Browsing "Bringing on the War"

One American Ruler to Enforce Obedience

The peaceful political separation desired by the American South in early 1861 was best summarized by President Jefferson Davis’ in his inaugural address: “We seek no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which we were lately confederated. All we ask is to be let alone; that those who never held power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

One American Ruler to Enforce Obedience

“From Mr. [Robert] Toombs, Secretary of State, Message No. 5, Department of State, Montgomery, Alabama, May 18, 1861.

To: Hon Wm. L. Yancey, Hon. Pierre A. Rost, Hon. A. Dudley Mann, Commissioners of the Confederate States, etc.

Gentlemen: My dispatch of the 24th ultimo contained an accurate summary of the important events which had transpired up to that date, and informed you that the Executive of the United States had commenced a war of aggression against the Confederate States.

On the 20th instant the convention of the people of North Carolina will assemble at Raleigh, and there is no doubt that, immediately thereafter, ordinances of secession from the United States, and union with the Confederate States, will be adopted.

Although ten independent and sovereign States have thus deliberately severed the bonds which bound them in political union with the United States, and have formed a separate and independent Government for themselves, the President of the United States affects to consider that the Federal Union is still legally and constitutionally unbroken . . . He claims to be our ruler, and insists that he has the right to enforce our obedience.

From the newspaper press, the rostrum, and the pulpit, the partisans of Mr. Lincoln, while they clamorously assert their devotion to the Union and Constitution of the United States, daily preach a relentless war between the sections, to be prosecuted not only in violation of all constitutional authority, but in disregard of the simplest law of humanity.

The authorized exponents of the sentiments of [Lincoln’s party] . . . avow that it is the purpose of the war to subjugate the Confederate States, spoliate the property of our citizens, sack and burn our cities and villages, and exterminate our citizens . . .

[The] real motive which actuates Mr. Lincoln and those who now sustain his acts is to accomplish by force of arms that which the masses of the Northern people have long sought to effect – namely, the overthrow of our domestic institutions, the devastation and destruction of our social interests, and the reduction of the Southern States to the condition of subject provinces.

It is not astonishing that a people educated in that school which always taught the maintenance of the rights of the few against the might of the many, which ceaselessly regarded the stipulation to protect and preserve the liberties and vested rights of every member of the Confederacy as the condition precedent upon which each State delegated certain powers necessary for self-protection to the General Government, should refuse to submit dishonorably to the destruction of their constitutional liberty, the insolent denial of their right to govern themselves and to hold and enjoy their property in peace.

In the exercise of that greatest of the rights reserved to the several States by the late Federal Constitution – namely, the right for each State to be judge for itself, as well of the infractions of the compact of the Union, as of the mode and measure of redress – the sovereignties composing the Confederate States resolved to sever their political connection with the United States and form a Government of their own, willing to effect this purpose peacefully at any sacrifice save that of honor and liberty, but determined even at the cost of war to assert their right to independence and self-government.”

(A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy 1861-1865, James D. Richardson, Volume II, US Publishing Company, 1905, excerpt, pp. 26-31)

John Brown and His Greater Villains

The violent attack of John Brown at Harper’s Ferry “and his apotheosis by Northern abolitionists had struck fear and rage into the hearts of Southerners and had revived talk of secession that had all but died out in 1859.” This sad event all but confirmed the suspicion of many Southerners that the North wished to destroy the South, and the Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

John Brown and His Greater Villains

“On Wednesday morning, October 19, John Brown and [Aaron Dwight] Stevens were placed in a wagon and driven to the railway station under a strong guard of Marines to protect them from the possibility of a merciful lynching.

But when they reached the waiting train and the shouts of “Lynch them, lynch them!” rose, the Governor was there to call back, “Oh, it would be cowardly to do so now!”  The Sheriff of Jefferson County and the United States Marshal for the Western District of Virginia committed their four prisoners to the jail at Charlestown to await trial.

There was no apparent reason why the prisoners should not be brought to justice as soon as possible, for the evidence was clear, the law demanded immediate trial, and the State of Virginia recognized no advantage in submitting the case to the Federal courts. The Federal government was directly [affected] by the attack on the arsenal and indirectly by the whole nature of the conspiracy, but Virginia was insisting on a primary principle in retaining jurisdiction.

In the case of John Brown himself there was little hesitation; in that of his companions more debate occurred, for the temptation was strong to embody in fact a subsidiary principle concerning the slave problem by turning Stevens over to the Federal Government for prosecution . . . the great advantage the Federal court possessed [was] being able to summon “the greater villains” who resided beyond the jurisdiction of the State of Virginia; and meanwhile some of these villains had made haste to reside beyond the jurisdiction of the United States.

The immediate trial and the wounds of two of the prisoners provided unexpected capital for the “liberal” newspapers in the North. At first the Republican press hurried to repudiate John Brown and all his works, for it was felt that this sort of thing might prove disastrous in the Presidential contest of the next year, but it was not long before editors and politicians alike recognized an opportunity in the situation.

The Chicago Convention which nominated Abraham Lincoln in 1860 unanimously resolved that the attempt of John Brown was criminal . . . But in the autumn of 1859 the “liberal” press . . . deplored the conditions which made [Brown’s attack] necessary; it deplored the misguided effort in a holy cause, but abhorred the barbarous conduct in Virginia in suppressing that effort. [William Lloyd] Garrison wrote in the Liberator:

“In recording the expressions of sympathy and admiration which are so widely felt for John Brown, whose doom is now swiftly approaching . . . that, judging him by the code of Bunker hill, we think he is deserving of high-wrought eulogy as any who ever wielded sword or battle-axe in the cause of liberty . . . ”

(John Brown, The Making of a Martyr, Robert Penn Warren, J.S. Sanders and Company, 1929, pp. 393-395)

 

Great Americans Amid a Great Crisis

While the Republican party reveled in its plurality victory and avoided any compromise in order to maintain party unity, Unionists like Jefferson Davis emulated great American leaders of earlier times in challenging Congress to meet the crisis and save the creation of the Founders. 

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Great Americans Amid a Great Crisis  

“Jefferson Davis, in his farewell address to the United States Senate, expressed the sentiments of Virginia . . . when he said:

“Now sir, we are confusing language very much. Men speak of revolution; and when they say revolution, they mean blood. Our fathers meant nothing of the sort. When they spoke of revolution, they meant the inalienable right.

When they declared as an inalienable right, the power of the people to abrogate and modify their form of government whenever it did not answer the ends for which it was established, they did not mean that they were to sustain that by brute force . . . Are we, in this age of civilization and political progress . . . are we to roll back the whole current of human thought and again return to the mere brute force which prevails between beasts of prey as the only method of settling questions between men?

Is it to be supposed that the men who fought the battles of the Revolution for community independence, terminated their great efforts by transmitting prosperity to a condition in which they could only gain those rights by force?  If so, the blood of the Revolution was shed in vain; no great principles were established; for force was the law of nature before the battles of the Revolution were fought.”

Robert E. Lee, writing on the 23rd of January, 1861, said:

“Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom and forbearance in its formation and surrounded it with so many guards and securities if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will . . . Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me. If the Union is dissolved and the Government disrupted, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people — and save in defense (of Virginia) will draw my sword on none.”

George Baylor, speaking on the 1st of March 1861 in the Virginia Convention, said:

“I have said, Mr. President, that I did not believe in the right of secession. But whilst I make that assertion, I also say that I am opposed to coercion on the part of the Federal Government with the view of bringing the seceded States back into the Union . . . I am opposed to it first because I cannot find any authority in the Constitution of the United States delegating that power to the Federal Government, and second, because if the Federal Government had the power it would be wrong to use it.”

John Quincy Adams, speaking before the New York Historical Society in 1839, on the 50th Anniversary of Washington’s inauguration as President of the United States, said:

“To the people alone there is reserved as well the dissolving as the constituent power, and that power can be exercised by them only under the tie of conscience binding them to the retributive justice of Heaven.

With those qualifications we may admit the right as vested in the people of every State of the Union with reference to the General Government which was exercised by the people of the United Colonies with reference to the supreme head of the British Empire of which they formed a part, and under these limitations have the people of each State of the Union a right to secede from the Confederated Union itself.”

(Virginia’s Attitude Toward Secession, Beverley B. Munford, L.H. Jenkins, Richmond, VA, 1909, pp. 294-295)

 

 

The Inscrutable William Seward

It is said that antebellum Southern politics were for the most part honest and ruled by responsible statesmen, but Reconstruction forced Southern leaders to reluctantly descend into the mud to successfully oppose the carpetbaggers, Union Leagues and Radical Republicans. The high-toned sense of serving the public good was seen in statesman Jefferson Davis, who acted from conviction alone; William Seward was more interested in manipulating public opinion and serving his own twisted ends. The former tried his best to save the Union, the latter helped destroy it.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Inscrutable William Seward

“It was on one of these visits that Mr. Seward said a most remarkable thing to me [Varina Davis]. We were speaking of the difficulty men generally had in doing themselves justice [when speaking in public], if not cheered on by the attention and sympathy of the audience. Mr. Seward said . . . ” it is rather a relief to me to speak to empty benches.”

I exclaimed, “Then, whom do you impersonate?” [Seward replied] “The [news]papers . . . I speak to the papers, they have a much larger audience than I, and can repeat a thousand times if need be what I want to impress upon the multitude outside; and then there is the power to pin my antagonists down to my exact words, which might be disputed if received orally.”

Another day he began to talk on the not infrequent topic among us, slavery . . . I said, “Mr. Seward, how can you make, with a grave face, those piteous appeals for the Negro that you did in the Senate; you were too long a schoolteacher in Georgia to believe the things you say?”

He looked at me quizzically, and smilingly answered: “I do not, but these appeals, as you call them, are potent to affect the rank and file of the North.”

Mr. Davis said, very much shocked by Mr. Seward’s answer, “But Mr. Seward, do you never speak from conviction alone?”  “Never,” answered he. Mr. Davis raised up his . . . head, and with much heat whispered, “As God is my judge, I never spoke from any other motive.”

After this inscrutable human moral, or immoral, paradox left us, we sat long discussing him with sincere regret, and the hope that he had been making a feigned confidence to amuse us. He [Seward] frankly avowed that truth should be held always subsidiary to an end, and if some other statement could sub serve that end, he made it. He said, again and again, that political strife was a state of war, and in war all stratagems were fair.

About this time Mr. Seward came forward into greater prominence, and became the most notable leader of the Republican party. Mr. [President James] Buchanan said: “He was much more of a politician than a statesman, without strong convictions; he understood the art of preparing in his closet and uttering before the public, antithetical sentences, well-calculated to both inflame the ardor of his anti-slavery friends and exasperate his pro-slavery opponents . . . he thus aroused passions, probably without so intending, which it was beyond his power to control.”

(Jefferson Davis, A Memoir By His Wife Varina, N&A Publishing, 1990, excerpts, pp. 580-652)

Indispensable African Slaves

In his message to Congress on 29 April 1861, President Jefferson Davis cited the Northern threat to the South’s labor system as a cause of withdrawal from political union with the North. The murderous raid of John Brown in 1859 had convinced the South of the North’s violent intentions, which were supported by influential and wealthy men.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Indispensable African Slaves

“As soon . . . as the Northern States that prohibited African slavery within their limits had reached a number sufficient to give their representation a controlling voice in the Congress, a persistent and organized system of hostile measures against the rights of the owners of slaves in the southern States was inaugurated and gradually extended. A continuous series of measures was devised and prosecuted for the purpose of rendering insecure the tenure of property in slaves . . .

Senators and Representatives were sent to the common councils of the nation, whose chief title to this distinction consisted in the display of a spirit of ultra-fanaticism, and whose business was . . . to awaken the bitterest hatred against the citizens of sister States, by violent denunciation of their institutions; the transaction of public affairs was impeded by repeated efforts to usurp powers not delegated by the Constitution, for the purpose of . . . reducing those States which held slaves to a condition of inferiority.

In the meantime, the African slaves had augmented in number from about 600,000, at the date of the adoption of the constitutional compact, to upward of 4,000,000. In moral and social condition they had been elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent and civilized agricultural laborers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts but with careful religious instruction.

Under the supervision of a superior race, their labor had been so directed as not only to allow a gradual and marked amelioration of their own condition, but to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of the wilderness into cultivated lands covered with a prosperous people; towns and cities had sprung into existence, and had rapidly increased in wealth and population under the social system of the South . . . and the productions of cotton, sugar, and tobacco, for the full development and continuance of which the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable, had swollen to an amount which formed nearly three-fourths of the exports of the whole United States and had become absolutely necessary to the wants of civilized man.

With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced.”

(The Causes of the Civil War, Kenneth M. Stampp, editor, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1965, pp. 134-135)

Unfounded Fears of Slavery Expansion

Lincoln receives insufficient credit for his part in defeating the compromise measures of 1860-61 which would have averted war, whose effects are still felt today. The author below asserts that slavery had reached its natural limits and was “a cumbersome and expensive system [that] could show profits only as long as it could find plenty of rich land to cultivate” and a market that would take the product. He adds that “the free farmers in the North who dreaded its further spread had nothing to fear. Even those who wished [slavery] destroyed had only to wait a little while – perhaps a generation, probably less. It was summarily destroyed at a frightful cost to the whole country and one-third of the nation was impoverished for forty years.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Unfounded Fears of Slavery Expansion

“In the forefront of that group of issues which, for more than a decade before the secession of the cotton States, kept the Northern and Southern sections of the United States in irritating controversy and a growing sense of enmity, was the question of whether the federal government should permit and protect the expansion of slavery into the western territories . . . It was upon this particular issue that a new and powerful sectional party appeared in 1854, that the majority of the Secessionists of the cotton States predicated their action in 1860-1861, and it was upon this also that President-elect Lincoln forced the defeat of the compromise measures in the winter of 1860-61.

It seems safe to say that had this question been eliminated or settled amicably, there would have been no secession and no Civil War . . .

Disregarding the stock arguments – constitutional, economic, social and what-not – advanced by either group, let us examine afresh the real problem involved. Would slavery, if legally permitted to do so, have taken possession of the territories or of any considerable portion of them?

The causes of the expansion of slavery westward from the South Atlantic coast are now well-understood. The industrial revolution [in the North and in England] and the opening of world markets had continually increased the consumption and demand for raw cotton, while the abundance of fertile and cheap cotton lands in the Gulf States had steadily lured cotton farmers and planters westward. Where large-scale production was [possible, the enormous demand for a steady supply of labor had made the use of slaves inevitable, for a sufficient supply of free labor was unprocurable on the frontier . . . and slave labor was usually not profitable in growing grain.

This expansion of the institution was in response to economic stimuli . . . [and the] movement would go on as long as far as suitable cotton lands were to be found or as long as there was a reasonable expectation of profit from slave labor, provided, of course, that no political barrier was encountered.

But by 1849-50 . . . and by the time the new Republican party was formed to check the further expansion of slavery, the westward march of the cotton plantation was evidently slowing down. The only possibility of a further westward extension of the cotton belt was in Texas. In that alone was the frontier line of cotton and slavery still advancing . . .

In New Mexico and Arizona, Mexican labor is cheaper than Negro labor, as has always been the case since the acquisition of the region from Mexico. It was well-understood by sensible men, North and South, in 1850 that soil, climate, and native labor would form a perpetual bar to slavery in the vast territory then called New Mexico. [By 1860], ten years after the territory had been thrown open to slavery, showed not a single slave; and this was also true of Colorado and Nevada. Utah, alone of all these territories, was credited with any slaves at all . . . [and] the census of 1860 showed two slaves in Kansas and fifteen in Nebraska.

The Northern anti-slavery men held that a legal sanction of slavery in the territories would result in the extension of the institution and domination of the free North by the slave power; prospective immigrants in particular feared that they would never be able to get homes in this new West. Their fears were groundless; but in their excited state of mind they could see neither the facts clearly nor consider them calmly.

In the cold facts of the situation, there was no longer any basis for excited sectional controversy over slavery extension . . . [but] the public mind had so long been concerned with the debate that it could not see that the issue had ceased to have validity. In the existing state of the popular mind, therefore, there was still abundant opportunity for the politician to work to his own ends, to play upon prejudice and passion and fear.”

(The Natural Limits of Slavery Expansion, Charles W. Ramsdell (1929); The Causes of the Civil War, Kenneth M. Stampp, editor, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1965, pp. 86-91)

 

War Against a Free Trade South

It is clear that the withdrawal of the Southern States in early 1861 was caused by Northern hostility, especially with regard to the South’s political conservatism and domestic institutions. More obvious is that secession did not necessitate war, as the North could have let the South form its more perfect union peaceably. The North waged war for economic reasons and to thwart the free trade policies of the new American Confederacy.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

War Against a Free Trade South

“When the Southern States began to secede after Lincoln’s election, it soon became evident that the great majority of Northerners considered disunion intolerable. Among the reasons, they foresaw disastrous economic consequences; and this explains in part their demand that Lincoln “enforce the laws” in the South. The Boston Herald (November 12, 1860), predicted some of the evils that would result from disunion:

“Should the South succeed in carrying out her designs, she will immediately form commercial alliances with European countries who will readily acquiesce in any arrangement which will help English manufacturing at the expense of New England.

The first move the South would make would impose a heavy tax upon the manufactures of the North, and an export tax upon the cotton used by Northern manufacturers. In this way she would seek to cripple the North. The carrying trade, which is now done by American {Northern] vessels, would be transferred to British ships, which would be a heavy blow aimed at our commerce.

It will also seriously affect our shoe trade and the manufacture of ready-made clothing, while it would derange the monetary affairs of the country.”

Boston Transcript, March 18, 1861:

“It does not require extraordinary sagacity to perceive that trade is perhaps the controlling motive operating to prevent the return of the seceding States to the Union, which they have abandoned. Alleged grievances in regard to slavery were originally the causes for the separation of the cotton States; but the mask has been thrown off, and it is apparent that the people of the principal seceding States are now for commercial independence.

They dream that the centres of traffic can be changed from Northern to Southern ports. The merchants of New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah are possessed with the idea that New York, Boston and Philadelphia may be shorn, in the future, of their mercantile greatness, by a revenue system verging upon free trade. If the Southern Confederation is allowed to carry out a policy by which only a nominal duty is laid upon imports, no doubt the business of the chief Northern cities will be seriously injured thereby.

The difference is so great between the tariff of the Union and that of the Confederated States, that the entire Northwest must find it to their advantage to purchase their imported goods at New Orleans rather than at New York. In addition to this, the manufacturing interest of the country will suffer from the increased importations resulting from the low duties . . . The . . . [government] would be false to all of its obligations, if this state of things were not provided against.”

(The Causes of the Civil War, Kenneth M. Stampp, editor, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1965, pp. 78-80)

The South Versus the Asylums of Religious Zealots

Author Margaret L. Coit has written that “The Old South was a school for statesmanship” and that Southern men “rode high in the saddle of the USA” from the 1776 Revolution to the 1861 Revolution. It is no exaggeration that the “Virginia Dynasty” was virtually synonymous with the founding of the American experiment, and with the exception of John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster, nearly every outstanding American political figure was a Southern man.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South Versus the Asylums of Religious Zealots

“The difference between the Southern civilization and the Northern,” says Thomas Nelson Page, “was the result of the difference between their origins and subsequent surroundings.” Then he tells the familiar story of how the Northern colonies “were the asylums of religious zealots” who came in search of freedom and became themselves “proscriptors of the most tyrannical type.”

To the Southern colonies, on the other hand, came “soldiers of fortune and gentlemen in misfortune . . . In the first ship-load of [Virginia] colonists there were “four carpenters, twelve laborers and fifty-four gentlemen.” The Southern settlers “came with the consent of the crown, the blessings of the Church, and under the auspices and favor of men of high-standing in the kingdom.”

With the best blood of England in their veins and the best of the Old World traditions in their cultural equipment, they produced a civilization “as distinctive as that of Greece, Carthage, Rome or Venice”; one that “made men noble, gentle and brave, and women tender, pure and true . . . It was, I believe, the purest, sweetest life ever lived.”

Page acknowledges, as many other traditionalists do, that the Southern planters were not wholly of Cavalier blood. They represented, he says, “the strongest strains of many stocks – Saxon, Celts, and Teuton; Cavalier and Puritan.”

(The South Looks at its Past, Benjamin Burks Kendrick and Arnett Alex Mathews, UNC Press, 1935, pp. 17-18)

 

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)