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Speech of Hon. Wm. D. Kelley, in the Northrop
DELIVERED AT MANAYUNK, MONDAY EVENING, OCTOBER 3,1864
PHONOGRAPHIC REPORT BY D. WOLFE BROWN.
Fellow-citizens: We have had, as my friend has said, four evenings of discussion elsewhere. I have not had, nor shall I during the debate, have occasion to give assurance to my auditors, that I am not apologizing for the Southern rebellion, as my friend has once or twice assured you. You will not so misapprehend my arguments as to suppose that they are uttered in advocacy of the rebellion. I shall apologize for no unconstitutional act of the rebels. I shall, so far as in me lies, vindicate the supreme majesty of the Constitution of our country. I shall demand the maintenance of the nation's unity from the Aroostook to the Rio del Norte, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. I am for peace throughout the country—an honorable peace—an enduring peace—such a peace as can only be had when we shall have whipped Jeff. Davis and his minions, so that they shall lay down their arms and cry, as the Democrats of the North now do, for peace on any terms. And when we shall have done this, we will not only have peace in the country, but peace that will endure through all time; for ambitious men will then remember the fate of the rebels of 1861. We shall also have peace with foreign nations; for they will appreciate the convincing evidence of our power when we shall have conquered twelve millions of people, living upon their own soil, with a sea-coast more than two thousand miles in extent, in a war which they began when we were without an army, ours having been handed over by the Democratic administration to our enemies—without a navy, twenty-seven of our largest and best ships having been handed over to our enemies, by that same Democratic Administration, and the remaining vessels, all but the four smallest, having been sent to the most distant stations to which our naval vessels are ever sent; and without national credit, but with a bankrupt treasury. For during the last year of James Buchanan's Administration, it became necessary to borrow five millions of dollars to carry on the Government until the fourth of March. We had a little while before been paying our debt at a premium. We had been offering every bondholder twenty per cent, to allow us to cash his bond. Our country had been so prosperous that gold had flowed into our treasury beyond our ability to expend in constitutional and legal methods. Financiers and statesmen feared a commercial crisis as the result of the immense and increasing accumulation of gold in our treasury; and the Government, to prevent this, had offered a premium of twenty per cent, to every man who would bring forward his bond and have it cashed in gold. Yet, in less than one little year from that time, under Democratic rule, our treasury was exhausted, and it became necessary to borrow five millions of dollars to carry on the Government to the end of the term of that administration. Howell Cobb, the Democratic Secretary of the Treasury, advertised for a loan of that amount. Did he offer four per cent, interest on the loan? Ours is the most magnificent country God has ever given to any people. We had paid the Revolutionary War debt; we had paid the debt of the late war: we had been giving the people a premium to bring in the Mexican War debt, and have it paid. With all our resources, and with the credit that might have been expected as the consequence of the fact that we were the" only nation of the world that had ever paid off its debt, did the Secretary of the Treasury offer four per cent, interest? Did he offer five per cent? For we had often borrowed money at both these rates? Or did he offer six per cent., the common rate of interest with us? No, my fellow citizens. In order to get money to pay his own salary, he offered to pay twelve per cent, interest for a loan of five millions of dollars. And how was it responded to? Did European capitalists take it all? Did Chestnut and Third streets and our banks monopolize it? Or did Wall street or State street step in and cut them out? No; every one of you remembers that we could not borrow the five millions from ourselves or the world at twelve per cent. There is not a business man here who does not know that the Democratic party in its last four years had so wrecked our credit that at the high rate of one per cent, a month the world would lend the United States Government but two millions and a half of dollars. Beginning this war, I repeat, with our army in the hands of the enemy; with our navy beyond our reach, or delivered to the enemy; with our Treasury bankrupt; with our credit destroyed, we have created an army and a navy; we have re-established our credit, so that when the Government the other day advertised for a loan of thirty-one millions of dollars,
sixty-five millions were offered, and the Government obtained the whole amount required at a premium of four per cent. People, even in the midst of our great war, have such confidence in the Administration, that they are willing* to give $104 for a hundred-dollar certificate of United States Loan. We have blockaded two thousand miles of sea-coast. We have conquered more territory than any other nation ever conquered in a war of ten years. And when we shall have finally conquered peace, the nations of the world will note what we have done, and say, "We must let those people of the United States alone." So that, when we attain the peace that I want, we shall have a peace which will be as enduring as our mountains, lakes, and rivers. I am for war as the only road to peace—war so long as an armed rebel desecrates our land. I have, on a previous occasion, ladies, come into this town of industry, to beg your husbands and sons to go to the field and fight for our common country, its Constitution and its flag; and God forbid that, having encouraged them to engage in this glorious work, I should be willing to surrender their graves to a foreign nation, so that in the. hereafter their children would be obliged to crawl to them under a foreign flag. No! as God is my judge, I will, if the power be given me, support the prosecution of this war until every grave of a Pennsylvania soldier, whether it be in Louisiana, or in Texas, or upon the borders of our own State, shall be recognized as within the limits of the country of his children, and be protected and illuminated by the stars of their country?s flag. No, I never will consent to sell the graves of your husbands and sons for a dastardly peace.
The gentleman told you that he has argued certain propositions, one of which is to the effect that a violation of the Constitution by a department of the Government is revolution. Then he went on to say that Mr. Lincoln has some how or other violated the Constitution. He has not, however, on any of the five evenings on which he has spoken, ventured to show the particular act by wjbich it had been violated. I hope that he will be more generous here, and in his concluding remarks point out the violations of which he complains. He enunciates the proposition to which I have referred in the name of the Democratic party. I have brought with me a volume of the writings of the founder of that party, Thomas Jefferson, to show that he, with his eyes wide open, well knowing the fact, deliberately violated the Constitution to save the country from future war, and that he asserts that such acts must be done by the Executive at times. The gentleman would surrender to our enemies all the country lying south of the Potomac, and would then try to coax the traitors who have involved us in this war to reconstruct a Union. He would first surrender to them, and then say, "Well, now, what will you take to reconstruct?" Does not the gentleman know that before they undertook to divide the country, they said, "Give us a blank sheet of paper agreeing that we may write the terms on which we will remain with you, and we will not accept your proposition." They spurn you and me. They spurn you, laboring men of the North, as the "mudsills" of society—as "greasy mechanics"—as people more abject than their slaves. They have said all this in Congress. And they want to get rid of all connection with men like myself who have passed from the workshop to the floor of Congress, and like ydu who hope in your own persons, or in those of your sons, to rise in the social, political, or pecuniary scale of life. And they who thus hate us and denounce us as " mudsills" and "greasy mechanics," and who insolently told us that if we would let them write their own terms they would not consent to live with us—the gentleman would coax back, after we shall have surrendered to them at discretion and recognized their independence.
It was to acquire part of the territory my friend would thus surrender, that Thomas Jefferson violated the Constitution. I speak of what was known as the Louisiana territory. I have here the fourth volume of Jefferson's Complete Works, from which I will read you a brief extract from a letter written by Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Breckinridge, of Kentucky—not him who, as a leader of the Southern wing of the Democratic party, is now at the head of a division of the rebel army—who, finding that he could not beat us by voting, is trying to do it by fighting. Bad luck he has had at that business in the Shenandoah Valley, I tell you'!
On page 498 will be found the following:—
"Monticello, Aug. 12, 1803.—Dear Sir: The inclosed letter, though directed to you, was intended to me also, and was left open with a request that, when read, I would forward it to you. It gives me occasion to write a word to you on the subject of Louisiana, which, being a new one, an interchange of sentiments may produce correct ideas before we are to act on them.
"Our information as to the country is very incomplete. We have taken measures to obtain it full to the settled part, which I hope to receive in time for Congress. The boundaries which I deem not admitting question, are the high lands on the western side of the Mississippi, inclosing all its waters, the Missouri of course, and terminating in the line drawn from the northwestern point of the Lake of the Woods, to the nearest source of the Mississippi, as lately settled between Great Britain and the United States. We have some claims to extend on the sea coast westwardly to the Rio Norte or Bravo, and better, to go eastwardly to the Rio Perdido, between Mobile and Pensacola, the ancient boundary of Louisiana. These claims will be a subject of negotiation with Spain, and if, as soon as she is at war, we push them strongly with one hand, holding out a price in the other, we shall certainly obtain the Floridas, and all in good time."
Now, you have an idea of the territory in question. On page 500 he goes on to say :—
"The Constitution has made no provision for our holding foreign territory, still less for incorporating foreign nations into our Union. The Executive, in seizing the fugitive occurrence which so much advances the good of their country, have done an act beyond the Constitution. The Legislature, in casting behind them metaphysical subtleties and risking themselves like faithful servants, must ratify and pay for it, and throw themselves on their country for doing for them unauthorized what we know they would have done for themselves, had they been in a situation to do it. It is the case of a guardian investing the money of his ward in purchasing an important adjacent territory; and saying to him, when of age, kI did this, for your good; I pretend to no right to bind you; you may disavow me, and I must get out of the scrape as I can; I thought it my duty to risk myself for you.' But we shall not be disavowed by the nation, and their act of indemnity will confirm and not weaken the Constitution, by more strongly marking out its lines."
I quote Thomas Jefferson's deliberate letter to prove that the great founder of the Democratic party whose word to-day goes farther with it, or at least with honest Democrats—I will not say with the party, for its leaders and managers have abandoned all its doctrines—than the word of any other man to show that he knew he was violating the Constitution when he acquired Louisiana territory; but he knew also that he was saving the future peace of the country. Through the Louisiana territory flowed the Mississippi river, which, with its branches, extends more than 50,000 miles, one of these branches taking its rise in our own State. It drains the whole valley of the Mississippi. At that day there were no railroads; and that great valley, capable of supporting with comfort 300,000,000 of people, had no other outlet, no other means of commercial connection with the world than that river. While a foreign power held command of that river it could cripple this vast country and drive us to war at any time by doing what the Democratic party of the South have done—erecting forts along its banks at Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and elsewhere, and arresting the whole commerce of the Northwest. It was, therefore, necessary to the permanent peace and prosperity of the country that this territory should be acquired; and Thomas Jefferson, transcending the powers of the Constitution, and acting in conflict with it, acquired it. You will also find by the remarks which I made on the second evening of this discussion, which have been printed, and I trust distributed among you, that Abraham Lincoln, though conducting a war of infinitely greater magnitude, has done nothing that Andrew Jackson did not do during the war of 1812; and that by vindicating the constitutionality of Jackson's acts, Stephen A. Douglas made himself the leader of the Northern Democracy. I pass now to the general subject of discussion, and you will find that before I conclude, I will notice, though not in detail, all the gentleman has said to-night.
What is this war about, and between whom is it? It is about the question whether man shall have wages for his labor. It is not between political parties. In the early days of our country there was a powerful anti-slavery party in the South. Washington was an anti-slavery man, and by his last will emancipated every slave that belonged to him. In his correspondence with American and foreign citizens he continually expressed the hope that the institution of slavery would be abolished at an early day. Thomas Jefferson was an anti-slavery man, and said, among many other such things, that, in view of the wrongs of the slaves, "he trembled for his country when he remembered that God was just." James Madison was an anti-slavery man, and when it was proposed to insert the word "slave" in the Constitution, he substituted the phrase "persons held to service or labor;" and his argument was that slavery was soon to pass away under the enlightened civilization of our country, and that the word "slave" ought not to be inserted in our Constitution to remind our posterity that so odious an institution had ever existed in our country. The leading men of Virginia at that time were antislavery men. Some of the most eloquent utterances made in the Convention that framed the Constitution came from slaveholders, speaking in opposition to the institution of slavery; but, by the invention of the cotton-gin and the larger use of cotton, slavery became more profitable, and the great men of the South were succeeded by a generation who were inferior to them, and who forgot their precepts and the Declaration of Independence, which my friend seems to despise and dread so much, but which I hold, next to my Bible, as the creed of an American citizen. Forgetting the teachings of those great men and of that great document, they became the propagandists of slavery.
In 1847, as I have stated at former meetings, Mr. Calhoun, as the organ of modern Southern sentiment, introduced into the Senate of the United States resolutions contemplating the nationalizing of slavery and the forcing of it upon the free States. His resolutions were tabled. Mr. Yancey, Calhoun's ablest disciple, at the Democratic Convention held in Baltimore in 1852, introduced a resolution contemplating the same end, viz., the nationalizing of slavery; and though every Congressional district in the Southern States was represented in the Convention, the resolution received but 36 votes. But onward and onward and onward proceeded this movement for the extension of slavery. A system of terrorism was established and practised till the whole South was made pro-slavery, and we in the North seemed to find nothing but slavery in our politics, and were taught by mob violence that it was a crime to speak against it.
Thus you see this war is not between parties, for at the time it broke out, or for ten years before, there was no anti-slavery party in the South. There had been none permitted there. If a man did not profess to believe in slavery, the supporters of that institution drove him out. Did they not send John 0. Underwood from the home of his ancestors in Virginia because he was a free-soil man? Did they not expel from Kentucky John G. Fee and the whole of the little town of pious people to whom he ministered, because they were opposed to slavery? When that poor Irish stonemason Power, while working on the capitol in Columbia, South Carolina, said that every man ought to be paid for his work, did they not tie him to a cart, put a huge slave on each side of him with a whip, and whip him till the blood trickled from his neck to his heels? And did they not then coat bim with tar and sand, and shave his head, and send him North? He was a Democrat who had resided in the First Congressional District of Philadelphia, and voted for Thomas B. Florence and James Buchanan; but that did not save him when he uttered in a slave State the theory that every man who. works is entitled to wages. Have you hot read the stories of the manner in which delicate women from the North, tempted to the South to pursue the avocation of teachers, have been scourged, because there had been found among their papers letters expressing anti-slavery sentiments, or copies of the Independent or some other Northern paper containing something against slavery? You know that there was no anti-slavery party in the South.
The gentleman talks about the suspension of the habeas corpus and the violation of the rights of the individual. Why, if, during the last eight years of Democratic rule, he had gone into any slave community of the South and said, "I believe in the Declaration of Independence; I believe that all men are born free; and have certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," what would have occurred? Would there have been an argument? No; there would have been a hanging. He might have protested that he was a Democrat; that he would not use such language to the slaves, but would simply argue the question among gentlemen, and it would have availed him nothing. They would have hung him, and would have done it deliberately.
This is not, then, I repeat, a war between political parties. Nor is it a war between States. For there were certain parts of the Southern States where slavery did not thrive. It does not thrive among the mountains, it does not thrive in a region where hands cannot be worked in gangs. It is upon the broad savannah, in the rice, the cotton, the tobacco, and the sugar field that slavery thrives. Parts of Maryland, Virginia, and Tennessee are mountainous and full of coal and iron. At the breaking out of this rebellion, the lower, flat, rich eastern part of Maryland was for the rebellion; and the soldiers of Massachusetts were shot in the streets of Baltimore by rebels and secessionists. The western part of that State was at that very time as true to the Union as it is to-day, and elected Governor Frank Thomas, a Union man, to Congress by an almost unanimous vote.
You know the story of East Tennessee better than I can tell it. You know the story of Andrew Johnson, Parson Brownlow, Horace Maynard, and the other devoted Union men of that section. You know how long Brownlow lingered in a felon's cell for adhering to the Union. You know how men were hung to their own roof-trees—murdered in the presence of their pleading wives and daughters, and how yet they clung to the constitution, the country, and the flag. You know, too, that in West Virginia the people adhered to the Union.
And here let me tell you part of what I meant when I said that it was impossible to bring the States back with all their old rights. The people of West Virginia have made a free State. They have come to Congress, and asked to be admitted into the Union, and have been admitted, and they have abolished slavery. There is not one of you who would say that it was wrong to admit a State with territory twice as large as Maryland, and with a population sufficient to send three members to Congress; that it was wrong to readmit them into the Union, because the slave-owning traitors of East Virginia did not want them to be admitted. What! shall we punish loyal men and keep them out of their rights, until the last rebel shall say to us, "We are content; you may take them back?" I am for punishing treason and rewarding loyalty. I want every man throughout the South to see that, if he is a traitor, he runs the risk of death, and that, if he stands by the country or submits to its power, the country will protect him in all his rights.
This free State of West Virginia, the gentleman, under his theory, would extinguish. The Democratic leaders at Chicago would not admit the delegates from that State into their Convention. Those delegates presented themselves to that Convention—because there ' are Democrats even in West Virginia. There are some fools to be found in every community; and though the people of that State have been scourged almost to death, there were some men there who were willing to go to the Democratic Convention. They were, however, kicked away from the door, as though they had been "niggers," because were the Convention to acknowledge West Virginia as a State, it might offend Gen. Robert E. Lee and other distinguished Virginia rebels.
This is not, then, a war between States, because those three States divided—Western Maryland for the Union, Eastern Maryland for the Confederacy; Eastern Tennessee for the Union, Western Tennessee for the Confederacy.; Eastern Virginia for the Confederacy, Western Virginia for the Union. If then it is not a conflict between parties; is not a conflict between States, between whom or what is it'waged? Why, my fellow-citizens, it is a conflict between two orders of civilization: and the weaker order made the war. It is, on the part of the Government, a war in defence of free institutions. It is a war against freedom and the right of the laborer to wages, on the part of the Confederacy, which my friend's arguments so defend that he has constantly to say, "Though I seem to be defending the rebellion, I do not mean to do it." But let me illustrate the truth of my assertion. On the 17th of September, 1856, there was a great Democratic meeting, or convention, as it was called, held in the State House Yard, in the city of Philadelphia, in commemoration of the adoption of the Constitution. That was eight years ago—four years^ before the rebellion began. Among the distinguished speakers at that meeting was Herschel Y. Johnson, of Georgia, who was, in 1848, a Democratic Senator in the Congress of the United States, and who is now a Senator from the State of Georgia, in the Congress of the Confederate States. In addressing that meeting, he said: "The difference between us, gentlemen, is this; you believe it better that capital should hire its labor, while we believe it better that capital should own its labor."
Those brief sentences involve the essential question of this war.
It is from the fact that the Democratic leaders believe that capital ought to own its labor, iihat you are spoken of as "mudsills" and as "greasy mechanics." The Southern leaders of the party despise any man who labors for his living. They have been accustomed to owning men and women, and selling them and their children, in families or apart; and they look with contempt on any man who labors, or who has ever labored. This is, as I have said, a war between two orders of civilization; and so Mr. Herschel Y. Johnson defined it in his incipiency. No free State has gone into the rebellion; and there was no slave State that had not at the beginning of the war a powerful party trying to take it into the rebellion. But for the efforts of General Lyon, Missouri would have been carried out of the Union. Had not General McClellan, by the most arbitrary act ever perpetrated within the limits of our country (and yet, as I have shown, a perfectly justifiable act), arrested the members of the Maryland Legislature when they were about to pass an ordinance of secession, Maryland would have been taken out of the Union. Was it constitutional to seize a whole Legislature and send them to a fort? It was the Democratic candidate for the presidency who did it. He did just what General Jackson would have done, what Douglas has thoroughly vindicated as constitutional, and what every patriot says was right. He saved the country from war with Maryland by sending to a fort the men who were about to pass an ordinance of secession, and giving the "sober second thought" of the people a chance to operate.
Kentucky at the beginning of the war proposed to occupy a position of neutrality. I was with the President of the United States when he received the response of Governor Magoffin, of Kentucky, to his appeal for Kentucky's quota of the seventy-five thousand men with whom to respond to the assault on Fort Sumter. The Governor replied to the President that he should not have a man for such a wicked purpose. That State tried for a while to occupy a position of neutrality. But she is all right now. As a slave State she was more against the Union thau for it. So was every slave State, while every free labor State was unqualifiedly for the Union.
Now let us look somewhat at the characteristics of the conflicting orders of civilization. Our Northern system is characterized by two great features. The first is a system of public education; and the second, a system of laws, by which every man who works is entitled to wages for his work. Thus in Philadelphia we provide out of the common funds for the maintenance of public schools. The gentleman would exclude negroes from the schools in the District of Columbia. Do we exclude them from the public schools of Philadelphia? No, he knows we have fifteen schools for negroes in Philadelphia; and let me ask, by way of parenthesis, whether the gentleman will tell you that he is opposed to their maintenance. Will he tell you that if he had his way, he would shut up those fifteen negro schools and doom the children who attend them to the ignorance of slaves, who are not permitted to learn to read the Lord's prayer? If the gentleman will not tell you this, let him ,not find fault with me * because I have aided in establishing in the capital of our country schools for colored children to enable them to read the Lord's prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Constitution of our country.
Under our Northern system of civilization, as I was saying, we build at the public expense sehool-houses; we provide teachers; we furnish books and stationery, light and fuel. However poor maybe the father or the widowed mother, there is for the child an open school-house and the teacher. "A fool for luck," says the maxim, " and a poor man for children."—Go on my good man. The country wants soldiers : and though you have twenty children, there shall be a desk in the school-house for every one of them. Every child who comes into the commonwealth, whether by birth or emigration, has the right under, our laws to learn to read, and write, and cipher, and though he be the child of the poorest laborer, if he has intellect, and if his parents will simply feed and clothe him, he may win his way into the high school, and through it, may walk out of it, as many a poor ,boy has done, an accomplished scholar ready for the best offices and the highest duties of the land. We propose by our civilization to do for every child what a benevolent man did for an unfortunate bug—a green-backed gold