Speech of Richard H. Dana., Jr., to the Republican Club of Manchester
…I ask leave to suggest a few plain propositions….
First. We will concede no new right, power, or recognition to slavery, whether political or territorial, whatever may be the consequences of refusal.
Second. We will not bargain for the right to carry on the government, whatever may be the terms of the purchase.
Third. Any measures not justly liable to either of these objections, but addressed to those fears and suspicions which do exist at the South and are the sustenance of the revolution, it is our duty to offer.
Fourth. Our recognized duties to slavery under the present Constitution must be faithfully performed.
We will not bargain for the right to carry on the government, because it is a right that cannot be bought and sold. It perishes in the transfer. We sill not gargain for it, because the terms they demand are the surrender of some great rights of freedom which are not ours to give, but which we hold in trust for a vast people now living, and hereafter to live. We will not bargain for it, because it will leave us no government if we pay the price. It will leave only a Constitution , which will be a government, indeed, when wielded against us, but only a voluntary league, when sought to be wielded in our favor.
We will grant no new right, power, or recognition to slavery, whether political or territorial. Are not the concessions of the present Constitution quite as much as the moral sense of the North can sustain? — quite as many as can be executed? If we make more, we shall be voluntarily and wilfully sinners against right and duty, and with the additonal ignominy of doing it either from fear or from the mercenary motive of an undone love of material prosperity. But even that would be a delusion. We are at a time when we may say, without irreverence or a tempting of Providence, that duty is ours, the results are___elsewhere. We know that the course of honor is always the course of ultimate good policy. We hope it will also be the course of immediate safety and peace.
We will do all we can do for conciliation, and to remove fears and suspicions. Above all, we may and must avoid an unrestrained speech. Mere denunciation of slavery, where not necessary for the subject in debate, and for practical purposes of legislation, is not to be defended in such a confederacy as ours, made with slave States, recognized as such. We must remember that our brethren at the South have a fearful problem to deal with, demanding our sympathy and forbearance; and I believe they may rely upon receiving them, if they do not attempt to press slavery upon the nation, territorially or politically. I have never been willing, when abroad, to accept a compliment at the expense of my country, and of truth, as one entirely disconnected from slavery. No man who acts under our Constitution, whether as a voter or an officer, in State or national affairs, has a right to that position. We are, to a limited and defined extent, and in a qualified manner, it is true, yet we are complicated with slavery. Our government is to put down insurrections and return fugitives, and to allow a slave basis of representation, and to recognize and enforce slave laws within the slave States. We ought, manfully, though with regret, and with full admission of the evil and the wrong, to accept our share of the responsibility and the reproach. But we ought the rather, and may, with the more right and title, refuse all further compromises and concessions, and take our share of the responsibility of refusal. I expect to take the share that falls to me.
Gentlemen, citizens of New Hampshire, you are soon to have an election, and this I understand is the first in a series of meetings to prepare for the contest, ___ we may hopefully say, the victory. Let the trumpet that calls from the hills the fist note after the inauguration of our President, give no uncertain sound! May you sustain by a cheering approval, your Senators and Representatives who have deserved so well at your hands! When Democracy meant Republicanism, you were its Gibraltar at the North. Now that Republicanism is the name for Republicanism, be its Gibraltar still!
Richard Henry Dana, Jr., (1815-1882), is chiefly known for the classic memoir of life at sea Two Years Before the Mast. During the Civil War he successfully argued before the Supreme Court that the United States had the right to blockade Confederate ports. He later served as a U.S. counsel in the trial of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
The copy of this speech held in the Special Collections Dept. was hand corrected by Dana and autographed to Maine Senator William Pitt Fessenden (1806-1869), later Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury.