Just for Curiosity: Pre-War Newspaper Comparison

alan polk

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The New York Herald, May 31, June 1, 1860

Below: Recapture of Africans off Coast of Cuba, Held at Key West, Florida by US Navy

Ran across these articles regarding the unloading of Africans at Key West, Florida by the US Navy. 1860 proved to be an active year for the illegal slave trade. Many of those ships engaged in the illegal transport were seized by the US off the coast of Cuba. The recaptured Africans were then moved to and held in Key West. By May of 1860 some 1500 Africans were on Key West where they were eventually sent back to Africa, but not back to places where they were initially seized. Most were repatriated to Liberia.

Here are a couple modern news articles discussing the Africans at Key West. The first article is a good overview while the second is more thorough and academic:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/slave-burial-history-in-florida-keys/

https://www.academia.edu/4690762/Key_West_and_the_Slave_Ships_of_1860

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alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, June 2, 1860

Below: Resolutions of Republican Party Platform at the Chicago National Convention.

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, June 1, 1860

Below: Criticism of the Homestead Bill.

This opinion piece is clearly against the Homestead Bill. The Bill described here was killed in the Senate, but after Southern politicians resigned from Congress upon secession of Southern States, it passed Congress and was eventually signed into law by Lincoln.

Nevertheless, the article views the present Homestead Bill as nothing but a political tactic as well as a scam. It alleges that the Republicans introduced the bill for no other purpose than “to get the votes of the German and Irish citizens in the coming election.”

It claims the Bill is also a scam. The article declares it a scam because all the desirable lands available through the Bill have already been “covered by pre-emption right speculators,” and the only land left for immigrants to claim are the ones “beyond the reach of roads, schools or medicine . . . surrounded by roving bands of thieving Indians.”

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alan polk

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Below: Comparison of Republican Platform, the Northern Democratic Platform, and Southern Democratic Platforms in Relation to Slavery In Territories.

Republican Party Platform:

- Territorial slavery is “political heresy;”

- “that the normal condition of all the Territories of the United States is that of freedom;”

- No person therein “should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law;”

- “and we deny the authority of Congress, or a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory of the United States.”
————-

Northern Democratic Platform (Douglas):

The Northern Democrats incorporated by reference the Cincinnati Platform of 1856, which stated the following in regard to slavery in the Territories:

- “the only sound and safe solution of the ‘slavery question’” is “non-Interference by Congress with slavery in the Territories or in the District of Columbia;”

- “the admission of new States, with or without domestic slavery, as they may elect.”

After incorporation of the Cincinnati resolutions, the 1860 Platform added the following:

- “the Democratic Party will abide by the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States on the questions of Constitutional law;”

- “It is the duty of the United States to afford ample and complete protection to all its citizens, whether at home or abroad.”

- that during the existence of the Territorial governments, the measure of restriction imposed by the Federal Constitution upon the Territorial legislatures, concerning the subject of domestic relations, shall be determined by the Supreme Court of the United States and enforced by the Government.
————-

Southern Democratic Platform (Breckinridge):

The Southern faction appears to have referenced the Cincinnati Platform as well, but added the following:

- “all citizens of the United States have an equal right to settle with their property in the Territory” without injury by “Congressional or Territorial legislation;”

- “It is the duty of the Federal government, in all its departments, to protect the rights of persons and property in the Territories;

- That when the forming of a State Constitution in any Territory begins, “the right of sovereignty commences;”

————-

Full Texts of Platforms below.

For Republican, see post #202 above.

Southern Democrat:

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alan polk

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Below: Northern Democratic Party Platform:

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Source: American Battlefield Trust

Below: The Cincinnati Platform Referencing Slavery In Territories

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alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, July 14, 1860

Below: Opposition Party of Alabama Explains Why It Supports Breckinridge and the Southern Democrats.

Giving allegiance to the Breckinridge faction of the Democratic Party arose out of commitment to equality between States and citizens in relation to property in the Territories.

According to the resolutions, the Southern faction is the only party which explicitly places this idea into its platform.

Each citizen residing in a Territory, it says, should “have the right to all such legislation as may be necessary to protect them in the possession and enjoyment of their slave property.”

This simple right to equal treatment is essential and is therefore the most important issue in the upcoming Presidential election.

The principle is for equality in rights of each citizen and each State in the South with the corresponding rights of each citizen and each State of the North.

According to the resolutions, the issue “cannot be ignored without a surrender of Southern equality.”

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alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, July 14, 1860

Below: Acceptance Letter of Joseph Lane (for Vice President), Wherein He Gives Summation of the Territorial Issue as Contemplated by Breckinridge Faction of Democratic Party.

“Non intervention on the subject of slavery, I may emphatically say, is the cardinal maxim of the democracy.”

It is why, Lane states, that the Breckinridge Democrats have inserted the full doctrine into its Platform. Here, unlike the Douglas Democrats, the non intervention doctrine applies to both Congress and Territorial legislatures.

Lane believes it is vain to declare the non intervention of Congress, without also insisting upon the non intervention of Territorial legislatures, because to permit legislatures to prohibit slavery would be granting them powers that do not relate to the power that created them.

Moreover, to allow a Territorial legislature to prohibit slavery would create an agitation that necessarily extends to Congress, i.e., it is the Federal Government’s duty to protect the rights of every citizen when infringed upon. Territorial legislation prohibiting slavery, or by unfriendly legislation that works to invalidate slave property, would infringe upon a citizen’s right, invoking such protection.

Lane insists that Breckinridge Democrats “do not propose for the extension of slavery, nor for its restriction,” but to each State, and to every citizen the following:

“Perfect equality of rights, and then to submit to the people the kind of institution best fitted to the requirements in their constitutional limits, and declaring as a fundamental maxim that the people of a Territory can only establish or prohibit slavery when they come to form a Constitution preparatory to their admission as a State into the Union.”

This course of action, Lane declares, will lead to peace, and “no more shall we be troubled with the agitation of this dangerous question, because it will be removed from the Territorial Legislatures as from the halls of Congress, which we shall be free to turn our attention to more useful issues - the motives of growth in national greatness.”

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, July 31, 1860

Below: The Moral Issue Underlying the Conflict.

This is an Op-ed piece examining the treatment of slavery by political parties and the bleak future the author sees for the Union if slavery is not somehow accepted by the North.

In essence, the writer is telling the Democratic Party that the time has come to deal squarely with the issue of slavery. That, somehow, they need to convince people it is an acceptable part of the American project.

The Republicans, on the other hand, have seized upon the issue and are convincing people it is an evil.

The rise of the Republican Party, the writer claims, is explained by that “great overwhelming moral issue of slavery, as an institution of good or evil, of right or wrong.”

The Republicans therefore are dealing with it square in the face, and being a sectional party, reflect a growing understanding at the North:

“This underlying fundamental Northern idea, that the institution of Southern slavery is a sin; that it is founded in error and against right; that it’s fruits are poisonous; that it pretensions are false and incompatible with our free institutions; and that it must be hunted out of the country, will account for this solid front of the Republican Party.”

In short, these ideas unite the Republicans and is uniting the North.

These same suspicions run throughout the Democratic Party, too. However, that party tends to ignore or evade these fundamental questions regarding the institution. Instead, they argue over abstractions which work to divide the party instead of uniting it - as was seen at the Charleston and Baltimore Conventions.

As a result, the sectional Republicans “representing hardly one-third of the popular vote of the country, is morally certain to elect its candidates for President and Vice President, by a majority of the electoral vote of the Union.”

“The simple truth is, that this contest is between the anti-slavery sentiment of the North and the pro-slavery sentiment of the South.”

If the Democrats do not figure out how to confront the slavery issue in a way that can unite them, then a sectional party will take the Presidency and force a disunion of the country.

“It is,” the writer believes, “the ‘irrepressible conflict’ proclaimed by W.H. Seward.”

Here, the writer obviously has no way of contemplating or knowing the utter devastation which is about to engulf the country, or that the issue of slavery will actually be resolved permanently in this country.

So, although he agrees with the “irrepressible conflict” idea, he does not think that any result of that pending conflict will lead to an either-or scenario (all free or all slave).

Instead, the writer believes the result will mean “the withdrawal of the bulk of slave States from the Union, sooner or later, peace or war.” In that scenario, the Union is lost and slavery remains on the continent.

What he hopes is that the conflict can be somehow prolonged until “there shall appear a party strong enough to maintain slavery in the Union, not only as recognized by the compact of the constitution but upon that high moral ground, that as existing in the United States, negro slavery is right, is good and proper, a divinely ordained institution.”

That certainly seems a huge barrier to overcome, even a bit outlandish to even consider - at least from a modern perspective. But such were surely the sentiments of many Americans who held the Union with such esteem, and who feared its disunion over the issue of slavery. They were seeking some new way to compromise when compromising seemed all but dead.

Nevertheless, the writer ponders on the only way he can see forward to a future where the Union is saved. From his perspective, then, it must come, somehow, in some way, by Americans accepting the institution:

“But under a popular government like ours, such a Southern institution as this of slavery can never be safe until public opinion in the North shall have been trained at least so far to recognize it right and good as to let it alone.”

“Will that day ever come? We know not; but we know, for we see, that this Presidential contest, for good or evil, is the beginning of the end.”

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, August 1, 1860

Below: “The Old Game of Scaring and Bullying the North.” (Chicago newspaper article reprinted in the Herald.)

It was not an uncommon allegation, usually leveled by Republicans and abolitionists, that much of the South’s political capital was made by simply threatening to leave the Union. It was viewed as a form of bullying.

Here, the Chicago newspaper accuses the New York Herald of aiding in the bullying.

It cites an article published in the Herald which states, in part, the following:

“We advise our readers to prepare for the coming crisis. Between this time and November something may be saved from the wreck. Merchants who have dealings with Southern traders will do well to close up such affairs as soon as possible. Holders of Southern State railway or city stocks or securities of the general government, should realize upon them at once. Bankers at home and abroad should prepare themselves for the inevitable panic to financial affairs. The crisis is imminent. The dissolution of the Union is a fact already determined upon. Let us be prepared to meet the doom which the politicians and crazy fanatics of the day precipitated upon the public.”

The Chicago paper asserts that such threats amount to “the old game which has been used time and time again to scare the North into submission to Southern demands and Southern tyranny.”

The Chicago article believes it is time to call the South’s Bluff. It declares that the North “might as well make up [its] mind to fight the battle now as at any other time. It will have to be fought, and the longer the evil day is put off the more bloody will be the contest when it comes.”

The anger over, and the resolve to end the South’s perceived bullying, is palpable. The South, according to the Chicago paper, is determined to spread slavery everywhere and to “reduce the government of the country under her complete control.”

But now that the South sees “the prospect of the political power of the country passing from their hands, they threaten dissolution of the Union itself.”

The article views the South as near evil:

“Look at the Southern States,” it asks. “A poor white man dare not speak, write or print his sentiments in them. If he does, he is mobbed or driven from their borders. The entire South,” the article continues, “is now under a worse than martial law.”

“No institution in a free government which is afraid to bear the test of free discussion deserves to stand; it ought to fall and it must fall.”

“See the civil war in Texas, caused by outrages perpetuated upon the white men and their families. Such wars will get to be common occurrences in the Southern States.”

“Let the South threaten dissolution. Let them secede if they dare, when Lincoln is elected. They would have a nice time of it indeed.”

“Why, without the protection of our army and navy to day they could not hold their slaves a twelvemonth. Do they forget their abject terror, when invaded by John Brown and a handful of followers?”

Dissolve the Union indeed! We would like to see the South get along with its three million of slaves, with no means of preventing a general rising of them, and a hostile people all along her borders.”

Continued -

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The New York Herald, August 1, 1860

Below: Chicago Paper Continued

The writers of the article are convinced that slave insurrections in the South are just beyond the horizon, and that the only way to prevent them is through preservation of the Union and eventual emancipation.

If, on the other hand, Lincoln is elected and the South secedes, “then no earthly power can prevent a general uprising of the slaves throughout the South, and a season of anarchy, bloodshed and ruin which no one can even contemplate without horror.”

The writers of the article are so convinced of the horrors of Southern slavery that it seems to them only natural that the slaves will strike out - especially slaves in the border States - once they feel the North is out of the picture and can’t use its army to crush an uprising:

Therefore, according to the article, the only thing preventing an uprising of the slaves in the border states, for example, is their belief that if they did revolt, “the whole power of the Federal Government would be brought to bear against them, and crush them to pieces.”

If the South secedes, the article states, then that threat will be removed. “Once let it be known by the slaves that in a contest for their freedom they would only have to fight their masters, and nothing can prevent an instant revolution.”

To the writers of the article, it is simple logic that would play out thusly:

“Fancy four millions of blacks, with tropical blood, intermixed with the more nervous blood of their masters boiling in their veins - with the memories of a lifetime of oppression, and the hope of a lifetime of freedom, urging them on - maddened by the desire for the gratification of long smothered revenge - and with the full consciousness that they must triumph or meet a fate worse than death - fancy these men, animated by this spirit, engaged in a life or death struggle with the whites of the South, and you have a picture of what must occur in every Southern State if they resolve to destroy the only safeguard which they now have - the Union of the States.”

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alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, August 11, 1860

Below: B. R. Holmes, A Leading Citizen of Yazoo County, is Asked to Give His Opinion of State of Affairs

In two parts -

B. R. Holmes was evidently a well respected citizen of Benton, Mississippi and a prominent figure in local and State politics. His opinion regarding the upcoming Presidential elections and the state of affairs in the country is sought by other leading citizens in the area. His response was published in the Yazoo Democrat.

For me, I just wonder how Mr. Holmes might have reflected upon this published piece years after he wrote it - in, say, 1865 or 1866, amidst the ashes and ruins of a once proud and prosperous community, when such passions as his in 1860 might have instigated the disaster.

Nevertheless, Mr. Holmes, like many others, point fingers at the sectionalism of the North - a sectionalism that he claims intends to capture the government and thereby destroy the institution of slavery.

I find two things important in the quoted part of his writing immediately below. He states that the institution of slavery constitutes the South’s “political vitality.” By doing so, he seems to indicate here that there is no other political motive by which to measure the South. However, at the end of this thought, Mr. Holmes also touches upon a context now being elucidated by postmodernists and Neo-Marxists who are seeking to deconstruct society, or meta-narratives, in academia today. Those who believe the Enlightenment project is but a social construct doing nothing but propping up structural racism and the patriarchy, despite ending de jure slavery, will find merit in Mr. Holmes’s comment where he alludes to the wealth accumulated by the Western world because of the institution of slavery:

“Never before in its history, has this republic witnessed such ruthless, reckless fanaticism on the part of our Northern neighbors, who, with their sectional platforms and compromised candidates are maturing schemes to violate the Federal Constitution by laying violent hands upon the peculiar institution of the South which constitute our political vitality, and without which the world itself would soon be beggared.”

To fight such, the South must unite. Mr. Holmes insists that all the political factions in the South should come together to “contemplate this crisis which fanaticism has forced upon us.”

He wants his fellow citizens to understand the gravity of the moment:

“Gentlemen, I said this crisis - and it is upon us - which we must meet whether we would or not. It is too late for Southern men to waste time . . . it is too late for men who love their Southern homes, or who cherish their country’s honor, to cavil now. . . it is too late, sirs, to count the cost of separation- disunion, if you prefer the term.”

Mr. Holmes urgently presses the point upon his fellow citizens that while the North is fully united behind the Republican Party, the South is wandering about in the crisis divided into three political factions. (Douglas, Breckinridge and Bell.)

According to Mr. Holmes, the Republicans are clear and concise with their intentions:

“‘No more slave Territory; Congressional interference to abolish slavery; slavery shall be abolished in the District of Columbia: Dred Scott decision an insult to common sense, &c, &c,’”

He reminds his fellow citizens that the South has contributed her own blood and toil, just as the North has, to American destiny, yet she is being treated unequally in the newly acquired Territories. Holmes insists the South stop trading off that contribution to appease the sectionalists of the North. It simply cedes them more power.

“When you have but little more public territory to relinquish, no more interest won by Southern blood and treasure to barter for the existence of our institutions, what else will you offer to appease theses vampires?”

The power dynamics within the Union have inverted. And in response to the idea that the crisis can be averted by appeals to “Union!” “Union!,” Mr. Holmes says, “I have no such veneration of the term, when it no longer protects my interests, - when it stultifies the South - whenever it has lost its original meaning, and is a by-word to lull us into repose, while these Northern vampires suck out the last drop of blood from the body of equal rights.”

In this respect, Holmes warns his fellow citizens that the South should not be “gagged” once again as she was in the Compromises of 1850, wherein she was lulled into inaction by appeals to Union. With each step, the South has relinquished power to that Union.

So this cry of “Union,” according to Holmes, “has long since lost its prestige - since the object for which the Constitution was framed, has been so frequently and so ruthlessly violated.”

Continued -


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