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THE DEIFT OF POLITICS 353

composed mainly of men of independent anti-slavery views, who had during four presidential campaigns been organized as a distinct political body, with no near hope of success, but animated mainly by the desire to give expression to their deep personal convictions. If there were dema­gogues here and there among them, seeking merely to create a balance of power for bargain and sale, they were unimportant in number, and only of local influence, and soon became deserters. There was no mistaking the earnestness of the body of this faction. A few fanatical men, who had made it the vehicle of violent expressions, had kept it under the ban of popular prejudice. It had long been held up to public odium as a revolutionary band of "abolitionists." Most of the abolitionists.were doubtless in this party, but the party was not all composed of abolitionists. Despite objurgation and contempt, it had become since 1840 a constant and growing factor in politics. It had operated as a negative balance of power in the last three presi­dential elections, causing by its diversion of votes, and more especially by its relaxing influence upon parties, the success of the Democratic candidate, James K. Polk, in 1844, the Whig candidate, Gen­eral Taylor, in 1848, and the Democratic nominee, Franklin Pierce, in 1852.

This small party of antislavery veterans, over 158,000 voters in the aggregate, and distributed in detachments of from 3000 to 30,000 in twelve of the free States, now came to the front, and with its newspapers and speakers trained in the discussion of the subject, and its committees and affiliations already in action and correspondence, bore the

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355

356 ABRAHAM LINCOLN

chap. xx. brunt of the fight against the repeal. Hitherto its aims had appeared Utopian, and its resolves had been denunciatory and exasperating. Now, com­bining wisdom with opportunity, it became con­ciliatory, and, abating something of its abstractions, made itself the exponent of a demand for a present and practical reform — a simple return to the an­cient faith and landmarks. It labored specially to bring about the dissolution of the old party organi­zations and the formation of a new one, based upon the general policy of resisting the extension of slavery. Since, however, the repeal had shaken but not obliterated old party lines, this effort suc­ceeded only in favorable localities.

For the present, party disintegration was slow; men were reluctant to abandon their old-time principles and associations. The united efforts of Douglas and the Administration held the body of the Northern Democrats to his fatal policy, though protests and defections became alarmingly frequent. On the other hand, the great mass of Northern Whigs promptly opposed the repeal, and formed the bulk of the opposition, nevertheless losing per­haps as many pro-slavery Whigs as they gained antislavery Democrats. The real and effective gain, therefore, was the more or less thorough alli­ance of the Whig party and the Free-soil party of the Northern States: wherever that was successful it gave immediate and available majorities to the opposition, which made their influence felt even in the very opening of the popular contest following the Congressional repeal.

It happened that this was a year for electing Congressmen. The Nebraska bill did not pass till

THE DRIFT OF POLITICS 357

the end of May, and the political excitement was chap. xx. at once transferred from Washington to every dis­trict of the whole country. It may be said with truth that the year 1854 formed one..continuous and solid political campaign from January to November, rising in interest and earnestness from first to last, and engaging in the discussion more fully than had ever occurred in previous Ameri­can history all the constituent elements of our population.

In the Southern States the great majority of people welcomed, supported, and defended the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, it being con­sonant with their pro-slavery feelings, and appar­ently favorable to their pro-slavery interests. The Democratic party in the South, controlling a majority of slave States, was of course, a unit in its favor. The Whig party, however, having car­ried two slave States for Scott in 1852, and holding a strong minority in the remainder, was not so unanimous. Seven Southern Representatives and two Southern Senators had voted against the Nebraska bill, and many individual voters con­demned it as an act of bad faith — as the aban­donment of the accepted " finality," and as the provocation of a dangerous antislavery reaction. But public opinion in that part of the Union was fearfully tyrannical and intolerant; and opposition dared only to manifest itself to Democratic party organization — not to these Democratic party measures. The Whigs of the South were there­fore driven precipitately to division. Those of extreme pro-slavery views, like Dixon, of Ken­tucky,— who, when he introduced his amendment.

358 ABEAHAM LINCOLN

chap. xx. declared, "Upon the question of slavery I know no Whiggery and no Democracy,"—went boldly and at once over into the Democratic camp, while those who retained their traditional party name and flag were sundered from their ancient allies in the Northern States by the impossibility of taking up the latter's antislavery war-cry.

At this juncture the political situation was further complicated by the sudden rise of an additional factor in politics, the American party, popularly called the " Know-Nothings." Essen­tially, it was a revival of the extinct "Native-American" faction, based upon a jealousy of and discrimination against foreign-born voters, desir­ing an extension of their period of naturalization, and their exclusion from office; also based upon a certain hostility to the Eoman Catholic religion. It had been reorganized as a secret order in the year 1853; and seizing upon the political disappoint­ments following Greneral Scott's overwhelming de­feat for the presidency in 1852, and profiting by the disintegration caused by the Nebraska bill, it rapidly gained recruits both North and South. Operating in entire secrecy, the country was star­tled by the sudden appearance in one locality after another, on election day, of a potent and unsus­pected political power, which in many instances pushed both the old organizations not only to dis­astrous but even to ridiculous defeat. Both North and South its forces were recruited mainly from the Whig party, though malcontents from all quarters rushed to group themselves upon its narrow plat­form, and to participate in the exciting but delusive triumphs of its temporary and local ascendency.

THE DBIFT OF POLITICS 359

When, in the opening of the anti-Nebraska con- chap. xx. test, the Free-soil leaders undertook the formation of a new party to supersede the old, they had, because of their generally democratic antecedents, with great unanimity proposed that it be called the " Bepubliean " party, thus reviving the distinctive appellation by which the followers of Jefferson were known in the early days of the republic. Considering the fact that Jefferson had originated the policy of slavery restriction in his draft of the ordinance of 1784, the name became singularly appropriate, and wherever the Free-soilers suc­ceeded in forming a coalition it was adopted with­out question. But the refusal of the Whigs in many States to surrender their name and organiza­tion, and more especially the abrupt appearance of the Know-Nothings on the field of parties, retarded the general coalition between the Whigs and the Free-soilers which so many influences favored. As it turned out, a great variety of party names were retained or adopted in the Congressional and State campaigns of 1854, the designation of " anti-Nebraska" being perhaps the most common, and certainly for the moment the most serviceable, since denunciation of the Nebraska bill was the one all-pervading bond of sympathy and agreement among men who differed very widely on almost all other political topics. This affiliation, however, was confined exclusively to the free States. In the slave States, the opposition to the Administration dared not raise the anti-Nebraska banner, nor could it have found followers; and it was not only inclined but forced to make its battle either under the old name of Whigs, or, as became more pop-

360 ABEAHAM LINCOLN

chap. xx. ular, under the new appellation of " Americans," which grew into a more dignified synonym for Know-No things.

Thus confronted, the Nebraska and anti-Ne­braska factions, or, more philosophically speaking, the pro-slavery and antislavery sentiment of the several American States, battled for political su­premacy with a zeal and determination only mani­fested on occasions of deep and vital concern to the welfare of the republic. However languidly certain elements of American society may perform what they deem the drudgery of politics, they do not shrink from it when they hear warning of real danger. The alarm of the nation on the repeal of the Missouri Compromise was serious and startling. All ranks and occupations therefore joined with a new energy in the contest it provoked. Particu­larly was the religious sentiment of the North profoundly moved by the moral question involved. Perhaps for the first time in our modern politics, the pulpit vied with the press, and the Church with the campaign club, in the work of debate and prop-agandism.

The very inception of the struggle had provoked bitter words. Before the third Nebraska bill had yet been introduced into the Senate, the then lit­tle band of " Free-Soilers " in Congress — Chase, Sumner, Giddings, and three others — had issued a newspaper address calling the repeal " a gross vio­lation of a sacred pledge "; " a criminal betrayal of precious rights "; " an atrocious plot," " designed to cover up from public reprehension meditated bad faith," etc. Douglas, seizing only too gladly the pretext to use denunciation instead of argu-

THE DBIFT OF POLITICS 361

ment, replied in his opening speech, in turn stig- chap. xx. matizing them as " abolition confederates" " as­sembled in secret conclave " " on the holy Sabbath while other Senators were engaged in divine wor­ship "r—"plotting," "in the name of the holy religion" ; " perverting," and " calumniating the committee "; u appealing with a smiling face to his courtesy to get time to circulate their document before its infamy could be exposed," etc.

The key-notes of the discussion thus given were rwell sustained on both sides, and crimination and recrimination increased with the heat and intensity of the campaign. The gradual disruption of par­ties, and the new and radical attitudes assumed by men of independent thought, gave ample occasion to indulge in such epithets as " apostates," " rene­gades," and " traitors." Unusual acrimony grew out of the zeal*of the Church and its ministers. The clergymen of the Northern States not only spoke against the repeal from their pulpits, but forwarded energetic petitions against it to Con­gress, 3050 clergymen of New England of differ­ent denominations joining their signatures in «oiobe," one protest. " We protest against it," they said, ibs!,™, eif. "as a great moral wrong, as a breach of faith eminently unjust to the moral principles of the community, and subversive of all confidence in national engagements; as a measure full of danger to the peace and even the existence of our beloved Union, and exposing us to the righteous judgment of the Almighty." In return, Douglas made a most virulent onslaught on their political action. " Here we find," he retorted, " that a large body of iwa., p. em preachers, perhaps three thousand, following the

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chap. xx. ]ead of a circular which was issued by the abolition confederates in this body, calculated to deceive and mislead the public, have here come forward with an atrocious falsehood, and an atrocious calumny against this Senate, desecrated the pulpit, and prostituted the sacred desk to the miserable and corrupting influence of party politics." All his newspapers and partisans throughout the country caught the style and spirit of his warfare, and boldly denied the moral right of the clergy to take part in politics otherwise than by a silent vote. But they, on the other hand, persisted all the more earnestly in justifying their interference in moral questions wherever they appeared, and were clearly sustained by the public opinion of the North,

Though the repeal was forced through Congress under party pressure, and by the sheer weight of a large Democratic majority in both branches, it met from the first a decided and unmistakable popular condemnation in the free States. While the measure was yet under discussion in the House in March, New Hampshire led off. by an election completely obliterating the eighty-nine Democratic majority in her Legislature. Connecticut followed in her footsteps early in April. Long before No­vember it was evident that the political revolution among the people of the North was thorough, and that election day was anxiously awaited merely to record the popular verdict already decided.

The influence of this result upon parties, old and new, is perhaps best illustrated in the organization of the Thirty-fourth Congress, chosen at these elections during the year 1854, which witnessed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Each Con-

THE DKIFT OF POLITICS 383

gress, in ordinary course, meets for the first time chap. xx. about one year after its members are elected by the people, and the influence of politics during the interim needs always to be taken into account. In this particular instance this effect had, if any­thing, been slightly reactionary, and the great con­test for the Speakership during the winter of 1855-6 may therefore be taken as a fair manifesta­tion of the spirit of politics in 1854.

The strength of the preceding House of Repre­sentatives,, which met in December, 1853, had been: % Whigs, 71; Free-soilers, 4; Democrats, 159—a clear Democratic majority of 84. In the new Con­gress there were in the House, as nearly as the classification could be made, about 108 anti-Ne­braska members, nearly 40 Know-Nothings, and about 75 Democrats; the remaining members were undecided. The proud Democratic majority of the Pierce election was annihilated.

But as yet the new party was merely inchoate, its elements distrustful, jealous, and discordant; the feuds and battles of a quarter of a century were not easily forgotten or buried. The Demo­cratic members, boldly nominating Mr. Richard­son, the House leader on the Nebraska bill, as their candidate for Speaker, made a long and deter­mined push for success. But his highest range of votes was about 74 to 76; while through 121 ballot-ings, continuing from December 3 to January 23, the opposition remained divided, Mr. Banks, the anti-Nebraska favorite, running at one time up to 106—within seven votes of an election. At this point, Eichardson, finding it a hopeless struggle, withdrew his name as a candidate, and the Demo-

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