Print
Category: Personal Recollections of Pardee Butler
Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
 

It is said, "There are two sides to every question." In my association with men in the free States I had learned one side of this question; now I was learning the other side, and began to be able to put in intelligible shape to myself those reasonings by which these men justified their action. They reasoned thus: "War is a state of violence and always involves a trenching upon what we call natural rights; and its decisions depend not so much on who is right or wrong, as on who wields the longest sword and commands the heaviest battalions.

And if in carrying on a war some evil comes to innocent parties, this is only one of its necessary consequences, and is justified by the final result; provided always that the war, as a whole, is right and just. And in such a strained and unnatural condition of affairs men can not be governed by the same scrupulous regard for others' rights by which they are governed in time of peace. But the North and South are already practically in a state of war. This comes of the mistakes made at the formation of our government. Thomas Jefferson and the fathers of the Revolution were mistaken in holding slavery wrong. It is a rightful and natural relation, as between an inferior and superior race. The black race is far better off here in America, in slavery, than they would be in Africa, in freedom and in paganism; and if there is something of hardship in their lot, it is only because there is hardship in the lot of every human being."

These men also said: "Consequent on these erroneous views held by Thomas Jefferson and others, the settlement made as between the North and South has been wrong, from the beginning, It was wrong to close the Northwest Territory, embracing Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, against slavery. So also it was wrong to close Kansas against this institution by what was called the Missouri Compromise Line, agreed upon on the admission of Missouri into the Union."

So these men reasoned, and they said: "Now we propose to go and take by the strong hand those rights of which we have been wrongfully deprived since the beginning of the American Government. A little severity now--a resolute seizing on our rights now, in this golden opportunity--will be worth more than the shedding of rivers of blood by and by. Therefore the primary and rudimental legislation of this infant Territory will be worth everything to us in the final settlement of this question. It is certain that the law is against us; but the law itself is wrong, and has been wrong from the beginning. The right that belongs to us is the material and inalienable right of revolution."

We have no right to assume that a majority of the people of Missouri held the sentiments we have here indicated: probably they did not. But the dissent was generally unspoken. The men of this stamp commonly adopted the policy of the man with whom I had just parted. But there was dissent in some cases, bitter and vehement, followed sometimes by bloodshed.

Before I had gone to Iowa, and while I yet lived in Ohio, I had visited Kentucky. An Ohio colony had gone down into Kentucky and located in the counties of Wayne and Pulaski, on the Cumberland River. A brother of mine had gone with them, and I had made him a visit. I thought then, and think now, that there is no region on which the sun shines, more desirable to live in than the region of the Cumberland Mountains. At Crab Orchard I found a man that was born in the State of New York. He had been a soldier at Hull's surrender, at Detroit, in the war of 1812, with Great Britain. From Detroit he had made his way into Kentucky, had married a rich wife with many slaves, and had become a vehement partisan for slavery. But because he was born in the same State with myself, and because I could tell him much about that people that were once his people, he was glad to have me stop with him. Being old and choleric, he would go off into a fierce passion against the abolitionists. He would say: "These men are thieves! Our niggers are our property, and they steal our property. They might as well steal our horses." After awhile he would begin to talk about his children. He would say: "These niggers are ruining my children! My girls are good for nothing! They can not help themselves! They are so helpless they can not even pick up a needle. And my boys! These niggers are ruining my boys! My boys won't work!" And then he would _go_ on to tell the nameless vices the young men of the city were drawn into through their intimacy with the blacks. I thought, but did not say, "My dear sir, if slavery is working such a ruin on your own children, would not the abolitionists be doing you a kindness if they would steal every nigger you have got?"

But there was a still graver aspect that this question was beginning to assume: A woman that is a slave has neither the motive nor the power to protect her own virtue; and the land was threatened to be filled with a nation of mulattoes. But this mixed race would possess all the pride, ambition and talent of the superior race; at the same time they would feel all that undying hatred that a subject people feel toward the men by whom they are subjugated. We would then be sleeping on a volcano, such as may at any hour engulf the empire of Russia.

All this I pondered in my heart as I slowly made my way toward St. Joseph, on the Missouri River, which flows along the western border of Kansas. And now this question was coming to the front and forcing a settlement, and in Kansas would be the first real conflict. In Congress they had only paltried with, it; now the people were to try their hand. And what should I do? Had I any right as a Christian and as an American citizen, when providentially called to this work, to withdraw myself from aiding in its settlement? And should I turn my horse in the opposite direction, go back to my Bro. Graves at Chillicothe, and say to him: "You are a man of undoubted courage, but I am a paltroon and a coward, and I am going to hunt a hole and hide myself, where I will be out of danger when this battle is fought between freedom and slavery."

I did not turn back, but revolving all these matters in my mind, reached the city of St. Joseph. Here I had been commended by a friend to a merchant in the city, a member of the Christian Church. He received me kindly and treated me courteously, but his partner in business did not seem to be of that mind. He was all out of sorts, and gruffly said, "Kansas is a humbug. It will not be settled in thirty years."

In revolutions men live fast. I had been ten days on my journey, and the man that now crossed the Missouri River at St. Joseph was not just the man that ten days before crossed the Mississippi at Quincy. He was a wiser and a sadder man.

On the Kansas side the first company I met was a two-horse wagon load of men that had been exploring the Territory and were returning. They seemed thoroughly disgusted, and said: "The wind blows so hard in Kansas, it would blow a chicken up against the side of a barn and hold it there for twenty-four hours."

"Kansas will not be settled in thirty years." So said my not very amiable friend in St. Joseph. It is now somewhat more than thirty years, and Kansas has more than a million of inhabitants. But the State has a higher boast to make than that it has so increased in wealth and population. It has been the first State in the Union--indeed, it has been the first government in the world--to incorporate prohibition into its fundamental law; and this is the best possible criticism by which to mark its comparative progress in a Christian civilization.

powered by social2s