Abraham Lincoln: A History, Volume 2 by John George Nicolay and John Hay

Produced by MBP, papeters, Beth Trapaga and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. ABRAHAM LINCOLN A HISTORY BY JOHN G. NICOLAY AND JOHN HAY VOLUME TWO New York The Century Co. 1890 ILLUSTRATIONS VOL. II ABRAHAM LINCOLN (_Frontispiece_) From an ambrotype taken for Marcus L. Ward (afterwards Governor of New Jersey) in Springfield, Ill., May 20,
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  • 1890
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Produced by MBP, papeters, Beth Trapaga and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.






New York
The Century Co.



ABRAHAM LINCOLN (_Frontispiece_)
From an ambrotype taken for Marcus L. Ward (afterwards Governor of New Jersey) in Springfield, Ill., May 20, 1860, two days after Mr. Lincoln’s nomination.

From a photograph taken, in 1866, by Draper and Husted.

From a daguerreotype.

From a daguerreotype.

From a daguerreotype.

From a photograph.

From a daguerreotype.

From a photograph by Brady.

From a painting by D.C. Fabronius, after a photograph by Brady.

From a photograph by William Shaw.

From a daguerreotype.

From a photograph by Brady.

From a photograph by J.W. Black & Co.


From a photograph by Brady.

From a photograph by Cook.

From a daguerreotype taken about 1850, lent by Anson Maltby.


From a photograph by Brady.

From a photograph by Brady.


From a photograph by Brady.

From a photograph by Brady.

From a photograph by Brady.

From a photograph.

From a photograph by Brady.




Civil War in Kansas. Guerrillas dispersed by Colonel Sumner. General P.F. Smith supersedes Sumner. Governor Shannon Removed. Missouri River Blockaded. Jefferson Davis’s Instructions on Rebellion. Acting-Governor Woodson Proclaims the Territory in Insurrection. Report of General Smith. John W. Geary Appointed Governor. Inaugural Address. His Military Proclamations and Measures. Colonel Cooke’s “Cannon” Argument. Hickory Point Skirmish. Imprisonment of Free State Men. End of Guerrilla War. Removal and Flight of Governor Geary.


Formation of the Republican Party in Illinois. The Decatur Convention. Action of the “Know-Nothing” Party. Nomination of Fillmore and Donelson. Democrats of Illinois Nominate William A. Richardson for Governor. The Davis-Bissell Challenge. The Bloomington Convention. Bissell Nominated for Governor. Lincoln’s Speech at Bloomington. The Pittsburgh Convention. The Philadelphia Convention. Nomination of Fremont and Dayton. The Philadelphia Platform. Lincoln Proposed for Vice-President. The Cincinnati Convention. The Cincinnati Platform. Nomination of Buchanan and Breckinridge. Buchanan Elected President. Bissell Elected Governor. Lincoln’s Campaign Speeches.


Sumner’s Senate Speech on Kansas. Brooks’s Assault on Sumner. Action of the Senate. Action of the House. Resignation and Reelection of Brooks. Wilson Challenged. Brooks Challenges Burlingame. Sumner’s Malady. Reelection of Sumner. Death of Butler and Brooks. Sumner’s Re-appearance in the Senate.


The Dred Scott Case. Its Origin. The Law of Slavery. Preliminary Decisions of the Case. Appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Case Twice Argued. Opinion of Justice Nelson. Political Conditions. Mr. Buchanan’s Announcement. The Dred Scott Decision. Opinions by all the Judges. Opinion of the Court. Dred Scott Declared Not a Citizen. Slavery Prohibition Declared Unconstitutional. Language of Chief-Justice Taney. Dissenting Opinions.


Political Effects of the Dred Scott Decision. Douglas’s Springfield Speech on the Dred Scott Decision. He Indorses Chief-Justice Taney’s Opinion. Freeport Doctrine Foreshadowed. Lincoln’s Speech in Reply to Douglas. Uses of Judicial Decisions. Prospects of the Colored Race in the United States, Principles of the Declaration of Independence.


Constitutional Convention Called by the Legislature. Resignation and Flight of Governor Geary. Walker Appointed Governor. Promises of Buchanan and his Cabinet. Walker’s Kansas Policy. Action of the Free-State Mass Meeting. Pro-slavery Convention at Lecompton. Election of Delegates. Governor Walker favors Submission of the Constitution to Popular Vote. Protests from Southern States. The Walker-Buchanan Correspondence. Lecompton Constitutional Convention. The October Election. The Oxford and McGee Frauds. The Lecompton Constitution. Extra Session of the Legislature. Secretary Stanton’s Removal. Governor Walker’s Resignation.


Douglas’s Quarrel with Buchanan. Buchanan’s Silliman Letter. His Annual Message. Douglas’s Speech on Lecompton. Lecompton Constitution Declared Adopted. Buchanan’s Special Message. The Pro-slavery Reaction. Buchanan’s Views on Cuba. The Lecompton Constitution in Congress. The Crittenden-Montgomery Substitute. The English Bill. The Opposition of Douglas. The Administration Organ.


Growing Republican Chances. Illinois Politics in 1858. Candidates for Senator. The Senatorial Campaign. Lincoln’s “House Divided Against Itself” Speech. Republican Sympathy for Douglas. Horace Greeley’s Attitude. Lincoln on Greeley and Seward. Correspondence Between Lincoln and Crittenden. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates.


The Debate at Ottawa. The Debate at Freeport. The Freeport Doctrine. Benjamin’s Speech on Douglas. The November Election, Douglas Reelected Senator. Cause of Lincoln’s Defeat. Lincoln’s Letters on the Result. Douglas Removed from the Chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Territories.


Douglas’s Tour Through the South. His Advanced Views on Slavery. Senate Discussion Between Brown and Douglas. Douglas’s Letter to Dorr. Lincoln’s Growing Prominence. Lincoln’s Correspondence with Schuyler Colfax. Letter to Canisius. Letter to Pierce and Others. Douglas’s “Harper’s Magazine” Article. Lincoln’s Ohio Speeches. The Douglas-Black Controversy. Publication of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.


John Brown. His Part in the Kansas Civil War. His Plan of Slave Liberation. Pikes and Recruits. The Peterboro Council. The Chatham Meeting. Change of Plan. Harper’s Ferry. Brown’s Campaign. Colonel Lee, and the U.S. Marines. Capture of Brown. His Trial and Execution. The Senate Investigation. Public Opinion. Lincoln on John Brown. Speakership Contest. Election of William Pennington.


Lincoln Invited to Lecture in New York. The Meeting in Cooper Institute. Public Interest in the Speaker. Lincoln’s Speech. His Definition of “The Question.” Historical Analysis. His Admonition to the South. The Right and Wrong of Slavery. The Duty of the Free States. Criticisms of the Address. Speeches in New England.


The Democratic Party. Its National Convention at Charleston. Sentiments of the Delegates. Differences North, and South. Douglas as a Candidate. The Jefferson Davis Senate Resolutions. Caleb Cushing made Chairman. The Platform Committee. Majority and Minority Reports. Speech of William L. Yancey. Speech of Senator Pugh. Speech of Senator Bigler. Second Majority and Minority Reports. Minority Report Adopted. Cotton State Delegates Secede. Yancey’s Prophecy.


Nomination of Douglas Impossible. Charleston Convention adjourned to Baltimore. Seceders’ Convention in St. Andrew’s Hall. Adjourns to meet at Richmond. Address of Southern Senators. The Davis-Douglas Debate. Charleston Convention Reassembles at Baltimore. A Second Disruption. Nomination of Douglas. Nomination of Breckinridge. The Constitutional Union Convention. Nomination of John Bell.


The Republican Party. The Chicago Convention. Lincoln’s Fairness to Rivals. Chances of the Campaign. The Pivotal States. The Wigwam. Organization of the Convention. Chicago Platform. Contrast between the Charleston and Chicago Conventions. The Balloting. Lincoln Nominated for President. Hamlin Nominated for Vice-President.


The Presidential Campaign. Parties, Candidates, and Platforms. Pledges to the Union. The Democratic Schism. Douglas’s Campaign Tour. The “Illinois Rail-splitter.” The “Wide Awakes.” Lincoln during the Canvass. Letters about “Know-Nothings.” Fusion. The Vote of Maine. The October States. The Election. The Electoral College. The Presidential Count. Lincoln Declared Elected.


Early Disunion Sentiment. Nullification. The Agitation of 1850. The Conspiracy of 1856. The “Scarlet Letter.” “The 1860 Association.” Governor Gist’s Letter to Southern Governors. Replies to Governor Gist. Conspiracy at Washington.


Mr. Buchanan’s Cabinet. Extracts from Floyd’s Diary. Cabinet Conferences on Disunion. The Drayton-Gist Correspondence. Mr. Trescott’s Letters. Floyd’s Sale of Arms. Secretary Thompson’s Mission. Jefferson Davis and the Governor of Mississippi. Jefferson Davis and President Buchanan’s Message.


Governor Gist’s Proclamation. Caucus of South Carolinians. Governor Gist’s Message. The Disunion Cult. Presidential Electors Chosen. Effect of Lincoln’s Election. Disunion Sentiment. Military Appropriation. Convention Bill Passed. Charleston Mass-Meeting.


Buchanan and Secession. General Scott and Nullification. “Views” Addressed to the President. The President’s Criticism. Scott’s Rejoinder. The Charleston Forts. Foster’s Requisition. Colonel Gardner asks for Reenforcements. Fitz-John Porter’s Inspection Report. Gardner Relieved from Command. Anderson sent to Charleston.


Anderson’s Arrival at Charleston. His Tour of Inspection. Report to the War Department. The Forts and the Harbor. Anderson asks reenforcements. Discouraging Reply from Washington. Insurrectionary Sentiment in Charleston. Floyd’s Instructions to Anderson. Colonel Huger. Anderson’s Visit to the Mayor of Charleston.


Mr. Buchanan’s Opportunity. Cabinet Opinions on Disunion. Advice to the President in Preparing his Message. The Message. Arguments on Slavery. Recommends a National Convention. Arguments on Disunion. The Powers and Duties of Congress. Coercion Denied. Criticisms of the Message.


Debate on the Message. Adverse Criticisms. Buchanan’s Doctrines and Policy. Movements of Secession. South Carolina Legislation. Magrath’s Comments. Non-Coercion and Coercion. Fort Moultrie. Intrigue for its Capture. Governor Gist’s Letter. South Carolina’s Complaints and Demands.


Return of the _Brooklyn_. The President’s Interview with the South Carolina Delegation. Mr. Buchanan’s Truce. Major Buell’s Visit to Anderson. The Buell Memorandum. Character of Instructions.


Failure of the Concession Policy. Movements towards Secession. Resignation of Secretary Cobb. Cobb’s Secession Address. Resignation of Secretary Cass. The Buchanan-Floyd Incident. The Conspirators advise Buchanan. Cass demands Reenforcements. The Cass-Buchanan Correspondence.


Secession Debates in the Senate. Speeches of Clingman, Brown, Iverson, Wigfall, Mason, Jefferson Davis, Hale, Crittenden, Pugh, Douglas. Powell’s Motion for a Select Committee. Speeches of King, Collamer, Foster, Green, Wade. Senate Committee of Thirteen Appointed.


The President’s Message in the House. Compromise Efforts. Motion to Appoint a Committee of Thirty-Three. Committee Appointed. Corwin made Chairman. Sickles’s Speech. Vallandigham’s Speech. McClernand’s Speech. Compromise Propositions. Jenkins’s Plan. Noell’s Plan. Andrew Johnson’s Plan. Vallandigham’s Plan.


Hopes of Compromise. Party Pledges to the Union. President Buchanan’s Advice. Nullification and Secession. Estrangement between North and South. Cabinet Treachery and Intrigue. The Congressional Debates. Compromise Committees. The Conspirators’ Strategy. Elements of Disturbance. Hopes of Peaceable Secession. Dunn’s Resolution. Mr. Buchanan’s Proclamation. Secession Proclaimed.


Captain Foster. His Arrival in Charleston. Condition of Fort Moultrie. Temporary Defenses. Foster Requests Forty Muskets. The Question of Arming Workmen. Foster Receives Forty Muskets. Their Return Demanded. The Alleged Charleston Excitement. Floyd Orders the Muskets Returned. Foster’s Compliance and Comment.



[Sidenote] Sumner to Howard, May 16, 1856. Ibid., p. 37.

[Sidenote] Shannon to Sumner, May 21, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 38.

[Sidenote] 1856.

[Sidenote] Shannon to Sumner, June 4, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 45.

While the town of Lawrence was undergoing burning and pillage, Governor Shannon wrote to Colonel Sumner to say that as the marshal and sheriff had finished making their arrests, and he presumed had by that time dismissed the posse, he required a company of United States troops to be stationed at Lawrence to secure “the safety of the citizens in both, person and property,” asking also a like company for Lecompton and Topeka. The next day the citizens of Lawrence had the opportunity to smother their indignation when they saw the embers of the Free-State Hotel and the scattered fragments of their printing-presses patrolled and “protected” by the Federal dragoons whose presence they had vainly implored a few days before. It was time the Governor should move. The guerrilla bands with their booty spread over the country, and the free-State men rose in a spirit of fierce retaliation. Assassinations, house-burnings, expulsions, and skirmishes broke out in all quarters. The sudden shower of lawlessness fell on the just and the unjust; and, forced at last to deal out equal protection, the Governor (June 4) issued his proclamation directing military organizations to disperse, “without regard to party names, or distinctions,”[1] and empowering Colonel Sumner to enforce the order.

[Sidenote] Sumner to Cooper, June 23, 1856. Ibid., p. 50.

[Sidenote] Sumner to Cooper, August 11, 1856. Ibid., p. 59.

That careful and discreet officer, who had from the first counseled this policy, at once proceeded to execute the command with his characteristic energy. He disarmed and dispersed the free-State guerrillas,–John Brown’s among the earliest,–liberated prisoners, drove the Missourians, including delegate Whitfield and General Coffee of the skeleton militia, back across their State line, and stationed five companies along the border to prevent their return. He was so fortunate as to accomplish all this without bloodshed. “I do not think,” he wrote, June 23, “there is an armed body of either party now in the Territory, with the exception perhaps of a few freebooters.” The colonel found very soon that he was only too efficient and faithful. “My measures have necessarily borne hard against both parties,” wrote Sumner to the War Department, “for both have in many instances been more or less wrong. The Missourians were perfectly satisfied so long as the troops were employed exclusively against the free-State party; but when they found that I would be strictly impartial, that lawless mobs could no longer come from Missouri, and that their interference with the affairs of Kansas was brought to an end, then they immediately raised a hue and cry that they were oppressed by the United States troops.” The complaint had its usual prompt effect at Washington. By orders dated June 27 the colonel was superseded in his command, and Brigadier-General P.F. Smith was sent to Leavenworth. Known to be pro-slavery in his opinions, great advantage was doubtless expected by the conspiracy from this change. But General Smith was an invalid, and incapable of active service, and so far as the official records show, the army officers and troops in Kansas continued to maintain a just impartiality.

[Sidenote] 1856.

The removal of Governor Shannon a few weeks after Colonel Sumner once more made Secretary Woodson, always a willing instrument of the conspiracy, acting Governor. It was under this individual’s promptings and proclamation, Shannon being absent from the Territory, that Colonel Sumner, before the arrival of the orders superseding him, forcibly dispersed the free-State Legislature on the 4th of July, as narrated. For this act the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, was not slow to send the colonel an implied censure, perhaps to justify his removal from command; but not a word of reproof went from President or Secretary of State to the acting Governor.

It has already been stated that for a considerable length of time after the organization of Kansas Territory the Missouri River was its principal highway of approach from the States. To anti-slavery men who were unwilling to conceal their sentiments, this had from the very first been a route of difficulty and danger. Now that political strife culminated in civil war, the Missourians established a complete practical blockade of the river against the Northern men and Northern goods. Recently, however, the Northern emigration to Kansas had gradually found a new route through Iowa and Nebraska.

It was about this time that great consternation was created in pro-slavery circles by the report that Lane had arrived at the Iowa border with a “Northern army,” exaggerated into fabulous numbers, intent upon fighting his way to Kansas. Parties headed by Lane and others and aggregating some hundreds had in fact so arrived, and were more or less provided with arms, though they had no open military organization. While spies and patrols were on the lookout for marching companies and regiments, they, concealing their arms, quietly slipped down in detached parties to Lawrence. Thus reenforced and inspirited, the free-State men took the aggressive, and by several bold movements broke up a number of pro-slavery camps and gatherings. Greatly exaggerated reports of these affairs were promptly sent to the neighboring Missouri counties, and the Border Ruffians rose for a third invasion of Kansas.

Governor Shannon, not yet notified of his removal, reported to General Smith that Lecompton was threatened with an attack. General Smith, becoming alarmed, called together all his available force for the protection of the territorial capital, and reported the exigency to the War Department. All the hesitation which had hitherto characterized the instructions of Jefferson Davis, the Secretary of War, in the use of troops otherwise than as an officer’s posse, instantly vanished. The whole Kansas militia was placed under the orders of General Smith, and requisitions were issued for two regiments from Illinois and two from Kentucky. “The position of the insurgents,” wrote the Secretary, “as shown by your letter and its inclosures, is that of open rebellion against the laws and constitutional authorities, with such manifestation of a purpose to spread devastation over the land as no longer justifies further hesitation or indulgence. To you, as to every soldier, whose habitual feeling is to protect the citizens of his own country, and only to use his arms against a public enemy, it cannot be otherwise than deeply painful to be brought into conflict with any portion of his fellow-countrymen. But patriotism and humanity alike require that rebellion should be promptly crushed, and the perpetration of the crimes which now disturb the peace and security of the good people of the Territory of Kansas should be effectually checked. You will therefore energetically employ all the means within your reach to restore the supremacy of the law, always endeavoring to carry out your present purpose to prevent the unnecessary effusion of blood.”[2]

The Secretary had probably cast his eye upon the Platte County battle-call in the “Weston Argus Extra,” which formed one of the general’s inclosures: “So sudden and unexpected has been the attack of the abolitionists that the law-and-order party was unprepared to effectually resist them. To-day the bogus free-State government, we understand, is to assemble at Topeka. The issue is distinctly made up; either the free-State or pro-slavery party is to have Kansas…. Citizens of Platte County! the war is upon you, and at your very doors. Arouse yourselves to speedy vengeance and rub out the bloody traitors.”[3]

[Sidenote] Woodson, proclamation, Aug. 25, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 80.

It was perhaps well that the pro-slavery zeal of General Smith was less ardent than that of Secretary Jefferson Davis, or the American civil war might have begun in Lawrence instead of Charleston. Upon fuller information and more mature reflection, the General found that he had no need of either the four regiments from Illinois and Kentucky, or Border-Ruffian mobs led by skeleton militia generals, neither of which he had asked for. Both the militia generals and the Missourians were too eager even to wait for an official call. General Richardson ordered out his whole division on the strength of the “Argus Extra” and neighborhood reports,[4] and the entire border was already in motion when acting Governor Woodson issued his proclamation declaring the Territory “to be in a state of open insurrection and rebellion.” General Smith found it necessary to direct his first orders against the Border-Ruffian invaders themselves. “It has been rumored for several days,” he wrote to his second in command, “that large numbers of persons from the State of Missouri have entered Kansas, at various points, armed, with the intention of attacking the opposite party and driving them from the Territory, the latter being also represented to be in considerable force. If it should come to your knowledge that either side is moving upon the other with the view to attack, it will become your duty to observe their movements and prevent such hostile collisions.”[5]

[Sidenote] Woodson to Cooke, Sept. 1, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., pp. 90, 91.

[Sidenote] Cooke to Woodson, Sept. 1, 1856. Ibid., pp. 91, 92.

Lieutenant-Colonel P. St. George Cooke, upon whom this active field work devolved, because of the General’s ill health, concentrated his little command between Lawrence and Lecompton, where he could to some extent exert a salutary check upon the main bodies of both parties, and where he soon had occasion to send a remonstrance to the acting Governor that his “militia” was ransacking and burning houses.[6] To the acting Governor’s mind, such a remonstrance was not a proper way to suppress rebellion. He, therefore, sent Colonel Cooke a requisition to invest the town of Topeka, disarm the insurrectionists, hold them as prisoners, level their fortifications, and intercept aggressive invaders on “Lane’s trail”; all of which demands the officer prudently and politely declined, replying that he was there to assist in serving judicial process, and not to make war on the town of Topeka.

If, as had been alleged, General Smith was at first inclined to regard the pro-slavery side with favor, its arrogance and excesses soon removed his prejudices, and he wrote an unsparing report of the situation to the War Department. “In explanation of the position of affairs, lately and now, I may remark that there are more than two opposing parties in the Territory. The citizens of the Territory who formed the majority in the organization of the territorial government, and in the elections for its Legislature and inferior officers, form one party. The persons who organized a State government, and attempted to put it in operation against the authority of that established by Congress, form another. A party, at the head of which is a former Senator from Missouri, and which is composed in a great part of citizens from that State, who have come into this Territory armed, under the excitement produced by reports exaggerated in all cases, and in many absolutely false, form the third. There is a fourth, composed of idle men congregated from various parts, who assume to arrest, punish, exile, and even kill all those whom they assume to be bad citizens; that is, those who will not join them or contribute to their maintenance. Every one of these has in his own peculiar way (except some few of the first party) thrown aside all regard to law, and even honesty, and the Territory under their sway is ravaged from one end to the other…. Until the day before yesterday I was deficient in force to operate against all these at once; and the acting Governor of the Territory did not seem to me to take a right view of affairs. If Mr. Atchison and his party had had the direction of affairs, they could not have ordered them more to suit his purpose.”[7]

All such truth and exposure of the conspiracy, however, was unpalatable at Washington; and Secretary Jefferson Davis, while approving the conduct of Colonel Cooke and expressing confidence in General Smith, nevertheless curtly indorsed upon his report: “The only distinction of parties which in a military point of view it is necessary to note is that which distinguishes those who respect and maintain the laws and organized government from those who combine for revolutionary resistance to the constitutional authorities and laws of the land. The armed combinations of the latter class come within the denunciation of the President’s proclamation and are proper subjects upon which to employ the military force.”[8]

[Sidenote] “Washington Union,” August 1, 1856.

Such was the state of affairs when the third Governor of Kansas, newly appointed by President Pierce, arrived in the Territory. The Kansas pro-slavery cabal had upon the dismissal of Shannon fondly hoped that one of their own clique, either Secretary Woodson or Surveyor-General John Calhoun, would be made executive, and had set on foot active efforts in that direction. In principle and purpose they enjoyed the abundant sympathy of the Pierce Administration; but as the presidential election of 1856 was at hand, the success of the Democratic party could not at the moment be endangered by so open and defiant an act of partisanship. It was still essential to placate the wounded anti-slavery sensibilities of the Northern States, and to this end John W. Geary, of Pennsylvania, was nominated by the President and unanimously confirmed by the Senate. He was a man of character and decision, had gone to the Mexican war as a volunteer captain, and had been made a colonel and intrusted with an important command for merit. Afterwards he had served as postmaster, as alcalde, and as mayor of the city of San Francisco in the turbulent gold excitements of 1848-9, and was made a funding commissioner by the California Legislature. Both by nature and experience, therefore, he seemed well fitted to subdue the civil commotions of Kansas.

[Sidenote] Gihon, p. 131.

But the pro-slavery leaders of the Territory were very far from relishing or desiring qualifications of this character. In one of their appeals calling upon the Missourians for “assistance in men, provisions, and munitions, that we may drive out the ‘Army of the North,'” they had given the President and the public a piece of their mind about this appointment. “We have asked the appointment of a successor,” said they, “who was acquainted with our condition,” with “the capacity to appreciate and the boldness and integrity requisite faithfully to discharge his duty regardless of the possible effect it might have upon the election of some petty politician in a distant State. In his stead we have one appointed who is ignorant of our condition, a stranger to our people; who, we have too much cause to fear, will, if no worse, prove no more efficient to protect us than his predecessors…. We cannot await the convenience in coming of our newly appointed Governor. We cannot hazard a second edition of imbecility or corruption!”

Animated by such a spirit, they now bent all their energies upon concentrating a sufficient force in Kansas to crush the free-State men before the new Governor could interfere. Acting Governor Woodson had by proclamation declared the Territory in a state of “open insurrection and rebellion,”[9] and the officers of the skeleton militia were hurriedly enrolling the Missourians, giving them arms, and planting them in convenient camps for a final and decisive campaign.

[Sidenote] Gihon, p. 104.

[Sidenote] Gihon, pp. 104-6.

It was on September 9, 1856, that Governor Geary and his party landed at Leavenworth. Even on his approach he had already been compelled to note and verify the evidences of civil war. He had met Governor Shannon fleeing from the Territory, who drew for him a direful picture of the official inheritance to which he had come. While this interview took place, during the landing of the boat at Glasgow, a company of sixty Missouri Border Ruffians was embarking, with wagons, arms, and cannon, and with the open declaration that they were bound for Kansas to hunt and kill “abolitionists.” Similar belligerent preparations were in progress at all the river towns they touched. At Kansas City the vigilance committee of the blockade boarded and searched the boat for concealed “abolitionists.” Finally arrived at Leavenworth, the Governor saw a repetition of the same scenes–parades and military control in the streets, fugitives within the inclosure of the fort, and minor evidences of lawlessness and terror.

[Sidenote] Geary to Marcy, Sept. 9, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. II., p. 88.

Governor Geary went at once to the fort, where he spent the day in consultation with General Smith. That same evening he wrote to W.L. Marcy, Secretary of State, a report of the day’s impressions which was anything but reassuring–Leavenworth in the hands of armed men committing outrages under the shadow of authority; theft and murder in the streets and on the highways; farms plundered and deserted; agitation, excitement, and utter insecurity everywhere, and the number of troops insufficient to compel peace and order. All this was not the worst, however. Deep in the background stood the sinister apparition of the Atchison cabal. “I find,” wrote he, “that I have not simply to contend against bands of armed ruffians and brigands whose sole aim and end is assassination and robbery–infatuated adherents and advocates of conflicting political sentiments and local institutions–and evil-disposed persons actuated by a desire to obtain elevated positions; but worst of all, against the influence of men who have been placed in authority and have employed all the destructive agents around them to promote their own personal interests at the sacrifice of every just, honorable, and lawful consideration…. Such is the condition of Kansas faintly pictured…. In making the foregoing statements I have endeavored to give the truth and nothing but the truth. I deem it important that you should be apprised of the actual state of the case; and whatever may be the effect of such revelations, they will be given from time to time without extenuation.”

[Sidenote] Geary, proclamation, Sept. 11, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. II., pp. 93-4.

[Sidenote] Geary to Marcy, Sept. 12, 1856. Ibid., p. 95.

Discouraging as he found his new task of administration, Governor Geary grappled with it in a spirit of justice and decision. The day following his interview with General Smith found him at Lecompton, the capital of the Territory, where the other territorial officials, Woodson, Calhoun, Donaldson, Sheriff Jones, Lecompte, Cato, and others, constituted the ever-vigilant working force of the Atchison cabal, precisely as had been so truthfully represented to him by General Smith, and as he had so graphically described in his letter to Marcy of the day before. Paying little heed to their profusely offered advice, he adhered to his determination to judge for himself, and at once issued an inaugural address, declaring that in his official action he would do justice at all hazards, that he desired to know no party and no section, and imploring the people to bury their past strifes, and devote themselves to peace, industry, and the material development of the Territory.[10] As an evidence of his earnestness he simultaneously issued two proclamations, one disbanding the volunteer or Missouri militia lately called into service by acting Governor Woodson, and the other commanding the immediate enrollment of the true citizen militia of Kansas Territory, this step being taken by the advice of General Smith.

He soon found that he could not govern Kansas with paper proclamations alone. His sudden arrival at this particular juncture was evidently an unexpected _contretemps_. While he was preaching and printing his sage admonitions about peace and prosperity at Lecompton, and laboring to change the implements of civil war into plowshares and pruning-hooks, the Missouri raid against Lawrence, officially called into the field by Woodson’s proclamation, was about to deal out destruction to that town. A thousand Border Ruffians (at least two eye-witnesses say 2500), led by their recognized Missouri chiefs, were at that moment camped within striking distance of the hated “New Boston.” Their published address, which declared that “these traitors, assassins, and robbers must now be punished, must now be taught a lesson they will remember,” that “Lane’s army and its allies must be expelled from the Territory,” left no doubt of their errand.

This news reached Governor Geary about midnight of his second day in Lecompton. One of the brigadiers of the skeleton militia was apparently in command, and not yet having caught the cue of the Governor’s intentions, reported the force for orders, “in the field, ready for duty, and impatient to act.”[11] At about the same hour the Governor received a message from the agent he had sent to Lawrence to distribute copies of his inaugural, that the people of that town were arming and preparing to receive and repel this contemplated attack of the Missourians. He was dumfounded at the information; his promises and policy, upon which, the ink was not yet dry, were already in jeopardy. Instead of bringing peace his advent was about to open war.

In this contingency the Governor took his measures with true military promptness. He immediately dispatched to the Missouri camp Secretary Woodson with copies of his inaugural, and the adjutant-general of the Territory with orders to disband and muster out of service the Missouri volunteers,[12] while he himself, at the head of three hundred dragoons and a light battery, moved rapidly to Lawrence, a distance of twelve miles. Entering that town at sunrise, he found a few hundred men hastily organized for defense in the improvised intrenchments and barricades about the place, ready enough to sell their lives, but vastly more willing to intrust their protection to the Governor’s authority and the Federal troops.[13] They listened to his speech and readily promised to obey his requirements.

Since the Missourians had officially reported themselves to him as subject to his orders, the Governor supposed that his injunctions, conveyed to them in writing and print, and borne by the secretary and the adjutant-general of the Territory, would suffice to send them back at once to their own borders, and he returned to Lecompton to take up his thorny duties of administration. Though forewarned by ex-Governor Shannon and by General Smith, Governor Geary did not yet realize the temper and purpose of either the cabal conspirators or the Border-Ruffian rank and file. He had just dispatched a military force in another direction to intercept and disarm a raid about to be made by a detachment of Lane’s men, when news came to him that the Missourians were still moving upon Lawrence, in increased force, that his officers had not yet delivered his orders, and that skirmishing had begun between the outposts.

[Sidenote] D.W. Wilder, “Annals of Kansas,” p. 108. Gihon, p. 152.

Menaced thus with dishonor on one side and contempt on the other, he gathered all his available Federal troops, and hurrying forward posted them between Lawrence and the invaders. Then he went to the Missouri camp, where the true condition of affairs began to dawn upon him. All the Border-Ruffian chiefs were there, headed by Atchison in person, who was evidently the controlling spirit, though a member of the Legislature of the State of Missouri, named Reid, exercised nominal command. He found his orders unheeded and on every hand mutterings of impatience and threats of defiance. These invading aliens had not the least disposition to receive commands as Kansas militia; they invoked that name only as a cloak to shield them from the legal penalties due their real character as organized banditti.

The Governor called the chiefs together and made them an earnest harangue. He explained to them his conciliatory policy, read his instructions from Washington, affirmed his determination to keep peace, and appealed personally to Atchison to aid him in enforcing law and preserving order. That wily chief, seeing that refusal would put him in the attitude of a law-breaker, feigned a ready compliance, and he and Reid, his factotum commander, made eloquent speeches “calculated to produce submission to the legal demands made upon them.”[14] Some of the lesser captains, however, were mutinous, and treated the Governor to choice bits of Border-Ruffian rhetoric. Law and violence vibrated in uncertain balance, when Colonel Cooke, commanding the Federal troops, took the floor and cut the knot of discussion in a summary way. “I felt called upon to say some words myself,” he writes naively, “appealing to these militia officers as an old resident of Kansas and friend to the Missourians to submit to the patriotic demand that they should retire, assuring them of my perfect confidence in the inflexible justice of the Governor, and that it would become my painful duty to sustain him at the cannon’s mouth.”[15] This argument was decisive. The border chiefs felt willing enough to lead their awkward squads against the slight barricades of Lawrence, but quailed at the unlooked-for prospect of encountering the carbines and sabers of half a regiment of regular dragoons and the grape-shot of a well-drilled light battery. They accepted the inevitable; and swallowing their rage but still nursing their revenge, they consented perforce to retire and be “honorably” mustered out. But for this narrow contingency Lawrence would have been sacked a second time by the direct agency of the territorial cabal.

[Illustration: GENERAL JOHN W. GEARY.]

[Sidenote] Examination, Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. II., pp. 156-69.

Nothing could more forcibly demonstrate the unequal character of the contest between the slave-State and the free-State men in Kansas, even in these manoeuvres and conflicts of civil war, than the companion exploit to this third Lawrence raid. The day before Governor Geary, seconded by the “cannon” argument of Colonel Cooke, was convincing the reluctant Missourians that it was better to accept, as a reward for their unfinished expedition, the pay, rations, and honorable discharge of a “muster out,” rather than the fine, imprisonment, or halter to which the full execution of their design would render them liable, another detachment of Federal dragoons was enforcing the bogus laws upon a company of free-State men who had just had a skirmish with a detachment of this same invading army of Border Ruffians, at a place called Hickory Point. The encounter itself had all the usual characteristics of the dozens of similar affairs which occurred during this prolonged period of border warfare–a neighborhood feud; neighborhood violence; the appearance of organized bands for retaliation; the taking of forage, animals, and property; the fortifying of two or three log-houses by a pro-slavery company then on its way to join in the Lawrence attack, and finally the appearance of a more numerous free-State party to dislodge them. The besieging column, some 350 in number, had brought up a brass four-pounder, lately captured from the pro-slavery men, and with this and their rifles kept up a long-range fire for about six hours, when the garrison of Border Ruffians capitulated on condition of being allowed “honorably” to evacuate their stronghold and retire. The casualties were one man killed and several wounded.

[Sidenote] Gihon, p. 158.

[Sidenote] Record of examination, Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. II., pp. 156-9.

The rejoicing of the free-State men over this not too brilliant victory was short-lived. Returning home in separate squads, they were successively intercepted by the Federal dragoons acting as a posse to the Deputy United States Marshal,[16] who arrested them on civil writs obtained in haste by an active member of the territorial cabal, and to the number of eighty-nine[17] were taken prisoners to Lecompton. So far the affair had been of such frequent occurrence as to have become commonplace–a frontier “free fight,” as they themselves described and regarded it. But now it took on a remarkable aspect. Sterling G. Cato, one of the pro-slavery territorial judges, had been found by Governor Geary in the Missouri camp drilling and doing duty as a soldier, ready and doubtless more than willing to take part in the projected sack of Lawrence. This Federal judge, as open a law-breaker as the Hickory Point prisoners (the two affairs really forming part of one and the same enterprise), now seated himself on his judicial bench and committed the whole party for trial on charge of murder in the first degree; and at the October term of his court proceeded to try and condemn to penalties prescribed by the bogus laws some eighteen or twenty of these prisoners, for offenses in which in equity and good morals he was personally _particeps criminis_–some of the convicts being held in confinement until the following March, when they were pardoned by the Governor.[18] _Inter arma silent leges_, say the publicists; but in this particular instance the license of guerrilla war, the fraudulent statutes of the Territory, and the laws of Congress were combined and perverted with satanic ingenuity in furtherance of the conspiracy.

The vigorous proceedings of Governor Geary, the forced retirement of the Missourians on the one hand, and the arrest and conviction of the free-State partisans on the other, had the effect to bring the guerrilla war to an abrupt termination. The retribution had fallen very unequally upon the two parties to the conflict,[19] but this was due to the legal traps and pitfalls prepared with such artful design by the Atchison conspiracy, and not to the personal indifference or ill-will of the Governor. He strove sincerely to restore impartial administration; he completed the disbandment of the territorial militia, reenlisting into the Federal service one pro-slavery and one free-State company for police duty.[20] By the end of September he was enabled to write to Washington that “peace now reigns in Kansas.” Encouraged by this success in allaying guerrilla strife, he next endeavored to break up the existing political persecution and intrigues.

[Sidenote] Marcy to Geary, August 26, 1856. Gihon, p. 272.

It was not long, however, before Governor Geary became conscious, to his great surprise and mortification, that he had been nominated and sent to Kansas as a partisan manoeuvre, and not to institute administrative reforms; that his instructions, written during the presidential campaign, to tranquillize Kansas by his “energy, impartiality, and discretion,” really meant that after Mr. Buchanan was elected he should satisfy the Atchison cabal.

In less than six months after he went to the Territory, clothed with the executive authority, speaking the President’s voice, and representing the unlimited military power of the republic, he, the third Democratic Governor of Kansas, was, like his predecessors, in secret flight from the province he had so trustfully gone to rule, execrated by his party associates, and abandoned by the Administration which had appointed him. Humiliating as was this local conspiracy to plant servitude in Kansas, a more aggressive political movement to nationalize slavery in all the Union was about to eclipse it.

[1] Shannon, proclamation, June 4, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 47.

[2] Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War, to General Smith, Sept. 3, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 29.

[3] August 18, 1856. Senate Executive Documents, 3d Session 34th Congress. Vol. III., pp. 76-7.

[4] Richardson to General Smith, August 18, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 75.

[5] George Deas, Assistant Adjutant-General to Lieut.-Colonel Cooke, August 28, 1856. Senate Executive Documents, 3d Session 34th Congress. Vol. III., p. 85.

[6] Cooke to Deas, August 31, 1856. Ibid., p. 89.

[7] Smith to Cooper, Sept. 10, 1856. Senate Executive Document, 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., pp. 80, 81.

[8] Sec. War, indorsement, Sept. 23, on letter of Gen. Smith to Adjutant-General Cooper, Sept. 10, 1856. Senate Executive Documents, 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 83.

[9] Woodson, proclamation, August 25, 1856. Senate Executive Documents, 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 80.

[10] Geary, Inaugural Address, Sept. 11, 1856. Senate Executive Documents, 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 116.

[11] General Heiskell to Geary, Sept. 11 and 12, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. II., p. 97.

[12] Geary to Marcy, Sept. 16, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. II., p. 107.

[13] Colonel Cook to Porter, A.A.G., Sept. 13, 1856. Ibid., Vol. III., pp. 113, 114.

[14] Colonel Cooke to F.J. Porter, Sept. 16, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 121.

[15] Cooke to Porter, Sept. 16, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III., p. 122.

[16] Captain Wood to Colonel Cooke, Sept. 16, 1856. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. III, pp. 123-6.

[17] Geary to Marcy, October 1, 1856. Senate Executive Documents, 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. II., p. 156.

[18] Gihon, pp. 142-3. Geary, Executive Minutes, Senate Ex. Doc., No. 17, 1st Sess. 35th Cong. Vol. VI., p. 195.

[19] The Kansas Territorial Legislature, in the year 1859, by which time local passion had greatly subsided, by law empowered a non-partisan board of three commissioners to collect sworn testimony concerning the ravages of the civil war in Kansas, with a view of obtaining indemnity from the general Government for the individual sufferers. These commissioners, after a careful examination, made an official report, from which may be gleaned an interesting summary in numbers and values of the harvest of crime and destruction which the Kansas contest produced, and which report can be relied upon, since eye-witnesses and participants of both parties freely contributed their testimony at the invitation of the commissioners.

The commissioners fixed the period of the war as beginning about November 1, 1855, and continuing until about December 1, 1856. They estimated that the entire loss and destruction of property, including the cost of fitting out the various expeditions, amounted to an aggregate of not less than $2,000,000. Fully one-half of this loss, they thought, was directly sustained by actual settlers of Kansas. They received petitions and took testimony in 463 cases. They reported 417 cases as entitled to indemnity. The detailed figures and values of property destroyed are presented as follows:

“Amount of crops destroyed, $37,349.61; number of buildings burned and destroyed, 78; horses taken or destroyed, 368; cattle taken or destroyed, 533. Amount of property owned by pro-slavery men, $77,198.99; property owned by free-State men, $335,779.04; property taken or destroyed by pro-slavery men, $318,718.63; property taken or destroyed by free-State men, $94,529.40.”

About the loss of life the commissioners say: “Although not within our province, we may be excused for stating that, from the most reliable information that we have been able to gather, by the secret warfare of the guerrilla system, and in well-known encounters, the number of lives sacrificed in Kansas during the period mentioned probably exceeded rather than fell short of two hundred…. That the excitement in the Eastern and Southern States, in 1856, was instigated and kept up by garbled and exaggerated accounts of Kansas affairs, published in the Eastern and Southern newspapers, is true, most true; but the half of what was done by either party was never chronicled!”–House Reports, 2d Sess. 36th Cong. Vol. III., Part I, pp. 90 and 93.

[20] We quote the following from the executive minutes of Governor Geary to show that border strife had not entirely destroyed the kindlier human impulses, which enabled him to turn a portion of the warring elements to the joint service of peace and order:

“September 24, 1856. For the purpose of obtaining information which was considered of great value to the Territory, the Governor invited to Lecompton, Captain [Samuel] Walker, of Lawrence, one of the most celebrated and daring leaders of the anti-slavery party, promising him a safe-conduct to Lecompton and back again to Lawrence. During Walker’s visit at the Executive Office, Colonel [H.T.] Titus entered, whose house was, a short time since, destroyed by a large force under the command of Walker; an offense which was subsequently retaliated by the burning of the residence of the latter. These men were, perhaps, the most determined enemies in the Territory. Through the Governor’s intervention, a pacific meeting occurred, a better understanding took place, mutual concessions were made, and pledges of friendship were passed; and, late in the afternoon, Walker left Lecompton in company with and under the safeguard of Colonel Titus. Both these men have volunteered to enter the service of the United States as leaders of companies of territorial militia.”–Geary, Executive Minutes. Senate Executive Documents, 3d Session 34th Congress, Vol. II., pp. 137-8.



[Sidenote] 1856.

In the State of Illinois, the spring of the year 1856 saw an almost spontaneous impulse toward the formation of a new party. As already described, it was a transition period in politics. The disorganization of the Whig party was materially increased and hastened by the failure, two years before, to make Lincoln a Senator. On the other hand, the election of Trumbull served quite as effectively to consolidate the Democratic rebellion against Douglas in his determination to make the support of his Nebraska bill a test of party orthodoxy. Many of the Northern counties had formed “Republican” organizations in the two previous years; but the name was entirely local, while the opposition, not yet united, but fighting in factions against the Nebraska bill, only acknowledged political affinity under the general term of the “Anti-Nebraska” party.

[Sidenote] 1856.

In the absence of any existing party machinery, some fifteen editors of anti-Nebraska newspapers met for conference at Decatur on the 22d of February and issued a call for a delegate State convention of the “Anti-Nebraska party,” to meet at Bloomington on the 29th of May. Prominent leaders, as a rule, hesitated to commit themselves by their presence at Decatur. Not so with Mr. Lincoln. He could not attend the deliberations as an editor; but he doubtless lent his suggestion and advice, for we find him among the distinguished guests and speakers at the banquet which followed the business session, and toasts to his candidacy as “the next United States Senator” show that his leadership had suffered no abatement. The assembled editors purposely set the Bloomington Convention for a somewhat late day in the campaign, and before the time arrived the political situation in the State was already much more clearly defined.

[Sidenote] Davidson and Stuve, “History of Illinois,” p. 616.

One factor which greatly baffled the calculations and forecast of politicians was the Know-Nothing or American party. It was apparent to all that this order or affiliation had during the past two years spread into Illinois, as into other States. But as its machinery and action were secret, and as no general election had occurred since 1854 to exhibit its numerical strength, its possible scope and influence could only be vaguely estimated. Still it was clearly present as a positive force. Its national council had in February at Philadelphia nominated Fillmore and Donelson as a presidential ticket; but the preponderating Southern membership forced an indorsement of the Kansas-Nebraska act into its platform, which destroyed the unity and power of the party, driving the Northern delegates to a bolt. Nevertheless many Northern voters, indifferent to the slavery issue, still sought to maintain its organization; and thus in Illinois the State Council met early in May, ratified the nomination of Fillmore for President, and nominated candidates for Governor, and other State officers.

The Democratic party, or rather so much of that party as did not openly repudiate the policy and principle of the Kansas-Nebraska act, made early preparations for a vigorous campaign. The great loss in prestige and numbers he had already sustained admonished Douglas that his political fortunes hung in a doubtful balance. But he was a bold and aggressive leader, to whom controversy and party warfare were rather an inspiration than a discouragement. Under his guidance, the Democratic State Convention nominated for Governor of Illinois William A. Richardson, late a member of the House of Representatives, in which body as chairman of the Committee on Territories he had been the leader to whom the success of the Nebraska bill was specially intrusted, and where his parliamentary management had contributed materially to the final passage of that measure.

Thus the attitude of opposing factions and the unorganized unfolding of public opinion, rather than any mere promptings or combinations of leaders, developed the course of the anti-Nebraska men of Illinois. Out of this condition sprung directly one important element of future success. Richardson’s candidacy, long foreshadowed, was seen to require an opposing nominee of unusual popularity. He was found in the person of Colonel William H. Bissell, late a Democratic representative in Congress, where he had denounced disunion in 1850, and opposed the Nebraska bill in 1854. He had led a regiment to the Mexican war, and fought gallantly at the battle of Buena Vista. His military laurels easily carried him into Congress; but the exposures of the Mexican campaign also burdened him with a disease which paralyzed his lower limbs, and compelled retirement from active politics after his second term. He was now, however, recovering; and having already exhibited civic talents of a high order, the popular voice made light of his physical infirmity, and his friends declared their readiness to match the brains of Bissell against the legs of his opponents.

[Sidenote] January 23, 1850, Appendix, “Globe,” 1849-50, p. 78.

One piece of his history rendered him specially acceptable to young and spirited Western voters. His service in Congress began amid exciting debates over the compromise measures of 1850, when the Southern fire-eaters were already rampant. Seddon, of Virginia, in his eagerness to depreciate the North and glorify the South, affirmed in a speech that at the battle of Buena Vista, “at that most critical juncture when all seemed lost save honor,” amid the discomfiture and rout of “the brave but unfortunate troops of the North through a mistaken order,” “the noble regiment of Mississippians” had snatched victory from the jaws of death. Replying some days later to Seddon’s innuendo, Bissell, competent by his presence on the battle-field to bear witness, retorted that when the 2d Indiana gave way, it was McKee’s 2d Kentucky, Hardin’s 1st Illinois, and Bissell’s 2d Illinois which had retrieved the fortunes of the hour, and that the vaunted Mississippi regiment was not within a mile and a half of the scene of action. Properly this was an issue of veracity between Seddon and Bissell, of easy solution. But Jefferson Davis, who commanded the Mississippi regiment in question, began an interchange of notes with Bissell which from the first smelt of gunpowder. “Were his reported remarks correct?” asked Davis in substance. Bissell answered, repeating the language of his speech and defining the spot and the time to which it applied, adding: “I deem it due, in justice alike to myself and the Mississippi regiment, to say that I made no charge against that regiment.” Davis persisting, then asked, in substance, whether he meant to deny General Lane’s official report that “the regiment of Mississippians came to the rescue at the proper time to save the fortunes of the day.” Bissell rejoined: “My remarks had reference to a different time and place from those referred to by General Lane.”

[Sidenote] Pamphlet, Printed correspondence.

At this point both parties might with great propriety have ended the correspondence. Sufficient inquiry had been met by generous explanation. But Davis, apparently determined to push Bissell to the wall, now sent his challenge. This time, however, he met his match, in courage. Bissell named an officer of the army as his second, instructing him to suggest as weapons “muskets, loaded with ball and buckshot.” The terms of combat do not appear to have been formally proposed between the friends who met to arrange matters, but they were evidently understood; the affair was hushed up, with the simple addition to Bissell’s first reply that he was willing to award the Mississippi regiment “the credit due to their gallant and distinguished services in that battle.”

[Sidenote] 1856.

The Bloomington Convention came together according to call on the 29th of May. By this time the active and observant politicians of the State had become convinced that the anti-Nebraska struggle was not a mere temporary and insignificant “abolition” excitement, but a deep and abiding political issue, involving in the fate of slavery the fate of the nation. Minor and past differences were therefore generously postponed or waived in favor of a hearty coalition on the single dominant question. A most notable gathering of the clans was the result. About one-fourth of the counties sent regularly chosen delegates; the rest were volunteers. In spirit and enthusiasm it was rather a mass-meeting than a convention; but every man present was in some sort a leader in his own locality. The assemblage was much more representative than similar bodies gathered by the ordinary caucus machinery. It was an earnest and determined council of five or six hundred cool, sagacious, independent thinkers, called together by a great public exigency, led and directed by the first minds of the State. Not only did it show a brilliant array of eminent names, but a remarkable contrast of former antagonisms: Whigs, Democrats, Free-Soilers, Know-Nothings, Abolitionists; Norman B. Judd, Richard Yates, Ebenezer Peck, Leonard Swett, Lyman Trumbull, David Davis, Owen Lovejoy, Orville H. Browning, Ichabod Godding, Archibald Williams, and many more. Chief among these, as adviser and actor, was Abraham Lincoln.

Rarely has a deliberative body met under circumstances more exciting than did this one. The Congressional debates at Washington and the civil war in Kansas were each at a culmination of passion and incident. Within ten days Charles Sumner had been struck down in the Senate Chamber, and the town of Lawrence sacked by the guerrilla posse of Atchison and Sheriff Jones. Ex-Governor Reeder, of that suffering Territory, addressed the citizens of Bloomington and the earliest-arriving delegates on the evening of the 28th, bringing into the convention the very atmosphere of the Kansas conflict.

The convention met and conducted its work with earnestness and dignity. Bissell, already designated by unmistakable popular indications, was nominated for governor by acclamation. The candidate for lieutenant-governor was named in like manner. So little did the convention think or care about the mere distribution of political honors on the one hand, and so much, on the other, did it regard and provide for the success of the cause, that it did not even ballot for the remaining candidates on the State ticket, but deputed to a committee the task of selecting and arranging them, and adopted its report as a whole and by acclamation. The more difficult task of drafting a platform was performed by another committee, with such prudence that it too received a unanimous acceptance. It boldly adopted the Republican name, formulated the Republican creed, and the convention further appointed delegates to the coming Republican National Convention.

There were stirring speeches by eloquent leaders, eagerly listened to and vociferously applauded; but scarcely a man moved from his seat in the crowded hall until Mr. Lincoln had been heard. Every one felt the fitness of his making the closing argument and exhortation, and right nobly did he honor their demand. A silence full of emotion filled the assembly as for a moment before beginning his tall form stood in commanding attitude on the rostrum, the impressiveness of his theme and the significance of the occasion reflected in his thoughtful and earnest features. The spell of the hour was visibly upon him; and holding his audience in rapt attention, he closed in a brilliant peroration with an appeal to the people to join the Republican standard, to

Come as the winds come, when forests are rended; Come as the waves come, when navies are stranded.

The influence was irresistible; the audience rose and acknowledged the speaker’s power with cheer upon cheer. Unfortunately the speech was never reported; but its effect lives vividly in the memory of all who heard it, and it crowned his right to popular leadership in his own State, which thereafter was never disputed.

[Sidenote] 1856.

The organization of the Republican party for the nation at large proceeded very much in the same manner as that in the State of Illinois. Pursuant to separate preliminary correspondence and calls from State committees, a general meeting of prominent Republicans and anti-Nebraska politicians from all parts of the North, and even from a few border slave-States, came together at Pittsburgh on Washington’s birthday, February 22. Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania sent the largest contingents; but around this great central nucleus were gathered small but earnest delegations aggregating between three and four hundred zealous leaders, representing twenty-eight States and Territories. It was merely an informal mass convention; but many of the delegates were men of national character, each of whose names was itself a sufficient credential. Above all, the members were cautious, moderate, conciliatory, and unambitious to act beyond the requirements of the hour. They contented themselves with the usual parliamentary routine; appointed a committee on national organization; issued a call for a delegate convention; and adopted and put forth a stirring address to the country. Their resolutions were brief and formulated but four demands: the repeal of all laws which allow the introduction of slavery into Territories once consecrated to freedom; resistance by constitutional means to slavery in any United States Territory; the immediate admission of Kansas as a free-State, and the overthrow of the present national Administration.

In response to the official call embodied in the Pittsburgh address, the first National Convention of the Republican party met at Philadelphia on the 17th of June, 1856. The character and dignity of the Pittsburgh proceedings assured the new party of immediate prestige and acceptance; with so favorable a sponsorship it sprang full-armed into the political conflict. That conflict which opened the year with the long congressional contest over the speakership, and which found its only solution in the choice of Banks by a plurality vote, had been fed by fierce congressional debates, by presidential messages and proclamations, by national conventions, by the Sumner assault, by the Kansas war; the body politic throbbed with activity and excitement in every fiber. Every free-State and several border States and Territories were represented in the Philadelphia Convention; its regular and irregular delegates counted nearly a thousand local leaders, full of the zeal of new proselytes; Henry S. Lane, of Indiana, was made its permanent chairman.

The party was too young and its prospect of immediate success too slender to develop any serious rivalry for a presidential nomination. Because its strength lay evidently among the former adherents of the now dissolved and abandoned Whig party, William H. Seward of course took highest rank in leadership; after him stood Salmon P. Chase as the representative of the independent Democrats, who, bringing fewer voters, had nevertheless contributed the main share of the courageous pioneer work. It is a just tribute to their sagacity that both were willing to wait for the maturer strength and riper opportunities of the new organization. Justice John McLean, of the Supreme Bench, an eminent jurist, a faithful Whig, whose character happily combined both the energy and the conservatism of the great West, also had a large following; but as might have been expected, the convention found a more typical leader, young in years, daring in character, brilliant in exploit; and after one informal ballot it nominated John C. Fremont, of California. The credit of the selection and its successful management has been popularly awarded to Francis P. Blair, senior, famous as the talented and powerful newspaper lieutenant of President Jackson; but it was rather an intuitive popular choice, which at the moment seemed so appropriate as to preclude necessity for artful intrigue.

[Illustration: MILLARD FILLMORE.]

There was a dash of romance in the personal history of Fremont which gave his nomination a high popular relish. Of French descent, born in Savannah, Georgia, orphaned at an early age, he acquired a scientific education largely by his own unaided efforts in private study; a sea voyage as teacher of mathematics, and employment in a railroad survey through the wilderness of the Tennessee Mountains, developed the taste and the qualifications that made him useful as an assistant in Nicollet’s scientific exploration of the great plateau where the Mississippi River finds its sources, and secured his appointment as second lieutenant of topographical engineers. These labors brought him to Washington, where the same Gallic restlessness which made the restraint of schools insupportable, brought about an attachment, elopement, and marriage with the daughter of Senator Thomas H. Benton, of Missouri.

Reconciliation followed in good time; and the unexplored Great West being Benton’s peculiar hobby, through his influence Fremont was sent with an exploring party to the Rocky Mountains. Under his command similar expeditions were repeated again and again to that mysterious wonderland; and never were the wildest fictions read with more avidity than his official reports of daily adventure, danger and discovery, of scaling unclimbed mountains, wrecking his canoes on the rapids of unvisited rivers, parleying and battling with hostile Indians, and facing starvation while hemmed in by trackless snows. One of these journeys had led him to the Pacific coast when our war with Mexico let loose the spirit of revolution in the Mexican province of California. With his characteristic restless audacity Fremont joined his little company of explorers to a local insurrectionary faction of American settlers, and raised a battalion of mounted volunteers. Though acting without Government orders, he cooperated with the United States naval forces sent to take possession of the California coast, and materially assisted in overturning the Mexican authority and putting the remnant of her military officials to flight. At the close of the conquest he was for a short time military governor; and when, through the famous gold discoveries, California was organized as a State and admitted to the Union, Fremont became for a brief period one of her first United States Senators.

So salient a record could not well be without strong contrasts, and of these unsparing criticism took advantage. Hostile journals delineated Fremont as a shallow, vainglorious, “woolly-horse,” “mule-eating,” “free-love,” “nigger-embracing” black Republican; an extravagant, insubordinate, reckless adventurer; a financial spendthrift and political mountebank. As the reading public is not always skillful in winnowing truth from libel when artfully mixed in print, even the grossest calumnies were not without their effect in contributing to his defeat. But to the sanguine zeal of the new Republican party, the “Pathfinder” was a heroic and ideal leader; for, upon the vital point at issue, his anti-slavery votes and clear declarations satisfied every doubt and inspired unlimited confidence.

However picturesquely Fremont for the moment loomed up as the standard-bearer of the Republican party, historical interest centers upon the second act of the Philadelphia Convention. It shows us how strangely to human wisdom vibrate the delicately balanced scales of fate; or rather how inscrutable and yet how unerring are the far-reaching processes of divine providence. The principal candidate having been selected without contention or delay, the convention proceeded to a nomination for Vice-President. On the first informal ballot William L. Dayton, of New Jersey, received 259 votes and Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, 110; the remaining votes being scattered among thirteen other names.[1] The dominating thought of the convention being the assertion of principle, and not the promotion of men, there was no further contest;[2] and though Mr. Dayton had not received a majority support, his nomination was nevertheless at once made unanimous. Those who are familiar with the eccentricities of nominating conventions when in this listless and drifting mood know how easily an opportune speech from some eloquent delegate or a few adroitly arranged delegation caucuses might have reversed this result; and imagination may not easily construct the possible changes in history which a successful campaign of the ticket in that form might have wrought. What would have been the consequences to America and humanity had the Rebellion, even then being vaguely devised by Southern Hotspurs, burst upon the nation in the winter of 1856, with the nation’s sword of commander-in-chief in the hand of the impulsive Fremont, and Lincoln, inheriting the patient wariness and cool blood of three generations of pioneers and Indian-fighters, wielding only the powerless gavel of Vice-President? But the hour of destiny had not yet struck.

The platform devised by the Philadelphia Convention was unusually bold in its affirmations, and most happy in its phraseology. Not only did it “deny the authority of Congress, or of a territorial legislature, of any individual or association of individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory of the United States”; it further “Resolved, That the Constitution confers upon Congress sovereign power over the Territories of the United States for their government, and that in the exercise of this power it is both the right and the duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism–polygamy and slavery.” At Buchanan, recently nominated by the Democratic National Convention in Cincinnati, it aimed a barbed shaft: “Resolved, That the highwayman’s plea that ‘might makes right,’ embodied in the Ostend circular, was in every respect unworthy of American diplomacy, and would bring shame and dishonor upon any government or people that gave it their sanction.” It demanded the maintenance of the principles of the Declaration of Independence, of the Federal Constitution, of the rights of the States, and the union of the States. It favored a Pacific railroad, congressional appropriations for national rivers and harbors; it affirmed liberty of conscience and equality of rights; it arraigned the policy of the Administration; demanded the immediate admission of Kansas as a State, and invited “the affiliation and cooeperation of men of all parties, however differing from them in other respects, in support of the principles declared.”

The nominees and platform of the Philadelphia Convention were accepted by the opposition voters of the free-States with an alacrity and an enthusiasm beyond the calculation of even the most sanguine; and in November a vote was recorded in their support which, though then unsuccessful, laid the secure foundation of an early victory, and permanently established a great party destined to carry the country through trials and vicissitudes equal in magnitude and results to any which the world had hitherto witnessed.

In that year none of the presidential honors were reserved for the State of Illinois. While Lincoln thus narrowly missed a nomination for the second place on the Republican ticket, his fellow-citizen and competitor, Douglas, failed equally to obtain the nomination he so much coveted as the candidate of the Democratic party. The Democratic National Convention had met at Cincinnati on the 2d day of June, 1856. If Douglas flattered himself that such eminent services as he had rendered the South would find this reward, his disappointment must have been severe. While the benefits he had conferred were lightly estimated or totally forgotten, former injuries inflicted in his name were keenly remembered and resented. But three prominent candidates, Buchanan, Pierce, and Douglas, were urged upon the convention. The indiscreet crusade of Douglas’s friends against “old fogies” in 1852 had defeated Buchanan and nominated Pierce; now, by the turn of political fortune, Buchanan’s friends were able to wipe out the double score by defeating both Pierce and Douglas. Most of the Southern delegates seem to have been guided by the mere thought of present utility; they voted to renominate Pierce because of his subservient Kansas policy, forgetting that Douglas had not only begun it, but was their strongest ally to continue it. When after a day of fruitless balloting they changed their votes to Douglas, Buchanan, the so-called “old fogy,” just returned from the English mission, and therefore not handicapped by personal jealousies and heart-burnings, had secured the firm adhesion of a decided majority mainly from the North.[3]

The “two-thirds rule” was not yet fulfilled, but at this juncture the friends of Pierce and Douglas yielded to the inevitable, and withdrew their favorites in the interest of “harmony.” On the seventeenth ballot, therefore, and the fifth day of the convention, James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania, became the unanimous nominee of the Democratic party for President, and John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, for Vice-President.

The famous “Cincinnati platform” holds a conspicuous place in party literature for length, for vigor of language, for variety of topics, for boldness of declaration; and yet, strange to say, its chief merit and utility lay in the skillful concealment of its central thought and purpose. About one-fourth of its great length is devoted to what to the eye looks like a somewhat elaborate exposition of the doctrines of the party on the slavery question. Eliminate the verbiage and there only remains an indorsement of the “principles contained in the organic laws establishing the Territory of Kansas and Nebraska” (non-interference by Congress with slavery in State and Territory, or in the District of Columbia); and the practical application of “the principles” is thus further defined: “Resolved, That we recognize the right of the people of all the Territories, including Kansas and Nebraska, acting through the legally and fairly expressed will of a majority of actual residents, and whenever the number of their inhabitants justifies it, to form a constitution with or without domestic slavery, and be admitted into the Union upon terms of perfect equality with the other States.”

We have already seen how deliberately the spirit and letter of “the principle” was violated by the Democratic National Administration of President Pierce, and by nearly all the Democratic Senators and Representatives in Congress; and we shall see how the more explicit resolution was again even more flagrantly violated by the Democratic National Administration and party under President Buchanan.

For the time, however, these well-rounded phrases were especially convenient: first, to prevent any schism in the Cincinnati Convention itself, and, secondly, to furnish points for campaign speeches; politicians not having any pressing desire, nor voters the requisite critical skill, to demonstrate how they left untouched the whole brood of pertinent queries which the discussion had already raised, and which at its next national convention were destined to disrupt and defeat the Democratic party. For this occasion the studied ambiguity of the Cincinnati platform made possible a last cooeperation of North and South, in the face of carefully concealed mental reservations, to secure a presidential victory.

It is not the province of this work to describe the incidents of the national canvass, but only to record its results. At the election of November, 1856, Buchanan was chosen President. The popular vote in the nation at large stood: Buchanan, 1,838,169; Fremont, 1,341,264; Fillmore, 874,534. By States Buchanan received the votes of fourteen slave-States and five free-States, a total of 174 electors; Fremont the vote of eleven free-States, a total of 114 electors; and Fillmore the vote of one slave-State, a total of eight electors.[4]

In the campaign which preceded Mr. Buchanan’s election, Mr. Lincoln, at the head of the Fremont electoral ticket for Illinois, took a prominent part, traversing the State in every direction, and making about fifty speeches. Among the addresses which he thus delivered in the different counties, it is interesting to read a fragment of a speech he made at Galena, Illinois, discussing the charge of “sectionalism,” the identical pretext upon which the South inaugurated its rebellion against his Administration four years afterwards:

You further charge us with being disunionists. If you mean that it is our aim to dissolve the Union, I for myself answer that it is untrue; for those who act with me I answer that it is untrue. Have you heard us assert that as our aim? Do you really believe that such is our aim? Do you find it in our platform, our speeches, our conventions, or anywhere? If not, withdraw the charge.

But you may say that though it is not our aim, it will be the result, if we succeed, and that we are therefore disunionists in fact. This is a grave charge you make against us, and we certainly have a right to demand that you specify in what way we are to dissolve the Union. How are we to effect this?

The only specification offered is volunteered by Mr. Fillmore in his Albany speech. His charge is that if we elect a President and Vice-President both from the free-States it will dissolve the Union. This is open folly. The Constitution provides that the President and Vice-President of the United States shall be of different States; but says nothing as to the latitude and longitude of those States. In 1828 Andrew Jackson, of Tennessee, and John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, were elected President and Vice-President, both from slave-States; but no one thought of dissolving the Union then on that account. In 1840 Harrison, of Ohio, and Tyler, of Virginia, were elected. In 1841 Harrison died and John Tyler succeeded to the presidency, and William R. King, of Alabama, was elected acting Vice-President by the Senate; but no one supposed that the Union was in danger. In fact, at the very time Mr. Fillmore uttered this idle charge, the state of things in the United States disproved it. Mr. Pierce, of New Hampshire, and Mr. Bright, of Indiana, both from free-States, are President and Vice-President, and the Union stands and will stand. You do not pretend that it ought to dissolve the Union, and the facts show that it won’t; therefore the charge may be dismissed without further consideration.

[Sidenote] Galena “Advertiser,” copied into the Illinois “State Journal,” August 8, 1856.

No other specification is made, and the only one that could be made is, that the restoration of the restriction of 1820 making the United States territory free territory would dissolve the Union. Gentlemen, it will require a decided majority to pass such an act. We, the majority, being able constitutionally to do all that we purpose, would have no desire to dissolve the Union. Do you say that such restriction of slavery would be unconstitutional, and that some of the States would not submit to its enforcement? I grant you that an unconstitutional act is not a law; but I do not ask and will not take your construction of the Constitution. The Supreme Court of the United States is the tribunal to decide such a question, and we will submit to its decisions; and if you do also, there will be an end of the matter. Will you? If not, who are the disunionists, you or we? We, the majority, would not strive to dissolve the Union; and if any attempt is made it must be by you, who so loudly stigmatize us as disunionists.

But the Union, in any event, will not be dissolved. We don’t want to dissolve it, and if you attempt it we won’t let you. With the purse and sword, the army and navy and treasury in our hands and at our command, you could not do it. This government would be very weak indeed if a majority with a disciplined army and navy and a well-filled treasury could not preserve itself, when attacked by an unarmed, undisciplined, unorganized minority. All this talk about the dissolution of the Union is humbug, nothing but folly. We do not want to dissolve the Union; you shall not.

With three presidential tickets in the field–with the Democrats seeking the election of Buchanan and Breckinridge, the Americans, or Know-Nothings, asking votes for Fillmore and Donelson, and the Republicans making proselytes for Fremont and Dayton–the political campaign of 1856 was one of unabated activity and excitement. In the State of Illinois the contest resulted in a drawn battle. The American party held together with tolerable firmness in its vote for President, but was largely disintegrated in its vote on the ticket for State officers. The consequence was that Illinois gave a plurality of 9164 for Buchanan, the Democratic candidate for President, while at the same time it gave a plurality of 4729 for Bissell, the Republican candidate for Governor.[5]

Half victory as it was, it furnished the Illinois Republicans a substantial hope of the full triumph which they achieved four years later. About a month after this election, at a Republican banquet given in Chicago on the 10th of December, 1856, Abraham Lincoln spoke as follows, partly in criticism of the last annual message of President Pierce, but more especially pointing out the rising star of promise:

We have another annual presidential message. Like a rejected lover making merry at the wedding of his rival, the President felicitates himself hugely over the late presidential election. He considers the result a signal triumph of good principles and good men, and a very pointed rebuke of bad ones. He says the people did it. He forgets that the “people,” as he complacently calls only those who voted for Buchanan, are in a minority of the whole people by about four hundred thousand votes–one full tenth of all the votes. Remembering this, he might perceive that the “rebuke” may not be quite as durable as he seems to think–that the majority may not choose to remain permanently rebuked by that minority.

The President thinks the great body of us Fremonters, being ardently attached to liberty, in the abstract, were duped by a few wicked and designing men. There is a slight difference of opinion on this. We think he, being ardently attached to the hope of a second term, in the concrete, was duped by men who had liberty every way. He is the cat’s-paw. By much dragging of chestnuts from the fire for others to eat, his claws are burnt off to the gristle, and he is thrown aside as unfit for further use. As the fool said of _King Lear_, when his daughters had turned him out-of-doors, “He’s a shelled peascod.” [That’s a sheal’d peascod.]

So far as the President charges us “with a desire to change the domestic institutions of existing States,” and of “doing everything in our power to deprive the Constitution and the laws of moral authority,” for the whole party on belief, and for myself on knowledge, I pronounce the charge an unmixed and unmitigated falsehood.

[Sidenote] Illinois “State Journal,” December 16, 1856.

Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion can change the government practically just so much. Public opinion, on any subject, always has a “central idea,” from which all its minor thoughts radiate. That “central idea” in our political public opinion at the beginning was, and until recently has continued to be, “the equality of men.” And although it has always submitted patiently to whatever of inequality there seemed to be as matter of actual necessity, its constant working has been a steady progress towards the practical equality of all men. The late presidential election was a struggle by one party to discard that central idea and to substitute for it the opposite idea that slavery is right in the abstract, the workings of which as a central idea may be the perpetuity of human slavery and its extension to all countries and colors. Less than a year ago the Richmond “Enquirer,” an avowed advocate of slavery, regardless of color, in order to favor his views, invented the phrase “State equality,” and now the President, in his message, adopts the “Enquirer’s” catch-phrase, telling us the people “have asserted the constitutional equality of each and all of the States of the Union as States.” The President flatters himself that the new central idea is completely inaugurated; and so indeed it is, so far as the mere fact of a presidential election can inaugurate it. To us it is left to know that the majority of the people have not yet declared for it, and to hope that they never will. All of us who did not vote for Mr. Buchanan, taken together, are a majority of four hundred thousand. But in the late contest we were divided between Fremont and Fillmore. Can we not come together for the future? Let every one who really believes, and is resolved, that free society is not and shall not be a failure, and who can conscientiously declare that in the past contest he has done only what he thought best, let every such one have charity to believe that every other one can say as much. Thus let bygones be bygones; let past differences as nothing be; and with steady eye on the real issue, let us reinaugurate the good old “central ideas” of the republic. We can do it. The human heart is with us; God is with us. We shall again be able not to declare that “all States as States are equal,” nor yet that “all citizens as citizens are equal,” but to renew the broader, better declaration, including both these and much more, that “all men are created equal.”

Though these fragments of addresses give us only an imperfect reflection of the style of Mr. Lincoln’s oratory during this period, they nevertheless show its essential characteristics, a pervading clearness of analysis, and that strong tendency to axiomatic definition which gives so many of his sentences their convincing force and durable value. They also show us the combination, not often found in such happy balance, of the politician’s discernment of fact with the statesman’s wisdom of theory–how present forces of national life are likely to be moved by future impulses of national will. The politician could see the four hundred thousand voters who would give victory to some party in the near future. It required the wisdom of the statesman to divine that the public opinion which would direct how these votes were to be cast, could most surely be created by an appeal to those generous “central ideas” of the human mind which favor equality against caste and freedom against slavery. Perhaps the most distinctively representative quality these addresses exhibit is the patriotic spirit and faith which led him to declare so dogmatically in this campaign of 1856, what the nation called upon him a few years later to execute by the stern powers of war, “We do not want to dissolve the Union; you shall not.”

[1] For David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, 43; Preston King, of New York, 9; Charles Sumner, of Massachusetts, 36; Thomas H. Ford, of Ohio, 7; Cassius M. Clay, of Kentucky, 3; Jacob Collamer, of Vermont, 15; William F. Johnston, of Pennsylvania, 2; Nathaniel P. Banks, of Massachusetts, 46; Henry Wilson, of Massachusetts, 7; William Pennington, of New Jersey, 1; —- Carey, of New Jersey, 3; S.C. Pomeroy, of Kansas, 8; J.R. Giddings, of Ohio, 2. The vote in detail for Lincoln was: Maine, 1; New Hampshire, 8; Massachusetts, 7; Rhode Island, 2; New York, 3; Pennsylvania, 11; Ohio, 2; Indiana, 26; Illinois, 33; Michigan, 5; and California, 12.

[2] Mr. T.S. Van Dyke, son of one of the delegates, kindly writes us: “Nothing that Mr. Lincoln has ever written is more characteristic than the following note from him to my father just after the convention–not for publication, but merely as a private expression of his feelings to an old acquaintance:

“June 27, 1856.

“MY DEAR SIR: Allow me to thank you for your kind notice of me in the Philadelphia Convention.

“When you meet Judge Dayton present my respects, and tell him I think him a far better man than I for the position he is in, and that I shall support both him and Colonel Fremont most cordially. Present my best respects to Mrs. V., and believe me,

“Yours truly,


[3] On the sixteenth ballot Buchanan received 168 votes, of which 121 were from the free-States and 47 from the slave-States; Douglas received 122 votes, of which 49 were from the free-States and 73 from the slave-States; Cass received 6 votes, all from the free-States; Pierce had been finally dropped on the previous ballot.–“Proceedings of the Cincinnati Convention,” p. 45.

[4] The vote more in detail was as follows:

For Buchanan, slave-States, Alabama, 9; Arkansas, 4; Delaware, 3; Florida, 3; Georgia, 10; Kentucky, 12; Louisiana, 6; Mississippi, 7; Missouri, 9; North Carolina, 10; South Carolina, 8; Tennessee, 12; Texas, 4; Virginia, 15. Free States, California, 4; Illinois, 11; Indiana, 13; New Jersey, 7; Pennsylvania, 27. Total, 174.

For Fremont, free-States, Connecticut, 6; Iowa, 4; Maine, 8; Massachusetts, 13; Michigan, 6; New Hampshire, 5; New York, 35; Ohio, 23; Rhode Island, 4; Vermont, 5; Wisconsin, 5. Total, 114.

For Fillmore, slave-State, Maryland, 8.

[5] For President, Buchanan (Democrat), 105,344; Fremont (Republican), 96,180; Fillmore (American), 37,451. For Governor, Richardson (Democrat), 106,643; Bissell (Republican), 111,372; Morris (American), 19,241.



The official reports show that the proceedings of the American Congress, while in the main conducted with becoming propriety and decorum, have occasionally been dishonored by angry personal altercations and scenes of ruffianly violence. These disorders increased as the great political struggle over the slavery question grew in intensity, and reached their culmination in a series of startling incidents.

Charles Sumner, one of the Senators from the State of Massachusetts, had become conspicuous, in the prevailing political agitation, for his aggressive and radical anti-slavery speeches in the Senate and elsewhere. The slavery issue had brought him into politics; he had been elected to the United States Senate by the coalition of a small number of Free-soilers with the Democrats in the Massachusetts Legislature.

The slavery question, therefore, became the dominant principle and the keynote of his public career. He was a man of liberal culture, of considerable erudition in the law, of high literary ability, and he had attained an enviable social eminence. Of large physical frame and strength, gifted with a fine presence and a sonorous voice, fearless and earnest in his opposition to slavery, Charles Sumner was one of the favorite orators of the early declamatory period of the Republican party.

He joined unreservedly in the exciting Senate debates, provoked by the rival applications from Kansas for her admission as a State. On the 19th and 20th of May, 1856, he delivered an elaborate speech in the Senate, occupying two days. It was one of his greatest efforts, and had been prepared with his usual industry. In character it was a philippic rather than an argument, strong, direct, and aggressive, in which classical illustration and acrimonious accusation were blended with great effect.

It described what he called “The Crime against Kansas”; and the excuses for the crime he denominated the apology tyrannical, the apology imbecile, the apology absurd, and the apology infamous. “Tyranny, imbecility, absurdity, and infamy,” he continued, “all unite to dance, like the weird sisters, about this crime.”

In the course of his speech he alluded, among others, to A.P. Butler, of South Carolina, and in reply to some severe strictures by that Senator during preceding debates, indulged in caustic personal criticism upon his course and utterance, as well as upon the State which he represented.

With regret [said Sumner], I come again upon the Senator from South Carolina [Mr. Butler], who, omnipresent in this debate, overflowed with rage at the simple suggestion that Kansas had applied for admission as a State; and with incoherent phrases discharged the loose expectoration of his speech, now upon her representative and then upon her people. There was no extravagance of the ancient parliamentary debate which he did not repeat; nor was there any possible deviation from truth which he did not make, with so much of passion, I am glad to add, as to save him from the suspicion of intentional aberration. But the Senator touches nothing which he does not disfigure–with error, sometimes of principle, sometimes of fact. He shows an incapacity of accuracy, whether in stating the Constitution or in stating the law, whether in details of statistics or the diversions of scholarship. He cannot open his mouth but out there flies a blunder.

[Illustration: CHARLES SUMNER.]

Butler was not present in the Senate on either day; what he might have said or done, had he been there, can only be conjectured. The immediate replies from Douglas and others were very bitter. Among pro-slavery members of both Houses there was an under-current of revengeful murmurs. It is possible that this hostile manifestation may have decided a young member of the House, Preston S. Brooks, a nephew of Senator Butler, to undertake retaliation by violence. Acquainting Henry A. Edmundson, another member, with his design, he waited on two different occasions at the western entrance to the Capitol grounds to encounter Mr. Sumner, but without meeting him.

[Sidenote] 1856.

On the 22d of May, two days after the speech, Brooks entered the Senate Chamber on the same errand. The session had been short, and after adjournment Sumner remained at his desk, engaged in writing. The sessions were at that time held in the old Senate Chamber, now occupied by the Supreme Court. The seats were arranged in semicircles, with a railing to separate them from a narrow lobby or open space next the wall; a broad aisle ran from the main door to the desk of the presiding officer. Mr. Sumner’s seat was in the outside row next to the railing, at the second desk to the right from the entrance and the main aisle. Occupied with his work, Mr. Sumner did not notice Mr. Brooks, sitting across the aisle to his left, and where in conversation with a friend he was manifesting his impatience that a lady seated near Mr. Sumner did not take her departure from the chamber. Almost at that moment she arose and went out; quickly afterwards Brooks got up and advanced to the front of Sumner’s desk. The act attracted the attention of Brooks’s friend; he was astonished, amid the bitterness of party feeling, to see a South Carolina Representative talk to a Massachusetts Senator. His astonishment was quickly corrected. Leaning upon the desk and addressing Sumner with a rapid sentence or two, to the effect that he had read his speech, that it was a libel upon his absent relative, and that he had come to punish him for it, Brooks began striking him on the head with a gutta-percha walking-cane, of the ordinary length and about an inch in diameter.

Surprised, blinded and stunned by the blows, Sumner’s first instinct was to grapple with his assailant. This effort, however, was futile; the desk was between them, and being by his sitting posture partially under it, Sumner was prevented from rising fully to his feet until he had by main strength, in his struggles, wrenched it from its fastenings on the floor. In his attempt to follow Brooks they became turned, and from between the desks moved out into the main aisle. By this time, through the repetition of the heavy blows and loss of blood, Sumner became unconscious. Brooks, seizing him by the coat-collar, continued his murderous attack till Sumner, reeling in utter helplessness, sank upon the floor beside the desk nearest the aisle, one row nearer the center of the chamber than his own. The witnesses variously estimated the number of blows given at from ten to thirty. Two principal wounds, two inches long and an inch deep, had been cut on the back of Sumner’s head; and near the end of the attack, Brooks’s cane was shivered to splinters.

There were perhaps ten or fifteen persons in the chamber, and after the first momentary pause of astonishment half a dozen started to interfere. Before they reached the spot, however, Lawrence M. Keitt, another South Carolina Representative, came rushing down the main aisle, brandishing his cane, and with imprecations warning lookers-on to “let them alone.” Among those hastening to the rescue, Mr. Morgan arrived first, just in time to catch and sustain the Senator as he fell. Another bystander, who had run round outside the railing, seized Brooks by the arm about the same instant; and the wounded man was borne to an adjoining room, where he was cared for by a hastily summoned physician.

Among Mr. Sumner’s friends the event created a certain degree of consternation. The language which provoked the assault, whatever might be thought of its offensive character, was strictly parliamentary, uninterrupted either by the chair or by any member. The assault itself was so desperate and brutal that it implied a vindictiveness deeper than mere personal revenge. This spirit of bullying, this resort to violence, had recently become alarmingly frequent among members of Congress, especially as it all came from the pro-slavery party. Since the beginning of the current session, a pro-slavery member from Virginia had assaulted the editor of a Washington newspaper; another pro-slavery member, from Arkansas, had violently attacked Horace Greeley on the street; a third pro-slavery member, from California, had shot an unoffending waiter at Willard’s Hotel. Was this fourth instance the prelude of an intention to curb or stifle free Congressional debate? It is probable that this question was seriously considered at the little caucus of Republican Senators held that night at the house of Mr. Seward. The Republicans had only a slender minority in the Senate, and a plurality in the House; they could do nothing but resolve on a course of parliamentary inquiry, and agree on an attitude of defense.

Sumner’s colleague, Henry Wilson, made a very brief announcement of the occurrence to the Senate on the following day, and it at once became apparent that the transaction would assume an almost strictly party character. As no Democratic Senator proposed an inquiry, Mr. Seward moved for a committee of investigation; upon which James M. Mason, of Virginia, proposed that the committee should be elected by ballot. The result was that no Republican was chosen upon it; and the committee reached the conclusion that it had no power in the premises, except to report the occurrence to the House. In the House the usual committee from the three parties was raised, resulting in two reports. The minority, sustained by the vote of sixty members, pleaded a want of jurisdiction. The majority recommended the expulsion of Brooks, and expressed disapprobation by the House of the course of his colleague, Edmundson, in countenancing the assault, and of the act of Keitt in his personal interference. But the necessary two-thirds vote for the expulsion of Brooks could not be obtained; a vote of censure was therefore passed by a large majority. The discussion of the report and resolutions occupied the House several days, and whatever effort members made to disguise their motives, their actions, either of condemnation or of excuse, arose in the main clearly enough from their party relations. Under the forms of parliamentary debate, the South and the North were breathing mutual recrimination and defiance.

The public of both sections took up the affair with equal party zeal. From the North came resolutions of legislatures, outbursts of indignation in meetings and addresses, and the denunciation of Brooks and his deed in the newspapers. In the South the exactly opposite sentiment predominated. Brooks was defended and eulogized, and presented with canes and pitchers as testimonials to his valor. When the resolution of censure had been passed, he at once resigned his seat in the House, and going home to his constituents, was immediately reelected. Within three weeks he reappeared at the bar of the House, with a new commission from his Governor, and was sworn in and continued his service as before. The arrogant address which preceded his resignation contained the remarkable intimation that much more serious results might have grown out of the incident. “No act of mine,” he said, “on my personal account, shall inaugurate revolution; but when you, Mr. Speaker, return to your own home, and hear the people of the great North–and they are a great people–speak of me as a bad man, you will do me the justice to say that a blow struck by me at this time would be followed by a revolution; and this I know.”

Under the state of public sentiment then prevailing at the South, it would have been strange if the extraordinary event and the succeeding debate had not provoked other similar affairs. Mr. Sumner’s colleague, Senator Henry Wilson, of Massachusetts (afterwards Vice-President of the United States), in his speech characterized the assault as “brutal, murderous, and cowardly.” For this language Brooks sent him a challenge. Wilson wrote a reply declining the encounter, but in the same letter announcing that “I religiously believe in the right of self-defense, in its broadest sense.”

One of the sharpest denunciations of the assault was made by Anson Burlingame, a Massachusetts Representative (afterwards United States Minister to China, and still later Chinese Minister to the United States). “I denounce it,” he said, “in the name of the Constitution it violates. I denounce it in the name of the sovereignty of Massachusetts, which was stricken down by the blow. I denounce it in the name of humanity. I denounce it in the name of civilization, which it outraged. I denounce it in the name of that fair-play which bullies and prize-fighters respect.” For this, after some efforts had been made by friends to bring about an amicable understanding, Brooks sent him also a challenge. Mr. Burlingame accepted the challenge, and his second designated the Clifton House in Canada as the rendezvous and rifles as weapons. Burlingame at once started on the journey; but Brooks declined to go, on the excuse that his life would not be safe on such a trip through the North.

Broadened into national significance by all these attendant circumstances, the Sumner assault became a leading event in the great slavery contest between the South and North. It might well rank as one of the episodes of the civil war then raging in Kansas, out of which it had in reality grown, and with which it was intertwined in motive,