By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: An Anti-Slavery Crusade: A Chronicle of the Gathering Storm
Author: Macy, Jesse, 1842-1919
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "An Anti-Slavery Crusade: A Chronicle of the Gathering Storm" ***



By Jesse Macy

New Haven: Yale University Press

Toronto: Glasgow, Brook & Co.

London: Humphrey Milford Oxford University Press




















The Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln marks the beginning
of the end of a long chapter in human history. Among the earliest
forms of private property was the ownership of slaves. Slavery as an
institution had persisted throughout the ages, always under protest,
always provoking opposition, insurrection, social and civil war, and
ever bearing within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Among the
historic powers of the world the United States was the last to uphold
slavery, and when, a few years after Lincoln's proclamation, Brazil
emancipated her slaves, property in man as a legally recognized
institution came to an end in all civilized countries.

Emancipation in the United States marked the conclusion of a century of
continuous debate, in which the entire history of western civilization
was traversed. The literature of American slavery is, indeed, a summary
of the literature of the world on the subject. The Bible was made a
standard text-book both for and against slavery. Hebrew and Christian
experiences were exploited in the interest of the contending parties
in this crucial controversy. Churches of the same name and order
were divided among themselves and became half pro-slavery and half

Greek experience and Greek literature were likewise drawn into the
controversy. The Greeks themselves had set the example of arguing both
for and against slavery. Their practice and their prevailing teaching,
however, gave support to this institution. They clearly enunciated the
doctrine that there is a natural division among human beings; that some
are born to command and others to obey; that it is natural to some men
to be masters and to others to be slaves; that each of these classes
should fulfill the destiny which nature assigns. The Greeks also
recognized a difference between races and held that some were by
nature fitted to serve as slaves, and others to command as masters. The
defenders of American slavery therefore found among the writings of the
Greeks their chief arguments already stated in classic form.

Though the Romans added little to the theory of the fundamental problem
involved, their history proved rich in practical experience. There were
times, in parts of the Roman Empire, when personal slavery either
did not exist or was limited and insignificant in extent. But the
institution grew with Roman wars and conquests. In rural districts,
slave labor displaced free labor, and in the cities servants multiplied
with the concentration of wealth. The size and character of the
slave population eventually became a perpetual menace to the State.
Insurrections proved formidable, and every slave came to be looked upon
as an enemy to the public. It is generally conceded that the extension
of slavery was a primary cause of the decline and fall of Rome. In
the American controversy, therefore, the lesson to be drawn from Roman
experience was utilized to support the cause of free labor.

After the Middle Ages, in which slavery under the modified form of
feudalism ran its course, there was a reversion to the ancient classical
controversy. The issue became clearly defined in the hands of the
English and French philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries. In place of the time-honored doctrine that the masses of
mankind are by nature subject to the few who are born to rule, the
contradictory dogma that all men are by nature free and equal was
clearly enunciated. According to this later view, it is of the very
nature of spirit, or personality, to be free. All men are endowed with
personal qualities of will and choice and a conscious sense of right and
wrong. To subject these native faculties to an alien force is to make
war upon human nature. Slavery and despotism are, therefore, in their
nature but a species of warfare. They involve the forcing of men to act
in violation of their true selves. The older doctrine makes government
a matter of force. The strong command the weak, or the rich exercise
lordship over the poor. The new doctrine makes of government an
achievement of adult citizens who agree among themselves as to what
is fit and proper for the good of the State and who freely observe the
rules adopted and apply force only to the abnormal, the delinquent, and
the defective.

Between the upholders of these contradictory views of human nature
there always has been and there always must be perpetual warfare. Their
difference is such as to admit of no compromise; no middle ground is
possible. The conflict is indeed irresistible. The chief interest in
the American crusade against slavery arises from its relation to this
general world conflict between liberty and despotism.

The Athenians could be democrats and at the same time could uphold and
defend the institution of slavery. They were committed to the doctrine
that the masses of the people were slaves by nature. By definition,
they made slaves creatures void of will and personality, and they
conveniently ignored them in matters of state. But Americans living in
States founded in the era of the Declaration of Independence could not
be good democrats and at the same time uphold and defend the institution
of slavery, for the Declaration gives the lie to all such assumptions
of human inequality by accepting the cardinal axiom that all men are
created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights, among
which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The doctrine
of equality had been developed in Europe without special reference to
questions of distinct race or color. But the terms, which are universal
and as broad as humanity in their denotation, came to be applied to
black men as well as to white men. Massachusetts embodied in her state
constitution in 1780 the words, "All men are born free and equal," and
the courts ruled that these words in the state constitution had the
effect of liberating the slaves and of giving to them the same rights as
other citizens. This is a perfectly logical application of the doctrine
of the Revolution.

The African slave-trade, however, developed earlier than the doctrine
of the Declaration of Independence. Negro slavery had long been an
established institution in all the American colonies. Opposition to the
slave-trade and to slavery was an integral part of the evolution of
the doctrine of equal rights. As the colonists contended for their own
freedom, they became anti-slavery in sentiment. A standard complaint
against British rule was the continued imposition of the slave-trade
upon the colonists against their oft-repeated protest.

In the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, there appeared
the following charges against the King of Great Britain:

"He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most
sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of distant people
who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in
another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation
thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is
the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep
open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted
his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to
restrain this execrable commerce."

Though this clause was omitted from the document as finally adopted,
the evidence is abundant that the language expressed the prevailing
sentiment of the country. To the believer in liberty and equality,
slavery and the slave-trade are instances of war against human nature.
No one attempted to justify slavery or to reconcile it with the
principles of free government. Slavery was accepted as an inheritance
for which others were to blame. Colonists at first blamed Great Britain;
later apologists for slavery blamed New England for her share in the
continuance of the slave-trade.

The fact should be clearly comprehended that the sentiments which led to
the American Revolution, and later to the French Revolution in Europe,
were as broad in their application as the human race itself--that there
were no limitations nor exceptions. These new principles involved
a complete revolution in the previously recognized principles of
government. The French sought to make a master-stroke at immediate
achievement and they incurred counterrevolutions and delays. The
Americans moved in a more moderate and tentative manner towards the
great achievement, but with them also a counter-revolution finally
appeared in the rise of an influential class who, by openly defending
slavery, repudiated the principles upon which the government was

At first the impression was general, in the South as well as in
the North, that slavery was a temporary institution. The cause of
emancipation was already advocated by the Society of Friends and some
other sects. A majority of the States adopted measures for the gradual
abolition of slavery, but in other cases there proved to be industrial
barriers to emancipation. Slaves were found to be profitably employed in
clearing away the forests; they were not profitably employed in general
agriculture. A marked exception was found in small districts in the
Carolinas and Georgia where indigo and rice were produced; and though
cotton later became a profitable crop for slave labor, it was the
producers of rice and indigo who furnished the original barrier to the
immediate extension of the policy of emancipation. Representatives from
their States secured the introduction of a clause into the Constitution
which delayed for twenty years the execution of the will of the country
against the African slave-trade. It is said that a slave imported from
Africa paid for himself in a single year in the production of rice.
There were thus a few planters in Georgia and the Carolinas who had an
obvious interest in the prolongation of the institution of slavery and
who had influence enough, to secure constitutional recognition for both
slavery and the slave-trade.

The principles involved were not seriously debated. In theory all were
abolitionists; in practice slavery extended to all the States. In some,
actual abolition was comparatively easy; in others, it was difficult. By
the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, actual abolition
had extended to the line separating Pennsylvania from Maryland. Of the
original thirteen States seven became free and six remained slave.

The absence of ardent or prolonged debate upon this issue in the early
history of the United States is easily accounted for. No principle
of importance was drawn into the controversy; few presumed to defend
slavery as a just or righteous institution. As to conduct, each
individual, each neighborhood enjoyed the freedom of a large, roomy
country. Even within state lines there was liberty enough. No keen sense
of responsibility for a uniform state policy existed. It was therefore
not difficult for those who were growing wealthy by the use of imported
negroes to maintain their privileges in the State.

If the sense of active responsibility was wanting within the separate
States, much more was this true of the citizens of different States.
Slavery was regarded as strictly a domestic institution. Families bought
and owned slaves as a matter of individual preference. None of the
original colonies or States adopted slavery by law. The citizens of the
various colonies became slaveholders simply because there was no law
against it. * The abolition of slavery was at first an individual matter
or a church or a state policy. When the Constitution was formulated, the
separate States had been accustomed to regard themselves as possessed
of sovereign powers; hence there was no occasion for the citizens of
one State to have a sense of responsibility on account of the
domestic institutions of other States. The consciousness of national
responsibility was of slow growth, and the conditions did not then
exist which favored a general crusade against slavery or a prolonged
acrimonious debate on the subject, such as arose forty years later.

     * In the case of Georgia there was a prohibitory law, which
     was disregarded.

In many of the States, however, there were organized abolition
societies, whose object was to promote the cause of emancipation already
in progress and to protect the rights of free negroes. The Friends, or
Quakers, were especially active in the promotion of a propaganda for
universal emancipation. A petition which was presented to the first
Congress in February, 1790, with the signature of Benjamin Franklin
as President of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, contained this
concluding paragraph:

"From a persuasion that equal liberty was originally, and is still, the
birthright of all men, and influenced by the strong ties of humanity
and the principles of their institutions, your memorialists conceive
themselves bound to use all justifiable endeavors to loosen the bonds
of slavery, and to promote the general enjoyment of the blessings of
freedom. Under these impressions they earnestly entreat your attention
to the subject of slavery; that you will be pleased to countenance the
restoration to liberty of those unhappy men, who, alone, in this land of
freemen, are groaning in servile subjection; that you will devise means
for removing this inconsistency of character from the American people;
that you will promote mercy and justice towards this distressed race;
and that you will step to the very verge of the power vested in you for
discouraging every species of traffic in the persons of our fellowmen."

     * William Goodell, "Slavery and Anti-Slavery," p. 99.

The memorialists were treated with profound respect. Cordial support and
encouragement came from representatives from Virginia and other slave
States. Opposition was expressed by members from South Carolina and
Georgia. These for the most part relied upon their constitutional
guaranties. But for these guaranties, said Smith, of South Carolina,
his State would not have entered the Union. In the extreme utterances in
opposition to the petition there is a suggestion of the revolution which
was to occur forty years later.

Active abolitionists who gave time and money to the promotion of the
cause were always few in numbers. Previous to 1830 abolition societies
resembled associations for the prevention of cruelty to animals--in
fact, in one instance at least this was made one of the professed
objects. These societies labored to induce men to act in harmony
with generally acknowledged obligations, and they had no occasion for
violence or persecution. Abolitionists were distinguished for their
benevolence and their unselfish devotion to the interests of the needy
and the unfortunate. It was only when the ruling classes resorted to mob
violence and began to defend slavery as a divinely ordained institution
that there was a radical change in the spirit of the controversy. The
irrepressible conflict between liberty and despotism which has persisted
in all ages became manifest when slave-masters substituted the Greek
doctrine of inequality and slavery for the previously accepted Christian
doctrine of equality and universal brotherhood.


It was a mere accident that the line drawn by Mason and Dixon between
Pennsylvania and Maryland became known in later years as the dividing
line between slavery and freedom. The six States south of that line
ultimately neglected or refused to abolish slavery, while the seven
Northern States became free. Vermont became a State in 1791 and Kentucky
in 1792. The third State to be added to the original thirteen was
Tennessee in 1796. At that time, counting the States as they were
finally classified, eight were destined to be slave and eight free. Ohio
entered the Union as a State in 1802, thus giving to the free States
a majority of one. The balance, however, was restored in 1812 by the
admission of Louisiana as a slave State. The admission of Indiana in
1816 on the one side and of Mississippi in 1817 on the other still
maintained the balance: ten free States stood against ten slave States.
During the next two years Illinois and Alabama were admitted, making
twenty-two States in all, still evenly divided.

The ordinance for the government of the territory north of the Ohio
River, passed in 1787 and reenacted by Congress after the adoption
of the Constitution, proved to be an act of great significance in its
relation to the limitation of slavery. By this ordinance slavery was
forever prohibited in the Northwest Territory. In the territory south
of the Ohio River slavery became permanently established. The river,
therefore, became an extension of the original Mason and Dixon's Line
with the new meaning attached: it became a division between free and
slave territory.

It was apparently at first a mere matter of chance that a balance was
struck between the two losses of States. While Virginia remained a slave
State, it was natural that slavery should extend into Kentucky, which
had been a part of Virginia. Likewise Tennessee, being a part of North
Carolina, became slave territory. When these two Territories became
slave States, the equal division began. There was yet an abundance of
territory both north and south to be taken into the Union and, without
any special plan or agitation, States were admitted in pairs, one free
and the other slave. In the meantime there was distinctly developed the
idea of the possible or probable permanence of slavery in the South and
of a rivalry or even a future conflict between the two sections.

When in 1819 Missouri applied for admission to the Union with a state
constitution permitting slavery, there was a prolonged debate over the
whole question, not only in Congress but throughout the entire country.
North and South were distinctly pitted against each other with rival
systems of labor. The following year Congress passed a law providing
for the admission of Missouri, but, to restore the balance, Maine was
separated from Massachusetts and was admitted to the Union as a State.
It was further enacted that slavery should be forever prohibited from
all territory of the United States north of the parallel 36 degrees 30',
that is, north of the southern boundary of Missouri. It is this part of
the act which is known as the Missouri Compromise. It was accepted as
a permanent limitation of the institution of slavery. By this act Mason
and Dixon's Line was extended through the Louisiana Purchase. As the
western boundary was then defined, slavery could still be extended into
Arkansas and into a part of what is now Oklahoma, while a great empire
to the northwest was reserved for the formation of free States. Arkansas
became a slave State in 1836 and Michigan was admitted as a free State
in the following year.

With the admission of Arkansas and Michigan, thirteen slave States were
balanced by a like number of free States. The South still had Florida,
which would in time become a slave State. Against this single Territory
there was an immense region to the northwest, equal in area to all the
slave States combined, which, according to the Ordinance of 1787 and the
Missouri Compromise, had been consecrated to freedom. Foreseeing this
condition, a few Southern planters began a movement for the extension
of territory to the south and west immediately after the adoption of
the Missouri Compromise. When Arkansas was admitted in 1836, there was a
prospect of the immediate annexation of Texas as a slave State. This did
not take place until nine years later, but the propaganda, the object of
which was the extension of slave territory, could not be maintained by
those Who contended that slavery was a curse to the country. Virginia,
therefore, and other border slave States, as they became committed to
the policy of expansion, ceased to tolerate official public utterances
against slavery.

Three more or less clearly defined sections appear in the later
development of the crusade. These are the New England States, the Middle
States, and the States south of North Carolina and Tennessee. In New
England, few negroes were ever held as slaves, and the institution
disappeared during the first years of the Republic. The inhabitants had
little experience arising from actual contact with slavery. When slavery
disappeared from New England and before there had been developed in the
country at large a national feeling of responsibility for its continued
existence, interest in the subject declined. For twenty years previous
to the founding of Garrison's Liberator in 1831, organized abolition
movements had been almost unknown in New England. In various ways
the people were isolated, separated from contact with slavery. Their
knowledge of this subject of discussion was academic, theoretical,
acquired at second-hand.

In New York and New Jersey slaves were much more numerous than in New
England. There were still slaves in considerable numbers until about
1825. The people had a knowledge of the institution from experience and
observation, and there was no break in the continuity of their organized
abolition societies. Chief among the objects of these societies was the
effort to prevent kidnapping and to guard the rights of free negroes.
For both of these purposes there was a continuous call for activity.
Pennsylvania also had freedmen of her own whose rights called for
guardianship, as well as many freedmen from farther south who had come
into the State.

The movement of protest and protection did not stop at Mason and Dixon's
Line, but extended far into the South. In both North Carolina and
Tennessee an active protest against slavery was at all times maintained.
In this great middle section of the country, between New England and
South Carolina, there was no cessation in the conflict between free
and slave labor. Some of these States became free while others remained
slave; but between the people of the two sections there was continuous
communication. Slaveholders came into free States to liberate their
slaves. Non-slaveholders came to get rid of the competition of slave
labor, and free negroes came to avoid reenslavement. Slaves fled thither
on their way to liberty. It was not a matter of choice; it was an
unavoidable condition which compelled the people of the border States to
give continuous attention to the institution of slavery.

The modern anti-slavery movement had its origin in this great middle
section, and from the same source it derived its chief support. The
great body of active abolitionists were from the slave States or
else derived their inspiration from personal contact with slavery. As
compared with New England abolitionists, the middlestate folk were
less extreme in their views. They had a keener appreciation of the
difficulties involved in emancipation. They were more tolerant towards
the idea of letting the country at large share the burdens involved
in the liberation of the slaves. Border-state abolitionists naturally
favored the policy of gradual emancipation which had been followed in
New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Abolitionists who continued
to reside in the slave States were forced to recognize the fact that
emancipation involved serious questions of race adjustment. From
the border States came the colonization society, a characteristic
institution, as well as compromise of every variety.

The southernmost section, including South Carolina, Georgia, and the
Gulf States, was even more sharply defined in the attitude it
assumed toward the anti-slavery movement. At no time did the cause of
emancipation become formidable in this section. In all these States
there was, of course, a large class of non-slaveholding whites, who
were opposed to slavery and who realized that they were victims of an
injurious system; but they had no effective organ for expression. The
ruling minority gained an early and an easy victory and to the end held
a firm hand. To the inhabitants of this section it appeared to be a
self-evident truth that the white race was born to rule and the black
race was born to serve. Where negroes outnumbered the whites fourfold,
the mere suggestion of emancipation raised a race question which seemed
appalling in its proportions. Either in the Union or out of the Union,
the rulers were determined to perpetuate slavery.

Slavery as an economic institution became dependent upon a few
semitropical plantation crops. When the Constitution was framed, rice
and indigo, produced in South Carolina and Georgia, were the two most
important. Indigo declined in relative importance, and the production
of sugar was developed, especially after the annexation of the Louisiana
Purchase. But by far the most important crop for its effects upon
slavery and upon the entire country was cotton. This single product
finally absorbed the labor of half the slaves of the entire country. Mr.
Rhodes is not at all unreasonable in his surmise that, had it not been
for the unforeseen development of the cotton industry, the expectation
of the founders of the Republic that slavery would soon disappear would
actually have been realized.

It was more difficult to carry out a policy of emancipation when slaves
were quoted in the market at a thousand dollars than when the price
was a few hundred dollars. All slave-owners felt richer; emancipation
appeared to involve a greater sacrifice. Thus the cotton industry went
far towards accounting for the changed attitude of the entire country
on the subject of slavery. The North as well as the South became
financially interested.

It was not generally perceived before it actually happened that the
border States would take the place of Africa in furnishing the required
supply of laborers for Southern plantations. The interstate slave-trade
gave to the system a solidarity of interest which was new. All
slave-owners became partakers of a common responsibility for the system
as a whole. It was the newly developed trade quite as much as the system
of slavery itself which furnished the ground for the later anti-slavery
appeal. The consciousness of a common guilt for the sin of slavery grew
with the increase of actual interstate relations.

The abolition of the African slave-trade was an act of the general
Government. Congress passed the prohibitory statute in 1807, to go into
effect January, 1808. At no time, however, was the prohibition entirely
effective, and a limited illegal trade continued until slavery was
eventually abolished. This inefficiency of restraint furnished another
point of attack for the abolitionists. Through efforts to suppress the
African slave-trade, the entire country became conscious of a common
responsibility. Before the Revolutionary War, Great Britain had been
censured for forcing cheap slaves from Africa upon her unwilling
colonies. After the Revolution, New England was blamed for the activity
of her citizens in this nefarious trade both before and after it was
made illegal. All of this tended to increase the sense of responsibility
in every section of the country. Congress had made the foreign
slave-trade illegal; and citizens in all sections gradually became
aware of the possibility that Congress might likewise restrict or forbid
interstate commerce in slaves.

The West Indies and Mexico were also closely associated with the United
States in the matter of slavery. When Jamestown was founded, negro
slavery was already an old institution in the islands of the Caribbean
Sea, and thence came the first slaves to Virginia. The abolition of
slavery in the island of Hayti, or San Domingo, was accomplished during
the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. As incidental to the
process of emancipation, the Caucasian inhabitants were massacred
or banished, and a republican government was established, composed
exclusively of negroes and mulattoes. From the date of the Missouri
Compromise to that of the Mexican War, this island was united under a
single republic, though it was afterwards divided into the two republics
of Hayti and San Domingo.

The "horrors of San Domingo" were never absent from the minds of those
in the United States who lived in communities composed chiefly of
slaves. What had happened on the island was accepted by Southern
planters as proof that the two races could live together in peace only
under the relation of master and slave, and that emancipation boded
the extermination of one race or the other. Abolitionists, however,
interpreted the facts differently: they emphasized the tyranny of the
white rulers as a primary cause of the massacres; they endowed some
of the negro leaders with the highest qualities of statesmanship and
self-sacrificing generosity; and Wendell Phillips, in an impassioned
address which he delivered in 1861, placed on the honor roll above the
chief worthies of history--including Cromwell and Washington Toussaint
L'Ouverture, the liberator of Hayti, whom France had betrayed and

Abolitionists found support for their position in the contention that
other communities had abolished slavery without such accompanying
horrors as occurred in Hayti and without serious race conflict. Slavery
had run its course in Spanish America, and emancipation accompanied or
followed the formation of independent republics. In 1833 all slaves
in the British Empire were liberated, including those in the important
island of Jamaica. So it happened that, just at the time when Southern
leaders were making up their minds to defend their peculiar institution
at all hazards, they were beset on every side by the spirit of
emancipation. Abolitionists, on the other hand, were fully convinced
that the attainment of some form of emancipation in the United States
was certain, and that, either peaceably or through violence, the slaves
would ultimately be liberated.


At the time when the new cotton industry was enhancing the value of
slave labor, there arose from the ranks of the people those who freely
consecrated their all to the freeing of the slave. Among these, Benjamin
Lundy, a New Jersey Quaker, holds a significant place.

Though the Society of Friends fills a large place in the anti-slavery
movement, its contribution to the growth of the conception of equality
is even more significant. This impetus to the idea arises from a
fundamental Quaker doctrine, announced at the middle of the seventeenth
century, to the erect that God reveals Himself to mankind, not through
any priesthood or specially chosen agents; not through any ordinance,
form, or ceremony; not through any church or institution; not through
any book or written record of any sort; but directly, through His
Spirit, to each person. This direct enlightening agency they deemed
coextensive with humanity; no race and no individual is left without the
ever-present illuminating Spirit. If men of old spoke as they were moved
by the Holy Spirit, what they spoke or wrote can furnish no reliable
guidance to the men of a later generation, except as their minds also
are enlightened by the same Spirit in the same way. "The letter killeth;
it is the Spirit that giveth life."

This doctrine in its purity and simplicity places all men and all races
on an equality; all are alike ignorant and imperfect; all are alike in
their need of the more perfect revelation yet to be made. Master and
slave are equal before God; there can be no such relation, therefore,
except by doing violence to a personality, to a spiritual being. In
harmony with this fundamental principle, the Society of Friends early
rid itself of all connection with slavery. The Friends' Meeting became
a refuge for those who were moved by the Spirit to testify against

Born in 1789 in a State which was then undergoing the process of
emancipating its slaves, Benjamin Lundy moved at the age of nineteen
to Wheeling, West Virginia, which had already become the center of an
active domestic slave-trade. The pious young Quaker, now apprenticed to
a saddler, was brought into personal contact with this traffic in human
flesh. He felt keenly the national disgrace of the iniquity. So deep did
the iron enter into his soul that never again did he find peace of mind
except in efforts to relieve the oppressed. Like hundreds and thousands
of others, Lundy was led on to active opposition to the trade by an
actual knowledge of the inhumanity of the business as prosecuted before
his eyes and by his sympathy for human suffering.

His apprenticeship ended, Lundy was soon established in a prosperous
business in an Ohio village not far from Wheeling. Though he now lived
in a free State, the call of the oppressed was ever in his ears and he
could not rest. He drew together a few of his neighbors, and together
they organized the Union Humane Society, whose object was the relief
of those held in bondage. In a few months the society numbered several
hundred members, and Lundy issued an address to the philanthropists
of the whole country, urging them to unite in like manner with uniform
constitutions, and suggesting that societies so formed adopt a policy of
correspondence and cooperation. At about the same time, Lundy began to
publish anti-slavery articles in the Mount Pleasant Philanthropist and
other papers.

In 1819 he went on a business errand to St. Louis, Missouri, where he
found himself in the midst of an agitation over the question of the
extension of slavery in the States. With great zest he threw himself
into the discussion, making use of the newspapers in Missouri and
Illinois. Having lost his property, he returned poverty-stricken
to Ohio, where he founded in January, 1821, the Genius of Universal
Emancipation. A few months later he transferred his paper to the more
congenial atmosphere of Jonesborough, Tennessee, but in 1824 he went to
Baltimore, Maryland. In the meantime, Lundy had become much occupied in
traveling, lecturing, and organizing societies for the promotion of the
cause of abolition. He states that during the ten years previous to 1830
he had traveled upwards of twenty-five thousand miles, five thousand
of which were on foot. He now became interested in plans for colonizing
negroes in other countries as an aid to emancipation, though he
himself had no confidence in the colonization society and its scheme of
deportation to Africa. After leading a few negroes to Hayti in 1829, he
visited Canada, Texas, and Mexico with a similar plan in view.

During a trip through the Middle States and New England in 1828, Lundy
met William Lloyd Garrison, and the following year he walked all the
way from Baltimore to Bennington, Vermont, for the express purpose of
securing the assistance of the youthful reformer as coeditor of his
paper. Garrison had previously favored colonization, but within the few
weeks which elapsed before he joined Lundy, he repudiated all forms of
colonization and advocated immediate and unconditional emancipation. He
at once told Lundy of his change of views. "Well," said Lundy, "thee may
put thy initials to thy articles, and I will put my witness to mine,
and each will bear his own burden." The two editors were, however,
in complete accord in their opposition to the slave-trade. Lundy had
suffered a dangerous assault at the hands of a Baltimore slave-trader
before he was joined by Garrison. During the year 1830, Garrison was
convicted of libel and thrown into prison on account of his scathing
denunciation of Francis Todd of Massachusetts, the owner of a vessel
engaged in the slave-trade.

These events brought to a crisis the publication of the Genius of
Universal Emancipation. The editors now parted company. Again Lundy
moved the office of the paper, this time to Washington, D.C., but it
soon became a peripatetic monthly, printed wherever the editor chanced
to be. In 1836 Lundy began the issue of an anti-slavery paper in
Philadelphia, called the National Inquirer, and with this was merged the
Genius of Universal Emancipation. He was preparing to resume the issue
of his original paper under the old title, in La Salle County, Illinois,
when he was overtaken by death on August 22, 1839.

Here was a man without education, without wealth, of a slight frame, not
at all robust, who had undertaken, singlehanded and without the shadow
of a doubt of his ultimate success, to abolish American slavery.
He began the organization of societies which were to displace the
anti-slavery societies of the previous century. He established the first
paper devoted exclusively to the cause of emancipation. He foresaw that
the question of emancipation must be carried into politics and that it
must become an object of concern to the general Government as well as to
the separate States. In the early part of his career he found the most
congenial association and the larger measure of effective support south
of Mason and Dixon's Line, and in this section were the greater number
of the abolition societies which he organized. During the later years
of his life, as it was becoming increasingly difficult in the South
to maintain a public anti-slavery propaganda, he transferred his chief
activities to the North. Lundy serves as a connecting link between the
earlier and the later anti-slavery movements. Eleven years of his early
life belong to the century of the Revolution. Garrison recorded his
indebtedness to Lundy in the words: "If I have in any way, however
humble, done anything towards calling attention to slavery, or bringing
out the glorious prospect of a complete jubilee in our country at no
distant day, I feel that I owe everything in this matter, instrumentally
under God, to Benjamin Lundy."

Different in type, yet even more significant on account of its peculiar
relations to the cause of abolition, was the life of James Gillespie
Birney, who was born in a wealthy slaveholding family at Dansville,
Kentucky, in the year 1792. The Birneys were anti-slavery planters of
the type of Washington and Jefferson. The father had labored to make
Kentucky a free State at the time of its admission to the Union. His son
was educated first at Princeton, where he graduated in 1810, and then
in the office of a distinguished lawyer in Philadelphia. He began the
practice of law at his home at the age of twenty-two. His home training
and his residence in States which were then in the process of gradual
emancipation served to confirm him in the traditional conviction of his
family. While Benjamin Lundy, at the age of twenty-seven, was engaged in
organizing anti-slavery societies north of the Ohio River, Birney at
the age of twenty-four was influential as a member of the Kentucky
Legislature in the prevention of the passing of a joint resolution
calling upon Ohio and Indiana to make laws providing for the return
of fugitive slaves. He was also conspicuous in his efforts to secure
provisions for gradual emancipation. Two years later he became a planter
near Huntsville, Alabama. Though not a member of the Constitutional
Convention preparatory to the admission of this Territory into
the Union, Birney used his influence to secure provisions in the
constitution favorable to gradual emancipation. As a member of the first
Legislature, in 1819, he was the author of a law providing a fair trial
by jury for slaves indicted for crimes above petty larceny, and in 1826
he became a regular contributor to the American Colonization Society,
believing it to be an aid to emancipation. The following year he was
able to induce the Legislature, although he was not then a member of it,
to pass an act forbidding the importation of slaves into Alabama
either for sale or for hire. This was regarded as a step preliminary to

The cause of education in Alabama had in Birney a trusted leader. During
the year 1830 he spent several months in the North Atlantic States
for the selection of a president and four professors for the State
University and three teachers for the Huntsville Female Seminary. These
were all employed upon his sole recommendation. On his return he had an
important interview with Henry Clay, of whose political party he had for
several years been the acknowledged leader in Alabama. He urged Clay
to place himself at the head of the movement in Kentucky for gradual
emancipation. Upon Clay's refusal their political cooperation
terminated. Birney never again supported Clay for office and regarded
him as in a large measure responsible for the pro-slavery reaction in

Birney, who had now become discouraged regarding the prospect of
emancipation, during the winter of 1831 and 1832 decided to remove his
family to Jacksonville, Illinois. He was deterred from carrying out
his plan, however, by his unexpected appointment as agent of the
colonization society in the Southwest--a mission which he undertook from
a sense of duty.

In his travels throughout the region assigned to him, Birney became
aware of the aggressive designs of the planters of the Gulf States to
secure new slave territories in the Southwest. In view of these facts
the methods of the colonization society appeared utterly futile. Birney
surrendered his commission and, in 1833, returned to Kentucky with the
intention of doing himself what Henry Clay had refused to do three years
earlier, still hoping that Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee might be
induced to abolish slavery and thus place the slave power in a hopeless
minority. His disappointment was extreme at the pro-slavery reaction
which had taken place in Kentucky. The condition called for more drastic
measures, and Birney decided to forsake entirely the colonization
society and cast in his lot with the abolitionists. He freed his slaves
in 1834, and in the following year he delivered the principal address
at the annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society held in New
York. His gift of leadership was at once recognized. As vice-president
of the society he began to travel on its behalf, to address public
assemblies, and especially to confer with members of state legislatures
and to address the legislative bodies. He now devoted his entire time to
the service of the society, and as early as September, 1835, issued the
prospectus of a paper devoted to the cause of emancipation. This called
forth such a display of force against the movement that he could neither
find a printer nor obtain the use of a building in Dansville, Kentucky,
for the publication. As a result he transferred his activities to
Cincinnati, where he began publication of the Philanthropist in 1836.
With the connivance of the authorities and encouragement from leading
citizens of Cincinnati, the office of the Philanthropist was three times
looted by the mob, and the proprietor's life was greatly endangered.
The paper, however, rapidly grew in favor and influence and thoroughly
vindicated the right of free discussion of the slavery question.
Another editor was installed when Birney, who became secretary of the
Anti-slavery Society in 1837, transferred his residence to New York

Twenty-three years before Lincoln's famous utterance in which he
proclaimed the doctrine that a house divided against itself cannot
stand, and before Seward's declaration of an irrepressible conflict
between slavery and freedom, Birney had said: "There will be no
cessation of conflict until slavery shall be exterminated or liberty
destroyed. Liberty and slavery cannot live in juxtaposition." He spoke
out of the fullness of his own experience. A thoroughly trained lawyer
and statesman, well acquainted with the trend of public sentiment in
both North and South, he was fully persuaded that the new pro-slavery
crusade against liberty boded civil war. He knew that the white men in
North and South would not, without a struggle, consent to be permanently
deprived of their liberties at the behest of a few Southern planters.
Being himself of the slaveholding class, he was peculiarly fitted to
appreciate their position. To him the new issue meant war, unless
the belligerent leaders should be shown that war was hopeless. By his
moderation in speech, his candor in statement, his lack of rancor, his
carefully considered, thoroughly fair arguments, he had the rare faculty
of convincing opponents of the correctness of his own view.

There could be little sympathy between Birney and William Lloyd
Garrison, whose style of denunciation appeared to the former as an
incitement to war and an excuse for mob violence. As soon as Birney
became the accepted leader in the national society, there was
friction between his followers and those of Garrison. To denounce
the Constitution and repudiate political action were, from Birney's
standpoint, a surrender of the only hope of forestalling a dire
calamity. He had always fought slavery by the use of legal and
constitutional methods, and he continued so to fight. In this policy he
had the support of a large majority of abolitionists in New England and
elsewhere. Only a few personal friends accepted Garrison's injunction to
forswear politics and repudiate the Constitution.

The followers of Birney, failing to secure recognition for their views
in either of the political parties, organized the Liberty party and,
while Birney was in Europe in 1840, nominated him as their candidate
for the Presidency. The vote which he received was a little over seven
thousand, but four years later he was again the candidate of the party
and received over sixty thousand votes. He suffered an injury during the
following year which condemned him to hopeless invalidism and brought
his public career to an end.

Though Lundy and Birney were contemporaries and were engaged in the same
great cause, they were wholly independent in their work. Lundy addressed
himself almost entirely to the non-slaveholding class, while all of
Birney's early efforts were "those of a slaveholder seeking to induce
his own class to support the policy of emancipation." Though a Northern
man, Lundy found his chief support in the South until he was driven out
by persecution. Birney also resided in the South until he was forced to
leave for the same reason. The two men were in general accord in their
main lines of policy: both believed firmly in the use of political means
to effect their objects; both were at first colonizationists, though
Lundy favored colonization in adjacent territory rather than by
deportation to Africa.

Women were not a whit behind men in their devotion to the cause of
freedom. Conspicuous among them were Sarah and Angelina Grimke, born in
Charleston, South Carolina, of a slaveholding family noted for learning,
refinement, and culture. Sarah was born in the same year as James G.
Birney, 1792; Angelina was thirteen years younger. Angelina was the
typical crusader: her sympathies from the first were with the slave.
As a child she collected and concealed oil and other simple remedies so
that she might steal out by night and alleviate the sufferings of slaves
who had been cruelly whipped or abused. At the age of fourteen she
refused to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church because the ceremony
involved giving sanction to words which seemed to her untrue. Two years
later her mother offered her a present of a slave girl for a servant and
companion. This gift she refused to accept, for in her view the servant
had a right to be free, and, as for her own needs, Angelina felt quite
capable of waiting upon herself.

Of her own free will she joined the Presbyterian Church and labored
earnestly with the officers of the church to induce them to espouse the
cause of the slave. When she failed to secure cooperation, she decided
that the church was not Christian and she therefore withdrew her
membership. Her sister Sarah had gone North in 1821 and had become a
member of the Society of Friends in Philadelphia. In Charleston, South
Carolina, there was a Friends' meeting-house where two old Quakers
still met at the appointed time and sat for an hour in solemn silence.
Angelina donned the Quaker garb, joined this meeting, and for an entire
year was the third of the silent worshipers. This quiet testimony,
however, did not wholly satisfy her energetic nature, and when, in
1830, she heard of the imprisonment of Garrison in Baltimore, she was
convinced that effective labors against slavery could not be carried on
in the South. With great sorrow she determined to sever her connection
with home and family and join her sister in Philadelphia. There the
exile from the South poured out her soul in an Appeal to the Christian
Women of the South. The manuscript was handed to the officers of the
Anti-slavery Society in the city and, as they read, tears filled
their eyes. The Appeal was immediately printed in large quantities for
distribution in Southern States.

Copies of the Appeal which had been sent to Charleston were seized by a
mob and publicly burned. When it became known soon afterwards that the
author of the offensive document was intending to return to Charleston
to spend the winter with her family, there was intense excitement, and
the mayor of the city informed the mother that her daughter would not be
permitted to land in Charleston nor to communicate with any one there,
and that, if she did elude the police and come ashore, she would be
imprisoned and guarded until the departure of the next boat. On account
of the distress which she would cause to her friends, Miss Grimke
reluctantly gave up the exercise of her constitutional right to visit
her native city and in a very literal sense she became a permanent

The two sisters let their light shine among Philadelphia Quakers. In
the religious meetings negro women were consigned to a special seat. The
Grimkes, having first protested against this discrimination, took their
own places on the seat with the colored women. In Charleston, Angelina
had scrupulously adhered to the Quaker garb because it was viewed as a
protest against slavery. In Philadelphia, however, no such meaning was
attached to the costume, and she adopted clothing suited to the climate
regardless of conventions. A series of parlor talks to women which had
been organized by the sisters grew in interest until the parlors became
inadequate, and the speakers were at last addressing large audiences of
women in the public meeting-places of Philadelphia.

At this time when Angelina was making effective use of her unrivaled
power as a public speaker, she received in 1836 an invitation from the
Anti-slavery Society of New York to address the women of that city. She
informed her sister that she believed this to be a call from God and
that it was her duty to accept. Sarah decided to be her companion and
assistant in the work in the new field, which was similar to that in
Philadelphia. Its fame soon extended to Boston, whence came an urgent
invitation to visit that city. It was in Massachusetts that men began to
steal into the women's meetings and listen from the back seats. In Lynn
all barriers were broken down, and a modest, refined, and naturally
diffident young woman found herself addressing immense audiences of men
and women. In the old theater in Boston for six nights in succession,
audiences filling all the space listened entranced to the messenger of
emancipation. There is uniform testimony that, in an age distinguished
for oratory, no more effective speaker appeared than Angelina Grimke.
It was she above all others who first vindicated the right of women to
speak to men from the public platform on political topics. But it must
be remembered that scores of other women were laboring to the same end
and were fully prepared to utilize the new opportunity.

The great world movement from slavery towards freedom, from despotism
to democracy, is characterized by a tendency towards the equality of
the sexes. Women have been slaves where men were free. In barbarous ages
women have been ignored or have been treated as mere adjuncts to the
ruling sex. But wherever there has been a distinct contribution to the
cause of liberty there has been a distinct recognition of woman's share
in the work. The Society of Friends was organized on the principle that
men and women are alike moral beings, hence are equal in the sight of
God. As a matter of experience, women were quite as often moved to break
the silence of a religious meeting as were the men.

For two hundred years women had been accustomed to talk to both men
and women in Friends' meetings and, when the moral war against slavery
brought religion and politics into close relation, they were ready
speakers upon both topics. When the Grimke sisters came into the church
with a fresh baptism of the Spirit, they overcame all obstacles and,
with a passion for righteousness, moral and spiritual and political,
they carried the war against slavery into politics.

In 1833, at the organization of the American Anti-Slavery Society
in Philadelphia, a number of women were present. Lucretia Mott, a
distinguished "minister" in the Society of Friends, took part in the
proceedings. She was careful to state that she spoke as a mere visitor,
having no place in the organization, but she ventured to suggest various
modifications in the report of Garrison's committee on a declaration of
principles which rendered it more acceptable to the meeting. It had not
then been seriously considered whether women could become members of
the Anti-Slavery Society, which was at that time composed exclusively
of men, with the women maintaining their separate organizations as

The women of the West were already better organized than the men and
were doing a work which men could not do. They were, for the most part,
unconscious of any conflict between the peculiar duties of men and
those of women in their relations to common objects. The "library
associations" of Indiana, which were in fact effective anti-slavery
societies, were to a large extent composed of women. To the library
were added numerous other disguises, such as "reading circles," "sewing
societies," "women's clubs." In many communities the appearance of men
in any of these enterprises would create suspicion or even raise a mob.
But the women worked on quietly, effectively, and unnoticed.

The matron of a family would be provided with the best riding-horse
which the neighborhood could furnish. Mounted upon her steed, she would
sally forth in the morning, meet her carefully selected friends in
a town twenty miles away, gain information as to what had been
accomplished, give information as to the work in other parts of the
district, distribute new literature, confer as to the best means of
extending their labors, and return in the afternoon. The father of
such a family was quite content with the humbler task of cooperation by
supplying the sinews of war. There was complete equality between husband
and wife because their aims were identical and each rendered the service
most convenient and most needed. Women did what men could not do. In
the territory of the enemy the men were reached through the gradual and
tentative efforts of women whom the uninitiated supposed to be spending
idle hours at a sewing circle. Interest was maintained by the use of
information of the same general character as that which later took the
country by storm in Uncle Tom's Cabin. In course of time all disguise
was thrown aside. A public speaker of national reputation would appear,
a meeting would be announced, and a rousing abolition speech would be
delivered; the mere men of the neighborhood would have little conception
how the surprising change had been accomplished.

On rare occasions the public presentation of the anti-slavery view
would be undertaken prematurely, as in 1840 at Pendleton, Indiana, when
Frederick Douglass attempted to address a public meeting and was almost
slain by missiles from the mob. Pendleton, however, was not given over
to the enemy. The victim of the assault was restored to health in the
family of a leading citizen. The outrage was judiciously utilized
to convince the fair-minded that one of the evils of slavery was the
development of minds void of candor and justice. On the twenty-fifth
anniversary of the Pendleton disturbance there was another great meeting
in the town. Frederick Douglass was the hero of the occasion. The woman
who was the head of the family that restored him to health was on the
platform. Some of the men who threw the brickbats were there to make
public confession and to apologize for the brutal deed.

In the minds of a few persons of rare intellectual and logical
endowment, democracy has always implied the equality of the sexes. From
the time of the French Revolution there have been advocates of this
doctrine. As early as 1820, Frances Wright, a young woman in Scotland
having knowledge of the Western republic founded upon the professed
principles of liberty and equality, came to America for the express
purpose of pleading the cause of equal rights for women. To the
general public her doctrine seemed revolutionary, threatening the very
foundations of religion and morality. In the midst of opposition and
persecution she proclaimed views respecting the rights and duties of
women which today are generally accepted as axiomatic.

The women who attended the meetings for the organization of the American
Anti-Slavery Society were not suffragists, nor had they espoused any
special theories respecting the position of women. They did not wish to
be members of the men's organizations but were quite content with their
own separate one, which served its purpose very well under prevailing
local conditions. James G. Birney, the candidate of the Liberty party
for the Presidency in 1840, had good reasons for opposition to the
inclusion of men and women in the same organization. He knew that by
acting separately they were winning their way. The introduction of a
novel theory involving a different issue seemed to him likely to be a
source of weakness. The cause of women was, however, gaining ground
and winning converts. Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were
delegates to the World's Anti-Slavery Convention at London. They
listened to the debate which ended in the refusal to recognize them
as members of the Convention because they were women. The tone of
the discussion convinced them that women were looked upon by men with
disdain and contempt. Because the laws of the land and the customs of
society consigned women to an inferior position, and because there would
be no place for effective public work on the part of women until these
laws were changed, both these women became advocates of women's rights
and conspicuous leaders in the initiation of the propaganda. The
Reverend Samuel J. May, of Syracuse, New York, preached a sermon in 1845
in which he stated his belief that women need not expect to have their
wrongs fully redressed until they themselves had a hand in the making
and in the administration of the laws. This is an early suggestion
that equal suffrage would become the ultimate goal of the efforts for
righting women's wrongs.

At the same time there were accessions to the cause from a different
source. In 1833 Oberlin College was founded in northern Ohio. Into some
of the first classes there women were admitted on equal terms with men.
In 1835 the trustees offered the presidency to Professor Asa Mahan, of
Lane Seminary. He was himself an abolitionist from a slave State, and he
refused to be President of Oberlin College unless negroes were admitted
on equal terms with other students. Oberlin thus became the first
institution in the country which extended the privileges of the higher
education to both sexes of all races. It was a distinctly religious
institution devoted to radical reforms of many kinds. Not only was the
use of all intoxicating beverages discarded by faculty and students but
the use of tobacco as well was discouraged.

Within fifteen years after the founding of Oberlin, there were women
graduates who had something to say on numerous questions of public
interest. Especially was this true of the subject of temperance.
Intemperance was a vice peculiar to men. Women and children were the
chief sufferers, while men were the chief sinners. It was important,
therefore, that men should be reached. In 1847 Lucy Stone, an Oberlin
graduate, began to address public audiences on the subject. At the same
time Susan B. Anthony appeared as a temperance lecturer. The manner of
their reception and the nature of their subject induced them to unite
heartily in the pending crusade for the equal rights of women. The three
causes thus became united in one.

Along with the crusade against slavery, intemperance, and women's
wrongs, arose a fourth, which was fundamentally connected with the
slavery question: Quakers and Southern and Western abolitionists were
ardently devoted to the interests of peace. They would abolish slavery
by peaceable means because they believed the alternative was a terrible
war. To escape an impending war they were nerved to do and dare and to
incur great risks. New England abolitionists who labored in harmony with
those of the West and South were actuated by similar motives. Sumner
first gained public notice by a distinguished oration against war.
Garrison went farther: he was a professional non-resistant, a root and
branch opponent of both war and slavery. John Brown was a fanatical
antagonist of war until he reached the conclusion that according to the
Divine Will there should be a short war of liberation in place of the
continuance of slavery, which was itself in his opinion the most cruel
form of war.

Slavery as a legally recognized institution disappeared with the Civil
War. The war against intemperance has made continuous progress and this
problem is apparently approaching a solution. The war against war as
a recognized institution has become the one all-absorbing problem of
civilization. The war against the wrongs of women is being supplanted by
efforts to harmonize the mutual privileges and duties of men and women
on the basis of complete equality. As Samuel May predicted more than
seventy years ago, in the future women are certain to take a hand both
in the making and in the administration of law.


The year 1831 is notable for three events in the history of the
anti-slavery controversy: on the first day of January in that year
William Lloyd Garrison began in Boston the publication of the Liberator;
in August there occurred in Southampton, Virginia, an insurrection of
slaves led by a negro, Nat Turner, in which sixty-one white persons
were massacred; and in December the Virginia Legislature began its long
debate on the question of slavery.

On the part of the abolitionists there was at no time any sudden break
in the principles which they advocated. Lundy did nothing but revive and
continue the work of the Quakers and other non-slaveholding classes
of the revolutionary period. Birney was and continued to be a typical
slaveholding abolitionist of the earlier period. Garrison began his
work as a disciple of Lundy, whom he followed in the condemnation of the
African colonization scheme, though he went farther and rejected every
form of colonization. Garrison likewise repudiated every plan
for gradual emancipation and proclaimed the duty of immediate and
unconditional liberation of the slaves.

The first number of the Liberator contained an Address to the Public,
which sounded the keynote of Garrison's career. "I shall contend for the
immediate enfranchisement of our slave population--I will be as harsh as
truth and as uncompromising as justice on this subject--I do not wish to
think, or speak, or write with moderation--I am in earnest--I will not
equivocate--I will not retreat a single inch, and I WILL BE HEARD!"

The New England Anti-Slavery Society, of which Garrison was the chief
organizer, was in essential harmony with the societies which Lundy had
organized in other sections. Its first address to the public in 1833
distinctly recognized the separate States as the sole authority in
the matter of emancipation within their own boundaries. Through moral
suasion, eschewing all violence and sedition, its authors proposed to
secure their object. In the spirit of civil and religious liberty and by
appealing to the Declaration of Independence, the Liberty party of 1840
and 1844, by the Freesoil party of 1848, and later by the Republican
party, and that nearly all of the abolitionists continued to be faithful
adherents to those principles, are sufficient proof of the essential
unity of the great anti-slavery movement. The apparent lack of harmony
and the real confusion in the history of the subject arose from the
peculiar character of one remarkable man.

The few owners of slaves who had assumed the role of public defenders of
the institution were in the habit of using violent and abusive language
against anti-slavery agitators. This appeared in the first debate on
the subject during Washington's administration. Every form of rhetorical
abuse also accompanied the outbreak of mob violence against the
reformers at the time of Garrison's advent into the controversy. He was
especially fitted to reply in kind. "I am accused," said he, "of using
hard language. I admit the charge. I have not been able to find a soft
word to describe villainy, or to identify the perpetrator of it." This
was a new departure which was instantly recognized by Southern leaders.
But from the beginning to the bitter end, Garrison stands alone
as preeminently the representative of this form of attack. It was
significant, also, that the Liberator was published in Boston, the
literary center of the country.

There is no evidence that there was any direct connection between the
publication of the Liberator and the servile insurrection which occurred
during the following August. * It was, however, but natural that the
South should associate the two events. A few utterances of the paper
were fitted, if not intended, to incite insurrection. One passage
reads: "Whenever there is a contest between the oppressed and the
oppressor--the weapons being equal between the parties--God knows that
my heart must be with the oppressed, and always against the oppressor.
Therefore, whenever commenced, I cannot but wish success to all slave
insurrections." Again: "Rather than see men wearing their chains in
a cowardly and servile spirit, I would, as an advocate of peace, much
rather see them breaking the heads of the tyrant with their chains."

     * Garrison himself denied any direct connection with the Nat
     Turner insurrection. See "William Lloyd Garrison, the Story
     of His Life told by His Children," vol. I, p. 251.

George Thompson, an English co-laborer with Garrison, is quoted as
saying in a public address in 1835 that "Southern slaves ought, or
at least had a right, to cut the throats of their masters." * Such
utterances are rare, and they express a passing mood not in the least
characteristic of the general spirit of the abolition movement; yet
the fact that such statements did emanate from such a source made it
comparatively easy for extremists of the opposition to cast odium upon
all abolitionists. The only type of abolition known in South Carolina
was that of the extreme Garrisonian agitators, and it furnished at
least a shadow of excuse for mob violence in the North and for complete
suppression of discussion in the South. To encourage slaves to cut
the throats of their masters was far from being a rhetorical figure of
speech in communities where slaves were in the majority. Santo Domingo
was at the time a prosperous republic founded by former slaves who had
exterminated the Caucasian residents of the island. Negroes from Santo
Domingo had fomented insurrection in South Carolina. The Nat Turner
incident was more than a suggestion of the dire possibilities of the
situation. Turner was a trusted slave, a preacher among the blacks. He
succeeded in concealing his plot for weeks. When the massacre began,
slaves not in the secret were induced to join. A majority of the slain
were women and children. Abolitionists who had lived in slave States
never indulged in flippant remarks fitted to incite insurrection. This
was reserved for the few agitators far removed from the scene of action.

     * Schouler, "History of the United States under the
     Constitution," vol. V, p. 217.

Southern planters who had determined at all hazards to perpetuate the
institution of slavery were peculiarly sensitive on account of what was
taking place in Spanish America and in the British West Indies. Mexico
abolished slavery in 1829, and united with Colombia in encouraging Cuba
to throw off the Spanish yoke, abolish slavery, and join the sisterhood
of New World republics. This led to an effective protest on the part of
the United States. Both Spain and Mexico were advised that the
United States could not with safety to its own interests permit the
emancipation of slaves in the island of Cuba. But with the British
Emancipation Act of 1833, Cuba became the only neighboring territory in
which slavery was legal. These acts of emancipation added zeal to the
determination of the Southern planters to secure territory for the
indefinite extension of slavery to the southwest. When Lundy and Birney
discovered these plans, their desire to husband and extend the direct
political influence of abolitionists was greatly stimulated. To this
end they maintained a moderate and conservative attitude. They took
care that no abuse or misrepresentation should betray them into any
expression which would diminish their influence with fair-minded,
reasonable men. They were convinced that a clear and complete revelation
of the facts would lead a majority of the people to adopt their views.

The debate in the Virginia Legislature in the session which met three
months after the Southampton massacre furnishes a demonstration that the
traditional anti-slavery sentiment still persisted among the rulers of
the Old Dominion. It arose out of a petition from the Quakers of the
State asking for an investigation preparatory to a gradual emancipation
of the slaves. The debate, which lasted for several weeks, was able and
thorough. No stronger utterances in condemnation of slavery were ever
voiced than appear in this debate. Different speakers made the statement
that no one presumed to defend slavery on principle--that apologists for
slavery existed but no defenders. Opposition to the petition was in the
main apologetic in tone.

A darker picture of the blighting effects of slavery on the industries
of the country was never drawn than appears in these speeches. Slavery
was declared to be driving free laborers from the State, to have already
destroyed every industry except agriculture, and to have exhausted the
soil so that profitable agriculture was becoming extinct, while pine
brush was encroaching upon former fruitful fields. "Even the wolf," said
one, "driven back long since by the approach of man, now returns, after
the lapse of a hundred years, to howl over the desolations of slavery."
Contrasts between free labor in northern industry and that of the South
were vividly portrayed. In a speech of great power, one member referred
to Kentucky and Ohio as States "providentially designated to exhibit in
their future histories the differences which necessarily result from a
country free from, and a country afflicted with the curse of slavery."

The debate was by no means confined to industrial or material
considerations. McDowell, who was afterwards elected Governor of the
State, thus portrays the personal relations of master and slave "You
may place the slave where you please--you may put him under any process,
which, without destroying his value as a slave, will debase and crush
him as a rational being--you may do all this, and the idea that he
was born to be free will survive it all. It is allied to his hope of
immortality--it is the ethereal part of his nature which oppression
cannot reach--it is a torch lit up in his soul by the hand of the Deity,
and never meant to be extinguished by the hand of man."

Various speakers assumed that the continuance of slavery involved a
bloody conflict; that either peaceably or through violence, slavery
as contrary to the spirit of the age must come to an end; that the
agitation against it could not be suppressed. Faulkner drew a lurid
picture of the danger from servile insurrection, in which he referred to
the utterances of two former speakers, one of whom had said that, unless
something effective was done to ward off the danger, "the throats of all
the white people of Virginia will be cut." The other replied, "No, the
whites cannot be conquered--the throats of the blacks will be cut."
Faulkner's rejoinder was that the difference was a trifling one, "for
the fact is conceded that one race or the other must be exterminated."

The public press joined in the debate. Leading editorials appeared in
the Richmond Enquirer urging that effective measures be instituted to
put an end to slavery. The debate aroused much interest throughout the
South. Substantially all the current abolition arguments appeared in the
speeches of the slave-owning members of the Virginia Legislature. And
what was done about it? Nothing at all. The petition was not granted;
no action looking towards emancipation was taken. This was indeed a
turning-point. Men do not continue to denounce in public their own
conduct unless their action results in some effort toward corrective

Professor Thomas Dew, of the chair of history and metaphysics in William
and Mary College and later President of the College, published an essay
reviewing the debate in the Legislature and arguing that any plan for
emancipation in Virginia was either undesirable or impossible.
This essay was among the first of the direct pro-slavery arguments.
Statements in support of the view soon followed. In 1885 the Governor of
South Carolina in a message to the Legislature said, "Domestic slavery
is the corner-stone of our republican edifice." Senator Calhoun,
speaking in the Senate two years later, declared slavery to be a
positive good. W. G. Simms, Southern poet and novelist, writing in 1852,
felicitates himself as being among the first who about fifteen years
earlier advocated slavery as a great good and a blessing. Harriet
Martineau, an English author who traveled extensively in the South in
1885, found few slaveholders who justified the institution as being in
itself just. But after the debates in the Virginia Legislature, there
were few owners of slaves who publicly advocated abolition. The spirit
of mob violence had set in, and, contrary to the utterances of Virginia
statesmen, free speech on the subject of slavery was suppressed in the
slave States. This did not mean that Southern statesmen had lost
the power to perceive the evil effects of slavery or that they were
convinced that their former views were erroneous. It meant simply that
they had failed to agree upon a policy of gradual emancipation, and the
only recourse left seemed to be to follow the example of James G. Birney
and leave the South or to submit in silence to the new order.


With the changed attitude of the South towards emancipation there was
associated an active hostility to dearly bought human liberty. Freedom
of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of worship, the right of
assembly, trial by jury, the right of petition, free use of the mails,
and numerous other fundamental human rights were assailed. Birney
and other abolitionists who had immediate knowledge of slavery early
perceived that the real question at issue was quite as much the
continued liberty of the white man as it was the liberation of the black
man and that the enslavement of one race involved also the ultimate
essential enslavement of the other.

In 1831 two slave States and six free States still extended to free
negroes the right to vote. During the pro-slavery crusade these
privileges disappeared; and not only so, but free negroes were banished
from certain States, or were not permitted to enter them, or were
allowed to remain only by choosing a white man for a guardian. It was
made a crime to teach negroes, whether slaves or free men, to read and
write. Under various pretexts free negroes were reduced to slavery.
Freedom of worship was denied to negroes, and they were not allowed to
assemble for any purpose except under the strict surveillance of white
men. Negro testimony in a court of law was invalid where the rights of a
white man were involved. The right of a negro to his freedom was decided
by an arbitrary court without a jury, while the disputed right of a
white man to the ownership of a horse was conditioned by the safeguard
of trial by jury.

The maintenance of such policies carries with it of necessity the
suppression of free discussion. When Southern leaders adopted the policy
of defending slavery as a righteous institution, abolitionists in the
South either emigrated to the North or were silenced. In either case
they were deprived of a fundamental right. The spirit of persecution
followed them into the free States. Birney could not publish his paper
in Kentucky, nor even at Cincinnati, save at the risk of his life.
Elijah Lovejoy was not allowed to publish his paper in Missouri,
and, when he persisted in publishing it in Illinois, he was brutally
murdered. Even in Boston it required men of courage and determination
to meet and organize an anti-slavery society in 1832, though only a
few years earlier Benjamin Lundy had traveled freely through the South
itself delivering anti-slavery lectures and organizing scores of such
societies. The New York Anti-Slavery Society was secretly organized in
1832 in spite of the opposition of a determined mob. Mob violence was
everywhere rife. Meetings were broken up, negro quarters attacked,
property destroyed, murders committed.

Fair-minded men became abolitionists on account of the crusade against
the rights of white men quite as much as from their interest in the
rights of negroes. Salmon P. Chase of Ohio was led to espouse the cause
by observing the attacks upon the freedom of the press in Cincinnati.
Gerrit Smith witnessed the breaking up of an anti-slavery meeting in
Utica, New York, and thereafter consecrated his time, his talents, and
his great wealth to the cause of liberty. Wendell Phillips saw Garrison
in the hands of a Boston mob, and that experience determined him to make
common cause with the martyr. And the murder of Lovejoy in 1837 made
many active abolitionists.

It is difficult to imagine a more inoffensive practice than giving
to negro girls the rudiments of an education. Yet a school for this
purpose, taught by Miss Prudence Crandall in Canterbury, Connecticut,
was broken up by persistent persecution, a special act of the
Legislature being passed for the purpose, forbidding the teaching
of negroes from outside the State without the consent of the town
authorities. Under this act Miss Crandall was arrested, convicted, and

Having eliminated free discussion from the South, the Southern States
sought to accomplish the same object in the North. In pursuance of a
resolution of the Legislature, the Governor of Georgia offered a reward
of five thousand dollars to any one who should arrest, bring to trial,
and prosecute to conviction under the laws of Georgia the editor of
the Liberator. R. G. Williams, publishing agent for the American
Anti-Slavery Society, was indicted by a grand jury of Tuscaloosa County,
Alabama, and Governor Gayle of Alabama made a requisition on Governor
Marcy of New York for his extradition. Williams had never been in
Alabama. His offense consisted in publishing in the New York Emancipator
a few rather mild utterances against slavery.

Governor McDuffie of South Carolina in an official message declared
that slavery was the very corner-stone of the republic, adding that
the laboring population of any country, "bleached or unbleached," was
a dangerous element in the body politic, and predicting that within
twenty-five years the laboring people of the North would be virtually
reduced to slavery. Referring to abolitionists, he said: "The laws of
every community should punish this species of interference with death
without benefit of clergy." Pursuant to the Governor's recommendation,
the Legislature adopted a resolution calling upon non-slaveholding
States to pass laws to suppress promptly and effectively all abolition
societies. In nearly all the slave States similar resolutions
were adopted, and concerted action against anti-slavery effort was
undertaken. During the winter of 1835 and 1836, the Governors of the
free States received these resolutions from the South and, instead of
resenting them as an uncalled-for interference with the rights of free
commonwealths, they treated them with respect. Edward Everett, Governor
of Massachusetts, in his message presenting the Southern documents to
the Legislature, said: "Whatever by direct and necessary operation is
calculated to excite an insurrection among the slaves has been held, by
highly respectable legal authority, an offense against this Commonwealth
which may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor at common law." Governor Marcy
of New York, in a like document, declared that "without the power to
pass such laws the States would not possess all the necessary means for
preserving their external relations of peace among themselves." Even
before the Southern requests reached Rhode Island, the Legislature had
under consideration a bill to suppress abolition societies.

When a committee of the Massachusetts Legislature had been duly
organized to consider the documents received from the slave States, the
abolitionists requested the privilege of a hearing before the committee.
Receiving no reply, they proceeded to formulate a statement of their
case; but before they could publish it, they were invited to appear
before the joint committee of the two houses. The public had been
aroused by the issue and there was a large audience. The case for
the abolitionists was stated by their ablest speakers, among whom was
William Lloyd Garrison. They labored to convince the committee that
their utterances were not incendiary, and that any legislative censure
directed against them would be an encouragement to mob violence and the
persecution which was already their lot. After the defensive arguments
had been fully presented, William Goodell took the floor and proceeded
to charge upon the Southern States which had made these demands a
conspiracy against the liberties of the North. In the midst of great
excitement and many interruptions by the chairman of the committee, he
quoted the language of Governor McDuffie's message, and characterized
the documents lying on the table before him as "fetters for Northern
freemen." Then, turning to the committee, he began, "Mr. Chairman, are
you prepared to attempt to put them on?"--but the sentence was only half
finished when the stentorian voice of the chairman interrupted him: "Sit
down, sir!" and he sat down. The committee then arose and left the room.
But the audience did not rise; they waited till other abolitionists
found their tongues and gave expression to a fixed determination to
uphold the liberties purchased for them by the blood of their fathers.
The Massachusetts Legislature did not comply with the request of
Governor McDuffie of South Carolina to take the first step towards the
enslavement of all laborers, white as well as black. And Rhode Island
refused to enact into law the pending bill for the suppression of
anti-slavery societies. They declined to violate the plain requirements
of their Constitution that the interests of slavery might be promoted.
Not many years later they were ready to strain or break the Constitution
for the sake of liberty.

In the general crusade against liberty churches proved more pliable
than States. The authority of nearly all the leading denominations
was directed against the abolitionists. The General Conference of the
Methodist Episcopal Church passed in 1836 a resolution censuring two of
their members who had lectured in favor of modern abolitionism. The
Ohio Conference of the same denomination had passed resolutions urging
resistance to the anti-slavery movement. In June, 1836, the New York
Conference decided that no one should be chosen as deacon or elder who
did not give pledge that he would refrain from agitating the church on
the subject.

The same spirit appeared in theological seminaries. The trustees of Lane
Seminary, near Cincinnati, Ohio, voted that students should not organize
or be members of anti-slavery societies or hold meetings or lecture or
speak on the subject. Whereupon the students left in a body, and many
of the professors withdrew and united with others in the founding of an
anti-slavery college at Oberlin.

A persistent attack was also directed against the use of the United
States mails for the distribution of anti-slavery literature. Mob
violence which involved the post-office began as early as 1830, when
printed copies of Miss Grimke's Appeal to the Christian Women of the
South were seized and burned in Charleston. In 1835 large quantities of
anti-slavery literature were removed from the Charleston office and
in the presence of the assembled citizens committed to the flames.
Postmasters on their own motion examined the mails and refused
to deliver any matter that they deemed incendiary. Amos Kendall,
Postmaster-General, was requested to issue an order authorizing such
conduct. He replied that he had no legal authority to issue such an
order. Yet he would not recommend the delivery of such papers. "We owe,"
said he, "an obligation to the laws, but a higher one to the communities
in which we live, and if the former be perverted to destroy the latter,
it is patriotism to disregard them. Entertaining these views, I cannot
sanction, and will not condemn, the step you have taken." This is an
early instance of the appeal to the "higher law" in the pro-slavery
controversy. The higher law was invoked against the freedom of the
press. The New York postmaster sought to dissuade the Anti-slavery
Society from the attempt to send its publications through the mails into
Southern States. In reply to a request for authorization to refuse to
accept such publications, the Postmaster-General replied: "I am
deterred from giving an order to exclude the whole series of abolition
publications from the Southern mails only by a want of legal power, and
if I were situated as you are, I would do as you have done."

Mr. Kendall's letters to the postmasters of Charleston and New York
were written in July and August, 1835. In December of the same year,
presumably with full knowledge that a member of his Cabinet was
encouraging violations of law in the interest of slavery, President
Jackson undertook to supply the need of legal authorization. In his
annual message he made a savage attack upon the abolitionists and
recommended to Congress the "passing of such a law as will prohibit,
under severe penalties, the circulation in the Southern States, through
the mail, of incendiary publications."

This part of the President's message was referred to a select committee,
of which John C. Calhoun was chairman. The chairman's report was against
the adoption of the President's recommendation because a subject of
such vital interest to the States ought not to be left to Congress.
The admission of the right of Congress to decide what is incendiary,
asserted the report, carries with it the power to decide what is
not incendiary and hence Congress might authorize and enforce the
circulation of abolition literature through the mails in all the States.
The States should themselves severally decide what in their judgment is
incendiary, and then it would become the duty of the general Government
to give effect to such state laws. The bill recommended was in harmony
with this view. It was made illegal for any deputy postmaster "to
deliver to any person whatsoever, any pamphlet, newspaper, handbill, or
other printed paper, or pictorial representation touching the subject
of slavery, where by the laws of the said State, territory, or district
their circulation is prohibited." The bill was defeated in the Senate by
a small margin. Altogether there was an enlightening debate on the whole
subject. The exposure of the abuse of tampering with the mail created a
general reaction, which enabled the abolitionists to win a spectacular
victory. Instead of a law forbidding the circulation of anti-slavery
publications, Congress enacted a law requiring postal officials under
heavy penalties to deliver without discrimination all matter committed
to their charge. This act was signed by President Jackson, and Calhoun
himself was induced to admit that the purposes of the abolitionists were
not violent and revolutionary. Henceforth abolitionists enjoyed their
full privileges in the use of the United States mail. An even more
dramatic victory was thrust upon the abolitionists by the inordinate
violence of their opponents in their attack upon the right of petition.
John Quincy Adams, who became their distinguished champion, was not
himself an abolitionist. When, as a member of the lower House of
Congress in 1831, he presented petitions from certain citizens of
Pennsylvania, presumably Quakers, requesting Congress to abolish
slavery and the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, he refused to
countenance their prayer, and expressed the wish that the memorial
might be referred without debate. At the very time when a New England
ex-President was thus advising abolitionists to desist from sending
petitions to Congress, the Virginia Legislature was engaged in the
memorable debate upon a similar petition from Virginia Quakers, in which
most radical abolition sentiment was expressed by actual slaveowners.
Adams continued to present anti-slavery memorials and at the same time
to express his opposition to the demands of the petitioners. When
in 1835 there arose a decided opposition to the reception of such
documents, Adams, still in apparent sympathy with the pro-slavery South
on the main issue, gave wise counsel on the method of dealing with
petitions. They should be received, said he, and referred to a
committee; because the right of petition is sacred. This, he maintained,
was the best way to avoid disturbing debate on the subject of slavery.
He quoted his own previous experience; he had made known his opposition
to the purposes of the petitioners; their memorials were duly referred
to a committee and there they slept the sleep of death. At that time
only one voice had been raised in the House in support of the abolition
petitioners, that of John Dickson of New York, who had delivered a
speech of two hours in length advocating their cause; but not a voice
was raised in reply. Mr. Adams mentioned this incident with approval.
The way to forestall disturbing debate in Congress, he said, was
scrupulously to concede all constitutional rights and then simply to
refrain from speaking on the subject.

This sound advice was not followed. For several months a considerable
part of the time of the House was occupied with the question of handling
abolition petitions. And finally, in May, 1836, the following resolution
passed the House: "Resolved, That all petitions, memorials, resolutions,
propositions, or papers relating in any way or to any extent whatever to
the subject of slavery or the abolition of slavery, shall, without being
either printed or referred, be laid on the table, and that no further
action whatever shall be had thereon." This is commonly known as the
"gag resolution." During four successive years it was reenacted in one
form or another and was not repealed by direct vote until 1844.

When the name of Mr. Adams was called in the vote upon the passage of
the above resolution, instead of answering in the ordinary way, he said:
"I hold the resolution to be a direct violation of the Constitution of
the United States, of the rules of this House, and of the rights of my
constituents." This was the beginning of the duel between the "old man
eloquent" and a determined majority in the House of Representatives.
Adams developed undreamed-of resources as a debater and parliamentarian.
He made it his special business to break down the barrier against the
right of petition. Abolitionists cooperated with zeal in the effort.
Their champion was abundantly supplied with petitions. The gag
resolution was designed to prevent all debate on the subject of slavery.
Its effect in the hands of the shrewd parliamentarian was to foment
debate. On one occasion, with great apparent innocence, after presenting
the usual abolition petitions, Adams called the attention of the Speaker
to one which purported to be signed by twenty-two slaves and asked
whether such a petition should be presented to the House, since he was
himself in doubt as to the rules applicable in such a case. This led to
a furious outbreak in the House which lasted for three days. Adams was
threatened with censure at the bar of the House, with expulsion, with
the grand jury, with the penitentiary; and it is believed that only his
great age and national repute shielded him from personal violence. After
numerous passionate speeches had been delivered, Adams injected a few
important corrections into the debate. He reminded the House that he
had not presented a petition purporting to emanate from slaves; on the
contrary, he had expressly declined to present it until the Speaker
had decided whether a petition from slaves was covered by the rule.
Moreover, the petition was not against slavery but in favor of slavery.
He was then charged with the crime of trifling with the sensibilities
of the House; and finally the champion of the right of petition took
the floor in his own defense. His language cut to the quick. His
calumniators were made to feel the force of his biting sarcasm. They
were convicted of injustice, and all their resolutions of censure were
withdrawn. The victory was complete.

After the year 1838 John Quincy Adams had the effective support of
Joshua R. Giddings from the Western Reserve, Ohio--who also fought a
pitched battle of his own which illustrates another phase of the crusade
against liberty. The ship Creole had sailed from Baltimore to New
Orleans in 1841 with a cargo of slaves. The negroes mutinied on the high
seas, slew one man, gained possession of the vessel, sailed to Nassau,
and were there set free by the British Government. Prolonged diplomatic
negotiations followed in which our Government held that, as slaves were
property in the United States, they continued to be such on the high
seas. In the midst of the controversy, Giddings introduced a resolution
into the House, declaring that slavery, being an abridgment of liberty,
could exist only under local rules, and that on the high seas there can
be no slavery. For this act Giddings was arraigned and censured by
the House. He at once resigned, but was reelected with instructions to
continue the fight for freedom of debate in the House.

In the campaign against the rights of freemen mob violence was first
employed, but in the South the weapon of repressive legislation was
soon substituted, and this was powerfully supplemented by social and
religious ostracism. Except in a few districts in the border States,
these measures were successful. Public profession of abolitionism was
suppressed. The violence of the mob was of much longer duration in the
North and reached its height in the years 1834 and 1835. But Northern
mobs only quickened the zeal of the abolitionists and made converts to
their cause. The attempt to substitute repressive state legislation had
the same effect, and the use of church authority for making an end of
the agitation for human liberty was only temporarily influential.

As early as 1838 the Presbyterian Church was divided over questions of
doctrine into Old School and New School Presbyterians. This served to
forestall the impending division on the slavery question. The Old School
in the South became pro-slavery and the New School in the North became
anti-slavery. At the same time the Methodist Church of the entire
country was beset by a division on the main question. In 1844 Southern
Methodist Episcopalian conferences resolved upon separation and
committed themselves to the defense of slavery. The division in the
Methodist Church was completed in 1846. A corresponding division took
place in the Baptist Church in 1845. The controversy was dividing the
country into a free North and an enslaved South, and Southern white men
as well as negroes were threatened with subjection to the demands of the
dominant institution.


Some who opposed mob violence became active abolitionists; others were
led to defend the rights of abolitionists because to do otherwise would
encourage anarchy and general disorder. The same was true of those who
defended the right of petition and the free use of the mails and the
entire list of the fundamental rights of freemen which were threatened
by the crusade against abolitionists. Birney's contention that unless
the slave is freed no one can be free was thus vindicated: the issue
involved vastly more than the mere emancipation of slaves.

The attack made in defense of slavery upon the rights of freemen was
early recognized as involving civil war unless peaceable emancipation
could be attained. So soon as John Quincy Adams faced the new spirit in
Congress, he was convinced that it meant probable war. As early as
May, 1836, he warned the South, saying: "From the instant that your
slaveholding States become the theater of war, civil, servile, or
foreign, from that moment the war powers of the Constitution extend
to interference with the institution of slavery." This sentiment he
reiterated and amplified on various occasions. The South was duly
warned that an attempt to disrupt the Union would involve a war of which
emancipation would be one of the consequences. With the exception
of Garrison and a few of his personal followers, abolitionists were
unionists: they stood for the perpetual union of the States.

This is not the place to give an extended account of the Mexican War. *
There are, however, certain incidents connected with the annexation
of Texas and the resulting war which profoundly affected the crusade
against slavery. Both Lundy and Birney in their missions to promote
emancipation through the process of colonization believed that they had
unearthed a plan on the part of Southern leaders to acquire territory
from Mexico for the purpose of extending slavery. This discovery
coincided with the suppression of abolition propaganda in the South.
Hitherto John Quincy Adams had favored the western expansion of our
territory. He had labored diligently to make the Rio Grande the western
boundary of the Louisiana Purchase at the time of the treaty with Spain
in 1819. But though in 1825 he had supported a measure to purchase Texas
from Mexico, under the new conditions he threw himself heartily against
the annexation of Texas, and in 1838 he defeated in the House of
Representatives a resolution favoring annexation. To this end Adams
occupied the morning hour of the House each day from the 16th of June to
the 7th of July, within two days of the time fixed for adjournment.
This was only a beginning of his fight against the extension of slavery.
There was no relenting in his opposition to pro-slavery demands until he
was stricken down with paralysis in the streets of Boston, in November,
1846. He never again addressed a public assembly. But he continued to
occupy his seat in Congress until February 23, 1848.

     * See "Texas and the Mexican War" (in "The Chronicles of

The debate inaugurated in Congress by Adams and others over the
extension of slave territory rapidly spread to the country at large,
and interest in the question became general. Abolitionists were thereby
greatly stimulated to put into practice their professed duty of seeking
to accomplish their ends by political action. Their first effort was
to secure recognition in the regular parties. The Democrats answered
in their platform of 1840 by a plank specifically denouncing the
abolitionists, and the Whigs proved either noncommittal or unfriendly.
The result was that abolitionists organized a party of their own in
1840 and nominated James G. Birney for the Presidency. Both of the
older parties during this campaign evaded the issue of the annexation of
Texas. In 1844 the Whigs again refrained from giving in their platform
any official utterance on the Texas issue, though they were understood
to be opposed to annexation. The Democrats adroitly asserted in their
platform their approval of the re-annexation of Texas and reoccupation
of Oregon. There was a shadowy prior claim to both these regions, and
by combining them in this way the party avoided any odious partiality
towards the acquisition of slave territory. But the voters in both
parties had become interested in the specific question whether the
country was to enter upon a war of conquest whose primary object should
be the extension of slavery. In the North it became generally understood
that a vote for Henry Clay, the Whig candidate, was an expression of
opposition to annexation. This issue, however, was not made clear in the
South. In the absence of telegraph and daily paper it was quite possible
to maintain contradictory positions in different sections of the
country. But since the Democrats everywhere openly favored annexation,
the election of their candidate, James K. Polk, was generally accepted
as a popular approval of the annexation of Texas. Indeed, action
immediately followed the election and, before the President-elect had
been inaugurated, the joint resolution for the annexation of Texas
passed both Houses of Congress.

The popular vote was almost equally divided between Whigs and Democrats.
Had the vote for Birney, who was again the candidate of the Liberty
party, been cast for Clay electors, Clay would have been chosen
President. The Birney vote was over sixty-two thousand. The Liberty
party, therefore, held the balance of power and determined the result of
the election.

The Liberty party has often been censured for defeating the Whigs
at this election of 1844. But many incidents, too early forgotten by
historians, go far to justify the course of the leaders. Birney and Clay
were at one time members of the same party. They were personal friends,
and as slave holders they shared the view that slavery was a menace to
the country and ought to be abolished. It was just fourteen years before
this election that Birney made a visit to Clay to induce him to accept
the leadership of an organized movement to abolish slavery in Kentucky.
Three years later, when Birney returned to Kentucky to do himself what
Henry Clay had refused to do, he became convinced that the reaction
which had taken place in favor of slavery was largely due to Clay's
influence. This was a common impression among active abolitionists.
It is not strange, therefore, that they refused to support him as a
candidate for the Presidency, and it is not at all certain that his
election in 1844 would have prevented the war with Mexico.

Northern Whigs accused the Democrats of fomenting a war with Mexico with
the intention of gaining territory for the purpose of extending slavery.
Democrats denied that the annexation of Texas would lead to war, and
many of them proclaimed their opposition to the farther extension of
slavery. In harmony with this sentiment, when President Polk asked for a
grant of two million dollars to aid in making a treaty with Mexico, they
attached to the bill granting the amount a proviso to the effect that
slavery should forever be prohibited in any territory which might be
obtained from Mexico by the contemplated treaty. The proviso was written
by an Ohio Democrat and was introduced in the House by David A. Wilmot,
a Pennsylvania Democrat, after whom it is known. It passed the House
by a fair majority with the support of both Whigs and Democrats. At the
time of the original introduction in August, 1846, the Senate did not
vote upon the measure. Davis of Massachusetts moved its adoption but
inadvertently prolonged his speech in its favor until the hour for
adjournment. Hence there was no vote on the subject. Subsequently the
proviso in a new form again passed the House but failed of adoption in
the Senate.

During the war the Wilmot Proviso was the subject of frequent debate
in Congress and of continuous debate throughout the country until
the treaty with Mexico was signed in 1848. A vast territory had been
acquired as a result of the war, and no decision had been reached as
to whether it should remain free or be opened to settlement by
slave-owners. Another presidential election was at hand. For fully ten
years there had been ever-increasing excitement over the question of
the limitation or the extension of slavery. This had clearly become
the topic of supreme interest throughout the country, and yet the two
leading parties avoided the issue. Their own membership was divided.
Northern Democrats, many of them, were decidedly opposed to slavery
extension. Southern Whigs with equal intensity favored the extension of
slavery into the new territory. The platforms of the two parties were
silent on the subject. The Whigs nominated Taylor, a Southern general
who had never voted their party ticket, but they made no formal
declaration of principles. The Democrats repeated with colorless
additions their platforms of 1840 anti 1844 and sought to win the
election with a Northern man, Lewis Cass of Michigan, as candidate.

There was, therefore, a clear field for a party having fully defined
views to express on a topic of commanding interest. The cleavage in the
Democratic party already begun by the debate over the Wilmot Proviso was
farther promoted by a factional division of New York Democrats. Martin
Van Buren became the leader of the liberal faction, the "Barnburners,"
who nominated him for President at a convention at Utica. The spirit of
independence now seized disaffected Whigs and Democrats everywhere
in the North and Northwest. Men of anti-slavery proclivities held
nonpartizan meetings and conventions. The movement finally culminated
in the famous Buffalo convention which gave birth to the Freesoil party.
The delegates of all political persuasions united on the one principle
of opposition to slavery. They adopted a ringing platform closing with
the words: "Resolved, That we inscribe on our banner 'Free Soil, Free
Speech, Free Labor, and Free Men,' and under it will fight on, and
fight ever, until a triumphant victory shall reward our exertions." They
accepted Van Buren as their candidate. The vote at the ensuing election
was more than fourfold that given to Birney in 1844. The Van Buren
supporters held the balance of power between Whigs and Democrats in
twelve States. Taylor was elected by the vote of New York, which except
for the division in the party would have gone to Cass. There was no
longer any doubt of the fact that a political force had arisen which
could no longer be ignored by the ruling parties. One of the parties
must either support the new issue or give place to a party which would
do so.

A political party for the defense of liberty was the fulfillment of the
aspirations of all earnest anti-slavery men and of all abolitionists
not of the radical Garrisonian persuasion. The national anti-slavery
societies were for the most part limited in their operations to the
Atlantic seaboard. The West organized local and state associations
with little reference to the national association. When the disruption
occurred between Garrison and his opponents in 1840, the Western
abolitionists continued their former methods of local organization. They
recognized no divisions in their ranks and continued to work in
harmony with all who in any way opposed the institution of slavery. The
political party was their first really effective national organization.
Through party committees, caucuses, and conventions, they became a part
of the forces that controlled the nation. The older local clubs and
associations were either displaced by the party or became mere adjuncts
to the party.

The lines for political action were now clearly defined. In the
States emancipation should be accomplished by state action. With a few
individual exceptions the leaders conceded that Congress had no power
to abolish slavery in the States. Upon the general Government they urged
the duty of abolishing both slavery and the slave-trade in the District
of Columbia and in all areas under direct federal control. They further
urged upon the Government the strict enforcement of the laws prohibiting
the foreign slave-trade and the enactment of laws forbidding the
interstate slave-trade. The constitutionality of these main lines of
action has been generally conceded.

Abolitionists were pioneers in the formulation of political platforms.
The declaration of principles drawn up by Garrison in 1833 and adopted
by the American Anti-Slavery Society was of the nature of a political
platform. The duty of voting in furtherance of the policy of
emancipation was inculcated. No platform was adopted for the first
political campaign, that of 1840; but four years later there was an
elaborate party platform of twenty-one resolutions. Many things had
happened in the eleven years intervening since the declaration of
principles of the American Anti-Slavery Society. In the earlier platform
the freedom of the slave appears as the primary object. That of the
Liberty party assumes the broad principle of human brotherhood as the
foundation for a democracy or a republic. It denies that the party is
organized merely to free the slave. Slaveholding as the grossest form of
despotism must indeed be attacked first, but the aim of the party is to
carry the principle of equal rights into all social relations. It is not
a sectional party nor a party organized for a single purpose. "It is not
a new party, nor a third party, but it is the party of 1776, reviving
the principles of that memorable era, and striving to carry them into
practical application." The spirit of '76 rings, indeed, throughout
the document, which declares that it was understood at the time of the
Declaration and the Constitution that the existence of slavery was in
derogation of the principles of American liberty. The implied faith
of the Nation and the States was pledged to remove this stain upon the
national character. Some States had nobly fulfilled that pledge; others
shamelessly had neglected to do so.

These principles are reasserted in succeeding platforms. The later
opponents of slavery in their principles and policies thus allied
themselves with the founders of the republic. They claimed the right to
continue to repeat the words of Washington and Jefferson and those of
the members of the Virginia Legislature of 1832. No new doctrines were
required. It was enough simply to reaffirm the fundamental principles of

The names attached to the party are significant. It was at first
popularly styled the Abolition party, then officially in turn the
Liberty party, the Freesoil party, and finally the Republican party.
Republican was the name first applied to the Democratic party--the party
of Jefferson. The term Democrat was gradually substituted under the
leadership of Jackson before 1830. Some of the men who participated
in the organization of the later Republican party had themselves been
Republicans in the party of Jefferson. They not only accepted the name
which Jefferson gave to his party, but they adopted the principles which
Jefferson proclaimed on the subject of slavery, free soil, and human
rights in general. This was the final stage in the identification of the
later anti-slavery crusade with the earlier contest for liberty.


The middle of the last century was marked by many incidents which have
left a permanent impress upon politics in general and upon the slavery
question in particular. Europe was again in the throes of popular
uprisings. New constitutions were adopted in France, Switzerland,
Prussia, and Austria. Reactions in favor of autocracy in Austria and
Germany sent multitudes of lovers of liberty to America. Kossuth, the
Hungarian revolutionist, electrified American audiences by his appeals
on behalf of the downtrodden in Europe. Already the world was growing
smaller. America did not stop at the Pacific but crossed the ocean to
establish permanent political and commercial relations with Japan and

The industries of the country were being reorganized to meet new
conditions created by recent inventions. The electric telegraph was
just coming into use, giving rise to a new era in communication. The
discovery of gold in California in 1848 was followed by competing
projects to construct railroads to the Pacific with Chicago and St.
Louis as the rival eastern terminals. The telegraph, the railway,
and the resulting industrial development proved great nationalizing
influences. They served also to give increased emphasis to the contrast
between the industries of the free and those of the slave States. The
Census of 1850 became an effective anti-slavery argument.

The telegraph also gave new life to the public press. The presidential
campaign of 1848 was the last one in which it was possible to carry on
contradictory arguments in support of the same candidate. If slavery
could not endure the test of untrammeled discussion when there were no
means of rapid intercommunication such as the telegraph supplied, how
could it contend against the revelations of the daily press with the new
type of reporter and interviewer which was now developed?

It is a remarkable coincidence that in the midst of the passing of the
old and the coming in of the new order there should be a change in the
political leadership of the country. Webster, Clay, Calhoun, John Quincy
Adams, not to mention others, all died near the middle of the century,
and their political power passed to younger men. Adams gave his blessing
to a young friend and co-laborer, William H. Seward of New York,
intimating that he expected him to do much to curb the threatening power
of the slaveholding oligarchy; while Andrew Jackson, who died earlier,
had already conferred a like distinction upon young Stephen A. Douglas.
There was no lack of aspirants for the fallen mantles.

John C. Calhoun continued almost to the day of his death to modify his
interpretation of the Constitution in the interest of his section. As
a young man he avowed protectionist principles. Becoming convinced that
slave labor was not suited to manufacture, he urged South Carolina to
declare the protective tariff laws null and void within her limits.
When his section seemed endangered by the distribution of anti-slavery
literature through the mail, he extemporized a theory that each State
had a right to pass statutes to protect itself in such an emergency, in
which case it became the duty of the general Government and of all other
States to respect such laws. When it finally appeared that the territory
acquired from Mexico was likely to remain free, the same statesman made
further discoveries. He found that Congress had no right to exclude
slavery from any Territory belonging to the United States; that the
owners of slaves had equal rights with the owners of other property;
that neither Congress nor a territorial authority had any power
to exclude slaves from a Territory. This doctrine was accepted by
extremists in the South and was finally embodied in the Dred Scott
decision of 1857.

Abolitionists had meantime evolved a precisely contradictory theory.
They asserted that the Constitution gave no warrant for property in man,
except as held under state laws; that with this exception freedom was
guaranteed to all; that Congress had no more right to make a slave than
it had to make a king; and that it was the duty of Congress to maintain
freedom in all the Territories. Extremists expressed the view that all
past acts whereby slavery had been extended were unconstitutional
and therefore void. Between these extreme conflicting views was every
imaginable grade of opinion. The prevailing view of opponents of
slavery, however, was in harmony with their past conduct and maintained
that Congress had complete control over slavery in the Territories.

When the Mexican territory was acquired, Stephen A. Douglas, as the
experienced chairman of the Committee on Territories in the Senate, was
already developing a theory respecting slavery in the Territories
which was destined to play a leading part in the later crusade against
slavery. Douglas was the most thoroughgoing of expansionists and would
acknowledge no northern boundary on this side of the North Pole, no
southern boundary nearer than Panama. He regarded the United States,
with its great principle of local autonomy, as fitted to become
eventually the United States of the whole world, while he held it to be
an immediate duty to make it the United States of North America. As the
son-in-law of a Southern planter in North Carolina, and as the father
of sons who inherited slave property, Douglas, although born in Vermont,
knew the South as did no other Northern statesman. He knew also the
institution of slavery at first hand. As a pronounced expansionist
and as the congressional leader in all matters pertaining to the
Territories, he acquired detailed information as to the qualities of
these new possessions, and he spoke, therefore, with a good degree of
authority when he said, "If there was one inch of territory in the whole
of our acquisitions from Mexico where slavery could exist, it was in the
valleys of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin." But this region was at
once preempted for freedom upon the discovery of gold.

Douglas did not admit that even the whole of Texas would remain
dedicated to slavery. Some of the States to be formed from it would be
free, by the same laws of climate and resources which determined that
the entire West would remain free. Before the Mexican War the Senator
had become convinced that the extension of slavery had reached its
limit; that the Missouri Compromise was a dead letter except as a
psychological palliative; that Nature had already ordained that slave
labor should be forever excluded from all Western territory both north
and south of that line. His reply to Calhoun's contention that a balance
must be maintained between slave and free States was that he had plans
for forming seventeen new States out of the vast Western domains, every
one of which would be free. And besides, said he, "we all look forward
with confidence to the time when Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky,
and Missouri, and probably North Carolina and Tennessee will adopt a
gradual system of emancipation." Douglas was one of the first to favor
the admission of California as a free State. According to the Missouri
Compromise law and the laws of Mexico, all Western territory was
free, and he was opposed to interference with existing conditions. The
Missouri Compromise was still held sacred. Finally, however, it was with
Douglas's assistance that the Compromise measures of 1850 were passed,
one of which provided for territorial Governments for Utah and New
Mexico with the proviso that, when admitted as States, slavery should be
permitted or prohibited as the citizens of those States should determine
at the time. Congress refrained from any declaration as to slavery in
the Territories. It was this policy of "non-intervention" which four
years later furnished plausible excuse for the repeal of the Missouri

It was not strange that there was general ignorance in all parts of the
country as to the resources of the newly acquired territory. The rush
to the goldfields precipitated action in respect to California. Before
General Taylor, the newly elected President, was inaugurated, there
was imminent need of an efficient government. An early act of the
Administration was to send an agent to assist in the formation of a
state Government, and a convention was immediately called to frame a
constitution. By unanimous vote of the convention, slavery was excluded.
The constitution was approved by popular vote and was presented to
Congress for final acceptance in December, 1849.

In the meantime a great commotion had arisen among the people. Southern
state legislatures passed resolutions demanding that the rights of their
peculiar institution should be recognized in the new Territory. Northern
legislatures responded with resolutions favoring the admission of
California as a State and the application of the Wilmot Proviso to the
remaining territory. Northern Democrats had very generally denied that
the affair with Mexico had as a chief purpose the extension of slavery.
Democrats therefore united with Whigs in maintaining the principle of
free soil. In the South there was a corresponding fusion of the two
parties in support of the sectional issue.

General concern prevailed as to the attitude of the Administration.
Taylor's election had been effected by both a Southern and a Northern
split in the Democratic party. Northern Democrats had voted for the
Free-soil candidate because of the alleged pro-slavery tendencies of
their own party. Southern Democrats voted for Taylor because of their
distrust of Lewis Cass, their own candidate. Some of these met in
convention and formally nominated Taylor, and Taylor accepted their
nomination with thanks. Northern anti-slavery Whigs had a difficult task
to keep their members in line. There is evidence that Taylor held the
traditional Southern view that the anti-slavery North was disposed
to encroach upon the rights of the South. Meeting fewer Northern
Whig supporters, he became convinced that the more active spirit of
encroachment was in the pro-slavery South. California needed a state
Government, and the President took the most direct method to supply
that need. As the inhabitants were unanimous in their desire to exclude
slavery, their wish should be respected. New Mexico was in a similar
situation. As slavery was already excluded from the territory under
Mexican law, and as there was no wish on the part of the inhabitants to
introduce slavery, the President recognized existing facts and made
no change. When Southern leaders projected a scheme to enlarge the
boundaries of Texas so as to extend slavery over a large part of New
Mexico, President Taylor set a guard of United States troops to maintain
the integrity of the Territory. When a deputation of Southern Whigs
endeavored to dissuade him from his purpose, threatening a dissolution
of the Union and intimating that army officers would refuse to act
against citizens of Texas, the soldier President replied that in such an
event he would take command in person and would hang any one caught in
acts of treason. When Henry Clay introduced an elaborate project for a
compromise between the North and the South, the President insisted
that each question should be settled on its own merits and directed the
forces of the Administration against any sort of compromise. The debate
over Clay's Omnibus Bill was long and acrimonious. On July 4, 1850,
the President seemed triumphant. But upon that day, notwithstanding his
apparent robust health, he was stricken down with an acute disease and
died five days later. With his passing, the opposing Whig faction came
into power. The so-called compromise measures were at length one by one
passed by Congress and approved by President Fillmore.

California was admitted as a free State; but as a palliative to the
South, Congress passed bills for the organization of territorial
Governments for New Mexico and Utah without positive declarations
regarding the powers of the territorial Legislatures over slavery. All
questions relating to title to slaves were to be left to the courts.
Meantime it was left in doubt whether Mexican law excluding slavery was
still in force. Southern malcontents maintained that this act was a
mere hoax, using words which suggested concession when no concession was
intended. Northern anti-slavery men criticized the act as the entering
wedge for another great surrender to the enemy. Because of the
uncertainty regarding the meaning of the law and the false hopes likely
to be created, they maintained that it was fitted to foment discord and
prolong the period of distrust between the two sections. At all events
such was its actual effect.

A third act in this unhappy series gave to Texas ten millions of dollars
for the alleged surrender of claims to a part of New Mexico. This had
little bearing on the general subject of compromise; yet anti-slavery
men criticized it on the ground that the issue raised was insincere;
that the appropriation was in fact a bribe to secure votes necessary to
pass the other measures; that the bill was passed through Congress
by shameless bribery, and that even the boundaries conceded to Texas
involved the surrender of free territory.

The abolition of the slave-trade in the District of Columbia was
supported by both sections of the country. The removal of the slave
pens within sight of the Capitol to a neighboring city deprived the
abolitionists of one of their weapons for effective agitation, but it
did not otherwise affect the position of slavery.

Of the five acts included in the compromise measures, the one which
provided for the return of fugitive slaves was most effective in the
promotion of hostility between the two sections. During the six months
of debate on the Omnibus Bill, numerous bills were presented to take the
place of the law of 1793. Webster brought forward a bill which provided
for the use of a jury to establish the validity of a claim to an escaped
slave. But that which was finally adopted by a worn-out Congress is
characterized as one of the most barbarous pieces of legislation ever
enacted by a civilized country. A single incident may indicate the
nature of the act. James Hamlet, for three years a resident of New York
City, a husband and a father and a member of the Methodist Church, was
seized eight days after the law went into effect by order of the agent
of Mary Brown of Baltimore, cut off from all communication with his
friends, hurried before a commissioner, and on ex parte testimony was
delivered into the hands of the agent, by whom he was handcuffed and
secretly conveyed to Baltimore. Mr. Rhodes accounts for the enactment
in the following words: "If we look below the surface we shall find a
strong impelling motive of the Southern clamor for this harsh enactment
other than the natural desire to recover lost property. Early in the
session it took air that a part of the game of the disunionists was to
press a stringent fugitive slave law, for which no Northern man could
vote; and when it was defeated, the North would be charged with refusal
to carry out a stipulation of the Constitution.... The admission of
California was a bitter pill for the Southern ultras, but they were
forced to take it. The Fugitive Slave Law was a taunt and a reproach to
that part of the North where the anti-slavery sentiment ruled supremely,
and was deemed a partial compensation." Clay expressed surprise that
States from which few slaves escaped demanded a more stringent law than
Kentucky, from which many escaped.

Whatever may have been the motives leading to the enactment, its
immediate effect was the elimination of one of the great national
parties, thus paving the way for the formation of parties along
sectional lines. Two years after the passage of the compromise acts the
Democratic national convention assembled to nominate a candidate for
the Presidency. The platform adopted by the party promised a faithful
execution of the acts known as the compromise measures and added "the
act for reclaiming fugitives from service or labor included; which act,
being designed to carry out an express provision of the Constitution,
cannot, with fidelity thereto, be repealed nor so changed as to destroy
or impair its efficiency." When this was read, the convention broke out
in uproarious applause. Then there was a demand that it should be read
again. Again there was loud applause.

Why was there this demand that a law which every one knew had proved a
complete failure should be made a permanent part of the Constitution?
And why the ungovernable hilarity over the demand that its "efficiency"
should never be impaired? Surely the motive was something other than a
desire to recover lost property. Upon the Whig party had been fastened
the odium for the enactment of the law, and the act unrepealed meant the
death of the party. The Democrats saw good reason for laughter.


Wherever there are slaves there are fugitives if there is an available
place of refuge. The wilds of Florida were such a refuge during the
early part of last century. When the Northern States became free,
fugitive slaves began to escape thither, and Canada, when it could be
reached, was, of course, the goal of perfect security and liberty for

A professed object of the early anti-slavery societies was to prevent
the enslavement of free negroes and in other ways to protect their
rights. During the process of emancipation in Northern States large
numbers of colored persons were spirited off to the South and sold into
slavery. At various places along the border there were those who made
it their duty to guard the rights of negroes and to prevent kidnapping.
These guardians of the border furnished a nucleus for the development of
what was later known as the Underground Railroad.

In 1796 President Washington wrote a letter to a friend in New Hampshire
with reference to obtaining the return of a negro servant. He was
careful to state that the servant should remain unmolested rather than
"excite a mob or riot or even uneasy sensations in the minds of well
disposed citizens." The result was that the servant remained free.
President Washington here assumed that "well disposed citizens" would
oppose her return to slavery. Three years earlier the President had
himself signed a bill to facilitate by legal process the return of
fugitives escaping into other States. He was certainly aware that such
an act was on the statute books when he wrote his request to his friend
in New Hampshire, yet he expected that, if an attempt were made to
remove the refugee by force, riot and resistance by a mob would be the

Not until after the foreign slave-trade had been prohibited and the
domestic trade had been developed, and not until there was a pro-slavery
reaction in the South which banished from the slave States all
anti-slavery propaganda, did the systematic assistance rendered
to fugitive slaves assume any large proportions or arouse bitter
resentment. It began in the late twenties and early thirties of
the nineteenth century, extended with the spread of anti-slavery
organization, and was greatly encouraged and stimulated by the enactment
of the law of 1850.

The Underground Railroad was never coextensive with the abolition
movement. There were always abolitionists who disapproved the practice
of assisting fugitives, and others who took no part in it. Of those
who were active participants, the larger proportion confined their
activities to assisting those who had escaped and would take no part in
seeking to induce slaves to leave their masters. Efforts of that kind
were limited to a few individuals only.

Incidents drawn from the reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the reputed
president of the Underground Railroad, may serve to illustrate the
origin and growth of the system. He was seven years old when he first
saw near his home in North Carolina a coffle of slaves being driven to
the Southern market by a man on horseback with a long whip. "The driver
was some distance behind with the wagon. My father addressed the slaves
pleasantly and then asked, 'Well, boys, why do they chain you?' One
of the men whose countenance betrayed unusual intelligence and whose
expression denoted the deepest sadness replied: 'They have taken us from
our wives and children and they chain us lest we should make our escape
and go back to them."' When Coffin was fifteen, he rendered assistance
to a man in bondage. Having an opportunity to talk with the members of a
gang in the hands of a trader bound for the Southern market, he learned
that one of the company, named Stephen, was a freeman who had been
kidnapped and sold. Letters were written to Northern friends of Stephen
who confirmed his assertion. Money was raised in the Quaker meeting and
men were sent to recover the negro. Stephen was found in Georgia and
after six months was liberated.

During the year 1821 other incidents occurred in the Quaker community at
New Garden, near Greensboro, North Carolina, which illustrate different
phases of the subject. Jack Barnes was the slave of a bachelor who
became so greatly attached to his servant that he bequeathed to him
not only his freedom but also a large share of his property. Relatives
instituted measures to break the will, and Jack in alarm took refuge
among the Quakers at New Garden. The suit went against the negro, and
the newspapers contained advertisements offering a hundred dollars for
information which should result in his recovery. To prevent his return
to bondage, it was decided that Jack should join a family of Coffins who
were moving to Indiana.

At the same time a negro by the name of Sam had for several months been
abiding in the Quaker neighborhood. He belonged to a Mr. Osborne, a
prototype of Simon Legree, who was so notoriously cruel that other
slave-owners assisted in protecting his victims. After the Coffins, with
Jack, had been on the road for a few days, Osborne learned that a negro
was with them and, feeling sure that it was his Sam, he started in hot
haste after them. This becoming known to the Friends, young Levi Coffin
was sent after Osborne to forestall disaster. The descriptions given of
Jack and Sam were practically identical and it was surmised that when
Osborne should overtake the party and discover his mistake, he would
seize Jack for the sake of the offered reward. Coffin soon came up with
Osborne and decided to ride with him for a time to learn his plans.
In the course of their conversation, it was finally agreed that Coffin
should assist in the recovery of Sam. Osborne was also generous and
insisted that if it proved to be the other "nigger" who was with the
company, Coffin should have half the reward. How the young Quaker
outwitted the tyrant, gained his point, sent Jack on his way to liberty,
and at the same time retained the confidence of Osborne so that upon
their return home he was definitely engaged to assist Osborne in finding
Sam, is a fascinating story. The abolitionist won from the slaveholder
the doubtful compliment that "there was not a man in that neighborhood
worth a d--n to help him hunt his negro except young Levi Coffin."

Sam was perfectly safe so long as Levi Coffin was guide for the
hunting-party, but matters were becoming desperate. For the fugitive
something had to be done. Another family was planning to move to
Indiana, and in their wagon Sam was to be concealed and thus conveyed to
a free State. The business had now become serious. The laws of the State
affixed the death penalty for stealing a slave. At night when young
Coffin and his father, with Sam, were on their way to complete
arrangements for the departure, horsemen appeared in the road near by.
They had only time to throw themselves flat on the ground behind a
log. From the conversation overheard, they were assured that they had
narrowly escaped the night-riders on the lookout for stray negroes. The
next year, 1822, Coffin himself joined a party going to Indiana by the
southern route through Tennessee and Kentucky. In the latter State they
were at one time overtaken by men who professed to be looking for a pet
dog, but whose real purpose was to recover runaway slaves. They insisted
upon examining the contents of the wagons, for in this way only a short
time previous a fugitive had been captured.

These incidents show the origin of the system. The first case of
assistance rendered a negro was not in itself illegal, but was intended
merely to prevent the crime of kidnapping. The second was illegal in
form, but the aid was given to one who, having been set free by will,
was being reenslaved, it was believed, by an unjust decision of a court.
The third was a case of outrageous abuse on the part of the owner. The
negro Sam had himself gone to a trader begging that he would buy him and
preferring to take his chances on a Mississippi plantation rather than
return to his master. The trader offered the customary price and was
met with the reply that he could have the rascal if he would wait until
after the enraged owner had taken his revenge, otherwise the price
would be twice the amount offered. A large proportion of the fugitives
belonged to this maltreated class. Others were goaded to escape by the
prospect of deportation to the Gulf States. The fugitives generally
followed the beaten line of travel to the North and West.

In 1826 Levi Coffin became a merchant in Newport, Indiana, a town near
the Ohio line not far from Richmond. In the town and in its neighborhood
lived a large number of free negroes who were the descendants of former
slaves whom North Carolina Quakers had set free and had colonized in the
new country. Coffin found that these blacks were accustomed to assist
fugitives on their way to Canada. When he also learnt that some had been
captured and returned to bondage merely through lack of skill on the
part of the negroes, he assumed active operations as a conductor on the
Underground Railroad.

Coffin used the Underground Railroad as a means of making converts to
the cause. One who berated him for negro-stealing was adroitly induced
to meet a newly arrived passenger and listen to his pathetic story. At
the psychological moment the objector was skillfully led to hand the
fugitive a dollar to assist him in reaching a place of safety. Coffin
then explained to this benevolent non-abolitionist the nature of his
act, assuring him that he was liable to heavy damages therefor. The
reply was in this case more forcible than elegant: "Damn it! You've
got me!" This conversion he publicly proclaimed for the sake of its
influence upon others. Many were the instances in which those of
supposed pro-slavery convictions were brought face to face with an
actual case of the threatened reenslavement of a human being escaping
from bondage and were, to their own surprise, overcome by the natural,
humane sentiment which asserted itself. For example, a Cincinnati
merchant, who at the time was supposed to be assisting one of his
Southern customers to recover an escaped fugitive, was confronted at
his own home by the poor half-starved victim. Yielding to the impulse of
compassion, he gave the slave food and personal assistance and directed
the destitute creature to a place of refuge.

The division in the Quaker meeting in Indiana with which Levi Coffin was
intimately associated may serve to exemplify a corresponding attitude
in other churches on the question of slavery. The Quakers availed
themselves of the first great anti-slavery movement to rid themselves
completely of the burden. Their Society itself became an anti-slavery
organization. Yet even so the Friends had differences of opinion as to
fit methods of action. Not only did many of them disapprove of rendering
aid to fugitives but they also objected to the use of the meetinghouses
for anti-slavery lectures. The formation of the Liberty party served to
accentuate the division. The great body of the Friends were anti-slavery

A crisis in the affairs of the Society of Friends in the State of
Indiana was reached in 1843 when the radicals seceded and organized an
independent "Anti-Slavery Friends Society." Immediately there appeared
in numerous localities duplicate Friends' meeting-houses. In and around
one of these, distinguished as "Liberty Hall," were gathered those whose
supreme religious interest was directed against the sin of slavery.
Never was there a church division which involved less bad blood or sense
of injury or injustice. Members of the same family attended separate
churches without the least difference in their cordial relations. No
important principle was involved; there were apparently good reasons
for both lines of policy, and each party understood and respected the
other's position. After the adoption of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850
and the passing of the Whig party, these differences disappeared, the
separate organization was disbanded, and all Friends' meetinghouses
became "liberty halls."

The disposition to aid the fugitive was by no means confined to the
North nor to Quakers in the South. Richard Dillingham, a young Quaker
who had yielded to the solicitations of escaped fugitives in Cincinnati
and had undertaken a mission to Nashville, Tennessee, to rescue their
relatives from a "hard master," was arrested with three stolen slaves
on his hands. He made confession in open court and frankly explained
his motives. The Nashville Daily Gazette of April 13, 1849, has words of
commendation for the prisoner and his family and states that "he was not
without the sympathy of those who attended the trial." Though Dillingham
committed a crime to which the death penalty was attached in some of
the States, the jury affixed the minimum penalty of three years'
imprisonment for the offense. As Nashville was far removed from Quaker
influence or any sort of anti-slavery propaganda, Dillingham was himself
astonished and was profoundly grateful for the leniency shown him by
Court, jury, and prosecutors. This incident occurred in the year before
the adoption of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. It is well known that in
all times and places which were free from partizan bitterness there
was a general natural sympathy for those who imperiled their life and
liberty to free the slave. Throughout the South men of both races were
ready to give aid to slaves seeking to escape from dangers or burdens
which they regarded as intolerable. While such a man as Frederick
Douglass, when still a slave, was an agent of the Underground Railroad,
Southern anti-slavery people themselves were to a large extent the
original projectors of the movement. Even members of the families of
slaveholders have been known to assist fugitives in their escape to the

The fugitives traveled in various ways which were determined partly by
geographical conditions and partly by the character of the inhabitants
of a region. On the Atlantic coast, from Florida to Delaware, slaves
were concealed in ships and were thus conveyed to free States. Thence
some made their way towards Canada by steamboat or railroad, though most
made the journey on foot or, less frequently, in private conveyances.
Stalwart slaves sometimes walked from the Gulf States to the free
States, traveling chiefly by night and guided by the North Star. Having
reached a free State, they found friends among those of their own race,
or were taken in hand by officers of the Underground Railroad and were
thus helped across the Canadian border.

From the seacoast the valley of the Connecticut River furnished a
convenient route for completing the journey northward, though the way of
the fugitives was often deflected to the Lake Champlain region. In later
years, when New England became generally sympathetic, numerous lines of
escape traversed that entire section. Other courses extended northward
from the vicinity of Philadelphia, Delaware, and Maryland. Here, through
the center of American Quakerdom, all conditions favored the escape
of fugitives, for slavery and freedom were at close quarters. The
activities of the Quakers, who were at first engaged merely in
preventing the reenslavement of those who had a legal right to freedom,
naturally expanded until aid was given without reservation to any
fugitive. From Philadelphia as a distributing point the route went by
way of New York and the Hudson River or up the river valleys of eastern
Pennsylvania through western New York.

In addition to the routes to freedom which the seacoast and river
valleys afforded, the Appalachian chain of mountains formed an
attractive highway of escape from slavery, though these mountain paths
lead us to another branch of our subject not immediately connected with
the Underground Railroad--the escape from bondage by the initiative of
the slaves themselves or by the aid of their own people. Mountains have
always been a refuge and a defense for the outlaw, and the few
dwellers in this almost unknown wilderness were not infrequently either
indifferent or friendly to the fugitives. The escaped slaves might, if
they chose, adopt for an indefinite time the free life of the hills;
but in most cases they naturally drifted northward for greater security
until they found themselves in a free State. Through the mountainous
regions of Virginia many thus escaped, and they were induced to remain
there by the example and advice of residents of their own color. The
negroes themselves excelled all others in furnishing places of refuge to
fugitives from slavery and in concealing their status. For this reason
John Brown and his associates were influenced to select this region for
their great venture in 1859.

But there were other than geographical conditions which helped to
determine the direction of the lines of the Underground Railroad. West
of the Alleghanies are the broad plains of the Mississippi Valley, and
in this great region human elements rather than physical characteristics
proved influential. Northern Ohio was occupied by settlers from the
East, many of whom were anti-slavery. Southern Ohio was populated
largely by Quakers and other people from the slave States who abhorred
slavery. On the east and south the State bordered on slave territory,
and every part of the region was traversed by lines of travel for the
slave. In eastern and northern Indiana a favorable attitude prevailed.
Southwestern Indiana, however, and southern Illinois were occupied by
those less friendly to the slave, so that in these sections there is
little evidence of systematic aid to fugitives. But with St. Louis,
Missouri, as a starting-point, northern Illinois became honeycombed with
refuges for patrons of the Underground Railroad. The negro also found
friends in all the settled portions of Iowa, and at the outbreak of the
Civil War a lively traffic was being developed, extending from Lawrence,
Kansas, to Keokuk, Iowa.

There is respectable authority for a variety of opinions as to the
requirements of the rendition clause in the Constitution and of the Act
of Congress of 1793 to facilitate the return of fugitives from service
or labor; but there is no respectable authority in support of the view
that neither the spirit nor the letter of the law was violated by
the supporters of the Underground Railroad. This was a source of real
weakness to anti-slavery leaders in politics. It was always true that
only a small minority of their numbers were actual violators of the law,
yet such was their relation to the organized anti-slavery movement that
responsibility attached to all. The platform of the Liberty party for
1844 declared that the provisions of the Constitution for reclaiming
fugitive slaves were dangerous to liberty and ought to be abrogated.
It further declared that the members of the party would treat these
provisions as void, because they involved an order to commit an immoral
act. The platform thus explicitly committed the party to the support
of the policy of rendering aid to fugitive slaves. Four years later
the platform of the Free-soil party contained no reference whatever to
fugitive slaves, but that of 1852 denounced the Fugitive Slave Act of
1850 as repugnant to the Constitution and the spirit of Christianity and
denied its binding force on the American people. The Republican platform
of 1856 made no reference to the subject.

The Underground Railroad filled an insignificant place in the general
plan for emancipation, even in the minds of the directors. It was a
lesser task preparatory to the great work. As to the numbers of slaves
who gained their freedom by means of it, there is a wide range of
opinion. Statements in Congress by Southern members that a hundred
thousand had escaped must be regarded as gross exaggerations. In any
event the loss was confined chiefly to the border States. Besides, it
has been stated with some show of reason that the danger of servile
insurrection was diminished by the escape of potential leaders.

From the standpoint of the great body of anti-slavery men who expected
to settle the slavery question by peaceable means, it was a calamity
of the first magnitude that, just at the time when conditions were
most favorable for transferring the active crusade from the general
Government to the separate States, public attention should be directed
to the one point at which the conflict was most acute and irrepressible.

Previous to 1850 there had been no general acrimonious debate in
Congress on the rendition of fugitive slaves. About half of those who
had previously escaped from bondage had not taken the trouble to go
as far as Canada, but were living at peace in the Northern States. Few
people at the North knew or cared anything about the details of a law
that had been on the statute books since 1793. Members of Congress were
duly warned of the dangers involved in any attempt to enforce a more
stringent law than the previous act which had proved a dead letter.
To those who understood the conditions, the new law also was doomed to
failure. So said Senator Butler of South Carolina. An attempt to enforce
it would be met by violence.

This prediction came true. The twenty thousand potential victims
residing in Northern States were thrown into panic. Some rushed off to
Canada; others organized means for protection. A father and son from
Baltimore came to a town in Pennsylvania to recover a fugitive. An alarm
was sounded; men, mostly colored, rushed to the protection of the one
whose liberty was threatened. Two Quakers appeared on the scene
and warned the slavehunters to desist and upon their refusal one
slave-hunter was instantly killed and the other wounded. The fugitive
was conveyed to a place of safety, and to the murderers no punishment
was meted out, though the general Government made strenuous efforts to
discover and punish them. In New York, though Gerrit Smith and a local
clergyman with a few assistants rescued a fugitive from the officers of
the law and sent him to Canada, openly proclaiming and justifying the
act, no attempt was made to punish the offenders.

After a dozen years of intense and ever-increasing excitement, when
other causes of friction between North and South had apparently been
removed and good citizens in the two sections were rejoicing at
the prospect of an era of peace and harmony, public attention was
concentrated upon the one problem of conduct which would not admit of
peaceable legal adjustment. Abolitionists had always been stigmatized as
lawbreakers whose aim was the destruction of slavery in utter disregard
of the rights of the States. This charge was absolutely false; their
settled program involved full recognition of state and municipal control
over slavery. Yet after public attention had become fixed upon conduct
on the part of the abolitionists which was illegal, it was difficult to
escape the implication that their whole course was illegal. This was the
tragic significance of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.


Whittier offered up "thanks for the fugitive slave law; for it gave
occasion for 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.'" Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe had been
mistress of a station on the Underground Railroad at Cincinnati, the
storm-center of the West, and out of her experience she has transmitted
to the world a knowledge of the elemental and tragic human experiences
of the slaves which would otherwise have been restricted to a select
few. The mistress of a similar station in eastern Indiana, though she
held novel reading a deadly sin, said: "'Uncle Tom's Cabin' is not
a novel, it is a record of facts. I myself have listened to the same
stories." The reading public in all lands soon became sympathetic
participants in the labors of those who, in defiance of law, were
lending a hand to the aspirants for liberty. At the time of the
publication of the story in book form in March, 1852, America was being
profoundly stirred by the stories of fugitives who had escaped from
European despotism. Mrs. Stowe refers to these incidents in her
question: "When despairing Hungarian fugitives make their way, against
all the search-warrants and authorities of their lawful governments to
America, press and political cabinet ring with applause and welcome.
When despairing African fugitives do the same thing--it is--what IS it?"
Little did she think that when the eloquence of the Hungarian refugee
had been forgotten, the story of Eliza and Uncle Tom would ring
throughout the world.

The book did far more than vindicate the conduct of those who rendered
assistance to the fugitive from slavery; it let in daylight upon the
essential nature of slavery. Humane and just masters are shown to be
forced into participation in acts which result in intolerable cruelty.
Full justice is done to the noble and admirable character of Southern
slave-owners. The author had been a guest in the home of the "Shelbys,"
in Kentucky. She had taken great pains to understand the Southern point
of view on the subject of slavery; she had entered into the real trials
and difficulties involved in any plan of emancipation. St. Clair,
speaking to Miss Ophelia, his New England cousin, says:

"If we emancipate, are you willing to educate? How many families of your
town would take in a negro man or woman, teach them, bear with them, and
seek to make them Christians? How many merchants would take Adolph, if
I wanted to make him a clerk; or mechanics, if I wanted to teach him a
trade? If I wanted to put Jane and Rosa to a school, how many schools
are there in the Northern States that would take them in? How many
families that would board them? And yet they are as white as many a
woman north or south. You see, cousin, I want justice done us. We are in
a bad position. We are the more obvious oppressors of the negro; but
the unchristian prejudice of the north is an oppressor almost equally

Throughout the book the idea is elaborated in many ways. Miss Ophelia
is introduced for the purpose of contrasting Northern ignorance and New
England prejudice with the patience and forbearance of the better class
of slave-owners of the South. The genuine affection of an unspoiled
child for negro friends is made especially emphatic. Miss Ophelia
objected to Eva's expressions of devotion to Uncle Tom. Her father
insists that his daughter shall not be robbed of the free utterance of
her high regard, observing that "the child is the only true democrat."
There is only one Simon Legree in the book, and he is of New England
extraction. The story is as distinctly intended to inform Northern
ignorance and to remove Northern prejudice as it is to justify the
conduct of abolitionists.

What was the effect of the publication? In European countries far
removed from local partizan prejudice, it was immediately received as
a great revelation of the spirit of liberty. It was translated into
twenty-three different languages. So devoted were the Italians to the
reading of the story that there was earnest effort to suppress its
circulation. As a drama it proved a great success, not only in America
and England but in France and other countries as well. More than a
million copies of the story were sold in the British Empire. Lord
Palmerston avers that he had not read a novel for thirty years, yet
he read Uncle Tom's Cabin three times and commended the book for the
statesmanship displayed in it.

What is in the story to call forth such commendation from the
cold-blooded English statesman? The book revealed, in a way fitted to
carry conviction to every unprejudiced reader, the impossibility of
uniting slavery with freedom under the same Government. Either all must
be free or the mass subject to the few--or there is actual war. This
principle is finely brought out in the predicament of the Quaker
confronted by a fugitive with wife and child who had seen a sister sold
and conveyed to a life of shame on a Southern plantation. "Am I going to
stand by and see them take my wife and sell her?" exclaimed the negro.
"No, God help me! I'll fight to the last breath before they shall take
my wife and son. Can you blame me?" To which the Quaker replied: "Mortal
man cannot blame thee, George. Flesh and blood could not do otherwise.
'Woe unto the world because of offences but woe unto them through whom
the offence cometh.'" "Would not even you, sir, do the same, in my
place?" "I pray that I be not tried." And in the ensuing events the
Quaker played an important part.

Laws enacted for the protection of slave property are shown to be
destructive of the fundamental rights of freemen; they are inhuman. The
Ohio Senator, who in his lofty preserve at the capital of his country
could discourse eloquently of his readiness to keep faith with the
South in the matter of the faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Law,
becomes, when at home with his family, a flagrant violator of the law.
Elemental human nature is pitted against the apparent interests of a few
individual slaveowners. The story of Uncle Tom placed all supporters
of the new law on the defensive. It was read by all classes North and
South. "Uncle Tom's Cabin as it is" was called forth from the South as a
reply to Mrs. Stowe's book, and there ensued a general discussion of the
subject which was on the whole enlightening. Yet the immediate political
effect of the publication was less than might have been expected from
a book so widely read and discussed. Its appearance early in the decade
did not prevent the apparent pro-slavery reaction already described. But
Mr. Rhodes calls attention to the different impression which the book
made upon adults and boys. Hardened sinners in partizan politics could
read the book, laugh and weep over the passing incidents, and then go
on as if nothing had happened. Not so with the thirteen-year-old boy.
He never could be the same again. The Republican party of 1860 was
especially successful in gaining the first vote of the youthful citizen
and undoubtedly owed much of its influence to "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

Two lines of attack were rapidly rendering impossible the continuance
of slavery in the United States. Mrs. Stowe gave effective expression to
the moral, religious, and humanitarian sentiment against slavery. In the
year in which her work was published, Frederick Law Olmsted began his
extended journeys throughout the South. He represents the impartial
scientific observer. His books were published during the years 1856,
1857, and 1861. They constitute in their own way an indictment against
slavery quite as forcible as that of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," but an
indictment that rests chiefly upon the blighting influence of the
institution of slavery upon agriculture, manufactures, and the general
industrial and social order. The crisis came too soon for these
publications to have any marked effect upon the issue. Their appeal
was to the deliberate and thoughtful reader, and political control had
already drifted into the hands of those who were not deliberate and

In 1857, however, there appeared a book which did exert a marked
influence upon immediate political issues. There is no evidence that
Hinton Rowan Helper, the author of "The Impending Crisis," had any
knowledge of the writings of Olmsted; but he was familiar with
Northern anti-slavery literature. "I have considered my subject more
particularly," he states in his preface, "with reference to its economic
aspects as regards the whites--not with reference, except in a very
slight degree, to its humanitarian or religious aspects. To the latter
side of the question, Northern writers have already done full and timely
justice.... Yankee wives have written the most popular anti-slavery
literature of the day. Against this I have nothing to say; it is all
well enough for women to give the fictions of slavery; men should give
the facts." He denies that it had been his purpose to cast unmerited
opprobium upon slaveholders; yet a sense of personal injury breathes
throughout the pages. If he had no intention of casting unmerited
opprobrium upon slaveholders, it is difficult to imagine what language
he could have used if he had undertaken to pass the limit of deserved
reprobation. In this regard the book is quite in line with the style of
Southern utterance against abolitionists.

Helper belonged to a slaveholding family, for a hundred years resident
in the Carolinas. The dedication is significant. It is to three personal
friends from three slave States who at the time were residing in
California, in Oregon, and in Washington Territory, "and to the
non-slaveholding whites of the South generally, whether at home or
abroad." Out of the South had come the inspiration for the religious and
humanitarian attack upon slavery. From the same source came the call for
relief of the poverty-stricken white victims of the institution.

Helper's book revived the controversy which had been forcibly terminated
a quarter of a century before. He resumes the argument of the members of
the Virginia legislature of 1832. He reprints extended selections from
that memorable debate and then, by extended references to later official
reports, points out how slavery is impoverishing the South. The South
is shown to have continuously declined, while the North has made immense
gains. In a few years the relation of the South to the North would
resemble that of Poland to Russia or of Ireland to England. The author
sees no call for any arguments against slavery as an economic system; he
would simply bring the earlier characterization of the situation down to

Helper differs radically from all earlier speakers and writers in that
he outlines a program for definite action. He estimates that for the
entire South there are seven white non-slaveholders for every three
slaveholders. He would organize these non-slaveholding whites into
an independent political party and would hold a general convention of
non-slaveholders from every slave State to adopt measures to restrain
"the diabolical excesses of the oligarchy" and to annihilate slavery.
Slaveholders should be entirely excluded from any share in government.
They should be treated as criminals ostracized from respectable society.
He is careful to state, however, that by slaveholder he does not mean
such men as Benton of Missouri and many others throughout the slave
States who retain the sentiments on the slavery question of the
"immortal Fathers of the Republic." He has in mind only the new order of
owners, who have determined by criminal methods to inflict the crime of
slavery upon an overwhelming majority of their white fellow-citizens.

The publication of "The Impending Crisis" created a profound sensation
among Southern leaders. So long as the attack upon the peculiar
institution emanated from the North, the defenders had the full benefit
of local prejudice and resentment against outside intrusion. Helper was
himself a thorough-going believer in state rights. Slavery was to be
abolished, as he thought, by the action of the separate States. Here
he was in accord with Northern abolitionists. If such literature as
Helper's volume should find its way into the South, it would be no
longer possible to palm off upon the unthinking public the patent
falsehood that abolitionists of the North were attempting to impose by
force a change in Southern institutions. All that Southern abolitionists
ever asked was the privilege of remaining at home in their own South in
the full exercise of their constitutional rights.

Southern leaders were undoubtedly aware of the concurrent publications
of travelers and newspaper reporters, of which Olmsted's books were
conspicuous examples. Olmsted and Helper were both sources of proof that
slavery was bringing the South to financial ruin. The facts were getting
hold of the minds of the Southern people. The debate which had been
adjourned was on the eve of being resumed. Complete suppression of
the new scientific industrial argument against slavery seemed to
slave-owners to furnish their only defense.

The Appalachian ranges of mountains drove a wedge of liberty and freedom
from Pennsylvania almost to the Gulf. In the upland regions slavery
could not flourish. There was always enmity between the planters of the
coast and the dwellers on the upland. The slaveholding oligarchy had
always ruled, but the day of the uplanders was at hand. This is the
explanation of the veritable panic which Helper's publication created.
A debate which should follow the line of this old division between the
peoples of the Atlantic slave States would, under existing conditions,
be fatal to the institution of slavery. West Virginia did become a free
State at the first opportunity. Counties in western North Carolina claim
to have furnished a larger proportion of their men to the Union army
than any other counties in the country. Had the plan for peaceable
emancipation projected by abolitionists been permitted to take its
course, the uplands of South Carolina would have been pitted against
the lowlands, and Senator Tillman would have appeared as a rampant
abolitionist. There might have been violence, but it would have been
confined to limited areas in the separate States. Had the crisis been
postponed, there surely would have been a revival of abolitionism within
the Southern States. Slavery in Missouri was already approaching a
crisis. Southern leaders had long foreseen that the State would abolish
slavery if a free State should be established on the western boundary.
This was actually taking place. Kansas was filling up with free-state
settlers and, by the act of its own citizens, a few years later did
abolish slavery.

Republicans naturally made use of Helper's book for party purposes. A
cheap abridged edition was brought out. Several Republican leaders were
induced to sign their names to a paper commending the publication. Among
these was John Sherman of Ohio, who in the organization of the newly
elected House of Representatives in 1859 was the leading candidate of
the Republicans for the speakership. During the contest the fact that
his name was on this paper was made public, and Southern leaders were
furious. Extracts were read to prove that the book was incendiary.
Millson of Virginia said that "one who consciously, deliberately, and of
purpose lends his name and influence to the propagation of such writings
is not only not fit to be speaker, but he is not-fit to live." It is one
of the ironies of the situation that the passage selected to prove the
incendiary character of the book is almost a literal quotation from the
debate in the Virginia Legislature of 1832.


Both the leading political parties were, in the campaign of 1852, fully
committed to the acceptance of the so-called Compromise of 1850 as a
final settlement of the slavery question; both were committed to the
support of the Fugitive Slave Act. The Free-soil party, with John P.
Hale as its candidate, did make a vigorous attack upon the Fugitive
Slave Act, and opposed all compromises respecting slavery, but
Free-Boilers had been to a large extent reabsorbed into the Democratic
party, their vote of 1852 being only about half that of 1848. Though the
Whig vote was large and only about two hundred thousand less than that
of the Democrats, yet it was so distributed that the Whigs carried only
four States, Massachusetts, Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The other
States gave a Democratic plurality.

Had there been time for readjustment, the Whig party might have
recovered lost ground, but no time was permitted. There was in progress
in Missouri a political conflict which was already commanding national
attention. Thomas H. Benton, for thirty years a Senator from Missouri,
and a national figure, was the storm-center. His enemies accused him of
being a Free-Boiler, an abolitionist in disguise. He was professedly a
stanch and uncompromising unionist, a personal and political opponent of
John C. Calhoun. According to his own statement he had been opposed
to the extension of slavery since 1804, although he had advocated the
admission of Missouri with a pro-slavery constitution in 180. He
was, from the first, senior Senator from the State, and by a peculiar
combination of influences incurred his first defeat for reelection in

Benton's defeat in the Missouri Legislature was largely the result of
national pro-slavery influences. In a former chapter, reference was
made to the Ohio River as furnishing a "providential argument against
slavery." The Mississippi River as the eastern boundary of Missouri
furnished a like argument, but on the north not even a prairie
brook separated free labor in Iowa from slave labor in Missouri. The
inhabitants of western Missouri, realizing that the tenure of their
peculiar institution was becoming weaker in the east and north, early
became convinced that the organization of a free State along their
western boundary would be followed by the abolition of slavery in
their own State. This condition attracted the attention of the national
guardians of pro-slavery interests. Calhoun, Davis, Breckinridge,
Toombs, and others were in constant communication with local leaders.
A certain Judge W. C. Price, a religious fanatic, and a pro-slavery
devotee, was induced to visit every part of the State in 1844, calling
the attention of all slaveholders to the perils of the situation and
preparing the way for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Senator
Benton, who was approached on the subject, replied in such a way that
all radical defenders of slavery, both national leaders and local
politicians, were moved to unite for his political defeat.

David R. Atchison, junior Senator from Missouri, had been made the
leader of the pro-slavery forces. The defeat of Benton in the Missouri
Legislature did not end the strife. He at once became a candidate for
Atchison's place in the election which was to occur in 1855, and he was
in the meantime elected to the House of Representatives in 1852. The
most telling consideration in Benton's favor was the general demand, in
which he himself joined, for the immediate organization of the western
territory in order to facilitate the building of a system of railways
reaching the Pacific, with St. Louis as the point of departure. For a
time, in 1859, and 1853, Benton was apparently triumphant, and Atchison
was himself willing to consent to the organization of the new territory
with slavery excluded. The national leaders, however, were not of the
same mind. The real issue was the continuance of slavery in the
State; the one thing which must not be permitted was the transfer of
anti-slavery agitation to the separate States. Henry Clay's proposal
of 1849 to provide for gradual emancipation in Kentucky was bitterly
resented. It had long been an axiom with the slavocracy that the
institution would perish unless it had the opportunity to expand. Out of
this conviction arose Calhoun's famous theory that slaveowners had under
the Constitution an equal right with the owners of all other forms of
property in all the Territories. The theory itself assumed that the act
prohibiting slavery in the territory north of the southern boundary
of Missouri was unconstitutional and void. But this theory had not yet
received judicial sanction, and the time was at hand when the question
of freedom or slavery in the western territory was to be determined.
Between March and December, 1853, the discovery was made that the Act
of 1850 organizing the Territories of New Mexico and Utah had superseded
the Compromise of 1820; that a principle had been recognized applicable
to all the Territories; that all were open to settlement on equal terms
to slaveholders and non-slaveholders; that the subject of slavery should
be removed from Congress to the people of the Territories; and that they
should decide, either when a territorial legislature was organized or
at the time of the adoption of a constitution preparatory to statehood,
whether or not slavery should be authorized. These ideas found
expression in various newspapers during the month of December, 1853.
Though the authorship of the new theory is still a matter of dispute,
it is well known that Stephen A. Douglas became its chief sponsor and
champion. The real motives and intentions of Douglas himself and of
many of his supporters will always remain obscure and uncertain. But no
uncertainty attaches to the motives of Senator Atchison and the leaders
of the Calhoun section of the Democratic party. For ten years at least
they had been laboring to get rid of the Missouri Compromise. Their
motive was to defend slavery and especially to forestall a successful
movement for emancipation in the State of Missouri.

From early in January, 1854, until late in May, Douglas's Nebraska bill
held the attention of Congress and of the entire country. At first the
measure simply assumed that the Missouri Compromise had been superseded
by the Act of 1850. Later the bill was amended in such a way as to
repeal distinctly that time-honored act. At first the plan was to
organize Nebraska as a single Territory extending from Texas to Canada.
Later it was proposed to organize separate Territories, one west of
Missouri under the name of Kansas, the other west of Iowa under the name
of Nebraska. Opposition came from Free-soilers, from Northern Whigs
and a few Whigs from the South, and from a large proportion of Northern
Democrats. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise came like a thunderbolt
out of a clear sky to the people of the North. For a time Douglas was
the most unpopular of political leaders and was apparently repudiated by
his party. The first name designating the opponents of the Douglas bill
was "Anti Nebraska men," for which the name Republican was gradually
substituted and in 1858 became the accepted title of the party.

The provision for two territorial governments instead of one carried
with it the idea of a continued balance between slave and free States;
Kansas, being on a geographical parallel with the slave States, would
probably permit slavery, while Nebraska would be occupied by free-state
immigrants. Though this was a commonly accepted view, Eli Thayer of
Worcester, Massachusetts, and a few others took a different view. They
proposed to make an end of the discussion of the extension of slavery
by sending free men who were opposed to slavery to occupy the territory
open for settlement. To attain this object they organized an Emigrant
Aid Company incorporated under the laws of the State. Even before the
bill was passed, the corporation was in full working order. Thayer
himself traveled extensively throughout the Northern States stimulating
interest in western emigration, with the conviction that the disturbing
question could be peacefully settled in this way. California had thus
been saved to freedom; why not all other Territories? The new company
had as adviser and co-laborer Dr. Charles Robinson, who had crossed
the Kansas Territory on his way to California and had acquired valuable
experience in the art of state-building under peculiar conditions.

The first party sent out by the Emigrant Aid Company arrived in Kansas
early in August, 1854, and selected the site for the town of Lawrence.
During the later months of the year, four other parties were sent out,
in all numbering nearly seven hundred. Through extensive advertisement
by the company, through the general interest in the subject and the
natural flow of emigration to the West, Kansas was receiving large
accessions of free-state settlers.

Meanwhile the men of Missouri, some of whom had striven for a decade to
secure the privilege of extending slavery into the new Territory, were
not idle. Instantly upon the removal of legal barriers, they occupied
adjacent lands, founded towns, staked out claims, formed plans for
preempting the entire region and for forestalling or driving out all
intruders. They had at first the advantage of position, for they did not
find it difficult to maintain two homes, one in Kansas for purposes of
voting and fighting and another in Missouri for actual residence. Andrew
H. Reeder, a Pennsylvania Democrat of strong pro-slavery prejudices, was
appointed first Governor of the Territory. When he arrived in Kansas
in October, 1854, there were already several thousand settlers on the
ground and others were continually arriving. He appointed the 29th of
November for the election of a delegate to Congress. On that day several
hundred Missourians came into the Territory and voted. There was no
violence and no contest; the free-state men had no separate candidate.
Notwithstanding the violence of language used by opposing factions,
notwithstanding the organization of secret societies pledged to drive
out all Northern intruders, there was no serious disturbance until
March 30, 1855, the day appointed for the election of members of the
territorial Legislature. On that day the Missourians came full five
thousand strong, armed with guns, bowie-knives, and revolvers. They
met with no resistance from the residents, who were unarmed. They
took charge of the precincts and chose pro-slavery delegates with one
exception. Governor Reeder protested and recommended to the precincts
the filing of protests. Only seven responded, however, and in these
cases new elections were held and contesting delegates elected.

The Governor issued certificates to these and to all those who in
other precincts had been chosen by the horde from Missouri. When the
Legislature met in July, the seven contests were decided in favor of
the pro-slavery party, the single freestate member resigned, and the
assembly was unanimous.

Governor Reeder fully expected that President Pierce would nullify the
election, and to this end he made a journey to Washington in April.
On the way he delivered a public address at Easton, Pennsylvania,
describing in lurid colors the outrage which had been perpetrated
upon the people of Kansas by the "border ruffians" from Missouri,
and asserting that the accounts in the Northern press had not been

While Governor Reeder in contact with the actual events in Kansas was
becoming an active Free-Boiler, President Pierce in association with
Jefferson Davis and others of his party was developing active sympathies
with the people of western Missouri. To the President this invasion
of territory west of the slave State by Northern men aided by Northern
corporations seemed a violation of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and
he sought to induce Reeder to resign. This, however, the Governor
positively refused to do unless the President would formally approve
his conduct in Kansas--an endorsement which required more fortitude than
President Pierce possessed. On his return to Kansas, determined to do
what he could to protect the Kansas people from injustice, he called
the Legislature to meet at Pawnee, a point far removed from the Missouri
border. Immediately upon their organization at that place the members
of the Legislature adjourned to meet at Shawnee, near the border of
Missouri. The Governor, who decided that this action was illegal, then
refused to recognize the Assembly at the new place. A deadlock thus
ensued which was broken on the 15th of August by the removal of Governor
Reeder and the appointment of Wilson Shannon of Ohio in his place. In
the meantime the territorial Legislature had adjourned, having "enacted"
an elaborate proslavery code made up from the slave code of Missouri
with a number of special adaptations. For example, it was made a
penitentiary offense to deny by speaking or writing, or by printing, or
by introducing any printed matter, the right of persons to hold
slaves in the Territory; no man was eligible to jury service who was
conscientiously opposed to holding slaves; and lawyers were bound by
oath to support the territorial statutes.

The free-state men, with the approval of Reeder, refused to recognize
the Legislature and inaugurated a movement in the fall of 1855 to adopt
a constitution and to organize a provisional territorial Government
preparatory to admission as a State, following in this respect the
procedure in California and Michigan. A convention met in Topeka in
October, 1855, and completed on the 11th of November the draft of a
constitution which prohibited slavery. On the 15th of December the
constitution was approved by a practically unanimous vote, only
free-state men taking part in the election. A month later a Legislature
was elected and at the same time Charles Robinson was elected Governor
of the new commonwealth. In the previous October, Reeder had been chosen
Free-soil delegate to Congress. The Topeka freestate Legislature met on
the 4th of March, 1856, and after petitioning Congress to admit Kansas
under the Topeka constitution, adjourned until the 4th of July pending
the action of Congress. Thus at the end of two years two distinct
Governments had come into existence within the Territory of Kansas. It
speaks volumes for the self-control and moderation of the two parties
that no hostile encounter had occurred between the contestants. When the
armed Missourians came in March, 1855, the unarmed settlers offered no
resistance. Afterward, however, they supplied themselves with Sharp's
rifles and organized a militia. With the advent of Governor Shannon
in September, 1855, the proslavery position was much strengthened. In
November, in a quarrel over a land claim, a free-state settler by the
name of Dow was killed. The murderer escaped, but a friend of the victim
was accused of uttering threats against a friend of the murderer. For
this offense a posse led by Sheriff Jones, a Missourian, seized him,
and would have carried him away if fourteen freestate men had not
"persuaded" the Sheriff to surrender his prisoner. This interference was
accepted by the Missourians as a signal for battle. The rescuers must
be arrested and punished. A large force of infuriated Missourians and
pro-slavery settlers assembled for a raid upon the town of Lawrence.
In the meantime the Lawrence militia planned and executed a systematic
defense of the town. When the two armies came within speaking distance,
a parley ensued in which the Governor took a leading part in settling
the affair without a hostile shot. This is known in Kansas history as
the "Wakarusa War."

The progress of affairs in Kansas was followed with intense interest in
all parts of the country. North and South vied with each other in the
encouragement of emigration to Kansas. Colonel Buford of Alabama sold a
large number of slaves and devoted the proceeds to meeting the expense
of conducting a troop of three hundred men to Kansas in the winter of
1856. They went armed with "the sword of the spirit," and all provided
with Bibles supplied by the leading churches. Arrived in the territory,
they were duly furnished with more worldly weapons and were drilled for
action. About the same time a parallel incident is said to have occurred
in New Haven, Connecticut. A deacon in one of the churches had enlisted
a company of seventy bound for Kansas. A meeting was held in the church
to raise money to defray expenses. The leader of the company declared
that they also needed rifles for self-defense. Forthwith Professor
Silliman, of the University, subscribed one Sharp's rifle, and others
followed with like pledges. Finally Henry Ward Beecher, who was the
speaker of the occasion, rose and promised that, if twenty-five
rifles were pledged on the spot, Plymouth Church in Brooklyn would
be responsible for the remaining twenty-five that were needed. He had
already said in a previous address that for the slaveholders of Kansas,
Sharp's rifles were a greater moral agency than the Bible. This led
to the designation of the weapons as "Beecher's Bibles." Such was the
spirit which prevailed in the two sections of the country.

President Pierce had now become intensely hostile towards the free-state
inhabitants of Kansas. Having recognized the Legislature elected on
March 30, 1855, as the legitimate Government, he sent a special
message to Congress on January 24, 1856, in which he characterized as
revolutionary the movement of the free-state men to organize a separate
Government in Kansas. From the President's point of view, the emissaries
of the New England Emigrant Aid Association were unlawful invaders.
In this position he not only had the support of the South, but was
powerfully seconded by Stephen A. Douglas and other Northern Democrats.

The attitude of the Administration at Washington was a source of great
encouragement to Sheriff Jones and his associates, who were anxious to
wreak their vengeance on the city of Lawrence for the outcome of the
Wakarusa War. Jones came to Lawrence apparently for the express purpose
of picking a quarrel, for he revived the old dispute about the rescuing
party of the previous fall. As a consequence one enraged opponent
slapped him in the face, and at last an unknown assassin entered the
sheriff's tent by night and inflicted a revolver wound in his back.
Though the citizens of Lawrence were greatly chagrined at this event and
offered a reward for the discovery of the assailant, the attack upon the
sheriff was made the signal for drastic procedure against the town of
Lawrence. A grand jury found indictments for treason against Reeder,
Robinson, and other leading citizens of the town. The United States
marshal gave notice that he expected resistance in making arrests
and called upon all law-abiding citizens of the Territory to aid in
executing the law. It was a welcome summons to the pro-slavery forces.
Not only local militia companies responded but also Buford's company
and various companies from Missouri, in all more than seven hundred men,
with two cannon. It had always been the set purpose of the free-state
men not to resist federal authority by force, unless as a last resort,
and they had no intention of opposing the marshal in making arrests. He
performed his duty without hindrance and then placed the armed troops
under the command of Sheriff Jones, who proceeded first to destroy the
printing-press of the town of Lawrence. Then, against the protest of the
marshal and Colonel Buford, the vindictive sheriff trained his guns upon
the new hotel which was the pride of the city; the ruin of the building
was made complete by fire, while a drunken mob pillaged the town.

On May 22, 1856, the day following the attack upon Lawrence, Charles
Sumner was struck down in the United States Senate on account of a
speech made in defense of the rights of Kansas settlers. The two events,
which were reported at the same time in the daily press, furnished
the key-note to the presidential campaign of that year, for nominating
conventions followed in a few days and "bleeding Kansas" was the
all-absorbing issue. In spite of the destruction of property in Lawrence
and the arrest of the leaders of the free-state party, Kansas had not
been plunged into a state of civil war. The free-state party had fired
no hostile shot. Governor Robinson and his associates still relied upon
public opinion and they accepted the wanton attack upon Lawrence as the
best assurance that they would yet win their cause by legal means.

A change, however, soon took place which is associated with the entrance
of John Brown into the history of Kansas. Brown and his sons were living
at Osawatomie, some thirty miles south of Lawrence. They were present at
the Wakarusa War in December, 1855, and were on their way to the defense
of Lawrence on May 21, 1856, when they were informed that the town had
been destroyed. Three days after this event Brown and his sons with two
or three others made a midnight raid upon their pro-slavery neighbors
living in the Pottawatomie valley and slew five men. The authors of this
deed were not certainly known until the publication of a confession of
one of the party in 1879, twenty years after the chief actor had won
the reputation of a martyr to the cause of liberty. The Browns, however,
were suspected at the time; warrants were out for their arrest; and
their homes were destroyed.

For more than three months after this incident, Kansas was in a state
of war; in fact, two distinct varieties of warfare were carried on.
Publicly organized companies on both sides engaged in acts of attack and
defense, while at the same time irresponsible secret bands were busy in
violent reprisals, in plunder and assassination. In both of these forms
of warfare, the free-state men proved themselves fully equal to their
opponents, and Governor Shannon was entirely unable to cope with the
situation. It is estimated that two hundred men were slain and two
million dollars' worth of property was destroyed.

The state of affairs in Kansas served to win many Northern Democrats
to the support of the Republicans. The Administration at Washington was
held responsible for the violence and bloodshed. The Democratic leaders
in the political campaign, determined now upon a complete change in
the Government of the Territory, appointed J. W. Geary as Governor and
placed General Smith in charge of the troops. The new incumbents, both
from Pennsylvania, entered upon their labors early in September, and
before the October state elections Geary was able to report that peace
reigned throughout the Territory. A prompt reaction in favor of the
Democrats followed. Buchanan, their presidential candidate, rejoiced in
the fact that order had been restored by two citizens of his own State.
It was now very generally conceded that Kansas would become a free
State, and intimate associates of Buchanan assured the public that he
was himself of that opinion and that if elected he would insure to the
free-state party evenhanded justice. Thousands of voters were thus won
to Buchanan's support. There was a general distrust of the Republican
candidate as a man lacking political experience, and a strong
conservative reaction against the idea of electing a President by the
votes of only one section of the country. At the election in November,
Buchanan received a majority of sixty of the electoral votes over
Fremont, but in the popular vote he fell short of a majority by nearly
400,000. Fillmore, candidate of the Whig and the American parties,
received 874,000 votes.

There was still profound distrust of the administration of the Territory
of Kansas, and the free-state settlers refused to vote at the election
set for the choosing of a new territorial Legislature in October.
The result was another pro-slavery assembly. Governor Geary, however,
determined to secure and enforce just treatment of both parties. He
was at once brought into violent conflict with the Legislature in an
experience which was almost an exact counterpart of that of Governor
Reeder; and Washington did not support his efforts to secure fair
dealings. A pro-slavery deputation visited President Pierce in February,
1857, and returned with the assurance that Governor Geary would be
removed. Without waiting for the President to act, Geary resigned in
disgust on the 4th of March. Of the three Governors whom President
Pierce appointed, two became active supporters of the free-state party
and a third, Governor Shannon, fled from the territory in mortal terror
lest he should be slain by members of the party which he had tried to


The real successor to John Quincy Adams as the protagonist of the
anti-slavery cause in Congress proved to be not Seward but Charles
Sumner of Massachusetts. This newcomer entered the Senate without
previous legislative experience but with an unusual equipment for
the role he was to play. A graduate of Harvard College at the age of
nineteen, he had entered upon the study of law in the newly organized
law school in which Joseph Story held one of the two professorships.
He was admitted to the bar in 1834, but three years later he left his
slender law practice for a long period of European travel. This three
years' sojourn brought him into intimate touch with the leading spirits
in arts, letters, and public life in England and on the Continent, and
thus ripened his talents to their full maturity. He returned to his
law practice poor in pocket but rich in the possession of lifelong
friendships and happy memories.

Sumner's political career did not begin until 1847, when as a Whig he
not only opposed any further extension of slavery but strove to commit
his party to the policy of emancipation in all the States. Failing in
this attempt, Sumner became an active Free-Boiler in 1848. He was twice
a candidate for Congress on the Free-soil ticket but failed of election.
In 1851 he was elected to the United States Senate by a coalition
between his party and the Democrats. This is the only public office he
ever held, but he was continuously reelected until his death in 1874.

John Quincy Adams had addressed audiences trained in the old school,
which did not defend slavery on moral grounds. Charles Sumner faced
audiences of the new school, which upheld the institution as a righteous
moral order. This explains the chief difference in the attitude of the
two leaders. Sumner, like Adams, began as an opponent of pro-slavery
aggression, but he went farther: he attacked the institution itself as a
great moral evil.

As a constitutional lawyer Sumner is not the equal of his predecessor,
Daniel Webster. He is less original, less convincing in the enunciation
of broad general principles. He appears rather as a special pleader
marshaling all available forces against the one institution which
assailed the Union. In this particular work, he surpassed all others,
for, with his unbounded industry, he permitted no precedent, no legal
advantage, no incident of history, no fact in current politics fitted
to strengthen his cause, to escape his untiring search. He showed a
marvelous skill in the selection, arrangement, and presentation of
his materials, and for his models he took the highest forms of classic
forensic utterance.

Sumner exhibited the ordinary aloofness and lack of familiarity with
actual conditions in the South which was characteristic of the New
England abolitionist. He perceived no race problem, no peculiar
difficulty in the readjustments of master and slave which were involved
in emancipation, and he ignored all obstacles to the accomplishment of
his ends. Webster's arraignment of South Carolina was directed against
an alleged erroneous dogma and only incidentally affected personal
morality. The reaction, therefore, was void of bitter resentment.
Sumner's charges were directed against alleged moral turpitude, and
the classic form and scrupulous regard for parliamentary rules which he
observed only added to the feeling of personal resentment on the part of
his opponents. Some of the defenders of slavery were themselves
devoted students of the classics, but they found that the orations of
Demosthenes furnished nothing suited to their purpose. The result was a
humiliating exhibition of weakness, personal abuse, and vindictiveness
on their part.

There was a conspiracy of silence on the slavery question in 1852. Each
of the national parties was definitely committed to the support of the
compromise and especially to the faithful observance of the Fugitive
Slave Law. Free-soilers had distinctly declined in numbers and influence
during the four preceding years. Only a handful of members in each House
of Congress remained unaffiliated with the parties whose platforms had
ordained silence on the one issue of chief public concern. It was by a
mere accident in Massachusetts politics that Charles Sumner was sent to
the Senate as a man free on all public questions.

While the parties were making their nominations for the Presidency,
Sumner sought diligently for an opportunity in the Senate to give
utterance to the sentiments of his party on the repeal of the Fugitive
Slave Act. But not until late in August did he overcome the resistance
of the combined opposition and gain the floor. The watchmen were caught
off guard when Sumner introduced an amendment to an appropriation bill
which enabled him to deliver a carefully prepared address, several hours
in length, calling for the repeal of the law.

The first part of this speech is devoted to the general topic of the
relation of the national Government to slavery and was made in answer
to the demand of Calhoun and his followers for the direct national
recognition of slavery. For such a demand Sumner found no warrant. By
the decision of Lord Mansfield, said he, "the state of slavery"
was declared to be "of such a nature, that it is incapable of being
introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but ONLY BY POSITIVE
LAW.... it is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it but
positive law." Adopting the same principle, the Supreme Court of the
State of Mississippi, a tribunal of slaveholders, asserted that "slavery
is condemned by reason and the Laws of Nature. It exists, and can ONLY
exist, through municipal regulations." So also declared the Supreme
Court of Kentucky and numerous other tribunals. This aspect of the
subject furnished Sumner occasion for a masterly array of all the
utterances in favor of liberty to be found in the Constitution, in the
Declaration of Independence, in the constitutional conventions, in the
principles of common law. All these led up to and supported the one
grand conclusion that, when Washington took the oath as President of the
United States, "slavery existed nowhere on the national territory"
and therefore "is in no respect a national institution." Apply the
principles of the Constitution in their purity, then, and "in all
national territories slavery will be impossible. On the high seas,
under the national flag, slavery will be impossible. In the District of
Columbia, slavery will instantly cease. Inspired by these principles,
Congress can give no sanction to slavery by the admission of new slave
States. Nowhere under the Constitution can the Nation by legislation or
otherwise, support slavery, hunt slaves, or hold property in man.... As
slavery is banished from the national jurisdiction, it will cease to
vex our national politics. It may linger in the States as a local
institution; but it will no longer engender national animosities when it
no longer demands national support."

The second part of Sumner's address dealt directly with the Fugitive
Slave Act of 1860. It is much less convincing and suggests more of the
characteristics of the special pleader with a difficult case. Sumner
here undertook to prove that Congress exceeded its powers when it
presumed to lay down rules for the rendition of fugitive slaves, and
this task exceeded even his power as a constitutional lawyer.

The circumstances under which Sumner attacked slavery were such as to
have alarmed a less self-centered man, for the two years following the
introduction of the Nebraska bill were marked by the most acrimonious
debate in the history of Congress, and by physical encounters,
challenges, and threats of violence. But though Congressmen carried
concealed weapons, Sumner went his way unarmed and apparently in
complete unconcern as to any personal danger, though it is known that he
was fully aware that in the faithful performance of what he deemed to be
his duty he was incurring the risk of assassination.

The pro-slavery party manifested on all occasions a disposition to make
the most of the weak point in Sumner's constitutional argument against
the Fugitive Slave Law. He was accused of taking an oath to support the
Constitution though at the same time intending to violate one of its
provisions. In a discussion, in June, 1854, over a petition praying for
the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act, Senator Butler of South Carolina
put the question directly to Senator Sumner whether he would himself
unite with others in returning a fugitive to his master. Sumner's quick
reply was, "Is thy servant a dog that he should do this thing?" Enraged
Southerners followed this remark with a most bitter onslaught upon
Sumner which lasted for two days. When Sumner again got the floor, he
said in reference to Senator Butler's remark: "In fitful phrase, which
seemed to come from unconscious excitement, so common with the Senator,
he shot forth various cries about 'dogs,' and, among other things, asked
if there was any 'dog' in the Constitution? The Senator did not seem
to bear in mind, through the heady currents of that moment that, by the
false interpretation he fastens upon the Constitution, he has helped
to nurture there a whole kennel of Carolina bloodhounds, trained, with
savage jaw and insatiable in scent, for the hunt of flying bondmen. No,
sir, I do not believe that there is any 'kennel of bloodhounds,' or even
any 'dog' in the Constitution." Thereafter offensive personal references
between the Senators from Massachusetts and South Carolina became
habitual. These personalities were a source of regret to many of
Sumner's best friends, but they fill a small place, after all, in his
great work. Nor were they the chief source of rancor on the part of
his enemies, for Southern orators were accustomed to personalities in
debate. Sumner was feared and hated principally because his presence in
Congress endangered the institution of slavery.

Sumner's speech on the crime against Kansas was perhaps the most
remarkable effort of his career. It had been known for many weeks that
Sumner was preparing to speak upon the burning question, and his friends
had already expressed anxiety for his personal safety. For the larger
part of two days, May 19 and 20, 1856, he held the reluctant attention
of the Senate. For the delivery of this speech he chose a time which was
most opportune. The crime against Kansas had, in a sense, culminated in
March of the previous year, but the settlers had refused to submit to
the Government set up by hostile invaders. They had armed themselves for
the defense of their rights, had elected a Governor and a Legislature
by voluntary association, had called a convention, and had adopted a
constitution preparatory to admission to the Union. That constitution
was now before the Senate for approval. President Pierce, Stephen
A. Douglas, and all the Southern leaders had decided to treat as
treasonable acts the efforts of Kansas settlers to secure an orderly
government. Their plans for the arrest of the leaders were well advanced
and the arrests were actually made on the day after Sumner had concluded
his speech.

A paragraph in the address is prophetic of what occurred within a week.
Douglas had introduced a bill recognizing the Legislature chosen by the
Missourians as the legal Government and providing for the formation of a
constitution under its initiative at some future date. After describing
this proposed action as a continuation of the crime against Kansas,
Sumner declared: "Sir, you cannot expect that the people of Kansas
will submit to the usurpation which this bill sets up and bids them
bow before, as the Austrian tyrant set up the ducal hat in the Swiss
market-place. If you madly persevere, Kansas will not be without her
William Tell, who will refuse at all hazards to recognize the tyrannical
edict; and this will be the beginning of civil war."

To keep historical sequence clear at this point, all thought of John
Brown should be eliminated, for he was then unknown to the public. It
must be remembered that Governor Robinson and the free-state settlers
were, as Sumner probably knew, prepared to resist the general Government
as soon as there should be a clear case of outrage for which the
Administration at Washington could be held directly responsible. Such
a case occurred when the United States marshal placed federal troops in
the hands of Sheriff Jones to assist in looting the town of Lawrence.
Governor Robinson no longer had any scruples in advising forcible
resistance to all who used force to impose upon Kansas a Government
which the people had rejected.

In the course of his address Sumner compared Senators Butler and
Douglas to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, saying: "The Senator from
South Carolina has read many books of chivalry, and believes himself a
chivalrous knight, with sentiments of honor and courage. Of course he
has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly
to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the
world, is chaste in his sight. I mean the harlot Slavery. Let her be
impeached in character, or any proposition be made to shut her out
from the extension of her wantonness, and no extravagance of manner or
hardihood of assertion is then too great for the Senator."

When Sumner concluded, the gathering storm broke forth. Cass of
Michigan, after saying that he had listened to the address with equal
surprise and regret, characterized it as "the most unAmerican and
unpatriotic that ever grated on the ears of the members of that high
body." Douglas and Mason were personal and abusive. Douglas, recalling
Sumner's answer to Senator Butler's question whether he would assist in
returning a slave, renewed the charge made two years earlier that Sumner
had violated his oath of office. This attack called forth from Sumner
another attempt to defend the one weak point in his speech of 1852, for
he was always irritated by reference to this subject, and at the same
time he enjoyed a fine facility in the use of language which irritated

One utterance in Douglas's reply to Sumner is of special significance in
view of what occurred two days later: "Is it his object to provoke
some of us to kick him as we would a dog in the street, that he may get
sympathy upon the just chastisement?" Two days later Sumner was sitting
alone at his desk in the Senate chamber after adjournment when Preston
Brooks, a nephew of Senator Butler and a member of the lower House,
entered and accosted him with the statement that he had read Sumner's
speech twice and that it was a libel on South Carolina and upon a
kinsman of his. Thereupon Brooks followed his words by striking Sumner
on the head with a cane. Though the Senator was dazed and blinded by
the unexpected attack, his assailant rained blow after blow until he
had broken the cane and Sumner lay prostrate and bleeding at his feet.
Brooks's remarks in the House of Representatives almost a month after
the event leave no doubt of his determination to commit murder had he
failed to overcome his antagonist with a cane. He had also taken the
precaution to have two of his friends ready to prevent any interference
before the punishment was completed. Toombs of Georgia witnessed a
part of the assault and expressed approval of the act, and everywhere
throughout the South, in the public press, in legislative halls, in
public meetings, Brooks was hailed as a hero. The resolution for his
expulsion introduced in the House received the support of only one
vote from south of Mason and Dixon's Line. A large majority favored the
resolution, but not the required two-thirds majority. Brooks, however,
thought best to resign but was triumphantly returned to his seat with
only six votes against him. Nothing was left undone to express Southern
gratitude, and he received gifts of canes innumerable as symbols of his
valor. Yet before his death, which occurred in the following January,
he confessed to his friend Orr that he was sick of being regarded as
the representative of bullies and disgusted at receiving testimonials of
their esteem.

With similar unanimity the North condemned and resented the assault that
had been made upon Sumner. From party considerations, if for no other
reasons, Democrats regretted the event. Republicans saw in the brutal
attack and in the manner of its reception in the South another evidence
of the irrepressible conflict between slavery and freedom. They were
ready to take up the issue so forcibly presented by their fallen
leader. A part of the regular order of exercises at public meetings of
Republicans was to express sympathy with their wounded champion and with
the Kansas people of the pillaged town of Lawrence, and to adopt
ways and means to bring to an end the Administration which they held
responsible for these outrages. Sumner, though silenced, was eloquent
in a new and more effective way. A half million copies of "The
Crime against Kansas" were printed and circulated. On the issue thus
presented, Northern Democrats became convinced that their defeat at the
pending election was certain, and their leaders instituted the change in
their program which has been described in a previous chapter. They had
made an end of the war in Kansas and drew from their candidate for the
Presidency the assurance that just treatment should at last be meted out
to harassed Kansas.

Though Sumner's injuries were at first regarded as slight, they
eventually proved to be extremely serious. After two attempts to resume
his place in the Senate, he found that he was unable to remain; yet when
his term expired, he was almost unanimously reelected. Much of his time
for three and a half years he spent in Europe. In December, 1859, he
seemed sufficiently recovered to resume senatorial duties, but it was
not until the following June that he again addressed the Senate. On
that occasion he delivered his last great philippic against slavery.
The subject under discussion was still the admission of Kansas as a
free State, and, as he remarked in his opening sentences, he resumed the
discussion precisely where he had left off more than four years before.

Sumner had assumed the task of uttering a final word against slavery as
barbarism and a barrier to civilization. He spoke under the impelling
power of a conviction in his God-given mission to utilize a great
occasion to the full and for a noble end. For this work his whole life
had been a preparation. Accustomed from early youth to spend ten hours
a day with books on law, history, and classic literature, he knew as no
other man then knew what aid the past could offer to the struggle for
freedom. The bludgeon of the would-be assassin had not impaired his
memory, and four years of enforced leisure enabled him to fulfill his
highest ideals of perfect oratorical form. Personalities he eliminated
from this final address, and blemishes he pruned away. In his earlier
speeches he had been limited by the demands of the particular question
under discussion, but in "The Barbarism of Slavery" he was free to deal
with the general subject, and he utilized incidents in American slavery
to demonstrate the general upward trend of history. The orator was
sustained by the full consciousness that his utterances were in harmony
with the grand sweep of historic truth as well as with the spirit of the
present age.

Sumner was not a party man and was at no time in complete harmony with
his coworkers. It was always a question whether his speeches had a
favorable effect upon the immediate action of Congress; there can,
however, be no doubt of the fact that the larger public was edified and
influenced. Copies of "The Crime against Kansas" and "The Barbarism of
Slavery" were printed and circulated by the million and were eagerly
read from beginning to end. They gave final form to the thoughts and
utterances of many political leaders both in America and in Europe.
More than any other man it was Charles Sumner who, with a wealth
of historical learning and great skill in forensic art, put the
irrepressible conflict between slavery and freedom in its proper setting
in human history.


In view of the presidential election of 1856 Northern Democrats
entertained no doubts that Kansas, now occupied by a majority of
free-state men, would be received as a free State without further ado.
The case was different with the Democrats of western Missouri, already
for ten years in close touch with those Southern leaders who were
determined either to secure new safeguards for slavery or to form an
independent confederacy. Their program was to continue their efforts to
make Kansas a slave State or at least to maintain the disturbance there
until the conditions appeared favorable for secession.

In February, 1857, the pro-slavery territorial Legislature provided for
the election of delegates to a constitutional convention, but Governor
Geary vetoed the act because no provision was made for submitting the
proposed constitution to the vote of the people. The bill was passed
over his veto, and arrangements were made for registration which
free-state men regarded as imperfect, inadequate, or fraudulent.

President Buchanan undoubtedly intended to do full justice to the
people of Kansas. To this end he chose Robert J. Walker, a Mississippi
Democrat, as Governor of Kansas. Walker was a statesman of high rank,
who had been associated with Buchanan in the Cabinet of James K. Polk.
Three times he refused to accept the office and finally undertook the
mission only from a sense of duty. Being aware of the fate of Governor
Geary, Walker insisted on an explicit understanding with Buchanan that
his policies should not be repudiated by the federal Administration.
Late in May he went to Kansas with high hopes and expectations. But the
free-state party had persisted in the repudiation of a Government which
had been first set up by an invading army and, as they alleged, had
since then been perpetuated by fraud. They had absolutely refused to
take part in any election called by that Government and had continued to
keep alive their own legislative assembly. Despite Walker's efforts
to persuade them to take part in the election of delegates to the
constitutional convention, they resolutely held aloof. Yet, as they
became convinced that he was acting in good faith, they did participate
in the October elections to the territorial Legislature, electing nine
out of the thirteen councilors and twenty-four out of the thirty-nine
representatives. Gross frauds had been perpetrated in two districts, and
the Governor made good his promise by rejecting the fraudulent votes.
In one case a poll list had been made up by copying an old Cincinnati

In the meantime, thanks to the abstention of the free-state people, the
pro-slavery party had secured absolute control of the constitutional
convention. Yet there was the most absolute assurance by the Governor
in the name of the President of the United States that no constitution
would be sent to Congress for approval which had not received the
sanction of a majority of the voters of the Territory. This was Walker's
reiterated promise, and President Buchanan had on this point been
equally explicit.

When, therefore, the pro-slavery constitutional convention met at
Lecompton in October, Kansas had a free-state Legislature duly elected.
To make Kansas still a slave State it was necessary to get rid of that
Legislature and of the Governor through whose agency it had been chosen,
and at the same time to frame a constitution which would secure the
approval of the Buchanan Administration. Incredible as it may seem, all
this was actually accomplished.

John Calhoun, who had been chosen president of the Lecompton convention,
spent some time in Washington before the adjourned meeting of the
convention. He secured the aid of master-hands at manipulation. Walker
had already been discredited at the White House on account of his
rejection of fraudulent returns at the October election of members to
the Legislature. The convention was unwilling to take further chances
on a matter of that sort, and it consequently made it a part of the
constitution that the president of the convention should have entire
charge of the election to be held for its approval. The free-state
legislature was disposed of by placing in the constitution a provision
that all existing laws should remain in force until the election of a
Legislature provided for under the constitution.

The master-stroke of the convention, however, was the provision for
submitting the constitution to the vote of the people. Voters were not
permitted to accept or reject the instrument; all votes were to be for
the constitution either "with slavery" or "with no slavery." But the
document itself recognized slavery as already existing and declared the
right of slave property like other property "before and higher than any
constitutional sanction." Other provisions made emancipation difficult
by providing in any case for complete monetary remuneration and for the
consent of the owners. There were numerous other provisions offensive
to free-state men. It had been rightly surmised that they would take no
part in such an election and that "the constitution with slavery"
would be approved. The vote on the constitution was set for the 21st of
December. For the constitution with slavery 6226 votes were recorded and
569 for the constitution without slavery.

While these events were taking place, Walker went to Washington to enter
his protest but resigned after finding only a hostile reception by
the President and his Cabinet. Stanton, who was acting Governor in the
absence of Walker, then called together the free-state Legislature,
which set January 4, 1858, as the date for approving or rejecting the
Lecompton Constitution. At this election the votes cast were 138 for the
constitution with slavery, 24 for the constitution without slavery,
and 10,226 against the constitution. But President Buchanan had become
thoroughly committed to the support of the Lecompton Constitution.
Disregarding the advice of the new Governor, he sent the Lecompton
Constitution to Congress with the recommendation that Kansas be admitted
to the Union as a slave State.

Here was a crisis big with the fate of the Democratic party, if not of
the Union. Stephen A. Douglas had already given notice that he would
oppose the Lecompton Constitution. In favor of its rejection he made a
notable speech which called forth the bitterest enmity from the South
and arrayed all the forces of the Administration against him. Supporters
of Douglas were removed from office, and anti-Douglas men were put in
their places. In his fight against the fraudulent constitution Douglas
himself, however, still had the support of a majority of Northern
Democrats, especially in the Western States, and that of all the
Republicans in Congress. A bill to admit Kansas passed the Senate, but
in the House a proviso was attached requiring that the constitution
should first be submitted to the people of Kansas for acceptance or
rejection. This amendment was finally accepted by the Senate with the
modification that, if the people voted for the constitution, the State
should have a large donation of public land, but that if they rejected
it, they should not be admitted as a State until they had a population
large enough to entitle them to a representative in the lower House. The
vote of the people was cast on August 2, 1858, and the constitution was
finally rejected by a majority of nearly twelve thousand. Thus resulted
the last effort to impose slavery on the people of Kansas.

Although the war between slavery and freedom was fought out in miniature
in Kansas, the immediate issue was the preservation of slavery in
Missouri. This, however, involved directly the prospect of emancipation
in other border States and ultimate complete emancipation in all the
States. The issue is well stated in a Fourth of July address which
Charles Robinson delivered at Lawrence, Kansas, in 1855, after the
invasion of Missourians to influence the March election of that year,
but before the beginning of bloody conflict:

"What reason is given for the cowardly invasion of our rights by our
neighbors? They say that if Kansas is allowed to be free the institution
of slavery in their own State will be in danger.... If the people
of Missouri make it necessary, by their unlawful course, for us to
establish freedom in that State in order to enjoy the liberty of
governing ourselves in Kansas, then let that be the issue. If Kansas and
the whole North must be enslaved, or Missouri become free, then let
her be made free. Aye! and if to be free ourselves, slavery must be
abolished in the whole country, then let us accept that due. If black
slavery in a part of the States is incompatible with white freedom
in any State, then let black slavery be abolished from all. As men
espousing the principles of the Declaration of the Fathers, we can do
nothing else than accept these issues."

The men who saved Kansas to freedom were not abolitionists in the
restricted sense. Governor Walker found in 1857 that a considerable
majority of the free-state men were Democrats and that some were from
the South. Nearly all actual settlers, from whatever source they came,
were free-state men who felt that a slave was a burden in such a country
as Kansas. For example, during the first winter of the occupation of
Kansas, an owner of nineteen slaves was himself forced to work like a
trooper to keep them from freezing; and, indeed, one of them did freeze
to death and another was seriously injured.

In spite of all the advertising of opportunity and all the pressure
brought to bear upon Southerners to settle in Kansas, at no time did the
number of slaves in the Territory reach three hundred. The climate and
the soil made for freedom, and the Governors were not the only persons
who were converted to free-state principles by residence in the


The decision and arguments of the Supreme Court upon the Dred Scott
case were published on March 6, 1857, two days after the inauguration
of President Buchanan. The decision had been agreed upon many months
before, and the appeal of the negro, Dred Scott, had been decided
by rulings which in no way involved the validity of the Missouri
Compromise. Nevertheless, a majority of the judges determined to give
to the newly developed theory of John C. Calhoun the appearance of the
sanctity of law. According to Chief Justice Taney's dictum, those
who made the Constitution gave to those clauses defining the power
of Congress over the Territories an erroneous meaning. On numerous
occasions Congress had by statute excluded slavery from the public
domain. This, in the judgment of the Chief Justice, they had no right to
do, and such legislation was unconstitutional and void. Specifically the
Missouri Compromise had never had any binding force as law. Property in
slaves was as sacred as property in any other form, and slave-owners
had equal claim with other property owners to protection in all the
Territories of the United States. Neither Congress nor a territorial
Legislature could infringe such equal rights.

According to popular understanding, the Supreme Court declared "that the
negro has no rights which the white man is bound to respect." But Chief
Justice Taney did not use these words merely as an expression of his own
or of the Court's opinion. He used them in a way much more contemptible
and inexcusable to the minds of men of strong anti-slavery convictions.
He put them into the mouths of the fathers of the Republic, who wrote
the Declaration of Independence, framed the Constitution, organized
state Governments, and gave to negroes full rights of citizenship,
including the right to vote. But how explain this strange inconsistency?
The Chief Justice was equal to the occasion. He insisted that in recent
years there had come about a better understanding of the phraseology of
the Declaration of Independence. The words, "All men are created equal,"
he admitted, "would seem to embrace the whole human family, and if
they were used in a similar instrument at this day they would be so
understood." But the writers of that instrument had not, he said,
intended to include men of the African race, who were at that time
regarded as not forming any part of the people. Therefore--strange
logic!--these men of the revolutionary era who treated negroes actually
as citizens having full equal rights did not understand the meaning of
their own words, which could be comprehended only after three-quarters
of a century when, forsooth, equal rights had been denied to all persons
of African descent.

The ruling of the Court in the Dred Scott case came at a time when
Northern people had a better idea of the spirit and teachings of
the founders of the Republic regarding the slavery question than any
generation before or since has had. The campaign that had just closed
had been characterized by a high order of discussion, and it was also
emphatically a reading campaign. The new Republican party planted itself
squarely on the principles enunciated by Thomas Jefferson, the reputed
founder of the old Republican party. They went back to the policy of the
fathers, whose words on the subject of slavery they eagerly read. From
this source also came the chief material for their public addresses.
To the common man who was thus indoctrinated, the Chief Justice, in
describing the sentiments of the fathers respecting slavery, appeared to
be doing what Horace Greeley was wont to describe as "saying a thing and
being conscious while saying it that the thing is not true."

The Dred Scott decision laid the Republicans open to the charge of
seeking by unlawful means to deprive slaveowners of their rights, and it
was to the partizan interest of the Democrats to stand by the Court and
thus discredit their opponents. This action tended to carry the entire
Democratic party to the support of Calhoun's extreme position on the
slavery question. Republicans had proclaimed that liberty was national
and slavery municipal; that slavery had no warrant for existence except
by state enactment; that under the Constitution Congress had no more
right to make a slave than it had to make a king; that Congress had no
power to establish or permit slavery in the Territories; that it was, on
the contrary, the duty of Congress to exclude slavery. On these points
the Supreme Court and the Republican party held directly contradictory

The Democratic platform of 1856 endorsed the doctrine of popular
sovereignty as embodied in the Kansas-Nebraska legislation, which
implied that Congress should neither prohibit nor introduce slavery into
the Territories, but should leave the inhabitants free to decide that
question for themselves, the public domains being open to slaveowners
on equal terms with others. But once they had an organized territorial
Government and a duly elected territorial Legislature, the residents of
a Territory were empowered to choose either slave labor or exclusively
free labor. This at least was the view expounded by Stephen A. Douglas,
though the theory was apparently rendered untenable by the ruling of the
Court which extended protection to slave-owners in all the Territories
remaining under the control of the general Government. It followed that
if Congress had no power to interfere with that right, much less had a
local territorial Government, which is itself a creature of Congress.
A state Government alone might control the status of slave property. A
Territory when adopting a constitution preparatory to becoming a State
would find it then in order to decide whether the proposed State should
be free or slave. This was the view held by Jefferson Davis and the
extreme pro-slavery leaders. Aided by the authority of the Supreme
Court, they were prepared to insist upon a new plank in future
Democratic platforms which should guarantee to all slave-owners equal
rights in all Territories until they ceased to be Territories. Over this
issue the party again divided in 1860.

Republicans naturally imagined that there had been collusion between
Democratic politicians and members of the Supreme Court. Mr. Seward
made an explicit statement to that effect, and affirmed that President
Buchanan was admitted into the secret, alleging as proof a few words in
his inaugural address referring to the decision soon to be delivered.
Nothing of the sort, however, was ever proven. The historian Von Holst
presents the view that there had been a most elaborate and comprehensive
program on the part of the slavocracy to control the judiciary of the
federal Government. The actual facts, however, admit of a simpler and
more satisfactory explanation.

Judges are affected by their environment, as are other men. The
transition from the view that slavery was an evil to the view that it
is right and just did not come in ways open to general observation, and
probably few individuals were conscious of having altered their views.
Leading churches throughout the South began to preach the doctrine
that slavery is a divinely ordained institution, and by the time of the
decision in the Dred Scott case a whole generation had grown up under
such teaching.

A large proportion of Southern leaders had become thoroughly convinced
of the righteousness of their peculiar system. Not otherwise could they
have been so successful in persuading others to accept their views.
Even before the Dred Scott decision had crystallized opinion, Franklin
Pierce, although a New Hampshire Democrat of anti-slavery traditions,
came, as a result of his intimate personal and political association
with Southern leaders, to accept their guidance and strove to give
effect to their policies. President Buchanan was a man of similar
antecedents, and, contrary to the expectation of his Northern
supporters, did precisely as Pierce had done. It is a matter of record
that the arguments of the Chief Justice had captivated his mind before
he began to show his changed attitude towards Kansas. In August,
1857, the President wrote that, at the time of the passage of the
Kansas-Nebraska Act, slavery already existed and that it still existed
in Kansas under the Constitution of the United States. "This point,"
said he, "has at last been settled by the highest tribunal known in
our laws. How it could ever have been seriously doubted is a mystery."
Granted that slavery is recognized as a permanent institution in
itself--just and of divine ordinance and especially united to one
section of the country--how could any one question the equal rights of
the people of that section to occupy with their slaves lands acquired
by common sacrifice? Such was undoubtedly the view of both Pierce and
Buchanan. It seemed to them "wicked" that Northern abolitionists should
seek to infringe this sacred right.

By a similar process a majority of the Supreme Court justices had become
converts to Calhoun's newly announced theory of 1847. It undoubtedly
seemed strange to them, as it did later to President Buchanan, that any
one should ever have held a different view. If the Court with the force
of its prestige should give legal sanction to the new doctrine, it
would allay popular agitation, ensure the preservation of the Union, and
secure to each section its legitimate rights. Such apparently was the
expectation of the majority of the Court in rendering the decision.
But the decision was not unanimous. Each judge presented an individual
opinion. Five supported the Chief Justice on the main points as to the
status of the African race and the validity of the Missouri Compromise.
Judge Nelson registered a protest against the entrance of the Court
into the political arena. Curtis and McLean wrote elaborate dissenting
opinions. Not only did the decision have no tendency to allay party
debate, but it added greatly to the acrimony of the discussion.
Republicans accepted the dissenting opinions of Curtis and McLean as a
complete refutation of the arguments of the Chief Justice; and the
Court itself, through division among its members, became a partizan
institution. The arguments of the justices thus present a complete
summary of the views of the proslavery and anti-slavery parties, and the
opposing opinions stand as permanent evidence of the impossibility of
reconciling slavery and freedom in the same government.

It was through the masterful leadership of Stephen A. Douglas that the
Lecompton Constitution was defeated. In 1858 an election was to be held
in Illinois to determine whether or not Douglas should be reelected
to the United States Senate. The Buchanan Administration was using its
utmost influence to insure Douglas's defeat. Many eastern Republicans
believed that in this emergency Illinois Republicans should support
Douglas, or at least that they should do nothing to diminish his chances
for reelection; but Illinois Republicans decided otherwise and nominated
Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the senatorship. Then followed
the memorable Lincoln-Douglas debates.

This is not the place for any extended account of the famous duel
between the rival leaders, but a few facts must be stated. Lincoln
had slowly come to the perception that a large portion of the people
abhorred slavery, and that the weak point in the armor of Douglas was to
be found in the fact that he did not recognize this growing moral sense.
Douglas had never been a defender of slavery on ethical grounds, nor
had he expressed any distinct aversion to the system. In support of his
policy of popular sovereignty his favorite dictum had been, "I do not
care whether slavery is voted up or voted down."

This apparent moral obtuseness furnished to Lincoln his great
opportunity, for his opponent was apparently without a conscience in
respect to the great question of the day. Lincoln, on the contrary, had
reached the conclusion not only that slavery was wrong, but that the
relation between slavery and freedom was such that they could not be
harmonized within the same government. In the debates he again put forth
his famous utterance, "A house divided against itself cannot stand,"
with the explanation that in course of time either this country would
become all slave territory or slavery would be restricted and placed
in a position which would involve its final extinction. In other
words, Lincoln's position was similar to that of the conservative
abolitionists. As we know, Birney had given expression to a similar
conviction of the impossibility of maintaining both liberty and slavery
in this country, but Lincoln spoke at a time when the whole country
had been aroused upon the great question; when it was still uncertain
whether slavery would not be forced upon the people of Kansas; when the
highest court in the land had rendered a decision which was apparently
intended to legalize slavery in all Territories; and when the alarming
question had been raised whether the next step would not be legalization
in all the States.

Lincoln was a long-headed politician, as well as a man of sincere moral
judgments. He was defining issues for the campaign of 1860 and was
putting Douglas on record so that it would be impossible for him, as
the candidate of his party, to become President. Douglas had many an
uncomfortable hour as Lincoln exposed his vain efforts to reconcile his
popular sovereignty doctrine with the Dred Scott decision. As Lincoln
expected, Douglas won the senatorship, but he lost the greater prize.

The crusade against slavery was nearing its final stage. Under the
leadership of such men as Sumner, Seward, and Lincoln, a political party
was being formed whose policies were based upon the assumption that
slavery is both a moral and a political evil. Even at this stage the
party had assumed such proportions that it was likely to carry the
ensuing presidential election. Davis and Yancey, the chief defenders of
slavery, were at the same time reaching a definite conclusion as to
what should follow the election of a Republican President. And that
conclusion involved nothing less than the fate of the Union.


The crusade against slavery was based upon the assumption that slavery,
like war, is an abnormal state of society. As the tyrant produces the
assassin, so on a larger scale slavery calls forth servile insurrection,
or, as in the United States, an implacable struggle between free white
persons and the defenders of slavery.

The propaganda of Southern and Western abolitionists had as a primary
object the prevention of both servile insurrection and civil war. It was
as clear to Southern abolitionists in the thirties as it was to Seward
and Lincoln in the fifties that, unless the newly aroused slave power
should be effectively checked, a terrible civil war would ensue. To
forestall this dreaded calamity, they freely devoted their lives and
fortunes. Peaceable emancipation by state action, according to the
original program, was prevented by the rise of a sectional animosity
which beclouded the issue. As the leadership drifted into the hands of
extremists, the conservative masses were confused, misled, or deceived.
The South undoubtedly became the victim of the erroneous teachings of
alarmists who believed that the anti-slavery North intended, by unlawful
and unconstitutional federal action, to abolish slavery in all the
States; while the North had equally exaggerated notions as to the
aggressive intentions of the South.

The opposing forces finally met on the plains of Kansas, and extreme
Northern opposition became personified in John Brown of Osawatomie. He
was born in Connecticut in May, 1800, of New England ancestry, the sixth
generation from the Mayflower. A Calvinist, a mystic, a Bible-reading
Puritan, he was trained to anti-slavery sentiments in the family of Owen
Brown, his father. He passed his early childhood in the Western Reserve
of Ohio, and subsequently moved from Ohio to New York, to Pennsylvania,
to Ohio again, to Connecticut, to Massachusetts, and finally to New
York once more. He was at various times tanner, farmer, sheep-raiser,
horse-breeder, wool-merchant, and a follower of other callings as well.
From a business standpoint he may be regarded as a failure, for he had
been more than once a bankrupt and involved in much litigation. He was
twice married and was the father of twenty children, eight of whom died
in infancy.

Until the Kansas excitement nothing had occurred in the history of the
Brown family to attract public attention. John Brown was not conspicuous
in anti-slavery efforts or in any line of public reform. As a mere lad
during the War of 1812 he accompanied his father, who was furnishing
supplies to the army, and thus he saw much of soldiers and their
officers. The result was that he acquired a feeling of disgust for
everything military, and he consistently refused to perform the required
military drill until he had passed the age for service. Not quite in
harmony with these facts is the statement that he was a great admirer of
Oliver Cromwell, and Rhodes says of him that he admired Nat Turner, the
leader of the servile insurrection in Virginia, as much as he did George
Washington. There seems to be no reason to doubt the testimony of the
members of his family that John Brown always cherished a lively interest
in the African race and a deep sympathy with them. As a youth he had
chosen for a companion a slave boy of his own age, to whom he became
greatly attached. This slave, badly clad and poorly fed, beaten with
iron shovel or anything that came first to hand, young Brown grew to
regard as his equal if not his superior. And it was the contrast between
their respective conditions that first led Brown to "swear eternal war
with slavery." In later years John Brown, Junior, tells us that, on
seeing a negro for the first time, he felt so great a sympathy for
him that he wanted to take the negro home with him. This sympathy, he
assures us, was a result of his father's teaching. Upon the testimony of
two of John Brown's sons rests the oft-repeated story that he declared
eternal war against slavery and also induced the members of his family
to unite with him in formal consecration to his mission. The time given
for this incident is previous to the year 1840; the idea that he was
a divinely chosen agent for the deliverance of the slaves was of later

As early as 1834 Brown had shown some active interest in the education
of negro children, first in Pennsylvania and later in Ohio. In 1848 the
Brown family became associated with an enterprise of Gerrit Smith in
northern New York, where a hundred thousand acres of land were offered
to negro families for settlement. During the excitement over the
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 Brown organized among the colored people of
Springfield, Massachusetts, "The United States League of Gileadites."
As an organization this undertaking proved a failure, but Brown's formal
written instructions to the "Gileadites" are interesting on account
of their relation to what subsequently happened. In this document,
by referring to the multitudes who had suffered in their behalf, he
encouraged the negroes to stand for their liberties. He instructed them
to be armed and ready to rush to the rescue of any of their number who
might be attacked:

"Should one of your number be arrested, you must collect together as
quickly as possible, so as to outnumber your adversaries who are taking
an active part against you. Let no able-bodied man appear on the ground
unequipped, or with his weapons exposed to view: let that be understood
beforehand. Your plans must be known only to yourself, and with the
understanding that all traitors must die, wherever caught and proven to
be guilty. Whosoever is fearful or afraid, let him return and depart
early from Mount Gilead" (Judges, vii. 3; Deut. xx. 8). Give all cowards
an opportunity to show it on condition of holding their peace. Do NOT
your business quietly, you will get the job disposed of before the
number that an uproar would bring together can collect; and you will
have the advantage of those who come out against you, for they will be
wholly unprepared with either equipments or matured plans; all with them
will be confusion and terror. Your enemies will be slow to attack you
after you have done up the work nicely; and if they should, they will
have to encounter your white friends as well as you; for you may safely
calculate on a division of the whites, and may by that means get to an
honorable parley."

He gives here a distinct suggestion of the plans and methods which he
later developed and extended.

When Kansas was opened for settlement, John Brown was fifty-four years
old. Early in the spring of 1855, five of his sons took up claims near
Osawatomie. They went, as did others, as peaceable settlers without
arms. After the election of March 30, 1855, at which armed Missourians
overawed the Kansas settlers and thus secured a unanimous pro-slavery
Legislature, the freestate men, under the leadership of Robinson, began
to import Sharp's rifles and other weapons for defense. Brown's sons
thereupon wrote to their father, describing their helpless condition and
urging him to come to their relief. In October, 1855, John Brown himself
arrived with an adequate supply of rifles and some broadswords and
revolvers. The process of organization and drill thereupon began, and
when the Wakarusa War occurred early in December, 1855, John Brown was
on hand with a small company from Osawatomie to assist in the defense
of Lawrence. The statement that he disapproved of the agreement with
Governor Shannon which prevented bloodshed is not in accord with a
letter which John Brown wrote to his wife immediately after the event.
The Governor granted practically all that the freestate men desired
and recognized their trainbands as a part of the police force of
the Territory. Brown by this stipulation became Captain John Brown,
commander of a company of the territorial militia.

Soon after the Battle of Wakarusa, Captain Brown passed the command of
the company of militia to his son John, while he became the leader of a
small band composed chiefly of members of his own family. Writing to his
wife on April 7, 1856, he said: "We hear that preparations are making in
the United States Court for numerous arrests of free-state men. For one
I have not desired (all things considered) to have the slave power cease
from its acts of aggression. 'Their foot shall slide in due time.'" This
letter of Brown's indicates that the writer was pleased at the prospect
of approaching trouble.

When, six weeks later, notice came of the attack upon Lawrence, John
Brown, Junior, went with the company of Osawatomie Rifles to the relief
of the town, while the elder Brown with a little company of six moved in
the same direction. In a letter to his wife, dated June 26, 1856, more
than a month after the massacre in Pottawatomie Valley, Brown said:

"On our way to Lawrence we learned that it had been already destroyed,
and we encamped with John's company overnight.... On the second day
and evening after we left John's men, we encountered quite a number of
pro-slavery men and took quite a number of prisoners. Our prisoners we
let go, but kept some four or five horses. We were immediately after
this accused of murdering five men at Pottawatomie and great efforts
have been made by the Missourians and their ruffian allies to capture
us. John's company soon afterwards disbanded, and also the Osawatomie
men. Since then, we have, like David of old, had our dwelling with the
serpents of the rocks and the wild beasts of the wilderness."

There will probably never be agreement as to Brown's motives in slaying
his five neighbors on May 24, 1856. Opinions likewise differ as to the
effect which this incident had on the history of Kansas. Abolitionists
of every class had said much about war and about servile insurrection,
but the conservative people of the West and South had mentioned the
subject only by way of warning and that they might point out ways of
prevention. Garrison and his followers had used language which gave
rise to the impression that they favored violent revolution and were
not averse to fomenting servile insurrection. They had no faith in the
efforts of Northern emigrants to save Kansas from the clutches of the
slaveholding South, and they denounced in severe terms the Robinson
leadership there, believing it sure to result in failure. To this class
of abolitionists John Brown distinctly belonged. He believed that so
high was the tension on the slavery question throughout the country
that revolution, if inaugurated at any point, would sweep the land and
liberate the slaves. Brown was also possessed of the belief that he was
himself the divinely chosen agent to let loose the forces of freedom;
and that this was the chief motive which prompted the deed at
Pottawatomie is as probable as any other.

Viewed in this light, the Pottawatomie massacre was measurably
successful. Opposing forces became more clearly defined and were
pitted against each other in hostile array. There were reprisals and
counter-reprisals. Kansas was plunged into a state of civil war, but it
is quite probable that this condition would have followed the looting of
Lawrence even if John Brown had been absent from the Territory.

Coincident with the warfare by organized companies, small irregular
bands infested the country. Kansas became a paradise for adventurers,
soldiers of fortune, horse thieves, cattle thieves, and marauders of
various sorts. Spoiling the enemy in the interest of a righteous cause
easily degenerated into common robbery and murder. It was chiefly in
this sort of conflict that two hundred persons were slain and that two
million dollars' worth of property was destroyed.

During this period of civil war the members of the Brown family were not
much in evidence. John Brown, Junior, captain of the Osawatomie Rifles,
was a political prisoner at Topeka. Swift destruction of their property
was visited upon all those members who were suspected of having a share
in the Pottawatomie murders, and their houses were burned and their
other property was seized. Warrants were out for the arrest of the elder
Brown and his sons. Captain Pate who, in command of a small troop, was
in pursuit of Brown and his company, was surprised at Black Jack in the
early morning and induced to surrender. Brown thus gained control of a
number of horses and other supplies and began to arrange terms for
the exchange of his son and Captain Pate as prisoners of war. The
negotiations were interrupted, however, by the arrival of Colonel Sumner
with United States troops, who restored the horses and other booty and
disbanded all the troops. With the Colonel was a deputy marshal with
warrants for the arrest of the Browns. When ordered to proceed with his
duty, however, the marshal was so overawed that, even though a federal
officer was present, he merely remarked, "I do not recognize any one for
whom I have warrants."

After the capture of Captain Pate at Black Jack early in June, little is
known about Brown and his troops for two months. Apart from an encounter
of opposing forces near Osawatomie in which he and his band were
engaged, Brown took no share in the open fighting between the organized
companies of opposing forces, and his part in the irregular guerrilla
warfare of the period is uncertain. Towards the close of the war one of
his sons was shot by a preacher who alleged that he had been robbed
by the Browns. After peace had been restored to Kansas by the vigorous
action of Governor Geary, Brown left the scene and never again took an
active part in the local affairs of the Territory.

John Brown's influence upon the course of affairs in Kansas, like
William Lloyd Garrison's upon the general anti-slavery movement of the
country, has been greatly misunderstood and exaggerated. Brown's object
and intention were fundamentally contradictory to those of the freestate
settlers. They strove to build a free commonwealth by legal and
constitutional methods. He strove to inaugurate a revolution which would
extend to all pro-slavery States and result in universal emancipation.
John Brown was in Kansas only one year, and he never made himself at one
with those who should have been his fellow-workers but went his solitary
way. Only in three instances did he pretend to cooperate with the
regular freestate forces. He could not work with them because his
conception of the means to be adopted to attain the end was different
from theirs. Probably before he left the Territory in 1856, he
had realized that his work in Kansas was a failure and that the
law-and-order forces were too strong for the execution of his plans.
Certain it is that within a few weeks after his departure he had
transferred the field of his operations to the mountains of Virginia.
Kansas became free through the persistent determination of the rank
and file of Northern settlers under the wise leadership of Governor
Robinson. It is difficult to determine whether the cause of Kansas was
aided or hindered by the advent of John Brown and the adventurers with
whom his name became associated.

During the fall of 1856 and until the late summer of 1857 Brown was
in the East raising funds for the redemption of Kansas and for the
reimbursement of those who had incurred or were likely to incur losses
in defense of the cause. For the equipment of a troop of soldiers under
his own command he formulated plans for raising $30,000 by private
subscription, and in this he was to a considerable extent successful.
It can never be known how much was given in this way to Brown for the
equipment of his army of liberation. It is estimated that George L.
Stearns alone gave in all fully $10,000. Because Eastern abolitionists
had lost confidence in Robinson's leadership, they lent a willing ear to
the plea that Captain Brown with a well-equipped and trained company of
soldiers was the last hope for checking the enemy. Not only would Kansas
become a slave State without such help, it was said, but the institution
of slavery would spread into all the Territories and become invincible.

The money was given to Brown to redeem Kansas, but he had developed an
alternative plan. Early in the year 1857, he met in New York Colonel
Hugh Forbes, a soldier of fortune who had seen service with Garibaldi
in Italy. They discussed general plans for an aggressive attack upon the
South for the liberation of the slaves, and with these plans the needs
of Kansas had little or no connection. "Kansas was to be a prologue to
the real drama," writes his latest biographer; "the properties of
the one were to serve in the other." In April six months' salary was
advanced out of the Kansas fund to Forbes, who was employed at a
hundred dollars a month to aid in the execution of their plans. Another
significant expenditure of the Kansas fund was in pursuance of a
contract with a Mr. Blair, a Connecticut manufacturer, to furnish at a
dollar each one thousand pikes. Though the contract was dated March 80,
1857, it was not completed until the fall of 1859, when the weapons were
delivered to Brown in Pennsylvania for use at Harper's Ferry.

Instead of rushing to the relief of Kansas, as contributors had
expected, the leader exercised remarkable deliberation. When August
arrived, it found him only as far as Tabor, Iowa, where a considerable
quantity of arms had been previously assembled. Here he was joined by
Colonel Forbes, and together they organized a school of military tactics
with Forbes as instructor. But as Forbes could find no one but Brown and
his son to drill, he soon returned to the East, still trusted by Brown
as a co-worker. It would seem that Forbes himself wished to play the
chief part in the liberation of America.

While he was at Tabor, Brown was urged by Lane and other former
associates of his in Kansas to come to their relief with all his forces.
There had, indeed, been a full year of peace since Geary's arrival,
but early in October there was to occur the election of a territorial
Legislature in which the free-state forces had agreed to participate,
and Lane feared an invasion from Missouri. But although the appeal was
not effective, the election proved a complete triumph for the North.
Late in October, after the signal victory of the law-and-order party
at the election, Brown was again urged with even greater insistence to
muster all his forces and come to Kansas, and there were hints in Lane's
letter that an aggressive campaign was afoot to rid the Territory of
the enemy. Instead of going in force, however, Brown stole into the
Territory alone. On his arrival, two days after the date set for a
decisive council of the revolutionary faction, he did not make himself
known to Governor Robinson or to any of his party but persuaded several
of his former associates to join his "school" in Iowa. From Tabor
he subsequently transferred the school to Springdale, a quiet Quaker
community in Cedar County, Iowa, seven miles from any railway station.
Here the company went into winter quarters and spent the time in rigid
drill in preparation for the campaign of liberation which they expected
to undertake the following season.

While he was at Tabor, Brown began to intimate to his Eastern friends
that he had other and different plans for the promotion of the general
cause. In January, 1858, he went East with the definite intention of
obtaining additional support for the greater scheme. On February 22,
1858, at the home of Gerrit Smith in New York, there was held a council
at which Brown definitely outlined his purpose to begin operations at
some point in the mountains of Virginia. Smith and Sanborn at first
tried to dissuade him, but finally consented to cooperate. The secret
was carefully guarded: some half-dozen Eastern friends were apprised of
it, including Stearns, their most liberal contributor, and two or three
friends at Springdale.

As early as December, 1857, Forbes began to write mysterious letters to
Sanborn, Stearns, and others of the circle, in which he complained of
ill-usage at the hands of Brown. It appears that Forbes erroneously
assumed that the Boston friends were aware of Brown's contract with
him and of his plans for the attack upon Virginia; but, since they were
entirely ignorant on both points, the correspondence was conducted
at cross-purposes for several months. Finally, early in May, 1858, it
transpired that Forbes had all the time been fully informed of Brown's
intentions to begin the effort for emancipation in Virginia. Not only
so, but he had given detailed information on the subject to Senators
Sumner, Seward, Hale, Wilson, and possibly others. Senator Wilson was
told that the arms purchased by the New England Aid Society for use in
Kansas were to be used by Brown for an attack on Virginia. Wilson, in
entire ignorance of Brown's plans, demanded that the Aid Society be
effectively protected against any such charge of betrayal of trust. The
officers of the Society were, in fact, aware that the arms which had
been purchased with Society funds the year before and shipped to Tabor,
Iowa, had been placed in Brown's hands and that, without their consent,
those arms had been shipped to Ohio and just at that time were on
the point of being transported to Virginia. This knowledge placed the
officers of the New England Aid Society in a most awkward position.
Stearns, the treasurer, had advanced large sums to meet pressing needs
during the starvation times in Kansas in 1857. Now the arms in Brown's
possession were, by vote of the officers, given to the treasurer in part
payment of the Society's debt, and he of course left them just where
they were. * On the basis of this arrangement Senator Wilson and the
public were assured that none of the property given for the benefit of
Kansas had been or would be diverted to other purposes by the Kansas
Committee. It was decided, however, that on account of the Forbes
revelations the attack upon Harper's Ferry must be delayed for one year
and that Brown must go to Kansas to take part in the pending elections.

     * "When the denouement finally came, however, the public and
     press did not take a very favorable view of the transaction;
     it was too difficult to distinguish between George L.
     Stearns, the benefactor of the Kansas Committee, and George
     L. Stearns, the Chairman of that Committee." Villard, "John
     Brown," p. 341.

Though Brown arrived in Kansas late in June, he took no active part in
the pending measures for the final triumph of the free-state cause. It
is something of a mystery how he was occupied between the 1st of July
and the middle of December. Under the pseudonym of "Shubal Morgan" he
was commander of a small band in which were a number of his followers
in training for the Eastern mission. The occupation of this band is not
matter of history until December 20, 1858, when they made a raid into
the State of Missouri, slew one white man, took eleven slaves, a large
number of horses, some oxen, wagons, much food, arms, and various other
supplies. This action was in direct violation of a solemn agreement
between the border settlers of State and Territory. The people in
Kansas were in terror lest retaliatory raids should follow, as would
undoubtedly have happened had not the people of Missouri taken active
measures to prevent such reprisals.

Rewards were offered for Brown's arrest, and free-state residents
served notice that he must leave the Territory. In the dead of winter he
started North with some slaves and many horses, accompanied by Kagi and
Gill, two of his faithful followers. In northern Kansas, where they
were delayed by a swollen stream, a band of horsemen appeared to dispute
their passage. Brown's party quickly mustered assistance and, giving
chase to the enemy, took three prisoners with four horses as spoils of
war. In Kansas parlance the affair is called "The Battle of the Spurs."
The leaders in the chase were seasoned soldiers on their way to Harper's
Ferry with the intention of spending their lives collecting slaves and
conducting them to places of safety. For this sort of warfare they were
winning their spurs. It was their intention to teach all defenders of
slavery to use their utmost endeavor to keep out of their reach. As
Brown and his company passed through Tabor, the citizens took occasion
at a public meeting to resolve "that we have no sympathy with those who
go to slave States to entice away slaves, and take property or life when
necessary to attain that end."

A few days later the party was at Grinnell, Iowa. According to the
detailed account which J. B. Grinnell gives in his autobiography, Brown
appeared on Saturday afternoon, stacked his arms in Grinnell's parlor
and disposed of his people and horses partly in Grinnell's house and
barn and partly at the hotel. In the evening Brown and Kagi addressed
a large meeting in a public hall. Brown gave a lurid account of
experiences in Kansas, justified his raid into Missouri by saying the
slaves were to be sold for shipment to the South, and gave notice that
his surplus horses would be offered for sale on Monday. "What title can
you give?" was the question that came from the audience. "The best--the
affidavit that they were taken by black men from land they had cleared
and tilled; taken in part payment for labor which is kept back."

Brown again addressed a large meeting on Sunday evening at which each of
the three clergymen present invoked the divine blessing upon Brown and
his labors. The present writer was told by an eye-witness that one of
the ministers prayed for forgiveness for any wrongful acts which their
guest may have committed. Convinced of the rectitude of his actions,
however, Brown objected and said that he thanked no one for asking
forgiveness for anything he had done.

Returning from church on Sunday evening, Grinnell found a message
awaiting him from Mr. Werkman, United States marshal at Iowa City, who
was a friend of Grinnell. The message in part read: "You can see that it
will give your town a bad name to have a fight there; then all who aid
are liable, and there will be an arrest or blood. Get the old Devil away
to save trouble, for he will be taken, dead or alive." Grinnell showed
the message to Brown, who remarked: "Yes, I have heard of him ever since
I came into the State.... Tell him we are ready to be taken, but will
wait one day more for his military squad." True to his word he waited
till the following afternoon and then moved directly towards Iowa City,
the home of the marshal, passing beyond the city fourteen miles to his
Quaker friends at Springdale. Here he remained about two weeks until
he had completed arrangements for shipping his fugitives by rail to
Chicago. In the meantime, where was Marshal Werkman of Iowa City? Was
he of the same mind as the deputy marshal who had accompanied Colonel
Sumner? Two of Brown's men had visited the city to make arrangements for
the shipment. The situation was obvious enough to those who would see.
The entire incident is an illuminating commentary on the attitude of
both government and people towards the Fugitive Slave Law. In March the
fugitives were safely landed in Canada and the rest of the horses
were sold in Cleveland, Ohio. The time was approaching for the move on

Brown now expended much time and attention upon a constitution for the
provisional government which he was to set up. In January and February,
1858, Brown had labored over this document for several weeks at the home
of Frederick Douglass at Rochester, New York. A copy was in evidence
at the conference with Sanborn and Gerrit Smith in February, and the
document was approved at a conference held in Chatham, Canada, on May 8,
1858, just at the time when Forbes's revelations caused the postponement
of the enterprise. It is an elaborate constitution containing
forty-eight articles. The preamble indicates the general purport:

Whereas, Slavery throughout its entire existence in the United States is
none other than a most barbarous, unprovoked, and unjustifiable war of
one portion of its citizens upon another portion the only conditions
of which are perpetual imprisonment and hopeless servitude or absolute
extermination; in utter disregard and violation of those eternal and
self-evident truths set forth in our Declaration of Independence:
Therefore, we the citizens of the United States, and the Oppressed
People, who, by a decision of the Supreme Court are declared to have no
rights which the White Man is bound to respect; together with all other
people degraded by the laws thereof, Do, for the time being ordain and
establish for ourselves, the following PROVISIONAL CONSTITUTION AND
ORDINANCES, the better to protect our Persons, Property, Lives and
Liberties and to govern our actions.

Article Forty-six reads:

The foregoing articles shall not be construed so as in any way to
encourage the overthrow of any State Government or of the general
government of the United States; and look to no dissolution of the
Union, but simply to Amendment and Repeal. And our flag shall be the
same that our Fathers fought under in the Revolution.

In Article Forty, "profane swearing, filthy conversation, and indecent
behavior" are forbidden. The document indicates an obvious intention to
effect a revolution by a restrained and regulated use of force.

Mobilization of forces began in June, 1859. Cook, one of the original
party, had spent the year in the region of Harper's Ferry. In July the
Kennedy farm, five miles from Harper's Ferry, was leased. The Northern
immigrants posed as farmers, stock-raisers, and dealers in cattle,
seeking a milder climate. To assist in the disguise, Brown's daughter
and daughter-in-law, mere girls, joined the community. Even so it was
difficult to allay troublesome curiosity on the part of neighbors at the
gathering of so many men with no apparent occupation. Suspicion might
easily have been aroused by the assembling of numerous boxes of arms
from the West and the thousand pikes from Connecticut. Late in August,
Floyd, Secretary of War, received an anonymous letter emanating from
Springdale, Iowa, giving information which, if acted upon, would have
led to an investigation and stopped the enterprise.

The 24th of October was the day appointed for taking possession of
Harper's Ferry, but fear of exposure led to a change of plan and the
move was begun on the 16th of October. Six of the party who would have
been present at the later date were absent. The march from Kennedy farm
began about eight o'clock Sunday evening. Before midnight the bridges,
the town, and the arsenal were in the hands of the invaders without a
gun having been fired. Before noon on Monday some forty citizens of the
neighborhood had been assembled as prisoners and held, it was explained,
as hostages for the safety of members of the party who might be taken.
During the early forenoon Kagi strongly urged that they should escape
into the mountains; but Brown, who was influenced, as he said, by
sympathy for his prisoners and their distressed families, refused to
move and at last found himself surrounded by opposing forces. Brown's
men, having been assigned to different duties, were separated. Six of
them escaped; others were killed or wounded or taken prisoners. Brown
himself with six of his men and a few of his prisoners made a final
stand in the engine-house. This was early in the afternoon. All avenues
of escape were now closed. Brown made two efforts to communicate with
his assailants by means of a flag of truce, sending first Thompson, one
of his men, with one of his prisoners, and then Stevens and Watson Brown
with another of the prisoners. Thompson was received but was held as a
prisoner; Stevens and Watson Brown were shot down, the first dangerously
wounded and the other mortally wounded. Later in the afternoon Brown
received a flag of truce with a demand that he surrender. He stated the
conditions under which he would restore the prisoners whom he held, but
he refused the unconditional surrender which was demanded.

About midnight Colonel Robert E. Lee arrived from Washington with a
company of marines. He took full command, set a guard of his own men
around the engine-house and made preparation to effect a forcible
entrance at sunrise on Tuesday morning in case a peaceable surrender was
refused. Lee first offered to two of the local companies the honor of
storming the castle. These, however, declined to undertake the perilous
task, and the honor fell to Lieutenant Green of the marines, who
thereupon selected two squads of twelve men each to attempt an entrance
through the door. To Lee's aide, Lieutenant Stuart, who had known
Brown in Kansas, was committed the task of making the formal demand for
surrender. Brown and Stuart, who recognized each other instantly upon
their meeting at the door, held a long parley, which resulted, as had
been expected, in Brown's refusal to yield. Stuart then gave the signal
which had been agreed upon to Lieutenant Green, who ordered the first
squad to advance. Failing to break down the door with sledge-hammers,
they seized a heavy ladder and at the second stroke made an opening near
the ground large enough to admit a man. Green instantly entered, rushed
to the back part of the room, and climbed upon an engine to command a
better view. Colonel Lewis Washington, the most distinguished of the
prisoners, pointed to Brown, saying, "This is Osawatomie." Green leaped
forward and by thrust or stroke bent his light sword double against
Brown's body. Other blows were administered and his victim fell
senseless, and it was believed that the leader had been slain in action
according to his wish.

The first of the twelve men to attempt to follow their leader was
instantly killed by gunshot. Others rushed in and slew two of Brown's
men by the use of the bayonet. To save the prisoners from harm, Lee had
given careful instruction to fire no shot, to use only bayonets. The
other insurgents were made prisoners. "The whole fight," Green reported,
"had not lasted over three minutes."

Of all the prisoners taken and held as hostages, not one was killed or
wounded. They were made as safe as the conditions permitted. The eleven
prisoners who were with Brown in the engine-house were profoundly
impressed with the courage, the bearing, and the self-restraint of the
leader and his men. Colonel Washington describes Brown as holding a
carbine in one hand, with one dead son by his side, while feeling the
pulse of another son, who had received a mortal wound, all the time
watching every movement for the defense and forbidding his men to
fire upon any one who was unarmed. The testimony is uniform that
Brown exercised special care to prevent his men from shooting unarmed
citizens, and this conduct was undoubtedly influential in securing
generous treatment for him and his men after the surrender.

For six weeks afterwards, until his execution on the 2d of December,
John Brown remained a conspicuous figure. He won universal admiration
for courage, coolness, and deliberation, and for his skill in parrying
all attempts to incriminate others. Probably less than a hundred people
knew beforehand anything about the enterprise, and less than a dozen
of these rendered aid and encouragement. It was emphatically a personal
exploit. On the part of both leader and followers, no occasion was
omitted to drive home the lesson that men were willing to imperil their
lives for the oppressed with no hope or desire for personal gain. Brown
especially served notice upon the South that the day of final reckoning
was at hand.

It is natural that the consequences of an event so spectacular as
the capture of Harper's Ferry should be greatly exaggerated.
Brown's contribution to Kansas history has been distorted beyond all
recognition. The Harper's Ferry affair, however, because it came on the
eve of the final election before the war, undoubtedly had considerable
influence. It sharpened the issue. It played into the hands of
extremists in both sections. On one side, Brown was at once made
a martyr and a hero; on the other, his acts were accepted as a
demonstration of Northern malignity and hatred, whose fitting expression
was seen in the incitement of slaves to massacre their masters.

The distinctive contribution of John Brown to American history does not
consist in the things which he did but rather in that which he has been
made to represent. He has been accepted as the personification of the
irrepressible conflict.

Of all the men of his generation John Brown is best fitted to exemplify
the most difficult lesson which history teaches: that slavery and
despotism are themselves forms of war, that the shedding of blood is
likely to continue so long as the rich, the strong, the educated, or the
efficient, strive to force their will upon the poor, the weak, and the
ignorant. Lincoln uttered a final word on the subject when he said that
no man is good enough to rule over another man; if he were good enough
he would not be willing to do it.


Among the many political histories which furnish a background for the
study of the anti-slavery crusade, the following have special value:

J. F. Rhodes, "History of the United States from the Compromise of
1860," 7 vols. (1893-1906). The first two volumes cover the decade to
1860. This is the best-balanced account of the period, written in
an admirable judicial temper. H. E. von Holst, Constitutional anal
Political History of the United States," 8 vols. (1877-1892). A vast
mine of information on the slavery controversy. The work is vitiated by
an almost virulent antipathy toward the South. James Schouler, "History
of the United States," 7 vols. (1895-1901). A sober, reliable narrative
of events. Henry Wilson, "History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave
Power in America," 3 vols. (1872-1877). The fullest account of the
subject, written by a contemporary. The material was thrown together by
an overworked statesman and lacks proportion.

Three volumes in the "American Nation Series" aim to combine the
treatment of special topics of commanding interest with general
political history. A. B. Hart's "Slavery and Abolition" (1906) gives an
account of the origin of the controversy and carries the history down to
1841. G. P. Garrison's "Westward Extension" (1906) deals especially with
the Mexican War and its results. T. C. Smith's "Parties and Slavery"
(1906) follows the gradual disruption of parties under the pressure of
the slavery controversy.

From the mass of contemporary controversial literature a few titles of
more permanent interest may be selected. William Goodell's "Slavery
and Anti-slavery" (1852) presents the anti-slavery arguments. A. T.
Bledsoe's "An Essay on Liberty and Slavery" (1856) and "The Pro-slavery
Argument" (1852), a series of essays by various writers, undertake the
defense of slavery.

Only a few of the biographies which throw light on the crusade can be
mentioned. "William Lloyd Garrison," 4 vols. (1885-1889) is the story
of the editor of the Liberator told exhaustively by his children. Less
voluminous but equally important are the following: W. Birney, "James G.
Birney and His Times" (1890); G. W. Julian, "Joshua R. Giddings" (1892);
Catherine H. Birney, "Sarah and Angelina Grimke" (1885); John T. Morse,
"John Quincy Adams." Those who have not patience to read E. L. Pierce's
ponderous "Memoir and Letters of Charles Sumner," 4 vols. (1877-1893),
would do well to read G. H. Haynes's "Charles Sumner" (1909).

The history of the conflict in Kansas is closely associated with the
lives of two rival candidates for the honor of leadership in the cause
of freedom. James Redpath in his "Public Life of Captain John Brown"
(1860), Frank B. Sanborn in his "Life and Letters of John Brown" (1885),
and numerous other writers give to Brown the credit of leadership.
The opposition view is held by F. W. Blackmar in his "Life of Charles
Robinson" (1902), and by Robinson himself in his Kansas Conflict (2d
ed., 1898). The best non-partizan biography of Brown is O. G. Villard's
"John Brown, A Biography Fifty Years After" (1910).

The Underground Railroad has been adequately treated in W. H. Siebert's
"The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom" (1898), but Levi
Coffin's "Reminiscences" (1876) gives an earlier autobiographical
account of the origin and management of an important line, while Mrs.
Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" throws the glamour of romance over the

For additional bibliographical information the reader is referred to
the articles on "Slavery, Fugitive Slave Laws, Kansas, William Lloyd
Garrison, John Brown, James Gillespie Birney," and "Frederick Douglass"
in "The Encyclopaedia Britannica" (11th Edition).

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "An Anti-Slavery Crusade: A Chronicle of the Gathering Storm" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files. We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's search system for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.