Browsing "Antebellum Realities"

Southern Statesmen Save the Union

The final breakup of the union of States in 1861 was preceded by over 80 years of conflict and compromise, and it was Southern statesmen who most often tried valiantly to save the confederation of the Founders. Just as colonial New England frequently antagonized England with its independently-minded maritime fleet, it often threatened secession and independence from the United States as it viewed its own interests as paramount to any other.  The infamous Hartford Convention of New England Federalists seriously entertained secession in late 1814, and espoused States’ rights doctrines.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Statesmen Save the Union

“The period from the ratification of the treaty of peace to the adoption of the Constitution has been called the critical period of American history; and the first year of that period was scarcely less critical than the last, the year in which, to use a familiar evangelistic expression, the Constitution was hair-hung and breeze-shaken over the bottomless pit.

It is scarcely to be doubted that at that time [1784] the New Englanders in particular seriously contemplated the dissolution of Congress and the abandonment of the union of the thirteen States.

At such a time, when the bands of union were slipping, the centrifugal forces were everywhere running amuck, it was Thomas Jefferson who conceived the idea that the preservation of a “visible head” of the government was of supreme importance, lest, with the disappearance of even a symbol of the union, all faith and hope in a more perfect union should likewise perish; and it was the Southern members of Congress, nobly aided by Pennsylvania alone, who strove with might and main to combat the threatened peril.

Again, when men of the North would have hog-tied and bound the West and have delivered it into permanent subjection to the East, it was Southern statesmen, more than any others, who strove to establish the principle that the West should be carved into self-governing States, having equal rights in the union with the original thirteen.

Once more, in that long and hard-fought contest over the free navigation of the Mississippi River, when the North would have sold that American birthright for a mess of Spanish turnip greens and them frostbitten, it was Southern statesmen who saved the West to itself and to the nation.

During the contest over the navigation of the Mississippi . . . the forces of disunion again began slithering through the East. In the late summer of 1786 [James] Monroe was alarmed to discover that, in the very shadow of Congress, an intrigue was asquirm, the design of which appeared to be the disruption of the existing union and the creation of a Northern confederation that would extend, if possible, as far southward as the Potomac.

The scheme may have died a-borning . . . At all events there are grounds for suspicion that it was the same infant, waxed a bit stronger, that was exhibited at Hartford in 1814.”

(Southern Statesmen and the Confederation, Edmund Cody Burnett, North Carolina Historical Review, Volume XIV, Number 4, October 1937, NC Historical Commission, excerpts, pp. 357-359)

 

Southern Manners and Personal Integrity

Antebellum Southern concepts of manners and personal honor set a very high standard in education with the logical expectation that this would result in a more enlightened society and government.  Even code duello was seen to have a “decorous influence” on manners, as it made men careful in their conduct toward each other through personal honor and accountability.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Manners and Personal Integrity

“[The official historian of the University of Virginia noted that the bulk of pre-Civil War graduates] . . . were of “the planting class.” Analysis of their post-college careers and modes of life led him to say that they were men who “kept alive in their country homes that loyal devotion to family, that chivalrous respect for womanhood, that considered tenderness for weakness, that high recognition of the claims of hospitality, that reverence for religion, and that quick sensitiveness upon all questions of personal integrity and honor, which they had inherited from their fathers.”

The cult of manners in the Old Dominion was so intertwined with the concepts of personal honor and integrity that all appeared part of a single theme. The diary notes of a young Virginian, attending VMI, contained the following passage, inserted as a kind of conclusion to the entries for the year 1842. It was set off in quotation marks:

“Among the many branches of education, that which tends to make deep impressions of virtue ought to be a fundamental object in a well-regulated government. For depravity of manners will render ineffectual the most salutary laws; and in the midst of opulence, what other means to prevent such depravity, but only a virtuous discipline?”

In this climate of opinion, with its emphasis on manners and personal integrity, the famous “Honor System” of American academic life first appeared. The founders were two professors at the University of Virginia; George Tucker, romantic litterateur before his appointment to the chair of moral philosophy; and his relative, Henry St. George Tucker, distinguished jurist before settling at Charlottesville as a teacher of law.

Judge Tucker submitted the epochal resolution to the faculty in 1842 that, at all future written examinations, the students should certify on their honor the receiving of no improper assistance. Later, this pledge was extended to include the imparting as well as the accepting of aid.

While visiting Richmond in 1853, Frederick Law Olmsted observed the importance of the cult of manners there. He added this observation to his travel diary, “In manners, I notice that between man and man, more ceremony and form is sustained in familiar conversations than well-bred people commonly use at the North.”

(Romanticism in the Old South, Rollin G. Osterweiss, LSU Press, 1971, excerpt, pp. 87-88)

Santa Anna Popular Up North

The Mexican War saw the sectional divide widen further as abolitionists and their allies in the North asserted that this was “simply a Southern plot to bring more slave States into the Union.” As New England sided with the enemy during the War of 1812 by selling them supplies and threatened to secede and form a separate republic, they would side with the enemy in 1846. The contingent of Americans fighting with the Mexicans noted below were the “San Patricios,” Irish Catholic immigrants in the US Army who refused to fight against Mexican Catholics. Those captured were executed for treason.  Ohio Senator “Black Tom” Corwin denounced the war in Congress and was summarily hung in effigy near Buena Vista by Ohio troops. They first dressed his likeness in a Mexican uniform.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Santa Anna Popular Up North

“Daniel Webster flung his oratory into caustic criticism of the war and he was abetted by fanatics like [Charles] Sumner. Soon, drinking of this heady fire water, Northern newspapers were fulminating against [President James] Polk and the continuance of the war. This was one of the few wars waged by the United States in which the enemy was popular.

Black Tom Corwin said that American soldiers in Mexico should be welcomed by “hospitable graves,” and a whole nightmare school of literature sprang up. Some papers called for European intervention. One said editorially: “If there is in the United States a heart worthy of American liberty, its impulse is to join the Mexicans.” Another said: “It would be a sad and woeful joy, but a joy nevertheless, to hear that the hordes of Scott and Taylor were every man of them swept into the next world.”

Santa Anna, the rascally Mexican commander, became a hero in Boston and New York, and there was even a contingent of Americans who fought with the Mexican army.”

(Merchants of Death, A Study of the International Armament Industry, H.C. Engelbrecht & F.C. Hanighen, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1934, excerpt, pp. 28-29)

Early Southern Concerns of Northern Domination

The ratification of the Constitution was a difficult and contentious process, and those in the American South saw it primarily to the benefit of the North. Rawlins Lowndes declared in South Carolina’s 1788 convention that he was satisfied with the Articles of Confederation, and assailed the Constitution because it would lead to monarchy, and that Northern majorities in Congress would cause injury to South Carolina’s interests.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Early Southern Concerns of Northern Domination

“It is a little strange, but the textbooks in general American history and political science used in American colleges and universities do not say that ratification of the Constitution was opposed in the South on sectional as well as other grounds. This even though the historians of Virginia have pointed out time and time again that fears for Southern interests played a most important role in the convention of 1788 of that State.

Perhaps the narrators of the nation’s history, being often Northerners, are not acquainted with the chronicles of the Old Dominion. Perhaps they are not so familiar even with their Jefferson as they would have us believe, for Jefferson declared that the struggle over ratification was sharper in the South than elsewhere – because of the fact that Southerners believed the Constitution did not offer sufficient protection against Northern domination.

Perhaps they have relied too much upon the Federalist Papers, which refer only briefly, although pointedly, to Southern sectionalism, saying that failure to put the Constitution into effect would probably lead to the formation of a Southern confederacy.

George Mason, sending to Northern Anti-federalists arguments against the Constitution, carefully omitted his Southern dissatisfactions, which would hardly have given strength to the enemies above the Mason-Dixon line. In Virginia he was ardent, and in Virginia the great decision regarding the Constitution was made. The issue was long doubtful in the Old Dominion; and had Virginia said nay, North Carolina would have persisted in her negative vote.

It is hardly necessary to say that an American union without the two States could hardly have been formed, could hardly have endured.”

(The First South, John Richard Alden, LSU Press, 1961, excerpt, pp. 99-100)

Southern Plan of Gradual Emancipation

Many influential persons in the antebellum South promoted an end to the colonial labor system inherited from the British, and truly sincere New England abolitionists could easily have assisted in devising a compensated emancipation solution as Britain had done in the 1840s. Also, had New England cotton mills and Manhattan banks not accepted slave-produced cotton or ceased planter-expansion loans, slavery might have ended peacefully.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Plan of Gradual Emancipation

“Pioneers in the struggle for public schools in Virginia were Henry Ruffner, president of Washington College, and his son William Henry Ruffner, who in 1870 became the first superintendent of public instruction in Virginia.

[The elder] Ruffner was a man of much native ability. Through private study he became distinguished for his scholarship, literary talent and eloquence. He was appointed professor in Washington College in 1819 and was made president in 1836, in which position he served until 1848.

Ruffner was an early advocate of the gradual emancipation of the slaves and published a pamphlet in 1847, entitled “An Address to the People of West Virginia; shewing that slavery is injurious to the public welfare, and that it may be gradually abolished, without detriment to the rights and interests of slaveholders.” This address was delivered before the Franklin Society in Lexington, Virginia, at the request of John Letcher (afterwards “War Governor”) and others.

Ruffner made an analysis of slavery from the standpoint of a slaveholder, showing the evils of the system, not only to the slaves, but to their masters as well, pointing out the wastefulness of the system, the advances that had been made by the free States in population, wealth, and education as compared with the slave States since the Revolution, and the isolation that slavery had brought to the South.

It was a powerful argument against slavery and proposed a method for its abolition. Free from religious, fanatical or sentimental cant, it was a dispassionate, economic analysis of a system to which he himself belonged.”

(Universal Education in the South, Charles W. Dabney, Volume I, UNC Press, 1936, excerpt, pp. 81-82)

“What Should the South Do?”

The following December 1859 editorial of the Wilmington (North Carolina) Daily Herald asks its readers “What Shall the South Do” after the Harper’s Ferry attack by John Brown, later found to be armed and financed by wealthy abolitionists.  The open warfare between North and South in Kansas had moved eastward, and the South questioned why their Northern brethren were unable to contain murderous zealots of their section. The Daily Herald was edited and published by Alfred Moore Waddell, descendant of US Supreme Court Justice Alfred Moore and Revolutionary General Hugh Waddell. A staunch Unionist editor, Waddell followed his State into the Confederacy and served as Lieutenant-Colonel of the Third North Carolina Cavalry.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

What Should the South Do?”

“The chief actor in the affair at Harper’s Ferry has expiated his crime upon the gallows. Old Brown has been hanged. What will be the result of this enforcement of the law? Will the effect be salutary upon the minds of the Northern people? Have we any reason to suppose that it will cause them, for one moment only, to pause and reflect upon the course they have persistently followed towards the South and her institutions?

It is useless to disguise the fact, that the entire North and Northwest are hopelessly abolitionized. We want no better evidence than that presented to us by their course in this Harper’s affair. With the exception of a few papers (among them we are proud to notice that sterling Whig journal, the New York Express), that have had the manliness to denounce the act as it deserved, the great majority have either sympathized with the offenders, or maintained an ominous silence.

Let us look calmly at the case: A sovereign State [Virginia], in the peaceful enjoyment of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, has been invaded by an armed force, not foreign mercenaries, but citizens of the same Confederacy, and her people shot down in the public highways. The question is a natural one — Why is this thing done? Why is murder and rapine committed? — And who are the perpetrators? — The answer is found in the fact, that the State whose territory has thus been invaded, is a Southern State in which the institution of slavery exists according to the law and the gospel; and the actors in the terrible drama were but carrying out the precepts and teachings of our Northern brethren.

The “irrepressible conflict” between the North and the South then, has already commenced; to this complexion it must come at last. It is useless to talk of the conservatism of the North. Where has there been any evidence of it? Meetings upon meetings have been held for the purpose of expressing sympathy for murderers and traitors; but none, no, not one solitary expression of horror, or disapprobation even, for the crime committed, have we yet seen from any State North of Mason & Dixon’s line.

And yet they claim to be our brethren, speak the same language, worship the same God. We yield to none in our veneration for the Union, but it is not the Union, now, as our Fathers bequeathed it to us. Then, the pulse that throbbed upon the snow-capped mountains of New Hampshire, vibrated along the Gulf and the marshes of the Mississippi; then, there was unison of feeling, brotherly kindness and affection, and the North and the South, in friendly rivalry, strove together how they could best promote the general welfare.

Now, all is changed. Do you ask why? Watch the proceedings of Congress, read the publications that are scattered by the North broadcast over the country, listen to the sentiments expressed at nearly all their public gatherings. The stereotyped cry, that these things are the work of fanatics only, will no longer answer; but if it be so, then fanaticism rules the entire North; for what has been the result of the elections held during the past summer?

Ask Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, — ask Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, and even the great State of New York; — all, all, have given in their adhesion to the “higher law” principle, and the mandate for “irrepressible conflict.” Do these things indicate affection, brotherly kindness, Union? There can be no union without affection, — there can be no Union unless this aggressive policy of the North is stopped.

We confess that we look forward with gloomy apprehension towards the future. If Congress fails to apply the remedy, then it behooves the South to act together as one man — ship our produce direct to Europe, — import our own goods, — let the hum of the spinning-wheel be heard in our homes, as in the days of the Revolution, — manufacture our own articles of necessity or luxury, and be dependent upon the North for — nothing.

If such a course does not produce a different state of affairs, then set us down as no prophet; if such a course does not cause the Conservatives of the North to give some tangible evidence of their existence, then we must of necessity conclude, that that principle has no lodgment in their midst.”

(“What Shall the South Do?”- editorial, Wilmington Daily Herald, 5 December 1859)

 

 

A Slow and Gradual Method of Cure for Slavery

Writer Timothy Flint travelled the Mississippi Valley in the early 1800’s and his recollections were published in 1826. After witnessing firsthand the conditions on plantations, Flint cautioned patience and gradualism to erase the stain of slavery in the United States as the fanatic abolitionists would be incautious and rash in their bloody resolution to the question. This underscores the unfortunate fact that abolitionists advanced no practical and peaceful solutions to the matter of slavery in the United States. Only war to the knife.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Slow and Gradual Method of Cure for Slavery

“[Prior to Northern slavery agitation], The Southern people were beginning to esteem and regard the northern character. The term “yankee” began to be a term rather of respect than reproach.

It is easy to see how soon this will all be reversed, if we incautiously and rashly intermeddle in this matter. Let us hear for a moment, the Southern planter speak for himself, for I remark that if you introduce the subject with any delicacy, I have never yet heard one, who does not admit that slavery is an evil and an injustice, and who does not at least affect to deplore the evil.

[The Southern planter] says, that be the evil so great, and the thing ever so unjust, it has always existed among the Jews, in the families of the patriarchs, in the republics of Greece and Rome, and that the right of the master in his slave, is clearly recognized in St. Paul; that it has been transmitted down through successive ages, to the colonization of North America, and that it existed in Massachusetts as well as the other States.

“You,” they add, “had but a few. Your climate admitted the labour of the whites. You freed them because it is less expensive to till your lands with free hands, than with slaves. We have a scorching sun, and an enfeebling climate.  The African constitution can alone support labour under such circumstances.

We of course had many slaves. Our fathers felt the necessity, and yielding to the expediency of the case. They have entailed the enormous and growing evil upon us. Take them from us and you render the Southern country a desert. You destroy the great staples of the country, and what is worse, you find no way in which to dispose of the millions that you emancipate.”

If we [of the North] reply, that we cannot violate a principle, for the sake of expediency, they return upon us with the question, “What is to be done? The deplorable condition of the emancipated slaves in this country is sufficient proof, that we cannot emancipate them here.

Turn them all loose at once, and ignorant and reckless as they are of the use and value of freedom, they would devour and destroy the subsistence of years, in a day, and for want of other objects upon which to prey, would prey upon one another. It is a chronic moral evil, the growth of ages, and such diseases are always aggravated by violent and harsh remedies.  Leave us to ourselves, or point out the way in which we can gently heal this great malady, not at once, but in a regimen of years. The evil must come off as it came on, by slow and gradual method of cure.”

In this method of cure, substitutes would be gradually found for their labor. The best modes of instructing them in the value of freedom, and rendering them comfortable and happy in the enjoyment of it, would be gradually marled out. They should be taught to read, and imbued with the principles, and morals of the gospel.

Every affectionate appeal should be made to the humanity, and the better feelings of the masters. In the region where I live, the masters allow entire liberty to the slaves to attend public worship, and as far as my knowledge extends, it is generally the case in Louisiana. In some plantations they have a jury of Negroes to try offences under the eye of the master, as judge, and it generally happens that he is obliged to mitigate the severity of their sentence.”

(Recollections of the Last Ten Years in the Valley of the Mississippi, Timothy Flint; George Brooks, editor, Southern Illinois University Press, 1968, pp. 246-249)

Wade Hampton Teaches Racial Tolerance

Astutely recognizing the new political reality in postwar South Carolina, Wade Hampton hoped to build a harmonious political relationship between the two races based upon mutual trust and affection. With the Radical rejection of Andrew Johnson’s moderate Southern policy toward the conquered South, no chance of racial harmony in the South was possible. While the Radicals and carpetbaggers looted the South and incited race war, discrimination and Jim Crow laws continued in the North.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Wade Hampton Teaches Racial Tolerance

“Hampton told of an incident before the war when he and his family were in Philadelphia. At the train station he purchased tickets, including two for the black servants travelling with them.

The ticket agent informed Hampton that his servants would not be allowed in the same car, as, Pennsylvanians “did not like to ride with Negroes.” Hampton protested. He had been required to pay full price for their tickets, “and one of them is the nurse of my children.” The agent still refused.

The slave master from South Carolina was out of patience with Philadelphia prejudice. “I told him that I had paid their fare,” recounted Hampton, “that I thought them good enough to ride with me, and therefore quite good enough to ride with his fellow citizens, and that they should get into my car. So I brought them in and kept them there.”

(Wade Hampton, Confederate Warrior, Conservative Statesman, Walter Brian Cisco, Brassey’s, excerpt, pp. 185-186)

Citizens of the States

John C. Calhoun noted that the claim of supremacy by the federal government “will be scarcely denied by anyone conversant with the political history of the country.” He then asked “what limitation can possibly be placed upon the powers of a government claiming and exercising such rights.” The case of State citizenship prior to the War, which few denied and which caused Southern men to view supreme allegiance to their particular States, is one that changed in 1865. Afterward, the central government viewed all as citizens of the United States, a revolutionary legal definition with no basis in the United States Constitution. As an example of State subordination to federal domination, the word “state” is not capitalized as it once was.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Citizens of the States

“The Senator from Delaware (Mr. Clayton), as well as others, has relied with great emphasis on the fact that we are citizens of the United States. I do not object to the expression, nor shall I detract from the proud and elevated feelings with which it is associated; but I trust that I may be permitted to raise the inquiry:

In what manner are we citizens of the United States without weakening the patriotic feeling with which, I trust, it will ever be uttered?

If by citizen of the United States he means a citizen at large, one whose citizenship extends to the entire geographical limits of the country, without having local citizenship in some State or territory, a sort of citizen of the world, all I have to say is, that such a citizen would be a perfect nondescript; that not a single individual of this description can be found in the entire mass of our population.

Notwithstanding all the pomp and display of eloquence of the occasion, every citizen is a citizen of some State or territory, and, as such, under an express provision of the constitution, is entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and it is in this, and in no other sense, that we are citizens of the United States.

The Senator from Pennsylvania (Mr. Dallas), indeed, relied upon that provision in the constitution which gives Congress the power to establish [a] uniform rule of naturalization; and the operation of the rule actually established under this authority, to prove that naturalized citizens are citizens at large, without being citizens of any of the States.

I do not deem it necessary to examine the law of Congress upon this subject . . . though I cannot doubt that he (Mr. D.] has taken an erroneous view of the subject.

It is sufficient that the power of Congress extends simply to the establishment of a uniform rule by which foreigners may be naturalized in the several states or territories, without infringing, in any other respect, in reference to naturalization, the rights of the States as they existed before the adoption of the constitution.”

(Union and Liberty: the Political Philosophy of John C. Calhoun; Ross M. Lence, editor, Liberty Fund, 1992, excerpt, pp. 443-444)

Emancipation and Repatriation

The American Colonization Society organizers below were well-aware of the origins of the slavery they detested – the avarice of the British who planted their colonial labor system on these shores, though opposed by colonial legislatures – and the perpetuation of the slave-trade by New England merchants.  They knew as well that should a naval force not be positioned off Africa’s coast, those New England merchants would prey upon the newly-emancipated in Liberia.  Note the predominance of Southern men in the Society.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Emancipation and Repatriation

“On December 28, 1816, the colonizers assembled in the hall of the House of Representatives. The constitution drafted by [Francis Scott] Key and his colleagues was adopted; and thus was founded the American Colonization Society. The constitution declared the purpose of the society to be the promotion of “a plan for colonizing (with their consent) the Free People of Colour residing in our country, in Africa, or such other place as Congress shall deem expedient.”

The organization of the Society was perfected on January 1, 1817 with the election of officers. Justice Bushrod Washington (kin of George) was elected president.

The following Vice-Presidents were then selected: Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford of Georgia; Speaker [Henry] Clay of Kentucky; William Phillips of Massachusetts; former Governor John Eager Howard, Samuel Smith and John C. Herbert of Maryland; Colonel Henry Rutgers of New York; John Taylor of Virginia; General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee; Attorney General Richard Rush and Robert Ralston of Pennsylvania; General John Mason of the District of Columbia; and Reverend Finley . . . the first name on the board of managers was that of Francis S. Key.

The lawyers, clergymen, members of Congress, and other public men, who organized the American Colonization Society were idealists. Their aim was to eradicate slavery without causing political or economic violence. Statesmen from the North and South were able to stand together on the platform of the Society.

According to some historians, the colonizers were “idealists with troubled consciences.”  Patrick Henry cried . . . “I am drawn along by the inconvenience of living without them. I will not, I cannot justify it . . . Slavery is detested; we feel its fatal effects — we deplore it with all the pity of humanity. But is it practicable, by any human means, to liberate them without producing the most dreadful and ruinous consequences?”

The more practical business men of the country sneered at the scheme. The cold and calculating John Quincy Adams criticized the idea as absolutely visionary. The critics doubted whether the free Negroes would be willing to leave the United States for tropical Africa; and even if they did, whether they would be able to govern themselves after they arrived there.

But the colonizers were not discouraged. They believed that as their purpose was humane it had the approval of Providence, and that if they persevered they would meet with success in the end. They also . . . [believed that] the deported blacks would take with them what they had learned in America and would found in Africa a free and happy commonwealth.

Fortunately [Virginian] James Monroe, who succeeded Mr. Madison in the presidential chair on March 4, 1817, gave his endorsement to the plan of colonization. And in a year or two representatives of the American Colonization Society were on their way to Africa with instructions to explore the west coast of the Dark Continent and to select a location for a colony for the free blacks of America.

Before long auxiliary colonization societies were formed in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York . . . Early in 1818 the people of Baltimore contributed several thousand dollars to the cause, and the Legislature of Maryland requested the Governor to urge President Monroe and the members of Congress to negotiate for a colony in Africa by cession or purchase. Similar resolutions were adopted by the Legislatures of Virginia, Tennessee, and other States.

As a result of the pleas of the friends of colonization, the Congress, on March 3, 1818, passed an act directing the United States Navy to capture all African slaves found in the possession of American slave-traders, and empowering the President to appoint agents on the coast of Africa to receive, shelter, feed, clothe, and protect the slaves so captured.

The passage of this law brought cheer to Francis Scott Key and his associates. It meant the cooperation of the United States Government. The coast of Africa was lined with slavers; and without the aid of the Navy the little colony would be at their mercy.”

(Francis Scott Key, Life and Times, Edward S. Delaplaine, Biography Press, 1937, excerpts, pp. 198-201)

 

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