|Welcome to this site, the 16 June 1860 lecture, "Despotism of Slavery," by Rep. Charles H. Van Wyck, in the U.S. House of Representatives, 36th Congress, 1st Session, pages 434-439 of the Congressional Globe Appendix.
The site reprints the text therein. The Globe had a side-by-side three-columns. Here they'll be labelled A, B, C, page by page. The lecture began in the third, "C," column of page 434, and ended in the first, "A," column on page 439.
This writing is one of many being reprinted in this series educating on constitutional and moral abolitionists. For a series and context listing, click here.
In the material, Rep. Van Wyck makes references to facts then known to his audience, but now generally unknown except among historians.
Speech of Hon. C. H. Van Wyck,
of New York,
in The House of Representatives,
June 16, 1860.
The House being in the Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union—
Mr. VAN WYCK said:
Mr. Chairman: Some statements in my former remarks having, by party leaders, been characterized as untrue, it has produced the necessity, and is my apology, for trespassing upon the attention of the House. One member of this body, no doubt fully conscious of the dignity of his position, and probably true to the instincts of his nature, pronounced me, as he claims in his published remarks, "a liar and scoundrel," for asserting facts susceptible of proof by a multitude of witness; so that it is due to the position I then assumed [took], and to myself, that the records of this House at least should sustain the one and vindicate the other. It was not proper that I should make the present suggestions while the member was absent from this city [Washington. D.C.]. He was absent a long time in Mississippi, and, since his return, this is the first opportunity that I could be heard.
I said nothing personally offensive to any member upon this floor. Gentleman of the other side well know that between them and myself, the kindest feelings existed. Neither will any man here or elsewhere, who has a generous heart and brave instincts, and is willing fairly to accord the right to discuss a great [major] feature in the social and political policy [on slavery] of one portion of the Union which was once sectional but sought now to be nationalized [expanded], feel himself aggrieved by what I have said, or may now say.
Although you may not be responsible for the existence of slavery; although an immediate emancipation of your slaves may be impossible; still some of you feel it to be an evil and misfortune. Although many of your people do not practice or justify cruelty to slaves, or proscription to whites, yet the seemingly necessary incidents of the institution are subjects of discussion when you are seeking to change the policy of the Government as to its extension. They, however, who insist upon extending my remarks to those for whom they are not intended, either by their spirit or fair inference, are at liberty to appropriate to themselves such parts as their judgment or feelings may dictate.
The abuse they have passed upon the principles I professed; the unjust arraignment of party leaders with whom I associated; worse than all, attacking the character of our revolutionary fathers; aspersing their motives and impugning their courage; not only endeavoring to dim the luster of their battle fields, but wrapping the slimy folds of their scandal around holy memories, whose sacredness should have disarmed the malignity of reproach—was for days, weeks, and months listened to [starting December 1859 at the convening of Congress] in silence, because our first duty to the country was the organization of the House. At the proper time I sought to repel these unjust charges. Acting entirely on the defensive, I wanted southern gentlemen to take notice that the harp of a thousand strings they had been ringing so long had better be laid aside; and instead of vilifying and abusing the North, a far more profitable [logical] occupation for the energy of their minds might be furnished in reforming abuses at home. I was not then, nor am I now, an accuser of the South. I only desired to call your attention to a few facts, of which some of you evidently knew nothing, from the very Christian manner [sarcastic] in which you received the intelligence [information].
When you rebuked Massachusetts for alleged witch-burning, some two hundred years ago, I
had a right to answer your charge by a reference to negro-burning at this very time. Do you profess to make the present generation liable for offenses two hundred years old? How much more, then, are you chargeable with those of your own time?
Our theory is, that the world is progressing. There would be no encouragement to toil and labor, if no advancement was to reward our exertion. By cultivation the earth is made fruitful;
Man is continually learning the relation of physical forces to each other and to himself; and shall not his moral and social as well as his intellectual nature be developed? The world still moves, and must advance. You can no more stay its progress than did the anathemas of Rome the revolutions of the universe.
The moral and political world, like the physical, has its development by long stages and slow degrees. The outward surface of one age becomes solidified and hid from sight by lapse of time. As the strata of coal and rock and metal, in the end, were covered with the genial soil, which made a habitable globe for man and beast, sustaining the massive forest, the towering mountains, the undulating plain, bearing the flowers of spring and the harvests of autumn.
Thus the cold, unseemly, and rough parts of the moral and political universe, their despotism and cruelties, its age of rock and iron, and the boasted golden era, were, one after another, petrified and hid from view, until man's better nature was presented, with its bold mountains and flowering valleys covered with verdure, and bearing flowers and fruits to gladden the heart and fill it with joy.
You talk of an irrepressible conflict, as if it has not always waged from the period when out of chaotic strife came symmetry and order. It is everywhere, in the physical, mental, moral, and political world; in the struggle where the ocean, groaning from his lowest bed, heaves his tempestuous billows to the sky, thus preserving the life of the deep; of contending elements,
The arch of heaven, and thunders rock the ground;
When furious whirlwinds rend the howling air,”
making the atmosphere pure; of truth and error, leading to the path of duty; of right and wrong, that man should discern his relation to God and his fellow [humans]; of freedom and tyranny, that man might enjoy the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The Jews waged this conflict on Egypt's fertile fields, in the famishing wilderness, and in the land of Canaan. Christ and the Apostles waged this conflict on the plains of Judea, before the judgment seat of Pilate, and at the throne of the Caesars. The martyrs and patriots of every age, the Puritans of Charles I., the Huguenots and Waldenses of France, the heroes of our own Revolution, waged this irrepressible conflict. And this conflict, though we trust in the future a bloodless one, will wage until all forms of error and superstition shall pass away; until man shall no longer vex and oppress his brother; until the last throne shall have crumbled in the dust, the sigh of the last captive be heard, and the manacle of the last slave broken.
What would you say of the man who, pleasing himself with the glistening of an idiot's toy, should launch his frail bark [boat] amid the wild, roaring billows, or float his silken balloon when the angry storm was riding the blast. He is worse than a madman who can learn nothing from the elemental strife [Nature] but to tempt its wrath or mock its fury.
The earth has its hidden fires; the outer crust may smother and conceal them for a time, but in the end they will burst forth, sending a lava-tide of destruction and death. So is it with the heart of man [humanity]; its history under tyranny is the history of the volcano. Ages of oppression have kept subdued its flames, but they have at intervals burst forth, and lit up with lurid gleam the horrors and gloom of despotism. The heart and instincts of man [humanity], of whatever clime and whatever color, are always the same. A yearning to be free will break the outer crust, although tyrants of nations and individuals are slow to learn. He who sleeps on the summit of a crater, and builds his house on
the heaving sides of [Mounts] Etna or Vesuvius, must not be astonished to have his rest disturbed, his home destroyed. So the despot of a nation, when he rears [puts] his throne upon the pent-up hopes of an oppressed nation, or the petty tyrant-master, who reposes in luxurious ease upon the heaving sides which press upon the natural rights of an enslaved race, must not wonder if the long struggle should force from the overpressed heart a tide that would blacken and destroy. And when your fair gardens shall be blasted, and the hopes you had been building upon the crushed affections of others are withered, and you turn and chide the innocent as the authors of the fruits of your own folly, it will only show that stupidity is even in advance of tyranny. As well might the dweller on Vesuvius mock at Omnipotence for the throes of the volcano.
Sir, I claim to be conservative in the just meaning of that much-abused word. I profess the faith, nothing more, of the founders of the Republic and the Democratic party down to 1847. In the great debate between Senators Douglas and Davis, a few days since [ago] in the Senate, it was conceded that
This exotic of despotism will evidently not flourish in a northern latitude; and it is feared that, in the leafy month of June, as far South as Baltimore and Richmond, it cannot survive the open air.
You drove us to a reference to historical facts; and I freely stated them, not for the purpose of casting any reflection upon your people, but to show that the North was entitled to a share of the inheritance of the promise. If they be untrue, you can manifest their falsity. I yielded my humble tribute of gratitude to your brave men of the past. I vindicated the greater portion of your own people of the present day, who are not represented on this floor by men who are ready to tear [up] the Constitution and shatter the Union. I said then, and I believe now, that the first effort of your insane folly will be stricken down by the strong arm of your own Union-loving people.
True, I had no encomiums for your tories in the Revolution, nor for those of their descendants who believe in their [pro-monarchy] principles. I never eulogize northern tories: Why should those of the South have any more claim to gratitude?
This, then, is the head and front of my offending, except it be the historical fact I stated, that your own people burned slaves at the stake, which was true then, and is doubly true now. I did not charge this upon all the South, any more than I insisted that all the slaves were burnt at the stake. No man, except he who was blinded by political rage and furious with sectional rage, could have placed any such construction [interpretation] upon ďt. This statement was denounced as untrue, and the member from Mississippi appeared to be exceedingly anxious that I should give my courage an airing with some [purported] chivalric son of the South [in a duel, then a typical southern barbarism]. That query was propounded at a time, in a place, and manner, which his own pretended code of honor will not tolerate. While, by his interrogatory, he looked upon me as the offending party and himself as the one having a right to demand an explanation, yet for reasons best known to himself, but of which his peers on this floor and the country can judge, he contents himself with insisting upon inserting in the debates language which I leave to him to call gentlemanly or parliamentary, language which, if used, was not heard by the reporters—for it did not appear in their report until after the debate was closed, and then at his suggestion—nor by myself, or those near me, viz.
[Van Wyck] to be a liar and scoundrel."
I was informed this member went to the Globe office the same evening, and insisted that his chaste and dignified [sarcastic] expression should by all means grace the columns of that journal. Why did he manifest so much anxiety to interline the debates and so pertinaciously urge its publication? Did it elevate his own character as a high-toned gentleman in his own estimation, or the consideration
of his constituents and the country? He had already denounced the statement as false. How could he give any greater intensity to his convictions by terms which are becoming obsolete in the dialect of the buffoon and braggart. The member recognized in my remarks already a casus belli, and that could not be removed by a new cause of offense created by himself. He certainly could not relieve the old by provoking a new controversy with his opponent. The motive of the member I leave for others to judge. Can it be that gentlemen in the State of Mississippi, recognizing a code of honor [dueling], resort to such means to provoke a wager of battle in a land boasting of the highest type of civilization, and whose ["Religious Right" / "Bible Belt"] piety is so great that they are panting furiously and champing on the bit of legal restraint to Christianize, by their peculiar missionary operations, the entire continent of Africa? What matter for a white man now and then, when the whole field of African refinement, civilization, and religion, is unfolding before them?
As an expression of opinion, I added, in the same connection, “it [negro-burning] seems to awaken no horror in your minds”—not to the whole of your people, nor all the members on this floor, but those to whom it could appropriately apply. Suppose my opinion erroneous: was its mere utterance in a free country a sufficient reason for you to ask the privilege to take my life [duel]? Look at the many instances where entire communities participated in the demoniac outrage; at the fact that, in the different localities where the [negro-burning] outrage was perpetrated, probably no effort ever was made to bring to punishment such fiends in human form. Certainly it awakened no horror in their [demonized] minds. These barbarities, though often repeated, and within a few months of the [December 1859] meeting of this Congress, and published in the different papers of the land, awakened so little horror in the minds of some members on this floor that they not only claimed to have forgotten the fact, but were betrayed into abusive and insulting language, to develop their own ignorance of the passing [current] events of their own section.
It [negro-burning] not only seems to awaken no horror in your [demonized] minds, but a paper assuming a religious garb—the Herald—published, I believe in Montgomery, Alabama, recently said:
"We think so, too. The editor of the Hayneville (Alabama) Chronicle very justly observesWe trust this religious newspaper will find its way into Georgia and Mississippi. Are the editors of the Herald and Chronicle liars and scoundrels? They tell you that slaves have been burnt, several in one county; and that it brutalizes the feelings of your communities.
Liar and scoundrel! Who is the man?
One moment to the law and testimony. [Isaiah 8:20.] If other evidence than the above extract be required, let the witnesses be they of your own household, and out of your own mouths be condemned. In 1836 was not a negro burned, near St. Louis, in the presence of two or three thousand of its citizens? A correspondent of the New Orleans Picayune, writing from Jackson, Mississippi, on the 25th December, 1855, gives the details of the chaining to a stake and burning alive a negro at that place. The Montgomery (Alabama) Mail, of April 3,1856, says:
"We learn that the negro who murdered Mr. Capehart was burned to death yesterday at Mount Meigs."In 1856 the Sumter (Alabama) Whig speaks of the burning of a slave in that county, and adds:
"He was tied to a stake, with fat light wood piled around him, and the torch was applied in the presence of two thousand persons, who had met there to witness the novel scene."There were some rumors that the slave had been tortured to extort a confession, but that the Whig declares was entirely untrue. Did not torture the poor slave, only burnt him alive, to make a "novel scene" for two thousand [demonized] Christian men to gaze upon! There is a record somewhere else, made up of those whose "tender mercies are cruelties."
The Union Springs (Alabama) Gazette, speaking of a slave boy who had murdered [executed] his master, adds:
"That evening, at three o'clock, in the presence of five hundred persons, he was chained to a tree and burned."
It is also reported that, in Troy, Kentucky, New Year's day of 1859 was celebrated by burning a slave-murderer. A correspondent of thc Maysville (Kentucky) Eagle says:
I ever heard come from any human being."
July 22, 1859, the daily papers of St. Louis published the frightful tragedy of burning a slave at Marshall, Saline county, Missouri. This sentence was decreed by a mob composed of the best citizens of that county.
But humanity sickens at the record of such brutalities, in a land professing allegiance to law, civilization, and religion.
Liar and scoundrel! Who is the man?
Since the commencement of this session, and, I believe, while the member was on a visit to his own State, a portion of her people chained a slave to the stake, and burnt him to ashes. This was not done to gratify their rage against Black Republicans—although it is their wont [propensity] to charge [alleged] increased hardships and enormities [atrocities] as a result of [anti-] slavery agitation [First Amendment freedom of expression]. Neither was it to grace a bon-fire in honor of a Representative for having manifested so much spirit as to call a fellow member on the floor of the American Congress a liar and scoundrel for merely uttering the truth; neither was it, as has been heretofore alleged of all cases of burning, for some outrage committed on the white race. Nothing of all this. The chattel only killed a chattel. Who ever heard of burning a horse to ashes for kicking another horse to death. The Vicksburg Sun gives the facts quoted in many southern papers. They all say:
"The slave fled to the woods; was captured by tbc dogs which were immediately put on his track." * * *Cruelty more hellish than any which disgraced an Italian prison or Spanish inquisition drove up innocent, guiltless slaves from surrounding plantations to witness the awful barbarity, and your paper concludes:
"He died cursing his judges. His last words were that he would take vengeance on them when they met each other in Hell."His religious training had evidently not been neglected. He had orthodox notions of a hereafter; and his conceptions were somewhat clear to his mind as to who would probably inhabit the regions of despair. Brave, chivalric men, respectable gentlemen [sarcasm], in the State of Mississippi, did this! Did it waken any horror in their minds or that community? Has any effort been made to punish those "respectable gentlemen" for such an outrage?
Who is the liar and scoundrel?
You say outrages are sometimes perpetrated at the North; but where do you find the sentiment of her people tolerating them? The gentleman from Alabama [Mr. Cobb] acknowledged the fact of slave-burning; yet he confesses, what I will not charge, that it awakened no horror in his mind. Hear him:
"Such as burning, &c., an occurrence rarely if ever happening, and then for offenses shocking to humanity, and if perpetrated by a white person, burning and death would be too good for him; and in such a case the white and black would and ought to share a similar fate."The [demonized] gentleman [politician] says he ought not only to be burnt, but death should be inflicted upon him. Do you ever punish the white man by burning for murder? But I thank him for his frank acknowledgment of the charge and its palliation. And to his fatherly [murderous] care I commend the member from Mississippi—I mean [sarcastically] the one whose diction is so chaste and elegant—to satisfy him whether I was a "liar and scoundrel" for proclaiming what is now freely admitted and boldly justified.
What a fearful revelation of your own society when such enormities [atrocities] are unpunished, and even winked at. How many of your papers, in making public the shocking tale, have lisped a word in condemnation? A Tennessee print, after announcing the Mississippi tragedy, simply adds:
The bloody record does not stop here. On Tuesday of last week the Washington Era and Baltimore Sun, and on Wednesday, the Globe, the official organ [newspaper] of Congress, and the Constitution,
the organ [newspaper] of this [James Buchanan] Administration, contained the following dispatch:
The fact, then, is undisputed, your own people burn slaves at the stake. Does it awaken any horror in their minds? The Atlanta Intelligencer, speaking of this transaction, says:
"The negro was doubtless demented, and instigated by the devil. He is now in eternity no doubt, and his fate should be an awful warning to others of his color, who are unlike ungrateful."No warning or condemnation [by this vile media type was made] for the white [demonized] friends who perpetrate such barbarities; he [the media writer] does not tell us what spirit instigated the wretches who bring reproach upon our country, and contempt on its institutions.
When the statement of negro-burning produced a thrill of horror in the minds of so many members, we had a right to suppose that this feeling would manifest itself, at least in some denunciatory epithets against their own people, should they actually commit so great a crime; but we have looked in vain for any such indication. And the member from Mississippi, instead of rescuing his State from the stigma which has been burnt into her history, will probably content himself with branding as a liar and scoundrel he who repeats it. Great missionary institution, indeed! Jealous to civilize and Christianize the African, while it deadens your own sensibilities and brutalizes your own people.
Still more: have you not seen in your respectable papers, weekly visitant to your own firesides, to be read by your wives and tender children, advertisements of the sale of children of all ages, of mothers with small children, to be sold together or separately, of marks of brands and scars of the whip on runaway slaves? Here is a specimen in a North Carolina paper:
"Ran away, a negro woman and two children. A few days before she went off I burnt her with a hot iron on the left side of her face. I tried to make the letter M."
In a Mississippi paper:
"Ran away, a negro girl called Mary. The letter A is branded on her cheek and forehead."In an Alabama paper:
"Ten dollars reward for my woman Lily, very much scarred about the neck by whipping."
In a North Carolina paper:
"I will give the reward of $100 for each of the above negroes, to be delivered to me, or for the killing of them, so that I can see them."In a South Carolina paper:
"For Sale–several women with children, and several small boys without their mothers."In a Georgia paper:
"One negro girl about eighteen months old, belonging to an estate, sold for the purpose of distribution."
In a New Orleans paper:
"A negro woman with two children, one eight, and the other three years, will be sold together or separately as desired. Will be sold low for cash, or exchanged for groceries."In a South Carolina paper:
"Ran away, a negro named Arthur; has a considerable scar across his breast and each arm, made by a knife; loves to talk much of the goodness of God."Hear [sarcastically] that pious old patriarch trying to track his human merchandise. It is not enough he has marked his breast and arms with the knife; but, if that escapes attention, the chattel can be detected. Let the slave hunter listen; he cannot be deceived. His victim loves to talk much of the goodness of God. Seize the fugitive; he has committed no crime, but seize him; bear him back to continue his unrequited labor to stripes and torture. He loves to talk much of the goodness of God. Why not? He has probably seen nothing in the white Christian planter to admire; his only consolation and hope is in the goodness of God, where the unhappy may find solace and the persecuted repose. It is fair to presume these are not exceptional cases, for your papers have been full of them. These barbarities must be in accordance with the laws and public sentiments of some portions of your country [the South]. These advertisements are sent forth under the names of respectable men and women, published within the shadow of courthouses, legislative halls, and churches.
If your institution is so godlike and divine, and your slaves so delighted with the temporal and spiritual benefits they [supposedly] enjoy, why, only a few weeks since [did], did the following humane [business] card [advertisement] appear in a North Carolina paper:
"Catch him! catch him! But how can you catch him, unless you have along the well-trained pack of negro [catching-trained] dogs owned by J. W. Hamlet. This pack consists of five blood-hounds and two catch-dogs, which are very sagacious, and which, once on the trail, will be very apt to start the game.Is not this a necessary consequence of your [demonized] system? It is Hamlet's trade. He has been a long while engaged, at much trouble and expense, and his rates will be found reasonable. This man–for I suppose you call him such, in North Carolina–garnishes [adorns] his [business] card with a cut [picture] of a black woman fleeing from what was to her a living tomb and a country of whited sepulchers [hypocrites], where there is no
Why do your negroes run away? They never heard of any other irrepressible conflict than the Almighty wrote on the heart and carved on the brain of the overworked fugitive. Can they read [Hinton] Helper [a noted anti-slavery writer], or the Tribune, or the Independent [anti-slavery papers]? Well-trained pack of negro dogs, which are very sagacious and will start the game! Is it thus you speak of Christian men? Do we glory in the humanizing effects of religion and the liberal ideas of freedom? Five blood-hounds and two catch-dogs for men, women, and children, who have committed no crime, and with whom you boast that you will rest in Abraham’s bosom and sing songs of praise at the throne of the Redeemer. No wonder [Thomas] Jefferson, true to his manhood and the spirit of prophecy within him, trembled for his country when he reflected that God was just. [Details.]
Mr. Hamlet says at the South you cannot get runaways without blood-hounds and catch-dogs. Southern gentlemen will not descend to hunt negroes. Yet, for the work you appropriate to hired spaniels in North Carolina, you want to dragoon the services of free men in the North [by the “tort-reform” style Fugitive Slave Bill]. Never, sir, never. Furnish your marshals [slave-hunters], at least, with what may be necessary for a southern slave-hunter, or allow the humane Hamlet the privilege to open branch offices in the free states; but God forbid that the heart of a single freeman with the merest instinct for humanity should prostitute his body in the service of those who, at home, perform the same labor with well-trained blood-hounds and catch-dogs.
But few of your slaves can read, and the census returns show that many of your laboring whites do not enjoy that privilege. See the despotism you exercise over those who can [read]. A recent number [issue] of the Henderson (Texas) Times says that there has been an excitement in that vicinity owing to the sale there, by a book-agent, of several copies of the Cottage Bible [by Rev. William Patton], and adds:
“This edition of the Bible was prepared for the press by an Abolitionist. The agent was required to take back all the copies he had sold, and leave for the North at once.”
In the face of multiplying facts of this kind, you tell us the country is free, and that slavery is a great missionary institution—a grand humanitarian fact.
Men [people] who are reared amidst scenes of cruelty are entitled to some consideration from the habits of life. [Thomas] Jefferson felt the force [truth] of this when he said:
“Our children see this, and learn to imitate it. The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose to his worst of passions; and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances. [More.]Does not this very system [slavery] blunt the finer feelings of a generous manhood? Need I go any further than to point to your conduct on this floor, when those [slavers / Bible-Belters / Religious Right”] who assume great [moral] superiority in
courage and honor will threaten Representatives with personal combat [duel], stigmatize them as liars and scoundrels, negro thieves, and perjured villains, merely on account of opinions expressed in debate? While the country has already denounced as disgraceful, scenes which have here transpired, let a deliberate judgment hold them alone responsible who have created them.
The [allegedly] great Constantine, who has been the admiration of all [professed] Christendom for his virtues, banished Arius and his associates for opinions' sake; and, no worse than the Christian chivalric South, pronounced death against all with whom his books should be found. An aged minister of the Gospel, a native of the South, until recently was confined in one of your prisons in North Carolina for selling a book to free white men. But you say the book savored of treason. This pretext, in every age, has shed the best [martyr] blood the world produced; it has given to the flames its martyrs and to the scaffold and guillotine their victims. It has strung on gates and castle walls the bodies of those whose spirits went forth to cheer the oppressed in his struggle and the soldier of freedom in his loneliness. It has entered the valley and stripped the cotter's simple home of its joy, and climbed the rough mountain to strike down the bold Highlander in his rouge retreat. When the unbelieving Jews could not induce the Roman governor [Pontius Pilate] to sacrifice Christ on the pretense [charge] of his assumption that He was the Son of God, then they too raised the cry of treason; and at Pilate's bar [court] they clamored for His crucifixion because He was said to be King of the Jews.
Some may ask, why the necessity of this recital? I grant you none, except as it has been necessary to defend myself, repel charges made against us [black Republicans], and furnish the active southern mind some occupation besides belittling and vilifying their northern neighbors. I disclaim any right to interfere with slavery where it exists [constitutionally]. We can no more disturb that than any other State institution [which slavery was not, but private. States as states did no enslaving, only individuals].We have no right, neither do we seek, to interfere with your [constitutional] domestic. and criminal arrangements. But when you are driving us to the wall by false accusations, and you yourselves are forcing us to institute comparisons between the different sections, and are seeking to extend your [unconstitutional] local institutions over the common Territories, we have, at least, the right to express our opinions.
Because we are standing by the old landmarks of the nation, and are endeavoring to rollback th wave of fanaticism, and strife with which you seek to inundate the Republic, you brand us as agitators, much in the same manner as did Ahab, when he said to Elijah, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” But the Prophet answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's house [dynasty], in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Balaam.” [1 Kings 18:17-18.] So, too, this day we are not troubling Israel, but ye have forsaken the [anti-slavery] commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Balaam.
You say slavery comes from [the] God [of freedom in Christ] and is ancient in its existence. Polygamy, which you have so lately [recently] aided us to banish, thereby recognizing our treasonable doctrine that Congress has power to legislate for the social and domestic relations of the people of a Territory, furnishes a stronger divinity in its origin, and is older. You say that Canaan was cursed. [Genesis 9:25.] He was not a black man; how did his curse get removed [transferred] to the African? You say he was cursed forever; his curse was in terms of duration no stronger than the blessing to his more favored brethren. The Jew seems to have outlived the promise; his forever long ago had an end. Why should the curse against Canaan be more enduring? Long before that, a curse was breathed against the whole human family [Genesis 3:17]; yet man's efforts for over six thousand years, his toils of body, his labors of mind, have been to relieve himself from the consequences of that curse. The God of the universe has propitiated and encouraged his [humanity’s] efforts to cast off its burden. Shall the curse against Canaan stand in all its vengeance with no effort to remove it?
As well go throughout the land [nation], put the torch to your mills, undermine your factories, stop the shuttle and loom, destroy the cotton gin, overturn your printing presses, turn off the motive power from your steamers [steam engines], take the leviathan of the iron way [rail road] and cast it in the deep, throw away your
batteries, break down the circle of wire surrounding the universe, and say that all this is in violation of the great primal curse pronounced against man in the garden [Genesis 3:17]. Conceding all you claim from [falsely alleged] Jewish slavery, you well know the Israelites were the only nation receiving any consideration from the Almighty; they were his peculiar people, the children of his bounty, and the inheritors of his promise. He revealed himself to no other nation. Others were the victims of his wrath, the objects of his vengeance; for them there was no propitiatory sacrifice in the blood of bulls and goats. So it continued until Christ came—not for the Jew alone, but the heathen and gentile. The curse against the whole human family, against Canaan, was swallowed up in the victory on the cross. By that death and incarnation the whole race of man, of whatever clime and country, of whatever color, became children of promise, and were equally entitled to an inheritance in the faith. The bow of the covenant of the blood of the atonement embraced and spanned every kindred, tribe, and tongue [Revelation 5:9, 14:6], and made them fast to the throne of God; as much as the bow of the promise embraced and bound the Jewish people to the ordinances of Jehovah. All curses were abrogated in yielding to His Son the “heathen for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession." [Psalm 2:8, Mark 13:27, Acts 1:8.]
You are allowed to arraign [accuse] the institutions and people of the North without fear of the bludgeon and revolver. You are not subjected to contumely and abuse. You can profess to despise everything with a prefix free. You can speak of my constituents as greasy mechanics, filthy operatives, small-fisted farmers, the mud-sills of society, and performing menial service incompatible with mental cultivation. In their name I repel such arrogance, not aa a partisan, but an American citizen; for your denunciations include the whole North, where, among all parties and all classes of society, are those born to an inheritance of honest toil and labor.
When you say there is something wrong in the frame-work of northern society, I agree with you; but all the evils you designate at the North exist in an aggravated form at the South; so that African slavery cannot remedy the ills. In either section, you see the unfortunate victims of crime, and the innocent often, struggling with poverty; you see the haughty aristocrat and the cringing miser grinding the face of the poor. To relieve misfortune at the North we have the almshouse, the asylum, and the hospital. You have them at the South. To educate our youths we have free schools at the North. You ought to have them at the South. Unite, then, with us in some legislation for the benefit of the white man.
With all your boasting, the highest type of civilization has not yet been reached, nor will it be until man [human-kind] has neither the ability nor inclination to vex and oppress his brother. As you look abroad, and see the unoccupied millions of acres [in the West, the frontier] waiting for the hands of the husbandman [farmer], and millions of human beings struggling with adverse fortunes ready to develop its resources, you cannot believe that nations and Governments have fulfilled their destiny. Unite, then, with us to grant encouragement to American industry; to give our toiling freemen free homes in the West. Abandon your picayune policy, where white men are concerned, that it will prevent a few thousand dollars from entering the Treasury; the aggregate wealth of the nation will be increased by development of its soil. You will be prodigal in bestowing tens of millions to obtain Cuba [i.e., to expand slavery], which would not increase our wealth or add to our happiness; yet you are miserly in opening the prairies of the West to the prospect of the golden harvests [due to Southern fear farmers would vote anti-slavery].
You ["Bible-Belt" "Religious Right" atheists in reality], who [purport to] venerate so highly the Mosaic dispensation, cannot have forgotten that one of the most beautiful features in that policy was the command to divide the land of Canaan by lot among the tribes, according to the families of each [Numbers 33:54], so that the whole nation should be converted into a community of small-fisted farmers. Hence [sarcastically], you perceive that the homestead bill is a divine institution. Then we will unite with you to furnish a land of refuge in the tropical region for the oppressed African, that in part, at least, we may atone for the great wrong and injustice ages of oppression have inflicted upon them. The [purported] advantages of your society and religion ought soon to
benefit him not by stealing him from his native jungles. Then can we obey the injunction, "to undo the heavy burden, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke." [Isaiah 58:6.]
For further proof of the cruelties of your slave system and the debasement to which it reduces your poor whites, I beg to refer to that gem of literature, the Black Diamonds, substantially indorsed and recommended by several southern Representatives in liberal subscriptions for the work.
I will also allude to an appendix, in the shape of a letter by its author. He says:
"You will notice that I advocated the reopening of the slave trade in the interests of the poor white men of the South, who are now oppressed by the monopoly of slave-holders. With these poor white men I have all my sympathies.
Has he written the truth, or is this Virginia author, this champion against [Hinton] Helper, this southern historian, indorsed by southern members of Congress? Is he a "liar and scoundrel?" Has any [Black] Republican told you so much truth so plainly, and in so few words? It must be true, for you have indorsed it! He feels for the cruelties of the slave and sympathizes with the degradation of the laboring [working class / blue collar] whites. He characterizes the monopolists in human flesh and land as they deserve. A heartless aristocracy and selfish, unfeeling monopoly, is the same now as in the middle ages.
We [Yankees, abolitionists] prefer not to yield to your seductions of place nor your craven threats of power. We remember the history of the Venetian Republics. They trusted to the hollow promises of an aristocracy until they saw their Magna Charta given to the winds of the Adriatic, and beneath the ruins of their free institutions the dark conclave of a gloomy Inquisition. Go on, Mr. Pollard; your sympathy for the slave and poor whites of the South is shared by the patriot and philanthropist throughout the Union. Step forward as their champion; it is a noble cause. Be one of the tribunes [advocates] of the people. You have the proud consciousness of an indorsement by southern members of Congress.
Mr. Pollard has made a slight mistake as to the remedy proposed. He says:
"With the reopening of the slave trade, imported negroes might be sold in our southern seaports at a profit, for one hundred to one hundred and fifty dollars a head. The poor man might then hope to own a negro; he would at once step up to a respectable station in the social system of the South; he would no longer be a miserable nondescript cumberer of the soil, or trespassing along the borders of the possessions of the large proprietors."This political economist does not tell us where the poor nondescript cumberer of the soil, who lives by trespassing upon the possessions of the large proprietors will obtain the money to purchase the imported negro. No matter, that is his remedy—to own a negro is the panacea of all earthly ills.
You stigmatize the North because a few of her people recognize what they term a law of conscience, humanity, and religion, above the fugitive slave law. While thus denouncing others, you yourselves recognize a higher law, not only against the laws of your country and your States, but against the humanity and religion of the civilized world, in your self-assured code of honor [duels], where the trick of the weapon is made superior to the noblest cause and the truest courage. With
slavery you retain this as a relic of a dark and barbarous age. These [he says sarcastically], with polygamy, made a [barbaric] triplet with which to adorn the brow of American civilization and the Christian religion. [You] seek a cause for battle in a transaction where [it] would require a microscopic intellect to discover [one and] then, to vindicate honor, commence stealing away from the sight of men; disregard the [oaths] you arc bound to obey; avoid the officers of [justice], seek a retreat in the gray of the morning murky twilight, to establish bravery by violence by violating the laws of God and man. This you call chivalry; and you say a man is a coward who refuses to violate the duty of a citizen, the oath of a legislator, and the honor of a man.
How often do the decisions of your tribunal [end] in farce or tragedy! You have the ordinary [feelings] of mankind. Does the wife, as she follows to the tomb her murdered husband, feel that [his] honor has been vindicated, especially if he be [the] innocent and aggrieved party? What matter [to] her or him whether his spirit was sent into eternity from the point of the glittering bowie-knife or crushed through the hour-glass of time [by] cruel and inhuman bullet? Will weeping children, mourning a father slain, admire his bravery and exult in his fall?
The folly of your [code of honor for duels] is manifested by the farcical part of the play, [when] two men, not exactly knowing and [possibly] not caring, who is the aggressor, within [shooting] distance, deliberately aim at each other, [when] for some cause the eye becomes sightless, [the] arm nerveless, the aim purposeless, and the [bullet] goes whizzing through the air, or buries itself [in] the earth. Each breathes freer, expresses great gratitude for a safe deliverance; they embrace another, declare that honor is vindicated, vow eternal friendship, and resolve each other brave.
On the occasions you arm yourselves with [bring] a [doctor/ surgeon] to defeat the object of the expedition [duel], by endeavoring to save life after an attempt to take it. Bravery does not consist in a reckless disregard [for] your own life, or a wanton attack upon another’s.
You claim to be men of a religious nature and have read the history of Peter. In these [days] probably he would have made a great duelist. When he seized the sword and smote the servant of the high priest, his Master rebuked him. [Matthew 26:51-52; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:49-50; John 18:10-11.] No doubt you would call Peter valiant; but [mark], when honor required him to discharge his duty by adhering to Christ, he followed afar off, suddenly became chilly, for his heart was cold, stopped at the fire to warm, and in answer to the [serving] maid, denied his master thrice. [Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:55-61; John 18:15-18, 25-27.] Then [he] lacked the courage which we [Black Republicans] believe forms [the] foundation and element of true manhood.
Does your system of slavery require supports [of] such a nature? Will discussion, truth, and [honest] expression of opinion, shatter the huge [rubric] from center to circumference? Do you [stand] trembling like a reed shaken by the wind [by] each attack? Like the man who has committed great wrong, are you fearing even the zephyr which floats a leaf, or the rustling of the most [distant] footfall? If your system rests on the foundation you claim, step boldly out with the weapons of truth and defy the assaults of time. It will be more firmly established by wind and wave. Such [is] the result of all institutions founded in God and [truth]. I can well understand why it is dangerous [to] allow a lighted candle near an open powder magazine; but if your position is so impregnable, [why] should you dread so fearful an explosion [from] the circulation of the sparks of free thought [near] your magazine of slavery.
You upbraid the North because free labor has increased its population, developed the resources [of] the soil, and made it great in manufactures and commerce. Take not, therefore, we beseech you, [with] the advancing columns of civilization on the [boundaries] of the [American] West, the sinuous form of your [bleak] institution, for it will fill the atmosphere [with] pestilence and death, like the monster [serpent] which once impeded the march and thinned [the] ranks of the Roman army.
Your policy is producing conflicts with the native Indian, so you may raise regiments, annihilate them, and take the little of territory the cupidity of the white man has left [them]. Already we are [forcing] them over the dark mountain from which [they] can see the setting sun of their destiny, and [then] they will hear the roar of the last wave that will settle over them forever.
You profess devotion to the Constitution of your country, which guaranties the right of thought and speech, and that it never shall be abridged. What is that right worth to the freemen of the North in fifteen States of the Union? Some of you vainly imagine that because the Capitol [Washington, D.C.] stands on slave soil, and is surrounded by the hosts of an aristocracy which Mr. Pollard so graphically portrays, freemen must be abridged of [denied] that right even here. That never can be [lawfully] done.
You can never smother free thought and free speech in this Capitol—never. You say we have a right to speak; precisely, and without risk of insolence and violence, if we say nothing displeasing to your system. So was [Swiss freedom activist William] Tell free, if he would bow to the cap of the tyrant; so was [Scot freedom activist] Robert the] Bruce, of Bannockburn, if he would lay harmless in his lair; so was Hampden, if he would pay thc ship money; so were [Samuel] Adams and [Patrick] Henry, if they would yield the pence on tea, and so you say are we.
You may strike down [assault, beat unconscious] the eloquent and intrepid orator, as you have heretofore done [referencing the assault on Charles Sumner], that will only strengthen the right, and manifest the impotence of your endeavor. By violence you may palsy the brain and silence the tongue for a time. It will be only taking a leaf from the forest, picking a sand from the shore, or gathering a ripple on the broad ocean.
The advocates of truth, the hosts of freedom, will move on undismayed. The question is already beyond the dark whirlpool of African slavery. It has resolved itself into a problem, not whether the African shall be longer enslaved, but shall the white man remain free? Shall I and my associates exercise on this floor the same rights which you claim and enjoy?
You boldly, and without interruption, proclaim your opinions, however revolting to the sentiment [morality] of the civilized world. You can vilify the memory and acts of the founders of the Republic; you can stigmatize the laws against the slave trade as a foul blot, and demand their repeal; you may ask, in a defiant manner, what glory of arms illustrates our escutcheon. But when we reply to your taunts, and proclaim our sentiments [morals, values], we are met with your reckless threats, your senseless bravado. “Upon what meat do these our Caesars feed, that they have grown so great?”
It will be of service for you to learn that your plantation manners are better suited to a more southern latitude [sarcastically], where the higher type of civilization prevails in a more perfect state, and the standard of courtesies among gentlemen require a keener appreciation of high-toned honor. Learn now, for it may save you some chagrin, that northern men and principles are not to be entered upon your inventory of personal property. Your mad ambition now seeks to grasp the empire of [enslave, censor] the mind and soul.
On this floor, at least, by the Constitution of my country and the natural rights of man, I claim to be your peer. Your corrupt [Buchanan] Administration, as appears from the evidence lately [recently] taken before the Senate investigating committee, in 1858 sent money into my congressional district to compass my defeat. I despised your money then as I defy your threats and vengeance now. Democratic though that district be, it is its boast that it has never been disgraced by a Representative who ever voted to extend that institution which drives from the sod its verdure [slavery]. You little understand the integrity of the heart of that Democracy [Democratic district], if you suppose its suffrages [votes] could be bought with gold [money, campaign contributions], or their Representative intimidated by threats.
By your profligacy and extortionate demands, you are arousing the democratic masses throughout the whole North. They have determined that hereafter, in your exactions, when you demand thc pound of flesh, you shall take no blood. Like Cadmus, you have sown the dragon's teeth. If the rushing tide has heretofore overwhelmed you, how can you withstand the foam-crested billows, your own folly has lashed into fury?
“If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, how, then, shalt thou contend with horses?” [Jeremiah 12:5.] You have forced us into such a position that retreat would be dishonor. We are already in “the path of the vineyard.” The walls of mountain are on either hand; the Red sea lies before us; and like the hosts of Pharaoh, you press our rear, and the spirit of truth and duty bid us go forward.
While despising pecuniary considerations in others, you ask us to shape with you our sentiments [values[ on great social, political, and moral ques-
tions, by the standard of dollars and cents. No matter whether slavery be right or wrong, where ever it is profitable there it must go [was slaver “morals”]. This is your “ultima thule.” You apologize for your fathers [ancestors, the Founding Fathers] laying the foundations of the Republic broad and deep on the principles of universal freedom, because they did not conceive of the great value of cotton and the influence it would have on the commerce of the world.
Like the little, pious silversmith, who made images for the worship of Diana, when the commercial relations of his trade was disturbed by the Apostles, railed at Saul, to aid his decaying fortunes and appear religious withal, he shouted, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” [Acts 19:28.]
In the same [heathen] spirit you are manufacturing images of the great God for sale like beasts of burden; and when truth is interfering with the markets of your chattelized humanity, you too rail, and with the same zeal shout “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.”
Why do you ask for more? Vice President Breckinridge, in Kentucky, was exultant at the advance slavery had made in the last ten years; that you [slavers] not only had the Senate and the Executive but the Supreme Court had finally surrendered to your demands [in the Dred Scott case]. Although you have achieved so much over us, we propose no harsh results. Though you should do more—have enacted your slave code, elect your most violent, fire-eating slave-trade advocate as President, spread the dark folds of your institution over the free plains of the West, yet, like the true mother before Solomon [1 Kings 3:27], though deprived of our rights, we ask that the object of our love be not sacrificed.
We may be overborne in [lose] this struggle [to ban slavery]. The table of the [anti-slavery] law our [Founding] fathers gave us you may break in pieces. We can at least stand as did the soldiers of Cromwell at Blackheath—grand in the contemplation of a victorious past, for they had dethroned England's [pro-slavery] king and hewed the royal throne to a block, yet mournful in the heartless and glittering pageantry of returning oppression. We contemplate no such gloomy future.
Standing upon the principles of your fathers [ancestors, e.g., S. G. Tucker], we will go forward, though there should [may] be wild beasts at Ephesus [persecution]; we desire no weapons but the shepherd’s sling and the simple stone of truth [I Samuel 17:40], and it will, in the end, brain the Goliath of your [tobacco-slavery] system, though armed with a spear and staff like a weaver’s beam. The bow of justice, though drawn at a venture, will pierce many joints in the harness. The light of the great sun of truth you can never eclipse. You may now and then in prison walls hide the countenances of those who bask in its light, but you cannot stop his revolution in the Heavens or darken his countenance.
In the end reason must prevail; it is the stone which will break the image. [Daniel]. You have been remonstrated and warned by the prophets of the early time. [Thomas] Jefferson, speaking of the slaves, said, “nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.”
It is said that, from the operation of climate, or Anglo Saxon blood [mass rape by slavers], the Ethiopian is already changing the color of his skin, and, in time, will remove the spots from the leopard at his throat. When the sable hue pales into the brown, the olive, the white; when you advertise your chattels, which you have done, as being likely to pass themselves [off] for white men, then you must expect the path of freedom will be trod by your slaves with a firm and steady step.
No literary publications or political arguments then will be of any avail to provoke or restraint the “irrepressible conflict.” Jefferson said:
sides with us in such a contest.” [Details.]
Then will they triumphantly sing those words sacred to poetry and freedom:
[Thomas] Jefferson said it was for you to determine whether those people should be free by the generous energies of your own minds, or the bloody process of a St. Domingo.
While attempting to retain our own, we are prevented from achieving their liberty. This is not the mission of the [then] Republican organization. But if your own [Thomas] Jefferson, the father and founder of the Democratic party, could say:
"Yet the hour of emancipation is advancing in the march of time; it will come!"—that the way was preparing, "under the auspices of Heaven, for a total emancipation, and that this is disposed, in the order of events, to be with the consent of the masters, rather than by their extirpation,"then may not I, as an American, a citizen, a man, express the wish, indulge the hope, and breathe the prayer, that the time will come when it can be said:
O'er the land of the free, with never a slave.