Policy of the Political Parties

Lowell Daily Journal and Courier, September 5, 1860

Each of the parties having candidates for the Presidency in the field have some way of dealing with the slavery question; for however it may be desired to avoid it, the subject will come up. The Breckinridge party propose a slave code for its protection in the territories, not in every instance perhaps, but in the same meaning and on the same principle that the Republicans are in favor of prohibition. That is to say—they recognize the right of the slave-holder to take his slaves to a territory and hold them as property under the constitution, and his right for additional laws to protect that property, whenever necessary, until the Territory comes to form a State government, when the large majority admit the right of the people then to permit slavery to exist or exclude it, though a few deny the right of a State even to refuse protection to what they call property. The ground thus taken makes all territories slave-holding until they have reached a point where their population will justify their admission into the Union as States. Now, if it be true, that the character of the future man is to a great extent determined by the individual while a child, it is none the less true that the institutions of a State are generally decisively controlled by its action as a Territory. And if slavery is protected until the Territory becomes a State there is little hope for its emancipation when it begins to act for itself. The direct tendency of the Breckinridge policy is therefore to make all future territories of the United States, especially where the climate and soil is congenial, slave-holding ones. Now, such a settlement of the question, so contrary to teachings and legislation of the framers of the constitution and of the statesmen who followed for sixty years, and so repugnant to our sense of moral right, can never be permanent. It cannot be permanent because it is opposed to natural law, to natural and moral right. The nearer, therefore, it comes to a triumph, the more dangerous the consequences. Instinct and impulse, judgment and reason, when running in parallel lines cannot long be prevented. They must assert their supremacy, and any system founded upon violation of natural justice cannot command the assent and secure the support of intelligent and thoughtful men any farther than it is so essentially interwoven with the fabric of society as to render violent measures for its removal dangerous to the peace of the community. When it assumes an aggressive character and winds its folds around new communities, it is to be resisted by all who value national honor, strength and integrity.

The supporters of Mr. Douglas, while recognizing the binding obligation of a decision of the Supreme Court upon this question, and which in the last resort leads directly to the same conclusion arrived at by the friends of Mr. Breckinridge, still contend that the slavery question is a proper question for the territories to settle themselves from the earliest stages of their existence. This is also a novel theory—the product of the last few years of agitation, and born of a political exigency.—Looking to its practical results there is nothing in itself or its operation calculated td commend it to conservative and peace-loving men. Throwing the question into the arena of politics, it is calculated still more to arouse and embitter the passions and set neighbor against neighbor. A sad but pertinent illustration of popular sovereignty will be found in the unhappy history of Kansas. Even when finally settled, as in the case with that territory, amid years of fluctuation, strife and bloodshed, no principle or precedent is established.—The same process may be expected to be repeated whenever a new territory is thrown open. Who desires that this turmoil and agitation should become chronic, as it necessarily must if territories are scrambled for as a prize and by the weapons of war? Even when apparently determined, the institutions of a territory by the oscillations of parties may be so unsettled that no reliance can be placed upon their permanence. There is also another defect about this method which must have been apparent to anybody, and that is the total elimination of the moral element in relation to the question. We do not know whether anybody has ever been able to extract a reply from Senator Douglas to the question whether he regards slavery as a moral wrong or not, though the attempt has been repeatedly tried. He and his party certainly treat the question simply as they would one of finance, wholly without reference to the moral character of the institution. In this respect his party are far behind the Breckinridge party, who acknowledge the force of moral obligations by attempting to prove that slavery is right before they ask for a slave-code. The attempt to take the question of slavery entirely out of the department of morals must necessarily fail in a country which acknowledges its accountability to Divine law. The conscience of the country will not permit this abnegation of the moral element.

The Bell party propose to settle the question by putting it off—a cowardly expedient even if it were possible. But it must be met, it cannot be winked out of sight. Like the ghost of Banquo it will not down at their bidding. It is not only an impracticable way of settling the question but it is a useless one. Quarrels do not mend by being protracted. So long as the question is kept open, with all the irritating causes at work on both sides, the prospects of an amicable settlement are constantly on the wane. This party, respectable in intellect and influence in respect to the question of slavery, adopts the counsels of timidity, of irresolution and of indecision—qualities which of all others are least to be trusted in an emergency.—It is like officers of a vessel losing all presence of mind in a storm. Not only are they in this predicament but they have made no provision for future contingencies. They have no plan of adjustment. North and South they differ and cannot meet on common ground. Here is the inevitable parent of future distrust and dissensions.

The Republican party, realizing the responsibility of the case, and aware that it must be met and settled before peace and quietness can prevail, have resolved to meet it manfully and as becomes good citizens and patriots. They know there is but one course consistent with the principles of justice and the recorded sentiments of the civilized world, and that course they propose to take. It is to arrest its farther extension, leaving it where it is to a gradual extinction through the operation of natural causes and the growth of an enlightened public sentiment. At the same time they do not propose to exercise the power of prohibition in a wanton manner. They will not interfere with any vested rights. Their action will be wholly of a prospective character. To this no just objection can be taken, or will be taken. There may be a little bluster and a few threats, but the Southern people, brave as we know them to be, will never expose themselves to the derision of every civilized community by waging a war, or attempting to dissolve the Union because not permitted to desecrate free soil with the insignia of human bondage.