Browsing "Northern Secessionists"

Sedition and Secession in New England

The first secession sentiment displayed in the US came from New England, a region which saw, in the early 1800s, a growing faith in monarchical Great Britain as “Federalist distrust of the youthful and growing American people increased.” In early 1811 when the bill to admit Louisiana was considered, the New England Federalists “violently resisted it.”

Josiah Quincy declared that “if this bill passes, the bonds of this Union are virtually dissolved; that the States which compose it are free from their moral obligations, and that, as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some, to prepare for a separation – amicably if they can, violently if they must. The first public love of my heart in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There is my fireside; there are the tombs of my ancestors.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Sedition and Secession in New England

“As soon as Congress convened in November, 1808, New England opened the attack on [President Thomas] Jefferson’s retaliatory measures [in the Embargo against the British]. Senator James Hillhouse of Connecticut offered a resolution for the repeal of the obnoxious statutes. “Great Britain was not to be threatened into compliance by a rod of coercion,” he said.

[Timothy] Pickering made a speech that might have well been delivered in Parliament [Four years earlier, Pickering had plotted the secession of New England and enlisted the support of the British Minister to accompany it].

Before [Chief Justice John] Marshall had written [his friend Pickering], the Legislature of Massachusetts formally declared that the continuance of the Embargo would “endanger . . . the union of these States.” Talk of secession was steadily growing in New England. The National Government feared open rebellion.

On January 9, 1809, Jefferson signed the “Force Act,” . . . Collectors of customs were authorized to seize any vessel or wagon if they suspected the owner of an intention to evade the Embargo laws; ships could be laden only in the presence of National officials, and sailing delayed or prohibited arbitrarily.

Along the New England coasts popular wrath swept like a forest fire. Violent resolutions were passed. The Collector of Boston, Benjamin Lincoln, refused to obey the law and resigned. The Legislature of Massachusetts passed a bill denouncing the “Force Act” as unconstitutional, and declaring any officer entering a house in execution of it to be guilty of a high misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment.

The Governor of Connecticut declined the request of the Secretary of War to afford military aid and addressed the Legislature on a speech bristling with sedition. The Embargo must go, said the Federalists, or New England would appeal to arms. Riots broke out in many towns. Withdrawal from the Union was openly advocated.”

(Life of John Marshall, Albert J. Beveridge, Volume IV, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1919, excerpts pp. 13-17; 27)

Emerson the Northern Secessionist

Wanting to depart Boston should New England ever “surrender to the slave trade,” the idealistic abolitionist Ralph Waldo Emerson must have forgotten that Massachusetts was the linchpin in the transatlantic slave trade and that Lowell Mills was amassing a fortune processing slave-produced raw cotton. Emerson was ready for the secession of New England from the Union if Buchanan won election in 1856 instead of Fremont.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Emerson the Northern Secessionist              

“The events of the fifties confirmed Emerson’s fears of Southern political power. It was “the ascendancy of Southern manners” that drew public men into the support of the South. At the same time, his attitude toward the North grew more sentimental and less critical. He drew more sharply the line between the slave states and the free states. Expressions such as “party of darkness” versus “party of light,” “aristocracy” versus “plebian strength” began to appear in his journals and addresses. Like his fellow-abolitionists, he assumed that the goodness of the individual was simply lost in the badness of the slavery system.

Emerson maintained that no slaveholder could be free. He fell into the abolitionist assumption that nobility and sincerity were inevitable concomitants to the Negro’s ignorance and simplicity. Those who ran away were fleeing from plantation whips and hiding from hounds.

Those who cooperated with the South were stigmatized. Any judge who obeyed the Fugitive Slave Law by returning a runaway slave to the South made of his bench an extension of the planter’s whipping post. Emerson’s anger over [Preston] Brooks assault on [Charles] Sumner led him to exaggerate uncritically his account of both Northern and Southern values:

“Life has not parity of value in the free state and in the slave state. In one, it is adorned with education, with skillful labor, with arts, with long prospective interests, with sacred family ties, with honor and justice. In the other, life is a fever; man is an animal, given to pleasure, frivolous, irritable, spending his days in hunting and practicing with deadly weapons to defend himself against his slaves and against his companions brought up in the same idle and dangerous way. Such people live for the moment, they have properly no future, and readily risk on every passion a life which is of small value to themselves or others.”

Emerson’s letter to his brother William in June of 1856 revealed the extent of his pessimism. He stated that he was looking at the map to find a place to go with his children when Boston and Massachusetts should surrender to the slave trade. “If the Free States do not obtain the government next fall, which our experience does not entitle us to hope, nothing seems left, but to form a Northern Union, & break the old.”

(The South in Northern Eyes, 1831-1861, Howard R. Floan, McGraw-Hill, 1958, pp. 57-59)