Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/362

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Political Writing Since 1850

sentatives in 1859. During the contest this fact was brought into the discussion. Thereupon a Virginia congressman declared that "one who consciously, deliberately, and of purpose lends his name and influence to the propagation of such writing is not only not fit to be Speaker, but he is not fit to live." Yet, strange to say, the particular passage which called forth this remark was a quotation from the Virginia Debates of 1831.

Between the extremes represented by Helper and Thomas Dew, there existed a moderate school of thought, which acknowledged the evils of slavery, especially the burden it imposed upon the whites, but deprecated any artificial attempt toward its abolition. This, it was held, time and natural causes would bring about. Such a writer was J. H. Hammond, of South Carolina. In his Letters on Slavery, written in reply to the criticisms of Thomas Clarkson, he conceded that slavery was more expensive than free labour, but that the remedy lay not in immediate abolition but in an increase in the density of the population, which would make the supply of free labour more available. Likewise George M. Weston, a native of Maine, who lived in Washington, pointed out, in his Progress of Slavery in the United States (1857), the steady encroachment of free labour upon slave labour along the border of the South, the ultimate advantage in the continuance of this process, and the purely political character of the demand for the extension of slavery into the territories of the Northwest. Such undoubtedly were the convictions of thousands; but they smacked too much of compromise in a decade when an increasing number of radicals, North and South, would yield not one jot or one tittle from their respective positions.

While Southern thought was being moulded into the unity of conservation, opposite tendencies were at work in the North and West. Trade-unionism took on new life about 1850, and William H. Sylvis, the first great figure in the American labour movement, began his agitation. Wilhelm Weitling, a German immigrant, introduced the ideas of Marxian socialism. In the demand for suffrage and broader legal rights for women, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, William Lloyd Garrison, Joseph Sayers, Henry Ward Beecher, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were leaders. Traditional political alignment was threatened by the American or Know Nothing movement, which sought