Address by Hon. James C. Allen, Democratic Union Candidate for Congress for the State at Large.
Well, let us for a moment — for a moment — for I do not intent to stop to argue this proposition long — let us for a moment see where this doctrine of the presidential right to suspend the constitution leads. — With the democratic party, men of the whig party, and men of all parties, until this recent abolition republican party had an existence, believed that the constitution had within itself all the powers necessary to its preservation, either in peace or in war. And it has been but recently that any person has had the hardihood to advance a doctrine like that to which I have called your attention. Let us see where it leads. We believe that every four years we have the right to select a president of the United States, who shall administer our government from the 4th of March following for four years successively. We have been taught that this was one of our rights, guaranteed by the constitution. We have elected Abraham Lincoln president. He is now president of the United States, and the country is engaged in war. That war is not ended. When Mr. Lincoln's time is about to expire as president of the United States, if the doctrine of Mr. Ingersoll be the true doctrine, and if the rebellion at that time is not subdued, all Mr. Lincoln has to do is to suspend the constitution, and declare himself emperor of this country. [Laughter.] — Now, if the people of Chicago, the people of Illinois, or the people of these loyal states are ready to surrender up all their power and say to Mr. Lincoln, "Take it — suspend the constitution at the end of your term, declare yourself emperor, [voices, "never!"] and we will submit," — if the people of Illinois are prepared for that, it is their duty to vote for Mr. Ingersoll; but if they are opposed to surrendering the constitutional power to the caprice of the president, I think they had better vote for me, because I will never consent to it. [Loud cheers.]
Now, I do not wish to be understood as saying that Mr. Lincoln would assume this power and suspend the constitution at the end of his term, but if the doctrine advanced by my competitor is true, there is nothing to prevent him, if he should see fit to do so. Now, gentlemen, if this is the sentiment you desire to see prevail in this country, why you have a plain duty to perform; and it is to support those men that have that sentiment. Do not vote for me believing I will ever endorse it by legislative action. But it is said that it is necessary to suspend some of its powers in order to prosecute the war to a successful termination; and we are denounced as rebels and enemies to our country, because we will not consent to suspend the constitution to enable the president to close this war. We believe the constitution clothes him with all these powers: he has a right to call out the militia of the loyal states, the right to demand that they report themselves, the right to appoint generals to take command, and to call out all the available military force to aid in subduing this rebellion. And will it be said that twenty millions of loyal people in the north cannot subdue eight millions of disloyal people in the south, without destroying and suspending the constitution? [Cheers.]
Again, my fellow-citizens, we are denounced as rebels and traitors and tories because we will not endorse the president's proclamation, setting all the negroes in the southern states free on the first of January next. [Applause.] Well, gentlemen, I, for one, am frank to admit that I do not endorse that proclamation. [Prolonged cheering.] I do not endorse it, my fellow-citizens, because I do not believe the president has the constitutional power to liberate slaves in the southern states. [Applause.] And in this I will not stand alone. [A voice, "Not much."] The president of the United States, when he ascended to his high place, selected from the city of St. Louis a distinguished lawyer and jurist to aid him by his counsels to keep within the pale of the constitution of the United States, in the discharge of his duties. That attorney general — that is an officer, of the president, himself believes that the proclamation of the president of the United States is unconstitutional — that he has no right to liberate the slaves of the people of the southern states. [Trememdous applause.] And if for this I am a traitor, or I am a tory, why he had better rid his cabinet of that traitor and tory attorney general, for he and I agree about the power on this occasion. [Laughter.] Why do not the republican papers in their frenzy of loyalty attack Attorney General Bates, instead of attacking a poor, humble lawyer like myself upon this question? I will tell you the reason. Bates votes the republican ticket and I vote the democratic ticket. [Laughter.] But even admitting the president of the United States has the power to set the slaves of the south free, I do not believe that a necessity exists for the exercise of that power; and I do not believe the exercise will aid the president in subduing this rebellion either. — [Loud and long continued applause.]
Gentlemen, for assuming this position, I, as the democratic candidate for congress, have been denounced as an anti-war man, as a rebel, as a traitor and as a tory. Well now, if I should prove to the satisfaction of this audience that some distinguished member of the republican party had very recently occupied the same position, would not common fairness require that they should denounce him also as a traitor and a rebel? Now I have very high republican authority against the expedience of that proclamation, aside from the question as to its constitutionality, and I ask your indulgence while I read a brief extract showing that opinion. You are, perhaps, aware that a few weeks ago, about the 13th of September, a committee of clergymen, from the city of Chicago, waited upon President Lincoln, to urge upon him to issue a proclamation declaring all the slaves of the south free. That committee, in obedience to instruction, waited upon the president and presented their memorial in respective terms, asking the president to issue a proclamation declaring at once that the slaves should all be free. The president replied to the committee that he had had the question under consideration; he gives to the committee his convictions in reference to what he ought to do; and even he argues:
"What good would a proclamation of emancipation from me do, especially as we are now situated? I do not want to issue a document that the whole world will see must necessarily be imperative, like the Pope's bull against the comet. Would my word free the slaves, when I cannot even enforce the constitution in the rebel states. Is there a single court, or magistrate, or individual that would be influenced by it there? And what reason is there to think it would have any greater effect upon the slaves than the late law of congress, which I approved, and which offers protection and freedom to the slaves of rebel masters who come within our lines. Yet I cannot learn that that law has caused a single slave to come over to us. And suppose they could be induced, by a proclamation of freedom from me to throw themselves upon us, what should we do with them? How can we feed and care for such a magnitude? General Butler wrote to me, a few days since, that he was issuing more rations to the slaves who have rushed to him then to all the white troops under his command. They eat and that is all."
[This reading was frequently interrupted by the outbursts of derisive laughter.]
Now, gentlemen, that is the language of Abraham Lincoln in reference to the effect of the proclamation declaring the slaves of the south free. Such language he used on the 13th of Sept. last, but a few days before he issued this proclamation which we are compelled to endorse or be denounced as traitors. I am, therefore, against the proclamation; first, because I believe it unconstitutional; secondly, because if it does no harm it can do no good, according to this very language of the president himself in reply to the clergymen.
Now, gentlemen, does it not seem strange that for opposing this proclamation, the entire democratic party must be charged with being rebels and traitors, since the president himself has given such candid reasons against its practical feet if adopted? And is there not something else moving the men who make these charges, sides love of country? I am afraid they ask for the spoils of the war.
I am opposed to this proclamation, further, for the reason that, in my judgement, where it frees one slave in the seceded states, it makes two secessionists of men who would otherwise be loyal. I know something of the temper of the people in these southern states, and more particularly in the border states, and, if I am not mistaken in my estimate of their temper, wherever that proclamation makes one slave free, it will produce two rebels. First, because, in their opinion (and there is but one opinion amongst them upon this subject,) the president has no power to declare the slaves free in this manner; and, secondly, because they regard it as an invitation to the slaves of the south to resort to insurrection and slay their wives and defenseless children. [Loud applause.]
I have found one or two men since this contest commenced, and but one or two, I am happy to say, who desired to see the slaves rise and sweep their owners from the face of the earth; but I have read a sentiment in the published speech of eminent politician, which I cannot construe in any other way. The man who uttered it claims to be following in the foot steps of the immortal Douglas, and invokes his memory to support his claim for election in this contest; it is Mr. E. C. Ingersoll. In his speech at the republican convention at Springfield, he announced that he was for vengeance. In that same speech he said that if necessary, he would desire to see those southern states made a howling wilderness; and when I read those sentiments to the people in my section of the country, they said that, if he had uttered such sentiments, it must have been in his thirst for office, for that in his cooler moments he would never have done it. Such was the opinion of men in the section where I live. But, gentlemen, in a few days after, he came to your city, and, in a speech delivered here, he again announced that he was for setting free the slaves of the south, crying havoc and let slip the dogs of war upon the people of that region. And yet this man claims to occupy the position which the great Douglas occupied upon this question. I know that you will respond to me when I say that Senator Douglas never in his life advanced such sentiments as those. [Cheers.] He was too noble, too generous, ever to harbor such thoughts. [Renewed cheering.] It would have been a shame and disgrace to his name to have thought or uttered such sentiments. What does he say in the very last speech he made to the people of Chicago, shortly before he went to that long home, whence none ever return — that speech so well remembered by all the good people of this city, and so justly esteemed by all men in whose hearts live noble principles and exist patriotic love of their country! He not only left his testimony in regard to the necessity of prosecuting this war, but also in regard to the manner in which it should be prosecuted; and I should think the blush of shame would mantle on the cheek of the republican politician, whose name I have already mentioned, whilst he uttered the sentiments ascribed to him by the press. I will read part of what Mr. Ingersoll said, and then I will read what Senator Douglas said. From the Chicago Tribune I read that Mr. Ingersoll stated: "For a year and a half the president has been fighting this rebellion, and if, by the first of January next, they do not return to their allegiance, I hope he will let loose the slaves, cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war." What does he mean by that? Who are they to make havoc upon? — Their men are in the army; it is the women and children who will be the objects of their savage revenge when they are turned loose.
What does Judge Douglas say? It is due to his great memory that he should be vindicated. — On the first day of May 1861, he says:
"We cannot close our eyes to the sad and solemn fact that war does exist. The government must be maintained, its enemies overthrown; and the more stupendous our preparations, the less bloodshed and the shorter the struggle." [Enthusiastic cheers.]
Ingersoll says, "If necessary, the constitution must be suspended on account of the rebellion." Douglas says we must not invade constitutional rights. [Applause.] We must not invade constitutional rights; the innocent must not suffer for the guilty; nor women and children be made victims. [Applause.]
Now, gentlemen, when you hear a man talk about turning savages loose in the south, and, at the same time, claim that he stands where Judge Douglas stood, hold out to him Douglas' last declaration upon this subject, and then ask if he is mean enough to slander his memory, by pretending that he uttered such sentiments as those to which I have alluded. But this is not all. Judge Douglas says, the innocent must not suffer for the guilty; the constitution and its guarantees are our birthright. [Cheers.] Ingersoll, would, like one of old, sell his birthright for a mess of pottage. [Cheers.] It is a birthright no man can alienate; no man can demand it of us, I care not who it is, be he president, or be he commanding general of the armies of the United States. [Great applause.] And, for one, I cannot make up my mind that the condition of serfdom, under the Czar of Russia, is preferable to that of a free citizen of the United States, and, therefore, will not surrender my birthright. [Applause.] Now, gentlemen, judge between Ingersoll and myself on this question.
I am in opposition to this sweeping manumission of slaves for another reason, and Lincoln has anticipated the question in his reply to the clergymen who waited upon him from this city, in a question put to them. He argues a care, always, by putting questions. [Laughter.] "Suppose they could be induced, by a proclamation, to come over to us, what would you do with them?" The District of Columbia is full of them; the government is feeding and taking care of them, and taxing you to pay for it. They took them from their owners and turned them into the streets, and afterwards they had to take charge of them, feed and clothe them, and tax the people to pay the cost. [Applause.] They have employed some for service in the army, and the larger portion of those who have been freed are thus fed by the government, and as returns show us they get more than ourselves to do. [Cheers.] Then, again, there are a great number of them at Port Royal, and the republican party thought they had a great speculation on hand, and would take these contrabands and raise cotton on the plantations, of which they had become masters. They have experimented for six or eight months, but they find that every pound of cotton they raise costs the government about five dollars. [Laughter and applause.] Having a few more negroes than were required to work the cotton plantations of the United States, they thought it would be a good thing to arm and equip them for the purpose of whipping their rebel masters into subjection. — Now all sensible people told the president that they never would make good soldiers. President Lincoln and his crew thought differently; they gave the negroes caps and clothing and even red breeches and guns, and in the very first fight they went into they skedaddled. [Applause.] Then there was another section of the country that had a good many of these contrabands; I allude to Tennessee and Kentucky. They had gathered upon the flanks of our army, and because troublesome, the general in command wrote to the secretary of war to know what should be done with them; the secretary of war replied, "whip them to Cairo;" and, in violation of the law of the state, in violation of the solemn act of the people of Illinois, in violation of the votes of more than one hundred thousand people, they have been forced into this state for you to take care of. [A voice, "We will force them out then."] [Cheers.] I suppose the secretary of war thought that if the president had power to amend the constitution of the United States, he had power to suspend the constitution of the state of Illinois. [Applause.] And for three months they have been issuing daily rations to more than eight hundred of them at Cairo.
I have been, from my boyhood up, opposed to slavery. I set my home in this state because it was a free state. I came here, supposing I would be permitted to live, and to leave my family dwellers of a free state, when I was called hence; but this republican administration, and this secretary of war, seems determined to make a slave state of Illinois. I have myself, on principle, been opposed to involuntary servitude, but I ask you, gentlemen, will any one iota of work be done by these men whose only notion of freedom is freedom from labor! [Cheers.] If you get work from them, you get it involuntarily on their part. [Applause.] They won't work so long as they can get food and clothing without it.
In the good old times of this republic, state constitutions were respected by presidents and secretaries of war. In the good old times of the republic men were allowed to choose the character of the labor they would employ; but now they are determined to force upon our white people the negro class whether we will or no. [Applause.] As much as I am opposed to slavery, as much as I am opposed to the institution, if I was to select a home in a region where slavery acts by law, or in a region where free negroes predominated, I will go where it exists by law, — [Enthusiastic cheering.] I do not think a greater curse could befall the people of Illinois, than the pouring into it of a flood of negroes, who are without effort or provision for taking care of themselves. And yet this is being done; they come here, and they have to be fed or they will starve. If they are fed, you will have to exact of paid labor in return, and every one of them you employ in your workshop, on your farm or in your homes, drives a white laborer away. [Cheers.] — Gentlemen, in all contests between my own race and the negro race, I am for my own race, [Prolonged cheering.] Why only the other day a car full of contrabands came into the town of Charleston and were dumped out, in about the same place that a certain general's forces were recently dumped out of the place they had occupied. I saw their arrival, and took occasion to notice the great outrage that was played upon the people of Illinois. A friend of mine, and a republican, too, said to me, "I never voted for a democrat in my life, but I am with you on the nigger question. — My son, who was my only support, has been taken by the government, and they have given me a black nigger in exchange." [Laughter.] He did not like the exchange. [Renewed laughter.] — How are we to help it? I know not. Our efforts may be paralyzed, but I have the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. I think our state officers, our governor, is recreant to his duty in permitting this outrage upon the people. [Great and long continued applause.] — The democratic convention at Springfield passed a set of resolutions upon the question. I know not whether this importation is to be continued, but if it is, is it a necessity of the war? I call upon the president to take one other step in reference to them: I insist that the president suspend the constitution and make the negroes legal tender, so that we can do something with them. [Great laughter and applause.] Now if the president will only make them legal tender, we can pay up our debts to the Yankees in the New England States in that currency. [Unbounded applause.] That is one mode which I think would enable us to get clear of them.
Permit me briefly to allude to another question, for which I am denounced as a traitor. I allude to the arrest of men in loyal states, their transportation from the state of Illinois, and their incarceration in the military prisons of the country without trial and without investigation. The constitution guarantees to every citizen of Illinois a fair and impartial trial before a jury of his peers, for offenses against the government, and no citizen can be seized under the order of either the president or the secretary of war, and imprisoned either at home or abroad without process and without preliminary investigation, except by a direct and palpable violation of the constitution of the United States. [Enthusiastic and prolonged applause.] Citizens of Illinois have, from time to time, been arrested, transported from their homes, and confined in prisons for months, some even longer than that, and have been discharged without ever being permitted to know the grounds on which they were arrested. Others have been taken from Illinois and incarcerated in the political Bastilles of the government for three or four months, and only by earnest entreaty have they been able to obtain a hearing before military authorities; and, when it was found that they had been arrested without any reason whatever, were discharged and allowed to make their way home as best they could. I denounce this as atrocious. [Enthusiastic cheers.] I am therefore opposed to the proclamation of the president, in which he suspends the right of habeas corpus and incarcerates one for the time being at the will of whoever has control of the prisons. The constitution makes provision for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in particular cases, but it never did provide for it in those states where the civil courts are open for the trial of crime. [Cheers.] Its suspension in these states is a direct violation of the most sacred rights of citizens guaranteed by that constitution. [Applause.] Where there are no civil courts it may be excusable to suspend the habeas corpus, but even there the president has no right to suspend it. Congress only can suspend it. I repeat that this thing of imprisoning loyal citizens of states like Illinois are so many outrages upon the loyal citizens, and I am proud that one northern governor had nerve enough to tell the president that he should not do it. [Cheers.] But because I say so I am told that I am a rebel. If I am disloyal upon this point, there are bright and shining lights in the republican camp which are the same. These sentiments are in no way as disloyal as were those uttered by Senator Trumbull. The most scathing denunciations came from Hale, of New Hampshire, whose loyalty the Chicago Tribune will not be inclined to question. Why is it then that when these men denounce it, it is not treason, and when I do, they call me a rebel?
When I went into this contest I counted the cost, and determined to denounce this as an outrage, and I am still determined to do it. [Long continued applause.] In these loyal states of the north, where courts are open for the trial and punishment of crime, there is not even the plea of necessity for it. Will it be said that a man guilty of treason cannot be indicted, tried, and punished in Illinois? The men who make such a charge do more for the progress of rebellion than any open secessionist. If there had been fewer charges of treason, coming from the republican press and republicans, there would have been fewer rebels to day in the southern states. [Prolonged applause.] It is stated that in northern Illinois there is no trouble in convicting a man of treason, but that down in Egypt things are different. The charges have been freely rung upon that assertion, but I say the charge is a lie. [Cheers.] I care not who makes it, or where it comes from. [Cheers.] I will go with any man into the ranks of our army, at any time, and, of those who have enlisted from southern Illinois, I will point him out two democrats for one republican. [Immense applause.] It is the democrats who have volunteered; the republicans stayed at home to do the lying. [Cheers.] It was not until after the threatening of a draft, that you could find them in the ranks. [Much cheering.] Up to this time I tell you the republicans in Illinois were slow to go into the army. My own county, although she gave five hundred majority in favor of a democrat, at the last election, has turned out for the war, one out of every two of its male inhabitants, and my own precinct, which gave me seventeen majority, has sent a little over one-half of its men to the war. [Cheers.] Can you say as much in favor of any republican county or precinct in northern Illinois? [A voice, "No, sir."] Well, then, stop these charges against the loyalty of the men of southern Illinois. We have no rebels down there; we have no traitors down there; there were some, early in the war, but they went into the southern armies and left the loyal men behind. We have no men there that undertake to control and manage this war, as the Chicago Tribune does. [Applause.] We have no men there who try to weaken the army by attacks upon its commanding general, as the Chicago Tribune does. [Prolonged cheers.] We have loyal men down there; we have men down there who warned the republican party that their success would lead to disunion, that it would lead to civil war; this is the kind of men we have in southern Illinois. [Applause.] I remember, gentlemen, in a discussion I had with Senator Trumbull upon this question; he turned upon me with an air of contempt, and said my fears must be getting the better of my judgement. "If the south wanted to secede," said he, "let them secede, and we will call upon those boys there, in the wide-awakes, and whip them back into subjection." If I were to see him on the same stand to-day, before the same audience, I should be very certain to remind him of what he said then. Owen Lovejoy would guarantee that if the south seceded, he would take down the wide-awakes there were in his region, and make a breakfast-spell of subduing them. — [Applause.] In this instance, our party warned them of the results to be expected from their acts; and when the tocsin of war sounded, and our brave men fought on every field, their fathers and mothers were charged with being rebels against the government.
Now, as I am a candidate for congress, I have presented to you my views upon some of these questions. I have felt I did right to speak my views in regard to the proclamation of the president. If I should be favored with an election, all I have to say is that whatever ability and power I have shall be appropriated to the service of the people of Illinois, and in all my acts and votes, I shall act with my eye towards the constitution of my country, endeavoring to restore peace and harmony, so that once more the old flag may float over the length and breadth of the land, and peace, union, prosperity and happiness prevail in every home. [Immense and long continued applause. Enthusiastic cheers for the speaker, the Union, and the constitution, &c.]