Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

The development of material prosperity has been proportionate to the increase of population. Broad and beautiful streams open outlets for its products, and supply water-power for its machinery. The Mississippi River, the Illinois River and Canal, and the great Lakes furnish water transportation for its cereals and its beef and pork to southern or eastern tide-water; long lines of railway traverse it in every direction; its prairie soil is of almost exhaustless fertility; vast fields of coal and quarries of stone are hid beneath it; grains and fruits grow in profusion; churches, public schools, academies and colleges give morality and intelligence to its people, and down to the spring of 1861, though there had been disastrous financial revulsions, rto serious check had been given to its prosperity.

From 1850 to 1860 the ratio of increase was, of whites, 101.45 per cent; free colored, 40.32 per cent. Judge Fuller, the able and patriotic Adjutant General, says in his report for 1861-2:

"From a population, in 1850, of 851,470, we had increased to 1,711,951—more than doubling our population in one decade. Our real and personal property, in 1850, valued at $156,265,006, had, in 1860, increased to $871,860,282—being an increase of $715,595,276, or 457.93 per cent. Our improved lands which, in 1850, were but 5,039,545 acres, with an estimated value of $96,133,290, had increased, in 1860, to $13,251,473 acres, with an estimated value of $432,531,072. The two principal staple products of our soil—wheat and corn—had increased in a similar ratio— the former from 9,414,575 bushels, in 1850, to 24,159,500 bushels, in 1860, and the latter from 57,646,984 bushels, in 1850, to 115,296,779 bushels, in 1860. Our magnificent railways, which in 1850 were only 110 miles, costing $1,440,507, had extended in 1860 to 2,867 miles, at a cost of $104,944,561. Nor had the progress of our people been confined to an increase of population and wealth. In every city and town had sprung up, as if by magic, the unmistakable evidences of progress in the arts and sciences. In fact, it could be truly said that, through the enlightened liberality of our citizens, the unfortunate, the poor and the helpless, were provided for and educated, without money and without price."

From its coal mines, which in 1860 had just begun to be fairly worked, were taken 14,158,120 bushels—an aggregate only below the great States of Pennsylvania and Ohio. These are items in a prosperity so great as to be a marvel. A single city had, in thirty years, grown from a small village around an old fort to be the first grain, lumber and beef and pork entrepot of the continent, if not of the world.

In this march to greatness Illinois was not alone, but worthy compeers were her near sisters, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.

BAKER AND BENJAMIN. 35

Young Minnesota was whispering her golden promise, and Missouri was waiting until, free from slavery, she, too, could show how States are made.

In 1861, eame civil war upon a scale of astounding magnitude, destined, if not to suspend, at least to vary, the direction of its prosperity, and the history of the State through this great war demands our attention.

There had been a struggle between the opposite systems of free and slave labor, which had grown into antagonism, extending into literature, religion, politics. Slavery was outgrown by freedom; its old supremacy was being destroyed by the rapid expansion of the Free States, and their growth in material prosperity. Indeed the rebellion was rather against the revelation of the census tables than against the government of any man or party. The friends of slavery demanded that it should be exempted from free discussion, and not only tolerated but fostered. They claimed for it the right to go, under the Constitution, into the Territories of the United States, setting aside the long established principle that it was the creature of local law and could only exist where covered by positive enactments. Said General Quitman, "Slavery requires for its kind devel opment a fostering government over it. It can scarcely exist without such development.'' It was to be accepted as good without question, for to question was to irritate. Said Senator Baker, of Oregon, to Senator Benjamin, of Louisiana, "If we, a free people, really, in our hearts and consciences, believing that freedom is better for everything than slavery, do desire the advance of free sentiments, and do endeavor to assist that advance in a constitutional, legal way, is that ground of separation?" Senator Benjamin: "I say, yes."

As early as 1858, Jefferson Davis, the President of the Southern Confederacy, organized by rebellion, said, in a speech, in Jackson, Mississippi, "If an Abolitionist be chosen President of the United States, you will have presented to you the question of whether you will permit the government to pass into the hands of your avowed and implacable enemies? Without pausing for an answer, I will state my own position to be, that such a result would be a species of revolution, by which the purposes of the government would be destroyed, and the observance of its mere forms entitled to no respect. In that event, in such a manner as should be most expedient, I should deem it your duty to provide for your safety outside of the Union with those who have already shown the will, and would have acquired the power to deprive you of your birthright, and to reduce you to worse than the colonial dependence of your fathers."

The simple fact of the constitutional election, by the people, of a President holding that slavery was wrong, should be deemed occasion of revolt. Mr. Davis subsequently said, in conversation with Colonel Jaques, "We seceded to escape the rule of majorities.*'

In the State of Illinois there was to be a contest which was to have most weighty influence in shaping the pending controversy.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln was put forward as candidate for the seat in the national Senate about to be vacated by the expiration of the term of Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, who was a candidate for re-election. These distinguished gentlemen canvassed the State and met, for joint discussion, at seven prominent places. Never, in the history of American politics, did a discussion so arrest the publio attention, and assume an importance so truly national. Thousands crowded to hear the debates; reporters of the leading newspapers of the Union were in attendance, and the speeches were widely copied. The discussion was termed by a public journal "the battle of the giants." Mr. Douglas secured the State Legislature and his Senatorial seat, and lost the Presidency. Mr. Lincoln, carrying the popular vote of the State, lost, nevertheless, the Legislature, and was defeated for the Senatorship, but the nation had its eye, upon him, and called him to the Presidential chair.

The principal topic of discussion was Slavery and the Territories, Mr. Lincoln insisting that Congress, for the American people, had the right to exclude it, and should do so; Mr. Douglas insisting that each Territory should be left to settle its own domestic institutions in its own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States. Neither assumed the attitude of hostility to slavery, as existing in States already in the Union. Little did those men know that they were consolidating the forces of the Union and making prominent, and more than ever sacred, the doctrine of the majesty of majorities.

In 1860, four candidates for the Presidential chair were before the American people—Stephen A. Douglas, of Illinois; Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois; John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky; and John

NO CAUSE FOR REVOLUTION. 37

Bell, of Tennessee. The contest was one of the most exciting of our history, and resulted in the election of Mr. Lincoln, who received one hundred and eighty electoral votes; Mr. Breckinridge, seventytwo; Mr. Bell, thirty-nine; Mr. Douglas, twelve; Mr. Lincoln's electoral majority being fifty-seven. The popular vote was, for Mr, Lincoln, 1,857,610; Mr. Douglas, 1,365,976; Mr. Breckinridge, 847,953; for Mr. Bell, 590,631. The election of Mr. Lincoln was rendered inevitable by the refusal of the Southern States to submit to the nomination of Mr. Douglas, and the factious nomination of Mr. Breckinridge, of Kentucky.

Early in the campaign came threats of disunion, in the event of Mr. Lincoln's election; the Southern States would secede and form an independent confederacy, on the ground that slavery would be imperiled and Southern institutions destroyed by longer union with Free States. The historian who concedes the right of revolution searches in vain for any reason in justification of so grave a step at that time. Up to the election of Mr. Lincoln there had been no change in the Federal Constitution, affecting the rights of either section of the Republic. No statute had been created by Congress in opposition to a united South, or against which its representatives had voted in a body. No change had been made in the status of slavery, but, in fact, the administration, the legislature, the compromises and the patronage of the government had steadily been in its interest. Its area had been broadened by compromise, purchase and conquest. A law, in the judgment of Northern men, of needless severity and downright barbarity, stood unamended and unrepealed upon the statute books, and was everywhere enforced in the rendition of fugitive slaves. There had been no taxation without representation, but on the contrary, a representation had been given, in the South, to what was claimed as property. There had been no interference with the freedom of the press, of education, of speech, of worship, or of the elective franchise. These statements are conceded by Alexander H. Stephens, one of the most acute minds and wisest statesmen of the South, and though he subsequently went with his State, and has been the second officer of the Confederacy, his words have lost none of their significance. In the convention of Georgia, when secession was being discussed, he arose and said:

"This step [the secession of Georgia] once taken, can never be recalled; and

all the baleful and withering consequences that must follow (as you will see), will rest on the Convention for all coming time. When we and our posterity shall see our lovely South desolated by the demon of war, which this act of yours will inevitably invite and call forth; when our green fields of waving harvests shall be trodden down by the murderous soldiery and fiery car of war sweeping over our land; our temples of justice laid in ashes; all the horrors and desolations of war upon us; who but this Convention will be held responsible for it? and who but him who shall have given his vote for this unwise and ill-timed measure (as I honestly think and believe) shall be held to strict account for this suicidal act, by the present generation, and, probably, cursed and execrated by posterity for all time to come, for the wide and desolating ruin that will inevitably follow this act you now propose to perpetrate?

"Pause, I entreat you, and consider, for a moment, what reasons you can give that will even satisfy yourselves, in calmer moments; what reasons can you give to your fellow-sufferers in the calamity that it will bring upon us? What reasons can you give to the nations of the earth to justify it? They will be the calm and deliberate judges in the case; and to what cause, or one overt act, can you name or point, on which to rest the plea of justification? What right has the North assailed? What interest of the South has been invaded? What justice has been denied? and what claim, founded in justice and right, has been withheld? Can either of you, to-day, name one governmental act of wrong, deliberately and purposely done by the government, of which the South has a right to complain? I challenge the answer! While, on the other hand, let me show the facts (and, believe me, gentlemen, I am not here the advocate of the North, but I am here the friend, the firm friend and lover of the South and her institutions, and for that reason t speak thus plainly and faithfully, for yours, mine> and every other man's interest, the words of truth and soberness), of which I wish you to judge, and I will only state facts which are clear and undeniable, and which now stand as records authentic in the history of our country.

"When we of the South demanded the slave-trade, or the importation of Africans for the cultivation of our lands, did they not yield the right for twenty years? When we asked a three-fifth representation in Congress for our slaves, was it not granted? When we asked and demanded the return of any fugitive from justice, or the recovery of those persons owing labor or allegiance, was it not incorporated in the constitution? and again ratified and strengthened in the Fugitive Slave Law of 1840?

"But, do you reply, that in many instances they have violated this compact, and have not been faithful to their engagements? As individuals and local communities they may have done so, but not by the sanction of government, for that has always been true to Southern interests. Again, gentlemen, look at another fact: When we have asked that more territory should be added, that we might spread the institution of slavery, have they not yielded to our demands, in giving us Louisiana, Florida and Texas, out of which four States have been carved, and ample territory to be added in due time, if you, by this unwise and impolitic act, do not destroy this

« AnteriorContinuar »