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VIEWS OF THE PERSONAL LIBERTY LAWS.
Everett says: "The manifesto of South Carolina, which led the way in this inauspicious movement, sets forth nothing but the passage of State laws to obstruct the surrender of fugitive slaves. The document does not state that she ever lost a slave in consequence of these laws-it is not probable she ever didand yet she makes the existence of these laws, which are wholly inoperative, so far as she is concerned, and which, probably, never caused to the entire South the loss of a dozen fugitives, the ground for breaking up the Union, and plunging the country into a civil war.”
The same statement was made by Mr. Douglas, in his speech of December 11th, 1860. Mr. Pugh, Democratic Senator from Ohio, and a warm friend of the Slave States, stated that he did not believe all the Slave States together, had lost one hundred thousand dollars by their fugitives. Mr. Douglas confirmed it by saying, among other things:"I think, therefore, there is little ground of complaint, so far as the section of the country in which I live is concerned, and yet I know that the South
ern people are induced to believe that if a slave gets
into the North he is gone for ever. They are to think so because the cases of actual returns are
never published, and only the exceptional cases of rescue come to the knowledge of the people. I wish we could have the list of the fugitive slaves that are returned, and of the number rescued, and I venture the assertion that Southern gentlemen would be amazed at the fidelity with which that law has been executed. I believe, if we could have a record of the cases, they would be ashamed to bring up that subject as one of the causes to justify the dissolution of the Union. * * While we hear of personal liberty bills, prosecuted as the cause of disunion, we are told, and, so far as I know, the statement is true, that in no one case have these bills been the cause of depriving a master of the return of his slave. These bills generally exist in that part of the country where fugitives never come, yet so it happens that there is the greatest excitement on this question, just in proportion as you recede from the line which divides the Free from the Slave States *** When you go North, to Vermont, where they scarcely ever saw a slave, and would not know how one looked, they are disturbed about the wrongs of the slave; and when you get down South, to Georgia and Alabama, where they never lose any slaves they are disturbed by the outrage of these bills, and the non-enforcement of the Fugitive Slave law, just in proportion as they have no interest in it, and don't know what they are talking about."
Judge Holt, of Kentucky, in his letter to the people of his State, adverting to this theme, said:
"The census returns show that during the year 1860 the Fugitive Slave law was executed more faithfully and successfully than it had been during the preceding ten years. Since the installation of President Lincoln not a case has arisen in which the fugitive has not been returned, and that, too, without any opposition from the people. Indeed, the fidelity with which it was understood to be the policy of the present Administration to enforce the provisions of
this law has caused a perfect panic among the runaway slaves in the free States, and they have been escaping in multitudes to Canada, unpursued and unreclaimed by their masters. Is there found in this reason for a dissolution of the Union?"
We have, however, from the few Southern lips which have had the candor to express an honest and fearless sentiment in the case, the confession that, after all, it is not that the Liberty laws are offensive-not that the Fugitive law is not thoroughly enforced, that the revolution was instated. Mr. Iverson, in his speeches in the United States Senate [see pp. 65 -75] declared plainly that it was not for these causes that the States were moving for Secession; but for the single, simple reason, that the South was in the minority, and no longer, in the Union, could dictate the laws controlling slaves. Then we have, as confirmatory of the propriety of the Personal Liberty enactments, the views expressed by Mr. Rhett and others, in the South Carolina Convention, of the unconstitutional nature of the Fugitive Slave act.* Hence, according to the theory
*That these gentlemen did not utter mere personal opinions, but rather a general conviction, in pronouncing the fugitive act wholly unconstitutional, we have the statements of the Charleston Mercury. As early as June, 1856, it said:
"Of the action of Massachusetts in the abrogation of the Fugitive Slave law, we have no complaint to make. It was from the first a miserable illusion; and worse, in fact, for it was an infringement upon one of the most cherished principles of the Constitution, which provides that fugitives from labor, upon demand, shall be delivered up, but gives to Congress no power to act in the affair. The tenth amendment to the Constitution provides that the powers not delegated to the United States, are reserved to the States or to the people. The clause above confers no power, but is the naked declaration of a right; and the power not being con
of the Secessionists-that a State has the | to the secession leaders to prove to the massright and the power to sit in judgment on acts of Congress-even if the Liberty laws were nullifying in their nature (which they were not) they would have to be justified by the revolutionists themselves.
5th. The hostility of the President-elect to Slavery. Upon this point the Southern leaders of the rebellion founded their strongest argument with their people, and, by a zealous use of fact and fancy, succeeded in "precipitating" action upon the announcement of Mr. Lincoln's election. The Anti-Slavery sentiments most frequently quoted against the candidate, by his Pro-Slavery opponents, was from his speech in June, 1858, before the Springfield Convention, in which he said:
"In my opinion the Slavery agitation will not
cease until a crisis shall have been reached and
passed. A house divided against itself cannot
stand.' I believe this Government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved-I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of Slavery will arrest the further spread of it-place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, the old as well as the new-the North as well as the South."
This, taken in confirmation with Mr. Seward's somewhat celebrated Rochester Speech, in which the "irrepressible conflict" doctrine was avowed, gave argument enough
ferred results to the States, as one of the incidents of sovereignty too dear to be trusted to the General Government. Our Southern members strove for the passage of the law, and strove honorably; but it shows the evils of our unfortunate condition, that, in the urgency of our contest with an aggressive adversary, we lose the landmarks of principle. To obtain an illusive triumph, we pressed the Government to assume a power not conferred by the instrument of its creation, and to establish a precedent by which, in all after time, it will be authorized to assume unconstitutional powers, and wearied with so many efforts to confine it to its limits of legitimate powers, we are pleased to have assistance from Massachusetts, and if the question shall be determined in her favor we shall sincerely rejoice at such a vindication of the Constitution."
es of the South the hostile character of the new administration, and thus startled them into open revolution. Without entering at all into a discussion of the views expressed, we may state that, in assuming the doctrine of the irreconcilable nature of Slave labor and Free, both Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward were anticipated by Mr. Calhoun himself, who grounded his entire theory of the necessity of a Slave Confederacy upon an assumption of the irreconcilable relations of the Free and Slave institutions. In his great Nullification speech, in the United States Senate, (1833,) he said:
"The contest between the North and the South will, in fact, be a contest between power and liberty, and such he considered the present; a contest in which the weaker section, with its peculiar labor, productions and situation, has at stake all that is
dear to freemen."
Commenting on the above, Mr. Benton remarked:
"Here is a distinct declaration that there was then a contest between the two sections of the Union, and that that contest was between power and liberty, in which the freedom and the slave property of the South were at stake. This declaration at the time attracted but little attention, there being then no sign of a Slavery agitation, but to close observers it was an ominous revelation of something to come, and an apparent laying an anchor to windward for a new agitation on a new subject, after the tariff was done with."
The expression above quoted from Mr. Lincoln's lips, in 1858, was not the strongest to which he had given utterance, although it was most frequently referred to by the Southern leaders. In his Peoria speech, Oct. 16th, 1854, [see Howell's Life of Lincoln, page 279,] he said:
What I do say is, that no man is good enough to govern another man without the other's consent. I say this is the leading principle, the sheet-anchor of American Republicanism. Our Declaration of Independence says:
MR. DOOLITTLE'S SPEECH.
show that, according to our ancient faith, the powers of Government are derived from the consent of the governed. Now, the relation of master and slave is, pro tanto, a total violation of the principle. The master not only governs the slave without his consent, but he governs him by a set of rules altogether different from those which he prescribes for himself. Allow all the governed an equal voice in the Gov
| reader is at liberty to make his own conclusions in the premises, and to say if these mere opinions of the President were sufficient cause for the attempt to break up the Union.
These sentiments are, however, disarmed of their asserted "hostility," by their mere gen
ernment; and that, and that only, is self-govern- erality, as well as by the fact that no Presi
In September, 1858, he further added to his opinions of the equality of men of all races and conditions:
"That central idea in our poiitical system at the beginning was, and until recently continued to be, the equality of men. And although it was always submitted patiently to, whatever inequality there seemed to be, as a matter of actual necessity, its constant working has been a steady progress toward the practical equality of all men.
"In what I have done I cannot claim to have acted from any peculiar consideration of the colored
people as a separate and distinct class in the community, but from the simple conviction that all the individuals of that class are members of the community, and in virtue of their manhood entitled to every original right enjoyed by any other member. We feel, therefore, that all legal distinction between individuals of the same community, founded in any such circumstances as color, origin, and the like, are
hostile to the genius of our institutions, and incom
patible with the true history of American liberty. Slavery and oppression must cease, or American liberty must perish.
"In Massachusetts, and in most, if not all, of the New England States, the colored man and the white are absolutely equal before the law.
In New York the colored man is restricted as to the right of suffrage by a property qualification. In other respects the same equality prevails.
"I embrace with pleasure this opportunity of declaring my disapprobation of that clause of the Constitution (of Illinois) which denies to a portion of the colored people the right of suffrage.
"True Democracy makes no inquiry about the color of the skin, or place of nativity, or any other similar circumstance of condition. I regard, therefore, the exclusion of the colored people as a body from the elective franchise as incompatible with the true Democratic principle."
This, we believe, was the record of the President-elect to which the South took most violent exceptions, and which its incendiary leaders used in their efforts to influence the popular mind to the point of revolution. The
dent has power to change laws, to abrogate decisions, or to forestall Congressional Legislation. The Supreme Court is superior to him; the Constitution is superior to him; the House of Representatives is superior to him; his tenure of office is brief; and, even if he were Mahommedan or Brahmin, Monarchist or Socialist, he has no power to affect the laws of the land for evil.
But, the President did not go before the people without a most specific record on all the great questions agitating the public mind. In considering charges of "hostility" to any section of the Union and its institutions, it is necessary to examine into his declarations in regard to individual acts and provisions which he may be called upon to enforce, and to scrutinize those views of public policy which he might seek to embody through the legislation of his partisans. We have, in his Freeport (Ill.) speech, Aug. 27th 1858, his replies to the questions put to him by his opponent, Mr. Douglas. These furnish us with his specific executive views at length. The questions and answers were as follows:-
"Question 1. I desire to know whether Lincoln, today, stands, as he did in 1854, in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive Slave law?
Answer. I do not now, nor ever did, stand in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive Slave law.
Q. I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to-day, as he did in 1854, against the admission of any more Slave States into the Union, even if the people want them?
A. I do not now, nor ever did, stand pledged against the admission of any more Slave States into
Q. I want to know whether he stands pledged against the admission of a new State into the Union, with such a Constitution as the people of that State may see fit to make.
A. I do not stand pledged against the admission of a new State into the Union, with such a Constitution as the people of that State may see fit to make.
Q. I want to know whether he stands, to-day, pledged to the abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia? A. I do not stand pledged to-day to the abolition become most cruel Slave-masters. of Slavery in the District of Columbia.
of existence. We know that some Southern men do free their slaves, go North, and become tip-top Abolitionists; while some Northern ones go South, and
Q. I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to the prohibition of the slave trade between the different States?
"When Southern people tell us they are no more responsible for the origin of Slavery than we, I acknowledge the fact. When it is said that the insti tution exists, and that it is very difficult to get rid
A. I do not stand pledged to the prohibition of the of it in any satisfactory way, I can understand and slave trade between the different States.
Q. I desire to know whether he stands pledged to prohibit Slavery in all the Territories of the United States, north, as well as south, of the Missouri Compromise line?
A. I am impliedly, if not expressly, pledged to a belief in the right and duty of Congress to prohibit Slavery in all the United States' Territories.
Q. I desire him to answer whether he is opposed to the acquisition of any new Territory, unless Slavery is first prohibited therein?
A. I am not generally opposed to honest acquisition of Territory, and in any given case I would or would not oppose such acquisition, accordingly as I might think such acquisition would or would not aggravate the Slavery question among ourselves."
Lincoln's feelings towards the South.
To this must be added his directly expressed views in regard to the South, his feelings toward it, his wishes regarding their prosperity, &c. These are stated clearly in his Peoria speech above quoted from:—
"I think I have no prejudice against the Southern people. They are just what we would be in their situation. If Slavery did not now exist among them,
they would not introduce it. If it did now exist among us, we should not instantly give it up. This I believe of the masses North and South. Doubtless there are individuals on both sides who would not hold slaves under any circumstances, and others who would gladly introduce Slavery anew if it were out
appreciate the saying. I surely will not blame them for not doing what I should not know how to do my self. If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do as to the existing institution. It does seem to me that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted; but for their tardiness in this, I will not undertake to judge our brethren in the South.
"When they remind us of their Constitutional rights, I acknowledge them, not greedily, but fully and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives, which should not, in its stringency, be more likely to carry a free man into Slavery, than our ordinary criminal laws are to hang an innocent one."
In the face of this solid array of testimony, directly on the point of interest, it is impossible for any candid judge to justify the Southern leaders' assumption of the hostility of the President elect as one prime cause of the rebellion. The bad use made of his abstract belief on points of general economy-the total suppression of his views, wishes, and purposes on the very points involved-if they effected the end designed, of plunging the country into the revolution, will but add another ineradicable witness to prove that the entire disunion movement was based upon a studied deception of the masses in the South.
"WASHINGTON, Dec. 28th, 1860. "SIR-We have the honor to transmit to you a copy of the full powers from the Convention of the people of South Carolina, under which we are 'authorized and empowered to treat with the Government of the United States for the delivery of the forts, magazines, lighthouses, and other real estate, with their appurtenances, within the limits of South Carolina, and also for an apportionment of the public debt, and for a division of all the property held by the Government of the United States, as agent of the Confederated States, of which South Carolina was recently a member, and generally to negotiate as to all other measures and arrangements proper to be made and adopted in the existing relation of the parties, and for the continuance of peace and amity between this Commonwealth and the Government at Washington.'
"In the execution of this trust, it is our duty to furnish you, as we now do, with an official copy of the Ordinance of Secession, by which the State of South Carolina has resumed the powers she delegated to the Government of the United States, and has declared her perfect sovereignty and independence.
"It would also have been our duty to have informed you that we were ready to negotiate with you upon all such questions as are necessarily raised by the adoption of this ordinance, and that we were prepared to enter upon this negotiation with the earnest desire to avoid all unnecessary and hostile collision, and so to inaugurate our new relations as to secure mutual respect, general advantage, and a future of good will and harmony, beneficial to all the parties concerned.
"But the events of the past twenty-four hours render such an assurance impossible. We came
here the representatives of an authority which could at any time within the past sixty days have taken possession of the forts in Charleston harbor, but, upon pledges given in a manner that we cannot doubt, determined to trust to your honor rather than to its own power. Since our arrival, an officer
of the United States, acting, as we are assured, not only without, but against your orders, has disman tled one fort, and occupied another, thus altering to a most important extent the condition of affairs under which we came.
"Until these circumstances are explained in a manner which relieves us of all doubt as to the
spirit in which these negotiations shall be conducted, we are forced to suspend all discussion as to any arrangements by which our mutual interests might be amicably adjusted.
"And, in conclusion, we would urge upon you the immediate withdrawal of the troops from the harbor of Charleston. Under present circumstances, they are a standing menace which renders negotiation impossible, and, as our recent experience shows, threatens speedily to bring to a bloody issue questions which ought to be settled with temperance and judgment.
"We have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servants,
"To the President of the United States." To this the President replied as follows:— "WASHINGTON CITY, Dec. 30, 1860. "GENTLEMEN,-I have had the honor to receive your communication of 28th inst., together with a copy of your 'full powers from the Convention of the people of South Carolina,' authorizing you to treat with the Government of the United States, on various important subjects therein mentioned, and also a copy of the Ordinance, bearing date on the 20th inst., declaring that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the United States of America is hereby dissolved.'