Address During The Presidential Campaign Of 1880


PINKNEY BENTON STEWART PINCHBACK is one of the most interesting and

picturesque figures in the race. A staunch fighter in the Reconstruction

period in Louisiana, a delegate to many national Republican Conventions;

Ex-Lieutenant-Governor of Louisiana.

[Note 17: Delivered at Indianapolis, Indiana.]

Mr. President and Fellow Citizens:

The founders of the Republican party were aggressive men. They believed

in the Declaration of Independence and the great truths it contains; and

their purpose was to make these truths living realities. Possessing the

courage of their convictions and regarding slavery as the arch enemy of

the Republic--the greatest obstruction to its maintenance, advancement

and prosperity,--they proclaimed an eternal war against it and,

marshalling their forces under the banner of freedom and equality before

the law for all men, boldly and defiantly met the enemy at every point

and fairly routed it all along the line. Those men believed in and

relied upon the conscience of the people. To touch and arouse public

conscience and to convince it of the justice of their cause, they felt

was all that was necessary to enlist the people on their side.

Ridiculed, threatened, ostracised, and assaulted, they could not be

turned from their purpose, and their achievements constitute the

grandeur and glory of the Republican party. There were no apologists

for wrong-doers among those men, and there ought to be none in the

Republican party to-day. The South was the great disturbing element

then as it is now; and the causes which rendered it so are, in a

large measure, the same. The people were divided into three

classes--slave-holders, slaves, and poor whites, or "poor white trash"

as the latter were called by the colored people because of their utter

insignificance in that community. Its peculiar condition established in

the large land and slave-owning portion of the people a sort of

privileged class who claimed and exercised the right not only to rule

the South, but the nation; and for many years that class controlled

both. Gorged with wealth and drunk with power, considering themselves

born to command and govern, being undisputed rulers, almost by

inheritance in their States, the Southern politicians naturally became

aggressive, dictatorial, and determined to ruin the country and sever

the Union rather than consent to relinquish power, even though called

upon to do so by constituted methods. Hence it was that, when the people

of the great North and Northwest concluded to assert their rights and

choose a man from among themselves for President, they rebelled and

forced upon the country so far as they were concerned, the most

causeless and unnatural war recorded in history.

I shall not dwell upon the history of the war or attempt to detail its

horrors and sum up its cost. I leave that task to others. If the wounds

made by it have been healed, which I do not concede, far be it from my

purpose to re-open them. My sole reason for referring to the war at all

is to remind the Northern people of some of the agencies employed in its

successful prosecution. When it commenced, the principal labor element

of the South--the source of its production and wealth--was the colored

race. Four millions and a half of these unfortunate people were there,

slaves and property of the men who refused to submit to the will of the

people lawfully expressed through the ballot-box. They were the bone and

sinew of the Confederacy, tilling its fields and producing sustenance

for its armies, while many of the best men of the North were compelled

to abandon Northern fields to shoulder a musket in defense of the Union.

As a war measure and to deprive the South of such a great advantage,

your President, the immortal Lincoln, issued a proclamation in

September, 1862, in which he gave public notice that it was his purpose

to declare the emancipation of the slaves in the States wherein

insurrection existed on January 1, 1863, unless the offenders therein

lay down their arms. That notice, thank God, was disregarded, and the

proclamation of January 1, 1863, proclaiming universal emancipation

followed. Had the requirements of the first proclamation been observed

by the people to whom it was addressed who can doubt what would have

been the fate of the colored people in the South? It is reasonable to

assume, inasmuch as the war was waged to perpetuate the Union and not to

destroy slavery--that they would have remained in hopeless bondage. On

more than one occasion President Lincoln officially declared that he

would save the Union with slavery if he could, and not until it became

manifest that slavery was the mainstay of the Confederacy, and the

prosecution of the war to a successful close would be difficult without

its destruction, did he dare touch it. I do not think that President

Lincoln's hesitancy to act upon the question arose from sympathy with

the accursed institution, for I believe every pulsation of his heart was

honest and pure and that he was an ardent and devoted lover of universal

liberty; but he doubted whether his own people would approve of his

interference with it. Assured by the manner in which the people of the

North received his first proclamation that they appreciated the

necessity of destroying this great aid of the enemy, he went forward

bravely declaring that, "possibly for every drop of blood drawn by the

lash one might have to be drawn by the sword, but if so, as was said

over eighteen hundred years ago, the judgments of the Lord are just and

righteous altogether," and abolished human slavery from the land


That this great act was a Godsend and an immeasurable blessing to the

colored race, I admit, but I declare in the same breath that it was

dictated and performed more in the interest of the white people of the

North and to aid them in conquering the rebellion than from love of or a

disposition to help the Negro. The enfranchisement of the colored race

also sprang from the necessities of the nation. At the close of the war

the Southern States had to be rehabilitated with civil governments and

re-admitted into the Union. The men who had plunged the country into war

and had tried to destroy the Government were about to resume their civil

and political rights, and, through the election of Representatives and

Senators in Congress, regain influence and power in national councils.

Apprehending danger from the enormous power they would possess if

reinstated in absolute control of eleven States, some means had to be

devised to prevent this. A political element, loyal to the Union and the

flag, must be created; and again the ever faithful colored people were

brought into requisition, and without their asking for it, the elective

franchise was conferred upon them. There was no question about the

loyalty of these people, and the supposition that they would be a

valuable political force and form the basis of a loyal political party

in the South was both natural and just, and the wisdom of their

enfranchisement was demonstrated by the establishment of Republican

governments in several of the States, and the sending of mixed

delegations of Republican and Democratic members of Congress therefrom

so long as the laws conferring citizenship upon the colored man were


If the South is to remain politically Democratic as it is to-day, it is

not the fault of the colored people. Their fealty to the North and the

Republican party is without parallel in the world's history. In

Louisiana alone more than five thousand lives attest it. While in nearly

every other Southern State fully as many lie in premature graves,

martyrs to the cause. Considering themselves abandoned and left to the

choice of extermination or the relinquishment of the exercise of their

political rights, they have, in large districts in the South, wisely

preferred the latter. Kept in a constant condition of suspense and dread

by the peculiar methods of conducting canvasses and elections in that

section, who can blame them? It is my firm conviction that no other

people under God's sun, similarly situated, would have done half so

well. The fault is attributable to the vicious practise, which obtains

largely even here in the civilized North, of apologizing for and

condoning crimes committed for political purposes. Men love power

everywhere and Southern Democrats are no exception. On the contrary,

deeming themselves "born to command," as I have already remarked, and

knowing that there is no power to restrain or punish them for crimes

committed upon the poor and defenseless colored citizens, of course they

have pushed them to the wall. The inequality between the two races in

all that constitutes protective forces was such as to render that result

inevitable as soon as Federal protection was withdrawn, and I do not

hesitate to affirm that unless some means are devised to enforce respect

for the rights of the colored citizens of the South, their

enfranchisement will prove a curse instead of a benefit to the country.

Emancipated to cripple the South and enfranchised to strengthen the

North, the colored race was freed and its people made citizens in the

interest of the Republic. Its fundamental law declares them citizens,

and the Fifteenth Amendment expressly states that: "The right of

citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged

by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or

previous condition of servitude." The faith and honor of the Nation are

pledged to the rigid enforcement of the law in this, as in every other

respect, and the interests of the 40,000,000 white people in the

Republic demand it. If the law, both constitutional and statutory,

affecting the rights and privileges of the colored citizens can be

defiantly ignored and disobeyed in eleven States of the Union in a

matter of such grave import as this--a matter involving the very essence

of republican government, i. e., the right of the majority to

rule--who can tell where it will end and how long it will be before

elections in all of the States will be armed conflicts, to be decided by

the greatest prowess and dexterity in the use of the bowie knife,

pistol, shot-gun and rifle?

White men of the North, I tell you this practise of controlling

elections in the South by force and fraud is contagious! It spreads with

alarming rapidity and unless eradicated, will overtake and overwhelm you

as it has your friends in the South. It showed its horrid head in Maine,

and came very near wresting that State from a lawful majority. Employed

in the South first to drive Republicans from a few counties, it has

grown from "autumnal outbreaks" into an almost perpetual hurricane and,

gathering force as it goes, has violently seized State after State,

mastered the entire South, and is even now thundering at the gates of

the national Capital. Whether it shall capture it too, and spread its

blighting influence all over the land, is the question you must

answer at the poles in this election.

It was the intention of the great men who founded this Republic that it

should be "A government of the people, for the people, and by the

people"; that its citizens, from the highest to the lowest, should enjoy

perfect equality before the law. To realize this idea the rule of the

majority, to be ascertained through the processes provided by law, was

wisely adopted, and the laws providing for and regulating elections are

respected and obeyed in the Northern, Eastern, and Western States. The

Democracy of the South alone seems privileged to set at defiance the

organic as well as every statutory enactment, national and State,

designed to secure this essential principle of free government. Those

men must be taught that such an exceptional and unhealthy condition of

things will not be tolerated; that the rights of citizens of every

nationality are sacred in the eyes of the law, and their right to vote

for whom they please and have their ballots honestly counted shall not

be denied or abridged with impunity; that the faith of the Nation is

pledged to the defense and maintenance of these obligations, and it will

keep its pledge at whatever cost may be found necessary.

Abraham Lincoln And Fifty Years Of Freedom Address On The Occasion Of The Presentation Of A Loving Cup To Hon Joseph Benson Foraker United States Senator facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail