Browsing "No Compromise"

Confirmed Prejudices and Opinions Up North

The emancipation issue promoted by Lincoln’s Republican Party caused a predictable rupture within its ranks, and revealed the true extent of party concern for the African race. The Massachusetts governor mentioned below wanted no black men in his “strange land and climate,” but accepted them as military substitutes for the white men of his State. The great fear persisted in the North that freed black men would migrate there in search if work and compete with white men.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Confirmed Prejudices and Opinions Up North

“The threat of a black “invasion” (or “Africanization”) of the North was a dominant theme in anti-emancipationist rhetoric. Politicians and editors predicted that three hundred thousand freedmen would “invade” Ohio alone, competing with white labor, filling up the poor houses and jails, and generally degrading society. In a June 1862 referendum, by a majority of more than two to one, Illinois voters endorsed a clause in a proposed State constitution that would exclude blacks from moving into the State.

This issue cut across party lines. Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, a former Democrat, now a Unionist, explained “there is a very great aversion in the West – I know it is so in my State – against having free Negroes come among us. Our people want nothing to do with the Negroes.”

One Unionist editor told [Secretary of the Treasury] Salmon P. Chase that the best strategy was to declare that blacks “don’t want to come north and we don’t want them unless their coming will promote the conclusion of the war . . .” Chase himself, while a fervent advocate of emancipation, shared the common assumption that blacks were inherently unsuited to the colder northern climate.

“Let, therefore, the South be open to Negro emigration by emancipation along the Gulf,” he suggested, “and it is easy to see that the blacks of the North will slide southward, and leave no question to quarrel about as far as they are concerned.”

Chase was not the only radical in the Republican party who worried about the political consequences of the “Africanization” issue in the run-up to the fall 1862 elections. Even Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts, whose antislavery credentials had been amply demonstrated three years earlier when he had given tacit support of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, became embroiled in the issue.

In September 1862, Major General John A. Dix wrote to the governors of three New England States asking them to accept into their States a group of two thousand ex-slaves who had sought refuge with the Union army. Governor Andrew responded with a strongly argued letter, soon leaked to the public, in which he explained that Massachusetts was, for blacks, “a strange land and climate” in which the newcomers would “be incapable of self-help – a course certain to demoralize them and endanger others.’ Such an event would be a handle to all traitors and to all persons evilly disposed.”

With timing that was appalling for the [Lincoln] administration, the black migration issue became a crisis in Illinois at about the same time the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued. The army had been sending refugee slaves to the military headquarters at Cairo – the southernmost town in Illinois. Secretary of War Stanton issued an order allowing these freedmen to be dispersed throughout the State.

This appeared to violate the State’s “Negro Exclusion” law and which was certainly anathema to mainstream public opinion. One Republican wrote to Governor Richard Yates that “the scattering of those black throngs should not be allowed if it can be avoided. The view . . . here is that if the country should become full of them they may never be removed and with the confirmed prejudices and opinions of our people against the mingling of blacks among us we shall always have trouble.”

(No Party Now, Politics in the Civil War North, Adam I.P. Smith, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 54-56)

The Cause of America’s New Version

The seemingly settled question today is that the American South withdrew from the Union because of a desire to perpetuate African slavery, and that no other issues of that period in our history ought to be considered. And beyond this settled question, Southerners who attempt any favorable motives to their ancestors are “merely repeating Lost Cause myths” to cover up their evil intent of their ancestors. The author below recommends investigating any mythology created by the winning side.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Cause of America’s New Version

“Set aside that the question of causation in history is a complex one, to say the least. Still it is true that historians of other generations, of vastly greater breadth of learning than most of today’s, ascribed other “causes” to t most critical event in American history: clash of economic interests and cultures, blundering politicians, irresponsible agitators. There is a bit of sleight-of-hand along with today’s false assumptions.

Even if slavery may have in some simplistic and abstract sense “caused” the secession of the first seven Southern States, it does not establish that it “caused” the war. The war was caused by the determination of Lincoln and his party to conquer the Southern States and destroy their legal governments.

Caused, one might say by Northern nationalism – nationalism being a combination of romantic identification with a centralized state and interest in a unitary economic market. The war, after all, consisted in the invasion and conquest of the South by the U.S. government. A very simple fact that most Americans, it would seem, are unable to process, along with the plain fact that Northern soldiers did not make war for the purpose of freeing black people.

One of Lincoln’s many deceptions was the claim that the Founders had intended to abolish slavery but had not quite got around to it. The Southerners of his time, were rebelling against the true Founding by insisting on non-interference, while he and his party were upholding the settled understanding of the Founders.

James McPherson, perhaps the “leading” historian of today in regard to the Great Unpleasantness and no Southern apologist, along with many others, points out that it was the North that had changed by 1860, while the South had remained attached to the original concept of the Union.

Now one may be glad, as McPherson is, that the North changed and triumphed with a new version of America, but to deny which side was revolutionary is merely dishonest.

Historians have devoted vast attention to the South, feeling it was necessary to explain where the South went wrong, find the source of the perversion that led to a doomed attempt to escape the greatest country on earth. But if it was the North that changed, ought our primary focus in understanding American history to be on why and how the North changed during the prewar period?”

(The Yankee Problem: An American Dilemma, Clyde N. Wilson, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, pp. 52-53)

To Stay the Tide of Bloodshed

At least six efforts were made, most of Southern origin, to settle the political differences with the North peacefully. From the Crittenden Compromise of late 1860, the Washington Peace Conference led by former President John Tyler, the Confederate commissioners being sent to Washington in March 1861, to the Hampton Roads Conference of February 1865, the South tried to avert war and end the needless bloodshed. It was clear that one side wanted peace, the other wanted war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

To Stay the Tide of Bloodshed

“Carl Schurz, a notorious agitator and disunionist from Wisconsin, telegraphed to the governor of that State: “Appoint commissioners to Washington conference – myself one – to strengthen our side. By “our side” he meant those who were opposed to any peace measures to save the country from war and preserve the Union.

The Republicans wanted to make as wide as possible the gulf between the North and the South. This peace Conference, therefore, was a failure, because the abolitionists were determined there should be no peace.

In the Senate, Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, made an urgent appeal to the Republicans “to assure the people of the South that you do intend to calmly consider all propositions which they may make, and to recognize their rights which the Union was established to secure.” But the Republican Senators remained mute.

Mr. Davis held that if the Crittenden Resolutions were adopted, the Southern States would recede their secession. He also said that the South had never asked nor desired that the Union founded by its forefathers should be torn asunder, but that the government as was organized should be administers in “purity and truth.” Senator Davis, with mildness and dignity of voice, also said, “There will be peace if you so will it; and you may bring disaster upon the whole country if you thus will have it. And if you will have it thus . . . we will vindicate and defend the rights we claim.”

As the year of 1860 was going out, all reasonable hope of reconciliation for the South departed. The Southern leaders then called a conference. What was to be done? All their proposals of compromise, looking for peace within the Union, had failed. It was evident that the Republican party in Congress was to wait until Mr. Lincoln came in on March 4th. But efforts for peace were not given up, even after the war began, but were earnestly continued in an effort to stay the tide of bloodshed.

(Efforts for Peace in the Sixties, essay by Mrs. John H. Anderson of Raleigh, Confederate Veteran Magazine, August 1931, page 299)

Weakening the Forces of the Rebellion

Lincoln’s followers emulated Virginia’s Royal Governor Dunmore’s rationale for emancipating slaves in 1775, that is, to fight against an independence movement by colonists and deprive them of agricultural labor. Northern radical Republicans such as Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, wanted to liberate slaves in Southern States where they could not reach them, but did not free the property of slave holders loyal to Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Weakening the Forces of the Rebellion

“When the Rebellion culminated in active hostilities, it was seen that thousands of slaves were used for military purposes by the rebel forces. To weaken the forces of the Rebellion, the Thirty-seventh Congress decreed that such slaves should be free forever.

As the Union armies advanced into the rebel States, slaves, inspired by the hope of personal freedom, flocked to their encampments, claiming protection against rebel masters, and offering to work and fight for the flag whose stars for the first time gleamed upon their vision with the radiance of liberty.

To weaken the power of the insurgents, to strengthen the loyal forces, and assert the claims of humanity, the Thirty-seventh Congress enacted an article of war, dismissing from the service officers guilty of surrendering these fugitives [to rebel masters].

The hoe and spade of the rebel slave were hardly less potent for the Rebellion than the rifle and bayonet of the rebel soldier. Slaves sowed and reaped for the rebels, enabling the rebel leaders to fill the wasting ranks of their armies, and feed them.

To weaken the military forces and power of the Rebellion, the Thirty-seventh Congress decreed that all slaves of persons giving aid and comfort to the Rebellion, escaping from such persons, or deserted by them; all slaves of such persons, being within any place occupied by the forces of the United States, — shall be captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude, and not again held as slaves.

The progress of the Rebellion demonstrated its power, and the needs of the imperiled nation. To strengthen the physical forces of the United States, the Thirty-seventh Congress authorized the president to receive into military service persons of African descent; and every such person mustered into the service, his mother, his wife and children, owing service or labor to any person who should give aid and comfort to the Rebellion, was made forever free.

The African slave trade had been carried on by slave pirates under the protection of the flag of the United States. To extirpate from the seas that inhuman traffic, and to vindicate the sullied honor of the nation . . . the administration entered early into treaty stipulations with the British Government . . .”

(Life and Public Services of Henry Wilson, Rev. Elias Nason and Thomas Russell, B.B. Russell, 1876, pp. 346-349)

Abolitionists Growing More Warlike

The crisis of the Union in the 1850s was caused by an increasing willingness of radicalized Northerners to use force, especially fomenting slave insurrection in the South, to end the African slavery inherited from the British. Rather than seek a practical and peaceful means of ending the institution — from which their own section had profited greatly through the slave trade and cotton milling — abolitionists preached fire, sword and anarchy. On the latter, anarchist Ralph Waldo Emerson admitted “I own I have little esteem for governments.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Abolitionists Growing More Warlike

“Emerson welcomed the fact of anarchy as a confirmation of his belief that men could live without institutions. “I am glad,” he said, “to see that the terror at disunion and anarchy is disappearing.” John Brown’s raid raised even more extravagant hopes for the triumph of transcendental anarchism. “ . . . John Brown was an idealist. He believed in his ideas to that extent that he existed to put them all into action . . .” said Emerson at a John Brown meeting . . . The example of Brown was just what the country needed [and Henry David] Thoreau’s sentiments were almost identical.

Emersonian transcendentalism [had] . . . changed from a contemplative philosophy into an activist creed. The “American Scholar” was no longer a withdrawn and harmless figure, reading the eternal truths of “Nature.” He was John Brown, an idealist whose inner voice commanded him to shed blood. Emerson had always hoped that he would one day see “the transformation of genius into practical power.”

During the Kansas conflict, [William Lloyd] Garrison remained true to his [pacifist] principles by having no truck with those who were enlisting in the free-State forces or sending arms to help them. Yet a curious note crept into his 1856 criticisms of the Kansas effort. If someone had to be armed, he protested, it should be the slaves in the South rather than the northern whites in the territories. If the resort to force had to be made, he seemed to be saying, it should be on such a scale as to bring down the whole slaveholding structure.

Wendell Phillips compromised himself more directly by donating money to a Kansas rifle fund in 1855 [and the] nonviolent [abolitionist] ranks were thinning. By 1858, Garrison was bemoaning the fact that abolitionists were “growing more and more warlike, and more disposed to repudiate the principles of peace, more and more disposed to talk about “finding a joint in the neck of the tyrant, and breaking that neck, “cleaving tyrants down from the crown to the groin,” with a sword which is carnal, and so inflaming one another with the spirit of violence and for a bloody work.” He feared that this thirst for violence would destroy “the moral power” of the abolitionists.

At a meeting for the observance of Brown’s martyrdom, Garrison endorsed Brown in a way that seemed amazingly inconsistent: “As a peace man – an “ultra” peace man – I am prepared to say” “Success to every slave insurrection at the South.” God, it seems, had decided that slavery must come to a violent end. A slave rebellion was not something Garrison was advocating, it was simply “God’s method of dealing retribution upon the head of the tyrant.” The implication was that although John Brown had violated holy commandments, he was nevertheless an instrument of divine judgment – like fire or pestilence. No responsibility rested with the abolitionists; it was the slaveholders themselves who had invited the wrath of God by refusing to heed the moral appeals of thirty years of antislavery agitation.”

(The Inner Civil War, Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union, George M. Frederickson, Harper & Row, 1965, pp. 39-42)

Suppressing the Consent of the Governed

As described below, Americans in general seem unaware of the enormity of the Southern experience 1861-1865 and the aftermath of devastating defeat and subjugation. The author’s analogy brings needed perspective to an unnecessary war and death of a million Americans, counting military and civilian casualties.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Suppressing the Consent of the Governed

“Imagine America invaded by a foreign power, one that has quadruple the population and industrial base. Imagine that this enemy has free access to the world’s goods as well as an inexhaustible supply of cannon fodder from the proletariat of other countries, while America itself is tightly blockaded from the outside world.

New York and Cincinnati have been taken. For months, Boston and Chicago have been under constant siege, the civilian population driven from their homes. Enemy forces roam over large parts of the country burning the homes, tools and food of the noncombatants in a campaign of deliberate terrorism.

Nearly eighty-five percent of the nation’s able-bodied men (up to 50 years of age) have been called to arms. Battlefield casualties have run to 39 percent and deaths amount to half of that, far exceeding those from any other war.

On the other hand, the enemy, though its acts and domestic propaganda indicate otherwise, is telling the American population that it only wants peace and the restoration of the status quo antebellum. Lay down your arms and all will be as before. What would be our state of morale in such conditions? Americans have never suffered such misfortune, have they?

Alas, they have. This was the experience of the Southern people from 1861-1865 in their lost War for Independence.

How hard the Southerners struggled for independence from the American Empire has been, and continues to be, suppressed by a nationalist culture that can only wonder: How could any group possibly have dissented from the greatest government on earth? But a very large number of Americans did no consent that government (the regime, after all, was supposed to be founded on the consent of the governed).

They were willing to put their dissent on the line in a greater sacrifice than any large group of Americans has ever been called on to make. Until finally, as a disappointed Union officer quoted by [author Gary] Gallagher remarked: “The rebellion [was] worn out rather than suppressed.”

(An Honorable Defeat, Clyde Wilson, Chronicles, October 1998, pg. 28)

Lincoln Turns the Trick

Lincoln purposely withheld news of military disasters so as not to discourage enlistments. To satisfy the endless levies for troops, Secretary of State William Seward scoured Europe for mercenaries, Lincoln allowed Northern governors to count captured slaves against State quotas, and generous enlistment bounties put many men in blue who would not otherwise fight.  After McClellan’s defeat at Gaines’s Mill, the Comte de Paris related that “Far from letting the [Northern] people know what was taking place around Richmond, the Secretary of War [Seward] . . . gave out that the Army of the Potomac had undertaken a strategic movement which would result in the capture of Richmond.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln Turns the Trick

“The defeat of General [George] McClellan’s right wing at Gaines’s Mill [June 1862] was a shock to President Lincoln and his cabinet, who were daily anticipating the capture of the Confederate capital. It was hard for them to realize that the expensively equipped Grand Army, on which their hopes and expectations of swiftly ending the war were fixed, had turned its back on Richmond.

President Lincoln, on further weighing McClellan’s despondent telegram, felt assured that the Peninsula campaign was about to end in failure and that a new levy of troops would be necessary.

Yet, while he wanted volunteers badly, he was, as he says in a carefully prepared letter to Secretary [William] Seward, fearful that “a general panic and stampede would follow” if he “publicly appealed to the country for this new force”; for the desperate strait of the Federal army on the Peninsula was being withheld from the people. How otherwise than by direct call, queries Bancroft [Life of Seward], “could a hundred thousand new soldiers be obtained?  Seward was a master of political strategy, and Lincoln was no novice. Here is the device: it was principally Seward’s.”

Seward, taking with him Lincoln’s letter just mentioned and an equally adroit letter to the governors of Northern States, hurried to New York and other cities for personal and telegraphic conferences with such governors and other men of influence as could meet them. During these conferences Seward so shaped matters that the responsibility for a new levy was seemingly shifted from the President and assumed by the governors of the several States.

To give the appearance of reality to the transaction he formulated a petition for the loyal governors to sign. The petition recites:

“The undersigned, governors of the states of the union, impressed with the belief that the citizens of the states which they respectfully represent are of one accord in the hearty desire that the recent successes of the Federal arms may be followed up . . . that you at once call on the several states for such equal numbers of me . . . as may in your judgment be necessary to garrison and hold all the numerous cities and military positions that have been captured by our armies and to speedily crush the rebellion.”

To this uniquely contrived petition, the President graciously replied: “Fully concurring in the wisdom of the views expressed to me in so patriotic a manner by you . . . I have decided to call into the service an additional force of three hundred thousand men.”

When the correspondence, “purporting to be the voluntary request of eighteen governors to the President,” was published on July 2, the people were still ignorant of McClellan’s discomfiture. When [the Northern public] learned that the army had been driven to Harrison’s Landing, the trick had been turned.  “The alarm and anger of the North,” adds Bancroft, “were great, but the prospects of having large reinforcements saved the administration from serious embarrassments.” Under this call 421,465 men were secured. To stimulate volunteering Secretary Stanton agreed, at Seward’s request, to go beyond his lawful authority and advance $25 out of the $100 bounty promised to each recruit.”

(The History of North Carolina in the War Between the States, Volume II, Bethel to Sharpsburg, Daniel Harvey Hill, Edwards & Broughton, 1926, pp. 128-130)

Achieving Southern Destiny

Washington warned that sectional animosity would endanger the new Union; by 1826 both Jefferson and Adams deplored the loss of republican direction provided by the revolutionary generation. The tariff controversy of the early 1830s ignited the fire that would not be quelled until 1865, though the Constitution and the Union were destroyed in the process.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Achieving Southern Destiny

“[Henry] Clay’s campaign for his “American System” drew fire mainly from the South Carolinians.

In 1827, Robert J. Turnbull, under the pseudonym of Brutus, published a series of thirty-three articles in the Charleston Mercury, and promptly issued them in a pamphlet entitled “The Crisis: Or Essays on the Usurpation of the Federal Government,” which he dedicated “to the people of the “Plantation States” as a testimony of respect, for their rights of sovereignty.”

Turnbull vehemently urged the people of the South to face the facts, to realize that the North was beginning to use its control of Congress for Southern oppression by protective tariffs and otherwise; and he proposed as a remedy that South Carolina should promptly interpose her sovereignty, and safeguard Southern interests, by vetoing such congressional acts as she should decide to be based upon Federal usurpations and intended for Northern advantage at the cost of Southern oppression.

“. . . William H. Trescott’s “The Position and Course of the South” [was] an embodiment of the soundest realization of the sectional conditions of the Southern section in the closing decade of the ante-bellum period. The author, a leading, experienced, conservative citizen of South Carolina, states in his preface, dated Oct. 12, 1850, that his purpose is to unify the widely separated parts of the South.

He says his views are not new, but they are characteristically Southern: “We are beginning to think for ourselves, the first act toward acting for ourselves.” The essay begins with an analysis of industrial contrasts.

The political majority of the North represents labor; that of the South, capital; the contrast is violent. Free labor hates slave labor, and it will overturn the system if it can. The two sections with many contrasting and conflicting characteristics are combined under the United States Constitution, but they are essentially irreconcilable. Even in foreign relations the North is jealous of foreign powers for commercial and industrial reasons, while Southern industry is not competitive with, but complementary to European industry and commerce, and the South, if a nation by itself, would be upon most cordial terms with foreign powers.

“The United States government under the control of Northern majorities must reflect Northern sentiment, sustain Northern interests, impersonate Northern power. Even if it be conceded that the South has no present grievance to complain of, it is the part of wisdom to consider the strength and relations of the sections, and face the question, what is the position of the South? In case our rights should be attacked, where is our constitutional protection? The answer is obvious.

But one course is open to her honor, and that is secession and the formation of an independent confederacy. There are many men grown old in the Union who would feel an honest and pardonable regret at the thought of its dissolution. They have prided themselves on the success of the great American experiment in political self-government, and feel that the dissolution of the Union would proclaim a mortifying failure. Not so.

The vital principle of political liberty is representative government, and when Federal arrangements are discarded, that lives in original vigor. Who does not consider the greatest triumph of the British constitution the facility and vigor with which, under slight modifications, it developed into the great republican government under which we have accomplished our national progress. And so it will be with the United States Constitution.

We believe that Southern interests demand an independent government. We believe that the time has come when this can be established temperately, wisely, strongly. But in effecting this separation we would not disown our indebtedness, our gratitude to the past. The Union has spread Christianity, fertilized a wilderness, enriched the world’s commerce wonderfully, spread Anglo-Saxon civilization. “It has given to the world sublime names, which the world will not willingly let die — heroic actions which will light the eyes of a far-coming enthusiasm. It has achieved its destiny. Let us achieve ours.”

(History of the Literary and Intellectual Life of the Southern States (Vol. VII), Ulrich B. Phillips, Southern Historical Publication Society, 1909, pp. 193-198)

 

Two Cultures of 1860 America

A twenty-two year old Virginian in 1861, George Benjamin West wrote his memoirs thirty years after the war. He noted during his State’s early occupation by the enemy the prevalence of German rather than American soldiers in blue – and the same in 1865 as he rode through occupied Richmond. His observations reveal two distinct cultures in the United States of 1860.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Two Cultures of 1860 America

“Our servants stayed with us several weeks [after the capitulation]. I intended to get a parole, but father insisted that I could go about much freer and would not be subjected to so many interruptions by the guards around Old Point if I took the oath.

I went up to take the oath, and General Joseph R. Anderson, CSA, of the Tredegar Iron Works, a splendid looking man and soldier, was ahead of me, and I heard the questions asked him, and saw the manner of the (Federal) lieutenant, who felt his importance, and I became so indignant with the lieutenant and sorry for the general that when my time came I did not feel the humiliation and shame I expected.

Look around at the sight now. No people ever recuperated in such a short time. This whole section soon became a garden spot, and though most of the people had to lose even their land for security debts (often for the hire of slaves before the war), yet though not accustomed and often not really able to work, they made the best of the situation and determined if possible to start in life again and show the Yankees that they could live without their aid, and even without slaves or property.

I think the South believed that the North opposed slavery not so much because of their [abolitionists’] love for humanity as they pretended but because they were envious of the prosperity of the South and hated the aristocracy because they knew they were superior, and felt that their own mean pecuniary dealings and money-making propensity was condemned.

The South did not try to make money because money was the means by which they could elevate themselves, because they looked more to a man’s character and behavior than to his bank account.

The North had to work harder and live more economically to get along, and probably on this account they would take advantages and do little mean tricks which were looked upon by us as wanting in honor and honesty, and gentlemanly instincts.

The better classes of the North never visited the South, nor were the Southern people anxious to mingle with them at the North, so we grew wider apart every year. They hating and envying us more and more, and we looked down upon them.”

(When the Yankees Came, Civil War and Reconstruction on the Virginia Peninsula, George Benjamin West, Park Rouse, Jr., editor, The Dietz Press, 1977, pp. 97-98)

Theories of Conflict and Higher Law

Many in the antebellum South viewed the theories advanced by abolitionists and the new Republican Party as threatening the Union they wished to remain in and forcing their withdrawal. As South Carolina was threatened with coercion in 1832 over nullification, those in the South wondered why the Northern States which nullified federal laws were not threatened with coercion – which well might have impelled those Northern States to secede.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Theories of Conflict and Higher Law

“But whatever the real issue between the sections in the territorial dispute, there was no doubt, in the South at least, of the sectional objectives in defending or in opposing two new theories developed in the North during the decade of the fifties.

These were the theories of the “irrepressible conflict” and of the “higher law.”

Both were considered by the South to be incompatible [with the United States Constitution] . . . both were soundly denounced as a direct infringement of the principle of constitutional guarantees.

The theory of the “irrepressible conflict” was the joint product of Abraham Lincoln’s address before the Republican State Convention in Illinois, delivered on June 16, 1858, and of William Seward’s “Irrepressible Conflict” speech delivered at Rochester, New York, October 25, 1858.

This theory was denounced by every legitimate agency in the South from county assemblies to State conventions. On December 2, 1859, the General Assembly of Tennessee resolved “that we recognize in the recent outbreak at Harper’s Ferry the natural prints of this treasonable, “irrepressible conflict” doctrine put forward by the great head of the Black Republican party and echoed by his subordinates.”

The second of these theories — the theory of the higher law – [was championed by] William Seward of New York.

This theory doubtless sprang from the ranks of the abolitionists in the latter thirties, for as early as June 15, 1841, Representative Kenneth Raynor of North Carolina attacked the position of John Quincy Adams on the slavery question because he “has thrown aside law and Constitution, and has dared to put the issue of this question upon the high and impregnable ground of the Divine law”, a position which Raynor declared “sweeps away everything like human compact and rests the mutual rights of men on what the imagination of fanaticism may picture to itself as a Divine requirement.”

In February 1851, Robert Toombs discovered that a “great question is rising up before us [to] become a “fixed fact” in American politics. It is . . . sometimes called the higher law, in antagonism to our constitutional compact. If the first (i.e, higher law) succeeds, we have no other safety except in secession; if the latter (i.e, the constitutional compact succeeds) “liberty and Union, may be forever one and inseparable.”

Before the end of the following year, the “fixed fact” had found definite expression from the pen of William Hosmer in a volume of some two hundred pages entitled, The Higher Law. Within those pages, the author makes the following contention: “Men have no right to make a constitution which sanctions slavery, and it is the imperative duty of all good men to break it, when made . . . the fact that a law is constitutional amounts to nothing, unless it is also pure . . .”

On February 18, 1861, Fulton Anderson, commissioner from Mississippi to Virginia, warned the Virginia Convention that an “infidel fanaticism, crying out for a higher law than that of the Constitution . . . has been enlisted in this strife”; and in the Alabama Convention of that year L.M. Stone maintained that the “triumph of a Higher Law party, pledged to the destruction of our Constitutional Rights, forced us to dissolve our political connection with [the] hostile States.”

(The South As A Conscious Minority, Jesse T. Carpenter, New York University, 1930, pp 157-160)

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