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session of congress. Utah, already organized as a slave state, with her incestuous social system, is lying concealed and waiting, ready to demand admission so soon as Kansas shall have been received into the Union. The adoption of both, or even one, of these states will bear influentially, perhaps conclusively, on the fortunes of the entire conflict between freedom and slavery.
Insomuch as the question that is benceforth to divide society into two parties, is thus seen to be a vital and imminent one, let us fully possess ourselves of its magnitude. We have a sluggish, turbid and desolating stream of slave labor issuing from fifteen slave states. We have an ever increasing volume of free labor issuing from sixteen free states, swollen by a stream scarcely less full
, from European and Asiatic fountains. These two variant floods cannot be mingled, but one necessarily repels and excludes the other. We have half a continent yet to be opened to the flow of the one or of the other. Shall we diffuse slavery over it to react upon and destroy ourselves, or shall we extend freedom over it covering it with happiness throughout all its mountains and plains, and thus forever establish our own safety and happiness?
If this great question were disembarrassed of all personal and partisan interests and prejudices, the universal voice of the American people would be pronounced for freedom and against slavery. Freedom is nothing more than equality of political right or power among all the members of a state. It is natural, just, useful and beneficent. All men instinctively choose the side on which these advantages lie. How true this is you may infer from the fact that every one of the banners borne to this field by one of the great contending masses wears as its inscription a tribute to freedom, while no banner borne by either of the other parties is ever defiled with homages to slavery.
Nevertheless, while all avow themselves favorable to freedom, we have to choose between the three political masses, the one which will effectually secure its predominance in the republic.
Shall we join ourselves to the know-nothing or American organization? What are its creed and its policy? Its creed is that the political franchises of alien immigrants and Roman catholics in our country are too great, and its policy is to abridge them.
Now I might for argument's sake concede that this creed and this policy are just and wise, still I could not unite with the knownothings even in that case, because their movement is out of season and out of place. The question of the day is not about natives and foreigners, nor about protestants and Roman catholics, but about freemen and slaves. The practical and immediately urgent question is, shall Kansas be admitted into the Union as a free state, or shall she be made a slave state and so admitted. What have the franchises of alien immigrants and Roman catholics to do with that? If the American people declare for freedom, Kansas will be free. If the American people declare for slavery, Kansas will be a slave state. If the American people divide and one portion, being a minority, declare for freedom; while another portion, being also a . minority, declare against foreigners and catholics; and a third, larger than either, declare for slavery, nothing is obtained against foreigners and catholics, nothing against slavery, and yet Kansas becomes a slave state. Thus it is apparent that the issue raised by the knownothings, whatever may be its merit, is an immaterial, irrelevant and false issue. A false issue always tends to divert and mislead the people from the true one, and of course to prejudice the judgment to be rendered upon it. I do not accuse the know-nothings of designing so to mislead, because, first, I know nothing of the motives of others; and, secondly, because the question is never upon motives but always upon effects. What have been the effects thus far? The know-nothing members of congress divided between the advocates of freedom in the territories and its opponents. Their votes combined with either party would have given it a complete triumph. Those votes reserved and cast as some peculiar interest dictated have left the question of freedom in Kansas to the ordeal of the sword in civil strife.
What is the effect upon the present canvass on which depends the question of the admission of Kansas and of Utah as slave states in the next congress? Distraction of the public mind. Such effects are inevitable. Whoever seeks to interpose an unreal or false issue must necessarily, in order to gain even a hearing, affect neutrality on the real one.
At the same time no party can practice neutrality on a vital issue with fairness. It will necessarily sympathise with the weaker of the two contestants, and in some degree coöperate with it to overthrow the stronger, which is the common adversary of both. Of course, as the two great contestants exhibit unequal strength in different states, it will favor one in some of the states,
and favor the other in other states. By virtue of a law that is irre. sistible, it will sooner or later betray each party when its own peculiar ends require that course. The experience of the whig and democratic parties has proved how impossible it is to practise neutrality on the great question of slavery. The former has broken into pieces and perished in the effort. The latter has been crowded from a neutral position, and with crumbled ranks has taken that of the extension and fortification of slavery. The know-nothing mass can expect no better success. The effort will cost its life. Crowded and jostled between the two combatants, it will and must dissolve, giving up portions of its men here to freedom and there to slavery, but possibly not until it is too late to secure the triumph of freedom. Thus you see that the know-nothing mass is not really a political party. It is only an ephemeral and evanescent faction, as useless and as injurious as a third blade in the shears, or a third stone which an ignorant artizan might attempt to gear in between the upper and the nether millstone.
By another sign you shall know it to be not a party but a faction. From the day of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth until now, every one of the great parties which have been engaged in directing the life of the American people has recognized, from recessity, the political system which exists and which must continue to exist here as a republican one, based on the principles of the rightful political equality of all the members of the state, and has acted on the principle that directness, publicity and equality of voices are necessary in the conduct of public affairs. The know-nothings reject these principles, and seek to exclude a large and considerable portion of the members of the state from all participation in the conduct of its affairs, and to obtain control and carry on the operations of the government of all by secret machinery inconsistent with the constitution of a republic, and appropriate only to a conspiracy either for or against despotism. It will, I think, be hereafter regarded as one of the caprices of politics that a system of combination so puerile was ever attempted in the United States. The absurdity of the attempt is rendered still more glaring when it is considered that the grounds of persecution assumed against the class to be excluded are those of nativity and religious belief-grounds directly in conflict with that elementary truth announced by the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal, and are by nature endowed with certain inalienable rights, to secure which governments are instituted among men; and with that fundamental article of the constitution which declares that no system of religion shall ever be established.
Who, then, will choose to enroll himself under the banner of an ephemeral, evanescent and injurious faction like this, to be compromised in its frauds for a day or a year, or two years, and then to be left by it to the pity and scorn of the nation whose confidence it had sought to abuse ? Certainly, no one who values at its just worth the great interests of freedom and humanity, which are staked on the present contest, nor even any one who values at its just worth his own influence, or even his own vote, or his own character as a citizen.
Our choice between parties, fellow citizens, is thus confined to the democratic and republican parties. On what principle could we attach ourselves to the democratic party? Let us look full in the face the actual state of things. Seven years ago, when I entered congress as a senator from this state, there was not one acre of soil within the national domain from which slavery was not excluded by law. It was excluded from Minnesota by the ordinance of 1787, which was then of fully acknowledged obligation and effect. It was excluded from Kansas and Nebraska by the Missouri compromise restriction, which also was then in full effect. It was equally excluded from California, including New Mexico and Utah, by Mexican laws which had never been impaired, and were of confessed obligation.
It was excluded from Oregon by the organic law of that territory. Now there is not an acre of the public domain which congress has not opened to the entrance of slavery. It has expressly abrogated the Missouri compromise, on the ground that it was void, for want of power in congress under the constitution to exclude slavery, and also on the ground that the compromise of 1850 had already settled its invalidity. This legislation, if acquiesced in by the people, and so confirmed, will henceforth be irresistibly claimed as abrogating alike the ordinance of 1787, the Missouri compromise restriction, and the organic law of Oregon, and the Mexican laws. Thus the whole of the territories has been already lost to freedom by the legislation of the last seven years, and the controversy before us is one not to save, but to reclaim. During the first six years of that period, there were only two parties—the democratic and the whig parties—in congress and in the country. During the last year there were three, the democratic, know-nothing and republican parties. Every one will at once acquit the republican party, and those who now constitute it, of all agency in the betrayal and surrender of freedom which have thus been made. The responsibility for them, therefore, belongs to the democratic party and to the whig party. Now you may divide this responsibility between the democratic and whig parties, just as you like. The whig party has perished under its weight, but a still greater responsibility lies upon the democratic party. It was the democratic party that refused to admit California, without condition or compromise, in 1850; that forced on the wbig party the compromise of that year, and adopted it as its own permanent policy, and elected Franklin Pierce the present president of the United States. It was the democratic party that invented the new, plausible, deceptive and ruinous policy of abnegation of federal authority over slavery in the territories, and the substitution of the theory of popular sovereignty; and it was the democratic party that, with the coöperation of a portion of the know-nothings, rejected the appeal of oppressed and subjugated Kansas for relief and restoration to freedom, by admission into the Union as a free state. The democratic party did, indeed, in some of its conventions in northern states, for a time hesitate to commit itself to the policy of slavery propagandism by breach of public faith, fraud and force, but it has finally renounced all resistance, and it now stands boldly forth, avowing its entire approval of that odious and ruinous determination to carry it to its end, whatever that end may be. .
Nor will any candid person claim that anything better is to be hoped from the democratic party in the future. It is a party essentially built on the interest of the slaveholding class. Deprived of that support, it would instantly cease to exist. The principle of this class is, that property in man is sanctioned by the constitution of the United States and is inviolate. All that has been won by this class from freedom, has been won on that principle. The decisions of Judge Kane and other federal judges, and the odious and tyrannical laws of the usurpers in Kansas, are legitimate fruits of that principle. To that principle the democratic party must adhere or perish, and it accepts it as the least fearful of two alternatives. But the principle, when established in the territories, will then be with equal plausibility extended to the states, and thenceforward we are to contend for the right of the free states to exclude slavery within their own borders.