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The Anti-Slavery Crusade by Jesse Macy

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document, which declares that it was understood at the time of
the Declaration and the Constitution that the existence of
slavery was in derogation of the principles of American liberty.
The implied faith of the Nation and the States was pledged to
remove this stain upon the national character. Some States had
nobly fulfilled that pledge; others shamelessly had neglected to
do so.

These principles are reasserted in succeeding platforms. The
later opponents of slavery in their principles and policies thus
allied themselves with the founders of the republic. They claimed
the right to continue to repeat the words of Washington and
Jefferson and those of the members of the Virginia Legislature of
1832. No new doctrines were required. It was enough simply to
reaffirm the fundamental principles of democracy.

The names attached to the party are significant. It was at first
popularly styled the Abolition party, then officially in turn the
Liberty party, the Freesoil party, and finally the Republican
party. Republican was the name first applied to the Democratic
party--the party of Jefferson. The term Democrat was gradually
substituted under the leadership of Jackson before 1830. Some of
the men who participated in the organization of the later
Republican party had themselves been Republicans in the party of
Jefferson. They not only accepted the name which Jefferson gave
to his party, but they adopted the principles which Jefferson
proclaimed on the subject of slavery, free soil, and human rights
in general. This was the final stage in the identification of the
later anti-slavery crusade with the earlier contest for liberty.


The middle of the last century was marked by many incidents which
have left a permanent impress upon politics in general and upon
the slavery question in particular. Europe was again in the
throes of popular uprisings. New constitutions were adopted in
France, Switzerland, Prussia, and Austria. Reactions in favor of
autocracy in Austria and Germany sent multitudes of lovers of
liberty to America. Kossuth, the Hungarian revolutionist,
electrified American audiences by his appeals on behalf of the
downtrodden in Europe. Already the world was growing smaller.
America did not stop at the Pacific but crossed the ocean to
establish permanent political and commercial relations with Japan
and China.

The industries of the country were being reorganized to meet new
conditions created by recent inventions. The electric telegraph
was just coming into use, giving rise to a new era in
communication. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 was
followed by competing projects to construct railroads to the
Pacific with Chicago and St. Louis as the rival eastern
terminals. The telegraph, the railway, and the resulting
industrial development proved great nationalizing influences.
They served also to give increased emphasis to the contrast
between the industries of the free and those of the slave States.
The Census of 1850 became an effective anti-slavery argument.

The telegraph also gave new life to the public press. The
presidential campaign of 1848 was the last one in which it was
possible to carry on contradictory arguments in support of the
same candidate. If slavery could not endure the test of
untrammeled discussion when there were no means of rapid
intercommunication such as the telegraph supplied, how could it
contend against the revelations of the daily press with the new
type of reporter and interviewer which was now developed?

It is a remarkable coincidence that in the midst of the passing
of the old and the coming in of the new order there should be a
change in the political leadership of the country. Webster, Clay,
Calhoun, John Quincy Adams, not to mention others, all died near
the middle of the century, and their political power passed to
younger men. Adams gave his blessing to a young friend and
co-laborer, William H. Seward of New York, intimating that he
expected him to do much to curb the threatening power of the
slaveholding oligarchy; while Andrew Jackson, who died earlier,
had already conferred a like distinction upon young Stephen A.
Douglas. There was no lack of aspirants for the fallen mantles.

John C. Calhoun continued almost to the day of his death to
modify his interpretation of the Constitution in the interest of
his section. As a young man he avowed protectionist principles.
Becoming convinced that slave labor was not suited to
manufacture, he urged South Carolina to declare the protective
tariff laws null and void within her limits. When his section
seemed endangered by the distribution of anti-slavery literature
through the mail, he extemporized a theory that each State had a
right to pass statutes to protect itself in such an emergency, in
which case it became the duty of the general Government and of
all other States to respect such laws. When it finally appeared
that the territory acquired from Mexico was likely to remain
free, the same statesman made further discoveries. He found that
Congress had no right to exclude slavery from any Territory
belonging to the United States; that the owners of slaves had
equal rights with the owners of other property; that neither
Congress nor a territorial authority had any power to exclude
slaves from a Territory. This doctrine was accepted by extremists
in the South and was finally embodied in the Dred Scott decision
of 1857.

Abolitionists had meantime evolved a precisely contradictory
theory. They asserted that the Constitution gave no warrant for
property in man, except as held under state laws; that with this
exception freedom was guaranteed to all; that Congress had no
more right to make a slave than it had to make a king; and that
it was the duty of Congress to maintain freedom in all the
Territories. Extremists expressed the view that all past acts
whereby slavery had been extended were unconstitutional and
therefore void. Between these extreme conflicting views was every
imaginable grade of opinion. The prevailing view of opponents of
slavery, however, was in harmony with their past conduct and
maintained that Congress had complete control over slavery in the

When the Mexican territory was acquired, Stephen A. Douglas, as
the experienced chairman of the Committee on Territories in the
Senate, was already developing a theory respecting slavery in the
Territories which was destined to play a leading part in the
later crusade against slavery. Douglas was the most thoroughgoing
of expansionists and would acknowledge no northern boundary on
this side of the North Pole, no southern boundary nearer than
Panama. He regarded the United States, with its great principle
of local autonomy, as fitted to become eventually the United
States of the whole world, while he held it to be an immediate
duty to make it the United States of North America. As the son-
in-law of a Southern planter in North Carolina, and as the father
of sons who inherited slave property, Douglas, although born in
Vermont, knew the South as did no other Northern statesman. He
knew also the institution of slavery at first hand. As a
pronounced expansionist and as the congressional leader in all
matters pertaining to the Territories, he acquired detailed
information as to the qualities of these new possessions, and he
spoke, therefore, with a good degree of authority when he said,
"If there was one inch of territory in the whole of our
acquisitions from Mexico where slavery could exist, it was in the
valleys of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin." But this region
was at once preempted for freedom upon the discovery of gold.

Douglas did not admit that even the whole of Texas would remain
dedicated to slavery. Some of the States to be formed from it
would be free, by the same laws of climate and resources which
determined that the entire West would remain free. Before the
Mexican War the Senator had become convinced that the extension
of slavery had reached its limit; that the Missouri Compromise
was a dead letter except as a psychological palliative; that
Nature had already ordained that slave labor should be forever
excluded from all Western territory both north and south of that
line. His reply to Calhoun's contention that a balance must be
maintained between slave and free States was that he had plans
for forming seventeen new States out of the vast Western domains,
every one of which would be free. And besides, said he, "we all
look forward with confidence to the time when Delaware, Maryland,
Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri, and probably North Carolina and
Tennessee will adopt a gradual system of emancipation." Douglas
was one of the first to favor the admission of California as a
free State. According to the Missouri Compromise law and the laws
of Mexico, all Western territory was free, and he was opposed to
interference with existing conditions. The Missouri Compromise
was still held sacred. Finally, however, it was with Douglas's
assistance that the Compromise measures of 1850 were passed, one
of which provided for territorial Governments for Utah and New
Mexico with the proviso that, when admitted as States, slavery
should be permitted or prohibited as the citizens of those States
should determine at the time. Congress refrained from any
declaration as to slavery in the Territories. It was this policy
of "non-intervention" which four years later furnished plausible
excuse for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise.

It was not strange that there was general ignorance in all parts
of the country as to the resources of the newly acquired
territory. The rush to the goldfields precipitated action in
respect to California. Before General Taylor, the newly elected
President, was inaugurated, there was imminent need of an
efficient government. An early act of the Administration was to
send an agent to assist in the formation of a state Government,
and a convention was immediately called to frame a constitution.
By unanimous vote of the convention, slavery was excluded. The
constitution was approved by popular vote and was presented to
Congress for final acceptance in December, 1849.

In the meantime a great commotion had arisen among the people.
Southern state legislatures passed resolutions demanding that the
rights of their peculiar institution should be recognized in the
new Territory. Northern legislatures responded with resolutions
favoring the admission of California as a State and the
application of the Wilmot Proviso to the remaining territory.
Northern Democrats had very generally denied that the affair with
Mexico had as a chief purpose the extension of slavery. Democrats
therefore united with Whigs in maintaining the principle of free
soil. In the South there was a corresponding fusion of the two
parties in support of the sectional issue.

General concern prevailed as to the attitude of the
Administration. Taylor's election had been effected by both a
Southern and a Northern split in the Democratic party. Northern
Democrats had voted for the Free-soil candidate because of the
alleged pro-slavery tendencies of their own party. Southern
Democrats voted for Taylor because of their distrust of Lewis
Cass, their own candidate. Some of these met in convention and
formally nominated Taylor, and Taylor accepted their nomination
with thanks. Northern anti-slavery Whigs had a difficult task to
keep their members in line. There is evidence that Taylor held
the traditional Southern view that the anti-slavery North was
disposed to encroach upon the rights of the South. Meeting fewer
Northern Whig supporters, he became convinced that the more
active spirit of encroachment was in the pro-slavery South.
California needed a state Government, and the President took the
most direct method to supply that need. As the inhabitants were
unanimous in their desire to exclude slavery, their wish should
be respected. New Mexico was in a similar situation. As slavery
was already excluded from the territory under Mexican law, and as
there was no wish on the part of the inhabitants to introduce
slavery, the President recognized existing facts and made no
change. When Southern leaders projected a scheme to enlarge the
boundaries of Texas so as to extend slavery over a large part of
New Mexico, President Taylor set a guard of United States troops
to maintain the integrity of the Territory. When a deputation of
Southern Whigs endeavored to dissuade him from his purpose,
threatening a dissolution of the Union and intimating that army
officers would refuse to act against citizens of Texas, the
soldier President replied that in such an event he would take
command in person and would hang any one caught in acts of
treason. When Henry Clay introduced an elaborate project for a
compromise between the North and the South, the President
insisted that each question should be settled on its own merits
and directed the forces of the Administration against any sort of
compromise. The debate over Clay's Omnibus Bill was long and
acrimonious. On July 4, 1850, the President seemed triumphant.
But upon that day, notwithstanding his apparent robust health, he
was stricken down with an acute disease and died five days later.
With his passing, the opposing Whig faction came into power. The
so-called compromise measures were at length one by one passed by
Congress and approved by President Fillmore.

California was admitted as a free State; but as a palliative to
the South, Congress passed bills for the organization of
territorial Governments for New Mexico and Utah without positive
declarations regarding the powers of the territorial Legislatures
over slavery. All questions relating to title to slaves were to
be left to the courts. Meantime it was left in doubt whether
Mexican law excluding slavery was still in force. Southern
malcontents maintained that this act was a mere hoax, using words
which suggested concession when no concession was intended.
Northern anti-slavery men criticized the act as the entering
wedge for another great surrender to the enemy. Because of the
uncertainty regarding the meaning of the law and the false hopes
likely to be created, they maintained that it was fitted to
foment discord and prolong the period of distrust between the two
sections. At all events such was its actual effect.

A third act in this unhappy series gave to Texas ten millions of
dollars for the alleged surrender of claims to a part of New
Mexico. This had little bearing on the general subject of
compromise; yet anti-slavery men criticized it on the ground that
the issue raised was insincere; that the appropriation was in
fact a bribe to secure votes necessary to pass the other
measures; that the bill was passed through Congress by shameless
bribery, and that even the boundaries conceded to Texas involved
the surrender of free territory.

The abolition of the slave-trade in the District of Columbia was
supported by both sections of the country. The removal of the
slave pens within sight of the Capitol to a neighboring city
deprived the abolitionists of one of their weapons for effective
agitation, but it did not otherwise affect the position of

Of the five acts included in the compromise measures, the one
which provided for the return of fugitive slaves was most
effective in the promotion of hostility between the two sections.
During the six months of debate on the Omnibus Bill, numerous
bills were presented to take the place of the law of 1793.
Webster brought forward a bill which provided for the use of a
jury to establish the validity of a claim to an escaped slave.
But that which was finally adopted by a worn-out Congress is
characterized as one of the most barbarous pieces of legislation
ever enacted by a civilized country. A single incident may
indicate the nature of the act. James Hamlet, for three years a
resident of New York City, a husband and a father and a member of
the Methodist Church, was seized eight days after the law went
into effect by order of the agent of Mary Brown of Baltimore, cut
off from all communication with his friends, hurried before a
commissioner, and on ex parte testimony was delivered into the
hands of the agent, by whom he was handcuffed and secretly
conveyed to Baltimore. Mr. Rhodes accounts for the enactment in
the following words: "If we look below the surface we shall find
a strong impelling motive of the Southern clamor for this harsh
enactment other than the natural desire to recover lost property.
Early in the session it took air that a part of the game of the
disunionists was to press a stringent fugitive slave law, for
which no Northern man could vote; and when it was defeated, the
North would be charged with refusal to carry out a stipulation of
the Constitution . . . . The admission of California was a bitter
pill for the Southern ultras, but they were forced to take it.
The Fugitive Slave Law was a taunt and a reproach to that part of
the North where the anti-slavery sentiment ruled supremely, and
was deemed a partial compensation." Clay expressed surprise that
States from which few slaves escaped demanded a more stringent
law than Kentucky, from which many escaped.

Whatever may have been the motives leading to the enactment, its
immediate effect was the elimination of one of the great national
parties, thus paving the way for the formation of parties along
sectional lines. Two years after the passage of the compromise
acts the Democratic national convention assembled to nominate a
candidate for the Presidency. The platform adopted by the party
promised a faithful execution of the acts known as the compromise
measures and added "the act for reclaiming fugitives from service
or labor included; which act, being designed to carry out an
express provision of the Constitution, cannot, with fidelity
thereto, be repealed nor so changed as to destroy or impair its
efficiency." When this was read, the convention broke out in
uproarious applause. Then there was a demand that it should be
read again. Again there was loud applause.

Why was there this demand that a law which every one knew had
proved a complete failure should be made a permanent part of the
Constitution? And why the ungovernable hilarity over the demand
that its "efficiency" should never be impaired? Surely the motive
was something other than a desire to recover lost property. Upon
the Whig party had been fastened the odium for the enactment of
the law, and the act unrepealed meant the death of the party. The
Democrats saw good reason for laughter.


Wherever there are slaves there are fugitives if there is an
available place of refuge. The wilds of Florida were such a
refuge during the early part of last century. When the Northern
States became free, fugitive slaves began to escape thither, and
Canada, when it could be reached, was, of course, the goal of
perfect security and liberty for all.

A professed object of the early anti-slavery societies was to
prevent the enslavement of free negroes and in other ways to
protect their rights. During the process of emancipation in
Northern States large numbers of colored persons were spirited
off to the South and sold into slavery. At various places along
the border there were those who made it their duty to guard the
rights of negroes and to prevent kidnapping. These guardians of
the border furnished a nucleus for the development of what was
later known as the Underground Railroad.

In 1796 President Washington wrote a letter to a friend in New
Hampshire with reference to obtaining the return of a negro
servant. He was careful to state that the servant should remain
unmolested rather than "excite a mob or riot or even uneasy
sensations in the minds of well disposed citizens." The result
was that the servant remained free. President Washington here
assumed that "well disposed citizens" would oppose her return to
slavery. Three years earlier the President had himself signed a
bill to facilitate by legal process the return of fugitives
escaping into other States. He was certainly aware that such an
act was on the statute books when he wrote his request to his
friend in New Hampshire, yet he expected that, if an attempt were
made to remove the refugee by force, riot and resistance by a mob
would be the result.

Not until after the foreign slave-trade had been prohibited and
the domestic trade had been developed, and not until there was a
pro-slavery reaction in the South which banished from the slave
States all anti-slavery propaganda, did the systematic assistance
rendered to fugitive slaves assume any large proportions or
arouse bitter resentment. It began in the late twenties and early
thirties of the nineteenth century, extended with the spread of
anti-slavery organization, and was greatly encouraged and
stimulated by the enactment of the law of 1850.

The Underground Railroad was never coextensive with the abolition
movement. There were always abolitionists who disapproved the
practice of assisting fugitives, and others who took no part in
it. Of those who were active participants, the larger proportion
confined their activities to assisting those who had escaped and
would take no part in seeking to induce slaves to leave their
masters. Efforts of that kind were limited to a few individuals

Incidents drawn from the reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the
reputed president of the Underground Railroad, may serve to
illustrate the origin and growth of the system. He was seven
years old when he first saw near his home in North Carolina a
coffle of slaves being driven to the Southern market by a man on
horseback with a long whip. "The driver was some distance behind
with the wagon. My father addressed the slaves pleasantly and
then asked, 'Well, boys, why do they chain you?' One of the men
whose countenance betrayed unusual intelligence and whose
expression denoted the deepest sadness replied: 'They have taken
us from our wives and children and they chain us lest we should
make our escape and go back to them."' When Coffin was fifteen,
he rendered assistance to a man in bondage. Having an opportunity
to talk with the members of a gang in the hands of a trader bound
for the Southern market, he learned that one of the company,
named Stephen, was a freeman who had been kidnapped and sold.
Letters were written to Northern friends of Stephen who confirmed
his assertion. Money was raised in the Quaker meeting and men
were sent to recover the negro. Stephen was found in Georgia and
after six months was liberated.

During the year 1821 other incidents occurred in the Quaker
community at New Garden, near Greensboro, North Carolina, which
illustrate different phases of the subject. Jack Barnes was the
slave of a bachelor who became so greatly attached to his servant
that he bequeathed to him not only his freedom but also a large
share of his property. Relatives instituted measures to break the
will, and Jack in alarm took refuge among the Quakers at New
Garden. The suit went against the negro, and the newspapers
contained advertisements offering a hundred dollars for
information which should result in his recovery. To prevent his
return to bondage, it was decided that Jack should join a family
of Coffins who were moving to Indiana.

At the same time a negro by the name of Sam had for several
months been abiding in the Quaker neighborhood. He belonged to a
Mr. Osborne, a prototype of Simon Legree, who was so notoriously
cruel that other slave-owners assisted in protecting his victims.
After the Coffins, with Jack, had been on the road for a few
days, Osborne learned that a negro was with them and, feeling
sure that it was his Sam, he started in hot haste after them.
This becoming known to the Friends, young Levi Coffin was sent
after Osborne to forestall disaster. The descriptions given of
Jack and Sam were practically identical and it was surmised that
when Osborne should overtake the party and discover his mistake,
he would seize Jack for the sake of the offered reward. Coffin
soon came up with Osborne and decided to ride with him for a time
to learn his plans. In the course of their conversation, it was
finally agreed that Coffin should assist in the recovery of Sam.
Osborne was also generous and insisted that if it proved to be
the other "nigger" who was with the company, Coffin should have
half the reward. How the young Quaker outwitted the tyrant,
gained his point, sent Jack on his way to liberty, and at the
same time retained the confidence of Osborne so that upon their
return home he was definitely engaged to assist Osborne in
finding Sam, is a fascinating story. The abolitionist won from
the slaveholder the doubtful compliment that "there was not a man
in that neighborhood worth a d--n to help him hunt his negro
except young Levi Coffin."

Sam was perfectly safe so long as Levi Coffin was guide for the
hunting-party, but matters were becoming desperate. For the
fugitive something had to be done. Another family was planning to
move to Indiana, and in their wagon Sam was to be concealed and
thus conveyed to a free State. The business had now become
serious. The laws of the State affixed the death penalty for
stealing a slave. At night when young Coffin and his father, with
Sam, were on their way to complete arrangements for the
departure, horsemen appeared in the road near by. They had only
time to throw themselves flat on the ground behind a log. From
the conversation overheard, they were assured that they had
narrowly escaped the night-riders on the lookout for stray
negroes. The next year, 1822, Coffin himself joined a party going
to Indiana by the southern route through Tennessee and Kentucky.
In the latter State they were at one time overtaken by men who
professed to be looking for a pet dog, but whose real purpose was
to recover runaway slaves. They insisted upon examining the
contents of the wagons, for in this way only a short time
previous a fugitive had been captured.

These incidents show the origin of the system. The first case of
assistance rendered a negro was not in itself illegal, but was
intended merely to prevent the crime of kidnapping. The second
was illegal in form, but the aid was given to one who, having
been set free by will, was being reenslaved, it was believed, by
an unjust decision of a court. The third was a case of outrageous
abuse on the part of the owner. The negro Sam had himself gone to
a trader begging that he would buy him and preferring to take his
chances on a Mississippi plantation rather than return to his
master. The trader offered the customary price and was met with
the reply that he could have the rascal if he would wait until
after the enraged owner had taken his revenge, otherwise the
price would be twice the amount offered. A large proportion of
the fugitives belonged to this maltreated class. Others were
goaded to escape by the prospect of deportation to the Gulf
States. The fugitives generally followed the beaten line of
travel to the North and West.

In 1826 Levi Coffin became a merchant in Newport, Indiana, a town
near the Ohio line not far from Richmond. In the town and in its
neighborhood lived a large number of free negroes who were the
descendants of former slaves whom North Carolina Quakers had set
free and had colonized in the new country. Coffin found that
these blacks were accustomed to assist fugitives on their way to
Canada. When he also learnt that some had been captured and
returned to bondage merely through lack of skill on the part of
the negroes, he assumed active operations as a conductor on the
Underground Railroad.

Coffin used the Underground Railroad as a means of making
converts to the cause. One who berated him for negro-stealing was
adroitly induced to meet a newly arrived passenger and listen to
his pathetic story. At the psychological moment the objector was
skillfully led to hand the fugitive a dollar to assist him in
reaching a place of safety. Coffin then explained to this
benevolent non-abolitionist the nature of his act, assuring him
that he was liable to heavy damages therefor. The reply was in
this case more forcible than elegant: "Damn it! You've got me!"
This conversion he publicly proclaimed for the sake of its
influence upon others. Many were the instances in which those of
supposed pro-slavery convictions were brought face to face with
an actual case of the threatened reenslavement of a human being
escaping from bondage and were, to their own surprise, overcome
by the natural, humane sentiment which asserted itself. For
example, a Cincinnati merchant, who at the time was supposed to
be assisting one of his Southern customers to recover an escaped
fugitive, was confronted at his own home by the poor half-starved
victim. Yielding to the impulse of compassion, he gave the slave
food and personal assistance and directed the destitute creature
to a place of refuge.

The division in the Quaker meeting in Indiana with which Levi
Coffin was intimately associated may serve to exemplify a
corresponding attitude in other churches on the question of
slavery. The Quakers availed themselves of the first great anti-
slavery movement to rid themselves completely of the burden.
Their Society itself became an anti-slavery organization. Yet
even so the Friends had differences of opinion as to fit methods
of action. Not only did many of them disapprove of rendering aid
to fugitives but they also objected to the use of the
meetinghouses for anti-slavery lectures. The formation of the
Liberty party served to accentuate the division. The great body
of the Friends were anti-slavery Whigs.

A crisis in the affairs of the Society of Friends in the State of
Indiana was reached in 1843 when the radicals seceded and
organized an independent "Anti-Slavery Friends Society."
Immediately there appeared in numerous localities duplicate
Friends' meeting-houses. In and around one of these,
distinguished as "Liberty Hall," were gathered those whose
supreme religious interest was directed against the sin of
slavery. Never was there a church division which involved less
bad blood or sense of injury or injustice. Members of the same
family attended separate churches without the least difference in
their cordial relations. No important principle was involved;
there were apparently good reasons for both lines of policy, and
each party understood and respected the other's position. After
the adoption of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and the passing of
the Whig party, these differences disappeared, the separate
organization was disbanded, and all Friends' meetinghouses became
"liberty halls."

The disposition to aid the fugitive was by no means confined to
the North nor to Quakers in the South. Richard Dillingham, a
young Quaker who had yielded to the solicitations of escaped
fugitives in Cincinnati and had undertaken a mission to
Nashville, Tennessee, to rescue their relatives from a "hard
master," was arrested with three stolen slaves on his hands. He
made confession in open court and frankly explained his motives.
The Nashville Daily Gazette of April 13, 1849, has words of
commendation for the prisoner and his family and states that "he
was not without the sympathy of those who attended the trial."
Though Dillingham committed a crime to which the death penalty
was attached in some of the States, the jury affixed the minimum
penalty of three years' imprisonment for the offense. As
Nashville was far removed from Quaker influence or any sort of
anti-slavery propaganda, Dillingham was himself astonished and
was profoundly grateful for the leniency shown him by Court,
jury, and prosecutors. This incident occurred in the year before
the adoption of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. It is well known
that in all times and places which were free from partizan
bitterness there was a general natural sympathy for those who
imperiled their life and liberty to free the slave. Throughout
the South men of both races were ready to give aid to slaves
seeking to escape from dangers or burdens which they regarded as
intolerable. While such a man as Frederick Douglass, when still a
slave, was an agent of the Underground Railroad, Southern anti-
slavery people themselves were to a large extent the original
projectors of the movement. Even members of the families of
slaveholders have been known to assist fugitives in their escape
to the North.

The fugitives traveled in various ways which were determined
partly by geographical conditions and partly by the character of
the inhabitants of a region. On the Atlantic coast, from Florida
to Delaware, slaves were concealed in ships and were thus
conveyed to free States. Thence some made their way towards
Canada by steamboat or railroad, though most made the journey on
foot or, less frequently, in private conveyances. Stalwart slaves
sometimes walked from the Gulf States to the free States,
traveling chiefly by night and guided by the North Star. Having
reached a free State, they found friends among those of their own
race, or were taken in hand by officers of the Underground
Railroad and were thus helped across the Canadian border.

>From the seacoast the valley of the Connecticut River furnished
convenient route for completing the journey northward, though the
way of the fugitives was often deflected to the Lake Champlain
region. In later years, when New England became generally
sympathetic, numerous lines of escape traversed that entire
section. Other courses extended northward from the vicinity of
Philadelphia, Delaware, and Maryland. Here, through the center of
American Quakerdom, all conditions favored the escape of
fugitives, for slavery and freedom were at close quarters. The
activities of the Quakers, who were at first engaged merely in
preventing the reenslavement of those who had a legal right to
freedom, naturally expanded until aid was given without
reservation to any fugitive. From Philadelphia as a distributing
point the route went by way of New York and the Hudson River or
up the river valleys of eastern Pennsylvania through western New

In addition to the routes to freedom which the seacoast and river
valleys afforded, the Appalachian chain of mountains formed an
attractive highway of escape from slavery, though these mountain
paths lead us to another branch of our subject not immediately
connected with the Underground Railroad--the escape from bondage
by the initiative of the slaves themselves or by the aid of their
own people. Mountains have always been a refuge and a defense for
the outlaw, and the few dwellers in this almost unknown
wilderness were not infrequently either indifferent or friendly
to the fugitives. The escaped slaves might, if they chose, adopt
for an indefinite time the free life of the hills; but in most
cases they naturally drifted northward for greater security until
they found themselves in a free State. Through the mountainous
regions of Virginia many thus escaped, and they were induced to
remain there by the example and advice of residents of their own
color. The negroes themselves excelled all others in furnishing
places of refuge to fugitives from slavery and in concealing
their status. For this reason John Brown and his associates were
influenced to select this region for their great venture in 1859.

But there were other than geographical conditions which helped to
determine the direction of the lines of the Underground Railroad.
West of the Alleghanies are the broad plains of the Mississippi
Valley, and in this great region human elements rather than
physical characteristics proved influential. Northern Ohio was
occupied by settlers from the East, many of whom were anti-
slavery. Southern Ohio was populated largely by Quakers and other
people from the slave States who abhorred slavery. On the east
and south the State bordered on slave territory, and every part
of the region was traversed by lines of travel for the slave. In
eastern and northern Indiana a favorable attitude prevailed.
Southwestern Indiana, however, and southern Illinois were
occupied by those less friendly to the slave, so that in these
sections there is little evidence of systematic aid to fugitives.
But with St. Louis, Missouri, as a starting-point, northern
Illinois became honeycombed with refuges for patrons of the
Underground Railroad. The negro also found friends in all the
settled portions of Iowa, and at the outbreak of the Civil War a
lively traffic was being developed, extending from Lawrence,
Kansas, to Keokuk, Iowa.

There is respectable authority for a variety of opinions as to
the requirements of the rendition clause in the Constitution and
of the Act of Congress of 1793 to facilitate the return of
fugitives from service or labor; but there is no respectable
authority in support of the view that neither the spirit nor the
letter of the law was violated by the supporters of the
Underground Railroad. This was a source of real weakness to
anti-slavery leaders in politics. It was always true that only a
small minority of their numbers were actual violators of the law,
yet such was their relation to the organized anti-slavery
movement that responsibility attached to all. The platform of the
Liberty party for 1844 declared that the provisions of the
Constitution for reclaiming fugitive slaves were dangerous to
liberty and ought to be abrogated. It further declared that the
members of the party would treat these provisions as void,
because they involved an order to commit an immoral act. The
platform thus explicitly committed the party to the support of
the policy of rendering aid to fugitive slaves. Four years later
the platform of the Free-soil party contained no reference
whatever to fugitive slaves, but that of 1852 denounced the
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 as repugnant to the Constitution and
the spirit of Christianity and denied its binding force on the
American people. The Republican platform of 1856 made no
reference to the subject.

The Underground Railroad filled an insignificant place in the
general plan for emancipation, even in the minds of the
directors. It was a lesser task preparatory to the great work. As
to the numbers of slaves who gained their freedom by means of it,
there is a wide range of opinion. Statements in Congress by
Southern members that a hundred thousand had escaped must be
regarded as gross exaggerations. In any event the loss was
confined chiefly to the border States. Besides, it has been
stated with some show of reason that the danger of servile
insurrection was diminished by the escape of potential leaders.

>From the standpoint of the great body of anti-slavery men who
expected to settle the slavery question by peaceable means, it
was a calamity of the first magnitude that, just at the time when
conditions were most favorable for transferring the active
crusade from the general Government to the separate States,
public attention should be directed to the one point at which the
conflict was most acute and irrepressible.

Previous to 1850 there had been no general acrimonious debate in
Congress on the rendition of fugitive slaves. About half of those
who had previously escaped from bondage had not taken the trouble
to go as far as Canada, but were living at peace in the Northern
States. Few people at the North knew or cared anything about the
details of a law that had been on the statute books since 1793.
Members of Congress were duly warned of the dangers involved in
any attempt to enforce a more stringent law than the previous act
which had proved a dead letter. To those who understood the
conditions, the new law also was doomed to failure. So said
Senator Butler of South Carolina. An attempt to enforce it would
be met by violence.

This prediction came true. The twenty thousand potential victims
residing in Northern States were thrown into panic. Some rushed
off to Canada; others organized means for protection. A father
and son from Baltimore came to a town in Pennsylvania to recover
a fugitive. An alarm was sounded; men, mostly colored, rushed to
the protection of the one whose liberty was threatened. Two
Quakers appeared on the scene and warned the slavehunters to
desist and upon their refusal one slave-hunter was instantly
killed and the other wounded. The fugitive was conveyed to a
place of safety, and to the murderers no punishment was meted
out, though the general Government made strenuous efforts to
discover and punish them. In New York, though Gerrit Smith and a
local clergyman with a few assistants rescued a fugitive from the
officers of the law and sent him to Canada, openly proclaiming
and justifying the act, no attempt was made to punish the

After a dozen years of intense and ever-increasing excitement,
when other causes of friction between North and South had
apparently been removed and good citizens in the two sections
were rejoicing at the prospect of an era of peace and harmony,
public attention was concentrated upon the one problem of conduct
which would not admit of peaceable legal adjustment.
Abolitionists had always been stigmatized as lawbreakers whose
aim was the destruction of slavery in utter disregard of the
rights of the States. This charge was absolutely false; their
settled program involved full recognition of state and municipal
control over slavery. Yet after public attention had become fixed
upon conduct on the part of the abolitionists which was illegal,
it was difficult to escape the implication that their whole
course was illegal. This was the tragic significance of the
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.


Whittier offered up "thanks for the fugitive slave law; for it
gave occasion for 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.'" Mrs. Harriet Beecher
Stowe had been mistress of a station on the Underground Railroad
at Cincinnati, the storm-center of the West, and out of her
experience she has transmitted to the world a knowledge of the
elemental and tragic human experiences of the slaves which would
otherwise have been restricted to a select few. The mistress of a
similar station in eastern Indiana, though she held novel reading
a deadly sin, said: "'Uncle Tom's Cabin' is not a novel, it is a
record of facts. I myself have listened to the same stories." The
reading public in all lands soon became sympathetic participants
in the labors of those who, in defiance of law, were lending a
hand to the aspirants for liberty. At the time of the publication
of the story in book form in March, 1852, America was being
profoundly stirred by the stories of fugitives who had escaped
from European despotism. Mrs. Stowe refers to these incidents in
her question: "When despairing Hungarian fugitives make their
way, against all the search-warrants and authorities of their
lawful governments to America, press and political cabinet ring
with applause and welcome. When despairing African fugitives do
the same thing--it is--what IS it?" Little did she think that
when the eloquence of the Hungarian refugee had been forgotten,
the story of Eliza and Uncle Tom would ring throughout the world.

The book did far more than vindicate the conduct of those who
rendered assistance to the fugitive from slavery; it let in
daylight upon the essential nature of slavery. Humane and just
masters are shown to be forced into participation in acts which
result in intolerable cruelty. Full justice is done to the noble
and admirable character of Southern slave-owners. The author had
been a guest in the home of the "Shelbys," in Kentucky. She had
taken great pains to understand the Southern point of view on the
subject of slavery; she had entered into the real trials and
difficulties involved in any plan of emancipation. St. Clair,
speaking to Miss Ophelia, his New England cousin, says:

"If we emancipate, are you willing to educate? How many families
of your town would take in a negro man or woman, teach them, bear
with them, and seek to make them Christians? How many merchants
would take Adolph, if I wanted to make him a clerk; or mechanics,
if I wanted to teach him a trade? If I wanted to put Jane and
Rosa to a school, how many schools are there in the Northern
States that would take them in? How many families that would
board them? And yet they are as white as many a woman north or
south. You see, cousin, I want justice done us. We are in a bad
position. We are the more obvious oppressors of the negro; but
the unchristian prejudice of the north is an oppressor almost
equally severe."

Throughout the book the idea is elaborated in many ways. Miss
Ophelia is introduced for the purpose of contrasting Northern
ignorance and New England prejudice with the patience and
forbearance of the better class of slave-owners of the South. The
genuine affection of an unspoiled child for negro friends is made
especially emphatic. Miss Ophelia objected to Eva's expressions
of devotion to Uncle Tom. Her father insists that his daughter
shall not be robbed of the free utterance of her high regard,
observing that "the child is the only true democrat." There is
only one Simon Legree in the book, and he is of New England
extraction. The story is as distinctly intended to inform
Northern ignorance and to remove Northern prejudice as it is to
justify the conduct of abolitionists.

What was the effect of the publication? In European countries far
removed from local partizan prejudice, it was immediately
received as a great revelation of the spirit of liberty. It was
translated into twenty-three different languages. So devoted were
the Italians to the reading of the story that there was earnest
effort to suppress its circulation. As a drama it proved a great
success, not only in America and England but in France and other
countries as well. More than a million copies of the story were
sold in the British Empire. Lord Palmerston avers that he had not
read a novel for thirty years, yet he read Uncle Tom's Cabin
three times and commended the book for the statesmanship
displayed in it.

What is in the story to call forth such commendation from the
cold-blooded English statesman? The book revealed, in a way
fitted to carry conviction to every unprejudiced reader, the
impossibility of uniting slavery with freedom under the same
Government. Either all must be free or the mass subject to the
few--or there is actual war. This principle is finely brought out
in the predicament of the Quaker confronted by a fugitive with
wife and child who had seen a sister sold and conveyed to a life
of shame on a Southern plantation. "Am I going to stand by and
see them take my wife and sell her?" exclaimed the negro. "No,
God help me! I'll fight to the last breath before they shall take
my wife and son. Can you blame me?" To which the Quaker replied:
"Mortal man cannot blame thee, George. Flesh and blood could not
do otherwise. 'Woe unto the world because of offences but woe
unto them through whom the offence cometh.'" "Would not even you,
sir, do the same, in my place?" "I pray that I be not tried." And
in the ensuing events the Quaker played an important part.

Laws enacted for the protection of slave property are shown to be
destructive of the fundamental rights of freemen; they are
inhuman. The Ohio Senator, who in his lofty preserve at the
capital of his country could discourse eloquently of his
readiness to keep faith with the South in the matter of the
faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Law, becomes, when at
home with his family, a flagrant violator of the law. Elemental
human nature is pitted against the apparent interests of a few
individual slaveowners. The story of Uncle Tom placed all
supporters of the new law on the defensive. It was read by all
classes North and South. "Uncle Tom's Cabin as it is" was called
forth from the South as a reply to Mrs. Stowe's book, and there
ensued a general discussion of the subject which was on the whole
enlightening. Yet the immediate political effect of the
publication was less than might have been expected from a book so
widely read and discussed. Its appearance early in the decade did
not prevent the apparent pro-slavery reaction already described.
But Mr. Rhodes calls attention to the different impression which
the book made upon adults and boys. Hardened sinners in partizan
politics could read the book, laugh and weep over the passing
incidents, and then go on as if nothing had happened. Not so with
the thirteen-year-old boy. He never could be the same again. The
Republican party of 1860 was especially successful in gaining the
first vote of the youthful citizen and undoubtedly owed much of
its influence to "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

Two lines of attack were rapidly rendering impossible the
continuance of slavery in the United States. Mrs. Stowe gave
effective expression to the moral, religious, and humanitarian
sentiment against slavery. In the year in which her work was
published, Frederick Law Olmsted began his extended journeys
throughout the South. He represents the impartial scientific
observer. His books were published during the years 1856, 1857,
and 1861. They constitute in their own way an indictment against
slavery quite as forcible as that of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," but an
indictment that rests chiefly upon the blighting influence of the
institution of slavery upon agriculture, manufactures, and the
general industrial and social order. The crisis came too soon for
these publications to have any marked effect upon the issue.
Their appeal was to the deliberate and thoughtful reader, and
political control had already drifted into the hands of those who
were not deliberate and composed.

In 1857, however, there appeared a book which did exert a marked
influence upon immediate political issues. There is no evidence
that Hinton Rowan Helper, the author of "The Impending Crisis,"
had any knowledge of the writings of Olmsted; but he was familiar
with Northern anti-slavery literature. "I have considered my
subject more particularly," he states in his preface, "with
reference to its economic aspects as regards the whites--not with
reference, except in a very slight degree, to its humanitarian or
religious aspects. To the latter side of the question, Northern
writers have already done full and timely justice . . . . Yankee
wives have written the most popular anti-slavery literature of
the day. Against this I have nothing to say; it is all well
enough for women to give the fictions of slavery; men should give
the facts." He denies that it had been his purpose to cast
unmerited opprobium upon slaveholders; yet a sense of personal
injury breathes throughout the pages. If he had no intention of
casting unmerited opprobrium upon slaveholders, it is difficult
to imagine what language he could have used if he had undertaken
to pass the limit of deserved reprobation. In this regard the
book is quite in line with the style of Southern utterance
against abolitionists.

Helper belonged to a slaveholding family, for a hundred years
resident in the Carolinas. The dedication is significant. It is
to three personal friends from three slave States who at the time
were residing in California, in Oregon, and in Washington
Territory, "and to the non-slaveholding whites of the South
generally, whether at home or abroad." Out of the South had come
the inspiration for the religious and humanitarian attack upon
slavery. From the same source came the call for relief of the
poverty-stricken white victims of the institution.

Helper's book revived the controversy which had been forcibly
terminated a quarter of a century before. He resumes the argument
of the members of the Virginia legislature of 1832. He reprints
extended selections from that memorable debate and then, by
extended references to later official reports, points out how
slavery is impoverishing the South. The South is shown to have
continuously declined, while the North has made immense gains. In
a few years the relation of the South to the North would resemble
that of Poland to Russia or of Ireland to England. The author
sees no call for any arguments against slavery as an economic
system; he would simply bring the earlier characterization of the
situation down to date.

Helper differs radically from all earlier speakers and writers in
that he outlines a program for definite action. He estimates that
for the entire South there are seven white non-slaveholders for
every three slaveholders. He would organize these
non-slaveholding whites into an independent political party and
would hold a general convention of non-slaveholders from every
slave State to adopt measures to restrain "the diabolical
excesses of the oligarchy" and to annihilate slavery.
Slaveholders should be entirely excluded from any share in
government. They should be treated as criminals ostracized from
respectable society. He is careful to state, however, that by
slaveholder he does not mean such men as Benton of Missouri and
many others throughout the slave States who retain the sentiments
on the slavery question of the "immortal Fathers of the
Republic." He has in mind only the new order of owners, who have
determined by criminal methods to inflict the crime of slavery
upon an overwhelming majority of their white fellow-citizens.

The publication of "The Impending Crisis" created a profound
sensation among Southern leaders. So long as the attack upon the
peculiar institution emanated from the North, the defenders had
the full benefit of local prejudice and resentment against
outside intrusion. Helper was himself a thorough-going believer
in state rights. Slavery was to be abolished, as he thought, by
the action of the separate States. Here he was in accord with
Northern abolitionists. If such literature as Helper's volume
should find its way into the South, it would be no longer
possible to palm off upon the unthinking public the patent
falsehood that abolitionists of the North were attempting to
impose by force a change in Southern institutions. All that
Southern abolitionists ever asked was the privilege of remaining
at home in their own South in the full exercise of their
constitutional rights.

Southern leaders were undoubtedly aware of the concurrent
publications of travelers and newspaper reporters, of which
Olmsted's books were conspicuous examples. Olmsted and Helper
were both sources of proof that slavery was bringing the South to
financial ruin. The facts were getting hold of the minds of the
Southern people. The debate which had been adjourned was on the
eve of being resumed. Complete suppression of the new scientific
industrial argument against slavery seemed to slave-owners to
furnish their only defense.

The Appalachian ranges of mountains drove a wedge of liberty and
freedom from Pennsylvania almost to the Gulf. In the upland
regions slavery could not flourish. There was always enmity
between the planters of the coast and the dwellers on the upland.
The slaveholding oligarchy had always ruled, but the day of the
uplanders was at hand. This is the explanation of the veritable
panic which Helper's publication created. A debate which should
follow the line of this old division between the peoples of the
Atlantic slave States would, under existing conditions, be fatal
to the institution of slavery. West Virginia did become a free
State at the first opportunity. Counties in western North
Carolina claim to have furnished a larger proportion of their men
to the Union army than any other counties in the country. Had the
plan for peaceable emancipation projected by abolitionists been
permitted to take its course, the uplands of South Carolina would
have been pitted against the lowlands, and Senator Tillman would
have appeared as a rampant abolitionist. There might have been
violence, but it would have been confined to limited areas in the
separate States. Had the crisis been postponed, there surely
would have been a revival of abolitionism within the Southern
States. Slavery in Missouri was already approaching a crisis.
Southern leaders had long foreseen that the State would abolish
slavery if a free State should be established on the western
boundary. This was actually taking place. Kansas was filling up
with free-state settlers and, by the act of its own citizens, a
few years later did abolish slavery.

Republicans naturally made use of Helper's book for party
purposes. A cheap abridged edition was brought out. Several
Republican leaders were induced to sign their names to a paper
commending the publication. Among these was John Sherman of Ohio,
who in the organization of the newly elected House of
Representatives in 1859 was the leading candidate of the
Republicans for the speakership. During the contest the fact that
his name was on this paper was made public, and Southern leaders
were furious. Extracts were read to prove that the book was
incendiary. Millson of Virginia said that "one who consciously,
deliberately, and of purpose lends his name and influence to the
propagation of such writings is not only not fit to be speaker,
but he is not-fit to live." It is one of the ironies of the
situation that the passage selected to prove the incendiary
character of the book is almost a literal quotation from the
debate in the Virginia Legislature of 1832.


Both the leading political parties were, in the campaign of 1852,
fully committed to the acceptance of the so-called Compromise of
1850 as a final settlement of the slavery question; both were
committed to the support of the Fugitive Slave Act. The Free-soil
party, with John P. Hale as its candidate, did make a vigorous
attack upon the Fugitive Slave Act, and opposed all compromises
respecting slavery, but Free-Boilers had been to a large extent
reabsorbed into the Democratic party, their vote of 1852 being
only about half that of 1848. Though the Whig vote was large and
only about two hundred thousand less than that of the Democrats,
yet it was so distributed that the Whigs carried only four
States, Massachusetts, Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The
other States gave a Democratic plurality.

Had there been time for readjustment, the Whig party might have
recovered lost ground, but no time was permitted. There was in
progress in Missouri a political conflict which was already
commanding national attention. Thomas H. Benton, for thirty years
a Senator from Missouri, and a national figure, was the
storm-center. His enemies accused him of being a Free-Boiler, an
abolitionist in disguise. He was professedly a stanch and
uncompromising unionist, a personal and political opponent of
John C. Calhoun. According to his own statement he had been
opposed to the extension of slavery since 1804, although he had
advocated the admission of Missouri with a pro-slavery
constitution in 180. He was, from the first, senior Senator from
the State, and by a peculiar combination of influences incurred
his first defeat for reelection in 1851.

Benton's defeat in the Missouri Legislature was largely the
result of national pro-slavery influences. In a former chapter,
reference was made to the Ohio River as furnishing a
"providential argument against slavery." The Mississippi River as
the eastern boundary of Missouri furnished a like argument, but
on the north not even a prairie brook separated free labor in
Iowa from slave labor in Missouri. The inhabitants of western
Missouri, realizing that the tenure of their peculiar institution
was becoming weaker in the east and north, early became convinced
that the organization of a free State along their western
boundary would be followed by the abolition of slavery in their
own State. This condition attracted the attention of the national
guardians of pro-slavery interests. Calhoun, Davis, Breckinridge,
Toombs, and others were in constant communication with local
leaders. A certain Judge W. C. Price, a religious fanatic, and a
pro-slavery devotee, was induced to visit every part of the State
in 1844, calling the attention of all slaveholders to the perils
of the situation and preparing the way for the repeal of the
Missouri Compromise. Senator Benton, who was approached on the
subject, replied in such a way that all radical defenders of
slavery, both national leaders and local politicians, were moved
to unite for his political defeat.

David R. Atchison, junior Senator from Missouri, had been made
the leader of the pro-slavery forces. The defeat of Benton in the
Missouri Legislature did not end the strife. He at once became a
candidate for Atchison's place in the election which was to occur
in 1855, and he was in the meantime elected to the House of
Representatives in 1852. The most telling consideration in
Benton's favor was the general demand, in which he himself
joined, for the immediate organization of the western territory
in order to facilitate the building of a system of railways
reaching the Pacific, with St. Louis as the point of departure.
For a time, in 1859, and 1853, Benton was apparently triumphant,
and Atchison was himself willing to consent to the organization
of the new territory with slavery excluded. The national leaders,
however, were not of the same mind. The real issue was the
continuance of slavery in the State; the one thing which must not
be permitted was the transfer of anti-slavery agitation to the
separate States. Henry Clay's proposal of 1849 to provide for
gradual emancipation in Kentucky was bitterly resented. It had
long been an axiom with the slavocracy that the institution would
perish unless it had the opportunity to expand. Out of this
conviction arose Calhoun's famous theory that slaveowners had
under the Constitution an equal right with the owners of all
other forms of property in all the Territories. The theory itself
assumed that the act prohibiting slavery in the territory north
of the southern boundary of Missouri was unconstitutional and
void. But this theory had not yet received judicial sanction, and
the time was at hand when the question of freedom or slavery in
the western territory was to be determined. Between March and
December, 1853, the discovery was made that the Act of 1850
organizing the Territories of New Mexico and Utah had superseded
the Compromise of 1820; that a principle had been recognized
applicable to all the Territories; that all were open to
settlement on equal terms to slaveholders and non-slaveholders;
that the subject of slavery should be removed from Congress to
the people of the Territories; and that they should decide,
either when a territorial legislature was organized or at the
time of the adoption of a constitution preparatory to statehood,
whether or not slavery should be authorized. These ideas found
expression in various newspapers during the month of December,
1853. Though the authorship of the new theory is still a matter
of dispute, it is well known that Stephen A. Douglas became its
chief sponsor and champion. The real motives and intentions of
Douglas himself and of many of his supporters will always remain
obscure and uncertain. But no uncertainty attaches to the motives
of Senator Atchison and the leaders of the Calhoun section of the
Democratic party. For ten years at least they had been laboring
to get rid of the Missouri Compromise. Their motive was to defend
slavery and especially to forestall a successful movement for
emancipation in the State of Missouri.

From early in January, 1854, until late in May, Douglas's
Nebraska bill held the attention of Congress and of the entire
country. At first the measure simply assumed that the Missouri
Compromise had been superseded by the Act of 1850. Later the bill
was amended in such a way as to repeal distinctly that
time-honored act. At first the plan was to organize Nebraska as a
single Territory extending from Texas to Canada. Later it was
proposed to organize separate Territories, one west of Missouri
under the name of Kansas, the other west of Iowa under the name
of Nebraska. Opposition came from Free-soilers, from Northern
Whigs and a few Whigs from the South, and from a large proportion
of Northern Democrats. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise came
like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky to the people of the North.
For a time Douglas was the most unpopular of political leaders
and was apparently repudiated by his party. The first name
designating the opponents of the Douglas bill was "Anti Nebraska
men," for which the name Republican was gradually substituted and
in 1858 became the accepted title of the party.

The provision for two territorial governments instead of one
carried with it the idea of a continued balance between slave and
free States; Kansas, being on a geographical parallel with the
slave States, would probably permit slavery, while Nebraska would
be occupied by free-state immigrants. Though this was a commonly
accepted view, Eli Thayer of Worcester, Massachusetts, and a few
others took a different view. They proposed to make an end of the
discussion of the extension of slavery by sending free men who
were opposed to slavery to occupy the territory open for
settlement. To attain this object they organized an Emigrant Aid
Company incorporated under the laws of the State. Even before the
bill was passed, the corporation was in full working order.
Thayer himself traveled extensively throughout the Northern
States stimulating interest in western emigration, with the
conviction that the disturbing question could be peacefully
settled in this way. California had thus been saved to freedom;
why not all other Territories? The new company had as adviser and
co-laborer Dr. Charles Robinson, who had crossed the Kansas
Territory on his way to California and had acquired valuable
experience in the art of state-building under peculiar

The first party sent out by the Emigrant Aid Company arrived in
Kansas early in August, 1854, and selected the site for the town
of Lawrence. During the later months of the year, four other
parties were sent out, in all numbering nearly seven hundred.
Through extensive advertisement by the company, through the
general interest in the subject and the natural flow of
emigration to the West, Kansas was receiving large accessions of
free-state settlers.

Meanwhile the men of Missouri, some of whom had striven for a
decade to secure the privilege of extending slavery into the new
Territory, were not idle. Instantly upon the removal of legal
barriers, they occupied adjacent lands, founded towns, staked out
claims, formed plans for preempting the entire region and for
forestalling or driving out all intruders. They had at first the
advantage of position, for they did not find it difficult to
maintain two homes, one in Kansas for purposes of voting and
fighting and another in Missouri for actual residence. Andrew H.
Reeder, a Pennsylvania Democrat of strong pro-slavery prejudices,
was appointed first Governor of the Territory. When he arrived in
Kansas in October, 1854, there were already several thousand
settlers on the ground and others were continually arriving. He
appointed the 29th of November for the election of a delegate to
Congress. On that day several hundred Missourians came into the
Territory and voted. There was no violence and no contest; the
free-state men had no separate candidate. Notwithstanding the
violence of language used by opposing factions, notwithstanding
the organization of secret societies pledged to drive out all
Northern intruders, there was no serious disturbance until March
30, 1855, the day appointed for the election of members of the
territorial Legislature. On that day the Missourians came full
five thousand strong, armed with guns, bowie-knives, and
revolvers. They met with no resistance from the residents, who
were unarmed. They took charge of the precincts and chose
pro-slavery delegates with one exception. Governor Reeder
protested and recommended to the precincts the filing of
protests. Only seven responded, however, and in these cases new
elections were held and contesting delegates elected.

The Governor issued certificates to these and to all those who in
other precincts had been chosen by the horde from Missouri. When
the Legislature met in July, the seven contests were decided in
favor of the pro-slavery party, the single freestate member
resigned, and the assembly was unanimous.

Governor Reeder fully expected that President Pierce would
nullify the election, and to this end he made a journey to
Washington in April. On the way he delivered a public address at
Easton, Pennsylvania, describing in lurid colors the outrage
which had been perpetrated upon the people of Kansas by the
"border ruffians" from Missouri, and asserting that the accounts
in the Northern press had not been exaggerated.

While Governor Reeder in contact with the actual events in Kansas
was becoming an active Free-Boiler, President Pierce in
association with Jefferson Davis and others of his party was
developing active sympathies with the people of western Missouri.
To the President this invasion of territory west of the slave
State by Northern men aided by Northern corporations seemed a
violation of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and he sought to induce
Reeder to resign. This, however, the Governor positively refused
to do unless the President would formally approve his conduct in
Kansas--an endorsement which required more fortitude than
President Pierce possessed. On his return to Kansas, determined
to do what he could to protect the Kansas people from injustice,
he called the Legislature to meet at Pawnee, a point far removed
from the Missouri border. Immediately upon their organization at
that place the members of the Legislature adjourned to meet at
Shawnee, near the border of Missouri. The Governor, who decided
that this action was illegal, then refused to recognize the
Assembly at the new place. A deadlock thus ensued which was
broken on the 15th of August by the removal of Governor Reeder
and the appointment of Wilson Shannon of Ohio in his place.
In the meantime the territorial Legislature had adjourned, having
"enacted" an elaborate proslavery code made up from the slave
code of Missouri with a number of special adaptations. For
example, it was made a penitentiary offense to deny by speaking
or writing, or by printing, or by introducing any printed matter,
the right of persons to hold slaves in the Territory; no man was
eligible to jury service who was conscientiously opposed to
holding slaves; and lawyers were bound by oath to support the
territorial statutes.

The free-state men, with the approval of Reeder, refused to
recognize the Legislature and inaugurated a movement in the fall
of 1855 to adopt a constitution and to organize a provisional
territorial Government preparatory to admission as a State,
following in this respect the procedure in California and
Michigan. A convention met in Topeka in October, 1855, and
completed on the 11th of November the draft of a constitution
which prohibited slavery. On the 15th of December the
constitution was approved by a practically unanimous vote, only
free-state men taking part in the election. A month later a
Legislature was elected and at the same time Charles Robinson was
elected Governor of the new commonwealth. In the previous
October, Reeder had been chosen Free-soil delegate to Congress.
The Topeka freestate Legislature met on the 4th of March, 1856,
and after petitioning Congress to admit Kansas under the Topeka
constitution, adjourned until the 4th of July pending the action
of Congress. Thus at the end of two years two distinct
Governments had come into existence within the Territory of
Kansas. It speaks volumes for the self-control and moderation of
the two parties that no hostile encounter had occurred between
the contestants. When the armed Missourians came in March, 1855,
the unarmed settlers offered no resistance. Afterward, however,
they supplied themselves with Sharp's rifles and organized a
militia. With the advent of Governor Shannon in September, 1855,
the proslavery position was much strengthened. In November, in a
quarrel over a land claim, a free-state settler by the name of
Dow was killed. The murderer escaped, but a friend of the victim
was accused of uttering threats against a friend of the murderer.
For this offense a posse led by Sheriff Jones, a Missourian,
seized him, and would have carried him away if fourteen freestate
men had not "persuaded" the Sheriff to surrender his prisoner.
This interference was accepted by the Missourians as a signal for
battle. The rescuers must be arrested and punished. A large force
of infuriated Missourians and pro-slavery settlers assembled for
a raid upon the town of Lawrence. In the meantime the Lawrence
militia planned and executed a systematic defense of the town.
When the two armies came within speaking distance, a parley
ensued in which the Governor took a leading part in settling the
affair without a hostile shot. This is known in Kansas history as
the "Wakarusa War."

The progress of affairs in Kansas was followed with intense
interest in all parts of the country. North and South vied with
each other in the encouragement of emigration to Kansas. Colonel
Buford of Alabama sold a large number of slaves and devoted the
proceeds to meeting the expense of conducting a troop of three
hundred men to Kansas in the winter of 1856. They went armed with
"the sword of the spirit," and all provided with Bibles supplied
by the leading churches. Arrived in the territory, they were duly
furnished with more worldly weapons and were drilled for action.
About the same time a parallel incident is said to have occurred
in New Haven, Connecticut. A deacon in one of the churches had
enlisted a company of seventy bound for Kansas. A meeting was
held in the church to raise money to defray expenses. The leader
of the company declared that they also needed rifles for
self-defense. Forthwith Professor Silliman, of the University,
subscribed one Sharp's rifle, and others followed with like
pledges. Finally Henry Ward Beecher, who was the speaker of the
occasion, rose and promised that, if twenty-five rifles were
pledged on the spot, Plymouth Church in Brooklyn would be
responsible for the remaining twenty-five that were needed. He
had already said in a previous address that for the slaveholders
of Kansas, Sharp's rifles were a greater moral agency than the
Bible. This led to the designation of the weapons as "Beecher's
Bibles." Such was the spirit which prevailed in the two sections
of the country.

President Pierce had now become intensely hostile towards the
free-state inhabitants of Kansas. Having recognized the
Legislature elected on March 30, 1855, as the legitimate
Government, he sent a special message to Congress on January 24,
1856, in which he characterized as revolutionary the movement of
the free-state men to organize a separate Government in Kansas.
>From the President's point of view, the emissaries of the New
England Emigrant Aid Association were unlawful invaders. In this
position he not only had the support of the South, but was
powerfully seconded by Stephen A. Douglas and other Northern

The attitude of the Administration at Washington was a source of
great encouragement to Sheriff Jones and his associates, who were
anxious to wreak their vengeance on the city of Lawrence for the
outcome of the Wakarusa War. Jones came to Lawrence apparently
for the express purpose of picking a quarrel, for he revived the
old dispute about the rescuing party of the previous fall. As a
consequence one enraged opponent slapped him in the face, and at
last an unknown assassin entered the sheriff's tent by night and
inflicted a revolver wound in his back. Though the citizens of
Lawrence were greatly chagrined at this event and offered a
reward for the discovery of the assailant, the attack upon the
sheriff was made the signal for drastic procedure against the
town of Lawrence. A grand jury found indictments for treason
against Reeder, Robinson, and other leading citizens of the town.
The United States marshal gave notice that he expected resistance
in making arrests and called upon all law-abiding citizens of the
Territory to aid in executing the law. It was a welcome summons
to the pro-slavery forces. Not only local militia companies
responded but also Buford's company and various companies from
Missouri, in all more than seven hundred men, with two cannon. It
had always been the set purpose of the free-state men not to
resist federal authority by force, unless as a last resort, and
they had no intention of opposing the marshal in making arrests.
He performed his duty without hindrance and then placed the armed
troops under the command of Sheriff Jones, who proceeded first to
destroy the printing-press of the town of Lawrence. Then, against
the protest of the marshal and Colonel Buford, the vindictive
sheriff trained his guns upon the new hotel which was the pride
of the city; the ruin of the building was made complete by fire,
while a drunken mob pillaged the town.

On May 22, 1856, the day following the attack upon Lawrence,
Charles Sumner was struck down in the United States Senate on
account of a speech made in defense of the rights of Kansas
settlers. The two events, which were reported at the same time in
the daily press, furnished the key-note to the presidential
campaign of that year, for nominating conventions followed in a
few days and "bleeding Kansas" was the all-absorbing issue. In
spite of the destruction of property in Lawrence and the arrest
of the leaders of the free-state party, Kansas had not been
plunged into a state of civil war. The free-state party had fired
no hostile shot. Governor Robinson and his associates still
relied upon public opinion and they accepted the wanton attack
upon Lawrence as the best assurance that they would yet win their
cause by legal means.

A change, however, soon took place which is associated with the
entrance of John Brown into the history of Kansas. Brown and his
sons were living at Osawatomie, some thirty miles south of
Lawrence. They were present at the Wakarusa War in December,
1855, and were on their way to the defense of Lawrence on May 21,
1856, when they were informed that the town had been destroyed.
Three days after this event Brown and his sons with two or three
others made a midnight raid upon their pro-slavery neighbors
living in the Pottawatomie valley and slew five men. The authors
of this deed were not certainly known until the publication of a
confession of one of the party in 1879, twenty years after the
chief actor had won the reputation of a martyr to the cause of
liberty. The Browns, however, were suspected at the time;
warrants were out for their arrest; and their homes were

For more than three months after this incident, Kansas was in a
state of war; in fact, two distinct varieties of warfare were
carried on. Publicly organized companies on both sides engaged in
acts of attack and defense, while at the same time irresponsible
secret bands were busy in violent reprisals, in plunder and
assassination. In both of these forms of warfare, the free-state
men proved themselves fully equal to their opponents, and
Governor Shannon was entirely unable to cope with the situation.
It is estimated that two hundred men were slain and two million
dollars' worth of property was destroyed.

The state of affairs in Kansas served to win many Northern
Democrats to the support of the Republicans. The Administration
at Washington was held responsible for the violence and
bloodshed. The Democratic leaders in the political campaign,
determined now upon a complete change in the Government of the
Territory, appointed J. W. Geary as Governor and placed General
Smith in charge of the troops. The new incumbents, both from
Pennsylvania, entered upon their labors early in September, and
before the October state elections Geary was able to report that
peace reigned throughout the Territory. A prompt reaction in
favor of the Democrats followed. Buchanan, their presidential
candidate, rejoiced in the fact that order had been restored by
two citizens of his own State. It was now very generally conceded
that Kansas would become a free State, and intimate associates of
Buchanan assured the public that he was himself of that opinion
and that if elected he would insure to the free-state party
evenhanded justice. Thousands of voters were thus won to
Buchanan's support. There was a general distrust of the
Republican candidate as a man lacking political experience, and a
strong conservative reaction against the idea of electing a
President by the votes of only one section of the country. At the
election in November, Buchanan received a majority of sixty of
the electoral votes over Fremont, but in the popular vote he fell
short of a majority by nearly 400,000. Fillmore, candidate of the
Whig and the American parties, received 874,000 votes.

There was still profound distrust of the administration of the
Territory of Kansas, and the free-state settlers refused to vote
at the election set for the choosing of a new territorial
Legislature in October. The result was another pro-slavery
assembly. Governor Geary, however, determined to secure and
enforce just treatment of both parties. He was at once brought
into violent conflict with the Legislature in an experience which
was almost an exact counterpart of that of Governor Reeder; and
Washington did not support his efforts to secure fair dealings. A
pro-slavery deputation visited President Pierce in February,
1857, and returned with the assurance that Governor Geary would
be removed. Without waiting for the President to act, Geary
resigned in disgust on the 4th of March. Of the three Governors
whom President Pierce appointed, two became active supporters of
the free-state party and a third, Governor Shannon, fled from the
territory in mortal terror lest he should be slain by members of
the party which he had tried to serve.


The real successor to John Quincy Adams as the protagonist of the
anti-slavery cause in Congress proved to be not Seward but
Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. This newcomer entered the Senate
without previous legislative experience but with an unusual
equipment for the role he was to play. A graduate of Harvard
College at the age of nineteen, he had entered upon the study of
law in the newly organized law school in which Joseph Story held
one of the two professorships. He was admitted to the bar in
1834, but three years later he left his slender law practice for
a long period of European travel. This three years' sojourn
brought him into intimate touch with the leading spirits in arts,
letters, and public life in England and on the Continent, and
thus ripened his talents to their full maturity. He returned to
his law practice poor in pocket but rich in the possession of
lifelong friendships and happy memories.

Sumner's political career did not begin until 1847, when as a
Whig he not only opposed any further extension of slavery but
strove to commit his party to the policy of emancipation in all
the States. Failing in this attempt, Sumner became an active
Free-Boiler in 1848. He was twice a candidate for Congress on the
Free-soil ticket but failed of election. In 1851 he was elected
to the United States Senate by a coalition between his party and
the Democrats. This is the only public office he ever held, but
he was continuously reelected until his death in 1874.

John Quincy Adams had addressed audiences trained in the old
school, which did not defend slavery on moral grounds. Charles
Sumner faced audiences of the new school, which upheld the
institution as a righteous moral order. This explains the chief
difference in the attitude of the two leaders. Sumner, like
Adams, began as an opponent of pro-slavery aggression, but he
went farther: he attacked the institution itself as a great moral

As a constitutional lawyer Sumner is not the equal of his
predecessor, Daniel Webster. He is less original, less convincing
in the enunciation of broad general principles. He appears rather
as a special pleader marshaling all available forces against the
one institution which assailed the Union. In this particular
work, he surpassed all others, for, with his unbounded industry,
he permitted no precedent, no legal advantage, no incident of
history, no fact in current politics fitted to strengthen his
cause, to escape his untiring search. He showed a marvelous skill
in the selection, arrangement, and presentation of his materials,
and for his models he took the highest forms of classic forensic

Sumner exhibited the ordinary aloofness and lack of familiarity
with actual conditions in the South which was characteristic of
the New England abolitionist. He perceived no race problem, no
peculiar difficulty in the readjustments of master and slave
which were involved in emancipation, and he ignored all obstacles
to the accomplishment of his ends. Webster's arraignment of South
Carolina was directed against an alleged erroneous dogma and only
incidentally affected personal morality. The reaction, therefore,
was void of bitter resentment. Sumner's charges were directed
against alleged moral turpitude, and the classic form and
scrupulous regard for parliamentary rules which he observed only
added to the feeling of personal resentment on the part of his
opponents. Some of the defenders of slavery were themselves
devoted students of the classics, but they found that the
orations of Demosthenes furnished nothing suited to their
purpose. The result was a humiliating exhibition of weakness,
personal abuse, and vindictiveness on their part.

There was a conspiracy of silence on the slavery question in
1852. Each of the national parties was definitely committed to
the support of the compromise and especially to the faithful
observance of the Fugitive Slave Law. Free-soilers had distinctly
declined in numbers and influence during the four preceding
years. Only a handful of members in each House of Congress
remained unaffiliated with the parties whose platforms had
ordained silence on the one issue of chief public concern. It was
by a mere accident in Massachusetts politics that Charles Sumner
was sent to the Senate as a man free on all public questions.

While the parties were making their nominations for the
Presidency, Sumner sought diligently for an opportunity in the
Senate to give utterance to the sentiments of his party on the
repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act. But not until late in August
did he overcome the resistance of the combined opposition and
gain the floor. The watchmen were caught off guard when Sumner
introduced an amendment to an appropriation bill which enabled
him to deliver a carefully prepared address, several hours in
length, calling for the repeal of the law.

The first part of this speech is devoted to the general topic of
the relation of the national Government to slavery and was made
in answer to the demand of Calhoun and his followers for the
direct national recognition of slavery. For such a demand Sumner
found no warrant. By the decision of Lord Mansfield, said he,
"the state of slavery" was declared to be "of such a nature, that
it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or
political, but ONLY BY POSITIVE LAW . . . . it is so odious, that
nothing can be suffered to support it but positive law." Adopting
the same principle, the Supreme Court of the State of
Mississippi, a tribunal of slaveholders, asserted that "slavery
is condemned by reason and the Laws of Nature. It exists, and can
ONLY exist, through municipal regulations." So also declared the
Supreme Court of Kentucky and numerous other tribunals. This
aspect of the subject furnished Sumner occasion for a masterly
array of all the utterances in favor of liberty to be found in
the Constitution, in the Declaration of Independence, in the
constitutional conventions, in the principles of common law. All
these led up to and supported the one grand conclusion that, when
Washington took the oath as President of the United States,
"slavery existed nowhere on the national territory" and therefore
"is in no respect a national institution." Apply the principles
of the Constitution in their purity, then, and "in all national
territories slavery will be impossible. On the high seas, under
the national flag, slavery will be impossible. In the District of
Columbia, slavery will instantly cease. Inspired by these
principles, Congress can give no sanction to slavery by the
admission of new slave States. Nowhere under the Constitution can
the Nation by legislation or otherwise, support slavery, hunt
slaves, or hold property in man . . . . As slavery is banished
from the national jurisdiction, it will cease to vex our national
politics. It may linger in the States as a local institution; but
it will no longer engender national animosities when it no longer
demands national support."

The second part of Sumner's address dealt directly with the
Fugitive Slave Act of 1860. It is much less convincing and
suggests more of the characteristics of the special pleader with
a difficult case. Sumner here undertook to prove that Congress
exceeded its powers when it presumed to lay down rules for the
rendition of fugitive slaves, and this task exceeded even his
power as a constitutional lawyer.

The circumstances under which Sumner attacked slavery were such
as to have alarmed a less self-centered man, for the two years
following the introduction of the Nebraska bill were marked by
the most acrimonious debate in the history of Congress, and by
physical encounters, challenges, and threats of violence. But
though Congressmen carried concealed weapons, Sumner went his way
unarmed and apparently in complete unconcern as to any personal
danger, though it is known that he was fully aware that in the
faithful performance of what he deemed to be his duty he was
incurring the risk of assassination.

The pro-slavery party manifested on all occasions a disposition
to make the most of the weak point in Sumner's constitutional
argument against the Fugitive Slave Law. He was accused of taking
an oath to support the Constitution though at the same time
intending to violate one of its provisions. In a discussion, in
June, 1854, over a petition praying for the repeal of the
Fugitive Slave Act, Senator Butler of South Carolina put the
question directly to Senator Sumner whether he would himself
unite with others in returning a fugitive to his master. Sumner's
quick reply was, "Is thy servant a dog that he should do this
thing?" Enraged Southerners followed this remark with a most
bitter onslaught upon Sumner which lasted for two days. When
Sumner again got the floor, he said in reference to Senator
Butler's remark: "In fitful phrase, which seemed to come from
unconscious excitement, so common with the Senator, he shot forth
various cries about 'dogs,' and, among other things, asked if
there was any 'dog' in the Constitution? The Senator did not seem
to bear in mind, through the heady currents of that moment that,
by the false interpretation he fastens upon the Constitution, he
has helped to nurture there a whole kennel of Carolina
bloodhounds, trained, with savage jaw and insatiable in scent,
for the hunt of flying bondmen. No, sir, I do not believe that
there is any 'kennel of bloodhounds,' or even any 'dog' in the
Constitution." Thereafter offensive personal references between
the Senators from Massachusetts and South Carolina became
habitual. These personalities were a source of regret to many of
Sumner's best friends, but they fill a small place, after all, in
his great work. Nor were they the chief source of rancor on the
part of his enemies, for Southern orators were accustomed to
personalities in debate. Sumner was feared and hated principally
because his presence in Congress endangered the institution of

Sumner's speech on the crime against Kansas was perhaps the most
remarkable effort of his career. It had been known for many weeks
that Sumner was preparing to speak upon the burning question, and
his friends had already expressed anxiety for his personal
safety. For the larger part of two days, May 19 and 20, 1856, he
held the reluctant attention of the Senate. For the delivery of
this speech he chose a time which was most opportune. The crime
against Kansas had, in a sense, culminated in March of the
previous year, but the settlers had refused to submit to the
Government set up by hostile invaders. They had armed themselves
for the defense of their rights, had elected a Governor and a
Legislature by voluntary association, had called a convention,
and had adopted a constitution preparatory to admission to the
Union. That constitution was now before the Senate for approval.
President Pierce, Stephen A. Douglas, and all the Southern
leaders had decided to treat as treasonable acts the efforts of
Kansas settlers to secure an orderly government. Their plans for
the arrest of the leaders were well advanced and the arrests were
actually made on the day after Sumner had concluded his speech.

A paragraph in the address is prophetic of what occurred within a
week. Douglas had introduced a bill recognizing the Legislature
chosen by the Missourians as the legal Government and providing
for the formation of a constitution under its initiative at some
future date. After describing this proposed action as a
continuation of the crime against Kansas, Sumner declared: "Sir,
you cannot expect that the people of Kansas will submit to the
usurpation which this bill sets up and bids them bow before, as
the Austrian tyrant set up the ducal hat in the Swiss
market-place. If you madly persevere, Kansas will not be without
her William Tell, who will refuse at all hazards to recognize the
tyrannical edict; and this will be the beginning of civil war."

To keep historical sequence clear at this point, all thought of
John Brown should be eliminated, for he was then unknown to the
public. It must be remembered that Governor Robinson and the
free-state settlers were, as Sumner probably knew, prepared to
resist the general Government as soon as there should be a clear
case of outrage for which the Administration at Washington could
be held directly responsible. Such a case occurred when the
United States marshal placed federal troops in the hands of
Sheriff Jones to assist in looting the town of Lawrence. Governor
Robinson no longer had any scruples in advising forcible
resistance to all who used force to impose upon Kansas a
Government which the people had rejected.

In the course of his address Sumner compared Senators Butler and
Douglas to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, saying: "The Senator
from South Carolina has read many books of chivalry, and believes
himself a chivalrous knight, with sentiments of honor and
courage. Of course he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made
his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to
him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his
sight. I mean the harlot Slavery. Let her be impeached in
character, or any proposition be made to shut her out from the
extension of her wantonness, and no extravagance of manner or
hardihood of assertion is then too great for the Senator."

When Sumner concluded, the gathering storm broke forth. Cass of
Michigan, after saying that he had listened to the address with
equal surprise and regret, characterized it as "the most
unAmerican and unpatriotic that ever grated on the ears of the
members of that high body." Douglas and Mason were personal and
abusive. Douglas, recalling Sumner's answer to Senator Butler's
question whether he would assist in returning a slave, renewed
the charge made two years earlier that Sumner had violated his
oath of office. This attack called forth from Sumner another
attempt to defend the one weak point in his speech of 1852, for
he was always irritated by reference to this subject, and at the
same time he enjoyed a fine facility in the use of language which
irritated others.

One utterance in Douglas's reply to Sumner is of special
significance in view of what occurred two days later: "Is it his
object to provoke some of us to kick him as we would a dog in the
street, that he may get sympathy upon the just chastisement?" Two
days later Sumner was sitting alone at his desk in the Senate
chamber after adjournment when Preston Brooks, a nephew of
Senator Butler and a member of the lower House, entered and
accosted him with the statement that he had read Sumner's speech
twice and that it was a libel on South Carolina and upon a
kinsman of his. Thereupon Brooks followed his words by striking
Sumner on the head with a cane. Though the Senator was dazed and
blinded by the unexpected attack, his assailant rained blow after
blow until he had broken the cane and Sumner lay prostrate and
bleeding at his feet. Brooks's remarks in the House of
Representatives almost a month after the event leave no doubt of
his determination to commit murder had he failed to overcome his
antagonist with a cane. He had also taken the precaution to have
two of his friends ready to prevent any interference before the
punishment was completed. Toombs of Georgia witnessed a part of
the assault and expressed approval of the act, and everywhere
throughout the South, in the public press, in legislative halls,
in public meetings, Brooks was hailed as a hero. The resolution
for his expulsion introduced in the House received the support of
only one vote from south of Mason and Dixon's Line. A large
majority favored the resolution, but not the required two-thirds
majority. Brooks, however, thought best to resign but was
triumphantly returned to his seat with only six votes against
him. Nothing was left undone to express Southern gratitude, and
he received gifts of canes innumerable as symbols of his valor.
Yet before his death, which occurred in the following January, he
confessed to his friend Orr that he was sick of being regarded as
the representative of bullies and disgusted at receiving
testimonials of their esteem.

With similar unanimity the North condemned and resented the
assault that had been made upon Sumner. From party
considerations, if for no other reasons, Democrats regretted the
event. Republicans saw in the brutal attack and in the manner of
its reception in the South another evidence of the irrepressible
conflict between slavery and freedom. They were ready to take up
the issue so forcibly presented by their fallen leader. A part of
the regular order of exercises at public meetings of Republicans
was to express sympathy with their wounded champion and with the
Kansas people of the pillaged town of Lawrence, and to adopt ways
and means to bring to an end the Administration which they held
responsible for these outrages. Sumner, though silenced, was
eloquent in a new and more effective way. A half million copies
of "The Crime against Kansas" were printed and circulated. On the
issue thus presented, Northern Democrats became convinced that
their defeat at the pending election was certain, and their
leaders instituted the change in their program which has been
described in a previous chapter. They had made an end of the war
in Kansas and drew from their candidate for the Presidency the
assurance that just treatment should at last be meted out to
harassed Kansas.

Though Sumner's injuries were at first regarded as slight, they
eventually proved to be extremely serious. After two attempts to
resume his place in the Senate, he found that he was unable to
remain; yet when his term expired, he was almost unanimously
reelected. Much of his time for three and a half years he spent
in Europe. In December, 1859, he seemed sufficiently recovered to
resume senatorial duties, but it was not until the following June
that he again addressed the Senate. On that occasion he delivered
his last great philippic against slavery. The subject under
discussion was still the admission of Kansas as a free State,
and, as he remarked in his opening sentences, he resumed the
discussion precisely where he had left off more than four years

Sumner had assumed the task of uttering a final word against
slavery as barbarism and a barrier to civilization. He spoke
under the impelling power of a conviction in his God-given
mission to utilize a great occasion to the full and for a noble
end. For this work his whole life had been a preparation.
Accustomed from early youth to spend ten hours a day with books
on law, history, and classic literature, he knew as no other man
then knew what aid the past could offer to the struggle for
freedom. The bludgeon of the would-be assassin had not impaired
his memory, and four years of enforced leisure enabled him to
fulfill his highest ideals of perfect oratorical form.
Personalities he eliminated from this final address, and
blemishes he pruned away. In his earlier speeches he had been
limited by the demands of the particular question under
discussion, but in "The Barbarism of Slavery" he was free to deal
with the general subject, and he utilized incidents in American
slavery to demonstrate the general upward trend of history. The
orator was sustained by the full consciousness that his
utterances were in harmony with the grand sweep of historic truth
as well as with the spirit of the present age.

Sumner was not a party man and was at no time in complete harmony
with his coworkers. It was always a question whether his speeches
had a favorable effect upon the immediate action of Congress;
there can, however, be no doubt of the fact that the larger
public was edified and influenced. Copies of "The Crime against
Kansas" and "The Barbarism of Slavery" were printed and
circulated by the million and were eagerly read from beginning to
end. They gave final form to the thoughts and utterances of many
political leaders both in America and in Europe. More than any
other man it was Charles Sumner who, with a wealth of historical
learning and great skill in forensic art, put the irrepressible
conflict between slavery and freedom in its proper setting in
human history.


In view of the presidential election of 1856 Northern Democrats
entertained no doubts that Kansas, now occupied by a majority of
free-state men, would be received as a free State without further
ado. The case was different with the Democrats of western
Missouri, already for ten years in close touch with those
Southern leaders who were determined either to secure new
safeguards for slavery or to form an independent confederacy.
Their program was to continue their efforts to make Kansas a
slave State or at least to maintain the disturbance there until
the conditions appeared favorable for secession.

In February, 1857, the pro-slavery territorial Legislature
provided for the election of delegates to a constitutional
convention, but Governor Geary vetoed the act because no
provision was made for submitting the proposed constitution to
the vote of the people. The bill was passed over his veto, and
arrangements were made for registration which free-state men
regarded as imperfect, inadequate, or fraudulent.

President Buchanan undoubtedly intended to do full justice to the
people of Kansas. To this end he chose Robert J. Walker, a
Mississippi Democrat, as Governor of Kansas. Walker was a
statesman of high rank, who had been associated with Buchanan in
the Cabinet of James K. Polk. Three times he refused to accept
the office and finally undertook the mission only from a sense of
duty. Being aware of the fate of Governor Geary, Walker insisted
on an explicit understanding with Buchanan that his policies
should not be repudiated by the federal Administration. Late in
May he went to Kansas with high hopes and expectations. But the
free-state party had persisted in the repudiation of a Government
which had been first set up by an invading army and, as they
alleged, had since then been perpetuated by fraud. They had
absolutely refused to take part in any election called by that
Government and had continued to keep alive their own legislative
assembly. Despite Walker's efforts to persuade them to take part
in the election of delegates to the constitutional convention,
they resolutely held aloof. Yet, as they became convinced that he
was acting in good faith, they did participate in the October
elections to the territorial Legislature, electing nine out of
the thirteen councilors and twenty-four out of the thirty-nine
representatives. Gross frauds had been perpetrated in two
districts, and the Governor made good his promise by rejecting
the fraudulent votes. In one case a poll list had been made up by
copying an old Cincinnati register.

In the meantime, thanks to the abstention of the free-state
people, the pro-slavery party had secured absolute control of the
constitutional convention. Yet there was the most absolute
assurance by the Governor in the name of the President of the
United States that no constitution would be sent to Congress for
approval which had not received the sanction of a majority of the
voters of the Territory. This was Walker's reiterated promise,
and President Buchanan had on this point been equally explicit.

When, therefore, the pro-slavery constitutional convention met at
Lecompton in October, Kansas had a free-state Legislature duly
elected. To make Kansas still a slave State it was necessary to
get rid of that Legislature and of the Governor through whose
agency it had been chosen, and at the same time to frame a
constitution which would secure the approval of the Buchanan
Administration. Incredible as it may seem, all this was actually

John Calhoun, who had been chosen president of the Lecompton
convention, spent some time in Washington before the adjourned
meeting of the convention. He secured the aid of master-hands at
manipulation. Walker had already been discredited at the White
House on account of his rejection of fraudulent returns at the
October election of members to the Legislature. The convention
was unwilling to take further chances on a matter of that sort,
and it consequently made it a part of the constitution that the
president of the convention should have entire charge of the
election to be held for its approval. The free-state legislature
was disposed of by placing in the constitution a provision that
all existing laws should remain in force until the election of a
Legislature provided for under the constitution.

The master-stroke of the convention, however, was the provision
for submitting the constitution to the vote of the people. Voters
were not permitted to accept or reject the instrument; all votes
were to be for the constitution either "with slavery" or "with no
slavery." But the document itself recognized slavery as already
existing and declared the right of slave property like other
property "before and higher than any constitutional sanction."
Other provisions made emancipation difficult by providing in any
case for complete monetary remuneration and for the consent of
the owners. There were numerous other provisions offensive to
free-state men. It had been rightly surmised that they would take
no part in such an election and that "the constitution with
slavery" would be approved. The vote on the constitution was set
for the 21st of December. For the constitution with slavery 6226
votes were recorded and 569 for the constitution without slavery.

While these events were taking place, Walker went to Washington
to enter his protest but resigned after finding only a hostile
reception by the President and his Cabinet. Stanton, who was
acting Governor in the absence of Walker, then called together
the free-state Legislature, which set January 4, 1858, as the
date for approving or rejecting the Lecompton Constitution. At
this election the votes cast were 138 for the constitution with
slavery, 24 for the constitution without slavery, and 10,226
against the constitution. But President Buchanan had become
thoroughly committed to the support of the Lecompton
Constitution. Disregarding the advice of the new Governor, he
sent the Lecompton Constitution to Congress with the
recommendation that Kansas be admitted to the Union as a slave

Here was a crisis big with the fate of the Democratic party, if
not of the Union. Stephen A. Douglas had already given notice
that he would oppose the Lecompton Constitution. In favor of its
rejection he made a notable speech which called forth the
bitterest enmity from the South and arrayed all the forces of the
Administration against him. Supporters of Douglas were removed
from office, and anti-Douglas men were put in their places. In
his fight against the fraudulent constitution Douglas himself,
however, still had the support of a majority of Northern
Democrats, especially in the Western States, and that of all the
Republicans in Congress. A bill to admit Kansas passed the
Senate, but in the House a proviso was attached requiring that
the constitution should first be submitted to the people of
Kansas for acceptance or rejection. This amendment was finally
accepted by the Senate with the modification that, if the people
voted for the constitution, the State should have a large
donation of public land, but that if they rejected it, they
should not be admitted as a State until they had a population
large enough to entitle them to a representative in the lower
House. The vote of the people was cast on August 2, 1858, and the
constitution was finally rejected by a majority of nearly twelve
thousand. Thus resulted the last effort to impose slavery on the
people of Kansas.

Although the war between slavery and freedom was fought out in
miniature in Kansas, the immediate issue was the preservation of
slavery in Missouri. This, however, involved directly the
prospect of emancipation in other border States and ultimate
complete emancipation in all the States. The issue is well stated
in a Fourth of July address which Charles Robinson delivered at
Lawrence, Kansas, in 1855, after the invasion of Missourians to
influence the March election of that year, but before the
beginning of bloody conflict:

"What reason is given for the cowardly invasion of our rights by
our neighbors? They say that if Kansas is allowed to be free the
institution of slavery in their own State will be in danger ....
If the people of Missouri make it necessary, by their unlawful
course, for us to establish freedom in that State in order to
enjoy the liberty of governing ourselves in Kansas, then let that
be the issue. If Kansas and the whole North must be enslaved, or
Missouri become free, then let her be made free. Aye! and if to
be free ourselves, slavery must be abolished in the whole
country, then let us accept that due. If black slavery in a part
of the States is incompatible with white freedom in any State,
then let black slavery be abolished from all. As men espousing
the principles of the Declaration of the Fathers, we can do
nothing else than accept these issues."

The men who saved Kansas to freedom were not abolitionists in the
restricted sense. Governor Walker found in 1857 that a
considerable majority of the free-state men were Democrats and
that some were from the South. Nearly all actual settlers, from
whatever source they came, were free-state men who felt that a
slave was a burden in such a country as Kansas. For example,
during the first winter of the occupation of Kansas, an owner of
nineteen slaves was himself forced to work like a trooper to keep
them from freezing; and, indeed, one of them did freeze to death
and another was seriously injured.

In spite of all the advertising of opportunity and all the
pressure brought to bear upon Southerners to settle in Kansas, at
no time did the number of slaves in the Territory reach three
hundred. The climate and the soil made for freedom, and the
Governors were not the only persons who were converted to
free-state principles by residence in the Territory.


The decision and arguments of the Supreme Court upon the Dred
Scott case were published on March 6, 1857, two days after the
inauguration of President Buchanan. The decision had been agreed
upon many months before, and the appeal of the negro, Dred Scott,
had been decided by rulings which in no way involved the validity
of the Missouri Compromise. Nevertheless, a majority of the
judges determined to give to the newly developed theory of John
C. Calhoun the appearance of the sanctity of law. According to
Chief Justice Taney's dictum, those who made the Constitution
gave to those clauses defining the power of Congress over the
Territories an erroneous meaning. On numerous occasions Congress
had by statute excluded slavery from the public domain. This, in
the judgment of the Chief Justice, they had no right to do, and
such legislation was unconstitutional and void. Specifically the
Missouri Compromise had never had any binding force as law.
Property in slaves was as sacred as property in any other form,
and slave-owners had equal claim with other property owners to
protection in all the Territories of the United States. Neither
Congress nor a territorial Legislature could infringe such equal

According to popular understanding, the Supreme Court declared
"that the negro has no rights which the white man is bound to
respect." But Chief Justice Taney did not use these words merely
as an expression of his own or of the Court's opinion. He used
them in a way much more contemptible and inexcusable to the minds
of men of strong anti-slavery convictions. He put them into the
mouths of the fathers of the Republic, who wrote the Declaration

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