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CHAP. XII. England, where he met the same enthusiastic popular reception and left the same marked impression, especially upon his more critical and learned hearers. They found no little surprise in the fact that a Western politician, springing from the class of unlettered frontiersmen, could not only mold plain strong words into fresh and attractive phraseology, but maintain a clear, sustained, convincing argument, equal in force and style to the best examples in their college text-books.

CHAPTER XIII

THE CHARLESTON CONVENTION

THE

HE great political struggle between the North CHAP. XIII. and the South, between Freedom and Slavery, was approaching its culmination. The "irrepressible conflict" had shifted uneasily from caucus to Congress; from Congress to Kansas; incidentally to the Supreme Court and to the Congressional elections in the various States; from Kansas it had come back with renewed intensity to Congress. The next stage of development through which it was destined to pass was the Presidential election of 1860, where, necessarily, the final result would depend largely upon the attitude and relation of parties, platforms, and candidates as selected and proclaimed by their National conventions.

The first of these National conventions was that of the Democratic party, long appointed to meet at Charleston, South Carolina, on April 23, 1860. The fortunes of the party had greatly fluctuated. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise had brought it shipwreck in 1854; it had regained victory in the election of Buchanan, and a majority of the House of Representatives in 1856; then the Lecompton imbroglio once more caused its defeat in the Congressional elections of 1858. But worse than the

CHAP. XIII. victory of its opponents was the irreconcilable schism in its own ranks-the open war between President Buchanan and Senator Douglas. In a general way the Southern Democracy followed Buchanan, while the Northern Democracy followed Douglas. Yet there was just enough local exception to baffle accurate calculation. Could the Charleston Convention heal the feud of leaders, and bridge the chasm in policy and principle? As the time approached, and delegation after delegation was chosen by the States, all hope of accommodation gradually disappeared. Each faction put forth its utmost efforts, rallied its strongest men. Each caucus and convention only accentuated and deepened existing differences. When the convention met, its members brought not the ordinary tricks and expedients of politicians with carte blanche authority, but the precise formulated terms to which their constituencies would consent. They were only messengers, not arbitrators. The Charleston Convention was the very opposite of its immediate predecessor, the Cincinnati Convention. At Cincinnati, concealment and ambiguity had been the central thought and purpose. Everybody was anxious to be hoodwinked. Delegates, constituencies, and leaders had willingly joined in the game of "cheat and be cheated." Availability, harmony, party success, were the paramount objects.

No similar ambiguity, concealment, or bargain was possible at Charleston. There was indeed a whole brood of collateral issues to be left in convenient obscurity, but the central questions must not be shirked. The Lecompton quarrel, the Freeport doctrine, the property theory, the "slave

State" dogma, the Congressional slave code pro- CHAP. XIII. posal, must be boldly met and squarely adjusted. Even if the delegates had been disposed to trifle with their constituents, the leaders themselves would tolerate no evasion on certain cardinal points. Douglas, in his Dorr letter, had announced that he would suffer no interpolation of new issues into the Democratic creed. In his pamphlet reply to Judge Black he repeated his determination with emphasis. "Suppose it were true that I am a Presidential aspirant; does that fact justify a combination by a host of other Presidential aspirants, each of whom may imagine that his success depends upon my destruction, and the preaching a crusade against me for boldly avowing now the same principles to which they and I were pledged at the last Presidential election? Is this a sufficient excuse for devising a new test of political orthodoxy? . . . I prefer the position of Senator or even that of a private citizen, where I would be at liberty to defend and maintain the well-defined principles of the Democratic party, to accepting a Presidential nomination upon a platform incompatible with the principle of self-government in the Territories, or the reserved rights of the States, or the perpetuity of the Union under the Constitution."

This declaration very clearly defined the issue on one side. On the other side it was also formulated with equal distinctness. Jefferson Davis, already recognized as the ablest leader of the Buchanan wing of the Democratic Senators, wrote and submitted to the United States Senate, on February 2, 1860, a series of resolutions designed to consti

Douglas, Reply to Black. Pamphlet, Oct., 1859.

"Globe," p. 658.

Davis, Senate Speech, "Globe," May 17, 1860, p. 2155.

CHAP. XIII. tute the Administration or Southern party docJefferson trines, which were afterwards revised and adopted by a caucus of Democratic Senators. These resolutions expressed the usual party tenets; and on two of the controverted points asserted dogmatically exactly that which Douglas had stigmatized as an intolerable heresy. The fourth resolution declared "That neither Congress nor a Territorial Legislature, whether by direct legislation or legislation of an indirect and unfriendly character, possesses power to annul or impair the constitutional right of any citizen of the United States to take his slave property into the common Territories, and there hold and enjoy the same while the Territorial condition remains." While the fifth resolution declared "That if experience should at any time prove that the judiciary and executive authority do not possess means to insure adequate protection to constitutional rights in a Territory, and if the Territorial government shall fail or refuse to provide the necessary remedies for that purpose, it will be the duty of Congress to 1860, p. 935. supply such deficiency."

"Globe,"

March 1,

Party discipline was so strong among the Democrats that public expectation looked confidently to at least a temporary agreement or combination which would enable the factions, by a joint effort, to make a hopeful Presidential campaign. But no progress whatever was made in that direction. As the clans gathered at Charleston, the notable difference developed itself, that while one wing was filled with unbounded enthusiasm for a candidate, the other was animated by an earnest and stubborn devotion to an idea.

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