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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE
ST. JOSEPH MO. Sept. 14, 1849.
- * I take this method of returning my thanks to you for the valuable public Document you have sent me; from which I have already gathered much useful
information. And whilst thus acknowledging your kindness, permit me to add a few words in relation to myself, and other matters.
I have been in St. Joseph ever
since the 26th of March last, & came here, as you will have been
informed ere this, with the intention of going to California; but
after I had encamped 6 weeks near St. Joseph, & saw the true
state of things, I became disheartened in my undertaking, &
concluded to remain in St. Joseph & make my way through the
world as best I can. I am now in the employ of the
"Gazette" printing office of this place, where I can earn
but scanty wages, & them difficult to obtain, after earned, and,
indeed, I have many times been let to believe that "Fortuna" had no
boon for me "in this world of ours." I have been a quiet observer of
matters & things in Missouri, since I have been here. - The
emigration to California via St. Joseph this year is said
to excell in numbers any former year. Thousands upon thousands made
this a starting-point; & I could see men of all classes of
Society - from the poorest pauper, down to the most wealthy and
Lordly slave-holder, with his gang of negroes. I have seen also
foreigners of a great many different nations; Illinois turned out
more emigrants than any other State in the Union. I saw a
considerably [sic] number of slaves bound for the diggins
- more indeed than I had expected, as I thought the slaveholder would hesitate in taking his so-called "property" to that distant territory, when it is acknowledged on all hands that such "PROPERTY" is so extremely liable to become insecure & slippery in California. They insist, however, that they have a " RIGHT " to take their slaves there & keep them there as such. In this, I am inclined to think, they will find themselves mistaken! About 300 slaves passed through here, in all, for California. The whole number of emigrants is estimated at 12,000 who made this a starting-point. At Independence probably not so many; At Council Bluffs, it is said between 3 & 4,000 started. So you see the number on the road must be inconveniently large.
Dear Sir. - You are no doubt aware
excitement & agitation in Missouri on the slavery question, and the ex- traordinary exertions now going on to defeat Col.
Benton's re-election to the Senate of the United States.
As you are informed of the. whole history of the exciting controversy, I shall not repeat anything further here. - But, believe me, sir, the excitement prevalent in this State at this moment, is fully equal to a Presidential campaign, such as we have seen in Ohio last summer & fall. Every where Benton's appeal, his course, slavery in the territories, abolitionism, &c. &c. are discussed & talked over most lively. And Mr. Benton is traveling over the State making speeches to the people, and at every place he goes immense numbers are present to hear. Mr. Benton spoke in this town on the 9th of August, to a very large concourse of people - about 1500 persons. I have sent you the proceedings & speech of this meeting, which you have no doubt received before this time. I was afraid Mr. Benton would commit a blunder, as his mind was very much excited. A little previous to making his speech, he was arrested for slander. Judge James H. Birch - who, by the way is exceedingly unpopular in this section of country, & who is following Benton wherever he goes, making opposition speeches, - was the man that sued Benton, for accusing the Judge of whipping his wife.
Judge Birch spoke here last
Saturday (Sept. 8.) together with our own Representative in Congress
- Willard P. Hall, the latter taking only a milder ground of
opposition to Mr. Benton. Every disguise, as to the intentions of
these men towards Benton, is done away. They openly declare, that
they "are determined to put down Benton!" All the judges, more or
less, in Missouri are out against Benton: And Mr. -Benton in return
comes down upon them in no unqualified terms - calling them
nullifiers, disunionists, &c. I am sorry Mr. Benton indulges so
much in profanity. It looks certainly very bad, especially so in a
Statesman. He curses the judges personally, & everybody else
that disagrees with him. Yet in this respect his opponents -
Atchison & all his followers, the judges - are not a whit
behind. Nine out of 22 democratic papers in the State, it appears,
are out against Benton, and are unbounded in villifying him, &
such epithets as " traitor," "Apostate", " Scoundrel", " Barn
burner," "Abolitionist," " Free Soiler," are continually heaped upon
him unsparingly. At the head of these stands the Jefferson City "
Metropolitan " - a miserable sheet, (and its editor, H. L. Boon, a
minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church South) - several numbers
of which I have sent you, to give you a specimen of the
temper of the anti-Benton press of this State. And I am
afraid Benton will be defeated. The people of Missouri,
however, so far as I have been able to see will sustain Col. Benton.
But, notwithstanding this, I am afraid - very much afraid - our
General-Assembly will drop Benton, & send in his place another
such a dough-head & Slavery-Propagandist as General Atchison,
who is also now canvassing the State against Benton. Atchison is to
address the citizens of St. Joseph the last of this month. Our own
Representative, the Hon. Willard P. Hall, is a slave holder both in
theory & in practice. He is a very wealthy gentleman, lives in
the finest house in northern Missouri, & his "real
" in slaves is rapidly increasing! His constituents are fast loosing confidence in him, & he will not be re-elected another time. And although his constituents, by a great majority, are non-slaveholding, yet he never dares to speak a work in favor of freedom.
I desire now to remind you of
another fact. There is considerable said in Missouri about the Santa
Fe Country & the absurd claim of Texas. The slaveholders argue
that all that part of New Mexico east of the Rio Grande ought to be
given to Texas, notwithstanding the earnest protests of the people
of New Mexico. A few weeks ago a company of 50 men chiefly from
Tennessee, left these frontiers for Santa Fe, led on by Ex-Senator
Anderson, of Tennessee. Their mission is a secret one! They
are no doubt emmissa- ries of the South, & their object is to
secure the admission of slavery in that Territory. I cannot account
otherwise of the mission of these men. Those that I have spoken
& heard are accomplished politicians. If there should be a
scheme on foot to engraft slavery on a free territory in such a
manner, I say it ought to be exposed & counteracted. T. Butler
King of Geo., as you will have observed, is on a similar mission in
California. The question as to the claim of Texas to one-half of New
Mexico, I think will be brought before the Supreme Court of the
United States for decision. If this should be the case, I am a
little afraid it will be decided in favor of Texas, as the Slave
power has the ascendency in that body. I trust that such an act--I
mean the dismemberment of New Mexico - will never be agreed on or
submitted to by Congress. The New Mexicans are opposed to a
dismemberment of their territory, & to the introduction of
slaves among them. And their petitions ought to be respected &
complied with by the General Government at as early a time as
possible. It is true, some slaveholders with their slaves have gone
to Santa Fe last year even from this place, and Independence, but
let not that hinder Congress from passing Laws banishing Slavery
from the Territory, & thus comply with the wishes of the people. I have refrained taking any public part in the controversy raging in this state at present; yet, I am not at all unwilling to defend the position of Col. Benton on the slavery question. If I were to take that decisively strong free soil ground, that I occupied in Ohio last summer, & fall, I could not, in the present state of things, help or further much the anti-slavery cause in Missouri. If Benton should be re-elected again to the U. S. Senate; you can be assured the anti-slavery influence is gaining ground in Missouri.
But I perceive that my sheet is filling up rapidly, and lest I prove tedious I will hurry to a close. I shall be extremely happy, in the meantime, to receive any documents that you may be disposed to send me. 1 trust the good Providence will preserve your health, and bless you abundantly, so that you may be enabled fearlessly to vindicate our glorious cause in the halls of Congress!
1 should be very glad to receive an answer from you.
FRIDAY, Sept. 14, 1849.
I sympathize heartily with the
struggling Hungarians. I pray & hope they will succeed against
their tyrannical - their infamous oppressers. The sad news of the
defeat & surrender of Bem
into the hands of the Russians reached us to-day. Would to God, it proved untrue!
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