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on which he stood." This candidate was beaten, and the "Whig party” was left on the field. The Organization did not despair of bringing it to life again. A more frightful decomposition only set in. In Congress several leading southern Whigs became supporters of the Democratic Administration, and when the slaveholders and their victorious northern allies cut away the last legal barrier against slavery by repealing the “Compromise of Missouri ” of 1821, all the Whig members from the South (with one exception) voted with the Democratic majority. The northern Whigs were left alone. The Whig national Organization was dead beyond a shadow of a doubt; it could no longer block the path, as it had done for so many years, of the champions of liberty, that is, of the non-extension of slavery; the road was clear; only its corpse still lay across it for a time.
A number of Whigs who had a sincere hatred of slavery, who preferred human liberty to the integrity of the party, had not waited for this crisis to leave the Whig Organization and take their stand on a plain, straightforward anti-slavery platform. But for many a long year they had to fight not only to defend and to propagate their opinions, but even for their right to organize themselves on this particular footing. The conception of parties as kinds of churches taking charge of all the manifold moral interests of the faithful, of their whole soul considered for this purpose as one and indivisible, and exercising over them a universal, catholic jurisdiction, had sunk so deep into the public mind that the mere fact of forming a party to champion a particular cause, and nothing but that cause, seemed in itself wicked, immoral in the highest degree; people do not join a church to affirm their belief in a single dogma. To avoid shocking public opinion, therefore, the first anti-slavery organization, which was formed under the name of the “Liberty party,” felt bound to place on record a formal abjuration of this heresy, by solemnly declaring, in its platform of 1843, that the Liberty party was not "organized merely for the overthrow of slavery," that it did not originate in a "desire to accomplish a single object, but in a
comprehensive regard to the great interests of the whole country.” This asseveration in no way saved the Liberty party from attacks at the hands of men who piqued themselves on orthodoxy and political good sense.
When the movement launched by the Liberty party took a fresh start, just before the presidential election of 1848, in the form of the “Free Soil party,” which frankly declared its hostility to the extension of slavery to regions which were free from it, its adherents, who came mostly from the Whig side, were branded as “renegades and apostates,” ? while even sincere opponents of the extension of slavery, such as Benton, who was turned out of the Senate by the slavery men after a long and most distinguished career, thought the notion of an independent party of this kind simply absurd, and even took steps to get the Free Soil Organization dissolved. “It was an organization entirely to be regretted,” declared Benton, "its aspect was sectional, its foundation a single idea, and its tendency to merge political principles in a slavery contention.
.. It went. to narrow down the basis of party organization to a single idea; and that idea'not known to our ancestors as an element in political organizations.” But, on the other hand, the Whig party, which resorted to endless prevarications and lies to avoid facing the grave question of the day, and which was not even his party, received a testimonial from Benton because it kept within the generalities which befit a party worthy of the name: "The Whig party, so far as slavery was concerned, acted most nationally, they ignored the subject, and made their nomination on the platform of the Constitution, the country, and the character of their candidate.” 8 It is remarkable that the same reproach of narrowness of base was addressed to the Free Soil party by the man who, twelve years later, was to be borne into supreme power by an Organization, on the strength of the one idea which called it into life — by Abraham Lincoln. The future President, before he belonged to the nation and to humanity, during the obscure period of his political career, when lost in the crowd of politicians, followed the narrow path of the Whig party, with which he was connected. When supporting the regular candidature of Taylor in 1848, Lincoln, who from his youth up had conceived a hatred of slavery, pointed out with emphasis that the "Free Soilers” (who had run a candidate against Taylor) “were a party of one idea or principle, good enough in itself, but not broad enough to found a party on.” 1
1 E. Stanwood, A History of Presidential Elections, Boston, 1896, p. 151. 2 G. W. Julian, Political Recollections, Chicago, 1884, p. 64. 3 Thirty Years' View, Vol. II, p. 722.
The Whig party was rapidly decomposing when those of its members who were sincerely opposed to slavery were still waiting for the opponents of slavery, the Free Soilers or others, to come over to them for the purpose of fighting the good fight under their banner, of becoming partners in their old firm. Eventually the disgust inspired by the behaviour of the Whig party drove most of its supporters out of it; but, enfeebled by the mental servitude in which they had so long been kept, they did not venture to openly throw off the yoke, and they fled into the darkness of the “Know Nothings," of the secret association which to the charm of mystery added the sincerity and honesty of its aspirations, whatever may have been the verdict of good sense on it.” But in spite of the numerous adhesions brought to it by the deserters from the old parties rent by the terrible controversy, the party of the “Know Nothings” could not hold together long, both on account of the fancifulness of its object and because the slavery question with its divisions followed the “Know Nothings” into their subterranean retreat, like the terrible eye symbolizing conscience, in the song of the Légende des Siècles, which "was always there." They were obliged to break up and come out into the light of day to take sides for or against slavery and facilitate a rational and honest rearrangement of parties. A few Whig fragments were still left here and there, in New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, which refused to dissolve, like reptiles which have been crushed and whose severed joints still give signs of life. But soon they mingled with the dust, the road was clear, and all the opponents of the extension of slavery, the number of which increased with marked rapidity towards 1854, under the provocations of the slaveholders, were able to meet freely and form an organic whole, however different their origin and however divergent their opinions on other subjects. This body soon received the name of the “Republican” party. Born in the States of the West (Michigan, Wisconsin), where party organization was less developed than in the East, and where consequently more facilities existed for spontaneous popular movements, it attracted Whigs from the East loosely connected with the organization of the party, Free Soilers, Know Nothings who had seen the error of their ways, Democrats who managed to throw off the party yoke, and spread, about the year 1856, over the whole North. In place of the stereotyped party organizations which stubbornly and selfishly impeded the solution of the vital question of the Republic, there now arose, on the one side, a living organization, inspired only by frankness and disinterestedness, which was bound to make the forces massed on the other side take a decided line.
1 Cf. Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner, by E. L. Pierce, Boston, 1893, Vol. III, p. 170.
2 “ Thousands eager to bolt from the old parties, but fearful of being shot down on the way as deserters, gladly availed themselves of this newly devised 'underground railroad' in escaping from the service of their old master (Julian, p. 141).
While just as deeply divided on the question of the extension of slavery as the Whig party, the Democratic party preserved an appearance of unity and cohesion, thanks to the discipline which was its distinguishing characteristic and to the concessions which it was continually making to the slaveholders, under the influence of its Organization. It was the latter which delivered the party into their hands and which always prevented it froin regaining its freedom, from breaking its bonds. In the contingents of the Democratic party formed under Jackson the slavocrats of the South were in a minority; the majority of the party, contributed mainly by the North and the North-West, was not favourable to the extension of slavery, but from 1844 onwards the minority took the helm, in consequence of the change of front of the Democratic National Convention, which threw over Van Buren and adopted a candidate favourable to the annexation of Texas, to avoid risking the fruits of the victory, the "spoils." By a selfish scheme of the Organization, the Democratic party found itself all at once committed, whether it liked it or not, to a new policy, which was to change its own destiny and that of the country and land it in a catastrophe. Having at the instance of its Organization lent its name to the Texas intrigue, which was the starting-point of all the further encroachments of the slave power, the Democratic party became, if not its champion in ordinary, at all events its surety, and in each new phase of the operation undertaken by the slaveholders it had to renew its endorsement, on pain of breaking the connection, by subscribing to the “Compromise of 1850” at their request, by pledging itself afterwards to the irrevocable finality of this instrument, by abolishing the prohibition of slavery in the northern Territories (the compromise of Missouri). But these successive concessions, being of little use to the slaveholders, who were overrun by the development of free labour in the new Territories and unnerved by the growing opposition of public opinion in the free States, the flexibility of which, great as it was, had its limits, the alliance between the slaveholders and the northern Democrats could not last. The party Organization resorted to all manner of maneuvres and expedients to maintain it. The Democratic national conventions played in this conjuncture a game much resembling that of the Whig conventions, at one time rejecting motions (as for instance that of Yancey, in 1848) which contained straightforward proposals on the subject of the extension of slavery; at another allowing (as in 1848 and in 1856) two sets of delegations from the same State to take their seat, the one in favour of and the other opposed to slavery, each of which claimed to represent the State; now introducing into their platform articles formally condemning all anti-slavery agitation and then disavowing them during the election campaign (of 1852) as “ rotten planks ”; or again selecting colourless candidates, like Pierce in 1852 and Buchanan in 1856; or adopting platforms of a machiavellian duplicity, like that of 1856, which perfidiously invoked the doctrine of “popular sovereignty,” by proclaiming that the Congress had no right to allow or forbid slavery in the Territories, and that the Territories were free to admit or prohibit it in their constitution. But as the Territories adopt a constitution only at the moment when they are admissible as States, the convention threw no light on the question as to what régime should be observed in regard to