Letter from Salmon Portland Chase to James Shepard Pike, May 12, 1858, First Blows of the Civil War: the Ten Years of Preliminary Conflict in the United States, from 1850 to 1860 (New York: American News Company, 1879), 526.
Pike, James Shepard
The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
Columbus, May 12, 1858.
My Dear Sir: In the Tribune of the 12th there is an article in relation to interference of East with West, which in many respects seems to me fair and just, but which contains an allusion which I would like to have explained, to "a secret coalition between certain Republican leaders and the little faction, etc., who, for the sake, etc., pretend to approve the Lecompton fraud, and are now hounding on the track of Senator Douglas." As some correspondent of the Times was weak enough to believe, or wicked enough to invent, the story that Mr. Buchanan had a letter of mine approving of the Lecompton bill, which statement was very extensively copied, it occurred to me on reading the foregoing extract that some allusion might be intended to me as one of the Republican leaders coalescing with the Lecomptonites against Douglas; and as I am sure you are a personal friend, I thought I would write you and ascertain the truth. Nothing could possibly be further from the truth than the assertion that I ever by word or deed intimated the slightest disposition to consent to the Lecompton iniquity. Resistance to it by all means not dishonorable, and to the last extremity, was ever my counsel to all who thought it worth asking for. I even counselled against the contingent consent proposed by the Crittenden amendment, and would never, had I been in Congress, have voted for that proposed by the Montgomery amendment, except as the only means left of defeating the direct consent to the Lecompton bill. Regarding it as the only means left, I should have acted just as our friends in the House acted, whose votes, under the circumstances, for that amendment I have constantly approved and still approve. If the Lecompton bill had passed, it would have been expedient, in my judgment, for the new State members and officers elected under the Lecompton Constitution on the 4th of January to take possession of the government, and, abstaining from all other action, call forthwith a convention to form a new constitution and organize forthwith as a Free State under that. Happily, the practical defeat of the Lecompton bill did not make it necessary to determine the practical question of adopting or rejecting this line of policy. Such, in brief, are my positions, and I think them impregnably sound.
As to coalescing for any purpose with the Lecomptonites who are "hounding on the track of Senator Douglas," if any allusion is intended to me, or any Republicans whose action is known to me, it is certainly groundless. Confidence with me is not a plant of swift growth, and before I indulge in any extravagant laudations of a man I want to know not merely what his action has been in a prior contingency, but upon what principles he acted and what guarantees these will afford of his future action. That Douglas acted boldly, decidedly, effectively, I agree. That he has acted in consistency with his own principle of majority-sovereignty I also freely admit. For his resistance to the Lecompton bill as a gross violation of his principle, and to the English bill, for the same reason, he has my earnest thanks. I cannot forget, however, that he has steadily avowed his equal readiness to vote for the admission of Kansas as a Slave or a Free State, in accordance with the will of the majority of the voters; that he has constantly declared his acquiescence in the Dred Scott decision, which makes slave territory of all national territory, leaving to freedom only a partial and precarious possession of Free States; and that he indorses and maintains the platform lately adopted in Illinois, which is diametrically opposed to the declaration hitherto made by Republican conventions, State or national. If holding these sentiments in regard to the position of Mr. D. is coalescing with Lecomptonites, I am guilty, and mean to continue guilty. Otherwise, I repeat, the allusion, if any be intended, to me, or those who agree with me, is groundless. I cannot believe, however, that any was intended.
I am very certain that the great masses of the Republican party agree with me in determination to maintain Republican principles without compromise, welcoming cordially all aid, whether temporary or permanent, grateful to all aiders who act on real principle, whether our own or others, but firmly resolved not to leave our own to stand on foreign ground. We shall not adopt the notion that all that is necessary to make slavery a good thing is the consent of the majority of the voters; nor, in our judgment, can any party command or deserve the confidence of the country which does. "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof is death." There is a road that seemeth to lead to success, but the end thereof is defeat.
Excuse me for writing you at this length, and pardon me for a little sensitiveness to allusions, which were probably not at all intended for me. Write me soon explaining what the Tribune really means. From what I have heard from the office, I have supposed that none but kind feelings towards myself were entertained; and it will give me great satisfaction to have your assurance that this information was correct, and that those feelings have undergone no change.
I hoped to hear from Mrs. Pike and yourself in reply to my last. Why have you not written? With best regards to her, and cordial remembrances of both, I am,
Ever sincerely your friend,
S. P. Chase.