Posted by: Democratic Thinker | January 25, 2010

True American—The 12th

The Fall of the True American

In 1845, Cassius M. Clay establishes a press in his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky—the first press in a slave state set up expressly for the purposes of an open debate on the issue of slavery. It meets resistance.



OUR leader to-day is from one of the very first intellects in this nation; and as he is a large slaveholder, we allow him to speak his sentiments in his own language. We shall give our plan of emancipation in our next.


We are called once more to our hard and responsible task from a bed of long and painful illness. The inquiry has been frequently made, we are told, whether we were living or dead, with hopes for the worst, in the bosoms of some. We are proud to say that the man does not live, whom we would, if we could effect it by the mere exertion of the will, cause one moment’s pain, far less compass in desire, his death. “To freemen, the disgrace attending our misconduct is, in my opinion, the most urgent necessity. ‘Is Philip dead?’ ‘No, but in great danger.’ How are you concerned in these rumors? Suppose he should meet some fatal stroke: you would soon raise up another Philip, if your interests are thus regarded.” It is the weakness and disease in the state that has forced us into our present position; and if we should perish, the same causes would raise up many more and abler than we to vindicate the same cause.

We had hoped to see on this continent, the great axiom, that man is capable of self-government, amply vindicated. We had no objections to the peaceable and honorable extension of empire over the whole continent, if equal freedom expanded with the bouuds of the nation. Gladly would we have seen untold millions of freemen, enjoying liberty of conscience and pursuit, of resting under their own vine and fig tree with none to make them afraid, standing upon a sacred and inviolate constitution at home, and just towards all nations—such was the vision of the immortal Washington, and such was ours. But we are told the enunciation of the great and soul-stirring principles of Revolutionary patriots was a lie; as a dog returns to his vomit we are to go back to the foul and cast off rags of European tyranny to hide our nakedness. Slavery, the most unmitigated, the lowest, basest that the world has seen, is to be substituted for ever for our better, more glorious, holier aspirations; the constitution is torn and trampled under foot; justice and good faith in a nation are derided; brute force is substituted in the place of high moral tone. All the great principles of national liberty which we inherited from our British ancestry are yielded up; and we are left without God or hope in the world. When the great hearted of our land weep, and the man of reflection maddens in the contemplation of our national apostacy; there are men pursuing gain and pleasure, who smile with contempt and indifference at their appeals. But remember, you who dwell in marble palaces, that there are strong arms and fiery hearts and iron pikes in the streets, and panes of glass only between them and the silver plate on the board, and the smooth skinned woman on the ottoman. When you have mocked at virtue, denied the agency of God in the affairs of men, and made rapine your honeyed faith, tremble! for the day of retribution is at hand, and the masses will be avenged.


We are informed that there is a lawyer in this city of very small intellect, and infinitesimal shade of a soul, who has been busying himself about our paper from the beginning, and latterly reporting that we give papers to slaves, both our own paper and papers from our exchange list. Now our publisher has gone so far, although there is nothing in our sheet that a slave might not safely read, as to adopt the rule to require subscribers to write an order when they send by slaves for their papers. We have, out of regard to the opinions and prejudices of slaveholders, avoided printing and circulating tracts gratuitously, which every one sees would greatly forward our cause, by reaching a class of men who rarely take or read newspapers, because they are very liable to fall into the hands of slaves, and thus subject us to censure. Our exchange list is open to the perusal of any white citizen, and no others. We know that there are evils attending the discussion of this subject; but every sensible man is aware that they will never grow less, but will ever increase; they must be met now or never. Slavery does not slough off of itself, as some suppose. In those parts of Maryland where slavery prevails most, and where now her ablest men admit that it has become utterly useless and eminently injurious, the slaves have increased on the whites up to the present hour: and so also in Virginia; and so also in Kentucky. So that we must come up to this subject, cautiously but determinedly. There are some men who suppose that our efforts will be abortive; if so, it is not our fault, but the fault of others. But we are of a far different opinion; from the late political movements in Louisville, we are induced to believe that to-day our friends there are in a majority; when this city takes open anti-slavery ground, the institution cannot long stand. In conclusion, we give this officious lawyer a gentle hint, that if he does not let us alone, we will brand him so that his children will not outlive his disgrace.



Compeers and descendants of Washington, among those great principles of human liberty for which millions of our English ancestors were willing to lay down their lives, was the right of the people to petition their rulers for a redress of grievances. And our forefathers wisely incorporated this essential right of freemen into our organic law, that in all time there should be no cavil or misunderstanding upon this subject. And this Constitution I have solemnly before God and men sworn to support; yet there has arisen in this land a power higher than the Constitution, more exacting than conscience—the slave power. It demands that I should yield up the right of petition, and I have done so. I have thus proven myself loyal to them, and by abandoning one great principle of liberty, I have shown myself a willing servant ready to do their will in all things whatever. All I ask in return, is the prefix of honorable to my name, eight dollars a day, rock fish, and oyster patties!



We had intended to say something upon this gentleman’s handbill. But when we reflect that we have gone to the expense of republishing his letters upon slavery for distribution, as the ablest argument against the “unmitigated curse” which we could lay before the public, we feel that it would be trifling with the good sense of the people to set about refuting his poor ragged argument, lately put forth in opposition to his earlier, manlier, and sincerer views, when no miserable purpose was to be subserved at the expense of high and holy principle. He is beaten, and we have no heart to pursue the subject farther.