Page images

to yield the warm comfort of his cabin for the wintry heights of the West Virginia mountains. The whole scheme, so far as it expected slave support by insurrection, was one of complete folly.

That Brown, despite his speech when condemned, did expect a rising, must be taken as unquestionable. If proof beyond his own statement were needed, we have it in that of his “Adjutant-General " Kagi (killed at Harper's Ferry), as follows: "It was not anticipated that the first movement would have any other appearance to the masters than a slave stampede or local insurrection at most. The planters would pursue their chattels and be defeated. The militia would then be called out, and would also be defeated. . . . They anticipated after the first blow had been struck that by the aid of the free and Canadian negroes who would join them, they could inspire confidence in the slaves, and induce them to rally; . . . the design was to make the fight in the mountains of Virginia, extending it to North Carolina and Tennessee and also to the swamps of South Carolina if possible."" "The mountains and swamps of the South were intended by the Almighty," said Brown, "for a refuge for the slave and a defence against the op"'" a remark not in disaccord with Brown's pressor, 2 claim to being directed by the Lord in visions.* When Brown found himself face to face with the

1 Hinton, John Brown and His Men, 673. 'Redpath, John Brown, 204.

· Ibid., 113.

actuality of conflict it seemed to take from him all power of initiative or movement, and led him to sacrifice himself and his party in a defence which could only have one end. Whatever may be said as to his bravery, and he was certainly brave, or as to his loftiness of spirit, which is undeniable, he was, if it be granted that he was attempting that which every act, every writing, every explanation by himself, leads us to believe he attempted, a man wanting in knowledge of the race he was urging to rise, and so lacking in common-sense that he was plainly unfitted for such a leadership.

Nor could the South fail to be gratified with the rebound in northern sentiment. The sporadic cases. of public approval of Brown could not outweigh the general indignation throughout the North. It needed the events of the next and later years, with which his acts had but remote connection, to canonize John Brown, whose name became the convenient watchword of antagonism to disruption of the Union, and gained a fame, whether good or ill, which will last as long as the memories of the great Civil War.





HEN Congress met, December 5, 1859, the new House was a conglomerate of 109 Republicans, 88 administration Democrats, 13 antiLecompton Democrats, 26 Americans, and 1 Whig. All the Americans were from the South with four exceptions, and they included half the delegations from Maryland, Kentucky, and North Carolina, and six of the ten representatives of Tennessee. Charles Francis Adams, Morrill, Burlingame, Conkling, Grow, Corwin, Sherman, Colfax, Windom were among the Republicans; Miles, Pryor, Curry, Lamar, Reuben Davis, Vallandigham, S. S. Cox, Sickles were among the Democrats. Henry Winter Davis, Gilmer, and Maynard were of the Americans. In the Senate from the northern states were Seward, Sumner, Wilson, Wade, Douglas, Chandler, of Michigan, and Grimes; Davis, Toombs, Slidell, Benjamin, Mallory, and Crittenden (the last an American) from the South.

It was not strange that, with the general feeling strongly accentuated by the Harper's Ferry raid,

the slavery question should at once arise, and in the House render impossible for many weeks the election of a speaker. Sixty-four Republican representatives had signed a circular in which it was proposed to issue at a very cheap price a compendium of the Impending Crisis, a book written by Hinton R. Helper, a North-Carolinian of the poorer middle class, appealing to the poor whites of the South to emancipate themselves. It was not in human nature to refuse the challenge offered by the circulation of a document which, however true in its statistics, showing the immense disparity of even the agricultural progress between the sections, was deeply abusive of the slave-holder and revolutionary in its advice. The purpose stated in the circular was to diffuse the book particularly in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana, and Illinois, the states which were to decide the next presidential contest Clark, of Missouri, introduced a resolution that no member of the House who had "indorsed the book: and recommended it or the compend from it, is fil to be a Speaker of this House," and termed the action an incipient movement of treason.1

Sherman, the Republican candidate, stated that while he had lent his name, he had not seen a copy of either the book or compendium,2 an action which he fitly characterized in a private letter "a thoughtless, foolish, and unfortunate act. He reinforced

1 Cong. Globe, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., 3. ? Ibid., 547.

" 3

3 Sherman Letters, 78.

his public statement by declaring that his opponents would scan his record "in vain for anything to excite insurrection, to disturb the peace, to invade the rights of the states, to alienate the North and South from each other, or to loosen the ties of fraternal fellowship by which our people have been and should be bound together. I am for the Union and

the Constitution, with all the compromises under which it was formed and all the obligations which it imposes." 1 But this did not avail. He was supported until January 30 by the Republicans, when he withdrew his name, and Pennington, of New Jersey, a new member, was elected February 1, on the forty-fourth ballot, by 117 votes, the bare number necessary.

Though the southern leaders retaliated on the friends of Helper's book, they made the same blunder as twenty years before in regard to other incendiary documents. The book which they desired to suppress received an advertisement which spread it over the South, to its deep resentment, and gave it an enormous circulation in the North, .where, convincing as were its arguments as to the effects of slavery, it made still more sure Republican success in the doubtful northern states.

Personal encounters on the floor of the House were imminent, arms were carried by many in both Houses, and the animosities in Congress were more than equalled by those of the southern press and by 1 Cong. Globe, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., 548.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »