Skip to comments.A Word to Southern Democrats. [The American Whig review. / Volume 10, Issue 20, Aug 1849]
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A WORD TO SOUThERN DEMOCRATS.
BY A NORTHERN CONSERVATIVE.
GENTLEMEN OF TIlE SOUTH
The question which affects your present comfort, and your prosperity in future, more nearly than any other, has become, in a manner and with a suddenness wholly unexpected, the leading and organizing question, or test question, in the Northern section of the opposition. The movements of the leaders of the Northern and Western divisions of that party have been such as will give at last an unequivocal and decided majority of votes against the principles and the measures of Mr. Cal- houn and his friends. The nature of the question at issue forbids the indulgence of a hope, in their minds, that the advocates of the extension and permanent establish- ment of slavery will ever rule as they have sometimes ruled, in the councils of the nation. Between them and radical democracy, the union was always a forced and unnatural union. They came together on a ground of mutual service, and a divi- sion of power and profit, and never upon a ground of principle. Their union is dis- solved, and henceforth we must expect a new order of things. On that order de- pends your safety and your dignity in the coming times of the republic. It invites your wise and calm consideration. Your action in view of it decides your fate; it makes or mars you.
It is impossihle to deny the fact that abolitionism in the North has leagued itself with radicalism for the destruction of your institutions. By the party ro com- posed, of such fiery elements, unmitigated by humanity or by any consideration of re- served rights, taking their passions from fanatics., and their doctrines from theorists, a career of destruction begun will not be checked by any considerations of prudence, or of the good of the whole, or the sacred- ness of an established Constitution. They will go on, if they are permitted, from step to step, until they have wrested from you your dignity, your power, and your sovereignty.
Perhaps, estimating the future by the past, you will rely upon the continuance of those causes which bound the Southern and the Northern democracy together. But that were a grievous oversight ; the causes no longer exist. The friendships are dissolved ; the league of interest, maintained only by a common possession of power, is broken by the loss of that power. Northern radicalism allied itself with the Southern slave power only while it felt the need of that power.
Let us examine the real grounds of that alliance.
The anti-tariff opposition in the South arose from two causes: the reluctance of Southern proprietors to pay taxes for the maintenance of manufactures in New England, and their attendant jealousy of the fast increasing wealth and democratic equality of the Northern people. These were, and still continue to be, the grand reasons of the southern opposition to Mr. Clays American system. I do not mean at present to enter upon any discussion of the justice of those grounds; enough that they existed, and still continue to exist, as a political element, and of value sufficient for the organization of a powerful party.
The grounds of the Southern opposition to banks and to the system of internal improvements, were founded in a similar jealousy and reluctance. The reluctance and the jealousy came first, the invention of arguments to sustain them followed s a matter of course, and of neees~ity ; under a constitutional government the opposition will always invent or discover constitutional arcruments
The Northern democracy, on the other hand, with far different feelings, and with a truly democratic jealousy, arrayed them- selves on the same side. In the South it was the body of the rich and powerful, the landed aristocracy; in the North it was jealous poverty, and the levelling, equal- izing spirit which made the strength of the opposing body. The elements of that body were simple. On the one side a mass of ignorance and struggling penury, the old fast-failing agricultural interest of the North, crushed by Western competi- tion, and jealous of the rising prosperity and power of the myriads of manufacturers, springing up in villages, and by water- courses among their starved and weedy farms. Ascribing their own miseries to the happiness of those around them, in- stead of finding its cause in the competition of the great West, they took refuge in the- ory, and reasoned in the same vein, though in a more humble fashion, with the rich slaveholder; contending that it was an injustice to tax their poverty for the main- tenance of a system which made other men rich, and never considering how much greater an injustice it would be to have kept an entire nation poor and dependent, and to have cut off the hope of posterity, by denying industry and enterprise their law- ful protection.
On the other side stood the importers, with their arguments for free trade, and the rich farmers of the West, ~x ho di eamed of a foreign market, and saw no reason why they should pay highly for cloths and cutlery, to keep up the wealth and indus- try of the Eastern towns. If New England and Pennsylvania could not live by farm- ing, why, God help them! lucy would not. Thus, in the natural order of mens thoughts, they adopted a theory of free trade, and by a word of four letters, the little word free, carried half the country with them. England, who by free trade would destroy or suppress the commerce, the agriculture, and the inventive industry of all the world, had the ear of the nation, and through her magazines and newspa- pers, put a weapon of theory in the hands of every opposer.
In the South it was capital and aristo- cracy that naturally opposed the American system ; in the North it was poverty and numbers. And thus by a forced combina- tion, political extremes met, and Tammany Hall shook hands with the Charleston aristocrats.
The poorer population of the South, unable to engage in commerce for want of capital, and prevented by a just and natural pride from mingling their labor with that of slaves in agriculture, remained without employment. The enlightened and intelligent Whig statesmen of Georgia contended long with the prejudices of their fellow-citizens, for the establishment of manufactures, to give employment to these unfortunate people. They, indeed, were not sufficiently enlightened to know their own interests. They knew nothing, and could predict nothing. The powerful sympathy which binds together common employments and common interests, was not yet awakened in them to promote a feeling of community and brotherhood with the Northern operatives. They were a silent and an inefficient population, with- out power, and without hope, living almost a barbarous life. Like the broken farmers of New England, they needed, but had not the energy or the knowledge to provide, a new employment for themselves or their children. The cheap products of the West had impoverished the farmers of Connect- icut and Massachusetts; the monopoly of farm labor by negroes had reduced the sand-billers and poor countrymen of the South to a still more hopeless destitution. For the salvation of both, manufactures were established. In the South, indeed, they have but just begun, but the benefit of the new order of things is so sensibly felt in, Georgia, and elsewherea great part of the manufactured cottons of that State being already supplied by the labor of her own citizensit is certain that a strong Whig interest, a new political ele- ment, must soon be created there, as in New England, by the mere increase of the free working population, and the accumu- lation of wealth by artisans and those who employ them. That these classes will increase with great rapidity there can be no doubt. Villages composed entirely of operatives and their employers have al- ready sprung up in Georgia and South Carolina. The prejudices among the poorer whites against this kind of labor are fast vanishing. It is not impossible that these States will by and by produce a larger quantity of cotton fabrics and at a lower cost th~n are now made in Massa- chusetts. By the Oregon railroad, now in contemplation, connected by branch roads, from Mobile to the foot of Lake Michigan, they will send cottons to Asia at a less cost than from Massachusetts. No man can deny the speedy possibility of such an event, and the consequent creation in the Southern States of a counter- balancing population, opposed in prejudice and interest to the present political domi- nation of the South.
With these facts, as with the disposition of parties in general, every Southerner is of course familiar. It is not so much to the facts themselves that I wish to call your attention, as to the manner in which they affect a disinterested observer. Is it to be doubted that this growing free population, and the powerful moneyed in- terest which sustains it, will be opposed in spirit to the institutions of slavery? Is it to be doubted that the vast body of Southern intellect and philanthropy de- sires an amelioration of those institutions ? Does any Southerner, at all versed in the science of political economy, or who has seen with his own eyes the wealth of New Engla ad, the happiness and comfort of her people, doubt for a moment the desirable- ness of establishing a new order of things, a new and more creditable means of em- ploying labor and capital. A free popu- lation not only produce, but they consume three times the amount, man for man, that is produced and consumed by a slave population. By creating a free popula- tion of white laborers in the South, a inst addition is made to the wealth of the South. Corn and cotton grow side by side in Georgia. You have but to build a mill, and invite a few miserable, half- starved sand-hillers to work in it, and you have provided a home-market for your corn and your cotton, and soon you have in addition the profits of a boundless foreign market for cloth, which is a pro- duct of corn and cotton, of laborers food and laborers material. This, surely, is better than sending corn and cotton to England, and paying English manufac- turers for having it there converted into cloth!
Let us, then, regarding only the inevi- table tendency of things, and relying upon right reason, dismiss, if possible, those hot and crooked prejudices, those personal piques and State jealousies which have so long obscured our vision and biassed our judgment. Abolitionism in the North. has leagued itself with radical democracy. That is the great fact of the age. Radical democ- racy is probably stronger in consequence. It needed to have a new life infused into it. At a recent meeting of abolitionists in Massachusetts, the American flag was intentionally excluded from the hustings. Abolitionists denounce and defy the Union and the Constitution, because they defend your sovereignty, and keep off the med- dling fingers of national reformers from your institutions. And you, too, are de- mocrats! Faith! your devotion to de- mocracy is great. We commend your political insight.
Let the desperate and dying organs of the old party tell you what they may, it is radical democracy which means to crush you, and will do it, too, if you con- tinue to support that faction.
Mr. Van Buren, the head and heart of the old faction, was the head also of the political anti-slavery movement. Since the last election, Mr. Van Bu- rca has not changed his ground. The entire Ndrth, Whigs and democrats, are opposed to slavery extension; the Whigs have uniformly opposed it, and will continue to do so. It is certain, that the majority of Whigs in the North and West, as well as the majority of democrats, desire the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. I believe the South would reap a great benefit from that measure, and that her true policy will be to take the matter into her own hands, and be the first to propose the abolition.
The North and West are opposed, en masse, to the er/en ion of slavery. The weight of American opinion, five to one, is against it. It is not a question of Whig or democrat, it is a grand national policy; a necessity of the times. It is idle to con- tend against it.
Observe the tenden;y of all popular measures of reform, especially when they have a religious and a moral sanction. That tendency is toward extremes, toward violent and arbitrary measures. Moral fanaticism, on a democratic basis, cannot stop short of a total destruction of all in- stitutions that have grown out of the past. Professing to confer liberty, it sub- dues the very souls of men. The liberties of States are quite too abstract a fiction of law to be discerned by its gross and muddy vision. Esteeming constitutions to be things easily constructed, it has no hesitation in destroying them. Its leaders identify the State with their own persons, and they therefore willingly renounce the acts and the debts of their predecessors. Dehts which they did not contract, they do not feel bound to pay. Are not we the government, (they say, inw~ rdly,) what then have we to do with our prede- cessors, or their deeds?
Greatly would any man err at this day, who should assume that the democratic tendencies of modern society are to lead only to good. That that vigilance of which Jefferson speaks when he declares that it is the price of liberty, is a vigilant suppression of every generous and proud sentiment, of every effort of the individual to shake off the domination of the mass.
I believe you will not contradict me whcn I say that republicanism is the effort of the individual to free himself, in his own per- sonality and independently of all others, from the oppressions of party, the fear of society, and the terror of one or of a num- ber. The entire system of our govern- ment is clearly founded in a declaration of individual liberty, a declaration which those only can read intelligently to whom Heaven has granted a real independence. A republican soldier, while he fights in rank, fights in his own behalfhe fights not for king or council. Hence the mili- tary prowess and invincible valor of re- publics. Societies constructed upon this principle are properly self-governed, and their governments are called agency governments. The laws which they im- pose are made by the wisdom, not by the will, of their legislative bodies, under the mighty guardianship and enforcement of a constitution which annihilates individual domination, and for oligarchy and auto- cracy substitutes the acknowledged rights and necessities of the people. This is conservative Whig doctrine, as I under- stand it.
But perhaps you will say that all this is irrelevantthat the doctrine is universally acknowledged, and that to dwell upon it as a party argument were a waste of time and of logic. I will endeavor to show you the contrary.
A Constitution is a body of laws estab- lished by the entire mass of the people it is the result of the entire moral power and wisdom of the nation. Whatever gov erning or deliberative power may exist in the body of the population, is brought to bear for the establishment, during several ages, of a constitutional government. The pride and enthusiasm of the softer sex has a powerful share in it. Mothers teach their children to revere and love the work of their fathers. A veneration for it is blended with the sentiments of piety, and the equally powerful passions of patriot- ism. It receives the homage due to holy writ, and has a veritable power of sancti- ty. The people think of it as of a heavenly decree. It is a work of ancient wisdom, and established by the continued felicity of the Republic, under its beneficent sway, through a series of generations. If we wish to know what it has done for us, we have only to compare our condition with that of other nations, devoid of constitu- tions ; which, indeed, bave no efficacy, I might have said no existence, until they are written in the hearts of the people. Constitutions are not established when they are first enacted their establishment is a work of time. Three generations of men should perhaps have passed away since their enactment, before they can command our undoubting admiration.
The venerable work of our fathers guar- ranties to you the management of your own governments; it guaranties to every State the management of its own affairs; it attributes a limited sovereignty to every citizen, and a limited sovereignty to every constituted State; and if the first aim of its founders was the establishment of the one, their second but not less important was the establishment of the other. Free men and free sovereigatiesthe individ- ual shall be absolute master in his ac- knowledged private nd political sphere; the State shall be absolute master in hers, with this sole reservation that she shall not wrest his freedom from the citizen for it is never to be forgotten that the con- stitution guaranties to every State, against all the world, a republican form of govern- ment. This guaranty establishes forever the liberty of the citizen against faction and oppression in his own State, and en- titles him while he lives to the protection of the Union; he cannot be withdrawn from this protection.
From these profound principles arises the stable edifice of the Union. It is to this equal recognition of State rights and private rights, that we owe the security of propertythe peace and prosperous indus- try of the nation. Reforms go on quietly and effectively they are not forced upon us, but grow out of our necessities and our advances in knowledge and refinement. Each measure of reform is proposed and carried out by its proper agents. There is no meddling or trespassing.
And now look at the other side. What is a radical democrat ? His creed is sum- med up in a sentence; he is the enemy of everything that is firm, established, and just. If the question is of property, in- stead of giving each man his own, he divides and distributes in equal shares; never stopping to inquire whether the pow- er has been granted him by God or the laws to make such a division. Assuming that the individual has no rights, but that everything belongs to the multitude, he aims perpetually to defeat the ends of na- ture, which has given different tastes and capacities to men; the god he worships is a god of numbers and combinations; a god from whose image the republican idea of freedom and individual grandeur of character is wholly excluded. The attri- tion of common life, the intercourse of so- ciety, and the struggles for subsistence, instead of sharpening and elevating his moral sense, induce only a deadness of heart, and a jealousy of the happiness of others, which ripens into theories of re- form, which maligus the wealthy, which checks enterprise, which subdues the fine free pride of the republican, whose house is his castle, and substitutes for that manly spirit a sickly desire for the support of numbers; as weak saplings stand to- gether in a crowd, and agree among them- selves to thrust out no side branches, but each to take up only just such a space of ground and so much of the light of he yen as may please their neighbors. But whence would come the knee timber and vast frame-work of our noble State, if all her citizens stand thus weakly and equally together, no one with force or root enough to stand alone ? Weak, servile, and jeal- ous, they run in crowds, and obey the finger of a leader. In office they are slaves and idlers; out of office they run to it with halters about their necks. It is hu- man nature that gives the tone and spiiit of a party. The friends and followers of Gen. Jackson attacked everything, every man, that stood out against his will. He drew to himself the dregs of Federalism, the successor of Toryism. He, by his personi autocraty, organized a party which, with a short intermission, has held the public offices of the country for an age. It is the characteristic of that party, that their organization is invariably founded upon some destructive or negative princi- ple.
First, it was the destruction of the bank; then it was the destruction of all banks; then the destruction of the protective sys- temthe old system which gave prosper- ity and wealth to England and America; then it was a negative upon all efforts for the increase of internal commerce; then a general dilapidation and destruction of all the old State constitutions; it is a cancel- ling of State debts; a destruction of some neighboring constitution; a destruction of social differences; a pulling down, a lev- elinga reductionalways, always. But what will it be when it comes to touch your peculiar institutions? That is worth a moments reflection. To reduce the Union to one vast weltering democratic chaosthat is their aim. To rule this chaos to their personal ends, that is the aim of their leaders.
Now need I again urge it ?contrast within your silent thoughts, the severe, manly, liberal, law-loving, conservative spirit of your own Southern Whig states- men, and of their noble allies and bosom friends in the Northso full as they are of courage, tempered by forbearance; so broad, simple, and constitutional in their views; so temperate in language, so ur- bane and discreet in conduct, so careful to keep the juste milieu, the golden mean of rectitudecontrast therm, and then judge which of the two will handle most ten- derly, and with the purest constitutional tact, any questions of interference. Con- sider which of these partiesnamely, the conservative constitutional Whig, or the hot, wild, reckless body that is organizing out of loco-foco and abolition elements in the North and West.
If you have any doubt in your minds which of the two parties it is which is most actively bent on interference with your private affairs, look at the recent coalitions of the Loco-foco and Free-soil fac- tions in various parts of New England. It must not be denied or conce~ led from von, it roust rather be urged upon your most serious consideration, that the oppo- sition to the extension of slavery over nexv territories, to engaging in war for the ac- quisition of territory, and I may add, to the continuance of slavery in the District of Columbiawere it once certain that the power lies in Congress to abolish itare neither a Whig nor a democratic, but sim- ply a Noithern and Western opposition. In the minds of genuine conservative Whigs, this opposition extends only as far as the Constitution will permit it ; but with the party now composed by the union of Abo- litionists, who have appropriated the name of Free-soilers, and Loco-focos, this op- position is but the first step toward an aim which shall be nameless, but which you will easily surmise. Mr. Calhoun will ex- press for you what I leave unexpressed. lIe opposed the war of invasion against Mexico; he opposed the acquisition of ter- ritory ; but, once acquired, he wished it to be slave territory. No, said the Whigs; we opposed the war because we thought it unjust in the first instance a violation of the laws of nations; and in the second, we opposed it because it would give rise to contests about territory between the North anti South. But since, in spite of all our efforts, the territory has been acquired, and by such means as bear a pretext of de- cency, let us make the best we can of it. Southern Loco-focoism has forced this new teiritory upon the country for the pur- pose of making it slave territory. Now, is not the course of the Whigs plain ? Every Whig who opposed the war in order to prevent the extension of slavery, must con- tnue to oppose that extension. Our course is simplewe have but one line to choose, and that is the line of duty and consistency.
Northern Whigs will, then, oppose the extension of the line of slave territory west- ward. Northern Loco-focoism will do more. In Ioxva, in Connecticut, in Ver- moat, in all parts of New England, we hear of attempted, and sometimes of suc- cessful coalitions between Free-soil, or Abolition, and Loco-focos. It is the move- ment, the phenomenon of the day. To any person equally familiar with the spirit of Loco-focoism and Abolitionism, there is nothing surprising or unexpected in this coalitionor rather, this fusion of the two halves of the grand destructive party; one half engaged in attempts to destroy the institutions of their neighbors, with they care not what consequences; the other half equally busy in undermining the props and barriers of civilized and constitutional society in the several States. Such a fu- sion is just and natural, and might have happened long ago, but for c.ertain circum- stances. Those circumstances ceased with the election of a Whig President, and the ejection from office of the office-holding in- fluence of the old party. They had long ago lost their principles; the nation had no need of them; they had lost their of- fices. They are in want both of a new political creed and a new basis of organi- zation. The Abolitionists stood ready to furnish them with both. While in office they truckled to the South, and reaped contempt; out of office, and no longer ex- pecting anything from a Southern admin- istration, the contempt they have suffered has turned into gall and acrimony. They will, hereafter, be the most (lesperate an bitter enemies of the South; and once or- ganized, and victorious, will crush the South if possible.
You are, perhaps, a Southern represen- tative whom I am now addressing. Do you not know, will you not admit, that a Northern Loco-foco of the Van Buren stamp, is but a turncoat for the occasion; that he hates the South, because it de- spises him, and that the best Abolitionists are to be made out of that metal? Con- sider it.
Addressing you as a Northern conserv- ative, I do not assume either on specula- tive or political grounds to be the defender of your institutions; the State of which I am a citizen, and the neighboring States, have long since abolished every form of servitude, and the face and the name of a slave is unknown upon their soil. Their desire is, to have imparted to their soil a peculiar sacredness; that like the soil of England, it shall impart freedom by mere- ly touching the feet of a slave. Already, if a slave is brought by his master into a Northern State, he becomes free, by virtue of the law which forbids the existence of slavery in a free State. The Nortl has acted pro virili pLuto in this matter. As soon as public opinion was found strong enough in each State, measures of emanci- pation were proposed and easily carried. The body of opposition, if any existed, was too feeble to produce any impression, or excite any alarm. Had there been a vast body of slaveholders in the northern States; had there been a wealthy and powerful interest, depending upon slave labor; had there been a violent attempt by a neighboring republic to force meas- ures of emancipation upon New England, it is highly probable that slavery would have continued there to this day. With such considerations to check their enthusi- asm, the moderate friends of liberty in the North, (and they are the great majority,) are prepared to make the largest allow- ance in your favor, and to believe that, notwithstanding the desire that is express- ed by nearly every Southern man who comes to the North, or who is acquainted with free institutions, to effect a salutary change in the political condition of his State, the obstacles to such a change are at present insurmountable. That it is only in States where better modes of industry have been introduced, and where the number of the white population is vastly superior to that of slaves, that an immediate and complete emancipation could be attempted without ruin to both slaves and masters. Mode- rate men in the North are willing to be- lieve in the soundness of these objections assigned, as I have said, by the majority of Southern men who come to the North to any plan for immediate emancipation. it is not my desire or intention to weigh these objections. II wish only to place before you a clear impression of Northern feelings upon the subject of slavery.
Nor do the liberal North ever forget that it was by the free exercise of their own State rights, of their State sovereigaties, that they abolished slavery. Had the South attempted to force any measures of emancipation upon them, it is a matter of absolute certainty that they would have resisted the least interference. They know that the Constitution guaranties to each State a republican form of govern- ment. But they know too, that the sepa- rate sovereignties came into the Union in good faith, and with a full and perfect understanding, that the powers of the Union should not extend to the compul sory reform of their domestic institutions. It is their profound conviction that any combination of Northern powers for the purpose of forcing the emancipation of the black population of the South, would be destructive to the spirit of liberty; would be a trampling upon reserved rights; would be, in fact, as clear an usurpation of power as the interference of Great Britain would be, were she at this moment to at- tempt the violent suppression of the French Republic, and the re-establishment of the house of Orleans.
Such, rest assured, is the deliberate opinion of the conserv~ tive Whigs of the North; notwithstanding their religious and almost innate abhorrence of slavery, and their belief tbat the substitution of free labor is the only possible means of deveb oping the economical resources of the South, and raising her in wealth and poxver to an equality ~vith the West and North.
You will perceive that in thus religious- ly abstaining from any interference with your institutions, the Northern Whigs are but exemplifying the Scripture rule of do- ing as they would be done by. They ob- serve with a quiet scorn the efforts of fanatics to involve them in the guilt of in- terference; the attempts of conceited en- thusiasts and sentimentalists to subvert the policy of Washington, and engage America in the wars of Europe, harmoni- zes with the intentions of the Abolitionists and the new party which they arc form- ing, by a coalition with the old Loco-foco faction. That party, as you well know, sprang out of an union of the remains of the Federal party, with the friends of General Jackson. They are the party xvho love an arbitrary executive ; who at- tacked the prerogative of the Senate, in the days of Jackson. They are a war- loving party. They delight in sudden and far-reaching exertions of power. They are revolutionary, and delight in such re- forms only as ensue upon violent and com- plete overturnings, with the sudden and arbitrary substitution of a completely new system of things. Out of power, as at present, they deal in the most violent and sweeping denunciations; in the South against Northern agitators, in the North against Southern agitators. In the South, they propose to hang Garrison and his gang; in the North, they propose to Mr. C n and his n. The Northern side are the more amiable, because it is a fashion to be Christian and all that, in the North. Depend upon it, if Loco-focoism in the guise of Abolitionism ever gets your unfortunate institutions by the throat, you will rue the day, and curse the man, that persuaded you to vote the Loco-foco ticket.
Of the unscrupulous character of the so-called third party, hut which is now the organizing opposition body in the North and West, you may judge by the perfect carelessness with which that body have thrown to the dogs all other considera- tions but this one of opposition to your- selves. They give up the entire interests of the North, tariff, internal improvements, their favorite banking- system; in short, the entire body of Northern principles their leaders have given up, and now hold out the hand of fellowship to their old enemies. They have made it a test of a sound opposition man, that he shall regard all other questions as secondary, and lying in abeyance until this one is settled.
Do not be deceived into supposing that Northern and Western Whigs, out of hatred to abolitionism, will give up their settled convictions against the extension of the slave teri-itory westward. Were it even doubtful in their minds, whether slavery ought to be treated as an evil in the gene- ral, they would still oppose its e 1en~ion; and what is more, they would endeavor to denationalize it.
Ponder for an instant the following ar- gument:
1. Abolitionists deny that slavery is a national institution.
2. Conservative Whigs are unable to contradict them.
3. Abolitionists demand, therefore, that the District of Columbia be no longer suf- fered to be a slave market.
Again, the conservative Whigs reply:
1. If you will show us that the govern- ment has power, under the Constitution, to do this, we will vote for it, and the ma- jority shall decide.
2. To this Abolitionism has no answer to make, for it has already denounced the Constitution.
3. Whereas, if it had believed that the Constitution would sustain it, it would not have denounced that instrument..
1. Whig conservatism, wishing only to denationalize slavery, says to the South give up the District of Columbia, which will be a triflin~ loss to you, and you will have put Abolitionism hors de combat; for then it will have to attack the Constitution openly, and show its true face, which is that of a radical and a revolutionist.
2. The South replies, No, I will make slavery a national institution, and I will, moreover, withdraw from the Union if you say any more about it.
3. This, whispers Abolitionism, (aside,) is just the thing we wish you to do ; for, if you draw off from the Union, your slaves will be free the instant they set foot upon Northern soil. And we will take care so to order it that they shall not stay quietly with you. You will have a pretty long boundary line to guard, methinks
Great nations have gone to ruin, popu- lous countries have been converted into deserts, and civilization retarded by causes far less important than those which we are now considering. There is need for moderation, and ahove all for a firm and steady adherence to the policy of our foundersa policy of compromise and con- cession. Enter if you will upon a calcula- tion of comparative strengths, measure the military prowess of the chivalrous and testy- little State of Carolin~ against the entire military force of the Union; these are gallant and brave comparisons; to die in a good cause is the worthy hope of a freeman; but, after you have made up your mind to die, then take a few moments longer to think, whether, after all, it is no~ possible that even the solemn act of sui- cide or martyrdom may not have ridicule attached to it. Children have drowned themselves, it is said, bec use the cruel father denied them an apple.
Put the case, that, in the natural order of events, the prevailing prejudices of the North shall gradually bring about an ef- fectual coalition of the Abolitionists and the opposition; that four years hence the thii-d party shall have disappeared, and that only two parties are found at the polls, the conservatives and the destruct- ivesthe conservative Whig und the destructive radical ; the thing is quite pos- sible; put the case, I say, it comes to pass. Suppose the installment of a Cass, a Benton, or a Van Buren, in the executive chair, pledged to carry Northern measures, secretly pledged to sustain the policy of the vast majority of those who put him there; suppose it has happened that you, in your ignorance of Northern movements, have been cheated by the old name of democrat, so far as to have become the means, the direct means of electing some such person, and that in the course of a year or so you begin to discover that the party in the North for whose candidate you voted, have been quietly organizing an attack upon you. They begin hy abolishing slavery in the Dis- trict of Columbia, for by that time we may suppose the new territories will have settled the question for themselves. They next be- gin a system of log-rollingconcessions and lntlmi(lationsfor the weaker representa- tives, to drive them into an amendment of the Constitution, modifying the clause by which runaway slaves are now secured to their masters. They next commence a sys- tem of operations in the Southern States, bringing the power of the Executive to bear upon private opinion and private inter- ests in those States. Suppose that by this system von are driven ajono with a ruinous rapidity- upon the path of emancipation; that your fields, like those of the West Indies, are left without cultivators ; that your laborers refuse to work; that you try to force them, and excite rebellions; that these rebellions are fomented by Northern destructives, of the class who now busy themselves in gallanting negro ladies, and nailing up black gentlemen in boxes, to be brought like wild animals to the North for public exhibition at abolition fairs and soirees; would you not curse the day that saw you vote the Democratic ticket ? would y-ou not say to your neighbor, We have been grossly deceived; we did not know of the secret coalition.
That you may believe what I have said in regard to the union of the old Loco- foco and Free-soil, i. e. Abolition, par- ties, I quote from the newspapers.
A grand Fre c-soil, mass meetiag has come off at Cleveland, Ohio. Mr. John Van Baren addressed the meetino- This gentleman is, as is well known, the spokes- man of the New York movement that was headed by his venerable father.
Mr. Van Buren concluded his speech with an elegant peroration on the value of the Union and the glories of the Republic.
Eli Tappan, Esq. (ominous name!) re- ported resolutions.
Resolred, That the Free Democracy, in its efforts to restore the original policy of the Gov- ernment on the subject of Slavery, are only carrying out the true Democratic principles to their legitimate application, and we therefore hail with the greatest satisfaction the efforts now makin~, and, we rejoice to add, success- fully made in Vermont and some other States, to hring up the old Democracy to the Platform of Freedom, and dissolve the hoods of its un- natural alliance with the Slave power.
Resulted, That we witness with great satis- faction the triumphant appeal which Thomas H. Benton is making to the people of Missouti, sustaining fully one of the great principles of the Democracy, to wit: the constitutional pow- er of Congress to legislate for Freedom, even to the exclusion of Slavery.
The above is one of the resolutions mark its import. The free democracy, i. e. the old, discomfited, Loco-foco par- ty, have incorporated the Proviso princi- ple into their Platform.
Resolved, That to protect this great inter- est, and, to insure, in other respects, a sound administration of public affairs, it is indispen- sable that there should be a union of all those who love their country more than mere party, upon the great principles of Human Rights promulgated in the Declaration of Independ- ence, and set forth in the inaugural address of its author.
Here we have opposition to slavery in the abstract made the corner-stone of the grand party platform of the free democ- racy. Note that, gentlemen, and then, if you love Garrison, Van Buren and Co., vote the detnocratic ticket.
Resolved, That in the spirit of the compact solemnly established by the ordinance of 1 787, between the original States and the people of the Northwestern Territory, we reco~~riize the duty of Congress to resist the toleration of Slave territories and the admission of Slave States, and to suffer no change in the com- plexion of the United States Senate except in favor of reedom, and no addition to the Slave representation in the House of Representatives, whatever may be the pretext of congressional compromise, stipulation or prccedcnt jiug.
The free democracy are resolved that you shall not have another State from the new territory they have set their hearts upon that. For this policy you have to thank your Jupiter of South Carolina. He, the minority, has taught them, the majority, what to insist on.
Again resolved, That the existence of human Slavery at the seat of Government is a foul stain upon the escutcheon of our Republic; and no efforts should be spared to elect Senators and Representatives to Congress, who will vote unhesitatingly for the abolition of Slavery and the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, or the removal of the seat of Government to a place consecrated to free soil.
Resolved, That this Convention approve the platform of the Free Democracy, which was promulgated at Buffalo in August, 1848, and which has since been sanctioned by every State, slave or free, where the Free Democracy have been organized.
Read red, That President Taylor, by allow- ing his name and influence to be used for the benefit of the slave power, at the close of the late session of Congress, has not only violated the spirit of his pledge not to interfere with the action of Congress, but by threatening through l)is official organ to visit the Free-soil party with his indignant frown, in case they should do what Southern members of Congress have done without incurring any such frowns, has abundantly shown that the cause of free- dom in the new free territories of New Mexico and California has nothing to hope, but much to fear, from the present national administration.
This is very injurious to President Tay- lor. He has not exercised any of the. iqfloeace here ascribed to him. He pledged himself not to oppose the con- fesseel and unmistakable will of the na- tion, expressed in Congress. The abolition loco-focos, however, set him at defiance.
Resolved, That we believe, with the fathers of the hepublie, that human slavery is a moral, social, and political evil ; that the General Goxernroeot shoud iclieve itself from all re sponsibilty for its existence, and that the full constitutionat poxx or of the Government to prevent the sj)leId of this evil should be ex- erted non a~ it snoold have been from the Jcff~r~oni in orrtiaance of 1787.
JcUer~on a opinions are a reteat testi- mony, inn ced aroinst an institution of which he f It sad described the evils.
Resoireri, That we abhor the policy of par- tisan politicians, who for political avail- ability have so long sacrificed in national conventions the best interests of freedom and humanity.
A very evident hit at the Baltimore Convention. The free democracy will never again he reconciled to a union with the South as it now is.
A word more, and I have done. The new manufacturing interests of the South are like to prove, in no very remote future, a grand source of wealth and power to her citizens. They will furnish her with a free and powerful white population. The Whig policy is to foster and sustain these new and unequalled sources of power. The Whig policy has also heen to forbid the extension of slavery over new terrio~ ries. Radical democratic policy, on the other hand, wishes to deprive you of this new resource by its doctrine of free trade, by which you are kept poor, as a people, and made to depend upon the industry and enterprise of the North, and upon England. To this compulsory depend- ence they join the new doctrine of aboli- tion, of violent abolition. They intend al- so to elect a President who will use the entire power of the Constitution to abolish slavery. What the entire power of the Constitution may mean twenty years hence, in the hands of an anti-slavery President, elected by the Southern de- mocracy had Northern radicals, you may imagineand perhaps you can hardly stretch your imaginations too far.
Here is but one course left for the South, (I humbly conceive,) and that is to join in the undivided support of the pres- ent administi-ation. That ad ministration is indeed Whig, but it is not ultra Whig; it does not intenri to launch out into a grand and general system of expenditure for internal ira provement ; it will only favor such public objects as may he deem- ed expedient; it Jaas notbetrayed tiny vio- lent or headstrong determination to carry out this or that extreme system of meas- ures. It has made the administration of Washington its model. That it will de- fend the State sovereign ties, and the de- cisions of the Supreme Court, there is not the slightest doubt. Is it not, then, worth a moments reflection, even though you at-c a member of the Southern democracy, whether the true policy of the South, all things consi deied, will not be to sustain the administration?
One of the themes of this piece is a conservative northerner telling a conservative southerner that risking all of what the southern conservatives held dear over the slavery question was destined to end with the destruction of all they held dear.
At times, it almost reads like a warning, that "all your culture and conservative ideals will be destroyed if you decide that you can't give in on the issue". The irony is, that due to the Whigs refusing to give in on the issue, they also perished; only the line was different. The southerners line was over, for some, any meddling in their own governance by the other states, and for others it was clearly about preserving slavery. For the Whigs, the line was over not meddling in the governance of other states, even when agreeing the matter at hand was an abomination. The writer warned the southerners not to risk everything over the line they were drawing, yet the Whigs risked and lost everythign over the line they were drawing.
Personally, given the choices, the right side won. While the article here shows slavery wasn't the only issue, it clearly was the issue that could have defused the entire situation, and the groups that would not give on it chose poorly. I wish that some of the principles they held dear had not been casualties of the battle to end slavery, but that choice was theirs. Whining that the radicals were forcing the issue on them wasn't a defense for the Whigs, nor should it have been. One of the morals is, don't sacrifice good ideals in an effort to preserve amorality.
I found myself nodding with the gentleman often, at the start. But over the course of the reading, I found myself getting more and more frustrated with the indifference at actively ending what even he called an abomination. I couldn't help but also think about how another person I admire, Taft, was reluctant to have America take on the evil of the Third Reich.
I believe that this paralysis in the name of principle in the face of abject evil has done a great disservice to some wonderful and correct principles, and to this day the damage has not been overcome.
Seriously, McKinley must have edited it in his Playpen.
The text viewable for this collection was generated from the page images by optical character recognition (OCR). No corrections have been applied.You also didn't check the source link to see the newspaper from which the scanner did its work.
Thanks for the substantive contribution, though.
First, let me thank you for your reply.
Until now I was unaware of a National Digital Archive at Cornell. I thought documents like this, which point out the broader Sectional differences leading up to the Civil War, would be banned in Ithaca as being non PC.
Abraham Lincoln was NOT the first Republican Presidential Nominee...General Fremont was in 1856, and caused nary a ripple in the National Discourse.
Four years later, the South splits from the Union before Lincoln is elected by formal vote of the Electoral College, and the World prepares to intervene...England and France on behalf of the Confederacy, and Russia on behalf of the Union.
How did it ALL go to H*LL in just FOUR years???
You might also enquire as to the Role of Category Three Hurricanes on a Gold Standard based Banking System during a period (Spring 1857) of exceptionally tight money.
Man, that's powerful stuff! Haven't read the rest of it yet, just thought I'd highlight that paragraph ;-)
Yet, as Fremont's non-election proves, merely having the potential for conflict doesn't yield a "go for the throat enthuiasm" for WAR!
Unbeknownst untill Richard Nixon was forced to 'come clean' about ALL U.S. Official Gold Holdings...in the wake of the collapse of Bretton Woods...the U.S. Banking System was the intended receipent of some 15 Tonnes of Secret, "off the books" Gold Bullion, which Bullion resided in 8,000+ feet of water of North Carolina in 1971.
The loss of that infusion caused EVERY Bank in the North to fail.
Farmers in the future Confederacy pledged every bale of Cotton, every pound of Tobacco and Indigo, to reliquify the Banking System. Thus, the normally Debtor South and Creditor North switched positions, and neither was happy.
But, it was the North's plan to bail itself out by passing The HIGHEST PROTECTIVE TARIFF in History, enraging the South...stirred in with widespread Celebrations of "John Brown's Body" in 1959-1860...that whipped the States of the future Confederacy to White Heat of Pure Hatred!
Take away the Worst Maritime Disaster in American Merchant Marine history ( the Titanic and Luisitania were foreign flagged ships), what would have ended Slavery???
Brazil, the Nation which had the friendliest attitude toward the Institution of Slavery, abolished it in 1886 without a shot being fired!!
But History is far more interesting when the obvious is obscured by the 'Gorilla Dust' of Academics engaged in a "dustup"!!
I also believe that Saddam would eventually have died, as would have Hitler, had we not gotten involved there.
I resent those who risked great ideals to hold onto corrupt and evil institutions.
All the more reason for caution. The siren call that tempts hubris is very powerful
Was he right that Southerners would have been better off sticking to the Whigs? In hindsight they certainly would have been better off sticking to the Union. But Southerners had gained so much power in the Union through the Democratic party that they wouldn't have left it. The Party had won them Texas and had looked after their interests for many years. Indeed, the power that prominent Southerners wielded through that party made them so strong they became them arrogant, demanding, and overconfident.
One problem with his argument is that the radical democrats were not so large or powerful a group. The class conflicts of the Jacksonian period were already in the past, and the complex of labor unions, social bureaucracies, and urban machines that was so strong in the 20th century hadn't yet formed. Urban discontent didn't seem to have any focus in the 1850s, save perhaps getting out of the city and going West. Big city politics barely made itself felt on the many farmers or merchants outside the cities. It would have been hard to mobilize against people who were so few and far away. Certainly harder than organizing people for or against slavery (or for a time, against immigration). The Democrats still were the Southern party in those days and Tammany Hall was only a tail on the dog.
Another problem is that urban radical democrats and backwoods egalitarians in the South had a lot in common. Without being socialist or statist, both groups distrusted big banks, urban financiers, and pious or canting Yankees. The alliance between Southern planters and farmers and the manual workers and poor of the big cities of the East was a constant in US politics from Jefferson until the day before yesterday. Both groups felt themselves disadvantaged in comparison to wealthy Northerners like the Conservative Whigs, and both felt that culturally alienated from the New Englanders who were the mainstay of the Whig Party.
From what I can see, the big planters of Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennesee largely did take the author's advice and clung to the Whig Party. Tariffs were a factor in some states. But winning the upper third of the voting population didn't do much good when the bottom two thirds voted Democrat. In other Southern states, and ultimately in the region as a whole, the planters found it more useful to make common cause with the more plebian Democrats against the common Northern enemy.
It is worth noting, that the Southern Whigs were more moderate on slavery questions than the Democrats. Privately and amonst themselves some of the Southern Whigs did consider the compensated abolition of slavery and colonization of the freed slaves outside the US. The price tag would have been enormous, and getting the necessary support for the measure very difficult. Abolition without resettlement would have been impossible without some miracle or catastrophe.
It is interesting to speculate, though. An economic depression would have split the country on economic rather than on sectional lines and postponed the coming catastrophe. But when the Panic of 1857 came the Whig Party was already dead, and with it perhaps the potential of defusing the slavery question.
BTTT for later today.
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