Primary tabs

Fragment on Sectionalism

299

It is constantly objected to Fremont and Dayton, that they are supported by a sectional party, who by their sectionalism endanger the national Union. This objection, more than all others, causes men really opposed to slavery

300

extension to hesitate. Practically, it is the most difficult objection we have to meet. For this reason I now propose to examine it a little more carefully than I have heretofore done, or seen it done by others. First, then, what is the question between the parties respectively represented by Buchanan and Fremont? Simply this, "Shall slavery be allowed to extend into United States territories now legally free?" Buchanan says it shall, and Fremont says it shall not.

That is the naked issue, and the whole of it. Lay the respective platforms side by side, and the difference between them will be found to amount to precisely that. True, each party charges upon the other designs much beyond what is involved in the issue as stated; but as these charges cannot be fully proved either way, it is probably better to reject them on both sides, and stick to the naked issue as it is clearly made up on the record.

And now to restate the question, "Shall slavery be allowed to extend into United States territories now legally free?" I beg to know how one side of that question is more sectional than the other? Of course I expect to effect nothing with the man who makes the charge of sectionalism without caring whether it is just or not. But of the candid, fair man who has been puzzled

301

with this charge, I do ask how is one side of this question more sectional than the other? I beg of him to consider well, and answer calmly.

If one side be as sectional as the other, nothing is gained, as to sectionalism, by changing sides; so that each must choose sides of the question on some other ground, as I should think, according as the one side or the other shall appear nearest right. If he shall really think slavery ought to be extended, let him go to Buchanan; if he think it ought not, let him go to Fremont.

But Fremont and Dayton are both residents of the free States, and this fact has been vaunted in high places as excessive sectionalism. While interested individuals become indignant and excited against this manifestation of sectionalism, I am very happy to know that the Constitution remains calm--keeps cool--upon the subject. It does say that President and Vice-President shall be residents of different States, but it does not say that one must live in a slave and the other in a free State.

It has been a custom to take one from a slave and the other from a free State; but the custom has not at all been uniform. In 1828 General Jackson and Mr. Calhoun, both from slave States, were placed on the same ticket; and Mr.

302

Adams and Dr. Rush, both from free States, were pitted against them. General Jackson and Mr. Calhoun were elected, and qualified and served under the election, yet the whole thing never suggested the idea of sectionalism. In 1841 the President, General Harrison, died, by which Mr. Tyler, the Vice-President and a slave-State man, became President. Mr. Mangum, another slave-State man, was placed in the vice-presidential chair, served out the term, and no fuss about it, no sectionalism thought of. In 1853 the present President came into office. He is a free-State man. Mr. King, the new Vice-President elect, was a slave-State man; but he died without entering on the duties of his office. At first his vacancy was filled by Atchison, another slave-State man; but he soon resigned, and the place was supplied by Bright, a free State man. So that right now, and for the half year last past, our President and Vice-President are both actually free-State men. But it is said the friends of Fremont avow the purpose of electing him exclusively by free-State votes, and that this is unendurable sectionalism.

This statement of fact is not exactly true. With the friends of Fremont it is an expected necessity, but it is not an "avowed purpose," to elect him, if at all, principally by free-State votes; but it is with equal intensity true that

303

Buchanan's friends expect to elect him, if at all, chiefly by slave-State votes. Here, again, the sectionalism is just as much on one side as the other.

The thing which gives most color to the charge of sectionalism, made against those who oppose the spread of slavery into free territory, is the fact that they can get no votes in the slave States, while their opponents get all, or nearly so, in the slave States, and also a large number in the free States. To state it in another way, the extensionists can get votes all over the nation, while the restrictionists can get them only in the free States.

This being the fact, why is it so? It is not because one side of the question dividing them is more sectional than the other, nor Because of any difference in the mental or moral structure of the people North and South. It is because in that question the people of the South have an immediate palpable and immensely great pecuniary interest, while with the people of the North it is merely an abstract question of moral right, with only slight and remote pecuniary interest added.

The slaves of the South, at a moderate estimate, are worth a thousand millions of dollars. Let it be permanently settled that this property may extend to new territory without restraint,

304

and it greatly enhances, perhaps quite doubles, its value at once. This immense palpable pecuniary interest on the question of extending slavery unites the Southern people as one man. But it cannot be demonstrated that the North will gain a dollar by restricting it. Moral principle is all, or nearly all, that unites us of the North. Pity it is, it is so, but this is a looser bond than pecuniary interest. Right here is the plain cause of their perfect union and our want of it. And see how it works. If a Southern man aspires to be President, they choke him down instantly, in order that the glittering prize of the presidency may be held up on Southern terms to the greedy eyes of Northern ambition. With this they tempt us and break in upon us.

The Democratic party in 1844 elected a Southern President. Since then they have neither had a Southern candidate for election nor nomination. Their conventions of 1848, 1852 and 1856 have been struggles exclusively among Northern men, each vying to outbid the other for the Southern vote; the South standing calmly by to finally cry "Going, going, gone" to the highest bidder, and at the same time to make its power more distinctly seen, and thereby to secure a still higher bid at the next succeeding struggle.

"Actions speak louder than words" is the

305

maxim, and if true the South now distinctly says to the North, "Give us the measures and you take the men." The total withdrawal of Southern aspirants for the presidency multiplies the number of Northern ones. These last, in competing with each other, commit themselves to the utmost verge that, through their own greediness, they have the least hope their Northern supporters will bear. Having got committed in a race of competition, necessity drives them into union to sustain themselves. Each at first secures all he can on personal attachments to him and through hopes resting on him personally. Next they unite with one another and with the perfectly banded South, to make the offensive position they have got into "a party measure." This done, large additional numbers are secured.

When the repeal of the Missouri Compromise was first proposed, at the North there was literally "nobody" in favor of it. In February, 1854, our legislature met in called, or extra, session. From them Douglas sought an indorsement of his then pending measure of repeal. In our legislature were about seventy Democrats to thirty Whigs. The former held a caucus, in which it was resolved to give Douglas the desired indorsement. Some of the members of the caucus bolted--would not stand it--and they

306

now divulge the secrets. They say that the caucus fairly confessed that the repeal was wrong, and they pleaded the determination to indorse it solely on the ground that it was necessary to sustain Douglas. Here we have the direct evidence of how the Nebraska bill obtained its strength in Illinois. It was given, not in a sense of right, but in the teeth of a sense of wrong, to sustain Douglas. So Illinois was divided. So New England for Pierce, Michigan for Cass, Pennsylvania for Buchanan, and all for the Democratic party.

And when by such means they have got a large portion of the Northern people into a position contrary to their own honest impulses and sense of right, they have the impudence to turn upon those who do stand firm, and call them sectional. Were it not too serious a matter, this cool impudence would be laughable, to say the least. Recurring to the question, "Shall slavery be allowed to extend into United States territory now legally free?" This is a sectional question --that is to say, it is a question in its nature calculated to divide the American people geographically. Who is to blame for that? Who can help it? Either side can hold it; but how? Simply by yielding to the other side; there is no other way; in the whole range of possibility there is no other way. Then, which side shall yield?

307

To this, again, there can be but one answer--the side which is in the wrong. True, we differ as to which side is wrong, and we boldly say, let all who really think slavery ought to be spread into free territory, openly go over against us; there is where they rightfully belong. But why should any go who really think slavery ought not to spread? Do they really think the right ought to yield to the wrong? Are they afraid to stand by the right? Do they fear that the Constitution is too weak to sustain them in the right? Do they really think that by right surrendering to wrong the hopes of our Constitution, our Union, and our liberties can possibly be bettered?

Share