Browsing "Southern Statesmen"

Losing the South’s Conservative Tradition

When Southern members left Congress in early 1861, nearly all conservative restraints enforced on that body were removed and the seeds of the Gilded Age were sown. The war of 1861-1865 will be forever seen as the unnecessary crime against liberty that it was, and the ending of the second experiment in government undertaken on these shores.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Losing the South’s Conservative Tradition

“To those who fought and suffered during the long and fearful years of the War Between the States a tribute is always due. To the survivors of that momentous conflict – in which the South displayed unequaled bravery and marvelous determination – sincere reverence cannot too often be paid.

The young men and women who lived in the South after 1865 were tragic figures. They were the lost generation of the South, who led hard, bare and bitter lives, when young people of the South before and since were at play and in school.

That Tragic Era from 1865 to 1880 was a period when the Southern people were put to torture – so much so that our historians have shrunk from the unhappy task of telling us the truth. That was a black and bloody period – when brutality and despotism prevailed – a period which no American can point with pride. To the generation of Southerners who struggled in the years after the war in the sixties we owe the redemption of the South and the preservation of its society.

[The War and Reconstruction] cost the South heavily – but they also cost the nation. The South paid for theirs in an economic collapse and carpetbag domination extending over a period of nearly thirty years. But the nation also paid its price – it lost the powerful influence of the conservative Southern tradition.

In antebellum times the South had steadied the nation’s western expansion by its conservatism, but when the South was broken and destroyed, we saw a period of western expansion, of European immigration, of speculation, of graft, and of greed – unknown before in the annals of our history.

The nation after the war – especially the North and West – entered into an era of expansion, of worship for the new, of so-called progress, for which we still pay the price in our periodic overproduction. We should learn that economic wealth may be amassed, yet the fickle turns of business fortune can destroy it in a few years. Witness the economic collapse of our nation in the last few years after a period of unrivaled business growth.

The eternal national values are then those intangible contributions to national life such as the old South gave – not wealth, not progress, but those great qualities of tradition and conservatism and individuality which neither Depression nor hard times can destroy.

May the faith of the old South be ours, so that we can rebuild our State and Nation – and as we do so may we add the South’s contribution to American life not only its heritage of conservatism, of tradition and individuality, but also that spirit of silent strength in the hours of adversity – that spirit shown during the War and Reconstruction.”

(The Tragic Era, Dr. Julian S. Waterman, Dean, University of Arkansas Law School, Memorial Day speech at Fayetteville, Confederate Veteran Magazine, July, 1931, excerpt, pp. 275-277)

“In Defense of Their Traditional Liberties”

In his May 1, 1861 message to the North Carolina General Assembly, Governor John Ellis of referred to the “Northern Government” and that “they have drawn the sword against us and are now seeking our blood. They have promised to partition our property and the earnings of our people among the mercenary soldiers after our subjugation shall be effected. All fraternity of feeling is lost between us and them. We can no longer live with them. There must be a separation at once and forever.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“In Defense of Their Traditional Liberties”

“Although North Carolina had soon after the adoption of the Federal constitution taken steps to prevent the importation of Negroes, not only from abroad but from any other State, yet in the progress of time the system of slavery became strongly engrafted on her social structure, and the agitation of slavery question excited her people greatly.

Periodically this agitation stirred the people and animated them to maintain with steadfastness the right to manage their own domestic, local concerns in their own way.

At length when it was declared that an “irrepressible conflict” had arisen, and that the “Union could not exist half slave and half free,” it came to be regarded that the limitations of the Federal constitution were no longer to be observed, and that the abolition party would seek to abolish slavery. This led South Carolina and other commonwealths to the South to withdraw from the Union.

The question of holding a convention for the purpose of withdrawing was submitted to the people of North Carolina in the spring of 1861, but so conservative were they and so attached to the Union, that they separated themselves from their Southern brethren and refused to call the convention. The difference between the votes was, however, small — only about 250 in the poll of the entire State.

Such was the situation, when in April 1861, Fort Sumter was bombarded and President Lincoln called on North Carolina to furnish her quota of troops to coerce the seceding States. These events changed the aspect of affairs in North Carolina instantaneously. All differences ceased.

Union men, who, like George E. Badger, did not hold to the right of secession, united now in the declaration that North Carolinians must [now] share in the fortunes of their Southern kindred. Then amid the excitement of that period came the rapid preparations for the inevitable conflict — the marshaling of troops, the formation of armies, the strenuous endeavors to equip and maintain our citizen [soldiers] and make defense of our unprotected coast.

Never was there a finer display of patriotic ardor; never did peaceable ploughboys more quickly assume the character of veteran soldiers. It was if a common inspiration possessed the souls of all the people and animated them to die, if need be, in defense of their traditional liberties.

During the four years of strife that followed, the people of North Carolina bore themselves with an unparalleled heroism. With a voting population of 112,000, North Carolina sent to the army 125,000 soldiers.

Strenuous efforts were made to provide food for the soldiers and the poor, and while salt works were erected along the sea coast, vast quantities of cards were imported for the women to use at home, and other supplies were brought through the blockade.

[Life then] was accompanied, however, by straits and hardships, suffering and mourning, the separation from husbands and fathers from their families and the pall of death that fell upon every household. What awful experiences were crowded into four years of heroic and grand sacrifice — how trying the vicissitudes, how calamitous the dire result!”

(Cyclopedia of Eminent and Representative Men of the Carolinas of the 19th Century, Volume II, Brant & Fuller, 1892, pp. 35-36)

 

Sovereign States in a Federated Union

John Taylor of Caroline viewed the economic life of the country as being local in character and only under the jurisdiction of the individual States – that is, popular institutions. Therefore he concluded: “The entire nationalistic program of the Federal Government as to banking, funding, tariff, and internal improvements is unconstitutional.” If one sidesteps the victor’s claim that they fought to end slavery 1861-1865, one finds that the Hamiltonian drive for concentrated federal power was underlying reason for war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sovereign States in a Federated Union

“The States, located in the center of the political landscape, perform a stabilizing function with sufficient power to protect the whole [federal] structure from the onslaughts of inimical forces that attack from two directions. They are essentially buffer States.

They represent a compromise between two types of concentrated power – one in the Federal Government, the other in the people, the turbulence of whom may lead to the reintroduction of monarchy such as followed the French Revolution.

Mobs and tyrants generate each other. Only the States can prevent the clashes of these two eternal enemies. Thus, unless the States can obstruct the greed and avarice of concentrated power, the issue will be adjudicated by an insurrectionary mob.

The States represent government by rule and law as opposed to government by force and fraud, which characterizes consolidated power whether in a supreme federal government, in the people, in factions, or in strong individuals.

Republicanism is the compromise between the idea that the people are a complete safeguard against the frauds of governments and the idea that the people, from ignorance or depravity, are incapable of self-government.

The basic struggle in the United States is between mutual checks by political departments and an absolute control by the Federal Government, or between division and concentration of power. Hamilton and Madison presented an impressive case for a strong national government, supreme over the rights of States.

They are supported by all the former Tories who benefit from the frauds of the paper system. Those who take this view are referred to as variously as monarchists, consolidators, and supremacists. The basic fallacy of their way of thinking is that they simply refuse to recognize “the primitive, inherent, sovereignty of each State” upon which basis only a federal form of government can be erected.

They assume the existence of an American Nation embracing the whole geographical reach of the country, on which they posit their argument for a supreme national government. But this is merely a fiction . . . The Declaration, the [Articles of] Confederation, and the Constitution specifically recognize the existence of separate and sovereign States, not of any American Nation or consolidated nation or people of the United States or concentrated sovereignty in the Federal Government. The word “America” designates a region on the globe and does not refer to any political entity.”

(The Social Philosophy of John Taylor of Caroline, A Study in Jeffersonian Democracy, Eugene Tenbroeck Mudge, Columbia University Press, 1939, pp. 65-66)

Binding Men to the Footstools of Depots

South Carolinian Robert Y. Hayne (1791-1839) followed Jefferson’s admonition that the national debt was not something to be passed on to future generations, and most presidents of his era and until the War endeavored to pay the debts incurred by their administrations before leaving office. In encouraging a perpetual public debt, Daniel Webster promoted the American System of Hamilton and Henry Clay which provided the government a perpetual supply of money with which to buy influence and power.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Binding Men to the Footstools of Despots

“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 the 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.”

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

Jefferson Reflects Upon Massachusetts

New England, and Massachusetts in particular, was supplying the French as General James Wolfe was enroute to the Plains of Abraham in 1759. In 1814 and the United States at war with the British, New England’s Federalist Party refused troops to repel the enemy, contemplated a separate peace with England, and came near secession from the Union in the December, 1814 Hartford Convention.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Jefferson Reflects Upon Massachusetts

“Oh Massachusetts! How I have lamented the degradation of your apostasy!

Massachusetts, with whom I went with pride in 1776, whose vote was my vote on every public question, and whose principles were then the standard of whatever was free or fearless. But she was then under the counsels of the two Adams’; while Strong, her present leader, was promoting petitions for submission to British power and British usurpation.

But should the State, once more, buckle on her republican harness, we shall receive her again as a sister, and recollect her wanderings among the crimes only of the parricide [Federal] party, which would have basely sold what their fathers so bravely won from the same enemy. Let us look forward, then, to the act of repentance, which, by dismissing her venal traitors, shall be the signal of return to the bosom, and to the principles of her brethren; and, if her late humiliation can just give her modesty enough to suppose that her Southern brethren are somewhat on par with her in wisdom, in patriotism, in bravery, and even in honesty, although not in psalm-singing, she will more justly estimate her own relative momentum in the Union.

With her ancient principles, she would really be great, if she did not think herself the whole.”

(Letter to General Henry Dearborn, March 1815; The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, Funk & Wagnall’s Company, 1900, pg. 5)

Consolidation Generates Monarchy

To Jefferson, the Revolution meant “not merely independence from British rule but also escape from the British system of government into republicanism.” He also abhorred political parties, or what he called sects,” and saw that all Americans as “federalists” – i.e., supporters of the Constitution and virtually all republicans, i.e., “believers in a republic rather than a monarchy.” And the States were the line of defense against government tendencies to consolidate power around itself.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Consolidation Generates Monarchy

“On the eclipse of federalism, although not its extinction, [New England] leaders got up the Missouri question, under the false front of lessening the measure of slavery, but with the real view of producing geographical division of parties, which might ensure them the next President.

The people of the north went blindfolded into the snare, followed their leaders for awhile with a zeal truly moral and laudable, until they became sensible that they were injuring instead of aiding the real interests of the slaves, that they had been used merely as tools for electioneering purposes; and that trick of hypocrisy then fell as quickly as it had been got up.

To that has now succeeded a distinction, which, like that of republican and federal, or Whig and Tory, being equally intermixed through every State, threatens none of those geographical schisms, which immediately go to a separation.

The line of division now is the preservation of State rights as reserved in the Constitution, or by strained constructions of that instrument, to merge all into consolidated government. The Tories are for strengthening the Executive and General Government; the Whigs cherish the representative branch, and the rights reserved by the States, as the bulwark against consolidation, which must immediately generate monarchy.

Although this division excites, it is well understood, and will be a principle of voting at the ensuing election, with the reflecting men of both parties.”

(Thomas Jefferson, to Marquis Lafayette, November 1823, Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, John P. Foley, editor, Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1900, excerpt, pp. 760)

Guardians of the Constitution

John Taylor of Caroline said that “the great weakness of the Constitution is that its meaning is never unequivocal,” and that its misinterpretation was due to the loss of power by the agrarians.  Though the Constitution was designed to guarantee local self-government for the farmers, “a mode of construction is introduced to advance the interest of mercenary combinations.” The mercenary combinations helped form the Federalist, Whig and Republican parties.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Guardians of the Constitution

“Certainly, the States never intended to give to the Federal Government the power of veto over their own laws. It is absurd to suppose that an agency brought into being by the several States can have exclusive power to construe the instrument which grants its power, for this is equivalent to the assertion that the States can make a constitution but are without power to prevent its infringement.

If the Federal Government has the last word even on the constitutionality of its own laws, then federalism is at an end. If the Supreme Court can dominate State matters, then all the heroic efforts of the Founding Fathers to set up a system of mutual checks and secure wise and responsible State government were futile.

In the event of a controversy between the two spheres [State and federal], the Supreme Court would be an interested party and consequently partial. Such a conflict cannot be settled by a court. The correct remedy, as stated in the Constitution, is amendment by the people. Further, the dispensation of justice is an inherent attribute of sovereignty. Hence, the people of the States, since they are sovereign, can be denied no judicial power over their own affairs.

Nonetheless, the Court is prone to ignore the idea of the sovereignty of the people of the States and to place it instead in the governments of the States or even the in the government of the Union on the hypothesis that the Union is the supreme government of an American Nation. And since the powers reserved to the States far exceed those delegated, this entitles the States to priority in all controversies over fundamental issues of government.

Liberty is lost if the States are deprived of a direct and final voice in the interpretation of the Constitution of their Union. Hence, the sweeping powers assumed by the Supreme Court are a direct violation of the basic liberties of the States and of the people. The idea of a court dictating to the States runs counter to the basic idea of federalism and makes the Constitution a rope of sand. If State powers are limited by any supreme federal department, the situation is like the one that [John] Locke described: “no man has a right to that which another has a right to that which another has a right to take from him.”

Hence, the States, not the justices of the Supreme Court, are the guardians and guarantors of the Constitution. A jury composed of the parties that originally contracted to form the Union is better qualified to perform the task of maintaining it than the federal justices whose power extends merely to cases in law and equity involving individual and private affairs, not to issues that affect any of the departments or spheres of the government of the United States.”

The Social Philosophy of John Taylor of Caroline, A Study in Jeffersonian Democracy, Eugene T. Mudge, Columbia University Press, 1939, excerpts, pp. 133-135)

Eulogizing a Vice President with American Principles

Vice President William R. King (under Presidents Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce) was born a North Carolinian in April, 1786, his father William King being a Revolutionary War veteran and member of the convention in which North Carolina ratified the U.S. Constitution. A United States Representative for North Carolina, and later a Senator representing Alabama, King was a fine complement to the presidency of Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire, the latter known as a “Northern man with Southern principles” – more correctly considered American principles.  He died on April 18, 1853.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Eulogizing a Vice President with American Principles

(Remarks of Milton S. Latham of California, 8 December 1853)

“Mr. Speaker:

William Rufus King was a noble specimen of an American statesman and gentleman. The intimate friend of John C. Calhoun, and the contemporary of Webster, Clay, Cass and Benton, he maintained a proud position in the Senate of the United States by his strong, practical good sense, his experience and wisdom as a legislator, the acknowledged rectitude of his intentions, and that uniform urbanity of manner which marked, not so much the man of conventional breeding, as the true gentleman at heart.

He never knew what it was to speak, act or legislate by indirection. He was frank and loyal to his colleagues, as he was devoted to his own State, and sincerely attached to the Union. He was from principle and conviction a States’ Rights man; but he did not love the Union less because he loved Alabama more. While he was serving his own State with fidelity and honor, he was not remiss in his duties to the whole American Confederacy.

Like his illustrious prototype, John C. Calhoun, he battled for the rights of his State, in order to secure that harmony between Federal and State power, which is the essence of the Union, and without which it is impossible to preserve our system of self-government.

In the memorable session of 1849-1850, Mr. King voted for nearly all the compromise measures as an act of devotion to the National Union, without surrendering a single cardinal point of the political faith which had guided him through life, and had secured to him the affection and attachment of the citizens of his own State.”

(Obituary Addresses for Hon. William R. King, Vice President of the US, 8-9 December 1853, Robert Armstrong Printer, 1854, excerpt)

Striving to Maintain the Union

The departure of Southern States from the fraternal Union came as no surprise to many, and those like Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia forecast disunion to President James Buchanan if he would not end his warfare with Stephen Douglas. Noting the refusal of Republicans to compromise and not wanting to return to Congress to witness the death of the Union, Stephens returned Georgia to await the unfolding events.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Striving to Maintain the Union

“The [Cincinnati] speech was intended as a solemn warning not only to his constituents and people of the South, but the whole country, that in his opinion the peace and prosperity of the country depended upon a strict and inflexible adherence to the principles of the adjustment measures of 1850 upon the subject of slavery, as carried out and expressed in the Democratic Baltimore platform of 1852, with the additional plank inserted in the Cincinnati Convention of 1856.

It was well known then that Mr. Stephens had serious apprehensions that those principles would be departed from in the next Democratic Convention to be held in Charleston the following year. It was also known that he did not finally determine to withdraw from Congress until after a personal interview with Mr. [James] Buchanan, in which he had urged the President to cease his warfare against Mr. [Stephen] Douglas, and the support of the paper known as his organ in Washington in insisting upon the insertion of a new plank in the next Convention, asserting it to be the duty of Congress to pass acts to protect slavery in the Territories, and not to leave that subject, as the Cincinnati platform had done, with the people of the Territories.

Mr. Stephens most urgently urged the President that if he continued to pursue the line of policy he was then following there would be a burst-up at Charleston, and with that burst-up of the Union – temporary or permanent – “as certainly as he would break his neck if he sprang from that window” [of the reception-room at the White house, in which they were conversing] “or as the sun would set that night.”

Mr. Buchanan seemed surprised at this opinion, but was unshaken in his determination to adhere to the policy he was then following. Mr. Stephens, in taking leave, told the President that his object in seeking the interview was to know if his purpose was as stated, and if that was so, his own intention was, not to be allowed to return to the next Congress.

He had spent sixteen years of life in striving to maintain the Union upon the principles of the Constitution; this he thought could be done for many years to come upon the principles set forth in the Cincinnati platform. The Government administered on these principles he thought the best in the world; but if it was departed from, he saw nothing but ruin ahead. He did not wish to be in at the death; but if disunion should come in consequence of this departure, he should go with the people of his own State.

Another fact connected with the retirement of Mr. Stephens from Congress may be noted here. When leaving Washington, with a number of other Southern members, on the beautiful morning of the 5th of March, 1859, he stood at the stern of the boat for some minutes, gazing back at the Capitol, when someone jocularly said, “I suppose you are thinking of coming back to those halls as a Senator.” (It was known that he had announced his intention not to return as a Representative.)

Mr. Stephens replied, with some emotion, “No; I never expect to see Washington again, unless I am brought here as a prisoner of war.” This was literally fulfilled in the latter part of October 1865, when he passed through Washington on his way to his home as a paroled prisoner from Fort Warren.”

(Life of Alexander H. Stephens, R.M. Johnston & W.H. Brown, J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1883, excerpts, pp. 347-348)

 

 

A Slippery Senator from Massachusetts

The colony of Massachusetts was the first to codify slavery in its law in 1641, three years after the first ship brought Africans from the West Indies. The defiant Pequot Indians enslaved by the Puritan settlers were often traded for Africans who made better workers. Massachusetts became preeminent in the transatlantic slave trade, shipping rum and Yankee notions to be used to buy slaves from African tribes. Senator Sumner seemed unaware of his State’s history.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Slippery Senator from Massachusetts

“Extracts from the debate between Senators Charles Sumner and Andrew P. Butler in June, 1854, beginning on page 1.013 of the Appendix to the Congressional Globe, First Session, Thirty-third Congress:

Mr. Sumner: “Sir, slavery never flourished in Massachusetts; nor did it ever prevail there at any time, even in the early Colonial days, to such a degree as to be a distinctive feature of her powerful civilization. And let me add that when this Senator [Butler] presumes to say that American Independence was won by the arms and treasure of slave-holding communities, he speaks either in irony or ignorance.”

Mr. Butler: “When the Declaration of Independence was made, was not Connecticut a slave-holding State?”

Mr. Sumner: “Not in any just sense.”

Mr. Butler: “Sir, you are not the judge of that. Was not New York a slave-holding State?”

Mr. Sumner: “Let the Senator [Seward] from New York answer that.”

Mr. Butler: “Sir, if he answers, he will answer the truth, and perhaps it might not be exactly agreeable to you. Was not New Jersey a slave-holding State? Was not Rhode Island a slave-holding State?

Mr. Seward: “It is due the honorable gentleman from South Carolina that I should answer his question in reference to New York, since it has been referred it to me. At the time of the Revolution, every sixteenth man in the State of New York was a slave.”

Mr. Butler: “Was not New Hampshire a slave-holding State? Was not Pennsylvania a slave-holding State? Was not Delaware a slave-holding State?

Mr. Seward: “I am requested to make my answer a little more accurate, according to the truth. I understand, that at the time of the Revolution, every twelfth man in New York was a slave.”

Mr. Butler: “They can afford no refuge for historical falsehood such as the gentleman [Sumner] has committed in the fallacy of his sectional vision. I have shown that twelve of the original States were slave-holding communities.

Now sir, I prove that the thirteenth, Massachusetts, was a slave-holding State before, and at the commencement of, the Revolution. As to the character of slavery in that State, that may be somewhat a different thing, which can not contradict the fact stated in the newspapers of the day, that Negroes were held, were advertised for sale, with another truth, that many were sent to other slave-holding States in the way of traffic.

When slavery was abolished [in Massachusetts], many that had been slaves and might have been freemen were sold into bondage.”

Mr. Sumner: “By slave-holding States, of course, I mean States which were peculiarly, distinctively, essentially slave-holding, and not States which the holding of slaves seems to have been rather the accident of the hour, and in which all the people, or the greater part of the people, were ready to welcome emancipation.”

Mr. Butler: “Mr. President, I think the remarks of the Senator verify exactly what I said, that when he chooses to be rhetorical, it is upon an assumption of facts, upon his own construction, and by an accumulation of adjectives.”

(The Case of the South Against the North, B.F. Grady, Edwards & Broughton, 1899, 225-226)

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