Sunday, September 25, 2016

Alexander Stephens to J. Henly Smith, July 10, 1860

Crawfordville [ga.] , July 10th, 1860.

Dear Smith, Your letter of the 6th inst. was received last night. The paper came by the same mail. The point in your historical narrative I referred to was in part corrected by yourself. The word have instead of protect covered the idea. Besides this, one other. My opposition to the Clayton Compromise was not entirely or solely because it did not protect but because it perpetuated the existing status of the country at the time of acquisition, which was antislavery. I wished that status changed either by Congress or that authority might be given to the territorial legislatures to change it. That bill tied the hands of both Congress and the territorial legislatures forever. This however does not amount to much so far as your letter is concerned. I now mention it that you may know the whole facts of the case. You would do well to read that speech, the one I made on the Clayton Compromise, if you write on that subject. What is to become of the country in case of Lincoln's election I do not know. For one I can only give you my own opinion. As at present advised I should not be for disunion on the grounds of his election. It may be that his election will be attended with events that will change my present opinion, but his bare election would not be sufficient cause in my judgment to warrant a disruption — particularly as his election will be the result if it occurs at all of the folly and madness of our own people. If they do these things in the green tree what will they not do in the dry? If without cause they destroy the present Govt., the best in the world, what hopes would I have that they would not bring untold hardships upon the people in their efforts to give us one of their modelling. All I can therefore say in response to your question is that I would not advocate disunion on that ground. Let events shape their own course. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” In point of merit as a man I have no doubt Lincoln is just as good, safe and sound a man as Mr. Buchanan, and would administer the Government so far as he is individually concerned just as safely for the South and as honestly and faithfully in every particular. I know the man well. He is not a bad man. He will make as good a President as Fillmore did and better too in my opinion. He has a great deal more practical common sense. Still his party may do mischief. If so it will be a great misfortune, but a misfortune that our own people brought upon us. This is my judgment — this is the way I look upon it at present. I have not lime now to go more into detail, but I will say this, that I consider slavery much more secure in the Union than out of it if our people were but wise. And if they are not this fact adds no additional grounds to hope for more security out of the Union under the head of those who now control our destinies, than in it. We have nothing to fear from anything so much as unnecessary changes and revolutions in government. The institution is based on conservatism. Everything that weakens this has a tendency to weaken the institution. But I will stop.

P. S. — I see some of our papers are disputing about my position. I shall vote for Douglas; but I do not intend to take any active part in the canvass. I am out of politicks and intend to stay out. This it seems hard to make the people understand.

SOURCE: Ulrich Bonnell Phillips,Editor, The Correspondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, and Howell Cobb, p. 486-7

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