Browsing "Abolitionists & Disunionists"

No Compromise for Charles Sumner

The responsibility for the death of nearly one million Americans, considering death by combat, disease and starvation, military and civilian, must be laid at the feet of those like Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. Unwilling to compromise for the sake of peace and Union, his incessant insults against Americans in the South reached their climax in his attack upon Senator Andrew P. Butler of South Carolina. Senator Cass of Michigan delivered the official rebuke to Sumner, stating that “such a speech [was] the most un-American and unpatriotic that ever grated on the ears of the members of this high body – I hope never to hear again here or elsewhere.” For that verbal insult upon Senator Butler, Sumner received well-deserved gutta-percha punishment.

Bernhard Thuersam,


No Compromise for Charles Sumner

“Of all the earnest, high-minded men and women who helped to drive a wedge between the North and the South during the years between the Mexican War and the Civil War, no one was more bent on forcing the issue than the famous senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner.

[An advocate of pacifism, in his] first important speech of his life, a patriotic address delivered in Tremont Temple on July 4, 1845, he had astounded his audience, accustomed to a conventional recital of the stirring deeds of the Revolution, by denouncing in scathing terms the misguided patriotism which glorified deeds of [the Mexican] war.

Sumner drove his point home by comparing the cost to the nation of the [USS] Ohio, a ship-of-the-line then lying in Boston Harbor, with the annual expenditure of Harvard College. It was not a tactful speech considering that the officers of the Ohio had been specially invited to grace the occasion, but then Charles Sumner was not a tactful man.

His lack of tact was as notorious as his lack of humor or his unconscious arrogance. Unlike most of the political figures of his generation, he was very much at home in Europe. Sometimes he wearied his friends at home by telling them of all the distinguished people he had met abroad in the course of his travels and yet, beneath the European veneer, there was a moral fervor about Sumner, a “sacred animosity” against evil, to quote his own words, that stamped him unmistakably as a New Englander.

In 1849, as Chairman of the Peace Committee of the United States, he had issued an address recommending that an American delegation attend the Second General Peace Congress to be held in Frankfort. Representatives of the leading nations of Europe were to present plans for the revision of international law and for the establishment of a World Court.

Sumner, who was known as one who believed that war was an outdated method of settling disputes, was chosen as one of the delegates to the Congress, but at the last moment he declined.

[T]here was something ironic in the fact that the champion of arbitration in 1850 stood out resolutely against sending any delegates from Massachusetts to [former President John Tyler’s] Peace Convention held in Washington on the eve of the war [in 1861]. In his frantic search for a compromise, Senator [John J.] Crittenden found no one more stubborn, more determined not to yield an inch, than Senator Sumner. [Sumner] . . . insisted that concessions [to the South] would settle nothing. “Nothing,” said Sumner, “can be settled which is not right. Nothing can be settled which is against freedom. Nothing can be settled which is against divine law.”

(No Compromise!, Arnold Whitridge, Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1960, pp. 120-126)

A Slippery Senator from Massachusetts

The colony of Massachusetts was the first to codify slavery in its law in 1641, three years after the first ship brought Africans from the West Indies. The defiant Pequot Indians enslaved by the Puritan settlers were often traded for Africans who made better workers. Massachusetts became preeminent in the transatlantic slave trade, shipping rum and Yankee notions to be used to buy slaves from African tribes. Senator Sumner seemed unaware of his State’s history.

Bernhard Thuersam,


A Slippery Senator from Massachusetts

“Extracts from the debate between Senators Charles Sumner and Andrew P. Butler in June, 1854, beginning on page 1.013 of the Appendix to the Congressional Globe, First Session, Thirty-third Congress:

Mr. Sumner: “Sir, slavery never flourished in Massachusetts; nor did it ever prevail there at any time, even in the early Colonial days, to such a degree as to be a distinctive feature of her powerful civilization. And let me add that when this Senator [Butler] presumes to say that American Independence was won by the arms and treasure of slave-holding communities, he speaks either in irony or ignorance.”

Mr. Butler: “When the Declaration of Independence was made, was not Connecticut a slave-holding State?”

Mr. Sumner: “Not in any just sense.”

Mr. Butler: “Sir, you are not the judge of that. Was not New York a slave-holding State?”

Mr. Sumner: “Let the Senator [Seward] from New York answer that.”

Mr. Butler: “Sir, if he answers, he will answer the truth, and perhaps it might not be exactly agreeable to you. Was not New Jersey a slave-holding State? Was not Rhode Island a slave-holding State?

Mr. Seward: “It is due the honorable gentleman from South Carolina that I should answer his question in reference to New York, since it has been referred it to me. At the time of the Revolution, every sixteenth man in the State of New York was a slave.”

Mr. Butler: “Was not New Hampshire a slave-holding State? Was not Pennsylvania a slave-holding State? Was not Delaware a slave-holding State?

Mr. Seward: “I am requested to make my answer a little more accurate, according to the truth. I understand, that at the time of the Revolution, every twelfth man in New York was a slave.”

Mr. Butler: “They can afford no refuge for historical falsehood such as the gentleman [Sumner] has committed in the fallacy of his sectional vision. I have shown that twelve of the original States were slave-holding communities.

Now sir, I prove that the thirteenth, Massachusetts, was a slave-holding State before, and at the commencement of, the Revolution. As to the character of slavery in that State, that may be somewhat a different thing, which can not contradict the fact stated in the newspapers of the day, that Negroes were held, were advertised for sale, with another truth, that many were sent to other slave-holding States in the way of traffic.

When slavery was abolished [in Massachusetts], many that had been slaves and might have been freemen were sold into bondage.”

Mr. Sumner: “By slave-holding States, of course, I mean States which were peculiarly, distinctively, essentially slave-holding, and not States which the holding of slaves seems to have been rather the accident of the hour, and in which all the people, or the greater part of the people, were ready to welcome emancipation.”

Mr. Butler: “Mr. President, I think the remarks of the Senator verify exactly what I said, that when he chooses to be rhetorical, it is upon an assumption of facts, upon his own construction, and by an accumulation of adjectives.”

(The Case of the South Against the North, B.F. Grady, Edwards & Broughton, 1899, 225-226)

Sumner’s Rendezvous With a Gutta-Percha

After South Carolina Congressman Preston S. Brooks administered a lesson to Charles Sumner, senator from the slave-trading State of Massachusetts, Brooks received new canes from all over the South. The canes were accompanied by emphatic suggestions that he promptly deliver additional beatings on Sumner for the insults toward his uncle and distinguished Senator Andrew P. Butler. Sumner feigned injury to attract sympathy from abolitionist newspapers.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Sumner’s Rendezvous With a Gutta-Percha

“From the moment he took his seat in the Senate, Sumner’s conscience was always on parade. [And] according to Sumner, the Constitution did not sanction slavery, and since slavery was a monstrous evil it should be eliminated at once.

Freedom was national whereas slavery was only sectional.  In the official view of the South, which incidentally coincided with that of the Garrisonians, the founding fathers had expressly guaranteed slavery along with other forms of personal property.  Far from being a national evil, it was a national benefit, to the Negro as much as to the white man.

Sumner seized upon the controversy over Kansas, whether the territory was to come into the Union as a free or as a slave State, to pronounce what he called “the most thoroughgoing philippic ever uttered in a legislative body.”  It was an elaborate speech and it took five hours to deliver.

For those who expected an accurate presentation of the facts about Kansas it was a disappointment, but Sumner’s conscience was never concerned with facts unless the facts bore on the depravity of slaveholders. Sumner’s conscience directed him to pour more oil on the fire rather than water.

He began by assuming the truth of every charge made against the slave power in Kansas, and ignoring all the evidence on the other side. Major John Sedgewick, who was stationed in Kansas at the time . . . thought that most of the atrocities had been committed by the [Northern] Free Soil party, but any such evidence, even if it had come his way, Sumner would have brushed aside as the ravings of a lunatic.  He had prepared his speech with infinite pains, committed it to memory, practiced it before the glass, and nothing would induce him to alter it.

The crime against Kansas was nothing less than “the rape of virgin territory compelling it to the hateful embrace of slavery.” The criminal (slave power) has “an audacity beyond that of Verres, a subtlety beyond that of Machiavelli, a meanness beyond that of Bacon, and an ability beyond that of Hastings.”

The long string of erudite insults reached their climax in an attack upon the much beloved Senator Butler of South Carolina who, said Sumner, “has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows and who, although ugly to others, is always lovely to him; although polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight — I mean the harlot, Slavery.”

That Sumner honestly thought he was serving the cause of freedom by such language is hard to believe. Senator Cass of Michigan, a devoted Union man and not a slaveholder, delivered the official rebuke: “Such a speech — the most un-American and un-patriotic that ever grated on the ears of the members of this high body — I hope never to hear again here or elsewhere.”

While Senators were shaking their heads . . . Sumner was suddenly transfigured into a national hero, a martyr for freedom. The man responsible for this . . . was a Southerner, Congressman Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina, a nephew and a devoted admirer of Senator Butler.

[And] Brooks had made up his mind that the only suitable answer to Sumner was severe corporeal punishment. Accordingly, while Sumner was sitting at his desk after the Senate had adjourned, Brooks strode up to him and . . . struck him over the head with a gutta-percha cane.

How severely Sumner was injured has always been a matter of dispute, but by the time Brooks had finished his chastisement Sumner was lying on the floor unconscious. Southerners accused Sumner of shamming.

The doctor who attended him took four stitches in his scalp and declared him ready to return to duty after a few days of rest. [Sumner] complained of perpetual headache and nervous prostration, but Southerners pointed out that during a trip to Europe to recover his health he indulged in a continuous round of social entertainments that might well have reduced any traveler to a state of exhaustion.”

(No Compromise!, Arnold Whitridge, Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1960, pp. 125-127)

Northern Hostility Toward the Negro

Anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan of New York wrote Calhoun in 1848 that “The feeling toward [the Negro] in the North is decidedly that of hostility. There is no respect for them. No wish for their elevation; but on the contrary a strong desire to prevent the multiplication of the race as far as it is possible to do so . . .” Former New York Governor (and later Union Major-General] John Adams Dix spoke of the “inferior caste” in free States: “Public opinion at the North – call it prejudice if you will – presents an insuperable barrier against its elevation in the social scale . . . A class thus degraded . . . will not multiply . . .” Pennsylvania Congressman David Wilmot in mid-1846 introduced a bill to ban African slavery from land acquired from Mexico.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Northern Hostility Toward the Negro

“Closely interwoven with the northern fear of [Southern political] dominance was fear of the Negro himself, and the [Wilmot] Proviso, commonly called the “White Man’s Resolution” by the free-soilers, seems to have expressed a northern desire to keep the territories free not only of slaves, but of the black race.

The rhetoric of the free-soil movement is replete with expressions of hostility toward the Negro. One of the most notable instances occurs in James Russell Lowell’s allegorical treatment of the territorial issue in his enormously popular “Bigelow Papers.”

In this poem Lowell represents the Negroes as “long-legged swine” who ruin the territories, making them uninhabitable for the northern farmer. Anti-Negro expressions also found their way into free-soil platforms, albeit in muted form. The Barnburners Utica [New York] Convention called for preserving the western land “for the Caucasian race,” or in the more popular parlance of Thomas Hart Benton “keeping the territory clean of Negroes.”

One free-soiler assured the House of Representatives that he had little concern for “the degraded and degenerate blacks.”

Northern hostility toward the Negro is likewise revealed in the vehement response to a proposal by Governor William Smith of Virginia to export the State’s freedmen to the North. In his speech representing the great dangers involved in rejecting the Wilmot Proviso, [New York Congressman] George Rathbun referred incidentally to Governor Smith’s proposal.

“What do we say [to it]?” asked Rathbun. He gave the answer: “That there is no territory in the free States belonging to them [the Negroes]; that there is no place for them. As far as New York is concerned, should the refuse part of the population of Virginia reach our territory, we will carry them back to Virginia.”

Smith’s proposal caused such consternation in Ohio that the Democratic minority in the State legislature was almost able to force through a law prohibiting Negro immigration altogether. One Democratic congressman from Ohio . . . appealing to the fear and hatred of the Negro in the North, used Smith’s proposal as a justification for bowing to the will of the South on the Proviso question.

In the North, where the Negro population was relatively small, the means of assuring white supremacy was to exclude the Negro, and when he could not be physically excluded, he was excluded from civic life.

The key to the strong emotional commitment in the North to free soil was the overwhelming fear of the extension of an alien race, as well as of an alien institution, to the point where it would directly affect the Northern people. The Wilmot Proviso had such a strong appeal precisely because it expressed the Northern determination to prevent the spread not only of slavery but of the despised Negro as well.”

(Democratic Politics and Sectionalism, the Wilmot Proviso Controversy, Chaplain W. Morrison, UNC Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 70-73)

The Republican’s Stubborn Purpose

The following is excerpted from a postwar letter written by Clement C. Clay of Alabama, to review the facts leading to the withdrawal of the Southern States in 1861, and Jefferson Davis’ efforts to forestall secession, seek conciliation with Northern leaders, and preserve the Union. It clearly identifies those wanting to preserve the Union, and lays the responsibility for disunion at the feet of Lincoln’s party.

Bernhard Thuersam,


The Republican’s Stubborn Purpose

“Mr. Davis did not take an active part in planning or hastening secession. I think he only regretfully consented to it, as a political necessity for the preservation of popular and State rights’ which were seriously threatened by the triumph of a sectional party who were pledged to make war on them.

No “plan of secession” or “scheme of revolution” was, to my knowledge, discussed – certainly none matured – at the [Democratic] caucus, 5th of January, 1861 . . . I have never heard that the caucus advised the South “to accumulate munitions of war,” or “to organize and equip an army of one hundred thousand men,” or determined “to hold on as long as possible to the Southern seats [in Congress].”

So far from it, a majority of Southern Senators seemed to think there would be no war; that the dominant party in the North desired separation from the South, and would gladly let their “erring sisters go in peace.” I could multiply proofs of such a disposition.

As to holding on to their seats, no Southern legislature advised it, no Southern Senator who favored secession did so but one, and none others wished to do so, I believe.

The “plan of secession,” if any, and the purpose of secession, unquestionably, originated, not in Washington City, or with the Senators or Representatives of the South, but among the people of the several States, many months before it was attempted. They followed no leaders at Washington or elsewhere, but acted for themselves, with an independence and unanimity unprecedented in any movement of such magnitude.

Before the election of Lincoln, all the Southern States, excepting one or two, had pledged themselves to separate from the Union upon the triumph f a sectional party in the Presidential election, by acts or resolutions of their Legislatures, resolves of both Democratic and Whig State Conventions, and of primary assemblies of the people – in every way in which they could commit themselves to any future act.

Their purpose was proclaimed to the world through the press and telegraph, and criticized in Congress, in the Northern Legislatures, in press and pulpit, and on the hustings, during many months before Congress met in December, 1860.

Over and above all these facts, the reports of the United States Senate show that, prior to the 5th of January 1861, Southern Senators united with Northern Democratic Senators in an effort to effect pacification and prevent secession, and that Jefferson Davis was one of a committee appointed by the Senate to consider and report such a measure; that it failed because the Northern Republicans opposed everything that looked to peace; that Senator [Stephen A.] Douglas arraigned them as trying to precipitate secession, referred to Jefferson Davis as one who sought conciliation, and called upon Republican Senators to tell what they would do, if anything, to restore harmony and prevent disunion. They did not even deign a response.

Thus by their sullen silence, they made confession (without avoidance) of their stubborn purpose to hold up no hand raised to maintain the Union . . .”

(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume One, Jefferson Davis, D. Appleton and Company, 1881, excerpts, pp. 206-209)

New England’s Industrial Slaves

Apparently missing the brutal industrial slavery that flourished among them, New England abolitionists, “looking about with an eye long-trained to detect sinners,” began a moral crusade against the aristocrats of the American South who they imagined were mistreating their own laborers. All the ills of Northern society, social, agricultural and financial, were found to originate with the evil slaveholders.

Bernhard Thuersam,


New England’s Industrial Slaves

“[The] first significant result of the coming of finance-industrial capitalism to [New England] in the years between 1815 and 1844, was the rise of a new and powerful group of business leaders, and the creation of a new and uniquely dependent body of workers.

A decline in commerce made capital available and scattered cotton mills about wherever water power could be found. Profits soared. Successful groups . . . bought up power sites, built machine shops, laid out and built whole factory towns, speculated in lands, projected canals and railroads, and found use for their surplus capital in banking and insurance.

[The Northern merchants] harsh old Calvinistic beliefs gave way to more rational and dignified ones, and their political needs found expression in the conservative doctrines of the Whig party. A new aristocracy of growing wealth and power had come into being.

The young folks who came down from the country to work in the mills soon learned that their move meant . . . Long hours . . . in a poorly ventilated, lint-filled room spent at a single task . . . They also learned that bitter competition between factories in period of depression meant longer hours, more spindles to tend, and reduced wages. To protest or to strike brought lockouts and black lists. By 1844 most New England girls had chosen the latter course, and French Canadian and Irish girls had taken their places.

Workers looked “round them upon the princely palaces and gaudy equipages of the rich” who consumed the fruits of the poor man’s labor without adding to “the common stock a grain of wheat or a blade of grass.”

And when the right to organize was denied by the courts, workers solemnly proclaimed that “the freemen of the North are now on a level with the slaves of the South, with no other privilege than laboring, that drones may fatten on your life blood.”

Sympathy for the workers was [intense]. “There is not a State’s prison or house of correction in New England where the hours of labor are so long, the hours for meals so short, and the ventilation so neglected as in the cotton mills with which I am acquainted,” wrote Dr. Josiah C. Curtis in his report to the American Medical Association.

“Where is the humanity,” asked another. “It is swallowed up in gain – for the almighty dollar, and for this, poor girls are enslaved and kept in a state little better than machinery, [but when they become unable to work they] are laid to one side and new [human] machinery procured.”

And what became of the girl who was laid aside? The Daily Democrat tells us that “while those who reaped the profits” dropped “their heads on the cologne-scented handkerchiefs on prayer and thanksgiving every Sabbath day,” the poor mill-girl came “to Boston to die in the brothel.”

“ . . . At the North, the master has a lash more potent than the whipthong to stimulate the energies of his white slaves: fear of want.” And because the Northern worker did not see his chains, he was none the less a slave.

As one man put it: “When capital has gotten thirteen hours of labor daily out of a being it can get nothing more. It would be a very poor speculation in an industrial point of view to own the [laborers], for the trouble and expense of providing for times of sickness and old-age would more than counterbalance the difference between the price of wages and the expense of boarding and clothing . . . “

“Wages,” added Orestes Brownson, “is a cunning device of the devil for the benefit of the tender conscience, who would retain all the advantages of the slave system, without the expense, trouble and odium of being slaveholders.”

(The Civil War in the Making, Avery O. Craven, LSU Press, 1959, excerpts, pp. 9-16)

Terms of the Conqueror

Duress accomplished passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution; the people of the South who deeply understood that the States controlled their own domestic institutions were forced to submit to overwhelming military power. The Fourteenth Amendment was unconstitutionally-enacted, not ratified, and considered yet another term of the conqueror.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Terms of the Conqueror

“Who drove the South to these extremities? The very men who accuse her of treason. When she accepted the contest, to which she was thus virtually invited in terms of contumelious threat and reproach, she was threatened with being wiped out and annihilated by the superior forces of her antagonist, with whom it was vain and foolish to contend, so unequal were the strength and resources of the two parties. It is true that the South parted in bitterness, but it was in sadness of spirit also. She did not wish it – certainly, Virginia did not desire it – if she could maintain her rights within the Union.

The South at last fell from physical exhaustion – the want of food, clothes, and the munitions of war; she yielded to no superiority of valor or of skill, but to the mere avoirdupois of numbers. Physically, she was unable to stand up under such a weight of human beings, gathered from whenever they could be called by appeals to their passions or bought by promise to supply their necessities.

It is said that after the battle of the Second Cold Harbor, where Grant so foolishly assailed Lee in his lines, and where his dead was piled in thousands after his unsuccessful attack, the northern leaders were ready to have proposed peace , but were prevented by some favorable news from the southwest.

They did not propose peace except upon terms of unconditional submission. When the South was forced to accept those terms to obtain it, the North was not afraid to avow its purposes and carry them out. Slavery was abolished without compensation, and slaves were awarded equal rights with their masters in government.

It was the fear of these results which drove the South into the war. Experience proved that this fear was reasonable. The war was alleged as the excuse for such proceedings; but can any man doubt that the North would have done the same thing if all constitutional restraints upon the power of the majority had been peaceably removed.

It is sought to be excused, I know, by assuming that these things were done with the assent of the South. That these [Thirteen and Fourteenth] constitutional amendments represent the well-considered opinion of any respectable party in the South, there is none so infatuated as to believe. They were accepted as the terms of the conqueror, and so let them be considered by all who desire to know the true history of their origin.”

(Southern Historical Society Papers, Origin of the Late War, Hon. R.M.T. Hunter, Volume I, excerpts, pp. 11-12)

The Changed North

Well before 1860 the American experiment in government was severely fractured and the territorial Union split ideologically into two warring camps. The first shots of the coming war between them could be said to have been threatened over nullification in 1832, but open warfare was a reality by 1854 in Kansas. The North had changed greatly as it achieved a huge numerical advantage over the South, and its ascent to national power in 1860 with a mere 39% plurality gave it the political, military and financial control it craved. The North could have allowed the peaceful departure of the South, had it wanted.

Bernhard Thuersam,


The Changed North

“An Anti-Slavery man per se cannot be elected; but a [protective] Tariff, River-and-Harbor [improvements], Pacific Railroad [subsidies]. Free Homestead [for immigrants] man, may succeed although he is Anti-Slavery.” Horace Greeley on the 1860 Republican Convention.

Ask any trendy student of history today and he will tell you that without question the cause of the great American bloodletting of 1861-1865 was slavery. Slavery and nothing but slavery. The unstated and usually unconscious assumption being that only people warped by a vicious institution could possibly fight against being part of “the greatest nation on earth.”

There is an even deeper and less conscious assumption here: malicious, unprovoked hatred of Southern people that is endemic in many American elements. Thus, according to the wisdom of current “scholars” no credit is to be given to anything that Southerners might say about their own reasoning and motives. They are all merely repeating “Lost Cause myths” to cover up their evil deeds.

One of Lincoln’s many deceptions was the claim that the Founders had intended to abolish slavery but had not quite got around to it. The Southerners of his time, thus, were rebelling against the true Founding by insisting on non-interference, while he and his party were upholding the settled understanding of the Founders.

James McPherson, perhaps the “leading” historian of today in regard to the Great Unpleasantness and no Southern apologist, along with many others, points out that it was the North that had changed by 1860. Now one may be glad, as McPherson is, that the North changed and triumphed with a new version of America, but to deny which side was revolutionary is merely dishonest.

Historians have devoted vast attention to the South, feeling it was necessary to explain where the South went wrong, find the source if the perversion that led it to a doomed attempt to escape the greatest country on earth. For, after all, “American” is the norm of the universe and any divergence is a pathology. But if it was the North that changed, ought our primary focus in understanding American history to be on why and how the north changed during the pre-war period?”

(The Yankee Problem, an American Dilemma, Clyde N. Wilson, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts, pp. 52-53)


Effecting a Change of Masters

The examples of Jamaica and Haiti were clear to most in the antebellum period, though the abolitionists seemed unconcerned with the predictable result of emancipation in America. With the result of Lincoln’s revolution, the African slave had only changed masters as he became the chattel and ward of the now all-powerful federal government at Washington. The Republican party now needed the freedmen’s vote to ensure their victory at the polls, and worked ruthlessly through its Union League to keep Republican ballots in black hands.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Effecting a Change of Masters

“It is scarcely in the power of human language to describe the enthusiastic delight with which the abolitionists, both in England and in America, were inspired by the spectacle of West India Emancipation. We might easily adduce a hundred illustrations of the almost frantic joy with which it intoxicated their brains [but we might also illustrate] how indignant [the abolitionist] became that others were not equally disposed to part with their sober senses.

In one day, probably seven hundred thousand of human beings were rescued from bondage to full, unqualified freedom. The crowning glory of this day was the fact that the work of emancipation was wholly due to the principles of Christianity. The West Indies were freed, not boy force, or human policy, but by the reverence of a great people for justice and humanity.

[The good people of the free States] did not go into raptures over so fearful an experiment before they had some little time to see how it would work. They did, no doubt, most truly and profoundly love liberty. But then they had some reason to suspect, perhaps, that liberty may be one thing, and abolitionism quite another. Liberty, they knew, was a thing of light and love; but as for abolitionism, it was, for all they knew, a demon of destruction.

We shall begin with Jamaica. The very first year after the complete emancipation of the slaves of this island, its prosperity began to manifest symptoms of decay. The abolitionist not only closed his eyes on every appearance of decline in the prosperity of the West Indies, he also seized with avidity every indication of the successful operation of his [emancipation] scheme, and magnified it to both himself and to the world.

[But] “Shipping has deserted her ports; her magnificent plantations of sugar and coffee are running to weeds; her private dwellings are falling to decay . . .”It is impossible [to not arrive] at the conclusion that the freedom granted to the negro has had little effect except that of enabling him to live at the expense of the planter so long as anything remained. Sixteen years of freedom did not appear to its author to have “advanced the dignity of labor or of the laboring classes one particle,” while it had ruined the land, and this great damage had been done to the one class without benefit of any kind to the other.”

In relation to Jamaica, another witness says: “The marks of decay abound . . . People who have nothing, and can no longer keep up their domestic establishments, take refuge in the abodes of others, where some means of subsistence are still left;. . . the lives of crowded thousands appear to be preserved from day to day by a species of miracle.

We might fill volumes with extracts to the same effect. We might in like manner point to other regions, especially to Guatemala, to the British colony on the southern coast of Africa, and to the island of Hayti, in all of which emancipation was followed by precisely similar events. By the act of emancipation, Great Britain paralyzed the right arm of her colonial industry. The laborer would not work except occasionally, and the planter was ruined. The morals of the Negro disappeared with his industry, and he speedily retraced his steps toward his original barbarism. All this had been clearly foretold.

Precisely the same thing had been foretold by the Calhoun’s and Clays of this country. The calmest, the profoundest, the wisest statesman of Great Britain likewise forewarned the agitators of the desolation and the woes they were about to bring upon the West Indies. But the madness of the day would confide in no wisdom except its own, and listen to no testimony except the clamor of fanatics. Hence the frightful experiment was made . . .

But what is meant by freedom of the emancipated slaves, on which so many exalted eulogies have been pronounced? Its first element, it is plain, is a freedom from labor – freedom from the very first law of nature. In one word, its sum and substance is a power on the part of the freed black to act pretty much as he pleases.”

The magnificent colony of St. Domingo did not quite perish . . . the entire white population soon melted, like successive snowflakes of snow, in a furnace of that freedom that Robespierre had kindled. The atrocities of this awful massacre have had, as the historian has said, no parallel in the annals of human crime. “The Negroes,” says Alison, “marched with spiked infants on their spears instead of colors; they sawed asunder the [white] male prisoners, and violated the females on the dead bodies of their husbands.”

The work of death, thus completed with such outbursts of unutterable brutality, constituted and closed the first act in the grand drama of Haytian freedom. In this frightful chaos, the ambitious mulattoes, whose insatiable desire for equality had first disturbed the peace of the island, perished miserably beneath the vengeance of the very slaves whom they had themselves roused from subjection and elevated into irresistible power. Thus ended the second act of the horrible drama.

[In the new independent Negro state, the lands] were divided out among the officers of the army, while the privates were compelled to cultivate the soil under their former military commanders . . . No better could have been expected except by fools or fanatics. The blacks might preach equality, it is true, but yet, like the more enlightened ruffians of Paris, they would of course take good care not to practice what they had preached.

Hence, by all the horrors of their bloody revolution, they had only effected a change of masters. The white man had disappeared, and the black man, one of their own race and color, had assumed his place and his authority.”

(Liberty and Slavery, Albert Taylor Bledsoe, J.B. Lippincott & Company, 1856, pp. 229-278; reprinted 2000 by

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

It was a commonly held opinion by 1860 that the western territories were not conducive to large plantation and the black labor required to make it economically feasible. It was Lincoln in his “House-Divided” speech who fanned the flames of sectional discord and set the South on its path toward political independence, and the North on its path to war. Washington in his farewell address warned of the dangers of sectionalism – the same that Lincoln and his party created and nourished.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

“The defeat of the slave-State constitution in Kansas made it certain that none of the land [Stephen] Douglas had opened to slavery north of 36-30 [latitude] would become slave. In view of the economic circumstances it was becoming more and more evident that unless the Republican party acquired new tenets there was no reason for continuing its organization.

[William] Seward, one of the leading lights of the party, and [Horace] Greeley, the leading editor of the party, were willing at this time to dissolve the party, but Lincoln was unwilling for the Republicans to disband their distinctive anti-slavery [expansion] organization and have nobody to follow but Douglas, who did not care whether slavery was “voted up or voted down.”

Accordingly, in his debate with Douglas, [Lincoln] had to supply additional material for the sustenance of his party’s life; for the time was rapidly approaching when it would become obvious to everybody that the extension of slavery into the territories had been checked permanently by prevailing economic conditions.

In order to win victory at the polls in 1858 it would be necessary for a Republican candidate not only to hold persons already enrolled in the moribund political organization, but also to gain recruits to the cause of prohibition of slavery in the territories by federal law.

The two groups from which new members could be drawn were the bona-fide abolitionists and the Henry Clay “Whigs” who had hitherto refused to enroll themselves in a sectional political party. The abolitionists supplied the soul of the anti-slavery movement of the North, but they had in general refused to vote for anybody who compromised on anything less than a declaration in favor of abolition of slavery in the slave States.

The Henry Clay Whigs of the North opposed further acquisition of territory which could be devoted to slavery but desired ultimate abolition of slavery only under conditions equitable to the South. They had most kindly feelings toward the Southern whites and like Clay they preferred the liberty of their own race to that of any other race, although they were no friends of slavery.

Lincoln so skillfully calculated the wording of his famous House-Divided speech that it won converts to his following from both sides of the above-mentioned groups. It carried water on both shoulders, so to speak, for it was so constructed that it was acceptable to both radicals and moderate conservatives. [The speech] contained bait for abolitionist consumption . . . and [it also] veils the radicalism . . . and makes of the whole what many Henry Clay Whigs even in the South hoped.

The idea presented . . . to the effect that the advocates of slavery intended to push slavery forward into the Northern States unless the system was checked . . . contained a powerful cement for amalgamating the heterogeneous elements of the North into one sectional party opposed to such extension. [Lincoln’s speech] was sufficiently nourishing to the party’s life to have “all free” enshrined as an ultimate ideal and to spread the idea that the South would be satisfied with nothing less than “all slave.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861, A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Doctoral Dissertation, Philosophy, Columbia University, 1921, excerpts, pp. 18-21)