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EARLY WIEWS ON UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE. 79
law and secured by law. But in a democracy, which recognizes no classes and no privileges, every man must be protected in his just rights, or no man can be, by law. The moment the law excludes a portion of the community from its equal regard, it divides the community into higher and lower classes, and introduces all the evils of the aristocratic principle. Henceforth in that community, rights, in the proper sense of that word, cease to exist. Instead of rights, there are privileges for the higher classes, and restrictions for the inferior. We feel, therefore, that all legal distinctions between individuals of the same community, founded on any circumstances of color, origin and the like, are hostile to the genius of our institutions and incompatible with the true theory of American liberty. God forbid that we shall fail to sympathize truly and deeply with the poor, the destitute, the oppressed, the enslaved colored people of our land; or to exert ourselves strenuously in their behalf; but let us not take to ourselves too much credit for sympathy or effort, since our own rights as well as theirs are involved in the struggle in which we are engaged, and every day's experience adds fresh strength to the conviction that slavery and oppression must cease, or American liberty must perish.” Mr. Chase further said, in the course of his remarks, that he “embraced with pleasure the opportunity of declaring his disapprobation of that clause of the constitution of the State which denied to a portion of the colored people the right of suffrage. . . . True democracy,” he alleged, “makes no inquiry about the color of the skin, or the place of nativity, or any other similar circumstance of condition. Wherever it sees a man, it recognizes a being endowed by his Creator with original inalienable rights. In communities of men, it recognizes no distinctions founded on mere arbitrary will. I regard, therefore, the exclusion of the colored people as a body from the elective franchise as incompatible with true democratic principles.” Ten years afterward, when Mr. Chase was a candidate for Governor of Ohio, his declaration for universal suffrage made on the occasion of this presentation was used as a potent electioneering argument against him; but he neither denied nor qualified his expressions on the subject. More than this—he reiterated his adherence to his avowed principles, and said that he “more valued the gratitude of an oppressed people than he did any office, even that of Governor of Ohio.” It ought to be observed here, that in conformity with his views touching the radical injustice of the State laws discriminating against the colored people, Mr. Chase, in his local political efforts, sought, as a primary object, the repeal of those laws. CHAPTER XI.
ANNEXATION OF TEXAS-BUFFALO NATIONAL LIBERTY CONVENTION of 1847–STATE CONVENTION AT columbus, 1848—DEMoCRATIO AND WHIG NATIONAL CONVENTIONS OF THAT YEARCONVENTION OF BARNBURNER DEMOCRATS OF NEW YORKFREE-SOIL NATIONAL CONVENTION AT BUFFALO IN AUGUST – NOMINATION OF MLARTIN VAN BUREN AND CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS-PLATFORM-GENERAL RESULTS.
Th; annexation of Texas and the war with Mexico, had given a powerful impulse to the antislavery sentiment of the North. The Whigs, out of office and in natural antagonism to every measure of a Democratic Administration, and perfectly informed, at the same time, that there could be no permanent alliance between themselves and the slave-interest—had become widely and deeply affected with antislavery sentiments, and great inroads had been made also among Northern Democrats. The end of the war, and the acquisition of vast territories under the treaty with Mexico—called of Guadalupe Hidalgo—made in February, 1848, introduced into national politics new elements. Whether the recently-acquired territories should be given up to slavery, or made free, became a topic of very earnest discussion, and the public temper in the North seemed to warrant the belief that one or the other of the great parties would be compelled to take ground in favor of freedom. The National Convention of the Liberty men was held at Buffalo in the fall of 1847, and in this convention Mr. Chase had participated as a delegate; but under the full conviction that the ensuing six or eight months would materially change the aspect of political affairs, he had opposed the nomination of candidates. The convention did not share his views, and nominated John P. Hale for the first office. It was proposed to put Mr. Chase's name upon the ticket for the second, but he peremptorily declined, and Leicester King was selected. Mr. Chase, however, did not feel irrevocably bound by this action; and looked forward with hope that one of the great parties would place itself squarely upon a platform of slavery exclusion; or, at least, nominate a statesman so committed to that policy as to warrant those in voting for him who believed exclusion to be of paramount importance. In order to be prepared for that event, and at the same time prepared also for independent action—either in supporting the nominees of the Liberty party, or of a new organization, if that should be deemed wiser and better—he obtained the coöperation of some friends in procuring signatures to a call for a People's Convention to be held at Columbus on the 21st of June, 1848, being the anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill. This call was signed by more than three thousand citizens of the State, including men of all parties—Whigs, Liberty men and Democrats, with a preponderance of the latter. “A great crisis is at hand,” was the language of this paper. “The war with Mexico must result—if, before you read this call, it shall not already have resulted—in the acquisition of extensive territories by the United States. These territories are now free territories; but it is demanded by the slaye-power that they shall be, by the national Government, made slave territories; that the trade in living men and women shall be permitted in them by the national authority; that free labor and free laborers shall be virtually excluded from them by being subjected to degrading competition with slave-labor and slave-laborers; and finally that they may be erected into slave States, with slave representations in Congress and the electoral colleges. It is strange, but unhappily true, that prominent men in each of the two great parties of the country have been found ready to submit to this demand. Mighty efforts are now made to force upon both these parties nominations, for President and Vice-President, of candidates who will favor, either by active coöperation or silent
POLITICAL ACTION IN 1848. 83
connivance, the designs of the slave-power. These efforts will be successful, unless the friends of freedom arouse themselves and act in concert. They may be successful, notwithstanding such action. If so, nothing will remain for true patriots but acquiescence in the demand, or a noble struggle for victory. It becomes us to be prepared for every event. Should the conventions of the Whig and Democratic parties nominate candidates worthy of the confidence of non-slaveholding freemen, we shall greatly rejoice; if not, we must act as befits men determined to resist by all constitutional means, the extension of slavery into the territories hereafter acquired. We ask no man to leave his party or surrender his party views. This call is signed indiscriminately by Democrats, Whigs and Liberty men. But we do ask every man who loves his country, to be ready, if need be, to suspend for a time ordinary party contentions and unite in one manful, earnest and victorious effort for the holy cause of freedom and free labor. . . . We therefore invite the electors of Ohio, friends of freedom, free territory and free labor, without distinction of party to meet in mass convention for the purpose of considering the political condition of our country, and taking such action as the exigency may require: And may God defend the right!” Pending the circulation of this call, the national conventions of the two old parties were held; that of the Democrats at Baltimore on the 22d of May, and the Whig Convention at Philadelphia on the 7th of June. Both were more or less controlled by the slave-interest. In the Democratic Convention no attempt was made to secure any declaration against slavery or its extension, but the opposition to the slave-domination found expression in an effort to secure admission into the convention of the Radical or Barnburner delegation from New York, the members of which were avowedly in favor of the exclusion of slavery from the Territories. The convention proposed to admit both the Barnburner and “Hunker” or Conservative delegations, giving to each one-half the vote to which the State was entitled, but the Barnburners declined to accede to this proposition, and returned to their constituents to give an account of their mission. The convention nominated General Cass for President and General William O. Butler for Vice-President.