"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Emboldened Mischief-Makers, Part Two

Part Two of "Emboldened Mischief-Makers" (Here is Part One.)

Concerning those "advocating" "Academic Freedom" via state legislatures across the country, that is to say, concerning those pushing "freedom" in legalese devised to create the opportunity for the dissemination of ideologies via a process that codifies action into law.

Here is an example of the way legislative "mischief" is made.  It is important to note that this is indeed the very meat and effect of the process we hold so much stock in--that is to say, the system of representative government in which we profess to believe a good and noble and democratic system.

What follows is from the Lord Charnwood biography of Lincoln.


Stephen Douglas, who was four years younger than Lincoln, had come to Illinois from the Eastern States just about the time when Lincoln entered the Legislature. He had neither money nor friends to start with, but almost immediately secured, by his extraordinary address in pushing himself, a clerkship in the Assembly. He soon became, like Lincoln, a lawyer and a legislator, but was on the Democratic side. He rapidly soared into regions beyond the reach of Lincoln, and in 1847 became a Senator for Illinois, where he later became Chairman of the Committee on Territories, and as such had to consider the question of providing for the government of the districts called Kansas and Nebraska, which lay west and north-west of Missouri, and from which slavery was excluded by the Missouri Compromise. He was what in England is called a "Jingo," and was at one time eager to fight this country for the possession of what is now British Columbia. His short figure gave an impression of abounding strength and energy which obtained him the nickname of "the little Giant." With no assignable higher quality, and with the blustering, declamatory, shamelessly fallacious and evasive oratory of a common demagogue, he was nevertheless an accomplished Parliamentarian, and imposed himself as effectively upon the Senate as he did upon the people of Illinois and the North generally. He was, no doubt, a remarkable man, with the gift of attracting many people. A political opponent has described vividly how at first sight he was instantly repelled by the sinister and dangerous air of Douglas' scowl; a still stronger opponent, but a woman, Mrs. Beecher Stowe, seems on the contrary to have found it impossible to hate him. What he now did displayed at any rate a sporting quality.

In the course of 1854 Stephen Douglas while in charge of an inoffensive Bill dealing with the government of Kansas and Nebraska converted it into a form in which it empowered the people of Kansas at any time to decide for themselves whether they would permit slavery or not, and in express terms repealed the Missouri Compromise. With the easy connivance of President Pierce and the enthusiastic support of the Southerners, and by some extraordinary exercise of his art as demagogue and Parliamentarian, he triumphantly ran this measure through.

Just how it came about seems to be rather obscure, but it is easy to conjecture his motives. Trained in a school in which scruple or principle were unknown and the man who arrives is the great man, Douglas, like other such adventurers, was accessible to visions of a sort. He cared nothing whether negroes were slaves or not, and doubtless despised Northern and Southern sentiment on that subject equally; as he frankly said once, on any question between white men and negroes he was on the side of the white men, and on any question between negroes and crocodiles he would be on the side of the negroes. But he did care for the development of the great national heritage in the West, that subject of an easy but perfectly wholesome patriotic pride with which we are familiar. It must have been a satisfaction to him to feel that North and South would now have an equal chance in that heritage, and also that the white settlers in the West would be relieved of any restriction on their freedom. None the less his action was to the last degree reckless. The North had shown itself ready in 1850 to put up with a great deal of quiet invasion of its former principle, but to lay hands upon the sacred letter of the Act in which that principle was enshrined was to invite exciting consequences.

The immediate consequences were two-fold. In the first place Southern settlers came pouring into Kansas and Northern settlers in still larger numbers (rendered larger still by the help of an emigration society formed in the North-East for that purpose) came pouring in too. It was at first a race to win Kansas for slavery or for freedom. When it became apparent that freedom was winning easily, the race turned into a civil war between these two classes of immigrants for the possession of the Territorial government, and this kept on its scandalous and bloody course for three or four years.

In the second place there was a revolution in the party system. The old Whig party, which, whatever its tendencies, had avoided having any principle in regard to slavery, now abruptly and opportunely expired. There had been an attempt once before, and that time mainly among the Democrats, to create a new "Free-soil Party," but it had come to very little. This time a permanent fusion was accomplished between the majority of the former Whigs in the North and a numerous secession from among the Northern Democrats. They created the great Republican party, of which the name and organisation have continued to this day, but of which the original principle was simply and solely that there should be no further extension of slavery upon territory present or future of the United States. It naturally consisted of Northerners only. This was of course an ominous fact, and caused people, who were too timid either to join the Republicans or turn Democrat, to take refuge in another strange party, formed about this time, which had no views about slavery. This was the "American" party, commonly called the "Know-Nothing" party from its ridiculous and objectionable secret organisation. Its principle was dislike of foreign immigrants, especially such as were Roman Catholics. To them ex-President Fillmore, protesting against "the madness of the times" when men ventured to say yes or no on a question relating to slavery, fled for comfort, and became their candidate for the Presidency at the next election.

No comments:

Post a Comment