FROM 1492 TO 1920
BY JULIAN HAWTHORNE
P F COLLIER & SONS COMPANY, NEW YORK 1920
YOU may see a ship slipping smoothly through the blue ripples of a summer sea, with the sunshine broad on her sails and deck,- and musical breezes whispering through her shrouds: and right across her path, dark, and lurid with strange hues, the awful menace of an approaching hurricane. Here is peace and well-being; yonder war and destruction. Is the helmsman asleep? If not, let him furl those white sails betimes and batten down his hatches, or his ship will be crushed and sunk.
Fillmore, the amiable nonentity, firm only in his docility to the great men about him, had left the helm of State with warm prosperity all around him: He passed smiling over the side and was carried safe ashore. He gave no warning order; he himself saw nothing to fear. Yet the tempest was all but on us; you might hear the moan of its rage from afar. And mainsail and foresail, stun'sail and topsail, were spread aboard, and the Stars and Stripes, emblem of freedom and power, floated aloft.
Meanwhile, upon the quarter-deck, appears the new commander, cheerful, hopeful, and resolute; honest and faithful too, and a sailor born. He marshals his crew and issues his orders; he explains to his officers the course he will steer and what port he means to make. There is no apprehension in his bearing; he is proud of his ship; he has confidence in his men, and they in him. He has a good brain, a brave heart, and a firm will. All, is well; hear the shouting of the multitude from the wharf! And yet captain, crew, and shouting multitude, all are blind. The hurricane will smite the Ship of State, and she will lie on her beam ends, with the seas breaking heavily across her, her flag rent, her masts gone by the board. It shall be by the mercy of God only that she does not founder and go down.
Optimism and self-confidence are good qualities in a man or in a nation; but they should be molded by foresight and reason. It seems incredible now that we could have headed into the Kansas troubles, and through them into the Civil War, without realizing it. Yet so it was. It is useless to assert that we were shipwrecked deliberately. South Carolina had prattled of secession, no doubt, as a pretty woman threatens her husband with leaving him if he does not buy her a new bonnet; but nothing serious was meant. Abolitionists clamored for virtue or nonintercourse, and a million people read Harriet Beecher Stowe's new book; but the great common-sensible populace took it all with allowances, and said to themselves that the worst was probably over. Folks might chop at the Union with their litle hatchets, but it would stand a great deal, of such attack; and they might criticize the Constitution, but it was a very wise old document after all, and could be made wiser if necessary. That fugitive slave law was a nuisance, of course; a man doesn't like to have his house entered by a sheriff, and the attic and cellar ransacked for stray niggers; but, if he harbored the nigger, he knew what he was risking. As to the menace of slaveholding invading free States, that was all talk; what would they do there if they came? Besides, had not the Missouri Compromise settled all that? The South had all she wanted, with Cuba and the Isthmus in the background, perhaps; she did not want to interfere with the North, any more than the North wanted to meddle with her. Some of us like one thing, and some another; this is a big country; but we are all Americans, and we can live and let live, and make money hand over fist.
Such was the general attitude of the country; if there were nervous persons here and there who mouthed disaster, such we have always with us. Franklin Pierce was a New Hampshire boy; he had showed the stuff he was made of in the Mexican War; he was clean-handed and incorruptible; he would be certain ,to do the North justice, and if he was fair to the South too, that is only what a President ought to be. He was a. young man, too: barely fifty : and youth with its courage and its freedom from hampering entanglements is a good ingredient in politics. He meant to do right, and so did we all; so how could things go wrong?
The fact is that a man or a nation may do right while going all the while in a wrong direction; and it is the direction that tells. We were started on a wrong course; we were setting logical consistency against human -nature; and the more correct and logical our consistency the more certain were we to meet disaster. The Constitution had been so interpreted by the leaders of opinion as to sanction the Missouri Compromise and the fugitive slave law; the Constitution also permitted citizens of one State to reside in any other; the domestic concerns of individuals were of course sacred; and the extent of State rights was still undetermined, but the tendency of late had been to enlarge 'them. The existence of all these ingredients of gunpowder was conceded; there seemed to be no harm in any of them; and the fact that their combination would produce an explosion was not considered till too late.
On the journey to Washington a tragic accident befell the party of the President-elect: There was a railway collision;, the car in which Pierce, his' wife, and their son were sitting was shattered, and the little boy was crushed where he sat by a beam.' Mrs. Pierce did not see the horror; and her husband, in the midst of his anguish, .thought first of her, and quickly threw his cloak over the dreadful spectacle. This act was characteristic of Pierce; who ever thought of others before himself. Many years afterward, when he was standing beside the grave of his wife, to whom he had been devotedly attached, listening to the words of the burial service, a lifelong friend stood beside him. The winter wind blew cold across the grave; and Pierce, solicitous even in that moment for his friend, passed a hand over his shoulder to turn up the collar of his coat against the blast. The fiber of the man was intensely masculine, and his physical strength was exceptional: deep chest, lean flanks, wiry and tireless limbs: but with this masculine strength went an exquisite natural tenderness and courtesy, coming from the heart, and enriched with human sympathy. Once, when the daughter of a friend was lying ill of a disease which-was likely to end fatally, Pierce used to come to the house day after day, and sit for an hour or so in the room with the anxious family;. saying little, making no demonstration; but permeating and strengthening all with his deep, loving sympathy. Children loved him, and men and women acknowledged his sway. He was a conscientious man, with a high ideal of rectitude and duty. Like other public men of his time, he was accustomed to drink, occasionally to excess, ' and his strong social qualities aided this tendency; but when he entered the Presidential office. he wholly abstained ,from wine or liquor during his entire term. He was a striking figure to look at, erect and soldierly to the end of his life, with a step full of power; his hair was black and wiry, bushing at the ends. Such was the man who, because he steadily pursued the course that he believed to be right, made himself, during his term, from one of the most popular the most unpopular man who had held the office of President. Like Clay and Webster, he loved and cherished the Union; on assuming the reins of authority, he accepted things as he found them, and resolutely carried out the policy which his party authorized, and which he deemed best for the country. But Pierce's penetrating gray eyes could see only straight ahead; the path of what he thought his duty was narrow, and it led to calamity.
At first, however, all promised well, and the energy of the country was shown -in the variety and energy of 'its activities. Traffic increased; the scandals of the municipal government of New York under Fernando Wood were already notorious; San Francisco was growing great under the stern rule of its Vigilance Committee; Oregon was becoming steadily populous; Lucretia Mott was setting in motion that movement for women's rights which claimed for the sex all masculine things, from trousers to the. suffrage; and which is only now beginning to realize hat women's privileges go further and fare better; and Neal Dow, the best exemplar of the value of his own opinions, was founding the Temperance Society. In short, our people were entering into the detail of life on all sides, trying experiments, laughing at failures, profiting by both failures and successes. . Meanwhile Pierce, under agreeable auspices, was selecting his Cabinet, whose most priminent members were Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War; William Marcy, Secretary of State; and Caleb Cushing, Attorney General. Davis and Cushing seemed most near to the President; Marcy was older than the others, and less pronounced in his views. James Buchanan was sent to England. The President's address foreshadowed a reasonable home policy and a firm foreign one; he pledged himself to carry out the Compromise of 1850, and throughout expressed a hearty confidence in the country's -future. It was noticed that the Cabinet had rather a Southern look to it, as a whole; but since Pierce himself was Northern, that was good policy.
The first salient event of the Administration confirmed the, current good opinion of it. A Hungarian named Koszta, of revolutionary proclivities, was arrested in Smyrna by the Austrians, and was on the point of being carried into captivity, when our Captain Ingraham, who commanded a sloop of -war, interfered, on the ground that Koszta was an embryo American citizen; and threatened to bombard the Austrian brig if he were not given up. Marcy backed Ingraham up, and declared the rights all over the world of American citizens: much to the delight of our citizens at home, who have not always been so well vindicated since then. But it was plain that Pierce had not done all his fighting in Mexico; and the intimation from a member of his Cabinet that the annexation of further outlying territory would not necessarily meet with the opposition of the Government was also taken in good part. The World's Fair opened in New York, in emulation of that, in England, and was regarded as a good sign, though its financial success was not what might have been wished; but, upon the whole, we appeared to be getting on, and to be a great nation already: In this way we had covered the space between the inauguration and 1854. Then, all of a sudden, Stephen A. Douglas, a Vermont politician, at this time about forty-two years old, introduced what was known as the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. Not much notice of Douglas had hitherto been taken by the country, though in Congress he was known as an effective speaker of the coarsely vigorous kind. He was small in stature, but with the voice of a stentor, and an uproarious manner of speaking, waving his arms, bellowing manfully in the ardent passages, and tearing off his stock in the heat of action to give himself breathing room. These intimations of the pressure of a great soul upon a small body caused him to get the nickname of the Little Giant. He was a Democrat, sprung from the ranks, but allied in sentiment with the South, and in favor of annexing territory in their behalf. That he was ambitious is certain, and he had brains above the average; nor was he incapable of making his brains serve his ambition at the expense of what are ordinarily termed scruples. He perceived his advantage in ingratiating himself with the South, which seemed likely to hold the reins of power for some time to come, and he was young enough to afford to wait some years for the Presidency, though not too young to begin to play for those great stakes. The Kansas-Nebraska Bill seemed to him a good way of beginning.
The essence of his political idea in the bill was to develop the discrepancy between the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850. The first forbade slavery above 36° 30': the latter made slavery optional in all new territories. Douglas conceived-as the conditions gave him the right to do-that the Compromise of 1850 annulled the other. For if new territories could admit slaves if they liked, then by what authority could the restriction of 36° 30' be applied to them? If they happened to be south of the line, of course whatever force the restriction might have would be in favor of slavery; but if they were above the line, then they were justified in declaring that the later bill annulled the earlier one. For a hard and fast line, which was sure to do injustice to some one, was substituted the free choice of the settlers in the region; the wishes of the majority should rule them, as the Constitution declared and intended should be the case. Furthermore, the measure was rigidly impartial as between North and South; because, if a community south of the old line should prefer to dispense with slaves, they would be just as free to do so as would be the settlers in a northern district to introduce them. It was in accordance with the spirit of all American institutions that the people should live as they chose within the due limits of the law. This bill was not a slave measure any more than it was a free-soil measure; it was a national measure, and was in the line of true progress and development.
By what arguments should the position taken by this bill be overthrown? It could not be overthrown by any argument of principle; could it have been, this would of course have been done. It was vindicated by the Compromise of 1850, which had been passed by Congress and acquiesced in by the whole nation; which says that whenever Nebraska (or other territory) applied for admission, it should be at liberty to do so "with or without slavery." And this was a knife that cut both ways; for what was to prevent the inhabitants of some Southern region, applying for admission, from stipulating that slavery should not exist within their limits, and thus introducing free soil into the heart of slavedom? The Southerners, in accepting the 1850 Compromise, had accepted this contingency; and -it would be unjust of the North not to do as much.. In fact, there already was California, part of which extended below 36° 30', which had come in as a free State, because the majority of its populace so desired. Turn and turn about is fair play.
The most obvious method of attack upon the bill was to maintain that the Missouri Compromise was notannulled by that of 1850. By way of testing this point,Dixon of Kentucky moved to amend the bill by repealing the Missouri Compromise. This prompted Douglas so to modify his bill as to pronounce the Missouri Compromise explicitly void; and it divided Nebraska into two territories, one called Nebraska, the other Kansas; in which popular or "squatter" sovereignty should obtain. "The object is not to admit or exclude slavery," said Douglas, "but to remove whatever obstacles Congress has placed in the way of it, and to apply to all our territories the doctrine of nonintervention." Should Congress, after debate, admit that the Missouri Compromise was void, what other objection could the opponents of the bill urge against it?
Before submitting it to debate, Douglas caused its provisions to be laid before Pierce by a committee of which Jefferson Davis, who approved the bill, was a member. Pierce listened to the reading of the bill, and then said; according to the report, "I consider the bill based upon a sound principle which the Compromise of 18`30 infringed upon, and to which we have now returned." This was the first that Pierce had heard of the bill, and that was his opinion upon it. Davis himself, it may be observed, had violently opposed the 1850 Compromise; he wished the 36° 30' line to be carried to the Pacific. Manifestly he had undergone a change of heart, since the Douglas bill was built out of the materials furnished by the 1850 act. As a matter of fact, he had opposed the latter without due consideration; now that he realized what could be done with it, his opposition vanished. As to the President, he could have no choice, as a Constitutional Executive, but to declare that the bill was in his opinion strictly constitutional. He was there not to make laws, nor to find fault with them after they had been made; but simply to see that they were enforced. He could see no constitutional flaw in Douglas's bill, and he so declared. Whether he personally liked it or not is another question, having no bearing upon his course. The President has great power, and is able in a degree to influence legislation; and Pierce, had he disliked this bill, and been able to give sound reasons against it, might have vetoed it when it came officially before him. But Pierce was a Democrat; he did not believe in antagonizing slaveholders or in abolishing slavery; and if the whole nation should express a desire for the extension of slavery, he would not have hindered them any more than he would have hindered free soil extension, had that been the national preference. Obviously he could not foresee the disturbance and disorder which the Squatter-Sovereignty Bill would make; neither could Douglas. The commencement of the mischief antedated all of them; it lay in allowing slavery to overstep its original boundaries at the time the Constitution was adopted. Had an amendment to that effect been carried then, as it probably might have been, all would have been well now; but what had been done since was all in the nature of a corollary; and all we can say against the South's conduct, up to the time they seceded, is that if they had shown less arrogance and been more forbearing, the only harm done by slavery would have been confined to the original slave States.
The attitude of Davis, however, is significant, and typifies that of the whole South. He and the South knew that, apart from abstractions, the Douglas bill would benefit them and not the North. No Southern communities would arise desiring the abolition of slavery within their boundaries; there was no. propaganda in that direction; the only propaganda was that of slavery toward the North. Their assertion that the bill was impartial as between South and North was therefore lacking in candor; it was impartial in theory, but not in fact. Had the bill been equally favorable to both sections, it would have met with no opposition from the North; had it been equally hostile to both, it would never have been passed. It is to be observed, moreover, that although the interpretation of the 1850 Compromise was legally correct, the present outcome of it had not been realized by the people at the time; and it took them by surprise. We may say it was their fault; eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and a free people are bound to foresee all contingencies of any act which their representatives pass. But in practice the people commonly attend to their private business, and let politicians manage their politics; and though it is the duty of the politicians to protect the people against their own heedlessness, the counsel, is one of perfection, and is not observed in practice.
The debate on the bill began in January and lasted nearly till June. Clay and Webster being no more, the debate lacked the eloquence it would otherwise have had; but Seward, Salmon P. Chase and Sumner were arrayed against the bill, and it made their reputations. They had not much logical material to work with, but they made a stubborn fight. The bill discharged Congress of responsibility for the doings of the territories; and it did not specify at what period the exclusion or adoption of slavery in a territory should be determined. This was a fault of detail, however-not of principle. The North as a whole took the ground, instinctively, of protesting against the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Popular speakers declared the bill to be a slaveholder's plot to spread slavery over the Union. But to ascribe sinister motives to a given action is not the same thing as proving the action itself to be unlawful. Be that as it might, the indignation aroused by the bill at the North was vehement; the friendly feeling toward the South, which had been growing up, was dispersed at once. The battle was fought in the Senate with no mincing of phrases; but the majority was in its favor, and the vote which sent it to the House on the 3d of March was a majority of twenty-three. The House resorted to all manner of parliamentary tactics, in addition to mere argument, to support or defeat the measure; but on the 22d of May tactics came to an end, and the bill was passed, with unimportant amendments, by 113 to 100. The Senate now reconsidered it, and passed it on May 26 without a division. On the 30th it went to the President, who signed his name to it, and it became the law of the land. The peculiar feature of this lamentable affair is that the bill was an entirely gratuitous one. The settlers in Nebraska had never asked for it; they had. assumed that the 36° 30' line settled their status. Had it not been for Mr. Douglas, reasoning in vacuo, the bill might never have been born. . That it was born, therefore, lends color to the suspicion that Douglas may have conspired with certain Southern leaders to take this means of advancing slavery. That is an inference, and a strong one; but, of positive proof there is none. Douglas must bear the odium of the doubt. But the plot, if there were one, was very limited in its membership; the South at large, in and out of Congress, however much the bill may have gratified them, had no more to do with it than to take it when it was offered them. Whoever else was in the plot, Pierce certainly was not; he had nothing to gain by the bill, and it cost him his political future. He acted from conscience solely; and he accepted the consequences without flinching.
After Congress had had its say, the people began to be heard and their first demonstration was at Boston. Owing to an indiscretion, the presence in the house of a Boston citizen of a fugitive slave, Anthony Burns by name, was revealed; and a sheriff came to Boston and tried in vain to' persuade the man to return with him. peaceably. He then brought a writ of arrest. When this became known, there was a riot, which could barely be put down by military force. A meeting convened in Faneuil Hall, and Wendell Phillips and Theodore Parker fanned its flames. The excitement continued for a week; a rescue was tried and failed. Another week was consumed in the trial of the case before Commissioner Loring. The only possible result occurred; Burns was decided to be a fugitive slave, and it was decreed that he return to slavery. The law must be obeyed; but the Boston people were very angry, and their anger generally had meant somethiug. They draped their houses in black, and hissed the procession that took Burns to the ship; and he was the last fugitive slave to be taken out of Boston.
The fugitive slave law had no ostensible connection with the Squatter-Rights Bill; but the inflammation caused by the latter affected the Northern sensitiveness regarding the former. The judge who tried the case was dismissed for deciding it according to law; inventions were elaborated to defeat the law by delays, if it could not be broken; and as for Anthony Burns, he was bought back from his Southern master by subscriptions and enabled to become a free Bostonian. Possibly the South would have been willing to accept an extension of the same idea, and sell all its slaves to the North at a fair price; but the proposition was not made.
Whatever happened now was interpreted as a new symptom of Southern plots against the peace and liberty of the realm. General Quitman, an inextinguishable disquietist, made fantastic efforts to capture Cuba; the Cuban Government had seized our ship, Black Warrior, in a high-handed way, calling forth a stern message from Pierce; and our relations with Spain were temporarily clouded; Quitman had few followers in the South, but he was regarded in the North as the would-be founder of an independent Southern empire. Walker of Nicaragua (as he was later called) sailed with a picturesque band of adventurers for La Paz, in southern California, and appropriated the place, issuing a picturesque proclamation to the inhabitants; but the support he had counted on failed him, and he had to come back. Gadsden made an official treaty with Mexico, fixing our boundary line a little further south, in order to get space for a projected railway. The North regarded all these movements with the same suspicion; though only the latter had the support of the Administration; Pierce rigidly suppressed the filibustering tendency, to the disappointment of Southern agitators; but he was as alert to enforce the Constitution against them as he had been to declare the validity of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. Both sides called him sectional, because he was impartial.
But it was impossible for him, or for any man, to please both sides in this quarrel. If he kept his oath to preserve the Constitution and the Union, he must inevitably anger first one party and then the other, or both at once. The people and the Constitution-or the several interpretations of it-were at odds; Sumner touched the point when he replied to Butler, "I swore to support the Constitution as I understood it-not as it was understood by others." The divergence between the two sides was of sentiment and morality, and the attempt of either to support it on legal grounds was natural, but futile. It would have to be accommodated, if at all, in other ways.
The fear of slavery extension, the danger of which was real, but immensely exaggerated, drove the discordant parties of the North to make common cause free Democrats, old Whigs, Free-Soilers, rallied under a common impulse, and assumed the collective title of Republicans; a title which the Civil War made glorious, and which retained the confidence of the people for the better part of a generation. Their manifesto in Congress was issued by George W. Julian and other reformers, and it affirmed that the free States had no longer any guarantee for the freedom in territories which former compromises had promised, and that with this guarantee had vanished all assurance of harmony and union between all the States. It charged that the South contemplated conquering or buying Cuba and parts of Mexico, and seeking an alliance with Russia against the other European powers, taking advantage of the Crimean War. Brazil, according to these mem- was to be made a center of Southern slavery, and when all was prepared, the South proposed to dissolve her connection with the rest of the United States, and set up an empire of her own. Southern leaders replied to the manifesto by remarking that they had never seen a production which "contained in so few words so much fiction and pure imagination." It is difficult, as Burke had observed many years before, to draw an indictment against a whole people; there were men in the South who aimed at all that Julian charged, and more; but there were innumerable more who projected or desired nothing of the kind. These reachings- into the unknown were a natural manifestation of an active and restless race, avid of new experiences; but there was nothing awful or wicked in them. And most of the people wished chiefly to stay at home and mind their own business.
The movement to unite at the North was steady but not so rapid as the extremists would have wished. State conventions were called, and some progress was ,made. It was at this time that the Know-Nothings became prominent; they wished to "put none but Americans on guard"-a sentiment which was sure to find expression in a new nation which had begun to feel the pressure of unassimilated material from the old world, much of it of an aspect by no means attractive, or even safe. There was a great deal of apparent justification for it; but it was impossible that it could, long endure; for Americans are the world-the old world in the new. Roman Catholicism came under the ban of the new society, which was strictly secret in its operations; but a war against a religious faith could never succeed in a land devoted to religious freedom. The KnowNothings were strong for a while, though never so strong as was imagined; they got into politics, and nominated candidates; Gardner was elected Governor of Massachusetts by their ballots; but bite attitude of neutrality which they were obliged to assume between slavery and its opponents was sure, at a time like this, to bring them between the two stools to the ground, as soon as they aimed at the Presidency. Only while the elements of opinion were still in solution, before finally crystallizing, could they, or any new combination, obtain a hearing.
Abroad, meanwhile, some minor treaties, looking to improvements of commercial relations. and of the fisheries were concluded; and at a conference of our Ministers held in Ostend in October, 1854, the purchase of Cuba from Spain for. a maximum sum of one hundred and twenty million dollars was advocated. If Spain declined the transaction, the suggestion was thrown out that we might compel her to give it by force; Russia acting as our ally and cobeneficiary in the enterprise. But Pierce would not support any such scheme; Russia had enough to do with England and France in the Crimea; and Spain made reparation for the Black Warrior outrage. Soule, who had been our Minister to Spain, and the chief agent in the affair, resigned in discouragement and returned home. On the other hand, Perry succeeded in establishing commercial relations with the hitherto hermit empire of Japan, and curiosities and utilities from that fascinating corner of the world began to be seen in the homes of the American people. But there was as yet nothing cordial in the attitude of the shy and supercilious antipodeans.
All this was byplay; the, real business before the country was the working out of the consequences of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. The South was somewhat puzzled by the attitude of the North; many Southerners believed what the President had long before affirmed-that the bill favored freedom, and that its passage would prevent the addition of any more slave States to the Union. It was not likely, on the face of it, that a territory north of 36° 30' would be settled by more Southern than Northern men. , But a panic had been started at the North, and there is no reasoning with panic. And, again, the sight of this panic aroused the South to its opportunity of rescuing the region in question from the Free-Soilers; and so the fight began. If the South could not get Kansas, it could hope for nothing else above 36° 30'. Oregon, Minnesota, and the other northern territories were beyond Southern reach; if the South could not expand northward, they were certain to be in a minority ere long. And if, as they believed, Northern supremacy meant abolition of slavery everywhere, evidently this was their death struggle as members of the Union. The only alternative was secession; and that meant a death struggle too.
Bait Missouri, a slave State, bordered upon Kansas, and the South had a chance there. Living or roaming along the border were numbers of rough characters, with a whisky bottle in one pocket and a revolver in the other, who were ripe for any enterprise. There was no real colonizing ability in the South; they were lacking in the business faculty which prevailed in the Northand assumed to be proud of the fact; but by means of this class of men they could seize the land. There were already slaves in Kansas; and the movement to take possession for slavery was led by Atchison of Kentucky, president of the Senate, a strong slavery sympathizer and a man of defiant energy. The borderers were ferried over the river in droves, and spread over the country, founding pro-slavery towns, and making a great noise for their side. They were not bond-fide settlers in most cases; or they had residences on both sides of the border, as political and other considerations might demand. As no stipulation had been made by Douglas's bill as to the time or manner in which the choice for or against slavery in a territory should be made, there seemed every likelihood that Kansas was lost to freedom.
But there were in the North also men of energy, not restrained by scruples too fine spun. Eli Thayer was one of these; and he suggested a plan for Northern colonization of the disputed land. There was plenty of material in the North; free laborers and lusty emigrants, who were qualified to take hold of a new country and reduce it to fruitfulness and civilization. Thayer, after some tentative agitation, dubbed his plan the New England Emigration Aid Society, and in July, 1854, it began operations. Other similar Kansas leagues were formed, and large bodies of Free-Soilers, with their wives and children, when they bad any, were transported to the point of interest. Hereupon String fellow, a supporter of Atchison, tried to get Congress to help arrange a Southern colonization scheme to counteract the Northern one; but though Southern members approved the plan, they could not provide it with practical support; so Atchison and Stringfellow were forced -to rely on maneuvers at the polls to effect what they could not do by more legitimate means. They dumped hundreds of fraudulent voters into the territory, who remained there only long enough to flourish their revolvers, drink their whisky, and cast as many votes as they pleased for slavery; and then went home again. The Northern colonists had not provided themselves with any other tools than those of peaceful agriculture, and were somewhat overawed by these demonstrations; so that the total proslavery vote, when counted, was a good deal more than the total number of genuine settlers in the territory.- A gentleman named Reeder, inclined to antislavery, was sent out by Pierce as Territorial Governor; and he remonstrated against a legislature elected in a manner so transparently irregular. But the proslavery party had judges as well as lawmakers in their possession; and the Chief Jusfice, Lecompte, a man unqualified for any position of trust, decided all questions in their favor. The Legislature, meeting at Shawnee Mission, instead of at Pawnee, as the Governor had directed, unseated all but a fraction of the freesoil minority, and that fraction retired voluntarily in dismay. Reeder still protesting, the now unanimous Legislature charged him with being corruptly interested in real estate in Pawnee; and this accusation, being supported in other quarters, was laid before Pierce, who, as in duty bound, suspended Reeder from his office. Proslavery measures of the most radical and menacing sort were now passed by the Legislature, and there was none to say them nay.
But however corrupt might have been the means by which this Legislature got elected, and however violent might be its behavior and measures, it was all done in the form of law, and had legal sanction until, by constitutional means, it should be discredited. Any attempt to ignore or supplant it otherwise would be revolutionary. It was the misfortune of the Free-Soil party to put themselves in a revolutionary attitude; and the circumstances went far to justify them, since time was of importance in a struggle of this kind, and unless something were done without waiting for the slow processes of judicial examination, Kansas would be lost forever. The proslavery party had committed a crime, but under the screen of the law; the antislavery people were doing right, but the law pronounced them wrong. This state of things is always difficult to manage, and those who engage in it must be prepared to take the consequences.
The unauthorized convention of the Free-Soilers met at Lawrence, provided with that necessary adjunct of legislation in these times, a consignment of Sharpe's rifles, and led by Robinson, an ex-Argonaut, familiar with bold proceedings, but a man of pith and gravity. They repudiated the Shawnee Mission assembly and its work, and summoned two other conventions at Rig Spring.-, and finally at Topeka. Reeder was chosen delegate to Congress, and election day was appointed on October fl, 1855, a week. or so later than the election day of the "regular" Legislature. But the proslavery voters still distanced their rivals in the fertility of their repeaters. Each party, of course, ignored the other. In October the Free-Soilers sent delegates to Topeka to frame a constitution and apply for admission as a State. At this juncture arrived on the scene the new Governor sent by Pierce to supply the place of Reeder; his name was Shannon, and lie was of a hasty temperament; without waiting to inquire into the merits of the case, he denounced the Free-Soilers as revolutionists, traitors, and breeders of insurrection; all of which things they were, technically; but in the condition that Kansas was, one should modify one's expressions. As a matter of fact, they were honest men, as this world goes, who were trying to remedy a crying abuse. There could be no possible agreement between slaveholders and Free-Soilers living side by side in the same Territory or State; and civil war really existed do posse, if not in actuality.
The President's regular annual message was not strongly accented as regarded Kansas; but soon after lie sent another message to Congress which denounced the irregularity of the late proceedings, anal called for the repression of Reeder, who had not yet purged him self of the charges which had compelled his retirement. The message also called attention to the unconstitutional character of the laws lately passed by Massachusetts, forbidding any aid of State troops, officials - or buildings in executing the fugitive slave acts, and penalizing slave hunters as kidnapers. This bill had been passed over the Governor's veto, and had been followed by the public burning of a copy of the Constitution by Garrison, who had solemnly decreed that "the Union must be dissolved." Such grotesque absurditiea were perhaps not worth noticing; but if they were noticed by the Executive, it could not be done in terms more moderate than those he used. The situation was inevitably bad, and the less attention was called to it the better for the present.
But hard words were common at this epoch; and Senator Sumner paid dear for his contribution to the supply of them in Congress. Sumner was a very egotistic and supercilious personage, with a fine command of invective, and a scholarly touch which was not always at the command of his Southern opponents. In reply to their "arrogant, old-plantation strain" he brought shafts bitterly barbed, which exasperated his adversaries none the less for the truth which winged many of them. The custom in the South among gentle men was to resent an affront by some physical remonstrance, such as a slap on the face, and then to await the demand of the smitten party for the "satisfaction usual among gentlemen." Sumner, a broad-shouldered, athletic man, in the prime of his age and strength, had been particularly rasping to the personal sensibilities of Butler of South Carolina, a man in the decline of life. The latter made no demonstration; but he had a nephew, a young ass by the name of Preston Brooks; and Brooks, taking unto himself a friend of the same kind and caliber named Keitt, went to the Senate Chamber two days after Sumner's speech, and found the latter writing quietly- at his desk, and looking for anything but violence. Brooks and Keitt had canes--- of Brooks being of black rubber, not very formidable to look at, but capable of giving a sharp and painful blow. Advancing abruptly upon the seated Senator. "You have libeled the State of South Carolina and my aged relative!" shouted the gentlemanly ruffian, at the same time fetching the object of his rage a violent blow on the head, which bewildered him and brought blood, and following it up with many more blows on the back and shoulders, until the cane was broken to pieces: the chivalric Keitt, meanwhile, keeping off would-be rescuers by flourishing his cane in their faces. Sumner could have annihilated Brooks if only he could have got hold of him; but his long legs were hampered by the desk, which was clamped to the floor with iron screws, and he was unable to rise. The effort he made to do so was so vigorous that it partly tore the desk from its moorings, and strained his own back so severely that for years he was a partial cripple. Having accomplished this dastardly "vindication" of South Carolina and his aged relative, Brooks was removed; and public sentiment would have supported Sumner had he called him out and shot him. Men who use words as Sumner used them should be prepared to make them good in any manner the aggrieved may propose. But Sumner was conscientiously opposed to dueling, and he went to Europe to recover his health, and posed as the first martyr of, the antislavery cause; while Brooks, having made his one bid for immortality, expired by natural processes not long after. History will probably decide that too much sympathy was lavished upon Sumner; but one can hardly be too unrelenting in one's condemnation of Brooks, and of the type he stood for. In Kansas, things continued to go from bad to worse. Shannon, the new Governor, demanded and got United States troops to restore what he was pleased to call order; and a proslavery mob marched on Lawrence and sacked and wrecked it. A Congressional committee, of which John Sherman, then a young man, was a member, was appointed to go to Kansas and find out what really was the matter. After examining and reducing to writing the testimony of over three hundred witnesses of all shades of opinion, they made a report declaring that the proslavery people were in the wrong, and that Kansas ought by right to be a free State. A bill to admit it accordingly under its Topeka constitution was passed in the House, but could not get through the Senate. Civil war of a desultory but very disturbing kind continued in the unhappy country for some years longer; Governor Shannon resigned his difficult function. in 1856, and was succeeded by a son of Anak called Geary, who did the best he could with a. hopeless job, pending a final settlement.
The year before this, the filibuster Walker had undertaken once more to redeem Central America from the evils under which that fagot of countries was supposed to be suffering. There had been a revolution in Nicaragua; and Walker arrived there with his followers in season to set up a native adventurer named Rivas as President, lie assuming the modest post of Commander in Chief, but, as a matter of fact, pulling the strings of the Administration. At his instance, a Minister was sent to Washington to demand recognition )f the new Republic; and all being as regular as Spanish-American affairs could ever be expected to be, the President received the Minister with courtesy. But Walker's Government did not last long; the other Central American States combined against him, and he was forced to return to America. But he was an irrepressible spirit, and only death could quiet him. He met it in Honduras in 1860, in accordance with the sentence of a native court-martial.
The fact that recruiting for the English army was proved to have been carried on in Philalelpbia and other American towns, and that a British squadron had been offensively conspicuous in the West Indies, combined with disagreements over the execution of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, which Buchanan had been unable to arrange, made war with England again seem probable; and Pierce's message on the subject was decidedly warlike. But the English retired from their position with unusual promptitude, and Lord Derby made the most cordial professions of friendly regard. it would be a curious speculation what effect this war, had it broken out, would have had upon the relations between South and North in America. Would a common cause have renewed our Union?-or would the end have found its two separate countries, with a divided and enfeebled destiny? While we lament what we have suffered, we may marvel at what we have escaped.
The Free-Soilers-- not the detachment of them which had been operating somewhat out of the regular line in Kansas, but the national party known for a while under that name-and the Democrats faced each other for the final struggle at the polls. Pierce and Buchanan were the candidates of the latter; the former chose Fremont. The convention which nominated him met in Pittsburgh, and officially adopted the name of Republicans -the party of Reform. The Know-Nothings nominated Fillimore, but they were overwhelmingly defeated, and disappeared thenceforth from national politics. The Republicans did not expect to win, but to prepare the wary for victory when their cause and aims should have become better understood. They included many stray remnauts of minor organizations, and not a few wild eyed enthusiasts who wished reform to be carried to ideal lengths. The platform declared for the Union and
Constitution, respecting the rights of States, but giving Congress supreme power in Territories to prevent, not to encourage, slavery. It called slavery and polygamy twin relics of barbarism, and demanded their abatementment. It asked the admission of Kansas with a free constitution.
The National Democratic Convention met at Cincinnati, and upheld the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Fugitive Slave Law; recognized State rights within limits, and commended the attempt to ameliorate the state of affairs in Central America. It paid a high compliment to the Administration of Franklin Pierce; but the shrewd politicians who composed the convention well knew that Pierce had been too steadfastly impartial in his loyalty to the Constitution to hope for support either from South or North; and the first ballot gave Buchanan the advantage. Pierce presently withdrew his name and the choice of Buchanan was made unanimous and the war of Secession inevitable. But, for that matter, the South had already announced, through several of her representative sons, that the election of Fremont would mean disunion. We were drifting into the rapids.