« PreviousContinue »
our strength and prosperity. Whatever of reputation he had acquired was due mainly to the fact that he had endeavored, in his public capacity, to lay the foundation of free states, and especially the free state of Kansas. He then paid a glowing tribute to the people of this territory. He said they had achieved freedom for themselves; and now it was their duty to aid in securing it to the embryo states around them. Kansas stood as a sentinel in the pathway to the large region of country extending from the British possessions on the north to Texas on the south and west beyond the Rocky mountains. It was our duty to give our influence to secure freedom to the states which would spring up in that wide domain. Mr. Seward then apologized for the brevity of his remarks. He could make but one extended speech in this territory, and that would be at Lawrence, on account of its central position. He closed by urging the people to cherish the free institutions for which they had so long contended. Freedom was not only established here, but would eventually prevail in the whole Union, on the whole continent, and through the whole world."
Mr. Seward, desirous of learning the actual condition of Kansas, avoided, as far as possible, any further public notice, and traveled by private conveyance over as large a portion of the territory as his limited time would permit, visiting, especially, Lecompton and Topeka. At the latter place he was, although entirely unexpected, honored with salutes from cannon. He pertinaciously declined to address the people, but received them all, of both sexes, in a free and easy conversational manner, mingling with them in the streets by the light of their bonfires.
It had already been arranged that he should speak at Lawrence on the twenty-sixth. On that day, as he approached the city, he was met by an immense cavalcade of citizens, and conducted to the place appointed for the meeting. Here he was welcomed to the city and territory, in eloquent speeches' by Mayor Deitzler and Governor Robinson, and by the enthusiastic and hearty cheers of the people. Mr. Seward's speech, on this occasion, is a condensed but eloquent review of the struggle for freedom in Kansas, containing vivid pictures of its beautiful scenery, with touching allusions to its impend· ing calamity.' It will be found in another part of this volume, and should be read in this connection, as a portion of the history of Mr. Seward's visit to Kansas. Its delivery was hailed with the most enthusiastic plaudits of the people, who had come from all parts of the territory, some of them long distances on foot. The day was closed with the festivities of a public dinner and ball.
1 See Appendix. Kansas, as is well known, was then suffering from a drouth of unparalleled severity, which had prevented the raising of any kind of grain or vegetable food.
On the next morning Mr. Seward left Lawrence, turning his steps, for the first time, eastward and homeward. Hoping to escape any further attention in Leavenworth, he arrived in that city in the evening. But the wide-awakes and the citizens generally had assembled in large numbers, awaiting his appearance. With the usual accompaniments of music and torchlights, he reëntered the city. Unable to resist the demands made upon him, he took the stand which had been erected in front of the hotel for the occasion, and, after the cheering had subsided, spoke briefly, as follows:
"FELLOW CITIZENS: I would talk to you until midnight, pouring forth all my most earnest and hopeful thoughts, if I were sure that the outside world could know, as you do, that I speak on your compulsion, overcoming more determined resolutions of silence than I ever before had formed in similar circumstances.
"I sometimes allow myself to indulge speculations concerning the period when there shall be on this continent no other power than the United States; and a new constitution of human society opens itself before me when I contemplate the influence then to be wrought on Europe and on Asia by the American people, situated midway between the abodes of western and oriental civilization. One great, influential state must then exist here, west of the Mississippi and east of the Rocky mountains. Which would that great and influential state be? It ought to be Missouri. It certainly would have been, if her people had, from the first, been as wise as you are. I do not, indeed, know, nor think it certain, that Missouri will not yet be that great and influential state; for there is hope-there is assurance-that Missouri, taught, though slowly and reluctantly, by the instructions and example of Illinois, Iowa, and especially Kansas, will consent to become a free state. She has, with vast dimensions, a soil as fertile and skies as genial, and a position for commerce as favorable, as those with which God has blessed any part of the earth. She has need, however, to study the moral conditions of
The fundamental moral conditions of a state, or a republic, are simply these, that every man shall enjoy equal and exact justice, and thus have the fullest opportunity for improving his own condition, his intellect, and his heart, and to win the rewards of character and of influence on society and on mankind. In this respect, you, the people of Kansas, have passed Missouri, and are ahead even of Nebraska, Iowa, and every other state in the American Union. All other states have compromised more or less of these conditions. A stern experience of wrong received from slavery has awakened among you a love of freedom, and a discriminating appreciation of its value, that can never admit of demoralization. You alone have escaped demoralization, which all the other states have, at some times and in some degrees, undergone. Freedom, and not slavery, in the territories of the United States, has been, in fact, only an abstract question in other states. But here it has been a vital, an inspiring, a forming principle. Your territory was made the active arena of that 'irrepressible conflict' between free labor and slave labor, where it came to the trial of mind with mind. of voice with voice, of vote with vote, of bullet against bullet, and of cannon against cannon. You have ac
quired, practically, and through dangers and sufferings, the education and the discipline and the elevation of freedom.
"If there is a people in any part of the world I ought to cherish with enduring respect, with the warmest gratitude and with the deepest interest, assuredly it is the people of Kansas; for, but for the practical trial you have given to the system which I had adopted-but for the vindication, at so much risk and so much cost, of your highest rights under the law, I must have gone to my grave a disappointed man, a false teacher, in the estimation of the American people. Yours is the thirty-first of thirty-four states of the Union which I have visited for the purpose of knowing their soils their skies, and their people. I have visited, in the course of my lifetime, more than three-fourths of the civilized nations of the world; and of all the states and nations which I have seen, that people which I hold to be the wisest, the worthiest, and the best, is the people of this little state. The reason of it is expressed in the old proverb, 'handsome is that handsome does.' If other nations have higher education and greater refinement, and have cultivated the virtues and accomplishments of civilized life more than you have, I have yet to see any other nation or people that has been able, in its infancy, in its very organization, to meet the shocks of the aristocratic system through which other nations have been injured or ruined, to repel all attacks, overcome all hindrances, and to come out before the world in the attitude of a people who will not, under any form of persuasion, seduction or intimidation, consent, any one of them, to be a slave, any one of them to make a slave, any one of them to hold a slave, or consent that any foot of their territory shall be trodden by a slave, or by a man who is not equal to every other man in the view of the constitution and of the laws."
At Atchison city he was again detained by the people, who had prepared for him a most flattering reception. A triumphal arch formed of oak trees bore the inscription, "Welcome to Seward, the defender of Kansas and of Freedom." The houses in the city were covered with festoons made of oak boughs. He was received by the mayor under a banner, bearing the motto "THE SUBDUERS ARE THEMSELVES SUBDUED." Apparently, the whole population of the city and neighborhood had assembled to meet him. After being introduced to the people, in an appropriate speech by the mayor,' Mr. Seward addressed them as follows:
"Referring to the apology made by Mr. Martin, for the inadequacy of the reception, he said that they might judge of what he himself thought of it, when he delared to them that his welcome bore all the impress of those that he had seen given in other countries to hereditary princes. Compared with other demonstrations in the territory, this was unsurpassed. He said he had tried to avoid all such demonstrations which only tend to make him misunderstood, for the world
1 The Mayor was a democrat. General Pomeroy, also made a few remarks, followed by General Nye in an eloquent speech.
2 Atchison was one of the border ruflian" towns on the Missouri river.
might think that in coming to Kansas he came to receive honors, instead of coming to learn what was necessary to enable him to perform his duty to her citizens and their cause, better than he had heretofore been able to do.
"I find," said he, "the territory of Kansas as rich if not richer, in its soil and in its resources of material prosperity, than any state with which I have been acquainted, and I have already visited thirty-one of the thirty-four states of the Union. In climate, I know of none that seems to be so desirable. It is now suffering, in its southern and western counties more especially, the privations of want, falling very heavily on its latest settlers, resulting from the absence of rain for a period of ten or twelve months. I go out of the territory of Kansas with a sadness that hangs over and depresses me, not because I have not found the country far surpassing all my expectations of its improvement and cultivation, not because I have not found here a prosperous and happy people, but because I have found families, some from my own state, some from other states and some from foreign countries, who were induced, and justly and wisely induced, to come to this region within the last year or two, and who, having exhausted all their means and all their resources in establishing homes for themselves, have been disappointed in gaining from their labor, provision for the supply of their wants. And all this the result of a desolating drought which pervades a large portion of the state.
"I hope that the tales which I have heard are exaggerated, and that families are not actually perishing for want in some of the western counties of Kansas. I have faith in the complete success of your system, and in the ultimate prosperity and development of the state of Kansas; I have it for the most obvious reason, that if Kansas is a failure my whole life has been worse than a failure; but if Kansas shall prove a success, as I know it will, then I shall stand redeemed, at least in history, for the interest I have taken in the establishment of civilization on the banks of the Missouri river upon the principles and policy which you have laid down. I pray you, you who are rich, you who are prosperous, to appoint active and careful men to make researches in the territory for those who are suffering by this dreadful visitation of Providence; to take care that the emigrant who came in last winter and last spring be not suffered, through disappointment and want, to return to the state whence he came, carrying back a tale of suffering and privation and distress which might retard for years the development of society here. I hope you will not regard this advice of mine as being without warrant. I give it for your own sake, I give it for the sake of the people of Kansas, as well as because my sympathies have been moved by the distress I have seen around If this advice shall be taken in good part, then I am free to tell you, that in my judgment, there is not the least necessity for any person leaving this territory, nothwithstanding the greatness of the calamity that has befallen it. I have seen whole districts that have produced neither the winter wheat, nor the spring wheat, nor the rye, nor the buckwheat, nor the potato, nor the root of any kind; yet I have seen on all your prairies, upland and bottom land, cattle and horses in great numbers, and all of them in perfect condition; and I am sure that there is a surplus supply of stock in this territory which, if disposed of, would produce all that is necessary to relieve every one in the territory. What is required, therefore, is simply that you should seek out want where it exists, and apply your own surplus means to relieve it. If this should fail, and if you should feel it necessary to apply to your countrymen in the east for aid, I will second that appeal, I and the
gentlemen who have been visiting the country with me, and it will not be our fault if we do not send back from the east the material comforts that will cheer and reanimate those who are depressed and suffering. This state, larger than any of the old thirteen states, has not one acre that is unsusceptible of cultivation; not one foot that may not be made productive of the supplies of the wants of of human life, comforts and luxuries.
"The question was propounded to me, not of my seeking; it came before me, because I was in a position where I must meet all questions of this kind; it came some six years ago: Do the interests of human society require that this land of Kansas should be possessed by slaveholders and cultivated with slaves, or possessed and cultivated by free men, every one of whom shall own the land which he cultivates and the muscles with which he tills the earth? When I look back at that period, only six or seven years ago, it seems strange to me that any man living on this continent, himself a free man and having children who are free, himself a free laborer and having children who must be free laborers, himself earning his own subsistence and having children who must depend on their own efforts for their support, should be willing to resign a portion of this continent so great, a soil so rich, a climate so genial, to the support of African negroes instead of white men.
"Africa was not crowded so as to need that her children should have Kansas. Africa has never sent to this country one voluntry exile or emigrant, and never will. The sons of Africa have lands which for them are more productive, have habits more congenial and skies better tempered than yours are. I have supposed it far better, therefore, to leave the people of Africa where God planted them, on their native shores. But the case was different with men of my own race, the white men, the blue-eyed men, the yellow-haired men of England, of Ireland, of Scotland, of France, of Germany, of Italy. Ever since this continent was discovered, oppression in every form has been driving them from those lands to seek homes for their subsistence and support on this continent. There is no difference between us all except this: that my father was driven out of Europe by want and privation some hundred years ago, and others some hundred years later, and some have just come, and tens of thousands, aye, millions, have yet to come. We are all exiles directly, or represent those who were exiles; all exiles made by oppression, superstition and tyranny in Europe. We are of one family, race and kindred, all here in the pursuit of happiness, all seeking to improve our condition, all seeking to elevate our character. My sympathies have gone with this class of men. My efforts have been, as they must always be, to lay open before them the vast regions of this continent, to the end that we may establish here a higher, a better, and a happier civilization than that from which ourselves or our ancestors were exiled in foreign lands.
"This land should not only be a land of freedom, a land of knowledge and religion, but it should be, above all, a land, which as yet cannot be said with truth of any part of Europe or any other part of the world, a land of civil liberty; and a land can only be made a land of liberty by adopting the principle which has never yet obtained in Europe, and which is only to be attained by learning it from ourselves, that is, that every human being, being necessarily born the subject of a government, is a member of the state, and has a natural right to be a member of the state, and that, in the language of the Declaration of Independence, all men are born equal and have inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. VOL. IV.