Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett) Reed.

Modern eloquence; (Volume 11) online

. (page 42 of 43)
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I have not time to do more than to present a general

Freedom and slavery started together in the great race
on this continent. In the very year the Pilgrim Fathers
landed on Plymouth Rock, slaves landed in Virginia.
Freedom has gone on, trampling down barbarism and plant-
ing states building the symbols of its faith by every lake
and every river, until now the sons of the Pilgrims stand by
the shores of the Pacific. Slavery has also made its way
toward the setting sun. It has reached the Rio Grande on
the south; and the groans of its victims and the clank of
its chains may be heard as it slowly ascends the western
tributaries of the Mississippi River.

Freedom has left the land bespangled with free schools,
and filled the whole heavens with the shining towers of re-
ligion and civilization. Slavery has left desolation, igno-
rance, and death in its path. When we look at these things ;
when we see what the country would have been had free-
dom been given to the territories ; when we think what it
would have been but for this blight in the bosom of the
country; that the whole South that fair land God has
blessed so much would have been covered with cities, and
villages, and railroads, and that in the country, in the place
of twenty-five millions of people, thirty-five millions would
have hailed the rising morn, exulting in republican liberty;
when we think of these things, how must every honest man
how must every man with brains in his head or heart in
his bosom regret that the policy of old Virginia in her
better days did not become the animating policy of this
expanding republic!

It is a perversion of history, I say, when the President
intimates that the adoption of the Constitution abrogated
the ordinance of 1787. It was recognized by the first Con-
gress which assembled under the Constitution; and it has
been sanctioned by nearly every President from Washington


It is a perversion of history when the President intimates
that the Missouri Compromise was made against the inter-
ests of the South and for the benefit of the North. The
truth the unmistakable truth is that it was forced by the
South on the North. It received the almost united vote of
the South. It was claimed as a victory of the South.

The men who voted for it were sustained in the South;
and those who voted for it in the North passed into ob-
livion ; and though some of them are physically alive,
to-day they are as politically dead as are the President and
his immediate advisers.

Not only has the President perverted history, but he
has turned sectionalist. He has become the champion of
sectionalism. He makes the extraordinary declaration that
if a state is refused admission into the Union because her
constitution embraced slavery as an institution, then one
section of the country would of necessity be compelled to
dissolve its connection with the people of the other section !

What does he mean? Does he mean to say that there
are traitors in the South? Does he mean to say if they
were voted down that then they ought not to submit? If
he does, and if they mean to back him in the declaration,
then I say the quicker we try the strength of this great
government the better. Not only has he said that, but
members have said on this floor again and again that if the
Fugitive Slave Law, which has nothing sacred about it
which I deem unconstitutional which South Carolina deems
unconstitutional if that law be repealed that this Union
will then cease to exist.

I say that it is not for the President and members on
this floor to determine the life of this Union; this Union
rests in the hearts of the American people and cannot be
eradicated thence. Whenever any person shall lift his hand
to smite down this Union the people will subjugate him to
liberty and the Constitution. I do not wish to dwell on
the President and what he has said. Notwithstanding all
this perversion of history notwithstanding his violated
pledges and notwithstanding his warlike exploits at Grey-
town and Lawrence his servility has been repaid with

I am glad of it. The South was right. When a man is


false to the convictions of his own heart and to freedom,
he cannot be trusted with the delicate interests of slavery.
I cannot express the delight I feel in the poetic justice that
has been done; but at the same time I am not unmindful
of the deep ingratitude that first lured him to ruin, and
then deserted and left him alone to die.

If I were not too much of a native American I would
quote and apply to him the old Latin words, De mortuis
nil nisi bonum.* I can almost forgive him, considering his
condition, the blistering words he let fall upon us the other
night when he went through the ordeal of ratifying the
nomination of James Buchanan. He said that we had
received nothing at the hands of the government save its
protection and its political blessings. We have not cer-
tainly received any offices ; and as for its protection and po-
litical blessings, let the silence above the graves of those
who sleep in their bloody shrouds in Kansas answer.

There have been general and specific charges made
against old Massachusetts. The general charge when ex-
pressed in polite language is that she has not been faithful
to her constitutional obligations. I deny it. I call for
proof. I ask when? where? how? I say, on the contrary,
that from the time when this government came from the
brains of her statesmen and the unconquerable arms of her
warriors, she has been loyal to it.

In peace she has added to it renown ; and in war her
sons have crowded the way to death as to a festival. She
has quenched the fires of rebellion on her own soil without
federal aid, and when the banners of nullification flew in
the southern sky, speaking through the lips of Webster, in
Faneuil Hall, she stood by Jackson and the Union. No
man speaking in her name no man wearing her ermine, or
clothed with her authority ever did anything, or said any-
thing, or decided anything, not in accordance with her con-
stitutional obligations. Yet, sir, the hand of the Federal
Government has been laid heavily upon her.

That malignant spirit which has usurped this govern-
ment through the negligence of the people, too long has
pursued her with rancor and bitterness. Before its invidi-
ous legislation she has seen her commerce perish, and ruin,

* Speak nothing but good of the dead.


like a devastating fire, sweep through her fields of industry,
but amid all these things Massachusetts has always lifted up
her voice with unmurmuring devotion to the Union.

She has heard the federal drums in her streets. She has
protected the person of that most odious man odious both
at the North and the South the slave-hunter. She has
protected him when her soil throbbed with indignation from
the sea to the New York line. Sir, the temples of justice
there have been clothed in chains. The federal courts in
other states have been closed against her, and her citizens
have been imprisoned, and she has had no redress.

Yet, notwithstanding all these things, Massachusetts
has always been faithful and loyal to the Constitution. You
may ask why, if she has been so wronged, so insulted, has
she been so true and faithful to the Union? Sir, because
she knew, in her clear head, that these outrages came not
from the generous hearts of the American people. She
knew that when justice should finally assume the reins of
government all would be well. She knew when the gov-
ernment ceased to foster the interests of slavery alone, her
interests would be regarded and the whole country be
blessed. It was this high constitutional hope that has
always swayed the head and heart of Massachusetts, and
which has made her look out of the gloom of the present
and anticipate a glorious future. So much in relation to
the general charge against Massachusetts.

There are specific charges upon which I shall dwell for
a moment. One is that she has organized an "Emigrant
Aid Society." Did you not tell Massachusetts that the
people of Kansas were to be left perfectly free to mold her
institutions as they thought best? She knew, and she told
you, that your doctrine of squatter sovereignty was a delu-
sion and a snare. She opposed it as long as she could here ;
and when she could do it no longer she accepted the battle
upon your pledge of fair play. She determined to make
Kansas a free state.

In this high motive the Emigrant Aid Society had its
origin. Its objects are twofold freedom for Kansas and
pecuniary reward. And it is so organized that pecuniary
benefit cannot flow to stockholders, except through the
prosperity of those whom it aids. The idea of the society


is this : to take capital and place it in advance of civiliza-
tion ; to take the elements of civilization, the sawmill, the
church, the schoolhouse, and plant them in the wilderness,
as an inducement to the emigrant. It is a peaceful society.
It has never armed one man; it has never paid one man's
passage to Kansas. It never asked though I think it
should have asked the political sentiments of any man
whom it has assisted to emigrate to Kansas. It has in-
vested $100,000, and it has conducted from Massachusetts
to Kansas some twelve to fifteen hundred of the flower of
her people.

Such is the Emigrant Aid Society, such is its origin,
and such its action. It is this society, so just and legal in
its origin and its action, that has been made the pretext for
the most bitter assaults upon Massachusetts. Sir, it is
Christianity organized. How have these legal and these
proper measures been met by those who propose to make
Kansas a slave state? The people of Massachusetts would
not complain if the people who differ from them should go
there to seek a peaceful solution of the conflicting ques-
tions. But how have they been met? By fraud and vio-
lence, by sackings and burnings and murders.

Laws have been forced upon them, such as you have
heard read to-day by the gentleman from Indiana [Mr. Col-
fax], so atrocious that no man has risen here to defend one
single one of them. Men have been placed over them whom
they never elected, and this day, as has been stated by the
gentleman from Indiana, civil war rages from one end of
Kansas to the other. Men have been compelled to leave
their peaceful pursuits, and starvation and death stare them
in the face, and yet the government stands idle no, not
idle ; it gives its mighty arm to the side of the men who are
trampling down law and order there.

The United States troops have not been permitted to
protect the free state men. When they have desired to do
so they have been withdrawn. I cannot enter into a detail
of all the facts. It is a fact that war rages there to-day.
Men kill each other at sight. All these things are known,
and nobody can deny them. All the western winds are
burdened with the news of them, and they are substan-
tiated equally by both sides.


Has the government no power to make peace in Kansas
and to protect citizens there under the organic law of the
territory? I ask, in the name of old Massachusetts, if our
honest citizens who went to Kansas to build up homes for
themselves and to secure the blessings of civilization, are
not entitled to protection? She throws the responsibility
upon this administration, and holds it accountable ; and so
will the people at the polls next November.

Another charge is that Massachusetts has passed a per-
sonal liberty bill. Well, sir, I say that Massachusetts, for
her local legislation, is not responsible to this House or to
any member of it. I say, sir, if her laws were as bad as
those atrocious laws of Kansas, you can do nothing with
her. I say, if her statute books, instead of being filled with
generous legislation legislation which ought to be inter-
esting to her assailants, because it is in favor of the idiotic
and the blind were filled, like those of the State of Ala-
bama, with laws covering the state with whipping-posts,
keeping half of her people in absolute slavery, and nearly
all of the other half in subjection to twenty-nine thousand
slaveholders ; if the slaveholders themselves were not per-
mitted to trade with or teach their slaves as they choose ;
if ignorance were increasing faster than the population, I
say, even then, you could not do anything here with the
local laws of Massachusetts. I say, the presumption is,
that the law, having been passed by a sovereign state, is

If it is not constitutional, then, sir, when the proper
tribunal shall have decided that question, what is there, I
ask, in the history of Massachusetts which will lead us to
believe that she will not abide by that result? I say there
is nothing in the history of the State of Mississippi, or of
South Carolina, early or recent, which makes Massachusetts
desirous of emulating their example. I, sir, agree with the
South Carolina authority I have quoted here in regard to
the legislation of Massachusetts.

Sir, my time is passing away and I must hasten on. The
State of Massachusetts is the guardian of the rights of her
citizens and of the inhabitants within her border line. If
her citizens go beyond the line into distant lands, or upon
the ocean, then they look to the federal arm for protection.


But old Massachusetts is the state which is to secure to her
citizens the inestimable blessing of trial by jury and the
writ of habeas Corpus.

All these t.u & s must come from her and not from the
Federal Government. I believe, with her great statesmen
and with her people, that the Fugitive Slave Law is uncon-
stitutional. Mr. Webster, as an original question, thought
it was not constitutional; Mr. Rantoul, a brilliant states-
man of Massachusetts, said the same thing; they both
thought that the clause of the Constitution was addressed
to the states. Mr. Webster bowed to the decision of the
Supreme Court in the Prigg case ; Mr. Rantoul did not.

Massachusetts believes it to be unconstitutional; but
whether it be constitutional or not, she means, so long as
the Federal Government undertakes to execute that law,
that the Federal Government shall do it with its own instru-
ments, vile or otherwise. She says that no one clothed
with her authority shall do anything to help in it so long
as the Federal Government undertakes to do it. But, sir,
I pass from this.

I did intend to reply seriatim to all the attacks which
have been made upon the state, but I have not half time
enough. The gentleman from Mississippi [Mr. Bennett],
after enumerating a great many things he desired Massa-
chusetts to do, said, amongst other things, that she must
tear out of her statute book this personal liberty law.
When she had done that and a variety of other things too
numerous to mention, then, he said, "the South would for-
give Massachusetts." The South forgive Massachusetts!
Sir, forgiveness is an attribute of divinity. The South has
it not. Sir, forgiveness is a higher quality than justice,
even. The South I mean the slave power cannot com-
prehend it.

Sir, Massachusetts has already forgiven the South too
many debts and too many insults. If we should do all the
things the gentleman from Mississippi desired us to do,
then the gentleman from Alabama [Mr. Shorter] comes in
and insists that Massachusetts shall do a great variety of
other things before the South probably will forgive her.

Among other things, he desired that Massachusetts
should blot out the fact that General Hull, who surrendered


Detroit, had his home in Massachusetts. Why, no, sir;
she does not desire even to do that, for then she would
have to blot out the fact that his gallant son had his home
there that gallant son who fell fighting for his country in
the same war at Lundy's Lane that great battle, where
Colonel Miller, a Massachusetts man by adoption, when
asked if he could storm certain heights, replied, in a modest
Massachusetts manner, "I will try, sir." He stormed the

The gentleman desires, also, that we should blot out the
history of the connection of Massachusetts with the last
war. Oh, no! She cannot do that. She cannot so dim
the luster of the American arms. She cannot so wrong the
republic. Where, then, would be your great sea fights ?
Where, then, would be the glory of "Old Ironsides," whose
scuppers ran red with Massachusetts blood? Where, then,
would be the history of the daring of those brave fishermen,
who swarmed from all her bays and all her ports, sweeping
the enemy's commerce from the most distant seas?

Ah, sir! she cannot afford to blot out that history.
You, sir, cannot afford to let her do it no, not even the
South. She sustained herself in the last war; she paid her
own expenses, and has not yet been paid entirely from the
treasury of the nation. The enemy hovered on her coast
with his ships, as numerous almost as the stars. He looked
on that warlike land, and the memory of the olden time
came back upon him. He remembered how, more than
forty years before, he had trodden on that soil ; he remem-
bered how vauntingly he invaded it and how speedily he
left it. He turned his glasses toward it and beheld its
people rushing from the mountains to the sea to defend it;
and he dared not attack it. Its capital stood in the salt sea
spray, yet he could not take it. He sailed south, where
there was another capital, not far from where we now stand,
forty miles from the sea. A few staggering, worn-out
sailors and soldiers came here. They took it. How it was
defended let the heroes of Bladensburg answer!

Sir, the gentleman from South Carolina [Mr. Keitt]
made a speech ; and if I may be allowed to coin a word,
I will say it had more cantankerosity in it than any speech
I ever heard on this floor.


It was certainly very eloquent in some portions very
eloquent, indeed; for the gentleman has indisputably an
eloquent utterance and an eloquent temperament. I do
not wish to criticise it much, but it opens in the most ex-
traordinary manner with a "weird torchlight," and then he
introduces a dead man, and then he galvanizes him, and
puts him in that chair, and then he makes him "point his
cold finger" around this hall.

Why, it almost frightens me to allude to it. And then
he turns it into a theater, and then he changes or trans-
mogrifies the gentleman from Indiana [Mr. Colfax], who
has just spoken, into a snake, and makes him "wriggle up
to the footlights"; and then he gives the snake hands, and
then "mailed hands," and with one of them he throws off
Cuba, and with the other clutches all the Canadas. Then
he has men with "glozing mouths," and they are "singing
psalms through their noses," and are moving down upon
the South "like an army with banners." Frightful, is it
not? He talks about rotting or dead seas. He calls our
party at one time a "toad," and then he calls it a "lizard" ;
"and more, which e'en to mention would be unlawful."
Sir, his rhetoric seems to have the St. Vitus's dance. He
mingles metaphors in such a manner as would delight the
most extravagant Milesian.

But I pass from his logic and his rhetoric, and also over
some historical mistakes, much of the same nature as those
made by the President, which I have already pointed out,
and come to some of his sentences, in which terrific ques-
tions and answers explode. He answers hotly and taunt-
ingly that the South wants none of our vagabond philan-
thropy. Sir, when the yellow pestilence fluttered its wings
over the Southern States, and when Massachusetts poured
out her treasures to a greater extent in proportion to her
population than any other state, was that vagabond philan-
thropy? I ask the people of Virginia and Louisiana.

But, sir, the gentleman was most tender and most plain-
tive when he described the starving operatives. Why, sir,
the eloquence was most overwhelming upon some of my
colleagues. I thought I saw the iron face of our speaker
soften a little when he listened to the unexpected sympathy
of the gentleman with the hardships of his early life. Sir,


he was an operative from boyhood to manhood and a good
one, too.

Ah, sir, he did not appreciate, as he tasted the sweet
bread of honest toil, his sad condition ; he did not think, as
he stood in the music of the machinery which came from his
cunning hand, how much better it would have been for him
had he been born a slave and put under the gentleman from
South Carolina a kind master, as I have no doubt he is
where he would have been well fed and clothed, and would
have known none of the trials which doubtless met him on
every hand. How happy he would have been if, instead of
being a Massachusetts operative, he had been a slave in
South Carolina, fattening, singing, and dancing upon the
banks of some Southern river.

Sir, if the gentleman will go to my district and look
upon those operatives and mechanics; if he will look upon
some of those beautiful models which come from their
brains and hands, and which from time to time leap upon
the waters of the Atlantic, out-flying all other clippers,
bringing home wealth and victory with all the winds of
heaven, he might have reason to change his views. Let
him go there, and, even after all is said, he may speak to
those men and convince them, if he can, of their starving
condition. I will guarantee his personal safety. I believe
the people of Massachusetts would pour forth their heart's
blood to protect even him in the right of freedom of speech ;
and that is saying a great deal, after all that has happened.

Let him go to the great county of Worcester that bee-
hive of operatives and Abolitionists, as it has been called
and he will find the annual product of that county greater,
in proportion to the population, than that of any other
equal population in the world, as will be found by reference
to a recent speech of ex-Governor Boutwell of our state.
The next county, I believe, in respect to the amount of
products in proportion to population, is away up in Ver-

Sir, let him go and look at these men these Abolition-
ists, who, we are told, meddle with everybody's business
but their own. They certainly take time enough to attend
to their own business to accomplish these results which I
have named.


The gentleman broke out in an exceedingly explosive
question, something like this I do not know if my memory
can do justice to the language of the gentleman, but it was
something like this: "Did not the South, equally with the
North, bare her forehead to the god of battles? " I answer
plainly, No, sir, she did not; she did not.

Sir, Massachusetts furnished more men in the Revolu-
tion than the whole South put together, and more by ten-
fold than South Carolina. I am not including, of course,
the militia the conjectured militia furnished by that state.
There is no proof that they were ever engaged in any battle.
I mean the regulars; and I say that Massachusetts furnished
more than ten times as many men as South Carolina. I say
on the authority of a standard historian, once a member of
this House [Mr. Sabine, in his " History of the Loyalists"],
that more New England men now lie buried in the soil of
South Carolina than there were of South Carolinians who
left their state to fight the battles of the country.

I say, when General Lincoln was defending Charleston
he was compelled to give up his defense because the people
of that city would not fight. When General Greene, that
Rhode Island blacksmith, took command of the Southern
army, South Carolina had. not a federal soldier in the field;
and the people of that state would not furnish supplies to
his army; while the British army in the state were furnished
with supplies almost exclusively from the people of South
Carolina. While the American army could not be recruited,
the ranks of the British army were rapidly filled from that

The British post of Ninety-Six was garrisoned almost
exclusively from South Carolina. Rawdon's reserve corps
was made up almost entirely by South Carolinians. Of the
eight hundred prisoners who were taken at the battle of
King's Mountain of which we have heard so much seven
hundred of them were Southern Tories. The Maryland
men gained the laurels of the Cowpens. Kentuckians, Vir-
ginians, and North Carolinians gained the battle of King's
Mountain. Few South Carolinians fought in the battles of
Eutaw, Guilford, etc. They were chiefly fought by men

Online LibraryThomas B. (Thomas Brackett) ReedModern eloquence; (Volume 11) → online text (page 42 of 43)