The Folly of the South (Congressional Speech)


Had the South used her power prudently and acted wisely, she would have controlled the destinies of this Government for generations yet to come … But, flushed with victories so constant and thorough and maddened by every expression of opposition to their peculiar institution, they commenced a work of proscription and aggression upon the rights of the people of the North, which has finally forced them to rise in their might and drive them from power. They commenced their aggressions upon the North in some of the southern States by the enactment of unconstitutional laws, imprisoning colored seamen, and refusing to allow those laws to be tested before the proper tribunals. They trampled upon the sacred right of petition; they rifled and burned our mails, if they suspected they contained anything in condemnation of slavery. They proscribed every man from office who would not smother and deny his honest convictions upon slavery, and barter his manhood for place. They annexed foreign territory avowedly to extend and strengthen their peculiar institution, and made war in support and defense of that policy. They refused admission into the Union of States with free constitutions, unless they could have, as an equivalent, now guarantees for slavery. They passed a fugitive slave bill, some of the provisions of which were so merciless and unnecessary as they were inhuman, that they would have disgraced the worst despotism of Europe. They repealed the “Missouri compromise act” which they had themselves forced upon the North, for the purpose of forcing slavery upon an unwilling people. They undertook to prevent, by violent means, the settlement of Kansas by free-State men. They invaded that Territory, and plundered and murdered its citizens by armed force … Not satisfied with all this, they tried to force upon them against their consent, a constitution permitting and protecting slavery; and for “spurning the bribe” they have been kept out of the Union, and made to suffer all manner of indignities. Every new triumph of the South and every concession by the North has only whetted their appetite for still more, and encouraged them in making greater claims and more unreasonable demands, until to-day they are threatening the overthrow of the Government if we do not give them additional guarantees for protection to their slave property in territory which we do not now own.