The Free-Soil movement was launched by Congressman David Wilmot in 1846, at the close of the Mexican War. He proposed a proviso that would outlaw the expansion of slavery into any territory that might be acquired from Mexico. Wilmotís followers, who became known as "Free- Soilers," were unified by the idea that slavery should be banned from newly acquired territories. Largely as a result of the Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854, Northern Whigs joined the Free-Soilers, and thus formed the foundation of the new Republican Party in 1854.
The primary sources below are representative of the defining beliefs of the new Republican party. As you read, think about how the Free-Soil movement was different from the abolitionist movement. If Free-Soilers were not abolitionists, what were their arguments against the extension of slavery in the territories? What do the views expressed below indicate about the Republicansí view of racial equality? What critique do the Republicans offer of the ways in which slavery has impacted the economy of the South? Of the nation? Why might the new Republican party have been able to form a coalition among interests as diverse as Northern Whigs, poor northern laborers, and abolitionists?
Source: editor of the Chicago Evening Journal
"It does not necessarily follow that we should fellowship with the Negroes because our policy shakes off their shackles."
Source: Congressional Globe, 1858
"It is the institution of slavery which is the great parent of amalgamation. Gentlemen need not fear it from those opposed to the institution."
Source: David Wilmot, 1848
"My proviso is the ëwhite manís provisoí....(the Mexican cession) should be preserved for the sons of toil, of my own race and of my own color."
Source: Cincinnati Gazette, 1859
"It is certainly the wish of every patriot, that all within the limits of our Union should be homogeneous in race and of our own blood...[The colonization plan] would keep our Anglo-Saxon institutions as well as our Anglo-Saxon blood pure and uncontaminated."
Source: F.P. Blair, 1858
"[Colonization] would create rich colonies under our protection, likely, in the end, to appropriate the whole region to our use...Central America could, in fact, become our India. Only blacks can exercise influence in the tropics, because in such a climate, the white race is doomed. It is by the black race alone that those regions are to be regenerated, and brought within this circle of civilization...It is this race of men, christianized in our churches, civilized by our firesides, and educated in government by hearing our political discussions, who could establish the laws, customs, and power of the United States in Central America."
Document F Source:
Ben Wade, New York Evening Post, 1851
"In this country, the colored man has no future to which he can look forward with the hope of pleasure...Free Negroes are despised by all, repudiated by all; outcasts upon the face of the earth, without any fault of theirs that I know of. I deplore the prejudice, but I...believe it to be perfectly impossible that these two races can inhabit the same place and be prosperous and happy."
Source: New York Tribune, 1858
"As far as natural rights are concerned, the question of Negro inferiority is irrelevant...So long as he is a man, the Negro is entitled to his natural rights. It is a question of manhood, not of color."
Source: Michigan Constitutional Convention, 1859
"We do not say that a black man is, or shall ever be, the equal of the white man; or that he shall vote or hold office, however just such a position may be; but we do assert that he who murders a black man shall be hanged; that he who robs a black man of his liberty or his property shall be punished like other criminals."
Source: Governor Randall of New York, to his Democratic rival, 1859
"Equality is one thing; familiarity is another. It is not whether we want to associate with the black man, sit by the fireside with them in the social circle, or intermarry with them. That is a question of taste. There is a natural antipathy between him and the white race, that we do not profess to have overcome. This, however, has nothing to do with the question of suffrage."
Source: an Iowa Republican, New York Times, 1857
"What is it that makes a great mass of American citizens so much more enterprising and intelligent than the laboring classes in Europe? It is the stimulant held out to them buy the character of our institutions. The door is thrown open to all, and even the poorest and humblest in the land, may, by industry and application, attain a position which will entitle him to the respect and confidence of his fellow men."
Source: Abraham Lincoln, 1856
"Northerners... work for themselves, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand, nor of hirelings and slaves on the other. The north has no class which is always to remain laborers. The man who labored for another last year, this year labors for himself, and next year he will hire others to work for him."
Source: Representative Henry Wilson, Massachusetts
"Northern society is the model of a progressive, permanent, Christian civilization... Sir, a majority of citizens in my state occupy that happy social position which is a medium between wealthy aristocracy on one hand, and poverty, which is generally wedded to ignorance, on the other... [In Massachusetts], laborers are more elevated than in any part of the globe, and our soil is divided into small estates, not large plantations."
Source: Republican Senator Carl Schurz
"Cast your eyes over that beehive called the free States. See by the railroad and telegraph wire every village, almost every backwoods cottage, drawn within the immediate reach of progressive civilization... look upon our society, where by popular education and continual change of condition the dividing lines between the ranks and classes are almost obliterated; look upon our system of public instruction, which places even the lowliest child of the people upon the high road of progressive civilization."
Source: The Springfield Republican
"Who forms the strength of this party? Precisely those who would be most likely be expected to?the great middling-interest class. The highest class, aristocratically associated and affiliated, timid, afraid of change... and the lowest class... those are the forces arrayed against Republicanism as a whole... Those who work with their hands, who live and act independently, who hold the stakes of home and family, of farm and workshop, of education and freedom?these as a mass are enrolled in the Republican ranks."
Source: William H. Seward, 1857
"It was necessary that I should travel in Virginia to have any idea of a slave State... An exhausted soil, old and decaying towns, wretchedly-neglected roads, in every respect, an absence of enterprise and improvement, distinguish the region through which we have come, in contrast to that in which we live. Such has been the effect of slavery."
Source: Frederick Law Olmstead, New York
"Manual agricultural labor is the chief employment of slaves in the South... For manual labor, therefore, the free man looking on, has a contempt... Labor is held honorable on one side of the line [the North] because it is the vocation of freemen ? degrading in the eyes of some on the other side because it is the task of slaves."
Source: Cincinnati Gazette, 1856
"[Until my visit to the South] I had never met men in whom hope, energy, and courage to all outward appearance seemed so utterly extinguished. They are a very different specimen of humanity known as the mean white man, the poor buckra, in the Southern states... the poor, shiftless, lazy, uninstructed, cowed non-slaveholder of the South... because three quarters of the Southís white population retire to the outskirts of civilization, where they live a semi- savage life, sinking deeper and more hopelessly into barbarism with every succeeding generation. They are depressed, poor, impoverished, degraded in caste, because labor is disgraceful.... In the slaveholding states, there is no middle class. Great wealth or hopeless poverty is the settled condition."
Source: Republican George Weston, Maine
"It is unquestionable the immigration from the South has brought into the free states more ignorance, poverty, and thriftlessness, than an equal amount of European immigration. Where it forms a marked feature of the population, as in Southern Illinois, a long time must elapse before it is brought up to the general standard of intelligence and enterprise in the free States... It is appears, that one plain and obvious effect of the slave-holding system is to deaden in every class of society that spirit of industry essential to the increase of public wealth."
Source: Abraham Lincoln, Peoria speech, 1860
"The whole nation is interested that the best use shall be made of these territories. We want them to be homes of free white people. This they cannot be, to any considerable extent, if slavery shall be planted within them. Slave states are places for poor white people to remove from, not remove to. New free states are the places for poor people to go to, and better their condition. For this the nation needs these territories."
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