American Abolitionists and Antislavery Activists:
Conscience of the Nation

Updated April 4, 2021

l to r: Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips

Encyclopedia of Slavery and Abolition in the United States - P


Chapter: “Demand for the Recognition of Property in Slaves,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:

Another case involving this idea of property in man was that of Antonio Pacheco, who presented in 1848 a petition to Congress for the loss of the slave Lewis, whom he had let to Major Dade as a guide, who had been captured by the Indians, surrendered to General Jessup, and sent west of the Mississippi. It appeared from the testimony of General Jessup that Lewis was a man of extraordinary talents, who had kept up a correspondence with the Seminoles, and had been sent west as “a dangerous man." The petition was referred to the Committee on Military Affairs, Mr. Burt of South Carolina being chairman; and a bill was reported in accordance with the prayer of the petitioner. Mr. Dickey of Pennsylvania, assisted by Mr. Giddings, drew up an adverse report. At the meeting of the committee the four Democratic members signed the report of the chairman; and Marvin of New York, Wilson of New Hampshire, and Fisher of Ohio signed that of Mr. Dickey. The majority held that slaves were property; and the minority contended that “one man could not hold property in another." No action, however, was taken.

Coming up at the next session, Mr. Dickey and Mr. Wilson of New Hampshire spoke against it, while Mr. Brown of Mississippi and Mr. Cabell of Florida followed on the other side. Mr. Burt closed the debate with the assertion that the simple question involved in the bill is, Are slaves property? The motion to lay it on the table was rejected by nineteen majority. Mr. Giddings moved a reconsideration, in support of which he made a very able speech, accepting the issue tendered by Mr. Burt, and boldly enunciating the doctrines -of · human rights. . By a mistake of the clerk it appeared that the casting vote of the Speaker would be necessary, which would have been cast against the bill. Subsequently, however, it I appeared that one vote had not been counted, and the bill was lost by that majority. A reconsideration was moved and carried, and the bill was passed by a majority of six. By that majority the House of Representatives declared that slaves were property; but the bill was not acted upon by the Senate, and it failed of becoming a law.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 543-544.


PADELFORD, Seth, 1807-1878, political leader, statesman, abolitionist.  31st Governor of Rhode Island.  Worked with New England Emigrant Aid Society, which aided anti-slavery settlers in Kansas.  Member of Republican Party.  Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island, 1863-1865, Governor in 1869-1873.


PAINE, Thomas, 1737-1809, founding father printer, author, statesman, abolitionist.  Wrote Slavery in America (1775), Common Sense (1776) and The Rights of Man (1791).  Member of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society.  Drafted gradual aboltion law in Pennsylvania.  “But to go to nations with whom there is no war, who have no way provoked, without farther design of conquest, purely to catch inoffensive people, like wild beasts, for slaves, is an height of outrage against Humanity and Justice, that seems left by Heathen nations to be practiced by pretended Christians…  As these people are not convicted of forfeiting freedom, they have still a natural, perfect right to it; and the Governments, whenever they come, should in justice set them free, and punish those who hold them in slavery…  Certainly one may, with as much reason and decency, plead for murder, robbery, lewdness, and barbarity as for this practice.”

(American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 16, p. 925; Appletons’, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 631-632; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 159; Hinks, Peter P., & John R. McKivigan, Eds., Encyclopedia of Antislavery and Abolition.  Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood, 2007, Vol. 2, pp. 519-520; Davis, 1975; Dumond, 1961, p. 19; Nash, 1991; Soderlund, 1985)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PAINE, Thomas, b. in Thetford, Norfolk, England, 29 Jan., 1737; d. in New York, 8 June, 1809. His father, a Quaker, was a stay-maker, and Paine was brought up to the trade. He left home before reaching his majority, and went to London, but soon moved to Sandwich, where he married the daughter of an exciseman and entered the excise service. On the death of his wife, who lived but a year, he returned to London, and, after teaching, re-entered the excise service, in which he remained for some years, employing some of his leisure time in writing prose and verse and preaching from dissenting pulpits. He was selected by his official associates to embody in a paper their complaints and desires regarding the management of the excise; and on this work he displayed such ability as a writer that Benjamin Franklin, then the Pennsylvania colony's agent at London, suggested that America would be a more satisfactory field for the exercise of his special abilities. Naturally a republican and radical, and so persistent a critic of England's government and political customs that he seemed almost to hate his native land, Paine came to this country in 1774, and, through letters from Franklin, at once found work for his pen. Within a year he became editor of the “Pennsylvania Magazine,” and in the same year contributed to Bradford's “Pennsylvania Journal” a strong anti-slavery essay. The literary work that gave him greatest prominence, and probably has had more influence than all his other writings combined, was “Common Sense,” a pamphlet published early in 1776, advocating absolute independence from the mother country. In this little book appeared all the arguments that had been made in favor of separation, each being stated with great clearness and force, yet with such simplicity as to bring them within the comprehension of all classes of readers. The effect of this pamphlet was so powerful, instantaneous, and general that the Pennsylvania legislature voted Paine £500, the university of the state conferred upon him the degree of M. A., and the Philosophical society admitted him to membership. “Common Sense” soon appeared in Europe in different languages, and is still frequently quoted by republicans in European nations. His “Crisis,” which appeared at irregular intervals during the war for independence, was also of great service to the patriot cause; the first number, published in the winter of 1776, was read, by Washington's order, to each regiment and detachment in the service, and did much to relieve the despondency that was general in the army at that time. It has frequently been asserted that Paine was the author of the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, but the evidence offered is far from conclusive. After serving a short time in the army as aide to Gen. Nathanael Greene, he became secretary of the congressional committee on foreign affairs, and losing this place in 1779, through charges against Silas Deane, commissioner to France, he became clerk of the Pennsylvania legislature. While holding this place Paine made an urgent appeal to the people in behalf of the army, which was in extreme destitution and distress, and he proved his earnestness by subscribing his entire salary for the year to the fund that was raised. In 1781 he was associated with Col. Laurens in the successful effort to obtain loans from France and Holland. The nation was profoundly grateful for Paine's services, and endeavored to reward him. Soon after peace was declared congress voted him $3,000, the state of New York gave him a large farm in Westchester county, and Pennsylvania again made him clerk of her legislature. 

The close of the war deprived him for a time of the intense mental stimulus that seemed necessary to his pen, and he turned his attention to mechanics, one of his inventions being an iron bridge, which he endeavored, in 1787, to introduce in Europe. Reaching France during the revolutionary period, he published, under an assumed name, a pamphlet advocating the abolition of royalty. In 1791 he published in England his “Rights of Man,” in reply to Burke's “Reflections on the French Revolution.” For this he was outlawed by the court of king's bench, in spite of an able defence by Lord Erskine. Escaping from England, he went to France, where he was received as a hero and elected a member of the National convention. His republicanism, however, was not extreme enough to please the Jacobins; he opposed the beheading of the king, urging that Louis should be banished to America. The Jacobins finally expelled him from the convention on the ground that he was a foreigner, although he had become a French citizen by naturalization, and Robespierre had him thrown into the Luxembourg prison, where he spent nearly a year in anticipation of the guillotine. Released finally through the efforts of James Monroe, American minister to France, he resumed his seat in the convention, and gave lasting offence to the people of the United States by writing an abusive letter to President Washington, whom he accused of not endeavoring to secure his release from prison. He also alienated most of his American friends and admirers who were religiously inclined by his “Age of Reason” (2 parts, London and Paris, 1794-'5), an attack upon the Bible, written partly while he was in the Luxembourg prison. Six years later, however, when he returned to the United States, he still stood so high in public esteem that President Jefferson allowed him, at his own request, to be brought home by an American sloop-of-war, and he was favorably received in society. He took no active part in politics after his return, and it is generally admitted that intemperance and other vices had weakened his mental abilities. In 1809 he died in New York, and by his own direction was buried on his farm at New Rochelle, where he had spent most of the seven last years of his life. A few years later William Cobbett, the English radical, removed Paine's bones to England, with the hope of increasing enthusiasm for the republican ideas of which Paine was still the favorite exemplar in print; but the movement did not produce the desired effect, and it is believed that the remains found their final resting-place in France. The monument for which Paine provided in his will still stands over his first grave, beside the road from New Rochelle to White Plains. 

In addition to the books that made him prominent as a republican, patriot, and unbeliever, Paine wrote many pamphlets, some published anonymously. Most of them were on political topics of the time; but he also wrote largely on economics and applied science. Among his later works were suggestions on the building of war-ships, iron bridges, the treatment of yellow fever, Great Britain's financial system, and the principles of government; he also formulated and published a plan by which governments should impose a special tax on all estates, at the owner's death, for the creation and maintenance of a fund from which all persons, on reaching twenty-one years, should receive a sum sufficient to establish them in business, and by which all in the decline of life should be saved from destitution. 

Few men not occupying his official or ecclesiastical position have been as widely known as Paine, or subjects of opinions so contradictory. Abhorrence of his anti-religious writings has made many critics endeavor to belittle his ability and attribute his “Common Sense,” “Crisis,” and “Rights of Man” to the inspiration of other minds. It is known that “Common Sense” was written at the suggestion of the noted Dr. Benjamin Rush, of Philadelphia. But beyond doubt Washington, Franklin, and all other prominent men of the Revolutionary period gave Paine the sole credit for everything that came from his pen, and regarded his services to the patriot cause as of very high and enduring quality. His “Rights of Man,” if the undenied statement as to its circulation (a million and a half copies) is correct, was more largely read in England and France than any other political work ever published. His “Age of Reason,” although very weak as an attack upon the Scriptures, when compared with some of the later criticisms of the German school, and even of some followers of Bishop Colenso, was so dreaded in its day that more than twenty replies, by as many famous divines, quickly appeared; among these was Bishop Watson's famous “Apology for the Bible.” Many of Paine's later acquaintances believed that the author of the “Age of Reason” was not proud of his most berated book. Paine admitted, on his return to this country, that he regretted having published the work, for, while he did not disavow any of the contents, he had become convinced that it could do no good and might do much harm. It is known that Benjamin Franklin, himself a doubter, counselled Paine not to publish the “Age of Reason,” saying: “Burn this piece before it is seen by any other person, whereby you will save yourself a good deal of mortification from the enemies it may raise you, and perhaps a good deal of regret and repentance.” The fault of the book was not merely that it questioned cherished religious beliefs, but that it attacked them with invective and scurrility of a low order. Paine's apologists plead in extenuation that much of the book was written in prison, under circumstances that destroyed the faith of thousands more religious than the author of the “Age of Reason” It must be noted that Paine never was an atheist; born a Quaker, and roaming through the various fields of dissent from the established faith, he always believed in the existence of a God, and had high and unselfish ideals of the Christian virtues. Men who died not many years ago remembered that in the last few years of his life Paine frequently preached on Sunday afternoons in a grove at New Rochelle, and that his sermons were generally earnest and unobjectionable homilies. By nature Paine was a special pleader, and neither education nor experience ever modified his natural bent. He was a thinker of some merit, but had not enough patience, continuity, or judicial quality to study any subject thoroughly. Whatever conscience he possessed was generally overborne by the impulse of a strong nature that never had practised self-control. He; lacked even the restraint of family influence; his first wife lived but a short time, from his second wife he soon separated, an irregular attachment to the wife of a Paris publisher did not improve his character, and he had no children nor any relative in this country. Although affectionate and generous, he was so self-willed and arrogant that none of his friendships could be lasting after they became close. Between improvidence and the irregularities of his life he frequently fell into distresses that embittered his spirit and separated him from men who admired his abilities and desired to befriend him. In spite of his faults, however, the sincerity of his devotion to the cause of liberty cannot be doubted, nor can the magnitude of his service to the United States be diminished. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 631-632.


PALFREY, John Gorham, 1796-1881, author, theologian, educator, opponent of slavery.  Member of Congress from Massachusetts from 1847-1849 (Whig Party).  Early anti-slavery activist.  Palfrey was known as a “Conscience Whig” who adamantly opposed slavery.  He freed 16 slaves whom he inherited from his father, who was a Louisiana plantation owner.  While in Congress, Palfrey was a member of a small group of anti-slavery Congressmen, which included Joshua Giddings, of Ohio, Amos Tuck, of New Hampshire, Daniel Gott, of New York, David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, and Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois.  In 1848, Palfrey failed to be reelected because of his anti-slavery views.  In 1851, he was an unsuccessful Free Soil candidate for the office of Governor in Massachusetts. 

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 634; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 169; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 16, p. 932)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PALFREY, John Gorham, author, b. in Boston, Mass., 2 May, 1796; d. in Cambridge, Mass., 26 April, 1881, received his elementary education at a boarding-school kept by the father of John Howard Payne at Exeter, and was graduated at Harvard in 1815. He afterward studied theology, and was ordained pastor of the Brattle street Unitarian church, Boston, 17 June, 1818, as successor to Edward Everett. His pastorate continued until 1830, when he resigned, and in 1831 he was appointed professor of sacred literature in Harvard, which chair he held till 1839. During the period of his professorship he was one of three preachers in the University chapel, and dean of the theological faculty. He was a member of the house of representatives during 1842-'3, secretary of state in 1844-'8, and was a member of congress from Massachusetts, having been chosen as a Whig, from 6 Dec., 1847, till 3 March, 1849. In the election of 1848 he was a Free-soil candidate, but was defeated. He was postmaster of Boston from 29 March, 1861, till May, 1867, and after his retirement went to Europe, where he represented the United States at the Anti-slavery congress in Paris in the autumn of 1867. After his return he made his residence in Cambridge. He was an early anti-slavery advocate, and liberated and provided for numerous slaves in Louisiana that had been bequeathed to him. He was editor of the “North American Review” in 1835-'43, delivered a course of lectures before the Lowell institute in Boston in 1839 and 1842, contributed in 1846 a series of articles on “The Progress of the Slave Power” to the “Boston Whig,” and was in 1851 one of the editors of the “Commonwealth” newspaper. He was the author of two discourses on “The History of Brattle Street Church”; “Life of Col. William Palfrey,” in Sparks's “American Biography”; “A Review of Lord Mahon's History of England,” in the “North American Review “; and also published, among other works, “Academical Lectures on the Jewish Scriptures and Antiquities” (4 vols., Boston, 1833- '52), “Elements of Chaldee, Syriac, Samaritan, and Rabbinical Grammar” (1835); “Discourse at Barnstable, 3 Sept., 1839, at the Celebration of the Second Centennial Anniversary of the Settlement of Cape Cod” (1840); “Abstract of the Returns of Insurance Companies of Massachusetts, 1 Dec., 1846” ( 1847); “The Relation between Judaism and Christianity” (1854); and “History of New England to 1875” (4 vols., 1858-'64). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 634.


PARKER, John P., 1827-1900, African American, former slave, abolitionist, businessman.  Born a slave.  Bought his freedom.  Worked in aiding fugitive slaves from Kentucky in the Cincinnati area.  May have helped more than 1,000 fugitive slaves.  Recruited volunteers for the U.S. Colored Regiment.  Wrote autobiography, His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John P. Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad.

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 8, p. 592; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 17, p. 36; Hinks, Peter P., & John R. McKivigan, Eds., Encyclopedia of Antislavery and Abolition.  Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood, 2007, Vol. 2, pp. 522-523; Gara, 1961; Griftler, 2004; Hagendorn, 2002; Horton, 1997)


PARKER, Jonathan, Member of Congress from Virginia.  Opposed slavery as member of U.S. House of Representatives.

(Locke, 1901, pp. 93, 138f, 139; Annals of Congress)


PARKER, Josiah, 1751-1810, Virginia, Revolutionary War soldier, politician, Member of the first Congress.  Supported citizens’ right to petition Congress against slavery.  Called slavery “a practice so nefarious.”  Voted against the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. 

(Dumond, 1961, p. 54; Annals of Congress, 1 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 1230; 2 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 861; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 234)


PARKER, Reverend Theodore, 1810-1860, Boston, Massachusetts, Unitarian clergyman, author, abolitionist leader, reformer.  Secretly supported radical abolitionist John Brown, and his raid on the U.S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, (West) Virginia, on October 16, 1859.  Opposed Fugitive Slave Act.  Organizer, Committee of Vigilance to help fugitive slaves escape captured in Boston, Massachusetts.  Wrote anti-slavery book, To a Southern Slaveholder, in 1848.  Also wrote Defense.  Supported the New England Emigrant Aid Society and the Massachusetts Kansas Committee.  Member of the Secret Six group that clandestinely aided radical abolitionist John Brown. 

(Chadwick, 1900; Dirks, 1948; Drake, 1950, p. 176; Filler, 1960, pp. 6, 94, 126, 140, 141, 184, 204, 214, 239, 241, 268; Mabee, 1970, pp. 13, 82, 233, 253, 254, 256, 273, 302, 309, 316, 318, 320, 321; Pease, 1965, pp. 654, 656; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 207, 289, 327, 337, 338, 478; Sernett, 2002, pp. 69, 205, 211, 213; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 654-655; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 238; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 17, p. 43; Commager, Henry S. Theodore Parker. 1947.)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PARKER, Theodore, clergyman, b. in Lexington, Mass., 24 Aug., 1810; d. in Florence, Italy, 10 May, 1860. His grandfather, Capt. John Parker, commanded the company of minute-men that were fired on by the British troops on 19 April, 1775. Theodore was the youngest of eleven children. From the father, a Unitarian and Federalist, he inherited independence of mind, courage, and Jove of speculation; from his mother, depth of religious feeling. The family were poor, and the boy was brought up to labor on the farm. At the age of six he was sent to the district school, which was then taught by young students from Harvard. The instruction was never systematic, quite rudimental, and very meagre, but the boy's thirst for knowledge overcame all obstacles. At eight he had read translations of Horner and Plutarch, together with such other works in prose and verse as were accessible, including Rollin's “Ancient History.” At the age of sixteen he was allowed to go to a school at Lexington for one quarter, an expensive indulgence, costing four dollars. Here he began algebra, and extended his knowledge of Latin and Greek. At the age of seventeen he taught himself. No school could give him enough. He studied all the time, and remembered all he learned, for his memory was as amazing as his hunger for acquisition. This year militia duties were added, and Theodore threw himself into these with his usual ardor, rose to rank in his company, and learned how to fight. All the time he was the light of his home, charming among his mates, exuberant, joyous, a pure, natural boy in all his instincts. One day in August, 1830, having obtained leave of absence from his father, he walked to Cambridge, was examined, admitted, walked back, and told his unsuspecting father, then in bed, that he had entered Harvard college. For a year he stayed at home and worked on the farm, but kept up with his class, and went to Cambridge only to be examined. Under these circumstances he could not obtain his bachelor's degree, and that of A. M. was conferred on him as a mark of honor in 1840. In March, 1831, he became assistant teacher in a private school in Boston, and toiled ten hours a day. In 1832 he undertook a private school at Watertown. There he remained ten years, becoming intimate with Convers Francis, the large-minded Unitarian minister there, reading his books, teaching in his Sunday-school with Lydia Cabot, whom he afterward married, and working his way toward the ministry. While in Watertown he read Cicero, Herodotus, Thucydides, Pindar, Theocritus, Bion, Moschus, and Æschylus; wrote a history of the Jews for his Sunday-school class, studied French metaphysics, began Hebrew in Charlestown, whither he walked on Saturdays to meet Mr. Seixas, a Jew, and began the pursuit of theology. In 1834 he went to the divinity-school, and his religious feeling took a conservative turn at that time. He seemed rather over-weighted with erudition, though by no means dry. His first venture in preaching was at Watertown from the pulpit of his friend, Mr. Francis. Then followed a period of “candidating” at Barnstable, Concord, Waltham, Leominster, and elsewhere. In June, 1837, he was ordained as minister at West Roxbury. This was a season of study, friendship, social intercourse, intellectual companionship, solid achievement in thought, unconscious preparation for the work he was to do. Here he gradually became known as an iconoclast. He was at West Roxbury about seven years, until February, 1845. During that time the Unitarian controversy was begun, the overworked student had passed a year in Europe, examining, meditating, resolving, clearing his purpose, and making sure of his calling, and the future career of the “heresiarch” was pretty well marked out. In January, 1845, a small company of gentlemen met and passed a resolution “that the Rev. Theodore Parker shall have a chance to be heard in Boston.” This was the beginning of the ministry at the Melodeon, which began formally in December. In that month an invitation from Boston—a society having been formed—was accepted. On 3 Jan., 1846, a letter resigning the charge at West Roxbury was written, and the installation took place the next day. The preaching at the Melodeon had been most successful, and it remained only to withdraw entirely, as he had in part, from his old parish, and to reside in the city. The ministrations at the Melodeon lasted about seven years, until 21 Nov., 1852, when the society took possession of the Music hall, then just completed. Here his fame culminated. He had met, at Brook Farm, which lay close to him at West Roxbury, the finest, most cultivated, most ardent intellects of the day; he had made the acquaintance of delightful people; he bad studied and talked a great deal; he had been brought face to face with practical problems of society. He was independent of sectarian bonds, he stood alone, he could bring his forces to bear without fear of wounding souls belonging to the regular Unitarian communion, and he was thoroughly imbued with the modern spirit. His work ran very swiftly. No doubt he was helped by the reform movements of the time, the love of poverty played its part, the natural sympathy with an outcast centred on him, the passion for controversy drew many, and the heretics saw their opportunity. But all these combined will not explain his success. True, he had no grace of person, no beauty of feature, no charm of expression, no music of voice, no power of gesture; his clear, steady, penetrating, blue eye was concealed by glasses. Still, notwithstanding these disadvantages, his intensity of conviction, his mass of knowledge, his warmth and breadth of feeling, his picturesqueness of language, his frankness of avowal, fascinated young and old. He had no secrets. He was ready for any emergency. He shrank from no toil. His interest in the people was genuine, hearty, and disinterested. He aimed constantly at the elevation of his kind through religion, morality, and education. He was interested in everything that concerned social advancement. Peace, temperance, the claims of morals, the treatment of animosity, poverty, and the rights of labor, engaged his thought. He did not neglect spiritualism or socialism, but devoted to these subjects a vast deal of consideration. Mr. Parker's interest in slavery began early. In 1841 he delivered a sermon on the subject, which was published, but it was not until 1845 that his share in the matter became engrossing. Then slavery became prominent in National politics, and menaced seriously republican institutions; then men began to talk of the “slave power.” Wendell Phillips somewhere tells of Theodore's first alliance with the Abolitionists, not in theory, for he did not agree with their policy, but in opposition to the prevailing sentiment. It was at the close of a long convention. There had been hard work. Phillips had been among the speakers, Parker among the listeners. As they left the hall, the latter joined him, took his arm, and said: '”Henceforth you may consider my presence by your side.” And faithfully he kept his promise. Probably no one—not Garrison, not Phillips himself—did more to awaken and enlighten the conscience of the north. By speeches, sermons, letters, tracts, and lectures he scattered abroad republican ideas. As a critic of pro-slavery champions, as a shielder of fugitives, as an encourager of fainting hearts, he was felt as a warrior. His labors were incessant and prodigious. He was preacher, pastor, visitor among the poor, the downtrodden, and the guilty; writer, platform speaker, lyceum lecturer, and always an omnivorous reader. His lecturing engagements numbered sometimes seventy or eighty in a season. In 1849 he established the “Massachusetts Quarterly Review,” a worthy successor of the “Dial,” but more muscular and practical—“a tremendous journal, with ability in its arms and piety in its heart.” The editorship was pressed upon Ralph Waldo Emerson and Charles Sumner, but devolved at last on Parker, who was obliged also to write many of the articles, as his contributors failed him. The “Quarterly,” thanks to him, lived three years, and died at length quite as much through the stress of political exigency as through the want of support, though that was insufficient. The fugitive-slave bill was passed in 1850, and entailed a vast deal of toil and excitement. He took more than one man's share of both, was a leader of the committee of vigilance, planned escapes, and entertained runaway slaves. During the fearful agitations incident to the escape of William and Ellen Craft, the chase after Shadrach, the return of Sims, and the surrender of Burns, his energies were unintermitting. Then came the struggle with the slave-holders in the west, when John Brown came to the front, in which he bore an active part, being an early friend and helper of the hero of Ossawattomie. But for extraordinary strength in youth, a buoyant temperament, love of fun and jest, fondness for work, moderation in eating and drinking, sufficient sleep, exercise in the open air, and capacity for natural enjoyment, such excessive labor must have exhausted even his vitality. These supported him, and but for an unfortunate experience he might have lived to an old age. Indeed, he expected to do so. He used to say that if he safely passed forty-nine he should live to be eighty. But he inherited a tendency to consumption. In the winter of 1857, during a lecturing tour through central New York, he took a severe cold, which finally, in spite of all his friends could do, settled upon his lungs. On the morning of 9 Jan., 1859, he had an attack of bleeding at the lungs. At once he was taken to Santa Cruz, and in May he left the island for Southampton. The summer was spent in Switzerland, and in the autumn he went to Rome. The season being wet, he steadily lost ground, and could with difficulty reach Florence where he died. He lies in the Protestant cemetery there. (See illustration.)  Theodore Parker's system was simple. It was, so far as it was worked out, theism based on transcendental principles. The belief in God and the belief in the immortality of the soul were cardinal with him; all else in the domain of speculative theology he was ready to let go. He followed criticism up to this line; there he stood stoutly for the defence. He was a deeply religious man, but he was not a Christian believer. He regarded himself as a teacher of new ideas, and said that the faith of the next thousand years would be essentially like his. It is sometimes said that Parker was simply a deist; but they who say this must take into account the strong sweep of his personal aspiration, the weight of his convictions, his devotion to humanity, the enormous volume of his feelings. There is no deist whom he even remotely resembled. Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke, Hobbes, Hume, suggest oppositions only. Parker affirmed and denied merely in order to make his affirmation more clear. He was a great believer, less a thinker than a doer. His bulky resources were so much fuel to his flame. His sympathies were all modern; he looked constantly forward, and was prevented only by his plain, common sense from accepting every scheme of his generation that wore a hopeful aspect. But he saw the weak points in reforms that he himself aided. He criticised women while working for their elevation, and laughed at negroes while toiling against their bondage. He was not aesthetic, and had no taste in painting, sculpture, music, poetry, or the delicacies of literature. He knew about them as he knew about everything, but his power was moral and religious, and it was inseparable from his temperament, which was human and practical on the side of social experiment. He bequeathed his library of 13,000 volumes to the Boston public library. He was a prolific author, publishing books, pamphlets, sermons, essays without number, but never with a literary, always with a philanthropic, intention. His publications include “Miscellaneous Writings” (Boston, 1843); “Sermons on Theism, Atheism, and Popular Theology” (1852); “Occasional Sermons and Speeches” (2 vols., 1852); “Additional Speeches and Addresses” (2 vols., 1855); “Trial of Theodore Parker for the Misdemeanor of a Speech in Faneuil Hall against Kidnapping,” a defence that he had prepared to deliver in case he should be tried for his part in the Anthony Burns case (1855); and “Experience as a Minister.” His “Discourse on Matters pertaining to Religion” (1842) still presents the best example of his theological method; his “Ten Sermons of Religion” (1853) the best summary of results. His complete works were edited by Frances Power Cobbe (12 vols., London, 1863-'5); (10 vols., Boston, 1870). A volume of “Prayers” was issued in 1862, and one entitled “Historic Americans” in 1870. It included discourses on Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. “Lessons from the World of Matter and the World of Mind,” selected from notes of his unpublished sermons, by Rufus Leighton, was edited by Frances P. Cobbe (London, 1865). See also “Théodore Parker sa vie et ses oeuvres,” by Albert Réville (Paris, 1865). On the death of Mrs. Parker in 1880, Franklin B. Sanborn was made literary executor, and he, it is said, intends to issue some new material. Mr. Parker's life has been presented several times; most comprehensively by John Weiss (2 vols., New York, 1864), and by Octavius B. Frothingham (Boston, 1874). Studies of him have been made in French and English. There is a fragment of autobiography and innumerable references to him as the founder of a new school in theology. There are busts of Parker by William W. Story and Robert Hart.  Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 654-655.


PARRISH, John, 1729-1807, preacher, Society of Friends, Quaker, anti-slavery activist.  Wrote Remarks on the Slavery of Black People (1806), in which he said:  “I am no politician, but it is clear that the fundamentals of all good governments, being equal liberty and impartial justice, the constitution and laws ought to be expressed in such unequivocal terms as not to be misunderstood, or admit of double meaning…  A house divided against itself cannot stand; neither can a government or constitution.”

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 659; Bruns, 1977, p. 470; Dumond, 1961; Locke, 1901, pp. 65, 132, 173, 175-177)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PARRISH, John, preacher, b. in Baltimore county, Md., 7 Nov., 1729; d. in Baltimore, Md., 21 Oct., 1807. He was a member of the Society of Friends, and followed Anthony Benezet in pleading the cause of the African race. He published “Remarks on the Slavery of the Black People” (Philadelphia, 1806).     Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 659.


PASTORIUS, Francis Daniel, 1651- c. 1720, lawyer, poet, scholar, educator, opponent of slavery.  Founder of Germantown, Pennsylvania.  In 1688, signed the Germantown Quaker Petition against slavery.

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 668-669; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 290)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PASTORIUS, Francis Daniel, colonist, b. in Sommerhausen, Franconia, Germany, 26 Sept., 1651; d. in Germantown, Pa., 27 Sept., 1719. He was the son of a judge of Windsheim, educated in the classical and modern languages, and all the science of his age, and had entered upon the practice of law, when, having joined the sect of Pietists, he concerted with some of his co-religionists a plan for emigrating to Pennsylvania. They purchased 25,000 acres, but abandoned the intention of colonizing the land themselves. Pastorius, their agent, had formed the acquaintance of William Penn in England, and became a convert to the Quaker doctrines. He was engaged by his associates, who in 1686 organized as the Frankfort land-company, and by some merchants of Crefeld, who had secured 15,000 acres, to conduct a colony of German and Dutch Mennonites and Quakers to Pennsylvania. He arrived on 20 June, 1683, and on 24 Oct. began to lay out Germantown. He was until his death a man of influence among the colonists, was its first bailiff, and devised the town-seal, which consisted of a clover on one of whose leaves was a vine, another a stalk of flax, and the third a weaver's spool with the motto “Vinum, Linum, et Textrium.” In 1687 he was elected a member of the assembly. In 1688 he was one of the signers of a protest to the Friends' yearly meeting at Burlington against buying and selling slaves, or holding men in slavery, which was declared to be “an act irreconcilable with the precepts of the Christian religion.” This protest began the struggle against that institution in this country, and is the subject of John G. Whittier's poem, “The Pennsylvania Pilgrim.” For many years he taught in Germantown and Philadelphia, and many of the deeds and letters required by the German settlers were written by him. He published a pamphlet, consisting in part of letters to his father, and containing a description of the commonwealth and its government, and advice to emigrants, entitled “Umständige geographische Beschreibung der allerletzt erfundenen Provintz Pennsylvaniae” (Frankfort-on-Main, 1700). Several volumes were left by him in manuscript, containing philosophical reflections, poems, and notes on theological, medical, and legal subjects. His Latin prologue to the Germantown book of records has been translated by Whittier in the ode beginning “Hail to Posterity.” Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 668-669.


PATTON, William Weston, 1821-1889, South Boston, Massachusetts, theologian, educator, author, college president, abolitionist, anti-slavery activist.  Massachusetts Abolition Society, Executive Committee, 1845-46.  On September 3, 1862, petitioned Lincoln to issue a proclamation of emancipation.  President of Howard University, 1877-1889. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 677-678)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PATTON, William Weston, clergyman, b. in New York city, 19 Oct., 1821, was graduated at the University of the city of New York in 1839 and at the Union theological seminary in 1842. After taking charge of a Congregational church in Boston, Mass., for three years, he became pastor of one in Hartford, Conn., in 1846, and in Chicago, Ill., in 1857. From 1867 till 1872 he was editor of “The Advance” in that city, and during 1874 he was lecturer on modern skepticism at Oberlin, Ohio, and Chicago theological seminaries, since which time he has been president of Howard university, Washington, D. C., filling the chair of natural theology and evidences of Christianity in its theological department. He took an earnest part in the anti-slavery movement, and was chairman of the committee that presented to President Lincoln, 13 Sept., 1862, the memorial from Chicago asking him to issue a proclamation of emancipation. He was vice-president of the Northwestern sanitary commission during the civil war, and as such repeatedly visited the eastern and western armies, publishing several pamphlet reports. In 1886 he went, on behalf of the freedmen, to Europe, where, and in the Orient, he remained nearly a year. He received the degree of D. D. from Asbury (now De Pauw) university, Ind., in 1864, and that of LL. D. from the University of the citv of New York in 1882. He is the author of “The Young Man” (Hartford, 1847; republished as “The Young Man's Friend,” Auburn. N. Y., 1850); “Conscience and Law” (New York, 1850); “Slavery and Infidelity” (Cincinnati, 1856); “Spiritual Victory” (Boston, 1874); and “Prayer and its Remarkable Answers” (Chicago, 1875).   Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 677-678.



Chapter: “Peace Congress,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1878:

The increasing excitement and growing intensity of feeling which pervaded the country, preceding, producing, and resulting from the election of Mr. Lincoln, suggested the idea and created in the minds of many a desire for general conference and mutual consultation. It was hoped, by many conservative men of both sections, that by such formal comparison of views and mutual concessions some further compromise might be secured, and some common ground on which all might stand could be discovered. Virginia took the lead. In February, 1861, her legislature adopted a series of resolutions, in which was expressed the opinion that, unless the unhappy controversy could be " satisfactorily adjusted," a permanent dissolution of the Union is inevitable, and " the determination to make a final effort " to prevent it, and thus " restore the Union and Constitution in the spirit in which they were established by the fathers of the Republic." For this purpose it extended an invitation to all the States to unite with her in an effort for the adjustment of " the present unhappy controversy," and for securing " to the people of the slaveholding States adequate guaranties for the security of their rights," and to send delegates to a meeting to be held in Washington on the fourth day of the February following.

Shadowing forth its purpose in calling such a conference, not to use a harsher phrase, it further resolved that if it should agree upon any plan of adjustment requiring amendments of the Constitution, it should submit such amendments to Congress ; and that if the latter should " fail to agree upon such amendments, or if, agreeing, it should refuse to adopt them, then that result should be communicated to the governor of Virginia, to be by him laid before the convention of the people and the General Assembly." To render more sure its wish and purpose, it expressed the opinion that what were called the Crittenden resolutions, modified by the insertion of a guaranty for the protection of slavery in Territories south of 36 30', and of slave property in transit through the free States, should be the basis of the proposed adjustment. It appointed ex-President Tyler a commissioner to wait upon the President, and Judge John Robinson a commissioner to urge upon South Carolina and the seceded States to " agree to abstain pending the proceedings contemplated by the action of this General Assembly, from any and all acts calculated to produce a collision of arms between the States and the government of the United States."

To this invitation of Virginia twenty-two States responded, though commissioners were not appointed without much op position in some of the Northern States. Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, and Oregon were not represented, which South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana, having already seceded, had no voice in the deliberations of the body.

Beside their delegations, several States sent an expression of opinion upon the exigencies of the occasion, and the measures demanded thereby. The resolutions of Kentucky were in substance like those of Virginia. Those of Tennessee were more intensely Southern than any other. New Jersey indorsed the Crittenden resolutions; but Pennsylvania, while expressing her willingness to unite in any earnest and "legitimate effort to restore peace to the country," affirmed that there was " no reasonable cause for this extraordinary excitement," and her purpose " not to surrender the principles she has always entertained on the subject of slavery." New York said that her acceptance of Virginia's invitation must not be construed as an indorsement of "the propositions submitted by the General Assembly of that State," while Illinois expressed the opinion that no amendment of the Constitution was needed to give " to the slaveholding States adequate guaranties for the security of their rights." A similar sentiment was expressed by Indiana. South Carolina was of course not content with a simple refusal to. send delegates, but accompanied that refusal with the unequivocal expression of her want of sympathy with the proposed objects of the meeting. "We do not deem it advisable," she said with characteristic effrontery and defiant words, " to initiate negotiations when we have no desire or intention to promote the object in view." Expressing her entire lack of "confidence in the Federal government of the United States," she said the separation of South Carolina, which she now regarded "a foreign state," was " final."

The delegates met in Washington, at Willard's Hall, on the fourth day of February. John C. Wright of Ohio was made temporary chairman, and John Tyler of Virginia permanent president. A series of rules, reported by a committee, was adopted. The president, on taking the chair, made an earnest and impassioned address, depicting the perils surrounding the Republic, the difficulties of the situation, and the glory of the achievement, if they could " snatch from ruin a great and glorious confederation, preserve the government and invigorate the Constitution." He spoke of the "blunder" of the fathers " in not having fixed on every fifth decade for a call to amend and reform the Constitution, which, he said, was perfect for five millions, but not wholly so as to thirty millions."

 On the third day, on motion of James Guthrie of Kentucky, Secretary of the Treasury under the administration of Mr. Pierce, a committee of one from each State was appointed, to which should be " referred the resolutions of Virginia and the other States represented, and all propositions for the adjustment of existing difficulties." James A. Seddon of Virginia proposed, as the basis for deliberation and action, the resolutions which his State had forwarded in connection with her invitation. The next day the convention called in person on President Buchanan.

But the difficulties in the way of harmonizing the views of the committee were too great to be easily overcome. Though an earlier day had been specified in the resolutions themselves for making the report, yet on the eighth day the chairman reported its inability to agree, and asked for the extension of time two days further. The next day, however, the committee presented a report, adopted by a vote of twelve to eleven. It proposed, in substance, that the parallel of 36° 30' should separate the territory in which slavery should be prohibited from that in which it should be permitted, while under a Territorial government ; that when admitted as States, slavery should be permitted or prohibited as the constitutions adopted by them should provide ; that neither the Constitution nor any amendment thereof should be construed to give to Congress the right to abolish, regulate, or control slavery in any State, Territory, or the District of Columbia, or to prohibit the inter-State slave-trade; that the United States may not acquire territory without the consent of four fifths of the Senate; that the Constitution shall not be so construed as to prevent States from returning fugitives from service; that the foreign slave trade shall be prohibited ; and that the United States shall pay the full value of slaves which any marshal shall fail to return through intimidation or violent rescue. Minority reports and additional resolutions and suggestions were presented by Field of New York, Crowninshield of Massachusetts, Bald win of Connecticut, Seddon of Virginia, and Wickliffe of Kentucky.

From these reports the general character of the convention and the probable scope of its recommendations might be inferred. While the free States were represented by some who remained true to freedom and the cause of patriotism, they were in a decided minority. Indeed, the more active and pronounced antislavery men were averse to the movement, and looked upon its probable action and influence with distrust. Mr. Sumner thus characterized its action: "Forbearing all details, it will be enough to say that they undertook to give to slavery positive protection in the Constitution, with new sanction and immunity, — making it, notwithstanding the determination of our fathers, national instead of sectional; and even more than this, making it one of the essential and permanent parts of our republican system."

The general tone of the convention was strongly conservative, and its spirit was decidedly, not to say intensely. Southern. The circumstances, too, were adverse to that careful and dis passionate consideration of and firm adherence to principle which the exigency of the occasion demanded. The very haste with which the appointments of commissioners were made, — but a fortnight intervening between the date of the call and that of the convention, — the urgent pressure for immediate action, and the very haze of uncertainty which at the time enveloped and magnified everything future, forbade that calm and careful consideration which a wise and safe decision demanded. From the start extreme men took the lead, and by their determined and demonstrative manner made it difficult for the more moderate members to maintain a position even much less advanced than that demanded by the general sentiment of the North.

Among these Southern leaders was Seddon of Virginia. Well representing the pretentious school of Southern statesmen, he uttered his slaveholding demands and the doctrine of State-rights as if the Old Dominion spoke with an authority akin to that of the "divine right of kings," Not, seemingly, unmindful of all claims of patriotism or of the honor of the flag, he deprecated and sought to avert open rupture. He had not at that time taken that final leap in the dark he soon did take, when he joined his fortunes with his seceding State, and became the Secretary of War in the new Confederacy. But he always seemed chiefly solicitous lest slavery should receive detriment, and was more anxious to guard that than his country's honor and integrity. And not only for slavery as and where it then existed was he solicitous; he would provide against all possible contingencies whenever and wherever existing.

This purpose appeared very plainly in a debate on an amendment of Reverdy Johnson of Maryland to insert the word "present" in one of the proposed amendments of the Constitution, thereby restricting its operation to territory then held. Mr. Johnson had said that he " spoke for the South and to the South," had avowed his desire to guard the system of slavery against harm, and deprecated separation and anything that would create further agitation upon the subject. Content with the present domain, he wisely counselled against further enlargement, with the dangers that must accompany it. To this restrictive policy Seddon interposed his most emphatic objections. Of Mr. Johnson's speech he said: " I listened with sadness to many parts of it. I bemoan that tones so patriotic could not rise to the level of the high ground of equality and right, upon which we all ought to stand." He inveighed bitterly against limiting the proposed amendments of the Constitution to territory already possessed. In view of the constant immigration and growth of the nation, such a restriction he stigmatized as " a farce."

With complacent and grandiloquent laudation he alluded to Virginia and her " memories," to the glorious part she had borne in the past, and to that he desired her to bear in " the great national crisis " through which they were passing. " She comes," he said, " to present to you calmly and plainly the question whether new guaranties are needed for her rights; and she tells you what those guaranties ought to be," — in substance, " security against the principles of the North and her great and now dominant party; to put an end to the discussions which have convulsed the country and jeopardized our institutions." Indulging in the common but unmeaning platitudes concerning the providential "mission " of the South towards "these colored barbarians," he, by a very natural transition, launched forth upon the usual invective against the antislavery spirit and Abolition societies of the North. Attributing them to " British instigation, put forth to disrupt this Republic," he contended that, through their influence, the abstraction of slaves had become "a virtue," and the raid of John Brown had been celebrated as the exploit of a Christian hero. They, too, had "destroyed the grand old Whig party," had formed the " Free Soil " party, and " finally your great Republican party; in other words, your great sectional party which has come to majority and power." He closed by assuring the convention that the only way by which Virginia could be held back from following the seven States which had already seceded was by granting the additional guaranties recommended, though in his judgment they should be "fuller and greater."

But entreaty rather than menace was the underlying idea, the animating spirit of the convention. As ever, appeals to patriotism and the need of harmony constituted the staple of argument and motive. In this strain spoke Mr. Guthrie. Though avowedly devoted to Southern institutions, he deprecated revolution, counselled moderation, and expressed the hope that, "without crimination or recrimination," they would " vote in good temper and good time," and thus go before Congress and the people. Chauncey L. Cleveland of Connecticut urged similar considerations. "Let us be gentle and pleasant," he said. "Let us love one another. Let us not try to find out who is smartest or keenest. Let us vote soon, and without any feeling or quarrelling." He indorsed the report, and predicted that its adoption would preserve the peace and union of the country.

Though the advocates of slavery and compromise were largely in the ascendant, freedom and political integrity were not without defenders. Among them was ex-Governor George S. Boutwell of Massachusetts, afterwards Secretary of the Treasury and member of the United States Senate. Far from extreme in his opinions, and making concessions which many antislavery men would not have made, he met at the threshold the pretensions and policy of the imperious Virginian. Massachusetts, he said, was opposed to slavery, but she confined her opposition within constitutional limits. She loved the Union; but she would not seek its preservation by the remedies proposed in the report, nor would she consent to separation. He made the prediction: " If the South persists in the course on which she has entered, we shall march our armies to the Gulf of Mexico, or you will march yours to the Great Lakes." At the close of the debate, Mr. Johnson's amendment was adopted by a decided vote.

The spirit and purpose of the convention were also revealed by a sharp debate on a motion to limit speeches to ten minutes each. In support of this motion, Robert L. Carruthers of Tennessee, its mover, said: " We have come here for the purpose of acting; not to hear speeches. There is no use of talking over these things. Our minds are made up, and talking will not change them. I want to make an end to all discussions. I move that the debate close at three o'clock to-day." Joseph F. Randolph of New Jersey expressed his agreement with the sentiments of Mr. Carruthers, but moved to defer the vote till the next day. Robert F. Stockton of the same State made a frantic appeal for union and immediate action, urging the convention to " bring a speedy termination to this whole business." "We stand," he said, "in the presence of an awful danger. We feel the throes of an earthquake which threatens to bring down ruin on the whole magnificent fabric of our government." "Yielding to Southern demands" was " too small a matter," he claimed, to justify hesitation when such vital interests were at stake. "You cannot," he said, "destroy your country for that. You love it too much. I call on you, Wadsworth and King, Field and Chase and Morrill, as able men, as brothers, as good patriots, to give up everything else if it is necessary to save your country The Union shall not be destroyed. I tell you, friends, I am going to stand right in the way. You shall not go home; you shall never see your wives and families again until you have settled these matters, and saved your good old country, if I can help it."

But all were not alike impetuous and impatient; nor did the policy of peace at any price command the united assent of even that conservative body. Against the injustice and impolicy of limiting debate and thus hurrying prematurely to a result, Mr. Field of New York entered his earnest protest. "Is it seriously contemplated now," he asked, " after gentlemen on one side have spoken two or three times and at great length, — after the questions involved in the committee's reports have been thoroughly and exhaustingly discussed on the part of the South, — and when only one gentleman from the North has been heard upon the general subject, to cut us off from all opportunity of expressing our views? Such a course will not help your propositions." Charles Allen of Massachusetts, one of the bravest and most honest men of his State, a man of clear convictions and intrepid purpose, reminded the convention that their meeting was for the very purpose of consultation on the condition of the country. "The questions before us," he said, "are the most important that could possibly arise. Before our present Constitution was adopted, it was discussed and examined for more than three months. We are now practically making a new Constitution You may force a vote to-day, but the result will satisfy none." It was, indeed, this radical character of the proposed amendments that seemed to arrest more particularly the attention and to excite more profoundly the few earnest friends of freedom and thoughtful lovers of their country, who were members of that convention. This was well expressed by William Curtis Noyes of New York, mild and gentle as a man, eminent as a lawyer, and a firm friend of freedom. " Sir," he said, " I speak for New York! Not New York of a time gone by! Not New York of an old fossiliferous era, remembered only in some chapter of her ancient history, but young, breathing, living New York, as she exists to-day We are asked to consider new and important amendments to the Constitution, alterations of our fundamental law; and in the same breath we are told we must not discuss them, — that we must take them as they are offered to us without change or alteration. .... I submit to the conference, is it kind, is it generous, is it proper to stop here? Is it best to do so? " His colleague, Francis Granger, who had, in the presidential election, supported the so-called "Bell-Everett" ticket, had assured the convention that New York would support the report of the committee. He expressed his doubt of the gentleman's authority to speak for the State, with the assurance that the political principles of their constituents did " not sit thus highly on their consciences." On another occasion and in another connection Mr. Field said: " To change the organic law of thirty millions of people is a measure of the greatest importance, .... and yet, though the convention has devoted hut five days to the consideration, we are urged to act at once without further deliberation or delay."

This Peace Congress, as it has been sometimes termed, was called in the interests of slavery, was designed by its movers and leaders to strengthen that system, and in its debates and final decisions very generally carried out that purpose. Though it came together hurriedly, at a memorable crisis, and deliberated under a terrible pressure, and though it was the last act of the great drama of conciliation and compromise, if not the first of rebellion and revolution, there were enunciated during its sessions, in its animated and able debates of three weeks, in the form of assertions and demands, of questionings and their answers, threats and their rejoinders, apprehensions and appeals, avowed purposes, if not plans, the seminal ideas of what was soon to take definite shape and to meet in deadly conflict. Though there was great variety of motions, resolutions, and amendments, the debates ranged themselves generally on the one side or the other of the great dividing line.

On the side of the South, and of concession, Rives of Virginia, though expressing his strong desire to bring back the seven seceded States, denied that force could be used. " Coercion," he said, " is not a word to be used in this connection. There must be negotiation The army and navy are impotent in such a crisis." " Is it the purpose of the incoming administration," asked Seddon, " to attempt the execution of the laws in the seceded States by an armed force? " George W. Summers of the same State said, if the two extreme portions would not lend their aid, the border States on both sides of the line must unite with the Northwest "to save the country." Thomas Ewing, though representing the free State of Ohio, spoke contemptuously of the " sickening sentimentalism" of Northern antislavery and of the "incompatibility" the two races. Frederick F. Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, though speaking, he claimed, in the interests of " piety and patriotism," made the strange vaunt that there were never any underground railroads in New Jersey, that she never rescued a fugitive slave from the custody of law, that no " personal-liberty " bills ever disgraced the pages of her statute-book, and " never will." He expressed the opinion that "nineteen twentieths of the Nort " were in favor of giving the South all the guaranties "it asks," and affirmed his belief that, in both sections, " the family prayer ascends to the Father of us all for a blessing on our common country and for the preservation of the Union." William E. Dodge of New York counselled conciliation, styled the New England delegates " obstinate and uncompromising," expressed doubts of their declaration that New England was " opposed to slavery," for the not very creditable reasons that they knew " how to get the dollars and how to hold on to them," and that they would never permit the government which had contributed so much to their wealth and prosperity to be sacrificed to a technicality, a chimera.

On the other hand, it was said, among others, by Lot M. Morrill of Maine, that " the sentiments and convictions of the North could not be trifled with nor set aside in any settlement that could be made." To the question whether the incoming administration would employ force to coerce the seceding States, he replied, though disclaiming all authority to speak for Mr. Lincoln, that if it did not " use every means which the Constitution has given them to assert the authority of the government in all the States, to preserve the Union in all its integrity, the people will be disappointed." Speaking to the same point, Mr. Field said, if the government does not use coercion it will be "disgraced and destroyed" "There is" he said, " no middle ground; we must keep this country unbroken or give it up to ruin," Amos Tuck of New Hampshire made a conciliatory but firm speech. After alluding to the conflicting claims of patriotism and fraternity on the one hand, and principle and conscience on the other, and saying that he had " listened to appeals stronger and more eloquent than I ever expect to hear again," he added: " But we cannot act otherwise than we do. Ideas and principles control, and we and those we represent will act in accordance with them, whatever be the consequences." James C. Smith of New York also spoke of " the immutable principles by which nations and individuals are and must be governed." After saying that the entrance of slave labor was the practical exclusion of free, he said: " We may talk around this question, — we may discuss its incidents, its history, and its effects as much and as long as we please, — and after all is said, disguise it as we may, it is a contest between the great opposing elements of civilization, — whether this country shall be possessed and developed and ruled by the labor of slaves or of freemen."

The fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth days were occupied with speeches not very much unlike those that had preceded them. The eighteenth was devoted to attempts to amend the report; all of which, however, failed. Among the amendments offered were those by Mr. Field denying the right of secession and affirming freedom of speech; by Mr. Baldwin of Connecticut, calling a convention for amending the Constitution; by Mr. Seddon, proposing the Crittenden resolutions with the Virginia modifications; by James B. Clay, son of Henry Clay, proposing the Crittenden resolutions sim ply; by Mr. Tuck, proposing an address to the people of the United States and a petition to Congress to call a convention for amending the Constitution. During the day Salmon P. Chase made a very able speech, in which he defined the position of the Republican party, its principles and purposes. They had triumphed on that basis, he said, and they were not prepared to throw away that triumph, nor forsake the vantage-ground which that triumph gave. Speaking of the return of fugitive slaves, he said their consciences would not allow that, but they could " compensate "; the "cost" of which, he said, "would be as nothing in comparison with the evils of discord." On the next day, the nineteenth of the convention, the report of the committee was adopted, section by section, although each section did not receive the same majority. The president was appointed to present the doings of the convention to Congress, when it adjourned without day. 

The result having been presented on the same day to the Senate, it was referred to a committee consisting of Crittenden, Bigler, Thomson, Seward, and Trumbull. On the next day the majority of the committee reported in favor of the recommendation of the convention, Seward and Trumbull dissenting. Several resolutions and amendments were offered, and a general, earnest, and acrimonious debate ensued. Joseph Lane of Oregon, Democratic candidate for Vice-President on the Breckinridge ticket, made a very violent speech, taking the most extreme Southern ground. Andrew Johnson of Tennessee replied in a strong Union speech, in which he denounced those who had seized the arsenals and other United States property as traitors. The speech made a deep impression on the country, bringing its author to favorable notice, and contributing, no doubt largely if not mainly, to his subsequent elevation. Mr. Baker of Oregon made an eloquent, earnest, and pathetic appeal in favor of compromise.

No vote, however, was taken. On motion of Mr. Douglas, the report was laid aside for the purpose of taking up the House Resolution, reported by the committee of thirty-three; and the propositions of the Peace Congress, brought forth with so much labor and anxiety, if they did not fall still-born, were left to sleep in "the tomb of the Capulets."

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 3.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1878, 82-95.



(Wilson, 1872, Vol. 2, pp. 94-105)


PEMBERTON, James, 1723-1808, merchant, Society of Friends, Quaker.  President of the Abolition Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1790-1803.  Aided numerous slaves. 

(Basker, 2005, pp., x, 80, 84-85, 92, 101; Bruns, 1977, pp. 510, 514; Drake, 1950, pp. 54, 93-94, 102, 113, 122; Locke, 1901, p. 92; Nash, 1991, pp. 49, 65, 124-125, 130; Soderlund, 1985, pp. 44, 140, 151, 161, 170, 171, 197, 199; Zilversmit, 1967, pp. 159, 160; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 706; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 413)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PEMBERTON, James, merchant, b. in Philadelphia, 26 Aug., 1723; d. there, 9 Feb., 1808, after completing his education in the Quaker schools, entered on a successful mercantile career. Although not so distinguished a man among the Quakers as his brother Israel, he wielded a large influence in both church and public affairs. He was one of the founders, and a member of the board of managers, of the Pennsylvania hospital, was early interested in the negroes, and became one of the organizers of the Pennsylvania abolition society, of which, on Benjamin Franklin's death in 1790, he was chosen president. During the Indian wars he united with his brothers to restore peace. Many of the Indian chiefs that came to Philadelphia enjoyed his hospitality. An important object with him during his life was the distribution of religious and instructive books, for which he gave liberally. In 1756, while holding a place in the assembly, he resigned his seat because the service, involving the consideration of military measures, was incompatible with his principles. In the following year he published “An Apology for the People called Quakers, containing some Reasons for their not complying with Human Injunctions and Institutions in Matters relative to the Worship of God.” He was among those that, in 1777, were exiled to Virginia. His country-seat, on Schuylkill river, was occupied by some of Lord Howe's officers when the British held Philadelphia. It passed into the possession of the National government, and is now the site of the U. S. naval asylum. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 706.


PEMBERTON, John, 1727-1795, Delaware, abolitionist leader, clergyman, Society of Friends, Quaker, leader and delegate of the Delaware Abolition Society, founded 1788, vice president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting Abolition of Slavery, 1787.

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 706-707; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 413; Basker, 2005, pp. 225, 240n19; Nash, 1991, pp. 49, 56, 65, 163; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 17, p. 269)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PEMBERTON, John, Quaker preacher, b. in Philadelphia, 27 Nov., 1727; d. in Pyrmont, Westphalia, Germany, 31 Jan., 1795, received a good education, and engaged in business as a merchant. In 1750 he made a voyage to Europe for his health and the prosecution of some business matters. Shortly after his arrival in London, Pemberton accompanied his friend, John Churchman, on a religious tour. He subsequently travelled with Churchman, preaching the doctrines of the Friends, through England, Ireland, Scotland, and Holland, and after three years returned to this country. He took a deep interest in the Indians, and was active in his efforts to maintain peaceful relations between them and the whites. In 1777 he was among those Quakers who were arrested in Philadelphia and sent in exile to Virginia. His journal, containing an account of the same, is printed in “Friends' Miscellany” (vol. viii.). In 1782 he made another religious visit to Great Britain and Ireland which continued until 1789, his meetings being frequently held in barns and in the open air, because other places could not be had. “An Account of the Last Journey of John Pemberton to the Highlands and other Places in Scotland in the Year 1787,” written by his companion, Thomas Wilkinson, is printed in “Friends' Miscellany.” Pemberton returned to Philadelphia in 1789, and in 1794 again went abroad on a missionary tour into Holland and Germany, in which countries he labored until his death. On quitting Amsterdam, he issued an address to the inhabitants of that city, entitled “Tender Caution and Advice to the Inhabitants of Amsterdam.” See his journal of travels in Holland and Germany in “Friends' Miscellany” (vol. viii.). He left a large estate, much of which he gave by his will to the several charitable, benevolent, and religious organizations with which he had been associated, and for the purpose of aiding in the formation of like organizations. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 706-707.


PENNINGTON, James William Charles, 1807-1870, African American, American Missionary Association, fugitive slave, abolitionist, orator, clergyman.  Member of the Executive Committee of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.  Published The Fugitive Blacksmith in London in 1844.  One of the first African American students to attend Yale University. Served as a delegate to the Second World Conference on Slavery in London.  Active in the Amistad slave case.  Recruited African American troops for the Union Army. 

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 330-334; Mabee, 1970, pp. 65, 100, 101, 140, 194, 203, 269, 338, 339, 413n1; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 52, 73, 166, 413-414; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 441; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 17, p. 300)


PENNOCK, Abraham, Philadelphia, Society of Friends, Quaker, Free Produce Society of Pennsylvania, abolitionist, editor Non Slaveholder.

(Drake, 1950, pp., 130, 172-173; Mabee, 1970, p. 389n7)


PENNYPACKER, Elijah Funk, 1804-1888, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, reformer, abolitionist.  Manager, American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (AFASS), 1841-1842. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 719; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 446)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PENNYPACKER, Elijah Funk, reformer, b. in Chester county, Pa., 20 Nov., 1804; d. in Phoenixville, Pa., 4 Jan., 1888. He was educated in the private schools in Burlington, N. J., taught there, and subsequently engaged in land surveying in Phoenixville, Pa. He then became interested in real estate, was in the legislature in 1831-'5, chairman of its committee on banks, and a principal mover in the establishment of public schools. In 1836-'8 he was a canal commissioner. He joined the Society of Friends about 1841, and thenceforth for many years devoted himself to the abolition movement, becoming president of the local anti-slavery society, and of the Chester county, and Pennsylvania state societies. He was an active manager of the “Underground railroad,” and his house was one of its stations. With John Edgar Thompson he made the preliminary surveys of the Pennsylvania railroad. He aided the suffering poor in Ireland in the famine of 1848, and subsequently identified himself with the Prohibition party, becoming their candidate for state treasurer in 1875. He was an organizer of the Pennsylvania mutual fire insurance company in 1869, and was its vice-president till 1879, when he became president, holding office till January, 1887, when he resigned. John G. Whittier says of him: “In mind, body, and brave championship of the cause of freedom he was one of the most remarkable men I ever knew.” Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 719.


PENROSE, Jonathan, abolitionist leader, vice president of the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society (PAS), 1787.

(Basker, 2005, pp. 81, 92; Bruns, 1977, p. 514; Nash, 1991, pp. 124-125)






PHELPS, Amos Augustus, Reverend, 1805-1847, Boston, Massachusetts, clergyman, editor. Manager and founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), December 1833;  Manager, 1834-1835, Vice-President, 1834-1835, Executive Committee, 1836-1838, Recording Secretary, 1836-1840.  Editor, Emancipation and The National Era. Husband of abolitionist Charlotte Phelps.

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 182, 185, 266, 276, 285; Pease, 1965, pp. 71-85; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 290; Yellin, 1994, pp. 47, 54, 54n, 59-60, 125; Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 751; Phelps, “Lectures on Slavery and its Remedy,” Boston, 1834; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, pp. 132, 228-229)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PHELPS, Amos Augustus, clergyman, b. in Farmington, Conn., in 1805; d. in Roxbury, Mass., 12 Sept., 1847. He was graduated at Yale in 1826, and at the divinity-school there in 1830, was pastor of Congregational churches in Hopkinton and Boston, Mass., in 1831-'4, became agent of the Massachusetts anti-slavery society at the latter date, and was pastor of the Free church, and subsequently of the Maverick church, Boston, in 1839-'45. He also edited the “Emancipation,” and was secretary of the American anti-slavery society for several years. He published “Lectures on Slavery and its Remedy” (Boston, 1834); “Book of the Sabbath” (1841); “Letters to Dr. Bacon and to Dr. Stowe” (1842); and numerous pamphlets on slavery. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 751.


PHELPS, Anson Greene, 1781-1853, merchant, philanthropist.  President of the Colonization Society of the State of Connecticut.  Director, American Colonization Society, 1839-1840.

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, p. 751; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 525; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, pp. 135, 240)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PHELPS, Anson Greene, merchant, b. in Simsbury, Conn., 12 March, 1781; d. in New York city, 30 Nov., 1853. He learned the trade of a saddler, and established himself in Hartford, Conn., with a branch business in Charleston, S. C. In 1815 he became a dealer in tin plate and heavy metals in New York city. Having accumulated a large fortune1 partly by investments in real estate, he devoted himself to benevolent enterprises, and was president of the New York blind asylum, the American board of commissioners for foreign missions, and the New York branch of the Colonization society. He bequeathed $371,000 to charitable institutions, and placed in the hands of his only son a fund of $100,000, the interest of which was to be distributed in charity. In addition to large legacies to his twenty-four grandchildren, he intrusted $5,000 to each to be used in charity. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 751.





Chapter: “Mobs. Antislavery Activities.  Women's Fairs,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:

The mob spirit seemed to culminate in the murder of Lovejoy and in the burning of Pennsylvania Hall. Subsiding for a time, it burst forth afresh in 1841. In September of that year a terrible riot broke out in Cincinnati against Abolitionists and the colored people. For two days the mob set all law at defiance, and held undisputed sway over the city. Citizens from Kentucky largely participated in the outrage, declaring that they had been sent for, and that there were hundreds who were ready to come and rid the city of negroes and Abolitionists. Bands of armed men patrolled its streets searching for negroes, sending the men to prison under the pretense of protection, leaving the women and children defenceless, to be subsequently outraged and treated with the greatest indignity. Slaveholders hunted among them for runaway slaves, and lawless violence ran riot. The office of the "Philanthropist” was attacked, and its press was destroyed. A colored meeting-house and several dwellings were demolished, the city authorities doing little to prevent, or even restrain, the outrageous proceedings. But, more significant of the spirit that ruled the hour, and indicating pretty clearly where the responsibility for the riot rested, a public meeting was held, the mayor presiding, at which resolutions were adopted, that every negro escaping from his master should be given up; that the negroes should be disarmed; and that the law of 1807, requiring free negroes to give bonds, should be enforced. The meeting also renounced the Abolitionists, and assured their "Southern brethren” that these resolutions were adopted in good faith, and that they would be executed.

The immediate cause of the riot, it was stated by the " Philanthropist,” was the presence of men from Kentucky, who precipitated these scenes of violence upon the city and participated largely in them. But subsequent revelations disclosed the fact that they were greatly encouraged, if not invited, by some of the business men, who had been threatened with loss of trade if the nuisance of free negroes and Abolitionists was not abated, and who took this method of assuring their Southern brethren of their soundness; so that there was far too much of truth in the humiliating confession, which was then made, that Cincinnati was but “a conquered province of Kentucky." A few antislavery men advised Dr. Bailey to suspend its publication. To such advice he nobly replied: No, friends, the ' Philanthropist ' must be published. The war has become now openly a war against free discussion and shall we give back? We are not ambitious to be a martyr, life is precious; but we are willing, Heaven helping us, to suffer all things rather than turn traitor to a cause we have long advocated, a cause identified with the highest interests of man, a cause which God approves, and which he will conduct to a glorious issue, whatever the fate of its advocates." This bold and manly stand taken by Dr. Bailey extorted the admiration and excited the sympathy of those who differed widely from him in their views. Mr. Garrison sent him a hundred dollars to aid him in re-establishing his press, and wrote him a letter urging him not to yield to the violence of his enemies or the timid counsels of his friends.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 556-557.


PHILLIPS, Wendell, 1811-1884, lawyer, orator, reformer, abolitionist leader, Native American advocate.  Member of the Executive Committee, 1842-1864, and Recording Secretary, 1845-1864, of the American Anti-Slavery Society.  Called “abolition’s golden trumpet.”  Counseller, 1840-1843, of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.  Advocate of Free Produce movement. 

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 182, 186, 273, 340; Filler, 1960, pp. 39, 42, 45, 59, 80, 94, 130, 138, 140, 183, 204, 206, 214, 275; Hofstadter, 1948; Irving, 1973; Mabee, 1970, pp. 72, 86, 105, 109, 116, 123, 124, 136, 165, 169, 173, 180, 193, 200, 243, 248, 261, 262, 269, 271, 278, 279, 286, 289, 295, 301, 309, 316, 337, 364, 369; Pease, 1965, pp. 339, 459-479; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 50, 54, 56, 169, 309, 399, 476, 602-605; Stewart, 1998; Yellin, 1994, pp. 35, 82, 86, 260, 306, 308n, 309-311, 311n, 333; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 759-762; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 546; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 17, p. 454; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. II. New York: James T. White, 1892, pp. 314-315; Hinks, Peter P., & John R. McKivigan, Eds., Encyclopedia of Antislavery and Abolition.  Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood, 2007, Vol. 2, pp. 529-531; Bartlett, Irving H. Wendell Phillips: Brahmin Radical. Boston: Beacon Press, 1961; Sherwin, Oscar. Profit of Liberty: The Life and Times of Wendell Phillips. New York: Bookman, 1958)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PHILLIPS, Wendell, orator, b. in Boston, Mass., 29 Nov., 1811; d. there, 2 Feb., 1884, entered the Boston Latin-school in 1822, and was graduated at Harvard in 1831, in the same class with the historian J. Lothrop Motley. As a student he showed no particular interest in reforms; indeed, he bore the reputation of having defeated the first attempt to form a temperance society at Harvard. Handsome in person, cultivated in manners, and of a kindly and generous disposition, he was popular among his fellow-students, and was noted for his fine elocution and his skill in debate. His heart had responded to Webster's fiery denunciation at Plymouth in 1820 of that “work of hell, foul and dark,” the slave-trade. “If the pulpit be silent whenever or wherever there may be a sinner bloody with this guilt within the hearing of its voice, the pulpit is false to its trust.” He had taken a boy's part in honoring Lafayette, and in the midst of such associations he was unconsciously fitted for his career. In college his favorite study was history. He gave a year to the story of the English revolution of 1630, reading everything concerning it that he could find. With equal care he studied the period of George III., and Dutch history also so far as English literature enabled him to do so. His parents were of the Evangelical faith, and in one of the revivals of religion that followed the settlement of Dr. Lyman Beecher in Boston he became a convert, and he did not at any subsequent time depart from the faith of his fathers. While he denounced the churches for their complicity with slavery, he made no war upon their creeds. A fellow-student remembers well his earnest religiousness in college, and his “devoutness during morning and evening prayers which so many others attended only to save their credit with the government.” Though orthodox himself, he welcomed those of other faiths, and even of no faith, to the anti-slavery platform, resisting every attempt to divide the host upon sectarian or theological grounds. He entered the Harvard law-school for a term of three years, and in 1834 was admitted to the bar. He was well equipped for his profession in every respect save one, viz., that he appears to have had no special love for it and small ambition for success therein. “If,” he said to a friend, “clients do not come, I will throw myself heart and soul into some good cause and devote my life to it.” The clients would doubtless have come in no long time if he had chosen to wait for them, but the “good cause” presented its claims first, and was so fortunate as to win the devotion of his life. “The Liberator,” founded by William Lloyd Garrison in 1831, had already forced the slavery question upon public attention and created an agitation that the leaders of society were vainly endeavoring to suppress. It has been said, probably with truth, that the first person to interest Mr. Phillips in this subject was the lady—Miss Anne Terry Greene—who afterward became his wife and, as he himself has said, “his counsel, his guide, his inspiration,” during his whole subsequent life. Of all the young men of Boston at that period, there was hardly one whose social relations, education, and personal character better fitted him for success as an aspirant for such public honors as Massachusetts was accustomed to bestow upon the most gifted of her sons. But if ambitions or aspirations of this sort were ever indulged, he had the courage and the moral power to resist their appeals and devote himself to what he felt to be a righteous though popularly odious cause. The poet James Russell Lowell has embalmed the memory of his early self-abnegation in a sonnet, of which these lines form a part:

“He stood upon the world's broad threshold; wide

     The din of battle and of slaughter rose;

  He saw God stand upon the weaker side

     That sunk in seeming loss before its foes.

      .       .       .      .        . Therefore he went

     And joined him to the weaker part,

  Fanatic named, and fool, yet well content

    So he could be nearer to God's heart,

And feel its solemn pulses sending blood

Through all the wide-spread veins of endless good.”

Looking from his office-window on 21 Oct., 1835, he saw the crowd of “gentlemen of property and standing” gathered in Washington and State streets to break up a meeting of anti-slavery ladies and “snake out that infamous foreign scoundrel, Thompson,” and “bring him to the tar-kettle before dark”—the same Thompson of whom Lord Brougham said in the house of lords at the time of the passage of the British emancipation act: “I rise to take the crown of this most glorious victory from every other head and place it upon his. He has done more than any other man to achieve it”; and of whom John Bright said: “I have always considered him the liberator of the slaves in the English colonies; for, without his commanding eloquence, made irresistible by the blessedness of his cause, I do not think all the other agencies then at work would have procured their freedom.” The mob, disappointed in its expectation of getting possession of the eloquent Englishman, “snaked out” Garrison instead, and Phillips saw him dragged through the streets, his person well-nigh denuded of clothing, and a rope around his waist ready to strangle him withal, from which fate he was rescued only by a desperate ruse of the mayor, who locked him up in the jail for safety. This spectacle deeply moved the young lawyer, who from that hour was an avowed Abolitionist, though he was not widely known as such until the martyrdom of Elijah P. Lovejoy (q. v.) in 1837 brought him into sudden prominence and revealed him to the country as an orator of the rarest gifts. The men then at the head of affairs in Boston were not disposed to make any open protest against this outrage upon the freedom of the press; but William Ellery Channing, the eminent preacher and writer, was resolved that the freedom-loving people of the city should have an opportunity to express their sentiments in an hour so fraught with danger to the cause of American liberty, and through his persistent efforts preparations were made for a public meeting, which assembled in Faneuil hall on 8 Dec., 1837. It was the custom to hold such meetings in the evening, but there were threats of a mob, and this one on that account was appointed for a daylight hour.

            The hall was well filled, Jonathan Phillips was called to the chair, Dr. Channing made an impressive address, and resolutions written by him, fitly characterizing the outrage at Alton, were introduced. George S. Hillard, a popular young lawyer, followed in a serious and well-considered address. Thus far everything had gone smoothly; but now uprose James T. Austin, attorney-general of the state, a member of Dr. Channing's congregation, but known to be bitterly opposed to his anti-slavery course. He eulogized the Alton murderers, comparing them with the patriots of the Revolution, and declared that Lovejoy had “died as the fool dieth.” Mr. Phillips was present, but with no expectation of speaking. There were those in the hall, however, who thought him the man best fitted to reply to Austin, and some of these urged the managers to call upon him, which they consented to do. As he stepped upon the platform, his manly beauty, dignity, and perfect self-possession won instant admiration. His opening sentences, uttered calmly but with deep feeling, revealed his power and raised expectation to the highest pitch. “When,” said he, “I heard the gentleman [Mr. Austin] lay down principles which placed the rioters, incendiaries, and murderers of Alton side by side with Otis and Hancock, with Quincy and Adams, I thought those pictured lips [pointing to the portraits in the hall] would have broken into voice to rebuke the recreant American, the slanderer of the dead. Sir, for the sentiments he has uttered on soil consecrated by the prayers of Puritans and the blood of patriots, the earth should have yawned and swallowed him up.”

            These stinging words were greeted with applause, which showed that the young orator had but expressed the conviction and the feeling of the vast majority of the assembly, and that it was not in the power of the dissidents to defeat the purpose for which it had been convened. Freedom of speech was vindicated and mobocracy and assassination were rebuked in Faneuil hall, while the hated Abolitionists rejoiced that they had found a champion fitted to maintain their cause in any presence or emergency. From that hour to the end of the anti-slavery conflict the name of Wendell Phillips was everywhere, and among all classes, the accepted synonym of the highest type of American eloquence. In no half-way fashion did he espouse the anti-slavery cause. He accepted without reservation the doctrines that Garrison had formulated—viz.: slavery under all circumstances a sin; immediate emancipation a fundamental right and duty; colonization a delusion and a snare; the blood-guiltiness of the church in seeking apologies for slavery in the Bible, and the spuriousness of the statesmanship that sought to suppress agitation and held that liberty and slavery could be at peace under one and the same government. He did the work of a lecturing agent, obeying every call so far as his strength permitted, without any pecuniary reward. When he could command fifty or one hundred dollars for a lecture on any other subject, he would speak on slavery for nothing if the people consented to hear him. It is hardly possible to estimate the value to the anti-slavery cause of services so freely rendered by a man of such gifts and attainments, in the years when that cause was struggling under a weight of odium which not even his eloquence sufficed to overcome. As a speaker he was above all others the popular favorite, and his tact in gaining a hearing in spite of mob turbulence was extraordinary. His courage lifted him above fear of personal violence, while his wit illuminated his argument as the lightning illumines the heavens. The Abolitionists were proud of a defender who could disarm if he could not wholly conquer popular hostility, who might be safely pitted against any antagonist, and whose character could in no way be impeached. In every emergency of the cause he led the charge against its enemies, and never did he surrender a principle or consent to a compromise. His fidelity, no less than his eloquence, endeared him to his associates, while his winning manners charmed all who met him in social life. The strongest opponents of the anti-slavery cause felt the spell of his power and respected him for his shining example of integrity and devotion.

            In the divisions among the Abolitionists, which took place in 1839-'40, he stood with Garrison in favor of recognizing the equal rights of women as members of the anti-slavery societies, in stern opposition to the organization by Abolitionists, as such, of a political party, and in resistance to the attempt to discredit and proscribe men upon the anti-slavery platform on account of their religious belief. In 1840 he represented the Massachusetts Abolitionists in the World's anti-slavery convention in London, where he pleaded in vain for the admission of the woman delegates sent from this country. He took a prominent part in discussing the provisions of the constitution of the United States relating to slavery, and after mature reflection came with Garrison to the conclusion that what were popularly called the “compromises” of that instrument were immoral and in no way binding upon the conscience; and in 1843-'4 he was conspicuous among those who led the anti-slavery societies in openly declaring this doctrine as thenceforth fundamental in their agitation. This was done, not upon the ground of non-resistance, or on account of any objection to government by force, but solely because it was held to be immoral to wield the power of civil government in any manner or degree for the support of slavery. There was no objection to political action, as such, but only to such political action as made voters and officers responsible for executing the provisions that made the national government the defender of slavery. Of course, those who took this ground were constrained to forego the ballot until the constitution could be amended, but there remained to them the moral power by which prophets and apostles “subdued kingdoms and wrought righteousness”— the power of truth, of an unfettered press, and a free platform. And these instrumentalities they employed unflinchingly to expose the character of slavery, to show that the national government was its main support, and to expose the sin and folly, as they thought, of maintaining a Union so hampered and defiled. They accepted this as their clearly revealed duty, in spite of the odium thereby involved; and they went on in this course until the secession of the slave states brought them relief by investing the president with power to emancipate the slaves, under the rules of war.

            Thenceforth Mr. Phillips devoted himself to the task of persuading the people of the loyal states that they were honorably released from every obligation, implied or supposed, to respect the “compromises” of the constitution, and that it was their right and duty to emancipate the slaves as a measure of war, and as a means of forming a regenerated and disenthralled Union. In this he was sustained not only by the whole body of Abolitionists of whatever school, but by a great multitude of people who had long stood aloof from their cause, and the effort was crowned with success in the president's proclamation of 1 Jan., 1863. From that moment the civil war became an anti-slavery war as well as a war for national unity, and thousands of Abolitionists who had followed the lead of Phillips hastened to enter the ranks.

            In all these conflicts Phillips stood shoulder to shoulder with Garrison, and was followed by a body of people, not indeed very numerous, but of wide moral influence. In 1864 Mr. Phillips opposed, while Garrison favored, the re-election of President Lincoln. In the spring of 1865, when Garrison advocated the dissolution of the American anti-slavery society, on the ground that, slavery being abolished, there was no further need of such an association, Mr. Phillips successfully opposed him, contending that it should not disband until the negro had gained the ballot. This division led to some unpleasant controversy of no long continuance. Mr. Phillips became president of the society in place of Mr. Garrison, and it was continued under his direction until 1870.

            In the popular discussion of the measures for reconstructing the Union he took a prominent part, mainly for the purpose of guarding the rights of the negro population, to whom he thus greatly endeared himself. He had previously won their gratitude by his zealous efforts in behalf of fugitive slaves, and to abolish distinctions of color in schools, in public conveyances, and in places of popular resort. He was at all times an earnest champion of temperance, and in later years the advocate of prohibition. He was also foremost among those claiming the ballot for woman. He advocated the rights of the Indians, and labored to reform the penal institutions of the country after the slavery question was settled. He espoused the cause of the labor reformers, and in 1870 accepted from them and from the Prohibitionists a nomination as candidate for governor. He advocated what has been called the “greenback” theory of finance. “The wages system,” he said, “demoralizes alike the hirer and the hired, cheats both, and enslaves the workingman,” while “the present system of finance robs labor, gorges capital, makes the rich richer and the poor poorer, and turns a republic into an aristocracy of capital.” He lent his aid to the agitation for the redress of the wrongs of Ireland. In 1881 he delivered an address at the centennial anniversary of the Phi Beta Kappa of Harvard college, which was pronounced, on very high authority, “an oration of great power and beauty, full of strong thoughts and happy illustrations, not unworthy of any university platform or academic scholar,” though containing some sentiments from which a portion of his audience strongly dissented. As an avowed critic of public men and measures, speaking year after year, almost always extemporaneously, and often amidst scenes of the greatest excitement, nothing less than a miracle could have prevented him from sometimes falling into mistakes and doing injustice to opponents; but it is believed that there is nothing in his record to cast a shadow upon his reputation as one who consecrated great gifts and attainments to the welfare of his country. His last public address was delivered on 26 Dec., 1883, at the unveiling of Miss Whitney's statúe of Harriet Martineau, at the Old South church, in Boston. A little more than a month after this the great orator passed from earth. The event was followed by a memorial meeting in Faneuil hall, and by appropriate action on the part of the legislature and the city government. After the funeral the remains were taken from the church to Faneuil hall, whither they were followed by a vast multitude. Mr. Phillips published “The Constitution a Pro-Slavery Contract” (Boston, 1840) and “Review of Webster's 7th of March Speech” (1850). A collection of his speeches, letters, and lectures, revised by himself, was published in 1863 in Boston. Among his lectures on other than anti-slavery topics were “The Lost Arts,” “Toussaint l'Ouverture,” and “Daniel O'Connell.” His life has been written by George Lowell Austin (Boston, 1888). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. IV, pp. 759-762.


PIERPONT, John, 1785-1866, Massachusetts, poet, lawyer, Unitarian theologian, temperance reformer, abolitionist leader, member of the anti-slavery Liberty Party.  Liberty Party candidate for Massachusetts.  Free Soil candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1850.

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. V, p. 14; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 286; Dumond, 1961, p. 301)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PIERPONT, John, poet, b. in Litchfield, Conn., 6 April, 1785; d. in Medford, Mass., 26 Aug., 1866. He was a great-grandson of James, who is noticed below. He was graduated at Yale in 1804, and after assisting for a short time in the academy at Bethlehem, Conn., in the autumn of 1805 went to South Carolina, and passed nearly four years as a private tutor in the family of Col. William Allston. After his return in 1809 he studied law at Litchfield, was admitted to the bar in 1812, and practised for a time in Newburyport, Mass. The profession proving injurious to his health, he relinquished it, and engaged in business as a merchant, first in Boston, and afterward in Baltimore. In 1816 he abandoned commerce for theology, which he studied, first at Baltimore, and afterward at Cambridge divinity-school. In April, 1819, he was ordained pastor of the Hollis street church, Boston. In 1835 he made a tour through Europe and Asia Minor, and on his return he resumed his pastoral charge in Boston, where he continued till 10 May, 1845. The freedom with which he expressed his opinions, especially in regard to the temperance cause, had given rise to some feeling before his departure for Europe; and in 1838 there sprung up between himself and a part of his parish a controversy which lasted seven years, when, after triumphantly sustaining himself against the charges of his adversaries, he requested a dismissal. He then became for four years pastor of a Unitarian church in Troy, N. Y., on 1 Aug., 1849, was settled over the Congregational church in Medford, and resigned, 6 April, 1856. He was a zealous reformer, powerfully advocated the temperance and anti-slavery movements, was the candidate of the Liberty party for governor, and in 1850 of the Free-soil party for congress. After the civil war began, though seventy-six years of age, he went into the field as chaplain of a Massachusetts regiment, but, finding his strength unequal to the discharge of his duties, he soon afterward resigned, and was appointed to a clerkship in the treasury department at Washington, which he held till his death. Mr. Pierpont was a thorough scholar, a graceful and facile speaker, and ranked deservedly high as a poet. He published “Airs of Palestine” (Baltimore, 1816); re-issued, with additions, under the title “Airs of Palestine, and other Poems” (Boston, 1840). One of his best-known poems is “Warren's Address at the Battle of Bunker Bill.” His long poem that he read at the Litchfield county centennial in 1851 contains a description of the “Yankee boy” and his ingenuity, which has often been quoted. He also published several sermons and addresses. See Wilson's “Bryant and his Friends” (New York, 1886). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 14.


PIKE, Frederick Augustus, 1817-1886, lawyer.  Republican Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine.  Member of Congress 1861-1869.  Active in emancipation of slaves.  Voted for Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery.

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 18-19; Congressional Globe)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PIKE, Frederick Augustus, congressman, b. in Calais, Me., 9 Dec., 1817; d. there, 2 Dec., 1886, spent two years at Bowdoin, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1840. He served eight terms in the Maine legislature, was its speaker in 1860, and was elected to congress as a Republican, retaining his seat in 1861-'9, and serving for six years as chairman of the naval committee. He was active in his efforts for emancipation and for necessary taxation, and the closing sentence of his speech in congress in 1861—“Tax, fight, emancipate”—became a watchword of his party. He was in the legislature in 1870-'1, and was defeated as a candidate of the Liberal Republican party in 1872. In 1875 he was a member of the Maine constitutional convention. He retired from the practice of law after his congressional service. Mr. Pike was an early and active Abolitionist, a friend of education, and for many years an eminent member of the bar. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 18-19.


PIKE, James Shepard, 1811-1882, journalist, diplomat, anti-slavery activist.  Washington correspondent and associate editor of the New York Tribune.  Anti-slavery Whig and strong supporter of the Republican Party. 

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. V, p. 18; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 595; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 17, p. 512)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PIKE, James Shepherd, journalist, b. in Calais, Me., 8 Sept., 1811; d. there, 24 Nov., 1882. He was educated in the schools of his native town, entered mercantile life in his fifteenth year, and subsequently became a journalist. He was the Washington correspondent and associate editor of the New York “Tribune” in 1850-'60, and was an able and aggressive writer. He was several times a candidate for important offices in Maine, and a potent influence in uniting the anti-slavery sentiment in that state. In 1861-'6 he was U. S. minister to the Netherlands. He supported Horace Greeley for the presidency in 1872, and about that time visited South Carolina and collected materials for his principal work, A Prostrate State” (New York, 1876). He also published “The Restoration of the Currency” (1868); “The Financial Crisis, its Evils, and their Remedy” (1869); “Horace Greeley in 1872” (1873); “The New Puritan” (1878); and “The First Blows of the Civil War” (1879). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 18. 


PILLSBURY, Parker, 1809-1898, Concord, New Hampshire, reformer, newspaper editor.  Garrisonian abolitionist.  Wrote and published: Act of the Anti-Slavery Apostles, Rochester, NY, 1883.  Wrote: The Church as it is; or The Forlorn Hope of Slavery, Boston, 1847.  Agent for the Massachusetts, New Hampshire and American Anti-Slavery Societies.  Served as a Manager in the American Anti-Slavery Society, 1840-1853. 

(Drake, 1950, p. 177; Dumond, 1961, p. 268; Mabee, 1970, pp. 114-115, 123, 200, 206-208, 214, 215, 221, 223, 233, 250, 262, 297, 329, 333, 335-337, 361-363, 389, 371, 494n24; Sernett, 2002, pp. 213, 218; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, p. 20; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 608)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PILLSBURY, Parker, reformer, b. in Hamilton, Mass., 22 Sept., 1809. He removed to Henniker, N. H., in 1814, and was employed in farm-work till 1835, when he entered Gilmanton theological seminary. He was graduated in 1838, studied a year at Andover, supplied the Congregational church at New London, N. H., for one year, and then abandoned the ministry in order to engage in anti-slavery work. He was a lecturing agent of the New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and American anti-slavery societies from1840 till the abolition of slavery, and edited the “Herald of Freedom” at Concord, N.H., in 1840 and 1845- '6, and the “National Anti-Slavery Standard” in New York city in 1866. In 1868-'70 he was the editor of the “Revolution,” a woman suffrage paper in New York city. Afterward he was a preacher for Free religious societies in Salem and Toledo, Ohio, Battle Creek, Mich., and other western towns. Besides pamphlets on reform subjects, he has published “Acts of the Anti-Slavery Apostles” (Rochester, N. Y., 1883). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 20.


PINKERTON, Allan, 1819-1884, Glasgow, Scotland, detective, Union spy, abolitionist.  Founder of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.  “Foreman” of the Underground Railroad, his office was a station.

(Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 7, Pt. 2, p. 622)



One reason for the outbreak of the abolition movement was increasing knowledge of the conditions of slavery. Improvements in transit, closer commercial relations between north and south, and a spirit of investigation into social conditions made possible an era of travel and observation in the south by foreigners and northemers.1 The abolitionists at home clipped items from the southern newspapers and listened to the narratives of the fugitive slave. To describe the plantation system, especially its cruel and repulsive side, was their stock in trade; while in the defences of slavery and the replies to the abolitionists the gentler side of slave-holding was held up to view.2

The visitor who expected to find a distinct type of slave countenance and person was disappointed. Some had large infusions of white blood and possessed European features; and some pure negroes

1 See list of travelers in chap. xxii., below.

2 On the general conditions of slavery, Hart, Contemporaries, III., §§ 169-173.

had oval faces, slender and supple figures, graceful hands, and small feet.1 [ …]   Among the negroes, as among other races, there was no fixed standard of capacity or character. Some masters were never weary of telling of the faithfulness and attachment of their slaves; of their care for the children of the family; of their incorruptibility. One champion of slavery enumerates the virtues of slaves: "Fidelity-often proof against all temptation-even death itself-an eminently cheerful and social temper ... submission to constituted authority." 3 But the general tone towards the negro was one of distrust and aversion. Many masters believed that "the negroes were so addicted to lying and stealing that they were not to be trusted out of sight or hearing." 4 At best they were thought big children, pleased with trifles, and easily forgetful of penalties and pains. The slaves were rough and brutal among themselves. Friendly observers complained of 

1 Kemble, Georgian Plantation, 42, 85.

2 Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 387; cf. Martineau, Society in America, I., 212-234.

3 Harper, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 46.

4 Reported by Buckingham, Slave States, II., 87.

“the insolent tyranny of their demeanor toward each other; . . . they are diabolically cruel to animals too, and they seem to me as a rule hardly to know the difference between truth and falsehood." 1 Their indolence was the despair of every slave-owner, or was overcome by the strictest discipline. In many small households with few slaves and no patriarchal tradition there was constant friction and flogging; their shiftlessness, waste of their master's property, neglect of his animals, were almost proverbial; and the looseness of the marriage --tie and immorality of even the best of the negroes were subjects of sorrow to those who felt the responsibility for them.2

Many of the negroes showed intellectual qualities, especially household slaves; and thousands of slaves learned to read and write. The art was frowned upon, for "what has the slave of any country to do with heroic virtues, liberal knowledge, or elegant accomplishments?" 3 Nevertheless, the number of slaves who could read and write was probably not far from one-tenth of the whole.4 They were taught by kind --hearted mistresses and children of the family, who liked to give a pleasure and who disregarded the statutes against the practice; once taught, they communicated the art to one another, and secret

1 Kemble, Georgian Plantation, 263.

2 Harper, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 38-4r.

3 Ibid., 36, 46.

4 Grace E. Burroughs, unpublished manuscript on Educated Slaves.

schools for the children of slaves were not unknown.1

Some of the letters written by escaped slaves showed education and superior power of expression. Yet in this period appeared no such slave prodigies as Phyllis Wheatley, the slave poet, whose verses were kindly received by Washington; or Benjamin Banneker, the astronomer, who was a guest at the table of President Jefferson. The literary negroes were nearly all escaped slaves, whose reminiscences bear the trace of a white man's correcting pen. The one literary opportunity for the slave on the soil was the telling of folk-stories, which show a vivid power of description, an imagination which personifies the ideas of the story-teller, and a rich and unctuous humor which delights by its sudden turns - of situation. The only art in which the negroes excelled was music. They have an intuitive quickness in picking up simple musical instruments, and developed, if they did not invent, the banjo; but their songs were their chief intellectual efforts; the words, simple, repetitive, sometimes senseless, were made the vehicle for a plaintive music. 2 A proportion of the slaves now difficult to

1 Bremer, Homes of the New World, II., 499; Burke, Reminiscences, 85; Douglass, Narrative, 32-44; · Kemble, Georgian Plantation, 230, 257; Smedes, Memorials of a Southern Planter, 79.

2 Harris, Nights with Uncle Remus, 143-206; Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 551, 607; Bremer, Homes of the New World, II.,. 174; Kemble, Georgian Plantation, 1271 218; Douglass Narrrative, 13-15.

ascertain was employed in other than household or field tasks. A few were fishermen, employed as cooks or hands on coasting craft; 1 a larger number served as roustabouts on the river steamers, where their picturesque appearance, songs, jollity, and hard work in handling freight and fuel attracted the attention of all travellers.2 Slaves were freely used in the turpentine industry, which required very little skill, and in the lumbering regions, as wood-choppers and to prepare lumber. Mining employed almost no slaves, the labor of free whites or free negroes was considered more profitable.3

In addition to these rough tasks, a fraction of the slaves and free negroes, certainly not one-twentieth of the able-bodied men, were employed in skilled trades, especially building.  Nearly all large plantations had a little force of blacksmiths, carpenters, bricklayers, and the like, and such skilled hands were frequently hired out by their masters.4 Most of the plantation buildings in the south were constructed by slave labor, and many of the town and city buildings. Some slave mechanics could not only build, but draw plans, make contracts, and complete a house, even hiring out their own time and employing men on their own responsibility.5 This small proportion

1 Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 35r-355.

2 Ibid., 551-564; Stuart, North America, II., r53; Buckingham, Slave States, I., 264.

3 Lyell, Second Visit, I., 216.

4 Smedes, Memorials of a Southern Planter, 104. 5 Letter of G. W. Steedman, of St. Louis, to the author; cf. Lyell, Second Visit, I., 267.

of industrial slaves was not much increased by slaves working in factories. The few iron furnaces in the south employed negro labor, hiring it at about two hundred dollars a year; and gangs of slaves could be found in the tobacco factories.1 Among the few textile mills was a bagging factory in Lexington, Kentucky, and cotton mills near Huntsville and at Salada, near Columbia;2 mills at Scottsville were profitably carried on by the labor of slave families-owned by the corporation. De Bow, in 1852, was still hopeful of slave operatives, though only about one-fortieth of the cotton grown in the south was manufactured in the south, most of it by white labor.3 

Coming back again to the plantation, a sharp distinction was drawn between two great classes of slaves -the field slaves and house-servants. The present tradition in the south is that these house-servants were universally intelligent, faithful, and devoted; indeed, there were many warm attachments between the slaves and the members of the owner's family,4 yet people at the time did not find them either refined or well-kept. On the Butler plantation in Georgia there was neither table nor chair in the kitchen; the boys slept on the hearth, and the

1 Olmsted, Texas 'Journey, 19; Buckingham, Slave States, I., 43; Pickard, Kidnapped and Ransomed, 43-45; Bremer, Homes of the New World, II., 509.

2 Hunt's Merchants' Magazine, XXXVIII., 509; XXXIX., 755.

3 De Bow, Industrial Resources, II., 112.

4 Smedes, Memorials of a Southern Planter, passim.

women on rough board bedsteads strewn with a little tree-moss. Rooms for household servants were almost nowhere provided; either they slept in separate buildings or stretched themselves on the floor or the passages, or even in the rooms of the family. 1

One reason for the glamour cast over household slaves was that the best of the race was drawn into that service. The highest position to which a slave could aspire was to be butler or cook in the great house, where food was plenty, company enjoyable, and perquisites many.2 The black mammy, who perhaps had brought up a whole family of white children-for white nurses were almost unknown--is still cherished in the minds of many southern people; but when she was young she was not always a person whose moral character influenced for good the children for whom she cared; and the maids too often had special temptations and dangers in the presence of the master and the master's sons.

 The characteristic life of the negro was as a plantation laborer; he raised the greater part of the surplus product of the south and was the basis of most wealth; but he was a very unsatisfactory laborer.  That a thrifty farmer like Olmsted should be scandalized at the inefficiency of the negro is not remarkable;3 but he made the same impression on his

1 Kemble, Georgia Plantation, 23, 66.

2 Smedes, Memorials of a Southern Planter, 82-84.

3 Olmsted, Back Country, 432; Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, I0, 44-47, 99, 105, 480-483.

master, who freely acknowledged that slave labor, could never be so cheap as free labor. 1 Owner after owner complained to visitors of his slaves. "In working niggers we must always calculate that they  will not labor at all except to avoid punishment; ... it always seems on the plantation as if they took pains to break all the tools and spoil all the cattle  that they possibly can." 2

On some plantations slaves worked from sunrise to sundown, about the hours of northern laborers then, and in addition had to cook their own meals. In many parts of the south there was task work. The task which was an average for a gang could be performed by some members of it so quickly that they got through as early as three, or even one o'clock; but it was almost impossible to increase the average result by any reward or punishment. On all plantations the women worked alongside the men, even to the extent of driving a plough. Too little attention was paid to the peculiar needs of working-women near childbirth, and lifelong injuries from overstrain among them were not uncommon. Nevertheless, the testimony of witnesses is that, in general, the day's work of a slave was considerably less than that  of hired workmen in the north.3

The ordinary food of the slave was com-bread and

1 Harper, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 26.

2 Conversation in Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 105.

3 Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 334; Olmsted, Back Country, 49, 50, 81.

bacon, with sweet-potatoes and some other vegetables; a peck of meal and three pounds of bacon week, with a little sugar and wheat-flour, was thought a suitable ration for a hand; but many slaves had a little time for cultivating their own garden-patches, kept chickens, and sometimes pigs, with an occasional opossum or even a bear from their nocturnal hunting. The ordinary rations to have been sufficient for keeping up health.  The conditions of life were easy in the south, and none but an extraordinarily stupid or cruel master would keep his slaves down to a point where they could not do full work; and the household servants and their families, who swarmed in and out of the kitchen, never suffered. The delightful southern cooking in such households, the inimitable fried chicken, the delicious beaten biscuit, the unrealizable methods of cooking fowls, turkeys, and game, did not extend among the poor planters or the poor whites, who for the most part lived in an atmosphere of grease and frying, with corresponding ill effects upon their digestion.

The clothing of slaves was of every variety, from the smart mulatto lady's-maid, who wore the still fresh dress that had been her young mistress's, down to the pickaninny of three, five, or eight years of age, who went as nature made him. Most plantations issued coarse clothing at stated intervals. The shoes and some clothing on large plantations were made up by slaves set apart for that purpose, and house slaves often took pride in being smartly dressed in clothing fitted to them by professional tailors.1

The cost of maintenance of field slaves was a question much discussed, and estimates by planters varied from fifteen dollars a year, for food and clothing, up to fifty dollars; 2 to which should be added medical attendance, which might be five dollars a head, an overseer's wages, an average of ten dollars a head. If, therefore, the annual product of the plantation averaged seventy-five to one hundred dollars per head of all the slaves, there was something to pay for wear and tear, interest, tools, etc., and a profit; but leaving out the old, the sick, the · children too young to work, and the women necessary ' for household and other services, not more than one-third of the ·slaves on a plantation could ordinarily be put into the field. 

The ideal plantation had a "great house," or family mansion, with its avenue of live-oaks sweeping up to the front doors, and at little distance the negro quarters. Here are two accounts written within six years of each other: "Each cabin was a framed building, the walls boarded and whitewashed on the outside; lathed and plastered within, the roof shingled; . . . divided into two family tenements,

1 Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, II., 27, r12, 686-694; Adams, Southside View, 29- 32; Kemble, Georgian Plantation, 52, 179; Burke, Reminiscences, 113.

2 De Bow, Industrial Resources, I., 150.

each twenty - one by twenty - one; each tenemen1 divided in to three rooms. . . .  Besides these rooms each tenement had a cockloft, entered by steps from the household room. Each tenement is occupied, on an average, by five persons." 1 "No attempt at any drainage or any convenience existed near them .... Heaps of oyster shells, broken crockery, old shoes, rags, and feathers were found near each hut. The huts were all alike windowless, and the apertures, intended to be glazed some fine day, were generally filled up with a deal board. The roofs were shingle and the white-wash which had once given the settlement an air of cleanliness, was now only to be traced by patches." 2

Slavery made real family life almost impossible, except on the smaller plantations where one or more families of slaves were often the sole valuable asset of the owners, and they grew up alongside their masters. On the larger plantations the house slaves could bring up their own families, but marriage was subject to many difficulties. Many planters disliked to have their slaves married to slaves of their neighbors. On their own plantations owners exercised a kind of “pater potestas” over the alliances of their slaves, occasionally uniting them in such simple marriage services as, "Do you make Joe build a fire for Phillis and see that Phillis cooks for Joe and

1 Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 422.

2 Russell, Diary North and South, I., 212; cf. Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 441 111, 421, 629, 659, 692, 698.

washes his clothes."1 The negroes preferred a marriage ceremony, and sometimes were united in form at the great house. "I had a weddin'--a big weddin'--for Marlow's kitchen. Your pa gib me a head weddin'--kilt a mutton-a round o' beef-tukkeys --cakes, one on t'other-trifie. I had all the chany off de sideboard, cups and saucers, de table, de white table-cloth. I had on your pa's wife's weddin' gloves an' slippers an' veil. De slippers was too small, but I put my toes in. Miss Mary had a mighty neat foot. Marster brought out a milk-pail o' toddy and more in bottles. De gentlemans an ‘marster stand up on de tables. He didn't rush 'mongst de black folks, you know. I had a tearin' -down weddin, to be sho'. Nobody else didn't hab sich a weddin." 2

In the nature of things, slave marriages were unstable. The negroes themselves did not feel a strong sense of obligation to their spouses, and frequently deserted one another. However, so long as there were little children, so somebody must take care of them, though, inasmuch as the little negro was welcomed chiefly as adding to the wealth of his master, the ordinary beautiful relations of child and parent were difficult. On some plantations there was a nursery for the babies while their mothers were in the field. As the old slave woman expressed it, "You feel when your child is born you can't have

1 Pickard, Kidnapped and Ransomed, 153.

2 Aunt Harriet, in Smedes, Memorials of a Southern Planter, 55.

the bringing of it up." 1 As children grew up they were employed for light tasks about the house and the place, and often were made petted playthings and riotous companions for their young masters, unless, indeed, their yellow tinge suggested to some member of the household that they were "a little more than kin and less than kind." 2

One of the strong arguments for slavery was that it abolished the poor-house and provided for the infirm and the aged. Absolute abandonment of a slave by a master who had the means to provide for him was next to impossible, because he would thereby become a public charge; and the slave codes commonly provided penalties for such cases.  Sometimes old slaves were protected characters; 3 but there were many instances of sick and old slaves who had but a pittance for their support.4 On many plantations the negroes were allowed privileges, such as the right to keep bees, or to sell small articles that had been made; and occasional holidays, especially at Christmas-time, when work was sometimes suspended for several days. 5 The right to keep truck-patches and to cultivate them was highly appreciated by the negroes. Money gifts to slaves were not uncommon, especially at Christmas, when tobacco, clothing, and molasses were

1 Adams, Southside View, 84; cf. Page, The Negro, r74.

2 ''Southern Woman," in N. Y. Independent, March 17, r904, p. 586.

3 Adams, Southside View, 47.  

4 Parsons, Inside View of Slavery, 154; Elliot, Sinfulness of Slavery, I., 212.

5 Adams, Southside View, 3

often liberally dealt out, sometimes to the value of ten dollars for each slave.1 Some slaves earned considerable sums by working for themselves on Sunday. The negro also had his recreations, picnics, and barbecues, visiting from plantation to plantation; in the cities going to shows, racing horses, and fighting.2 

"Yes, honey,'' said a reminiscent slave, "dat he did gib us Fourth o' July,--a plenty o' holiday,--a beef kilt, a mutton, hogs, salt and pepper, an' eberything, He hab a gre't trench dug, an' a whole load o' wood put in it, an' burned down to coals. Den dey put wooden spits across, an' dey had spoons an' basted de meat, an' he did not miss givin' us whiskey to drink,-a plenty of it, too. An' we 'vite all de 'culled people aroun', an' dey come, an' we had fine times. Our people was so good, and dey had so much. 'Dyar warn't no sich people no whyar. Marster mus'n't be named de same day as udder people." 3 The slaves greatly enjoyed religious meetings. Some churches had special galleries set apart for negro attendance, and there were also many separate negro churches, like the rural white churches, small and rough buildings, standing at cross-roads

1 Olmsted, Back Country, 51; cf. Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 439-443, 484, 682, 695.

2 Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 63, 75, 101-103, 394, 439, 630; Burke, Reminiscences, 92; Smedes, Memorials of a Southern Planter, 161-164.

3 Smedes, Memorials of a Southern Planter, 58.

far away from settlements. Like their poor white neighbors, anyone who had a gift of exhorting and praying, thereby became a minister; and in both city and country churches there was an immense amount of the shouting which was equally enjoyed by many white congregations.

Such religious services, though sometimes imbued with a genuine religious spirit and an incitement to the better life, were more often an appeal to the emotional nature. In the camp --meetings, which were held on the same model as those of the whites, and sometimes in the same place, though in separate amphitheatres, the negro had his highest enjoyment. An eye-witness says: "In the camp of the blacks is heard a great tumult and a loud cry. Men roar and bawl out; women screech like pigs about to be killed; many, having fallen into convulsions, leap and strike around them, so that they are obliged to be held down. It looks here and there like a regular fight; some of the calmer participants laugh. Many a cry of anguish may be heard, but you distinguish no words excepting 'Oh, I am a sinner!' and 'Jesus! Jesus!'" 1

In a Christian community believing that 'all men had souls to save, it would have been monstrous to deny the opportunity of salvation to the African. Some plantations had little churches of their own; masters permitted prayer-meetings in the houses of negroes; elsewhere services were held at the great

1 Bremer, Homes of the New World, I., 309.

houses by the owners, although many people thought it dangerous.1 Wherever attempts were made at formal religious instruction to slaves the question at once arose of their being encouraged to learn to read the Bible, though it must be presumed to be in accord with slavery. The safest way seemed to be to give the African "acquaintance with the word of God ... through oral instruction." 2

One side of the Christian religion was made sufficiently familiar to most negroes-namely, injunctions to servants to obey their masters and to be satisfied in the station to which the Lord had appointed them; yet many thousands found comfort and hope in the belief that a life of labor and privation was to be followed by a glorious eternity in heaven, although even here there was a doubt as to whether it would be the same heaven as that of the white people.

The question of a future life came home to the negro because he was so much more subject than his white brother to death; among the diseases most fatal to negroes were congestion of the lungs, yaws (a contagious filth disease), "negro consumption," and colic. Some medical authorities diagnosed also" hebetude of mind," a general breaking-down of the will and nervous force which overseers commonly supposed to be simple insolence and punished accordingly. The negroes were liable

1 Kemble, Georgian Plantation, 267.

2 Adams, Southside View, 57.

to intermittent fever, probably of a malarial character, and other forms of mysterious fevers. The greatest loss of life was among children, who had poor food and often most ignorant care.1 Epilepsy· was infrequent, and the census of 1840 showed only 1407 insane slaves, although there were doubtless many who were really non compos, but were retained on the plantation. Good plantations always had a contract doctor by the year to attend any cases that occurred; but the overseer was frequently the judge as to the nature of the disease, the remedy, and the moment when the work was to be resumed. Large estates had hospitals and separate lying-in hospitals, the character of which depended upon the humanity and intelligence of the owner. 2

The death-rate of the negroes was then, as it has continued to be, much larger than that the whites.3 Registration statistics in slavery times are incomplete except in Charleston. The very unsatisfactory figures of 1850 showed a white and free-negro death-rate of 13.6, and a slave-rate of 16.4 in the thousand. That the negroes continued to increase at about the same ratio as the whites was due to their phenomenal birth-rate.

1 De Bow, Industrial Resources, II., 292-303, 315-3%9; Kemble, Georgian Plantation, 39, 90.

2 Olmsted, Back Country, 77; Kemble, Georgian Plantation, 30-35, 121, 214-216. 

3 Eighth U. S. Census, 1860, Population, Introduction, p. xlv.

Source:  Hart, Albert Bushnell, Slavery and Abolition. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 16, 92-108. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.


PLEASANTS, JOHN H., editor, Richmond Whig.  Pleasants wrote a series of editorials in the Richmond Whig against slavery.  As a result, he was forced to leave the paper.  He then took a position at another paper.  Pleasants was killed in a dual by the son of Mr. Ritchie over the issue of his editorial stance against slavery.  (Wilson, 1872, Vol. 2, p. 59)


PLEASANTS, Robert, 1723-1801, Richmond, Virginia, abolitionist, educator, abolitionist, plantation owner, Society of Friends, Quaker.  Founder and President of the Virginia Abolition Society in 1790.  A slave-holder, he freed his slaves in 1782.  Pleasants petitioned the State of Virginia and U.S. Congress to end slave trade.  Wrote numerous letters to leaders regarding the morality of slavery. 

(Basker, 2005, pp. 225, 241n26; Bruns, 1977, pp. 221, 310, 348-349, 389, 466, 470; Dumond, 1961, pp. 20, 34)





IN the contest of nationalism against sectionalism, which was seen to be inevitable after 1844, the triumph of the Unionists in 1850 and the years following was due largely to the fact that the weight of leadership and party tradition was with the compromisers. To keep the slavery question suppressed and to prevent the sections from again coming into conflict in Congress, the same strong leadership must continue; but unfortunately for the finality of the compromise, the leaders who had won that victory soon passed off the stage and left no successors of equal influence. The result was the ultimate victory of sectionalism in north and south, and· the coming to the front of those radically different ideals and political habits which guided north and south into and through the Civil War.

The distinguishing feature of the older group was the strong Unionism of its leaders, whether Whig or Democratic. The peace, perpetuity, and strength of the Union stood in their eyes above all other political ideals; and when the slavery question arose and extremists in north and south insisted on forcing the sectional issue, they were alarmed and horrified. Their principles in politics were imbibed when most of them entered public life, in the nationalistic era of 1810-1830,1 and they felt called on neither to approve nor to condemn slavery, nor, in fact, to concern themselves with it. In their eyes the moral earnestness of the abolitionist was as incomprehensible as the sincere sectionalism of the secessionist was abhorrent; and they were amazed and grieved by the fierce disapprobation of compromise by both kinds of extremists. Considering slavery outside the range of legitimate political discussion, they tried to exclude it first by their disapproval and then by compromise.

As long as such men as Clay and Webster led the forces of nationalism with all the power of their personalities and the splendor of their eloquence, the spirit of Union triumphed; but Clay's work was done when the compromise of 1850 was carried through; he took little part in events thereafter, beyond speaking in the Senate in behalf of "finality." His death, in June, 1852, was regarded as a national loss, and Whig and Democrat alike paid him glowing tributes and united in recognizing the passing of a great American leader whose sun had set in peaceful skies, for he had outlived personal ambition.

Not so with Webster: to the last he hoped for the Whig nomination for the presidency, and when Scott

1 Cf. Turner, New West (Am. Nation, XIV.), chap. xviii.

was selected over him his bitterness and grief were intense. He even advised his intimate friends to vote for Pierce, and died in October, 1852, a saddened man. In New England his death was mourned as the loss of the foremost citizen, and even his bitterest critics; the Free-Soilers, admitted his intellectual greatness; but outside of his own constituency only the conservative Whigs felt his loss. Something in Webster's personality prevented him, in death as in life, from rivalling the popularity and national standing of his rival, Clay.

Most of the other strong Unionist leaders retired from political life about the same time. Among the northern Jacksonian Democrats, Van Buren made his last appearance in politics in 1848; in 1851 Woodbury died, and Dickinson lost his seat in the Senate; and of the Webster Whigs, Winthrop, of Massachusetts, and Ewing, of Ohio, retired in 1851, and Corwin in 1853. At the south, Benton, the senatorial Hercules of the Jacksonian Unionists, lost his seat in 1851, and consumed his remaining days in a gallant but futile struggle to regain power in his state; and Foote, who had led the Unionist forces in Mississippi, did not re-enter national politics after 1851. Among the southern Whigs, Berrien, of Georgia, retired from the Senate in 1851, and Mangum, of North Carolina, in 1853. Most of these men were of the older school, except perhaps Foote, and their public conduct was guided by a tradition of formal statesmanship inherited from the first decades of the century. Their simultaneous departure from the field of national politics left the leadership of Union feeling to men who were at once less able to control sentiment and less, skillful in congressional and executive direction.

The surviving Unionists, during the years 1853-1860, were stronger in the Democratic Party than in the Whig, especially since they counted among their number the one man who had the ability to succeed Clay as a congressional and popular orator. Stephen A. Douglas entered public life in the preceding decade, and by experience in House and Senate had become, by 1850, the keenest parliamentarian of his party and the foremost man in the west. He was a strong defender of the compromises, totally indifferent to slavery as an institution, and devoted to Unionism in the same way that Webster and Clay had been. His ability as a public speaker, which gave him party leadership in the Senate, made him the idol of the Illinois Democrats and won him the admiration of his party in most states; while his force and energy so dominated his short frame that he was known as " the Little Giant." Douglas was better suited than any other man in the United States to maintain Unionism against antislavery sentiment in the north, but, unfortunately for his success, he was hampered by his very facility in debate and in party leadership, for he lacked caution and insight into the conditions of popular feeling. Unable to comprehend the force of moral indignation against slavery, he was led through overconfidence in his own powers into grave mistakes of policy which eventually ruined his cause.1

Other Democratic Unionists were Cass, Buchanan, and Marcy, rivals with Douglas in the national convention of 1852. Of these Marcy was the strongest , in character, an experienced Jacksonian politician of New York, a member of the "Albany Regency," and the originator of the famed phrase "to the victors belong the spoils of the enemy.'' Marcy was, however, much more than a spoilsman: he was a hard-headed, aggressive Democratic partisan, with none of the popular power of his younger rival, Douglas, but with much more caution and political shrewdness. His later career as secretary of state under Pierce was his last appearance in politics, and his death in 1857 removed one of the steadying influences in his party. Cass and Buchanan remained in public life to the end of the period, and, with Douglas, stood forward as representatives of the compromise Democracy. Of the two, Cass had the greater native ability, and from his long career in Michigan and his vigorous personality had a fairly strong hold over the party in the northwest. Like Douglas, he does not seem to have had any comprehension of the depth of the moral opposition to slavery in the north, and his eagerness to settle sectional questions by compromise or by finding some way to appease southern threats won him,

1 See Brown, Douglas.

among abolitionists and Free-Soilers, the name of "Arch-dough-face." Buchanan, with less courage and personal strength than Marcy, held somewhat the same position in Pennsylvania, where his conservative, steadily partisan record made him the special representative of the highly conservative Democratic party of that state. At no time in his career did a spark of originality disturb his utterances; but he had a political shrewdness which stood him in good stead. These men, strongly entrenched in the party machinery of their section, were prepared to make an obstinate fight for the principles of Unionism through compromise. 

Among the Whigs the Unionist leadership was far weaker. Edward Everett, of Massachusetts, eloquent, honorable, a lover of concord and harmony, was sent to the Senate to succeed Webster, but he lacked the fighting quality of men like Douglas, and could not retain leadership. Fillmore, after his retirement from the presidency, remained a figurehead for conservative Whigs, but he had no power over people; nor did Fish, the New York Whig senator who replaced Dickinson in 1851, prove to be a strong leader; while Choate, of Massachusetts, distinguished for eloquence and brilliancy, lacked the willingness to throw himself heart and soul into a contest for party supremacy. Nowhere among the Whigs did there appear a figure of national prominence able to carry on the work of Clay and Webster At the south, the sincere Unionists were temporarily reinforced, in 1850, by a large number of Whigs and Democrats, who later showed that at heart they were more sectional than national. If these be left aside, the number of consistent Union leaders who remained in public life after the death or retirement of Clay, Benton, Berrien, and the rest, was comparatively small. Houston, of Texas, an original Jacksonian, was a picturesque figure in the Senate and a personality of influence in his own state, where to the end he upheld the cause of Unionism against secession. Bell, of Tennessee, a man without great gifts as either speaker or thinker, but popular in his own section and a leader of steady Unionism, was joined in the Senate by Crittenden, of Kentucky, a man of Clay's type with all of Clay's fervent Unionism and much of Clay's personal hold over the people. Up to the verge of the Civil War these three men, with Clayton, of Delaware, a strenuous debater although a rather unsuccessful diplomat, struggled to maintain the traditions of Clay, carrying on a contest in their section parallel to that waged by the northern Unionists.

Now that the passions aroused by the civil conflict have retired into the past, it is possible to credit these Unionists, northern and southern, with more genuine honesty and patriotism than it was customary to ascribe to them in earlier years. The northern Doughface, willing to make concessions to the south for the sake of peace, the southern Unionist, ready to forego an opportunity to advance the interests of slavery if by so doing he could preserve the Union, were not cowards nor traitors to their sections; they were stimulated by an ideal no less than were their opponents; and their failure discredits not so much their patriotism or moral earnestness as their powers to meet the difficult task imposed upon them. Certainly a large majority of the American people looked to these men as true patriots, inspired by the sentiments expressed in Longfellow's apostrophe to the Union in his "Building of the Ship," published in 1850; and even as late as 1860 a great majority of the wealthier classes at north and south still held to their point of view.

Opposed to these Unionists there stood in the north a growing number of antislavery political leaders who regarded politics from a wholly different point of view. In their eyes the controversy over slavery was not a distressing interruption to normal politics, but was an inevitable consequence of their highest convictions. The Union, they too professed to uphold, and they uniformly denounced secession, but they were ready to risk harmony and peace within the Union for the sake of righting what they considered a wrong. Admitting their impotence to interfere with slavery in the states, and for the most part disclaiming the desire to do so, they insisted that slavery must not be extended into additional territory, nor fostered by the federal government. Such Unionism was very different from that of Clay or Foote: it meant that a peculiar interest of one section was not to receive national support or countenance; and it did not prevent a feeling towards the south ranging from hostile criticism to savage dislike.

The earliest representatives of this northern sectionalism had been John Quincy Adams and Joshua R. Giddings in the House,1 joined later by Hale, of New Hampshire, in the Senate. Adams died in 1848, but Giddings and Hale continued in Congress during most of this decade, whereas open agitators they made incessant attacks on slavery. Of the two, Giddings was bitter and aggressive, Hale keen and humorous; but each had an unerring scent for those interests of slavery which on their face did not refer to the "institution." The Free Soil agitation and the controversy over the compromise of 1850 brought into office a number of men who were destined to be the country's leaders in the period of civil war and reconstruction. Two of these were Free-Soilers Chase, of Ohio, and Sumner, of Massachusetts-men who fought together the battle of antislavery, and, while very different in personal qualities, were united by a lasting friendship and confidence. Chase was in some respects the abler of the two, gifted with strong practical sense in legislative matters, good powers of debate, and some of the useful qualities of the managing politician. He was a large man in every way but one; he was deficient in a sense of party loyalty, and, by his willingness to advance his

1 Cf. Hart, Slavery and Abolition (Am. Nation, XVI.), chap. xviii.

own interests without concerning himself much about :his political friends, had won a reputation for self-seeking which stood in his way in later life. In the Senate, however, his bearing was admirable.1 The northern compromisers and southern sectionalists had no more dangerous opponent. Sumner, his colleague, was a narrower man, less of a politician and less of a legislator, his main interests lying in the slavery contest. He brought with him to the Senate a florid eloquence, a biting tongue in debate, and an unflinching courage in enunciating the doctrines of the antislavery philosophy in the teeth of the southerners, which was later to cost him dearly.2

Wholly different from these men were two antislavery Whigs who now came forward. Wade, of Ohio, was a fighting northern partisan, a rough, fearless, practical westerner, with none of Sumner's eastern scholarship and little of Chase's solid legal training and ability, but well suited to aid these men in undermining the hold of compromisers upon the north. Seward, of New York, elected in 1849, was still different, for he was as much politician as antislavery statesman. Trained under" Thurlow Weed, the master of the Whig machine in New York, he knew all the details of party management and was ever guided in his senatorial career by considerations of party and personal policy. He did not love a fight, as did Hale, Chase, and Sumner; and his

1 Hart, Chase, chaps. iv., v.

2 Pierce, Sumner, I., chaps. xxxv.-xlii. 

speeches in the Senate were rather party and personal manifestoes than a share in a give-and-take debate; but his reputation as party leader often gave them an importance which the more strictly forensic efforts of the others failed to secure.1

At a later time these leaders were joined by a host of other antislavery representatives, in House and Senate, especially Trumbull, of Illinois, a hard-hitting debater, and Wilson, of Massachusetts, an antislavery politician with a power of party management equal to Seward's. No one of these men, however, was individually the equal of Douglas, and it was not until Abraham Lincoln issued from private life in 1858 that his hold upon the west was shaken.

Over against the northern radicals stood a group of southern proslavery statesmen, destined to lead their states into secession and civil war. These men, whether nominally Whigs or Democrats, differed from their great forerunner, Calhoun, in openly and frankly holding that the sectional interests of their states were superior to any incompatible claims of the Union, and in making that the main-spring of their action. They regarded the north with unconcealed suspicion and hostility, and were equally ready to secede or to stay, according to the benefits which their section derived from the situation. Inasmuch as their attitude was the most direct threat to the perpetuity of the Union, they were regarded by the northern Unionists as the chief power to be

1 Cf. Bancroft, Seward, I., chapters. xii.-xxi.

conciliated, and thence came their strong influence over such Whigs as Webster, Everett, and Choate, and such Democrats as Cass and Buchanan. No group of men in the country was so powerful: they dictated platforms, inspired executive policy in domestic and foreign affairs, and exercised in Congress an almost unbroken parliamentary supremacy. Utterly fearless in debate, they assumed and maintained a masterful control over less belligerent northerners, overawing them by their greater fluency of speech, their readiness to resort to personalities, and their hot tempers, which the social influence of the slave-holding south had not taught them to bridle.1

Among the more significant of these leaders were several former Unionists. Senator Toombs, of Georgia, whose reputation in the north was that of one of the hottest of the "fire-eaters," was really less extreme than many other southerners. Elected as a Whig to succeed Berrien· in the Senate in 1851, he showed himself a man of great eloquence and strong personal assertiveness. In debate he held the foremost place until Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, returned to his chair in 1:857, when he became the southern spokesman. Davis was a more logical speaker than Toombs, less diffuse, and keener. When matched, as he was later, against the adroit and slippery Douglas, Davis, by his directness and singleness of aim, showed himself his equal. These two men, insisting on the rectitude of slavery and

1 Brown, Lower South, 61, 80. 

the rights of the states, proved too strong for the southern Unionists.

Yet neither Toombs nor Davis at that time was a secessionist; each avowed his preference for a continuance of the Union, but each showed clearly that when the choice had to be made between secession and a Union in which slavery was restricted, they would prefer disunion. Some other southerners were ready for secession at any time, notably William L. Yancey, of Alabama, a man of great popular eloquence, a born agitator and stump-speaker, whose desire for a separation from the north was so strong that he refused to serve in any federal office. Quitman, of Mississippi, a strong advocate of Cuban annexation, was also ready for secession as soon as possible, and many South-Carolinians, notably Barnwell Rhett, who remained out of politics during most of this decade. Both Senate and House in these years contained a group of southerners of the Davis and Yancey type, all marked by the same readiness in debate, sensitiveness to the rights of their section, and self-confident spirit in all affairs. They had a dash, a vigor, a parliamentary "gallantry," to use the favorite southern adjective, entirely lacking among northern representatives. Such men as the fiery Stephens, of Georgia, Howell Cobb and Iverson of the same state, Clement C. Clay, the leading Alabama "fire-eater," and A. G. Brown, of Mississippi, had an advantage in debate not disturbed, until just before the Civil War the break-down of Unionist sentiment at the north allowed a number of radical opponents of slavery to enter Congress and meet the fire-eaters with equal spirit, if not with equal eloquence.

The older generation of statesmen took with them into the grave or into retirement not merely their lively Unionist spirit, but also their old-fashioned opposition to a partisan civil service. As a rule, men like Clay, Webster, Adams, and, above all others, Calhoun, had no love for office-broking, and looked with contempt upon such political manipulation as was perfected by Van Buren, Weed, and other machine managers. But the rising generation of party leaders in the north entertained no such feelings. Davis, Toombs, Seward, Chase, Lincoln, and Douglas alike considered the filling of offices with personal and party friends as the natural course of events.1 The last relic of reluctance to avow the principles of rotation in office was exhibited when the Whigs, under Taylor and Fillmore, still affected to consider the turning out of Democrats to make place for office - seekers a " reform." The claim was denounced as hypocrisy by the defeated party. "Appointments and removals," said Bright, of Indiana, in the Senate, "were made throughout the Union and in every state on the sole ground that the incumbent was a Democrat and the applicant a Whig. If the removals had been made on this ground I do

1 Salmon, Appointing Power, 76-85; Fish, Civil Service and Patronage, 161-164. 

not believe there is a decapitated officer ... that would have uttered a voice of complaint. . .. But when ... the monstrous defence is set up that our friends were dishonest, unfaithful and incompetent, a reply is demanded ... Recollect, Mr. President, I am not complaining of the removal of my political friends, when that removal is made under the regular rules and articles of political warfare." 1

When Pierce came in, the pressure for office was overwhelming; and the kind-hearted president, bewildered by the unbounded demands of office-seekers, and unable to say "'no "to any one, was driven to distraction before the expiration of a year of his term. His fruitless efforts to please everybody succeeded merely in causing heart-burnings, and in leading to a complete rupture of the New York Democrats into two factions, the Hard-shells and the Soft-shells, who formed distinct organizations and remained bitterly at war for three years. 2

Four years later, at the accession of Buchanan, the theory of· rotation in office reached its full development, for although one Democratic president succeeded another, the pressure for removals was nearly as strong as though there had been a party change. Accordingly, almost without arousing comment, Buchanan turned large numbers of Pierce's appointees out of office in order to make places

1 Cong. Globe, 31 Cong., 2 Sess., 155, 156.

2 Fish, Civil Service and Patronage, 165; Rhodes, United States, I., 385-389, 399, 419-421.

for new democratic incumbents.1 Marcy merely provoked a smile when he remarked, "They have it that I am the author of the doctrine that 'to the victors belong the spoils,' but I should never recommend the policy of pillaging my own camp." The last vestiges of opposition to the reign of spoils in federal offices seemed to have disappeared. At the south, however, the system was less fully developed. The personal and local character of politics prevented the rise of a class of office-seekers dependent upon patronage for a livelihood, and kept the federal service in these states comparatively free from plunder..2

Another feature of the new politics of the decade was the appearance of corruption. The industrial development of the north at this time, the growth of large cities, and the influx of hundreds of thousands of ignorant foreigners, largely Irish and German, produced the first unmistakable signs of a new era in machine politics. For the first time one encounters in the newspapers of these years rumors of the lavish use of money in elections and of bribery in legislatures. Actual corruption was proved in connection with land grants by a Wisconsin legislature in 1856, and with the tariff of 1857. "Bribery is comparatively of recent introduction in our country," wrote one observer. "Its effects are only very

1 Fish, Civil Service and Patronage, 166; Salmon, Appointing Power, 84; Taney to Pierce, August 29, 1857, in Am. Hist. Rev., X., 359.

2 Charleston Mercury, April 4, 1857; Fish, Civil Service and Patronage, 157. 

partially developed, but the rapid progress it has made within a few years is a fact too prominent to be overlooked and a warning too serious and too significant to be disregarded .... In some states wealthy and powerful corporations have usurped absolute power, controlling both the legislative and judicial actionist officers openly boasting that they carry the state in their pockets and that their corporation is rich enough to buy any legislation they want." 1 There is no reason to suppose that one party was materially better than the other: a Democratic legislature and Republican governor in Wisconsin took "gratuities" from a railway with equal facility, 2 and though the municipal corruption of New York City occurred under Democratic rule, the largest defaulter in a state office at this time was a Republican treasurer of Ohio during Chase's governorship. 

Two scandals connected with cabinet officers took place under Whig administrations: the Galphin claim, in which George W. Crawford, secretary of war under Taylor, secured one-half the payment of the arrears of interest on a Revolutionary claim, amounting to ninety-four thousand dollars; and the Gardiner claim, where Corwin, as secretary of the treasury, received large sums from a claim later proved fraudulent. 3 In Buchanan's term, also, the Covode investigation, of a bitterly partisan

1 Hazard, Economics and Politics, 118, 120.

2 Tuttle, Wisconsin, 346, 356.

3 Rhodes, United States, I., 203, 298.

character, found evidence of corruption in purchasing votes in Congress for an administration measure by contracts, offices, and money bribes. These charges Buchanan denied sweepingly but ineffectually.1 It was definitely proved at the outbreak of the Civil War that Floyd, Buchanan's secretary of war, was a defaulter under circumstances which showed a singularly dull sense of official propriety.

In New York City the employment of municipal offices to fill the pockets of party leaders was now in full operation. During years of turbulent politics, in which the figure of Fernando Wood, the first successful city boss, occupied the central place, the voters struggled with dishonest primary inspectors, corrupt election judges, and self-seeking leaders whose desire for reform was wholly subordinate to their personal interests. In 1853 there came an exposure of corruption of the kind which on many later occasions has produced waves of "reform." Bribery in the awarding of street railway franchises, corrupt contracts, the sale of offices, and inefficiency on the part of the police were revealed; but the strong control maintained by Wood over the voters was sufficient to bring him into power after a brief interval of "reform" government by a coalition candidate.2

In the decade after 1850 the elements of later political life were plainly visible. The old methods of Jacksonian days were superseded by a more

1 House Exec. Docs., 36 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 648.

2 Myers, Tammany Hall, 178-230.

sophisticated machinery, in which the nominating convention, party committee, and newspaper organ were not merely means for carrying elections, but were the field of operations of a perfectly well -defined class of professional politicians. The industrial revolution taking place in American economic life was affecting politics and making of them a business in city and country. The advent of a new political generation in the north meant the control of political life by men who were at the same time more elevated than their predecessors in their conception of personal liberty, and less elevated towards party organization and corrupt politics.

Source:  Smith, Theodore Clarke, Parties and Slavery. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 18, 40-58. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.



THE year 1850 marks the end of the first stage of the slavery controversy in the United States. In 1843 a movement began for expansion towards the southwest which brought about the annexation of Texas in 1845, the war with Mexico from 1846 to 1848, and the purchase of the great domain of New Mexico and California. In the course of these events it was discovered that the majority of the people in the states where slavery did not exist were unwilling to see it introduced into any of the newly acquired territory. They demanded, accordingly, from Congress, the passage of laws expressly prohibiting involuntary servitude in the new lands, asserting this to be the traditional policy of the country, as illustrated in the Northwest Ordinance and the Missouri Compromise. This sentiment of the free states regarding slavery was to a large degree the result of an agitation for its abolition which had been active for a score of years without any positive results, until the northern feeling against slavery extension revealed that numbers of people who strongly disavowed any sympathy with abolitionists, properly so -called, had, nevertheless, been brought to dislike slavery as an indirect consequence of the abolitionists' incessant denunciation of the institution.1

On the other hand, it became evident that the people of the southern states regarded the existence of slavery in the new territories as vital to their interests. They maintained that, from the start, it had been the policy of the country to leave southern territory open to slavery, the proof being the absence of any restrictions upon the territories south of the Ohio at the time of the Northwest Ordinance, upon Florida or upon the Louisiana cession south of the Missouri Compromise line. In opposition to the proposal to exclude slavery from all the new regions, they demanded either the admission .of slaves everywhere, or at least the division of New Mexico and California by a continuation of the Missouri Compromise line, prohibiting slavery to the north of it (as in the Louisiana territory) but permitting it to the southward.2 They considered the

1 Cf. Garrison, Westward Extension (Am. Nation, XVII.), chapter xviii.

2 Cf. Turner, New West, chap. x.; Hart, Slavery and Abolition, chap. xx:i. (Am. Nation, XIV., XVI.)

northern attitude an outgrowth of ignorance, bigotry, and unfairness, due to the abolitionist propaganda, and, regarding themselves as the aggrieved party-since the expansion movement was from the start a southern one-freely threatened to dissolve the Union in case their equality in the territories was not conceded. As soon as the consideration of territorial organization began in Congress, it was found that the House, in which the superiority of the north in population gave an antislavery majority, was balanced by the Senate, in which the number of members from free and slave states was equal. The "Wilmot Proviso," as the clause excluding slavery from the territories was called from its original mover, repeatedly passed the House, from 1846 to 1849, only to fail in the Senate; on the other hand, the extension of the Missouri Compromise line, which the Senate stood ready to adopt, was never favored by the House. Congress could not agree upon any form of organization for the territories, owing to this sectional issue, and popular excitement increased in intensity as year after year elapsed and no decision was reached.1

During this controversy, however, there existed a powerful influence which prevented the sectional antagonism from showing itself in undisguised form. 'Two political parties, the Democratic and Whig, stood in the years from 1840 to 1850 as parts of the

1 Garrison, Westward Extension (Am. Nation, XVII.), chapter xvi.

accepted institutions of the country, singularly deep rooted, thoroughly organized in every part of the Union, and not dependent upon casual issues for their existence. bed by keen politicians, their chief function was to carry elections and fill offices. Around their nominations, platforms, and campaign methods there had grown up a body of tradition hardening into immovable custom; and the sense of party loyalty among the voters had developed into an unquestioning faith and acceptance of the duty of supporting the "regular ticket" and the “usages of the party."

Principles which were supposed to divide Democrat from Whig were not always easy to discover, since the real basis of the organizations was social and partisan and not related to legislation; but, in general, the-Democratic party professed an adherence to states' rights and a tendency to restrict the powers of the central government; while the Whigs inherited to some degree the more liberal governmental views of the Federalists, whose semi-aristocratic attitude they also shared. On all issues of the day it was practicable and often necessary for the parties to avoid taking definite action, since it was seldom that their membership was sufficiently united upon any federal policy to make it safe to enforce party discipline in a merely legislative question. The main desideratum was always party unity in elections; and while the widest divergence in voting in Congress was compatible with party membership, no deviation at election time was tolerated, except in rare cases.

Towards the new slavery issue, the attitude of the two parties was strictly limited by the opinions of the leaders as to how far it was safe for campaign purposes to take ground for or against any measure. In 1844 the Democratic Party declared for the annexation of Texas, but the Whig platform carefully avoided the subject, for fear of cooling the zeal of proslavery southerners or of antislavery northern members. As soon as the sectional divergence became apparent in Congress, the local party organizations fell in with the sentiment of their sections, demanding exclusion or admission of slavery as the case required; but this apparent sectional division disappeared in the presidential campaign of 1848, when each party, by the simple expedient of refusing to take any attitude whatever on the problem of slavery in the new territories, was able to face both ways and retain its constituency.1 Throughout the period, however, there was visible a tendency on the part of the party leaders, both in the federal executive and in Congress, to favor conciliating the south as far as was feasible without danger of alienating the north, since the possibility of southern disunion was always alarming. This attitude, and the absence of any definite party principles on the issue of the extension of slavery, led the more radical

1 Cf. Garrison, Westward Extension (Am. Nation, XVII.), chap. xvii.

antislavery politicians to attempt the formation "of a new northern party at Buffalo, in 1848, but the Free Soil organization succeeded only in drawing enough votes in the state of New York from Cass, the Democratic candidate, to secure the election of his rival, General Taylor. The election decided nothing and the situation remained critical.

In the session of Congress beginning December, 1849, and lasting to October, 1850, the moderate leaders of both parties--Clay, Webster, Cass, Douglas, and others-united to advocate, and, after a bitter struggle, to carry through, a series of acts intended to establish a permanent adjustment between the sections. This arrangement included three minor propositions as make-weights: the abolition of the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, to satisfy antislavery sentiment; a more stringent fugitive slave law, to satisfy the demands of slave-owners; and the payment of a sum of ten millions in return for the relinquishment by Texas of territorial claims over part of New Mexico. The most important acts were three: one admitted California, where the discovery of gold had already drawn a considerable population, as a free state covering the entire Pacific coast -line between Oregon and Mexico; the other two organized Utah and New Mexico as territories without prohibiting slavery, under the so-called "principle of Congressional non-interference.” The final determination as to slavery was left to the inhabitants at the time when they should draught a constitution' and apply for admission as a state. During the long congressional struggle over this compromise, the south resounded with threats of secession, and a convention of delegates of the slave states met at Nashville to take preliminary steps for uniting the section in case its rights were not recognized. The state of Texas threatened to assert its claims in the region of New Mexico by force, and President Taylor was preparing to maintain the authority of the United States, at the risk of civil war, when a sudden illness caused his death and the accession of Fillmore, a less pugnacious man, to the presidency. All felt that the country had been saved from a dangerous crisis by the leadership of Clay and his colleagues. 1

With the passage of these compromise laws, every part of the public territories of the United States received some sort of regulation as regarded slavery. Except the Indian reservation, all of the old Louisiana Purchase which still remained in the territorial state was closed to slavery by the Missouri Compromise, which in 1845 had been extended also over a small part of Texas. The Oregon territory was closed by an organizing act of 1848. All that was left open to slave-holders was the large but arid domain of Utah and New Mexico, clearly unsuited to any industry hitherto carried on in the United States by slave labor. It seemed as though there was no further opportunity for sectional

1 Garrison, Westward Extension (American Nation, XVII.), chap. xix.

controversy over the slavery issue, provided that the existing conditions remained unaltered.

From 1850 to 1860 the problem for the political leaders of the United States was that of guiding public affairs in such a way that neither section of the country should again feel that its interests were endangered. It was obvious that the chief danger to this programme was to be feared from the southern extremists; for, whatever might be the legal or political rights of the south, the slave-holding communities, as Calhoun had been pointing out for a generation, were ·on the defensive and were in the minority. There was no northern institution which was really endangered by the south, no northern interest menaced by southern reprobation. Slavery, on the contrary, was the object of attack by northern public opinion; and if the north should, as a unit, decide to exclude slavery from the federal domain or to use the powers of the federal government to discourage the institution, its superiority of numbers would enable it to carry out the purpose. With this situation clearly before them, southern extremists formed a far larger proportion of the local population than did abolitionists in the north, and were held in far higher respect at home and greater awe in the councils at Washington. They proclaimed a visible danger. Accordingly, all the conservative leaders of both sections regarded the south as the political element of the country to be placated, and exercised their influence in executive, legislative, and judicial office upon that assumption. With the older generation, as sectional dangers thickened, this feeling grew to be the sole effective political aim, until the last years of such a man as Webster were devoted to the one object of inducing his section to cease criticising the south, for fear of endangering the safety of the federal Union; and the entire energy of such a president as Pierce or Buchanan was expended in trying to satisfy southern desires.

The powerful assistance of the existing parties in carrying out this plan was clearly recognized, and from 1850 to 1860 the possibility of keeping the south contented was seen to rest largely upon the preservation of these organizations in their national, non-sectional condition. So long as Whig and Democratic parties drew support from all parts of the country it was not possible for a sectional president or a sectional Congress to be elected. But it was seen that the free states, if a sectional northern party were formed, could through their superior population elect an antislavery president and Congress, a result which would inevitably precipitate disunion; so that the one great political danger dreaded by conservatives and by the older party leaders was the disturbance of the existing party loyalty and the rise of either a northern or a southern sectional party. The practical problem in 1850 was, then, to preserve the old Whig and Democratic traditions, and to resume, if possible, the comparatively innocuous party contests of the years before 1848.

The only source of possible friction lay in the chance that the southern people might again attempt tropical annexations, an event which, in 1850, seemed by no means ·unlikely. Should the acquisition of Cuba, the goal of southern desires, be seriously sought, the question of the addition of slave territory would lift its head, and might again arouse the north to sectional action; hence any attempt on the part of the United States to enter this field must be made with caution. Other points where the federal government must continue to touch slavery might prove annoying, but could hardly be dangerous. .The new fugitive-slave' law involved no striking novelty, and the diplomacy of slavery, relating to the slave-trade and shipwrecked or mutinous negroes, was not sufficiently important to arouse sectional antagonism.

Now that the slavery question had received some sort of adjustment, it' remained 'to be seen whether the country would acquiesce and let the old parties resume their customary electoral contests, and concern themselves· with those problems of internal government with which! their earlier days had been taken up such as the currency, the tariff, the public lands. The administration in power was that of Millard Fillmore, a conservative Whig, thoroughly committed to the compromise measures which, as president, he had signed. His cabinet, newly formed in the summer of 18 50, was equally determined to adhere to sectional harmony, from Webster the secretary of state, and Corwin, secretary of the treasury, to Crittenden, of Kentucky, the attorney general. The era of compromise opened with its friends in power in all parts of the federal government.

Source:  Smith, Theodore Clarke, Parties and Slavery. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 18, 3-13. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.

Chapter: “Democratic and Whig National Conventions of 1848,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 129-139.

Chapter: “Popular Movements of the Opponents of Slavery Extension,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:

Having peremptorily refused to become members· of the Democratic national convention upon the condition tendered to them, the Utica delegates immediately issued an address to the Democracy of New York, condemning the action of the convention and justifying their own: They summoned a State convention to meet at Utica on the 22d of June, to hear its report, and to recommend candidates for President and Vice-President to the Democratic State convention to be held in September. Colonel Samuel Young, a veteran Democratic statesman, presided. The meeting was earnest and enthusiastic. The speaking was eloquent, racy, and sharp. One of the speakers remarked that were one to import a single slave into any State or Territory he would be hung as a pirate, “yet we are asked to make our flag carry slavery to the shores of the Pacific, to plant it wherever our dominion extends."

A letter was read from Mr. Van Buren, defining his position and that of the men who had invited him to become their standard-bearer. Communications were received indorsing the policy of slavery restriction and expressing the hope that Mr. Van Buren would be nominated for the Presidency. On the second day he was nominated for President by acclamation, and Henry Dodge of Wisconsin for Vice-President. General Dodge, however, promptly declined the nomination. Resolutions were adopted, and an address to the · Democratic electors of New York was issued. In this address the action of the national convention was sharply criticised, and the doctrine of undying hostility to the further extension of slavery was enunciated.

The “Barnburners “were the ablest portion of the New York Democracy. They were thorough party men, but progressive in their tendencies. Martin Van Buren and Silas Wright were the chiefs of this section of the Democratic Party. If Mr. Wright had not died in 1847, he would undoubtedly have been the Buffalo nominee in 1848. All the “Barnburners" of 1848, in their desire to avenge the wrongs of Van Buren and Wright, were willing to use the Free Soil weapons. But in one class the Free Soil doctrines were deeply rooted, and in the other they were either merely employed to meet the emergency or were held rather loosely. Prominent in the firstnamed class were Preston King, William Cullen Bryant, David Dudley Field, Abijah Mann, James S. Wadsworth, Ward Hunt, James W. Nye, George Opdyke, and H. H. Van Dyck. All of these were leading men in 1848, all acted with the regular Democracy in 1852, but all of them became very active in the Republican Party in 1856. In the other class of " Barnburners" were Benjamin F. Butler, Churchill C. Cambreling, Samuel Young, and Azariah C. Flagg, - veteran statesmen, whose names gave prestige to the movement, John A. Dix, John Van Buren, Sanford E. Church,. Dean Richmond, Samuel J. Tilden, and John Cochrane. Dix and Cochrane went to the field at the opening of the Rebellion, and became Republicans. Van Buren, Church, Tilden, and Richmond clung to the Democratic Party, but were moderately on the side of their country during the war. These and others that might be mentioned were all men of influence and power in the Free Soil movement. But the “bright, particular star " of that revolt was John Van Buren. He was an able lawyer, and unquestionably one of the best popular orators of his time. During the progress of the contest of 1848, he became imbued with antislavery sentiments; but he still adhered to the Democracy, though he never felt quite at home there after 1848.  Indeed, such was the brilliant record he then made, his popular talents, his prestige of name and position, that, had he remained true to the principles he then advocated, he would unquestionably have been one of the foremost men of the Republican party, if not its accepted leader, and would thus have linked his name with the imperishable history of its grand achievements.

After the nomination of General Taylor had been consummated, the use of the lecture-room of the building in which the convention had been held was obtained by Mr. Wilson for a meeting that evening of delegates and others opposed to the selection made. Fifteen gentlemen were present: Louis 0. Cowan and Samuel Bradley, of Maine ; Charles Allen, Henry Wilson, and Daniel W. Alvord, of Massachusetts ; Isaac Platt, John C. Hamilton, and Robert Colby, of New York ; Horace N. Conger of New Jersey; Lewis D. Campbell, Samuel Galloway, John C. Vaughan, Stanley Matthews, John Burgoyne, and H. B. Hurlburt, of Ohio. Others, in and out of the convention, who had expressed great dissatisfaction at its action and had avowed their indignant purpose not to submit to it, had been invited, and had promised to be present; but they yielded to the strong pressure of the hour, and failed to make their appearance.

Mr. Wilson, who had called the meeting, stated its object Referring to the action of the convention, to the complete triumph of the Slave Power in the nomination of a candidate uncommitted to the organization or to the principles of the Whig party, to the prompt rejection of the Wilmot proviso, and to the denunciation of its friends as " factionists," he avowed his determined purpose to repudiate its action and its candidates. He had called them together, he said, to take measures for holding a national convention for the organization of a new party and for the nomination of candidates pledged to freedom. At his suggestion, John C. Hamilton, son of Alexander Hamilton, was invited to act as chairman of the meeting. On taking the chair, Mr. Hamilton briefly referred to the disastrous influences of slavery even over the earlier administrations of the general government, and to the opinions and actions of his illustrious father and of other statesmen of his day. Robert Colby, son of ex-Governor Anthony Colby of New Hampshire, then a young lawyer of the city of New York, was appointed secretary.

It was then moved by Mr. Wilson that a committee of three be appointed to take immediate measures to call, at an early day, a national convention of all persons opposed to the extension of slavery and to the election of the candidates of the Democratic and Whig parties. On this motion remarks were made by several gentlemen. Lewis D. Campbell sharply criticised the action of the convention, denounced the nomination of General Taylor, and declared his purpose not to vote for his election. But he would go home, he said, and consult the people of Ohio before he committed himself to any course of action.

The motion for a committee was earnestly and· strongly advocated by Mr. Allen. He was for immediate action, for the organization of a new party, and for a vigorous and aggressive policy. He was followed by Mr. Galloway in an earnest and eloquent denunciation of the proceedings of the convention; but, like his colleague, he too wished to return home and consult the people. Mr. Platt, then editor of the Poughkeepsie “Eagle" and a delegate to the convention, spoke in favor of the appointment of the committee, and expressed the hope that large results might follow such small beginnings.

Mr. Vaughan, a South-Carolinian by birth, and an antislavery man by conviction, who had been associated with Cassius M Clay and others in the conduct of antislavery journals, spoke earnestly of the aggressions of the slaveholding interest, of the skilful tactics of the Southern leaders, and of the weakness of Northern delegates, by which the cause of freedom had been betrayed. After farther discussion, the committee was appointed, consisting of Joshua R. Giddings, Charles Allen, and John C. Vaughan. It was then decided that the convention should be held at Buffalo early in August. It was also agreed that Mr. Vaughan should attend the People's mass convention, which had been called by citizens of Ohio, without distinction of party, of those opposed· to the extension of slavery, to meet at Columbus on the 22d of June. The purpose of his attendance was to persuade, if possible, the proposed meeting to issue the call for the national convention agreed upon.

The Ohio convention was largely attended. Mr. Vaughan was appointed chairman of the Committee on Resolutions, and reported a well-defined and comprehensive platform of principles. One of the resolutions invited all the friends of freedom, free soil, and free territory, opposed to the election of Cass or Taylor, to assemble at Buffalo on the 9th of August to nominate candidates for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency. The speeches and resolutions were based on the principle that the ordinance of 1787, which had given freedom to the Northwest, indicated the only safe policy then to be pursued.

A convention of the Liberty party was held at the same time and in the same city. Salmon P. Chase presided. John P. Hale of New Hampshire and Leicester King of Ohio were nominated for President and Vice-President, and the proposed convention at Buffalo received its indorsement.

Immediately on his return to Massachusetts from the Philadelphia convention, Mr. Wilson issued an address to the Whigs of the Eighth Congressional District. He had been sent to the convention by the same body which had nominated Horace Mann as the successor of John Quincy Adams, and which had then unanimously resolved that the " voice and vote" of their representative " shall on all occasions be exercised in extending liberty to the human race." He defined the position of General Taylor, traced the proceedings of the convention, and declared that he became convinced that if he consented to his nomination it must be done at the sacrifice of his own opinions and the betrayal of theirs. “What was I," he asked,” your delegate, known to be opposed to slavery in all its forms, to do? Should I, by approving this course, give the lie to my own professions, and to your unanimously recorded votes? I could not be false to my own convictions of duty and to your deliberately recorded opinions to gain the applause or escape the censure of any man or of any body of men. I announced to the convention that I should not be bound by its nominations; and I ventured the assertion, in your behalf, that the Whigs of the district that had sustained John Quincy Adams in his long and glorious career would spurn a nomination forced upon them by the arrogance of the South, aided by the servility of the North." He closed his address with the declaration that he would have nothing to do with the convention or its candidates; that he repudiated such abandonment of principle; and that he washed his hands, then and forever, of all agency in such an ignoble work. “Bitter denunciations," he said,” have already been heaped upon me, yet I see nothing to retract. No hope of political reward, no fear of ridicule or denunciation, will deter me from acting up to my convictions of duty in resisting the extension of slavery and the arrogant demands of the Slave Power."

On the 21st of June, Mr. Allen addressed the citizens of Worcester County in a speech of great length, in which the proceedings of the convention and the issues at stake were set forth with rare ability and force. His audience was large and highly intelligent, embracing many of the representative men of the county and of the State, and few speeches have produced a more marked and immediate effect. Before applauding friends, he declared anew the prediction he had proclaimed at Philadelphia, which subsequent events speedily verified, the dissolution of the Whig party of the United States. “I discard," he said,” the old; I look forward to the new. The great principle of free soil and non-extension of slavery is the principle, overriding all others, which I wish emblazoned upon the flag under which we may hereafter enlist." The meeting responded to his appeals by the enthusiastic adoption of a resolution proclaiming that " Massachusetts wears no chains and spurns all bribes; that Massachusetts goes now, and will ever go, for free soil and for free men, for free lips and a free press, for a free land and a free world."

When the intelligence reached Massachusetts that General Taylor had been nominated, and that treason to liberty had been more complete than even the antislavery Whigs had apprehended, the call, which had been prepared in anticipation of that result, was issued for a mass convention, to be held at Worcester on the 28th of June. Denying the binding obligation of the nomination on all Whigs, because General Taylor was not committed to their principles or to their organization, the call repudiated with special emphasis the obligation of Massachusetts Whigs to support it; inasmuch as he was believed to be, and those who secured his nomination were known to be, unmistakably hostile to the vital doctrines of liberty, to which they had so unequivocally and repeatedly affirmed their adhesion.

The convention met at Worcester. Its numbers were resolute and determined, of large intelligence and moral worth. A committee on an address and resolution was appointed; of which Stephen C. Phillips of Salem was chairman. A resolution was reported by Mr. Phillips tendering to Mr. Allen and Mr. Wilson the warmest thanks of the convention for “the fidelity, consistency, decision, and boldness with which they performed their duty as delegates from Massachusetts to the national Whig convention”; and declaring, too, that " this convention hereby ratifies their acts, and assures them that their services will be held in grateful and proud remembrance by the people of Massachusetts." Speeches were made in which the action of that convention was sharply criticised; and the people were urged to adopt the broad principles of freedom as the basis of their future and persistent action.

The address, reported by Mr. Phillips, was from his prolific pen. It set forth with great fullness; of detail the perils and needs of the country; the motives, principles, and purposes of the men who had there assembled to organize resistance against the Slave Power. In that trying hour, when the people seemed to be yielding in powerless submission, its tone was confident and almost defiant. With cheerful hope of future success, it closed with these words: " Truth, justice, liberty, patriotism, and humanity are bound together in indissoluble union and are destined to share a common triumph. We know our duty, we appeal to the people, and we trust in God."

Six delegates --two each from the Whig, Democratic, and Liberty parties --were chosen to attend the Buffalo convention, and a State committee of fourteen was appointed, of which Mr. Adams was chairman. Mr. Paine and Mr. Hart, of Rhode Island, made earnest and effective addresses. Amasa Walker and Joshua Leavitt followed with warm appeals for unity among Democrats, Whigs, and all others, against these persistent and alarming encroachments of the Slave Power. Lewis D. Campbell, a delegate to the national convention, was then introduced by Mr. Wilson. He vividly portrayed the proceedings of that body and the scenes which transpired in the convention; said he had given a written pledge to the people of his district that he would vote for no man not pledged to Whig principles and against the extension of slavery, and he proclaimed his purpose to return to Ohio and give back to his constituents the authority they had entrusted to his hands; and then he said: " I will take my position, and it will be right."

The address and resolutions were then unanimously adopted. The convention was afterwards addressed by Mr. Giddings, who was welcomed with a most enthusiastic greeting. His address, too, was received with the most lively expressions of satisfaction. Mr. J. C. Lovejoy, then a member of the Liberty party, spoke with vigor and effect. Charles Francis Adams laid, down with clearness and precision the fundamental principles of liberty, and applied them to the existing condition of the nation. Charles Sumner followed, in a speech of great thoroughness and force; not only enunciating the commanding principles of liberty, but foreshadowing with confidence and hope the time when they should be embodied in the actual and triumphant policy of the State and nation.

Fletcher Webster and a few of his father's friends were present, not to take part in, but to note, the proceedings of the occasion. E. Rockwood Hoar said in his admirable speech, which was listened to with marked attention, that he was authorized to say that Mr. Webster had not committed himself to the support of General Taylor, and also that he and his friends sympathized with the purposes of the convention. It was the hope enkindled by these assurances which prompted that convention of earnest, resolute, and hopeful men, to declare that Massachusetts still looked to Daniel Webster to uphold before the country the policy of the free States; that she was relieved to know that he had not advised the support of General Taylor; and that she invoked him, at that crisis, "to turn a deaf ear to the ' optimists ' and ' quietists,' and to speak and act as his heart and his great mind shall lead him." ·

Upon a pressing invitation of Fletcher Webster, Mr. Allen and Mr. Wilson, a day or two after the convention, visited Boston to confer with Mr. Webster in regard to political affairs. But he was absent from the city. On his return, Mr. Wilson called again at his office. Mr. Webster commended very highly the resolutions and the address of the. Worcester convention, and expressed his confidence in the gentlemen who had called it and participated in it, many of whom he recognized not only as political but personal friends. In response to a question as to the purposes of those engaged in the movement, Mr. Wilson replied that they intended to create and combine a public sentiment which would uphold those statesmen who were in favor of the Wilmot proviso, and break down those who opposed it; that they desired to unite all those who would resist and overthrow the c dominating influences of the Slave Power, and restore the government to the policy of its founders; that, in fact, they would make " a North." Mr. Webster replied with much feeling that there had never been a North; that, when he and others had striven to resist the demands of the South, they had been overborne by Northern men, by the representatives of such States as Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. He admitted that if the proposed convention at Buffalo could so concentrate public sentiment as to sustain those who were true to Northern rights and interests, they would achieve a great and much-desired result. But he doubted their ability to do it. The South had long controlled the government, was in possession of power, and had vast and controlling influences at its command. 

For weeks, however, he continued to avow opposition to the nomination of General Taylor. Even after the Buffalo convention, he told his friends that he could stand on its platform. But he soon yielded to the pressure, and avowed his purpose to support the nomination, although he had previously characterized it as "not fit to be made." This sad confession and course of Mr. Webster afford an illustration of, as well as a key to, the political history of the nation from the start. In avowing his readiness to accept the Buffalo platform, of which the Wilmot proviso was the corner-stone, and yet actually supporting a platform the distinctive feature of which was that it rejected that proviso, he did nothing more nor worse than the nation had long been doing, -- attempting to combine and harmonize the antagonistic elements of republicanism and despotism, of  freedom and chattelhood; announcing the grandest doctrines of human rights, and largely incorporating them into its laws and practical legislation, and yet making no secret of its purpose to maintain and give vigor to the baldest and most oppressive system of slavery, individual and social, the world had ever seen. Though always aware of this inconsistency, and restive under its imputation, it still went on with these two conflicting civilizations. It proclaimed the doctrine of the Declaration, recognized with Washington that intelligence and morality were the " two pillars " on which alone free institutions could securely rest, and sought its own elevation and improvement by developing its resources of matter and mind while subject and yielding to forces, old and new, to which it was ever and necessarily exposed. At the same time it sought with equal and direct purpose to repress and restrain, to darken and degrade, a large fraction of its population, because ignorance and restraint were the only conditions by which slavery could be maintained.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 140-149.

Chapter: “Buffalo Convention” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:

On the 9th of .August, 1848, the opponents of slavery extension met in convention at Buffalo. · Salmon P. Chase was chairman of the delegated convention, and· Charles Francis Adams presided over the mass meeting. A tent had been prepared large enough to accommodate the thousands who gathered there. Mr. Adams stated the reasons for the call which had brought them there, and enunciated the general principles on which the new organization must be based. He declared that they were” under a necessity “to denounce the old organization of parties as no longer worthy of the confidence of the American people. “Set up your standard;'' he said,” of freedom and truth, - everything for the cause, and nothing for men. Let your deliberations then proceed, and may the Divine blessing rest upon the result, so that we can take one step forward to realize that great idea of our fore-fathers, the model of a Christian commonwealth."

Unity of feeling, opinion, and action seemed to pervade the convention. The Rev. William Wilson, pastor of the Church of the Covenanters in Cincinnati, sent a despatch which read like a summons to battle. It urged the convention to "exhibit one issue, one front, one nomination; courage! enthusiasm! anticipate victory! “Governor Slade of Vermont, in a letter to Mr. Giddings, which was read, pleaded for union.” Union," he said, “should be our watchword. Divided we have fallen, and divided we must forever fall, before the all grasping, overreaching, and never-satisfied power of slavery." He would not, he said, to prevent slavery extension, take Taylor to defeat Cass; for “we should have it under either, and should therefore take neither."

Stirring and eloquent speeches were made. Earnestness, deep convictions, and devotion to the cause, were everywhere manifest. "Let-the men of deepest principle," said Mr. Peck of Connecticut, “manifest the most profound condescension and the deepest humility to-day, and posterity will honor them for the deed." Preston King of New York introduced three resolutions, prepared by Mr. Chase, declaring that it was the duty of the Federal government to relieve itself from all responsibility for the extension and continuance of slavery wherever it had authority; that it was not responsible for slavery in the States; and that the only safe means of preventing the extension of slavery into free territory was to prohibit its existence there by act of Congress.

Benjamin F. Butler of New York, from the Committee on Resolutions, reported fifteen, in which were embodied the clearly defined principles of the new organization. They declared that the members of the convention, obedient to the example of the fathers, and trusting in God, aimed to plant themselves upon the national platform of freedom, in opposition to the sectional platform of slavery ; that, slavery being a State institution, they proposed no interference with it by Congress; that the history of the ordinance of 1787 showed the settled policy of the fathers not to extend, but to limit slavery ; that the fathers ordained the Constitution to secure the blessings of liberty; that Congress had no more power to make a slave than to make a king; that the national government should relieve itself from all responsibility for the existence of slavery; that Congress should prohibit slavery by law in all free territory; that they accepted the issue forced upon them by the Slave Power ; and that their calm and final answer was: No more slave States, no more slave territory, no more compromises with slavery; and freedom for Oregon, California, and New Mexico.  

To this comprehensive and clearly constitutional platform of principles, policy, and measures  concerning slavery, were added declarations in favor of cheap postage, retrenchment, grants of land to actual settlers, the early payment of the national debt, a tariff adequate to the current  expenses of the government and an annual instalment for the debt. Having enunciated this platform of principles and proposed measures, they resolved that “we inscribe on our banners Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor, and Free Men; and under it will fight on and fight ever, until a triumphant victory shall reward our exertions."

Mr. Giddings appealed with great earnestness and solemnity to his friends to accept the resolutions, and there on the spot to enter into “a holy and indissoluble league and covenant."  Mr. Butler declared that he had tried to meet the question with a just sense of his responsibility to his fellow-men and “to Him who is the judge that sitteth upon the throne and shall weigh all the actions of men." "I went first," he said, " to the Declaration of Independence ; and I find it filled with this great foundation truth, that all men are born with certain rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And then I looked to the Bible, and I find that of one blood hath God created all the nations of the earth. Free labor cannot exist where slavery holds sway, and thus the question embraces the interests of myriads that are to come after us."

Martin Grover avowed himself a "New York Democrat of the regular apostolic succession," but in favor of free soil, of the divorce of the general government from the support of slavery, and the repeal of every statute ever passed to uphold it. Erastus D. Culver of New York, who had told his constituents, when they sent him to Congress, that he should " fire upon the abominable institution of slavery so long as there was a loop-hole," and who had bravely kept his pledge, avowed himself in favor of a bold and aggressive policy. Mr. Brinkerhoff of Ohio, who drafted the Wilmot proviso, said he was no admirer of John C. Calhoun, nor of the satanic system of political philosophy of which he was the exponent ; but he did agree with him that the country was " in the midst of a crisis, -- an important, a momentous crisis.'' He gloried in the name of Democrat; but he adopted the sentiments of Jefferson, embodied in the ordinance of 1787, which had made forever free the great Northwest.

Joseph L. White of New York, formerly a Whig representative from Indiana, and a devoted admirer of Henry Clay, sharply criticised the action of the Whig convention in nominating General Taylor. Alluding to the aggressive action of the South, he said: “We have endured it until toleration has ceased to be a virtue, and now we plant ourselves upon the platform that our fathers planted themselves upon, and say to the South, ' Beware! The blood of the Roundheads is aroused.'" He avowed himself ready to fight with Free Soil men so long as they should continue the fight; and, when they ceased, he would fight on his own hook and under his own banner, and that banner should be, "Liberty and revenge.”.

General James W. Nye, then of New York, but subsequently United States Senator from Nevada, made a humorous and telling speech. “A crisis has arisen," he said,” when old prejudices must be laid aside, sacrificed upon the altar of our country's good. I have come here to lay down all my former predilections upon this altar, to strike hands with those even whom I have formerly battled. God raised up a David of old to slay the giant of Gath. So hath David Wilmot, with the sling of freedom and the smooth stone of truth, struck the giant Slavery between the eyes. He reels; let us push him over."

Henry B. Stanton said that " the motto of the convention should be that of the French Republic: ' Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.' We have come up to contend against a movement on the part of the slave interest to extend that institution, which takes the image of Almighty God on the immortal soul, blots it therefrom by legislation, and stamps in its place by legal enactment the name 'brute,' 'beast,' ' property.'"

James A. Briggs of Ohio said that it was the “principle of freedom, which has magnetized all hearts," that had brought together the great multitude before him. They had not come up there, he said, to “sing songs of laudation to a victorious general," but” to speak and to act for free soil, free speech, and for negroes too." Rev. Samuel J. May, the veteran Abolitionist, said he had been for a dissolution of the Union, but when he beheld the movement which had culminated that day "hope was renewed." He had thought resistance to slavery extension was " a small matter, a straining at a gnat after we had swallowed the camel "; but he, " on reflection, had come to the conclusion  that the extension of slavery was one of its essential elements, one of its main supports, and that in opposing extension we strike a powerful blow at slavery itself."

Robert Wilson of Michigan said he was one of the instruments that, in the Democratic national convention of 1844, had put aside Martin Van Buren under the same influence which had then nominated General Cass, and he came to that convention “to atone for the wrong done to Martin Van Buren." Professor Mahan of Ohio; referring to the apprehension of antislavery men that they would not be able to secure a platform sufficiently broad and comprehensive, said that Liberty party men, ''Barnburners," and Whigs could ask for nothing more, for they had secured " a platform on which the genius of Liberty could walk through the length and breadth of the land." It having been reported that John Quincy Mama had spoken approvingly of the anticipated nomination of General Taylor, Francis W. Bird of Massachusetts stated that that far-seeing statesman might have anticipated the nomination, but he could not have desired it, unless he did it for the purpose of "breaking up both of the old parties, and bringing about this union of good men and true of all political parties which we see here to-day " ; and he added, " the last meeting 'the old man eloquent' ever attended was a meeting of ' conscience ' Whigs, held in Boston at the office of his only son, Charles Francis Adams, and he approved of the ground taken by them."

Henry Bibb, a fugitive slave, then residing in Michigan, addressed the convention. He referred to the fact that he had attempted to vote, but had been refused on account of his color; that a movement was set on foot to make suffrage universal in that State, and that he himself took a petition for that purpose to General Cass; that that wary Democratic statesman had not only refused his signature, but, in response to the inquiry whether he was not in favor of the principle involved, had replied that he was " not at liberty to make any political declarations." There were also present John C. Adams, a young Boston lawyer, who had just published  vigorous pamphlet entitled, " The Northern No," Charles B. Sedgwick, James R. Doolittle of New York, and Samuel Lewis of Ohio, who addressed the convention1 and presented in firm and fitting phrase the startling issues of the hour.

A letter from Mr. Van Buren was read by David Dudley Field. Referring to the fact that the convention would be composed of gentlemen who had all their lives been arrayed on different sides in political contests, and concurring in the object for which the convention had assembled, he waived all claims to their support on account of his nomination by the Wilmot proviso Democrats at Utica, and assured them that the nomination of any other person would be entirely satisfactory to him. This letter, so explicit in its avowals and so conciliatory and patriotic in its tone, the action of his New York supporters in the convention, and the conviction that he would draw largely from the ranks of the Democracy, conquered prejudices, and reconciled many to giving a vote that was against all their previous prepossessions and would be obviously open to misconstruction. But, deeply impressed with the desperate condition of public affairs and with the pressing necessities of the nation, they were prepared to make any sacrifices to avert impending dangers and to arrest existing evils. Indeed, the same principles precisely that led them to sunder the ties of party reconciled them to what was most distasteful to large numbers, not only voting for a man to whom they had been for years politically opposed, but also for one whose course had been specially obnoxious to censure, and who, they felt, had merited the characterization so freely bestowed upon him of being a " Northern man with Southern principles." “Principles, not men," however, had become their motto; and, when all had more or less to be overlooked in the same direction, they were not disposed to scrutinize too closely even the record of Mr. Van Buren, who seemed to them providentially to occupy a position to forward a cause they had so much at heart. Could they have foreseen his subsequent course, they might have hesitated. But they were prepared to forgive and forget the past, and hope much for the future. Instead, therefore, of that political profligacy which has been so often and so flippantly charged upon his supporters, a vote for Mr. Van Buren under such circumstances often revealed a sublime triumph of earnest convictions over personal prejudice, of faith in principle, and in the power of truth over distrust in man and doubt of human reliability.

Of four hundred and sixty-six votes, Mr. Van Buren received a majority of twenty-two, Mr. Hale receiving one hundred and eighty-one, and there were some forty scattering votes. Mr. Adams being selected as candidate for the Vice-Presidency, the nominations were made unanimous, and Van Buren and Adams were emblazoned on the banners of the· new party. Having accomplished the work that had brought them together, these representatives of the friends of freedom separated and returned to their homes, with the rallying cry, given them by Stephen C. Phillips of Massachusetts, on their lips," Van Buren and Free Soil; Adams and Liberty! “

In his letter accepting the nomination, Mr. Van Buren fully accepted the platform also. This gave great satisfaction, though many Whigs, who had been greatly dissatisfied with the action of their convention, and had up to that time withheld their support from General Taylor, could not rise above the prejudices of partisanship, but slunk back again within party lines, and finally gave their reluctant vote for the nomination which Mr. Webster had declared " not fit to be made." Local and mass meetings were held, eloquent speakers entered the canvass, and pen and press were largely called into requisition. The vital issues forced upon the country by the Slave Power were met, grappled with, and presented, as never before, with distinctness of definition, force of enunciation, and unprecedented success.  Discordant elements were fused and blended. Men who had been accustomed to the sharp antagonisms of former political conflicts now found themselves working harmoniously together for a high and common object.

Conventions were held, the Buffalo platform and candidates indorsed, and electoral and State tickets put in nomination. Massachusetts was early in the field. On the 6th of September, the Free Soil State convention met at Boston. It was large in numbers and strong in talent and character. Edward L. Keyes, provisional chairman of the State committee, congratulated it that the North had been discovered by the “voyagers to Buffalo," that at last the north star had appeared in the heavens. “We have come," he said, “at the call of honor and humanity, to offer our devotions at the shrine of Freedom. We have come, like streams, from different fountains; but we come, like Avon and Avoca, to meet and mingle in peace." 

Mr. John Mills of Springfield, who had long been one of the honored and trusted leaders of the Democratic Party, was made president. A convention of the Liberty party met the same day, which, after a brief consultation, formally dissolved, and its members at once took their seats in the Free Soil convention. This ready abandonment of its old organization by the Liberty party, and its prompt acceptance of the new, drew from Charles Allen the remark, so enthusiastically applauded, that " without tasting death that party has been translated.''

The convention sat for two days. Unity and enthusiasm .marked the proceedings. Speeches of rare eloquence and power were made by Stephen C. Phillips, John Van Buren, Charles Sumner, Charles Allen, John A. Bolles, John C. Park, and others. At the head of the electoral ticket were placed the honored names of Samuel Hoar and William Jackson. Stephen C. Phillips was nominated for governor, and John Mills for lieutenant-governor. A series of comprehensive resolutions and a long and elaborate address to the people were reported by Mr. Sumner, and unanimously adopted. 

A few days afterward, the Free Soil convention of New York assembled at Utica. The spirit of the Buffalo convention pervaded it, and seemed to inspire its deliberations. The principles it enunciated were in harmony with those of that convention, and its speeches were of the same high tone and tenor. It placed at the head of its electoral ticket Robert Emmet, nephew of the great Irish martyr, and General James S. Wadsworth, who afterward fell in the battle of the Wilderness, and who had indignantly declared, when the Wilmot proviso was throttled in the Syracuse convention, that, " though it is too late to do justice to Silas Wright, it is not too late to do justice to his assassins." It nominated for governor General John A. Dix, then United States Senator, afterward Secretary of the Treasury, major-general in the war of the Rebellion, minister to France, and governor of the State; and Seth M. Gates, who had in Congress battled by the side of Adams, Giddings, and Slade, for lieutenant-governor. With such sentiments and such candidates, and with speakers and presses of such commanding ability, the Free Soil party of New York made a most vigorous and brilliant canvass, placed the vote of Mr. Van Buren ahead of that of General Cass, and seemed almost to have annihilated the Democratic part of the Empire State. Who could have then imagined that within one brief year the very men who had made this gallant fight, achieved so much for freedom, and had left such a record, should return to the ranks they had so effectually broken, and, without any guaranties for the security of the principles and purposes they had so earnestly and eloquently advocated and defended, aid by voice and vote in again placing in power the men who were found ready to indorse the wicked compromises of 1850?

The State convention of the party in Ohio, embracing in its ranks so much of character and worth, was inspired by a similar spirit. Led by such men as Chase, Giddings, Root, Lewis, and their compeers, they made a vigorous canvass. Securing the balance of power in the legislature, they were enabled so to control affairs as to sweep the infamous “black laws “from the statute-book, and to place Salmon P. Chase in the Senate of the United States. Like conventions were held in other free · States, organizations effected, and' candidates placed in nomination.

A State convention was held in Maryland. Local conventions and smaller meetings were held in Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Missouri. Though few in number, there were in the Border States earnest and fearless men who deplored the evils of slavery, and though surrounded by the most serious difficulties and menacing dangers gave pen, voice, and vote against extending to new .regions a system that had so cursed their own. In Missouri an able address was issued to the Democracy of that State, written by Montgomery Blair and signed by several of the citizens of St. Louis. Without considering the humane and religious aspects of the question, they urged the economic arguments derived from the facts that slavery paralyzed industry, degraded labor, and impeded the diffusion of knowledge. Viewing it in these relations, they contended that it was neither honest nor democratic, that it was not just, either to present or future generations, to fasten and entail such a system upon the vast regions held in trust for unborn millions. These moderate and practical views were received with favor, even by many who still clung to the Democratic Party, and especially by the Germans of St. Louis.

The new party, with its principles clearly defined and its policy and objects distinctly avowed, went into the contest with strong purpose, unfaltering resolution, and unwavering faith. Under the inspiration of the sacred cause, with leaders of acknowledged ability, eloquence, experience, and tact, it conducted a canvass of unprecedented vigor, and achieved results not to be measured by the number of votes it cast. Though restricted by constitutional obligations which it fully, if reluctantly, acknowledged, it went into the conflict unhampered by any affiliation with a " Southern wing," and pleaded, with unbated breath and without restraint, for the largest rights of humanity and the ultimate emancipation of the nation, though its immediate and proximate purposes were the defeat of slavery extension and the absolute overthrow of the Slave Power. With no expectation of victory,--indeed, with the certainty of defeat, --more than two hundred and ninety thousand men cast their votes for a principle. Though this new party of freedom secured no electoral vote, and but five members of Congress, “its success," in the language of Edmund Quincy, “was unprecedented, taking into consideration its brief existence and formidable foes."

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 150-160.



THE three years following the passage of Henry Clay's compromise measures were marked by the apparent triumph, in public opinion and in federal and state politics, of the belief that the slavery issue between north and south could be permanently set aside. This triumph was foreshadowed, during the spring and summer of 1850, by a rising demand for sectional peace, which aided Clay and his followers to carry out their programme. By the time that Congress adjourned, in October, 1850, the victory seemed almost won: All that remained was to secure definite ratification by press, pulpit, party resolutions, and the election of "compromise'' candidates. To secure this the antislavery sentiment of the north, embodied in the Free Soil movement, and the still more threatening secessionist agitation in the south, must be stamped out, and the old-time political system re-established.

In the northern states the problem of the defenders of the new compromise was to induce men of antislavery tendencies to forego all further agitation concerning slavery, on the ground that the decision just reached was equitable; and that, unless the north accepted it as final, the southern states might be driven to secede. To prove that the failure to exclude slavery from Utah and New Mexico was unimportant was comparatively easy; but to render the fugitive-slave law acceptable seemed at first a difficult task. For the speedy: capture of fugitives special federal commissioners were provided, and the United States marshals and their deputies were enjoined to aid; the procedure was simply proving the identity of the asserted slave to the satisfaction of the commissioner by ex parte evidence, excluding any testimony of the negro whose freedom was at stake; the decision of the commissioner was final ; and all good citizens were liable to be called upon to aid in enforcing the law under heavy penalties for refusal or for aiding the fugitive. The commissioner's fee was to be ten dollars when he returned a fugitive to slavery, five when he discharged him. No part of the law indicated any precautions against the enslavement of actually free negroes; it assumed that members of that race were normally slaves and that their liberty was a concern of the laws of the slave states alone, subject only to the check of the commissioner's judgment. 1

Upon this act was poured out the anger of all unreconciled antislavery people in the autumn of 1850. Public meetings by the hundred were held in

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, IX:, 462.

all parts of the free states to denounce it as unconstitutional, immoral, unchristian, and abhorrent t every instinct of justice and religion, and to demand its repeal. Many announced their purpose to disobey the act, often in exasperating language. "We hereby declare our purpose,'' said an Indiana meeting, "to make it powerless in the country by our absolute refusal to obey its inhuman and diabolical provisions." 1 "The enactment of it is utterly null and void,'' declared a Syracuse mass-meeting, "and should so ... be treated by the people." 2

Against this agitation such defenders of the compromise as Cass, Dickinson, and Douglas, of the Democrats, and Choate and Webster among the Whigs, began a powerful counter-movement for peace and submission to law. On their side rallied respectable society, the clergy, business men, and all who were tired of wrangles; and they all proclaimed earnestly and repeatedly that the time had come for an absolute cessation of antislavery controversy. "Union meetings" in New York, Boston, and other cities approved the compromise measures and demanded the execution of the fugitive-slave law in order to save the country. The great meeting in New York on October 30 voted "the thanks of this community and of the whole nation . . . to those eminent statesmen and patriots, Clay, Cass, Webster, Fillmore, Dickinson, Foote, Houston and others,''

1 Indiana True Democrat, November 8, 1850.

2 National Anti-Slavery Standard, October 17, 1850.

resolved to sustain the fugitive-slave act by all lawful means, declared all further slavery agitation to be dangerous to the Union·, and pledged those present not to vote for anyone who, favored it. 1

No one was more active nor more influential than Webster, who devoted all the powers of his eloquence in letters and speeches to reiterating the substance of his Seventh-of-March speech, denouncing the abolitionists, censuring all who did not admit the binding force of the fugitive-slave law, and declaring, again and again, "No man is at liberty to set up, or affect to set up his own conscience above the law" 2 In Chicago the city council, supported by popular opinion, passed a resolution requesting all citizens to abstain from executing the obnoxious act; but Douglas achieved the feat of bringing a hostile public meeting by sheer force of oratory to adopt resolutions for submission to the law.3

The effect of this general campaign for finality was shown in the elections of 1850; the crisis seemed over, and voters were returning to the party situation 'which-existed before 1848. The Whig party, whose platforms were usually rather more antislavery than those of the Democrats, lost ground in congressional and state elections, the Barnburners of 1848 now returned to their old ranks, and the Free Soil party crumbled into insignificance. In two states, how

1 N. Y. Tribune, October 31, 1850.

2 Webster, Works (ed. of 1851), 578.

3 Sheahan, Douglas, 159.

ever, the Free-Soilers were able to score one last, triumph owing to the accident that their representatives in the legislatures held the balance between the two old parties and thus were able to dictate the election of antislavery senators. In Ohio they assisted in sending to the Senate Benjamin F. Wade, a Whig of strong antislavery principles and pugnacious northern sectionalism. In Massachusetts, by a formal coalition, the two minority groups, Free-Soilers and Democrats, managed to control the legislature and share the offices by electing George S. Boutwell, a Democrat, as governor, and Charles Sumner, a Free-Soiler, as senator. This coalition, which was denounced by the dispossessed "Cotton Whigs" as utterly immoral and unprincipled, seemed by its success to obscure the real decline of antislavery feeling; but outside of Massachusetts the failure of the Free Soil party was manifest. 1 

Meanwhile a very different contest was going on at the south. There the problem for such leaders as Clay, Crittenden, Stephens, Cobb, and Foote, who accepted the compromise, was far more difficult than that of their northern colleagues. It was necessary to persuade the southern people that their section had not lost by the admission of California, and that the north was going to carry out the fugitive-slave law, so that no cause existed any longer for secession. In the northernmost slave states the influence of

1 Wilson, Slave Power, II., chap. xxvii.; Pierce, Sumner, III., 221-244; Curtis, Curtis. I., 138-185.

Clay was strong, but in the “cotton states" an active minority of leaders repudiated the compromise and refused to acquiesce without an effort to bring about secession. The result was a; campaign carried on with all the personal absorption, high feeling, and vigorous oratory which characterized the contests of southern leaders with one another. Among the secessionists Governor Quitman, of Mississippi, was prominent, urging that the time for action had come. "There is nothing," he said in his message to the legislature in November, "to encourage the hope that there will be any respite from aggression. Never has hostility to slavery been more distinctly marked or "more openly asserted. . . . The North has just triumphed in every claim she has asserted. I do not hesitate to express my decided opinion that the only effectual remedy to evils which must continue to grow from year to year is the prompt and peaceable secession of the aggrieved states." 1 Governor Means, of South Carolina, and Governor Bell, of Texas, were equally ready to bring about a crisis over the Texas boundary question; and all that held Means back from prompt action was his conviction that some other state than South Carolina ought to take the lead.2 In Alabama, William L. Yancey, the eloquent and radical " fire-eater," organized Southern Rights associations whose purpose was frankly to

1 Claiborne, Quitman, II., 47, 50.

2 Means to Quitman, May 12, 1851, Claiborne, Quitman, II., 133. 

agitate for disunion, and these were imitated in other states until a new secessionist organization had come into existence. The Alabama Southern Rights convention, on February 1, 1851, denounced a " tame submission to hostile and unconstitutional legislation," resolved to form a new southern party, called for the election of delegates to a southern congress, and announced that, if any other state or states seceded, Alabama should follow.1

On the other side, however, stood the bulk of the conservative Whigs and Democrats; and, in addition, many leaders who had been aggressive for slavery extension during the struggle just ended, but were now willing to accept the compromise as a temporary settlement. Such men as Foote, of Mississippi, Howell Cobb, Alexander Stephens, and the fiery Toombs, of Georgia, were no less champions of southern rights than Quitman and Yancey, and they now threw their personal weight into the scales against secession. The first victory of the southern Unionists was won in the adjourned session of the Nashville Convention of June, 1850, which came together again in November, in spite of the fact that Judge Sharkey, the Unionist president, refused to issue the call. So reduced was the membership that the convention did not feel strong enough to do more than denounce the compromise measures, reassert the right of secession, and recommend the · south to cut off commercial relations with the north until

1 Hodgson, Cradle of Confederacy, 290; Du Bose, Yancey, 252.

its rights were recognized. 1 Then the governors of Arkansas, Virginia, Alabama, and Florida, while condemning the compromise, admitted that there was no necessity for secession until some further action on the part of the north should aggravate the situation; 2 and the Texas legislature, instead of insisting on its boundary claim, accepted the federal offer of ten millions as a money compensation, thus removing a possible source of conflict.

"Finally came the election of a state convention in Georgia to decide, the question. of union or secession. The strong trio of Cobb, 1, Stephens, and Toombs canvassed the state, and after a campaign of considerable excitement the Unionist won a complete victory in November. When the convention met the next month, it drew ' up what because widely fil1.own as the "Georgia platform," embodying the ultimatum of the southern proslavery Unionists. 3 It declared in substance that the state, while not entirely approving of the compromise, would regard it as a, permanent adjustment, but in future "would resist even to the disruption of the union" any act prohibiting slavery in the territories, or a refusal to admit a slave state, or any modification of the fugitive-slave law.4 By the opening of the year it looked as though

1 Hodgson, Cradle of Confederacy, 19; N. Y: Tribune, November 27, 1850; Cluskey, Political Text Book, 597.

2 Harper's Magazine, January, 1851, p. 267.

3 Stovall, Toombs, 83. 

4 Phillips, Georgia and State Rights, 165; Hodgson, Cradle of Confederacy, 279-314. 

the advocates of peace and union were likely to win in their contest. The next twelve months were to settle the matter definitely.

When Congress met in December, 1850, it was evident that a calm had come over that once turbulent and angry body. All the forces of compromise united to declare the finality of the slavery adjustment, Fillmore intimating in his annual message that he would use his veto to protect it, and Clay uniting with forty other members in a manifesto pledging themselves to support no man for office who was not opposed to all further agitation. 1 Attempts by Hale and Giddings, two inveterate antislavery champions, to revive discussion of slavery questions provoked no response; and when southern leaders such· as Mason, of Virginia, pointed to the agitation against the fugitive-slave law as a proof that the compromise was not working well, they were met by eager assertions on the part of Clay and others that agitation was dying out. "I believe the law will be executed," asserted Cass, "wherever the flag of the Union waves .... A wonderful change in public sentiment has taken place. It is going on and will go onward until the great object is accomplished. We see it at the North, we see it at the West, and all around us, and we cannot mistake it." 2

It was a source of grief to Clay and his sympathizers that a succession of annoying episodes proved

1 Cong. Globe, 31 Cong., 2 Sess., 304.

2 Ibid., 296.

that the fugitive law was bitterly unpopular at the north. Its passage, accompanied by rumors that - the government intended to apply it vigorously, caused a panic among the colored population of northern cities. Fugitives who had been living in imagined security fled to Canada, and their course seemed justified by the first cases under the law, which appeared to show a greater anxiety to return alleged slaves than to secure certainty as to their identity.1 Finally, in February, 1851, a fugitive named Shadrach was violently rescued in Boston by a crowd of negroes after examination before a commissioner. 2 This act, not significant in itself, distressed the advocates of sectional harmony as seeming to contradict their confident assertions of the purpose of the north to execute the act; and Fillmore at once issued a proclamation announcing his purpose to employ the whole force of the government to support the law. In a special message he also asked Congress for additional powers, with the result of a lively controversy between extreme southerners who were anxious to prove the law a failure and conservatives like Clay, who insisted that the behavior of Massachusetts was exceptional; but no action was taken, and the session ended without further sectional recrimination.

1 Wilson, Slave Power, II., chap. xxvi.

2 Garrison, Garrison, III., 325; Weiss, Parker, II., 103-106; Frothingham, Parker, 412.

3 Richardson, Messages and Papers, V., 101, 109. VOL. XVIII.-3

The campaign for finality was now fought to a successful conclusion. In the north, Webster and others continued with unabated activity preaching the sanctity of the Union, the finality of the compromise, the futility and folly of agitation, and the supremacy of the law.1 It was true that a number of other cases of forcible resistance to the fugitive-slave law occurred in 1851, notably the rescue of "Jerry" in Syracuse by a crowd of abolitionists and others,2 and the killing of a master, Gorsuch, by a band of negroes, among whom was the fugitive whom he was attempting to recapture. In their anxiety to punish this crime with adequate severity, the federal authorities made an effort to convict a Quaker, Castner Hanway, of treason, on the ground that, as a by-stander, he had refused to assist Gorsuch; but this attempt to bring resistance to the fugitive-slave act under the head of " levying war against the United States'' proved futile.  3 As the year wore on, it became evident that the compromise had done its work.

In spite of the efforts of radicals, the excitement over the fugitive-slave act diminished, and the people of the free states settled down to an attitude of sincere but reluctant acquiescence. ."It is a 

1 Curtis, Webster, II., 499-523; Webster, Works (ed. of 1851), VI., 582 et seq.

2 Frothingham, Smith, 117; May, Antislavery conflict, 373.

3 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 328; Still, Underground Railroad, 349; History of Trial of Castner Hanway, 1852; McDougall, Fugitive Slaves, § 60.

disgraceful and dirty business," said the Ohio State 'Journal, "but it is sanctioned by the constitution," and "whatever things it pledges them [the northern people] to .do, these things they intend to do, whether agreeable or disagreeable." 1 A sign of this acquiescence was the successful return from Boston of a fugitive named Sims, in April, 1851, in spite of the opposition of sympathetic abolitionists.2

In the elections of 1851, both Whig and Democratic platforms dropped the last shreds of antislavery language. The decline in the Whig vote continued, and the Free Soil party now numbered little more than the old liberty party. So hopeless appeared its outlook that one of its leaders in the Senate, Chase, of Ohio, formally joined the Democrats in the state election. 3 Another result of the compromise struggle was seen this year in Missouri. Senator Benton, having refused to obey proslavery instructions of the state legislature, and having voted for the admission of California, his defiant attitude led to a split in the Democratic Party in the senatorial election. Though Benton retained a majority of Democrats, his opponents joined the Whigs to elect H. S. Geyer, an adherent of the compromise. Benton refused to accept this defeat as final, and fought hard for six years, sitting for one term in the

1 Ohio State Journal, April 12, 1851.

2 Adams, Dana, I., 185; Frothingham, Parker, 415; Details of the rescues of fugitives, in Hart, Am. History told by Contemporaries, IV., §§ 29-33. 3 Smith, Liberty and Free Soil Parties, 239-241. 

House of Representatives, and dividing his party in election after election, without success. 1 After his death, in 1858, the Bentonian Democrats in many cases became Republicans.

The struggle between the Unionists and Secessionists was now fought to a conclusion in the cotton states, where the efforts of the Southern Rights associations caused a temporary reconstruction of party lines. Most of the Whigs united with the conservative Democrats in a Union party, while the Southern Rights party, comprising the rest of the Democrats, and led by the unreconciled Quitman and Yancey, took the field in a last effort at secession. The result was a sweeping and conclusive victory for the Unionists in every state where the issue was joined, a victory due in large part to the personal power of the Unionist leaders in a region where personality counted much. In Georgia, Cobb, the Union candidate for governor, won easily over the State Rights nominee; 2 in Alabama both candidates approved the compromise; in Mississippi the Unionists won a complete victory in the election of delegates for a state convention. This seemed such a personal condemnation that Quitman, the Southern Rights candidate for governor, withdrew and Jefferson Davis took his place, finishing out the campaign with vigor against Foote, who barely succeeded in

1 Meigs, Benton, 414; Durrie and Davis, Missouri, chap. xv xvii.; Switzler, in Barns, Missouri, chap. xxiii.

2 Phillips, Georgia and State Rights, 166.

defeating him.1 Finally, in South Carolina, where the issue was made between those demanding immediate secession and those advocating co-operation with other states, the co-operationists won by a good majority in October 2 By the autumn of 1851, accordingly, the last elements of irreconcilable opposition to the finality of the compromise were beaten down in north and south. The only relics of the extreme wings were a few Free Soil senators and representatives-Hale, Chase, Sumner, Giddings and a few Southern Rights exponents. The people of the country clearly accepted the compromise as a settlement, for the time being at all events, and the slavery question seemed laid to rest as a national issue.

The reasons for this state of rest are the same as those for the passage of the compromise: the mass of the northern people were not enough concerned about slavery to risk driving· the south into disunion, and were willing to endure even the fugitive-slave law for the sake of regaining political and commercial peace. The southern people, deeply as they felt the loss to their section of a share of California, and little as they trusted the good-will of the north, were willing to let matters rest, provided nothing further should arise to disturb the equilibrium. So peace reigned once more at Washington, and among the states.

1 Davis, Confederate Government, I., 18-22; R. Davis, Recollections, 315-323; Garner, in Miss. Hist. Soc., Publications, IV., 91.

2 Hodgson, Cradle of Confederacy, 285-299.

Source:  Smith, Theodore Clarke, Parties and Slavery. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 18, 14-27. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.



THE triumph of the compromise of 1850 as a final settlement , once assured, the political life of the country, freed from the annoyance of wrangles over slavery, turned back into the old channels; and the years immediately following 1851 were a second "era of good feeling." People could now devote themselves to their own affairs, glad to be rid forever of the wearisome phrases "extension of slavery," "Wilmot proviso," "states rights" and "secession." It was perfectly true, as Free-Soilers at the north and "fire-eaters" at the south pointed out, that the differences between the free and slave states remained unaltered, and that there was no guarantee against interruption by the first question which might come up requiring federal action towards slavery. But such prophets of evil were unpopular and were regarded as disturbers of a hard won peace. The whole country, in short, tried by an effort of will to sink the sectional differences into oblivion.

The two great parties were again organized for contest just as before 1848, and called for public support; but it now appeared that, with the slavery question out of the way, there remained no other important national issue. The old questions of national bank and tariff were obsolete, for a new industrial life had come into being and new problems were confronting capitalists and farmers. Hence local affairs absorbed the interest of voters and legislatures. State banking laws were forced through, vetoed, or submitted to popular referendum; railways were aided or regulated; new public schools and universities were established; and the newspapers, once filled with angry editorials and sectional arguments upon slavery, now gave space to the paving and lighting of streets, the delimitation of legislative districts, taxation for charitable institutions, and like homely issues. Only steadfast abolitionist and intense proslavery papers continued to refer to the subject which the country was trying hard to ignore.

In default of a national issue, public interest turned to various reforming movements.1 The temperance agitation had been going on for twenty years, in the form of a moral and religious propaganda against drunkenness, headed by vehement orators, of whom the eloquent and emotional John B. Gough was the foremost example. By 1850 public sentiment against the liquor traffic had grown so strong that attempts were made to prohibit the sale altogether.

1 For earlier stages, see Hart, Slavery and Abolition (Am. Nation, XVI.), chap. 1.

The state of Maine led the way in acts of 1846 and 1848, culminating in the drastic statute of 1851, known henceforth as "the Maine law." It absolutely prohibited the manufacture or sale of alcoholic liquors except under state authorization for medicinal use, and backed up its mandates by fines, imprisonment, and powers of search. The agitation for the Maine law quickly spread to other states, and soon resulted in bitter political struggles in legislatures and elections. Governors were obliged to veto or sign bills, parties were called upon to recognize the issue in their platforms, until it seemed as though, in the absence of any other pressing question, the whole country was destined to be absorbed in the prohibition contest. In many states the Free Democratic Party adopted this policy and made notable gains in its vote, and in others impatient temperance reformers began to set up independent candidates. 1

Observers detected in this sudden fervor the signs of a new excitability in American political life, which, deprived of its former food by the cessation of the slavery struggle, sought for some substitute. Such an outlet was furnished by the visit of Kossuth and other Hungarian refugees to the United States in 1852. The people of the country were keenly interested in the upheavals of 1848 in Europe, sympathized strongly with the revolutionists, and were especially stirred by the brave struggle of Hungary

1 Whig Almanac and Tribune Almanac, 1851-1856; Cyclopaedia of Temperance and Prohibition, 275-360.

against Austria and Russia. When Hungary was crushed in 1849 and Kossuth took refuge in Turkey, an agitation began which finally led Congress to offer an asylum to the exiles. Accordingly, in December, Kossuth arrived at New York as a national guest and began a tour of the country in search of pecuniary and other aid. Under any circumstances the tragic fate of Hungary and the attractive personality and wonderful eloquence of Kossuth would have commanded interest; but coming at this time of absolute political calm, his visit produced a volcanic eruption of excitement which equaled the earlier crazes over "Citizen Genet” and Lafayette. He was met at New York by roaring crowds, salutes of cannon, banquets, and welcoming deputations from every conceivable body of men from Socialists to Presbyterian ministers. At Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other cities the same excitement was manifested. Local politicians, conscious of the pressing necessity of keeping with the popular current, made speeches of unmeasured eulogy and sympathy.1 Had the language of many fervent congressmen been taken literally, Kossuth would have been justified in expecting the United States to enter upon a course of active intervention in behalf of Hungary and other oppressed nations of Europe.2

1 Von Holst, United States, IV., 64-96; Rhodes, United States, I., 231-243.

2 Cong. Globe, 32 Cong., I Sess., December I, 8-12, 16, 27, January 2, 5, 8, 20 et seq.

Webster, however, as secretary of state, carefully refrained from committing the United States to any formal action, 1 and although there was a public reception to the Hungarian patriot by each House of Congress, Kossuth, whose head was not turned. by his situation, saw clearly that he could hope for nothing more than sympathy. Some of the more conservative members of Congress, alarmed by the inflammatory eloquence of such men as Cass, Foote, Douglas, and Walker, of Wisconsin, took occasion to preach restraint and caution, but it was really not necessary. The whole affair was only saved from being a farce by the vein of genuine republicanism and defiance of Europe which underlay all the extravagances of enthusiasm and applause. When Kossuth left the country, in the summer of 1852, the excitement was over; and all the eloquent exile had to show for his visit was a small amount of money. The episode was at an end.

Meantime, national politics sank into a vacuity which reflected the prosperity of the times. The Congress of 1851-1852 sat for nine months, but accomplished little beyond granting public lands and passing a river and harbor bill. The large Democratic majority in each house found no party measure to consider, and the time of the members was devoted for weeks together to political maneuvering with regard to the presidential election of 1852. The party situation was peculiar, for with no definite issue in

1 Curtis, Webster, II., 571.

existence success seemed to depend upon the strength of party loyalty, the choice of a popular candidate, and the careful avoidance of any position which might seem to endanger the quiet between the sections. From Free-Soilers and secessionists there was nothing to fear, and the prime necessity in the eyes of leaders was to establish their devotion and that of their respective parties to the compromise. Much time was devoted in party caucuses and in each House to the consideration of resolutions affirming "finality," but beyond the passage of such a resolution on April 5, by the House of Representatives, no definite results were attained, nor could either side claim any advantage over the other. 1

Still, by the spring of 1852, it became clear that of the two parties the Democratic was in far better shape. Its discipline was restored with the return of the Barnburners, its northern and southern leaders were in accord, and its recent successes in congressional and state elections gave it courage. For the Whigs, on the other hand, the situation looked ominous. They had lost steadily for two years in congressional and state elections; the respectable Fillmore administration did nothing to win prestige; and the chasm between southern and northern Whigs, however carefully ignored by the leaders, must be revealed the moment the question of a presidential candidate or platform was raised. Upon

1 Cong. Globe, 32 Cong., 1 Sess., 6-9; Von Holst, United States, IV., 105-117, 976-983. 

what common ground could men like Toombs and Seward meet? Would the southern wing be satisfied with anything short of an explicit adoption by the party of the southern position as laid down in the "Georgia Platform," and the nomination of a man thoroughly committed to the execution of the fugitive -slave law? Could the Seward Whigs accept such a programme, or hold their constituents if they did so?

The party nominations and platforms in 1852 were of a purely partisan and wholly uninteresting character. The Democratic convention, held June 1, at Baltimore, added to its earlier platforms a new resolution pledging the party to a faithful execution of the compromise measures, " the act for reclaiming fugitive slaves included," and promising to resist all attempts at renewing the agitation of the slavery question.1 Then for three days it struggled over the problem of a candidate, unable to secure a majority vote for Cass, Marcy, Buchanan, or Douglas, until on the forty-ninth ballot the convention suddenly found a solution of the difficulty in a carefully prepared "stampede" towards Franklin Pierce, of New Hampshire. Pierce was not a man of national prominence, but he had held a respectable place in public life, was personally attractive, kindly in manner and feelings, with no record to attack and no enemies to fear.2 Immeasurably inferior to either of the four men he

1 Stanwood, Hist. of the Presidency, 249.

2 Hawthorne, Pierce, 109 et seq.

supplanted, he was a safe selection under the existing conditions. The candidate for vice-president was William R. King, senator from Alabama.

Two weeks later the Whig convention met at the same place and hastily adopted, without debate and over loud protests from many northern members, a platform which had been framed by the Georgia Whigs and was intended to satisfy all elements. The first two resolutions committed the party to the doctrine of states rights, and the eighth resolution declared the compromise acts, "the Fugitive Slave Law included,'' to be a settlement of the slavery question, and pledged the party to maintain them until time should demonstrate the necessity of further legislation, and to discountenance all efforts to renew the slavery agitation.1 The concession to the northern Whigs lay ill the careful avoidance of the term "final." In selecting a candidate the convention found its members divided between three aspirants, each with a devoted band of followers. General Winfield Scott was supported by northern Whigs, who hoped to repeat the success of Taylor in 1848, while on the other side the compromising or "finality" vote was divided between Webster, with the New England contingent behind him, and Fillmore, who received southern votes. The stubbornness of the followers of the last two candidates made them unable to combine against Scott, 2 and protracted the

1 Stanwood, Hist. of the Presidency, 251.

2 Curtis, Webster, II., 620-627.

contest for fifty - three ballots, but the gradual change of a few delegates finally gave Scott a majority.

The immediate impression of these nominations upon the country was significant. Pierce received hearty support from all elements of the Democratic Party, southern as well as northern, Unionist as well as secessionist, "Barnburner" as well as "Hunker," while Scott repelled the southern Whigs. The southern Union party of 1851 was now entirely broken up, its Democratic contingent supporting Pierce; while its Whigs either yielded a reluctant support to Scott or openly bolted. July 3 a number of leading southern Whigs, headed by Stephens and Toombs, published a manifesto announcing their purpose to oppose Scott as not sufficiently in favor of the compromises. 1 Others in Georgia formed a Webster electoral ticket. In short, the campaign had hardly opened when it was seen that the Whig party, in spite of the adoption of a compromise platform, had driven away by its nomination those elements which had given it victory in 1848.2 Hoping to revive their party, the Free-Soilers rallied in August at Pittsburg and nominated John P. Hale for president on a platform which reiterated the protest of 1848 against the existence of slavery in the territories, denied the finality of the compromise, denounced the fugitive slave law as repugnant to the Constitution, to Christianity,

1 Cluskey, Political Text Book, 682.

2 Hodgson, Cradle of Confederacy, 323-330.

and the sentiments of the civilized world, and demanded its repeal. 1

Since there was no real issue except the personality of the candidates, the campaign of 1852 was trivial and unenthusiastic. Scott's attempts to win over the German and Irish vote, during a thinly disguised stumping tour in the west, provoked ridicule, and the contest soon degenerated into petty abuse and personalities. Pierce was painted as a coward in the Mexican War and a drunkard in private life, and Scott was held up as a miracle of vanity and ineptitude. 2 The most vigorous efforts of the Whigs to stir up enthusiasm for "the hero of Lundy's Lane, Contreras and Churubusco" fell flat, and the result of the election was foreseen weeks before the vote took place. Pierce's victory was overwhelming. He carried every state except Massachusetts, Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and received 254 electoral votes to Scott's 42. In the south, the Whig 'vote shrank to small figures. In the north, the Free Democratic party, as the revived Free Soil organization now styled itself, polled only 155,825 votes, and had no direct influence upon the result.

The Whig leaders and newspapers seemed stupefied by the completeness of their defeat. It was true that the election decided nothing more than a .change of office-holders: no new policy was presaged; no alteration of sectional balance was indicated; but

1 Stanwood, Hist. of the Presidency, 253.

2 Rhodes, United States, I., 269-277.

the failure of the party to retain its southern support was ominous, and, in spite of the large popular vote drawn by Scott in the north, the future seemed dark. For over a year all energy departed from Whig party activity, and in 1853 it suffered renewed severe defeats in state elections.

Fillmore's last months in office went by in peace, the short session of Congress (1852-1853) contributing nothing of importance to public interest other than sundry debates upon foreign affairs, the only quarter where any new developments were looked upon as likely to occur. Pierce was inaugurated March 4, 1853, in the full sunshine of popularity, and delivered an optimistic address to the greatest concourse ever assembled in Washington on such an occasion. All elements, Whig as well as Democratic, were disposed to look favorably upon the handsome, affable president whose aims seemed so high and whose prospects appeared so secure. His cabinet was conciliatory in its make -up. Marcy, the secretary of state, had been a leader of the New York "Hunkers," but McClelland, of Michigan, had been an antislavery man; Guthrie, secretary of the treasury, and Dobbin, of the navy department, were conservative southern Democrats, but Davis, of Mississippi, the secretary of war, had been a Southern Rights leader in 1851; Caleb Cushing, of Massachusetts, the attorney-general, able, shrewd, and considered shifty, had only recently come out of the Whig party. All elements were represented.

So ended a period of political stagnation, interesting only as showing how the American public, by sheer effort of will, could force itself into old lines of political habit and ignore a vital question. The success of the effort in arresting sectional controversy was undeniable, but, as far as the Whigs were concerned, the refusal of the southern members to support the party nominee in 1852 showed that not even the utmost efforts of compromising and Union-saving leaders could efface sectional distrust. The appearance of any new issue might instantly destroy the artificial calm. 

Source:  Smith, Theodore Clarke, Parties and Slavery. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 18, 28-39. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.



UPON parties, the sudden anger which swept the north in 1854 produced revolutionary effects. At the opening of the year the Democratic Party controlled the federal government and most of the state governments north and south, and was loyally supported in each section. The opposing Whig party, though discouraged by defeat and conscious of sharp differences between its southern and northern wings, was still formidable in numbers and not without hope of recovering, as the Democrats had recovered after 1840. That the Free Democratic Party should ever supplant it as the rival of the Democrats was beyond the bounds of probability, for the third party was weakened by its radicalism and discredited by its habit of coalitions in nearly every state for the sake of gaining office.

All calculations based on previous experience were upset, however, by the craze of anger and excitement over the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. The Whig party, paralyzed by differences between its northern and southern wings, could reap no advantage from the blunder of the Pierce administration, for most of its northern members, turning in despair from the old organization as something stale and inadequate, welcomed the opportunity to unite with anti-slavery Democrats and Free-Soilers in order to administer a stunning rebuke to the party in power. The more radical anti-slavery men favored a sectional northern party formed to combat the south and the extension of slavery. Others desired not so much a new anti-southern as a new anti-Democratic organization. It was an opportunity where a great leader, a man of the clay or Webster stamp, was needed to assume control; or in default of such a personality, a group of men able to direct public action. No such leaders appeared, however, and the new forces worked themselves out at random in the several states, with the result that the political tornado which now blew the Whig party to fragments left chaos in its place.

The radicals acted first : even before the passage of the bill an outcry went up for a new party; in April the first steps were taken, and by June the newspapers throughout the north were filled with appeals for a union of all honest men to rebuke the broken faith and violated pledges of the south. The members of Congress who had opposed the bill joined in issuing an address calling for united action in the next congressional election, and a number of them fell in heartily with the new party idea.1 There was

1 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 410.

nothing, however, resembling any central control, and the leaders in the state elections were left untrammeled and unaided.

The region where the desire for a new anti-slavery organization proved strongest was the "Old Northwest." There Whiggery was less popular, for the party had been in a minority for years and the name had little of the social prestige which attached to it in the east and south. Consequently the opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska bill were able in these states to form a coalition in the summer of I854. In Michigan a state mass convention at Jackson nominated, on July 6, a mixed ticket of Whigs, Democrats, and Free-Soilers, and adopted a new name, that of Republicans. Their resolutions, the first Republican party platform, placed the new body squarely on anti-slavery grounds by declaring slavery a "moral, social and political evil," denouncing the repeal of the Missouri Compromise as " an open and undisguised breach of faith,'' demanding the repeal of the Kansas-Nebraska act and the fugitive-slave law, and pledging the party to act under the name Republican '' against the schemes of an aristocracy the most revolting and the most repressive the earth has ever witnessed." 1 In Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana similar “people’s" conventions met July I3, the anniversary of the Northwest Ordinance, brought about a union of anti-slavery elements, and organized for the fall campaign. Their enthusiasm, the vigor of their

1 Curtis, Republican Party, I., 188-190.

resolutions, and the promptness with which the Whig and Free Soil parties vanished in these states revealed the deep feeling aroused by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. In the two other western states the same result was attained by Whig and Free Soil fusion. In Iowa, the Free Democratic party withdrew its own ticket and indorsed Grimes, the Whig candidate for governor, who ran on an anti-Nebraska platform.1 In Illinois, an attempt to form an anti-Nebraska party proved abortive, since the movement fell into the hands of radical Free-Soilers with whom Illinois Whigs had little in common, yet the elements of opposition finally managed to unite on a state ticket. 2

In congressional nominations the same process was carried through; in nearly every district in the north the opponents of the administration uniting upon a distinctively anti-Nebraska candidate. In this way there appeared the beginnings of a purely sectional northern party, whose controlling sentiment was indignation towards the south and a determination to oppose the extension of slavery by restoring the Missouri Compromise, or by some new means of effectual restriction. This movement, however, although the logical outcome of the crisis, failed in the eastern states owing to two obstacles, one foreseen and one utterly unexpected

1 Salter, Grimes, 33.

2 Smith, Liberty and Free Soil Parties, 295; Harris, Negro Servitude in Illinois, 189.

As was apprehended from the start, the conservative elements of the Whig party in the states east of Ohio refused to abandon their ranks. The Whig state convention of Massachusetts, while declaring itself "unalterably opposed to the extension of slavery over one foot of territory now free," resolved "that the Whig party of Massachusetts, ever true to liberty, the Constitution, and the Union, needs not to abandon its organization or change its principles." 1 With many anti-slavery Whigs the position of Senator Seward was decisive. He was without doubt the leader of anti-slavery sentiment in the party in the greatest state in the Union, and his political weight was such that, had he chosen, he could have decided the immediate formation of a strong northern organization. But Seward and Weed, his mentor, were thorough-going, practical politicians, and hesitated to leave the safe shelter of the regular Whig organization for the doubtful advantages of a tumultuous popular movement. In the Nebraska debate, Seward had been careful to speak always as the Whig, and ·now he concerned himself mainly with securing his re-election as senator. 2 In two eastern states, New York and Vermont, the anti-Nebraska men adopted the Whig ticket; elsewhere they let it alone. The only eastern state where the Republican Party as such was successfully

1 Boston Advertiser, August 7, 1854.

2 Bancroft, Seward, I., 367; Scisco, Political Nativism, 114 et seq.

formed was Maine, where a coalition of Free-Soilers and Temperance Democrats adopted the name.1 In Massachusetts a convention was called to form the party but it proved almost a fiasco.

These hesitating movements of undecided Whigs were rendered unimportant by a totally unexpected political phenomenon which suddenly burst upon the scene. In the spring of 1854 it began to be rumored that a new secret political society was spreading everywhere, and by summer it was evident that this body, whose members affected ignorance of its name, principles, or officers, was going to play a strong part in the coming elections. 2 The "Order of the Star Spangled Banner" had been in existence since 1850 as one of several societies opposed to the influence of foreigners and Catholics in politics. The presence of immigrants of alien speech and clannish habits, visibly controlled by their priests, was resented by American-born working-men as early as 1843, when Native American parties were formed in municipal elections in some of the large cities. This movement died down, but after 1850 the rapid influx of Irish and Germans, who stayed in the cities, and seemed to be debasing local politics besides competing with native working-men, led to a revival of alarm.3

At the same time a number of incidents in the

1 Willey, Anti-Slavery Cause, 436-449.

2 Scisco, Political Nativism, chap. ii.

3 Haynes, "Causes of Know-Nothing Success," in Am. Hist. Rev., lll., 67.

United States, joined to the known reactionary policy of Pope Pius IX., rendered the Roman church offensive to radicals. Archbishop Hughes, an aggressive prelate, attacked the New York public school system, objecting especially to the use of the Bible. Then, in 1853, when Bedini, a papal nuncio, came to America to settle a question of the ownership of church property at issue between the bishop of Buffalo and the trustees of the church, his decision in favor of the bishop was regarded as unfriendly and · his mission was resented as an attempt at dictation.1 In 1853 and 1854 agitators began to appear who denounced Jesuits, the pope, the Catholic clergy, and Catholicism as dangerous to the state. Prominent among these was Alessandro Gavazzi, an ex-priest who had been active in the revolution of 1848 and now made tours of England and the United States, stirring great public interest by his savage attacks upon the papacy and the Catholic-church. Soon riots began between the Catholic Irish and the "Know-Nothings," as the members of the secret orders were commonly called, and the year 1854 was marked by tumults of alarming proportions in New York and other large cities, where an agitator styling himself " the angel Gabriel " followed in Gavazzi’s track.2 Of course this movement had no connection with the Kansas-Nebraska excitement; yet it was

1 Schmeckebier, Know-Nothing Party in Maryland, 46-60.

2 Scisco, Political Nativism, 84-105.

undeniably hostile to the party which contained within its ranks the Germans and Irish. Accordingly, when the wrath over the repeal of the Missouri Compromise spread like wildfire over the north, thousands of men who burned to rebuke the Pierce administration, but saw no hope in the conservative Whig organization, found this new, aggressively American order ready to receive them. Secrecy and the charm of novelty had for the moment a powerful effect ; and the "Order of the Star-Spangled Banner" suddenly grew to double, triple, and finally a hundredfold. Other similar orders flourished, and by the end of the summer of 1854 the anti-Nebraska excitement was paralleled by a new and unexpected anti-foreign agitation. 

The order was well suited for sudden expansion, for its guidance lay in the hands of a few men, the initiates of the highest of the three "degrees" conferred, who alone knew the order's name and were eligible for its dignities. The local councils were united by a grand council, for each state, and, after 1854, by a national council, whose decisions were binding upon the whole body. Since the men who directed this new institution were, as a rule, little known in public life, the Whig and Democratic leaders were at first contemptuous and indifferent. Later, as the craze spread, the old-line politicians became alarmed but could exert no influence. Some, seeing a chance for personal advantage, joined the order, but more waited to see what the outcome would be. One thing became steadily clearer, that thousands of anti-slavery men were rushing into this secret society as the best way to strike at the administration, regardless of the utter absence of relation between the anti-Catholic issue and the Kansas-Nebraska act. By the autumn, in spite of the profound mystery attached to the movements of the Know- Nothings, it was known that they had nominated tickets in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania, and all were curious to see how the experiment would turn out.

Against this storm of angry but confused attack, the Democratic Party, too firmly committed to avoid the issue, made a sullen though stubborn fight. In the south neither the anti-Nebraska nor the "Know-Nothing" movements had any effect this year; but in the north the party found itself at a great disadvantage with no effective reply to its opponents. Few of the Democratic newspapers · defended the Kansas-Nebraska act in more than a perfunctory way, yet the party stood unflinchingly by Douglas's "principle of non-intervention" with slavery in the territories, and raised the cry of intolerance against the new Native Americans. The campaign went on with great fury. Congressional and state candidates thundered on the stump against the administration, ringing the changes on the "Nebraska swindle," "perfidy," "enormity," and "outrage." Douglas was the target for unmeasured abuse, hailed as Benedict Arnold and Judas Iscariot, insulted in public speeches and private letters, and burned in effigy from Maine to Illinois.1 When he appeared before the people of Chicago to defend his work, he was howled down and threatened with stones and pistols until, having faced his opponents with unbending courage for hours, he yielded to his friends and abandoned the effort. 2 The north had known no such campaign since the days of "Tippecanoe and Tyler too."

When the elections came off, the results of the year of excitement became visible. In the northwest, where the opposition was united in an anti-Nebraska or Republican fusion, it carried every state except Illinois; but in the eastern states the confusion of parties almost defied description. Voters were confronted with three or even four tickets: Republican, anti-Nebraska, Peoples', Fusion, Know-Nothing, Free Soil, Whig, Democratic, "Hard" and "Soft" Democrat, anti-Maine Law or "Rum” Democrat, and Temperance candidates. The Republican or Whig-Free-Soil-Temperance fusion carried Maine, Vermont, and, by a narrow margin, New York; but these successes were cast into the shadow by the astoundingly sudden rise of the Know-Nothings. This hitherto unknown party, with no public campaign at all, cast over one-quarter of the total vote in New York, more than two-fifths in Pennsylvania, and nearly two -thirds in Massachusetts, electing

1 Cutts, Constitutional and Party Questions, 96, 98-101.

2 Sheahan, Douglas, 271.

every state officer and nearly every member of the legislature. In other states great numbers of the candidates elected as Republicans or anti-Nebraska men were also Know-Nothings, and the effect of the rebuke to the Pierce administration was almost lost sight of in the general amazement over the rise of the new order. Douglas did not hesitate to claim that the whole anti-Nebraska campaign had miscarried.1

There could be no doubt, however, that the Democrats suffered a severe defeat. Nine states had been taken from their control, and among the congressmen elected up to January, 1855, there was an actual loss to the administration of sixty-two seats. Moreover, the legislatures of a number of northern states chose senators in the winter of 1855, all of whom, whether Know-Nothing or not, were undoubtedly antislavery in principles. Prominent among those reelected were Seward from New York and Hale from New Hampshire; among new senators, Collamer, a Seward Whig from Vermont, and Lyman Trumbull, an anti-slavery Democrat from Illinois. The verdict here was unmistakable

At the end of 1854 the future of politics seemed all guesswork, for the tempest over the repeal of the Missouri Compromise was dying down and the Know-Nothings occupied for the moment the place of chief public interest. The last session of the thirty-third Congress was tame and uninteresting, with some 

1 Congressional Globe, 31 Cong., 2 Sess., App. 216.  

discussion of the anti-foreign craze and slight reference to the slavery question. There seemed to be nothing pressing for an Anti-Nebraska party to do but to await the actual working of affairs in the territory; and, meanwhile, it looked as though the result of the whole episode was to be the creation of a national party on the anti-Catholic issue. Nothing in American political history is more remarkable than the way in which the voters of the northern states responded to the excitement of 1854. Except in the northwest, their action was so far from being what anyone would have predicted that it seemed scarcely credible. The diversion of the fierce anti-southern anger of the eastern states into the construction of a party whose professed principles were absolutely unrelated to the measures which caused the upheaval seemed utterly inexplicable on rational grounds. The outcome remained to be seen. 

Source:  Smith, Theodore Clarke, Parties and Slavery. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 18, 109-120. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.



WHEN once the country was involved in war, debate became secondary to the wielding of weapons: but from the first there were underlying difficulties which must come up_ if the Federal government finally asserted its supremacy. Was the arbitrary control of individuals in the North, away from the scene of hostilities, to have the ultimate sanction of the Supreme Court and of public opinion? Were those engaged in making war on the United States ultimately to be put on civil trial for treason? Were the enactments ·and executive acts against slavery, forged in the heat of contest, to stand after peace should be restored? Were the states, as fast as they acknowledged the impossibility of getting out of the Union, to be restored at once to their former status?

The extent of the war powers of the government was a question warmly discussed in Congress and outside. One writer on the subject gravely claimed that, ''It was intended by ... the Constitution ... that the powers of Government in dealing with civil rights in time of peace should be defined and limited: but the powers to provide for the general welfare and the common defence in time of war should be unlimited."1 During 1863 the suspension of the habeas corpus, and other invasions of ordinary private rights, were regulated by statute and by practice; the president's earlier acts were covered by a kind of statute of indemnity, his authority to suspend the habeas corpus definitely admitted: but the sentiment of the country was against arrest and confinement without some specific charge. Nevertheless, conduct in the government, which at first appeared arbitrary, thenceforth passed unchallenged. 2

As for slavery, the Republican majority in the House in1863-1864, though only twenty, was radical and energetic. Not satisfied even with the Proclamation of Emancipation, on December 14, 1863, James M. Ashley, of Ohio, like Lincoln tall and uncouth, but possessed of political shrewdness and moral earnestness, introduced a momentous measure -namely, to submit to the states in proper constitutional fashion, with the approval of two-thirds in each House of Congress, a thirteenth amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery in the United States.3

1 Whiting, War Powers and the Constitution, 27.

2 Dunning, Essays on the Civil War, 62.

3 Cong. Globe, 38 Cong., 1 Sess., 19; John Sherman, Recollections, 277 et seq. 

When the war began, not one-tenth of the people of the country would have favored immediate and unconditional abolition; but in the three years' struggle sentiment ripened rapidly.1 Congress was throughout much in advance of the people; while the president held in check the legislature, he also counselled and led the country, which in the school of events was learning that he was the main agent to bring about a happy consummation. The measure of Ashley was referred to the judiciary committee, which at a later date recommended its substance as a thirteenth amendment: a test vote on a resolution to table stood 79 for the amendment and 58 against it, an evidence that a two-thirds vote in favor of such a measure could not be secured in the House.

January 13, 1864, Senator John B. Henderson, of Missouri, proposed in the Senate a joint resolution to abolish slavery throughout the United States by a thirteenth amendment to the Constitution, which February 10 was reported by Lyman Trumbull, of Illinois, in these words: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist in the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction." The spokesman of the opposition was Garrett Davis, of Kentucky, who proposed to amend by excluding the descendants of negroes on the maternal side from all places of

1 Blaine, Twenty Years, I., 504 et seq. 

office and trust under the government of the United States. Be proposed at the same time an amendment (a slap at the section from which so much originated of which he disapproved) consolidating the six New England states into two, to be called East and West New England. In the debate that followed, Trumbull ascribed to slavery the present misfortunes of the country, and earnestly pleaded for its removal. Clark, of New Hampshire, criticised the Constitution, lamenting its recognition of slavery, to which he also traced the public woe. On the other hand, Saulsbury, of Delaware, justified slavery from history and Scripture, citing both Old and New Testament authority in its sanction; while Hendricks, of Indiana, objected to amending the Constitution while eleven states were unable to make themselves heard in the matter. The debate lasted from March 28 to April 8, when a vote of 38 to 6 in favor of the measure was taken. 1

When Henderson's resolution was submitted to the House, issue was again joined, and the test vote stood 76 to 55, the necessary two-thirds still wanting. It was, however, vigorously debated, Morris, of New York, Ingersoll and Arnold, of Illinois, and George S. Boutwell, of Massachusetts, standing out among the Republicans; while among the Democrats Samuel J. Randall, of Pennsylvania, and George H. Pendleton, of Ohio, were especially able.

1 Cong. Globe, 38 Cong., 1 Sess., 1313 et seq.; Blaine, Twenty Years, I., 506.  

Randall exclaimed that the policy pursued was uniting the South and dividing the North, which could not be gainsaid; 1 while Pendleton argued with acuteness that three-fourths of the states could not by any technical process either establish or abolish slavery in all the states; that the power to amend meant not the power to revolutionize, and it was nothing less than a revolution which was under discussion.

The vote on the passage of the amendment, taken June 15, 1864, stood 93 to 65: the bill was evidently growing in favor, but did not yet command the necessary two-thirds. Ashley, who from the· first had steered the measure, by an adroit maneuver made sure of its thorough discussion by the people: he voted with the opposition; then, after the announcement, using his parliamentary privilege, entered upon the Journal a motion to reconsider the vote, and declared that the question should go before the country, and that he would bring it up in the following December, at the next· session.2 The matter thus became a live issue in the presidential canvass just beginning.3

The financial situation of the government at the opening of the session, December 7, 1863, was decidedly improved. The amended national bank act was in operation; taxation was beginning to be productive; the successes at Gettysburg and Vicksburg

1 Cong. Globe, 38 Cong., 1 Sess., 2991.

2 Ibid., 3357.

3 Blaine, Twenty Years; I., 507. 

caused gold to drop, and the five-twenty bonds were rapidly taken. The customs duties were producing all that had been hoped for: though the returns from the internal revenue caused some disappointment. But there was no thought in Congress, or in the mind of the secretary of the treasury, other than to press forward on the lines already laid down. Seven hundred and fifty -five million dollars was the estimate of what would be required before the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 1864; Chase expected to provide $594,000,000 from further loans: additions to the internal revenue taxes were expected to yield $150,000,000; $161,500,000 was anticipated from customs duties and other ordinary sources.1 To Chase's demand for authority to act, Congress responded liberally, as John Sherman says, "placing in the power of the Government almost unlimited sources of revenue, and all necessary expedients for borrowing." 2 On March 3, 1864, a new loan act was passed providing for an issue of $200,000,000 in bonds 3 the minimum period of redemption was placed at ten years and the maximum at forty, which gave them the name of "ten-forties." Through an error of Chase, who set the interest at five instead of six per cent., this issue of bonds proved less successful than the five-twenties: the total amount sold up 

1 Dewey, Financial Hist. of U. S., 312 et seq.

2 John Sherman, Recollections, 279.

3 U. S. Statutes at Large, XIII., 13.

to June 30 was only $13,337,000. Chase tided over the strait by issuing, as .he had before, short-term six-per-cent notes, the interest to be compounded, which investors took easily, an expedient which caused continued anxiety and embarrassment, for these loans rapidly matured and had to be renewed.1

Not only did the laws relating to loans engage the serious attention of Congress, but also those relating to currency, customs duties, and internal taxes. For such legislation the foundation was laid by the preceding Congress, but numerous supplementing and correcting acts were passed. The internal revenue bill now enacted, June 30, was far more comprehensive and searching than its predecessor: " Indeed, every instrument or article to which a stamp could be attached "2 was counted in; all incomes above six hundred dollars must pay ten per cent; while licenses were exacted for every calling, with a minute care that nothing could escape. A special income tax of five per cent., in addition to the previous tax, was levied to provide bounties for enlisting soldiers, but the measure passed only after long debate and hesitation, for discontent was feared among the people. The tax, however, met with little objection; and in general the internal revenue was cheerfully paid, pouring a handsome contribution into the national coffers. It was a time of

1 Dewey, Financial Hist. of U. S., 313.

2 U. S. Statutes at Large, XIII., 223-306; John Sherman, Recollections, 278.  

prosperity; the market was good for everything that could be grown or manufactured; labor was in demand.

The customs duties were carefully revised and much increased by a statute of June 3, 1864, the consideration of protection to home industries being ignored in the immediate need of a heavy revenue. Many articles heretofore free became dutiable, and a large increase of income at once resulted. 1 June 3, 1864, Congress carefully went over and re-enacted in a new form the national bank legislation of 1863,2 still with a  comptroller of the currency in charge of this branch of the treasury. Whereas in 1863 sixty-six state banks underwent conversion into national banks, in 1864 the number was five hundred and eight. In subsequent years the number rapidly increased with the stimulus of an act of March 3, 1865, by which state bank issues were legislated out of existence by a ten-per-cent annual tax. It was no hardship for any honest institution to comply with the conditions, and make secure the payment of its circulating notes by a deposit with the government. Probably in our whole financial history no more beneficent change has ever taken place. If, as has been suggested, it could not have been brought about except under the pressure of war,3 the establishment of the national banking system is a make-weight

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, XIII., 202.

2 Ibid., 99.

3 Dewey, Financial Hist. of U. S., 323. 

worth mentioning even against the loss and distress of the evil time.

It is well to note that the financial managers in this session were turning to less objectionable methods than the issue of irredeemable paper money. By the acts of February 25 and July 11, I862, and January I7, I863, $450,000,000 greenbacks had been authorized, of which $43I,000,000 were outstanding. As all forms of gold and silver had disappeared, small notes, '' fractional currency,'' in denominations running as low as three cents, were authorized, March 3, I863, the amount rising at last to $50,000,000.1 The greenback pervaded life, but no more were issued after the summer of I864.2 It was becoming apparent that sounder expedients were possible, and Congress was adopting them.

The quotation of gold rose during the summer to 286, indicating a depreciation of paper money to about thirty-five per cent of its face value. The best heads were at fault as to what ought to be done. A piece of financial legislation which completely failed of its end was the gold bill of June 17, 1864, 3 intended to correct the abuses in the buying and selling of gold. The law proved to be worse than useless, gold rising in price as never before. The best financiers became urgent for its repeal, and fortunately there was time for reconsideration before the session closed. The fluctuations in gold, at the 

1 Dewey, Financial Hist. of U. S., 310.

3 U. S. Statutes at Large, XIII., 132.

2 Ibid., 288.

time so much misunderstood, are regarded now as the symptoms of the public depression and anxiety: when success came, people were no longer alarmed lest the greenbacks should become imperiled.1

John Sherman declares the devising of the great financial schemes, sometimes mistaken but often successful, to have been the work of the ways and means committee in the House and the finance committee in the Senate. "They occupied the principal attention of both Houses, and may fairly be claimed as successful measures of the highest importance.” I was deeply interested in all of them, took an active part in their preparation in committee and their conduct in the Senate, and feel that the measures adopted contributed largely to the triumph of the Union cause." 2 The veteran statesman, writing thirty years later, does not claim too much. The financiering of the Civil War period may properly excite our admiration and gratitude. Mistakes were inevitable; but the tremendous temporary exigency was met, and in some ways the financial condition of the country was vastly and· permanently bettered.

Of the acts not relating to slavery or finance, passed at this session, the more important 3 were those looking towards greater military efficiency, including a new enrolment act, and one creating the

1 Dewey, Financial Hist. of U. S., 297.

2 John Sherman, recollections, 281.

3 U. S. Statutes at Large, XIII., 6, II, 30, 32, 47, 385. 

office of lieutenant-general, already referred to; enabling acts for statehood for Nevada (March 21,  1864) and Nebraska (April 14, 1864); an act to encourage immigration (April 19, 1864), which John Sherman thinks was justifiable only under the extraordinary circumstances prevailing 1 and acts relating to Pacific railroads. More liberal grants were bestowed upon the roads authorized the previous year; and a new enterprise, the Northern Pacific Railroad, to connect Lake Superior with Puget Sound, was sanctioned, and most liberally endowed from the public lands. 2

The most exciting discussion in Congress in the session of 1863-1864 was upon the status of the rebellious states, and resulted in a disagreement between the executive and legislative branches of the government that threatened at first to wreck the administration. The origin of this controversy must be traced back to the beginning of the war. As a provisional arrangement, to remain in force only until the formalities of reorganization could be completed, the administration appointed "military governors," "with authority to establish all necessary officers and tribunals, and suspend the writ of habeas corpus, during the pleasure of the president, or until the loyal inhabitants of the state shall organize a civil government in conformity with the constitution of the United States.'' 3

1 John Sherman, Recollections, 280.

2 U. S. Statutes at Large, XIII., 356, 365.

3 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, VI., 345. 

No military governor was necessary in Virginia, for a minority, after the secession of the state in 1861, organized a loyal state government, with Francis H. Pierpont at the head; and the senators and representatives chosen under this government were duly recognized by Congress. Soon after, steps were taken for the setting off of the western counties, and in 1862 was organized the new state of West Virginia, with Wheeling for a capital; June 19, 1863, it was formally admitted to the Union, on the fiction that the Peirpont government was competent to give the necessary assent of '' Virginia.'' Peirpont's shadowy commonwealth, often called the "vest-pocket government," with Alexandria for a capital, was also represented for a time in Congress.1

By the end of 1863 five of the seceding states, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana, were in whole or in part nominally subjugated: and some steps needed to be taken with reference to their relations to the Union. March 5, 1862, Andrew Johnson was confirmed as military governor of Tennessee, Albert Sidney Johnston having just retired as far south as Murfreesboro after the Confederate defeats at Forts Henry and Donelson. Here, although there were two representatives in Congress, the provisional arrangement was not replaced by any state government until a period later than that to which we have arrived.2

1 Am. Annual Cyclop., 1863, art. Virginia.

2 McCarthy, Lincoln's Plan of Reconstruction, I et seq. 

May 2, 1862, Edward Stanley was made military governor ·of North Carolina; but for a long time there was no great development of Union sentiment. In Louisiana, August, 1862, General George F. Shepley, who had been made by Butler mayor of New Orleans, was appointed military governor; and by his authority, December 3, 1862, a state election was held at which 7760 votes were cast, resulting in the choice of two Federal representatives, who were  duly admitted to seats at Washington. No attempt to reorganize the state government was made in 1863.1 In Arkansas, though Federal success in the field and wide-spread Union sentiment induced Lincoln as early as March, 1862, to appoint a military governor, reconstruction remained in abeyance 2 until 1864, when a free-state organization came into existence.

December 8, 1863, Lincoln took the portentous step of sending to Congress a special message containing a copy of a proclamation already issued, irrevocably committing the executive to a general plan of reconstruction. He announced as the conditions necessary for the recognition of a state, three preliminaries: '' (1) The completion of an organization by persons who (2) have subscribed to the Constitution of the United States, and (3) who have pledged themselves to support the acts and proclamations promulgated during the war with reference to slavery." 3

1 McCarthy, Lincoln's Plan of Reconstruction, 36 et seq.

2 Ibid., 77 et seq.

3 Dunning, Essays on the Civil War, 77. 

The president further dealt with the status of individuals by prescribing an oath to be used in states lately in rebellion, pledging the person taking it to support the Constitution of the United States and all acts and proclamations put forth during the rebellion relating to slavery, except such as had been formally repealed: this oath might be taken by all men except high military and civil officers of the Confederacy, and others who had resigned civil or military positions in the United States to take part in the rebellion, or who had unlawfully treated colored men in the United States service who had been taken prisoners. To all persons taking this oath, full amnesty for past offences was granted. Moreover, whenever, in any rebellious state, a number not less than one-tenth of the voters at the presidential election of 186o should desire, having taken the oath, to reconstitute their state, they should have power to do so, and thereupon return to the old relations with the Union. The proclamation further declared that any temporary provision made for the freedmen of a state, recognizing their freedom and looking towards their education, would not be objected to by the national executive: it suggested that as regards name, constitution, laws, boundaries, etc., there should be as little departure as possible from what had been established before: it recognized that the admission to seats in the Federal Congress, of persons elected as senators and representatives, rested entirely with Congress, being outside of executive control. The proclamation concludes by stating that while thus laying down for rebellious states a method for returning to their allegiance, it must not be understood that no other possible mode would be acceptable. 1

In the message, the president in his usual clear and straightforward way reviewed the situation, citing the acceptance which the Emancipation Proclamation had met at last, the justification and growing approval of the employment of negro soldiers, the lessening of pro-slavery sentiment in the border states, the favorable change in the feeling of Europe. He maintained that his action was authorized by the Constitution or by statutes. "The proposed acquiescence of the national executive in any reasonable state temporary arrangement for the freed people" is made with the hope "that the already deeply afflicted people of those states may be somewhat more ready to give up the cause of their affliction, if to this extent this vital matter be left to themselves"; while at the same time the president retained power to correct abuses. He dwelt on the possibility of other acceptable plans for reconstruction, and urged Congress to help forward the great consummation. 2

John Hay, who was on the floor of Congress when the message was received, recorded in his diary that the approval seemed unanimous. In the Senate, not only Chandler, Sumner, and Wilson spoke of it

1 Lincoln, Works (ed. of 1894), II., 444.

2 Ibid., 454·

with delight, but Dixon, of Connecticut, a strong conservative, and Reverdy Johnson, the Democrat, of Maryland, also approved. In the House the sentiment was similar, George S. Boutwell, James A. Garfield, Henry T. Blow, of Missouri, all men of radical views, were full of enthusiasm. One member went shouting through the lobbies: "The President is the only man. There is none like him in the world!'' Reverend Owen Lovejoy exclaimed: ''How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings!" while Horace Greeley, who was on the floor of the House, less devout but not less hearty, declared the message '' devilish good.'' In congratulating Lincoln, conservatives vied with radicals. The president was greatly cheered, and with good reason: to devise a settlement of this most difficult matter in a way almost universally acceptable among loyal men was an achievement indeed.1

The judiciary eventually sustained fully the view of the executive regarding reconstruction, the Supreme Court unanimously showing in its opinions that, like the president, it never doubted the constitutional existence of the states. "Circumstances had disarranged their relations with the Federal Government, but with the correction of the disturbance the former conditions could be resumed." 2

1 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, IX., 109.

2 Dunning, Essays on the Civil War, 72; see opinion of supreme court in the Prize Cases, December term, 1862, 2 Black, 668; also case of the Venice, 2 Wallace, 278.

As to the legislative branch of the government, however, a want of harmony began to appear which brought momentous consequences. While at one with the executive and the judiciary, in according to the states a being incapable of destruction by any unconstitutional organization of the inhabitants, Congress shrank from the steps towards restoration announced in the president's message of December 8, 1863. It was feared that Lincoln would be lax in exacting satisfactory guarantees of continued loyalty.

The change in the temper of Congress soon manifested itself. Henry Winter Davis, of Maryland, moved at once in the House that the part of the message relating to reconstruction be referred to a special committee "on the rebellious states," of which he was made chairman; and on February 15, 1864, he reported a plan of reconstruction quite different from Lincoln's.1 Davis, able and of high personal character, a cousin of David Davis, of Illinois, Lincoln's intimate friend, had won the admiration of the president, who greatly desired his friendship and support; but Davis had taken a dislike to Lincoln, perhaps because the latter favored the Blairs, 2 which developed into hostility extreme and vindictive. In spite of the bitterness, Lincoln's all-abounding magnanimity wrapped Davis within his regard; the president could not win him, but he steadfastly endured, striking no return blow.

1 Cong. Globe, 38 Cong., l Sess., 668 (February 15, 1864).

2 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, IX., 113.

In opposition to Lincoln's idea, declared in his inaugural and repeatedly reaffirmed, that no state had power to secede from the Union, Davis maintained that the seceding states were out of the Union--a proposition so vehemently announced in the preamble that the House rejected it, but the same idea pervaded the resolutions which followed.1 The work already begun in states wholly or partly conquered 2 was to be set aside as invalid, and nothing more of the kind attempted. The incompetency of the executive to act in the case being thus assumed, the bill laid down as a "Congressional plan '' a scheme much more severe and difficult than the one rejected; in any state which might have succumbed to the Federal arms, under a provisional governor a census of white men was to be taken, a majority of whom must take the oath of allegiance, after which delegates might be elected to a convention to establish a state government. In the new state constitution three provisions must appear: (1) disfranchising practically all high civil or military officers of the Confederacy; (2) abolishing slavery; (3) repudiating all debts and obligations created by or under the sanction of the usurping power. Such a constitution having been adopted and ratified, the provisional governor was to certify the same to the president, who after having been authorized by Congress to do so, should

1 Cong. Globe, 38 Cong., 1 Sess., 2107 (February 22, 1864).

2 See chap. viii. above. 

recognize the state; after which recognition congressmen and presidential electors might be chosen.1

Davis supported his bill in a speech of unusual power,2 in which, while denouncing the amnesty oath suggested by the president as utterly inadequate, and rejecting contemptuously any plan for a scheme based upon the votes of only one-tenth of the former voting population, he strongly urged the passage of his bill. He argued that the proclamation recognized slavery; that reconstruction belonged to Congress alone, and should go to the root of things. Rarely in the history of the United States has eloquence produced so marked a result. Whereas among the Republicans opinion had at first been almost unanimous in favor of the president's plan, the ablest and most cautious being among the heartiest in their approval, when the matter after much debate came to a vote, March 22, the Davis bill passed by 73 to 59.

It was brought up in the Senate by B. F. Wade, who sustained the measure in a strain similar to that of Davis. It is evident that the Republican leaders had made up their minds to set Congress athwart the president's plans. Hence the vote was favorable in the Senate, and the bill, usually called the “Davis-Wade bill," went to the president for his signature on the closing day of the session.

The diary of John Hay, who was at the

1 McPherson, Polit. Hist. of Great Rebellion, 317.

2 Cong. Globe, 38 Cong., 1 Sess., App. (March 22, 1864).

President’s elbow, is here again most interesting. Lincoln sat in the president's room at the Capitol, July 4, at noon of which day Congress was to adjourn. Members intensely excited stood at hand as the bills were one after another disposed of. When the reconstruction measure came at last, Lincoln laid it aside, whereupon in the general tension of the group, Zachariah Chandler sharply interrogated Lincoln as to his intentions. "As to prohibiting slavery in the reconstructed states,'' said Lincoln, "that is the point on which I doubt the power of Congress to act." "It is no more than you have done yourself," said Chandler. "I conceive," said Lincoln, "that I may in an emergency do things on military grounds which cannot be done constitutionally by Congress." Mr. Chandler, not concealing his anger, went out; while Lincoln, turning to the cabinet who sat at hand, said: “I do not see how any of us now can deny and contradict what we have always said, that Congress has no constitutional power over slavery in the states." One senator present, Fessenden, of Maine, expressed his entire agreement with this view. The president continued: "the position of these gentlemen, that the insurrectionary states are no longer in the Union, seems to me to make the fatal admission that states whenever they please may of their own motion dissolve their connection with the Union. Now we cannot survive that admission, I am convinced." 1

1 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, IX., 120.

Congress adjourned in great excitement, and Lincoln followed up his action in "pocketing" the bill, without signature or veto, by issuing, July 8, a proclamation to the people, in which after reciting the circumstances, he declared his unpreparedness to commit himself to any one plan of reconstruction, and also his unpreparedness to set aside as naught the action of Louisiana, Arkansas, or any lately insurrectionary state whose people began to show a desire to return to the Union. He expressed his strong hope that the thirteenth amendment, for the time held up, would within a few months be adopted; and his earnest desire to aid any state desiring to return to the Union, and his approval of the congressional scheme as “one very proper plan for the loyal people of any state choosing to adopt it." 1

To this Wade and Davis replied, August 5, by a manifesto in the New York Tribune, "To the Supporters of the Government,'' the severest attack ever made upon Lincoln within his own party. Every line of the proclamation was traversed and sharply criticised, especial emphasis being laid upon the usurpations of the executive. "This rash and fatal act of the president-a blow at the friends of his administration, at the rights of humanity and at the principles of republican government .... But he must understand that our support is of a cause .and not of a man; that the authority of Congress is paramount and must be

1 Lincoln, Works (ed. of 1894), II., 545. 

Respected;…he must confine himself to his executive duties, to obey and to execute, not make the laws, and leave political reorganization to Congress." 1 Yet it dearly appeared ere long that Lincoln, before the people, had received no harm from this attempt to wound him in the house of his friends.

1 McPherson, Polit. Hist. of Great Rebellion, 332.

Source:  Hosmer, James Kendall, Outcome of the Civil War. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 21, 123-144. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1907.





THE immediate result of the Kansas-Nebraska act was to revolutionize parties in the north; but its ultimate outcome was to lead the country to the verge of civil war by creating an intense rivalry in the territory which it opened to settlement. When the bill passed, the general opinion was that while Nebraska would develop into a free community, Kansas was practically assured as a slave state; for its geographical position marked it out as the field for immigration from Missouri, the lower Mississippi Valley, and Kentucky and Tennessee, rather than from the states to the north of the Ohio River. Although the southern leaders did not initiate the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, they gladly welcomed the apparently undoubted opportunity to gain an additional slave state to counterbalance California in the Senate. The first settlers in Kansas came from western Missouri, and before the end of 1854 many of them took up claims along the Missouri and Kansas rivers, founding the little towns of Kickapoo, Leavenworth, and Atchison, and bringing a few slaves with them. "Popular sovereignty," as established by Douglas, seemed to mean exactly what the southern leaders desired.

But the indignation among northern men over the opening of Kansas and Nebraska to slave-holders now led to an entirely unforeseen attempt to turn the principle of “popular sovereignty" against the south itself, by securing a majority of anti-slavery settlers in Kansas, the very region conceded to the slave-holders. Even before the passage of the bill, steps were taken which led to the formation of a New England Emigrant Aid Society, organized by Eli Thayer, of Worcester, and largely supported by Amos Lawrence and others of the wealthiest and most prominent men of Massachusetts. 1 The purpose of this corporation was to assist the emigration of genuine settlers-not necessarily abolitionists or even anti-Nebraska men-who were unwilling to see Kansas made into a slave state; the society did not enlist men as recruits, but was ready to assist applicants by loaning capital for mills and hotels and by furnishing supplies and transportation. In the summer of 1854 the first band of northern settlers reached Kansas, and others soon followed. With them, although not under the auspices of the society, came other immigrants from New York and the states of the "Old Northwest," looking for farms in the fertile valleys of the Kansas and its tributaries. Soon a new community, holding

1 Thayer, Kansas Crusade, chap. ii.

aloof from the Missourian settlements, was planted near the town of Lawrence, named in honor of the principal patron of the Emigrant Aid Society, and the country became aware that the settlement of the territory was taking on an unusual and ominous form.1 

This "invasion" of Kansas by northern immigrants brought sharply to the front one of the many hazy points in Douglas's "popular sovereignty." When, under the law, was the decision to be made regarding the existence of slavery? Must it be postponed till a state constitution was framed, or could it be made at any earlier time? The full southern theory, announced by Calhoun as early as 1847, and held by most southerners in 1854, was that there could be no interference with slavery by either Congress or the territorial legislature, no community except a state being competent to make a decision. Douglas would not commit himself on this point, but a very general impression prevailed in the north that the principle of popular or "squatter sovereignty" would permit the inhabitants of a territory to decide the point for themselves as soon as they chose. All saw, northern and southern men alike, that in default of any positive protection of slavery by law, actual control of the territorial government by antislavery men would effectually prevent Kansas from ever becoming a slave state.

1 Cf. contemporary accounts of the difficulties in Kansas, in Hart, Am. Hist. told by Contemporaries, IV., §§ 36-40. 

This danger was perceived as soon as the organized eastern emigration began, and a thrill of indignation ran through Missouri and the entire south.1 The actual purpose of the Emigrant Aid Society was wholly misunderstood, and the extent of its operations exaggerated beyond all measure. It was believed to be a corporation with unbounded resources, formed for the purpose of holding Kansas by force, sending out hordes of mercenaries, mostly abolitionists, enemies of God and man, provisioned, and armed to the teeth to seize Kansas from legitimate southern emigrants. They are "a band of Hessian mercenaries," said a committee of Missourians, in an address to the people of the United States. "To call these people emigrants is a sheer perversion of language. They were not sent to cultivate the soil. ... They have none of the marks of the old pioneers. If not clothed and fed by the same power which has effected their transportation they would starve. They are hirelings-an army of hirelings. . . . They are military colonies of reckless and desperate fanatics." 2

The sense of unfairness and unjust aggression which the operations of the Emigrant Aid Society, as seen through these distorted rumors, excited in the south, was as keen in its way as the northern indignation had been over the repeal of the slavery restriction. The Missourians and southerners in

1 Carr, Missouri, 241-256.

2 Richmond Enquirer, October 5, 1855. 

general felt that the attempt to settle Kansas with northern emigrants was a direct effort to take from them what was rightfully theirs, and they were at once driven into a counter-effort to defeat this aggression by controlling the territorial government from the start in the interests of slavery.1 The contest thus begun not only convulsed Kansas, but speedily shook the country from end to end.

The first open conflict between the opposing forces came in the autumn of 1854. The territorial governor, appointed by Pierce to carry the Kansas-Nebraska act into effect, was Andrew H. Reeder, a Pennsylvania Democrat, who announced his entire willingness-to see Kansas become a slave state, a man of an excitable temperament, wholly unprepared and to a large degree unfitted for the task which he found thrust upon him. No sooner had he arrived and named November 29 for the election of a territorial delegate than the storm broke. On that day over sixteen hundred armed men from the western counties of Missouri, who had been organized in “Blue Lodges " for the purpose of making Kansas a slave state, marched into the territory under the leadership of United States Senator Atchison, and cast votes for Whitfield, a former Indian agent and a southerner, as territorial delegate. Owing possibly to the general confusion in the region, as well as to his desire to avoid trouble, Reeder raised no objection to this illegality; nor did the House hesitate

1 Hodgson, Cradle of the Confederacy, 344.

to admit Whitfield to a seat in December, 1854, and the Missourian invasion, although known in the east, aroused little comment in the whirl of the Republican and Know-Nothing campaign.

During the winter of 1854-1855, the Missourians appealed to the south to prevent the swamping of the slave-holders in Kansas by a flood of New England abolitionists. More money, more settlers and arms must be supplied if Kansas was to be kept as a slave state. "Two thousand slaves actually in Kansas," urged B. F. Stringfellow, a Missouri leader, "will make a slave state out of it. Once fairly there nobody will disturb them." 1 By the spring of 1855 the excitement in Missouri had become intense, and when Reeder ordered the election of a territorial legislature for March 30, it was felt that the decisive moment was at hand. Although a census of the territory, taken in February, 1855, showed that out of a total of 8601 inhabitants more than half came from the south, and less than seven hundred came from New England, the Missourians felt it would not do to leave anything to chance. On the election day, at least five thousand armed and organized men, led by Atchison, Stringfellow, and others, invaded the territory, took possession of the polls in nearly every district, overawed or drove away the election judges, and cast 6307 ballots.2 The northern immigrants,

1 Spring, Kansas, 27.

2 House Reports, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 200, pp. 9-35; Robinson, Kansas, 27.

most of them utterly unused to violence, and all unprepared for such a performance, were too astounded and alarmed to make any effective protest; and when Reeder was called upon to declare the returns he found himself surrounded by Missourians, while he had scarcely any independent supporters.

Had Reeder possessed the courage to declare the entire election fraudulent, the history of the territory and of the country might have been different; but he did no more than to throw out returns from seven contested districts, and gave certificates of election to the remaining members, who, when they met as a legislature, promptly unseated the seven Free-Soilers. Kansas was thus organized with a legislature composed wholly of pro-slavery men, and the south scored the first success in the contest. The victory was won, however, by fraud and violence, and the whole theory of peaceful "popular sovereignty" vanished into thin air.

Very significant were the different ways in which the two sections regarded this election. Upon the people of the north it produced an impression of horror and disgust. "The impudence of this attempt," said Greeley, "is paralleled only by its atrocity .... If a man can be found in the Free State to counsel the surrender of Kansas to the Slave power, he is a coward and slave in soul.'' 1 In the south, on the contrary, it was universally regarded as an act of justifiable self-defense against the

1 N. Y. Tribune, April 12, 1855.

unfair encroachments of the north ; one invasion had simply been answered by another one in behalf of the right. In no clearer way could the differing standards of the north and the south be contrasted.

To the unfortunate Reeder now fell the duty of co-operating as governor with the legislature chosen by the "Border Ruffians," as the Missourians began to be called. First he showed by his conduct what a revolution had been worked by his six months' experience in his views regarding slavery and slaveholders, for in returning to Washington to consult the president, he made a speech in Pennsylvania which told the story of the election in detail. When he reached Washington he found himself the object of a growing southern dislike and suspicion. His failure to oppose the northern invaders, his refusal to co-operate with the Missourians, and still more his letters and speeches, earned him in southern eyes the epithets of "incompetent," "corrupt," "traitor," and "scoundrel."

Reeder found Pierce much disturbed by the growing excitement in the south over Kansas affairs, and unable or unwilling to give him any support. He showed so plainly that he would welcome Reeder's resignation that the governor offered to do so, provided Pierce would give him a written statement approving his conduct; but this Pierce dared not do. 2 After fruitless interviews, Reeder returned to

1 N. Y. Times, May 1, 1855.

2 House Reports, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 200, p. 937. 

Kansas, with the eyes of the whole country upon him, but sure that his official career was to be a short one. The territorial legislature met in July, at Pawnee, a town without inhabitants, according to contemporary accounts, where Reeder had taken up a quantity of land. The governor's message was conciliatory, but the legislature disregarded him utterly, and, in spite of his indignant protest, adjourned to another settlement, Shawnee Mission, on the Missouri border, where it proceeded to enact a set of laws which won immediate notoriety. Regardless of the Calhoun theory of the impotence of a mere territorial legislature over slavery, it passed statutes to establish and protect the institution in the territory, adopting for the purpose the text of the Missouri slave code.

The principal statute, entitled "An act to punish offences against slave property," inflicted the death penalty for inciting a slave insurrection; death or ten years at hard labor for aiding a slave to escape; and two years at hard labor for denying "by speaking or writing," or by printing or introducing any printed matter, "the right of persons to hold slaves in this territory.'' The last section also was noteworthy. "No person," it ran, "who is conscientiously opposed to holding slaves or who does not admit the right to hold slaves in this territory, shall sit as jurors on the trial of any prosecution for any violation of any of the sections of this act." 1 The

1 Tribune Almanac, 1855, p. 13.

news of this legislation intensified the rising anger of the north. "This will suffice," said the Tribune, "if enforced, to hang nearly every anti-slavery man in the territory. . . . And upheld we presume it will be." 1 Reeder remained in office but a short time, being removed on August 15, nominally because of land speculation and "lack of sympathy with the people,'' but everybody knew that it was owing to his refusal to adapt himself to the pro-slavery Democrats.2

By this time the country was aware that a new and serious "Kansas question" was shaping itself. The anti-slavery indignation of the north, which had dwindled in the winter of 1855, now rapidly revived at what appeared the violent and ruthless determination on the part of the Missourians to make Kansas slave territory with or without law, justice, or a majority of voters. The south, equally aroused, was now thoroughly committed to the effort to defeat the lawless invasions of the northerners, and raised a universal voice of approval over the Missourian exploits.  The Georgia Democratic convention of June 5, 1855, resolved, "That we sympathize with the friends of the slavery cause in Kansas in their manly efforts to maintain their rights and the interests of the southern people, and that we rejoice at their recent victories over the paid adventurers and Jesuitical horde of northern abolitionism

1 N. Y. Tribune, August 16, 1855.

2 House Reports, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 200, p. 944.

. . . that the deep interest taken by the people of Missouri ... is both natural and proper, and that it is their right and duty to extend to their southern brethren in the territory every legitimate and honorable sympathy and support." 1

In the summer of 1855 the situation in Kansas was further complicated by the sudden action of the northern, settlers, who had hitherto played a passive part. Led by Dr. Charles Robinson, an aggressive, cool-headed politician, an agent of the Emigrant Aid Society, who had been in California in 1849, 2 the northerners determined to give a new demonstration of "popular sovereignty" by repudiating the territorial legislature as illegal and seeking admission to the Union under a state constitution. At the same time they prepared to meet force with force in case the “Border Ruffians " again invaded the territory. Rifles and ammunition were sent for, men were drilled, and "Jim” Lane, a reckless, volatile man from Indiana, with little soundness of judgment but with great natural oratorical ability, became the military chief. During September and October several mass conventions organized a "Free State party" and provided for a constitutional convention, which met duly at Topeka, October 23, comprising only delegates elected by the Free State settlers, and drew up the "Topeka Constitution " prohibiting slavery. It is worthy of note that the convention

1 Richmond Enquirer, June 11, 1855.

2 Blackmar, Robinson, chaps. ii., iii. 

also submitted to popular vote, simultaneously with the constitution, an ordinance prohibiting the entrance of negroes, free or slave, into the state, a fact indicating how far from abolitionist the northern settlers were. 1 During this time occurred the regular election of a territorial delegate; but the Free State men conducted a separate election of their own, and unanimously sent Reeder to contest the seat to which Whitfield had been re-elected by all the proslavery votes.

This policy of the northern settlers stirred the southern element to lively indignation and contempt. The whole south regarded the Free State movement as a trick by which the "abolitionists," defeated in the election of the territorial legislature, sought none the less to gain control of the region. Missourians began to utter threats of violence, and when Shannon of Ohio, the new governor, arrived on the scene, he found the situation growing daily more menacing. Shannon, a Douglas Democrat, favorably disposed to the southern claim for Kansas, easily accepted the pro-slavery view that the Topeka constitution was a revolutionary proceeding, and in his inaugural address clearly showed that he meant to oppose the northerners. He even presided at a meeting at Leavenworth where the pro-slavery sympathizers organized themselves into a "Law-and-Order party" to oppose the treasonable plans of the Free State people, and in a speech declared " The President is behind you!"2

1 Holloway, Kansas, 196.

2 Spring, Kansas, 84.

By this time it was evident that "popular sovereignty" was producing serious consequences. There were two communities in the same territory, living in separate towns and governed by separate laws. The slightest event might cause a collision, for the Missourians were true frontiersmen, habituated to the ready use of knife or gun and only waiting for a pretext to "clean out the abolition crowd." Cases of brawls and shooting became frequent. Finally, in late November, just before the time set by the Free State men for a vote upon their constitution, an episode occurred which nearly brought on civil war. A Free State man who had been arrested by Sheriff Jones, a red - hot Missourian, for uttering threats against a pro-slavery murderer, was freed by a band of northerners and taken to Lawrence. Without further delay the infuriated sheriff sent word to Missouri, and later, as an after-thought, to Shannon; and at once about fifteen hundred excited “Border Ruffians" swarmed into the territory, to be joined by the pro-slavery, territorial, "Law-and-Order" militia. The town of Lawrence was found, however, to be surrounded by earthworks, behind· which lay several hundred Free State men armed in part with the dreaded Sharps rifles, and the invading force hesitated to attack. This gave time for the cooler heads on each side to work for peace; and finally Shannon, upon visiting the scene, saw that the Free State town had done nothing in the eye of the law to call for any such attack, and drew up a sort of treaty of peace. The Missourians withdrew in great disgust and freely announced that they were simply biding their time. 1

After this bloodless affair, somewhat absurdly called the “Wakarusa War," the Free State party carried through the rest of its programme undisturbed, except by a few brawls and shooting affrays. The Topeka constitution was ratified on December 15, and the ordinance excluding negroes adopted, and on January 15, 1856 a governor and a legislature were elected. On March 4 the Topeka legislature met, and, following the cautious advice of Robinson, the governor, made no attempt for the moment to assume jurisdiction over the pro-slavery settlements, but adopted a memorial to Congress asking for admission to the Union, and adjourned until the summer to await events.

Such was the astounding result of a year and a half of "popular sovereignty" in Kansas. The organized immigration from New England; the Missourian retort of fraud and intimidation; the illegal voting, and the extreme pro-slavery action of the Shawnee Mission legislature were utterly beyond the imagination of the senators and representatives who passed the bill in 1854. On the other hand, the attempted imitation of California by the Free State men, involving a defiance of the territorial authorities and an ignoring of nearly one-half of the actual inhabitants of the territory, was a total surprise to

1 Robinson, Kansas, 138; Holloway, Kansas, 249.

eastern anti-Nebraska men. The settlers in Kansas, without direction from any quarter, took affairs into their own hands, and created a political situation as exciting as the original Kansas question, and far more ominous. The time had come when the federal government could not avoid taking a hand. The rival organizations, the contesting delegates, and the imminent danger of war between the factions forced Congress and the president to act. When the thirty-fourth Congress, chosen in the months of political upheaval, met in December, 1855, the attention of the whole country was focused upon the struggle for control of the territory, and sectional passions were deeply involved.  

Source:  Smith, Theodore Clarke, Parties and Slavery. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 18, 121-135. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.




PORTER, James, 1808-1888, clergyman, abolitionist.  Member of the New England Anti-Slavery Society. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, p. 77)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PORTER, James, clergyman, b. in Middleborough, Mass., 21 March, 1808: d. in Brooklyn, N.Y., 16 April, 1888. At the age of sixteen he entered a cotton-factory in his native town with the intention of learning the business of a manufacturer, but three years later he determined to study for the ministry. He attended the Kent's Hill seminary at Readfiel d, Me., and at the age of twenty-two was admitted a member of the New England conference of the Methodist Episcopal church. During the early period of his ministry Dr. Porter held many pastorates in and near Boston. For several years he was a presiding elder of the conference, and from 1844 till 1872 he was a delegate to the general conference. From 1852 till 1855 he was a member of the board of overseers of Harvard, being the first Methodist clergyman to hold that office. From 1855 till 1871 he was trustee of Wesleyan university, which conferred upon him the degree of A. M. In 1856 he was elected one of the book agents in New York city, having in charge the Methodist book concern, which office he held for twelve years. From 1868 till 1882 he was secretary of the National temperance society, and he was also one of the earlier members of the New England anti-slavery society. He was closely connected with the abolition movement, and was at one time in danger from the mob while delivering a speech in Boston upon the subject. He was a preacher of the old school, colloquial in manner, but of commanding presence. In 1856 he received the degreee of D. D. from McKendrick college, Illinois. Besides contributing frequently to various periodicals, Dr. Porter published “Camp Meetings Considered” (New York, 1849); “Chart of Life” (1855); “True Evangelist” (1860); “The Winning Worker; or the Possibilities, Duty, and Methods of Doing Good to Men” (1874); “Compendium of Methodism” (1875); “History of Methodism” (1876); “Revival of Religion” (1877); “Hints to Self-educated Ministers, etc.” (1879); “Christianity Demonstrated by Experience, etc.” (1882); “Self-Reliance Encouraged, etc.” (1887); and “Commonplace Book.” Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 77. 


POST, Amy Kirby, 1802-1889, Rochester, New York, reformer, American Society of Friends, Radical Hicksite, Quaker, abolitionist leader.  Active participant in the Underground Railroad.  Women’s rights activist.  Co-founder of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society (WNYASS).  Helped form the Yearly Meeting of Congregational Friends (YMCF). 

(Drake, 1950; Sernett, 2002, pp. xiv, 60, 61, 181, 340n50; Yellin, 1994, pp. 27-30, 149)


POST, Isaac, 1798-1872, Rochester, New York, philanthropist, abolitionist leader, reformer, American Society of Friends, Radical Hicksite, Quaker, women’s rights activist.  Co-founder of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society (WNYASS).  Served on the Executive Committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), 1842-1843.  Helped form the Yearly Meeting of Congregational Friends (YMCF), which opposed slavery.  Helped establish African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, p. 84; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 8, Pt. 1, p. 117; Sernett, 2002, pp. 60, 180-181, 266, 340n50)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

POST, Isaac, philanthropist, b. in Westbury, Queens co., N. Y., 26 Feb., 1798; d. in Rochester, N. Y., 9 May, 1872. Being the son of Quaker parents, he was educated at the Westbury Friends’ school. He engaaed in the drug business, and removed to Scipio, N. Y., in 1823, and to Rochester, N. Y., in 1836, where he spent the remainder of his life. He was a warm adherent of William Lloyd Garrison, and one of the earliest laborers in the anti-slavery cause. His door was ever open to those who had escaped from bondage, and his hostility to the fugitive-slave law was bitter and uncompromising. He was a member of the Hicksite branch of the Quakers, but left that body because, in his opinion, it showed itself subservient to the slave power. Mr. Post resided in Rochester when public attention was first attracted to the manifestations by the Fox sisters, and became one of the earliest converts to Spiritualism. He was the author of “Voices from the Spirit World, being Communications from Many Spirits, by the Hand of Isaac Post, Medium” (Rochester, 1852). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 84.


POST, Joseph, 1803-1880, Westbury, New York, abolitionist, Society of Friends (Quaker).  Served on the Executive Committee, 1842-1843, and as a Manager, 1843-1844, of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (AFASS). 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, p. 84)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

POST, Joseph, b. in Westbury, L. I., 30 Nov., 1803; d. there, 17 Jan., 1888, resembled Isaac in his profession of abolition principles. He was at one time proscribed and persecuted within his own sect, but lived long enough to witness a complete revolution of sentiment, and to be the recipient of many expressions of confidence and esteem from his coreligionists. When Isaac T. Hopper, Charles Marriot, and James S. Gibbons were disowned by the Society of Friends, on account of their outspoken opposition to slavery, they received encouragement and support from Joseph Post. Mr. Post passed his life in the same house in which he was born and died.    Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 84.



Chapter: “Northern Legislation Demanded,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:

On the 29th of July, 1835, the post-office at Charleston, South Carolina, was forced open· by a mob, the mails rifled, and antislavery publications destroyed. A few days afterward a public meeting was held to complete the work already begun, by ferreting out and punishing any Abolitionists that might be found, or any persons in sympathy with them. A.t that meeting the clergy, of all denominations, attended in a body to give their sanction to its proceedings. Their services were gratefully acknowledged by the damaging compliment of a resolution adopted by that lawless assemblage. The postmaster took the responsibility of arresting the circulation of antislavery publications until he should receive special instructions from Washington. Other postmasters in the South immediately followed his example. The postmaster in New York proposed to the American Antislavery Society that it should 'voluntarily desist from attempting to send its publications by mail. It, however, promptly and peremptorily refused to yield its legal rights.

Amos Kendall was then Postmaster-General. A native of Massachusetts, he had taken up his residence in Kentucky, became connected with the press, and was distinguished for his zeal and ability in support of General Jackson, who had placed him at the head of the Post-Office Department. In his reply of the 5th of August to the postmaster of Charleston, he admitted that the Postmaster-General had “no legal authority to exclude newspapers from the mail, nor to prohibit their carriage or delivery on account of their character or tendency, real or supposed." He expressed himself, however, unprepared to direct the postmaster to deliver antislavery papers. “By no act or direction of mine, official or private," said this high official, sworn to obey the laws, " could I be induced, knowingly, to aid in giving circulation to papers of this description, directly or indirectly. We owe an obligation to the laws, but a higher one to the communities in which we live; and, if the former be permitted to destroy the latter, it is patriotism to disregard them. Entertaining these views, I cannot sanction and will not condemn the step you have taken." To Samuel L. Gouveneur, the postmaster of New York, who had consulted him in regard to suppressing anti-slavery papers through the mails, he replied, approving what he had done, but declaring that he was " deterred from giving --an order to exclude the whole series of antislavery publications from the Southern mails only by a want of legal power." This position of that high functionary, so indefensible and revolutionary, encouraged his subordinates to set at defiance the laws of their country, violate the sanctity of the mails, and subject their contents to the surveillance of every petty postmaster, whatever his motives or character might be.

President Jackson, in his annual message of that year, suggested to Congress “the propriety of passing such a law as will prohibit, under severe penalties, the circulation in the Southern States, through the mail, of incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection." This proposition was referred to a select committee, of which John C. Calhoun was chairman. On the 4th of February, 1836, this committee made an elaborate report, accompanied by a bill. In this report it was maintained that it belonged " to the States, and not to Congress, to determine what is and what is not calculated to disturb their security"; that, if Congress might decide that year what incendiary publications were, they might decide next year what they were not, and thus enforce the circulation of abolition documents. This report maintained that when the States had determined what incendiary publications were, Congress must enact a law prohibiting their transmission through the mail. By the doctrines of that report, when any State pronounced certain publications to be “incendiary” in their character, Congress and State legislatures were bound to act in' conformity with its decisions. By the provisions of the act reported it was declared that it should “not be lawful for any deputy postmaster in any State, Territory, or District, knowingly to deliver to any person whatsoever any pamphlet, newspaper, handbill1 or other printed paper or pictorial representation touching the subject of slavery, when by the laws of such State, Territory, or District such circulation is prohibited."

In his message to the legislature of South Carolina, in December, 1835, Governor McDuffie elaborately defended slavery as “the corner-stone of the republican edifice”; declared the laboring population, " bleached or unbleached, a dangerous element in the body politic"; and affirmed of the Abolitionists and their measures that “the laws of any community should punish this species of interference with death without benefit of clergy." The legislature, accustomed to lead wherever slavery had a service to be performed, immediately adopted a resolution in accord with his suggestion. Presuming on what it chose to regard the justice and friendship of the non-slaveholding States to carry out such measures, it called upon them to “effectually suppress," by legislation, all abolition societies within their respective limits.

During the same month North Carolina called upon its sister States to pass penal laws against printing anything that might have a tendency to make their slaves discontented. During the next month Alabama called upon them to “enact such penal laws as will finally put an end to the malignant deeds of the Abolitionists." Virginia earnestly requested the non-slaveholding States promptly to “adopt penal enactments, or such other measures as will effectually suppress all associations within their limits purporting to be or having the character or abolition societies." Georgia, too, resolved that it was incumbent on the people of the North "to crush the traitorous designs of the Abolitionists."

By such resolutions these Southern States demanded, in effect, that the non-slaveholding States should suppress abolition societies, and make it penal to print, publish, or distribute antislavery newspapers, pamphlets, or tracts. They proclaimed, too, that they should consider the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, or any interference with slavery by any State or the general government, to be at once and under every possible circumstance resisted. Their demands were officially communicated to the governors of the several States, and by them brought to the notice of their respective legislatures. In communicating these demands Governor Ritner of' Pennsylvania was the only one of the Northern chief-magistrates to resist these arrogant demands, and to defend the sacred rights of freedom of speech and of the press, thus menaced and endangered. 

Governor Gayle of Alabama had already gone so far as to demand of the governor of New York that Mr. Williams, the publishing agent of the American Antislavery Society, should be surrendered to him, to be tried by the laws of Alabama on an indictment found against him by its grand jury, for publishing in the "Emancipator," in the city of New York, the sentiment that " God commands and all nature cries out that man should not be held as property. The system of making men property has plunged two and a quarter millions of our fellow countrymen into the deepest physical and moral degradation, and they are every moment sinking deeper." Mr. Williams had never been in the State of Alabama, and of course had never fled from it; and this was distinctly admitted by the governor when he made the demand for his surrender. But this audacious demand was not complied with.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 322-326.

Chapter: “Incendiary Publication Bill. - Admission of Arkansas. Conversion of Free Soil into Slave Soil. -Attempt to Censure Mr. Adams. - Right of Petition Denied,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:

When Congress assembled in 1835, the country was deeply excited by recent events. The year had been marked by riotous demonstrations and lawless violence. Bitter animosities toward the hated and dreaded Abolitionists pervaded the South. Her people were vehement in demanding action against them by Northern legislatures and by Congress; and her representatives came to Washington fully imbued with the passions of their constituents.

President Jackson in his message invited attention to what he was pleased to call “the painful excitement in the South, produced by attempts to circulate through the mails inflammatory appeals addressed to the passions of the slaves, calculated to stimulate them to insurrection, and to produce all the horrors of a servile war." He expressed the opinion that public sentiment would check such proceedings of misguided persons; but, if it failed to do so, he thought that the non-slaveholding States would be prompt to exercise authority in suppressing such attempts. He suggested to Congress “the propriety of passing such a law as will prohibit, under severe penalty, the circulation in the Southern States, through the mail, of incendiary publications, intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection."

Mr. Calhoun moved the reference of so such of the President's message as related to the transmission of incendiary publications through the mail to a select committee. After a brief debate his motion was agreed to, and a committee of five -- consisting of Calhoun, King of Georgia, Mangum of North Carolina, Linn of Missouri, and Davis of Massachusetts -- was appointed. A bill was reported, accompanied by an elaborate report from the pen of Mr. Calhoun. The report was concurred in by Mangum; but Davis, King, and Linn were prompt to declare that they did not concur in all the positions of that report. Mr. King even went so far as to characterize it as hot only inconsistent with the bill, but with "the existence of the Union itself, and which, if established and carried into practice; must hastily end in its dissolution."

The report maintained that slavery in the Southern States could not be abolished without " disasters unexampled in the history of the world '' ; that to destroy the existing relations would be to place the two races " in a state of conflict, which must end in the expulsion or extirpation of one or the other.; It maintained, too, that social and political equality between them was impossible; that no power on earth could overcome the difficulty ; that, without such equality, to change the present condition of the .African race would be but to change the form of slavery,-- would make them the slaves of society, instead of the slaves of individuals. It avowed that the slaveholding States would not quietly submit to be sacrificed, that every consideration would impel them to the most daring and desperate resistance; and that the subversion of the relation between master and slave would be followed by convulsions; would " devastate the country, burst asunder the bonds of the Union, and engulf in a sea of blood the institutions of the country."

The bill was taken up for· consideration early in April, and its provisions explained by Mr. Calhoun. Mr. Davis of Massachusetts, a member of the committee, opposed it in a speech of great clearness and force, in which he demonstrated its unconstitutionality and insidious and dangerous character. He thought it very impolitic to pass a law that would make every citizen feel that he was restrained in his privileges in consequence of slavery. He warned gentlemen that such an act would arouse up the spirit of resentment against slavery and excite the people to oppose it. '' But if you would tranquillize public feeling," he said, "I would recommend to you  to keep slavery as far out of sight and hearing as possible, and never call in the public to make sacrifices of their rights and privileges to sustain it.''

Mr. King, who dissented from the reasoning of the report, gave his support to the bill; but, in doing so, imputed to Mr. Calhoun motives of action growing out of his relations with President Jackson. After vindicating his motives and explaining his actions, Mr. Calhoun avowed that the refusal of Congress to pass his bill would be virtually to co-operate with the Abolitionists, and would make the officers of the Post-Office Department their agents in the circulation of incendiary publications. He warned Congress that by the refusal to pass the bill it would clearly enlist on the side of the Abolitionist's against the Southern States, and that the South would have nothing to hope from them, let their decision be what it might. The South never would, he said, abandon the principles of the bill, but would resort to “State interposition as the rightful remedy.'' He maintained that in " this well-tested and efficient remedy; sustained by the principles developed in the report and asserted in this bill, the slaveholding States have an ample protection. Let it be fixed, let it be riveted in every Southern mind, that the laws of the slaveholding States for the protection of their domestic institutions are paramount to the laws of the general government in regulations of commerce and the mail, and that the latter must yield to the former in the event of conflict; and that, if the government should refuse to yield, the States have a right to interpose, and we are safe. With these principles, nothing but concert would be wanting to bid defiance to the movements of the Abolitionists, whether at home or abroad, and to place our domestic institutions, and, with them, our security and peace, under our own protection and beyond the reach of danger."

Mr. Benton would not make the United States a packhorse for the Abolitionists; but he could not vote to invest ten thousand postmasters with such authority, even to suppress abolition publications. Mr. Webster spoke at length against the passage of a bill which he deemed contrary to that provision of the Constitution which prohibits Congress from passing any law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press. Mr. Clay, too, opposed the passage of the bill, which he declared to be of "a most dangerous tendency." He avowed that it was calculated to destroy all the landmarks of the Constitution, establish a precedent for dangerous legislation, and lead to incalculable mischief; and he distinctly announced that from the first to the last he was opposed to the measure. Mr. Buchanan gave his support to the measure, maintaining that it was in conformity with the President's recommendation, and was demanded by the necessities of the country. Other senators participated in the debate, which ran through several weeks.

On the engrossment of the bill, Mr. Calhoun demanded the yeas and nays. Eighteen senators voted for it, and eighteen against it. Vice-President Van Buren was then a candidate for the presidency. When the vote was taken on the engrossment he was walking in the space in the rear of the chair of the presiding officer. Mr. Calhoun called for the Vice-president, and Mr. Van Buren promptly took the chair and gave his casting vote in favor of the bill. Mr. Wright and Mr. Tallmadge of New York, political friends of Mr. Van Buren, voted for that extraordinary measure. After further debate the final vote was taken on the passage of the bill, and it was· rejected by a vote of nineteen to twenty-five. Mr. Benton, Mr. Clay, Mr. Crittenden, and four other Southern senators, voted against this measure, which received the support of Van Buren, Wright; and Buchanan. These Northern statesmen were unquestionably actuated by policy rather than by principle. In so acting they recognized the controlling influence of slavery and bowed to its dominant behest.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 339-343.




POTTER, Alonzo, 1800-1865, Beekman, New York, clergyman, college president, temperance advocate, opponent of slavery. 

(Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 8, Pt. 1, p. 124)


POULSON, Zachariah, 1761-1844, abolitionist, philanthropist, publisher, “American Daily Advertise, Reformer.”  Supporter of the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society, which later became the Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 92-93; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 8, Pt. 1, p. 139; Basker, 2005, p. 239n1)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

POULSON, Zachariah, publisher, b. in Philadelphia, Pa., 5 Sept., 1761; d. there, 31 July, 1844. His father, of the same name, was brought from Denmark to Philadelphia in infancy, and became a printer. The son was a pupil of Christopher Sower, in whose printing establishment at Germantown, Pa., was printed, in German, the first edition of the Bible published in the United States. For many years he was printer to the senate of Pennsylvania. On 1 Oct., 1800, he began the publication of the “American Daily Advertiser,” the first daily in the United States, which he had purchased from David C. Claypoole, and he continued as its editor and proprietor till its discontinuance, 28 Dec., 1839. He issued “Poulson's Town and Country Almanac” (1789-1801), and was the publisher of Robert Proud's “History of Pennsylvania” (1797-'8), the mystical works of William Gerar de Bram, and other valuable books. He was a founder and president of the Philadelphia society for alleviating the miseries of public prisons, and a member and benefactor of various other benevolent associations. He was also for twenty-one years librarian of the Library company of Philadelphia, six years its treasurer, and thirty-two years a director, and his portrait, by Thomas Sully, hangs in its hall in that city. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 92-93.


POWELL, William Peter, 1807-c. 1879, African American, abolitionist leader, activist, born a slave, Garrisonian abolitionist.  Active member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and the New England Anti-Slavery Society since early 1830s.  Served on the Executive Committee of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (AFASS), 1841-1844.  Helped Committee of Thirteen in New York City to oppose Fugitive Slave Act.

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 9, p. 207)




IN the midst of the general enthusiasm aroused by the military successes of 1847, and the excitement resulting from the precipitation of the slavery issue, the alignment of parties was begun for the next presidential campaign. To this test the party leaders had been anxiously looking forward, some of them for years. How far their conduct may have been determined by their interpretation of the Delphic hum of the presidential bee it would be hard to say. Polk often complained to the pages of his diary that Buchanan's ambition to be president diminished his usefulness in the cabinet.1 The president thought also that dissatisfaction with his appointments and premature contests to decide who should be his successor had changed the nominal Democratic majority in Congress to a practical Whig majority.2 It was, indeed, the irony of fate

1 See the entries for December 23, 1847, and February 25, 1848.

2 Polk, MS. Diary, January 22, 1847; cf. Fish, Civil Service and Patronage, 158-161.

that the particular president who has perhaps come nearer than any other to the accomplishment of the entire programme with which he entered office should have felt himself so sad a victim of party defection. His very successes had roused strong and relentless opposition, had divided his party into factions, and was finally threatening it with complete disruption. Buchanan believed, with reason, that the Democratic reverses in Pennsylvania in the fall of 1846 were due to the hard-won victory in the passage of the Walker tariff.1 That it had been a dearer triumph still by which Polk snatched the nomination from Van Buren in 1844 was to be made evident in the political outcome of 1848.

The first party to hold its national convention preparatory to the campaign for a successor to Polk was that of the Native Americans, then of small importance, and its nomination counted for but little. The convention met at Philadelphia in September, 1847. It declined to put forward a candidate for the presidency, but recommended General Taylor. For vice-president it nominated General A. S. Dearborn of Massachusetts. 2 The next nomination was made by the Liberty, or Abolition, party, whose convention met in New York City in November, 1847. The men elected as its candidates were John P. Hale of New Hampshire for president, and Leicester King of Ohio for

1 Polk, MS. Diary, November 5, 1846.

2 Niles' Register, LXXIII., 79.

vice-president.1 Hale had a record which made him the logical nominee of the abolitionists; but the anti-slavery men of the free states repudiated the extreme of Garrisonian abolition, and the votes of the political abolitionists were too few to do more than decide between the candidates of the stronger organizations. Therefore, when the nomination of Van Buren divided the Democrats, Hale withdrew in his favor. In June, 1848, a radical section of the abolitionists known as the Liberty League nominated Gerrit Smith of New York for president, and Charles E. Foote of Ohio for vice -president; but those nominations seem to have attracted no votes. An ''industrial congress,'' composed of representatives of labor organizations, which met at Philadelphia June 13, 1848, and nominated Gerrit Smith and William S. Waitt of Illinois was equally ineffective. 2

The national convention of the Democratic Party met at Baltimore May 22, 1848.3 Before it could proceed to the business of nomination or of platform-making it had to settle a contest over the representation of New York, which was so important as to require consideration in detail. This contest was really the aftermath of the struggle of 1844. The New York Democracy was now divided into the two opposing factions of “Hunkers" and “Barnburners," each named by the other; the Barnburners

1 Niles' Register, LXXIII.,172.

2 Ibid, LXXIV., 8.

3 For the proceedings, see ibid., 69-77, 324-329, 348.

being radical reformers, who were humorously characterized as willing to burn down the political barn in order to get rid of the rats. "Hunkers" has been explained as meaning those who '' hunkered'' for office, 1 but this appears uncertain. With the former were identified Van Buren and Silas Wright. Though the nomination for the vice-presidency was offered to Wright in 1844 and was declined, 2 he made the race for governor of New York that fall, and won by a majority about five thousand greater than Polk's; and his friends claimed for him the credit for the national victory of the Democrats. On the other hand, it was charged that the smaller majority for Polk was due to the neglect of the presidential canvass by Wright and Van Buren. 3

There is no reason to believe that Polk thought so. On the contrary, he offered the secretary-ship of the treasury first to Wright, and, when he declined it, to B. F. Butler, another Barnburner, whose appointment would have been satisfactory to that element; but Butler also declined, because he could not be secretary of state.4 The place was then offered to the Hunker William L. Marcy, and was accepted. Polk refused to align himself positively with either faction; but in 1846, when Wright

1 Niles' Register, LXXIV., 325; Von Holst, United States, Ill., 359 n.; McLaughlin, Cass, 237.

2 See p. 130, above. 

3 Benton, Thirty Years' View, II., 626; cf. Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., 361.

4 Hammond, Silas Wright, 532; cf., however, Benton, Thirty Years' View, II., 650.

was again a candidate for governor and was beaten, the president ascribed his defeat to the Hunkers, and recorded his intention to extend them no more favors. The next year, however, his condemnation fell on the Barn burners, whom he charged with the defeat of the New York Democracy in the November election; and from that time on his tolerance for them grew steadily less.1 In May, 1848, he complained that neither faction was concerned about anything except the offices. As the time appointed for the Free Soil convention at Buffalo drew near, his cabinet was unanimously of the opinion that the Barnburner Federal officials who were taking part in the movement should be dismissed; and after the convention he removed B. F. Butler from his office of Federal district-attorney. 2 After the fall elections, when Buchanan gave a share of government printing to a Barnburner paper - the Rochester Daily Advertiser-Polk interfered, and directed that the arrangement be cancelled. 3

It was, however, from the first impossible to keep up neutrality towards the New York factions. The loss of the nomination by Van Buren in 1844, after he had obtained, through personal leaning or instructions, a clear majority of delegates, could not easily be forgiven. If the larger vote for Wright than for Polk in the New York election was not the

1 Polk, MS. Diary, November 5, 1846, November 8, 1847.

2 Ibid., August 5, September 1, 1848.

3 Ibid., December 16, 1848. Vol. xvn.-18

effect of a blow in return, then it meant that the president was under obligations to the followers of Van Buren that could not easily be discharged. No doubt he honestly tried to square the account; but the fact that Wright and Butler were successively offered a place in the cabinet, before Polk turned to the Hunkers, did not make Marcy less objectionable to the Barnburners. With each succeeding year the relations of the president with this faction grew less cordial, and at length the Barnburners seized upon the Wilmot Proviso as a weapon which might be used effectively both against the administration and against the Hunkers.

To the national Democratic convention of 1848 came two sets of delegates, one from each faction. The Hunkers obtained control of the regular state convention of the party, tabled a resolution containing the substance of the Wilmot Proviso, and issued an address in the name of the New York Democracy. Then the factions held separate conventions, that of the Barnburners declaring in favor of the proviso; and the result was that both sent delegates to the national convention. That body tried to compromise the matter by admitting both delegations and giving them each one-half of the vote of the state, but both then refused to take part. The Hunkers promised to support the nominee of the convention, but the Barnburners would not. 1

1 Niles' Register, LXXIV., 325; Von Holst, United States, III., 361.

In the balloting for the nomination of candidates by the national convention, Cass was far in the lead from the beginning, and on the fourth ballot he obtained the requisite majority, which, by the rule adopted by the convention, was two-thirds. The only other candidates that had any following worth mention were Buchanan and Woodbury. Wright would doubtless have played an important part in the campaign, and possibly in the convention, had he been still alive, but he died in August, 1847. For vice -president was nominated, on the second ballot, General W. 0. Butler of Kentucky.1

It would have been-difficult for the Democrats to find a stronger man for the first place on their ticket than Cass; he was an intelligent and conservative leader, unrivalled in his party for prestige and popularity. In his support of the doctrine of squatter sovereignty he was only working out the crude political philosophy of the West, and' following what seemed to be the line of least resistance in his efforts to harmonize sectional differences and promote healthy national growth. An interesting specimen of the genuine American type, a product of the old Northwest, he has, through lack of insight on the part of his critics, been greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted. This unfair judgment has been due to the fact that a great political and social revolution has made it difficult for a younger generation to see his problems from his own point of view.

1 Stanwood, Hist. of the Presidency, 234.

The abolitionists regarded him as a truckler to the interests of slavery. 1 while to the more partisan defenders of the institution he was only an unprincipled seeker after the presidency. 2 Neither the northern nor the southern radicals could see him as he really was. Like the great majority of westerners, he was a thorough-going expansionist, and in common with Webster, Clay, and Lincoln he regarded the preservation of the Union as a more important object than the extinction or even the repression of slavery.3 These facts constitute the fundamental explanation of his policy and his career.

Finally came the shaping of the platform. The draught adopted by the majority of the committee on resolutions began with a substantial repetition of the platform of 1844-there being one or two slight variations-down to the resolution in favor of the "re-occupation of Oregon and the re-annexation of Texas.'' The seventh resolution of the report denied the power of Congress to interfere· with the domestic institutions of the states, and condemned all efforts to induce that body to deal with the question of slavery at all. In the place of the resolution concerning Oregon and Texas and the four that followed it in the platform of 1844, now

1 Cf. McLaughlin, Cass, 233.

2 See Cralle's expression to Calhoun, in Am. Hist. Assoc., Report, 1899, I.I., 1201.

3 Cf. McLaughlin, Cass, 210, 271-273. 

appeared a series of eight. The first three of these referred to the Mexican War, asserting that it was begun by Mexico and that it was, on the part of the United States, "a just and necessary war "; condemning the opposition to it, declaring it to· be a duty to sustain the administration in the measures necessary to carry on the conflict if Mexico rejected the treaty; and extolling the virtues of those who had belonged to the army of invasion. The next three referred to the contemporaneous revolution in Paris. Fraternal congratulations were tendered to the national convention of France, and the duty of resisting "all monopolies and exclusive legislation" in America was acknowledged. Then followed a strong general indorsement of the administration and congratulations to the president on its "brilliant success." 1 A minority of the platform .committee, led by William L. Yancey, offered a resolution favoring "non-interference with the rights of property of any portion of the people of this confederation, be it in the States or in the Territories, by any other than the parties interested in them," but the motion was lost by a vote of, 36 to 216.2 If the party was to adopt the principle of squatter sovereignty, it must be in some other formula or at some other time.

The progress of sectionalization is illustrated by

1 Text in Niles' Register, LXXIV., 328; Stanwood, Hist. of the Presidency, 234-236.

2 Niles' Register, LXXIV., 348.

the fact that the vote in favor of the minority resolution was all from the South. ·The report with which it was presented argued that the nominee of the convention was understood to be of the opinion that Congress had no right to interfere with the question of slavery either in the states or in the territories; that the majority report adopted the principle only so far as it applied to the states; and that the minority, in order to meet the issue frankly, wished to adopt it with reference to the territories also. A number of the southern delegates who voted against the resolution explained that they thought the subject was sufficiently covered by the report of the majority. Clearly, however, the vote was significant of the general desire to suppress the agitation concerning slavery. A further proof of the same feeling appeared in the evident indisposition of the convention to discuss the Wilmot .Proviso, and the prompt calls to order whenever the question was approached.1

The Whig national convention met at Philadelphia, June 7, 1848. It had to choose from three possible nominees for the presidency-Clay, Scott, and Taylor. The masses of the party had by no means lost their enthusiasm for Clay, but he had been three times defeated. Scott had been a presidential possibility for many years, partly from the military reputation gained in the War of 1812; and he had received some votes for the Whig nomination

1 Niles' Register, LXXIV., 328, 349.

at the Harrisburg convention in December, 1839.1 On the eve of the Mexican War the Whigs turned to him again for a moment; 2 but his indiscretion prevented him from taking the tide in his aff13:irs at the flood. While he remained perforce in Washington, Taylor was making himself the hero of the war and rapidly forestalling Scott in the popular estimation. At the outbreak of the war, public meetings in Trenton and New York put forward Taylor for the presidency, and after the battle of Buena Vista a movement in his favor swept over almost the entire Union.3

Taylor's strength in the convention was evident from the outset; but he was a slave-holder from the lower South and much distrusted by some of the northern Whigs. An effort was made to defeat him by some of his own utterances; while acknowledging himself a Whig, he had expressly denied that he was a party candidate.4 An Ohio delegate introduced a resolution pledging the convention to nominate no candidate who was not committed to the Whig policy, but it was generally disapproved and was ruled out of order. Most of the New York and Ohio delegates withheld their votes from him to the last, but on the fourth ballot he was nominated by a decisive majority. For vice

1 Niles' Register, LVII., 250; Scott, Autobiography, 355-359.

2 F. W. Seward, Autobiography of W. H. Seward, 772.

3 Niles' Register, LXXII., 97, 112, I28, 294, 334, etc.

4 See his letter to Allison, April 22, 1848, in Ibid., LXXIV., 8.

president, Millard Fillmore of New York was nominated on the second ballot. The Ohio delegation then made an effort to obtain a vote in favor of the Wilmot Proviso; but a resolution to that effect was tabled on motion of a Pennsylvania delegate, by a large majority, and the convention adjourned without making any declaration of principles whatsoever.1

Taylor was a man of high character and strong personality, with extensive experience in war, but practically none in politics. He was probably the strongest candidate that the Whigs could have put forward, but scarcely the fittest. To have nominated a man with a consistent Whig record, and especially a strenuous opposer of the war, would have been to court defeat. Taylor's reputation as the real hero of the struggle was the decisive influence in the convention and at the polls. His slave-holding antecedents, while they had no serious effect in alienating the voters of the North, strengthened him greatly in the South. The saving elements in his personality were his courage, his conscientiousness, and his common-sense. These helped him through difficulties where the training and the instincts of the mere politician were of small avail. Though his inexperience threw him on the advice of others, his good judgment and unbending resolution kept him steady amid the confusionµ of opposing counsels, and pointed out the best and wisest course.

1 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 135.

The convention was followed by a movement to consolidate the different elements of opposition to both Cass and Taylor. Most important of these was the New York Barnburners, who had various scores, both old and new, to settle with Cass and his friends; they held a convention at Utica on June 22, and nominated Van Buren for president, and Henry Dodge of Wisconsin for vice-president. Then there were the supporters of the Wilmot Proviso, both Whigs and Democrats, who were displeased by what they regarded as the evasive policy of their own parties, and were ready to assist in forming another. Of these the Democrats objected to Cass because he opposed the proviso, and the Whigs opposed Taylor for reasons already stated. Henry Wilson says that after the nomination of Taylor at Philadelphia a meeting of fifteen of the more irreconcilable Whig delegates was held in the building in which the convention had met, 1 six of them from Ohio, and steps were taken towards calling a national convention of those opposed to the extension of slavery. It was agreed that the call should come, if it could be so arranged, from a convention already appointed to meet at Columbus, Ohio, June 22. The arrangement was made, and a national Free Soil convention was called to meet at Buffalo on August 9.

It was not difficult for those two elements, though varying widely in their motives, to unite with each

1 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 142-144.

other, and with the already politically separate Liberty men, or abolitionists, on the common ground of the Wilmot Proviso. The convention met at the appointed time, with four hundred and sixty-five delegates from eighteen states, including the three slave states Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. The first ballot to nominate a candidate for the presidency stood 244 for Van Buren to 181 for John P. Hale of New Hampshire.1 These candidates represented fitly the two elements participating in the convention: Hale had abandoned the Democratic party for conscience' sake, staking his political prospects on the issue; Van Buren was wrecking the party for the sake of revenge on Cass. The vote, however, cannot be taken as a test of strength; for there were many supporters of the Wilmot Proviso who still repelled the charge of abolitionism. 2

The original nominee of the Barnburners for vice-president, Dodge, had declined, and it now became necessary to put another in his place; the right man was found in Charles Francis Adams of Massachusetts, son of John Quincy Adams, who was nominated by acclamation. The convention then adopted a platform 3 of resolutions in favor of cheap postage, retrenchment, election by the people of  

1 Lalor, Cyclopedia, U., 288; Wilson, Slave Power, II., 156.

2 Schouler, United States, V., 104; cf. McLaughlin, Cass, 257.

3 Text in Niles; Register, LXXIV., 110; Stanwood, Hist. of the Presidency, 239-241.

all civil officers so far as practicable, internal improvements, free grants of public land to actual settlers, and a tariff sufficient to provide revenue adequate for the government; but it enlarged on the slavery issue, disclaiming any intention to interfere with that institution in the slave states, but declaring that  the proper policy was to "limit, localize, and discourage'' it. It concluded by proclaiming as ·the motto of the party, "Free soil, free speech, free labor, and free men." The organization thus formed, known as the Free Soil party, lasted under various names nearly eight years, but was never able to get more than a handful of members into Congress, and it was finally swallowed up by the Republican party.1

The campaign of 1848 was marked by no such enthusiasm as those of 1840 and 1844. The popular vote, exclusive of the four new states, showed a very slight increase over that of 1844. Taylor had a majority over Cass of nearly one hundred and fifty thousand at the polls and of thirty-six in the Electoral College, so that if either New York or Pennsylvania had voted for Cass he would have won. In Pennsylvania the dominant influences were not yet reconciled to the Walker tariff; in New York the Hunkers and the national Democratic party were duly punished, for the vote of that state was, in round numbers, 218,000 for Taylor, 120,000 for Van Buren, and 114,000 for Cass--that is, Taylor took the electoral vote only by the division of the Democrats.

1 Smith, Liberty and Free Soil Parties, chap. xi.

The result for the whole country was a serious illustration of the political inertia of the period, against which the tremendous economic and social forces working for sectionalization exerted themselves for the moment in vain. Eight free and seven slave states were for Cass, while for Taylor these figures were exactly reversed. Disunion was still a question for the future.

The result of the congressional elections was, on the whole, in favor of the Democrats, who elected 112 congressmen, against 105 Whigs. 1 The Free-Soilers held the balance of power with thirteen members. In the New York delegation the defection of the Barn burners was notably apparent; among its thirty-four members there were one Free-Soiler and one Democrat, and the rest were Whigs. The Federal Senate, however, remained Democratic by a majority of ten.

It would hardly be speaking too strongly to characterize the election of 1848 as a contest without an issue. Neither of the two great parties which alone might expect to win sought to rally the people to the defence of any important principle. Practically the only thing it decided was that a Whig general should be made president because he had done effective work in carrying on a Democratic war. It was only an eddy in the historical current in which force and direction seemed to have been lost.

1 Cong. Globe, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., I.

Source:  Garrison, George Pierce, Westward Extension. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 17, 269-284. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.



Chapter: “Presidential Election of 1852,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

As the Presidential canvass of 1852 drew near, the busy note of preparation was heard. The more far-reaching, astute, and earnest slave propagandists had been for a long time forecasting the future and laying their plans with reference to the prospective action of the Whig and Democratic parties in their approaching national conventions. They made no concealment of their purpose to dragoon these great organizations into the support of their policy by making their indorsement of the compromise measures a condition precedent of their support. Indeed, before the close of the XXXIst Congress, a compact was entered into by some of the leading members of both parties, declaring their purpose to make the compromise measures a final settlement of the slavery question, and pledging themselves not to " support for President or Vice-President of the United States, for Senator or Representative for Congress, or for member of a State legislature, any man, of whatever party, who is not known to be opposed to the disturbance of the settlement aforesaid, and to the renewal, in any form, of agitation upon the subject of slavery." This was signed by Mr. Clay, Howell Cobb, and others, Whigs and Democrats There were thirty-three signers from the slaveholding States and ten from the free. Among the latter was Mr. Eliot, the Representative from Boston. There were also, scattered throughout the former States, large numbers who occupied the same ground, and who styled themselves the " Reserves," avowedly determined to make everything secondary to what they recognized as sound views upon the slavery question.

While these combined efforts were in progress, Mr. Webster gave himself to a most determined and persistent series of efforts, not simply to defend the compromise measures, but to defame antislavery men and efforts, and to treat with ridicule those religious scruples which many urged as the ground of their opposition. Writing of Syracuse, New York, he spoke of it as "that laboratory of Abolitionism, libel, and treason." Visiting Virginia, in the latter part of June he addressed a large meeting at Capon Springs. In the course of his re marks he thus ridiculed the “higher law”: “And, when nothing else will answer," he said,” they invoke religion, and speak of a higher law. Gentlemen, this North Mountain is high, the Blue Ridge is higher still, the Alleghany higher than either; and yet this higher law ranges farther than an eagle's flight above the highest peaks of the Alleghany. No common vision can discern it; no conscience, not transcendental and ecstatic, can feel it; the hearing of common men never listens to its high behests; and, therefore, one should think it is not a safe law to be acted on in matters of the highest practical moment. It is the code, however, of the fanatical and factious Abolitionists of the North." Thus bitterly did Mr. Webster assail the men and women of New England, even a large majority of his own constituents, who had so long de lighted to honor him with their confidence and suffrages.

When Congress assembled, in December, 1851, the indications were that Mr. Fillmore would receive the Whig nomination, as he was the favorite of the South, and of those at the North most fully committed to the compromise measures; though Mr. Webster, who had shown himself equally intent on conciliating the Slave Power, had a few earnest advocates. But, as time wore on, those indications became less marked. Symptoms of defection began to appear, resulting from both the pertinacious efforts of Mr. Webster's friends, on the one hand, and the very large numbers who could not indorse, or who did not deem it policy to indorse, the measures of which the President aimed to be the especial champion. It could not be concealed, however, that the slavery issue was felt to be full of menace and weakness to the Whigs, many of whom regarded it as a disturbing and dangerous element, to be considered and disposed of with main refer ence to its political rather than its moral bearings. The Democrats, on the other hand, with reckless profligacy of principle, looked at it with complacency, and even welcomed it as a source of unity, strength, party discipline, and ultimate success.

On the 20th of April, there was a Whig caucus, for the purpose of fixing the time and place for holding the national presidential convention. A motion being introduced indorsing the compromise measures as " a finality," Mr. Stanley of North Carolina raised a point of order, which was sustained by the chairman, that such a resolution was not " germane " to the purposes of the meeting. A sharp debate ensued, but the decision of the chair was sustained by a decisive vote, though nearly all the Southern members retired from the caucus. During the discussion it was unequivocally affirmed by Clingman of North Carolina, Gentry of Tennessee, Cabell of Florida, and others, that the decisions of the convention would not be regarded by the Whigs of their States if the finality of the compromise measures was not recognized.

This action caused great excitement, especially in Congress. James Brooks of New York, while accusing a portion of the Northern Whigs with faltering in their support of the compromise measures, attributed it to the wavering of their Southern brethren. Alluding reproachfully to this desertion of himself and friends, who had been “hunted down” because of their votes for the measures, so unpopular in his section, he said that without Southern support we shall “all become the miserable victims of fanaticism and political fury." “In that terrible hour of trial here," he said,” two sessions ago, our services were necessary for them, and they were given to them freely, with the implied, if not expressed, understanding that they would protect us to the extent of their ability." Mr. Stanley replied, maintaining that the compromise measures had not been rejected; that no candidate could receive the Southern vote who did not indorse them; that the national convention would take action concerning them; and that General Scott was in favor of them and would support them, the Fugitive Slave Act included.

In the Democratic Party there was less division and doubt. Senator Gwin declared in his place that there was no dissent, at least among those who were seeking the Presidential nomination. To render, however, " assurance doubly sure," Robert G. Scott of Richmond, Virginia, addressed a circular letter to the gentlemen whose names had been mentioned in connection with the Presidency. The substance of his letter was the inquiry whether, if elected, they would support and enforce the compromise measures in all their fulness, including the Fugitive Slave Act; whether they would oppose all efforts to modify or weaken their provisions; and whether, if any such action should be adopted by Congress, they would or could not veto it. A large number hastened to reply. Mr. King of Alabama declared that he should feel bound to negative any such action. Mr. Houston of Texas said that he should not hesitate to veto any bill “impairing the law for the protection of slave property." Daniel S. Dickinson of New York declared that he would most certainly use the veto power defeat any attempt to disturb or change the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act. George M. Dallas of Pennsylvania expressed it as his answer that every chief magistrate should say, in relation to the execution of all the compromises, heartily and positively, “Yes, I would." General Joseph Lane, afterward candidate for the Vice-Presidency, spoke of the "valuable enactments," and his readiness to veto any legislation that would impair them. Mr. Douglas said that no act calculated to impair the efficiency of those measures mid receive his approval. Mr. Buchanan characterized the Fugitive Slave Act as a “bond of peace between the slaveholding and the non-slaveholding States," and declared that these measures of adjustment without that act “would not deserve the name of compromise," and that “the harmony of the States and the preservation of the Union depended on the execution of the compromise measures in their fulness." Mr. Cass expressed the belief that a repeal or essential modification of the Fugitive Slave Act would destroy all confidence in the good faith of the North, and “would lead to the dissolution of the Union " ; and he believed it would be the duty of any President to veto any legislation designed to impair its efficiency. Similar answers and pledges were given by several other gentlemen addressed.

The Democratic convention met at Baltimore, June 1, 1852. Every State in the Union was represented but South Carolina. The convention was called to order by Benjamin F. Hallett of Massachusetts, chairman of the national executive committee, and John W. Davis was chosen president. There was little difference of opinion in the convention concerning anything but men. The Slave Power had crushed out all opposition, and there was none to raise a single word of remonstrance against the most high-handed oppression, or to speak even faintly for justice and humanity. One member had been guilty of the grave offence of sympathizing somewhat with the friends of freedom in Massachusetts, and of acting with the coalition in that State between the Democrats and the Free Soil parties; and, although a leading lawyer and a most accomplished gentleman, the choice, too, of the great body of his party in his District, Robert Rantoul, Jr., was refused admission, and his seat was given to Mr. Lord, who was simply known to be conservative on the great question. This outrage was perpetrated against the earnest opposition of Mr. Nye and Mr. Dix of New York, who strongly protested against such proscription for opinion's sake.

As soon as the convention was organized, Senator Bright of Indiana and others hastened to introduce resolutions in favor of the compromise measures and of the faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Act. There was little difficulty in forming a platform. The only strife seemed to be as to who should make the most humiliating concessions and bow most abjectly at the feet of the arrogant and exacting Power. In the plat form adopted it was declared that Congress had no power to interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, and that all efforts of Abolitionists or others to induce Congress to interfere with them are calculated to lead to " the most alarming and dangerous consequences "; that the party "will abide by and adhere to a faithful execution of the acts known as the compromise measures, the act for reclaiming fugitives from service included " ; and that it will resist all attempts at renewing, in Congress and out of it, the agitation of the slavery question, under whatever shape or color the attempt may be made.

The prominent candidates were Cass, Buchanan, Douglas, and Marcy. There were a few New York Democrats who were in the Free Soil movement of 1848, but who had re turned to the Democratic organization. Reluctant to exhibit gross inconsistency involved in sustaining the compromise measures and those committed to their support, they favored nomination of General Butler of Kentucky. But under the strong pressure he had been compelled to succumb to the fierce demands and madness of the hour. And so strong were partialities of the supporters of each, that from the outset was perceived that great, if not insuperable, difficulty would encountered in fixing upon either of these gentlemen as the choice of the convention. In fact, though the party was harmonious upon the principles involved in the contest, they were hopelessly divided as to the persons who should represent those principles. On the first ballot Mr. Buchanan led, receiving me hundred and sixteen votes; Mr. Douglas receiving twenty rotes, the smallest number. After balloting forty-eight times without success, on the forty-ninth ballot Franklin Pierce of Few Hampshire, for whom not a single vote was cast on the first ballot, received all but four votes, and he was declared nominee. William R. King of Alabama received the nomination for the Vice-Presidency.

Mr. Pierce was a man of fair abilities, and of considerable local reputation as a lawyer and politician, but without national prominence or influence. Though courteous in his social intercourse, he was marked for his extreme partisan ship, and was intensely proslavery. In his letter of acceptance he not only indorsed and placed himself squarely on the platform, but he volunteered the statement that “the principles it embraces command the approbation of my judgment, and with them I believe I can safely say that no word nor act of my life is in conflict." Mr. King was a gentleman of commanding personal appearance, of great urbanity of manners, an admirable presiding officer, but holding the most extreme opinions on the subject of slavery.

The Whig national convention met in the same city on the 16th of June. A meeting of the Southern delegates had been previously held, at which a committee was appointed to pro pose resolutions “expressive of the doctrines of the Whig party." On the assembling of the convention there was great excitement, and a sharp contest between opposing factions for precedence in the work of organization. Simeon Draper of New York gained the floor, nominating George Evans of Maine as temporary chairman. John G. Chapman, who had been chairman of the Southern caucus, was chosen president, and the secretary of that caucus was selected to fill the same office of the convention.

To a motion that the committee on resolutions should consist of one from each State Mr. Jessup of Pennsylvania proposed an amendment that "each member should be authorized to cast the number of votes to which said State is entitled in the Electoral College." He explained its introduction by the remark that it was “an act of justice to the larger States." The amendment was adopted by a majority of six. It was, however, regarded as an attack upon State rights, and Mr. Ewing of Tennessee substituted for the resolution thus amended substantially the original motion; to which Mr. Jessup offered the same amendment which had just been adopted. A sharp and exceedingly significant and suggestive debate arose, in which the mover made an earnest and what was manifestly designed to be a conciliatory speech. His evident aim was to pour oil upon the troubled waters. Mr. Jessup was a leading lawyer and jurist in his State, distinguished for his probity of character, identified with the religious, benevolent, and reformatory associations of the day, being for many years president of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Though he had been generally antislavery in his sympathy and utterances, and was now opposed to the extreme demands of the South, and desired such an arrangement of the committee as would fairly express the sentiments of the people, it was evident, from his speeches on that occasion, that his great anxiety was to maintain intact the organization of the party, and to give assurance to the Southern wing of its essential soundness, according to its estimate on the slavery question. I believe," he said, "there is no reason for doubting the attachment of Pennsylvania to the Constitution, the compromises of the Constitution, and to all laws enacted under these compromises. I venture to affirm, for the delegation on this floor, that there is no set of men in this Union who are resolved to go further in support of all the enactments of the general government than the delegation from Pennsylvania." After expressing his conviction that there should have been presented " a set of conservative resolutions, not adapted to extreme meridians on the one side or on the other," he said: " I believe that the delegation from Ohio and the delegation from New York have been misrepresented and misunderstood, as much as I believe the delegation of Pennsylvania has been misunderstood. I affirm, from my intercourse with the delegations of these three great States, that they stand upon action which I believe our Southern brethren will appreciate most fully."

Mr. Dawson of Georgia, in his speech opposing the amendment, clearly and unequivocally put the Southern side of the issue. "This," he said,” is the first attempt which has ever been made to convert this country into the wildest kind of democracy, the democracy of numbers." Saying that Rhode Island or Delaware was entitled to the same power as New York, Pennsylvania, or Ohio, he complained that even some conservative men were voting that " numbers shall govern, and not the sovereignty of States "; and he asserted that it was " the wildest effort that was ever made to alienate one section from another." Affirming that he had always been a Whig, he said: “Whenever the party abandons those great principles, so help me God, I will abandon it." This inexorable and defiant attitude of Southern men had its designed effect. The amendment was withdrawn, and, as usual, the North succumbed. The “National Era," speaking of this action of the Northern delegates, thus fitly characterized them: “Their wrath is always greater than their endurance. They are remarkable for kicking out of the traces, but still more remark able for kicking in."

Mr. Ashmun was made chairman of the committee on resolutions. He was an ardent admirer and advocate of Mr. Webster, and sincerely attached to his fortunes. This fact, certain internal evidence, and the testimony of Alexander H. Stephens, make it quite sure that Mr. Webster, if not the author, was cognizant of the character of the resolutions presented. Mr. Stephens states that Mr. Choate, who was a member of the convention, was in Washington in conference with Mr. Webster just before it met; that Mr. Webster, while Mr. Choate was with him, called, and read to him the series of resolutions agreed upon, and which were to be presented to the convention. At his suggestion Mr. Webster interlined, with his own hand and in his presence, the words “in principle and substance," which appeared in the eighth resolution. The resolutions, therefore, without doubt, expressed his sentiments. Nor did this presumption receive small support from the impassioned and brilliant speech which Mr. Choate made on their reception and in their behalf, in which he not only indorsed the compromise measures as “a finality," but he branded all opposition to them, on the ground of principle, as fanaticism.

The eighth resolution of the series contained the gist of the whole, -- at least, in regard to the great subject at issue. It declared that "the series of acts of the XXXIst Congress, the act known as the Fugitive Slave Law included, are received and acquiesced in by the Whig party of the United States as a final settlement, in principle and substance, of the dangerous and exciting questions which they embrace, …and we deprecate all further agitation of the question thus settled as dangerous to our peace, and we will discountenance all efforts to continue or renew such agitation whenever, wherever, or however the attempt may be made; and we will maintain this system as essential to the nationality of the Whig party and the integrity of the Union." This platform was adopted by a vote of two hundred and twenty-seven to sixty-six.

In answer to vociferous calls, Mr. Choate addressed the convention in a speech of great forensic brilliancy arid force, in which, however, was far more apparent the special pleading of the advocate than the calm consideration of the statesman. Speaking of those who opposed the Fugitive Slave Act for conscience sake, he spitefully told them that their opposition was mere fanaticism, "to the end," he said, "that it may leave itself unchecked by its own conscience to asperse the motives of the authors of this scheme of peace and reconciliation, to call in question the soundness of the ethics on which it rests, and to agitate for its repeal. But the American people know, by every kind and degree of evidence by which anything can ever be known, that these measures, in the crisis of their time, saved this nation. I thank God for the civil courage which, at the hazard of all things dearest in life, dared to pass and defend them, and has taken no step backward.' I rejoice that the healthy morality of the country, with an instructed conscience, void of offence toward God and man, has accepted them. Extremists always denounce all compromises. Alas! Do they remember that such is the condition of humanity that the noblest politics are but a compromise, an approximation, a type, a shadow of good things, the buying of great blessings at great prices? Do they forget that the Union is a compromise; that the harmony of the universe is but the music of compromise, by which the antagonisms of the infinite Nature are compassed and reconciled? Let him who doubts, if such there be, whether it was wise to pass these measures, look back and recall with what instantaneous and mighty charm they calmed the madness and anxiety of the hour! How every countenance everywhere brightened and elevated itself! How, in a moment, the interrupted and parted currents of fraternal feeling reunited! “Thus fervently, not to say frantically, did this eloquent orator clamor for compromise and peace.

Perhaps, too, no man ever put more strongly and unblushingly the idea of mere expediency, as distinguished from principle, in bidding for Southern, or, in the parlance of the hour, “national " support. In urging Democratic ex ample as a reason for indorsing the compromise measures, he said: “In the first place, our predecessors of the Democratic convention in this hall have made it indispensable. If we do not make it as comprehensively and as unequivocally as they have, we shall be absorbed, scattered, absorbed by the whirlpool, scattered by the whirlwind of the sentiment of nationality which they have had the sagacity to discover and hide under. Look at their platform, and see what a multitude of sins of omission and commission, bad policy and no policy, the mantle of nationality is made not ungracefully to cover." Changing the figure, he said: “You may spread your board as temptingly as you please, if the national appetite does not find there the bread and water of national life, the aliment of nationality, it will turn from your provision in disgust." He urged as another reason the desirableness of having the platform so unequivocal that they could not be tempted to present one line of argument at the North and another at the South. In other words, everything should be conceded to Southern principles and prejudices, and nothing to Northern principles and convictions. “Lead us not into such temptation," he said, " and deliver us from such evil. How much better to send up the Union flag at once to the mast head, blazing with ' Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable,' and go down even so! "

Mr. Anderson of Ohio opposed the indorsement of the com promise measures, not because he did not accept them, and not because he did not " hate an Abolitionist," for he admit ted he did, but because he believed that it was impolitic; because its adoption would " split us as a party, increase the number of our enemies, and bring upon us that very agitation which it is sought here to prevent." Mr. Botts of Virginia, replying to Mr. Choate, expressed his regret that "all his nationality, all his patriotism, centered in the laudation of a single individual." This led to an excited colloquy, in which Mr. Choate, after denying that he had any such purpose, said with the ready adroitness of the practiced advocate: " What a patriotism that must be, what a long and brilliant series of public services that must be, when you cannot mention a measure of utility like this but every eye spontaneously utters that great name of Daniel Webster!”

There were three prominent candidates for the suffrages of the convention, -- Mr. Fillmore, General Scott, and Daniel Webster. It was notorious, hardly an " open secret," that the President and his Secretary of State had been running a race for Southern support, and that each had staked his all of political capital in his earnest efforts to win the Southern vote. Mr. Webster's friends were few in number, but zealous in their efforts. They hoped that, through some contingency, Mr. Fillmore would be abandoned, and that their favorite would be accepted. To prepare the way for, and to promote, this consummation they so devoutly wished, they were vehement in their protestations of regard for Southern rights, exalting the act of capturing fugitive slaves to the rank of a religious duty, if they did not adopt the indorsement of the compromise measures as an article of their religious faith. General Scott had the support of the antislavery Whigs, though there was little in his known character and antecedents to justify that support, except the consideration, perhaps, that he was less obnoxious to censure than were his competitors. There were, too, some Southern men, like Botts of Virginia, who gave him their preference. But the main claim in his behalf, as urged by his friends, was based on his military record and his great name as a soldier. On the first ballot Mr. Fillmore received one hundred and thirty-three votes, General Scott one less, and Mr. Webster only twenty-nine. It was not until the fifty-ninth ballot that General Scott received one hundred and fifty-nine votes, which was a majority, and he was declared the Whig candidate for the Presidency. During all these ballotings the Massachusetts delegation cast its votes for Mr. Webster, with the exception of Mr. Dawes, then a young and rising lawyer, who has since earned such honorable distinction in Congress. He resisted all entreaties to forsake his principles, and he cast his vote continuously for General Scott. On the last vote Mr. Webster received but twenty-one. William A. Graham of North Carolina was made the nominee for the Vice-Presidency. General Scott was a Virginian by birth, and generally conservative in his sentiments and feelings. He owed his selection only to his military reputation and the availability it was supposed his military prestige would bring to the ticket. Mr. Graham was a gentleman of the Southern school, of fair abilities, conservative in his tendencies, though decided in his adhesion to slavery as a system to be protected and defended.

The result greatly disappointed both the President and his Secretary. Both had earnestly sought the coveted prize, and both had made great sacrifices to obtain it. In their eager pursuit of Southern support, both had deserted devoted friends, and ignored words and votes they had formerly spoken and given in favor of freedom and human rights. But Mr. Webster was the special object of public thought and speculation, of criticism and censure. His unquestioned abilities, his signal services and glorious utterances, had greatly endeared him to his Northern friends and supporters, and he was almost regarded as their property, in whose great gifts and their use they seemed to have a kind of ownership. His defection, then, seemed to them not only like desertion from family, friends, and faith, but a personal loss. Many were indignant and incensed; some regarded it more in sorrow than in anger; while in others all personal considerations were swallowed up by their feelings of apprehension and alarm. As they regarded the national calamity involved in that Northern paralysis and demoralization exhibited in the timid and unprincipled action of the convention, they felt that they were largely due to the pernicious example and teachings of Mr. Webster. Nor had they little cause to feel, as they remembered his persistent and imbittered denunciations of Abolitionism and its advocates, his mockery of the higher law and the religious scruples of those who could not " conquer their prejudices," and who would not follow his lead, that the contemptuous neglect of those for whom he made such sacrifices was too well deserved. And, though he could say to a company of serenaders, on the evening of the convention, with simulated equanimity and with his usual felicity of expression: “You may be assured that there is not one among you who will sleep better to-night than I shall. I shall rise tomorrow morning with the lark; and, though he is a better songster than I am, I shall greet the purple east as jocund, as grateful, and as satisfied as he," they could not but believe what his bosom friend and biographer admitted, that he was " disappointed and hurt " and " chagrined " at the result. When they saw him go home, presaging the speedy dissolution of the Whig party and foreboding serious evils to his country, and in a few months sinking into his grave, they felt, amid the general sorrow, as never before, the greatness of his mistake.

The Free Soil national convention met in Pittsburg on the llth of August. The attendance was large. Samuel Lewis called the convention to order, and Judge Spaulding was made temporary chairman. In his introductory remarks Mr. Lewis said that the convention was “intended to include all the friends of freedom, under whatever name they shall be known." Henry Wilson of Massachusetts was made president. Invoking on their proceedings the spirit of harmony and union, he said: " Let us feel that we must free the Federal government from slavery, from all responsibility for it wherever it exists under its authority, and place it actively and perpetually on the side of freedom Let us feel that we should so conduct our deliberations that we may hasten on that day when the humblest slave that treads the soil of the Republic can stand up and say,  I am a man, a brother, and a freeman.' "

On the second day, after considerable discussion upon the method of casting their votes, it was determined to vote per capita; and on the first ballot John P. Hale of New Hamp shire received one hundred and ninety-two votes, and was declared to be their candidate for the Presidency; Mr. Julian of Indiana receiving a unanimous vote as candidate for the Vice-Presidency. Mr. Giddings, from the committee on resolutions, reported a series, not only enunciating the great primal truths of human rights and free institutions, but setting forth in fit ting phrase the flagrant departures of the government from these principles, especially in the annexation of Texas and in the compromise measures. They announced as a truth of great moment that “no settlement of the slavery question can be looked for except in practical recognition of the truth that slavery is sectional and freedom national." Declaring slavery to be u a sin against God and a crime against man " ; that " the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 is repugnant to the Constitution, to the principles of common law, to the spirit of Christianity and the sentiments of the civilized world " ; that " the doctrine that any human law is a finality is dangerous to the liberties of our people " ; that the Whig and Democratic parties were " hopelessly corrupt and unworthy of confidence," they in scribed on their banner, " FREE SOIL, FREE SPEECH, FREE LABOR, FREE MEN."

Gerrit Smith, not deeming the report of the majority sufficiently thorough, made a minority report, which, after some discussion, was withdrawn. He also made a speech of great force of thought and expression. He arraigned “this prominently guilty nation" for committing the most diabolical crimes “in the name both of republicanism and Christianity." Were the government despotic and its religion heathen, he said, "there might be some hope of republicanizing her politics and Christianizing her religion. But, now that she has turned into darkness the greatest of all political lights and the greatest of all religious lights, what hope is left for her ? " The three leading points of the resolutions and of his speech were that the Constitution was an antislavery instrument ; that slavery could not be legalized ; and that there could be no moral wrong in violating laws made at its behests. Referring to what was popularly known as the Jerry rescue, in which he participated, he said: “I summon you all to come up to the Jerry level. From no lower level can you fight slaveholders successfully. From no lower ground than that of the impossibility of legalizing slavery can you make headway against the pirates whose power consists in the admitted legality of their piracy."

With their chosen leaders the three parties went into the contest. The Free-Soilers did not expect to win even a single elector. A vote with them was a simple "testimony," an entering wedge, by which they fondly hoped to break the long and ill-starred connection between slavery and the government. Their leaders had distinguished themselves in Congress for their manly and courageous stand against the Slave Power, and were well worthy of the high distinction of leading freedom's forlorn hope in that dark hour.

The Whigs entered upon the canvass with little heart or hope. It was not only that they were called upon to confront a triumphant and arrogant foe, harmonious and compact, accustomed to victory and determined still to win, but they were themselves hopelessly divided in spirit and aim, in purpose and plan, and the convention had caused and left bitter resentments and heart-burnings. Though the Southern wing had dictated the terms of the platform, they were disappointed in their candidate. Mr. Fillmore's adherents, -- the Southern extremists and the Northern "silver grays," -- being thus defeated in their candidate, lent but a lukewarm and ineffective support, while Mr. Webster made no concealment of his want of sympathy with the ticket and his willingness to see it defeated. And not only did Mr. Webster refuse his support to the Whig party, but he spoke of it as moribund, predicted its speedy dissolution, and expressed his conviction that after the election it would be known " only in history." Notwithstanding its Southern platform and its concessions, notwithstanding all its words of conciliation, Stephens and Toombs of Georgia, Jones and Gentry of Tennessee, and others, issued a card early in July expressive of their refusal to support General Scott, for the assigned reason that he was the favorite of the Free Soil wing of the party, and had suffered his name to be used by avowed enemies of the compromise measures. On the other hand, the antislavery supporters of General Scott were obliged to occupy a most equivocal position, to accept a platform exceedingly distasteful, and against which seventy votes had been recorded, so that men and presses, while advocating his election, were compelled, or felt constrained, to " spit on the platform " on which he stood. With such elements of weakness and under omens so inauspicious did the Whig party go into the contest of 1852.

There was little or no division in the Democratic ranks. They, indeed, who had acted with the Free Soil movement of 1848 had reason for embarrassment as they attempted to reconcile their conduct in forsaking their party four years before with their " hot haste," as expressed by Mr. Hale in his letter of acceptance of the Free Soil nomination, " to enroll themselves under a banner upon which are inscribed sentiments and principles sevenfold more odious and abominable than those against which they revolted." And, though they made the attempt, it was generally perceived that it did but render more glaring their inconsistency and profligacy of principle. Even the New York " Evening Post," their leading organ, in its attempted justification, while denouncing the platform as " a farce," deemed it a legitimate reason for supporting Mr. Pierce that he was " uncommitted," as the other candidates had committed themselves, " by any letter " ; so easily convinced, and on such slight pretenses, did the men who sub scribed to the doctrines and joined in the protestations of the Buffalo platform ignore that record, and join in a campaign unprecedented for the completeness of its surrender to the new demands and far-reaching encroachments of the Slave Power.

But the most humiliating page of this history is that which records the result, the triumph of the Democratic Party. Nor was it mere success; it was decisive and signal. Its conquering legions swept the country. All but four States recorded their votes in its favor. And yet it implied the indorsement of the compromise measures, freighted as they were with crime and cruelty, without the abatement, urged in the Whigs behalf, that there was a large minority in the party opposed to their adoption. Nor was that all. The crowning infamy of that disastrous campaign was the popular indorsement of that most flagitious resolution, adopted by both conventions, that these measures should be regarded as “final "; that, wicked and oppressive as they were, there should be no further agitation of the subject. Neither the poor boon of protest nor even an attempt to repeal or modify was allowed. The nation was to be not only bound, but dumb. And to all this the people gave their emphatic sanction. No darker day, not even the most critical period of the Rebellion, has ever marked the history of the Republic. For this only threatened the forcible subjection of the body; that betokened the complete enslavement of the soul. In the face of all the pulpits and presses of the land, notwithstanding the antislavery agitations of a quarter of a century, only one hundred and fifty thousand, out of more than three millions, were found ready to refuse their votes even for measures so infamous and wrong.

And this was the statesmanship of the hour. Nor was it an unfitting climax, or culmination, of much that had preceded it. Much has been claimed for the great statesmen of the earlier and palmier days of the Republic, especially of the time now passing in review. Without detracting from the well-earned fame of many, not only is there the testimony of John Quincy Adams that up to his day "the preservation, propagation, and perpetuation of slavery" had ever been "the animating spirit" of the American government, but the statement is due to historic verity that a main feature of the national policy had been from the outset that of retreat. As the government began its existence by yielding vantage-ground it might have retained, so did its great and leading men, especially after the great Missouri struggle, too often signalize their career by some new concession, some new form of compromise to the Slave Power; until, driven from one position after another, the nation seemed, by the voice and vote of this election, to have made a full surrender, and to have sought an ignoble peace by both ceasing resistance and promising never to resume it. According to the military maxim that it requires greater skill to conduct a successful retreat than to achieve a victory, merit may not be wanting, though he would be hardly esteemed a great general whose only excellence consists in conducting retreats.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 360-377.



Please note that this entry includes two chapters:

·        Smith, “Parties and Slavery,’” 1906

·        Wilson, “Presidential Conventions and Election of 1856,” 1872

Chapter: “Parties and Slavery,” by Theodore Clarke Smith in The American Nation: A History, Vol. 18, 1906.

In the campaign of 1856 it was seen that the new, long -dreaded sectional party, although confined to the free states, might still elect a president should it carry all of them. That could be done only by destroying the hold upon northern voters of both Know-Nothings and Democrats, and nothing was so likely to accomplish this result as the continuance of the sectional anger stirred up by the Kansas troubles. Hence, the Democrats and Know-Nothings were eager to settle the Kansas difficulty and remove this source of Republican votes; but the control by the Republicans of the House of Representatives and their insistence on the admission of Kansas under the Topeka constitution prevented any compromise. The new party would accept no settlement of Kansas except on its own terms, and did not intend in the meantime to destroy its chief political asset-by concessions. Under such circumstances the question of party nominations and platforms became one of the utmost importance.

The Democrats led the way on June 2 at Baltimore. Their problem, although requiring caution, was comparatively simple, for the elections of the preceding year had assured them that the American movement would not disturb the normal Democratic majorities at the south; and the party must simply nominate a candidate who would recall the wanderers in the north. Hence, the convention discarded both Pierce and Douglas, who were far too intimately connected with Kansas affairs, and chose Buchanan on the seventeenth ballot, with Breckinridge, of Kentucky, for vice-president. Buchanan was a conservative man; an original Jackson Democrat, a resident of the doubtful state of Pennsylvania, and had been minister to England during most of the Kansas controversy. The platform contained the substance of earlier ones and added a recognition of "the principles contained in the organic laws establishing the territories of Kansas and Nebraska as embodying the only sound and safe solution of the slavery question," asserting the right of the people of the territories, "acting through the legally and fairly expressed will of the majority of the actual residents and whenever the number of their inhabitants justifies to form a constitution, with or without slavery."1

On the same day, in New York, met the national convention called by the anti-slavery Know-Nothings. This body drew up a platform almost wholly Republican in character, demanding" Free territory and 

1 Stanwood, Hist. of the Presidency, 266-268.

Free Kansas," and after much debate and ten ballots nominated Banks, the speaker, for president, evidently hoping that the Republicans would ratify this choice.1

The Republican convention met a few days later, on June 17. For this new body, the problem was to find a candidate who should be sufficiently strong on the Kansas issue and who should not antagonize any of the elements of a new coalition. To the politicians who led the nascent party it was clear that none of the congressional leaders would do-Chase was obnoxious to Whigs, Wade and Seward to Democrats and Know-Nothings, and Banks had too recently been a Democrat. So, with a shrewdness born of long practical experience, a "boom" was worked up for John C. Fremont, a young man almost unknown in politics, with a reputation as an explorer in the far west, the son-in-law of Benton through a romantic marriage. He had been a Democrat, but was anti-slavery in sentiment, had no connection with the Know-Nothings, and was supposed to have a strong hold upon the German vote. The general feeling was well expressed by Mace, of Indiana, when he wrote to a friend: “It will never do to go into this contest and be called upon to defend the acts and speeches of old stagers. We must have a position that will enable us to be the charging party. Fremont is the man." 2 By April 

1 N. Y. Times, June 13-17, 1856.

2 N. Y. Evening Post, April, 1856, quoted by Rhodes, United States, II., 178.

1856 his candidacy was well under way; he had written a suitable letter on Kansas, and when the convention met he was easily nominated by 359 votes to 196 over old Judge McLean, the candidate of the Pennsylvania delegation and other conservatives. Neither Chase's nor Seward's name went before the convention. For vice-president, W. L. Dayton, of New Jersey, a former Whig, was nominated over Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, the western candidate.

The platform made the Kansas issue the basis of the Republican Party. It asserted that Congress had no right to establish slavery, but that it could and ought to abolish it in the territories, together with polygamy, "those twin relics of barbarism." It demanded the admission of Kansas under the Topeka constitution, denounced the Missourian invasions and the pro-slavery territorial government, and concluded, “For this high crime against the Constitution, the Union and humanity, we arraign the administration, the president, his advisers, agents, supporters, apologists, and accessories . . . before the country and the world." The pew party in its first campaign took the field with a "dark horse" for a candidate, conscious that it .must rely upon its principles rather than upon its leadership.1

By the time that the party nominees were fairly before the people, the long-dreaded civil war had

1 Stanwood, Hist. of the Presidency, 271; Errett, “Nominating Convention of 1856," in Mag. West. Hist., X., 257.

broken out in Kansas in the form of guerilla fighting and reprisals. The later Free State settlers included many men who differed from the “Border Ruffians “only in their objects, and within a month from the time of the sack of Lawrence they had set the territory aflame with alarms and shooting affrays. At the start “Old John Brown," an anti-slavery fanatic, avenged the death of various Free State settlers by dragging five pro-slavery men at night from their cabins along Ossawatomie creek and butchering them in cold blood. He did this by the simple law of retaliation current among North American Indians, without any special animosity against those particular men, and seems to have felt that it was "God's work." 1 The other Free State men disavowed this brutal act, but the fighting went on. Shannon issued proclamations, and used Colonel Sumner, with federal troops, to turn back “Border Ruffians" and head off Free State bushwhackers, finally dispersing the Topeka legislature on July 2; but he was wholly unable to keep the peace. Bands of men from each side wandered over the territory, plundering and shooting; arson and assassination went on until "the smoke of burning buildings darkened the air," agriculture was neglected, two hundred lives were lost, and two million dollars' worth of property destroyed. Since the Free State party brought more capital with them, they suffered the most,

1 House Reports, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 200, pp. 104-109; Sanborn, Brown, 247; Connelly, Brown, 153.

and since they were less used to arms and fighting, their military operations were less successful. 

Not until Shannon was replaced by John W. Geary, of Pennsylvania, a stronger man, was this reign of brutality and terror brought to a close. Geary's vigorous action managed to prevent an attack by twenty-five hundred Missourians with cannon upon Lawrence; and by November he had succeeded in inducing most of the armed bands to dissolve. While this was going on, the Missouri River had been closed to northern immigrants by Missourian pro-slavery sympathizers, who disarmed them and turned them back; but a new route was opened through Iowa and Nebraska, and so supplies kept coming in. Clearly, the superior resources of the north were bound to tell in the long run. 

Meanwhile, the administration leaders made a last futile effort to deal with the situation, for they saw that every day of anarchy in Kansas raised new recruits for the Republicans. At the end of June, Douglas accepted a bill introduced by Toombs, as an amendment to his original Kansas enabling act, and in a hard-fought all-night session it was forced through the Senate on July 2 by a majority of 33 to 12. "·when you say that we intend to make Kansas a slave state," said Toombs, "you say what every man of us has stated is not true .... We said we would leave the people free to act for themselves,

1 Gihon, Geary, 293; Rhodes, United States, II., 216.

and if they made it a slave state I should demand its admission as such; and if they made it free I should stand by them .... We require, however, that there shall be a fair vote. . . . The Black Republicans have told us, time and again at this session, that a majority of the people of Kansas are in favor of a free state constitution. I propose a means of ascertaining it." 1

The Toombs bill was extremely fair in its provisions for securing an authentic registration of voters and a free ballot upon the choice of a constitutional convention; but the Republicans, although invited to suggest such amendments as would render the bill acceptable, would not support it on any terms. "So far as the subject of slavery is concerned," said Seward, "the most that can be claimed for this bill is that it gives an equal chance to the people of Kansas to choose between freedom and slavery .... The standard of political justice which commends itself to me is a more rigid one. I recognize no equality in moral right or political expediency between slavery and freedom. I hold one to be decidedly good and the other to be positively bad. I do not think it wise, just or necessary to give to the people of a territory ... the privilege of choosing slavery ...On this principle I have acted throughout in regard to Kansas. . . . On this principle, God give me grace, I shall act in regard to all the territories of the United States so long

1 Cong. Globe, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., App., 871,

as I shall remain here-so long as I shall Iive.'' 1 When the bill came to the House it was not even considered. There can be little doubt that the Republican leaders were strengthened in their unwillingness to consent to any Kansas compromise by their clear comprehension of the importance to their party's campaign of the Kansas situation.

At this time the special committee of the House returned from Kansas and made a report upon the conduct of territorial elections, which proved a sensational campaign document for the Republicans. "Every election," it summed up, "has been controlled not by the actual settlers but by citizens of Missouri and ... your committee have been unable to find that any political power whatever, however unimportant, has ever been exercised by the people of the territory." It held that neither Whitfield nor Reeder had any legal claim to the delegate's seat, and concluded that "in the present condition of the territory a fair election cannot be held without . . . the selection of impartial judges and the presence of United States troops at every place of election." Oliver's minority report gave the full history of the Ossawatomie massacre, but it made surprisingly little impression in the country; and few believed his assertion that there was" no evidence that any violence was resorted to or force employed by which men were prevented from voting at any single election precinct."

1 Cong. Globe, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., App., 790, 792.

2 House Reports, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 200, pp. 2, 67, 75, 105. 

On the same day the House, by a margin of two votes only, passed a bill to admit Kansas under the Topeka constitution, which was promptly killed in the Senate. Later, just before the end of the session, the House tried to force the hand of the president by attaching a "rider" to the army appropriation bill, prohibiting the use of federal troops to enforce the laws of the territorial legislature; but although this caused the failure of the bill in the regular session, enough votes shifted in a special session, which was immediately called, to give a majority of three for a bill without the proviso. Congress then adjourned, August 30, leaving Kansas still in anarchy, as the Republicans intended it should be.

The campaign was now in full blast, and the one issue, in the words of Republican stump orators, was "Bleeding Kansas." The question of native-Americanism vanished, and Fillmore's candidacy, although ratified by a Whig national convention in September, had nothing left for its support except traditional conservative sentiment. In every eastern state the Republican party, spurred on by the bloody news from Kansas, organized on the wreck of the American party through a series of bolts and secessions, and drew to itself the bulk of the former Know-Nothing vote.1 The anti-slavery Americans, whose candidate, Banks, withdrew, ratified Fremont's nomination, and in every free state enthusiastic

1 Scisco, Political Nativism, 179-187.

stump-speakers denounced the administration and predicted a Republican sweep.

As the summer wore on and the Republican prospects grew ever brighter, a new and ominous movement began in the south, whose press and leaders now announced that in the event of a Republican success the only thing for the slave-holding states to do would be instantly to secede. In a few weeks this new spirit overran the south and interjected an altogether new note into the contest. It began to look as though not merely the future of Kansas but the integrity of the Union itself was at stake. "If Fremont is elected," wrote Governor Wise, of Virginia, "there will be a revolution .... We will not remain in confederacy with enemies.'' Wise· meant no empty threats: he bestirred himself to get the Virginia militia in readiness for active service and summoned a conference of governors of the slave states to meet at Raleigh on October 13.1 In support of his movement, Senator Mason, of Virginia, wrote to Davis, the secretary of war, asking that arms be supplied for the state troops, repeating that if Fremont were elected " the south should not pause but proceed at once to immediate, absolute and eternal separation." 2

Under this sinister cloud the last part of the presidential campaign took a new form. Although most of the Republican leaders and newspapers

1 Unpublished letter, September 16, 1856.

2 Mason, Life and Correspondence of J. M. Mason, 117.

laughed at "the stale disunion threat," conservatives at the north were visibly affected; and the advocates for Buchanan and Fillmore concentrated their efforts against the Republicans as a sectional party whose success meant the end of the Union. The plea which had proved successful in 1850 became the chief ground upon which the two conservative parties appealed for votes. "We see a political party," said Fillmore, "presenting candidates from the Free States alone .... Can they have the madness or folly to believe that our Southern brethren would" submit to be governed by such a chief magistrate? I tell you that we are treading on the brink of a volcano ... If it breaks asunder the bonds of our Union, and spreads anarchy and civil war through the land, what is it less than moral treason? ''1 Buchan wrote in similar strain: “Should Fremont be elected, the outlawry pronounced by the Republican Convention at Philadelphia against fifteen Southern states will be ratified by the people of the North. The consequences will be immediate and inevitable." 2

To conciliate northern sentiment on the Kansas question, Buchanan declared continually, and in unqualified terms, that if elected he would secure a fair and free vote in the territory. "There is not a county in Pennsylvania," said J. W. Forney, the campaign manager, "in which my letters may not

1 Cong. Globe, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., App., 716.

2 Curtis, Buchanan, II., 180.

be found, almost by the hundred, pledging Mr. Buchanan, in his name and by his authority, to the full, complete and practical recognition of the right of the people of Kansas to decide upon their own affairs."1 Whatever might be the constitutional shortcomings of the non-intervention doctrine, and however much it fell short of anti-slavery principle, it had undeniable elements of popularity; besides the apparent merits of fairness and democracy, it appealed to the liking for local self-government which was ingrained in the north. In Pennsylvania, the critical state, this carried especial weight, for there anti-slavery sentiment was not strong; and when, in the state election in September, the Democratic candidate for canal commissioner was chosen over a combined Republican and Know-Nothing opposition, it was felt that the state was safe.

The campaign went on with undiminished vigor up to the end, but when the votes were counted in November it was found that conservatism had triumphed; Buchanan was elected by 174 electoral votes, carrying every slave state except Maryland, which fell to Fillmore, and securing not merely Pennsylvania, but four other northern states-New Jersey, Indiana, Illinois, and California. Fremont, whose personality added nothing to the strength of the Republican ticket, received 114 votes from the remaining northern states; while the Know-Nothing

1 Pike, First Blows of the Civil War, 346; Rhodes, United States, II., 229.

party, which a year before claimed to hold the country in its grasp, shrank to small dimensions in the north and held only the old, immovable, and conservative Whig substratum in the south. The Kansas question had killed it. In the total popular vote, greatly increased since 1852, the Democrats led; but their total vote was about four hundred thousand behind the combined opposition.

After this election the country, exhausted by months of excitement, relapsed into quiet. Kansas, under Geary's rule, ceased to bleed, and all were willing to rest and wait for further developments. The Democrats, triumphant with president and each House of Congress, felt that if Kansas could only be promptly dealt with their party might enter on a new and long tenure of power. The Republicans, disappointed at their defeat but inclined to feel that their young party had made as good a showing as could be hoped for in its first election, were ready to wait and see how Buchanan carried out his pledges. The south slowly settling to a normal condition, gave over secession plans for the time, and the last session of the thirty-fourth Congress, whose members at first wrangled to the point of violence, devoted itself to business, scarcely pausing to consider Kansas affairs. Politics were on the ebb after the flood-tide of the summer, and Pierce's stormy term closed with all parties under a sort of armistice.

Source:  Smith, Theodore Clarke, Parties and Slavery. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 18, 161-173. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.

Chapter: “Presidential Conventions and Election of 1856,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

The convention of the American party met in Philadelphia on the 22d of February, 1856. Three days previously, the National Council had met in the same city. - It was composed mostly of the same gentlemen who were to constitute the nominating convention. During these three days, slavery was the exciting topic of debate. The antislavery members pressed the adoption of resolutions in harmony with their principles; but the conservatives resisted successfully the introduction into the platform of anything to commit the Order to the principles or purposes of emancipation.

On the assembling of the convention, which was called to order by William G. Brownlow of Tennessee, an organization was effected by the choice of Ephraim Marsh of New Jersey for president. The disturbing question immediately revealed its presence. A resolution was introduced by Mr. Killinger of Pennsylvania, protesting against the assumed authority of the National Council “to prescribe a platform of principles for this nominating convention," and asserting that " we will nominate, for President or Vice-President, no man who is not in favor of interdicting the introduction of slavery into territory north of 36 30' by congressional action. An angry debate ensued, in which Mr. Coffey of Pennsylvania spoke eloquently for the antislavery members. "We are Americans," he said, "and we will fight for our principles, but we will not stand on a platform which ignores our position upon the vital question of the day"; and he warned Southern members and Northern doughfaces that their course would “result in overwhelming and disgraceful defeat." But the resolution was laid upon the table. On the motion to proceed to vote for candidates an exciting debate arose, but it was carried. Mr. Perkins of Connecticut denounced the course of the majority. "There are," he said, “two great questions before the American people”: the one, “of reform in the naturalization laws --, and that we are agreed in”; the other, "What shall be done about the restoration of freedom to Kansas?” He invited the delegates from Connecticut, and all who agreed with him, to retire from the convention, and about fifty responded to his invitation.

Upon a formal ballot for the nomination, Millard Fillmore received one hundred and seventy-nine votes, and he was declared the candidate. Andrew J. Donelson, adopted son of President Jackson, received the nomination for Vice-President. The antislavery delegates then issued an address to “The American Party of the Union”; and a protest was signed by those who supported George Law and Sam Houston.

During the closing weeks of 1855, a call, signed by the chairmen of the Republican State committees of Ohio, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont; and Wisconsin, was issued for an informal convention at Pittsburg, on the 22d of February, for the purpose of perfecting the national organization and of making provision for a nominating convention to select candidates for President and Vice-President. The convention met in obedience to this invitation, was called to order by Lawrence Brainard of Vermont; and John A. King, son of Rufus King, subsequently governor of New York, was made temporary chairman. The venerable Francis P. Blair was elected president. On taking the chair, he read an elaborate paper setting forth with precision and power the views entertained by the Republicans of the Border States. Speeches were made by Mr. Greeley, Mr. Giddings, and Mr. Lovejoy. Mr. Greeley counselled caution, conciliation, and an earnest effort to secure recruits from both the South and the American party. Mr. Giddings deprecated half-hearted counsels and measures, and urged the convention to adopt an independent policy. Mr. Lovejoy made an uncompromising speech. The committee on organization reported that there should be a national executive committee; that a national convention should be held on the 17th of June for the nomination of candidates for President and Vice-President; and that the Republicans of each State should form a State organization. Mr. Mann of New York, from the committee on an address, presented a paper of great length, which closed with three resolutions. The first demanded, and pledged the party to labor for, the repeal of all laws which allowed the introduction of slavery into territory once consecrated to freedom, and declared its purpose to resist by all constitutional means the existence of slavery in any of the Territories of the United States; the second pledged Republicans to support, by every lawful means, our brethren in Kansas in their constitutional and manly resistance to the usurped authority of their "lawless invaders," and to use their political power in favor of " the immediate admission of Kansas to the Union as a free State "; the third expressed the belief that the continuance of the national administration was " identified with the progress of the Slave Power to national supremacy," and averred it to be a " leading purpose " of the new party " to oppose and over throw it."

During the convention, earnest, eloquent, and hopeful speeches were made by Preston King of New York, John C. Vaughan and Charles Remelin of Ohio, and George W. Julian of Indiana. James W. Stone of Massachusetts, one of the most effective workers and organizers of that State, reminded the convention that the American party had succeeded in that commonwealth because it avowed itself to be the most antislavery party of the State; and he pointed " to the personal liberty law, passed by an American legislature, and the election of Henry Wilson, as evidence of that fact."

A letter was also received from Cassius M. Clay. It was an impassioned utterance, and presented from a Southern stand point, with the authority of personal knowledge, and in language singularly forcible and felicitous, his convictions of what the Slave Power had accomplished, what its ultimate purposes were, and the grounds of fear that it might succeed. Tracing its aggressions and its advance towards nationalizing slavery, he said: " The oligarchy of the three hundred thou sand slaveholders no longer conceal their purposes, or deny their assumptions. Not only the blacks, but the whites, of the South have lost their liberties. Nominally free, they have long since ceased to be a third estate in the slave States. They have no social equality, no political force, no moral influence. Steeped in ignorance and poverty, the privileged class neither respect their opinions nor regard their power…. The reign of terror has done its dread work; from the press, the pulpit, and the stump there comes no word of remonstrance. The horrors of mob law have crushed out the spirit of the once gallant yeomanry of the South. Despair has seized upon their brave hearts; weeping, bleeding, dying, we sink down into oar voiceless woe."

The nominating convention of the Republican Party was held in Philadelphia on the 17th of June. It was called to order by Edwin D. Morgan of New York; prayer was offered by the Rev. Albert Barnes; and Henry S. Lane was chosen president. In his address, the latter spoke of the anniversary of Bunker Hill as a fitting time “to inaugurate a new era in our history, the regeneration and independence of the North." A follower of Henry Clay, he was yet impelled by the Nebraska swindle to sacrifice party predilections, and his “love for old ties was laid beside the Kentucky patriot in the grave." Mr. Wilson counselled “the same lofty self-sacrifice and patriot ism," to "lay a foundation for the union of all parties to save the Republic." He called upon the Whigs to remember the words of Daniel Webster, their great leader; upon the members of the Democratic Party to “come and make a true Democratic party "; upon "the Americans, who profess exalted patriotism," to "unite with us and save the first principles of American liberty."

Caleb B. Smith of Indiana, responding to the calls of the convention, affirmed that slavery had ever been aggressive and had swallowed up every party in the South or brought it into subjection. The aim of the Republican party, he said, was more national than any party since the days of Washington, and it was for that party to " assert and maintain the nationality of freedom, and extend liberty wherever the flag of our country waves." Mr. Lovejoy of Illinois said: “It is not the destiny of America to go filibustering over the continent conquering new territory to plant slavery in; but it is her mission to maintain and illustrate the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence." Charles Francis Adams urged unity and harmony of action. He asked members to consider that "the enemy was listening and working."

Mr. Wilmot presented a platform of principles, which was adopted by the convention. After reciting the causes which led to the formation of the new party and some of the principles of its organization, and reasserting the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence and the duty of government to maintain them, it denied that Congress, or any other body, had any power to " give legal existence to slavery in any Territory of the United States." It asserted the “sovereign power" of Congress over the Territories, and its right and duty “to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism, Polygamy and Slavery." It spoke of the Ostend circular as embodying the highwayman's plea that “might makes right," and as “in every respect unworthy of American diplomacy." Referring to the fact that the Constitution was framed for the purpose of insuring domestic tranquillity, it recited the outrages that had been perpetrated on the settlers of Kansas, and declared that, “for this high crime against the Constitution, the Union, and Humanity, we arraign the Administration, the President, his advisers and agents, before the country and before the world."

Upon the first ballot for candidate for the Presidency, John C. Fremont received three hundred and fifty-nine votes and Judge McLean one hundred and ninety-six. Mr. Fremont was then unanimously made the candidate. For Vice-President, William L. Dayton, receiving much the larger number of votes, was unanimously selected. Among the votes were one hundred and ten for Abraham Lincoln.

The seceders from the American convention had met on the 12th in New York. After organization by the choice of Robert Conrad of Pennsylvania as presiding officer, the first day was spent in speeches, of which it was said that " the speakers seemed to be concurrent on the subject of uniting all the Northern elements of opposition to slavery, without, however, impairing the organization of the American party." A letter was received from Mr. Morgan, chairman of the Republican National Executive Committee, inviting the co-operation of all opposed to the proslavery principles of the dominant parties in an effort to choose a President opposed to such a policy, ex pressing, too, the belief that it could be effected, but only as " all who agree in sentiment can be brought to act for a com mon object." The paper was referred to a committee of one from each State. On the fourth day, Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts and William F. Johnson of Pennsylvania were put in nomination for President and Vice-President. In one of the resolutions adopted was a declaration for “freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free territory, and free Kansas." A committee was chosen to confer with the Republican committee and General Banks, of which George Law was chairman.

The letter of Mr. Law to Mr. Morgan, in reply to the invitation extended by the latter, coming up in the Republican convention, Mr. Littlejohn of New York moved its reference to a committee of one from each State; but, on motion of Mr. Giddings, it was laid on the table. After the ballot for a candidate for the Presidency, Mr. Giddings said that, contrary to his own judgment, but in deference to the wishes of others, he moved a reconsideration of the vote by which the resolution was laid on the table. In the debate on that motion Mr. Littlejohn, Hoar and Eliot of Massachusetts, and ex-Governor Cleveland of Connecticut, expressed the belief that these men were “sincere lovers of freedom," and advocated the reconsideration of the motion and the reception of the letter. Dr. Gazzam of western Pennsylvania said that the Americans of his State had adopted an open organization, and were sincere Republicans. Mr. Root of Ohio then moved the reconsideration of the vote, and the letter was referred to the committee on the platform.

Congratulatory speeches were made amid great enthusiasm. John P. Hale, though not a member, was invited to address the convention. He reminded its members that they had not assembled to say whether or not the Union should be preserved, but to say whether or not it should be “a blessing to the people, or a scorn and a hissing the world over." Referring to the scenes transpiring in Kansas, he said: “We are living in the harvest-time of a proslavery Democracy. They have sown their seeds; they have germinated, budded, blossomed, borne fruit; and now the historian is writing its history in the blood of our fellow-citizens on the plains of Kansas."

Mr. Wilson said that they “had formed a platform that embraced freedom, humanity, and Christianity," a "pure Christian democracy." “This," he said, " is the moment of revolution, -- a revolution of liberty, humanity, and Christianity, -- and it is your duty, each and all of you, to labor and to hope on, until we establish the principles embodied in this plat form in the government of the country." Samuel C. Pomeroy spoke for Kansas, and for the men in the Territory who, he said, would not be slaves, for they had not the marks of servitude "written on their backs or inscribed on their foreheads. They have come here from their desolate homes with drooping heads and trembling hands, but they are now inspired with hope, for they find friends ready to aid them."

The convention of the Democratic Party, for the nomination of candidates for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency, met at Cincinnati on the 2d of June. General John Ward of Georgia was chosen president. There were marked differences of opinion on both the platform and candidate, the former not being accepted until the third day, and the latter selected only on the seventeenth ballot.

The candidates before the convention were Buchanan, Pierce, and Douglas. But the latter two had been so complicated with the exciting and pregnant questions which were distracting the country that it was impossible for either to command the requisite vote, and James Buchanan, who had been out of the country as minister to England, during the troubles growing out of the repeal of the Missouri compromise, was taken up, as, on that account, less obnoxious to the country. On the sixteenth vote, Mr. Buchanan received one hundred and sixty-eight of the two hundred and ninety-five votes cast, and Mr. Douglas received one hundred and twenty-one, the highest number he received during the several ballotings. On the next ballot, the former received the unanimous vote, and was declared the candidate of the party. John C. Breckinridge was chosen candidate for Vice-President, on the second ballot, by a like unanimous vote.

In its platform of principles it adopted the " Baltimore re solves of 1852 " ; reiterated, " with renewed energy of purpose, the well-considered declarations of former conventions upon the sectional issue of domestic slavery " ; reaffirmed " the principles contained in the organic laws establishing the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska," and the compromises of 1850, "ratified by the people in the election of 1852, and rightly applied to the organization of the Territories in 1854 " ; and recognized " the right of the people of all the Territories, including Kansas-Nebraska, to form a constitution with or without domestic slavery, and to be admitted into the Union upon terms of perfect equality with the other States." With popular sovereignty upon its lips, and expressly denying the right of interference by Congress with slavery in the Territories, it limited, by implication at least, the right of the people of the Territories to regulate slavery, by the condition that they must have a sufficient number of inhabitants to form a State. The only conclusion to be drawn from its resolutions was that the power of the people of the Territories over slavery was in abeyance while in its Territorial condition. “Alas for short-lived territorial sovereignty!" exclaimed Mr. Hamlin in the Senate a few days afterward; “it came to its death in the house of its friends; it was buried by the same hands that had given it baptism."

The abasement of the Whig national convention in 1852, and the action of the Southern Whigs in favor of the repeal of the Missouri compromise, had demoralized, disrupted, and disbanded that party. A few, however, still claimed the name, and sought to reorganize its thinned and broken ranks. They met in national convention on the 17th of September, in the city of Baltimore. Edward Bates of Missouri, afterward Attorney-General under Mr. Lincoln, presided, and the American ticket of Fillmore and Donelson was indorsed. In the discussions of the meeting, they referred to the disordered condition of things, and “the civil war” in Kansas, and traced them “to the culpable neglect of duty by the present national administration." Proclaiming their opposition to sectional parties, they declared that the agitation convulsing the nation must be arrested, "if we would preserve our Constitution and our Union from dismemberment, and the name of America from being blotted out from the family of civilized nations." They expressed unbounded confidence in Mr. Fillmore, for “his inflexibility in executing the laws." Declaring that "civil war is raging, and that the Union is in peril," they professed to regard his restoration to the Presidency as the best, if not the only, means of restoring peace. A portion of the Americans, too, being dissatisfied with the action of their convention, put in nomination a separate ticket, and selected as their candidates Commodore Stockton of New Jersey and Kenneth Raynor of North Carolina.

Such were the nominating conventions of 1856. Unprecedented in number, and held under the deepest excitement, they took color and character from the disturbed condition of affairs, and from the division and disintegrating process which the slavery question was producing all over the land. But, while this element of discord and division was thus marked, there were developing new elements, resulting in new affinities and new tendencies to cohesion, which reduced the five tickets to three, and the contest was practically between Fremont, Buchanan, and Fillmore. Banks and Johnson declining, those who put them in nomination voted for Fremont and Dayton. Stockton and Raynor being withdrawn from the contest, their friends generally transferred their support to Fillmore and Donelson.

Mr. Buchanan accepted the nomination in a letter fully indorsing the Democratic platform, indeed almost sinking his personality in becoming its representative and embodiment. In a conversation with Albert Gr. Brown, a Mississippi Senator, a few days after the convention, he so fully indorsed the Southern side of the questions at issue as to extort from that Senator the remark that he was " as worthy of Southern confidence and Southern votes as ever Mr. Calhoun was." Mr. Fillmore was in Europe when his nomination was made. He soon afterward returned, and, in a speech at Albany, took intensely Southern, not to say revolutionary, ground. He predicted the most serious consequences, should the Republicans succeed, and he justified the South in regarding such success as sufficient warrant for violence. “If this sectional party succeeds," he said, “it leads inevitably to the destruction of this beautiful fabric, reared by our forefathers, cemented by their blood, and bequeathed to us as a priceless inheritance."

A canvass inaugurated by such a preparation, by such scenes of violence and blood in Kansas and on the Senate floor, by such utterances of party platforms and party candidates, and by such sectional demonstrations of Southern leaders, could not but be earnest and in the highest degree animated. The Republicans, not hampered by a Southern wing with its prescription and proscription, and “running without weights," sought freedom for others all the more heartily because they had become free themselves. As never before it was a conflict of principles, not of political economy and commercial greed alone, but in the higher range of morals and religious obligation. For questions of tariffs, banks, internal improvements, and the like, were substituted those of philanthropy, true patriotism, and a wise statesmanship; of human rights and the higher law. Never had the nation been taken up to so high a plane of feeling, thought, and action; never had it been con fronted with questions of such pregnant interest and importance.

As never before had such use been made of weapons drawn from the armory above, so never had the pulpit and the religious and reformatory press lent such aid in a political struggle.

There were, too, other subsidiary influences that helped to swell the volume of Republican thought and feeling. Among them were the inflexible purposes and persistent labors of the American Antislavery Society and its affiliated associations. Though their members cast no votes, and they discarded all political action, they contributed to the result aimed at by the new party of freedom. By orators and presses, meetings and conventions, they made constant warfare on the slave-system, and kept before the people the woes of the slave and the machinations of the Slave Power. During what might be termed the terrible "seven years' war," beginning with the compromises of 1850, including the abject surrender of the great parties in 1852, the merciless enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, the Kansas-Nebraska legislation of 1854, the as sault on Mr. Sumner and the border-ruffian policy in Kansas in 1856, they denounced, with unsparing words, this systematic attack upon the rights of man and the integrity of the nation. Their independence of sect or party contributed to this result. Absolved from all responsibility for either, they analyzed, perhaps, more closely, and described more faithfully, the evil they so fiercely condemned and so fearlessly exposed.

But many who were convinced by their arguments against slavery could not adopt their proposed measures for its removal. Their diagnosis of the disease they were forced to admit, but they were not persuaded to accept the remedy pre scribed. But, while their own numbers were not increasing, perhaps diminishing, they were impregnating the North with antislavery ideas and increasing the number who abhorred and hated slavery and were in a waiting posture to welcome just such an agency as the Republican Party promised. Equally pronounced in its hostility to the vile system, it, at the same time, was proposing a remedy that seemed less revolutionary, more reformatory, practical, promising, besides being less in conflict with their feelings of patriotism for the country and of reverence for the church.

Another potent influence which doubtless entered largely into the canvass had been the publication and wide-spread perusal of “Uncle Tom's Cabin." It was both a revelation and a summons. It revealed what existed here, and, as with trumpet blast from another world, it called upon the people to repent and purge themselves from the great iniquity. It was as if a vast panorama had been suddenly unrolled, on which the gifted artist had portrayed with vivid colors the scenes of cruelty and shame, of suffering and sorrow, to which slavery gave rise, and those of noble daring and Christian self-sacrifice, to effect and aid escape therefrom, and these pictures had been burned into the popular mind and heart by the very fervor of the genius that inspired and wrought them. Nor can it be doubted that many minds, in perusing that work, had found the needful preparation for the arguments and appeals of Republican presses and speakers that were so soon to follow, and that many votes cast for Fremont were but the rich fruitage of seed so widely broadcast by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Nor was its influence confined to this country. It crossed the seas. Translated into an almost incredible number of languages, and circulated in unprecedented numbers in every country, city, and court of Europe, it excited like abhorrence of the system it so vividly portrayed, kindled sympathy with efforts for its extirpation, and evoked hearty good will and earnest good wishes for the new party of freedom.

On the other hand, the arguments which the supporters of Buchanan and Fillmore most frequently employed were those of alarm and menace. The most direful consequences were predicted and the most belligerent threats were fulminated everywhere, designed and well adapted to affright the timid, and especially to disturb the moneyed interests. Senators Slidell and Toombs declared that, in case of Fremont's election, the Union would, and ought to be, dissolved. Senator Butler said: “I shall advise my legislature to go at the tap of the drum." Mr. Keitt declared that “adherence to the Union is treason to liberty." Indeed, in every form and with frantic emphasis did the leading men and presses of the South utter threats like these.

Governor Wise was conspicuous in that canvass for his zealous support of the Democratic ticket, because it maintained, he contended, the rights of the South. At a ratification meeting in Richmond, soon after the nomination, he unhesitatingly declared, in a speech of marked ability, purpose, and boldness, that Mr. Buchanan had ever been true to the interests of the South, " as reliable as Mr. Calhoun himself." Alarmed, in view of the possibility, if not probability, of the election of Fremont, he sent a circular, about the middle of September, to the Democratic governors of the Southern States, proposing a meeting at Raleigh on the 13th of October, to take into consideration the condition of the country. To this circular Governor Bragg of North Carolina replied, under date of the 19th. He expressed his dread of a disastrous result in the approaching Presidential election, concurred in the propriety of the meeting, and consented to be present. Governor Adams of .South Carolina, under date of the 23d, replied that he would cheerfully meet the men invited at Raleigh, and pledged South Carolina to “joyously follow " in any measure that would bring security to the South. On the 24th, Governor Ligon of Maryland wrote that he thought the proposed meeting premature; that it would not be attended with beneficial results; and that it would injuriously affect the election of Buchanan. Four days afterward he wrote that such a collection of governors of Southern States would be regarded as preliminary to some decided action in the event of a certain contingency, and would injure the Democratic Party in Maryland. Governor Winslow of Alabama responded on the 26th, and stated that if the meeting took place he would not be absent. On the llth of October, he again wrote that he would second and support any line of policy that might be decided upon. He thought, if the governors of Virginia and North Carolina would meet, the Southern States would adopt any policy suggested, if it was only " bold enough " ; if not, he said, they had only " to sink down in abject acquiescence until made to move like the terrapin, with burning coals on his back.'' Governor Broome of Florida wrote, on the 7th, that the objects of the meeting met his hearty concurrence, and that it would give him great pleasure to meet “the executives of the Southern sisterhood in conference." The people of Florida, he thought, would stand shoulder to shoulder with the Southern States on the Georgia platform of 1851. Under date of 9th of October, Governor Wickliffe of Louisiana, who had telegraphed that he would attend the meeting, wrote that subsequent reflection had convinced him that the proposed meeting would “militate against the union of the South." He thought the meeting would be considered as having for its object the election of Buchanan, and would be considered solely as a Democratic movement. Governor Wickliffe, as did some of the other governors, wrote that the exclusion of the governors of Kentucky and Missouri, representing the American party, might be construed into a declaration that they were untrue to the South, and would tend to imbitter them against any recommendation that might be made.

The governors of Virginia and South Carolina met the governor of North Carolina at Raleigh. The governors of the other Southern States either refused or were unable to be present. But no action whatever was taken. The object of this movement at the time was generally understood to be either a dismemberment of the Union or resistance within it, and, as such, it tended to alarm timid and conservative men at the North. But Governor Wise, in a letter to Mr. Wilson, under date of November 5, 1873, after declaring that he had always been " a friend of the Union," writes: " My anxious desire and most zealous motive was to do all I could to pre vent intestine war and guard against disunion; and, if that could not be done, to provide for the safety and protection of Virginia in a war which might come, and which I was sure would come unless a convention of all the States could be assembled to avert its dangers." Saying that it was his main object "to call a national convention in the Union," but that "it had too many enemies of the Union to contend with," he added: “I shall die in the conviction that if a convention of all the States could have been then held, that war would have been averted."

These threats and movements exerted no little influence on the canvass. Many, especially manufacturers, merchants, and bankers, were prevented from voting the Republican ticket, though they could not but approve the doctrines of its plat form, while constrained to vote for candidates whose principles they must condemn. The canvass resulted in the election of Mr. Buchanan, though he lacked more than three hundred and seventy thousand votes of a majority, Mr. Fremont receiving more than one million three hundred and forty-one thousand votes.

This Democratic victory was a severe blow to Republican hopes and to all liberty-loving men. Its lessons could neither be gainsaid nor ignored, for they were burned into the hearts of all who had participated in this heated canvass. They saw that, notwithstanding the constant antislavery agitations of twenty-five years, which had enlisted the ablest tongues and pens, and spread before the people by voice and press, by pulpit and platform, not only the primal truths of human rights, but the grim and abhorrent facts and features of the slave system ; notwithstanding the high-handed aggressions of the Slave Power, all fully and even ostentatiously indorsed by the victorious party, in whose platform they had been made the prominent and commanding articles ; notwithstanding all this, done with purpose and without concealment, the people, with seeming deliberation, had adopted it and made it their own. Though the Slave Power seemed more firmly seated than ever, and more securely enthroned; though the cries of " bleeding Kansas" lingered in the air, its soil was still moistened with the blood of the victims of slaveholding hate, and its skies were yet murky with the smoke of burning and desolated homes, the people seemed willing to make public record of their subserviency, stronger the chains of the slave, and more hideous their own ignoble vassalage.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 508-522.



Please note that this entry includes two chapters:

·        Chadwick, “Causes of the Civil War,” 1906

·        Wilson, “Democratic National Conventions of 1860,” 1872

Chapter: “Causes of the Civil War” (pp. 109-123), by French Ensor Chadwick, in The American Nation: A History, 1906.

THE Democratic convention was thus brought together at Charleston, April 23, 1860, under circumstances which foreboded trouble. Caleb Cushing, of Massachusetts, was chosen chairman. Davis's resolutions in the Senate, supported as they were throughout the South, were evidently to be the motif of action for the more extreme southern members; and the committee on resolutions, one from each state, came together with irreconcilable views. The western members, besides ·a strong personal enthusiasm for Douglas, were well aware of the danger to their party in the North if an extremist platform were adopted, and insisted firmly on a platform which Douglas, as the only Democratic candidate who could carry the North, could accept. But southern members “thought Douglas as bad as Seward and popular sovereignty as hateful as Sewardism. '' 1 It had been determined long before that under no circumstances should Douglas be

1 Rhodes, United States, II., 443. 

accepted on his own platform. The result, after four days' discussion in the committee, was the presentation, April 27, of a majority report, representing seventeen states (including California and Oregon), with 127 electors, and a minority report representing 172 electoral votes. The majority reaffirmed the Cincinnati platform of 1856 of "non-interference by Congress with slavery in state or territory, or in the District of Columbia''; but added the fateful principle that during the existence of the government of a territory all citizens of the United States have an equal right to settle with their property in. the territory, without their rights, either of person or property ' being destroyed or impaired by congressional or territorial legislation; and that it was the duty of the Federal government, in all its departments, to protect, when necessary, such rights.

The minority report also readopted the Cincinnati platform, but, to cover the “differences of opinion ... as to the nature and extent of the powers of a territorial legislature, and as to the powers and dudes of Congress under the Constitution of the United States over the institution of slavery within the territories," added a resolution "That the Democratic party will abide by the decisions of the Supreme Court . . . on the questions of constitutional law."

1 Benjamin F. Butler, of Stanwood; Hist. of the Presidency, 282, 284; McKee, National Conventions and Platforms, 108. 

Massachusetts, later general, made a separate report of his own, proposing simply to reaffirm the Cincinnati platform as it stood.

Henry B. Rayne, of Ohio, in offering the minority report, said; " It is not A- personal victory which we seek to achieve, God knows, but every gentleman of that committee has felt iµ his conscience and in his heart that upon the result of our deliberations and the action of this Convention, in all human probability, is dependent the fate pf this party and the destiny of this Union.'' He dwelt upon the earnest and patriotic desire to adjust the party differences, but claimed that the trouble came from the South. "I can prove." he said, "here, by the recorded testimony of almost every distinguished Senator or Representative from the Southern States that from 1850 to 1856 there was not a dissenting opinion [to the principle of the Cincinnati platform expressed op the records of Congressional discussion-not one .... I say to you, in the solemnity of my heart, that if the resolutions presented here by the majority of the committee be adopted, you cannot expect any assistance from the Democracy of the Northern States in electoral vote or in members of Congress.... I do not believe we can elect a single member of Congress in the whole Northwest unless it be in Lower Egypt."1, Yancey, of Alabama, whose oratory, to a southern audience, was irresistible, and who, tough in early

1 National Intelligencer, May 1, 1860. 

life an ardent Unionist, had long stirred the fires of separation until he now had them ablaze, held up a lurid picture of the superlative evils which the adoption of the minority report must bring. "Ours," he said, "is the property invaded; ours are the institutions which are at stake; ours is the peace that is to be destroyed; ours is the property that is to be destroyed; ours is the honor at stake-the honor of our children, the honor of families, the lives perhaps of all-all of which rests upon what your course may ultimately make a great heaving volcano of passion and crime, if you are enabled to consummate your designs." 1

Yancey scored the Democrats of the North because they "acknowledged that slavery was wrong. You acknowledged that it could not exist anywhere by the law of Nature or by the law of God; that it could exist nowhere except; by virtue of statutory enactment. In that you yielded the whole question. . . . If you had taken the position that has been taken by one gallant son of the North, who proclaimed, under the hisses of thousands, that slavery was right, that anti-slavery demon, if not dead, would long since have been in chains at your feet." 2 The southern leaders had come to that point of dementia where no difference of opinion upon slavery was to be tolerated.

When, on the sixth day of the convention, the

1 National Intelligencer, May 8, 1860.

2 Ibid

minority report was adopted by 165 to 138, the effect of Yancey's influence was shown. The delegates from Alabama at once presented a written protest in obedience to the behest of their state convention, by which they were "positively instructed to withdraw" unless propositions, such as were affirmed in the majority report, should be accepted at the Charleston meeting. A majority of the delegates of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, and Arkansas followed, the chairman of each making a speech of justification.

The main convention, now reduced to 253 votes, proceeded to ballot under the two-thirds rule.1 After fifty-seven ballots, in which Douglas's highest vote was 151.5, and the next highest was that of 66 for Guthrie, of Kentucky, it was clear that a choice was impossible so long as Douglas's supporters remained firm; and the convention adjourned, May 3, to meet in Baltimore, June 18. Meantime the seceding members had met, elected James A. Bayard, of Delaware, chairman, adopted the majority platform of the committee, and adjourned to meet at Richmond, June 10. 2 The act of the Alabama delegation was the first step in the great drama of secession about to open, and it was with sober minds that many men returned north, convinced that the Democratic Party

1 For reasons for the adoption of this rule, see Buchanan's speech, Washington, July 9, 1860, in Curtis, Buchanan, II., 290.

2 Hart, Am. Hist. told by Contemporaries, IV., § 49.  

was hopelessly divided. Even in the South this extreme doctrine found opposition. Gaulden, of Georgia, said: “I believe that this doctrine of protection to slavery in the territories is a mere theory, a mere abstraction. Practically it can be of no consequence to the South for the reason that the infant has been strangled before it was born … We have no slaves to carry into the territories. We can never make another slave state with our present supply of slaves." To do this "you will be obliged to give up another state--either Maryland, Delaware or Virginia--to free soil upon the North." If the territories were to be occupied, he held that it was necessary to reopen the African slave-trade, which he strongly urged and which he said was less immoral and unchristian than the slave-trade of Virginia.1

May 9, a week before the meeting of the Republican convention, the delegates of the party calling itself the "Constitutional Union" met in Baltimore and nominated Bell, of Tennessee, and Everett, of Massachusetts, as president and vice-president. The members were chiefly of the disintegrated Whig and '' American'' parties, and represented the conservative element of the country, both in the North and in the South. A platform was adopted recognizing '' No political principles other than THE CONSTITUTION OF THE COUNTRY, THE UNION  OF THE STATES, AND THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE LAWS”. 1

1 Greeley, Am. Confiict, I., 316.

While it was clearly impossible to elect the candidates, it was hoped that the action would throw the election into the House, and it had unquestionable effect in staying, throughout the canvass, much disunion sentiment which otherwise would have had free course.

When the Democratic regular convention reconvened in Baltimore, June 18, a wrangle over the admission of delegates elected to replace some of those who had withdrawn, and who now wished admission again, ended in a second secession of delegates, including those from Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Caleb Cushing followed their example, as did the Massachusetts delegation led by Benjamin F. Butler, who announced that he would not sit in a convention ''where the African slave trade, which is a piracy by the laws of my country, is approvingly advocated." Soule, of Louisiana, still clung to Douglas, and was terribly severe upon the seceders as "an army of unprincipled and unscrupulous politicians.'' 2 Douglas was nominated upon the second ballot, his highest competitor, Guthrie, receiving but ten votes. Fitzpatrick, of Alabama, a southerner of the most advanced type, was chosen for vice-president; he declined, and Herschel V. Johnson, of Georgia, equally advanced, was substituted. The Charleston seceders met at Richmond, June

1 McKee, National Conventions and Platforms, 117.

2 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 687.

11, but adjourned to Baltimore, where they met June 28, twenty-one states being fully or partially represented. Cushing was again president; the platform rejected there was now unanimously adopted, and John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, and General Joseph Lane, of Oregon, were unanimously nominated for president and vice-president.

The Republican convention met in Chicago, May 16. Besides all the free states, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Kansas and Nebraska had representatives. Four names were prominently before the convention -Seward, Lincoln, Chase, and Bates; but there were few throughout the country who doubted the success of the first. Chase's chances were greatly damaged by the fact that Judge McLean and Senator Wade, both of whom were candidates, were from the same state. Schurz had frankly given his opinion to Chase: "Governor, if the Republicans at Chicago have the courage to nominate an advanced antislavery man they will nominate Seward; if not, they will not nominate you.'' 1 Bates, a Missourian, had weight with those who saw in him an opportunity for a compromise, as he was a conservative southern man with anti-slavery principles strong enough to cause him to free his slaves. His most prominent supporter was Horace Greeley, who, for private reasons as well as public, had brought all

1 Bancroft, Seward, I., 526. 

the great weight of the Tribune against Seward,1 and to whose efforts both Seward himself and Weed, his bosom friend, mainly, though incorrectly, attributed Seward's defeat.

The platform quoted the clause of the Declaration of Independence beginning, "All men are created equal"; denounced threats of disunion; declared as essential to our system "the right of each state to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment''; denounced the invasion by an armed force of any state or territory; condemned the subservience of the administration "to the exactions of a sectional interest," and stigmatized as "a dangerous political heresy" "the new dogma--that the Constitution of its own force carries slavery into any or all of the territories.''

The eighth resolution took. a position never before adopted by a political party-''That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom; that as our republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory ordained that 'no person should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,' it becomes our duty by legislation, whenever such legislation is necessary, to maintain this provision of the constitution against all attempts to violate it; and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of individuals

1 Barnes, Weed, chap. xxi.

to give legal existence to slavery in any territory of the United States."

This advanced ground ignored the fact that Congress had both allowed and prohibited slavery in a territory. Under the compromise of 1820 it was tacitly allowed to continue south of 36° 30; and by the compromise of 1850 New Mexico, which Clay believed to be free, was opened to slavery. The resolution was ''a reading of the constitution diametrically opposed to the Southern reading. The political men who framed this 'platform' doubtless considered that the time had come for a direct antagonism between the North and South on this subject so that it might be decided by the votes of the people.... That such antagonism was the consequence and purpose of this declaration of a new principle of action on this subject will be denied by no one." 1

In the remaining eight resolutions Congress was called upon to suppress finally the African slave-trade reopened under cover of our flag; the admission of Kansas was called for; a protective policy recommended; the passage of the homestead bill demanded; full protection to all citizens, native and naturalized, supported; river and harbor improvements of a national character favored; and immediate and efficient aid from Congress to a Pacific railroad demanded. 2

1 Curtis, Buchanan, II., 285.

2 Stanwood, Hist. of the Presidency, 29I, 294; McKee, National Conventions and Platforms, 113-116; Lincoln, Works (ed. of 1894), I., 635-637. 

When it came to ballot for the candidates, 233 votes were necessary to a choice. The first ballot stood: Seward, 173.5; Lincoln, 102; Cameron, 50.5; Chase, 49; Bates, 48; scattering, 42. On the second ballot Seward had 184.5; Lincoln, 181. On the third there were 180 for Seward, 231 for Lincoln. To make the necessary majority, four Ohio votes were changed from Chase to Lincoln, and others followed until he had 354 out of the whole 446, when Evarts, of New York, performed the melancholy courtesy of moving that the vote be declared unanimous.1

Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine, was nominated for vice-president.

The result was a shock of surprise to the country at large, and particularly in the East, as Seward's nomination had been looked upon as secure. The failure filled his followers with gloom and bitterness. Thurlow Weed shed tears. 2 The East knew Lincoln by report as abnormally uncouth, as the natural outcome of a rough early life spent in splitting rails and in flat-boating upon the Ohio and Mississippi. The South in addition, ignoring the conservative attitude involved in the full expression of his most sane and reasonable views, 3 regarded him as one of the monsters of depravity who had

1 Rhodes, United States, II., 456-473; Greeley, Am. Confiict, I., 319-321; Stanwood, Hist. of the Presidency, 290-295; Hart, Am. Hist. told by Contemporaries, IV., § 50.

2 Barnes, Weed, 271.

3 See speech of October 16, 1854, Lincoln, Works (ed. of 1894), I., 187. 

declared that war must be made upon slavery, selecting a single sentence, his declaration that "a house divided against itself cannot stand.  I believe this government cannot ·endure permanently half slave and half free "1 as typifying his stand and probable course of action. He was nominated largely because of this conservatism so unwisely disregarded by the South, and as a more available candidate for this reason than Seward. It is a striking fact that the Garrison school of abolitionists themselves were opposed to the result.2

Seward himself had been certain of success, despite the know ledge of an opposition, the grounds of which were frankly stated to him by an eminent member of his own party. When about leaving Washington he complained to Senator Wilson of the latter's antagonism. Wilson replied, substantially: "If I could elect a President, I should nominate you or Mr. Chase .... But ... like Mr. Chase, you have by your ability and long devotion to the anti-slavery cause, excited prejudices and awakened conservative fears in the great states of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, and Connecticut which are to be the battle ground of the contest, and whose votes must be secured to give success. . . . I do not think your name will command the necessary strength.'' Nevertheless, Seward left the Senate chamber with Sumner, reiterating

1 Speech at Springfield, June 16, 1858, Lincoln, Works (ed. of 1894), I., 240.

2 Garrisons, Garrison, III., 502.

his confidence, assured of both the nomination and election. 1

Seward had failed to recognize the weight and influence gained by his western antagonist just preceding the election. Even a few in the South had begun to comprehend that Lincoln was more than the uncouth boor, the possibility of whose nomination had been derided. Benjamin, of Louisiana, was one of the southerners who had come to recognize the lofty qualities of his nature and mind. In his speech in the Senate against Douglas, of May 2 2, he said, referring to the category of questions put by Douglas to Lincoln in the debate of 1858, 2 the answers to which are among the finest in character of Lincoln's statements, "It is impossible, Mr. President, however we may differ in opinion with the man not to admire the perfect candor and frankness with which these answers are given; no equivocation-no evasion." 3

The victory for Lincoln was in fact a simple question of availability. He had not been seriously thought of for the presidency until his acclaim at the Republican state convention at Decatur, Illinois, May 10, 186o. There can be little doubt that a large majority of those assembled at Chicago went expecting to vote for Seward. "Certainly two thirds of the delegates ... preferred him

1 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 694.

2 Lincoln, Works (ed. of 1894), I., 306.

3 Cong. Globe, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., 2237. 

for president." 1 But Pennsylvania and Indiana were to hold elections for governor in October. Those who had nominated Curtin in Pennsylvania had not even yet taken the name "Republican." It was a party of fusionists in which the "American'' element was strong, and this element was bitterly opposed to Seward through his favoring a division of school funds. “Without its aid the success of Curtin was simply impossible. A like condition of things existed in Indiana.... While the anti-slavery sentiment asserted itself by the election of a majority of Republicans to Congress in 1858, the entire Democratic State ticket was successful by majorities varying from 1534 to 2896.... The one thing that Curtin, Lane [the Republican nominee for governor in Indiana] and their respective lieutenants agreed upon, was that the nomination of Seward meant hopeless defeat in their respective States.'' 2

Seward thus, in fact, though it was not apparent, was defeated before the convention met. The struggle really lay between Lincoln and Bates, and Lincoln had immensely the advantage in the locale of the convention. It was the first which had been held at Chicago, and it was in his own state. The environment was one which knew the man and his worth. The fact, too, that Douglas was certain to be the nominee of the regular Democratic convention

1 McClure, Lincoln and Men of War Times, 28.

2 lbid., 31-33.

was greatly in Lincoln's favor. The publication of the speeches of the great contest of 1858 had shown the superior logic and ability of Lincoln, and if able to assert his superiority then, there could be little doubt of his ability to meet him on more than a favorable footing in the great contest about to come. If the hand of Providence is ever to be recognized in human affairs, it was in this debate and in this nomination.

Source:  Chadwick, French Ensor, Causes of the Civil War. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 19, 109-123. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.

Chapter: “Democratic National Conventions of 1860,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

THE Democratic national convention of 1860 was memorable, not only on account of its disastrous influence on the subsequent fortunes nation of the irrepressible conflict, the turning-point in the tide of oppression which had flooded the land for so many years, and which from that hour began to subside. It closed the era of compromises, and was the beginning of the end of that ill-starred ascendency which had transformed the self-government of freemen into the hardly disguised despotic control of an oligarchy, contemptible in point of numbers, and more contemptible in the spirit, purposes, and means of its long-continued and fearful domination. The Slave Power went into that convention master of the situation, with the prestige of almost uninterrupted victories on its banners, in possession of every department of the government, having, too, a majority of hundreds of thousands in the popular vote at its command; and yet it recklessly abandoned its vantage-ground, threw away the sceptre it had so long and so remorselessly wielded, and with suicidal hands began the work of its own destruction.

The precise and particular point of interest, the question that distracted and at length divided the convention, was that of nominating Mr. Douglas as the Democratic candidate in the pending canvass. His acknowledged ability, his prominence in the party, his leadership in the Kansas-Nebraska struggle, his long and loudly proclaimed Southern proclivities, all pointed to him as the Democratic standard-bearer in the coming strife. But with all his devotion to Southern interests, his record was not sufficiently clean to satisfy their exacting demands. He had faltered, and for once had failed to come up to their full measure of fealty upon the Lecompton issue; and it became an unpardonable sin, not to be for gotten or forgiven. Though consistency, the instinct of self-preservation, and a wise regard for the preservation of his party's ascendency in the Northern States demanded this course, Mr. Douglas was made the victim of the most unrelenting opposition, and that from the very men for whom he had made the greatest sacrifices. Indeed, the slave propagandists, for the time, seemed to forget their chronic hatred of the Abolitionists in their more acute and violent hostility toward him, and in their determination to defeat his nomination for the Presidency. That they were unwisely violent, that their vaulting ambition o'erleaped itself, and that they themselves inflicted fatal wounds upon their own cause, which no opposition then organized could have done, are matters of general belief, if not of historic record. But in all this there was nothing new, or without precedent. History is full of such mistakes, such follies, examples of like judicial blindness, -- illustrations of the classic adage, that whom the gods mean to destroy they first make mad.

The convention met in the city of Charleston, on the 23d of May, 1860. Every State was represented, while New York and Illinois appeared with two contesting delegations. These rival claimants did but intensify the excitement, already great, and add fuel to a flame that was already burning fiercely. By design or otherwise, these two sets of delegates from the two States were respectively for and against Mr. Douglas. Their papers were referred to the committee on credentials, which reported in favor of the friends of Mr. Douglas from both States, thereby increasing his chances for success.

Caleb Gushing of Massachusetts was made permanent president of the convention. In his speech on taking the chair, under the usual platitudes of the Democratic party, which he represented as " the great party of the Union, whose proud mission it has been, whose proud mission it is, to maintain the public liberties, to reconcile popular freedom with constituted order, to maintain the sacred reserved rights of the sovereign States, to stand, in a word, the perpetual sentinels on the out posts of the Constitution," he defined his position as that of no sympathy with " the faction and fanaticism" of either extreme, which " would hurry our land on to revolution and to civil war." His speech was a plea for the Union, with the promise and prediction that the party would maintain it; as it was its mission, he said, “to strike down and to conquer" "the branded enemies of the Constitution." But he gave no counsel, and shed no light upon the great practical, crucial problem of the hour, which was not so much how the irrepressible conflict could be composed while the parties, without substantial change of sentiment or purpose, remained, -- how the Union could be preserved while slavery, like a dividing wedge, was ever riving it in two --, how peace could be maintained while everything tended to war, -- but, the rather, how the Democratic party could pursue two courses in opposite directions at one and the same time, and how maintain its newly proclaimed doctrine of popular sovereignty, and the still newer doctrine that the Constitution carried slavery wherever its power was known or acknowledged. On that question Mr. Gushing was wisely silent, for there was no satisfactory answer to be given. The only practical answer was that the one or the other wing of the party must yield, or that it must divide, as the result proved, and as might have been foreseen from the outset. Indeed, Mr. Douglas was destined to furnish in his own person a notable example of the principle Mr. Lincoln so clearly announced, and which he so sturdily denied, that the Union could not remain “half free, half slave." The matter had advanced too far for compromise. Neither party could compromise without self-stultification, or, at least, a self-abandonment too great for the temper of the times. “It is indeed ridiculous and absurd," said one writing from the convention, "for this body of delegates to be pretending to agree on a platform, when the whole country, themselves included, know well their disagreements are radical and absolute."

 On the 24th a committee on resolutions and platform was appointed; but it was not until the 27th that it was ready to report. On that day there were presented a majority report, two minority reports, and a series of resolutions. The report of the majority was presented by Mr. Avery of North Carolina. The principal minority report was presented by Mr. Payne of Ohio, signed by the members of all the free States except California, Oregon, and Massachusetts. Benjamin F. Butler of Massachusetts presented another minority report which consisted mainly of a reaffirmation of the Cincinnati platform and the assertion that Democratic principles are "unchangeable." In addition to these Mr. Bayard of Delaware presented a series of resolutions.

The gist of the majority report on the slavery question was thus expressed: " That Congress has no power to abolish slavery in the Territories; That the Territorial legislature has no power to abolish slavery in the Territories, nor to prohibit the introduction of slaves therein, nor any power to destroy or impair the right of property in slaves by any legislation whatever." In addition, it affirmed the duty of the government "to protect the rights of person and property on the high seas "; which last specification was believed to be intended to cover, or include, the principle of protecting the slave-trade. Mr. Avery, in his speech explaining his report, said: “We demand at the hands of our Northern brethren upon this floor that the great principle we cherish should be recognized." The adoption of the popular sovereignty doc trine, he said, “would be as dangerous and subversive of their rights as the adoption of the principle of Congressional intervention or prohibition." And he honestly admitted that, in a contest for the occupation of the Territories, “the Southern men, encumbered with slaves, cannot compete with the Emi grant Aid Society at the North." Concerning “the true construction of the Cincinnati platform," he contended that it did not involve the doctrine of popular sovereignty, and was not even "ambiguous." But if ambiguous, he wanted “no more doubtful platforms," but that "the convention take a bold, square stand."

The principal minority report reaffirmed the Cincinnati plat form, declared that all rights of property are judicial, and that the Democracy pledge themselves to defer to the decisions of the Supreme Court on the subject. It also pronounced all State resistance to the Fugitive Slave Law “revolutionary and subversive of the Constitution." In his speech in explanation, and in reply to Mr. Avery and the majority report, Mr. Payne spoke at great length. Referring to the Cincinnati platform, he said it meant “non-intervention by Congress with the question of slavery, and the submission of the question -of slavery in the Territories, under the Constitution, to the people." Concerning its alleged ambiguity, he said “he could prove from the Congressional debates that from 1850 to 1856 there was not a dissenting opinion expressed in Congress on this subject." This he proceeded to do by copious extracts from the speeches of Howell Cobb, John C. Breckinridge, James L. Orr, Alexander H. Stephens, Robert Toombs, and others, all agreeing in the principle expressed by Mr. Breckinridge, that " the people of each Territory shall determine the question for themselves," and be admitted into the Union " without discrimination on account of the allowance or prohibition of slavery." Mr. Butler presented for his report, as he expressed it, "the Cincinnati platform, pure and undefiled," accompanying it with an incisive speech, dissecting both reports and pointing out their untenable positions and their departures from the old faith of the Democratic Party.

The debate to which these reports and the speeches introducing them gave rise was violent in both matter and manner. It was indeed the shock of battle, for which everything up to that time had been preliminary, the gathering and arming of forces, the mere skirmishing of outposts. It was not as sanguinary as the later battles of Chancellorsville and the Wilder ness, of Gettysburg and Pittsburg Landing, but it was a part of the same conflict, equally determined and defiant. Nor was it indeed a mere war of words. There were other demonstrations which better betokened the spirit that ruled than any spoken language of the debate. What they were may be gathered from the following words of the chairman. After calling in vain for order, and declaring that it was " physically impossible for the Chair to go on in a contest with six hundred men as to who shall cry out loudest," Mr. Gushing said: " The Chair begs leave to report that he knows of but one remedy for such disorder, and that is for your presiding officer to leave the chair."

During this and the following day the debate raged, in connection with motions for recommitment, independent resolutions, and other conflicting propositions. Prominent among the speakers, as representing the two parties of the convention, were Mr. Yancey of Alabama and Senator Pugh of Ohio. The former, speaking for the propagandists, appealed to the Southern men to stand firm and united in favor of their rights, and for a platform that had no ambiguity and was unequivocally committed to their views and interests. “Defeat," he said, "upon principle is better than a mere victory gained by presenting ambiguous issues and cheating the people." He admitted, unlike the chairman who made the majority report, that the South did demand of the North ern Democracy "an advanced step in the vindication of Southern rights." His speech was long and eloquent, working the Southern members up to a high state of excitement and of enthusiastic feeling. Mr. Pugh responded immediately, vindicating the views and defending the position of the Northern Democracy. To the new demands he interposed an emphatic denial. “Gentlemen of the South," he said, "you mistake us, you mistake us; we will not do it."

The next, or the 28th, was a wild and excited day. As if reports of committees revealing the utter hopelessness of agreement, independent and conflicting resolutions, telegrams flying in hot haste to and from Washington, speeches and excited colloquies, were not enough, filibustering was added to the other sources of discord and confusion. It was generally understood that the minority report would be accepted by the convention, and consequently the friends of Mr. Douglas were anxious to press it to a vote, while his enemies were equally anxious to stave it off. This they did in the vague hope that something might intervene to improve their chances and position, in case of the open rupture upon which they were fully determined, should their demands be rejected. They were so far successful as to secure an adjournment until the 30th, when it was agreed that a vote should be taken.

The first vote on the 30th was on Mr. Butler's motion to substitute the Cincinnati platform for the minority report presented by Mr. Payne. This was rejected by a vote of one hundred and five ayes to one hundred and ninety-eight nays. The motion to substitute the principal minority report was then carried, by a vote of one hundred and sixty-five to one hundred and thirty-eight. This vote not only enunciated the platform of the party, but it revealed the strength of Mr. Douglas in the convention. It was regarded, too, by the propagandists as a defeat, and became at once the signal of the disruption of which it was announced as the provoking cause. The delegation from Alabama immediately handed in a pro test, signed by all its members, announcing their retirement, with the reasons therefor. From this it appeared that the State convention, which gave them their appointment, and at which were adopted resolutions embodying, with precise and comprehensive statement, the principles of the Dred Scott decision, instructed them to retire in case these principles should fail of receiving the indorsement of the party. As they had thus failed, the contingency provided for had happened, and they had no election but to retire. “The points of difference between the Northern and Southern Democracy" they specified to be two --, "as regards the status of slavery in the Territories and the power of people concerning it; and as regards the duty of the Federal government to protect the owner of slaves." They were followed by the delegations from Mississippi, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, excepting two, South Carolina, excepting three, three from Arkansas, ten from Delaware, including Senator Bayard, and one from North Carolina. All these resignations were made for substantially the same avowed reasons, though couched in different language, and accompanied with speeches delivered with great earnestness and emotion, and generally deprecatory of what they declared to be the unjust and unwise course of the majority which rendered such a disruption inevitable.

The debate was remarkable for the conflict of feeling, as well as of opinion and purpose, it evinced. There was a strange mingling of confidence and hesitation, of pathos and passion, of patriotism and partisanship. The extremists were too fully committed to retreat, and yet they shrank from the final consummation. The disunion they had depicted in such glowing colors, when contemplated as a theory or at a distance, lost some of its roseate hues when looked at as being on the eve of immediate consummation. There was, indeed, a good deal of boasting and bravado, vaporing and shallow declamation, which appears ridiculous enough in the light of subsequent history. And yet there were earnest and eloquent men, who were enthralled in the toils of a false philosophy, committed to a vicious system, and who unexpectedly found themselves where they had never been before, and that was where the hitherto obsequious North refused to follow, and where they felt called upon to make good their words. It was a sudden emergency, for which they were prepared, at best, only in a general way, and it was not strange if they talked wildly, and used words that will not bear very close scrutiny. As usual, they were full of complaints against the North, not now the “black Republicans," but their recusant Democratic brethren.

Among the most eloquent and telling speeches of the occasion was one made by Mr. Glenn of Mississippi. After affirming that their action was not hasty, but deliberate, he said it must be “maintained at all hazards." Complaining of the alleged ambiguity of the Cincinnati platform, and of the fact that by the adoption of the minority report their Northern brethren had just announced their purpose not to concede to them their rights, he contended that it was right for them to part, though he predicted that in less than sixty days there would be " a united South." But he warned them that they were driving off those they most needed, and that without their aid they could not fight successfully their battle with the black Republicans. “There slumbers in your midst," he said, too, "a latent spark, not of political sectionalism, but of social discord, which may yet require the conservative principles of the South to save your region of country from anarchy and confusion."

But there were others who, though avowing sympathy with the seceders, hesitated and shrank from the extreme measure. Wisely concluding that the disruption of the Democratic Party was tantamount to the defeat of their ever-faithful ally, they concluded to remain, that they might avert the coming calamity, and prevent the nomination of Mr. Douglas. Mr. Cohen of Georgia expostulated with the members still remaining not to persist in the policy that had already sent off so many, and which must result, unless abandoned, in the destruction of both party and the country. “I will stay here," he said, “until the last feather be placed upon the back of the camel." But if, he added, that conciliation cannot be secured, “I shall then be found shoulder to shoulder with him who is fore most in the contest." Mr. Flournoy of Arkansas expressed a similar determination in nautical phrase. “My voice," he said, is, ‘Never give up the ship,' though the fearful storm rages around us. I will, until the noble vessel be swallowed up by the devouring waves, unite in the reiterated cry of 'Live, live the Republic.' ‘And yet he would show himself "above suspicion" by affirming his belief that slavery was “a patriarchal institution," and that all he had was “the product of slave labor." Mr. Gaulden of Georgia announced himself as a slaveholder, and also an advocate for the opening of the African slave-trade, as the only effective remedy for the evils of which the South complained; and in this he looked for help to the Northern Democracy. He made the unanswerable statement that the domestic slave-trade of Virginia was more inhuman and unchristian than the African, because the latter, he said, took a savage from a heathen land and brought him to a Christian land, and gave him a better chance for life.

But the seceders, with whatever of hesitation or misgiving they took the extreme course of disruption, were strengthened by the most extravagant outside demonstrations of popular approval, from the citizens of Charleston. In the evening after the disruption, a mass meeting was held in front of the court-house, which was addressed by Lamar of Mississippi and Yancey of Alabama, both able and adroit speakers. The latter styled the convention, still in session, the “rump convention," speedily to become a “sectional convention," "a faction of the free soil sentiment of the North." “Even now," he said, "perhaps the pen of the historian is nibbed to write the story of a new revolution." Three cheers were given for the "independent Southern republic," and everything was jubilant as if some great good and crowning glory had been achieved. The seceders met in separate convention in St. Andrew's Hall, and organized by choosing Senator Bayard of Delaware president. After a session of four days it adjourned to meet in Richmond on the second Monday of June. The two days occupied by these resignations, and the words and actions to which they gave rise were days of unparalleled excitement and disorder. A motion, made by Mr. Howard of Tennessee, that "two thirds of full convention" -- as if no resignations had taken place -- should be necessary to a nomination, became the occasion of an angry and disorderly debate. But it was finally adopted, to the chagrin and discomfiture of Mr. Douglas's friends, who knew they could not command so large a vote.

Near the close of the ninth day of the convention, a vote was reached. It resulted in one hundred and forty-five and a half votes for Mr. Douglas, thirty-six and a half for James Guthrie of Kentucky, seven for Daniel S. Dickinson of New York, forty-two for R. M. T. Hunter of Virginia, twelve for Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, and eleven scattering votes for four other individuals. There were eleven other ballotings, without material change, except that on several Mr. Douglas reached one hundred and fifty and a half. The next day the ballotings were resumed, and they continued until there had been fifty-seven, Mr. Douglas reaching one hundred and fifty-two and a half, a clear majority of the electoral college. This, for the moment, inspirited his friends, but his enemies were implacable, and the convention, had become weary, as one member expressed it, of thus u voting like a machine." A kind of truce was agreed upon, and a motion was made, which, after much discussion and many proposed amendments, was adopted, to adjourn the convention to meet in Baltimore on the 18th of June. The president, in a few conciliatory and well-chosen words, still pleaded for the union of the party and the union of the States. He expressed his earnest disbelief that "this great Republic is to be but a name, a history of a mighty people once existing, but existing no longer save as a shadowy memory or as a monumental ruin by the side of the pathway of time “; but the rather he trusted that it would endure, "like the bright orbs of the firmament, which roll on without rest because bound for eternity, without haste because predestined for eternity."

This adjournment, the special work for which the convention was called remaining unaccomplished, was reckless and revolutionary, and betokened the desperate straits of the party, and of its factions as well. It revealed a reluctance to meet the consequences of the different courses determined upon, to accept the practical conclusions of premises they had been so ready to assume, and to stand in the positions they had been led to occupy. It was, at least, the putting off the evil day they saw approaching, conjoined with the purpose and hope, if the disruption already begun should become complete, of profiting by any mistakes their adversaries might make, of improving the chances of party warfare, which the new circumstances and new combinations might develop.

On reassembling in Baltimore, it was found that neither the intervening time nor any efforts at conciliation had greatly modified the condition of affairs or mollified the tempers of men. Indeed, they had, the rather, been exasperated thereby, and the breach had been widened. This result was particularly apparent from a debate which had taken place in the Senate, and in which Douglas and Pugh, Davis and Benjamin, had expressed and enforced their respective and peculiar views. The great bone of contention at Charleston, the platform, had been removed; but the same conflict reappeared in the debate on the question of membership. In the resolutions for adjournment at Charleston it was “recommended to the Democratic party of the several States to make provision for sup plying deficiencies." But it was found that there had been no uniformity in the action of the seceding States ; that from some there were contesting delegations ; and that in Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana the friends of Mr. Douglas had se cured delegations friendly to him. The whole subject was referred to the committee on credentials. There were three reports; one, however, signed by a majority. The latter, which admitted the new or Douglas delegates from Alabama and Louisiana, was adopted, and improved, of course, the chances of that gentleman for the nomination, and became at once the occasion of an excited and acrimonious debate. The vital question was whether or not those who had seceded should return. Some of the friends of Mr. Douglas expressed their unwillingness that they should, unless they would pledge themselves to abide by the action of the convention. The old plea of conciliation was again the recourse of his opposers. The seceding States, it was contended, and the seceding delegates should be welcomed back. “Have you any States to spare?” asked Mr. Ewing of Tennessee. “Have you any States to give up? We are pursued in front by a remorseless enemy, advancing step by step, squadron by squadron, until the field is almost irretrievably lost, and yet from all quarters come exclamations of bitterness and words that burn, to open the breach in our ranks wider and wider." George B. Loring of Massachusetts pleaded earnestly and eloquently for their admission, and begged the convention “to interpose no obstacle, but to invite and assist them to come back." Mr. Hallett from the same State appealed to New York to save the country. We have severed ourselves, he said, from eight, and now we are about to strike a blow that will send off the other seven of the Southern States. And then," he asked,” what is the convention? Nay, what is the great Democratic party of the Union? Nay, in God's name, what is the Union itself? "Mr. West of Connecticut well represented the difficulties into which these Southern demands were placing Northern Democrats. “If you are determined," he said, “to rend this party and the Union, our homes amid the hills of New England are as safe and sacred as yours upon your sunny plains around you. And we simply ask you that you shall not take a position which shall be tantamount to absolute ruin when we return to our constituents. As to your taunts and threats, we heed them not."

These words of the Connecticut member very well defined the position of Mr. Douglas and his friends in the convention. What they dreaded, what they were compelled to avoid, was this very "absolute ruin" at home. “To submit to these new demands of the Slave Power was “tantamount to absolute ruin "when they returned to their "constituents." The "taunts and threats "they could disregard, as they did all consistency and the moral aspects of the great issue, accepting, as the creed of the party, even in the report presented by Mr. Payne, under the euphemism that the rights of property are " judicial in their character," the baldest doctrines of the Dred Scott decision. The same, too, was more unequivocally announced in the almost unanimous vote subsequently given by the convention, in support of a resolution offered by ex-Governor Wickliffe of Louisiana, pledging the party to accept the decision of the Supreme Court as the same " has been or shall hereafter be finally determined " by it, -- a sentiment which General Butler declared at Charleston to be " enough to make the bones of old Jackson rattle in his coffin," -- a sentiment, too, which, as the Supreme Court was then constituted, and according to its decision already announced, differed in no appreciable degree from the majority report which was defeated at Charleston.

Why Mr. Davis and his friends were willing to accept the one and not the other, and why the propagandists were willing to rend the party for a distinction without a difference, are among the inscrutable mysteries that can be solved on no recognized principles of human conduct, unless, on the part of the former, it is referable to that political legerdemain, not in frequent, by which men seek by indirection what they fail of securing openly. Why the latter were willing to destroy the party that had always been its subservient tool, the sheet-anchor of its hopes, now that the storm beat most heavily and the dangers which menaced them were assuming their most threatening aspect, can be satisfactorily explained only on the supposition that there were other than human agencies at work, and that a mightier Hand than man's was moving among the discordant elements and clashing forces of that mad hour.

But the die was cast. The fiat had gone forth, and the great Democratic Party, with all its prestige of past victories on its banners, and in the plenitude of its power, was to be dismembered. The adoption of the majority report from the committee on credentials became the signal of a rupture similar to that which had taken place at Charleston. The entire delegations of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, California, and Delaware, and portions of Maryland, Kentucky, and Massachusetts, withdrew. These withdrawals, and a motion to proceed to a vote, became the occasion of demonstrations more violent and discreditable than any that were made at Charles ton. Mr. Smith of California said: “California is here with melancholy face, California is here with a lacerated heart, bleeding and weeping over the downfall and the destruction of the Democratic party, yes -- sir, the destruction of the Democratic party, consummated by assassins now grinning upon this floor." Mr. Butler said: “I will not sit in a convention where the African slave-trade -- which is piracy by the laws of my country -- is approvingly advocated." Mr. Gushing resigned his seat as chairman, "in order," he said, "to take my seat on the floor as a member of the delegation of Massachusetts," and because "his action would no longer represent the will of the majority." Pierre Soule of Louisiana, who still clung to Douglas, was terribly severe upon the seceders, and spoke of the "unrelenting war" against him "by an army of unprincipled and unscrupulous politicians."

A vote was at length reached, and Mr. Douglas received all the votes cast but thirteen, and was declared the Democratic candidate for the Presidency. For Vice-President it selected Benjamin Fitzpatrick of Alabama, a gentleman unreservedly committed by his votes and declared opinions against the doctrine of popular sovereignty, and in favor of that of Congressional intervention, even voting, a few days before his selection, in the United States Senate for the extreme doctrines of the Davis resolutions. He, however, declined, spurning the proffered honor, preferring to remain in form with the section where his interests and sympathies really lay. The national committee then, in consultation with Mr. Douglas himself, selected Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia as candidate for the same office, -- a gentleman, if possible, more fully committed, by past declarations, acts, and affiliations, to the extremest of Southern dogmas, having declared that " capital should own labor," that property in slaves was as sacred and inviolable as any other ; and that " neither the general government nor any Territorial government can impair the right to slave property in the common Territories." Surely the annals of political contests will be searched in vain for more marked examples of party profligacy and absolute insincerity than were here revealed, especially in the selection of the two gentlemen chosen as candidates for the Vice-Presidency, men in full and avowed accord with the extremest doctrines maintained by the most violent of the seceders. They who went into the conflict of 1860 with "popular sovereignty" flaunting on their Northern banners, the ringing watchwords of their Northern speeches, but with such admissions in their resolutions, and with such a candidate for the second office, richly merited what they received, a crushing defeat.

The seceders and the delegations of Louisiana and Alabama, who had been refused admission, met at the Maryland Institute on the 28th of June. There were twenty-one States represented. Caleb Gushing was chosen president. The delegates from South Carolina and Florida who had been accredited to the Richmond convention were also admitted. A committee of five, Mr. Gushing chairman, was chosen to prepare an address on “the principles of the party." The resolutions offered by Mr. Avery at Charleston were unanimously adopted. John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, and General Joseph Lane of Oregon, were then unanimously adopted as candidates for President and Vice-President, and the convention adjourned.

In the mean time the seceding convention at Charleston had held its adjourned meeting at Richmond on the 12th. It adjourned to the 21st, and then continued to meet and adjourn from day to day, awaiting the action of the Balti more seceding convention. After the action of the latter, it adopted its platform and candidates, and adjourned sine die.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 673-688.



Please note that this entry includes two chapters:

·        Chadwick, “Causes of the Civil War,” 1906

·        Wilson, “Constitutional Union and Republican Conventions, and the Presidential Election of 1860,” 1872

Chapter: “Causes of the Civil War” (pp. 124-135), by French Ensor Chadwick, in The American Nation: A History, 1906.

THE final days of the session of Congress, ending June 25, 1860, showed the nebulous state of mind of the prominent men of the North, and how slight a grasp they had upon the realities of the situation. At the instance of Sherman, of Ohio, the estimate for repairs and equipment of the navy was cut down a million; his influence had caused even a greater reduction the preceding year. Senator Pugh, of the same state, could say, "I think we have spent enough money on the navy, certainly for the service it has rendered; and for one I shall vote against building a single ship under any pretense at all." 1 The blatant Lovejoy, in the face of the rising storm, said, "I am tired of appropriating money for the army and navy when absolutely they are of no use whatever.... I want to strike a blow at this whole navy expenditure and let the navy go out of existence ... Let us blow the whole thing up! let these vessels rot; and when

1 Cong. Globe, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., 3109. 

we want vessels to fight, we can get mercantile vessels and arm them with our citizens.'' 1

An absurd exhibition of want of naval power had just been made in a demonstration against Paraguay. The whole existing steam navy consisted of but twenty-three vessels which could be called efficient and thirteen which were worthless, and while there was a willingness and effort on the part of the northern senators and representatives to add to the force, it was put wholly upon the ground of the suppression of the slave-trade. Morse, of Maine, chairman of the naval committee in the House, urged that this increase should take the form of a purchase of small steamers of six to nine feet draught for African service. There appears no glimmering in the mind of any one of the speakers of the coming of a great war, then but nine months distant, and in which the North could not have been successful had it not been for the throttling by the blockade and the occupancy of the Mississippi.

The last month of the session gave time for a four hours speech by Sumner on slavery,2 "harsh, vindictive," 3 brutal, and unwise, and however true in its elaboration of statistics and statement of facts, wholly unnecessary in such a place and at such a time. It exhibited the full-fledged hatred which

1 Cong. Globe, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., 2848, 2849. 2 Ibid., 2590-2603. 3 Grimes, of Iowa, in a letter to his wife, June 4, 1860, Salter, Grimes, 127. 

had been in incubation during the four years of Sumner's absence caused by the brutality of Brooks, and, however true, could not redound to the author's good sense or good taste, nor to the benefit of his party, already overwhelmed with the charge of sectionalism. It is an excellent repository of comparative statistics, and would better have appeared as an abolition pamphlet.

The strain of the political situation was somewhat offset by the arrival of the first Japanese embassy to a foreign power, which reached Washington the middle of May and left for home the last of June, in the frigate Niagara. The Prince of Wales, later visiting Canada, added, on the invitation of the president, a tour in the United States. His stay of three weeks, from the end of September to October 20, during which he was everywhere received with enthusiastic welcome, may have had some influence to fix the kindly spirit of the queen, of which, in the stormy years following, we were to have such weighty evidences.

The defeat of the Democrats in Pennsylvania and Indiana in October, 1860, made the election of Lincoln almost a certainty. The result in the former state, which had been suffering from the depression of the iron trade, the outcome of the panic of 1857, had been greatly aided by the Republican advocacy of protection. The danger of secession, which might follow, was naturally cried down by Republican speakers, for a real fear of such an event would undoubtedly have lessened Republican energy and have reduced the vote. The North was in no humor to bring the question to such an issue, however strong the general anti-slavery sentiment. For this sentiment was not so determined against slavery itself as against its extension, and the North by this time was beginning to feel that it could control the territories in any case. Seward was but expressing the irrepressible American optimism which could not consider such threats as dangerous until the actuality was upon the country, when, November 2, he said at New York: "For ten--aye, twenty years, these threats have been renewed in the same language and in the same form, about the first day of November every four years, when it happened to come before the day of the presidential election. I do not doubt but that these southern statesmen and politicians think they are going to dissolve the Union, but I think they are going to do no such thing.'' 1

Lowell spoke '' of the hollowness of those fears for the Union in case of Mr. Lincoln's election," and called to mind that false alarms had been sounded before. "The old Mumbo Jumbo," he asserted, ''is occasionally paraded at the North, but, however many old women may be frightened, the pulse of the stock market remains provokingly calm.'' 2 Douglas, who from association knew the southern

1 Seward, Works (ed. of 1884), IV., 420. 

2 Lowell, Political Essays, 26, 41. 

mind more intimately, and who had had in the last few sears but too good reason to know its bitterness, so much of which was directed against himself, saw much more clearly. He declared at Chicago, "I believe this country is in more danger now than at any other moment since I have known anything of public life." 1 There was no doubt of the danger in the mind of any patriotic southerner. Bell and Breckinridge, through the intermediation of Davis, both offered to withdraw if an arrangement could be made by which those opposed to the Republicans could be united upon some one more generally  acceptable than either of the three in nomination. When this was stated to Douglas he said the scheme was impracticable, as his friends, mainly northern Democrats, would, if he were withdrawn, join in support of Lincoln, rather than of anyone who should supplant him. 2 Douglas had little or no expectation of success; early in the canvass, in New England, he expressed to Burlingame and Wilson his conviction that Lincoln would be elected. Later he mentioned to a friend in Washington that he had renounced all hopes of election, but expressed the conviction that "the Union would· be safe under Mr. Lincoln, if it could be held together long enough for the development of his policy," though he confessed his fears that that could not be done. 3 

1 National Intelligencer, October 5, 1860.

2 Davis, Confederate Government, I., 52.

3 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 699. 

Moved by his real Unionism, Douglas rose to a higher plane than at any earlier period of his life. His demagogy disappeared as the danger, so persistently minimized by the Republican leaders, loomed more portentously in his perception. "Receiving a dispatch October 8th, from his devoted friend John W. Forney, announcing the result in Pennsylvania and another announcing that of, he said to his private secretary: 'Mr. Lincoln is the next president! We must try to save the Union. I will go south.''' 1 He cancelled all western engagements, and spoke in Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, everywhere averring his patriotism and the necessity of standing by the Union. At Norfolk, Virginia, to the question whether, if Lincoln be elected, the southern states would be justified in seceding, he said, "I emphatically answer 'no''' (great applause). To a second question, "If they . . . secede from the Union upon the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln before he commits an overt act against their constitutional rights, will you advise or vindicate resistance by force to their secession?" he said: "I answer emphatically that it is the duty of the President of the United States and all others in authority under him to enforce the laws of the United States as passed by Congress, and as the courts expound them. (Cheers.) . And I, as in duty bound by my oath of fidelity to the Constitution, would do all in my power to aid

1 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 700. VOL. XIX.-9 

in maintaining the supremacy of the laws against all resistance to them, come from what quarter it might. In other words, I think the President ... whosoever he may be should treat all attempts to break up the Union by resistance to its laws, as Old Hickory treated the nullifiers in 1832 (applause)." 1 At Petersburg he said there was no evil in the country for which the Constitution and "laws do not furnish a remedy, no grievance that can justify disunion.'' At Raleigh he said he was ready ''to put the hemp round the neck and hang the man who would raise the arm of resistance to the constituted authorities of the country.'' 2 Douglas's attitude then and thereafter atoned for much of his shortcomings of previous years.

 In the campaign everyone was active but Lincoln, who remained quietly at home, an observer only. Seward, who felt himself "a leader deposed ... in the hour of organization for decisive battle," 3 showed a magnanimity in act and expression which was, in the words of Lowell, "a greater ornament to him and a greater honor to his party than his election to the presidency would have been." 4 '' No truer or firmer defenders of the Republican faith," wrote Seward for an Auburn paper, "could have been found in the Union than the distinguished

1 Du Bose, Yancey, 523.

2 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 700.

3 Letter to his wife, in Seward, Seward, II., 454. Atlantic Monthly, VI., 499 (October, 1860).

and esteemed citizens on whom the honors of the nomination have fallen.'' 1 He proved this declaration by his works.

Seward had not always felt thus: it is a mark of his generous character that he rose above a hasty determination expressed before the election. Medill expressed very strongly in the Chicago Tribune, February, 1860, the view that Lincoln could be elected that year and that Seward could not. Meeting Medill in Washington, Seward spoke in strong terms of his disappointment in the latter's preference for that "prairie statesman," as Seward called Lincoln. '' He then proceeded to declare, with much heat and temper of expression, that if he was not nominated as the Republican candidate for president at the ensuing convention, he would shake the dust off his shoes and retire from the service of an ungrateful party for the remainder of his days." 2 How ephemeral was this feeling of pique has just been shown, and added evidence of the height to which he rose is in the series of great speeches made throughout the North. He did not shirk the question of an irrepressible conflict. He said, October 31, "Upon what issue is the American people divided in this political crisis, except a conflict between freedom and slavery?'' 3 Nor did he give any evidence of want of loyalty to the party nominee.

1 Seward, Seward, IL, 452.

 Letter of Medill to Frederic Bancroft, in Bancroft, Seward, I., 53r.

3 Seward, Works (ed. of 1884), IV., 399. 

November 2, four days before the election, he could say, "If you elect that eminent, and able, and honest and reliable man, Abraham Lincoln ... and if, as I am sure you will during the course of the next four years, you constitute the United States Senate with a majority like him, and at the present election establish the House of Representatives on the same basis, you have then done exactly this: you have elected men who will leave slavery in the United States just exactly where it is now, and who will do more than that-who will leave freedom in the United States and every foot and every acre of the public domain ... just exactly as it is now." 1 His references to the South were kindly; his course throughout wise, conservative, and conciliatory. It was the apogee of his greatness. But, as mentioned, his optimism played him false in regard to the impending danger; in this respect he showed that he had passed his years in Washington to little purpose; he was no reader of men.

Of the total 4,682,069 votes cast November 6, Lincoln received 1,866,452, or nearly forty per cent of the whole; Douglas, 1,376,957; Breckinridge, 849,781; Bell, 588,879. Of the 303 electoral votes, Lincoln received 180, being every northern vote except 3 of the 7 of New Jersey; Douglas received 3 there and the 9 of Missouri; Bell received the 39 of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee; Breckinridge

1 Seward, Works (ed. of 1884), IV., 416.

the 72 of the remaining southern states.1 It is a remarkable fact that in the southern states, excluding South Carolina, in which the electors were elected by the legislature, Breckinridge received but 571,051 votes, against 515,973 for Bell; a difference of less than 60,000, showing that Bell received the support of almost all of the former Whig party. The total southern vote for the three candidates opposed to Breckinridge was 705,928, showing a majority with unionist sympathies of 134,877. It is evident that on the day of the election the masses of the South were not secessionist. The border-states cast 26,430 votes for Lincoln, 17,028 of which were in Missouri. But while electing the executive, the Republicans were clearly to be in a minority in both Senate and House. Close estimates showed a majority of 8 against the Republicans in the former and 21 in the latter 2 certainly no serious ill could befall the South in such circumstances. In Stephens's view, Buchanan was responsible for the introduction at Charleston of the new dogma in the party platform which caused the rupture of the party.3 It has been supposed, says Stephens, that the outcome of the movement which led to the rupture of the Democratic party: the secession at

1 Stanwood, Hist. of the Presidency, 297; McKee, National Conventions and Platforms, 118, 119.

2 Rhodes, United States, II., 501.

3 Stephens, War between the States, II., 259.

Charleston, the division at Baltimore, the nomination of Breckinridge, was in order to further the ulterior purpose of disunion. No such result was, in Stephens's opinion, anticipated; and speaking for what he thought an overwhelming majority of those who advocated the action which had taken place, the movers were as much disappointed as ''men ever were at the consequences of their own acts. They really hoped and expected the final result to be the election of Mr. Breckinridge." Failing election by the popular vote, they were quite assured that he would receive enough electoral votes to carry his name to the House of Representatives, should no one of the candidates receive a majority of votes cast by the electoral colleges. As the majority of the representatives from the majority of states was Democratic, but opposed to Douglas, they considered the election of Breckinridge in such circumstances certain. Even failing this, they looked with confidence to the election of Lane as vice-president either by the electoral colleges or by the Senate, which was Democratic, and to him, they calculated, would fall the presidency should no choice for president be made by the electoral colleges or by the House before March 4, 1861.1

In June none of the leaders of the southern wing of the Democrats thought the election of Lincoln and Hamlin possible, and when Stephens, in a speech at Augusta, Georgia, September 1, 1860,

1 Stephens, War between the States, II., 275-277.

said that one need not be surprised to see civil war in less than six months, it was said that the weakness of his body was extending to his head, he was becoming "crazy." As time grew on apprehensions, however, became serious, and many of the leading men and papers supporting Breckinridge declared for secession in case they should not succeed in the elections.. When the result came, "it struck the masses with general consternation." 1

1 Stephens, War between the States, II., 277.

Source:  Chadwick, French Ensor, Causes of the Civil War. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 19, 124-135. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.

Chapter: “Constitutional Union and Republican Conventions, and the Presidential Election of 1860,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

THE Constitutional Union National Convention met at Baltimore the 9th of May. John J. Crittenden called it to order, and Washington Hunt of New York presided. A platform, reported by Joseph R. Ingersoll of Pennsylvania, affirming that experience had demonstrated that platforms adopted by partisan conventions had the effect to mislead and deceive the people, declared it to be the part of both patriotism and duty to recognize no political principles other than " the Constitution of the country, the Union of the States, and the enforcement of the laws." John Bell received the nomination for President on the second ballot. Mr. Henry of Tennessee, a grandson of Patrick Henry, in behalf of his State, responded, paid a glowing tribute to the character of the nominee, and spoke eloquently for the Union. The eloquent grandson of the great orator of the Revolution, while he was pouring his glowing words into the enraptured ears of the applauding convention, little dreamed that in a few brief months, in obedience to the demands of the Slave Power, he would be found consorting with secessionists and disunionists, in the rebel Congress, for the disseverance of that Union.

Edward Everett was then nominated for the Vice-Presidency. George S. Hillard, gracefully responding in behalf of Massachusetts, predicted that the work of that day would send a thrill of joy and hope over the land, and that it would be felt in New England “like the breeze from the sea, after a day of exhaustive heat." “When we go back to Massachusetts," he said, " and to New England, all over our hills and valleys, which are just beginning to feel the genial touch of spring, what a thrill of joy and exultation will ring along our cities, our towns and villages, our solitary farm-houses which nestle in the hollows of the hills ! " With an enthusiasm hardly justified by the occasion he exclaimed, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that bring tidings of peace!' How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who reconcile sectional discord, who bring together the North and the South and the West, and bind them together in the unity of the spirit of the bonds of peace! " Erastus Brooks, one of the editors of the New York " Express," claimed that all old party affiliations were submerged, that the convention represented a new party, not six months old. They talked of the Constitution, the Union, of compromise, conciliation, and harmony; and ex-Governor Neil S. Brown of Tennessee expressed his gratification that “the nigger " was not the subject of consideration there. The convention, so hopeful and enthusiastic, which Thaddeus Stevens aptly characterized as "a family party, and all there," then dissolved.

The elections in the autumn of 1859 and in the spring of 1860 had not been encouraging to the Republicans. They looked, therefore, with anxiety, but not without hope, to the national convention, which met at Chicago on the 16th of May. It was called to order by Edwin D. Morgan of New York, and David Wilmot was made temporary chairman. Upon taking the chair, he made a radical antislavery speech that was warmly applauded. George Ashmun of Massachusetts was made president. Admirably qualified for the position, he presided over the excited and enthusiastic assemblage with dignity, tact, and ability.

A series of resolutions were reported by Judge William Jessup, which were received with immense applause. Mr. Giddings moved an amendment reasserting the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence. He proposed, he said, to maintain these primal issues, upon which the government was founded, and upon which the Republican Party was formed, had grown, and was then existing. It, however, failed, and the veteran Abolitionist retired from the convention, though earnestly importuned to remain, and assured that his amendment should be renewed. This was done by George W. Curtis of New York, who moved thus to amend the second resolution. Supporting his motion with a strong and earnest appeal, he asked members if they were ready to go upon the record before the country as voting down the Declaration of Independence, and shrinking from repeating the words that the great men of the Revolution enunciated. His eloquent appeals touched responsive chords, and his amendment was adopted with shouts of applause. Believing that the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence had been substantially embodied in the second resolution, the majority had not regarded the adoption of Mr. Giddings's amendment necessary; but his retirement and the earnest and lofty appeals of Mr. Curtis induced them to review their position and retrace their steps.

The resolutions denounced, as a political heresy, the new dogma that the Constitution, of its own force, carried slavery into the Territories ; declared freedom to be the normal condition of the Territories ; denied the authority of Congress or of a Territorial legislature to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory ; branded as a crime against humanity, and a burning shame to the country and the age, the reopening of the African slave-trade; censured the vetoes, by their Territorial governors, of the acts prohibiting slavery in Kansas and Nebraska, and demanded the immediate admission of Kansas into the Union. The adoption of the platform was received by the convention and the assembled thousands with intense enthusiasm.

Having adopted its platform, the convention proceeded to the work of selecting candidates. Mr. Evarts of New York nominated Mr. Seward, and Mr. Judd of Illinois nominated Mr. Lincoln. Cameron, Chase, Bates, and Judge McLean were also put in nomination. But it was at once apparent that the contest lay between the first two; though on the adjournment, after these names had been put in nomination, it was found that the friends of Mr. Seward were far more confident of success than were those of Mr. Lincoln. Even Mr. Greeley, who had labored incessantly to defeat it, telegraphed at midnight that Seward’s nomination was probable. But, while the friends of Seward were exulting in the assurances of victory, his opponents were putting forth herculean efforts for his defeat. The men of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Illinois, close and doubtful States, labored until long after midnight to defeat a nomination they deemed fatal to success. Henry S. Lane and Andrew J. Curtin, the gubernatorial candidates respectively of Indiana and Pennsylvania, deeming their States, Illinois, and New Jersey the battle-field of the contest, toiled with unflagging zeal and resolution to defeat the nomination of Mr. Seward. They appealed to the delegates from the strong Republican States to consider “success rather than Seward." Their earnest, almost frantic appeals were not unheeded, and on the reassembling of the convention the supporters of Mr. Seward began to realize that the success of their candidate was not assured.

The controlling idea with the great body of the convention was to select from the several candidates the one who could carry those Middle and Western States which had been lost in 1856. The delegates of States presenting candidates made formal calls upon those of the other States at their respective rooms. The action of the Massachusetts delegation drew out an expression which foreshadowed in a measure the final result. Having been waited upon by the delegations of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois, and Indiana, each pressing with great earnestness the difficulty, if not impossibility, of carrying either for Mr. Seward, on motion of Ensign H. Kellogg, a committee, consisting of himself, Edward L. Pierce, and J. H. Dunham, was appointed to wait upon the delegations of these four States and to request them to present the names of three candidates, for either of whom those States could be carried. Illinois responded that it had been ascertained that it could be carried only for Mr. Lincoln. Indiana made similar reply. New Jersey presented the name of Mr. Dayton. Pennsylvania answered that it could be carried first for Mr. Cameron, readily for Judge McLean, and then for Mr. Lincoln. Thus it appeared that three of the four doubtful States had practically united on Mr. Lincoln.

On the first ballot, Seward received one hundred and seventy-three and a half votes, and Lincoln one hundred and two. On the second ballot, the former received one hundred and eighty-four votes and his competitor one hundred and eighty-one. On the third ballot, Seward had fallen to one hundred and eighty votes, and Lincoln received two hundred and thirty-one and a half, lacking but one vote and a half of the number necessary for a choice. David K. Cartter of Ohio immediately rose and announced the change of four votes from his State for Lincoln. This secured his nomination. The result was received by the convention, and by the thousands assembled in and around the great Wigwam, with thunders of applause. Delegation after delegation changed the vote of their States. Upon the formal declaration of the vote, William M. Evarts, though expressing his profound regret and grief at the failure of the convention to nominate Mr. Seward, moved that the nomination of Mr. Lincoln be made unanimous. This motion was seconded by John A. Andrew of Massachusetts, and Carl Schurz of Wisconsin, with brief and pertinent speeches. Austin Blair of Michigan, afterward governor of that State and a member of the House of Representatives, said that Michigan had, from first to last, cast her vote for the great statesman of New York; that she had nothing to take back; but that he had been put forward to say that she laid down her first, best-beloved candidate, and took up the candidate of the convention, " with some beating of the heart, with some quivering of the veins. We have followed him with an eye single, and with unwavering faith in times past, and we marshal now behind him in the grand column which shall go out to battle for Lincoln."

The contest for the Vice-Presidency was between Cassius M. Clay, Nathaniel P. Banks, Hannibal Hamlin, Alexander H. Reeder, and John Hickman. Hamlin and Clay led on the first ballot, and on the second the former was nominated.

The defeat of Mr. Seward and the nomination of Mr. Lincoln was a surprise to the strong Republican States, and his friends, disappointed and not a little cast down, felt and declared it to be the triumph of assumed availability over preeminence in intellect and trained statesmanship. The action of Mr. Greeley and some other New York Republicans was bitterly commented upon and severely censured. Thurlow Weed, who had for years supported Mr. Seward with unsurpassed fidelity and zeal, was deeply disappointed and grieved. Not only had he been confident, but his confidence had inspired his candidate with a like assurance of success. So assured indeed was Mr. Seward of his nomination that he retired from the Senate to his home when the convention was assembling, not expecting to return to his seat. As he was about leaving the Senate chamber he said to Mr. Wilson that he should not return, and that he expected the nomination. "Considering your antecedents," he said, "and your relations with me here, you ought to have given me your support, but you have done more against my nomination than any member of the Senate." Mr. Wilson replied substantially: "If I could elect a President, I should nominate you or Mr. Chase; and I yet hope to see you President of the United States. But the success of the cause is paramount to all personal considerations. Like Mr. Chase, you have, by your ability and long devotion to the antislavery cause, excited prejudices and awakened conservative fears in the great States of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, and Connecticut, which are to be the battle-ground of the contest, and whose votes must be secured to give success; their votes in the convention will decide the nomination; and as necessity must rule at Chicago, I do not think your name will command the necessary strength." But, reiterating his confidence, he left the chamber in company with Mr. Sumner, assured of both the nomination and election.

The friends of Mr. Lincoln were wild with joy, forming pro cessions, kindling bonfires, illuminating their dwellings, and bearing rails through the streets of Chicago, while the Western members, jaded with their arduous efforts and the attending excitements, were gladdened on their journey homeward, in the words of Murat Halstead, " with thundering jar of cannon, the clamor of drums, the glare of bonfires, and the whooping of the boys, who were delighted with the idea of a candidate for the Presidency who thirty years ago split rails on the Sangamon River, and whose neighbors named him ' honest.'”

The little band of “radical abolitionists," in national convention, nominated Gerritt Smith for President, and Samuel McFarland of Pennsylvania for Vice-President. The “old organization " abolitionists continued to adhere to their policy of not voting, and to criticize with unsparing voice and pen the platforms and candidates of political parties. From the supporters of Douglas, Breckinridge, and Bell they saw that slavery had nothing to lose, and freedom nothing to gain. They saw, too, that the issue tendered and the contest waged by the supporters of Lincoln were against the domination of the Slave Power ; that depriving slavery of its long-continued usurped political supremacy, and shutting it within impassable barriers would doom it to a sure, if not speedy death. But, though confessing that the Republican platform was an indictment of slavery; that Republican success would be a verdict against it; that if it was unfit to go into the Territories it ought to be abolished in the States; that, having no right to spread, it would have no right to live, they, nevertheless, inflexibly adhered to their policy of not voting. They not only refused to give the Republican ticket either political or moral support, but they sharply criticised the party, platform, and candidate.

Breckinridge and Lane held and defended with unswerving persistency the Southern platform, proclaimed the new dogma, and maintained the duty of Congress to protect slavery in the Territories. The position of Douglas and Johnson, representing the doctrine of non-intervention or popular sovereignty, was equivocal and clearly incompatible with their other utterances and former commitments. In 1858, in a speech at New Orleans, Douglas had accepted the Dred Scott decision, as an authoritative exposition which recognized slaves as property, based on an equal footing with all other property, a decision that was incorporated into the platform, on which he pro fessed to stand, as “a faithful embodiment of the principles of the Democratic party." But under that decision the vaunted doctrine of popular sovereignty, non-intervention, self-government became practically a right to introduce and protect slavery, but not a right to exclude and destroy it. He had also asserted that “the people of the Territory, while a Territory, and during a Territorial condition, may introduce, exclude, abolish, or regulate slavery just as they please."

Mr. Johnson's position on that platform was, if possible, still more inconsistent, as his previous utterances and votes were wholly antagonistic to the doctrine of popular sovereignty. A disciple of the Calhoun school, he had by voice and vote maintained its extreme doctrines. In the United States Senate he had supported the new dogma, and claimed it to be the duty of Congress to repeal an act of a Territorial legislature which prohibited slavery. In the Georgia convention, held on the 3d of June, he had reported a resolution, recognizing the Dred Scott decision, and affirming that “neither the general government nor any Territorial government can destroy or impair the slave property in the common Territories." On the 17th of September, 1856, he had proclaimed in Independence Square that "capital should own labor." And yet, with these antecedents and distinctly proclaimed opinions, and with strange seeming obliviousness thereof, he said, on accepting the nomination for the Vice-Presidency, that "the doctrine of Congressional intervention, as advocated by this new-born sectional party, is fraught with peril to the country."

Bell and Everett stood on a platform that ignored the pending issues. But they had been long in public life, and their record and past commitments indicated their sentiments and position. Bell was a large slaveholder. In his letter of acceptance, while discarding platforms, he expressed the conviction that a man's past history was the surest guaranty of his future conduct, and he gave the assurance that he should continue in the path he had already pursued. Nor was it difficult to learn from his previous what his future course would be. He had voted in favor of allowing a Territorial legislature to pass laws to protect slave property; had recommended the policy of diffusion and extension; had held that slavery was " in accordance with the law of Nature and the will of God," had contributed to the amelioration of the condition of mankind, and was the " well spring " of the country's development and prosperity ; and that emancipation would be destructive of the welfare alike of the master and the slave.

Mr. Everett's record had been more in accord with North ern sentiments. Though cautious and conservative, he had voted in favor of antislavery petitions in Congress, and, while governor of Massachusetts, had co-operated in the passage of resolutions in favor of abolishing slavery and the slave-traffic in the District of Columbia, against the inter-State slave trade, and the admission of slave States into the Union. He had, in the Senate, denounced the repeal of the Missouri com promise, and declared the extension of slavery to be “an enormous crime."

Mr. Lincoln accepted and approved of the platform of principles and sentiments, gave assurance that it should be his care not to violate or disregard it in any part, and, “imploring the assistance of Divine Providence," pledged himself to co-operate for their practical success.

The four presidential tickets and platforms, with the radical character of the issues involved, naturally became the subject of a heated canvass, and members of Congress soon took occasion to express their sentiments and conflicting estimates concerning them. Among those who canvassed the respective claims of Lincoln and Douglas were Elihu B. Washburne and Isaac N. Morris of Illinois. Of “Abraham Lincoln, his personal history and public record," Mr. Washburne, who had known him intimately for twenty years, said: “There is an inflexible patriotism in his heart, and he has the incorruptibility of Republican principles in his soul. He has doc trines, not hatreds, and is without ambition except to do good and to serve his country." In reply, Mr. Morris, who had also known Lincoln, but who supported Mr. Douglas, spoke rather cavalierly of the Republican candidate as "a good enough sort of a man in his place; but everyone who knows him knows full well he is not qualified, either by talents, force of character, or experience, to guide the ship of state, everyone who knows him knows he has no administrative ability." Of his own candidate, his character and principles, he spoke in terms of admiration and of the highest commendation.

As the canvass progressed, the Southern war-cry of dis union was echoed by Northern politicians and presses, who were alarmed themselves, or who sought to alarm others. Combinations were made between the supporters of Breckinridge and Bell in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The chief reliance of the supporters of these combinations was upon the timidity and fear of the mercantile and moneyed classes. By the alarm-cry of impending ruin, if Lincoln should be elected, Southern braggarts and Northern demagogues sought to extort fresh concessions to the Slave Power. But these prophecies of ruin had little effect upon Republicans. Their views were aptly expressed by Carl Schurz in one of a series of brilliant speeches, made early in the canvass, in which he said, the Southern States could not attempt disunion, for " slavery would lay them helpless at the feet of the North, that slavery which makes it uncomfortable to stay in the Union makes it impossible for them to go out of it." The Republican presses and speakers everywhere pro claimed like sentiments. But they feebly comprehended the full significance of the great movement then inaugurated; nor could they foresee the transcendent events the immediate future disclosed, or the destination of this new departure in American statesmanship.

The canvass was vigorously conducted by presses and speakers. The most eminent men, North and South, entered into the conflict. The supporters of Breckinridge were bold and defiant, menacing disunion, should their demands be re fused. Those of Bell were timid and equivocal. Douglas was zealous, fighting with desperation, audacious, and at first apparently hopeful of success. Making ever and everywhere prominent his indifference to either the existence or exclusion of slavery, he impudently enjoined upon all who exhibited any scruples concerning it to “mind their own business." But his hopes of success seem to have been soon dispelled; for, early in the canvass, while visiting New England, he ex pressed to Burlingame and Wilson his conviction that Lincoln would be elected, at the same time avowing his purpose to go South and urge the duty of all to submit to the verdict of the people, and to maintain the Union. A few weeks later he said to George B. Smith of Wisconsin, that he had renounced all hopes of election ; but he expressed the conviction that "the Union would be safe under Mr. Lincoln, if it could be held together long enough for the development of his policy," though he confessed his fears that that could not be done.

During his visit at the South, a Norfolk editor, one of the electors on the Breckinridge ticket, propounded the question, whether the Southern States would be “justified in seceding from the Union if Abraham Lincoln is elected President." To this question Mr. Douglas promptly replied in the negative. "It is the duty of the President," he said, " and of others in authority under him, to enforce the laws of the United States as Congress passes and the courts expound them; and I, as in duty bound by my oath of fidelity to the Constitution, will exert all my power to aid the government of the United States in maintaining the supremacy of the laws against all resistance from any quarter whatsoever." Premising that, if Lincoln was elected, it would be the secessionists that would "elect him," he replied to the inquiry, whether he would join in an effort to dissolve the Union, should the Republicans succeed: " I tell them, No, never on earth." At Petersburg, he ex pressed the opinion that there was no evil in the country for which the Constitution and "laws do not furnish a remedy, no grievance that can justify disunion." At Raleigh he said he was ready “to put the hemp around the neck, and hang any man who would raise the arm of resistance to the constituted authorities of the country." The country, he said, had already demonstrated its power, and now " there is one thing remaining to be done, in order to prove us capable of meeting any emergency; and, whenever the time comes, I trust the government will show itself strong enough to perform that final deed, hang a traitor." On his return, he made speeches in Pennsylvania and New York. He made appointments at the West covering the time until the election. At Cedar Rapids, receiving a despatch, on the 8th of October, from his devoted friend, John W. Forney, announcing the result in Pennsylvania, and another announcing that of Indiana, he said to his private secretary: “Mr. Lincoln is the next President. We must try to save the Union. I will go South." Cancelling his Western engagements, he made a new programme, and started at once on a Southern tour, speaking in Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. Speaking in Mobile the evening before the election, he learned the result the next night, in the office of the "Register." His private secretary and devoted friend, James B. Sheridan, in a letter to Mr. Wilson, says: The policy of the paper then became a question, and Mr. Forsyth, the editor, requested his associate to read to Judge Douglas an article he had written in favor of calling a State convention to deliberate on the course of Alabama. Judge Douglas opposed its publication, and Mr. Forsyth appeared to agree with him, but maintained that the only way they could manage the secession current was to appear to go with it, and, by electing their friends to the convention, control its action. But Douglas thought, and so expressed himself, that if they could not prevent the holding of the convention, they could not hope to control it when held. Forsyth insisted, however, “on publishing the article, and Douglas returned to his hotel more hopeless than I had ever before seen him."

In the course he pursued, and still purposed to pursue, he was unquestionably actuated by patriotic motives. Believing that a conspiracy had been formed in the spring by Southern leaders, to seize the government and dissever the Union, he had striven to hold his supporters back from giving countenance to such a movement. Insisting upon the authority of the government to maintain the integrity of the nation, and upon the duty of the citizen to submit to the results of the coming election, he sought to baffle these treasonable designs. His was the patriotic course; and, though during the following months he continued to manifest his accustomed indifference to the cause of freedom and his yielding and compromising spirit, he exhibited his earnest purpose to preserve the unity and life of the nation. The morning after the fall of Sumter, in reply to the question of his friend, John W. Forney, “What is now to be done?” he said: “We must fight for our country, and forget all differences. There can be but two parties, -- the party of patriots and the party of traitors. We belong to the first."

The advocates of Lincoln's election maintained, both North and South, the distinctive doctrines of the Chicago platform, believing that by so doing they were supporting a policy that would end in a peaceful, if not a speedy, extermination of slavery. Their most eminent and best-known antislavery men -- Chase, Seward, Hale, Adams, Sumner, Giddings, Wade, Stevens, Wilmot, and others hardly less eminent -- entered the field. In that series of radical and reformatory speeches, those of Mr. Seward were perhaps the most remarkable. For, great as was his disappointment, and sad as were his friends, at his failure to secure the nomination, he promptly announced that he entertained " no sentiments of disappointment or discontent "; and he at once threw himself into the canvass with a vigor and apparent self-abnegation that challenged the admiration of all. Addressing the citizens of Boston on the 16th of August, he prophesied victory, and assured his hearers that “with this victory comes the end of the power of slavery in the United States." Leaving his home, accompanied by Charles Francis Adams and James W. Nye, on the last day of August, he made an extended tour through the Western States, speaking constantly, and by his speeches lifting the Republican cause up to the highest plane of antislavery thought and purpose. So decided, indeed, and pronounced were his opinions, that timid men thought he was going too far.

The theme of his first speech, made at Detroit, was “National Divergence and Return." After showing that the nation was devoted to the rights of man in the Revolution, he said that the national divergence began in 1820; that this divergence had continued, until at last " we have reached a point where, amid confusion, bewilderment, and mutual recriminations, it seems alike impossible to go forward or to return." He declared that the nation had “defied the moral opinions of mankind." The necessity of a return to the old national way had become at last, he contended, “absolute and imperative." Speaking confidently and hopefully, he said: “Whether you agree with me in attributing it to the interposition of Divine Providence or not, this battle has been fought, this victory has been won. Slavery to-day is, for the first time, not only powerless, but without influence in the American Republic. For the first time in the history of the Republic, the Slave Power has not even the ability to terrify or alarm the free man so as to make him submit, and scheme, and coincide, and compromise. It rails now with a feeble voice, instead of thundering, as it did, in our ears for twenty or thirty years past. With a feeble and muttering voice they cry out that they will tear the Union to pieces. Who’s afraid? Who’s afraid? Nobody is afraid. Nobody can be bought This battle is fought and this victory is won, provided that you stand determined to maintain the great Republican party under its great and glorious leader, Abraham Lincoln, in inaugurating its principles into the administration of the government, and provided you stand by him in his administration,  -- if it shall be, as I trust it shall, a wise and just and good one, -- until the adversary shall find out that he has been beaten, and shall voluntarily retire from the field."

His speech at Chicago was a thorough and masterly indictment of slavery, -- confident, cheering, and hopeful. There were many other brief speeches of great power, full of antislavery sentiment. Passing through Missouri, he was several times called to address proslavery audiences. Whenever he spoke, it was with fidelity to his cause. He especially reproached the people of Missouri with their denial of the right of free speech under the laws of their State. “But," said he, “the principle that every man is a free man is bound to go through all the thirty-three States of the Union, for the simple reason that it is going through the world." To this his audience responded with jeers and passionate denial. At Atchison, Kansas, he said: “In founding a new State, I do say that you must put into every man's hand, and not into the hands of the few, the ballot, or into the hands of every man the bullet, so that every man shall be equal before the law, in his power as a citizen. All men shall have the ballot, or none; all men shall have the bullet, or none."

Returning home, he made his closing speech of the canvass to his neighbors at Auburn. Reminding them that the only motive appealed to, by the supporters of Douglas, Breckinridge, and Bell, was " fear, -- fear that if you elect a President of the United States according to the Constitution and the laws to morrow, you will wake up the next day and find that you have no country for him to preside over," he told them that all who quoted and used the threat and menaces of disunionists against the performance of their duty were abettors of disunion, and they will have to make a sudden choice, whether they will go for " treason," or whether they will go " with us for Freedom, for the Constitution, and for eternal Union."

The canvass, that had so profoundly stirred the country, closed on the 6th of November by the election of Abraham Lincoln. He received one hundred and eighty electoral votes, -- all the votes of the free States, excepting three in New Jersey. Douglas received twelve votes, -- three in New Jersey and nine in Missouri. Bell received the thirty-nine votes of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Breckinridge received the seventy-two votes of eleven Southern States. While Bell and Breckinridge received more than four hundred thousand votes in the free States, Lincoln and Douglas received less than two hundred thousand votes in the slave States.

Though theirs was the triumph, and that was an hour of rejoicing, thoughtful Republicans realized that their victory was incomplete. They were in a minority of nearly a million, they had failed to carry the House of Representatives, the Senate was still overwhelmingly against them, and the Supreme Court was completely under the domination of the Slave Power. Grand and inspiring as was their success, they felt that they had but carried an outpost of the great army of oppression, and that years of toil and conflict were yet before them. But the slave-masters, with clearer insight and better logic, more fully comprehended the real significance of the result. They saw how much freedom had gained and how much slavery had lost. For more than two generations they had dictated principles, shaped policies, made Presidents and cabinets, judges of the Supreme Court, Senators, and Representatives. Now, for the first time, they had been beaten, the charm of invincibility was broken, the prestige of success was gone. Their cherished policy of slavery-expansion had been arrested, and their new dogma of slavery-protection had been forever defeated. An antislavery President, sustained by two millions of antislavery men, in spired by freedom, would guide and govern the nation for four years. Armed with the power and clothed with the patronage of the national government, he could successfully appeal to Southern men. Freedom of speech and of the press would take the place of a long and enforced silence of tongue and pen. Emancipationists would spring up among themselves. Men, with new aspirations and higher purposes, would soon build on the ruins of their waning power. And slavery in the States, hedged in, surrounded, and pressed upon by the growing numbers and increasing vigor of free institutions and by the combined forces of advancing civilization and the manifest providences of God, must inevitably be put in process of ultimate, though it might be gradual extinction.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 689-704.



Please note that this entry includes two chapters:

·        Hosmer, “Lincoln’s Second Election (1864),” 1907

·        Hosmer, “Preparations for Readjustment of the States (September, 1864-March, 1865),” 1907

·        Wilson, “Presidential Election of 1864,” 1878

Chapter: “Lincoln’s Second Election (1864),” in Outcome of the Civil War by James Kendall Hosmer, in the series The American Nation: A History, 1907.

THROUGHOUT the first three years of the war the determined champions of the Union saw that it was as imperative to keep control of the political as of the military organization. Hence, politicians watched with eagerness the state elections from year to year, and the congressional elections of 1862; the intense conviction of the necessity of maintaining a fighting majority in Congress caused the people to shut their eyes to the drastic methods by which the border states were led to return a solid Republican delegation to the House in the election of 1862, thus barely saving the war government from paralysis. The attitude of the War Democrats was of great significance in this crisis, and to placate them and make common political action easier, the name Union party was in many states taken up instead of Republican, and even came to be the official title of the national organization in the presidential campaign of 1864. Nevertheless, those wise in forecasting felt that Republican success depended upon continued victories by Union armies; and in the Union party itself were elements not satisfied with Lincoln.

Lincoln's most formidable rival was Chase, a man whose ability, worth, and weakness have had in our narrative full illustration. He was discontented with the president and with his colleagues in the cabinet; he desired intensely for himself the highest place, of his adequacy for which he was serenely sure; he so misunderstood the situation as to imagine that he had a great popular following. He wrote, January 24, 1864: “Had there been here an Administration in the true sense of the word-a president conferring with his cabinet and taking their united judgments and with their aid enforcing activity, economy, energy, in all departments of the public service, we could have spoken boldly and defied the world. But our condition here has always been very different. I preside over the funnel; everybody else, and especially the Secretaries of War and the Navy, over the spigots -and keep them well open, too. Mr. Seward conducts the Foreign Relations with very little let or help from anybody. There is no unity and no system except so far as it is departmental. There is progress, but it is slow and involuntary-just what is coerced by the irresistible pressure of the vast force of the people. How under such circumstances can anybody announce a policy which can only be made respectable by union, wisdom, and courage!"1

1 Warden, Chase, 562. 

How Lincoln felt towards Chase is shown by· a deliverance recorded in John Hay's diary, October 16, 1863: "Mr. Chase makes a good Secretary and I shall keep him where he is. If he becomes president, all right. I hope we may never have a worse man. I have observed with regret his plan of strengthening himself. Whenever he sees that an important matter is troubling me, if I am compelled to decide in a way to give offence to a man of some importance, he always ranges himself in opposition to me, and persuades the victim that he has been hardly dealt with, and that he would have arranged it very differently. . . . I am entirely indifferent as to his success or failure in these schemes so long as he does his duty at the head of the Treasury Department.'' 1

The two great men, associated very closely, both desired the nomination -an honorable ambition. Lincoln was justly confident that he had done well, and was anxious to continue until he had brought the country out of its strait. Chase misjudged the crisis, the .feeling of the country, his immediate environment, most of all, perhaps, himself: he had no strength with the people, nor was there a single public man of prominence who actively favored his candidacy. A Chase organization, however, more or less formal, came into existence, at the head of which was Samuel C. Pomeroy, of Kansas, a senator of no large significance, who, unknown to Chase,

1 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, VIII., 316. 

issued a confidential circular that went broadcast through the country. This asserted the impossibility of Lincoln's re-election, and criticised what it termed Lincoln's temporizing and hesitating disposition, which would be certain to manifest itself more strongly during a second administration; asserted the inexpediency of allowing to any president a second term in the then existing condition of the Union; and finally pointed out the combination in Chase of the qualities requisite for a chief magistrate. 1

February 22, 1864, the circular appeared in the newspapers, whereupon Chase wrote Lincoln that he had not known of the existence of such a letter: he admitted that at the urgent solicitations of his friends he had become a candidate, and asked that he might be allowed to resign his post, should his position, in the judgment of the president, prejudice the public interest. To this Lincoln responded good-naturedly, stating at the end that he "perceived no occasion for a change.'' 2 The candidacy of Chase speedily collapsed. Not only was there no response, but those on whom he particularly counted ranged themselves with Lincoln. When the Republican members of the Ohio legislature in full caucus nominated Lincoln, February 25, Chase at once withdrew.

Besides Chase, some of the Republicans thought of Grant, but he would not listen to the idea of his

1 Hart, Chase, 312.

2 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, VIII., 321 et seq.

nomination. Quite a different case was that of Fremont; though discredited both as the administrator of a department and as a soldier in the field, he still had a following, and a meeting was held, May 3r, r864, at Cleveland, Ohio, in his interest. The gathering was in no sense representative; a company of two hundred or so, mostly from St. Louis and New York, without credentials from anybody of the people, came together of their own accord. No figure of prominence was present, though Horace Greeley had been, without reason, expected. A letter was read from Wendell Phillips, who made a comparison between Fremont and Lincoln to the disadvantage of the latter, and suggested for the convention a radical platform, providing for the confiscation and distribution of the conquered South, and for universal suffrage. Fremont was finally nominated for the presidency by this irresponsible party, with John Cochrane, of New York, for vice-president. Fremont accepted, declaring at the time, among other things, his belief that the work of Lincoln was "politically, militarily, and financially a failure." The Democratic press, eager to foment a division in the Republican ranks, sought to make much of it, but the Cleveland 'Convention was soon looked upon as an event of no importance. 1

The Republican convention was appointed for June 7, 1864, 2 a date unusually early, but the leaders desired to settle upon the candidate, and

1 McPherson, Polit. Hist. of Great Rebellion, 410.

2 Ibid., 403. 

present at once to the opposition a front as nearly united as possible. From the beginning of January, throughout the winter and spring, indications abounded that the only candidate was Lincoln, loyal men from the states east and west making manifest their enthusiasm for the great chief. When the convention assembled at Baltimore, ex-Governor E. D. Morgan, of New York, called it to order, his brief speech being marked especially by the declaration that the thirteenth amendment, then pending in Congress, was fundamental to Republicanism, a key-note echoed back in heavy and long-continued applause.

The temporary chairman, Reverend Robert J. Breckinridge, D.D., of Kentucky, a patriarchal and dignified figure, whose kinsmen were among the most strenuous insurgents, came out of the hot border battle with the smell of fire, as it were, in his garments, to bear his testimony. His speech was as fervid as the utterance of a prophet of old. Disregarding what was usual, he forestalled the action of the convention by announcing Lincoln as the only possible candidate. With passion almost ferocious, he declared '' the only enduring cement of free institutions to be the blood of traitors. It is a fearful truth, but we had as well avow it at once; and every blow you strike, and every rebel you kill, you are adding it may be centuries to the life of the government and to the freedom of your children." He declared himself to be absolutely aloof from politics. "As a Union party I will follow you to the gates of death; as Republican or Democrat, I will not follow you one foot." The address was especially impressive when Dr. Breckinridge indorsed Morgan's approval of the abolition of slavery. "I join myself with those who say, away with it forever!"

For permanent chairman, Governor William Dennison; of Ohio, was announced, whose excellent speech enforcing eloquently Breckinridge's doctrine produced scarcely the same effect; for he came from and would return to the security of a northern state, whereas the boldness of the Kentuckian might consign him to a bloody grave.

When the convention began to work, its task was easy. Of delegations applying for admission none were rejected except that claiming to be from South Carolina; those of Virginia and Florida were admitted to the floor without the right to vote; all others had full privileges; as to Missouri, where among loyal men there had been a fierce· dispute of factions, two delegations appeared, of which the one representing the more radical men was selected. The issues involved in the contest were set forth in the platform/ presented by Henry J. Raymond, editor of the New York Times, chairman of the committee on resolutions. This able appeal to the country insisted upon the duty to maintain the integrity of the Union, and the Constitution and laws

1 McPherson, Polit. Hist. of Great Rebellion, 406.

of the United States; and as Union men pledged everything in the party's power to aid the government in quelling the rebellion and in bringing to the punishment due to their crimes, the rebels and traitors arrayed against it. The platform further approved the determination of the government not to compromise with rebels, and to prosecute the war with the utmost possible vigor.

Slavery was denounced as the cause and the strength of the rebellion, and the platform explicitly called for such an amendment to the Constitution, to be made by the people in conformity with its provisions, as shall terminate and forever prohibit its existence within the jurisdiction of the United States.

The president's policy and administration received ungrudging support in an eulogium on Abraham Lincoln, and the convention approved as essential to the preservation of the nation, and as within the provisions of the Constitution, '' the measures which he has adopted to defend the nation against its open and secret foes ... especially the Proclamation of Emancipation." The only thing resembling censure was "a resolution looking towards changes in the cabinet so that harmony should prevail in the national councils, and only those remain who cordially endorsed the principles proclaimed in these resolutions." In view of the French invasion of Mexico, the platform declared that “The people of the United States view with extreme jealousy, as menacing to the peace and independence of their own country, the efforts of any European power to obtain new foot-holds for monarchical governments, sustained by foreign military force, in near proximity to the United States." 1

The chairman of the Illinois delegation named for the presidency, in the briefest terms, "Abraham Lincoln, God bless him." The ensuing vote stood, for Lincoln, 484; the Missouri delegation, following strict instructions, cast their votes for Grant, but they at once fell in with the rest to make the vote unanimous.

For vice-president the selection was more difficult. No dissatisfaction existed as regards Hannibal Hamlin; but the feeling prevailed that a War Democrat would give strength to the ticket: Daniel S. Dickinson, of New York; Lovell H. Rousseau and Joseph Holt, of Kentucky; Benjamin F. Butler, of Massachusetts, and Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, were names suggested. In the balloting Andrew Johnson received two hundred votes, after which all united in declaring his nomination unanimous. Thus the Tennessean, crude, headstrong, prejudiced, but full of courage and devotedly patriotic, came to the front. Lincoln, who had rigidly abstained from making any suggestions as to the action or declarations of the convention, heard the result calmly, but did not conceal his gratification. He did not understand, he said, that he was held to be the best and wisest man in America; but

1 McPherson, Polit. Hist. of Great Rebellion, 406, 407. 

simply that it was a bad plan "to swap horses while crossing the river.'' 1

The Baltimore convention took place while the North was still buoyant with the hope that Grant and Sherman would soon do great things: but while it was in session the details of the dreadful repulse at Cold Harbor were arriving; and before the month ended Sherman was beaten back at Kennesaw Mountain. The situation in the two main armies grew worse during July and August, Richmond and Atlanta baffling every Federal attempt. Even Lincoln became depressed, while his staunchest supporters quite lost heart. The president, to whom the success of McClellan, the inevitable Democratic candidate, began to seem likely, framed a plan for coming to an understanding with him to save the Union by a combined effort; to be made in the interval between the election and the inauguration.

When the prospect was darkest the forces of the opposition party assembled at Chicago, August 29, quite sure of their power to overthrow the administration. 2 The delegates arrived numerous and exultant; but a want of harmony existed which from the first boded misfortune. While many War Democrats were acting with the Republicans, such as Dickinson, Johnson, Tod, Brough, and a number of the best generals in the field, there were many

1 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, IX., 76.

2 McPherson, Polit. Hist. of Great Rebellion, 417. 

War Democrats at Chicago, led by the delegation from New York-over against whom stood the peace men, out and out Copperheads, Vallandigham at the front, home from his exile, and in exaggerated vigor. The convention was called to order by August Belmont, German born, the agent of the Rothschilds in New York, and noted in finance. His brief address was intended to promote harmony, after which ex-Governor Bigler, of Pennsylvania, as temporary chairman, ascribed the woes under which the country suffered to the Republicans, against whom a united stand must be made "to rescue our country-our whole country-from its present lamentable condition."

Horatio Seymour, of New York, the permanent chairman, made the great address of the occasion, a masterpiece of dignified, eloquent, passionate invective. "This Administration cannot now save the Union, if it would. It has by its proclamations, by vindictive legislation, by display of hate and passion, placed obstacles in its own pathway which it cannot overcome, and has hampered its own freedom by unconstitutional acts. If this Administration cannot save this Union, we can. Mr. Lincoln values many things above the Union: we put it first of all. He thinks a proclamation worth more than peace. We think the blood of our people more precious than the edicts of a president. We demand no conditions for the preservation of our Union. We are shackled with no hates, no prejudices, no passions." 

Vallandigham, a member of the committee on resolutions, dominated the committee by his energy. He draughted and put through in spite of opposition the only very significant utterance of the platform. "That the convention does explicitly declare as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, ... humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, and that a convention or some other unmilitary means be employed, that peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal union of the states." 1

When submitted to the convention, this practical surrender to the Confederacy passed unchallenged with the other resolutions, the gloom of the military situation disposing the country towards peace as never before. Nominations being in order, McClellan received 202.5 votes, with a few scattering. Vallandigham moved that McClellan's nomination be made unanimous, which was done. With the nomination 2 for vice-president of George H. Pendleton, an able Democratic congressman from Cincinnati, the work of the convention was over. Great enthusiasm prevailed, but, September 2, almost at once after the adjournment, news came from Sherman which, as Seward said, "knocked the planks out of the Chicago platform"; and McClellan, while accepting the nomination, did it in terms quite out

1 McPherson, Polit. Hist. of Great Rebellion, 419.

2 Ibid., 421.

of harmony with Vallandigham's resolution. All interest centered upon the men in the field, and in good time, before election day, their work made the outcome certain.

Before we return to the soldiers, we must consider the disappearance from our stage of certain important figures. Chase has constantly been in the foreground, a pure, stately, columnar, though not flawless, personality, bearing upon Atlantean shoulders a heavy part of the burden of the day. The secretary and the president were really in principle not far apart: to both it was a matter dear as life itself to maintain freedom and the Union; but while the secretary put freedom first as the necessary foundation for the Union, the president put the Union first-its preservation a condition without which freedom could not exist.1 While not far apart in principles, in temperament and disposition the two men jarred;-they had a "different taste in jokes." Lincoln did the fullest justice to the ability and worth of Chase, but could not find him congenial. “Chase is one and a half times bigger than any man I ever knew,'' said he; but Chase failed to appreciate· Lincoln, whom he rated much below himself, and whose homely mother-wit he held to be boorish and unbecoming.

Though always at his onerous post, and faithful as a counselor, he repeatedly asked to be allowed to resign, usually in order to recall Lincoln's

1 Hart, Chase, 292. 

mind to his indispensableness. Up to 1864, Lincoln, with eye single to the public welfare, had good-naturedly refused. With the opening of 1864 came the effort by Chase and his friends to supplant Lincoln, followed by other causes for estrangement. Among these was a quarrel with the Blairs, whom Chase thought favored by Lincoln. The Blair family, in the story of the Civil War, is an interesting group. Francis P. Blair, Sr., a Virginian born, went while still a child to Kentucky, becoming a friend of Henry Clay in early manhood. Estranged from him in John Quincy Adams's day, he attracted Jackson's notice by opposing nullification, and was invited by him to Washington, where he founded the Globe, a newspaper of great influence. In 1864, a man seventy-three years old, he was no longer an editor, but very active, as always, for the Union: he was the medium of the overtures to Robert E. Lee, in 1861, to become commander of the Union army; in the present year he sought to bring about a better understanding between Lincoln and McClellan: a little later he was a zealous go-between from Washington to Richmond in the interests of peace.

Two sons of this political veteran have often appeared in our narrative, as men of power and patriotism. F. P. Blair, Jr., after saving Missouri to the Union, in conjunction with Lyon, followed a most energetic course: now commanding the Seventeenth Corps in the Army of the West, now a leader in Congress, he vibrated between field and forum, always audacious and dominating.  Montgomery Blair did almost as much for Maryland as his brother Frank did for Missouri. Equally able, perhaps, he confined himself to politics. In the cabinet he had not the prominence of Seward, Chase, or Stanton; as postmaster - general his work was less concerned with the war than theirs; but his voice in council was never silent and often heeded. Father and sons stood sympathetically together: forceful and aggressive, they became not only a terror to their adversaries in the South, but caused enmity among the friends of the Union at home.

In 1864 the Blairs had fallen out with the radicals, especially with Fremont, who at their instance had received his commission as major-general and an appointment to a department, but soon forfeited their friendship, all who adhered to him becoming their foes. In Maryland, Montgomery Blair and Henry Winter Davis were soon at odds. The radicals took sides against the trio more and more definitely; the Blairs and all who countenanced them feeling their wrath. Lincoln was suffering from this feud, which brought about the hostility of Henry Winter Davis, so virulent in the reconstruction business. 1 The president was to suffer still further: Chase conceived a violent enmity to Frank Blair, on account of remarks made in debate-enmity which the aggressive

1 See p. 139, above. 

soldier-statesman, riding rough-shod, made more bitter. When Lincoln, according to a promise made some time before, allowed Blair to return to his rank in the army from a seat in Congress, he did so with the hope that he might improve the situation; but Chase at once bracketed Lincoln with Blair, his estrangement from the president growing still wider.

Another cause of offence to Chase was what he unreasonably regarded an interference by the president with his appointments. The upshot of it all was that, June 30, 1864, Chase sent in his fourth or fifth resignation. There is reason to believe that he would have yielded as usual to remonstrance from the president, but this time no remonstrance came; and William Pitt Fessenden, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, was at once appointed as his successor.1 The resignation of Chase, coming after disasters in the field and contentions in Congress, threw the country into painful excitement, an accurate indication being the rise of gold to its highest point, about 286. Chase accepted the situation, after all, in a manly way. To his successor, who naturally hesitated to assume his colossal burden, his words were kind and reassuring. He said truthfully that all the great work of the department was fairly blocked out and in progress; that the organization was planned and in many ways complete, or in a way towards completion.

1 Hart, Chase, 3 18. 

His achievement, indeed, had been a great path-breaking. He was hampered at every step by the lack of precedents for such an exigency, and the belief shared by everyone that the war must soon end. His management of the bond issues was in the main shrewd and far-sighted, his scheme for internal revenue at last most effective; while in laying the foundation of the national bank system, he bestowed on his country a noble and permanent good. Chase may justly be called a great secretary of the treasury, deserving of honor and' dignity. In October of this year Lincoln appointed him chief-justice of the supreme court of the United States-a post which the president, with all the magnanimity of his great nature, was delighted to bestow.

The resolution of the Baltimore convention relating to a reconstruction of the cabinet was of radical origin, and looked towards the retirement not of Chase, but of Montgomery Blair. That result came in September, the president frankly stating that while Blair had lost nothing in his regard, it was expedient that he should give way, which he did with good grace; nor was the devotion of the Blairs to the administration abated. Montgomery toiled manfully in the canvass for his late chief, while Frank rode at the right hand of Sherman in the progress through Georgia and the Carolina the septuagenarian father meantime working as ever for the country. William Dennison, of Ohio  became postmaster-general. James Speed, of Kentucky, was made attorney-general, succeeding Bates, who resigned November 24, a faithful servant of the government, who, ill at ease in the crisis, preferred to withdraw to private life. Caleb B. Smith, Lincoln's first secretary of the interior, resigned earlier; December, 1862, his place being filled by John P. Usher, of Indiana.

Source:  Hosmer, James Kendall, Outcome of the Civil War. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 21, 145-162. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1907.

Chapter: “Preparations for Readjustment of the States (September, 1864-March, 1865),” in Outcome of the Civil War by James Kendall Hosmer, in the series The American Nation: A History, 1907.

THE series of Federal successes beginning with the victory of the Kearsarge over the Alabama, June 19, 1864, and followed up by the triumph in Mobile Bay, the capture of Atlanta, the overthrow of Early in the valley of Virginia, the repulse of Hood, and the march through Georgia to the sea, established the administration firmly. It was really a piece of great good fortune for Lincoln and his friends that the depression prevailing at the end of August made it possible for Vallandigham to give tone to the Chicago convention. For the war had no sooner been declared a failure in the Democratic resolutions than the declaration was proved absurd. As victory followed victory till the year closed, the absurdity deepened, until the party that had made the declaration became almost a laughing-stock. The mutterings and contrivings of the opposition, though not discontinued, became impotent. October 19, 1864, occurred the St. Albans raid, an incursion into northern Vermont of twenty or thirty southern sympathizers from Canada, during which a village was badly frightened, but only trifling injury inflicted: this was the most important of a number of attempts to kindle a back-fire, which were of no moment as things came out, but which, had the North experienced the depression of military defeats, would have been dangerous. 1 

As the fall elections proceeded, all went well for the Union party. Maine and Vermont in September gave encouraging majorities: the October states were not behind; and in the presidential election in November came such a" land-slide" as the country has seldom seen. 2 McClellan carried but three among the loyal states, New Jersey, Delaware, and Kentucky, with 21 electoral votes; while Lincoln carried twenty-two states with 212 votes. The early withdrawal of Fremont from the canvass gave to Lincoln most of the radical voters. The congressional elections, for the House which would sit from 1865 to 1867, were overwhelmingly Republican; while in his own party dissensions were quieted, the logic of events thoroughly confuted the error of Lincoln's opponents. He bore himself throughout the canvass with great moderation, dignity, and magnanimity. No point of his conduct is better worth noting than that he discouraged attempts to influence the votes of persons in government employ: civil - service reform was then undreamed of: the

1 Headley, Confederate Operations in New York and Canada.

2 McPherson, Polit. Hist. of the Great Rebellion, 623.

spoils system had full sway; but the president maintained as he could the independent franchise of the office-holder .1

The thirty - eighth Congress assembled for its second and last session December 5, 1864, and received on the following day the annual message, which gave main attention to matters connected directly with the war. As to Maryland, which had just abolished slavery, the president declared, "the genius of rebellion will no longer claim her. Like another foul spirit being driven out, it may seek to tear her, but it will woo her no more." He earnestly recommended the adoption of the thirteenth amendment by the present Congress, for the large Republican majority in the next Congress would make sure its ultimate passage.2

The receipts from taxation for the fiscal year 1863-1864 were: customs, $102,000,000, internal revenue, $110,000,000, while $623,000,000 were derived from loans. Of this immense total, the war department alone absorbed $691,000,000. The public debt, July 1, stood at $1,740,690,489, which another year of war might raise $500,000,000, Lincoln recommended that loans should be made attractive by exemption from taxation and from seizure for debt to a certain extent, so that the debt, as much as possible, might be owed to the people. Lincoln referred to the elections as showing the

1 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, IX., 363.

2 Lincoln, Works (ed. of 1894), II., 604.

country was not approaching exhaustion, "in the most important branch of national resources-that of living men." In spite of the losses, the net increase of voters in the North was 145,551 over 1860. He declared abandonment of armed resistance to the national authority on the part of the insurgents to be the only indispensable condition for ending the war. As regards emancipation, he declared his purpose to retract nothing he had said. '' If the people should by whatever mode or means make it an executive duty to re-enslave such persons, an-· other and not I must be the instrument to perform it. In stating a single condition of peace, I mean simply to say, that the war will cease on the part of the government whenever it shall have ceased on the part of those who began it."

The pending thirteenth amendment, which had already passed the Senate, and which Lincoln now urgently pressed upon the House, came up January 6, 1865, on which day Ashley, who, it will be remembered, had arranged for its reconsideration,1 took pains to bring it forward, and made a forcible speech in its favor. 2 As before, his chief service was in the way of adroit management; to make up the requisite two-thirds vote, a number of Democrats must be won; and in reaching these, Ashley's industry and shrewdness were conspicuous. 3 A debate followed

1 See above, p. 124·.

2 Cong. Globe, 38 Cong., 2 Sess., 138.

3 Riddle, Recollections, 324.

in which a third of the House took part, the standard-bearer of the opposition being George H. Pendleton, of Ohio, the recently defeated candidate for the vice-presidency. 1 He again argued that " the power to amend'' did not imply "the power to revolutionize." He was answered at length by Garfield, and more briefly but effectively by Boutwell, while the speeches of Scofield, of Pennsylvania, Kasson, of Iowa, and Rollins, of Missouri, were noteworthy. The vote was taken January 3 r, l 86 5, the galleries of the House being crowded with a multitude favorable to the amendment. Eleven Democrats threw their weight in favor, thus assuring the necessary two-thirds majority-n9 to 56; 2 the margin was narrow, but it was enough. An outburst of excitement and congratulation ensued in which statesmen and spectators took part. Ingersoll, of Illinois, moved that "in honor of this immortal and sublime event this House do now adjourn." The Senate having already taken the necessary action, the amendment went before the states, and on December 18, 1865, came the official announcement of its ratification by three-fourths of the number, twenty-seven out of thirty-five.

1 Blaine, Twenty Years, I., 537

2 Cong. Globe, 38 Cong., 2 Sess., 531.

To recapitulate here the successive steps of the process of emancipation, four different methods to bring it about must be noticed.

 (1) By act of Congress, April 16, 1862, slavery was abolished in the District of Columbia, and June 19 in the territories. 1

(2) By the definite proclamation of the president, January 1, 1863, as a military measure1 slavery was abolished throughout the seceded states excepting Tennessee and certain parts of Louisiana and Virginia.2

(3) By direct state action, Maryland adopted an anti- slavery constitution October 10, 1864; Tennessee, which the proclamation had not mentioned, followed, February 22, 1865. Similar constitutions were adopted by Arkansas, January 19, 1864; Louisiana, September, 1864; and Missouri, June 6, 1865.3

(4) By the thirteenth amendment, officially announced as ratified December 18, 1865, emancipation was extended to Kentucky and Delaware, besides sanctioning what had gone before, and giving freedom a uniform basis.

The treasury was still a heavy burden to Congress and to the new secretary, Fessenden, who, while he had all mental and moral qualifications for his position, lacked health. During the few months that he held office his service was great, though rather in carrying out policies already entered upon than in originating new devices. In his report of 1864 he urged additional taxation, the people having shown their willingness to bear it; some way for making

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, XIL, 376, 432.

2 Lincoln, Works (ed. of 1894), II., 287.

3 McPherson, Polit. Hist. of the Great Rebellion, 332, 459, 600. 

public lands available for revenue; and the establishment of a sinking -fund. He opposed foreign loans, advocating the disposal of bonds to the American people, and maintaining that our credit abroad had been strengthened by the fact that we cared for the public debt at home-that we had "derived a pecuniary advantage from self-reliance." As the disposition to continue the war was unbroken, so the means for continuing it were in no danger of failing.1 Fessenden's suggestions all met with a good response: the internal revenue was made more stringent, and the tariff was amended; while, March 3, 1865, a new bond issue of six hundred million dollars was authorized.2

Though the war was plainly near its end, the conscription act was made more severe and searching; 3 there was no neglect or relaxation. Now it was that the national banking system was strengthened by further enactment already referred to, imposing a tax of ten per cent upon the circulation of state banks, to go into effect July 1, 1866.4 This tax was a practical prohibition of state bank-notes, and before the time fixed that form of circulation had entirely disappeared. The labors of the statesmen who wrought at the capital were scarcely less exhausting than those of the soldiers. John Sherman, at the head of the Senate finance committee,

1 Blaine, Twenty Years, I., 543.

2 U. S. Statutes at Large, XIII., 468, 469.

4 Dewey, Financial Hist. of U. S., 328.

3 Ibid., 487 ·

declares that when the session closed he was quite broken down; 1 and it may well be believed that the burden borne by his famous brother, then marching through the Confederacy, was no more embarrassing than that of the legislator.

The question of the reconstruction of the states, left in confusion by the controversy over the Davis- Wade bill, 2 was revived in the fall of 1864 by the claim of the "Vest-Pocket Government" to be considered Virginia. After the creation of West Virginia, Peirpoint and his friends removed to Alexandria, claiming as within their jurisdiction the part of Virginia occupied by the Federals-namely, the region about Washington, a county or two on the eastern shore, and the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Peirpoint made the most of his government, but the result was not impressive. Though his senators remained in their places in the Federal Congress, the House doubted the validity of the election of the one representative appearing; and Butler at Norfolk treated Peirpoint cavalierly. Bates, attorney-general, supported Peirpoint against Butler; and the matter coming before Lincoln, he sustained Bates. Thus reconstruction in Virginia received the countenance of the administration; so in the Southwest, where Lincoln, in November, 1864, checked decisively Generals Hurlbut and Canby, 

1 John Sherman, recollections, 297.

2 See above, p. 139 et seq. 

officers not considerate of the reconstructed civil government of Louisiana; 1 When Congress assembled, though the people upheld Lincoln with emphasis, yet Henry Winter Davis and his friends nursed their wrath; and no long time intervened before their plan for reconstruction came up anew. December 15, 1864, the active Ashley, from the special committee on the rebellious states, of which Davis was head, introduced a new bill; like the bill of the previous session, in spite of Lincoln's public objection, it assumed for Congress the power to regulate reconstruction; at the same time it conceded recognition to the Louisiana government. But the temper of the House had changed; the bill did not find favor, and though Ashley modified it, presenting it four or five times in different shapes, 2 it was not made more acceptable. The debate was earnest, Davis displaying his usual power; while H. W. Dawes, of Massachusetts, chairman of the committee on elections, was prominent among his opponents. A majority of the House had come to think with Lincoln that it was unwise to prescribe any one plan; and February 21, 1865, the bill was laid on the table by a vote of 91 to 64.3

In the Senate, February 18, 1865, Trumbull moved for the recognition of the government of Louisiana, hinting that should it take place, it practically involved also that of Arkansas, where

1 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, IX., 436 et seq.

2 Ibid., 449.

3 Cong. Globe, 38 Cong., 2 Sess., 967 et seq.

the situation was similar. Though a majority was unquestionably in favor, five Republican senators led by Charles Sumner, who was sustained by Wade and Chandler, prevented its passage. The decision was postponed ''to to-morrow''-a to-morrow which never came.1 Thus ended the matter for the thirty-eighth Congress: Lincoln was to make on the subject one more declaration, which will be considered later.

Early in 1865 took place the last and most important attempt to bring about peace, before the final collapse. Francis P. Blair, Sr., whose relations with Jefferson Davis had been intimate, always restless and full of schemes, believed himself to be a medium to bring about an accommodation. Without any authority from Lincoln, who, however, gave him a safe-conduct, if he chose to go at his own instance and risk, Blair made his way to the Richmond outposts, and was admitted to an ·audience with Davis. He conceived a scheme, according to which, by uniting Federal and Confederate strength, during an armistice, and giving a leading part to Davis, the Monroe Doctrine was to be vindicated and the French driven out of Mexico: the united effort against foreign aggression it was hoped might tend to reconcile North and South; and there was a dream of dominion over Mexico and as far as the Isthmus, when the invaders had been expelled. Davis listened with patience, perhaps

1 Cong. Globe, 38 Cong., 2 Sess., 1011. 

with a certain sympathy, as Blair detailed his scheme, agreeing to appoint a commission to represent the Confederacy in a conference with representatives from Washington, with the idea of promoting "peace between the two countries." When Blair returned to Washington and laid the scheme before Lincoln, the latter expressed himself as ready on his part to promote as he could ''peace between the people of our common country.'' 1

February 3, 1865, the "Hampton Conference" took place on board the steamer River Queen, anchored in the Roads, off Fortress Monroe. The commissioners appointed by Jefferson Davis were Alexander H. Stephens, vice-president of the Confederacy, R. M. T. Hunter, senator and ex-secretary of state, and John A. Campbell, assistant secretary of war and a former justice of the supreme court of the United States. Lincoln determined to meet the envoys himself, and was accompanied only by Seward. From the accounts of the participants we know that the Richmond envoys were much occupied by the Mexican project, in which Seward, too, was interested; for it will be remembered that, four years before, he had seen in a foreign war a panacea for our dissensions. 2 Stephens led up to this point gradually, but Lincoln said at once that he had given no sanction to Blair's project: he could consent to no armistice, nor to any

1 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, X., 107.

2 Hosmer. Appeal to Arms (Am. Nation, XX.), 23.

proposition not involving a complete restoration of the Federal authority. The conference in this direction not promising well, the talk fell upon the passage by Congress of the thirteenth amendment, of which the Confederates now heard for the first time. Seward suggested, perhaps not seriously, that if the seceded states would resume their places they might defeat the ratification. Both he and Lincoln expressed their readiness to compensate the South for the manumitted slaves. This was quite in accord with what Lincoln had always professed: he believed the North was as much to blame as the South for the establishment of slavery-that an indemnity was only just, and that the money could be better spent in that way than in warfare. He promised for his part to act with liberality in case of submission; but again and again came back to the declaration that no agreement could be entered into until arms had been laid aside. When Hunter suggested, as a precedent for negotiations between parties in a civil war, Charles I. and his parliament, Lincoln turned that over to Seward, he himself not being strong in history. "All that I distinctly remember about the case of Charles I. is that he lost his head." The conference lasted four hours and resulted in nothing.2

A few days later the president prepared a remarkable message, in which he recommended the

1 Bancroft, Seward, II., 414.

2 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, X., I 18 et seq.

appropriation of four hundred million dollars, to be paid to the South as the price of peace-the indemnity which he thought it was only just to offer in return for manumission, and which the country could well afford to pay if only the war might cease. This message Lincoln withheld with reluctance after it had received the unanimous disapproval of his cabinet.1

The second inauguration of Abraham Lincoln took place March 4, 1865. In the concourse which gathered in front of the east portico of the Capitol, a notable element was the civic associations of negro citizens, and the battalion of negro troops who marched in the procession. The address was brief, and marked by a solemn beauty which places it among the great utterances of history. Rarely from human lips has fallen so perfect an expression of the sweetest and highest wisdom. “Fondly do we hope-fervently do we pray that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled up by the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unrewarded toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said, 'The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.' "With malice towards none, with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives us to 

1 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, X., 133.

see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." 1 Then came the oath, administered by Chief-Justice Chase: "I, Abraham Lincoln, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

1 Lincoln, Works (ed. of 1894), II., 657.

Source:  Hosmer, James Kendall, Outcome of the Civil War. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 21, 218-231. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1907.

Chapter: “Presidential Election of 1864,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1878.

Among the strangest marvels of American political history has been the persistency with which the Northern Democracy has adhered to the fortunes of the slavemasters of the South despite the many provocations to a contrary course. Though despised, spoken of in the most disparaging terms, and treated as if they, no more than their slaves, had rights these masters were bound to respect, Northern Democrats had always, with spaniel-like fidelity, done little more than register their edicts and vote for the men and measures they either indicated or approved. But, as if there were not humiliation enough in the rule they had hitherto played in the drama of American politics, by which a party, claiming to be par excellence the party of the people, had thus obsequiously served these "lords of the lash," there was in reserve one more abject,

"And in the lowest deep a lower deep"

was found. That humiliation was to vote at the dictation and in the interests of a party engaged in a bloody war with the government and, with parricidal intent, seeking the nation's life. Though smarting under the defeat of 1860, brought about through the desperate strategy of these very masters, by which, though with a majority of a million, the party was self-defeated, — a felo de se unparalleled in the history of parties, — these Northern Democrats were called upon again to perform a like ignoble part. Nor was the call in vain, as was soon made apparent in the presidential canvass of 1864.

Indeed, so complete had become the surrender that the government soon had convincing evidence that it had substantially the same foe in the rear as at the front, that the political and military campaigns of that year were only different parts of the same conflict, and that the enemy had his detachments in the loyal as well as in the disloyal States. Even in the ranks of the Republican party there were those who, by their captious criticisms and by fomenting divisions, were unwittingly lending aid and comfort to a common foe. In truth, the war was prosecuted as really and as vigorously at the North as at the South. There were secret, and affiliated associations formed in the interests of the Rebel cause. A deep-laid conspiracy was concocted for the release of Rebel prisoners, and days were fixed for a general uprising, though they were happily averted by the wise and prompt measures of officers in command. The Democratic party, with few exceptions, was avowedly opposed to the continuance of the war, and clamored for peace at any price. Aggravating this state of affairs, there were large numbers in the Republican party who had become fearfully weary of the war and of its frightful cost of blood and treasure. Repeated drafts and the growing difficulty and cost of filling them, rapidly increasing taxation, and unprecedented advances in the prices of the necessaries of life, the sore bereavements and trembling anxieties that had reached almost every household, the vacant chairs at home and the absent ones away, the inexpressible longing for peace and the hope deferred that makes the heart sick, the sedulously promulgated opinions of foreign nations that it was a hopeless contest and a wicked and useless waste of blood, — all this rested like a nightmare upon the people, and furnished opportunities and motives for sinister and traitorous appeals which too many were found unable, or at least unprepared, to resist. Perhaps, however, it is the greater wonder that so few yielded rather than that so many did.

Beside these causes of popular discontent and discouragement there were elements of discord and weakness among Republican leaders. Diversities of opinion led to conflict of purpose and plan, and these to estrangement of feeling. The President, under a deep sense of the responsibilities of his high office, felt, as has been already said, that he could right fully yield his convictions only to the force of arguments of whose soundness he must be the judge. Naturally firm and cautious, and yet candid and inflexibly honest, he was con strained to pursue a middle course, going too fast and too far for some, too hesitating and dilatory for others, and displeasing large numbers in both the civil and military service. Such, indeed, had been the executive policy in both departments that when the time approached for the selection of a presidential candidate, a majority, perhaps, of the politicians and of the leading members of Congress had reached the conclusion that some other person would better subserve the interests of the nation. There were, too, personal rivalries and ambitions that unquestionably had something to do with this disaffection and desire of change. To these sources of dis quietude and dissensions were added personal piques and affronts resulting from what had been deemed unjust or injudicious removals from and appointments to office, or from offered counsels or service disregarded or rejected. All this was known to the enemy through emissaries who thronged every department of the government and lurked in every section of the land, and was made the most of. These divisions were encouraged, these jealousies were fomented, and, above all, everything was done that an adroit and audacious strategy could devise to weaken the confidence of the Republican masses in the President in whom they still believed, though the leaders looked askance and were distrustful.

Such was the aspect of affairs in the spring of 1864. The war still continued, but not without much to cheer in the signal successes of Gettysburg, Vicksburg, the opening of the Mississippi, and the recovery of portions of Tennessee and Arkansas. The appointment, too, of General Grant to the command of the army had given an increase of popular confidence in the military which had been greatly shaken by previous mismanagement and want of success. There had, too, been a turn in the tide of political affairs, and the Republican victories of the autumn of 1863 had done much to re assure those who had been so sorely tried by the reverses of 1862. Perhaps the national hope — soon to be tried, however, by severe reverses — was never stronger in the ultimate triumph of the Union cause. To many it seemed a foregone conclusion and only a question of time. Perhaps it was this momentary lifting of the pressure and of the clouds that increased or gave greater activity to the internal animosities and conflicts of opinion and purpose in the Republican party. Had the pressure been heavier and the prospect less hopeful, they would not have dared the risk involved in such differences on the political arena in the presence of dangers still menacing from the military field; or, in the homely illustration of the President, they would not have deemed it safe to "swap horses while crossing the river."

The first public demonstration that was made of these confessed differences of opinion and hostility to the President was the call and meeting of a political convention at Cleveland, Ohio, on the 31st of May. The call was directed "To the Radical Men of the Nation." General John Cochrane of New York presided. It was not largely attended, nor were there present many representative men. The general understanding was that it was meant to be a protest, not only against the slow, hesitating, and conservative policy of the administration, but also against what was represented as the selfish and "personal ends" of the President. Wendell Phillips wrote a long and severe letter, in which he charged that the administration had been "a civil and military failure," and that Mr. Lincoln's model of reconstruction was "the experiment of Louisiana, which puts all power into the hands of the unchanged white race." It may be proper to add that later in the canvass Mr. Phillips returned to the charge, and on the 20th of October, in a speech in Boston, he gave at greater length and with more than his usual- felicity and force of language, his reasons why he "dare not trust him with our future." Indeed, in the thickest of the Abolition fight he had never drawn from his quiver more polished and pointed shafts. With the Democrats he pronounced "the war a failure," and charged that "for fifteen weary months the President flung away the treasure of the North and let her sons rot inactive." He spoke of "Abraham Lincoln's halting, half-way course, neither hot nor cold, wanting to save the North without hurting the South, "not" from want of brains, but want of purpose, of willingness to strike home." Admitting that the President had finally though tardily adopted an antislavery policy, he complained of his still hesitating course. "Now, then," he says, "observe how tender the President has been towards the South, how unduly and dangerously reluctant he has been to approach the negro or use his aid. Vigorous, despotic, decisive everywhere else, he halts, hesitates, delays to hurt the South or help the negro." He closed by affirming his readiness "to support any man whom I believe honest, capable, and resolved to end this war " for the same purposes for which the Constitution had been adopted, and added: "Against every other man I mean to agitate till I bayonet him and his party into justice."

It is due to the truth of history— beside showing the mental turmoil of the hour and the difficulty honest and earnest men, who agreed as to the ends to be sought, found in agreeing upon the means — to state that Mr. Phillips, in this severe arraignment of the President, did by no means represent all the antislavery men with whom he had hitherto acted. In the very paper in which he published the speech in full, Mr. Garrison entered his most emphatic protest against its leading sentiment and point. Saying that it seemed to be Mr. Phillips's "set purpose, prima facie, to represent Mr. Lincoln in the worst possible light, to attribute to him the worst possible motives, to hold him up as imbecile and a despot, and to dam age his chance for election to the utmost extent," he added, after referring to his Proclamation of Emancipation setting millions free: "And this in the face of the fact that the entire slaveholding South is .in hot rebellion, and the immense copperhead forces of the North in organized conspiracy to overturn the government as administered by Abraham Lincoln, for the sole alleged reason that he is the political representative of Northern antislavery sentiment, inflexibly bent upon the abolition of slavery, and incurably diseased with ' nigger on the brain.' " He closed with the expression of his belief that "there never was a more abortive or a more ludicrous gathering, politically speaking, than the Cleveland convention."

The convention adopted a platform consisting of thirteen resolutions, and nominated General Fremont and General Cochrane for President and Vice-President. The most notice able features of the platform, other than the general Republican principles it enunciated, were the indorsement of the "Monroe doctrine" and of the "one-term policy," the assertion that reconstruction belonged to Congress and not to the executive, and the demand for the confiscation of the lands of the Rebels and their distribution among soldiers and actual settlers. In General Fremont's letter of acceptance, he spoke severely of the President, of his "incapacity and selfishness," of his "disregard of constitutional rights," of "his violation of personal liberty and liberty of the press," of his "feebleness and want of principle"; and he directly charged that if "he had proved faithful to the principles he was elected to defend, no schism would have been created." This action of General Fremont and the language he chose to use concerning the President was not deemed creditable to either his magnanimity or patriotism; while it lost him many friends among those who remembered him as the "pathfinder" of 1856, for whom they voted with so much fresh enthusiasm as the standard bearer of the new party of freedom. There were those, too, who were anxious that General Grant should receive the nomination, and a meeting was held in New York of those favor able to some such movement, but it amounted to little, and the project fell through.

The Republican, or, as it styled itself, the "Union National" convention assembled at Baltimore on the 8th of June. It was called to order by Senator Morgan of New York, in a few forcible words, in which he alluded to " the dread realities of the past, and of what is passing at this moment," and conjured its members not to fall short of the "great mission" of the party by failing to declare for such a constitutional amendment "as will positively prohibit slavery in the United States." Dr. Robert J. Breckinridge was made temporary chairman. The fact of his being a clergyman, representing a slave State, a near relative of the Rebel Ex-Vice-President, invested his selection, and his eloquent and ringing words as he assumed the chair, with unwonted interest. He spoke of "the grandeur of the mission" upon which they had met, of the duty of thoroughly organizing the party "throughout the United States," and of enunciating its principles with the utmost clearness and emphasis; that it must be their intention that "the nation shall not be destroyed"; that the life of the nation was above constitutions, and that treason must be punished. He spoke of it, as "a fearful truth that runs through the whole history of mankind," that " no government has ever been built upon imperishable foundations which foundations were not laid upon the blood of traitors, — the only imperishable cement of free institutions." Of slavery he spoke freely. While he could hardly indorse the language of the Senator who had just spoken, but referred to the Chicago convention of 1860 as having virtually declared that "they would not touch slavery in the States," he avowed himself as anti-slavery in his convictions, praying for the speedy coming of the day when every man should be free and in the enjoyment of "regulated liberty" lie declared his conviction that Mr. Lincoln was the choice of their hearts, and that he would receive the nomination. He spoke of the great odium that would attach to himself and to his colleagues for the utterance of such sentiments. "But," he said, "we have put our faces towards the way in which we intend to go, and we will go in it to the end. If we are to perish, we will perish in that way. All I have to say to you is, help us if you can; if you cannot, believe in your hearts that we have died like men." The speech excited great enthusiasm, and produced a marked effect upon the convention.

A permanent organization was effected by the choice of Governor Dennison of Ohio as president. Some difficulties were experienced in the matter of a few of the delegations, but they were soon composed, and the convention proceeded to the consideration of a series of eleven resolutions, which were reported by Mr. Raymond of New York, and which were unanimously adopted. They declared in favor of the integrity of the Union and of the paramount authority of the Constitution; of the prosecution of the war without compromise; of the President and his administration; of a constitutional amendment prohibiting slavery; of the Proclamation of Emancipation, the employment of the ex-slaves as soldiers, and of their equal protection; of the nation's plighted faith for the payment of the national debt; and of the Monroe doctrine.

On the first ballot for a candidate for the Presidency, Mr. Lincoln received the vote of every State but Missouri, that voting for General Grant. Before the announcement of the vote, on motion of a member from that State, the nomination was made unanimous; and it was so declared amid a furor of applause. On the first ballot for Vice-President, there were ten who received one or more votes, of whom Andrew Johnson received the highest number; next to him was Mr. Hamlin, the then present incumbent, and next to him was Mr. Dickinson of New York. Several States, however, changed their votes, and the final result reached was that Mr. Johnson received all but twenty-six, and his nomination was made unanimous. This change in the matter of Vice-President was made from no dissatisfaction with Mr. Hamlin, but from the prudential consideration that it was policy to recognize in the nomination both the Southern States and the war Democrats, as they were styled, each of whom was represented in the person of Mr. Johnson, who had distinguished himself for his loyal devotion to the Union, and for his uncompromising condemnation of treason.

The next day the president of the convention called upon Mr. Lincoln at Washington, to apprise him of his nomination. He expressed his gratification and gratitude that they had deemed him " not unworthy " to remain in his present position. In his letter of formal acceptance, he added that he "heartily approved" the platform adopted. Mr. Johnson wrote a long letter of acceptance, in which he fully defined his position; reiterating his denunciation of treason, "as worthy of the punishment of death," declaring that it was "vain to attempt to reconstruct the Union with the distracting element of slavery in it." He accepted the platform as in substantial accord with his "public acts and opinions heretofore made known," and reminded his "old friends of the Democratic party proper," that the time had come when they could "justly vindicate its devotion to true democratic policy ' and measures of expediency."

Before giving some account of the Democratic convention, it may afford aid in comprehending its scope and purpose, as well as its constituency, to take note of a report made by Judge Advocate Holt on the 8th of October, 1864, concerning what he styles "a secret treasonable organization, affiliated with Southern Rebellion, and chiefly military in its character, which has been rapidly extending itself throughout the West." The report is very long, elaborate, and minute, and was devoted to the following general heads, as descriptive of the order: Its origin, history, and names; its organization and officers; its extent and numbers; its armed force; its ritual, oaths, and interior forms; its written principles; its specific purposes and operations; the witnesses and their testimony. After mentioning several names by which it had been designated, it stated that it was known more " widely as the ' Knights of the Golden Circle,' being simply an inspiration of the Rebellion, being little other than an extension among the disloyal and disaffected at the North of the association of the latter name which had existed for some years at the South, and from which it derived all the chief features of its organization." For various reasons there were several different names adopted for substantially the same purposes, also several changes, until the name fixed upon most generally and extensively was the "Order of American Knights" or "O. A. K." This order had branches sometimes called by other names; that in New York taking the name of "McClellan Minute Men," certainly a very suggestive title, considering whom the Democrats selected as their presidential candidate. To show further the sympathy existing between the Democratic party and this order, it may be noted that its Supreme Council, — which had appointed its annual meeting at Chicago for the day prior to that appointed for the Democratic convention, — when the day of that convention was postponed to August 29, changed its appointment to correspond thereto. Its extent and numbers were somewhat appalling, considering its character and purpose, not only covering the Western States, but largely represented in New England and the Middle States. Indeed, one of its leaders claimed for it that it was "the first and only true national organization the Democratic and conservative men of the country have ever attempted." Judge Holt, beside saying that some of the leaders had claimed for the order as high as eight hundred thousand men, quoted Vallandigham as putting the number at half a million, which, he added, was " probably much nearer the sum total." Of this large number of members, he said: "In March last, the entire armed force of the order capable of being mobilized for effective service was represented to be three hundred and forty thousand men." He quoted one witness as testifying that there were in the State of Indiana in the previous March in the hands of the order six thousand muskets and forty thousand revolvers. Under this head he makes the following significant statement. "It is to be added that at the office of Hon. D. W. Voorhees, M. C, at Terre Haute, were discovered letters which disclosed a correspondence between him and ex-Senator Wall of New Jersey, in regard to the purchase of twenty thousand Garibaldi rifles, to be forwarded to the West."

Of their oaths and "written principles," beside noting the penalty of "a shameful death they provide for" in case of betrayal, the judge advocate adds: "The languages of the earth can add nothing to the cowardly and loathsome baseness of the doctrine as thus announced. It is the robber's creed, sought to be nationalized, and would push back the hand of the dialplate of our civilization to the darkest periods of human history. "Under the head of " its specific purposes and operations," he enumerates, aiding soldiers to desert and harboring and protecting deserters; discouraging enlistments and resisting the draft ; circulation of disloyal and treasonable publications ; communicating with and giving intelligence to the enemy; aiding the enemy by recruiting for them, or assisting them to recruit within our lines; furnishing the Rebels with arms and ammunition; co-operating with the enemy in raids and invasions; destruction of government property; destruction of private property and persecution of Union men; assassination and murder; establishment of a Northwestern confederacy. The facts and details under these headings are simply terrible and astounding; revealing not only the desperation of the enemy, the imminence of the nation's peril, but the greatness of its deliverance. With good reason does the judge exclaim in conclusion: —

"In the presence of the Rebellion and this secret order — which is but its echo and faithful ally — we cannot but be amazed at the utter and wide-spread profligacy, personal and political, which these movements against the government disclose. The guilty men engaged in them, after casting aside their allegiance, seem to have trodden under foot every sentiment of honor and every restraint of law, human and divine. Judaea produced but one Judas Iscariot, and Rome, from the sinks of her demoralization, produced but one Catiline; and yet, as events prove, there has arisen together in our land an entire brood of such traitors, all animated by the same parricidal spirit, and all struggling with the same relentless malignity for the dismemberment of our Union. Of this extraordinary phenomenon — not paralleled, it is believed, in the world's history — there can be but one explanation, and all these blackened and fetid streams of crimes may well be traced to the same common fountain." It is to be remembered that this strong language is not that of some zealous Abolitionist, but the carefully chosen words of a state paper from one whose antecedents had been so far from radical that its author had held a seat in Mr. Buchanan's Cabinet.

There is, unfortunately, too much evidence of the truth of the terrible allegations of this report independent of anything adduced therein. The country swarmed with Rebel emissaries, leaving nothing unattempted which would naturally intimidate the friends and encourage the enemies of the Union. Though they made Canada their headquarters, their field of active operations was the "States." One of their plans was that of raids or forays across the line, of which there were several. Another plan was the sending of infected clothing from the victims of small-pox and yellow fever to the national camps. Another was the burning of Northern cities. A Richmond paper thus spoke of the purpose and project: "A million of dollars would lay in ashes New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburg, and all their chief cities, and the men to do the business may be picked up by the hundred in the streets of those very cities. If it should be thought unsafe to use them, there are daring men in Canada, of Morgan's and other commands, who .... would rejoice at an opportunity of doing something that would make all Yankeedom howl with anguish and consternation." Nor was this mere bravado. The attempt was actually made to burn New York by firing Barnum's Museum, several hotels and theatres, by a combustible compound left by Rebel emissaries. Though these attempts were not successful, it did cause the "consternation" of which the Richmond editor spoke, and great alarm was felt. Other movements on a wider scale were made. Among them was the attempted rising of the secret organization just described, extending through the States of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky, General Price being Grand Commander of the Missouri and Southern branches, and Vallandigham of the Northern. By agreement Price was to enter Missouri from Arkansas with a force of over twenty thousand, when the members of this league should repair to his standard, release and arm the Rebel prisoners, and in other ways make war upon the government forces. Price performed his part of the agreement, though he encountered an unexpectedly warm reception from General Ewing in Missouri. This, with the watchfulness of General Rosecrans and others who had been made acquainted with their designs, defeated the plot.

Vallandigham, Grand Commander of the Northern O. A. K., who had made himself exceedingly obnoxious to the government by his treasonable utterances, was arrested, tried by court-martial, convicted, and sentenced to close confinement in a fortress for the remainder of the war. His sentence being modified by the President, he was directed to be sent within the military lines of the Confederate armies. During his stay in Richmond he was in free intercourse with the Rebel leaders. John B. Jones, in his "Rebel War-Clerk's Diary," says: "To-day I saw the memorandum of Mr. Ould, of the conversation held with Mr. Vallandigham, for file in the archives. He says, if we can hold out this year, that the peace party of the North would sweep the Lincoln dynasty out of political existence. He seems to have thought that our cause was sinking, and feared we would submit; which would of course be ruinous to his party." Vallandigham did not, however, remain long at the South, but found his way to Canada, where he was in constant consultation with Confederate agents and the peace Democrats.

On the 5th of July, George N. Sanders, a Confederate agent in Canada, wrote to Horace Greeley, assuring him that himself, Clement C. Clay of Alabama, and James P. Holcombe of Virginia would proceed to Washington in the interest of peace if full protection were accorded them. Mr. Greeley, having been assured from other sources that Clay and Holcombe had been clothed with full powers to negotiate by the Confederates, transmitted the letter and assurance to the President. He also suggested "a plan of adjustment," embodying the restoration of the Union, the extirpation of slavery, and the payment of four hundred million dollars as compensation for the slaves made free. The President acted on the suggestion, and deputed Mr. Greeley to undertake the negotiation. The latter proceeded to Niagara, conferred with the parties, and some correspondence ensued which resulted in a letter from the President. It was dated "Executive Mansion, July 18, 1864," and was addressed, "To whom it may concern." In it he promised "safe conduct both ways "to the bearer or bearers of " any proposition which embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the abandonment of slavery, and which comes by and with an authority that can control the armies now at war with the United States"; adding the assurance that it should be "met by liberal terms on substantial and collateral points." But as these conditions precedent involved just what the Confederates were fighting for, and without which there would have been no war, the overture was rejected with real or simulated indignation that the President should have made terms instead of awaiting them, and that he showed himself so indifferent to peace by suggesting conditions he must have known would be rejected. But the whole movement was unquestionably a trick, a piece of strategy, a feint of war. Those who made the proffer were as well assured before as after his letter that lie could do nothing less. There can be little doubt that the whole affair was a craftily laid scheme to place the President in a false position before the country. Nor did it fail of its purpose. For not only did the Rebels and peace Democrats make the most of it by stigmatizing him as averse to peace, except on degrading conditions, but it greatly alarmed some of the Republican leaders, who apprehended that it would greatly injure if it did not imperil their vote at the approaching election. The President was approached by some of them, and the most earnest representations were made of the impending danger, and he was earnestly importuned to retract so much of his overture as made "the abandonment of slavery" an essential condition of peace. But he remained firm. Slow to reach the conclusion, he was in no mood to abandon it. "If,” he said to Mr. Wilson, who visited him for the purpose of urging him to resist the importunities made for some concession, "the people desire a modification of the Proclamation of Emancipation, or the surrender of any slaves made free by it, they must select someone else. I shall not retract or modify the Proclamation, or the declaration of my letter. If we fail, we. will fail maintaining the right."

About the same time another similar but abortive effort was made. Colonel Jacques of Illinois and J. R. Gilmore of New York, with the President's knowledge, but without his formal permission, visited Richmond. Being allowed to pass both the Union and Rebel lines, they addressed a joint letter to the Rebel Secretary of State, who introduced them to Jefferson Davis, with whom they had a long conversation. After saying that he had tried to avert war as long as possible, and inveighing severely against Northern madness and blindness in not allowing them to govern themselves, the Rebel President added defiantly: "Now it must go on till the last man of this generation falls in his tracks, and his children seize his musket and fight our battle, unless you acknowledge our right to self-government. We are not fighting for slavery. We are fighting for independence; and that or extermination we will have." He said he would be glad to receive proposals of peace, but they would be "useless" except "on the basis of our independence."

Though these two efforts for peace proved abortive, and the immediate influence of the meeting in Canada seemed mischievous, the general effect of the two was unquestionably advantageous. It dispelled a good deal of the haze that enveloped the subject, removed much of the uncertainty that rested upon the minds of the people, and showed more clearly than ever before what must be done. The utterances of the two Presidents revealed the fact that no compromise was possible, and that war alone could decide the issue.

It was under these circumstances and with such a preparation that the Democratic convention assembled at Chicago on the 29th of August. The city was crowded with Rebel emissaries, and its streets resounded with the most traitorous harangues, uttered in the most defiant and brutal language. Every loyal man, whether Republican or war Democrat, was denounced, and the utmost odium was cast upon all who were true to the Union cause. It was not generally known, except to the initiated and to Colonel Sweet, who was in command of Camp Douglas, where were confined some eight thousand Rebel prisoners, and who had discovered the plot, that it had been arranged that there should be, during the meeting of the convention, an uprising of the secret organizations of Rebel sympathizers at a concerted signal ; that they should release those prisoners ; that, with numbers thus increased, they should hurry to Indianapolis to release the prisoners there confined; and thus inaugurate a war on Northern soil, which would compel the Union forces to raise the sieges of Atlanta and Richmond, and hurry to the rescue of their imperilled homes. Through the prompt and well-devised measures of this accomplished officer it failed, — to be renewed, however, but again defeated by the same vigilance, weeks later, on the day of the presidential election.

Horatio Seymour of New York presided, and in his opening speech, which, though expressed in polished and courtly phrase, was hostile to the government, condemnatory of the war, and encouraging to the Rebels, foreshadowed very clearly and accurately the tone and character of the proceedings on which they had entered. Vallandigham, though under sentence of court-martial and virtually a fugitive from justice, was a welcome member and the master-spirit of the body. He was a member of the committee on resolutions, and unquestionably had much to do in shaping the platform which was adopted. The resolutions, seven in number, were exceedingly antagonistic to the government; charged it with usurpations, un authorized interference with elections, and suppression of the freedom of the press and speech; expressed no condemnation of the Rebels, and no sympathy with the government in its struggling and perilous condition; pronounced the war a "failure," and declared that "justice, humanity, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities." General McClellan received, on the first ballot, all but twenty-three and a half of the votes cast, when, on motion of Mr. Vallandigham, his nomination was made unanimous. George H. Pendleton of Ohio, one of the most pronounced of the peace Democrats, received the unanimous vote as candidate for Vice-President. The convention then adjourned; not, however, in the usual manner, but after providing that it might be reconvened if necessary.

This action of the Democrats startled the loyal States. Its uncompromising hostility to the war, its unconcealed sympathy with the Rebel cause, its intensely unpatriotic demands for peace at any price, convinced all but the utterly disloyal that there was neither honor nor safety anywhere but under the Republican banner. It drew the line too sharply for any others to hesitate; and from that time onward there was little doubt of the result. Secretary Seward, in answer to a serenade a fortnight afterward, put the thing tersely, as was his wont, and sounded the key-note of the contest: "Fellow citizens, the Democracy at Chicago, after waiting six weeks to see whether this war for the Union was to succeed or fail, finally concluded that it would fail; and therefore went in for a nomination and platform to make it the sure thing by a cessation of hostilities and an abandonment of the contest. At Baltimore, on the contrary, we determined that there should be no such thing as failure; and therefore we went in to save the Union by battle to the last. Sherman and Farragut have knocked the bottom out of the Chicago nominations; and the elections in Vermont and Maine prove the Baltimore nominations stanch and sound. The issue is thus squarely made up: McClellan and Disunion, or Lincoln and Union."

General Fremont took a similar view in a letter withdrawing his name from the canvass. Though reaffirming his conviction that Lincoln's administration had been "politically, militarily, and financially a failure," and that "its necessary continuance is a cause of regret for the country," he expressed the conviction that "the union of the Republican party had become a paramount necessity." "The policy of the Democratic party," he said, "signifies either separation or re-establishment "with slavery The Republican candidate, on the contrary, is pledged to the re-establishment of the Union without slavery." "Between these issues," he added, "I think no man of the liberal party can remain in doubt."

Mr. Sumner, too, who had not hesitated to differ from Mr. Lincoln in regard to many points of his policy, and to express that difference in strong language, joined earnestly in the canvass, and spoke with great force in advocacy of his election. After saying that a vote for the Democratic candidate would be a vote "for anarchy and chaos at home; for national degradation abroad; against civilization itself; for the kingdom of Satan on earth," he added: "on the other hand, a vote for Abraham Lincoln will be, first and foremost, a vote for Freedom, Union, and Peace, that political trinity under whose guardianship we place the Republic. It will be a vote also to fix the influence and good name of our country, so that it shall become the pride of history. It will be a vote also for civilization itself. At home it will secure tranquillity throughout the whole land, with freedom of travel and of speech, so that the designation of ' Border States,' now exclusively applicable to interior States, will be removed, and our only ' Border States ' will be on Canada at the North and Mexico at the South. Doing all this at home, it will do more abroad, for it will secure the triumph of American institutions everywhere.

"Surely, all this is something to vote for. And you will not hesitate. Forward, then, in the name of Freedom, Union, and Peace! Crush the enemy everywhere I Crush him at the ballot-box! And may the November election be the final peal of thunder which shall clear the sky and fill the heavens with glory!"

Though the results of success have hardly come up to his confident and glowing anticipations, his words reveal very clearly the sentiments that entered into that canvass, and the feelings that actuated the leaders of the Republican party.

On the other hand, as if other evidence was wanted of the complete subserviency of the Democratic party to Rebel interests, the Democrats of Ohio nominated Vallandigham as their candidate for governor; but he failed of his election by a hundred thousand votes. Nor did the Confederate press or speakers leave it doubtful where their sympathies were. Said Alexander H. Stephens, three weeks after the holding of the convention: "So far as its platform of principles goes, it presents a ray of light which, under Providence, may prove the dawn of the day to this long and cheerless night, — the first ray of light I have seen for the North since the war began." The Charleston "Courier" said: "All of us perceive the intimate connection existing between the armies of the Confederacy and the peace men in the United States. These constitute two immense forces that are working together for the procurement of peace. The party whose nomination and platform we are considering are altogether dependent for success on the courage and resolution of our fighting men. Our success in battle insures the success of McClellan. Our failure will inevitably lead to his defeat."

The contest thus inaugurated was prosecuted with great vigor and earnestness. Never has there been a political struggle of greater solemnity, or one that enlisted more thoroughly the moral and religious convictions of the people. The momentous issues at stake seemed to be in some degree appreciated, and the significance of a vote in some degree realized. If never before or since, Christians then carried their religion into politics, and not only voted as they prayed, but they prayed as they voted. For once the prayer-meeting and the polls were deemed alike sacred, and the same motives that drew them to the one sent them to the other. The result of the canvass was the triumphant re-election of Mr. Lincoln by a popular majority of four hundred and eleven thousand four hundred and twenty-eight. General McClellan secured the electoral votes — twenty-one in all — of only three States, New Jersey, Delaware, and Kentucky. 

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 3.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1878, 543-561.



Chapter: “The Prigg Case. - The Use of its Jails Forbidden by Massachusetts. - An Amendment of the Constitution Proposed,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

A marked feature of the Constitution of the United States is the equivocal language in which the provisions concerning slavery are couched. At the, North, one class .of Abolitionists,' believing that it contained the fruits of a compromise with the Slave Power, stigmatized it as a “covenant with death and an agreement with hell " ; while another, pointing to the omission of all reference to the name of slavery, pronounced it· "an antislavery document." At the South, where there was no doubt that the Constitution recognized and protected slavery, there were differences, too, of opinion and of interpretation concerning the clause referring to the rendition of fugitives from labor. Even the members of the Supreme Court were not agreed among themselves. Some held that it invested the States with the power and responsibility of returning the fugitive, while others held that the duty rested with the general government to carry into effect that unfortunate provision.

In the year 1826 the legislature of Pennsylvania, through the zeal and activity of the Abolition Society of that State; enacted a law punishing with severe penalties any person who should take or carry away from the State any negro with the intention of selling him as a slave, or of detaining or causing to be detained such negro as a slave for life. The object of this law was intended primarily to prevent kidnapping or sending into slavery persons of color, a practice which had been carried on to a large extent its provisions, however, extended not only to colored persons resident within the State, but to fugitive slaves that had sought refuge within its borders. 

In 1832 Margarette Morgan, held as a slave for life by the laws of Maryland, fled from that State into Pennsylvania. Edward Prigg, being legally constituted the attorney for her owner, caused her to be arrested in 1837, and, with her children, one of whom was born more than a year after she had made her escape; taken out of the State and delivered to her mistress. For this act he was arrested, tried, and convicted in the court of York Comity. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and the judgment of the court below affirmed. From the Supreme. Court of that State an appeal was taken to the Supreme Court of the United States. 

The case excited the deepest interest throughout the country. The question to be determined was whether the act of Pennsylvania, under which Prigg had been convicted, was in contravention of the provision of the Constitution of the United States relating to persons held to service in one State escaping into another. The decision of the court was pronounced by Judge Story. That decision was in substance that Congress had exclusive power to legislate concerning fugitive slaves ; that the States had no power to legislate upon the subject, either in aid of or against the rendition of fugitives ; that the right of the owner to recapture his slave, wherever he might be found, was given him by the Constitution, without restriction or qualification; that he might recapture him wherever he could find limit he could do so without illegal violence or breach of; the peace ; that, if he could not do so, he might resort to the· means specified in the act of Congress for the rendition of fugitives ; and that the United States could not oblige the States to enforce its laws by their magistrates, but must depend upon its own courts and officers. Of course, the act of Pennsylvania, in view of these opinions, was pronounced unconstitutional and void. All the judges, with the exception or Justice McLean and Justice Thompson, held that the master might seize his slave and remove him out Of the State in utter disregard of its laws. Those two judges held that after a seizure was made the master was bound to prosecute his claim, according to the provisions of the Act of 1793, before he could remove such fugitive from the State into which he had escaped.

By this decision the personal liberty of the inhabitants of the Free States was brought into constant peril, the right of trial by jury was practically denied, and the writ of habeas corpus was practically suspended. One portion of the decision, however, proved to be in the interests of freedom. It was decided that States could not legislate in aid of or against the rights of the slaveholder; that Congress had no power to compel State officers to act under its laws; and that any action of State officers under the Act of 1793 was purely voluntary. By this decision of the Court the States might prohibit their magistrates and other officers from any interference in cases arising under the Act of 1793 for the rendition of fugitives. Chief Justice Taney and Justice Daniel differed from the judgment of the Court on this point. The chief justice thought the States were not prohibited, but, on the contrary, that it was enjoined upon them to aid and protect the owner in his attempts to recover his slave found within their territories. He thought, if the State authorities were absolved from all obligation to protect the owners in their attempts to regain their slaves, that the Act of 1793 scarcely deserved the name of a remedy. "It is only necessary," he said, "to state the provision of this law in order to show how ineffectual and delusive is the remedy provided by Congress if State authority is forbidden to come to, its aid." Justice Daniel said, if the right of arrest and detention, with a view of restoration to the owner, belonged solely to the Federal government, the master would be deprived of protection and security, and would be defeated in his right of property.

By this decision of five judges out of nine the rendition of fugitive slaves was declared to be exclusively within the jurisdiction of the Federal government. This was the law of the land. By it slavery was made a municipal institution, not recognized beyond the State tolerating it, excepting the clause in the Constitution relating to fugitives. The doctrine of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, that the authority of a master over his slaves did not extend to those taken by him into a State where slavery is prohibited, but was strictly limited to the case of fugitives who had escaped against his will, was incidentally affirmed. To his family and intimate personal friends Judge Story pronounced this decision of the court as "a triumph of freedom." Though this decision of the Supreme Court seemed and was evidently designed to be strongly favorable to the slaveholders, it became, by legitimate inference and by its practical workings, often a real means of protection and defence. Several of the States had enacted laws in aid of the rendition of fugitive slaves, which had afforded effective assistance for that purpose. But after this decision of the Supreme Court, these laws in several of the States were repealed, and in some States statutes were enacted forbidding either such co-operation by State officials or the use of jails; so that, from the time of this decision to the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, it had been found much more difficult to secure the recapture and return of the increasing number of fugitives fleeing from their masters.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 470-473.



THE compromises of the Constitution, by which the slave-trade was allowed to continue till 1808, breathed new life into that odious traffic. The moral obligation and restraining force imposed by the early action of the Continental Congress in prohibiting that traffic were greatly weakened or neutralized by this constitutional provision. Many who, in the fervor of the Revolutionary struggle, readily indorsed that noble action were now led, if they did not engage in the odious traffic themselves, to countenance those who were involved in it. The rapid growth of the country under the new government, the opening of fresh lands for settlement, and the increasing demand for Southern products, enhanced the price of slaves and stimulated the hateful trade. The ports of South Carolina and Georgia were opened wide to welcome cargoes of newly enslaved Africans. The prohibitory laws of the States were weakened or rendered nugatory by selfish interests; and Northern capital, ships, sailors, and merchants shared in the profits and in “the contamination of a traffic at which every feeling of humanity must forever revolt."

On the first day of January, 1794, a convention of delegates of abolition societies was held at Philadelphia. Ten States were represented. General Joseph Bloomfield of New Jersey, afterward governor of that State, and a general in the War of 1812, presided. It recommended the institution of annual discourses on the subject of slavery, and also an annual convention of delegates of abolition societies. It also sent forth an address to the citizens of the United States from the pen of that distinguished physician, philanthropist, and statesman, Dr. Benjamin Rush.

A memorial, signed by the president of the convention, was presented to the House of Representatives, praying Congress to pass a law to prohibit the traffic carried on by American citizens to supply slaves to foreign nations, and to prevent foreigners from fitting out vessels in this country for the African slave trade. This memorial, a petition of the Quakers at the Yearly Meeting, and also one from the Providence Society for the abolition of the slave-trade, were referred to a committee of five, of which Mr. Trumbull of Connecticut, who had been Speaker of the House during the preceding Congress, was chairman. A bill was reported from this committee which, after being so amended as to insert the word" foreign" before the word" ship," or" vessel," was passed. When it reached the Senate, an unsuccessful motion for postponement was made, and it passed that body.

In November, 1797, Mr. Gallatin of Pennsylvania presented to the House of Representatives a memorial of the Quakers of that State, setting forth that one hundred and thirty-four slaves made free by the members of that society in North Carolina had been reduced to slavery again by retroactive laws. The memorialists pronounced that act “an abominable tragedy, tending to bring down the righteous judgments of Almighty God upon the land." They also called the attention of Congress to the "solemn league and covenant made with the Almighty," by which the first Continental Congress, in 1774, decreed that they would neither import slaves nor purchase slaves imported by others. They represented that this solemn covenant had been contravened by the cruelties and wrongs practiced on the colored race; and they prayed Congress by timely and ad equate legislation to redress these wrongs and cause these cruelties to cease.

A sharp debate at once sprang up, in which, though the general geographical divisions of sentiment on the subject of slavery appear, which generally obtained through the long struggle with increasing distinctness till its close, there were yet many and marked exceptions in which the most hard and heartless opinions fell from Northern lips, and generous and humane sentiments were clearly pronounced by some men from the South. Robert Goodloe Harper, one of the most eminent public men of that day, and then a representative from South Carolina, led off in the opposition. He thought that Congress and the State legislatures should set their faces against “remonstrances complaining of what it was utterly impossible to alter."

Mr. Rutledge of the same State, who had been nominated Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, but who had been rejected by the Senate, thought the Quakers ought to be censured by a report of the committee. He avowed that they were a se t of men who attempted to seduce the servants of gentlemen travelling to the seat of government, and were constantly importuning .Congress to interfere in a business with which it had no concern. Mr. Macon of North Carolina, who served more than thirty years in Congress, was Speaker of the House, and President pro tem of the Senate, petulantly remarked that the Quakers, " instead of being peace-makers, were war-makers," as they were continually endeavoring in the South ern States to "stir up insurrection among the negroes." Expressing himself sarcastically or very unreasonably, he said it was extraordinary that the Quakers should come, session after session, with their petitions for, if they were dissatisfied with the laws of North Carolina, they had only to transfer their negroes to Pennsylvania, where they would be immediately set free. Even Mr. Sewell of Massachusetts, afterward Chief Justice of its Supreme Court, denied that Congress could furnish redress to the re-enslaved freemen, since it could not change the law of North Carolina.  

On the other hand, the reference of the memorial was advocated by Mr. Thatcher of Massachusetts; whose twelve years in Congress, from 1789 to 1801, were years of undeviating devotion to freedom. He maintained that, if the Quakers thought themselves aggrieved, it was their duty to present their petitions “three, five, or seventy times," until their grievances were redressed. Mr. Swanwick of Pennsylvania expressed the opinion that the uncommon warmth which was shown led many persons to believe that gentlemen were unwilling to have such matters looked into. Mr. Gallatin scouted the idea that the petition would shake the property of the country, when it was only a paper reminding them of certain black men, not slaves, but freemen. Mr. Allen of Connecticut trusted the petition would not be rejected, as its rejection would be highly disrespectful to a society revered by every man who sets a value on virtue and integrity. Mr. Livingston of New York, afterward General Jackson's Secretary of State, said that, if the petitioners were of the description represented, - if they had endeavored to raise insurrection in one part of the country and practice robbery in another,-he should not be inclined to pay much respect to them.

Thus the debate ran on, revealing rather the individuality, interests, and associations of the different participants than the well-matured convictions and formally accepted positions of either persons or parties in the strife. In new and untried circumstances they were evidently grappling with a question they did not fully understand, whose height and depth, length and breadth, they did but imperfectly-comprehend. If they did not jump at conclusions, evidently much that was said in that debate was rather the utterance of first impressions than of well-reasoned deductions, carefully drawn from a patient and thorough examination.

Thus Mr. Parker of Massachusetts, afterward Chief Justice of that State, opposed the reference of the petition because it asked Congress to act upon a subject in which it had no power to act; while Mr. Bayard, a lawyer of great eminence from Delaware, declared that he was warranted in saying that the Constitution gave the House jurisdiction over the matter of the re-enslavement of those made free by their masters, for " no State had the right to make ex post facto laws." Josiah Parker of Virginia insolently remarked that he would consent to the petition's lying on the table or under the table. Much more reasonably and frankly did Mr. Nicholas of the same State declare that it would be for the honor of people holding slaves to look into the matter, as "it was not for the interest of slaveholders to cover improper practices." He should, indeed, be sorry if his possessing property of that kind obliged him to cover the violation of another man's rights.

Mr. Gordon of New Hampshire saw nothing in the memorial calling for the interference of Congress. Gentlemen were reminded by Mr. Thatcher that, while they were opposing the reading of the memorial, they were filing off in squads and fighting to get a sight of it. Mr. Smith of Maryland coolly said that the laws of Virginia permitting emancipation by the masters made the slaves of neighboring States unhappy and gave their masters considerable uneasiness. The memorial was then referred to a committee of five, of which Mr. Sitgreaves of Pennsylvania was chairman. After several conferences with the memorialists, and a careful examination of the subject, the committee reported it as their opinion that it was strictly a judicial question, with which Congress, as a legislative body, could not legitimately intermeddle. Though Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Thatcher expressed themselves dissatisfied with the report, it was adopted by a large majority.

The act of 1794, to prevent the fitting out of vessels in the ports of the United States engaged in supplying slaves to foreigners, did not accomplish the purpose intended. Further legislation was demanded. Accordingly, near the close of the year 1799, Mr. Hillhouse of Connecticut moved in the Senate for the appointment of a committee for the revision of the law. The motion being adopted, a committee of three, consisting of himself, Dexter of Massachusetts, and Read of Delaware, were appointed, who reported a bill which was passed.

Near the close of April, 1800, the House proceeded to the consideration of the bill received from the Senate. In the debate which followed New England found little occasion for complacency when she compared the utterances of one of her representatives, John Brown of Rhode Island, with those of the representatives of Virginia and Delaware. Making the extraordinary declaration that it was improper to prevent the citizens of the United States from participating in a trade enjoyed by all European nations, Mr. Brown said he well knew that Congress was drilled into passing the previous act by the well-known abolition society, otherwise the Society of Friends, who were “very troublesome till they got the act passed." He thought it poor policy to prevent a trade allowed to be profitable; and it ought to be considered wrong, in a moral point of view, to prevent it, as the people themselves profited by it. It ought to be a matter of national policy, as it would bring in a revenue to the treasury. Avowing such sentiments, he was, of course, in fav or of postponing the further consideration of the measure.

In striking contrast with these heartless and immoral sentiments were those of Mr. Nicholas of Virginia, who said that, as a Southern man, he was obliged, in common with the people of the South, to keep men in a state of slavery; but they were endeavoring to ameliorate the condition of that race. Mr. Bayard agreed with Mr. Brown that the government could derive a large revenue from the support of the slave-trade, but he thought "a more dishonorable item of revenue could not be imagined." He pronounced the bill, however, extremely imperfect, and moved its reference to a select committee. This motion, though opposed by Mr. Rutledge, was adopted; the bill was recommitted, reported back with amendments, and adopted, - only five voting against it. The Senate promptly concurred in the amendments, and it became a law.

Among the consequences of the insurrection and revolution in San Domingo were the violent expulsion and expatriation of large numbers of the defeated. Among them were negroes, who sought and found refuge in the United States. The presence of a few men of the African race who had fought for liberty and independence aroused alike the fears and passions of the slave-masters. The horrors of a servile insurrection loomed up before their excited imaginations; and those who saw thousands of slaves imported into South Carolina an d other Southern States, with no compunctions of conscience or solicitude as to the result, were greatly alarmed and their zeal was greatly quickened by the arrival of a few black men from San Domingo with minds inflamed by dreams of liberty. Legislation was demanded. Memorials were presented from North Carolina, setting forth the dangers to the Southern States from the immigration of this cl ass of persons. These memorials were referred to a committee, of which Mr. Hill of that State was chairman. He reported a bill in January, 1803, forbidding under severe penalties the coming of such persons, already forbidden by the laws of several of the States.

This advanced position and new demand, made in the interests of slavery, excited both opposition and alarm, which would have been largely increased had their full significance and bearing been clearly comprehended. Mr. Bacon of Massachusetts was dissatisfied with the principles involved in that measure. He emphatically declared that he was not to be " intimidated by a personal reflection or affected sneers, nor yet by any inhuman threats that can be uttered to supply the place of manly discussion." He avowed that the proposed measure made discriminations between citizens of the United States; that such citizens could not; for the purposes of commerce or in case of distress, enter the ports of particular States, or sail along their coasts, without subjecting themselves to the severe penalties of the bill. He further declared that it made the same discrimination between citizens of particular States as between citizens of the United States.

Mr. Mott of New Jersey objected to it on the ground of its unconstitutionality. Mr. Mitchell of New York moved its re commitment for the purpose of amendment; which motion was supported by several members, on the ground of its alleged unconstitutionality, and because it abridged the rights of the colored citizens of some of the States by prohibiting their entrance into certain States, under the severe penalties of a fin e of a thousand dollars and the forfeiture of the vessel carrying them. This recommitment was strenuously opposed by Hill, Early, and Randolph, who acknowledged that ''its penalties were rigorous, but were only such as the imminent danger of the Southern States called for." Though the motion for a recommitment was lost, another motion, by Mr. Nicholson of Maryland, to recommit to a select committee was carried by a small majority. Being reported in a new draft, with some modifications, it was adopted by a vote of three to one. In the Senate it was referred to a committee, which reported it without amendments, and it became a law, inhuman as it was, and inherently opposed to the then loudly vaunted doctrine of human rights and to the fundamental principles of the newly established republican institutions.

In 1803 South Carolina repealed her law prohibiting the importation of slaves. This action was deeply regretted by most of her sister States, both on account of its intrinsic wrongfulness and inhumanity, and because it plainly revealed the drift of her public sentiment to be, not toward the amelioration and speedy extinction of slavery, as expected and predicted by the authors of the compromises of the Constitution, but rather a stride in the opposite direction. To check and discourage this in iniquitous traffic, early in January, 1804, Mr. Bard of Pennsylvania introduced a resolution imposing a tax of ten dollars on every slave imported. The House did not proceed to its consideration until the middle of the next month, when Mr. Lowndes of South Carolina led off in the debate, which, like the previous discussion, revealed what seemed to be crude and hastily· formed opinions, rather than the matured and sharply defined argumentation: of men who had long studied and deliberately chosen the one or the other of the two sides of a mooted question. He opposed the tax because, while it would not prevent the importation of a single slave, the fact of the government's deriving a revenue from it could be viewed in no other light than a sanction of the traffic. Though opposed to the slave-trade himself, he admitted that the Southern people felt a deep interest in it, and that the acquisition of Louisiana, then just made, would strengthen that interest. Mr. Bedinger of Kentucky thought such a law would rather sanction than discourage the trade; and Mr. Macon, Speaker of the House, opposed it as an impolitic measure. Roger Griswold of Connecticut, a gentleman of large capacity and great influence in the Federal party, declared his abhorrence of the slave-trade; but he op posed the tax because it would appear to the world that Congress was raising a revenue from " a commerce in slaves."

Mr. Bard, however, spoke earnestly in favor of his resolution, and maintained that the tax proposed was designed to interpose every discouragement to the importation of slaves, and was supported only incidentally as a source of revenue. It was also eloquently supported by Mr. Mitchell of New York, who reminded the House that in various parts of the country outfits were made for slave voyages without secrecy, shame, or apprehension; that, countenanced by their fellow-citizens, who were as willing to buy slaves as they were to collect and bring them to market, merciless men, as greedy as the sharks of the element on which they sailed,” clandestinely embarked the sooty offspring of the Eastern for the ill-fated soil of the Western hemisphere." He estimated that during the preceding year twenty thousand enslaved negroes had been added, by smuggling, to the plantation stock of Georgia and South Carolina.

Mr. Stanton of Rhode Island, in a similar strain, expressed his gratification to find honorable members in every part of the House who “reprobate the infamous traffic of buying and selling the human species." It was not his intention to criminate South Carolina, whose late conduct had created serious and well-founded alarm, but he could not “connive at a measure that goes to shake the pillars of public security, threatens corruption to the morals of our citizens, and tarnishes the American character." Mr. Southard of New Jersey rejoiced at the introduction of the resolution1 because “it gave the national legislature an opportunity to hear their opinions against the increase of slaves." Even a South Carolina representative, Mr. Thomas Moore, though he opposed the tax, expressed the hope that the Ho use would discourage the impolitic act of his State by enacting a law expressive of its disapprobation.

There were others, however, more pronounced in their opposition to the resolution because it was introduced in the interests of freedom. Thus Mr. Huger of South Carolina maintained that the Constitution was " the offspring of concession and compromise," that under it South Carolina enjoyed " the exclusive right of judging of the propriety of allowing the trade or prohibiting it " ; and he felt sensibly the singling out of his State for censure for doing what she had a right to du. He emphatically asserted that the people of the North, " who make the most noise upon the subject, are those who, when they go to the South, first hire, then buy, and, last of all, turn out the severest masters among us." This ill-natured criticism was undoubtedly then, and has been unquestionably since, too true. Of a similar spirit were the remarks of Mr. Eppes of Virginia, son-in-law of President Jefferson, who said that he lived in a State where slaves were as much the subject of taxation as lands; but he did not know that the statute-books of Virginia were stained by imposing taxes upon them .According to some estimates, one hundred thousand slaves would be imported in four years. Accordingly, a revenue of a million of dollars would accrue therefrom. Mr. Early moved its postponement till the first Monday of May; and his motion was supported by Gregg of Pennsylvania, Lyon of Kentucky, and Huger. But it failed, and the resolution was adopted by a large majority, and referred to the Committee of Ways and Means, which immediately reported a bill. Mr. Lowndes moved that its consideration be postponed till the first day of December, which was opposed by Mr. Eppes, and supported by Mr. Jackson ; but it failed of securing the necessary vote, though subsequently a motion of Mr. Findley to postpone to the second Monday of March prevailed by a majority of six.

During the debate Mr. Rodney of Delaware expressed his gratification that “so inhuman a practice was justly reprobated by all." He said that every gentleman from the South as well as the East deprecated the act of South Carolina. But he was in favor of delaying action till the sentiment of that State could be ascertained. "No man," he said, can ascribe to me a friendship for slavery. I have been uniformly and warmly opposed to it. To blot it out of the pages of our country is one of the objects nearest my heart. In my own State I have hitherto maintained an unequal conflict on this subject. But gr eat is the force of truth, and it will prevail." Little did this distinguished son of Delaware then imagine that his State would, when the trial came, be among the most persistent in opposition to the policy of emancipation. Mr. Elmer of New Jersey advocated the passage of the measure, because it was predicated on a sound principle of morality and economy. The bill, however, never came to a vote, owing to the pressure of the representatives from South Carolina, to allow her legislature to repeal the obnoxious act. But she never re traced her steps ; and, though in that whole de bate not one word of apology or defence was raised in behalf of her disgraceful action and position, she persisted in her policy, and the infamous traffic was vigorously prosecuted under the sanction of her laws.

The time fixed by the Constitution empowering Congress to prohibit the African slave-trade was approaching. Mr. Jefferson, in his message to the second session of the Ninth Congress, in 1806, thus alluded to the subject: " I congratulate you, fellow-citizens, on the approach of a period at which you may interpose your authority constitutionally to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all participation in the violation of human rights which has been so long continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation, and the best interests of the country have long been eager to prescribe. Although no law you can pass can take prohibitory effect until the first day of the year 1808, yet the intervening period is not too long to prevent, by timely notice, expeditions which cannot be completed before that day." The subject, however, like everything connected with slavery an d its recognition in the Constitution, was beset with difficulties, resulting from the abnormal state of affairs, and the pertinacity of the slaveholders against any legislation which threatened to interfere with their system. Rightly concluding that there would be infractions of any law that could be framed against the horrible but profitable, traffic, it was, of course, needful to affix penalties against its violation, and make. some disposition of the victims found in the hands of the guilty men who might be detected in that violation. These two points were the subjects of special interest, as they became the themes of much angry discussion.

So much of the President's message as related to the prohibition of the slave-trade was referred to a select committee, of which Mr. Early of Georgia was chairman. A bill, too, was promptly introduced into the Senate, to prevent the importation of slaves after the 1st of January, 1808. It was referred to a committee, of which Mr. Bradley of Vermont was chairman. He reported it back, and it became the subject of an earnest and excited debate for three weeks, when it was passed and sent to the House. A similar bill had been reported in that body by Mr. Early on the 15th of the same month. It had six sections. Among them was one making it unlawful to import any person of color, with intent to keep or sell; another, forfeiting to the United States any person so imported; and another still, imposing the forfeiture of vessels, and fines upon persons fitting out such vessels. In the long and earnest debate which followed was revealed the fact that there was no dissent from the proposition to put an end to the odious traffic. Whether from motives of policy, humanity, or Christian morality, there was a general acquiescence in the prohibition. The questions at issue were concerning the proper penalties to be prescribed, and the proper disposition to be made of any Africans who might be imported in contravention of the law. These were vehemently and passionately discussed. The slave-masters, who had early acquired almost complete ascendency in the government, seemed determined that their cherished system should receive no damage from this proposed prohibition. Whatever else might follow, slavery must not be harmed. The debate, however, revealed great diversity of views, even among those whose purposes were in the main alike.

Mr. Sloan of New Jersey, a member of the Society of Friends, moved to amend the bill by inserting after the word “forfeited" the words," and such person or slave shall be entitled to his freedom." Mr. Alston of North Carolina doubted the power of Congress to free slaves imported into any particular State when the laws directed they should be sold. Mr. Eppes moved to amend the amendment, so as to provide that the forfeiture· should take place in the States where slavery was not permitted. Mr. Early thought there was an absurdity in Mr. Sloan's amendment, providing that a person should be forfeited and sold, and yet should be free. To this Mr. Sloan replied that it ought to be the object of the bill totally to prohibit the importation of slaves into the United States, or selling them therein.

The amendment was then vehemently opposed by Mr. Early, who declared that " on the decision of this question would turn another, - whether the government would now prohibit the slave-trade or not. It is true, if we pass this bill as it stands, that persons imported will not only be forfeited, but be sold as slaves, and be afterward kept as such. This is a melancholy truth, - melancholy because without such a provision we can pass no law that can be effectual. What can we do with this description of persons, in case they are brought into this country in contravention of this act? " " I am not prepared," said Mr. Smilie of Pennsylvania, "to say what is best to be done ; but  I will never give my consent to the last section of the bill. Shall we, while we are attempting to put a stop to this traffic, take upon ourselves the odium of being slave-traders?"

The Speaker, Mr. Macon, expressed the opinion that the sentiment was unanimous against the importation of slaves; but he confessed that there were grave difficulties in the way of deciding what was to become of cargoes imported. Those persons knew nothing about the country, could not speak its language, and he desired to know what was to become of them. Mr. Early, after saying that the most formidable aspect in which this question could present itself was that of making them free in slaveholding communities, emphatically proclaimed that, if they were turned loose "upon us, we must either get rid of them or they of us. I will speak out; it is n9t my practice to be mealy-mouthed on a subject of importance. Not one of them will be left alive in a year." 

Mr. Barker of Massachusetts thought the illegally imported Africans should be made free and returned to their native land; but the amendment was rejected, only nineteen voting for it. Mr. Bidwell of Massachusetts having moved to strike out the forfeiture clause, Mr. Quincy of the same State opposed the motion, remarking that this afforded the only way by which the United States could get control of them. If they were imported into the South, they would be made slaves; if into the North, they would become vagabonds Mr. Williams of North Carolina sneeringly remarked that gentlemen were “completely hobbled," -that they must go on or stick where they were. Mr. Pitkin of Connecticut strongly objected to forfeiting the imported Africans, and moved to recommit the bill to a select committee. The motion was carried, and it was recommitted to a committee of seven, of which Mr. Early was made chairman. Mr. Smilie, remarking that the captain of a slave -ship was guilty of murder, proposed for the consideration of the select committee a new section, providing that any one duly convicted of violating the law should suffer death.

When the debate was resumed, Mr. Findley of Pennsylvania advocated the binding out of the forfeited negroes for a term of years. Mr. Bidwell opposed the forfeiture clause, because it proceeded wholly on a false principle, and implied that the importer had a right to his slave. As to the question what should be done with the imported Africans, he was willing to “agree to any practicable method.”

Mr. Quincy made a long and very able speech. He regretted that they could not devise some plan to which they all might assent; and he thought it might be effected "if gentlemen would come down from their high abstract ground to the level of things in their actual state.” Alluding to the assertion that the African prince and the slave -trader could acquire no right of property in the captive prisoner of the former, or in the purchased slaves of the latter, he said: “Their conclusions are correct; their principles are solid. Refer the claim of either to five hundred juries of New England, and five hundred verdicts would he obtained against it.  But the misfortune is that, notwithstanding all these unquestionable principles, the African prince does at this day, and after this law passes will, sell his subjects. To all practical purposes a title is acquired in them; and they are passed, like other property, from one to another in their native country. But this is not the worst. A title to this description of persons is not only allowed in Africa, but is and must be after your law passes, in a large section of your own country… Now this is that real, practical stat e of things to which we must look and on which we must legislate. How? Do all we can to prohibit. If you fail in this, and such persons are imported, then forfeit, --because that is the surest mode of prohibition, by taking away the inducement to purchase; because the government, with the title in its own hands, can exercise its rights in the interests of humanity. The objection “that it ' admits a title' is only in seeming. All that is necessarily implied is that all of title there is, more or less, passes into the hands of the general government, to be used for their good. What the government shall do with them may be left for future consideration.

Mr. Macon having said that this was a commercial question me rely, with which the laws of nations have nothing to do, Mr. Smilie remarked that this question is connected with principles of a higher order than those me rely commercial. Repeating the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence, he inquired how these rights are connected with commercial principles. The motion to strike out the clause on forfeiture was lost by a large majority. The report of the select committee coming up for consideration on the last day of the month and year, a motion was made to substitute imprisonment for not less than five nor more than ten years for the penalty of death, for the violation of the proposed law. Mr. Sloan remarked that there were many crimes inferior to this punishable with death. Depicting the horrors of the traffic, he affirmed that "there should be a proportion in these things.”

Mr. Ely of Massachusetts thought it the most heinous of crimes, and he advocated so severe a punishment because he wished to adopt the most effectual method to stop it. Mr. Tallmadge of Connecticut expressed surprise that where there was such unanimity of purpose as to the end, there should be such diversity of sentiment as to the means. “My only wish," he said,” is to affix to it so exemplary a punishment that we may, if possible, totally suppress it." Alluding to the similarity between those laws early enacted in the civilized world and those given to the Jews, he quoted the command: " And he that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death," and inquired: " If this was the punishment by Heaven decreed for man-stealers and man-sellers, then shall imprisonment and fines be substituted now? Shall we place this most abominable traffic, which I fear erelong will call down the vengeance of Heaven on our heads, in the list of minor offences? "

 Mr. Moseley of Connecticut, alluding to " the air of triumph" with which Southern men charged the crime of this traffic to the people of the Northern States who were importing slaves into their markets, expressed wonder that they should be so tender of these Northern men. He believed that if any of his section were convicted of this grave offence, his constituents would thank the South for hanging them. Alluding to the fact that in some States “a man is put to death for stealing fifty dollars," Mr. Smilie said : "Suppose some philosophical historian, some ages hence, should find that we punish such trifles with death, but this traffic with simple imprisonment, would not such a paragraph in his history be an everlasting disgrace to our country ? "

But there were not wanting those who made no concealment of the  tendency and drift of their sentiments and feelings, by counselling mild measures against even the vile ' miscreants of the slave-traffic, - some who, in their determination to maintain and profit by its fruits, found an adequate reason for dealing gently with those who only furnished them these fruits. Thus, Mr. Early doubted the propriety of the death penalty, because the people would .not execute it. For, he said, “Southern people do not regard this traffic a crime. They are all concerned in slavery. They consider it an evil, and apprehend, at some future day, mischievous consequences; but few consider it a crime. It is best to be candid on the subject. . . . . If they considered it a crime, they would necessarily accuse themselves. I will tell the truth. A large majority of them do not consider it even an evil." Endorsing the same view, Mr. Holland of North Carolina went a step further, and said, by implication at least, that there was no essential difference, not only between the foreign and domestic slave-trade, but he added, with damaging emphasis, between it and the common practice of slavery itself. He said: “The importer might say to the informer that he had done no worse, nor even so bad, as he. It is true that I have these slaves from Africa; but I have transported them from one master to another. I am not guilty of holding human beings in bondage. But you are. You have hundreds on your plantation in this miserable condition. By your purchase you tempt traders to increase the evil. He might hold the same language to the jury and the judge who try him. Under such circumstances the law inflicting death would not be executed.”

Mr. Clay of Pennsylvania insisted that the death penalty for the violation of this law could not be carried into effect even in his State. And Mr. Stanton of Rhode Island said that those who bought were as bad as those who import, and de serve hanging just as much; "but," he added, thus revealing his sympathies upon the subject, “I cannot believe that a man ought to be hung for only stealing a negro." The, motion to strike out the death penalty was carried by a vote of sixty-three to fifty-two; and it is to be noted that these damaging admissions concerning slavery came from its defenders. It was a friend, and not an enemy, who said that there was no essential difference, not only between the foreign and domestic slave-trade, but between it and the common practice of slavery itself. It was an advocate who said that they who bought were as bad as those who import, and “deserve hanging just as much."

Early in January, 1807, Mr. Findley offered a proviso that “no person shall be sold as a slave by virtue of this act "; but it was lost by the casting vote of the Speaker. The next day the bill was recommitted, on motion of Mr. Bedinger, to a committee of seventeen, who so amended it as to provide that an · persons imported in violation of the act should be sent to the free States, bound out for a limited time, and made free. The Senate bill was also referred to· the same committee, and on the 9th of February the House proceeded to the consideration of the measure. That portion of the ac t authorizing the President to take such persons as were forfeited and " indenture them as apprentices or servants, as most beneficial for them and safe for the United States, out, however, of the slave States," led to a heated and angry debate, lasting the whole day. Even this mild and, it would seem, favorable disposition of such persons was strenuously opposed by Southern men. Mr. Early emphatically declared that. “the people of the South would resist this provision of the bill with their lives” ; and he moved to amend it by providing that negroes so imported should be delivered to the State authorities, to be disposed of as they may determine. His violent utterances1 however, were sharply rebuked by Mr. Smilie, who reminded him that the House was not to be frightened by threats of civil war. Mr. Early explained that he only meant to say that troops would be necessary to enforce the act.

The House bill was laid upon the table. The Senate bill was then taken up, and the death penalty stricken out, by a majority of nineteen. It forbade the transportation, for purposes of sale, of any negro on board of any vessel under forty tons burden; but, on motion of Mr. Early, it was amended so as to exclude the Senate prohibition of the domestic slave-trade. The Senate bill also provided tha.t neither importer nor purchaser should gain any legal title to persons illegally imported. Mr. Williams moved to substitute the word "retain" for the word " have " or " gain " ; and the motion to strike' out was agreed to, but the word " hold " instead of " retain " was substituted. Mr. Williams then vehemently declared that the substitution of that word “hold instead of retain" would lead to the destruction and massacre of the whites in the Southern States. The Senate bill as thus amended was passed, only five voting in the negative.

The Senate promptly concurring in the amendments, excepting the proviso allowing the domestic slave-trade, the House resumed the consideration of the bill. On the motion to recede from the amendment, John Randolph, who had remained silent during the debate, made a violent and defiant speech, declaring, “if the bill passed without the amendment, the Southern people would set the law at defiance, and he would set the example." The House voted not to recede, and a committee of conference was appointed. This committee adopted a modification, forbidding " the transportation of slaves coastwise in vessels under forty tons with a view to sale."

The report caused a very acrimonious debate. Mr. Randolph said “he had rather lose the bill, he had rather lose all the bills of the session, he had rather lose every bill passed since the establishment of the government, than agree to the provision contained in this slave bill. It went to blow up the Constitution in ruins." "The whole bill," said Mr. Williams," is not worth a single farthing." After much acrimonious discussion, a vote was reached, and the modification was adopted by a majority of fourteen. The Senate accepting the modification, the bill was passed. Subsequently a committee was chosen, on motion of Mr. Randolph, to prepare an explanatory act. He reported a bill, which was referred to the committee of the whole, from which it never emerged.

In defiance of the laws of Congress and the claims of humanity, the foreign slave-trade continued to be stealthily carried on; and the domestic slave-trade, too, by land and sea, was prosecuted with increasing vigor. It was estimated that not less than fifteen thousand slaves were annually imported into the Southern States. The domestic slave-trade was stimulated by the increasing demand from the Gulf States. To its ordinary hardships and horrors were added those growing out of an extensive system of kidnapping. The honor of the country and the claims of humanity alike demanded additional legislation.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 79-97.



Chapter: “Closing Session of XXXVIIIth Congress. — Message. — Attempted Negotiations,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1878.

The second event is thus referred to in a leading editorial in the New York "Times" of November 10, 1864, under the heading, "The New Revolution threatened." This was its opening paragraph: "We, in common with the civilized world, are regarding with deep interest the grand experiment which the Southern Confederacy is about making with the arming of the slaves. The skilful and desperate oligarchy which control it, having lost all their own property in the struggle, are about casting that for which the struggle was made into the burning caldron of civil war. They have exhausted the white population, forced into the ranks State officials, detailed producers, and even those over forty-five years and under eighteen who could bear arms. Davis, with that clear, cold glance of his, sees that his ambition has buried under the soil of the battle-fields the flower of the Southern youth, and that he must now turn to his last resource, — the most desperate of all expedients, — the arming of the slaves." These words, though not quite accurately representing the exact proposition of the Confederate chief, refer to a very important message of Mr. Davis, just sent to the Southern Congress. The real proposition made by the Confederate President with contemporaneous utterances made thereon in the Confederate Congress, and in the legislatures and by the public men of Virginia and South Carolina, fill an important and instructive page in the history of the great Rebellion. They reveal both the drift and logic of events as the seceding States approached the culmination of the great strife, and show how much more potent are natural than human laws, and how summarily prejudices and principles begotten of false reasoning and based on injustice can be swept away by the strong arm of necessity. There is no lesson taught by the Rebellion that deserves more careful study, or that should be more faithfully remembered.

The Confederate President began his message by reference to a law passed a few months before for the "impressment" of slaves as laborers in the Rebel army, and to the "less result than was anticipated" from that source, adding his purpose to invite attention to "the propriety of a radical modification in the theory of the law." Saying that while the slave, viewed as "property," may be rightly impressed into the service, like any other property, lie added: "The slave, however, bears another relation to the State, that of a person." He then mentioned several kinds of employment, in which, he said, "length of service adds greatly to the value of the negro's labor. Hazard is also encountered in all the positions to which negroes can be assigned for service with the army, and the duties required of them demand loyalty and zeal. In this aspect the relation of person predominates so far as to render it doubtful whether the private right of property can consistently and beneficially be continued." Arguing that it could not, he suggested the inquiry: "Whenever the entire property in the service of the slave is thus acquired by the government, the question is presented by what tenure he should be held. Should he be retained in servitude, or should his emancipation be held out to him as a reward for faithful service, or should it be granted to him at once, on the promise of such service." Leaving that question to the "wisdom of Congress," he suggested some "addition to the duties heretofore performed by the slave," though he discountenanced his employment as a soldier at that time and "under existing circumstances." "The subject," he said, "is to be viewed by us, therefore, solely in the light of policy and our social economy. When so regarded, I must dissent from those who advise a general levy and arming of the slaves for the duty of soldiers." He admitted, however, that such a contingency, though "improbable," might rise, and then he adds: "It is certain that even this limited number, by their preparatory training in intermediate duties, would form a more valuable reserve-force, in case of urgency, than threefold their number called from field labor."

The subject thus introduced was immediately referred in the Confederate House of Representatives to its appropriate committee. Mr. Miles, while making the motion for that purpose, and saying that his "instinct was in opposition to the employment of slaves," added: "If Lincoln be elected, I am in favor of giving the President full power to employ the slaves. I am ready for the black flag, or anything before sub mission." Mr. Gholson of Virginia was opposed to the policy in all and every form, and was in favor of "prompt action on the question and an unqualified declaration against it." The next day Mr. Foote introduced into the Confederate Senate a series of resolutions in opposition to the policy proposed. In his speech he was particularly severe and pointed. He declared that "a document so latitudinarian never emanated from a Northern statesman up to the time of the election of Lincoln not even Seward ever went so far." Alluding to the admission of even Republicans that the Federal government had no right to interfere with slavery in the States, he added: "Yet a message is sent into the Confederate Congress asserting that the government has the right to legislate slavery out of the country. Such a message, if allowed to go before the world unexplained and unmodified, would injure our cause more than the fall of Richmond."

The Richmond "Whig," three days after the transmission of the message, contained a long and vehement editorial in opposition. Accusing Mr. Davis of opening up "questions both deep and dangerous," it adds : "It is truly astonishing and almost incredible that now, in the fourth year of our in dependence and of a terrible war waged to vindicate that independence,— after breaking up the old Federal Union because we would not suffer the Washington Congress to interfere with our State institutions, — the President of the Confederate States should ' invite ' the Richmond Congress to consider a project for emancipating slaves by the Confederate authorities; and should at the same time speak of this emancipation as 'a reward for faithful service, as a boon and a blessing, as something which would place these negroes in a better position than before.' "Saying that they had hitherto regarded slavery as the best condition of the negroes, and that it had been a duty to stand between them and the "cruel philanthropy of Yankee statesmanship," which would steal or "liberate" them, it adds: "But now the President of the Confederate States opens quite another view of the matter. According to his message it is a rich reward for faithful service to turn a negro wild…. This will never do.  The slightest countenance given to those unwholesome notions may produce worse effects than can be at once perceived."

Similar sentiments were expressed by others, and in two series of resolutions introduced into the legislature of South Carolina by Mr. Trescott and Barnwell Rhett, the principle of the message was sharply condemned, although there were those who indorsed it and defended the policy it recommended. Among them was Governor Smith of Virginia. In a message to the legislature he spoke of the questionableness of their being "able to wage successful war against a power three times our own in numbers, with all Europe from which to recruit, and who unhesitatingly put arras in the hands of our own negroes for our destruction," and also of "the mawkish sensibility" that would "refuse any means within our reach" "For my part," he said, "standing before God and my country, I do not hesitate to say that I would arm such a portion of our able-bodied slave-population as may be necessary, and put them in the field, so as to have them ready for the spring campaign, even if it resulted in the freedom of those thus organized."

There could have been little danger of misinterpretation here. If the caution of Mr. Seward to Mr. Lincoln that the issuance of his Proclamation of Emancipation in the midst of military reverses might be "viewed as the last measure of an exhausted government, a cry for help, the government stretching its hand to Ethiopia instead of Ethiopia stretching forth her hand to the government, — our last shriek on the retreat," there was certainly little mistake when Mr. Lincoln and his advisers placed a similar construction upon this action of the Confederate government. They rightly viewed it as the beginning of the end.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 3.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1878, 563-567.



Chapter: “Irrepressible Conflict in the Free and Slave States,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

But the new departure and the new dogma did not afford the only occasion of increased slaveholding solicitude and activity. The ordinary dangers and difficulties, which were always embarrassing and putting in peril "property in man," were greatly intensified by the sharp conflicts and heated discussions of those days of strife. This and the increased facilities for locomotion and for the diffusion of intelligence developed new dangers and the necessity for new safeguards. Among the evils exciting special and increased solicitude was the presence of the free colored population. Always a source of solicitude and distrust, it became doubly so then. How to diminish the numbers of such, how to dispose of them, and how to prevent their increase by manumission, became great practical problems; and to their solution was devoted no small amount of thought and heartless ingenuity. Indeed, a careful study of slaveholding effort and legislation in the slave States during the closing years of the Slave Power reveal, notwithstanding all its victories, the straits of the system, and the utter demoralization of those who had re solved to adhere to its practice and protection.

In 1859 there was a convention of slaveholders on the eastern shore of Maryland to consider the subject. At their instance a State convention was called the next year. The movers proposed the adoption of State legislation that should compel the exile or enslavement of all free colored people. Laws against "free negroism," and for the self-enslavement of any who desired, were proposed and advocated. But more humane considerations controlled, and wiser counsels, whether from prudence or principle, prevailed. Indeed, so moderate seemed the temper and purpose of the convention that some predicted that Maryland would soon become a free State. But they miscalculated. The next legislature passed an act for bidding manumission, and also one permitting a free colored person to sell himself as a slave. These two acts, or laws, were regarded as the correlated parts of one policy, the one forbidding the colored person to remain as a freeman, the other allowing him to do so as a slave. Such, indeed, had become the policy of many of the slaveholding States. Well did a contemporary speak of “the atrocious wickedness and cruelty of forcing men, guilty of no wrong, into a choice between enslavement and expulsion from their business and their homes, and from a land they love so well that exile from it is to them more bitter even than slavery."

Such legislation was not, however, universal; but in all, or nearly all, the States attempts were made to engraft it, or something like it, upon their respective slave-codes. In some the attempt failed, and in others it was but partially successful. In Virginia, an act for the voluntary enslavement of free negroes was passed in 1856. In 1859 an act was adopted authorizing the sale of free negroes into absolute slavery, who had been sentenced for offences “punishable by confinement in penitentiary." In 1859 Louisiana adopted similar legislation, and many free negroes often accepted the terrible alternative of becoming slaves rather than that of leaving their wonted homes. A New Orleans paper, after speaking of  two bright and intelligent free colored men" who had done so, added that there were "a great many" who would " pick out their masters and become slaves sooner than leave the population and the climate which pleases them so well." About the same time a Michigan paper coolly spoke of " twenty-nine negroes "crossing the river from " Detroit to Canada," as the "first instalment of the Northern emigration from North Carolina," as if this "emigration" was not an enforced exodus, of homeless and heart-broken exiles, as cruel and un just as any ever ordained by Egyptian tyranny. In 1859 Georgia passed an act forbidding emancipation by will, and declaring all such instruments “null and void." Indeed, throughout the South there was nothing to break the fearful monotony of wrong. The tendency to make heavier the bur dens of the slave, hedge him round more closely, and diminish his chances of escape either by manumission or flight, was paralleled only by the equally cruel and persistent policy to outrage the free colored people and drive them from their homes.

Nor was legislation alone sought. The courts were approached. And though they withstood the pressure, especially the Northern bench, better than the legislatures, the Southern judiciary did not find it difficult to follow the disastrous lead of the Dred Scott decision. Illustrative of this was a decision of the Virginia Court of Appeals. In 1857 it reversed a previous decision; in 1858 it recognized the reversal as "controlling authority "in all subsequent cases, and declared that the slave had no civil or social rights and no “legal capacity " to choose between being emancipated and sold as a slave. Concerning this diabolical decision, at the very mention of which the heart recoils, and by which, it was said, " thousands " who had been expecting freedom, by will or otherwise, were compelled to relinquish all hope, because it made all such manumissions illegal, the leading Democratic papers of Richmond expressed the utmost satisfaction, the "Enquirer" declaring it "the most important to the institution of negro slavery " since the days of Lord Mansfield, as it showed, it said, that the people of Virginia were " fully and thoroughly in favor of the institution of slavery "; while the " Examiner " hailed it as having practically decided that " slavery is desirable for the South, desirable for the slave, and right in itself."

This tightening of the chains around the black man, this increasing pressure on a race, this growing darkness of the night, were seen and felt, too, in the executive departments of the government. Among other evidences was its refusal to give to colored persons, however cultivated and deserving, wishing to visit Europe, the necessary passports. A half century before, James Monroe, Minister to England, had given a passport to a slave of John Randolph, describing him as " a citizen of the United States "; now a colored physician of Massachusetts, wishing to visit Europe for his health, applied, through his Senator, Mr. Wilson, for a similar favor, and received from Mr. Cass, Secretary of State, for reply, that "a passport, being a certificate of citizenship, has never, from the foundation of the government, been given to persons of color." This was not historically correct. But it revealed the temper and policy of the government toward the colored race. And there were many like examples of the deep-seated prejudice and purpose to oppress and wrong. Mr. Cobb, Secretary of the Treasury, decided that a negro, not being a citizen, could not command a vessel sailing under United States papers, even if the vessel was his own.

In many other ways were exhibited this malignant and determined purpose to bind more securely and to close up more completely every door of hope to the oppressed and prostrate race, and the general spirit of unrest and aggression that pre vailed. The governors and legislatures of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida gave utterance to the most revolutionary sentiments, some declaring the election of a Republican President sufficient cause for withdrawal from the Union. In December, 1859, the South Carolina legislature passed unanimously a resolution that the Southern States should be immediately convened to concert measures in view of such a contingency. During the same year the legislature of Kentucky, by a unanimous vote, adopted a resolution calling upon the general government to obtain a concession from Great Britain by treaty for the rendition of fugitive slaves. The governor of Virginia recommended the appointment of two of her most distinguished men to visit the legislatures of all the States which had enacted “personal liberty" laws, and to “insist in the name of Virginia on their unconditional repeal."

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 635-639.



CALHOUN'S ascendency over the southern mind is a basal historic element of our national life. Its study includes the political history of the South from 1830 to 1850 and the springs of southern action thenceforward until the sword put an end to debate. He was the' amanuensis of his state when it desired to declare a policy, and in the Senate he was the prophet whose pronouncements were as a gospel to the South, which molded itself to his views. From 1833 onward he urged an interpretation of the Constitution which legitimatized, in the southern mind, the extremity of action in 186r. The history of the movement towards secession is part of the story of his life and influence. Never has man exercised a more complete intellectual dominancy over his section, but sadly to its undoing. Calhoun was a constitutionalist, but he obeyed a greater power than the Constitution-the necessity of preserving the society of which he was a part. 

His strength lay in believing in the wisdom and righteousness of the southern social organization. Crittenden was right when he said that Calhoun, while seeing clearly the tendency of events, was unable to restrain himself from focusing the mind of the country upon the unhappy subject, and unable to see that his own action upon the subject of petitions had given the greatest impetus to the feeling he wished to allay.1 His habit of thrusting forward the dogmas of which he was so fond, and which apparently had lain dormant in his mind, until hope of the presidency had passed, after which he felt free to be true to himself, could have no result but impassioned and limitless debate, the necessary result of which was to spread throughout the South, by official publication', a literature similar in character to that for the repression of which he was willing to alter the character of the government. Resolutions such as those he finally pressed to a vote were simply abstractions; their passage could affect nothing, could bind no other persons, organization, or state. Their futility was perfectly expressed by Adams in a resolution offered December 13, 1838-"That the powers of Congress, being conferred by the Constitution of the United States, no resolution of this House can add to or deduct from them." 2

Every step of the kind Calhoun took, every for

1 Cong. Globe, 25 Cong., 2 Sess., App., 55.

2 Ibid., 3 Sess., 33·

formal expression of his peculiar views of the situation, only gave new ground for the abolitionists to stand upon, and took from the northern friends of the South their arguments for quietude. His peculiar characteristics made him a disrupter of our national fabric in spite of himself. He recognized every explosive charge laid by the Constitution and by the circumstances of the South, arid, where not already laid, he placed others of his own invention, and could not resist lighting every fuse.

Calhoun's ability "to look to the farthest consequences of every question" has been dwelt upon by many writers, notably by Von Holst, but his forecasts were no more remarkable than those of Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, and others. It was perfectly clear to every thoughtful man that the slavery question was an imminent danger to the Union. To Calhoun the danger appeared only in permitting the abolitionists and even the anti-slavery men to meet, discuss, print, and petition upon slavery. He called on them to drop the subject, and all would be happy; but he himself was the great, insistent discusser, and, through the instrumentality of the government, the printer ' and distributer of the discussions. He insisted upon slavery taking precedence in importance of any other question for this he would muzzle the press, search the mails, make the laws of the individual states overbear the Federal statutes, and reduce the Federal government to a nullity which could only end in disintegration. His theories, taken together, led straight to anarchy.

If Calhoun had the “prophetic vision" and the logical mind with which so many endowed./ him, should he not have been able to see this result as clearly as others saw it then and all see it now? There could be only one excuse for Calhoun's policy-the hope of extending slavery throughout the Union. If such possibility existed, he was justified, logically, in all he said and did. Otherwise we can only suppose him blind to the great moral change in mankind, to the greater feeling of brotherhood which had come over the world, and which among civilized powers was rapidly making slavery impossible.

The steamship, the railway, the press, the post-office, though yet in infancy, were even then great instrumentalities of this change. It is difficult for us now to conceive of the almost absolute separation of individuals and communities which ruled even much less than a hundred years ago. Interchange of thought was confined to the very few, and ignorance, dense as that of the Middle Ages, reigned among much of the mass the world over. Calhoun, born before this change, and, but for his time at Yale College, reared amid surroundings which had not felt the touch of the new life, dwelt, physically and mentally, in this medieval atmosphere, thought slavery a blessing, believed that a superior race had a right to enslave an inferior one, and was ready to suppress all dissent in such a question, whether founded upon moral and religious grounds or on any other. To suppose that a string of resolutions, passed by thirty or forty men sitting in the Senate chamber, could stop millions from thinking and from acting within their plainest rights was not the belief of a sane mind.

Calhoun's spirit is revealed in an account of a two hours' conversation recorded by Horace Binney in 1834: "He obviously considered society as consisting only of two classes, the poor who were uneducated, and doomed to serve, and the men of property and education, to whom the service was to be rendered. Regarding these two classes as discriminating the people of Pennsylvania as much as South Carolina, he said, emphatically, 'The poor and uneducated are increasing; there is no power in a republican government to repress them; their number and disorderly tempers will make them in the end efficient enemies of the men of property. They have the right to vote, they will finally control your elections, and by bad laws or by violence they will invade your houses and turn you out. Education will do nothing for them; they will not give it to their children; it will do them no good if they do. They are hopelessly doomed as a mass to poverty, from generation to generation; and from the political franchise they will increase in influence and desperation until they overturn you. The institution of slavery cuts off this evil by the root. The whole body of our servants, whether in the family or in the field, are rem0ved from all influence upon the white class by the denial of all political rights. They have no more ' tendency to disturb the order of society than an overstock of horses or oxen. They have neither power nor ambition to disturb it. They can be kept in order by methods which a republican government, as well as a monarchical or a military one', can apply. They have no jealousy of the other class, nor the other of them. They never stand on the same platform with the white class. They only require supervision and domestic discipline to keep them in good order; and such means are easily' applied and become normal in the state. The white class is therefore left to pursue without apprehension the means they think best to elevate their own condition. Slavery is indispensable to a republican government. There cannot be a durable republican government without slavery.'" 1

Of Calhoun's love of the Union there can be no question, but the Union had to be one which sheltered slavery. He moved gradually to this attitude. As a member of Monroe's cabinet he had, in the Missouri question, along with Crawford and Wirt, accepted the principle of freedom applied to territories in the Ordinance of 1787; he had had leanings to protection in the earlier part of his congressional career; but he had thrown over such views, and the

1 Binney, Binney, 313

" Exposition'' of the South Carolina legislature, which he wrote in 1828,1 and his letter of August 28, 1832, to Governor Hamilton, written for the guidance of the convention to meet in the following November,2 was the torch which lighted the way to the establishment of the Southern Confederacy,

Calhoun's pre-eminence as the champion of the South began with this defence of nullification from 1828 to 1833, though South Carolina went much further in her resolves, in her military preparations than Calhoun had expected. Jackson's determined attitude, his reinforcement of the Charleston forts, the occupancy of Charleston harbor by ships of war, the indisposition of other &States to follow her lead, and the passage of the force bill were events which would have had much deeper significance but for Clay's compromise on the tariff, which left a moral victory with South Carolina. Seldom judged by the logic of events, has there been greater fatuity than in the action of Clay and his weak supporters, which made war in the not distant future a certainty. But the fore bill gave Calhoun opportunity for perhaps his ablest effort in his speech of February 13, 1833, on his resolutions of January 22, which in power and ability was the equal of that of his great opponent, Webster, whose answer, January 30, with, his earlier speech in reply to Hayne, made him the idol of the Unionists, North and South. It was

1 Calhoun, Works, VI., 1-59.

2 Ibid., 144-193. 

upon the principles of Calhoun's resolutions that the South took its stand; it was upon the principles of Webster's answer that the North fought the Civil War. They need to be quoted here, though, in fact, they never came to a vote.

Calhoun's resolutions were as follows:

"That the people of the several states ... are united as parties to a constitutional compact to which the people of each state acceded as a separate sovereign community, each binding itself by its own particular ratification; and that the Union . . . is a union between the states ratifying the same.

"That the people of the several states . . . delegated to that government ... certain definite powers, reserving at the same time, each state to itself, the residuary mass of powers, to be exercised by its own separate government; and that whenever the general government assumes ... powers not delegated by the compact, its acts are . . . of no effect; and that the same government is not made the final judge of the powers delegated to it, since that would make its discretion,

The propositions maintained by Webster were:

"1. That the Constitution of the United States is not a league, confederacy, or compact between the people of the several states in their sovereign capacities; but a government proper, founded on the adoption of the people, and creating direct relations between itself and individuals.

"2. That no state has authority to dissolve these relations; that nothing can dissolve them but revolution; and that consequently there can be no such thing as secession without revolution.

"3. That there is a supreme law, consisting of the Constitution of the United States, and acts of Congress passed in pursuance of it, and treaties; and that, in cases not assuming the character of a suit in law of equity, Congress must judge of and finally interpret this  and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among sovereign parties, without any common judge, each has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of the infraction as of the mode and measure of redress.

"That the assertions that the people of these United States, taken collectively as individuals, are now or ever have been united on the principle of the social compact, and as such are now formed into one nation or people, or that they have ever been so united . . . ; that the people of the several states ... have not ... retained their sovereignty; that the allegiance of their citizens has been transferred to the general government; that they have parted with the right of punishing treason through their respective state governments; and that they have not the right of judging in the last resort as to the extent of the powers reserved, a:ad, of consequence, of those delegated; are not only without found a supreme law so often as it has occasion to pass acts of legislation; and in cases capable of assuming the character ... of a suit, the Supreme Court of the United States is the final interpreter.

"4. That an attempt by a state to abrogate, annul, or nullify any act of Congress, or to arrest its operation within her limits, on the ground that, in her opinion, such law is unconstitutional, is a direct usurpation on the just powers of the general government, and on the equal rights of the states, a plain violation of the Constitution, and a proceeding essentially revolutionary in its character and tendency." 1

1 Curtis: Webster, I., 450. 

"[…] in truth, but are contrary to the most certain and plain historical facts and the clearest deductions of reason; and all exercise of power . . . claiming authority from so erroneous assumptions must of necessity be unconstitutional, must tend directly to subvert the sovereignty of the states, to destroy the federal character of the Union, and to rear on its ruins a consolidated government, without constitutional check or limitation, and which must necessarily terminate in the loss of liberty itself."1 

From this period on, Calhoun took the r6le in American politics of a Cassandra; every speech was a prediction of impending woe and every stand taken was increasingly impossible for the North to accept. His treatment of the question of incendiary documents; his denial of the right of the petitioner to the acceptance by Congress of his petition; his extraordinary committal, in his correspondence' as secretary of state, of the government of the United States to the view that the freedom of the negro would not be tolerated in Texas, and that the United States was forced to annex the county rather than such freedom should exist; his leadership

1 Debates of Congress, IX., 19r. 

ship in the action of southern legislatures in 184 7 against the Wilmot proviso, of which his resolutions of February 17 of that year (which were never brought to a vote) were the cue-all these acts mark him as under the obsession of an evil genius which forced him to stir the fires of sectionalism.1 For twenty years his gloomy mind and great powers were absorbed in the work; and when his life ended, the South was already prepared for the fatal leap from the precipice to which he had led it.

But to fully understand the lengths to which he had allowed his views to stray we must look to a letter of the stormy period of 1847 written by Calhoun to a member of the Alabama legislature. In this he declared it necessary to force the issue upon the North, as the South was now stronger relatively than it would be later. "Delay to us," he said, "will be dangerous indeed." He welcomed the Wilmot proviso as an occasion of successfully asserting the South's equality. "Something of the kind was indispensable to rouse and unite the South; .... I would regard any compromise or adjustment of the proviso, or even its defeat, without meeting the danger in its whole length and breadth as very unfortunate for us. It would lull us to sleep again without removing the danger.'' His remedy-a most extraordinary one for a constitutionalist

1 See Hart, Slavery and Abolition, chap. xviii. ; Garrison, Westward Extension, chap. xvi. (Am. Nation, XVI., XVII.) 

was to refuse the right of northern ships and commerce to enter southern ports, leaving open the trade of the Mississippi Valley, so as to detach the Northwest from the northeastern states, and for this to be effective a convention of all the southern states would be indispensable. "The non -slaveholding states would be compelled to observe the stipulations of the constitution in our favor, or abandon their trade with us, or to take measures to coerce us, which would throw upon them the responsibility of dissolving the Union." 1

March 4, 1850, the country heard Calhoun's last formal utterance on the subject which filled his mind and dominated his soul. It was a comparison of northern and southern expansion, showing how the South had lost in political power through the Ordinance of 1787 and the establishment of the Missouri Compromise line. Had neither existed, he argued, the South would have divided the immigration with the North, would thus have equaled it in population, and would have maintained an equality in number of states; the result had been to give the North an absolute control over the government, so that wherever there was a diversity of interests those of the South would be sacrificed. The next day, in an interlocution with Foote, of Mississippi, he embodied his thought in a single sentence- ... “I will say-and I say it boldly-that as things now stand the southern states cannot remain in the Union.1

1 See Benton, Thirty Years' View, II., 698-700.

Four weeks later he was dead. His work was completed; he had attained his aim-the practical subjection of the southern mind to the view that the South could not remain in the Union unless on its own terms.

Two other great figures in Congress in this generation shared with Calhoun the nation's interest: Clay, representing slavery in its mildest form; Webster, the reasonable antagonism of the North. All three showed in their attitude on the question the overpowering influence of environment. Clay, however, was the insistent compromiser; he was never able to see that a deep sentiment could not be set aside by a trade in principles; that the best of compromises-and such lie regarded the great compromise of 1850-could produce but a condition of unstable equilibrium. His anxiety for the Union overpowered, in this, his judgment, which was true and sound as to slavery extension. In answer to Jefferson Davis's proposed ultimatum (January, 1850), of the extension of the Missouri line to the Pacific, he could say, "coming from a slave state as I do, I owe it to myself, I owe it to truth, I owe it to the subject, to say that no earthly power could induce me to vote for a specific measure for the introduction of slavery where it had not before existed, either south or north of that [Missouri] line." 2

Whatever criticism may be made of Clay's and

1 Calhoun, Works, IV., 575.

2 Cong. Globe, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., 249. 

Webster's attitudes in this stirring and hazardous year, there can be no question of their lofty patriotism and overpowering anxiety for the preservation of the Union. The country owed much to Webster besides that due to his classic speeches in the nullification period. He was a great instrument for the nationalization of the Union through one of his chief victories in law: the case Gibbons vs, Ogden (1824), which involved the question of monopoly of steam navigation in the waters of a state, granted by New York to Fulton and Livingston. The decision of the Supreme Court in this case fixed the meaning of what thus became a momentous propose of the Constitution, "The Congress shall have power to regulate commerce among the several states." It was a decision which became a mighty element in cementing the Union. 1 A consistent opponent of slavery and its extension; opposed to the annexation of Texas and to the Mexican war, to Webster's anxiety for the Union was due the conservatism of his Seventh of March speech (1850) which called upon his head the deepest wrath of the abolitionists and the unjust censure of many who were not of the fanatical party of the anti-slavery public. He saw as clearly as Calhoun whither the Union was tending under the excitement of the South, and could say at this moment "your eyes and mine are never destined to see that miracle [of peaceable secession]. ... I see that ... [disruption] must produce ...

1 Cf. Reed, Brothers' War, 140.

such a war as 1 will not describe in its twofold character." 1 It was this feeling which caused the utterances in this speech, which with Webster's acceptance of the unfortunate and exasperating fugitive-slave law of the compromise (the latter a profound error both of judgment and heart) brought a condemnation throughout the North which destroyed his influence, embittered the short remainder of his life, and hastened his death.

No more common-sense statement could have been made than that by Webster, that California and New Mexico were “destined to be free . . . by the arrangement of things ordained by the Power above us .... I would put in no Wilmot Proviso, for the mere purpose of a taunt or a reproach. I would put into it no evidence of the votes of superior power ... to wound the pride, whether a just and a rational pride, or an irrational pride, of the citizens of the southern states.... Whether they expect to realize any benefit from it or not, they would think it at least a plain theoretic "Wrong." In these words was an epitome of the situation. Webster was right when he said "there is not at this moment within the United States, or any territory' of the United States, a single foot of land, the character of which, in regard to its being free territory or slave territory, is not fixed by some law1 and some irrepealable law, beyond the power of the action of the government.'' 2

1 Webster, Works, V., 361.

2 Ibid., 340, 351. 

Had the statesmen North and South accepted the dispassionate and wise views of this speech there might have been many years of calm, and perhaps as an end, could the fugitive-slave law have been modified to a more kindly form, a general disposition such as that expressed by Webster, " to incur almost any degree of expense'' for a scheme of colonization upon a large scale. One southerner at least accepted his convictions as to conditions. Jefferson Davis himself said "the climate of Kansas and Nebraska was altogether unsuited to the negro and the soil was not adapted to those productions for which negro labor could be profitably employed . . . . As white laborers adapted to the climate and its products flowed into the country, negro labor would have inevitably become a tax to those who held it, and their emancipation would have followed that condition as it has in all the Northern states old and new-Wisconsin furnishing the last example." 1

That slavery should have been prohibited by mandatory act, had invasion of these territories by it been imminent, all now must agree, but it is questionable if it was wise statesmanship to pass a law of supererogation, and one which could only have been a profound irritant to a great section. Neither the Wilmot proviso nor the South's contention could have any practical result beyond placing the two sections finally in an attitude of

1 Davis, Confederate Government, I., 30.

strong antagonism, though of an intensity in the South far from dreamed of at the North, where feeling, except among the few, was very mild in comparison. The strength of those antagonistic to slavery extension lay in waiting; the greater basis of northern representation in Congress, now rapidly increasing, with the certainty that the adverse sentiment of the North to slavery must in the very nature of things increase and not diminish, made it certain that, whatever the attempts by the South, no further annexations of territory would be made to the southward. That a fear of such annexations existed is unquestionably true, but it was baseless by reason of the impossibility of such a concession on the part of the North, even at this period. Cuba even now, without slavery, is not a part of the Union. The nation had been sufficiently satiated with conquest for many years, but those who so pressed the Wilmot proviso and kindred legislation were impelled by a like psychical force with that which drove the South towards its impossible demands.

Source:  Chadwick, French Ensor, Causes of the Civil War. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 19, 37-53. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.


PROUDFIT, Alexander Montcrief, 1770-1843, New York, clergyman, author.  Director, American Colonization Society, 1839-1840.  Secretary of the New York Colonization Society, 1835-1841. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, p. 128; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PROUDFIT, Alexander Moncrief, clergyman, b. in Pequea, Pa., 10 Nov., 1770; d. in New Brunswick, N. J., 23 Nov., 1843. He was graduated at Columbia in 1792, studied theology under Dr. John H. Livingston, and was pastor of the Associate Reformed church in Salem, N. Y., from 1794 till 1835. He became secretary of the New York colonization society in the latter year, and held office till his resignation in 1841. Williams gave him the degree of D. D. in 1812. For a short time during his pastorate he was professor of pastoral theology in the Associate Reformed seminary in Newburg, N. Y. He published numerous sermons and addresses, including “The One Thing Needful” (New York, 1804); “Ruin and Recovery of Man” (1806); “Theological Works” (4 vols., 1815); and a work on the “Parables” (1820). See a memoir of him by Rev. John Forsyth (New York, 1844). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 128.


PROUT, Jacob W., led colonization expedition to Africa for the Maryland State Colonization Society. 

(Campbell, 1971, pp. 44, 46, 48, 110)


PROUT, William A., African Colony Commissioner for the Maryland State Colonization Society. 

(Campbell, 1971, pp. 169, 215-217, 219-221, 225-229)


PUGH, Sarah, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, abolitionist.  Served as a Manager, 1843-1844, and Member of the Executive Committee, 1844-1853, of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS).  Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, Eastern Branch, Philadelphia.  Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.

(Dumond, 1961, p. 286; Yellin, 1994, pp. 11, 74-76, 78, 80, 82, 84-85, 163, 163n, 175, 301-302, 307, 326)



If we are to accept the statement of the motives and purposes of the abolitionists put forward by their adversaries, they were among the worst of mankind: '' Prurient love of notoriety,'' '' envy or malignity," an intention to "excite to desperate attempts and particular acts of cruelty and horror," to bring about "a complete equalization of blacks and whites," to "scatter among our southern brethren firebrands, arrows and death"-such are some of the amenities applied to the abolitionists.1 Even the gentle Emerson said of them: "If an angry bigot assumes this bountiful cause of Abolition, and comes to me with his last news from Barbadoes, why should I not say to him, 'Go love thy infant; love thy wood-chopper; be good-natured and modest; have that grace; and never varnish your hard, uncharitable ambition with this incredible tender-

1 Harper, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 93; Von Raumer, America, 121; Garrisons, Garrison, I., 495-500; cf. Bledsoe, Liberty and Slavery, chap. ii.

ness for black folk a thousand miles off. Thy love afar is spite at home!'" 1

These charges can hardly be thought a self-evident statement of the objects of the abolitionists, which may be gathered in part from their private character, partly from their own public statements, and partly from the methods which they employed to influence public opinion. As for their character, the abolitionists in general were people who paid their debts, attended divine service, and had the reputation of an orderly life.  Some of them were one-sided men, such as Garrison and Phillips, who held a brief for liberty and did not trouble themselves to look at the case of the other side--indeed, they did not admit that there was another side. There were some impostors and some demagogues among them, but Whittier in New England, the Tappans in New York, and Birney in the west, were characteristic abolitionists of their sections, and none of them was false, self-seeking, or bloodthirsty.

In their spoken and printed statements the abolitionists justified Jay's admonition: "They will address arguments to the understanding and the consciences of their fellow-citizens"; and Lundy, an uncompromising foe of slavery, held that "the language of cutting retort or severe rebuke, is seldom convincing, and it is wholly out of place in persuasive argument." Most of them also held

1 Emerson, Essay on Self-Reliance,

that the use of force was not part of their programme.1

Then how and where was the slave to be freed? In the first number of the Liberator, Garrison abjured the doctrine of gradual emancipation, and all his societies declared unhesitatingly for immediate emancipation, the American society adding that "No compensation should be given to the planters emancipating their slaves." 2 Yet, outside of New England, the societies and leaders would have cheerfully accepted gradual emancipation acts from the neighboring slave states. Among the known opponents of immediacy were Evan Lewis of Philadelphia, first president of the American Anti-Slavery Society, William Jay of New York, and Moses Brown of Providence.3

 Abolition meant to the abolitionists not only freedom, but the eradication of all the incidents and results of slavery--" all the laws, discriminations, social customs and practices which bore against the negro race." 4   As for the slave-holder, since slavery was an obvious evil, the abolitionists held him morally responsible and called upon him to repent and to show works meet for repentance by abolishing

1 Jay, Miscellaneous Writings, 140; Life of Benjamin Lundy, 28; Garrisons, Garrison, I., 295.

2 See Garrisons, Garrison, I., 410, in postscript. For early advocates of immediacy, see George Bourne, Book and Slavery Irreconcilable (1816; Elizabeth Heyrick, Immediate vs. Gradual Emancipation (London, 1824).

 3 Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery, 393. 

4 Declaration of 1833, in Garrisons, Garrison, I., 408.

slavery on his own plantation.  As incident to these purposes the abolitionists claimed the fullest right of freedom of speech, both north and south.1

An obvious and disturbing retort by the slaveholder was that the abolitionist knew nothing of what he was discussing. "Why don't you go South?" was a taunt frequently hurled, to which Garrison; who had never been beyond Baltimore, but whose personal courage was undeniable, replied: "Why, then, should we go into the slaveholding states, to assail their towering wickedness, at a time when we are sure we should be gagged, or imprisoned, or put to death, if we went thither?" 2 The only New England agitators who had seen much of slavery in the south were Channing and James Freeman Clarke, a Unitarian minister in Louisville from 1833 to 1840.3 The reproach did not apply to men born in the south, like Birney and Cassius M. Clay, Rankin and Mahan, or Elijah P. Lovejoy, who lived for a time in St. Louis. Few abolitionists were known to have attempted a propaganda in the far south. 4 The charge that the abolitionists knew nothing of slavery was not significant, for foreign and northern visitors freely reported their impressions, and in the columns of southern newspapers the abolitionists found unfailing material. The argument that the abolitionists had no business

1 Channing to Birney, Works, II., 161

2 Garrisons, Garrison, I., 507.

3 Clarke, Anti-Slavery Days, 22.

4 See chap. XVI., below.

to discuss a question which did not concern them would have been stronger had the south encouraged or even permitted discussion by its own people. A keen foreigner observed that she” scarcely ever met with a man, or woman either, who can openly and honestly look the thing in the face. They wind and tum about in all sorts of ways, and make use of every argument, sometimes the most opposite, to convince me that the slaves are the happiest people in the world." 1 The abolitionists fell back on their right to supply the deficiency.  "We are told indeed by the South," said Dr. Channing, "that slavery is no concern of ours, and consequently that the less we say of it the better. What! shall the wrongdoer forbid lookers-on to speak, because the affair is a private one?" 2

 Never doubting their legal and moral right to organize northern public opinion against slavery in the south, the abolitionists worked out a thoroughgoing propaganda: they drew up petitions to the state and national legislatures; they appeared before legislative committees; they sent out travelling agents; they busied themselves with the conditions of the free colored people; above all, they held antislavery meetings in all sorts of places, from a stable-loft to a church or public hall. An account of one of these meetings, in Faneuil Hall in 1850, will serve as a type of all. It was addressed by escaped

1 Bremer, Homes of the New World, I., 275.

2 Channing, Works, VI., 6I.

fugitive slaves, one of whom was a woman. Miss Lucy Stone inveighed against the pro-slavery men of the north, and especially Daniel Webster. Edmund Quincy drew down upon himself the hisses of the audience by criticising his brother, the mayor of Boston, and was cut off by calls for Wendell Phillips, who "spoke with the low voice of suppressed emotion, and a simplicity of language, yet powerful enough to incite to the utmost the human heart .... The assembly hung on his lips and took in every· word. An excited gentleman leapt upon the platform and began to declaim at the side of Phillips. The assembly whistled, shouted, clapped, and hissed, but began to leave with the utmost calmness and composure." 1 At the regular meetings of societies and conventions reports were made, officers were elected, and appeals to the public were drawn up.

The abolitionists early learned how much paper can be covered with printer's ink at a small expense, and had a special press. Next to the Liberator comes the Genius of Universal Emancipation; the Emancipator, published in New York, and, in a sense, the organ for the middle states; the Abolitionist, under the editorship, for a time, of William Goodell; the Philanthropist, in Cincinnati; and, later, the National Era, ably edited by Dr. Gamaliel Bailey, in Washington. No great daily took up the cause of abolition previous to 1860, but the New

1 Bremer, Homes of the New World, I., 192-196.

York Tribune and many western dailies were antislavery in tone. 1 These papers all had a limited circulation among the faithful, but were vigorously edited and widely quoted. The abolitionists, east and west, stood by their r principles in admitting negroes to a part in their movement; the northern free negroes subscribed for the papers, made up part of the audiences, and furnished several agitators, of whom the Rev. J. W. Loguen, of Syracuse, was the best known. An interesting delegation of southern negroes somehow found their way north to speak from their own experience of slavery; and they were a living argument for the tenet of the abolitionists that the negro was a black white man, held back simply by lack of opportunities. 2

When Frederick Douglass made his first appearance in New England, in 1843, Garrison asked: "Have we been listening to a thing, a piece of property, or to a man?" and he followed it up with the question, "Shall such a man ever be sent back to slavery from the soil of old Massachusetts?" 3 Douglass was at once made an agent of the Massachusetts society, wrote a striking book upon his experiences, and even set up an anti-slavery paper of his own, The North Star. A man of extraordinary power and magnetism, a remarkable speaker, the

1 See list of papers in Smith, Liberty and Free Soil Parties, App. B; Life of Benjamin Lundy, 26r.

2 See chap. xxii., below Garrisons, Garrison, III., 19.

most eminent of his race in that period, he travelled widely through the country, and occasional efforts were made to lynch him 1.  A very striking negro woman was Sojourner Truth, a New York slave, set free by the emancipation act of 1827, who preached wherever she could find hearers, made short journeys through the north, and was a frequent figure at antislavery meetings. Tall, very black, crowned with a bandanna turban, she looked like a sable princess, and had a shrewd and homely wisdom exemplified in her dictum on woman's rights: "Ef women want any rights, mor'n dey's got, why don't dey jes' take 'em, an' not be talkin' about it?" 2

 A similar character was the heroic Harriet Tubman, who went time after time into the southern states, made up companies of discontented slaves, and brought north to freedom about three hundred of her folk. Her extraordinary power of statement was illustrated in her description of a battle in the Civil War: "And then we saw the lightning, and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder, and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling, and that was drops of blood falling; and when we came to git in the craps, it was dead men that we reaped." 3

The New England abolitionists sought co-operation

1 Monroe, Lectures and Addresses, 57-94; May, Recollections, 293-296; Garrisons, Garrison, III., 18-20.

2 Mrs. Stowe, in Atlantic Monthly, XI., 473-481; Sojourner Truth.

3 Heard by the author of this book.

with the English, and Garrison three times visited England to detach Clarkson and other veterans from the colonization movement. In 1840, Garrison, at a world's convention of anti-slavery people in London, refused to sit because women delegates from Massachusetts were not received.1 One result of this co-operation was an address of sixty thousand Irish people to their countrymen and countrywomen in America, urging them to become abolitionists, which had little or no effect except to intensify the feeling that foreigners were meddling in our concerns. 2

In every part of this agitation the' abolitionists stood for a despised cause. The few men like Wendell Phillips, Edmund Quincy, and Thomas W. Higginson, who came out of the agreeable circle of New England aristocracy, were made to feel that it was a choice between the slave and the friends of their youth. When Harriet Martineau attended an anti-slavery meeting she found that she had given offence to the best society in Boston. Theodore Parker found his clerical brethren refusing to exchange pulpits with him, and he wrote: "My life seems to me a complete failure socially; here I am as much an outcast from society as though I were a convicted pirate." 3 The eastern colleges, almost

1 Garrisons, Garrison, II., 353, 373; III., 159.

2 Ibid., 343-360; Daniel O'Connell upon Am. Slavery.

3 May, Recollections, 159; Frothingham, Parker, 158, 347; Pierce, Sumner, III., 119-121.

without exception, were strongholds of pro-slavery feeling; when the appointment of Charles Follen as professor in Harvard College expired, somehow he was not reappointed. In 1848, Charles Sumner, a graduate of Harvard, spoke to the students of the college; Longfellow said: "The shouts and the hisses and the vulgar interruptions grated on my ears. I was glad to get away." When Emerson spoke on the fugitive-slave law at the Cambridge city-hall, in 1851, he was hissed and hooted by young law students. 1 That those who profited by slavery would be against them had been expected by the abolitionists, but they were sorely disappointed in the clergy and churches, especially in New England. When Garrison began his work, he thought nothing was more  like the spirit of Christ than to relieve the oppressed, to preach the gospel to the benighted, and to bring a whole race of people out of sin and debasement; but he soon found that neither minister nor church anywhere in the lower south continued to protest against slavery; that the cloth in the north was arrayed against him, and that many northern divines entered the lists against abolition, especially Moses Stuart, professor of Hebrew in Andover Theological Seminary, who justified slavery from the New Testament; President Lord, of Dartmouth College, who held that slavery was an institution of God, according to natural law;2 and Hopkins,

1 Longfellow, Longfellow, II., 127, 194.

2 Clarke, Anti-Slavery Days, 109.

Episcopal bishop of Vermont, who came forward as a thick-and-thin defender of slavery. 1 The positive opposition of churches soon followed. Lewis Tappan and others were tried by their own churches for their abolition activity. 2 The Methodist General Conference of 1836 passed a resolution of censure on two of its members who had spoken in favor of abolition; and the New York Methodist Conference of 1838 warned all members not in any way to patronize the Zion's Watchman, an anti-slavery paper.

The controversy was carried into the benevolent and missionary societies. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, a Congregational body, permitted its agents among the Indians to hold slaves. The American Home Missionary Society helped to support churches in slave-holding states, in all of which slave-holders were allowed membership. The American Bible Society permitted, without protest, the arrest of one of its agents for furnishing a Bible to a colored person. 3 The Protestant Episcopal Church refused to admit to orders a colored candidate otherwise qualified. The Baptists had no authoritative general body, but its missionary and Bible societies employed slave- holders.

1 Hopkins, Scriptural View of Slavery.

2 Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery, 434.

3 Garrisons, Garrison, III., 30; Jay, Miscellaneous Writings, 661-664; Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery, 193, 211.

On the abolition side ranged many individual clergymen of weight and ability, especially in New England. Channing's deliberate and hearty adhesion to abolition, in 1836, gave to the cause a writer of high literary skill and a leader in the conservative and fashionable Unitarian church, to which also belonged James Freeman Clarke. Theodore Parker, of the same denomination, was a radical and suspected by his brethren, but an unyielding abolitionist. Thomas Wentworth Higginson later entered the arena as a militant clerical. In the middle states, the strongest anti-slavery minister was Albert Barnes, of Philadelphia, a great light in the Presbyterian Church. 1 In the west, Finney, the eccentric evangelist, carried the weight of his immense power as an exhorter; and many ministers took their congregations with them into the movement. 2

Neither neglect nor repression could keep the question down. Two of the great national churches were, in this period, split from top to bottom. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian church was, from 1835 to 1837, engaged in an exciting discussion upon the subject, ending by laying on the table addresses by the abolitionist members 3  Then, after expelling four synods especially affected by the

1 Barnes, Church and Slavery, passim.

2 Von Holst, United States, II., 226-231; May, Recollections, 329-345, 365-373; Fairchild, Oberlin College, 66, 79.

3 Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery, 153-155.

abolition heresy, it was divided in 1838 into the so-called New School and the Old School upon doctrinal questions.1 The Old School Assembly, which included some of the southern Presbyterians and a large proportion of the northern, subsequently voted that the church could not condemn slavery without condemning the apostles for conniving with it. The New School attempted to relegate the matter to the local presbyteries, and avoided taking action upon it. Upon this issue a small branch broke off about 1850, under the leadership of Reverend John Rankin, and formed the Free Presbyterian church, with a few thousand adherents, who made it a tenet that no slave -holder should be admitted to membership. The great Methodist church divided, in 1844, squarely upon the question whether a bishop could hold slaves, and all the southern members withdrew and organized the Methodist Episcopal Church South.  As in the case of the Presbyterians, some smaller fragments set themselves off into out-and out anti-slavery churches.2 Clearly, the impassioned agitation of the abolitionists had made it impossible for a great number of northern anti-slavery men who were not abolitionists, to remain on terms of friendship with their southern brethren.

1 Bibliotheca Sacra, XX., 563-57r; Baird, History of the New School, 506-558.

2 Buckley, History of the Methodists, 403-405.

Source:  Hart, Albert Bushnell, Slavery and Abolition. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 16, 202-214. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.


PURVIS, Harriet Davy Forten, 1810-1884, African American, abolitionist leader, social reformer, active in Philadelphia area.  Daughter of James Forten.

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 9, p. 279)


PURVIS, Joseph, abolitionist, brother of Robert Purvis. Founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), December 1833.  Served as a Manager of the AASS, 1840-1841.

(Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833; Winch, 2002)


PURVIS, Robert, 1810-1898, Philadelphia, African American, benefactor, abolitionist leader, reformer, women’s rights activist, temperance activist.  Vice president and founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), December 1833.  Served as a Manager, 1833-1840, 1840-1842, and as a Vice President, 1842-1864, of the AASS.  President, Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, 1845-1850.  Chairman of the General Vigilance Committee, 1852-1857.  Associated with William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips.  Active in the Underground Railroad, 1831-1861.  Aided thousands of escaped slaves.  His home was a station on the Underground Railroad.  Friend and supporter of Lucretia Mott and the women’s rights movement.  Author, wrote Appeal of Forty Thousand Citizens with Disenfranchisement to the People of Pennsylvania.  Brother of Joseph Purvis.  Husband of Harriet Davy Forten.  

(Dumond, 1961, p. 333; Mabee, 1970, pp. 21, 57, 58, 99, 106, 109, 111, 121, 181, 191, 265, 276, 294, 305, 321, 338, 414n11, 422n27; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 45, 161, 162, 464; Winch, 2002; Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, p. 137; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. I. New York: James T. White, 1892, p. 413; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 9, p. 281)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

PURVIS, Robert, benefactor, b. in Charleston, S. C., 4 Aug., 1810. His father, William Purvis, was a native of Northumberland, England, and his mother was a free-born woman of Charleston, of Moorish descent. Robert was brought to the north in 1819. His father, though residing in a slave state, was never a slave-holder, but was an Abolitionist in principle. Before Robert attained the age of manhood he formed the acquaintance of Benjamin Lundy, and in conjunction with him was an early laborer in the anti-slavery cause. Mr. Purvis was a member of the Philadelphia convention of 1833 which formed the American anti-slavery society, was its vice-president for many years, and signed its declaration of sentiments. He was also an active member of the Pennsylvania society, and its president for many years. His house was a well-known station on the “Underground railroad,” and his horses, carriages, and his personal attendance were always at the service of fugitive slaves. His son, CHARLES BURLEIGH, is surgeon-in-chief of the Freedmen's hospital at Washington, D. C., and a professor in the medical department of Howard university. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 137.


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