Secession Era Editorials Project

Furman University Department of History


The Harper's Ferry Tragedy.

Austin, Texas, Texas State Gazette [Democratic]

(5 November 1859)

The bloody tragedy which we have endeavored to relate in our columns is at least some evidence of the influence of Black Republican agitation upon the masses of the Northern people. The day is evidently at hand when in the feverish and diseased state of the public mind of that region on the subject of slavery, almost any outrage upon our peace and security, may be perpetrated, which it is in the power of madness and folly to conceive. How many religious fanatics as well as political demagogues have been connected with this affair we cannot tell. The disclosures already made show that the ring-leader Brown, was supported with money as well as men and weapons of war by the Black Republicans. If this imperfect organization and reckless adventure could command liberal pecuniary aid and followers, what may yet not be done when under say some secret society, battalion after battalion shall be raised and be speedily despatched into the heart of Maryland and Virginia? And may there not be plenty of Peter the Hermits, and Godefroys to enter the lists of bloody crusaders against slavery.

The North is active. Her whole people are being mesmerised in their political forums, in their churches, at their prayer meetings, in their schools, at their social gatherings, in their literary societies -- everywhere by the evil genius of Black Republicanism. The bronze statue of Webster was no sooner inaugurated in Massachusetts, than an organization of New England preachers took place, and a premium of $100 was offered for the best tract against slavery published. These men whom Sam Houston dignified as the Vicegerents of Heaven, are by no means regarded with contempt by the leading citizens of that United States Senator arose on that day of their banding together to co-operate for the purpose of crushing out slavery in these Southern States. This was no less than the Hon. Henry Wilson, the successor of Daniel Webster, and who is destined to play an infamous role for posterity. Let us see what he said. We give an extract from his speech as reported in the New York Tribune --

"He (Wilson) looked upon Slavery as the terrible monster it is. The day was not long distant, he trusted, that the Church and the country generally would hold to the sentiment that man can not hold property in his fellow man. What is wanted in this country is a deep abhorence of Slavery -- a sentiment that shall in time extinguish the terrible evil. He invoked the aid of the money of the land, but what was most wanted was an enlightened Christian sentiment against Slavery. The great duty which we all owe in the Free States is to blot out all enactments against Freedom. The first great battle and the first great victory would be to prevent the existence of Slavery in the Territories. The Federal Government might not be able to abolish Slavery in the States, but the great thing to be done was to prevent its extension.

"Therefore he would say first give to colored men all the rights we enjoy; next make our Territories free; and next, wipe out all enactments in the States against Freedom. He believed that if these things were done, the great objects for which this Society is organized would be accomplished. If Christian men were true to themselves, a sentiment would be spread over the nation that would eventuate in the releasing of four millions of human beings now in bondage in the country. He trusted the Society would go on in their good work, and begged them to be of good courage. -- The Anti-Slavery cause twenty years ago was almost hopeless. Now its power is immense.-- Whether the church comes to the aid of the Anti-Slavery cause or not, it would go on. Gen. Wilson said he welcomed this organization; he should look toward it with hope. The best men in the country would bid them God speed in their efforts. He referred to the time, fifteen years ago, when, in conjunction with this pastor, the Rev. Mr. Hunt, he had endeavored to procure such a christian organization as this without success. When, therefore, he first heard of its institution, he was ready at once to bid it God speed as being the very legitimate agency above all others to accomplish the Christian work of abolishing Slavery."

These men thus eulogised, are the same class sustained by Sam Houston in their impudent demands on the Congress of the United States. Wilson says -- What is wanted, is a deep abhorance of slavery -- a sentiment that will in time extinguish the evil. Well, the foray on our Southern frontier springs from this deep abhorrence of slavery -- it is the outbursting of a misguided feeling of hostility against men of the same race and religion, merely because of our slave institution. Hostility is the first natural effect of abhorrence of slavery. A Senator, or a clergyman may talk of peaceful hostility, but all who know the nature of the American people also know that it never can long remain peaceful.

In the New York Tribune we find an advertisement of a landed company owning millions of acres in Virginia, Tennessee &c., which boldly proclaims it as its design, to colonize abolitionists in these States.

Hinton R. Helper the notorious abolitionist who we believe was compelled to leave North Carolina some two years ago, is now advertising for 40,000 acres of land in the western part of that State.

It is not long since that Thayer attempted to settle a colony of abolitionists in Western Virginia.

Every evidence of intense excitement against the Southern institutions is before us. In all the elections in the free States, the Black Republicans are triumphant.-- The Republican Governor elected in Iowa, declared that he would never aid in arresting a fugitive slave. The Black Republican candidate for Supreme Judge of Ohio is pledged against the decision in the Dred Scott case. The Maine Legislature had made it a criminal offence to aid in capturing a fugitive slave. treason against the Constitution of the United States and been committed, and these elections have been tests of the adherence of the people in their support, and they have sanctioned them with a cordiality which never transpired before.

Well what are we to do? Are we to apostatise to such men as Sam Houston who have by their truckling to the North, contributed more than any party to the present state of things. Are we to endorse him, after all the Black Republican papers in the land have rejoiced over his election? Are we to abandon the citadel of State rights as enunciated in the Democratic platform laid down in Cincinnati, Waco and Houston? Are we to join Winter Davis, Bates of Wisconsin, and Bell of Tennessee, in a compromise with these Black Republicans? Or are we to stand by that old war worn flag of Democracy, and show to the North a bold and united front? Show them that we are alive to the rights of the South; that we hold our slave institution as one of the bulwarks of our social fabric, and any attempt to destroy it as the signal for the uprising of our whole people in its defence. Can we sleep at our posts? Can we give countenance and support to the men of the South who have been tried and found wanting? Can we suffer such men to be put on guard? Never! never! The Democratic party of Texas has been beaten but her platform still hangs upon the outer walls of the citadel, and in another contest it will fly again over our proud party: We never surrender.

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