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.
And yet, such is the madness of the hour, that, in defiance of the solemn guaranty, embodied in the Amendments of the Constitution, that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” the people-of Kansas have been arraigned for keeping and bearing them, and the senator from South Carolina has had the face to say openly, on this floor, that they should be disarmed—of course, that the fanatics of Slavery, his allies and constituents, may meet no impediment.
THE CRIME AGAINST KANSAS.
HON. CHARLES SUMNER,
SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
19th and 20th May, 1856.
III.FROM this ample survey, where one obstruction after another has been removed, I now pass, in the third place, to the consideration of the various remedies proposed, ending with the TRUE REMEDY.
The Remedy should be coëxtensive with the original Wrong; and since, by the passage of the Nebraska Bill, not only Kansas, but also Nebraska, Minnesota, Washington, and even Oregon, have been opened to Slavery, the original Prohibition should be restored to its complete activity throughout these various Territories. By such a happy restoration, made in good faith, the whole country would be replaced in the condition which it enjoyed before the introduction of that dishonest measure. Here is the Alpha and the Omega of our aim in this immediate controversy. But no such extensive measure is now in question. The Crime against Kansas has been special, and all else is absorbed in the special remedies for it. Of these I shall now speak.
As the Apologies were four-fold, so are the Remedies proposed four-fold; and they range themselves in natural order, under designations which so truly disclose their character as even to supersede argument. First, we have the Remedy of Tyranny; next, the Remedy of Folly; next, the Remedy of Injustice and Civil War; and fourthly, the Remedy of Justice and Peace. There are the four caskets; and you are to determine which shall be opened by senatorial votes.
There is the Remedy of Tyranny, which, like its complement, the Apology of Tyranny, though espoused on this floor especially by the senator from Illinois, proceeds from the President, and is embodied in a special message. It proposes to enforce obedience to the existing laws of Kansas, “whether Federal or local,” when, in fact, Kansas has no “local” laws except those imposed by the Usurpation from Missouri; and it calls for additional appropriations to complete this work of tyranny.
I shall not follow the President in his elaborate endeavor to prejudge the contested election now pending in the House of Representatives; for this whole matter belongs to the privileges of that body, and neither the President nor the Senate has a right to intermeddle therewith. I do not touch it. But now, while dismissing it, I should not pardon myself if I failed to add, that any person who founds his claim to a seat in Congress on the pretended votes of hirelings from another State, with no home on the soil of Kansas, plays the part of Anacharsis Clootz, who, at the bar of the French Convention, undertook to represent nations that knew him not, or, if they knew him, scorned him; with this difference, that in our American case the excessive farce of the transaction cannot cover its tragedy. But all this I put aside, to deal only with what is legitimately before the Senate.
I expose simply the Tyranny which upholds the existing Usurpation, and asks for additional appropriations. Let it be judged by an example, from which in this country there can be no appeal. Here is the speech of George III., made from the Throne to Parliament, in response to the complaints of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, which, though smarting under laws passed by usurped power, had yet avoided all armed opposition, while Lexington and Bunker Hill still slumbered in rural solitude, unconscious of the historic kindred which they were soon to claim. Instead of Massachusetts Bay, in the Royal speech, substitute Kansas, and the message of the President will be found fresh on the lips of the British King. Listen now to the words, which, in opening Parliament, 30th November, 1774, his Majesty, according to the official report, was pleased to speak:
“My Lords And Gentlemen:
“It gives me much concern that I am obliged, at the opening of this Parliament, to inform you that a most daring spirit of resistance and disobedience to the law still unhappily prevails in the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, and has in divers parts of it broke forth in fresh violences of a very criminal nature. These proceedings have been countenanced in other of my Colonies, and unwarrantable attempts have been made to obstruct the Commerce of this Kingdom, by unlawful combinations. I have taken such measures, and given such orders, as I have judged most proper and effectual for carrying into execution the laws which were passed in the last session of the late Parliament for the protection and security of the Commerce of my subjects, and for the restoring and preserving peace, order, and good government, in the Province of the Massachusetts Bay.”—American Archives, 4th series, vol. 1, page 1465.
The King complained of a “daring spirit of resistance and disobedience to the law;” so also does the President. The King adds that it has “broke forth in fresh violences of a very criminal nature;” so also does the President. The King declares that these proceedings have been “countenanced and encouraged in other of my Colonies;” even so the President declares that Kansas has found sympathy in “remote States.” The King inveighs against “unwarrantable measures” and “unlawful combinations;” even so inveighs the President. The King proclaims that he has taken the necessary steps “for carrying into execution the laws,” passed in defiance of the constitutional rights of the Colonies; even so the President proclaims that he shall “exert the whole power of the Federal Executive” to support the Usurpation in Kansas. The parallel is complete. The message, if not copied from the speech of the King, has been fashioned on the same original block, and must be dismissed to the same limbo. I dismiss its tyrannical assumptions in favor of the Usurpation. I dismiss also its petition for additional appropriations in the affected desire to maintain order in Kansas. It is not money or troops that you need there, but simply the good-will of the President. That is all, absolutely. Let his complicity with the Crime cease, and peace will be restored. For myself, I will not consent to wad the National artillery with fresh appropriation bills, when its murderous hail is to be directed against the constitutional rights of my fellow-citizens.
Next comes the Remedy of Folly, which, indeed, is also a Remedy of Tyranny; but its Folly is so surpassing as to eclipse even its Tyranny. It does not proceed from the President. With this proposition he is not in any way chargeable. It comes from the senator from South Carolina, who, at the close of a long speech, offered it as his single contribution to the adjustment of this question, and who thus far stands alone in its support. It might, therefore, fitly bear his name; but that which I now give to it is a more suggestive synonym.
This proposition, nakedly expressed, is that the people of Kansas should be deprived of their arms. That I may not do the least injustice to the senator, I quote his precise words:
“The President of the United States is under the highest and most solemn obligations to interpose; and, if I were to indicate the manner in which he should interpose in Kansas, I would point out the old common law process; I would serve a warrant on Sharpe’s rifles, and if Sharpe’s rifles did not answer the summons, and come into court on a day certain, or if they resisted the sheriff, I would summon the posse comitatus, and would have Colonel Sumner’s regiment to be a part of that posse comitatus.”
Really, sir, has it come to this? The rifle has ever been the companion of the pioneer, and, under God, his tutelary protector against the red man and the beast of the forest. Never was this efficient weapon more needed in just self-defence than now in Kansas, and at least one article in our National Constitution must be blotted out, before the complete right to it can in any way be impeached. And yet, such is the madness of the hour, that, in defiance of the solemn guaranty, embodied in the Amendments of the Constitution, that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” the people-of Kansas have been arraigned for keeping and bearing them, and the senator from South Carolina has had the face to say openly, on this floor, that they should be disarmed—of course, that the fanatics of Slavery, his allies and constituents, may meet no impediment. Sir, the senator is venerable with years; he is reputed also to have worn at home, in the State which he represents, judicial honors; and he is placed here at the head of an important committee occupied particularly with questions of law; but neither his years, nor his position, past or present, can give respectability to the demand he has made, or save him from indignant condemnation, when, to compass the wretched purposes of a wretched cause, he thus proposes to trample on one of the plainest provisions of constitutional liberty.
Next comes the Remedy of Injustice and Civil War—organized by Act of Congress. This proposition, which is also an offshoot of the original Remedy of Tyranny, proceeds from the senator from Illinois [Mr. Douglas], with the sanction of the Committee on Territories, and is embodied in the Bill which is now pressed to a vote.
By this Bill it is proposed as follows:
“That whenever it shall appear, by a census to be taken under the direction of the Governor, by the authority of the Legislature, that there shall be 93,420 inhabitants (that being the number required by the present ratio of representation for a member of Congress) within the limits hereafter described as the Territory of Kansas, the Legislature of said Territory shall be, and is hereby, authorized to provide by law for the election of delegates, by the people of said Territory, to assemble in Convention, and form a Constitution and State Government, preparatory to their admission into the Union on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatsoever, by the name of the State of Kansas.”
Now, sir, consider these words carefully, and you will see that, however plausible and velvet-pawed they may seem, yet, in reality, they are most unjust and cruel. While affecting to initiate honest proceedings for the formation of a State, they furnish to this Territory no redress for the Crime under which it suffers; nay, they recognize the very Usurpation, in which the Crime ended, and proceed to endow it with new prerogatives. It is by the authority of the Legislature that the census is to be taken, which is the first step in the work. It is also by the authority of the Legislature that a Convention is to be called for the formation of a Constitution, which is the second step. But the Legislature is not obliged to take either of these steps. To its absolute willfulness is it left to act or not to act in the premises. And since, in the ordinary course of business, there can be no action of the Legislature till January of the next year, all these steps, which are preliminary in their character, are postponed till after that distant day—thus keeping this great question open, to distract and irritate the country. Clearly this is not what is required. The country desires peace at once, and is determined to have it. But this objection is slight by the side of the glaring Tyranny, that, in recognizing the Legislature, and conferring upon it these new powers, the Bill recognizes the existing Usurpation, not only as the authentic Government of the Territory for the time being, but also as possessing a creative power to reproduce itself in the new State. Pass this Bill, and you enlist Congress in the conspiracy, not only to keep the people of Kansas in their present subjugation, throughout their Territorial existence, but also to protract this subjugation into their existence as a State, while you legalize and perpetuate the very force by which Slavery has been already planted there.
I know that there is another deceptive clause, which seems to throw certain safeguards around the election of delegates to the Convention, when that Convention shall be ordered by the Legislature; but out of this very clause do I draw a condemnation of the Usurpation which the Bill recognizes. It provides that the tests, coupled with the electoral franchise, shall not prevail in the election of delegates, and thus impliedly condemns them. But, if they are not to prevail on this occasion, why are they permitted at the election of the Legislature? If they are unjust in the one case, they are unjust in the other. If annulled at the election of delegates, they should be annulled at the election of the Legislature; whereas the Bill of the senator leaves all these offensive tests in full activity at the election of the very Legislature out of which this whole proceeding is to come, and it leaves the polls at both elections in the control of the officers appointed by the Usurpation. Consider well the facts. By an existing statute, establishing the Fugitive Slave Bill as a shibboleth, a large portion of the honest citizens are excluded from voting for the Legislature, while, by another statute, all who present themselves with a fee of one dollar, whether from Missouri or not, and who can utter this shibboleth, are entitled to vote. And it is a Legislature thus chosen, under the auspices of officers appointed by the Usurpation, that you now propose to invest with parental powers to rear the Territory into a State. You recognize and confirm the Usurpation, which you ought to annul without delay. You put the infant State, now preparing to take a place in our sisterhood, to suckle with the wolf, which you ought at once to kill. The improbable story of Baron Munchausen is verified. The bear, which thrust itself into the harness of the horse it had devoured, and then whirled the sledge according to mere brutal bent, is recognized by this Bill, and kept in its usurped place, when the safety of all requires that it should be shot.
In characterizing this Bill as the Remedy of Injustice and Civil War, I give it a plain, self-evident title. It is a continuation of the Crime against Kansas, and, as such, deserves the same condemnation. It can only be defended by those who defend the Crime. Sir, you cannot expect that the people of Kansas will submit to the usurpation which this Bill sets up, and bids them bow before—as the Austrian tyrant set up his cap in the Swiss market-place. If you madly persevere, Kansas will not be without her William Tell, who will refuse at all hazards to recognize the tyrannical edict; and this will be the beginning of civil war.
Next, and lastly, comes the Remedy of Justice and Peace, proposed by the senator from New York [Mr. Seward], and embodied in his Bill for the immediate admission of Kansas as a State of this Union, now pending as a substitute for the Bill of the senator from Illinois. This is sustained by the prayer of the people of the Territory, setting forth a constitution formed by a spontaneous movement, in which all there had opportunity to participate, without distinction of party. Rarely has any proposition, so simple in character, so entirely practicable, so absolutely within your power, been presented, which promised at once such beneficent results. In its adoption, the Crime against Kansas will be all happily absolved, the Usurpation which it established will be peacefully suppressed, and order will be permanently secured. By a joyful metamorphosis, this fair Territory may be saved from outrage.
“0, help,” she cries, “in this extremest need,
If you who hear are Deities indeed!
Gape, earth, and make for this dread foe a tomb,
Or change my form, whence all my sorrows come!”
In offering this proposition, the senator from New York has entitled himself to the gratitude of the country. He has, throughout a life of unsurpassed industry, and of eminent ability, done much for Freedom, which the world will not let die; but he has done nothing more opportune than this, and he has uttered no words more effective than the speech, so masterly and ingenious, by which he has vindicated it.
Kansas now presents herself for admission with a constitution republican in form. And, independent of the great necessity of the case, three considerations of fact concur in commending her. First. She thus testifies her willingness to relieve the Federal Government of the considerable pecuniary responsibility to which it is now exposed on account of the pretended Territorial government. Secondly. She has, by her recent conduct, particularly in repelling the invasion at Wacherusa, evinced an ability to defend her Government. And, thirdly, by the pecuniary credit which she now enjoys she shows an undoubted ability to support it. What now can stand in her way?
The power of Congress to admit Kansas at once is explicit. It is found in a single clause of the constitution, which, standing by itself, without any qualification applicable to the present case, and without doubtful words, requires no commentary. Here it is:,
“New States may be admitted by Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State, nor any State be formed by the junction of two or more States or parts of States, without the consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned, as well as of the Congress.”
New States MAY be admitted. Out of that little word may comes the power, broadly and fully,—without any limitation founded on population or preliminary forms,—provided the State is not within the jurisdiction of another State, nor formed by the junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the consent of the Legislatures of the States. Kansas is not within the legal jurisdiction of another State, although the laws of Missouri have been tyrannically extended over her; nor is Kansas formed by the junction of two or more States; and, therefore, Kansas may be admitted by Congress into the Union, without regard to population or preliminary forms. You cannot deny the power, without obliterating this clause of the constitution. The senator from New York was right in rejecting all appeal to precedents, as entirely irrelevant; for the power invoked is clear and express in the constitution, which is above all precedent. But, since precedent has been enlisted, let us look at precedent.
It is objected that the population of Kansas is not sufficient for a State; and this objection is sustained by under-reckoning the numbers there, and exaggerating the numbers required by precedent. In the absence of any recent census, it is impossible to do more than approximate to the actual population; but, from careful inquiry of the best sources, I am led to place it now at fifty thousand, though I observe that a prudent authority, the Boston Daily Advertiser, puts it as high as sixty thousand, and, while I speak, this remarkable population, fed by fresh emigration, is outstripping even these calculations. Nor can there be a doubt that, before the assent of Congress can be perfected in the ordinary course of legislation, this population will “swell to the large number of ninety-three thousand four hundred and twenty, required in the Bill of the senator from Illinois. But, in making this number the condition of the admission of Kansas, you set up an extraordinary standard. There is nothing out of which it can be derived, from the beginning to the end of the precedents. Going back to the days of the Continental Congress, you will find that, in 1784, it was declared that twenty thousand freemen in a Territory might “establish a permanent Constitution and Government for themselves” (Journals of Congress, vol. 4, p. 379); and, though this number was afterwards, in the Ordinance of 1787 for the North-western Territory, raised to sixty thousand, yet the power was left in Congress, and subsequently exercised in more than one instance, to constitute a State with a smaller number. Out of all the new States, only Maine, Wisconsin, and Texas, contained, at the time of their admission into the Union, so large a population as it is proposed to require in Kansas; while no less than fourteen new States have been admitted with a smaller population; as will appear in the following list, which is the result of research, showing the number of “free inhabitants” in these States at the time of the proceedings which ended in their admission:
But this is not all. At the adoption of the Federal Constitution, there were three of the old thirteen States whose respective populations did not reach the amount now required for Kansas. These were Delaware, with a population of 59,096; Rhode Island, with a population of 64,689; and Georgia, with a population of 82,548. And even now, while I speak, there are at least two States, with senators on this floor, which, according to the last census, do not contain the population now required of Kansas. I refer to Delaware, with a population of 91,635, and Florida, with a population of freemen amounting only to 47,203. So much for precedents of population.
But. in sustaining this objection, it is not uncommon to depart from the strict rule of numerical precedent, by suggesting that the population required in a new State has always been, in point of fact, above the existing ratio of representation for a member of the House of Representatives. But this is not true; for at least one State, Florida, was admitted with a population below this ratio, which at the time was 70,680. So much, again, for precedents. But, even if this coincidence were complete, it would be impossible to press it into a binding precedent.
The rule seems reasonable, and, in ordinary cases, would not be questioned; but it cannot be drawn or implied from the constitution. Besides, this ratio is, in itself, a sliding scale. At first it was 33,000; and this continued till 1811, when it was put at 35,000. In 1822, it was 40,000; in 1832, it was 47,700; in 1842, it was 70,680; and now, it is 93,420. If any ratio is to be made the foundation of a binding rule, it should be that which prevailed at the adoption of the constitution, and which still continued, when Kansas, as a part of Louisiana, was acquired from France, under solemn stipulation that it should “be incorporated into the Union of the United States as soon as may be consistent with the principles of the Federal Constitution.” But this whole objection is met by the memorial of the people of Florida, which, if good for that State, is also good for Kansas. Here is a passage:
“But the people of Florida respectfully insist that their right to be admitted into the Federal Union as a State is not dependent upon the fact of their having a population equal to such ratio. Their right to admission, it is conceived, is guaranteed by the express pledge in the sixth article of the treaty before quoted; and if any rule as to the number of the population is to govern, it should be that in existence at the time of the cession, which was thirty-five thousand. They submit, however, that any ratio of representation dependent upon legislative action, based solely on convenience and expediency, shifting and vacillating as the opinion of a majority of Congress may make it, now greater than at a previous apportionment, but which a future Congress may prescribe to be less, cannot be one of the constitutional ‘PRINCIPLES’ referred to in the treaty, consistency with which, by its terms, is required. It is, in truth, but a mere regulation, not founded on principle. No specified number of population is required by any recognized principle as necessary in the establishment of a free Government.
“It is in no wise ‘inconsistent with the principles of the Federal Constitution,’ that the population of a State should be less than the ratio of Congressional representation. The very case is provided for in the constitution. With such deficient population, she would be entitled to one Representative. If any event should cause a decrease of the population of one of the States even to a number below the minimum ratio of representation prescribed by the constitution, she would still remain a member of the Confederacy, and be entitled to such Representative. It is respectfully urged, that a rule or principle which would not justify the expulsion of a State with a deficient population, on the ground of inconsistency with the constitution, should not exclude or prohibit admission.”—(Exec. Doc., 27th Cong., 2d sess., Vol.4, No. 206.)
Thus, sir, do the people of Florida plead for the people of Kansas.
Distrusting the objection from inadequacy of population, it is said that the proceedings for the formation of a new State are fatally defective in form. It is not asserted that a previous enabling act of Congress is indispensable; for there are notorious precedents the other way, among which are Kentucky in 1791, Tennessee in 1796, Maine in 1820, and Arkansas and Michigan in 1836. But it is urged that in no instance has a State been admitted whose constitution was formed without such enabling act, or without the authority of the Territorial Legislature. This is not true; for California came into the Union with a constitution, formed not only without any previous enabling act, but also without any sanction from a Territorial Legislature. The proceedings which ended in this constitution were initiated by the military Governor there, acting under the exigency of the hour. This instance may not be identical in all respects with that of Kansas; but it displaces completely one of the assumptions which Kansas now encounters, and it also shows completely the disposition to relax all rule, under the exigency of the hour, in order to do substantial justice.
But there is a memorable instance, which contains in itself every element of irregularity which you denounce in the proceedings of Kansas. Michigan, now cherished with such pride as a sister State, achieved admission into the Union in persistent defiance of all rule. Do you ask for precedents? Here is a precedent for the largest latitude, which you, who profess a deference to precedent, cannot disown. Mark now the stages of this case. The first proceedings of Michigan were without any previous enabling act of Congress; and she presented herself at your door with a constitution thus formed, and with senators chosen under that constitution, precisely as Kansas now. This was in December, 1835, while Andrew Jackson was President. By the leaders of the Democracy at that time, all objection for alleged defects of form was scouted, and language was employed which is strictly applicable to Kansas. There is nothing new under the sun; and the very objection of the President, that the application of Kansas proceeds from “persons acting against authorities duly constituted by act of Congress,” was hurled against the application of Michigan, in debate on this floor, by Mr. Hendricks, of Indiana. This was his language:
“But the people of Michigan, in presenting their Senate and House of Representatives as the legislative power existing there, showed that they had trampled upon and violated the laws of the United States establishing a Territorial Government in Michigan. These laws were, or ought to be, in full force there; but, by the character and position assumed, they had set up a Government antagonist to that of the United States.”—(Congress. Deb., Vol. 12, p. 288, 24th Cong., 1st session.)
To this impeachment Mr. Benton replied in these effective words:
“Conventions were original acts of the people. They depended upon inherent and inalienable rights. The people of any State may at any time meet in Convention, without a law of their Legislature, and without any provision or against any provision in their constitution, and may alter or abolish the whole frame of Government, as they please. The sovereign power to govern themselves was in the majority, and they could not be divested of it.”—(Ibid., p. 1036.)
Mr. Buchanan vied with Mr. Benton in vindicating the new State:
“The precedent in the case of Tennessee has completely silenced all opposition in regard to the necessity of a previous act of Congress to enable the people of Michigan to form a State Constitution. It now seems to be conceded that our subsequent approbation is equivalent to our previous action. This can no longer be doubted. We have the unquestionable power of waiving any irregularities in the mode of framing the constitution, had any such existed.”—(Ibid., p. 1041.)
“He did hope that by this bill all objections would be removed; and that this State, so ready to rush into our arms, would not be repulsed, because of the absence of some formalities which perhaps were very proper, but certainly not indispensable.”—(Ibid., p. 1015.)
After an animated contest in the Senate, the Bill for the admission of Michigan, on her assent to certain conditions, was passed, by twenty-three yeas to eight nays. But you find weight, as well as numbers, on the side of the new State. Among the yeas were Thomas H. Benton, of Missouri, James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania, Silas Wright, of New York, W. R. King, of Alabama.—(Cong. Globe. Vol. 3d, p. 276, 1st session 24th Cong.) Subsequently, on motion of Mr. Buchanan, the two gentlemen sent as senators by the new State received the regular compensation for attendance throughout the very session in which their seats had been so acrimoniously assailed.—(Ibid., p. 448.)
In the House of Representatives the application was equally successful. The Committee on the Judiciary, in an elaborate report, reviewed the objections, and, among other things, said:
“That the people of Michigan have without due authority formed a State Government, but, nevertheless, that Congress has power to waive any objection which might, on that account, be entertained to the ratification of the constitution which they have adopted, and to admit their Senators and Representatives to take their seats in the Congress of the United States.”—(Exec. Doc., 1st sess. 24th Cong., Vol. 2, No. 380.)
The House sustained this view by a vote of one hundred and fifty-three yeas to forty-five nays. In this large majority, by which the title of Michigan was then recognized, will be found the name of Franklin Pierce, at that time a Representative from New Hampshire.
But the case was not ended. The fiercest trial and the greatest irregularity remained. The act providing for the admission of the new State contained a modification of its boundaries, and proceeded to require, as a fundamental condition, that these should “receive the assent of a Convention of delegates, elected by the people of the said State, for the sole purpose of giving the assent herein required.”—(Statutes at Large, Vol. 5, p. 50, Act of June 5th, 1836.) Such a Convention, duly elected under a call from the Legislature, met in pursuance of law, and, after consideration, declined to come into the Union on the condition proposed. But the action of this Convention was not universally satisfactory, and, in order to effect an admission into the Union, another Convention was called professedly by the people, in their sovereign capacity, without any authority from State or Territorial Legislature; nay, sir, according to the language of the present President, “against authorities duly constituted by Act of Congress;” at least, as much as the recent Convention in Kansas. The irregularity of this Convention was increased by the circumstance that two of the oldest counties of the State, comprising a population of some twenty-five thousand souls, refused to take any part in it, even to the extent of not opening the polls for the election of delegates, claiming that it was held without warrant of law, and in defiance of the legal Convention. This popular Convention, though wanting a popular support coextensive with the State, yet proceeded, by formal act, to give the assent of the people of Michigan to the fundamental condition proposed by Congress.
The proceedings of the two Conventions were transmitted to President Jackson, who, by message, dated 27th December, 1836, laid them both before Congress, indicating very clearly his desire to ascertain the will of the people, without regard to form. The origin of the popular Convention he thus describes:
“This Convention was not hold or elected by virtue of any act of the Territorial or State Legislature. It originated from the People themselves, and was chosen by them in pursuance of resolutions adopted in primary assemblies held in the respective counties.”—(Sen. Doc., 2d sess. 24th Cong., Vol. 1, No. 36.)
And he then declares that, had these proceedings come to him during the recess of Congress, he should have felt it his duty, on being satisfied that they emanated from a Convention of delegates elected in point of fact by the people of the State, to issue his proclamation for the admission of the State.
The Committee on the Judiciary in the Senate, of which Felix Grundy was Chairman, after inquiry, recognized the competency of the popular Convention, as “elected by the people of the State of Michigan,” and reported a Bill, responsive to their assent of the proposed condition, for the admission of the State without further condition. -—(Statutes at Large, Vol. 5, p. 144, Act of 26th Jan., 1837.) Then, sir, appeared the very objections which are now directed against Kansas. It was complained that the movement for immediate admission was the work of “a minority,” and that “a great majority of the State feel otherwise.”—(Sen. Doc., 2d Sess. 24th Cong., Vol. 1. No. 37.) And a leading senator, of great ability and integrity, Mr. Ewing, of Ohio, broke forth in a catechism which would do for the present hour. He exclaimed:
“What evidence had the Senate of the organization of the Convention? of the organization of the popular assemblies who appointed their delegates to that Convention? None on earth. Who they were that met and voted, we had no information. Who gave the notice? And for what did the people receive the notice? To meet and elect? What evidence was there that the Convention acted according to law? Were the delegates sworn? And if so, they were extra-judical oaths, and not binding upon them. Were the votes counted? In fact, it was not a proceeding under the forms of law, for they were totally disregarded.”—(Cong. Globe, Vol. 4, p. 60, 2d sess. 2th Cong.)
And the same able senator, on another occasion, after exposing the imperfect evidence with regard to the action of the Convention, existing only in letters, and in an article from a Detroit newspaper, again exclaimed:
“This, sir, is the evidence to support an organic law of a new State about to enter into the Union! Yes, of an organic law, the very highest act a community of men can perform. Letters referring to other letters, and a scrap of a newspaper.”—Cong. Debates, Vol. 13, Part I., p. 233.
It was Mr. Calhoun, however, who pressed the opposition with the most persevering intensity. In his sight, the admission of Michigan, under the circumstances, “would be the most monstrous proceeding under our constitution that can be conceived, the most repugnant to its principles, and dangerous in its consequences.”—(Cong. Debates, Vol. 13, p. 210.) “There is not,” he exclaimed, “one particle of official evidence before us. We have nothing but the private letters of individuals, who do not know even the numbers that voted on either occasion. They know nothing of the qualifications of voters, nor how their votes were received, nor by whom counted.”—(Ibid.) And he proceeded to characterize the popular Convention as “not only a party caucus, for party purpose, but a criminal meeting,—a meeting to subvert the authority of the State, and to assume its sovereignty;” adding “that the actors in that meeting might be indicted, tried, and punished;” and he expressed astonishment that “a self-created meeting, convened for a criminal object, had dared to present to this Government an act of theirs, and to expect that we are to receive this irregular and criminal act as a fulfilment of the condition which we had presented for the admission of the State!”—(Ibid., p. 299.) No stronger words have been employed against Kansas.
But the single question on which all the proceedings then hinged, and which is as pertinent in the case of Kansas as in the case of Michigan, was thus put by Mr. Morris, of Ohio (Ibid., p. 215): “Will Congress recognize as valid, constitutional, and obligatory, without the color of a law of Michigan to sustain it, an act done by the People of that State in their primary assemblies, and acknowledge that act as obligatory on the constituted authorities and Legislature of the State?” This question, thus distinctly presented, was answered in debate by able Senators, among whom were Mr. Benton and Mr. King. But there was one person, who has since enjoyed much public confidence, and has left many memorials of an industrious career in the Senate and in diplomatic life, James Buchanan, who rendered himself conspicuous by the ability and ardor with which, against all assaults, he upheld the cause of the popular Convention,—which was so strongly denounced,—and the entire conformity of its proceedings with the genius of American Institutions. His speeches on that occasion contain an unanswerable argument, at all points, mutato nomine, for the immediate admission of Kansas under her present constitution; nor is there anything by which he is now distinguished that will redound so truly to his fame, if he only continues true to them. But the question was emphatically answered in the Senate by the final vote on the passage of the Bill, where we find twenty-five yeas to only ten nays. In the House of Representatives, after debate, the question was answered in the same way, by a vote of one hundred and forty-eight yeas to fifty-eight nays; and among the yeas is again the name of Franklin Pierce, a Representative from New Hampshire.
Thus, in that day, by such triumphant votes, did the cause of Kansas prevail in the name of Michigan. A popular Convention, called absolutely without authority, and containing delegates from a portion only of her population,—called, too, in opposition to constituted authorities, and in derogation of another Convention assembled under the forms of law,—stigmatized as a caucus and a criminal meeting, whose authors were liable to indictment, trial, and punishment,—was, after ample debate, recognized by Congress as valid; and Michigan now holds her place in the Union, and her senators sit on this floor, by virtue of that act. Sir, if Michigan is legitimate, Kansas cannot be illegitimate. You bastardize Michigan when you refuse to recognize Kansas.
Again, I say, do you require a precedent? I give it to you. But I will not stake this cause on any precedent. I plant it firmly on the fundamental principle of American Institutions, as embodied in the Declaration of Independence, by which Government is recognized as deriving its just powers only from the consent of the governed, who may alter or abolish it when it becomes destructive of their rights. In the debate on the Nebraska Bill, at the overthrow of the Prohibition of Slavery, the Declaration of Independence was denounced as a “self-evident lie.” It is only by a similar audacity that the fundamental principle which sustains the proceedings in Kansas can be assailed. Nay, more: you must disown the Declaration of Independence, and adopt the Circular of the Holy Alliance, which declares that “useful and necessary changes in legislation and in the administration of States ought only to emanate from the free will and the intelligent and well-weighed conviction of those whom God has rendered responsible for power.” Face to face, I put the principle of the Declaration of Independence and the principle of the Holy Alliance, and bid them grapple! “The one places the remedy in the hands which feel the disorder; the other places the remedy in the hands which cause the disorder;” and when I thus truthfully characterize them, I but adopt a sententious phrase from the Debates in the Virginia Convention on the adoption of the Federal Constitution.—(3 Elliot’s Debates, 107: Mr. Corbin.) And now these two principles, embodied in the rival propositions of the senator from New York and the senator from Illinois, must grapple on this floor.
Statesmen and judges, publicists and authors, with names of authority in American history, espouse and vindicate the American principle. Hand in hand, they now stand around Kansas, and feel this new State lean on them for support. Of these I content myself with adducing two only, both from slaveholding Virginia, in days when Human Rights were not without support in that State. Listen to the language of St. George Tucker, the distinguished commentator upon Blackstone, uttered from the bench in a judicial opinion:
“The power of convening the legal Assemblies, or the ordinary constitutional Legislature, resided solely in the Executive. They could neither be chosen without writs issued by its authority, nor assemble, when chosen, but under the same authority. The Conventions, on the contrary, were chosen and assembled, either in pursuance of recommendations from Congress, or from their own bodies, or by the discretion and common consent of the people. They were held even whilst a legal Assembly existed. Witness the Convention held at Richmond in March. 1775, after which period the legal constitutional Assembly was convened in Williamsburg, by the Governor, Lord Dunmore. * * * Yet a constitutional dependence on the British Government was never denied until the succeeding May. * * The Convention, then, was not the ordinary Legislature of Virginia. It was the body of the people, impelled to assemble from a sense of common danger, consulting for the common good, and acting in all things for the common safety.”—1 Virginia Cases, 70, 71, Kamper vs. Hawkins.
Listen, also, to the language of James Madison:
“That in all great changes of established government, forms ought to give way to substance; that a rigid adherence in such cases to the forms would render nominal and nugatory the transcendent and precious right of the people ‘to abolish or alter their Government, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.’ * * Nor can it have been forgotten that no little, ill-timed scruples, no zeal for adhering to ordinary forms, were anywhere seen, except in those who wished to indulge, under these masks, their secret enmity to the substance contended for.”—The Federalist, No. 40.
Proceedings thus sustained I am unwilling to call revolutionary, although this term has the sanction of the senator from New York. They are founded on an unquestionable American right, declared with Independence, confirmed by the blood of the fathers, and expounded by patriots, which cannot be impeached without impairing the liberties of all. On this head the language of Mr. Buchanan, in reply to Mr. Calhoun, is explicit:
“Does the senator [Mr. Calhoun] contend, then, that if, in one of the States of this Union, the Government be so organized as to utterly destroy the right of equal representation, there is no mode of obtaining redress but by an act of the Legislature authorizing a Convention, or by open rebellion 7 Must the people step at once from oppression to open war? Must it be either absolute submission, or absolute revolution? Is there no middle course? I cannot agree with the senator. I say that the whole history of our Government establishes the principle that the people are sovereign, and that a majority of them can alter or change their fundamental laws at pleasure. I deny that this is either rebellion or revolution. It is an essential and a recognized principle in all our forms of government.”—Congress. Deb., Vol. 13, p. 313, 24th Cong., 2d session.
Surely, sir, if ever there was occasion for the exercise of this right, the time had come in Kansas. The people there had been subjugated by a horde of foreign invaders, and brought under a tyrannical code of revolting barbarity, while property and life among them were left exposed to audacious assaults which flaunted at noonday, and to reptile abuses which crawled in the darkness of night. Self-defence is the first law of nature; and unless this law is temporarily silenced,—as all other law has been silenced there,—you cannot condemn the proceedings in Kansas. Here, sir, is an unquestionable authority, in itself an overwhelming law, which belongs to all countries and times; which is the same in Kansas as at Athens and Rome; which is now, and will be hereafter, as it was in other days; in presence of which Acts of Congress and Constitutions are powerless as the voice of man against the thunder which rolls through the sky; which whispers itself coeval with life; whose very breath is life itself; and now, in the last resort, do I place all these proceedings under this supreme safeguard, which you will assail in vain. Any opposition must be founded on a fundamental perversion of facts, or a perversion of fundamental principles, which no speeches can uphold, though surpassing in numbers the nine hundred thousand piles driven into the mud in order to sustain the Dutch Stadt-house at Amsterdam!
Thus, on every ground of precedent, whether as regards population or forms of proceeding; also, on the vital principle of American Institutions; and, lastly, on the absolute law of self-defence, do I now invoke the power of Congress to admit Kansas at once and without hesitation into the Union. “New States may be admitted by the Congress into the Union;” such are the words of the Constitution. If you hesitate for want of precedent, then do I appeal to the great principle of American Institutions. If, forgetting the origin of the Republic, you turn away from this principle, then, in the name of human nature, trampled down and oppressed, but aroused to a just self-defence, do I plead for the exercise of this power. Do not hearken, I pray you, to the propositions of Tyranny and Folly; do not be ensnared by that other proposition of the senator from Illinois [Mr. Douglas], in which is the horrid root of Injustice and Civil War. But apply gladly, and at once, the True Remedy, wherein are Justice and Peace.
Mr. President, an immense space has been traversed, and I now stand at the goal. The argument in its various parts is here closed. The Crime against Kansas has been displayed in its origin and extent, beginning with the overthrow of the Prohibition of Slavery; next cropping out in conspiracy on the borders of Missouri; then hardening into a continuity of outrage, through organized invasions and miscellaneous assaults, in which all security was destroyed, and ending at last in the perfect subjugation of a generous people to an unprecedented Usurpation. Turning aghast from the Crime, which, like murder, seemed to confess itself “with most miraculous organ,” we have looked with mingled shame and indignation upon the four Apologies, whether of Tyranny, Imbecility, Absurdity, or Infamy, in which it has been wrapped, marking especially the false testimony, congenial with the original Crime, against the Emigrant Aid Company. Then were noted, in succession, the four Remedies, whether of Tyranny, Folly, Injustice and Civil War, or Justice and Peace; which last bids Kansas, in conformity with past precedents and under the exigencies of the hour, in order to redeem her from Usurpation, to take a place as a sovereign State of the Union; and this is the True Remedy. If in this argument I have not unworthily vindicated Truth, then have I spoken according to my desires; if imperfectly, then only according to my powers. But there are other things, not belonging to the argument, which still press for utterance.
Sir, the people of Kansas, bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh, with the education of freemen and the rights of American citizens, now stand at your door. Will you send them away, or bid them enter? Will you push them back to renew their struggles with a deadly foe, or will you preserve them in security and peace? Will you cast them again into the den of Tyranny, or will you help their despairing efforts to escape? These questions I put with no common solicitude; for I feel that on their just determination depend all the most precious interests of the Republic; and I perceive too clearly the prejudices in the way, and the accumulating bitterness against this distant people, now claiming their simple birthright, while I am bowed with mortification, as I recognize the President of the United States, who should have been a staff to the weak and a shield to the innocent, at the head of this strange oppression.
At every stage, the similitude between the wrongs of Kansas and those other wrongs against which our Fathers rose becomes more apparent. Read the Declaration of Independence, and there is hardly an accusation which is there directed against the British Monarch, which may not now be directed with increased force against the American President. The parallel has a fearful particularity. Our Fathers complained that the king had “sent hither swarms of officers, to harass our people and eat out their substance;” that he “had combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation;” that “he had abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection, and waging war against us;” that “he had excited domestic insurrection among us, and endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontier the merciless savages;” that “our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.” And this arraignment was aptly followed by the damning words, that “a Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” And surely, a President who has done all these things cannot be less unfit than a Prince. At every stage, the responsibility is brought directly to him. His offence has been both of commission and omission. He has done that which he ought not to have done, and he has left undone that which he ought to have done. By his activity, the Prohibition of Slavery was overturned. By his failure to act, the honest emigrants in Kansas have been left a prey to wrong of all kinds. Nullum flagitium extitit, nisi per te; nullum flagitium sine te. And now he stands forth the most conspicuous enemy of that unhappy Territory.
As the tyranny of the British King is all renewed in the President, so on this floor have the old indignities been renewed which embittered and fomented the troubles of our Fathers. The early petition of the American Congress to Parliament, long before any suggestion of Independence, was opposed—like the petitions of Kansas—because that body “was assembled without any requisition on the part of the Supreme Power.” Another petition from New York, presented by Edmund Burke, was flatly rejected, as claiming rights derogatory to Parliament. And still another petition from Massachusetts Bay was dismissed as “vexatious and scandalous,” while the patriot philosopher who bore it was exposed to peculiar contumely. Throughout the debates, our Fathers were made the butt of sorry jests and supercilious assumptions. And now these scenes, with these precise objections, have been renewed in the American Senate.
With regret, I come again upon the senator from South Carolina [Mr. Butler], who, omnipresent in this debate, overflowed with rage at the simple suggestion that Kansas had applied for admission as a State; and, with incoherent phrases, discharged the loose expectoration of his speech, now upon her representative, and then upon her people. There was no extravagance of the ancient Parliamentary debate which he did not repeat; nor was there any possible deviation from truth which he did not make, with so much of passion, I am glad to add, as to save him from the suspicion of intentional aberration. But the senator touches nothing that he does not disfigure—with error, sometimes of principle, sometimes of fact. He shows an incapacity of accuracy, whether in stating the constitution or in stating the law, whether in the details of statistics or the diversions of scholarship. He cannot ope his mouth, but out there flies a blunder. Surely he ought to be familiar with the life of Franklin; and yet he referred to this household character, while acting as agent of our Fathers in England, as above suspicion; and this was done that he might give point to a false contrast with the agent of Kansas, not knowing that, however they may differ in genius and fame, in this experience they are alike: that Franklin, when intrusted with the petition of Massachusetts Bay, was assaulted by a foul-mouthed speaker, where he could not be heard in defence, and denounced as a “thief,” even as the agent of Kansas has been assaulted on this floor, and denounced as a “forger.” And let not the vanity of the senator be inspired by the parallel with the British statesman of that day; for it is only in hostility to Freedom that any parallel can be recognized.
But it is against the people of Kansas that the sensibilities of the senator are particularly aroused. Coming, as he announces, “from a State,”—ay, sir, from South Carolina,—he turns with lordly disgust from this newly-formed community, which he will not recognize even as “a body politic.” Pray, sir, by what title does he indulge in this egotism? Has he read the history of “the State” which he represents? He cannot surely have forgotten its shameful imbecility from Slavery, confessed throughout the Revolution, followed by its more shameful assumptions for Slavery since. He cannot have forgotten its wretched persistence in the slave-trade as the very apple of its eye, and the condition of its participation in the Union. He cannot have forgotten its constitution, which is republican only in name, confirming power in the hands of the few, and founding the qualifications of its legislators on “a settled freehold estate, or ten negroes.” And yet the senator, to whom that “State” has in part committed the guardianship of its good name, instead of moving with backward-treading steps, to cover its nakedness, rushes forward, in the very ecstasy of madness, to expose it, by provoking a comparison with Kansas. South Carolina is old; Kansas is young. South Carolina counts by centuries, where Kansas counts by years. But a beneficent example may be born in a day; and I venture to say, that against the two centuries of the older “State” may be already set the two years of trial, evolving corresponding virtue, in the younger community. In the one, is the long wail of Slavery; in the other, the hymns of Freedom. And if we glance at special achievements, it will be difficult to find anything in the history of South Carolina which presents so much of heroic spirit in an heroic cause as appears in that repulse of the Missouri invaders by the beleaguered town of Lawrence, where even the women gave their effective efforts to Freedom. The matrons of Rome, who poured their jewels into the treasury for the public defence; the wives of Prussia, who, with delicate fingers, clothed their defenders against French invasion; the mothers of our own Revolution, who sent forth their sons, covered over with prayers and blessings, to combat for human rights, did nothing of self-sacrifice truer than did these women on this occasion. Were the whole history of South Carolina blotted out of existence, from its very beginning down to the day of the last election of the senator to his present seat on this floor, civilization might lose—I do not say how little; but surely less than it has already gained by the example of Kansas, in its valiant struggle against oppression, and in the development of a new science of emigration. Already in Lawrence alone there are newspapers and schools, including a High School, and throughout this infant Territory there is more of mature scholarship, in proportion to its inhabitants, than in all South Carolina. Ah, sir, I tell the senator that Kansas, welcomed as a free State, will be a “ministering angel” to the Republic, when South Carolina, in the cloak of darkness which she hugs, “lies howling.”
The senator from Illinois [Mr. Douglas] naturally joins the senator from South Carolina in this warfare, and gives to it the superior intensity of his nature. He thinks that the National Government has not completely proved its power, as it has never hanged a traitor; but, if the occasion requires, he hopes there will be no hesitation; and this threat is directed at Kansas, and even at the friends of Kansas throughout the country. Again occurs the parallel with the struggles of our Fathers; and I borrow the language of Patrick Henry, when, to the cry from the senator of “treason,” “treason,” I reply, “If this be treason, make the most of it.” Sir, it is easy to call names; but I beg to tell the senator that if the word “traitor” is in any way applicable to those who refuse submission to a tyrannical Usurpation, whether in Kansas or elsewhere, then must some new word, of deeper color, be invented, to designate those mad spirits who would endanger and degrade the Republic, while they betray all the cherished sentiments of the Fathers, and the spirit of the constitution, in order to give new spread to Slavery. Let the senator proceed. It will not be the first time in history that a scaffold erected for punishment has become a pedestal of honor. Out of death comes life; and the “traitor,” whom he blindly executes, will live immortal in the cause.
“For Humanity sweeps onward; where to-day the martyr stands,
On the morrow crouches Judas, with the silver in his hands;
While the hooting mob of yesterday in silent awe return,
To glean up the scattered ashes into History’s golden urn.”
Among these hostile senators, there is yet another, with all the prejudices of the senator from South Carolina, but without his generous impulses, who, on account of his character before the country, and the rancor of his opposition, deserves to be named. I mean the senator from Virginia [mr. Mason], who, as the author of the Fugitive Slave Bill, has associated himself with a special act of inhumanity and tyranny. Of him I shall say little, for he has said little in this debate, though within that little was compressed the bitterness of a life absorbed in the support of Slavery. He holds the commission of Virginia; but he does not represent that early Virginia, so dear to our hearts, which gave to us the pen of Jefferson, by which the equality of men was declared, and the sword of Washington, by which Independence was secured; but he represents that other Virginia, from which Washington and Jefferson now avert their faces, where human beings are bred as cattle for the shambles, and where a dungeon rewards the pious matron who teaches little children to relieve their bondage by reading the Book of Life. It is proper that such a senator, representing such a State, should rail against Free Kansas.
But this is not all. The precedent is still more clinching. Thus far I have followed exclusively the public documents laid before Congress, and illustrated by the debates of that body; but well-authenticated facts, not of record here, make the case stronger still. It is sometimes said that the proceedings in Kansas are defective, because they originated in a party. This is not true; but, even if it were true, then would they still find support in the example of Michigan, where all the proceedings, stretching through successive years, began and ended in party. The proposed State Government was pressed by the Democrats as a party test; and all who did not embark in it were denounced. Of the Legislative Council, which called the first Constitutional Convention in 1835, all were Democrats; and in the Convention itself, composed of eighty-seven members, only seven were Whigs. The Convention of 1836, which gave the final assent, originated in a Democratic Convention on the 29th October, in the County of Wayne, composed of one hundred and twenty-four delegates, all Democrats, who proceeded to resolve—
“That the delegates of the Democratic party of Wayne, solemnly impressed with the spreading evils and dangers which a refusal to go into the Union has brought upon the people of Michigan, earnestly recommend meetings to be immediately convened by their fellow-citizens in every County of the State, with a view to the expression of their sentiments in favor of the election and call of another Convention, in time to secure our admission into the Union before the first of January next.”
Shortly afterwards, a committee of five, appointed by this Convention, all leading Democrats, issued a circular, “under the authority of the delegates of the County of Wayne,” recommending that the voters throughout Michigan should meet and elect delegates to a Convention to give the necessary assent to the act of Congress. In pursuance of this call, the Convention met; and, as it originated in an exclusively party recommendation, so it was of an exclusively party character. And it was the action of this Convention that was submitted to Congress, and, after discussion in both bodies, on solemn votes, approved.
But the precedent of Michigan has another feature, which is entitled to the gravest attention, especially at this moment, when citizens engaged in the effort to establish a State Government in Kansas are openly arrested on the charge of treason, and we are startled by tidings of the maddest efforts to press this procedure of preposterous Tyranny. No such madness prevailed under Andrew Jackson- although, during the long pendency of the Michigan proceedings, for more than fourteen months, the Territorial Government was entirely ousted, and the State Government organized in all its departments. One hundred and thirty different legislative acts were passed, providing for elections, imposing taxes, erecting corporations, and establishing courts of justice, including a Supreme Court and a Court of Chancery. All process was issued in the name of the people of the State of Michigan. And yet no attempt was made to question the legal validity of these proceedings, whether legislative or judicial. Least of all did any menial Governor, dressed in a little brief authority, play the fantastic tricks which we now witness in Kansas; nor did any person, wearing the robes of justice, shock high Heaven with the mockery of injustice now enacted by emissaries of the President in that Territory. No, sir; nothing of this kind then occurred. Andrew Jackson was President.
Senators such as these are the natural enemies of Kansas; and I introduce them with reluctance, simply that the country may understand the character of the hostility which must be overcome. Arrayed with them, of course, are all who unite, under any pretext or apology, in the propagandism of Human Slavery. To such, indeed, the time-honored safeguards of popular rights can be a name only, and nothing more. What are trial by jury, habeas corpus, the ballot-box, the right of petition, the liberty of Kansas, your liberty, sir, or mine, to one who lends himself not merely to the support at home, but to the propagandism abroad, of that preposterous wrong, which denies even the right of a man to himself? Such a cause can be maintained only by a practical subversion of all rights. It is, therefore, merely according to reason that its partisans should uphold the Usurpation in Kansas.
To overthrow this Usurpation is now the special, importunate duty of Congress, admitting of no hesitation or postponement. To this end, it must lift itself from the cabals of candidates, the machinations of party, and the low level of vulgar strife. It must turn from that Slave Oligarchy which now controls the Republic, and refuse to be its tool. Let its power be stretched forth towards this distant Territory, not to bind, but to unbind; not for the oppression of the weak, but for the subversion of the tyrannical; not for the prop and maintenance of a revolting Usurpation, but for the confirmation of Liberty.
“These are imperial arts, and worthy thee!”
Let it now take its stand between the living and dead, and cause this plague to be stayed. All this it can do; and if the interests of Slavery did not oppose, all this it would do at once, in reverent regard for justice, law, and order, driving far away all the alarms of war; nor would it dare to brave the shame and punishment of this Great Refusal. But the Slave Power dares anything; and it can be conquered only by the united masses of the People. From Congress to the People, I appeal.
Already Public Opinion gathers unwonted forces to scourge the aggressors. In the press, in daily conversation, wherever two or three are gathered together, there the indignant utterance finds vent. And trade, by unerring indications, attests the growing energy. Public credit in Missouri droops. The six per cents of that State, which at par should be one hundred and two, have sunk to eighty-four and one fourth—thus at once completing the evidence of Crime, and attesting its punishment. Business is now turning from the Assassins and Thugs, that infest the Missouri River on the way to Kansas, to seek some safer avenue. And this, though not unimportant in itself, is typical of greater changes. The political credit of the men who uphold the Usurpation droops even more than the stocks; and the People are turning from all those through whom the Assassins and Thugs have derived their disgraceful immunity.
It was said of old, “Cursed be he that removeth his neighbor’s Landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen.”—(Deut. 27: 17.) Cursed, it is said, in the city, and in the field; cursed in basket and store; cursed when thou comest in, and cursed when thou goest out. These are terrible imprecations; but, if ever any Landmark were sacred, it was that by which an immense territory was guarded forever against Slavery; and if ever such imprecations could justly descend upon any one, they must descend now upon all who, not content with the removal of this sacred Landmark, have since, with criminal complicity, fostered the incursions of the great Wrong against which it was intended to guard. But I utter no imprecations. These are not my words; nor is it my part to add to or subtract from them. But, thanks be to God! they find a response in the hearts of an aroused People, making them turn from every man, whether President, or Senator, or Representative, who has been engaged in this Crime,—especially from those who, cradled in free institutions, are without the apology of education or social prejudice,—until of all such those other words of the prophet shall be fulfilled—“I will set my face against that man, and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people.”—(Ezekiel 14: 8.) Turning thus from the authors of this Crime, the People will unite once more with the Fathers of the Republic, in a just condemnation of Slavery,—determined especially that it shall find no home in the National Territories,—while the Slave Power, in which the Crime had its beginning, and by which it is now sustained, will be swept into the charnel-house of defunct Tyrannies.
In this contest, Kansas bravely stands forth—the stripling leader, clad in the panoply of American institutions. In calmly meeting and adopting a frame of Government, her people have with intuitive promptitude performed the duties of Freemen; and when I consider the difficulties by which she was beset, I find dignity in her attitude. In offering herself for admission into the Union as a FREE STATE, she presents a single issue for the People to decide. And since the Slave Power now stakes on this issue all its ill-gotten supremacy, the People, while vindicating Kansas, will at the same time overthrow this Tyranny. Thus does the contest which she now begins involve not only Liberty for herself, but for the whole country. God be praised, that she did not bend ignobly beneath the yoke! Far away on the prairies, she is now battling for the Liberty of all, against the President, who misrepresents all. Everywhere among those who are not insensible to Right the generous struggle meets a generous response. From innumerable throbbing hearts go forth the very words of encouragement which, in the sorrowful days of our Fathers, were sent by Virginia, speaking by the pen of Richard Henry Lee, to Massachusetts, in the person of her popular tribune, Samuel Adams:
“Chantilly (Va.), June 23d, 1774.
“I hope the good people of Boston will not lose their spirits under their present heavy oppression, for they will certainly be supported by the other Colonies; and the cause for which they suffer is so glorious, and so deeply interesting to the present and future generations, that all America will owe, in a great measure, their political salvation to the present virtue of Massachusetts Bay.”—American Archives, 4th series, vol.1, p. 446.
In all this sympathy there is strength. But in the cause itself there is angelic power. Unseen of men, the great spirits of History combat by the side of the people of Kansas, breathing a divine courage. Above all towers the majestic form of Washington, once more, as on the bloody field, bidding them to remember those rights of Human Nature for which the War of Independence was waged. Such a cause, thus sustained, is invincible.
The contest, which, beginning in Kansas, has reached us, will soon be transferred to a broader stage, where every citizen will be not only spectator, but actor; and to their judgment I confidently appeal. To the People, now on the eve of exercising the electoral franchise, in choosing a Chief Magistrate of the Republic, I appeal, to vindicate the electoral franchise in Kansas. Let the ballot-box of the Union, with multitudinous might, protect the ballot-box in that Territory. Let the voters everywhere, while rejoicing in their own rights, help to guard the equal rights of distant fellow-citizens; that the shrines of popular institutions, now desecrated, may be sanctified anew; that the ballot-box, now plundered, may be restored; and that the cry, “I am an American citizen,” may not be sent forth in vain against outrage of every kind. In just regard for free labor in that Territory, which it is sought to blast by unwelcome association with slave labor; in Christian sympathy with the slave, whom it is proposed to task and to sell there; in stern condemnation of the Crime which has been consummated on that beautiful soil; in rescue of fellow-citizens, now subjugated to a tyrannical Usurpation; in dutiful respect for the early Fathers, whose aspirations are now ignobly thwarted; in the name of the Constitution, which has been outraged—of the Laws trampled down—of Justice banished—of Humanity degraded—of Peace destroyed—of Freedom crushed to earth; and in the name of the Heavenly Father, whose service is perfect Freedom, I make this last appeal.