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and of branding every man of mark or note opposed to their misrule as unfaithful to the South, and a sympathizer, an aider and abettor of the Abolition party, unworthy the confidence and support of a Southern state.
In 1840, General Harrison, an upright, honest, patriotic man, a native of Virginia, was nominated by the Whigs. He was at once branded throughout the state of his nativity and the South as an Abolitionist, while his competitor, Mr. Van Buren, was held up as a patron saint of the “peculiar institution." But the charge against General Harrison proved to be of no avail; the disreputable device failed to accomplish its end; the indignation of the country had been aroused against the administration of Mr. Van Buren, and he was swept with the force of a tornado from was the second time that in forty-four years the Democracy had been overthrown. They stood aghast and dismayed at the result; they felt that every hope was gone; the last and strongest card had been played, and the game had been lost. In thirty days from his inauguration General Harrison suddenly died, and the estate fell to the heir apparent, the Vicepresident, a man whose vanity and ambition being readily approached and easily excited, was in an incredibly short time won over to those who had but a few months before been his bitterest revilers, and he turned his back on the friends who had elevated him to power and to fame. At once the hopes of the Democracy revived. By an unlookedfor act of Providence on the one hand, and an act of unparalleled treachery on the other, they found themselves again in possession of the government; but how to retain it was the point. Agitation of the slavery question must be kept up in some form, and they struck upon the expedient of annexing a foreign government to the United States; not for the purpose of extending and strengthening the institution
of slavery, but of extending and strengthening the institution of Democracy; for in the late election General Harrison had carried eight Southern States and seventy-eight Southern electoral votes, which must be recovered, or their power was gone forever. Slavery could not be strengthened by its extension into new territory, but Democracy might, by increasing the political power of the South, which was under the absolute control of Democracy. As an army of one hundred thousand men in a compact body is stronger and more capable of defending and protecting itself than if divided into a hundred parts of one thousand each, which may by an inferior force be cut up in detail, so is slavery, when confined to the fifteen states in which it exists by the Constitution and local law of the states, far stronger than if it were scattered over all the territory of the United States, when it too would be cut up in detail, and no vestige of it would be left in twenty years.
Upon this issue of the annexation of Texas and the agitation of the question of slavery, they not only cheated Mr. Van Buren out of his nomination that the people desired, but they again succeeded in placing a Southern Democrat in the chair over Mr. Clay, another native son of Virginia, and a citizen of Kentucky, who was the owner of a large body of slaves, but who was nevertheless bitterly denounced as an Abolitionist. So flushed were they with the unexpected victory they had achieved over the foremost man of all the land, and so elated at the success of this new issue, that they were determined to press the matter of acquisition still farther in time for the campaign of 1848; and, utterly regardless of all precedent or constitutional restraint, they acquired and admitted Texas as one of the states of this Union by a joint resolution of Congress, which, as a mere act of ordinary legislation, is liable at any time to be repealed; for in law it was null and void from the beginning, for the reason that the Constitution gave no power to the Legislature to enter into a contract with a foreign government for the purchase, sale, or surrender of its territory. In truth, the power did not exist any where; but there was a precedent in the acquisition of Louisiana for acquiring territory by the treaty-making power, for which Mr. Jefferson subsequently suggested the propriety of an amendment of the Constitution; so that, if that joint resolution should be repealed tomorrow, Texas would no longer legally be a member of this confederacy, although practically it would have no effect on her status as a state. I only refer to this question to show to what extremities the Democracy resorted for slavery issues to control presidential elections.
But Texas answered the purposes of 1844. Having dodged the two-third vote required for its admission by treaty, they were in hot haste to get up a new issue for the campaign of 1848, and they struck upon the expedient of having a war with Mexico “to conquer a peace,” and “for indemnity for the past and security for the future," which would inevitably lead to the acquisition of additional territory, and necessarily to the question of the extension of slavery into it, which would as infallibly be resisted by the North as it would be claimed and insisted on by the South. And this it was that led to the introduction of the Wilmot Proviso, to be applied to any territory that might be acquired from Mexico; but they were quite as artful in dodging the war-making power as they had been before in dodging the treaty-making power; for they knew the warmaking power could not be induced to make a declaration of war, for the reason that we had no cause of complaint against Mexico, while she had ground of complaint against us for annexing a territory the title to which she had never relinquished, but always claimed, and whose independence had been asserted only, but never fully established; so they managed through Mr. Polk, just elected, to send a fleet of observation to the coast of Mexico and an army to Corpus Christi, which was acknowledged to be “the most western point now (then) occupied by Texas," a distance of one hundred and eighty miles from the Rio Grande—all of which intermediate territory was then acknowledged by the President, Secretary of War, and our Minister to Mexico, Mr. Donaldson, to belong to Mexico. After waiting at Corpus Christi long enough to see that Mexico did not mean to make war upon us, this little army was marched across to the banks of the Rio Grande, a fort erected, and our guns were pointed upon the Mexican town of Matamoros; and thus was the war commenced without the authority or knowledge of the war-making power, to prepare the way for the slavery issue in the campaign of 1848.
General Taylor was elected as the candidate in opposition to General Cass, and although he was said to have been the owner of some two or three hundred slaves, he too, in turn, was vehemently denounced as an Abolitionist not fit to be trusted by the South; nor is it probable he would have been trusted, but for the division of a portion of the Northern Democracy in favor of Mr. Van Buren, who, to resent his defeat in the Convention of 1844, had by this time made an exhibition of his “Southern principles" not very much to the taste of his former admirers in the South, and ran as a Free-soil candidate. Here, then, all their issues had thus failed in 1848; the twenty-first rule, the cry of abolition, the annexation of Texas, the Mexican War, had all availed them nothing, and for the third time the "sceptre had departed from Judah.” This they could no longer stand, and what was their next resort? Why, nothing short of a dissolution of the Union and the organization of a Southern confederacy, in which their title to power would be perpetual and omnipotent, and we poor devils of the Whig party were to be made the hewers of wood and drawers of water for our hard task-masters except on the condition of bending the knee to Baal; this cry of disunion was hushed and trodden under foot by the happy influence of the compromises of 1850, which they sternly resisted to the end, and rather than submit to which they called a convention at Nashville for the purpose of initiating a movement in favor of dissolution; that failing, and finding these measures were overwhelmingly popular with the people, they wheeled to the right about, claimed the compromises as their own sacred work, put up their candidate from New Hampshire on the platform of the Compromise Measures, swore he was a better Southern man, and more to be relied on for his devotion and faithful adherence to those compromises as a final settlement of the question than General Scott, another native of Virginia, whom they denounced also as a radical Abolitionist, and subject to the influence and control of Abolitionists, and they carried eyery Southern state against him except three- Maryland, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
It was by these means, and by a resort to such expedients, that they were enabled, by making a foot-ball for party of the slavery issue and turning it into a sectional party question, to succeed at all-always expressing doubt and distrust of every Southern man who did not agree with their general policy of government, and confiding in, trusting to, and coalescing with every man of the North whose natural and educational instincts were opposed to slavery,