Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

these should form free or slave States, should be left to be settled by the inhabitants. This last principle, known as that of“ Squatter Sovereignty," had Senator Douglas for a prominent advocate. Opposition was promptly made, not only by Sumner, Gerrit Smith, and other anti-slavery Congressmen, but also by Edward Everett, who had hitherto been on the other side. He now gave a strong indication of what a change was going on in New England, by presenting a remonstrance signed by more than three thousand of her clergymen. How large a part of these petitioners were now opposing the slave power for the first time may be imagined from the fact that the indignation meeting, which was held in Faneuil Hall, on the afternoon of February 23, 1854, had a member of Congress, who had voted for the Fugitive Slave Bill, in the chair, and all the speakers, as well as some of the vice-presidents, had earned a place on the “Liberator's " blackest list. Similar meetings were held so freely all over the North, that Senator Douglas declared, some years later, that he could have traveled from Boston to Chicago by the light of his own burning effigies. One half of the Northern Democrats voted with all the Northern Whigs and the Free Soilers against the Kansas and Nebraska Bill in the House of Representatives; but it became a law, at the same time that Anthony Burns was sent back to slavery from Boston, and carried through the streets by soldiers and armed policemen in open day.

All the appeals of Garrison, Phillips, Douglass, Beecher, and Mrs. Stowe, in behalf of the negro, had awakened but little interest compared with that called out by the attempts of the South to prevent Northern white men from settling Kansas, and to drive them out by inroads of border-ruffians from Missouri, backed by federal troops. Public sentiment sanctioned not only the supply of rifles to emigrants, who flocked in from Massachusetts, Ohio, and other Northern States, but the formation of guerrilla bands under John Brown and other captains. The Fugitive Slave Bill was decided to be unconstitutional in Wisconsin; and laws to hinder its execution were passed by Michigan, as well as by the New England States. The Whigs united with the Free Soilers, and the new party took the name Republican in July, 1854. The outrages upon Free State settlers in that year and the next caused the anti-slavery vote of New England to rise from 57,143, in 1852, to 184,850 in 1855, and 307,417 in 1856. The figures for New York are 25,359, 136,698, and 276,004. The change throughout the Union was from 156,149 votes in 1852 to 1,341,264 in 1856. Eleven States were then carried for Fremont, whereas not a single electoral vote had ever been cast for any of the Free Soil or Liberty party candidates. The neutral North became anti-slavery, because it was not allowed to feed peaceably in Kansas.

How earnestly, and at the same time how sensibly, Douglass took part in this great struggle, may be judged from the speech which he delivered before a great audience in Chicago, early in September, 1854. I have taken care to copy all the boldest portions ; and there is also a cordial eulogium on Senator Douglas, closing with the remark that no one would think any the less of that name if it should be placed by the nation upon the scroll of Presidents. He begins

by claiming to be an American citizen, and declaring that :

· The Constitution knows no man by the color of his skin. The men who made it were too noble for any such limitation of humanity and human rights. The word 'white' is a modern term in the legislation of this country. It was never used in the better days of our Republic, but has sprung up within the period of our national degeneracy.”... “I am here simply as an American citizen, having a stake in the weal or woe of the nation in common with other citizens. I am not even here as the agent of any sect or party. Parties are too politic and sects are too sectarian, to select one of my odious class, and of my radical opinions, at this important time and place to represent them. Nevertheless, I do not stand alone here. There are noble-minded men in Illinois who are neither ashamed of their cause nor their company. Some of them are here tonight, and I expect to meet with them in every part of the State where I may travel. But, I pray, hold no man or party responsible for my words, for I am no man's agent, and I am no party's agent." ..." It is alleged that I am come to this State to insult Senator Douglas. Among gentlemen that is only an insult which is intended to be such, and I disavow all such intention. I am not even here with the desire to meet in public debate that gentleman. I am here precisely as I was in this State one year ago—with no other change in my relations to you, or to the great question of human freedom, than time and circumstances have brought about. I shall deal with the subject with the same spirit now as then, approving such men and such measures as look to the security of liberty in the land, and with my whole heart condemning all such men and measures, as serve to subvert or endanger it. If Hon. S. A. Douglas, your beloved and highly gifted Senator, has designedly, or through mistaken notions of public policy, ranged himself on the side of oppressors and the deadliest enemies of liberty, I know of no reason, either in this world or in any other

[ocr errors]

world, which should prevent me, or prevent any one else, from thinking so, or from saying so.

The people in whose cause I come here to-night are not among those whose right to regulate their own domestic concerns is so feelingly, and earnestly, and eloquently contended for in certain quarters. They have no Stephen Arnold Douglas-no General Cass, to contend at North Market Hall for their popular sovereignty. They have no national purse, no offices, no reputation, with which to corrupt Congress, or to tempt men, mighty in eloquence and influence, into their service. Oh, no! They have nothing to commend them but their unadorned humanity. They are human—that's all-only human. Nature owns them as human-God owns them as human; but men own them as property, and only as property. Every right of human nature, as such, is denied them; they are dumb in their chains. To utter one groan or scream for freedom in the presence of the Southern advocate of popular sovereignty, is to bring down the frightful lash upon their quivering flesh. I know this suffering people; I am acquainted with their sorrows; I am one with them in experience; I have felt the lash of the slave-driver, and stand up here with all the bitter recol. lection of its horrors vividly upon me.

• There are special reasons why I should speak, and speak freely. The right of speech is a very precious one. I understand that Mr. Douglas regards himself as the most abused man in the United States; and that the greatest outrage ever committed upon him was in the case in which your indignation raised your voices so high that his could not be heard. No personal violence, as I understand, was offered him. It seems to have been a trial of vocal powers between the individual and the multitude; and, as might have been expected, the voice of one man was not equal in volume to the voices of five thousand. I do not mention this circumstance to approve it; I do not approve it. I am for free speech, as well as for free men and free soil ; but how ineffably insignificant is this wrong done in a single instance, compared to the stupendous iniquity perpetuated against more than three millions of the American people, who are struck dumb by the very men in whose cause Mr. Senator Douglas was here to plead! While I would not approve the silencing of Mr. Douglas, may we not hope that this slight abridgment of his rights may lead him to respect in some degree the rights of other men, as good in the eye of Heaven as himself?

“Let us now consider the great question of the age, the only great national question which seriously agitates the public mind at this hour. It is called the vexed question, and excites alarm in every quarter of the country. ...

“The proposition to repeal the Missouri Compromise, was a stunning one. It fell upon the nation like a bolt from a cloudless sky. The thing was too startling for belief. You believed in the South; and you believed in the North; and you knew that the repeal of the Missouri Compromise was a breach of honor; and, therefore, you said that the thing could not be done. Besides, both parties had pledged themselves directly, positively, and solemnly against re-opening in Congress the agitation on the subject of slavery ; and the President himself had declared his intention to maintain the national quiet. Upon these assurances you rested, and rested fatally. But you should have learned long ago that men do not 'gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles. It is folly to put faith in men who have broken faith with God. When a man has brought himself to enslave a child of God, to put fetters on his brother, he has qualified himself to disregard the most sacred of compacts : beneath the sky there is nothing more sacred than man, and nothing can be properly respected when manhood is despised and trampled upon.

" It is said that slavery is the creature of positive law, and that it can only exist where it is sustained by positive law—that neither in Kansas nor Nebraska is there any law establishing slavery and that, therefore, the moment a slave-holder carries his slave into those territories, he is free and restored to the rights of human nature. This is the ground taken by General Cass. He contended for it in the North Market Hall, with much eloquence and skill. I thought, while I was hearing him

« AnteriorContinuar »