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IN PUBLIC LIFE.
LTHOUGH Abraham Lincoln had once been to Vandalia as a representative, he had not taken an active part in public affairs. Once more he was a candidate. A great meeting was held at Springfield, where Whigs and Democrats addressed their fellow-citizens from the same platform. Lincoln was the leading candidate of the Whigs.
"He carried the crowd with him and swayed them as he pleased," are the words of one who heard him. (1)
George Forquar, who had been a Whig, but who had changed his politics, and was holding an office at a salary of $3000 a year, was the next speaker. Mr. Forquar had built a new house-one of the most expensive in Springfield. Lincoln, as he rode into the city the night before, noticed the elegant residence, and was particularly interested in the lightning-rod attached to the building. He had heard about lightning-rods, but had never seen one. Many good people thought that such a contrivance to ward off a thunderstorm was an attempt to circumvent Almighty God, and therefore audacious and wicked.
Mr. Forquar thought himself of considerable importance in the community. "I see," he said, with an air of superiority, "that I shall have to take this young man down a little."
His speech abounded with sarcasm and ridicule.
Abraham Lincoln has left the platform and stands a listener in the audience. He hears the loud-spoken words, the guffaws of the crowd, but does not interrupt the speaker.
When Forquar is through, Mr. Lincoln makes a speech which electrifies the audience-not of sarcasm, but argument. Not till the close does he indulge in ridicule.
"The gentleman began his speech by saying that this young man would have to be taken down, and he was sorry that the task devolved
upon him. I am not so young in years as I am in the tricks and trades of a politician; but live long or die young, I would rather die now than, like the gentleman, change my politics, and, simultaneously with the change, receive an office worth $3000 per year, and then have to erect a lightning-rod over my house to protect a guilty conscience from an offended God."
Laughter and cheers rend the air, and his friends lift him upon their shoulders and bear him from the court-house as an expression of their admiration. (2)
We are not to think that Lincoln shared the opinions of the people who said that to put up a lightning-rod was to "tempt God," but rather that he saw an opportunity to employ his opponent's weapon (ridicule) with telling effect. The discomfited Democratic office-holder could make no reply, and was compelled to endure the raillery that greeted him.
Abraham Lincoln frankly responded to the call for a statement of his political principles.
"I go," he said, "for all sharing the privileges of the Government who assist in bearing its burdens; consequently, I go for admitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms, by no means excluding females.” (*)
Very few people in the United States in 1836 had entertained the thought that women as well as men were entitled to exercise the right of suffrage. It was not a question in the political canvass; he was stating what to him was a fundamental principle.
"All questions of social and moral reform," he said a few years later, "find lodgement first with enlightened souls, who stamp them with their approval. In God's own time they will be organized into law, and thus woven into the fabric of our institutions." (*)
In the election Lincoln led the ticket, and nine Whigs were sent to the Legislature from a county which before had been Democratic. They were all very tall in stature, and were called the "Long Nine of Sangamon."
Six years had passed since his soul was stirred within him at witnessing men, women, and children sold at auction in New Orleans; six years since William Lloyd Garrison had been put in prison at Baltimore for printing that trade in slaves was piracy. During the period petitions had been presented to Congress for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia and the Territories over which Congress had jurisdiction. Antislavery societies had been formed in many places
throughout the Northern States advocating the doing away with slavery, so far as it could be done by the Government of the United States. The publication of the "Liberator" and other antislavery papers made the people of the Southern States very angry. In Charleston, S. C., the mail-bags were seized by a Vigilance Committee, and the few obnoxious papers found in them were burned in the public square. A grand-jury in Alabama indicted R. J. Williams, editor of the "Emancipator," living in New York; and the Governor of Alabama sent a requisition to the Governor of that State demanding that Mr. Williams should be given up to him to be dealt with by the courts of Alabama. The slave-holders of Louisiana offered $50,000 for the head of Arthur Tappan, of New York, who had paid the fine of Garrison. The President, in his message to Congress, asked for the passage of a law which would exclude such papers as the "Emancipator" and "Liberator" from the mails. A bill was introduced, but it did not become a law. There was much excitement throughout the country. People who joined the antislavery societies were called fanatics. They were accused of disturbing the peace of the country, and of desiring that the slaves should cut the throats of their masters. A benevolent young woman, Prudence Crandall, was teaching school in Canterbury, Conn. A colored girl attended, which gave great offence to the people of the town, who withdrew their children, whereupon she opened a school for colored children, which so enraged the people that they held a town meeting, and passed resolutions condemning the school. They were not willing colored children should obtain an education. They were so bitter that it was difficult for Miss Crandall to obtain food for herself or her pupils. The selectmen of the town informed her she must pay $1.60 a week for any pupil not an inhabitant of the town, and if the colored girls from other towns did not leave within ten days they would be tied up to the whipping-post and flogged. Ruffians filled up the well in Miss Crandall's dooryard. The sheriff seized one of the pupils, and was about to tie her up to the whipping - post, but did not do it. Possibly he thought it would be cruel, as the girl had not done anything wrong; it may be he came to the conclusion it would not read well in history. Instead of whipping the children, the people secured the passage of a law which prohibited the teaching in a school for colored children by any one without first obtaining the consent of a majority of the people and of the selectmen of a town. Church bells, which on Sunday called people to worship God and do good to their fellow-men, were rung, and cannon fired, when the Gov
ernor signed the bill. The sheriff put Miss Crandall in jail-into a cell from which a man accused of murdering his wife had just been taken. Her alleged crime was teaching colored children. There were men on the jury who did not think that she had committed any crime, and she was set at liberty. Once more the school began, which made some of the people of Canterbury so angry that they set her house on fire, but she extinguished the flames. A mob threw stones through the windows and broke down the doors, so that she could no longer keep school.
The people of Canterbury, however, were not any more prejudiced against the colored people than those living in other towns throughout the Northern States. In Pittsfield, N. H., the Rev. Mr. Storrs was offering a prayer at an antislavery meeting, when the sheriff entered the pulpit and dragged him down the steps and out-of-doors. He had committed no crime, and was doing what he had a right to do under the constitution and laws of the State. James G. Birney, who lived in Kentucky, was a lawyer and also a minister, arguing cases in court during the week and preaching on Sunday. He was a slave-holder, but did not think it right to hold slaves, and so moved to Ohio and gave his slaves their freedom. He established the "Philanthropist," a newspaper which advocated the abolition of slavery. It so stirred up the people of Cincinnati that they held a public meeting. Jacob Bennett, one of the judges of the Superior Court and Senator in Congress, presided. It was not a meeting of ruffians, but of men who called themselves gentlemen. Many of them, doubtless, thought they were doing right, and what would be for the welfare of the community, by going to the office of the "Philanthropist " and throwing the type into the street and the printing-press into the river. They tried to find Mr. Birney, with the intention of giving him a coat of tar and feathers. Having destroyed the printing-office, they broke the windows and doors of the houses occupied by colored people; not that the negroes had done anything wrong, but because they were negroes.
The colored people of Philadelphia fared worse than those in Cincinnati. A mob killed one, beat others with clubs, treated women and girls indecently, broke down the doors and smashed the windows of fifty-four houses, and threw the furniture into the street, just because they had African blood in their veins.
Some of the women of Boston formed an antislavery society. The young printer, Mr. Garrison, was present at one of their meetings. Mary Parker was reading a chapter in the Bible and offering prayer
when a mob gathered about the building. The mayor of the city, Mr. Lyman, rushed in. "I entreat you to dissolve the meeting," he said. "We demand protection," the reply. "I cannot protect you." The mob seized Garrison, put a rope about his neck, and dragged him into the street. "Hang him!" they shouted. But the police hustled him into a carriage and took him to the jail to save him from the excited crowd; not altogether from men whose homes were in narrow alleys, but who had ships on the sea bringing cotton from Southern cities-men who went from their counting-rooms to well-furnished houses, and who sat in cushioned pews on Sunday.
While this was going on in Boston, another mob was breaking up a meeting in Philadelphia and burning the building in which it was held. Many of the ministers in the Northern States, instead of being foremost in joining the antislavery societies, thought that slavery was sanc
tioned by the Bible, and was ordained for the welfare of the human race. We are to keep in mind the fact that Southern and Central Illinois was largely settled by people from Kentucky; that Abraham Lincoln was from that State, as were all his fellow-members in the Legislature from Sangamon County. By the ordinance of 1787, passed by Congress, slavery had been prohibited in the North-west Territory, which included Illinois; but in 1823 an amendment to the Constitution admitting slavery had been submitted to the people, which was rejected by a majority of only 1800 votes in a total of nearly 11,000.
On the last day of the session of 1836 a member of the Legislature introduced a series of resolutions which deprecated any discussion of slavery by the people, and which bitterly denounced the Abolitionists. Abraham Lincoln was very far from being an Abolitionist, but he did not like the spirit of the resolutions. He believed that the people had a right to discuss any question. He thought the institution of slavery was founded on injustice; that it was not good for any community; that Congress had the right to abolish it in the District of Columbia and in the Territories, but ought not to exercise the right except when the people in the District and Territories asked for its abolition. He wrote a protest against the resolutions, but could get only Dan Stone
WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON.