Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Salmon P. Chase to Joshua R. Giddings,* October 20, 1846

Oct. 20, 1846.

my Dear Sir My engagements have been such since I received your last letter with the resolutions that I have had no time to write or think as I could wish, — I saw by a letter from Mr. Atkins published in the Cleveland American that you read my letter to you at a meeting in Hartford and I have thought it a duty to those with whom I have acted for several years past to write to that paper stating my true position so as to prevent the dissemination among liberty men of misapprehensions under which Mr. Atkins labored and which it was natural enough he should receive from the letter unconnected with the whole correspondence.—I have faild. in expressing myself with as much clearness as I wishd, if I have conveyd, the idea to yr. mind that I am prepard. to accede to any political union, wch. is not based upon the substantial principles & measures of the Liberty men. What I am willing to give up is names, separate organizations, what I am not willing to give up is Principle & Consistent action both with reference to men & measures in accordance with principle. — I have no objectn, to the reading of my letter — no complaint to make on that score — for I do not wish to conceal any sentiments wh. it containd, but I fear that it was not sufficiently explicit in its terms to be free from the risk of misapprehension, when read separate from the correspondence of wh. it was a part. In relation to your resolutions I will say that in my judgmt. they are good, so far as they go; but they do not go far enough if intended as a basis of a political organization separate from existing parties. If intended merely as resolutions to guide the action of those who adopt them in their existing political relations, they are certainly a great way in advance of any positions heretofore takn by bodies of men in the old parties & it is very desirable to augment the number of adherents to them in those parties. I would except only to one of them, viz. the resolution relating to new states, & to this only so far as its phraseology is concernd. It seems by implication to deny the right of Congress to admit new states if foreign at the time into the union. I have no doubt that this may be done constitutionally, perhaps not by joint resolution but certainly by the concurrent action of the treaty making & legislative powers of the government. My objection to the introduction of such states is founded entirely in other considerations than defect of power, indeed so far as any such introduction has yet taken place exclusively on the consideration of slavery. I enclose you a liberty creed wh. was drawn up by me & has been widely circulated & everywhere endorsed by the Liberty presses. May I ask of you to consider the several articles of it attentively & give me your assent or dissent to them, severally with a brief statement of the reasons of your dissent why you do dissent — Let me state to you briefly my idea of the grounds wh. in my judgmt. shd. determine the course of an honest man in political action in reference to the subject of slavery. If I were a whig in the whig party & believed that by the action of that party the extinction of slavery & the overthrow of the slave power could be most speedily achieved I would act with & in that party supporting however for office only anti slavery men. If I were a Democrat in the democrtic party, & entertained the same belief as to that party as above stated in regard to the whig party I would act with & in the democratic party supporting however for office only anti slavery men.

If I were persuaded (as I am) that there is now no reasonable prospect that either the whig or democratic party constituted as both are of slaveholders & nonslaveholders & as national parties admitting no anti slavery article into their creed & much less any avowed anti slavery measures into their action can at present be relied on for cordial, inflexible, & uncompromising hostilities to slavery & the slave power, I could (& of course do) abstain from cooperation with either of those parties & act with & in the only party with wh. I agree as to principle & action in relation to the paramount, political question before the country.—What is yr. objection to this. — Recurring to your resolutions let me ask if you do not perceive a great practical difficulty growing out of the terms “satisfactory evidence” &c? You on the Reserve, Whigs, Liberty men, & democrats thought there was satisfactory evidence that Mr. Bebb was hostile to whole the black code.1 The Cleveland American gave him full credit for such hostility & yet in Mercer Co. where of all places on earth Mr. Bebb should have been outspoken in denunciation of the cruel outrages on the blacks & of the laws which lead to such outrages we find him most materially changing his ground, stating as a ground for the repeal of the testimony clause the expectation of a slaveholder that he could then get at abolitionists who aided the escape of fugitive slaves by means of their testimony when recaptured, & actually proposing a law to prevent colonization of colored people in Ohio, & to that end, suggesting a law to prevent them from holding real estate! He reiterated these views at Dayton with additions. Would these speeches have been satisfactory evidence on the reserve of opposition to the Black laws?

Could he have been elected had he avowed these sentiments on the Reserve or in such time that authentic reports could have reached the Reserve? The effect of such a course as this upon the confidence of Liberty men &. others in Anti-Slavery men acting with the whigs, however honestly cannot fail to be appreciated by you.

* From letter book 6, pp. 42. Extracts from this letter were printed by Schuckers, p. 100.

1 For an account of the Ohio black laws and the struggle for their repeal, see The Negro in Ohio, 1802-1872, by C. J. Hickok, A. M. Published by Western Reserve University, Cleveland, 1896.

SOURCE: Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 108-11

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