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“But so vehement were the prejudices against Mr. Field for what was then regarded as presumption and officiousness on bis part, although he is the most modest of all men, that the great bill was only saved by his withdrawing at the request of Mr. Rusk and myself from the senate chamber, its lobbies and even from the capitol grounds, and remaining unobtrusive and unseen in his own lodgings. But Cyrus W. Field, at last, fortified with capital derived from New York and Londor., and with the navies of Great Britain and the United States at his command, has after trials that would have discouraged any other than a true discoverer, brought the great work to a felicitous consummation."
General rejoicing spread over the country upon the announcement that the cable was laid and that messages between the two worlds bad actually been transmitted. Mr. Seward's services, in securing the aid of the government to the project, were everywhere remembered, and will be still more cordially acknowledged when the communication shall be again established.
Mr. Seward supported with equal zeal, in the senate, the project of a line of telegraphs to the Pacific ocean, connecting California and Oregon with the Atlantic seaboard.'
Near the close of the session, amendments were proposed to the existing tariff laws. Mr. Seward opposed them as still further embarrassing the interests of the iron manufacturers and the wool growers of this country. The amendments proposed in the senate by Mr. Hunter were adopted, ayes thirty-three, nays twelve, viz., Messrs. Bell, Bigler, Brodhead, Collamer, Durkee, Foot, Geyer, Nourse, Seward, Thompson, Trumbull and Wade. The senate and house disagreeing, a committee of conference, of which Mr. Seward was one, reported a series of amendments, which were less detrimental to American interests. Their report was concurred in by both houses ; in the senate by thirty-three to eight; in the house by one hundred and twenty-three to seventy-two.
A bill which proposed to restore peace in Kansas by annulling all laws of disputed validity and enabling the people of the terri
1 The following correspondence is copied from the St. Paul Times of August 30th, 1860:
“The despatches below are the first ever sent over the wire in due form, and it is eminently proper that this inaugural dispatch should have been transmitted to and by Wm. H. Seward."
To Gor. Seward, Auburn, N. Y. St. Paul, Ang. 29, 1:45 P. M.–Through the courtesy of Mr. Winslow, proprietor, we are enabled to send this the first dispatch ever transmitted by lightning from St. Paul to the east, as complimentary to you. (Signed)
M. S. WILKINSON,
AARON GOODRICH. Senator Seward's Reply. AUBURN, Aug. 29, 8:30, P. M.-TO M. S. Wilkinson and A. Goodrich : You have grappled New York, now lay hold on San Francisco.
WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
tory to establish a government for themselves, passed the house on the 17th of February, by a vote of ninety-eight to seventy-nine. In the senate it was laid on the table, ayes thirty, nays twenty ; Messrs. Bell, Brodhead, Houston, James, Pugh and Stuart voting in the negative with the republicans.
Mr. Seward's speeches, during the session, on the admission of Minnesota, the Indiana senators, post office appropriations, and other measures were practical and effective.
On the 4th of March, 1857, Mr. Buchanan became president of the United States. His inaugural address abounded with plausible professions of devotion to the public welfare. He especially deprecated the further agitation of the slavery question, although a large portion of bis remarks were upon that subject. He expressed him. self in favor of the admission of Kansas into the Union with a constitution approved by a majority of the voters in the territory. He alluded also to a decision of the supreme court, soon to be made, counseling acquiesence in it, whatever might be its character and effect.
A special session of the senate was called to consider the nominations of the new president. Several subjects of interest were considered in open session. The committees were reorganized after some opposition from several senators in the minority, who deemed the composition of the committees unequal and unfair. Mr. Seward remarked that he had been in the senate when no place was allowed to him or his political associates on any committee. He did not then complain. He thought he best served the country by foregoing all personal considerations on such questions. He preferred to leave it to the people to substitute for this majority a better majority.
Scarcely had the echo of the president's inaugural speech died away when the supreme court rendered its decision in the “Dred Scott case." Its announcement produced a profound sensation throughout the country, and awakened a feeling of indignation that has not yet subsided. This was the decision to which the president had referred, in his inaugural address, and to which the people were expected to submit. The case is briefly as follows: an action was commenced in the circuit court of the United States, for the district of Missouri, in 1854, by Dred Scott, to establish his freedom, and that of his wife and their two daughters, who were claimed and held as slaves by one Sanford, the defendant. Sanford placed his defense on two grounds: First, that Dred Scott was not a citizen of Missouri because he was a negro of African descent; and, second, that Dred and his family were the defendant's slaves. Scott relied on facts mutually admitted—that he was formerly a slave in Missouri; was taken in 1834, by his then master, to Illinois, and held there in servitude two years, and was thence taken to the territory west of the Mississippi, and north of the Missouri compromise line, where he was also held in servitude until the year 1838, when he was brought back to the state of Missouri and sold as a slave to the defendant before this suit was commenced.
1 Mr. Seward was placed on the committee of foreign relations ; Mr. King on pensions : Messrs. Sumner and Wade on territories, and two republicans on most of the other committees. 2 March 6th, 1857.
The circuit court decided in Scott's favor as to the jurisdiction of the court, but against him on the question of his freedom. He then appealed to the supreme court. His case was twice elaborately argued before that tribunal. The court decided substantially that, Dred Scott was not a citizen, and for that reason the courts of the United States had no jurisdiction in the case; and expressed the opinion that free colored persons whose ancestors were imported into this country and sold as slaves, “ had no rights which the white man was bound to respect," and were not citizens of the United States; that there is no difference between property in a slave and other property; that congress has no power to prohibit slavery in the territories; that the Missouri compromise act was unconstitutional and void; and that the taking of a slave, by his master, into a free state or a territory does not entitle the slave to his freedom. Two judges, Messrs. McLean and Curtis, dissented from the majority of the court in their decision and opinions.
The people of the free states, greatly shocked by the action of the supreme court, gave expression to their feelings in various ways. The legislature of the state of New York passed resolutions declaring that the supreme court of the United States, by its action in this matter, “has impaired the confidence and respect of the people of this state”; and that “this state will not allow slavery within her borders, in any form, or under any pretence, or for any time.”
1 of this decision an eminent advocate of New York, Wm. M. Evarte, Esq., remarked in a public address, that if it had been rendered before the presidential election of 1856, no democrat would have succeeded; and that if Mr. Buchanan had not been chosen the opinions never would have seen the light.
Mr. Seward took occasion, in the senate, in his speech on the admission of Kansas, to review the decision, and the connection of the president with its announcement. His dramatic description, in this speech, of the inauguration ceremonies; his vivid exhibition of the insincerity of the president's professions; and his clear exposition of the fatal connection of the decision with the tyrannies and outrages in Kansas, arrested the attention of the senate and the country
At a subsequent date he proposed a reconstruction of the supreme court and the courts of the United States, “so that the states shall be represented by judges in said courts more nearly on the basis of their federal population, while the administration of justice shall be made more speedy and efficient." These amendments he proposed to make in accordance with the letter and spirit of the constitution, without injustice to any interest or section of the Union.
The thirty-fifth congress, elected mainly at the same time with Mr. Buchanan, commenced its first session on the 7th of December, 1857. The administration, like that which preceded it, claimed a decisive majority in both houses.
In the senate there were thirty-seven democrats, twenty republicans, and five whigs or Americans. The house stood-democrats one hundred and twenty-eight, republicans ninety-two, Americans fourteen. Mr. Seward's speeches at this session were numerous, and on a great variety of subjects.'
Early in the autumn of 1857, signs of a severe and general revulsion in the trade and industry of the country began to appear. During the month of October all the banks suspended specie payments, and a most alarming prostration of business ensued. More than five thousand failures occurred, involving liabilities to the amount of three hundred millions of dollars. The winter opened with a universal complaint of distress, especially among the working classes in the cities and large towns. Probably no interest was more seriously impaired than railroad stocks. In the short space of thirty days, shares in many of the lea:ling corporations depreciated more than fifty per cent, becoming, in some instances, valueless. The treasury
1 March 3, 1858. See present volume.
The following are the titles, as given in the Congressional Globe : The President's Message; Eulogy on James Bell: Treasury Notes ; William Walker; Paying for Slaves out of the Treasury; Eulogy on Thomas J. Rusk; Increase of the Army; Admission of Minnesota ; Kansas and Lecompton ; Slavery in New York ; Pacific Railroad; Admission of Oregon; The Fisheries; British Aggressions; Rivers and Harbons; Coast Survey; Eulogy on the late Senator Hender son; Mail Steamers, and Washington City Schools. Vol. IV.
of the United States, which, a short time ago, was overflowing, was now suffering from depletion, and immediate legislation was required to meet the wants of the government. Among the first acts of the president, after the assembling of congress, was to call for an issue of treasury notes. Mr. Seward, while admitting the necessity of such means of relief, proposed to limit the issue, in amount, rate of interest, and length of time
In a speeck, already noticed, made by Mr. Seward, in February, 1853, on removing the duties from railroad iron,' a prophetic warning of the present embarrassments may be found. His statesmanlike counsels had been unheeded, and seven years had been sufficient to consummate his predictions.
The people of Kansas saw no improvement in their affairs under the administration of Mr. Buchanan. President Pierce had removed from office, two governors of Kansas, Reeder and Shannon, because they had manifested an unwillingness to subunit wholly and unreservedly to the pro-slavery party in the territory. John W. Geary succeeded Governor Shannon, and was soon compelled, by persecution in Kansas and neglect at Washington, to resign. President Buchanan then appointed Robert J. Walker, of Mississippi, to succeed Mr. Geary. Mr. Walker also resigned, after striving for a few months, without success, to administer the government of the territory with some degree of justice to the people, without, at the same time, offending the administration at Washington. F. P. Stan. ton, the secretary of the territory, who acted as governor during the absence of Walker, encountered the displeasure of the proslavery party, and was removed from office by the president. Governor Walker and Mr. Stanton, like their predecessors, failed to secure either order or fairness in the elections or government of Kansas; and the people were forced to submit to the usurpations of their oppressors. A legislature, composed of pro-slavery members, assembled at Lecompton, in January, 1857, and ordered a convention to be called to frame a state constitution. The legislature and the convention were thus both placed in the hands of the enemies of Kansas, having been chosen almost entirely by fraudulent
I See p. 623, vol. III.