WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?
No wonder, says the Harrisburg Union, that some of the leading organs of Republicanism writhe under the disclosures of the insurrection at Harper’s Ferry. The first accounts received were ambiguous. They were not such as to connect the outrages of Ossawatomie Brown and his associates with their former well-known confederates in the North. But the evidence deepens, and each hour adds new testimony. – Letters and remittances have been found among the effects of the insurgents, from Gerrit Smith and Fred. Douglass. Other documents are in possession of Governor Wise, of Virginia, the purport of which is not yet known to us. No wonder that the Evening Post, Tribune, and other journals of the same class, would fain palliate the enormities which have sent such a thrill of horror through the land. Well do they know that the sanguinary scenes of Harper’s were but the carrying out of the principles inculcated by such journals. Well do they remember the proceedings at the North Church, New Haven, on the 21st of March, 1856, when SILLIMAN, KILLEM & Co., subscribed rifles wherewith to arm their fellow-citizens who were about proceeding to Kansas; and when Rev. Mr. Beecher shouted – “If twenty-five rifles can be raised on the spot, I will pledge twenty-five more for Plymouth Church!” Twenty-seven were procured, and the pledge, thus publicly given, we may presume was fulfilled. At any rate, the scent of blood – the blood of slaveholders – has been snuffed by men at the North and East, including (shame on them!) many professed disciples and even ministers of the Prince of Peace; and we may safely say that the large stores of arms, ammunition, &c., found among the effects of the insurgents, were not purchased with their own money. Many others must have been concerned with them, to supply such an amount of the sinews of war. Brown says he brought all the arms from Connecticut and other eastern points; and that among them were two hundred revolvers, two hundred Sharpe’s rifles, and one thousand spears, together with an abundance of powder and other ammunition. The cost of these articles could not be less than $10,000 or $12,000.
Again it is stated that “bushels of letters have been discovered” among the effects of the insurgents, “from all parts of the country.”
Brown further states that he was expecting reinforcements from Maryland, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, and from Canada.
A Republican paper, which is supposed to be well posted in all matters relating to the “irresponsible conflict,” acknowledges that the colored population of New York city were secretly advised of the plot, prior to its outbreak. Were not others besides colored people aware of it?
From all these facts, it is evident that the ramifications of the conspiracy were extensive, and that very many persons must have been privy to it, North and South, white and black.
Where, then, rests the responsibility of this insurrection? Who is responsible for the many lives lost, and for the hangings and imprisonments which are yet to follow? Do not words THOU ART THE MAN from down upon every one of those persons, whether editors, clergymen, or other citizens, who have aided, directly or indirectly, in exciting or promoting the fatal attempt? It matters not that they though they were doing God service. It is vain that they asservate, in the distressed language of one of our contemporaries, that “no political party is responsible,” and plead in extenuation of the atrocities of Brown, that he was “crazy.” To be sure he was crazy, and has long been so; but he is no more crazy than those by whom he has so long been encouraged in his bloody career.
It is not our intention to say that all, or even a large part, of those who abetted Brown in his course in Kansas, would distinctly approve of his conduct at Harper’s Ferry. They would at least say that he should have managed the matter better. Many of them, we trust, would denounce the whole movement, from beginning to end. And yet they may be in a measure responsible for it. For while teaching the doctrine of “irrepressible conflict” between the slave and free States, and furnishing material aid for open operations in one quarter, their disciples, less discreet, have made it available for service in what they deemed the same cause, in another locality. It is easy to trace the connection between cause and effect, - between the teachings of the leading spirits of Republicanism, and the practice of their willing instruments, in carrying out the spirit of the doctrines thus inculcated. If the latter are less prudent than their leaders, it is by no means certain that they are less responsible before the bar of public opinion.
We may readily believe [illegible] known in regard to the [illegible]racy. Important facts, [illegible] be divulged. In the meantime, let wise men ponder upon the following paragraphs from Mr. SEWARD’S famous speech at Rochester. In the light of recent developments, they have a new significance:
HE DECLARES FOR COLLISION AND AN IRRESPRESSIBLE CONFLICT BETWEEN NORTH AND SOUTH – A BLOODY ISSUE.
“Thus these antagonistic systems are continually coming into closer contact, and collision results. Shall I tell you what this collision means? They who think that it is accidental, unnecessary, the work of interested or fanatical agitators, and therefore ephemeral, mistake the case altogether. It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become entirely a free labor nation. Either the cotton and rice fields of South Carolina and the sugar plantations of Louisiana will ultimately be tilled by free labor, and Charleston and New Orleans become marts for legitimate merchandize alone, or else the rye fields and the wheat fields of Massachusetts and New York must again be surrendered by their farmers to slave culture and to the production of slaves, and Boston and New York become once more markets for trade in the bodies and souls of men. It is the failure to apprehend this great truth that induces so many unsuccessful attempts at final compromise between the slave & free States, and it is the existence of this great fact that renders all such pretended compromise, when made, vain and ephemeral. Startling as this saying may appear to you, fellow-citizens, it is by no means an original or even a modern one.
“Our forefathers knew it to be true, and unanimously acted upon it when they framed the Constitution of the United States. They regarded the existence of the servile system in so many of the States with sorrow and shame, which they openly confessed, and they looked upon the collision between them, which was then just revealing itself, and which we are now accustomed to deplore, with favor and hope. – They knew that either the one or the other system should surely and certainly prevail.”
“At last the Republican party has appeared. It avows now, as the Republican party in 1800 did, in one word, its faith and its works: - ‘Equal and exact justice to all men.’ Even when it first entered the field, only half organized, it struck a blow which only just failed to secure a complete and triumphant victory. In this, its second campaign, it has already won advantages which render that triumph now both easy and certain. The secret of its assured success lies in the very characteristic which, in the mouths of scoffers, constitutes its great and lasting imbecility and reproach. It lies in the fact that it is a party of one idea; but that idea is a noble one – an idea that fills and expands all generous souls – the idea of equality – the equality of all men before human tribunals and human laws, as they are all equal before the Divine tribunal and Divine laws. I know, and you know, that a revolution has begun. I know, and all the world knows, that revolutions never go backward. Twenty Senators and a hundred Representatives proclaim boldly in Congress today sentiments, and opinions, and principles of freedom which hardly so many men in this State, dared to utter in their homes twenty years ago.”