Browsing "Crusaders and Revolutionaries"

The Abolitionists Mad and Fatal Course

Henry Clay, the “great compromiser,” pleaded with the abolitionists to cease their incendiary activities which threatened to disrupt the Union in a speech before the United States Senate in February 1839. The States he labels as “free” were former slave and slave trading States which were offering no peaceful and practical solutions to the African slavery they helped nurture and perpetuate.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Abolitionists Mad and Fatal Course

“. . . Abolition should no longer be regarded as an imaginary danger. The abolitionists, let me suppose, succeed in their present aim of uniting the inhabitants of the free States, as one man, against the inhabitants of the slave States. Union on one side will beget union on the other.

And this process of reciprocal consolidation will be attended with all the violent prejudices, embittered passions, and implacable animosities, which ever degraded or deformed human nature. A virtual dissolution of the Union will have taken place, while the forms of its existence remain.

The most valuable element of union, mutual kindness, the feelings of sympathy, the fraternal bonds, which now happily unite us, will have been extinguished for ever.

One section will stand in menacing and hostile array against the other. The collision of opinion will be quickly followed by the clash of arms. I will not attempt to describe scenes which now happily lie concealed from our view. Abolitionists themselves would shrink back in dismay and horror at the contemplation of desolated fields, conflagrated cities, murdered inhabitants, and the overthrow of the fairest fabric of human government that ever rose to animate the hopes of civilized man.

Nor should these abolitionists flatter themselves that, if they can succeed in uniting the people of the free States, they will enter the contest with a numerical superiority that must insure victory. All history and experience proves the hazard and uncertainty of war. And we are admonished by Holy Writ, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. But if they were to conquer, whom would they conquer?

A foreign foe – one who had insulted our flag, invaded our shores, and laid our country waste? No, sir; no, sir. It would be a contest without laurels, without glory; a self, a suicidal conquest; a conquest of brothers over brothers, achieved by one over another portion of the descendants of common ancestors, who, nobly pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, had fought and bled, side by side, in many a hard battle on land and ocean, severed our country from the British crown, and established our original independence.

The inhabitants of the slave States are sometimes accused by their Northern brethren with displaying rashness and sensibility to the operations and proceedings of the abolitionists.

[But] Let me suppose that the people of the slave States were to form societies, subsidize presses, make large pecuniary contributions, send forth numerous missionaries throughout all their borders, and enter into machinations to burn the beautiful capitals, destroy the productive manufactories, and sink in the ocean the gallant ships of the Northern States. Would these incendiary proceedings be regarded as neighborly and friendly, and consistent with the fraternal sentiments which should ever by cherished by one portion of the Union toward the other?

Would they excite no emotion? Occasion no manifestations of dissatisfaction? Nor lead to any acts of retaliatory violence?

I beseech the abolitionists themselves, solemnly to pause in their mad and fatal course….let them select some one more harmless, that does not threaten to deluge our country in blood. I entreat that portion of my countrywomen, who have given their countenance to abolition, to….reflect that the ink which they shed in subscribing with their fair hands abolition petitions, may prove but the prelude to the shedding of the blood of their brethren.

I adjure all the inhabitants of the free States to rebuke and discountenance, by their opinion and their example, measures which must inevitably lead to the most calamitous consequences.”

(The South, A Documentary History, Ina Woestemeyer Van Noppen, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1958, pp. 258-260)

Revolutionary Indemnity Deja Vu

The French Revolution unleashed the idea of the Rights of Man and Nations, an unstoppable force which led to the 1848 socialist revolutions in Europe. The latter sent radical German revolutionaries, the “Forty-eighters,” who controlled the powerful German-American press which Lincoln did not ignore in 1860. The Federal host invading the American South included divisions of Germans, Irish, the Red Shirts of Garibaldi, and some who had followed the Hungarian revolutionary, Kossuth.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Revolutionary Indemnity Deja Vu

“The French Revolution was different [than previous revolutions] because it brought into the world and Europe in particular, a new idea, the Rights of Man, and with the Rights of Man went the Rights of Nations. Where previously states had been based on dynastic power they were now based on national existence. In the old days, right up to 1789, the state was simply the property of the ruler . . . Then suddenly there appeared the French people who said, “We are France.”

This was a challenge to all the dynasties of Europe and there was a competition of propaganda and of assertion, with, as the [revolution] developed, first the liberal and then the radical, and then the revolutionary leaders staking out more aggressively the claims of the people of France and in time the claims of others. After all, if France had the right to be a nation . . . this applied to others.

One of the factors which produced the revolutionary war was the provocative declaration which the French legislative assembly made on 19 November 1792, promising help and fraternity to every nation seeking to recover its liberty.

The word recover is curious. Most of the nations had never had their liberty, but it was already a myth that there had been a distant time when peoples had all been free and had then been enslaved by their kings.

Something else was curious about it. Although two great forces, the one of monarchy, of tradition, of conservatism, the other of liberalism and nationalism, were moving against each other, neither of them looked at it in practical terms [and action beyond issuing threats].

Strangely enough, though France was the one threatened [by the other monarchies seeking a restoration of Louis XVI], it was the French revolutionary government which finally plunged into war, declared war – threatened Austria in April 1792, and then actually went to war, though unable to do very much.

Why? Because as one of them said: “The time has come to start a new crusade, a crusade for universal liberty.” When the French revolutionary armies encountered the armies of the old [French] regime and were defeated, the cry arose, as it does in a war, of “Treason.” “We are betrayed.” The very same cry that the French raised in 1940 when they were again defeated.

[As the French revolutionary armies] began to achieve victories, [they] certainly brought liberation from the traditional institutions, liberation from the kings and princes, liberation from the Christian religion. At the same time, they brought demands . . .”After all,” the French said, “We have done the fighting, we have liberated you, we have presented you with the Rights of Man, we not only had to pay the money for these armies, we had actually to do the fighting for you as well. Therefore you must pay us.”

Wherever the armies of liberty went in Europe, they imposed indemnities. They collected so much that there was a time when the French revolutionary wars were practically paying for themselves. Moreover, as the armies grew greater and more powerful, the apprehensions of the civilian politicians in Paris grew greater also.

What they wanted was that these revolutionary armies . . . devoted as they were to liberty and equality and fraternity, should not exert power in Paris itself. As one of the revolutionaries said “We must get these scoundrels to march as far away from France as possible.” Revolution had become something for export.”

(How Wars Begin, A.J.P. Taylor, Atheneum Press, 1979, excerpts pp. 20-33)

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