Part 1 out of 8
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[Illustration: PORTRAIT AND SIGNATURE OF A. LINCOLN.]
BY JOHN G. NICOLAY AND JOHN HAY
The Century Co.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN (_Frontispiece_)
From an ambrotype taken for Marcus L. Ward (afterwards Governor of
New Jersey) in Springfield, Ill., May 20, 1860, two days after Mr.
GENERAL JOHN W. GEARY
From a photograph taken, in 1866, by Draper and Husted.
From a daguerreotype.
From a daguerreotype.
ROGER B. TANEY
From a daguerreotype.
From a photograph.
ROBERT J. WALKER
From a daguerreotype.
FREDERICK P. STANTON
From a photograph by Brady.
From a painting by D.C. Fabronius, after a photograph by Brady.
From a photograph by William Shaw.
STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS
From a daguerreotype.
DAVID COLBRETH BRODERICK
From a photograph by Brady.
From a photograph by J.W. Black & Co.
HOUSE IN WHICH JOHN BROWN WAS BORN, TORRINGTON, CONNECTICUT
From a photograph lent by Frank B. Sanborn.
From a photograph by Brady.
From a photograph by Cook.
GENERAL JOHN C. BRECKINRIDGE
From a daguerreotype taken about 1850, lent by Anson Maltby.
FACSIMILE OF LINCOLN'S LETTER OF ACCEPTANCE
From a photograph by Brady.
GENERAL HENRY A. WISE
From a photograph by Brady.
THE WIGWAM AT CHICAGO IN WHICH LINCOLN WAS NOMINATED
GENERAL ROBERT ANDERSON
From a photograph by Brady.
From a photograph by Brady.
From a photograph by Brady.
GENERAL ROBERT TOOMBS
From a photograph.
JUSTIN S. MORRILL
From a photograph by Brady.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I. JEFFERSON DAVIS ON REBELLION
Civil War in Kansas. Guerrillas dispersed by Colonel Sumner. General
P.F. Smith supersedes Sumner. Governor Shannon Removed. Missouri River
Blockaded. Jefferson Davis's Instructions on Rebellion. Acting-Governor
Woodson Proclaims the Territory in Insurrection. Report of General
Smith. John W. Geary Appointed Governor. Inaugural Address. His Military
Proclamations and Measures. Colonel Cooke's "Cannon" Argument. Hickory
Point Skirmish. Imprisonment of Free State Men. End of Guerrilla War.
Removal and Flight of Governor Geary.
CHAPTER II. THE CONVENTIONS OF 1856
Formation of the Republican Party in Illinois. The Decatur Convention.
Action of the "Know-Nothing" Party. Nomination of Fillmore and
Donelson. Democrats of Illinois Nominate William A. Richardson for
Governor. The Davis-Bissell Challenge. The Bloomington Convention.
Bissell Nominated for Governor. Lincoln's Speech at Bloomington. The
Pittsburgh Convention. The Philadelphia Convention. Nomination of
Fremont and Dayton. The Philadelphia Platform. Lincoln Proposed for
Vice-President. The Cincinnati Convention. The Cincinnati Platform.
Nomination of Buchanan and Breckinridge. Buchanan Elected President.
Bissell Elected Governor. Lincoln's Campaign Speeches.
CHAPTER III. CONGRESSIONAL RUFFIANISM
Sumner's Senate Speech on Kansas. Brooks's Assault on Sumner. Action
of the Senate. Action of the House. Resignation and Reelection of
Brooks. Wilson Challenged. Brooks Challenges Burlingame. Sumner's
Malady. Reelection of Sumner. Death of Butler and Brooks. Sumner's
Re-appearance in the Senate.
CHAPTER IV. THE DRED SCOTT DECISION
The Dred Scott Case. Its Origin. The Law of Slavery. Preliminary
Decisions of the Case. Appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Case Twice
Argued. Opinion of Justice Nelson. Political Conditions. Mr. Buchanan's
Announcement. The Dred Scott Decision. Opinions by all the Judges.
Opinion of the Court. Dred Scott Declared Not a Citizen. Slavery
Prohibition Declared Unconstitutional. Language of Chief-Justice Taney.
CHAPTER V. DOUGLAS AND LINCOLN ON DRED SCOTT
Political Effects of the Dred Scott Decision. Douglas's Springfield
Speech on the Dred Scott Decision. He Indorses Chief-Justice Taney's
Opinion. Freeport Doctrine Foreshadowed. Lincoln's Speech in Reply to
Douglas. Uses of Judicial Decisions. Prospects of the Colored Race in
the United States, Principles of the Declaration of Independence.
CHAPTER VI. THE LECOMPTON CONSTITUTION
Constitutional Convention Called by the Legislature. Resignation and
Flight of Governor Geary. Walker Appointed Governor. Promises of
Buchanan and his Cabinet. Walker's Kansas Policy. Action of the
Free-State Mass Meeting. Pro-slavery Convention at Lecompton. Election
of Delegates. Governor Walker favors Submission of the Constitution to
Popular Vote. Protests from Southern States. The Walker-Buchanan
Correspondence. Lecompton Constitutional Convention. The October
Election. The Oxford and McGee Frauds. The Lecompton Constitution.
Extra Session of the Legislature. Secretary Stanton's Removal.
Governor Walker's Resignation.
CHAPTER VII. THE REVOLT OF DOUGLAS
Douglas's Quarrel with Buchanan. Buchanan's Silliman Letter. His Annual
Message. Douglas's Speech on Lecompton. Lecompton Constitution Declared
Adopted. Buchanan's Special Message. The Pro-slavery Reaction.
Buchanan's Views on Cuba. The Lecompton Constitution in Congress. The
Crittenden-Montgomery Substitute. The English Bill. The Opposition of
Douglas. The Administration Organ.
CHAPTER VIII. THE LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATES
Growing Republican Chances. Illinois Politics in 1858. Candidates for
Senator. The Senatorial Campaign. Lincoln's "House Divided Against
Itself" Speech. Republican Sympathy for Douglas. Horace Greeley's
Attitude. Lincoln on Greeley and Seward. Correspondence Between
Lincoln and Crittenden. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates.
CHAPTER IX. THE FREEPORT DOCTRINE
The Debate at Ottawa. The Debate at Freeport. The Freeport Doctrine.
Benjamin's Speech on Douglas. The November Election, Douglas Reelected
Senator. Cause of Lincoln's Defeat. Lincoln's Letters on the Result.
Douglas Removed from the Chairmanship of the Senate Committee on
CHAPTER X. LINCOLN'S OHIO SPEECHES
Douglas's Tour Through the South. His Advanced Views on Slavery.
Senate Discussion Between Brown and Douglas. Douglas's Letter to
Dorr. Lincoln's Growing Prominence. Lincoln's Correspondence with
Schuyler Colfax. Letter to Canisius. Letter to Pierce and Others.
Douglas's "Harper's Magazine" Article. Lincoln's Ohio Speeches. The
Douglas-Black Controversy. Publication of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.
CHAPTER XI. HARPER'S FERRY
John Brown. His Part in the Kansas Civil War. His Plan of Slave
Liberation. Pikes and Recruits. The Peterboro Council. The Chatham
Meeting. Change of Plan. Harper's Ferry. Brown's Campaign. Colonel
Lee, and the U.S. Marines. Capture of Brown. His Trial and Execution.
The Senate Investigation. Public Opinion. Lincoln on John Brown.
Speakership Contest. Election of William Pennington.
CHAPTER XII. LINCOLN'S COOPER INSTITUTE SPEECH
Lincoln Invited to Lecture in New York. The Meeting in Cooper Institute.
Public Interest in the Speaker. Lincoln's Speech. His Definition of
"The Question." Historical Analysis. His Admonition to the South. The
Right and Wrong of Slavery. The Duty of the Free States. Criticisms
of the Address. Speeches in New England.
CHAPTER XIII. THE CHARLESTON CONVENTION
The Democratic Party. Its National Convention at Charleston.
Sentiments of the Delegates. Differences North, and South. Douglas as
a Candidate. The Jefferson Davis Senate Resolutions. Caleb Cushing
made Chairman. The Platform Committee. Majority and Minority Reports.
Speech of William L. Yancey. Speech of Senator Pugh. Speech of Senator
Bigler. Second Majority and Minority Reports. Minority Report Adopted.
Cotton State Delegates Secede. Yancey's Prophecy.
CHAPTER XIV. THE BALTIMORE NOMINATIONS
Nomination of Douglas Impossible. Charleston Convention adjourned to
Baltimore. Seceders' Convention in St. Andrew's Hall. Adjourns to meet
at Richmond. Address of Southern Senators. The Davis-Douglas Debate.
Charleston Convention Reassembles at Baltimore. A Second Disruption.
Nomination of Douglas. Nomination of Breckinridge. The Constitutional
Union Convention. Nomination of John Bell.
CHAPTER XV. THE CHICAGO CONVENTION
The Republican Party. The Chicago Convention. Lincoln's Fairness to
Rivals. Chances of the Campaign. The Pivotal States. The Wigwam.
Organization of the Convention. Chicago Platform. Contrast between the
Charleston and Chicago Conventions. The Balloting. Lincoln Nominated
for President. Hamlin Nominated for Vice-President.
CHAPTER XVI. LINCOLN ELECTED
The Presidential Campaign. Parties, Candidates, and Platforms. Pledges
to the Union. The Democratic Schism. Douglas's Campaign Tour. The
"Illinois Rail-splitter." The "Wide Awakes." Lincoln during the
Canvass. Letters about "Know-Nothings." Fusion. The Vote of Maine. The
October States. The Election. The Electoral College. The Presidential
Count. Lincoln Declared Elected.
CHAPTER XVII. BEGINNINGS OF REBELLION
Early Disunion Sentiment. Nullification. The Agitation of 1850. The
Conspiracy of 1856. The "Scarlet Letter." "The 1860 Association."
Governor Gist's Letter to Southern Governors. Replies to Governor
Gist. Conspiracy at Washington.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE CABINET CABAL
Mr. Buchanan's Cabinet. Extracts from Floyd's Diary. Cabinet Conferences
on Disunion. The Drayton-Gist Correspondence. Mr. Trescott's Letters.
Floyd's Sale of Arms. Secretary Thompson's Mission. Jefferson Davis and
the Governor of Mississippi. Jefferson Davis and President Buchanan's
CHAPTER XIX. FROM THE BALLOT TO THE BULLET
Governor Gist's Proclamation. Caucus of South Carolinians. Governor
Gist's Message. The Disunion Cult. Presidential Electors Chosen.
Effect of Lincoln's Election. Disunion Sentiment. Military
Appropriation. Convention Bill Passed. Charleston Mass-Meeting.
CHAPTER XX. MAJOR ANDERSON
Buchanan and Secession. General Scott and Nullification. "Views"
Addressed to the President. The President's Criticism. Scott's
Rejoinder. The Charleston Forts. Foster's Requisition. Colonel Gardner
asks for Reenforcements. Fitz-John Porter's Inspection Report. Gardner
Relieved from Command. Anderson sent to Charleston.
CHAPTER XXI. THE CHARLESTON FORTS
Anderson's Arrival at Charleston. His Tour of Inspection. Report to
the War Department. The Forts and the Harbor. Anderson asks
reenforcements. Discouraging Reply from Washington. Insurrectionary
Sentiment in Charleston. Floyd's Instructions to Anderson. Colonel
Huger. Anderson's Visit to the Mayor of Charleston.
CHAPTER XXII. THE PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE
Mr. Buchanan's Opportunity. Cabinet Opinions on Disunion. Advice to
the President in Preparing his Message. The Message. Arguments on
Slavery. Recommends a National Convention. Arguments on Disunion. The
Powers and Duties of Congress. Coercion Denied. Criticisms of the
CHAPTER XXIII. THE CHARLESTON CONSPIRATORS
Debate on the Message. Adverse Criticisms. Buchanan's Doctrines and
Policy. Movements of Secession. South Carolina Legislation. Magrath's
Comments. Non-Coercion and Coercion. Fort Moultrie. Intrigue for its
Capture. Governor Gist's Letter. South Carolina's Complaints and
CHAPTER XXIV. MR. BUCHANAN'S TRUCE
Return of the _Brooklyn_. The President's Interview with the South
Carolina Delegation. Mr. Buchanan's Truce. Major Buell's Visit to
Anderson. The Buell Memorandum. Character of Instructions.
CHAPTER XXV. THE RETIREMENT OF CASS
Failure of the Concession Policy. Movements towards Secession.
Resignation of Secretary Cobb. Cobb's Secession Address. Resignation
of Secretary Cass. The Buchanan-Floyd Incident. The Conspirators
advise Buchanan. Cass demands Reenforcements. The Cass-Buchanan
CHAPTER XXVI. THE SENATE COMMITTEE OF THIRTEEN
Secession Debates in the Senate. Speeches of Clingman, Brown, Iverson,
Wigfall, Mason, Jefferson Davis, Hale, Crittenden, Pugh, Douglas.
Powell's Motion for a Select Committee. Speeches of King, Collamer,
Foster, Green, Wade. Senate Committee of Thirteen Appointed.
CHAPTER XXVII. THE HOUSE COMMITTEE OF THIRTY-THREE
The President's Message in the House. Compromise Efforts. Motion to
Appoint a Committee of Thirty-Three. Committee Appointed. Corwin made
Chairman. Sickles's Speech. Vallandigham's Speech. McClernand's
Speech. Compromise Propositions. Jenkins's Plan. Noell's Plan. Andrew
Johnson's Plan. Vallandigham's Plan.
CHAPTER XXVIII. THE CONSPIRACY PROCLAIMED
Hopes of Compromise. Party Pledges to the Union. President Buchanan's
Advice. Nullification and Secession. Estrangement between North and
South. Cabinet Treachery and Intrigue. The Congressional Debates.
Compromise Committees. The Conspirators' Strategy. Elements of
Disturbance. Hopes of Peaceable Secession. Dunn's Resolution. Mr.
Buchanan's Proclamation. Secession Proclaimed.
CHAPTER XXIX. THE FORTY MUSKETS
Captain Foster. His Arrival in Charleston. Condition of Fort Moultrie.
Temporary Defenses. Foster Requests Forty Muskets. The Question of
Arming Workmen. Foster Receives Forty Muskets. Their Return Demanded.
The Alleged Charleston Excitement. Floyd Orders the Muskets Returned.
Foster's Compliance and Comment.
JEFFERSON DAVIS ON REBELLION
[Sidenote] Sumner to Howard, May 16, 1856. Ibid., p. 37.
[Sidenote] Shannon to Sumner, May 21, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess.
34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 38.
[Sidenote] Shannon to Sumner, June 4, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess.
34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 45.
While the town of Lawrence was undergoing burning and pillage,
Governor Shannon wrote to Colonel Sumner to say that as the marshal
and sheriff had finished making their arrests, and he presumed had
by that time dismissed the posse, he required a company of United
States troops to be stationed at Lawrence to secure "the safety of
the citizens in both, person and property," asking also a like company
for Lecompton and Topeka. The next day the citizens of Lawrence had
the opportunity to smother their indignation when they saw the embers
of the Free-State Hotel and the scattered fragments of their
printing-presses patrolled and "protected" by the Federal dragoons
whose presence they had vainly implored a few days before. It was time
the Governor should move. The guerrilla bands with their booty spread
over the country, and the free-State men rose in a spirit of fierce
retaliation. Assassinations, house-burnings, expulsions, and
skirmishes broke out in all quarters. The sudden shower of lawlessness
fell on the just and the unjust; and, forced at last to deal out equal
protection, the Governor (June 4) issued his proclamation directing
military organizations to disperse, "without regard to party names, or
distinctions," and empowering Colonel Sumner to enforce the order.
[Sidenote] Sumner to Cooper, June 23, 1856. Ibid., p. 50.
[Sidenote] Sumner to Cooper, August 11, 1856. Ibid., p. 59.
That careful and discreet officer, who had from the first counseled
this policy, at once proceeded to execute the command with his
characteristic energy. He disarmed and dispersed the free-State
guerrillas,--John Brown's among the earliest,--liberated prisoners,
drove the Missourians, including delegate Whitfield and General Coffee
of the skeleton militia, back across their State line, and stationed
five companies along the border to prevent their return. He was so
fortunate as to accomplish all this without bloodshed. "I do not
think," he wrote, June 23, "there is an armed body of either party now
in the Territory, with the exception perhaps of a few freebooters."
The colonel found very soon that he was only too efficient and
faithful. "My measures have necessarily borne hard against both
parties," wrote Sumner to the War Department, "for both have in many
instances been more or less wrong. The Missourians were perfectly
satisfied so long as the troops were employed exclusively against the
free-State party; but when they found that I would be strictly
impartial, that lawless mobs could no longer come from Missouri, and
that their interference with the affairs of Kansas was brought to an
end, then they immediately raised a hue and cry that they were
oppressed by the United States troops." The complaint had its usual
prompt effect at Washington. By orders dated June 27 the colonel was
superseded in his command, and Brigadier-General P.F. Smith was sent
to Leavenworth. Known to be pro-slavery in his opinions, great
advantage was doubtless expected by the conspiracy from this change.
But General Smith was an invalid, and incapable of active service,
and so far as the official records show, the army officers and troops
in Kansas continued to maintain a just impartiality.
The removal of Governor Shannon a few weeks after Colonel Sumner
once more made Secretary Woodson, always a willing instrument of the
conspiracy, acting Governor. It was under this individual's promptings
and proclamation, Shannon being absent from the Territory, that
Colonel Sumner, before the arrival of the orders superseding him,
forcibly dispersed the free-State Legislature on the 4th of July, as
narrated. For this act the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, was not
slow to send the colonel an implied censure, perhaps to justify his
removal from command; but not a word of reproof went from President
or Secretary of State to the acting Governor.
It has already been stated that for a considerable length of time
after the organization of Kansas Territory the Missouri River was its
principal highway of approach from the States. To anti-slavery men who
were unwilling to conceal their sentiments, this had from the very
first been a route of difficulty and danger. Now that political strife
culminated in civil war, the Missourians established a complete
practical blockade of the river against the Northern men and Northern
goods. Recently, however, the Northern emigration to Kansas had
gradually found a new route through Iowa and Nebraska.
It was about this time that great consternation was created in
pro-slavery circles by the report that Lane had arrived at the Iowa
border with a "Northern army," exaggerated into fabulous numbers,
intent upon fighting his way to Kansas. Parties headed by Lane and
others and aggregating some hundreds had in fact so arrived, and were
more or less provided with arms, though they had no open military
organization. While spies and patrols were on the lookout for marching
companies and regiments, they, concealing their arms, quietly slipped
down in detached parties to Lawrence. Thus reenforced and inspirited,
the free-State men took the aggressive, and by several bold movements
broke up a number of pro-slavery camps and gatherings. Greatly
exaggerated reports of these affairs were promptly sent to the
neighboring Missouri counties, and the Border Ruffians rose for a
third invasion of Kansas.
Governor Shannon, not yet notified of his removal, reported to General
Smith that Lecompton was threatened with an attack. General Smith,
becoming alarmed, called together all his available force for the
protection of the territorial capital, and reported the exigency to
the War Department. All the hesitation which had hitherto
characterized the instructions of Jefferson Davis, the Secretary of
War, in the use of troops otherwise than as an officer's posse,
instantly vanished. The whole Kansas militia was placed under the
orders of General Smith, and requisitions were issued for two
regiments from Illinois and two from Kentucky. "The position of the
insurgents," wrote the Secretary, "as shown by your letter and its
inclosures, is that of open rebellion against the laws and
constitutional authorities, with such manifestation of a purpose to
spread devastation over the land as no longer justifies further
hesitation or indulgence. To you, as to every soldier, whose habitual
feeling is to protect the citizens of his own country, and only to use
his arms against a public enemy, it cannot be otherwise than deeply
painful to be brought into conflict with any portion of his
fellow-countrymen. But patriotism and humanity alike require that
rebellion should be promptly crushed, and the perpetration of the
crimes which now disturb the peace and security of the good people
of the Territory of Kansas should be effectually checked. You will
therefore energetically employ all the means within your reach to
restore the supremacy of the law, always endeavoring to carry out
your present purpose to prevent the unnecessary effusion of blood."
The Secretary had probably cast his eye upon the Platte County
battle-call in the "Weston Argus Extra," which formed one of the
general's inclosures: "So sudden and unexpected has been the attack
of the abolitionists that the law-and-order party was unprepared to
effectually resist them. To-day the bogus free-State government, we
understand, is to assemble at Topeka. The issue is distinctly made up;
either the free-State or pro-slavery party is to have Kansas....
Citizens of Platte County! the war is upon you, and at your very doors.
Arouse yourselves to speedy vengeance and rub out the bloody
[Sidenote] Woodson, proclamation, Aug. 25, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d
Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 80.
It was perhaps well that the pro-slavery zeal of General Smith was less
ardent than that of Secretary Jefferson Davis, or the American civil
war might have begun in Lawrence instead of Charleston. Upon fuller
information and more mature reflection, the General found that he had
no need of either the four regiments from Illinois and Kentucky, or
Border-Ruffian mobs led by skeleton militia generals, neither of which
he had asked for. Both the militia generals and the Missourians were
too eager even to wait for an official call. General Richardson ordered
out his whole division on the strength of the "Argus Extra" and
neighborhood reports, and the entire border was already in motion
when acting Governor Woodson issued his proclamation declaring the
Territory "to be in a state of open insurrection and rebellion."
General Smith found it necessary to direct his first orders against
the Border-Ruffian invaders themselves. "It has been rumored for
several days," he wrote to his second in command, "that large numbers
of persons from the State of Missouri have entered Kansas, at various
points, armed, with the intention of attacking the opposite party and
driving them from the Territory, the latter being also represented to
be in considerable force. If it should come to your knowledge that
either side is moving upon the other with the view to attack, it will
become your duty to observe their movements and prevent such hostile
[Sidenote] Woodson to Cooke, Sept. 1, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess.
34th Cong. Vol. III., pp. 90, 91.
[Sidenote] Cooke to Woodson, Sept. 1, 1856. Ibid., pp. 91, 92.
Lieutenant-Colonel P. St. George Cooke, upon whom this active field
work devolved, because of the General's ill health, concentrated his
little command between Lawrence and Lecompton, where he could to some
extent exert a salutary check upon the main bodies of both parties,
and where he soon had occasion to send a remonstrance to the acting
Governor that his "militia" was ransacking and burning houses. To
the acting Governor's mind, such a remonstrance was not a proper way
to suppress rebellion. He, therefore, sent Colonel Cooke a requisition
to invest the town of Topeka, disarm the insurrectionists, hold them
as prisoners, level their fortifications, and intercept aggressive
invaders on "Lane's trail"; all of which demands the officer prudently
and politely declined, replying that he was there to assist in serving
judicial process, and not to make war on the town of Topeka.
If, as had been alleged, General Smith was at first inclined to regard
the pro-slavery side with favor, its arrogance and excesses soon
removed his prejudices, and he wrote an unsparing report of the
situation to the War Department. "In explanation of the position of
affairs, lately and now, I may remark that there are more than two
opposing parties in the Territory. The citizens of the Territory who
formed the majority in the organization of the territorial government,
and in the elections for its Legislature and inferior officers, form
one party. The persons who organized a State government, and attempted
to put it in operation against the authority of that established by
Congress, form another. A party, at the head of which is a former
Senator from Missouri, and which is composed in a great part of
citizens from that State, who have come into this Territory armed,
under the excitement produced by reports exaggerated in all cases, and
in many absolutely false, form the third. There is a fourth, composed
of idle men congregated from various parts, who assume to arrest,
punish, exile, and even kill all those whom they assume to be bad
citizens; that is, those who will not join them or contribute to their
maintenance. Every one of these has in his own peculiar way (except
some few of the first party) thrown aside all regard to law, and even
honesty, and the Territory under their sway is ravaged from one end to
the other.... Until the day before yesterday I was deficient in force
to operate against all these at once; and the acting Governor of the
Territory did not seem to me to take a right view of affairs. If Mr.
Atchison and his party had had the direction of affairs, they could
not have ordered them more to suit his purpose."
All such truth and exposure of the conspiracy, however, was
unpalatable at Washington; and Secretary Jefferson Davis, while
approving the conduct of Colonel Cooke and expressing confidence
in General Smith, nevertheless curtly indorsed upon his report: "The
only distinction of parties which in a military point of view it is
necessary to note is that which distinguishes those who respect and
maintain the laws and organized government from those who combine for
revolutionary resistance to the constitutional authorities and laws of
the land. The armed combinations of the latter class come within the
denunciation of the President's proclamation and are proper subjects
upon which to employ the military force."
[Sidenote] "Washington Union," August 1, 1856.
Such was the state of affairs when the third Governor of Kansas, newly
appointed by President Pierce, arrived in the Territory. The Kansas
pro-slavery cabal had upon the dismissal of Shannon fondly hoped that
one of their own clique, either Secretary Woodson or Surveyor-General
John Calhoun, would be made executive, and had set on foot active
efforts in that direction. In principle and purpose they enjoyed the
abundant sympathy of the Pierce Administration; but as the presidential
election of 1856 was at hand, the success of the Democratic party could
not at the moment be endangered by so open and defiant an act of
partisanship. It was still essential to placate the wounded anti-slavery
sensibilities of the Northern States, and to this end John W. Geary, of
Pennsylvania, was nominated by the President and unanimously confirmed
by the Senate. He was a man of character and decision, had gone to the
Mexican war as a volunteer captain, and had been made a colonel and
intrusted with an important command for merit. Afterwards he had
served as postmaster, as alcalde, and as mayor of the city of San
Francisco in the turbulent gold excitements of 1848-9, and was made a
funding commissioner by the California Legislature. Both by nature and
experience, therefore, he seemed well fitted to subdue the civil
commotions of Kansas.
[Sidenote] Gihon, p. 131.
But the pro-slavery leaders of the Territory were very far from
relishing or desiring qualifications of this character. In one of
their appeals calling upon the Missourians for "assistance in men,
provisions, and munitions, that we may drive out the 'Army of the
North,'" they had given the President and the public a piece of their
mind about this appointment. "We have asked the appointment of a
successor," said they, "who was acquainted with our condition," with
"the capacity to appreciate and the boldness and integrity requisite
faithfully to discharge his duty regardless of the possible effect it
might have upon the election of some petty politician in a distant
State. In his stead we have one appointed who is ignorant of our
condition, a stranger to our people; who, we have too much cause to
fear, will, if no worse, prove no more efficient to protect us than
his predecessors.... We cannot await the convenience in coming of our
newly appointed Governor. We cannot hazard a second edition of
imbecility or corruption!"
Animated by such a spirit, they now bent all their energies upon
concentrating a sufficient force in Kansas to crush the free-State
men before the new Governor could interfere. Acting Governor Woodson
had by proclamation declared the Territory in a state of "open
insurrection and rebellion," and the officers of the skeleton
militia were hurriedly enrolling the Missourians, giving them arms,
and planting them in convenient camps for a final and decisive
[Sidenote] Gihon, p. 104.
[Sidenote] Gihon, pp. 104-6.
It was on September 9, 1856, that Governor Geary and his party landed
at Leavenworth. Even on his approach he had already been compelled to
note and verify the evidences of civil war. He had met Governor
Shannon fleeing from the Territory, who drew for him a direful picture
of the official inheritance to which he had come. While this interview
took place, during the landing of the boat at Glasgow, a company of
sixty Missouri Border Ruffians was embarking, with wagons, arms, and
cannon, and with the open declaration that they were bound for Kansas
to hunt and kill "abolitionists." Similar belligerent preparations
were in progress at all the river towns they touched. At Kansas City
the vigilance committee of the blockade boarded and searched the boat
for concealed "abolitionists." Finally arrived at Leavenworth, the
Governor saw a repetition of the same scenes--parades and military
control in the streets, fugitives within the inclosure of the fort,
and minor evidences of lawlessness and terror.
[Sidenote] Geary to Marcy, Sept. 9, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess.
34th Cong. Vol. II., p. 88.
Governor Geary went at once to the fort, where he spent the day in
consultation with General Smith. That same evening he wrote to W.L.
Marcy, Secretary of State, a report of the day's impressions which was
anything but reassuring--Leavenworth in the hands of armed men
committing outrages under the shadow of authority; theft and murder in
the streets and on the highways; farms plundered and deserted;
agitation, excitement, and utter insecurity everywhere, and the number
of troops insufficient to compel peace and order. All this was not the
worst, however. Deep in the background stood the sinister apparition of
the Atchison cabal. "I find," wrote he, "that I have not simply to
contend against bands of armed ruffians and brigands whose sole aim and
end is assassination and robbery--infatuated adherents and advocates of
conflicting political sentiments and local institutions--and
evil-disposed persons actuated by a desire to obtain elevated
positions; but worst of all, against the influence of men who have been
placed in authority and have employed all the destructive agents around
them to promote their own personal interests at the sacrifice of every
just, honorable, and lawful consideration.... Such is the condition of
Kansas faintly pictured.... In making the foregoing statements I have
endeavored to give the truth and nothing but the truth. I deem it
important that you should be apprised of the actual state of the case;
and whatever may be the effect of such revelations, they will be given
from time to time without extenuation."
[Sidenote] Geary, proclamation, Sept. 11, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d
Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. II., pp. 93-4.
[Sidenote] Geary to Marcy, Sept. 12, 1856. Ibid., p. 95.
Discouraging as he found his new task of administration, Governor Geary
grappled with it in a spirit of justice and decision. The day following
his interview with General Smith found him at Lecompton, the capital of
the Territory, where the other territorial officials, Woodson, Calhoun,
Donaldson, Sheriff Jones, Lecompte, Cato, and others, constituted the
ever-vigilant working force of the Atchison cabal, precisely as had
been so truthfully represented to him by General Smith, and as he had
so graphically described in his letter to Marcy of the day before.
Paying little heed to their profusely offered advice, he adhered to his
determination to judge for himself, and at once issued an inaugural
address, declaring that in his official action he would do justice at
all hazards, that he desired to know no party and no section, and
imploring the people to bury their past strifes, and devote themselves
to peace, industry, and the material development of the Territory.
As an evidence of his earnestness he simultaneously issued two
proclamations, one disbanding the volunteer or Missouri militia lately
called into service by acting Governor Woodson, and the other commanding
the immediate enrollment of the true citizen militia of Kansas Territory,
this step being taken by the advice of General Smith.
He soon found that he could not govern Kansas with paper proclamations
alone. His sudden arrival at this particular juncture was evidently an
unexpected _contretemps_. While he was preaching and printing his sage
admonitions about peace and prosperity at Lecompton, and laboring to
change the implements of civil war into plowshares and pruning-hooks,
the Missouri raid against Lawrence, officially called into the field by
Woodson's proclamation, was about to deal out destruction to that town.
A thousand Border Ruffians (at least two eye-witnesses say 2500), led
by their recognized Missouri chiefs, were at that moment camped within
striking distance of the hated "New Boston." Their published address,
which declared that "these traitors, assassins, and robbers must now be
punished, must now be taught a lesson they will remember," that "Lane's
army and its allies must be expelled from the Territory," left no doubt
of their errand.
This news reached Governor Geary about midnight of his second day in
Lecompton. One of the brigadiers of the skeleton militia was apparently
in command, and not yet having caught the cue of the Governor's
intentions, reported the force for orders, "in the field, ready for
duty, and impatient to act." At about the same hour the Governor
received a message from the agent he had sent to Lawrence to distribute
copies of his inaugural, that the people of that town were arming and
preparing to receive and repel this contemplated attack of the
Missourians. He was dumfounded at the information; his promises and
policy, upon which, the ink was not yet dry, were already in jeopardy.
Instead of bringing peace his advent was about to open war.
In this contingency the Governor took his measures with true military
promptness. He immediately dispatched to the Missouri camp Secretary
Woodson with copies of his inaugural, and the adjutant-general of the
Territory with orders to disband and muster out of service the Missouri
volunteers, while he himself, at the head of three hundred dragoons
and a light battery, moved rapidly to Lawrence, a distance of twelve
miles. Entering that town at sunrise, he found a few hundred men
hastily organized for defense in the improvised intrenchments and
barricades about the place, ready enough to sell their lives, but
vastly more willing to intrust their protection to the Governor's
authority and the Federal troops. They listened to his speech and
readily promised to obey his requirements.
Since the Missourians had officially reported themselves to him as
subject to his orders, the Governor supposed that his injunctions,
conveyed to them in writing and print, and borne by the secretary and
the adjutant-general of the Territory, would suffice to send them
back at once to their own borders, and he returned to Lecompton to
take up his thorny duties of administration. Though forewarned by
ex-Governor Shannon and by General Smith, Governor Geary did not yet
realize the temper and purpose of either the cabal conspirators or
the Border-Ruffian rank and file. He had just dispatched a military
force in another direction to intercept and disarm a raid about to be
made by a detachment of Lane's men, when news came to him that the
Missourians were still moving upon Lawrence, in increased force, that
his officers had not yet delivered his orders, and that skirmishing
had begun between the outposts.
[Sidenote] D.W. Wilder, "Annals of Kansas," p. 108. Gihon, p. 152.
Menaced thus with dishonor on one side and contempt on the other, he
gathered all his available Federal troops, and hurrying forward posted
them between Lawrence and the invaders. Then he went to the Missouri
camp, where the true condition of affairs began to dawn upon him. All
the Border-Ruffian chiefs were there, headed by Atchison in person,
who was evidently the controlling spirit, though a member of the
Legislature of the State of Missouri, named Reid, exercised nominal
command. He found his orders unheeded and on every hand mutterings of
impatience and threats of defiance. These invading aliens had not the
least disposition to receive commands as Kansas militia; they invoked
that name only as a cloak to shield them from the legal penalties due
their real character as organized banditti.
The Governor called the chiefs together and made them an earnest
harangue. He explained to them his conciliatory policy, read his
instructions from Washington, affirmed his determination to keep peace,
and appealed personally to Atchison to aid him in enforcing law and
preserving order. That wily chief, seeing that refusal would put him in
the attitude of a law-breaker, feigned a ready compliance, and he and
Reid, his factotum commander, made eloquent speeches "calculated to
produce submission to the legal demands made upon them." Some of
the lesser captains, however, were mutinous, and treated the Governor
to choice bits of Border-Ruffian rhetoric. Law and violence vibrated in
uncertain balance, when Colonel Cooke, commanding the Federal troops,
took the floor and cut the knot of discussion in a summary way. "I felt
called upon to say some words myself," he writes naively, "appealing to
these militia officers as an old resident of Kansas and friend to the
Missourians to submit to the patriotic demand that they should retire,
assuring them of my perfect confidence in the inflexible justice of the
Governor, and that it would become my painful duty to sustain him at
the cannon's mouth." This argument was decisive. The border chiefs
felt willing enough to lead their awkward squads against the slight
barricades of Lawrence, but quailed at the unlooked-for prospect of
encountering the carbines and sabers of half a regiment of regular
dragoons and the grape-shot of a well-drilled light battery. They
accepted the inevitable; and swallowing their rage but still nursing
their revenge, they consented perforce to retire and be "honorably"
mustered out. But for this narrow contingency Lawrence would have been
sacked a second time by the direct agency of the territorial cabal.
[Illustration: GENERAL JOHN W. GEARY.]
[Sidenote] Examination, Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong.
Vol. II., pp. 156-69.
Nothing could more forcibly demonstrate the unequal character of the
contest between the slave-State and the free-State men in Kansas, even
in these manoeuvres and conflicts of civil war, than the companion
exploit to this third Lawrence raid. The day before Governor Geary,
seconded by the "cannon" argument of Colonel Cooke, was convincing the
reluctant Missourians that it was better to accept, as a reward for
their unfinished expedition, the pay, rations, and honorable discharge
of a "muster out," rather than the fine, imprisonment, or halter to
which the full execution of their design would render them liable,
another detachment of Federal dragoons was enforcing the bogus laws
upon a company of free-State men who had just had a skirmish with
a detachment of this same invading army of Border Ruffians, at a
place called Hickory Point. The encounter itself had all the usual
characteristics of the dozens of similar affairs which occurred
during this prolonged period of border warfare--a neighborhood feud;
neighborhood violence; the appearance of organized bands for retaliation;
the taking of forage, animals, and property; the fortifying of two or
three log-houses by a pro-slavery company then on its way to join in
the Lawrence attack, and finally the appearance of a more numerous
free-State party to dislodge them. The besieging column, some 350 in
number, had brought up a brass four-pounder, lately captured from the
pro-slavery men, and with this and their rifles kept up a long-range
fire for about six hours, when the garrison of Border Ruffians capitulated
on condition of being allowed "honorably" to evacuate their stronghold
and retire. The casualties were one man killed and several wounded.
[Sidenote] Gihon, p. 158.
[Sidenote] Record of examination, Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong.
Vol. II., pp. 156-9.
The rejoicing of the free-State men over this not too brilliant
victory was short-lived. Returning home in separate squads, they were
successively intercepted by the Federal dragoons acting as a posse to
the Deputy United States Marshal, who arrested them on civil writs
obtained in haste by an active member of the territorial cabal, and to
the number of eighty-nine were taken prisoners to Lecompton. So
far the affair had been of such frequent occurrence as to have become
commonplace--a frontier "free fight," as they themselves described and
regarded it. But now it took on a remarkable aspect. Sterling G. Cato,
one of the pro-slavery territorial judges, had been found by Governor
Geary in the Missouri camp drilling and doing duty as a soldier, ready
and doubtless more than willing to take part in the projected sack of
Lawrence. This Federal judge, as open a law-breaker as the Hickory
Point prisoners (the two affairs really forming part of one and the
same enterprise), now seated himself on his judicial bench and
committed the whole party for trial on charge of murder in the first
degree; and at the October term of his court proceeded to try and
condemn to penalties prescribed by the bogus laws some eighteen or
twenty of these prisoners, for offenses in which in equity and good
morals he was personally _particeps criminis_--some of the convicts
being held in confinement until the following March, when they were
pardoned by the Governor. _Inter arma silent leges_, say the
publicists; but in this particular instance the license of guerrilla
war, the fraudulent statutes of the Territory, and the laws of
Congress were combined and perverted with satanic ingenuity in
furtherance of the conspiracy.
The vigorous proceedings of Governor Geary, the forced retirement of
the Missourians on the one hand, and the arrest and conviction of the
free-State partisans on the other, had the effect to bring the
guerrilla war to an abrupt termination. The retribution had fallen
very unequally upon the two parties to the conflict, but this was
due to the legal traps and pitfalls prepared with such artful design
by the Atchison conspiracy, and not to the personal indifference or
ill-will of the Governor. He strove sincerely to restore impartial
administration; he completed the disbandment of the territorial
militia, reenlisting into the Federal service one pro-slavery and one
free-State company for police duty. By the end of September he was
enabled to write to Washington that "peace now reigns in Kansas."
Encouraged by this success in allaying guerrilla strife, he next
endeavored to break up the existing political persecution and
[Sidenote] Marcy to Geary, August 26, 1856. Gihon, p. 272.
It was not long, however, before Governor Geary became conscious, to
his great surprise and mortification, that he had been nominated and
sent to Kansas as a partisan manoeuvre, and not to institute
administrative reforms; that his instructions, written during the
presidential campaign, to tranquillize Kansas by his "energy,
impartiality, and discretion," really meant that after Mr. Buchanan
was elected he should satisfy the Atchison cabal.
In less than six months after he went to the Territory, clothed with
the executive authority, speaking the President's voice, and
representing the unlimited military power of the republic, he, the
third Democratic Governor of Kansas, was, like his predecessors, in
secret flight from the province he had so trustfully gone to rule,
execrated by his party associates, and abandoned by the Administration
which had appointed him. Humiliating as was this local conspiracy to
plant servitude in Kansas, a more aggressive political movement to
nationalize slavery in all the Union was about to eclipse it.
 Shannon, proclamation, June 4, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d
Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 47.
 Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War, to General Smith, Sept. 3,
1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 29.
 August 18, 1856. Senate Executive Documents, 3d Session 34th
Congress. Vol. III., pp. 76-7.
 Richardson to General Smith, August 18, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc.,
3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 75.
 George Deas, Assistant Adjutant-General to Lieut.-Colonel Cooke,
August 28, 1856. Senate Executive Documents, 3d Session 34th
Congress. Vol. III., p. 85.
 Cooke to Deas, August 31, 1856. Ibid., p. 89.
 Smith to Cooper, Sept. 10, 1856. Senate Executive Document,
3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., pp. 80, 81.
 Sec. War, indorsement, Sept. 23, on letter of Gen. Smith to
Adjutant-General Cooper, Sept. 10, 1856. Senate Executive
Documents, 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 83.
 Woodson, proclamation, August 25, 1856. Senate Executive Documents,
3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 80.
 Geary, Inaugural Address, Sept. 11, 1856. Senate Executive
Documents, 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 116.
 General Heiskell to Geary, Sept. 11 and 12, 1856. Senate Ex.
Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. II., p. 97.
 Geary to Marcy, Sept. 16, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th
Cong. Vol. II., p. 107.
 Colonel Cook to Porter, A.A.G., Sept. 13, 1856. Ibid., Vol.
III., pp. 113, 114.
 Colonel Cooke to F.J. Porter, Sept. 16, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc.,
3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 121.
 Cooke to Porter, Sept. 16, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess.
34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 122.
 Captain Wood to Colonel Cooke, Sept. 16, 1856. Senate Ex.
Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III, pp. 123-6.
 Geary to Marcy, October 1, 1856. Senate Executive Documents,
3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. II., p. 156.
 Gihon, pp. 142-3. Geary, Executive Minutes, Senate Ex. Doc.,
No. 17, 1st Sess. 35th Cong. Vol. VI., p. 195.
 The Kansas Territorial Legislature, in the year 1859, by which
time local passion had greatly subsided, by law empowered a
non-partisan board of three commissioners to collect sworn testimony
concerning the ravages of the civil war in Kansas, with a view of
obtaining indemnity from the general Government for the individual
sufferers. These commissioners, after a careful examination, made an
official report, from which may be gleaned an interesting summary in
numbers and values of the harvest of crime and destruction which the
Kansas contest produced, and which report can be relied upon, since
eye-witnesses and participants of both parties freely contributed
their testimony at the invitation of the commissioners.
The commissioners fixed the period of the war as beginning about
November 1, 1855, and continuing until about December 1, 1856. They
estimated that the entire loss and destruction of property, including
the cost of fitting out the various expeditions, amounted to an
aggregate of not less than $2,000,000. Fully one-half of this loss,
they thought, was directly sustained by actual settlers of Kansas.
They received petitions and took testimony in 463 cases. They reported
417 cases as entitled to indemnity. The detailed figures and values of
property destroyed are presented as follows:
"Amount of crops destroyed, $37,349.61; number of buildings burned
and destroyed, 78; horses taken or destroyed, 368; cattle taken or
destroyed, 533. Amount of property owned by pro-slavery men,
$77,198.99; property owned by free-State men, $335,779.04;
property taken or destroyed by pro-slavery men, $318,718.63;
property taken or destroyed by free-State men, $94,529.40."
About the loss of life the commissioners say: "Although not within our
province, we may be excused for stating that, from the most reliable
information that we have been able to gather, by the secret warfare of
the guerrilla system, and in well-known encounters, the number of
lives sacrificed in Kansas during the period mentioned probably
exceeded rather than fell short of two hundred.... That the excitement
in the Eastern and Southern States, in 1856, was instigated and kept
up by garbled and exaggerated accounts of Kansas affairs, published in
the Eastern and Southern newspapers, is true, most true; but the half
of what was done by either party was never chronicled!"--House
Reports, 2d Sess. 36th Cong. Vol. III., Part I, pp. 90 and 93.
 We quote the following from the executive minutes of Governor
Geary to show that border strife had not entirely destroyed the
kindlier human impulses, which enabled him to turn a portion of the
warring elements to the joint service of peace and order:
"September 24, 1856. For the purpose of obtaining information
which was considered of great value to the Territory, the Governor
invited to Lecompton, Captain [Samuel] Walker, of Lawrence, one of
the most celebrated and daring leaders of the anti-slavery party,
promising him a safe-conduct to Lecompton and back again to
Lawrence. During Walker's visit at the Executive Office, Colonel
[H.T.] Titus entered, whose house was, a short time since,
destroyed by a large force under the command of Walker; an offense
which was subsequently retaliated by the burning of the residence
of the latter. These men were, perhaps, the most determined
enemies in the Territory. Through the Governor's intervention, a
pacific meeting occurred, a better understanding took place,
mutual concessions were made, and pledges of friendship were
passed; and, late in the afternoon, Walker left Lecompton in
company with and under the safeguard of Colonel Titus. Both these
men have volunteered to enter the service of the United States as
leaders of companies of territorial militia."--Geary, Executive
Minutes. Senate Executive Documents, 3d Session 34th Congress,
Vol. II., pp. 137-8.
THE CONVENTIONS OF 1856
In the State of Illinois, the spring of the year 1856 saw an almost
spontaneous impulse toward the formation of a new party. As already
described, it was a transition period in politics. The disorganization
of the Whig party was materially increased and hastened by the
failure, two years before, to make Lincoln a Senator. On the other
hand, the election of Trumbull served quite as effectively to
consolidate the Democratic rebellion against Douglas in his
determination to make the support of his Nebraska bill a test of party
orthodoxy. Many of the Northern counties had formed "Republican"
organizations in the two previous years; but the name was entirely
local, while the opposition, not yet united, but fighting in factions
against the Nebraska bill, only acknowledged political affinity under
the general term of the "Anti-Nebraska" party.
In the absence of any existing party machinery, some fifteen editors
of anti-Nebraska newspapers met for conference at Decatur on the 22d
of February and issued a call for a delegate State convention of the
"Anti-Nebraska party," to meet at Bloomington on the 29th of May.
Prominent leaders, as a rule, hesitated to commit themselves by their
presence at Decatur. Not so with Mr. Lincoln. He could not attend the
deliberations as an editor; but he doubtless lent his suggestion and
advice, for we find him among the distinguished guests and speakers at
the banquet which followed the business session, and toasts to his
candidacy as "the next United States Senator" show that his leadership
had suffered no abatement. The assembled editors purposely set the
Bloomington Convention for a somewhat late day in the campaign, and
before the time arrived the political situation in the State was
already much more clearly defined.
[Sidenote] Davidson and Stuve, "History of Illinois," p. 616.
One factor which greatly baffled the calculations and forecast of
politicians was the Know-Nothing or American party. It was apparent to
all that this order or affiliation had during the past two years
spread into Illinois, as into other States. But as its machinery and
action were secret, and as no general election had occurred since 1854
to exhibit its numerical strength, its possible scope and influence
could only be vaguely estimated. Still it was clearly present as a
positive force. Its national council had in February at Philadelphia
nominated Fillmore and Donelson as a presidential ticket; but the
preponderating Southern membership forced an indorsement of the
Kansas-Nebraska act into its platform, which destroyed the unity and
power of the party, driving the Northern delegates to a bolt.
Nevertheless many Northern voters, indifferent to the slavery issue,
still sought to maintain its organization; and thus in Illinois the
State Council met early in May, ratified the nomination of Fillmore
for President, and nominated candidates for Governor, and other State
The Democratic party, or rather so much of that party as did not
openly repudiate the policy and principle of the Kansas-Nebraska act,
made early preparations for a vigorous campaign. The great loss in
prestige and numbers he had already sustained admonished Douglas that
his political fortunes hung in a doubtful balance. But he was a bold
and aggressive leader, to whom controversy and party warfare were
rather an inspiration than a discouragement. Under his guidance, the
Democratic State Convention nominated for Governor of Illinois William
A. Richardson, late a member of the House of Representatives, in which
body as chairman of the Committee on Territories he had been the
leader to whom the success of the Nebraska bill was specially
intrusted, and where his parliamentary management had contributed
materially to the final passage of that measure.
Thus the attitude of opposing factions and the unorganized unfolding
of public opinion, rather than any mere promptings or combinations of
leaders, developed the course of the anti-Nebraska men of Illinois.
Out of this condition sprung directly one important element of future
success. Richardson's candidacy, long foreshadowed, was seen to
require an opposing nominee of unusual popularity. He was found in the
person of Colonel William H. Bissell, late a Democratic representative
in Congress, where he had denounced disunion in 1850, and opposed the
Nebraska bill in 1854. He had led a regiment to the Mexican war, and
fought gallantly at the battle of Buena Vista. His military laurels
easily carried him into Congress; but the exposures of the Mexican
campaign also burdened him with a disease which paralyzed his lower
limbs, and compelled retirement from active politics after his second
term. He was now, however, recovering; and having already exhibited
civic talents of a high order, the popular voice made light of his
physical infirmity, and his friends declared their readiness to match
the brains of Bissell against the legs of his opponents.
[Sidenote] January 23, 1850, Appendix, "Globe," 1849-50, p. 78.
One piece of his history rendered him specially acceptable to young
and spirited Western voters. His service in Congress began amid
exciting debates over the compromise measures of 1850, when the
Southern fire-eaters were already rampant. Seddon, of Virginia, in his
eagerness to depreciate the North and glorify the South, affirmed in a
speech that at the battle of Buena Vista, "at that most critical
juncture when all seemed lost save honor," amid the discomfiture and
rout of "the brave but unfortunate troops of the North through a
mistaken order," "the noble regiment of Mississippians" had snatched
victory from the jaws of death. Replying some days later to Seddon's
innuendo, Bissell, competent by his presence on the battle-field to
bear witness, retorted that when the 2d Indiana gave way, it was
McKee's 2d Kentucky, Hardin's 1st Illinois, and Bissell's 2d Illinois
which had retrieved the fortunes of the hour, and that the vaunted
Mississippi regiment was not within a mile and a half of the scene of
action. Properly this was an issue of veracity between Seddon and
Bissell, of easy solution. But Jefferson Davis, who commanded the
Mississippi regiment in question, began an interchange of notes with
Bissell which from the first smelt of gunpowder. "Were his reported
remarks correct?" asked Davis in substance. Bissell answered, repeating
the language of his speech and defining the spot and the time to which
it applied, adding: "I deem it due, in justice alike to myself and the
Mississippi regiment, to say that I made no charge against that
regiment." Davis persisting, then asked, in substance, whether he
meant to deny General Lane's official report that "the regiment of
Mississippians came to the rescue at the proper time to save the
fortunes of the day." Bissell rejoined: "My remarks had reference to a
different time and place from those referred to by General Lane."
[Sidenote] Pamphlet, Printed correspondence.
At this point both parties might with great propriety have ended the
correspondence. Sufficient inquiry had been met by generous
explanation. But Davis, apparently determined to push Bissell to the
wall, now sent his challenge. This time, however, he met his match, in
courage. Bissell named an officer of the army as his second,
instructing him to suggest as weapons "muskets, loaded with ball and
buckshot." The terms of combat do not appear to have been formally
proposed between the friends who met to arrange matters, but they were
evidently understood; the affair was hushed up, with the simple
addition to Bissell's first reply that he was willing to award the
Mississippi regiment "the credit due to their gallant and
distinguished services in that battle."
The Bloomington Convention came together according to call on the 29th
of May. By this time the active and observant politicians of the State
had become convinced that the anti-Nebraska struggle was not a mere
temporary and insignificant "abolition" excitement, but a deep and
abiding political issue, involving in the fate of slavery the fate of
the nation. Minor and past differences were therefore generously
postponed or waived in favor of a hearty coalition on the single
dominant question. A most notable gathering of the clans was the
result. About one-fourth of the counties sent regularly chosen
delegates; the rest were volunteers. In spirit and enthusiasm it was
rather a mass-meeting than a convention; but every man present was in
some sort a leader in his own locality. The assemblage was much more
representative than similar bodies gathered by the ordinary caucus
machinery. It was an earnest and determined council of five or six
hundred cool, sagacious, independent thinkers, called together by a
great public exigency, led and directed by the first minds of the
State. Not only did it show a brilliant array of eminent names, but a
remarkable contrast of former antagonisms: Whigs, Democrats,
Free-Soilers, Know-Nothings, Abolitionists; Norman B. Judd, Richard
Yates, Ebenezer Peck, Leonard Swett, Lyman Trumbull, David Davis, Owen
Lovejoy, Orville H. Browning, Ichabod Godding, Archibald Williams, and
many more. Chief among these, as adviser and actor, was Abraham
Rarely has a deliberative body met under circumstances more exciting
than did this one. The Congressional debates at Washington and the
civil war in Kansas were each at a culmination of passion and
incident. Within ten days Charles Sumner had been struck down in the
Senate Chamber, and the town of Lawrence sacked by the guerrilla posse
of Atchison and Sheriff Jones. Ex-Governor Reeder, of that suffering
Territory, addressed the citizens of Bloomington and the
earliest-arriving delegates on the evening of the 28th, bringing into
the convention the very atmosphere of the Kansas conflict.
The convention met and conducted its work with earnestness and
dignity. Bissell, already designated by unmistakable popular
indications, was nominated for governor by acclamation. The candidate
for lieutenant-governor was named in like manner. So little did the
convention think or care about the mere distribution of political
honors on the one hand, and so much, on the other, did it regard and
provide for the success of the cause, that it did not even ballot for
the remaining candidates on the State ticket, but deputed to a
committee the task of selecting and arranging them, and adopted its
report as a whole and by acclamation. The more difficult task of
drafting a platform was performed by another committee, with such
prudence that it too received a unanimous acceptance. It boldly
adopted the Republican name, formulated the Republican creed, and the
convention further appointed delegates to the coming Republican
There were stirring speeches by eloquent leaders, eagerly listened to
and vociferously applauded; but scarcely a man moved from his seat in
the crowded hall until Mr. Lincoln had been heard. Every one felt the
fitness of his making the closing argument and exhortation, and right
nobly did he honor their demand. A silence full of emotion filled the
assembly as for a moment before beginning his tall form stood in
commanding attitude on the rostrum, the impressiveness of his theme
and the significance of the occasion reflected in his thoughtful and
earnest features. The spell of the hour was visibly upon him; and
holding his audience in rapt attention, he closed in a brilliant
peroration with an appeal to the people to join the Republican
Come as the winds come, when forests are rended;
Come as the waves come, when navies are stranded.
The influence was irresistible; the audience rose and acknowledged the
speaker's power with cheer upon cheer. Unfortunately the speech was
never reported; but its effect lives vividly in the memory of all who
heard it, and it crowned his right to popular leadership in his own
State, which thereafter was never disputed.
The organization of the Republican party for the nation at large
proceeded very much in the same manner as that in the State of
Illinois. Pursuant to separate preliminary correspondence and calls
from State committees, a general meeting of prominent Republicans and
anti-Nebraska politicians from all parts of the North, and even from a
few border slave-States, came together at Pittsburgh on Washington's
birthday, February 22. Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania sent the
largest contingents; but around this great central nucleus were
gathered small but earnest delegations aggregating between three and
four hundred zealous leaders, representing twenty-eight States and
Territories. It was merely an informal mass convention; but many of
the delegates were men of national character, each of whose names was
itself a sufficient credential. Above all, the members were cautious,
moderate, conciliatory, and unambitious to act beyond the requirements
of the hour. They contented themselves with the usual parliamentary
routine; appointed a committee on national organization; issued a call
for a delegate convention; and adopted and put forth a stirring
address to the country. Their resolutions were brief and formulated
but four demands: the repeal of all laws which allow the introduction
of slavery into Territories once consecrated to freedom; resistance by
constitutional means to slavery in any United States Territory; the
immediate admission of Kansas as a free-State, and the overthrow of
the present national Administration.
In response to the official call embodied in the Pittsburgh address,
the first National Convention of the Republican party met at
Philadelphia on the 17th of June, 1856. The character and dignity of
the Pittsburgh proceedings assured the new party of immediate prestige
and acceptance; with so favorable a sponsorship it sprang full-armed
into the political conflict. That conflict which opened the year with
the long congressional contest over the speakership, and which found
its only solution in the choice of Banks by a plurality vote, had been
fed by fierce congressional debates, by presidential messages and
proclamations, by national conventions, by the Sumner assault, by the
Kansas war; the body politic throbbed with activity and excitement in
every fiber. Every free-State and several border States and
Territories were represented in the Philadelphia Convention; its
regular and irregular delegates counted nearly a thousand local
leaders, full of the zeal of new proselytes; Henry S. Lane, of
Indiana, was made its permanent chairman.
The party was too young and its prospect of immediate success too
slender to develop any serious rivalry for a presidential nomination.
Because its strength lay evidently among the former adherents of the
now dissolved and abandoned Whig party, William H. Seward of course
took highest rank in leadership; after him stood Salmon P. Chase as
the representative of the independent Democrats, who, bringing fewer
voters, had nevertheless contributed the main share of the courageous
pioneer work. It is a just tribute to their sagacity that both were
willing to wait for the maturer strength and riper opportunities of
the new organization. Justice John McLean, of the Supreme Bench, an
eminent jurist, a faithful Whig, whose character happily combined both
the energy and the conservatism of the great West, also had a large
following; but as might have been expected, the convention found a
more typical leader, young in years, daring in character, brilliant in
exploit; and after one informal ballot it nominated John C. Fremont,
of California. The credit of the selection and its successful
management has been popularly awarded to Francis P. Blair, senior,
famous as the talented and powerful newspaper lieutenant of President
Jackson; but it was rather an intuitive popular choice, which at the
moment seemed so appropriate as to preclude necessity for artful
[Illustration: MILLARD FILLMORE.]
There was a dash of romance in the personal history of Fremont which
gave his nomination a high popular relish. Of French descent, born in
Savannah, Georgia, orphaned at an early age, he acquired a scientific
education largely by his own unaided efforts in private study; a sea
voyage as teacher of mathematics, and employment in a railroad survey
through the wilderness of the Tennessee Mountains, developed the taste
and the qualifications that made him useful as an assistant in
Nicollet's scientific exploration of the great plateau where the
Mississippi River finds its sources, and secured his appointment as
second lieutenant of topographical engineers. These labors brought him
to Washington, where the same Gallic restlessness which made the
restraint of schools insupportable, brought about an attachment,
elopement, and marriage with the daughter of Senator Thomas H. Benton,
Reconciliation followed in good time; and the unexplored Great West
being Benton's peculiar hobby, through his influence Fremont was sent
with an exploring party to the Rocky Mountains. Under his command
similar expeditions were repeated again and again to that mysterious
wonderland; and never were the wildest fictions read with more avidity
than his official reports of daily adventure, danger and discovery, of
scaling unclimbed mountains, wrecking his canoes on the rapids of
unvisited rivers, parleying and battling with hostile Indians, and
facing starvation while hemmed in by trackless snows. One of these
journeys had led him to the Pacific coast when our war with Mexico let
loose the spirit of revolution in the Mexican province of California.
With his characteristic restless audacity Fremont joined his little
company of explorers to a local insurrectionary faction of American
settlers, and raised a battalion of mounted volunteers. Though acting
without Government orders, he cooperated with the United States naval
forces sent to take possession of the California coast, and materially
assisted in overturning the Mexican authority and putting the remnant
of her military officials to flight. At the close of the conquest he
was for a short time military governor; and when, through the famous
gold discoveries, California was organized as a State and admitted to
the Union, Fremont became for a brief period one of her first United
So salient a record could not well be without strong contrasts, and of
these unsparing criticism took advantage. Hostile journals delineated
Fremont as a shallow, vainglorious, "woolly-horse," "mule-eating,"
"free-love," "nigger-embracing" black Republican; an extravagant,
insubordinate, reckless adventurer; a financial spendthrift and
political mountebank. As the reading public is not always skillful in
winnowing truth from libel when artfully mixed in print, even the
grossest calumnies were not without their effect in contributing to
his defeat. But to the sanguine zeal of the new Republican party, the
"Pathfinder" was a heroic and ideal leader; for, upon the vital point
at issue, his anti-slavery votes and clear declarations satisfied every
doubt and inspired unlimited confidence.
However picturesquely Fremont for the moment loomed up as the
standard-bearer of the Republican party, historical interest centers
upon the second act of the Philadelphia Convention. It shows us how
strangely to human wisdom vibrate the delicately balanced scales of
fate; or rather how inscrutable and yet how unerring are the
far-reaching processes of divine providence. The principal candidate
having been selected without contention or delay, the convention
proceeded to a nomination for Vice-President. On the first informal
ballot William L. Dayton, of New Jersey, received 259 votes and
Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, 110; the remaining votes being scattered
among thirteen other names. The dominating thought of the
convention being the assertion of principle, and not the promotion of
men, there was no further contest; and though Mr. Dayton had not
received a majority support, his nomination was nevertheless at once
made unanimous. Those who are familiar with the eccentricities of
nominating conventions when in this listless and drifting mood know
how easily an opportune speech from some eloquent delegate or a few
adroitly arranged delegation caucuses might have reversed this result;
and imagination may not easily construct the possible changes in
history which a successful campaign of the ticket in that form might
have wrought. What would have been the consequences to America and
humanity had the Rebellion, even then being vaguely devised by
Southern Hotspurs, burst upon the nation in the winter of 1856, with
the nation's sword of commander-in-chief in the hand of the impulsive
Fremont, and Lincoln, inheriting the patient wariness and cool blood
of three generations of pioneers and Indian-fighters, wielding only
the powerless gavel of Vice-President? But the hour of destiny had not
The platform devised by the Philadelphia Convention was unusually bold
in its affirmations, and most happy in its phraseology. Not only did
it "deny the authority of Congress, or of a territorial legislature,
of any individual or association of individuals, to give legal
existence to slavery in any Territory of the United States"; it
further "Resolved, That the Constitution confers upon Congress
sovereign power over the Territories of the United States for their
government, and that in the exercise of this power it is both the
right and the duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those
twin relics of barbarism--polygamy and slavery." At Buchanan, recently
nominated by the Democratic National Convention in Cincinnati, it
aimed a barbed shaft: "Resolved, That the highwayman's plea that
'might makes right,' embodied in the Ostend circular, was in every
respect unworthy of American diplomacy, and would bring shame and
dishonor upon any government or people that gave it their sanction."
It demanded the maintenance of the principles of the Declaration of
Independence, of the Federal Constitution, of the rights of the
States, and the union of the States. It favored a Pacific railroad,
congressional appropriations for national rivers and harbors; it
affirmed liberty of conscience and equality of rights; it arraigned
the policy of the Administration; demanded the immediate admission of
Kansas as a State, and invited "the affiliation and cooeperation of men
of all parties, however differing from them in other respects, in
support of the principles declared."
The nominees and platform of the Philadelphia Convention were accepted
by the opposition voters of the free-States with an alacrity and an
enthusiasm beyond the calculation of even the most sanguine; and in
November a vote was recorded in their support which, though then
unsuccessful, laid the secure foundation of an early victory, and
permanently established a great party destined to carry the country
through trials and vicissitudes equal in magnitude and results to any
which the world had hitherto witnessed.
In that year none of the presidential honors were reserved for the
State of Illinois. While Lincoln thus narrowly missed a nomination for
the second place on the Republican ticket, his fellow-citizen and
competitor, Douglas, failed equally to obtain the nomination he so
much coveted as the candidate of the Democratic party. The Democratic
National Convention had met at Cincinnati on the 2d day of June, 1856.
If Douglas flattered himself that such eminent services as he had
rendered the South would find this reward, his disappointment must
have been severe. While the benefits he had conferred were lightly
estimated or totally forgotten, former injuries inflicted in his name
were keenly remembered and resented. But three prominent candidates,
Buchanan, Pierce, and Douglas, were urged upon the convention. The
indiscreet crusade of Douglas's friends against "old fogies" in 1852
had defeated Buchanan and nominated Pierce; now, by the turn of
political fortune, Buchanan's friends were able to wipe out the double
score by defeating both Pierce and Douglas. Most of the Southern
delegates seem to have been guided by the mere thought of present
utility; they voted to renominate Pierce because of his subservient
Kansas policy, forgetting that Douglas had not only begun it, but was
their strongest ally to continue it. When after a day of fruitless
balloting they changed their votes to Douglas, Buchanan, the so-called
"old fogy," just returned from the English mission, and therefore not
handicapped by personal jealousies and heart-burnings, had secured the
firm adhesion of a decided majority mainly from the North.
The "two-thirds rule" was not yet fulfilled, but at this juncture the
friends of Pierce and Douglas yielded to the inevitable, and withdrew
their favorites in the interest of "harmony." On the seventeenth
ballot, therefore, and the fifth day of the convention, James
Buchanan, of Pennsylvania, became the unanimous nominee of the
Democratic party for President, and John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky,
The famous "Cincinnati platform" holds a conspicuous place in party
literature for length, for vigor of language, for variety of topics,
for boldness of declaration; and yet, strange to say, its chief merit
and utility lay in the skillful concealment of its central thought and
purpose. About one-fourth of its great length is devoted to what to
the eye looks like a somewhat elaborate exposition of the doctrines of
the party on the slavery question. Eliminate the verbiage and there
only remains an indorsement of the "principles contained in the
organic laws establishing the Territory of Kansas and Nebraska"
(non-interference by Congress with slavery in State and Territory, or
in the District of Columbia); and the practical application of "the
principles" is thus further defined: "Resolved, That we recognize the
right of the people of all the Territories, including Kansas and
Nebraska, acting through the legally and fairly expressed will of a
majority of actual residents, and whenever the number of their
inhabitants justifies it, to form a constitution with or without
domestic slavery, and be admitted into the Union upon terms of perfect
equality with the other States."
We have already seen how deliberately the spirit and letter of "the
principle" was violated by the Democratic National Administration of
President Pierce, and by nearly all the Democratic Senators and
Representatives in Congress; and we shall see how the more explicit
resolution was again even more flagrantly violated by the Democratic
National Administration and party under President Buchanan.
For the time, however, these well-rounded phrases were especially
convenient: first, to prevent any schism in the Cincinnati Convention
itself, and, secondly, to furnish points for campaign speeches;
politicians not having any pressing desire, nor voters the requisite
critical skill, to demonstrate how they left untouched the whole brood
of pertinent queries which the discussion had already raised, and
which at its next national convention were destined to disrupt and
defeat the Democratic party. For this occasion the studied ambiguity
of the Cincinnati platform made possible a last cooeperation of North
and South, in the face of carefully concealed mental reservations, to
secure a presidential victory.
It is not the province of this work to describe the incidents of the
national canvass, but only to record its results. At the election of
November, 1856, Buchanan was chosen President. The popular vote in the
nation at large stood: Buchanan, 1,838,169; Fremont, 1,341,264;
Fillmore, 874,534. By States Buchanan received the votes of fourteen
slave-States and five free-States, a total of 174 electors; Fremont
the vote of eleven free-States, a total of 114 electors; and Fillmore
the vote of one slave-State, a total of eight electors.
In the campaign which preceded Mr. Buchanan's election, Mr. Lincoln,
at the head of the Fremont electoral ticket for Illinois, took a
prominent part, traversing the State in every direction, and making
about fifty speeches. Among the addresses which he thus delivered in
the different counties, it is interesting to read a fragment of a
speech he made at Galena, Illinois, discussing the charge of
"sectionalism," the identical pretext upon which the South inaugurated
its rebellion against his Administration four years afterwards:
You further charge us with being disunionists. If you mean that it
is our aim to dissolve the Union, I for myself answer that it is
untrue; for those who act with me I answer that it is untrue. Have
you heard us assert that as our aim? Do you really believe that
such is our aim? Do you find it in our platform, our speeches, our
conventions, or anywhere? If not, withdraw the charge.
But you may say that though it is not our aim, it will be the
result, if we succeed, and that we are therefore disunionists in
fact. This is a grave charge you make against us, and we certainly
have a right to demand that you specify in what way we are to
dissolve the Union. How are we to effect this?
The only specification offered is volunteered by Mr. Fillmore in
his Albany speech. His charge is that if we elect a President and
Vice-President both from the free-States it will dissolve the
Union. This is open folly. The Constitution provides that the
President and Vice-President of the United States shall be of
different States; but says nothing as to the latitude and longitude
of those States. In 1828 Andrew Jackson, of Tennessee, and John C.
Calhoun, of South Carolina, were elected President and
Vice-President, both from slave-States; but no one thought of
dissolving the Union then on that account. In 1840 Harrison, of
Ohio, and Tyler, of Virginia, were elected. In 1841 Harrison died
and John Tyler succeeded to the presidency, and William R. King, of
Alabama, was elected acting Vice-President by the Senate; but no
one supposed that the Union was in danger. In fact, at the very
time Mr. Fillmore uttered this idle charge, the state of things in
the United States disproved it. Mr. Pierce, of New Hampshire, and
Mr. Bright, of Indiana, both from free-States, are President and
Vice-President, and the Union stands and will stand. You do not
pretend that it ought to dissolve the Union, and the facts show
that it won't; therefore the charge may be dismissed without
[Sidenote] Galena "Advertiser," copied into the Illinois "State
Journal," August 8, 1856.
No other specification is made, and the only one that could be made
is, that the restoration of the restriction of 1820 making the
United States territory free territory would dissolve the Union.
Gentlemen, it will require a decided majority to pass such an act.
We, the majority, being able constitutionally to do all that we
purpose, would have no desire to dissolve the Union. Do you say
that such restriction of slavery would be unconstitutional, and
that some of the States would not submit to its enforcement? I
grant you that an unconstitutional act is not a law; but I do not
ask and will not take your construction of the Constitution. The
Supreme Court of the United States is the tribunal to decide such a
question, and we will submit to its decisions; and if you do also,
there will be an end of the matter. Will you? If not, who are the
disunionists, you or we? We, the majority, would not strive to
dissolve the Union; and if any attempt is made it must be by you,
who so loudly stigmatize us as disunionists.
But the Union, in any event, will not be dissolved. We don't want
to dissolve it, and if you attempt it we won't let you. With the
purse and sword, the army and navy and treasury in our hands and at
our command, you could not do it. This government would be very
weak indeed if a majority with a disciplined army and navy and a
well-filled treasury could not preserve itself, when attacked by an
unarmed, undisciplined, unorganized minority. All this talk about
the dissolution of the Union is humbug, nothing but folly. We do
not want to dissolve the Union; you shall not.
With three presidential tickets in the field--with the Democrats
seeking the election of Buchanan and Breckinridge, the Americans, or
Know-Nothings, asking votes for Fillmore and Donelson, and the
Republicans making proselytes for Fremont and Dayton--the political
campaign of 1856 was one of unabated activity and excitement. In the
State of Illinois the contest resulted in a drawn battle. The American
party held together with tolerable firmness in its vote for President,
but was largely disintegrated in its vote on the ticket for State
officers. The consequence was that Illinois gave a plurality of 9164
for Buchanan, the Democratic candidate for President, while at the
same time it gave a plurality of 4729 for Bissell, the Republican
candidate for Governor.
Half victory as it was, it furnished the Illinois Republicans a
substantial hope of the full triumph which they achieved four years
later. About a month after this election, at a Republican banquet
given in Chicago on the 10th of December, 1856, Abraham Lincoln spoke
as follows, partly in criticism of the last annual message of
President Pierce, but more especially pointing out the rising star of
We have another annual presidential message. Like a rejected
lover making merry at the wedding of his rival, the President
felicitates himself hugely over the late presidential election.
He considers the result a signal triumph of good principles and
good men, and a very pointed rebuke of bad ones. He says the
people did it. He forgets that the "people," as he complacently
calls only those who voted for Buchanan, are in a minority of the
whole people by about four hundred thousand votes--one full tenth
of all the votes. Remembering this, he might perceive that the
"rebuke" may not be quite as durable as he seems to think--that
the majority may not choose to remain permanently rebuked by that
The President thinks the great body of us Fremonters, being
ardently attached to liberty, in the abstract, were duped by a
few wicked and designing men. There is a slight difference of
opinion on this. We think he, being ardently attached to the hope
of a second term, in the concrete, was duped by men who had
liberty every way. He is the cat's-paw. By much dragging of
chestnuts from the fire for others to eat, his claws are burnt
off to the gristle, and he is thrown aside as unfit for further
use. As the fool said of _King Lear_, when his daughters had
turned him out-of-doors, "He's a shelled peascod." [That's a
So far as the President charges us "with a desire to change the
domestic institutions of existing States," and of "doing
everything in our power to deprive the Constitution and the laws
of moral authority," for the whole party on belief, and for
myself on knowledge, I pronounce the charge an unmixed and
[Sidenote] Illinois "State Journal," December 16, 1856.
Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public
opinion can change the government practically just so much.
Public opinion, on any subject, always has a "central idea," from
which all its minor thoughts radiate. That "central idea" in our
political public opinion at the beginning was, and until recently
has continued to be, "the equality of men." And although it has
always submitted patiently to whatever of inequality there seemed
to be as matter of actual necessity, its constant working has
been a steady progress towards the practical equality of all men.
The late presidential election was a struggle by one party to
discard that central idea and to substitute for it the opposite
idea that slavery is right in the abstract, the workings of which
as a central idea may be the perpetuity of human slavery and its
extension to all countries and colors. Less than a year ago the
Richmond "Enquirer," an avowed advocate of slavery, regardless of
color, in order to favor his views, invented the phrase "State
equality," and now the President, in his message, adopts the
"Enquirer's" catch-phrase, telling us the people "have asserted
the constitutional equality of each and all of the States of the
Union as States." The President flatters himself that the new
central idea is completely inaugurated; and so indeed it is, so
far as the mere fact of a presidential election can inaugurate
it. To us it is left to know that the majority of the people have
not yet declared for it, and to hope that they never will. All of
us who did not vote for Mr. Buchanan, taken together, are a
majority of four hundred thousand. But in the late contest we
were divided between Fremont and Fillmore. Can we not come
together for the future? Let every one who really believes, and
is resolved, that free society is not and shall not be a failure,
and who can conscientiously declare that in the past contest he
has done only what he thought best, let every such one have
charity to believe that every other one can say as much. Thus let
bygones be bygones; let past differences as nothing be; and with
steady eye on the real issue, let us reinaugurate the good old
"central ideas" of the republic. We can do it. The human heart is
with us; God is with us. We shall again be able not to declare
that "all States as States are equal," nor yet that "all citizens
as citizens are equal," but to renew the broader, better
declaration, including both these and much more, that "all men
are created equal."
Though these fragments of addresses give us only an imperfect
reflection of the style of Mr. Lincoln's oratory during this period,
they nevertheless show its essential characteristics, a pervading
clearness of analysis, and that strong tendency to axiomatic
definition which gives so many of his sentences their convincing force
and durable value. They also show us the combination, not often found
in such happy balance, of the politician's discernment of fact with
the statesman's wisdom of theory--how present forces of national life
are likely to be moved by future impulses of national will. The
politician could see the four hundred thousand voters who would give
victory to some party in the near future. It required the wisdom of
the statesman to divine that the public opinion which would direct
how these votes were to be cast, could most surely be created by an
appeal to those generous "central ideas" of the human mind which
favor equality against caste and freedom against slavery. Perhaps
the most distinctively representative quality these addresses exhibit
is the patriotic spirit and faith which led him to declare so
dogmatically in this campaign of 1856, what the nation called upon
him a few years later to execute by the stern powers of war, "We do
not want to dissolve the Union; you shall not."
 For David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, 43; Preston King, of New York,
9; Charles Sumner, of Massachusetts, 36; Thomas H. Ford, of Ohio, 7;
Cassius M. Clay, of Kentucky, 3; Jacob Collamer, of Vermont, 15;
William F. Johnston, of Pennsylvania, 2; Nathaniel P. Banks, of
Massachusetts, 46; Henry Wilson, of Massachusetts, 7; William
Pennington, of New Jersey, 1; ---- Carey, of New Jersey, 3; S.C.
Pomeroy, of Kansas, 8; J.R. Giddings, of Ohio, 2. The vote in detail
for Lincoln was: Maine, 1; New Hampshire, 8; Massachusetts, 7; Rhode
Island, 2; New York, 3; Pennsylvania, 11; Ohio, 2; Indiana, 26;
Illinois, 33; Michigan, 5; and California, 12.
 Mr. T.S. Van Dyke, son of one of the delegates, kindly writes
us: "Nothing that Mr. Lincoln has ever written is more characteristic
than the following note from him to my father just after the
convention--not for publication, but merely as a private expression
of his feelings to an old acquaintance:
"June 27, 1856.
"Hon. JOHN VAN DYKE.
"MY DEAR SIR: Allow me to thank you for your kind notice of me in
the Philadelphia Convention.
"When you meet Judge Dayton present my respects, and tell him I
think him a far better man than I for the position he is in, and
that I shall support both him and Colonel Fremont most cordially.
Present my best respects to Mrs. V., and believe me,
 On the sixteenth ballot Buchanan received 168 votes, of which 121
were from the free-States and 47 from the slave-States; Douglas
received 122 votes, of which 49 were from the free-States and 73 from
the slave-States; Cass received 6 votes, all from the free-States;
Pierce had been finally dropped on the previous ballot.--"Proceedings
of the Cincinnati Convention," p. 45.
 The vote more in detail was as follows:
For Buchanan, slave-States, Alabama, 9; Arkansas, 4; Delaware, 3;
Florida, 3; Georgia, 10; Kentucky, 12; Louisiana, 6; Mississippi, 7;
Missouri, 9; North Carolina, 10; South Carolina, 8; Tennessee, 12;
Texas, 4; Virginia, 15. Free States, California, 4; Illinois, 11;
Indiana, 13; New Jersey, 7; Pennsylvania, 27. Total, 174.
For Fremont, free-States, Connecticut, 6; Iowa, 4; Maine, 8;
Massachusetts, 13; Michigan, 6; New Hampshire, 5; New York, 35; Ohio,
23; Rhode Island, 4; Vermont, 5; Wisconsin, 5. Total, 114.
For Fillmore, slave-State, Maryland, 8.
 For President, Buchanan (Democrat), 105,344; Fremont (Republican),
96,180; Fillmore (American), 37,451. For Governor, Richardson (Democrat),
106,643; Bissell (Republican), 111,372; Morris (American), 19,241.
The official reports show that the proceedings of the American
Congress, while in the main conducted with becoming propriety and
decorum, have occasionally been dishonored by angry personal
altercations and scenes of ruffianly violence. These disorders
increased as the great political struggle over the slavery question
grew in intensity, and reached their culmination in a series of
Charles Sumner, one of the Senators from the State of Massachusetts,
had become conspicuous, in the prevailing political agitation, for
his aggressive and radical anti-slavery speeches in the Senate and
elsewhere. The slavery issue had brought him into politics; he had
been elected to the United States Senate by the coalition of a small
number of Free-soilers with the Democrats in the Massachusetts
The slavery question, therefore, became the dominant principle and
the keynote of his public career. He was a man of liberal culture, of
considerable erudition in the law, of high literary ability, and he
had attained an enviable social eminence. Of large physical frame and
strength, gifted with a fine presence and a sonorous voice, fearless
and earnest in his opposition to slavery, Charles Sumner was one of
the favorite orators of the early declamatory period of the Republican
He joined unreservedly in the exciting Senate debates, provoked by the
rival applications from Kansas for her admission as a State. On the
19th and 20th of May, 1856, he delivered an elaborate speech in the
Senate, occupying two days. It was one of his greatest efforts, and
had been prepared with his usual industry. In character it was a
philippic rather than an argument, strong, direct, and aggressive, in
which classical illustration and acrimonious accusation were blended
with great effect.
It described what he called "The Crime against Kansas"; and the
excuses for the crime he denominated the apology tyrannical, the
apology imbecile, the apology absurd, and the apology infamous.
"Tyranny, imbecility, absurdity, and infamy," he continued, "all unite
to dance, like the weird sisters, about this crime."
In the course of his speech he alluded, among others, to A.P. Butler,
of South Carolina, and in reply to some severe strictures by that
Senator during preceding debates, indulged in caustic personal
criticism upon his course and utterance, as well as upon the State
which he represented.
With regret [said Sumner], I come again upon the Senator from
South Carolina [Mr. Butler], who, omnipresent in this debate,
overflowed with rage at the simple suggestion that Kansas had
applied for admission as a State; and with incoherent phrases
discharged the loose expectoration of his speech, now upon her
representative and then upon her people. There was no extravagance
of the ancient parliamentary debate which he did not repeat; nor
was there any possible deviation from truth which he did not make,
with so much of passion, I am glad to add, as to save him from the
suspicion of intentional aberration. But the Senator touches
nothing which he does not disfigure--with error, sometimes of
principle, sometimes of fact. He shows an incapacity of accuracy,
whether in stating the Constitution or in stating the law, whether
in details of statistics or the diversions of scholarship. He
cannot open his mouth but out there flies a blunder.
[Illustration: CHARLES SUMNER.]
Butler was not present in the Senate on either day; what he might have
said or done, had he been there, can only be conjectured. The immediate
replies from Douglas and others were very bitter. Among pro-slavery
members of both Houses there was an under-current of revengeful
murmurs. It is possible that this hostile manifestation may have
decided a young member of the House, Preston S. Brooks, a nephew of
Senator Butler, to undertake retaliation by violence. Acquainting
Henry A. Edmundson, another member, with his design, he waited on two
different occasions at the western entrance to the Capitol grounds to
encounter Mr. Sumner, but without meeting him.
On the 22d of May, two days after the speech, Brooks entered the
Senate Chamber on the same errand. The session had been short, and
after adjournment Sumner remained at his desk, engaged in writing. The
sessions were at that time held in the old Senate Chamber, now
occupied by the Supreme Court. The seats were arranged in semicircles,
with a railing to separate them from a narrow lobby or open space next
the wall; a broad aisle ran from the main door to the desk of the
presiding officer. Mr. Sumner's seat was in the outside row next to
the railing, at the second desk to the right from the entrance and the
main aisle. Occupied with his work, Mr. Sumner did not notice Mr.
Brooks, sitting across the aisle to his left, and where in
conversation with a friend he was manifesting his impatience that a
lady seated near Mr. Sumner did not take her departure from the
chamber. Almost at that moment she arose and went out; quickly
afterwards Brooks got up and advanced to the front of Sumner's desk.
The act attracted the attention of Brooks's friend; he was astonished,
amid the bitterness of party feeling, to see a South Carolina
Representative talk to a Massachusetts Senator. His astonishment was
quickly corrected. Leaning upon the desk and addressing Sumner with a
rapid sentence or two, to the effect that he had read his speech, that
it was a libel upon his absent relative, and that he had come to
punish him for it, Brooks began striking him on the head with a
gutta-percha walking-cane, of the ordinary length and about an inch in
Surprised, blinded and stunned by the blows, Sumner's first instinct
was to grapple with his assailant. This effort, however, was futile;
the desk was between them, and being by his sitting posture partially
under it, Sumner was prevented from rising fully to his feet until he
had by main strength, in his struggles, wrenched it from its
fastenings on the floor. In his attempt to follow Brooks they became
turned, and from between the desks moved out into the main aisle. By
this time, through the repetition of the heavy blows and loss of
blood, Sumner became unconscious. Brooks, seizing him by the
coat-collar, continued his murderous attack till Sumner, reeling in
utter helplessness, sank upon the floor beside the desk nearest the
aisle, one row nearer the center of the chamber than his own. The
witnesses variously estimated the number of blows given at from ten to
thirty. Two principal wounds, two inches long and an inch deep, had
been cut on the back of Sumner's head; and near the end of the attack,
Brooks's cane was shivered to splinters.
There were perhaps ten or fifteen persons in the chamber, and after
the first momentary pause of astonishment half a dozen started to
interfere. Before they reached the spot, however, Lawrence M. Keitt,
another South Carolina Representative, came rushing down the main
aisle, brandishing his cane, and with imprecations warning lookers-on
to "let them alone." Among those hastening to the rescue, Mr. Morgan
arrived first, just in time to catch and sustain the Senator as he
fell. Another bystander, who had run round outside the railing, seized
Brooks by the arm about the same instant; and the wounded man was
borne to an adjoining room, where he was cared for by a hastily
Among Mr. Sumner's friends the event created a certain degree of
consternation. The language which provoked the assault, whatever might
be thought of its offensive character, was strictly parliamentary,
uninterrupted either by the chair or by any member. The assault itself
was so desperate and brutal that it implied a vindictiveness deeper
than mere personal revenge. This spirit of bullying, this resort to
violence, had recently become alarmingly frequent among members of
Congress, especially as it all came from the pro-slavery party.
Since the beginning of the current session, a pro-slavery member from
Virginia had assaulted the editor of a Washington newspaper; another
pro-slavery member, from Arkansas, had violently attacked Horace
Greeley on the street; a third pro-slavery member, from California, had
shot an unoffending waiter at Willard's Hotel. Was this fourth instance
the prelude of an intention to curb or stifle free Congressional
debate? It is probable that this question was seriously considered at
the little caucus of Republican Senators held that night at the house
of Mr. Seward. The Republicans had only a slender minority in the
Senate, and a plurality in the House; they could do nothing but resolve
on a course of parliamentary inquiry, and agree on an attitude of
Sumner's colleague, Henry Wilson, made a very brief announcement of
the occurrence to the Senate on the following day, and it at once
became apparent that the transaction would assume an almost strictly
party character. As no Democratic Senator proposed an inquiry, Mr.
Seward moved for a committee of investigation; upon which James M.
Mason, of Virginia, proposed that the committee should be elected by
ballot. The result was that no Republican was chosen upon it; and the
committee reached the conclusion that it had no power in the premises,
except to report the occurrence to the House. In the House the usual
committee from the three parties was raised, resulting in two reports.
The minority, sustained by the vote of sixty members, pleaded a want
of jurisdiction. The majority recommended the expulsion of Brooks, and
expressed disapprobation by the House of the course of his colleague,
Edmundson, in countenancing the assault, and of the act of Keitt in
his personal interference. But the necessary two-thirds vote for the
expulsion of Brooks could not be obtained; a vote of censure was
therefore passed by a large majority. The discussion of the report and
resolutions occupied the House several days, and whatever effort
members made to disguise their motives, their actions, either of
condemnation or of excuse, arose in the main clearly enough from their
party relations. Under the forms of parliamentary debate, the South
and the North were breathing mutual recrimination and defiance.
The public of both sections took up the affair with equal party zeal.
From the North came resolutions of legislatures, outbursts of
indignation in meetings and addresses, and the denunciation of Brooks
and his deed in the newspapers. In the South the exactly opposite
sentiment predominated. Brooks was defended and eulogized, and
presented with canes and pitchers as testimonials to his valor. When
the resolution of censure had been passed, he at once resigned his
seat in the House, and going home to his constituents, was immediately
reelected. Within three weeks he reappeared at the bar of the House,
with a new commission from his Governor, and was sworn in and
continued his service as before. The arrogant address which preceded
his resignation contained the remarkable intimation that much more
serious results might have grown out of the incident. "No act of
mine," he said, "on my personal account, shall inaugurate revolution;
but when you, Mr. Speaker, return to your own home, and hear the
people of the great North--and they are a great people--speak of me as
a bad man, you will do me the justice to say that a blow struck by me
at this time would be followed by a revolution; and this I know."
Under the state of public sentiment then prevailing at the South, it
would have been strange if the extraordinary event and the succeeding
debate had not provoked other similar affairs. Mr. Sumner's colleague,
Senator Henry Wilson, of Massachusetts (afterwards Vice-President of
the United States), in his speech characterized the assault as
"brutal, murderous, and cowardly." For this language Brooks sent him a
challenge. Wilson wrote a reply declining the encounter, but in the
same letter announcing that "I religiously believe in the right of
self-defense, in its broadest sense."
One of the sharpest denunciations of the assault was made by Anson
Burlingame, a Massachusetts Representative (afterwards United States
Minister to China, and still later Chinese Minister to the United
States). "I denounce it," he said, "in the name of the Constitution it
violates. I denounce it in the name of the sovereignty of
Massachusetts, which was stricken down by the blow. I denounce it in
the name of humanity. I denounce it in the name of civilization, which
it outraged. I denounce it in the name of that fair-play which bullies
and prize-fighters respect." For this, after some efforts had been
made by friends to bring about an amicable understanding, Brooks sent
him also a challenge. Mr. Burlingame accepted the challenge, and his
second designated the Clifton House in Canada as the rendezvous and
rifles as weapons. Burlingame at once started on the journey; but
Brooks declined to go, on the excuse that his life would not be safe
on such a trip through the North.
Broadened into national significance by all these attendant
circumstances, the Sumner assault became a leading event in the great
slavery contest between the South and North. It might well rank as one
of the episodes of the civil war then raging in Kansas, out of which
it had in reality grown, and with which it was intertwined in motive,