Page images
[ocr errors]

The substitute passed the senate on the same day, ayes thirty, nays thirteen. The house refused to recede from its previous action. The senate declined to pass Mr. Seward's bill or the one which came from the house, substantially similar, and in this manner all relief to Kansas was denied. Mr. Seward's speeches at various stages of the extended debate are given in full in this volume. His eloquent and masterly statements of the subject will be read with equal pleasure and instruction, as the best history of the great transaction.

On the 22d day of May, 1856, a violent assault was committed in the senate chamber, immediately after the adjournment, upon Charles Sumner, by Preston S. Brooks, a representative from South Carolina. The blows were inflicted with a heavy cane while Mr. Sumner was sitting at his desk in the act of writing. A number of Mr. Brooks' friends were present, including Mr. Douglas, witnesses of the attack, none of whom attempted to prevent or arrest it. On the next morning Senator Wilson (Mr. Sumner's colleague), briefly stated the facts to the senate. Without making any motion, he said, “I leave it to older senators whose character, whose position in this body and before the country eminently fit them for the task of devising means to redress the wrongs of a member of this body and to vindicate the honor and dignity of the senate." Mr. Seward waited a reasonable time for some senator in the majority to offer a resolution on the subject. He then moved that a committee of five be appointed by the president of the senate to inquire into the circumstances of the case and to report thereon to the senate. Under parliamentary usage Mr. Seward would have been placed on this committee as its chairman. To avoid doing this, the senate changed their custom and elected the committee by ballot. Neither Mr. Seward nor any personal or political friend of Mr. Sumner's was chosen a member of the committee. The committee reported that the senate had no jurisdiction in the case,' and their report was adopted.

Mr. Seward, as the intimate associate and cherished friend of Mr. Sumner, was deeply moved by the whole transaction. He, nevertheless, so disciplined his feelings that his speeches on the subject, although full of eloquent denunciation of the outrage, were characterized by his usual dignity of tone and moderation of language.

1 The house voted to expel Mr. Brooks, one hundred and twenty-one to ninety-five. The motion required a vote of two-thirds. Mr. Brooks resigned, and was re-elected. He died suddenly January 27, 1857.

The state of Massachusetts having sent to the senate a series of resolutions relating to this serious attack upon one of her senators, Mr. Seward, in a very appropriate and feeling speech, reviewed the whole affair, and vindicated the legislature of that state in the course it had adopted.

'Every one knew," said Mr. Seward, "that the sufferer in that scene was my cherished personal friend and political associate. Every one knew that he had fallen senseless and, for all that was at first known, lifeless, on the floor of the senate of the United States, for utterances which, whether discreet or indiscreet, were utterances made in the cause of truth, humanity, and justice-a cause in which he was a distinguished fellow-laborer with myself."

Besides the speeches made by Mr. Seward on "Kansas affairs," the "Clayton and Bulwer treaty," and the "Sumner assault," he also spoke at considerable length on the naval retiring board; the origi nation of appropriation bills; Senator Trumbull's seat; the Danish Sound dues; Nicaragua; the compensation bill; military and civic officers; and mail steamers. He also delivered a brief eulogium on the Hon. T. H. Bayley, late a representative from Virginia and formerly governor of that state.

Congress adjourned on the 18th of August, 1856. But it having failed to grant the required supplies for carrying on the Indian wars, the president convened an extra session, which met on the 23d of the same month. Mr. Seward's speeches at this session, on the army bill and its relation to the affairs of Kansas, throw new light on the subject. The extra session terminated on the 30th of August.

On the 224 day of February, 1856, a convention, representing the people of various sections of the country, opposed to the recent repeal of the Missouri compromise, the invasion of Kansas, and the aggressions of slavery, assembled at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

At this meeting the initiative steps were taken for the national organization of the republican party. Delegates from every free state, and from Kentucky, Maryland, and Virginia, were present. The venerable Francis P. Blair, of Maryland, presided; and among the members present were some of the most distinguished leaders of the whig and democratic parties.

The convention issued an eloquent and stirring address' to the people, and called a national convention to meet in Philadelphia, on the

1 This address was written by Hon. H. J. Raymond, editor of the New York Times and lientenant-governor of New York.

[blocks in formation]

17th of June ensuing, to nominate candidates for the offices of president and vice-president of the United States. State conventions of a similar kind had been held in most of the free states. One, at Saratoga Springs, in the state of New York, in August, 1854, was remarkable alike for its great numbers and respectable character.'

On the 17th of June, 1856, in pursuance of the call adopted at -Pittsburgh, a convention of the opponents of the recent aggressions of the slave power, and friends of the admission of Kansas as a free state and the restoration of the action of the federal government to the principles of Washington and Jefferson, assembled in Philadel phia to nominate candidates for the offices of president and vicepresident of the United States.

A democratic convention, held at Cincinnati on the 2d day of the same month, nominated James Buchanan for the presidency; and the Americans had nominated Mr. Fillmore as early as February preceding.

The Philadelphia convention presented the names of John C. Fremont, of California, and William L. Dayton, of New Jersey, as their candidates,' and adopted a resolution in its platform inviting the affiliation and coöperation of all freemen supporting its principles, however differing in other respects. The supporters of this ticket became known throughout the Union as the "Republican Party," and entered upon the contest with a zeal inspired by their devotion to the cause of human nature. The following extracts from the platform adopted by this convention contain the essential principles of the new party:

"Resolved, That, with our republican fathers, we hold it to be a self-evident truth, that all men are endowed with the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that the primary object and ulterior designs of our federal government were, to secure these rights to all persons within its exclusive jurisdiction; that, as our republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that no person should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, it becomes

1 Among the distinguished men of all parties who participated in its proceedings were Preston King, John A. King, William T. McCoun, Robert Emmett, John Jay, Horace Greeley, and Henry J. Raymond.

On the first ballot, Colonel Fremont had three hundred and fifty-eight votes and Judge McLean one hundred and ninety-nine. On the second, the vote stood five hundred and thirty-four to thirtyseven for the same candidates. The names of Messrs. Seward, Chase and others were withdrawn before any ballot was taken. For vice-president, on an informal ballot, Mr. Dayton received two hundred and fifty-nine, Abraham Lincoln one hundred and ten, David Wilmot forty-three, Charles Sumner thirty-six.

our duty to maintain this provision of the constitution against all attempts to violate it for the purpose of establishing slavery in any territory of the United States, by positive legislation, prohibiting its existence or extension therein. That we deny the authority of congress, of a territorial legislature, of any individual or association of individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any territory of the United States, while the present constitution shall be maintained."

"Resolved, That the constitution confers upon congress sovereign power over the territories of the United States for their government, and that, in the exercise of this power, it is both the right and the duty of congress to prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism-polygamy and slavery."

Mr. Seward engaged in the presidential canvass with his accustomed zeal and ability. His speeches at Auburn, Detroit, and Oswego are consummate statements of the questions at issue, and masterly expositions of the republican creed. Like nearly all his speeches, they possess an interest and value beyond the occasion that produced them.

The election resulted in the choice of Mr. Buchanan, and in the success of the democratic party in the nation. In thirteen of the sixteen free states, however, the republicans elected their state tickets and gave Colonel Fremont a majority, in those states, of more than two hundred thousand votes over Mr. Buchanan. In New York, the republicans elected twenty-five members of Congress and the entire state administration. Colonel Fremont's plurality in the state over Mr. Buchanan was eighty thousand-over Mr. Fillmore one hundred and fifty-two thousand. Only two free states (Pennsylvania and Indiana) cast a majority of their popular votes for Mr. Buchanan.

In the slaveholding states, the republicans were not allowed to maintain an organization. Individuals expressing sentiments in favor of the republican party were driven from their homes, and became exiles in the free north. A few republican votes, less than twelve hundred in all, were given in the more favored portions of Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Virginia.

Although failing of complete success, the "friends of human liberty" had now organized a party of more than thirteen hundred

thousand intelligent freemen, never to be disbanded until a triumph. over slavery has been achieved.

Such a party had long existed in the prophetic vision of Mr. Seward. He had himself planted the acorn from which this vigorous tree had sprung, nearly twenty years ago, when he was governor of his native state; and his life may be said to have been spent in watching and cultivating its growth. In 1845, in a private letter to a friend, Mr. Seward, in full view of the then recent triumph of the slave power in the annexation of Texas and the election of President Polk, thus clearly indicated the rallying of this new party:

'Friends of human liberty," he wrote, "may for a season be divided, and range themselves under different banners, but time will speedily indicate a rallying ground, and that ground being once gained, they will be invincible.

"There is no enchantment against them-neither is there any divination against their sublime and benevolent mission.

"Let it be pursued in a spirit of patriotism and christian charity-let our motto be uncompromising hostility to human slavery-peace and security to the slaveholder, and perpetual support of the American Union."

The third session of the thirty-fourth congress assembled on the first Monday in December, 1856.

Among its earliest proceedings was the announcement of the death of John M. Clayton. Mr. Seward's eulogium on the character of this eminent statesman was an eloquent and feeling tribute to an old political associate and personal friend.

The claims of the officers of the revolutionary army were ably advocated by Mr. Seward in a speech of great research and power. He showed by abundant evidence that the bill before the senate rested on the policy established by General Washington himself, while at the head of the army, and throughout the war; and that its enactment would be the fulfillment of his promises and more acceptable to his serene and awful shade than all the tributes which have been paid, and all that are yet to be paid, by a redeemed nation and grateful world.

Among the new republican senators who appeared in the senate at the present session was James Harlan, of Iowa. His right to his seat, however, was disputed by the majority and was arbitrarily denied to him, by a vote of twenty-eight to eighteen. Mr. Seward, in a lucid argument, conclusively established the validity of Mr

« PreviousContinue »