Speech of Senator Green, of Massac.
Previous to the adjournment of the Illinois Legislature Hon. Wm. H. Green, of Massac, made the following speech before the upper house of that body:
Mr. Speaker. — I rise for the purpose of further defending the bill to prevent the immigration and importation of negroes into this State. I introduced the bill more than two weeks ago. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee, and after a careful examination of its features, — after it had been amended according to suggestions made by the Senator from Cass, — it has been reported back to the Senate and its passage recommended. No haste has been exhibited by the friends of the bill to force it through the Senate. On the contrary they have desired that it might be made as perfect and effective as possible to remove the growing evil under which portions of the State are suffering. But, instead of meeting it fairly, instead of striving, as candid legislators would strive, to strengthen and improve that bill as a measure demanded by the people, — it has been met, with high-sounding words of abuse, and has brought from two Senators sympathetic howls, in behalf of what they call the "poor negro." Their pent-up venom against every measure that tends to keep the negro from our prairies and reserve them for the white man was poured forth in language as devoid of argument as of decency.
I wish to direct the attention of the Senate to the provisions of the bill under consideration and they are but few and simple. There is nothing in them to produce the storm of sympathetic shrieks we have heard to-day. There is no change of the old law, or addition to it, made so far as the negro himself is concerned, except the provision that the statute of limitations shall not be pleaded in bar of any action against the negro. The object of introducing that provision was only to make the law more effective. As the law now stands, the negro may be brought into the State by his Abolition friends, and taken to some of the northern counties, where the poor African expects to receive genuine sympathy. In a few years the chilling winds, that blow from Lake Michigan across the snow-clad prairies will undermine the health of the negro and kill him, or else drive him again to seek a home in a latitude nearer his master's house, and in a climate more congenial to his race. In obedience to this impelling cause, he will leave the northern county where his worst enemy, the abolitionist, has taken him, and will go into the southern counties. Once there, he cannot be successfully prosecuted. If he has been in the State, or any part of it, for eighteen months, he can plead the Statute of limitations, as the Law now stands, successfully against any prosecution that may be brought against him. Thus the negroes, who have been carried to Chicago through the sympathy — the false and hollow sympathy — of the abolitionists, are enabled, by the defect of the old law which I have pointed out, to flood the part of the States which I represent, and nothing but force can move them. If these gentlemen who have such an affection for the negro could be compelled to keep him in their bosoms, I should be the last man to complain.
The people — the makers and owners of this State government — the creators and masters of this Legislature — have twice, in terms not to be mistaken, decided that the "negro shall not come into Illinois," and have ordered the General Assembly to pass laws which will effectually keep the African from our soil. Yet the negro still comes. The emphatic voice of the sovereign people is defied by those higher law gentlemen who love the negro better than they love the laws of the State. The old law does not effectually keep them out. — The bill before the Senate proposes to remedy the defeat and obey the will of the people. * * * *
The Senator from Cook (Ward), whose sympathies for the negro are as large and ample as his physical frame is preponderous, and who has held the gallery enchanted by his stormy speaking, would do well to let the African alone for awhile and give his legislative eloquence for the benefit of his own race. He has bewailed the misfortune of the poor negro because he may be sold and compelled to work if he fails to pay a fine legally and regularly assessed against him. He calls such a law infamous. But not a tear does he drop — not a single sentence does he speak — in commisseration of the unfortunate white man who, by virtue of the 13th section of the Criminal Code, may be hired out at public outcry, to the highest bidder, and compelled to serve his purchaser; and by the same section, provision is made for his recapture if he runs away. The offence for which this punishment is inflicted is called "vagrancy," and is held to exist wherever a man, among other defeats of moral character, is guilty of "frequenting public places where liquor is sold and leading an immoral life, not having wherewithal to support himself." What is this but "involuntary servitude" for the white man, — and the poor white man, too; for the rich man, having wherewithal to support himself, cannot be punished under this law, no matter how worthless he is.
Oh, ye laboring white man of Chicago, who elected the Senator from Cook last November, can you forget his zeal for the degraded negro, — his willingness to let him compete with your labor and the labor of your sons and daughters, and his utter forgetfulness of laws that are oppressive upon the poor white man? Why has he never introduced a bill to repeal the law by which the poor, unfortunate white man may be sold into involuntary servitude? Certainly it can't be possible. He is a lawyer, and is supposed (by his clients at least) to be learned in the law. — There can be no doubt that he has for years known all about the law. There is not a State in the Union as it was, or as it is, that has not a provision on its statute book by which a white man may be arrested for vagrancy and sold into involuntary servitude. But, sir. I can tell you the cause of this maudlin sympathy. It is is gotten up for the occasion, for political purposes. It is all intended for political effect. "The inevitable negro" must be trotted out on the political stage for exhibition, and to-day, the Senator from Cook has been his most eloquent showman. Four weeks of the session have passed, and nobody knew until to-day that Ward was eloquent. He knew he was kind hearted and genial; but his eloquence has been silent until this evening. Bills for mechanics' liens, protecting the poor white man from the rich scoundrels; bills extending the homestead laws; bills protecting the white man in all various avocations, have been before the Senate; but in behalf of none of them has that Senator done more than give his vote. But, the instant the subject of the negro is mentioned, he puts on a full headway of steam, and astonishes the Senate with his fiery eloquence. Do you believe, Mr. Speaker, that he loves the negro race better than his own? No, sir he does not. But he was elected to the place he holds by a party whose only political capital is invested in what they call the "poor negro," and in a miserable, mistaken sympathy for the woolly headed African. To that miserable sympathy he panders.
But, Mr. Speaker, most astonishing of all his statements, he says "This war was thrust upon the country by the Democratic party." The cry of "stop thief" by the flying burglar has grown into a proverb. — He has no doubt many times denounced the Democracy as the anti-war party, and yet he tells us that they brought on the war. How can you judge of a party better than by its leaders? Turn then to the speeches, the patriotic speeches made by the lamented Douglas to prevent the war. Read his speech made in January, 1861, and hear his warning voice. Read his speech of March 15th, of the same year, where he says: "War is disunion. War is final eternal separation." See how he warned the administration against the coercive policy, and told them how to avoid it. Who, I ask, rejected the Crittenden compromise, the Douglas compromise, the Border State compromise? Was it the Democratic party? Who repudiated all peace propositions that were made by the old patriots of the country, and cried aloud for blood? Was it the Democratic party? The world knows who did it. The present generation has decided, and history will record that the Abolitionists and secessionists were at the foundation of our difficulties; that, when the Democratic party tried to settle those difficulties by peaceful compromise, the Republican party prevented the compromise, and clamored for war. — There is no denying the verdict; history will soon record it. Upon the shoulders of that party must forever rest all the horrid consequences of this terrible civil war — The Democratic party are not responsible for the war. All their acts prove it, and posterity will so decide. When the danger of civil war was impending, the Democracy everywhere plead for peace, — clamored for compromise; but fanatics ruled the hour, and we to-day suffer the consequences. — But I will not further argue against so groundless a charge. This bill is not affected by its truth or falsity.
The Senator from Kankakee (Mack) devoted most of his speech to the black laws, as he calls them, passed forty years ago. — If these black laws are so outrageous, why did he not have them repealed two years ago, when his party was in a majority in the Legislature, with a Governor to back them? Then he never opened his mouth on the subject. That oppressed and downtrodden race, about which he grows mournful to-day, then did not merit a remark from him. But now the waning fortunes of his party demand some desperate and extraordinary effort. The people, the indignant people, are about to place the seal of their condemnation upon this party, and a few shrieks for the negro are needed. — is there any answer as to why the Senator served two sessions before the present in the General Assembly, and yet failed to introduce a bill to repeal any part of these "infamous" laws of which he speaks? — He did not do it when his party had the power; but now, that he thinks something can be made by talking about these laws, he agitates the subject in his mad chase after political capital. Has he any other motive? No, sir! He knows, and we know, and the country is beginning to know, that all this sympathy for the negro and clamor about the black laws, are gotten up for effect. If the black laws were repealed, his political stock in trade would be diminished, and he is too cute a Yankee to diminish a stock already reduced to remains.
When the first State constitution was adopted, slavery existed in Illinois as much as it exists to-day in Kentucky or Georgia; and the third section of the sixth article of that constitution recognized slavery, and continued its existence in the State for 21 years. Some peculiar police regulations were found necessary to control the slaves remaining in the State; and for that purpose, these laws, called "black laws," were enacted. But the slaves no longer exist, and the laws have become as dead letters.
I am sorry thus, by a plain statement of facts, to take away all the truth of the Senator's poetry. But he and his party have enjoyed the humbug long enough; they have demagogued on the capital of the "black laws" till they ought to be satisfied. Those laws have no more reference to the negroes in the State than to the white man. But, to remove all doubt on the subject, many years ago that provision punishing certain offences by whipping was repealed, and, in any Senator doubts the statement, I will refer him to the book and the page where he will find the repealing statute. Then all the Senator's sighs and tears about whipping women and children in this State are uselessly shed. He shouts aloud that the Democrats have all voted against repealing the black laws; and no doubt he will make his Abolition constituents believe that we are a terrible set of fellows. The black laws, as he calls them contain several wholesome provisions — provisions adapted to the interests of the people of the State. They provide, among other things, that the free negroes in the State will give bond that they will not become county charges. Is there anything wrong in that section? It is of great importance that some means should be provided to keep these vagrant negroes from becoming charges upon the counties near the border. I know something of the evil; I know that my own county has paid on thousands of dollars in support of negro paupers. Other counties in my district have suffered in the same way, and I shall oppose the repeal of the black laws, regardless of the curses of Abolitionists and negro lovers.
My constituents demand the protection given by these laws; they are entitled to that protection, and they shall have it in my vote and my influence can give it to them. As the law now stands, as I have shown, the negro who remains in Chicago eighteen months, and then goes to my county, cannot be successfully prosecuted. But the question before the Senate really is, what shall be our policy on the subject of negro immigration into Illinois? No one on this floor has yet been bold enough to declare openly in favor of allowing our State to be overrun with negroes. The Senator from Kankakee boastingly says we have already 8,000 contrabands in Illinois. And, if there is no effective means provided by our organic law to the use of the white man, are to be covered with a degraded race, who will either become vagrants or county charges or will come in competition with the native born sons and daughters of our soil. When the young man goes into the field to labor, or the poor young girl seeks for a place where she may obtain an honest living, they will find a negro to compete with them. They must accept the wages that the negro will work for, if they expect employment. In the cities the conflict has already begun. If this flood-tide of negroes continues, the people will drive the negro hence, without the intervention of law. The punishment, in justice, should be visited upon the Abolitionists, who have coaxed the negro from his warm home to try the coldness of northern winters. Twice the white voters of Illinois have said the negro shall not cumber our soil. Their voice must be obeyed. If the people's servants do not provide a weapon by which their will can be asserted, they will take the matter into their own hands. They will drive the negro from the State. This may be mob law, and may not be justifiable; but it will be so. The irrepressible conflict will be begun, and may be ended in blood, if this or some similar bill does not become a law.
There is a great noise made if "citizens of African descent" are in danger of an infringement upon any of their rights. Intervention in their favor seems to be the principle occupation of a certain class of white men. Honest white men all over the country have been arrested and deprived of their liberty, with no limit to their duress but the whim of a petty tyrant, and the negro fanatic, louder than anybody else, has shouted Amen! I say goodmen have been put in Federal Bastiles and treated like dogs, and I mean what I say. No better men can be found than Judge Mulky, of Cairo, and Judge Duff, of Franklin county. Neither one is a politician, in the ordinary sense of that term; but they threw hot shot daily into the camp of their negro-loving neighbors, and became obnoxious to a set of men who pass their lives clamoring for the freedom of their idol, the kinky-headed African, but who did not hesitate by force to take from the two good men I have named their dearest liberties.