**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Elizabeth Van Lew: The Girl Who Risked All That Slavery…
by [?]

And other things were as interesting to her in a different way as the garden was beautiful. Many guests went to and from the hospitable mansion, and the little Northerner saw beautiful women and heard brilliant men talk intelligently on many subjects of vital import, especially on the all-important subject of slavery; of the men who upheld it, of its result to the Union. But more interesting to her than anything else were the slaves themselves, of whom the Van Lews had many, and who were treated with the kindness and consideration of children in a family.

“Of course, it is better for them!” declared Betty. “Everybody who has grown up with them knows that they simply can’t take responsibility,–and yet!” There was a long pause, then Betty added, softly: “And yet, all human beings have a right to be free; I know it; and all the States of the Union must agree on that before there is any kind of a bond between them.”

She spoke like an old lady, her arm leaning on the window-sill, with her dimpled chin resting in her hand, and as the moonlight gleamed across the window-sill, young as she was, in Betty Van Lew’s face there was a gleam of that purpose which in coming years was to be her consecration and her baptism of fire, although a moment later the conversation of the girls had drifted into more frivolous channels, and a coming dance was the all-important topic.

As we know, when Missouri applied for admission into the Union, the slavery question was discussed and finally settled by the so-called “Missouri Compromise” in 1820. Now, in 1849, a new question began to agitate both North and South. Before that time the debate had been as to the abolishing of slavery, but the question now changed to “Shall slavery be extended? Shall it be allowed in the country purchased from Mexico?” As this land had been made free soil by Mexico, many people in the North insisted that it should remain free. The South insisted that the newly acquired country was the common property of the States, that any citizen might go there with his slaves, and that Congress had no power to prevent them. Besides this, the South also insisted that there ought to be as many slave States as free States. At that time the numbers were equal–fifteen slave States and fifteen free. Some threats were made that the slaveholding States would leave the Union if Congress sought to shut out slavery in the territory gained from Mexico.

That a State might secede, or withdraw from the Union, had long been claimed by a party led by John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina. Daniel Webster had always opposed this doctrine and stood as the representative of those who held that the Union could not be broken. Now, in 1850, Henry Clay undertook to end the quarrel between the States, and as a result there was a famous debate between the most notable living orators, Webster, Calhoun, and Clay, and a new compromise was made. It was called the Compromise of 1850, and it was confidently hoped would be a final settlement of all the troubles growing out of slavery. But it was not. With slow and increasing bitterness the feeling rose in both North and South over the mooted question, and slowly but surely events moved on toward the great crisis of 1860, when Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States.

“The Southern States had been hoping that this might be prevented, for they knew that Lincoln stood firmly for the abolition of slavery in every State in the Union, and that he was not a man to compromise or falter when he believed in a principle. So as soon as he was elected the Southern States began to withdraw from the Union, known as the United States of America. First went South Carolina, then Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Then delegates from these States met in Montgomery, Alabama, and formed a new Union which they called the ‘Confederate States of America,’ with Jefferson Davis as its President. Then Texas joined the Confederacy, and events were shaping themselves rapidly for an inevitable culmination.