The Fall Elections
An attack of fever is always followed by a reaction. It never leaves the system precisely as it found it. The analogy holds in regard to politics. A period of excitement is always followed by a period of indifference. It is impossible to keep the public mind always in a condition of fervid and aroused attention. Now and then it may be excited to such a state, –which, however, is always followed by one of inattention to public affairs. It is not more than once in eight years that the country is convulsed even by a Presidential contest. In 1832, 1840, 1848 and 1856 the canvass was one of tremendous heat and public passion: –at every other election it has been comparatively tame and spiritless. These excitements are always favorable to the opposition, –and it is only when they have occurred that the Democracy has been defeated. The great majority of the people of the whole country, in ordinary times, belong to the Democratic Party: –and if nothing unusual affects the canvass, if no great conflict of principle or of administration breaks in upon the regular cause of party action, the Democrats are always victorious. In 1840 the new financial experiments of the Government, the newly developed corruption in the administration of public affairs, and the commercial and pecuniary distress which pervaded the whole country, aroused a whirlwind of public feeling which swept the Democracy out of power. In 1848 the same public excitement was aroused by the proposal to carry Slavery into the new territories: –and in 1856 the struggle between Slavery and Freedom in Kansas and at Washington, –exasperated by violence and bloodshed at both points, –roused the resentment of the people of the whole North, and gave us the first experience of a sectional contest between the North and South. It was by far the sharpest and most formidable struggle which political parties in this country have ever waged: –and its very heat and vehemence were proofs that it could not immediately occur again.
The reaction of 1856 is seen in the election of 1857; and the Republican Party which profited most by the excitement then, loses most by the reaction now. It has lost ground largely everywhere. In Pennsylvania it is for the time almost extinguished. In Ohio, where it was overwhelmingly strong last year, it is virtually defeated now. In the other Western States where elections have been held, it has suffered greatly, and in this State next month it will also show a greatly diminished vote. The same causes which have operated in Pennsylvania and Ohio, will also operate here, and although it seems improbable that the very large Republican majority of last Fall should be overcome, it is certain that it will be very greatly impaired.
The Kansas question and others to which it gave rise, were the great issues of 1856. These issues were substantially settled by the result of that contest. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise, as a fait accompli, was acquiesced in, –and the principle of popular sovereignty was adopted for the territories, in place of the sovereignty of Congress. At the same time the public condemnation of the violence, outrages and frauds practiced in Kansas, was unmistakably expressed. A very large portion of the Northern Republican vote was due to the fact that the people of Kansas had been defrauded of their rights, outraged in their persons and property, and cheated of the Sovereignty over their own affairs which had been promised them. The action of Mr. BUCHANAN’S Administration has led a very large portion of the public to believe that these outrages will be practiced no longer, –that the laws will be equally and fairly enforced, and that the institutions of Kansas will be such as the people of Kansas may prescribe. The Democratic Party has thus gained strength at the North by the course of the Administration in Kansas: and it will continue to gain just in proportion as it continues to protect the people of that Territory in the full and free exercise of the rights solemnly guaranteed to them in the Kansas and Nebraska bill.
We believe it to be in the power of this Administration to prevent a renewal of the Slavery agitation at least for some years to come. If it will firmly and resolutely adhere to the principles and the policy set forth in the Cincinnati platform, –as they have been understood by the great body of the Democratic Party throughout the country; –if it will secure to the bona fide inhabitants of every Territory the right to decide for themselves whether Slavery shall or shall not be tolerated by the State Constitution which they may form, –and that they shall then be admitted into the Union upon an equal footing with the original States, it will answer all the just expectations of the great mass of the people, and hold a position which cannot be disturbed by the ultras and fanatics of either section. But if it departs from this just and fair ground, under fear of menaces or assaults from any quarter, it will renew and augment the excitement which proved so nearly fatal to its power a year ago.