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struggled on, but to no purpose.
At 11 o'clock on the night of the 2211 of May, 1854, after a session of eleven hours, the bill finally passed by a vote of 113 to 100. The announcement was received with mingled applause and hisses, on the floor, and in the galleries. On Capital Hill, outside, salvos of artillery announced the triumph of the slave power in Congress, over the cause of justice, honor and freedom ; but the boom of the cannon awakened echoes in every valley and on every hill side in the free North.
The details of this struggle must ever be regarded with great interest by the student of history. It has been given in detail to show the manner in which the slave power controlled Congress. The friends of the measure triumphed through the power of Executive patronage and the dead weight of majorities; but no party ever paid such a price for success. There never was a more skillful and gallant parliamentary fight made, than that made by the opponents of the
Among the Southern men, who took part in this Nebraska fight, in the House, and who went into the rebellion, the most prominent is Alexander H. Stepbens, late rebel VicePresident. To say that he is a remarkable man, is to say only what is known to all persons who know anything of his history. IIe sprung from the depths of poverty, and was educated by charity. Of a frail and feeble constitution, his mind was always too vigorous and active for his weak body. He was never married, and lived at home a life of isolation and solitude, devoting himself to the pursuits of politics and literature. Under the ordinary height, he was of a very slender form, and considerably stoop-shouldered. His weight was less than 100 pounds. His complexion was very sallow. His arms were of a disproportionate length, and his fingers long and skinny.
He had the blackest and keenest eyes ; his hair was long, and black, and came down on his forehead like a school-boy's. His voice was boyish and squeaking, but he was one of the most interesting and eloquent of speakers, and he never addressed the IIouse without commanding universal attention. His speech before the Georgia Legislature against secession, and in reply to Toombs, was
an effort of masterly ability, eloquence and power; and reading it now, in the light of the events that have followed, it is wonderful to see how his prophecies have become history. He was a man of kindly heart and irreproachable private character, all rowdyism and violence being utterly repugnant to his nature. He went into the rebellion most reluctantly; and in order to propitiate a large class of men, of the same opinion, he was put on the ticket for rebel VicePresident. Yet he must be regarded as one of the most guilty of the rebels. He was a man of high character and great and deserved influence over the public mind. IIe saw and proclaimed the wickedness of secession, and, in finally giving to this monstrous crime the weight of his great name, he sinned against light and knowledge.
John C. Breckenridge, a member of the old, aristocratic Breckenridge family, of Kentucky, was in this Congress. He was then thirty years old, and had commenced life as a lawyer, in Burlington, Iowa, then a territory. He did not, however, remain there long, but returned to Kentucky, and in 1852, ran as the democratic candidate for Congress in the Lexington District. Young, dashing, popular and eloquent, he rallied round him the young men of all parties, and after a most violent and animated contest, he was elected.
The history of this struggle has been given in more detail, because of its vast bearing on the slaveholders' rebellion, and as illustrative of the violence and outrage, denunciation and insolence of the slave power in Congress.
The repeal of the Missouri Compromise shocked the moral sense of the free States, and it was regarded not only as a humiliation, but a gross violation of faith. The passage of the Kansas - Nebraska bill, repealing it, thoroughly aroused the people of the North, and it was realized, by the thoughtful, that the final struggle between freedom and slavery approached. The impetuous, arogant Senators from the slave States, were warned, that with the repeal of this time-honored compromise, the days of mutual concession and forbearance would end, and that the grapple between the two opposing systems would come face to face.
This repeal of a solemo compact, which had been respected for more than thirty years, removed the barrier to the extension of slavery over a territory, equal in extent to the entire thirteen original States. The leaders of the slaveholders determined, immediately to occupy and control it. The people of the free States, defeated and betrayed at Washington, resolved to prevent it. Douglas, and a large portion of the democratic party, defended their action on the subject, by taking the position, that the people of each territory should determine for themselves, whether they would exclude or protect slavery. This doctrine, known as “popular sovereignty” and “squatter sovereignty,” became one of the watch-words of the party. Each section determined to settle and colonize Kansas, with a view of controlling its status as a free or slave State. This territory lay directly west of Missouri, and the direct route to it was across the borders and up the great river of that State. Conscious of these advantages, Western Missouri, under the lead of Gen. Atchison, a Senator, and late Vice-President, organized secret societies called “Blue Lodges," and, by force, endeavored to seize and hold Kansas. Their organized bands marched into the territory, made their claims, and, taking with them their negroes, declared that slavery already existed there, and that “no protection should be furnished to abolitionists.' By this, they meant that all abolitionists should be subject to mob or “Lynch law.” In New England, the Northwest and elsewhere in the free States, “emigrant aid societies” were organized, with a view to settle Kansas with free labor. Farmers were furnished with mills, farming implements, domestic animals, seed, and dwelling houses. School houses and churches were also supplied to the emigrant. The property and effects of the emigrant, so furnished, soon began to be seized by the slave party, on its passage up the Missouri river. Settlers from the free States were seized and maltreated, their property destroyed or plundered, and they forcibly turned back. But possessing New England pluck and persistence, they turned aside, and, with horses and ox teams, made the long, weary, overland journey to the disputed territory, through the free State of Iowa. It was a struggle as to
STRUGGLE FOR KANSAS.
which party should found a State. The slaveholders had the advantage of close proximity, and, under the lead of Atchison and Stringfellow, sent their organized bands of ruffians, armed with revolvers, bowie knives, slaves and whiskey, as the material with which to build up the new commonwealth. It was found to be a bad material. The free State emigrant, although starting from a distance, often of several hundred miles, took his family, his farming tools, the school books of his children, often the school house and church, ready framed at home; by and by, he also took his Sharpe's rifle, which he quickly learned to use with skill. Under the lead of John Brown, known in Kansas as Ossawatomie Brown, Charles Robinson, General Pomeroy, and Jim Lane, with their associates, they opened farms, planted settlements, and held them. It involved a weary, and, for a time, a dreadful struggle. On the side of the slaveholders were the United States officials, with all the influence of the Federal government, the State government of the border State of Missouri, and its militia, ever ready to make raids into Kansas, for plunder, violence and destruction. The free State party had the aid of the Northern press, Yankee enterprise, ingenuity and persistence, and the rough and rude sense of justice and fair play which characterize the pioneer of the West. The slave party, through the aid of voters, imported from Missouri, the Missouri militia, and the Federal administration, held the nominal government, and perpetrated a series of the most shameless outrages, frauds, ballot stuffing and violence known in American history, to secure a Constitution establishing slavery. But the free State men soon greatly outnumbered their unstable, wandering, plundering, whiskey-drinking adversaries. The work of imposing slavery upon the people was a very difficult one. Slaves, brought into the country, ran away and found freedom and security.
Territorial Governor after Territorial Governor was appointed by Presidents Pierce and Buchanan, and was replaced or resigned, finding the task of imposing slavery upon the people too difficult. Gov. ernor Geary, one of the Goverriors appointed in the interests of slavery, became indignant and disgusted at the outrages of the slave party, and gives the following picture of their condition. He says, “I reached Kansas and entered upon the discharge of my official duties in the most gloomy hour of her history. Desolation and ruin reigned on every hand; homes and firesides were deserted; the smoke of burning dwellings darkened the atmosphere; women and children, driven from their habitations wandered over the prairies and among the woodlands, or sought refuge and protection from the Indian tribes. The highways were infested with predatory bands, while the towns were fortified and garrisoned by armies of conflicting partizans, excited almost to frenzy, and determined on mutual extermination." Such was the struggle in Kansas, upon the slavery question. It was like the great civil war of which it was the type and prophetic prelude, a contest between barbarism and civilization. Whenever anything like a fair vote of the actual settlers could be obtained, the free State men had large majorities. The story of this struggle between freedom, and slavery, between fraud, violence and outrage on one side, and heroic firmuess, energy and determination on the other, was carried all over the land, and made a most profound impression upon the American people. Time, and nature have but lately healed and covered the scars of this conflict. It was amidst these scenes that John Brown, of Ossawatomie, was prepared by the murder of his son, for his wild crusade against slavery in Virginia. It was here, that the heroic Lyon and Hunter learned to hate that institution.
The plains of Kansas were still red with the blood of her martyrs to liberty; her hills and valleys were yet black with the charred remains of her burned and devastated towns, villages and cities, attesting, alike, the heroic constancy of her people to freedom, ani the savage barbarity of the slave power. When the convulsions of the great National conflict began to shake the land, Kansas was the rock which rolled back the tide of the slave conspirators. All honor to Kansas ! She successfully withstood the slave power, backed by the Federal Government. The struggle was watched by the people, everywhere, with the most intense solicitude, and it nerved them to a still firmer determination to resist the encroachments of the slaveholders.