Presidential Election 1888
September 22, 1888 — Tomlinson Hall, Indianapolis IN
It is as true of a party as it is of any army in the field, that it must fight or surrender. We have had the issue marked out and the battle formed for us by the President of the United states, or the hangman of Buffalo. The sole issue on which the fight is to be made he and his party have proclaimed shall be the tariff. There is no other issue in this contest save that of tariff, so says this tool of aristocracy, ignorance and stupid domination.
Whatsoever matter has been involved touching not only the healthy, the good condition, but the very life of the Republic in the last twenty-five years, this day the rebels of the South, unrepentant and unreconstructed, through the mouth of their filthy tool at the North, announce the sole issues which the old soldiers and free men and their sons are to decide on the 6th of next November. “We assert it and you are to accept it,” they proclaim. So be it. We are strong enough to take up any gauge of battle flung down, though it be the devil in hell or his present emissary in power in this land.
Who are these men who settle the gauge of battle and say on what issue the fight is to be made? The friends of the laboring man! They announce in this fight that they stand asking the suffrage of the American citizens on the ground that they, they Democratic party, are the friends of labor and the champions of the laboring man. They are the friends of the laboring man, white and black, as their candidate for the vice-presidency, Mr. Thurman, announced forty-eight hours ago truly. They are the friends of the laboring man as they were of the negro in the past. From first to last the tool of the slave power; from first to last for gain, for profit, for office, for the emoluments of power; always moving forward or backward, to the degradation and enslavement of labor, whether it rested under the skin of white men or black.
We used to talk about the abuse of power they represented. Slavery was, in itself, the essence of all abuse that could be perpetrated upon man. They spit upon all that free labor needs, and desires, and that could elevate it. It is this power that for seventy-five years dominated the Democratic party that too-day asks the suffrages of labor in return as its friend. What did it, this friend of the laboring man? What did this champion of the maters do through these five and seventy years? The men who founded this republic believed in the principles of justice for all men. Washington never owned a slave, through they have belied his memory by the other assertion. Jefferson said, looking at freedom on one side and slavery on the other, that a coming contest was inevitable, and in that contest God Almighty had no attributes that would side with the slave-holder.
What followed? The slave power, the aristocrats of a limited section said, “Give us more than equal power.” They did it. New England, New York and Pennsylvania saved the Carolinas to liberty and independence. Massachusetts alone sent into the war of the revolution 8,000 more men than the whole South combined. And so the fight having been won, and these men being ready to eat what they had not cooked, and finding that freedom and its methods prospered in the North, while despotism and slaver in its methods went slowly and unwaveringly in the South, said, “Give us more,” and their tool, the friend of the laboring man that asks the suffrages of this toiling, laboring mass next November, began faithfully its record.
When slavery said, “You have too much of prosperity in the North while the lands we possess are already beginning to be spoiled and ruined by the ignorant labor of slaves; buy us Louisiana;” the Democracy party obediently doffed its hat and put its hand into the Nation’s pocket — this economical, faithful servant of the Republic — and bought Louisiana to be turned over to the taint and curse of slave labor. That is how it began to prove its faithfulness to its friendship for the laboring classes. Its master, having spoiled Louisiana and even something more, said, “Buy us Florida” and this friend of the decent white man and laborer put its hand again into the Nation’s treasury and once more bought for the few aristocrats of the South, that they might live and reign in triumph, and crack their whip over the black laborer and exclude white labor at the same time. They bought for them Florida. Was that enough? No. Covering the land they bought was a straight and honest treaty with the decent Indians who there abided, the Creeks and Cherokees; but, trampling the Nation’s faith and its own under foot, they turned these red-skinned friends of the Nation adrift to whatsoever fate might befall them.
“Their lands are needed for the pollution of slavery for the interests of the few aristocratic master,” said the Democratic party of that day. The faithful and honest friend of the laboring man breaks faith with the red man, and drives him our to penury that it might take his lands and give it to a few aristocrats of the South for the degradation and shame of labor, and the brutalization of the person of the workingman that was to follow. Then, was that enough? Said this same master of the Democratic party, as the years went on, “Give us Texas, and enormous territory lying there outside of our doors.” No, said the spirit of justice of the North. “Then, said these few dominating members of this aristocracy of the South, “Give it to us, or we will tear the Nation asunder.” “So be it,” said this servant; “We will buy Texas if we can, and if not, We will plunge the whole Nation, pledged to liberty, into war,” and to what end? That these great lands may be tilled by free men and occupied by free churches and free schools, with a free press?
[Here a cannon was fired in the vicinity of the hall.]
Is that a Democratic cannon? Well, all the noise of hell cannot silence the voice of liberty and truth. Let them thunder on this 22nd of September, we will thunder in answer on the 7th of November.
Oh, the Democrats of the North are liberal with cannon on the side of the South in 1888; they had their fingers on their lips in 1861. They said to give us Mexico, and it was given to them. In the days of the revolution, when the issue was the eternal and the everlasting principle of the rights of men, of equality before the law and of the freedom of each human being before God and amongst his fellowmen, Massachusetts sent 8,000 more men than the whole South combined. When the fight came with Mexico to wrench her great territory from her and give it over to something that meant death to free labor and degradation to the white man and enslavement to the black, the South stood ready to send 43,000 men against 23,000 and odd men from the North. In proportion to its numbers the South sent four men to one against the North. That is to say that when the issue was the eternal principle of justice and the rights of laboring men in the revolution Massachusetts alone sent 8,000 more men into the field than the whole South combined, but when the issue was the degradations of labor in the prison of white men and black alike the South could send against Mexico four men to every one that the Democratic North even would put into the field.
Then when Texas was gained these friends of labor said: “Get us one-third more of Mexican soil; beg it, borrow it, or steal it, but get it for us.” And it was done. Well, God vindicates himself, and the everlasting rules of justice work themselves out to a fair completion. The soil that the Union stole — for it amounted to that — from Mexico at this demand of the slave power is the soil over which we have the contention to-day of the Chinaman on one hand, and the damnable curse of Mormonism on the other. And it serves us right. So be it: but don’t forget, Republican and Democratic voters, where the trouble and the issue belong. What more did this friend of labor do for the workingman. There is not a creature so ignorant or one so young who does not know where this leprosy, this slave power, originated. You know it. Yes, every man and woman in this house knows it.
So, this friend of labor, having done his service in its behalf down to that point, what more does he do? Said this master, “Give us Kansas and Nebraska. We thought in 1819 and 1820 we did not need the land; it was too far north, had too much of the free breezes of liberty blowing across sit; it was too cool, too circumspect, but now we need it, and give it to us.” This friend of labor, looking ever the boundless billows of a peaceful sea that meant riches to-day, and healthy prosperity during hundreds of years to the United States and to the laboring classes, said to this master, “So be it; we give it to you; we compromise pledged faith and words sworn before high heaven; they are nothing.”
We give it over to your grasp and shut it off from the prosperity of the Northern working men. That is how it proved its faithfulness in that day. What then? When the Northern laboring man said, “No, this is my heritage and I claim it; this is my right and I will possess it,” the slave power on the one hand and its subject tool, the Democratic party, on the other, said, “We will abrogate law, poison justice, turn the wheels of time, of government and law backwards, but that we shall have what we desire. The North at last and the laboring men of the North were too much for it. For a quarter of a century the North had stood still in the face of these demands; it had not cared whether the black man lived or died; whether his rights were acknowledged or denied. It did not care whether humanity under a black skin was acknowledge ad a child of God or as a bit of machinery, a cotton bale to be bought and sold in open market. But at last, thank God, suffering, privation, wrong and oppression came home to the white man of the North, and taught him that labor rested under a black skin in the South as his brother, and their interest being identical were to be fought out together at the polls, or, if need be, on the battlefield. What turned the tide in Kansas was what John Brown said — and made the North and South understand it — that in this fight of freedom against slavery there were blows to be given as well as to be received.
To day that story is repeated, although it comes with a new face. It is all we have to come face to face with at this present time. We used to talk in the old times about the North and the Sough, and we talk about the North and the South to-day. Some people innocently imagine that the phrase means a geographical section, one side or the other. It means to-day what it has meant for a century. It means free speech, a free press, a free school, a free bible, and intelligence, and thought, and argument, and every avenue stretched wide and open before every human being who can enter in. It means free speech, a free press, a free school, a free Bible, and intelligence, and thought, and argument, and every avenue stretched wide and open before every human being who can enter in. It means that the gospel of God, which is the gospel of humanity, shall be preached in pulpit and on highway alike.
[The cannon again heart.]
The Democratic cannons says amen to that.
That is what the North means. What does the South mean? It means three hundred and fifty to four hundred thousand aristocrats — slave holders — who dominated generation after generation, until finally in 1860 they brought the national government in the United States to its infamy in the face of the whole world. What did this aristocracy represent? It represented a toil that had so spoilt the whole face of the land that the best territory there could be bought for $5; it meant a silenced free speech and a muzzled press.
Why should it not? Napoleon said three-quarters of a century ago, “I dread free newspapers more than an army of a hundred thousand men.”
It turned back the wheels of government itself, and in South Carolina and Georgia it dared to open the mails and to take out the papers of the North that said even a feeble word for freedom and the rights of the laboring man, and burned them on the public common. Amos Kendall, then Postmaster general of the United States, said to Sough Carolina and Georgia, “Self-preservation is the first law of nature; I cannot sanction you in the rifling and destruction of the mails, but I will not condemn you.” This power in the South said, “We silence free speech, we muzzle a free press and put in the place, if need be, of intelligent discussion — gunpowder. If a white man comes here and dares to breathe the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, we will warn him out of our midst, and if he persists in staying we will brand him with a red hot iron, and if he persists beyond that we will fling him into prison to rot and die. And they did it, and the Democratic party said, “It is well.”
This friend of the laboring man, this merciless tyrant, said that if mother, wife, sister or daughter who should say it is my duty as well as my privilege to teach those wretched creatures who toil without hope that there is hope beyond; that if government on earth simply means the lash and branding-iron, there is a government above that means mercy and peace; that if the government in this land means simply unrequited toil, sorrow and misery, there is freedom for the sons of God for time and eternity, and that above the tyrant slave-master there is a God who is no respecter of persons to whom we may look and to His mercy we may hope until hope bears fruition to the toiling bondman and laboring man, this tender, Christian woman was to e thrust into a noisome jail with chain about her wrist. That is what civilization and what the Democratic party meant for her and all concerned in those days.
While the civilization of the North meant as embodied in the influence that was slowly gathering up against this power a free pulpit and an open Bible, free schools, well-tilled lands and a homestead. It meant that father or mother, however poor, should love their children and should use their best endeavor to give them all the freedom in America. The Democratic party meant that a white aristocrat or a man calling himself such should send into the world the breath of his own body, the blood of his own veins, the offspring of his own loins, and to send him upon the auction-block. What in the name of God have these two civilizations to-day? The one has got to triumph and the other has got to die.
It was the Democratic party that said amen to all this and supported it from year to year down to 1860, until it blew the voice of its cannon against Sumter, and in that sound drowned all smaller and lesser cries in the North in the one triumphant divine outcry that said at last, for white and black, “We are free.”
These two civilizations stood face to face for seventy-five years. The South had said, “We are not afraid; we sill triumph,” and the North said, “Against your auction-block we put our type-block; against your degradation of labor we put free land, free speech, a free press and free schools. And the South said, “So be it.”
And at the end of five and seventy years the champion of despotism said to the champion of freedom, “We can’t abide the issue; we will adjourn the contest from the ballot-box to the cartridge-box,” and the North said, “So be it.”
I do not believe that even in those days the labor of the North fairly understood the issue at stake; but this much, at least, is true that you in Indiana, and over in Illinois, and beyond in Iowa, you in the great basin of the Mississippi, understood that the Mississippi was yours and “By the God of Justice,” said the West,” what belongs to us we will keep in spite of Jefferson Davis, the South and the devil.”
The West did not need the Mississippi. The great trunk lines would carry all that it wanted to send and all that it wanted to bring from the Mississippi to New York and return, but it had a good sense of justice and what belonged to it and its free toil it proposed to keep.
The contest was adjournment to the battlefield. Indiana was called upon for six regiments, but the people of Indiana understood the matter better than the leaders, and when their leaders said six regiments, or seventy-five hundred men for three months, within ten days the people had raised seven thousand men beyond its quota, and said: “Here they stand ready to fight.”
The people knew that the fight was simply part and parcel of the fight of five and seventy years, and might last for seventy-five years more, and in the heat and flame of that strife they stood ready to say. So be it: let us fight for seventy-five years. It is twenty years only. Don’t let the rifle grow dim; don’t let the cartridge-box rot; stand to your guns, knowing the same fight is to be settled on the 6th of November. It is now downed yet.
These few slavemasters of the South dominate not simply the South, not merely a section, but the whole country through the pliant and subtle service of this dirty tool, the friend of the laboring man to-day as he was then.
[A cannon and applause.]
Again it sounds amen to the sentiment. Oh, they are such fools, one has scarce patience to argue with them. It is a pity that these dastardly white slaves of the North cannot have the change in whips of slavery on their backs for twelve months that they might sing amen, understanding their triumph. They said, “We will adjourn the contest to the barbarism of the middle ages, the cartridge-box and the battle-field,” and the North said, “So be it,” and stood to its guns like men. Ah, what did we gain?
It was nothing to the South to yield free speech; it never had it. It was nothing for the South to put a muzzle on the lips of the press; it was nothing for the South to deny the message of God as spoken from the pulpits for seventy-five years — it would make God’s truth a lie; it was nothing to give up the habeas corpus; they had never had it; the rights of an individual were not recognized within its borders. But what did the North give? We, used to free speech, to open proclamation of whatsoever we believed by tongue or by type we who had said what we believed, and had done our service for the government and humanity as we chose; we who stood ready to put the finger on the lip, muzzle the press, silence even the pulpit, abolish the habeas corpus and to load ourselves with debt. To what end did we do it? We did it that the government might mean an open ground and a fair pathway to freedom, not only for ourselves but for the whole world in the future. We did all that, and willingly, that government of the people, by the people and for the people should not perish from the earth.
We fought our fight. And what did we gain? Talk about the old boys, the veterans. They have had their lives; as we look at them on Memorial day, and see them with the colors of their country on their breasts! Poor old chaps! They have lived their life.
No great matter whether they live or die. But God Almighty put some life into their brain, some fire into their heart, and some electric principle on their lips to teach these boys of to-day what the boys of twenty-five years ago were who stood ready to die for them. They had no snow on their heads; they had no chill in their hearts; they had mothers whom they idolized, sisters whom they cherished; there were young brides and sweethearts dearer to them than the breath they drew, or the hearts that beat in their bosoms, there were young fathers with the little baby first timing up in their eyes.; they had nothing to do but to listen to the voice of your friend, if you are a Democrat young man — to the Democratic party — and stay at home.
New York held its peace convention with the leaders of this Democratic party, headed by the man it put to eh front as its representative for President in 1864. Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania — and what Northern State did not sham itself by its peace conference held by these representatives of the friend of the laboring man? Who said, “There is Kansas, there are the great lands of the Northwest; our young men and their children after them need the soil:” but slavery say, “Give it to us for pollution, All we have to do to keep the peace is to give Kansa to its shame, to give Nebraska to its shame, to silence free speech and abolish the personal liberty law in every Northern state, and to crawl as welfare, sneaks and copperheads, at the foot of this power that dominates us and spits its venom over us, and we will have peace North and South.” Don’t forget that, you who have lived through these days; and you, young men, if you did not know it, know it this night, that the brave, splendid, heroic, martyred souls that went down to the battlefield and the prison pen from 1861 to 1865 did not go to save the Union. The union that meant degradation of labor, that meant silenced speech that meant the pollution of the Territories. That Union could have bene persevered and saved in peace and quiet at home. They went to the front to die for a Union that allows you this day to spit upon their graves.
They fought for your rights, the rights of freedom. They fought for a Union that meant the liberties, the rights and the power of free labor against the Union that meant its enslavement, the ignorance and degradation of unrequited toil. The power against which they fought to-night has the impudence to come before you and claim your suffrages and your support as your friends.
You can struggle your best with the world, the flesh and the devil so involved in a sectional, issue, you can clear your consciences white and sound; but you can’t meet tariff issues as involved in the suppressed labor vote of the South; you can’t meet the great rights of American citizenship, white and black alike, at the polls; you can’t meet the despotism and barbarism of slavery under new faces; you can’t meet your duty as an American citizen, old Republican covered with wounds or young Republican with your fight to make, save on a national issue, or national grounds, in voting for Harrison and Morton.
Source: The Indianapolis Journal, Indianapolis IN, September 23, 1888, p.9.