Browsing "Withdrawing from the Union"

Subjugating Rebellion into Loyalty

Not recognizing the withdrawal of States from the voluntary Union in 1861, English-born Sen. Edward D. Baker of Oregon responds below to former Vice President and then-Senator John Breckenridge of Kentucky. Baker reportedly appeared in the Senate that day in the uniform of a Northern colonel, riding whip and saber in hand, claiming that secession was rebellion and that South Carolina was to be subjugated into loyalty. This, ironically from a man born in England, was what George III attempted some 85 years earlier.  Baker was mortally wounded at Ball’s Bluff in October 1861.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Subjugating Rebellion into Loyalty

“The senator from Kentucky stands up here in a manly way in opposition to what he sees is the overwhelming sentiment of the Senate, and utters reproof, malediction, and prediction combined. Well sir, it is not every prediction that is prophesy.

I confess Mr. President, that I would not have predicted three weeks ago the disasters which have overtaken our arms; and I do not think [if I were to predict now] that six months hence the senator will indulge in the same tone of prediction which is his favorite key now. I would ask him what would you have us do now — a Confederate army within twenty miles of us, advancing, or threatening to advance, to overwhelm your government; to shake the pillars of the Union; to bring it down around your head in ruins if you stay here?

Are we to stop and talk about an uprising sentiment in the north against the war? Is it not the manly part to go on as we have begun, to raise money, and levy armies, to organize them, to prepare to advance; when we do advance, to regulate that advance by all the laws and regulations that civilization and humanity will allow in time of battle? To talk to us about stopping is idle; we will never stop. Will the senator yield to rebellion? Will he shrink from armed insurrection? Will his State justify it? Shall we send a flag of truce?

When we subjugate South Carolina, what shall we do? We shall compel its obedience to the Constitution of the United States; that is all. Why play upon words? We do not mean, we have never said, any more. If it be slavery that men should obey the Constitution their fathers fought for, let it be so.

We propose to subjugate rebellion into loyalty; we propose to subjugate insurrection into peace; we propose to subjugate Confederate anarchy into constitutional Union liberty. When the Confederate armies are scattered; when their leaders are banished from power; when the people return to a late repentant sense of the wrong they have done to a government they never felt but benignancy and blessing — then the Constitution made for us all will be felt by all, like the descending rains from heaven which bless all alike.

Sir, how can we retreat? What will become of constitutional government? What will become of public liberty? What of past glories? What of future hopes? No sir; a thousand times no, sir! We will rally . . . we will rally the people, the loyal people, of the whole country. They will pour forth their treasure, their money, their men, without stint, without measure.”

(Edward D. Baker, Senate speech of August 1, 1861. The World’s Famous Orations, W.J. Bryan, editor, Funk & Wagnall’s, 1906, pp. 3-8)

 

Justifying the First Appeal to Arms

“. . . Edward A. Pollard, a Virginia critic of [Jefferson] Davis, chronicler of the war and bewailer of the “lost cause,” took courage in 1868 to write his most significant book, The Lost Cause Regained.

The folly of politicians, he said, had made the South defend slavery seemingly “as a property tenure, or as a peculiar institution of labour; when the true ground of defense was as of a barrier against a contention and war of the races.” [Pollard wrote:]

“It has been curiously reserved for the South to obtain AFTER the war the actual experience of oppression, and of that measure a despotism which would have amply justified the commencement of hostilities. If it fought, in 1860, for principles too abstract, it has superabundant causes for rebellion now, which although they may not, and need not produce another war, yet have the effect to justify, in a remarkable way, the first appeal to arms.”

(The Central Theme of Southern History, Ulrich B. Phillips; Slavery As A Cause of the Civil War, E. Rozwenc, DC Heath and Company, 1949, pp. 25-26)

 

Suppressing the Consent of the Governed

As asserted below, Americans in general seem unaware of the enormity of the Southern experience 1861-1865 and the aftermath of devastating defeat and subjugation. The author’s analogy brings needed perspective to an unnecessary war and death of a million Americans, counting military and civilian casualties.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Suppressing the Consent of the Governed

“Imagine America invaded by a foreign power, one that has quadruple the population and industrial base. Imagine that this enemy has free access to the world’s goods as well as an inexhaustible supply of cannon fodder from the proletariat of other countries, while America itself is tightly blockaded from the outside world.

New York and Cincinnati have been taken. For months, Boston and Chicago have been under constant siege, the civilian population driven from their homes. Enemy forces roam over large parts of the country burning the homes, tools and food of the noncombatants in a campaign of deliberate terrorism.

Nearly eighty-five percent of the nation’s able-bodied men (up to 50 years of age) have been called to arms. Battlefield casualties have run to 39 percent and deaths amount to half of that, far exceeding those from any other war.

On the other hand, the enemy, though its acts and domestic propaganda indicate otherwise, is telling the American population that it only wants peace and the restoration of the status quo antebellum. Lay down your arms and all will be as before. What would be our state of morale in such conditions? Americans have never suffered such misfortune, have they?

Alas, they have. This was the experience of the Southern people from 1861-1865 in their lost War for Independence.

How hard the Southerners struggled for independence from the American Empire has been, and continues to be, suppressed by a nationalist culture that can only wonder: How could any group possibly have dissented from the greatest government on earth? But a very large number of Americans did no consent that government (the regime, after all, was supposed to be founded on the consent of the governed).

They were willing to put their dissent on the line in a greater sacrifice than any large group of Americans has ever been called on to make. Until finally, as a disappointed Union officer quoted by [author Gary] Gallagher remarked: “The rebellion [was] worn out rather than suppressed.”

(An Honorable Defeat, Clyde Wilson, Chronicles, October 1998, pg. 28)

For What are They Waging War?

Jefferson Davis referred to Lincoln’s proclamation of emancipation in early 1863 as affording “our whole people the complete and crowning proof of the true nature of the designs of the party which elevated to power the present occupant of the Presidential chair at Washington and which sought to conceal its purpose . . .” Davis, like others familiar with the United States Constitution, saw that only the individual States could emancipate, not the government created by the States. And waging war upon the States was an act of treason under that same Constitution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

For What are They Waging War?

January 5, 1863

“Friends and Fellow Citizens . . .

I am happy to be welcomed on my return to the Capital of our Confederacy – the last hope, as I believe, for the perpetuation of that system of government which our forefathers founded – the asylum of the oppressed and the home of true representative liberty.

Anticipating the overthrow of that Government which you had inherited, you assumed the right, as you fathers had done before you, to declare yourselves independent, and nobly have you advocated the assertion which you have made. You have shown yourselves in no respect to be degenerate sons of your fathers.

Men who were bound to you by the compact which their fathers and themselves had entered into the secure to you the rights and principles not only guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence, but rights which Virginia wisely and plainly reserved in her recognition of the government in which she took a part, now come to you with their hands steeped in blood, robbing the widow, destroying houses, seizing the grey-haired father, and incarcerating him in prison because he will not be a traitor to the principles of his fathers and the land that gave him birth.

Every crime which could characterize the course of demons has marked the course of the invader. The Northern portion of Virginia has been ruthlessly desolated – the people not only deprived of the means of subsistence, but their household property destroyed, and every indignity which the base imagination of a merciless foe could suggest inflicted, without regard to age, sex or condition.

In like manner their step has been marked in every portion of the Confederacy they have invaded.

They have murdered prisoners of war; they have destroyed the means of subsistence of families, they have plundered the defenceless, and exerted their most malignant ingenuity to bring to the deepest destitution those who only offence is that their husbands and sons are fighting for their homes and their liberties. Every crime conceivable, from the burning of defenceless towns to the stealing of our silver forks, and spoons, has marked their career.

It is in keeping, however, with the character of the people that seeks dominion over you, claim to be your masters, to try to reduce you to subjection – give up to a brutal soldiery your towns to sack, your homes to pillage and incite servile insurrection.

They have come to disturb our social organizations on the plea that it is military necessity. For what are they waging war? They say to preserve the Union.

Can they preserve the Union by destroying the social existence of a portion of the South? Do they hope to reconstruct the Union by striking at everything which is dear to man? BY showing them so utterly disgraced that if the question was proposed to you whether you would combine with hyenas or Yankees, I trust every Virginian would say, give me the hyenas.”

(Jefferson Davis, the Essential Writings, William J. Cooper, Jr., editor, Modern Library, 2003, excerpts, pp. 285-287)

 

Grecian Horses into the Southern Troy

Jefferson Davis served as both a United States Representative and Senator from Mississippi, Secretary of War, 1853-1857 under President Franklin Pierce, and President of the Confederate States, 1861-1865. He was a staunch Southern Unionist who strived to find peaceful solutions to the sectional controversies that would lead to secession of the Southern States.  The “Know-Nothingism” mentioned below was a Northern nativist political party of the late 1840s and 1850s which opposed the immigration of Irish and German Catholics — Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts and New Yorker Millard Fillmore were leaders of the party.  The following is excerpted from Jefferson Davis’ address of October 2, 1857 at Mississippi City.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Grecian Horses into the Southern Troy

“Colonel Davis rose . . . and referred to various events in the early history of Mississippi . . . that she had never violated the compact of our Union, and unresistingly borne disproportionate burthens for the support of the general government in peace . . . [and] at the first call for soldiers to maintain the honor of the national flag, had, like a Spartan mother, girded the sword upon her sons, who knew well they could never return to the maternal embrace unless they came covered with honorable fame or wrapped in the shroud of death.

[Regarding incessant Northern aggressions borne by the South, were] we to have more compromises to gather further disappointment, and sink still lower from the equality which our Fathers maintained, and transmitted to us? Fraternity and mutual alliance for the interests of each was the motive and purpose for which the Union was formed.

Preparation in the South to maintain her rights in any contingency which the future might and was likely to bring forth, would best serve to strengthen her Northern allies, if they remained true; and would best enable her to dispense with their services, if they should desert.

It was not upon mere party relation that his hopes were founded; it was upon the elevating, purifying power of the doctrine of State rights and strict construction [of the United States Constitution] – the Shibboleth which none but Democrats can pronounce.

In the earlier, and might well be said, in the purer days of the Republic, Mr. Jefferson pronounced the Northern Democracy the neutral allies of the South, and if that alliance was broken there was surely no other on which to rely.

From the foundation of the Government, the party opposed to the Democracy, under its various names and issues had always evinced its tendency to centralization by the latitudinous construction of the powers delegated to the Federal Government.

As examples, he cited the charter of the United States Bank, the enactment of a tariff for protection, a system of internal improvements, a genera distribution of public lands and of public treasure, and last, lowest in tone, and, as its name implied, in intelligence, Know-Nothingism, with its purpose to concede to the Federal Government the power to prescribe the terms on which naturalized citizens should be invested with the right of suffrage in the States.

He said that he considered every departure from strict construction of grants to the Federal Government, as the introduction of another Grecian horse into our Southern Troy, and he invoked every Mississippian to united and vigilant resistance to every such measure.

The South, as a minority section, can alone be secure in her rights by resolutely maintaining the equality and independence of the States, and thus alone could we hope to make our Union perpetual and effective for the great purposes for which it was ordained and established.

He then urged the necessity of home education, of normal schools, and Southern school-books, as the next step after the mother’s pious training in the formation of that character which was essential to progress toward that high destiny to which his anticipation pointed.

If, as was sometimes asserted, Governments contain within themselves the elements of their own destruction, as animate beings have their growth, their maturity to decay; if ours, the last, best hope of civil liberty was, like the many experiments which preceded it, to be engulfed in the sea of time . . . [he hoped] Mississippi would stand conspicuous for all that was virtuous and noble; that through the waves of fanaticism, anarchy and civil strife, her sons would be the Levites who would bear the ark of the Constitution, and when unable to save it from wreck, that in the pile of its sacred timbers their bones would be found mingled.”

(Speech at Mississippi City; The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 6, 1856-1860, L. Crist/M. Dix, editors, LSU Press, 1989, excerpts, pp. 138-139; 153-155)

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)

Oct 29, 2016 - Recurring Southern Conservatism, Southern Conservatives, Southern Patriots, Southern Statesmen, Withdrawing from the Union    Comments Off on Judah P. Benjamin, Legal Giant of His Age

Judah P. Benjamin, Legal Giant of His Age

Only a year after the fall of the Confederacy, Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin had become a British barrister – by 1868 he had risen to Queen’s Counsel. An advocate of using former slaves in Southern armies, Benjamin saw that after the Confederate Congress approved of this in March 1865, no longer could the North claim it was fighting a war to free the slaves. Benjamin was severely injured in a streetcar crash in May 1880; against his physician’s advice, he returned to his law practice but was forced to retire in 1883.  He died ten months later in Paris.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Judah P. Benjamin, Legal Giant of His Age

“Judah Philip Benjamin, Louisiana’s most illustrious lawyer, was born a British subject of Jewish descent on the island of St. Thomas, West Indies, on August 6, 1811. As a child he moved with his parents to Charleston, South Carolina, and was educated at Fayette Academy, [Fayetteville] North Carolina, with two years at Yale. He left Yale at seventeen to accept a position with a commercial house in New Orleans. Poor but resolute, he supplemented his wages as a tutor in English.

Later employed as a clerk in a notary’s office Benjamin prepared for the law and passed the State bar examinations in 1832, just as he came of age. He gained something of a local reputation because of a published digest of decisions of the [United States] Supreme Court and rose rapidly at the bar. His part in the celebrated Creole case, involving delicate questions of international law, gave him national standing.

In his prosperity he purchased a plantation and made a study of sugar chemistry and new refining processes.

He was elected to the State legislature as a Whig in 1842, and ten years later to the United States Senate, serving two consecutive terms. He was the leading spirit in drafting the State constitution in 1852.

Active in the commercial development of New Orleans, Benjamin was one of the organizers of the Jackson Railway, now the Illinois Central. He projected a railway across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico, and was of the opinion that the Compromise of 1850 placed the South at a national disadvantage that only an outlet to the trade of the Pacific could overcome.

When Lincoln was elected president, Benjamin advocated secession, and shortly after the withdrawal of Louisiana, he made a brilliant speech of resignation to the Senate.

Three weeks later [President] Jefferson Davis called him to the Confederacy’s cabinet as attorney general. Phlegmatic in temperament, Benjamin’s personality was a complement to the President’s high-strung spirit. Davis made him secretary of war in 1861, just when the problem of obtaining munitions from Europe had become acute . . . [and later] Davis appointed him secretary of state.

In 1864-65, Benjamin believed the cause of the Confederacy so acute that only the enrollment of slaves as volunteers, with the promise of freedom, could stem the tide. [After Congress had approved the use of black troops] an agent was sent to London, promising general emancipation in return for British aid in lifting the federal blockade. He was told that he had come too late.

When Richmond fell, Benjamin fled with the President’s party [but before Davis’ capture], Benjamin, unable travel farther on a horse, left his chief and escaped from the coast of Florida in an open boat. After many vicissitudes he made his way to the West Indies and to England.

At fifty-five he started life all over as a student of English law at Lincoln’s Inn in London. With a little money he eked out a livelihood as a writer for the Daily Telegraph. In recognition of his talents, the Benchers of his Inn of Court waived the usual three-years’ rule, calling him to the bar after less than five months.

Liverpool was the market for Southern cotton, and its business leaders had many connections with the merchants and shippers of New Orleans. Benjamin located in that circuit just as the last of his little fortune was swept away by the failure of his bank in New Orleans.

He had been engaged in the preparation of a Treatise on the Law of Sale of Personal Property which he published in 1868. Retainers immediately poured in upon him. He was made Queen’s Counsel, qualified to practice in all courts of common law and equity, and established himself without superior in cases on appeal.

His annual fees reached seventy-five thousand dollars, and his practiced increased until he was forced to confine his talents to cases before the House of Lords and Privy Council. Between 1872 and 1882, he appeared as counsel in no less than 136 important cases which came from every part of the British Empire.

Lawyer and statesman, known as the “Brains of the Confederacy,” Judah P. Benjamin was one of the legal giants of his age. His source of power lay in his profound knowledge of the law, his keen sense for analysis, and his faculty for succinct statement. Dynamic in determination, he rose again and again from defeat and poverty to success and fortune.”

(Judah P. Benjamin; Sons of the South, Clayton Rand, Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1961, excerpts, pg. 112)

 

The Changed North

Well before 1860 the American experiment in government was severely fractured and the territorial Union split ideologically into two warring camps. The first shots of the coming war between them could be said to have been threatened over nullification in 1832, but open warfare was a reality by 1854 in Kansas. The North had changed greatly as it achieved a huge numerical advantage over the South, and its ascent to national power in 1860 with a mere 39% plurality gave it the political, military and financial control it craved. The North could have allowed the peaceful departure of the South, had it wanted.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Changed North

“An Anti-Slavery man per se cannot be elected; but a [protective] Tariff, River-and-Harbor [improvements], Pacific Railroad [subsidies]. Free Homestead [for immigrants] man, may succeed although he is Anti-Slavery.” Horace Greeley on the 1860 Republican Convention.

Ask any trendy student of history today and he will tell you that without question the cause of the great American bloodletting of 1861-1865 was slavery. Slavery and nothing but slavery. The unstated and usually unconscious assumption being that only people warped by a vicious institution could possibly fight against being part of “the greatest nation on earth.”

There is an even deeper and less conscious assumption here: malicious, unprovoked hatred of Southern people that is endemic in many American elements. Thus, according to the wisdom of current “scholars” no credit is to be given to anything that Southerners might say about their own reasoning and motives. They are all merely repeating “Lost Cause myths” to cover up their evil deeds.

One of Lincoln’s many deceptions was the claim that the Founders had intended to abolish slavery but had not quite got around to it. The Southerners of his time, thus, were rebelling against the true Founding by insisting on non-interference, while he and his party were upholding the settled understanding of the Founders.

James McPherson, perhaps the “leading” historian of today in regard to the Great Unpleasantness and no Southern apologist, along with many others, points out that it was the North that had changed by 1860. Now one may be glad, as McPherson is, that the North changed and triumphed with a new version of America, but to deny which side was revolutionary is merely dishonest.

Historians have devoted vast attention to the South, feeling it was necessary to explain where the South went wrong, find the source if the perversion that led it to a doomed attempt to escape the greatest country on earth. For, after all, “American” is the norm of the universe and any divergence is a pathology. But if it was the North that changed, ought our primary focus in understanding American history to be on why and how the north changed during the pre-war period?”

(The Yankee Problem, an American Dilemma, Clyde N. Wilson, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts, pp. 52-53)

 

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

It was a commonly held opinion by 1860 that the western territories were not conducive to large plantation and the black labor required to make it economically feasible. It was Lincoln in his “House-Divided” speech who fanned the flames of sectional discord and set the South on its path toward political independence, and the North on its path to war. Washington in his farewell address warned of the dangers of sectionalism – the same that Lincoln and his party created and nourished.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

“The defeat of the slave-State constitution in Kansas made it certain that none of the land [Stephen] Douglas had opened to slavery north of 36-30 [latitude] would become slave. In view of the economic circumstances it was becoming more and more evident that unless the Republican party acquired new tenets there was no reason for continuing its organization.

[William] Seward, one of the leading lights of the party, and [Horace] Greeley, the leading editor of the party, were willing at this time to dissolve the party, but Lincoln was unwilling for the Republicans to disband their distinctive anti-slavery [expansion] organization and have nobody to follow but Douglas, who did not care whether slavery was “voted up or voted down.”

Accordingly, in his debate with Douglas, [Lincoln] had to supply additional material for the sustenance of his party’s life; for the time was rapidly approaching when it would become obvious to everybody that the extension of slavery into the territories had been checked permanently by prevailing economic conditions.

In order to win victory at the polls in 1858 it would be necessary for a Republican candidate not only to hold persons already enrolled in the moribund political organization, but also to gain recruits to the cause of prohibition of slavery in the territories by federal law.

The two groups from which new members could be drawn were the bona-fide abolitionists and the Henry Clay “Whigs” who had hitherto refused to enroll themselves in a sectional political party. The abolitionists supplied the soul of the anti-slavery movement of the North, but they had in general refused to vote for anybody who compromised on anything less than a declaration in favor of abolition of slavery in the slave States.

The Henry Clay Whigs of the North opposed further acquisition of territory which could be devoted to slavery but desired ultimate abolition of slavery only under conditions equitable to the South. They had most kindly feelings toward the Southern whites and like Clay they preferred the liberty of their own race to that of any other race, although they were no friends of slavery.

Lincoln so skillfully calculated the wording of his famous House-Divided speech that it won converts to his following from both sides of the above-mentioned groups. It carried water on both shoulders, so to speak, for it was so constructed that it was acceptable to both radicals and moderate conservatives. [The speech] contained bait for abolitionist consumption . . . and [it also] veils the radicalism . . . and makes of the whole what many Henry Clay Whigs even in the South hoped.

The idea presented . . . to the effect that the advocates of slavery intended to push slavery forward into the Northern States unless the system was checked . . . contained a powerful cement for amalgamating the heterogeneous elements of the North into one sectional party opposed to such extension. [Lincoln’s speech] was sufficiently nourishing to the party’s life to have “all free” enshrined as an ultimate ideal and to spread the idea that the South would be satisfied with nothing less than “all slave.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861, A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Doctoral Dissertation, Philosophy, Columbia University, 1921, excerpts, pp. 18-21)

The Great Glacier of Conservative Thought

Author Clement Eaton wrote that “the decline of the tradition of nationality below he Mason and Dixon line which began in the decade of the 1830’s was one of the great tragedies of our history.” He asserted that despite the secession of the lower South, strong unionism survived in the upper South until Lincoln forced the issue at Fort Sumter. At that point the upper South was forced to either help invade their neighbors, or help defend their neighbors.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Great Glacier of Conservative Thought

“Beyond the wave of emotionalism that took South Carolina and later the other cotton States out of the Union lay a great glacier of conservative thought. From being the most liberal section of the nation in the period of Jefferson and Madison the Southern States had become one of the most conservative areas of civilized life in the world.

Moreover, the leaders of the South regarded this conservatism with pride as an evidence of a superior civilization, forming a balance wheel of the nation, a counterpoise to Northern radicalism.

The American Revolution and the French Revolution were led by radicals and opposed by conservatives. The secession movement of the South, on the other hand, was truly a conservative revolt in that the South would not accept the nineteenth century.

By 1860-1861 many invisible bonds which held the Union together had snapped – one by one. The division of the Methodist and Baptist churches in 1844-1845 . . . was prophetic of a political split. The great Whig party which had upheld the national idea so strongly had disintegrated; Southern students attending Northern colleges had returned home; and Northern magazines and newspapers were being boycotted in the South.

As Carl Russell Fish has observed, “The Democratic party, the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, the American Medical Association, and the Constitution were among the few ties that had not snapped.”

The tensions between the North and the South had become so great that the admirable art of compromise, which had hitherto preserved the American experiment of democratic government, failed to function in 186-1861. Only in the border States was there a strong movement for conciliation. The evidence indicates that Lincoln and the Republican party leaders entertained serious misconceptions about the strength and nature of Union sentiment in the South. They were not disposed therefore to appeasement.

The leaders of secession in the lower South also were in no mood for compromise. Representative David Clopton of Alabama, for example, wrote . . . “Many and various efforts are being made to compromise existing difficulties and patch up the rotten concern. They will all be futile.” He declared that the general impression in Congress among all parties was that the dissolution of the Union was inevitable.

Nevertheless, there was much conservative sentiment in the lower South as well as in the border States which would have welcomed a compromise to preserve the Union . . . In the election of 1860 Georgia and Louisiana, as well as the States of the upper South, had given a majority of their popular vote to [John] Bell and [Stephen] Douglas, the Union candidates – a fact which indicated that the people of these States had no desire to follow the lead of the fire-eaters.

Undoubtedly man of those who voted for [John] Breckinridge, the candidate of Southern extremists although he himself was a Unionist, desired to remain in the Union if a settlement protecting Southern rights could be secured [from the Republicans].

Whatever chance there may have been for a compromise was frustrated . . . [as] The Republican members [of the Senate Committee of Thirteen] voted against . . . concession [regarding the Crittenden Compromise]. Perhaps the best avenue toward a compromise would have been a national convention [of States] which was proposed by President [James] Buchanan and others; but it was not seriously considered.

Some modern students of the Civil War have emphasized economic factors as the most important factors as the most important reason for secession and the subsequent outbreak of war. Charles A. Beard minimizes slavery as a cause of the conflict and interprets the Civil War as produced by the struggle between rival industrial and agricultural societies to control the Federal government for their selfish economic ends.”

(A History of the Southern Confederacy, Clement Eaton, Macmillan Company, 1954, excerpts, pp. 11- 17)