The Abolitionists eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 164 pages of information about The Abolitionists.

Now, for what did those parties stand in 1840?  Who were their presidential candidates in that year?  Martin Van Buren was the candidate of the Democrats.  He had been for eight years in the offices of Vice-President and President, and in that time, in the opinion of the Anti-Slavery people of the country, had shown himself to be a facile instrument in the hands of the slaveholders.  He was what the Abolitionists described as a “doughface”—­a Northern man with Southern principles.  As presiding officer he gave the casting vote in the Senate for the bill that excluded Anti-Slavery matter from the United States mails, a bill justly regarded as one of the greatest outrages ever perpetrated in a free country, and as holding a place by the side of the Fugitive Slave Law.  True, he afterwards—­this was in 1848,—­like Saul of Tarsus, saw a new light and announced himself as a Free Soiler.  Then the Abolitionists, with what must always be regarded as an extraordinary concession to partisan policy, cast aside their prejudices and gave him their support.  Yet Mr. Roosevelt charges them with being indifferent to the demands of political expediency.

General William Henry Harrison, candidate of the Whigs, was a Virginian by birth and training, and an inveterate pro-slavery man.  When Governor of the Territory of Indiana, he presided over a convention that met for the purpose of favoring, notwithstanding the prohibition in the Ordinance of ’87, the introduction of slavery in that Territory.

These were the men between whom the old parties gave the Abolitionists the privilege of pick and choice.  Declining to support either of them, they gave their votes to James G. Birney, candidate of the newly formed Liberty party.  He was a Southern man by birth and a slave-owner by inheritance, but, becoming convinced that slavery was wrong, he freed his negroes, giving them homes of their own, and so frankly avowed his Anti-Slavery convictions that he was driven from his native State.  His supporters did not expect to elect him, but they hoped to begin a movement that would lead up to victory.  They were planting seed in what they believed to be receptive soil.

After 1840, the old parties became more and more submissive to the Slave Power.  Conjointly, they enacted those measures that became known as the compromises of 1850, the principal ones being the Fugitive Slave Law and the act repealing the Missouri Compromise.  Both of them pronounced these acts to be “a finality,” and both of them in national convention declared there should be no further agitation of the subject.  They set out to muzzle all the Anti-Slavery voices of the country.

By this time it was perfectly manifest that there was not only nothing the slaveholders might demand which the old parties would not concede, but that there was, so far as the slavery issue was involved, absolutely no difference between them.  It is a notable fact that in the eight years following 1840, of the four presidential candidates put in nomination by the two parties, three were slaveholders, the fourth being a Northern “doughface,” and both of the two who were elected held slaves.

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The Abolitionists from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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