The opening chapter of this work was prepared during the recent presidential campaign. It was the idea of the author that it should appear in one of the leading newspapers or magazines before the election, but maturer reflection brought about a change of purpose. He realized that its publication at that time, might, not altogether unreasonably, be looked upon as a political move having as its object the election or defeat of a particular candidate for office, whereas he had no desire to play the partisan. His sole aim was to vindicate the character of a portion of the citizens of this country—some living, some dead—whom he had always believed to be most deserving of popular esteem, from what he considered the unmerited aspersions of a man who has since come into a position so conspicuous and so influential that his condemnation necessarily carries with it a damaging effect.
Having gone so far as the preparation of the initial chapter, he concluded that proofs of his assumptions and assertions might at certain points be thought desirable, if not necessary, and that he should so prolong his work as to provide them. His first idea at this point, as his years went back beyond the beginning of the Abolitionist movement in this country, and as he had been from early boyhood identified with this movement, was to contribute such information as his recollection of events would supply. In other words, he decided to write a narrative, the matter of which would be reminiscent, with here and there a little history woven in among the strands of memory like a woof in the warp. It has ended in history supplying the warp, and the reminiscence indifferently supplying the woof.
However, the value of the production is, doubtless, greatly enhanced by the change. A string of pearls—dropping the former simile and adopting another—is estimated according to the gems it contains, and not because of the cord that holds it together. The personal experiences and recollections that are here and there interwoven, by themselves would be of little consequence; but they will be found to carry upon them certain historical facts and inferences—some new in themselves and in their connections—which, as the author hopes and believes, are of profitable quality and abounding interest.
In consequence of the change of plan just explained, the scope of the work is materially affected. What was begun as a magazine article, and continued as a brochure, ends in a volume.
Poughkeepsie, N.Y., July, 1905.
The following is an extract from Theodore Roosevelt's biography of Thomas H. Benton in Houghton, Mifflin, & Co.'s American Statesmen Series, published in 1887:
"Owing to a variety of causes, the Abolitionists have received an immense amount of hysterical praise which they do not deserve, and have been credited with deeds done by other men whom, in reality, they hampered and opposed rather than aided. After 1840, the professed Abolitionists formed a small and comparatively unimportant portion of the forces that were working towards the restriction and ultimate destruction of slavery; and much of what they did was positively harmful to the cause for which they were fighting. Those of their number who considered the Constitution as a league with death and hell, and who, therefore, advocated a dissolution of the Union, acted as rationally as would anti-polygamists nowadays if, to show their disapproval of Mormonism, they should advocate that Utah should be allowed to form a separate nation. The only hope of ultimately suppressing slavery lay in the preservation of the Union, and every Abolitionist who argued or signed a petition for the dissolution was doing as much to perpetuate the evil he complained of, as if he had been a slaveholder. The Liberty party, in running Birney, simply committed a political crime, evil in almost all its consequences. They in no sense paved the way for the Republican party, or helped forward the Anti-Slavery cause, or hurt the existing organizations. Their effect on the Democracy was nil; and all they were able to accomplish with the Whigs was to make them put forward for the ensuing election a slaveholder from Louisiana, with whom they were successful. Such were the remote results of their conduct; the immediate evils they produced have already been alluded to. They bore considerable resemblance—except that after all they really did have a principle to contend for—to the political Prohibitionists of the present day, who go into the third party organization, and are, not even excepting the saloon-keepers themselves, the most efficient allies on whom intemperance and the liquor traffic can count.
"Anti-Slavery men like Giddings, who supported Clay, were doing a thousandfold more effective work for the cause they had at heart than all the voters who supported Birney; or, to speak more accurately, they were doing all they could to advance the cause, while the others were doing all they could to hold it back. Lincoln in 1860 occupied more nearly the ground held by Clay than that held by Birney; and the men who supported the latter in 1844 were the prototypes of those who worked to oppose Lincoln in 1860, and only worked less hard because they had less chance. The ultra Abolitionists discarded expediency, and claimed to act for abstract right on principle, no matter what the results might be; in consequence they accomplished very little, and that as much for harm as for good, until they ate their words, and went counter to their previous course, thereby acknowledging it to be bad, and supported in the Republican party the men and principles they had so fiercely condemned. The Liberty party was not in any sense the precursor of the Republican party, which was based as much on expediency as on abstract right, and was, therefore, able to accomplish good instead of harm. To say that extreme Abolitionists triumphed in Republican success and were causes of it, is as absurd as to call Prohibitionists successful if, after countless efforts totally to prohibit the liquor traffic, and after savage denunciations of those who try to regulate it, they should then turn round and form a comparatively insignificant portion of a victorious high-license party. The men who took a great and effective part in the fight against slavery were the men who remained with their respective parties."
No word of praise or approval has Mr. Roosevelt for the men and women—for representatives of both sexes were active sharers in the work performed—who inaugurated, and for a long period carried forward, the movement that led up to the overthrow of African slavery in this country. He has no encomiums to bestow on those same men and women for the protracted and exhausting labors they performed, the dangers they encountered, the insults they endured, the sacrifices they submitted to, the discouragements they confronted in many ways and forms in prosecuting their arduous undertaking. On the contrary, he has only bitter words of condemnation. In his estimation, and according to his dogmatic utterance, they were criminals—political criminals. His words make it very manifest that, if Mr. Roosevelt had been a voter in 1840, he would not have been an Abolitionist. He would not have been one of that devoted little band of political philanthropists who went out, like David of old, to do battle with one of the giant abuses of the time, and who found in the voter's ballot a missile that they used with deadly effect. On the contrary, he would have enrolled himself among their adversaries and assailants, becoming a member—because it is impossible to think of Theodore Roosevelt as a non-partisan—of one of the leading political parties of the day. There were but two of them—the Whigs and the Democrats. In failing to support one or the other of these parties, and giving their votes and influence to a new one that was founded and constructed on Anti-Slavery lines, the Abolitionists, in Mr. Roosevelt's opinion, "committed a political crime."
Now, for what did those parties stand in 1840? Who were their presidential candidates in that year? Martin Van Buren was the candidate of the Democrats. He had been for eight years in the offices of Vice-President and President, and in that time, in the opinion of the Anti-Slavery people of the country, had shown himself to be a facile instrument in the hands of the slaveholders. He was what the Abolitionists described as a "doughface"—a Northern man with Southern principles. As presiding officer he gave the casting vote in the Senate for the bill that excluded Anti-Slavery matter from the United States mails, a bill justly regarded as one of the greatest outrages ever perpetrated in a free country, and as holding a place by the side of the Fugitive Slave Law. True, he afterwards—this was in 1848,—like Saul of Tarsus, saw a new light and announced himself as a Free Soiler. Then the Abolitionists, with what must always be regarded as an extraordinary concession to partisan policy, cast aside their prejudices and gave him their support. Yet Mr. Roosevelt charges them with being indifferent to the demands of political expediency.
General William Henry Harrison, candidate of the Whigs, was a Virginian by birth and training, and an inveterate pro-slavery man. When Governor of the Territory of Indiana, he presided over a convention that met for the purpose of favoring, notwithstanding the prohibition in the Ordinance of '87, the introduction of slavery in that Territory.
These were the men between whom the old parties gave the Abolitionists the privilege of pick and choice. Declining to support either of them, they gave their votes to James G. Birney, candidate of the newly formed Liberty party. He was a Southern man by birth and a slave-owner by inheritance, but, becoming convinced that slavery was wrong, he freed his negroes, giving them homes of their own, and so frankly avowed his Anti-Slavery convictions that he was driven from his native State. His supporters did not expect to elect him, but they hoped to begin a movement that would lead up to victory. They were planting seed in what they believed to be receptive soil.
After 1840, the old parties became more and more submissive to the Slave Power. Conjointly, they enacted those measures that became known as the compromises of 1850, the principal ones being the Fugitive Slave Law and the act repealing the Missouri Compromise. Both of them pronounced these acts to be "a finality," and both of them in national convention declared there should be no further agitation of the subject. They set out to muzzle all the Anti-Slavery voices of the country.
By this time it was perfectly manifest that there was not only nothing the slaveholders might demand which the old parties would not concede, but that there was, so far as the slavery issue was involved, absolutely no difference between them. It is a notable fact that in the eight years following 1840, of the four presidential candidates put in nomination by the two parties, three were slaveholders, the fourth being a Northern "doughface," and both of the two who were elected held slaves.
For the nomination and election of one of these men, whom he describes as "a slaveholder from Louisiana" (General Taylor), Mr. Roosevelt is disposed to hold the Abolitionists accountable. They forced the poor Whigs into those proceedings, he intimates, probably by telling them they ought to do nothing of the kind, that being what they actually did tell them. But as the Abolitionists, four years earlier, in the same way defeated the Whigs when they were supporting a slaveholder from Kentucky (Clay), and a man who, in his time, did more for the upbuilding of slavery than any other person in America, it would appear that the score of responsibility on their part was fairly evened up.
In citing the action of Joshua R. Giddings as an anti-third-party man, Mr. Roosevelt is not altogether fortunate. Subsequent to the presidential campaign of 1844, the third-party Abolitionists held a convention in Pittsburg, in which Giddings was a leading actor. As chairman of the committee on platform, he submitted a resolution declaring that both of the old parties were "hopelessly corrupt and unworthy of confidence."
The Abolitionists could not see that they were under obligation to either of the old parties, believing they could do far better service for the cause they championed by standing up and being counted as candidates honestly representing their principles. They fought both of the old parties, and finally beat them. They killed the Whig party out and out, and so far crippled the Democrats that they have been limping ever since. Their action, in the long run, as attested by the verdict of results, proved itself to be not only the course of abstract right, but of political expediency.
In 1840, the vote of the third-party Abolitionists, then for the first time in the political field, was 7000; in 1844 it was 60,000, and in 1848 it was nearly 300,000. From that time, with occasional backsets, Mr. Roosevelt's "political criminals" went steadily forward until they mastered the situation. From the first, they were a power in the land, causing the older parties to quake, Belshazzar-like, at sight of their writing on the wall.
But according to Mr. Roosevelt, the men of the Liberty-Free-Soil party had no share in fathering and nurturing the Republican party, to which he assigns all the credit for crushing slavery. Says he, "The Liberty party was not in any sense the precursor of the Republican party, which was based as much on expediency as on abstract right." It is very true that many Republicans, especially in the earlier days, were neither Abolitionists nor Anti-Slavery people. A good many of them, like Abraham Lincoln, were sentimentally adverse to slavery, but under existing conditions did not want it disturbed. Many of them, having broken loose from the old parties, had no other place of shelter and cared nothing for slavery one way or the other, some being of the opinion of one of the new party leaders whom the writer hereof heard declare that "the niggers are just where they ought to be." All this, however, does not prove that the third-party people were not the real forerunners and founders of the Republican party. They certainly helped to break up the old organizations, crushing them in whole or part. They supplied a contingent of trained and desperately earnest workers, their hearts being enlisted as well as their hands. And what was of still greater consequence, they furnished an issue, and one that was very much alive, around which the detached fragments of the old parties could collect and unite. Their share in the composition and development of the new party can be illustrated. Out in our great midland valley two rivers—the Missouri and the Mississippi—meet and mingle their waters. The Missouri, although the larger stream, after the junction is heard of no more; but being charged with a greater supply of sedimentary matter, gives its color to the combined flood of the assimilated waters. Abolitionism was merged in Republicanism. It was no longer spoken of as a separate element, but from the beginning it gave color and character to the combination. The whole compound was Abolitionized.
It was not, indeed, the voting strength, although this was considerable, that the Abolitionists brought to the Republican organization, that made them the real progenitors of that party. It is possible that the other constituents entering into it, which were drawn from the Anti-Slavery Whigs, the "Anti-Nebraska" Democrats, the "Barnburner" Democrats of New York, the "Know-Nothings," etc., numbered more in the aggregate than the Abolitionists it included; but it was not so much the number of votes the Abolitionists contributed that made them the chief creators of the Republican party, as it was their working and fighting ability. They had undergone a thorough training. For nearly twenty years they had been in the field in active service. For the whole of that time they had been exposed to pro-slavery mobbing and almost every kind of persecution. They had to conquer every foot of ground they occupied. They had done an immense amount of invaluable preparatory work. To deny to such people a liberal share of the credit for results accomplished, would be as reasonable as to say that men who clear the land, plough the ground, and sow the seed, because others may help to gather the harvest, have nothing to do with raising the crop. But for the pioneer work of the Abolitionists there would have been no Republican party.
There had been Anti-Slavery people in this country before the Abolitionists—conscientious, zealous, intelligent—but somehow they lacked the ability, in the language of the pugilists, to "put up a winning fight." They had been brushed aside or trampled under foot. Not so with the Abolitionists. They had learned all the tricks of the enemy. They were not afraid of opposition. They knew how to give blows as well as to take them. The result was that from the time they organized for separate political action in 1840, they had made steady progress, although this seemed for a period to be discouragingly slow. It was only a question of time when, if there had been no Republican party, they would have succeeded in abolishing slavery without its assistance.
Although, as before remarked, the Republican party was made up of a good many elements besides the Abolitionists, there was among them but little homogeneousness. They were indifferent, if not hostile, to each other, and, if left to themselves, would never have so far coalesced as to make a working party. They had no settled policy, no common ground to stand on. They would have been simply a rope of sand. But the Abolitionists supplied a bond of union. They had a principle that operated like a loadstone in bringing the factions together.
There was another inducement the Abolitionists had to offer. They had an organization that was perfect in its way. It was weak but active. It had made its way into Congress where it had such representatives as John P. Hale and Salmon P. Chase in the Senate, and several brilliant men in the Lower House. It had a complete outfit of party machinery. It had an efficient force of men and women engaged in canvassing as lecturers and stump orators. It had well managed newspapers, and the ablest pens in the country—not excepting Harriet Beecher Stowe's—were in its service. All this, it is hardly necessary to say, was attractive to people without political homes. The Abolitionists offered them not only shelter but the prospect of meat and drink in the future. In that way their organization became the nucleus of the Republican party, which was in no sense a new organization, but a reorganization of an old force with new material added.
And here would seem to be the proper place for reference to the historical fact that the Republican party, under that name, had but four years of existence behind it when the great crisis came in the election of Lincoln and the beginning of the Civil War—Lincoln's election being treated by the South as a casus belli. The Republican party was established under that name in 1856 and Lincoln was elected in 1860.
Now, the work preparatory to Lincoln's election was not done in four years. The most difficult part of it—the most arduous, the most disagreeable, the most dangerous—had been done long before. Part of it dated back to 1840. Indeed, the performance of the Republican party in those four years was not remarkably brilliant. With the slogan of "Free soil, free men, and Fremont" it made an ostentatious demonstration in 1856—an attempted coup de main—which failed. It would have failed quite as signally in 1860, but for the division of the Democratic party into the Douglas and Breckenridge factions. That division was pre-arranged by the slaveholders who disliked Douglas, the regular Democratic nominee, much more than they did Lincoln, and who hoped and plotted for Lincoln's election because it furnished them a pretext for rebellion.
The change of name from "Free Soil" or "Liberty" to "Republican" in 1856 had very little significance. It was a matter of partisan policy and nothing more. "Liberty" and "Free Soil," as party cognomens, had a meaning, and were supposed to antagonize certain prejudices. "Republican," at that juncture, meant nothing whatever. Besides, it was sonorous; it was euphonious; it was palatable to weak political stomachs. The ready acceptance of the new name by the Abolitionists goes very far to contradict Mr. Roosevelt's accusation against them of being regardless of the claims of political expediency.
The writer has shown, as he believes, that without the preparatory work of the political Abolitionists there would have been no Republican party. He will now go a step further. He believes that without that preliminary service there would not only have been no Republican party, but no Civil War in the interest of free soil, no Emancipation Proclamation, no Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Federal Constitution. There might have been and probably would have been considerable discussion, ending in a protest, more or less "ringing," when slavery was permitted to overstep the line marked out by the Missouri Compromise. There might even have been another "settlement." But no such adjustment would have seriously impeded the northward march of the triumphant Slave Power. Indeed, in that event it is more than probable that ere this the legal representatives of the late Robert Toombs, of Georgia, would, if so inclined, have made good his boast of calling the roll of his slaves at the foot of Bunker Hill monument.
So far we have dealt with Mr. Roosevelt's indictment of the Abolitionists for abandoning the old pro-slavery political parties, and undertaking to construct a new and better one. That, in his judgment, was a political crime. But he charges them with another manifestation of criminality which was much more serious. He accuses them of hostility, to the Union, which was disloyalty and treason. The evidence offered by him in support of his accusation was the Anti-Unionist position taken by William Lloyd Garrison, who branded the Union as a "league with hell," and some of his associates. But Garrison was not a leader, or even a member, of the third or Liberty party. He denounced it almost as bitterly as Mr. Roosevelt.
Garrison was a Quaker, a non-resistant, and a non-voter. He relied on moral suasion. He saw no salvation in politics. The formation of a new Anti-Slavery party excited his fiery indignation. He declared that it was "ludicrous in its folly, pernicious as a measure of policy, and useless as a political contrivance."
Far and away the most potential member and leader of the political Abolitionists was Salmon P. Chase. Instead of denouncing the Constitution as "a league with death and hell," he claimed that it was an Anti-Slavery document and should be so construed. As for the Union, by his services in successfully managing the finances of the country in its great crisis, he did as much to sustain the Union as any other man of that time. To accuse him of hostility and infidelity to the Union, is something that no one can do with impunity. In fact, so clear and so clean, as well as so bold and striking, is the record of Chase and his associates, beginning in 1840 and continuing down until the last shackle was stricken from the last bondsman's limbs, that even the shadow of the White House cannot obscure it.
Nor is Mr. Roosevelt happy in his illustration, when, in his concluding arraignment of the Abolitionists, he seeks to discredit them as an organization of impracticables by comparing them to the political Prohibitionists of to-day. When the latter, if that time is ever to be, shall become strong enough to rout one or both of the existing main political parties, and, taking the control of the Government in their hands, shall not only legally consign the liquor traffic to its coffin, but nail it down with a constitutional amendment, then Mr. Roosevelt's comparison will apply.
In selecting those who are to receive its remembrance and its honors, the world has always given its preference to such as have battled for freedom. It may have been with the sword; it may have been with the pen; or it may have been with a tongue that was inflamed with holy rage against tyranny and wrong; but whatever the instrumentality employed; in whatever field the battle has been fought; and by whatsoever race, or class, or kind of men; the champions of human liberty have been hailed as the bravest of the brave and the most worthy to receive the acclaims of their fellows.
Now, if that estimate be not altogether inaccurate, what place in the scale of renown must be assigned to those pioneers in the successful movement against African slavery in this country who have commonly been known as "Abolitionists"—a name first given in derision by their enemies? It should, in the opinion of the writer hereof, be the very highest. He is not afraid to challenge the whole record of human achievements by great and good men (always save and except that which is credited to the Saviour of mankind) for exhibitions of heroism superior to theirs. Nay, when it is remembered that mainly through their efforts and sacrifices was accomplished a revolution by which four million human beings (but for the Abolitionists the number to-day in bondage would be eight millions) were lifted from the condition in which American slaves existed but a few years ago, to freedom and political equality with their former masters; and, at the same time when it is considered what qualities of heart and brain were needed for such a task, he does not believe that history, from its earliest chapters, furnishes examples of gods or men, except in very rare and isolated cases, who have shown themselves to be their equals.
In the matter of physical courage they were unsurpassed, unsurpassable. A good many of them were Quakers and non-resistants, and a good many of them were women, but they never shrank from danger to life and limb, when employed in their humanitarian work. Some of them achieved the martyr's crown.
In the matter of conscience they were indomitable. Life to them was worth less than principle.
In the matter of money they were absolutely unselfish. Those of them who were poor, as the most of them were, toiled on without the hope of financial recompense. They did their work not only without the promise or prospect of material reward of any kind, but with the certainty of pains and penalties that included the ostracism and contempt of their fellows, and even serious risks to property and life.
All these sacrifices were in the cause of human liberty; but of liberty for whom? That is the crucial point. In all ages there have been plenty of men who have honorably striven for liberty for themselves. Some there have been who have risen to higher planes. We have an example in Lafayette. He fought to liberate a people who were foreign in language and blood; but they were of his own color and the peers of his compatriots.
The Abolitionists, however, espoused the cause, and it was for that that they endured so much, of creatures that were infinitely below them; of beings who had ceased to be recognized as belonging to humanity, and were classed with the cattle of the field and other species of "property." So low were they that they could neither appreciate nor return the services rendered in their behalf. For their condition, the Abolitionists were in no sense responsible. They had no necessary fellowship with the unfortunates. They were under no especial obligation to them. They were not of the same family. It was even doubted whether the races had a common origin. And yet, to the end of securing release for these wretched victims of an intolerable oppression, not a few of them dedicated all they possessed—life not excepted.
True it is that they had no monopoly of benevolence. Many noble men and women have gone as missionaries to the poor and benighted, and have sought through numerous hardships and perils to raise up those who have been trodden in the dust. But, as a rule, their services have been rendered pursuant to a secular employment that carried financial compensation, and behind their devotion to the poor and oppressed has been the expectation of personal reward in another world, if not in this. But such motives barely, if at all, influenced the Abolitionists. No element of professionalism entered into their work. They were not particularly religious. They neither very greatly reverenced nor feared the Church, whose leaders they often accused of a hankering for the "flesh-pots" that induced them to lead their followers into Egypt, rather than out of it. They were partly moved by a hatred of slavery and its long train of abuses that was irrepressible, and which to most persons was incomprehensible, and partly by a love for their fellows in distress that was so insistent as to make them forget themselves. Their impulses seemed to be largely intuitive, if not instinctive, and if called upon for a philosophical explanation they could not have given it.
In such a struggle for freedom and natural human rights as was carried on by the Abolitionists against tremendous odds and through a term covering many long years, it does seem to the writer of this essay that mortal heroism reached its height.
Nor am I by any means alone in the opinion just expressed. As far back as 1844, when the Abolitionists were few in number and the objects of almost savage persecution in every part of our country, the Earl of Carlisle, who, in his day was one of the most capable leaders of British public opinion, declared that they were engaged "in fighting a battle without a parallel in the history of ancient or modern heroism."
I am moved to write the story of the Abolitionists, partly because it is full of romantic interest, and partly because justice demands it. Those doughty file leaders in the Anti-Slavery fight do not to-day have an adequate acknowledgment of the obligations that the country and humanity should recognize as belonging to them, and they never have had it. Much of the credit that is fairly theirs has been mis-applied. Writers of history—so called, although much of it is simple eulogy—have been more and more inclined to attribute the overthrow of slavery to the efforts of a few men, and particularly one man, who, after long opposition to, or neglect of, the freedom movement, came to its help in the closing scenes of a great conflict, while the earlier, and certainly equally meritorious, workers and fighters have been quite left out of the account. The writer does not object to laborers who entered the field at the eleventh hour, sharing with those who bore the heat and burden of the day; but when there is a disposition to give to them all the earnings he does feel like protesting.
The case of the Abolitionists is not overstated when it is said that, but for their labors and struggles, this country, instead of being all free, would to-day be all slaveholding. The relative importance of their work in creating, by means of a persistent agitation, an opposition to human slavery that was powerful enough to compel the attention of the public and force the machine politicians, after long opposition, to admit the question into practical politics, cannot well be overestimated.
They alone and single-handed fought the opening battles of a great war, which, although overshadowed and obscured by later and more dramatic events, were none the less gallantly waged and nobly won. It is customary to speak of our Civil War as a four years' conflict. It was really a thirty years' war, beginning when the pioneer Abolitionists entered the field and declared for a life-and-death struggle. It was then that the hardest battles were fought.
I write the more willingly because comparatively few now living remember the mad excitement of the slavery controversy in ante-bellum days. The majority—the living and the working masses of to-day—will, doubtless, be gratified to have accurate pictures of scenes and events of which they have heard their seniors speak, that distinguished the most tempestuous period in our national history—the one in which the wildest passions were aroused and indulged. Then it was that the fiercest and bitterest agitation prevailed. The war that followed did not increase this. It rather modified it—sobered it in view of the crisis at hand—and served as a safety-valve for its escape.
For the same reason, the general public has now but slight comprehension of the trials endured by the Abolitionists for principle's sake. In many ways were they persecuted. In society they were tabooed; in business shunned. By the rabble they were hooted and pelted. Clowns in the circus made them the subjects of their jokes. Newspaper scribblers lampooned and libelled them. Politicians denounced them. By the Church they were regarded as very black sheep, and sometimes excluded from the fold. And this state of things lasted for years, during which they kept up a steady agitation with the help of platform lecturers, and regularly threw away their votes—so it was charged—in a "third party" movement that seemed to be a hopeless venture.
Another inducement to the writer to take up the cause of the Abolitionists is the fact that he has always been proud to class himself as one of them. He came into the world before Abolitionism, by that name, had been heard of; before the first Abolition Society was organized; before William Lloyd Garrison founded his Liberator, and before (not the least important circumstance) John Quincy Adams entered Congress. He cannot remember when the slavery question was not discussed. His sympathies at an early day went out to the slave. He informed himself on the subject as well as a farmer boy might be expected to do in a household that received the most of its knowledge of current events from the columns of one weekly newspaper. He cast his first vote for the ticket of the Abolitionists while they were yet a "third party."
The community in which he then lived, although in the free State of Ohio, was strongly pro-slavery, being not far from the Southern border. The population was principally from Virginia and Kentucky. There were a few Abolitionists, and they occasionally tried to hold public meetings, but the gatherings were always broken up by mobs.
The writer very well remembers the satisfaction with which he, as a schoolboy, was accustomed to hear that there was to be another Abolition "turn-out." The occasion was certain to afford considerable excitement that was dear to the heart of a boy, and it had another recommendation. The only room in the village—"town" we called it—for such affairs, except the churches, which were barred against "fanatics," was the district schoolhouse, which, by common consent, was open to all comers, and as the windows and doors, through which missiles were hurled during Anti-Slavery gatherings, were always more or less damaged, "we boys" usually got a holiday or two while the building was undergoing necessary repairs.
As might be surmised, the lessons I learned at school were not all such as are usually acquired at such institutions. My companions were like other children, full of spirit and mischief, and not without their prejudices. They hated Abolitionists because they—the Abolitionists—wanted to compel all white people to marry "niggers." Although not naturally unkind, they did not always spare the feelings of "the son of an old Abolitionist." We had our arguments. Some of them were of the knock-down kind. In more than one shindy, growing out of the discussion of the great question of the day, I suffered the penalty of a bloody nose or a blackened eye for standing up for my side.
The feeling against the negroes' friends—the Abolitionists—was not confined to children in years. It was present in all classes. It entered State and Church alike, and dominated both of them. The Congressional Representative from the district in which I lived in those days was an able man and generally held in high esteem. He made a speech in our village when a candidate for re-election. In discussing the slavery question—everybody discussed it then—he spoke of the negroes as being "on the same footing with other cattle." I remember the expression very well because it shocked me, boy that I was. It did not disturb the great majority of those present, however. They cheered the sentiment and gave their votes for the speaker, who was re-elected by a large majority.
About the same time I happened to be present where a General Assembly of one of our largest religious denominations was in session, and listened to part of an address by a noted divine—the most distinguished man in the body—which was intended to prove that slavery was an institution existing by biblical authority. He spent two days in a talk that was mostly made up of scriptural texts and his commentaries upon them. This was in Ohio, and there was not a slave-owner in the assembly, and yet a resolution commendatory of the views that had just been declared by the learned doctor, was adopted by an almost unanimous vote.
In the neighborhood in which I lived was an old and much respected clergyman who was called upon to preach a sermon on a day of some national significance. He made it the occasion for a florid panegyric upon American institutions, which, he declared, assured freedom to all men. Here he paused, "When I spoke of all men enjoying freedom under our flag," he resumed, "I did not, of course, include the Ethiopians whom Providence has brought to our shores for their own good as well as ours. They are slaves by a divine decree. As descendants of Ham, they are under a curse that makes them the servants of their more fortunate white brethren." Having thus put himself right on the record, he proceeded with his sermon. No one seemed to take exception to what he said.
In the same neighborhood was a young preacher who had shortly before come into it from somewhere farther North. In the course of one of his regular services he offered up a prayer in which he expressed the hope that the good Lord would find a way to break the bands of all who were in bondage. That smacked of Abolitionism and at once there was a commotion. The minister was asked to explain. This he declined to do, saying that his petition was a matter between him and his God, and he denied the right of others to question him. That only increased the opposition, and in a short time the spunky young man was compelled to resign his charge.
About that time there appeared a lecturer on slavery—which meant against slavery—who carried credentials showing that he was a clergyman in good standing in one of the leading Protestant denominations. In our village was a church of that persuasion, whose pastor was not an Abolitionist. As in duty bound, the visiting brother called on his local fellow-laborer, and informed him that on the following day, which happened to be Sunday, he would be pleased to attend service at his church. On the morrow he was on hand and occupied a seat directly in front of the pulpit; but, notwithstanding his conspicuousness, the home minister, who should, out of courtesy, have invited him to a seat in the pulpit, if to no other part in the services, never saw him. He looked completely over his head, keeping his eyes, all through the exercises, fixed upon the back pews, which happened, on that occasion, to be chiefly unoccupied.
Such incidents, of themselves, were of no great importance. Their significance was in the fact that they all occurred on the soil of a free State. They showed the state of feeling that then and there existed.
The writer has spoken of the courage of the Abolitionists. There is another trait by which they were distinguished that, in his opinion, should not be passed over. That was their extreme hopefulness—their untiring confidence. No matter how adverse were the conditions, they expected to win. They never counted the odds against them. They trusted in the right which they were firmly persuaded would prevail some time or another. For that time they were willing to wait, meanwhile doing what they could to hasten its coming.
Benjamin Lundy, the little Quaker mechanic, who was undeniably the Peter-the-Hermit of the Abolitionist movement, when setting out alone and on foot, with his printing material on his back, to begin a crusade against the strongest and most arrogant institution in the country, remarked with admirable naïveté, "I do not know how soon I shall succeed in my undertaking."
William Lloyd Garrison, when the pioneer Anti-Slavery Society was organized by only twelve men, and they people of no worldly consequence, the meeting for lack of a better place being held in a colored schoolroom on "Nigger Hill" in Boston, declared that in due time they would meet to urge their principles in Faneuil Hall—a most audacious declaration, but he was right.
The writer, when a boy, was witness to an exhibition of the same spirit. A kinsman of his was a zealous Abolitionist, although not particularly gifted with controversial acumen. He and his minister, as often happened, were discussing the slavery question. The minister, like many of his cloth at that time, was a staunch supporter of "the institution," which, according to his contention, firmly rested on biblical authority.
"How do you expect to destroy slavery, as it exists in Kentucky, by talking and voting abolition up here in Ohio?" asked the clergyman.
"We will crush it through Congress when we get control of the general government," said my kinsman.
"But Congress and the general government have, under the Constitution, absolutely no power over slavery in the States. It is a State institution," replied the clergyman.
It is unnecessary to follow the discussion, but, one after another, the quicker-witted and better-informed preacher successfully combated all the propositions advanced by my relative in trying to give a reason for the faith that was in him, until he was completely cornered. "Well," said he at last, "the good Lord has not taken me into His confidence, and I don't know what His plans for upsetting slavery are, but He will be able to manage it somehow."
It was doubtless their confidence in ultimate triumph, a result of their absolute belief in the righteousness of their cause, that, as much as anything else, armed and armored the Abolitionists against all opposition. It was one main element of their strength in the midst of their weakness. Without it they could not have persisted, as they did, in their separate or "third party " political action, that cleared the way and finally led up to a victorious organization. Year after year, and for many years, they voted for candidates that had no chance of election. Their first presidential ticket got only seven thousand votes in the whole country. The great public, which could not see the use of acting politically for principle alone, laughed at their simplicity in "throwing away their votes." "Voting in the air" was the way it was often spoken of, and those who were guilty of such incomprehensible folly were characterized as "one idea people." They, however, cared little for denunciation or ridicule, and kept on regularly nominating their tickets, and as regularly giving them votes that generally appeared in the election returns among the "scattering." They were not abashed by the insignificance of their party.
"They were men who dared to be
the right with two or three,"
according to the poet Lowell.
In the county in which I lived when a boy, there was one vote polled for the first Abolitionist presidential ticket. The man who gave it did not try to hide his responsibility—in fact, he seemed rather proud of his aloneness—but he was mercilessly guyed on account of the smallness of his party. His rejoinder was that he thought that he and God, who was, he believed, with him, made a pretty good-sized and respectable party.
The intensity—perhaps density would be a better word in this connection—of the prejudice that confronted the Abolitionists when they entered on their work is not describable by any expressions we have in our language. In the South it was soon settled that no man could preach Anti-Slaveryism and live. In the North the conditions were not much better. Every man and woman—because the muster-roll of the Abolition propagandists was recruited from both sexes—carried on the work at the hazard of his or her life. Sneers, scowls, hootings, curses, and rough handling were absolutely certain. One incident throws light on the state of feeling at that time.
When Pennsylvania Hall, which the Abolitionists of Philadelphia—largely Quakers—had erected for a meeting place at a cost of forty thousand dollars was fired by a mob, the fire department of that city threw water on surrounding property, but not one drop would it contribute to save the property of the Abolitionists.
Why was it that this devotion to slavery and this hostility to its opposers prevailed in the non-slaveholding States? They had not always existed. Indeed, there was a time, not so many years before, when slavery was generally denounced; when men like Washington and Jefferson and Henry, although themselves slave-owners, led public opinion in its condemnation. Everybody was anticipating the day of universal emancipation, when suddenly—almost in the twinkling of an eye—there was a change. If it had been a weather-cock—as to a considerable extent it was, and is—public opinion could not have more quickly veered about.
Slavery became the popular idol in the North as well as in the South. Opposition to it was not only offensive, but dangerous. It was sacrilege.
So far as the South was concerned the revolution is easily accounted for. Slavery became profitable. A Yankee magician had touched it with a wand of gold, and from being a languishing, struggling system, it quickly developed into a money-maker.
Whitney, the Connecticut mechanical genius, by the invention of the cotton-gin, made the production of cotton a highly lucrative industry. The price of negroes to work the cotton fields at once went up, and yet the supply was inadequate. Northernly slave States could not produce cotton, but they could produce negroes. They shared in the golden harvest. Such cities as Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Wheeling, and Louisville became centers of a flourishing traffic in human beings. They had great warehouses, commonly spoken of as "nigger pens," in which the "hands" that were to make the cotton were temporarily gathered, and long coffles—that is, processions of men and women, each with a hand attached to a common rope or chain—marched through their streets with faces turned southward.
The slave-owners were numerically a lean minority even in the South, but their mastery over their fellow-citizens was absolute. Nor was there any mystery about it. As the owners of four million slaves, on an average worth not far from five hundred dollars each, they formed the greatest industrial combination—what at this time we would call a trust—ever known to this or any other country. Our mighty Steel Corporation would have been a baby beside it. If to-day all our great financial companies were consolidated, the unit would scarcely come up to the dimensions of that one association. It was not incorporated in law, but its union was perfect. Bound together by a common interest and a common feeling, its members—in the highest sense co-partners in business and in politics, in peace and in war—were prepared to act together as one man.
But why, I again ask, were the Northern people so infatuated with slavery? They raised no cotton and they raised no negroes, but many of them, and especially their political leaders, carried their adulation almost to idolatry.
When Elijah P. Lovejoy was shot down like a dog, and William Lloyd Garrison was dragged half naked and half lifeless through the streets of Boston, and other outrages of like import were being perpetrated all over the North, it was carefully given out that those deeds were not the work of irresponsible rowdies, but of "gentlemen"—of merchants, manufacturers, and members of the professions. They claimed the credit for such achievements. There were reasons for such a state of things—some very solid, because financial.
The North and the South were extensively interlaced by mutual interests. With slave labor the Southern planters made cotton, and with the proceeds of their cotton they bought Northern machinery and merchandise. They sent their boys and girls to Northern schools. They came North themselves when their pockets were full, and freely spent their money at Northern hotels, Northern theatres, Northern race-tracks, and other Northern places of entertainment.
Then there were other ties than those of business. The great political parties had each a Southern wing. Religious denominations had their Southern members. Every kind of trade and calling had its Southern outlet.
But social connections were the strongest of all, and probably had most to do in making Northern sentiment. Southern gentlemen were popular in the North. They spent money lavishly. Their manners were grandiose. They talked boastfully of the number of their "niggers," and told how they were accustomed to "wallop" them.
Then there were marriage ties between the sections. Many domestic alliances strengthened the bond between slavery and the aristocracy of the North.
In the circles in which these things were going on, it was the fashion to denounce the Abolitionists. Women were the most bitter. The slightest suspicion of sympathy with the "fanatics" was fatal to social ambition. Mrs. Henry Chapman, the wife of a wealthy Boston shipping merchant who gave orders that no slaves should be carried on his vessels, was a brilliant woman and a leader in the highest sense in that city. But when she consented to preside over a small conference of Anti-Slavery women, society cut her dead, her former associates refusing to recognize her on the street. The families of Arthur and Lewis Tappan, the distinguished merchants of New York, were noted for their intelligence and culture, but when the heads of the families came to be classified as Abolitionists the doors of all fashionable mansions were at once shut against them. They in other ways suffered for their opinions. The home of Lewis Tappan was invaded by a mob, and furniture, books, and bric-a-brac were carried to the street and there burned to ashes.
The masses of the Northern people were, however, led to favor slavery by other arguments. One of them was that the slaves, if manumitted, would at once rush to the North and overrun the free States. I have heard that proposition warmly supported by fairly intelligent persons.
Another argument that weighed with a surprisingly large number of people, was that civil equality would be followed by social equality. As soon as they were free, negro men, it was said, would marry white wives. "Do you want your son or your daughter to marry a nigger?" was regarded as a knockout anti-Abolitionist argument. The idea, of course, was absurd. "Is it to be inferred that because I don't want a negro woman for a slave, I do want her for a wife?" was one of the quaint and pithy observations attributed to Mr. Lincoln. I heard Prof. Hudson, of Oberlin College, express the same idea in about the same words many years before.
And yet there were plenty of Northern people to whom "Amalgamation"—the word used to describe the apprehended union of the races—was a veritable scarecrow. A young gentleman in a neighborhood near where I lived when a boy was in all respects eligible for matrimony. He became devoted to the daughter of an old farmer who had been a Kentuckian, and asked him for her hand. "But I am told," said the old gentleman, "that you are an Abolitionist." The young man admitted the justice of the charge. "Then, sir," fairly roared the old man, "you can't have my daughter; go and marry a nigger."
But what probably gave slavery its strongest hold upon the favor of Northern people was the animosity toward the negro that prevailed among them. Nowhere was he treated by them like a human being. The "black laws," as those statutes in a number of free States that regulated the treatment of the blacks were appropriately called, were inhuman in the extreme. Ohio was in the main a liberal State. She was called a free State, but her negroes were not free men. Under her laws they could only remain in the State by giving bonds for good behavior. Any one employing negroes, not so bonded, was liable to a fine of one hundred dollars. They could not vote, of course. They could not testify in a case in which a white man was interested. They could not send their children to schools which they helped to support. The only thing they could do "like a white man" was to pay taxes.
The prejudice against the poor creatures in Ohio was much stronger than that they encountered on the other side of the Ohio River in the slave State of Kentucky. Here—in Kentucky—they were property, and they generally received the care and consideration that ownership ordinarily establishes. The interest of the master was a factor in their behalf. In many instances there was genuine affection between owner and slave. "How much better off they would be if they only had good masters," was a remark I very often heard in Ohio, as the negroes would go slouching by with hanging heads and averted countenances. There is no doubt that at this time the physical condition of the blacks was generally much better in slavery than it was in freedom. What stronger testimony to the innate desire for liberty—what Byron has described as "The eternal spirit of the chainless mind"—than the fact that slaves who were the most indulgently treated, were constantly escaping from the easy and careless life they led to the hostilities and barbarities of the free States, and they never went back except under compulsion.
"O carry me back to old Virginy,
To old Virginy's shore,"
was the refrain of a song that was very popular in those days, and which was much affected by what were called "negro minstrels." It was assumed to express the feelings of colored fugitives from bondage when they had time to realize what freedom meant in their cases, but I never heard the words from the lips of a man who had lived in a state of servitude.
I have elsewhere referred to the fact that women were often the most bitter in their denunciations of the Abolitionists. In the neighborhood in which I passed my early days was a lady who was born and raised in the North, and who probably had no decided sentiment, one way or the other, on the slavery question; but who about this time spent several months in a visit to one of the slave States. She came back thoroughly imbued with admiration for "the institution." She could not find words to describe the good times that were enjoyed by the wives and daughters of the slave-owners. They had nothing to do except to take the world easy, and that, according to her account, they did with great unanimity. The slaves, were, she declared, the happiest people in the world, all care and responsibility being taken from their shoulders by masters who were kind enough to look out for their wants.
But one day she unwittingly exposed a glimpse of the reverse side of the picture. She told the story of a young slave girl who had been accused of larceny. She had picked up some trifling article that ordinarily no one would have cared anything about; but at this time it was thought well to make an example of somebody. The wrists of the poor creature were fastened together by a cord that passed through a ring in the side of the barn, which had been put there for that purpose, and she was drawn up, with her face to the building, until her toes barely touched the ground. Then, in the presence of all her fellow-slaves, and with her clothing so detached as to expose her naked shoulders, she was flogged until the blood trickled down her back.
"I felt almost as bad for her," said the narrator, "as if she had been one of my own kind."
"Thank God she was not one of your kind!" exclaimed a voice that fairly sizzled with rage.
The speaker who happened to be present was a relative of the author and a red-hot Abolitionist.
Then came a furious war of words, the two enraged women shouting maledictions in each other's faces. As a boy, I enjoyed the performance hugely until I began to see that there was danger of a collision. As the only male present, it would be my duty to interfere in case the combatants came to blows, or rather to scratches and hair-pulling. I did not like the prospect, which seemed to me to be really alarming, and was thinking of some peaceable solution, when the two women, looking into each other's inflamed faces, suddenly realized the ridiculousness of the situation and broke into hearty peals of laughter. That, of course, ended the controversy, not a little to the relief of the writer.
If the influence of a great majority of the women of that day was thrown on the side of slavery, as was undoubtedly the case, the minority largely made up for the disparity of numbers by the spunk and aggressiveness of their demonstrations. A good many of the most indomitable and effective Abolition lecturers were women—such as Mrs. Lucretia Mott, the Grimké sisters, Abby Kelly, and others whose names are here omitted, although they richly deserve to be mentioned. Of all that sisterhood, the most pugnacious undoubtedly was Abby Kelly, a little New England woman, with, as the name would indicate, an Irish crossing of the blood. I heard her once, and it seemed to me that I never listened to a tongue that was so sharp and merciless. Her eyes were small and it appeared to me that they contracted, when she was speaking, until they emitted sparks of fire. Although she went by her maiden name, she was a married woman, being the wife of Stephen Foster, a professional Abolitionist agitator and lecturer. Although himself noted for the bitterness of his speech, when it came to hard-hitting vituperation he could not begin to "hold a candle" to his little wife.
The two traveled together and spoke from the same platforms. They were constantly getting into hot water through the hostility of mobs, which they seemed to enjoy most heartily. Foster's life was more than once in serious danger, but they kept right on and never showed the slightest fear. The only meeting addressed by them that I attended, though held on the Sabbath, was ended by the throwing of stones and sticks and addled eggs.
But if the current of public opinion in the North suddenly turned, and for a long time ran with overwhelming force in favor of slavery, it changed about almost as suddenly and ran with equal force in the opposite direction. The county in which I lived when a boy, that furnished only one vote for the first Abolitionist presidential ticket, became a Republican stronghold. It was in what had been a Whig district, and when the Whig party went to pieces, the most of its débris drifted into the Republican lines.
On the occasion of one of the pro-slavery mobs I elsewhere tell about, when a supply of eggs with which to garnish the Abolitionists, was wanted, and the money for their purchase was called for, the town constable—the peace officer of the community—put his hand in his pocket and supplied the funds.
A few years thereafter, on my return to the village after a considerable absence, I found that I had come just in time to attend a Republican rally which was that day to be held in a near-by grove. When I reached the scene of operations a procession to march to the grove was being formed. There was considerable enthusiasm and noise, but by far the most excited individual was the Grand Marshal and Master of Ceremonies. Seated on a high horse, he was riding up and down the line shouting out his orders with tremendous unction. He was the constable of the egg-buying episode.
In several of his addresses before his election to the Presidency, Mr. Lincoln gave utterance to the following language: "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this Government cannot permanently remain half slave and half free. I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it to cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other thing."
The same opinion had been enunciated several years before by John Quincy Adams on the floor of Congress, when, with his accustomed pungency, he declared, "The Union will fall before slavery or slavery will fall before the Union."
But before either Adams or Lincoln spoke on the subject—away back in 1838—the same idea they expressed had a more elaborate and forcible presentation in the following words:
"The conflict is becoming—has become—not alone of freedom for the blacks, but of freedom for the whites. It has now become absolutely necessary that slavery shall cease in order that freedom may be preserved in any portion of our land. The antagonistic principles of liberty and slavery have been roused into action, and one or the other must be victorious. There will be no cessation of the strife until slavery shall be exterminated or liberty destroyed."
The author of the words last above quoted was James Gillespie Birney, who was the first Abolitionist, or "Liberty party," candidate for the Presidency, and of whose career a brief sketch is elsewhere given.
That the slaveholders reached the same conclusion that Birney and Adams and Lincoln announced, viz., that the country was to be all one thing or all the other thing, is as manifest as any fact in our history. It is equally certain that they had firmly resolved to capture the entire commonwealth for their "institution," and had laid their plans to that end. They were unwilling to live in a divided house, particularly with an occupant who was stronger in population and wealth than they were.
They saw the danger in such association. Northern sentiment toward slavery was complacent enough, even servilely so, but it might change. The South thought it had too much at stake to take the chances when the opportunity for absolute safety and permanent rule was within its reach. It resolved to make the whole country, not only pro-slavery, but slaveholding. If, through any mischance, it failed in its calculation, the next step would be to tear down the house and from its ruins reconstruct so much of it as might be needed for its own occupancy. That it would be able in time to possess itself of the whole country, however, for and in behalf of its industrial policy, it did not for an instant doubt. It was not empty braggadocio on the part of the celebrated Robert Toombs, of Georgia, when he uttered his famous boast. He voiced the practically unanimous opinion of his section.
Nor was there anything seemingly very presumptuous in that anticipation. So far, the South had been invariably victorious. In what appeared to be a decisive battle in the test case of admitting Missouri into the Union as a slave State, it had won. So pronounced was its triumph that whatever Anti-Slavery sentiment survived the conflict appeared to be stunned and helpless. All fight was knocked out of it. Its spirit was broken. While the South was not only compact and fully alive, but exultingly aggressive, the North was divided, fully one half of its population being about as pro-slavery as the slaveholders themselves, and the rest, with rare exceptions, being hopelessly apathetic. The Northern leaders of both of the old political parties—Whig and Democratic—were what the Abolitionists called "dough-faces," being Northern men with Southern principles. The Church was "a dumb dog," and the press simply drifted with the tide. It was not at all strange that the slaveholders expected to go on from conquest to conquest.
There were two policies they could adopt. One was to attack the enemy's citadel; or rather, the several citadels it possessed in its individual States, and force them to open their doors to the master and his human chattels. The other was to flank and cover, approaching the main point of attack by way of the Territories. These, once in possession of the slaveholders, could be converted into enough slave States to give them the control of the general government, from which coigne of advantage they could proceed in their own time and way to possess themselves of such other free States as they might want.
In the matter of the Territories they had a great advantage. The North was up against a stone wall at the Canadian border. In that direction it could not advance a step, while the South had practically an unlimited field on its side from which to carve possessions as they might be wanted, very much as you would cut a pie.
In pursuance of its territorial policy—being the line of action it first resolved upon—the first movement of the South was to annex Texas—a victory. The next was to make war on Mexico, and (a joke of the day) conquer a "piece" from it large enough to make half a dozen States, all expected to be slaveholding—another victory.
By a curious irony the filching of land for slavery's uses from a neighbor, and on which the foot of a slave had never pressed, was exultingly spoken of at the time by its supporters as "an extension of the area of freedom." The act was justified on the ground that we needed "land for the landless," which led Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio to assert on the floor of the United States Senate, with as much truth as wit, that it was not land for the landless that was wanted, but "niggers for the niggerless."
Then came the battle over Kansas. The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill in Congress, although involving a breach of good faith on the part of the South, was hailed as another victory for that section. It was a costly victory. It was followed by defeat not only disastrous but fatal. The result in Kansas was really the turning-point in the great struggle. It broke the line of Southern victories. It neutralized the effect of the whole territorial movement up to that point. It completely spoiled the slaveholders' well-laid plans. We will always give Grant and his men all praise for victories leading up to Appomatox, but, in some respects, the most important victory of the great conflict was won on the plains of Kansas by John Brown of Ossawattomie and his Abolition associates.
The most sagacious Southern leaders saw in that result conclusive proof that the scale was turned. They realized that they were beaten within the lines of the Union, and they began to arrange for going out of it. They helped to elect a Republican President by dividing the Democratic party in 1860 between two candidates—Douglas and Breckenridge—in order that they might have a plausible pretext for secession.
But the slaveholders had not abandoned the other policy to which reference has been made—that of carrying their institution, by main force, as it were, into some, if not all, of the free States. To that end they had, in sporting parlance, a card up their sleeves which they proceeded to play. That card was the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case, upon which they relied to give them the legal power to take and hold their slaves in all parts of the land. Up to the date of that decision, the current of judicial rulings had been that slavery, being a municipal institution, was local, while freedom was national. Hence, when a master took his slave into a free State, at that instant he became a free man. The Dred Scott decision was intended to reverse the rule. Practically it held that slave ownership, wherever the Constitution prevailed, was both a legal and a natural right. It, as Benton forcibly expressed it, "made slavery the organic law of the land and freedom the exception"; or, as it was jocularly expressed at the time, it left freedom nowhere.
Although at the time of its promulgation, it was claimed by some of the more conservative pro-slavery leaders that the Dred Scott dictum applied only to the Territories, giving the masters the legal authority to enter them with their slaves, that position was clearly deceptive. The principle involved, as laid down by the Court, was altogether too broad for that construction. In effect it put the proprietorship of human beings upon the same footing with other property rights, and claimed for it the same constitutional protection. The bolder men of the South, like Toombs of Georgia, did not hesitate to give that interpretation to the Court's pronouncement, and to insist on it with brutal frankness. If they were wrong, the Court was putty in their hands and they could easily have had a supplemental ruling that would have gone to any extent.
If the Dred Scott decision had been promulgated by our highest court, and the slaveholders had insisted upon the license it was intended to give them for taking their slave property into free territory, at the time that Garrison was being dragged by a mob through Boston's streets; when Birney's printing-press in Cincinnati was being tumbled into the Ohio River; when Pennsylvania Hall, the Quaker Abolitionists' forty-thousand-dollar construction, was ablaze in Philadelphia; when Lovejoy, the Abolition martyr, was bleeding out his life in one of the streets of Alton, Illinois—when, in fact, the whole land was swayed by a frenzied hatred of the men and women who dared to question slavery's right to supremacy, the writer believes the movement would have been successful. Public opinion was so inclined in States like Indiana and Illinois, and even in Ohio, that they might have been easily toppled over to the South. Indeed, at that time it is a problem how Massachusetts would have voted on a proposition to "slaveryize" her soil. The surprising thing, as we look back to that period, is that slavery did not get a foothold in some of the free States, if not in all of them.
But by the time the South was ready to play its trump card, it was too late. The game was lost. Public opinion had become revolutionized throughout the North. The leaven of Abolitionism had got in its work. The men and women, few in number and weak in purse and worldly position as they were, who had enlisted years before in the cause of emancipation, and had fought for it in the face of almost every conceivable discouragement, had at last won a great preliminary victory. Slavery, through their exertions, had become impossible, both in the Territories and in the free States of the North, the United States Supreme Court and all the forces of the slave power to the contrary notwithstanding. Then came to the South a not unanticipated, and to many of her leaders a not unwelcome political Waterloo, in the election of Lincoln. This gave the argument for secession that was wanted. The South had then to yield—which she had no idea of doing—or to go into rebellion. She went out of the Union very much as she would have gone to a frolic. She had no thought that serious fighting was to follow. She did not believe, as one of the Southern leaders expressed it, that the Northern people would go to war for the sake of the "niggers."
The early Abolitionists were denounced as fanatics, or "fan-a-tics," according to the pronunciation of some of their detractors. They were treated as if partially insane. The writer when a boy attended the trial of a cause between two neighbors in a court of low grade. It was what was called a "cow case," and involved property worth, perhaps, as much as twenty dollars. One of the witnesses on the stand was asked by a lawyer, who wanted to embarrass or discredit him, if he were not an Abolitionist. Objection came from the other side on the ground that the inquiry was irrelevant; but the learned justice-of-the-peace who presided held that, as it related to the witness's sanity, and that would affect his credibility, the question was admissible. It is not, perhaps, so very strange that in those days, in view of the disreputableness of those whose cause they espoused, and the apparently utter hopelessness of anything ever coming out of it, the supporters of Anti-Slaveryism should be suspected of being "out of their heads."
Although Don Quixote, who, according to the veracious Cervantes, set out with his unaided strong right arm to upset things, including wind-mills and obnoxious dynasties, has long been looked upon as the world's best specimen of a "fanatic," he would ordinarily be set down as a very Solomon beside the man who would undertake single-handed to overthrow such an institution as American slavery used to be. Such a man there was, however. He really entered on the job of abolishing that institution, and without a solitary assistant. Strange to say, he was neither a giant nor a millionaire.
According to Horace Greeley, "Benjamin Lundy deserves the high honor of ranking as the pioneer of direct and distinctive Anti-Slaveryism in America."
He was slight in frame and below the medium height, and unassuming in manner. He had, it is said, neither eloquence nor shining ability of any sort.
At nineteen years of age he went to Wheeling, Virginia, to learn the trade of a saddler. He learned more than that. Wheeling, as he tells us, was then a great thoroughfare for the traffickers in human flesh. Their coffles passed through the place frequently. "My heart," he continues, "was grieved at the great abomination. I heard the wail of the captive, I felt his pang of distress, and the iron entered into my soul."
But much as Lundy loathed the business of the slave-dealers and slave-drivers, he then had no idea of attempting its abolishment. He married and settled down to the prosecution of his trade, and had he been like other people generally he would have been content. But he could not shut the pictures of those street scenes in Wheeling out of his mind and out of his heart.
The first thing in the reformatory line he did was to organize a local Anti-Slavery society in the village in which he was then living in Ohio; at the first meeting of this society only five persons were present.
About this time Lundy made some important discoveries. He learned that he could write what the newspapers would print, and give expression to words that the people would listen to. He was quick to realize the fact that the best way to reach the people of this country was through the press. He started a very small paper with a very large name. It was ambitiously nominated The Genius of Universal Emancipation. He began with only six subscribers and without a press or other publishing material. Moreover, he had no money. He was not then a practical printer, though later he learned the art of type-setting. At this time he had his newspaper printed twenty miles from his home, and carried the edition for that distance on his back.
But insignificant as Lundy's paper was, it had the high distinction of being the only exclusively Anti-Slavery journal in the country, and its editor and proprietor was the only professional Abolition lecturer and agitator of that time.
Afterwards, in speaking of his journalistic undertaking, Mr. Lundy said: "I began this work without a dollar of funds, trusting to the sacredness of the cause." Another saying of his was that he did not stop to calculate "how soon his efforts would be crowned with success."
As Lundy spent the greater part of his time in traveling from place to place, procuring subscriptions to his journal and lecturing on slavery, he could not issue his paper regularly at any one point. In some instances he carried the head-rules, column-rules, and subscription-book of his journal with him, and when he came to a town where he found a printing-press he would stop long enough to print and mail a number of his periodical. He traveled for the most part on foot, carrying a heavy pack. In ten years in that way he covered twenty-five thousand miles, five thousand on foot.
He decided to invade the enemy's country by going where slavery was. He went to Tennessee, making the journey of eight hundred miles, one half by water, and one half on foot. That was, of course, before the day of railroads.
He continued to issue his paper, although often threatened with personal violence. Once two bullies locked him in a room and, with revolvers in hand, tried to frighten him into a promise to discontinue his work. He did not frighten to any extent.
Seeking what seemed to be the most inviting field for his operations, he decided to move his establishment to Baltimore, going most of the way on foot and lecturing as he went whenever he could find an audience.
His residence in Baltimore came near proving fatal. A slave-trader, whom he had offended, attacked and brutally beat him on the street. The consolation he got from the court that tried the ruffian, who was "honorably discharged," was that he (Lundy) had got "nothing more than he deserved." Soon afterwards his printing material and other property was burned by a mob.
He went to Mexico to select a location for a projected colony of colored people. He traveled almost altogether afoot, observing the strictest economy and supporting himself by occasional jobs of saddlery and harness mending. In his journal he tells us that he often slept in the open air, the country traversed being mostly new and unsettled. He was in constant danger from panthers, alligators, and rattlesnakes, while he was cruelly beset by gnats and mosquitoes. His clothes in the morning, he tells us, would be as wet from heavy dews as if he had fallen into the river.
Intellectually, Lundy was not a great man, but his heart was beyond measurement. The torch that he carried in the midst of the all but universal darkness of that period emitted but a feeble ray, but he kept it burning, and it possessed the almost invaluable property of being able to transmit its flame to other torches. It kindled the brand that was wielded by William Lloyd Garrison, and which possessed a wonderful power of illumination.
Garrison was beyond all question a remarkable man. In the qualities that endow a successful leader in a desperate cause he has never been surpassed. He had an iron will that was directed by an inflexible conscience. "To him," says James Freeman Clarke, "right was right, and wrong was wrong, and he saw no half lights or half shadows between them." He was a natural orator. I never heard him talk, either on or off the platform, but I have heard those who had listened to him, speak of the singular gift he possessed in stating or combating a proposition. One person who had heard him, often compared him, when dealing with an adversary, to a butcher engaged in dissecting a carcass, and who knew just where to strike every time,—a homely, but expressive illustration. His addresses in England on a certain notable occasion, which is dealt with somewhat at length elsewhere, were declared by the first British orators to be models of perfect eloquence.
Lundy and Garrison met by accident. They were boarding at the same house in Boston, and became acquainted. Lundy's mind was full of the subject of slavery, and Garrison's proved to be receptive soil. They decided to join forces, and we have the singular spectacle of two poor mechanics—a journeyman saddler and a journeyman printer—conspiring to revolutionize the domestic institutions of half of the country.
They decided to continue the Baltimore newspaper. Garrison's plain-spokenness, however, soon got him into trouble in that city. He was prosecuted for libelling a shipmaster for transporting slaves, was convicted and fined fifty dollars. The amount, so far as his ability to pay was involved, might as well have been a million. He went to prison, being incarcerated in a cell just vacated by a man who had been hanged for murder, and there he remained for seven weeks. At the end of that time Arthur Tappan, the big-hearted merchant of New York, learning the facts of the case, advanced the money needed to set Garrison free.
Undeterred by his experience as a martyr, Garrison—who had returned to Boston—resolved to establish a journal of his own in that city, which was to be devoted to the cause of the slave. The Liberator appeared on the 1st of January, 1831.
In entering upon this venture, Garrison had not a subscriber nor a dollar of money. Being a printer, he set up the type and struck off the first issue with his own hands.
In the initial number the proprietor of the Liberator outlined his proposed policy in these words: "I will be as harsh as truth; as uncompromising as justice. I am in earnest. I will not excuse; I will not retreat a single inch; and I will be heard."
The first issue of the paper brought in a contribution of fifty dollars from a colored man and twenty-five subscribers. It was not, therefore, a failure, but its continuance involved a terrible strain. Garrison and one co-worker occupied one room for work-shop, dining-room, and bedroom. They cooked their own meals and slept upon the floor. It was almost literally true, as pictured by Lowell, the poet:
"In a small chamber, friendless and unseen,
Toiled o'er his types one poor unlearned young man. The place was dark, unfurnitured and mean,
Yet there the freedom of a race began."
The effects produced by Garrison's unique production were simply wonderful. In October of its first year the Vigilance Association of South Carolina offered a reward of fifteen hundred dollars for the apprehension and prosecution to conviction of any white person who might be detected in distributing or circulating the Liberator. Georgia went farther than that. Less than a year after Garrison had established his paper, the Legislature of that State passed an act offering a reward of five thousand dollars to whomsoever should arrest, bring to trial, and prosecute its publisher to conviction. The Liberator was excluded from the United States mails in all the slave States, illegal as such a proceeding was.
There was, however, opposition nearer home. The Liberator establishment was wrecked by a mob, and Garrison, after having been stripped of nearly all his clothing, was dragged, bareheaded, by a rope round his body through the streets of Boston until, to save his life, the authorities thrust him into jail.
No man in this country was so cordially hated by the slaveholders as Garrison. Of the big men up North—the leaders of politics and society—they had no apprehension. They knew how to manage them. It was the little fellows like the editor of the Liberator that gave them trouble. These men had no money, but they could not be bought. They had no fear of mobs. They cared nothing for the scoldings of the church and the press. An adverse public sentiment never disturbed their equanimity or caused them to turn a hair's breadth in their course.
It is true that Lundy and Garrison had very little to lose. They had neither property nor social position. That, however, cannot be said of another early Abolitionist, who, in some respects, is entitled to more consideration than any of his co-workers.
James Gillespie Birney was a Southerner by birth. He belonged to a family of financial and social prominence. He was a gentleman of education and culture, having graduated from a leading college and being a lawyer of recognized ability. He was a slave-owner. For a time he conducted a plantation with slave labor. He lived in Alabama, where he filled several important official positions, and was talked of for the governorship of the State. But having been led to think about the moral, and other aspects of slaveholding, he decided that it was wrong and he would wash his hands of it. He could not in Alabama legally manumit his slaves. Moreover, his neighbors had risen up against him and threatened his forcible expulsion. He removed to Kentucky, where he thought a more liberal sentiment prevailed. There he freed his slaves and made liberal provision for their comfortable sustenance. But the slave power was on his track. He was warned to betake himself out of the State. The infliction of personal violence was meditated, and a party of his opposers came together for that purpose. They were engaged in discussing ways and means when a young man of commanding presence and strength, who happened to be present, announced that while he lived Mr. Birney would not be molested. His opposition broke up the plot. That young man became a leading clergyman and was subsequently for a time Chaplain of the United States Senate.
Birney went with his belongings to Ohio, thinking that upon the soil of a free State he would be safe from molestation. He established a newspaper in Cincinnati to advocate emancipation. A mob promptly destroyed his press and other property, and it was with difficulty that he escaped with his life. More sagacious, although not more zealous, than Lundy and Garrison and a good many of their followers, Birney early saw the necessity of political action in the interest of freedom. He was the real founder of the old "Liberty" party, of which he was the presidential candidate in 1840 and in 1844.
Of course, there were other early laborers for emancipation that, in this connection, ought to be mentioned and remembered. They were pioneers in the truest sense. The writer would gladly make a record of their services, and pay a tribute, especially, to the memories of such as have gone to the spirit land, where the great majority are now mustered, but space at this point forbids.
If I were asked to name the man to whom the colored people of this country, who were slaves, or were liable to become slaves, are under the greatest obligation for their freedom, I would unhesitatingly say Salmon Portland Chase.
If I were asked to name the man who was the strongest and most useful factor in the Government during the great final contest that ended in the emancipation of the black man, I would say Salmon Portland Chase.
In expressing the opinions above given, no reproach for Abraham Lincoln, nor for any of the distinguished members of his Cabinet, is intended or implied. Inferiority to Salmon P. Chase was not a disgrace. Physically he rose above all his official associates, which was no discredit to them, and in much the same way he towered intellectually and administratively. His was the most trying, the most difficult position, in the entire circle of public departments. It was easy to get men to fight the battles of the Union if there was money to pay them. It was easy to furnish ships and arms and supplies in sufficient quantity, notwithstanding the terrible drain of the greatest of civil wars, as long as the funds held out. Everything depended on the treasury. Failure there meant irretrievable disaster. It would not answer to have any serious mistakes in that quarter, and in fact no fatal mistakes were there made. In all other departments there were failures and blunders, but the financial department met every emergency and every requisition. Chase's financial policy it was that carried the country majestically through the war, and that afterwards paid the nation's debts.
There is a circumstance that has not been mentioned, as far as the writer knows, by any of Mr. Chase's biographers, which seems to him to be significant and worth referring to. During the Civil War, Walter Bagehot was editor of the Economist, the great English financial journal. His opinion in financial matters was regarded as the highest authority. It was accepted as infallible. He discussed the plans of Mr. Chase with great elaborateness and great severity. He predicted that they were all destined to failure, and proved this theoretically to his own satisfaction and the satisfaction of many others. The result showed that Mr. Chase was right all the time, and the great English economist was wrong.
The entrance of such a man into the Abolitionist movement marked an era in its history. It was the thing most needed. He gave it a leader who, of all men then living, was most competent for leadership. From that time he was its Moses.
The greatest service rendered to the Abolition cause by Salmon P. Chase was in pushing it forward on political lines. There was a contest for the mastery of the Government from the hour he took command. The movement was to be slow, sometimes halting and apparently falling back, in some respects insignificant, in all respects desperate, but there was to be no permanent defeat and no compromise.
The espousal of Abolitionism by Mr. Chase was a remarkable circumstance. He was not an enthusiast like Garrison and Lundy and many other Anti-Slavery pioneers, but precisely the opposite. He was cold-blooded and cool-headed, a deliberate and conservative man. His speeches were described as giving light but no heat. His sympathies were seemingly weak, but his sense of justice was immense. Apparently, he opposed slavery because it was wrong rather than because it was cruel. He had a big body, a big head, and a big conscience, the combination making a strong man and a good fighter.
That he did, in fact, sympathize with the slaves was shown by his professional work in their behalf, more particularly in pleading without fee or other reward the cases of escaped fugitives in the courts. So numerous were his engagements in this regard that his antagonists spoke of him sneeringly as the "Attorney-General for runaway niggers." Upon some of his Anti-Slavery cases he bestowed an immense amount of work. His argument in the case of Van Zant—the original of Van Tromp in Mrs. Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin,—an old man who was prosecuted and fined until he was financially ruined for giving a "lift" in his farm wagon to a slave family on its way to Canada, was said at the time to have been the most able so far made in the Supreme Court of the United States. That and other similar utterances by Mr. Chase were published for popular reading, and were widely distributed by friends of the cause.
It is possible that, in performing this arduous labor, Mr. Chase, who was not without personal ambition, was able, with his great native sagacity, to foresee, although it must have been but dimly, the possibilities of political development and official promotion, but at the same time, for the same reason, he could the more clearly realize the wearisome, heart-breaking struggle that was before him.
It was an enormous sacrifice that he made. Journeymen printers and saddlers, like Garrison and Lundy, who had never had as much as one hundred dollars at one time in their lives, and who had no social position and no influential kinsfolks, had little to lose. But it was very different with Chase. He had a profession that represented great wealth. He had distinguished and aristocratic family connections. He had a high place in society. All these he risked and largely lost.
In speaking of his sacrifices at that time in a subsequent letter to a friend, he wrote:
"Having resolved on my political course, I devoted all the time and means I could command to the work of spreading the principles and building up the organization of the party of constitutional freedom then inaugurated. Sometimes, indeed, all I could do seemed insignificant, while the labors I had to perform, and the demand upon my very limited resources by necessary contributions, taxed severely all my abilities."
The writer hereof was a witness to one incident that showed something of the loss that Mr. Chase sustained in a business way because of his principles. While a law student in a country village he was sent down to Cincinnati to secure certain testimony in the form of affidavits. During his visit he called at Mr. Chase's law office, introduced himself, and was very pleasantly received. He noticed that there was a notary public in the office.
Among other instructions he had been directed to get the affidavit of a leading business man in Cincinnati, a railroad president. The document was prepared and signed, but there was no one at hand before whom it could be sworn to. The writer remarked that he knew where there was a notary in a near-by office. We proceeded to Mr. Chase's chambers, and were about to enter when my companion noticed the name on the door. He fell back as if he had been struck in the face. "The ---- Abolitionist," he exclaimed, "I wouldn't enter his place for a hundred dollars!" We went elsewhere for our business, and on the way my companion expressed himself about Mr. Chase. "What a pity it is," he said, "that that young man is ruining himself. He is a bright man," he went on, "and I employed him professionally until he went daft on the subject of freeing the niggers whom the Lord made for the purpose of serving the white people."
Like pretty much all the early Abolitionists, Mr. Chase had a taste of mob violence. He had one singular experience. When the mob destroyed the printing establishment of James G. Birney in Cincinnati, Chase mingled with the crowd. He discovered that personal violence to Mr. Birney was contemplated and that his life was in danger. He made all haste to Birney's residence and gave him warning of his peril. Then he took his stand in the doorway of the building and calmly awaited the coming of the rabble. Those who knew Chase will remember that in size he was almost a giant, and his countenance had a stern, determined look. The multitude, finding itself thus unexpectedly confronted, paused and entered into a parley that gave the hunted man an opportunity to reach a place of safety.
Chase had an appointment to speak in the village in which the writer lived, and the opposers of his cause arranged to give him a warm reception. Something prevented his attendance, and a very mild and amiable old clergyman from an adjoining town, who took his place, received the shower-bath of uncooked eggs that had been intended for the Cincinnati Abolitionist.
Chase's great work for the Anti-Slavery cause was in projecting and directing it on independent political lines. Up to that time most Anti-Slavery people opposed separate party action. Garrison and his Liberator violently denounced such action. Moral suasion was urged as the panacea. Chase himself had not been a "third party" man. In 1840, when there was an Abolition ticket in the field, headed by his personal friend, James G. Birney, he had not supported it. But soon afterwards, becoming firmly convinced that Anti-Slavery people had nothing to hope for from either of the old parties, he set about the work of building a new one. The undertaking was with no mental reservation on his part. When he put his hand to that plow there was no looking back, notwithstanding that a rougher or more stony field, and one less promising of returns for the laborer than that before him, would be difficult to imagine.
In 1841 he headed a call for a convention at Columbus, the State capital, to organize the Liberty party in the State of Ohio, and at the same time nominate a State ticket. Less than a hundred sympathizers responded to the call, and the ticket put in nomination received less than one thousand votes.
Among the attendants at the Columbus meeting was a near kinsman of the author. On his return, in describing the proceedings, he said that pretty much everything was directed by a Mr. Chase (Salamander Chase was his name, he said), a young Cincinnati lawyer. That young man, he declared, would yet make a mark in the world.
From that time every important move was directed by Chase. He prepared the calls for important meetings. He wrote their addresses and their platforms. He made the leading speeches. He presided at the great convention at Buffalo in 1848, which formulated the "Free-Soil" party—successor to the Liberty party—and wrote the platform which it adopted.
In speaking of Chase's share in the independent organization of this time, William M. Evarts says: "He must be awarded the full credit of having understood, resolved upon, planned, organized, and executed this political movement."
The movement thus conducted by Mr. Chase was slow and tremendously laborious, but it was effective. In the presidential elections of 1844 and 1848 it held the balance of power and turned the scale to further its purposes. In 1852 it shattered and destroyed one of the old pro-slavery parties, and became the second party in the country instead of the third. In eight years more it was the first.
The charge has been made against Mr. Chase that, while a member of Lincoln's Cabinet, he aspired to supersede his chief in the Presidency. But did he not have a right to seek the higher office, especially when the policy pursued by its incumbent did not meet his full approval? He merely shared the sentiment that was then entertained by nearly all the radical Anti-Slavery people of the country. It is not unlikely that Chase felt somewhat envious of Lincoln. After, as he stated in his letter of congratulation to Mr. Lincoln on his first election, he had given nineteen years of continuous and exhausting labor to the freedom movement, it would be but natural that he should feel aggrieved when he saw that the chief credit of that movement was likely to go to one who had, to his own exclusion, come up slowly and reluctantly at a later day to its support. If he were somewhat jealous, it would be hard not to sympathize with him.
If I were asked to name the man who, next to Salmon P. Chase, most effectually and meritoriously contributed to the liberation of the black man in this country, I should unhesitatingly say John Quincy Adams.
By the great majority of those now living Mr. Adams is known only as having once been President of the United States and as belonging to a very distinguished family. His name is rarely mentioned. There was a time, however, when no other name was heard so often in this country, or which, when used, excited such violent and conflicting emotions. It can justly be said that for many years John Quincy Adams, individually and practically alone, by his services in Congress, sustained what Anti-Slavery sentiment there was in the nation. It was but a spark, but he kept it alive and gradually extended its conflagration.
When Adams entered Congress opposition to slavery was at its lowest ebb. It was almost extinct. The victory of the slaveholders in the Missouri contest had elated them most tremendously and had correspondingly depressed and cowed their adversaries. As a general thing, the latter had given up all idea of making any further fight. Northern Presidents, Northern Congressmen, Northern editors, Northern churchmen, were the most ready and servile supporters slavery had. Anti-Slavery societies had been abandoned. Anti-Slavery journals had perished. Disapprovers of the "institution," with the exception of a few men of the Lundy stamp and the Lundy obscurity, were silent. There was one magnificent exception.
It was at that crisis that John Quincy Adams entered Congress and began a fight against slavery that, covering a period of seventeen years, literally lasted to the last day of his life. He was carried helpless and dying from the floor of Congress, where he had fallen when in the discharge of his duties.
The position of Mr. Adams, who had been elected as an independent candidate, was unique. He owed his official place to no political party, and was, therefore, free from party shackles in regulating his course. He took up the fight for the black man's freedom as one who was himself absolutely free. Most wonderfully did he conduct that fight. There was nothing in the eloquence of Demosthenes in Athens, of Cicero in Rome, of Mirabeau in France, of Pitt or Gladstone in England, that surpassed the force and grandeur of the philippics of Adams against American slavery. Alone, for the greater part of his service in Congress, he stood in the midst of his malignant assailants like a rock in a stormy sea. Old man that he was, plainly showing the in-roads of physical weakness, he was in that body of distinguished and able men more than a match for any or all of his antagonists. He was always "the old man eloquent." Says one of our leading historical writers:
"As a parliamentary debater he had few, if any, superiors. In knowledge and dexterity there was no one in the House that could be compared with him. He was literally a walking cyclopedia. He was terrible in invective, matchless at repartee, and insensible to fear. A single-handed fight against all the slaveholders in the House was something upon which he was always ready to enter."
Speaking of his effectiveness in congressional encounters another Congressman writes:
"He is, I believe, the most extraordinary man living. I have with my own eyes seen the slaveholders literally quake and tremble through every nerve and joint, when he arraigned before them their political and moral sins. His power of speech has exceeded any conception I have heretofore had of the force of words or logic."
At last his enemies in Congress decided that they would endure his attacks no longer. They took counsel together and agreed upon a plan of operations looking to his expulsion from that body. As one of his biographers, also a distinguished Congressman, expressed it: "It was the preconcerted and deliberate purpose of the slave-masters to make an example of the ringleader of political Abolitionism. They meant to humiliate and crush him, and this they did not doubt their power to do."
Mr. Adams submitted a petition, without giving it his personal endorsement, asking for a dissolution of the Union. That furnished the pretext his enemies wanted. They accused him of treason in countenancing an assault upon the Union, although they were at the time engaged in laying the foundation of a movement looking to its ultimate overthrow. The outcome of this undertaking was one of the most thrilling scenes ever witnesssd in the American Congress; or, for that matter, in any other deliberative assembly.
Preparations for the affair were made with great elaborateness. The galleries were filled with the friends, male and female, of pro-slavery Congressmen. The beauty and chivalry of the South were there. They had come to witness the abasement of the great enemy of their most cherished institution. They were to see him driven from the nation's council chamber, a crushed and dishonored man. Not one friendly face looked down upon him as he sat coolly awaiting the attack, and upon the floor about him were few of his colleagues that gave him their sympathies.
The two most eloquent Congressmen from the South were selected to lead the prosecution. One was the celebrated Henry A. Wise, of Virginia; the other "Tom" Marshall, of Kentucky. The latter opened the proceedings by offering a resolution charging Mr. Adams with treasonable conduct and directing his expulsion. He supported it with a speech of much ingenuity. Wise followed in a fiery diatribe. Both speakers imprudently indulged in personal allusions of a somewhat scandalous nature, thus laying themselves open, with episodes in their careers of questionable propriety, to retaliation from a man who thoroughly knew their records. At this point we have the testimony of an eye-witness:
"Then uprose that bald, gray old man of seventy-five, his hands tremulous with constitutional infirmity and age, upon whose consecrated head the vials of tyrannic wrath had been outpoured. Unexcited he raised his voice, high-keyed, as was usual with him, but clear, untremulous, and firm. Almost in a moment his infirmities disappeared, although his shaking hand could not but be noted, trembling, not with fear, but with age."
His speech was absolutely crushing. He met every point that had been urged against him and triumphantly refuted it. He handled his oratorical antagonists with merciless severity, depicting certain events in their lives with such vividness that the onlookers gazed upon them with visible and unmistakable pity. Said one of these men when he afterwards understood that a certain party was about to engage in a controversial debate with Mr. Adams, "Then may the Lord have mercy on him."
Mr. Adams was not expelled. His opponents frankly admitted their discomfiture and dropped the whole business.
It cannot be denied that John Quincy Adams, almost by his unaided efforts, preserved and sustained the life of the Anti-Slavery cause at a time when it was almost moribund. He plowed the ground, cutting a deep and broad furrow as he went his way, and in the upturned soil such laborers as Birney and Garrison and Chase planted the seed that rooted and grew until it yielded a plentiful harvest.
The divergent characteristics of the East and the West were never more clearly shown than in the progress of the Anti-Slavery movement. Efforts were made to plant Abolition societies at various points throughout the West, but they failed to take permanent root and soon disappeared. The failure was not due to any lack of interest, but rather to an excess of zeal on the part of the Western supporters of the cause. Society organizations on the lines of moral suasion were too slow and tame to suit them. They preferred the excitement of politics. They believed in the superior efficacy of a political party, and to its upbuilding they gave their energies and resources. In the "long run" they were amply vindicated, but for all that, the favorite Eastern method for organized effort had its advantages.
The East, and especially New England, always believed in societies. If anything of a public nature was to be promoted or prevented, a society always appealed to the New Englander as the natural instrumentality. There is a tradition that when Boston was ravaged by a loathsome disease, a number of its leading citizens came together and promptly organized an anti-smallpox society.
When, therefore, it was decided that an Anti-Slavery movement should be inaugurated in Boston, the proper thing to do, according to all the standards of the place, was to organize a society. But the thing was more easily resolved upon than done. It required the concurrence of several parties of like-mindedness. Boston was a pretty large place, but Anti-Slavery people were scarce. The number (doubtless selected because it was Apostolic) assumed to be necessary was twelve. Fifteen people of somewhat similar views were at last brought together. After much discussion nine favored an organization and six opposed it. So far the operation was a failure. But at last, after much canvassing, twelve men were found who promised their co-operation—twelve and no more. Although respectable people, they were not of Boston's "first citizens" by any means. It is said that if they had been called upon for a hundred dollars each, not over two of them could have responded without bankruptcy.
The twelve came together at night and in the basement of an African Baptist Church, the room being used in the daytime to accommodate a school for colored children. It was in an obscure quarter of Boston known as "Nigger Hill." The conference was in the month of December, and the night is thus described by Oliver Johnson, who was one of the twelve: "A fierce northeast storm, combining rain, snow, and hail in about equal proportions, was raging, and the streets were full of slush. They were dark, too, for the city of Boston in those days was very economical of light on Nigger Hill."
Both nature and man seemed to be in league against those plucky pioneers of an unpopular cause. They, however, were not dismayed nor disheartened. It was as they were stepping out into the gloomy night, that Mr. Garrison, who, it is scarcely necessary to say, was one of the twelve, remarked to his associates: "We have met to-night in this obscure schoolhouse; our numbers are few, and our influence limited, but mark my prediction. Faneuil Hall shall ere long echo to the principles we have set forth."
What those principles were is shown by the declaration adopted by that handful of confederates, and which, in view of the time and circumstances of its formulation, was certainly a most remarkable document. Its essential proposition was: "We, the undersigned, hold that every person of full age and sound mind has a right to immediate freedom from personal bondage of whatsoever kind, unless imposed by the sentence of the law for the commission of some crime."
The Declaration of Independence, which was produced with no little theatrical effect amid the pomp and circumstance of a national conclave that had met in the finest hall in the country, was unquestionably a remarkable and memorable pronouncement. It was for the time and situation a radical utterance. It was the precursor of a revolution that gave political freedom to several million people.
But the platform of principles that was announced by the New England Anti-Slavery Society (the name adopted) in that little grimy schoolroom on "Nigger Hill" was, in at least some respects, a more remarkable document. Its enunciation required an equal degree of physical and moral courage. It was the precursor of a revolution that gave both personal and political freedom to a larger number than were benefited by the other declaration. But what chiefly distinguished it, the time and the situation being considered, was its radical utterance. It gave no countenance to any measure of compromise. It offered no pabulum to the wrongdoer in the form of compensation for stolen humanity. It demanded what was right, and demanded it at once. And that fearless and unyielding platform became the basis for all the Abolition societies that came after it. A goodly number of such societies were organized. "The Anti-Slavery Society for the City of New York" was formed by a few men who met and did their work while a mob was pounding at the door, and who, having completed their task, fled for their lives.
It was at first intended that a national Anti-Slavery society should be established with headquarters in the city of New York, but its proposed organizers discovered that there was not a public hall or church in that city in which they would be permitted to assemble. Philadelphia, with its Quaker contingent, offered a more inviting field, and to that city it was decided to go. But serious obstructions here interposed. Representatives appeared from fourteen States, which was highly encouraging, but no prominent Philadelphian could be found to act as chairman of the meeting. A committee was appointed to secure the services of such a man, but, after interviewing a number of leading citizens, it was compelled to report that it was received by all of them with "polite frigidity."
Strange to say, the convention was permitted to meet for three days in succession in a public assembly room without interference from a mob. The police, however, warned the participants not to hold night sessions, as they in that case would not promise protection. The good behavior of Philadelphia on this occasion was noteworthy, but it was too good to last. When another Anti-Slavery meeting, not long after, was convened in that city, it was broken up by a mob, and the hall in which it met was burned to the ground.
Finally came the National Anti-Slavery Society, which, in view of its limited financial resources, certainly did a wonderful work. Its publications, in spite of careful watching of the mails and other precautions adopted by the slaveholders, reached all parts of the country, and its preachers, sent out and commissioned to proclaim the new evangel of equal manhood, were absolutely ubiquitous.
Those early Anti-Slavery lecturers were a peculiar set. Since the days of the Apostles there have been no more earnest propagandists. They were both male and female. That they were, as a rule, financially poor, it is unnecessary to state. They lived largely on the country traversed. Sympathizers with their views, having received and entertained them—sometimes clandestinely—after a public talk or two, would carry them on to the next stations on their routes, occasionally contributing a few dollars to their purses. It made no particular difference to them whether they spoke in halls, in churches, or in the open air. Before beginning their addresses their usual course was to challenge their opponents to debate, and to taunt them with lack of courage or principle if they failed to respond. Of course, they were in constant danger from mobs. They were stoned, clubbed, shot at, and rotten-egged, and in a few extreme cases tarred and feathered; but they were never frightened from their work.
They were by no means policy-wise. That was one of their peculiarities. Their idea seemed to be that they could drive people easier than they could lead them. They used no buttered phrases. They told the plainest truths in the plainest way. They gave their audiences hard words, and often received hard knocks in return. They called the slaveholders robbers and man-stealers. They branded Northern politicians with Southern principles as "dough-faces." But their hardest and sharpest expletives were reserved for those Northern clergymen who were either pro-slavery or non-committal. They blistered them all over with their lashings. In speaking of one of the most noted among them, Lowell describes him as
"A kind of maddened John the Baptist
To whom the hardest word came aptest."
The lecturer of whom I saw the most in those early trying days was Professor Hudson, of Oberlin College. While in that part of the field he made headquarters at my father's house, radiating out and filling appointments in different directions. He was exceedingly sharp-tongued and very fearless. Nothing seemed to please him better than a "scrimmage" with his opponents. Often he conquered mobs by resolutely talking them down and making them ashamed of themselves. But on one occasion, looking through the window from the outside to see what awaited him in a room where he was to speak, he saw a pot of boiling tar on the stove that heated the room and a pillow-case full of feathers conveniently near, while a half-drunken crowd was in possession of the place, and concluded to run. He, however, had been seen and was pursued. There was a foot race, but as some of the pursuers were better sprinters than Hudson, and he was about to be captured, he dashed into the first house he came to and asked for protection. The proprietor was a kinsman of mine. He was an old man, but hearty and vigorous. He ordered his sons to take their guns and guard the other entrances, while he took his stand in the front door with an axe in his hand. When the mob came up and demanded the Abolitionist, he gave warning that he would brain the first man that attempted to enter his house without his consent. So evidently in earnest was he that the rowdies, after a little bluster, concluded to give up the hunt and left in disgust.
The National Anti-Slavery Society—the society organized by Garrison and his confrères, and which longest maintained its organization—made one great mistake. It disbanded. It assumed that its work was done when African slavery in this country was pronounced defunct by law. It took it for granted that the enslavement of the colored man—not necessarily the negro—was no longer possible under the Stars and Stripes. Then and there it committed a grievous blunder. Its paramount error was in assuming that a political party could for all time be depended upon as a party of freedom. It trusted to the assurances of politicians that they would protect the colored man in all his natural and acquired rights, and in that belief voluntarily gave up the ghost and cast its mantle to the winds.
Now, the fact is that the National Anti-Slavery Society was never more needed than it is to-day. There is a mighty work to be done that was directly in the line of its operations. First and foremost, it will not be denied that a citizen of our Republic who is deprived of the elective franchise is robbed of one of his most valuable privileges—one of his most essential rights. The ballot, under a political system like ours, is both the sword and the shield of liberty. Without it no man is really a freeman. He does not stand on an equality with his fellows.
Nor will it be denied that the negro, although our amended Constitution promises him all the privileges of citizenship, is in many parts of our country practically divested of his vote. By a species of legerdemain in the communities in which he is most numerous and most needs protection, he is to all intents and purposes disfranchised. What will follow as the final outcome we do not know, but that is the beginning of his attempted re-enslavement. It is beyond any question that his return to involuntary servitude in some condition or conditions, the disarming him of the ballot being the initial step in the proceeding, is seriously contemplated, if not deliberately planned. Indeed, under the name of "peonage" the work of re-establishing a system of slaveholding that is barbarous in the extreme is already begun. Men and women have been seized upon by force, and upon the most flimsy pretexts have been subjected to a bondage that in its inhumanities may easily equal even the slavery of the olden time. The number of victims is undoubtedly much larger than the general public has any idea of.
Nor are there lacking signs of studied preparation for the extension of the system. The present time is full of them. Efforts to create a prejudice against the colored man are visible in all directions. He is described as a failure in the role of freeman. The idleness and shiftlessness of certain members of his race—undoubtedly altogether too numerous—are dwelt upon as characteristic of the entire family. Scant praise is given to those members who are doing well, and whose number is encouragingly large. These are as far as possible ignored. The race problem is spoken of as full of increasing difficulties, and as imperatively demanding a change from present conditions. The people of the North are being especially indoctrinated with such ideas. They are told that they must leave their brethren of the former slaveholding States, and in which the negroes principally dwell, to deal with the issues arising between the whites and the blacks; that they—the Southerners—understand the questions to be settled, and that outsiders should withhold their hands and their sympathies. It is none of their business, they are informed, while assurances are freely given that the people who, because of their experience with them, understand the negroes, will take considerate care of them. What kind of care they are taking of them in certain quarters is shown by recent incontestable revelations.
And what has the political party which, in view of its manifold professions, was supposed to have the interests of the negro in its especial keeping, done about it? Nothing whatever. It has looked on with the coolest indifference. The only concern it has shown in the matter has related to the question of Congressional representation as dependent upon the enumeration of electors, and, in so doing, has plainly intimated that if, through the negro's political robbery, it can secure an increase of partisan power, it is perfectly willing that the cause of the injured black man should "slide."
Indifference in regard to the rights of peoples of color is unfortunately not the only nor even the greatest charge to be laid at the door of the Republican party. It may be asserted that this party has become an active aggressor in trampling down the liberties of colored peoples. As the assignee of Spain in taking over (without consulting those who were most concerned) the control of the territory of the Philippine Islands, it has purchased (and has paid cash for) the right to dominate from eight to ten millions of people. These people may, under the existing conditions, be described as being in a state of slavery. If a foreign people, say a people coming from the other side of the globe, should treat Americans as we have treated the Filipinos, should deny to us the right of self-government, should send great armies to chastise us for disobedience (or for what they might call "rebellion"), and should do this for no better reason than that our skin was darker or lighter than their own, we Americans would doubtless consider ourselves to be in a state of slavery. Why in any sense is slavery in Luzon more defensible than slavery in South Carolina or in Alabama? If it be wrong to keep in slavery the black man in America (as in theory at least we are all now agreed it is wrong), what is the justice in depriving of his freedom the brown-skinned Tagal? Can a bill of sale from Spain give to us any such privilege, if privilege it may be called? Can an agreement with Spain bring to naught our responsibilities under our own Declaration of Independence?
Although, owing to the remoteness of the islands, we have as yet but little trustworthy knowledge as to what has really occurred in this new territory, and possibly in any case have not been informed of the things which are most to be condemned, the reports that have reached us of barbarities perpetrated upon a people who never did us any harm or wrong ought certainly to awaken in American bosoms every throb of pity and every sentiment of manliness. We have had accounts of butcheries called "battles" in which have been slaughtered hundreds of almost defenseless creatures for no offense except that of standing up for their independence. It is said that certain districts that would not acknowledge our mastery have been turned into wildernesses, and that in these districts the number of the slain may easily have equaled the victims of massacres in Armenia and Bessarabia, massacres which we have always so strenuously condemned. Thousands of men, women, and children have perished at our hands or in connection with operations for which we were responsible; and in addition to the taking of life there is record of the infliction of serious cruelties. As assignees of Spain, we seem to have succeeded not only to her properties but to her policies in the treatment of subject races. We do not know that in the greatest excesses of the bad colonial government of Spaniards they ever inflicted a torture more exquisite than that of the "water cure." How many of the perpetrators of these atrocities have been adequately punished, or how many have been punished at all?
It is wonderful with what complacency we have received the accounts of these horrible affairs. Nobody has been disturbed. The newspapers, beyond reporting the facts, have had nothing to say. The Church has been silent—at least that can be said of the Protestant Church. Not one brave or manly word of protest or condemnation has the writer heard, or heard of, from a Protestant American pulpit. Catholics, being victims and sufferers, have complained and protested. The greatest discomfort these things have produced has been occasioned by the apprehension that, through somebody's lack of patriotism, our flag may be withdrawn from the field of such glorious operations. It used to be our boast that Freedom followed our flag. Now slavery follows it.
In view of the facts stated we can understand, not only the serenity, but the favor with which the people of this country, or the great body of them, so long looked upon the workings of African slavery, and the difficulty which the Abolitionists had in arousing a sentiment of revulsion toward it.
One of the curious things in this connection is the similarity—the practical sameness—of the arguments used to justify the Philippine occupation and those once used to justify American slaveholding. We are now working to civilize and Christianize the Filipinos, and were then civilizing and Christianizing the negroes with the lash and the bludgeon.
Of course, there are other arguments. Increase of trade and wealth, as the result of our appropriation of other peoples' possessions, is freely predicted. It has always been the robber's plea. That is what it is to-day, even when employed by a professed Christian nation. Nor is it improved by the fact that the grounds upon which it is predicated and urged are largely fallacious. The spoliation of the Philippines will never repay us for the blood—our own blood—and treasure it has cost us, apart from any moral or humanitarian consideration. There is not one aspect in this business that promises to redound to our benefit. No, I won't say that; I would hardly be justified in going that far. In one particular the Philippine operation has profited a considerable part of our people. It has added materially to our Army and our Navy. The opportunity for enlargement in those quarters was, undoubtedly, the strongest inducement for our entering upon a colonial policy. For a great many people, and especially in official circles, we cannot have a standing army that is too large, nor too many ships of war. The more powerful those appendages of our authority the larger is the opening for the kinsmen and retainers of those in high places, who may be seeking profitable and agreeable employment, and the more liberal the contributions of contractors and jobbers to the sinews of partisan warfare. Our Army to-day is nearly three times what it was five years ago, although outside of the Philippines we are at peace with all mankind. Nor is that formidable advance at an end. The Far East is now certain to be the world's great battle-ground for the near future, and since we have entered that field as the master of the Philippines, like a knight of the olden time who was ready to do battle with all comers, we must be constantly increasing our preparation. We may not only have to fight the Russians and the Japanese and the Chinese, one or all, but those foolish Filipinos may again take it into their silly heads that they can govern themselves as well or better than we can do it for them. That means rebellion, and, of course, chastisement must follow. As climatic conditions in that part of the world are such that it requires the presence of three men in the army to supply the active services of one, it is obvious that so long as we adhere to our present Asiatic policy, we shall never have an army and a navy large enough and strong enough to meet the requirements of our new condition.
On all questions affecting human liberty, no one can fail to observe that the attitude of the two great political parties of to-day, is practically that of the two principal parties at the time the Abolitionists began their operations. One of them may pass perfunctory resolutions against the Philippine crime, but dares to say nothing about the treatment visited upon the negro. The other may say a few compassionate, but meaningless, words for the negro, but cannot denounce the oppression of the Filipinos. Both are fatally handicapped by their connections and committals. Both are, in fact, pro-slavery, although the one in power, because of its responsibility for existing conditions, is the more criminal of the two.
What this country now needs, in the opinion of the writer, is a revival of Abolitionism, and to that end, as one of the instrumentalities that would be serviceable, he holds that the old National Anti-Slavery Society should be restored. The most of the men and women that made that institution so useful and honorable, have passed from the scenes of their labors, but a few of them are left, and they and such as may feel like joining them, should meet and unfurl the old standard once more. There may be new associations looking to very much the same ends, but better the old guard under the old name. It would carry a prestige that no newer organization could command. It would create a measure of confidence that would be most strongly felt. The principles and policies it should urge are few and simple.
First: Let it declare that the colored man in this country must be permitted to enjoy all his rights under the Constitution as it is, both political and personal.
Second: Let it declare that all forms of servitude, including the denial of political self-government, under the flag, as well as under the Constitution, must cease.
And then let it go to work for the results thus indicated, in the spirit and with the confidence of the old-time leaders. The Society should be revived and re-established, not for a single campaign only, or for the rectification of such oppressions as are now in sight, but for all time. It ought to be made a permanent institution. It should be so arranged that the sons would step into the ranks as the fathers dropped out and that new recruits would be constantly enlisted. Thus reorganized the grand old institution would be an invaluable watchman on the walls of Freedom's stronghold. The exhortation to which it should listen, is that of the poet Bryant when he says:
"Oh not yet
Mayst thou unloose thy corslet, nor lay by
Thy sword, nor yet, O Freedom, close thy lids
In slumber, for thine enemy never sleeps."
George William Curtis, in one of his essays, says that "three speeches have made the places where they were delivered illustrious in our history—three, and there is no fourth." He refers to the speech of Patrick Henry in Williamsburg, Virginia, of Lincoln in Gettysburg, and the first address of Wendell Phillips in Faneuil Hall.
If it was the purpose of Mr. Curtis to offer the three notable deliverances above mentioned as the best and foremost examples of American oratory, the author cannot agree with him. In his opinion we shall have but little difficulty in picking out the three entitled to that distinction, provided we go to the discussion of the slavery question to find them. That furnished the greatest occasion, being with its ramifications and developments, by far the greatest issue with which Americans have had to deal.
The three speeches to which the writer refers were the more notable because they were altogether impromptu. They were what we call "off hand." They were delivered in the face of mobs or other bitterly hostile audiences—a circumstance that probably contributed not a little to their effectiveness.
John Quincy Adams, who was unquestionably one of the greatest of American orators, made several speeches in Congress that will always command our highest admiration; but the one to which a somewhat extended reference is made in another chapter, when an attempt was made by the slaveholders to expel him from that body, easily ranks among the first three exhibitions of American eloquence.
I quite agree with Mr. Curtis in giving the Faneuil Hall speech of Wendell Phillips a pre-eminent place. A meeting had been called to denounce the murder of Lovejoy, the Abolitionist editor. The audience was composed in large part of pro-slavery rowdies, who were bent on capturing or breaking up the meeting. One of their leaders—a high official of the State of Massachusetts, by the way—made a speech in which he justified the murderous act. "That speech must be answered here and now," exclaimed a young man in the audience. "Answer it yourself," shouted those about him. "I will," was the reply, "if I can reach the platform." To the platform he was assisted, and although an attempt was made for a time to howl him down, he persisted, and before long so interested and charmed his hearers that his triumph was complete.
It did not take the country long to realize that in that young man, who was Wendell Phillips, a new oratorical luminary had arisen. He took up the work of lecturing as a profession, treating on other subjects as well as slavery; but when slavery was the subject no charge was made for his services. Said Frederic Hudson, the noted New York editor, in 1860: "It is probable that there is not another man in the United States who is as much heard and read as Henry Ward Beecher, unless the other man be Wendell Phillips."
The mention of Henry Ward Beecher's name is suggestive of oratory of the very highest order. It will not be denied by any competent and unprejudiced person that his great speech in England—there were five addresses, but the substance was the same—upon the American question (which directly involved the slavery issue) during our Civil War was far and away the finest exhibition of masterful eloquence that is to be credited to any of our countrymen. The world has never beaten it.
Mr. Beecher found himself in England by a fortunate accident at a most critical period in our national affairs. A crisis had there been reached. A powerful party, including a large majority of the public men of Great Britain, favored intervention in behalf of the South. Southern agents were at work all over the kingdom, and were remarkably effective in propagating their views. It looked as if the Rebel interest was on the point of winning, when Mr. Beecher appeared on the scene. He had not gone to England to make public speeches. He was there for health and recreation, but, realizing the situation with his quick perceptiveness, he took up the gage of battle. It was a fearful resolution on his part. The chances seemed to be all against him. It was one man against thousands. His victory, however, was complete. His five great speeches in the business centres of England and Scotland were not only listened to by thousands, but they went all over the country in the public prints. They completely changed the current of public opinion.
Mr. Beecher's first address was in Manchester, which, owing to the interest of the leading business men of that city in the cotton trade and the furnishing of ships and supplies for blockade running, was a seething hot bed of Rebel sentiment. When he arrived in that place on the day he was to speak, he was met at the depot by friends with troubled faces, who informed him that hostile placards—significantly printed in red colors—had been posted all over the city, and, if he persisted in trying to speak, he would have a very uncomfortable reception.
He was asked how he felt about trying to go on. "I am going to be heard," was his reply.
The best description of the scene that ensued is supplied in Mr. Beecher's own words:
"The uproar would come in on this side, and then on that. They would put insulting questions and make all sorts of calls to me, and I would wait until the noise had subsided and then get in about five minutes of talk. The reporters would get that down, and then up would come another noise. Occasionally I would see things that amused me, and I would laugh outright, and the crowd would stop to see what I was laughing at. Then I would sail in with another sentence or two. A good many times the crowd threw up questions that I caught and threw back. I may as well at this point mention a thing that amused me hugely. There were baize doors that opened both ways into side alleys, and there was a huge burly Englishman standing right in front of one of these doors and roaring like a bull of Bashan. One of the policemen swung his elbow round and hit him in the belly and knocked him through the doorway, so that the last part of his bawl was out in the alleyway. It struck me so ludicrously to think how the fellow must have looked when he found himself 'hollering' outside, that I could not refrain from laughing outright. The audience immediately stopped its uproar, wondering what I was laughing at. That gave me another chance, and I caught on to it. So we kept it up for about an hour and a half before the people became so far calmed down that I could go on peaceably with my speech. My audience got to like the pluck I showed. Englishmen like a man that can stand on his feet and give and take, and so for the last hour I had pretty much clear sailing. The next morning every great paper in England had the whole speech down.
"And when the vote came to be taken—for in England it is customary for audiences to express their decision on the subject under discussion—you would have thought it was a tropical thunder-storm that swept through the hall as the Ayes were thundered, while the Nays were an insignificant and contemptible minority. It had all gone on our side, and such enthusiasm I never saw."
It has been repeatedly stated, and to this day is generally believed,—is so stated in several of Mr. Lincoln's biographies, I believe,—that Mr. Beecher went to England at the President's request, and for the purpose of making a speaking tour. The best answer is that given by Mr. Beecher himself.
"It has been asked," said he, "whether I was sent by the government. The government took no stock in me at that time. I had been pounding Lincoln in the earlier years of the war, and I don't believe there was a man down there, unless it was Mr. Chase, who would have trusted me with anything. At any rate, I went on my own responsibility."
But in referring to Abolition orators, and especially orators whose experience it was to encounter mobs, the writer desires to pay a tribute to one of them whose name he does not even know.
A meeting that was called to organize an Anti-Slavery society in New York City was broken up by a mob. All of those in attendance made their escape except one negro. He was caught and his captors thought it would be a capital joke to make him personify one of the big Abolitionists. He was lifted to the platform and directed to imagine himself an Anti-Slavery leader and make an Abolition speech. The fellow proved to be equal to the occasion. He proceeded to assert the right of his race to the privileges of human beings with force and eloquence. His hearers listened with amazement, and possibly with something like admiration, until, realizing that the joke was on them, they pulled him from the platform and kicked him from the building.
In speaking of the orators and oratory that were evolved by the Slavery issue, there are two names that cannot be omitted. These are Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. It was the good fortune of the writer to be an eye and ear witness of the closing bout, at Alton, Illinois, between those two political champions in their great debate of 1858. The contrast between the men was remarkable. Lincoln was very tall and spare, standing up, when speaking, straight and stiff. Douglas was short and stumpy, a regular roly-poly man. Lincoln's face was calm and meek, almost immobile. He referred to it in his address as "my rather melancholy face." Although plain and somewhat rugged, I never regarded Lincoln's face as homely. I saw him many times and talked with him, after the occasion now referred to. It was a good face, and had many winning lines. Douglas's countenance, on the other hand, was leonine and full of expression. His was a handsome face. When lighted up by the excitement of debate it could not fail to impress an audience.
Lincoln indulged in no gesticulation. If he had been addressing a bench of judges he would not have been more impassive in his manner. He was an animate, but not an animated, bean-pole. He poured out a steady flow of words—three to Douglas's two—in a simple and semi-conversational tone. He attempted no witticisms and indulged in no oratorical claptrap. His address was pure argument. Douglas's manner was one of excitement, and accompanied and emphasized by almost continuous bodily movement. His hands and his feet, and especially that pliable face of his, were all busy talking. He said sharp things, evidently for their immediate effect on his audience, and showed that he was not only master of all the arts of the practical stump orator, but was ready to employ them.
But the most noticeable difference was in the voices of the men. Douglas spoke first, and for the first minute or two was utterly unintelligible. His voice seemed to be all worn out by his speaking in that long and principally open-air debate. He simply bellowed. But gradually he got command of his organ, and pretty soon, in a somewhat laborious and painful way, it is true, he succeeded in making himself understood.
Lincoln's voice, on the contrary, was without a quaver or a sign of huskiness. He had been speaking in the open air exactly as much as Douglas, but it was perfectly fresh, not a particle strained. It was a perfect voice.
Those who wanted to understand Douglas had to press up close to the platform from which he was speaking, and there was collected a dense, but not very deep, crowd. There was no crowding in front of Lincoln when he was speaking. He could be heard without it. There was a line of wagons and carriages on the outskirts of the audience, and I noticed, when Lincoln was speaking, that they were filled with comfortably seated people listening to his address. They did not need to go any nearer to him. The most of the shouting was done by Douglas's partisans, composing a clear majority of the crowd, but it was very manifest that Lincoln commanded the attention of the greater number of those who were interested in the arguments. He did not act as if he cared for the applause of the multitude. He said nothing, apparently, simply to tickle the ears of his hearers.
Rather strange was it that the only points on which there did not appear to be much, if any, difference between the two men were reached when they came to the propositions they advocated. Douglas was avowedly pro-slavery. He was talking in southern Illinois and on the border of Missouri, to which many of his hearers belonged, and his audience was mostly Southern in its feelings. He was plainly trying to please that element. He not only approved of slavery where it was, but metaphorically jumped on the negro and trampled all over him. He denied that the negro was a "man" within the meaning of the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln, however, as far as slavery in the States was involved, met Douglas on his own ground, and "went him one better." He said, "I have on all occasions declared as strongly as Judge Douglas against the disposition to interfere with the existing institution of slavery."
If a stranger who knew nothing of the speakers and their party associations had heard the two men on that occasion, he would have concluded that one was strongly in favor of slavery and the other was not opposed to it.
Their only disagreement was as to slavery in the Territories, and that was more apparent than real. Lincoln contended for free soil through the direct action of the general government. Douglas advocated a roundabout way that led up to the same result. His proposition, which he called "popular sovereignty," was to leave the decision to the people of the Territories, saying he did not care whether they voted slavery up or voted it down. That was a practical, although indirect declaration in favor of free soil. The outcome of the contests in Kansas and California showed that at that game the free States with their superior resources were certain to win. The shrewder slaveholders recognized that fact, and their antagonism to Douglas grew accordingly. They deliberately defeated him for the Presidency in 1860, when he was the regular candidate of the Democratic party, by running Breckenridge as an independent candidate. Otherwise Mr. Douglas would have become President of the United States. Out of a total of 4,680,193 votes, Mr. Lincoln had only 1,866,631. The rest were divided between his three antagonists.
As between Lincoln and Douglas, who together held the controlling hand, the slaveholders preferred Lincoln, against whom they had no personal feeling, while they knew that his policy was no more dangerous to their interests than the other man's, if faithfully adhered to and carried out. Besides that, by this time many of them had reached that state of mind in which they wanted a pretext for secession from the Union. Lincoln's election would give them that pretext while Douglas's would not.
On a boat that carried a portion of the audience, including the writer, from Alton to St. Louis, after the debate was over, was a prominent Missouri Democrat, afterwards a Confederate leader, who expressed himself very freely. He declared that he would rather trust the institutions of the South to the hands of a conservative and honest man like "Old Abe," than to those of "a political jumping-jack like Douglas." The most of the other Southern men and slaveholders present seemed to concur in his views.
It is a fact that a good many of the Anti-Slavery leaders living outside of Illinois, and a good many of those living within it, wanted the Republicans of that State to let Douglas go back to the Senate without a contest, believing that he would be far more useful to them there than a Republican would be. It is not improbable that enough of the Illinois Republicans took that view of the matter, and helped to give Douglas the victory in what was a very close contest.
A portion of Douglas's speech was a spirited defense of his "squatter sovereignty" doctrine against the denunciations of members of his own political party, in the course of which he gave President Buchanan a savage overhauling. It showed him to be a master of invective.
"Go it, husband; go it, bear," was Mr. Lincoln's comment on that part of Douglas's address. I went to the debate with a very strong prejudice against Douglas, looking upon him as one of the most time-serving of those Northern men whom the Abolitionists called "dough-faces." I confess that my views of the man were considerably modified. I admired the pluck he showed in speaking when his voice was in tatters. Still more did I like the resolution he displayed in defying those leaders of his own party, including the President, who wanted him to retreat from the ground he had taken, seeing that it had become practically Anti-Slavery.
At the same time I had an almost worshipful admiration for Lincoln, whom I had not before seen or heard. I expected a great deal from him. I thought his closing appeal in that great debate would contain some ringing words for freedom. He had, as I supposed, a great opportunity for telling eloquence. He stood almost on the ground that had drunk the blood of Lovejoy, the Anti-Slavery martyr. I felt that that fact ought to inspire him. I was disappointed. Mr. Lincoln's speech was altogether colorless. It was an argument, able but perfectly cold. It was largely technical. There was no sentiment in it. Lovejoy had died in vain so far as that address was concerned. I am free to say that I was led to doubt whether Mr. Lincoln was then in hearty sympathy with any movement looking to the freedom of the slave, and this impression was not afterwards wholly removed from my mind.
My father was a subscriber to the National Era, the Anti-Slavery weekly that was published in Washington City before the war by Dr. Gamaliel Bailey. Being the youngest member of the family, I usually went to the post-office for the paper on the day of its weekly arrival. One day I brought it home and handed it to my father, who, as the day was warm, was seated outside of the house. He was soon apparently very much absorbed in his reading. A call for dinner was sounded, but he paid no attention to it. The meal was delayed a little while and then the call was repeated, but with the same result. At last the meal proceeded without my father's presence, he coming in at the close and swinging the paper in his hand. His explanation, by way of apology, was that he had become very much interested in the opening installment of a story that was begun in the Era, and which he declared would make a sensation. "It will make a renovation," he repeated several times.
That story, it is almost needless to say, was Uncle Tom's Cabin, and it is altogether needless to say that it fully accomplished my father's prediction as to its sensational effects. Since the appearance of the Bible in a form that brought it home to the common people, there has been no work in the English language so extensively read. The author's name became at once a cynosure the world over. When Henry Ward Beecher, the writer's distinguished brother, delivered his first lecture in England, he was introduced to the audience by the chairman as the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher Stowe.
The way in which the idea of writing the book came to the author was significant of the will that produced it. A lady friend wrote Mrs. Stowe a letter in which she said, "If I could use a pen as you can, I would write something that would make the whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is." When the letter reached its destination, and Mrs. Stowe came to the passage above quoted, as the story is told by a friend who was present, she sprang to her feet, crushed the letter in her hand in the intensity of her feeling, and with an expression on her face of the utmost determination, exclaimed, "If I live, I will write something that will do that thing."
The circumstances under which she executed her great task would ordinarily be looked upon as altogether prohibitory. She was the wife of a poor minister and school-teacher. To eke out the family income she took boarders. She had five children of her own, who were too young to be of any material assistance, and, in addition, she occasionally harbored a waif that besought her protection when fleeing from slavery. Necessarily the most of her time was spent in the kitchen. There, surrounded by meats and vegetables and cooking appliances, with just enough of the common deal table cleared away to give space for her writing materials, she composed and made ready for the publisher by far the most remarkable work of fiction this country has produced. Slavery is dead, but Mrs. Stowe's masterpiece lives, and is likely to live with growing luster as long as our free institutions survive, which it is to be hoped will be forever.
One of the most remarkable early workers in the Abolition cause was Mrs. Lucretia Mott, a little Quaker woman of Pennsylvania. The writer saw her for the last time shortly before her death. She was then acting as presiding officer of an "Equal Rights"—meaning equal suffrage—meeting. Sitting on one hand was Susan B. Anthony, and on the other Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and next to one of them sat a stately negro.
She was then an aged woman, but her eye seemed to be as bright and her movements as alert as they had ever been. Framed by her becoming Quaker bonnet, which she retained in her official position, the face of the handsome old lady would have been a splendid subject for an artist.
Mrs. Mott gave much of her time and all the means she could control to the cause of the slave. She was an exceedingly spirited and eloquent speaker. On one lecturing tour she traveled twenty-four hundred miles, the most of the way in old-fashioned stage-coaches. By a number of taverns she was denied entertainment.
Like other pioneers in the same movement, Mrs. Mott was the victim of numerous mobbings. One incident shows her courage and resourcefulness. An Anti-Slavery meeting she was attending was broken up by rowdies, and some of the ladies present were greatly frightened. Seeing this Mrs. Mott asked the gentleman who was escorting her, to leave her and assist some of the others who were more timid. "But who will take care of you?" he asked. "This man," she answered, lightly laying her hand on the arm of one of the roughest of the mob. The man, completely surprised, responded by respectfully conducting her through the tumult to a place of safety.
But before Mrs. Stowe and Mrs. Mott had taken up the work for the bondman, two other remarkable women had become interested in his cause. Their history has some features that the most accomplished novel-writer could not improve upon. They were sisters, known as the Grimké sisters, Sarah and Angelina, the latter becoming the wife of Theodore W. Weld, a noted Abolition lecturer. They were daughters of a Judge of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, their early home being in Charleston.
The family was of the highest pretension, being related to the Rhetts, the Barnwells, the Pickenses, and other famous representatives of the Palmetto aristocracy. It was wealthy, and of course had many slaves. The girls had their colored attendants, whose only service was to wait upon them and do their bidding. That circumstance finally led to trouble.
At that time there was a statute in South Carolina against teaching slaves to read and write. The penalties were fine and imprisonment. The Grimké girls, however, had little respect for or fear of that law. The story of their offending is told by Sarah.
Her attendant, when she was little more than a child, was a colored girl of about the same age. She says,
"I took an almost malicious satisfaction in teaching my little waiting maid at night, when she was supposed to be occupied in combing and brushing my long hair. The light was put out, the key-hole screened, and flat on our stomachs before the fire, with the spelling-book under our eyes, we defied the law of South Carolina."
South Carolina was long noted for its rebels, but it never had a more interesting one than the author of the above narrative; nor a braver one.
As the sisters grew up, they more and more showed their dislike of slavery and their disposition to aid such colored people as were within their circle. Such conduct could not escape observation, and the result was their banishment from their Southern home. They were given the alternative of "behaving themselves" or going North to live. They were not long in deciding, and they became residents of Philadelphia. Here they joined the Quakers, because of their coincidence of views on the slavery question. They had before been Presbyterians, having been raised as such. They became industrious and noted Anti-Slavery lecturers. To one of them is to be credited a notable oratorical achievement.
Being no longer able to ignore the growing Anti-Slavery sentiment of its constituency, the Massachusetts Legislature in 1838 appointed a committee to consider the part that that State had in the subject of slavery, and especially in connection with slavery in the District of Columbia. The committee asked an expression of their views from those entertaining different sentiments on the subject. The Anti-Slavery people invited Angelina Grimké to represent them. The sessions of the committee were to be held in the great hall of the Legislature in the State House, where, up to that time, no woman had ever spoken. The chairman of the committee, however, consented that Miss Grimké should be heard, and the fact that she was a woman probably helped to bring out an immense audience.
She spoke for two hours, and then, being asked to speak again, at the next meeting, she spoke for two hours more. The impression she produced may be inferred from the fact that the chairman of the committee was in tears nearly the whole time she was speaking. The effect upon all who heard her was admitted to be very great.
The sincerity of these women was put to an unusual test. They had a brother who remained in South Carolina, where he was a prominent citizen and a large slave-owner. Like many sharing the privileges of "the institution," he led a double life. He was married to a white woman by whom he had children. He also had a family by a colored woman who was one of his slaves. In his will he bequeathed his slave family to a son by his lawful wife, with the stipulation that they should not be sold or unkindly treated.
Of these things the Grimké sisters knew nothing until after the war which had freed their illegitimate relatives. Then all the facts came to their knowledge. What should they do about it? was the question that immediately confronted them. Should they—"Carolina's high-souled daughters," as Whittier describes them, and not without some part in the pride of the family to which they belonged—acknowledge such a disreputable relationship? Not a day nor an hour did they hesitate. They sent for their unfortunate kinspeople, accepted them as blood connections, and took upon themselves the duty of promoting their interests as far as it was in their power to do so.
Although a quiet and retiring person, and, moreover, so much of an invalid that the greater part of her time was necessarily passed in a bed of sickness, a New England woman had much to do with publishing the doctrines of Abolitionism, through the lips of the most eloquent man in the country. She was the wife of Wendell Phillips, the noted Anti-Slavery lecturer.
"My wife made me an Abolitionist," said Phillips. How the work was done is not without its romantic interest.
It was several years before he made his meteoric appearance before the public as a platform talker, and while yet a law student, that Phillips met the lady in question. The interview, as described by one of the parties, certainly had its comical aspect. "I talked Abolitionism to him all the time we were together," said Mrs. Phillips, as she afterwards related the affair. Phillips listened, and that he was not surfeited nor disgusted appears from the fact that he went again and again for that sort of entertainment.
When Phillips asked for her hand, as the story goes, she asked him if he was fully persuaded to be a friend of the slave, leaving him to infer that their union was otherwise impossible.
"My life shall attest the sincerity of my conversion," was his gallant reply.
In his Recollections, the Rev. Samuel T. May, who was one of the most faithful and zealous of the Anti-Slavery pioneers, and belonged to that band of devoted workers who were known as Abolition lecturers, tells of his experience in delivering an Anti-Slavery address in the sober New England city of Haverhill.
"It was a Sabbath evening," he says. "I had spoken about fifteen minutes when the most hideous outcries—yells and screeches—from a crowd of men and boys, who had surrounded the house, startled us, and then came heavy missiles against the doors and the blinds of the windows. I persisted in speaking for a few minutes, hoping the doors and blinds were strong enough to withstand the attack. But presently a heavy stone broke through one of the blinds, scattered a pane of glass, and fell upon the head of a lady sitting near the center of the hall. She uttered a shriek and fell bleeding on the floor."
There was a panic, of course, and the Abolition lecturer would have been roughly handled by the mob if a young lady, a sister of the poet Whittier, had not taken him by the arm, and walked with him through the astonished crowd. They did not feel like attacking a woman.
There was nothing unusual, except the part performed by the young lady, in the affair described in the foregoing narrative. Mobs were of constant occurrence in the period of which we are speaking. It was not in the slave States that they were most frequent. Northern communities that were regarded as absolutely peaceable and perfectly moral thought nothing of an anti-Abolitionist riot now and then. They occurred "away up North" and "away down East." Even sleepy old Nantucket, in its sedentary repose by the sea, woke up long enough to mob a couple of Abolition lecturers, a man and a woman.
The community in which the writer resided when a boy, was fully up to the pacific standard of most Northern neighborhoods. Yet it was the scene of many turmoils growing out of Anti-Slavery meetings. The district schoolhouse, which was the only public building in the village that was open for such gatherings, called for frequent repairs on account of damages done by mobs. Broken windows and doors were often in evidence, and stains from mud-balls, decayed vegetables, and antiquated eggs, which nobody took the trouble to remove, were nearly always visible.
On one occasion, at an evening meeting, the lecturer was a young professor, who was "down" from Oberlin College, against which, as "an Abolition hole," there was a very strong prejudice. He had not got more than well started, when rocks, bricks, and other missiles began to crash through the windows. The mob was resolved to punish that young man, and had come prepared to give him a coating of unsavory mixture. He was a preacher as well as a teacher, and his "store clothes" were likely to betray him; but some thoughtful person had brought an old drab overcoat and a rough workman's cap, and arrayed in these garments he walked through the crowd without his identity being suspected.
But another party was not so fortunate. He was a respected citizen of the village, an elder in the Presbyterian church, and a strong pro-slavery man. He dressed in black and his appearance was not unlike that of the lecturer. By some hard luck he happened to be passing that way when the crowd was looking for the Abolitionist, and was discovered. "There he goes," was the cry that was raised, and a fire of eggs and other things was opened upon him. He reached his home in an awful plight, and it was charged that his conversation was not unmixed with profanity.
On another occasion the writer was present when the friends of the lecturer undertook to convey him to a place of safety. They formed a circle about him and moved away while the mob followed, hurling eggs and clods and sticks and whatever else came handy. We kept quietly on our way until we reached a place in the road that had been freshly graveled, and where the surface was covered with stones just suited to our use. Here we halted, and, with rocks in hand, formed a line of battle. It took only one volley to put the enemy to rout, and we had no further trouble.
At last, after several men had been prevented from speaking in our village, the services of a female lecturer were secured. The question then was, whether the mob would be so ungallant as to disturb a woman. The matter was settled by the rowdies on that occasion being more than usually demonstrative. The lecturer showed great courage and presence of mind. She closed the meeting in due form, and then walked calmly through the noisy throng that gave her no personal molestation or insult. Deliberately she proceeded to a place of safety—and then went into hysterics.
Finding that it was impossible to hold undisturbed public meetings, the Abolitionists adopted a plan of operations that was altogether successful. They met in their several homes, taking them in order, and there the subject they were interested in was uninterruptedly discussed. Intelligent opponents of their views were invited to attend, and frequently did so. So warm were the discussions that arose that the meetings sometimes lasted for entire days, and conversions were not unusual.
It was in one of these neighborhood gatherings that the writer first became an active Anti-Slavery worker. He had memorized one of Daniel O'Connell's philippics against American slavery, and, being given the opportunity, declaimed it with much earnestness. After that he was invited to all the meetings, and had on hand a stock of selections for delivery, his favorite being Whittier's Slave Mother's Lament over the Loss of Her Daughters:
"Gone, gone—sold and gone
To the rice swamp dank and lone,
Where the slave whip ceaseless swings,
Where the noisome insect stings;
Where the fever demon strews
Poison with the falling dews;
Where the sickly sunbeams glare
Through the hot and misty air.
Gone, gone—sold and gone To the rice swamp dank and lone, From Virginia's hills and waters— Woe is me my stolen daughters!"
It was marvelous how little damage all the mobs effected. Lovejoy of Illinois was killed—a great loss—and occasionally an Abolitionist lecturer got a bloody nose or a sore shin. Professor Hudson, of Oberlin College, used to say that the injury he most feared was to his clothes. He carried with him what he called "a storm suit," which he wore at evening meetings. It showed many marks of battle.
Among those who suffered real physical injury was Fred. Douglass, the runaway slave. While in bondage he was often severely punished, but he encountered rougher treatment in the North than in the South. He was attacked by a mob while lecturing in the State of Indiana; was struck to the earth and rendered senseless by blows on the head and body, and for a time his life was supposed to be in danger. Although in the main he recovered, his right hand was always crippled in consequence of some of its bones having been broken.
If any one is desirous of estimating the extent of the sacrifice of life, of treasure, of home and family comforts, and of innumerable fair hopes that the institution of slavery, in its struggle, not merely for existence, but for supremacy, cost this country, let him visit a government cemetery in the neighborhood of one of the great battle-fields of the Rebellion, and there, while looking down the long avenues lined with memorial stones that a grateful country has set up, make inquiry as to the number of those that are there bivouacked "in fame's eternal camping ground." Some idea—a faint one it is true—will then be had of the multitudes that gave up all they possessed that liberty might live and rule in this fair land of ours. They were martyrs in the very highest sense to Freedom's immeasurable cause. The war was the product of slavery. It was the natural outcome of the great moral conflict that had so long raged in this country. It was simply the development of an agitation that had begun on other lines.
But there were martyrs to the cause of freedom before the war. Everybody knows more or less of the story of John Brown, of Ossawatomie, whose soul kept "marching on," although his body was "a-mouldering in the grave."
There was another case involving the surrender of life to that cause, which has always struck me as having stronger claims to our sympathies than that of John Brown and his comrades in self-sacrifice.
I have already referred to Elijah P. Lovejoy who was a young Congregational clergyman, who went from the State of Maine to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1839. He became the editor of a religious journal in which he expressed, in very moderate terms, an opinion that was not favorable to slave-holding. The supporters of the institution were aroused at once. They demanded a retraction. "I have sworn eternal hostility to slavery, and by the blessing of God I will never go back," was his reply. He also declared, "We have slaves here, but I am not one of them."
It was deemed advisable by Mr. Lovejoy and his friends to move his printing establishment to Alton, opposite Missouri, in the free State of Illinois. There, however, a pro-slavery antagonism immediately developed. His press was seized and thrown into the Mississippi River. The same fate awaited two others that were procured. But, undismayed, Mr. Lovejoy and his friends once more decided that their rights and liberties should not be surrendered without a further effort. Another press was sent for. But in the meanwhile a violent public agitation had arisen. At the instance of certain pro-slavery leaders in the community a public meeting had been called to denounce the Abolitionists. Mr. Lovejoy was invited to attend it and declare what he would do.
"Gentlemen," said he, "as long as I am an American citizen; as long as American blood runs in my veins, I shall hold myself at liberty to speak, to write, and to publish whatever I please on any subject, being amenable to the laws of my country for the same."
The fourth press arrived. It was landed from a passing boat in the small hours of the morning, and was safely conveyed to a warehouse where Mr. Lovejoy and several of his friends assembled with a view to its protection. What followed is thus described:
"An hour or two afterwards there came from the grog-shops a crowd of people who knocked at the door and demanded the press. One of the owners of the warehouse informed them it would not be given up. Presenting a pistol, the leader of the mob announced that they were resolved to have the press at any cost. Stones were thrown, windows broken, and shots were fired at the building. The cry of 'burn them out' was raised. Ladders were procured, and some of the rioters mounted to the roof of the building and set it on fire. Mr. Lovejoy at this point stepped out of the building for the purpose of having a talk with his enemies, when he was fired upon. He received five balls, three in his breast. He was killed almost instantly."
The animosity of his enemies was such that they followed his remains with scoffings and insults on its way to the grave.
In Canterbury, in the State of Connecticut, lived a Quaker lady of the name of Prudence Crandall. She conducted a school for young ladies. Among those she admitted was a colored girl. The fact becoming known, objection was raised by the citizens of the place. The position in which Miss Crandall was placed was a most trying one. Having invested all her means in the school building and its equipment, she was confronted with the alternative of losing her business and her property, or dismissing the colored student who had done no wrong. She chose to stand by her principles.
A public meeting was called, and a resolution to prevent the maintenance of the school, if colored students were admitted, was adopted by the citizens. Nevertheless, that brave Quakeress opened her doors to several colored young women. That brought the issue to a head, and then began a system of most remarkable persecutions. The school building was bombarded with clubs and stones, the proprietress found the stores of the village closed against her, and the young lady students were grossly insulted when they appeared upon the streets. Even the well from which drinking water was obtained was polluted.
Finding that there was no law in Connecticut under which the instruction of colored people could be prohibited and punished, the enemies of Miss Crandall went to the Legislature of the State and asked for such an enactment, and, to the eternal disgrace of that body, their request was complied with. It was made a crime in Connecticut to instruct colored people in the rudiments of an ordinary education.
Miss Crandall, as she made no change in her course of action, was arrested, brought before a committing magistrate, and sent to jail. A man had shortly before been confined in the same prison for the murder of his wife, and therefrom had gone to execution. Miss Crandall was confined in the cell this man had occupied. Other indignities were heaped upon this devoted and courageous lady. Physicians refused to attend the sick of her household, and the trustees of the church she was accustomed to attend notified her that she and the members of her family were denied admission to that sanctuary.
Miss Crandall was finally convicted of the crime with which she was charged, but the case, being carried to the highest court of the State, was dismissed on a technicality. But, although the legal prosecution of this poor woman reached an end, her enemies did not cease their opposition. The mob made an attack upon her dwelling, which was also her schoolhouse. Doors and windows were broken in, and the building was so thoroughly wrecked as to be uninhabitable. Having no money with which to make repairs, she was forced to abandon the structure and her educational business at the same time.
The Crandall family became noted for its martyrs. A brother of Prudence Crandall was Dr. Reuben Crandall, of Washington City. He was a man of high attainments, being a lecturer in a public scientific institution. While engaged in his office he received some packages that had been wrapped in newspapers, among which happened to be a copy or two of Abolition journals. At the request of a gentleman who was present at the unpacking he gave him one of the publications. Having looked it over the gentleman dropped it, where it was picked up by some one who was on the lookout for incendiary publications. No little excitement followed its discovery. The community was aroused. Indeed, so great was the agitation occasioned that Dr. Crandall, to whom the inhibited paper had been traced, was in great physical danger from mob violence. He was arrested, and, partly to save his life, was thrust into jail, where he remained for eight months. He was tried and, although acquitted, was really made the subject of capital punishment. Tuberculosis developed as the result of his incarceration, and death soon followed.
Of many cases of the kind that might be cited, perhaps none is more strikingly illustrative than that of Charles Turner Torrey, a New England man. He was accused of helping a slave to escape from the city of Baltimore, and being convicted on what was said to be perjured testimony, was sent to the penitentiary for a long term of years. The confinement was fatal, a galloping consumption mercifully putting a speedy end to his confinement. And then a remarkable incident occurred. Torrey was a minister in good standing of the Congregational denomination, and also a member of the Park Avenue Church of Boston. Arrangements were made for funeral exercises in that church, but its managers, taking alarm at the threats of certain pro-slavery men, withdrew their permission and locked the sanctuary's doors. Slavery punished the dead as well as the living.
The case of Amos Dresser, a young Southerner, may not improperly be mentioned here. He had gone to a Northern school, and had become a convert to Abolitionism. He went to Nashville, Tennessee, to canvass for a book called the Cottage Bible which would not ordinarily be supposed to be dangerous to well regulated public institutions. While peaceably attending to his business he was accused of Anti-Slaveryism. He did not deny the charge and was arrested, his trunk being broken open and its contents searched and scattered. He was taken before a vigilance committee and by it was condemned to receive twenty lashes on his bare back, "well laid on," and then to be driven out of town. The sentence was carried out, we are told, in the presence of thousands of people of both sexes.
Of the many somewhat similar instances that might here be referred to the writer will make room for only one more.
A seafaring man of the name of Jonathan Walker undertook to convey in a sloop of which he was the owner seven colored fugitives to the Bahama Islands, where they would be free. Owing to an accident to his boat, he and his companions were captured. He was sentenced, among other things, to have his hand branded with the letters S.S., signifying "Slave Stealer."
"Why, that hand is highest honor,
Than its traces never yet Upon old memorial hatchments was
A prouder blazon set; And the unborn generations, as they
Tread our rocky strand, Shall tell with pride the story of
Their father's branded hand."
The prescribed penalties for assisting in the escape of fugitive slaves were severe. By the terms of the Fugitive Slave Act, as it was called, any one convicted of that offense, besides a liability for one thousand dollars damages recoverable in a civil action, was subject to a five-hundred-dollars fine and imprisonment in a penitentiary for one year. As the writer has not "done time" for participation in certain transactions dating back to his earlier days, in which the legal rights of slave-owners were indifferently respected, he thinks it advisable to be somewhat reserved in his recital of personal experiences when taking the public into his confidence. The Fugitive Slave Law—and for that fact we should give "most hearty thanks"—is about as dead as any statute can be, but as in the case of a snake that has been killed, it may be the wiser course not to trifle with its fangs. Therefore, instead of telling my own story in the first person singular, I offer as a substitute the confession of one John Smith, whose existence no one will presume to dispute. Here is his statement:
"There was an old barn on my father's farm. It was almost a ruin. One end of the roof had fallen in, pretty much all the windows were gone, and there was a general air of dilapidation about the place. A dwelling-house, to which it was an appendage, had been burned and not rebuilt, and the barn had been left to fight a battle with the elements and other foes in pretty much its own way.
"Not that it was wholly abandoned. There was one mow that was kept pretty well supplied with grass, and there were two or three horse stalls that were in tolerable order, although but rarely used. There were a number of excellent hiding-places about the old rookery. In the basement all sorts of rubbish, including unused vehicles and machinery, had been stored away, and so wedged and packed was it that it would have taken hours to uncover man or beast seeking concealment there.
"One of the curious features of the situation was that the building was in sight of none of the roads in the neighborhood, while less than a hundred feet from it was a strip of woods in which the removal of the larger trees had stimulated a sturdy and densely matted undergrowth that was penetrable only by means of paths that had been made by the cattle. It was what was called a 'woods pasture.' With this cover for his movements any one could approach or leave the old barn with little danger of discovery.
"Naturally enough, such a ramshackle was in ill-repute. There were tales about it in the neighborhood. Some children had gone there to play on one occasion, and had been badly frightened by a big—as big as a half-bushel, they asserted—black face that was seen to be watching them. They fled from the premises in great alarm, and for a time there was talk of an investigation by their friends. The incident, however, was soon forgotten.
"That old barn was a regular station on one of the underground railroads that extended from the Ohio River to Canada. To but few persons was its true character known, and they were very close-mouthed about it. I was one of the few that were in the secret. Being the youngest member of the family, it fell to my lot to drive the horses and cows to and from the pasture in which the old barrack was located, and while there it was an easy matter to visit that establishment and ascertain if it sheltered any fresh arrivals.
"One day I had to report that two fugitives were in the barn, being a mother and child. Then came the question—which in that instance was a difficult one to answer—as to who should convey them to the next station on the line, twenty miles away. A brother, between five and six years older than I was, and who was something of a dare-devil, did the most of the work of transportation, but he was in bed with typhoid fever. A hired man, who was employed partly because he was in hearty accord with the humanitarian views of the household, and who on several occasions had taken my brother's place, was absent. There was nobody but myself who was ready to undertake the job, and I was only eleven years old. There was no help for it, however. The slaves had to be moved on, and I was greatly rejoiced in the prospect of adventure that was opened up to me. The journey had to be made at night, but for that I cared nothing, as I had repeatedly gone over the route by daylight, and thought I knew the road perfectly.
"Midnight found me on the highway, and on the driver's seat of one of our farm wagons, to which was attached a span of horses moving in the direction of the north star. That luminary was not on this occasion visible. The sky was heavily overcast and the night was very dark. A light rain was falling. With all the confidence I had in my own ability, more than once would I have lost the way, but for the sagacity of the horses, which had gone over that route a number of times under similar circumstances. They acted as if altogether familiar with it. Those horses proved themselves to be excellent Abolitionists.
"The inclemency of the night was in one respect a great advantage. It kept at home those who might incline to be too inquisitive. The few travelers we met passed on with a word of greeting, while I whistled unconcernedly.
"Over the bottom of the wagon was scattered some hay that might be used either as feed for the horses or as a bed for weary travelers. There was also an old-fashioned buffalo-robe, somewhat dilapidated, that could serve for concealment or as shelter from the elements. Two or three empty baskets suggested a return from the market. There was another article that one would hardly have looked for. This was a smoke-cured ham loosely wrapped in some old sacking. It had gone over that route a number of times. Its odor neutralized the smell by which the presence, immediate or recent, of negroes might be detected.
"My fellow-travelers, as my passengers might be called, were interesting companions. Both, in one sense, were children, the mother certainly not being over seventeen years old. She was a comely half-breed mulatto. Her baby—a pretty boy of two years—was one degree nearer white.
"The girl was inclined to be confidential and talkative. She said she was 'old mas'r's' daughter. Her mother had been one of 'old mas'r's' people. She had grown up with the other slave children on the place, being in no way favored because of her relationship to her owner. The baby's father was 'young mas'r'—old master's son, as it appeared—and who, consequently, was a half-brother of the youthful mother. Slavery sometimes created singular relationships.
"As the story ran, all the people, including the narrator and her baby, when 'ole mas'r' died were 'leveled' on by the Sheriff's man. She did not quite understand the meaning of it all, but it was doubtless a case of bankruptcy.
"'Young mas'r,' she said, 'tole' her she had to run away, taking the baby of course. 'Oh, yes," she said very emphatically, 'I never would have left Kentuck without Thomas Jefferson'—meaning her little boy. 'Young mas'r,' according to her account, arranged the whole proceeding, telling her what course to take by night, where to stop and conceal herself by day, and what signal to give when she reached the 'big river.'
"When the Ohio had been crossed her young master met her, evidently to the great delight of the poor creature. He gave her some money, and told her that when she reached her destination he would send her some 'mo.' After putting her in charge of some kind people, evidently representatives of the underground line, they had parted, according to her description of the incident, in an affecting way. 'He kissed me and I cried,' was her simple statement. Notwithstanding the boasted superiority of one race over another, human nature seems to be very much the same, whether we read it in a white face or in a black one.
"The little girlish mother was very much alarmed for the safety of her boy and herself when we began our journey, wanting to get out and conceal herself whenever we heard any one on the road. After several detentions from that cause, the weary creature stretched herself upon the hay beside her sleeping infant and almost immediately fell into a heavy slumber. She could stand the strain no longer. I drew the buffalo-robe over the two sleepers, and there they rested in blissful unconsciousness until the journey was ended.
"Half-way between the termini of my route was a village in which lived a constable who was suspected of being in the employ of the slave-owners. It was thought advisable that I should avoid that village by taking a roundabout road. That I did, although it added an extra half to my trip. The result was that the sun was just peeping over the eastern hills, as I reached a set of bars showing an entrance into a pasture lot on one side of the highway. Removing the bars, I drove into the field, and passing over a ridge that hid it from the road, I stopped in front of a log cabin that had every appearance of being an abandoned and neglected homestead. That was the station I was looking for. Arousing my sleeping passengers, I saw them enter the old domicile, where I bade them good-by, and received the tearful and repeated thanks of the youthful slave mother, speaking for herself and her offspring. I never saw them again, but in due time the news came back, over what was jocularly called the 'grape-vine telegraph,' that they had safely reached their destination.
"At the home of the station agent I was enthusiastically received. That a boy of eleven should accomplish what I had done was thought to be quite wonderful. I was given an excellent breakfast, and then shown to a room with a bed, where I had a good sleep. On my awakening I set out on the return journey, this time taking the most direct route, as I had then no fear of that hireling constable.
"Subsequently I passed through several experiences of a similar kind, some of them involving greater risks and more exciting incidents, but the recollection of none of them brings me greater satisfaction than the memory of my first conductorship on the Underground.
"All of which is respectfully submitted by
I have had a good deal to say about Anti-Slavery societies. There was another society which was called into existence by the slavery situation. Whether it was pro-slavery or anti-slavery was a question that long puzzled a good many people. It was the Colonization Society. A good many Anti-Slavery people believed in it for a time and gave it their support. "I am opposed to slavery, but I am not an Abolitionist: I am a Colonizationist," was a declaration that, when I was a boy, I heard many and many times, and from the lips of well-intending people.
It did not take the sharp-sighted leaders of the Abolition movement very long to discover that one of the uses its managers expected to make of the Colonization Society was as a shield for slavery. It kept a number of excellent people from joining in an aggressive movement against it, took their money, and made them believe that they were at work for the freedom of the negro.
Strangely as it might appear, the negroes, who were assumed to be the beneficiaries of the colonization scheme, were opposed to it. Quicker than the white people generally did, they saw through its false pretense, and, besides, they could not understand why they should be taken from the land of their nativity, and sent to the country from which their progenitors had come, any more than the descendants of Scotch, English, and German immigrants should be deported to the lands of their ancestors.
Equally strange was it that the Colonization Society, if really friendly to the negro, should find its most zealous supporters among slaveholders. Its first president, who was a nephew of George Washington, upon learning that his slaves had got the idea that they were to be set at liberty, sent over fifty of them to be sold from the auction block at New Orleans. That was intended as a warning to the rest. One of its presidents was said to be the owner of a thousand slaves and had never manumitted one of them. The principal service that the colonization movement was expected to do for the slave-owners was to relieve them of the presence of free negroes. These were always regarded as a menace by slave-masters. They disseminated ideas of freedom and manhood among their unfortunate brethren. They were object-lessons to those in bondage. The slave-owners were only too glad to have them sent away. They looked to Liberia as a safety-valve. It did not take long for intelligent people who were really well-wishers of the black man to perceive these facts.
The severest blow that the Colonization Society received in America was from the pen of William Lloyd Garrison, who, under the title of Thoughts on African Colonisation, published a pamphlet that had wide distribution. It completely unmasked the pretended friendship of the Colonizationists for the negroes, free or slave. From that time they lost all support from real Anti-Slavery people. There was, however, to be a battle fought, in which the Colonization Society figured as a party, that furnished one of the most interesting episodes of the slavery conflict.
England, at the time of which we are speaking, was full of Anti-Slavery sentiment. Slavery, at the end of a long and bitter contest, had been abolished in all her colonies. Her philanthropists were rejoicing in their victory. The managers of the Colonization Society resolved, if possible, to capture that sentiment, and with it the pecuniary aid the British Abolitionists might render. It was always a tremendous beggar. They, accordingly, selected a fluent-tongued agent and sent him to England to advocate their cause. He did not hesitate to represent that the Colonization Society was the especial friend of the negro, working for his deliverance from bondage, and, in addition, that it had the support of "the wealth, the respectability, and the piety of the American people."
When these facts came to the knowledge of the members of the newly formed New England Anti-Slavery Society, they were naturally excited, and resolved to meet the enemy in this new field of operations. This they decided to do by sending a representative to England, who would be able to meet the colonization agent in discussion, and otherwise proclaim and champion their particular views. For this service the man selected was William Lloyd Garrison, who was then but twenty-eight years old.
Remarkable it was that one who was not only so young, but imperfectly educated, being a poor mechanic, daily toiling as a compositor at his printer's case, should be chosen to meet the most polished people in the British Empire, and hold himself ready to debate the most serious question of the time. That such a person should be willing to enter upon such an undertaking was almost as remarkable. But Garrison showed no hesitation in accepting the task for which he was selected.
On his arrival in England, Garrison sent a challenge to the colonization agent for a public debate. This the Colonizationist refused to receive. Two more challenges were sent and were treated in the same way. Then Garrison, at a cost of thirty dollars, which he could ill afford to pay, published the challenge in the London Times, with a statement of the manner in which it had been so far treated. Of course, public interest was aroused, and when Garrison appeared upon the public platform, as he at once proceeded to do, he was greeted with the attendance of multitudes of interested hearers. Exeter Hall in London was crowded. The most distinguished men in England sat upon the stage when he spoke, and applauded his addresses. Daniel O'Connell, the great Irish orator, paid them a most florid compliment. They were, unquestionably, most remarkable samples of effective eloquence—plain in statement, simple in style, but exceedingly logical and forcible. They were widely published throughout England at the time of their delivery.
One of the results was that the leading emancipationists of Great Britain signed and published a warning against the colonization scheme, denouncing it as having its roots in "a cruel prejudice," and declaring that it was calculated to "increase the spirit of caste so unhappily predominant," and that it "exposed the colored people to great practical persecution in order to force them to emigrate."
As for the poor agent of the Colonizationists, seeing how the battle was tending, he left England in a hurry, and was nevermore heard of in that part of the world.
Garrison's personal triumph was very striking, and it was splendidly earned. He was made the recipient of many compliments and testimonials. A curious incident resulted from this great popularity. He was invited to breakfast by Sir Thomas Buxton, the noted English philanthropist, with a view to making the acquaintance of a number of distinguished persons who were to be present. When Mr. Garrison presented himself, his entertainer, who had not before met or seen him, looked at him in great astonishment.
"Are you William Lloyd Garrison?" he inquired.
"That is who I am," replied Mr. Garrison, "and I am here on your invitation."
"But you are a white man," said Buxton, "and from your zeal and labors in behalf of the colored people, I assumed that you were one of them."
Garrison left England in what, metaphorically, might be described as "a blaze of glory." Hundreds attended him when he went to embark on his homeward voyage, and he was followed by their cheers and benedictions. Wonderfully different was the treatment he received on his arrival in his own country. Not long afterwards he was dragged through Boston streets by a hempen rope about his body, and was assigned to a prison cell, as affording the most available protection from the mob.
Nevertheless, we have had some excellent people—not slave-owners—who, out of compassion for the black man, or from prejudice against his color, and, perhaps, from a little of both, have favored a policy of colonization in this country. Mr. Lincoln was one of them. "If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do with the existing institution. My first impulse would be to free the slaves and send them to Liberia." So said Mr. Lincoln in one of his debates with Douglas.
"I cannot make it better known than it already is," said Mr. Lincoln in a message to Congress, dated December 1, 1862, "that I strongly favor colonization."
At Lincoln's instance Congress appropriated several large sums of money—then much needed in warlike operations—for colonizing experiments. One of these has a curious and somewhat pathetic history. A sharper by the name of Koch, having worked himself into the confidence of the President and some other good people, got them to buy from him an island in the West Indies, called Ile a'Vache, which he represented to be a veritable earthly paradise. Strangely enough, it was wholly uninhabited, and therefore ready for the uses of a colony. Several hundred people—colored, of course—were collected, put aboard a ship, and dumped upon this unknown land. It will surprise no one to learn that pretty soon these people, poisoned by malaria, stung by venomous insects and reptiles, and having scarcely anything to eat, were dying like cattle with the murrain. In the end a ship was sent to bring back the survivors.
Nevertheless, the kind-hearted President did not give up the idea. At his request a delegation of Washington negroes called upon him. He made them quite a long speech, telling them that Congress had given him money with which to found a colony of colored people, and that he had found what seemed to be a suitable location in Central America. He appealed to them to supply the colonists. The negroes, not anxious for exile, diplomatically said they would think the matter over. In the end it was discovered that Central America did not want the negroes, and that the negroes did not want Central America.
A story that is curiously illustrative of Mr. Lincoln's attachment to the policy of removing the colored people is told by L.E. Chittenden in his Recollections of President Lincoln. Mr. Chittenden was a citizen of Vermont and Register of the Treasury under Lincoln, with whom he was in intimate and confidential relations:
"During one of his welcome visits to my office," says Mr. Chittenden, "the President seemed to be buried in thought over some subject of great interest. After long reflection he abruptly exclaimed that he wanted to ask me a question.
"'Do you know any energetic contractor?' he inquired; 'one who would be willing to take a large contract attended with some risk?'
"'I know New England contractors," I replied, 'who would not be frightened by the magnitude or risk of any contract. The element of prospective profit is the only one that would interest them. If there was a fair prospect of profit, they would not hesitate to contract to suppress the Rebellion in ninety days."
"'There will be profit and reputation in the contract I may propose,' said the President. 'It is to remove the whole colored race of the slave States into Texas. If you have any acquaintance who would take that contract, I would like to see him.'
"'I know a man who would take that contract and perform it,' I replied. 'I would be willing to put you into communication with him, so that you might form your own opinion about him.'
"By the President's direction I requested John Bradley, a well-known Vermonter, to come to Washington. He was at my office the morning after I sent the telegram to him. I declined to give him any hint of the purpose of my invitation, but took him directly to the President. When I presented him I said: 'Here, Mr. President, is the contractor whom I named to you yesterday.'
"I left them together. Two hours later Mr. Bradley returned to my office overflowing with admiration for the President and enthusiasm for his proposed work. 'The proposition is,' he said, 'to remove the whole colored race into Texas, there to establish a republic of their own. The subject has political bearings of which I am no judge, and upon which the President has not yet made up his mind. But I have shown him that it is practicable. I will undertake to remove them all within a year.'"
It is unnecessary to state that the Black Republic of Texas was a dream that never materialized.
Messrs. Nicolay and Hay, who were Mr. Lincoln's private secretaries during the time he was President, and afterwards the authors of his most elaborate biography, say: "The blessings of an enfranchised race must forever hail him as their liberator."
Says Francis Curtis in his History of the Republican Party, in speaking of the President's Emancipation Proclamation: "On the 1st day of January, 1863, the final proclamation of freedom was issued, and every negro slave within the confines of the United States was at last made free."
Other writers of what is claimed to be history, almost without number, speak of the President's pronouncement as if it caused the bulwarks of slavery to fall down very much as the walls of Jericho are said to have done, at one blast, overwhelming the whole institution and setting every bondman free. Indeed, there are multitudes of fairly intelligent people who believe that slaveholding in this country ceased the very day and hour the proclamation appeared. In a recent magazine article, so intelligent a man as Booker Washington speaks of a Kentucky slave family as being emancipated by Mr. Lincoln's proclamation, when, in fact, the proclamation never applied to Kentucky at all.
The emancipationists of Missouri were working hard to free their State from slavery, and they would have been only too glad to have Mr. Lincoln do the work for them. They appealed to him to extend his edict to their State, but got no satisfaction. The emancipationists of Maryland had much the same experience. Both Missouri and Maryland were left out of the proclamation, as were Tennessee and Kentucky and Delaware, and parts of Virginia and Louisiana and the Carolinas. (See Appendix.) The explanation is that the proclamation was not intended to cover all slaveholding territory. All of it that belonged to States that had not been in rebellion, or had been subdued, was excluded. The President's idea was to reach only such sections as were then in revolt. If the proclamation had been immediately operative, and had liberated every bondman in the jurisdiction to which it applied, it would have left over a million slaves in actual thraldom. Indeed, Earl Russell, the British premier, was quite correct when, in speaking of the proclamation, he said: "It does not more than profess to emancipate slaves where the United States authorities cannot make emancipation a reality, and emancipates no one where the decree can be carried into effect."
For the failure of the proclamation to cover all slaveholding territory there was a plausible reason. Freedom under it was not decreed as a boon, but as a penalty. It was not, in theory at least, intended to help the slave, but to chastise the master. It was to be in punishment of treason, and, of course, could not consistently be made to apply to loyal communities, or to such as were under government control. The proclamation, it will be recollected, was issued in two parts separated by one hundred days. The first part gave the Rebels warning that the second would follow if, in the meanwhile, they did not give up their rebellion. All they had to do to save slavery was to cease from their treasonable practices. Had the Rebels been shrewd enough, within the hundred days, to take the President at his word, he would have stood pledged to maintain their institution, and his proclamation, instead of being a charter of freedom, would have been a license for slaveholding.
The proclamation did not, in fact, whatever it may have otherwise accomplished at the time it was issued, liberate a single slave. What is more, slavery as an institution was altogether too securely rooted in our system to be abolished by proclamation. The talk of such a thing greatly belittles the magnitude of the task that was performed. Its removal required a long preliminary work, involving, as is made to appear in previous chapters of this work, almost incalculable toil and sacrifice, to be followed by an enormous expenditure of blood and treasure. Its practical extinguishment was the work of the army, while its legal extirpation was accomplished by Congress and the Legislatures of the States in adopting the Thirteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, which forbids all slaveholding. That amendment was a production of Congress and not of the Executive, whose official approval was not even required to make it legally effective.
The story of the proclamation, with not a few variations, has often been told; but the writer fancies that the altogether correct account has not always been given. It may be presumptuous on his part, but he will submit his version.
To understand the motive underlying the proclamation we must take into account its author's feeling toward slavery. Notwithstanding various unfriendly references of an academic sort to that institution, he was not at the time the proclamation appeared, and never had been, an Abolitionist.
Not very long before the time referred to the writer heard Mr. Lincoln, in his debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Alton, Illinois, declare—laying unusual emphasis on his words: "I have on all occasions declared as strongly as Judge Douglas against the disposition to interfere with the existing institution of slavery."
Judge Douglas was what was then called a "dough-face" by the Abolitionists—being a Northern man with Southern principles, or "proclivities," as he called them.
Only a little earlier, and several years after Mr. Lincoln had claimed to be a Republican, and a leader of the Republicans, he had, in a speech at Bloomington, Illinois, asserted that, "the conclusion of it all is that we must restore the Missouri Compromise."
Now the adoption of the Missouri Compromise was the hardest blow ever inflicted on the cause of free soil in America. It did more to encourage the supporters of slavery and to discourage its opponents than anything else that ever happened. Its restoration would undoubtedly have produced a similar effect. Although he is not to be credited with any philanthropic motive, Stephen A. Douglas did an effective work for freedom when he helped to overthrow that measure. Leading Abolitionists have accorded him that meed of praise.
But there was that proposition which Mr. Lincoln was so fond of repeating, that the nation could not remain half free and half slave—"a divided house"—but the remedy he had to propose was not manumission at any proximate or certain time, but the adoption of a policy that, to use his own words, would cause "the public mind to rest in the belief that it [slavery] was in the course of ultimate extinction." Practically that meant very little or nothing. What the public mind then needed was not "rest," but properly directed activity.
But the declarations above quoted were all before Mr. Lincoln had become President or had probably thought of such a thing. Did the change of position lead to a change of opinion on his part? We are not left in uncertainty on this point. His official views were declared in what might be called a State paper. Soon after his inauguration, his Secretary of State sent Minister Dayton, at Paris, a dispatch that he might use with foreign officials, in which, in speaking of the Rebellion, he said: "The condition of slavery in the several States will remain just the same whether it succeeds or fails.... It is hardly necessary to add to this incontrovertible statement the further fact that the new President has always repudiated all designs, whenever and wherever imputed to him, of disturbing the system of slavery as it has existed under the Constitution and laws."
About the same time Mr. Lincoln stated to a party of Southern Congressmen, who called upon him, that he "recognized the rights of property that had grown out of it [slavery] and would respect those rights as fully as he would similar rights in any other property."
No steps were taken by Mr. Lincoln to recall or repudiate the foregoing announcements. On the contrary, he confirmed them in his official action. He annulled the freedom proclamations of Frémont and Hunter. He did not interfere when some of his military officers were so busy returning fugitive slaves that they had no time to fight the masters. He approved Hallock's order Number Three excluding fugitives from the lines. He even permitted the poor old Hutchinsons to be sent away from the army very much as if they had been colored people, when trying to rouse "the boys" with their freedom songs. In many ways Mr. Lincoln showed that in the beginning and throughout the earlier part of his Administration he hoped to re-establish the Union without disturbing slavery. In effect he so declared in his introduction to his freedom proclamation. He gave the rebel slaveholders one hundred days in which to abandon their rebellion and save their institution. In view of such things it is no wonder that Henry Wilson, so long a leading Republican Senator from Massachusetts, in his Rise and Fall of the Slave Power, in speaking of emancipation, said "it was a policy, indeed, which he [the President] did not personally favor except in connection with his favorite idea of colonization."
It is needless to say that the President's attitude was a great surprise and a sore disappointment to the more radical Anti-Slavery people of the country, who had supported him with much enthusiasm and high hopes. They felt that they had been deceived. They said so very plainly, for the Abolitionists were not the sort of people to keep quiet under provocation. Horace Greeley published his signed attack (see Appendix) entitled, The Prayer of Twenty Millions, which is, without doubt, the most scathing denunciation in the English language. Henry Ward Beecher "pounded" Mr. Lincoln, as he expressed it. Wendell Phillips fairly thundered his denunciations. There was a general under-swell of indignation.
Now, Mr. Lincoln was not a man who was incapable of reading the signs of the times. He saw that he was drifting towards an irreparable breach with an element that had previously furnished his staunchest supporters. As a politician of great native shrewdness, as well as the head of the Government, he could not afford to let the quarrel go on and widen. There was need of conciliation. Something had to be done. We know what he did. He issued his Emancipation Proclamation.
As far as freeing any slaves was concerned, he knew it amounted to very little, if anything. He said so. Less than two weeks before the preliminary section of the proclamation appeared, Mr. Lincoln was waited on by a delegation of over one hundred Chicago clergymen, who urged him to issue a proclamation of freedom for the slaves. "What good would a proclamation from me do, especially as we are now situated?" asked Mr. Lincoln by way of reply. "I do not want to issue a document that the whole world would see must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope's bull against the comet. Would my word free the slaves, when I cannot even enforce the Constitution in the rebel States?"
In contemplating a proclamation applicable to the rebel States, it is hardly to be supposed that Mr. Lincoln did not understand the situation two weeks earlier quite as well as when the document appeared.
If Mr. Lincoln had been told, when he entered on the Presidency, that before his term of office would expire he would be hailed as "The Great Emancipator," he would have treated the statement as equal to one of his own best jokes. Slavery was a thing he did not then want to have disturbed. He discountenanced all radical agitators of the subject, and especially in the border slave States, where he was able to hold them pretty well in check, except in Missouri. There they stood up and fought him, and in the end beat him. One of the rather curious results of this condition of things was that, when the States came to action on the Thirteenth Constitutional Amendment, the one absolutely abolishing slavery, the three border slave States of Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware, over which the President's influence was practically supreme, gave an adverse vote of four to one, while Missouri, with whose radical emancipationists he had continuously been at loggerheads, ratified the amendment by a legislative vote of one hundred and eleven ayes to forty nays.
Nevertheless, notwithstanding the President, at the beginning of his official term, opposed Anti-Slavery agitation and Anti-Slavery action with all his might, he promptly faced about as soon as he discovered that the subject was one that would not "down." No one ever worked harder to find a solution of a difficult problem than he did of the slavery question. He began to formulate plans to that end, the most distinguishing feature, however, being the spirit of compromise by which they were pervaded. All of them stopped before an ultimatum was reached. Besides his proclamation, which, as we have seen, applied to only a part of the slaves, he devised a measure that would have been applicable to all of them. In his special message of December, 1863, he proposed to Congress the submission of a constitutional amendment that would work universal liberation. There were conditions, however. One was that the slaves should be paid for by the Government; another that the masters might retain their uncompensated services until January 1, 1900; that is, for a period of thirty-seven years, unless they were sooner emancipated by the grave, as the most of them would be. (See Appendix.)
The President's somewhat fantastic proposition was not claimed by him to be for the bondman's benefit. He urged it as a measure of public economy, holding that, as slavery was the admitted cause of the Rebellion, the quickest and surest way to remove that cause would be by purchase of all the slaves, which, he insisted, "would shorten the war, and thus lessen the expenditure of money and blood."
The public did not take to the President's plan at all, especially the Abolitionists did not. They no more favored the buying of men by the Government than by anybody else. They held that if the master had no right to the person of his bondman, he had no right to payment for him. And as for an arrangement that might prolong slaveholding for thirty-seven years, they saw in it not only a measure of injustice to the men, women, and children then in servitude, the most of whom would be doomed to bondage for the rest of their natural lives, but a possible plan for side-tracking a genuine freedom movement.
In the proposition just considered we have not only the core of the President's policy during much of his official tenure, but an explanation of his mental operations. He was sentimentally opposed to slavery, but he was afraid of freedom. He dreaded its effect on both races. He was opposed to slavery more because it was a public nuisance than because of its injustice to the oppressed black man, whose condition, he did not believe, would be greatly, if at all, benefited by freedom. Hence he wanted manumission put off as long as possible. It was "ultimate extinction" he wanted, to be attended with payment to the master for his lost property. Another thing he favored—and which he seems to have thought entirely practicable—as a condition to liberation, was the black man's removal to a place or places out of contact with our white population.
But in entire fairness to Mr. Lincoln, it should be said that, although his proclamation was inoperative for the immediate release of any slaves, it was by no means wholly ineffectual. Its moral influence was considerable. It helped to hasten a movement that had, however, by that time become practically irresistible. Its political results were far more marked and important. If it did not fully restore cordiality between the President and the Abolition leaders, it prevented an open rupture. It served as a bridge between them. Although they never took Mr. Lincoln fully into their confidence again, the Abolitionists interpreted his proclamation as a concession and an abandonment of his previous policy, which it was much more in appearance than actually. At all events, it was splendid politics. The somewhat theatrical manner in which it was worked up and promulgated in installments, thus arousing in advance a widespread interest and curiosity, showed no little strategic ability. No more skillful move is recorded in the history of our parties and partisans than this act of Mr. Lincoln, by which he disarmed his Anti-Slavery critics without giving them any material advantage or changing the actual situation. I am not now speaking of the motive underlying the proclamation of the President, but of its effect. Without it he could not have been renominated and re-elected.
Another observation, in order to be entirely just to Mr. Lincoln, after what has been stated, would at this point seem to be called for. There is no doubt that from the first he was at heart an Anti-Slavery man, which is saying a good deal for one born in Kentucky, raised in southern Indiana and southern Illinois, and who was naturally of a conservative turn of mind. Nevertheless, he was never an Abolitionist. He was opposed to immediate—what he called "sudden"—emancipation. He recognized the "right"—his own word—of the slave-owner to his pound of flesh, either in the person of his bondman or a cash equivalent. He was strongly prejudiced against the negro. Of that fact we have the evidence in his colonization ideas. He favored the banishment of our American-born black people from their native land. It was a cruel proposition. True, the President did move from his first position, which, as we have seen, was far from that occupied by the Abolitionists, but from first to last he was more of a follower than leader in the procession.
And here the author wishes to add, in justice to himself, that if, by reason of anything he has said in this chapter, or elsewhere in this work, in criticism of Mr. Lincoln's dealings with the slavery issue, he should be accused of unfriendliness toward the great martyr President, he enters a full and strong denial. He holds that, in view of all the difficulties besetting him, Mr. Lincoln did well, although he might have done better. Much allowance, must be made to one situated as he was. He undoubtedly deserves the most of the encomiums that have been lavished upon him. At the same time, the conclusion is inevitable that his fame as a statesman will ultimately depend less upon his treatment of the slavery issue than upon any other part of his public administration. The fact will always appear that it was the policy of Salmon P. Chase, Charles Sumner, Thaddeus Stevens, Horace Greeley, Henry Ward Beecher, and other advocates of the radical cure, with whom the President was in constant opposition, that prevailed in the end, and with a decisiveness that proves it to have been feasible and sound from the beginning. Mr. Lincoln's most ultra prescription—his Emancipation Proclamation—was ineffective. If it was intended to eradicate slavery altogether, it was too narrow; if to free the slaves of Rebels only, it was too broad. So with his other propositions. His thirty-seven-year-liberation scheme, his "tinkering off" policy (as he called it) for Missouri, his reconstruction proposals, and his colonization projects, all failed. Indeed, if we take his official action from first to last, it is a question whether the President, owing to his extreme conservatism, was not more of an obstructionist than a promoter of the Anti-Slavery cause.
Not that any change of opinion on the point just stated will materially affect the general estimate in which Mr. Lincoln is held. Although his popularity, due, in part at least, to the extravagance of over-zealous admirers, has without much doubt already passed its perihelion, it can never disappear or greatly diminish. His untiring and exhaustive labors for the Union, the many lovable traits of his unique personality, his unquestionable honesty, his courage, his patriotism, and, above all, his tragic taking off, have unalterably determined his place in the regard of his countrymen. Indeed, so strong is the admiration in which he is held, that it would be vain to attempt to disabuse many, by any amount of proof and argument, of the opinion that African slavery in this country was actually and exclusively killed by a presidential edict. So firmly fixed in the popular belief is that historical myth that it will undoubtedly live for many years, if not generations, although history in the end will right it like all other misunderstandings.
Mr. Lincoln had his weaknesses and limitations, like other men. All must admit that his treatment of the slavery question was not without its mistakes. It has always seemed to the writer that his most ardent admirers seriously blunder in claiming superlativeness for him in that regard, and more especially in giving him credit for results that were due to the efforts of other men. His fame is secure without such misappropriation. He would not ask it if living, and it will in due time be condemned by history.
The original and distinctive Abolition movement that was directed against slavery in all parts of the land without regard to State or territorial lines, and because it was assumed to be wrong in principle and practice, may be said, as far as the country at large was concerned, to have culminated at the advent of the Republican party. To a considerable extent it disappeared, but its disappearance was that of one stream flowing into or uniting with another. The union of the two currents extended, but did not intensify, the Anti-Slavery sentiment of the country. It diluted it and really weakened it. It brought about a crisis of great peril to the cause of Anti-Slaveryism—in some respects the most critical through which it was called upon to pass. Many of those attaching themselves to the Republican party, as the new political organization was called, were not in sympathy with Abolitionism. They were utterly opposed to immediate emancipation; or, for that matter, to emancipation of any kind. They wanted slavery to remain where it was, and were perfectly willing that it should be undisturbed. They disliked the blacks, and did not want to have them freed, fearing that if set at liberty they would overrun what was then free soil.
The writer recollects hearing a prominent man in the new party, who about that time was making a public speech, declare with great emphasis that, "as for the niggers, they are where they ought to be." The speaker on that occasion was one of many who belonged to the débris of the broken-up Whig party, and who drifted into Republicanism because there was no other more attractive harbor to go to. One of these men was Abraham Lincoln, whom I heard declare in his debate with Douglas at Alton, Illinois: "I was with the old-line Whigs from the origin to the end of their party." The Whigs were never an Anti-Slavery party. The recruits to Republicanism from that quarter were generally very tender on "the nigger question," and the most they were prepared to admit was that they were opposed to slavery's extension. These men largely dominated the new party. They generally dictated its platforms, which, compared with earlier Abolition utterances, were extremely timid, and they had much to do with making party nominations. Their favorite candidates were not those whose opinions on the slavery question were positive and well understood, but those whose views were unsettled if not altogether unknown. When General Frémont was nominated for the Presidency, not one in ten of those supporting him knew what his opinions on that subject were, and a good many of them did not care. Mr. Lincoln was accepted in much the same way.
It is true that, from certain expressions about the danger to our national house from being "half free" and "half slave," and other generalizations of a more or less academic sort, it was known that Mr. Lincoln was antagonistic to slavery; but as to whether he favored that institution's immediate or speedy extinguishment, and, if so, by what measures, was altogether unknown. We now know, from what has been set forth in another chapter, that at the time of his first nomination and election, he had very few things in common with the Abolitionists. He then evidently had no thought of being hailed as the "liberator of a race." He preferred, for the time at least, that the race in question should remain where it was, and as it was, unless it could be bodily transported to some other country and be put under the protection of some other flag.
He did not break with the Abolitionists, although he kept on the edge of a quarrel with them, and especially with what he called the "Greeley faction," a good part of the time. He never liked them, but he was a shrewd man—a born politician—and was too sagacious to discard the principal round in the ladder by which he had climbed to eminence. He managed to keep in touch with the Anti-Slavery movement through all its steady advancement, but, as elsewhere stated, it was as a follower rather than as a leader.
While a resident of the slave State of Missouri, I twice voted for Mr. Lincoln, which was some evidence of my personal feeling toward him. Both times I did it somewhat reluctantly. On the first occasion there were four candidates. Breckenridge and Bell were Southern men—both by residence and principle—and had no claim on Anti-Slavery support. But with Douglas the case was different. He had quarreled with the pro-slavery leaders, although of his own party. He had defied President Buchanan in denouncing border-ruffianism in Kansas. He had refused to give up his "popular sovereignty" dogma, although it clearly meant ultimate free soil. The slave-masters hated him far more than they did Lincoln. I heard them freely discuss the matter. They were more afraid of the vindictiveness of the fiery Douglas than of the opposition of good-hearted, conservative Lincoln. In my opinion there was good reason for that feeling. Douglas, as President, would undoubtedly have pushed the war for the Union with superior energy, and slavery would have suffered rougher treatment from his hands than it did from Mr. Lincoln's. There was another reason why the slaveholders preferred the election of Lincoln to that of Douglas. Lincoln's election would furnish the better pretext for the rebellion on which they were bent, and which they had already largely planned. They were resolved to defeat Douglas at all hazards, and they succeeded.
Douglas had been very distasteful to the Abolitionists. They called him a "dough-face." Nevertheless, quite a number of them where I lived in Missouri voted for him. Missouri was the only State he carried, and there he had less than five hundred majority. He got more than that many free-soil votes. I was strongly tempted to give him mine. Chiefly on account of political associations, I voted for Lincoln.
When it came to the second election, I again voted for Mr. Lincoln with reluctance. The principal reason for my hesitancy was his treatment of the Anti-Slavery people of the border slave States, and especially of Missouri. The grounds for my objection on that score will appear in the next chapter, which deals with the Missouri embroglio, as it was called.
From what has just been stated, it will be seen that the cause of Anti-Slaveryism had, at the formation of the Republican party, reached a most perilous crisis. It was in danger of being submerged and suffocated by unsympathetic, if not positively unfriendly, associations. It ran the risk, after so many years of toil and conflict, of being undone by those in whose support it was forced to confide. Such would undoubtedly have been its fate if, owing to circumstances over which no political party or other organization of men had control, the current of Anti-Slavery sentiment had not risen to a flood that swept all before it.
It is rather a curious circumstance that, at the crisis just alluded to, the nearest approach to original Abolitionism that was to be found, was in a slave State. In Missouri there was an organized opposition to slavery that had been maintained for several years, and which was never abandoned. The vitality displayed by this movement was undoubtedly due in large measure to the inspiration of the man who was its originator, if not its leader. That man was Thomas H. Benton. Whether Benton was ever an Abolitionist or not, has been a much-disputed question, but one thing is certain, and that is that the men who sat at his feet, who were his closest disciples and imbibed the most of his spirit—such as B. Gratz Brown, John How, the Blairs, the Filleys, and other influential Missourians,—were Abolitionists. Some of them weakened under the influence of the national administration, but not a few of them maintained their integrity. Even in the first days of the Civil War, when all was chaos there, an organization was maintained, although at one time its only working and visible representatives consisted of the members of a committee of four men—a fifth having withdrawn—who were B. Gratz Brown, afterwards a United States Senator; Thomas C. Fletcher, afterwards Governor of the State; Hon. Benjamin R. Bonner, of St. Louis, and the writer of this narrative. They issued an appeal that was distributed all over the State, asking those in sympathy with their views to hold fast to their principles, and to keep up the contest for unconditional freedom. To that appeal there was an encouraging number of favorable responses.
And thus it was that when Abolitionism may be said to have been lost by merger elsewhere, it remained in its independence and integrity in slaveholding Missouri, where it kept up a struggle for free soil, and in four years so far made itself master of the situation that a constitutional State convention, chosen by popular vote, adopted an ordinance under which an emancipationist Governor issued his proclamation, declaring that "hence and forever no person within the jurisdiction of the State shall be subject to any abridgment of liberty, except such as the law shall prescribe for the common good, or know any master but God."
The writer entered on this work with no purpose of relating or discussing the story of the Republican party, in whole or in any part. His subject was Abolitionism, and his task would now be completed but for the movement in the State of Missouri, to which reference has just been made. That manifestation, he thinks, is deserving of recognition, both on its own account and as a continuation of the original movement, and he is the more inclined to contribute to its discussion because he was then a Missourian by residence, and had something to do with its successful prosecution.
In his interesting, though rather melodramatic, romance, The Crisis, Winston Churchill tells the imaginary story of a young lawyer who went from New England to St. Louis, and settled there shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War. Having an abundance of leisure, and being an Abolitionist, he devoted a portion of the time that was not absorbed by his profession to writing articles on slavery for the Missouri Democrat, which, notwithstanding its name, was the organ of the Missouri emancipationists, and lived in part on the money he received as compensation for that work. That in part describes the author's experience. He was at that time a young lawyer in St. Louis, to which place he had come from the North, and those who have read the earlier chapters of this work are aware that he was an Abolitionist. Having a good deal of time that was not taken up by his professional employments, he occupied a portion of it in writing Anti-Slavery contributions to the Democrat, and, so far as he knows, he was the only person who to any extent did so. A collection was made of a portion of his articles, and with money contributed by friends of the cause, they were published in pamphlet form under the title of Hints toward Emancipation in Missouri, and distributed throughout the State.
There the parallelism of the cases ceases. The writer got no pecuniary compensation for his labor. He asked for none and expected none. The Democrat was then in no condition to pay for volunteer services, having a hard struggle for existence. He was able to do it a service that, possibly, saved it from at least a temporary suspension. One of its chief difficulties was in getting printing paper, the manufacturer it had been patronizing declining to furnish it except for cash, while the Democrat needed partial credit. At that time Louis Snyder, of Hamilton, Ohio, a large paper-maker, visited St. Louis on business that called for legal assistance, and I was employed by him. When the work in hand was finished, I remarked that there was something else he might do in St. Louis that would pay him. I explained the situation of the Democrat, and assured him that, in my opinion, he would be perfectly safe in giving trust to its proprietors, who were honest men.
"Will you indorse their paper?" he asked.
Mr. Snyder was a crafty as well as a thrifty German.
I replied that, as I was not a wealthy man, the question did not seem to be pertinent.
"Will you indorse their paper for one thousand dollars?" was his next question.
Being by this time somewhat "spunked up," I replied that I would.
"Then I shall be pleased to meet your friends," said Mr. Snyder.
It is hardly necessary to state that I never heard anything more of the one-thousand-dollar indorsement, the sole purpose of which was, doubtless, to test my sincerity.
Soon afterwards I was offered the political editorship of the Democrat, which I accepted on the one condition that there was to be "no let-up on emancipation." I held the position until Missouri was a free State.
In a surprisingly short time after the question of Missouri's status in reference to the Union was decided, the issue between Pro-Slaveryism and Anti-Slaveryism came up. Political parties ranged themselves upon it. Those who favored slavery's immediate or speedy abolishment became known as Radicals, while those advocating its prolongation were called Conservatives. Those descriptives, however, were too mild for such a time, and they were quickly superseded by a more expressive local nomenclature. The Radicals, because of their alleged sympathy with the negro, were branded as "Charcoals," and their opponents, made up of Republicans, Democrats, and Semi-Unionists, because of the variegated complexion of the mixture, were set down as "Claybanks." Mulattoes are Claybanks.
The Claybanks, or Conservatives, at the outset enjoyed a decided advantage in having the State government on their side. This was not the regularly elected administration, which was driven out because of its open support of secession, but its provisional successor. In trying to take the State out of the Union with a show of legality, the lawful Governor and his official associates made provision for a State convention to be chosen by the people, which they expected to control, but which, having a Unionist majority, played the boomerang on them by sending them adrift and taking the affairs of the State into its own hands. In this it had opposition. The most progressive men of the State insisted that, after it had settled the question of Missouri's relations to the Union, with reference to which it was specially chosen, it was functus officio. They held that there should be a new and up-to-date convention, especially as the old one, owing to the desertion of many of its treasonably inclined members, including General Sterling Price, of the Confederate Army, who was its first president, had become "a rump," and so there were old-conventionists and new-conventionists. The old-convention men, however, were in the saddle. They had the governmental machinery, and were resolved to hold on to it. In that spirit the convention proceeded to fill the vacant offices. It was in sentiment strongly pro-slavery, as was shown by the fact that a proposal looking to the very gradual extinguishment of slavery was rejected by it in an almost unanimous vote, a circumstance that led the leading pro-slavery journal of the State to boast that the convention had killed emancipation "at the first pop." Very naturally such a body selected pro-slavery officials. Hamilton R. Gamble, whom it made Governor, was a bigoted supporter of "the institution." He had not long before been mixed up in the proceedings that compelled Elijah P. Lovejoy to leave Missouri for Alton, Illinois, where he was murdered by a pro-slavery mob. Gamble was an able and ambitious man.
The Conservatives, likewise, had the backing of the Federal Administration—a statement that to a good many people nowadays will be surprising. There were reasons why such should be the case. Judge Bates, of Missouri, who was Attorney-General in Lincoln's Cabinet, had long been Gamble's law partner and most intimate friend. He never was more than nominally a Republican. Another member of the Cabinet was Montgomery Blair, of Maryland, who had been a resident of Missouri, and was a brother of General Francis P. Blair, Jr., of St. Louis. General Blair had been the leader of the Missouri emancipationists, but had turned against them. For his face-about there were, at least, two intelligible reasons. One was that in the quarrel between him and Frémont the most of his former followers had sided with Frémont. That was enough to sour him against them. The other was a very natural desire to be solid with the administration at Washington, which, as elsewhere shown, was not then actively Anti-Slavery. It did not want the question of slavery agitated, especially in the border slave States.
The Blairs were a clan as well as a family. The quarrel of one was the quarrel of all, and the Missouri Radicals had no more effective antagonist than the old Washington editor and politician, Francis P. Blair, Sr., the family's head, who was so intimate with the President that it was understood he could at any time enter the White House by the kitchen door.
The writer was once a member of a delegation of Missouri "Charcoals" that went to Washington to see the President. An hour was set for the interview, and we were promptly at the door of the President's chamber, where we were kept waiting for a considerable time. At last the door opened, but before we could enter, out stepped a little old man who tripped away very lightly for one of his years. That little old man was Francis P. Blair, Sr., and we knew that we had been forestalled. The President received us politely and patiently listened to what we had to say, but our mission was fruitless.
The Radicals of Missouri sent deputation after deputation to the White House, and got nothing they wanted. The Conservatives never sent a deputation, and got all they wanted. They had advocates at the President's elbows all the time.
With both State and Federal administrations against them, the Missouri Charcoals may be regarded as foolhardy in persisting in the fight they made for the deliverance of their State from slavery. They did persist, however, and with such success in propagating their views that Governor Gamble and the other Conservative leaders decided that heroic measures to hold them in check were necessary. He undertook to cut the ground from under their feet. The old convention that had killed emancipation "at the first pop," or as much of it as was in existence, was called together by the Governor, who appealed to it to take such action as would quiet agitation on the slavery question. Accordingly, it proceeded to enact what was called an emancipation ordinance. The trouble with it was that it emancipated nobody. It provided for the liberation of part of the slaves at a distant future day, allowing the rest to remain as they were. The Radicals simply laughed at the measure. They pronounced it a snare and a fraud, and went right on with their work for unconditional freedom, and the slave-owners continued to hold their human property the same as before.
The Conservatives, however, had not exhausted their resources. They sought to secure the military as well as the civil control. On the assurance that he could maintain peace and order, Governor Gamble was given authority by the President to recruit an army of State troops, which, although equipped and paid out of the national treasury, he was to officer and direct. The organization was entrusted to General John M. Scofield, a resident of Missouri, and one of the Governor's friends.
The political advantage to the Conservatives of exercising military control at such a time is obvious enough. But at first there was an obstruction in the person of General Samuel R. Curtis, the Federal commander of the district, who was not a man to waive his superior prerogative at a time when martial law prevailed, and who was, besides, openly in sympathy with the Radicals. They got not only protection from him, but about all the patronage he had to give. Pretty soon it was discovered that active efforts for the removal of Curtis were in progress. Charges of irregularities—afterwards shown to be without any foundation—were circulated against him. Indignant because of such injustice to their friend, the Radicals were further incensed when they learned that the scheme was to make Scofield his successor.
Against General Scofield, as a gentleman and soldier, they had nothing to say; but his affiliation with their opponents made him obnoxious to them, and they sent a vigorous protest against his appointment to the President. The proposed change, however, was made, and the inevitable disagreement between the new commander and the Radicals quickly developed.
Scofield's administration was not successful. The principal cause of failure was the adoption of Governor Gamble's policy of trying to run the State without the help of Federal troops. They were pretty much all sent away, and an elaborate plan for substituting an "enrolled militia" was put in operation. Here was an opportunity of which the Rebels were quick to take advantage. They had a wholesome regard for United States soldiers, particularly under Curtis, who at Pea Ridge had given them the worst drubbing they ever received west of the Mississippi, but they cared little for "Gamble's militia," into which a good many of their friends were mustered, and when the pressure of Curtis's strong hand was removed they at once aroused to pernicious activity.
At this time it can be safely said that nowhere, outside of hell, was there such a horrible condition as prevailed in Missouri. Singly and in squads a good many of Price's men returned from the South, and with local sympathizers forming guerrilla bands under such leaders as "Bill" Anderson, Poindexter, Jackson, and Quantrell, soon had practical possession of the greater part of the State. The Radicals were the principal sufferers. Conservatives, except by the occasional loss of property, were rarely molested. Between them and the Rebels there was often an agreement for mutual protection—in fact, it was not always easy to draw the line between them,—but the Charcoals, especially if they were "Dutchmen," could look for no compassion. They were shot down in their fields. They were called to their doors at night and there dispatched. Their houses were burned and their stock stolen. Many families of comparative wealth and refinement, including women and children, because of the insecurity of their homes, slept in the woods for weeks and months. The Radicals were not always fortunate enough to escape bodily torture. Having captured one of the best known among them, an old man and a civilian, some of "Bill" Anderson's men set him up against the wall of his house as a target for pistol practice. Their play consisted in seeing how near they could put their shots without hitting, and this amusement they kept up while his wife was running about in an effort to raise the amount of money that was demanded for his ransom.
So successful were the Rebel bands at this time that Missouri was not large enough to hold them. One of them, led by Quantrell, crossed the Kansas line, captured the city of Lawrence, and butchered two hundred of its peaceable inhabitants, while the border towns and cities of Iowa and Illinois were greatly alarmed for their safety.
So intolerable did the situation become, that the Radicals from all parts of the State met in conference and decided to send a delegation to ask Mr. Lincoln to change the department commander, in the hope that it would bring a change of policy.
It is to be presumed that no President was ever confronted with such a motley crowd of visitors as the members of that delegation—between seventy and eighty in number—as they formed in line around three sides of the East Room in the White House. Their garments were a sight! Some of the men were in full military dress and some in civilian clothes, but the costumes of a majority were a mixture of both kinds, just as accident had arranged it, and pretty much all showed evidences of hard usage. One of the most forward of the delegates had neither cuffs nor collar, and his shirt had manifestly not been near a laundry for a long time. He apologized to the President for his appearance, saying that he had been sleeping in the woods where toilet accommodations were very indifferent. Two or three of the men bore marks of battle with the guerrillas, in patched-up faces, and one of them carried an arm that had been disabled by a gun shot in a red handkerchief sling. In speaking of these visitors, the President afterwards jocularly referred to them as "those crackerjacks from Missouri."
A formal address was presented, the principal point being that, as the Missouri Unionists had furnished many thousand recruits to the Federal Army, they had a right to look to the Government for soldiers to assist in protecting their families and their property. And here it will do no harm to state that, notwithstanding the heavy drain made by the Confederacy, Missouri, during the war, furnished 109,000 men to the national army.
After their formal address had been presented to the President, the members of the delegation tackled him, one after the other, as the spirit moved them, and it can truthfully be said that in some of the bouts that ensued he did not come out "first best." He admitted as much when, afterwards referring to this meeting, he spoke of the Missouri Radicals as "the unhandiest fellows in the world to deal with in a discussion."
The conclusion of the interview was attended with an unexpected incident. The recognized leading spokesman of the Missourians was the Hon. Charles D. Drake, of St. Louis, who was made Chief Justice of the Court of Claims at Washington by Grant, when he became President. He was a very forcible speaker. As Mr. Lincoln indicated by rising from his seat that the conference was at an end, Mr. Drake stepped forward and in well-chosen words thanked him for the lengthy and courteous hearing he had given his visitors, and in their names bade him good-by. Then he started for the door, but something seemed to arrest him. Turning sharply to Mr. Lincoln, he said: "Mr. President, we are about to return to our homes. Many of these men before you live where rebel sentiments prevail and where they are surrounded by deadly enemies. They return at the risk of their lives, and let me tell you that if any of their lives are sacrificed by reason of the military administration you maintain in Missouri, their blood will be upon your garments and not upon ours."
The President, evidently greatly surprised, made no oral reply. Instead of speaking he raised his handkerchief to his eyes. Seeing that he was weeping, the delegates quietly and quickly filed out, leaving Mr. Lincoln with his face still concealed.
The President denied the delegation's request, although his formal decision was not announced for several days, and its members returned to their homes, when fortunate enough to have them, sorely disappointed.
It is here well enough to state that two or three months later the President relieved Scofield from his Missouri command and sent him to the front in the South, much to the betterment of his military reputation, and doubtless to his own personal gratification. Rosecrans was made his successor. Among the earliest things he did was the bringing into the State of a considerable force of Federal troops under Generals Pleasanton and A.J. Smith. These were sent through the State. The effect was almost magical. Some of the guerrilla bands went South to join Price, but the most of them dissolved and disappeared. Their members, doubtless, went back to their former occupations, and that was the last of them. Missouri was pacified.
But were the Missouri Radicals so far disheartened by their rebuffs from the President that they gave up the fight? Not a bit of it. There was a tribunal in some respects higher than the President, and to that they resolved to go. The National Republican Convention to nominate a successor to Mr. Lincoln was approaching, and they decided to appeal to it in a way that would compel a decision between them and the President. They appointed a delegation to the convention, which they instructed for General Grant. The Claybanks also appointed a delegation, which they instructed for Mr. Lincoln, and thus the issue was made. The convention, although nominating Mr. Lincoln by a vote that, outside of Missouri's, was unanimous, admitted the Charcoals and excluded the Claybanks by the remarkable vote of four hundred and forty to four.
While of no special consequence, some rather humorous experiences in connection with the events just spoken of may not be lacking in interest or altogether out of place in a work like this.
Before leaving Missouri for the National Republican Convention, which was held in Baltimore, June 8, 1864, the Radical delegates, including the writer, decided to go by way of Washington and call upon the President, thinking that, as there was a contest ahead with his professed Missouri supporters, a better understanding with him might be of advantage. As they were pledged to vote for another man, such a proceeding on their part was certainly somewhat audacious; nevertheless, Mr. Lincoln received us graciously and listened patiently to what we had to say.
"Mr. President," said one of the delegates, "if you were to go out to Missouri you would find your best friends as well as practically all the good Republicans of the State on our side of the dividing line."
"Well," remarked the President very deliberately, "in speaking of dividing lines, the situation in Missouri recalls the story of the old man who had an unruly sow and pigs. One day, when they escaped from their enclosure and disappeared, he called his boys and started out to hunt the runaways. Up one side of the creek they went; but while they discovered plenty of tracks and rootings, they found no hogs. 'Now let us go over to the other side of the creek,' said the old gentleman; but the result was the same—many signs but no pigs. 'Confound those swine!' exclaimed the old man, 'they root and root on both sides, but it's mighty hard to find them on either.'"
We, of course, were left to make the application to ourselves, and that was all the satisfaction we got.
Being greatly elated over our victory in the convention, and thinking it settled some, if not all, disputed points, we decided to return by way of Washington and again call on the President. We wanted to come to some sort of understanding with him. As we had just voted against his nomination such a step may have been more audacious than our previous action. But, for all that, a pretty late hour on the night of the convention found us at the door of the President's room, seeking an interview that had been promised us in answer to a telegram.
Now, we had in our delegation a gentleman who was accustomed to imbibe somewhat freely on occasions like that. He had pushed himself to the front, and, when the door opened for us, in he rushed shouting: "Mr. President! Mr. President! Mr. President! we have found that old sow and pigs for you!"
The President, who was standing on the opposite side of the room, looked somewhat startled at first; but as he evidently recalled the illustration he had given to us, and which was being returned to him, a broad grin went over his face, although nothing further was said about the swine. But the incident was disastrous to our business. We were relying on a prominent St. Louis lawyer, who was with us, to present our case in a calm and impressive way; but he, taking offense at being so unceremoniously forestalled, kept his intended speech to himself. His dignity was hurt, and he had nothing to say. In fact, he walked away and left us. The result was that our claims were rather lamely presented, except by the first speaker, and we left the official presence not a little chagrined and with no favorable assurance having been obtained.
By all recognized party rules, when the nominating convention had given the Missouri Radicals the stamp of regularity, the President was bound to prefer them in the bestowal of patronage. He did nothing of the kind. At his death, practically all of the offices in Missouri that were under his control were held by Claybanks. These men became enthusiastic supporters of Andrew Johnson, and, at the end of his term, to a man went over to the Democratic party, of which their leader, General Blair, was soon made, on the ticket with Horatio Seymour, the Vice-Presidential candidate. At Lincoln's death, the Claybanks, as an organization, went out of business.
Very different was the treatment the Charcoals received at the hands of General Grant when he became President. He made the leader of the anti-Scofield delegation to Washington Chief Justice of the Court of Claims. He made two or three other leading Missouri Radicals foreign ministers and officially remembered many of the rest of them. He had been a Missourian, and it was well known that he was in sympathy with the Radicals in their fight with Lincoln.
Although the Missouri Radicals did not favor Mr. Lincoln's candidature, with the exception of a few supporters of Frémont, they gave him their loyal support at the polls, and through this a large majority in the State. They acted towards him much more cordially than he ever acted toward them.
That Mr. Lincoln, in antagonizing the Missouri Free Soilers, acted otherwise than from the most conscientious impulses the writer does not for a moment believe. He opposed them because he disapproved of their views and policy. He said so most distinctly on one occasion. Certain German societies of St. Louis, having adopted a set of resolutions, entrusted them to James Taussig, a leading lawyer of that city, to present to the President in person. Mr. Taussig's report of the results of a two hours' interview can be found in several of Mr. Lincoln's biographies. One passage from the report is here given because it clearly shows Mr. Lincoln's attitude toward the Missouri problem.
"The President," says Mr. Taussig, "said that the Union men in Missouri who are in favor of gradual emancipation, represented his views better than those who are in favor of immediate emancipation. In explanation of his views on this subject the President said that in his speeches he had frequently used as an illustration the case of a man who had an excrescence on the back of his neck, the removal of which in one operation would result in the death of the patient, while tinkering it off by degrees would preserve life."
"Although sorely tempted," continues Mr. Taussig, "I did not reply with the illustration of the dog whose tail was amputated by inches, but confined myself to arguments. The President announced clearly that, so far as he was at present advised, the Radicals in Missouri had no right to consider themselves the representatives of his views on the subject of emancipation in that State."
The foregoing interview, it is well enough to state, was long after the issuance of Mr. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.
In addition to carrying the State for Mr. Lincoln, the Missouri Radicals carried it for themselves. They elected a constitutional convention that promptly passed an unconditional freedom ordinance. And thus terminated what is certainly one of the most notable contests in our political history, bringing about, as it did, the triumph of a reform of unquestionable value to civilization and humanity, which was accomplished by men working without patronage or other outside help, with no pecuniary interest at stake, and no incentive beyond the principle involved.
Here follows an extract from the published proceedings of the National Republican Convention of 1864, in which Mr. Lincoln was renominated.
"When that State [Missouri] was called, Mr. J.F. Hume addressed the convention as follows:
"'It is a matter of great regret that we differ from the majority of the convention that has been so kind to the Radicals of Missouri, but we came here instructed. We represent those who are behind us at home, and we recognize the right of instruction and intend to obey our instruction; but, in doing so, we declare emphatically that we are with the Union party of the nation, and we intend to fight the battle through to the end with it, and assist in carrying it to victory. We will support your nominees be they whom they may. I will read the resolution adopted by the convention that sent us here.'"
[Here resolution of instruction was read.]
"'Mr. President, in the spirit of that resolution I cast the twenty-two votes of Missouri for them an who stands at the head of the fighting Radicals of the nation—General U.S. Grant.'"
The contention between the Missouri Radical and Conservative delegations was thrashed out before the committee on delegates, at an evening session. Judge Samuel M. Breckenridge, of St. Louis, sustained the cause of the Conservatives in a very ingenious argument, while the writer spoke for the Radicals. The result was very satisfactory to the latter, being, with the exception of one vote for compromise, a unanimous decision in their favor. That decision was sustained by the convention in its next day's session by a vote of four hundred and forty to four.
Anticipating that the subject would be discussed on the floor of the convention,—which was not the case, however,—I asked a very eloquent St. Louis lawyer to take my place as chairman of the Radical delegation and conduct the debate on the Radical side. He declined. I then went to three or four Congressmen who were members of the Radical delegation and made the same appeal to each one of them. All declined. I suspected at the time that apprehension that a vote for anybody else would be hissed by Lincoln's friends, had something to do with their reticence. I had no such apprehension. I did not believe there was anybody in that convention who would dare to hiss the name of Grant. If Grant had been a candidate before the convention he would have been nominated.
When, as chairman of my delegation, I pronounced his name as Missouri's choice I remained on my feet for fully a minute while a dead silence prevailed. Meanwhile all eyes were turned upon me. Then came a clap from a single pair of hands, being the expression of a Missouri delegate. Others followed, both inside and outside of the delegation, increasing until there was quite a demonstration. When the clamor had subsided I made the next move according to the programme agreed upon, and the incident was closed.
And here it can do no harm to state that General Grant knew that he was to receive the vote of the Missouri Radicals if they were admitted to the convention—the newspapers having generally published the fact—and did not decline the intended compliment. Grant lived in Missouri for a considerable period, married there, and was on most friendly terms with the Radical leaders, many of whom he generously remembered when he got to be President. For their action in voting for Grant, the Missouri Radical delegates were sharply criticised at the time, on the alleged ground that they secured admission to the convention from Lincoln's supporters by concealing the fact—or at least not revealing it—that they intended to vote for somebody else. The fact, however, is that there was not a person in the convention who did not from the first understand where they stood, and exactly what they intended to do. Their Conservative contestants had distributed a leaflet, intended as an appeal to the Lincoln men, setting forth the instructions to both delegations. Instead of the openly avowed opposition of the Radicals to Mr. Lincoln's nomination being an impediment in their way, it strengthened them with the convention, which, notwithstanding its seeming harmony in his support, contained many delegates who would very much have preferred nominating somebody else; but who, for lack of organized opposition, were compelled to vote for him. A sufficient evidence of that fact was the presence in the convention of a large number of Congressmen whose antagonism to the President was notorious. An incident that strikingly illustrated Congressional sentiment toward the President at that time, is given in the Life of Lincoln, by Isaac N. Arnold, then a member of Congress from Illinois. A Pennsylvanian asked Thaddeus Stevens, the Republican Congressional leader, to introduce him to "a member of Congress who was friendly to Mr. Lincoln's renomination." Thereupon Stevens took him to Arnold, saying: "Here is a man who wants to find a Lincoln member of Congress, and as you are the only one I know of I bring him to you."
The same feeling largely prevailed among leading Republicans outside of Congress. Henry J. Raymond, of the New York Times, in his Life of Lincoln, says that at that time "nearly all the original Abolitionists and many of the more decidedly Anti-Slavery members of the Republican party were dissatisfied with the President." More explicit testimony is the statement, in his Political Recollections, of George W. Julian, for many years a leading member of Congress from Indiana. He says:
"The nomination of Mr. Lincoln was nearly unanimous, only the State of Missouri opposing him, but of the more earnest and thoroughgoing Republicans in both Houses of Congress, probably not more than one in ten really favored it. It was not only very distasteful to a large majority of Congress, but to many of the more prominent men of the party throughout the country."
The writer had an opportunity of witnessing a peculiar manifestation of the feeling that has just been spoken of. He attended a conference of radical Anti-Slavery people that was held in a parlor of one of the old Pennsylvania Avenue hotels in Washington, a few months before the nominating convention. A number of well-known politicians were present, but probably the most prominent was Horace Greeley. The writer had never before seen the great editor, and was considerably amused by his unconventional independence on that occasion. He occupied an easy chair with a high back. Having given his views at considerable length, he laid his head back on its support and peacefully went to sleep; but the half-hour lost in slumber did not prevent him from joining vigorously in the discussion that was going on as soon as he awoke.
There seemed to be but one sentiment on that occasion. All entertained the opinion that, owing to Mr. Lincoln's peculiar views on reconstruction, and especially his manifest inclination to postpone actual freedom for the negro to remote periods, and other "unhappy idiosyncrasies," as one of the speakers expressed it, his re-election involved the danger of a compromise that would leave the root of slavery in the soil, and hence his nomination by the Republicans should be opposed. Chase was clearly the choice of those present, but no one had a plan to propose, and, while some committees were appointed, I never heard anything more of the matter. Two or three of those present on that occasion were in the nominating convention and quietly voted with the majority for Mr. Lincoln. The writer was the only one in both gatherings that maintained his consistency.
All this, it is well enough to remember, was long after the President's Emancipation Proclamation had appeared.
There was, however, another manifestation of the antagonism spoken of which the public, for some reason, never seemed to "get on to," that at one time threatened very serious consequences, and which, if it had gone a little farther, might have materially changed the history of the country. That was a movement, after Mr. Lincoln's nomination, to compel him to retire from the ticket, or to confront him with a strong independent Republican candidate. According to Messrs. Nicolay and Hay, Mr. Lincoln's private secretaries and his biographers, the movement started in New York City and had its ramifications in many parts of the country. One meeting was held at the residence of David Dudley Field, and was attended by such men as George William Curtis, Noyes, Wilkes, Opdyke, Horace Greeley, and some twenty-five others. In the movement were such prominent people as Charles Sumner, of Massachusetts, and Benjamin F. Wade, of Ohio. One of the men favorable to the proposition was Governor Andrew of Massachusetts. "He," says his biographer, Peleg W. Chandler, "was very busy in the movement in 1864 to displace the President." "The secrecy," he adds, "with which this branch of the Republican politics of that year has been ever since enveloped is something marvelous; there were so many concerned in it. When it all comes out, if it ever does, it will make a curious page in the history of the time." The signal for the abandonment of the movement, according to Mr. Chandler, was given by Mr. Chase.
Almost at the beginning of the movement the Missouri Democrat, doubtless because of its supposed opposition to Mr. Lincoln, was approached on the subject. If the statements made to it were anywhere near correct, the conspiracy, as it might be called, had the countenance of a surprisingly great number of weighty Republicans. The Democrat declined to become a party to the proposed insurrection. It held that after what had occurred in the Baltimore convention, it could not consistently and honorably do so.
There was another reason why it stood aloof. Before the nomination it was, naturally enough, looking out for some one who might be urged as a suitable competitor for Mr. Lincoln's place. Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, was then quite popular with a good many people of radical views. The writer prepared an article discussing his availability as presidential timber and suggested him as a good man for the nomination. The article appeared as a leader in the Democrat, and was followed by others in the same vein. The suggestion attracted attention and led to a good deal of newspaper discussion. Herein we have, according to the writer's opinion, the leading cause of Johnson's nomination for the Vice-Presidency. At all events, he was on the ticket with Lincoln, and the Democrat could not very well go back on its own man.
The new departure, as the proposition for another Republican candidate in case Mr. Lincoln resolved to stick might be called, that appeared so formidable at one time, faded away without the public knowing anything of its existence. The reason was that it had no candidate. It had relied on Chase, knowing the unfriendliness there was between him and the President, but Chase said "No," and that was the end of it.
The nomination of Mr. Chase for the Chief Justiceship has always been regarded as an act of great magnanimity on Mr. Lincoln's part, as well as a clear perception of merit. It was doubtless all that, but the actions of the two men at this time certainly make out a case of striking coincidence. Such things rarely come by accident.
From what has been stated, it will be seen that the Missouri Radicals were by no means alone in their opposition to the President's nomination, for which they are so sharply taken to task by some of his biographers and eulogists. They had plenty of company, the only difference being that they stood out in the open while the others acted covertly.
The Missouri Germans, who mostly approved the candidature of Frémont, and some of whom refused to vote for Lincoln, have been particularly assailed. Messrs. Nicolay and Hay, in their Lincoln biography, even go so far as to attack them on the ground of their religious, or rather anti-religious, beliefs, calling them "materialist Missourians," "Missouri agnostics," etc., etc.
Now, after having lived among the Missouri Germans at the time of our civil troubles, the writer is impelled to say a few words in their behalf. He does not hesitate to say that, in his opinion, there was no body of men of equal numerical strength in this country to whom, at that crisis, the Government and country had cause to feel under greater obligation, and justice would require its acknowledgment at this time. But for them the enemies of the Union would have captured the city of St. Louis with its great Government arsenal, and with the arms and ammunition thus secured would have overrun both the States of Missouri and Kansas. A large preponderance of the American-born citizens of St. Louis were Rebels. The Union people of that city who saved the day, were principally the "Dutch," as they were called.
A large army was needed at that point to protect the Government's interests, when it had practically no available forces. There was no law under which it could be organized on the spot. No man could be made to serve. No pay for service was assured, or even promised. The army, however, was created by the voluntary and patriotic action of its members. Nearly a dozen full regiments were organized and equipped. Nine tenths of their members were Germans. They did not wait for hostilities to begin. Foreseeing the emergency near at hand, they organized into companies and regiments, and put themselves on a war footing before a blow had been struck or a shot had been fired. They met by night to drill in factory lofts, in recreation halls, and in whatever other places were most available, the words of command being generally delivered in German. The writer has a lively recollection of the difficulties involved in trying to learn military evolutions from instructors speaking a language he did not understand.
Many of the Germans of Missouri had seen service in the Old World. They had served under Sigel in the struggle of 1848. They found themselves under Sigel again. It was with the step and bearing of veterans that they marched (the writer was an eye-witness) in May of 1861, only a few days after Sumter had been fired on, to open the military ball in the West at Camp Jackson, near St. Louis.
The same people went with Lyon to the State capital, from which the Rebel officials were driven, never to return. They were with Lyon at Wilson's Creek, and with him many of them laid down their lives on that bloody field. They were wherever hard fighting was to be done in that part of the country. The writer believes he is correct in saying they furnished more men to the Government's service than any other numerically equal body of citizens. So large was their representation in the Union's forces in that region, that the Rebels were accustomed to speak of the Union soldiers as "the Dutch."
The fact that the Germans were fighting for an adopted government makes their loyalty more conspicuous. What they did was not from a love of war, but because they were Abolitionists. They were opposed to slavery. They owned no slaves. They wanted the Government sustained, because they believed that meant the end of slaveholding. They supported Frémont largely because of his freedom proclamation.
It has always been the opinion of the writer that, if Frémont had been permitted to take his own way in his Western command a little longer, he would have achieved a brilliant military success. He was a weak man in some respects, being over fond of dress parade. The financial management of his department was bad, or, rather, very careless. Of these shortcomings, which were considerably misrepresented and exaggerated, Frémont's enemies took advantage, and succeeded in effecting his overthrow in the Western Department. But, notwithstanding his admitted failings, he gave evidence of military ability. He showed that he possessed both physical and moral courage, and he knew how to plan a campaign. He undoubtedly formulated the movement that resulted in the capture of Forts Donelson and Henry in Tennessee, taking the initial steps, but of which Halleck got the credit. He was removed from command when in the field, and almost on the eve of battle. He had an enthusiastic army and the prospect of a decisive victory. His recall gave up nearly the whole of Missouri to the enemy, and was one of the causes of complaint that the Missouri Unionists had against the National Administration.
Not long afterwards, with no more than even chances, Frémont defeated Stonewall Jackson in Virginia—at Cross Keys—which was more than any of the other Union generals then in that department could do. His prompt removal made it sure that he should not do it again.
It was the misfortune of Frémont that his independence caused him to clash with selfish interests, and he was sacrificed. He was selected for the Trans-Mississippi command by the Blairs, evidently with the expectation that he would bend to their wishes. He soon showed that he was his own master, and the trouble began. The Union people of his department were mostly with him, but the Blairs had control of the administration in Washington.
As for his freedom proclamation, it was, to a certain extent, an act of insubordination, but it was right in principle and sound in policy. Its adoption by the General Government would have saved four years of contention and turmoil in Missouri, spent in upholding a tottering institution that was doomed from the first shot of the Rebellion. The President, however, for reasons elsewhere explained, did not at that time want slavery interfered with.
The story of Frémont's fall is best told by Whittier in four lines:
"Thy error, Frémont, simply was to act
A brave man's part without the statesman's tact,
And, taking counsel but of common-sense,
To strike at cause as well as consequence."
The references that have been made to General Frank P. Blair of Missouri have not been complimentary to that individual. They would indicate on the part of the writer no very exalted admiration for or estimate of the man. In that particular they are not altogether just. The stormy period of the Rebellion brought out few more picturesque figures than his, or in some respects more admirable characters. There is no question that, but for the efforts of Blair, the Rebels would have effected the capture of St. Louis at the beginning of the war, to be followed by the at least temporary control of the entire State of Missouri, and possibly of Kansas as well. To that end preparations had been carefully and skillfully made. The leader in the movement was none other than Missouri's Governor, Claiborne F. Jackson, who was justly looked upon as one of the most consummate and accomplished schemers of the time. He was a Rebel from head to foot. He had taken office with the deliberate purpose of swinging his State into the Confederate column, and without regard to the wishes of the majority of the people whom he officially represented. He was supported by a sympathetic corps of official assistants, including a majority of the Legislature of his State, who gave him whatever legislation he wanted. Every advantage seemed to be on his side. He would undoubtedly have succeeded but for the opposition of Blair. In him he encountered an equal in cunning, and more than a match in courage and energy.
When the Governor and his helpers were busy raising an army pursuant to the conditions of a law that had been enacted for the purpose, and which hampered their operations, Blair went ahead in raising and equipping an army on the other side without the slightest regard to law. The presence or absence of a statute did not trouble him in the least. He called on the Unionists to organize and arm, and when a sufficient force, composed in greater part of loyal Germans, had responded he struck the first blow. In a legal aspect the whole proceeding was irregular, but it was none the less effective.
When the Governor's army was quietly encamped on the outskirts of St. Louis, for the capture and occupancy of which it was getting ready, it found itself unexpectedly surrounded by a superior force, and its surrender was demanded in a way that admitted of no denial. The writer was present on the occasion. From a convenient eminence he witnessed the whole proceeding. When Jackson's men—the rendezvous had in honor of his Excellency the Governor been named Camp Jackson—were enjoying themselves on a pleasant summer's day, sleeping on the grass, playing cards, or escorting their lady friends and other visitors about the grounds, suddenly they realized that their position was commanded by hostile guns. Pointing downward from higher ground not far off were nearly a score of frowning cannons, behind which stood men with burning fuses. I had watched the Union forces as they approached. At the foot of the hill that hid them from the camp they paused for a few moments, and then up the hill went the horses that were dragging the cannons at a run. They were wheeled when the summit was reached, and the guns thrown into position. Everything was ready for action. At the same time large bodies of armed men, their arms glittering in the sunlight, were seen approaching from all sides on the double quick. The Rebels were completely entrapped, and their immediate capitulation was a thing of course. The credit for the manoeuvres of the day was given to Captain—afterwards General—Nathaniel Lyon, who was in immediate command of the Unionists, but everybody understood that the real leader, as well as instigator, of the movement was Blair.
Blair had been the admitted leader of the Missouri Abolitionists. He was as radical as any man among them. One day he stopped me on the street for the purpose of thanking me for a paper I had contributed to the Missouri Democrat, in which I had favored what was practically immediate emancipation in Missouri. He said that was the right kind of talk, and what we had to come to. I felt greatly flattered, because there was nothing in the article that disclosed its authorship, and Mr. Blair had taken the trouble to inquire about it.
Blair turned against the Missouri Abolitionists when a decided majority of them turned against him in his quarrel with Frémont. They indorsed Frémont's emancipation proclamation, which the President, at Blair's instigation, it was charged at the time, revoked.
Blair was a man not only of strong ambition but of arbitrary temperament. He could not tolerate the idea of a newcomer pre-empting what he had considered his premises. If he could not rule he was ready to ruin. That disposition accorded with both his mental and physical make-up. Bodily he was a bundle of bones and nerves without a particle of surplus flesh. His hair was red, his complexion was sandy, and his eyes, when he was excited and angry, had a baleful expression that led some one in my presence on a certain occasion to speak of them as "brush-heaps afire."
He was not an eloquent man, although a ready and frequent public speaker. His voice was not musical. His strong forte was invective. He was nearly always denouncing somebody. Apparently, he was never so happy as when making another miserable. Sometimes his personal allusions were very broad. He was accustomed in his speeches to refer to one of Missouri's United States Senators as "that lop-eared vulgarian." That he was not almost all the time in personal difficulties was due to the fact that he was known to be a man of exceptional courage. He was a born fighter. Physically I think he was the bravest man I ever knew. I witnessed several manifestations of his fearlessness, but one particularly impressed me.
I have spoken of the Camp Jackson affair. Although the people in the Rebel encampment surrendered without a blow, the incident was attended with considerable bloodshed. A mob of Rebel sympathizers, consisting largely of half-grown boys—I was in the midst of the throng at the time—with their pistols opened fire on a German Union regiment and killed several of its men. The troops, in return, poured a volley into the crowd of spectators from which the shots had come, killing or wounding over forty persons, the most of them, as is usual in such cases, being inoffensive onlookers. A man standing beside me and, like myself, a spectator, had the top of one ear clipped off by a Minié ball as cleanly as if it had been done with a knife. I found when, soon afterwards, I reached the business center of the city, where the Rebel element then largely predominated, that the story of the tragedy had swelled the number of the victims to one thousand. Intense excitement and the most furious indignation prevailed. Hundreds of men, with flaming faces, were swearing the most dreadful oaths that they would shoot Frank Blair, whom they seemed to regard as wholly responsible, on sight. Many of them were flourishing pistols in confirmation of their bloody purpose. Just then the attention of the crowd was drawn to an unusual spectacle. Down Fourth Street, which was then the leading business avenue of St. Louis, and at that time densely packed with the excited people, came the Union soldiers with the prisoners from Camp Jackson on their way to the United States Arsenal grounds. At the head of the procession marched the men of the First Missouri volunteer regiment, their guns "aport" and ready for immediate service, and at their head—the only mounted man in the regiment, according to my recollection—rode their Colonel, who was Frank Blair. He was in full uniform, which made him still more conspicuous. No better target could have been offered. I watched the audacious man, expecting to hear a shot at any moment from the sidewalk, or from a window of one of the high buildings lining the street, and to see him topple from his saddle. He understood very well the danger he was braving. He knew that in that throng, where everybody was armed, there were hundreds toying with the triggers of their guns, and trying to muster sufficient courage to shoot him down. Slowly, and as calmly as if on ordinary dress parade, he led the way until he passed out of sight. I thought then, and still think, it was the pluckiest thing I ever witnessed.
The effect of the breaking up and capture of Camp Jackson was something wonderful. Up to that time, the Rebels of St. Louis and their sympathizers had been very demonstrative. In portions of the city the Rebel cockade, which was a red rosette pinned to the side of the hat, was conspicuous, and any one not displaying that decoration was in danger of having his hat smashed upon his head. After Camp Jackson's surrender, I never saw a Rebel cockade openly worn in St. Louis.
At the same time there was an extensive shifting of positions. A good many men of prominence and wealth, who had been leaning over towards the South, suddenly straightened up, and not a few of them showed a strong inclination the other way. Some of the evolutions they executed were amusing. One of the first to discuss with the writer the Union defeat at Bull Run was a former United States Government official. He was tremendously excited and correspondingly exultant. After describing how the Southerners had vanquished the Government's men, and particularly how the South Carolina "black horse" had ridden them down in deadly slaughter, he cried out, "That's the way we will give it to you fellows all the time."
Not very long afterwards General Grant, having entered Tennessee, and captured Fort Donelson, and many prisoners, was about to visit St. Louis, and the leading Unionists there decided to give him a grand reception and an elaborate dinner. Money had to be raised, and among those I met who were soliciting it was my ex-Government-official friend. He was fully as happy as he had been before, when the Fort Donelson affair was alluded to. "Didn't we give it to those fellows down there?" he exclaimed.
Out in western Missouri was a young lawyer of great ambition and considerable promise. He was afterwards a member of Congress. Like a good many others he was at first puzzled to know what course to take. In his dilemma he concluded to consult an old politician in that section who was much famed for his sagacity, and who bore the military title of General.
"If you contemplate remaining in Missouri," said the older man to the junior, "you should take the Southern side. Missouri is a slave State and a Southern State, and she will naturally go with her section."
The young man availed himself of an opportunity to make a public address, in which he aligned himself in the strongest terms with those who had gone into rebellion. But scarcely had this been done when Lincoln issued his first call for troops, and among those nominated to command them was the old Missouri General. It was announced that he had accepted the appointment. The younger man was amazed. He went in hot haste for an explanation.
"It's all true," said the General. "The fact is, when I talked with you before, I did not think the Northern people would fight for the Union, but I now see that I was mistaken; and when the Northern people, being the stronger and richer, do decide to go to war, they are almost certain to win. You had better take the Northern side."
"But it is too late," said the youngster. "I have committed myself in that speech I made."
"Oh! as for that matter," was the reply, "it's of very little consequence if you have committed yourself. It's easy to make a speech on the other side and take the first one back. Nobody looks for consistency in times like these."
Many Missourians, as well as many citizens of other border slave States, at the beginning of the trouble advocated a policy of neutrality. They saw no necessity for taking sides. I was at a meeting out in the interior of Missouri, where many citizens had come together to consult as to the policy they had better pursue. Among them was an old gentleman who seemed to be looked upon by his neighbors as a regular Nestor. He was called upon for his views. "Gentlemen," said he, "we have got to take sides and maintain our neutrality."
In that section of the country was another distinguished and unique personage who conspicuously figured in the events that are here being dealt with.
I knew him intimately. I now refer to James H. Lane, who was better known as "Jim Lane," of Kansas. Like Blair, Lane was a born leader of men, and a leader under exceptional conditions. He was generally credited with being a fighter—a dare-devil, in fact—and a desperado; but in the writer's opinion he was by no means Blair's equal in personal courage. He had a great deal to do in raising troops and organizing military movements, but he did not go to the front. His fighting was chiefly in "private scraps," in one of which he killed his adversary.
His paramount ability was as a talker rather than as a fighter. He was an orator, and his oratory was of a kind that was exactly suited to his surroundings. No man could more readily adapt himself to the humor of his hearers. He knew precisely how to put himself on their level. I have seen him face an audience that was distinctly unfriendly, that would scarcely give him a hearing; and in less than half an hour every man in the crowd would be shouting his approval. He could go to his hearers if he could not bring them to him. I witnessed one of his performances in that line.
He was a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate. There was one rival that he particularly feared. The man was the late General Thomas Ewing, then a resident of Kansas. At that particular time he was in the Army and the commandant of the St. Louis District in Missouri. Lane came to St. Louis and had a talk with the writer, freely admitting his dread of Ewing and asking for the Missouri Democrat's support. Having a considerable admiration for Lane as well as a liking for the man, I promised him such assistance as I could reasonably give. It happened to be at the time when General Sterling Price, in making his last raid into Missouri, was threatening St. Louis with an army of nearly twenty thousand men, and there was no adequate opposing force at hand. Ewing, with barely a tenth as many troops, went to the front and heroically engaged the enemy. With no protection but the walls of a little mud fort he succeeded in repelling the attack of his powerful adversary. That timely action probably saved St. Louis.
At this particular time it was arranged that there should be a meeting of the Republicans of St. Louis—it was in the midst of an exciting presidential campaign—at which Lane was to be the principal speaker. The meeting was held and Lane was addressing a large audience with great acceptance when the news of Ewing's achievement was received.
It was then customary, when war intelligence arrived in the course of any political gathering, and sometimes of religious gatherings, to suspend all other proceedings until it had been announced and the audience had time enough to manifest its feeling on the subject.
Lane was in the midst of an eloquent passage when he was interrupted by the arrival of the news referred to. He stepped back, and the news-bearer, taking his place, proceeded to give a graphic description of Ewing's performance, concluding with a glowing eulogy on that personage, and which was received with tremendous cheering. Understanding Lane's feelings towards Ewing, I watched his face while these events were passing. It plainly showed his vexation. It was almost livid with suppressed emotion. But the time for him to resume his address had come. What would he do was the question I asked myself. He answered it very promptly. Jauntily stepping forward with his countenance fairly wreathed in smiles, he exclaimed, "Ladies and gentlemen, that is glo-o-orious news for us, but it 's ter-r-r-ible for the other fellows."
Lane's enemies were confident they had him beaten as a candidate for the Senate. He had done certain things that rendered him unpopular with his constituents. So certain were they that they did not think it necessary to make an effort, and, in consequence, remained inactive. Not so with Lane. He quietly waited until a few days before the choosing of the Legislature that was to decide on his case, and then he entered on a lightning canvass. Arranging for relays of fast horses—it was before the days of railroads in Kansas—he began a tour that would bring him practically face to face with every voter in the State. He traveled and spoke both by day and by night. Sometimes he addressed as many as a dozen audiences in twenty-four hours. The excitement attending his progress was great. Men came many miles to hear him, sometimes bringing their families with them. He succeeded in completely revolutionizing public opinion. It was too late for his adversaries to attempt a counter-movement, and the result was that Lane was re-elected by an almost unanimous vote.
There was no doubt about Lane's attitude on the slavery question. He was not only a radical Abolitionist, but the acknowledged leader of the Free-State men of Kansas. He recognized no right of property in man, as many Missouri slaveholders learned to their sorrow. I was present when he congratulated a Kansas regiment that had just returned from a raid into Missouri, bringing many black people with it. "Fellow soldiers," he shouted, "you entered Missouri a white body, but you have returned surrounded by a great black cloud. It is the work of the Lord."
There was another man whose name, the author thinks, properly belongs under the heading of this chapter, and to whom, on account of pleasant personal recollections, he would like to refer. He was not a fighter like Blair and Lane, with whom his life was in striking contrast. He was essentially a man of peace. He was a Quaker. Although born in Kentucky he was an Abolitionist. I now refer to Levi Coffin of Cincinnati, who was credited with successfully assisting over three thousand runaway slaves on their way to freedom, and, in consequence, became distinguished among both friends and foes as the "President of 'The Underground Railroad.'" The most remarkable thing in his case was his immunity from legal punishment. The slaveholders knew very well what he was doing, but so expert was he in hiding his tracks that they could never get their clutches upon him.
I had rather an amusing experience with Coffin. Having when a boy heard so much about him, I was anxious to see him and make his acquaintance. On the occasion of a visit to Cincinnati, with a letter of introduction from an acquaintance of Coffin, I went to his office, but not without trepidation. I found the great man engaged in a conversation with some one, his back being toward me, as I took my stand just inside of his door. How he became aware of my presence I don't know—I certainly made no noise to attract him—but he certainly knew I was there. Suspending the conversation in which he was engaged—he was seated in a revolving chair—he suddenly turned so as to confront me, and silently looked me over. At last he arose, and, stepping up to me, lifted my hat with one hand, and laid the other upon my head. I understood very well what his movements meant. He was looking for outward evidences of negro blood. So far as my complexion went a suspicion of African taint might very well have been entertained. I had been assisting my father in harvesting his wheat crop, and my face and hands had a heavy coating of tan, but my hair was straight and stiff. I could see that the old gentleman was puzzled. Not a word, so far, had been spoken on either side.
"Where is thee from?" was the question that broke the silence.
I answered that I was from Clark County, meaning Clark County, Ohio.
Coffin, however, evidently thought I referred to Clark County, Kentucky, from which there had been many fugitives, and that settled the matter in his mind. "But, my boy, thee seems to have had a good home," continued the old gentleman as he looked over my clothes and general appearance. "Why is thee running away?"
Then came the explanation and the solemn Quaker indulged in a hearty laugh. He remarked that he knew my family very well by reputation, and that he had met my father in Abolitionist conventions—meetings he called them.
Then he invited me to go to his home and break bread with him. I vainly tried to decline. The old man would accept no excuse.
"Thy father would not refuse my hospitality."
That settled the matter, and I accompanied my entertainer to his domicile. I was glad that I did so, as it gave me the opportunity to see and greet Coffin's wife, who was a charming elderly Quaker lady. She had gained a reputation as a helper of the slave almost equal to that of her husband.
When runaways set out on their venturesome journeys, they were generally very indifferently equipped. Ordinarily they had only the working garments they wore on the plantations, and these furnished but slight relief for a condition very near to nudity. Mrs. Coffin set apart a working room in her house, and there sympathizers of both races joined her in garment-making, the result being that very few fugitives left Cincinnati without being decently clothed.
At the Coffin table were several guests beside myself. One was a colored man. He had been a slave, I learned, but his freedom had been purchased, largely through the Coffins' efforts.
The first honors of Abolitionism unquestionably belong to the organizers of the first societies formed for its promotion. The first of these in the order of time was the New England Anti-Slavery Society, which came into being on the first day of January, 1832. William Lloyd Garrison was chief promoter and master spirit. It consisted at the outset of twelve men, and that was not the only evidence of its apostolic mission. It was to be the forerunner in an ever-memorable revolution. The names of the twelve subscribers to its declaration of views and aims will always have a place in American history. They were William Lloyd Garrison, Oliver Johnson, William J. Snelling, John E. Fuller, Moses Thatcher, Stillman E. Newcomb, Arnold Buffum, John B. Hall, Joshua Coffin, Isaac Knapp, Henry K. Stockton, and Benjamin C. Bacon.
As a suggestion from, if not an offshoot of, the New England organization, came the National Anti-Slavery Society, which was organized in Philadelphia in 1834. It was intended that the meeting of its promoters should be held in New York, but so intense was the feeling against the Abolitionists in that city that no suitable room could there be found, and the "conspirators," as they were called by their enemies, were compelled to seek for accommodation and protection among the Philadelphia Quakers.
In that circumstance there was considerable significance. Two great declarations of independence have issued from Philadelphia. One was for political freedom; the other was for personal freedom. One was for the benefit of its authors as well as of others. The other one was wholly unselfish. Which had the loftier motive?
Ten States were represented in the Philadelphia meeting, which, considering the difficulties incident to travel at that time, was a very creditable showing. One man rode six hundred miles on horseback to attend it.
The following is the list of those in attendance, who became subscribers to the declaration that was promulgated:
David Thurston, Nathan Winslow, Joseph Southwick, James F. Otis, Isaac Winslow.
Daniel Southmayd, Effingham C. Capron, Amos Phelps, John G. Whittier, Horace P. Wakefield, James Barbadoes, David T. Kimball, Jr., Daniel E. Jewitt, John R. Campbell, Nathaniel Southard, Arnold Buffum, William Lloyd Garrison.
John Prentice, George W. Benson.
Samuel J. May, Alpheus Kingsley, Edwin A. Stillman, Simeon Joselyn, Robert B. Hall.
Beriah Green, Lewis Tappan, John Rankin, William Green, Jr., Abram T. Cox, William Goodell, Elizur Wright, Jr., Charles W. Denison, John Frost.
Jonathan Parkhurst, Chalkly Gillinghamm, John McCullough, James White.
Evan Lewis, Edwin A. Altee, Robert Purviss, James McCrummill, Thomas Shipley, Bartholomew Fussell, David Jones, Enoch Mace, John McKim, Anson Vickers, Joseph Loughead, Edward P. Altee, Thomas Whitson, John R. Sleeper, John Sharp, Jr., James Mott.
Milton Sutliff, Levi Sutliff, John M. Sterling.
The writer finds it quite impossible to carry out the idea with which this chapter was begun, which was to furnish a catalogue embracing all active Anti-Slavery workers who were Abolitionists. Space does not permit. He will therefore condense by giving a portion of the list, the selections being dictated partly by claims of superior merit, and partly by accident.
As representative men and women of the East—chiefly of New England and New York—he gives the following:
David Lee Child, of Boston, for some time editor of the National Anti-Slavery Advocate. He was the husband of Lydia Maria Child, who wrote the first bound volume published in this country in condemnation of the enslavement of "those people called Africans"; Samuel E. Sewell, another Bostonian and a lawyer who volunteered his services in cases of fugitive slaves; Ellis Gray Lowell, another Boston lawyer of eminence; Amos Augustus Phelps, a preacher and lecturer, for whose arrest the slaveholders of New Orleans offered a reward of ten thousand dollars; Parker Pillsbury, another preacher and lecturer, who at twenty years of age was the driver of an express wagon, and with no literary education, but who, in order that he might better plead the cause of the slave, went to school and became a noted orator; Theodore Weld, who married Angelina Grimke, the South Carolina Abolitionist, and who as an Anti-Slavery advocate was excelled, if he was excelled, only by Henry Ward Beecher and Wendell Phillips; Henry Brewster Stanton, a very vigorous Anti-Slavery editor and the husband of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the champion of women's rights; Theodore Parker, the great Boston divine; O.B. Frothingham, another famous preacher; Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the writer; Samuel Johnson, C.L. Redmond, James Monroe, A.T. Foss, William Wells Brown, Henry C. Wright, G.D. Hudson, Sallie Holley, Anna E. Dickinson, Aaron M. Powell, George Brodburn, Lucy Stone, Edwin Thompson, Nathaniel W. Whitney, Sumner Lincoln, James Boyle, Giles B. Stebbins, Thomas T. Stone, George M. Putnam, Joseph A. Howland, Susan B. Anthony, Frances E. Watkins, Loring Moody, Adin Ballou, W.H. Fish, Daniel Foster, A.J. Conover, James N. Buffum, Charles C. Burleigh, William Goodell, Joshua Leavitt, Charles M. Denison, Isaac Hopper, Abraham L. Cox.
To the above should be added the names of Alvin Stewart of New York, who issued the call for the convention that projected the Liberty party, and of John Kendrick, who executed the first will including a bequest in aid of the Abolition cause.
And here must not be omitted the name of John P. Hale, of New Hampshire, who was a candidate for the Presidency on the Liberty party ticket, and also a conspicuous member of the U.S. Senate.
Going westward, we come to Ohio, which became, early in the movement, the dominating center of Abolitionist influence. Salmon P. Chase was there. James G. Birney, after being forced out of Kentucky, was there. Ex-United States Senator Thomas Morris, a candidate for the Vice-Presidency on the Liberty party ticket, was there. Leicester King and Samuel Lewis, Abolition candidates for the governorship of the State, were there. Joshua R. Giddings and United States Senator Ben. Wade were there.
One great advantage the Ohio Abolitionists enjoyed was that they were harmonious and united. In the East that was not the case. There was a bitter feud between the Garrisonians, who relied on moral suasion, and the advocates of political action. All Ohio Abolitionists were ready and eager to employ the ballot.
There is another name, in speaking of Ohio, that must not be omitted. Dr. Townsend was the man who made Salmon P. Chase a United States Senator, and at a time when the Abolition voting strength in Ohio was a meager fraction in comparison with that of the old parties—numbering not over one in twenty. It happened to be a time when the old parties—the Whigs and the Democrats—had so nearly an equal representation in the State Legislature that Townsend, who was a State Senator, and two co-operating members, held a balance of power. Both parties were exceedingly anxious to control the Legislature, as that body, under the State constitution then in force, had the distribution of a great deal of patronage. The consideration for the deciding vote demanded by Townsend and his associates was the election of Chase to the Senate. They and the Democrats made the deal. Naturally enough, the Whigs expressed great indignation until it was shown that they had offered to enter into very much the same arrangement.
Some years before the events just spoken of, Townsend had been a medical student in Cincinnati. One day he stepped into the courthouse, where a fugitive-slave case was being tried. There he listened to an argument from Salmon P. Chase, the negro's defender, that made an Abolitionist of him. The senatorial incident naturally followed.
There was another Ohioan—not an individual this time, but an institution—that will always hold a high place in the annals of Abolitionism. Oberlin College was a power in the land. It had a corps of very able professors who were, without exception, active Anti-Slavery workers. They regarded themselves as public instructors as well as private teachers. There was scarcely a township in Ohio that they did not visit, either personally or through their disciples. They were as ready to talk in country schoolhouses as in their own college halls. Of course, they were violently opposed. Mobs broke up their meetings very frequently, but that only made them more persistent. Their teachings were viciously misrepresented. They were accused of favoring the intermarriage of the races, and parents were warned, if they sent their children to Oberlin, to look out for colored sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. For such slanders, however, the men and women of Oberlin—for both sexes were admitted to faculty and classes—seemed to care no more than they did for pro-slavery mobs.
There is another name which, although it belongs exclusively neither to the East nor to the West, to the North nor to the South, should not be omitted from a record like this. Doctor Gamaliel Bailey resided in the District of Columbia, and issued the National Era from Washington city.
Although a journal of small folio measurement and issued but once a week, it was for a considerable time the most influential organ of the Abolitionists. Its circulation was large and its management very able. Of course, it took no little courage and judgment to conduct such a publication in the very center of slaveholding influence, and more than once it barely escaped destruction by mobs.
If there was nothing else to his credit there was one thing accomplished by the Era's owner that entitles him to lasting remembrance. He was the introducer, if not the real producer, of Uncle Tom's Cabin. It first appeared in the Era in serial numbers. It is perfectly safe to say that no other newspaper in the country, of any standing, would have touched it. Without Dr. Bailey's encouragement the work would not have been written. This was admitted by Mrs. Stowe.
Up to this point the people whose names have been mentioned in these pages have, to a certain extent, been public characters and leaders. They were generals, and colonels, and captains, and orderly sergeants, in the army of emancipation. There were, also, privates in the ranks whose services richly deserve to be commemorated, showing, as they do, the character of the works they performed. The writer cannot resist the temptation to refer to two of them in particular, although, doubtless, there were many others of equal merit. A reason for the preference he shows in this case, that will not be misunderstood, is the fact that one of the men was his uncle and the other his father.
James Kedzie and John Hume were plain country farmers residing in southwestern Ohio, neither very rich nor very poor. They were natives of Scotland, and stating that fact is almost equivalent to saying they were Abolitionists. None of the Scotch of the writer's personal knowledge, at the period referred to, were otherwise than strongly Anti-Slavery. There are said to be exceptions to all rules, and there was one in this instance. He was a kinsman of the author, and a "braw" young Scotchman who came over to this country with the expectation of picking up a fortune in short order. Finding the North too slow, he went South. There he met a lady who owned a valuable plantation well stocked with healthy negroes. He married the woman, and became something of a local nabob, with the reputation of great severity as a master. One day, with his own hand, he inflicted a cruel flogging on a slave who had the name of a "bad nigger." That night, when the master was playing chess with a neighbor by candlelight on the ground floor of his dwelling, all the windows being open, the negro crept up with a loaded gun and shot him dead.
The sad affair was regretfully commented on by the dead man's relatives, who, I remember, referred to his untimely ending as "his judgment," and as a punishment he had brought upon "himself."
My uncle and father did not conceal their unpopular views. They openly voted the Abolition ticket. In eight years, beginning with their two ballots, they raised the third party vote in their immediate vicinity to eight, and they boasted of the progress they had made.
They did not make public addresses, but they faithfully listened to those made by others in support of the cause. They attended all Abolition meetings that were within reach. They took the National Era. Not only that, but they got up clubs for it. The first club I recollect my father's securing consisted of half a dozen subscribers, for one half of which he paid. The next year's was double in size, and so was my father's contribution. There was no fund for the promotion of the Abolitionist cause, for which they were called upon, to which they did not cheerfully pay according to their means.
All Abolition lecturers and colporteurs were gratuitously entertained, although their presence was sometimes a cause of abuse, and even of danger. There were other travelers who sometimes applied for help. Their faces were of dusky hue, and their great whitish eyes were like those of hunted beasts of the forest. They went on their way strengthened and rejoicing—always in the direction of the North Star.
The men are dead, but Slavery is dead also, partly through their labors and sacrifices. Their unpretentious, patient, earnest lives were not in vain. They contributed to the final triumph of Freedom's holy cause.
January 1, 1863.—Whereas, on the 22d day of September, 1862, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:
That on the 1st day of January, 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward and forever free, and the Executive government of the United States, including the naval and military authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons or any of them in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
That the Executive will on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States, by members chosen thereto at elections, wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such States have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States. Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do on this first day of January, 1863, and in accordance with my purpose so to do, publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terre Bonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk and Portsmouth) and which excepted parts are for the present left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.
And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States are, and henceforward shall be, free, and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons.
And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.
And I further declare and make known that such persons, of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States, to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.
And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington this first day of January, 1863, and of the independence of the United States the Eighty-seventh.ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
Amendment to the National Constitution recommended by President Lincoln in his Message to Congress of December I, 1862.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled: that the following articles be proposed to the Legislatures (or conventions) of the several States as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures (or conventions) to be valid as parts of the said Constitution, namely:
Article.—Every State wherein Slavery now exists, which shall abolish the same therein, at any time or times before the 1st day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred, shall receive compensation from the United States as follows, to wit:
(Then follows a provision to issue bonds of the United States Government, which shall be delivered to the States in amounts sufficient to compensate the owners of slaves within their jurisdictions for the loss of their slave property.)
Article.—All slaves who shall have enjoyed actual freedom by the chances of the war, at any time before the end of the rebellion, shall be forever free; but all owners of such, who shall not have been disloyal, shall be compensated for them at the same rates as is provided for States adopting abolishment of slavery, but in such way that no slave shall be twice accounted for.
Article.—Congress may appropriate money and otherwise provide for colonizing free colored persons, with their own consent, at any place or places without the United States.
On the 19th of August, 1862, Horace Greeley, under the above heading, addressed a letter to the President, which appeared over his signature in the New York Tribune of that date. The conclusion of Mr. Greeley's epistle was as follows:
"On the face of this wide earth, Mr. President, there is not one disinterested, determined, intelligent champion of the Union cause who does not feel that all attempts to put down the rebellion, and at the same time uphold its inciting cause, are preposterous and futile—that the rebellion, if crushed out to-morrow, would be renewed within a year if Slavery were left in full vigor—that army officers who remain to this day devoted to Slavery can at best be but halfway loyal to the Union—and that every hour of deference to Slavery is an hour of added and deepened peril to the Union. I appeal to the testimony of your embassadors in Europe. Ask them to tell you candidly whether the seeming subserviency of your policy to the slaveholding, slavery-upholding interest is not the perplexity, the despair of statesmen of all parties, and be admonished by the general answer."