The Slavery Agitation – The Issue Before Congress and the Country.
What is the meaning of these exciting debates at Washington, of this alarm in the South, and of those recent conservative movements in Philadelphia and Boston for pouring oil upon the troubled waters? “What has earned this great commotion?” What is the issue before Congress and the country? What is the danger? In a brief sentence, the issue is the overthrow of slavery in the slave States, and the danger is disunion.
Three years ago the slavery agitation between the North and the South, in Congress an in our political elections, was confined to the Territories, upon the still unsettled test question of Kansas. But in 1858, the law of “popular sovereignty” having substantially determined the Kansas struggle against slavery, our modern republican party, founded in 1858 upon that “one idea,” was in danger of being left high and dry. So, in our State election of last year, Gerrit Smith having set himself up as an independent radical abolition candidate for Governor, our republican managers became alarmed, for there was danger that Smith would carry off a sufficient fragment of the radical anti-slavery republican vote to give the State to the democratic party. This would never do. Mr. Seward was called to the rescue; and to reclaim the deserters, and to prevent any further desertions to Gerrit Smith, he issued that Rochester manifesto, proclaiming the new republican programme of an “irrepressible conflict” with slavery, not in the Territories, but in the slave States.
Thus, by taking the ground from under the feet of Gerrit Smith, he was reduced to the pitiful vote of some five thousand, and Morgan, the republican candidate, was triumphantly elected our Governor. Such was the direct object, and such was the effect of the Rochester speech of Seward. It kept the abolition elements of the republican party in the camp, upon the broad and comprehensive issue of a perpetual war upon slavery in the slave States. Thus the foundation was laid of the present formidable superstructure of Northern abolitionism – not defensive, as before, but aggressive, even to the employment of the instruments of war.
Next in order, and following close upon this Rochester declaration of aggressive war against slavery, we find a Southern renegade, of the appropriate name of Helper, and his incendiary “Impending Crisis,” brought into play. We find said incendiary and treasonable book endorsed, approved and recommended by some fifty odd republican members of the last Congress, including Sherman, their present candidate for Speaker; and we find that an organized republican movement for the general circulation of said book has been seconded by a subscription of one hundred dollars fro Governor Morgan, and a similar subscription each from Thurlow Weed and Horace Greely, the two principal trumpeters of the republican party. This party thus became clearly implicated in and pledged and committed to the “irrepressible conflict,” as put into shape and form in Helper’s plan of a Southern servile and agrarian insurrection.
The theory of “irrepressible conflict” being thus reduced to a scheme of offensive operations, nothing was wanting to put it into practice but some Puritanical and bold and fearless fanatic, ready to sacrifice himself to inaugurate this revolutionary movement.
From the camp of the disbanded Kansas free State border ruffians the most fitting volunteers for this service came forward under “Old Brown;” and of all men Brown, from his religious principles as an abolition cutthroat, from his indomitable pluck, his consistency and constancy in his “Kansas work,” was the man for this horrible experiment of martyrdom. He and his band of desperate followers have thus been sacrificed. Our Northern republican politicians are using “Brown” as they made use of the dead body of a counterfeit Morgan some twenty-five years ago; but this time they have been overdoing their work. Seward’s “irrepressible conflict,” Helper’s “Impending Crisis,” and Brown’s Harper’s Ferry raid, taken all together, have very naturally driven the South to the question of safety, either within or without the Union.
The issue before Congress and the country is the abolition of slavery in the slave States. We know that Mr. Seward pleads the plea of a constitutional crusade; but we know that constitutions and laws can be twisted into any shape by designing and reckless men. Helper and Brown are the true interpreters of the “irrepressible conflict.” It means an aggressive conflict against slavery, a conflict of abolition forays from the fee States, of servile revolts, of agrarian conspiracies, and the subjugation and suppression of slavery and the “slave power” by terrorism, and by fire and sword. Such are the results and tendencies comprehended in the new programme of the republican party, adopted since the practical settlement of the slavery question in the Territories. The war is transferred to the slave States, and “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
With this dark and terrific picture, drawn from the events, movements, developments of the day, we can appreciate the critical position of the Southern States. We can understand this alarm among our Southern people. We have the key to these exciting debates in Congress. We can perceive that, as self-preservation of the Union has become a secondary question in the South. We can no longer shut our eyes to the fact that the Union is in danger. And so, upon this test question of the Speaker, and against the republican candidate, whose name is among the endorsers of Helper’s handbook of treason, we approve the stand taken by the democrats and by the conservative opposition members of the House. If our voice could decide it, we would say to them, continue to resist the election of Sherman, or any other endorser of Helper, to the Speaker’s chair, even this resistance shall consume the session without the election of a Speaker.
Let us have a distinct understanding and settlement with the republican upon this “irrepressible conflict,” as the first, and last and paramount question of the day.