The South More Cheated Than Conquered
The enemies of the American South fought to preserve a fraternal Union which no longer existed, and forced that South under despotic Northern rule with bayonets. The North’s politicians claimed that the Southern States had not left the Union and only had to send its representatives back Washington — and all would be as before. The following is an excerpt from Senator B.H. Hill’s 18 February 1874 address to the Southern Historical Society in Atlanta.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
The South More Cheated than Conquered
“[The] Northern States and people were not satisfied with [slavery abolished throughout the South]. The war being over, our arms surrendered, our government scattered, and our people helpless, they now determined not only to enlarge the issues made by the war and during the war, but they also determined to change those issues and make demands which had not before been made . . . they now made demands which they had, in every form, declared they could have no power or right to make without violating the Constitution they had sworn to support, and destroying the Union they had waged war itself to preserve.
Over and over during the war they proclaimed in every authoritative form to us and to foreign governments, that secession was a nullity, that our States were still in the Union; and that we had only to lay down our arms, and retain all our rights and powers as equal States in the Union.
We laid down our arms, and immediately they insisted our States had lost all their rights and powers in the Union, and while compelled to remain under the control if the Union, we could only do so with such rights and powers as they might accord, and on such terms and conditions they might impose.
Over and over again during the war they, in like authoritative forms, proclaimed that our people had taken up arms in defense of secession under misapprehension of their purposes toward us, and that we only had to lay down our arms and continue to enjoy, in the Union, every right and privilege as before the mistaken act of secession.
We laid down our arms and they declared we were all criminals and traitors, who had forfeited all rights and privilege, and were entitled to neither property, liberty or life, except through their clemency!
Over and over again during the wat they, in like authoritative forms, proclaimed that the seats of our members in Congress were vacant, and we had only to return and occupy them as it was both our right and duty to do.
Our people laid down their arms and sent on their members, and they were met with the startling proposition that we neither had the right to participate in the administration of the Union, nor even to make law or government for our own States!
Addressing this Society in Virginia, during the last summer, Mr. (Jefferson) Davis said: “We were more cheated than conquered into surrender.”
The Northern press denounced this as a slander, and some of our Southern press deprecated the expression as indiscreet! I aver tonight, what history will affirm, that the English language does not contain, and could not form a sentence of equal size which expressed more truth. We were cheated not only by our enemies; but the profuse proclamations of our enemies, before referred to, were taken up and repeated by malcontents in our midst – many of them too, who had done all in their power to hurry our people into secession.
Oh, my friends, we were fearfully, sadly, treacherously, altogether cheated into surrender! If the demands were made, after the war was over, had been frankly avowed while the war was in progress, there would have been no pretexts for our treacherous malcontents; there would have been no division or wearying among our people; there would have been no desertions from our armies, and there would have been no surrender of arms, nor loss of our cause. Never! Never!”
(Southern Secession and Northern Coercion, the Spitefulness of Reconstruction, Senator Benjamin H. Hill, Society for Biblical and Southern Studies, 2001 (original 1874), pp. 9-11)