In the years immediately before the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency and the outbreak of the War Between the States, there was of course much discussion in Congress and the press over the relative merits of abolition and slavery, and whether or not slaveholding states could long bear to remain within the federal Union. At the same time, an eccentric physician from Tennessee, William Walker, made himself the toast of the slaveholding South for his usurpation of the government in the Central American republic of Nicaragua. In 1856, Walker and his fellow filibusters (freebooters) seized power by force and installed themselves in the city of Granada.
Walker remained a self-declared president for a year in Nicaragua while seeking to make Nicaragua a slave state and even eventually petition for admittance to the Union in much the same way Texas was annexed by the United States in 1845. The Central American republics had freed their slaves in 1821 and were in no mood to accept a foreign ruler or enslavement. A coalition of forces from several Central American republics eventually defeated Walker and his men. He was executed by firing squad in 1860, becoming a hero in turn among Southerners. Here follows portions from a speech delivered by Senator Albert Gallatiin Brown on September 11, 1858 at Hazlehurst, MIssissippi, on his justification for extending slavery beyond the Deep South. The institution of slavery, both for Brown and Walker, were essential to their vision of American civilization as an ineluctable force for commerce and industry. To his credit, Brown was a firm advocate of public education, but he was just as firm in conviction that slavery was the essential institution upon which American democracy rested.
"I want Cuba, and I know that sooner or later we must have it. If the worm-eaten throne of Spain is willing to give it for a fair equivalent, well—if not, we must take it. I want Tamaulipas, Potosi, and one or two other Mexican States; and I want them all for the same reason—for the planting and spreading of slavery.
And a footing in Central America will powerfully aid us in acquiring those other states. It will render them less valuable to the other powers of the earth, and thereby diminish competition with us. Yes, I want these countries for the spread of slavery. I would spread the blessings of slavery, like the religion of our Divine Master, to the uttermost ends of the earth, and rebellious and wicked as the Yankees have been, I would even extend it to them.
(Albert Gallatin Brown)
I would not force it upon them, as I would not force religion upon them, but I would preach it to them, as I would preach the gospel. They are a stiff-necked and rebellious race, and I have little hope that they will receive the blessing, and I would therefore prepare for its spread to other more favored lands."
"This brings me to consider, first, what interest we had in the Nicaragua question: and next, which plan, the Walker plan or the Cass-Irissari plan, is most likely to subserve our purposes. First, I assume that we are directly interested, and to a deep extent, in planting a slaveholding state in Nicaragua. We are so, because slavery must go South, if it goes at all. If Walker had been allowed to succeed, he would have planted such a state, and the Southern States would have populated it. It is against our interest to have an anti-slave state planted in our front. We all know that such a state must, sooner or later, come into the Union, and help to swell that hostile power at the North which has already given us so much trouble. And that being in our front, it will stand ready at all times to arrest our progress. The plan for colonizing Central America, as foreshadowed in the Cass-Irissari treaty, is through the agency of the American Transit Company. That company has its headquarters in Wall street and State street. If Central America is ever colonized through its agency, it will, at the same time, be Abolitionized. Of this I have no doubt. I was for Walker, because I thought he was giving us a slaveholding state. I was against Cass and Irissari, because they were giving us an Abolition state."
(Execution of William Walker, 1860)
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