William D. (William Darrah) Kelley.

Speeches of Hon. William D. Kelley. Replies of the Hon. William D. Kelley to George Northrop, Esq., in the joint debate in the Fourth Congressional District online

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Online LibraryWilliam D. (William Darrah) KelleySpeeches of Hon. William D. Kelley. Replies of the Hon. William D. Kelley to George Northrop, Esq., in the joint debate in the Fourth Congressional District → online text (page 13 of 20)
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March on which our good President was inaugurated, and 1 now ask the gentleman to point
to the order of Government by which Fort Sumter was fired upon. That act was done by
the order of the Confederate government and not that of the United States Government. The
war is a rebellion of the slave owners of the South against the Government of the United
States, in order to form a confederacy of which slavery — a system of unpaid labor, a system
in which capital owns its labor — shall be the corner-stone ; and so Alexander H. Stephens,
the present Vice-President of the Confederacy, deliberately announced to the world. The
Southern leaders prepared for and began their rebellion with the certain knowledge that if
the Northern people should be true to themselves and the Government, it would involve them
in war. But the reckless leaders did not believe that the Northern people had courage and
patriotism enough to maintain the integrity of their country. They boasted that one South-
ern man was as good as five Northern men. Franklin Pierce, the last Democratic President
but one, had written to Jefferson Davis, that if war should follow secession, that war could
not be confined to the South, but would prevail in our own cities, our own towns, our own
villages. The aristocratic- leaders of the Democracy of the North despise the laboring man
as much as their fellows in the South, and are as tired of universal suffrage and political
equality as they. They dare not express their feeling on the subject so freely, because they
look to the votes of laboring men to give them power to execute their aristocratic purposes,
but they have sustained the Southern slave-drivers in all their assaults on popular rights ; and
when you were told by my friend, last night, that the slaves were happier, and, in many con-
tingencies, better oil' than the white working-men of the North, you were told exactly what
the Democratic leaders believe ; I, however, never knew one before who, like my competitor,

was so honorably frank as to avow this belief in the face of a body of workingmen. Never-
theless, it is their creed.

But let this not rest on my mere declaration. When the Convention of the State of Georgia
was considering the question whether that State should secede. Alexander II. Stephens, the
present Vice-President of the Confederacy, made a speech against secession. He held to
the doctrine of State rights; he believed that a State had a right to secede, and he said that,
if a majority of the people of his State should determine to go out, he would go with them.
He identified himself with his State. But he appealed to the members of that Convention
not to involve their country in war. as the attempt at secession must do. He believed that
Northern men would fight. He believed that when the South should secede, it would become
the duty of the Presideut, who had sworn " to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution,"
to make war in defence of the Union. He knew that when the war should come, it would
abolish slavery, because he knew that it would be the duty of the commander-in-chief of
every army, when he came to the frontiers of a country, to offer protection to all the people
of the country who would support his Hag, and he knew that we of the North recognized
negroes as people, and he saw that we could not be so foolish as to pour out the blood of our
own men to fight Southern rebels when we could call on their negroes to do that work. He
remembered that Lord Dunmore, the British Colonial Governor of Virginia, at the beginning
of the Revolutionary war. had, in accordance with the usages of war, issued a proclamation
calling upon slaves to rally to the flag, and guaranteeing them freedom for so doing. There-
fore he knew that to go to war would be to abolish slavery, that war would make it the duty
of the North to abolish it; or, iu other words, that it must inevitably lie abolished by the
necessities of war. Now, while I answer the whole of my friend's appeals in behalf of the
South, and his allegation that the North is in the wrong, by reading you a portion of the
speech of Mr. Stephens. Vice-President of the Southern Confederacy, made iu January, LsdL,
in the Georgia Convention, which passed the ordinance of secession, 1 will also prove that
it (the rebellion) is not against wrong and oppression, but was begun in the delusive hope of
founding a slave empire. Those remarks were as follows : —

"This step (Secession), once taken, can never be recalled; and all the baneful consequences
that must follow will rest on the Convention for all coming time. When we and our posterity
shall see our lovely South desolated by the demon of war, which this act of yours will inevi-
tably invite and call forth ; when our green fields of waving harvest shall be trodden down
by the murderous soldiery and fiery car of war sweeping over our land, our temples of justice
laid in ashes, all the horrors and desolations of war upon us, who but this Convention will be
held responsible for it, and who but he that shall give his vote for this unwise and ill-timed
measure shall be held to strict account for this suicidal act by the present generation, and
probably cursed and execrated by posterity in all coming time, for the wide and desolating
ruin that will inevitably follow this act you now propose to perpetrate?

" Pause, I entreat you, and consider for a moment what reasons you can give that will even
sat is I'y yourselves in calmer moments, what reasons you can give to your fellow-sufferers in
tlic calamity that it will bring. What reasons can you give to the nations of the earth to
justify it? They will be the calm and deliberate judges in the case, and to what cause, or one
overt act can you point on which to rest the plea of justification ? What right has the North
assailed ? What interest of the South has been invaded ? What justice has been denied, or
what claim founded in justice and right, has been withheld ? Can any of you to-day name one
governmental act of wrong deliberately and purposely done by the Government at Washing-
ton of which the South has a right to complain ? 1 challenge the answer.

'• On the other hand, let me show the facts of which 1 wish you to judge ; I will only state
facts which are clear and undeniable, and which now stand as records authentic iu the history
of our country. When we of the South demanded the slave trade, or the importation of
Africans for the cultivation of our lands, did they not yield the right for twenty years ? When
we asked for a three-fourths representation iu Congress of our slaves, was it not granted ?
When we demanded the return of any fugitive from justice, or the recovery of those perspns
owing labor or allegiance, was it not incorporated in the Constitution, and again ratified and
strengthened in the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850? When we asked that more territory should
be added that we might spread the institution of slavery, have they not yielded to our
demands, in giving Louisiana. Florida and Texas, out of which four States have been carved,
and ample territory for four more to be added in due time, if you, by this unwise and impolitic
act, do not destroy this hope, and, perhaps, by it lose all, and have your last slave wrenched
from you by stern military rule, as South America and Mexico were, or by the vindictive
decree of universal emancipation, which may reasonably be expected to follow?"

Let me pause here to ask whether Alexander 11. Stephens did not, as 1 have said, see,
before the war began, that slavery must inevitably be abolished by the war? And yet. more
true to the Confederacy than he. my friend stands up and tells you the war is for the negro,
and against the white man, and that emancipation is unwise and unconstitutional.

"But what have we to gain by this proposed change of our relation to the general govern-
ment? We have always had the control of it, and can yet, if we remain iu it, and are united
as we have been. We have had a majority of the Presidents chosen from the South, as well

as the control and management of most of those chosen from the North. We have had sixty
years of .Southern Presidents to their twenty-four, thus controlling the executive department.
So of tlic Judges of the Supreme Court ; we have had eighteen from the South, and but eleven
from the North. Although nearly four-fifths of the judicial business has arisen in the free States,
yet a majority of the court has always been from the South. This we have required so as to
guard against any interpretation of the Constitution unfavorable to us. In like manner we
have been equally watchful to guard our interests in the legislative branch of government.
In choosing the presiding presidents (pro«tem.) of the Senate, we have had twenty-four to
their eleven. Speakers of the House we have had twenty-three and they twelve. While the
majority of representatives, from their greater population, have always been from the North,
yet we have so generally secured the speaker, because he, to a great extent, shapes and con-
trols the legislation of the country.

"Nor have we had less control in every other department of the general government. Of
Attorney-Generals we have had fourteen, while the North have had but five. Of foreign
ministers we have had eighty-six, and they had but fifty-four. While three-fourths of the
business which demands diplomatic agents abroad is clearly from the free States, from their
greater commercial interest, yet we have had the principal embassies, so as to secure the
world's markets for our cotton, tobacco, and sugar, on the best possible terms. We have had
a vast majority of the higher officers of both army and navy, while a larger proportion of the
soldiers and sailors were drawn from the North. Equally so of clerks, auditors, and con-
trollers filling the executive departments. The record shows for the last fifty years, that of
the three thousand thus employed, we have had more than two-thirds of the same, while we
have but one-third of the white population of the republic. Again, look at another item, in
which we have a great and vital interest, that of revenue, or means of supporting government.
From official documents we learn that a fraction over three-fourths of the revenue collected
for the support of government has uniformly been raised from the North.

"Pause now while you can, and contemplate carefully and candidly these important items.
Leaving out of view, for the present, the countless millions of dollars you must expend in war with
the North, with tens of thousands of your sons and brothers slain in battle and offered up as sac-
rifices upon the altar of your ambition — and for what ? Is it for the overthrow of the American
Government, established by our common ancestry; cemented and built up by their sweat and
blood, and founded on the broad principles of right, justice, and humanity? And as such, I
must declare here, as I have often done before, and which has been repeated by the greatest
and wisest of statesmen and patriots in this and other lands, that it is the best and freest go-
vernment, the most equal in its rights, the most just in its decisions, the most lenient in its
measures, and the most inspiring in its principles to elevate the race of men, that the sun of
heaven ever shone upon. Now. for you to attempt to overthrow such a government as this,
unassailed, is the height of madness, folly and wickedness."

Fellow Citizens : You have heard my friend utter no such words as these, in condemna-
tion of secession or in justification of the war now prosecuted by the National Government.
He explained to you two or three times last night that he was not defending the rebellion,
and this explanation was necessary, because his arguments seemed to you, as they did to me,
to have that effect and that alone. I have no occasion to explain that I am not defending
the rebellion, because my arguments do not sound like a defense of it. When you get a cause
before a jury and hear your lawyer arguing in such a manner that he is obliged to turn to you
now and then and whisper, " I am not arguing against you," you will feel that you have not
employed exactly the right man. His arguments ought to be so clearly in your favor that
you would know, without his assuring you, that he was at least not arguing against you.
Yet I think that twice last evening the gentleman told you that he was not arguing against
us and in favor of the Southern Confederacy. I suppose from these reiterated protests that
he is only speaking in a Pickwickian sense, when he seems to be arguing on that side as
stoutly as any man within the dominions of Jefferson Davis could.

I illustrated last night the cause and origin of this rebellion. I told you that it was not
initiated because there was a party against slavery; not because the Northern States or the
government were interfering with the rights of the Southern States or people 1 told you
that the object of the rebellion was to establish a great slave empire. Has not Alexander
H. Stephens satisfied you that I spoke the truth when I said that the South had no cause to
complain of the National Government, and that the rebellion was not the consequence of any
grievances inflicted by thai ( iovernment? Had not the South had for years the absolute con-
trol of the Government ? Even during Mr. Lincoln's administration, had the Southern States
remained in the Union, the Senate was so strongly Democratic that in four years its political ,
complexion could not have been changed ; and though there had not been a single Democratic
member in the lower House, no law which the Southern Democrats did not approve could have
been passed, because it requires a majority of both Houses to enact a law. So that until
the end of .Mr. Lincoln's Administration they had, by means of their strength in the Senate,
an absolute veto power on any unconstitutional law that might be proposed. But the reason
of this rebellious movement on the part of the Southern leaders was not that the (iovernment
had wronged them or their section ; it was not that they expected or feared wrong from the

Government; it was that they believed the laborer should be owned, and that they meant to
found a confederacy or empire, the corner-stone of which should be human slavery. They
aimed at the enslavement of the laborer whether white or black.

I say "white or black." Can the poor white man live in the midst of slavery? Who will
pay him for doing a day's blacksmithing when for a thousand dollars he can buy a man who
will do the work for mere food and clothing, and throw his babies in? There is a question for
you to consider. Who will pay you as a stone mason wages enough to support yen and your
wife and family when for a thousand or twelve hundred dollars he can buy a stone mason, to
whom he need give nothing but coarse jail clothes and common food, and whose babies he
may sell at from one to five hundred dollars? What is then the chance for the free working
man where slavery prevails ? He has no chance; and "hence it is, my Democratic fellow-
citizens of American or foreign birth, that you have never gone to the "sunny South."
There it lies in all its broad capacity and fertility. The winters are not so long by many
weeks as they are here. You do not need coal there for half the length of time that you need
it here. The land is more fertile than ours, and yields crops that ours will not produce.
Norfolk is the finest harbor on the American coast, and was, until after the Revolutionary
war, the leading commercial port of America. And yet, my fellow-citizens, every ship load
of emigrants that comes to the country comes to a Northern port. Did you ever know of a
load of Irishmen, or Englishmen, or Germans, being landed in Norfolk, or in Charleston, or
in the port of any Slave State ? No; there is no demand for free labor there, because the
capitalists buy and sell their workingmen. Instead of going to the fertile and sunny South,
with all its mighty resources both agricultural and mineral, its immense water-power, its mag-
nificent rivers and harbors, they come in at the North — at Portland. Maine, at Boston, Mass.,
at Providence, R. I., at New York, at Philadelphia ; and at great expense they travel with
their families in emigrant cars away off thousands of miles to the cold Northwest, that they
may settle where the laborer is free and respected, where his labor is rewarded by wages, and
where there will be schools for their children, and churches through which he and they may
learn their relations to their God and Redeemer, and have their duties in this world sanctified
to them by a knowledge of those relations.

Let me again turn to the admirable book from which T read last night, and which T urge you
all to get. It is entitled " The Wrong of Slavery, the Right of Emancipation, and the Future
of the African Race in the United States;" by Robert Dale Owen. It is one of the most re-
markable books I have ever read. Mr. Owen says, on page 125 : —

"Nor is the contempt engendered by this system towards those occupying subordinate so-
cial positions confined to the colored man. Under slavery there prows up a class of white,
as well as black, Pariahs. A marked feature in Southern society is the temper and demeanor
of the wealthy slaveholder towards an indigent portion of his own race, 'the poor whites.' as
they are called, of the South. Slavery is to them the source of unmingled evil. Labor
owned, competing with labor hired, deprives them of the opportunity to earn an honest liveli-
hood. Labor, degraded before their eyes, destroys within them all respect for industry, ex-
tinguishes all desire by honorable exertion to improve their condition. Doomed by habitual
indolence to abject poverty, complacently ignorant, vilely proud, it is doubtful whether there
exists, in all civilized society, a class of men more deplorably situated. And yet how fiercely
have they been brought to light for the slave-masters who despise them, and for the system
which consigns them to degradation."

With slavery this must be so. A plantation in the South consists of many hundreds, and
sometimes two or three or even ten thousand acres. The towns are small. Under such
circumstances it is impossible, if the disposition existed, to maintain free schools. 1 explained
to you last night that in slave States, it is a felony to teach a colored person to read. With
four millions of slave laborers, how can there be free schools? And how can the white
workingman, who can find no employment, educate his children at a pay-school ? What is
the result? You find that not one out of ten of the poor white men of the South can read
the simplest reading matter or write his own name. I saw a whole regiment of Confederate
prisoners, among whom there was not one who could write a letter, and there were only ten or
twelve who could read. They were free white native workingmen of the South : and it was
slavery that had doomed them to this ignorance.

Yet my friend tells you that you have the Almshouse before you, while the happy and
prosperous slaves have no occasion to dread it ! I do not think he flattered you ; nor does
he comprehend our institutions or the character of our workingmen, when he thinks that they
are living in daily dread of the almshouse. Born in the lap of luxury and reared mid its
appliances, he may have looked from the window of his carriage on the laboring man. bowed
and begrimmed by toil, and pitying him, felt that the almshouse was his ultimate portion.
But at eleven years of age I found myself a laboring boy in the workshop, and I know the
hopes, the fears, and the aspirations of the laboring classes. For nearly three-fifths of the
first twenty-five years of my life, I earned my living by the cunning of these hands in the
workshop ; and I never dreaded the almshouse as my last earthly refuge. I knew that I was
an American citizen, and felt that it was for me the orphan laboring boy to win, if God had
given me the ability, both wealth and honors. And I have always found, in associating with

worldlier people, that they assume that though they may not escape from toil or gather
property, their children will rise and bless the parents who labored to give them education,
culture, and a start in the world. The gentleman does not know that many of you "poor"
workingmen own your own homes. He does not know that you are the chief depositors of
money in our savings banks. He does not know that your pride is that your boy wins his
way over the rich man's son to the head of the class in school and often beats him in the race
of life. No, sir, owr working people do not fear the almshouse, and do not feel that their
condition would be improved if you could get a benevolent master to take* a deed for them
and their children and hold them as slaves are held in the South.

What is this system of slavery? I spoke last night of your right to defend your home,
your wife, and your child. Now, were you a black man in the South — were you a mulatto in
the South — were you a quadroon — were you an octoroon, with but one-eighth of African blood
in your veins — nay, white as you are, were you a slave, and should a free white man assail
your daughter or wife, and outrage her in your presence, you could not have even the poor
privilege of swearing to the fact in a court ; and were you to strike him, the law would punish
you with death. ( !ould you only get yourself well adopted into that system which Mr. Johnson
and the Southern Confederacy support, and which my friend approves, then, not even in your
own defence or in defence of the honor of wife or daughter, could you testify in a court. This
is the slave's condition, and it is not altered by the fact that he has not a single drop of African
blood in his veins. You may be the son of your owner, your mother may have been the
daughter of' his father, and your grandmother the daughter of his grandfather — a man may
be thus thrice related to his owner, and have seven-eighths of white blood and only one-eighth
of colored, yet he cannot testify in any Southern State, except against a slave.

I turn again to the book of Mr. Owen. The author says, on page 111 : —

"One of the most universal objects of human desire and of human endeavor is the acqui-
sition of property. But the laws of slave States* forbid that the slave shall ever acquire any.
The holiest of human relations is marriage. Bui a slave cannot legally contract it. The
dearest of human ties are those of family. But a slave may see them broken forever, without
redr< ss, any hour of his life. Of all human privileges the highest is the right of culture, of
moral and mental improvement, of education. But to the slave the school is forbidden ground,
reading and writing are penal offences. The most prized of personal rights is the right of
self-defence. But a slave has it not ; he may not resist or resent a blow, even if it endanger
limb or life.

'• What remains to the enslaved race? Life to man? Honor to woman ? Any security
for either? Nominally, yes ; actually, save in exceptional cases, no. In the statute laws
against murder or rape, the word white is not to be found. Persons of either color appear
to be equally protected. But among the same statutes, in every slave State of the Union, is
incorporated a provision to the following or similar effect: —

"'A negro, mulatto, Indian, or person of mixed blood, descended from negro or Indian
ancestors, to the third generation inclusive, though one ancestor of each generation may have
been a white person, whether bond or free, is incapable of being a witness in any case, civil
or criminal, except for or against each other.' [Code of Tennessee, 1858. Section 3808, page
GST. |

"So far as regards the two worst crimes against the person, the above provision is the exact
equivalent of ihe following: —

" 4 Murder or rape by a, white person, committed against a negro, mulatto. Indian, or person
of mixed blood, descended from negro or Indian ancestors, to the third generation inclusive,
though one ancestor of each generation may have been a white person, shall go unpunished,
unless a white person shall have been present' and shall testify to the commission of the

"The apology for a law according to which a woman cannot testify against the violator of
her person, or a son against the murderer of his father, is, that in a community where negro
slavery prevails such a provision is necessary for the safety of the white races. The same
apology is adduced to justify the taking from the slave the right of property, of marriage, of

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Online LibraryWilliam D. (William Darrah) KelleySpeeches of Hon. William D. Kelley. Replies of the Hon. William D. Kelley to George Northrop, Esq., in the joint debate in the Fourth Congressional District → online text (page 13 of 20)