Gov. Yates' Speech, Delivered at Bryan Hall, Chicago, Thursday Evening, November 4, 1864.
At an early hour last evening Bryan Hall was literally packed — crammed — in fact jammed full of "fair women and brave men," eager to listen to our gallant Governor. The auditorium, galleries, and even the platform, were so full that there was really no more room to spare. Hundreds were turned away unable to gain admission to the hall.
The meeting was called to order by Colonel John L. Hancock, who introduced Governor Yates.
The appearance of the Governor was greeted with tremendous applause. This was heightened when three cheers "for the gallant Governor of Illinois," were proposed, which we're given with a will. When the applause had subsided the Governor spoke as follows:
FELLOW CITIZENS: I regret, most exceedingly, that the fatigue of speaking so many days in the open air, to such, large audiences as this, has to some extent rendered me incompetent to be heard by so many, and that my voice has partially failed. I may say, however, that the present demonstration is an exceedingly gratifying one. Such demonstrations as this, here and in every part of the State of Illinois, are calculated to make us feel and believe that the people are alive to their great interests; that there is still a determination, upon the part of the people of this country, to preserve and maintain their Government: that they understand the vast issues which are involved; that they comprehend, as they ought to comprehend, that there is nothing more nor less for their decision on the 8th of November next, than the great question whether this grand old Government of ours shall be sustained; whether it shall live, or whether it shall die. I see before me a vast concourse of the ladies of the State of Illinois, and I should not, in the course of my remarks, omit to refer to the fact that throughout all the pathway of this long, terrible, and bloody war, that not only the men of Illinois, but the women of Illinois, have been patriots and soldiers. [Applause,] Their fingers have been busy, and their minds have been anxious; while we have sent our mighty army to the field to bear aloft our proud, unconquered banner over the traitors and rebels, who would destroy this country, we have not, as a Christian and philanthropic people, failed to send another army after that army, to take care of the sick and wounded soldier, to staunch his blood, heal his wounds, and make him feel and know that the benefactions and prayers of his countrymen and countrywomen, followed him throughout all the bloody trackway of this desolating war. If I had the pen of the Archangel who Sits in the Heavens and writes upon the tablets of eternity, the passing events of the universe, I would fail to do Justice to the exalted heroism and shining virtues of our glorious women of Illinois. [Applause] And from every true and loyal, and patriotic heart, from every Christian and philanthropist, there should go no to the throne of Almighty God one unceasing invocation, "God bless the noble women of Illinois. [Applause.]
But fellow citizens, it is some satisfaction today, after nearly four years of war, to appear before you and to announce the triumphant fact that all is right, our enemies defeated, our enemies defeated in near five hundred battles and skirmishes, our proud banner victorious upon so many glorious battle fields — — Atlanta fallen — Mobile surrendered — and five hundred thousand more pressing to close up the ranks of Grant I say the military situation is all right; the country is not in danger from Southern traitors, the authority of this Government will be asserted and maintained: our glorious Union will again be restored, and our proud flag will wave again in triumph over every inch of American soil. [Tremendous applause.]
But, it is not only in the army that we are all right, but we are also all right at home. The triumphant endorsement of Maine and Vermont, and Pennsylvania with her majority of fifteen thousand so far; Ohio with, her majority of fifteen thousand, cries of " good"; and our sister State — glorious little, Indiana, has rolled up her majority of twenty-three thousand. [Cheers,] We have carried the Legislatures of those States; we have elected seventeen Congressmen to two, in the State of Ohio, and the indications are — the shouts are coming from along the lines — that Abraham Lincoln and Andy Johnson will be elected on the 8th of November next, to the high positions to which they aspire, and that our glorious Union will be maintained and preserved. [Cheers]
But, Fellow-citizens, it is not only in the certain and triumphant election of Lincoln and Johnson that we are altogether to hope, because the power and maintenance of the government depend upon the support and unity of the people at home. If, instead of Dick Oglesby, you shall elect a man who sympathizes with Vallandigham, and Voorhees, and Louis, and the other disloyal scamps who are proposing to control the destinies of this country, then the administration will lack that support and unity which is necessary for its proper maintenance and for the vigorous prosecution of the war. You must elect a State government which will support the administration in this glorious effort, to preserve our Union and assert the authority of the government. You must elect members of Congress
2who will vote the voice and power of the government in support of the administration. You must elect your members of the Legislature so that they will give an ardent support to the executive in his measures of co-operation with the general government at Washington. Fellow-citizens, I refer to these questions for the reason that I might forget it: — You all remember what distraction and embarrassment Governor Seymour of the State of New York has thrown in the way of the administration of the Government. You remember how he has resisted the draft, how he has resisted the filling up of our shattered regiments which had been decimated by disease and by death. You remember how he has resisted every measure adopted by the Administration at Washington for the vigorous prosecution of the war. Some two years ago, just before the election in the State of New York, I had the honor of addressing a large concourse of the people of New York City at the Cooper Institute, and during my remark I called upon the people to know whether they wanted civil war in New York just as we had had it in Missouri and other States of the Union? The reply came back "No, they had civil war enough on the 4th of July, when a disgraceful mob attempted to resist the draft, and caused blood to flow all over that city of New York." I replied that I did not propose to interfere with their State politics, but that if I had been Governor of the State of New York, instead of pending my Adjutant General to Washington to request the President to postpone the draft, and instead of addressing that mob as "my friends" I would have told them that every house in that proud city should be laid in ashes, and every street run deep with human gore, but that the authority of this Government should be sustained. [Loud cheers.] You remember the distractions that have been thrown in the way of the Governor of the State of Indiana in the administration of the affairs of that State. The Legislature opposed him in every measure which he devised and attempted to carry out. I need not refer to our Own State — you are all familiar with that — we have had no Legislature, or worse than none, all the time [Cries of "That's so."] From the very beginning of the administration of the government of this State there was a premeditated and deliberate attempt to throw obstacles in the way of the proper administration of the State Government. They commenced by the most discourteous treatment towards the Executive, refusing to print his message for six weeks, because they considered it an anti-slavery document, and fellow-citizens, I am here to announce to you to-day a most important fact with which, perhaps, none of you are acquainted, that the Governor of your proud State, of a State of two millions of human beings, the fourth in population, and the first in military prestige and power — that the Governor of your proud State has had to go into the market as a beggar to buy the letter paper upon which he wrote to your soldiers upon the field of battle, and the postage stamps (cries of "Shame," "Shame,") which he put upon them. I just mention these facts to show what support or co-operation you have to expect if you again send a Copperhead Legislature to Springfield, (Cries), "We won't do so," "Cannot see it," and cheers.) I shall ever remember as one of the most pure and delightful and solemn pleasures of my life, that when these gentlemen were about to pass treasonable resolutions — resolutions which would disgrace the character of your State, which were calculated to encourage rebellion — resolutions which were on the side of the enemies of their country and not on the side of their friends, I say I shall ever take a pure and solemn delight that they got themselves then and there in that predicament for which I had been watching, where I had the constitutional power to adjourn them; and I sent them howling to their homes. (Great applause.) I would have them to remember the words of scripture that "the seed, of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." (Laughter.)
Now, fellow-citizens, I propose to-night, in the few remarks I shall make, to address myself to your judgment and not to your passions. I propose to address myself, in a desultory manner, to four distinct propositions: First, that the war upon our part is a just war: second, that there can be no peace upon the terms of the Chicago platform; third, that the Chicago Platform is a surrender of your Government and your Union; and fourth, that the only way to an honorable and substantial peace, and to the preservation of our Union, is to fight, and fight until the last rebel shall lay down his arms and ask pardon of this Government. [Cheers.] Of the countless number of patriotic souls — the mother who has given her first born to go forth and fight the battles of his country — the father who has sent from one to seven sons to fight the battles of his country — how many have argued in their minds the question whether we were engaged in a just or unjust war? Why, fellow-citizens, if I could believe that I, who as your agent have been engaged in raising one hundred and ninety-seven thousand men to go out and fight in this war — if I could believe that this war was unjust on our part, or that we had in any measure provoked it, that we were in the least degree responsible for it, then I could not stand up before you to-day face to face to utter one single word in favor of the cause for which I am now contending. But, fellow-citizens, this was a war which we could not help; it was forced upon us, it was inevitable, it was a long premeditated attempt on the part of southern, traitors and southern slaveholders! to control this government in the interest of human slavery [Cries of "that's so."] And the very moment they supposed that the power was about to depart from Judah or themselves — that they could no longer control the destinies of this country in consequence of the greater number of free States which were coming into the Union than slave States, that moment they revived the doctrine of Calhoun and attempted to establish a new government out of part of the territory of the United States, based upon slavery as the corner stone.
Now let me say, by way of preface to the remarks I may yet make, that I belong to no particular party. I am not a Republican or a Democrat to-day. Those issues are dead and extinct. There are but two parties in this country, as Douglas said, and they are patriots and traitors. [Cheers.] This contest, as I will show you, is not between Abraham Lincoln and George B. McClellan, but between Abraham Lincoln and the Union, on one side, and Jeff. Davis and disunion, on the other. [A voice — "That's so."] Mr. Lincoln proposes to extend the jurisdiction of this country over all the territory of the United States, and to re-assert the Constitution and the law, over every foot of American soil. He proposes to do it in the only way it can be done, and that is by the military power of the Government to suppress this infernal rebellion, which will not submit to any other terms, and we will never make our Southern brethren love us until we have whipped, them soundly all over the Union. [Applause.]
I am here as the humble Governor of the State of Illinois, knowing full well what I say; and I am here to say to you that not only the Republican party, but Democrats, have done their duty in the prosecution of this war. If I were to give a guess I would say that in the northern part of the State, something more than a majority of Republicans have gone to war, and in the south something more than a majority of Democrats have gone to the war, if I were to give a candid estimate I would say that Republicans and Democrats, (I mean loyal Douglas Democrats — not traitors or Copperheads,) have come up in nearly equal numbers to the support of the Government of the United States. Hundreds of thousands of loyal Douglas Democrats have come up and united
3with us, shoulder to shoulder; together with us they have borne our banner over our enemies; have mingled their blood upon the same glorious battle fields. At the very commencement of this war it was my especial desire, and my practice, as Governor of the State, to select for Colonels and officers of regiments as many of the distinguished Democrats of the State who were capable of leading a regiment or holding an office, as I did of Republicans, and I shall ever rejoice to the latest day of my life, that these fingers signed the Colonel's commission of the world's great commander, U. S. Grant. (Deafening cheers.) I rejoice, also, that I signed the commissions of such men as General Logan, Colonel Hicks, Colonel Foulke, and a long list of men who figured most conspicuously in the Douglas Democratic party; they have been true to their trust.
I am here farther to say that I do not believe one half — no, that one-fourth of the Democratic party which is now ranged under the banner of McClellan, and standing upon the Chicago platform, are disloyal to this country. If I thought so — if for one moment I could believe that the farmers and mechanics of this country who belong to that party were disloyal — then I should bid "a long farwell to all our greatness," and say that our Government must fall, and forever be destroyed.
So that when I say that I would address myself to the judgment, and not, to the passions of men, it is for the purpose of giving to that party the credit to which it is justly entitled, and having done this, then try to convince them what I believe that the policy they are advocating, and the man they are about to vote for, would forever destroy this Government of ours.
Now, to return to the question, whether the war is just on our part.
Let me appeal to you, my Democratic friends, without going back into the origin of this war, where did you first see signs that the Democratic party of the South, in their efforts with the traitors of the South would not co-operate with you as Democrats in carrying out the policy which had, prior to that, been carried out by Jackson, Polk, Douglas and all the distinguished leaders of your party? In 1860, at the Charleston Convention, Douglas was excluded from that Convention, and he failed to receive the nomination. Why? Because as Douglas himself says, although he had leaned just as far to the South, as he could, although he had gone to the very verge of Northern sentiment, although he had stood by his Southern brethren in all their troubles, yet they repudiated him at the Charleston Democratic Convention, because he would not subscribe to the odious doctrine of Breckinridge, and that doctrine was that the slave holder had a right to take his slaves into the free territories of the United States under the Constitution and the laws, just as he had a right to take his horse or other property. Lincoln had taken the ground that slavery should never come into the territories of the United States. Douglas, who was equally loyal to the Government, the Union and the Constitution, took the ground that the people of the territories were to be left perfectly free to decide the question of slavery for themselves. Breckinridge and the traitors, who afterwards went out of this Union, took the ground that they had a right to take their slaves into those territories, against the doctrine of Douglas and against the doctrine of Lincoln. Now the illustrious leader of your party was ousted from the Democratic Convention at Charleston, for the reason that he would not surrender his nationality; that he would not give up the Union; that he would not consent to a Government whose corner stone should be African slavery. For this reason Douglas, who had done so much for the South, who had always stood by the South, was defeated as a candidate at the Charleston Convention. The youth then and there put toward their candidate. Douglas represented the loyal Democracy, Lincoln the loyal Republicans, and Breckinridge the pro-slavery ideas of the Southern Confederacy. They then and there put forward their candidate, with the confident hope that Lincoln would be elected, and that they would have a pretext for going out of the Union.
Now, who is responsible for this war? who commenced, it? Long before Mr. Lincoln was elected President of the United States, the South had prepared to organize an army five hundred thousand strong; it had taken possession of all the United Statue property — all the forts, arsenals and navy yards, and every particle of the property of the United States is the rebel slave States. Not only this, but I stand here to-day and fearlessly charge that the United States was guilty of forbearance which amounted to criminality, for I was in the House of Representatives and in the Senate Chamber when I saw such men as Jeff. Davis and Slidell and, Mason and Toombs, send their resolutions to the Speaker's desks; that they would go out of the Union, that they would go home and raise armies and that they would attempt to establish a Southern Confederacy by armed force. They left their seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives; they walked coldly out; they went away defiantly in the face of the President and the nation, and organized this war against the authority of the Government. James Buchanan sat idly by and said that Congress had no power to coerce a seceded State. That made him a stench in the nostrils of the Democratic party, and sent him down to that unfathomed depth of infamy from which he can never recover. And yet to-day you take the same ground for which you abuse James Buchanan, and say that the authority of this Government can never be restored by military power. Not only this, but before Mr. Lincoln took his seat — In February, 1861 — eight of these States met together in convention at Midedgeville, in Georgia, and they then and there passed their ordinance of secession, declaring that they would go out of this Union, and that they would sustain, their Government, based upon slavery, end establish the Confederacy by force of arms if necessary. This was before Lincoln took his seat. But this is not all. Who struck the first blow? Who fired upon your boat as she went peacefully down the Mississippi River? Who fired upon your flag of the ever glorious Stars and Stripes, as it floated upon Fort Sumter? Who fired upon the Star of the West, as it was taking supplies to the famished garrison of Major Anderson? Alex. H. Stephens said to them at the Milledgeville Convention, "We have the control of this Government, we have the President, we have the Cabinet, we have the Senate and the House of Representatives, we have the foreign ministers, we have had them ever since this Government was founded. This Government has done no wrong to us; the South has prospered under this Government;" and in the face of all these facts they raised the black banner of revolt, and defied the Government of the United States; took up their duds, went out of the Union and swore that they would maintain themselves as a separate confederacy, in defiance of the power of this Government. I say now, that the man, whoever he is, to whatever political party he belongs, who says it was not his duty as a citizen, that it was not the duty of the government of the United States, that it was not the duty of every lover of his country to rise in arms and suppress this infernal rebellion, is either a coward or a traitor, or both, [Loud Cheers.]
I am not here, to-day, as a mere anti-slavery man. I believe I have the credit, throughout this State, of being an Abolitionist. [Laughter, and a voice, "It don't hurt you."] But what I wish to say on this subject is this, that I care not what a man's opinions may be upon the abstract question of slavery; whatever his sentiment may be upon, that question; all I ask is that he will bring a loyal heart, and a strong, vigorous arm to the support
4of the Government in this hour of our national peril. I am a good deal upon this subject like I was when I was a candidate for Congress in Green County some years since. There were some forty Abolitionists there, and my opponent (Mr. Calhoun) said, "Dick will not say now whether he wants these Abolitionists to vote for him or not." Says he, "I won't have their votes — I don't want them to vote for me." I replied that I wanted every man, high and low, rich and poor, drunk and sober, maimed, halt or blind, every man of 21 years of age, Whig, Democrat or Abolitionist, that could get to the polls on the 8th of November, to go there and vote for Dick Yates for Congress. [Laughter,] And to-day I want every man to stand by his Government. I want to save this Government of ours. I want unanimity from my Democratic friends and that support of my Republican friends. I want every man to come up now, to-day, and swear with me before High Heaven that we will preserve this glorious Government of ours, this Government of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, and hand it down, pure and free and fresh, to our children, as it came from the bands of our fathers. [Cheers,]
Notwithstanding I have said that I do not appeal to you as a pro-slavery man, or a no-slavery man to reference to this war, yet, fellow-citizens, I do rejoice from the bottom of my heart, that while we are subduing a rebellion against the authority of this Government, while we are restoring that, authority, and establishing our Federal Union, I rejoice also that we are striking strong and effectual blows for the suppression of African slavery, and for the establishment of the pure principles of God's humanity throughout the Southern States. [Cheer.] I am a Southern man myself. I was born and reared in the South; there are the home of my childhood and the grave of my mother, and it is for the South, as well as for the free loyal North, that I desire to see slavery, the everlasting curse of humanity, banished and blotted from the face of the earth. (Loud applause] It will make those proud and haughty aristocrats who, from habits of tyrannizing over their poor slaves, have become unsubmissive to any correct and proper form of government; it will put that aristocrat upon a level with his poor white neighbor and his poor black neighbor, so far as the obtaining of support is concerned. Slavery has been the canker-worm of the South, to eat out its manhood, to destroy the substance of the people and degrade the poor white man by dividing the territory of the South up into large plantations, making schools remote from each other and sparse, so that the poor white people could not obtain an education. This I know. Fellow-citizens, reverse the rule, and say that every man is entitled to the proceeds of his own labor, and that everyone who would deprive him of the honest proceeds of his labor — every such man — is a moral thief and a rebel. [Cheers.] Establish the broad doctrine that every man whom God Almighty has created in his own image is entitled to the same inalienable rights with every other man, and that he shall enjoy the same rights under our glorious emblem of grandeur, power, and freedom. Send your free schools to the South; establish free labor there: establish freedom of speech; open bibles, so that every man can lift up unchained hands and a free, unfettered soul, to the God who rules over us — then the South, like ourselves, will rejoice, and "bloom and blossom as the rose."
Fellow-citizens, a great deal is said upon the subject of negro equality, and it is attempted to deter us from the performance of our duty, by declaring that we are in favor of negro equality. Now this doctrine of negro equality is the greatest humbug of the age. There are no two races of men whom God has ever created who are equal. I do not consider the negro equal in physical and intellectual conformation to the Anglo Saxon race, or the pure Caucassian race. On the other hand, I believe that our pure Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman races are the highest types of humanity, and I believe that the negro is perhaps the lowest type of created humanity, and that between these all the tribes of the earth exist. But, fellow-citizens because the Englishman is not equal to the Irishman, or the Irishman to the Englishman, the German to the Laplander, or the Laplander to the American, is he therefore to be deprived of his rights? [Shouts of "No," and cheers.] I hear some say it is the white man's war, that they are for the abolition of slavery because they are for the white man. Now, I am for the abolition of slavery, not because I am for the white man, or the red man, or the black man, but because I am for man, for God's humanity. [Loud applause.] I am for conferring upon every human being the right to the proceeds of his own labor, and to all the advantages which he has a right to under the constitution of the United States and our glorious declaration of American Independence. I am not here to utter these sentiments to-day for the first time; these have been my opinions, well known and understood for a long time past. I am not afraid to utter them now. I have not been afraid to utter them for the last thirty years: and I will say this that I believe that whenever a man is just to himself, just to his own conscience, just in the performance of his duty, he will always find a response in the popular heart. [Applause.] And I am here to-day to say that no earthly motive, no lofty summit of human ambition, no proud pinnacle of human power, no loud alarms of the multitude, shall ever seduce me from the God-given sentiments of my heart in favor of labor and humanity. [Immense applause.]
You ask me what I would do with these negroes when they are free. You might as well ask me what I will do with you, or any other man. I only say that in the providence of Almighty God, that is not a question for me to solve; but I will say that I believe it is in the hands of God, that whether this war is waged to free the negro or not (and I know it is not,) yet, incidentally, the negro will be free, and you cannot help it. [Cheers.] This war will not end till the principles of eternal truth, proceeding from the throne of God, shall be firmly engrafted and established in the hearts of all men; this war will not end till it is decided that this country cannot remain one half slave and the other half free. You may depend upon that; and it will not be very long in deciding that question either, for the fiat has gone forth. In the last thirty years Russia and Sweeden and Denmark, and England and France, and various other nations have emancipated all their slaves, and, fellow citizens, I feel thankful that Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation has already emancipated three millions of slaves, and in the career of that proclamation as it rolls over the States in rebellion like a chariot of fire, we see the resistless step of the Almighty, and all the nations of the earth are beginning to hail with glad shouts of joy, universal emancipation, in the United States as well as elsewhere. [Tremendous cheers.]
But I am not here to excuse myself on this subject of slavery. I do not believe in the doctrine that we are not to agitate the question of slavery, and I wish here to state that there is no country, no part of the United States, where there is not unrestricted, freedom of speech, except in the Southern States. A man there cannot entertain a sentiment: a schoolmaster cannot teach a school if he is understood to be opposed to whipping negro men and women. There is complete suppression of freedom of speech in the South, and it is to relieve my own sunny South from this incubus, that I am in favor of the abolition of negro slavery. And, fellow citizens, if I had it in my power — like God, when he made the Covenant with Noah, and promised that the waters should no more destroy the face of the earth, and placed his beautiful rainbow across the clouds in token of the covenant whish he had made, — I would write in letters of flaming
5fire, across the heavens, that the footstep of no solitary slave should ever again disgrace our land. [Immense applause.] You talk about negroes, and say we sympathize with the negro. I am proud to say that I do sympathize with the negro. But I sympathize with him upon this principle: I believe that every man should enjoy the produce of his own labor; that each man, whether red, white or, black, should have the inalienable rights which Almighty God has given him; that he should be allowed a free, fair and open contest with every other man. The poor slave has never aspired to rule this country; he has only asked to be a "hewer of wood and a drawer of water," and for some place to lay down and die. You ask me where the negro will go. When free in the South he will go there: it is congenial to his tastes and feelings; he loves a southern sun; the labor is adapted to him; he will go there and we will have none, or but a few of these negroes in the north.
We will have an army of two hundred thousand stalwart blacks, of the men who have rallied round your flag, of the men who have flashed two hundred thousand bayonets in the face of Jeff. Davis, and the Southern traitors, of the men who have gone to the battle fields under the sound of the American marseillarse — "John Brown's body is mouldering in the ground, but his soul is marching on." [Immense applause greeted this sentiment.] They will return amongst you, and, fellow citizens, I trust there is no one who hears me now, who will ever consent that those men who have worn the United States' uniform, who have fought under our glorious flag, who have rallied to the side or our brave boys on the battle field, should be returned into slavery. [Applause, and shouts of "Never, no, never."] I will tell you what we will do with them. We will have 200,000 strong, and as I believe in the Monroe doctrine, which the Democratic party has ignored; as I take the broad ground of our fathers that no foreign potentate or power shall ever establish a despotism upon one inch of American soil, we will send these two hundred thousand men down to Mexico to say to Prince Maximillian, "Sir, we come, in the name of liberty, and Union, and Ethiopia, to take possession." [Cheers and laughter.] I might as well say in that connection, that as old England has been interfering in our family affairs — seeing the door ajar she has been interfering — she has been robbing; our commerce upon the ocean, pirating upon oar ships and burning up our vessels, I will say that at the end of this content we will bring them to account for all this.
I name this to show that I am about as good an anti-slavery man now as I have ever been. At the same time I say that this war is neither a pro-slavery nor an anti-slavery war; it is nothing; more nor less than the great question of national existence. The question is whether your children and the friends who surround your fireside shall have a home in which to live, and you may rely upon it that if we are not true to ourselves and if we do not sustain the Government, a short time only will elapse before you may hear the thunder of an enemy's cannon at your very doors, armies marching and commanders winning their victories and laying desolate your own beautiful, proud, happy, Illinois, this Heaven's moss favored heritage, if you do not rise and swear that rebels' shall not have control of this Government; that Southern traitors and Northern Copperheads shall not destroy your glorious inheritance. If we allow this, then all is gone, and gone forever. [Applause.]
Fellow-citizens, I was at the Chicago Democratic Convention. [Laughter] I had read in the good book that Sodom and Gomorrah might have been saved by the presence of a few righteous persons, and so I went. [Laughter.] I have often thought since, what if the Angel Gabriel had blown his last trump while I was in such company? [Laughter.] But, I have not failed to remember the other portion of the good old Scripture and the fate of Lot's wife, and I have never looked back. — [Applause.]
Fellow-citizens, if we would understand, the objects and designs of a party or a platform, we must know who are the men that made it — the builders of that platform — the men who have constructed, it — in order that we may understand the motives which actuated them and the purpose they had in view. We know what the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are by looking at the names of the men who made them. They were made by Washington and the other noble men who stood about the camp of liberty in the days that tried mens' souls, and we know their sentiments and feelings were carried out in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence which their own hands had written and their own minds conceived. Now, at this Chicago Convention, I saw such sights as human eyes never saw before, and heard such sounds as human ears never heard before. There were the plug-uglies from Broadway; the woolly-heads and silver-preys, and the roughs of the Bowery; there, too, were men with shingles to do the clapping, and with banners and transparencies bought at a cost of $2,500 by Auguste Belmont, the British Broker and Chairman of the Democratic Central Committee: then there was Governor Sepmour and Governor Wickliffe, and a whole host of those far, sleek old statesmen, who have been living on Uncle Sam for the last fifty years; then there was a long list of those hungry, lean, lantern-jawed, wolf like men — ex-Congressmen and the like — who have not had a bite for many a day. I pitied those poor devils, [laughter,] and I pitied myself, too, because I knew that if Uncle Sam did not take care of them, the pardoning power of the Governors would be vastly increased. [Applause and laughter.] Then there were those Sons of Liberty and Knights of the Golden Circle, those Dodd men from Indiana, who had imported arms to Indianapolis for the purpose of destroying the authority of the National Government. Then there were what we call the Lincoln soreheads — the men who believe that Old Abe is totally unqualified to discharge the duties of President because he is too obtuse to see that they are the very men to control the affairs of this country. Then there was a long list of shoddy contractors, men with gold-headed canes and diamond breast-pins, and with finger rings covering about a quarter of an acre, with, the face of George B. McClellan on them. (They have been changing those of late and getting the honest old face of Abraham Lincoln put in its place.) Then there were the British bankers and brokers, such men as Belmont, Chairman of the Democratic Central Committee, and largely interested in Southern bonds. I would just as soon have joint stocks in a respectable cabbage patch as in Southern bonds at this time. Then there were the Know Nothings — know nothings in name and know nothings in fact. [Cheers.] There was a long list of men to describe whom I will have to depend entirely on the poet. There were —
"Coxcombs and dandies, and loafers and ribblers,
Blacklegs and shavers, and peddlers and scribblers,
Bankers and brokers, and cunning buffoons.
Thieves that steal millions and thieves that steal spoons:
Rascals in raffles and rascals in rags,
Beggars in coaches and beggars on nags —
Doctors and quackers, with scalpel and pills,
Lawyers and pettifoggers, with green bags and bills,
Shylocks, unfeeling, and dealers in stocks,
some very fine ladies in splendid silk trocks:
These make the crowd that for Little Mac bellows.
Always excepting some very fine fellows."
[Immense applause and frequent peals of laughter greeted this amusingly characteristic sketch.]
But, fellow citizens, I have failed to mention the hero of that occasion, the sun of this great solar system, the man who had rendered Jeff. Davis more service than any other man in the United States of America — the illustrous exile of the
6Clifton House, Vallandigham; and I mention it as an evidence of the exalted patriotism of that Convention when they could then and there cheer and shout and applaud. Vallandigham, who has been a greater traitor than Jeff. Davis ever was or ever can be. They thought they had it all their own way, but we will show them now, will we not? [Cheers, and shouts of "we will."] When they left Chicago they left with high hopes; it was a large Convention, controlled by the men of whom I speak, by Vallandigham. I had like to have said by Jeff Davis. [A voice — "You would have been about right."] But that Convention would have done honor to Richmond much more than it did to Chicago. Controlled by such men as Vallandigham, Voorhees, Fernando Wood and Ben Wood, men who have never had an impulse of patriotism since this war began; men who have voted against furnishing supplies to our soldiers, and who have urged resistance to the draft: men who have opposed the filling up of our shattered and broken regiments; men who from the beginning of this war to the present time never uttered one solitary word in favor of the preservation of the Union and the Government. As they left Chicago they were in high feather, but we had not gone fifty miles when, coming to a depot, they took out their white handkerchiefs and waving them in the air, called noon the crowd for three cheers for George B. McClellan; but, fellow citizens, one mighty response came back from the people for Abraham Lincoln. [Loud cheers.] The people are always patriotic — they are always on the side of their country. They had been watching anxiously for news from this Convention; they caught it vibrating upon the telegraphic wire, and they had got it, and by the time we had got to Springfield I could not hear from all these men who had been in such high glee, the name of George B. McClellan mentioned one single time. It reminded me very much of the old lady who had swallowed a ball of yarn, and in attempting to draw it out became very much alarmed, and called out to her husband. "John, for God's sake come quick, for I'm raveling right out!" [Cheers and laughter.] I had not been in Springfield three hours when I came to look upon the long countenances of War Democrats upon a peace platform, and Peace Democrats with a war candidate, and saw the smile of triumph that lit up the faces of Union men, before I knew just as well as I know now, and as well as I will know, on the 10th of November next, that Abraham Lincoln will be the next President of the United States. [Loud applause.] Not sooner did the thunder of rebel cannon upon Fort Sumter rouse the American people to arms, than did the platform of the Chicago Convention cause this great people to spring to their feet and shout "down with the traitor and up with the stars." [Immense applause, loud and long continued.]
Fellow-citizens, I have said that the Chicago platform was a surrender of your Government, that it was a surrender of your Union. Now let me for a few moments call your attention to the provisions of that Chicago platform. It is announced in that Chicago platform that the war has been a failure. Did it become any set of American politicians or statesmen to admit the fact, in the face of the rebels, and thus preclude our availing ourselves of any opportunity for a fair aid peaceable negotiation in reject to our difficulties? But even if the war is a failure, who is responsible for it, who but those who have failed to give the Administration their support? Who does not know that if the Administration had been supported with unanimity by men of all parties in the tree and loyal States, that this war would have terminated long ago and terminated gloriously to our arms? Why, the only hope of Southern traitors, as announced by the Richmond papers, and by the leaders of the rebellion, is in the fact that they hope for the election of George B. McClellan, and they hope for Northern sympathy and aid, that they expect assistance from a portion of the Northern people. But is our war a failure? [Many voices: "Nary a time."] Why, fellow-citizens, I stand up here to say that of all the wars that have ever been waged upon the face of this earth, ours has been the most glorious and successful. What were the relative coalitions of the parties at the beginning of the conflict? We had nothing — we had no army, we had no navy; the South went out of the Union and took with it our army and money; they took our navy, and they took three-fourths of the territory; they blockaded our rivers, they blockaded our coasts, they took every particle of Government property which the United States had. Do you not remember when I sent the first regiments from this State, I could only send them as far as Cairo: every point of the Mississippi south of that was in the possession of the enemy. And now look at the position of this war — we have carried our arms the entire length of the Mississippi, fort Henry and Belmont, Donelson and New Madrid, Island Number Ten, Vicksburg and Port Hudson have been successfully recovered by us, until now our banners float proudly over the battlements of New Orleans, [Loud Cheers.] We have closed up the entire coast against the rebels; we have reconquered, territory fifteen hundred miles in length and seven hundred and fifty miles in breadth. Atlanta has fallen before the fierce onset of Sherman's legions, and Mobile before the thunders of Farragut's cannon; and while General Grant says that the enemy is exhausted in men and resources, and is robbing the cradle and the grave to fill up their decimated ranks, we are going to Father Abraham with "five hundred thousand more" to close up the ranks of Grant and press forward until Richmond shall fall and the rebels sue for peace. Yet these gentlemen say that this war is a failure.
Not only that, but this Chicago platform is a surrender of the Government, because it says we shall cease hostilities. Upon the very eve of final victory we are to hold out the white flag to Jeff. Davis, and ask him to be permitted to cease hostilities, with a view to a convention to adjust the difficulties which now exist between the North and the South, In other words we are to agree that our armies shall be brought back from around Grant and Sherman and Farragut; that they are to be brought back over the graves of their brave comrades, and that they are to leave them behind to be trodden on by traitors and tories; and tell Jeff. Davis that, after four years of war, we are whipped, and ask him for a convention in order to settle the difficulties which exist between us. I would say to my Democratic friends, delude not yourselves. If that is your hope for the termination of this war, for the preservation of the Union, for the peace of this country, you are very much deceived. These men have met us in every convention we have had — in the Congress of the United States — in the peace convention of 1861; they were in convention with us when they went out of the Union; they had their representatives in Congress, and while they had a majority in both Houses, while they had the President and the Cabinet, they then and there said that they would not live with us; they would not remain in this Union, and now, what better terms can you, expect when they come to meet you in convention again? Who will compose this convention? Of course the South will seen her greatest men — General Lee, General Hood, General Early, and Price, and Cantrell, and Forrest, and Benjamin, and Mason, and Slidell, and such men to compose this convention. Why, we will have the fire eaters of the South worse than we ever had them: they will come embittered by the remembrance of the bloody war in which they are engaged, and row, after they have shed rivers of blood to sustain their confederacy, do you think they will consent that the Union shall be restored, and give up their darling idea of a Southern Confederacy? We will have a worse congress than the Peace Congress of 1861: we will have a congress worse than that congress when the traitor Brooks beat the head of a Massachusetts senator, until his blood flowed down the calls of Congress. What will be the
7questions to settle? Why do you want a Convention? If you want it at all it is to ingratiate yourselves in favor of your southern brethren, it is to give them greater guarantees upon the subject of slavery, it is to protect them in what they call their southern rights. But yet you, (my Democratic friends), say you are for the constitution as it is, whilst you also say that you are for a convention to amend and alter that constitution. Patrick Mahony said to me, the other day, that he was "for the constitution as it is, amended just a little so as to kill off old Lincoln and the damned naygers". Well now, if you want a convention it is for the purpose of altering the constitution so as to give the south greater guarantees for slavery. What are the questions which have to be decided by this convention? First, there is the fugitive slave law. They will ask the loyal States to make the fugitive slave law stronger. They will then ask you to assume that rebel debt; to return to bondage every slave that is now fighting under the United States' flag, and to pay for every slave who may have been lost in the prosecution of this war. They will ask you then to establish the doctrine held among our northern Democratic leaders, the doctrine of State sovereignty and State rights. The admission of this doctrine would be our death as a nation. Its effect would be to dissolve and dismember this glorious Union, and to establish thirty-four different nations instead of one glorious and mighty Union, whose flag is known upon every continent and every island, over the broad ocean, and on every sea existing under the canopy of Heaven. But when we had met, and failed to agree, where would be our army? It would take one or two, or perhaps three years to get the machinery of this convention in motion. The time of our drafted men would have expired, the time of many of our soldiers would have expired, our armies would have been reduced, by desertion, by disease, and by death of every kind. At the end of the proceedings of this convention Jeff. Davis would say, "Have I not told you that I never would consent to any peace, except upon the terms of the recognition of the Southern Confederacy? Have I not told you that the last man of this generation should fall in his tracks before I would consent to any peace except upon the terms of recognition of the Southern Confederacy?" He would still say to the people of the North, "As I told you at first, I am for war until you acknowledge our independence." He would say to you, when you acknowledge that the war has been a failure, and allow a cessation of hostilities, "My armies are strengthened; I have got supplies from Europe; the blockade has been broken; your armies and your navies have been withdrawn, they have been reduced by desertion, and by the expiration of their terms of service, and I say to you now, as I said at the beginning, my voice is still for war."
And, on behalf of the loyal citizens of Illinois and of this country, I am here to say to Jeff. Davis, and to throw in the face of his minions and of the traitors who would, destroy our Union, that by the booming thunders of Farragut's cannon, by the terrible onslaught of Sherman's legions, by the flaming sabres of Sheridan's cavalry, and by the red battle glare of Grant's artillery, my voice is still for war. [Cheers.] War to the knife, persistent, unrelenting, stupendous extirpating war, until the last rebel shall lay down his arms, and our flag shall float in triumph over every inch of American soil. [Loud and long continued cheers.] There has been no time since the commencement of this war when these rebels might not have had peace by laying down their arms and submitting to the authority of this Government. The Administration has held out to them, the olive branch of peace all the time. The Proclamation of Emancipation was the olive branch. It said to the traitors, "we will give you one hundred days to come back into the Union and to the support of the Government, and if you do not come before the expiration of that time, we will emancipate your slaves." The amnesty proclamation was the olive branch. It told these men that if they would only swear allegiance to the Government, they should elect their Representatives to Congress, just as Representatives were elected in the free States, and enjoy all the immunities and privileges of the Government. Fellow citizens, we occupy this position: we were ready, as a great, powerful and magnanimous nation, when they laid down their arms and submitted to the authority of the Government, to receive the great mass of our Southern brethren, with open hearts and outspread arms. We only want them to follow the scriptural rule contained in the story of the prodical son. He had left the home of his father, and wandered into a far country, and in dissipation and riot had exhausted his substance; but he came to himself again, and returning to his father's house, he said, "Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and before thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." And his father put upon him fine robes, and ordered the fatted calf to be killed, saying, "this my son was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found." That is all we ask of our Southern brethren. Let them come to themselves; let them obey the laws and the Constitution of the United States; let them lay down their arms, and all the masses of the Southern Confederacy, who have been deluded by these traitors, shall be received, and Jeff. Davis and the leaders of the rebellion we will hang as high as Haman. [Loud cheers.]
But every act that has been adopted, by the Government of the United States for overcoming the rebellion and coercing the rebels into submission to the authority of the Government, has been declared by these Northern traitors and sympathizers to be unconstitutional. The Proclamation of Emancipation is unconstitutional, the Confiscation Act is unconstitutional, the draft is unconstitutional, but the acts of Jeff. Davis are never complained of as being unconstitutional. The acts of the man who has overthrown the Government are never complained of as unconstitutional, when they really are the only unconstitutional acts whatever. You all remember that the walls of Jericho were destroyed by the blowing of rams' horns. If that had happened now they would have said that that was an unconstitutional mode of destroying Jericho [applause] because it was not contained in the Ten Commandments. Now, fellow citizens, we believe that whatever is necessary to overcome the rebellion, whatever act may be necessary to suppress this rebellion is constitutional. That is the law of this case: that is the law of nations; and whatever acts the President may adopt as necessary to put down this rebellion is constitutional.
Now I have done with the platform. Here come the candidates, and then I will leave you. George B. McClellan is named upon the Chicago platform, and you say he is a war candidate. If he is a war candidate, is it honorable in him to accept a nomination upon a peace platform? [Cries of "No."] If it is not honorable in him, is it not dishonorable in you to support him? I will ask you, my Democratic friend, if, when Sumter was fired on, and seventy-five thousand men were called out, was it not right? Is there a Democrat here who says that was not right? Is there a poor, craven, cowardly descendant of Jackson, or of any one else, will say it was not the duty of Lincoln to suppress and put down this rebellion? If you would not have done it, would you have done your duty? You say, well, I am for the man — I will swallow the platform because I like the man. It reminds me of a certain Deacon who was tried before the church for drinking brandy and water. When asked whether he was guilty or not guilty, he said not guilty as to the water. [Roars of laughter.] He was guilty as to the brandy but not as to the water.
We have presented you, as a candidate, Honest Old Abraham Lincoln.
Fellow-citizens, Abraham Lincoln is the truest representative of our Government, of the working man, of any one I know — of a Government where each man is equal to every other man, not ruled by king or potentate, or power, but by a majority, where one man has as much right to vote as any other man, and has the control of the laws as much as Abraham Lincoln. You say who shall rule you as much as any other man. It is the only Government on the face of the earth where the poor man has equal rights and privileges with the rich man.
I remember visiting him at his home in Menard county, nearly thirty-two years ago. I went specially some thirty miles to see him. He was still at work on his farm. In 1831, I ascended the Illinois River, from the State of Kentucky, on a packet loaded with bacon and seed corn for the State of Illinois. There were but few settlements then; they were confined to the woods that skirted our rivers and the groves that interspersed our prairies. I came to this country only thirty-four years ago, and though I was a poor and untutored boy, yet, living under a Government which gives every poor devil a chance, I stand up before you to-day as the proud though humble Governor of two millions of people; and Abraham Lincoln, that boy I visited on his farm, has ascended to the highest summit of human power. He had an education like myself — like most of ourselves and our friends — scarcely a common school education during these days, and I confess that, while we found fault with him, that his proclamation did not come quick enough, while I sent him, myself, some flaming, fiery dispatches, yet I found out that I was too fast and not Abraham Lincoln; because, when I went down to Washington, he showed me his proclamation, and says he, "Dick, that proclamation was written two months before I got your telegram, but the time for it had not come till the people of the North saw the necessity of transferring the negroes to our aide, instead of have them fighting on the rebel side. Fellow-citizens, I have seen his head hang low; I have seen the furrows of thought and painful anxiety upon his countenance; I have seen him opposing opinions, contending with free State men, and reconciling free State men and border State men, slave men and anti-slave men Among them, all I have seen him stand self-poised, and I believe that as George Washington was the chosen of Almighty God to guide our fathers through the Revolutionary war, so Abraham Lincoln is the chosen of God, to guide our people to the shores of deliverance on the other side of this rebellion. (Loud and repeated applause.) And fellow citizens, when these young soldiers, these boys with the curly locks, shall have become gray with the frosts of many winters, when they shall gather around their firesides with their old comrades, and tell how Grant stormed the heights of Vicksburg, or pressed the enemy through Shiloh's bloody woods; how Logan fought at the head of his legion, where Dick Oglesby was wounded, where that brave comrade is laid, and he will say "Honest Old Abe too, he did mighty well — he was not, the Governor of one State, but he was the President of thirty-four states of this Union: he had perplexities each as never devolved on any of them; he had to supply an army near one million strong, to employ all the agencies of transportation — steamboats, railroads, and every other sort of conveyance: he had to send to the last soldier of that army his rations three times a day, and he stood firm and undaunted amidst the clamor of politicians, he stood true to his country, and he swore, as General Jackson swore, that "this Union must and shall be preserved." As long as the Mississippi shall flow, so long will the name of Abraham Lincoln, live in his messages, in his correspondence, in his writings, in all his noble acts: that name will go down and blazon history's proudest, brightest page, to the last syllable of recorded time.
Be of good faith, be of good cheer. I have had an unfaltering faith that our country would be delivered. I have had faith in Almighty God that this chosen people should never be surrendered to cowards and traitors to destroy it. We have the gallant Grant at the wheel, and Sherman at the prow, to guide our good old Ship of State through the storm and carry our flag in triumph through the battle and the breeze, and, as she sails amid the rocks on one side and the reefs on the other, all the loyal men of America will say "Sail on, oh Ship of State," &c., &c.
I just wish to call your attention to the fact that, during the eighty five years of the illustrious career and prosperity of this country, from the beginning of this Government to the present time, there has been no nation upon the face of this earth where the people have rejoiced in so many blessings as we have done; there is no country where the people are so perfectly free, where one man is the equal of every other man; where the majority rule; where there are no Kings nor despots; where the laws have been so wisely administered: where education has been so universally disseminated: where the influences of religion have had so much weight upon the minds of millions of men; there is no country beneath the sun where the fires of human liberty have burnt so steadily and brightly in the human heart as in these United States of America. Will you destroy that country?
I must, acknowledge my obligations to you, to this glorious old county, for the hearty expression of opinion you have given me in the trying crisis in which I had to run the machine of state. I must thank you that when the tocsin of war was scudded you sent your brave boys among the one hundred and ninety-seven thousand that have rallied to the defense of their country — that have nobly fought, and nobly fallen. What I ask of you now is, that by all the memories of history, by all your hopes for the future, by the unnumbered graves where sleep the bones of our brave boys upon so many battle fields, by all the grand solemnities which surround the name and memory of Washington, by all your hopes of liberty, by all the aspirations of Christian freedom, I call upon you to renew your allegiance to-day, and to say so long as these trees shall green or these prairies bloom, your posterity shall enjoy all the blessings which your fathers have given to you, and that you will transmit to your children in all their purity the United States of America. [Immense applause.]
The speaker retired from the platform amid the most enthusiastic cheering, which did not subside for some minutes.