William Leggett, by John Greenleaf Whittier

Old Portraits and Modern Sketches

          "O Freedom! thou art not, as poets dream,
          A fair young girl, with light and delicate limbs,
          And wavy tresses, gushing from the cap
          With which the Roman master crowned his slave,
          When he took off the gyves. A bearded man,
          Armed to the teeth, art thou; one mailed hand
          Grasps the broad shield, and one the sword; thy brow,
          Glorious in beauty though it be, is scarred
          With tokens of old wars; thy massive limbs
          Are strong with struggling. Power at thee has launched
          His bolts, and with his lightnings smitten thee;
          They could not quench the life thou hast from Heaven."

WHEN the noblest woman in all France stood on the scaffold, just before her execution, she is said to have turned towards the statue of Liberty, —which, strangely enough, had been placed near the guillotine, as its patron saint,—with the exclamation, "O Liberty! what crimes have been committed in thy name!" It is with a feeling akin to that which prompted this memorable exclamation of Madame Roland that the sincere lover of human freedom and progress is often compelled to regard American democracy.

For democracy, pure and impartial,—the self-government of the whole; equal rights and privileges, irrespective of birth or complexion; the morality of the Gospel of Christ applied to legislation; Christianity reduced to practice, and showering the blessings of its impartial love and equal protection upon all, like the rain and dews of heaven,—we have the sincerest love and reverence. So far as our own government approaches this standard—and, with all its faults, we believe it does so more nearly than any other—it has our hearty and steadfast allegiance. We complain of and protest against it only where, in its original framework or actual administration, it departs from the democratic principle. Holding, with Novalis, that the Christian religion is the root of all democracy and the highest fact in the rights of man, we regard the New Testament as the true political text-book; and believe that, just in proportion as mankind receive its doctrines and precepts, not merely as matters of faith and relating to another state of being, but as practical rules, designed for the regulation of the present life as well as the future, their institutions, social arrangements, and forms of government will approximate to the democratic model. We believe in the ultimate complete accomplishment of the mission of Him who came "to preach deliverance to the captive, and the opening of prison doors to them that are bound." We look forward to the universal dominion of His benign humanity; and, turning from the strife and blood, the slavery, and social and political wrongs of the past and present, anticipate the realization in the distant future of that state when the song of the angels at His advent shall be no longer a prophecy, but the jubilant expression of a glorious reality,—"Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth, and good will to man!"

For the party in this country which has assumed the name of Democracy, as a party, we have had, we confess, for some years past, very little respect. It has advocated many salutary measures, tending to equalize the advantages of trade and remove the evils of special legislation. But if it has occasionally lopped some of the branches of the evil tree of oppression, so far from striking at its root, it has suffered itself to be made the instrument of nourishing and protecting it. It has allowed itself to be called, by its Southern flatterers, "the natural ally of slavery." It has spurned the petitions of the people in behalf of freedom under its feet, in Congress and State legislatures. Nominally the advocate of universal suffrage, it has wrested from the colored citizens of Pennsylvania that right of citizenship which they had enjoyed under a Constitution framed by Franklin and Rush. Perhaps the most shameful exhibition of its spirit was made in the late Rhode Island struggle, when the free suffrage convention, solemnly calling heaven and earth to witness its readiness to encounter all the horrors of civil war, in defence of the holy principle of equal and universal suffrage, deliberately excluded colored Rhode Islanders from the privilege of voting. In the Constitutional Conventions of Michigan and Iowa, the same party declared all men equal, and then provided an exception to this rule in the case of the colored inhabitants. Its course on the question of excluding slavery from Texas is a matter of history, known and read of all.

After such exhibitions of its practice, its professions have lost their power. The cant of democracy upon the lips of men who are living down its principles is, to an earnest mind, well nigh insufferable. Pertinent were the queries of Eliphaz the Temanite, "Shall a man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind? Shall he reason with unprofitable talk, or with speeches wherewith he can do no good?" Enough of wearisome talk we have had about "progress," the rights of "the masses," the "dignity of labor," and "extending the area of freedom"! "Clear your mind of cant, sir," said Johnson to Boswell; and no better advice could be now given to a class of our democratic politicians. Work out your democracy; translate your words into deeds; away with your sentimental generalizations, and come down to the practical details of your duty as men and Christians. What avail your abstract theories, your hopeless virginity of democracy, sacred from the violence of meanings? A democracy which professes to hold, as by divine right, the doctrine of human equality in its special keeping, and which at the same time gives its direct countenance and support to the vilest system of oppression on which the sun of heaven looks, has no better title to the name it disgraces than the apostate Son of the Morning has to his old place in heaven. We are using strong language, for we feel strongly on this subject. Let those whose hypocrisy we condemn, and whose sins against humanity we expose, remember that they are the publishers of their own shame, and that they have gloried in their apostasy. There is a cutting severity in the answer which Sophocles puts in the mouth of Electra, in justification of her indignant rebuke of her wicked mother:—

              "'Tis you that say it, not I
               You do the unholy deeds which find rue words."

Yet in that party calling itself democratic we rejoice to recognize true, generous, and thoroughly sincere men,—lovers of the word of democracy, and doers of it also, honest and hearty in their worship of liberty, who are still hoping that the antagonism which slavery presents to democracy will be perceived by the people, in spite of the sophistry and appeals to prejudice by which interested partisans have hitherto succeeded in deceiving them. We believe with such that the mass of the democratic voters of the free States are in reality friends of freedom, and hate slavery in all its forms; and that, with a full understanding of the matter, they could never consent to be sold to presidential aspirants, by political speculators, in lots to suit purchasers, and warranted to be useful in putting down free discussion, perpetuating oppression, and strengthening the hands of modern feudalism. They are beginning already to see that, under the process whereby men of easy virtue obtain offices from the general government, as the reward of treachery to free principles, the strength and vitality of the party are rapidly declining. To them, at least, democracy means something more than collectorships, consulates, and governmental contracts. For the sake of securing a monopoly of these to a few selfish and heartless party managers, they are not prepared to give up the distinctive principles of democracy, and substitute in their place the doctrines of the Satanic school of politics. They will not much longer consent to stand before the world as the slavery party of the United States, especially when policy and expediency, as well as principle, unite in recommending a position more congenial to the purposes of their organization, the principles of the fathers of their political faith, the spirit of the age, and the obligations of Christianity.

The death-blow of slavery in this country will be given by the very power upon which it has hitherto relied with so much confidence. Abused and insulted Democracy will, erelong, shake off the loathsome burden under which it is now staggering. In the language of the late Theodore Sedgwiek, of Massachusetts, a consistent democrat of the old school: "Slavery, in all its forms, is anti-democratic,—an old poison left in the veins, fostering the worst principles of aristocracy, pride, and aversion to labor; the natural enemy of the poor man, the laboring man, the oppressed man. The question is, whether absolute dominion over any creature in the image of man be a wholesome power in a free country; whether this is a school in which to train the young republican mind; whether slave blood and free blood can course healthily together in the same body politic. Whatever may be present appearances, and by whatever name party may choose to call things, this question must finally be settled by the democracy of the country."

This prediction was made eight years ago, at a time when all the facts in the case seemed against the probability of its truth, and when only here and there the voice of an indignant freeman protested against the exulting claims of the slave power upon the democracy as its "natural ally." The signs of the times now warrant the hope of its fulfilment. Over the hills of the East, and over the broad territory of the Empire State, a new spirit is moving. Democracy, like Balaam upon Zophim, has felt the divine afflatus, and is blessing that which it was summoned to curse.

The present hopeful state of things is owing, in no slight degree, to the self-sacrificing exertions of a few faithful and clear-sighted men, foremost among whom was the late William Leggett; than whom no one has labored more perseveringly, or, in the end, more successfully, to bring the practice of American democracy into conformity with its professions.

William Leggett! Let our right hand forget its cunning, when that name shall fail to awaken generous emotions and aspirations for a higher and worthier manhood! True man and true democrat; faithful always to Liberty, following wherever she led, whether the storm beat in his face or on his back; unhesitatingly counting her enemies his own, whether in the guise of Whig monopoly and selfish expediency, or democratic servility north of Mason and Dixon's line towards democratic slaveholding south of it; poor, yet incorruptible; dependent upon party favor, as a party editor, yet risking all in condemnation of that party, when in the wrong; a man of the people, yet never stooping to flatter the people's prejudices,—he is the politician, of all others, whom we would hold up to the admiration and imitation of the young men of our country. What Fletcher of Saltoun is to Scotland, and the brave spirits of the old Commonwealth time—

              "Hands that penned
               And tongues that uttered wisdom, better none
               The later Sydney, Marvell, Harrington,
               Young Vane, and others, who called Milton friend—"

are to England, should Leggett be to America. His character was formed on these sturdy democratic models. Had he lived in their day, he would have scraped with old Andrew Marvell the bare blade-bone of poverty, or even laid his head on the block with Vane, rather than forego his independent thought and speech.

Of the early life of William Leggett we have no very definite knowledge. Born in moderate circumstances; at first a woodsman in the Western wilderness, then a midshipman in the navy, then a denizen of New York; exposed to sore hardships and perilous temptations, he worked his way by the force of his genius to the honorable position of associate editor of the Evening Post, the leading democratic journal of our great commercial metropolis. Here he became early distinguished for his ultraism in democracy. His whole soul revolted against oppression. He was for liberty everywhere and in all things, in thought, in speech, in vote, in religion, in government, and in trade; he was for throwing off all restraints upon the right of suffrage; regarding all men as brethren, he looked with disapprobation upon attempts to exclude foreigners from the rights of citizenship; he was for entire freedom of commerce; he denounced a national bank; he took the lead in opposition to the monopoly of incorporated banks; he argued in favor of direct taxation, and advocated a free post-office, or a system by which letters should be transported, as goods and passengers now are, by private enterprise. In all this he was thoroughly in earnest. That he often erred through passion and prejudice cannot be doubted; but in no instance was he found turning aside from the path which he believed to be the true one, from merely selfish considerations. He was honest alike to himself and the public. Every question which was thrown up before him by the waves of political or moral agitation he measured by his standard of right and truth, and condemned or advocated it in utter disregard of prevailing opinions, of its effect upon his pecuniary interest, or of his standing with his party. The vehemence of his passions sometimes betrayed him into violence of language and injustice to his opponents; but he had that rare and manly trait which enables its possessor, whenever he becomes convinced of error, to make a prompt acknowledgment of the conviction.

In the summer of 1834, a series of mobs, directed against the Abolitionists, who had organized a national society, with the city of New York as its central point, followed each other in rapid succession. The houses of the leading men in the society were sacked and pillaged; meeting-houses broken into and defaced; and the unoffending colored inhabitants of the city treated with the grossest indignity, and subjected, in some instances, to shameful personal outrage. It was emphatically a "Reign of Terror." The press of both political parties and of the leading religious sects, by appeals to prejudice and passion, and by studied misrepresentation of the designs and measures of the Abolitionists, fanned the flame of excitement, until the fury of demons possessed the misguided populace. To advocate emancipation, or defend those who did so, in New York, at that period, was like preaching democracy in Constantinople or religious toleration in Paris on the eve of St. Bartholomew. Law was prostrated in the dust; to be suspected of abolitionism was to incur a liability to an indefinite degree of insult and indignity; and the few and hunted friends of the slave who in those nights of terror laid their heads upon the pillow did so with the prayer of the Psalmist on their lips, "Defend me from them that rise up against me; save me from bloody men."

At this period the New York Evening Post spoke out strongly in condemnation of the mob. William Leggett was not then an Abolitionist; he had known nothing of the proscribed class, save through the cruel misrepresentations of their enemies; but, true to his democratic faith, he maintained the right to discuss the question of slavery. The infection of cowardly fear, which at that time sealed the lips of multitudes who deplored the excesses of the mob and sympathized with its victims, never reached him. Boldly, indignantly, he demanded that the mob should be put down at once by the civil authorities. He declared the Abolitionists, even if guilty of all that had been charged upon them, fully entitled to the privileges and immunities of American citizens. He sternly reprimanded the board of aldermen of the city for rejecting with contempt the memorial of the Abolitionists to that body, explanatory of their principles and the measures by which they had sought to disseminate them. Referring to the determination, expressed by the memorialists in the rejected document, not to recant or relinquish any principle which they had adopted, but to live and die by their faith, he said: "In this, however mistaken, however mad, we may consider their opinions in relation to the blacks, what honest, independent mind can blame them? Where is the man so poor of soul, so white-livered, so base, that he would do less in relation to any important doctrine in which he religiously believed? Where is the man who would have his tenets drubbed into him by the clubs of ruffians, or hold his conscience at the dictation of a mob?"

In the summer of 1835, a mob of excited citizens broke open the post- office at Charleston, South Carolina, and burnt in the street such papers and pamphlets as they judged to be "incendiary;" in other words, such as advocated the application of the democratic principle to the condition of the slaves of the South. These papers were addressed, not to the slave, but to the master. They contained nothing which had not been said and written by Southern men themselves, the Pinkneys, Jeffersons, Henrys, and Martins, of Maryland and Virginia. The example set at Charleston did not lack imitators. Every petty postmaster south of Mason and Dixon's line became ex officio a censor of the press. The Postmaster-General, writing to his subordinate at Charleston, after stating that the post-office department had "no legal right to exclude newspapers from the mail, or prohibit their carriage or delivery, on account of their character or tendency, real or supposed," declared that he would, nevertheless, give no aid, directly or indirectly, in circulating publications of an incendiary or inflammatory character; and assured the perjured functionary, who had violated his oath of office, that, while he could not sanction, he would not condemn his conduct. Against this virtual encouragement of a flagrant infringement of a constitutional right, this licensing of thousands of petty government officials to sit in their mail offices—to use the figure of Milton—cross-legged, like so many envious Junos, in judgment upon the daily offspring of the press, taking counsel of passion, prejudice, and popular excitement as to what was "incendiary" or "inflammatory," the Evening Post spoke in tones of manly protest.

While almost all the editors of his party throughout the country either openly approved of the conduct of the Postmaster-General or silently acquiesced in it, William Leggett, who, in the absence of his colleague, was at that time sole editor of the Post, and who had everything to lose, in a worldly point of view, by assailing a leading functionary of the government, who was a favorite of the President and a sharer of his popularity, did not hesitate as to the course which consistency and duty required at his hands. He took his stand for unpopular truth, at a time when a different course on his part could not have failed to secure him the favor and patronage of his party. In the great struggle with the Bank of the United States, his services had not been unappreciated by the President and his friends. Without directly approving the course of the administration on the question of the rights of the Abolitionists, by remaining silent in respect to it, he might have avoided all suspicion of mental and moral independence incompatible with party allegiance. The impracticable honesty of Leggett, never bending from the erectness of truth for the sake of that "thrift which follows fawning," dictated a most severe and scorching review of the letter of the Postmaster-General. "More monstrous, more detestable doctrines we have never heard promulgated," he exclaimed in one of his leading editorials. "With what face, after this, can the Postmaster-General punish a postmaster for any exercise of the fearfully dangerous power of stopping and destroying any portion of the mails?" "The Abolitionists do not deserve to be placed on the same footing with a, foreign enemy, nor their publications as the secret despatches of a spy. They are American citizens, in the exercise of their undoubted right of citizenship; and however erroneous their views, however fanatic their conduct, while they act within the limits of the law, what official functionary, be he merely a subordinate or the head of the post-office department, shall dare to abridge them of their rights as citizens, and deny them those facilities of intercourse which were instituted for the equal accommodation of all? If the American people will submit to this, let us expunge all written codes, and resolve society into its original elements, where the might of the strong is better than the right of the weak."

A few days after the publication of this manly rebuke, he wrote an indignantly sarcastic article upon the mobs which were at this time everywhere summoned to "put down the Abolitionists." The next day, the 4th of the ninth month, 1835, he received a copy of the Address of the American Anti-Slavery Society to the public, containing a full and explicit avowal of all the principles and designs of the association. He gave it a candid perusal, weighed its arguments, compared its doctrines with those at the foundation of his own political faith, and rose up from its examination an Abolitionist. He saw that he himself, misled by the popular clamor, had done injustice to benevolent and self-sacrificing men; and he took the earliest occasion, in an article of great power and eloquence, to make the amplest atonement. He declared his entire concurrence with the views of the American Anti-Slavery Society, with the single exception of a doubt which rested, on his mind as to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. We quote from the concluding paragraph of this article:—

"We assert without hesitation, that, if we possessed the right, we should not scruple to exercise it for the speedy annihilation of servitude and chains. The impression made in boyhood by the glorious exclamation of Cato,

               "'A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty
               Is worth a whole eternity of bondage!'

has been worn deeper, not effaced, by time; and we eagerly and ardently trust that the day will yet arrive when the clank of the bondman's fetters will form no part of the multitudinous sounds which our country sends up to Heaven, mingling, as it were, into a song of praise for our national prosperity. We yearn with strong desire for the day when freedom shall no longer wave

"Her fustian flag in mockery over slaves.'"

A few days after, in reply to the assaults made upon him from all quarters, he calmly and firmly reiterated his determination to maintain the right of free discussion of the subject of slavery.

"The course we are pursuing," said he, "is one which we entered upon after mature deliberation, and we are not to be turned from it by a species of opposition, the inefficacy of which we have seen displayed in so many former instances. It is Philip Van Artevelde who says:—

               "'All my life long,
               I have beheld with most respect the man
               Who knew himself, and knew the ways before him;
               And from among them chose considerately,
               With a clear foresight, not a blindfold courage;
               And, having chosen, with a steadfast mind.
               Pursued his purpose.'

"This is the sort of character we emulate. If to believe slavery a deplorable evil and curse, in whatever light it is viewed; if to yearn for the day which shall break the fetters of three millions of human beings, and restore to them their birthright of equal freedom; if to be willing, in season and out of season, to do all in our power to promote so desirable a result, by all means not inconsistent with higher duty: if these sentiments constitute us Abolitionists, then are we such, and glory in the name."

"The senseless cry of 'Abolitionist' shall never deter us, nor the more senseless attempt of puny prints to read us out of the democratic party. The often-quoted and beautiful saying of the Latin historian, Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto, we apply to the poor slave as well as his master, and shall endeavor to fulfil towards both the obligations of an equal humanity."

The generation which, since the period of which we are speaking, have risen into active life can have but a faint conception of the boldness of this movement on the part of William Leggett. To be an Abolitionist then was to abandon all hope of political preferment or party favor; to be marked and branded as a social outlaw, under good society's interdict of food and fire; to hold property, liberty, and life itself at the mercy of lawless mobs. All this William Leggett clearly saw. He knew how rugged and thorny was the path upon which, impelled by his love of truth and the obligations of humanity, he was entering. From hunted and proscribed Abolitionists and oppressed and spirit-broken colored men, the Pariahs of American democracy, he could alone expect sympathy. The Whig journals, with a few honorable exceptions, exulted over what they regarded as the fall of a formidable opponent; and after painting his abolitionism in the most hideous colors, held him up to their Southern allies as a specimen of the radical disorganizers and democratic levellers of the North. His own party, in consequence, made haste to proscribe him. Government advertising was promptly withdrawn from his paper. The official journals of Washington and Albany read him out of the pale of democracy. Father Ritchie scolded and threatened. The democratic committee issued its bull against him from Tammany Hall. The resolutions of that committee were laid before him when he was sinking under a severe illness. Rallying his energies, he dictated from his sick-bed an answer marked by all his accustomed vigor and boldness. Its tone was calm, manly, self-relying; the language of one who, having planted his feet hard down on the rock of principle, stood there like Luther at Worms, because he "could not otherwise." Exhausted nature sunk under the effort. A weary sickness of nearly a year's duration followed. In this sore affliction, deserted as he was by most of his old political friends, we have reason to know that he was cheered by the gratitude of those in whose behalf he had well-nigh made a martyr's sacrifice; and that from the humble hearths of his poor colored fellow-citizens fervent prayers went up for his restoration.

His work was not yet done. Purified by trial, he was to stand forth once more in vindication of the truths of freedom. As soon as his health was sufficiently reestablished, he commenced the publication of an independent political and literary journal, under the expressive title of The Plaindealer. In his first number he stated, that, claiming the right of absolute freedom of discussion, he should exercise it with no other limitations than those of his own judgment. A poor man, he admitted that he established the paper in the expectation of deriving from it a livelihood, but that even for that object he could not trim its sails to suit the varying breeze of popular prejudice. "If," said he, "a paper which makes the Right, and not the Expedient, its cardinal object, will not yield its conductor a support, there are honest vocations that will, and better the humblest of them than to be seated at the head of an influential press, if its influence is not exerted to promote the cause of truth." He was true to his promise. The free soul of a free, strong man spoke out in his paper. How refreshing was it, after listening to the inanities, the dull, witless vulgarity, the wearisome commonplace of journalists, who had no higher aim than to echo, with parrot-like exactness, current prejudices and falsehoods, to turn to the great and generous thoughts, the chaste and vigorous diction, of the Plaindealer! No man ever had a clearer idea of the duties and responsibilities of a conductor of the public press than William Leggett, and few have ever combined so many of the qualifications for their perfect discharge: a nice sense of justice, a warm benevolence, inflexible truth, honesty defying temptation, a mind stored with learning, and having at command the treasures of the best thoughts of the best authors. As was said of Fletcher of Saltoun, he was "a gentleman steady in his principles; of nice honor, abundance of learning; bold as a lion; a sure friend; a man who would lose his life to serve his country, and would not do a base thing to save it."

He had his faults: his positive convictions sometimes took the shape of a proud and obstinate dogmatism; he who could so well appeal to the judgment and the reason of his readers too often only roused their passions by invective and vehement declamation. Moderate men were startled and pained by the fierce energy of his language; and he not unfrequently made implacable enemies of opponents whom he might have conciliated and won over by mild expostulation and patient explanation. It must be urged in extenuation, that, as the champion of unpopular truths, he was assailed unfairly on all sides, and indecently misrepresented and calumniated to a degree, as his friend Sedgwick justly remarks, unprecedented even in the annals of the American press; and that his errors in this respect were, in the main, errors of retaliation.

In the Plaindealer, in common with the leading moral and political subjects of the day, that of slavery was freely discussed in all its bearings. It is difficult, in a single extract, to convey an adequate idea of the character of the editorial columns of a paper, where terse and concentrated irony and sarcasm alternate with eloquent appeal and diffuse commentary and labored argument. We can only offer at random the following passages from a long review of a speech of John C. Calhoun, in which that extraordinary man, whose giant intellect has been shut out of its appropriate field of exercise by the very slavery of which he is the champion, undertook to maintain, in reply to a Virginia senator, that chattel slavery was not an evil, but "a great good."

"We have Mr. Calhoun's own warrant for attacking his position with all the fervor which a high sense of duty can give, for we do hold, from the bottom of our soul, that slavery is an evil,—a deep, detestable, damnable evil; evil in all its aspects to the blacks, and a greater evil to the whites; an evil moral, social, and political; an evil which shows itself in the languishing condition of agriculture where it exists, in paralyzed commerce, and in the prostration of the mechanic arts; an evil which stares you in the face from uncultivated fields, and howls in your ears through tangled swamps and morasses. Slavery is such an evil that it withers what it touches. Where it is once securely established the land becomes desolate, as the tree inevitably perishes which the sea-hawk chooses for its nest; while freedom, on the contrary, flourishes like the tannen, 'on the loftiest and least sheltered rocks,' and clothes with its refreshing verdure what, without it, would frown in naked and incurable sterility.

"If any one desires an illustration of the opposite influences of slavery and freedom, let him look at the two sister States of Kentucky and Ohio. Alike in soil and climate, and divided only by a river, whose translucent waters reveal, through nearly the whole breadth, the sandy bottom over which they sparkle, how different are they in all the respects over which man has control! On the one hand the air is vocal with the mingled tumult of a vast and prosperous population. Every hillside smiles with an abundant harvest, every valley shelters a thriving village, the click of a busy mill drowns the prattle of every rivulet, and all the multitudinous sounds of business denote happy activity in every branch of social occupation.

"This is the State which, but a few years ago, slept in the unbroken solitude of nature. The forest spread an interminable canopy of shade over the dark soil on which the fat and useless vegetation rotted at ease, and through the dusky vistas of the wood only savage beasts and more savage men prowled in quest of prey. The whole land now blossoms like a garden. The tall and interlacing trees have unlocked their hold, and bowed before the woodman's axe. The soil is disencumbered of the mossy trunks which had reposed upon it for ages. The rivers flash in the sunlight, and the fields smile with waving harvests. This is Ohio, and this is what freedom has done for it.

"Now, let us turn to Kentucky, and note the opposite influences of slavery. A narrow and unfrequented path through the close and sultry canebrake conducts us to a wretched hovel. It stands in the midst of an unweeded field, whose dilapidated enclosure scarcely protects it from the lowing and hungry kine. Children half clad and squalid, and destitute of the buoyancy natural to their age, lounge in the sunshine, while their parent saunters apart, to watch his languid slaves drive the ill- appointed team afield. This is not a fancy picture. It is a true copy of one of the features which make up the aspect 'of the State, and of every State where the moral leprosy of slavery covers the people with its noisome scales; a deadening lethargy benumbs the limbs of the body politic; a stupor settles on the arts of life; agriculture reluctantly drags the plough and harrow to the field, only when scourged by necessity; the axe drops from the woodman's nerveless hand the moment his fire is scantily supplied with fuel; and the fen, undrained, sends up its noxious exhalations, to rack with cramps and agues the frame already too much enervated by a moral epidemic to creep beyond the sphere of the material miasm."

The Plaindealer was uniformly conducted with eminent ability; but its editor was too far in advance of his contemporaries to find general acceptance, or even toleration. In addition to pecuniary embarrassments, his health once more failed, and in the autumn of 1837 he was compelled to suspend the publication of his paper. One of the last articles which he wrote for it shows the extent to which he was sometimes carried by the intensity and depth of his abhorrence of oppression, and the fervency of his adoration of liberty. Speaking of the liability of being called upon to aid the master in the subjection of revolted slaves, and in replacing their cast-off fetters, he thus expresses himself: "Would we comply with such a requisition? No! Rather would we see our right arm lopped from our body, and the mutilated trunk itself gored with mortal wounds, than raise a finger in opposition to men struggling in the holy cause of freedom. The obligations of citizenship are strong, but those of justice, humanity, and religion, stronger. We earnestly trust that the great contest of opinion which is now going on in this country may terminate in the enfranchisement of the slaves, without recourse to the strife of blood; but should the oppressed bondmen, impatient of the tardy progress of truth, urged only in discussion, attempt to burst their chains by a more violent and shorter process, they should never encounter our arm nor hear our voice in the ranks of their opponents. We should stand a sad spectator of the conflict; and, whatever commiseration we might feel for the discomfiture of the oppressors, we should pray that the battle might end in giving freedom to the oppressed."

With the Plain dealer, his connection with the public, in a great measure, ceased. His steady and intimate friend, personal as well as political, Theodore Sedgwick, Jun., a gentleman who has, on many occasions, proved himself worthy of his liberty-loving ancestry, thus speaks of him in his private life at this period: "Amid the reverses of fortune, harassed by pecuniary embarrassments, during the tortures of a disease which tore away his life piecemeal, hee ever maintained the same manly and unaltered front, the same cheerfulness of disposition, the same dignity of conduct. No humiliating solicitation, no weak complaint, escaped him." At the election in the fall of 1838, the noble-spirited democrat was not wholly forgotten. A strenuous effort, which was well- nigh successful, was made to secure his nomination as a candidate for Congress. It was at this juncture that he wrote to a friend in the city, from his residence at New Rochelle, one of the noblest letters ever penned by a candidate for popular favor. The following extracts will show how a true man can meet the temptations of political life:—

"What I am most afraid of is, that some of my friends, in their too earnest zeal, will place me in a false position on the subject of slavery. I am an Abolitionist. I hate slavery in all its forms, degrees, and influences; and I deem myself bound, by the highest moral and political obligations, not to let that sentiment of hate lie dormant and smouldering in my own breast, but to give it free vent, and let it blaze forth, that it may kindle equal ardor through the whole sphere of my influence. I would not have this fact disguised or mystified for any office the people have it in their power to give. Rather, a thousand times rather, would I again meet the denunciations of Tammany Hall, and be stigmatized with all the foul epithets with which the anti-abolition vocabulary abounds, than recall or deny one tittle of my creed. Abolition is, in my sense, a necessary and a glorious part of democracy; and I hold the right and duty to discuss the subject of slavery, and to expose its hideous evils in all their bearings,—moral, social, and political,—as of infinitely higher importance than to carry fifty sub- treasury bills. That I should discharge this duty temperately; that I should not let it come in collision with other duties; that I should not let my hatred of slavery transcend the express obligations of the Constitution, or violate its clear spirit, I hope and trust you think sufficiently well of me to believe. But what I fear is, (not from you, however,) that some of my advocates and champions will seek to recommend me to popular support by representing me as not an Abolitionist, which is false. All that I have written gives the lie to it. All I shall write will give the lie to it.

"And here, let me add, (apart from any consideration already adverted to,) that, as a matter of mere policy, I would not, if I could, have my name disjoined from abolitionism. To be an Abolitionist now is to be an incendiary; as, three years ago, to be an anti-monopolist was to be a leveller and a Jack Cade. See what three short years have done in effecting the anti-monopoly reform; and depend upon it that the next three years, or, if not three, say three times three, if you please, will work a greater revolution on the slavery question. The stream of public opinion now sets against us; but it is about to turn, and the regurgitation will be tremendous. Proud in that day may well be the man who can float in triumph on the first refluent wave, swept onward by the deluge which he himself, in advance of his fellows, has largely shared in occasioning. Such be my fate; and, living or dead, it will, in some measure, be mine! I have written my name in ineffaceable letters on the abolition record; and whether the reward ultimately come in the shape of honors to the living man, or a tribute to the memory of a departed one, I would not forfeit my right to it for as many offices as has in his gift, if each of them was greater than his own."

After mentioning that he had understood that some of his friends had endeavored to propitiate popular prejudice by representing him as no Abolitionist, he says:—

"Keep them, for God's sake, from committing any such fooleries for the sake of getting me into Congress. Let others twist themselves into what shapes they please, to gratify the present taste of the people; as for me, I am not formed of such pliant materials, and choose to retain, undisturbed, the image of my God! I do not wish to cheat the people of their votes. I would not get their support, any more than their money, under false pretences. I am what I am; and if that does not suit them, I am content to stay at home."

God be praised for affording us, even in these latter days, the sight of an honest man! Amidst the heartlessness, the double-dealing, the evasions, the prevarications, the shameful treachery and falsehood, of political men of both parties, in respect to the question of slavery, how refreshing is it to listen to words like these! They renew our failing faith in human nature. They reprove our weak misgivings. We rise up from their perusal stronger and healthier. With something of the spirit which dictated them, we renew our vows to freedom, and, with manlier energy, gird up our souls for the stern struggle before us.

As might have been expected, and as he himself predicted, the efforts of his friends to procure his nomination failed; but the same generous appreciators of his rare worth were soon after more successful in their exertions in his behalf. He received from President Van Buren the appointment of the mission to Guatemala,—an appointment which, in addition to honorable employment in the service of his country, promised him the advantages of a sea voyage and a change of climate, for the restoration of his health. The course of Martin Van Buren on the subject of slavery in the District of Columbia forms, in the estimation of many of his best friends, by no means the most creditable portion of his political history; but it certainly argues well for his magnanimity and freedom from merely personal resentment that he gave this appointment to the man who had animadverted upon that course with the greatest freedom, and whose rebuke of the veto pledge, severe in its truth and justice, formed the only discord in the paean of partisan flattery which greeted his inaugural. But, however well intended, it came too late. In the midst of the congratulations of his friends on the brightening prospect before him, the still hopeful and vigorous spirit of William Leggett was summoned away by death. Universal regret was awakened. Admiration of his intellectual power, and that generous and full appreciation of his high moral worth which had been in too many instances withheld from the living man by party policy and prejudice, were now freely accorded to the dead. The presses of both political parties vied with each other in expressions of sorrow at the loss of a great and true man. The Democracy, through all its organs, hastened to canonize him as one of the saints of its calendar. The general committee, in New York, expunged their resolutions of censure. The Democratic Review, at that period the most respectable mouthpiece of the democratic party, made him the subject of exalted eulogy. His early friend and co-editor, William Cullen Bryant, laid upon his grave the following tribute, alike beautiful and true:—

              "The earth may ring, from shore to shore,
               With echoes of a glorious name,
               But he whose loss our tears deplore
               Has left behind him more than fame.

              "For when the death-frost came to lie
               On Leggett's warm and mighty heart,
               And quenched his bold and friendly eye,
               His spirit did not all depart.

              "The words of fire that from his pen
               He flung upon the lucid page
               Still move, still shake the hearts of men,
               Amid a cold and coward age.

              "His love of Truth, too warm, too strong,
               For Hope or Fear to chain or chill,
               His hate of tyranny and wrong,
               Burn in the breasts they kindled still."

So lived and died William Leggett. What a rebuke of party perfidy, of political meanness, of the common arts and stratagems of demagogues, comes up from his grave! How the cheek of mercenary selfishness crimsons at the thought of his incorruptible integrity! How heartless and hollow pretenders, who offer lip service to freedom, while they give their hands to whatever work their slaveholding managers may assign them; who sit in chains round the crib of governmental patronage, putting on the spaniel, and putting off the man, and making their whole lives a miserable lie, shrink back from a contrast with the proud and austere dignity of his character! What a comment on their own condition is the memory of a man who could calmly endure the loss of party favor, the reproaches of his friends, the malignant assaults of his enemies, and the fretting evils of poverty, in the hope of bequeathing, like the dying testator of Ford,

              "A fame by scandal untouched,
               To Memory and Time's old daughter, Truth."

The praises which such men are now constrained to bestow upon him are their own condemnation. Every stone which they pile upon his grave is written over with the record of their hypocrisy.

We have written rather for the living than the dead. As one of that proscribed and hunted band of Abolitionists, whose rights were so bravely defended by William Leggett, we should, indeed, be wanting in ordinary gratitude not to do honor to his memory; but we have been actuated at the present time mainly by a hope that the character, the lineaments of which we have so imperfectly sketched, may awaken a generous emulation in the hearts of the young democracy of our country. Democracy such as William Leggett believed and practised, democracy in its full and all- comprehensive significance, is destined to be the settled political faith of this republic. Because the despotism of slavery has usurped its name, and offered the strange incense of human tears and blood on its profaned altars, shall we, therefore, abandon the only political faith which coincides with the Gospel of Jesus, and meets the aspirations and wants of humanity? No. The duty of the present generation in the United States is to reduce this faith to practice, to make the beautiful ideal a fact.

"Every American," says Leggett, "who in any way countenances slavery is derelict to his duty, as a Christian, a patriot, a man; and every one does countenance and authorize it who suffers any opportunity of expressing his deep abhorrence of its manifold abominations to pass unimproved." The whole world has an interest in this matter. The influence of our democratic despotism is exerted against the liberties of Europe. Political reformers in the Old World, who have testified to their love of freedom by serious sacrifices, hold but one language on this point. They tell us that American slavery furnishes kings and aristocracies with their most potent arguments; that it is a perpetual drag on the wheel of political progress.

We have before us, at this time, a letter from Seidensticker, one of the leaders of the patriotic movement in behalf of German liberty in 1831. It was written from the prison of Celle, where he had been confined for eight years. The writer expresses his indignant astonishment at the speeches of John C. Calhoun, and others in Congress, on the slavery question, and deplores the disastrous influence of our great inconsistency upon the cause of freedom throughout the world,—an influence which paralyzes the hands of the patriotic reformer, while it strengthens those of his oppressor, and deepens around the living martyrs and confessors of European democracy the cold shadow of their prisons.

Joseph Sturge, of Birmingham, the President of the British Free Suffrage Union, and whose philanthropy and democracy have been vouched for by the Democratic Review in this country, has the following passage in an address to the citizens of the United States: "Although an admirer of the institutions of your country, and deeply lamenting the evils of my own government, I find it difficult to reply to those who are opposed to any extension of the political rights of Englishmen, when they point to America, and say that where all have a control over the legislation but those who are guilty of a dark skin, slavery and the slave trade remain, not only unmitigated, but continue to extend; and that while there is an onward movement in favor of its extinction, not only in England and France, but in Cuba and Brazil, American legislators cling to this enormous evil, without attempting to relax or mitigate its horrors."

How long shall such appeals, from such sources, be wasted upon us? Shall our baleful example enslave the world? Shall the tree of democracy, which our fathers intended for "the healing of the nations," be to them like the fabled upas, blighting all around it?

The men of the North, the pioneers of the free West, and the non- slaveholders of the South must answer these questions. It is for them to say whether the present wellnigh intolerable evil shall continue to increase its boundaries, and strengthen its hold upon the government, the political parties, and the religious sects of our country. Interest and honor, present possession and future hope, the memory of fathers, the prospects of children, gratitude, affection, the still call of the dead, the cry of oppressed nations looking hitherward for the result of all their hopes, the voice of God in the soul, in revelation, and in His providence, all appeal to them for a speedy and righteous decision. At this moment, on the floor of Congress, Democracy and Slavery have met in a death-grapple. The South stands firm; it allows no party division on the slave question. One of its members has declared that "the slave States have no traitors." Can the same be said of the free? Now, as in the time of the fatal Missouri Compromise, there are, it is to be feared, political peddlers among our representatives, whose souls are in the market, and whose consciences are vendible commodities. Through their means, the slave power may gain a temporary triumph; but may not the very baseness of the treachery arouse the Northern heart? By driving the free States to the wall, may it not compel them to turn and take an aggressive attitude, clasp hands over the altar of their common freedom, and swear eternal hostility to slavery?

Be the issue of the present contest what it may, those who are faithful to freedom should allow no temporary reverse to shake their confidence in the ultimate triumph of the right. The slave will be free. Democracy in America will yet be a glorious reality; and when the topstone of that temple of freedom which our fathers left unfinished shall be brought forth with shoutings and cries of grace unto it, when our now drooping- Liberty lifts up her head and prospers, happy will be he who can say, with John Milton, "Among those who have something more than wished her welfare, I too have my charter and freehold of rejoicing to me and my heirs."