1865 March 11: Marcus A. Fulton Speaking for the Ratification of the 13th Amendment
The following remarks of Saint Croix County Assemblyman Marcus A. Fulton were printed in the March 11, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press.
RATIFICATION OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
Sketch of the Remarks of Hon. M. A. Fulton¹
of St. Croix, to the Assembly, Thursday,
Mr. SPEAKER :—Before proceeding to the question under discussion, I wish to express any regret that I am under the necessity of differing upon one point from the Hon. gentleman from Milwaukee, (Mr. Hadley,) and that in regard to his statement that the Democrat party has been neither a pro-slavery, nor an anti-slavery party.
I shall take occasion to show, in the course of any remarks, that the Democratic party had not, like the “Priest and the Levite, passed by upon the other side,” letting slavery alone, but will maintain, that has been an active pro-slavery party.
I am glad to note, however, it was among the most encouraging signs of the times, the change of opinion and feeling in regard to slavery in the Democratic party.
We cannot deny that if, as some of them have for a few years past maintained slavery was maintained, slavery was consistent with Republican institutions, and that it was a manly virtue to live upon the unrequited toil of one’s fellow men, we cannot deny, I say, if these premises, adopted to some extent by the Democracy, are correct, that the present rebellion is right and justifiable.
Is slavery right ? Then it is right to fight for its extension as the rebels are now fighting. If slavery is right, then were the Democratic party right, in bringing up their ranks in solid column, both North and South, to fight this political battle for its extension and supremacy.
We should be doing an injustice to forget that there have been prouder and better days in the history of that powerful party. It would disparage the manhood of that great party in former days if we fail to remember, that there was a time, when they did not thus suppliantly bow the knee at the feet of slavery, when they did not thus labor in its behalf, with a zeal that was untiring.
The Democratic Legislators of the State in 1848, by an almost unanimous vote, declared “Slavery to be an evil of the first magnitude morally and politically.” All the free State expressed through their Legislatures the same idea ; but a but a nearer view presents a darker record.
That great party by its platforms and its presses has, many times over, ratified the declaration of Judge Taney when he said, in speaking of the settlement of the people in regard to the negro, prior to the adoption of the Federal Constitution, that “They had for more than a century been regarded as far inferior to the white race, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect ; and the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”
But seven years ago, on the 2d of February, 1858, the Nation was informed by its President, that under the Constitution slavery existed in all the territory of the United States ; and he added, “Kansas is at this moment as much a Slave State as South Carolina or Georgia.”
The same President in his annual message of five years ago, congratulated the nation that the slavery question was settled. He stated “that every citizen had a right to take his slaves into the territories, and to have them there protected under the Federal Constitution.” He said further : “Neither congress nor a territorial legislature, nor any human power has any authority to annul or impair this vested right.”
Mr. Speaker—This state claims to be a human power, moved and controlled to a certain extent by human agencies, and it is now about to strike at this vested right, deemed so sacred by James Buchanan and Jefferson Davis, by Geo. H. Pendleton and Robert Toombs, by Horatio Seymour and Vallandigham [Clement L. Vallandigham].
We are engaged in the most gigantic war of which history gives any account : a war that is taxing the power of the Government to its utmost capacity. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow men, from every walk of life, have buckled on their armor, and gone forth to battle for the life of the nation. Between us and them broad rivers flow, cloged [sic] with their blood. Between us and them hoary mountains rear in the sunlight their heads, among whose crags have echoed the boom of the cannon, that has been their requiem in the solemn hour of death. Between us and them wave forests of pine and palm, among whose jungles the weary and wounded soldier has yielded up his life. Was there ever a picture so grand, and solemn, and impressive, and yet so mournful ?
How, sir, have this great Democracy, that are always flaunting at us the declaration, that they will “stand by the Union, under the Constitution, in the future as in the past”—how, I ask, have they demeaned themselves in this time of trouble ? Have they encouraged the flagging patriotism of a brave people in the dark hours of adversity ? No, sir.
Have they told their erring brethren in the South that there was no hope for them but in absolute submission to the laws of the land ? No, sir.
Have they not, sir, declared the war, that was undertaken so solemnly to preserve our nationality, an experiment, and then insulted the brave and discouraged the weak among us by declaring that that experiment was a failure ?
Have they not, by every art known to politicians, and by every trick of demagogues, endeavored to create dissensions among the people, and thus divide the house against itself that it might fall ?
Have they not encouraged and disseminated the idea that this war was brought upon the country by the folly and wickedness of the Republican party, and that therefore Democrats were in a great measure, if not entirely, absolved from any duties in connection with it ?
They have seemed, sir, to act as if it were the highest duty of a Democrat to instil into the minds of the party followers a dislike for their country and its institutions, and an intense and bitter hated for the administration ?
Have they not, by magnifying the amount of the national debt, by stating it to be two or three times its actual amount sought to deprive the Government of both men and money to carry on the war ?
(Mr. F here read some extracts, showing that the character of Democratic publications tended strongly to disloyalty.)
Why, let me ask, have the Democracy thus apparently labored to harass and distress the country ? What has inspired their orators and their presses with singular unanimity to belittle everything connected with maintaining the Union, supporting its armies and sustaining its credit, while on the other hand every success, both actual and prospective of the rebels has been magnified ?
I can account for it in but one way. They have espoused the cause of slavery. They had become bound hand and foot to its triumphal car marching over the land, blasting like a sirocco, every sprig of the tree of liberty. Their car had not for its banner that
“Flag of the free heart’s hope and home,
By angel hands to valor given,”²
but the black banner of a slave oligarchy casting in its shadow, slavery for the black man and barbarism for his master.
The war had hardly commenced before it was denounced as an unconstitutional abolition war ; and when after a year and a half of almost unvaried defeat to the cause of the Union, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, one universal howl of despair went up, loud enough to have reached the heavens, and mournful enough to make the angels weep at the degeneracy of man.
We all know, sir, that the death knell of the vilest system of human servitude that ever existed, was sounded when the first gun boomed defiance at the robe’s from the walls of Sumter.
We all know that resistance to the rebellion was resistance to slavery ; that to crush the rebellion was to crush slavery, because we all felt that they were so intermixed and entwined with each other, that they must stand or fall together, and when the executive head of the Government issued the emancipation proclamation, he did but put the seal of the nation to a truth which all had seen and felt, and acknowledged from the beginning.
Did I say, sir, that our democratic friends set up an awful howl—aye, sir, more than that. Language fails to portray the fierceness with which from that day to this they have attacked the Government and the Administration. * * * * *
I believe, sir, that the amendment to the Constitution now under consideration, will be adopted in all the States, both North and South ; and that from that time will commence an era of progress for this country such as we have never known.
We may not be rich, but all will be free. We may be exhausted so that the dream of ambition and of conquest shall have died out from the hearts of the people, yet when the din of arms shall cease, and the roar of cannon shall have died away, and the stain of blood shall be washed out, we can see our restored and happy country, with its hills and valleys, its churches and school houses, its pleasant cottage homes teeming with a happy people, secure in union and freedom—a nation of sovereigns without a subject, and of masters without a slave.
Our Government, whose very basis and foundation stone shall from henceforth be the solid rock of the inalienable rights of man, can never go down. It has been cemented anew in blood and tears, and the day when the authority of this now free Constitution is enforced and respected all over the land, will be celebrated by our descendants, as we have heretofore celebrated the anniversary of our first Revolution.
It will then, Sir, be our proud privilege to say with truth, in the language of a great statesman who has lately died, that “liberty is queen of the western world, and there will she sit forever enthroned in her glory, with the stars of the Union for her coronet and the rock of independence for her footstool.”
It was said of Napoleon when cut off from France by the triumphant navies of England, surrounded in the desert by the gleaming scimetars [sic] of Mameluke horsemen, when the stout hearts quailed, had the bronzed cheeks of his veterans paled ; that on the morn of battle, he pointed to the Pyramids, those wondrous monuments of an ancient race, up which were expended the muscle and mind of generations of men, the skill of architects and the wealth of Kings, and said to his soldiers to inspire them with bravery, “forty centuries look down upon you.”
So, sir, have the eyes of the whole world looked down upon us, in this death grapple with slavery.
They have looked down upon us to see whether we had the courage, to stand and hurl back the awful blows of this rebellion ; to see whether we were ready to endure in the dark days of defeat, but a tithe of the sufferings and privations of the starving and barefoot soldiers of Valley Forge ; to see whether we had the sturdy and enduring bravery of the defeated heroes of Lexington and Bunker Hill.
And now, sir, this bitter cup of war seems about to pass from our lips—this harvest of death seems nearly over—freedom and peace are stretching forth to kiss each other. Oh ! holy kiss, sanctified by the blood of heroes ; whose spirits from their angel homes, look down with delight upon the scene.
And sir, in the centuries which are to come, will the descendants of those heroes point with pride, to a monument more lasting than brass, more grand and mighty, and impressive than all the pyramids the Pharaohs built ; to a government founded in the affections of a free people, whose massive structure shall know no change of form, whose strength shall endure no weakness, and whose beauty shall suffer no decay amid all the revolutions wrought by time in its progress towards eternity ; and which, in all coming time, shall be as vigorous as though slavery had not sought to mingle its ruins with the rubbish of nations fallen to decay.
1. Marcus Alexander Fulton (1836-1892) lived in Hudson, Saint Croix County, Wisconsin. He served the area in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1865-1868.
2. From “The American Flag,” by Joseph Rodman Drake.