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United States Senate The Lecompton Contest - Mr. Hamlin's position "Mudsills "— Answer to Senator Hammond, of S. C. - The Laborers of the North.
THROUGHOUT the exciting Lecompton contest, Mr. Hamlin bore himself gallantly in behalf of free labor. He spoke in answer to Senator Hammond's insolent speech of March, 1858, wherein the arrogant slaveocrat characterized the working-men of the free States as hirelings, and the "mudsills of society." Mr. Hamlin commenced his reply on the ninth of March and continued it through the next day.
We make the following extracts:
THE LECOMPTON CONSTITUTION AND ITS INFAMY.
Mr. HAMLIN said Mr. President: I do not often trespass on the patience of the Senate. I do so now from no personal inclination of my own. Indeed, but for the obligation which is imposed upon me by the people whom I represent, I would forego, on the present occasion, any suggestions which I might deem it proper to make, and give a silent vote upon the views which have been presented, and shall be presented, by other senators, upon the question now pending. The importance of the question, however, is such as imposes an obligation upon me to speak in vindication of the rights of the people I represent. The magnitude of the ques tion is a sufficient apology.
Since I have held a seat in this body, indeed in the history of the whole country, I think no question has been presented to us for our deliberation and consideration, equal in. importance and magnitude to that which is now before us. I regret, sir, I deeply regret, the aspect in which it is presented. In all this body, were I to put the question, how many are there who approve the act
which is about to be consummated here, in their judgment? how many of all that hold seats here, could give an affirmative answer? The tyranny of party, the despotism of party, come in to the rescue, and men here are about to do an act, which in their judgment and their hearts they disapprove. There is no despotism on earth like the despotism of party and party associations. We should, as freemen, do no act that does not command the approval of the judgment.
What is the act which a firm and settled majority in this Senate have determined shall be done? In all the history of time, in all the records of the past, no act of equal political turpitude, in my judgment, can be found, save one to which I may allude.
Mr. President: I have no laudations to bestow on this Union. It needs none. Its eulogy is written in the history of the past. I choose that my acts shall speak for me, rather than the words I utter. I would, sir, that it should remain a monument forever to guide the nations of the world. I would, sir, that this government should be perpetuated for all coming time; and no act of mine, no instrumentality of mine, shall be exerted or given except for that perpetuation. I would that our nation should stand a moral monument to enlighten other nations; but I cannot resist the conclusion that if we are to bow to the unlimited power of party despotisin, if we are to do acts, which, in our judgments and in our hearts we reprobate, the day, the hour, of our downfall is as certain as that of other nations which have preceded us. I do not mean that it will come now, or even within my day, or the day of the youngest of Great as may be the wrongs which you may perpetrate, the recuperative energies of our country may overcome them; but, in the course of time, this incessant arrogation of executive and governmental power must produce its effect; and the institutions which we have reared, when their foundation shall have been subverted by executive power, must crumble and decay. That act which is before us, that bill upon which we are to vote, is one of the measures which is calculated, if not designed, to produce that event. Who that believes that nations, like individuals, must answer to a higher power for the wrongs they perpetrate, who that believes that the sins committed by a nation are to be answered
for as the sins of an individual, can doubt that, if the present course of things be persisted in, a fearful retribution must follow?
After alluding to the former and present positions of the South upon the tariff, and other questions, in illustration of the change of sentiment by those States, the Senator proceeds to show the designs of the founders of the government, and the action of the South at that period.
SOUTHERN CHANGE OF FRONT.
I pass from the consideration of these two questions to one of a broader character. I pass to the consideration of what was the original design of our government in its foundation, and what was the action of the South at that period of time. I know the South has changed her views. I do not know that I complain of it. I know the effect of habit, association, companionship, and interest, upon the lives, the conduct, and the opinions of men. I can be more charitable to those men of the South than I can be to their allies in the North; and God forbid that I should say one word to or of them, when we have such a class existing in the North as we have all around us. No, sir; I might say that I love them in comparison with the class of men at the North who are faithless to all the instincts of humanity, of association, of education, and all their surroundings. I know the force and the power of those influences. God knows what might be our opinions if we were born and educated at the South; I do not. Had I been born in Turkey, I do not know that I might not have been a Mussulman. But it is humiliating to us, it is mortifying, but it is an admission to be made, that you train our politicians at the North, and make them subservient to all your behests. It is a humiliating admission to make, but still it belongs to the frailty of humanity, and I hope, in the progress of time, we shall be compensated for the admission by finding, when government is restored to its original position, that that class of people do not live entirely at the North. While it is a matter of regret, and of deep regret, that we have such a class of men among us, while I mourn over it, I am consoled with the reflection that light is dawning in the distant South; that the patriotic, the noble men
of that region are coming to the rescue, and telling us that they have hearts and sympathies that beat in unison with our own, and, that they, with us, ask only that this government be administered upon the principles on which our fathers founded it.
But, sir, what was the early action of the government to which I have referred, and upon which our government was based? It was the principle of freedom. I know too well, and I confess I feel somewhat embarrassed under the circumstances, that I can utter no new truth here; but what, I ask, is the history of this government in relation to the principles upon which it was founded? I say that it was founded, and it was designed to be based on the principles of free government. When our Constitution was formed, nobody doubted, everybody expected, that the institution of slavery, so deleterious in its effects, would fade away. Times have changed. The invention of the cotton-gin made the production of cotton profitable; and, with that power which belongs to the pocket-nerve, public sentiment has changed in the South, and too much in the North. The production of cotton became profitable, and with that profit came the change. A temporary and evanescent benefit has led to this change, not a permanent benefit. Madison told us, in the convention which framed the Constitution, that it was wrong to admit that man could hold property in man; that he would not incorporate that idea into the Constitution. We had the maxims and the teachings of Jefferson, and all the wisest and best men of the South against slavery. I have no time to stop now to quote authorities, they are
"Thick as autumnal leaves."
They all concurred in the doctrine that it was an institution that carried along with it blight and mildew; and your eloquent Pinkney, of Maryland, told you that it scorched the green earth upon which its footsteps fell.
Under that view of the case, the ordinance from the brain of Thomas Jefferson, was adopted. In the precise form in which it passed into a legal enactment, I know it came from Nathan Dane, of New England; but the idea was that of the South; the principle was originated by Thomas Jefferson; and the only distinction between the restriction of Jefferson in 1784, and Dane, in 1787, was this: Jefferson proposed that slavery should be prohibited from all your territories then belonging to the United States,
and all that should be acquired. The proviso of Dane restricted it in the territories then belonging to the United States, and provided that fugitives from service should be surrendered. If the doctrine of Jefferson had been maintained as presented in 1784, there would have been quiet in the country, and none of the agitations which we have witnessed would have occurred.
This was the doctrine of the South, then; she presented it to us for our approval and adoption. How stands the South to-day? She has repudiated the doctrines of her fathers, and comes here asserting that our government is founded on the great principle of human servitude, a system that degrades the white man who labors beside the slave.
REPEAL OF THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE.
"Mr. President, I come now to another point which, in my judgment, implies vastly more than legislative faith. I come to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Whose measure was that? From what section of the country did it come? By whose votes was it imposed upon the country? Every man knows—it is historical that the Missouri Compromise was a southern measure. Its passage was celebrated by public meetings all over the South. They held it as their peculiar measure. It was, in truth, the suggestion of Mr. McLane, from a southern State; and it was adopted finally upon the suggestion of Mr. Pinckney, a Senator from a southern State. His life shows the fact. The letter which he wrote upon the occasion states that, in the committee of conference between the two branches of Congress, he suggested it. Upon his suggestion it was adopted; and then public meetings were held through all the South, and they were jubilant over its success Now, sir, one of their own men declared that it should be an act irrepealable. I do not contend that it was such except in good faith. The Missouri Compromise line was, therefore, the act of the South; and in that act the North had always acquiesced. Who abrogated the restriction? It was adopted by almost all the votes of the South; and only here and there a man from the North to support it, and who were known no more forever, as will be those at the North who support this measure. It was a southern measure in essence and in substance. The North did not vote for it. Why? Because it was a partial departure from the original design of the