an M7 AU
"Where's my best girl?"
The cheerful shout at the entryway brought ladies running from every corner of Miz Abigail Morgan's house, squealing joyously as they recognized the young man who stood in the small carpeted hallway with a pair of saddlebags over his shoulder and a saddle, bedroll, and flour sack, the latter intriguingly bumpy, piled at his feet. "Buck!" "Oh, Buck, welcome home!" "Buck, we missed you!"
Young Buck Wilmington, six months past twenty years old, two inches over six feet, received their greetings as his due, laughing, greeting each by name--"Miss Olivia...Angelina, Lucinda...Elenora, Tessa, Marguerite...Juliet... Virginia, Nadine, Gwendolyn...Isabelle, Loretta..." His warm dark eyes sparkled with mischief as he returned their hugs and kisses--more sisterly than otherwise despite their profession, for most of them had watched him grow up in this house, ever since his mother had first brought him to Kansas City when he was barely eleven. Last to arrive, sweeping into the crowded vestibule with the dignity due her years and position, was Miz Abigail herself, her tight blue satin corset and best pink silk lace-trimmed drawers showing past the unfastened front opening of her Mother Hubbard, a long flowing gown gathered to a fitted round yoke, lace- and ribbon-trimmed, with full sleeves and a self belt, her small-heeled silk slippers, each with a bow and embroidered toe, giving her something of the air of one about to go dancing. "Ladies, ladies, give the boy a chance to catch his breath!" she scolded. And then, her voice warm and welcoming: "Hello, Buck. It's good to see you again. Why didn't you write that you were coming?"
Buck swept off his slouch-brim felt hat with an air a cavalier might have envied, and took the hand she offered, raising it to his lips with a wink of one twinkling eye. "Didn't know I was myself, till I made up my mind to," he said. "How've you been, Miz Abigail? Business been good? Everybody healthy?"
"Everything's fine," she assured him, "and now that you're home it will be better. Mona!" and one of the black maids, virginal in her frilly white uniform, dipped a curtsey. "Go and tell Bella who's come, and that she's to make an applesauce cake for dessert, and Viennese brandy sauce to go with the meat."
Mona darted off, and Miz Abigail turned to the task of dispersing the ladies, who resembled a swarm of bright butterflies in their kimonos, Mother Hubbards, and silk or flannel wrappers, with rainbow petticoats showing underneath, and flashes of leg clad in stockings with bright-colored horizontal stripes, or black net ones worn over flesh color. "You just missed breakfast, Buck," she continued, "but we'll feed you the best the house has for dinner."
"Never doubted it, ma'am," he assured her with a grin. His memories of the half-score of other establishments in which his mother had plied her trade, before they came here to the Missouri's east bank, were imperfect at best, but he knew on some level that Miz Abigail's was the finest of them all. It was a three-storey brownstone mansion filled with Oriental rugs and ruby velvet carpets, crystal-prismed chandeliers, white-marble fireplaces and mantels, copies of famous paintings and statuary, grand pianos, flowers in vases, candles, pretty pictures and statuettes, and dainty French beds in airy, white-curtained rooms with open grates for winter fires--even heavily gilded chamber pots. It advertised "23 Rooms, 3 Parlors, and 2 Ballrooms," plus the game room off the main bar. And like all good parlor houses, it had an air of luxury and comfort that few private homes in frontier country (or, for that matter, out of it) possessed. Miz Abigail set a good table and prided herself on her cellar, offering "choice cigars, bonded bourbon, and the finest liquors and wines." She maintained, at least on the ground floor, a strict air of respectability and charming home life; she insisted on corsets downstairs and forbade "rough stuff." The ladies sent East for their finery or bought it from passing peddlers; customers could enjoy champagne suppers and sing in the evening around the piano with "the girls--all dressed up proper, you can bet." They wore evening gowns and could be seen only by appointment, and between assignations they and their callers were entertained by musicians, dancers, singers, jugglers, and other entertainers. The score of ladies who worked in the house considered themselves to be of the cream of their profession, scorning those who worked in dance halls and theaters, while at the bottom of the scale were the ones who worked in dens or out of their own small cribs. Each of them paid fifty dollars a week for board and lodging and as much again for laundry and incidentals, but received from twenty for a "quickie" to fifty if the man spent the night--in which case he got a free breakfast and, if necessary, cab fare home. Though her politics (for she had been an outspoken supporter of the free-soil cause during the recent Kansas excitement) were not always popular among a certain class of Missourians, Miz Abigail was respected for her fairness, discretion, sound business sense, and gift for choosing the very best ladies for her staff.
Knowing the routines of the place as he did, Buck had timed his arrival for a little past eleven, giving the girls time enough to get their sleep, make themselves "decent," and enjoy a good breakfast and gossip before bursting in on them. "Ma said in her last letter that Aurora got married?" he pursued.
"Yes, and headed for Nevada. She and her husband figure to start a place of their own there. And Ophelia's engaged, to Frederick Watkins of all people."
Buck whistled. The Watkinses were one of the best families in Kansas City, with interests in mercantilism, overland freighting to Santa Fe, and riverboats plying between the Upper Missouri and New Orleans, stopping off in St. Louis to transship. "Bet his pa went through the roof when he heard."
"His pa doesn't know," Miz Abigail replied. "He's sending young Fred up to Fort Union to start a store there. Ophelia will board the boat here and they'll get married in Omaha, and when he writes home he'll tell his father that he met her on the river, which won't exactly be a lie."
They both grinned, two conspirators taking pleasure in the rise of a dear friend. Then Buck asked, "Where's Ma?"
"In the office, looking over the books," the madam told him. "When I heard all the squealing and hollering out here I had her stay put; I thought the two of you might like to have a little time to yourselves, before sharing."
"I'm much obliged to you, Miz Abigail. Could you have somebody look after my gear? I got a bunch of presents for everybody in the sack--"
"I'll have Flora open up your old room and put everything up there. And there'll be a hot bath waiting when you're ready. Did you bring a horse?"
Buck put a hand to the small of his back, looking rueful. "Kinda wish I had, after four days on stagecoaches from Jefferson," he observed, naming the last Colorado gold camp in which he'd been, "but it was stagecoaches or a couple weeks in the saddle, and once I made up my mind to come, I wanted to get it done. Won't be too long till travellin' over the prairie's too risky for a prudent man, and I wasn't figurin' to waste no time."
"You're not staying?" He thought she was genuinely disappointed.
"Ain't struck it rich yet, Miz Abigail," he replied with a shrug, and knew she was thinking of something he had often said in his boyhood, that the ruling passion of his life was to make enough money so his ma wouldn't have to work any more. "I can stay maybe a week, maybe two if the weather holds, then I gotta be goin' back. I got a job lined up for the winter, a nice warm job, shotgun guard in a saloon back there, five dollars a night."
"Well, you know the way," she said, and he nodded and pushed the beaded curtain aside to start down the long hallway, past the front stairs, to the quiet rear rooms where she kept her accounts, marshalled her help, received her take from the girls, and maintained a small private parlor to entertain special guests.
At the richly gleaming dark-wood door Buck paused to swipe at his unruly dark hair, which was so wavy it refused to stay put unless he had his hat on, and knocked quietly. "Come in," came his mother's response, and he took a deep breath, turned the silver knob, and did.
Not knowing the truth, a stranger set down in the midst of this room might have been forgiven for thinking himself in one of the better family homes of the town. The walls were clad in a French floral lattice paper, set off by white woodwork and a sky-blue ceiling, and at the windows hung double thicknesses of lace curtains, much looped and tasselled, with yellow-lined draperies of black-striped red damask over them for privacy. As throughout the house, the furniture was all on a small scale, mahogany and black walnut, with rep and damask upholstery, primarily in pink and red, and even the big gray steel safe, the only thing that might hint at commercialism, was discreetly concealed, tucked back in an alcove behind a drape that matched the ones at the windows. At the mahogany secretary which stood directly to the left of the door, his mother pushed back the businesslike swivel chair with a gasp of delight and came into his arms. "Oh, my God, Bucky, Bucky...Abigail thought it was you when she heard the noise...oh, son, I've missed you so much..."
"I know, Ma. I know. I missed you too." He'd written as regularly as he could manage, but letters weren't the same. He folded her into his embrace, aware of the warmth of her tears on his blue muslin shirt, his head awkwardly bent to lay his cheek against her midnight hair, for he topped her by a good foot in height.
After Miz Abigail's kid brother, Virgil Day, had taught Buck to use a sixgun in the winter before he turned fifteen, Ma had encouraged him to go West and make use of the unsuspected skill that was his, and he'd finally agreed. Working his way as a stock wrangler for a wagon train, he'd reached fabled California only to discover that by this time most surface and near-surface gold in the state had been worked out, and the independent miner was beginning to give way before the huge mining corporations with the capital and equipment to tunnel deep into the hills. People kept on emigrating, and many of the former miners were settling in the beautiful valleys as farmers; civilization was making itself felt, with brick blocks, three-storey hotels, covered boardwalks, stores, banks, and fine houses surrounded by lawns and flowers not infrequent in the gold towns. Buck had made his way to Grass Valley, where gold-bearing quartz was first found in October of 1850, and where by the time he arrived the town had three hundred buildings. The Empire Mine, one of the first on the site, and its lesser neighbors produced an aggregate average of nearly $945,000 a year, and there was work for anyone who wanted it. Buck for his part had known from the first that a life underground wasn't for him. He did some hustling at pool, drove an ore-wagon team for a while, then got into horse trading, which led indirectly to his killing his first man. It was a fair fight and very public, and the other man was known to be a bad lot. The Grass Valley marshal was impressed and invited Buck, by then sixteen, to become his deputy. Buck took him up on it, did a creditable job and racked up a couple more kills, then drifted south to Los Angeles, which was nearing the middle of two decades of being "the toughest town in the nation," with as many as thirty-five vigilante lynchings (compared to only eight in San Francisco), thirty-eight ad hoc ones, and forty legal hangings during the period, and fifty or sixty murders a year. There were then, as there had been before the Rush, good folks in plenty, including many old Californio families--for this part of the state lacked the gold that attracted the Anglo rushers or any easy riverine link to the lode country--but there were also some of the meanest ones unhung. They'd kill you as soon as look at you, pistol or knife, though mostly it was knives in Sonora Town, the rough part of the settlement. Women didn't walk the streets after sundown unless they were going to a fandango or a baile, and then they were usually accompanied by some man from their families.
Even that wasn't always a guarantee of safety, and one moonless night Buck followed the sound of screams to find a young don, bloodied but resolute, struggling to hold off five bad ones out for a kiss (or perhaps rather more) from the sister he was escorting. Buck stepped in, shot two of the men almost before they could blink, and then found the third one on top of him--until the young man threw a knife. Between them they drove the survivors off, and Buck was taken into the home of the two young folks, welcomed as a hero by their parents and entertained as an honored guest while he and his new friend recovered from their injuries. Having learned to speak Spanish in his boyhood in Kansas City, he was able to fit himself well into the life of the hacienda, and stayed on to help the family defend its land from a Yankee attempt at a grab. He even gave some thought to paying serious court to Señorita Isabel, knowing that her father would have accepted him gladly as a son, but he was still only a boy, not yet nineteen, and when he heard of the discovery of gold along the Fraser River in British Columbia, he turned that way. Before he got there word came to him of even likelier diggings in Colorado, and he changed course and went there instead.
He found that his reputation had preceded him, and over the year-plus since he had held various gun jobs, chiefly for big mines, stage lines, and county law. He wasn't an altogether willing gunfighter, but by now he had learned enough about himself to know that it was something he was good at, and a man had to eat, after all: the better you were at the thing you did for your bread, the more money you were likely to get paid for it. He hadn't forgotten that he wanted to make enough so he could bring Ma out to join him and let her give up working. It wasn't that he was ashamed of being the son of a working girl, hard though it had sometimes made his childhood. He loved his mother and respected the courage it had taken her to keep him and to choose the life she had, knowing that once a girl lost her virginity without benefit of marriage (or, at least, once there was any proof that she had), there was no hope for her--either in ladies' literature or in the codes of behavior of the day; she had basically two choices, take in laundry or take in men. He knew, too, that her love for him was genuine; she had never in his life raised a hand to him, never allowed him to go hungry or cold or ill-clothed. To him, she was a saint. It didn't matter what "respectable" people thought. They didn't know Rosalie Adams as her son knew her, so they didn't know what they were talking about.
She was a slender, small-boned woman with blue eyes, and imitation diamond dust sprinkled on her jetty hair, which was dressed in long curls down her back in the newly fashionable style. Like Miz Abigail and the other ladies, she was still only half-dressed, in her best purple wrapper (he had sent it to her from San Francisco two years ago) of soft silk with a cascade of lace falling down its front, ruffled neck, sleeves, and hem, front fastening, tie belt, and lace trim, and under it a pair of ruffled red silk drawers, a white silk chemise with tiny blue flowers along its scalloped edges, a corset with top bonings edged with lace, and vivid-colored silk petticoats with horizontally-striped stockings to match, held up by pink silk ribbon garters embroidered with rosebuds and fastened with gold clasps. The garters too had been send-homes from Buck, as had the red satin slippers with pink roses on them that she wore. He hadn't been home in five years, but never once in that time had he forgotten Christmas or her birthday.
He grinned at sight of them. "You sure you didn't guess I was comin', Ma? You got yourself all gussied up in the fancies I been sendin' you--"
She loosed her embrace and pulled back a little to smile wetly up at him. "Maybe I hoped. Oh, God, look at you! Look at the shoulders on you! And you're so tall! What have you put on, six inches?"
"Four," he chuckled. "Guess it don't show in that tintype I sent back from Denver last year."
"I've got it right by my bed," she told him, "and every night I give it a kiss. Sit down, love, and I'll pour you some coffee." She turned to the small, pink-enamelled Franklin stove, where a small granite coffeepot always sat abrew, and tipped it over two rosebud china cups, sugaring his generously. Opening the applewood cigar box that stood on a round scalloped table, she extracted a Regalia cigar, imported from Havana, and trust a long taper into the fire of the stove to light it by. Buck sank into a striped armchair with a happy sigh, accepted cup and smoke, and let himself relax. Rosalie sat down opposite him and clasped her hands together, drinking in the look of him. He had gone away a gawky teenager, not yet even old enough to shave; he had returned a man, with the stance and poise of tested self-confidence.
"I got some great stories to tell you all, Ma," he said.
"And I've got something to tell you, Bucklin. Better yet, something to show you." She stood to tug on the tasselled red silk bell-cord that hung near the secretary, and when one of the maids popped in at the door, she spoke to the girl in a whisper too hushed for him to make out. The black girl rolled her eyes at Buck with a smirk and darted off on her errand.
The young man tilted his head curiously. "What's up, Ma?"
"You'll see in a few minutes," said she. "So. Did Abigail tell you about Ophelia and her gallant?"
He chuckled, distracted. "How long it take him?"
"Oh, every time we opened the parlor door we tripped over him," she laughed. "I swear, he was here every two or three nights for three whole years, and after the first six months it was Ophelia, always and only. I think the only ones who didn't see what was going on were him and her."
Buck nodded, grinning. "Don't s'prise me. Like you always said, Ma, us men are the densest lot since God made lead." Then he sobered. "Out to Colorado we're hearin' a lot about war maybe comin'. You're closer to the source. What's the talk here?"
Rosalie too grew serious. It was less than a year since John Brown, the demon of Osawatomie, perhaps the most notorious name to come out of the Kansas troubles, had mounted his unsuccessful raid on the arsenal at Harpers' Ferry, Virginia. Although his effort had been quickly extinguished, the backing he'd received in the North gave white Southerners pause and sent a chill through their land. Moreover, the facile, self-serving line of argument he threw up at his trial was accepted at face value by some who, if they couldn't condone his murders, hated slavery more. Political figures of all parties considered him criminally if not legally insane, and there were massive anti-Brown rallies in Boston and New York, yet there was also an amazing reaction from the Northern moral and cultural elite, which took the line that he might have been insane, but his acts and intentions should be excused on the grounds that the compelling motive was "divine." Horace Greeley wrote that the raid was "the work of a madman," yet he had not "one reproachful word." Ralph Waldo Emerson described him as a "saint," and Thoreau, Theodore Parker, Longfellow, Bryant, Lowell--the entire Northern pantheon, with the exceptions of Whitman and Hawthorne--called him an "angel of light" and declared that not he, but the society that hanged him, was mad. Said Henry Ward Beecher: "There was a time when I thought the body of death would be too much for life and that the North was in danger of taking disease from the South, rather than they our health. That time has gone past." The North alone, he announced, had the healing power that represented the only hope for mending and regenerating the Union. The course of events showed a Union drifting apart. William Lloyd Garrison, the most outspoken abolitionist in the country, declared bluntly, "Every slaveholder has forfeited his right to live."
Worse, Brown's execution further polarized a nation already divided by the Kansas question and the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The North, in large part, saw him as a hero, if not indeed a martyred saint, and honored him as a martyr to freedom: Emerson said "he would make the gallows glorious like the cross," and Louisa May Alcott called him "St. John the Just." On the day he died, church bells tolled from New England to Chicago, and Albany, hardly a hotbed of abolitionism, fired off a hundred guns in salute; after the execution, mourning mass meetings and rallies were held in New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, Ravenna, and Cleveland. People laid aside their own affairs to go to church and to think, for a few moments, what it must be like to die as willingly and bravely as Brown had done--for the sake of the Negro slave. Yet, as the Charleston lawyer Christopher Memminger--until recently an opponent of secession--told the Virginia General Assembly in January, 1860, "Every village bell, which tolled its solemn note at the execution of Brown, proclaims to the South the approbation of that village of insurrection and servile war." He argued persuasively that the Northern public's approval of a war on slavery, together with the outcome of elections in the North since "the Harpers Ferry invasion," showed that abolitionist strength was growing. Northern members of Congress had become more active and adamant against slavery; the Republicans, a sectional party whose very existence was based on opposition to it, had taken power, and as the dominant party would have at their disposal "immense patronage"; the South was losing ground in both House and Senate and ultimately would be an ineffectual minority unable to defend it. To Southerners Brown was a demon, proof that no compromise was possible on the issue of slavery, and his action was an intolerable Northern attack on Southern property and lives. Indeed, the more details they learned, the more Southerners felt the monstrousness of it. The revelation that he had been able to collect $23,000 in four months in Boston in 1858, for an admitted guerrilla war against slavery, and that many intellectuals refused to pronounce him guilty after it was proven that he had engaged in bloody executions in Kansas, because it was "decreed by God, ordained from Eternity," had a blood-chilling effect south of the Ohio. Above all, the identity of the "Secret Six" who had financed his raid came as a horrifying shock. Responsible citizens of New York State and Massachusetts, the cream of Northern society--a minister of religion, a capitalist, a philosopher, a surgeon, a professor, a philanthropist, four of them graduates of Harvard--knowing the kind of criminally insane man with whom they dealt, had yet supported his scheme of loosing on Southern whites, both with and without slaves, a race war. When the mad plot miscarried, only one of the plotters had sufficient moral courage to admit his part in it. The rest, after burning incriminating papers, fled in all directions. When several of them were tracked down to Ohio and Iowa, the governors of those states refused to extradite them for trial, on the ground that the South was responsible for the attempted insurrection because of its part in the Kansas troubles.
Of course, Brown's canonization wasn't a typical attitude in the North, and many conservatives deplored his crime. Yet the fact that he was supported at all, even glorified, and this by the enlightened intellectuals, had aroused the Southern masses to a sense of physical and imminent danger from their Northern neighbors. For several years now there had been rumors of conspiracies to incite slaves. With the inflammatory denunciations of the abolitionist publications, these had kept alive the fear of another and larger version of Nat Turner. Now it had come--and from their fellow countrymen. The notion that the entire North was determined to bring about bloody revolution not only paralyzed the planters, who were half convinced against their better judgment, but inflamed the average white. A Negro insurrection, said they, wouldn't just affect the gentry; it would kill and burn out all white people in the slaveholding regions. By the late '50's many white Southerners had already been viewing themselves as prisoners in their own country, condemned by what they saw as a hysterical abolition movement and cut off from world opinion. And the raid on Harpers Ferry was the beginning of the end. In his thirty-six hours at Harpers Ferry, Brown had accomplished what Southern radicals had been unable to do in almost thirty years. The people of the South now believed the North was their enemy. In Washington Northern and Southern politicians glowered at each other, and the selection of a Speaker of the House took weeks to complete and reopened old wounds. In the press newspaper editors exchanged angry words over real and imagined injuries to their sections. Everywhere people were tense and uneasy. Southerners were particularly apprehensive, and the heroics of the abolitionists and the Brown raid added force to the movement for secession.
In towns and villages from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, meetings were held to urge a boycott of Northern-manufactured goods. Vigilance committees were formed to patrol the countryside. Militia units multiplied as young men rushed to enlist. In Richmond sixteen infantry companies, seven artillery companies, and a mounted guard were formed. Merchants met and decided to establish a direct shipping line to Liverpool, to be independent of the North. Over a hundred students left the medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, a favorite goal of aspiring Southern doctors, to return to their native section; the Virginia legislature appropriated $30,000 to enlarge the medical college at Richmond to help accomodate them. Young Southern men withdrew from other Northern colleges. The North's failure to condemn Brown unequivocally produced a lynch-law psychology. Suddenly the Southerner who had been respected and honored as a gentleman a few years before was, according to the Northerner, living licentiously. The North, where the Southerner had summered and had often sent his sons to college, was now hated and outlawed. Moderates both North and South were rendered helpless before a movement too strong to fight. Hatred and suspicion lumped Republicans with abolitionists under the label "Black Republican." Southerners blamed the young Republican party, whose membership they suspected of being in reality abolitionists in disguise, for the outrage. Indeed, even though conservative Republicans condemned the scheme, it was certainly true that, as the nation continued to lurch from one sectional crisis to another, moving inexorably toward disaster, the party skillfully exploited each outrage--the Dred Scott decision, the proslavery Lecompton constitution in Kansas, even Brown's mad raid--to consolidate and enlarge its political power. More and more Southerners now considered themselves to be living in a beleaguered fortress, and secessionist sentiment grew in strength.
As for the industrial North, never far from its reaction to the moral question of slavery was a deep and growing hatred of the planter class, based on a revived puritanism, an almost Roundhead fervor. The planter had become an enemy class; although slavery was indefensible intellectually and morally, still something new and vicious had been injected into American public attitudes. The Puritan intellectuals who hated the South along with its peculiar institutions were still a minority at the time of the raid; afterward, their view eventually became the dominant one, and their sound and fury in turn ignited a corresponding psychosis in the Southern states. In January of 1860, John Brown's body, one month after its burial, had not yet begun "a-mould'ring in the grave," but his spirit was certainly on the march across the land. In both North and South, otherwise decent men had come to believe in diabolism and depravity on the other side.
The greatness of Abraham Lincoln, as would be seen in hindsight, rested partly on the fact that he never succumbed to this malaise. He recognized slavery as a dangerous problem which no amount of moral frenzy would solve; he was prepared to damage it if he could, but not if he had to damage the nation in the process. He considered the institution morally wrong, but didn't feel that this fact could "excuse violence, bloodshed, and treason."
On a speaking tour of Elwood, Troy, Doniphan, Atchison, and Leavenworth, Kansas, in December, he specifically disclaimed all connection with Brown and his raid. People were accusing him of being in sympathy with them, he said, but this he was not. It was an awful thing, the deed of a madman. Brown had brooded so long over the injustices suffered by the slaves that he felt he could singlehandedly wipe out the bad thing he deplored. It was the same impulse which had always set men to killing their rulers, not realizing that this was no way to right a wrong.
At the Cooper Union later that month, 1500 people gathered to hear him speak. In essence he pleaded for toleration. But would the Southerners believe that the Republican party had peaceful intentions? He feared not, since nothing short of the admission of the rightfulness of slavery would satisfy them. "All they ask, we could readily grant if we thought slavery right," he admitted; "all we ask, they could as readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking it right, and our thinking it wrong, is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy. Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition, as being right; but thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them?...If our sense of duty forbids this," he concluded, "then let us stand by our duty fearlessly and effectively...Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."
All but forgotten in the face of these apparently abolitionist utterances was the fact that, a scant half-dozen years earlier in his contest with Douglas, Lincoln had preached an old but oft-neglected doctrine: Hate the sin but not the sinner. "When Southern people tell us they are no more responsible for the origin of slavery, than we," he had said, "I acknowledge the fact. When it is said that the institution exists, and that it is very difficult to get rid of it, in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate the saying...But all this, to my judgment, furnishes no more excuse for permitting slavery to go into our own free territory, than it would for reviving the African slave trade by law." Speaking at the Cooper Union again in February, he said, "Even though the Southern people will not listen to us, let us calmly consider their demands, and yield to them if, in our deliberate view of our duty, we possibly can." He again disclaimed, personally and for his party, all connection with Brown: "An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people until he fancies himself commissioned by Heaven to liberate them. He ventures into the attempt which ends in little else but his own execution." At the end of the speech the audience sprang as one to its feet, yelling like Indians. Lincoln was the man of the hour. Few were surprised when, in May, the Republican convention in Chicago chose him as its candidate for the Presidency.
Shortly after Brown was hanged, Senator Jefferson Davis rose to introduce a set of resolutions for the defense of slavery, the main burden of which was a demand that the Federal government extend "all needful protection" to slavery in the territories. In effect, he asked for a Federal slave code. It was a cry quickly taken up by Southern Democratic firebrands, who introduced it at the party's national convention, held in April in Charleston. Supporters of President James Buchanan, who was determined to deny its presidential nod to Stephen Douglas, encouraged them in the hope of stopping Douglas, who preferred to stand by the platform of 1856, with its promise of noninterference. In fact, the nation's dominant party had already started coming apart during his administration. The mini-civil war that had raged in Kansas, the Brown incursion into Virginia, and the South's violent reaction to both had created chaos in it, splitting it between hawks and doves on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. And Douglas's failure to speak out more clearly on the issue of slave protection in his debates with Lincoln, together with his break with Buchanan over Kansas, angered the South. By now it was apparent that no "true" Southerner could be elected, and in the view of the secessionists, Douglas and those who wished to find the so-called middle ground would only postpone the fight, though some Charlestonians still hoped that a compromise candidate could be nominated and war averted. But seven Southern states had already warned that they would withdraw if the Democrats didn't include in their platform a congressional code protecting slavery in the territories. The platform committee split, one report calling for exactly that, the other supporting popular sovereignty. When it adopted a pro-Douglas platform that was vague on the question, the debate climaxed with Alabama fire-eater William L. Yancey informing the Northern delegates that their error had been the failure to defend slavery as a positive good. Senator George Pugh of Ohio replied with equal bluntness, "Gentlemen of the South, you mistake us--you mistake us. We will not do it."
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