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who perform it consciously or unconsciously. Of such prophetic heaven-appointed men, John Brown was the most conspicuous in our time, and his life must be construed in the light of that fact." He also declares that the
execution of these five men was an offset to the killing of five Free State men by various persons during the preceding twelve-month, and that it was calculated to strike wholesome terror into evil-doers. The ethics, theology, and statesmanship of this defense are possible only to one bent on making Brown a hero at any cost.
The natural result of the Pottawatomie "executions,"— in which John Brown's complicity was for a time concealed
was a series of retaliations on both sides, and a state of affairs far more anarchic than Kansas had known before. This lasted through the summer of 1856. The general impression on the country was to strengthen the opposition to the usurpation of the Territorial Legislature, and to the administration which sustained it. In September there came a crisis. Another and graver attack on Lawrence was threatened, and this time a vigorous resistance was probable. But a new and able governor, John W. Geary of Pennsylvania, had been dispatched by President Pierce, with imperative instructions to pacify the Territory, as a pressing political necessity. Geary met Robinson-the treason prisoners had already been released-and as the two men had been near each other in the California troubles and thus had the advantage of a mutual acquaintance, an understanding was soon reached; Geary called off the dogs of war, and a time of quiet followed.
“FREMONT AND FREEDOM”
The Congress of 1855-6, divided between an administration Senate and an opposition House, accomplished little but talk. One chapter of this talk had a notable sequel. Charles Sumner, in an elaborate and powerful oration in the Senate, denounced slavery, “the sum of all villainies,” and bitterly satirized one of its prominent defenders, Senator Butler of South Carolina. He compared Butler to Don Quixote, enamored of slavery as was the knight of his Dulcinea, and unconscious that instead of a peerless lady she was but a wanton. The response to the speech was made by a nephew of Senator Butler and member of the House, Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina. He entered the Senate chamber during a recess, accompanied and guarded by a friend and fellow member, Lawrence Keitt; approached Sumner as he sat writing at his desk, and without words felled him to the ground with a heavy cane, and beat him about the head till he was insensible. Sumner, a man of fine physique, was for a long time an invalid from the assault, and was unable for years to resume his place in the Senate.
It was not so much the individual act of Brooks as its treatment by his party and section that gave the deepest significance to the deed and produced the most lasting effect. A friendly magistrate sentenced Brooks to a nominal fine and so forestalled further prosecution. His party friends in Congress left all public rebuke of the deed to Republicans. A motion to expel Brooks and Keitt from
the House failed of the necessary two-thirds vote. They resigned, and were promptly and triumphantly re-elected. Noisy applause of the attack came from all parts of the South, with a stack of canes marked "Hit him again.” That better class of Southerners by whom the assault was felt, as one of them expressed it long afterward,“ like a blow in the face," made no demonstration. So far from losing caste, as a gentleman or a public man, Brooks not only kept his place in society, but was honored a few months later with a public banquet, at which such men as Butler and Toombs and Mason joined in the laudations, and gave a background to the scene by free threats of disunion if the Republicans elected their President.
This treatment of Brooks made an impression at the North far beyond the first hot indignation at his brutal outrage. The condonation and applause of that outrage was taken as sure evidence of a barbaric state of opinion, the natural accompaniment of slavery. What made the matter worse was that the assault had a technical justification under the code of honor which it was Brooks's pride as a Southern gentleman to observe. The code called on a man who had given offense by his words to meet the offended man in a duel, and if he refused, he was fairly subject to public disgrace or even physical chastisement.
Such a theory and practice, and the sentiments associated with it, stamped slavery with a heavier condemnation than orator or novelist could frame.
This one week in May, 1856, was dark with omens of impending catastrophe. On May 20 Lawrence was devastated; on the 22d, Sumner was assaulted; and on the 24th took place the Pottawatomie massacre. A shadow as of impending doom was reflected in Mrs. Stowe's second anti-slavery novel, Dred, which appeared about this time. While lacking the inspiration and power of Uncle Tom's
Cabin, it had in the main a similar tone of humanity, sympathy and fairness. Again the better element of the Southern whites was portrayed, in the benevolent slaveholder Clayton; the brave Methodist preacher, Father Dickson; and the book's heroine, Nina Gordon. There were realistic and graphic pictures of the negro at his best, in Old Tiff and Milly. The sophistries and time-serving of ecclesiastics were fairly pictured. The fundamental attitude of the law in regarding the slave as the creature of his master's convenience was shown with historic fidelity. But the book took its name from a negro, half-prophetic, halfcrazed, who maintained in the Dismal Swamp a refuge for slaves, and purposed an uprising to conquer their freedom. To Southern imaginations it might well recall Nat Turner and the horrors of his revolt. Mrs. Stowe inevitably idealized everything she touched; and to idealize the leader of a servile insurrection might well be regarded as carrying fire into a powder magazine. The moving expostulation of the Christian slave Milly with Dred, the death of Dred, the frustration of his plans, and the pitiful wrongs he sought to redress, veiled from the Northern reader the suggestion of other dangers and tragedies to which the Southern reader was keenly alive. As we read the book now, the glimpses of coming terror and disaster in Dred's visions seem like a presage of the war which in truth was only four years away.
But the prevailing temper of the time was as yet little clouded by any such forebodings. It was a great wave of popular enthusiasm, sane, resolute, and hopeful, which moved forward in the first Presidential campaign of the Republican party in 1856. The convention met at Philadelphia in June. Its temper was well described in a letter from Samuel Bowles to his paper, the Springfield Republican,-which from moderate anti-slavery Whig had become
ardently Republican when the Missouri compromise was repealed.1
“Certainly we never saw a political convention in which there was so much soul as in that at Philadelphia. It was politics with a heart and a conscience in it. Cincinnati (the Democratic convention) gathered the remains of a once powerful national party and contributed to its further sectionalization and destruction. Philadelphia called together the heart, the independence, and the brains of all parties, to establish a broader and juster nationality. Such a fusion of contradictory elements was never witnessed in this country before since the times of the Revolution. Nor could it happen now save under a great emergency, and from a controlling necessity. Such a combination of the material and mental forces of the republic as was represented in the Philadelphia convention, and united in its enthusiastic and harmonious results, has more power than any political combination ever formed before in this country, and cannot in the nature of things be long kept in the background. There is no law more certain than that which will throw such a union of the moral strength, intellectual activity, and youth
1 A word should be said as to the frequency with which the Springfield Republican is quoted in this work. The author wrote an earlier book, The Life and Times of Samuel Bowles, (Century Co.)—the founder of the Republican. As the background of his life, a careful study was made of the political events during his years of editorial activity, 1844-77. The original matter for this was largely drawn from the files of the Republican. In studying the whole ground afresh for the present history, advantage was taken of this material, and further citations were drawn from the same paper. The interpretation of current events by an independent and sagacious newspaper yields invaluable material for the historian; and my study of the Republican, from the repeal of the Missouri compromise in 1854 to the present, has heightened my respect for the breadth, sobriety, and moral insight with which it judged the questions of the day.