John F. Hume
Part 2 out of 4
be noted, trembling, not with fear, but with age."
His speech was absolutely crushing. He met every point that had been
urged against him and triumphantly refuted it. He handled his
oratorical antagonists with merciless severity, depicting certain
events in their lives with such vividness that the onlookers gazed
upon them with visible and unmistakable pity. Said one of these men
when he afterwards understood that a certain party was about to engage
in a controversial debate with Mr. Adams, "Then may the Lord have
mercy on him."
Mr. Adams was not expelled. His opponents frankly admitted their
discomfiture and dropped the whole business.
It cannot be denied that John Quincy Adams, almost by his unaided
efforts, preserved and sustained the life of the Anti-Slavery cause at
a time when it was almost moribund. He plowed the ground, cutting a
deep and broad furrow as he went his way, and in the upturned soil
such laborers as Birney and Garrison and Chase planted the seed that
rooted and grew until it yielded a plentiful harvest.
The divergent characteristics of the East and the West were never more
clearly shown than in the progress of the Anti-Slavery movement.
Efforts were made to plant Abolition societies at various points
throughout the West, but they failed to take permanent root and soon
disappeared. The failure was not due to any lack of interest, but
rather to an excess of zeal on the part of the Western supporters of
the cause. Society organizations on the lines of moral suasion were
too slow and tame to suit them. They preferred the excitement of
politics. They believed in the superior efficacy of a political party,
and to its upbuilding they gave their energies and resources. In the
"long run" they were amply vindicated, but for all that, the favorite
Eastern method for organized effort had its advantages.
The East, and especially New England, always believed in societies. If
anything of a public nature was to be promoted or prevented, a society
always appealed to the New Englander as the natural instrumentality.
There is a tradition that when Boston was ravaged by a loathsome
disease, a number of its leading citizens came together and promptly
organized an anti-smallpox society.
When, therefore, it was decided that an Anti-Slavery movement should
be inaugurated in Boston, the proper thing to do, according to all the
standards of the place, was to organize a society. But the thing was
more easily resolved upon than done. It required the concurrence of
several parties of like-mindedness. Boston was a pretty large place,
but Anti-Slavery people were scarce. The number (doubtless selected
because it was Apostolic) assumed to be necessary was twelve. Fifteen
people of somewhat similar views were at last brought together. After
much discussion nine favored an organization and six opposed it. So
far the operation was a failure. But at last, after much canvassing,
twelve men were found who promised their co-operation--twelve and no
more. Although respectable people, they were not of Boston's "first
citizens" by any means. It is said that if they had been called upon
for a hundred dollars each, not over two of them could have responded
The twelve came together at night and in the basement of an African
Baptist Church, the room being used in the daytime to accommodate a
school for colored children. It was in an obscure quarter of Boston
known as "Nigger Hill." The conference was in the month of December,
and the night is thus described by Oliver Johnson, who was one of the
twelve: "A fierce northeast storm, combining rain, snow, and hail in
about equal proportions, was raging, and the streets were full of
slush. They were dark, too, for the city of Boston in those days was
very economical of light on Nigger Hill."
Both nature and man seemed to be in league against those plucky
pioneers of an unpopular cause. They, however, were not dismayed nor
disheartened. It was as they were stepping out into the gloomy night,
that Mr. Garrison, who, it is scarcely necessary to say, was one of
the twelve, remarked to his associates: "We have met to-night in this
obscure schoolhouse; our numbers are few, and our influence limited,
but mark my prediction. Faneuil Hall shall ere long echo to the
principles we have set forth."
What those principles were is shown by the declaration adopted by that
handful of confederates, and which, in view of the time and
circumstances of its formulation, was certainly a most remarkable
document. Its essential proposition was: "We, the undersigned, hold
that every person of full age and sound mind has a right to immediate
freedom from personal bondage of whatsoever kind, unless imposed by
the sentence of the law for the commission of some crime."
The Declaration of Independence, which was produced with no little
theatrical effect amid the pomp and circumstance of a national
conclave that had met in the finest hall in the country, was
unquestionably a remarkable and memorable pronouncement. It was for
the time and situation a radical utterance. It was the precursor of a
revolution that gave political freedom to several million people.
But the platform of principles that was announced by the New England
Anti-Slavery Society (the name adopted) in that little grimy
schoolroom on "Nigger Hill" was, in at least some respects, a more
remarkable document. Its enunciation required an equal degree of
physical and moral courage. It was the precursor of a revolution that
gave both personal and political freedom to a larger number than were
benefited by the other declaration. But what chiefly distinguished it,
the time and the situation being considered, was its radical
utterance. It gave no countenance to any measure of compromise. It
offered no pabulum to the wrongdoer in the form of compensation for
stolen humanity. It demanded what was right, and demanded it at once.
And that fearless and unyielding platform became the basis for all the
Abolition societies that came after it. A goodly number of such
societies were organized. "The Anti-Slavery Society for the City of
New York" was formed by a few men who met and did their work while a
mob was pounding at the door, and who, having completed their task,
fled for their lives.
It was at first intended that a national Anti-Slavery society should
be established with headquarters in the city of New York, but its
proposed organizers discovered that there was not a public hall or
church in that city in which they would be permitted to assemble.
Philadelphia, with its Quaker contingent, offered a more inviting
field, and to that city it was decided to go. But serious obstructions
here interposed. Representatives appeared from fourteen States, which
was highly encouraging, but no prominent Philadelphian could be found
to act as chairman of the meeting. A committee was appointed to secure
the services of such a man, but, after interviewing a number of
leading citizens, it was compelled to report that it was received by
all of them with "polite frigidity."
Strange to say, the convention was permitted to meet for three days in
succession in a public assembly room without interference from a mob.
The police, however, warned the participants not to hold night
sessions, as they in that case would not promise protection. The good
behavior of Philadelphia on this occasion was noteworthy, but it was
too good to last. When another Anti-Slavery meeting, not long after,
was convened in that city, it was broken up by a mob, and the hall in
which it met was burned to the ground.
Finally came the National Anti-Slavery Society, which, in view of its
limited financial resources, certainly did a wonderful work. Its
publications, in spite of careful watching of the mails and other
precautions adopted by the slaveholders, reached all parts of the
country, and its preachers, sent out and commissioned to proclaim the
new evangel of equal manhood, were absolutely ubiquitous.
Those early Anti-Slavery lecturers were a peculiar set. Since the days
of the Apostles there have been no more earnest propagandists. They
were both male and female. That they were, as a rule, financially
poor, it is unnecessary to state. They lived largely on the country
traversed. Sympathizers with their views, having received and
entertained them--sometimes clandestinely--after a public talk or two,
would carry them on to the next stations on their routes, occasionally
contributing a few dollars to their purses. It made no particular
difference to them whether they spoke in halls, in churches, or in
the open air. Before beginning their addresses their usual course was
to challenge their opponents to debate, and to taunt them with lack of
courage or principle if they failed to respond. Of course, they were
in constant danger from mobs. They were stoned, clubbed, shot at, and
rotten-egged, and in a few extreme cases tarred and feathered; but
they were never frightened from their work.
They were by no means policy-wise. That was one of their
peculiarities. Their idea seemed to be that they could drive people
easier than they could lead them. They used no buttered phrases. They
told the plainest truths in the plainest way. They gave their
audiences hard words, and often received hard knocks in return. They
called the slaveholders robbers and man-stealers. They branded
Northern politicians with Southern principles as "dough-faces." But
their hardest and sharpest expletives were reserved for those Northern
clergymen who were either pro-slavery or non-committal. They blistered
them all over with their lashings. In speaking of one of the most
noted among them, Lowell describes him as
"A kind of maddened John the Baptist
To whom the hardest word came aptest."
The lecturer of whom I saw the most in those early trying days was
Professor Hudson, of Oberlin College. While in that part of the field
he made headquarters at my father's house, radiating out and filling
appointments in different directions. He was exceedingly sharp-tongued
and very fearless. Nothing seemed to please him better than a
"scrimmage" with his opponents. Often he conquered mobs by resolutely
talking them down and making them ashamed of themselves. But on one
occasion, looking through the window from the outside to see what
awaited him in a room where he was to speak, he saw a pot of boiling
tar on the stove that heated the room and a pillow-case full of
feathers conveniently near, while a half-drunken crowd was in
possession of the place, and concluded to run. He, however, had been
seen and was pursued. There was a foot race, but as some of the
pursuers were better sprinters than Hudson, and he was about to be
captured, he dashed into the first house he came to and asked for
protection. The proprietor was a kinsman of mine. He was an old man,
but hearty and vigorous. He ordered his sons to take their guns and
guard the other entrances, while he took his stand in the front door
with an axe in his hand. When the mob came up and demanded the
Abolitionist, he gave warning that he would brain the first man that
attempted to enter his house without his consent. So evidently in
earnest was he that the rowdies, after a little bluster, concluded to
give up the hunt and left in disgust.
WANTED, AN ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY
The National Anti-Slavery Society--the society organized by
Garrison and his _confreres_, and which longest maintained its
organization--made one great mistake. It disbanded. It assumed that
its work was done when African slavery in this country was pronounced
defunct by law. It took it for granted that the enslavement of the
colored man--not necessarily the negro--was no longer possible under
the Stars and Stripes. Then and there it committed a grievous blunder.
Its paramount error was in assuming that a political party could for
all time be depended upon as a party of freedom. It trusted to the
assurances of politicians that they would protect the colored man in
all his natural and acquired rights, and in that belief voluntarily
gave up the ghost and cast its mantle to the winds.
Now, the fact is that the National Anti-Slavery Society was never more
needed than it is to-day. There is a mighty work to be done that was
directly in the line of its operations. First and foremost, it will
not be denied that a citizen of our Republic who is deprived of the
elective franchise is robbed of one of his most valuable
privileges--one of his most essential rights. The ballot, under a
political system like ours, is both the sword and the shield of
liberty. Without it no man is really a freeman. He does not stand on
an equality with his fellows.
Nor will it be denied that the negro, although our amended
Constitution promises him all the privileges of citizenship, is in
many parts of our country practically divested of his vote. By a
species of legerdemain in the communities in which he is most numerous
and most needs protection, he is to all intents and purposes
disfranchised. What will follow as the final outcome we do not know,
but that is the beginning of his attempted re-enslavement. It is
beyond any question that his return to involuntary servitude in some
condition or conditions, the disarming him of the ballot being the
initial step in the proceeding, is seriously contemplated, if not
deliberately planned. Indeed, under the name of "peonage" the work of
re-establishing a system of slaveholding that is barbarous in the
extreme is already begun. Men and women have been seized upon by
force, and upon the most flimsy pretexts have been subjected to a
bondage that in its inhumanities may easily equal even the slavery of
the olden time. The number of victims is undoubtedly much larger than
the general public has any idea of.
Nor are there lacking signs of studied preparation for the extension
of the system. The present time is full of them. Efforts to create a
prejudice against the colored man are visible in all directions. He is
described as a failure in the role of freeman. The idleness and
shiftlessness of certain members of his race--undoubtedly altogether
too numerous--are dwelt upon as characteristic of the entire family.
Scant praise is given to those members who are doing well, and whose
number is encouragingly large. These are as far as possible ignored.
The race problem is spoken of as full of increasing difficulties, and
as imperatively demanding a change from present conditions. The people
of the North are being especially indoctrinated with such ideas. They
are told that they must leave their brethren of the former
slaveholding States, and in which the negroes principally dwell, to
deal with the issues arising between the whites and the blacks; that
they--the Southerners--understand the questions to be settled, and
that outsiders should withhold their hands and their sympathies. It is
none of their business, they are informed, while assurances are freely
given that the people who, because of their experience with them,
understand the negroes, will take considerate care of them. What kind
of care they are taking of them in certain quarters is shown by recent
And what has the political party which, in view of its manifold
professions, was supposed to have the interests of the negro in its
especial keeping, done about it? Nothing whatever. It has looked on
with the coolest indifference. The only concern it has shown in the
matter has related to the question of Congressional representation as
dependent upon the enumeration of electors, and, in so doing, has
plainly intimated that if, through the negro's political robbery, it
can secure an increase of partisan power, it is perfectly willing that
the cause of the injured black man should "slide."
Indifference in regard to the rights of peoples of color is
unfortunately not the only nor even the greatest charge to be laid at
the door of the Republican party. It may be asserted that this party
has become an active aggressor in trampling down the liberties of
colored peoples. As the assignee of Spain in taking over (without
consulting those who were most concerned) the control of the territory
of the Philippine Islands, it has purchased (and has paid cash for)
the right to dominate from eight to ten millions of people. These
people may, under the existing conditions, be described as being in a
state of slavery. If a foreign people, say a people coming from the
other side of the globe, should treat Americans as we have treated the
Filipinos, should deny to us the right of self-government, should send
great armies to chastise us for disobedience (or for what they might
call "rebellion"), and should do this for no better reason than that
our skin was darker or lighter than their own, we Americans would
doubtless consider ourselves to be in a state of slavery. Why in any
sense is slavery in Luzon more defensible than slavery in South
Carolina or in Alabama? If it be wrong to keep in slavery the black
man in America (as in theory at least we are all now agreed it is
wrong), what is the justice in depriving of his freedom the
brown-skinned Tagal? Can a bill of sale from Spain give to us any such
privilege, if privilege it may be called? Can an agreement with Spain
bring to naught our responsibilities under our own Declaration of
Although, owing to the remoteness of the islands, we have as yet but
little trustworthy knowledge as to what has really occurred in this
new territory, and possibly in any case have not been informed of the
things which are most to be condemned, the reports that have reached
us of barbarities perpetrated upon a people who never did us any harm
or wrong ought certainly to awaken in American bosoms every throb of
pity and every sentiment of manliness. We have had accounts of
butcheries called "battles" in which have been slaughtered hundreds of
almost defenseless creatures for no offense except that of standing up
for their independence. It is said that certain districts that would
not acknowledge our mastery have been turned into wildernesses, and
that in these districts the number of the slain may easily have
equaled the victims of massacres in Armenia and Bessarabia, massacres
which we have always so strenuously condemned. Thousands of men,
women, and children have perished at our hands or in connection with
operations for which we were responsible; and in addition to the
taking of life there is record of the infliction of serious cruelties.
As assignees of Spain, we seem to have succeeded not only to her
properties but to her policies in the treatment of subject races. We
do not know that in the greatest excesses of the bad colonial
government of Spaniards they ever inflicted a torture more exquisite
than that of the "water cure." How many of the perpetrators of these
atrocities have been adequately punished, or how many have been
punished at all?
It is wonderful with what complacency we have received the accounts of
these horrible affairs. Nobody has been disturbed. The newspapers,
beyond reporting the facts, have had nothing to say. The Church has
been silent--at least that can be said of the Protestant Church. Not
one brave or manly word of protest or condemnation has the writer
heard, or heard of, from a Protestant American pulpit. Catholics,
being victims and sufferers, have complained and protested. The
greatest discomfort these things have produced has been occasioned by
the apprehension that, through somebody's lack of patriotism, our flag
may be withdrawn from the field of such glorious operations. It used
to be our boast that Freedom followed our flag. Now slavery follows
In view of the facts stated we can understand, not only the serenity,
but the favor with which the people of this country, or the great body
of them, so long looked upon the workings of African slavery, and the
difficulty which the Abolitionists had in arousing a sentiment of
revulsion toward it.
One of the curious things in this connection is the similarity--the
practical sameness--of the arguments used to justify the Philippine
occupation and those once used to justify American slaveholding. We
are now working to civilize and Christianize the Filipinos, and were
then civilizing and Christianizing the negroes with the lash and the
Of course, there are other arguments. Increase of trade and wealth, as
the result of our appropriation of other peoples' possessions, is
freely predicted. It has always been the robber's plea. That is what
it is to-day, even when employed by a professed Christian nation. Nor
is it improved by the fact that the grounds upon which it is
predicated and urged are largely fallacious. The spoliation of the
Philippines will never repay us for the blood--our own blood--and
treasure it has cost us, apart from any moral or humanitarian
consideration. There is not one aspect in this business that promises
to redound to our benefit. No, I won't say that; I would hardly be
justified in going that far. In one particular the Philippine
operation has profited a considerable part of our people. It has added
materially to our Army and our Navy. The opportunity for enlargement
in those quarters was, undoubtedly, the strongest inducement for our
entering upon a colonial policy. For a great many people, and
especially in official circles, we cannot have a standing army that is
too large, nor too many ships of war. The more powerful those
appendages of our authority the larger is the opening for the kinsmen
and retainers of those in high places, who may be seeking profitable
and agreeable employment, and the more liberal the contributions of
contractors and jobbers to the sinews of partisan warfare. Our Army
to-day is nearly three times what it was five years ago, although
outside of the Philippines we are at peace with all mankind. Nor is
that formidable advance at an end. The Far East is now certain to be
the world's great battle-ground for the near future, and since we have
entered that field as the master of the Philippines, like a knight of
the olden time who was ready to do battle with all comers, we must be
constantly increasing our preparation. We may not only have to fight
the Russians and the Japanese and the Chinese, one or all, but those
foolish Filipinos may again take it into their silly heads that they
can govern themselves as well or better than we can do it for them.
That means rebellion, and, of course, chastisement must follow. As
climatic conditions in that part of the world are such that it
requires the presence of three men in the army to supply the active
services of one, it is obvious that so long as we adhere to our
present Asiatic policy, we shall never have an army and a navy large
enough and strong enough to meet the requirements of our new
On all questions affecting human liberty, no one can fail to observe
that the attitude of the two great political parties of to-day, is
practically that of the two principal parties at the time the
Abolitionists began their operations. One of them may pass perfunctory
resolutions against the Philippine crime, but dares to say nothing
about the treatment visited upon the negro. The other may say a few
compassionate, but meaningless, words for the negro, but cannot
denounce the oppression of the Filipinos. Both are fatally handicapped
by their connections and committals. Both are, in fact, pro-slavery,
although the one in power, because of its responsibility for existing
conditions, is the more criminal of the two.
What this country now needs, in the opinion of the writer, is a
revival of Abolitionism, and to that end, as one of the
instrumentalities that would be serviceable, he holds that the old
National Anti-Slavery Society should be restored. The most of the men
and women that made that institution so useful and honorable, have
passed from the scenes of their labors, but a few of them are left,
and they and such as may feel like joining them, should meet and
unfurl the old standard once more. There may be new associations
looking to very much the same ends, but better the old guard under the
old name. It would carry a prestige that no newer organization could
command. It would create a measure of confidence that would be most
strongly felt. The principles and policies it should urge are few and
First: Let it declare that the colored man in this country must be
permitted to enjoy all his rights under the Constitution as it is,
both political and personal.
Second: Let it declare that all forms of servitude, including the
denial of political self-government, under the flag, as well as under
the Constitution, must cease.
And then let it go to work for the results thus indicated, in the
spirit and with the confidence of the old-time leaders. The Society
should be revived and re-established, not for a single campaign only,
or for the rectification of such oppressions as are now in sight, but
for all time. It ought to be made a permanent institution. It should
be so arranged that the sons would step into the ranks as the fathers
dropped out and that new recruits would be constantly enlisted. Thus
reorganized the grand old institution would be an invaluable watchman
on the walls of Freedom's stronghold. The exhortation to which it
should listen, is that of the poet Bryant when he says:
"Oh not yet
Mayst thou unloose thy corslet, nor lay by
Thy sword, nor yet, O Freedom, close thy lids
In slumber, for thine enemy never sleeps."
George William Curtis, in one of his essays, says that "three speeches
have made the places where they were delivered illustrious in our
history--three, and there is no fourth." He refers to the speech of
Patrick Henry in Williamsburg, Virginia, of Lincoln in Gettysburg, and
the first address of Wendell Phillips in Faneuil Hall.
If it was the purpose of Mr. Curtis to offer the three notable
deliverances above mentioned as the best and foremost examples of
American oratory, the author cannot agree with him. In his opinion we
shall have but little difficulty in picking out the three entitled to
that distinction, provided we go to the discussion of the slavery
question to find them. That furnished the greatest occasion, being
with its ramifications and developments, by far the greatest issue
with which Americans have had to deal.
The three speeches to which the writer refers were the more notable
because they were altogether impromptu. They were what we call "off
hand." They were delivered in the face of mobs or other bitterly
hostile audiences--a circumstance that probably contributed not a
little to their effectiveness.
John Quincy Adams, who was unquestionably one of the greatest of
American orators, made several speeches in Congress that will always
command our highest admiration; but the one to which a somewhat
extended reference is made in another chapter, when an attempt was
made by the slaveholders to expel him from that body, easily ranks
among the first three exhibitions of American eloquence.
I quite agree with Mr. Curtis in giving the Faneuil Hall speech of
Wendell Phillips a pre-eminent place. A meeting had been called to
denounce the murder of Lovejoy, the Abolitionist editor. The audience
was composed in large part of pro-slavery rowdies, who were bent on
capturing or breaking up the meeting. One of their leaders--a high
official of the State of Massachusetts, by the way--made a speech in
which he justified the murderous act. "That speech must be answered
here and now," exclaimed a young man in the audience. "Answer it
yourself," shouted those about him. "I will," was the reply, "if I can
reach the platform." To the platform he was assisted, and although an
attempt was made for a time to howl him down, he persisted, and before
long so interested and charmed his hearers that his triumph was
It did not take the country long to realize that in that young man,
who was Wendell Phillips, a new oratorical luminary had arisen. He
took up the work of lecturing as a profession, treating on other
subjects as well as slavery; but when slavery was the subject no
charge was made for his services. Said Frederic Hudson, the noted New
York editor, in 1860: "It is probable that there is not another man
in the United States who is as much heard and read as Henry Ward
Beecher, unless the other man be Wendell Phillips."
The mention of Henry Ward Beecher's name is suggestive of oratory of
the very highest order. It will not be denied by any competent and
unprejudiced person that his great speech in England--there were five
addresses, but the substance was the same--upon the American question
(which directly involved the slavery issue) during our Civil War was
far and away the finest exhibition of masterful eloquence that is to
be credited to any of our countrymen. The world has never beaten it.
Mr. Beecher found himself in England by a fortunate accident at a most
critical period in our national affairs. A crisis had there been
reached. A powerful party, including a large majority of the public
men of Great Britain, favored intervention in behalf of the South.
Southern agents were at work all over the kingdom, and were remarkably
effective in propagating their views. It looked as if the Rebel
interest was on the point of winning, when Mr. Beecher appeared on the
scene. He had not gone to England to make public speeches. He was
there for health and recreation, but, realizing the situation with his
quick perceptiveness, he took up the gage of battle. It was a fearful
resolution on his part. The chances seemed to be all against him. It
was one man against thousands. His victory, however, was complete. His
five great speeches in the business centres of England and Scotland
were not only listened to by thousands, but they went all over the
country in the public prints. They completely changed the current of
Mr. Beecher's first address was in Manchester, which, owing to the
interest of the leading business men of that city in the cotton trade
and the furnishing of ships and supplies for blockade running, was a
seething hot bed of Rebel sentiment. When he arrived in that place on
the day he was to speak, he was met at the depot by friends with
troubled faces, who informed him that hostile placards--significantly
printed in red colors--had been posted all over the city, and, if he
persisted in trying to speak, he would have a very uncomfortable
He was asked how he felt about trying to go on. "I am going to be
heard," was his reply.
The best description of the scene that ensued is supplied in Mr.
Beecher's own words:
"The uproar would come in on this side, and then on that. They
would put insulting questions and make all sorts of calls to me,
and I would wait until the noise had subsided and then get in
about five minutes of talk. The reporters would get that down, and
then up would come another noise. Occasionally I would see things
that amused me, and I would laugh outright, and the crowd would
stop to see what I was laughing at. Then I would sail in with
another sentence or two. A good many times the crowd threw up
questions that I caught and threw back. I may as well at this
point mention a thing that amused me hugely. There were baize
doors that opened both ways into side alleys, and there was a huge
burly Englishman standing right in front of one of these doors and
roaring like a bull of Bashan. One of the policemen swung his
elbow round and hit him in the belly and knocked him through the
doorway, so that the last part of his bawl was out in the
alleyway. It struck me so ludicrously to think how the fellow must
have looked when he found himself 'hollering' outside, that I
could not refrain from laughing outright. The audience immediately
stopped its uproar, wondering what I was laughing at. That gave me
another chance, and I caught on to it. So we kept it up for about
an hour and a half before the people became so far calmed down
that I could go on peaceably with my speech. My audience got to
like the pluck I showed. Englishmen like a man that can stand on
his feet and give and take, and so for the last hour I had pretty
much clear sailing. The next morning every great paper in England
had the whole speech down.
"And when the vote came to be taken--for in England it is
customary for audiences to express their decision on the subject
under discussion--you would have thought it was a tropical
thunder-storm that swept through the hall as the Ayes were
thundered, while the Nays were an insignificant and contemptible
minority. It had all gone on our side, and such enthusiasm I never
It has been repeatedly stated, and to this day is generally
believed,--is so stated in several of Mr. Lincoln's biographies, I
believe,--that Mr. Beecher went to England at the President's request,
and for the purpose of making a speaking tour. The best answer is that
given by Mr. Beecher himself.
"It has been asked," said he, "whether I was sent by the
government. The government took no stock in me at that time. I had
been pounding Lincoln in the earlier years of the war, and I don't
believe there was a man down there, unless it was Mr. Chase, who
would have trusted me with anything. At any rate, I went on my own
But in referring to Abolition orators, and especially orators whose
experience it was to encounter mobs, the writer desires to pay a
tribute to one of them whose name he does not even know.
A meeting that was called to organize an Anti-Slavery society in New
York City was broken up by a mob. All of those in attendance made
their escape except one negro. He was caught and his captors thought
it would be a capital joke to make him personify one of the big
Abolitionists. He was lifted to the platform and directed to imagine
himself an Anti-Slavery leader and make an Abolition speech. The
fellow proved to be equal to the occasion. He proceeded to assert the
right of his race to the privileges of human beings with force and
eloquence. His hearers listened with amazement, and possibly with
something like admiration, until, realizing that the joke was on them,
they pulled him from the platform and kicked him from the building.
LINCOLN AND DOUGLAS
In speaking of the orators and oratory that were evolved by the
Slavery issue, there are two names that cannot be omitted. These are
Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. It was the good fortune of the
writer to be an eye and ear witness of the closing bout, at Alton,
Illinois, between those two political champions in their great debate
of 1858. The contrast between the men was remarkable. Lincoln was very
tall and spare, standing up, when speaking, straight and stiff.
Douglas was short and stumpy, a regular roly-poly man. Lincoln's face
was calm and meek, almost immobile. He referred to it in his address
as "my rather melancholy face." Although plain and somewhat rugged, I
never regarded Lincoln's face as homely. I saw him many times and
talked with him, after the occasion now referred to. It was a good
face, and had many winning lines. Douglas's countenance, on the other
hand, was leonine and full of expression. His was a handsome face.
When lighted up by the excitement of debate it could not fail to
impress an audience.
Lincoln indulged in no gesticulation. If he had been addressing a
bench of judges he would not have been more impassive in his manner.
He was an animate, but not an animated, bean-pole. He poured out a
steady flow of words--three to Douglas's two--in a simple and
semi-conversational tone. He attempted no witticisms and indulged in
no oratorical claptrap. His address was pure argument. Douglas's
manner was one of excitement, and accompanied and emphasized by almost
continuous bodily movement. His hands and his feet, and especially
that pliable face of his, were all busy talking. He said sharp things,
evidently for their immediate effect on his audience, and showed that
he was not only master of all the arts of the practical stump orator,
but was ready to employ them.
But the most noticeable difference was in the voices of the men.
Douglas spoke first, and for the first minute or two was utterly
unintelligible. His voice seemed to be all worn out by his speaking in
that long and principally open-air debate. He simply bellowed. But
gradually he got command of his organ, and pretty soon, in a somewhat
laborious and painful way, it is true, he succeeded in making himself
Lincoln's voice, on the contrary, was without a quaver or a sign of
huskiness. He had been speaking in the open air exactly as much as
Douglas, but it was perfectly fresh, not a particle strained. It was a
Those who wanted to understand Douglas had to press up close to the
platform from which he was speaking, and there was collected a dense,
but not very deep, crowd. There was no crowding in front of Lincoln
when he was speaking. He could be heard without it. There was a line
of wagons and carriages on the outskirts of the audience, and I
noticed, when Lincoln was speaking, that they were filled with
comfortably seated people listening to his address. They did not need
to go any nearer to him. The most of the shouting was done by
Douglas's partisans, composing a clear majority of the crowd, but it
was very manifest that Lincoln commanded the attention of the greater
number of those who were interested in the arguments. He did not act
as if he cared for the applause of the multitude. He said nothing,
apparently, simply to tickle the ears of his hearers.
Rather strange was it that the only points on which there did not
appear to be much, if any, difference between the two men were reached
when they came to the propositions they advocated. Douglas was
avowedly pro-slavery. He was talking in southern Illinois and on the
border of Missouri, to which many of his hearers belonged, and his
audience was mostly Southern in its feelings. He was plainly trying to
please that element. He not only approved of slavery where it was, but
metaphorically jumped on the negro and trampled all over him. He
denied that the negro was a "man" within the meaning of the
Declaration of Independence. Lincoln, however, as far as slavery in
the States was involved, met Douglas on his own ground, and "went him
one better." He said, "I have on all occasions declared as strongly as
Judge Douglas against the disposition to interfere with the existing
institution of slavery."
If a stranger who knew nothing of the speakers and their party
associations had heard the two men on that occasion, he would have
concluded that one was strongly in favor of slavery and the other was
not opposed to it.
Their only disagreement was as to slavery in the Territories, and that
was more apparent than real. Lincoln contended for free soil through
the direct action of the general government. Douglas advocated a
roundabout way that led up to the same result. His proposition, which
he called "popular sovereignty," was to leave the decision to the
people of the Territories, saying he did not care whether they voted
slavery up or voted it down. That was a practical, although indirect
declaration in favor of free soil. The outcome of the contests in
Kansas and California showed that at that game the free States with
their superior resources were certain to win. The shrewder
slaveholders recognized that fact, and their antagonism to Douglas
grew accordingly. They deliberately defeated him for the Presidency in
1860, when he was the regular candidate of the Democratic party, by
running Breckenridge as an independent candidate. Otherwise Mr.
Douglas would have become President of the United States. Out of a
total of 4,680,193 votes, Mr. Lincoln had only 1,866,631. The rest
were divided between his three antagonists.
As between Lincoln and Douglas, who together held the controlling
hand, the slaveholders preferred Lincoln, against whom they had no
personal feeling, while they knew that his policy was no more
dangerous to their interests than the other man's, if faithfully
adhered to and carried out. Besides that, by this time many of them
had reached that state of mind in which they wanted a pretext for
secession from the Union. Lincoln's election would give them that
pretext while Douglas's would not.
On a boat that carried a portion of the audience, including the
writer, from Alton to St. Louis, after the debate was over, was a
prominent Missouri Democrat, afterwards a Confederate leader, who
expressed himself very freely. He declared that he would rather trust
the institutions of the South to the hands of a conservative and
honest man like "Old Abe," than to those of "a political jumping-jack
like Douglas." The most of the other Southern men and slaveholders
present seemed to concur in his views.
It is a fact that a good many of the Anti-Slavery leaders living
outside of Illinois, and a good many of those living within it, wanted
the Republicans of that State to let Douglas go back to the Senate
without a contest, believing that he would be far more useful to them
there than a Republican would be. It is not improbable that enough of
the Illinois Republicans took that view of the matter, and helped to
give Douglas the victory in what was a very close contest.
A portion of Douglas's speech was a spirited defense of his "squatter
sovereignty" doctrine against the denunciations of members of his own
political party, in the course of which he gave President Buchanan a
savage overhauling. It showed him to be a master of invective.
"Go it, husband; go it, bear," was Mr. Lincoln's comment on that part
of Douglas's address. I went to the debate with a very strong
prejudice against Douglas, looking upon him as one of the most
time-serving of those Northern men whom the Abolitionists called
"dough-faces." I confess that my views of the man were considerably
modified. I admired the pluck he showed in speaking when his voice was
in tatters. Still more did I like the resolution he displayed in
defying those leaders of his own party, including the President, who
wanted him to retreat from the ground he had taken, seeing that it had
become practically Anti-Slavery.
At the same time I had an almost worshipful admiration for Lincoln,
whom I had not before seen or heard. I expected a great deal from him.
I thought his closing appeal in that great debate would contain some
ringing words for freedom. He had, as I supposed, a great opportunity
for telling eloquence. He stood almost on the ground that had drunk
the blood of Lovejoy, the Anti-Slavery martyr. I felt that that fact
ought to inspire him. I was disappointed. Mr. Lincoln's speech was
altogether colorless. It was an argument, able but perfectly cold. It
was largely technical. There was no sentiment in it. Lovejoy had died
in vain so far as that address was concerned. I am free to say that I
was led to doubt whether Mr. Lincoln was then in hearty sympathy with
any movement looking to the freedom of the slave, and this impression
was not afterwards wholly removed from my mind.
My father was a subscriber to the _National Era_, the Anti-Slavery
weekly that was published in Washington City before the war by Dr.
Gamaliel Bailey. Being the youngest member of the family, I usually
went to the post-office for the paper on the day of its weekly
arrival. One day I brought it home and handed it to my father, who, as
the day was warm, was seated outside of the house. He was soon
apparently very much absorbed in his reading. A call for dinner was
sounded, but he paid no attention to it. The meal was delayed a little
while and then the call was repeated, but with the same result. At
last the meal proceeded without my father's presence, he coming in at
the close and swinging the paper in his hand. His explanation, by way
of apology, was that he had become very much interested in the opening
installment of a story that was begun in the _Era_, and which he
declared would make a sensation. "It will make a renovation," he
repeated several times.
That story, it is almost needless to say, was _Uncle Tom's Cabin_, and
it is altogether needless to say that it fully accomplished my
father's prediction as to its sensational effects. Since the
appearance of the Bible in a form that brought it home to the common
people, there has been no work in the English language so extensively
read. The author's name became at once a cynosure the world over. When
Henry Ward Beecher, the writer's distinguished brother, delivered his
first lecture in England, he was introduced to the audience by the
chairman as the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher Stowe.
The way in which the idea of writing the book came to the author was
significant of the will that produced it. A lady friend wrote Mrs.
Stowe a letter in which she said, "If I could use a pen as you can, I
would write something that would make the whole nation feel what an
accursed thing slavery is." When the letter reached its destination,
and Mrs. Stowe came to the passage above quoted, as the story is told
by a friend who was present, she sprang to her feet, crushed the
letter in her hand in the intensity of her feeling, and with an
expression on her face of the utmost determination, exclaimed, "If I
live, I will write something that will do that thing."
The circumstances under which she executed her great task would
ordinarily be looked upon as altogether prohibitory. She was the wife
of a poor minister and school-teacher. To eke out the family income
she took boarders. She had five children of her own, who were too
young to be of any material assistance, and, in addition, she
occasionally harbored a waif that besought her protection when fleeing
from slavery. Necessarily the most of her time was spent in the
kitchen. There, surrounded by meats and vegetables and cooking
appliances, with just enough of the common deal table cleared away to
give space for her writing materials, she composed and made ready for
the publisher by far the most remarkable work of fiction this country
has produced. Slavery is dead, but Mrs. Stowe's masterpiece lives, and
is likely to live with growing luster as long as our free institutions
survive, which it is to be hoped will be forever.
One of the most remarkable early workers in the Abolition cause was
Mrs. Lucretia Mott, a little Quaker woman of Pennsylvania. The writer
saw her for the last time shortly before her death. She was then
acting as presiding officer of an "Equal Rights"--meaning equal
suffrage--meeting. Sitting on one hand was Susan B. Anthony, and on
the other Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and next to one of them sat a
She was then an aged woman, but her eye seemed to be as bright and her
movements as alert as they had ever been. Framed by her becoming
Quaker bonnet, which she retained in her official position, the face
of the handsome old lady would have been a splendid subject for an
Mrs. Mott gave much of her time and all the means she could control to
the cause of the slave. She was an exceedingly spirited and eloquent
speaker. On one lecturing tour she traveled twenty-four hundred miles,
the most of the way in old-fashioned stage-coaches. By a number of
taverns she was denied entertainment.
Like other pioneers in the same movement, Mrs. Mott was the victim of
numerous mobbings. One incident shows her courage and resourcefulness.
An Anti-Slavery meeting she was attending was broken up by rowdies,
and some of the ladies present were greatly frightened. Seeing this
Mrs. Mott asked the gentleman who was escorting her, to leave her and
assist some of the others who were more timid. "But who will take care
of you?" he asked. "This man," she answered, lightly laying her hand
on the arm of one of the roughest of the mob. The man, completely
surprised, responded by respectfully conducting her through the tumult
to a place of safety.
But before Mrs. Stowe and Mrs. Mott had taken up the work for the
bondman, two other remarkable women had become interested in his
cause. Their history has some features that the most accomplished
novel-writer could not improve upon. They were sisters, known as the
Grimke sisters, Sarah and Angelina, the latter becoming the wife of
Theodore W. Weld, a noted Abolition lecturer. They were daughters of a
Judge of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, their early home being
The family was of the highest pretension, being related to the Rhetts,
the Barnwells, the Pickenses, and other famous representatives of the
Palmetto aristocracy. It was wealthy, and of course had many slaves.
The girls had their colored attendants, whose only service was to wait
upon them and do their bidding. That circumstance finally led to
At that time there was a statute in South Carolina against teaching
slaves to read and write. The penalties were fine and imprisonment.
The Grimke girls, however, had little respect for or fear of that
law. The story of their offending is told by Sarah.
Her attendant, when she was little more than a child, was a colored
girl of about the same age. She says,
"I took an almost malicious satisfaction in teaching my little
waiting maid at night, when she was supposed to be occupied in
combing and brushing my long hair. The light was put out, the
key-hole screened, and flat on our stomachs before the fire, with
the spelling-book under our eyes, we defied the law of South
South Carolina was long noted for its rebels, but it never had a more
interesting one than the author of the above narrative; nor a braver
As the sisters grew up, they more and more showed their dislike of
slavery and their disposition to aid such colored people as were
within their circle. Such conduct could not escape observation, and
the result was their banishment from their Southern home. They were
given the alternative of "behaving themselves" or going North to live.
They were not long in deciding, and they became residents of
Philadelphia. Here they joined the Quakers, because of their
coincidence of views on the slavery question. They had before been
Presbyterians, having been raised as such. They became industrious and
noted Anti-Slavery lecturers. To one of them is to be credited a
notable oratorical achievement.
Being no longer able to ignore the growing Anti-Slavery sentiment of
its constituency, the Massachusetts Legislature in 1838 appointed a
committee to consider the part that that State had in the subject of
slavery, and especially in connection with slavery in the District of
Columbia. The committee asked an expression of their views from those
entertaining different sentiments on the subject. The Anti-Slavery
people invited Angelina Grimke to represent them. The sessions of the
committee were to be held in the great hall of the Legislature in the
State House, where, up to that time, no woman had ever spoken. The
chairman of the committee, however, consented that Miss Grimke should
be heard, and the fact that she was a woman probably helped to bring
out an immense audience.
She spoke for two hours, and then, being asked to speak again, at the
next meeting, she spoke for two hours more. The impression she
produced may be inferred from the fact that the chairman of the
committee was in tears nearly the whole time she was speaking. The
effect upon all who heard her was admitted to be very great.
The sincerity of these women was put to an unusual test. They had a
brother who remained in South Carolina, where he was a prominent
citizen and a large slave-owner. Like many sharing the privileges of
"the institution," he led a double life. He was married to a white
woman by whom he had children. He also had a family by a colored woman
who was one of his slaves. In his will he bequeathed his slave family
to a son by his lawful wife, with the stipulation that they should not
be sold or unkindly treated.
Of these things the Grimke sisters knew nothing until after the war
which had freed their illegitimate relatives. Then all the facts came
to their knowledge. What should they do about it? was the question
that immediately confronted them. Should they--"Carolina's high-souled
daughters," as Whittier describes them, and not without some part in
the pride of the family to which they belonged--acknowledge such a
disreputable relationship? Not a day nor an hour did they hesitate.
They sent for their unfortunate kinspeople, accepted them as blood
connections, and took upon themselves the duty of promoting their
interests as far as it was in their power to do so.
Although a quiet and retiring person, and, moreover, so much of an
invalid that the greater part of her time was necessarily passed in a
bed of sickness, a New England woman had much to do with publishing
the doctrines of Abolitionism, through the lips of the most eloquent
man in the country. She was the wife of Wendell Phillips, the noted
"My wife made me an Abolitionist," said Phillips. How the work was
done is not without its romantic interest.
It was several years before he made his meteoric appearance before the
public as a platform talker, and while yet a law student, that
Phillips met the lady in question. The interview, as described by one
of the parties, certainly had its comical aspect. "I talked
Abolitionism to him all the time we were together," said Mrs.
Phillips, as she afterwards related the affair. Phillips listened, and
that he was not surfeited nor disgusted appears from the fact that he
went again and again for that sort of entertainment.
When Phillips asked for her hand, as the story goes, she asked him if
he was fully persuaded to be a friend of the slave, leaving him to
infer that their union was otherwise impossible.
"My life shall attest the sincerity of my conversion," was his gallant
In his _Recollections_, the Rev. Samuel T. May, who was one of the
most faithful and zealous of the Anti-Slavery pioneers, and belonged
to that band of devoted workers who were known as Abolition lecturers,
tells of his experience in delivering an Anti-Slavery address in the
sober New England city of Haverhill.
"It was a Sabbath evening," he says. "I had spoken about fifteen
minutes when the most hideous outcries--yells and screeches--from
a crowd of men and boys, who had surrounded the house, startled
us, and then came heavy missiles against the doors and the blinds
of the windows. I persisted in speaking for a few minutes, hoping
the doors and blinds were strong enough to withstand the attack.
But presently a heavy stone broke through one of the blinds,
scattered a pane of glass, and fell upon the head of a lady
sitting near the center of the hall. She uttered a shriek and fell
bleeding on the floor."
There was a panic, of course, and the Abolition lecturer would have
been roughly handled by the mob if a young lady, a sister of the poet
Whittier, had not taken him by the arm, and walked with him through
the astonished crowd. They did not feel like attacking a woman.
There was nothing unusual, except the part performed by the young
lady, in the affair described in the foregoing narrative. Mobs were of
constant occurrence in the period of which we are speaking. It was not
in the slave States that they were most frequent. Northern communities
that were regarded as absolutely peaceable and perfectly moral thought
nothing of an anti-Abolitionist riot now and then. They occurred "away
up North" and "away down East." Even sleepy old Nantucket, in its
sedentary repose by the sea, woke up long enough to mob a couple of
Abolition lecturers, a man and a woman.
The community in which the writer resided when a boy, was fully up to
the pacific standard of most Northern neighborhoods. Yet it was the
scene of many turmoils growing out of Anti-Slavery meetings. The
district schoolhouse, which was the only public building in the
village that was open for such gatherings, called for frequent repairs
on account of damages done by mobs. Broken windows and doors were
often in evidence, and stains from mud-balls, decayed vegetables, and
antiquated eggs, which nobody took the trouble to remove, were nearly
On one occasion, at an evening meeting, the lecturer was a young
professor, who was "down" from Oberlin College, against which, as "an
Abolition hole," there was a very strong prejudice. He had not got
more than well started, when rocks, bricks, and other missiles began
to crash through the windows. The mob was resolved to punish that
young man, and had come prepared to give him a coating of unsavory
mixture. He was a preacher as well as a teacher, and his "store
clothes" were likely to betray him; but some thoughtful person had
brought an old drab overcoat and a rough workman's cap, and arrayed in
these garments he walked through the crowd without his identity being
But another party was not so fortunate. He was a respected citizen of
the village, an elder in the Presbyterian church, and a strong
pro-slavery man. He dressed in black and his appearance was not unlike
that of the lecturer. By some hard luck he happened to be passing that
way when the crowd was looking for the Abolitionist, and was
discovered. "There he goes," was the cry that was raised, and a fire
of eggs and other things was opened upon him. He reached his home in
an awful plight, and it was charged that his conversation was not
unmixed with profanity.
On another occasion the writer was present when the friends of the
lecturer undertook to convey him to a place of safety. They formed a
circle about him and moved away while the mob followed, hurling eggs
and clods and sticks and whatever else came handy. We kept quietly on
our way until we reached a place in the road that had been freshly
graveled, and where the surface was covered with stones just suited to
our use. Here we halted, and, with rocks in hand, formed a line of
battle. It took only one volley to put the enemy to rout, and we had
no further trouble.
At last, after several men had been prevented from speaking in our
village, the services of a female lecturer were secured. The question
then was, whether the mob would be so ungallant as to disturb a woman.
The matter was settled by the rowdies on that occasion being more than
usually demonstrative. The lecturer showed great courage and presence
of mind. She closed the meeting in due form, and then walked calmly
through the noisy throng that gave her no personal molestation or
insult. Deliberately she proceeded to a place of safety--and then went
Finding that it was impossible to hold undisturbed public meetings,
the Abolitionists adopted a plan of operations that was altogether
successful. They met in their several homes, taking them in order, and
there the subject they were interested in was uninterruptedly
discussed. Intelligent opponents of their views were invited to
attend, and frequently did so. So warm were the discussions that arose
that the meetings sometimes lasted for entire days, and conversions
were not unusual.
It was in one of these neighborhood gatherings that the writer first
became an active Anti-Slavery worker. He had memorized one of Daniel
O'Connell's philippics against American slavery, and, being given the
opportunity, declaimed it with much earnestness. After that he was
invited to all the meetings, and had on hand a stock of selections for
delivery, his favorite being Whittier's _Slave Mother's Lament over
the Loss of Her Daughters_:
"Gone, gone--sold and gone
To the rice swamp dank and lone,
Where the slave whip ceaseless swings,
Where the noisome insect stings;
Where the fever demon strews
Poison with the falling dews;
Where the sickly sunbeams glare
Through the hot and misty air.
Gone, gone--sold and gone
To the rice swamp dank and lone,
From Virginia's hills and waters--
Woe is me my stolen daughters!"
It was marvelous how little damage all the mobs effected. Lovejoy of
Illinois was killed--a great loss--and occasionally an Abolitionist
lecturer got a bloody nose or a sore shin. Professor Hudson, of
Oberlin College, used to say that the injury he most feared was to his
clothes. He carried with him what he called "a storm suit," which he
wore at evening meetings. It showed many marks of battle.
Among those who suffered real physical injury was Fred. Douglass, the
runaway slave. While in bondage he was often severely punished, but he
encountered rougher treatment in the North than in the South. He was
attacked by a mob while lecturing in the State of Indiana; was struck
to the earth and rendered senseless by blows on the head and body, and
for a time his life was supposed to be in danger. Although in the main
he recovered, his right hand was always crippled in consequence of
some of its bones having been broken.
If any one is desirous of estimating the extent of the sacrifice of
life, of treasure, of home and family comforts, and of innumerable
fair hopes that the institution of slavery, in its struggle, not
merely for existence, but for supremacy, cost this country, let him
visit a government cemetery in the neighborhood of one of the great
battle-fields of the Rebellion, and there, while looking down the long
avenues lined with memorial stones that a grateful country has set up,
make inquiry as to the number of those that are there bivouacked "in
fame's eternal camping ground." Some idea--a faint one it is
true--will then be had of the multitudes that gave up all they
possessed that liberty might live and rule in this fair land of ours.
They were martyrs in the very highest sense to Freedom's immeasurable
cause. The war was the product of slavery. It was the natural outcome
of the great moral conflict that had so long raged in this country. It
was simply the development of an agitation that had begun on other
But there were martyrs to the cause of freedom before the war.
Everybody knows more or less of the story of John Brown, of
Ossawatomie, whose soul kept "marching on," although his body was
"a-mouldering in the grave."
There was another case involving the surrender of life to that cause,
which has always struck me as having stronger claims to our sympathies
than that of John Brown and his comrades in self-sacrifice.
I have already referred to Elijah P. Lovejoy who was a young
Congregational clergyman, who went from the State of Maine to St.
Louis, Missouri, in 1839. He became the editor of a religious journal
in which he expressed, in very moderate terms, an opinion that was not
favorable to slave-holding. The supporters of the institution were
aroused at once. They demanded a retraction. "I have sworn eternal
hostility to slavery, and by the blessing of God I will never go
back," was his reply. He also declared, "We have slaves here, but I am
not one of them."
It was deemed advisable by Mr. Lovejoy and his friends to move his
printing establishment to Alton, opposite Missouri, in the free State
of Illinois. There, however, a pro-slavery antagonism immediately
developed. His press was seized and thrown into the Mississippi River.
The same fate awaited two others that were procured. But, undismayed,
Mr. Lovejoy and his friends once more decided that their rights and
liberties should not be surrendered without a further effort. Another
press was sent for. But in the meanwhile a violent public agitation
had arisen. At the instance of certain pro-slavery leaders in the
community a public meeting had been called to denounce the
Abolitionists. Mr. Lovejoy was invited to attend it and declare what
he would do.
"Gentlemen," said he, "as long as I am an American citizen; as long as
American blood runs in my veins, I shall hold myself at liberty to
speak, to write, and to publish whatever I please on any subject,
being amenable to the laws of my country for the same."
The fourth press arrived. It was landed from a passing boat in the
small hours of the morning, and was safely conveyed to a warehouse
where Mr. Lovejoy and several of his friends assembled with a view to
its protection. What followed is thus described:
"An hour or two afterwards there came from the grog-shops a crowd
of people who knocked at the door and demanded the press. One of
the owners of the warehouse informed them it would not be given
up. Presenting a pistol, the leader of the mob announced that they
were resolved to have the press at any cost. Stones were thrown,
windows broken, and shots were fired at the building. The cry of
'burn them out' was raised. Ladders were procured, and some of the
rioters mounted to the roof of the building and set it on fire.
Mr. Lovejoy at this point stepped out of the building for the
purpose of having a talk with his enemies, when he was fired upon.
He received five balls, three in his breast. He was killed almost
The animosity of his enemies was such that they followed his remains
with scoffings and insults on its way to the grave.
But the most cruel and brutal persecutions by the slave power were
not always those that involved the sacrifice of life.
In Canterbury, in the State of Connecticut, lived a Quaker lady of the
name of Prudence Crandall. She conducted a school for young ladies.
Among those she admitted was a colored girl. The fact becoming known,
objection was raised by the citizens of the place. The position in
which Miss Crandall was placed was a most trying one. Having invested
all her means in the school building and its equipment, she was
confronted with the alternative of losing her business and her
property, or dismissing the colored student who had done no wrong. She
chose to stand by her principles.
A public meeting was called, and a resolution to prevent the
maintenance of the school, if colored students were admitted, was
adopted by the citizens. Nevertheless, that brave Quakeress opened her
doors to several colored young women. That brought the issue to a
head, and then began a system of most remarkable persecutions. The
school building was bombarded with clubs and stones, the proprietress
found the stores of the village closed against her, and the young lady
students were grossly insulted when they appeared upon the streets.
Even the well from which drinking water was obtained was polluted.
Finding that there was no law in Connecticut under which the
instruction of colored people could be prohibited and punished, the
enemies of Miss Crandall went to the Legislature of the State and
asked for such an enactment, and, to the eternal disgrace of that
body, their request was complied with. It was made a crime in
Connecticut to instruct colored people in the rudiments of an ordinary
Miss Crandall, as she made no change in her course of action, was
arrested, brought before a committing magistrate, and sent to jail. A
man had shortly before been confined in the same prison for the murder
of his wife, and therefrom had gone to execution. Miss Crandall was
confined in the cell this man had occupied. Other indignities were
heaped upon this devoted and courageous lady. Physicians refused to
attend the sick of her household, and the trustees of the church she
was accustomed to attend notified her that she and the members of her
family were denied admission to that sanctuary.
Miss Crandall was finally convicted of the crime with which she was
charged, but the case, being carried to the highest court of the
State, was dismissed on a technicality. But, although the legal
prosecution of this poor woman reached an end, her enemies did not
cease their opposition. The mob made an attack upon her dwelling,
which was also her schoolhouse. Doors and windows were broken in, and
the building was so thoroughly wrecked as to be uninhabitable. Having
no money with which to make repairs, she was forced to abandon the
structure and her educational business at the same time.
The Crandall family became noted for its martyrs. A brother of
Prudence Crandall was Dr. Reuben Crandall, of Washington City. He was
a man of high attainments, being a lecturer in a public scientific
institution. While engaged in his office he received some packages
that had been wrapped in newspapers, among which happened to be a copy
or two of Abolition journals. At the request of a gentleman who was
present at the unpacking he gave him one of the publications. Having
looked it over the gentleman dropped it, where it was picked up by
some one who was on the lookout for incendiary publications. No little
excitement followed its discovery. The community was aroused. Indeed,
so great was the agitation occasioned that Dr. Crandall, to whom the
inhibited paper had been traced, was in great physical danger from mob
violence. He was arrested, and, partly to save his life, was thrust
into jail, where he remained for eight months. He was tried and,
although acquitted, was really made the subject of capital punishment.
Tuberculosis developed as the result of his incarceration, and death
Of many cases of the kind that might be cited, perhaps none is more
strikingly illustrative than that of Charles Turner Torrey, a New
England man. He was accused of helping a slave to escape from the city
of Baltimore, and being convicted on what was said to be perjured
testimony, was sent to the penitentiary for a long term of years. The
confinement was fatal, a galloping consumption mercifully putting a
speedy end to his confinement. And then a remarkable incident
occurred. Torrey was a minister in good standing of the Congregational
denomination, and also a member of the Park Avenue Church of Boston.
Arrangements were made for funeral exercises in that church, but its
managers, taking alarm at the threats of certain pro-slavery men,
withdrew their permission and locked the sanctuary's doors. Slavery
punished the dead as well as the living.
The case of Amos Dresser, a young Southerner, may not improperly be
mentioned here. He had gone to a Northern school, and had become a
convert to Abolitionism. He went to Nashville, Tennessee, to canvass
for a book called the _Cottage Bible_ which would not ordinarily be
supposed to be dangerous to well regulated public institutions. While
peaceably attending to his business he was accused of Anti-Slaveryism.
He did not deny the charge and was arrested, his trunk being broken
open and its contents searched and scattered. He was taken before a
vigilance committee and by it was condemned to receive twenty lashes
on his bare back, "well laid on," and then to be driven out of town.
The sentence was carried out, we are told, in the presence of
thousands of people of both sexes.
Of the many somewhat similar instances that might here be referred to
the writer will make room for only one more.
A seafaring man of the name of Jonathan Walker undertook to convey in
a sloop of which he was the owner seven colored fugitives to the
Bahama Islands, where they would be free. Owing to an accident to his
boat, he and his companions were captured. He was sentenced, among
other things, to have his hand branded with the letters S.S.,
signifying "Slave Stealer."
The incident just referred to inspired one of the finest productions
of Whittier's pen. Singing of that "bold plowman of the wave" he
"Why, that hand is highest honor,
Than its traces never yet
Upon old memorial hatchments was
A prouder blazon set;
And the unborn generations, as they
Tread our rocky strand,
Shall tell with pride the story of
Their father's branded hand."
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
The prescribed penalties for assisting in the escape of fugitive
slaves were severe. By the terms of the Fugitive Slave Act, as it was
called, any one convicted of that offense, besides a liability for one
thousand dollars damages recoverable in a civil action, was subject to
a five-hundred-dollars fine and imprisonment in a penitentiary for one
year. As the writer has not "done time" for participation in certain
transactions dating back to his earlier days, in which the legal
rights of slave-owners were indifferently respected, he thinks it
advisable to be somewhat reserved in his recital of personal
experiences when taking the public into his confidence. The Fugitive
Slave Law--and for that fact we should give "most hearty thanks"--is
about as dead as any statute can be, but as in the case of a snake
that has been killed, it may be the wiser course not to trifle with
its fangs. Therefore, instead of telling my own story in the first
person singular, I offer as a substitute the confession of one John
Smith, whose existence no one will presume to dispute. Here is his
"There was an old barn on my father's farm. It was almost a ruin.
One end of the roof had fallen in, pretty much all the windows
were gone, and there was a general air of dilapidation about the
place. A dwelling-house, to which it was an appendage, had been
burned and not rebuilt, and the barn had been left to fight a
battle with the elements and other foes in pretty much its own
"Not that it was wholly abandoned. There was one mow that was kept
pretty well supplied with grass, and there were two or three horse
stalls that were in tolerable order, although but rarely used.
There were a number of excellent hiding-places about the old
rookery. In the basement all sorts of rubbish, including unused
vehicles and machinery, had been stored away, and so wedged and
packed was it that it would have taken hours to uncover man or
beast seeking concealment there.
"One of the curious features of the situation was that the
building was in sight of none of the roads in the neighborhood,
while less than a hundred feet from it was a strip of woods in
which the removal of the larger trees had stimulated a sturdy and
densely matted undergrowth that was penetrable only by means of
paths that had been made by the cattle. It was what was called a
'woods pasture.' With this cover for his movements any one could
approach or leave the old barn with little danger of discovery.
"Naturally enough, such a ramshackle was in ill-repute. There were
tales about it in the neighborhood. Some children had gone there
to play on one occasion, and had been badly frightened by a
big--as big as a half-bushel, they asserted--black face that was
seen to be watching them. They fled from the premises in great
alarm, and for a time there was talk of an investigation by their
friends. The incident, however, was soon forgotten.
"That old barn was a regular station on one of the underground
railroads that extended from the Ohio River to Canada. To but few
persons was its true character known, and they were very
close-mouthed about it. I was one of the few that were in the
secret. Being the youngest member of the family, it fell to my lot
to drive the horses and cows to and from the pasture in which the
old barrack was located, and while there it was an easy matter to
visit that establishment and ascertain if it sheltered any fresh
"One day I had to report that two fugitives were in the barn,
being a mother and child. Then came the question--which in that
instance was a difficult one to answer--as to who should convey
them to the next station on the line, twenty miles away. A
brother, between five and six years older than I was, and who was
something of a dare-devil, did the most of the work of
transportation, but he was in bed with typhoid fever. A hired man,
who was employed partly because he was in hearty accord with the
humanitarian views of the household, and who on several occasions
had taken my brother's place, was absent. There was nobody but
myself who was ready to undertake the job, and I was only eleven
years old. There was no help for it, however. The slaves had to be
moved on, and I was greatly rejoiced in the prospect of adventure
that was opened up to me. The journey had to be made at night, but
for that I cared nothing, as I had repeatedly gone over the route
by daylight, and thought I knew the road perfectly.
"Midnight found me on the highway, and on the driver's seat of one
of our farm wagons, to which was attached a span of horses moving
in the direction of the north star. That luminary was not on this
occasion visible. The sky was heavily overcast and the night was
very dark. A light rain was falling. With all the confidence I had
in my own ability, more than once would I have lost the way, but
for the sagacity of the horses, which had gone over that route a
number of times under similar circumstances. They acted as if
altogether familiar with it. Those horses proved themselves to be
"The inclemency of the night was in one respect a great advantage.
It kept at home those who might incline to be too inquisitive. The
few travelers we met passed on with a word of greeting, while I
"Over the bottom of the wagon was scattered some hay that might be
used either as feed for the horses or as a bed for weary
travelers. There was also an old-fashioned buffalo-robe, somewhat
dilapidated, that could serve for concealment or as shelter from
the elements. Two or three empty baskets suggested a return from
the market. There was another article that one would hardly have
looked for. This was a smoke-cured ham loosely wrapped in some old
sacking. It had gone over that route a number of times. Its odor
neutralized the smell by which the presence, immediate or recent,
of negroes might be detected.
"My fellow-travelers, as my passengers might be called, were
interesting companions. Both, in one sense, were children, the
mother certainly not being over seventeen years old. She was a
comely half-breed mulatto. Her baby--a pretty boy of two
years--was one degree nearer white.
"The girl was inclined to be confidential and talkative. She said
she was 'old mas'r's' daughter. Her mother had been one of 'old
mas'r's' people. She had grown up with the other slave children on
the place, being in no way favored because of her relationship to
her owner. The baby's father was 'young mas'r'--old master's son,
as it appeared--and who, consequently, was a half-brother of the
youthful mother. Slavery sometimes created singular relationships.
"As the story ran, all the people, including the narrator and her
baby, when 'ole mas'r' died were 'leveled' on by the Sheriff's
man. She did not quite understand the meaning of it all, but it
was doubtless a case of bankruptcy.
"'Young mas'r,' she said, 'tole' her she had to run away, taking
the baby of course. 'Oh, yes," she said very emphatically, 'I
never would have left Kentuck without Thomas Jefferson'--meaning
her little boy. 'Young mas'r,' according to her account, arranged
the whole proceeding, telling her what course to take by night,
where to stop and conceal herself by day, and what signal to give
when she reached the 'big river.'
"When the Ohio had been crossed her young master met her,
evidently to the great delight of the poor creature. He gave her
some money, and told her that when she reached her destination he
would send her some 'mo.' After putting her in charge of some kind
people, evidently representatives of the underground line, they
had parted, according to her description of the incident, in an
affecting way. 'He kissed me and I cried,' was her simple
statement. Notwithstanding the boasted superiority of one race
over another, human nature seems to be very much the same, whether
we read it in a white face or in a black one.
"The little girlish mother was very much alarmed for the safety of
her boy and herself when we began our journey, wanting to get out
and conceal herself whenever we heard any one on the road. After
several detentions from that cause, the weary creature stretched
herself upon the hay beside her sleeping infant and almost
immediately fell into a heavy slumber. She could stand the strain
no longer. I drew the buffalo-robe over the two sleepers, and
there they rested in blissful unconsciousness until the journey
"Half-way between the termini of my route was a village in which
lived a constable who was suspected of being in the employ of the
slave-owners. It was thought advisable that I should avoid that
village by taking a roundabout road. That I did, although it added
an extra half to my trip. The result was that the sun was just
peeping over the eastern hills, as I reached a set of bars showing
an entrance into a pasture lot on one side of the highway.
Removing the bars, I drove into the field, and passing over a
ridge that hid it from the road, I stopped in front of a log cabin
that had every appearance of being an abandoned and neglected
homestead. That was the station I was looking for. Arousing my
sleeping passengers, I saw them enter the old domicile, where I
bade them good-by, and received the tearful and repeated thanks of
the youthful slave mother, speaking for herself and her offspring.
I never saw them again, but in due time the news came back, over
what was jocularly called the 'grape-vine telegraph,' that they
had safely reached their destination.
"At the home of the station agent I was enthusiastically received.
That a boy of eleven should accomplish what I had done was thought
to be quite wonderful. I was given an excellent breakfast, and
then shown to a room with a bed, where I had a good sleep. On my
awakening I set out on the return journey, this time taking the
most direct route, as I had then no fear of that hireling
"Subsequently I passed through several experiences of a similar
kind, some of them involving greater risks and more exciting
incidents, but the recollection of none of them brings me greater
satisfaction than the memory of my first conductorship on the
"All of which is respectfully submitted by
I have had a good deal to say about Anti-Slavery societies. There was
another society which was called into existence by the slavery
situation. Whether it was pro-slavery or anti-slavery was a question
that long puzzled a good many people. It was the Colonization Society.
A good many Anti-Slavery people believed in it for a time and gave it
their support. "I am opposed to slavery, but I am not an Abolitionist:
I am a Colonizationist," was a declaration that, when I was a boy, I
heard many and many times, and from the lips of well-intending people.
It did not take the sharp-sighted leaders of the Abolition movement
very long to discover that one of the uses its managers expected to
make of the Colonization Society was as a shield for slavery. It kept
a number of excellent people from joining in an aggressive movement
against it, took their money, and made them believe that they were at
work for the freedom of the negro.
Strangely as it might appear, the negroes, who were assumed to be the
beneficiaries of the colonization scheme, were opposed to it. Quicker
than the white people generally did, they saw through its false
pretense, and, besides, they could not understand why they should be
taken from the land of their nativity, and sent to the country from
which their progenitors had come, any more than the descendants of
Scotch, English, and German immigrants should be deported to the lands
of their ancestors.
Equally strange was it that the Colonization Society, if really
friendly to the negro, should find its most zealous supporters among
slaveholders. Its first president, who was a nephew of George
Washington, upon learning that his slaves had got the idea that they
were to be set at liberty, sent over fifty of them to be sold from the
auction block at New Orleans. That was intended as a warning to the
rest. One of its presidents was said to be the owner of a thousand
slaves and had never manumitted one of them. The principal service
that the colonization movement was expected to do for the slave-owners
was to relieve them of the presence of free negroes. These were always
regarded as a menace by slave-masters. They disseminated ideas of
freedom and manhood among their unfortunate brethren. They were
object-lessons to those in bondage. The slave-owners were only too
glad to have them sent away. They looked to Liberia as a safety-valve.
It did not take long for intelligent people who were really
well-wishers of the black man to perceive these facts.
The severest blow that the Colonization Society received in America
was from the pen of William Lloyd Garrison, who, under the title of
_Thoughts on African Colonisation_, published a pamphlet that had
wide distribution. It completely unmasked the pretended friendship of
the Colonizationists for the negroes, free or slave. From that time
they lost all support from real Anti-Slavery people. There was,
however, to be a battle fought, in which the Colonization Society
figured as a party, that furnished one of the most interesting
episodes of the slavery conflict.
England, at the time of which we are speaking, was full of
Anti-Slavery sentiment. Slavery, at the end of a long and bitter
contest, had been abolished in all her colonies. Her philanthropists
were rejoicing in their victory. The managers of the Colonization
Society resolved, if possible, to capture that sentiment, and with it
the pecuniary aid the British Abolitionists might render. It was
always a tremendous beggar. They, accordingly, selected a
fluent-tongued agent and sent him to England to advocate their cause.
He did not hesitate to represent that the Colonization Society was the
especial friend of the negro, working for his deliverance from
bondage, and, in addition, that it had the support of "the wealth, the
respectability, and the piety of the American people."
When these facts came to the knowledge of the members of the newly
formed New England Anti-Slavery Society, they were naturally excited,
and resolved to meet the enemy in this new field of operations. This
they decided to do by sending a representative to England, who would
be able to meet the colonization agent in discussion, and otherwise
proclaim and champion their particular views. For this service the man
selected was William Lloyd Garrison, who was then but twenty-eight
Remarkable it was that one who was not only so young, but imperfectly
educated, being a poor mechanic, daily toiling as a compositor at his
printer's case, should be chosen to meet the most polished people in
the British Empire, and hold himself ready to debate the most serious
question of the time. That such a person should be willing to enter
upon such an undertaking was almost as remarkable. But Garrison showed
no hesitation in accepting the task for which he was selected.
On his arrival in England, Garrison sent a challenge to the
colonization agent for a public debate. This the Colonizationist
refused to receive. Two more challenges were sent and were treated in
the same way. Then Garrison, at a cost of thirty dollars, which he
could ill afford to pay, published the challenge in the London
_Times_, with a statement of the manner in which it had been so far
treated. Of course, public interest was aroused, and when Garrison
appeared upon the public platform, as he at once proceeded to do, he
was greeted with the attendance of multitudes of interested hearers.
Exeter Hall in London was crowded. The most distinguished men in
England sat upon the stage when he spoke, and applauded his addresses.
Daniel O'Connell, the great Irish orator, paid them a most florid
compliment. They were, unquestionably, most remarkable samples of
effective eloquence--plain in statement, simple in style, but
exceedingly logical and forcible. They were widely published
throughout England at the time of their delivery.
One of the results was that the leading emancipationists of Great
Britain signed and published a warning against the colonization
scheme, denouncing it as having its roots in "a cruel prejudice," and
declaring that it was calculated to "increase the spirit of caste so
unhappily predominant," and that it "exposed the colored people to
great practical persecution in order to force them to emigrate."
As for the poor agent of the Colonizationists, seeing how the battle
was tending, he left England in a hurry, and was nevermore heard of in
that part of the world.
Garrison's personal triumph was very striking, and it was splendidly
earned. He was made the recipient of many compliments and
testimonials. A curious incident resulted from this great popularity.
He was invited to breakfast by Sir Thomas Buxton, the noted English
philanthropist, with a view to making the acquaintance of a number of
distinguished persons who were to be present. When Mr. Garrison
presented himself, his entertainer, who had not before met or seen
him, looked at him in great astonishment.
"Are you William Lloyd Garrison?" he inquired.
"That is who I am," replied Mr. Garrison, "and I am here on your
"But you are a white man," said Buxton, "and from your zeal and labors
in behalf of the colored people, I assumed that you were one of them."
Garrison left England in what, metaphorically, might be described as
"a blaze of glory." Hundreds attended him when he went to embark on
his homeward voyage, and he was followed by their cheers and
benedictions. Wonderfully different was the treatment he received on
his arrival in his own country. Not long afterwards he was dragged
through Boston streets by a hempen rope about his body, and was
assigned to a prison cell, as affording the most available protection
from the mob.
Nevertheless, we have had some excellent people--not
slave-owners--who, out of compassion for the black man, or from
prejudice against his color, and, perhaps, from a little of both, have
favored a policy of colonization in this country. Mr. Lincoln was one
of them. "If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what
to do with the existing institution. My first impulse would be to free
the slaves and send them to Liberia." So said Mr. Lincoln in one of
his debates with Douglas.
"I cannot make it better known than it already is," said Mr. Lincoln
in a message to Congress, dated December 1, 1862, "that I strongly
At Lincoln's instance Congress appropriated several large sums of
money--then much needed in warlike operations--for colonizing
experiments. One of these has a curious and somewhat pathetic history.
A sharper by the name of Koch, having worked himself into the
confidence of the President and some other good people, got them to
buy from him an island in the West Indies, called Ile a'Vache, which
he represented to be a veritable earthly paradise. Strangely enough,
it was wholly uninhabited, and therefore ready for the uses of a
colony. Several hundred people--colored, of course--were collected,
put aboard a ship, and dumped upon this unknown land. It will
surprise no one to learn that pretty soon these people, poisoned by
malaria, stung by venomous insects and reptiles, and having scarcely
anything to eat, were dying like cattle with the murrain. In the end a
ship was sent to bring back the survivors.
Nevertheless, the kind-hearted President did not give up the idea. At
his request a delegation of Washington negroes called upon him. He
made them quite a long speech, telling them that Congress had given
him money with which to found a colony of colored people, and that he
had found what seemed to be a suitable location in Central America. He
appealed to them to supply the colonists. The negroes, not anxious for
exile, diplomatically said they would think the matter over. In the
end it was discovered that Central America did not want the negroes,
and that the negroes did not want Central America.
A story that is curiously illustrative of Mr. Lincoln's attachment to
the policy of removing the colored people is told by L.E. Chittenden
in his _Recollections of President Lincoln_. Mr. Chittenden was a
citizen of Vermont and Register of the Treasury under Lincoln, with
whom he was in intimate and confidential relations:
"During one of his welcome visits to my office," says Mr.
Chittenden, "the President seemed to be buried in thought over
some subject of great interest. After long reflection he abruptly
exclaimed that he wanted to ask me a question.
"'Do you know any energetic contractor?' he inquired; 'one who
would be willing to take a large contract attended with some
"'I know New England contractors," I replied, 'who would not be
frightened by the magnitude or risk of any contract. The element
of prospective profit is the only one that would interest them. If
there was a fair prospect of profit, they would not hesitate to
contract to suppress the Rebellion in ninety days."
"'There will be profit and reputation in the contract I may
propose,' said the President. 'It is to remove the whole colored
race of the slave States into Texas. If you have any acquaintance
who would take that contract, I would like to see him.'
"'I know a man who would take that contract and perform it,' I
replied. 'I would be willing to put you into communication with
him, so that you might form your own opinion about him.'
"By the President's direction I requested John Bradley, a
well-known Vermonter, to come to Washington. He was at my office
the morning after I sent the telegram to him. I declined to give
him any hint of the purpose of my invitation, but took him
directly to the President. When I presented him I said: 'Here, Mr.
President, is the contractor whom I named to you yesterday.'
"I left them together. Two hours later Mr. Bradley returned to my
office overflowing with admiration for the President and
enthusiasm for his proposed work. 'The proposition is,' he said,
'to remove the whole colored race into Texas, there to establish a
republic of their own. The subject has political bearings of which
I am no judge, and upon which the President has not yet made up
his mind. But I have shown him that it is practicable. I will
undertake to remove them all within a year.'"
It is unnecessary to state that the Black Republic of Texas was a
dream that never materialized.
LINCOLN AND EMANCIPATION
Messrs. Nicolay and Hay, who were Mr. Lincoln's private secretaries
during the time he was President, and afterwards the authors of his
most elaborate biography, say: "The blessings of an enfranchised race
must forever hail him as their liberator."
Says Francis Curtis in his _History of the Republican Party_, in
speaking of the President's Emancipation Proclamation: "On the 1st day
of January, 1863, the final proclamation of freedom was issued, and
every negro slave within the confines of the United States was at last
Other writers of what is claimed to be history, almost without number,
speak of the President's pronouncement as if it caused the bulwarks of
slavery to fall down very much as the walls of Jericho are said to
have done, at one blast, overwhelming the whole institution and
setting every bondman free. Indeed, there are multitudes of fairly
intelligent people who believe that slaveholding in this country
ceased the very day and hour the proclamation appeared. In a recent
magazine article, so intelligent a man as Booker Washington speaks of
a Kentucky slave family as being emancipated by Mr. Lincoln's
proclamation, when, in fact, the proclamation never applied to
Kentucky at all.
The emancipationists of Missouri were working hard to free their State
from slavery, and they would have been only too glad to have Mr.
Lincoln do the work for them. They appealed to him to extend his edict
to their State, but got no satisfaction. The emancipationists of
Maryland had much the same experience. Both Missouri and Maryland were
left out of the proclamation, as were Tennessee and Kentucky and
Delaware, and parts of Virginia and Louisiana and the Carolinas. (See
Appendix.) The explanation is that the proclamation was not intended
to cover all slaveholding territory. All of it that belonged to States
that had not been in rebellion, or had been subdued, was excluded. The
President's idea was to reach only such sections as were then in
revolt. If the proclamation had been immediately operative, and had
liberated every bondman in the jurisdiction to which it applied, it
would have left over a million slaves in actual thraldom. Indeed, Earl
Russell, the British premier, was quite correct when, in speaking of
the proclamation, he said: "It does not more than profess to
emancipate slaves where the United States authorities cannot make
emancipation a reality, and emancipates no one where the decree can be
carried into effect."
For the failure of the proclamation to cover all slaveholding
territory there was a plausible reason. Freedom under it was not
decreed as a boon, but as a penalty. It was not, in theory at least,
intended to help the slave, but to chastise the master. It was to be
in punishment of treason, and, of course, could not consistently be
made to apply to loyal communities, or to such as were under
government control. The proclamation, it will be recollected, was
issued in two parts separated by one hundred days. The first part gave
the Rebels warning that the second would follow if, in the meanwhile,
they did not give up their rebellion. All they had to do to save
slavery was to cease from their treasonable practices. Had the Rebels
been shrewd enough, within the hundred days, to take the President at
his word, he would have stood pledged to maintain their institution,
and his proclamation, instead of being a charter of freedom, would
have been a license for slaveholding.
The proclamation did not, in fact, whatever it may have otherwise
accomplished at the time it was issued, liberate a single slave. What
is more, slavery as an institution was altogether too securely rooted
in our system to be abolished by proclamation. The talk of such a
thing greatly belittles the magnitude of the task that was performed.
Its removal required a long preliminary work, involving, as is made to
appear in previous chapters of this work, almost incalculable toil and
sacrifice, to be followed by an enormous expenditure of blood and
treasure. Its practical extinguishment was the work of the army, while
its legal extirpation was accomplished by Congress and the
Legislatures of the States in adopting the Thirteenth Amendment to the
Federal Constitution, which forbids all slaveholding. That amendment
was a production of Congress and not of the Executive, whose official
approval was not even required to make it legally effective.
The story of the proclamation, with not a few variations, has often
been told; but the writer fancies that the altogether correct account
has not always been given. It may be presumptuous on his part, but he
will submit his version.
To understand the motive underlying the proclamation we must take into
account its author's feeling toward slavery. Notwithstanding various
unfriendly references of an academic sort to that institution, he was
not at the time the proclamation appeared, and never had been, an
Not very long before the time referred to the writer heard Mr.
Lincoln, in his debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Alton, Illinois,
declare--laying unusual emphasis on his words: "I have on all
occasions declared as strongly as Judge Douglas against the
disposition to interfere with the existing institution of slavery."
Judge Douglas was what was then called a "dough-face" by the
Abolitionists--being a Northern man with Southern principles, or
"proclivities," as he called them.
Only a little earlier, and several years after Mr. Lincoln had claimed
to be a Republican, and a leader of the Republicans, he had, in a
speech at Bloomington, Illinois, asserted that, "the conclusion of it
all is that we must restore the Missouri Compromise."
Now the adoption of the Missouri Compromise was the hardest blow ever
inflicted on the cause of free soil in America. It did more to
encourage the supporters of slavery and to discourage its opponents
than anything else that ever happened. Its restoration would
undoubtedly have produced a similar effect. Although he is not to be
credited with any philanthropic motive, Stephen A. Douglas did an
effective work for freedom when he helped to overthrow that measure.
Leading Abolitionists have accorded him that meed of praise.
But there was that proposition which Mr. Lincoln was so fond of
repeating, that the nation could not remain half free and half
slave--"a divided house"--but the remedy he had to propose was not
manumission at any proximate or certain time, but the adoption of a
policy that, to use his own words, would cause "the public mind to
rest in the belief that it [slavery] was in the course of ultimate
extinction." Practically that meant very little or nothing. What the
public mind then needed was not "rest," but properly directed
But the declarations above quoted were all before Mr. Lincoln had
become President or had probably thought of such a thing. Did the
change of position lead to a change of opinion on his part? We are not
left in uncertainty on this point. His official views were declared in
what might be called a State paper. Soon after his inauguration, his
Secretary of State sent Minister Dayton, at Paris, a dispatch that he
might use with foreign officials, in which, in speaking of the
Rebellion, he said: "The condition of slavery in the several States
will remain just the same whether it succeeds or fails.... It is
hardly necessary to add to this incontrovertible statement the further
fact that the new President has always repudiated all designs,
whenever and wherever imputed to him, of disturbing the system of
slavery as it has existed under the Constitution and laws."
About the same time Mr. Lincoln stated to a party of Southern
Congressmen, who called upon him, that he "recognized the rights of
property that had grown out of it [slavery] and would respect those
rights as fully as he would similar rights in any other property."
No steps were taken by Mr. Lincoln to recall or repudiate the
foregoing announcements. On the contrary, he confirmed them in his
official action. He annulled the freedom proclamations of Fremont and
Hunter. He did not interfere when some of his military officers were
so busy returning fugitive slaves that they had no time to fight the
masters. He approved Hallock's order Number Three excluding fugitives
from the lines. He even permitted the poor old Hutchinsons to be sent
away from the army very much as if they had been colored people, when
trying to rouse "the boys" with their freedom songs. In many ways Mr.
Lincoln showed that in the beginning and throughout the earlier part
of his Administration he hoped to re-establish the Union without
disturbing slavery. In effect he so declared in his introduction to
his freedom proclamation. He gave the rebel slaveholders one hundred
days in which to abandon their rebellion and save their institution.
In view of such things it is no wonder that Henry Wilson, so long a
leading Republican Senator from Massachusetts, in his _Rise and Fall
of the Slave Power_, in speaking of emancipation, said "it was a
policy, indeed, which he [the President] did not personally favor
except in connection with his favorite idea of colonization."
It is needless to say that the President's attitude was a great
surprise and a sore disappointment to the more radical Anti-Slavery
people of the country, who had supported him with much enthusiasm and
high hopes. They felt that they had been deceived. They said so very
plainly, for the Abolitionists were not the sort of people to keep
quiet under provocation. Horace Greeley published his signed attack
(see Appendix) entitled, _The Prayer of Twenty Millions_, which is,
without doubt, the most scathing denunciation in the English language.
Henry Ward Beecher "pounded" Mr. Lincoln, as he expressed it. Wendell
Phillips fairly thundered his denunciations. There was a general
under-swell of indignation.
Now, Mr. Lincoln was not a man who was incapable of reading the signs
of the times. He saw that he was drifting towards an irreparable
breach with an element that had previously furnished his staunchest
supporters. As a politician of great native shrewdness, as well as the
head of the Government, he could not afford to let the quarrel go on
and widen. There was need of conciliation. Something had to be done.
We know what he did. He issued his Emancipation Proclamation.
As far as freeing any slaves was concerned, he knew it amounted to
very little, if anything. He said so. Less than two weeks before the
preliminary section of the proclamation appeared, Mr. Lincoln was
waited on by a delegation of over one hundred Chicago clergymen, who
urged him to issue a proclamation of freedom for the slaves. "What
good would a proclamation from me do, especially as we are now
situated?" asked Mr. Lincoln by way of reply. "I do not want to issue
a document that the whole world would see must necessarily be
inoperative, like the Pope's bull against the comet. Would my word
free the slaves, when I cannot even enforce the Constitution in the
In contemplating a proclamation applicable to the rebel States, it is
hardly to be supposed that Mr. Lincoln did not understand the
situation two weeks earlier quite as well as when the document
If Mr. Lincoln had been told, when he entered on the Presidency, that
before his term of office would expire he would be hailed as "The
Great Emancipator," he would have treated the statement as equal to
one of his own best jokes. Slavery was a thing he did not then want to
have disturbed. He discountenanced all radical agitators of the
subject, and especially in the border slave States, where he was able
to hold them pretty well in check, except in Missouri. There they
stood up and fought him, and in the end beat him. One of the rather
curious results of this condition of things was that, when the States
came to action on the Thirteenth Constitutional Amendment, the one
absolutely abolishing slavery, the three border slave States of
Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware, over which the President's influence
was practically supreme, gave an adverse vote of four to one, while
Missouri, with whose radical emancipationists he had continuously been
at loggerheads, ratified the amendment by a legislative vote of one
hundred and eleven ayes to forty nays.
Nevertheless, notwithstanding the President, at the beginning of his
official term, opposed Anti-Slavery agitation and Anti-Slavery action
with all his might, he promptly faced about as soon as he discovered
that the subject was one that would not "down." No one ever worked
harder to find a solution of a difficult problem than he did of the
slavery question. He began to formulate plans to that end, the most
distinguishing feature, however, being the spirit of compromise by
which they were pervaded. All of them stopped before an ultimatum was
reached. Besides his proclamation, which, as we have seen, applied to
only a part of the slaves, he devised a measure that would have been
applicable to all of them. In his special message of December, 1863,
he proposed to Congress the submission of a constitutional amendment
that would work universal liberation. There were conditions, however.
One was that the slaves should be paid for by the Government; another
that the masters might retain their uncompensated services until
January 1, 1900; that is, for a period of thirty-seven years, unless
they were sooner emancipated by the grave, as the most of them would
be. (See Appendix.)
The President's somewhat fantastic proposition was not claimed by him
to be for the bondman's benefit. He urged it as a measure of public
economy, holding that, as slavery was the admitted cause of the
Rebellion, the quickest and surest way to remove that cause would be
by purchase of all the slaves, which, he insisted, "would shorten the
war, and thus lessen the expenditure of money and blood."
The public did not take to the President's plan at all, especially the
Abolitionists did not. They no more favored the buying of men by the
Government than by anybody else. They held that if the master had no
right to the person of his bondman, he had no right to payment for
him. And as for an arrangement that might prolong slaveholding for
thirty-seven years, they saw in it not only a measure of injustice to
the men, women, and children then in servitude, the most of whom would
be doomed to bondage for the rest of their natural lives, but a
possible plan for side-tracking a genuine freedom movement.
In the proposition just considered we have not only the core of the
President's policy during much of his official tenure, but an
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