Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

June of that year, uses this language: "The United States Telegraph United charges us with abandoning the cause of the South, because we do not cry out wolf upon the question of slavery. This is folly, or it is falsehood. We do not declaim about slavery because we cannot believe that the citizens of the North are mad enough to trench upon our rights." The Pennsylvanian, of the same political party, from the North, uses this emphatic language: "The conduct of the United States Telegraph in relation to the slavery of the South is incomprehensible. Day after day that incendiary print is endeavoring to stimulate an excitement on this fearful topic, by representing the despicable journals of a few fanatics in New York and Boston as the emanations of the late patriotic proclamation of our venerable President. The Telegraph professes to be friendly to the South, to have the especial management of her cause, and yet its course appears only to be calculated to stir up such horrible scenes as the Southampton tragedy, or to awaken the slumbering sensibilities of the North to the great, original, momentous, and fearful questions of slavery and liberty. Does the Telegraph, in its insane paroxysm, want to open this dreadful question? Does it want to unsettle the Constitution and spread a conflagration through society?"

In

Such language brought from the Telegraph only gross insults. the paper of June 15th he says: "We ask the people of the South why is it that the Northern politicians are so fond of the Union? Is it not because they desire to profit from it?" Sometimes his language betrays his real object. In the number of June 8th he says: "We say to the people of the South, awake! The incendiary is abroad! The Union is in danger! Already has the ban of empire gone forth against your best and wisest statesmen! Fidelity to you is political death to them! Treason to you is the surest passport to federal promotion! Is it wise, is it safe, is it honorable to sleep over such wrongs?" His principal had then, but recently, too, declared in his speech of the preceding session that henceforth every Southern man was to be excluded from office. Such declarations were made by these co-laborers at a time. when a Southern slaveholder had just been inducted into office a second time with an immense vote at the North, and when the South had as large a share of the offices of the government and as much influence in the Union as it ever had. But simply because Mr. Calhoun was excluded from office the South was oppressed and degraded. A few satellites echoed these things, but the press and people generally at the South expressed disapproval of and disgust with such proceedings. I will venture the assertion, in which I appeal to the candor of all Southern men to sustain me, that out of the State of South Carolina, as to which I do not profess to speak, Mr. Calhoun was not sustained in any one State in this Union, by five per cent. of the population. In fact his strength at the South was about as great as that of the Abolitionists at the North. His violence or denunciation was food for the Abolitionists just as their fanaticism gave him materials to work with.

The South, generally, had not chosen him to defend her, and viewed his efforts in her behalf as mala fide. Though he might state prin

ciples that she approved, she would not trust the man or follow his lead, and he had the mortification of finding that he added nothing to his influence or popularity. When these occurrences began, the people of the North, not understanding the game that was to be played, seemed surprised. They declared that the South was too timid and too sensitive on the question; that there was no danger to be apprehended from the machinations of the Abolitionists; and that their movements were condemned by ninety-nine out of every hundred of the citizens of the free States. If it were not, sir, for consuming too much time of the House, I might refer to published letters and speeches of the first men all through the North. Intelligent Southern men, too, who traveled through the Northern States, declared the same thing. Large meetings were gotten up in all the Northern cities, in which the abolition movements were denounced in the most emphatic Many remember the meeting at Boston, at which Otis made that noble and most eloquent speech. Strong demonstrations were made all through the North. The persons of the Abolitionists, as being common disturbers of the public peace, suffered violence, and the houses where they held their meetings were burnt. All these things, so far from diminishing the factitious excitement gotten up in the South, seemed to have produced the greatest irritation, the "Telegraph" becoming more furious than ever, and denouncing the Northern men generally as false-hearted, and hypocritical and dough-faced." Such returns seemed to chill a little the generous enthusiasm of the North. The great body of the Southern people being quiet and silent, they did not know how much these incendiary efforts were contemned and despised at the South generally. These attempts, however, were persisted in for two or three years; and, though they did produce some ill-feeling between the different sections of the country, and weakened the position of the South essentially, and seriously diminished her influence in the Union, yet the efforts so far failed to answer any present purpose which the actors had in view, that the attempts were finally abandoned, in the main.

[ocr errors]

There was, however, a feeble effort to connect the slavery question with the presidential election in 1836. Mr. Van Buren, a Northern man, was opposed by a candidate in the South, and these persons, having at that particular time strong objections to the former, and wishing to unite the South, represented him as being an Abolitionist; in making which charge they were joined by some of the party presses and party men of that day. The charge was so glaringly unjust that it was easily refuted, and Mr. Van Buren received even at the South a larger vote than did his Southern competitor. In the succeeding election, in 1840, some of these persons, having changed sides, and gone from one of the great political parties over to the other, seeing that they had not been able to prove Mr. Van Buren an Abolitionist, endeavored to show that his opponent at least was one. In this effort they failed as signally as in the former one; and General Harrison's views being soon well known, he received a much larger vote at the South than did his competitor. By a sort of fatality it seemed that

these persons killed off what they embraced, just as the abolitionism of the North has destroyed what it has fixed upon.

A passing notice is perhaps due, Mr. Chairman, to the last Democratic Baltimore Convention. A great effort has been made in some portions of the North to create a strong prejudice against the South on account of some of the doings of that convention. The "slave power" is denounced as having overthrown a great Northern statesman, viz., Mr. Van Buren, by the two-thirds rule; and a strong attempt is made to excite his old personal friends against the South. And it is not a little singular that some who assisted in his rejection are now making the charge. To those who were acquainted with those proceedings nothing could seem more absurd, and even ridiculous, than such a charge. In that convention the free States had a majority of fifty votes, and the convention, by a simple majority vote, agreed on its rules of order and mode of voting. This was done, too, after weeks of discussion in the public prints, when the effects both of majority and two-thirds votes were canvassed and perfectly understood. It is well known that a majority of the leading politicians of the party had come to the conclusion, after the results of the spring elections in Connecticut and Virginia, that Mr. Van Buren's nomination would be fatal to his party; and, as a great many delegates had been instructed in meetings during the winter and fall before to vote for him, it was deemed most politic and expedient to exclude him, simply by adopting the two-thirds rule. For its adoption the "slave power" of the South is no more responsible than the free power of the North, as the voting shows. After the convention, I was told by a Democratic member of Congress, himself an actor in those scenes, that they had, even in the event of the two-thirds rule being not adopted, a sufficient number pledged to defeat Mr. Van Buren on a mere majority vote, should it have become necessary for them to take the responsibility of so doing. Nor am I sure that Mr. Van Buren's Texas letter had any decided influence against him. Knowing, as I did, how many of the leading politicians of the party stood either for or against him, I cannot remember a single one who changed his ground after the publication of his letter.

The prospect, now, however, Mr. Chairman, that territory may be acquired, and the chance of getting up a practical issue on these questions, has opened a wide field for political excitement. An extraordinary effort is being made in certain quarters to create strong sectional feeling. Those who have taken the lead in the matter declaim against the extension of slavery, though they well know that if new territory should be opened to slaves, as none could reach it except from the present slave States, the numbers of such persons in the Union could not be increased. They complain vehemently of the slave representation, and say it shall not be increased; yet they well know that the whole slave population is already counted, and represented both in this House and in the electoral colleges, and that no addition would be made to that representation by simply dividing the population. They denounce, too, the "slave power," and say that the South is seeking to control the government, though they well know

that the free States have the ascendancy in both Houses, and a large majority in the electoral colleges; and that under the arrangements made nine-tenths at least of the territory of the United States will be, as it comes into the Union, carved into free States. They talk much of the evils of slavery, yet they know that if the number of slaves be not increased, the disadvantages attending the system are rather diminished than increased, by diffusing it over a large surface. These various objections, being obviously mere pretexts, would not of themselves make sufficient impression on the public mind at the North to produce much excitement. But a great appeal is made to the prejudice of the ignorant. They are told that a slaveholder has three votes for every five slaves; forgetting, however, that all the free negroes are counted, and that, therefore, white men, in most of the Northern States, where negroes are not allowed to vote, have, upon this principle, five votes to the Southern man's three; and those of them who clamor for emancipation should remember that, if all the Southern slaves were liberated, the South would be a gainer of two-fifths in strength, and still none of the negroes would be permitted to vote, the Constitution leaving that matter altogether to the States, and nearly all of them in the Union excluding free negroes from voting. To excite the public mind, too, dem agogues talk about the rights of free labor and the degradation of slave labor, and say that its competition must not be suffered. They do not pretend that a freeman cannot work as much because he knows that there are slaves at work somewhere else, and they should certainly know that the competition of slave labor, as it is now employed, is much less injurious to the North than it would be if these slaves were liberated. They have even now much stronger inducements to seek the expulsion of the free blacks and the exclusion of the Irish and other foreigners, the influx of whom diminish wages. They are striving, too, to excite the prejudices of the envious and mean against the exclusive privileges of slave holders. I mean, sir, that class of persons (I hope a small one) which is sometimes arrayed against land-owners, and occasionally clamor for agrarian laws and divisions of property. They denounce Southern men as man-stealers, slave-dealers, &c., not choosing to remember that almost all the slaves of the South were originally bought of Northern shipowners, who brought them to the United States, and sold them to us. They should know that they are under just as great obligations to return to us the purchase money which our ancestors paid theirs, as we are under to give up the slaves. "The present generation is no more responsible for slavery than it is for the existence of swamps and pine barrens." I use the words of Harrison Gray Otis, of Boston, a name which deserves to be remembered wherever intellect and worth have fame.

Men at the North are now saying, as it was said by Duff Green in 1833: "The time has come; the issue must be met." They quote the language of men at the South as violent as themselves, with a view of stimulating as much as possible the passions of their own people. The Abolitionists of the North and the ultras at the South have united in lamenting the existence of political parties, which they say prevents

men's making a direct issue on slavery. But for this obstacle they say that the two sections of the Union could be arrayed in anger against each other. Do they not see that such a state of things would at once break in twain this confederacy? They, however, are not afraid! They taunt each other on both sides and boast of their courage! Sir, from my limited knowledge of human nature, I have found that persons who were most indifferent to public calamities, and who were most reckless in plunging others into danger when in personal peril, invariably proved themselves craven cowards. True courage, because of the generous qualities which usually accompany it, makes men careful of the public safety and causes them to shrink from exposing others to peril. These boasters, therefore, would do well to remember that they are furnising to the world prima facie evidence of their own poltroonery. Whenever, Mr. Chairman, you see political parties divided by strict geographical lines the Union is virtually at an end, because the smaller section, seeing it was permanently excluded from all share in those political rights which should be common to all, would be justified in seeking, and no doubt would seek, a new system. There are those who are now looking to a destruction of the present Constitution. To show the sentiments of some of those who are most clamorous against the extension of slavery, let me bring to the attention of the House certain extracts. I read them, sir, as they have been collated by Mr. Nathan Appleton, who, I need not say to this House, is one of the first men not only of New England but of the United States. Because he expressed sentiments of regard for the Constitution and the Union, and a determination to abide by the laws as made, a torrent of obloquy was directed against him, so as to oblige him to publish a pamphlet in his defence.

But I come to the extracts which he thought it proper to make to show the opinions of his assailants, many of them persons of no mean capacity or standing at home. I will read but a few of the sentiments collected by him from various quarters: "Accursed be the American Union as a stupendous republican imposture! Accursed be it, as a libel on democracy and a bold assault on Christianity! Accursed be it; it is stained with human blood and supported by human sacrifices! Accursed be it for all the crimes it has committed at home-for seeking the utter extermination of the red men of its wildernesses, and for enslaving one-sixth part of its teeming population! Accursed be it for its hypocrisy, its falsehood, its impudence, its lust, its cruelty, its oppression! Accursed be it as a mighty obstacle in the way of universal freedom and equality! Henceforth the watchword of every uncompromising Abolitionist, of every friend of God and liberty, must be, both in a religious and political sense, no union with slave-holders!"

This last sentiment he shows has been adopted as a motto by many who do not profess to belong to the sect of abolitionists. Others less open and candid profess more regard for the Constitution, which they say has been always trampled under foot by the "slave power." A stranger to our history, hearing the sentiments which are uttered in many quarters, would naturally suppose that the United States was

« AnteriorContinuar »