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the southern States, through the mail, of incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection"; but an attempt in the Senate, by a committee of which Calhoun was chairman, to fasten upon the post-office appropriation bill of 1836 a provision authorizing postmasters to detain suspected matter, fortunately failed.

The inherent antagonism between slavery and free thought was shown far more seriously, however, in the temporary denial by Congress of the right of petition. In furtherance of their constitutional agitation, the abolitionists, following an example set by the Quakers almost from the organization of the government, had begun systematically to petition Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and in other places over which the federal government had exclusive jurisdiction. The anger and irritation of southern members increased with the rising volume of memorial and request. The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances is justly regarded as one of the most precious privileges of the citizen, and the denial of the right a serious encroachment upon political liberty. May 25, 1836, however, the House of Representatives, after declaring that Congress possessed no constitutional authority to interfere with slavery in any State, and that slavery ought not to be abolished in the District of Columbia, voted “that all petitions, memorials, propositions, or papers, relating in any way, or to any extent whatever, to the subject of slavery, shall, without being printed or referred, be laid upon the table, and that no further action whatever shall be had thereon." In January, 1840, a rule of the House declared that no such petition

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should be received, “or entertained in any way v whatever.”

Against this arbitrary action John Quincy Adams, who, after his not altogether successful administration as President, had begun, in 1831, a brilliant career in the House of Representatives, vigorously protested. Adams owed his support at home in part to the abolitionists, with whose main purposes he was now in practical accord, and he refused to abate this agitation until, in 1844, the “gag-rule” was repealed. Rarely has the atmosphere of the House been more charged with passion and hate than during the years when Adams was waging his splendid fight for free speech and free thought. Petitions for his expulsion and threats of personal violence did not intimidate him. In February, 1837, there was talk of censuring him for presenting a petition signed by slaves, and the anger of the House was only increased when it finally came out that the prayer of the petitioners was against abolition, not in favor of it. An attempt to expel Adams, in 1842, happily failed. Joshua R. Giddings, of Ohio, who ably seconded Adams's efforts, was censured by the House for his conduct, resigned his seat, was triumphantly reelected by his constituents, and shortly returned with an endorsement which even the angry and excited House dared not disregard.

A recent historian, whose attitude towards the early abolition agitation is far from friendly, gives it as his opinion that “the whole course of the internal history of the United States from 1836 to 1861 was more largely determined by the struggle in Congress over the abolition petitions and the use of the mails for the distribution of the abolition literature than

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by anything else.”' The demand for immediate emancipation, indeed, had put slavery on the defensive, and while the North was slow in rousing, the extreme claims of southern leaders in Congress, revealing as they did an evident determination to suppress all discussion on the subject, were themselves a confession of weakness. The federal administration, however, was largely in the hands of able men from the southern States, as it had been for most of the years since 1789; and whether slavery was an evil or a good, it was not likely to be either overthrown or seriously restricted without prolonged resistance.

In 1840 the abolitionists were for the first time able to put a Presidential ticket in the field, though the decision so to do made a permanent breach in the abolition ranks, a large number, including Garrison, holding the formation of a third party to be inexpedient. The Democratic platform of 1840 denied the right of Congress to interfere with the domestic institutions of any State, and denounced the abolition agitation as “calculated to lead to the most alarming and dangerous consequences” and to “endanger the stability and permanency of the Union.” The Whigs were not yet prepared to take issue with the Democrats on this point. The abolition convention in December, 1839, held at Warsaw, New York, nominated James G. Birney, of New York, for President, and Thomas Earle, of Pennsylvania, for Vice-president. Birney had been an Alabama slaveholder, but had been converted to abolition through belief in colonization and gradual emancipation. In

* Burgess, Middle Period, 274.

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the election of 1840 these candidates polled but 7069 votes in a total vote of 2,411,187; but the day of greater things was at hand. Until the Thirteenth Amendment had abolished slavery, the question of abolition was destined not to be absent from any Presidential campaign. It remained to be seen whether, under the stress of practical politics, the agitation could be kept free from dangerous entanglements, or could accept the temporary expedients which are a necessary accompaniment of every great reform.

XX

TERRITORIAL SLAVERY

ACKSON'S choice of a successor fell upon his JM

Vice-president, Martin Van Buren. As Secretary of State and Vice-president, Van Buren had had experience in national administration, while his earlier membership in the political group known as the

Albany Regency” had given him an acquaintance with "practical politics" such as few men of his generation possessed. Born of an old New York family, bred to wealth and social position, he was in striking contrast to the rough-and-ready champion of democracy who now pressed his candidacy to a successful issue. Yet his path to the Presidency was strewn with difficulties. Van Buren, though Secretary of State, was well known to have been also intimate with the so-called kitchen cabinet to which Jackson, in his first administration, had given his confidence; and when, in 1831, following Calhoun's attack upon Jackson for the latter's course in the Seminole war, there came the break-up of the cabinet, the nomination of Van Buren to be Minister to Great Britain was rejected by the Senate. The rejection was the more humiliating because achieved by the casting vote of Calhoun, then Vice-president, and because Van Buren, confident of his confirmation, had already presented his credentials at the court of St.

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