Browsing "Southern Unionists"

The Republican’s Stubborn Purpose

The following is excerpted from a postwar letter written by Clement C. Clay of Alabama, to review the facts leading to the withdrawal of the Southern States in 1861, and Jefferson Davis’ efforts to forestall secession, seek conciliation with Northern leaders, and preserve the Union. It clearly identifies those wanting to preserve the Union, and lays the responsibility for disunion at the feet of Lincoln’s party.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Republican’s Stubborn Purpose

“Mr. Davis did not take an active part in planning or hastening secession. I think he only regretfully consented to it, as a political necessity for the preservation of popular and State rights’ which were seriously threatened by the triumph of a sectional party who were pledged to make war on them.

No “plan of secession” or “scheme of revolution” was, to my knowledge, discussed – certainly none matured – at the [Democratic] caucus, 5th of January, 1861 . . . I have never heard that the caucus advised the South “to accumulate munitions of war,” or “to organize and equip an army of one hundred thousand men,” or determined “to hold on as long as possible to the Southern seats [in Congress].”

So far from it, a majority of Southern Senators seemed to think there would be no war; that the dominant party in the North desired separation from the South, and would gladly let their “erring sisters go in peace.” I could multiply proofs of such a disposition.

As to holding on to their seats, no Southern legislature advised it, no Southern Senator who favored secession did so but one, and none others wished to do so, I believe.

The “plan of secession,” if any, and the purpose of secession, unquestionably, originated, not in Washington City, or with the Senators or Representatives of the South, but among the people of the several States, many months before it was attempted. They followed no leaders at Washington or elsewhere, but acted for themselves, with an independence and unanimity unprecedented in any movement of such magnitude.

Before the election of Lincoln, all the Southern States, excepting one or two, had pledged themselves to separate from the Union upon the triumph f a sectional party in the Presidential election, by acts or resolutions of their Legislatures, resolves of both Democratic and Whig State Conventions, and of primary assemblies of the people – in every way in which they could commit themselves to any future act.

Their purpose was proclaimed to the world through the press and telegraph, and criticized in Congress, in the Northern Legislatures, in press and pulpit, and on the hustings, during many months before Congress met in December, 1860.

Over and above all these facts, the reports of the United States Senate show that, prior to the 5th of January 1861, Southern Senators united with Northern Democratic Senators in an effort to effect pacification and prevent secession, and that Jefferson Davis was one of a committee appointed by the Senate to consider and report such a measure; that it failed because the Northern Republicans opposed everything that looked to peace; that Senator [Stephen A.] Douglas arraigned them as trying to precipitate secession, referred to Jefferson Davis as one who sought conciliation, and called upon Republican Senators to tell what they would do, if anything, to restore harmony and prevent disunion. They did not even deign a response.

Thus by their sullen silence, they made confession (without avoidance) of their stubborn purpose to hold up no hand raised to maintain the Union . . .”

(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume One, Jefferson Davis, D. Appleton and Company, 1881, excerpts, pp. 206-209)

Tribute Money to Northern Industry

In 1846 the US Treasury Department recorded that under the then-current tariff that the self-sustaining industry of the country was indirectly taxed “$80,000,000 annually, none of which went into the coffers of the government, but all into the pocket of the protected [Northern] manufacturer.” In addition to paying the vast bulk of the operation of government through tariffs paid, the South complained of the unequal distribution of public expenditures that went northward instead of toward them.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Tribute Money to Northern Industry

“Virginia was the leader in the war of the Revolution, and her sons were the master-spirits of it, both in the field and in the cabinet. For an entire generation after the establishment of the government under the constitution, four of her sons – with an interregnum of only four years – were called, one after the other, to preside, each for a period of eight years, over the affairs of the young Republic and to shape its policy. Under the wise rule of her illustrious sons in the presidential chair, the Republic grew and its citizens flourished and prospered as no people had ever done.

During this time . . . the Northern population discovered that it would be better to sell their slaves to the South than to hold them, whereupon acts of so-called emancipation were passed in the North. [The North] got rid of its slaves, not so much by emancipation or any sympathy for the blacks as by sale, and in consequence to her greed.

About this time [1819] also Missouri – into which the early settlers had carried their slaves – applied for admission into the Union as a State. The North opposed it, on the ground that slavery existed there. The South appealed to the constitution . . . and asked for the clause which gave Congress the power to interfere with the domestic institutions of any State or with any of her affairs . . .

The Union public mind became excited, sectional feelings ran high, and the Union was in danger of being broken up through Northern aggression and Congressional usurpations at that early day. To quiet the storm, a son of Virginia came forward as peace-maker, and carried through Congress . . . “[the] Missouri Compromise.”

That posterity may fairly appreciate the extent of this exaction with the North, with the sacrifice made by the South to satisfy it, maintain the public faith and preserve the Union . . . [embraced] an area of 1,360,000 miles. The sacrifice thus made by the South, for the sake of the Union, will be more fully appreciated when we reflect that under the Constitution [the South] had as much right to go into the territories with their slaves, that men of the North had to carry with them there their apprentices and servants.

[After the War of 1812] . . . Southern statesmen took the lead in the passage of a tariff to encourage and protect [New England] manufacturing industries. [In time], the protection continued, and was so successful that . . . New England began to compete in foreign markets [and] the South said, “Enough, the North has free trade with us; the Atlantic ocean rolls between this country and Europe; the expense of freight and transportation across it, with moderate duties for revenue alone, ought to be protection enough for these Northern industries. Therefore, let us do away with tariffs for protection. They have not . . . turned a wheel in the South; moreover, they have proved a grievous burden for our people.

The example was to this effect: — The Northern farmer clips his hundred bales of wool, and the Southern farmer picks his hundred bales of cotton. So far they are equal, for the government affords to each equal protection in person and property. But the government . . . went further – protected this industry of one section and taxed that of the other. [To ship wool or cotton to the Charleston market] the Northern man is told that he may land his one hundred bales duty free; but the Southern man is required to leave forty of his in the custom house for the privilege of landing the remaining sixty.

It is in vain for the Southerner to protest or to urge, “You make us pay bounties to Northern fishermen under the plea that it is a nursery for seamen. Is not the fetching and carrying of Southern cotton across the sea in Southern ships as much a nursery for seamen as the catching of codfish in Yankee smacks? But instead of allowing us a bounty for this, you exact taxes and require protection of our Northern fellow-citizens at the expense of Southern industry and enterprise.”

(The Davis Memorial Volume; or Our Dead President, Jefferson Davis, and the World’s Tribute to His Memory, J. Wm. Jones, B.F. Johnson & Company, Publishers, 1890, excerpts, pp. 236-240)

“Pray Excuse Me,” the Death of President Davis

“Pray Excuse Me,” The Death of President Davis — December 6, 1889

“His constant attendant has been Mrs. Davis, who have never left his bedside since his illness began. In a comfortable home wrapper of gray and black this gentle ministrant was always at the invalid’s side, and if she left for a moment he asked for her, and was fretted or uneasy until she returned.

The lamp of life waned low as the hour of midnight arrived; nor did it flicker into the brightness of consciousness at any time. Eagerly, yet tenderly, the watchers gazed at the face of the dying chieftain. His face, always calm and pale, gained additional pallor, and at a quarter to 1 o’clock of the morning of the 6th day of December death came to the venerable leader..

There was nothing remarkable about the death-bed scene. The departure of the spirit was gentle and utterly painless. There were no dry eyes in the little assembly about the bed, and every heart bled with the anguish which found vent in Mrs. Davis’s sobs and cries.”

The Times-Democrat gave the following account of the closing scene: At 12:45 o’clock this morning Hon. Jefferson Davis, ex-President of the Confederate States, passed away at the residence of Associate Justice Charles E. Fenner. Only once did he waver in his belief that his case showed no improvement, and that was at an early hour yesterday morning, when he playfully remarked to Mr. Payne: “I am afraid that I shall be compelled to agree with the doctors for once, and admit that I am a little better.”

At 7 o’clock Mrs. Davis administered some medicine, but the ex-President declined to receive the whole dose. She urged upon his the necessity of taking the remainder, but putting it aside, with the gentlest of gestures whispered, “Pray, excuse me.” These were his last words.”

The [New Orleans] Daily States said in its editorial:

“Throughout all the South there are lamentations and tears; in every country on the globe where there are lovers of liberty there is mourning; wherever there are men who admire heroic patriotism, dauntless resolution, fortitude, or intellectual power and supremacy, there is sincere sorrowing. The beloved of our land, the unfaltering upholder of constitutional liberty, the typical hero and sage, is no more; the fearless heart that beat with sympathy for all mankind is stilled forever, a great light has gone out – Jefferson Davis is dead!

No one of all the illustrious personages who have adorned the history of the Union, served that union in the field, in the Cabinet, and in the Senate, better than he. But all the enactments of Congress; all the fierce and bitter denunciations of the North; all the vituperations, malice, hatred, and misrepresentations that the press and the leaders of the North have heaped upon Jefferson Davis, and by which for twenty-five years they have sought to brand him “traitor,” have failed of their purpose, and he stands forth today as one of the grandest examples of patriotism and as one of the most indomitable champions of liberty that has ever appeared upon the arena of human affairs.

Jefferson Davis is dead; but the principles for which he struggled, for the vindication of which he devoted his life, for which he suffered defeat, and unto which he clung unto death, still live. The fanatical howlings of the abolitionists, the tumult and thunders of civil war, the fierce mouthings of the organizers of reconstruction, and reconstruction itself, that black and foul disgrace of humanity, are all departed, sunk into silence like a tavern brawl, but the constitutional principles upon which the Confederacy was founded and for which Jefferson Davis spoke and struggled, for which he gave life and fortune, still survive in all their living power; and when they shall have been, if ever, really destroyed, this Republic will be transformed into one of the most oppressive and offensive oligarchies that has ever arisen amongst the civilized nations of the earth.”

The Times-Democrat of the 10th had this editorial:

“If there was ever the shadow of doubt in the minds of the people of the United States of the hold of Jefferson Davis upon the hearts of the Southern people that doubt has been removed. From city and country, from every nook and hamlet, have come expressions of profoundest sorrow over his death; of grief at the passing away of the great Confederate chieftain.

They turned to him as the Mussulman to his Mecca — the shrine at which all true Southern-born should worship. There has never been any division of sentiment as to the greatness of Jefferson Davis. He has always been the hero of his people — their best beloved. From the day that Lee laid down his arms at Appomattox to the hour of Jefferson Davis’s death the Southern people look upon the ex-President of the Confederacy as the embodiment of all that was grand and glorious in the Lost Cause.

Standing alone as a citizen without the power to exercise his citizenship, the last surviving victim of sectional hate and malevolence, he was an exile while on the soil of his native land and in the midst of his own people. Jefferson Davis will go to the grave bathed in a people’s tears.”

(The Davis Memorial Volume; or Our Dead President, Jefferson Davis, and the World’s Tribute to His Memory, J. Wm. Jones, B.F. Johnson & Company, Publishers, 1890, excerpts, pp. 473-509)

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Jefferson Davis on the South’s Inalienable Birthright

The following public address by Jefferson Davis before the Mississippi Legislature on March 10, 1884 may have been his last; he admonishes his listeners to teach their children to honor and revere their fathers who died in the cause of political liberty freedom, and the consent of the governed. Davis crossed over the river to rest under the shade of the trees on December 6, 1889.

Bernhard Thuersam www.Circa1865.com

 

 Jefferson Davis on the South’s Inalienable Birthright

“Friends and Brethren of Mississippi:

Reared on the soil of Mississippi, the ambition of my boyhood was to do something which would redound to the honor and welfare of the State. The weight of many years admonishes me that my day for actual services has passed, yet the desire remains undiminished to see the people of Mississippi prosperous and happy, and her fame no unlike the past, but gradually growing wider and brighter as the years roll away.

It has been said that I should apply to the United States for a pardon; but repentance must precede the right of pardon, and I have not repented.

Remembering as I must all which has been suffered, all which has been lost, disappointed hopes and crushed aspirations, yet I deliberately say: If it were to do over again, I would do just as I did in 1861.

No one is the arbiter of his own fate. The people of the Confederate States did more in proportion to their numbers and means than was ever achieved by any in the world’s history. Fate decreed that they should be unsuccessful in the effort to maintain their claim to resume the grants made to the federal government.

Our people have accepted the decree; it therefore behooves them, as they may, to promote the general welfare of the Union, to show the world that that hereafter as heretofore the patriotism of our people is not measured by lines of latitude and longitude, but is as broad as the obligations they have assumed and embraces the whole of our ocean-bound domain.

Let them leave to their children and their children’s children the good example of never swerving from the path of duty, and preferring to return good for evil rather than to cherish the unmanly feeling of revenge.

But never teach your children to desecrate the memory of the dead by admitting that their brothers were wrong in their effort to maintain the sovereignty, freedom and independence which was their inalienable birthright.

Remembering that the coming generations are the children of the heroic mothers whose devotion to our cause in its darkest hour sustained the strong and strengthened the weak, I cannot believe that the cause for which our sacrifices were made can ever be lost, but rather hope that those who now deny the justice of our asserted claims will learn from experience that the fathers [built] wisely and the constitution should be construed according to the commentaries of the men who made it.

It having been previously understood that I would no attempt to do more than return my thanks, which are far deeper than it would be possible for me to express, I will now, Senators and Representatives, and to you, ladies and gentlemen, who have honored my by your attendance, bid you an affectionate, and, it may be, a last farewell.”

(The Davis Memorial Volume; or Our Dead President, Jefferson Davis, and the World’s Tribute to His Memory, J. Wm. Jones, B.F. Johnson & Company, Publishers, 1890, excerpt, pp. 450-451)

Jefferson Davis, Ardent Unionist

The author below points out that all of Jefferson Davis’ Congressional speeches featured a “strong and outspoken national feeling,” while New England politicians whipped up sectional animosity at every turn. This was seen as well in the war with Mexico as Davis spoke often of the national devotion and heroism of American soldiers in that conflict, though a prominent Northern politician bespoke for the American army, “a welcome with bloody hands to hospitable graves.” Massachusetts refused military honors to Captain George Lincoln, killed at Buena Vista and son of an ex-governor of that State.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Jefferson Davis, Ardent Unionist

“On the 29th of December [1845], Mr. Davis spoke in a very earnest and impressive manner upon Native Americanism, which he strongly opposed . . . in opposition to [federal] appropriations for improvement of rivers and harbors; upon the Oregon question, and in favor of a resolution of thanks to General [Zachary] Taylor and his army.

On February 6, 1846, the House [of Representatives] . . . having under consideration the joint resolution of notice to the British Government concerning the abrogation of the Convention . . . respecting the territory of Oregon, [was addressed by Mr. Davis]:

“Sir, why has the south been assailed in this discussion? Has it been with the hope of sowing dissentions between us and our Western friends? Thus far, I think, it has failed. Why the frequent reference to the conduct of the South on the Texas question?

Sir, those who have made reflections on the South as having sustained Texas annexation from sectional views have been of those who opposed that great measure and are most eager for this. The suspicion is but natural in them.

But, sir, let me tell them that this doctrine of political balance between different portions of the Union is not Southern doctrine. We, sir, advocated the annexation of Texas from high national considerations. Nor sir, do we wish to divide the territory of Oregon; we would preserve it for the extension of our Union. It is, as the representative of a high-spirited and patriotic people, that I am called on to resist this war clamor.

[If war with Britain ensues] . . . Mississippi will come. And whether the question be one of Northern or Southern, of Eastern or Western aggression, we will not stop to count the cost, but act as becomes the descendants of those who, in the war of the Revolution, engaged in unequal strife to aid our brethren of the North in redressing their injuries . . .

With many of the officers now serving on the Rio Grande he had enjoyed a personal acquaintance, and hesitated not to say that all which skill, and courage, and patriotism could perform, [and] might be expected from them.

“Those soldiers, to whom so many [in New England] have applied depreciatory epithets, upon whom it has been so often said no reliance could be placed, they too will be found, in every emergency renewing such feats as have recently graced our arms, bearing the American flag to honorable triumphs, or falling beneath its folds, as devotees to our common cause, to die a soldier’s death.”

(The Life of Jefferson Davis, Frank H. Alfriend, National Publishing Co., 1868, excerpts, pp. 38-40; 45-46)

 

Origins of the Conflict: The Tallmadge Amendment

The words “disunion” and “civil war” were heard in the halls of Congress in early 1819 as Representative James Tallmadge of New York introduced his amendment to restrict slavery in the proposed State of Missouri. Though Tallmadge thought the action would help end slavery within a generation, Howell Cobb of Georgia said he had kindled a fire “which only seas of blood could extinguish.” The Missouri Compromise of 1820 did not include the amendment, but did prohibit slavery above the 36-30 parallel of the Louisiana Purchase, the southern boundary of Missouri.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Origins of the Conflict: The Tallmadge Amendment

“In 1812 the Territory of Orleans became the State of Louisiana, but meantime the District of Louisiana had been repeatedly reorganized [and by 1819] . . . the population of Missouri closely approximated sixty thousand which, according to precedents set in the Old Northwest, made a territory eligible for Statehood.

Successive Missouri legislatures petitioned Congress on the subject, and in 1819 the House Committee on Territories reported favorably a bill enabling Missouri . . . to draw up a constitution and make ready for Statehood.

It was at this juncture that Representative James Tallmadge of New York raised the question of setting limits to the expansion of slavery in the Louisiana Purchase. He proposed to amend the bill reported from committee by providing that the further introduction of slavery into Missouri should be forbidden, and that all children born of slave parents after the admission of the State should be free upon reaching the age of twenty-five years.

Until the introduction of the Tallmadge amendment, the slavery question had played little part in national politics. The problem of how slaves should be counted when apportioning representatives in Congress or assessing direct taxes on the States had been satisfactorily settled in the federal convention by the three-fifths compromise. Also, an earlier Congress had exercised its constitutional authority to pass a fugitive slave act, and the administration of this measure had so far provoked little criticism.

Moreover, slavery had long been regarded as a dying institution. The founders of the American nation had almost unanimously so considered it, Southerners no less than Northerners. Many of them were eager to speed the day when slavery should cease to exist throughout the whole country.

Washington emancipated his slaves by his will; Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin were prominent in the work of emancipation societies; Thomas Jefferson’s anti-slavery views were written into the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Almost by common consent the slave trade was forbidden in 1808, the earliest possible date under the Constitution.

Hostility to slavery during these early days of the republic was firmly grounded on the fact that the institution had ceased to be economically profitable. For this reason, even before the American Revolution, many of the colonies would have taken some anti slavery action had not the British government been so insistent on protecting the profits of British merchants engaged in the slave trade.

As soon as independence became a fact, one State after another took action against slavery . . . [but] the chief obstacle to abolition in the South, where slaves were far more numerous than in the North, was the perplexity felt about what to do with the freed slaves, but Southern emancipation societies were deeply concerned about this problem and were hopeful of finding a solution.

The discovery that cotton could be grown profitably by means of slave labor [with the cotton gin of Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney, and] served to revive the institution of slavery just at the time when it had seemed destined to disappear.

(The Federal Union, History of the United States to 1865, John D. Hicks, Houghton Mifflin, 1948, excerpts, pp. 354-356)

Return to Original Principles

Below, Jefferson anticpates the constitutional crisis of the late 1850s and the need for the States to “arrest the march of government” which had been threatening its creators with military action since the days of Andrew Jackson. As he instructs, the solution to the crisis was a convening of the States to modify their agreement, not the agent warring upon a free people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Return to Original Principles

“The [Supreme Court] judges are practicing on the Constitution by inferences, analogies, and sophisms, as they would on an ordinary law. They do not seem aware that it is not even a constitution, formed by a single authority, and subject to a single superintendence and control; but that it is a compact of many independent powers, every single one of which claims an equal right to understand it, and to require its observance.

However strong the cord of compact may be, there is a point of tension at which it will break. A few such doctrinal decisions . . . may induce [two or three large States] to join in arresting the march of government, and in arousing the co-States to pay some attention to what is passing, to bring back the compact to its original principles, or to modify it legitimately by the express consent of the parties themselves, and not by the usurpation of their created agents.

They imagine they can lead us into a consolidated government, while their road leads directly to its dissolution. (Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1825; The Jefferson Cyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls, 1900, page 191)

Jefferson on Free Speech and Delegated Powers

Jefferson’s great admiration for Washington allayed his fears that the presidency might become monarchical – a fear that John Adams made real. Though Jefferson wrote that the true barriers of our liberty are our State governments, and that all States could not be restrained by one man and any force he could possess – he didn’t foresee Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Jefferson on Free Speech and Delegated Powers

“With respect to the Sedition Act, which he detested more and condemned first, he took the ground that this sort of definition of crime fell within none of the delegated powers, and that this sort of action was specifically prohibited to Congress by the First Amendment. Though he did not say so here, he completely repudiated the doctrine that the federal courts already had common-law jurisdiction over seditious libel.

He regarded the doctrine . . . as an “audacious, barefaced and sweeping pretension.” Also, in view of the fact that freedom of speech and the press are guarded against congressional action in the same amendment with freedom of religion, he held that whoever violated one of them threw down the sanctuary covering the others. It should be noted . . . that he did not here deny to States the right to judge how far “the licentiousness of speech and of the press may be abridged without lessening their useful freedom.” This is certainly not to say that he set State rights above human rights . . . [but] he was not warning against possible misuse of State power, and to him it was federal power that represented the clear and present danger.

In the first of his resolutions [Kentucky] Jefferson categorically took the position that whenever the general government assumed powers not delegated to it by the compact, its acts were “unauthoritive, void and of no force.” Denying that there was a “common judge” (of federal usurpation), he concluded that each party to the compact had “an equal right to judge for itself, as well as infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.

Some deletion (of Jefferson’s words in the written Kentucky Resolutions) was in order anyway, since the draft was prolix and repetitious…(and) after saying that in cases of the abuse of delegated, a change in the members of the general government by the people was the “constitutional remedy,” he made this assertion:

“where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy; that every State has a natural right in cases not within the compact . . . to nullify on their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits: without this right they would be under the dominion, absolute and unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment over them . . .”

(Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty, Dumas Malone, Little, Brown and Company, 1962, pp. 403-405)

 

War Clouds in Late 1832

President Andrew Jackson, in early November 1832, sent a spy to South Carolina to monitor the nullification forces in South Carolina, and “transferred several military companies to Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney” in preparation for war against the State. Though using these measures to elevate his prestige, Jackson also urged Congress to lower the existing tariff and “attacked the protective system for the first time.” He had come to the view that like the national bank he opposed for making “the rich richer and the potent more powerful,” the Northern protective tariffs accomplished the same.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

War Clouds in Late 1832

“[Governor Robert Y.] Hayne’s [inaugural] speech was nothing short of a full-blown statement of State supremacy . . .”Fellow citizens, This is Our Own – Our Native Land,” declared Hayne.

“It is the soil of CAROLINA which has been enriched by the precious blood of our ancestors, shed in defense of those rights and liberties, which we are bound, by every tie divine and human, to transmit unimpaired to our posterity. It is here that we have been cherished in youth and sustained in manhood . . . here repose the honored bones of our Fathers . . . here, when our earthly pilgrimage is over, we hope to sink to rest, on the bosom of our common mother. Bound to our country by such sacred, and endearing ties – let others desert her, if they can, let them revile her, if they will – let them give aid and countenance to her enemies, if they may – but for us, we will STAND OR FALL WITH CAROLINA.”

The [South Carolina] legislature gave Governor Hayne authority to accept military volunteers, to draft any Carolinian between eighteen and forty-five (including unionists), and to call out the State militia. The legislators approved a $200,000 appropriation for purchasing arms and authorized Hayne to draw and additional $200,000 from a contingent fund.

On December 26 Hayne issued his proclamation asking for volunteers; by the beginning of 1833 the governor and his district commanders were raising, equipping and training an army. Soldiers constantly drilled in the streets, and for a season Carolina uniforms and blue cockades were standard fare in churches and at tea parties. Over 25,000 men – more than had voted for nullification in the first place – volunteered to defend South Carolina against Jackson’s armies.

[Former Governor James Hamilton’s military preparations] had a chance to win an immediate victory over the two badly exposed federal forts. Fort Moultrie had been built on Sullivan’s Island, and since South Carolina owned part of the island, Hamilton’s volunteers could lay siege to the fort. Castle Pinckney, erected on an island only a mile out from Gadsden Wharf, could be battered down by the nullifiers’ heavy cannon.

The necessity for a strategy of defense, however, weakened the possibility of quick victory. The governor, commanding his army with commendable restraint and caution, also knew that a concentration of troops might precipitate a needless war. Hayne insisted that volunteers train at home . . . [but with] the entire army in the uplands, Charleston would be vulnerable to a concentrated federal attack.

Hayne attempted to solve the dilemma with his mounted-minutemen plan. The governor asked each district to appoint a small cavalry unit which could race to Charleston on a moment’s notice. “If in each district only one hundred such men could be secured,” wrote Hayne, “we would have the means of throwing 2,500 of the elite of the whole State upon a given point in three or four days.”

(Prelude to Civil War, The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836, William W. Freehling, Oxford University Press, 1965, pp. 264-266; 275-277)

Trying to Save the Union

North Carolina’s James C. Dobbin served as a delegate to the convention at Baltimore to nominate Democratic candidates for president and vice-president in 1856. He was elected chairman of the North Carolina delegation and saw Franklin Pierce as the best choice to maintain sectional harmony in the Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Trying To Save the Union

“It was apprehended that the convention would adjourn in confusion, and without any nomination. At this crisis Mr. Dobbin arose, and in a modest, unobstrusive manner, and with matchless eloquence, spoke as follows:

“Mr. President: Pardon me for obtruding one word before North Carolina casts her vote. We came to pander to no factions artifices here, to enlist under no man’s banner at the hazard of principle; to embark in no crusade to prostrate any aspirant for the sake of sectional or personal triumph. We came here to select one of the army of noble spirits in our ranks to be our leader and champion in the glorious struggle for the great principles of democracy.

Again, and again, have we tendered the banner to the North, Save our happy Union, guard well the rights of the States, say we, and you can have the honor of the standard bearer. Zealously and sincerely have we presented the name of [President James] Buchanan, the noble son of the Key Stone State, around whom the affections of our hearts have so long clustered.

We have turned to the Empire State, New York, and sought to honor one of her distinguished sons. We now feel that in the midst of discord and destruction, the olive branch, if tendered once more, cannot be refused. We feel the hour now has come when the spirit of strife must be banished, and the mild, gentler and holier spirit of patriotism reign in its stead!

Come then, Mr. President, let us go to the altar and make sacrifices for our beloved country. We now propose, with other friends, the name of one who was in the field just long enough to prove himself a gallant soldier, and who was long enough in the councils of the nation to demonstrate that he is a statesman of the strong mind and honest heart; who has exhibited in the career of legislation, that he knew the rights of the South, while he respected those of the North, as well as of the East and the West; whose principles of democracy are as solid and enduring as the granite hills of his own New Hampshire native land — General Franklin Pierce.

“Come, friends and brothers, let us strike hands now; now for harmony and conciliation, and save our cherished principles and our beloved country.”

(Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians, John H. Wheeler, www.docsouth.unc.edu)