The Great Union Mass Meeting



Delivered at the Great Union Mass Meeting held at Springfield, Illinois, September 3d, 1863.

Col. John Dougherty, the President of the meeting, in response to a call from the crowd, then addressed them. Col. D. spoke for about one hour, in a masterly manner, but we have only space to give a few of his leading points. He said, dark and lowering had been the clouds hovering over our country. Deep and damning had been the stab which the enemies of the country had inflicted upon free institutions; but he thanked God that the evil designs of bad men had finally been frustrated, and that the light of other and better days was dawning upon us. He thanked God that he was privileged to meet here to-day the venerable Cyrus Edwards, [who was upon the stand,] McClernand and thousands of other life-long Democrats. He was a Democrat, and whenever men associated that name with Copperheadism and treason, he denounced and execrated them. He denounced Vallandigham, Wood and their evil co-workers in treason, as fiends and traitors. When these men claimed to be Democrats, they simply stole the livery of Heaven to serve the devil in.

Col. D. gave some scraps of history connected with troublous times of 1833, when Old Hickory had to grapple with the demon of secession. Then, as now, there was but two parties — loyal men and traitors. Whigs and Democrats stood side by side, in defense of the country against traitors. They sustained and defended the Government. They did not care who was President. They were willing that General Jackson should suspend the habeas corpus, if necessary. They were willing and anxious, in particular, that he should suspend the traitors. And when he intimated his desire to do so, if they did not return to their loyalty, everybody cried "Amen." Those were the days of patriotism. As the Whigs in 1833 stood by the Government and a Democratic President, so he would now stand by the Government and the President. He did not support Lincoln, but, before God, he believed there had not been a more honest and patriotic President since the days of Washington. He thanked God that Abraham Lincoln was President — he was just the man for the occasion and he would stand by him and the measures of his administration until the last day. He knew the honesty of his heart and the purity and patriotism of his intentions. He is battling for liberty, for self-Government, for civilization, for humanity, for Christianity, and that brings us together against any bonds that party can bind us with. And he would say to Abraham Lincoln, "Go on, vindicate the right, though you have to do it in oceans of blood."

Col. D. then discussed at some length the President's Emancipation Proclamation, and gave it his hearty endorsement. The vital question, he said, was whether we at the North, the hardy sons of toil, should be slaves that the South might continue to domineer over, or assert our God-given rights, like men conscious of our power and the justice of our cause. When this question was presented to him, he would say, "Go to the infernal regions with your slaves." He objected to the proclamation only upon one point. It was too merciful — that was the only fault he had to find with it. Instead of inviting the rebels back, with all their rights, it should have compelled them to return as did the Prodigal Son, begging only to be taken back as hired servants; and when they had finally cast off their rags and filth, he would receive them, although entirely unworthy. He knew there were many men at the North, claiming to be Democrats, who were ready to bow their necks to the yoke of the slave-drivers, but he was not the man to do it. He had done with them forever.

The speaker then discussed at considerable length, and with much ability, the Proclamation from a constitutional stand point. He also spoke of the first assault upon Sumter, defended by Major Anderson and his fifty-six compatriots, by Beauregard and his 8,000 traitors, and with guns and ammunition stolen from the Federal Government, by the thief Floyd. A just God would be sure to rain down his vengeance upon Charleston, that infernal nursery-bed of rebellion; and He has already commenced the work. Col. D. also spoke of the first hard fought battle on the Mississippi — at Belmont — in the early part of the war. When the information of that sharp and bloody contest, in which the prowess of Western arms was fully vindicated, he rushed to Cairo, and met Grant Logan, McClernand and their compatriots, when they came from that field of sweat and blood. He saw the confidence and determination on their faces, and knew these heroes in the future would prove invincible, and that the rebel hosts would fall before them as grass before the mower.

The late Illinois Legislature were a disgrace to humanity. Its members were a God-defying, a constitution-violating set of scoundrels. The Constitution of the United States provides that no State shall make treaties or form alliances with any other State or power. Yet these Copperheads — this vile scum of treason — appointed ministers plenipentiary to visit other States that were in rebellion against the General Government, and endeavor to form treaties and alliances against the General Government, when it was fighting for its life. The scoundrels had not the temerity to publicly engage in their mission — although some of them did, privately, like sneaks — but their intent to commit treason was none the less manifest, and was none the less deserving the punishment due to traitors.

The Copperhead concern, which assembled in this city on the 17th of June last, declared the "further offensive prosecution of the war" was in violation of the Constitution; but the war would be prosecuted offensively so long as there was a Copperhead at the North or a traitor in the field, and the men who passed that resolution must stand out of the way, or they would be ground to powder.

We were to-day working out the antagonism, between free and slave labor. The policy of the slave States is to force from their borders every man who does not own a score of negroes to make way for the introduction of slave labor. The policy of the free States is to encourage free labor. Take our State of Illinois. Even now, you will find an average of four or five voters, on every forty acres of soil. With this growth of freemen, Illinois, three years ago, offered the two leading candidates for the Presidency, and one of them was elected. Thus was she developing, in an antagonism between free and slave labor, the superiority of the forms. This condition of our State is the will of Almighty God; and thus he shapes the affairs of earth, and will work out the destiny of popular government, and destroy the strongholds of wrong and oppression.

He had told his Democratic friends day after day that we owed all to our country, no matter who was President, and the Copperheads called him a d—d Abolitionist. He had always been fighting the Abolitionists and the epithet grated upon his ear. He at first felt disposed to go out and pommel them, but he finally concluded he had a better work to do. He cared less for the name now than he once did: and all the men who thus denounced him might go to Pluto's regions.

There were men whom he used to know as poverty's most prominent disciples, whom he saw now clothed in broadcloth and fine linen. He had heard it intimated that the money came from the French and British Governments, and he thought the intimation might be true.

After discussing many other points, with great power and ability, Col. D. closed with an eloquent appeal to his fellow countrymen, and more particularly to his fellow Democrats, to stand firm, be united, and, if the devil comes to you in the shape of a Copperhead, and whispers doubt and detraction in your ear, thrust him aside; and if any man on board the great ship of state attempts to interrupt the officers and crew in their efforts to save her from the rocks and shoals, cast him overboard, and throw no buoy to save him from the dark waters of oblivion. There are but two sides to-day — stand on the right side. On one side the President is the pilot; stand by him, and history will embalm your names with widows' and orphans' blessings until time shall be no more.

Col. Dougherty spoke for nearly one hour. — His speech — of which, of course, the above is but a few of his leading points — was continually ratified by the warm plaudits of the audience, and at the close was endorsed with six hearty cheers.