June 29, 2014

Dear Liberty,

     Political division has split the country in two.  Citizens are losing faith in both parties.  Politicians make promises declaring their ideologies but power and personal gain overwhelm any pledge uttered during a campaign upon arrival to Washington.  A principled group emerged demanding their cries be heard yet they were beaten down, literally, by commanding politicians including those in their own party.  No, I’m not talking about today and I’m not talking about the Tea Party.  

     Raised by a lawyer and abolitionist, Charles Sumner was brought up understanding the inhumanities of slavery and the necessity for equality of all regardless of race.  Believing contentious views between blacks and whites were indoctrinated, not instinctive, he became an outspoken anti-slavery activist.  He challenged the legality of segregated schools in Massachusetts by representing black parents, lead by Benjamin Roberts, in Roberts vs BostonSearching for a political party that shared his anti-slavery views, Charles lead the Conscience Whigs of Massachusetts for a short time until the Whig party nominated slave-owner Zachary Taylor for President.  He organized the Free Soil Party in response, which opposed both Democrats and Whigs.

     Forming an alliance with his state legislature Democrats despite objections by some to his radical views, they elected Charles U.S. Senator in 1851 as a Free Soil Democrat by one vote.  Remaining uncontroversial at first, Charles began powerfully voicing his anti-slavery views in his second year, an opinion which most in the U.S. Senate did not appreciate regardless of political affiliation.  

     As the young country expanded and territories were created, pro- and anti-slavery advocates were fighting hard to seize these new regions ensuring more national political power.  To avoid having to take a stand, Democrat Senators Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Butler of South Carolina devised the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 allowing settlers to decide the future of their area despite the fact that Kansas was already designated a free state.  (see Charting A New Course and Abolishing Mistakes)  This resulted in a massive flood of Southern pro-slavery and Northern anti-slavery proponents to Kansas competing for votes to decide the fate of the territory in their favor.  The ramifications were violent battles between settlers. In trying to keep their hands clean, politicians ultimately caused an extremely bloody war dubbed the “Bleeding Kansas” crisis.  Fed up with legislators vowing to end slavery without following through, the Kansas-Nebraska Act motivated a handful of honest anti-slavery politicians from all parties to band together.  They called themselves Republicans.

     It was in response to the Kansas bloodshed that Charles Sumner, a leader in the new party, took to the Senate floor in May of 1856 to deliver his “Crime against Kansas” speech.  He spoke passionately against “Slave Power”, the anti-slavery charge of disproportionate legislative control in the national government by wealthy slave owners who used that political power to force slavery in free states.  Taking the fight to the authors of the Act, Charles had strong words against both Stephen Douglas and Andrew Butler.  Referring to Senator Douglas, Charles said, "Not in any common lust for power did this uncommon tragedy have its origin. It is the rape of a virgin Territory, compelling it to the hateful embrace of slavery; and it may be clearly traced to a depraved desire for a new Slave State, hideous offspring of such a crime, in the hope of adding to the power of slavery in the National Government."

     If that were not enough, Charles turned his attention to Senator Butler saying, "The senator from South Carolina has read many books of chivalry, and believes himself a chivalrous knight with sentiments of honor and courage. Of course he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight -- I mean the harlot, slavery. For her his tongue is always profuse in words. Let her be impeached in character, or any proposition made to shut her out from the extension of her wantonness, and no extravagance of manner or hardihood of assertion is then too great for this senator."

     A relative of Andrew Butler, South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks took exception to the comments about his kinsman and state and approached Senator Sumner in the Senate Chambers two days following the speech.  After expressing his displeasure verbally, Preston raised his cane and began beating Charles on the head with all the force he could gather.  Despite Charles falling to the ground, blinded by his own blood, Preston did not halt the thrashing until his cane finally broke.  Then with confidence and assurance, Rep. Brooks turned and freely walked out of the chambers while people scrambled to help the unconscious Sumner.  Preston eventually resigned but he was a hero to his constituents.  The South rallied behind their statesman, sending him canes and re-electing him to his position.  Northern abolitionists and equal civil rights activists saw the integrity in Charles Sumner and began entrusting their political support in those who were serious about ending slavery and giving blacks equal rights, the new Republican Party.  Within a few years the young party had obtained the White House with the election of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president.

     Liberty, we are at a time again where both political parties are so drunk with power they are ignoring the voice of the people.  This was undoubtedly exhibited in the recent Mississippi Republican primary run-off.  The Republican establishment candidate, Thad Cochran, actually turned to questionable, possibly illegal tactics to defeat Republican Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel.  While it is perfectly acceptable to reach across the aisle during a general election, it is quite underhanded to lie and deceive opposing party members, who have no intention on voting for you in the general election, to come and vote for you in your own primary.  We are once again fighting the “Slave Power” in Washington.  The federal slave owners are putting their foot on the necks of all Americans in efforts to overpower any freedom that may still exist and enslave us all on the big government plantation.

     Can we not see political similarities today in the words written almost 160 years ago?  The Cincinnati Gazette opined, "The South cannot tolerate free speech anywhere, and would stifle it in Washington with the bludgeon and the Bowie-knife, as they are now trying to stifle it in Kansas by massacre, rapine, and murder."  New York Evening Post’s William Cullen Bryant asked, "Has it come to this, that we must speak with bated breath in the presence of our Southern masters?... Are we to be chastised as they chastise their slaves? Are we too, slaves, slaves for life, a target for their brutal blows, when we do not comport ourselves to please them?"  Today we are being choked by the tenets of political correctness with the press happily slaughtering any dissenters with their pen.

     In the South, Preston supporters gleefully expressed their approval of the caning suggesting this should be common practice to all who oppose them.  The Richmond Enquirer condemned "these vulgar abolitionists in the Senate" who "have been suffered to run too long without collars. They must be lashed into submission."  If you replaced “abolitionists” with “Tea Partiers”, this sentiment could be posted in any liberal newspaper of your choice receiving cheers and adoration as many today echo this attitude about anyone who dares question their progressive, suppressing policies.

     Shortly after Preston’s re-election he died at the age of 37.  Massachusetts General Council re-elected Sumner in 1856 even though he was still recovering from the incident.  It was believed that the empty seat was a powerful statement of freedom of speech.  Sumner returned to the Senate in 1859 after a 5 year absence in time to support Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaign.  Standing on principle, when advised by fellow Republicans to take a less forceful tone, Charles answered, "When crime and criminals are thrust before us, they are to be met by all the energies that God has given us by argument, scorn, sarcasm and denunciation."  Liberty, Charles has a point here.  We are to fight the forces of evil with the energies of God, but maybe not with all the tacts Charles suggests.  We are to continue to speak the truth with confidence and faith as demonstrated by Sen. Sumner on June 4, 1860, in his first speech since his return entitled, "The Barbarism of Slavery".  He boldly forged ahead with his crusade to denounce slavery, forcefully arguing it’s inhumanity.  He remained in the Senate through the Civil War, working diligently to end slavery, often speaking to President Lincoln about emancipating the slaves.  He represented his state until his death in 1874, 15 years after his return from the caning.

     Liberty, standing up for what is right is not easy.  You will face opposition every step of the way.  You will be mocked, ridiculed, and attacked verbally and possibly physically.  Truth is truth, though, and right is right.  When you have moments of weakness, look to the cross.  Remember the suffering our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ endured for us, while we were still sinners, to sanctify us and give us the gift of eternal life.   

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; 

do not fret when people succeed in their ways, 

when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;

do not fret—it leads only to evil.

For those who are evil will be destroyed,

     but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.    (Psalms 37:7-9)

     That’s my 2 cents.