The immigrants from Germany, who had become naturalized here, had, before the attitude of the two great parties toward slavery became clearly defined, instinctively drifted toward the Democratic party, not only because there was a natural charm in the word "Democratic," but also because they found that the Know-Nothing party, which for a few years achieved phenomenal successes principally in the northern states, had been most extensively recruited from the old Whigs.
But when the issue between free labor and negro slavery was once squarely presented, their education and great good sense prompted them at once to take a firm stand on the side of freedom. They had never been able to perceive, why under a free government persons should be held in slavery, the subject of barter and sale like cattle, because their skin was black and their hair wooly. They keenly recognized that labor was degraded by the slave holder at the expense of the free man.
As citizens of this republic, which had become their and their children's fatherland, they appreciated that they, with all the rest of the people, were responsible for its good government; but they did not busy themselves with the niceties of the question of states' rights or state sovereignty, because, in abjuring the allegiance they formerly owed to another sovereign, they had not become citizens of the particular state alone in which they had taken up their abode, but Americans enjoying the protection of that flag which waved over the entire country.
It was also clear to them that in the Fundamental law of the Union no guarantees were expressed either for the protection or extension of slavery, and hence they solved all doubts in their minds as to the law of the case in favor of the inalienable rights of man. Then again the Missouri Compromise had for more than thirty years served as a bulwark against the spread of slavery into the northern territories, and why should this barrier now be ruthlessly broken down in order to admit a hideous institution which made every right-minded man in the country blush with shame?