Speeches of Carl Schurz/07 The Bill of Indictment
THE BILL OF INDICTMENT.
SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE COOPER INSTITUTE, NEW
YORK, ON THE 13TH OF SEPTEMBER, 1860.
In the Presidential campaign of 1860 the Democratic party was divided into two fractions; the Southern wing, whose candidate was Mr. Breckinridge, and the Northern wing under the lead of Senator Douglas. Breckinridge had in the Northern States comparatively few adherents, so that he could not become dangerous to the success of the Republican cause. But the friends of Mr. Douglas endeavored to draw advantage from this very controversy in the Democratic party by representing Mr. Douglas as the champion of Northern feelings and interests, and by resting his claims to the Presidency on his individual merits and qualities. Mr. Douglas himself was travelling about making speeches, and had addressed a large concourse of people a few days previous to the Republican meeting of the 13th of September. These circumstances will explain the train of argument in the speech.
Mr. President and Gentlemen:
In a contest of great principles like that which is now agitating the country, I am little inclined to discuss the personal qualities of candidates; but when the individual merits of a man are set up as his principal claim to the highest and most responsible office in the Republic, it is natural that we should feel obliged to examine his history and character with more than ordinary care. It is a notorious fact that the friends of Judge Douglas, in the Northern States, solicit the vote of the people on the ground that he has done more for the freedom of the Territories, and that he is a truer champion of free labor, and, besides, a greater statesman, than any living individual. Thus a personal issue is urged upon us, and we are ready to accept it. This will be the subject of my remarks to-night. I shall not transgress the limits of propriety, but I am determined to call things by their right names. [Applause.]
What is it that entitles Judge Douglas to the high-sounding appellation: "the champion of freedom," or "the greatest of living statesmen?" Is it his past career, or is it his present position? You can survey the history of this "champion of freedom" at a single glance. The Judge has his free-soil record — what Northern pro-slavery man has not? But there is hardly a prominent man in political life who has taken more pains than he to disclaim and apologize for his early anti-slavery sentiments. So we may drop this subject. What follows is more instructive.
In 1820, the Missouri Compromise was framed as a sacred compact between the two sections of the Union. By virtue of that compromise Missouri was admitted as a Slave State, and Arkansas as a Slave State; and thus the Free North, as one party to the compact, paid down its price for the slavery prohibition North of 36° 30'. Was Mr. Douglas ever heard to express any doubt as to the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise, so long as it served to augment the number of Slave States? It was to him, as to all others, "a sacred and inviolable compact" — as sacred and inviolable as the Constitution itself; and he cursed the "ruthless hand" that should dare to break it down. When, after the Mexican war, the Territories acquired for this Union were to be organized, he was among the first and foremost who advocated the extension of the Missouri line across the whole continent. What would have been the result of that measure? In the Territories acquired from Mexico slavery was abolished and prohibited by local legislation, but the extension of the Missouri line was calculated to admit slavery into all that part of it which lies South of 36° 30'. Mark well: So long as the Missouri Compromise served to introduce Slave States, he did not dream of its unconstitutionality. When, by the extension of the Missouri line, free territory could be converted into slave territory, he found it so eminently convenient, so excellent an arrangement, that he not only proposed to preserve it in its original extent, but to run it across the whole continent, to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
But now the time arrives when Free States are to grow up under the guaranties of the same Missouri Compromise. A new light dawns upon Judge Douglas. He rises in the Senate chamber, and asserts that the Territory North of the Missouri line can no longer be exempted from slavery, because the exclusion of slavery from it — the very condition on which Missouri was admitted as a Slave State — was at war with the fundamental principles of the Constitution. The same man who had cursed as ruthless the hand that would violate the Missouri Compromise, as long as that compact was beneficial to slavery, tore it down with his own hands as soon as it was to serve the interests of free labor. And he is the truest "champion of freedom!" How wonderful a change! At the time when he proposed the extension of the Missouri line to the Pacific Ocean, he was either convinced of the unconstitutionality of that compromise, or he was not. If he was, how could he conscientiously propose the extension and perpetuation of a measure which he considered a crime against the Constitution? Were his conscience and his convictions leashed into silence by the interests of slavery? Or if he was not, how did it come to pass that he became so suddenly convinced of that unconstitutionality the very moment that the preservation and execution of that compromise would have advanced the interests of free labor? How did it happen that his convictions, in all their prompt and wonderful transformations, always coincided so admirably with the interests of slavery? This is indeed a most astonishing coincidence, and I leave it to your sagacity to draw your conclusions. [Laughter.]
But Mr. Douglas is still the "true champion of free
labor;" for it is asserted that the Nebraska Bill — the same
measure which breaks down all barriers to slavery — will
by that very operation introduce free labor into the
Territories. The thing is speedily brought to a practical
test. No sooner is the Nebraska Bill enacted, and the
Missouri restriction wiped out, than
are organized in the Slave States, especially in
Missouri, for the purpose of introducing slavery into Kansas.
The history of the Blue Lodges is familiar to you.
Lawless bands of armed invaders pour into Kansas, take
possession of the ballot-boxes, bowie-knife and revolver in
hand, and control the elections by fraud and violence.
Did Mr. Douglas ever utter a word of reproach or
condemnation against the border ruffians of Missouri? Did
he not most tenderly excuse their atrocities on the plea
of self-defence, while it was a notorious fact that their
organization had preceded that of the Free-State men?
And, mark well, that immigration was pro-slavery.
Other emigrant aid societies are organized in the Northern States. Large numbers of men go to Kansas, armed, indeed, for self-defence, as every pioneer will be, but with the bona fide intention of settling down upon the soil of that Territory as permanent inhabitants; and while burning houses and trails of blood mark the track of the border ruffians, flourishing farms and industrious towns spring up under the hands of the Free-State men. Do you remember how often Judge Douglas emptied the vials of his wrath and cast down denunciations upon the heads of free labor immigration? And, mark well, that immigration was anti-slavery.
A Legislature is set up by a band of lawless invaders,
mostly Missourians — set up by the most atrocious
lations of the ballot-box — set up in defiance of all the
rules of constitutional government; that Legislature
adopts the slave-code of Missouri as the laws of Kansas,
and adds to them laws so outrageous in their nature that
even Northern Democrats quailed under the opprobrium.
Do you remember that Judge Douglas recognized that
Legislature, although its criminal origin was manifest to
all, as the highest law-giving authority of the Territory
— and the laws enacted by them, although known to be
the offspring of fraud and violence, as the valid laws of
Kansas? Do you remember how he denounced every
one who would not submit as a rebel and a traitor? And,
mark well, that Legislature and those laws were pro-slavery.
The Free-State settlers of Kansas, then evidently a large majority of the inhabitants, go to work and frame a Constitution. That Constitution was gotten up in a way hardly more irregular than the Constitutions of many States. It was submitted to a vote of the people, and adopted by a large majority. Do you remember that Judge Douglas found no term of denunciation too vile to use against that Constitution, and that he stigmatized those who had framed it as traitors who must be struck down? And, mark well, that Constitution, the choice of the people of Kansas, was anti-slavery.
What a series of wonderful coincidences! [Laughter.] So far, whatever was calculated to benefit slavery in Kansas, Judge Douglas was sure to approve; whatever was calculated to serve the cause of free-labor, Judge Douglas was sure to denounce. But I must not forget that he brought forward other reasons for his acts than the interest of slavery. Ah, indeed! Is it so extraordinary that a man of ability who stoops to do a mean act, should have wit enough to disguise it? Compare his plausibilities with those coincidences, and you will, with me, come to the conclusion that this "champion of free labor," if he really was an enemy to slavery, loved his enemies much better than a good Christian ought to do. [Loud laughter.]
But we will be just to him. Now we arrive at a period in his history in which he seems to have acquired some title to the esteem of his countrymen. We are so little accustomed to see that kind of statesmen do a fair thing, that our surprise is apt to stimulate our gratitude. I allude to the position assumed by Judge Douglas in the struggle about the Lecompton Constitution. A packed Convention has framed a Constitution fastening slavery upon Kansas, and refuses to submit it to a vote of the people. The President in a message urges the admission of Kansas as a State, under that Constitution as it stands. Judge Douglas, together with the Republicans, resists the measure; not, indeed, because he is opposed to slavery — for he solemnly and emphatically protests that he "does not care whether slavery be voted up or voted down" — but because it is uncertain whether the Lecompton Constitution embodies the will of the people. The slave power is arrayed against him, and for the first time in his life the claim of his being a "champion of freedom" seems to rise from the level of a ridiculous absurdity. I should feel little tempted to detract from the credit he gained by his attitude on that occasion, if the facts which preceded and followed it were not of so unmistakable a nature as to open our eyes to the peculiar concatenation of circumstances which made it almost impossible for him to act otherwise.
And here again we notice a series of most striking coincidences. It so happened that just about the time when the Lecompton question was before Congress, Douglas's term as a United States Senator was about to expire. He knew well, his popularity at home rested upon the popular belief that he really did work for the cause of free labor. How stupid must the man have been not to see that, saddled with the Lecompton Constitution, it would have been impossible for him to keep up that delusion. So he assumed the mask of an advocate of popular rights, coquetted with the Republicans in order to disarm their opposition, and went before the people of Illinois as a candidate for re-election to the Senate. What right have I to speak of his assuming a mask? I have that right, if I can show that he threw it off as soon as his object was gained. [Applause.]
Review his acts in connection with the Kansas struggle. Slavery and free labor had for years waged their fierce war about that unfortunate Territory with doubtful success. Now, at last, no sane man could any longer close his eyes to the fact, that, when the Lecompton outrage was perpetrated, the Free-State men outnumbered their opponents almost ten to one. Their victory might be delayed, but was no longer doubtful. How had Douglas acted, as long as slavery had a chance to gain the preponderance? Need I remind you of the unwavering solicitude with which he defended the border ruffians; of the fierceness with which he denounced the Free-State immigration; of the virulence with which be upheld the border-ruffian code of laws; of the promptness with which he put his foot upon the will of the people expressed in the Free-State Constitution; of his brutal, cynic sneers at the agonies of a people in distress? Was the election of the border-ruffian Legislature, the enactment of the border-ruffian code of laws, a less flagrant violation of popular rights than the Lecompton Constitution? How could he uphold the former, and claim any credit for opposing the latter? Here is another most wonderful coincidence. Just so long as slavery had a chance in Kansas, Douglas stood upon the side of slavery. But no sooner was the victory of freedom sure, than Douglas was sure to stand upon the strongest side. [Applause.]
And now he is held up to our admiration as the "true champion of freedom." After having done more than any other man in perpetrating the outrage, what merit is there in helping to prevent its final consummation, when it has become manifest that, in spite of him, that consummation has become impossible? Look at it. The Nebraska Bill, as I heard my friend Grimshaw in Illinois illustrate it, had set fire to the edifice of Territorial liberty. The Republican fire companies are vigorously at work; the Republican engines are playing with full force, and then comes the very incendiary, Douglas, with a little teaspoonful of Anti-Lecompton water [laughter], throws it into the flames, and then swells himself up and claims to have extinguished the conflagration — and so he goes before the people of Illinois as the "true champion of freedom." [Applause and laughter.]
And this he would hardly have had the courage to do had not, as is now known to all of us, the indignant threats of the gallant Broderick overawed him when he was about to compromise with Buchanan. [Applause.]
I repeat, I would never stoop to question the motives which actuated him in the Lecompton struggle, had not the acts which preceded it made his honesty doubtful; and had not those that followed it precluded all belief in the sincerity of his repentance. If he was honest, you will be obliged to confess, it is exceedingly hard to prove it on him. [Laughter and applause.]
On the strength of this exploit, he succeeded in carrying his point in Illinois; not indeed by a popular majority, for that was against him, but by an old gerrymandering apportionment. It was one of those lugubrious victories which consist in narrow escapes from total annihilation. [Laughter and applause.] But his seat is regained; and now he throws a wistful eye upon a higher seat, and remembers at once that the Democratic road to the White House leads through the slaveholding States. So he turns his face Southward without delay, and sets out on a trip down the Mississippi. He is at once betrayed into making a few remarks, here and there, to spontaneous gatherings. [Laughter.] Suddenly we find the man who had tried to delude the people of Illinois into the belief that, under the Kansas and Nebraska Bill, the people had a right to exclude slavery, in the South busily apologizing for it; and now behold the old Douglas again wielding the weapon of sophistry with unblushing boldness, and endeavoring to make his doctrine of popular sovereignty palatable to the Southern stomach.
The development of the popular sovereignty doctrine is one of the most instructive chapters in the history of our days. It shows how easily the popular mind can be obfuscated by a sophistical plausibility, and how easily correct principles are lost sight of in the confused struggle of interests and aspirations. Future generations will scrutinize with curious astonishment the history of our days, and wonder at the temporary success of so transparent a fraud. [Applause.] Permit me a brief digression.
Popular sovereignty, in the true sense of the term, means the sovereignty of all individuals, so regulated by law as to protect the rights and liberties of any one against the encroachments of any other, and so organized by political institutions as to give a common expression to the collective will. Its natural basis is the equality of the rights of all men. Its natural end is the protection of all individuals in the exercise of their rights and in the enjoyment of their liberties. Hence it precludes the idea of slavery in all its forms. Apply this true popular sovereignty to the Territories, and we are willing to accept it — nay, it is the very thing which we are contending for. But is this what Douglas, in the Nebraska Bill, contemplated? By no means. His popular sovereignty is based upon the assumption that one class of men has the power — has the right — to strip another class of their natural rights, and to hold them as slaves.
For argument's sake, let us follow him in his course of reasoning, and suppose the white population of the Territories had the right to hold a portion of the inhabitants as property. So, we have to lower the standard of popular sovereignty one degree. Listen to the language of the Kansas and Nebraska Bill:
"It is the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any State or Territory, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States."
At first, one would suppose this bill gave the people of the Territories the sovereign right to introduce slavery, provided always that slavery could not go there unless introduced by a positive act of Territorial legislation. Is that what Douglas's principle of popular sovereignty contemplated? By no means. For, according to him, a slaveholder may introduce his slave property, and thereby introduce and establish slavery in a Territory, without that positive act of Territorial legislation.
We have, therefore, to lower the standard of popular sovereignty another degree! One would suppose that slavery so being admitted at first, the people of the Territory would have at least the sovereign right to remove, and exclude it by a positive act of Territorial legislation. Is that what Judge Douglas's principle of popular sovereignty contemplated? By no means! He told you at first that this was a question to be decided by the Supreme Court; then he told you that the sovereignty of a Territory remains in abeyance, suspended in the United States, in trust for the people, until they shall be admitted into the Union as a State; and, at last, after the Illinois campaign, he dropped the expression "excluding slavery" altogether. It is significant that the attempts of the people of Nebraska and Kansas to exclude slavery by law were promptly put down by the vetoes of the Governors of those Territories, vetoes exercised by virtue of the power conferred on the Territorial Governments by Douglas's own Nebraska Bill.
Thus we have descended two great steps from the true idea of popular sovereignty, without having reached Judge Douglas's great principle; and you will perceive that the true popular sovereignty has already disappeared long ago. But let us lower the standard of popular sovereignty still another degree, and we may hope that the deeper we sink the closer we may approach Judge Douglas's position. At last we find him, not with a principle, but with an assumption. "It matters not," said he, in his Freeport speech in August, 1858:
"It matters not what way the Supreme Court may hereafter decide as to the abstract question, whether slavery may go or may not go into a Territory under the Constitution, the people have the lawful means to introduce it or exclude it as they please; for the reason that slavery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere unless it is supported by local police regulations. Those police regulations can only be established by the local Legislature; and if the people are opposed to slavery, they will elect representatives to that body who will by unfriendly legislation, prevent the introduction of it into their midst."
This, then, is the great principle of popular sovereignty. [Laughter.] It contemplates, not the general exercise and enjoyment of equal rights; not that slavery cannot go into a Territory unless the people introduce it by law; not that the people have the sovereign right to exclude it by a direct act of Territorial legislation; but that they may annoy and embarrass the slaveholder in the enjoyment of his slave property, so as to tease slavery out of the Territory, if they can. If, ten years ago, a man had undertaken to call this popular sovereignty, the people would have suspected him of serious mental derangement. Is not really this kind of popular sovereignty, according to Mr. Lincoln's striking illustration, "as thin as the homœopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had been starved to death?" [Renewed laughter.] It would seem impossible to make it thinner, and yet Mr. Douglas undertakes this incredible task. After having tried to delude the voters of Illinois into the belief that, consistently with this position, the people of the Territory may, in some roundabout way, remove slavery, this "true champion of freedom" goes South, and proves there that slavery has a legal existence in the Territories. We find him at New Orleans; and the same man who at Freeport had told the people of Illinois, that it mattered not what the Supreme Court might decide, as to the abstract question, whether slavery may or may not go into a Territory — the same man speaks to the people of the south as follows: —
"I, in common with the Democracy of Illinois, accept the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Dred Scott, as an authoritative interpretation of the Constitution. In accordance with that decision, we hold that slaves are property; and hence on an equal footing with other property; and the owner of a slave has the same right to move into a Territory, and carry his slave property with him, as the owner of any other property has to go there and carry his property."
If there could be any misunderstanding as to the meaning of this sentence, he has removed the possibility of it by an expression he used in debate in the Senate on the 23d of February, 1859: —
"Slaves, according to the Dred Scott decision, being property, stand on an equal footing with all other kinds of property; and there is just as much obligation on the part of the Territorial Legislature to protect slaves, as every other species of property, as there is to protect horses, cattle, dry-goods, and liquors."
There is Douglas, as the candidate for the Senatorship of Illinois, who does not care what way the Supreme Court may decide; and here is Douglas, the candidate for the Presidency, who declares the decision of the Supreme Court to be the authoritative interpretation of the Constitution.
What, then, did the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case decide? Let me quote from Howard's official report some of the points laid down in that case: —
"Every citizen has a right to take with him into the Territory any article of property which the Constitution of the United States recognizes as property.
"The Constitution of the United States recognizes slaves as property, and pledges the Federal Government to defend it.
"That Act of Congress, therefore, prohibiting a citizen of the United States taking with him his slaves, when he removes into the Territory in question to reside, is an act of authority over private property which is not warranted by the Constitution.
"While it remains a Territory, Congress may legislate over it within the scope of its Constitutional powers, in relation to citizens of the United States, and may establish a Territorial government, and the form of the local government must be regulated by the direction of Congress, but with powers not exceeding those which Congress itself, by the Constitution, is authorized to exercise over the citizens of the United States in respect to the rights of property."
If this needs any elucidation, I may furnish it by quoting a few more sentences from the decision: —
"No word can be found in the Constitution which gives Congress more power over slave property, or entitles property of that kind to less protection than property of any other description; the only power conferred is the power coupled with the duty of guarding and protecting the owner in his rights."
This, then, is what Douglas calls the authoritative interpretation of the Constitution, and he well understands what it means; for has he not said that there is just as much obligation on the part of the Territorial Legislature to protect property in slaves as there is to protect any other species of property? Well, but what becomes of his great principle of popular sovereignty? What becomes even of that homœopathic decoction called unfriendly legislation? Congress can, according to the Dred Scott decision, which Douglas acknowledges to be "the authoritative interpretation of the Constitution," confer no power which itself does not possess. The only power it possesses in regard to slave property is the power of guarding and protecting the owner in his rights, and that power is coupled with the duty to do so. Hence the only power Congress can confer upon the Territorial government, in relation to slave property, is the power coupled with the duty of guarding and protecting the owner in his rights.
Thus we are obliged to lower the standard of popular sovereignty still another degree, in order to reach Douglas's great principle. [Laughter.] It does not even consist in the right of the people to tease slavery out of a Territory: it consists in the power of a Territorial Legislature, coupled with the duty to pass acts for the protection of slavery, but by no means against it. The assumed power to pass unfriendly laws seems to be changed into the duty to pass friendly laws. I call this popular sovereignty with a vengeance! It is like mock-turtle soup — there is mock enough, but not a particle of turtle. [Applause and laughter.]
It is true, Judge Douglas was in the habit of quibbling a little about the meaning of the Dred Scott decision; but the Wickliffe resolution, adopted by his friends at Baltimore, has helped him over his difficulties. It is to the following effect:
"Resolved, That it is in accordance with the true interpretation of the Cincinnati platform, that, during the existence of a Territorial Government, the measure of restriction, whatever it may be, imposed by the Federal Constitution, on the powers of the Territorial Legislatures, over the subject of domestic relations, as the same has been or may hereafter be finally determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, shall be respected by good citizens, and enforced with promptness and fidelity by every branch of the Federal Government."
To all of which, Judge Douglas, in his letter of acceptance, most graciously assents.
We hear no longer of the "rights of the people of the Territories to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way," but now, "of the measure of restriction imposed upon the Territorial Legislatures over the subject of domestic relations." The change is very significant; what are these restrictions? They are, or may hereafter be, finally determined by the Supreme Court of the United States. Let me remind you that previous to the election of Mr. Buchanan, whenever the question was put as to the right of property in slaves under a Territorial Government, Judge Douglas's regular reply was, "that is a question for the courts to decide." That answer was the forerunner of the Dred Scott decision. We are now told, "as shall hereafter be finally determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." What will follow? The restriction, already finally determined, we know; it is, that Government cannot impair the right of property in slaves, but has the power, coupled with the duty, to protect and guard the owner in his rights. "Restrictions which may hereafter be finally determined!" Heaven knows what they will be. But, "whatever they may be," Douglas is pledged to enforce them "with promptness and fidelity."
So it turns out that his popular sovereignty fastens slavery more irremovably upon a Territory, as such, than it is fastened upon South Carolina herself. The people of South Carolina in their sovereign capacity may abolish slavery whenever they see fit. The people of Kansas in their Territorial condition cannot. The people of South Carolina have the right to discourage slavery by unfriendly legislation; the people of Kansas are bound to guard and protect the slave owner in his rights, and are restricted from passing laws violating that obligation. The Federal Government has no power to interfere in South Carolina, but as soon as Kansas dares to disregard the "restriction," Judge Douglas, if he should become President of the United States, would stand pledged to enforce that restriction "with promptness and fidelity." And after having struck down the freedom of the Territories, this "champion of freedom" will sneak behind the judicial despotism of the Supreme Court, and, like the murderer of Banquo, tell you, "Thou canst not say I did it!" [Cries of shame.]
But I say he did do it. [Applause.] The character of his doctrine of popular sovereignty was determined by the decision of the question, whether or not slave property, as such, could be introduced into a Territory before slavery was established there by a positive act of Territorial legislation. If this question was decided in the affirmative, the doctrine that slavery is the creature of local law, was totally abandoned. If slavery could exist in a Territory without being established by local law, then it existed there by a law higher than local law, and that could be no other than the Constitution of the United States. In this case, every sane man must see that slavery cannot be removed from a Territory by a mere act of the Territorial Legislature, whether direct or indirect; and Mr. Douglas need not affect any surprise at the doctrines his Southern opponents hold. They are the natural, the legitimate, the logical offspring of his own position. When he conceded that all-important point — and he did concede it — this "champion of freedom" was either aware of the consequence, or he was not. If he was not, he is liable to the charge of gross stupidity; if he was, he is liable to the charge of deliberate betrayal of the cause of free labor, covered with the grossest hypocrisy. In what character do you like your "champion of freedom" best? As one who has not sagacity enough to defend it, or as one who deliberately betrays it? There are cases where stupidity is no less criminal than hypocrisy. [Applause.]
This, then, is the "great principle of popular sovereignty." [Laughter.] This is "leaving the people perfectly free to form and regulate their own domestic institutions in their own way." I am warranted in saying that, if ever a gigantic, unscrupulous, shameless fraud was attempted upon a free people, it is this "great principle" — if history ever furnished an example of unblushing, scandalous, revolting hypocrisy, it is this "true championship of freedom." To fasten slavery irremovably upon the Territories, and call it "leaving the people perfectly free to regulate their own domestic institutions!" — to strip the people of every right to regulate their own affairs, and to call it popular sovereignty! Strike the word "demagogism" out of your dictionaries, if you do not want to apply it here. [Applause.] But, although we may understand how inordinate, desperate ambition should resort to such frauds, it remains truly wonderful that so many thousands have suffered themselves to be deceived by them. [Applause.]
Is it surprising that the "champion of freedom," who defends such theories, should be found a little unreliable in practice? How clamorous he was against the Lecompton Constitution! What a terrible idea, that a Territory should be forced into the Union as a State, with a Constitution not approved by the people! But now listen: At last the people of Kansas frame a new Constitution; it is submitted to the people; it is approved by a large majority. All conditions of admission rigorously complied with, they knock at the door of the Union, and we expect to see our "true champion of freedom" rush to the rescue with unabated zeal for his great point is gained. But where is Douglas? The House of Representatives votes in favor of the admission; the decision of the question depends upon the action of the Senate. The matter is referred to the Committee on Territories. That committee consists of seven members; Douglas is one of them, but he does not attend their meetings. The vote of the committee stands three to three. Douglas's vote can decide the question in the committee, in favor of the admission of Kansas, and it is well known how far the action of a committee goes to determine the action of the Senate; but Douglas does not vote! [Cries of "Shame!"] The question remains in this suspended state for some time. The country looks for the action of the committee; the action of the committee is blocked by a tie; but Douglas does not vote! Douglas, who had declaimed so fiercely against the admission, under a Constitution which the people did not want, does not vote when the admission is applied for with a Constitution which the people do want. Douglas, the "true champion of freedom," holding the fate of free Kansas in that committee in his hands; Douglas does not vote! How is this? When he opposed the Lecompton Constitution, he was a candidate for re-election to the Senate. But things have changed since. Douglas now acts as a candidate for the Presidency. The same man, who, in 1857, had to propitiate the free people of Illinois, has now to propitiate the people of the South; and instead of deciding the report of the committee in favor of the admission of Kansas as a Free State, he is busily engaged in preparing his 15th of May speech, which is to convince the slaveholders that his great principle of popular sovereignty is working favorably for the introduction of Slave States — the Free State of Kansas is kept out of the Union once more, and he is held up as the "true champion of freedom." Poor freedom, then! The champion's belt lies like a halter around her neck. [Loud applause.]
Here I will stop. I might go on for hours, piling fact upon fact, conclusion upon conclusion, argument upon argument, until the putrid accumulation of fraud and hypocrisy exposed to the sunlight would torture your very nostrils. [Laughter.] It is enough. I will dismiss Mr. Douglas "the true champion of freedom" and devote a few remarks to Mr. Douglas, "the greatest of living statesmen." [Renewed laughter and cheers.]
True statesmanship can rest upon no other basis than an intimate familiarity with the philosophy of government, and a thorough knowledge of the sources and effects of political institutions. It can have no other aim and end than to secure the rights and liberties, and to promote the interests, of the people by measures based upon sound constitutional principles. [Applause.] Let us see how "the greatest of living statesmen" stands the test. I shall confine myself to a few facts of vital importance.
It is one of the striking peculiarities of our Federal polity, that the different branches of our General Government enjoy a certain independence in the exercise of the functions respectively assigned to them. In order to guard against the dangers and abuses which might arise from that independence, the powers necessary for the exercise of those functions had to be carefully limited and strictly defined. Thus a system of checks and balances was established in our Constitution, which is calculated to render usurpation impossible. It is, indeed, said that the Executive branch of our Government is responsible to the people, but that responsibility consists only in its being liable to impeachment; for the Secretaries of the President do not, like the Ministers of the Crown of England, sit upon the benches of the Legislature, subject to the immediate control of the parliamentary majority. Our Executive, unlike that of other constitutional governments, is stable for a term of four years, removable only on the conviction of treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors. But, already, Jefferson has told you that impeachment is a mere scarecrow. So the Executive moves independently within the circle of its own powers. It is, therefore, of vital importance that this circle should be strictly drawn, and those powers of the Legislature which form a necessary supplement to the powers of the Executive, be jealously preserved.
If this system of checks and balances is of general necessity, it is doubly indispensable in all matters relating to the administration of our foreign policy. It is natural and proper that, in all diplomatic transactions with foreign governments, our Executive should be intrusted with a certain discretion. But the Cabinet of the President not being subject to our Legislature in the same manner as the British Ministry is to Parliament, it is essential that, in the absence of this immediate control, another system of checks should be placed around the Executive power. This was done in the Constitution, by making, not, indeed, the diplomatic transactions themselves, but their ends and results, immediately dependent upon the direct action of Congress. Thus, no treaty can be made and consummated without the approval of the Senate by a two-thirds vote; and Congress alone shall have power to declare war. Why was the war-making power not intrusted to the Executive? It is hardly necessary to describe to you the part which wars have played in the history of the world — the blood of millions spilled, not seldom for paltry causes; the happiness of generations destroyed; the prosperity of countries blighted for centuries; the rights of men trodden under foot; the progress of civilization set back for ages! Is it wonderful that the framers of our Constitution should not have intrusted a single officer with the formidable power of bringing all these calamities upon the Republic — an officer, too, who, for a certain time, does not stand under the immediate control of the representatives of the people? The war-making power — one most extensively involving the interests of the nation — is certainly one of the highest attributes of sovereignty, and it was most wisely reserved to that branch of the Government in which the sovereignty of the people is most comprehensively represented. The power to declare war being withheld from the Executive, and expressly lodged in Congress, it follows that the Executive can have no authority to use warlike measures unless specially authorized by Congress; for what would the exclusive power to declare war be worth to Congress, if the power to use belligerent measures without special authority — that is, to bring on or make war — were vested in the Executive? This is one of the distinguishing features of our constitutional system. It cannot be changed without breaking down the safeguards of our national security. No man who understands the spirit of American institutions will fail to see this, and he who does not, may be said not to comprehend the tendency of our fundamental laws. Is it not surprising that we should find such a man in him who is held up to us as "the greatest of living statesmen?"
For a number of years, wherever there was a difficulty between this and a foreign government, Mr. Douglas endeavored again and again to invest the President with the power of using warlike measures at his own discretion, without waiting for the action of Congress. Here is a bill introduced by Douglas, on the 24th of May, 1858: —
"Be it enacted, &c., That in cases of flagrant violations of the laws of nations by outrage upon the flag or soil, or citizens of the United States, or upon their property, under circumstances requiring prompt redress, and when, in the opinion of the President, delay would be incompatible with the honor and dignity of the Republic, the President is hereby authorized to employ such force as HE may deem necessary to prevent the perpetration of such outrages, and to obtain just redress and satisfaction for the same when perpetrated; and it shall be his duty to lay the facts of each case, with the reason for his action in the premises, before Congress, at the earliest practicable moment, for such further action thereon as Congress may direct."
This bill was introduced at a time when vessels belonging to the British navy, in the Gulf of Mexico, undertook to stop and search American merchantmen, on the suspicion of their being slavers. The bill did not pass; but whenever there was an opportunity, be it in a discussion on appropriations for the navy, or on the occasion of some foreign difficulty, he again and again tried to bring about the fatal transfer of power. It was on the 18th of February, 1859, when he disclosed his views more fully and emphatically than ever before. The President, in a special message, asked for special authority to protect American citizens on the transit route. Then Mr. Douglas expressed himself as follows:
"I think the President ought to have the power to redress sudden injuries upon our citizens, or outrages upon our flag, without waiting for the action of Congress. The Executive of every nation on earth has that authority, under their respective forms of government. * * * I go further, sir. I would intrust the Executive with the authority when an outrage is perpetrated upon our ships and commerce, to punish it instantly, when he thinks the interest and the honor of the nation require prompt action. I would make this principle general in its application. I desire the President of the United States to have as much authority to protect American citizens and the American flag abroad as the Executive of every other civilized nation on earth possesses. * * * I am willing to adopt the principle that this authority shall be vested in the President of the United States, as a rightful authority and a permanent rule of action, applicable all over the world, whenever HE thinks American interest and American honor require it to be exerted. * * * When it is known that our Executive has the same authority outside of the United States that the British Premier and the French Emperor, or the head of any other nation, possesses, you will find there will be a less number of outrages," &c.
If Mr. Douglas had brought forward propositions like this in the heat of debate, aroused by warlike excitement, we might excuse him on the plea that his temper ran away with his judgment. But the frequent, deliberate, persistent reiteration of these views, must urge the conviction upon us that they have become with him a settled political doctrine. Did he ever consider the extent and consequences of the change he demands? Does he know what it means, that the President shall have the power, without waiting for the action of Congress, to use the army and navy when he — not when Congress, but when he — thinks the interests of the country require it? Suppose the President be a man of excitable temper — of more valor than discretion — or a man of inordinate ambition — or a wily politician, unscrupulous enough to involve the country in war in order to divert popular attention from home difficulties. Suppose such a President has the power to use the armed forces of the United States when he thinks fit. Will not our peace and security be entirely at the mercy of his temper, his ambition, or his unscrupulousness?
This is not so dangerous, says Mr. Douglas, for "not every belligerent act leads to war." No, certainly not; but if there is anything in the world apt to lead to war, it is a belligerent act. [Laughter.] It is true, according to Mr. Douglas's bill, the President will have to report to Congress "at the earliest practicable moment;" but will not the President be able, by an indiscreet use of the army or navy, to involve the country in war, to array nation against nation, long before that "earliest practicable moment" arrives? It is true Congress will, after a while, have power to stop the war; but are you not aware that ours is a government which depends not always on a calm public opinion, but sometimes also on the passions of the people? If once, by the measures of the President, we are in active hostilities — if once the intoxicating music of artillery has started the warlike enthusiasm of the people — if once the fighting spirit of the masses is aroused by the sight of blood — will not then what was commenced against the judgment of the people be pushed on by their passions?
Mr. Douglas urged his proposition as often as there was a speck of war in the horizon. But those difficulties with Great Britain and the Central American Republics, for the prosecution of which he demanded that the Executive be invested with power to use warlike measures, have been settled by diplomatic transactions. Our peaceful relations with foreign governments were hardly disturbed. Not a drop of blood was shed. The honor of the Republic remained intact, the Constitution inviolate. Suppose Mr. Douglas's notions had prevailed, and he had been President of the United States, clothed with the discretionary power he demanded, I ask you most seriously, and invite you to ponder the question, what would have been the result then? How many outrages, real or imaginary, would he have punished with the army or navy, "without waiting for the action of Congress?" How often would he, unrestrained by Congress, have deemed instant redress necessary? Into how many follies would his childish hatred of Great Britain have betrayed him? In how many wars would his sensation policy have involved us within these last few years? With the blood of your sons, you would have paid the price of his indiscretions. Let the President have the power that Mr. Douglas demands for him, and the question of peace or war, of prosperity or desolation, will depend upon the temper of a single individual. Put Mr. Douglas in the Presidential chair, and give him, as he demands, the power of the French Emperor, and he will furnish not the prudence, but certainly the arbitrariness.
But he contends that our Executive must have that power, because the Executive of every other nation has it. Indeed! Does he not know that just there is the difference between our system of government and those of other countries? [Cheers.] Did it never occur to him that the establishment of imperial power in this Republic would require the entire overthrow of our system of checks and balances? Does he not know that, even in the hands of a British Premier, this power is less formidable than it would be in the hands of a President, since the British Premier is subject to the immediate control of a parliamentary majority, and liable to be voted down and dismissed at any moment, which the President and his Secretary of State are not? Oh, "greatest of living statesmen," if thou dost not know that, every sweet little schoolboy can tell thee. [Laughter.] But there you see him, "in the fullness of his ignorance of this vast subject, in the maturity of his incapacity to apprehend its merits" [laughter], as Lord Brougham would style it, attempting to trample down the constitutional safeguards which surround the liberties and the security of the nation. Such ignorance is dangerous when coupled with such pretensions. Let that "greatest of living statesmen" study awhile the peculiar features which distinguish the republican government of America from the monarchical governments of the Old World. Give him an opportunity to learn that an American President or Secretary of State was never intended to be a British Premier or a French Emperor. Let him learn to appreciate that system of nice balances of power in our Constitution, which is the principal safeguard of our freedom and security. But do not speak of placing him, such as he is, in the office of highest responsibility. If you want a safe man to administer your laws, select him among those who understand their spirit; not one who means to cushion his Presidential chair with imperial powers, and who would take delight in playing like a reckless boy with the clubs of Hercules. [Applause.]
It is my suspicion that Mr. Douglas tried to effect that centralization of power in the hands of the President, expecting to be President himself, and that then he would use it for the purpose of plunging the country into warlike enterprises to result in the conquest of Cuba and a part of Mexico, which policy of conquest would relieve him of the difficulties in which his position upon the slavery question has involved him. I give this as my suspicion. You may judge for yourselves whether it is supported by any moral evidence growing out of his past career and present situation. But the measure he urged and advocated is so dangerous and detestable in itself, that no ulterior design can make it more damnable. It certainly is one of the acts dictated by the evident desire to retrieve the lost favor of the slavery propagandists by outdoing them in everything not immediately connected with the Territorial question. This may be considered a grave charge, and I will substantiate it at once, for in these attempts Judge Douglas's statesmanship shines with more than ordinary lustre. [Laughter.]
John Brown had made his insurrectionary attempt in Virginia. The Republicans openly disapproved of the act, and denounced it in good faith, as they would disapprove and denounce every interference with the laws and institutions of other States as a violation of the spirit of our institutions which furnish for every evil a lawful remedy. But the South was excited, and Douglas saw a chance for himself. He pounced upon it with almost indecent eagerness, morbidly anxious to anticipate the action of the committee on the Harper's Ferry affair, which was expected to offer propositions applicable to the case. On the 22d of January, 1860, he introduced the following resolution in the Senate:
"Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary be instructed to report a bill for the protection of each State and Territory in the Union against invasion by the authorities or inhabitants of any other State or Territory, and for the suppression and punishment of conspiracies or combinations in any State or Territory with intent to invade, assail, or molest, the government, property, or institutions, of any other State or Territory of the Union."
The true intent and meaning of this resolution was made plain by the speech with which the Judge accompanied it. After having endeavored to show that the Constitution confers upon our Federal Government the power to do what the resolution contemplates, he then defines his object as follows:
"Sir, I hold that it is not only necessary to use the military power when the actual case of invasion shall occur, but to authorize the judicial department of the Government to suppress all conspiracies and combinations in the several States with intent to invade a State, or molest or disturb its Government, its peace, its citizens, its property, or its institutions. You must suppress the conspiracy, the combination with intent to do the act, and then you will suppress it in advance. * * * I demand that the Constitution be executed in good faith, so as to punish and suppress every combination either to invade a State, or to molest its inhabitants, or to disturb its property, or to subvert its institutions and its government. I believe this can be effectually done by authorizing the United States Courts in the several States to take jurisdiction of the offence, and punish the violation of the law with appropriate punishments."
So much about the way in which the combinations can be and ought to be suppressed and punished. Now, what and where are the combinations?
"Sir," says the Judge, "what were the causes which produced the Harper's Ferry outrage? Without stopping to adduce the evidence in detail, I have no hesitancy in expressing my firm and deliberate conviction that the Harper's Ferry crime was the natural, logical, and inevitable result of the doctrines and teachings of the Republican party, as explained and enforced in their platform, their partisan presses, their pamphlets and books, and especially in the speeches of their leaders, in and out of Congress. * * * The great principle that underlies the Republican party is violent, irreconcilable, eternal warfare upon the institution of American slavery with a view to its ultimate extinction throughout the land."
This language is plain. There is the dangerous combination with intent to carry on a violent warfare against the institutions of other States. Now, let us see what the Judge is going to do with the unfortunate combination to which, I am sorry to say, most of us belong:
"Sir," says the Judge, "give us such a law as the Constitution contemplates and authorizes, and I will show the Senator from New York that there is a Constitutional mode of repressing the irrepressible conflict. I will open the prison door, and allow the conspirators against the peace of the Republic and the domestic tranquillity of other States to select their cells, wherein to drag out a miserable life as a punishment for their crimes against the peace of society."
But, in order to remove all doubt as to what the conspiracy and combination is, he proceeds:
"Can any man say to us that, although this outrage has been perpetrated at Harper's Ferry, there is no danger of its recurrence? Sir, is not the Republican party still embodied, organized, confident of success, and defiant in its pretensions? Does it not now hold and proclaim the same creed as before the invasion? Those doctrines remain the same. Those teachings are being poured into the minds of men throughout the country by means of speeches and pamphlets and books, and through partisan presses. The causes that produced the Harper's Ferry invasion are now in active operation. * * * Mr. President, the mode of preserving peace is plain. This system of sectional warfare must cease. The Constitution has given the power; and all we ask of Congress is to give the means, and we, by indictments and convictions in the Federal Courts of the several States will make such examples of the leaders of such conspiracies as will strike terror into the hearts of others; and there will be an end of this crusade. Sir, we must check it by crushing out the conspiracy and combination; and then there can be safety."
I confess that, when I read that speech and the resolution in defence of which it was made, I stood horror-struck — not as though I feared that a Congress could be found so degenerate as to pass such a law, but because a Senator had been found who had the effrontery to advocate it in the open halls of an American Legislature. [Loud applause.] This is not a mere figure of speech. I do not exaggerate. Only look at it. A treasonable attempt has been committed. The offenders are punished. Mr. Douglas introduces a proposition for a law intended to prevent a repetition of the attempt. He pretends to discover the origin of the treasonable attempt in the opinions and doctrines of a great national party. He charges that party with waging a sectional warfare and crusade against the institutions of some of the States, and declares that this crusade is carried on by speeches, pamphlets, books, and partisan presses — by ideas being poured into the minds of the people. He declares that there can be no peace as long as those causes which produced the treasonable attempt remain in active operation. He proposes to check this crusade by crushing out the conspiracies and combinations by which it is carried on; and the means by which he intends to crush them out are indictments and convictions in the Federal Courts, making such examples of the leaders as will strike terror into the hearts of others. He proposes to open prison-cells for them, wherein to drag out a miserable life. And who are the criminals thus to be brought to a terrible punishment? The men who dare to think and say that human slavery is wrong. This is the proposition submitted to the Senate of the American Republic — not by the King of Naples, not by the Vizier of the Turkish Sultan, not by the Chief of Police of the Russian Czar, not by one of the terrorists of the French Revolution — but by an American Senator, on the 23d of July, 1860. I will not stoop to defend the Republican party against his accusations. They are of so ridiculous, so preposterous a nature, as not to call for the serious notice of any candid man [Applause.] But no matter. Let us embody the intent and meaning of Mr. Douglas's resolution and speech in the shape of a law. It will probably read as follows:
"Sec. 1. Be it enacted, &c., That if any person or persons, residing in any State or Territory, shall unlawfully combine or conspire together, with intent to invade, assail, or molest the government, inhabitants, property, or institutions, of any other State or Territory, or if any person or persons, with intent as aforesaid, shall counsel, advise, or attempt to procure any riot, invasion, unlawful assembly, or combination, whether such conspiracy, threatening, counsel, advice, or attempt, shall have the proposed effect or not, he or they shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor; and upon conviction before any Court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding ---- dollars, or by imprisonment during a term not less than ---- years, nor exceeding ---- years; and further, at the discretion of the court, may be holden to find security for his or their good behaviour, in such sum and for such time as the court may direct."
This section would cover the conspiracies and combinations themselves. But Douglas says that such treasonable things will be repeated as long as the causes from which they spring remain in active operation. He therefore wants to crush out the causes; which may be done by section second:
"Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That if any person, inhabitant of any one State or Territory, shall write, print, utter, or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered, or published, or shall knowingly or willingly authorize or aid in writing, printing, uttering, or publishing, any scandalous or malicious writing or writings against the government, inhabitants, laws, or institutions of other States or Territories, with intent to defame the said government [laughter], inhabitants, laws, or institutions, or to excite against them the hatred of the good people of any of the States, or to excite any unlawful combinations for invading, assailing, or molesting, the government, inhabitants, property, or institutions of other States or Territories, being thereof convicted before any Court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, he shall be punished by a fine not exceeding ---- dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding ---- years."
Every candid person will at once admit that those two sections, as I have drawn them, contain nothing — not a single point, not a single expression — that is not directly and expressly suggested by Mr. Douglas's resolution and speech. It so happens that a law like this is not without precedent in the history of this Republic. It is not quite unknown to our own statute-book; for the two sections I have laid before you, as embodied with scrupulous accuracy in Mr. Douglas's propositions, are a literal copy of the notorious sedition law of 1798. I only put in "government, inhabitants, property, or institutions of other States and Territories," instead of "Government of the United States, or either House of Congress." The rest is exactly alike; no, let me not slander the sedition law. The terms of imprisonment prescribed in the sedition law are moderate, not exceeding two and five years, while Mr. Douglas insists on his victims "dragging out in their prison-cells their miserable lives," for which ten years would evidently not be sufficient. Then, this sedition law was enacted only for a very limited period, after which it was to expire, while Mr. Douglas intends the conspiracy act to be a permanent institution of the country. These two features make the sedition law eminently liberal in comparison with Douglas's conspiracy bill.
There may be some old man among us who remembers the time when the sedition law was enacted. He will tell you that the same act which was intended to prevent insurrection, led people upon the very brink of an insurrection; he will tell you that patriots, horrified at that attempt against the liberties of the people, thought of the necessity of a second revolution. The excitement of those days has left its monument in the history of this country. That monument is the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions, drawn by Jefferson and Madison. These resolutions were the loud outcry of patriotic hearts against the first flagrant attempt at a centralization of governmental power. The Democratic party has endorsed them again and again. It claims Jefferson as its father. What would Jefferson, the author of the Kentucky resolutions, say of his degenerate offspring who have nominated a man for the Presidency who attempts to repeat the most tyrannical and outrageous act of the Federalists in a more outrageous form? Would he not tell them that they must be mistaken in their ancestry? [Cheers.]
Let me show you the consequences of the measure, and you will understand why its forerunner created such serious alarm and apprehension. So far, our political parties have been fighting with arguments. The victors obtained possession of the Constitutional power, and administered the Government, but had no power to violate the rights and liberties of those that were defeated. However the contest of parties may have ended, the peace of the country was never materially disturbed, for the vanquished knew that their individual security was not impaired. Such was the uniform result of the fight with arguments. But let the political parties once begin to fight with indictments — put into their hands the two-edged weapon of persecution — and, whatever delusion you may indulge in, the liberties of the people will be no more secure in America than they are in Austria and Naples.
There is one kind of despotism more terrible than that of kings — that is, the despotism of political parties. [Loud applause.] Their tendency is not only to defeat but to oppress their opponents. However pure their first intentions may be, they will, in the heat of political contests, insensibly drift into that irresistible current. There is but one way to prevent this. It is, that the means of oppression and persecution be carefully kept out of their reach by strictly limiting and circumscribing the powers of the Government. Do not say that these dangerous tendencies may be averted by a change of parties. It is oppression that engenders an oppressive spirit; upon persecution follows retaliation and revenge — that is, new persecution, and so on. You may know where it began, but not where it will end. The framers of our Constitution understood that well; they defined the crimes of which the Federal Courts should have jurisdiction with scrupulous nicety. They laid down the doctrine that treason against the Government should consist in levying war against the United States, and in giving aid and comfort to their enemies, and nothing else; and that no person should be convicted of treason unless upon testimony of two witnesses, not to "combination with treasonable intent," but to the overt act; thus carefully guarding against the idea of constructive treason. They knew well that the usual rules of legal construction in regard to common crimes should not be applied to political matters in which conscience and the freedom of opinion are involved, because justice in one, might become oppression and tyranny in the other case. But even these Constitutional safeguards appeared so insufficient to the people of those days, that in the amendments to the Constitution they surrounded the fundamental rights and liberties of the citizen with a new bulwark of emphatic declarations. Hence this fierce, indignant, uncompromising opposition to every measure tending to give latitude to the power of the Government over individual rights.
Judge Douglas seems to have no conception of the groundwork upon which the safety of popular liberty rests. Let him not pretend to say that he intended a law for the prevention of political offences; for he ought to know, as every well-informed man knows, that of all the laws in the world which fasten the chains of despotism upon mankind, there is hardly one which does not rest upon the pretext that political offences must be prevented. Prevention of mischief is the snare with which people in all ages and all countries have been prevented from asserting their liberties. [Applause.] Preventive laws are the poison with which freedom is killed. [Renewed applause.] It is said that, years ago, an American citizen met Prince Metternich in the city of Brussels. You remember who Prince Metternich was. The history of the world hardly knows a minister who had to answer for more tears and curses of crushed nations. The American showed him the Constitution of the United States, and asked his opinion of it. "This Constitution," said the Prince, "lacks but one thing, and I can govern the Empire of Austria with it." "What is that?" asked the American, with astonishment. "It is the power of the Central Government to pass preventive laws." What a pity Prince Metternich is dead! In Judge Douglas he would have found the man of his heart. [Laughter.] Put the Judge's conspiracy bill upon our statute-book, and declare it constitutional, and the deficiency is supplied. Prince Metternich is willing to govern Austria after his fashion, with the Constitution of the United States. Place the power to indict and punish for combinations, and for criminal intent in political matters, into the hands of our Federal Judges, those petty proconsuls who feel big when they can show their power, and we shall soon have a little Star Chamber in every judicial district, a little Fouquier Tinville to act as prosecuting attorney, and a little Jeffries to pass the sentences of the court; there will be a government spy to smell out treasonable combinations wherever three or four of you are assembled, and the cells of your prisons will be filled with men who have the spirit to think and speak about slavery as Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin, thought and spoke. [Long-continued applause.]
And there are those who dare to call the man who proposed to inaugurate such a system of policy a "great statesman." To the honor of Southern men be it said, in both cases, as well when he proposed to confer the war-making power upon the President as when he introduced the new sedition law, he had the mortification of being put down by a slaveholder. It was, in both cases, Jefferson Davis, the leader of the fire-eaters, who had the spirit to vindicate our republican institutions against the disgusting schemes of the Northern demagogue. [Applause.]
But a Northern man, also, was listening with indignant astonishment to Douglas's speech in favor of the new sedition law; that was the brave John Hickman of Pennsylvania [loud cheers], the Anti-Lecompton Democrat who believed in what he said. And when he left the Senate Chamber, he broke out in the words, "On thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat, all the days of thy life." [Applause.]
And well might he say so, for the proposition whispered into the ears of the first of our kind by the serpent of Paradise was hardly more infamous and infernal than the proposition Douglas whispered in the ears of the present generation. [Loud applause.]
Where did Mr. Douglas learn these doctrines? He has been in Europe. Unable to comprehend the means by which liberty is to be preserved in this country, he seems to have studied the means by which people are enslaved there. Not in England, but in France and Russia, he found much to admire. (I do not know whether he visited Austria and Naples.) He basked in the sunshine of the smiles of the Czar Nicholas. The smiles of a despot sank deeply into his heart, and this conspiracy bill grew out of it. [Applause.]
And this is your "greatest of living statesmen!" If this is the ruling statesmanship of our days, then good-night, dearly-bought liberties! good-night, proud American Republic! good-night, great beacon of struggling humanity! If it is statesmanship to subvert the principles of the Constitution, to undermine the liberties of the people, to place the security of the individual at the mercy of a centralized government, then, indeed, he is one of the greatest, and his statue deserves to be erected side-by-side with that of the illustrious Catiline of Rome, and the patriotic Strafford of England. [Loud applause.] I do not fear that the man who made the infamous attempt will be elevated to the highest trust in this Republic, for a just fate has already irrevocably decreed against him; but I do fear that there may be thousands of men who will not have spirit enough to stigmatize him with their repudiation. I appeal to you, American freemen! Your hearts cannot harbor a sincere feeling of gratitude for the heroes and sages who gave liberty to this land, if they do not harbor a curse for the man who attempts to destroy it with his insidious schemes. [Applause.]
Let me proceed: It would seem that the policy of a man who introduces and advocates such measures must spring either from the profoundest ignorance of the principles upon which the liberty of men is maintained, or an innate love of the principles by which the liberty of men is subverted. It will, therefore, surprise you a little when I tell you that Douglas's system of policy rests upon the basis of a profound philosophical doctrine, concerning the only safe foundation upon which human liberty rests. [Laughter.] It has always struck me as very remarkable, and it may have occurred to a great many of you, that Mr. Douglas's mind, with all its acuteness and fertility of resources, is exceedingly barren of original conceptions. All the speeches he has delivered since 1854 carry a peculiar flavor of staleness about them. [Laughter.] They contain nothing but some stereotyped and somewhat commonplace ideas, clad in a sonorous, hollow swell of language, which derives its principal charm from the animal vigor and energy with which it is puffed out. [Loud laughter.]
But his speeches do contain one original idea, and I tell you that is a bright one; it belongs all to him; nobody ever advocated it before, and nobody will hereafter. [Laughter.] We have been laboring under the impression that Douglas did not care whether slavery be voted up or down; but we must beg his pardon — it turns out that he does care; for the only original idea he can boast of is, that slavery must necessarily exist for the sake of — variety. [Laughter.] Do not laugh, I pray you — it is a very serious matter — it is the fundamental principle upon which Mr. Douglas's whole statesmanship rests; and as he is the greatest statesman alive, it certainly deserves serious consideration. He tells us that it is the very issue upon which he conducted the canvass in Illinois in 1858; — it is the very ground on which he placed the necessity of his conspiracy bill, and he has peddled it all over the Union in numberless speeches.
The original idea, as expressed in his own language, is simply this: "I assert," said he, in his speech opening the canvass of 1858, "that the great fundamental principle which underlies our complex system of State and Federal Governments contemplates diversity and dissimilarity in local institutions and domestic affairs of each and every State in the Union, or thereafter to be admitted. I therefore conceive that Mr. Lincoln has totally misapprehended the great principles upon which our Government rests. Uniformity in local and domestic affairs would be destructive of State rights, of State sovereignty — of personal liberty and personal freedom. Wherever the doctrine of uniformity is proclaimed — that all the States must be free or slave; that all the labor must be white or black; that all the citizens of the different States must have the same privileges, or must be ruled by the same regulations — you have destroyed the greatest safeguards which our institutions have thrown around the rights of the citizen. From this view of the case, I am driven irresistibly to the conclusion that diversity, dissimilarity, variety in all our local and domestic institutions, is the great safeguard of our liberties. * * * I repeat, that uniformity in our institutions is neither possible nor desirable."
This may sound very profound, but it will not require many words to show you how exceedingly ridiculous it is. Whatever your opinions of the Judge's statesmanship may be, permit me to say, that whenever he attempts to act the philosopher, he becomes — not to put too fine a point upon it — a little funny. [Laughter.]
His argument is, that there is a variety of interests or domestic affairs in the country; that a variety of local institutions grows out of them; that upon this variety of institutions our Federal system of government rests; that the Federal system of government is the great safeguard of our liberties; that, consequently, in order to preserve our liberties, it is necessary to preserve a variety of domestic affairs and local institutions. The question arises, if that variety of domestic affairs and local institutions did not exist, would that render the Federal system of government impossible? In other words, would a people, among whom there is no such variety of domestic affairs and local institutions, be incapable of freedom?
The original States entered into a union as separate organizations — whether distinct and separate on the ground of a variety of interests, or for any other reason, is needless to discuss; for if their institutions and interests had been ever so uniform, it is evident that they could and would not have consolidated. But a conclusive refutation of the Judge's theory lies nearer. The people of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, are nearly all depending upon the same resources — these States are all essentially agricultural, and, besides, have some shipping interest upon the great lakes. Their domestic affairs and local institutions are essentially the same. Their system of labor is the same — neither of them holds slaves. The uniformity of free labor was introduced there by the ordinance of 1787. According to the Judge's theory, they must consolidate; for there is among them no variety of domestic affairs and local institutions to keep them asunder. It might be said that they cannot consolidate now, on account of Constitutional obstacles. Granted, for argument's sake. But that vast extent of land was consolidated once in one great, solid mass, called the Northwestern Territory. Why did it not remain consolidated? Why was it cut up into different Territories and States, since their domestic interests were the same, their local institutions the same, their system of labor the same? There was complete uniformity, and yet the very opposite of consolidation. All these things remain essentially the same. And do they desire to consolidate? And is it necessary to make half of them Slave States in order to keep them asunder? It is preposterous. But this example shows that not Mr. Lincoln, but Judge Douglas, must have entirely misconceived the source from which our political institutions spring.
That source is nothing else than the instinct of self-government animating our people. Why do we cut up our States into counties and townships — even those States in which the interests and domestic affairs of the people are everywhere quite uniform? For the simple reason that the instinct of self-government demands that all the functions of sovereignty which the people can exercise by direct action, should remain in the hands of the people; and that all political powers which cannot be administered by that direct action, should be so organized as to remain as near the original source of sovereignty as possible. This renders necessary such division and local organizations as will place the direct administration of the nearest home affairs immediately in the hands of the people. The affairs a little more remote and general are intrusted to the State Governments, subject to the immediate control of the people; while the affairs of interest still more remote and general are put into the hands of the Federal Government. This ramification, division, and subdivision of political power is carried out no less where there is a uniformity of domestic affairs and local institutions, than where there exists variety. It will remain such just as long as the people insist upon administering their affairs by as direct an exercise of sovereignty as possible, and no longer. To pretend that this ramification of political power into a complex gradation of functions cannot exist without there being a variety of interests and domestic institutions, would be to say that the people among whom there is no such variety cannot be free; and that is a nonsense which the merest schoolboy would be ashamed of.
But suppose, for argument's sake, a variety of interests were really so great and indispensable a prop and pillar of our institutions of self-government, is Judge Douglas unacquainted with the difference between manufacturing Massachusetts and Connecticut and commercial New York — between mining Pennsylvania and agricultural Illinois? But that variety does not seem to be sufficient for the Judge — there is still too much uniformity in it. He insists that "where the doctrine of uniformity is proclaimed, that all the States must be free or slave — that all labor must be white or black" — our liberties must necessarily go by the board; therefore we must have more variety. The variety of manufacturing and commercial, of mining and agricultural activity, is sadly insufficient. He insists that there must be a little variety of freedom and slavery, of white and black labor; and that seems to be his favorite mixture; his cardinal, fundamental, sine quâ non variety [laughter]; and not only have we no right to establish uniform free labor by encroaching upon the rights of the States, but, as a general thing, the extinction of his favorite variety "would be neither possible nor desirable." He declares it to be "a fatal heresy to proclaim that there can or ought to be uniformity among the different States of this Union." It would then, according to the Judge, not be desirable that free labor should prevail everywhere, for that would create uniformity, and uniformity would be the death of freedom.
And now mark that wonderful muddle of nonsense in the head of that "greatest of living statesmen." [Laughter.] Our liberties rest upon our Federal system of government; our Federal system of government rests upon the variety of institutions; that variety of institutions consists of there being slavery in some of the States. If slavery disappeared, that variety would disappear; if that variety disappeared, our Federal system of government would disappear; if our Federal system of government disappeared, the safeguards of our liberties would be destroyed — consequently, if slavery disappeared, liberty would disappear also. [Loud laughter.]
Again, if all the States were free, there would be uniformity; but uniformity in local and domestic affairs would be destructive of personal liberty — that uniformity is prevented by the existence of slavery; consequently, the existence of slavery prevents the destruction of liberty; or, liberty cannot be preserved but by the preservation of slavery. [Shouts of laughter.]
What benefactors of humanity were those who introduced slavery into this land! for they furnished the material out of which the necessary variety was made, without which our liberty cannot exist. If they had not done so, then all the States would be free; if all the States were free there would be uniformity, and we would all be slaves! [Laughter.] What nonsense to abolish the slave trade! The more slaves, the more variety — the more variety, the more freedom. [Continued laughter.]
How we must pity the unfortunate nations that have no slavery among them! for they have no variety of institutions; and having no variety of institutions, they can have no liberty. Poor people that have no slaves among them! they can never be free. [Peals of laughter.]
It is a little surprising, however, that this great and luminous doctrine of "variety" should have been so little known about the time when our Government was organized, and the Constitution framed. There were two individuals living then who enjoyed some little reputation for statesmanship, one of whom said, "I trust we shall have a Confederacy of Free States;" and the other said, "Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate, than that those people (meaning the slaves) are to be free." And they were called statesmen! What an immense progress we have made in these seventy years! They would be called simpletons or traitors now; for they either knew nothing of the great doctrine of "variety" — which was very foolish — or, if they knew it, they plotted the destruction of popular freedom by advocating uniformity — which certainly was very treasonable. By the way, the name of one was George Washington, and the name of the other Thomas Jefferson. [Bursts of laughter.] You will be obliged to confess that you were very much mistaken in those two men. What a pity Judge Douglas did not live in those days! How he would have knocked his great doctrine of variety about their ears! How he would have taught Washington what the foundation of our Federal system is! How he would have told Jefferson what the great safeguards of liberty are! [Continued merriment.]
But, alas! statesmen like Douglas are sometimes born not only out of season, but also out of place. [Laughter.] What a pity Judge Douglas does not live in Switzerland, the oldest Republic now extant. Those benighted people, the Swiss, have been for centuries indulging in the foolish delusion that they were free, and that they had a Federal system of government. Why, there is no slavery in Switzerland — there is not the necessary variety of institutions there. Their States are all free States. There is uniformity there. How can they have Federal institutions with uniformity? How can there be liberty without variety? Impossible. Poor, innocent souls! they think they are free, and have no slaves! Let the Judge go at once on a missionary expedition to liberate the Swiss. He will have an opportunity to try that other great original idea of his, that "any political creed must be radically wrong which cannot be proclaimed everywhere." I venture to predict that every honest Swiss boot will lift itself, and kick the great variety apostle respectfully from Alp to Alp. [Shouts of laughter.]
Now, look at the strange consequences into which his variety doctrine inevitably leads him. The necessity of preserving slavery for the sake of liberty — that is, of preserving the variety of institutions — was the principal ground upon which he placed the necessity of passing his conspiracy bill. The same man who tells us that slavery must be preserved because its extinction would bring about uniformity, which, in its turn, would produce a consolidated despotic Government — the same man advocates the passage of a measure investing the Government with powers which put it upon the course of consolidation; for, without the grant of these powers, without that act of consolidation, slavery cannot be maintained. Slavery, according to him, must be preserved by a measure which is evidently dangerous to popular liberty; for, if slavery is not preserved, uniformity will ensue, and the liberties of the people will be in danger. In other words, he tells us that the existence of slavery is necessary for the preservation of our rights and liberties, and then he tells us that a measure undermining our rights and liberties is necessary for the preservation of slavery. The variety must be kept up for the purpose of maintaining our liberties, and our liberties must be put down for the purpose of keeping up the variety. [Loud laughter and applause.]
We are, indeed, greatly indebted to Judge Douglas. At last, we know what slavery is good for, and why its extinction is "neither possible nor desirable." Even the black man, in his sufferings, will find a soothing consolation in the Judge's philosophy. When Sambo is flogged down South, and the whip lacerates his back, the benevolent Judge will tell the poor follow that he has got to be whipped for the sake of variety [laughter]; and Sambo will smile in the sweet consciousness of being whipped for a very great principle. [Renewed laughter.] And when the Judge's bill is passed, and he has opened for you the prison-cells wherein he blandly invites you "to drag out your miserable lives," you will with pride remember the old Roman proverb, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria more;" and improving on the text, you will exclaim, "It is most sweet and honorable to die for variety's sake." [Laughter.]
This, then, is Judge Douglas's philosophy of government; not an idea incidentally dropped in a speech, but his great original conception. This shallow, ludicrous, childish nonsense is what he emphatically proclaims to be the fundamental doctrine of his whole political wisdom! Oh, Douglas Democrats! how proud you must feel of your "greatest statesman alive!" Permit me to offer you, in the name of the Republican party, our sincerest congratulations. [Loud laughter and cheers.]
Gentlemen: You have accompanied my remarks with some evidences of merriment; and, indeed, it cannot be denied that there is some of the profundity of the illustrious Dogberry in Mr. Douglas's philosophical doctrines. But this is a serious matter. Do you not see that to some extent the honor of the country is involved in it? That gentleman stands before us as a candidate for the Presidency, and he is represented to be the "greatest American statesman." And now, I entreat you, I beseech you solemnly — for there is no man here who has the reputation of this country more deeply at heart than I have — I implore you, do not make this Republic ridiculous in the eyes of the whole world by attempting to crown that Dogberry statesmanship with the highest honors of the Republic. [Applause.]
I am not jesting; I am in deep and solemn earnest; for if yon look over the list of those men, who, since the organization of the Republic, have been deemed worthy of a vote for the Presidency, you will find not one among them who has laid more insidious schemes to subvert the principles of the Constitution, who has done more to debauch the consciences of the people, more to bring American statesmanship into contempt, than he. [Applause.]
And, thus, here I stand before the great jury of the sovereign people, and bring my bill of indictment.
I arraign Douglas for having changed his position in regard to the Missouri restriction time and again, according to the interests of slavery.
I arraign him for having broken the plighted faith of the people by the repeal of the compromise of 1820.
I arraign him for having upheld the most atrocious violations of the ballot-box; for having trampled upon the most sacred rights of the people of Kansas, so long as the struggle between freedom and slavery was doubtful.
I arraign him for having committed a fraud upon the people by forging and adulterating the principle of popular sovereignty, and making it the machinery of slavery propagandism.
I arraign him for having deserted the cause of free Kansas, when the people, having complied with all reasonable conditions, applied for admission into the Union.
I arraign him for having repeatedly made the attempt to disturb the system of Constitutional checks and balances, by placing the war-making power in the hands of the President.
I arraign him for having attempted, by his conspiracy bill, a thing more outrageous than the sedition law of 1798, to put the liberties of speech and press at the mercy of a political inquisition, and to make judicial persecution for opinions' sake a permanent system of policy.
I arraign him, lastly, for having attempted to pass off upon the people a doctrine of political philosophy, which is an insult to the popular understanding. No, I beg your pardon, I do not arraign him for that, for this is a free country, where everybody has a right to make himself as ridiculous as be pleases, "subject only to the Constitution of the United States." [Loud laughter.] And, yet, I arraign him for that also, for I protest that he has no right to make the Republic ridiculous with himself. [Applause.]
Here is the charge. It is for the people to give the verdict.
Gentlemen, will you have patience enough to listen to a few remarks about Douglas, "the Presidential candidate?" [Voices, "Go on."] Well, after these exploits, he thought he was fit to be a Democratic candidate for the Presidency [laughter] and so his name went before the Charleston Convention. But, wonderful to tell, the whole Southern Democracy seemed to have united against him; and I honestly declare I think the slave power did wrong. It might have found a more abject and less exacting tool, but it could hardly expect to find a more daring, reckless, and unscrupulous one. What was the reason of its opposition? Was it the constitutional quibbles about which they had been contending? The whole difference was merely imaginary. Was it that the slaveholders thought a man who betrayed his own section of the country could not be relied upon in his promises to be faithful to another? It was more honorable than judicious in the slave power to be governed by such a feeling. No, I think the true reason widely differs from this, and it shows that Mr. Douglas never had sagacity enough to understand his own position.
The slave power will sometimes, for expediency's sake, condescend to make a Northern man President, if he consents to be its unconditional tool, but it will never elevate one who aspires to be or become a leader of the party. Mr. Douglas ought to have understood that. There was his mistake. However willing he may have been to serve it, he had to serve it not in his, but in its own way. He affected independence, and he fell. I think the Southern leaders acted against their own interest, for in Judge Douglas they would have had a man in the Presidential chair who would have shrunk from nothing to regain their favor. It is my conviction that he would have been a more ultra pro-slavery President than Breckinridge, or Jefferson Davis, or Slidell, and I wish they would still conclude to take him, so as to place every man in his proper position. You see we are not afraid of your combinations. [Applause.]
But the mistake was committed. They opposed him to the last, and Judge Douglas saw that his nomination in Charleston was an impossibility. Then his friends moved an adjournment of the Convention, and carried it. They were to reassemble at Baltimore, a few weeks afterward. In the mean time, Mr. Douglas saw a last chance of appeasing the South. He grasped at it with desperate eagerness; he saw the great prize slipping from his hands, and he staked his all upon a last cast. On the 15th and 16th of May he arose in the Senate, and, in one of the most elaborate efforts of his life, he made the following statement: and, Douglas Democrats, I claim your special attention. Listen: "It is part of the history of the country, that under this doctrine of non-intervention — this doctrine that you delight to call squatter sovereignty — the people of New Mexico have introduced and protected slavery in the whole of that Territory. Under this doctrine, they have converted a tract of free territory into slave territory more than five times the size of the State of Now York. Under this doctrine, slavery has been extended not only up to 36° 30', but up to 38°, giving you a degree and a half more of slave territory than you ever claimed. * * * What square inch of free territory has been converted into slave territory on the American continent since the Revolution, except in New Mexico and Utah, under the principle of non-intervention affirmed at Charleston? If it be true that this principle of non-intervention has protected slavery in that comparatively northern and cold region, where you did not expect it to go, cannot you trust the same principle further South, when you come to acquire additional territory from Mexico? Will not the same principle protect slavery in the northern states of Mexico when they are acquired, since they are now surrounded by slave territory?"
Oh, Douglas men, what a fall is this! Did you not tell us when the Nebraska Bill was enacted, that that law was the most efficient way of introducing free labor into the Territories? Have you not most solemnly assured us every day since 1854 that the principle of popular sovereignty, as expounded by Mr. Douglas, would most certainly save all the Territories from the grasp of slavery? And now look there! Your own master and prophet admits, acknowledges, BOASTS of it — that this same principle gave to slavery one and one-half degrees of latitude more than it had ever claimed, and that since the organization of the American Republic not a square foot of free territory was ever converted into slave territory, but by the same measure which you represented to us as the greatest and most reliable engine of free labor! [Cries of "Shame!"] Your own master and prophet tells you to your faces, and in the face of all mankind, and in the face of posterity, that you have been lying most atrociously — lying every day for the last six years. This was unkind — was it not, Douglasites of the North?
No; I am not joking. It was terribly unkind. All he said was most certainly, most undoubtedly, most uncontrovertibly true; but I declare, that if he had the least regard for the feelings of his friends — the least sympathy for them in their awkward embarrassments — he, he ought to have been the last man on earth to make that statement. Did he not know that you had supported him and made friends for him on the false pretence that his great principle worked the exclusion of slavery from the Territories? Did he not know that you had pledged your honor, had staked your character for truth and veracity, upon that pretence? He knew it well. He had encouraged you in doing so; and after you have compromised yourselves for him, day after day, in the eyes of the whole world, he turns and most unceremoniously gives you the lie. Oh, that was ungenerous! It was mean — very mean — unspeakably mean. [Applause.] If your self-sacrificing friendship had awakened the least echo in his heart, he ought to have been the last man to do so. But that heart seems to be so filled with callous selfishness, so destitute of the generous impulses of human nature, that if his friends, like Broderick, die for him, he coldly disowns them [cries of "Shame!"]; and if they lie for him, he promptly puts them to shame! Disowns them and puts them to shame! And for what? For the purpose of retrieving the lost favor of the South; of regaining the lost smiles of the slave power! And to be sacrificed to them — was that the reward you had deserved at his hands!
Look at it again. See him stand before the slaveholders in the Senate of the United States, busy bargaining away your honor for their favor. "Who has ever served you more faithfully than I with my great principle?" he asks them. "Why not let my friends in the North preach up that principle as the pioneer of freedom? The fools, perhaps, themselves believe in what they say; but we know better. Do you not see the result? Why not permit me the innocent joke of bamboozling the people of the North into believing that I am the great champion of freedom." [Laughter.] Ah, Douglas men, what a sight is this? He has prostituted you, and now proclaims your disgrace. How do you like the attitude in which he has placed you? How do you like the pillory to which, with his own hand, he has nailed your ears?
And are you willing to stand there — stand there quietly in the eyes of mankind? Do you not sometimes hear an earnest voice speaking within you, speaking of a self-respect and the natural dignity of man? Does it never tell you that the fieriest blush of shame would be an ornament to your cheeks? My friends, I love and esteem all that bears the attributes of human nature; but if sometimes, in an unguarded moment, a cloud of contempt arises in my soul, it is at the aspect of this gratuitous self-degradation, for which even ignorance and error can hardly serve as an excuse. [Great applause.]
See there your master and prophet, prostrating himself before the slave power — in the dust before your proud opponents! You can no longer say you stand by him, for since that day he does not stand up himself. If you are with him still — there, at the foot of the slave power, where he lies, you lie with him. And what did the slaveholders do after he had so meanly humiliated himself, and prostituted his friends? Did they smile upon him? Aye, they did, with scorn, and said, "We loved thy treason well enough, but we spurn with contempt the traitor" [applause]; and there he lies still.
The time of the Baltimore Convention arrived, and the struggle recommenced. It became at once manifest that Douglas's nomination could not be forced upon the Democratic party without splitting that organization in twain; and he saw clearly enough that his election would be an impossibility. The South was seceding en masse, and leaving the Rump Convention to do as it pleased. Then Mr. Douglas, seeing a disgraceful defeat inevitable, wrote a letter to his friends in the Convention, requesting them to withdraw his name if they found it in any way consistent to do so. And I declare, if Douglas was ever honest in anything he did or said, I believe he was honest then and there.
But now the moment had arrived when it became manifest that there is justice in history. [Applause.] Douglas's position was disgusting, but his punishment was sublime. Then his friends for the first time refused to obey his command. Those whom he had used so often and so long for his own advancement, saw now there was a last chance of using him for theirs. They said to him: "We have performed our part of the contract; now you have to perform yours. We have nominated you for the Presidency; now you have to permit us to be elected Congressmen, sheriffs, county clerks, or constables, on the strength of your name. There is no backing out. Ho! for the spoils! 'Dost thou think because thou hast suddenly become virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale? Yes, by St. Ann! and ginger hot in the mouth, too!'" [Prolonged laughter.]
And so the saddle of the rump nomination is put upon his back, and the whole ghastly pack of office-hunters jump upon it. The spurs are put to the flanks, the whip applied to the back of the panting, bleeding jade, and so the spectral ride goes, east and west, night and day — may the steed go to perdition, if only the riders reach their goal. [Loud applause and cheers.]
Oh! there is justice in history. He has it at last, the idol of his dreams — the object of his fondest wishes; for which he has laid so many a treacherous scheme; for which he has turned so many a summersault; for which he has struck so many a blow at the peace of the Republic; for which he has so often prostituted himself and his followers; for which he has hugged so many a loafer, and insulted so many an honest man; for which he has made every rum-shop his head-quarters, and every ruffian his friend — he has it at last, the nomination for the Presidency; but what he has craved as a blessing, has come down upon him as a curse! To be nominated, and to know that an election is impossible! to be voted for, and to know that every vote for him is for Breckinridge or Lane, whom he hates [applause], and every vote against him a vote for Lincoln, whom he does not love! [Renewed applause.] To be worked for, and be aware that those who do the work, work not for him, but for themselves! To be dead, and yet alive enough to be conscious of death! [Loud cheers.]
Oh, there is justice in history! Am I exaggerating?, Where is that mighty leader, whose voice once called millions into the field? At the street-corners and crossroads you see him standing like a blind, downfallen Belisarius — not in virtue, but in poverty — a bevy of political harlots surrounding him, and begging with him for the miserable obolus of a vote; begging the Know-Nothings, whom he once affected to despise; begging the Whigs, whom he once insulted with his brawling denunciations; invoking the spirit of Henry Clay, whom he once called a black-hearted traitor. [Cries of "Shame."] Oh, poor Belisarius! The party harlots that surround him with their clamorous begging cry, steal every vote they receive for him and put it into their own pockets. [Applause.]
Where is the bold, powerful agitator, whose voice once sounded so defiantly on every contested field? Behold him on his sentimental journey [laughter], vainly trying to find his mother's home and his father's grave; apologizing with squeamish affectation for his uncalled for and indecent appearance in public, like one of the condemned spirits you read of in the myths of bygone ages, restlessly perambulating the world [laughter], condemned to a more terrible punishment than Tantalus, who was tortured by an unearthly thirst, with grapes and water within his reach; more terrible than that of the Danaides, who had to pour water into the leaky cask; for he is condemned to deliver that old speech of his over and over again [applause and cheers and laughter], as often as he arrives at a hotel that has a balcony [laughter], as often as his hasty journey is arrested by a spontaneous gathering. And when you hear a subterranean, spectral voice cry out, "my great principle — non-intervention!" that is the dead squatter sovereign atoning for the evil deeds he committed in his bodily existence. [Prolonged laughter and cheer.] Not long ago he haunted the railroad crossings and clambakes of New England; then the cotton-fields of the South — the ghostly apparition was last seen in this neighborhood. [Prolonged laughter and cheers.]
Where is that formidable party tyrant whose wishes once were commands; who broke down sacred compromises with a mere stroke of his finger; whose very nod made the heads of those who displeased him fly into the basket; whose very whims were tests of Democracy? Where is he who once, like Macbeth, thought himself invulnerable by any man "who was of woman born;" invincible,
— "UntilGreat Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane hill
Should come against him."
Like Macbeth, he has believed the fiends
"That paltered with him in a double sense,"
and there he stands, tied to the stake of his nomination.
"He cannot fly,And, bear-like, must he fight his course." [Laughter.]
But as Birnam Wood marched to Dunsinane, so the very fence-rails of Illinois are rushing down upon him [tremendous laughter and cheers], and, like Macduff, there rises against him the spirit of free labor, whose children he has murdered; that is a champion "not of woman born." [Great cheering.] And now
[Renewed laughter and cheers.] Oh, there is justice in history. [Cheers.]
The same betrayal of the free-labor cause — the Nebraska Bill, which was to be his stepping-stone to power — proved to be the abyss which ingulfed his honor, his manhood, his strength and his hopes. And there are those who mean to reverse the judgment of history! Vain undertaking! That man is marked by the hand of eternal retribution. On his very front stands the fatal touch. Do not attempt to arrest the hand of Supreme justice. You cannot save him from his ruin. Why are you so anxious to share his disgrace? Leaders of the Douglas Democracy, what means your empty bravado of strength? You cannot deceive your opponents, why are you working so hard to deceive your friends? [Applause.] You know that your orators are but endeavoring to galvanize a dead body into artificial life. You are well aware that your mass meetings and demonstrations are nothing but huge galvanic batteries at play. [Laughter.] What means your desperate attempt to glue your broken fortunes together with those of other parties? Do you think this is the way to cheat destiny out of its dues? Is it your ambition to have your descendants read in the history of our days: there were men living in 1860 with instincts so depraved, that when they could not accomplish that which was evil, they endeavored at least to prevent that which was good? [Applause.]
And you who are warned by the secret voice of conscience that you are doing wrong in adhering to Douglas, and yet obey the command of party, hear me: Is party drill and discipline so omnipotent an idol that you would sacrifice upon its altar your independence, your manhood, and all that constitutes your moral worth?
And you who claim the exclusive privilege of swearing by the "Constitution and the laws," will you stamp the evidence of hypocrisy upon your brows by indirectly endorsing him who has done more than any other living man to undermine the Constitution and pervert the laws? Will you permit your political hucksters to barter away not only your votes, but your consciences and your honor?
But let the conspirators come on: we defy them. [Tremendous cheering.] Go on with your coalitions, which are made on the distinct understanding that those who unite to-day are to cheat each other to-morrow. [Applause.] Has it become a ruling principle in your parties, that the "rank and file have no rights which the leaders are bound to respect?" [Laughter.] You will find out your mistake. Look around you. Do you see the thousands leaving your banners, unwilling to submit to your treacherous scheme to rob the people of their election? Do you know what that means? It means that the man rises above the partisan. It means the revival of conscience in our politics. It is the true sovereignty of the people vindicating itself. [Cheers.]
Now, build up your mole-hills, and call them impregnable fortresses. It seems you do not know how small they are. The logic of things will roll its massive wheel over them, and your puny contrivances will leave no trace behind to tell your doleful story. [Applause.]
Sir, only those whose hearts are unmoved by great moral impulses can fail to see that we are in the midst of a great moral revolution. They cannot prevent its final victory; I firmly believe they cannot even retard it. No; they are aiding it in spite of themselves; for their general rottenness demonstrates its necessity. [Applause.] Douglas himself is powerfully promoting its progress. He has taught the people of America a great, sublime lesson.
I think it was Senator Pugh who once said that if Douglas were struck down by the South, he would take his bleeding corpse and show it to the youth of the Northwest as an example of Southern gratitude. Let that modern Mark Antony come on with his dead Cæsar (pardon me, it is neither Cæsar dead nor Mark Antony alive,) [applause and laughter]; let him bring on his bleeding corpse, and I will suggest his funeral oration. Let him say to the youth of the American Republic: "This is Douglas. Look at him. For every wound the South inflicted upon him, he has struck a blow at the liberties of his countrymen. Let him serve as a warning example, that a man may be a traitor to liberty, and not become a favorite of the slave power. Mark him! By false popular sovereignty he tried to elevate himself; and true popular sovereignty strikes him down." [Loud applause.]
If the youth of America profit by this lesson, then it may be said that even Douglas has done some service to his country. [Great applause.] Then, peace be with him — his mission is fulfilled.
But now we have to fulfil ours. False popular sovereignty is down. Freemen, it is for you to see to it, that true popular sovereignty triumph. [Applause.]
Citizens of New York, when, after the adjournment of the Convention which nominated that great and good man, Abraham Lincoln, for the Presidency [cheers for Lincoln], I addressed the people of my State again for the first time, I said to them: "Let Wisconsin stretch her hand across the great lakes and grasp the hand of New York. Let it be known that New York and Wisconsin, who stood together to the last for Seward [prolonged cheers] in the Convention, will stand first and foremost in the battle for Lincoln and Liberty." [Renewed cheers.] Wisconsin will redeem her pledge on the 6th of November. Men of New York, we look to you for a response. [Immense cheering and waving of hats.]
- Mr. Douglas had made a speech in New York a day or two previous.