Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/867

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845
LITERARY NOTICES.

tant in the development of American education. The society will find a welcome among the general body of scientific men, and its proceedings, while perhaps not very widely read, will undoubtedly constitute a worthy contribution to American scholarship.

 

LITERARY NOTICES.

The Life of Joshua R. Giddings. By George W. Julian. Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co. Pp. 473. Price, $2.50.

Hardly anything can strike the student of history more impressively than the realizing sense which he gains on reading the story of one of the old heroes of the antislavery controversy, such as Mr. Giddings was, of the utter unlikeness of the conditions of the present time in this country and the questions with which it is now occupied, to those which prevailed before the war, within the active memory of men still in the vigor of life. The review furnishes an astounding revelation of the extent to which we have made history within a generation, and of the completeness of the overthrow that has overtaken a force that was once autocratic in its dominance. Mr. Giddings entered the national House of Representatives in December, 1838, and served there continuously till March 4, 1859. When his service began, the "twenty-first (or 'gag') rule," which forbade the discussion of slavery in the House, and under which the hearing of petitions against it was refused, had been in force two years, and John Quincy Adams was beginning the war against it which he pursued to ultimate victory. Mr. Giddings's attention had only been directed to the national importance of the slavery question in the previous year, and he and Mr. Wade, his law partner, afterward famous in the Senate, had joined in the formation of an antislavery society of four members. In the House of Representatives, John Quincy Adams and William Slade, of Vermont, were the two members whose views on slavery were in harmony with his. After their retirement, Mr. Giddings for a time stood alone. He early perceived the shape which the question was destined to assume, and made it his mission, as Mr. Julian remarks, "to watch the encroachments of slavery upon the rights of the people of the free States, and to hold the slave masters strictly to their own avowed principle, that the existence and continuance of slavery depended solely on the authority of the States in which it existed. Wherever he saw this principle violated, he felt it to be his duty to lift up his voice in its defense." Recognizing the constitutional guarantees, while he construed them with the utmost strictness, he never suggested interference within the sphere of State jurisdiction. He began his "defense," during his first session, with an attack on the slave trade in the District of Columbia. The direct consideration of the subject being forbidden, a bill making an appropriation for building a bridge across the Potomac, and sundry memorials against antislavery petitions, furnished the occasion for his argument; and no opportunity was neglected afterward to press the forbidden sentiments upon the attention of the legislators. He was "cut" in society; attempts were made to engage him in quarrels; he was threatened with bodily violence; and he bore all bravely and with dignity. A resolution of censure was passed against him without his being given an opportunity to define his position. He resigned at once, went back to his constituents, and was triumphantly re-elected, to return with a new commission to deliver his message more earnestly and bravely than before. At last he missed a renomination—not too soon, Mr. Julian thinks, as he surveys the record in the light of history—and was succeeded by another, with principles like his own. The dominating fact in his life was moral earnestness, which was the master key to his character, inspired and invigorated all his faculties, and assured him the confidence of his constituents. In Mr. Julian, his son-in-law, and a Congressman who also participated for many years in the antislavery controversy, he has found a most competent and appreciative biographer. Experience since the war has shown that our country is threatened by other evils, hardly less aggressive and arrogant than the one which Mr. Giddings fought; but resistance against them, under all discouragements, can not be more hopeless than his contention seemed during most of the time he was making it. The final triumph of the cause he advocated, over apparently