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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE
From James G.
SAGANAW, Feb. 2/42
DEAR SIR, I received your letter of the 21. Jan. by the last mail.
A Convention of
Friends of Liberty was held in New York city in May. They nominated me as their Presidential Candidate for 1844; appointed a Committee to inform me of it and receive my answer to the proposition. The Committee accordingly addressed me a note, to which I replied on the
10. ultimo. My reply was sent to Mr. Leavitt who acknowledged the receipt of it on the 18. - saying, too, that he should lose no time in making it public - which, I presume, has been done in the Emancipator. You will there see that I consent to the use of my name, with the understanding, however, that I would cheerfully acquiesce in the substitution of another, whenever one should be found that would be more serviceable. I intended by this, that the nomination already made should not, so far as I was concerned, be a moment in the way of any other nomination which a second national Convention, called together on sufficient notice, and more fully representing the body of the abolitionists, might think it best for the cause to make. Without entering into particulars, I trust you will find this a satisfactory answer to the main inquiry in your letter.
The Columbus Conventions I
look upon as you do - as an interesting occasion,
- an important fact in the history of the A. S.. movement. Yet, in no A. S. Convention that I remember, has the opposition to slavery been considered so much as a matter of money-policy so little as a matter of
religious duty as it was in this. Whilst the money-policy may be made to follow as close as is possible on religious duty, the latter in my opinion ought always to be allowed the precedence.
I regretted, too, that any pledge,
or appearance of a pledge was made of non-interference with the
delivering up of fugitive Slaves. Few things have contributed more,
to keep alive the spirit of the abolitionists than the rescuing of
slaves, and interfering
with that infamous and bloody stipulation of the Constitution. Whatever pledges of non interference may be given they will be disregarded at
least so long as our body has any life or humanity in it, or any greater fear of God than of man. It would have been
better to have said nothing about it in the address - unless the
opposite ground bad been taken.
It seems strange to me that any
abolitionist conversant with our cause could have thought, at this
stage of it, of going out of our own ranks for candidates for any
office. Out of our ranks, all public men are of the Whig or
Democratic party. How can they be abolitionists? This was tried at
the beginning of the political
movement of the abolitionists, and always failed bringing with it great injury.
Of Governor Seward I have strong hopes. Highly do I honor him for his elevated and consistent course in the Virginia and Georgia a controversies. Earnestly do I desire to see him enjoying the honor of being an abolitionist in name as I trust he is one in judgment and feeling. But till he does this, it would be gross disparagement of our cause to nominate him for any station.
That Mr. Adams should be thought
of as an abolition candidate is still more strange. Mr. A. in his
anti-abolition zeal, looks on the doctrine of immediate
emancipation, as held by our friends, as ridiculous; nor does he
hesitate to present it to the public in biting terms of sarcasm and
irony. (see a letter of Mr. A. in Nat. Int. May, 28, 1839.
) Mr. A.
to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia; to its abolition in Florida, to the rejection of Florida in any application she may make for admission into the Union as a slave state; in fine, so far as I can now remember Mr. A. is opposed to almost everything that is peculiar to abolitionists. All the while, too, he has been writing to known abolitionists letters abounding in expressions of encouragement and sympathy, - the tenor of which would, perhaps, be contradicted by the next news from Washington, sheaving that Mr. A. had taken special occasion to let the whole world know, that whilst he was greatly opposed to slavery in general, he was, at the same time, opposed to the particular modes of attacking it which the abolitionists were prosecuting as the most effective.
The truth is, my dear sir after
rendering to Mr. A. our thanks, and in these times they ought to be
our heartiest thanks - for his unwavering valor in defending the
right of petition - a right which by the way, has no really
stricter connexion with the A. S. interest than with any other of
the country; for his opposition to Texas annexation and for the
assistance he gave Mr. Baldwin in the Amistad Case, I am unable to
perceive on what ground abolitionists are indebted to Mr.
A. - or to pronounce that he has on the whole done more to promote
than to retard the A. S. cause. When I take up Mr. A.'s letters to
Mr. Edmund Quincy, of Boston (July 28, 1838) to Messrs. Hedge,
Sprague and Hobart of his own district (Oct. 27, 1838) - to Mr.
Oliver Johnson, Cor. Sec. of the Rhode Island A. S. Society (Dec. 13
1838), and compare them with the letter before referred to in the
Intelligencer, and with his declaring in the House of
Representatives (Jan. 21, 1839) that, if the question of abolition
was to be put that day he would vote against it - a
declaration made in immediate connexion with the reception by Mr. A.
of a menacing letter from some unknown scribbler in the South,
unwisely timed to say the least of it; - when I review Mr.
A's recent course as shewn to me by these landmarks, and add to it
his known want of temper and stability - his pro-slavery
attempts, whilst President, on the Congress of Panama in relation to
Cuba; his proposition to Mexico for the surrender of escaping
slaves; his making the same proposition to England, with the
iniquitous, the unconstitutional equivalent of recapturing and
delivering up to West India quivalent of planters such of their
slaves as might escape to this country a kind of escape of which, in
passing, the first instance is yet to be recorded: all these
things unrepented of and the error of them unacknowledged by
Mr. A. show me - however remarkable and well gifted a person Mr. A.
may be in other respects, - a thing which I would be among the last
to dispute - yet, that he wants the prime elements of char- attar
in a great enterprize whose basis is HUMAN RIGHTS.
Nothing but the earnest
regard that I cherish for the integrity of the A. S. cause - which your letter leads me to fear is in some danger of being compromised by its own friends - would persuade me to say what I have, of Mr. Adams, to whom, I am aware, many of our friends consider the cause of Abolition as eminently indebted. But I have said nothing which cannot be verified by indisputable evidence and by which of course, no public man can consider himself wronged. Very truly & sincerely
JAMES G. BIRNEY.
- If any part of this is to be used publicly I desire that it may all be.
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