Sunday, April 17, 2016

Confederate "Heritage" Month, April 15: Charles Sumner on the Slave Power's assault on Kansas Territory

In 1856, Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner made a speech on the floor against the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which he referred to as the Crime of Kansas. Kansas Territory had become a violent political conflict between proslavery and antislavery forces. The national government during the proslavery Administrations of Franklin Pierce (President 1853-1857) and James Buchanan (President 1857-1861) strongly favored the proslavery side.

President James Buchanan, more dedicated to defending slavery than defending the Union and the Constitution

Two days after Sumner's speech a cowardly proslavery Congressman, Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina, came into the Senate chamber and snuck up behind Sumner sitting at his Senate desk, and beat him nearly to death with a heavy wooden cane.

Sumner survived. But his health didn't recover sufficiently for him to return to the Senate until 1860. When he returned, he gave his Barbarism of Slavery speech to which I referred earlier this month. He began by returning to the theme of Kansas and the slavery issue which was the central controversy there.

The New York Times has the text of the speech online. I rely here on the text from the version published in 1863 as Barbarism of Slavery.

The crime against Kansas stands forth in painful light. Search history, and you cannot find its parallel. The Slave-trade is bad; but even this enormity is petty compared with that elaborate contrivance by which, in a Christian age, and within the limits of a Republic, all forms of constitutional liberty were perverted; by which all the rights of human nature were violated, and the whole country was held trembling on the edge of civil war while all this large exuberance, of wickedness, detestable in itself, becomes tenfold more detestable when its origin is traced to the madness for Slavery. The fatal partition between Freedom and Slavery, known as the Missouri Compromise; the subsequent overthrow of this partition, and the seizure of all by Slavery; the violation of plighted faith; the conspiracy to force Slavery at all hazards into Kansas; successive invasions by which all security there was destroyed, and the electoral franchise itself was trodden down; the sacrilegious seizure of the very polls, and, through pretended forms of law, the imposition of a foreign Legislature upon this Territory; the acts of this Legislature, fortifying the Usurpation, and, among other things, establishing the test oaths, calculated to disfranchise actual seltlers, friendly to Freedom, and securing the privileges of the citizen to actual strangers friendly to Slavery; the whole crowned by a statute - "the be all and the end all" of the whole usurpation - through which Slavery was not only recognized on this beautiful soil, but made to bristle with a Code of Death such as the world has rarely seen; all these I have exposed on a former occasion. And yet the most important part of the argument was at that time left untouched; I mean that which is found in the character of Slavery. This natural sequel, with the permission of the Senate, I propose now to supply.

Motive is to Crime as soul is to body; and it is only when we comprehend the motive that we can truly comprehend the Crime. Here the motive is found in Slavery and the rage for its extension. Therefore, by logical necessity, must Slavery be discussed; not indirectly, timidly and sparingly, but directly, openly, and thoroughly. It must be exhibited as it is; alike in its influence and in its animating character, so that not only its outside but its inside may be seen.