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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 9 of 20)
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Heaven blast me if 1 vote to put aside the liayonet while one man bares his breast to jt in
antagonism to our country, its unity. Constitution and flag.

The next proposition of my friend is that "a successful revolution against the Constitution
by those in power subverts the principles of our government, produces anarchy, and establishes
ade: po1 ism." Now. that is a pretty hard proposition to answer, for I cannot discover whether
it is transcendentalism, metaphysics, or nonsense, and am going to submit the question to
you. "A successful revolution 'against the Constitution by those in power subverts Hie prin-
ciples of our government." Why, certainly, a successful revolution overthrows the Constitu-
tion ; and where do you find the principles of our government if not in the Constitution ?
That is equivalent to' saying that '-to subvert the government is to subvert the government,

and to make a revolution is to make a revolution." Thai is all that 1 can make out id' it.
"A successful revolution against the Constitution by those in power subverts the principles
of our government," Certainly it does. Who disputes it ? When 1 tell you that for the sun
to rise is for the sun to go up. 1 do not raise a question for argument between us ; and when
my friend tells me that "a successful revolution subverts the Constitution," he tells me that
the sun rises by going up. That is perfectly (dear. 1 admit it. Put then he adds, "produces
anarchy and establishes a despotism." That is, if a thing is done, when done, it produces two
conflicting results which cannot coexist. Where there is anarchy, there is not despotism,
because despotism is the strong hand that suppresses anarchy; and where there is despotism,



there is no1 anarchy, because there is despotism its antithesis. So 1 admit, first, that a thing
is a thing, that a revolution is a revolution, thai the subversion of the Constitution is the sub-
version of the Constitution ; Imt I. deny that it produces the two opposite results, anarchy
and despotism. This is the answer I make to that proposition; and it' that answer is do1
satisfactory, I will try it again, if the question is renewed with explanations of its meaning.

The gentleman's fifth proposition is. that "the theory of the equality of the negro with the
white man is not a justifiable principle of revolution." I ask my friend whether I state his
proposition correctly ; I have it as the reporters took it down. [Mr. Northrop assented.]
Now, for my life, I do not know what a "principle of revolution" is. I referred to the dic-
tionary this afternoon, in order to ascertain. 1 know that a revolution is a turn, and ! can
understand that there may be spokes in that which may revolve; 1 can perceive the tire thai
revolves with a revolution. I can understand a revolutionary principle, a principle the adop-
tion of which will produce revolution ; and I can understand a cause of revolution ; but, upon
my word. I cannot understand the phrase "a principle of revolution." If. therefore, I fail to
answer the proposition, 1 trust it maj be renewed in a more definite form, so 1 hat I may answer
it. for I wish to do so. and it is only because I am befogged by the phraseology that I do not
in a way that would be more satisfactory to my friend. But let me, before leaving the subject,
ask if the gentleman means to say that "the theory of the equality of the negro with the
white man is not a justifiable niKs, of revolution"? [f he does, 1 agree with him. 1 also
assert that, under our Government, we can have no justifiable cause of revolution, because
there are open courts, frequent elections, peaceable moans of amending the Constitution, and
the right to impeach every officer under the Government. I say, therefore, that nothing can
give the citizens of this country the right of revolution. To the people under all other
of government the right of revolution belongs, for they have not access to the courts in which
laws of their own making- are administered; they have not universal suffrage and frequent
elections; they have no) the right to impeach their kings, for the doctrine that lies at the
foundation of royalty is thai the king can do no wrong. Therefore the people under other
forms of government have the right of revolution. No, neither the desire to promi
equality, nor the desire to prevent negro equality, is a justifiable cause of revolution. My
answer, then, to the fifth proposition is, that, if the leman means what he does not say,

that the theory of negro equality is not a sufficienl can- ■ fi r re 1 olution, 1 agree with him.

I have thus, as satisfactorily as 1 can, disposed of m\ frii nd's propositions. 1 have meant
to do it candidly, and I hope I have done it thoroughly. Now come the i

The first question is, "Are you in favor of the restoration of the Union of these States with
their rights and powers as they were at the breaking ou1 of this rebellion ?"

I begin by asking, what States? What States? Is South Carolina still a State in the
Union? If she is, all that she has to do is to lay down her arms, convene her Legislature,
elect two Senators, divide the State into Congressional Districts under the last census, and
authorize her people to elect the number of Representatives to which she is entitled, and send
them to Congress ; and there will lie an end of the question. If South Carolina and the rest
of the rebellious States are not States of the Union, how did they gel out ? If they are

u1 because their people are rebels and traitors, and they musl be broughl back;
and I am not in favor of bringing all the old Stales back with " their rights and powers as
they were at the breaking out of the rebellion," and of pledging myself to consent to no other
method for the reconstruction id' the Union. Treason is the highest crime known to h
law; and a traitor is the worst of criminals. 1 am not. for instance, in favor id' punishing
the loyal and patriotic people of West Virginia to gratify the armed traitors of East Virginia.
1 am not in favor of surrendering Andrew Johnson. Horace Maynard, Parson Brownlow, and
the patriotic, citizens of East Tennessee to the tender mercies of the rebels in arms in the
western part of that Stale. \ am in favor of meting out to the traitors such punishmi
shall give protection to the Southern men, who. in spite of James Buchanan's tin eat and the
barbarous inhumanity of the rebel leaders, stood true to our country and our flag, and love
that country and its institution^ as we love them. No. 1 am not in favor of bringing tl
States back with all their rights as they existed before their people began this war. Shall we
force Maryland, which has abolished slavery, to re-establish it. Shall we force the people of
"West Virginia and Missouri to catch the slaves they have liberated and reduce them again
to bondage? Shall we force them to have slavery whether they will or not '.' Will my friend
-how how we can do it. and what clause of the Constitution provides for such a c

I nless we can and will do all this, we cannot possibly restore the Union as it was, en- bring
the States hack with what my friend considers all their rights. Mr. Jefferson Davis, the
leader of his political school and party, would tell yon that it was the right of Mississippi to
have the Union so constructed that the Slave Power would always have a preponderating
influence in both Houses of Congress. It is the theory my friend has accepted and defends.
That is his theory, and that was John ('. Calhoun's "theory. With Maryland \'vvi- by the
choice of her people — with West Virginia free by the choice of her people—with Missouri
free by the choice of her people — with new States created during these four years — we cannot,
if we would, establish the Union as it was. I ask the gentleman are you in favor of setting-
the hand of time back four years ? Have you the power of restoring to life the Pennsylvauiaus



who have died in defence of the Constitution of your country? Unless yon are in favor of
doing this, and can show how it may be done, your first question is as preposterous as your
last proposition. You ask whether I am in favor of doing that which Omnipotence itself
cannot do. The All-Powerful One may arrest the sun. but he cannot recall the last four
years, and turn us. who arc uow getting to be old men, back into the vigor of life.

I am iu favor of establishing a Union of American Slates under the Constitution; and
whenever the people of Virginia, or any other State, will lay down their arms and present
themselves with a State Constitution to Congress, I shall be prepared to vote upon the ques-
tion. The constitution of Virginia is gone. The people met in Convention and abolished it.
The ligaments that bound them to the United States Government were their Senators, their
members of Congress, the Judges of the District Court of the United States, their United
States custom officers, postmasters, aud marshals; and the State of Virginia turned these all
out. For four years, she has not elected Senators or Representatives to the Congress at
Washington, but has elected both Senators and Representatives to the Congress at Rich-
mond. She has expelled from her limits the Judiciary of the United States. Though Abra-
ham Lincoln, in his inaugural, promised that the mails would he sent there as long as she
would receive them, she has not permitted the receipt of the United States mails within her
limits. She has abolished the State of Virginia which Washington helped to form. When
her people, tired of the war, resume their peaceful avocations, adopt a Constitution provid-
ing for the election of Senators aud Representatives to the Congress of the United States
and ask the United States Government again to put her in a judicial district, and to establish
custom houses and post offices within her limits, I shall be ready to vote to admit her. She
cannot come back with slavery, not because I say so, but because her people hold no slaves.
Abraham Lincoln, by his proclamation, has enfranchised the slaves, and called them to our
banner to sustain our country, on the ensanguined field of battle. I admit here, with the
gentleman, that it will be a question for the courts of the United States to decide, whetht r
that proclamation makes them free or not. But in the meanwhile, they are learning to read
and write ; they are acquiring the habits of freemen ; they are learning to use arms ; and the
slave that can read and write is more dangerous than the slave that can shoot. It is mental,
not muscular power, that exalts the slave into the freeman. Our Philadelphia Quakers, in
organizing schools in Northern Virginia, and at Norfolk, and wherever our victorious armies
establish a post, are making the re-enslavement of those laboring people an impossibility
under the providence of God.

I take up now the gentleman's third question, instead of the second, so that he may reply
to me this evening. That question is in these words : " Do you approve of the twenty-three
acts of Congress, each having for its object the declared purpose of giving to tfa
the rights, immunities, and privileges heretofore enjoyed by the white man only?" 1 answer
by saying that no such act has been passed. I answer by saying that if such an act had been
presented to ( 'ongress of the United States it would have been rejected as ridiculously absurd.
The question as to who shall be citizens belongs to the State, and not to the United States gov-
ernment. In Massachusetts the negro is a citizen. In Pennsylvania he was a citizen and had
the right to vote until L838, when in the Convention to amend the Constitution the word "white*'
was (on motion of Mr. Benjamin Martin, from the first district of Philadelphia) inserted in
the clause prescribing the qualifications of voters, so as to make it read " every white free-
man." Our State Constitution does not deny citizenship to the negro, but it restricts the priv-
ilege of voting to the free white citizens. So the State of New York allows part of her colored
people to vote, and denies suffrage to the remainder ; that is. every colored man who is a free-
holder to the amount of $250 has the right to vote. An act of Congress proposing to pre-
scribe who should vote and who should not vote in any State of the Union, would lie ridiculed
from the doors of the room of the Judiciary Committee. The man who would introduce into
Congress such a bill would be laughed at with a universal and loud guffaw; for Congress has
no more to do with this subject than the British Parliament or the French Senate. 1 therefore
ask the gentleman to point to any one such act as his question describes, and I will give him
a couple of minutes of my hour, to enable him to indicate it when he shall have looked over
his digest and found it.

[Mr. Northrop followed in a speech of one hour and a half.]

Judge Kell'V replied thus— A very distinguished clergyman once said. "I can never paint
i scoundrel in any of my sermons, but, at the close of it, some fool jumps up and says,
•lie means me.'" Because the supporters of the Administration, in procession, carried a
banner with the maxim, "A free ballot for loyal men, and a free fight for traitors," the gen-
tleman and his friends jump up and say. '-that means us; and therefore.'* say they, "These
Sons of Liberty in Indiana, whose Grand Commander is to command the military forces of all
the States when in actual service, were organized." Thus they understand the sentiment — -a
free ballot for the men of the North, and a free fight with the traitors who burned Chambers-
burg and fought us at Gettysburg. Must the gentleman and his friends assume that they are
aimed at whenever the word " traitor" is uttered .'

I have a little cause to complain of the gentleman, that he will not listen to me. The other
evening he denied that I had answered his third proposition, or said anything about it; yet



the report made by the gentleman who sits at the table has shown that 1 had answered it
somewhat elaborately. He says now thai i said 1 had looked at the dictionary to find that a
devolution means the turn of a wheel. I treated his propi b m ped than that.

I said that Worcester defined a political revolution as "an extensive change in the political
organization of a country, accomplished in a short time, whether by legal it by illegal means."
1 read that definition which contains nothing about a wheel. I did not say that I had derived
the idea, of a wheel from a dictionary. I spoke of seeing a tire make a revolution with the
wheel that it bound together.

These are but trivial complaints — not half so grave as those which we have sometimes
made against each other at the liar, when we have parted good friends, or left the Coma i < m
to eat a steak together. Our differences arc all political.

I again recur to the gentleman's interrogatory which 1 was discussing when I took my t,
and which he has undertaken to vindicate by an appeal to a law book. That interrogatory is
in these words: "Do you approve of any or all of the twenty-three acts of Congress, each
having for its object the declared purpose of giving to the negro nil the rights, in
and privileges which have hitherto been enjoyed by the white man only?" The propi
does not state that those acts give to the negro some of the immunities and privileges of the
white man, as my friend has argued. It states as a fact that Congress lias passed twenty-
three acts, each of which has for its declared purpose the giving to the negro "all the rights,
privileges, and immunities hitherto enjoyed by the white man only." I renew my challenge
to the gentleman to point to one such act. I say boldly that he cannot do so. Cor none such
exists ; and 1 say that the assertion contained in that question is utterly incorrect, and with-
out foundation. There is the statute-book; let the gentleman point to the first of them.

The gentleman referred to three acts, and, in God's name, I ask him whether he objects to
any one of them. The rebel masters of more than a million of slaves have run away and left
them in the ignorance and poverty to which their inhumanity had doomed them. The man,
woman, or child who had under their infernal code attempted to teach one of the slaves to
read the Lord's Prayer would have been liable, in every one of the slave States, to imprison-
ment as a felon. They have never been allowed to own a dollar's worth of property. Without
knowing one letter or figure from another, without having a change of clothing, having been
trained by their masters to the most menial occupations only, they are turned adrift apon the
world by the war made by the rebels upon the best government with which God ever blessed
man. And in proof of the fact that there are twenty-three acts of Congress giving t<
negro all the rights which the white man has heretofore possessed, the gentleman points to an
act incorporating a body of white men and women into an association for the relief of destitute
women and children! Good God! is it a crime to relieve the sons and daughter
owners, because they were not born in wedlock and were begotten of black women? Is it a
crime before God or man, in this America of ours, to charter benevolent people to take (-are
of poor old women and children, aud is that investing the negro with " all the rights, privil
and immunities heretofore enjoyed by the white man only"? Where, where, sir [addn
Mr. Northrop], is that Christianity to which you have so often appealed — the religion of the
Prince of Peace, of whom you have spoken? Where dwells his influence in your heart, when
you can censure those who, finding destitute, ignorant, stricken women and children. Friendless,
homeless, and without a guide, charter a few good people to care for them in their misery and
give them guidance for the future? I did vote for that act ; and may God grant that you and
your party may not have the power to repeal it, and cast those stricken ones again upon the
world !

The second act to which the gentleman referred, was to incorporate an association to edu-
cate colored youth! As I heard the gentleman denounce that act. I remembered a visil which
I once made to your county prison, when 1 was. by virtue of my position, an official visitor.
I was accompanied by three ladies, one of whom was Mrs. Tyndale, then the chief of the
china store in Chestnut street, above seventh. When we stood before one of the cell doors,
a large negro came to it, who, after looking at tin' ladies, turned on me and said : " Mr. K el-
ley, you oughtn't to have convicted me for stealing that coat. I didn't steal it." " Yes, you
did." replied I, " or the jury would not have convicted you." "No, sir." he answered, •• I
didn't steal that coat." "Well," said 1. " satisfy me of that, and I will appeal to Covernor
Shunk, and get you a pardon." For 1 then held office under that Democratic Governor, and
enjoyed his confidence. We were both staunch Wilmot Proviso men. and in favor of re-
stricting slavery within its Constitutional limits. The Democratic party had not yet fallen
down before the false god of human slavery, a system of labor without wages. " I don't want
to be pardoned," said "the negro. " Why, have yon no wife ?" asked Mrs. Tyndale. " Yes,
ma'm, 1 have a wife." "Have you children?"* " Yes. ma'm, two ; and I love my wife and
children just as well as Mr. Kelley loves his." " How long have you to stay here ?" " Nine
months more, ma'm." "And yet you don't want a pardon^ I cannot understand it." " No.
ma'm, I don't want a pardon, and I will show you why." He ran across his cell, and picking
up a blue-covered book of about twenty-four pages, he brought it to the door of his cell.
"There, ma'm," said he, is the reason why T don't want to go out. When I come in here, I
didn't know one letter from another; and now I can read all the way through that book,



every word of it ; I can read a newspaper when a. gemman gives me one. To-day, Mr. Wool-
ston (the moral instructor) is going- to bring me a new book. In nine months more I can
write and cipher some ; and when I go out I can read the names on the signs, and I can read
what is on the letters and bundles, and I can make an honest living for my wife and children
as a porter. I couldn't do that before, because I just come out of slavery, and didn't know
one letter." Then turning to me with a smile that made the negro's face almost beautiful, he
said, "Mr. Kelley, I did steal that coat ; but with reading and writing, and being able to earn
an honest living, I trust to God I'll never steal another coat."

Yel the gentleman has denounced us for having incorporated an association of white men
to educate colored youth ! I ask the gentleman whether we were not blessing our country by
aiding to give the simple power of elementary knowledge to four millions of our people, or so
many of them as might come within the influence of such associations. Is ignorance a blessing
to our country? If it is, my Democratic laboring man. why do you send your children to
school? Are the ignorant and the depraved and those who are shut out from intellectual
enjoyments and employment good citizens? Is it not such, whether white or black, that
swarm into your alms-houses and jails? Were we not. then, when we incorporated an
association to educate the poor youth of the District of Columbia, doing a service to civiliza-
tion and exalting the character of the American people? If you want a black servant, is it
not better that he should be aide to read and write, that he may carry your parcels correctly —
that lie may, as that poor fellow in jail said: "Read the signs over the doors and upon the
street corner- ':" Yet an act by which white men are authorized to teach colored boys to read
is denounced by the gentleman as one of the Lincoln outrages upon the Constitution.

My friend referred to a third act — and when he got to that he staggered. Devoted as he i<
to his party, he said to himself, "My God ! this won't do, this is proclaiming our inhumanity
too plainly," and shut up the book and left the other twenty acts behind. The third act to
which he objected was " An act to incorporate the St. Ann's Infant Society.'' If the gentle-
man and his party get into power, I suppose they will let the infants die in the street and the
gutter, and not allow thein to go into the institution of the St. Ann's Society, where they may
be cared for.

These are the three horribly criminal enactments which the gentleman recites to prove that
we have passed twenty-three acts designed to confer on the negro "all the rights, privileges,
and immunities hitherto enjoyed by the white man only." Oh, my houest Democratic friend,
let me tell you this is the way in which your leaders are deceiving and humbugging you. They
attempt to make you believe that when we speak of the traitors of the South, we mean you ;
that when we make provision for orphan and destitute infancy and childhood, we are trying
to reduce you to an equality with the Soul hern slave. Think of these things, think of them
prayerfully. Reason with yourselves as to what is your duty to your country and to mankind.
Remember that in the veins of these poor negroes flows the very best blood of the while men
of the South. Remember that 81 per cent, of I jroes of Louisiana have while blood

in their veins. Remember that 7^ per cent, of the free negroes of Alabama have white blood
in their veins. Remember that more than one out of every ten of the four million Southern
slave- has had a white father, if not a white grandfather. The Yankees from New England
have not gone down there to spend a night in injecting that white blood into their veins. It
has been the slaveholder, and the overseer, and the distinguished Democratic visitor to the
head of the plantation that have done it. Remember that that eminent Virginia Democrat,
but whilom leader of the New York Democracy, John A. Andrews, who seconded Seymour's
motion to his •• friends" in the midst of the riot. was. when arrested by the officers of the law,
to lie conveyed to fort Lafayette, wrenched from the embrace of a negro woman with whom
he was living, while his white wife and their children, abandoned by him. lived elsewhere.

My friend's question which 1 was considering was this: " Do you approve of any or all of
the twenty-three acts id' Congress, each having for its object the declared purpose of giving
to the negro all the rights, immunities, ami privileges which have heretofore been enjoyed by
the white man only?'' 1 say to him again, show me the first act of the kind described, or
withdraw your assertion. Admit your mistake, or let me prove it. I voted for every act that


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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 9 of 20)