Browsing "Southern Statesmen"

The South Against a Seceding North

Though South Carolina had been threatened with invasion over nullifying federal law in the early 1830s, no such threats were made to Northern States in the 1850s as they instituted personal liberty laws which nullified federal law and obstructed federal officers. Had Lincoln not won his plurality in 1860, the secession of the North might have been the case.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South Against a Seceding North

“There was strong opposition to secession, not only in the Upper South, but also in some parts of the Lower South, the very heart land of the future Confederacy. In every convention except South Carolina’s there were votes against secession, and in Alabama and Georgia the opposition was considerable. In Georgia, Alexander H. Stephens, Herschel V. Johnson, and Benjamin H. Hill gave up their fight for the Union only after their State had seceded and threatened to leave them behind.

In their campaign to save the nation, the [Southern] Unionists resorted both to argument and to delaying tactics. They played on national sentiments; the Revolution and its heroes . . . the Constitution, which largely Southerners had made and was sufficient for all needs if properly interpreted and enforced. Up to this time the South had generally dominated the government, either through Southern-born presidents or . . . Northern men with Southern principles. Most of the Supreme Court had been Southerners, and the court at this time was dominated by the South.

In fact, the whole idea of secession was illogical and wrong, it was argued. The process should be reversed. The North should do the seceding, for the South represented more truly the nation which the forefathers had set up in 1789. Therefore the South should not allow itself to be driven out of its own home.

Henry A. Wise of Virginia was especially vigorous in arguing this point of view. “Logically the Union belongs to those who have kept, not those who have broken, its covenants,” he declared. If he ever had to fight he hoped it would be against a seceding North, “with the star-spangled banner still in one hand and my musket in the other.”

(A History of the South, Volume VII, The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1950, pp. 3-5)

 

Eminent and Unmatched Virginians

Senator George F. Hoar of Massachusetts seemed unaware of his State’s deep involvement in the transatlantic slave trade as he arraigns the South for an absence of morals. Senator John Critcher below served during the war as a lieutenant-colonel of the Fifteenth Virginia cavalry.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Eminent and Unmatched Virginians

“In the debate on Education in the House of Representatives, Mr. Hoar, of Massachusetts remarked that slavery in the South was not so observable in the degradation of the slave as in the depravity of the master.

Mr. Critcher, of Virginia replied:

“Reminding the gentleman from Massachusetts that every signer of the Declaration of Independence, except those from his State, and perhaps one or two others, were slave-owners, he would venture to make a bold assertion; he would venture to say that he could name more eminent men from the parish of his residence, than the gentleman could name from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He would proceed to name them, and yield the floor to the gentleman to match them if he could.

On one side of his estate is Wakefield, the birthplace of Washington. On the other side is Stratford, the residence of Light Horse Harry Lee, of glorious Revolutionary memory.

Adjoining Stratford is Chantilly, the residence of Richard Henry Lee, the mover of the Declaration of Independence, and the Cicero of the American Revolution. There lived Francis Lightfoot Lee, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Charles Lee, at one time Washington’s Attorney General; and Arthur Lee, the accomplished negotiator of the treaty of commerce and alliance between the Colonies and France in 1777.

Returning, as said before, you come first to the birthplace of Washington; another hour’s drive will bring you to the birthplace of Monroe; another hour’s drive to the birthplace of Madison, and if the gentleman supposes that the present generation is unworthy of their illustrious ancestors, he has but to stand on the same estate to see the massive chimneys of the baronial mansion that witnessed the birth of Robert E. Lee.

These are some of the eminent men from the parish of his residence, and he yielded the floor that the gentleman might match them, if he could, from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

(Degrading Influence of Slavery, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 12, Barefoot Publishing, pg. 59)

 

Here Lies an American Hero

The first commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans, General John B. Gordon of Georgia, tried repeatedly to retire from his high office, “but his comrades would not consent.” Below, he spoke in 1890 of the necessity of maintaining unblemished the nobility, heroism, sacrifices, suffering and glorious memory of the American soldiers in grey.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Here Lies and American Hero

“[The United Confederate Veterans] was created on high lines, and its first commander was the gallant soldier, General John B. Gordon, at the time governor of Georgia, and later was United States senator. General Gordon was continued as commander-in-chief until his death.

The note . . . struck in the constitution of the United Confederate Veterans were reechoed in the opening speech of the first commander-in-chief. General Gordon, addressing the Veterans and the public, said:

“Comrades, no argument is needed to secure for those objects your enthusiastic endorsement. They have burdened your thoughts for many years. You have cherished them in sorrow, poverty and humiliation. In the face of misconstruction, you have held them in your hearts with the strength of religious convictions.

No misjudgments can defeat your peaceful purposes for the future. Your aspirations have been lifted by the mere force and urgency of surrounding conditions to a plane far above the paltry considerations of partisan triumphs.

The honor of the American Government, the just powers of the Federal Government, the equal rights of States, the integrity of the Constitutional Union, the sanctions of law, and the enforcement of order have no class of defenders more true and devoted than the ex-soldiers of the South and their worthy descendants. But you realize the great truth that a people without the memories of heroic suffering or sacrifice are a people without history.

To cherish such memories and recall such a past, whether crowned with success or consecrated in defeat, is to idealize principle and strengthen character, intensify love of country, and convert defeat and disaster into pillars of support for future manhood and noble womanhood.

Whether the Southern people, under their changed conditions, may ever hope to witness another civilization which shall equal that which began with their Washington and ended with their Lee, it is certainly true that devotion to their glorious past is not only the surest guarantee of future progress and the holiest bond of unity, but is also the strongest claim they can present to the confidence and respect of the other sections of the Union.

It is political in no sense, except so far as the word “political” is a synonym for the word “patriotic.” [It will] cherish the past glories of the dead Confederacy and transmute them into living inspirations for future service to the living Republic; of truth, because it will seek to gather and preserve, as witness to history, the unimpeachable facts which shall doom falsehood to die that truth may live; of justice, because it will cultivate . . . that broader and higher and nobler sentiment which would write on the grave of every soldier who fell on our side, “Here lies an American hero, a martyr to the right as his conscience conceived it.”

(The Photographic History of The Civil War, Vol. 5, Robert S. Lanier, editor, Blue & Grey Press, 1987, pp. 298-299)

 

Truth, the Chief Good

Henry Lee’s Letter to Son Carter Lee, September 30, 1816

“Important as it is to understand nature in its range and bearing, it is more so to be prepared for usefulness, and to render ourselves pleasing by understanding well the religious and moral knowledge of right and wrong, to investigate thoroughly the history of mankind, and to be familiar with those examples which show the loveliness of truth, and demonstrate the reasonableness of our opinions by past events.

Read therefore the best poets, the best orators, and the best historians; as from them you draw principles of moral truth, axioms of prudence and material for conversation. This was the opinion of the great Socrates. He labored in Athens to turn philosophy from the study of nature to the study of life. He justly thought man’s great business was to learn how to do good, and to avoid evil. Be a steady, ardent disciple of Socrates; and regard virtue, whose temple is built upon truth, as the chief good.

[But] virtue and wisdom are not opponents; they are friends and coalesce in a few characters such as [Washington]. A foolish notion often springs up with young men as they enter life, namely, that the opinion of the world is not to be regarded; whereas, it is the true criterion, generally speaking, of all things that terminate in human life. To despise its sentence, if possible, is not just; and if just, is not possible. H. Lee.”

(Life of General Henry Lee, Revolutionary War Memoirs, R.E. Lee, editor, DaCapo, 1998, page 60)

Healing the Victims of the Avarice of Others

Major Joseph A. Engelhard served in the Thirty-third North Carolina Regiment in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. He was elected North Carolina Secretary of State in 1876, and in 1878 encouraged young Southern men at the University of North Carolina to be proud of their forefathers, and the country and constitution they created. Engelhard died in office in 1879.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Healing the Victims of the Avarice of Others

“If in any part of the United States there exists moral deformity, or outrage, or unseemly appearance of social or political evil, you can say that no portion of it can be traced to our door. It is true, we have been charged with the error and evil of Slavery, but history and the verdict of all men must be that slavery was introduced here against our will, first by the Dutch and afterwards by the Slave Merchants of the North.

Upon the garments of the South there is no stain of the “Slave Trade.” Those infamies and the profits of that traffic alike, belong to others.

Our lot has been to civilize, to humanize, to Christianize the victims of the avarice of others. Like men we fought for the institution, not, however, for its sake, but because through it all our sacred rights were assailed. The men who proclaimed victory at Mecklenburg; the men who fought seven years for it afterwards; the men who built the country’s strongest entrenchments in the Constitution; who extended most widely its area; who illustrated it with most honor in the National Councils, and who exposed and lost all to defend every approach of danger to it, never – never could be truly charged with the responsibility for human Slavery.

One thing all men must say of us, that the Southern people in two hundred years did more to elevate and render good and happy the African than all the world in all time ever did. And upon that record we stand.”

(Address of the Hon. Joseph A. Engelhard, Before the Philanthropic and Dialectic Societies of the University of North Carolina, June 1878, Edwards & Broughton & Co., 1879, pp. 11-12)

Spending the Money of Future Generations

Robert Hayne of South Carolina followed Jefferson’s admonition that the national debt was not something to be passed on to future generations; it was considered immoral for a president not to pay the debts incurred under their administrations before leaving office. In encouraging an unending public debt, Daniel Webster, on the other hand, Webster was promoting the American System of Whig politician Henry Clay which would give the government an endless supply of money with which to buy influence and power.  

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Spending the Money of Future Generations

“The gentleman from Massachusetts [Webster], in alluding to a remark of mine that before any disposition could be made of the public lands, the national debt (for which they stand pledged) must be first paid, took occasion to intimate (that Southerners desire to pay the national debt) “arises from a disposition to weaken the ties which bind the people to the Union.”  

But, adds he gentleman, “so far as the debt may have an effect in binding the debtors to the country, and thereby serving as a link to hold the States together, he would be glad that it should exist forever.” Surely then, sir, on the gentleman’s own principles, he must be opposed to the payment of the debt.

Sir, let me tell that gentleman that the South repudiates the idea that a pecuniary dependence on the Federal Government is one of the legitimate means of holding the States together. A monied interest in the Government is essentially a base interest . . . it is opposed to all the principles of free government and at war with virtue and patriotism. In a free government, this principle of abject dependence if extended through all the ramifications of society must be fatal to liberty. Already we have made alarming strides in that direction.

The entire class of manufacturers, the holders of stocks with their hundreds of millions in capital, are held to the Government by the strong link of pecuniary interests; millions of people, entire sections of the country, interested, or believing themselves to be so, in the public lands and the public treasure, are bound to the Government by the expectation of pecuniary favors.

If this system is carried on much further, no man can fail to see that every generous motive of attachment to the country will be destroyed, and in its place will spring up those low, groveling, base and selfish feelings which bind men to the footstool of despots by bonds as strong and as enduring as those which attach them to free institutions. 

(The Webster-Hayne Debate on the Nature of the Union, Herman Belz, Editor, Liberty Fund, 2000, pp. 42-43. Speech of Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina, January 25, 1830) 

 

Harvard’s Southern Club

Seventy-one Harvard alumni served in the Confederate military 1861-65 yet are not recognized today in that institution’s Memorial Hall. In late January 1922 two donation checks were received for the Lee-Memorial Chapel at Lexington, Virginia – one from Boston Herald editor Robert L. O’Brien and a Harvard professor who had “asked the privilege of contributing to this fund.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Harvard’s Southern Club

“One of the most pleasant literary occasions of my experience was a dinner in Boston given by the Southern Club of Harvard in honor of Thomas Nelson Page and Hopkinson Smith, who were then on a tour giving readings from their own works. At this dinner the honored guests held the center of the stage.

At the Southern Club I met many undergraduates; these acquaintances introduced me to others on the outside, who in turn sometimes took me to their clubs, the most interesting perhaps being the Hasty Pudding with its large collection of things theatrical.

Many of the law students ate at Memorial Hall . . . I recall . . . Bart Gatlin[g] of Raleigh, son of the inventor of the Gatlin[g] Gun; [and] John C. Breckinridge, grandson and namesake of a vice-president of the United States.

At my own table sat a student prematurely bald whom we called “the bald-headed infidel” because he was fond of spouting his atheistic ideas, who in turn took delight in speaking of the Southern Club as “the Secesh Club.”

(Son of Carolina, Augustus White Long, Duke University Press, 1939, pp. 196-199)

They Have Made a Nation

The Radical Republicans in Washington “were annoyed and offended because Europe ventured to pronounce the condition of affairs in North America to be a state of war, which they affirmed to be only an insurrection.” The South, as the Radicals and some War Democrats saw it, was engaged in domestic insurrection inflamed by insurgents rather than forming a more perfect union with the consent of the governed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

They Have Made a Nation

[Earl Russell said at Newcastle], “But I cannot help asking myself frequently, as I trace the progress of the contest, to what good end can it tend? Supposing the contest to end in the reunion of the different States; supposing that the South should agree to enter again the Federal Union with all the rights guaranteed to her by the Constitution, should we not then have debated over again the fatal question of slavery?

But, on the other hand, supposing that the Federal Government completely conquer and subdue the Southern States – supposing that be the result after a long, military conflict and some years of Civil War – would not the national prosperity of that country be destroyed?

If such are the unhappy results which alone can be looked forward to from the reunion of these different parts of the North American States, is it not then our duty…is it not the duty of men who wish to preserve to perpetuity the sacred inheritance of liberty, to endeavour to see whether this sanguinary conflict cannot be put to an end?

In a speech delivered in the House of Lords, February 5th, 1863, Earl Russell said: — “There is one thing, however, which I think may be the result of the struggle, and which, to my mind, would be a great calamity – that is, the subjugation of the South by the North . . . ”

Mr. W.E. Gladstone, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said in a public speech at Newcastle, October 7, 1862: — “We may have our own opinions about slavery; we may be for or against the South; but there is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made an army. They are making, it appears, a navy, and they have made what is more than either – they have made a nation. (Loud cheers.) . . . We may anticipate with certainty the success of the Southern States so far as regards their separation from the North. (Hear, hear.) . . . ”

[Mr. Gladstone stated in the House of Commons on 30 June 1863] . . . Why, sir, we must desire a cessation of the war . . . We do not believe that the restoration of the American Union by force is attainable. I believe that the opinion of this country is unanimous upon that subject . . . .[and] believe that the public opinion of this country bears very strongly on another matter . . . whether the emancipation of the negro race is an object that can be legitimately pursued by means of coercion and bloodshed . . . I do not believe that a more fatal error was ever committed than when men – of high intelligence I grant . . . came to the conclusion that the emancipation of the negro was to be sought, although they could only travel to it by a sea of blood. I do not think there is any real or serious ground for doubt as to the issue of this contest.”

(The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe, James D. Bulloch, Volume II, Sagamore Press, 1959, pp. 359-361)

Vigilant Corps of Government Dependents

Senator John C. Calhoun classified communities into taxpayers and tax-consumers – the former favoring lower taxes, the latter favoring increased taxes, and a wider scope of government power. He wrote of “spoils” in its narrow sense as consisting of bounties and appropriations flowing directly from the public treasury. In the wider sense, he viewed spoils as advantages derived, directly or indirectly, from government action.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Vigilant Corps of Government Dependents

“When [government] offices, instead of being considered as public trusts, to be conferred upon the deserving, were regarded as the spoils of victory, to be bestowed as rewards for partisan services, without respect to merit; when it came to be understood that all who hold office hold [it] by the tenure of partisan zeal and party service, it is easy to see that the certain, direct and inevitable tendency of such a state of things is to convert the entire body of those in office into corrupt and supple instruments of power, and to raise up a host of hungry, greedy, and subservient partisans, ready for every service, however base and corrupt.

Were a premium offered for the best means of extending to the utmost the power of patronage, to destroy the love of country, and to substitute a spirit of subserviency and man-worship: to encourage vice and discourage virtue, and, in a word, to prepare for the subversion of liberty and the establishment of despotism, no scheme more perfect could be devised; and such must be the tendency of the practice, with whatever intention adopted, or to whatever extent pursued.

[Add to this] the greater capacity, in proportion, on the part of government, in large communities, to seize on and corrupt all the organs of public opinion, and thus to delude and impose on the people; the greater tendency in such communities to the formation of parties on local and separate interests, resting on opposing and conflicting principles . . . Among them, the first and most powerful is that active, vigilant and well-trained corps which lives on the government, or expects to live on it, which prospers most when the revenue is greatest.

The next in order – when the government is connected with the banks, when it receives their notes in its dues, and pays them away as cash, and uses them as its depositories and fiscal agents – are the banking and other associated interests, stock-jobbers, brokers, and speculators; and which, like the other profit the more in consequence of the connection – the higher the revenue, the greater its surplus and the expenditures of the government.”

(The Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Bibliolife (original 1903), excerpts, pp. 106-110)

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