« PreviousContinue »
more safely trusted? Everyone knows that it is the Republican party or none that shall displace the Democratic party. But I answer further that the character and fidelity of any party are determined, necessarily, not by its pledges, programs, and platforms, but by the public exigencies and the temper of the people when they call it into activity. Subserviency to slavery is a law written not only on the forehead of the Democratic party, but also in its very soul-so resistance to slavery and devotion to freedom, the popular elements now actively working for the Republican party among the people, must and will be the resources for its ever-renewing strength and constant invigoration.
Others cannot support the Republican party because it has not sufficiently exposed its platform and determined what it will do and what it will not do when triumphant. It may prove too progressive for some and too conservative for others. As if any party ever foresaw so clearly the course of future events as to plan a universal scheme for future action, adapted to all possible emergencies. Who would ever have joined even the Whig party of the Revolution if it had been obliged to answer in 1775 whether it would declare for independence in 1776, and for this noble Federal Constitution of ours in 1787, and not a year earlier or later?
The people of the United States will be as wise next year, and the year afterward, and even ten years hence, as we are They will oblige the Republican party to act as the public welfare and the interests of justice and humanity shall require, through all the stages of its career, whether of trial or triumph.
Others will not venture an effort because they feel that the Union would not endure the change. Will such objectors tell me how long a Constitution can bear a strain directly along the fibers of which it is composed? This is a Constitution of freedom. It is being converted into a Constitution of slavery. It is a republican Constitution. It is being made an aristocratic one. Others wish to wait until some collateral questions concerning temperance or the exercise of the elective franchise are properly settled. Let me ask all such persons whether time enough has not been wasted on these points already without gaining any other than this single advantage, namely, the discovery that only one thing can be effectually done at one time, and that the one thing which must and will be done at any one time is just that thing which is most urgent and will no longer admit of postponement or delay. Finally we are told by
faint-hearted men that they despond; the Democratic party, they say, is unconquerable, and the dominion of slavery is consequently inevitable. I reply to them that the complete and universal dominion of slavery would be intolerable enough when it should have come after the last possible effort to escape should have been made. There would, in that case, be left to us the consoling reflection of fidelity to duty.
But I reply, further, that I know-few, I think, know better than I the resources and energies of the Democratic party, which is identical with the slave power. I do ample justice to its traditional popularity. I know further-few, I think, know better than I-the difficulties and disadvantages of organizing a new political force like the Republican party, and the obstacles it must encounter in laboring without prestige and without patronage. But, notwithstanding all this, I know that the Democratic party must go down and that the Republican party must rise into its place. The Democratic party derived its strength, originally, from its adoption of the principles of equal and exact justice to all men. So long as it practiced this principle faithfully, it was invulnerable. It became vulnerable when it renounced the principle, and since that time it has maintained itself, not by virtue of its own strength, or even of its traditional merits, but because there as yet had appeared in the political field no other party that had the conscience and the courage to take up, and avow, and practice the lifeinspiring principles which the Democratic party had surrendered. At last the Republican party has appeared. It avows now, as the Republican party of 1800 did, in one word, its faith and its works: "Equal and exact justice to all men." Even when it first entered the field, only half organized, it struck a blow which only just failed to secure complete and triumphant victory. In this, its second campaign, it has already won advantages which render that triumph now both easy and certain.
The secret of its assured success lies in that very characteristic which, in the mouth of scoffers, constitutes its great and lasting imbecility and reproach. It lies in the fact that it is a party of one idea; but that idea is a noble one-an idea that fills and expands all generous souls; the idea of equality, the equality of all men before human tribunals and human laws, as they are all equal before the Divine tribunal and Divine laws.
I know, and you know, that a revolution has begun. I know, and all the world knows, that revolutions never go backward. Twenty Senators and a hundred Representatives proclaim boldly in Congress to-day sentiments and opinions and principles of
THE IRREPRESSIBLE CONFLICT''
[The Republican party throwing Seward overboard] From the collection of the New York Public Library
freedom which hardly so many men, even in this free State, dared to utter in their own homes twenty years ago. While the Government of the United States, under the conduct of the Democratic party, has been all that time surrendering one plain and castle after another to slavery, the people of the United States have been no less steadily and perseveringly gathering together the forces with which to recover back again all the fields and all the castles which have been lost, and to confound and overthrow, by one decisive blow, the betrayers of the Constitution and freedom forever.
The question of constructing a railroad to the Pacific Ocean exclusively through the Northern States came up during the next session of Congress, and, in opposing this project as a sectional one, Senator Alfred Iverson [Ga.] on January 6, 1859, referred to the "irrepressible conflict" between the North and South as certain to lead to the dissolution of the Union and the formation of a Southern Confederacy.
THE INEVITABLE DISSOLUTION OF THE UNION
Speaking of the Union, sir, I take occasion to say that there is another reason connected with it which makes me object to any bill, the provisions of which will secure the Government aid in the construction of a railroad to the Pacific, exclusively confined to the Northern States. Sir, I believe that the time will come when the slave States will be compelled, in vindication of their rights, interests, and honor, to separate from the free States, and erect an independent confederacy; and I am not sure, sir, that the time is not near at hand when that event will occur. At all events, I am satisfied that one of two things is inevitable; either that the slave States must surrender their peculiar institutions or separate from the North. I do not intend, on this occasion, to enter into an elaborate or prolonged discussion of this proposition. I content myself with expressing my firm belief and a brief allusion to the foundation of that opinion. It is unnecessary to look back to the commencement of the anti-slavery agitation in the Northern States and to trace its regular and rapid growth to its present monstrous proportions.
I remember twenty-five years ago, when petitions were first
presented to Congress for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia; it was the beginning of the agitation and was limited to a few deluded religious fanatics among the men and some of the weaker sex of the New England States. It nevertheless aroused the fears and excited the angry feelings of many of the Southern people; it produced much discussion in Congress and among the newspaper press of the Southern States. Many expressed their belief that it was the beginning of a storm which was to sweep over the free States, carrying everything before it; but they were met with the siren song which the distinguished Senator from South Carolina [James H. Hammond] has recently so eloquently poured forth, "there is no danger; slavery is too strong to be overturned; let the sound, conservative mind and heart of the North be appealed to, and all will be right; our friends there will protect us." Behold the result in the late elections! With the bold, undisguised declaration of hostility to slavery at the South, as enunciated by the great leader of its enemes at Rochester, with his loudsounding pronunciamento of "down with the accursed thing"; with the bloody flag of anti-slavery unfurled, and "war to the knife" written upon its folds, there is not at this day a majority of true, conservative friends of the rights of the South in a single free State of this Union this side of the Rocky Mountains. The demon of abolition, in his most hideous shape, has covered them all over with the footprints of his onward and remorseless march to power.
Sir, he knows but little of the workings of human nature who supposes that the spirit of anti-slavery fanaticism which now pervades the Northern heart will stop short of its favorite and final end and aim-the universal emancipation of slavery in the United States by the operation and action of the Federal Government. When Mr. Wilberforce began the agitation of his scheme of emancipation in the British West India Islands there was not a corporal's guard in both Houses of the British Parliament who sympathized with him or approved the movement; and yet, in less than a quarter of a century, all England became abolitionized, and perpetrated, by a decree in Parliament, one of the most arbitrary and outrageous violations of private rights which was ever inflicted by despotic power upon peaceful and loyal subjects. And so it will be in this country. The same spirit which brought about emancipation in the British islands will produce it here whenever the power is obtained to pass and to enforce its decrees. When the present Republican party, or its legitimate successors in some other name, shall get