Browsing "No Compromise"

Revolution and the Law of Necessity

In early 1850 Northern Ultras like Wendell Phillips trumpeted that “we are disunionists,” and Horace Mann admitted that Northern intransigence would produce a Southern rebellion against outrage and oppression. Daniel Webster could only produce useless Union speeches which had little effect upon Northern radicals who wanted revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Revolution and the Law of Necessity

“[Webster] had not been speaking long [on 7 March 1850] before a tall, emaciated figure, with deep, cavernous eyes and a thick mass of snow-white hair advanced with feeble step, and sank into a chair on the other side of the Chamber. Webster, who had not seen him enter . . . soon referred again to Calhoun. The latter nervously grasped the arm of his chair, his black eyes glared, and half-rising, he exclaimed in a feeble, sepulchral voice: “The Senator from South Carolina is in his seat.” Startled, Webster turned, bowed, smiled and continued his excoriation of disunion.

He turned to Calhoun and exclaimed with profound emotion: “Peaceable secession is an utter impossibility.” When Webster sat down the applause could not be stilled . . . But Calhoun checked the congratulatory chorus. In faltering tones he expressed vehement dissent.

“I cannot agree,” he shrilled, “with the Senator from Massachusetts that this Union cannot be dissolved. Am I to understand him that no degree of oppression, no outrage, no broken faith, can produce the destruction of this Union?”

“Why Sir,” he continued, if that becomes a fixed fact, it will itself become the great instrument of producing oppression, outrage and broken faith. No, Sir, the Union can be broken. Great moral causes will break it, if they go on, and it can only be preserved by justice, good faith and an adherence to the Constitution.”

As he took his seat, Webster arose to answer the question. “I know, Sir,” he said, “that this Union can be broken up – every government can be – and I admit that there may be such a degree of oppression as will warrant resistance and forcible severance. That is revolution – that is revolution! Of that ultimate right of revolution I have not been speaking. I know that the law of necessity does exist.”

(The Eve of Conflict, Stephen A. Douglas and the Needless War, George Fort Milton, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1934, pp. 62-63)

Buchanan Initiates War

Though President James Buchanan disagreed with the political remedy of State secession from the Union, he publicly stated that as President he was powerless to oppose it. But it was Buchanan who later began hostilities when he dispatched the Star of West with armed troops aboard from New York harbor and destined for Charleston.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Buchanan’s Initiates War

“Buchanan had firmly endorsed the war policy since the attack on Fort Sumter, and in September, 1861, sent a letter to a Democratic political meeting in Chester County [Pennsylvania]. He emphasized in this message that the war would have to be loyally sustained until the bitter end and urged the Democrats to stop wasting their time on a futile demand for peace proposals. The minute he saw this letter, [Jeremiah] Black wrote:

“Your endorsement of Lincoln’s policy will be a very serious drawback upon the defense of your own. It is vain to think that the two administrations can be made consistent. The fire upon the Star of the West was as bad as the fire on Fort Sumter; and the taking of Fort Moultrie & Pinckney was worse than either. If this war is right and politic and wise and constitutional, I cannot but think you ought to have made it. I am willing to vindicate the last administration . . . but I can’t do it on the ground which you now occupy.”

“. . . Buchanan would not agree with Black that there was anything but a superficial similarity between the threatening incidents at the end of his Administration and the sustained bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12.

He also disagreed with Black’s view that the war itself was unconstitutional, that Lincoln started it, and that it ought to be stopped as soon as possible by a negotiated peace. “. . . [As] to my course since the wicked bombardment of Fort Sumter,” he told Black, “it is but a regular consequence of my whole policy towards the seceding States. They had been informed over and over again by me what would be the consequence of an attack upon it. They chose to commence civil war, & Mr. Lincoln had no alternative but to defend the country against dismemberment. I certainly should have done the same thing had they begun the war in my time, & this they well knew.”

(President James Buchanan, A Biography, Philip S. Klein, American Political Biography Press, 1962, pp. 416-417)

 

Abolitionists Drunk on the Fumes of Blood

Abolitionist hatred of Americans in the South seemed boundless with people like Wendell Phillips desiring their near-extermination, and Parson Brownlow preaching that “We will crowd the rebels into the Gulf of Mexico, and drown the entire race, as the devil did the hogs in the Sea of Galilee.” The South was only asking for political independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Abolitionists Drunk on the Fumes of Blood

“Wendell Phillips, who, before the blood began to flow, eloquently declared that the South was in the right, that Lincoln had no right to send armed men to coerce her, after battles begun seemed to become drunk on the fumes of blood and mad for more than battlefields afforded. In a speech delivered in [Henry Ward] Beecher’s church, to a large and presumably a Christian congregation, Phillips made the following remarkable declaration:

“I do not believe in battles ending this war. You may plant a fort in every district of the South, you may take possession of her capitals and hold them with your armies, but you have not begun to subdue her people. I know it seems something like absolute barbarian conquest, I allow it, but I do not believe there will be any peace until 347,000 men of the South are either hanged or exiled (Cheers).”

Why the precise number, 347,000, does not appear. If the hanging at one fell swoop of 347,000 men and women seemed to Phillips something like barbarian conquest, it would be interesting to know what would have appeared truly barbarian. History records some crimes of such stupendous magnitude, even to this day men shudder at their mention.”

(Facts and Falsehoods, Concerning the War on the South, George Edmonds, Spence Hall Lamb, 1904, pp. 235-236)