Encyclopedia of Slavery and Abolition in the United States - K
KAGI, John Henry, 1835-1859, attorney, militant abolitionist. Second in command under John Brown on his raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. He was killed in the raid. Aided fugitive slaves in Nebraska in 1855. Participated in anti-slavery activities in Kansas, 1856-1857, where he joined John Brown’s group.
KANE, Thomas Leiper, Brevet Brigadier General, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, lawyer, abolitionist, principal in the Underground Railroad, Union General. Served under General Henry W. Slocum in the Twelfth Corps.
(Gallagher, 1993, pp. 92-93; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 5, Pt. 2, p. 258)
KANSAS, ADMISSION AS A STATE
Chapter: “Admission of Oregon and Kansas,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.
The battle for Kansas had been transferred from Congress to the Territory, from the field of debate to the field of action. Their victory had crowned the free State men, and the most arrogant and imbittered propagandist saw that the admission of Kansas, as a free State, was only a question of time. In February, 1859, the Territorial legislature adopted an act calling a convention for framing a constitution. The convention met in Wyandotte in July. A Free State constitution was adopted, submitted to the people in October, and ratified by a popular majority of four thousand. But her trials were not even then ended, nor had her people reached the promised land they had sought with weary and bleeding feet so long; while new hindrances and further delays were before them.
The new constitution was laid before Congress on the 10th of April, 1860. By this act Kansas presented herself at the bar of the national legislature, with a full and fair expression of the popular will, regularly pr6nounced, and properly certified. Mr. Grow introduced a bill for her admission, and it was referred to the Committee on Territories, of which he was chairman. It was reported back, accompanied, however, by a minority and adverse report, signed by Mr. Clark of Missouri. On the 10th of April it came up for consideration, and the delegate, Marcus J. Parrott, made an effective speech in its behalf. Entering minutely into the history of previous attempts, and sketching carefully the last, he showed that, unlike either of the others, this answered every condition for reaching the deliberate, unimpeded, and emphatic expression of the popular will. Mr. Grow closed the debate with these words: "It is time that this record of Kansas wrongs should be closed. The blackest page of American history has been written during the last four years in the blood of her pioneers. It is a chapter of history which will be read by our children with shame for their country. It is time to open a new volume in the history of Kansas. Let this strife be ended. Give to this greatly wronged people a government of their own, and to the freemen of the nation assurance of returning justice in the councils of the Republic, by adding this star to the constellation of the Union." The bill was then passed by a vote of one hundred and thirty-four to seventy-three.
The Senate, on the 29th of February, proceeded to a consideration of a bill, introduced by Mr. Seward, for the same purpose. In his speech, accompanying it, the Senator referred to the radical and underlying ideas which were struggling for the mastery and possession of that fair Territory, that which recognized the laborer as a man and that which regarded him as so much capital, that which extinguished his personality not only politically, but in all the relations of life, and that which animated, invigorated, and developed that personality in all the rights and faculties of manhood, and generally with the privileges of citizenship; the one becoming " a great political force " and the other " the dominating political power.
In opposition to the bill, Mr. Douglas, beside his usual avowal that this was " a white man's government," made " for the benefit of white men," and to be " administered by white men and by none other whatsoever," spoke sneeringly of " that enormous tribe of lecturers that go through the country delivering lectures in country school-houses and basements of churches to Abolitionists, in order to teach the children that the Almighty had put the seal of condemnation upon any inequality between the white man and the negro." But he would not, he said, let a negro vote or hold office anywhere, if he could prevent it. Jefferson Davis, after urging the entirely unfounded claim, and making the ineffably silly remark, that nowhere but in the South “will you find every white man superior to menial service," said: " With us, and with us alone, as I believe, the white man attains to his true dignity in the government."
The House bill was reported in the Senate on the 16th of May without recommendation by Mr. Green, chairman of the Committee on Territories. He accompanied the bill with a speech opposing its passage. On the other hand, Mr. Collamer, another member of the committee, made a very forcible argument in its support.
It was on this bill that Mr. Sumner made his great speech on the “Barbarism of Slavery." Four years before, he had been smitten down by the Slave Power in the person of Preston S. Brooks. During the intervening time he had been absent from his seat in that chamber, and for the most of it he had been in Europe, in the patient pursuit of the fugitive health, which, though eluding long, he had so far recovered as to resume his place. Though his voice had never given an uncertain sound on the subject, and he had generally discussed whatever involved the principle of human chattelhood with great thoroughness, on this occasion he characterized all such previous efforts as " incidental " only. He now proposed to attack the system in its character, and show how wicked, how impolitic, how barbarous it was. Taking up the subject, he said, where he left it, he proposed to continue the discussion, and to complete what he then began. “Time has passed," he said, "but the question remains "; and for four hours he described slavery with a thoroughness seldom, if ever, equalled, as, with affluence of facts, force of argument, and strength of language, he set before the nation such a picture of the monster as had never been before drawn.
“The Barbarism of Slavery," he said, "appears first in the character of slavery, and secondly in the character of the slave-masters." The character of slavery he considered, first, by reference to its origin and laws, and, second, by its results as witnessed in the slave and free States. The character of the slave-masters he considered as shown by their laws; as shown in their relations with slaves, in their relations with each other, with society, and government; and in their unconsciousness. Starting with this announcement of his general plan, he proceeded to establish and illustrate in detail the postulates of his discussion. After quoting from the laws of the slave-codes of several of the States, he epitomized in a single paragraph what could be done with the slave viewed as property alone. "He may," he said, "be marked like a hog, branded like a mule, yoked like an ox, hobbled like a horse, driven like an ass, sheared like a sheep, maimed like a cur, and constantly beaten like a brute --, all according to law." He said that slavery painted itself in five particulars --, by its impossible pretension of property in man, by its abrogation of marriage, by ignoring the family relation, by closing the gates of knowledge, and by appropriating all the toil of the victim.
He then proceeded to draw a contrast between the free and slave States, physically, morally, and intellectually; and he showed the barbarizing tendencies of the system in the slave codes, in the relations of the slave-masters to their slaves, to each other, to society, and to the government. The relation of masters to their slaves could be inferred, he said, from the laws, from the whip, the thumb-screw, bloodhounds, and maiming. The relation of masters to each other could be learned from street-fights, duels, and other like demonstrations. He depicted their relations to the government by a somewhat full adduction of particulars, setting forth their violent and lawless conduct, especially in Congress and towards any who were in the least identified with opposition to slavery and its interests. He specified the names of John Quincy Adams, Mr. Giddings, and Mr. Lovejoy, as affording memorable examples of what men were compelled to endure and expect who spoke for freedom, or who in any way demurred to the continued domination of the Slave Power. He spoke of the new dogma, that the Constitution carried slavery wherever its power was acknowledged as a purpose to Africanize the Constitution, the Territories, and the national government. In closing he spoke of “the sacred animosity of freedom and slavery," which could "end only with the triumph of freedom." “The same question," he said, " will be carried soon before that high tribunal, supreme over Senate and Court, where the judges are counted by millions, and the judgment rendered will be the solemn charge of an awakened people, instructing a new President, in the name of freedom, to see that civilization receives no detriment."
Immediately on the close of the speech, Mr. Chesnut of South Carolina made a short and abusive response, under the guise of giving reasons for not replying thereto. Its spirit and purport were compressed into the two remarks that it had been left for the Abolitionists of Massachusetts " to deify the incarnation of malice, mendacity, and cowardice "; and that, as a reason for sitting quietly and silently under the speech, " we are not inclined again to send forth the recipient of punishment howling through the world, yelping fresh cries of slander and malice." Mr. Sumner in response said: "Only one word. I exposed to-day the Barbarism of Slavery. What the Senator has said in reply I may well print as an additional illustration."
Several Senators participated in the debate; but the Democratic members persistently refused to put the bill on its pas sage. A final effort was made by the Republicans, the 7th of June, on a motion of Mr. Wade, to take it up; but the motion was defeated by a vote of twenty-six to thirty-two, Mr. Pugh being the only Democrat who voted with the Republicans. Kansas, thus remanded to her Territorial condition, was compelled to bide her time, and to wait for deliverance from a source that had not then entered into the calculations of any.
Nor did she wait long before that deliverance came. Among the marvels of her early and strange history was this, stranger than all, that at the last Kansas was indebted to the madness and violence of her imbittered enemies for what the wisdom and earnestness of her warmest friends had failed to obtain; that treason wrought better for her than loyalty; and that again was seen how the wrath of man was made to praise God. Among the designed results of the election of the Republican candidate in the Presidential election of 1860, secured by the disruption of the Democratic party, was the secession of several Southern States, who made this the occasion and plea for their revolt, and who immediately led off in that " dance of blood " which afterward filled the land with suffering and sorrow, and which marked the most important epoch in the nation's history. By the retirement of those Senators who had so persistently opposed her application, a vote was secured for her admission, with this noticeable and pleasing coincidence, that the same day, January 21, 1861, witnessed both the departure of the retiring Senators and the incoming of the new and long-waiting State. And there were many who noted and appreciated the poetic justice of the Divine arrangement, by which it was left for the same hand that had borne so heavily and cruelly upon the struggling Territory to open the door it alone had kept closed, and by a suicidal violence to destroy itself.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 627-632.
KANSAS, CONFLICT OVER SLAVERY IN THE TERRITORY
Please note that this entry includes two chapters:
· Wilson, “The Kansas Struggle,” 1872
· Wilson, “The Kansas Struggle,” 1872
Chapter: “The Kansas Struggle,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was no mere abstraction. Though its most prominent and persistent advocates, in their noisy clamor and claim in its behalf, pleaded chiefly its vindication of the principle of local self-government, it soon became apparent that its ultimate purpose occupied a far higher place in their regard. Slavery, and not popular sovereignty, was the object aimed at. A practical result, and not the simple enunciation of a theory, however true or important, had been the animating motive of a crusade that rested not with the triumphs already achieved. Calculating that this action of Congress and the close contiguity of slaveholding Missouri, with such co-operation as the known sympathy of the other slaveholding States would afford, could easily throw into Kansas a sufficient population to give to slavery the necessary preponderance, the slave propagandists regarded their victory in the halls of legislation as tantamount to the final success of their deep-laid schemes. For these schemes had been long and deeply laid. For years had the slaveholders of western Missouri, the real seat of the Slave Power of that State, and their ready servitors at Washington, regarded with special interest the future possibilities of the territory that lay upon its borders. Fearing that it was lost to slavery, they determined that freedom should not profit by it. They therefore encouraged the plan of devoting it to reservations for Indians, and several treaties to that effect were secured. The agents of the government were in both sympathy and complicity with this general scheme and purpose. Even professed ministers of the gospel entered into the movement; and the mortifying fact is on record that the first slaves which were introduced into Kansas were taken by a Methodist missionary. When, therefore, Congress had been dragooned into the adoption of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, with its newly invented and much vaunted doctrine of popular sovereignty, it was supposed that the long-cherished plans of the slaveholders were to be realized, and that it was only a question of time when Kansas should become a slave State. For it did not seem to enter their minds that the plighted faith of the nation to these Indians constituted an obstacle to the realization of their schemes, or that it could long stand against exigencies that had coerced the Federal government, and made it prove false to its solemnly recorded promises. But they miscalculated. They did not fully comprehend the forces which freedom had at command, nor the purposes of Providence concerning the nation.
The adoption of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the debates preceding, and the widespread discussions attending it, produced a profound impression throughout the land. The North was not only aggrieved and indignant at its gross breach of faith, but it was alarmed. The Slave Power had shown itself ready to oppress not only the blacks but the whites, to crush not the hitherto prostrate race alone, but the nation as well. Patriotism no less than philanthropy, self-preservation no less than humanity, demanded action. The government had proved faithless; it behooved the friends of freedom to cast about for other help. Nor was it a forced conclusion that, if the government could not be trusted, and the compromises, hitherto deemed sacred, had become a thing of naught, such resources as were within reach should be made available, and that the dogma of popular sovereignty, though designed to strengthen slavery, should, if possible, be made to inure to the cause of freedom. As this was the only alternative left the North, in fealty to its own interests as to those of others, it accepted, in the language of Mr. Seward, a trusted leader, the gage of battle: “Come on, then, gentlemen of the slave States! Since there is no escaping your challenge, I accept it on the behalf of freedom. We will engage in competition for the virgin soil of Kansas, and God give the victory to the side that is stronger in numbers, as it is in right."
The purpose to make Kansas a free State and the systematized efforts to carry that purpose into effect mark an important era in the progress of the slavery struggle. It was a deliberate and successful stand made by the friends of freedom against the aggressions of the Slave Power. This and the election of Mr. Banks Speaker of the House of Representatives during the next year indicated somewhat its loosening grasp, under the vigorous blows of its fresh antagonists. But it was a purpose that foretokened a fearful contest, fierce encounters, and bloody strifes. No summer clouds ever met in mid heaven more heavily surcharged with elements of storm and danger. Neither party fully comprehended the magnitude and violence of the struggle on which they were entering. Each was ignorant of the strength the other would exhibit; and each was unaware of the power of assault or resistance itself could and did develop. Had either fully apprehended the severity of the conflict on which it was entering, there might have been hesitation. Once committed, however, there seemed to be no other alternative but to advance till the superior force or tact of the one compelled the other to desist. Both resorted to the policy of combination, though the means relied on were as unlike as the ends in view. The “Blue Lodges” and “Sons of the South," which were formed in Missouri and other slaveholding States, had for their object the making of Kansas a slave State. The “Emigrant Aid “societies of New England, though freedom in Kansas was one object, had others which, with their methods, were indicated by their name. Their purpose and plan were to “aid “those who would procure lands and make for themselves homes in the new Territory. They contemplated only peaceful modes, though the emigrants themselves were, of course, compelled to resort to such means of self-defense as the “border ruffian "policy rendered imperative.
The New England Emigrant Aid Society, the first and most prominent of these free State organizations, originated with Eli Thayer of Worcester, Massachusetts, a member of the legislature of that State, in the winter of 1854. Preparing a charter, he procured an act of incorporation in February of that year. Immediately on the adjournment of that body, he entered upon the work, in which he was greatly aided by Amos A. Lawrence and J. M. S. Williams of Massachusetts, and John Carter Brown of Rhode Island. Success crowned his labors, the association was soon organized, and on the 19th of July he started with a company of twenty-four for that far-off land. As the successful working up of -his plan required his presence at the East, he accompanied them only as far as Buffalo. Charles H. Branscomb, having been appointed agent for the company, had preceded the pioneer colony, and was then in the Territory. To him Mr. Thayer sent a letter of instructions, directing him to take the colony through the Shawnee reservation, and to locate it on the first good town site west thereof, and on the southern bank of the Kansas River. In obedience to these instructions, he made the sagacious selection of the site of the present city of Lawrence; and on that spot this advanced guard of freedom's forces actually pitched their tents, on their arrival in Kansas, in July, 1854.
In two weeks another colony of seventy came. With their New England outfit was a steam saw-mill. The new-comers entered in earnest upon the work of making themselves a home on that inviting spot, and soon their canvas tents gave place to more substantial structures. Among the members of the second company were Dr. Charles Robinson and Samuel C. Pomeroy, the one becoming the first governor under the free State constitution, and the latter subsequently a member of the United States Senate.
This organized effort of free State men, the fact that they had formed a settlement, and that the town of Lawrence had actually taken form and name, produced a marked impression both North and South. At the North, it kindled anew hopes which the course of events had wellnigh extinguished. Even the possibility of checkmating the foes of freedom in the desperate game on which they had staked so much, and that, too, by the very " moves " which they had proposed for themselves and which by so doing they had suggested to others, gave courage and stimulus to many in the free States to enter upon this new line of effort, and thus practically to aid in solving the great problem that seemed to defy all other solution. Not only did several additional colonies go from Massachusetts and the other New England States, but similar colonies were formed in the States of New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. To this work Mr. Thayer devoted himself with tireless energy and unceasing effort. Fully impressed with the idea that the free States had the power to secure, in this way, freedom to the Territories, he travelled sixty thousand miles, and made hundreds of speeches, enunciating these views, and calling upon the people to join in this grand crusade.
But these movements in the free States, with their purpose and plan, so openly and boldly proclaimed, to gain for freedom what the slaveholders had so confidently regarded as insured to them by the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act, greatly incensed and alarmed them. They immediately set about an effort, not only to prevent the permanent settlement in Lawrence, but to arrest any further attempts in a like direction. Accordingly, while the Eastern settlers were still in tents, a band of two hundred and fifty Missourians marched into the place and took positions on the opposite side of a ravine, and demanded that "the Abolitionists" should take away their tents and immediately leave the Territory. This demand was made and repeated several times, but it was as firmly refused, though the last summons was coupled with the threat that, unless it was complied with in “ten minutes," they should be attacked and moved away at the point of the bayonet. The firmness of the free State men and lack of harmony among themselves prevented the execution of the raiders threat, and they retired vowing vengeance, and only waiting for a more definite plan of operations to renew the attack. Indeed, that wordy but bloodless encounter was the beginning, the pre cursor, of a systematic and sanguinary assault upon the personal and political rights of the unoffending settlers, a series of violent and persistent outrages, a barbarism of conduct that slavery alone could beget, the very recital of which chills and curdles the blood; all designed, too, and that by the self-styled advocates of " squatter sovereignty," to practically ignore and defeat the popular will.
In October of the same year, Andrew H. Reeder, who had been appointed governor, entered the Territory and proceeded at once to the work of organizing a territorial government. He was a Democrat, a believer in the doctrine of popular sovereignty, and an honest supporter of the administration. Among his first duties was the ordering of an election of a delegate to Congress. The election took place in November, and became the occasion of inaugurating that series of aggressions which gained such infamous notoriety then, and the crime of "ballot stuffing," which has been so often resorted since.
Bands of Missourians entered the Territory by preconcerted arrangement and under central dictation, pitched their tents there they were directed, and participated in the election as they were actual settlers. The canvass resulted in the desired election of J. W. Whitefield by an alleged vote of three thousand, although it was afterward proved that there were but fifteen hundred voters in the Territory. And it is worthy of special mention that this was the result of an openly avowed purpose and plan, for which neither concealment nor apology attempted. No less a personage than Senator Atchison, formerly presiding officer of the United States Senate, said in public speech: " When you reside within one day's journey of Territory, and when your peace, your quiet, and your property depend upon your action, you can, without an exertion, send five hundred of your young men who will vote in favor of your institutions. Should each county in the State of Missouri only do its duty, the question will be decided quietly and peace ably at the ballot-box." Near the same time General Stringfellow, afterward made Speaker 'of the first legislature, ad dressed the people in a similar style. “I tell you," he said, " to mark every scoundrel among you who is the least tainted with abolitionism or free-soilism, and exterminate him I advise you, one and all, to enter every election district in Kansas, in defiance of Reeder and his vile myrmidons, and vote at the point of the bowie-knife and revolver. Neither give nor take quarter, as the cause demands it. It is enough that the slaveholding interest wills it, from which there is no appeal." This advice of the leaders and the testimony of the congressional committee that “a very large majority of the votes were cast by citizens of the State of Missouri in violation of the organic law of the Territory," give both the record and the key of the early political history of that Territory. The same committee say, too, that “this unlawful interference has been continued in every important event in the history of the Territory. Every election has been controlled, not by actual settlers, but by citizens of Missouri, and as a consequence, every officer in the Territory, except those appointed by the President, owes his position to non-resident voters," Concerning the election, too, of the legislature which was ordered in March, 1855, and which occupies so large a space in the early history of Kansas legislation, the testimony of the committee is equally explicit and overwhelming to frauds as astounding, through means even more flagrant and audacious. Though subsequent investigations established beyond doubt that the free State men were largely in the majority, they were permitted to send but two members to the legislature.
These, then, are the great and representative facts of the Kansas struggle. From one learn all. By deliberate and avowed purpose and preconcerted arrangements, large numbers of Missourians were thrown into the coveted Territory, the places for casting votes were taken possession of, the real settlers were driven from the polls, while the invaders alone were permitted to exercise that supreme right of freemen, the right of suffrage. By such means was the first legislature chosen, a body which assumed not only the right to govern the Territory, but the prerogative of giving birth and authority to a convention to frame a constitution, and to establish on a permanent basis the institutions of the embryo State. This was the legislature and government which the free State men rejected, but which the Democratic administration and the Democratic Party fully indorsed. Indeed, so complete was their subserviency to the Southern extremists, that Governor Reeder, though he went to the Territory a friend of the administration and of its general policy, was removed because he was not sufficiently obsequious to their dictation, and hesitated to support their schemes of violence and fraud.
Of course the men thus practically disfranchised, especially those who had come so many miles to build for themselves homes and to mold the institutions of the future State, were in no mood to submit to a usurpation so audacious and wicked. They resolved therefore, though at great personal hazard and harm, that a convention should be held in which the doc trine of popular sovereignty should be something more than a delusion and snare, and in which the people should in reality have a voice in deciding what their laws and institutions should be. A primary meeting of those friendly to a fair vote issued a call for a constitutional convention, which met on the 23d of October, 1855, and formed what was called the Topeka constitution. Though the convention was composed of various classes of men, with much diversity of sentiment and purpose, and though they did not reach the conclusion of their labors without more or less of conflict, the convention did adopt a constitution. It prohibited slavery, though it contained a provision permitting the slaves already in the Territory to remain “until July 4, 1857." Governor Reeder was chosen a delegate to Congress, and a demand was made upon that body for admission into the Union under the new constitution. This was the posture of affairs in the autumn of 1855. The conflict had become a hand-to-hand encounter, and Kansas was one vast camping-ground.
The XXXIVth Congress met December 3, 1855. The organization of the House was not effected until the 3d of February, when Mr. Banks was chosen speaker. This successful opposition to the hitherto unbroken custom of selecting no one for that important position who was not acceptable to the South was very cheering to the friends of freedom, and it strengthened them for the long struggle before them.
The President, in his annual message, referred to Kansas affairs. He admitted that there had been “acts prejudicial to good order," but none requiring, in his judgment, the interposition of the Federal executive. On the 24th of January, he sent a special message, clearly in sympathy with those who would consign Kansas to slavery. He condemned “that pernicious agitation on the condition of colored persons held to service," and the associations " organized in some of the States." He arraigned the administration of Governor Reeder, indorsed the legislature, and condemned the convention at Topeka. But he had no words of condemnation of the “border ruffian” policy, or of sympathy with the victims of the robberies murders, and arson that were then ravaging that fair land.
On the 14th of February, Governor Reeder presented to the House of Representatives a memorial contesting the seat of Mr. Whitefield. He urged as reasons that Whitefield's “election was absolutely void, being without any valid law”; that “the law under which the pretended election was held .... was imposed upon them by superior numbers of non-residents .... and passed at an illegal and unauthorized place ' that it was not conducted “according to the forms and modes prescribed by the supposed law "; and that “many hundreds of illegal votes were polled at said pretended elections by nonresidents" and “others." The debate to which these messages of the President and Governor Reeder's memorial gave rise was very protracted, running through six months of the session. Though the advocates of slavery were largely in the majority in the Senate, the parties were nearly equally divided in the House. Of course the motions, resolutions, amendments, substitutes, modifications, points of order, and calls for ayes and nays were almost innumerable, though the pregnant facts and salient points were the disturbances in Kansas, the contested election, and the attempts of the people to form a State constitution and to secure admission into the Union.
Governor Reeder's memorial having been referred to the Committee on Elections, a resolution was reported by Mr. Hickman of Pennsylvania that the committee have power to send for persons and papers. After a debate of several days, the House, on the 19th of March, adopted a substitute offered by George G. Dunn of Indiana. It provided that a committee should be appointed to go to the Territory, take depositions, examine witnesses, and investigate not only the matter of the election, but " the troubles in Kansas generally." William A. Howard of Michigan, John Sherman of Ohio, and Mordecai Oliver of Missouri, were appointed that committee.
The President had appointed Wilson Shannon of Ohio governor of the Territory. Though he afterward, like his predecessor, fell into disfavor with the propagandists, he signalized his entrance upon the duties of his office by fully indorsing the illegal legislature and the validity of its laws, and by pointing to his past record as evidence that they might trust him in his new position. In a speech in Westport, Missouri, “the headquarters of border ruffianism," he told the crowd that, for reasons which he gave, he was "for slavery in Kansas." Encouraged by these declarations of the new governor, whom they justly regarded as the exponent and mouthpiece of the national administration, the supporters of the Slave Power were greatly emboldened in their assaults upon the free State settlers. Calculating too safely on their impunity, however great their guilt, they did not hesitate to commit, and almost without attempt at concealment, the most flagrant and fearful crimes against them. On the 21st of November, 1855, William Dow, a free State settler, was shot, in open day and in sight of several persons, by one Coleman, and the body was permitted to lie in the road from noon till night. The murderer, with real or simulated alarm, escaped into Missouri; but he soon returned, surrendered himself to Governor Shannon, and was allowed to go at liberty. The free State settlers chose a committee to bring the murderer to justice; but, instead of that result, that effort was made the pretext for new assaults, and the man who recovered the body of the murdered Dow was arrested by the sheriff of Douglas County, on the affidavit of one of the accomplices to the murder, who swore that his life was in danger on his account. The sheriff, Samuel J. Jones, accompanied by two men who had witnessed, if they had not assisted in, the murder, arrested Jacob Branson, who had performed that humane deed, and started for Lawrence. On the way they encountered a party of his Free State neighbors, who invited him to join them, which he did, in spite of the threats of Jones. The sheriff immediately called on the governor for three thousand men to aid in the execution of the laws; and the latter, on the 29th of November, issued a public proclamation to that effect. Few, however, from Kansas responded. William Phillips, then on the ground, afterward a general in the war of the Rebellion, and subsequently a member of Congress, asserts that there were not more than seventy-five who answered the governor's call. But large numbers flocked in from the border counties of Missouri, where the most lively interest was manifested, and where the prominent citizens took a leading part, emphasizing their appeals by the expression of their conviction that “a fight "was inevitable, and that if “we are defeated this time the Territory is lost to the South." To the character and purposes of the men who thus flocked to the standard which Governor Shannon unfurled, well described by an eyewitness as "the scum and riffraff "of the counties they came from, he himself apologetically testifies." These men came to the Wakarusa camp," he said,” to fight; they did not ask peace; it was war, -- war to the knife. They would come."
Among their first acts while encamped at Franklin, near Lawrence, was the wanton murder of Thomas W. Barber, who, in company with a brother and neighbor, was returning unarmed and quietly to his home. He was met by a party of men, among whom were Major Clark, Indian agent, General Richardson of the Kansas militia, and Judge Cato, one of the President's appointments, accosted by Clark, and ordered to stop and go with them. On his refusal, Clark shot him, inflicting a mortal wound. He soon expired, and was taken to Lawrence and laid in one of the rooms of the Free State Hotel, where his lifeless body was seen by the governor the next day. But notwithstanding this most flagrant act of murder, dastardly and unprovoked, committed on a quiet and unarmed man, was a matter of common notoriety, no attempt was made to punish the murderer, and he was still retained in office by Franklin Pierce.
The people of Lawrence, while they had prepared for defence, but were anxious for peace, sent Mr. Lowry and Mr. Babcock, two of their committee of safety, to see General Shannon at Shawnee Mission. The governor came to Franklin, where a portion of the troops were stationed. Finding them wholly unmanageable, threatening violence and bloodshed, he besought General Shannon, commander of the United States dragoons stationed there, to keep the peace; but that officer refused to act without express orders. Entering Lawrence, he consulted with the free State leaders, and an arrangement was made, signed by the governor, Charles Robinson, and James H. Lane. The governor also gave an order to these gentlemen to use the force under their command for the protection of the persons and property of Lawrence and vicinity. The Missourians who had come over into the Territory went reluctantly to their homes again, bitterly denouncing Governor Shannon and the abolitionists, though Atchison declared that they would yet have a fight. In a speech at Lecompton, Stringfellow well expressed their views. "Shannon," he said, “has played us false; the Yankees have tricked us; the governor of Kansas has disgraced himself and the whole proslavery party."
On the 15th of December there was an election for the ratification of the Topeka constitution, and on the 15th of January an election for the choice of officers under it. But at many of the voting-places the free State men were greatly annoyed by the border ruffians who still remained in the Territory; at some they were driven from the polls, and at other places the boxes were seized. And indeed, during the winter and early spring, scenes of violence and outrage prevailed, in which several free State men lost their lives. Some of these murders, as that of Captain E. P. Brown, were committed under circumstances of brutality and accompanied with atrocities that would have disgraced the most barbarous times and the most savage men.
During these months they were menaced with civil war and invaded by guerilla parties. Shortly after the treaty between the governor and the citizens of Lawrence, Atchison wrote to a citizen of the South, saying that he had been a peace maker in the difficulties which had just been settled, but that he would never again counsel peace. He called on the South to send its young men to Missouri and Kansas, and predicted that civil war was inevitable, and that it was near at hand. “Twelve months will not elapse," he said, " before war, civil war of the fiercest kind, will be upon us. We are arming and preparing for it. Indeed, we of the border counties are prepared. We must have the support of the South. We are fighting the battles of the South. We want men, armed men. We must have money. Let your young men come on in squads, as fast as they can be raised and armed."
The citizens of the western counties of Missouri also appealed to the proslavery men of the country for men and money. In a circular which was extensively scattered through the Southern States, they said that they had been heavily taxed in both money and time in fighting the battles of the South in Kansas; that Lafayette County alone had expended one hundred thousand dollars in thus maintaining the rights of the South. In response to calls like these, Colonel Buford and his Southern regiment and many others entered the Territory in the spring of 1856. So desperate was the condition of the free State settlers between the upper and nether millstones of a proslavery administration at Washington and a proslavery mob in Kansas.
The Senate, in which the slaveholding influence so largely predominated, followed the imperious lead of Mr. Douglas. On the third day of the session, Mr. Hale offered a resolution calling on the President for information concerning the troubles in Kansas. On the 7th of January, Mr. Wilson presented similar, though more specific resolutions. On the 4th of February, Mr. Jones of Tennessee presented resolutions calling "for copies of the laws and journals of the legislative assembly” in Kansas. On the 18th of February the President responded to the above resolutions by sending a message covering such papers and correspondence.
Mr. Wilson at once addressed the Senate in reply to the message just received. He characterized it and its accompanying papers as “stupendous misrepresentations," carrying "a gigantic falsehood to the American people." Alluding to the charges of the President and others that the "disorders " of Kansas were to be attributed to an " extraordinary organization," called an "Emigrant Aid Society," he vindicated that society from such aspersions, and expressed the conviction that it and kindred associations were not only legitimate, but in the highest degree praiseworthy. He adduced documentary evidence of the outrages in Kansas, showing that " on the 30th of March, 1855, four thousand voters from the State of Missouri passed into the Territory and gave their votes "; that "the late presiding officer of the United States Senate, David Atchison, had, with bowie-knife and revolver belted around him, been apparently ready to shed the blood of any man who refused to be enslaved." The President and others having urged the fact that Governor Reeder had given certificates to members of the legislature as proof of its legality, he asserted that such papers were given under duress, and were no legitimate evidence in the case.
Soon afterward, Mr. Hale made a caustic speech, severely criticising the President, the tergiversation of the Democratic Party, and the horrible slave-code of the Kansas statute-book. Alluding to the law that the printing and circulating of antislavery documents should be punishable with five years imprisonment, he said that such a law would convict any person having in his possession even the utterances of President Pierce himself; for he had said, only ten years before, in a Democratic convention: "I regard slavery as one of the greatest moral and social evils, -- a curse upon the whole country." Referring to the frequent charge, by Southern men, of the original complicity of Northern men in the establishment and early maintenance of the sin of slavery, he said that by no act of his should the future citizens of Kansas have occasion for a similar reproach. "No, sir," he said;” we wish to stand clear of that reproach which is so often and so freely cast on our fathers."
The legislature elected under the Topeka constitution met at that place on the 1st of March. Charles Robinson took the oath of office as governor, and Andrew H. Reeder and James H. Lane were chosen United States Senators. A memorial to Congress asking admission was adopted, and the legislature adjourned to meet on the 4th of July.
While the report, from the Committee on Territories, on Kansas affairs, the policy of the administration, and the recommendation that, when the Territory should have a population of ninety-three thousand four hundred and twenty inhabitants, a constitutional convention should be called, were under discussion, Mr. Douglas and Mr. Collamer, both members of the committee, addressed the Senate. Mr. Douglas explained the provisions of the bill, defended the legality of the legislature and the validity of its laws, and contended that if there were “disorders " in Kansas they had been provoked by Northern interference, especially by the formation of emigrant-aid societies. Mr. Collamer spoke ably for the minority. Of the duty and responsibility of Congress to legislate for the people of the Territory he said: "I think we have sovereign power. We have the right to repeal the whole of their laws, or any one of them. It is of no use to leave that people as they are. They are bound hand and foot, and no good can result of leaving things to them under Kansas law." He argued the existence of this congressional power from “the cotemporaneous construction of the Constitution," and from the precedents scattered all along the history of congressional action. Mr. Douglas closed by a defiant speech in which he challenged his opponents to an appeal to the people for “an open and a fair fight."
In the winter and spring of 1856, the interest, both in Congress and in the country, growing out of the affairs of Kansas, was profound and the excitement intense. Mr. Douglas, from the Committee on Territories, presented on the 12th of March an elaborate report on the condition of Kansas. A minority report, full, fair, and able, was made by Mr. Collamer. Of these two reports Mr. Sumner at once said: “The whole subject is presented characteristically on both sides. In the report of the majority the true issue is smothered; in that of the minority the true issue stands forth as a pillar of fire to guide the country."
On the 17th of March, Mr. Douglas reported a bill authorizing the people of Kansas to form a constitution preparatory to their admission into the Union when they have the requisite population. A substitute was proposed by Mr. Seward providing for its immediate admission. The debates went on from day to day. The friends of freedom, though few in numbers, were earnest and courageous. They watched vigilantly the course of events. Though hopeless of carrying through the measures they would gladly have seen adopted, they determined that the legislation actually effected should be as little damaging as possible to the interests they had in charge. On the other hand, the forces of oppression, confident in the power which their large majority gave them, not only moved on with unyielding determination and an inexorable persistence to the accomplishment of their ruling purpose to make Kansas a slave State, but they supported, Northern and Southern members alike, with little seeming reluctance, or at least they refused to condemn, even the most audacious measures of the assailants and the most wicked of the pretended laws, born of the border-ruffian policy.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 462-477.
Chapter: “The Kansas Struggle,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.
As Charles Sumner was closing his masterly portrayal of the Crime against Kansas on the floor of the United States Senate, during the afternoon of the 20th of May, 1856, the armed hosts of slavery were concentrating before devoted Lawrence. And as the hundreds of thousands were reading, the next morning, his graphic description, those hosts stood on Mount Oread, with cannon pointed upon the hated town, ready to plunder, burn, and kill.
Early in April, the Congressional investigating committee arrived in Kansas. Supporters of the Territorial legislature were hostile to the investigation. The President in his proclamation, responsive to the free State memorial asking protection, had declared his purpose to maintain the Territorial legislation, if necessary, "by the whole force of the government." The men of western Missouri, who knew they had made the laws, were prompt in public meetings to offer “our assistance "for their enforcement. Nor was an occasion for so doing long wanting.
Arriving in Lawrence while the committee was in session, Sheriff Jones attempted the arrest of S. N. Wood, who had been concerned in the rescue of Branson in the November preceding. Failing in the attempt, he called upon the governor for troops. As the Secretary of War had instructed Colonel Sumner to detail troops for the execution of the laws, a squad of dragoons was placed at the sheriff's disposal. With them he entered Lawrence and arrested several persons, and placed them under guard in tents. On the evening of the 29th of April, he was shot at and wounded, while standing at the door of his tent, by Charles F. Lenhart, a young man in the printing-office of the “Herald of Freedom." The act was promptly disowned by the free State men, and Governor Robinson offered a reward of five hundred dollars for his arrest.
Early in May, Judge Lecompte instructed the grand jury to find bills for "constructive treason” against those who intended to resist the Territorial laws, and who had been elected to office under the Topeka constitution. Governor Reeder, who was bitterly hated by the proslavery men, was in attendance on the investigating committee. On the 7th of May, Deputy Marshal Fain summoned him to appear before the grand jury at Lecompton. Reeder declining to go, Fain entered the room of the committee, the next day, with a writ for his arrest for contempt of court. Reeder appealed to the committee, claiming the right of exemption on the twofold ground that he was a contesting delegate for Congress and a witness before the committee. Howard and Sherman thought his position was correct, but Oliver dissented. Reeder, representing his presence to be important to the investigation, ex pressed the belief that his arrest was intended to embarrass it, avowed his fear that he would not be personally safe in Lecompton, and declared it to be his purpose to avail himself of the privilege of exemption. Instead, however, of returning immediately to Lecompton to report, Fain repaired at once to Franklin, where the Southern volunteers were stationed, and emissaries were at once sent to Missouri to rouse the people.
A few days afterward, Governor Robinson, who had started for the Eastern States, was arrested at Lexington, Missouri, and retained as a prisoner. Governor Reeder was persuaded to leave the Territory. Disguising himself, he was concealed two weeks at a hotel in Kansas City, whence he effected his escape as a deck-hand on one of the river boats. On the llth of May, J. B. Donelson, United States marshal for Kansas, made a proclamation to the people. Stating that the citizens of Lawrence had resisted the execution of the laws, he called upon law-abiding men to repair at once to Lecompton in numbers sufficient to secure their execution. The citizens of Lawrence, repelling the allegation, affirmed in public meeting that the sheriff had been resisted “in no manner whatever, nor by any person whatever," excepting in the single case of Governor Reeder. They also avowed their purpose to obey any writs served upon them by the United States marshal, and even expressed their willingness to furnish aid, if so required, for the execution of any such judicial process.
A large number of proslavery men responded to the marshal's proclamation, warlike demonstrations appeared on all sides, travellers were molested and often arrested, and the declaration was made that Lawrence should be " wiped out" and the Abolitionists driven from the territory. Persons sent by anxious citizens to confer with the governor were waylaid and fired upon by them, and otherwise maltreated. Gathering, too, around Lawrence, they committed outrages, seizing horses, cattle, and other articles of property. Atchison again appeared with his Platt County Rifles and two pieces of artillery. The Kickapoo Rangers marched to the same point, and many of the slave State leaders, as if moved by a common impulse, appeared on the ground. Colonel Buford, with his Southern regiment and two pieces of cannon, was at Franklin. Such was the outlook on the evening of the 20th of May.
Early next morning, the inhabitants saw the advanced guard of the invaders drawn up on Mount Oread. Three cannon were planted on the hill, and over this motley crowd waved a red flag, on which was inscribed “Southern Rights." Fain rode into town with ten men and made several arrests. Re turning to Mount Oread, he said he had completed his task, but was ready to assist Sheriff Jones, who had several writs to serve. The latter then entered the town, halted before the Free State Hotel, called for Mr. Pomroy, and required that all arms in the town should be delivered up. After consultation, five small pieces of artillery were given up. The forces, then on Mount Oread, under Atchison, Buford, Stringfellow, and Titus, entered Lawrence, formed a hollow square, and Atchison made a speech, of which Phillips, in his " Conquest of Kansas," says: "It is an odd mixture of drunken enthusiasm, restraining forbearance, partisan ferocity, and profanity." He declared that the hotel and the printing-offices must be destroyed. After effecting the destruction of the latter, they trained their cannon on the former, firing some forty shots upon it. They then attempted to blow it up with powder, and finally set it on fire. Governor Robinson's house was then plundered and burned, as were a large number of houses in the town. About one hundred and fifty thousand dollars' worth of property was stolen or destroyed.
The Congressional committee at Leavenworth was pursuing its investigations, so distasteful to the proslavery men, who rightly apprehended the damaging revelations that would be made. Large numbers of proslavery men, many fresh from the sacking of Lawrence, gathered here, and a public meeting was held. At this meeting the declaration was made that the free State men must leave the Territory. The Kickapoo Rangers and other young Southerners, armed with United States muskets, paraded the streets and arrested Mr. Conway, transcribing clerk of the committee, Mr. Parrott, and some others. They entered the committee-room in search of Mr. Phillips and several others whose names were on the proscribed lists; but Mr. Phillips had escaped through the kind assistance of S. P. Hanscom, one of the clerks of the committee.
The free State legislature met on the 4th of July. Governor Robinson was a political prisoner, and many of the leading free State men were imprisoned or absent. It was a time of the deepest anxiety and alarm. A free State convention had been held on the day preceding, in which Mr. Hutchinson had introduced a resolution calling upon the legislature to proceed at once to the enactment of a code of laws. The resolution was advocated by himself, Mr. Phillips, and others. A paper was also received by the meeting, signed by Governor Robinson, Judge G. W. Smith, General Deitzler, John Brown, Jr., and several others, who were held as prisoners of State, imploring the legislature to go on and legislate for the protection of the people. But no action was taken.
Governor Shannon had left the Territory, and Secretary Woodson was acting governor. The latter went to Topeka, and there issued a proclamation, forbidding all persons claiming legislative power under the Topeka constitution from organizing. Colonel Sumner, acting under orders from Washington, entered the House of Representatives. The roll was called by the clerk, and this officer remarked that he was about to perform the most disagreeable duty of his life, and that was the dispersion of the legislature. He said his orders were to disperse it; and, in answer to Judge Schuyler, he said he should employ all the force necessary to carry his orders into effect. He then entered the Senate chamber, and in like manner dispersed that body. Colonel Sumner executed his orders and per formed his disagreeable task in a manner so delicate and kindly considerate, that, as he rode off, the free State men gave him three rousing cheers.
This legislature unquestionably represented the actual settlers of Kansas. When it was dispersed, the free State cause seemed to be, if not lost, in extreme peril. The Slave Power was for the moment triumphant, and the cause of freedom in that Territory seemed at least under a dark eclipse. The Missouri River was closed against immigration from the north and east, and highway robberies and murders rendered travel unsafe. Proslavery men, flushed with victory, were jubilant and defiant. At a banquet given at Atchison, the declaration was made that the sons of the South would make Kansas a slave State, "or die in the attempt." The brutal sentiment, too, was uttered and enthusiastically applauded, that every proslavery settler should have one hundred and sixty acres of land, and every Abolitionist “six feet by two."
On the 1st of July, Mr. Howard, from the investigating committee, presented a report which was referred to the Committee on Elections, and Mr. Oliver was authorized to take additional testimony, make a minority report, and have it referred to the same committee. The facts, established by the report of the majority, were, that each election had been carried by invasions from Missouri ; that the legislature was an illegal body; that the election of Whitefield was not held under valid law; that the election of Reeder was not regular, and was only an expression of the people's choice; that a fair election could not then be held without a new census, a stringent election law, impartial judges, and United States troops; that the election for the formation of a State government had been as regular as the disturbed condition of affairs would allow ; and that the Topeka constitution embodied the will of a majority of the people. On the 24th, Mr. Washburn of Maine, from the same committee, reported against Whitefield and in favor of Reeder's claim, Mr. Stephens presenting a minority report. The House, however, voted that neither Whitefield nor Reeder were entitled to seats.
On the 29th of May, Mr. Grow had reported a bill for the admission of Kansas under the Topeka constitution. When it came up, Mr. Stephens of Georgia moved a substitute pro viding for the appointment of five commissioners, to proceed to the Territory to take a census, and to apportion delegates for a constitutional convention, the delegates to be chosen on the day of the Presidential election. To this substitute Mr. Dunn moved an amendment, to repeal the abrogation of the Missouri compromise. The amendment was carried, and the substitute, thus amended, was defeated. The bill was then defeated by the majority of a single vote. Mr. Barclay, a Democratic member from Pennsylvania, moved a reconsideration, which, after a stormy debate, was carried; the bill passed by a vote of ninety-nine to ninety-seven, and the free constitution received the indorsement of the House.
Early in the session, Mr. Grow had presented a bill repealing the acts of the Territorial legislature. Mr. Dunn immediately moved a reconsideration of the vote by which the bill was referred to the committee of the whole; but his motion was not acted on for more than five months, when, on the 29th of July, it was carried. He then moved to substitute a bill. Among its provisions were those suspending all criminal prosecutions, releasing persons confined for political offences, and setting at liberty all slaves remaining in the territory at the end of one year. It also provided for an election of a legislature in November, which legislature was forbidden to pass any ex post facto law; to abridge the freedom of speech or of the press; to deprive any one of trial by jury; or to require any one to take an oath " to support any law other than the Constitution of the United States." The substitute was adopted, several Republicans reluctantly voting for it, and the bill was passed by a majority of fourteen. It went to the Senate, was referred, reported against by Mr. Douglas, and laid on the table.
The bill reported by Mr. Douglas, from the Committee on Territories, for the admission of Kansas, had been debated for several weeks, and amendments were proposed until the last days of June, when it, with bills by Mr. Geyer, Mr. Clayton, Mr. Seward, and Mr. Toombs, was recommitted to the same committee. On the 30th, a new bill was reported by Mr. Douglas, it being substantially the bill introduced by Mr. Toombs. It was debated during the first and second days of July with great earnestness and vigor. The debates and votes on amendments revealed anew the entire subserviency of that body to slaveholding behests. This was especially conspicuous in the votes on several amendments offered in the interests of liberty by Trumbull, Foster, Seward, Clayton, and Wilson.
The closing debate on the bill and its amendments, on the 2d of July, lasted twenty hours. The free State members felt, or at least feared, unless the bill could be defeated, that the cause of freedom in Kansas, if not completely overthrown, was put in great peril. Letters, too, and dispatches were constantly arriving from the Territory, sent by its leading men, many of whom were under arrest and held as state prisoners, expressing the apprehension that all was lost, unless the passage of the bill could be prevented, General Deitzler expressing the belief that, if the Toombs bill was passed, freedom would be "entombed in Kansas." Mr. Wade objected to its passage, because the whole power of organizing that Territory was to be in the hands of five commissioners, and he would not consent to place "liberty under the guardianship “of the present executive, for that would make " Kansas a slave State without a struggle." He said he was amazed at the facility with which some men followed “in the wake of slavery." He arraigned Mr. Pugh, his colleague, who had, he said, turned his back upon three fourths of the legislature of Ohio; who “has never breathed here the name of liberty ; whose tongue has been employed, since he has had a seat on this floor, in nothing but the advocacy of abject slavery." Mr. Trumbull, too, said the bill was not a “fair proposition," and could not be made so until the parties affected by it were placed upon " an equal footing" ; that there could be no fair election so long as free State men were hunted down and liable to constant arrests on " sham process " in the hands of " sham officers." Mr. Wil son said he believed that the passage of that bill would crown the invasion and conquest of the 30th of March, and the border-ruffian legislation. “Kansas," he said, " was conquered, prostrate, powerless." The people were overawed; their presses had been destroyed; many of their leaders were in exile, or were held and guarded by United States soldiers under charges of treason. Lawless bands were driving out and turning back peaceable emigrants. "And now you come," he said,” with your bill to consummate the work. The friends of free Kansas cannot, will not, join with you in this act of crowning infamy." He said that the President had given to Kansas the vile tools of tyranny, the fit associates of border ruffians, who had been the agents for persecuting free State men, and in making Kansas a slave State. The President had been the willing agent and the obedient tool of slavery, and had stood before the Cincinnati convention with “the lurid light of the sacked and burning dwellings of Kansas flashing upon his brow”; but they had averted their faces from him, and had not dared to renominate him.
Mr. Seward compressed into a single and pregnant paragraph the helpless condition of the people of Kansas and the violent and unwarrantable methods by which it had been accomplished. The President, he said, had " perpetrated a coup d’état" by which the constitution given to them by Congress had been " absolutely perverted “; giving him absolute power, in the name and the form of " spurious " authorities, and by which slavery is practically established there already " by force," while " a portion of the people are slain and a larger portion have been expelled from the Territory," or " imprisoned within it on the charge of pretended crimes." An election, under such circumstances, he declared to be “parallel, almost to the point of coincidence, with those which attended the election by which the Republicans of France invested Louis Napoleon with the powers of an absolute despotism."
But these words of the Republican Senators expressed the views of but a small minority of that body. Their opponents were assured and confident, and by voice and vote sustained the policy of the slave propagandists. Mr. Toombs looked, he said, with contempt upon the claim of Republican Senators to be the rightful exponents of the people of the North. He had heard their “shrieks” before, and their appeals would not be listened to, and they and their authors would be despised. “The folly and baseness," he said, “of their appeals, were every day apparent. If two men fight in Kansas over a squatter's claim, and one is killed, it is forthwith heralded over the country as a Southern aggression. If a foul-mouthed Senator gets a caning for an insulting and vulgar speech, this is the last extremity of Southern aggression." Mr. Pugh thanked God that “the tide of fanaticism was ebbing away," and he appealed to the people of Ohio against the resolutions of their legislature. Mr. Reid of North Carolina wanted it distinctly understood that the Union could not last if the people of the North should adopt the views entertained by the Senator from New York, the Senator from Massachusetts, and those who co-operated with them. Even Mr. Crittenden deprecated the rejection of the proposed constitution; for though, he said, there might have been defects in Kansas legislation, it was better than no laws. “When your patient," he said,” is in extremities, you apply this fatal remedy of anarchy." Mr. Clayton, though characterizing some of the laws of this illegal legislation as “most unjust and oppressive," counselled submission, even though, he said, “they should prove by thousands of witnesses that the legislature was elected exclusively by Missourians, and that there was not a single inhabitant of Kansas at the election." Such counsel from such a man be tokened a strange confusion of ideas and the sad demoralization of that dark hour. After this prolonged debate, the bill was passed by a vote of thirty-three to twelve, in the language of a Senator, “three or four hours after sunrise."
The friends in the House, having failed in everything else, sought to secure their purpose, or, rather, to avert the threatened disaster, by attaching to the army bill a proviso forbidding the employment of United States troops for the enforcement of the Territorial laws. It provided that, until Congress shall have passed on the “validity” of the enacting body and of the laws of its enactment, the President shall preserve the peace, and “protect persons and property “on the national highways from “unlawful searches and seizures." It required, too, the President to disarm the organized militia of the Territory, to recall all arms distributed therein, and to prevent armed men from going to “aid in the enforcement and resistance of real or pretended laws." The Senate rejected the amendments. But the House firmly adhered to its position. Committees of conference were appointed, bat they failed to agree. The army bill was lost, and Congress adjourned without passing that important measure.
The President immediately called a special session to meet on the 21st of August. On assembling Mr. Campbell introduced, from the Committee of Ways and Means, the self-same bill and proviso which had passed the House at the previous session. Mr. Stephens offered a substitute, leaving out the proviso. The House being brought to a direct vote, the bill was adopted by a vote of ninety-three to eighty-five. In the Senate, Mr. Hunter moved to amend it by striking out the “obnoxious " proviso. The motion was put without debate, and carried by a vote of thirty-six to seven, and the bill, thus amended, was carried by the same vote.
Mr. Weller of California, though a Democrat and violently partisan in his feelings, introduced a bill, the purport of which, in his own language, was to “wipe out” those laws so infamous in their character that he “would not have them stand on the statute-book of any of the Territories of this Union," violating "not only the organic law, but the Constitution of the United States." Though coupling the existence of such laws with what he stigmatized as “the extraordinary efforts of New England aid societies," he spoke of them as " infamous," and " revolting to every feeling of humanity." Alluding to the law that forbade free discussion of the very question at issue, he spoke of it as “the most atrocious act that ever found its way on to the statute-books of a free people."
This bill introduced, he admitted, on his own personal responsibility, was not acceptable to the members of the Democratic Party; but its discussion was particularly noteworthy, because of the admissions made by its mover and others, and because of the position assumed by the Democratic members and leaders. Mr. Weller expressed his great regret that he had incurred the displeasure of his political friends, and he united with them in laying the bill on the table.
On a motion to proceed to the consideration of another message from the House announcing its adherence to its vote, an earnest speech was made by Mr. Clayton, in which special attention was given to the atrocious laws. Mr. Clayton, though representing a slaveholding State, denounced them in unmeasured terms as “unjust, iniquitous, oppressive, and infamous." Of the law forbidding free discussion he said, it is “an act as egregiously tyrannical as ever was attempted by any of the Stuarts, Tudors, or Plantagenets, of England; and yet," he added, "this Senate persists in declaring that we are not to repeal that."
But the Senate remained inflexible, and allowed no considerations of philanthropy, patriotism, or even of party necessities, to interfere with what had become so completely absolute and controlling, -- the demands of slavery. Anew did the majority afford examples of the vaunt that “the South has no traitors." Administration leaders themselves were willing to imperil the government and cripple its operations by withholding needful appropriations rather than resist the demand of the Slave Power to support the border-ruffian policy of Kansas. If the dead lock was to be broken, others must yield, and other interests must give way. Nor was it doubtful, perhaps, from the first, which section would furnish the recreant ones. The House yielded, reversed its action, and thus closed this unprecedented contest by concurring in the Senate amendment by a vote of one hundred and one to ninety-eight.
The nearly equal division of parties in the House, and the large preponderance of proslavery strength in the Senate, had prevented any legislation, the action of the House being rejected by the Senate, while the proslavery measures, passed by the latter, failed of receiving the support of the former. The friends of free Kansas had been earnest, vigilant, and brave, but all they could achieve was in the form of reports of committees, the introduction of measures, and earnest debates. The conflict, bitter and sanguinary, still raged in the Territory. There outrage and robbery, arson and murder, held high carnival, and the resistance and courage they provoked revealed and illustrated the earnestness of purpose that animated and impelled the free State settlers. This stern strife, while it afforded signal examples of the audacity of crime and the barbarism of slavery, exhibited also rare illustrations of devotion, endurance, and the martyr spirit of liberty.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 496-507.
THE KANSAS-NEBRASKA BILL (1853-1854)
THE divergent interests of the sections were such that the calm produced by the general acquiescence in the compromise of 1850 could not have endured indefinitely; sooner or later the slumbering antagonism must have been aroused. Nevertheless, the measure which disturbed the national quiet and led to a sudden sharp revival of the sectional struggle, seems to have been at that time an undeniable political blunder. At the opening of the session of Congress in December, 1853, there was no federal territory where the status of slavery was not fixed by some law bearing the character of an agreement between the sections; and the federal government and most of the state governments were in the hands of a party committed to the carrying-out of the compromise measures. In his first annual message, Pierce congratulated the country upon its calm, and added: "That this repose is to suffer no shock during my official term if I have power to avert it, those who placed me here may be assured."1
1 Richardson, Messages and Papers, V., 222.
Among minor matters requiring consideration at this time was that of a territorial organization for the region known as Nebraska, comprising that part of the old Louisiana Purchase west of Iowa and Missouri. It was still mainly left to Indian tribes, and had few white inhabitants, but there was a growing desire in western Missouri for a chance to settle in the territory, and a need for protecting the transcontinental wagon route. Hence, Douglas, of Illinois, introduced a series of bills for that purpose, one of which passed the House in 1853, but was blocked in the Senate. Nothing in the bill nor in the language of any of its supporters indicated the idea that the prohibition of slavery in Nebraska by the Missouri Compromise was affected. 1 There was, therefore, nothing to connect the proposed measure with any danger to the political calm.
January 4, 1854, Douglas reported to the Senate from the committee on territories a new Nebraska bill which added to the formal sections a proviso permitting the territory to enter the Union when it became a state, "with or without slavery." The accompanying report said, in substance, that since ·many southerners thought the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, and since the principle of nonintervention had been established by the compromise of 1850, it was advisable to treat all territories as New Mexico and Utah had been dealt with.2
1 Cong. Globe, 32 Cong., 2 Sess., 1113 (March 3, 1853).
2 Senate Reports, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 15.
The bill apparently left the existing prohibition of slavery undisturbed and yet indirectly authorized the inhabitants to disregard it.
Douglas appears to have introduced this singular and startling proposition entirely on his own motion,1 and its purpose seems to have been nothing more nor less than an effort on the part of a presidential candidate to secure favor in a quarter where he lacked popularity. Douglas was too thorough a Democrat in person and in feeling to be regarded with sympathy by the aristocratic south, and if he was to be successful in the Democratic national convention of 1856, he saw that he must somehow gain southern approbation. He undoubtedly thought that by applying the "principle of non-intervention," so successful in allaying discord since 1850, he could win the applause of the south and retain the support of all conservatives at the north who were committed to upholding as a finality the similar arrangement in the cases of Utah and New Mexico. That his bill would produce a revolution in politics and do more than one thing to precipitate civil war never entered his head. His action was based on a total failure to comprehend the veiled sectionalism of the time and a still deeper inability to grasp the moral bearing of the anti-slavery feeling of the north. At no time in all his relations with the slavery controversy did. Douglas show any other criterion than that of immediate political success; and
1 Cong. Globe, 33 Cong., 2 Sess., 216. I
hence all his energy and ability led him ultimately to disaster.
Instantly the question rose as to the exact meaning of the bill, and Douglas was promptly obliged to forsake his vagueness, for on January 16 Dixon, of Kentucky, offered an amendment expressly repealing the Missouri Compromise ; and the next day Sumner responded by offering one expressly reaffirming that clause. It now became necessary for Douglas to commit himself, and with reluctance he decided to risk everything, to accept the principle of the Dixon amendment, and to take the consequences. 1 The first step was to secure the approval of the president, and in this Jefferson Davis, secretary of war, acted as intermediary. In an interview on January 22, Pierce gave his assent 2 for he too was thinking of 1856 and could not risk offending southern supporters. Pierce's conduct has been severely criticised in view of his pledge to allow no disturbance of the existing repose. A far-sighted leader would have foreseen the dangers involved in such a radical proposal as the repeal of the Missouri Compromise; but Pierce was not far-sighted nor was he in any sense a leader. He was simply a man of moderate abilities, good intentions, and personally attractive qualities, who was wholly dominated by his party and its acknowledged leaders.
1 Dixon, Hist. of Missouri Compromise, 442-450.
2 Davis, Confederate Government, I., 28; Webster, "The Responsibility for Secession," in Pol. Sci. Quart., VIII., 278.
The bill was again reported by Douglas on the 24th, with new provisions, by which the Missouri Compromise was openly repealed, on the ground that it was "superseded by the principles of the legislation of 1850," and the territory was divided into two parts, that lying west of Missouri to 'be called Kansas, the rest to remain as Nebraska. It was clearly intended by this last change to prepare Kansas for settlement by the Missourians; while Nebraska, with the larger limits, was left to the slower process of northern immigration. At the same time the Washington Union, reputed to be Pierce's organ, printed an editorial saying that the administration approved the Kansas-Nebraska bill and regarded it as "a test of Democratic orthodoxy." 1 The proposition was now fairly before the country.
By this time the public at the north realized that something startling was under way, and newspapers began to spread the alarm that Douglas and the administration were attempting to open the territories to slavery and disturb the existing equilibrium. Whig and Democratic, as well as Free Soil, papers grew extremely bitter in their comments when the bill was reported in its second form. Then appeared, January 24, a solemn and impassioned protest, written by Chase and signed by the group of third-party men in Congress, entitled the "Appeal of the
1 January 24, 1854: quoted by Rhodes, United States, I., 441 ; cf. Webster, in Pol. Sci. Quart., VIII., 227.
Independent Democrats in Congress to the people of the United States." They called upon the people of the north to oppose the passage of the bill by every possible means of protest; they arraigned it in strong language as "a gross violation of a sacred pledge; as a criminal betrayal of precious rights; as part and parcel of an atrocious plot"; they called the repealing clause, with its reference to the compromise of 1850, "a manifest falsification of the truth of History"; they accused Douglas of criminal ambition, and in conclusion they asked: "Will the people permit their dearest interests to be thus made the mere hazards of a presidential game?" 1 By the time debate opened, the interest of the whole country was concentrated upon the measure, and sectional passions were rising with alarming rapidity.
Then followed one of the most desperate contests in the history of Congress. In the Senate the debate lasted from January 30, almost without interruption, until March 3. It was seen from the start that, with the Democratic administration and most of the southern Whigs to aid him, Douglas was secure of passing his bill through the Senate; but the debating strength of the minority was totally unexpected, and the country hung upon the speeches with unrelaxing tension. Douglas began with a savage personal attack upon Chase and the Independent Democrats, whom he accused of having “applied coarse epithets by name" to him in their address, and of stirring
1 National Era, January 24; 1854; cf. Hart, Chase, 138-143.
the alarm of the north by deception. "This tornado," he cried, "has been raised by Abolitionists and Abolitionists alone. They have made an impression upon the public mind ... by a falsification of the law and of the facts." 1
On the other side the assailants of the bill replied with exasperating emphasis, especially Chase, who in this debate reached in many respects the highest point of his senatorial career. He spoke not merely for the small third-party group, but for the entire north, and in strength of argument, boldness, and directness of attack he took the leadership. He tore the sham features from the bill with merciless hand. "The truth is," he said, "the Compromise acts of 1850 were not intended to introduce any principle of territorial organization to any other territory except that covered by them. . . . Senators, will you unite in a statement which you know to be contradicted by the history of the country? . . . If you wish to break up the time-honored compact embodied in the Missouri Compromise, do it openly, do it boldly. Repeal the Missouri prohibition. Do not declare it 'inoperative' because 'superseded by the principles of the legislation of 1850. ...You may pass it here," he continued, "it may become law. But its effect will be to satisfy all thinking men that no compromises with slavery will endure, except so long as they serve the interests of slavery ...This discussion will hasten the inevitable reorganization of
1 Cong. Globe, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., 279.
parties upon the new issues. . . . It will light up a fire in the country which may, perhaps, consume those · who kindle it.'' 1
Besides Chase, Sumner spoke for the Free Democrats, Seward for the anti-slavery Whigs, and Everett for the Webster Whigs, all opposing the bill on the ground of its violation of national faith. Another recruit was Chase's colleague,· Wade, who up to this time had made no strong impression on the Senate, but who now found a proper field for his rough and aggressive manner in assailing the south and the Democrats. Without Douglas's wonderful adroitness he had much of Douglas's strength in invective, and was from this time among the foremost northern combatants.
On the other side long speeches were made by the leading southern senators; but the real defence of the bill rested with Douglas, who showed in this contest an ability in parliamentary combat unequalled by any of his opponents. His arguments, whether good or bad, were presented in such a manner as to appear plausible and reasonable. He dwelt at length upon the futility of mere laws to exclude or establish slavery in any territory, asserting that the Northwest Ordinance, the Missouri Compromise, and the Oregon act had been mere superfluities, the real decision in every case having been made by the settlers in those regions. Hence he insisted upon the universal applicability of the "principle of non-intervention,"
1 Cong. Globe, 33 Cong., I Sess., App., 139, 140.
claiming the authority of Clay for its support. Further, he repeatedly assailed the Missouri Compromise as in no sense a real compact, and by continually attacking minor defects in his opponents' reasoning made it appear that they and not he were on the defensive before the country.
In the final session Douglas kept up a running debate single-handed against Seward, Sumner, Everett, and Chase, and showed himself more than their equal, closing by a series of bitterly personal attacks upon Chase and Sumner. He accused them of entering the Senate "by corrupt bargain, or a dishonorable coalition in which their character, principles and honor were set up at public auction or private sale. . . . Why," he concluded, "can we not adopt the principle of this bill as a rule of action in all territorial organizations? Why can we not deprive these agitators of their vocation? ... I believe that the peace, the harmony and the perpetuity of the union require us to go back to the doctrines of the Revolution, to the principles of the Constitution, to the principles of the Compromise of 1850, and leave the people, under the Constitution, to do as they may see proper in respect to their own internal affairs." 1
However much Douglas might attempt to restate his proposition in a form more attractive to the north, the issue was the naked one of opening to the introduction of slaves a territory from which they had hitherto been excluded. Chase and Sumner
1 Cong. Globe, 33 Cong., Sess., App., 337, 338.
continually offered amendments designed to emphasize this fact, but their propositions were voted down without ceremony by the administration majority. The only amendments of importance were two providing that the old laws of Louisiana recognizing slavery should not be revived; and limiting the right to acquire and hold land to American citizens. Douglas further accepted an amendment eliminating the equivocal phrase "superseded by" the compromise of 1850, and substituting the words "inconsistent with." A proviso was also added, declaring it to be "the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any territory or state, nor to exclude it therefrom; but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their own domestic institutions in their own way." Benton sneered at this as "a little stump speech injected in the belly of the bill." 1 In this form the measure was finally passed, March 3, 1854, by a vote of 37 to 14. The majority was composed of 28 Democrats, northern and southern, and 9 southern Whigs. The minority comprised 2 Free-Soilers, 6 northern Whigs, 1 southern Whig-Bell, of Tennessee-4 northern Democrats, and 1 southern Democrat-Houston, of Texas.
The struggle was now transferred to the House, but when, on motion of Richardson, of Illinois, Douglas's lieutenant, the bill was taken up on March 21, it was placed on the calendar of the committee of the
1 Cong. Globe, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App., 559.
whole by a vote of 110 to 95. With fifty others ahead of it, the measure seemed placed beyond the reach of legislation; but it was generally recognized that it was not dead. The willingness of the "Hard'' faction of New York Democrats to harass the president caused this apparent defeat, and not a genuine opposition to the bill. Still for weeks it was in abeyance and the country remained in suspense.
Meanwhile the members of Congress and the administration were treated to an explosion of fury in the north which surpassed anything in the memory of living men. At a breath the contented calm of 1853 vanished in a storm of anger towards Douglas, Pierce, and the south. From outraged conservatives who saw their cherished compromise disturbed, to radical anti-slavery men who fiercely welcomed the bill as an unmasking of the perfidy of the '' slave power,'' arose a tempest of protest. Editorials and public letters were followed by meetings, without distinction of party, to denounce the bill, at first singly in the large cities, then by dozens, scores, hundreds in nearly every county and town of the free states. Five northern legislatures passed resolutions of protest. Ministers of all denominations preached sermons against "the Nebraska iniquity," and from them and from thousands of others petitions and remonstrances of every sort began to pour in upon Congress.1
On the other side the bill received scant applause.
1 Rhodes, United States, I., 463-488,
Those in the northern states who did not object to it were silent in the tumult of denunciation, and only a few administration newspapers attempted any defence of the measure. Three Democratic legislatures refused to take any action in the matter, and the only one to pass approving resolutions was that of Illinois, Douglas's own constituency. In the south the general feeling was at first indifference, and the repeal of the Missouri Compromise under Douglas's leadership was regarded as a northern affair; but when the rising anti-slavery excitement became evident, southern newspapers rallied to uphold Pierce. Still, vigorous popular support to counterbalance the northern agitation was lacking.
In the face of this storm the, administration showed a fighting spirit. However much Pierce may have regretted the demon he had conjured up, Douglas and Davis were not the men to yield, and it soon appeared that every sort of official pressure was to be used to put the bill through the House. The cabinet, excepting Marcy and McClelland, who held aloof, worked heartily to whip waverers into line by the use of patronage; and the Union, the administration mouth-piece, let it be clearly understood that no Democrat who forsook his party at this crisis could hope for further favors.1
On May 8, accordingly, with a majority stiffened up by these means, Richardson, of Illinois, strongly aided by Stephens, of Georgia, forced the fighting.
1 March 7, March 22, 1854.
The original Kansas-Nebraska bill was too deeply buried for resurrection, but by laying aside eighteen other bills in succession, another Nebraska bill, .introduced into the House earlier in the session, was finally reached, and to this Richardson moved the Senate bill as a substitute. This maneuver was successful by a vote of about 109 to 88, but the opposition, keyed up to unwonted obstinacy by the popular excitement, were not discouraged from a desperate resistance. On May 11 Richardson moved to close debate, whereat the minority, led by -Campbell, of Ohio, Mace, of Indiana, and Washburne, of Illinois, began a contest of determined filibustering. For over two days, in continuous session, the minority consumed time by incessant roll-calls, motions to adjourn, requests to be excused from voting, and every other device within the rules of the House, while feeling ran continually higher, language grew harsher, and popular excitement grew more intense. The Senate was unable to keep a quorum, for its members were watching from the galleries while Douglas steered affairs on the floor of the House. Finally, late in the second night, when all were angry and many were inflamed with liquor, a personal altercation between Campbell and Stephens and Seward, of Georgia, nearly brought on a free fight. 1 Only the utmost exertions of the speaker, Boyd, of Kentucky, succeeded in securing an adjournment.
1 Cong. Globe, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., 1183 ; Pike, First Blows of the Civil War, 224.
Then followed more days of bitter altercation, but, on a second trial, Richardson obtained a vote to close debate on May 20. The opposition could not have had any real hope of defeating the bill by obstruction, for there was no fixed end to the session nor was there any sign of weakening among the majority; yet, led by the indefatigable Campbell, they still fought on with dilatory motions and amendments until, by a clever trick, Stephens managed to force a vote on the night of May 22. The bill passed, 113 to 100. The majority was composed of 101 Democrats, northern and southern, and 12 southern Whigs; the minority comprised no less than 42 northern Democrats and 2 southern ones who defied the administration, together with 45 northern and 7 southern Whigs and 4 Free Democrats. Since the bill as passed left out the provision restricting land-holding to citizens, it went back to the Senate, which concurred, after a brief debate, on May 25, by 35 to 12. May 30 Pierce signed it, and the Kansas-Nebraska bill became law.
No act more fateful in character ever passed the Congress of the United States, for it set in motion the train of political changes which led straight to the Civil War. It was the direct cause of a radical alteration of northern political feeling, of the total failure of the compromising or Union policy of 1850, and of the destruction of both the national parties. The suddenness of its introduction, the recklessness of its disturbance of the territorial situation, were
Then followed more days of bitter altercation, but, on a second trial, Richardson obtained a vote to close debate on May 20. The opposition could not have had any real hope of defeating the bill by obstruction, for there was no fixed end to the session nor was there any sign of weakening among the majority; yet, led by the indefatigable Campbell, they still fought on with dilatory motions and amendments until, by a clever trick, Stephens managed to force a vote on the night of May 22. The bill passed, 113 to 100. The majority was composed of 101 Democrats, northern and southern, and 12 southern Whigs; the minority comprised no less than 42 northern Democrats and 2 southern ones who defied the administration, together with 45 northern and 7 southern Whigs and 4 Free Democrats. Since the bill as passed left out the provision restricting land-holding to citizens, it went back to the Senate, which concurred, after a brief debate, on May 25, by 35 to 12. May 30 Pierce signed it, and the Kansas-Nebraska bill became law. No act more fateful in character ever passed the Congress of the United States, for it set in motion the train of political changes which led straight to the Civil War. It was the direct cause of a radical alteration of northern political feeling, of the total failure of the compromising or Union policy of 1850, and of the destruction of both the national parties. The suddenness of its introduction, the recklessness of its disturbance of the territorial situation, were such as to make an instant powerful impression; and the members of Congress who passed it realized, when the session finally ended in August, that they had begun a political revolution whose end no man could foresee.
Source: Smith, Theodore Clarke, Parties and Slavery. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 18, 94-108. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.
Chapter: “The Abrogation of the Missouri Compromise,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.
No event in the progress of the great conflict stands out more prominently than the abrogation of the compromise of 1820. As both effect and cause it defies competition and almost comparison with any single measure of the long series of aggressions of the Slave Power. It was more than a mile stone, indicating the distance which the nation had travelled in its disastrous journey; it was a beacon, giving warning of approaching danger. No single act of the Slave Power ever spread greater consternation, produced more lasting results upon the popular mind, or did so much to arouse the North and to convince the people of its desperate character. Lulled by the siren song and drugged by the sorceries of compromise, they had learned to regard with equanimity and to acquiesce in the fixed facts of slavery as, exclusively and perpetually, a Southern system, confined within established limits, and kept back by impassable barriers. So long as it was only the slave that was crushed by its power, and the slaveholding States that were cursed by its presence, the North, sordid and safe, accepted its existence, and even welcomed its pecuniary and political aid, because it put money in its coffers and gave it votes, pleading ever the compact of the fathers as their confident reply to the simple claims, however urgent, of justice and humanity. But when the compromise itself was abrogated, and its obligations were treated as a thing of naught; when the monster, who had been hitherto restricted in his limits, and could only glare across the line, gave no equivocal indications of his purpose to spring upon the fair domain of freedom, and range at will over territory that compromise had made inviolate, then the cry of danger reached ears that were deaf to the voice of duty. Though large masses of the people were still craven, and ready, for present advantage, to eat the bread of dishonor, this flagrant outrage increased the number of those who comprehended the situation, and who were willing to co-operate with others to resist encroachments that were becoming so serious. Men who sat unmoved under the fulminations of the Abolitionists, answering their arguments and warding off their appeals by the cool assumption that they were but the words of fanaticism and folly, did not remain quite as serene when they witnessed these encroachments and anticipated the day, seemingly not very remote, when the whole country would be laid open thereto. Never before had so much feeling been elicited; never before had so many been found ready to dis own their former allegiance to the Slave Power and combine for its overthrow.
At the time of the admission of Missouri with the prohibition of slavery north of 36 30' there was a vast and fertile region lying west and northwest of that State and stretching away to the Rocky Mountains. That beautiful territory, now covered by the States of Kansas and Nebraska, had been for ever consecrated to freedom by the compromise of that act. Sixteen years afterward, the western boundary of Missouri, lying in the Platte country, was extended westward, adding thereby territory enough to make seven counties. This con version of free territory into slave soil was, however, in direct violation of the Missouri compromise, and was carried through Congress under the lead of the Missouri delegation. Having converted in 1836 this portion of free soil to the purposes of slavery, and covered it with thousands of bondmen, the people of Western Missouri desired to enter that magnificent region which lay beyond, in the heart of the continent, and to carry their slaves with them.
At the second session of the XXXIId Congress, Willard P. Hall, a Representative from Missouri, introduced a bill organizing that vast region into a Territory. It was referred to the Committee on Territories, of which William A. Richardson, a Democratic member from Illinois, was chairman. On the 2d of February, 1853, the committee reported a bill for the organization of the Territory of Nebraska. Much opposition was manifested to its passage; but it passed the House on the 10th of February by more than a two-thirds vote. In the Senate it was referred to the Committee on Territories, of which Mr. Douglas was chairman, and reported back without amendment. On the 2d of March, Mr. Douglas made an unsuccessful motion to proceed to its consideration; and when he renewed it the next day it was laid on the table, on motion of Mr. Borland of Arkansas, by a majority of six. The Senators from the slave States, with the exception of those from Missouri, opposed the organization of a Territory which they believed was sure to become a free State, and the effort failed.
The XXXIIId Congress met on the 5th of December, 1853. President Pierce congratulated the country on the sense of repose and security in the public mind which the compromise measures had restored. He assured Congress, and especially those who had placed him in the executive department of the government, that “this repose is to suffer no shock during my official term, if I have power to avert it." These congratulations of the President were, however, manifestly based upon superficial and fallacious views of the real character of the much-lauded compromise and its logical sequences. Failing so signally to comprehend the past, it was not strange that he did not rightly forecast even the near and immediate future. The fact that his own administration was at once to enter upon a policy that would " shock " this seeming repose, disturb the country, and plunge the nation into rebellion and civil war, was evidently far from his thoughts. He did not then apprehend, as he was soon compelled to know, that the repeal of the Missouri compromise was the beginning of the end, the final stage of that open and undisguised aggression and lawless violence which culminated in the slaveholders' Rebellion.
On the 14th of December, 1853, Augustus C. Dodge, the Democratic Senator from Iowa, introduced a bill for the organization of Nebraska. This was referred to the Committee on Territories, which on the 4th of January reported it back with amendments. In the accompanying report the original validity of the Missouri compromise was questioned, and the unauthorized declaration was made that the compromises of 1850 left all questions of slavery to the decision of the people residing in any given Territory. But it was not even hinted that these measures abrogated the prohibition of 1820, nor was its repeal proposed. That new advance had not been made, that new dogma had not been proclaimed. A few days afterward the bill was recommitted to the committee, and on the 16th, Archibald Dixon, a Whig Senator from Kentucky, gave notice of an amendment which he intended to offer, abrogating the Missouri compromise so far as it prohibited slavery, and providing that the citizens of the several States or Territories shall be at liberty to take and hold their slaves within any of the Territories or States to be formed therefrom." The next day, Mr. Sumner gave notice of an amendment, providing that nothing contained in the bill should be construed to abrogate or contravene the act of the 6th of March, 1820.
On the 23d, Mr. Douglas reported back the bill, modified and amended. It proposed a division of the territory into two Territories, the southern to be called Kansas and the northern Nebraska. It provided that all questions pertaining to slavery in the Territories, and in the new States to be formed there from, should be left to the decision of the people, through their appropriate representatives; "that all cases involving title to slaves" and "questions of personal freedom should be referred to the adjudication of the local tribunals, with the right of appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States "; and that the Missouri compromise act of March 6, 1820, " was suspended by the principles of the compromise measures of 1850, and is hereby declared inoperative and void."
It is stated, on the authority of Mr. Fenton, that on the day in which Mr. Douglas introduced his substitute, in consequence of a rumor that the President had agreed to adopt it as a measure of the administration, a meeting of a portion of the New York delegation, popularly designated as the " softs," was held at his room to consider this unwarranted movement. As a result of this conference, it was agreed that Mr. Fenton should visit the President and the Secretary of State, to ascertain the disposition of the administration at this critical juncture. He found the President very much excited over the prospect of a defection of any of the New York Democrats. He said he had certainly calculated on the support of the “softs," as he had shown them at least equal consideration in the distribution of patronage. Mr. Fenton, while expressing kindly feelings, told him that no amount of administration favor could induce him, and he thought that was true of others, to support “a measure so utterly opposed alike to his convictions and his sense of duty." The President earnestly urged that he should not commit himself hastily in opposition to a measure based on Democratic principles.
Mr. Fenton, repairing to the Secretary of State, expressed to him the additional regret it would cause to learn that he too was to give adhesion to the proposition of Senator Doug las. The Secretary seemed depressed, and remarked that if Mr. Fenton had made up his mind on the question it was idle for him to advise. He further stated that the proposition, as a fundamental principle, was Democratic, and that the only question was as to the application under the circumstances. During this interview it was disclosed that he had not been consulted in the matter; that Breckinridge, Phillips of Alabama, Douglas, and one or two others, had been with the reluctant President on the Saturday and a portion of the Sabbath preceding the Monday on which the substitute was presented; and that, after this long discussion, he had finally agreed upon the phraseology to be adopted, and had himself put it in writing, at least so much of it as related to the abrogation of the Missouri compromise and the assertion of the right of the people of a Territory to regulate their own domestic affairs. It is believed that Douglas kept this draught, not less for a guide than for his protection against the possible timidity of the President. On leaving the mansion they were requested to repair to the Secretary of State, in whose prudence and sagacity the President had great confidence; but he was absent, having gone to dine with a member of his family then residing in the city, so that, in fact, he was not consulted, and did not learn of the action taken until about the very hour it was proposed in the Senate by Mr. Douglas.
Secretary Marcy was greatly moved in view of the probable discontent resulting from the proposed measure, and had grave apprehensions of its fatal effect upon the party; but he gave no advice to Mr. Fenton, simply remarking that every person must judge of his duty for himself and walk in the light of his own convictions. He invited, however, a few days afterward, a half-dozen or more of his personal and political friends in Congress from New York to his room, with whom he discussed the propriety of longer remaining in the Cabinet. A majority believed that his retirement at that time would open the doors for the " hards” to walk in and occupy the whole administration ground in New York, and be likely to endanger still further the stability and integrity of the party in the State and nation; and they deemed it best that he should remain. Whether he would have retired had their advice been different is not known, but it is very certain that he never sought to influence members of Congress upon the issue thus presented, and was very reticent in all his subsequent private and official intercourse in relation to it.
The bill was called up the next day, though, at the suggestion of several Senators, its consideration was postponed for a few days. On the question of postponement Mr. Dixon, who had first moved the proposed repeal of the principle of prohibition, made a remark which his position as a slaveholding Whig rendered very significant. After saying that he was perfectly justified with the amendment reported by Mr. Douglas, because it virtually repealed the Missouri compromise act, he made this unequivocal declaration: “Upon the question of slavery I know no Whiggery and I know no Democracy. I am a proslavery man. I am from a slaveholding constituency, and I am here to maintain the rights of that people." This declaration clearly revealed the animus of the slaveholders and the purposes of the Southern Whigs. Mr. Douglas hastened to express his gratification at the declaration of the Senator from Kentucky, that his bill, as it then stood, accomplished all that was intended to be accomplished by Mr. Dixon's amendment. He made the statement, so often repeated during the protracted struggle then beginning, that " the object of the committee was neither to legislate slavery in or out of the Territories; neither to introduce nor to exclude it; but to remove whatever obstacles Congress had put there, and to apply the doctrine of Congressional non-intervention, in accordance with the principles of the compromise measures of 1850."
An appeal of the " Independent Democrats in Congress " to the people of the United States -- signed by Salmon P. Chase and Charles Sumner, Senators, and by Joshua R. Giddings and Edward Wade of Ohio, Gerrit Smith of New York, and Alexander De Witt of Massachusetts, members of the House-- was issued. In that appeal its signers “arraign the bill as a gross violation of a sacred pledge; as a criminal betrayal of precious rights ; as part and parcel of an atrocious plot to con vert a vast territory, consecrated to freedom, into a dreary region of despotism, inhabited by masters and slaves." The proposed action was declared to be against the settled policy of the nation, as clearly indicated in Mr. Jefferson's proviso of 1784, the ordinance of 1787, the compromise of 1820, and even by the manifest purpose of the measures of 1850. The people were warned that the dearest interests of freedom were in imminent peril, and entreated not to become agents in ex tending legalized oppression and systematized injustice over so vast a territory. Christians and Christian ministers were implored, by the precepts of their divine religion, which required them to behold “in every man a brother," to enter their protest against the repeal of "ancient law and the violation of solemn compact." The appeal closed with the solemn avowal that "for ourselves we shall resist it by speech and vote and all the ability that God has given. Even if overcome in the impending struggle, we shall not submit. We shall go home to our constituents, erect anew the standard of freedom, and call upon the people to come to the rescue of the country from the domination of slavery. We will not despair, for the cause of human freedom is the cause of God."
On the 30th, the Senate proceeded to the consideration of the bill, and Mr. Douglas spoke in explanation of its provisions, and commented with great bitterness and severity upon the appeal and upon the members who signed it. He characterized the latter as "Abolition confederates," and declared that the former grossly misrepresented the bill, falsified the action and calumniated the character of the committee. Mr. Chase followed in explanation and in defence of the sentiments put forth in the appeal, of which he was the author. Mr. Wade, who had signed it after it was issued, indorsed every word of it, as he believed it to be perfectly true and correct. Mr. Sumner said that the document had been put forth in the discharge of a high duty, on the precipitate introduction of a measure which could not be regarded without sensations too strong for speech.
On the 3d of February, Mr. Chase moved to strike out so much of the bill as declared that “the Missouri compromise was suspended by the principles of the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures," upon which he addressed the Senate in a very elaborate and exhaustive speech. He sounded the key-note of the opposition, and sketched with great force and point the line of argument afterward presented by the friends of freedom. He made it apparent that the idea of the compromise measures of 1850 being superseded by the compromise measure of 1820 was but an afterthought, forced upon Mr. Douglas by the exigencies of his position.
On the 6th, Mr. Wade spoke in opposition to the bill, maintaining that the introduction of slavery into a Territory was tantamount to the exclusion of free labor. He avowed that the compromise of 1820 was of the nature and binding obligation of a contract, and that the violation of the plighted faith of the nation would precipitate a conflict between liberty and slavery; and that in such a conflict, “it will not be liberty that will die in the nineteenth century." “You may call me," he said,” an Abolitionist, if you will. I care little for that; for, if an undying hatred to slavery constitutes an Abolitionist, I am that Abolitionist. If man's determination, at all times and at all hazards, to the last extremity, to resist the extension of slavery, or any other tyranny, constitutes an Abolitionist, I, before God, believe myself to be that Abolitionist." James C. Jones, a Whig Senator from Tennessee, followed Mr. Wade in a desultory, rambling, and illogical speech, chiefly remarkable for the admission that he did not pretend that the compromise measures of 1850 repealed the compromise measures of 1820, because he did not think it was “maintainable."
On the 8th, Edward Everett of Massachusetts addressed the Senate at length in opposition to the bill. His ripe scholarship and polished oratory, his recognized conservatism, and his support of the compromise measures of 1850, invested his speech with peculiar interest. At the outset, he dwelt upon the grandeur of the first step in laying the foundations of two States, destined to be the centres of vast and imperial influence. He opposed the measure because it conflicted with the Missouri compromise. He denied, with great positiveness and particularity of detail, the assumption of its supporters that the compromise measures of 1850 superseded or repealed that act. Affirming that he had read the voluminous reports, filling the greater part of two or three thick quarto volumes, he said: " I do not find a single word from which it appears that any member of either the Senate or House of Representatives at that time believed that the Territorial enactment of 1850, either as a principle, rule, or precedent, or by analogy, or in any other way, was to act retrospectively or prospectively upon any other Territory. On the contrary, I find much, very much, of a broad, distinct, directly opposite bearing." He also quoted Mr. Webster as affirming that his speech and vote referred to " Utah and New Mexico, and to them alone." He closed by declaring that, while he shared the sentiments of the part of the country where he was born and educated and where his ashes would be laid, he would treat the " constitutional and legal rights " of his fellow-citizens of other parts of the country "with respect, and their characters and feelings with tenderness”; for he believed them to be " as good Christians, as good patriots, as good men, as we are." He thought sectional and passionate agitation would retard, rather than pro mote, the removal of slavery. He further expressed the belief that the children of Africa would go back to the land of their fathers, "voluntary missionaries of civilization and Christianity."
Truman Smith of Connecticut followed Mr. Everett in a very elaborate speech, running through two days. He ex pressed the opinion that, if the measure was carried, it would be carried by the votes of Southern Whigs, would blow the Whig party to atoms, and make another Whig national convention impossible. Mr. Houston followed in opposition to the pas sage of the bill, because, he contended, it violated the rights of the Indians then in possession of the territory. Mr. Chase's amendment was then rejected.
The gist of the bill for the organization of Kansas and Nebraska lay in this amendment of Mr. Douglas abrogating the compromise of 1820. Mr. Douglas himself professed the most profound indifference whether slavery was “voted up or voted down," his main anxiety being, he contended, to vindicate the doctrine of popular sovereignty. As a test of the sincerity of the advocates of the new policy, Mr. Chase moved to empower the Territorial legislature to prohibit slavery, to let the people of the country, he said, see whether those who assert " the principles of non-intervention are willing that the people of the Territories may, if they see fit, exclude slavery." But the amendment was rejected, and the utter hollowness of the pretension that “the people were to be left perfectly free to vote slavery up or vote it down “was fully exposed.
Mr. Badger of North Carolina addressed the Senate at length in favor of the repeal of the Missouri compromise, although he repudiated the new doctrine that it was unconstitutional. He made a point of the alleged humanity of those who preferred to take their slaves into new territory, instead of selling them, and he descanted on the wickedness of not allowing them to do it. " Why," he asked, " if some Southern gentleman wishes to take the nurse who takes charge of his little baby, or the old woman who nursed him in childhood, and whom he called ' Mammy ' until he returned from college, and perhaps afterward too, and whom he wishes to take with him in his old age when he is moving into one of these new Territories for the betterment of the fortunes of the whole family, why, in the name of God, should anybody prevent it ? " To this question Mr. Wade pertinently replied: “The Senator entirely mistakes our position. We have not the least objection and would oppose no obstacle to the Senator's migrating to Kansas and taking his old Mammy along with him. We only insist that he shall not be em powered to sell her after taking her there." Mr. Badger closed his speech by announcing that the Southern Whig Senators "all agree as one man in support of this measure."
Mr. Seward entered his eloquent plea “for freedom and public faith." To the alleged inconsistency of opposing re peal on the part of Northern men who had opposed compromises, he replied that " a life of approval of compromises and of devotion to them only enhances the obligations to fulfil them; a life of disapprobation of the policy of compromises only renders one more earnest in exacting the fulfilment of them when good and cherished interests are secured by them." He reminded Southern Senators that they buried the Wilmot proviso in 1850, and celebrated its obsequies with pomp and revelry; that it was again stalking through those halls; and that, if the representatives of the North would let it rest, they would evoke it from its grave. “Say what you will," he said, " do what you will here, the interests of the non-slaveholding and of the slaveholding States remain just the same; and they will remain just the same until you shall cease to defend and cherish slavery, or we shall cease to honor and defend freedom. The slavery agitation is an eternal struggle between conservatism and progress, between truth and error, between right and wrong. You may sooner by act of Congress compel the sea to repress its upheavings and the round earth to extinguish its eternal fires, than oblige the human mind to cease its inquirings and the human heart to desist from its throbbings."
Reminding Southern members of the vast immigration to Northern States of freemen, -- " such freemen as neither England nor Rome nor Athens ever reared,"-- that half a million of freemen were annually coming from Europe, and that twenty years hence there would be a million of freemen from Asia, he warned them that the tides of freemen and slaves would not voluntarily commingle. But if by their policy they did meet, he said, it was easy to foresee which of them would overcome the resistance of the other. He thus closed his speech, so philosophical in its examination and statement of principles, so eloquent in thought and expression: “‘Man proposes and God disposes. You may legislate and abrogate as you will; but there is a superior Power that overrules all your actions and all your refusals to act, and I fondly hope and trust overrules them to the advancement of the greatness and glory of our country, -- that overrules, I know, not only all your actions and all refusals to act, but all human events to the distant but inevitable result of the equal and universal liberty of all men."
On the 24th of February, Mr. Sumner addressed the Senate against the proposed removal of the “landmarks of freedom." He arraigned it on two distinct grounds,-- in the name of public faith, as an infraction of solemn obligations, assumed beyond the power of recall by the South ; and in the name of freedom, as an unjustifiable departure from the antislavery policy of the fathers. He maintained that it was clear beyond dispute that, by the overthrow of the Missouri prohibition, " slavery will be quickened and slaves themselves will be multiplied, while new room and verge will be secured for the gloomy operations of slave law, under which free labor will droop and a vast territory will be smitten with sterility… Under the slave system the whole social fabric is disorganized, labor loses its dignity, industry sickens, education finds no schools, and all the land of slavery is impoverished." He said that for all who bear the name of slave there was nothing they could call their own, that, “without a father, without a mother, almost without a God, the slave has nothing but a master." He reminded Senators that the passage of the bill would not, as they vainly declared, settle the slavery question; that "nothing can be settled which is not right," nothing can be settled which is adverse to freedom ; that God, nature, and all the holy sentiments of the heart, repudiate all such false, seeming settlement. He declared that he looked forward to the good time when the North and the South should unite in declaring freedom, and not slavery, national, while slavery, and not freedom, should be sectional.
William Pitt Fessenden, a new Whig Senator from Maine, spoke with great clearness and force against repeal. He warned Southern Senators that if, for political purposes and with a political design, the Missouri restriction should be repealed, the people of the North would resist the admission of those Territories as States, except with the exclusion of slavery. The people of the North, he said, were fatigued with these threats of disunion. Being “noise, and nothing else," they produced little impression. To Mr. Butler, interjecting the remark that if such sentiments prevailed he wanted dissolution "right away," he retorted: “Do not delay it on my account."
Mr. Cass, during the debate, elaborated and vindicated the doctrine, embodied in his famous “Nicholson letter," that Congress had no authority over slavery in the Territories, and that the people should adjust it on their own responsibility and in their own manner. Mr. Toombs of Georgia also vindicated the doctrine of popular sovereignty, declaring that “it would outlive the follies and prejudices of its enemies, survive their puny assaults, and pass on and mingle itself with the thought and speech of freemen in all lands and in all countries." Mr. Dodge of Iowa, who had introduced the bill for the organization of the Territories, supported the repeal of the Missouri prohibition, and charged that antislavery had checked and stayed a progressive improvement in the condition of the negro, and had rendered the name of emancipationist odious in the slave States.
It happened then, as often before and afterward, that the most arrogant, revolting, and reckless words were spoken by Northern members; among the most prominent of these was John Pettit of Indiana, who gave utterance to the most extreme views.
Mr. Norris of New Hampshire advocated the repeal because the Missouri compromise was inconsistent with the “great and popular principle established in the acts organizing New Mexico and Utah," and because by such repeal would be reasserted the "original and true principle" of the government, which, if adhered to, would remove from the halls of Congress " the exciting agitation about slavery." He avowed his willingness to give assistance, at the command of an officer, in the execution of the Fugitive Slave Act, and sharply criticised a speech of Mr. Sumner, made in Fanueil Hall, against that act.
Mr. Clayton of Delaware reminded the Senate that the re peal of the Missouri compromise, whatever its character and whatever of wrong was involved therein, was sprung upon the South; that it was not a Southern, but a Northern proposition; that it was supported by sixteen Northern Senators against twelve, by a Northern President, and by a Cabinet having a Northern majority. He thought that Southern Senators whose constituents held slaves could not refuse to accept what was thus pressed upon them by the North.
Mr. Brown of Mississippi affirmed that “slavery is of Divine origin; is a great moral, social, and political blessing, -- a blessing to the slave and a blessing to the master." Butler of South Carolina vindicated the slave system, because the black man was not equal to the white man; because, as he expressed it, "the African race never soared into the regions where the Caucasian race made its greatest developments, -- never furnished astronomer, statesman, general, or poet."
On the 2d of March an amendment was adopted, on motion of Mr. Badger, providing that nothing contained in the bill should be construed to revive or put in force any law that may have existed prior to March 6, 1820, either protecting, establishing, prohibiting, or abolishing slavery. Mr. Chase then moved to so amend the bill as to authorize the people of the Territories to elect their own officers. But this amendment was rejected by a majority of twenty. Another amendment having been offered by Mr. Chase, Mr. Mason called upon the friends of the bill without any delay to vote his amendment down, because the Senator from Ohio and his friends "find," he said, " that if the bill passes their vocation will be gone, the last plank in the shipwreck of their political fortunes will be taken from them, and they will expire, as they deserve to expire, howling, howling like fiends attempting to destroy the country."
On the 3d, Mr. Dawson, a Whig Senator from Georgia, denounced what he was pleased to call “the spirit of fanaticism and the mistaken notions of philanthropy of those who would throw a cordon of free States around the South, to drive the people into emancipation."
The insulting suggestion of Mr. Mason, basing his opposition to an amendment, and urging other Senators to base theirs, upon grounds so purely personal, received, as it merited, indignant rebuke. “I treat with contempt," said Mr. Wade, "any language of dictation, come from what quarter it may. No Senator has a right to rise in his place and utter the language that the Senator from Virginia has used to my col league. It is not becoming the Senator from Virginia, nor in accordance with the rules of order, nor is it consistent with senatorial dignity or gentlemanly courtesy. Because my col league has offered an amendment, the Senator from Virginia rises in his place, impugns his motives, and calls on the Senate to vote down his amendment and trample it under foot. Such dictation may be applicable to a plantation; but it is not be coming in the Senate of the United States."
Mr. Houston, though Southern in sentiment and interest, adjured Senators “to regard the contract once made to harmonize and preserve this Union." “Maintain," he exclaimed,” the Missouri compromise! Stir not up agitation! Give us peace! “He closed his earnest and patriotic appeal with the prediction that “union or disunion depended upon the decision of this question."
The debate was then closed by Mr. Douglas. He reviewed at great length the arguments which had been urged in opposition to his bill. His speech was able, adroit, defiant, and denunciatory. He predicted that, when the measure was fully understood, it would be as popular at the North as at the South; and he congratulated its friends that the arguments in its favor could be used with the same propriety in the North and the South, while the arguments of its enemies " would not bear repetition one mile across Mason and Dixon's line." The vote was then taken at five o'clock in the morning, after a continuous session of seventeen hours, and the bill passed by a vote of thirty-seven to fourteen. Houston of Texas, Hamlin of Maine, James of Rhode Island, Dodge and Walker of Wisconsin, Democrats, and Bell, a Southern Whig, voted in the negative.
Perhaps no measure before Congress ever excited more thoroughly the moral and religious sentiments of the nation. The clergy took an unusual interest. Memorials and protests, numerously signed, were sent to Congress. A memorial was presented by Mr. Everett, signed by more than three thousand clergymen of various religious denominations in New England. Memorials numerously signed by clergymen in the Middle and Western States were also presented. The memorial of the New England clergymen was made the occasion of a savage onslaught that revealed very clearly the spirit of the men who were engineering that measure, and the utter godlessness of the whole project. Mr. Douglas led the assault. “It is presented," he said, " by a denomination of men calling themselves preachers of the gospel, who have come forward with an atrocious falsehood and an atrocious calumny against the Sen ate, desecrated the pulpit, and prostituted the sacred desk to the miserable and corrupting influence of party politics." I doubt," he said again, “whether there is a body of men in America who combine so much profound ignorance on the question upon which they attempt to enlighten the Senate as this same body of preachers."
Mr. Mason said: “Of all others they are the most encroaching and, as a body, arrogant class of men." Mr. Butler declared that “when the clergy quit the province assigned them… going about as agitators.... they divest themselves of all the respect that I can give them." And Mr. Adams averred that “when they depart from their high vocation, and come down to mingle in the turbid pool of politics," he would treat them just as he would other citizens. “I hold," said Mr. Pettit, “that the waters of the pools of politics are infinitely more pellucid and pure and cheering and refreshing than the pool which surrounds their stagnant waters of theology." Mr. Badger " would say, in regard to each of them, what Sir Walter Scott, in one of his novels, makes Cromwell say to the Rev. Mr. Oldenough : Lack-a-day ! Lack-a-day! A learned man, but intemperate; overzeal hath eaten him up.' "
On the 31st of January, Mr. Richardson of Illinois, chairman of the House Committee on Territories, reported a bill for the organization of the Territory of Kansas and Nebraska. After a brief debate the original bill, and two amendments proposed by Mr. English of Indiana, were referred to the committee of the whole. The substitute of Mr. English, instead of the pro vision repealing the Missouri compromise, proposed a clause leaving it to the people to pass such laws in relation to slavery, if not inconsistent with the Constitution, as they might deem most conducive to their interests, happiness, and welfare.
On the 15th of February, Mr. Meacham of Vermont ad dressed the House. “I look," he said, " on that compromise as a contract, as a thing done for a consideration, and that the parties to that contract are bound in honor to execute it in good faith. The consideration on the one side was paid and received in advance. That compromise has stood for thirty-four years. The people, struck dumb by the reckless audacity and perfidy of the proposition, would not believe it had been made, and took refuge in incredulity." He predicted, if that compromise was repealed, that the last compromise had been made between the clashing interests of different sections.
Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia replied in a speech in tensely vituperative and extreme. He denied that the Missouri compromise was a "compact, "because, he said, there were no parties to it, it "being nothing but a law, with no other sanction than any statute." He scouted the idea that there would be any disastrous consequences from its repeal, saying, with contemptuous spite, that the friends of slavery prohibition had been “a wooling," had come back fleeced, and that such men might “rail and rave and rage." Their threats, he continued, are but the “ravings and bowlings and hissings of the beaten and routed ranks of the factionists and malcontents. They are the wailings of the politically condemned, coming up from the bottom of that deep pit where they have been hurled by a patriotic people, for the good, the peace, quiet, and harmony of the whole country. They fought the compromise, he said, as long as there was anything to be made by fighting it. When whipped, routed, and beaten, then, "like craven and mercenary captives, they turn to power to see if anything could be made there by subserviency and sycophancy." The disease of negromania, he contended, could never be cured; the viper would hiss, and even sting the bosom of him who fosters it. Mr. Keitt of South Carolina pronounced the ordinance of 1787 an act of “unconstitutional usurpation," “an ungrateful and graceless act." “It was passed," he said, with strange confusion of metaphors, if not of ideas, “while the old articles of confederation, effete and palsied, were dissolving into wreck and floating away into fragments, which had decayed into imbecility and had only strength enough to invite the agonies of death."
Mr. Breckinridge said that the South would never submit to exclusion from the Territories. Admitting that the immediate effect of the passage of the bill would “furnish food for abolition excitement," he predicted that in two years no man would be found in the West who would dare go before the people in opposition to the principle embodied in it. Clingman of North Carolina presented the Southern view from the Whig standpoint. He declared that the great obstruction to the passage of the bill was the fact, well understood, that every Whig representative from the North was an opponent, and was “appealing to Southern Whigs not to press the question upon them, lest they should thereby break up the Whig party." He charged Northern Whigs with affiliating with Free-Soilers and Abolitionists, and reminded them that they were engaged in a losing game; for, in spite of all their “appeals to fanaticism," the antislavery sentiment and the idea of negro equality were losing ground.
Able responses were made by several Northern Whigs. Among them was Richard Yates of Illinois, afterward governor and United States Senator. “If you pass this bill," he said, "your friends in the North, who have considered the Abolitionists the aggressors and have vindicated your cause, will consider you the aggressors. They will laugh at your flimsy apology that you take the forbidden fruit because it is offered you by a Northern hand. They will consider it a van dal march on territory which, by your own hands, by universal consent and long acquiescence, by patriot sons, by solemn contract and plighted faith, has been consecrated to freedom."
Elihu B. Washburne, from the same State, declared that if Northern rights were to be thus sacrificed, he might be counted on as an “agitator," for” that term had no terrors for him." “The May Flower," he said," " was freighted with agitators, in whom were a nation's hopes and the germs of a nation's greatness. Our Revolutionary fathers were agitators. Agitators threw the tea overboard in Boston and spilled their blood at Concord and Lexington. The questions involved in this bill have taken a deep hold of the public mind, and there is no power on earth that can control its workings. You might as well ask the sea to stand still as to ask the North to submit in silence to the repeal of the Missouri compromise."
Israel Washburn of Maine told his Southern brethren that if they were determined “to make a sectional issue, breaking good faith" and " the ties of fraternal association," then all that remained for Northern Whigs was " to bid them a long good-night." He averred, with too much confidence, that the North would resist until such aggression was stayed. “To doubt it," he said, " were to admit that there is no North and no hopes of a North. It were to admit a degeneracy in the people more swift, more thorough and mournful, than has ever marked any other people since the birth of time. To doubt it were to admit that slavery has the indwelling central power of immortal truth; that liberty is but a name, and the love of it a fantasy. But we will not doubt it. We know that in all human affairs there are seasons of action and of reaction, of victory and defeat. But we also know that in the end nothing shall prevail against truth, and no verity is more grand, more immutable, than this: ' There is nothing on earth divine besides humanity.'' Nor were there wanting others who took the subject to the forum of conscience and applied to it the tests of moral as well as of political responsibility, the teachings of the revealed law of the Creator as well as of the observed laws of his creation.
Among them was Gerrit Smith, who commenced by saying that the slavery question was up again, even in Congress; that it would not keep down at any bidding, however authoritative. The President, he said, had made its keeping down the great end of his office. Members of Congress, political conventions, and “titled divines, taking their cue from commerce and politics, and being no less servile than merchants and demagogues," had done what they could to keep it out of sight. Referring to the madness in man to attempt to hold in check the forces of the moral world, he said: “The power which is ever and anon throwing up the slavery question into our unwilling and affrighted faces is truth. Passion, blinded and infatuated, may not discern this mighty agent. Nevertheless, Truth lives and reigns forever, and she will be continually tossing up unsettled questions. We must bear in mind, too, that every question which has not been disposed of in conformity with her requirements, and which has not been laid to repose on her own blessed bosom, is an unsettled question. Hence, slavery is an unsettled question, and must continue such until it shall have fled forever from the presence of liberty. It must be an entirely unsettled question, because not only is it not in harmony with truth, but there is not one particle of truth in it. Slavery is the baldest and biggest lie on earth. In reducing man to a chattel, it denies that man is man; and in denying that man is man it denies that God is God. For in his own image made he man, -- the black man and the red man, as well as the white man." Asserting that there was no law for American slavery, and that there could be no law for any other slavery, he predicted that the time would come when the nation, then wellnigh dead to any attempt to bring her to repentance, would listen to " the voices of truthful, tender, and faithful admonition “; that the day of her redemption, " of her broken-hearted sorrow for her crimes," would sooner or later come.
Of a very different character was a speech, though on the same side of the question at issue, from Mr. Benton, then a member of the House. More than his peer, perhaps, in talents and knowledge, in political standing and influence, and equally opposed to the measure under discussion, the spirit of the speakers and purport of the two speeches were strangely unlike. While the one was absorbed in a benevolent regard for others, the other seemed on fire with an all-consuming egotism; while the one seemed solicitous to do good to all, the other appeared mainly anxious to crush his enemies; while the words of the one seemed to be wafted on the refreshing breezes from the scenes of celestial love, the others were borne on the sirocco breath of a haughty dogmatism and an intense political hatred. Alluding to the Douglas amendment, which Mr. Chase had characterized as an " afterthought," he called it " a little stump speech injected into the belly of the bill, and which must have a prodigious effect when recited in the prairies, and out toward the frontier, and up toward the heads of the creeks." He declared Territorial sovereignty to be a " monstrosity," " born of timidity and ambition, hatched into existence in the hot incubation of a presidential canvass," " as nonsense, as the essence of nonsense, as the quintessence of nonsense, as the five times distilled essence of political nonsensicality." “Three dogmas," he said,” now afflict the land: squatter sovereignty, non-intervention, and no power in Congress to legislate upon slavery in the Territories. This bill asserts the whole three, and beautifully illustrates the whole three, by knocking one on the head with the other, and trampling each under foot in its turn. It is a bill of assumptions and contradictions, assuming what is unfounded and contradicting what it assumes, a balancing every affirmation by a negation. It is a see-saw bill ; not the innocent see-saw which children play on a plank stuck through a fence, but the up-and-down game of politicians, played at the expense of the peace and harmony of the Union It is an amphibological bill, stuffed with monstrosities, hobbled with contradictions, and badgered with a proviso." He declared that the troubles of the country came from “uneasy politicians," and its safety from the “tranquil masses." He charged that this bill, designed to destroy forever the Missouri compromise, was not called for by any " human being living or expecting to live on the Territories, but by a silent, secret,, limping, halting, creeping, squinting, impish motion, conceived in the dark and midwifed in a committee-room."
Among those who opposed the bill was Nathaniel P. Banks, a Democratic member from Massachusetts. He spoke in behalf of free labor, with which he contended that slave labor was “incompatible," and that voting to extend slavery was legislating "for the benefit of capital against men." He spoke eloquently for the three thousand clergymen of New England who had memorialized Congress and who had been so harshly assailed. "They are not," he said, "anarchists nor revolutionists. They are timid, conservative, inquiring, dependent men. They have no life-tenures, they accumulate no fortunes. They consolidate no powers, they organize no forces. Isolated and dependent, they have parted with no rights and have no selfish ends. The sincerity of their protestation is beyond question, as the earnestness of their appeal should be beyond censure." John Z. Goodrich of the same State predicted that the repeal of the Missouri compromise would wipe out as with a sponge all compromises. Mr. Campbell of Ohio declared that if the bill passed he would wage “an unrelenting and ceaseless war against slavery to the furthermost limits of the Constitution.”
The “subterranean " Democracy of the city of New York found a fitting exponent in its member, Michael Walsh. In a speech of the most extreme and humiliating utterances, he disparaged the free laborer of the North and declared that the only difference between a negro slave and a wages slave was that “the one is a slave of an individual, the other is the slave of an inexorable class."
The general debate having closed on the 20th of May, and every amendment militating against the principle of the bill having been voted down, it was understood that the friends of the measure would force it to a vote on the 22d. Its opponents, deeply impressed with its fearful character and apprehended results, felt called upon to use all legitimate means to delay and, if possible, to defeat its passage. In a body, with parties so nearly balanced and with many veteran tacticians in it, to successfully engineer the measure through the House was no trifling matter. Alexander H. Stephens was selected for that purpose; and it was admitted, alike by friend and foe, that the management of that severe parliamentary conflict was a most adroit and skilful exhibition of legislative strategy. He first moved to strike out the enacting clause of the bill. That motion was sustained by a nearly unanimous vote. But the House refused, by twenty majority, to concur in the vote of the committee of the whole. A substitute was then moved by Mr. Richardson, which was adopted by a majority of nine teen, and the bill was then passed by a majority of thirteen, and the only hope of defeating the measure, by the action of the House, was irretrievably destroyed.
The House bill went to the Senate as an original measure, and was taken up for consideration on the 24th of May. Mr. Pearce of Maryland moved to strike out the provision allowing aliens to vote. Mr. Bell addressed the Senate at great length in explanation and defence of the vote he felt constrained to give, and against the unauthorized announcement which had been made that “the Southern Whigs are a unit in support of the measure." From his speech it appeared that there had been a caucus of Southern Whigs to remonstrate with the "National Intelligencer" for its opposition to the measure, and to secure the announcement that they were “a unit for the measure." His speech, more important for the insight it afforded of Southern tactics than for its professed object, began with an acknowledgment that his first impression was that he should be forced to go for the bill, whether he approved it or not, because, he confessed, he could not see how he could separate from his " Southern Whig friends and the Southern delegation in Congress," and because he had been " told over and over again that he would be politically dead, and that his standing as a public man would be utterly destroyed, if he should vote against that bill ; though, really," he added, " Mr. Toombs is the only Senator from the South with whom I ever conversed who thought this was a good thing in itself." On the other hand, one of his colleagues had declared that he “would regard the repeal of the Missouri compromise as a violation of his honor as a Southern man, and that he would lose his right arm before he would sustain it by his vote." Another, equally strong in his convictions, had expressed his apprehensions of “the dangerous and unhappy results of the measure." Besides, there had been no " organ, Whig or Democratic, in Tennessee, which had uttered a syllable of complaint against the Missouri restriction act, or even suggested the idea that it was proper or desirable to repeal it." Yet, though personally favorable to the measure, he must refuse to vote for it for the sake of retaining the Northern wing of the Whig party, the " sound National Whigs " of " conservative spirit," like the five hundred of the most respectable citizens of Boston, who had " enrolled themselves as special constables to secure the execution of the Fugitive Slave Act," but who were " becoming alarmed at the consequences which threatened to follow the adoption of this measure." But he was the only Southern Whig who withheld his vote from this iniquitous measure. Every other member succumbed to the pressure, thus acknowledging that with him fealty to slavery was paramount to the claims of party, and revealing, too, the only condition on which a national organization could exist. But all “conservative " clauses and efforts were unavailing, and from that hour the Whig party did dis appear from the arena of national politics.
The caucus of Southern Whigs to decide upon the policy to be pursued excited the Northern members and called forth no small amount of indignant protests. Mr. Wade spoke of this treachery of Southern Whigs, who thus, in “secret conclave," "without consultation with their Northern brethren," on "the greatest question that ever challenged the investigation of the American Senate," gave in their adhesion to the measure. Saying that “the humiliation of the North is complete and overwhelming," that "no Southern enemy can wish her deeper degradation," he said his appeal should be to the people. The Southern wing of the old Whig party has “joined its fortunes," he said,” with what is called the national Democracy, and I wish you joy in your new connection." The Northern wing, released from all Southern incumbrance, will become more “popular at home," and, “running without weights" against the slave Democracy of the North, must succeed.
Mr. Benjamin, in a speech distinguished alike for specious subtleties, polished diction, and graceful rhetoric, “merely desired to explain the apparent inconsistency" of his votes. “The amendment," he said,” commends itself to my deliberate judgment. I voted for it before. I shall vote against it now." He vindicated his vote by asserting his willingness to sacrifice the amendment, though it met his approval, “for the purpose of maintaining the great principles “of the bill, its popular sovereignty and its “obliteration of a geographical line."
Mr. Seward spoke with his usual force and hopefulness, though not unmingled with sorrow and humiliation at the immediate prospect. “The sun has set," he said,” for the last time, upon the guaranteed and certain liberties of all the unsettled and unorganized portions of the American continent that lie within the jurisdiction of the .United States. To-morrow's sun will rise in dim eclipse over them. The Senate floor is an old battle-ground, on which have been fought many contests, and always, at least since 1820, with fortunes adverse to the cause of equal and universal freedom." Addressing, however, the supporters of the bill, he remarked: "I only say that there may be an extent of intervention, of aggression, on your side, which may induce the North, at some time, either in this or in some future generation, to adopt your tactics and follow your example. Remember now that this law will be a repealable statute, exposed to all the chances of the Missouri com promise… You are, moreover, setting an example which abrogates all compromises… It has been no proposition of mine to abrogate them now; but the proposition has come from another quarter, from an adverse one. It is about to prevail. The shifting sands of compromise are passing from under my feet, and they are now, without agency of my own, taking hold again on the rock of the Constitution. It shall be no fault of mine if they do not remain firm. This seems to me auspicious of better days and wiser legislation. Through all the darkness and gloom of the present hour bright stars are breaking, that inspire me with hope and excite me to perseverance."
Mr. Cass followed in a speech consisting mainly of a sarcastic rejoinder to Mr. Benton's speech in the House and a defence of his peculiar dogma of “squatter sovereignty." Mr. Mason accepted the bill, notwithstanding he did not approve of some features, because of its great principle that “the general government has no power to legislate on the subject of slavery," and because “this bill, if it pass, is the death-blow of abolition."
The remarks of Mr. Bayard were chiefly noticeable for the admission that the great danger to this country, and the question which lay at the bottom of all abolition excitement, was the naked question: “Is slavery a moral crime? Is it a sin against the laws of God and of Nature, and of the mandates of Christianity? “This was, he said, the great question.” The opinion that slavery is a moral crime, that doctrine, in' defensible and untenable, must be refuted before the American people." Mr. Bayard was not only an eminent lawyer, but an astute politician. He saw that, whatever might be the temporary triumph of slavery, it was still insecure so long as the conscience and religious convictions of the country were unconvinced that it was not “a moral crime." The task he summoned its champions to perform was herculean; and, though often attempted by the talent and learning of the land, clerical and lay, it has often signally failed, for the plain reason that it could not be done.
Mr. Chase again addressed the Senate, reiterating some of his former observations, and urging anew his reasons for op posing the measure. Though overborne for the moment, he spoke hopefully of the future. “All that now remains for me," he said, " is to enter against it, as I now do, my earnest and solemn protest, and to join with my colleague in recording against it the vote of Ohio."
Near the closing hour, Mr. Sumner offered several memorials against the measure; among them “one hundred and twenty-five separate remonstrances from clergymen of the six New England States." Though disclaiming anything like “a defence," he took occasion to vindicate very earnestly the character of the clergy, and their right to be heard at the bar of Congress as remonstrants against this great wrong. Thanking them for their generous interposition, he reminded the Sen ate that in the days of the Revolution John Adams, yearning for independence, said, “Let the pulpits thunder against oppression." And the pulpits did thunder. The time has come for them to thunder again. Styling “the bill .... at once the worst and best bill on which Congress ever acted, the worst, inasmuch as it is a present victory of slavery ; the best bill, for it prepares the way for that ' All hail hereafter,' when slavery must disappear," he said: "Sorrowfully I bend before the wrong you are about to perpetrate. Joyfully I welcome all the promises of the future." The amendment was rejected, and the bill was passed by a vote of thirty-five to thirteen.
Thus, after an excited and protracted debate of four months, in which the country was stirred to its profoundest depths, the plighted faith of the nation was broken and the landmarks of freedom were removed. A region of virgin soil, of fertility and beauty, consecrated by the solemn compact of the government to freedom and free institutions, was opened wide to dominating masters and cowering slaves. That faithless act was consummated by the servility of Northern men, who, seeing that the Slave Power was supreme, were led to believe that its ascendency would outlast their day; and with that assurance they seemed content to bow to its behests and do its bidding. Simply selfish, ambitious, and anxious to win, they were ready to disregard the rights of man, the enduring interests of the country, and the sacred claims of the Christian religion.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 378-405.
THE KANSAS QUESTION BEFORE CONGRESS (1856)
WHEN Congress was ready for action, the Kansas situation presented a threefold problem: the policy of the federal government towards the territory; the attitude which parties should take on the pressing question; and the effect of the controversy on the election of a president, vice-president, and congressmen. By this time Pierce had definitely committed himself. During the early stages of the Kansas difficulties the administration had not intervened directly except to remove Reeder; while nothing was done against the fraudulent territorial legislature, no impediment was placed in the way of the Free State party movements; and Shannon; in the "Wakarusa War,'' tried in vain to get the use of federal troops against Lawrence. Every instinct of caution urged Pierce to a void a decisive stand which would furnish an opportunity for further party attacks. But to expect Pierce to separate himself from his party leaders, or even to restrain them, was out of the question. With his cabinet and Douglas, as well as the southern spokesmen, united in disapproving the Free State programme, it was inevitable that he should adopt their attitude.
On January 24, 1856, he sent a special message on Kansas, which totally condemned the Topeka movement in precisely the terms employed by the leading southern newspapers and speakers. The whole trouble, he said, arose from the Emigrant Aid Society, "that extraordinary measure of propagandist colonization of the Territory of Kansas to prevent the free and natural action of its inhabitants in its internal organization." After criticising Reeder's career with severity, he declared the Topeka organization to be "revolutionary." "It will become treasonable insurrection, “he said, "if it reaches the length of organized resistance to the fundamental or to any other federal law and to the authority of the general government." In phraseology which to Republicans seemed intended as a direct offer of aid to the “Border Ruffians," he intimated his purpose to use force to suppress insurrection, and, if summoned by territorial authority, to prevent invasions of citizens of other states. “But," he added, "it is not the duty of the president of the United States to volunteer interposition by force to preserve the purity of elections." His sole recommendation to Congress was the passage of an enabling act for the formation of a state constitution.1
On February 11 he issued a proclamation directed against both “Border Ruffians" and Free State men,
1 Richardson, Messages and Papers, V., 350.
warning persons planning insurrection or invasion to disperse, announcing his purpose to use federal troops to maintain order, and calling upon citizens of other states "to abstain from unauthorized intermeddling in the local affairs of the territory." 1 Regarded as a tactical move, Pierce's action was needless unless the immediate necessity of satisfying his southern constituents overbore all other considerations. The administration needed to avoid every appearance of partiality, and in this Pierce was wholly unsuccessful. His attitude rendered any action by Congress impossible unless the anti-slavery majority in the House chose to accept his ground; and it furnished at the same time a vulnerable point for attacks from an excited and hostile north. The upshot was the total failure of action by Congress and a steady increase in popular agitation, while in Kansas the situation went from bad to worse.
The congressional contest was opened by a report from the committee on territories, by Douglas, who demonstrated to his own satisfaction the entire legality of the territorial legislature and the illegality of the Topeka organization, laying the blame for everything upon the Emigrant Aid Societies, which he called "combinations to stimulate an unnatural and false system of emigration with a view to controlling elections." Collamer, of Vermont, in a minority report, laid emphasis upon the Missourian invasions, which Douglas contemptuously minimized, and
1 Richardson, Messages and Papers, V., 390. VOL. XVIII.-II
defended the character of the Free State leaders.1 A few days later, March 17, Douglas introduced a bill for the settlement of Kansas affairs in the form of an enabling-act-for the election of a constitutional convention, and advocated it in a powerful speech. As usual he took the offensive from mercilessly attacking Reeder's record, and pointing out that before the Free State men determined to repudiate the territorial legislature as illegal they had repeatedly recognized it. He proved, by quotations from utterances of the more hot -blooded Topeka leaders, including a phrase of Reeder's about carrying the contest to "a bloody issue," that the Free State movement was "a case of open and undisguised rebellion.'' In conclusion he savagely denounced the operations of the Emigrant Aid Society. "The people of Missouri," he insisted, "never contemplated the invasion and conquest of the territory of Kansas; to whatever extent they had imitated .the example of the New England Emigrant Aid Societies, it was done upon the principles of self-defense .... From these facts it is apparent that the whole responsibility for all the disturbances in Kansas rests upon the Massachusetts Emigrant Company and its affiliated Societies." 2 This bill and the speech, stripped of the abuse of the Emigrant Aid Society and the special pleading in behalf of the territorial government, meant that Douglas and
1 Senate Reports, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 34. 2 Cong. Globe, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., App., 285.
Pierce and their associates recognized the difficulties of the existing situation to the extent of being willing to provide an opportunity for the people of the territory to vote on the slavery problem. The anti-Nebraska opposition, however, was not ready to abandon the Kansas question to the Pierce administration, and met Douglas's plan by advocating the admission of Kansas under the Topeka constitution. When the application of the Topeka legislature was brought to Washington by Lane, the Free State leader, it was done in such a bungling manner as to enable the Democrats to handle the memorial without mercy; 1 but the efficiency of the Republicans in debate was such as to put the administration on the defensive. Hale, Sumner, Seward, and Wade were now joined by Trumbull, of Illinois, Harlan, of Iowa, and Wilson, of Massachusetts, and they made a series of severe attacks upon the proslavery party in Kansas. Wilson, always a bold speaker, filled parts of two days with a description of the Missourians' violence and the fraudulent voting, and a defence of the New England settlers. "Sir," he said, "the Emigrant Aid Society of New England has violated no law, human or divine. Standing here, sir, before the Senate and the Country, I challenge the Senator from Missouri or any other Senator, to furnish to the Senate one fact, one authenticated fact to show that the Emigrant Aid Society has performed any illegal act, any act inconsistent
1 Cong. Globe, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., 226, 239.
with the obligations of patriotism, morality or religion. . . . Those who charge the emigrants from the North with aggression upon the members of other sections of the country, utter that which has not the shadow of an element of truth in it and they know it or they are grossly ignorant of Kansas affairs." 1
In the House the Kansas question took the form of a struggle for the seat of congressional delegate, which was contested by Whitfield and Reeder; and after a month of heated discussion the matter was shelved for a time by the appointment of a special committee to visit Kansas and report on the conduct of elections in the territory. A practical result of the election of an anti-Nebraska speaker was the appointment by Banks of Sherman, of Ohio, and Howard, of Michigan, as the majority of the committee, with Oliver, of Missouri, as the only Democrat. For a time, after the departure of this committee, Kansas matters occupied a less prominent place.
While matters were thus in suspense in Congress, Pierce's message and proclamation led to grave events in Kansas. As soon as spring brought the opening of navigation on the Missouri River, northern and southern reinforcements began to enter the territory where, during the previous cold winter, there had been an entire cessation of hostilities. The time had now come, in the opinion of the pro-slavery
1 Cong. Globe, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., 90, 95.
party, for a decisive stroke; and, relying on Pierce's utterances and the speeches of dozens of Democrats as promises of support in ·enforcing their authority, they decided to expunge the Free State party by legal process. A pretext came when Sheriff Jones, whose conduct in and about the town of Lawrence can only be interpreted as inspired by a desire to pick a quarrel, was shot in the back by a northern assassin. Although the Free State leaders made every effort to disavow the attempted murder, Judge Lecompte, of the territorial court, seizing upon this as evidence of the lawless character of the whole Free State party, charged a grand jury that all who resist the territorial laws "resist the power and authority of the United States and are therefore guilty of high treason. If you find that no resistance has been made, but that combinations have been formed for the purpose of resisting them, . . . then you must find bills for constructive treason.'' 1
The jury, composed of pro-slavery men, promptly indicted Reeder, Robinson, Lane, and all the Free State leaders for treason, and presented the Free State Hotel and the Free State newspaper in Lawrence as nuisances. The blow was well aimed. Reeder fled from the territory in disguise, and Robinson was caught in Missouri, brought back to, Kansas and kept a prisoner, in danger of his life from a pro-slavery mob. Then, on May 11, the United States marshal summoned a posse to abate the
1 Phillips, Conquest of Kansas, 267.
nuisance of the Free State Hotel, and at once the Border Ruffians came over the river and were joined by the Kansas territorial-that is, pro–slavery militia, including Buford's band. The Free State people, hesitating to oppose a federal officer, tried to placate their enemies by public meetings and promises, but Jones, Stringfellow, Atchison, and the rest were not to be balked a second time. Lawrence was entered on May 21, the hotel burned, the press destroyed, some leaders arrested, and many houses pillaged. Though only two lives were lost in this affair, the intensely partisan action of Lecompte and the grand jury, and the reckless destruction of property by the so-called posse, made a profound impression at the east.1
Almost simultaneously with this action in Kansas, an episode in Congress stirred popular feeling to the depths. May 19, Sumner delivered a speech in the Senate which, in the tension of the time, fairly drove southern members to fury. It was entitled "The Crime against Kansas," and very nearly merited the name he attached to it-" the most thorough philippic ever uttered in a legislative body." Sumner was a high-minded philanthropist, utterly incapable of understanding an opponent, and to him the attempt to make Kansas a slave state was something inconceivably repulsive. On this occasion he freed his mind with almost hyperbolical language in. a speech as offensive and insulting to the south as the
1 Robinson, Kansas, 234-264.
fertile imagination of the author could possibly make it. Mixed in were personalities as contemptuous and sneering as could be uttered in the Senate, aimed at Douglas and especially at Butler, of South Carolina, who had made a savage attack on Sumner two years before, which had not been forgotten.1
Douglas rose on the spot and repaid Sumner's attack with vituperation of equal bitterness and scorn; but southern leaders, when insulted, felt that they needed a different sort of satisfaction, for in their eye Sumner had put himself so far below the plane of decency as to be worthy only of such chastisement as one would give to a dog or an impudent slave. Two days after the conclusion of Sumner's speech, a relative of Senator Butler's, a member of the House from South Carolina named Preston S. Brooks, who was personally unknown to Sumner, entered the Senate chamber at the close of the session, stood by Sumner's desk, and, after stating who he was, struck him, without further warning, a heavy blow on the head. Stunned and blinded, Sumner was unable to make any resistance, and was quickly beaten into insensibility, while Keitt, of South Carolina, and Edmundson, of Virginia, stood by to prevent interference, and Toombs, Douglas, and a number of other Democrats remained quietly in the vicinity.2
1 Cong. Globe, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., App., 329-347; Pierce, Sumner, III., 441-460.
2 House Reports, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 182, p.
3 Pierce, Sumner, III., 462-477.
This affair produced a tremendous sensation. The Senate could take no action, since Brooks was a member of the other branch of Congress, but the House appointed an investigating committee, which took evidence and reported on June 2. An attempt to expel Brooks and Keitt failed to receive a two thirds vote, but each resigned, to be triumphantly returned by, his admiring constituents. Although Sumner barely escaped with his life and was practically unable to occupy his seat in the Senate for three years, he was commonly sneered at in the south for simulating illness in order to win sympathy. "Sumner and his friends," wrote hot-blooded Governor Wise, of Virginia, "lie like people with brains already soft. . . . Such skulking poltroonery would hurt a man anywhere that the institution of slavery exalts masters to a pride of genteel manhood. At first I regretted the caning, now I am glad of it." 1 Almost two years later, when Sumner had recovered sufficiently to vote in the Senate but not to speak, the correspondent of the Charleston mercury described him as a "masterpiece of hypocrisy, cowardice and infamy," exciting the "ridicule and contempt of the spectators as they looked at his gross, beefy, carcass, which he would have his nigger-worshipping friends believe was still laboring under the affliction of great feebleness and debility." 2 The differing points of view of north and south
1 Unpublished letter, July 3, 1856.
2 Charleston Mercury, March 26, 1858.
were clearly brought out by this assault. In the north the provocation given by the coarse personalities of Sumner's speech was ignored, and the action of Brooks was regarded as typical of the slaveholder. The cowardice shown in attacking a man under such a disadvantage was the chief feature which impressed the north. "I denounce it," cried Burlingame, of Massachusetts, in the House, "in the name of that fair play which bullies and prize-fighters respect. What! strike a man when he is pinioned -when he cannot respond to a blow! Call you that chivalry?" 1 On the other hand, Brooks was enthusiastically praised by southern congressmen, newspapers, and public meetings, was given canes by admiring young men, and eulogized as the personification of "gallantry." To them he had soundly thrashed an abolitionist, and the circumstances of the deserved punishment did not matter. 2 The violence which shocked northern men struck the southerners as normal. A writer in the Southern Literary Messenger summed up the affair by saying that a "foul-mouthed blackguard, presuming upon his senatorial prerogative for immunity from castigation, thought fit to malign an old gentleman and received a severe caning at the hands of a kinsman," and expressed surprise at so much stir over "the ordinary occurrence of one man's chastising another”.2
1 Cong. Globe, 34 Cong., I Sess., App., 655.
2 Pierce, Sumner, III., 488 ; Von Holst, United States, V., 328.
Brooks himself showed sufficient sensitiveness to the persistent accusation of cowardice to challenge Senator Wilson and Representative Burlingame, but although the latter accepted, the duel did not come off, owing to the well-justified hesitation of Brooks to risk crossing New York to reach the appointed fighting-ground at Niagara.
By June the situation in Kansas was growing more serious every day; the policy of the administration had not prevented matters from growing worse, and the debates in Congress served no purpose but to inflame sectional feeling. Congressmen now went armed and were prepared to meet violence with violence.2 Under these conditions the various national nominating conventions met, and the presidential campaign opened.
1 Southern Literary Messenger, XXIV., 29 (January, 1857).
2 Riddle, Wade, 215; Pike, First Blows of the Civil War, 339.
Source: Smith, Theodore Clarke, Parties and Slavery. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 18, 149-160. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.
KANSAS: THE FINAL STAGE OF THE CONFLICT (1857-1858)
IN the opening year of Buchanan's administration political prospects were brighter for the Democratic Party than for several years previous. It was true that the dreaded northern sectional party had at last appeared with formidable strength; but, on the other hand, the forces of conservatism represented by the Democratic and American organizations equaled it in the north and outnumbered it in the country at large. Popular sentiment, tired of the wrangles over slavery, subsided into the quietude which habitually marks the year succeeding a presidential contest. The Republican Party now seemed to be undergoing a reaction; for in the local elections of 1857 it lost ground nearly everywhere, barely carrying several states which had given good majorities in 1856 and failing in New York. In Ohio, where Chase was elected in 1855 by fifteen thousand plurality, he narrowly secured a second term by a margin of 1481 votes. Democratic papers even affected to think that the Republican Party was about to expire. "Black Republicanism is dead in Ohio," said one. “The strong tide of public feeling is surging against it everywhere and the Democrats have fought their last battle against it in this state and in the Union." 1 It seemed quite within the range of possibility that if Buchanan successfully adopted towards Kansas the fair, impartial course to which he had pledged himself, he might end the whole territorial controversy and leave the Republican Party with no grievance and no excuse for existence.
With such hopeful prospects before him, Buchanan took up the Kansas situation in the spring of 1857. His course was clear, marked out for him by the action of his party on the Toombs bill of 1856, by the declaration in the Democratic platform, and by his own explicit statements during and after the campaign. All that was necessary was to appoint an impartial governor, secure a fair registration of voters, provide an honest election to a convention, and furnish an opportunity for the people of Kansas to accept or reject any constitution which might be draughted. Nothing in the Dred Scott decision obstructed this programme; for admitting the validity of the principle that neither Congress nor the territorial legislature could exclude slaves from a territory, the Supreme Court did not deny that in forming a state constitution the people of a territory could pass upon the point. "It is the imperative and indispensable duty of the government of the United States," said Buchanan in his inaugural address," to
1 Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 17, 1857.
secure to every resident inhabitant the free and independent expression of his opinion by his vote. . . . That being accomplished, nothing can be fairer than to leave the people of a territory free from all foreign interference to decide their own destiny for themselves." Still more definitely, in a letter of July, he said, "On the question of submitting the constitution to the bona fide resident settlers of Kansas, I am willing to stand or fall." 1
To carry out his policy, Buchanan sent Robert J. Walker, of Mississippi, to succeed Geary, whose impartial course had been so ill supported by the Pierce administration that he resigned in disgust on March 4, 1857, and, like his predecessors, left the territory in fear for his life.2 Walker, to whom fell the ungrateful task, was a figure of national reputation, formerly senator from Mississippi, secretary of the treasury under Polk, and author of the tariff of 1846, an energetic, irascible man, honorable and fearless of criticism, determined, although from a slave state, to adhere strictly to the impartial course agreed upon by him with Buchanan. In his inaugural address, on May 26, he urged all the settlers to co-operate in forming a state government, announcing that the administration was pledged to secure a fair vote, and that any constitution adopted would be submitted "for ratification
1 Richardson, Messages and Papers, V., 431; House Reports, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 648, p. 112.
2 Gihon, Geary, 288-291.
or rejection by a majority of the then actual, bona fide settlers of Kansas." 1
This plan, however, encountered a serious obstacle in' the form of a movement by the pro-slavery party in Kansas towards the framing of a constitution. It was seen that if the Free State party continued its policy of refusing to take part in any territorial elections, it would be easy to secure a pro-slavery constitution and ask the admission of Kansas into the· Union as a slave state. Acting under this idea, the territorial legislature, after a favorable popular vote in October, 1856, set June 15, 1857, for the election of delegates. Moreover, Stanton, the secretary of the territory and acting governor before the arrival of Walker, apportioned delegates upon the basis of the proslavery electoral registration, defective as it was, and Walker found himself confronted with a constitution-making process which altogether failed to correspond with the impartial intentions of himself and Buchanan.
In the attempt to induce the Free State men to participate in the affair, Walker was unsuccessful, and the election of delegates at this critical point drew out less than one-eighth of the voters in the territory and resulted in the choice of a unanimously pro-slavery convention.2 Not disheartened by
1 Holloway, Kansas, 49.
2 Walker to Buchanan, June 28, 1857, House Reports, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 68, p. 118.
this set-back, Walker continued to urge the Free State party to share in the coming territorial election of October, 1857, and during the summer succeeded in convincing them of his impartiality and of the wisdom of abandoning the hopeless effort to maintain the Topeka government. Many eastern Republicans approved such a change of policy, believing that the majority of Free State men was so large that they could be certain, under a fair count, of controlling the territorial election.1 Walker himself saw clearly that the pro-slavery element was outnumbered, but he felt sure that if Kansas were admitted as a state, free or slave, it would be controlled by the Democratic party and would furnish two more senators to aid in holding the Senate against the danger of Republican control.
By this time, however, Walker's policy had begun to evoke criticism from southern leaders. His repression of Lane and the violent Free State men did not atone in their eyes for his attempts to win the confidence of the moderate anti-slavery leaders; and his hopes for an additional Democratic state offered small compensation for the loss of an expected slave-holding community. His pledge that the constitution should be submitted to the people was termed "a breach of neutrality and an insidious and high-handed breach of faith towards the South and the Southern men in Congress." He was denounced by the Alabama senate and censured by
1 Robinson, Kansas, 354 et seq.
the Democratic state convention of Mississippi, and in August the Charleston. Mercury declared: "We do not believe that since the Union began there has been any question which has brought the South into more complete· union than the proceedings of Governor Walker in Kansas. . . . We do not believe that a single man who sought the suffrages of our people would dare to support or defend Walker's villainy in Kansas." 1 The danger that the Free State men might vote against a pro-slavery constitution now led the radical southern papers to urge that the pro-slavery convention already elected in the spring should enact any constitution it might draught without submitting it to popular vote, notwithstanding the unqualified pledges of both Walker and Buchanan.
In the territorial election of October, 1857, Walker honorably redeemed his promises by throwing out the returns from counties where the pro-slavery party cast its usual fraudulent votes, with the result that the Free State party secured a clear majority of both Council and House of Representatives.2 Had Reeder or Shannon played their parts with equal firmness, this result might have been anticipated by many months, for at all times since the election of 1855 there seems to have been a Free State majority in the territory. Certainly from this moment it was clear that Kansas could not be made
1 Charleston Mercury, May 19, August 19, 1857.
2 Brown, Reminiscences of Walker, 74-103.
3 slave state except against the will of its voters. A turning-point was reached.
The constitutional convention elected in the previous spring now met at the pro-slavery town of Lecompton, with the certainty that its work would be rejected if submitted to the voters. Protected from the angry Free State men by federal troops, this body, under the leadership of John Calhoun, the surveyor of the territory, played a: desperate game. Not daring to follow the suggestions showered upon them by southern newspapers, that they should enact a constitution without any popular vote, they draughted a document which contained a special article on slavery and voted to submit that alone to popular suffrage. It declared that the right of property was higher and before any constitutional sanction; that the right to slave property and its increase was inviolable; and that there was no power in the state to emancipate slaves without their owners' consent, nor to prevent their entrance. If this article should be stricken out, slavery should no longer exist, except that the right of property in slaves already in the territory should not be interfered with. The vote was to be "For the Constitution with Slavery" or "For the Constitution without Slavery," and was to be conducted by officials appointed by the convention itself.1
1 Poore, Charters and Constitutions, 60 5 -611; MacDonald, Select Documents, 436.
The plan was not unskillful. It certainly seemed to submit the crucial point to the people of Kansas, and thereby, if the voters were only concerned to pass upon the existence of slavery, to carry out the pledges of Buchanan and Walker. It was true that if the " Constitution without Slavery'' were adopted, the slaves already in Kansas would not be freed, and amendment would not be possible until 1864; but from the southern point of view the main question would have been settled. The non-submission of the constitution itself did not strike a southerner as peculiar, for this method of enactment was common in the slave states.
The intense indignation in Kansas over this plan of submission was quickly communicated to the north, where the proposition was at once stigmatized as a swindle. "The pretense of submission is a fraud," said the Tribune, "and the refusal to submit the entire constitution itself an outrage." 1 Probably the angriest person in the United States was Walker, who found all his plans thwarted. He told Calhoun plainly that if the scheme were carried through he should oppose it with all his power. Calhoun replied that Buchanan himself favored the idea, whereat Walker in a passion retorted: "I consider such a submission of the question a vile fraud, a base counterfeit, and a wretched device to keep the people from voting .... I will not support it, but I will denounce it, no matter whether the
1 N. Y. Tribune, November 16, 1857.
administration sustains it or not." 1 When the convention adjourned, leaving the vote to be taken on December 21 through its agents, the exasperated governor returned to Washington, as each of his predecessors had done, to lay the matter before the president.
A highly critical decision now lay in Buchanan's hands. In spite of recent Democratic victories and the large Democratic majority in each House of Congress, the administration trembled on the brink of a disaster as complete as that which had overtaken Pierce when his outlook seemed equally prosperous, for the cry of broken faith had wrecked Pierce and it might also ruin Buchanan. The Lecompton constitution tested the sincerity of Buchanan's pledges, for if he were to support his agent, Walker, he could not avoid repudiating that document as Walker had done. It was asserted at the time that this half-way method of submitting the constitution was a plot concocted in the cabinet by Thompson, the secretary of the interior and Calhoun's superior, but that Buchanan himself, up to this period, was innocent, seems to be proved by his correspondence with Walker. He was still free to act.2
But Buchanan was never in his prime a strong willed man, and now he was old and weak. When
1 House Reports, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 648, p. 1rn.
2 Buchanan to Walker, October 22, 1857; Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, II., 110; House Reports, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 648, p. 114.
Walker reached Washington he found that the president had been fairly terrified by Cobb, Thompson, Davis, and other southerners into deciding to uphold the work of the Lecompton convention, 1 and the only course for Walker was to resign, which he did in a stinging public letter.2 In taking this step, Buchanan committed a blunder worse even than that of Pierce when he upheld the fraudulent Kansas legislature, for Buchanan not merely furnished a grievance for the languishing opposition; he took, as it proved, the first step towards the disruption of the Democratic party.
At this juncture the one personality upon whom most depended was Douglas, the idol of the western Democrats, the ablest senatorial debater, and the strongest single leader in the party. He had not found it hard to extenuate the pro-slavery frauds and the Missourian invasions and to uphold the territorial legislature against the Free State "Rebels" with all his powers of argument. If ambition was his guide, it seemed as though he could not hesitate to remain a stalwart defender of the administration and of the Lecompton constitution. But Douglas and his constituents understood something real by "popular sovereignty." By even the narrowest construction, this must mean that the people of a territory actually should vote upon a proposed constitution,
1 Rhodes, United States, II., 280.
2 Walker to Cass, December 15, 1857, Senate Exec. Docs., 35 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 8, p. 130.
in whole and in part, as had been done in every one of the northwestern states between 1846 and 1851. For Douglas to approve the plan of the Lecompton constitution was to put himself squarely athwart every tradition of his section, and he knew this perfectly well. Accordingly, in a dramatic interview, he told the indignant Buchanan that he should denounce it. "Mr. Douglas," said Buchanan, “I wish you to remember that no Democrat ever yet differed from an administration of his own choice without being crushed. Beware of the fate of Tallmadge and Rives." To which Douglas pithily reported: "Mr. President, I wish you to remember that General Jackson is dead."1
Events now moved straight to a party crisis. In his annual message, Buchanan said that the Lecompton convention was legal, and that by the method of submission " every citizen shall have an opportunity of expressing his opinion by his vote whether Kansas shall be received into the Union with or without slavery, and thus the exciting question may be peacefully settled in the very mode required· by the organic law. The election will be held under legitimate authority, and if any portion of the inhabitants shall refuse to vote, a fair opportunity to do so having been presented, this will be their own voluntary act and they alone will be responsible for the consequences.'' 2
1 Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, II., 120.
2 Richardson, Messages and Papers, V., 453.
Two days later Douglas rose and announced his purpose to oppose the Lecompton constitution. He asserted that the Kansas-Nebraska act had for its fundamental principle the right of the people of the territory to decide on all their " domestic concerns;" not merely slavery; that the universal understanding in the country and in the territory had been that any constitution, however framed, would have to be submitted as a whole to the bona fide voters; and that on this issue the national election of 1856 had been won. “They have a right," he said,” to judge for themselves whether they like it or not: ... It is no answer to tell me that the constitution is a good one and unobjectionable. . . . Whether good or bad, it is none of my business and none of yours ...Let me ask you why force this constitution down the throats of the people of Kansas in opposition to their wishes and in violation of their pledges? ... Frame any other bill that carries out the pledge that the people shall be left free to decide on their own domestic institutions for themselves and I will go with you. . . . But if this constitution is to be-forced down our throats, in violation' of the fundamental principles of free government, under a mode of submission that is a mockery and an insult, I will resist it to the last." 1 This message and speech produced a sensation throughout the country, for it presaged a serious rupture between Douglas and the administration.
1 Cong. Globe, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., 17, 18.
While southern papers commented severely upon Douglas's position, most of the northern Democratic sheets applauded his stand and condemned the Lecompton constitution.
In Kansas the situation now developed rapidly into another deadlock; for when, on December 21, the vote on the Lecompton constitution took place, the Free State men, who opposed the document as a whole, refused to participate. Hence the results stood: for the constitution with slavery, 6226 (of which 2720 were later proved fraudulent); for the constitution without slavery, 569. Meanwhile the territorial legislature, convened by Stanton at the urgent demand of the Free State party, had provided for another vote on January 4, 1858, in which ballots might be cast against the constitution as well as for it. Stanton was promptly punished for this indiscretion by removal, but the second vote came off with the following results: for the constitution with slavery, 138; for the constitution without slavery, 24; against the constitution, 10,226. In this confused form the verdict of Kansas upon the Lecompton constitution came before the president and Congress.
Buchanan was by this time fully committed to the extreme southern position and· had cast aside every vestige of the impartiality he had avowed in the preceding year. February 2, 1858, he sent the Lecompton constitution to Congress and recommended the admission of Kansas under it as a slave state. He stigmatized the refusal of the Free State party to vote on December 21 as part of their "treasonable system," especially unpardonable, since, at this time, "the all-important question" was submitted. If they really wished to make Kansas a free state, he concluded, the only way they could do so was by submitting to the Lecompton constitution. "It has been solemnly adjudged," he urged, "by the highest judicial tribunal, . . .that slavery exists in Kansas by virtue of the Constitution of the United States. Kansas is therefore at this moment as much a slave state as Georgia or South Carolina." 1 By this action the irretrievable step was taken and the fate of the administration and the Democratic Party was staked on the effort to force Kansas in as a slave state. From the point of view of political expediency and of party management, no president ever made a worse mistake.
1 Richardson, Messages and Papers, V., 479.
Source: Smith, Theodore Clarke, Parties and Slavery. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 18, 209-222. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.
KEEP, John, 1781-1870, Oberlin, Ohio, educator, college trustee. Ohio Anti-Slavery Society, Manager, 1837-38. Opposed slavery, women’s and African American rights advocate. Trustee of Oberlin College from 1834-1870. Attended World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840.
KEITH, George, circa 1639-1716, b. Aberdeen, Scotland, Society of Friends, Quaker. Early Quaker opponent of slavery. As a result, he was declared an apostate and disowned by the Philadelphia church in 1692. Wrote early protest of slavery and owning slaves, An Exhortation and Caution to Friends Concerning Buying or Keeping of Negroes, in 1693. Exhorted Quakers to free their slaves.
(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. III, p. 502; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 5, Pt. 2, p. 289; Bruns, 1977, pp. 5-9, 17, 31, 39; Drake, 1950, pp. 14-15, 20; Dumond, 1961, p. 17; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 8, 93; Zilversmit, 1967, p. 57; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 12, p. 460)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
KEITH, George, clergyman, b. in Aberdeen, Scotland, about 1639; d. in Sussex, England, in 1716. He was educated in the schools of the Church of Scotland and at the University of Aberdeen. Becoming a Quaker in 1664, he suffered confiscation and imprisonment, and in 1675 was engaged with Robert Barclay in a discussion before the students of Aberdeen university concerning Quaker doctrines. A continuance of persecutions induced Keith to emigrate to the United States in 1684. He became a surveyor in New Jersey, and was engaged to determine the boundary-line between the eastern and western parts of the state. He removed to Philadelphia in 1689, and took charge of a Friends' school, but left it to travel in New England, where he engaged in controversy with John Cotton and Increase Mather. On his return to Philadelphia he became involved in disputes with his own sect. He then went to London and met William Penn in controversy, who pronounced him an apostate and dismissed him from the society. Keith responded in an able argument, and formed a society of his own known as the Christian or Baptist Quakers, or Keithians. Becoming again dissatisfied, he was ordained in the Church of England, and in 1702 was sent by the Society for propagating the gospel on a mission to Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He was signally successful in this work, 700 Quakers under his influence receiving baptism in the Episcopal church. He subsequently returned to England, and became rector of Edburton, Sussex. Bishop Burnet, who was his fellow-student at Aberdeen, says of him in his “History of My Own Times”: “Keith was the most learned man ever in the Quaker sect, well versed both in the Oriental tongues and in philosophy and mathematics.” Besides theological works, he published “Journal of Travels from New Hampshire to Caratuck” (London, 1706); “Standard of the Quakers” (1702; republished in Janney's “History of Friends,” Philadelphia, 1867); and “New Theory of Longitude” (1709). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III, pp. 502.
KELLEY, Abby (Foster), 1811-1887, Pelham, Massachusetts, Society of Friends, Quaker, radical abolitionist leader, women’s rights activist, radical social reformer, orator, lecturer. Active supporter of the American Anti-Slavery Society, doing lectures, fundraising, and participating in anti-slavery conferences and distributing petitions. Married abolitionist Stephan S. Foster. Member of the Underground Railroad, Worcester, Massachusetts.
(Bacon, 1974; Drake, 1950, pp. 14, 158, 176-177; Dumond, 1961, pp. 191, 275-276, 286; Mayer, 1998; Morin, 1994; Sterling, 1991; Yellin, 1994)
KELLEY, William Darrah, 1814-1890, lawyer, jurist, abolitionist. Republican Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. Elected in 1860. Called the “Father of the House.” Voted for Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery
(Gates, 2013, Vol. 10, p. 510; Appletons’, 1888, Vol. III, p. 505; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 12, p. 494; Congressional Globe; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 5, Pt. 2, p. 299)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
KELLEY, William Darrah, congressman, b. in Philadelphia, Pa., 12 April, 1814; d. in Washington, D. C., 9 Jan., 1890. His grandfather, John, was a Revolutionary officer, of Salem county, N. J. William was apprenticed first to a printer and subsequently to a jeweller in Boston, where, while following his trade, he acquired a reputation as a writer and speaker. Returning to Philadelphia in 1840 he studied law, was admitted to the bar the next year, and while practising his profession devoted much time to literary pursuits. He was attorney-general of the state in 1845-'6, and a judge of the court of common pleas of Philadelphia from 1846 till 1856. Until 1848 Mr. Kelley was a Democrat and free-trader, but in 1854 he joined the Republican party, became a protectionist and an ardent abolitionist, and delivered in Philadelphia in 1854 an address on “Slavery in the Territories,” that became widely known. In 1860 he was a delegate to the National Republican convention, and was elected to congress, where he was for many years before his death the senior member of the house in continuous service. He was a member of numerous committees, such as those on naval affairs, agriculture, and Indian affairs, was chairman of that on weights and measures in the 40th congress, and of that on the Centennial celebration. He was often called the “Father of the House,” and was popularly known as “Pig-iron Kelley.” In addition to many political speeches and literary essays, he published “Address at the Colored Department of the House of Refuge” (Philadelphia, 1850); “Reasons for abandoning the Theory of Free Trade and adopting the Principle of Protection to American Industry” (1872); “Speeches, Addresses”; “Letters on Industrial and Financial Questions” (1872); “Letters from Europe” (1880); and “The New South” (1887). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III, pp. 505.
KENTUCKY ANTI-SLAVERY MOVEMENT
Chapter: “Struggles in Kentucky,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.
The years intervening between the opening of negotiations for the annexation of Texas in 1843 and the close of the Presidential election in 1852 have no parallel for the intensity, variety, and disastrous results of the slavery struggle. During those years the successful attempt was made to annex the foreign nation of Texas to the United States; the war with Mexico was fought; vast accessions of territory were secured, and the effort to devote them to freedom was made and failed; the Fugitive Slave Law was enacted and mercilessly executed; the misnamed compromise measures proposed by the slave-masters were adopted and accepted as a " finality " by the conventions of the great national parties; while the crowning act of those years of disaster and infamy was the indorsement by the people of this whole series of aggressions by the triumphant election of Franklin Pierce, whose whole public and partisan career had ever been fully and even ostentatiously committed to the purposes and plans of the Slave Power.
While, too, these aggressions were in progress on the wider domain of the nation at large, evidences of the same spirit and purpose were abundant in the States, as if prompted by a common inspiration, as they certainly tended to a common end. Even the attempts made by a few friends of the slave to ameliorate his condition and perhaps inaugurate measures for his ultimate emancipation were made the occasion, if not the cause, of efforts not only to tighten his chains; but to increase the burdens, already fearful, that bore upon the free colored population, both at the North and the South. Not only were old laws, which had become a dead letter or comparatively inoperative, revived and executed with greater rigor; but new laws were enacted, which can hardly be read even now without a sense of shame and a shudder at their terrible injustice and inhumanity. Especially was this true in the Southern Border States, with too many sympathizers and imitators in several of the Northern States; nominally free, though free in little but in name.
These persistent efforts of the propagandists ill behalf of slavery could not but fix attention upon it as the cause of all these constant and disturbing movements, while it challenged investigation anew into the merits of a system for which such efforts were made and such sacrifices called tor. Especially did this result from the relinquishment by its defenders of the former arguments that slavery was an entailed evil, for which the present generations were not responsible, --a temporary evil, that carried within itself the seeds of its own destruction, and which must soon pass away in the presence and by the workings of free institutions. The new dogmas that slavery was a good, and not an evil; that it was not temporary, but to be permanent; that it was not sectional, but national; and that the Constitution carried it wherever it went, presented the whole subject in a new light. Many felt that it must be re-examined, and that the arguments and considerations that formerly reconciled could satisfy them no longer. These considerations, with the earnest teachings, warnings, and appeals of Abolitionists, reached a few open ears and tender consciences at the South, as evinced by the movements in several of the Border States to improve their legislation in regard to the colored race. Besides, these unblushing demands for new slave States took the question at once from the domain of mere abstractions, theoretical or sentimental, into the realms of the actual, where problems of the most imperative practical importance, involving not merely the well-being but the safety of the nation itself, compelled consideration. The men who entertained these opinions and purposes were mainly ministers and members of Christian churches, who mostly occupied the western portions of Virginia and North Carolina and the eastern portions of Tennessee and Kentucky, being the more mountainous regions, where slavery had never gained so strong a foothold as in other portions of those States, and in the far South. They were, however, earnest and hopeful, though doomed to disappointment.
In Kentucky the activity was greatest. This was especially apparent in a convention called for a revision of the constitution in 1849. What position slavery should occupy in the new organic law of the State became a question of general and exciting interest, and the conflicting opinions of friends and foes of the system found frequent and forcible utterance from the pulpit and press, in meetings and conventions of the people. The Louisville “Examiner “became a bold and able organ of the radical emancipationists. It pronounced slavery to be “a political and moral deformity, “--”a wrong to the whole community, a wrong to republicanism, a wrong to religion." The " Courier," too, of the same city, rebuked the sentiments, often enunciated by the slaveholders, hostile to free labor as " anti-Christian, anti-republican," and as affording the strongest arguments in favor of emancipation.
In February of that year, Mr. Clay addressed a letter on emancipation to Richard Pendell of New Orleans, in which he expressed sentiments at once statesmanlike and Christian, though singularly at war with his subsequent course on the subject. He denounced the doctrine that slavery was a blessing, and urged as an argument that, if it were, whites should be made slaves when blacks could not be obtained. Concerning the argument derived from the alleged inferiority of the African race he said, if that was a legitimate reason for such enslavement, the same principle should apply to individuals, and the'" wisest man in the world would have a right to make slaves of all the rest of mankind." For this alleged superiority, he said, we should be grateful, and admit the duties it imposed. “And these," he added,” would require us not to subjugate or deal unjustly with our fellow-men who are less blessed than we are, but to instruct, to improve, and to enlighten them."
Such were the noble and well-expressed sentiments of the great statesman; such his unequivocal condemnation of American slavery. Hardly could an avowed Abolitionist have put it more cogently. But what remedy did he propose for this great and indefensible evil? Something singularly inadequate to the exigencies of the case,--a plan of gradual emancipation and. colonization, even the beginning of which must be deferred thirty years. He proposed that all born after the year 1855 or 1860 should be emancipated at the age of twenty-five, on condition that they should be colonized in Africa; the work of emancipation to be deferred entirely for more than a generation, not one then a slave to be freed, and even those who were to receive the proffered boon to grind in the prison-house of slavery for twenty-five years. To say nothing of the wickedness and inhumanity of such a scheme, was ever anything more impracticable? Could Mr. Clay have been sincere? or did he present this strange and inconsequential scheme in deference to what he knew to be the popular sentiment of Kentucky?
At a public meeting at Lexington, addressed by Mr. Clay and Dr. Robert J. Breckinridge, a series of resolutions were unanimously adopted, declaring hereditary slavery to be contrary to the rights of man, opposed to the fundamental principles of free government, inconsistent with a state of sound morality, hostile to the prosperity of the commonwealth; that it should not be made perpetual; and that steps should be taken at the convention to ameliorate slavery by a system of practicable measures, just to the master and beneficial to the slave.
A convention was held, at which were represented twenty-six counties by one hundred and sixty members, representing all- sects, parties, and professions. A large proportion were slaveholders. It presented no plan of emancipation, but suggested that an effort should be made to secure an article in the constitution empowering the people to effect emancipation when a majority could be secured in its favor. In this convention Dr. Breckinridge, a leading clergyman of the Presbyterian Church, made a strong presentation of the claims of freedom and of his estimate of the evils of slavery. Being asked if he would " sacrifice his political principles to carry emancipation," he gave the prompt and unequivocal reply, " I can and I will "; and in his reply he gave the following resume of some of the items of the fearful price those individuals and the nation were paying, who, for political considerations, were willing to vote for slavery or for those parties who took slavery under their protection and made its conservation a part of their platform.” What! am I expected," he said, " to sacrifice to my political feelings and party the personal freedom of two hundred thousand of my fellow-beings and their countless posterity forever, their right to the free use of their own bodies and their own souls, their right to the use of the proceeds of their labor and the sweat of their brows, and the right of teaching and being taught God's Holy Word? What kind of a state of society would that be, Mr. President, in which stealing was authorized by law, in which the marriage relation was abolished by law, in which no man had any wife in particular and no woman had any husband in particular, when universal concubinage prevailed, and no child knew his own father and no father knew his own child? It would be a hell upon earth. THAT, SIR, IS NEGRO SLAVERY." This language of a Southern man, son of the Attorney-General of Mr. Jefferson's administration, tells its own story. The most radical Abolitionist and the most extravagant antislavery utterance needed no stronger indorsement. As might have been expected, that man was loyal during the slave-holders rebellion, became a prominent member of the Republican Party, and presided over the convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln for the second term.
Large liberty of speech was allowed, and for the time even the most decided antislavery utterances were tolerated; so much so that John G. Fee, who has, before and since, felt the power of slaveholding hate, declared that " a pure and whole gospel can be preached here."
But the hopes excited by this freedom of debate were disappointed by the canvass made for delegates. In that were revealed not only the strength and violent purpose of the opposers of freedom, but the general proslavery sentiment of the State, even among the churches, from whom the friends of liberty had expected sympathy and support. It showed that this language of a president of a. Southern college, in the General Conference of the Methodist Church South, was none too sweeping or too severe: " I do not hesitate to say that the controlling influence in that organization is decidedly, unblushingly, and I may add exultingly, proslavery in its character." As the result of that canvass, only one friend of emancipation was chosen to the constitutional convention, although more than thirty thousand votes were given. Instead of adopting any plan of emancipation, however gradual, the convention, under the lead of Garret Davis, and Archibald Dixon who afterward moved in Congress the repeal of the Missouri compromise, adopted in the new constitution a provision declaring that "the right of property is before and higher than any constitutional sanction, and the right of the owners of a slave to such slave and its increase is the same and as inviolable as the right of the owner of any property whatever."
Why results so inadequate and unexpected rewarded labors so earnest and hopeful, and why what seemed but the dawning of a brighter day became in reality but the twilight of a darker night, may not be fully comprehended. These, however, seem to be the facts of the case: Slavery had done its work so thoroughly in the State, so completely had its influence corrupted the popular mind and heart in church and state, largely controlling both the pulpit and the press, that the per centum of its inhabitants who were prepared to appreciate and yield to the higher and more humane considerations of reason and conscience, justice and humanity, social reform and political economy, had become really very small. Slavery was stronger than even its friends believed it to be. And thus it happened that even the efforts of the friends of freedom not only revealed that fact, but tended rather to increase and intensify it. They stimulated the proslavery leaders to redouble their efforts, as it afforded them arguments to induce all not committed to the other side to range themselves under their banners. With untiring and unscrupulous persistence they approached all classes and urged all motives that promised aid. Especially earnest were their appeals to the prejudices and groundless apprehensions of the non-slaveholding whites, who were made to believe that “to emancipate the black man was to enslave the white man." In both the canvass and convention, the rivalry of parties was made to play an important part; the Democrats and Whigs leaving none to doubt their purpose to conciliate and gain the confidence of the Slave Power by concessions and proffered devotion to its interests. Such Whigs as Davis and Dixon made no concealment of their determination to convince the slave-masters that their interests were as safe in the hands of the Whig as of the Democratic party. The history of the other Border States was substantially the same, revealing the same general characteristics and like consequent results; though in no State were cause and effect more marked and intensified than in Kentucky. However explained, none of the border slaveholding States ever exhibited or continued to exhibit; even after emancipation, more of proslavery intolerance and perverseness; in none did the friends of freedom, and of the Union, also, find less sympathy, or meet with more determined and persistent opposition.
Source: Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 175-180.
KIMBALL, Joseph Horace, 1813-1836, author, anti-slavery agent, editor of the Herald of Freedom newspaper of the New Hampshire Anti-Slavery Society.
(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. III, p. 537; Dumond, 1961, pp. 188, 393n25)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
KIMBALL, Joseph Horace, author, b. in Pembroke, N. H., 26 April, 1813; d. in West Concord, N. H., 11 April, 1836. He resided in Concord, N. H., where he edited “The Herald of Freedom,” an anti-slavery journal. After a visit to the West India islands he published jointly with two friends “Emancipation in the West Indies: a Six Months’ Tour in Antigua, Barbadoes, and Jamaica in 1837” (New York, 1838). Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888.
KING, Dexter S., Boston, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Abolition Society, Vice-President, 1839-, 1846-?-50-, Manager, 1842-, Executive Committee, 1842-, 1846-, 1850, President, 1844-45
KING, John Alsop, 1788-1867, statesman, lawyer, soldier, political leader, diplomat, U.S. Congressman, Governor of New York, son of Rufus King. He opposed compromises on issues of slavery, especially the Fugitive Slave Law. Supported admission of California as a free state. Active in the Whig Party and later founding member of the Republican Party in 1856. Elected Governor of New York in 1856, serving one term.
(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III, pp. 543-544; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 5, Pt. 2, p. 394)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
KING, John Alsop, statesman, b. in New York city, 3 Jan., 1788; d. in Jamaica, N. Y., 7 July, 1867, was, with his brother Charles, placed at school at Harrow during his father's residence in England. Thence he went to Paris, and then returned to New York, where he was admitted to the bar. In 1812, when war with Great Britain was declared, he gave his services to the country, and was later a lieutenant of cavalry stationed in New York. Soon after the war he removed to Jamaica, N. Y., near his father's home, and was for several years practically engaged in farming. He was elected in 1819 and in several subsequent years to the assembly of the state, and, with his brother Charles, opposed many of the schemes of De Witt Clinton. He was, however, friendly to the canal, and was chosen to the state senate after the adoption of the new constitution. From- this he resigned in order that he might, as secretary of legation, accompany his father on his mission to Great Britain. The failure of the latter's health obliged him to return, and his son remained as charge d'affaires until the arrival of the new minister. Returning home to his residence at Jamaica, he was again, in 1838, sent to the assembly, and in 1849 he took his seat as a representative in congress, having been elected as a Whig. He strenuously resisted the compromise measures, especially the fugitive-slave law, and advocated the admission of California as a free state. He was an active member of several Whig nominating conventions, presided over that at Syracuse, N. Y., in 1855, where the Republican party was formed, and in 1856, in the convention at Philadelphia, warmly advocated the nomination of Gen. Frémont. He was elected governor of New York in 1856, entered on the duties of the office, 1 Jan., 1857, and specially interested himself in internal improvements and popular education. On the expiration of his term he declined a renomination on account of increasing age, and retired to private life, from which he only emerged, at the call of Gov. Morgan, to become a member of the Peace convention of 1861. He was a member of the Protestant Episcopal church, and was active in its diocesan conventions. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III.
KING, Leicester, 1789-1856, Warren, Ohio, abolitionist leader, political leader, businessman, jurist, leader of the anti-slavery Liberty Party. Manager, 1837-1839, and Vice President, 1839-1840, American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS). Ohio State Senator, 1835-1839. Member, Whig Party. U.S. Vice Presidential candidate, Liberty Party, in 1848.
(Dumond, 1961, p. 302; Mitchell, 2007, p. 24; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 50)
KING, Preston, 1806-1865, U.S. Congressman, U.S. Senator, politician. Son of founding father Rufus King. Opponent of the extension of slavery into the new territories acquired from Mexico after 1846. Supporter of the Wilmot Proviso in Congress. Co-founder of Free Soil Party. Opposed the Fugitive Slave Act and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. U.S. Senator, 1857-1863. Supported Lincoln and the Union. Later organized Republican Party and supported William H. Seward, Thurlow Weed and John Frémont.
(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 12, p. 708; Encylopaedia Americana, 1831, Vol. VII, pp. 326-328; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 5, Pt. 2, p. 396)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
KING, Preston, senator, b. in Ogdensburg, N. Y., 14 Oct., 1806; drowned in Hudson river, 12 Nov., 1865. He was graduated at Union in 1827, studied law, and practised in St. Lawrence county, N. Y. He entered politics in early life, was a strong friend of Silas Wright, and an admirer of Andrew Jackson, and established the “St. Lawrence Republican” at Ogdensburg in 1830, in support of the latter. He was for a time postmaster there, and in 1834-'7 a member of the state assembly. He was a representative in congress in 1843-'7 and in 1849-'53, having been elected as a Democrat, but in 1854 joined the Republican party, was its candidate for secretary of state in 1855, and in 1857-'63 served as U. S. senator. Early in 1861, in the debate on the naval appropriation bill, Mr. King said that the Union could not be destroyed peaceably, and was one of the first to give his opinion thus plainly. In closing, he said: “I tell these gentlemen, in my judgment this treason must come to an end—peacefully, I hope; but never, in my judgment, peacefully by the ignominious submission of the people of this country to traitors—never. I desire peace, but I would amply provide means for the defence of the country by war, if necessary.” After the expiration of his term, Mr. King resumed the practice of law in New York city. He was a warm friend of Andrew Johnson, and, as a member of the Baltimore convention of 1864, did much to secure his nomination for the vice-presidency. After his accession to the presidency, Mr. Johnson appointed Mr. King collector of the port of New York. Financial troubles and the responsibilities of his office unsettled his mind, and he committed suicide by jumping from a ferry-boat into the Hudson river. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III.
KING, Rufus, 1755-1827, Massachusetts, statesman, founding father, lawyer, diplomat, soldier, early opponent of slavery. Member of the Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. U.S. Congressional Representative and U.S. Senator. Wrote clause in Northwest Ordinance excluding slavery from Northwest Territories. It stated, in part, “that there should be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the states,” and that this should “remain a fundamental principle of the Constitution…” As a Senator in 1819, he opposed the admission of Missouri as a slave state. King entered proposals in the Senate to abolish slavery. His son was anti-slavery activist John Alsop King.
(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. III, pp. 542-543; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 5, Pt. 2, p. 398; Dumond, 1961, pp. 38, 40, 103, 131-132; Locke, 1901, pp. 93, 158n; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 12, p. 713)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
KING, Rufus, statesman, b. in Scarborough, Me., in 1755; d. in New York city, 29 April, 1827. He was the eldest son of Richard King, a successful merchant of Scarborough, and was graduated at Harvard in 1777, having continued his studies while the college buildings were occupied for military purposes. He then studied law with Theophilus Parsons at Newburyport. While so engaged, in 1778, he became aide to Gen. Sullivan in his expedition to Rhode Island, and after its unsuccessful issue was honorably discharged. In due time he was admitted to the bar, where he took high rank, and was sent in 1783 to the general court of Massachusetts. Here he was active in the discussion of public measures, and especially in carrying against powerful opposition the assent of the legislature to grant the 5-per-cent impost to the congress of the confederation, which was requisite to enable it to insure the common safety. In 1784, by an almost unanimous vote of the legislature, Mr. King was sent a delegate to the old congress, sitting at Trenton, and again in 1785 and 1786. In this body, in 1785, he moved “that there should be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the states described in the resolution of congress in April, 1784, otherwise than in punishment of crime whereof the party shall have been personally guilty; and that this regulation shall be made an article of compact, and remain a fundamental principle of the constitution between the original states and each of the states named in the said resolve.” Though this was not at the time acted upon, the principle was finally adopted almost word for word in the famous ordinance of 1787 for the government of the northwestern territory, a provision which had been prepared by Mr. King, and which was introduced into congress by Nathan Dane, his colleague, while Mr. King was engaged in Philadelphia as a member from Massachusetts of the convention to form a constitution for the United States. He was also appointed by his state to the commissions to settle the boundaries between Massachusetts and New York, and to convey to the United States lands lying west of the Alleghanies. While in congress in 1786 he was sent with James Monroe to urge upon the legislature of Pennsylvania the payment of the 5-per-cent impost, but was not so successful as he had been in Massachusetts. In 1787 Mr. King was appointed one from his state to the convention at Philadelphia to establish a more stable government for the United States. In this body he bore a conspicuous and able part. He was one of the members to whom was assigned the duty of making a final draft of the constitution of the United States. When the question of its adoption was submitted to the states, Mr. King was sent to the Massachusetts convention, and, although the opposition to it was carried on by most of the chief men of the state, his familiarity with its provisions, his clear explanation of them, and his earnest and eloquent statement of its advantages, contributed greatly to bring about its final adoption. Mr. King had now given up the practice of law, and having in 1786 married Mary, the daughter of John Alsop, a deputy from New York to the first Continental congress, he took up his residence in New York in 1788. The next year he was elected to the assembly of the state, and while serving in that body “received the unexampled welcome of an immediate election with Schuyler to the senate” of the United States. In this body he was rarely absent from his seat, and did much to put the new government into successful operation. One of the grave questions that arose was that of the ratification of the Jay treaty with Great Britain in 1794. Of this he was an earnest advocate, and when he and his friend Gen. Hamilton were prevented from explaining its provisions to the people in public meeting in New York, they united in publishing, under the signature of “Camillus,” a series of explanatory papers, of which those relating to commercial affairs and maritime law were written by Mr. King. This careful study laid the foundation of much of the readiness and ability that he manifested during his residence in England as U. S. minister, to which post, while serving his second term in the senate, he was appointed by Gen. Washington in 1796, and in which he continued during the administration of John Adams and two years of that of Thomas Jefferson. The contingencies arising from the complicated condition of affairs, political and commercial, between Great Britain and her continental neighbors, required careful handling in looking after the interests of his country; and Mr. King, by his firm and intelligent presentation of the matters intrusted to him, did good service to his country and assisted largely to raise it to consideration and respect. In 1803 he was relieved, at his own request, from his office, and, returning to this country, removed to Jamaica, L. I. There, in the quiet of a country life, he interested himself in agriculture, kept up an extensive correspondence with eminent men at home and abroad, and enriched his mind by careful and varied reading. He was opposed on principle to the war of 1812 with England, when it was finally declared, but afterward gave to the government his support, both by money and by his voice in private and in the U. S. senate, to which he was again elected in 1813. In 1814 he made an eloquent appeal against the proposed desertion of Washington after the British had burned the capitol. In 1816, without his knowledge, he was nominated as governor of New York, but was defeated, as he was also when a candidate of the Federal party for the presidency against James Monroe. During this senatorial term he opposed the establishment of a national bank with $50,000,000 capital; and, while resisting the efforts of Great Britain to exclude the United States from the commerce of the West Indies, contributed to bring about the passage of the navigation act of 1818. The disposal of the public lands by sales on credit was found to be fraught with much danger. Mr. King was urgent in calling attention to this, and introduced and carried a bill directing that they should be sold for cash, at a lower price, and under other salutary restrictions. In 1819 he was again elected to the senate by a legislature that was opposed to him in politics as before. Mr. King resisted the admission of Missouri with slavery, and his speech on that occasion, though only briefly reported, contained this carefully prepared statement: “Mr. President, I approach a very delicate subject. I regret the occasion that renders it necessary for me to speak of it, because it may give offence where none is intended. But my purpose is fixed. Mr. President, I have yet to learn that one man can make a slave of another. If one man cannot do so, no number of individuals can have any better right to do it. And I hold that all laws or compacts imposing any such condition upon any human being are absolutely void, because contrary to the law of nature, which is the law of God, by which he makes his ways known to man, and is paramount to all human control.” He was equally opposed to the compromise offered by Mr. Clay on principle, and because it contained the seeds of future troubles. Upon the close of this senatorial term he put upon record, in the senate, a resolution which he fondly hoped might provide a way for the final extinction of slavery. It was to the effect that, whenever that part of the public debt for which the public lands were pledged should have been paid, the proceeds of all future sales should be held as a fund to be used to aid the emancipation of such slaves, and the removal of them and of free persons of color, as by the laws of the states might I be allowed to any I territory beyond the limits of the United States. His purpose to retire to private life was thwarted by an urgent invitation from John Quincy Adams, in 1825, to accept the mission to Great Britain. Mr. King reluctantly acquiesced and sailed for England, where he was cordially received, but after a few months he was obliged, through failing health, to return home. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III, pp. 542-543.
Biography from National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans:
RUFUS KING, the eldest son of Richard King, a wealthy merchant of Scarborough, Maine, was born in the year 1755. After having received a good common school education, he was placed under the care of Mr. Samuel Moody, an eminent classical teacher at Byfield.
He removed to Harvard college in 1773, where he continued until the commencement of the war of independence, when the students were dispersed, and the college was occupied several months by the American troops. During this interval, Mr. King pursued his studies with his former teacher, at Byfield. In 1777, he returned to college, and graduated with great reputation, as a classical scholar, and as an orator of extraordinary powers. He immediately commenced the study of law at Newburyport, under the late chief justice of Massachusetts, Theophilus Parsons, and was admitted to practice in 1780.
For a short period, in 1778, he took the field as a volunteer, and served as an aid to General Glover, in the enterprise conducted by General Sullivan against the British on Rhode Island.
Mr. King made his debut at the bar, as adverse counsel to his great instructor, Parsons. Undaunted by the gigantic powers of his antagonist, he put forth his efforts with the skillfulness of an experienced lawyer, and exhibited so successfully his talents as an orator, that he at once opened for himself the path to future eminence. He was soon after elected a representative from Newburyport, to the legislature of Massachusetts. While he was a member of that body, in 1784, congress recommended to the several states to. vest in the general government " full authority to regulate their commerce, both external and internal, and to impose such duties as might be necessary for that purpose." In the debate which followed, Mr. King supported the grant, and prevailed. This was one of the earliest instances in which the line of distinction was strongly marked, between the federal and state interests.
In the same year (1784), he was elected as a delegate to congress, and took his seat as a member of that body, then in session at Trenton, and never after resumed his practice at the bar. He was reelected to the same station, the two following years.
On the 16th of March, 1785, Mr. King brought forward and advocated the passage of the resolution by which slavery was prohibited in the territory north-west of the Ohio.
As a member of the convention held in Philadelphia, in 1787, for the purpose of revising the articles of confederation, and for his labors in the Massachusetts convention, to consider and decide on its adoption, Mr. King is entitled to the lasting gratitude of every American. Next to that venerated conclave, the signers of the Declaration of Independence, that wise and patriotic body who framed the present constitution of the United States is worthy of our reverence. Those who are familiar with the history of the American government, from the peace of 1783 to 1788, will sustain this opinion. As has been correctly said by a late writer,
"The history of the world records no case of more intense interest, than that which pervaded the United States, in 1788. Thirteen independent sovereignties, seriously alarmed for their preservation against each other, more alarmed with the apprehension that they might give up the liberty which they had gained with the utmost exertion of mind and body from foreign tyranny, to one of their own creation, within their own limits, called into the deliberative assemblies of the time all the able men of the country. Some union of the states was admitted by all to be indispensable; but in what manner it was to be effected, what powers should be given, and what powers reserved--how these should be modified, checked, and balanced, -- were points on which honest men might zealously contend. Here was a case, in which a whole people, unawed by any foreign power, in peace with all the world, sorely experienced in what may be the exercise of civil authority, dependent on no will but their own, convinced of the necessity of forming some government, were called on to settle, by peaceful agreement among themselves, the most important questions which can be presented to the human mind."
1William Sullivan, Esq.
The great question of all was, as Washington said, "whether we were to survive as an independent republic, or decline from our federal dignity into insignificant and wretched fragments of empire." The old government by experiment had been proved to be inefficient; the embarrassment of debt which it could not command the means to pay, and the necessity of foreign treaties which it could not effectually guaranty, exposed the country to distrust and contempt abroad, and to tumults and distress at home. Mr. King, having been in congress three years, knew the imbecility of the national government and the necessity of a revision. A convention to deliberate on the subject was recommended by some of the state legislatures, and congress gave it their sanction by a similar recommendation on motion of the Massachusetts delegation, then consisting of Mr. Dana and Mr. King. He attended with the convention during their whole session, took a large share in the discussion and formation of the new constitution, and was a member of the committee appointed to prepare the final draft of that instrument. When it was referred to the several states for ratification, Mr. King was sent to the state convention by his constituents of Newburyport.1 In this assembly he distinguished himself by his intimate knowledge of the subject1 the weight of his arguments, and the popular style of his oratory.
1Mr. Sullivan, in his " Familiar Letters," before quoted, says, " Rufus King at this time was about thirty-three years of age. He was an uncommonly handsome man, in face and form; he had a powerful mind, well cultivated, and was a dignified and graceful speaker: He had the appearance of one who was a gentleman by nature, and who had well improved all her gifts. It is a rare occurrence to see a finer assemblage of personal and intellectual qualities, cultivated to best effect, than were seen in this gentleman."
Soon after this, Mr. King removed to the city of New York. He had, in 1786, married Miss Alsop, the only child of John Alsop, an opulent merchant of that city, and one of the delegates from New York to the first continental congress. In 1789, he was chosen a member of the legislature; and during its extra session, in the summer of that year, he and General Schuyler were elected the first senators in congress from that state.
During the great excitement which was caused by the promulgation of the British treaty, in 1794, Mr. King appeared by the side of his friend, General Hamilton, at a public meeting of the citizens of New York. But their attempts to explain and defend it, were refused. They then endeavored to reach the public mind through the press, and jointly wrote a series of papers, under the signature of Camillus; the first ten numbers of which were from the pen of Hamilton, the remainder of the series were written by Mr. king.
About this period, a petition was presented to the senate of the United States, by some citizens of Pennsylvania, in which it was alleged that Albert Gallatin, who had recently been elected a senator from that state, was not qualified to take his seat, in consequence of his not having been naturalized a sufficient number of years. A warm controversy ensued. Mr. Taylor of Virginia, Mr. Monroe, and Colonel Burr, maintained the right of the returned member to his seat; they were successfully opposed by Mr. Ellsworth, Mr. Story, and Mr. King, and their political friends. The speech of Mr. King on this occasion is said to have been one of the most powerful displays of eloquence produced in modern times.
In the spring of 1796, he was appointed by President Washington minister plenipotentiary to Great Britain. He continued at the English court through the administration of Mr. Adams, and for two years of the presidency of Mr. Jefferson. While abroad, he lived on intimate terms with the most eminent statesmen and literary characters; and by the mild dignity of his manners, and his talents and capacity for public business, he acquired and maintained a powerful personal influence, which he exerted to advance the interests of his country.
Many important subjects were adjusted to the satisfaction of both nations, particularly the Maryland claim, which was finally settled by a convention, in which the British government agreed to pay £600,000. But the most important negotiation in which he was engaged was that which related to the impressment of American seamen. During the war between Great Britain and France, he had been unwearied in urging that great grievance upon the attention of the ministry, and finally succeeded in obtaining their assent to the principles of an agreement; but the peace of 1801 terminated the practice complained of, and the negotiation together. In 1802, a convention was agreed to by the British government relative to the boundary lines of the United States; but it was rejected by the president, and the subject still remains unadjusted.
Mr. King had requested permission to return to his own country, when the war between France and Great Britain was renewed. He then made another effort to prevent a revival of the practice of impressment, and on the 7th of May, 1803, he submitted the following article:
"No person shall be impressed or taken on the high seas, out of any ship or vessel belonging to the subjects or citizens of one of the parties, by the public or private armed ships or men of war belonging to, or in the service of, the other party."
To this article Lord St. Vincent, the first lord of the admiralty, and Lord Hawkesbury, the secretary of state for foreign affairs, at first assented; but after a consultation with Sir William Scott, an exception was required in favor of the narrow seas. Mr. King, after deliberately considering the proposal, determined to reject it. After his return home, he, continued in retirement at his farm on Long Island, until the war of 1812, when he came forward and offered his services in support of the cause of his country. The following extract from a pamphlet ascribed to the pen of Mr. Van Buren, is alike honorable to the writer and to Mr. King.
"At this momentous crisis, which applied the touchstone to the hearts of men, when many of the stoutest were appalled, and the weak despaired of the republic, Mr. King was neither idle nor dismayed. His love of country dispelled his attachments to party. In terms of the warmest solicitude and in strains of the most impassioned eloquence, he remonstrated in his correspondence with the leaders of the opposition in this state and in the east, on the folly, the madness, and the mischief of thP.ir course; he contributed largely of his means to the loans to government ; he infused confidence into the desponding, and labored to divest the timid of their fears; he sought Governor Tompkins, to whom, from the warmth of his devotion to his country's cause, and from the plenitude of his responsibility, rather than of his powers, every eye was directed, and to him Mr. King communicated the patriotic ardor with which he was himself animated.
"The purport and object of his interesting interview with the governor, is thus described by the latter: ' Venerable and patriotic citizens, such as Colonel Rutgers, Colonel Willet, Governor Wolcott, Mr. King, and others, animated me to the greatest efforts; the latter gentleman in an interview with me was peculiarly impressive: he said that the time had arrived when every good citizen was bound to put his all at the requisition of government, that he was ready to do this, that the people of the state of New York would and must hold me personally responsible for its safety. I acquainted him with the difficulties· under which I had struggled for the two preceding years, the various instances in which I had been already compelled to act without law or legislative indemnity, and urged, that if I should once more exert myself to meet all the emergencies and pecuniary difficulties with which we were pressed, I must inevitably min myself. "Well, sir," added he with that enthusiasm which genius lends to patriotism, " what is the ruin of an individual compared with the safety of the republic 1 If you are ruined, you will have the consolation of enjoying the gratitude of your fellow citizens; but you must trust to the magnanimity and justice of your country, you must transcend the law, you must save this city and state from the danger with which they are menaced, you must ruin yourself if it become necessary, and I pledge you my honor that I will support you in whatever you do."' Having done all in his power to induce to exertions at home, Mr. King repaired to his post in the senate of the United States. and in that body zealously supported the prominent measures of the administration to sustain the country in the severe struggle in which she was engaged."
In consequence of the decided stand which Mr. King had taken at the commencement of the war, the legislature, in 1813, elected him to the senate of the United States for six years. In 1819, the legislature of the state of New York was divided into three political parties, each having a candidate for the vacant seat in the senate of the nation. Neither candidate could obtain a majority, consequently there was no election. At the session in 1820, Mr. King was reelected, with only three dissenting votes in the two branches of the legislature. It was to promote this election that the pamphlet quoted above was published.
It has been remarked (Annual Register, 1826-'7) that, "Mr. King was one of those senators whom no habit of opposition to administration, and no arbitrary classification of supposed claims of party, could induce to a forgetfulness that the United States was his country, and that the rights and the honor of that country he ought to support and maintain. It has been observed that the conduct of the enemy in their destruction of Washington, tended to unite all parties in America. The speech of Mr. King in the senate on this occasion, while it may compare with any of his former efforts in eloquence, has the rare and enviable distinction of being approved and applauded for its sentiments also, by the whole nation."
The principal measures originated by Mr. King in the senate are, the law requiring cash payments upon sales of the public lands; and the act of 1818, on which is founded the navigation system of the United States.
The most unpopular act of Mr. King's political life was the part he took in the discussion of the celebrated slavery-question on the admission of Missouri to the rank of a state. An allusion to this subject is all that is necessary in this place.
At the termination of his second term in the senate, he intended to close his political career; but, in the hope of contributing to the adjustment of some disputed questions between the United States and Great Britain, he accepted the mission offered him by President Adams, and once more took up his residence near the British court. He was received by Mr. Canning and the other ministers with a marked and respectful attention. But his health was impaired to such a degree, that he was unable to attend to business; and after spending a year in England, he returned to his native land, and died on the 29th of April, 1827.
Mr. King's political sentiments were settled in early life, by the circumstances of his country. He was a federalist from the birth of the party, but he acted independently on the great questions which successively came under discussion. The consequence of his independent course necessarily was, that he became by turns a favorite with all parties, or an object of attack and virulent denunciation. These effects of party strife, however, will not deprive his name of that measure of honorable distinction to which our brief sketch is sufficient to show it is fairly entitled. J. H.
Source: Longacre, James B. & James Herring, National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans. Philadelphia: American Academy of Fine Arts, 1834-1839
KNAPP, Isaac, Boston, Massachusetts, printer, newspaper editor and publisher, abolitionist. Helped William Lloyd Garrison found abolitionist newspaper, Liberator, in 1831. Manager, 1833-1837, and founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, December 1833. He was indicted in Raleigh, North Carolina, for circulating the paper there. Co-founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society. Served as editor and publisher of the Liberator until 1842. Published and distributed numerous anti-slavery pamphlets.
(Rodriguez, 2007, p. 463; Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. II. New York: James T. White, 1892)
KNIPE, Joseph Farmer, abolitionist, General.
(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III, p. 563)
Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
KNIPE, Joseph Farmer, soldier, b. in Mount Joy, Lancaster co., Pa., 30 Nov., 1823. He was educated in a private school, served in the ranks through the war with Mexico, and then engaged in mercantile business in Harrisburg, Pa., until 1861, when he organized the 46th Pennsylvania regiment, and was commissioned its colonel. He was promoted to brigadier-general of volunteers 29 Nov., 1862, and served in the Army of the Potomac, and in that of the Cumberland, commanding a brigade and then a division, till the fall of Atlanta, when he became chief of cavalry of the Army of the Tennessee. Gen. Knipe received two wounds at Winchester, Va., two at Cedar Mountain, Ga., and one at Resaca, Ga. He was mustered out of service in September, 1865, and is now (1887) superintendent of one of the departments in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888.
THE KNOW-NOTHING PARTY - See AMERICAN PARTY)
WHILE the course of events in Kansas was leading, through violence and illegality, to the verge of civil war, national political organization was also passing through a crisis. The question before the country after the election of 1854 was whether an anti-slavery party should win the support of northern voters, or whether the old Whig party, comprising southern as well as northern members, should be revived under some new form. As the sudden anger over the repeal of the Missouri Compromise died away, and the issue of the control of the territorial government did not for a year come before Congress, old political traditions tended to draw men into organizations which claimed to be national rather than sectional, and which avoided the old danger of arousing the south and endangering the stability of the Union.
These feelings worked strongly against the Republican Party in the year 1855, and aided a vigorous effort, which now began, to create a successor to the old Whig party through the expansion of the Know-Nothings into a national organization. The national council of November, 1854, adopted a new Union oath which placed the order on much the same basis as the "Union-saving" compromisers of 1850 and 1851. "You will discourage and denounce,'' it ran, "any attempt coming from any quarter ... to destroy or subvert it or to weaken its bonds, ... and you will use your influence to procure an amicable adjustment of all political discontents or differences which may threaten its injury or overthrow. You do further promise and swear that you will not vote for any one ... whom you know or believe to be in r favor of a dissolution of the Union ... or who is endeavoring to produce that result."1
This action paved the way for others besides antislavery and anti-foreign enthusiasts to enter the organization; and in the winter and spring of 1855 councils were formed all over the United States, honey-combing the local Republican or anti-Nebraska coalitions of the west with a Know-Nothing oath-bound membership, and practically absorbing the entire southern Whig body.2
By the spring of 1855 the wildest claims were made for the order; it was said to have a sworn enrolment of over a million voters and to be able to control every city and nearly every state in the Union.
1 Scisco, Political Nativism, 137; Cluskey, Political Text Book., 66.
2 Hodgson, Cradle of the Confederacy, 354-357.
3 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 422; Whitney, Defence of Am, Policy, 285.
The spring elections turned over Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut into the hands of the Know-Nothings, and thus gave color to these assertions; but the Virginia campaign in May, 1855, showed that in the south the Know-Nothings were merely the Whigs under a new name. Henry A. Wise, the Democratic candidate for governor, made a powerful canvass of the state and was successful, after a savage contest, by ten thousand majority.1 Thenceforward the extravagant claims for the Know-Nothings were discounted, but although it was seen that it could not revolutionize the south, its control of the north was not yet disproved.
By this time, however, two obstacles to the triumphant progress of the Know-Nothing party were becoming visible. In the first place, the attitude of its northern and southern members was fundamentally different on slavery matters. The New England Know-Nothings were anti-slavery men, who had joined the society in order to strike at the Pierce administration; and when they gained control of a state they enacted laws to obstruct the return of fugitive slaves, passed resolutions denouncing the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and elected antislavery men to the United States Senate.2 But the southern Know-Nothings, although old Whigs, and strongly Unionist, were equally pro-slavery, and the
1 Hambleton, Political Campaign in Virginia, 233.
2 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 424; Haynes, A Know-Nothing Legislature (Am. Hist. Assoc., Report, 1896), p. 77.
chief ground of attack against them by the southern Democrats was not so much their secret and proscriptive platform as the fact of their being in the same order with the New England Americans. "Know-Nothingism," said a Virginia Democratic address, "has its origin and growth in those quarters of the Union where Abolitionism is most powerful. Every election in which Northern Know-Nothingism has triumphed has inured to the benefit of Abolitionism ...We appeal to Southern men, without distinction of party, to ponder the consequences before they cooperate with this organization." 1 The danger of sectional difficulty in the new Union party was visible almost as soon as it was created.
The other weakness of the new party lay in the fact that it was almost without strong leaders. Except in the northernmost slave states, where such men as Clayton, of Delaware, and Bell, of Tennessee, gave it some support, the conservative Whigs who might have been in sympathy with its non-sectional and Unionist aspirations recoiled in disgust from its riotous and proscriptive character and its secret machinery. Such men as Winthrop and Choate, of Massachusetts, representing the Webster tradition, were entirely out of sympathy with it. In the south, such influential men as Stephens and Toombs, of Georgia, and Benjamin, of Louisiana, went squarely over to the Democratic Party. "I know of but one
1 Hambleton, Political Campaign in Virginia, 127; Richmond Enquirer, March 6, 1855.
class of people,'' said Stephens, "that I look upon as dangerous to the country .... This class of men at the North, of which the Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut legislatures are but samples, I consider as our worst enemies; and to put them down I will join as political allies, now and forever, all true patriots at the North and South, whether native or adopted .... Their very organization is not only anti-American, anti-Republican, but at war with the fundamental law of the Union and therefore revolutionary in its character." 1
The abler anti-slavery leaders at the north in like manner held aloof from the movement. Seward, Chase, and Sumner refused to countenance the party, and Greeley, in the Tribune, openly scoffed at it, declaring, in a phrase which became permanently attached to it, that "it would seem as devoid of the elements of permanence as an anti-Cholera or anti-Potato-rot party would be." 2 Almost the only strong leader in the north was Wilson, of Massachusetts, a sincere anti-slavery man whose political career showed boldness, shrewdness, and a light regard of party ties. Using the Know-Nothing party simply as a means to secure the redemption of Massachusetts from the ''Cotton Whigs,'' and bring about his own election to the Senate, he was entirely willing to destroy it in the interests of the antislavery cause.3 Left, then, to the management of
1 Cleveland, Stephens, 468, 480.
2 Tribune Almanac, 1855, p. 23. 3 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 423.
men new to public life or drawn from the ranks of minor politicians, the party showed no efficient leadership.
When the national council of the order met, in June, 1855, at Philadelphia, the differences between northern and southern Know-Nothings led to a sharp contest over the attitude of the body upon slavery in the territories. Anti-Catholic and anti-foreign declarations were unanimously accepted; but it took days of hot debate before the council, by a vote of 80 to 59, could adopt the following resolution: "Pretermitting any opinion upon the power of Congress to establish or prohibit slavery in the territories, it is the sense of this National Council that Congress ought not to legislate on the subject of slavery within the territories of the United States, and that any interference by Congress with slavery as it exists in the District of Columbia would be ... a breach of the National faith." 1 From this time on the order stood committed to the familiar policy of expressly conciliating the south.
By this time the practical identity of the Know-Nothing, or American party, as it now styled itself, with the Whigs was manifest in membership and character. A year of pretense at mystery had exhausted the efficacy of that device, and when the proceedings of the national council were reported, unchecked, to newspapers day by day, it was evident that the oaths, grips, passwords, and ritual had
1 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 423-433.
ceased to serve their purpose. 1 From this time the state organizations ordinarily held open conventions and went before the voters as the "American party," although in popular language the name Know-Nothing lingered on. In the elections of 1855 the southern Know -Nothings carried Maryland, Kentucky, and Texas, and cast a respectable minority in other states; in the extreme west, also as a pro-slavery party, they carried California; but in the north, although they carried New York-where the irreconcilable "Hard" and "Soft " Democrats still ran separate tickets-their vote fell off badly in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania; for not even the repudiation of the troublesome twelfth section of the Philadelphia platform could hold anti-slavery members.2
The Republicans also lost ground, being unable to gain in the states where the Know-Nothings were strong. Their only victory was in Ohio, which elected Chase governor over both a Democratic competitor and a candidate supported by Whigs and Know-Nothings. At the expense of these two parties the Democrats profited, making a bold campaign in every state, denouncing the sectionalism of the Republicans and the proscriptive aims of the Americans. They carried five southern states, and regained Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Maine, the last through Whig assistance. On the whole, the year ended with the political future still doubtful. It looked very
1 Merriam, Bowles, I., 138.
2 Scisco, Political Nativism, 154-169.
much as if the old situation had returned, with the Know-Nothings occupying the place of the Whigs, the Republicans standing as an enlarged Free Soil party, and the Democrats likely to maintain themselves against a divided opposition.
But by this time the rising excitement over the situation in Kansas began to influence the situation. The enthusiasm of the people of the north for the Free State cause in Kansas resembled that of a country at the beginning of a war. Newspapers were crowded with inflammatory editorials, articles, and extracts from letters of northern emigrants describing acts of violence and cruelty, 1 Public meetings were held everywhere, in which speakers made urgent appeals for volunteers, subscriptions, and arms for Kansas. One such, at New Haven, Connecticut, attained national fame. After an address by Henry Ward Beecher, fifty rifles were subscribed for to fit out a party of emigrants sent under the auspices of the Congregationalist clergy and church members of the city.2 Beecher's advocacy of the use of Sharps rifles by the Kansas settlers led to their being termed " Beecher's Bibles" by friend and foe.
On the other side, the south was thrilled with anger and alarm. Atchison, of Missouri, made urgent appeal for southern aid, reiterating that the future of the institution of slavery was bound up in
1 Thayer, Kansas Crusade, 164 et seq.
2 N. Y. Independent, March 26, 1856.
the outcome of the contest for Kansas. "If Kansas is abolitionized," he wrote, "Missouri ceases to be a slave state, New Mexico becomes a free state, California remains a free state; but if we secure Kansas as a slave state, Missouri is secure, New Mexico and southern California, if not the whole of it, becomes a slave state; in a word, the prosperity or ruin of the whole south depends on the Kansas struggle." 1 In response to such appeals, an agitation for money and men spread over the south, with public meetings, fiery speeches, subscriptions, and the raising of companies of emigrants. 2 Attempts were even made in the Alabama and Georgia legislatures to pass acts offering state aid to Kansas emigrants.
Yet, although southern feeling was deeply stirred, the results of this agitation did not equal those of the simultaneous northern propaganda; and the only important reinforcement provided in the winter of 1856 was a company of less than three hundred men raised by Colonel Buford, of Alabama, largely at his own personal expense. This force, which went unarmed, in deference to a proclamation of President Pierce, set forth from Montgomery with gifts of Bibles, amid prayers and enthusiastic popular sympathy; but upon its arrival in the territory it was immediately armed as part of the territorial militia. By the end of February it was clear that the coming
1 N. Y. Tribune, November 7, 1855.
2 De Bow's Review, June, 1856, p. 74L
spring would find men swarming into Kansas, with what results no one could foresee.1
In the midst of this increasing excitement, the ill-fated American party tore itself to pieces upon the unavoidable issue. The first proof of its fatal weakness appeared in a contest for the speakership of the House of Representatives, which delayed the conduct of all public business from the meeting of Congress in December, 1855, until the end of February, 1856. The regular administration Democrats numbered only seventy-five in place of the one hundred and fifty-nine who controlled the previous Congress, and their candidate was Richardson. The opposition, elected in the political whirlwind of 1854, was too heterogeneous to combine. The largest single group comprised about one hundred and seventeen Americans, leaving about forty “straight" Republicans and a number of independents. But of the Know-Nothing plurality, only about forty could be held together in support of Fuller, of Pennsylvania, the avowedly American candidate. Nearly all the rest joined the Republicans in voting for Banks, of Massachusetts, who had just abandoned the Know-Nothing party for the Republican. For weeks, running into months, the tripartite struggle went on, in an irregular running debate, mainly on the Kansas issue, interrupted with balloting for speaker.
1 Fleming, "Buford's Expedition to Kansas," in Am. Hist. Rev., VI., 38; Hodgson, Cradle of the Confederacy, 347-353.
January 12, 1856, the three candidates explained their views. Banks insisted that Congress had both the power and the duty to prohibit slavery in the territories; Fuller denied that either Congress or the territorial legislature had any power except to protect slavery; while Richardson stood on Douglas's ground that, whether Congress had the right to prohibit slavery or not, it rested with the territorial government to afford protection.1 Incessant attempts at coalition between Democrats and southern Know-Nothings, and between Republicans and all other anti-Nebraska men, were fruitless. The House in exhaustion voted to elect by a plurality, and Banks was chosen, February 2, by 103 votes to 100 for Aiken, of South Carolina.2 This victory ended a long period of suspense; the defeated southerners acquiesced in the result, and the House was finally ready for business.
A few days later the Know-Nothing party, shattered as a congressional group, also broke into pieces as a political organization. February 18 a national council of the order met at Philadelphia, modified the party platform by striking out the objectionable twelfth section, and inserting a clause which demanded congressional non-interference with “domestic and social affairs" in a territory, and condemned the Pierce administration for reopening sectional agitation
1 Cong. Globe, 34 Cong., I Sess., II et seq.
2 Rhodes, United States, II., II2-116; Von Holst, United States, V., 220-223; Follett, Speaker of the House, 56-60.
by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. 1 No such attempt to befog the issue could prevent a crisis when the nominating convention of the American party assembled four days later in the same place. The anti-slavery northern members refused to be bound by the platform just adopted by the order, and demanded that no candidates be nominated who were not in favor of interdicting slavery north of 36° 30' by congressional action. When this proviso was laid on the table, at once a score of members withdrew. The next day the convention nominated ex-President Fillmore, the man who had signed the fugitive-slave law, with Donelson, of Tennessee, for vice-president. Thereupon more members seceded and joined the earlier bolters in a call for a national convention of all "Americans opposed to the establishment of slavery in any of the territory which was covered by the Missouri Compromise," at New York in June.2 Plainly the American party as a national organization was bankrupt. Sectional passions were too strong to enable men from north and south to stand on a common platform ignoring slavery, and the party was moribund before it was two years old.
On the same day with the American convention, the first Republican national convention met at Pittsburg, under a call from the state committees of nine states, but with delegates present from twenty- three.
1 Scisco, Political Nativism, 173 et seq.;
2 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 508.2 N. Y. Times, June 3, 1856.
The proceedings were full of enthusiasm, for the leaders felt that with ordinary prudence and adequate organization their party might absorb all the dissatisfied Know-Nothings and follow up its victory in the speakership contest with one in the coming presidential election. Resolutions were adopted looking to a thorough political organization; a national committee was appointed, one of whose members was Governor Robinson, of Kansas; and a national nominating convention was called for June l 7. On the Kansas question, the party took the full Free State position by demanding the admission of the territory as a state under the Topeka constitution.1
By the end of February, 1856, the results of the Kansas excitement were visible in the definite failure of the American party and the practical certainty that the Republican Party would take its place in the north. The presidential election was to be contested by a northern sectional party, long dreaded by all conservatives; and the outcome must depend largely on the course of events in Kansas and the way in which Congress and the administration dealt with them. The situation was highly critical, increasing in tension with every week.
1 Errett, “Formation of the Rep. Party," in Mag. West. Hist., X., 180; Julian, "First Rep. Nat. Conv.," in Am. Hist. Rev., IV., 313·
Source: Smith, Theodore Clarke, Parties and Slavery. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 18, 136-148. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.
KNOWLTON, Ebenezer, 1815-174, Pittsville, New Hampshire, abolitionist, clergyman. Member of the Maine House of Representatives and the U.S. House of Representatives, 1855-1857. Early member of the Republican Party. Lifelong opponent of slavery and temperance activist. Founder of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Coordinator of Free Will Baptist newspaper, Morning Star.
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