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COMMITTEES OF SAFETY.
the equipment of slave-ships in the harbors of the Union was increasing year after year was not a malicious invention of the republicans and abolitionists. English officials complained very bitterly of it, and the southern press was far from denying the fact.1
The people who had given the first impulse to the matter had themselves scarcely dared to hope that they would be able to point to such results after so short a time. But if, by their agitation, they had, as the Richmond Whig and others now said of them, intended to strengthen the position of the south in the Union, they dealt themselves a frightful blow with every success; for every proselyte whom they had won in the south was opposed by at least two in the north on whom they had forced the recognition of the irrepressibleness of the conflict. Only those reaped any real advantage from the triumphs of the propagandism for the re-opening of the
1J. J. Crawford, the English consul-general of Cuba, writes on the 11th of October, 1854: "Almost all the slave expeditions for some time past have been fitted out in the United States chiefly at New York, where there must be some establishment, ship or outfitting builders' or carpenters' ward specially undertaking such business for the slavers." Exec. Doc., 36th Congr., 2d Sess., vol. IV, No. 7, p. 115. See, also, Ibid., pp. 67, 70, 103, 200, 201. The New York Journal of Commerce, which was far from having to fear the reproach of being an enemy of the south, writes at the end of 1856: "We learn, upon inquiry of the United States deputy-marshals, that the fitting out of slavers from this port continues. In fact, this business was never prosecuted with greater energy than at present. The occasional interposition of the legal authorities exercises no apparent influence for its suppression. It is seldom that one or more vessels cannot be designated at the wharves respecting which there is evidence that she either is or has been concerned in the traffic." Copied in the Independent of Dec. 4, 1856. De Bow's Review (XXII, pp. 430, 431) calculated in 1857 that about forty slavers were annually fitted out in the eastern harbors of the Union, and made a net profit of about seventeen millions.
slave trade who, with the Disunionist, would henceforth have a platform with only one plank-Secession!' Their day was now approaching with equal rapidity and certainty; for, although they were still only the minority, and a very small minority in several states, they had already found the right answer to the question how they could bend the majority to their will.
In a letter of June 15, 1858, to James S. Slaughter, Yancey proposed the formation of committees of safety in all the cotton states. With these "we shall fire the southern heart, instruct the southern mind, give courage to each other, and at the proper moment, by one organized, concerted action, we can precipitate the cotton states into a revolution." As late as May, 1860, Jefferson Davis endeavored, by the statement that this southern league planned by Yancey had been really formed only in Alabama, and even there numbered scarcely one hundred members, to make those people ridiculous who wished to attach great political significance to that letter. A few weeks later he proved by his action that he was only shamming. The question was not whether a southern league had been formed, but only whether the radicals were resolved to act when a favorable opportunity offered. If they did this and were strong enough in only one cotton state, in Yancey's words, to precipitate it into a revolution, the disentangleable knot was cut.
"We should never participate in the election of a president or congress; but build a platform of one plank, and let that be secession; and stand upon it, few or many, weak or strong, in life and in death" (p. 71).
2 Congr. Globe, 1st Sess. 36th Congr., p. 2156.
MESSAGE OF DECEMBER 6, 1858.
THE SECOND SESSION OF THE THIRTY-FIFTH CONGRESS.
If the president's annual message of December 6, 1858, sent to the thirty-fifth congress at the beginning of its second session, judged the situation correctly, it was to be expected that questions of foreign policy would, in the near future, engross the attention of the republic. At least the ship of state had, according to his utterances, so far as home affairs were concerned the financial question to a certain extent excepted - owing, in the first place, to his strong and wise policy, and, in the second, to the support which that policy had received from congress, an unusually calm sea before it. The description. of the events in Utah already discussed was summarized in the sentence: "The authority of the constitution and the laws has been fully restored, and peace prevails throughout the territory." Just as satisfactory results were said to have been obtained by the legislative measures by which it was sought to deprive the Kansas question of its threatening character, inasmuch as the violent struggle over the slavery question was confined to its legitimate domain, the territory. The exhaustive demonstration of this assertion did not add a single new argument to the reasoning that had been heard so often. As new protests against the most recent acts of violence and outrage had been added to the old ones, made in the name of right and justice, he only sung the old tune in a still higher key: "In the course of my long public life, I have never performed any official act which, in the retrospect, has afforded me more heartfelt satisfaction." Thus, Buchanan now pretended to pass judgment on his course
in the Lecompton question, although he was obliged immediately thereafter to make the admission, which was far behind the documentarily proven fact, that he, "as an individual," was in favor of a vote of the people on the entire constitution. From the man who could write that, even the most decided opponent needed to ask no further argument in justification of what afterwards happened. Buchanan, therefore, spared himself the trouble of making such further argument; for the mere literal copying of the most important sentences of English's bill cannot well be considered such. His judgment on the bill was given without any assignment of reasons for it. The statesman-like authority of the "Sage of Wheatland " was the sole proof that it was "surely not unreasonable" to forbid the third attempt of Kansas to constitute itself a state until it had the population necessary for the election of a representative. To extend "this excellent provision" in future to all territories might, indeed, be commendable. Why "of course it would be unjust" to extend it to Oregon also was, however, a riddle hard to solve. In support of this claim all that was said was that, "acting upon the past practice of the government," it had already given itself a state constitution, and had elected a legislature and other officers. But every just claim growing out of the fact that the population of the territory, acting upon the previous practice of the gov ernment, had already tried to constitute themselves a state, might undoubtedly be made with at least the same right by Kansas as by Oregon. Politically, however, that was of no importance, if, as the president said, Kansas was now, because congress had guaranteed it complete freedom in respect to its own affairs, “tranquil and prosperous;" and after the sad experience it had had with resistance to territorial laws, it was not to be as
sumed that it would try to give itself a constitution in opposition to the express provisions of a federal law. Then English's bill had not only put an end to the excitement in the states over the Kansas question, but it might and even must be assumed that the population of Kansas likewise had at last come to recognize how “insignificant" the question over which it had become so excited, “viewed in its political effects," was. Now, as the message leaving out of consideration the economic condition of the country-touched on no internal question, except those of Utah, Kansas and Oregon, to which a political character could be attributed, those people, evidently, whose wishes were not suited to a time of political calm must have thanked the president for his endeavor to put the dead waters in motion by the request for extensive powers against certain American states, and for the appropriation of a sum for the purpose of negotiating for the purchase of Cuba.
The best criticism of the message was furnished by a speech of Iverson of January 9, 1859, although it did not even mention it. The speech of the senator from Georgia showed only how the country's situation was reflected in his own mind. If he so judged the situation, his estimate of it, considering the position he held among southern politicians, of itself showed Buchanan's description of it to be absurd. That a question not necessarily a political one the construction of a railway to the Pacific ocean - gave Iverson occasion to describe the situation generally, served only to place the contrast between the president's assertions and the facts in a still more glaring light.
In all the northern states east of the Rocky Mountains, said Iverson," in which elections have been held, our enemies have been victorious. Even Illinois is no exception,