Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

wild and inflammatory words. Papers of a different character-like the Boston Courier, representative of the party which included Everett and Winthrop-habitually charged the Republican party with John Brownism and disunionism. The South not unnaturally believed that the North was seriously divided, and could never hold together against its claims. But most Northern people regarded the disunion threats as mere gasconade,-meant only to carry an election, and then to be quietly dropped. But if they were meant in earnest, well, there would be something to be said, and done too, on the other side.

Douglas, with almost no chance of success, made a bold and active canvass. Through this year he showed a courage far higher than the mere dexterity which had been his chief distinction before. In part, it was an expression of a changing temper in the people. He stood openly and stoutly for the principle of majority rule. While speaking at Wheeling, Va., he was questioned as to whether he held that the election of Lincoln would justify secession. He answered promptly that it would not, and if secession were attempted, he would support a Republican President in putting it down by force. That pledge to the country he redeemed, when at the outbreak of the war he gave his immediate and full adherence to President Lincoln,-representing and leading the "War Democrats " who practically solidified the North, and insured its victory. At Wheeling, he passed on the question answered by him for Breckinridge to answer. But Breckinridge ignored the challenge, a silence which was what the lawyers call a "pregnant negative."

November brought victory to the Republicans. In the popular vote, Lincoln had about 1,860,000; Douglas, 1,370,000; Breckinridge, 840,000; and Bell, 590,000. The electoral votes stood or would have stood, if the electoral conventions had all met-Lincoln, 180; Breckinridge, 72; Bell, 39;

Douglas, 12. Lincoln carried every Northern State except New Jersey; Douglas, only part of New Jersey and Missouri; Bell, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee; Breckinridge, all the rest of the South. The successful candidate was thus in a popular minority,-no new thing. The distinctively Southern candidate was doubly in a minority. The supporters of Lincoln, Douglas and Bell, were all to be counted against the extreme Southern claim, and much more against any assertion of that claim by secession. Unitedly, their support outnumbered that of Breckinridge by more than four to one. If ever a party was fairly and overwhelmingly out-voted, it was the party whose central doctrine was that slavery must be protected in the United States territories.

Now the question was, would that party acquiesce in the decision of the majority? At every previous election in the nation's history the minority had acquiesced promptly and loyally. When Jefferson was elected, New England looked on the new President as a Jacobin in politics and an infidel in religion. But New England acquiesced without an hour's hesitation. When Jackson was chosen, his opponents saw in him a rude and ignorant demagog. But the antiJackson people accepted the new President as they had accepted Monroe and Adams. In the choice of Buchanan, the Republicans saw an assertion of the nationalism of slavery, and a menace of the subjugation of Kansas. But the supporters of Fremont recognized Buchanan as unhesitatingly as if he had been their own choice. What was the meaning of popular government, except that the minority should submit to the legitimate victory of the majority? On what did the nation's existence rest, but the loyalty of its citizens to the nation's self-determination in its elections? And now, would the minority resist the decision of the majority? Would the Southern States attempt to break up

the Union? The North could not and would not believe it. But there was a strong party at the South which was fully convinced that the election of Lincoln was the crown of a series of grievances which justified the South in withdrawing from the Union; that such withdrawal was a clear constitutional right; and that the honor and interest of the South demanded that it be made.

CHAPTER XXI

[ocr errors]

FACE TO FACE

To understand the meaning of secession and the Civil War which followed it, we must fathom the thoughts and feelings of the opposing parties. Let us suppose two representative spokesmen to state their case in turn.

Let the Secessionist speak first. The Secessionists were not at first a majority of the people of the Southern States, but it was their view which prevailed. What that view was we know certainly and from abundant evidence, the formal acts of secession, the speeches of the leaders in Congress and at home, the histories since written by the President and Vice-President of the Confederacy, and countless similar sources. This, substantially, was the Secessionist's position:

"This Union is a partnership of States, of which the formal bond is the Constitution; the vital principle is the enjoyment by each section and community of its rights; and the animating spirit is the mutual respect and good-will of all members of the Union. The Northern people have violated the provisions of the Constitution; they have infringed the essential rights of the Southern communities, and threatened to invade them still further; and they have displaced the spirit of mutual good-will by alienation, suspicion, and hostility. The formal bond of the Union being thus impaired, and its vital spirit lost, we propose explicitly and finally to dissolve this partnership of States, and reorganize our Southern communities in a new Confederacy.

"We charge you of the North with explicit violation of

[ocr errors]

the Constitution in the matters of the territories, the Supreme Court and the fugitive slaves.

"You deny our right to carry a part of our property,— our unquestioned property under the Constitution,-into the territories which belong equally to the whole nation, and which have been acquired by our treasure and our blood not less than by yours. You prevent slave-holders from participating in the colonization of this domain, and thus determine in advance that its future States shall exclude our institutions. You thus unfairly build up a political preponderance, which you use for the discouragement and injury of our industrial system.

"Against this wrong we have appealed to the Supreme Court, and secured its express affirmation of the right to carry slave property, equally with any other property, into the territories. This solemn decree of the highest judicial authority you set at naught and defy. You say you will reorganize the court and reverse the decision. You do not even wait for that; you assume in party convention to reverse the mandate of the Supreme Court. You not only contradict its declaration that slavery in the territories is protected by the Constitution; you go farther, and affirm that Congress has no authority to protect it there.

"The Constitution affirms that fugitives from labor must be returned to their masters. A Federal statute provides for such return. That statute is not only decried by your orators and resisted by your mobs; it is contravened and practically nullified by statutes in all the free States.

"These specific wrongs against us are inspired by a disposition which in itself dissolves the bond of friendship between you and us,—a spirit of open and avowed hostility to our social and industrial system. The Union as our fathers established it, and as alone it has any value, is not a thing of mere legalities,-it must be a true union of hearts

« AnteriorContinuar »