Browsing "Withdrawing from the Union"

Indispensable African Slaves

In his message to Congress on 29 April 1861, President Jefferson Davis cited the Northern threat to the South’s labor system as a cause of withdrawal from political union with the North. The murderous raid of John Brown in 1859 had convinced the South of the North’s violent intentions, which were supported by influential and wealthy men.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Indispensable African Slaves

“As soon . . . as the Northern States that prohibited African slavery within their limits had reached a number sufficient to give their representation a controlling voice in the Congress, a persistent and organized system of hostile measures against the rights of the owners of slaves in the Southern States was inaugurated and gradually extended. A continuous series of measures was devised and prosecuted for the purpose of rendering insecure the tenure of property in slaves . . .

Senators and Representatives were sent to the common councils of the nation, whose chief title to this distinction consisted in the display of a spirit of ultra-fanaticism, and whose business was . . . to awaken the bitterest hatred against the citizens of sister States, by violent denunciation of their institutions; the transaction of public affairs was impeded by repeated efforts to usurp powers not delegated by the Constitution, for the purpose of . . . reducing those States which held slaves to a condition of inferiority.

In the meantime, the African slaves had augmented in number from about 600,000, at the date of the adoption of the constitutional compact, to upward of 4,000,000. In moral and social condition they had been elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent and civilized agricultural laborers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts but with careful religious instruction.

Under the supervision of a superior race, their labor had been so directed as not only to allow a gradual and marked amelioration of their own condition, but to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of the wilderness into cultivated lands covered with a prosperous people; towns and cities had sprung into existence, and had rapidly increased in wealth and population under the social system of the South . . . and the productions of cotton, sugar, and tobacco, for the full development and continuance of which the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable, had swollen to an amount which formed nearly three-fourths of the exports of the whole United States and had become absolutely necessary to the wants of civilized man.

With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced.”

(The Causes of the Civil War, Kenneth M. Stampp, editor, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1965, pp. 134-135)

In God's Name, Let Them Go Unmolested

The State of Delaware was a slaveholding State in early 1861 and Confederate Secretary of State Robert Toombs of Georgia expected that State to adhere to the South in its new experiment in government. Congressmen James A. Bayard and William G. Whiteley were two Delawareans who advocated peace between the sections and sympathy for Southerners seeking a more perfect union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

In Gods Name, Let Them Go Unmolested

“Congressman Whiteley [of Wilmington, Delaware] served on the Committee of Thirty-Three and signed a minority report of that Committee. The minority report was signed by five congressmen, all from either Southern or border States. Whiteley and these congressmen advocated peaceful secession. They believed that:

“. . . the doctrine of the indissolubility of the general government has no foundation in the public law of the world . . . ”

Also, . . .”that no power has been conferred upon the general government, by the Constitution . . . to keep a State in the Union.” They became specific when they stated that: “You cannot coerce fifteen sovereign States . . . That a separation, which has become inevitable, shall be bloodless.”

Whiteley signed a statement advocating the secession of all slaveholding States, including Delaware. Specifically, it proposed that there should be no war, but peaceful separation. Succinctly, they stated their position:

“Whether any State has or has not the right to seceded under the Constitution, it is a matter of fact that four States have already seceded; and that in a few short months — perhaps weeks — all of the other slaveholding States will have in like manner seceded, with the purpose of maintaining their new position, by force of arms, if no adjustment is made of the differences between them and the non-slaveholding States.”

After the firing on Fort Sumter, William G. Whiteley held to his previous position. On June 27 at a mass meeting in Dover he stated:

“In God’s name, let them go unmolested . . . Would Delaware give money or men to hold States as conquered provinces? . . . Could the South be subjected? Never!”

(The Secession Movement in the Middle Atlantic States, William C. Wright, Associated University Presses, 1973, pp. 86-87)

Northerners Illustrate Little Regard for the Union

Northern anti-slavery agitators fomented discord and disunion long before 1861 and did their utmost to cause the South to seek a more perfect union. And that South rightly asked why the North agreed to the Compromise of 1850 when it had no intentions of abiding by it. If the abolition of slavery was indeed their crusade, why did abolitionists not encourage the example of the British with compensated emancipation, thus averting war and wanton destruction?

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Northerners Illustrate Little Regard for the Union

“In the North, sincere if fanatical abolitionists and opportunists alike used the slavery issue for political advancement. In the South, the voices . . . grew more passionate in their crusades for independence. Northern agitators gave them the ammunition.

When the Southern States had adopted the Compromise of 1850, the Georgia legislature summarized the attitude of them all. Serving notice that the preservation of the Union depended on the Northern States’ faithfully abiding by the terms of the Compromise, the Georgia delegates stressed its particular application to the federal laws regarding fugitive slaves.

This was a very real issue to the planters, and nothing so impressed the individual Southerner with Northern hostility as the protection given runaways in the North and the actual attacks on federal officials trying to enforce the laws on stolen property. On this last point, the Georgians stated, “It is the deliberate opinion of this convention that upon the faithful execution of the fugitive-slave bill depends the preservation of our much-loved Union.”

Yet in the North, many people continued to repudiate and defy the fugitive slave laws, which constituted about the only thing the South got out of the Compromise. To the Southerners trying to promote secession, this breach of faith served to illustrate the little regard in which the North held Union.

Then Northern literature erupted into what amounted to an anti-Southern propaganda mill. In 1851 appeared Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that inflammable work of the imagination, to start the decade in a spirit of recriminations. With the pamphlets and literature which took up where Mrs. Stowe left off, newspapers joined in the denunciations of their fellow Americans. To support the fictional pictures of the benighted Southerners, the New York Tribune stated flatly that plantations were “little else than Negro harems,” and that, of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Tyler (who was still living) “hardly one has failed to leave his mulatto children.”

Even Virginia, which produced these Presidents, had been brought to ruin by “pride and folly and . . . [Negro] concubinage . . . ” while South Carolina, with its “chivalry-ridden inhabitants,” like the other States, “is a full thousand years behind the North in civilization.” Emerson and Longfellow, Lowell and Whittier, the new literary pillars of that civilization, conjured up pictures of the vileness of their Southern neighbors.”

(The Land They Fought For, The Story of the South as the Confederacy, 1832-1865, Clifford Dowdey, Doubleday and Company, 1955, pp. 44-45)

The South Against a Seceding North

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South Against a Seceding North

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

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

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

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

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

Angela Grimke's Cornerstone of the Republic

Poor Alexander H. Stephens!

The Vice President of the American Confederacy’s informal speech to a Savannah audience in March 1861 is used to verify that the defense of slavery is all the new experiment in American government was about — and despite the fact that Stephen’s remarks were simply imperfect reporter’s notes and we are not even sure if he uttered those exact words.

If Stephen’s indeed mentioned “cornerstone and African slavery” in the same sentence in Savannah, he most likely was referring to Charleston abolitionist Angelina Grimke’ who some 25 years before said this about the United States.

Angelina’s speech in 1836 was entitled “An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South” and its topic anti-slavery. Both she and her sister were born into wealth in Charleston, SC — and later moved to the former center of the transatlantic slave trade, New England, to become Quakers and join William Lloyd Garrison’s abolition movement. There the Grimke’ sisters perhaps not only engaged in serious abolitionist discourse but also discovered that the slavery they abhorred was a mostly New England enterprise, and supported by its notorious rum trade with Africa.

Grimke stated in her appeal that “The interests of the North . . . are very closely combined with those of the South. The Northern merchants and manufacturers are making their fortunes out of the produce of slave labor . . . [and] the North is most dreadfully afraid of Amalgamation. She is alarmed at the very idea of a thing so monstrous, as she thinks. And lest this consequence might flow from emancipation, she is determined to resist all efforts at emancipation without expatriation. It is not because she [the North] approves of slavery, or believes it to be “the cornerstone of our republic,” for she is as much anti-slavery as we are; but amalgamation is too horrible to think of.” (see “Against Slavery, An Abolitionist Reader,” Angelina & Sarah Moore Grimke’, Penguin Books, 2000).

Stephen’s wrote in his Recollection’s that he spoke extemporaneously in his Savannah speech, and the reporter’s notes he reviewed afterward “were imperfect” contained “glaring errors.” He goes on to explain the contents of his speech with “The relation of the black to the white race, or the proper status of the colored population amongst us, was a question now of vastly more importance than when the Constitution was formed. The order of subordination is nature’s great law; philosophy taught that order as the normal condition of the African amongst European races. Upon this recognized principle of a proper subordination, let it be called slavery or what not, our State institutions were formed and rested. The principle of the subordination of the inferior to the superior was the “cornerstone” on which it was formed. I used this metaphor merely to illustrate the firm convictions of the framers of the new Constitution that this relation of the black to the white race, which existed in 1787 . . . The status of the African race in the new Constitution was left just where it was in the old; I affirmed and meant to affirm nothing else in this Savannah speech” (Recollections of  Alexander H. Stephens, 1910/1998, LSU Press).

Thus Stephens viewed African slavery in the same way as the abolitionists who sought secession from the United States by New England, to separate themselves from what they saw as the evil cornerstone of the United States. And the Confederacy incorporated nothing more than what the United States already had recognized as a domestic institution of the States, to be accepted or eradicated in time by each State.  This raises the obvious question: If the abolitionists were opposed to slavery, why did they not advance a peaceful and practical emancipation proposal as did England in the 1840s with compensated emancipation?

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

One American Ruler to Enforce Obedience

The peaceful political separation desired by the American South in early 1861 was best summarized by President Jefferson Davis’ in his inaugural address: “We seek no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which we were lately confederated. All we ask is to be let alone; that those who never held power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

One American Ruler to Enforce Obedience

“From Mr. [Robert] Toombs, Secretary of State, Message No. 5, Department of State, Montgomery, Alabama, May 18, 1861.

To: Hon Wm. L. Yancey, Hon. Pierre A. Rost, Hon. A. Dudley Mann, Commissioners of the Confederate States, etc.

Gentlemen: My dispatch of the 24th ultimo contained an accurate summary of the important events which had transpired up to that date, and informed you that the Executive of the United States had commenced a war of aggression against the Confederate States.

On the 20th instant the convention of the people of North Carolina will assemble at Raleigh, and there is no doubt that, immediately thereafter, ordinances of secession from the United States, and union with the Confederate States, will be adopted.

Although ten independent and sovereign States have thus deliberately severed the bonds which bound them in political union with the United States, and have formed a separate and independent Government for themselves, the President of the United States affects to consider that the Federal Union is still legally and constitutionally unbroken . . . He claims to be our ruler, and insists that he has the right to enforce our obedience.

From the newspaper press, the rostrum, and the pulpit, the partisans of Mr. Lincoln, while they clamorously assert their devotion to the Union and Constitution of the United States, daily preach a relentless war between the sections, to be prosecuted not only in violation of all constitutional authority, but in disregard of the simplest law of humanity.

The authorized exponents of the sentiments of [Lincoln’s party] . . . avow that it is the purpose of the war to subjugate the Confederate States, spoliate the property of our citizens, sack and burn our cities and villages, and exterminate our citizens . . .

[The] real motive which actuates Mr. Lincoln and those who now sustain his acts is to accomplish by force of arms that which the masses of the Northern people have long sought to effect – namely, the overthrow of our domestic institutions, the devastation and destruction of our social interests, and the reduction of the Southern States to the condition of subject provinces.

It is not astonishing that a people educated in that school which always taught the maintenance of the rights of the few against the might of the many, which ceaselessly regarded the stipulation to protect and preserve the liberties and vested rights of every member of the Confederacy as the condition precedent upon which each State delegated certain powers necessary for self-protection to the General Government, should refuse to submit dishonorably to the destruction of their constitutional liberty, the insolent denial of their right to govern themselves and to hold and enjoy their property in peace.

In the exercise of that greatest of the rights reserved to the several States by the late Federal Constitution – namely, the right for each State to be judge for itself, as well of the infractions of the compact of the Union, as of the mode and measure of redress – the sovereignties composing the Confederate States resolved to sever their political connection with the United States and form a Government of their own, willing to effect this purpose peacefully at any sacrifice save that of honor and liberty, but determined even at the cost of war to assert their right to independence and self-government.”

(A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy 1861-1865, James D. Richardson, Volume II, US Publishing Company, 1905, excerpt, pp. 26-31)

Great Americans Amid a Great Crisis

While the Republican party reveled in its plurality victory and avoided any compromise in order to maintain party unity, Unionists like Jefferson Davis emulated great American leaders of earlier times in challenging Congress to meet the crisis and save the creation of the Founders. 

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Great Americans Amid a Great Crisis  

“Jefferson Davis, in his farewell address to the United States Senate, expressed the sentiments of Virginia . . . when he said:

“Now sir, we are confusing language very much. Men speak of revolution; and when they say revolution, they mean blood. Our fathers meant nothing of the sort. When they spoke of revolution, they meant the inalienable right.

When they declared as an inalienable right, the power of the people to abrogate and modify their form of government whenever it did not answer the ends for which it was established, they did not mean that they were to sustain that by brute force . . . Are we, in this age of civilization and political progress . . . are we to roll back the whole current of human thought and again return to the mere brute force which prevails between beasts of prey as the only method of settling questions between men?

Is it to be supposed that the men who fought the battles of the Revolution for community independence, terminated their great efforts by transmitting prosperity to a condition in which they could only gain those rights by force?  If so, the blood of the Revolution was shed in vain; no great principles were established; for force was the law of nature before the battles of the Revolution were fought.”

Robert E. Lee, writing on the 23rd of January, 1861, said:

“Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom and forbearance in its formation and surrounded it with so many guards and securities if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will . . . Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me. If the Union is dissolved and the Government disrupted, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people — and save in defense (of Virginia) will draw my sword on none.”

George Baylor, speaking on the 1st of March 1861 in the Virginia Convention, said:

“I have said, Mr. President, that I did not believe in the right of secession. But whilst I make that assertion, I also say that I am opposed to coercion on the part of the Federal Government with the view of bringing the seceded States back into the Union . . . I am opposed to it first because I cannot find any authority in the Constitution of the United States delegating that power to the Federal Government, and second, because if the Federal Government had the power it would be wrong to use it.”

John Quincy Adams, speaking before the New York Historical Society in 1839, on the 50th Anniversary of Washington’s inauguration as President of the United States, said:

“To the people alone there is reserved as well the dissolving as the constituent power, and that power can be exercised by them only under the tie of conscience binding them to the retributive justice of Heaven.

With those qualifications we may admit the right as vested in the people of every State of the Union with reference to the General Government which was exercised by the people of the United Colonies with reference to the supreme head of the British Empire of which they formed a part, and under these limitations have the people of each State of the Union a right to secede from the Confederated Union itself.”

(Virginia’s Attitude Toward Secession, Beverley B. Munford, L.H. Jenkins, Richmond, VA, 1909, pp. 294-295)

 

 

Grasping Yankee Prussians Against the South

Southern President Jefferson Davis described Bismarck’s Prussians as the “arrogant robbing Yankees of Europe” who appropriated their small sister states into a centralized and oppressive regime. By 1864, fully 25% of Lincoln’s war machine was comprised of German soldiers and US war bonds found many subscribers in the Fatherland.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Grasping Yankee Prussians Against the South

“ . . . Southerners insisted that slavery was not a cause of the war in the sense of being a source of an irrepressible conflict between North and South. They ascribed [Northern attacks on slavery] . . . not to any humanitarian or ideological considerations which indicated divergent opinions on the morality of slavery, but to the desires of ambitious politicians and selfish manufacturers for political power and economic gain.

They charged that Northern majorities in Congress had passed legislation for the benefit of their section’s commercial and manufacturing interests and at the expense of the Southern States. The Yankees had become grasping and aggressive, and Jefferson Davis, drawing a parallel to the contemporary Franco-Prussian War, compared the Yankees of the 1850’s to the Prussians of the 1870’s . . .

Not slavery, but the North’s unjustifiable assaults upon the Southern States had caused secession and war, in the view of Confederates . . . the primary reasons for the North’s hostility to the Southern States lay in the fact that the Northern and Southern States had differing, antagonistic and competing ways of life. The Southern way of life was generally defined by former Confederates in terms of an agricultural economy, locally controlled and conservative in its social and political customs.

[They] emphasized in particular that the ante-bellum South had differed from the North in that its civilization had been essentially conservative. It was conservative, they asserted, in its concept of constitutional liberty, centering around the sovereignty of States, and opposed both to national centralization and to extreme doctrines of the “natural rights” of individuals.

It was conservative also, they stated, in its aristocratic principles, opposing mere majority rule, opposing what the former Confederate Secretary of State, R.M.T. Hunter called the “despotic majority of numbers” in the North.

D.H. Hill, A.T. Bledsoe, and R.L. Dabney took the lead in describing the antagonism between Southern “conservatism” and Northern “radicalism.” The North, they declared, had abandoned the system of government prescribed in the Constitution and had adopted radical, democratic, European “isms,” based upon principles of equal rights for all individuals and rule by the majority.

These doctrines stemmed from the French Revolution; they were held, implied General Jubal Early, by the men who had crucified Jesus Christ. Against Northern Jacobinism the Confederacy had fought the whole world’s battle; the South, asserted [Gen. Daniel H.] Hill, was the Vendee of the United States and had waged a similar fight for “conservatism against lawlessness, infidelity, irreverence towards God and man, radicalism.”

(Americans Interpret Their Civil War, Thomas J. Presley, Princeton University Press, 1954, pp. 119-121)

Theodore Roosevelt's Tribute to Lee

In his Life of Thomas H. Benton (Houghton-Mifflin, 1900), Theodore Roosevelt traced the important influences which formed Benton’s character to the militant spirit found in his native South, and further mentions that important influence on the Southern army and its commander.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Theodore Roosevelt’s Tribute to Lee

“No man who is not willing to bear arms and to fight for his rights can give a good reason why he should be entitled to the privilege of living in a free community. The decline of the militant spirit in the Northeast during the first half of this century was much to be regretted.

To it is due more than to any other cause the undoubted average individual inferiority of the Northern compared with the Southern troops – at any rate, at the beginning of the [War].

The Southerners, by their whole mode of living, their habits, and their love of outdoor sports, kept up their warlike spirit, while in the North the so-called upper classes developed along the lines of a wealthy and timid bourgeoisie type, measuring everything by a mercantile standard (a peculiarly debasing one, if taken purely by itself), and submitting to be ruled in local affairs by low, foreign mobs, and in national affairs by their arrogant Southern kinsmen. The militant spirit of these last certainly stood them in good stead in the civil war.

The world has never seen better soldiers than those who followed Lee, and their leader will undoubtedly rank, without any exception, as the very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth . . .”

(Roosevelt’s Tribute to Lee, Rev. J.H. McNeilly; Confederate Veteran, June 1900, page 257)

Indispensable African Slaves

In his message to Congress on 29 April 1861, President Jefferson Davis cited the Northern threat to the South’s labor system as a cause of withdrawal from political union with the North. The murderous raid of John Brown in 1859 had convinced the South of the North’s violent intentions, which were supported by influential and wealthy men.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Indispensable African Slaves

“As soon . . . as the Northern States that prohibited African slavery within their limits had reached a number sufficient to give their representation a controlling voice in the Congress, a persistent and organized system of hostile measures against the rights of the owners of slaves in the southern States was inaugurated and gradually extended. A continuous series of measures was devised and prosecuted for the purpose of rendering insecure the tenure of property in slaves . . .

Senators and Representatives were sent to the common councils of the nation, whose chief title to this distinction consisted in the display of a spirit of ultra-fanaticism, and whose business was . . . to awaken the bitterest hatred against the citizens of sister States, by violent denunciation of their institutions; the transaction of public affairs was impeded by repeated efforts to usurp powers not delegated by the Constitution, for the purpose of . . . reducing those States which held slaves to a condition of inferiority.

In the meantime, the African slaves had augmented in number from about 600,000, at the date of the adoption of the constitutional compact, to upward of 4,000,000. In moral and social condition they had been elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent and civilized agricultural laborers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts but with careful religious instruction.

Under the supervision of a superior race, their labor had been so directed as not only to allow a gradual and marked amelioration of their own condition, but to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of the wilderness into cultivated lands covered with a prosperous people; towns and cities had sprung into existence, and had rapidly increased in wealth and population under the social system of the South . . . and the productions of cotton, sugar, and tobacco, for the full development and continuance of which the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable, had swollen to an amount which formed nearly three-fourths of the exports of the whole United States and had become absolutely necessary to the wants of civilized man.

With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced.”

(The Causes of the Civil War, Kenneth M. Stampp, editor, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1965, pp. 134-135)