Following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts delivers his opinion on the sponsors and their apologists, and is subsequently severely beaten while on the floor of the Senate.
It was carried, first, by whipping in to its support, through Executive influence and patronage, men who acted against their own declared judgment, and the known will of their constituents. Secondly, by foisting out of place, both in the Senate and House of Representatives, important business, long pending, and usurping its room. Thirdly, by trampling under foot the rules of the House of Representatives, always before the safeguard of the minority. And fourthly, by driving it to a close during the very session in which it originated, so that it might not be arrested by the indignant voice of the people.
THE CRIME AGAINST KANSAS.
HON. CHARLES SUMNER,
SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
19th and 20th May, 1856.
I.IT belongs to me now, in the first place, to expose the CRIME AGAINST KANSAS, in its origin and extent. Logically, this is the beginning of the argument. I say Crime, and deliberately adopt this strongest term, as better than any other denoting the consummate transgression. I would go further, if language could further go. It is the Crime of Crimes—surpassing far the old crimen majestatis, pursued with vengeance by the laws of Rome, and containing all other crimes, as the greater contains the less. I do not go too far, when I call it the Crime against Nature, from which the soul recoils, and which language refuses to describe. To lay bare this enormity, I now proceed. The whole subject has already become a twice-told tale, and its renewed recital will be a renewal of its sorrow and shame; but I shall not hesitate to enter upon it. The occasion requires it from the beginning.
It has been well remarked by a distinguished historian of our country, that at the Ithuriel touch of the Missouri discussion, the slave interest, hitherto hardly recognized as a distinct element in our system, started up portentous and dilated, with threats and assumptions, which are the origin of our existing national politics. This was in 1820. The discussion ended with the admission of Missouri as a slaveholding State, and the prohibition of Slavery in all the remaining territory west of the Mississippi, and north of 36° 30’, leaving the condition of other territory, south of this line, or subsequently acquired, untouched by the arrangement. Here was a solemn act of legislation, called at the time a compromise, a covenant, a compact, first brought forward in this body by a slaveholder, vindicated by slaveholders in debate, finally sanctioned by slaveholding votes, also upheld at the time by the essential approbation of a slaveholding President, James Monroe, and his Cabinet, of whom a majority were slaveholders, including Mr. Calhoun himself; and this compromise was made the condition of the admission of Missouri, without which that State could not have been received into the Union. The bargain was simple, and was applicable, of course, only to the territory named. Leaving all other territory to await the judgment of another generation, the South said to the North, Conquer your prejudices so far as to admit Missouri as a slave State, and, in consideration of this much-coveted boon, Slavery shall be prohibited forever in all the remaining Louisiana Territory above 36° 30’; and the North yielded.
In total disregard of history, the President, in his annual message, has told us that this compromise “was reluctantly acquiesced in by the Southern States.” Just the contrary is true. It was the work of slaveholders, and was crowded by their concurring votes upon a reluctant North. At the time it was hailed by slaveholders as a victory. Charles Pinckney, of South Carolina, in an oft-quoted letter, written at three o’clock on the night of its passage, says, “It is considered here by the slaveholding States as a great triumph.” At the North it was accepted as a defeat, and the friends of Freedom everywhere throughout the country bowed their heads with mortification. But little did they know the completeness of their disaster. Little did they dream that the prohibition of Slavery in the Territory, which was stipulated as the price of their fatal capitulation, would also at the very moment of its maturity be wrested from them.
Time passed, and it became necessary to provide for this Territory an organized government. Suddenly, without notice in the public press, or the prayer of a single petition, or one word of open recommendation from the President,—after an acquiescence of thirty-three years, and the irreclaimable possession by the South of its special share under this compromise,—in violation of every obligation of honor, compact, and good neighborhood,—and in contemptuous disregard of the out-gushing sentiments of an aroused North, this time-honored prohibition, in itself a Landmark of Freedom, was overturned, and the vast region now known as Kansas and Nebraska was opened to Slavery. It was natural that a measure thus repugnant in character should be pressed by arguments mutually repugnant. It was urged on two principal reasons, so opposite and inconsistent as to slap each other in the face: one being that, by the repeal of the prohibition, the Territory would be left open to the entry of slaveholders with their slaves, without hindrance; and the other being that the people would be left absolutely free to determine the question for themselves, and to prohibit the entry of slaveholders with their slaves, if they should think best. With some, the apology was the alleged rights of slaveholders; with others, it was the alleged rights of the people. With some, it was openly the extension of Slavery; and with others, it was openly the establishment of Freedom, under the guise of Popular Sovereignty. Of course, the measure, thus upheld in defiance of reason, was carried through Congress in defiance of all the securities of legislation; and I mention these things that you may see in what foulness the present Crime was engendered.
It was carried, first, by whipping in to its support, through Executive influence and patronage, men who acted against their own declared judgment, and the known will of their constituents. Secondly, by foisting out of place, both in the Senate and House of Representatives, important business, long pending, and usurping its room. Thirdly, by trampling under foot the rules of the House of Representatives, always before the safeguard of the minority. And fourthly, by driving it to a close during the very session in which it originated, so that it might not be arrested by the indignant voice of the people. Such are some of the means by which this snap judgment was obtained. If the clear will of the people had not been disregarded, it could not have passed. If the Government had not nefariously interposed its influence, it could not have passed. If it had been left to its natural place in the order of business, it could not have passed. If the rules of the House and the rights of the minority had not been violated, it could not have passed. If it had been allowed to go over to another Congress, when the people might be heard, it would have been ended; and then the Crime we now deplore would have been without its first seminal life.
Mr. President, I mean to keep absolutely within the limits of parliamentary propriety. I make no personal imputations; but only with frankness, such as belongs to the occasion and my own character, describe a great historical act, which is now enrolled in the Capitol. Sir, the Nebraska Bill was in every respect a swindle. It was a swindle by the South of the North. It was, on the part of those who had already completely enjoyed their share of the Missouri Compromise, a swindle of those whose share was yet absolutely untouched; and the plea of unconstitutionality set up—like the plea of usury after the borrowed money has been enjoyed—did not make it less a swindle. Urged as a Bill of Peace, it was a swindle of the whole country. Urged as opening the doors to slave-masters with their slaves, it was a swindle of the asserted doctrine of Popular Sovereignty. Urged as sanctioning Popular Sovereignty, it was a swindle of the asserted rights of slave-masters. It was a swindle of a broad territory, thus cheated of protection against Slavery. It was a swindle of a great cause, early espoused by Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson, surrounded by the best fathers of the Republic. Sir, it was a swindle of God-given inalienable rights. Turn it over, look at it on all sides, and it is everywhere a swindle; and, if the word I now employ has not the authority of classical usage, it has, on this occasion, the indubitable authority of fitness. No other word will adequately express the mingled meanness and wickedness of the cheat.
Its character was still further apparent in the general structure of the bill. Amidst overflowing professions of regard for the sovereignty of the people in the Territory, they were despoiled of every essential privilege of sovereignty. They were not allowed to choose their Governor, Secretary, Chief Justice, Associate Justices. Attorney, or Marshal—all of whom are sent from Washington; nor were they allowed to regulate the salaries of any of these functionaries, or the daily allowance of the legislative body, or even the pay of the clerks and doorkeepers; but they were left free to adopt Slavery. And this was called Popular Sovereignty! Time does not allow, nor does the occasion require, that I should stop to dwell on this transparent device to cover a transcendent wrong. Suffice it to say, that Slavery is in itself an arrogant denial of Human Rights, and by no human reason can the power to establish such a wrong be placed among the attributes of any just sovereignty. In refusing it such a place, I do not deny popular rights, but uphold them; I do not restrain popular rights, but extend them. And, sir, to this conclusion you must yet come, unless deaf, not only to the admonitions of political justice, but also to the genius of our own constitution, under which, when properly interpreted, no valid claim for Slavery can be set up anywhere in the national territory. The senator from Michigan [Mr. Cass] may say, in response to the senator from Mississippi [Mr. Brown], that Slavery cannot go into the Territory under the constitution, without legislative introduction; and permit me to add, in response to both, that Slavery cannot go there at all. Nothing can come out of nothing; and there is absolutely nothing in the constitution out of which Slavery can be derived, while there are provisions, which, when properly interpreted, make its existence anywhere within the exclusive national jurisdiction impossible.
The offensive provision in the bill was in its form a legislative anomaly, utterly wanting the natural directness and simplicity of an honest transaction. It did not undertake openly to repeal the old Prohibition of Slavery, but seemed to mince the matter, as if conscious of the swindle. It is said that this Prohibition, “being inconsistent with the principle of non-intervention by Congress with Slavery in the States and Territories as recognized by the legislation of 1850, commonly called the Compromise Measures, is hereby declared inoperative and void.” Thus, with insidious ostentation, was it pretended that an act, violating the greatest compromise of our legislative history, and setting loose the foundations of all compromise, was derived out of a compromise. Then followed in the Bill the further declaration, which is entirely without precedent, and which has been aptly called “a stump speech in its belly,” namely, “it being the true intent and meaning of this act, not to legislate Slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the constitution of the United States.” Here were smooth words, such as belong to a cunning tongue, enlisted in a bad cause. But, whatever may have been their various hidden meanings, this at least was evident, that, by their effect, the Congressional Prohibition of Slavery, which had always been regarded as a seven-fold shield, covering the whole Louisiana Territory north of 36° 30’, was now removed, while a principle was declared, which would render the supplementary Prohibition of Slavery in Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington, “inoperative and void,” and thus open to Slavery all these vast regions, now the rude cradles of mighty States. Here you see the magnitude of the mischief contemplated. But my purpose now is with the Crime against Kansas, and I shall not stop to expose the conspiracy beyond.
Mr. President, men are wisely presumed to intend the natural consequences of their conduct, and to seek what their acts seem to promote. Now, the Nebraska Bill, on its very face, openly cleared the way for Slavery, and it is not wrong to presume that its originators intended the natural consequences of such an act, and sought in this way to extend Slavery. Of course, they did. And this is the first stage in the Crime against Kansas.
But this was speedily followed by other developments. The bare-faced scheme was soon whispered, that Kansas must be a slave State. In conformity with this idea was the Government of this unhappy Territory organized in all its departments; and thus did the President, by whose complicity the Prohibition of Slavery had been overthrown, lend himself to a new complicity—giving to the conspirators a lease of connivance, amounting even to copartnership. The Governor, Secretary, Chief Justice, Associate Justices, Attorney, and Marshal, with a whole caucus of other stipendiaries, nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, were all commended as friendly to Slavery. No man, with the sentiments of Washington, or Jefferson, or Franklin, found any favor; nor is it too much to say, that, had these great patriots once more come among us, not one of them, with his recorded unretracted opinions on Slavery, could have been nominated by the President or confirmed by the Senate for any post in that Territory. With such auspices the conspiracy proceeded. Even in advance of the Nebraska Bill, secret societies were organized in Missouri, ostensibly to protect her institutions, and afterwards, under the name of “Self-Defensive Associations,” and of “Blue Lodges,” these were multiplied throughout the western counties of that State, before any counter-movement from the North. It was confidently anticipated, that, by the activity of these societies, and the interest of slaveholders everywhere, with the advantage derived from the neighborhood of Missouri, and the influence of the Territorial Government, Slavery might be introduced into Kansas, quietly but surely, without arousing a conflict; that the crocodile egg might be stealthily dropped in the sunburnt soil, there to be hatched unobserved until it sent forth its reptile monster.
But the conspiracy was unexpectedly balked. The debate, which convulsed Congress, had stirred the whole country. Attention from all sides was directed upon Kansas, which at once became the favorite goal of emigration. The Bill had loudly declared that its object was “to leave the people perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way;” and its supporters everywhere challenged the determination of the question between Freedom and Slavery by a competition of emigration. Thus, while opening the Territory to Slavery, the Bill also opened it to emigrants from every quarter, who might by their votes redress the wrong. The populous North, stung by a sharp sense of outrage, and inspired by a noble cause, poured into the debatable land, and promised soon to establish a supremacy of numbers there, involving, of course, a just supremacy of Freedom.
Then was conceived the consummation of the Crime against Kansas. What could not be accomplished peaceably, was to be accomplished forcibly. The reptile monster, that could not be quietly and securely hatched there, was to be pushed full-grown into the Territory. All efforts were now given to the dismal work of forcing Slavery on Free Soil. In flagrant derogation of the very Popular Sovereignty whose name helped to impose this Bill upon the country, the atrocious object was now distinctly avowed. And the avowal has been followed by the act. Slavery has been forcibly introduced into Kansas, and placed under the formal safeguards of pretended law. How this was done, belongs to the argument.
In depicting this consummation, the simplest outline, without one word of color, will be best. Whether regarded in its mass or its details, in its origin or its result, it is all blackness, illumined by nothing from itself, but only by the heroism of the undaunted men and women whom it environed. A plain statement of facts will be a picture of fearful truth, which faithful history will preserve in its darkest gallery. In the foreground all will recognize a familiar character, in himself a connecting link between the President and the border ruffian,—less conspicuous for ability than for the exalted place he has occupied,—who once sat in the seat where you now sit, sir; where once sat John Adams and Thomas Jefferson; also, where once sat Aaron Burr. I need not add the name of David R. Atchison. You have not forgotten that, at the session of Congress immediately succeeding the Nebraska Bill, he came tardily to his duty here, and then, after a short time, disappeared. The secret has been long since disclosed. Like Catiline, he stalked into this Chamber, reeking with conspiracy—immo in Senaturn venit—and then like Catiline he skulked away—abiit, excessit, evasit, crupit—to join and provoke the conspirators, who at a distance awaited their congenial chief. Under the influence of his malign presence the Crime ripened to its fatal fruits, while the similitude with Catiline was again renewed in the sympathy, not even concealed, which he found in the very Senate itself, where, beyond even the Roman example, a senator has not hesitated to appear as his open compurgator.
And now, as I proceed to show the way in which this Territory was overrun and finally subjugated to Slavery, I desire to remove in advance all question with regard to the authority on which I rely. The evidence is secondary; but it is the best which, in the nature of the case, can be had, and it is not less clear, direct, and peremptory, than any by which we are assured of the campaigns in the Crimea or the fall of Sevastopol. In its manifold mass, I confidently assert that it is such a body of evidence as the human mind is not able to resist. It is found in the concurring reports of the public press; in the letters of correspondents; in the testimony of travellers; and in the unaffected story to which I have listened from leading citizens, who, during this winter, have “come flocking” here from that distant Territory. It breaks forth in the irrepressible outcry, reaching us from Kansas, in truthful tones, which leave no ground of mistake. It addresses us in formal complaints, instinct with the indignation of a people determined to be free, and unimpeachable as the declarations of a murdered man on his dying bed against his murderer. And let me add, that all this testimony finds an echo in the very statute-book of the conspirators, and also in language dropped from the President of the United States.
I begin with an admission from the President himself, in whose sight the people of Kansas have little favor. And yet, after arraigning the innocent emigrants from the North, he was constrained to declare that their conduct was “far from justifying the illegal and reprehensible counter-movement which ensued.” Then, by the reluctant admission of the Chief Magistrate, there was a counter-movement, at once illegal and reprehensible. I thank thee, President, for teaching me these words; and I now put them in the front of this exposition, as in themselves a confession. Sir, this “illegal and reprehensible counter-movement” is none other than the dreadful Crime—under an apologetic alias—by which, through successive invasions, Slavery has been forcibly planted in this Territory.
Next to this Presidential admission must be placed the details of the invasions, which I now present as not only “illegal and reprehensible,” but also unquestionable evidence of the resulting Crime.
The violence, for some time threatened, broke forth on the 29th November, 1854, at the first election of a Delegate to Congress, when companies from Missouri, amounting to upwards of one thousand,- crossed into Kansas, and, with force and arms, proceeded to vote for Mr. Whitfield, the candidate of Slavery. An eye-witness, General Pomeroy, of superior intelligence and perfect integrity, thus describes this scene:
“The first ballot-box that was opened upon our virgin soil was closed to us by overpowering numbers and impending force. So bold and reckless were our invaders, that they cared not to conceal their attack. They came upon us, not in the guise of voters, to steal away our franchise, but boldly and openly, to snatch it with a strong hand. They came directly from their own homes, and in compact and organize bands, with arms in hand, and provisions for the expedition, marches to our polls, and, when their work was done, returned whence they came.’’
Here was an outrage at which the coolest blood of patriotism boils. Though, for various reasons unnecessary to develop, the busy settlers allowed the election to pass uncontested, still the means employed were none the less “illegal and reprehensible.”
This infliction was a significant prelude to the grand invasion of the 30th March, 1855, at the election of the first Territorial Legislature under the organic law, when an armed multitude from Missouri entered the Territory, in larger numbers than General Taylor commanded at Buena Vista, or than General Jackson had within his lines at New Orleans—larger far than our fathers rallied on Bunker Hill. On they came as an “army with banners,” organized in companies, with officers, munitions, tents, and provisions, as though marching upon a foreign foe, and breathing loud-mouthed threats that they would carry their purpose, if need be, by the bowie-knife and revolver. Among them, according to his own confession, was David R. Atchison, belted with the vulgar arms of his vulgar comrades. Arrived at their several destinations on the night before the election, the invaders pitched their tents, placed their sentries, and waited for the coming day. The same trustworthy eye-witness whom I have already quoted says, of one locality:
“Baggage-wagons were there, with arms and ammunition enough for a protracted fight, and among them two brass field-pieces, ready charged. They came with drums beating and flags flying, and their leaders were of the most prominent and conspicuous men of their State.”
Of another locality he says:
“The invaders came together in one armed and organized body, with trains of fifty wagons, besides horsemen, and, the night before election, pitched their camp in the vicinity of the polls; and, having appointed their own judges in place of those who, from intimidation or otherwise, failed to attend, they voted without any proof of residence.”
With force they were able, on the succeeding day, in some places, to intimidate the judges of elections; in others, to substitute judges of their own appointment; in others, to wrest the ballot-boxes from their rightful possessors, and everywhere to exercise a complete control of the election, and thus, by a preternatural audacity of usurpation, impose a Legislature upon the free people of Kansas. Thus was conquered the Sevastopol of that Territory!
But it was not enough to secure the Legislature. The election of a Member of Congress recurred on the 2d October, 1855, and the same foreigners, who had learned their strength, again manifested it. Another invasion, in controlling numbers, came from Missouri, and once more forcibly exercised the electoral franchise in Kansas.
At last, in the latter days of November, 1855, a storm, long brewing, burst upon the heads of the devoted people. The ballot-boxes had been violated, and a Legislature installed, which had proceeded to carry out the conspiracy of the invaders; but the good people of the Territory, born to Freedom, and educated as American citizens, showed no signs of submission. Slavery, though recognized by pretended law, was in many places practically an outlaw. To the lawless borderers, this was hard to bear; and, like the Heathen of old, they raged, particularly against the town of Lawrence, already known, by the firmness of its principles and the character of its citizens, as the citadel of the good cause. On this account they threatened, in their peculiar language, to “wipe it out.” Soon the hostile power was gathered for this purpose. The wickedness of this invasion was enhanced by the way in which it began. A citizen of Kansas, by the name of Dow, was murdered by one of the partisans of Slavery, under the name of “ law and order.” Such an outrage naturally aroused indignation, and provoked threats. The professors of “law and order” allowed the murderer to escape; and, still further to illustrate the irony of the name they assumed, seized the friend of the murdered man, whose few neighbors soon rallied for his rescue. This transaction, though totally disregarded in its chief front of wickedness, became the excuse for unprecedented excitement. The weak Governor, with no faculty higher than servility to Slavery,—whom the President, in his official delinquency, had appointed to a trust worthy only of a well-balanced character,—was frightened from his propriety. By proclamation he invoked the Territory. By telegraph he invoked the President. The Territory would not respond to his senseless appeal. The President was dumb; but the proclamation was circulated throughout the border counties of Missouri; and Platte, Clay, Carlisle, Sabine, Howard, and Jefferson, each of them contributed a volunteer company, recruited from the roadsides, and armed with weapons which chance afforded,—known as the “shot-gun militia,”—with a Missouri officer as commissary-general, dispensing rations, and another Missouri officer as general-in-chief; with two wagon-loads of rifles, belonging to Missouri, drawn by six mules, from its arsenal at Jefferson City; with seven pieces of cannon, belonging to the United States, from its arsenal at Liberty; and this formidable force, amounting to at least eighteen hundred men, terrible with threats, with oaths, and with whiskey, crossed the borders, and encamped in larger part at Wacherusa, over against the doomed town of Lawrence, which was now threatened with destruction. With these invaders was the Governor, who by this act levied war upon the people he was sent to protect. In camp with him was the original Catiline of the conspiracy, while by his side was the docile Chief Justice and the docile Judges. But this is not the first instance in which an unjust Governor has found tools where he ought to have found justice. In the great impeachment of Warren Hastings, the British orator by whom it was conducted exclaims, in words strictly applicable to the misdeed I now arraign, “Had he not the Chief Justice, the tamed and domesticated Chief Justice, who waited on him like a familiar spirit?” Thus was this invasion countenanced by those who should have stood in the breach against it. For more than a week it continued, while deadly conflict seemed imminent. I do not dwell on the heroism by which it was encountered, or the mean retreat to which it was compelled; for that is not necessary to exhibit the Crime which you are to judge. But I cannot forbear to add other additional features, furnished in the letter of a clergyman, written at the time, who saw and was a part of what he describes:
“Our citizens have been shot at, and, in two instances, murdered, our houses invaded, hay-ricks burnt, corn and other provisions plundered, cattle driven off, all communication cut off between us and the States, wagons on the way to us with provisions stopped and plundered, and the drivers taken prisoners, and we in hourly expectation of an attack. Nearly every man has been in arms in the village. Fortifications have been thrown up, by incessant labor, night and day. The sound of the drum, and the tramp of armed men, resounded through our streets; families fleeing, with their household goods, for safety. Day before yesterday, the report of cannon was heard at our house from the direction of Lecompton. Lost Thursday, one of our neighbors,—one of the most peaceable and excellent of men, from Ohio,—on his way home, was set upon by a gang of twelve men on horseback, and shot down. Over eight hundred men are gathered, under arms, at Lawrence. As yet, no act of violence has been perpetrated by those on our side. No blood of retaliation stains our hands. We stand and are ready to act purely in the defence of our homes and lives.”
But the catalogue is not yet complete. On the 15th of December, when the people assembled to vote on the constitution then submitted for adoption,—only a few days after the Treaty of Peace between the Governor on the one side and the town of Lawrence on the other,—another and fifth irruption was made. But I leave all this untold. Enough of these details has been given.
Five several times, and more, have these invaders entered Kansas in armed array; and thus five several times, and more, have they trampled upon the organic law of the Territory. But these extraordinary expeditions are simply the extraordinary witnesses to successive uninterrupted violence. They stand out conspicuous, but not alone. The spirit of evil, in which they had their origin, was wakeful and incessant. From the beginning, it hung upon the skirts of this interesting Territory, harrowing its peace, disturbing its prosperity, and keeping its inhabitants under the painful alarms of war. Thus was all security of person, of property, and of labor, overthrown; and when I urge this incontrovertible fact, I set forth a wrong which is small only by the side of the giant wrong, for the consummation of which all this was done. Sir, what is man, what is government, without security; in the absence of which, nor man nor government can proceed in development, or enjoy the fruits of existence? Without security, civilization is cramped and dwarfed. Without security, there can be no true Freedom. Nor shall I say too much, when I declare that security, guarded, of course, by its offspring Freedom, is the true end and aim of government. Of this indispensable boon the people of Kansas have thus far been despoiled—absolutely, totally. All this is aggravated by the nature of their pursuits, rendering them peculiarly sensitive to interruption, and, at the same time, attesting their innocence. They are for the most part engaged in the cultivation of the soil, which from time immemorial has been the sweet employment of undisturbed industry. Contented in the returns of bounteous nature and the shade of his own trees, the husbandman is not aggressive; accustomed to produce, and not to destroy, he is essentially peaceful, unless his home is invaded, when his arm derives vigor from the soil he treads, and his soul inspiration from the heavens beneath whose canopy he daily toils. And such are the people of Kansas, whose security has been overthrown. Scenes from which civilization averts her countenance have been a part of their daily life. The border incursions, which, in barbarous ages or barbarous lands, have fretted and “harried “ an exposed people, have been here renewed, with this peculiarity, that our border robbers do not simply levy black mail and drive off a few cattle, like those who acted under the inspiration of the Douglas of other days; that they do not seize a few persons, and sweep them away into captivity, like the African slave-traders whom we brand as pirates; but that they commit a succession of acts, in which all border sorrows and all African wrongs are revived together on American soil, and which for the time being annuls all protection of all kinds, and enslaves the whole Territory.
Private griefs mingle their poignancy with public wrongs. I do not dwell on the anxieties which families have undergone, exposed to sudden assault, and obliged to lie down to rest with the alarms of war ringing in their ears, not knowing that another day might be spared to them. Throughout this bitter winter, with the thermometer at thirty degrees below zero, the citizens of Lawrence have been constrained to sleep underarms, with sentinels treading their constant watch against surprise. But our souls are wrung by individual instances. In vain do we condemn the cruelties of another age—the refinements of torture to which men have been doomed, the rack and thumb-screw of the Inquisition, the last agonies of the regicide Ravaillac, “Luke’s iron crown, and Damien’s bed of steel,”—for kindred outrages have disgraced these borders. Murder has stalked, assassination has skulked in the tall grass of the prairie, and the vindictiveness of man has assumed unwonted forms. A preacher of the Gospel of the Saviour has been ridden on a rail, and then thrown into the Missouri, fastened to a log, and left to drift down its muddy, tortuous current. And lately we have had the tidings of that enormity without precedent—a deed without a name—where a candidate for the Legislature was most brutally gashed with knives and hatchets, and then, after weltering in blood on the snow-clad earth, was trundled along with gaping wounds, to fall dead in the face of his wife. It is common to drop a tear of sympathy over the trembling solicitudes of our early fathers, exposed to the stealthy assault of the savage foe; and an eminent American artist has pictured this scene in a marble group of rare beauty, on the front of the National Capitol, where the uplifted tomahawk is arrested by the strong arm and generous countenance of the pioneer, while his wife and children find shelter at his feet; but now the tear must be dropped over the trembling solicitudes of fellow-citizens, seeking to build a new State in Kansas, and exposed to the perpetual assault of murderous robbers from Missouri. Hirelings, picked from the drunken spew and vomit of an uneasy civilization—in the form of men—
“Ay, in the catalogue ye go for men;
As hounds and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs,
Shoughs, water-rugs, and demi-wolves, are called
All by the name of dogs:”
leashed together by secret signs and lodges, have renewed the incredible atrocities of the Assassins and of the Thugs; showing the blind submission of the Assassins to the Old Man of the Mountain, in robbing Christians on the road to Jerusalem, and showing the heartlessness of the Thugs, who, avowing that murder was their religion, waylaid travellers on the great road from Agra to Delhi; with the more deadly bowie-knife for the dagger of the Assassin, and the more deadly revolver for the noose of the Thug.
In these invasions, attended by the entire subversion of all security in this Territory, with the plunder of the ballot-box, and the pollution of the electoral franchise, I show simply the process in unprecedented Crime. If that be the best government where an injury to a single citizen is resented as an injury to the whole State, then must our Government forfeit all claim to any such eminence, while it leaves its citizens thus exposed. In the outrage upon the ballot-box, even without the illicit fruits which I shall soon exhibit, there is a peculiar crime of the deepest dye, though subordinate to the final Crime, which should be promptly avenged. In countries where royalty is upheld, it is a special offence to rob the crown jewels, which are the emblems of that sovereignty before which the loyal subject bows, and it is treason to be found in adultery with the Queen, for in this way may a false heir be imposed upon the State; but in our Republic the ballot-box is the single priceless jewel of that sovereignty which we respect, and the electoral franchise, out of which are born the rulers of a free people, is the Queen whom we are to guard against pollution. In this plain presentment, whether as regards security, or as regards elections, there is enough, surely, without proceeding further, to justify the intervention of Congress, most promptly and completely, to throw over this oppressed people the impenetrable shield of the constitution and laws. But the half is not yet told.
As every point in a wide-spread horizon radiates from a common centre, so everything said or done in this vast circle of Crime radiates from the One Idea, that Kansas, at all hazards, must “be made a slave State. In all the manifold wickednesses that have occurred, and in every successive invasion, this One Idea has been ever present, as the Satanic tempter—the motive power—the causing cause.
To accomplish this result, three things were attempted: first, by outrages of all kinds to drive the friends of Freedom already there out of the Territory; secondly, to deter others from coming; and, thirdly, to obtain the complete control of the Government. The process of driving out, and also of deterring, has failed. On the contrary, the friends of Freedom there became more fixed in their resolves to stay and fight the battle, which they had never sought, but from which they disdained to retreat; while the friends of Freedom elsewhere were more aroused to the duty of timely succors, by men and munitions of just self-defence.
But, while defeated in the first two processes proposed, the conspirators succeeded in the last. By the violence already portrayed at the election of the 30th March, when the polls were occupied by the armed hordes from Missouri, they imposed a Legislature upon the Territory, and thus, under the iron mask of law, established a usurpation not less complete than any in history. That this was done, I proceed to prove. Here is the evidence:
1. Only in this way can this extraordinary expedition be adequately explained. In the words of Molière, once employed by John Quincy Adams, in the other House, Que diable aliaient-ils faire dans cette galere? What did they go into the Territory for? If their purposes were peaceful, as has been suggested, why cannons, arms, flags, numbers, and all this violence? As simple citizens, proceeding to the honest exercise of the electoral franchise, they might have gone with nothing more than a pilgrim’s staff. Philosophy always seeks a sufficient cause, and only in the One Idea, already presented, can a cause be found in any degree commensurate with this Crime; and this becomes so only when- we consider the mad fanaticism of Slavery.
2. Public notoriety steps forward to confirm the suggestion of reason. In every place where truth can freely travel it has been asserted and understood that the Legislature was imposed upon Kansas by foreigners from Missouri; and this universal voice is now received as undeniable verity.
3. It is also attested by the harangues of the conspirators. Here is what Stringfellow said before the invasion:
“To those who have qualms of conscience as to violating laws, State or National, the time has come when such impositions must be disregarded, as your rights and property are in danger; and I advise you, one and all, to enter every election district in Kansas, in defiance of Reeder and his vile myrmidons, and vote at the point of the bowie-knife and revolver. Neither give nor take quarter, as our case demands it. It is enough that the slaveholding interest wills it, from which there is no appeal. What right has Governor Reeder to rule Missourians in Kanzas? His proclamation and prescribed oath must be repudiated. It is your interest to do so. Mind that Slavery is established where it is not prohibited.”
Here is what Atchison said after the invasion:
“Well, what next? Why, an election for members of the Legislature to organize the Territory must be held. What did I advise you to do then? Why, meet them on their own ground, and beat them at their own game, again; and, cold and inclement as the weather was, I went over with a company of men. My object in going was not to vote. I had no right to vote, unless I had disfranchised myself in Missouri. I was not within two miles of a voting place. My object in going was not to vote, but to settle a difficulty between two of our candidates; and the Abolitionists of the North said, and published it abroad, that Atchison was there with bowie-knife and revolver; and, by God! ‘t was true. I never did go into that Territory—I never intend to go into that Territory—without being prepared for all such kind of cattle. Well, we beat them, and Governor Reeder gave certificates to a majority of all the members of both Houses; and then, after they were organized, as everybody will admit, they were the only competent persons to say who were, and who were not, members of the same.”
4. It is confirmed by the contemporaneous admission of the Squatter Sovereign, a paper published at Atchison, and at once the organ of the President and of these borderers, which, under date of 1st of April, thus recounts the victory:
“Independence [Missouri], March 31, 1855.
“Several hundred emigrants from Kansas have just entered our city. They were preceded by the Westport and Independence Brass Bands. They came in at the west side of the public square, and proceeded entirely around it, the bands cheering us with fine music, and the emigrants with good news. Immediately following the bands were about two hundred horsemen in regular order; following these were one hundred and fifty wagons, carriages, &c. They gave repeated cheers for Kansas and Missouri. They report that not an Anti-Slavery man will be in the Legislature of Kansas. We have made a clean sweep.”
5. It is also confirmed by the contemporaneous testimony of another paper, always faithful to slavery, the New York Herald, in the letter of a correspondent from Brunswick, in Missouri, under date of 20th April, 1855:
“From five to seven thousand men started from Missouri to attend the election, some to remove, but the most to return to their families, with an intention, if they liked the Territory, to make it their permanent abode at the earliest moment practicable. But they intended to vote. The Missourians were, many of them, Douglas men. There were one hundred and fifty voters from this county, one hundred and seventyfive from Howard, one hundred from Cooper. Indeed, every county furnished its quota; and when they set out, it looked like an army.” * * * “They were armed.” * * * * “And, as there were no houses in the Territory, they carried tents. Their mission was a peaceable one,—to vote, and to drive down stakes for their future homes. After the election, some one thousand five hundred of the voters sent a committee to Mr. Reeder, to ascertain if it was his purpose to ratify the election.He answered that it was, and said the majority at an election must carry the day. But it is not to be denied that the one thousand five hundred, apprehending that the Governor might attempt to play the tyrant,—since his conduct had already been insidious and unjust,—wore on their hats bunches of hemp. They were resolved, if a tyrant attempted to trample upon the rights of the sovereign people, to hang him.”
6. It is again confirmed by the testimony of a lady who for five years has lived in Western Missouri, and thus writes in a letter published in the New Haven Register:
“Miami, Saline Co., Nov. 26, 1855.
“You ask me to tell you something about the Kansas and Missouri troubles. Of course you know in what they have originated. There is no denying that the Missourians have determined to control the elections, if possible; and I don’t know that their measures would be justifiable, except upon the principle of self-preservation; and that, you know, is the first law of nature.”
7. And it is confirmed still further by the circular of the Emigration Society of Lafayette, in Missouri, dated as late as 25th March, 1856, in which the efforts of Missourians are openly confessed:
“The western counties of Missouri have, for the last two years, been heavily taxed, both in money and time, in fighting the battles of the South. Lafayette County alone has expended more than one hundred thousand dollars in money, and as much or more in time. Up to this time, the border counties of Missouri have upheld and maintained the rights and interests of the South in this struggle, unassisted, and not unsuccessfully. But the Abolitionists, staking their all upon the Kansas issue, and hesitating at no means, fair or foul, are moving heaven and earth to render that beautiful Territory a Free State.”
8. Here, also, is complete admission of the usurpation, by the Intelligencer, a leading paper of St. Louis, Missouri, made in the ensuing summer:
“Atchison and Stringfellow, with their Missouri followers, overwhelmed the settlers in Kansas, browbeat and bullied them, and took the Government from their hands. Missouri votes elected the present body of men who insult public intelligence and popular rights by styling themselves ‘ the Legislature of Kansas.’ This body of men are helping themselves to fat speculations by locating the ‘ seat of Government,’ and getting town lots for their votes. They are passing laws disfranchising all the citizens of Kansas who do not believe Negro Slavery to be a Christian institution and a national blessing. They are proposing to punish with imprisonment the utterance of views inconsistent with their own; and they are trying to perpetuate their preposterous and infernal tyranny by appointing, for a term of years, creatures of their own, as commissioners in every county, to lay and collect taxes, and see that the laws they are passing are faithfully executed. Has this age anything to compare with these acts in audacity?”
9. In harmony with all these is the authoritative declaration of Governor Reeder, in a speech addressed to his neighbors, at Easton, Pennsylvania, at the end of April, 1855, and immediately afterwards published in the Washington Union. Here it is:
“It was, indeed, too true that Kansas had been invaded, conquered, subjugated, by an armed force from beyond her borders, led on by a fanatical spirit, trampling under foot the principles of the Kansas bill and the right of suffrage.”
10. And in similar harmony is the complaint of the people of Kansas, in a public meeting at Big Springs, on the 5th September, 1855, embodied in these words:
“Resolved, That the body of men who, for the last two months, have been passing laws for the people of our Territory, moved, counselled, and dictated to, by the demagogues of Missouri, are to us a foreign body, representing only the lawless invaders who elected them, and not the people of the Territory; that we repudiate their action as the monstrous consummation of an act of violence, usurpation, and fraud, unparalleled in the history of the Union, and worthy only of men unfitted for the duties and regardless of the responsibilities of Republicans.”
11. And, finally, by the official minutes which have been laid on our table by the President, the invasion, which ended in the usurpation, is clearly established; but the effect of this testimony has been so amply exposed by the senator from Vermont [Mr. Collamer], in his able and indefatigable argument, that I content myself with simply referring to it.
On this cumulative, irresistible evidence, in concurrence with the antecedent history, I rest. And yet, senators here have argued that this cannot be so; precisely as the conspiracy of Catiline was doubted in the Roman Senate. Nonnulli sunt in hoc ordine, qui ant ea, quce imminent, non videant; aut ea, quce vident, dissimulent; qui spem Catilince mollibus sententiis aluerunt, conjurationemque nascentem non credendo corroboraverunt. As I listened to the senator from Illinois, while he painfully strove to show that there was no usurpation, I was reminded of the effort by a distinguished logician, in a much-admired argument, to prove that Napoleon Bonaparte never existed. And permit me to say that the fact of his existence is not placed more completely above doubt than the fact of this usurpation. This I assert on the proofs already presented. But confirmation comes almost while I speak. The columns of the public press are now daily filled with testimony, solemnly taken before the committee of Congress in Kansas, which shows, in awful light, the violence ending in the Usurpation. Of this I may speak on some other occasion. Meanwhile I proceed with the development of the Crime.
The usurping Legislature assembled at the appointed place, in the interior, and then, at once, in opposition to the veto of the Governor, by a majority of two thirds, removed to the Shawnee Mission, a place in most convenient proximity to the Missouri borderers, by whom it had been constituted, and whose tyrannical agent it was. The statutes of Missouri, in all their text, with their divisions and subdivisions, were adopted bodily, and with such little local adaptation that the word “ State” in the original is not even changed to “Territory,” but is left to be corrected by an explanatory act. But all this general legislation was entirely subordinate to the special act, entitled “An Act to punish Offences against Slave Property,” in which the One Idea, that provoked this whole conspiracy, is, at last, embodied in legislative form, and human slavery openly recognized on free soil, under the sanction of pretended law. This act of thirteen sections is in itself a Dance of Death. But its complex completeness of wickedness, without a parallel, may be partially conceived, when it is understood that in three sections only of it is the penalty of death denounced no less than forty-eight different times, by as many changes of language, against the heinous offence, described in forty-eight different ways, of interfering with what does not exist in that Territory,—and under the constitution cannot exist there,—I mean property in human flesh. Thus is Liberty sacrificed to Slavery, and Death summoned to sit at the gates as guardian of the Wrong. But the work of Usurpation was not perfected even yet. It had already cost too much to be left at any hazard.
————“To be thus was nothing;
But to be safely thus!”
Such was the object. And this “could not be, except by the entire prostration of all the safeguards of human rights. The liberty of speech, which is the very breath of a republic; the press, which is the terror of wrong-doers; the bar, through which the oppressed beards the arrogance of law; the jury, by which right is vindicated; all these must be struck down, while officers are provided, in all places, ready to be the tools of this tyranny; and then, to obtain final assurance that their crime was secure, the whole Usurpation, stretching over the Territory, must be fastened and riveted by legislative bolts, spikes, and screws, so as to defy all effort at change through the ordinary forms of law. To this work, in its various parts, were bent the subtlest energies; and never, from Tubal Cain to this hour, was any fabric forged with more desperate skill and completeness.
Mark, sir, three different legislative enactments, which constitute part of this work. First, according to one act, all who deny, by spoken or written word, “the right of persons to hold slaves in this territory,” are denounced as felons, to be punished by imprisonment at hard labor, for a term not less than two years; it may be for life. And, to show the extravagance of this injustice, it has been well put by the senator from Vermont [Mr. Collamer], that should the senator from Michigan [Mr. Cass], who believes that Slavery cannot exist in a Territory, unless introduced by express legislative acts, venture there with his moderate opinions, his doom must be that of a felon! To this extent are the great liberties of speech and of the press subverted. Secondly, by another act, entitled “An Act concerning Attorneys-at-Law,” no person can practise as an attorney, unless he shall obtain a license from the Territorial courts, which, of course, a tyrannical discretion will be free to deny; and, after obtaining such license, he is constrained to take an oath, not only “to support” the constitution of the United States, but also “to support and sustain”—mark here the reduplication!—the Territorial act, and the Fugitive Slave Bill; thus erecting a test for the function of the bar, calculated to exclude citizens who honestly regard that latter legislative enormity as unfit to be obeyed. And, thirdly, by another act, entitled “An Act concerning Jurors,” all persons “conscientiously opposed to holding slaves,” or “not admitting the right to hold slaves in the Territory,” are excluded from the jury on every question, civil or criminal, arising out of asserted slave property; while, in all cases, the summoning of the jury is left without one word of restraint to “the marshal, sheriff, or other officer,” who are thus free to pack it according to their tyrannical discretion.
For the ready enforcement of all statutes against Human Freedom, the President had already furnished a powerful quota of officers, in the Governor, Chief Justice, Judges, Secretary, Attorney, and Marshal. The Legislature completed this part of the work, by constituting, in each county, a Board of Commissioners, composed of two persons, associated with the Probate Judge, whose duty it is “to appoint a county treasurer, coroner, justices of the peace, constables, and all other officers provided for by law,” and then proceeded to the choice of this very Board; thus delegating and diffusing their usurped power, and tyrannically imposing upon the Territory a crowd of officers in whose appointment the people have had no voice, directly or indirectly.
And still the final inexorable work remained. A Legislature, renovated in both branches, could not assemble until 1858, so that, during this long intermediate period, this whole system must continue in the likeness of law, unless overturned by the Federal Government, or, in default of such interposition, by a generous uprising of an oppressed people. But it was necessary to guard against the possibility of change, even tardily, at a future election; and this was done by two different acts; under the first of which, all who will not take the oath to support the Fugitive Slave Bill are excluded from the elective franchise; and under the second of which, all others are entitled to vote who shall tender a tax of one dollar to the Sheriff on the day of election; thus, by provision of Territorial law, disfranchising all opposed to Slavery, and at the same time opening the door to the votes of the invaders; by an unconstitutional shibboleth, excluding from the polls the mass of actual settlers, and by making the franchise depend upon a petty tax only, admitting to the polls the mass of borderers from Missouri. Thus, by tyrannical forethought, the Usurpation not only fortified all that it did, but assumed a self-perpetuating energy.
Thus was the Crime consummated. Slavery now stands erect, clanking its chains on the Territory of Kansas, surrounded by a code of death, and trampling upon all cherished liberties, whether of speech, the press, the bar, the trial by jury, or the electoral franchise. And, sir, all this has been done, not merely to introduce a wrong which in itself is a denial of all rights, and in dread of which a mother has lately taken the life of her offspring; not merely, as has been sometimes said, to protect Slavery in Missouri, since it is futile for this State to complain of Freedom on the side of Kansas, when Freedom exists without complaint on the side of Iowa, and also on the side of Illinois; but it has been done for the sake of political power, in order to bring two new slaveholding senators upon this floor, and thus to fortify in the National Government the desperate chances of a waning Oligarchy. As the ship, voyaging on pleasant summer seas, is assailed by a pirate crew, and robbed for the sake of its doubloons and dollars—so is this beautiful Territory now assailed in its peace and prosperity, and robbed, in order to wrest its political power to the side of Slavery. Even now the black flag of the land-pirates from Missouri waves at the mast-head; in their laws you hear the pirate yell, and see the flash of the pirate-knife; while, incredible to relate! the President, gathering the Slave Power at his back, testifies a pirate sympathy.
Sir, all this was done in the name of Popular Sovereignty. And this is the close of the tragedy. Popular Sovereignty, which, when truly understood, is a fountain of just power, has ended in Popular Slavery; not merely in the subjection of the unhappy African race, but of this proud Caucasian blood, which you boast. The profession with which you began, of All by the People, has been lost in the wretched reality of Nothing for the People. Popular Sovereignty, in whose deceitful name plighted faith was broken, and an ancient Landmark of Freedom was overturned, now lifts itself before us, like Sin, in the terrible picture of Milton,
“That seemed a woman to the waist, and fair,
But ended foul in many a scaly fold
Voluminous and vast, a serpent armed
With mortal sting; about her middle round
A cry of hell-hounds never ceasing barked
With wide Cerberean mouths full loud, and rung
A hideous peal; yet, when they list, would creep.
If aught disturbed their noise, into her womb,
And kennel there, yet there still barked and howled
The image is complete at all points; and, with this exposure, I take my leave of the Crime against Kansas.