Abolitionist agitation over the presence of African slavery in the South created the crisis of the Union, and clearly the South only wanted the provisions of the United States Constitution enforced. It should be added that not once was a practical and reasonable scheme of compensated emancipation advanced by abolition societies — only war and destruction satisfied their moral indignation.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Those Who Would Dissolve the Union
“Mr. Randolph thought and expressed the opinion to Mr. [James] Buchanan, that the Anti-Slavery agitation in the North was the only thing that had prevented the passage of a law in the Southern States for gradual emancipation [of slaves].
When the agitation was fairly inaugurated the legitimate uses of the Post-office Department were perverted from their end by packing the mails full of incendiary documents urging our slaves to servile insurrections. General [Andrew] Jackson, on December 2, 1835, recommended that a penalty should be attached to the dissemination of these documents. A bill to restrict the circulation of incendiary matter was introduced and defeated June 8th, by 19 to 25 votes. Not a single New England senator voted for General Jackson’s measure.
From the [Northern] State legislatures, the press, the county meetings, the pulpit, the different societies, no matter what their object, the lecturers, and above all the abolitionists, came this downpour of petitions . . . and those who stood behind this mass of misinterpretation and invective presented it with insulting epithets and groundless accusations.
The petitions prayed for the dissolution of the Union, reviled it as a compact with hell, and left nothing unsaid which could insult a patriotic, law-abiding, humane gentleman from the South.
Daily the Southern men were called on to suspend the legislation of Congress needful to carry on the business of the country, in order to hear themselves insulted by petitions reviling them and their institutions. The legislatures of several [Northern] States prohibited the rendition of fugitive slaves, and the master who demanded his [reciprocal] rights in these States risked his life doing so.
In this state of excitement the Thirty-First Congress met, to deliberate on the needs of the country; but instead, one party fulminated curses and abuse, and the other, under a sense of insult, repelled it with indignation; indeed, the Southern leaders came at last to the conclusion that no people on earth were so alien to them at heart as those who wielded unlawful weapons against them, under the same flag and the same Constitution.
The country was full of English emissaries sent out be the committees of Exeter Hall, who, knowing nothing of either the free men of the South or their slaves, were hired to break up the public peace and amity by those who forgot that their miners and their ten-year old white slaves, harnessed to the coal carts in the depths of the earth, had not excited their attention or appealed so earnestly to their sympathies as did the comfortable Negroes of the South, whose children at that age were as free as air.”
(Jefferson Davis, A Memoir By His Wife Varina Davis, Volume I, N&A Publishing, 1990, pp. 419-422)