Browsing "Southern Statesmen"

No Treason in Resisting Oppression

The early United States was an agricultural country with import tariffs at a low 5%. As Northern industrialism grew by 1808, the next 24 years saw the protective tariff as the most contentious debate in Congress. Anti-tariff leaders argued that protective duties were ultimately paid by consumers in the form of higher prices for manufactured products, and thus more oppressive for Southern consumers, who received no compensating benefits, than for northern consumers, who enjoyed higher incomes.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

No Treason in Resisting Oppression

“Jackson and Calhoun differed almost as much on governmental policies as on constitutional principles. In 1828 the Vice-President was vehemently against the protective tariff and mildly in favor of the national bank. The President, as did [Martin] Van Buren, mildly approved of the tariff and detested the bank.

Calhoun considered the tariff a crucial issue because he regarded the conflict between North and South as the overriding national problem. But Jackson was more disturbed by the monster bank because he was distressed about the capitalists and stock jobbers who supposedly made profits by spewing forth paper money instead of producing a material product. The President was determined to stop rich, moneyed interests from using government funds to secure paper profits at the expense of the people.

The early ideological differences between Calhoun and Jackson became particularly evident on the question of distributing the federal surplus to the States after the national debt was paid. Jackson vigorously favored distribution; Calhoun adamantly opposed it.

For Jackson, retiring the debt, and thereby stopping the moneyed interests from employing the peoples’ funds, was an important end in itself. For Calhoun, on the other hand, retiring the debt was only a means of lowering the tariff. Once the debt was repaid, expanding federal surpluses would force the government to cut taxes. But if the surplus was distributed, the federal government would retain an excuse for high tariffs. Distribution would destroy the reason for repayment.

To Jackson, equal division [of the surplus] meant division according to population. But Calhoun considered distribution according to population completely unequal. The majority North would continue to drain away the wealth of the minority South. Jackson’s distribution would institutionalize the worst evils of Adams’ nationalism.

The increasing tension between Calhoun and Jackson became blatantly public at the April 13, 1830, Jefferson Day dinner. Glaring at Calhoun, signaling the boisterous crowd to rise, the President toasted “Our Federal Union – It must be preserved!” [Calhoun’s] reply, when it came, was an anticlimax: “The Union – Next to our liberties most dear.”

Moments later, George McDuffie was more blunt: “The memory of Patrick Henry: the first American statesman who had the soul to feel, and the courage to declare, in the face of armed tyranny, that there is no treason in resisting oppression.”

(Prelude to War, the Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836; William W. Freehling, Harper & Row, 1965, excerpts pp. 190-192)

 

The Cause of the Great Calamity

The following are excerpts from a letter sent to Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward by Associate Chief Justice John A. Campbell on April 13, 1861. Seward repeatedly led Campbell and the Confederate commissioners to believe his government would peacefully resolve the issue at Fort Sumter. One concludes from the letter that Lincoln deceived his own Secretary as to his intentions at Fort Sumter and setting the war in motion – as well as sending Ward Lamon to Charleston to ascertain South Carolina’s defenses. Many Southern Unionists pleaded with Lincoln’s to disarm the crisis by simply removing federal troops from Sumter, and letting time heal the breach.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Cause of the Great Calamity

“On the 15th of March [1861] I left with Judge Crawford, one of the [peace] commissioners of the Confederate States, a note in writing to the effect:

“I feel entire confidence that Fort Sumter will be evacuated in the next five days. This measure is felt as imposing great responsibility on the Administration. The substance of this statement I communicated to you the same evening by letter. Five days elapsed, and I called with a telegram from General [Pierre] Beauregard to the effect that Sumter was not evacuated, but that Major [Robert] Anderson was at work making repairs.

The 30th of March [1861] arrived, and at that time a telegram came from Governor [Francis] Pickens, inquiring concerning Colonel Lamon, whose visit to Charleston he supposed had a connection with the proposed evacuation of Fort Sumter . . .

On the first of April, I received from you the statement in writing: “I am satisfied the government will not undertake to supply For Sumter without giving notice to Governor Pickens.”

On April 7, I addressed to you a letter on the subject of alarm that the preparations by the government had created, and asked you if the assurances I had given were well-founded. In respect to Sumter your reply was: “Faith as to Sumter fully kept – wait and see.”

In this morning’s paper I read “an authorized messenger from President Lincoln informed Governor Pickens and General Beauregard that provisions will be sent to Fort Sumter peaceably, or otherwise by force.”

This was on [April 8th], at Charleston, the day following your last assurance, and this is the last evidence of the full faith I was to “wait for and see!” . . .

The commissioners who received those communications conclude they have been abused . . . I think no candid man who will read over what I have written, and consider for a moment what is going on at Fort Sumter, but will agree that the equivocating conduct of the administration . . . is the proximate cause of the great calamity.

On April 4, 1861, President [Jefferson] Davis authorized General Beauregard to take any action he deemed necessary about Fort Sumter. Beauregard opened negotiations for the surrender of the Fort, and Major Anderson promised to evacuate within a few days.

Under the pretense of relieving a starving garrison, [Lincoln] sent an expedition . . . “of eleven vessels, with two-hundred and eighty-five guns, and twenty-five hundred men. They were scheduled to arrive at Charleston on the ninth of April, but did not arrive until several days later. The reason Lincoln’s [war initiation] scheme did not work was a tempest, which delayed his fleet.”

Jefferson Davis did everything in his power to prevent civil strife, and the South cannot be blamed for the most terrible Civil War the world has ever witnessed. It is true they did fire the first shot, but the question is, which party first indicated the purpose of hostility? Which made the fatal menace; or which drew, rather than which delivered, the fire at Fort Sumter?

If Jefferson Davis signed the order for the reduction of the Fort, Abraham Lincoln had, before, signed the order to reinforce it.”

(Jefferson Davis, Patriot, a Biography, 1808-1865, Eric Langhein, Vantage Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 54-57)

Richard Henry Lee Rails Against England’s Slave Trade

The responsibility for populating its American colonies with enslaved Africans rests with the British, who needed cheap labor for the plantations producing profit for England. Southern colonists, alarmed at the increasing numbers of black slaves arriving in British and New England hulls, repeatedly called for an end to the cruel trade. As Richard Henry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) suggests below, any and all demands by Virginians and Carolinians to halt the slave-trade were nullified by the British Crown.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Richard Henry Lee Rails Against England’s Slave Trade

“Massachusetts invalidated the British commercial system, which Virginia resisted from abhorrence of the slave-trade. Never before had England pursued the traffic in Negroes with such eager avarice.

The remonstrances of philanthropy and of the colonies were unheeded, and categorical instructions from the [British] Board of Trade kept every American port open as markets for men.

The Legislature of Virginia had repeatedly showed a disposition to obstruct the commerce; a deeply-seated public opinion began more and more to avow the evils and the injustice of slavery itself; and in 1761, it was proposed to suppress the importation of Africans by a prohibitory duty.

Among those who took part in the long and violent debate was Richard Henry Lee, the representative of Westmoreland. Descended from one of the oldest families in Virginia, he had been educated in England and had returned to his native land familiar with the spirit of Grotius and Cudworth, of Locke and Montesquieu; his first recorded speech was against Negro slavery, in behalf of human freedom.

In the continued importation of slaves, he foreboded danger to the political and moral interests of the Old Dominion; an increase of the free Anglo-Saxons he argued, would foster arts and varied agriculture, while a race doomed to abject bondage was of necessity an enemy to social happiness. He painted from ancient history the horrors of servile insurrections. He deprecated the barbarous atrocity of the trade with Africa, and its violation of the equal rights of men created like ourselves in the image of God.

“Christianity,” thus he spoke in conclusion, “by introducing into Europe the truest principles of universal benevolence and brotherly love, happily abolished civil slavery. Let us who profess the same religion practice its precepts, and by agreeing to this duty, pay a proper regard to our rue interests and to the dictates of justice and humanity.”

The tax for which Lee raised his voice was carried through the Assembly of Virginia by a majority of one; but from England a negative followed with certainty every colonial act tending to diminish the [British] slave-trade. South Carolina, also appalled by the great increase of its black population, endeavored by its own laws to restrain the importation of slaves, and in like manner came into collision with the same British policy.”

(History of the United States, from the Discovery of the American Continent, Volume IV; George Bancroft, Brown, Little and Company, 1856, excerpts, pp. 421-422)

Saving the South for Southerners

The States’ Rights Democratic Party of the mid-1940s had no stronger advocate than Charleston News & Courier editor William Watts Ball.  Also known as the “Dixiecrats,” its platform in 1948 called for strict interpretation of the Constitution, opposed the usurpation of legislative functions by the executive and judicial departments, and condemned “the effort to establish in the United States a police nation that would destroy the last vestige of liberty enjoyed by a citizen.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Saving the South for Southerners

“A full year before the end of Roosevelt’s third term, Ball was again active in attempts to organize a Southern Democratic party. It was the spring of 1944, however, before the movement was underway in earnest. Through public contributions (Ball gave one hundred dollars) the anti-Roosevelt faction hoped to finance an advertising campaign in newspapers and on radio. The independent white Democrats would not present candidates in the primaries, but offer only a ticket of presidential electors pledged not to vote for Roosevelt.

They might back a favorite son for president, or they might better co-operate with the similarly-minded in other States in support of someone like Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia . . . in May anti-Roosevelt Democrats had held their first meeting in Columbia, with nineteen counties represented, and made plans for a State convention. The Southern Democratic Party had been reborn.

[Ball’s] News and Courier continued to urge the election of independent Democratic electors. If eleven to sixteen Southern States withheld their electoral votes, they could assure respect for their political policies.

But in spite of the untiring efforts of The News and Courier, aided principally by the Greenwood Index-Journal, the anti-Roosevelt movement did not develop. Very few people made financial contributions; the Southern Democratic Party could not wage an effective campaign. Once again South Carolina gave solid support to Roosevelt and the Democratic Party.  All the State schools except the Citadel, he charged, were part of the State political machine . . .”

But at that moment, the “second Reconstruction” was already underway . . . [and] emerging forces combined to force open the entire [racial] issue. The Negro migration northward had begun in earnest with World War I. By 1940, a small Negro professional and white-collar class resided in a number of northern cities and it used its growing political power to win greater equality of treatment there.

Because New Deal programs were designed to advance employment security, including that of Negroes, most northern Negroes abandoned their historic allegiance to the Republican Party. In cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Cleveland, the Democratic political machine depended heavily upon the Negro vote.

But already an earnest and vital independent political movement was underway [in 1948], in protest against the civil rights program of the Truman administration and the attitudes of the liberal court. Of 531 electoral votes, 140 were in the South; yet the North, East and West treated the South as a slave province. Other papers joined Ball in the demand for action; the [Columbia] State, like the News and Courier, called for a Southern third party.

On January 19th, in the State Democratic Party’s biennial convention, Governor Strom Thurmond was nominated for the office of president of the United States. The State’s national convention votes were to be withheld from Harry S. Truman. If Truman were nominated, South Carolina would not support the national party in the electoral college.

The State had not spoken so sharply since 1860; it would bolt rather than accept Truman. At the same time Governor Fielding L. Wright of Mississippi issued the call to revolt at the western end of the Deep South. The Southern governors’ conference . . . named its own political action committee, headed by Thurmond, which was to go to Washington . . . to demand concessions . . . from President Truman.

About two weeks later a delegation of governors met with Howard McGrath, National Chairman of the Democratic Party. When McGrath gave a flat “No” to their request that Truman’s anti-discrimination proposals be withdrawn, the governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas, and Arkansas called on Democrats to join a revolt against Truman. The South, they announced, was not “in the bag” anymore.

If the South united behind Thurmond, Truman would lose all its electoral votes and the election might be thrown to the House of Representatives, where with the votes of the South and the West, a man such as Thurmond would have a real chance. Whatever the outcome, the national parties would learn a lesson they would not soon forget — the “Solid South” would no longer be a dependable political factor.

“In the electoral college,” Ball advised, “lies the only chance to save the South for Southerners.”

(Damned Upcountryman, William Watts Ball, John D. Starke, Duke Press, 1968, excerpts, pp. 201-233)

 

Sacrificing the Substance of Individual Liberty

James D. Bulloch, born in Savannah and descended from Scottish forbears, was the foremost planner of naval affairs for the new American nation in 1861. His grandfather, Archibald Bulloch (1730-1777), guided Georgia’s Liberty Party in actions against oppressive British colonial measures and later served as a colonel in the Revolution. James remained in England after the war and died there in exile in 1901. It is said that Bulloch was encouraged to write his memoirs by nephew Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1880’s, which inspired Teddy’s later book on the War of 1812. Roosevelt praised his uncle and other Southern patriots for following their duty to fight for independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sacrificing the Substance of Individual Liberty

“In 1861 the disintegrating forces prevailed, and eleven of the Constituent Republics withdrew from the Union on the plea that the original conditions of Union had been broken by the others, and they formed a fresh confederation among themselves. The remaining States or Republics resisted that act of separation, and affirmed that the people of the whole United States were, or should be fused into, one nation, and that the division of the Union into States had, or should hereafter have, no greater political significance than the division of the several States into counties.

The Union of 1787 was dissolved in 1861 by the action of ten of the constituent republics. A new Union was formed in 1865 by the military power of the majority of States, compelling the minority to accept their view of the national compact. The former Union was a confederation of States, and was of course a Federal Republic; the latter Union is founded upon a fusion of the people into one nation, with a supreme centralized executive and administrative Government at Washington, and can no longer be called a Federal Republic; it has become an Imperial Republic.

The latter name gives some promise of greater strength and cohesion of the former, but the duration of the restored Union will depend very much on whether the people of the whole country fully realize, and are really reconciled to, the new dogma that each State is only an aggregate of counties, and that its political functions are only to consist in regulating such purely domestic concerns as the central authority in Washington may leave to its discretion.

If the majority who have effected the change in the conditions of the American Union are content to leave the management of public affairs to the professional politicians, the “caucuses,” and the “wire-pullers,” they will have fought in vain, and will find that to secure the semblance of a strictly national Union they have sacrificed the substance of individual liberty.”

(The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe, James D. Bulloch, Sagamore Press, 1959, excerpts, pp. 14-16)

A Symbol of Heroism to Both North and South

Though indicted for treason, Jefferson Davis’s enemies feared his trial as they recognized him as one of the ablest constitutional scholars in America.  After his death in 1889, his wife Varina could not maintain their home in Mississippi and moved to New York to earn a living as a writer. There she wrote a lengthy biography of her husband, and Davis admirer Joseph Pulitzer gave her a weekly column in the New York Sunday World with an annual salary of $1500. When she passed in 1906, Varina Howell Davis was given a heroine’s military funeral and placed beside her husband in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Symbol of Heroism to Both North and South

“The saddest lot of all was that of the symbol of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. Benjamin, Mason and Slidell were hateful to the North, but they were beyond the law’s long arm. Davis had to bear the brunt of Yankee wrath – which included becoming the scapegoat for the assassination of Lincoln. The popular song with the refrain “We’ll hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree” was almost euphemistic; the most horrible forms of Oriental torture were what the South’s enemies had in mind.

The indignities began when Davis was captured by federal troops . . . [and] the humiliation was no worse than the physical rigors that followed. The Davises were thrown into a dark prison van. Their belongings, from gold to baby clothes, were looted and Northern troops snatched away food intended for the Davis children. The soldiers exposed themselves to Varina Davis.

En route to prison, the Davises received one touching gesture while locked in a hotel room in Savannah. The black waiter who brought their food tray hid, under the cover, a bunch of beautiful red roses and tearfully expressed his sorrow at what had happened to the Davises and to the South.

While the family remained in the hotel, Davis was taken incommunicado to Fort Monroe in Virginia, a stronghold known as the Gibralter of the Chesapeake. Not wanting to take any chances, the federal commander there surrounded Davis with an entire garrison of troops and locked him in heavy chains in a viewless, tiny cell.

His only furniture was an iron cot, his only utensil a wooden spoon, his only rations unchewable boiled beef, stale bread, and water. Squeaky-shoed soldiers marched around him twenty-four hours a day; we was never allowed a private moment. Guards even stood around him when he used the portable toilet that was brought into his cell. Davis’s only company was a mouse he made his pet.

Davis, always a sick man, nearly wasted away. He had been indicted for treason, but was never brought to trial. Habeas corpus and all other basic rights were denied, and he was left to languish in the darkness.

Davis was the only Confederate leader who remained incarcerated – he was doing penance for the entire South. In 1868, after even Northern sentiment was outraged at his unusual punishment, he was freed and reunited with his family. For his dignity under the most horrid of conditions, he won a martyr’s reputation throughout the South, giving inspiration to the thousands suffering through the abject poverty of the postbellum period; any stigma of having lost the war was lost.

Their sons all died, the first in an accidental fall from a balcony, another of diphtheria, and the third of yellow fever. Their daughter, Varina Anne, or “Winnie,” had been crowned by Southern war veterans as the “daughter of the Confederacy.” However, she alienated the entire South when she fell in love with a Harvard-trained Syracuse attorney whose grandfather had been a prominent abolitionist. The affair killed her father in 1889, and nearly 15,000 thronged to his funeral. Davis had outlived nearly all his enemies and had become a symbol of heroism to both North and South.

Out of respect, Winnie called the marriage off and never wed.”

(A Class By Themselves; the Untold Story of the Great Southern Families, William Stadiem, Crown Publishers, 1980, excerpts, pp. 130-132)

Power and Politics over Country

The months between Lincoln’s election and his inauguration are seen as the most critical in American history as the historical record shows that he revealed little in those four months that might have averted war. Many people journeyed to Springfield, Illinois to better understand his positions though he “wished neither to articulate unrealistic solutions nor hinder ongoing negotiations,” and his Republican allies in Congress convinced him to follow a strategy of silence. His later claims that he wanted to avert war are difficult to explain, and the Founders would not have understood how a mere president could decide whether a State legislature could convene.

Lincoln’s friend Duff Green (1791-1875) was a Kentucky-born politician and businessman who had served under General William H. Harrison in the War of 1812. He later practiced law in Missouri where he also served in the legislature and served as a diplomat under Presidents John Tyler and Zachary Taylor. During the war he manufactured iron for the South and operated the Dalton Arms Factory.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Power and Politics over Country

“Green and Lincoln did meet one more time. On April 5, 1865, Lincoln was stationed off the Virginia shore on the USS Malvern trying to decide whether to allow a Virginia legislature to convene since that State had no other government. As it happened, Duff Green was in Richmond at the same time . . . [and] asked for and was granted an audience with the president. The two old friends enjoyed an amiable discussion . . . Green recalled that Lincoln received him “with great kindness.”

The two men discussed the terms of peace and reconstruction. Lincoln said that all the Southern States had to do was “acknowledge the authority of the United States.”

Lincoln remembered their Springfield meeting four years earlier. The president told Green that he went to Washington “resolved to carry out in good faith” those same pledges that he gave when they met in Illinois. Lincoln insisted that he had been willing to sign a constitutional amendment prohibiting Congress from interfering with slavery in the States, a policy similar to what he communicated to Green in Springfield.

Green later contended that if Lincoln “had come to Washington in December, 1860, as I urged him to do, and had then exerted the like influence in favor of Mr. Crittenden’s resolution, extending the Missouri compromise line to the Pacific . . . who can doubt his influence . . . would have prevented the war?

Green believed Lincoln had wanted to avert a war. He alleged, however, that Lincoln’s conciliatory attitude “was carefully kept from the knowledge of the Southern people.” Green stated that if “any pains had been taken” to explain Lincoln’s position to the South, the hostilities may have ended. He blamed the Radical Republicans for deceiving both Lincoln and the Southern public. He believed the president sought peace but was overwhelmed by his party who initiated war in order to control the patronage and powers of the federal government.”

(Lincoln, Green and the Trumbull Letters, David E. Woodard; Civil War History, the Journal of the Middle Period, John T. Hubbell, editor, Kent State University, Vol. XLII, No. 3, September 1996, excerpts pp. -219)

Heroes for All Americans

The mid-1970s pardons of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were only symbolic gestures that had little impact beyond political posturing, though the outpouring of respect and veneration of these great American leaders showed an America still exhibiting historical perspective. This was the same era that historian Emil Eisenschiml revisited the long-overlooked plot of Edwin Stanton’s Radical Republican’s plotting Lincoln’s death.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Heroes for All Americans

“In August 1975, President Gerald Ford signed Senate Joint Resolution 23 restoring full citizenship rights to Robert E. Lee. Three years later, President Jimmy Carter approved congressional action extending similar amnesty to Jefferson Davis.

A generation following Appomattox, “Marse Robert” had eclipsed all other Confederate rivals, becoming the region’s most celebrated hero. Theodore Roosevelt praised the Confederacy’s greatest general as a hero for all Americans. In the mid-1920s Congress heartily endorsed the refurbishing of the Custis-Lee mansion, naming the home a national shrine. Author Douglas Hall] Freeman painted a portrait of Lee as an individual beyond reproach in all respects of his public and private life.

After World War II . . . A host of symbolic measures indicated his status as a national hero: Virginia’s placement of a statue of the general in the Capitol building; the hanging of Lee’s portrait in the main reading room of the West Point Library; the christening of the nuclear-powered submarine the Robert E. Lee; and the opening of America’s centennial celebration of the Civil War with separate ceremonies at Grant’s and Lee’s tombs.

[The] intensity with which the general was venerated, especially in the South, made any criticism of him risky business. President Dwight Eisenhower learned this fact the hard way. In May, 1957, Ike visited the Gettysburg battlefield in the company of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. After their tour, the World War II heroes told reporters that both Meade and Lee deserved to be sacked for the errors they had committed at Gettysburg.

Senator Olin Johnson of South Carolina indignantly responded to Ike’s blasphemy” “It is offensive to my people to listen to a general who had at his disposal in his day the most wealth, men, materials of war, and the largest army, navy and air force in history, and hear him criticize a great Confederate general who, despite poverty, starvation, a ragged army, and practically no navy or munitions, managed to hold off and even invade the territory of the industrialized, wealthy, well-fed Yankees.”

Senator Harry Byrd, Sr. of Virginia . . . observed that “Lee needs no defense . . . his glorious record, his noble character, and his moral leadership give him a place in world history that no one can impair.” An editorial in the Washington Evening Star called the president’s post-tour comments a major setback for Republican efforts to woo votes in Dixie . . . “

[Senator Hubert] Humphrey of Minnesota melodramatically seconded a pardon: “I know I am what one would call a Yankee, but I am more than that: I am an American. One great American was Robert E. Lee.”

Shortly after Carter’s election, Senator Mark Hatfield [of Oregon] introduced in the Senate a bill “to restore Posthumously Citizenship to Jefferson F. Davis.” In lengthy remarks, Hatfield [stated that] the Confederate leader was “an honest public servant of principle the like of which is all too rare in these days when expedience is more ardently practiced than conviction defended.” Hatfield claimed that his resolution would “correct a grave injustice inflicted upon Davis by a vindictive conqueror.”

(Reconstruction in the Wake of Vietnam; The Pardoning of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, Francis MacDonnell, Civil War History, Vol. XL, 1994, Kent State University Press, excerpts, pp. 127-130)

Self-Preservation Compelled Secession

Foremost in the minds of Southerners by 1860 was the incessant abolitionist agitation that had wrought Nat Turner’s murderous rampage in 1831, and most recently then, John Brown’s in 1859. The memory of brutal slave uprisings and massacres in Santo Domingo and what may lay ahead for them had much to do with separating the South from the North. Rather than work toward a practical and peaceful compromise to end the labor system inherited from Britain, the abolitionists and Lincoln himself allowed the drift to war and the end of the republic.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Self-Preservation Compelled Secession

“What mighty force lay back of this Southern movement, which by the beginning of February, 1861, had swept seven States out of the Union?

An explanation early accepted and long held by the North made it simply the South’s desire to protect slavery. Forty years of wrangling over this subject, fortified by many statements Southerners had made about it . . . [and] South Carolina in her secession declaration had made the North’s interference with slavery her greatest grievance, and the subject appeared equally large in other seceding States.

Yet simple answers are never very satisfying, and in this case it was too simple to say that Southerners seceded and fought a four-year war for the surface reason of merely protecting their property in slaves. Had not the South spurned the Corwin Amendment, which guaranteed slavery in the States against all interference by Congress? And what happened to the subject of slavery in the territories, which had loomed so big in the 1850’s? Now it was forgotten by both the North and the South.

Slavery was undoubtedly a potent cause; but more powerful than slavery was the Negro himself. It was the fear of what would ultimately happen to the South if the Negro should be freed by the North, as the abolitionists seemed so intent on doing – and Southerners considered Republicans and abolitionists the same.

This fear had worried [John C.] Calhoun when he wrote in 1849 “The Address of Southern Delegates in Congress to their Constituents.” It was not the loss of property in slaves that the South feared so much as the danger of the South becoming another Santo Domingo, should a Republican regime free the slaves.

And it is no argument to say that Lincoln would never have tried to do this. The South believed his party would force him to it if he did not do so of his own volition. If he were not himself an abolitionist, he had got his position by abolition votes. A friend of Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury, told him that the South’s knowledge of what happened in Santo Domingo and “Self-preservation had compelled secession.”

(A History of the South, Volume VII, The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1950, excerpts, pp. 8-10)

Senator Wigfall on the Cause of Discontent

Referring to the proposed Thirteenth Amendment in early 1861, offered by the Lincoln’s party and approved by him, Southern Commissioners Yancey, Rost and Mann wrote to British Lord John Russell on August 14, 1861: “The very [Republican] Party in power has proposed to guarantee slavery in the States, if the South would remain in the Union.” This underscored that their cause was not a defense of slavery, but the high price of protecting Northern manufacturers. Even with Lincoln’s support of slavery, the South chose political independence from the North.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Senator Wigfall on the Cause of Discontent

“Said Senator Louis Wigfall, of Texas, March 4th 1861 in the United States Senate, only a few hours before Mr. Lincoln’s inauguration:

“It is early in the morning and I hope I shall not say anything that may be construed as offensive. I rise merely that we may have an understanding of this question.  It is not slavery in the Territories, it is not expansion, which is the difficulty.

If the resolution which the Senator from Wisconsin introduced here denying the right of Secession, had been adopted by two-thirds of each branch of this department of the Government, and had been ratified by three-fourths of the States, I have no hesitation in saying that, so far as the State in which I live and to which I owe my allegiance is concerned, if she had no other cause for a disruption of the Union taking place, she would have undoubtedly have gone out.

The moment you deny the right of free government to the free white men of the South, they will leave the Government. They believe in the Declaration of Independence.

In the “address of the People of South Carolina, assembled in convention . . . to justify the passage of the South Carolina Secession Ordinance of 1860, it is declared that (excerpted): “The one great evil from which all other evils have flowed is the overthrow of the Constitution of the United States. The Government of the United States is no longer the Government of Confederated Republics, but of a consolidated Democracy. It is no longer a free Government, but a Despotism. It is, in fact, such a Government as Great Britain attempted to set over our Fathers; and which was resisted and defeated by a seven years struggle for Independence. The Revolution of 1776 turned upon one great principle, self-government — and self-taxation, the criterion of self-government.”

The Southern States now stand exactly in the same position towards the Northern States that the Colonies did towards Great Britain. The Northern States, having the majority in Congress, claim the same power of omnipotence in legislation as the British Parliament.

“The General Welfare” is the only limit of legislation of either; and the majority in Congress, and in the British Parliament, are the sole judges of the expediency of the legislation this “General Welfare” requires. Thus the Government of the United States has become a consolidated Government; and the people of the Southern States are compelled to meet the very despotism their fathers threw off in the Revolution of 1776.

The consolidation of the Government of Great Britain over the Colonies, was attempted to be carried out by the taxes. The British Parliament undertook to tax the Colonies to promote British interests . . . Our fathers resisted this pretension. And so the Southern States, toward the Northern States, in the vital matter of taxation.

They are in a minority in Congress. Their representation in Congress is useless to protect them against unjust taxation; and they are taxed by the people of the North for their benefit, exactly as the people of Great Britain taxed our ancestors in the British Parliament for their benefit. For the last forty years, the taxes laid by the Congress . . . have been laid with a view of subserving the interests of the North.

The people of the South have been taxed by duties on imports, not for revenue, but for an object inconsistent with revenue — to promote, by prohibitions, Northern interest in the productions of their mines and manufactures.

The people of the Southern States are not only taxed for the benefit of the Northern States, but after the taxes are collected, three-fourths of them are expended at the North. This cause . . . has made the cities of the South provincial. Their growth is paralyzed; they are mere suburbs of Northern cities.

The agricultural productions of the South are the basis of the foreign commerce of the United States; yet Southern cities do not carry it on. Our foreign trade is almost annihilated . . . by gradual and steady encroachments on the part of the people of the North, and acquiescence on the part of the South, the limitations in the Constitution have been swept away; and the Government of the United States has become consolidated, with a claim of limitless powers in its operations.

A majority in Congress, according to their interested and perverted views, is omnipotent. Numbers with them, is the great element of free Government. A majority is infallible and omnipotent. “The divine right to rule in Kings,” is only transferred to the majority.

The very object of all Constitutions, in free popular Government, is to restrain the majority. Constitutions, therefore, according to their theory, must be the most unrighteous inventions, restricting liberty. None ought to exist; but the body politic ought simply to have a political organization, to bring out and enforce the will of the majority. This theory is a remorseless despotism.

In resisting it, as applicable to ourselves, we are vindicating the great cause of free government, more important, perhaps to the world, than the existence of all the United States.”

(The Great Conspiracy, Its Origin and History, John A. Logan, A.R. Hart & Company, 1886, excerpts, pp. 226-227; 231-234)

 

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