Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview
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V
SLAVERY AND THE ABOLITIONISTS

QUESTIONS arising from the importation of African negroes long antedated the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence as Johnson so eloquently declared "came forth as a column of fire and light,"1 but it came forth unfortunately with one of Mr. Jefferson's best paragraphs omitted. One of the most resonant of all the charges in the original of that long indictment of King George was this: "He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce."2

The lovers of mankind may well regret that the growers of rice and indigo in Georgia and the Carolinas, and their friends and sympathizers, were powerful enough to exclude this Virginian's arraignment of slavery and the slave trade from the Declaration of Independence. Had this not been done historians might have found the decades from the Missouri Compromise to the presidency of Hayes a less fertile field for their inquiries--cynics will add for their romances. Military strategists might have been deprived of the measureless material found in the swift advances and retreats, the strokes and counterstrokes of Lee and Stonewall Jackson, or the campaigns of dogged determination in the wilderness with which Ulysses Grant contributed so much to save the Union. Artists would have been stripped of all the flaming colors of the war between the States.

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Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage
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