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130 THADDEUS STEVENS
to devote their subtlety to what they have probably more interest in ; to ascertaining and demonstrating (perhaps an accompanying map might be useful) the exact spot and location where the most comfort may be enjoyed—the coolest corner of the lake that burns with fire and brimstone ! But not only by honorable gentlemen in this House, and right honorable gentlemen in the other, but throughout the country, the friends of liberty are reproached as “transcendentalists and fanatics.” Sir, I do not understand the terms in such connection. There can be no fanatics in the cause of genuine liberty. Fanaticism is excessive zeal. There may be, and have been, fanatics in false religion—in the bloody religion of the heathen. There are fanatics in superstition. But there can be no fanatics, however warm their zeal, in true religion, even although you sell your goods, and bestow your money on the poor, and go and follow your Master. There may be—and every hour shows around me—fanatics in the cause of false liberty; that infamous liberty which justifies human bondage; that liberty whose corner-stone is slavery. But there can be no fanaticism, however high the enthusiasm, in the cause of rational, universal liberty—the liberty of the Declaration of Independence. This is the same censure which the Egyptian tyrant cast upon those old abolitionists, Moses and Aaron, when they “agitated ” for freedom, and, in obedience to the command of God, bade him let the people go. But we are told by these pretended advocates of liberty in both branches of Congress, that those who preach freedom here and elsewhere are the slave's worst enemies; that it makes the slaveholder increase their burdens and tighten their chains; that more cruel laws are enacted since this agitation began in 1835. Sir, I am not satisfied that this is the fact. . . . . But suppose it were true that the masters had become more severe, has it not been so with tyrants of every age 2 The nearer the oppressed is to freedom, and the more hopeful his struggles, the tighter the master rivets his chains. Moses and Aaron urged the emancipation of the enslaved Jews. Their master hardened his heart. Those fanatical abolitionists, guided by Heaven, agitated anew. Pharaoh increased the burden of the slaves. He required the same quantity of bricks from them without straw, as when the straw had been found them. They were seen dispersed and wandering to gather stubble to make out their task. They failed, and were beaten with stripes. Moses was their worst enemy, according to these philanthropic gentlemen. Did the Lord think so, and command him to desist lest he should injure them 2 No; He directed him to agitate again, and demand the abolition of slavery from the king
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himself. That great slaveholder still hardened his heart and refused. The Lord visited him with successive plagues—lice, frogs, locusts, thick darkness—until, as the agitation grew higher, and the chains were tighter drawn, he smote the firstborn of every house in Egypt; nor did the slaveholder relax the grasp on his victims until there was wailing throughout the whole land, over one dead in every family, from the king that sat on the throne to the captive in the dungeon. So I fear it will be in this land of wicked slavery. You have already among you what is equivalent to the lice and the locusts, that wither up every green thing where the foot of slavery treads. Beware of the final plague. - And you, in the midst of slavery, who are willing to do justice to the people, take care that your works testify to the purity of your intentions, even at some cost. Take care that your door-posts are sprinkled with the blood of sacrifice, that when the destroying angel goes forth, as go forth he will, he may pass you by. Aside from the principle of Eternal Right, I will never consent to the admission of another slave State into the Union (unless bound to do so by some constitutional compact, and I know of none such), on account of the injustice of slave representation. By the Constitution, not only the States now in the Union, but all that may hereafter be admitted, are entitled to have their slaves represented in Congress, five slaves being counted equal to three white freemen. This is unjust to the free States, unless you allow them a representation in the compound ratio of persons and property. There are twenty-five gentlemen on this floor who are virtually the representatives of slaves alone, having not one free constituent. This is an outrage on every representative principle, which supposes that representatives have constituents whose will they are bound to obey and whose interest they protect. . It is my purpose nowhere in these remarks to make personal reproaches; I entertain no ill-will towards any human being, nor any brute; that I know of, not even the skunk across the way, to which I referred. Least of all would I reproach the South. I honor her courage and fidelity. Even in a bad, a wicked cause she shows a united front. All her sons are faithful to the cause of human bondage, because it is their cause. But the North—the poor, timid, mercenary, driveling North —has no such united defenders of her cause, although it is the cause of human liberty. None of the bright lights of the nation shine upon her section. Even her own great men have turned her accusers. She is the victim of low ambition—an ambition which prefers self to country, personal aggrandizement to the high cause of human liberty. She is offered up a sacrifice to propitiate Southern tyranny; to conciliate treason.
JEFFERSON DAVIS (1808-1889)
PRESIDENT OF THE SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY
4 4. HAT young man, gentlemen, is no ordinary man; he will T make his mark yet.” Such was the opinion of John Quincy Adams, after hearing Jefferson Davis make his first speech in the Senate. Make his mark he did, in two ways; first, as orator and statesman of the Slavery and State Rights party; second, as President of the South, on Confederacy during the Civil War. The soldiers of the Federal army, in their songful wish to “Hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree,” were eager to have him make his mark in a different way, and would perhaps have quickly ended his career if he had fallen into their hands. As an orator Davis possessed much fluency and ability. In style he was simple and direct, indulging in no flights of rhetoric, but moving straight forward to his goal, with much force and energy of statement and an unadorned severity of manner.
RELATIONS OF NORTH AND SOUTH
[In 1850 Henry Clay brought before Congress his famous Compromise measure, its purpose being to settle the questions which had arisen from the acquisition of territory from Mexico. The issue was precipitated by the demand of California for admission to the Union as a free State. Clay proposed to balance the claims of the two sections. In response to the Northern demand he asked for the admission of California as a free State and the prohibition of slavery within the District of Columbia. In favor of the South he asked for a stringent law for the return of fugitive slaves. The question of the admission of slavery to New Mexico and Utah was to be left for their people to decide. This compromise was carried, and for the time being, settled the questions in dispute. Davis opposed it in terms that hinted at future secession. The following selection is from his speech of February 4, 1850, on the question of the admission of California to the Union.]
If, sir, the spirit of sectional aggrandizement, or, if gentlemen
prefer, this love they bear the African race, shall cause the disunion of
these States, the last chapter of our history will be a sad commentary upon
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the justice and the wisdom of our people. That this Union, replete with blessings to its own citizens and diffusive of hope to the rest of mankind, should fall a victim to a selfish aggrandizement and a pseudo-philanthropy, prompting one portion of the Union to war upon the domestic rights and peace of another, would be a deep reflection on the good sense and patriotism of our day and generation. But, sir, if this last chapter in our history shall ever be written, the reflective reader will ask, Whence proceeded this hostility of the North against the South 2 He will find it there recorded that the South, in opposition to her own immediate interests, engaged with the North in the unequal struggle of the Revolution. He will find again that when Northern seamen were impressed, their brethren of the South considered it cause for war, and entered warmly into the contest with the haughty power then claiming to be mistress of the seas. He will find that the South, afar off, unseen and unheard, toiling in the pursuits of agriculture, had filled the shipping, and supplied the staple for manufactures, which enriched the North. He will find that she was the great consumer of Northern fabrics; that she not only paid for these their fair value in the Imarkets of the world, but that she also paid their increased value, derived from the imposition of revenue duties. And if, still further, he seek for the cause of this hostility, it at last is to be found in the fact that the South held the African race in bondage, being the descendants of those who were mainly purchased from the people of the North. And this was the great cause. For this the North claimed that the South should be restricted from future growth, that around her should be drawn, as it were, a sanitary cordon to prevent the extension of a moral leprosy; and if for that it shall be written that the South resisted, it would be but in keeping with every page she has added to the history of our country. It depends on those in the majority to say whether this last chapter in our history shall be written or not. It depends on them now to decide whether the strife between the different sections shall be arrested before it has become impossible, or whether it shall proceed to a final catastrophe. I, sir—and I speak only for myself—am willing to meet any fair proposition; to settle upon anything which promises security for the future; anything which assures me of permanent peace; and I am willing to make whatever sacrifice I may be properly called on to render for that purpose. Nor, sir, is it a light responsibility. If I strictly measured my conduct by the late message of the Governor and the recent expressions of opinion in my State, I should have no power to accept any terms save the unqualified admission of the equal rights of the citizens of the South to go into any of the Territories of the United States with any and every species of property
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held among us. I am willing, however, to take my share of the responsibility which the crisis of our country demands. I am willing to rely on the known love of the people I represent for the whole country and the abiding respect which I know they entertain for the Union of these States. . .
Mr. President, is there such an incompatibility of interest between the two sections of this country that they cannot profitably live together ? Does the agriculture of the South injure the manufactures of the North 2 On the other hand, are they not their life-blood 2 And think you if one portion of the Union, however great it might be in commerce and manufactures, were separated from all the agricultural districts, that it would long maintain its supremacy 2 If any one so believes, let him turn to the written history of commercial states; let him look upon the moldering palaces of Venice; let him ask for the faded purple of Tyre, and visit the ruins of Carthage; there he will see written the fate of every country which rests its prosperity upon commerce and manufactures alone. United we have grown to our present dignity and power ; united we may go on to a destiny which the human mind cannot measure. Separated, I feel that it requires no prophetic eye to see that the portion of the country which is now scattering the seeds of disunion to which I have referred will be that which will suffer most. Grass will grow on the pavements now worn by the constant tread of the human throng which waits on commerce, and the shipping will abandon your ports for those which now furnish the staples of trade. And we who produce the great staple upon which your commerce and manufactures rest, will produce those staples still; shipping will fill our harbors; and why may we not found the Tyre of modern commerce within our own limits 2 Why may we not bring the manufacturers to the side of agriculture, and commerce, too, the ready servant of both 2.
It is essentially the characteristic of the chivalrous that they never speculate upon the fears of any man, and I trust that no such speculation will be made upon the idea that may be entertained in any quarter that the South, from fear of her slaves, is necessarily opposed to a dissolution of this Union. She has no such fear; her slaves would be to her now, as they were in the Revolution, an element of military strength. I trust that no speculations will be made upon either the condition or the supposed weakness of the South. They will bring sad disappointments to those who indulge them. Rely upon her devotion to the Union; rely upon the feeling of fraternity she inherited and has never failed to manifest; rely upon the nationality and freedom from sedition which has in all ages characterized an agricultural people; give her justice, and the reliance will never fail you.