Open main menu


It has been said of me by several democratic papers, that my opinions are unknown to the public and that people in voting for me will do so without knowing what they are voting for. I will do all I can to prevent mistakes in that respect. I know I might receive the votes of a good many men out of personal friendship or sympathy, and it would perhaps be better policy for me to leave our opponents alone. But after the election it shall not be said of me that I have craved and obtained the support of one single man by concealing my opinions.

As the Democratic papers are particularly anxious to know my opinions, I will tell you as a good thing to commence with, what opinions I entertain respecting the Democratic party.

What are the great issues before the people? What are the great questions that divide the people and draw distinct party lines? It is no longer an United States Bank. That has been put upon the shelf of history. It is no longer the High Tariff or Free Trade question. That has been settled by compromises. It is not the question how the public lands are to be disposed of; that has not yet become a party issue. Even in our State policy — there is neither a question of banks, nor a question concerning railroads before the people; the whole political struggle is narrowed down to two issues — the Slavery question, as far as the whole Republic is concerned, and the question of political honesty, as far as State politics are concerned.

Besides, it will do no longer to keep off the Slavery question from our State politics, for the Dred Scott decision and Mr. Buchanan's recent letter have laid the issue to our own doors.

Nobody can doubt, that the natural instinct of the people of the free States is against Slavery, and no political party can gain a decided and lasting preponderance in the North unless it professes to be opposed to Slavery. Knowing this, the Democratic party have done so, and this question has been the main pillar and the principal source of their popularity. The future of the Democratic party depends upon the sincerity of that profession. Is the Democratic party opposed to Slavery? This is the vital question. Let history answer it.

In 1820 the Missouri Compromise was framed, admitting Missouri into the Union, as a Slave State, on the express condition that a certain line be run across the territory acquired from Louisiana, and that all the land north of that line be forever consecrated to Freedom. This compact was a solemn one, and when the first popular excitement was over, all political parties, the Democratic foremost, acquiesced in it and held it as sacred as the Constitution itself.

Mark well, by virtue of that sacred compact Missouri was admitted as a Slave State, and Arkansas was admitted as a Slave State, and as long as the Missouri Compromise served to introduce Slave States into the Union, the Democratic party did not find the least fault with it and considered it an excellent arrangement. Nobody doubted its perfect constitutionality, and the most prominent statesmen of the Democratic party, Buchanan included, called it openly and emphatically a sacred and involiiolable instrument, as sacred and involiiolable as the Constitution itself. Nor did they stop there. When after the Mexican war, the territories acquired from Mexico were to be organized and their character to be determined, the most prominent men of the Democratic party, Douglas foremost, considered the Missouri line to be so excellent an arrangement, that they proposed to extend it beyond the limits of the Territory of Louisiana across the whole continent to the Pacific Ocean. But mark well what the consequences of the extension of that line would have been. It would have determined the character and the future institutions of the newly acquired territory, and as most of it lay south of the Missouri line, the most valuable part of it would have been doomed to Slavery, and Southern California would have been a Slave State now. And then nobody doubted the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise, it was still as sacred as the Constitution itself.

But now the time arrives when free States are to spring up under the guarantees of the same Missouri Compromise. The Territories of Kansas and Nebraska, consecrated to free labor, are to receive a Territorial organization. And now, suddenly, a Northern Democrat rises in the Senate of the United States, and asserts that the territory north of the Missouri line can no longer be exempt from Slavery, because the exclusion of Slavery by Congressional legislation would be incompatible with the principle of popular sovereignty, and that the spirit of the Constitution is in opposition to the existence of a boundary line that guarantees freedom to a square foot of land. The whole North bounds up against the atrocity of that doctrine, but Douglas whips in Gen. Pierce, the national administration throws the whole weight of its patronage into the balance, the principle laid down in the Nebraska Bill is made a test of Democracy throughout the United States, and the whole Democratic party is suddenly convinced of the unconstitutionality of the Missouri Compromise.

What a change! Was not the Missouri Compromise a sacred compact, when by virtue of it Missouri and Arkansas were to be admitted as Slave States? Did not then, the Democratic party, hold it equal in sacredness to the constitution itself? was not the Missouri Compromise still more sacred and still more excellent an arrangement? Did not the most prominent Democrats endeavor to have it extended to the Pacific Ocean, when by that operation new territory could be acquired for slavery? And now, suddenly, without apparent cause the Missouri compact is a violation of the constitution, is incompatible with popular sovereignty — why? Because it bids fair to commit th atrocious crime of augmenting the number of Free States. The Democrats call it a sacred compact when it serves slavery, and the same Democrats call it a crime against the constitution when it is to serve liberty. This, sir, is in a few words a true account of the magic transmogrification of Democratic principles and of that stupendous elasticity of Democratic consciences. Let me direct your attention to one remarkable point. At the time when Douglass and his associates proposed the extension of the Missouri line to the Pacific Ocean, they were either already convinced of the unconstitutionality of the Missouri Compromise or they were not. If they were how could they conscientiously propose the extension and perpetuation of that very crime against the constitution? Were their consciences and their convictions silenced by the pleasures of the slave holders. Or if they were not convinced of that unconstitutionality, how did it come to pass that a few years afterwards their sudden elucidation on that point coincided so admirably with the desires of the slaveholding aristocracy? I leave it to your sagacity to draw your conclusions.

But this is not all. The northern Democrats still assert that they are opposed to slavery, and that the very same measure which breaks down all barriers to slavery, will by that very operation consecrate all the territories to freedom.

They pretend that the Nebraska bill shall not introduce slavery into the territories, but that the inhabitants thereof shall have full liberty to admit or to exclude it, according to the will of the majority. And this they call squatter sovereignty.

I will not speak of the madness of their theories, and will only speak of the consistency of their acts. They pretend that their measures will exclude slavery from the territories — and now, when the people of the North make an effort to save Kansas to freedom by facilitating and organizing immigration, the whole democratic party denounces these efforts as another crime against the spirit of the Constitution. And this denunciation they cover with the pretense, that such organized immigration will not admit of a pure and reliable expression of the popular will, because such immigration is anti-Slavery. But then the South makes an effort also. Armed bands pour into Kansas and control the election by fraud and violence. A legislature is set up by the most atrocious violations of the ballot-box, set up by a bloody and lawless band of invaders, set up in defiance of the fundamental principles that rule or ought to rule the policy of this Republic — but that legislature is pro-Slavery, and though its criminal origin is manifest to all, the Democrats recognize in it the highest law-giving authority of Kansas. Where is their tenderness concerning a pure expression of the popular will now?

Let us go farther. This legislature enacts a code of laws which equals the most barbarous relicts of the middle ages in ferocious blood-thirst — that code of laws drives the blush of shame upon the cheeks of the most debased of Northern doughfaces — but then, it is a little criticised, a little declaimed against, and finally the Democrats call it the valid law of the land, the law, and all those who do not submit are denounced as rebels and traitors, for that code of laws is pro-Slavery. The Free State men of Kansas, evidently a large majority of the inhabitants, then proceed to frame a Constitution of their own, and although this Constitution is adopted and sanctioned by a large majority of the inhabitants, that Constitution is called an usurpation and put down with the cry of Treason, for that constitution is anti-slavery. In spite of all this, and thanks to the heroic efforts of Northern freemen, it becomes evident, that the Free State men far outnumbering the proslavery party, Kansas will eventually become a free State, if squatter sovereignty be fairly executed. The Slaveholders on seeing this declare squatter sovereignty to be a humbug, and insist upon the constitutional right of Slavery to expand over all the property of the United States. The obedient Buchanan proclaims openly that under the Constitution, Slavery exists and has always existed in the territories of the United States, and this proclamation, which slaps squatter sovereignty in the face, most emphatically and unceremoniously so, is greeted by the northern Democracy as the soundest of all Constitutional doctrines.

And they still try to make people believe that they are opposed to Slavery. After having put the Nebraska Bill in the place of the Missouri Compromise, have they done one single thing for the freedom of the territories? Have they facilitated the immigration of one single Free State man into the Territory of Kansas? Have they thrown the slightest obstacle in the way of the Border Ruffians? Have they not invited them by both secret connivance and open applause? Have they not disowned and denounced every Governor of Kansas who favored the Free State cause? Have they not supported every one who played into the hands of the Border Ruffians? Have they not upheld the validity of the most infernal Border Ruffian Code? Is there a Free Soil doctrine they have not condemned? Is there a Pro-Slavery doctrine they have not advocated? Did Calhoun himself ever set up an ultra pro-Slavery doctrine which the Democratic party has not already endorsed? And yet, they persist in saying that they are opposed to Slavery. And they will assert, when Kansas by the heroic efforts of Anti-Slavery men, ultimately becomes a free state, that this has been the natural result of the Nebraska bill! And they will further assert, that Kansas would have been a free State long ago if there had been no Free State men within her borders! What they have lost by baseness, they will try to make up with impudence.

But one single significant fact nails their assertions to the pillory where they belong. When the Border Ruffian Legislature had ordered the election of a convention for the purpose of framing a Constitution for Kansas, the Free State men unwilling to acknowledge the legality of bogus enactments, refused to vote. Do you recollect with what vituperation and malignity Northern Democratic papers denounced this resolution of the Free State men. Do you recollect that the Free State men were accused of giving up the territory to Slavery, and how clamorously our Northern Democrats asserted, that if Kansas became a Slave State, the responsibility would rest with the Free State party? But now look at the things as they really were.

At the time, there were, and there are now but two political organizations in Kansas: The Free State Party, alias Republicans, and the so-called National Democrats, the regular Douglass-Pierce-Buchanan-Atchison-Stringfellow-Brooks-Sheriff Jones-National Democracy. The Republicans, it is true, abstained from voting, but what right had the National Democrats to complain? Did not the Republicans, by not voting, leave the field entirely to the Democrats? Why, Messrs. Democrats, you ought to be thankful to your modest and abstemious opponents! They will not trouble you in your constitutional Convention! They will not cause Slavery to be established in Kansas if you do not! You alone have now the power to change the future institutions of that territory! You once proclaimed loudly that the Nebraska Bill would not establish Slavery but Freedom in the Territories, and it is just that it should be left to the advocates of the Nebraska bill to disclose to the eyes of an admiring century the liberty-promoting tendencies of their pet measure! Now, ye Democrats, be merry; the Constitutional Convention of Kansas is in the hands of National Democrats, in your hands, and now you have an opportunity to silence your opponents by showing the sincerity of your anti-Slavery professions!

But behold the Northern Democrats upbraiding the Republicans for having left the power in the hands of the Democrats! The Northern advocates of the Nebraska bill calling upon the opponents of the Nebraska bill to counteract the nefarious tendencies of the Nebraska bill! Is not this more than ridiculous? Is it not sublime? The Democrats having set fire to a house cry out to the Republicans: “You rascally incendiaries, why do you not extinguish the conflagration?” (Applause.) The Northern Democracy, after having aided in the establishment of Slavery in Kansas, calling upon the Republicans, upon the same men whose immigration into Kansas they once denounced as treasonable, to drive it out again. And the Republicans will do it, sir, but they will do it in spite of the Border Ruffian Democracy of Kansas, in spite of the National Democracy of the Union. (Applause.)

If there were no other proof, this fact set forth alone would sufficiently demonstrate how unmitigated a swindle that doctrine of Nebraska bill popular sovereignty is. And it further demonstrates upon how base a deception the policy of the Democratic party rests.

Northern Democrats will tell me that they are not responsible for what the pro-slavery Democrats in Kansas have done and are doing, they will tell me that Southern Democrats may be in favor of the universal sway of Slavery, and that Northern Democrats may be opposed to slavery. But do they not tell us at the same time, that the Democracy is the national party? I have stated already that all the old party issues have become obsolete, that the United States Bank question, and the Tariff question, and all others have been disposed of, and that there is but one great national issue remaining, and that is that of Slavery.

And now see there a party that calls itself emphatically the national party, divided on the only great national question at issue! Is not this preposterous? How can such a party keep together? There is but one way, and that is, that one section of the party serves the other with unconditional obedience, and now I leave it to your sagacity to determine whether the Southern fire-eaters are the obedient servants of the Northern doughfaces or the reverse.

And the northern Democrats still assert that the principles of their party are adverse to slavery. If they really are hostile to slavery, then, sir, they love their enemies more than Christians ought to do. (Cheers.)

But the Democrats tell us that they cannot act otherwise, because they have sworn fealty to the constitution of the United States. For that constitution they will live, and for that constitution they will die. Yes, sir, their love of the constitution is of the tenderest kind. Out of love for the constitution they have advocated the extension of the Missouri line, and out of love for the constitution they have repudiated the Missouri Compromise, out of love for the constitution they have invented Squatter Sovereignty, and out of love for the constitution they have repudiated Squatter Sovereignty. All this out of pure love for the very same constitution. They have done more! On the altar of the constitution they have immolated their instinctive repugnance to slavery, and have kissed the feet of their southern masters. — Why, is the constitution of the United States so cruel a thing as to impose such terrible probations upon its devotees? Does the constitution, like a whimsical coquette, make victims out of her admirers? Does the constitution really demand so much self-denial and self-sacrifice?

Let us hear the language of the constitution side by side with the language of her pretended friends. The question, whether slavery is a local or a national institution, is the turning point of the whole controversy as far as, not the moral, but the legal rights of slavery in the Union, are concerned. — This is, and will ever be, the only true basis of all constitutional argument; and here lies the settlement of the whole constitutional question.

There are two facts which ought to be kept before the people. The one is, that the Dred Scott decision declares slavery to be a national institution; and the other is, that the Democratic party, led by Buchanan himself, declares that decision to be the supreme law of the land.

The words of Judge Taney are these: “The right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed by the constitution.” And Buchanan endorses this doctrine in his letter to Silliman.

But where is that distinct and express affirmation? I have read the constitution again and again, and I can find no such affirmation. I cannot find even such words as “slave” and “slavery” in it. I read only of persons there — of persons, which, according to the common understanding, means men, and not merchandise. But I find a clause like this: “No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another,” etc. Persons held to service or labor in one State, not under the constitutions of the United States, but under the laws thereof, under the laws of that State! If the constitution guarantees the claims of certain persons to the service or labor of other persons, as a general right, why should it assign the origin of that right to the local laws of certain States? “The most that can be said,” as Judge Trumbull expresses it, “is, that the constitution does not prevent persons from being held to service or labor in a State, under the laws thereof.”

But for this clause, it would be entirely competent for each State into which a person owing service in another State should escape, to discharge him therefrom, and so the Supreme Court of the United States expressly decided in the case of Prigg vs. the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If the right of property in slaves is expressly affirmed by the constitution, why was provision made for the surrender of only such persons as were held to service or labor in one State, “under the laws thereof?” Why must they be held under the laws of a State, if the constitution affirms property in them? Is this now an affirmation by the constitution of the United States of the right of property in man? Are not these carefully guarded expressions rather an incontrovertible proof, that the authors of the constitution, though unable to dispute the existence of slavery as a fact, endeavored to evade all recognition of it as a right? Does it not prove, that they endeavored to stamp it with the ineffacable mark of a merely local institution?

See here, my democratic fellow-citizens! The constitution is not so cruel as to impose upon her lovers the sacrifice of their dear anti-Slavery feelings! The constitution takes you by the hand and shows you the path of progress — but you turn your faces away, you do not want to see it — it might injure the party. Slavery, then, must be national in spite of the manifest intentions of the Revolutionary fathers, in spite of the carefully guarded wording of the constitution. Slavery must be national. Toombs is bound to call the roll of his slaves in the shadow of the Bunker Hill monument, and the constitution will prove no guard against it.

Oh how these democratic statesmen love the constitution! They love her as a debauchee loves a woman, in order to ruin her. (Applause.)

Yes, in order to ruin her. Indeed, look around you and tell me, whether, since the pro-Slavery interpretations of the constitution have prevailed, the reverence of the people for that fundamental law has not faded and given way! In the South it is looked upon as a tool for enforcing pro-Slavery pretensions, and in the North it begins to be regarded as a troublesome pretext for southern arrogance. Is it not so? The constitution has been dragged down from the unapproachable region of infallibility, and has become a mere weapon in the hands of controversing parties, appealed to when it is expected to be of advantage, and thrown aside and despised, when not.

Who has brought about this deplorable state of popular feeling? Those who endeavor to revive its original spirit by constructing its provisions favorable to human freedom, or those who, like Taney and Douglas and Buchanan, endeavor to destroy its moral authority by preferring to all possible interpretations, those that are most favorable to slavery and oppression? What is it, sir, that entitles the State-paper to the veneration of the people? Is it the mere name of a constitution? Is it the mere fact that it has been framed by wise men? Impossible — a constitution may constitute despotism as well as liberty; and the wisest men may, 80 years ago, have framed laws which might be inapplicable to the present day. No, sir, our respect to the constitution has another origin, it is the fact that it has been made to be an impregnable bulwark of Liberty, and of the rights of man! The spirit of liberty which pervades it, is the only source of its dignity and of its moral authority. It is natural, therefore, that the purer that spirit of Liberty is visible in its construction, the higher the constitution will stand in the hearts of men, and that, when it is stripped of that sacred character, and is perverted into a pillar of slavery and oppression, it will cease to be the great authoritative arbiter of political controversies. Who may, therefore, be considered the true friends of the constitution, those who by liberal constructions build up for it in the hearts of the people a temple of respect and admiration, or those who prostitute it by their treacherous embraces and expose it to the just criticism — aye, to the contempt of an enlightened century? As a woman has no more dangerous enemy than a false lover, so the constitution has no worse enemies than these pretended champions.

Let me show you how they treat the pride of American history — aye, the history of the world: the Declaration of Independence and its authors.

Americans, let your imagination carry you back to the 4th of July, 1776. You stand in the old colonial courthouse of Philadelphia, in the midst of a silent crowd. — Through the open door you see the Continental Congress assembled; the moment of a great decision is drawing near. Look at the earnest faces of the men assembled there and consider what you may expect of them. The philosophy of the 18th century counts many of them among its truest adepts. They welcomed heartily in their scattered towns and plantations the new ideas brought forth by that sudden progress of humanity, and, meditating them in the dreamy solitude of virgin nature, they enlarged the compass of their thoughts and peopled their imagination with lofty ideals. A classical education (for most of them are by no means illiterate men) put all the treasures of historical knowledge at their disposal, and enabled them to apply the experience of past centuries to new commonwealths, in which the inherited evils of the past did hardly exist. See others there, of a simple but strong cast of mind, whom common sense might call its truest representatives, wont to grapple with the dangers and difficulties of an early settlers' life, or, if inhabitants of young, uprising cities, wont to carry quick projects into speedy execution, they have become regardless of obstacles and used to strenuous activity. The constant necessity to help themselves, has developed their mental independence, and, inured to political strife by the continual defence of their colonial self-government, they have at last become familiar with the idea, to introduce into practical existence the principles which their vigorous minds have quietly built up into a theory. It is the theory of the Liberty and Equality of all men.

Look at them now. They stand on the threshold of a new era, and they know it. — The honest earnestness of a great determination is written on their countenances. Cautious considerations have long kept their enthusiasm in check, but now, conscious of their willingness to sacrifice everything for their holy cause, and conscious of the purity of their revolutionary idea, they shut their eyes against all dangers, and are ready to pass the Rubicon.

Behold! five men advance towards the table of the President. Thomas Jefferson first, then Benjamin Franklin, the great apostle of common sense, the clear philosophy of real life beaming in his serene eye, then the undaunted John Adams, and two others. Now Jefferson unfolds a paper and with a firm voice reads the Declaration of Independence, and proclaims loudly the fundamental principle upon which it rests: “All men are created free and equal!” It is said, All men free and equal! A burst of enthusiasm wrings itself loose from the oppressed hearts of the grave assembly! All men free and equal! The liberty-bell of Independence hall peals it joyously into the ears of the thrilled multitude! The shouts of the people, who cross the streets, shake the walls of the old quiet Quaker city, and from all hills, and out of all valleys rises the great word of promise to the skies, — All men free and equal! No, not even the broad desert of the Atlantic ocean stops the triumphant shout! Behold, the nations of the old world are rushing to arms! Bastilles are blown into the dust by the omnipotent cry as by the trumpet of Jericho, and like a pillar of fire by night, and a pillar of cloud by day, the great watch-word of the American Revolution shows forever the way to struggling humanity! (Applause.)

All men are created free and equal! what did it mean? where is the supernatural power in these plain seven words.

Turn your eyes away from the sublime spectacle of 1776, from that glorious gallaxy of men, whose hearts were large enough for all mankind, and let me recall you to the sober year 1857. There is Springfield, the political capital of Illinois, of the same state that owes its greatness to an ordinance originally framed by the same man whose hand wrote the Declaration of Independence. — Step into the hall of the Legislative Assembly and see there on a platform a little man with rude features and an unwelcome eye, addressing a fashionable audience. He will tell you what it meant when the signers of the Declaration of Independence said, that “all men are created free and equal.” He says as follows:

“No man can vindicate the character, the motives and the conduct of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, except upon the hypothesis that they referred to the white race alone, and not to the African — when they declared all men to have been created free and equal — that they were speaking of British subjects on this continent being equal to British subjects born and residing in Great Britain — that they were entitled to the same inalienable rights, and among them were enumerated life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration of Independence was adopted merely for the purpose of justifying the colonists in the eyes of the civilized world in withdrawing their allegiance from the British crown, and dissolving their connection with the mother country.”

What! Is that all? Is that little heap of quicksand the whole sub-structure on which the proud and ponderous edifice of the United States rests? They did, then, not mean all men! They did not mean the red men, who might be civilized, and not those free blacks who were civilized? They wanted, perhaps, even to disfranchise by the Declaration of Independence those free blacks who enjoyed the rights of citizenship in 5 of the 13 colonies? They meant but the white race. Oh, no! by no means the whole white race, not the Germans, not the French, not the Scandinavians, they meant but British subjects — “British subjects on this continent being equal to British subjects born and residing in Great Britain.” There is your Declaration of Independence, “adopted merely for the purpose of excusing the rebellious colonies in the eyes of the civilized world.” — There is your Declaration of Independence, no longer the sacred code of the rights of man, written by philosophers and fought for by enthusiastic heroes, but an hypocritical piece of special pleading, drawn up by a batch of artful pettifogers, who, when speaking of the “rights of man,” meant but the privileges of a set of aristocratic slave dealers, but styled it “the rights of man,” in order to throw dust into the eyes of the world, and to inveigle noble-hearted fools into lending them aid and assistance. [Applause.] There are your boasted revolutionary sires, no longer the greatest and noblest men of the age, no longer heroes and sages, but accomplished humbuggers and hypocrites who said one thing and meant another; who passed counterfeit sentiments as genuine, and obtained money, and arms, and assistance, and sympathy on false pretences? There is your great American Revolution, no longer the great champion of universal principles, but a mean Yankee trick, a wooden nutmeg, the most impudent imposition ever practiced upon the whole world! [Long and continued applause.]

This is the way Douglas and Taney and Buchanan want you to read and to understand American history; this is what they call vindicating the character and the motives and conduct of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Are you going to adopt this interpretation? You will not, unless the last drop of American blood be rotten in your veins. (Cheers.)

Sir, it requires a prejudiced mind or a disordered brain to misunderstand the principles contained in that Declaration, but it requires the heart of a villain knowingly to misrepresent them. No man ever read the preamble of the Declaration of Independence without seeing and feeling that every word of it has been dictated by deep and earnest thought, and that every sentence bears the stamp of philosophical generality. It is the summing up of the results of the philosophical development of the age; it is the practical embodiment of the progressive ideas, which at that time, very far from being confined to the narrow limits of English colonies, pervaded the very atmosphere of all civilized countries. And the very man, whose hand wrote the Declaration was the truest representative of the philosophical spirit of the 18th century — Thomas Jefferson! That code of human rights has grown on the summit of civilization, and not in the miry soil of a South Carolina cotton field. (Great applause.)

Judge Taney is imprudent enough, to assume the same stand point. He says:

“It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion respecting that unfortunate class (negroes) with the civilized and enlightened portion of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the Constitution; but history shows that, for more than a century, they had been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and unfit associates for the white race, either socially or politically, and had no rights which white men were bound to respect, and the black man might be reduced to slavery, and bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise. This opinion at that time was fixed and universal with the civilized portion of the white race.”

Indeed! From what source did the learned Judge derive his knowledge of the history of the world? As a lawyer he ought to be acquainted with Lord Holt's opinion, delivered in 1705, and with the case of Somerset in 1773; he ought to know the doctrines promulgated at about the same time by the legal tribunals of Germany, France and Scotland. But the learned Judge goes farther; he speaks of public opinion. Does he not know that at the time public opinion was half a century ahead of all constituted authorities? Does he not know that the same spirit which dictated the Declaration of Independence, here, awakened the hurricane of the French revolution in Europe? Does he not know that the French revolution first have the free colored man all the rights of citizenship, and then swept slavery entirely from the face of the French colonies? Does he not know that all this was done, as Dupont said, “because it was better to sacrifice the colonies than a principle!” Does he not know that public opinion in England, working slowly but steadily, some years later abolished slavery in the West Indies, knowingly sacrificing the temporary prosperity of the colonies? And yet, Judge Taney boldly asserts, that it was regarded as an axiom, “that the black man had no rights which white men were bound to respect!” So much for the civilized countries of the Old World.

Now, as to America, I wonder with what arguments Taney and Douglas and Buchanan will deny that the fathers of this Republic, when they said, that all men were created free and equal, went at the same time to work and endeavored to pave the way to gradual emancipation? Have they ever read Washington's, and Jefferson's, and Franklin's, and Jay's, and Adam's writings? I wonder how they will interpret Washington's great words, “that it was one of his most ardent wishes, to see slavery abolished by law?” I wonder how they will explain away the very annoying fact, that the authors of the constitution took care not to disgrace the face of that fundamental law with such a word as slavery, and that they, before adopting it finally, blotted out from the extradition clause, the word “servitudeavowedly because it signified the condition of a slave, and substituted the word “service,” avowedly because it signified the condition of a freeman? I wonder what reason they will assign for the ordinance of 1787, which was to kill slavery by penning it up in narrow limits? I wonder what they will do with the fact, that Benjamin Franklin, who understood the spirit of the times, died as the President of the first great Abolition Society, of which Washington was an honorary member? How will they explain the fact, that in five of the original States, free negroes enjoyed the highest rights of citizenship, that of suffrage, and voted on the adoption of the constitution? What will they do with the fact, that three out of the first five Presidents, treated negroes as citizens in their negotiations with Great Britain concerning one of the prominent difficulties leading to the war of 1812? Do they know that the committee of the House of Representatives reported to the house, “that it had been incontestibly proven, that three men taken” by the British ship “Leopard,” two of which three were negroes, “are citizens of the United States?” Do they know that Mr. Madison in his letter to Mr. Monroe, dwells upon the fact, that these colored men were citizens of the United States, and that Mr. Monroe, in his formal demand upon the British Government, said: “I have the honor to transmit you documents which will, I presume, satisfy you, that they are citizens of the United States!

But now, Mr. Douglas comes to the rescue with an additional argument like this: “The signers of the Declaration of Independence did not include the negroes, when they spoke of the rights of men, because, if they had, it would have been their duty to emancipate the slaves forthwith.” The drowning man taking hold of a straw!

Let us hear the Democrats themselves about the abolition of slavery. They assert loudly and emphatically, that it would be madness to emancipate the slaves now, though the country is rich and free labor has spread its wings over sixteen States, and developed their resources wonderfully. Would, then, a sudden emancipation of the slaves have been more feasible, when the country, exhausted by a protracted war, was near bankruptcy and despair? But if it was not possible to effect a general emancipation forthwith, what does Mr. Douglas' argument amount to? Does the impossibility of the immediate execution of a principle preclude in a man the sincerity of its profession? Indeed, to me it is inexplicable, how a man of but a mediocre knowledge of American history can escape the conviction, that the signers of the Declaration of Independence, after having laid down the great principles of human Liberty and Equality, endeavored to introduce them into practical life by the only practicable way of gradual emancipation? That they have failed in this, is it a fault of theirs? It shows not that they were less great and sincere, but that subsequent generations were hardly worthy of so noble an ancestry.

“They, who framed the Declaration of Independence,” says Judge Taney, “were men of too much honor, education and intelligence, to say what they did not believe.” And then, the worthy Judge works very hard to show that they did say “all men” and did not mean “all men.” But no, Judge, your first position is right. They were men of too much honor, education and intelligence, to say what they did not believe! They did believe what they said, and the meaning of what they said blows you and all your wisdom and all your authority into nothingness!

As to Douglas, he pretends to vindicate the signers of the Declaration of Independence, their character and their conduct, by painting them with overseers' whips in their hands. I see the members of that celebrated committee of five rise from their graves, and Thomas Jefferson, his lips curled with the smile of contempt, steps up to Douglas and says, as Benton said to Francis Graud: “Sir, I have to tell you in the name of my colleagues, that you may abuse us as much as you please, but please, spare us with your vindications of our character, motives and conduct.” (Cheers.)

Yes, you may laugh at the impotent efforts of those mock giants, who meant to subdue the spirit of the constitution and of the Declaration of Independence, by contemptible sophistries. They are like Xerxes, the Persian king, who endeavored to subdue the free spirit of the Greeks. He tried to build a bridge over the sea, and when the stormy waters refused to bear it, he threw chains into the waves of the angry ocean, in order to fetter them, and lashed the foaming surf with rods! Yes, you may laugh at them, but let not your mirth lessen your indignation.

See here how far subserviency to slavery has led the Democratic party. Was it not enough, that they with more or less success endeavored to abridge free speech and free press for the benefit of the slaveholding system? Was it not enough that they trampled upon the true doctrines of the Constitution, and violated sacred compacts and engagements? Not enough that they adulterated the principle of popular sovereignty, and made it a synonymous term with the extension of Slavery? Not enough that they demoralized political life to the core by the premium paid for political baseness and hypocrisy? Not enough, that by all this they have discredited our democratic institutions in the eyes of all civilized mankind? No, to them it is not enough. A restless demon urges them forward. For Slavery, they would dig up the graves of the great Fathers of this Republic and pluck the well-earned laurels of patriotism from their sacred brows. For Slavery, they must calumniate the loftiest characters of our past, in order to let them appear as accomplices to their own dark designs! For Slavery, they must strip our history of its proudest pages, and the past generations of their noblest virtues in order to cheat the people out of great examples worthy of emulation. For Slavery, they must stretch out their sacriligious hands in order to tear down the brightest star from the American sky, the great universal principles of the Declaration of Independence! (Cheers.)

And still they want us to believe that they are opposed to Slavery! And at the same time they subscribe to the most savage doctrines our century has brought forth. Even the Czar of Russia, on the summit of his despotic power, pays tribute to the spirit of the age in taking measures for the extinguishment of serfdom, while the President of the United States declares that the banner of this Republic carries Slavery in its folds, wherever it may be borne. Look at this! Americans, where is your pride?

And this is not the end of it yet. Having gone so far, how far will they go? Having made the constitution and the laws subservient to the pleasures of the Slaveholding aristocracy, having declared Slavery to be a national institution, having declared the slave to be but an ordinary article of merchandise — where will they stop? Their present position is but foreshadowing their future policy.

Buchanan, in his glorious letter, says: “If a confederation of sovereign States acquire a new Territory, and the expense of their common blood and treasure, surely one set of partners can have no right to exclude the other from the enjoyment of the Territories by prohibiting them from taking into them whateverr is recognized to be property by the common Constitution.”

Truly, a wonderful set of partners the Slave States are. What do they bring into the concern? They come to us and say: “you Northern partners furnish the blessings of Liberty, and we will contribute the curses of Slavery. You furnish the capital and we will furnish the liabilities! Is not this fair?” (Great cheering.)

Buchanan and the Democratic party consider this perfectly fair; and now look at the consequences. Have not the States in common liberated the country from British supremacy? Have not the Virginians in the revolutionary war fought for Pennsylvania and Massachusetts as well as for Virginia? Why should not, therefore, Virginia claim for her sons the right to go with their property into Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, since Virginia has spilt the blood of her children and spent her treasures for the benefit of those States? Would not, according to the Democratic doctrine, this demand be a just one also? And I tell you, the Slave States will make that demand, and the constitution will be interpreted in its favor. Do not call this a hazardous and far-fetched conjecture. Let me remind you that already the United States District Judge Kane in Pennsylvania has virtually decided so in the case of the United States against Passmore Williamson. Let me remind you, that already a great number of Northern Democratic papers and Democratic politicians have urged the justice and the necessity of allowing the slaveholders to travel through and to temporarily reside in the free States with their property! Yes sir, the next Democratic measure will be the throwing open of the gates of the Free States to the free ingress and egress of Slavery, and as the slaveholders will want their slaves to earn their living during their stay in the Free States, you will, perhaps, see the slave working side by side with the freeman on the beautiful fields of Pennsylvania, and on the broad prairies of Illinois, and Toombs will call the roll of his slaves under the shadow of the Bunker Hill monument, and the whole South will, if necessary, defray his expenses on subscription. (Applause.)

Besides, if it is true, that the Constitution of the U. States recognizes the right of property in a slave, as Taney and Buchanan declare, then it is equally true that this right cannot be defeated by the local laws of any of the States. If guaranteed by the Federal Court, this right of property in a slave is a general right of American citizens, and it stands inviolable, wherever the Constitution of the U. States is the Supreme law of the land.

Art. VI of the Constitution reads thus:

“This Constitution and the laws of the U. States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary, notwithstanding.”

It follows, therefore, that, if the right of property in a slave is recognized and guaranteed by the Constitution of the U. States, the judges in all the States shall be bound to protect this right, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary, notwithstanding.

There is an end of the Free States. The right of property in a slave recognized by the Constitution of the U. States. Slavery lawful everywhere within the boundaries of this Republic.

It is true, Mr. Buchanan says in the same breath, that the people of a Territory, when framing a State Constitution, shall have the power to continue or abolish Slavery. But if the premises be true, how is this possible? Have the people of a Territory the right, when framing a State Constitution for themselves, to defeat by it the intent and meaning of the Constitution of the United States. Impossible, and therefore they will have no right to defeat by their local laws the right of property in a slave. They will have no right to abolish Slavery, and the time will be gone when we could speak of the Free States of the American Union. And if Mr. Buchanan tries to make us believe that the existence of Free States is consistent with the recognition by the Constitution of the United States, of the right of property in slaves, he tells us what common sense shows us to be a falsehood.

Nor this all. A democratic authority says: “Such a right is a worthless right, unless sustained, protected, and enforced by appropriate police regulations and local legislation, prescribing adequate remedies for its violation.” And so it is. Do you know what that means? Police regulations! Do not forget, that the existence of slavery is incompatible with a free expression of public opinion, and free speech and the free press will feel it. The Argus eyes of the slaveholders' police will rest on you with never tiring suspicion, you will be blessed with a code of laws dictated by the fears of sleepless tyrants, a code which will punish charity as a crime, and will check progress for fear of liberal innovations! Will the Northern Democracy acquiesce in this also? They not only will, but in supporting the Calhoun doctrines of Buchanan, the have.

Nor will this be the end of it. The democratic party have broken down all barriers to slavery in the name of the principle of popular sovereignty; they will hardly stop before breaking down all barriers to the slave trade in the name of the principle of free trade. You look astonished and incredulous? Why, if slavery be a national institution, if the federal constitution guarantees the right of property in men as a general right of American citizens, if the slave be but an ordinary article of merchandise, on what pretense will you prohibit the trade in that article? This argument will be considered by the Democratic party irresistible, incontrovertible, and as the principle of Kansas-Popular-Sovereignty has been made a test of democracy, so the principle of Slave-Free-Trade will be made a test of democracy, and Mr. Buchanan, if he lives, will consider it a mystery, “how the correctness of that position could have ever been seriously doubted.” [Applause.]

You may object, that when the re-opening of the slave trade was being discussed in the Southern States, it found considerable opposition, and has been abandoned. I tell you, it has not been abandoned. They have but thrown out their feelers; they saw that their time had not come yet, but they will watch their opportunity. Are not this very moment newspapers being established in the South for the express purpose of advocating the re-opening of the slave trade? When Congress shall have formally sanctioned the right of the slaveholders to spread slavery over all the property of the United States, and when thus a new and immense field for slave labor will have been opened, then the moment will have arrived, and the effort will be made.

Will the Northern Democracy acquiesce in this also? There is certainly not one democrat present, who has courage enough to say “aye!”[1]

Mr. August Kruer — Aye!

Mr. Schurz — I venture to say that the gentleman who responds, “Aye,” is the most extraordinary specimen of Northern Democracy extant. (Great laughter and applause.) Aye, you will. Some of you perhaps will remind me of the resolutions passed by the House of Representatives against the Slave Trade. Ah, you pusillanimous fellows, you do not know what you are capable of! Do you not recollect that in the Congress of 1847 an overwhelming majority of Northern Democrats voted for the Wilmot Proviso? — Cast a look upon your past, and then let us judge of your future!

How many men were there in Congress at the time of the passage of the Missouri Compromise, who would have considered it possible, that such a thing as the fugitive slave law would be spit into the face of the North? And yet it was done, and you Northern Democrats called it justice. How many people, who acquiesced in that disgrace, would have thought it possible, that a few years afterwards all barriers to slavery would be broken down by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise? And yet, it was done, and the Northern Democracy called it Squatter Sovereignty. How many Northern men, who acquiesced in that measure, thought it possible at the time, that this very squatter sovereignty would be scouted and repudiated, and that the unconditional right of the slave-holders, to soil all the property of the United States with their peculiar disgrace, would be proclaimed by the Chief Executive of this Republic? And yet, it has been done, and the Northern Democrats throw themselves into the dust before that savage idol and call it the sound constitutional doctrine! Now, measure with your eyes the distance between the spirit of the Missouri Compromise and the spirit of the Buchanan-Calhoun doctrine, and then tell me: After this has been possible, what will henceforth be impossible? After so much has been done, where are the limits of probability? Sir, I am fully aware of what I say, when I tell you that the slaveholders will make an effort to have the slave trade re-opened, and that the Northern Democracy will acquiesce — if it lives, yes sir, if it lives. And the constitution — it has been no obstacle so far; it will be obstacle hereafter. They will declare the constitution itself unconstitutional if necessary. (Cheers.)

The Northern Democracy will henceforth have neither the will nor the power to resist even the wildest whims of the slaveholding aristocracy. After having abandoned true democratic principles, they serve now nothing but an Interest. That Interest is their only foothold. With the South they have organized a Mutual Insurance Company; they are entitled to their premiums, when they have paid their assessments. They pay their assessments in pro-slavery doctrines and receive their premiums in public plunder. But the concern is financing too fast. The Northern Democracy has come into the position of a man, who has given his endorsement to an insolvent, he has to endorse again and again, as the paper falls due, and the indebtedness grows larger and larger by accruing usurious-interests. There is but one alternative remaining; it is a gigantic crime or total bankruptcy.

In regard to our State politics I have but little to say. There are no particular measures dividing parties of this State; we want to have an honest State government; we want to redress grievances, to prevent fraud and to subdue corruption.

It is admitted by a good many democrats, that enormous frauds have been perpetrated by democratic state officers, and that democratic maladministration has led the state to the brink of ruin.

But of greater importance than this admission would it be, if the democrats would see the source from which the black stream of corruption flows.

What is the moral basis upon which the democratic organization rests? Is it love of liberty? They have sacrificed her as often as the interests of the slaveholding aristocracy demanded it. Is it faithfulness to settled principles? They have changed their principles as often as it was the pleasure of the southern lords. But what can be the moral basis of a political party, if not principles? What other moral bond can hold it together? And I assure you, sir, within the last past fortnight I have had an opportunity to ask scores of democrats, serious men, what are to-day the principles of the democratic party, and that question was to them a serious puzzle.

No sir, as a man, who has no principles, cannot be a moral man, so a party, that have no principles cannot be an honest party. It cannot escape from the grasp of corruption, for, if a political organization has no higher object, it will but serve the ambition and avarice of the few, who are the shrewdest and the most influential among them.

It is in vain to endeavor to reform such a party by a mere change of persons. Though undertaken with good will and honest purpose, such a reform would hardly outlast the hour of its beginning. But if you can place that party again upon the moral basis of great moral principles, you will kill systematic corruption with one blow. Afterwards there may be corrupt men in its ranks, but it will no longer be a corrupt party.

As it is, the democratic party is like the sorcerer, who possessed the art of making a giant snake; but when he had made it, he had forgotten the magic word that would kill it again. And the giant snake threw its terrible coils around him, and the unfortunate man was choked to death by the monster of his own creation. (Applause.)

I know, it is in vain to speak to those democratic leaders whose consciences go with their fortune. They have, knowingly, gone so far, and they will go farther. — But let me speak to you, who have carelessly followed in their track. I appeal to your good sense, I appeal to your honesty. Cast a look on the road you have travelled.

Do you remember the glorious anti-slavery resolutions passed by the Democratic State Convention of Wisconsin in 1849? — Do not your hearts beat quickly when you think of them? That platform is the same, which the Republicans occupy now. Why did you leave it? Did you do so at the free command of your conscience? Be honest! Remember that when the Nebraska bill was still under discussion in Congress, no democratic paper and hardly one democratic politician of this state, and certainly not one of you thought of supporting that treacherous measure. And how came you to do it? — Douglas whips in Pierce, the Nebraska-bill is made a test of Democracy, that is to say, nobody that opposes it, will have a chance of partaking of the sweets of public plunder under democratic rule, and there are the post-masters, and the mail agents, and the custom-house officers and the marshals and the whole host of federal officers, and you plodding after them in dumb obedience. — Then they squeeze out of you a few dull cheers for squatter sovereignty, and then they receive new orders and repudiate that blessed doctrine, and you always plodding after them as though it could not be otherwise. Now they descend to the very depth of Calhoun's most daring pro-slavery doctrines, are you going to follow them again?

Have you got no will of your own? What share had you in framing all those disgraceful doctrines? You had none. Would you have made all these stupendous somersets of your own accord? You would not. Why have you done it then? You must have seen, that the policy of the democratic party springs no longer from the instinct of the people. It is manufactured elsewhere, its success depends upon the servility of the masses. Is it then so glorious to be whipped in to the support of shameful party measures? Is party drill and discipline so omnipotent an idol, that you would sacrifice to it your best principles and your moral worth?

Remember, that a party whose only strength consists in the will and discipline of its adherents, will always become dangerous to liberty. And party drill and discipline is the only strength of the Democracy. Your leaders boast of it, and secretly laugh at your ever ready obedience. How tauntingly they assert that the Republican party is no party at all, because there exists a certain freedom of opinion in it, and the leaders can not rule the rank and file just as they please. But when you sneer at us on this account, it reminds us of the poor degraded slave, who shrugs his shoulders at the free negro, and calls him a poor negro who has got no master! [Cheers.]

No, sirs, we have got no masters, and if there were a thousand Douglasses hidden in our midst, they would find it a laborious undertaking, to dragoon our consciences into submission. But you, my lucky democratic friends, you have got masters! They will tell you what is constitutional and what is not. They will convince you that the removal of all barriers to slavery, is the very essence of popular sovereignty. — They will give commands in Washington, which you have to obey in Wisconsin; they whistle and you have got to dance, and a true plantation reel it is! [Applause.]

Oh, my democratic friends, is not there sometimes an earnest voice speaking within you, speaking of self-respect and the natural dignity of man? Does it never tell you that the fieriest blush of shame would be an ornament to your cheeks? Sir, I love and esteem all that is man. But if sometimes in unguarded moments a cloud of general distrust in man rises within my heart, it is at the aspect of such gratuitous self-degradation, for which even error and ignorance can hardly serve as an excuse.

And now one last word to you, fellow-soldiers in the cause of freedom!

I do not know, whether I have been able to instil into your hearts that deep anxiety for liberty which fills mine. You are the spoiled children of fortune. The sun of liberty smiled upon you when you opened your eyes to the light of day. You have grown up nursed by the blessings of self-government, and neither you nor hardly your fathers have seen the day when it was otherwise. You know the curses of despotic rule but from hearsay, and your imagination is hardly able to realize the sufferings of the downtrodden man. But I, sir, have seen despotism and felt its scourge. I have seen the great masses of noble nations brutalized by the blighting sway of absolute government. I have seen fond hopes dying, and noble aspirations turned into despair. I have seen blood spilt for liberty, spilt profusely, but spilt in vain. I have heard the moaning agonies of crushed nations. And this moment, dear, familiar faces rise before my eyes, faces on which once the sublime glow of genius and enthusiasm shone brightly, now tinctured with the lurid paleness of dungeon life, but within a restless fire devouring them; the burning desire of free activity, checked by the clanking of chains, almost driving them to madness. O, my friends, you cannot imagine what electric thrill the word “liberty” sends through the heart of a man whose head is borne down by the leaden weight of oppression. You perhaps, have never measured the incalculable value of the treasures you possess. Do not, I implore, do not jeopardize them in a wanton race of ambition and greediness. — do not like a spendthrift, squander your noble inheritance, vainly imagining that it is inexhaustible. Liberty is valued most when lost, but then it is too late, and I tell you, your institutions do not stand as firmly as the pillars of heaven. You are free yet, men of Wisconsin. You are wielding yet the formidable mace of self-government. Lift it high and throw it down with a crushing blow on the head of the serpent! [Long and continued applause.]


  1. Mr. Kruer is the editor of the Staats-Zeitung of this city, a Buchanan and Gross paper. — Edts. State Journal


This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.