The National Era
John Greenleaf Whittier
Washington, D.C.: 27 January 1853


  The smoke has cleared up from the political battle-field. Emerged from the Presidential contest, we have now an opportunity to ascertain our condition and resources, and to consider our prospects for the future.

  It cannot be denied that the Free Democracy went into the late struggle under circumstances by no means encouraging. In the very outset, we had the mortification to see the great body of the Wilmot Proviso, or rather anti-Cass Democrats, who constituted more than half of the voters for Van Buren and Adams in 1848, wheel out of our line, and go over to the National Democracy. It was no pleasant spectacle to witness men in whose professions of regard for Freedom we had reposed a good deal of confidence, under the pressure of the Compromise, imitating the pliable self-seeking Christians of the times of Decius Trajan, sacrificing to the false gods of the Baltimore Platform, and even burning incense to Moloch in the shape of the Fugitive Slave Law. As a still sorer trial of our faith and patience, one at least of the earliest, ablest, and most eloquent advocates of the old Liberty Party, was seen foremost among the stump orators and drill-sergeants of a party pledged to deadly hostility to every form of Anti-Slavery agitation, and to the maintenance and vigorous execution of the Fugitive Slave Law. Sadder still, the mightiest intellect of the North had been brought over to the service of Slavery, carrying with him, to a very great extent, the conservatives of both political parties, and sweeping in the mighty wake of his defection, pulpit and press, as the dragon of the Apocalypse did the stars of Heaven. Last of all, the only man who, to human comprehension, seemed capable of arresting and rolling back the tide of this apostacy, and of uniting the friends of Freedom to resist, upon constitutional grounds, the encroachments of Slavery, was suddenly and unexpectedly called away from the post of duty, just as he had begun to consecrate his great talents, and profound learning to the cause of pure and free Democracy. The turf, which was hardly green over the graves of Silas Wright and John Quincy Adams, was broken anew for him upon whom their mantles had fallen. The death of Robert Rantoul left the North without a leader.

  Yet, it now appears that, in despite of these unpropitious circumstances, more than 150,000 votes were polled at the late election for Hale and Julian—a far better result for the cause of Freedom than could have been anticipated, in view of the facts in the case. It should in truth be regarded as a triumphant testimony to the vitality and power of the principle which underlies our movement. We have come out of the contest not only strong in numbers, but with a thorough organization, and entire unity of feeling and purpose.

  Such is our present condition. What are the promises of the Future?

  The Whig Party is virtually annihilated. It died with its great and brilliant leader, Henry Clay. The Hunker portion of it, not already amalgamated with the National Democracy, will naturally fasten themselves upon the new Administration, and, in spite of the jealous vigilance of its supporters of the "Young American" school, with most assuredly, to some extent, color and influence it. Progressive and liberal Democrats are thus in a fair way of being disappointed; and, before the next election comes around, they may have no other alternative than to forego their cherished principles, or stand shoulder to shoulder with Liberal Whigs and Free Democrats, in the contest of 1856, wherein, judging from present appearances, the only issue will be between Freedom and Slavery.

  In this view of things, our position is one of the first importance. We constitute the nucleus of the great Free Party of the Future—the party in which the Democratic and Christian idea of government is to find its full and perfect development. It becomes us, then, to make the most of our resources, and to gird ourselves up for a brave and earnest effort, which shall at least deserve success.

  We have 150,000 voters who can be depended upon. Each man of these should regard himself as a missionary of Freedom in his neighborhood, and see to it that the cause, in addition to his vote, has also his "word in season."

  There are fifty-four Free Democratic papers published in the country, beside several which are more especially devoted to the moral bearings of the great question. The circulation of these papers should be extended as widely as possible. With scarcely an exception, they are conducted with ability and discretion, and not one of them could be spared. Let them all be liberally sustained, as one of the most certain and effectual means of keeping alive the interest and zeal of old friends, and making new ones.

  The unprecedented sale of Uncle Tom's Cabin, making all allowance for the extraordinary ability of the work itself, is a striking evidence of popular interest in the subject. The public ear is open. Whatever politicians may resolve, or clerical conservatives preach, the heart and conscience of the nation are with us. It is our business to give direction and practical efficiency to this popular sympathy, and point out legal and constitutional channels wherein it may act upon the politics of the country.

  We have many able and popular speakers and orators, who thoroughly understand the moral, legal, and political bearings of the questions at issue between us and the adherents of the Baltimore Platforms. Such men as John P. Hale, of New Hampshire; J. G. Palfrey, S. C. Phillips, Anson Burlingame, Erastus Hopkins, and Henry Wilson, of Massachusetts; William Elder, of Pennsylvania; Gerrit Smith and Frederic Douglas, of New York; Durkee, Julian, Clay, Root, Vaughn, Lewis, and Giddings, of the West, would command attention at all times and in all places. These, with many others whose names will readily occur to our readers in their respective localities, should not be suffered to remain silent. Whatever is needed to secure their services, whenever and wherever they can be employed with effect, should not be wanting on the part of the Free Democrats of the Union.

  The influence of the pulpit should not be overlooked. Ecclesiastical Hunkers should be left to draw their support from their political brethren alone; while those ministers of the Gospel who have the moral courage and honesty to maintain the Higher Law of Christianity against the blasphemy and atheism of the Lower Law of Slavery, should have the sympathy and especial favor of the friends of Freedom.

  The importance of securing the co-operation of the freedom-loving women of the United States should no longer be disregarded by political Anti-Slavery men. Gerrit Smith, over whose election we have all rejoiced, owes his seat in Congress to the women of his district, quite as much as to the men. The heaviest blow which Slavery has received for the last half century has just been struck by a woman, the writer of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Let no paltry fear of the senseless clamor and pointless witticisms of our opponents, or of giving offence to the sensitive delicacy of political slave-jockies and their clerical conscience-keepers, prevent us from making the most of this potent source of influence.

  While our own course should be regulated by our individual convictions of duty and sense of the fitness of things, we should cultivate kind feelings towards those who, sharing our sentiments, manifest them in forms of action different from our own. Let the time past suffice for apologies or disclaimers in respect to our fellow-laborers. If our neighbor casts out devils after a fashion of his own, let us not stop by the way to criticise his modus operandi. So long as two out of three of the pulpit and newspaper organs of Evangelical Churches in this country are in fellowship with slaveholders, cite Scripture in palliation of Slavery, and counsel active support of the Fugitive Slave Act, which abrogates the Law of Love, repeals the Ten Commandments, and renders the Sermon on the Mount a treasonable document, it is scarcely worth while to join them in heresy-hunting, and in denouncing a few well-known reformers, who have unfortunately given too much credit to these Pro-Slavery Biblical commentators to feel safe in relying upon the infallibility of a Book so sadly perverted.

  Freedom Clubs or Societies, male and female, should be formed, wherever practicable.

  The speeches of Giddings, Mann, and Rantoul, and especially the lucid, eloquent, and conclusive argument of Senator Sumner, against the Fugitive Slave Law, should be placed in the hands of all who are willing to read and examine for themselves.

  To accomplish these and similar objects, funds are needed, to be placed in the hands of State Central Committees, or expended directly by the particular associations in which they are raised. ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS annually, for the next four years, could be well applied; and this sum could be raised without serious sacrifice on the part of the Anti-Slavery men and women of the United States.

  In offering these brief hints with reference to the associated action of the friends of Freedom, we do not forget that the main reliance of the cause must be upon individuals, acting in accordance with the special monitions of their consciences, and their own distinctive ideas of duty. Organization the most perfect will prove but a dead machine, unless, as in the vision of the Oriental Prophet, there is "a spirit within the wheels"—unless the hearts and consciences of the individuals who compose it are moved and animated by the highest motive of human action—Love to God, and love to Man.