Browsing "Bringing on the War"

Disunionists of the North

The demented John Brown has been described as a political assassin, one who desires “not simply to murder, but also to attract attention – to incite and terrify as many people as possible.” This new type of assassin was praised through skillful propaganda by Northern journalists and hailed by some as a hero of the people. After Southerners learned of the wealthy Northerners who financed and abetted Brown’s terrorism, they realized they were in political Union with an enemy who sought their destruction and took appropriate measures.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Disunionists of the North

“At Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in the fall of 1859, Herman Melville beheld “the portent,” the murderous raid that proved to be “the meteor of the war.” For the majority of Northern Americans, John Brown was no hero; he was an incendiary abolitionist.

Boston, New York, Philadelphia all held large public rallies, called “Union meetings,” to denounce and disown him. To be for “the Union” in 1859, it should be recalled, was to be against anti-slavery agitation and anti-Southern politics, so much so that the Republicans took to deprecating those who attended or spoke at such meetings as “Union savers,” an epithet denoting someone who spent to much energy worrying about the future of the union and not enough worrying about the electoral success of the Republican party.

Nathaniel Hawthorne famously wrote of Brown’s execution that “no man was more justly hanged.” That was Philadelphia’s sentiment too. Henry M. Fuller rebuked those Northerners who were treating Brown as a hero and martyr. “We have no sympathy with that modern hero-worship which exalts crime and deifies a felon, which sends comfort, counsel and material aid to the cell of a homicide, encouraging treason and justifying murder.”

John C. Bullitt charged that Brown was the bitter fruit of decades of incendiary abolitionism and anti-Southern rhetoric. “The man must be blind indeed who does not see in it the legitimate fruits of seeds that have been sown, and which have been most industriously cultivated, by certain classes of people until they have germinated in this mad attempt.”

Brown “but was working out practically what for years has been promulgated in various parts of the North, in many newspapers, from the pulpit, and the hustings. What has Virginia done to deserve to be attacked by an armed band of zealots? “She has but maintained her institutions as handed down from the men who framed the government.”

Edward King said that the Southern States were asking for nothing except that the Northern States abide by the Constitution and keep their part of the federal compact, which they “entered into after full deliberation and reflection.” Instead of that, they were “repudiating the Constitution and its concessions, denouncing the domestic institutions of our sister States, calumniating their citizens, instigating in their midst domestic insurrection and revolt, organizing political parties on the basis of interfering with their institutions, and denying their equal, unqualified rights in the common territories of the Union.”

Such conduct was “fast sweeping us into the dark abyss of dissolution and consequent civil war.” Charles Ingersoll too warned that “if this antislavery madness goes on, the Union must be dissolved,” and “with the termination of the partnership, comes the same day, civil war.” He fears it will be a ferocious one, “the most tremendous the world has ever seen.”

(Philadelphia Against the War, Arthur Trask, Northern Opposition to Mr. Lincoln’s War, D. Jonathan White, editor, 2014, Abbeville Institute Press, pp. 247-249)

Becoming a Great National Consolidated Democracy

On February 19, 1847, Senator John C. Calhoun stated that “the day that the [political] equilibrium between the two sections of the country . . . is destroyed is a day that will not be far removed from political revolution, anarchy, civil war, and widespread disaster.” On the next day he said: “We know what we are about, we foresee what is coming, and move with no other purpose but to protect our portion of the Union from the greatest of calamities . . . ”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Becoming a Great National Consolidated Democracy

“But while [territorial acquisition, immigration and political representation] measures were destroying the equilibrium between the two sections, the action of the government was leading to a radical change in its character, by concentrating all the power of the system in itself.

[It] would not be difficult to show that the process commenced at an early period of the government, and that it proceeded, almost without interruption, step by step, until it absorbed virtually its entire powers . . . That the government claims, and practically maintains, the right to decide in the last resort, as to the extent of its powers, will scarcely be denied by any one conversant with the political history of the country.

That it also claims the right to resort to force to maintain whatever power it claims, against all opposition, is equally certain. Indeed, it is apparent, from what we daily hear, that this has become the prevailing and fixed opinion of a great majority of the community. Now, I ask, what limitation can possibly be placed upon the powers of a government claiming and exercising such rights?

And, if none can be, how can the separate governments of the States maintain and protect the powers reserved to them by the Constitution, or the people of the several States maintain those which are reserved to them, and, among others, the sovereign powers by which they ordained and established not only their separate State Constitutions and governments, but also the Constitution and government of the United States?

But, if they have no constitutional means of maintaining them against the right claimed by this government, it necessarily follows that they hold them at its pleasure and discretion, and that all the powers of the system are in reality concentrated in it. It also follows that the character of the government has been changed in consequence from a federal republic, as it originally came from the hands of the framers, into a great national consolidated democracy.

It has indeed, at present, all the characteristics of the latter, and not one of the former, although it still retains its outward form.”

(The Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1903, pp. 178-179)

The Fort on South Carolina's Sovereign Soil

When South Carolina resumed its full sovereignty through the consent of their citizens in December 1860, the United States soldiers in Charleston Harbor became foreign troops and should have been recalled by their government.  To refuse to abandon the forts caused South Carolina to forcibly eject them as they were then hostile military forces threatening the political independence of that State.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Fort on South Carolina’s Sovereign Soil

“For well over one hundred years, uninformed and liberal historians and others have charged South Carolina with starting the Civil War when the shore batteries at Charleston fired on the Federally-held Fort Sumter in the bay. These writers have stated that this fort was the property of the federal government. This statement is false.

On March 24, 1794, the US Congress passed an act to provide for the defense of certain ports and harbors of the United States. The sites of forts, arsenals, navy yards and other public property of the federal government were ceded or assigned by the States within whose limits they were, and subject to the condition, either expressed or implied, that they should be used solely and exclusively for the purpose for which they were granted. The ultimate ownership of the soil, or eminent domain, remains with the people of the State in which it lies, by virtue of their sovereignty.

South Carolina, in 1805 by legislative enactment, ceded to the United States in Charleston Harbor and on the Beaufort River, various forts and fortifications and sites for the erection of forts. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts enacted the same in its legislature in 1836. New York State, in granting the use of the site for the Brooklyn Navy Yard says: “The United States are to retain such use and jurisdiction so long as said tract shall be applied to the defense and safety of the city and port of New York and no longer . . .” The cession of the site of Watervliet Arsenal was made on the same terms.

It has been said by many historians that these sites were purchased outright by the federal government. This is also false. The Act of 1794 clearly states, “that no purchase shall be made where such lands are the property of the State.”

When General George B. McClellan and his federal army of 112,000 men landed on the tip of the Virginia peninsula April12, 1862 and occupied Fortress Monroe, this action verified the Southern charge of Northern aggression.

A State withdrawing from the union would necessarily assume the control theretofore exercised by the general government over all public defenses and other public property within her limits. The South, on the verge of withdrawal (from the union) had prepared to give adequate compensation to an agent of the Northern government for the forts and other public works erected on the land. Therefore, three commissioners from South Carolina, one from Georgia, and one from Alabama were sent to Washington to negotiate for the removal of federal garrisons from Southern forts.

The commissioners, all prominent men, were Messrs. Robert W. Barnwell, James H. Adams, and James L. Orr of South Carolina; Martin Crawford of Georgia, and John Forsythe of Alabama, and arrived in Washington on the 5th of March.

On March 12th they addressed an official communication to Mr. [William] Seward, Secretary of State, explaining their functions and their purpose. Mr. Seward declined to make any formal recognition of the commissioners, but assured them in verbal conferences of the determination of the government at Washington to evacuate Fort Sumter; of the peaceful intentions of the government, and that no changes in the status prejudicially to the Confederate States were in contemplation; but in the event of any change, notice would be given to the commissioners.

The commissioners waited for a reply to their official communication until April 8th, at which time they received a reply dated March 15th by which they were advised that the president had decided not to receive them, nor was he interested in any proposals they had to offer. During this time the cabinet of the Northern government had been working in secrecy in New York preparing an extensive military and naval expedition to reinforce the garrison at Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.

As they had tried to deceive the people of the North and South in January 1861 with the Star of the West [expedition to Sumter], loaded with troops and ammunition, the radical Republicans again advised the press that this mission was also a mission of mercy for the garrison of Fort Sumter, and on April 7th the expedition set sail southward bound loaded with troops and arms.

At 2PM, April 11, 1861, General Beauregard demanded that Major Anderson of Fort Sumter evacuate the works, which Anderson refused to do. At a little after 3AM, General Beauregard advised Major Anderson that “in one hour’s time I will open fire.”  At 4:40AM, from Fort Johnson the battery opened on Fort Sumter, which fire was followed by the batteries of Moultrie, Cummings Point and the floating battery.

At this time a part of the federal naval force had arrived at the Charleston bar, but strange to say, Captain Fox, after hearing the heavy guns of the bombardment decided that his government did not expect any gallant sacrifices on his part, and took no part in the battle. On April 13 after the Confederate guns had reduced Sumter to a smoking heap of ruin, Major Anderson surrendered, with no loss of life on either side.

[Reverend R.C. Cave said in 1894] “On one side of the conflict was the South led by the descendants of the Cavaliers, who with all their faults had inherited from a long line of ancestors a manly contempt for moral littleness, a high sense of honor, a lofty regard for plighted faith, a strong tendency for conservatism, a profound respect for law and order, and an unfaltering loyalty to constitutional government.”

Against the South was arrayed the power of the North, dominated by the spirit of Puritanism which, with all its virtues, has ever been characterized by the pharisaism which worships itself, and is unable to perceive any goodness apart from itself, which has ever arrogantly held its ideas, its interests, and its will, higher than fundamental law and covenanted obligations; which has always “lived and moved and had its being, in rebellion against constituted authority.”

(Not Civil War But Northern Agression, Lewis P. Hall, Land of the Golden River, Vol. II, Hall’s Enterprises, 1980, pp. 77-78)

Lincoln's Duplicity at Fort Sumter

The land ceded to the federal agent at Washington for forts, arsenals and yards by individual States were intended for the protection, not destruction, of the States they were located in. If a fort was to be used by that agent for a warlike purpose against a State, it is obvious that State would immediately eject the federal employees. Lincoln in early 1861 sent spies to Charleston to gather intelligence before he commenced war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Duplicity at Fort Sumter

“There are many matters of interest and importance connected with the firing upon Fort Sumter which are not generally mentioned in our American histories. These are given in some detail in Dr. H.A. White’s “Life of Robert E. Lee.” Such information is essential to an understanding of the whole subject of the beginnings of the sectional conflict.

“. . . It will be an advantage for the South to go off,” said H.W. Beecher. After the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln there was a strong current opinion in the North that the Federal troops should be withdrawn from the Southern forts. President Lincoln’s “organ,” the National Republican, announced that the Cabinet meeting of March 9 had determined to surrender both Sumter and Pickens.

That [Major Robert] Anderson would be withdrawn from Sumter “was the universal opinion in Washington (Rhodes, U.S., vol. iii, p. 332). Welling, of the National Intelligencer, was requested by [William] Seward to communicate the Cabinet’s purpose to George W. Summers, member of the Virginia Convention (The Nation, Dec. 4, 1879). March 15 Secretary Seward unofficially notified the Confederate Commissioners, through Justice Campbell of the Supreme Court, that Sumter would be yielded at once to the Southern Confederacy.”

“. . . March 24 brought Colonel Ward H. Lamon of Washington to Fort Sumter. He obtained permission from Governor Pickens to visit Major Anderson upon the representation that he had come as “confidential agent of the President,” to make arrangements for the removal of the garrison. The impression produced upon Major Anderson by Lamon, as well as upon the officers and men of the garrison, was that the command was to be withdrawn.” Lamon informed Governor Pickens “that the President professed a desire to evacuate the work.” After Lamon’s return to Washington he sent a written message to Pickens, that he “hoped to return in a very few days to withdraw the command.”

(The Women of the South in War Times, Matthew Page Andrews, editor, Norman, Remington Company, 1920, pp. 59-60)

Fort McHenry's Guns Turned on Baltimore

The commandant of historic Fort McHenry in 1861 simply followed orders from his superiors to turn his guns on Maryland citizens, though military officers are sworn to defend the United States Constitution and know when not to obey orders contrary to that document.  The land was ceded by Maryland and the fort was constructed to defend Baltimore from its enemies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fort McHenry’s Guns Turned on Baltimore

“On Saturday, April 20, Captain John C. Robinson, now a Major-General, then in command of Fort McHenry, which stands at the entrance to the harbor, wrote to Colonel L. Thomas, Adjutant-General of the United States Army, that he would probably be attacked that night [by Baltimore citizens], but he believed he could hold the fort.

[Robinson stated] that about nine o’clock on the evening of the 20th, Police Commissioner Davis called at the fort, bringing a letter dated eight o’clock of the same evening, from Charles Howard, the president of the board . . . that from rumors that had reached the board, they were apprehensive that the commander of the fort might be annoyed by lawless and disorderly characters approaching the walls of the fort, and they proposed to send a guard of perhaps two hundred men to station themselves on Whetstone Point, of course beyond the outer limits of the fort . . . a detachment of the regular militia of the State, then called out pursuant to law, and actually in the service of the State.

“. . . then the following conversation occurred:

Commandant: I am aware sir, that we are to be attacked to-night. I received notice of it before sundown. If you go outside with me you will see we are prepared for it. As for the Maryland Guards, they cannot come here. I am acquainted with some of those gentlemen, and know what their sentiments are.

Commissioner Davis: Why Captain, we are anxious to avoid a collision.

Commandant: So am I sir. If you wish to avoid a collision, place your city military anywhere between the city and that chapel on the road, but if they come this side of it, I shall fire on them.

Commissioner Davis: You would fire into the city of Baltimore?

Commandant: I should be sorry to do so, sir, but if it becomes necessary in order to hold this fort, I shall not hesitate for one moment.

Commissioner Davis (excitedly): I assure you Captain Robinson, if there is a woman or child killed in that city, there will not be one of you left alive here, sir.

Commandant: Very well, sir, I will take the chances. Now, I assure you Mr. Davis, if your Baltimore mob comes down here to-night, you will not have another mob in Baltimore for ten years to come, sir.”

His interview was not, however, confined to Captain Robinson, but included other officers of the fort . . . A junior officer threatened, in case of an attack, to direct fire of a cannon on the Washington monument, which stands in the heart of the city, and to this threat Mr. Davis replied with heat, “If you do that, and if a woman or child is killed, there will be nothing left of you but your brass buttons to tell who you are.”

(Baltimore on the 19th of April, 1861, George William Brown, Johns Hopkins Press, 2001, pp. 67- 69)

Lack of Northern Devotion to the Union

The North’s incessant slavery agitation caused the South’s peaceful secession from the Union in 1861, though this did not warrant a war waged against it. When eleven States seceded from the Articles of Confederation, Rhode Island and North Carolina did not wage war to bring the eleven back into that Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lack of Northern Devotion to the Union

“As, then, the North has the absolute control over the government, it is manifest that on all questions between it and the South where there is a diversity of interests, the interest of the latter will be sacrificed to the former, however oppressive the effects may be, as the South possesses no means by which it can resist, through the action of the government.

[The] relation between the two races in the Southern section [constituted] a vital portion of her social organization . . . [and] Every portion of the North entertains views and feelings more or less hostile to it. Those most opposed and hostile regard it as a sin, and consider themselves under the most sacred obligation to use every effort to destroy it . . . While those who are least opposed and hostile regard it as a blot and a stain on the character of what they call the nation, and feel themselves bound to give it no countenance and support.

On the contrary, the Southern section regards the relation as one which cannot be destroyed without subjecting the two races to the greatest calamity, and the section to poverty, desolation, and wretchedness, and accordingly feel bound, by every consideration of interest and safety, to defend it.

This hostile feeling on the part of the North . . . long lay dormant, but it only required some cause to act on those who felt most intensely that they were responsible for its continuance to call it into action. The increasing power of this [federal] government, and of the control of the Northern section over all its departments, furnished the cause. This was sufficient of itself to put the most fanatical portion of the North in action, for the purpose of destroying the existing relation between the two races in the South.

The first organized movement towards [slavery agitation] began in 1835. Then, for the first time societies were formed, presses established, lecturers sent forth to excite the people of the North, and incendiary publications scattered over the whole South, through the mail. [By Congress refusing to hear antislavery petitions] . . . That was the time for the North to have shown her devotion to the Union; but unfortunately both of the great parties of that section were so intent on obtaining or retaining party ascendancy that all other considerations were overlooked or forgotten.

With the success of their first movement, this small fanatical party began to acquire strength, and with that, to become an object of courtship to both the great parties. The necessary consequence was a further increase of power, and a gradual tainting of the opinions of both of the others parties with their doctrines, until the infection has extended over both, and the great mass of the population of the north, who, whatever may be their opinion of the original abolition party . . . hardly ever fail [to] cooperate in carrying out their measures.

Instead of being weaker, all the elements in favor of abolition are stronger now than they were in 1835, when it first commenced, while all the elements of influence on the part of the South are weaker. Unless something decisive is done, I again ask, what is to stop this agitation . . . if something is not done to arrest it, the South will be forced to choose between abolition and secession? Indeed, as events are now moving, it will not require the South to secede, in order to dissolve the Union. Agitation will of itself effect it, of which its past history furnishes abundant proof . . .”

(The Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1903, excerpts, pp. 180-187)

From Eli Whitney to Southern Nationalism

Prior to Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney’s gin of the mid-1790s, cotton cultivation was a labor-intensive and unprofitable operation. The gin led to New England’s cotton mills which needed slave-produced cotton and Manhattan banks offering low-interest loans to planters for expansion into the new territories. This perpetuated slavery in the South, and kept employed the African brought to America in the holds of New England slavers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

From Eli Whitney to Southern Nationalism

“Except in the rice districts, Southern opinion by 1795 was turning very definitely against slavery and the antagonism was based, not on humanitarian, but on economic grounds. The overwhelming majority of the 2,000,000 Southern people [were] agricultural, and Charleston and Baltimore were the only towns of more than 10,000 population.

But slave labor could be profitably employed only in the production of staples, and of the two staples in the South, rice was restricted to a very narrow area. Tobacco could be grown as far south as the Piedmont of Georgia and South Carolina, but by 1795 its cultivation was unprofitable in the tidewater on account of soil exhaustion and in the back county because of lack of transportation facilities.

Unless the South could find a new staple slavery would be doomed, or else the South would be forced into an extensive program of soil fertilization and internal improvements to aid the tobacco grower.

What happened was that the South obtained a new staple through the invention of the cotton gin. Cotton quickly took its place as a staple complementary to tobacco, not competitive, for the two crops were radically different in their soil and climatic requirements.

The first conquests of “King Cotton” were the upland regions of South Carolina and Georgia, the inhabitants of which had hitherto eked out an unsatisfactory existence by cattle-raising, by a production of food crops, and by a desultory cultivation of tobacco. This was followed by a demand for new lands which resulted in cotton extending its area of cultivation to the Mississippi as tobacco had already done.

It is evident from the number of slaves that Mississippi Territory was a planting community from the beginning. Cotton, in fact, had been cultivated by the Indians even before the Revolution, and the United States had in 1801 established a gin for them on the upper Tombigee at a place which thereafter was called Cotton Gin Port.

Two new States of the cotton kingdom adopted constitutions differing in many respects from those of the eastern States from which their people were drawn. Neither Alabama or Mississippi had a property qualification for voting, both elected their governors as well as their legislatures by popular vote, and both apportioned their legislatures on the basis of free white inhabitants. In all, the cotton kingdom had a population of 1,000,000 of which nearly one-half was slave.

Prior to 1820 South was an indefinite term which could only be defined, if defined at all, as the region inhabited by Southerners. Southerner could only be defined as meaning one descended from the colonial settlers below [Mason and Dixon’s] line. But the controversy over the admission of Missouri gave new meaning to these terms. It reduced the South to the limits of slavery and intensified within those limits the sentiment of unity among the people.

This new intensified feeling of unity deserves to be called [Southern] nationalism rather than sectionalism inasmuch as it was based on sentiment rather than interest. After 1820 there existed among the people of the South a “consciousness of kind” and a feeling of aloofness from the people of the North. They felt, and continue to feel, themselves a separate people: the other people of the United States they consider as aliens.

That the Missouri controversy resulted in the creation of Southern nationalism is clear . . . If northern unanimity [against slavery then] was due to a devotion to principle, it must be conceded that the devotion was of sudden growth for there is no indication of any deep-seated anti-slavery feeling in the North prior to this time.

The Northern States, to be sure, had either outlawed slavery or “put it in the course of ultimate extinction,” but their action had been the result of economic realism rather than of moral indignation. The attack on slavery was perhaps designed for the purpose of forcing Southern congressmen to give up Texas. The northeast wished to surrender Texas, not because Texas was Southern, but because it was Western; the jealousy of the East toward the West was the result of conflicting interests and had often been displayed in our early history.

(The Old South, R.S. Cotterill, Arthur H. Clark Company, 1939, pp. 108-109; 117; 125-126; 142-145)

Lincoln's War Against Right, Reason, Justice and Nature

Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens asked for what reason the North arrayed its armies against the South, and why the North denies the spirit and essence of Jefferson’s Declaration to them. Stephen’s said the struggle for independence by the South was not Lincoln’s “idle and absurd assumption of the existence of a riot which was to be dispersed by a posse comitatus,” but the birth of a new American republic with the consent of the governed, and a more perfect American union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s War Against Right, Reason, Justice and Nature

In a speech delivered during the second year of the war, [Mr. Stephens] said:

“The States South had done nothing but what was their right – their inalienable right to do, the same as their ancestors did, in common with the North, when they severed their connection with the British Government.

This war was waged by the North in denial of this right, and for the purpose of conquest and subjugation. It was therefore, aggressive, wanton, and unjust. Such must be the judgment of mankind, let its results be what they may. The responsibility, therefore, for all its sacrifices of treasure and blood, heretofore and hereafter to be made in its prosecution, rests not upon us.

What is all this for? Why this array of armies? Why this fierce meeting in mortal combat? What is all this carnage and slaughter for? Why the prolongation of this conflict? Why this lamentation and mourning going up from almost every house and family from Maine to the Rio Grande, and from the Atlantic and Gulf to the Lakes, for friends and dear ones who have fallen by disease and violence in this unparalleled struggle?

The question, if replied from the North, can have but one true answer. What is all this for, on their part, but to overturn the principle upon which their own Government, as well as ours, is based – to reverse the doctrine that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed?”

What is it for but to overturn the principles and practice of their own Government from the beginning? That Government was founded and based upon the political axiom that all States and peoples have the inalienable right to change their form of government at will.

This principle was acted on in the recognition by the United States of the South American republics. This principle was acted on in the recognition of Mexico . . . the struggle of Greece to overthrow the Ottoman rule . . . the recognition of Texas, when she seceded, or withdrew, from the Government of Mexico.

Well may any and every one, North and South, exclaim, what is all this for? What have we done to the North? When have we ever wronged them? We quit them, it is true, as our ancestors and their ancestors quit the British Government. We quit as they quit – upon a question of constitutional right. That question they determined for themselves, and we have but done the same. What, therefore, is all this for?

It is a war, in short, on their part against right, against reason, against justice, against nature. If asked on our side what is all this for, the reply from every honest breast is that it is for home, for firesides, for our altars, for our birthrights, for property, for honor, for life – in a word, for everything for which freemen should live, and for which all deserving to be freemen should be willing, if need be, to die.”

(A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, 1861-1865, James D. Richardson, Volume I, US Publishing Company, 1906, pp. 175-176)

Flight to Exile and Freedom in the Confederacy

Former Vice President John C. Breckinridge sat in the US Senate as a representative of Kentucky in July 1861. He denounced Lincoln’s concentration of power in Washington as an act “which, in every age of the world, has been the very definition of despotism.” He also saw the Republican party using the war to change the very character of our government, and the reduction of the resisting State’s into territories governed by Lincoln’s appointees.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Flight to Exile and Freedom in the Confederacy

“On September 18 [1861], the Kentucky legislature formally ended neutrality and took the side of the Union. The arrests began the same night, and among the first to be taken was former Governor [Charles] Morehead of Louisville. At the same time, the pro-Southern Louisville Courier was suppressed. That same day several men throughout the nation advised Washington authorities that Breckinridge should be arrested.

The Republican Cassius Clay, who believed that “John C. Breckinridge . . . was never at heart a Secessionist.” Even a bearded little Union general, U.S. Grant, sympathized with the senator in some degree. “He was among the last to go over to the South,” Grant would say, “and was rather dragged into the position.”

He had fought for compromise and failed; he had sought peace and moderation and found only bitterness; and had proclaimed his devotion to the Union to the best of his ability . . . He was an innocent man, but he would be taken, denied his rights, and like Morehead, spirited away to a prison deep in the North to sit for months without hope.

On October 8, 1861, from Bowling Green, he issued his last address as a statesman, and his first as a Confederate. He returned the trust given him to represent Kentucky in the Senate, he said. He could no longer keep it. He had tried to stand for the State’s wishes in Washington, he had opposed Lincoln’s war policy at every step, even to refusing Kentucky’s men and money . . . ”I resign,” he said, “because there is no place left where a Southern Senator may sit in council with the Senators of the North. In truth, there is no longer a Senate of the United States within the meaning and spirit of the Constitution.”

The Union no longer existed, he continued, Lincoln had assumed dictatorial powers. The rights of person and property were being flagrantly violated every day. Unlawful arrests were the rule. The subjugation and conquest of the South were the rallying cries in the Federal Congress.

As for Kentucky, her rights of neutrality had been violated repeatedly, arms secretly supplied to Federal sympathizers, troops unlawfully raised within her borders, the legislature intimidated and packed with the minions of Washington, freedoms of speech, press, and assembly, restricted, and hundreds forced to flee their homes for safety. He explained his own flight to avoid arrest, saying he would have welcomed it if he had any assurance that it would have been followed by a trial of judge and jury, but he knew that would not be.

Would Kentucky stand by while all of this went on? Would she consent to the usurpations of Lincoln and his hirelings; would she suffer her children to be imprisoned and exiled by the “German mercenaries” that the Union was enlisting to fights its war? Never, he said.

Whatever might be the future relations of the two nations, the old Union could never again be reunited as it once was. He wanted peace between the them lest one conquer the other and the result be military despotism. To defend his own birthright and that of his fellow Kentuckians who had been denied the protection due them, and were forced to choose between arrest, exile, or resistance, he now exchanged the “with proud satisfaction, a term of six years in the Senate of the United States for the musket of a soldier.” As one of those forced to make that choice, he said, “I intend to resist.”

(Breckinridge, Statesman, Soldier, Symbol, William C. Davis, LSU Press, 1974, pp. 287- 290)

Fanatical and Intransigent Abolitionists

The antebellum abolitionists saw in majority rule the basis of power – that “might makes right” and through their higher law fiction new laws could be manufactured that would impose punishment on those they disliked. It should be noted that the author below mentions “the free States” as many historians do, but should rightly be identified as “former slave States.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fanatical and Intransigent Abolitionists

“The abolitionist, sharing the transcendentalist’s refusal to accept the dictum vox populi vox dei, had to carry that refusal one step further: public opinion at any given time before the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth could never be the voice of God, and if it were, the reformer would lose his vocation. The voice of the reforming minority was the voice of God.

But the majority was also teachable; the reformer was God’s instrument to teach the nation the truth and the vanguard in its march to a better social order. [T]he abolitionist would insist that truth is not ascertained by public opinion polls, and he would point out that the majority in the 1830s and 1840s would vote against abolition of slavery, against prohibition (a few abolitionists would too), for capital punishment, and for Jim Crow laws in the free States.

The laws, customs, even the Constitution, reflecting the general will in the unregenerate state, could not be the authority on which the reformer based his claim to the role of teacher. His authority to a higher law as embodied in the Bible and conveniently set forth, in part, in the first sentence of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. The corrupt majority prevailed not because it was right, but because it could enforce its will. “Might makes right” was in the abolitionist’s view logically deducible from the principle of majority rule.

It follows that the reforming minority, while necessary, must always be unpopular. As Wendell Phillips put it, when explaining why even abolitionists who employed conciliatory and moderate language “found every man’s hand against them”: “our unpopularity is no fault of ours, but flows necessarily and unavoidably from our position.” [Those abolitionists who carried this logic to its conclusion would suggest . . . that public acceptance would be a sign that their duty was to move on to a new unpopular position.]

Their refusal to water down their “visionary” slogan was, in their eyes, eminently practical, much more so than the course of the antislavery senators and congressmen who often wrote letters to abolitionist leaders justifying their adaptation of antislavery demands to what was attainable.

The abolitionist, while criticizing such compromises, would insist that his own intransigence made favorable compromises possible. He might have stated his position thus: If politics is the art of the possible, agitation is the art of the desirable. For one thing, [this] can be useful to the political bargainer; the more extreme demand of the agitator makes the politician’s demand seem acceptable and perhaps desirable in the sense that the adversary may prefer to give up half a loaf rather than the whole.”

(Means and Ends in American Abolitionism, Aileen S. Kraditor, Pantheon Books, 1967, pp. 25-28)