Robert Green Ingersoll
THE Democratic party, so-called, have several charges which they make against the Republican party. They give us a variety of reasons why the Republican party should no longer be entrusted with the control of this country. Among other reasons they say that the Republican party during the war was guilty of arresting citizens without due process of law — that we arrested Democrats and put them in jail without indictment, in Lincoln bastiles, without making an affidavit before a justice of the Peace — that on some occasions we suspended the writ of habeas corpus, and that on one or two occasions we interfered with the freedom of the press.
I admit that we did all these things. I admit that we put some Democrats in jail without their being indicted. I am sorry we did not put more. I admit we arrested some of them without an affidavit filed before a justice of the Peace. I sincerely regret that we did not arrest more. I admit that for a few hours on one or two occasions we interfered with the freedom of the press; I sincerely regret that the Government allowed a sheet to exist that did not talk on the side of this Government.
It is only proper and fair that we should answer these charges. Unless the Republican party can show that they did these things either according to the strict letter of law, according to the highest precedent, or from the necessity of the case, then we must admit that our party did wrong. You know as well as I that every Democratic orator talks about the fathers, about Washington and Jackson, Madison, Jefferson, and many others; they tell us about the good old times when politicians were pure, when you could get justice in the courts, when Congress was honest, when the political parties differed, and differed kindly and honestly; and they are shedding crocodile tears day after day — praying that the good old honest times might return again. They tell you that the members of this radical party are nothing like the men of the Revolution. Let us see.
I lay this down as a proposition, that we had a right to do anything to preserve this Government that our fathers had a right to do to found it. If they had a right to put Tories in jail, to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, and on some occasions to corpus, in order to found this Government, we had a right to put rebels and Democrats in jail and to suspend the writ of habeas corps in order to preserve the Government they thus formed. If they had a right to interfere with the freedom of the press in order that liberty might be planted upon this soil, we had a right to do the same thing to prevent the tree from being destroyed. In a word, we had a right to do anything to preserve this Government which they had a right to do to found it.
Did our fathers arrest Tories without writs, without indictments — did they interfere with the personal rights of Tories in the name of liberty — did they have Washington bastiles, did they have Jefferson jails — did they have dungeons in the time of the Revolution in which they put men that dared talk against this country and the liberties of the colonies? I propose to show that they did — that where we imprisoned one they imprisoned a hundred — that where we interfered with personal liberty once they did it a hundred times — that they carried on a war that was a war — that they knew that when an appeal was made to force that was the end of law — that they did not attempt to gain their liberties through a justice of the Peace or through a Grand jury; that they appealed to force and the God of battles and that any man who sought their protection and at the same time was against them and their cause they took by the nape of the neck and put in jail, where he ought to have been.
The old Continental Congress in 1774 and 1776 had made up their minds that we ought to have something like liberty in these colonies, and the first step they took toward securing that end was to provide for the selection of a committee in every county and township, with a view to examining and finding out how the people stood touching the liberty of the colonies, and if they found a man that was not in favor of it, the people would not have anything to do with him politically, religiously, or socially. That was the first step they took, and a very sensible step it was.
What was the next step? They found that these men were so lost to every principle of honor that they did not hurt them any by disgracing them. So they passed the following resolution which explains itself:
Resolved. That it be recommended to the several provincial assemblies or conventions or councils, or committees of safety, to arrest and secure every person in their respective colonies whose going at large, may, in their opinion, endanger the safety of the colony or the liberties of America. — Journal of Congress, vol. 1, page 149.
What was the Committee of Safety? Was it a justice of the peace? No. Was it a Grand Jury? No. It was simply a committee of five or seven persons, more or less, appointed to watch over the town or county and see that these Tories were attending to their business and not interfering with the rights of the colonies. Whom were they to thus arrest and secure? Every man that had committed murder — that had taken up arms against America, or voted the Democratic or Tory ticket? No. “Every person whose going at large might in their opinion, endanger the safety of the colony or the liberties of America.” It was not necessary that they had committed any overt act, but if in the opinion of this council of safety, it was dangerous to let them run at large they were locked up. Suppose that we had done that during the last war? You would have had to build several new jails in this county. What a howl would have gone up all over this State if we had attempted such a thing as that, and yet we had a perfect right to do anything to preserve our liberties, which our fathers had a right to do to obtain them.
What more did they do? In 1777 the same Congress that signed the immortal Declaration of Independence (and I think they knew as much about liberty and the rights of men as any Democrat in Marion county) adopted another resolution:
Resolved. That it be recommended to the Executive powers of the several States, forthwith to apprehend and secure all persons who have in their general conduct and conversation evinced a disposition inimical to the cause of America, and that the persons so seized be confined in such places and treated in such manner as shall be consistent with their several characters and security of their persons — Journal of Congress, vol. 2, P. 246.
If they had talked as the Democrats talked during the late war — if they had called the soldiers “Washington hirelings,” and if when they allowed a few negroes to help: them fight, had branded the struggle for liberty as an abolition war, they would be apprehended and confined in such places and treated in such manner as was consistent with their characters and security of their persons,” and yet all they did was to show a disposition inimical to the independence of America. If we had pursued a policy like that during the late war, nine out of ten of the members of the Democratic party would have been in jail — there would not have been jails and prisons enough on the face of the whole earth to hold them.
Now, when a Democrat talks to you about Lincoln bastiles, just quote this to him:
WHEREAS, The States of Pennsylvania and Delaware are threatened with an immediate invasion from a powerful army, who have already landed at the head of Chesapeake Bay; and whereas, The principles of sound policy and self-preservation require that persons who may be reasonably suspected of aiding or abetting the cause of the enemy may be prevented from pursuing measures injurious to the general weal.
Resolved, That the executive authorities of the States of Pennsylvania and Delaware be requested to cause all persons within their respective States, notoriously disaffected, to be apprehended, disarmed and secured until such time as the respective States think they may be released without injury to the common cause. — Journal of Congress, vol. 2, p. 240.
That is what they did with them. When there was an invasion threatened the good State of Indiana, if we had said we will imprison all men who by their conduct and conversation show that they are inimical to our cause, we would have been obliged to import jails and corral Democrats as we did mules in the army. Our fathers knew that the flag was never intended to protect any man who wanted to assail it.
What more did they do? There was a man by the name of David Franks, who wrote a letter and wanted to send it to England. In that letter he gave it as his opinion that the colonies were becoming disheartened and sick of the war. The heroic and chivalric fathers of the Revolution violated the mails, took the aforesaid letter and then they took the aforesaid David Franks by the collar and put him in jail. Then they passed a resolution in Congress that inasmuch as the said letter showed a disposition inimical to the liberties of the United States, Major General Arnold be requested to cause the said David Franks to be forthwith arrested, put in jail and confined till the further order of Congress. (Jour. Cong., vol. 3, P. 96 and 97.)
How many Democrats wrote letters during the war declaring that the North never could conquer the South? How many wrote letters to the soldiers in the army telling them to shed no more fraternal blood in that suicidal and unchristian war? It would have taken all the provost marshals in the United States to arrest the Democrats in Indiana who were guilty of that offence. And yet they are talking about our fathers being such good men, while they are cursing us for doing precisely what they did, only to a less extent than they did.
We are still on the track of the old Continental Congress. I want you to understand the spirit that animated those men. They passed a resolution which is particularly applicable to the Democrats during the war:
With respect to all such unworthy Americans as, regardless of their duty to their Creator, their country, and their posterity, have taken part with our oppressors, and, influenced by the hope or possession of ignominious rewards, strive to recommend themselves to the bounty of the administration by misrepresenting and traducing the conduct and principles of the friends of American liberty, and opposing every measure formed for its preservation and security.
Resolved, That it be recommended to the different assemblies, conventions and committees or councils of safety in the United Colonies, by the most speedy and effectual measures, to frustrate the mischievous machinations and restrain the wicked practices of these men. And it is the opinion of this Congress that they ought to be disarmed and the more dangerous among them either kept in safe custody or bound with sufficient sureties for their good behavior.
And in order that the said assemblies, conventions, committees or councils of safety may be enabled with greater ease and facility to carry this resolution into execution.
Resolved, That they be authorized to call to their aid whatever Continental troops stationed in or near their respective colonies that may be conveniently spared from their more immediate. duties, and commanding officers of such troops are hereby directed to afford the said assemblies, conventions, committees or councils of safety, all such assistance in executing this resolution as they may require, and which, consistent with the good of the service. may be supplied. — Journal of Congress, vol. 1, P. 22.
Do you hear that, Democrat? The old Continental Congress said to these committees and councils of safety: “Whenever you want to arrest any of these scoundrels, call on the Continental troops.” And General Washington, the commander-in-chief of the army, and the officers under him, were directed to aid in the enforcement of all the measures adopted with reference to disaffected and dangerous persons. And what had these persons done? Simply shown by their conversation, and letters directed to their friends, that they were opposed to the cause of American liberty. They did not even spare the Governors of States. They were not appalled by any official position that a Tory might hold. They simply said, “If you are not in favor of American liberty, we will put you I where the dogs won’t bite you.” One of these men was Governor Eden of Maryland. Congress passed a resolution requesting the Council of Safety of Maryland to seize and secure his person and papers, and send such of them as related to the American dispute to Congress without delay. At the same time the person and papers of another man, one Alexander Ross, were seized in the same manner. Ross was put in jail, and his papers transmitted to Congress.
There was a fellow by the name of Parke and another by the name of Morton, who presumed to undertake a journey from Philadelphia to New York without getting a pass. Congress ordered them to be arrested and imprisoned until further orders. They did not wait to have an affidavit filed before a justice of the Peace. They took them by force and put them in jail, and that was the end of it. So much for the policy of the fathers, in regard to arbitrary arrests.
During the war there was a great deal said about our occasionally interfering with the elections. Let us see how the fathers stood upon that question.
They held a convention in the State of New York in Revolutionary times, and there were some gentlemen in Queens County that were playing the role of Kentucky — they were going to be neutral — they refused to vote to send deputies to the convention — they stood upon their dignity just as Kentucky stood upon hers — a small place to stand on, the Lord knows. What did our fathers do with them? They denounced them as unworthy to be American citizens and hardly fit to live. Here is a resolution adopted by the Continental Congress on the 3d of January, 1776:
Resolved, That all such persons in Queens County afore-said as voted against sending deputies to the present Convention of New York, and named in a list of delinquents in Queens County, published by the Convention of New York, be put out of the protection of the United Colonists, and that all trade and intercourse with them cease; that none of the inhabitants of that county be permitted to travel or abide in any part of these United Colonies out of their said colony without a certificate from the Convention or Committee of Safety of the Colony of New York, setting forth that such inhabitant is a friend of the American cause, and not of the number of those who voted against sending deputies to the said Convention, and that such of the inhabitants as shall be found out of the said county without such certificate, be apprehended and imprisoned three months.
Resolved, That no attorney or lawyer ought to commence, prosecute or defend any action at law of any kind, for any of the said inhabitants of Queens County, who voted against sending deputies to the Convention as aforesaid, and such attorney or lawyer as shall countenance this revolution, are enemies to the American cause, and shall be treated accordingly.
What had they done? Simply voted against sending delegates to the convention, and yet the fathers not only put them out of the protection of law, but prohibited any lawyer from appearing in their behalf in a court. Democrats, don’t you wish we had treated you that way during the war?
What more did they do? They ordered a company of troops from Connecticut, and two or three companies from New Jersey, to go into the State of New York, and take away from every person who had voted against sending deputies to the convention, all his arms, and if anybody refused to give up his arms, they put him in jail. Don’t you wish you had lived then, my friend Democrat? Don’t you wish you had prosecuted the war as our fathers prosecuted the Revolution?
I now want to show you how far they went in this direction. A man by the name of Sutton, who lived on Long Island, had been going around giving his constitutional opinions upon the war. They had him arrested, and went on to resolve that he should be taken from Philadelphia, pay the cost of transportation himself, be put in jail there, and while in jail should board himself. Wouldn’t a Democrat have had a hard scramble for victuals if we had carried out that idea? Just see what outrageous and terrible things the fathers did. And why did they do it? Because they saw that in order to establish the liberties of America it was necessary they should take the Tory by the throat just as it was necessary for us to take rebels by the throat during the late war.
They had paper money in those days — shin-plasters — and some of the Democrats of those times had legal doubts about this paper currency. One of these Democrats, Thomas Harriott, was called before a Committee of Safety of New York, and there convicted of having refused to receive in payment the Continental bills. The committee of New York conceiving that he was a dangerous person, informed the Provincial Congress of the facts in the case, and inquired whether Congress thought he ought to go at large. Upon receipt of this information by Congress an order for the imprisonment of the offender was passed, as follows:
Resolved, That the General Committee of the city of New York be requested and authorized, and are hereby requested and authorized to direct that Thomas Harriott be committed to close jail in this city, there to remain until further orders of this Congress. — Amer. Archives, 4th series, vol. 6, P. 1,344.
And yet all that he had done was to refuse to take Continental money. He had simply given his opinion on the legal tender law, just as the Democrats of Indiana did in regard to greenbacks, and as a few circuit judges decided when they declared the Legal Tender Act unconstitutional. It would have been perfectly proper and right that they, every man of them, should be, like Thomas Harriott, “committed to close jail, there to remain until further orders.”
Did our forefathers ever interfere with religion? Yes, they did with a preacher by the name of Daniels, because he would not pray for the American cause. He thought he could coax the Lord to beat us. They said to him, “You pray on our side, sir.” He would not do it, and so they put him in jail and gave him work enough to pray himself out, and it took him some time to do it. They interfered with a lack of religion. They believed that a tory or traitor in the pulpit was no better than anybody else. That is the way I have sometimes felt during the war. I have thought that I would like to see some of those white cravatted gentlemen “snaked” right out of the pulpits where they had dared to utter their treason, and set to playing checkers through a grated window.
It is not possible that our fathers ever interfered with the writ of habeas corpus, is it? Yes sir. Our fathers advocated the doctrine that the good of the people is the supreme law of the land. They also advocated the doctrine that in the midst of armies law falls to the ground; the doctrine that when a country is in war it is to be governed by the laws of war. They thought that laws were made for the protection of good citizens, for the punishment of citizens that were bad, when they were not too bad or too numerous; then they threw the law-book down while they took the cannon and whipped the badness out of them; that is the next step, when the stones you throw, and kind words, and grass have failed. They said, why did we not appeal to law? We did; but it did no good. A large portion of the people were up in arms in defiance of law, and there was only one way to put them down, and that was by force of arms; and whenever an appeal is made to force, that force is governed by the law of war.
The fathers suspended the writ in the case of a man who had committed an offence in the State of New York. They sent him to the State of Connecticut to be confined, just as men were sent from Indiana to Fort Lafayette. The attorneys came before the convention of New York to hear the matter inquired into, but the committee of the convention to whom the matter was referred refused to inquire into the original cause of commitment — a direct denial of the authority of the writ. The writ of habeas corpus merely brings the body before the judge that he may inquire why he is imprisoned. They refused to make any such inquiry. Their action was endorsed by the convention and the gentleman was sent to Connecticut and put in jail. They not only did these things in one instance, but in a thousand. They took men from Maryland and put them in prison in Pennsylvania, and they took men from Pennsylvania and confined them in Maryland. Whenever they thought the Tories were so thick at one point that the rascals might possibly be released, they took them somewhere else.
They did not interfere with the freedom of the press, did they? Yes, sir. They found a gentleman who was speaking and writing against the liberties of the colonies, and they just took his paper away from him, and gave it to a man who ran it in the interest of the colonies, using the Tory’s type and press. [A voice — That was right.] Right! of course it was right. What right has a newspaper in Indiana to talk against the cause for which your son is laying down his life on the field of battle? What right has any man to make it take thousands of men more to crush a rebellion? What right has any man protected by the American flag to do all in his power to put it in the hands of the enemies of his country? The same right that any man has to be a rascal, a thief and traitor — no other right under heaven. Our fathers had sense enough to see that, and they said, “One gentleman in the rear printing against our noble cause, will cost us hundreds of noble lives at the front.” Why have you a right to take a rebel’s horse? Because it helps you and weakens the enemy. That is by the law of war. That is the principle upon which they seized the Tory printing press. They had the right to do it. And if I had had the power in this country, no man should have said a word, or written a line, or printed anything against the cause for which the heroic men of the North sacrificed their lives. I would have enriched the soil of this country with him before he should have done it. A man by the name of James Rivington undertook to publish a paper against the country. They would not speak to him; they denounced him, seized his press, and made him ask forgiveness and promise to print no more such stuff before they would let him have his sheet again. No person but a rebel ever thought that was wrong. There is no common sense in going to the field to fight and leaving a man at home to undo all that you accomplish.
Our fathers did not like these Tories, and when the war was over they confiscated their estates — took their land and gave it over to good Union men.
How did they do it? Did they issue summons, and have a trial? No, sir. They did it by wholesale — they did it by resolution, and the estates of hundreds of men were taken from them without their having a day in court or any notice or trial whatever. They said to the Tories: “You cast your fortunes with the other side, let them pay you. The flag you fought against protects the land you owned and it will prevent you from having it.” Nor is that all. They ran thousands of them out of the country away up into Nova Scotia, and the old blunosed Tories are there yet.
In his letter to Governor Cooke of Rhode Island, Washington enumerates an act of that colony, declaring that “none should speak, write, or act against the proceedings of Congress or their Acts of Assembly, under penalty of being disarmed and disqualified from holding any office, and being further punished by imprisonment,” as one that met his approbation, and which should exist in other colonies. There is the doctrine for you Democrats. So I could go on by the hour or by the day. I could show you how they made domiciliary visits, interfered with travel, imprisoned without any sort of writ or affidavit — in other words, did whatever they thought was necessary to whip the enemy and establish their independence.
What next do they charge against us? That we freed negroes. So we did. That we allowed those negroes to fight in the army. Yes, we did. That we allowed them to vote. We did that too. That we have made them citizens. Yes, we have, and what are you Democrats going to do about it?
Now, what did our fathers do? Did they free any of the negroes? Yes, sir. Did they allow any of them to fight in the army? Yes, sir. Did they permit any of them to vote? Yes, sir. Did they make them citizens? Yes, sir. Let us see whether they did or not.
Before we had the present Constitution we had what were called Articles of Confederation. The fourth of those articles provided that every free inhabitant of the colony should be a citizen. It did not make any difference whether he was white or black; and negroes voted by the side of Washington and Jefferson. Just here the question arises, if negroes were good enough in 1787 and 1790 to vote by the side of such men, whether rebels and their sympathizers are good enough now to vote alongside of the negro.
Did they let any of these negroes fight? In 1750, when Massachusetts had slaves, there appeared in the Boston Gazelle the following notice: Ran away from his master, Wm. Brown, of Framingham, on the 30th September last, a mulatto fellow, about 27 years of age, named Crispus, about 6 feet high, short curly hair, had on a light colored bear-skin coat, brown jacket, new buckskin breeches, blue yarn stockings and check woolen shirt,” etc.
This “mulatto fellow” did not come back, and so they advertised the next week and the week following, but still the toes of the blue yarn socks pointed the other way. That was in 1750. 1760 came and 1770, and the people of this continent began to talk about having their liberties. And while wise and thoughtful men were talking about it, making petitions for popular rights and laying them at the foot of the throne, the King’s troops were in Boston. One day they marched down King street, on their way to arrest some citizen. The soldiery were attacked by a mob, and at its head was a “mulatto fellow” who shouted “here they are,” and it was observed that this mulatto fellow “was about six feet high — that his knees were nearer together than common, and that he was about 47 years of age. The soldiers fired upon the mob and he fell, shot through with five balls — the first man that led a charge against British aggression — the first martyr whose blood was shed for American liberty upon this soil. They took up that poor corpse, and as it lay in Faneuil Hall it did more honor to the place than did Daniel Webster defending the Fugitive Slave Law.
They allowed him to fight. Would our fathers have been brutal enough, if he had not been killed, to put him back into slavery? No! They would have said that a man who fights for liberty should enjoy it. If a man fights for that flag it shall protect him. Perish forever from the heavens the flag that will not defend its defenders, be they white or black.
Thus our fathers felt. They raised negro troops by the company and the regiment, and gave his liberty to every man that fought for liberty. Not only that, but they allowed them to vote. They voted in the Carolinas, in Tennessee, in New York, in all the New England States. Our fathers had too much decency to act upon the Democratic doctrine.
In the war of 1812, negroes fought at Lake Eric and at New Orleans, and then the fathers, as in the Revolution, were too magnanimous to turn them back into slavery. You need not get mad, my Democratic friends, because you hate Ben. Butler. Let me read you an abolition document.
You will all say it is right; you cannot say anything else when you hear it. Butler, you know, was down in New Orleans, and he made some of those rebels dance a tune that they did not know, and he made them keep pretty good time too:
To the Free Colored Inhabitants of Louisiana:
Through a mistaken policy you have heretofore been deprived of a participation in the glorious struggle for national rights in which our country is engaged. This shall no longer exist. As sons of freedom you are now called upon to defend our most inestimable blessing. As Americans, your country looks with confidence to her adopted children for a valorous support as a faithful return for the advantages enjoyed under her mild and equitable government. As fathers, husbands and brothers you are summoned to rally around the standard of the eagle — to defend all which is dear in existence. Your country, although calling for your exertions does not wish you to engage in her cause without amply remunerating you for the services rendered. Your intelligent minds can not be led away by false representations. Your love of honor would cause you to despise a man who should attempt to deceive you, in the sincerity of a soldier and the language of truth I address you. To every noble-hearted generous free man of color volunteering to serve during the present contest and no longer, there will be paid the same bounty in money and lands now received by the white soldiers of the United States, viz: $124 in money and one hundred and sixty acres of land, The non-commissioned officers and privates will also be entitled to the same monthly pay and daily rations and clothing furnished any American soldier.
On enrolling yourselves in companies, the Major General commanding will select officers for your government from your white fellow-citizens. Your non-commissioned officers will be appointed from among yourselves. Due regard will be paid to their feelings as freemen and soldiers. You will not by being associated with white men in the same corps, be exposed to improper companions or unjust 1sarcasm. As a distinct battalion or regiment pursuing the path of glory, you will undivided receive the applause and gratitude of your countrymen.
To assure you of the sincerity of my intentions and my anxiety to engage your valuable services to our country, I have communicated my wishes to the Governor of Louisiana, who is fully informed as to the manner of enrollment, and give you every necessary information on the subject of this address.
This is a terrible document to a Democrat. Let as look back over it a little. “Through a mistaken policy.” We had not sense enough to let the negroes fight during the first part of the war. “As sons of freedom” we had got sense by this time. “Americans.” Oh! shocking! Think of calling negroes Americans. “Your Country!” Is that not enough to make a Democrat sick? “As fathers, husbands, brothers.” Negro brothers. That is too bad. “Your intelligent minds.” Now, just think of a negro having an intelligent mind. “Are not to be led away by false representations.” Then precious few of them will vote the Democratic ticket. “Your sense of honor will lead you to despise the man who should attempt to deceive you.” Then how they will hate the Democratic party. Then he goes on to say that the same bounty, money and land that the white soldiers receive will be paid to these negroes. Not only that, but they are to have the same pay, clothing and rations. Only think of a negro having as much land, as much to eat and as many clothes to wear as a white man. Is not this a vile abolition document? And yet there is not a Democrat in Indiana that dare open his mouth against it, full of negro equality as it is. Now, let us see when and by whom this proclamation was issued. You will find that it is dated, “Headquarters 7th Military District, Mobile, September 21st, 1814,” and signed “Andrew Jackson, Major General Commanding.”
Oh, you Jackson Democrats. You gentlemen that are descended from Washington and Jackson — great heavens, what a descent! Do you think Jackson was a Democrat? He generally passed for a good Democrat; yet he issued that abominable abolition proclamation and put negroes on an equality with white men. That is not the worst of it, either; for after he got these negroes into the army he made a speech to them, and what did he say in that speech? Here it is in full
To the Men of Color:
SOLDIERS — From the shores of Mobile I called you to arms. I invited you to share in the perils and to divide the glory with your white countrymen. I expected much from you, for I was not uninformed of those qualities which must render you so formidable to an invading foe. I knew that you could endure hunger, thirst, and all the hardships of war. I knew that you loved the land of Your nativity, and that like ourselves you had to defend all that is most dear to man. But you surpass my hopes. I have found in you united to these qualities that noble enthusiasm which impels to great deeds. Soldiers, the President of the United States shall be informed of your conduct on the present occasion and the voice of the representatives of the American nation shall applaud your valor as your General now praises your ardor. The enemy is near. His sails cover the lakes, But the brave are united, and if he finds us contending among ourselves, it will be only for the prize of valor, its noblest reward.
There is negro equality for you. There is the first man since the heroes of the Revolution died that issued a proclamation and put negroes on an equality with white men, and he was as good a Democrat as ever lived in Indiana. I could go on and show where they voted, and who allowed them to vote, but I have said enough on that question, and also upon the question of their fighting in the army, and of their being citizens, and have established, I think conclusively, this:
First. That our fathers, in order to found this Government, arrested men without warrant, indictment or affidavit by the hundred and by the thousand; that we, in order to preserve the Government that they thus founded, arrested a few people without warrant.
Second. That our fathers, for the purpose of founding the Government, suspended the writ of habeas corpus; that we, for the purpose of preserving the same Government, did the same thing.
Third. That they, for the purpose of inaugurating this Government, interfered with the liberty of the press; that we, on one or two occasions, for the purpose of preserving the Government, interfered with the liberty of the press.
Fourth. That our fathers allowed negroes to fight in order that they might secure the liberties of America; that we, in order to preserve those liberties, allow negroes to fight.
Fifth. That our fathers, out of gratitude to the negroes in the Revolutionary war, allowed them to vote; that we have done the same. That they made them citizens, and we have followed their example.
As far as I have gone, I have shown that the fathers of the Revolution and the War of 1812 set us the example for everything we have done. Now, Mr. Democrat, if you want to curse us, curse them too. Either quit yawping about the fathers, or quit yawping about us.
Now, then, was there any necessity, during this war, to follow the example of our fathers? The question was put to us in 1861 “Shall the majority rule?” “and also the balance of that question “Shall the minority submit?” The minority said they would not. Upon the right of the majority to rule rests the entire structure of our Government. Had we, in 1861, given up that principle, the foundations of our Government would have been totally destroyed. In fact there would have been no Government, even in the North. It is no use to say the majority shall rule if the minority consents. Therefore, if, when a man has been duly elected President, anybody undertakes to prevent him from being President, it is your duty to protect him and enforce submission to the will of the majority. In 1861 we had presented to us the alternative, either to let the great principle that lies at the foundation of our Government go by the board, or to appeal to arms? and to the God of battles, and fight it through.
The Southern people said they were going out of the Union; we implored them to stay, by the common memories of the Revolution, by an apparent common destiny; by the love of man, but they refused to listen to us — rushed past us, and appealed to the arbitrament of the sword; and now I, for one, say by the decision of the sword let them abide.
Now, I want to show how mean the American people were in 1861. The vile and abominable institution of slavery had so corrupted us that we did not know right from wrong. It crept into the pulpit until the sermon became the echo of the bloodhound’s bark. It crept upon the bench, and the judge could not tell whether the corn belonged to the man that raised it, or to the fellow that did not, but he rather thought it belonged to the latter. We had lost our sense of justice. Even the people of Indiana were so far gone as to agree to carry out the Fugitive Slave Law. Was it not low-lived and contemptible? We agreed that if we found a woman ninety-nine one hundredths white, who, inspired by the love of liberty, had run away from her masters, and had got within one step of free soil, we would clutch her and bring her back to the dominion of the Democrat, the bloodhound and the lash. We were just mean enough to do it. We used to read that some hundreds of years ago a lot of soldiers would march into a man’s house, take him out, tie him to a stake driven into the earth, put fagots around him, and let the thirsty flames consume him, and all because they differed from him about religion. We said it was horrible; it made our blood run cold to think of it yet at the same time many a magnificent steamboat floated down the Mississippi with wives and husbands, fragments of families torn asunder, doomed to a life of toil, requited only by lashes upon the naked back, and branding irons upon the quivering flesh, and we thought little of it. When we set out to put down the Rebellion the Democratic party started up all at once and said, “You are not going to interfere with slavery, are you?” Now, it is remarkable that whenever we were going to do a good thing, we had to let on that we were going to do a mean one. If we had said at the outset, “We will break the shackles from four millions of slaves” we never would have succeeded. We had to come at it by degrees. The Democrats scented it out. They had a scent keener than a bloodhound when anything was going to be done to affect slavery. “Put down rebellion,” they said, “but don’t hurt slavery.” We said, “We will not; we will restore the Union as it was and the Constitution as it is.” We were in good faith about it. We had no better sense then than to think that it was worth fighting for, to preserve the cause of quarrel — the bone of contention — so as to have war all the time. Every blow we struck for slavery was a blow against us. The Rebellion was simply slavery with a mask on. We never whipped anybody but once so long as we stood upon that doctrine; that was at Donelson; and the victory there was not owing to the policy, but to the splendid genius of the next President of the United States. After a while it got into our heads that slavery was the cause of the trouble, and we began to edge up slowly toward slavery. When Mr. Lincoln said he would destroy slavery if absolutely necessary for the suppression of the Rebellion, people thought that was the most radical thing that ever was uttered. But the time came when it was necessary to free the slaves, and to put muskets into their hands. The Democratic party opposed us with all their might until the draft came, and they wanted negroes for substitutes; and I never heard a Democrat object to arming the negroes after that.
[The speaker from this point presented the history of the Republican policy of reconstruction, and touched lightly on the subject of the national debt. He glanced at the finances, reviewing in the most scathing manner the history and character of Seymour, paid a most eloquent tribute to the character and public services of General Grant, and closed with the following words:]
The hero of the Rebellion, who accomplished at Shiloh what Napoleon endeavored at Waterloo; who captured Vicksburg by a series of victories unsurpassed, taking the keystone from the rebel arch; who achieved at Missionary Ridge a success as grand as it was unexpected to the country who, having been summoned from the death- bed of rebellion in the West, marched like an athlete from the Potomac to the James, the grandest march in the history of the world. This was all done without the least flourish upon his part. No talk about destiny — without faith in a star — with the simple remark that he would fight it out on that line,” without a boast, modest to bashfulness, yet brave to audacity, simple as duty, firm as war, direct as truth — this hero, with so much common sense that he is the most uncommon man of his time, will be, in spite of Executive snares and Cabinet entanglements, of competent false witnesses of the Democratic party, the next President of the United States. He will be trusted with the Government his genius saved.