Page images

much of the northern. Every expression of members of prominence in both Houses showed how firmly had become fixed in the southern mind the idea of secession should a Republican president be elected. The speech, December 15, 1859, of Martin J. Crawford, of Georgia, against the election of Sherman as speaker, may be taken as the type of many which gave expression to the now dominant feeling of the South. "To talk," said Crawford, "of the settlement of this slavery question is folly; to talk of a compromise upon this subject of slavery is worse than folly; . . . this question has resolved itself at last into a question of slavery and disunion, or no slavery and union, . . . I have this to say, and I speak the sentiment of every Democrat on this floor from the state of Georgia: we will never submit to the inauguration of a Black Republican president." (Applause from the Democratic benches and hisses from the Republicans.) 1

This language had its fitting counterpart in the speech of Hickman, of Pennsylvania, an anti-Lecompton Democrat, who said: "The North will never tolerate a division of the territory. . I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet; but I express my belief that there is as much true courage in the North, though it may not be known by the name of chivalry, as there is in the South.... I believe . . . that with all the appliances of art to assist, eighteen millions of men reared to industry, Cong. Globe, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., 163, 164.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

with habits of the right kind, will always be able to cope successfully, if need be, with eight millions of men without these auxiliaries.” 1

A private letter from Senator Hammond shows a situation impossible of continuance: "I assure you and you may philosophize upon it, that unless the slavery question can be wholly eliminated from politics, this government is not worth two years', perhaps not two months', purchase. So far as I know, and as I believe, every man in both houses is armed with a revolver-some with two-and a bowie knife. . . . Seeing the oldest and most conservative senators on our side . get revolvers, I most reluctantly got one myself. .. I can't carry it.... But I keep a pistol now in my drawer... as a matter of duty to my section. . . . While regarding this Union as cramping the South, I will nevertheless sustain it as long as I can. Yet I will stand by my side-as you would-to the end. I firmly believe that the slaveholding South is now the controlling power of the world-that no other power would face us in hostility. This will be demonstrated if we come to the ultimate; . . . cotton, rice, tobacco, and naval stores command the world; and we have sense enough to know it. . . . The North without us would be a motherless calf, bleating about, and die of mange and starvation." 2

1 Cong. Globe, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., 120.

2 Letter to Francis Lieber, April 19, 1860, Perry, Francis Lieber, 310.

With such existing and growing antagonism marked by such action as an act by the Virginia legislature for "a full and complete arming of the state," separation was a mere question of time and opportunity. Every utterance of the kind in Congress had its echo in the press, North and South, but much more powerfully in the latter, since the North was far from being awakened to the imminence of the situation. The close analogy between the irreconcilables of both sections failed when applied to the effects of their utterances; the abolitionists were taken seriously by the South; the secessionists were never so taken by the North until actual secession came. The Republicans adopted the habit of simply disbelieving these predictions. Seward said: "I remain now in the opinion I have uniformly expressed here and elsewhere that these hasty threats of disunion are so unnatural that they will find no hand to execute them. 1 Senator Wilson could speak, January, 1860, of the "disunion predictions, arguments, and threats" with which "every breeze from the South is burdened," as "THIS BROAD FARCE." 2

In the Senate, where there were 37 Democrats, 24 Republicans, and 2 Americans, with one vacancy each from Oregon, Minnesota, and Texas, the spirit was no better. The resolution of Mason, of Virginia, December 6, 1859, to appoint a committee to inquire

[ocr errors][merged small]

into the facts of the Harper's Ferry invasion brought out a sectional discussion, through an amendment offered by Trumbull, of Illinois, to extend the inquiry to the seizure, December, 1855, from the United States arsenal at Liberty, of a quantity of arms (including three field-pieces) by a large body of Missourians for use in Kansas. Nor did the discussion end with the unanimous adoption of the resolution, unamended, December 14; it extended throughout the session, with the added acrimony and personality which the approaching political conventions naturally induced. Toombs, in a very able speech, apostrophizing his state, exclaimed: "Never permit this Federal government to pass into the traitorous hands of the Black Republican party. It has already declared war against you and your institutions. It every day commits acts of war against you; it has already compelled you to arm for your defense. Listen to 'no vain babblings,' to no treacherous jargon about 'overt acts'; they have already been committed. Defend yourselves, the enemy is at your door; wait not to meet him at the hearth stone-meet him at the doorsill and drive him from the temple of liberty or pull down its pillars and involve him in a common ruin.”1

Stephen A. Douglas, January 16, offered a bill of demagogic propitiation to the South, for the protection of states from invasion by another state, based upon Wise's communication, as governor, to 1 Cong. Globe, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., App., 93.

the president, regarding reported conspiracies, and calling upon the latter to take steps to preserve the peace between the states; to which Buchanan had replied that he was at a loss to discover any provision in the Constitution or laws which would authorize him to take steps for such a purpose. In his speech supporting the bill, Douglas had “no hesitation" in expressing his "firm and deliberate conviction that the Harper's Ferry crime was the natural, logical, inevitable result of the doctrines and teachings of the Republican party. . . . The great principle that underlies the organization... is violent, irreconcilable, eternal warfare upon the institution of American slavery, with the view of its ultimate extinction throughout the land." Its "vitality consists in appeals to northern passion, northern prejudice, northern ambition against southern states, southern institutions, and southern people." The speech was one which could have well been made by a senator from South Carolina instead of from Illinois. Throughout it was typical of Douglas's want of serious conviction of any kind, and of the spirit which we have come to call that of the politician, which will bid for votes at any price; and his action had no other effect than to give opportunity for a long debate on slavery, ending in a strong disunion sentiment by Senator Hunter, of Virginia, a cruel analysis by the keen mind of Davis, and a discussion which showed the general 1 Cong. Globe, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., 553




[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »