The Social Conflict of Ages; A Rhyme for the Time (XHTML)
A popular political long poem published by 'the carriers of the Salem Gazette,' on New Years Day, 1857. Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.
The Social Conflict of Ages;
A RHYME FOR THE TIME;
RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED TO THE PATRONS OF THE
BY THE CARRIERS , THEREOF…
This is an annotated text of The Social Conflict of Ages, published by carriers of the Salem Gazette (MA) newspaper in 1857. Original spelling, punctuation and page citations have been retained; minor typographic errors have been corrected.
This electronic edition has been prepared for the
Antislavery Literature Project,
Editorial annotation by Joe Lockard. Digitization by April Brannon. All rights reserved by the Antislavery Literature Project. Permission for non-commercial educational use is granted.
This poem represents a sub-genre of nineteenth-century American poetry written and printed by or in behalf of newspaper apprentices and carriers. They were published primarily for New Years Day and in broadsheet or loosebound editions. The purpose of publishing these poems was to solicit holiday tips and contributions from newspaper subscribers in order to complement the low wages of these workers. This sub-genre frequently addressed current political topics, usually from the perspective of the newspaper’s editorial policy.
The Salem Gazette (1790-1908) was established byThomas Croade Cushing
(1764-1824). Although born in
1857 long poem reviews and opposes the extension of slavery in
— Joe Lockard
The Social Conflict of Ages;
A RHYME FOR THE TIME;
RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED TO THE PATRONS OF THE
BY THE CARRIERS , THEREOF,
On New Year’s Morning,
The "Conflict of Ages" which
In the tome of his twenty years toiling,
The knot Theological sought to unsnarl,
Yet wound in more intricate coiling;—
For that cunning fable, the wise ones have said, 
Just begged the whole question at issue;
While not e'en the clew which bold Thesus saved,
Could guide through its tortuous tissue.
But we have a "Conflict of Ages" to write,
Which equally needs a solution— 
A practical conflict, the timorous fear
May lead to a "Dread" revolution.
In the class of Politico-Moral reforms,
In the realm of the Social, we find it;—
'Tis the struggle of right with merciless might, 
To strike off the shackles that bind it.
From the time when the Hebrews in
And fled from their haughty oppressors,—
From the days when the Plebeians
And died her Patrician possessors,— 
Down through the long ages of darkness and light,
Of Heathen and Christian dominion.
Th' enslaved have e'er sighed for their God-given right
To be free both in act and opinion.
In our own favored land, called "The Land of the Free," 
The scene of our
The struggle of freedom to live and to reign;
Shall furnish the theme of our
For the old rolling year, th' eventful old year,
That many a guerdon hath brought
Hath cast a deep shade o’er the track he hath passed,
And lessons of wisdom hath taught us.
Then lift we the curtain, and pass in review
The scenes that most deeply have moved us,
The deeds of bold emprise, for Right and for Wrong, 
have tried and most signally proved us.
As the canvas unrolls, and presents to your gaze
The light and the shade of the pictures,
We purpose to tell you the meaning of each,
And give you our juvenile strictures. 
Scene first lies in kanzas, by Nature endowed
With a soil of rare richness and beauty,
And a health-giving climate, to tempt and attract
The seekers of homes and of booty.
A few years ago, the red-man
Roamed her broad-spreading prairies and mountains,
And hunted, and fished, and counseled, and smoked,
And drank from her translucent fountains.
But a wave from the Emigrant tide rolled along,
the bosom of sparkling
And the bold pioneer sought a
That might charm a Mohammedan houri.
From the East and the West, the North and the South,
From every quarter and section,
Allured by the promise that
Should give to the Settler protection,
The Artisan, Tradesman, and Husbandman flocked
To this, the broad Continent's centre,
Till the ruffian minions of Slavery's power
Forbade every Freeman to enter. 
Led on by vile
Like Satan, who left his high station,
And backed by the President, viler than he,
With the myrmidon force of the nation,—
The lackeys of Slavery, "the vomit and spew 
Of an uneasy civilization"
Invaded her borders, the settler distressed,
And checked for a time immigration.
The Ballot-Box seizing with violent hands,
By fraud they controlled the elections, 
And forced on the people a Slave-ridden band
To legislate Slavery's perfections!
And such legislation—(Lord, save the foul mark!)
As the Bogus Assembly ordained,
The annals of Heathendom never disgraced, 
Nor the code of the Despot e'er stained!
The digest of death will most fitly express
The laws of this sham Legislature—
Death or the Dungeon to him who maintains
That all men are free men by Nature. 
With scorn and contempt for these infamous acts,
These "bulls" from debased Shawnee Mission,
Each freeman in Kanzas, still bound to be free,
Refuses to yield them submission.
Then rageth the "Conflict" of Right against Might, 
With a Slave-hunting, Vandal banditti,
Who, led by Stringfellow, and Atchison, & Co.,
Infest every township and city.
In his "own cabin home," his workshop or field,
At peace with his peace-loving
Unprepared for attack, the settler they found
In demonic fury they hunted him down,
With bowie-knife, pistol and dagger,
His property pillaged, and menaced his life 
With fiend-like and insolent swagger.
They lynched the
A score, for the criminal reason
That love of sweet Freedom inspired their breasts,
Which the Slave-Power had branded as "treason." 
Their Presses they seized, and sank 'neath the wave
These Types of Archimedes Lever—
Four Offices levelled, the Editors mobbed,
And bade them quit Kanzas forever.—
The Register first, the Luminary next, 
The Herald of Freedom succeeded;
And lastly the Tribune their vengeance received,
For these had for
They marched against
Equipped with "Sam's" rifles and cannon; 
Its treasures they pillaged, its buildings consumed,
Unchecked by weak Governor Shannon.
Nay; true to the Minotaur Slavery's behest,
And thirsting for blood, more than treasure,
They murder our freemen with fiendish delight, 
And torture their loved ones with pleasure.
Newman, and Collins, and Stewart, and Brown,
And Dow, and young Jones, and James Barbour,
Are shot down like brutes, while their murderers find
With their fellows protection and harbor! 
Not only for these are our sympathies moved,
And others, in martyr graves sleeping;
But, sadder than all, for Buffum's sad death
We join in the general weeping.
Yet how nobly he goes to his premature grave, 
While grief for his stiff 'ring unmans us!—
"I am willing to die," the Patriot says,
"For the triumph of Freedom in Kanzas!"
Thus Outrage, and Plunder, and Murder abound,
Tyranny's rule co-extensive, 
While the people are forced to forsake their pursuits,
And act on the purely defensive.
Their arts and their trades therefore languish the while,
And the soil which the husbandman
For all must be watchful to save their effects 
From the talons of Slavery’s vultures.
So the Reign of Oppression in Kanzas goes on,
her dwellers with sorrow;
Tilt the bright star of Hope the promise unfolds
That Peace shall return on the morrow. 
The canvas unwinds. The proud Halls are in view
Some theme of vast import their counsels portend,
For the dome of her Capitol trembles!
The Wrongs of fair Kanzas, just partially sketched, 
The mightiest minds are reviewing,
Again, in a fiercer and deadlier strife,
The "Conflict of Ages" renewing.
Whose towering form is that, do you ask,
That rivets the gaze of all others, 
Like Chatham and Burke, when in Parliament Halls
They plead for their tyrannized brothers?
'Tis our own chosen Sumner, with Athenian grace,
a pure and classical diction,
Unfolding 'THE CRIME,' with a keenness which shows 
That Fact is far stranger than
Since those Titans of Eloquence, Webster and Hayne,
No voice like brave Sumner's has treated so well
The cause of his countrymen's quarrels. 
The Great Speech is spoken. The Great Orator now
Returns to his desk and his writing;
Some eloquent subject, that crowds on his brain,
His eloquent pen is inditing.
An adjournment is made; and Sumner's compeers, 
Who just from the Hall have retreated,
Leave the Hero of Freedom, unwearied with toil,
At his labors still quietly seated.
But look ye! and mark how that Brooks sneaks along,
That vile latet anguis in herba! 
"Uncle Butler," says he, with a cravenly air,
"Won't like your ipsissima,
You've insulted his State, and I will avenge
The words which I take in high dudgeon!"
So saying, the villain, with cowardly haste, 
His victim assails with a bludgeon.
The murderous blows on the Senator's head
With violence follow each other,
As the bully displays all the malice with which
His prototype, Cain, slew
his brother. 
This wanton assault on the Freedom of Speech
Arouses the North to her danger;
The "honorable" South commends the dark deed,
Though Brooks is to "honor" a stranger.
Brave Wilson now springs to his colleague's defence, 
With dauntless and statesman-like bearing—
Denounces the act and the actors alike,
And scorns all their bluster and daring.
And Burlingame, too, with true lion heart,
Beards the bristling dog in his kennel; 
And when he accepts the brute's challenge to fight,
The cur sneaks away to his kennel.
With arrogant flaunt, and insolent speech,
Brooks claims to be Slavery's Hero;
Don't question his title, but give his his place 
With Caligula, Galba, and Nero!
This gallant defence of "the rights of the South,"
His constituents land with a relish,
Which shows the foul spirit that Slavery begets
To be always and every where hellish. 
Ovations and honors are paid him at home
By gentlemen, matrons, and misses,
And misguided fair ones of chivalric blood
Salute his smooth visage with kisses!
And presents are made him (most fittingly, too,) 
Of Canes, by the dozen or hundred;
Perchance they intended the irony here—
But, if not, they into it blundered!
Whenever these emblems of fratricide blows
Engage his dispassioned reflection, 
They'll torture his conscience, if conscience he has,
With woes for his guilty deflection.
Our last scene’s before you;—more grand in extent,
As from Ocean to Ocean it reaches;
But grander than all, in Philosophy’s view, 
Is the Moral its history teaches.
The Goddess of Liberty, exiled from Greece,
And by Rome only treasured in story,
Our Fathers enshrined on Columbia’s soil,
As America’s Genius and glory. 
With emulous pride their sons have e’er toiled
In the love of mankind to exalt her,
And true-hearted Patriots, prizing their trust,
Devotions have paid her at her alter.
With the Scales of Equality evenly poised, 
The Sword of true Justice she beareth;
Ev'ry Art of sweet Peace, that her reign can protect,
The smile of Prosperity weareth.
But the Genius of Slavery—tutelar saint
Of Indolence, Pelf, and Oppression— 
Suspicious of Liberty's wide-spreading power,
On her realm waged a war of aggression.
Not boldly, at first; for her devotees then
Admitted her reign to be evil,
And begged the forbearance of Liberty's friends, 
Till Time should "exorcise the devil."
But, nurtured and fed in the warm, sunny South,
The viper increased in dimensions,
Till insatiate lust of dominion and rule
The Union embroiled in dissensions. 
The wrongs and the sorrows by Kanzas endured,
The murd'rous assault in the Senate,
Already have shown us the practical fruits
Of enforcing the Slavery tenet.
For Central America, and Cuba's fair isle, 
The Southrons now lustily clamor;
More States they must have, where the image of God
Shall be sold 'neath the auctioneer's hammer.
No matter if Spain is unwilling to cut
Her Cuban possession asunder; 
They want it—and if she won't sell it for cash,
Why, the South will then have it by plunder!
But lovers of God and their own fellow-men,
Abhorring such venal propension,
Resist the base purpose, and boldly declare 
A war against Slavery Extension.
The "Conflict of Ages" thus opens anew—
The combatants marshal their forces;
Slavery enlists her Tartarean posters—
Liberty, her Moral resources, 
This "Line" on the canvas, uneven but bold,
From Eastward to Westward extending,
The Political Equinox ‘twixt North and South,—
Divides the great parties contending.
The Chieftains have each, in their councils of war, 
Prepared for a vig'rous contention—
The one to do battle for Liberty's rights,
The other, for Slavery Extension.
The Fourth of November now hastens apace,
—A day to be ever remembered— 
When the army of Slavery must conquer the field,
Or the Union shall then be dismembered!—
For redoubtable Hotspurs, in all the Slave States,
With Freedom ne'er holding communion,
Had sworn, if her banners in triumph should wave, 
The South would step out of the Union!
The day-star arose; and the gallant Fremont
Led Liberty's hosts to the battle;
Unflinching they charged on the powerful foe,
And swelled the sharp musketry's rattle. 
"So close was the contest, and wide-spread the fight,
That long the result was disputed;
Both claim'd that triumphant they march'd from the field,
And the vict'ries of both were saluted.
Still the Nation discusses the "fortunes of war"— 
The problems continue to haunt it:
Shall Liberty's banner e'er wave o'er the land,
Or the blackflag of Slavery supplant it?
But the Union "still lives," and ever will live,
When the Platform of Slavery's forgotten; 
The seeds of decadence inhere in its make,
For its timbers already are rotten.
Not e'en that illusion, so pregnant with fear
To Choate in his mental inversion,
"Th’ excess and the outbreak of Virtue," (not Vice!) 
Can compass the Union's subversion.
Then courage, ye Freemen! The day is yet ours—
The Dragon is mortally wounded;
The bugle that called us to "war with the beast,"
The death-knell of Slavery sounded. 
E'en Douglas has caught a faint glimpse of the truth,
In the slough of his moral declension,
That millions of Freemen, all over the land,
Are hostile to Slavery Extension.
When the knights of the dark "Institution" proclaimed 
The barb'rous but cognate position,
That servitude vile, for black man and white,
Is the Laborer's "normal condition"
They aroused in their midst a long-depressed foe,
Whose resentment has filled them with terror; 
Already the signs of a gathering storm
Are waking these "lords" to their error.
Then watch ye, and pray ye, and work with your might,
So the crime shall not always degrade us;
And wise men, and good men, in all the broad earth, 
And God and good angels, will aid us.
Vigilance Eternal is Liberty's price—
And is she not worthy her hire?
Then "strike" for her birth-right to live and to reign,
Till her last arm-ed foe shall expire. 
The day will yet dawn when our sons shall enjoy
Liberty and Union together;
And then the glad shout shall exultingly swell,
LIBERTY AND UNION FOREVER!