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THE IRREPRESSIBLE CONFLICT.
The slave-trade was introduced in the Western Hemisphere by Christopher Columbus, on his first voyage. He beguiled a number of unsuspecting natives on board of his ship, the Santa Maria, when on the point of starting on his return, took them to Spain, and sold them into slavery. They were, however, afterward liberated, by order of Queen Isabella. The colonists, who followed in the wake of Columbus, also followed his example; but the aboriginal tribes withered and perished under the hard hand of the implacable Spanish task-master. At the professedly pious suggestion of Las Casas, a Jesuit missionary, the Spaniards sent vessels direct to the coast of Guinea, to capture the hardier Africans and import them to supply the demand. The system, once introduced, spread rapidly in every colony planted in the New World—Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French.
Ten years after the first cargo of slaves was landed in St. Augustine, Florida, the Mayflower, freighted with Puritans and free principles, touched the Plymouth Rock. From that day began the growth of two hostile systems on American soil—incongruous and antagonistic as fire and water-each intolerant of the life of the
other. The conflict began and continued with increasing violence till the death-blow was dealt by Abraham Lincoln; and that its doom might be irrevocably sealed, Providence permitted the vanquished system to close its infamous history with a crime that filled mankind with horror.
True, the lines between the conflicting moral forces were not, in point of geographical location, distinctly drawn. Georgia, at an early day, and before she became a colony of the British crown, prohibited slavery and rum; while New Eng. land both manufactured the one and practiced the other. But the principles of the Puritans gathered clearness and strength in the rugged hills of the North, while the dark spirit of slavery spread and intensified its hideous reign along the malarious levels of the southern coast.
When the war of the Revolution was terminated by the triumph of the colonies, and the statesmen of that day assembled at Philadelphia, in 1787, to frame a government for our then independent country, the population consisted of a little less than three millions, of whom onesixth, or near five hundred thousand, were African slaves. That convention was almost unanimously opposed to the continued existence of the
GROWTH OF BARBARISM.
system of bondage, but they unwisely and unrighteously yielded to the determined spirit of caste and oppression, and inaugurated those wicked compromises with the evil, which have borne such bitter fruits of sorrow and blood.
From this time forward slavery grew in extent, in wealth and influence, as it also did in the intensity and malignance of its cruel spirit. Every department in the organization of society was invaded and held. The church was corrupted, the press subsidized, the highest seats of justice occupied, the new territories, as far as possible, overrun and secured, popular education suppressed, the freedom of speech and of the press abridged, the minds of the people poisoned with disloyalty and treason, and finally the boundaries and authority of the system declared to be coëxtensive and coëqual with those of the free Republic.
In pursuance of this arrogant pretension, an attempt was made to seize upon the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, which had been solemnly pledged to freedom, and a decision of the Supreme Court obtained at the hand of Chief Justice Taney, whose memory, by that act, is now buried in infamy, known as the Dred Scott
decision, which rendered the free States themselves slave territory.
These tremendous strides of usurpation alarmed the people of the free States, and in 1854 they combined, under the name of the Republican party, to resist its further encroachments.
Stephen A. Douglas, a Senator from Illinois, a man of great intellectual power combined with political sagacity, though but little influenced by moral principle, had become the leader and champion of the slave power. He led in the contest which resulted in the violation of the compact between the free and slave States, known as the Missouri Compromise, and had much to do in concocting and sustaining the decision of Judge Taney, before alluded to. At the organization of the Republican party, Mr. Lincoln at once entered into the spirit of that combination, with his whole soul and energy. During the years of his seclusion from political life, he had grown steadily in intellectual strength and resource. His wise, original, and practical inethods of thought had received rhetorical polish, and his delivery, though not that of the finished orator, had acquired vivacity and force. When, therefore, Mr. Douglas, the “Little Giant,”
STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS.
as his admirers delighted to style him, returned to his constituency to ask their approval of his policy, the friends of freedom put Mr. Lincoln forth, as the ablest man in their ranks, to grapple with this champion of the slave power. He accepted the task with alacrity. To deal unsparing blows upon oppression, injustice, and cruelty, and to advocate the principles involved in the Golden Rule, was a work which aroused all the enthusiasm of his nature, and armed anew every power of his mind. He had for his antagonist one esteemed among the first intellects of the nation, strengthened by long experience, untiring industry, and by unscrupulous cunning, and animated by unconquerable ambition.
The great contestants were not long in coming in collision. In October, 1864, the State Fair for Illinois was held at Springfield, and Mr. Douglas improved the opportunity to deliver a carefully-prepared and elaborate defense of his
He affirmed that the people of each territory should determine for themselves whether they should form a free or a slave holding State. This enunciation he styled the “great principle of popular sovereignty.” He maintained that this Government was instituted solely for the