It is rather a curious circumstance that, at the crisis just alluded to, the nearest approach to original Abolitionism that was to be found, was in a slave State. In Missouri there was an organized opposition to slavery that had been maintained for several years, and which was never abandoned. The vitality displayed by this movement was undoubtedly due in large measure to the inspiration of the man who was its originator, if not its leader. That man was Thomas H. Benton. Whether Benton was ever an Abolitionist or not, has been a much-disputed question, but one thing is certain, and that is that the men who sat at his feet, who were his closest disciples and imbibed the most of his spirit—such as B. Gratz Brown, John How, the Blairs, the Filleys, and other influential Missourians,—were Abolitionists. Some of them weakened under the influence of the national administration, but not a few of them maintained their integrity. Even in the first days of the Civil War, when all was chaos there, an organization was maintained, although at one time its only working and visible representatives consisted of the members of a committee of four men—a fifth having withdrawn—who were B. Gratz Brown, afterwards a United States Senator; Thomas C. Fletcher, afterwards Governor of the State; Hon. Benjamin R. Bonner, of St. Louis, and the writer of this narrative. They issued an appeal that was distributed all over the State, asking those in sympathy with their views to hold fast to their principles, and to keep up the contest for unconditional freedom. To that appeal there was an encouraging number of favorable responses.
And thus it was that when Abolitionism may be said to have been lost by merger elsewhere, it remained in its independence and integrity in slaveholding Missouri, where it kept up a struggle for free soil, and in four years so far made itself master of the situation that a constitutional State convention, chosen by popular vote, adopted an ordinance under which an emancipationist Governor issued his proclamation, declaring that “hence and forever no person within the jurisdiction of the State shall be subject to any abridgment of liberty, except such as the law shall prescribe for the common good, or know any master but God.”
The writer entered on this work with no purpose of relating or discussing the story of the Republican party, in whole or in any part. His subject was Abolitionism, and his task would now be completed but for the movement in the State of Missouri, to which reference has just been made. That manifestation, he thinks, is deserving of recognition, both on its own account and as a continuation of the original movement, and he is the more inclined to contribute to its discussion because he was then a Missourian by residence, and had something to do with its successful prosecution.