African Slave Trade and Lincoln's
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RONALD N . :\ 1' Z The African Slave Trade and Lincoln's Canlpaign eif 18 58 A sp ecialist in Am erican h istory and Indian and Afro-American ethnic history, in particular, R onald N . Satz has recently com pl et ed his fi rst year on th e fa culty at th e Un iversity of T'enn essee-e-Martin , Dr . Sot: received his un d ergraduate d egree fr om th e Illin ois I nstitute of T echnology. Chicago, in 1965; th e i\l. A. from Illin ois Stat e Uniuersty, N orm al, in 1967; and th e Ph .D . fr om th e U niversity of M aryland , College Park. in 1972. H is do ct oral dissert at ion was a study of fed eral Indian policy. . . S ENATOR S TE PHE l A. DOUGLAS)S revolt aga in t the Buchanan ad- T mInIstration over th e ad mis ion of Kansas as a lave sta te po ed a formidabl e threa t to th e asp ira tion of Illinois R epublicans in 1858. Up to that tim e, op position to Dougla had been th e strongest factor U;1iting th e div er e clem ent s makin g up th e IlIinoi Republican party. ~everthele s, prominent eastern R epublicans such a Horace Gre eley dIScounted thi s fact and upported th e Senator's candidacy for re- el:ction with the hope that a R epublican endor ement of the Little GIant might bring thousands of Illinois Democrats into Republican ranks for the 1860 presidential election.' The state convention of th e Illinois R epublican party met at Spring- 1. Don E. Fehrenba cher Prelud e to Gr eatn ess: Lin coln in th e 1850's ( ranford, Calif.: ( 1~n ford Uni versity Press, ; 962 ) , pp . 59-65; Horace Greeley , R ecoll ections of a Busy ut; 9 ew Yor k : ]. B. Ford and Co ., 1868), pp. 357-58; Daily L itt le Giant (O ttawa) , Nov. a;d ; 8, p. 2; " M r. ElIch.an an 's Ad ministration: " Atlantic M onthly, I ( 185. ) , 75~~7: Ri ch.- I8 8 P f r \lI en Heckman, L incoln us Douglas: 7 he G reat D ebat es Campaign ( \\ ashin gto n : ( ~ ) IC Affai rs Pr ess, 1967) , pp . 25- 31; Benjamin P. Thomas, Abraham Lin coln. A Biography ew York : Knopf, 1952), pp. 177-79 . 269 27° AFRICA:-< SLAVE TRADE field on June 16, 1858, and nominated Abrah am Lincoln a it "fir t and only choice" for United States senator . One of th e shrewd trate- gies Lincoln used to thwart the Eastern-Republicans-for-Douglas move- m ent and im pu gn Dougla s's newly won antislavery cr edentials was th e popular sovereignty- Africa n slave -trade syllogism he pre cntcd in hi acceptance speech of June 16. In th at add ress, now known as the Hou e Di vided speech, Lincoln equated th e revival of the Af rican lave trade wit h D ouglas's doctrin e of popul ar sovereignty, wh ich would allow the peo ple in the territories to vote slave ry up or down . " Fo r year he [Douglas] has lab or ed to prove it a sacr ed right of white men to take negro slaves int o th e new ter rit ori es. Can he po sibly show th at it i less a sac red right to bu y th em whe re they can be bought ch ea pest? And, unquestionably they can be bou ght ch ea per in Africa th an in V irginia:" Stemming from thi s spee ch, the state part y platform was specifica lly drawn up in such a manner as to demonstrate t hat, unlike Douglas, th e R epublican s stood on high moral ground on both the sla very -extension and African slave-trade i sue ." T he R epublican accusa tions and innuendos attem pt ing to link Doug- las wit h the rev iva l of th e African slave tr ad e de erve pecial attention beca use of Douglas's un equivocal oppo ition to tha t inhuman traffic. The Senator's sta nd on the revival of th e African lave trade was no secre t in Illinois. Douglas had sided with the R epublicans in op po ing the proslaver y Lecompton constitution, and his po ition on the slave trad e was, in th e minds of his supporters, crystal clear. The Chicago Tim es) Dougla s's leading organ in th e sta te, had wa rne d that " the re- viva l of the [African] slave trade is intimately connected with th e Lecompton bi11." 4 Further demonstration of Douglas's position wa evidenced when he vot ed with R ep ublicans on the Senate Foreign R e- lations Committee to retain a United States naval force on th e African 2. Roy P. Basler, ed ., Mar ion Dolores Pratt and Lloyd A. Dunlap, a t. ed ., Th e Coll ect ed II' arks of A braham L incoln (New Brunswi ck, N.]. : R utgers Univ ersit y Press, 1953 ), II , 467-68, herei nafte r cited as Col lect ed II' arks. Congre s had outla wed rh.. African slave trade at the close of 1807 and had equated involvem ent in th e trade with piracy in 1820. U .S. Statutes at L arge, II , 426, III, 600-01 . 3. Notes of the Committee on R esolutions incorporated in its report to th e R epublican State Conve nt ion at Springfield, June 16, 1858, I llinois Republican Party ~[ . Illin ois State Hi stor ical Libra ry, Springfield . 4. Ch icago Daily D em ocratic Press, M ar ch 22, 1858, p. 2. Coast for th e purpose of preventing lave-trading. Democrat had sought to abrogate th e provision of th e \Vebster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 th at required the U n ited State to maintain uch a forc e. Douglas's oPPosition was cru cial since the m easur e failed by onl y one vote." He sto~d, as he expressed it at a later date, " irreconcila bly opposed to the revival of the African lave trade in cverv form. and und er a ny cir- CUmstances." o ,. ' Lincoln a rgued that Douglas' sta nd on the slave .rradc could not be rec~~ciled with popular sove reignty and th at th erefore Dougla ' political po ition wa s untenable. In spite of the Sen ator's ta red oppo ition to ~. ~id., M ay 27, 1858, p. 1. l Ui ' . obe rt W . J ohannsen, ed ., Th e L ett ers of S teph en A . Douglas ( rbana : Univ crsity of nOIS Press, 196 1) , p. 452. AFR ICAN S L A VE T RA DE the African slave trade, Lincoln eq ua te d Douglas's doctrine of popula r sove re ignty w ith the ultimate reviv al of th e trade. Li ncoln had a p- parently sensed that this issue mi ght sway th e electora te and 1 e 0 Dougl as th e a ntislave ry votes he h ad won by his L ecompton h eroic . By using th e popular sove re ign ty- A frica n slave-t ra de yllogi m , L in- coln soug h t to divide the public into two ca m ps-R epublicans on one side opposing both of these m easures and D em ocrats of all strip e on th e other side, by implication favoring both. In th is sch em e Douglas wo uld h av e no middle g round. In J uly, D ou glas arrived in Illinois to ope n hi bid for reel ection. On July 9, speaking before a fri endly crowd a t th e Tremont H ou e in Chicago, he vigor ously defended his do ctrine of popula r over eignty- The Senator warned th en , as he would throughou t th e campai gn , that th e R epublicans wer e inciting sect ional strife by denouncing th e great p rin cipl e wh ereb y " the p eople of ea ch T erritory . . . have the rizht to d ecid e for th emselv es whether slave ry shall or sh all not exist wi thin th eir limits.!" Lincoln was on hand to h ear th ese remarks a nd replied from th e arne spot on th e next day. H e told th e crowd tha t D ou gla was respon ible for the sectional a n im osities th en existing. The framers of th e C on ti- tution not onl y h ad believed " tha t it [slavery] wa in cour e of ul tima te extinction ," but al so had provided that C on gress could outlaw the African slave trade after tw enty yea rs. Lincoln argu ed th at D ougla 's doctrine of popular sove re ignty, ho wever, would op en th e territorie to slav ery and prevent its " ult imate exti nc tion" a th e fra m er of the Constitution had in tend ed. " Shortl y a fte r th e publication of Lincoln ' Chicago addre , Illinois R epublica n editors used th e southern agitation for reopening the African slave trade to susta in th eir charge that D ou gl a wa " un ound" on the vital slavery-extension question. These ed itors ca lled the enator' a cent ral figure in th e consp iracy to Afri canize th e nation a nd warned 7. J ohannsen, Th e Lin coln- D ouglas D ebates of 1858 ( N ew York: Oxford ' niversity Pre s, 1965 ), p. 24. . 8. C oll ect ed W orks, II , 492. For an ana lysis of Lin coln's use of the Constitution in his attacks on Douglas, see W illard L. K ing and All an N evins, " T he Constitution an d D e c1 ar~ tion of Indep end ence as Issues in the Lincoln-D ouglas D ebates," J ournal of th e I llinot! S tate H istorical S ociet y, 52 ( 1959 ) , 7- 32. ILLINOIS I N 1 8 5 8 LINCOLN 'S SPEAKING DATES IN 1858 SENATORIAL CAMPAIGN lincoln spoke in the lawns marked 0 Th. seven debates are marked * AFR ICA:>: SLAVE TRADE th at out he rne rs were u ing him to help m ak e the ir lave-trade argu- ment p alatable to no rtherner. R epublican ed itor in Ill inoi were an x- ious to dem onstrate that, contrary to th e belief of Greeley and h i follower , Dougla did not m erit R epublican upport." Li ncoln began ca mpa ign ing inten ively in mid-Augu t . O n the seven - teen th he was at Lewistown , Fulton Co unty, where he poke before a cat herinz of seve ra l th ou and peo ple in the public quare. H e boldly impugned the doc tr ine of popular overeignty and reiterated hi con - tenti on tha t th e " pub lic determ ina tion" had oppo ed the foreign lave tr ad e at th e time of th e adop tion of th e Con titution . Toting that the men who wro te that document had considered lavery and the lave trade a evil, Lincoln im plied th at Dougla ' policy for the territories was cont rary to th e spirit and th e int enti on of the Co n ti tution. " While Lincoln 's ca mpaign was gaining mom entum during Augu t, even t in the out h presen ted hi supporter with new "inconte table" p roof th at there was ind eed a con piracy afoot to Africanize the coun- try. Rep ort s reach ed Illinois th at th e bark E . A . R awlins had landed a cargo of nea rly seven hundred Af rican in Texa . R epu blican editor immed ia tely charged t he entire D emocratic pa rty with tacitly working to reo pen th e nefari ous African slave trad e." The Chica go Press and Tri bun e) the leading R epublican new paper in the ta te, played upon the anxiety created by th e news from T exas in it vitriolic a ault against Sena tor D ouglas. Th e Tribun e informed its readers th at th e leading outhern pro- pon ent of th e foreign sla ve tr ad e, th e N ew O rleans D elt a) wa up port- ing Dougla ' bid for reelecti on, as were nearly all outhern Democra tic newspapers. Dougla s, th e T ribun e warned , would int erpret hi elec- tion as evide nce of public support for th e revival of the African lave 9. Quincy Daily Whig and R epublican, Aug. 9, 1858, p. 2; Ch icago Da ily Press and T ribune, July 31 ( p. 2 ) , Aug. 3 (p. 2 ), 1858; Daily Illinois Stat e Journ al ( prin gfield ), Aug. 9, 1858, p. 2; W eekl y Pantagraph (Bloomington), Aug . II, 1858, p. 2; R ock ford R e- pub lican, Aug. 12, 1858, p. 2. 10. Earl Schenck M iers, William E. Baringer, and C. Per cy Powell, ed ., L incoln Day by Day: A Chronology, /809 -/865 ( Washington : Lin coln e. quicente nnial Commi ion, 1960), II , 224-25; Collecte d W orks, II, 546-47. II. Week i). Pant agrapl: ( Bloomington) , Aug. 18, 1858, p. I; Rock I sland W eekly Com - mer cial, Aug. 18, 1858, p. 2; C hicago Daily Press and Tribun e, Aug. 19 ( p. 2 ), 21 ( p. 2) . 1858; Quin cy Daily Whig and R epublican . Aug. 20, 1858, p. 2. RO. ' A L D x, SAT Z trade. " H i every haran gu e," th e T ribun e charged, " i ballast in a slave chooner; his every enunc ia tion of principles a doffing of th e ' I'110 -nocranc b anner to th e black flag of the [ lave-tra dimg J pirate ! . Den- ' Throughout th e 1858 campaign th e T ribune echoed Lincoln's de- nunciations of th e Douglasites as mere tools of their lave-breeding COU ins, The editors ad vi ed th eir read ers that a vote for the ena tor \Va a vote for m ore slave hips: IS not all Issue In t hiIS campaign. Let it no t b e salid , t h en, that the Slave Trade , . . , " I t is and WI'1 1 b e an Issue in not only this but even' other campaign unn'1 It IS once . , . ~ore cstablishcd undcr the anction' of Federal la\~" or until a well assured Rep ub- Ican triu m ph makes a ll hope of its revival impo sible. The outh clamors more lOUdly a nd threa teningly for this thing now than it ever did for the wiping out of tha t [?\Iissou riJ Compromise line and within half a dozen veal', if the career of S~ch me n as D ou gl as be n o t checked by indubitable manife 'tations of the popular \\'11]' th e 'I . ou t h WI I threa ten as thev have done before, to dIS 0 I\'C t Iie U' Il I lllO 'f thc i " " I' d em a nd s are not gra nted, and the North will be found to con tam doughface enough to swcar that th e lave Trade has always been a Democratic mea ure, an d an ti a ll wa n t black w ives and vel low children , tha . . \~'ho 0PIJO e it. The lav e T rad e is SSUe m the ca nvass, let it be remembered P" Neither Lincoln nor the Republican press in Illinois intended to allow the electorate to forget these words. It was clear to Illinoi Republican cd' ttor that they could weaken the argument of tho e who aw the Senator a a possible Republican all y by linking him to outhern ex- tremist demands for reopening the African slave trade. ?n August 21, 1858, th e fir t Lincoln-Dougla debate of th e cam- p.aIgn took place at Ottawa in La aIle County. Lincoln 's Hou e Di- vided speech and the exchange between him and Dou gla in Chicago had already establi hed the guideline for the even joint debate be- t\~'een August 21 and October 15.H In repl ying to Dougla at Ottawa, LinColn read a hort pa age from hi famou Peoria peech of 1854. Be had said then that Douglas ' doctrine of popular overeignty would P:rmit the introduction of slavery into the territorie and create a clImate of opinion favorable to the importation of African slaves, The ' . eVe nr 0 f the four years since he first exp res ed that opmron gave L'in- :i' Chicago Da ily Press and T ribune, Aug. 21, 1858, p, 2. 14' Ibid., Aug. 19, 1858, p. 2. . J ohanns en, Th e Lin coln-D ouglas Debates 01 /8 58, pp. 10-11. AFRICA . ' S LA \ ' E TRADE coln little reason to doubt its validity, Once th e public accepted the legitimacy of slav ery exten ion a ad vocated by Dougla , Li nco ln ai d, th ere would be suffi cient " pla usible excu e " for reopening the African lave tr ade." Ten da ys a fter th e Ottaw a debate, Lincoln poke at Carlinville in M acoupin County. "T he re is no reason in f avor of ending lavery to K an sas," he a id, " tha t might not be add uced in upport of the African slave tr ad e." Popul ar sovereignty, in other word , was a pro- lave- tr ad e doct rin e." Lincoln's a rgume nts were given wcizht by t he an- nouncem ent th at Pierre Soul e, a Louisian a advocate of the revival of th e African lave trad e, was supporting Dougla for reelection in 1858 and for th e D em ocratic presidenti al nomination in 1860," Lincoln aga in made use of his popular sovereignty- Af rican slave- tr ad e syllogism on September 4, wh en he ad dre sed a la rge crowd in th e town qu are at Bloomington. Hi oft en- rep eated a ertion that any moral a rgume nt th at could ju tif y taking slave int o the territori e could al 0 justif y th e revival of th e African lave tr ade became th e subje ct of heated debat e between two Bloomington new paper . Editor Thomas C . Peek of th e pro-Douglas I llinois tat esman in- formed his read er th at Lincoln had erred in equa ting the foreign lave trade with th e dom estic lav e trade. Lincoln had obviou ly failed to conv ince Peek that th e dom estic tr ad e enta iled th e hor ror and a troci- tie of th e African slave trade. R epublican ed itor Edward J. Lewi of th e W eekly Pantagraph, on th e other hand, argued that no form of slave trad e wa human e. H e sugges ted th at the horrors of the foreign slave tr ad e found th eir counterpart in th e dom e tic trad e and warn ed that a D emocratic victory in November would mak e both kind of th e trade legal. This wa a reit eration of Lincoln' charge , 1 8 While th e Lincoln-Dougla s debate wer e till in progress, report th at slave sh ips wer e landing Africans in southe rn port played int o th e 15. C oll ected W orks, III , 15, 29-30; H ar ry V. J affa, Crisis of th e H ouse Di vided: An I nterpretation of th e Issues in th e Lincoln -Douglas D ebat es (Garden City. , ' .Y.: Doubl e- day, 1959), pp. 311-12. 16. C oll ected IVorks, III, 79. 17. Ch icago Daily Press and Tribun e, Sept. 2, 1858, p. 2. 18. Illin ois Statesman (Bloomington ) , Sept. 8, 1858, p. 2; IVeeklv Pantagrapli ( Bloom- ington), Sept. 8 ( p. 2), 15 ( p. 1) , 1858. :\ BR:\H A~l U:\COL:\ TEPHE:\ DO GGLA hands of Illinois Republ ican s. Late in August, federal officials cap- ~ured th e bri g Putn am (alia Ec ho ) off Cuba, reportedl y carrying in Its hold an estim a ted 3 18 ta rvin g and di eased Africans between the ~ge of eight and twenty-five! " One of th e imm ediat e qu e tion posed y th e capture of th e Pu tnam wa th e fat e of its maltreated human cargo. Several proslav er v editors warned that the outh would not permit th e govern me nt to mak e th e large exp enditure necessary to r.eturn th e African s to th eir native land. They urged the admini tra- tlon t . . . . 0 CIrcumvent th e federal law and allow th e Afncans to remam In the U nited States. ~o Thi propo a l wa ad voca ted by only a handful of e~tremists, but it ga ve Illinois Republican another opportunity to aSsaI! th e int egrity of th e Democratic administration. A Danville news- paper , for examp le, compl ain ed that " a nation that can . pend thousands to. remand to a sta te of bondage, a single fugitive lave .. . ought cer- taInly not to refuse th e expcn e of returning to their homes a cargo of free m en, who had been ruthle slv nat ch cd from their fireside , througl1 th e exe rt IOns 0 f our own crnz ens.:" . .. ' ..., Then, in early October, R epublican new papers reported that the slaver Haid ee had landed nin e hundred African in Cuba. Federal o~cers sub eq uently captured th e crew and detained the men for tl']al. ~2 In commenting on thi event, th e editors of th e C hicago Tribun e <1 I} 9. Chicago Daily Press and T ribune, Aug . 30 (p. oj. ), Sept. 3 (p. 2) . 6. (p. 1), 1858; 1 85~n W e.eklr Courier, Sept. 2 ( p. .3) , 9 (p. 2), 1858; R ockford ReIJl/~hcall~ cp t., 16: p. and 'Lo 2, \\ arren S ' , Howard ' A m erican .Sla vers and th e Fed eral Law. 183/ -1 86_ ( Berkeley . . 20 s f~ngeles: ~m\"ersIt}' of California Press, 1963 ). p. 144, 2~oj.. . Ch . ChIcago Dall y Press and Tr ibun e. Sept. 20. 1858. p. I; "1 he Captured African s at 2alrleston," De Bow's R eview, 25 ( 1858) ,456-58. V 'I' 22' e~m l IOn County Press, Sep t. 15, 1858, p. 2. .. Oct, '13ChIcago Daily Press and Tri~une, O ct. 8, 1858, p. 2; Ve rmilion ~ounlY Press, 1858 , 1858, p. I ; Alton W eekly Courier, O ct. 14, 1858, p. I; R ockf ord R epubl ican, O ct. 14, , p. 2. AFRI CA . " S L A V E TRADE intimated that it was merely a coincidence that two laver , the Putnam and the Haidee, had recently fallen into the hand of federal mar hals. They sugge ted , arcastically, that th e arre tin g officer had probably not heard th at it wa the fixed policy of th e Buch an an adm ini tration to condone the illegal foreign slave trade. The editor advi ed the mi - informed marshals not to worry about th eir " mi tak e," however. The "pirates" would not face execution, th e editors explained, becau e the Suprem e Court would shortly mak e a "slight modification" in it Dred Scott decision in order to anction th e African lave trad e a a re- spectable and legal commerc e." The Tribun e, along with th e Ill inois S tate j ournal in pringfield- continued thi s kind of attack by reprinting excerpt from th e pro lavery De Bow's R eview, which called for th e reop ening of th e foreign lave trade and th e expansion of slavery into th e territori e and the we tern sta tes. Both R epublican new papers th en noted that ew Orlean editor T James D . B. De Bow had announced his support for Senator Dougla .~4 In the week before the election, several Republican new paper re- printed editorials from outhern journal that advocated th e revival of the African slave trade. One, from th e Charleston AI ercury, argued that it wa as morally right to buy laves in Africa a it was to buy them in Virginia." Thi statement buttre ed Lincoln' rea oning that popular sovereignty was but a foot in the door leading to the foreign slave trade. Another editorial, reprinted in the orth from the pro - Dougla Richmond Enquirer, gave further credence to thi argument by openly advocating repeal of the fed eral law equating the African slave trade with piracy." Between the opening of the state convention on June 16 and th e closing of the polls on ovember 2, the Republicans of Illinois had pre ented a united front against Senator Stephen A. Dougla and hi backer. The Republicans had faced formidable oppo ition from tWO sources-the Douglasites in Illinois and their ea tern Republican up- 23. Chicago Daily Press and Tribu ne, Oc t. 8, 1858, p. 2. 24-. I bid ., O ct. 30, 1858, p. 2; Da ily Ill inois S tate Journal ( pringfield ), Oct. 28, 1858, p. 2. 25. Ch icago Daily Press and T ribun e, Oct. 29, 1858, p. 2; Vermilion County Press, No\'. 3, 1858, p. 2. 26. Qu incy Dail)' Wh ig and R epublican, O ct. 28, 1858, p. 2; Chicago Daily Press and T ribun e, Nov. 2, 1858, p. 2. R O , 'A L D N . S A T Z 279 POrter. Lincoln and hi Illinoi colleague hit Douglas hard with the :harg e that his doctrine of popular sove re ign ty wa aiding outherners In reviving the African sla ve trade a nd would innundate the countrv with thousands of bla ck sla ve . Election victory wa s not to be their; , however. . Douglas's triumph in 1858 was a bitter 10 for IIIinoi R epubli- cans. Altog ether, the R epublican legi lativc candidate who won ca t actuall y repre ented a larger popula tion than did th e D emocratic vic- tor. Th e D emocrat won more ea ts how ever becau e of th e way th e r " . (Istrict had been a p port ioned. D ougl a ' return to th e cna tc wa s th ereby a ured. " . Th e R epublicans o f IlIinoi were pa rti cularly unhappy a bout sup port gIven Douglas by eas te rn R epu blican. Tho e R epublican s had m ade a grave error, accordinc to the Illinoi a n , wh o believed that Abraham Lincoln had efTe ctivelv ~Iemon tr ated t hat ' D ou gh ' wa as strong ly pro- sla ve ry as a nv fire-e~tina ou t h C arolina D em ocrat. Th e · C hicago T ib . b ri un e voiced th e com m on Illinois R epublican . en timc n t that there Was no middle g round between the R epublican party a nd th e pro- S~avery D emocrat . ca nd ida te eithe r oppo ed th e lave trade, dome - tIc and for eign, or he sup po rte d it. " By equating Douglas 's doctrine of popular . overcignty wit h th e sc hem e . . to reVIve the foreign sla ve trade, Abraham Lincoln and hi: a II' tric d rc . to how that Dougla wa incon i tent: it was not po ssible to upport POPular sov ereignty without al 0 accepting th e re umption of th e African slave trade. As Lincoln 0 poignantl y remarked followinz his defeat in 1858, " T he truth is, th e R epublican principl e can, in no wi e live with Douglas; and it is arrant foll y ... to wa te time, and catter labor al- r~ady performed, in dallying with hirn .?" Although he 10 t the election, LIncoln 's popular ov ereignty-African sla ve -t rade yllog i m had demon- Strated to antislaverv IIIinoi a n th at th ere could be no future com- promise with th e D~uglasite heresy. 27. Fehr en bacher, p. 115. 28. Chi cago Da ily Press and Tribun e, Nov. 9, 1858, p. 2. 29. Lin coln to Lyman Trumbull, Dec. II, 1858, in Collected W orks. III , 3-l5.