How to convert a Democrat

A story in the White Cloud Kansas Chief from September 27, 1860 presents a strong argument against “popular sovereignty”. The writer finds that the territories — or even the frontier states — don’t protect free speech well enough to allow a free election to decide for or against slavery:

Not many months ago a good Douglas Democrat emigrated from Ohio to Texas, for the purpose of teaching school, etc. He did not, however, remain long, being compelled to leave, or be hanged or mobbed as an abolitionist. He is now in Illinois, and has written to friends in Wooster, an account of the treatment he received at the hands of Democrats in Texas. We are permitted to make the following extracts from his letter:

“But you have not heard of my misfortune in Texas. There I was taken up by a mob one night, about nine o’clock; they took me about a hundred yards into a vacant building; there they gave me a short and disorderly hearing, denouncing people of this climate, and particularly those of Ohio and Massachusetts. They suspicioned me of being an Abolitionist.

“But to make the story short some of the mob brought a rope after they examined me, which occupied three or four hours. They read all my letters, about twenty-five, examined all my books, all my clothes, but found nothing; searched my pockets, then proceeded to decide in what way they would dispose of me, whether to whip me to death, or tie me on a wild mule, or hang me.

By this time I became entirely reconciled to die, and made them a brief speech upon the consequences of perpetrating so rash and hazardous an act, explaining the cause of their unfounded suspicions, for which I was most certain then to die, for what, my friends? For doing right. God knows that I had done no wrong, but had tried to reform them from the sin of drunkenness, horse racing, gambling, with all its kindred train of evils; that, my friends was the cause of their hatred towards me, and for this they sought to kill me.

But they began to moderate after I talked to them in that way. They then began to parley about how they would dispose of me in such a way that some other people would kill me, and to this they agreed at length: That they would send me through the State of Louisiana, with the report preceding me that I was an Abolitionist, which would be equivalent to death, and that they were to describe me particularly, as having but one suit of clothes, for they kept a trunk full of clothes and a chest of new tools that I got in New Orleans, with all my letters, maps, compass, daguerreotypes, nine of them.

They drove me from there at or after 12 o’clock with bloodhounds. I happened to have three dollars in my pocket, and what was due me I could not get, about $100 worth of tools and clothes at New Orleans prices. I traveled by fifteen miles on the Louisiana road till day, then knowing the location of the counties and rivers, and the Indian nation, I turned my course due North; traveled by the sun in daytime — by the moon and stars by night; keeping as straight a course as possible, swimming some streams, wading others, going over mountains, through sloughs, briers and brush — all of it a timbered country; at that or this time I know that no person could travel through that country, without using every precaution; if you stopped they would ask you a hundred questions or more — if a person did not suit their views, they would detain him.

I ate one meal a day; stopped at poor looking places and got my dinner — slept on the ground when I did sleep, that was not much. I traveled 200 miles in 7 days to the Choctaw Nation, where I taught a school four months, then came to my brothers’ in Central Illinois.


Well, then, if the people of the New Territories will not now at this advanced state of knowledge, allow it to take a peaceable decision after it becomes a State, then it is right for Congress to interfere and establish laws to prevent slavery, if wrong, and protect it if right. — So you see again, has Congress a right to make laws to authorize murder, and not to prevent it? It has no right to authorize murder because it is wrong, but it has to prevent it, because it is right to do so; so say the Republican party, that Congress has a right to intercede for the principles of right; but it has no right to intercede for the principles of wrong; therefore of the two greatest evils let us choose the least.

— Wooster (O[H].) Republican.

Although this story may sound a bit extreme, in the context of widespread panic over rumored slave insurrections and vigilante activity, it’s actually pretty plausible.

This entry was posted in Abolitionism, Kansas, Louisiana, Lynching, Ohio, Texas, Vigilantes and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to How to convert a Democrat

  1. Pingback: October 19, 1860: More suppression of free speech in the South | Seven Score and Ten

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