Giddings for Peace, Part Four

Joshua Giddings (Free Soil-OH)

Joshua Giddings (Free Soil-OH)

Original Stealing Cuba: parts 123456

Giddings for Peace: parts 1, 2, 3

Joshua Giddings stood in the House to oppose Franklin Pierce’s warmongering over the Black Warrior affair. After most of a page about how the Spanish authorities acted in compliance with their own laws, just as American authorities had done, how Pierce broke with convention to editorialize in answer to a simple request for documents, and how he had the effrontery to lecture the House about how to do its business and how it ought to view American honor, Giddings came to the real heart of the matter. Pierce insisted that late events in Cuba, not just the matter of a seized steamer, amounted to

the adoption of a policy threatening the honor and security of these States

Wait, what? Honor maybe, but what did Cuba do that threatened American security? It did comment the Florida Strait, a major artery, but Spain had not closed the strait or even harassed traffic within it. Madrid’s men in Havana seized only a single ship then docked there. So what threat?

Every member within the sound of my voice knows its meaning. The policy of Cuba, as it is now known and read of all men, is a “progress towards civilization; it is the emancipation of her slaves, an effort to strike off the shackles of her bondmen, and to allow them to stand forth clothed with the attributes of humanity.” That is the policy which the President considers as “threatening the honor and security of these States.” He then, in the last paragraph, advises a preparation for war. This, then, is the policy which we are called upon to guard against, and to involve ourselves in war, to prevent which we are to resort to by arms, to the last dreadful resort of battle and deadly strife. In order to preevent the progress of civilization and freedom in Cuba we must prepare to send our countrymen to premature graves. Our freemen are therefore to die that Cuban slaves may continue to sigh and groan in chains.

Given the panic over Cuba’s Africanization program and the obvious motives of the filibusters, with Pierce’s encouragement, who could argue with Giddings? A strike against Cuba would mean a strike to save Cuban slavery. Giddings naturally brought it back to the other great issue before the Congress at the same time:

The President calls for authority to resist these encroachments upon the barbarous institution of slavery in Cuba. He no longer holds to non-intervention; that only applies to Nebraska; but in Cuba he will interfere to maintain slavery, at the point of the bayonet, at the expense of our blood, our treasure, and our honor.

If Congress should keep its filthy, interfering, strife-causing hands off slavery in Nebraska, where it had full authority and jurisdiction, then why must it lay those same hands on slavery in Cuba where it had neither?

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