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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" Free labor has failed, and that which is not free must be substituted." — Senator Mason, of Virginia.

" Policy and humanity alike forbid the extension of the evils of free labor to new peoples, and coming
generations." — Richmond Enquirer .

" Slave labor should be allowed to pour itself abroad without restraint, and find no limit but the
Southern Ocean. I would introduce it into the very heart of the North." — Hon. Henry A. Wise, of
Virginia. •

" I would spread the blessings of slave labor, like the religion of our Divine Master, to the utmost ends
of the earth. Wicked and rebellious as the Yankees are, I would extend it even to them." — Senator
Brown, of Mississippi.

" We will call the roll of our slaves on Bunker Hill."— Hon. Robert Toombs, of Georgia.

" The slave laborers of the South are far better off than the free laborers of the North. Our slave
laborers are not only better off as to physical comforts than the free laborers, but their moral, social and

domestic condition is

" The condition of the slave laborers of the South is heaven on earth compared with that of the free
laborers of the North." — Rev. J. C. Potsell, South Carolina.


" The Northern States, in rejecting slave labor, have destroyed order, and rejected the strongest argu-
ment to prove the existence of Deity." — Richmond Enquirer.

" Free labor is impracticable, and is everywhere starving, demoralizing, and insurrectionary." Rich-

mo7id Enquirer.

" The establishment of the Confederacy is a distinct reaction against the whole course of the mistaken
civilization of the age. For ' Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,' we have deliberately substituted Slavery
Subordination, and Government." — Richmond Enquirer.

" Free society ! We sicken at the name. What is it but a conglomeration of greasy mechanics filthy
operative, and small-fisted farmers? All the Northern States are devoid of society fitted for a well-bred
gentleman. The prevailing class is that of mechanics struggling to be genteel, and small fanners who do
their own drudgery, and yet who are not fit for association with a gentleman's body-servant." The Mus-
cogee Herald, Alula ma.

" Many in the South once believed that slaveholding was a moral and political evil, but that folly and
delusion are gone. We now see it in its true light, and regard it as the most safe and stable basis for free
institutions." — John C. Calhoun, 1838.

•'The band that is familiar with the plough-handle should never be permitted to touch a ballot."— John
C. Calhoun.

" We are told that men are not only born equal, but free. The very reverse of this is true."— South-
er?!, Christian Herald, Columbia, S. C.

"I repudiate, as ridiculously absurd, that much lauded, but nowhere accredited dogma of Mr. Jeffer-
son, that 'all men are born equal.' " — Gov. Hammond, of South Carolina.

" Mechanics for sale.— The subscriber has on hand two excellent carpenters, three blacksmiths and
one wheelwright, all excellent mechanics in their line; young, strong, and healthy, of quiet and peace-
able dispositions, and several of them are quite pious: all of which will be sold at moderate rates Per-
7T? S ^" ^ aDt " f m 7 echanics are invited to call and examine these, as they are all desirable workmen."—
W. G. Fenny maker, No. 50 Canal Street, Savannah, Ga.

Closing Speech of Hon. W. D. Kelley ) in the

Northrop-Kelley Debate.


OCTOBER, 7, 1864.


We close to-night, my fellow-citizens, the Erst discussion of this kind that, to my know-
ledge, has been held in Philadelphia or Pennsylvania. The contesl was nol of my seeking.
On my return from Maine, 1 was invited by my distinguished competitor to meet him before
the people of the District, that, after having heard us, they mighl judge between us with
reference to our principles; and while 1 recognized the superiority of his mental endowments,
and appreciated his more varied and elegant attainments, I did not feel at liberty to decline
the invitation, but having confidence in my good cause, to borrow a phrase from his letter, 1
"at once" accepted the invitation, and am here to do my part in closing the controversy.

My distinguished friend concluded the discussi I' last uighl by asking whether the Con-
federate States were in the Union or out of it. It seemed to me thai thai question ought not
to be put to me at so late a day as this; but I proceed to answer it for your satisfaction, as
it, was propounded in your presence.

Are those States in the Union or out of it? That seems to be a very simple question, and
. is so to my mind. They W( re in the Union. According to my judgment and my very pub-
licly expressed faith, they are out of the Union, and are no1 at presenl States of the Union.
In order to know precisely the condition of that country, and the duty of the Government; be
it in the hands of what administration it may. toward the Confederate States and the people
of those States, we must examine more than one question. First, to whom doi ■ the territory
they occupy of right belong? and next, to whom do the people occupying the territory of
right owe allegiance? "When we shall have answered these questions, and examined in
connection with them the question of government or political institutions. I think none of you
will dissent from the opinion that the Confederate States are out of the Union.

The United States extended, at the beginning of Mr. Buchanan's administration, from the
Aroostook, away there to the East, to the Rio del Norte, away beyond Texas; and from the
Atlantic to the Pacific. The territory had been acquired by the righl of settlement !<;. our
ancestors, and, as I have often reiterated in this discussion, by the right of purchase so far as
concerns the States that were carved out of the Louisiana territory ; by the same right, so far
as concerns the Florida territory; and by the double right of purchase by money, and by the
incidents of war, so far as concerns Texas. Having been thus acquired, it was your property
and mine. It belonged as well to the people of Maine and Minnesota, as to those of Texas
and Florida. It was the property of their Government in trust for the people under the Con-
stitution and laws. It belonged to our Nation; and when the geographer, whether he was
American, British, or Continental, drew the map of our cquntry, he embraced all that terri-
tory. That territory still belongs to the United States. It has never Keen ceded by our
Government to Stale, Kingdom, or Nation. The people of the United States would never
have consented to its cession ; for all the reasons which induced the acquisition of Louisiana,
Florida and Texas exist as powerfully — nay, more powerfully to-day than they did at, the
respective seasons of acquisitions.

True it is that Mr. Buchanan, the head of the Democratic Administration, announced in
formal message in the beginning of December, L860, that, as President of the United States,
he would not and could not defend our right to any portion of this territory, if the people
occupying it should determine to steal it ; and he enforced that announcement by accompany-
ing his message with the opinion of his Attorney General, that the Government of the United
States could not maintain its right to its own domain, if the people on it should determine
to claim it as theirs. That is the doctrine of the Democratic party. From that doctrine I
beg leave to dissent.

So much for the territory. It belongs to-night, every acre and every foot of it, to us. and
"we the people of the United States." to borrow the fust, phrase of the preamble to our ( !on-
stitution, own it.

Now. as to the people occupying that territory. On one proposition laid down by my dis-
tinguished friend, he and I agree thoroughly. I stand by it. He, though he announced it,

evades it in all his argument. It is that "(he Constitution of the United States is the su-
preme law of the land." And I go so far as to say that it has been the' supreme law of the
whole hind every minute of time since its inauguration ; that there has been no interval or
interim during which that (.'(institution has not been the supreme law of every acre of our
country. If then the Constitution be the supreme law, every citizen of the States of South
Carolina. Georgia, Mississippi and each of the other Confederate States owed and does owe
supreme allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, and obedience to the Adminis-
tration charged by the people with the preservation and maintenance of the Constitution
and the execution of the laws.

Flaving settled the point that the territory belongs to us, and that the people who occupy
it owe allegiance to our Government, I go on to ask how they are or may be governed under
that Constitution.

Territory belonging to the United States and under the dominion of the Constitution is
governed in one of two ways, and in time of peace can only he governed in one or the other
of those ways. The first is by State Constitutions. When the Constitution of the United
States was adopted, there were thirteen Slates; and under the National Constitution, and in
so far as the people of those States had not limited their rights by the adoption of that Con-
stitution, the Constitutions and laws of those States were respectively the government of the
territory and people of those States. But there was a large amount of territory, not popu-
lous enough to be organized into States ; and that was held as territory and governed by the
United States. Part of it really had no government at all, because there were no white or
civilized settlers upon it; but, as the column of settlement and civilization advanced, so did
the Government of the United States, by the organization of territorial governments.

Thus Congress would lay off districts large enough for a State, sometimes large enough for
three or four States ; and organize it as a territory ; and provide that the President should
appoint a Governor, a Secretary, a Judge, and certain other officers. Certain restrictions
were put on the power of the people of the territory, but they were invested with the right to
elect a local legislature, so that they might begin at once to make their own roads, provide
for their own poor, and attend to many elementary branches of home government. Congress,
by an unvarying and unbending series of enactments, beginning with Jefferson's proviso, which
secured freedom to the immense regions north and west of the Ohio (first adopted in 1787 by
the Congress of the Old Confederacy, and re-enacted in 178!) by the National Congress), re-
newed in the bill for the organization of the territory of Louisiana in 1804, and terminating
with the territory of Oregon in 1848, exercised without dispute the right to legislate on the
subject of slavery in the territories ; and every President, from George Washington down to
Millard Fillmore, inclusive, signed one or more territorial bills prohibiting or restricting the
right to introduce slaves upon the soil of those territories, or hold them there; the whole
policy of our Government having been to promote free labor and restrict slavery, which was
regarded as a great wrong within its narrowest constitutional limits.

Now. my friends, the territory embraced by the Confederate States either constitutes States
in the Union, or it must be governed as we govern territories; or being in armed insurrection,
it must be governed under and by the war power. I started with the proposition that all
those States were States in the Union, that no act of the Government has impaired their
rights as States in the Union ; and I cited the other evening, and refer you to my printed re-
marks to find, the appeal of Alexander H. Stephens, the present Vice-President of the Con-
federacv. to the Convention of Georgia that passed the ordinance of secession, in which he
pleaded with the members not to take that fatal step, and averred that, in the whole history
of the country, the United Slates Government had never violated or assailed a single right
of any Southern State or man. His voice was not heeded.. That Convention and others did
take the fatal step which extinguished the institutions and provisions which made Georgia a
State of the Union ; I say this not now for the first time. On the 3d of May last I had the
honor to discuss this question on the floor of Congress ; and I propose, instead of making a
new argument on the point in question, to read a brief extract from the remarks 1 then made.
•' Sir, a State is not immortal ; it has a mortal existence; it has its beginning, its transitions,
and may have its end. A State may be killed, a State may commit suicide. The act of God
may carry through the portals of death the entire people of a State, and extinguish it by
reason of the want of citizenship. A foreign Power may subdue the people of a State, hold
and exercise dominion over them and their territory, overthrowing their institutions, and
establishing others in accordance with the views of the conqueror, thus destroying the State
and reducing the people to the condition of subjects, from which they could only escape by
successful revolution, or by the assistance of a people from beyond the limits of their State.
"Sir, 1 have said a State may commit suicide. A sovereign convention of the people
called to consider the propriety of amending, revising, or abolishing the constitution may
abolish that constitution, and having proposed no new one adjourn sine die, submitting their
work to the people, and if approved by them, the State would cease to exist. It might be
succeeded by a monarchy, a despotism, or any othei form of government; or its territory
might lie occupied by a foreign Power, or both people and territory be absorbed by a conter-
minous foreign nation. This the people of the revolted States have done. They have de-

Btroyed the institutions which bound thorn politically to this Government. They have organized
u foreign government, ami seek to transfer to it part of our domain."

Gentlemen will oblige me if they will, as my argument proceeds, carry in their minds the
fact that the territory is ours, and that the allegiance of every man on it is due to our Govern-
ment by virtue of the gentleman's first proposition, tlrat tin- Constitution is the supreme law
of the land. The people of those Suites have abolished their Stale governments. They
have, s*i far as in them lay the power, withdrawn their allegiance from our Government. They
no longer send Senators to the United States Senate, or members to the United States House
of Representatives. They no longer admit United States Judges, either of the District or
of the Supreme Court, to go within their limits and hold court. They have seized our cus-
tom-houses, post-ofiices, arsenals, forts, hospitals, mints, and other property. They have
severed all the ligaments that hound them to our Government, and have organized upon our
own soil a military government, and made war upon us, first tiring upon our flag when it was
by the Star of the West, and again on the 12th of April, 1861, as it floated over Fort
Sumter, when they -made open war on 70 United States soldiers who were there to protect
the harbor of Charleston against foreign invasion. Are we. by reason of their violent and
illegal acts, to surrender half of our country? Because a thief has come into your house
and possessed himself of your casket of jewels, and shakes it impudently in your face, are
you to acknowledge that it is his? Because a man lias knocked you down and taken the
watch out of your pocket, and holds it to your ear and says : " It ticks as it did when it was
yours; but it is now mine.'' are you quietly to say. "Yes, sir, it is yours?" Or are you to
knock him down, if you can. and " repossess" yourself of your property, or if he is too large
and too strong for that, is i; not your duty to summon the police, have him arrested, regain
your property, and prevent him from doing harm to others? Your natural rights justify and
require you to protect your property and resist him who would wrest it from you. At the
head of our Government is always a President ; the office is never vacant; one incumbent
holds until his successor is sworn in; the moment the President dies during his official term,
the office devolves on the Vice-President. The President of the United States is sworn to
" preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution." When these people first stole our land
and other property, dames Buchanan was President, and was hound by his inaugural oath to
maintain the supremacy of the Constitution over all those States. My Democratic friend,
Abraham Lincoln was not then in office.

The Confederacy was organized during the term of James Buchanan, and the President
and Yice-Prcsideut of that Confederacy were installed in the month of February preceding
the inauguration of President Lincoln. It was Mr. Buchanan, who, being President, apolo-
gized to one thief, and said. "Take the casket; I have no power to prevent you." And to
another: "You will find it a, very good watch; I should like to have it back again; but I
have no power to prevent you from taking it. There is no law against it." And thus let the
rebels go on iu their lawless career which was to result in the greatest war of history.

.Mr. Lincoln, in his inaugural, extracts from which you will read in the reports of the debate,
appealed to those who were organizing in oppositioo to the Government. He told them that
•he did not want war: he reminded them that he had registered an oath to "preserve, protect,
and defend the Constitution ;" he assured them that, in spite of all they had done, the United
States mails should be carried through their territory as theretofore. He urged upon them
to consult the "sober second thought," and concluded by saying: "My fellow citizens, the
.issue of civil war is not with me. hut with you." But spite of all this, on the 12th of April,
1861, they made the issue of civil war. and stormed Fort Sumter.

I ask every Democrat present, whether, under these circumstances, the assertion that this
is a "negro war," as it was described last night, is not a wicked fabrication. Yes, it is evi-
dently a war to maintain for you and your posterity more than half your country — to main-
tain for you ami your posterity, and the millions of oppressed people of Europe and their
posterity, the blessings of our Constitution through all time and over all the broad limits of
our grand and heaven-enriched country. For this is the question of the war; whether the
Southern Democratic friends of my friend (Mr. Northrop) shall build up a foreign Confederacy
on half our empire, or whether the loyal American people will put down the Democratic.
party North and South, and maintain the unity of their country, and the supremacy of its

But let me proceed with the argument I was pursuing. At the breaking out of the war
the Northern States had. according to the census, about four million white men between the
ages of 18 and 45, and the rebellious Slates had about 1.300.1)00. This looks as though
we ought to have marched right over them. But this statement alone is very delusive. Our
lour millions of men were not only our fighting power, but they were the bone, sinew, muscle,
and energy of our agricultural, commercial and industrial power. Upon them depended the
maintenance of the la rue factories and workshops and smaller establishments, by which our
people gain their livelihood, and by the industry and enterprise of which the greatness of our
States has been built up. On the other hand, every slave-girl over ten or twelve years of age,
and every slave-woman, except for a period of from two to four weeks allowed for a confine-
ment, does a man's work in the field; so that, taking their fighting and their laboring power

together, the South were nearly if not quite equal to us. Our girls and boys are in schools ;
our young men are in colleges ; our women do no labor in the field, and but little servile labor
at any time. But any of you who have been South know that as to the question of hoeing,
tending, and picking corn, cotton, and other slave products every girl of twelve years of age
and every woman counts as a man. So that, taking the laboring and fighting power together,
the two parties were as nearly balanced as belligerent nations often are. The South had the
advantage of being on their own soil. Their base of supplies was around their camp, while
we had to travel thousands of miles to penetrate distant parts of their country. We had to
employ in transportation a great many more than the actual difference in fighting and labor-
ing power between the two sections. They were at New Orleans ; we had to go thousands
of miles to get there. They were at Vicksburg and Port Hudson ; we had to go thousands
of miles to get there. They were at Atlanta; Sherman fought nearly a thousand miles to
get there, and he now has to protect his long line of communication. So that, with regard
to the chances of successful war, the rebels at the beginning had greatly the advantage. I
saw this, as did many other men ; and from the day when the insurgents fired on our flag. I
urged our Government to do what 1 think it ought to have done — issue a proclamation forth-
with, offering protection and arms to every loyal Southern man who would come to our flag,
and promising employment and wages to the family of every such man. They ought not to
have confined it to the red-whiskered men. or to the men with light hair, or to the men with
light complexion ; they ought to have said to all the men of the South. " We arc your Govern-
ment, come and support your flag. We have arms for you ; and we will protect your families
while you fight for the supremacy of the Constitution and the unity of the country." But
my friend, and the leaders of his party, went about the country saying to the Democrats and
the more " conservative" men, "Abe Lincoln and his friends are getting up a war to make
the nigger your equal;" and they inflamed the passions of the people so that the Government
did not dare take away from the South its laborers and put arms in their hands.

This was the first great service the Democratic party did the rebellion. They kept the
Rebels well supplied with labor, and, during the first eighteen months or two years, threw the
whole burden of the war upon the white men of the North. We wanted to make each Southern
State furnish without regard to complexion of the man its quota to our army. They said " No ;
the white men of the North had better die than that we should make soldiers of the negroes."
They played upon your passions and the passions of other men in the country, so that the
Government did not dare to enfeeble the rebellion by withdrawing its laborers from it. To
such appeals, from the mouths of my friend and his companions may be charged more than a
hundred thousand graves of Northern youth and men ; for if we had taken the negro on the
first day of the war, not one-half the number of white soldiers that have been required would
have been called to the field.

But was it constitutional, was it legal, thus to take the slaves of the South and employ
them in forwarding the success of our cause ? I turn you to a decision of the Supreme Court
of the United States, made at the March term, 1863. That tribunal, in deciding the case of
the claimants of the schooner Brilliant, etc., vs. the United States, declared that " when the
regular course of justice is interrupted by revolt, rebellion, or insurrection, so that the courts
of justice cannot be kept open, civil war exists, and hostilities may be prosecuted on the same
footing as if those opposing the Government were foreign enemies invading the land."

Is not ' ; the regular course of justice interrupted" in the rebellious States, "by revolt,
rebellion, or insurrection?" Do they permit a United States Judge to sit in any of their
courts and administer the laws of the United States ? No ; and from the time they thus, by
their rebellion, obstructed "the regular course of justice," it was, according to this decision,
of the Supreme Court of the United States, the duty of our Government to conduct that war
" asif those opposing lite Government were foreign enemies invading the land." And in the
same opinion, that Court held that " all persons residing within this territory" (that of the
Confederacy) , "whose property maybe used to increase the revenue of the hostile power, are,
in this contest, liable to be treated as enemies. * * * Whether property be liable to

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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 18 of 20)