The Oregonian vs. Joseph Lane
When Senator Harry Lane sought to keep the U.S. out of war, the Oregonian saw it as an opportunity to attack his grandfather, then dead for nearly forty years.
For much more about Lane, click here.
RECORDS SHOW WHAT SENATOR LANE'S GRANDFATHER SAIDOREGONIAN NEWS BUREAU, Washington, March 24.--On March 4, 1917, Senator Harry Lane, of Oregon, achieved national, if not international, notoriety by reason of his refusal to sign the senatorial round robin approving the armed neutrality bill [a bill to arm American merchant ships, seen at that moment as a dangerous act that would draw the U.S. into World War I]. He is today, by reason of that refusal and because of his speech of March, best known throughout the country as one of the "little group of willful men" so bitterly denounced by the President, and by him held accountable for the defeat of a measure designed to protect American lives and uphold American honor.
In Senate, 56 Years Ago, Senator Joe Lane Was Secession's Vigorous Champion,
But Was Hurt by Word "Traitor."
Fifty-six years ago another Lane of Oregon, Senator Joseph Lane, grandfather of Harry Lane, achieved quite as much notoriety by reason of his vigorous championship of the cause of secession [Lane's words below warn of secession and its inevitability when the Southern sense of honor was offended] and because of his bitter attacks upon Abraham Lincoln and the party that had just elected him to the Presidency.
In that campaign Joe Lane had been the Vice Presidential nominee on the Breckinridge Democratic ticket and through his speeches during the short session of the 36th Congress, which expired just as Lincoln was inaugurated, seems to run a strain of feeling that had its foundation, in part at least, in the notable Republican victory, and the consequent Democratic defeat.
Joe Lane's Predictions Out.Not only did Senator Joe Lane espouse the cause of the seceding Southern states, he defended their right to withdraw from the Union; he predicted that the Great Northwest eventually would array itself with the Southern Confederacy and predicted that the Northern Democracy would array itself on the side of the South. But he went further. In one of his notable speeches he declared:
"If war should come unfortunately upon this country, inaugurated by a tyrant who would like to conquer and hold American citizens as vassals, then I will say to the coward who would do it, 'You will walk over your humble servant's body first.'" He declared he would never draw his sword to strike down the states of the South for exercising what he maintained was their right as sovereign states--the right to withdraw from the Union.
The speeches of the elder Lane are preserved in the files of the Congressional Globe, the forerunner of the Congressional Record of today, but, like it, a verbatim report of proceedings in Congress. A perusal of the files of the Globe for the closing session of the 36th Congress, which expired by limitation as Abraham Lincoln took the oath as President, revives many forgotten incidents of the history of those critical days. But nowhere in the files can be found any utterances more viciously assailing the North and the Republican Party, or even Lincoln himself, than appear in the speeches of Senator Joe Lane, of Oregon. [Opposition to Lincoln and the minority Republican Party was common in 1860. It must be kept in mind that Lincoln had not yet been martyred, nor even inaugurated, when the following speeches were made.]
Lane "Abominable Prophet."With an enviable record as a soldier in the Mexican War and with the memories of that conflict still fresh in his mind. Senator Lane demonstrated that he was, if a partisan, fundamentally a fighter. History has proved that he was an abominable prophet; his word pictures of the future, painted in the Senate chamber, show how far his judgment was warped by his bias.
But with all his partisanship, the more notable because he hailed from a state so far removed from the land of secession, Senator Joe Lane believed in and preached the doctrine of preparedness. He did not believe in waiting for the "overt act." Having been a soldier, he knew the folly of letting the enemy strike the first telling blow. [While this is certainly true, Lane was noted for responding to the first blow quickly and decisively, not for initiating hostilities.] And one or two paragraphs from Senator Lane's farewell speech will prove remarkable reading, in the light of recent events. [How Joseph Lane's record is relevant to that of his grandson is not explained.] His advice to the Southern Confederacy could well be heeded by the government today.
Senator Joe Lane also wrote himself into history a most inconsistent man, as will be observed. When defending the right of the Southern states to withdraw from the Union and to form a separate government of their own, he based his argument largely on the contention that their rights under the Constitution were being invaded by the party about to come into power. [Lane's concern was that a minority party would dictate policy, ignoring that it was the split in his own Democratic Party that put them in power.] He voiced the utmost regard and respect for that document. In another speech, on an entirely different subject, Senator Lane voiced the utmost contempt for that same Constitution. [The Oregonian didn't bother to produce any contemptuous speech. Search the word "Constitution" below.]
Elder Lane's Term Short.Joe Lane served but a short term in the Senate, but during that time was much in the limelight; he was the center of many a wordy battle. Though hailing from Oregon, his Southern sympathies seemingly were due in large measure to the fact that he was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina, and reared in Kentucky. [Though raised in very modest circumstances, Lane was a product of, and seems to have considered himself a member of, a Southern aristocracy.] His participation in the debates of the critical days immediately preceding the Civil War are intensely interesting reading, even today.
Rising in the Senate on December 5, 1860, Senator Lane said he intended "to say a few words in relation to the unhappy condition of our country." [To read the speech in the Congressional Globe, click on 36th Congress, pp. 1-992, and search image 8. Only major edits of the multitude of edits in the Oregonian's transcription are indicated below, in brackets.]
"We are all aware," said he, "that there is a great dissatisfaction in this country, and a very near approach, unless something can be done very speedily, to a dissolution of the Union. It is not very strange, as I look at it, that this condition of things should exist. It has been truly said that the election of any man to the Presidency would not be good cause for dissolution of the Union. I am prepared to say that the simple election of any man to that office, in my judgment, would not be cause for a dissolution. Nor is that the cause of complaint in the country; but it is the principles upon which the late election has taken place that have given rise to the trouble.
"The question everywhere was: Shall the equality of the states be maintained? Shall the people of every state have a right to go into the common territory with their property? And the verdict of the people has been that equality in this country shall not prevail. It is to the effect that 15 states of this Union shall be deprived of equality; that they shall not go into the common territory with their property; that they are inferiors, and must submit to inequality and degradation. Then, sir, with such a state of facts before us, is it strange that there should be dissatisfaction and trouble? [Note that Lane barely acknowledges that the "property" under discussion is human beings. Southern states seceded over wounded "honor" and economic peril. Southerners considered the moral rectitude of slavery as an established fact and very rarely discussed or even considered it.]
Platform Is Attacked."The platform upon which the opposition have succeeded in electing their President is, as I look at it, directly in conflict with the Constitution. It is directly in conflict with the equality of the states; and though it is said that this election is in accordance with the Constitution, I must say, in my honest opinion, that it is in violation of its spirit. It never was contemplated by those who made the Constitution that a sectional party, without an electoral ticket in nearly one-half of the states of the Union, upon a platform conflicting with the Constitution and with the rights of the states in one-half of our country, should elect a President. Though it may not be in conflict with the letter of the Constitution, yet, as I look at it, [omitted: it is in conflict with its spirit. My opinion today is,] if our fathers in forming that instrument had provided any means by which the legality of this election could be tested, before the Supreme Court, if you please, they would in this case decide in equity that the election of Mr. Lincoln conflicts with the Constitution of the United States, and is consequently void.
[omitted: Mr. HALE. No doubt of it.
Mr. LANE. And, sir, while I know there is no such redress, I am nevertheless, notwithstanding the smiles or laughs of gentlemen on the opposite side, fully convinced of the correctness of my position, that it never was contemplated, and it cannot be consistent with the Constitution, that one section of this country, without regard to the rights of nearly one-half the states, should have the power to elect a President on a platform in conflict with the Constitution and in conflict with the equality of the states of one-half the country, depriving them of equality, and depriving them of the principle on which the Union was formed.]
"Without the maintenance of that principle, the Union never could have been formed, and the Constitution never could have been adopted. Sir, that equality must be maintained, or this Union cannot and ought not to last.
"To say that the people of 15 states of this Union shall be inferiors, that they shall be unequals, that they shall not have rights equal with the other portion of the country, is a degradation that a proud, honorable, and just people cannot submit to; and if they should, I would not entertain for them that respect that I do today. It is not consistent with common sense, it is not consistent with right, it is not consistent with justice, to say that one portion of this country shall exclude the other half of it from the common territory acquired equally by the blood and treasure of every portion of it, and appropriate the whole exclusively to their use, and deprive the other half of any participation therein.
Battlefields Are Needed."I have witnessed the process of acquiring territory. I know how it is done. I witnessed it upon the battlefield when I saw the brave Mississippi regiment led on by the gallant Davis. I saw the Kentucky regiment, too, behaving gallantly in the same battle, commingling their blood with the good soldiers of the Northern states. By the victories achieved in that war we acquired territory; and now gentlemen on the other side say that it shall be appropriated to their exclusive use and that of their section. I can see no justice in such declarations.
"I can see no good sense or patriotism, fraternity, or equality, or good faith, in such a declaration of principles. Upon what principle of right can a Northern, sectional party set up exclusive claim to territory acquired at such sacrifice of Southern as well as Northern blood? Can such unjust pretensions be allowed, or can the Union be preserved on such terms? I think not. To preserve the Union, we must be just, and carry out in good faith every provision and guarantee of the Constitution. [The framers of the Constitution institutionalized slavery, and by 1860 every Supreme Court decision had not only supported slavery, but made harboring escaped slaves illegal.]
"It is not only true, sir, that the platform of principles sets forth all that I state, but I recollect lately reading the speech of the Senator from Illinois, Mr. Trumbull, made in the presence of Mr. Lincoln, in which he spoke of the great triumph--the election of Lincoln. He said it had secured one great object. One great thing has been accomplished by this victory--it was free territory; that slavery should never be extended upon another foot of the territory of this country.
"In addition to that, we have seen a letter from the honorable Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. Doolittle, in which he says it is indeed a great triumph; that it has settled forever the question of free territory; that slavery shall not be extended into the territories by any act, however bold or however specious; neither by border ruffian invasions, nor by the decrees of courts, nor by Congressional slave codes; but that the territory now acquired, or to be hereafter acquired, from Mexico or Great Britain [omitted:--throwing his eye over all the opportunities of acquiring territory, seeing we could only acquire it from the one or the other--]shall forever remain free.
Territory Costs Price."He does not stop there, sir. He professes to own a portion of the people of this country--Florida, Louisiana, Texas--to have purchased them; and that he is going to hold on to them; that they paid a large sum of money, and sacrificed 40,000 lives and $100,000,000 to defend them, and he is not going to permit them to go out of this Union. They cost a price that he enumerates; and he intends to hold them here, and they shall have no lot or part in the common territories of our common country.
"Will our people in that portion of the country spoken of, knowing that the platform of principles upon which that party succeeded in the late election is in conflict with their equality, is in conflict with the Constitution, and with these threats at meetings rejoicing over their success, and the written views of distinguished gentlemen on that side--will they sit still? Will they submit? I ask you, sir, [omitted: and the patriotism of the country,] will they submit to this kind of inferiority, to this kind of insult, inequality, and degradation? If they do, sir, without a guarantee that cannot hereafter be broken, that they shall have equality in this country, and enjoy rights with the other states, then they are not worthy to be called American citizens or free men.
"I would do anything, sir, to save this Union, but it must be saved upon honorable terms; it must be saved upon the principles of the Constitution. The obnoxious laws--laws violative of a faithful and prompt execution of the fugitive slave law--now on the statute books of the Northern states, must be repealed, and such guarantees made as will satisfy every man that hereafter their rights shall be safe. I would not advise them to be very ready in accepting promises. They are easily made and easily broken.
Guarantees of Equality Needed."I say, sir, without such guarantees as will secure to every portion of this country unquestioned equality, without such guarantees as will enable every man in every state in this country to go into the common territory and take his property and enjoy it while the territorial condition remains, there can be no peace in this country; there can be no Union. It does not exist today. That fraternity, that good faith, that honorable feeling and just action that controlled our fathers, does not exist in this country today. There must be a change of head, and, I wish to God, of heart also. Heaven can work a miracle. It did upon St. Paul, and I would be very glad to see it done in this country, and the hearts of the people throughout the land changed, and good will, good faith, honorable feeling, and just action restored, and then the country would go on together forever.
"But while I say these things, I want it understood distinctly that I would ask nothing for Oregon that she is not entitled to under the Constitution; but THAT I would have, and nothing less. And, sir, I say, if the South had the numerical strength, and could, by action here, or in any other way, deprive the state which I represent of her equality and her rights with the other states of this Union, I would not submit to it. I would have that which we are entitled to, and I would ask no more, but that I would have, and every state of this Union is entitled to it, and ought to and must have it."
Senator Lane then read the letter of Senator Doolittle of Wisconsin, in which the latter said, under date of November 18, 1860, commenting on the election of President Lincoln:
Comment Made on Election.Mr. President, I sent for, and have now in my hand, the letter of the distinguished Senator film Wisconsin to which I have alluded, and fin fear I did not quote. it correctly, I will read his letter. It is a beautiful document, but just in keeping with the principles upon which Mr. Lincoln was elected. He says:
"It is, indeed, a great victory; establishing two things, at least:
"1. That slavery shall not be extended into the territories, by any means, however bold, nor under any contrivance, however specious, neither by act of Congress, by border ruffian invasion, by judicial decrees, nor by territorial slave codes; but that the free territories acquired or to be acquired from Mexico, or Great Britain, shall remain free. And,
"2. That the majority, and not the minority, by their votes, constitutionally given, shall determine who shall be President of the United states, and that it is the first principle of republican popular sovereignty that the minority must acquiesce, [omitted: peacefully if they will, but they must acquiesce] in the enforcement of all constitutional laws enacted for the country, and for the whole country.
"We have not purchased Florida to protect the entrance into the Gulf of Mexico, nor Louisiana to control the outlet of the Mississippi Valley, nor annexed Texas and defended her against Mexico at the expense of 40,000 lives and $100,000,000 to suffer them now to pass under a foreign and hostile jurisdiction. It cannot be done. Mr. Lincoln will be inaugurated President of all the United states, and must take charge of all our foreign relations."
[omitted, quoting Lane: "Now, here is the modest part of this letter:"]
[resuming letter] "When the passions and misrepresentations of the hour are passed; when the people of' the South, who have as yet refused to hear what republicanism is, except from its political enemies, shall learn from him what it really is, and how grossly it has been misrepresented to them, every consideration of interest and of patriotism will bind them anew to the American Union, and lead them to a peaceful acquiescence in Mr. Lincoln's Administration."
Upon concluding the reading of Senator Doolittle's letter, Senator Lane closed his own remarks, saying:
Lane Predicts Dissension."It is not the election of Mr. Lincoln that is troubling the country, but that he is regarded as a dangerous man; that he entertains views and opinions, as expressed by himself, which are dangerous to the peace, safety, and prosperity of fifteen states of this Confederacy. It is because he has been supported and elected by a party holding the views of the Senator to whom I have just referred. Mr. Lincoln himself, if he were not in the hands of such a party, would not be objectionable, nor would he if he had no views, or had expressed none; but he has had views; he is an "irresponsible [sic] conflict" man [the reference is to the "irrepressible conflict" doctrine]; he holds that the slave states and free states cannot live together. I apprehend the result will be that they will not live together."
On the 19th of December, Senator Johnson, of Tennessee, stirred the Senate with a speech in which he protested against disruption of the Union, although he, in the shortly previous campaign, had supported the Breckinridge-Lane ticket, Senator Lane himself having been the Vice Presidential nominee. His speech incensed the Oregon Senator, who took the floor to reply at considerable length, and in the course of that speech gave voice to alarming sentiments. [To read Lane's speech in the Congressional Globe, click on 36th Congress, pp. 1-992, and search image 143.]
"I belong to that portion of the people of this country, [inserted: the Northern Democracy," asserted Senator Lane, "who have struggled for the rights of their Southern brothers, and] while they struggle for the constitutional rights of the other states of the Union, [omitted: as they have always done, and as they will continue to do] there is one thing that they will not do; they will not march under his (Johnson's) banner to strike down a gallant, chivalrous and generous people contending for rights that have been refused them by the other states of this Union. They will not march with him under his bloody banner, or Mr. Lincoln's, to invade the soil of the gallant state of South Carolina when she may withdraw from a confederacy that has refused her that equality to which she is entitled, as a member of the Union, under the Constitution.
"On the contrary, when he or any other gentleman raises that banner and attempts to subjugate that gallant people, instead of marching with him, we will meet him there, ready to repel him and his forces. He shall not bring with him the Northern Democracy to strike down a people contending for rights that have been refused them in a Union that ought to recognize the equality of every member of the confederacy." [Note that lower-case "confederacy" refers to the United States.]
Referring later to the election of President Lincoln, Senator Lane said:
Lane "Explains" Election.[omitted: Mr. President, to take up this remarkable speech, to analyze it, to review it, and to consider it in the the manner that it deserves, would require more time than I can expect to have; but I may be permitted briefly to notice some of the points that the honorable Senator made as he went along in his labored course. He took occasion to give an account of the action of the Senate upon certain resolutions introduced here, setting forth the principles that were made the issue in the late contest, and that were overridden and trodden down. He called the attention of the Senate to a proposition introduced by the honorable Senator from Mississippi (Mr. Brown) to declare that now is the time for action; that a law ought to be passed at this time protecting property in the territories. Though it was my opinion then that it would have been well to pass such a law, yet that Senator knew, and so did every other one, that it was impossible in this Congress to pass such a law. We might have passed such a bill through this body, but it could never have passed the other. Then it was our duty, as it was our privilege, to set forth the principles on which this government reposed, and which must be maintained, or the government cannot exist. They were the principles upon which this great battle was fought, that resulted in the election of Mr. Lincoln. They were the principles presented to the American people, more plainly and directly put than in any canvass before in this country; and they were repudiated, voted down, and rejected, and a man] "He was elected because he hated the institutions of the state of Tennessee, elected because of his opposition and because of his hatred to those institutions. By the result of the election, the power of the government is to be placed in the hands of a sectional party--a party that had placed themselves in opposition to the Constitution and the equality of these states, and to the decision of the Supreme Court, and which defied the Constitution and the decisions of the court, and denied the equality of these states; a party which holds that the common territory belongs exclusively to the North; that the North should enjoy it, and that the Southern states should have no part or lot in it. On account of Mr. Lincoln's hatred of the institutions of the South and his devotion to sectional principles he has been elevated to the highest office in the gift of any people.
"Is it strange then, that the gallant state of South Carolina [omitted:--always chivalrous in every war in which our country has been engaged; famous in the war of the Revolution, out of which grew our present government; famous in the war of 1812-15; famous in the war with Mexico; just, honest, upright, and true to the Constitution--] should refuse to remain in the Union as an inferior member of it? Is it expected that she shall submit to insult, inferiority, and degradation? If she does not, does the Senator hold that forces shall go down there with a bloody banner and strike down the gallant sons of that gallant and glorious state? I say to him, when he undertakes it, the gallant band of Democrats of the North will neither join him nor that Republican Party that expect to take a united North against a downtrodden South.
"I now serve notice that when war is made upon that gallant South for withdrawing from a Union which refuses them their rights, the Northern Democracy will not join in the crusade. The Republican Party will have war enough at home. The Democracy of the North need not cross the border to find an enemy. The Black Republicans and their aiders and abettors need not promise themselves that they can carry a united North against an honorable people contending for their rights. No such thing can be done. [omitted: The honorable Senator tells us where Tennessee will stand when that hour of trial may come. I know a good deal of Tennessee; two of their regiments happened to be under my orders in my brigade in one of the wars in which this country has been engaged. I know them well. I know that a more chivalrous, more just, more gallant, more honorable and bold people do not live on the face of this globe, and I can say to my honorable friend that they will not march with him to South Carolina to strike down the people there; nor into any other Southern state.] These states must have their rights in this Union; they must have their equality there, or in honor they must go out of the Union. ["In honor" was not a throwaway phrase in the mouth of a Southerner in 1860.]
Lane Denies He's Disunionist.[An entire column of type omitted.]
"Has the time not arrived when these states ought to resume the powers conferred on a federal government, or if it has not, I should like to ask when that time can come. The states think that time has come, and if they choose to act, I am sure that the Senator will think better than to go down there and to force them to remain in the Union. [omitted: What would he do with them if he were to conquer them? Hold them as subjects? Hold a state as a colony; her people as vassals? He would not hang the state, he says, but he would hang all the people in it, leaving, I suppose, the soil within its limits unpunished. Then, he talked to us long about the whiskey insurrection, and showed what Washington did. The whiskey insurrection was a very different thing from the solemn act of a sovereign state. It had no relevancy to the action of a sovereign state, acting in her sovereign capacity for the redress of her wrongs--redress that she cannot obtain in the Union. There is no parallel. It is not a case in point, and I wonder that he would talk about it. These are sovereign states. They have an equal right in the territories, and they have cause to act, in my honest judgment. Delay is sometimes dangerous. Ruinous results sometimes follow from it.]
"But, sir, understand me; I am not a disunionist. I am for the right, and I would have it in the Union, and if it cannot be obtained there, I would go out of the Union, and have that out of the Union that I could not obtain in it, though I was entitled to it.
[omitted: Now, is there no cause for the action of these states? Let us look at it for a moment. Let us examine the case a little, and then I will follow the Senator a little further. I want to notice some points he made. In the late canvass, as I stated in the outset, the issue was that presented to the Senate in the resolutions offered by the honorable Senator from Mississippi (Mr. Davis). The principles of those resolutions were stricken down and Mr. Lincoln was elected.]
"I propose to see whether the states have not some little reason for alarm, or cause of action, if you please. I take it, they are going to act anyhow, whether we please or not; and whether I approve their action or not, I pledge my word that I will never draw my sword to strike them down for exercising the right of a sovereign state--a right secured by the adoption of the Constitution to the members of this confederacy. The gentleman who has been elected President of the United states is a stranger to me personally [omitted: I have never had the pleasure of seeing him]; but I have seen his opinions, and I will read what he said in the somewhat recent canvass with the honorable Senator from Illinois, Mr. Douglas. I take it, he was pretty closely pressed in that struggle, and I will make some allowance, for he has said so nearly the same thing over on several different occasions. He said:
"'I did not even say that I desired that slavery should be put in course of ultimate extinction. I do say so now, however, so there need be no longer any difficulty about that. [omitted: It may be written down in the great speech. * * *]
"'I have always hated slavery, I think, as much as any abolitionist [omitted: I have been an old-line Whig. I have always hated it], but I have always been quiet about it until this new era of the introduction of the Nebraska bill began . . . [omitted: I always believed that everybody was against it, and that it was in course of ultimate extinction. * * * We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand.] I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. [omitted: I do not expect the Union to be dissolved.'
"Neither does the Senator from Tennessee--
"'I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided: it will become all one thing or all the other.] Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South.'
Lincoln's Language Plain."Now," continued Senator Lane, "is there any mistaking this language? Is there any mistaking the idea that was running through Mr. Lincoln's head when he uttered these words? That is not all. He said, on another occasion [omitted: during the same canvass, in explanation of this language]: 'I only said what I expected would take place. I made a prediction only; it may have been a foolish one, perhaps. I did not even say that I desired that slavery should be put in course of ultimate extinction. I do now, however, so there need be no longer any difficulty about that.] If I were in Congress, and a vote should come up on a question whether slavery should be prohibited in a new territory, in spite of the Dred Scott decision, I would vote that it should.'
"Then, sir [omitted: in spite of right], in spite of the Constitution, in spite of the decision of the Supreme Court, he would vote that slavery should be prohibited in the territories. Would you believe such a man on his oath? Could you believe that a man who could hold that doctrine would be held by his oath? I would not; not a bit of it. I would not trust a man that can defy the Constitution; that can trample upon the rights of the states; that can say that he disregards the opinion or decision of the Supreme Court; that he would not respect it, and that, though he had taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States in the discharge of his duty as a member of Congress, he would vote against the right of these states in the common territories.
"I ask, then, have not the Southern states a right to [omitted: feel concern? Have they not a right to] feel apprehensive as to the course of the party that was represented the other day by the Senator from Ohio, Mr. Wade, who said that slavery should never go on one other inch of the territory of this country. [omitted: Can they mistake this thing?] A majority of the people of the North have decided that it shall not. [omitted: Their President says it shall not], and their Senators say it shall not. Then how can the states expect in this Union to get their rights when they are in a minority?
[omitted: What power have they to secure them? Are they to stay here and fight for them? He says this is the place to win them. Will he do it against an overwhelming majority? Did ever a minority in legislation succeed in passing the laws of the land? Rarely indeed, if ever.]
"But, sir, I have not yet presented Mr. Lincoln's whole record. In the same speech from which I last quoted, he said:
"'What I do say is that no man is good enough to govern another man without the other man's consent. I say this is the leading principle, the sheet anchor of American republicanism. . . . [omitted: Our Declaration or Independence says: We hold these truths to be self-evident--that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just power front the consent of the governed. I have quoted so much at this time merely to show that according to our ancient faith, the powers of government are derived from the consent of the governed. Now, the relation of master and slave is, pro tanto, a violation of this principle. The master not only governs the slave without his consent, but he governs him by a set of rules altogether different from those which he prescribes for himself.] Allow all the governed an equal voice in the government; that and that only is self-government.'"
Two Views Made Known."It is remarkable," went on Senator Lane, "that while Mr. Lincoln does not want to govern the negroes without their consent, both he and the Senator from Tennessee are for governing sovereign states of white men without their consent.
"Mr. Lincoln, it is perceived, wants negro equality. He wants to place the negro on an equality with the white man. He wants the Northern states to have negro citizens as well as white, and to render those states the rulers of the Southern states, because they will not have negroes for their citizens. . . .
[omitted: "But, sir, I want to return to the view of the Senator from Tennessee for a moment. He spoke of the price of the acquisitions of territory down South, and he spoke particularly of Florida. He looked at it as a matter of dollars and cents, never at principle, never at right, but he counted what it had cost, and what it had cost us to turn a few Indians out of there; and now he says the people in that state, that cost so much, are complaining, because, he ought to have said, they could not have the rights to which they are entitled under the Constitution. Then he is concerned about the navigation of the Mississippi River. He says that the great state of Tennessee and he, himself, are concerned about the navigation of that river. I believe it is recognized as the law of nations, as the law of all civilized nations, that a great inland sea running through several governments shall be open equally to all of them; and besides, as the honorable Senator from Louisiana said, there is no man in Louisiana that would think for a moment of depriving Tennessee of the right of navigating that great river. No, sir, nor Kentucky either, nor Indiana, nor Illinois, nor any other state whose waters flow into that mighty stream. No such thing would ever be done. On the contrary, if they should go out of the Union--and that is not a matter for me to decide--I am sure that comity and good faith and proper regulations would exist and prevail between them and all the powers owning territory upon that great river.]
"Indeed, sir, if a dissolution of this Union shall take place, I look to the day when every one of those great Northwestern states shall become a portion of that Southern Confederacy. They will not remain with that portion of this country that has agitated this question in season and out of season [omitted: in the school house, and in the church], until they have poisoned the Northern mind. I have no idea that they will remain with the people that have brought so much trouble on so great a country as this.
"They would say, 'You of the South have never attempted to encroach on the rights of any Northern state; you have never said that a state shall not come in without slavery; you have always voted to bring in free states; you have been just in all things; you have stood by the Constitution, and we can risk you; but we cannot risk these agitators and fanatics who have brought all this trouble upon the land.'
Sir, if dissolution comes, it will come for reason; it will come for right; and if dissolution takes place, who would use force or talk about force in this country? Who is the man hardy enough to inaugurate force? Who is the man hardy enough to undertake to execute federal laws in South Carolina and other states after they have become separate and independent governments? Who is the man that would undertake to collect revenue in South Carolina, hold courts there, and execute laws there, when she is not a member of this confederacy?
Joe Lane "Man of Peace.""I will say that this is bringing about civil war; that it is inaugurating a policy that will drench this country in blood. The man who will do it will be looked upon as the worst murderer that ever disgraced humanity. Civil war in this country! Conquer states, and hold them as provinces! Where is the authority to do it? Thank God, it is not in the Constitution. No such power is conferred upon this government. It cannot be exercised, and I feel proud of it. I am a man of peace. I dislike war. I would never make it or encourage it, except in defense of right, in defense of honor, in defense of truth and justice.
"I would go into battle and fight for the right; but I will never force war upon a people, or inaugurate it, unless it is authorized, and unless it is my duty to do so in defense of right; but certainly I would not make war to conquer a people contending for a right that has been refused, for a right that they cannot have in the Union, and for a right that they can have out of the Union, even if tyrants, or rulers that would be tyrants, should undertake to coerce them.
[omitted: "The man that would do it, the man that would inaugurate it, would drench this country in blood. My heart would pain me, and I could not rest at all, if I could believe such a calamity should happen.] If war should come unfortunately upon this country, inaugurated by a tyrant who would like to conquer and hold American citizens as vassals, then I will say to that coward who would do it, 'You will walk over your humble servant's body first.' I shall never cooperate with any portion of this country, North or South, that would strike down a people contending for their rights."
[omitted: "Now, sir, what chance have they to get rights in the Union? Even if a dissolution takes place, if that calamity shall fall upon us, I look forward to the day when a reorganization can be made. I look upon a dissolution now as a fixed fact; I look upon it as inevitable; but shall we not all look forward with hope, with anxious and patriotic hope, to the day when a reorganization shall take place, when all these states can come together in one great and happy Union, that shall secure right, justice, and equality to every portion of the Union? If we would bring about that reorganization, if we would rebuild the fabric that has been stricken down, we must maintain peace."]
Speaking then of what might happen if and after war came, Senator Lane said:
"Inaugurate force, sir, inaugurate war in this country, and all hope of reconstruction has vanished forever."
Reorganization Held Hope."I look forward, as anxiously as ever a father looked for the return of his son [omitted: or his beloved daughter], to the period when the day shall arrive that a reorganization may take place out of the states that have felt it their duty to go out of this Union for reasons that are so manifest that no just and candid man can say they are not right. I am looking to that reorganization with a view of having a better government than the present. This one will not longer answer the purpose. [omitted: The Constitution cannot be understood by the sections. One side understands it one way, and the other another; and that dominant party, the party that are soon to come into power, will not take the decision of the Supreme Court upon the Constitution; they will not recognize it.]
In the very next breath the Senator added:
"I cannot say that this government is a failure. [omitted: I cannot, in my heart, say that this great government has been a failure.] On the contrary, I regard it as a great success, a magnificent success, one that satisfies me, and will satisfy every intelligent man in the country, that men are still capable of self-government. [omitted: Is it not strange, wonderful--remarkable, indeed, that our fathers could have created a government to last so long, to answer the purpose so well as this has done?] It is no evidence of the want of capacity of man to govern himself, that this government now will not answer the purpose. It is unfortunately manifest, by the action of an arrogant sectional party, that it will not do. It must be changed. It will be changed. Let us look forward to the day, and pray God it may come soon, when the government shall be so changed that all can live together again as a band of brothers."
Senator Lane complained because the Republican Party that had elected Lincoln, while divided on many other issues, was a united party on the slavery question, and the denial by the Republican Party of his right to take slaves into any territory was a thing he resented at some length.
He also expressed a willingness to offer up himself as a sacrifice, if by so doing he could perpetuate the Union--in such a way as to allow the Southern idea to dominate. He went on to say that the Republican Party was "bringing ruin and destruction upon a happy, prosperous and free people," that they had thrown out of employment thousands of hard-working men, brought commercial distress upon the North, and predicted that before the winter was over hundreds of thousands would be out of work and hungry, because the North would not accede to the terms of the South. [He actually said it was because the Republican Party refused "to meet on terms that would be honorable and acceptable to all" on "principles of justice, equality and right."] He ventured the assertion that, if war came, the working men of the North would not enlist to engage in a war against the South, and he said he expected the Democrats of all Northern states to show their sympathy with the South.
Lane Appeals for South.He concluded his long speech with an appeal to the Northern Senators and Representatives to confess their error and to recognize the demands of the then-seceding Southern states, and in this closing paragraph said that the Republican Party "must change in principle, in sentiment and in doctrine, or the Union will break up, and the responsibility rests upon them. They have destroyed the Union, not the South. They have forced the South into dissolution. It has not been sought by the South; it has not been courted by them. They have not sought or desired it. They have pleaded for right. They ask nothing more. Give them that, and the perpetuation of this glorious Union is assured; and that is my earnest desire."
On February 5, 1861, the Senate was formally notified that the state of Louisiana had withdrawn from the Union. [The speeches took place on February 4. To read the exchanges in the Congressional Globe, click on 36th Congress, pp. 1-992, and search image 728.] There were several remarkable speeches delivered, and finally Senator Hale, of New Hampshire, replied to heated speeches by Southern Senators and in the course of his remarks said:
"I would do anything to avoid war that any honorable man could do, but if we do have war, the first thing we do will be to dispose of Northern traitors. We shall not go South."
Up to that point, Senator Lane had not been mentioned, nor had he participated in the debate of the day, but the remark of Senator Hale aroused him and he rose to inquire:
"I should like to know whom the Senator means when he speaks of Northern traitors?"
Lane Gets His Answer."I mean," replied Senator Hale, "just exactly the men who, as the Senator from North Carolina said, would be found in the Northern states fighting against their own states if war came."
"Fighting for the Union--for the rights of the states," interposed Senator Lane, "and let not the Senator or any other man call them traitors. I do not allow any gentleman to use that term. I say, the Northern men that will have to fight belong to that portion of the North that stands by the Constitution, by the rights of all the states, by the equality of the states, and the right of every man from every state to go into the territories with his property, and neither he nor any other man must call them traitors."
Another line on Senator Lane's trend of thought was disclosed in the record of Senate proceedings [of] February 26, 1861, when Senator Baker, of Oregon, sought to secure an appropriation of $50,000 to protect emigrants on their way to Oregon. Senator Lane said he intended to vote for the appropriation, but asserted that it would accomplish no good. [To read the speech in the Congressional Globe, click on 36th Congress, pp. 993-1433, and search image 1220.]
"If we are to receive any benefit of this appropriation," said Senator Lane, "it ought to go further. We ought to take the command of the army from the President. Why not do that? Why should we look at the Constitution at all? I am sure there is no use to regard it when the people require protection--when emigration requires protection. Why should we care anything about the Constitution when the people need protection?"
[omitted: Mr. Mason: I take it for granted that the Senator does not make that remark in earnest. Of course, he is speaking ironically.]
Lane Raps President."I say, give us the money, give us additional troops, take away the command of the army from the President. What is the use of the Constitution, or why should we look to estimates and recommendations? They are all nonsense. I do not think we should ever look to the Constitution but just look to what we want and go straight ahead. But let the President no longer have power, for he is not fit to command anyhow."
This speech was made only six days before Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated President. [Lane's speech was in response to multiple previous Presidents' failure to protect emigrants on the Oregon Trail, which he considered a failure of civilian control over the army. The Oregonian's version of the speech is drastically edited and significantly ignores that it was interrupted three times by the other Senators' laughter.]Oregonian, March 25, 1917, page 23
On March 4, 1861, the day on which his term as Senator expired, Joe Lane delivered in the Senate an extended "swan song" which fills six pages of the Congressional Globe. [The speech took place on March 2. To read it in the Congressional Globe, click on 36th Congress, pp. 993-1433, and search image 1342, or read it on Google Books here.] At times during the session the Oregon Senator had been the object of attack and criticism, because of his previously reviewed sentiments regarding slavery and what he held to be the rights of the South, and his farewell speech was in part by way of reply to these criticisms.
He particularly resented the imputation [It was an allusion, not an actual imputation. See page 1347 of the Globe, middle column.] of some Senators that he was, by reason of his expressed views, guilty of "treason," and recited in some detail his service in the Mexican War as evidence of his loyalty. He told how he entered the army a private, and came home with the rank of Major-General in the army.
"I earned it on the battlefield. On the battlefield I lost almost the last drop of my blood without a murmur, in the service of my country. Who, then, is he that would dare to have the brazen effrontery to charge me with treason to my country? [omitted: a country which I have loved from my infancy, my father fought for, and which I have never failed to fight for myself? I never will fail to meet the foe of my country, or to bleed in her cause, while I am able. Though my arm is not as strong as it once was, through my limbs may not be now supple or elastic as in youth, I am yet able] When my country shall need my services, I shall offer them on any just occasion," he went on, "but never against one of the states of this Union who has left it because justice has been denied to her. No, sir, never!"
Word "Traitor" Hurts Lane.Senator Lane paid high tribute to Jefferson Davis, whom he had seen fighting valiantly during the Mexican War, and resented the charge that Davis was a traitor.
"Mr. President," said Senator Lane, "I have not words to express my contempt to such any man that can apply such a term to such a man as Jefferson Davis. Jefferson Davis a traitor?" he exclaimed. "Treason applied to him! He, the purest, and bravest of patriots! He fought for his country and his flag when the cowards and poltroons that now dare vilify him were supine at home. He will live glorious in history when they are earth and forgotten."
Senator Lane told how he had voted for Jefferson Davis amendments which proposed to recognize the rights of Southerners not only to hold slaves, but to take them into free territory. "I wished to put slave property upon the same footing as other property," he said. "That is where I then stood, and where I intend to stand."
The Senator complained that the Republicans, having carried the election of 1860, were ready to deny protection to slave property in any and all territory; to deny the right to take slaves to any Northern states or to the free territory. "Every Northern state has voted for the spoliation," he said [page 1348, first column]. And then Senator Lane gave utterance to a paragraph that will be read today with more than usual interest. He said:
Lane Talks of "Overt Acts.""Oh, but we are told that although the people of the North have so voted, and so elected, and thereby are about to seize the gigantic power of this government to accomplish the flagitious design, they have not accomplished it yet. We must wait for the overt act!
"What! If a man proclaims his intention to burn, and I see him approach with a lighted torch, am I to wait for the overt act? If some military chieftain was about to bombard this splendid edifice, and had drawn out his artillery to lay these marble columns in ruins, and level yon proud dome with the ground, must we wait for the thing to be done? But if there are some people not quite so blind as not to see what has happened, and not quite so servile or so base as to wait until that still more splendid fabric, the Constitution, is falling in ruins around them, from the torches of frenzied fanatics and amidst their exultant shouts, but conclude to separate themselves from such brethren, they show that they at least know not only what has happened, but what would be likely to happen next."
Senator Lane in some detail recounted the secession of states from other unions, and then added [on page 1348, columns two and three, heavily edited]:
"The Southern states will not be conquered. They may be destroyed but never subjugated. Let me beg the party who are soon to take charge of this government to let the seceded states alone, and by no means attempt to collect revenue in their ports; that would result in terrible, bloody war; but, on the contrary, acknowledge the independence of the Confederated States of America, and treat with them as an ally and friendly nation.
"Let Us Have Peace," He Cries."In God's name, let us have peace. If we cannot have it in the Union, as it existed prior to November last, let us have it by cultivating friendly relations with those states which have dissolved their connection with that Union and established a separate government.
"We are living at a day and a time when a Northern sectional party have obtained possession of the power of this great government, who have declared in their platform, in their speeches everywhere, and in their press, that slavery shall never go into another foot of territory; that no other slave state shall ever be admitted into this Union; that slavery shall be put in the course of ultimate extinction. We have the announcement of the party that the foot of a slave shall never press the soil of one of the territories; that no new slave state shall be admitted; and, in addition to that, that no slave state shall go out of the Union. Who ever saw such a party as that? Who ever knew anything like it in the world before?
"They will not let a slave state come in; they will not let one go out! They will not let them go out because they could not carry out their programme of placing slavery in the course of ultimate extinction. They want to keep the slave states in for their benefit--to foot the bills, to pay the taxes--that they may govern them as they see fit, and rule them against their will. Well, sir, I wish to say one word to that party in all kindness: They had better change their tactics; they had better change front, and do it speedily. You had better not press the Southern states too far. Do not drive them to the goal of last resort. Give them justice while you have it in your power to do so."
Click here for more on Joseph Lane and the response to Harry Lane's vote on the armed neutrality bill. In 1899 Harry Lane wrote a letter about the Oregonian and his grandfather's place in history:
GENERAL JOSEPH LANE.PORTLAND, Feb. 26.--(To the Editor.)--I wish to enter a protest against the estimate which is placed upon the character of the late General Joseph Lane, as it was portrayed in the article entitled "Oregon Forty Years a State," which appeared in the Oregonian upon the 40th anniversary of the admission of Oregon as a state.
A Letter Offered by One of His Descendants.
The article does wrong to the memory of General Lane, inasmuch as a spirit of unfairness seems to pervade it--the impression created by reading it being that he was a shifty politician of intriguing spirit and low moral tone, who was prepared at any price to advance his personal interests at the expense of his fellow citizens. No one who was acquainted with General Lane will approve such an estimate of him, either as a man or a politician, and I do not think it fair or just to perpetuate such an estimate of him in an article which, being historical, should be absolutely free from prejudice, and of unquestioned accuracy. The article to which I refer was, I am told, compiled from the old files of the Oregonian of some 40 years ago, and if it had been published as such a compilation no blame would attach to it. Forty years ago and at a later time, as is well known, the Oregonian was engaged in a bitter personal and political fight upon General Lane, and the party to which he belonged, and its estimate of him was that of a partisan of radically different views upon nearly all subjects, and any findings drawn from that source are open to question and should be carefully weighed before being accepted as history.
History should be a narration of facts entirely freed from bias or prejudice, and may not be accepted as such, without investigation, when it has its source in a pronounced and uncompromising enemy. I am aware that Bancroft's history of Oregon sums up against General Lane about the same kind of findings as does the article to which I refer. Inasmuch, however, as the matter in Bancroft's history was likewise made up largely from the old files of the Oregonian, and was written by, and tinctured with, the bitterness of certain well-known detractors of his, the same charge of unfairness will lie against its findings as does against these.
General Lane was not free from faults or mistakes; no man is. Yet he was an honorable man, at all times a gentleman, and personally a brave man, who fought fair and asked no odds; and it is in justice due to him that the interpretation of his character and his acts should be vested in the hands of impartial observers. Having been born and raised in the South, he no doubt failed to see the injustice of slavery as we see it today; yet personally he would no more have owned and held a slave than would Wendell Phillips. Being a Southern man, however, his associates and best friends were the men who were, or were kin to, the slaveholding planters of the South, and he either had to turn traitor to every tradition of his life, or stand with the South in the upholding of an institution which they believed to be an inalienable right. I do not remember of many strong opponents of slavery having been born in the Southern states. Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders, and believed in slavery, and no doubt would have fought for it. They, too, were assailed with the most bitter indictments by contemporary writers, though not for that reason, yet who accepts those writers as the true historians of their time or rehashed their findings as history? It was stated in the article that General Lane brought home from Washington with him a case of muskets to be used in an effort to force Oregon out of the ranks of the Union. I quote this statement as evidence of the old-time spirit of unfairness which pervades it.
The very fact that this statement is gravely put forth in good faith an an historical truth bears out my claim that the entire article is made up from old political campaign literature loosely strung together, and served up as history. It seems a pity that a general write-up of our state's early history could not, by some slip of the cogs, have been viewed from a more intelligent standpoint.
As another evidence of the old-time spirit of unfairness which insidiously pervades the entire article I wish to call attention to the fact that any praiseworthy action of General Lane in behalf of his country or this state has been scrupulously suppressed. By no slip of the pen was any kindly word of commendation allowed to assert itself bearing upon the fact that he was wounded while gallantly fighting in the Mexican War, or that he was a fearless Indian fighter, who fearlessly and cheerfully exposed his life in the early Indian wars of Oregon in behalf of his fellow settlers. There are not many of the old-time settlers of Oregon left, and it is to be regretted that a new generation of its people are to be impressed with a narrow view of a man who in its early history was one of its leading spirits.
When General Lane died, his death having been caused by inflammation in an old wound received in one of the battles with the Indians, his estate was found to have a value of $300. Evidently he had not combined thrift with politics. General Lane is dead and his views and ideas upon questions of the past are not known to me; still it is not beyond the bounds of reason to suppose that, with rare foresight, he might have been skeptical concerning the motives of some of the gentleman who were most in evidence upon the subject of slavery in those days, as I am of the mouthings of those who continue to draw moral deduction upon the horrors of slavery, from a state of affairs which ceased to exist well nigh a generation ago, yet evince no interest in the fact that scores of Chinese women are bought and sold for money outright and held in slavery right here in Oregon today. These gentry who find time and energy to "yawp" and blatherskite around of their three-ply allegiance to "Old Glory" and American freedom go along seemingly indifferent to the miseries of helpless fellow creatures whose moral and physical state of hopeless and utter degradation is not to be matched outside of hell. Perhaps in looking out and down the vista of time he saw a party grow up which under the guise of loving kindness cinched a burden of taxation upon the common people, and the poor, which sweated out of them one-half of all their earnings; perhaps saw it with one hand stealing this money from the earnings of the many, and with blatant vociferation bestowing it with the other hand upon the fatted and specially protected industries of the few. Perhaps he saw under this anomalous condition of affairs, and the fostering care of this party, trusts and close combines spring up as thickly as the lice sprang up in Egypt at the stroke of Aaron's rod; perhaps saw a party, planted by and rooted in a Lincoln, put forth its buds and grow and blossom, and, reaching in due time the full fruition of its greatness, bring forth as the matured fruit of its wisdom, its honesty and its existence a Mark Hanna, a McKenna, an Eagan and an Alger, God wot.
Oregonian, Portland, February 26, 1899, page 22