Page images

redeemed and saved in the compromise of 1820-a state peopled by freemen—that I should be here in such a state, before such a people, imploring its citizens to maintain the cause of freedom instead of the cause of slavery. It is a great change from the position I was in only a year ago. In Italy, in Austria, in Turkey even, I was excusing, in the best way I could, the monstrous delinquencies of the American people in tolerating slavery, which even the Turk had abrogated. You tell me that it is unnecessary; that you are all right; I happen to know better. No! the wide-awakes are not up an hour too soon; they do not sit up any too late o' nights ; their zeal is not a bit too strong to save the state of Iowa from giving her votes, in the present canvass, in favor of the policy which has for forty years made slavery the cardinal institution, and freedom secondary to it in the United States. There is something of excuse and apology for this; it is in the reluctance which men who are always opposed to one new idea coming in, have to give up the old idea, which they have so long cherished. The democratic party has a wonderful affection for the name; the prestige of the democratic party; and most of them must die unconverted. It is not in hu man nature that adult men and women change their opinions with facility; it is little ones like these before me that receive reforms unobserved and unknown. Ten thousand of their votes enter into every successive canvass in the state of Iowa. In every state the great reformation which has been made within the last six years-for we date no further back than that-has been the dying out of the one-idea men of democracy and the growing up of the young one-idea men of republicanism. And now why shall we not insist, so far as our votes shall be effective, that the territories shall remain free territories, so that new states wbich shall hereafter be added to this Union shall be free states ?

They say we interfere in the slave states. Not at all. We do not vote against slavery in Virginia. We do not authorize Abraham Lincoln or the congress of the United States to pass any laws about slavery in Virginia. We merely authorize them to intervene in the territories, and to pass laws securing freedom there. They tell us that it is unnecessary. They have rendered it necessary, because they have explained the laws and the constitution to establish slavery there, and we must either restrict slavery there or reverse the decision made by the federal tribunal. But they tell us that this is incon

venient; it excites violence in the slave states. To which I answer that they have the choice between slavery and freedom as well as we; but they must be content to leave it where it is. When they choose to carry slaves into the territories we interfere. What we are attacking is not slavery in the United States, but slavery in the territories. But they tell us that we are incurring very great harm; that our southern friends, driven angry, will not buy of us. Mayor Wood made the discovery that we are a trading people, and we shall lose our trade if the republican party come into power. We are a trading people as we are an eating people, a drinking people, a clothes-wearing people. Trade! trade! trade! the great character, the great employment, the one idea of the American people! It is a libel. We buy only with what we produce. We buy and sell, but that is merely incidental to our greater occupation of producing and making; and even these are subordinate to our great notion of educating and cultivating ourselves to make a great, virtuous and happy people. Trade, however, for those who engage in it, knows no respect of opinion ; the southern planters will buy their cotton bagging of the men who will make it the cheapest, and they will insist on selling cotton to the Castle Garden committees and the Cooper Institute patriots at precisely the same price as they will to Wendell Phillips and Frederick Douglass. They won't buy your wheat unless hungry for bread; and if hungry for bread they will gladly give you for it any surplus of cotton you want.

I have refrained from adverting to the higher sentiments of humanity which enter into the consideration of this subject, because those are considerations that are always with you. I will now, however, say that the suggestions of justice are always in harmony with the suggestions and impulses of humanity, and that both spring from the same source. Nature herself seems to be forbearing; she seems to be passive and silent. She lets nations as she lets individuals go on in their course of action, violating her laws; but this is for a season only. The time comes at last when nature unerringly vindicates every right, and punishes every wrong, in the actions of men or states. She comes, then, in terror, in revolution, in anarchy, in chaos. You will let this government and this nation slide down still further the smooth declivity of national vice if you choose; nature will bring it back again in due time with convulsions which will wake the sighs and groans of the civilized world.

[blocks in formation]

The past, since the adoption of the constitution, has been occupied with trials to compromise the conflict between property in man and the freedom of man, and these trials have proved unsuccessful. The future demands the settlement of it now, by a return to the principles of the declaration of independence and the constitution. This conclusion can be reached only by accepting the principle of the political equality of men within the exclusive range of the federal constitution. This is simply a matter of education. It is not worth while to spend much time upon this subject in trying to convert old men; they cannot last long, and therefore can do little harm. We all become settled in our opinions and confirmed in our habits as we grow old. The republican party is a party chiefly of young men. Each successive year brings into its ranks an increasing proportion of the young men of this country.

This is the ground of my hope, of my confidence, that before this generation shall have passed away, the democratic party will cease to exist; and the republican party, or at least its principles, will be accepted and universally prevail. If it be true, as the declaration of independence asserts, that the right of all men to political equality is self-evident, nothing can prevent the acknowledgment of that fact by the generation now rising, since that truth is distinctly incul cated now, for the first time, through all the agencies of private and public education. The young man who shall reject it will find himself in controversy with the ever-growing sentiment of his countrymen, and the settled public opinion of the world. Let him take heed how he enters upon a course which can bring nothing but unavailing contention, disappointment and regret over the failure of bis ambition and of his desire for usefulness. Train up your children in the belief of this great principle of our constitution, and they will secure for themselves the satisfaction of leading useful and honorable lives, and follow you to your graves with more than even filial veneration.

1 Extract from a speech at Cleveland, Oct. 4, 1860.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

A LONG cherished desire of mine is fulfilled ; at last a long deferred duty is about to be paid—the desire of my heart to see the people of Kansas—the duty that I felt I owed to the people of Kansas, to see them in their own homes and in their own houses. I have visited your chief cities, Leavenworth and Lawrence--where the army of mercenaries sent by the slave states battered down the hotel, under an indictment and conviction in a court of the United States as a nuisance, because it sheltered the freemen who had come here to see freedom established in Kansas. And I have looked also upon the Constitution Hall, in Topeka, where the army of the Unitech States, for the first time in the history of our nation, dispersed a lawfuil and peaceable assembly of citizens of the United States, convened to counsel upon the best means of protecting their lives, their property and sacred honor. You, people of Kansas, whom I have not been able to see in your homes, have come up here to greet me, from the valleys of the Kansas, the Big Blue and the Neosho, and from all

your plains and valleys. I seem not to have journeyed hither, but to have floated across the sea,—the prairie sea ---under bright autumnal skies, wafted by genial breezes into the havens where I wished to be. I am not sorry that my visit has occurred at this particular time, so sad in its influe'nce, when nature, that sends its rains upon the unjust as well as the

just, has for a year withdrawn its genial showers from the soil of * Kansas. It is well to see one's friends in darkness and sadness, as

well as in the hour of joy. I have beheld the scenes of your former conflicts. I have also looked upon that beautiful eminence on the banks of the Kansas river, where Lecompton sits a lonely widow, desolate and mourning, her ambitious structures showing how high is the ambition of slavery, and their desolation showing how easy,



after all, is her downfall. I would have seen more of Kansas, if I had not been interrupted and impeded in my course through the state by the hospitality and kindness of the people, which I could not turn aside. I have been excessively retentive at Leavenworth and Topeka, refusing to open my lips, because I do not like to say things by piecerneal.

I desire to speak openly to you, in the broad daylight, in the hearing of the women as well as men of Kansas; and here, where I have renewed the memories of the contest waged upon this soil, while I see around me the broken implements with which that contest was waged by the aggressors under the plea of popular sovereignty, which left the people perfectly free to do just as they please, subject to the constitution of the United States, which they were left perfectly free to interpret as they pleased, while the authorities at Washington have never been able to interpret it.

When I look at field after field, and cabin after cabin, and church after church, and school house after school house, where but six years ago was the unbroken range of savages, I am prepared herenot expecting to escape being heard on the Pacific as well as the Atlantic coast-I am prepared to declare, and do declare you people of Kansas the most intelligent and the bravest and most virtuous people of the United States. That is the most intelligent and bravest and most virtuous people which can take the banner of human freedom when it is trailed in the dust by the government of its choice, and can and does raise it aloft and protect it and bear it to success and honor-and that without bloodshed and violence.

People of Kansas! you are at once the youngest, the newest people—the newest state, as well as the youngest of all the thirtyfour American states; you are the poorest in wealth, the least favored with political power, for you are nearly disfranchised—and yet you are the most inflexible and the most constant. The two richest states in the Union are Massachusetts and New York, but they are so merely because they are the freest, the wisest and the most libertyloving states of the Union. I apprehend that you scarcely understand, yourselves, the importance of the position which you hold in this republic. You will perhaps be surprised when I tell you that the secret of all the interest I have felt in you has been merely this: That you occupy a pivotal position in the republic of the United States, with regard to slavery and freedom. There is no contest, no

« PreviousContinue »