It grew, however, almost as fast as the material power of the North—this moral conviction of the divine right of man to liberty; grew so fast, that in 1860, South Carolina glanced over the November election returns, saw the name of Abraham Lincoln at the head, shrieked, 'The North is abolitionized!' and rushed out of the Union, with ten other Slave States at her heels, while four more were held back by the strong arm of the national power. The North is not yet 'abolitionized,' but every volley fired at liberty by the Slave Power these last three years, has killed a lover of slavery, and made an Abolitionist; as the juggler fires his pistol at your old black hat, and, when the smoke clears up, a white dove flutters in its place. If the Slave Power shoots at us long enough, we shall all become Abolitionists, and all learn to love our fellow man and protect him in the enjoyment of every right given him by God!
Thus had the Free States, the people's part of the Union, gone up steadily to overshadowing material, intellectual, moral power. But up to 1850 this mighty growth had got no fit expression in State or national politics. All the great parties had mildly tried to remonstrate with the slave aristocracy, but quickly recoiled as from the mouth of a furnace. A few attempts had been made to organize a party for freedom, but nothing could gain foothold at Washington. A few noble men had lifted their voices against the rampant tyranny of the slaveholders: chief among these was John Quincy Adams, the John the Baptist crying in the desert of American partisan politics the coming of the kingdom of Heaven! But when the people had come up to a consciousness of their consolidated power, and the reverence for human right was changing and polarizing every Northern institution—in the fierce struggle that ushered in and succeeded the admission of California, between 1848 and 1856—this Northern superiority culminated in a great political movement against slavery. This movement assumed a double form-positive, in the assertion that the Slave Power should be arrested; negative, in the assertion that the people should have their own way with it. The Republican party said: The slave aristocracy shall go no farther. The 'Popular Sovereignty' party, or Douglas Democracy, said: The people shall do what they choose about this matter. Now the people were already the superior power in the republic, and were rapidly growing to hate the Slave Power; so the slaveholders, saw that the Northern Democracy, with their war cry of popular sovereignty, might in time be just as dangerous to them as their more open enemies. They repudiated both forms of Northern politics, and tied the executive, under James Buchanan, and the Supreme Court, under Judge Taney, to their dogma: The right of the aristocracy is supreme. Slavery, not liberty, is the law of the republic.
The great leaders of these Northern parties were Stephen H. Douglas and William H. Seward. Mr. Douglas was the best practical politician, popular debater, and magnetizer of the masses, the North has yet produced. He was the representative of the blind power of the North, and stood up all his life, in his better hours, for the right of the people to make the republic what they would. But the representative statesman of the era is the Secretary of State. The whole career of Mr. Seward is so interwoven with the history of the political consolidation of the people against the Slave Power, that the two must be studied together to be understood. Nowhere so clearly and eloquently as in the pages of this great philosophical statesman can be read the rapid growth of that political movement that in twelve years captured every Free State, placed a President in the chair, and then, with a splendid generosity, invited the whole loyal people to unite in a party of the Union, knowing that henceforth the Union meant the people and liberty against the aristocracy and slavery. And only in the light of this view can the course of this man and his great seeming opponent, but real associate, be fitly displayed. Douglas had taught the people of the North that their will should be the law of the republic. Seward had told them that will should be in accordance with the 'higher law' of justice and freedom. Like men fighting in the dark, they supposed themselves each other's enemies, while they were only commanders of the front and rear of the army of the people. Both appeared on the national arena in the struggle of 1850, and soon strode to the first place. The Slave Power repudiated Seward and his 'higher law' of justice and liberty at once. They tolerated Douglas and his 'popular sovereignty ' ten years longer, when they found it even a more dangerous heresy, and threw him overboard.
In the election of 1860 there were but two parties—the two wings of the people's army, under the patriots Lincoln and Douglas; the two wings of the slave host, under the traitors Breckinridge and Bell. Of course the people triumphed. Had Douglas been elected instead of Lincoln, the Slave Power would not have stayed in the Union one hour longer. It was not Lincoln, but the political supremacy of the people they resisted. The Free States had at last consolidated, never to recede, and that was enough. Henceforth no party could live in the North that espoused the cause of this rebel aristocracy. Whoever was Governor or President, Democrat, Republican, Union, what not, the people's party was henceforth supreme, and the aristocracy, with all its works of darkness, was second best.
The political victory of 1860 was virtually complete. For the first time in eighty years had the people concentrated against the Slave Power. The executive was gained, placing the army, navy, appointments, and patronage in the hands of the President, the people's representative by birth and choice. The North had a majority of eight in the Senate and sixty-five in the House of Representatives, insuring a control of the foreign policy and the financial affairs of the republic; while the Supreme Court, the last bulwark of despotism, could be reconstructed in the interest of the Constitution. It is true the people did not appreciate the magnitude of the victory, or realize what it implied. They would probably have made no special use of it at once, and the aristocracy might have outwitted them again, as they had for three quarters of a century past. But the slaveholders knew that now was just the time to strike. If they waited till the people understood themselves better, and learned how to administer the Government for liberty, it would be too late. They still had possession of the executive, with all the departments, the Supreme Court, army, and navy, for four precious months. This was improved in inflicting as much damage on the Government as possible, and organizing a confederacy of revolted States. The people did not believe they would fight, and offered them various compromises, everything except the thing they desired—unlimited power to control the republic. The aristocracy knew that no compromises would do them good which proposed anything less than a reconstruction of the Union which would insure their perpetual supremacy. They even doubted if this could be effectually accomplished in a peaceful way. The people must first be subdued by arms, their Union destroyed, and brought to the verge of anarchy by this mighty power, backed by the whole despotism of Europe; then might they be compelled to accept such terms as it chose to dictate. It waited no longer than was necessary to complete its preparations, and opened ed its guns in Charleston harbor. When the smoke of that cannonade drifted away, the people beheld with consternation the Slave Powers arrayed in arms, from Baltimore and St. Louis to New Orleans and the Rio Grande, advancing to seize their capital and overthrow the republic.
Having conquered the aristocracy by