Slike strani
PDF
ePub

his second term as a whig, and Banks came in, for the first time, as a democrat from Massachusetts. From New York, there was Cutting, a man of ability, a democrat; Ilaven, a whig, of the “Fillmore" school, and Fenton, a democrat, now the Union Governor of New York. Illinois sent Douglas and Shields to the Senate. Among the members of the House were William H. Bissell, Richard Yates, and Elihu B.Washburne; the two first have since been Governors. From Missouri, the great Benton, after thirty years of service in the Senate, came into the House to give thic country the benefit of his long experience and profound statesmanship.

On the 4th of January, 1854, Mr. Douglas introduced into the Senate, what was afterwards known as the KansasNebraska-bill, accompanied by a special report. On the 16th day of January, Mr. Dixon, a Senator from Kentucky, gave notice that he would offer an amendment to Mr. Douglas' bill, repealing, in distinct terms, the Missouri Compromise. On the next day, Mr. Sumner gave notice of an amendment he would offer to the bill of Mr. Douglas, declaring that nothing in the proposed act should affect the Missouri Compromise. On the 23d of January, Mr. Douglas reported a substitute for the original bill, making, instead of Nebraska Territory, the two Territories of Nebraska and Kansas. And, he added to this substitute, an amendment to that part of it declaring that the Constitution and laws of the United States, which were not locally inapplicable, should be in full force, with the following exception, which exception involved more stupendous consequences than were contained in any law of as many lines :

ever

“Except the eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March 6, 1820, which was superceded by the principles of the legislation of 1850, commonly called the Compromise Measures, and is declared inoperative."

This proposition startled the Senate and the people. It broke down the barriers which, by a sacred compact, had been erected against the extension of slavery, and the waves of popular indignation were lashed into fury; and the excitement continued until it pervaded all the land.

The consideration of the bill was postponed by the Senate from the 24th to the 30th of January, and made a special order. During that time, an address was issued to the people, warning them of the proposed legislation, and criticising with great force and severity the provisions of Mr. Douglas' bill. This address was signed by Senators Chase and Sumner, by Giddings and Wade, Representatives from Ohio, by Gerrit Smith, a Representative from New York, and Alex. De Witt, a Representative from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The bill, coming up in the Senate, according to order, the discussion was opened by a speech from Mr. Douglas. At this time, this Illinois Senator was the idol of his party and in the zenith of his popularity, as well as in the prime of his physical and intellectual power. He was a man of an iron constitution and a strong and acute intellect. Possessed of a wonderful memory, without being a scholar, his mind was well stored with practical and accurate information. He never forgot anything he had ever read, or seen, or heard ; and he had that happy faculty of a politician, of always remembering names and faces. His resources were always at his command, and he needed little preparation. Of a kind and genial disposition, with a frank, open, and cordial manner, endowed with remarkable conversational powers, bold, dashing, and somewhat reckless, he had all the qualities which go to make up a great popular leader, in a degree equal to any man of American history. Asta speaker and debater, either in the Senate or on the stump, he had few equals. He spoke, always, with great fluency and power. He seized the strong points of his case, and enforced them with great vigor. Quick and ready to seize the weak points of his antagonist, he would drive them home with strong and well-applied blows, never being disposed to yield an advantage which he had once obtained. He brought to the accomplishment of his object, in the passage of his bill, bis

vast influence, his indomitable energy and unyielding determination; and, in the pursuit of his purpose, it could be said of him that “no danger daunted and no labors tired. His speech on the bill was able and eloquent, but bitter, defiant and abusive.

It is believed that Mr. Douglas lived to see the day, when he deeplv regretted his action on the Nebraska bill; and the loyal people of this country, of all parties, will not forget, that in the early days of our Nation's great trial, without hesitation, he rallied his friends around the flag, and threw the weight of his great influence on the side of the Government, and against the black-hearted and perfidious traitors who so wickedly sought its overthrow. The people of this Nation owe a debt of gratitude to his memory,for his patriotic speech before the Legislature of Illinois in April, 1861, and at Chicago soon afterwards. Dying in June thereafter, he left those great utterances as his richest legacies to posterity. His ashes repose on the bank of the magnificent Lake which washes the northeastern border of the great State he loved 80 well.

Messrs. Seward, Chase, Sumner and Hale led the opposi. tion to the bill. On the 3d of February, Mr. Chase boldly took up the gauntlet which Mr. Douglas had so defiantly tbrown down. His speech was one of remarkable eloquence, power, and logic, and made a profound impression on the country. He referred to the peaceful state of the nation when the Congress met, and before the introduction of the bill of Mr. Douglas; “but suddenly,” said he, “all was changed. Rolling thunder broke from the cloudless firmament; the storm burst forth in fury; warring winds rushed into conflict.

'Eurus, Notusque ruunt, creberque procellis, Yes, sir, 'creber procellis Africus,' the South wind thick with storm. And now we find ourselves in the midst of an agitation, the end and issue of which no man can foresee.” But the end, which no man could then foresee, has come, and the eye of that great and early apostle of human liberty now rests on a free land, and he hears not the clan): of the chains on the limbs of a single slave.

Atrious.'

On the 17th of February, Seward spoke, as he always speaks, ably, temperately, candidly and philosophically. He saw the near approach of that “irrepressible conflict” between the two opposing powers of freedom and slavery, which he had predicted. His speech was a historical review of the whole question, and a calm and eloquent appeal to the majority to stay its hand. He spoke of the uselessness of all efforts to stifle the love of freedom and hatred of slavery in the North. “You may," said he, "drive the slavery question out of these halls to-day, but it will revisit them tomorrow. You buried the Wilmot proviso, here, in 1850, and celebrated its obsequies with pomp and revelry, and here it is again, to-day, stalking through these balls, clad in complete armour. “Slavery,” he contended, “is an eternal struggle between conservatism and progress, truth and error, right and wrong. You may sooner, by act of Congress, compel the sea to suppress its upheavings, and the round earth to extinguish its internal fires, than oblige the human mind to cease its inquirings, and the human heart to desist from its throbbings." In its last maddened throes, this early, able, and courageous champion of liberty, was struck down by the assassin hand of slavery, but has been spared by an overruling Providence to officially proclaim to his country and the world, that slavery exists no more.”

On the 24th of February, Mr. Sumner delivered an exhaustive and able speech, and it was then a most singular and novel fact, that when he spoke of a Northern man with Southern principles, and said, with emphasis, that no such man could speak for the North, the report says he was interrupted by “prolonged applause in the galleries.”

Northern Senators, in disregard of the instructions of the Legislatures of the States they represented, spoke and voted for the bill. Toombs spoke with more than his accustomed violence and insolence. “The Government has little to fear from the abolitionists," he bawled out, “their greatest achievements have been to raise mobs of fugitives and free negroes, and incite them to murder and other crimes; and their exploits, generally, end in the subornation of perjury to escape the criminal courts." This man, Toombs, was by nature a rebel and a revolutionist; though of a brutal character and a turbulent disposition, he was a man of far more than ordinary talent. He was one of the ablest, as he certainly was one of the worst men in the Senate, who brought on the rebellion. When he addressed the Senate, he spoko with great vehemence, and with the utmost contempt for those differing from him. With a well-compacted person, black eyes, long, bushy, black hair, stentorian voice and vehement manner, he did more than any other man, in his efforts to break up the Union; going earliest and deepest into the rebellion, proclaiming himself a traitor in the halls of the Senate after the secession of Georgia; he very soon became more dangerous to the bogus Confederacy than he was to the cause of the good old Union.

The sleek Jew, Judah P. Benjamin, thc polite and wily man in black, with rounded phrase, and smooth and well polished sentences, spoke glittering words in support of violated faith. There was not a more elegant and accomplished speaker in the Senate than he. Words flowed freely froin his lips, and they were as slippery as oil. Governed by no principle, except that of making money, he was utterly unscrupulous both in politics and morals. IIis colleague, John Slidell, the ablest, the shrewdest, the most subtle and the most unscrupulous, as well as the richest of all the conspirators, spoke but few words. With thin, gray hair, red faced, round shouldered, he moved quietly about; distant in manner, as well as reserved, precise and elegant in speech. Mason, of Virginia, author of the fugitive slave law, named by old Ben Wade “the original copperhead," long before the term came into vogue as applied to a party, talked in language of insult and conteinpt. His whole appearance was concentrated disduin and hatred of everything in the free States. He accompanied Slidell abroad, and shared his adventures in getting there. For a time he was a great man in London, because he was a rebel and a traitor to his country. He swelled in the club houses of Pall Mall, and drank denunciation to the old United States. Hunter, his colleague, was cool, able and phlegmatic, dignified in manner, careful and respectful in language, though ultra in sentiment. He had

« PrejšnjaNaprej »