« PreviousContinue »
Under Mr. Buchanan's administration the slave power became more and more aggressive. In fact, the slave power had dictated and dominated the legislation from the first Congress to the administration of Buchanan, in Whig as well as in Democratic administrations; and in 1852, when the Whig and Democratic parties adopted, in National conventions, platforms which were identical on the slavery question, then it was that that question seemed to absorb all others in the National legislature. The development of the country, the progress and happiness of its people, were lost sight of. Laws repugnant to the character and intelligence of the people of the free States had been passed from time to time, under the impudent threat of Southern senators and representatives that if they were not passed the South would dissolve the Union. But the most obnoxious and offensive measure was the Fugitive Slave Law, which compelled the citizens of the free States to turn out at the will or command of the United States marshals to aid in the arrest or return of slaves escaping from their masters into free territory.
And next to this was the assault upon Charles Sumner, a United States senator from the commonwealth of Massachusetts. He had been brutally and murderously assaulted in open day in the United States Senate by Preston L. Brooks, a representative from South Carolina, for simply expressing his political opinions in debate, and although Brooks was expelled from that body, his constituents promptly re-elected him, as an indorsement of the brutal act.
Not only was the legislation of the National government in the interest of slavery, but the Supreme Court was made to bow to the demands of the power behind it. We refer to the Dred Scott decision. This was rendered in December, 1856, in a case wherein a colored man, whose name was Dred Scott, had been taken, together with his wife and
two daughters, by his master, John F. A. Sanford, a resident of the State of Missouri, to Rock Island, Illinois, to reside. Illinois being a free State, these persons, therefore, became free the moment they were landed on her soil with the intention to remain as residents.
On the return of Sanford with Scott and his family to Missouri, Scott sued in the State court for his freedom, and believing that few of our readers will be able to call to mind the true character of this cause, and that they will be interested in knowing the full significance of the decision, we print the substance of it, as reported by Benjamin C. Howard, the official reporter. The case is thus stated by him in the published decisions of that court:
"This case was brought up, by writ of error from the Circuit Court of the United States for the district of Missouri. It was an action vi et armis, instituted in the circuit court by Scott against Sanford. Prior to the institution of the present suit, an action was brought by Scott for his freedom in the Circuit Court of St. Louis county (State court), where there was a verdict and judgment in his favor. On a writ of error to the Supreme Court of the State, the judgment below was reversed, and the case remanded to the Circuit Court, where it was continued to await the decision of the case now in question. The declaration of Scott contained three counts: one that Sanford had assaulted the plaintiff; one that he had assaulted Harriet Scott, his wife, and one that he had assaulted Eliza Scott and Lizzie, his children."
The close of the syllabus of the case, as reported in 19th Howard, and which gives the substance of the longest and most interesting opinion ever rendered by the Supreme Court of the United States, is as follows:
"The plaintiff himself acquired no title to freedom by being taken by his owner to Rock Island in Illinois, and brought back to Missouri. This court has heretofore decided that the status or condition of a person of African descent depended on the laws of the State in which he resided. It has been settled by the decisions by the highest court in Missouri, that by the laws of that State a slave
does not become entitled to his freedom where the owner takes him to reside in a State where slavery is not permitted, and afterwards brings him back to Missouri.
"Conclusion: It follows that it is apparent upon the record that the court below erred in its judgment in the plea in abatement, and also erred in giving judgment for the defendant when the exception shows that the plaintiff was not a citizen of the United States. And as the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction either in the case stated in the plea in abatement, or in the case stated in the exception, its judgment in favor of the defendant is erroneous and must be reversed."
At that time the Supreme Court of the United States was composed of Chief Justice Taney, Justices Nelson, Grier, Danniel, Campbell, Catron, Wayne, McLean, and Curtis. Chief Justice Taney delivered the opinion, and Justices McLean and Curtis were the only members of the court who dissented.
The repeal of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had restricted slavery within the territory south of parallel 36° 30′, and which opened up all the Territories to the spread of slavery, the brutal attempt to stifle free speech in the Senate of the United States, the extraordinary decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case, and the effort of President Buchanan to force Kansas into the Union with a constitution which recognized slavery, were so palpably wrong in themselves, that the great body of the people in the North-Free Soilers, Native Americans, Whigs and Democrats-were one in their denunciation of the aggressive steps of the slave power, and they stood ready with their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, to do that which would preserve the Government and the Union as they had been handed down to them by Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and all the patriot-fathers.
In that long and exciting debate in Congress over the legislation relating to the admission of Kansas into the Union, Stephen A. Douglas was the only Democratic
Senator, if we except George E. Pugh, of Ohio, who had the moral courage to oppose Buchanan's policy, and to Douglas' good name and great fame be it said he opposed it with manly courage, and with all the ability of his master mind, and because of this he was ostracised by the followers of the Administration, and its immense patronage was freely used in Illinois with the hope of destroying his power in his own State.
Such was the condition of National politics when we commence our history of the politics and politicians of Illinois, since which time the politics of Illinois have been the politics of the Nation.
Why a New Party was Necessary-Missouri Compromise of 1820-Compromise Measures of 1850-Repeal of the Missouri Compromise of 1820Douglas Denied the Right of Free Speech in Chicago-Organization of the Republican Party-Three Branches of the Government Pro-SlaveryGrowth of the Republican Party-Caucus at Williamsville-First Republican Convention at Cairo-First Republican Caucus at Metropolis.
WHY A NEW PARTY WAS NECESSARY.
The Republican party, which has had almost complete control of the governments of the State and Nation since 1861, was permanently organized in this State at Bloomington, May 29, 1856. Prior to that time the Democratic party had held, with the exception of a few brief intervals, the complete control of the government of the Nation since the formation of parties; and while the Whig party had maintained an organization in the State from 1836
to the dissolution of the party, yet it had never been able to dispute, successfully, the right of the Democratic party to control the affairs of the State, and in order that the reader may better understand the causes which led to the formation of the Republican party, brief reference is made to the history of the legislation of the National Government upon the slavery question. Slavery had been transmitted to the United States by the British Government, and although most all the early Fathers of the Republic were opposed to the institution, yet they were unable to eradicate it from a country whose declaration of independence had voiced the doctrine that all men were created equal, aud slavery was thus left as a cancer upon the body politic, and remained the subject of bitter controversy between the people of the North and South. For years prior to 1820, when what is known as the Missouri Compromise was passed, the question had been assuming an important and alarming position in the public mind, and ever and anon threatened the dissolution of the Union. The States of the North had gotten rid of such negro slaves as they had originally possessed, and had enacted laws forbidding their citizens from owning or bringing within their limits, negroes for purposes of labor. The feeling, in these States, that slavery was sinful, had been gradually gaining ground, and there were many persons in the South who held the same view. Certain religious bodies in the country had distinctly expressed their belief that it was contrary to the teachings of Christianity to own slaves, and memorials had been presented to the Legislatures of some of the States, and to Congress, praying for the abolition of slavery. Though Congress did not hesitate to pass an Ordinance in 1787, dedicating the Northwestern Territory, of which Illinois was a part, to freedom, yet it steadily refused to comply with the demands of the petitions presented to it regarding the abolition of slavery