http://www.accessible.com/accessible/ Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: FREDERICK DOUGLASS' PAPER
Date: November 23, 1855
Title: THE SLAVE OLIGARCHY
Location: Rochester, New York
“THE SLAVE OLIGARCHY.” An extract from Charles Sumner's recent speech in Faneuil Hall, Boston.
There is nothing in the National Government which the Slave Oligarchy does not appropriate. It entered into and possessed both the old political parties, Whig and Democrat as witness their servile resolutions at Baltimore making them one in subservience, though double in form; and renewing in them the mystery of the Siamese twins, which, though separate in body, and different in name, were constrained by an unnatural ligament to a community of exertion. It now holds the keys of every office from that of president down to the humblest postmaster, compelling all to do its bidding. It organizes the Cabinet. IT directs the Army and Navy. It manages every department of public business. It presides over the census. It controls the Smithsonian Institution, founded by the generous charity of a foreigner, to promote the interests of knowledge. It sits in the chair of the President of the Senate, and also in the chair of the Speaker of the House. It arranges the Committees of both bodies, placing at their head only the servitors of Slavery, and excluding therefrom the friends of Freedom, though entitled to such places by their character and the States they represent; and thus it controls the legislation of the country. In maintaining its power the Slave Oligarchy has applied a test for office, very different from that of Jefferson, - “Is he honest? Is he capable? Is he faithful to the Constitution?” These are all forgotten now in the single question, “Is he faithful to Slavery?” With arrogant ostracism it excludes from every national office all who cannot respond to this test. So complete and irrational has this tyranny become, that at this moment while I now speak, could Washington, of Jefferson, or Franklin once more descend from their spheres above to mingle in our affairs and bless us with their wisdom, not one of them, with his recorded, unretracted opinions on Slavery, could receive a nomination for the Presidency from either of the political parties calling themselves national; nor stranger still, could either of these sainted patriots, whose names alone open a perpetual fountain of gratitude in all your hearts, be confirmed by the Senate of the United States for any political function whatever not even for the office of postmaster. What I now say, amidst your natural astonishment, I have often said before in addressing the people, and more than once uttered form my seat in the Senate, and no man there has made any answer, for no man who has sat in its secret session and there learned the test practically applied, could make answer; and I ask you to accept this statement as my testimony, derived form the experience of four years which has been my lot, under the commission which I have received form our honored Commonwealth. Yes, fellow-citizens, had this test prevailed in the earlier days, Washington first in war, first in peace, first in the heats of his countrymen could not have been created generalissimo of the American forces; Jefferson could not have taken his place on the Committee to draft the Declaration of Independence, and Franklin could not have gone forth to France, with the commission of the infant Republic, to secure the invaluable alliance of that Ancient Kingdom. All tyranny, like murder, is foul at the best; but this is most foul, strange and unnatural when it is considered that the States, which are the home of the Slave Oligarchy, are far inferior to the Free States in population, wealthy, education, schools, churches, libraries, manufactures and resources of all kinds. By the last census there was in the Free States a solid population of freemen amounting to upwards of 13,000,000, while in the Slave States there was alike population of only 6,000,000. In other respects important to civilization the disparity was as great. And yet, form the beginning they have taken to themselves the lions' share among the honors and trusts of the Republic. But without exposing the game of political “sweepstakes,” which the Slave Oligarchy has perpetually played interesting as it would be I prefer to hold up for one moment the aggressions and usurpations by which, in defiance of the constitution, it has made Freedom sectional and Slavery national. Here is a brief catalogue: Early in this century, when the District of Columbia was finally occupied as the National Capital, the Slave Oligarchy succeeded, in defiance of the spirit of the Constitution, and even of the express letter of its amendments in securing for Slavery, within the District, the continuance of the National Government. Until then slavery had existed nowhere within the exclusive jurisdiction of this Government.
The Slave Oligarchy next secured for Slavery another recognition under the National Government in the broad territory of Louisiana, purchased form France.
The Slave Oligarchy next placed Slavery again under the sanction of the National Government in the territory of Florida purchased form Spain. The Slave Oligarchy, waxing powerful, was able after a severe struggle, to dictate terms to the National Government, in the Missouri Compromise, compelling it to receive that State into the Union with a slaveholding Constitution.
The Slave Oligarchy instigated and carried on a most expensive war in Florida, mainly to recover fugitive slaves, thus degrading the army of the United States to Slave-Hunters.
The Slave Oligarchy wrested from Mexico the Province of Texas, and, triumphing over all opposition, finally secured its admission in to the Union with a Constitution making Slavery perpetual.
The Slave Oligarchy plunged the country in war with Mexico, in order to gain new lands for slavery.
The Slave Oligarchy, with the meanness, as well as the insolence of tyranny, has compelled the National Government to abstain from acknowledging the neighbor republic of Haiti , where slaves have become freemen and established an independent nation. The Slave Oligarchy ahs compelled the National Government to stoop ignobly before the British Queen, to secure to compensation for slaves, who, in the exercise of the natural rights of man, had asserted and achieved their Freedom on the Atlantic Ocean, and afterwards sought shelter in Bermuda. The Slave Oligarchy has compelled the National Government to seek to negotiate for the surrender of fugitive salves, thus making our Republic assert abroad, in foreign lands, property in human flesh.
The Slave Oligarchy has joined in declaring the foreign slave trade piracy , but insist on the coastwise slave trade under the auspices of the National Government. The Slave Oligarchy for several years rejected the petitions to Congress adverse to Slavery, thus, in order to shield this wrong, practically denying the right of petition. The Slave Oligarch, in defiance of the privileges secured under the Constitution of the United States, imprisons the free-colored citizens of Massachusetts, and sometimes sells them into bondage.
The Slave Oligarchy, insulted and exiled from Charleston and New Orleans, the honored, representatives of Massachusetts, who were sent to those places with the commission of the Commonwealth, in order to throw the shield of the Constitution over her colored citizens. The Slave Oligarchy has, by the pen of Mr. Calhoun, as Secretary of State, in formal dispatches, made the Republic stand before the nations of the earth as the vindicator of Slavery.
The Slave Oligarchy has put for the hideous effrontery that Slavery can go to all newly acquired territories, and enjoy the protection of the National flag.
The Slave Oligarchy has imposed upon the country on Act of Congress, for the recovery of fugitive slaves, revolting in its requirements and many times unconstitutional especially on two grounds, first, as a usurpation by Congress of powers not granted by the Constitution and an infraction of rights secured to the States, and secondly, as a denial of Trial by Jury in a question of Personal Liberty and suit of common law.
Such, fellow-citizens, are some of the aggressions and usurpations of the Slave Oligarchy! By steps the National Government has been perverted form its original purpose, its character changed and its powers all surrounded to Slavery. Surely, no patriot soul can listen to this recital, without confessing that our first political duty is, at all hazards and without comprising, to oppose this Oligarchy, to dislodge it from the National Government, and to bring the administration back to that which it enjoyed when first organized under Washington himself an Abolitionist and surrounded by Abolitionist, while the whole country, by its Church, its Colleges, its Literature, and all its best voices, was united against Slavery, and the National flag nowhere within the national territory covered a single slave.