once proceed to elect delegates to a Conven
tion to frame a State Constitution, in the manner
prescribed in the bill, and should be received into
the Union on an equal footing with the original
States, without regard to the number of their popu
lation. The Toombs bill was sent to the House,


where all after the enacting clause was stricken
out, by a strict party vote, the Republicans having
a majority in that House, and a bill for the admis

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Online LibraryStephen Arnold DouglasA brief treatise upon constitutional and party questions and the history of political parties, as I received it orally from the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas → online text (page 5 of 11)