Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Resuscitation of the Democratic Party

There is a conviction in the public mind that the war is drawing toward a close – that the events of a few weeks, lying immediately before us will deprive the rebellion of its life, and bring us to a point where no question can be made of the final restoration of national unity.  Under this conviction, certain ambitious men formerly connected with the Democratic party, are sweeping and garnishing the old concern for the reception of the renegades who polluted it, and went off to try housekeeping on their own account.  There is really an attempt in progress to resuscitate the Democratic party – a sort of indecent haste, while battles are pending and only one question is really before the people, to pull off gloves and be ready to take the hand of treason the moment the sword and musket are knocked from its grasp.  The basis for a reunion of the old fragments of the party, still lying around loose at the North, appears to be opposition to the emancipation message of the president and the endorsal of it by Congress.  In this, they have the sympathy and the characteristic co-operation of the Border State men, who seem to have abated none of the arrogance of these times when slavery was not convicted of high treason, and its friends were not hunted from fort to fort and field to field like felons.

Gentlemen, do not be in a hurry.  There will be time enough for these little operations after the last Union soldier is decently buried.  There are battles to be fought yet.  There are thousands of lives to be expended.  There are great conflicts yet to take place by land and sea, in which the blood of noble men is to be poured out like water.  There is to be wailing in myriad homes, over fathers and brothers and lovers slain.  The dirges are to be played yet, and the bells to be tolled.  Do not be in a hurry.  It is possible that, if you wait until you see how much this beautiful institution of slavery, which you propose to patronize, costs the nation, – how much treasure it swallow, and how many lives it sacrifices of men whose worst crime is love of country, you will change your mind.  It is possible that emancipation will not seem so black a scheme a year hence as it does now, even to yourselves, and it is very probable that the people will regard it very differently from those who have axes to grind.

There is a certain class of men, all over the North – we have them even in Massachusetts – who have been educated in the belief that there is a degree of sacredness about the institution of slavery which really pertains to no other institution.  Even to-day, while the whole military and naval power of the country is roused to the effort of loosing the grasp of the slave power upon its throat, there are men not wholly idiots, or consciously traitors, who think and speak tenderly of “the rights of slavery.”  They would not object to taking the horse of a slave holding rebel, or a barn full of hay, or a thousand barrels of flour – nay, they would not much object to taking the rebel himself and shutting him up in Fort Warren; but when we come to lay hands upon his nigger – when we talk of emancipating the poor fellow who has been held all his life in unrequited bondage – their hands are thrown up in holy horror. – It seems to them that slavery has a great many more rights under the Constitution than any other institution.  There would seem to be absolute insanity on this point.  Good God!  The institution of slavery to be treated tenderly by Northern men, on account of the sacredness of its right under a Constitution whose obligations it has shaken off!  Slavery is to be patronized, and emancipation in any form to be opposed by a Northern party that proposes to draw its support from a people decimated and fixed to keep slavery from destroying the Republic!

Well gentlemen, try it.  The Administration has taken its ground on this point, and the Republican party stands with it.  If slavery wants anything, even as favorable to itself as the emancipation message of the President, it has got to wind up this war in a very short space of time.  It has forfeited everything, and must forever remain, if it remain at all, simply a tolerated institution; and if men at the North wish to undertake the organization of a party based upon the old, unrestricted slave power, let them try it.  We assure them of one thing, as the result of this war, viz: that the republican principle of the restriction of the power and territory of slavery will be vindicated and established.

The American people, no matter what their political antecedents may have been, will never consent to see slavery extended over another foot of territory, will never consent to a predominance of the slave power in the national councils, will never consent to see slavery more than an unwillingly tolerated institution.  Respect for the Constitution, as it was framed by the fathers, is alone that which will give slavery a peaceful foothold in the States where it exists.  The policy of this nation, dating from that moment of the issue of President Lincoln’s message, is to be for freedom, and not for slavery.  The Government forever changes front on this question.  It says that the abolition of slavery is something to be desired.  It opens facilities and points out means for its abolition by emancipation.  Here stands the Administration and here the party that placed it in power.

Now if the democrats in Congress and around Washington wish to confront this attitude of the Government, let them try it.  Let them start their old machine, and advertise that it is to operate against the emancipation of the slaves in the mode suggested by the President; and the country will grind them to powder.  The country has learned something if they have not, and will in time teach them what they do not know.  While we think it would be well for them to wait a little, we do not make the request on account of the Government, the republican party, or ourselves.  The experiment may as well be tried first as last, and the rebels at the South and their sympathizers at the North whipped out at the same time.  We simply warn them that the reign of the slave power in this country is ended, and that any party which undertakes to stand upon the old ground of the democratic party, will be doomed from the start. –{Springfield Republican.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, April 5, 1862, p. 3

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