« PreviousContinue »
that end they were prepared, as they always had been, to do any thing deemed requisite to their success. This was their solemn pledge to the people of the United States; how far they adhered to this pledge, after they had deluded and cheated the people into a trust to their sincerity and honesty, will be seen in the sequel. But upon this pledge to the nation they set up Mr. Franklin Pierce, of New Hampshire, a man unknown to fame, a man, for such a position, of absolute obscurity, a man without talents, without firmness, without reputation, without popularity or influence, as the Democratic candidate for the Presidency against General Scott, whom they charged with being unsafe, and unsound, and not to be trusted on the measures of compromise; and, by hard swearing, they succeeded in persuading the great masses of the Southern people that this New England pettifogger was more to be relied on for the protection of Southern rights and Southern institutions than General Scott, a native born Virginian, who was not only born and raised in the midst of slavery, but whose whole property and interests were located here in Virginia, and who had a most enlarged national reputation-one, indeed, that extended throughout the world, and who was known. to have been extremely active and efficient in Washington in procuring the passage of the Compromises of 1850.
THE EXTREMISTS OF BOTH SECTIONS UNITED IN ACTION.
It is a circumstance not to be overlooked here, that throughout the period that these measures were before Congress, the extreme men of both sections, to wit, the Northern Abolitionists and the Southern Seceders and "Fire-eaters," as they were called, uniformly and invariably acted and voted together. In illustration of this, I will mention an amusing incident that occurred at the Exchange Hotel
in Richmond. Shortly after the passage of these measures, the celebrated John P. Hale, senator from New Hampshire, came to Richmond. I happened to be present with the late Caleb Jones-a near neighbor and friend, although a violent Democrat, with whom I had walked to the Exchange when the Northern cars arrived, and Mr. Hale entered the room. After the usual salutations, Jones said, Why, Hale, ain't you afraid to come to Richmond ?" Hale, who affected surprise and uneasiness, looking around the room, in which there were quite a number of persons, replied, "Well, I don't know; is there any danger in my coming here? Don't Mason come to Richmond? Don't Hunter come to Richmond? Don't Seddon come to Richmond? And if they can come, can't I come also, for I voted with them all the winter? If they gave Southern votes, so did I; and if I gave Northern votes, so did they; and don't you think what is sauce for the goose should also be saucè for the gander ?" This happy retort on the part of Hale not only discomfited poor Jones (who was a warm political friend and supporter of these three gentlemen), but completely turned the laugh of the whole company, Whigs and Democrats, who recognized the truth of what he had said, upon Jones, who joined in the laugh, but, as he told me afterward, he never enjoyed one so little, for there was more truth than poetry in the answer.
AGITATION THE OBJECT IN VIEW.
It is curious to inquire how and why it happened that for so long a time these two extremes were thus found in active co-operation, voting side by side with each other, and on that particular subject upon which the greatest antagonism existed. The solution is simple: these two parties were always alike in favor of constant and eternal agi
tation, and alike opposed to all compromise or settlement of the questions arising out of the slavery issue. The Abolitionists relied on agitation and excitement to make proselytes to their cause, while the Secessionists thought that, by keeping this subject alive in Congress, and wherever else it could be introduced, the fears of our people would become the more susceptible, and their passions more easily aroused, and the way be thus paved for ultimate disunion. These Southern men never cared for disunion, nor desired it, except as a necessary means of retaining power in the government; nor would they have tolerated it as long as they could hold that power in their own hands; and after all the New England States became anti-Democratic, thus presenting an insuperable barrier to the permanency of their power, a new idea presented itself to their imaginations, which was a partial disunion, and that was to be effected by sloughing off the New England States, not because they were more thoroughly imbued with Abolition than Ohio and other Western States, but that they were more certainly anti-Democratic in their proclivities.
In like manner the extreme Abolitionists were anxious for a partial dissolution; their object was to get rid of the institution of slavery, and they were willing to do any thing that would drive the Cotton States off, into which all the slaves of the Border States, as they thought, would soon find their way. Thus, and for these objects, the question of slavery was used as a foot-ball, or, rather, as a shuttle-cock, with which the political game of battle-door was played by these two extremes-extreme in their folly and fanaticism; extreme in their disregard of all other views than their own; extreme in their utter disregard of all constitutional obligations; extreme in their disloyalty to the government; extreme in their general disturbance of the public tranquil
lity and safety; extreme in their extravagance and violence, and extreme in their hatred and contempt of each other. And now, I will venture on one other prediction, and that is, that if a proposition shall ever be made by the South for a restoration of peace, it will be one based, if not in direct terms, at least upon the idea of a restoration of power to the Democratic party by throwing off the New England States, or something else that will insure their fu ture triumph.
SECESSIONISTS BECOME FILIBUSTERS.
It was during the progress of the events I have here related as part and parcel of the designs entertained by the Democracy, that the various expeditions for the violent seizure of Cuba were gotten up, which at last terminated so fatally for both leader and men in the memorable landing of Lopez upon that island. That expedition was to have been led on by the late General Quitman, a violent secessionist, although a man of Northern birth, but for some reason he declined it, and the command fell upon the unfortunate Lopez, who lost his life in the cause of Southern Democracy. So, too, was the repeated defiance and utter contempt of all law and treaty obligations for the suppression of the African slave-trade, which was but part and parcel of the same scheme for agitation and excitement, and for creating a still deeper feeling of opposition and hostility on the part of the North toward the South. Nobody at the present day can believe for a moment that these secessionists ever desired the revival of the African slave-trade, for the purpose of introducing a set of naked, worthless, and degraded kidnapped barbarians on their plantations, and at the moment, too, when they affected to believe that the safety of the South required an outlet through Texas, and
at a later day through Kansas, for an overgrown and redundant slave population, except for the object of agitation and excitement on the negro question that was to set the North and South farther and farther apart.
In like manner, and for the same purpose, were all those expeditions on the part of General William Walker to Nicaragua gotten up, in defiance of all the laws and obligations. of neutrality, amity, and good neighborhood, and which excited the indignation of all conservative men at home, and the hostility and disquiet of all abroad.
THE SOUTHERN COMMERCIAL CONVENTIONS.
Then, too, came the Southern Commercial Conventions, composed chiefly, though not entirely, of Southern secessionists (for their objects were not universally known), which conventions never did, and never were designed to do any thing more than bring together every year such a body of politicians and secessionists as would enable them to make their organization more complete and more perfect for dissolution, whenever the proper time arrived that it was necessary for the perpetuation of their power. To be sure, in their open, daily meetings, they would make grandiloquent speeches for the Southern papers on Southern commerce, direct trade, and commercial independence, what a great country the South would make, etc., etc.; but that was the last you would hear of Southern direct commerce until the year rolled on, and another meeting was held, when the same old formula was gone through with. In confirmation of what I say on this subject, let me call your attention to what the Richmond Examiner, one of the leading organs of that party, said but a few days ago, to wit, on the 27th of this month (October 27, 1861). In commenting on the proceedings of the late meeting of the Southern