Saturday, October 1, 2011

Their Cause is Slavery

This entry is excerpts from a speech made by Charles Sumner on October 1, 1861 before the Republican State Convention at Worcester, Massachusetts entitled Union and Peace! How They Shall Be Restored.

Sumner was known as a powerful orator and the leader of the antislavery forces in Massachusetts.

[Upon the appearance of Mr. Sumner on the platform, he was most cordially greeted by the whole convention and the large audience in the galleries.  Hon. H. L. Dawes President of the Convention, introduced him in a few felicitous words whereupon the warm applause of the vast assembly burst forth again with great enthusiasm, ending the three rousing cheers.]
. . . .Slavery. Often have I exclaimed, in times past, that our first great object was the Emancipation of the National Government, so that it should no longer be the slave of Slavery, ready to do its bidding in all things. But this victory has been won. It was won first by the ballot box, when Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States; [applause] — and it was won the second time by the cartridge box, when, at the command of the President, the guns of Fort Sumter returned defiance to the rebel artillery. [Three cheers.] Such was the madness of Slavery that the first was not enough. Unhappily, the second was needed to complete the work.

 . . . It is Slavery which has been the origin of our party divisions, keeping men asunder who ought to act together. But with the expulsion of this disturbing influence, the apology for these divisions has ceased. All patriots,—all who truly love their country—may now act together; no matter in what party combination they may have formerly appeared; no matter, of what accent is the speech by which their present duties are declared. Call them democrats, Union men, native or foreigners, what you will, are we not all engaged in a common cause ? 

 . . . .The Government is assailed by a Rebellion without precedent. Never before since Satan warred upon the Almighty has Rebellion assumed such a front; [applause]—and never before has it begun in such a cause. The rebels are numerous and powerful; and their cause is Slavery. [Sensation.]

It is the very essence of rebellion to be audacious, unhesitating, unscrupulous. Rebellion sticks at nothing; least of all, with a rebellion which began in Slavery. It can be sucessfully encountered only by a vigor and energy which shall surpass its own. Patriotism surely is not less potent as a motive than treason. It must be invoked. By all the memorial of your fathers, who founded this Republic and delivered to you the precious heritage; and by all the sentiments of gratitude for the good you have enjoyed beneath its protecting care, you are summoned to its defence. Defence, did I say?  It if with mortification that I utter the word; but you all know the truth.

The rebel conspirators have set upon us, and now besiege the National Government. They besiege, it at Washington, where are the President and his Cabinet and the national archives. They besiege it at Fort Monroe on the Atlantic, at St. Louis on the Mississippi, and now they besiege it in Kentucky. Everywhere we are on the defensive. [Sensation.] Strongholds have been wrested from us. Soldiers gathered under the folds of our national flag have been compelled to surrender. Citizens, whose only offense has been their loyalty, have been driven from their homes. Bridges have been burned. Railways have been disabled. Steamers and ships have been seized. The largest navy yard of the country has been appropriated. Commerce has been hunted on the sea, and property, where. ever it can be reached, ruthlessly robbed or destroyed.. . .

Do you ask in whose name all this has been done. The answer it easy. Not "in the name of God and the Continental Congress,'' as Ethan Allen summoned Ticonderoga; but "in the name of Slavery." Yes; in the name of Slavery, and nothing else, has all this crime, destruction and ravage been perpetrated; and the work is still proceeding.

Look at the war as you will, and you will always see Slavery.  Never were the words of the Roman orator more applicable: Nullum facinus exstit nisi per te; nullum flagitium sine te. "No guilt unless through thee, no crime without thee." Slavery is its inspiration; its motive power; its end and aim ; its be-all and end-all.

It is often said that the war will make an end of Slavery. This it probable. But it it surer still, that the overthrow of Slavery will at once make an end of the war. [Tumultuous applause and cheers.]  . . .

Charles Sumner, from the Library of Congress Collection

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