A Burden And A Curse To The White People
William Hayden English of Indiana
United States House of Representatives, January 3 1860

Sir, there is no necessity of any conflict between the two sections; and I trust in God that every movement to excite this conflict, no matter from what quarter it comes, may be put down by the good people of this land, and that they will teach the politicians that the country demands, and will have peace! If the doctrines of the "irrepressible conflict" party should be carried out, it would undoubtedly be destructive of this Confederacy of equal States; but I have faith that, if the conservative men North and South stand together in the Union, these doctrines never will be carried out to any dangerous extent. The success of that party, followed by an enforcement of its doctrines, would inevitably result in its speedy overthrow. The great conservative masses of the North would soon realize that this Republican idea that an irrepressible conflict must go on between the labor systems of the two sections, until one or the other is exterminated, is unfounded, fanatical, dangerous, and completely refuted by the rise, progress, and glory of this nation, and its general domestic tranquility, under the operation of the two systems, united together as they have been since the foundation of the Republic. With one half of the States holding slaves, we have grown to be so prosperous and great as a nation that we challenge the wonder and admiration of the world.

Besides, in Republican minds, the freedom of the negro is inseparably connected with the idea of his right to be clothed with the privileges and immunities of the white man; and hence, wherever Republicanism is firmly established, we see the effort is made to place the two races upon terms of equality. In Massachusetts, which is the embodiment of Republican ideas, negroes may intermarry with whites, may hold office, may send their children to the free schools in common with the whites, may sit on juries in the trial of white persons, and may not only vote at all elections, but are allowed to do so on more favorable terms than the naturalized white man. The same equality exists, I believe, in several other Republican States, and the effort would undoubtedly be made to extend it to all, in the event that party succeeded in establishing itself in power. This would be followed by such a reaction, in some of the free States, as would cause the speedy overthrow of the party. I give it as my opinion that Indiana would not, under any state of circumstances, tolerate a party that favored the elevation of the negro to terms of political equality with the white man. Her whole history and legislation go to confirm that opinion. She has, by constitutional provisions of the most stringent character, and in spite of the leaders of the Republican party, three or four of whom are now members of this House, excluded negroes and mulattoes from coming within her borders at all. We believe that the negroes are inferior by nature, and that whenever they are brought in contact with the white man, they will, in some form or other, be subject to his superior intelligence and will. This is the natural position of the negro, when the two races are compelled to live together. We want nothing to do with them ourselves; but we have no "holy horror" to express because they are held in a state of slavery in the South. They are better off there than they were in Africa; and, if set free, would be too worthless and improvident to take care of themselves, and would become a burden and a curse to the white people near whom they might reside. A neighborhood of free negroes is a great pest in a free State, and, if clothed with all the rights of the whites, I should regard the nuisance as intolerable.

The free and independent white men and women of Indiana will never submit to the degradation of being placed on an equality with the negro; and I believe, if they are driven by the negro equality and irrepressible-conflict-loving doctrines of this sectional party to decide between opening wide the doors of that State for the unlimited ingress of negroes, clothed with the legal right to live on terms of equality with the whites, as they are in Republican Massachusetts, and coming in great multitudes, as they undoubtedly would, or receiving them, in numbers limited to the demand, to be held, within the bounds of judicious and philanthropic restricion, in a state of legal subjection to the white man - I say I believe a majority of the people of Inidana would decide in favor of the latter. Not because they wish it, but as a choice of evils, and under the belief that in so doing they would best subserve the interests of both their own and the negro race. I hope and believe, sir, that no such alternative will ever be presented; but it is well for statesmen to consider what might be the result, in conservative States, of carrying the doctrines of negro equality and the irrepressible conflict to their ultimate and legitimate conclusions.


The Congressional Globe, The Official Proceedings of Congress, Published by John C. Rives, Washington, D. C.
Thirty-Sixth Congress, 1st Session,
New Series...No. 20, Wednesday, January 4, 1860, page 316.