Showing posts with label Free States. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Free States. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Jonathan Worth to D. G. Worth, May 15, 1861

ASHEBORO, May 15, 1861.

I have been forced by surrounding facts to take sides, or rather front, with my section. I regard a prudent peace, even accompanied with the contemplated secession of the State, and her union with the Confederate States, as preferable to a civil war on a gigantic scale; but I have not a particle of confidence in the wisdom or the patriotism of the new rulers to whom we submit. I leave the Union and the flag of Washington because I am subjected and forced to submit to my master-democracy, detesting it with more and more intensity, as I become better acquainted with its leaders and its objects. I still believe that no respectable and stable government can ever be established in America, except on the plan of a Union, such as that we are wickedly and foolishly overthrowing. Even on the plan of a peaceful separation, North America will soon become Mexicanized. New York will next secede, the doctrine being once recognized. The great and populous North west, cut off from the Ocean, excepting by the assent of foreign states will open a road to the great highway of Nations with the sword—but if the free States act on the plan they now avow of preserving the Union by force of arms, no odds at what cost of life or treasure, the civil strife will soon beget the most diabolical purposes.

The masses, already deluded, with the notion that Slavery is the cause, when in fact, it is now only the pretext with the leaders of both sections, will proclaim freedom to the slaves and arm them against us.

I think the South is committing suicide, but my lot is cast with the South and being unable to manage the ship, I intend to face the breakers manfully and go down with my companions.

These are my calm conclusions.

I have been deeply pained at the responsibilities of my position. I have become resigned from conscious impotence to do anything to impede the evils upon us, and have concluded to drift with the current, keeping a sharp lookout for some opportunity, by the aid of Divine Providence, to divert the ship of State from the gulf of ruin towards which we are bound.

What are your plans? Will you stay in Wilmington, or return to the back country and make corn till the war is over?

Soon after the Fourth of July war will begin in earnest, if not sooner; or peace will be made. The former, in my opinion, is most probable. I do not think the North is making her military preparations as a mere bravado.

In the event of war can you continue your business with any prospect of success? If an invasion of this State be made, is not Wilmington likely to be one of the first places attacked?

Have you attached yourself to any of the military organizations so as to forbid your removing from Wilmington? In times of war some must remain at home to provide food for the soldiers and protect and feed the women and children. I hope you will not allow the ardor around you or the apprehension of not being deemed brave, to make you forget that you can contribute to the defense of your country, as effectually as you could by going into the army—and at the same time take care of your wife and children.

SOURCE: J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, Editor, The Correspondence of Jonathan Worth, Volume 1, p. 144-5

Jonathan Worth to Dr. C. W. Woolen, May 17, 1861

ASHEBORO, May 17th, 1861.

I have made special inquiry into the cost question against you and the other securities of Daniel Worth—having first taken the pains to examine the authorities.

It is decided by the Supreme Court in the case State vs. Saunders and others, 1 Hawkes, p. 355, that the securities to an appeal bond in a criminal case, where the judgment from which appeal was taken is confirmed, are liable to all the State costs in the Superior Court and the Supreme Court, excepting the prison fee. I have seen S. G. Worth this morning and learn from him that the State Solicitor has at length given up all claims beyond this. At the Spring Term he was authorized to demand all the costs in both cases, and not to receive forfeitures, but to issue execution for them, unless the whole of the costs was paid. I instructed him to disregard this instruction and throw the responsibility on me, and he accordingly received the amount of the forfeiture and the cost of the proceedings and to enforce them and with the assent of the attorneys, prosecuting for the State, he claims only what he is bound to demand according to law, to wit, the State's costs in the Supr. and Supreme Court in the case tried, excluding prison fees. No costs are now claimed on the case not tried, and none of defendant's costs are cither called for and the County has made an order directing the prison fees to be paid out of the forfeitures. The order given by your nephew is not, I understand, for a sum sufficient to pay the costs for which you are liable as security for the appeal to the Supreme Court.

 I am filled with horror at the condition of our country. According to my notions of Government, there is much that is wrong on both sides. The Abolitionists of the Free States ought not to have agitated the slavery question at all, even conceding that their feeling is right. It only tends to make the treatment of slaves more vigorous and to encourage bitterness between the two sections. When it was seized upon as a party question it was easy to see it must soon become sectional and that is purely sectional. have always regarded the dissolution of the Union as the greatest misfortune which could befall the whole nation and the whole human race. Hence I have abhorred the agitation of the slavery question as tending to this result. Acting on that conviction I have used all the efforts in my power to stay what I regarded as the madness of both sections, and in the immediate sphere of my influence have impressed my views upon others. My immediate constituents sustained me with greater unanimity than did the constituents of any other representative. I was the first public man in the State to call on the people to vote down the Convention on the 28th Feb., on the ground that the calling of it would tend to a dissolution of the Union. Everybody attributed to me a larger share of the credit or discredit of defeating the call of a Convention than to any other man in the State. I regarded the result in N. C. and Tenn. as arresting the march of madness. Union men had gained strength up to the proclamation of Lincoln. If he had withdrawn the garrison of Fort Sumter on the principle of a military necessity and in obedience in what seemed to be the will of Congress in refusing to pass the force bill, this State and Tenn. and the other slave States which had not passed the ordinance of Secession, would have stood up for the Union. In the feverish state of the popular mind, if he be a man of good sense, he knew he would crush the Union men in the Slave States by the policy he adopted. All of 118 who had stood by the Union, felt that he had abandoned us and surrendered us to the tender mercies of Democracy & the Devil. He must have known that he was letting loose on us a torrent to which we could oppose no resistance. It may be said, theoretically, that this should not have been the effect. Statesmen should have common sense. All sensible men knew it would be the effect. We are still at a loss to determine whether he is an old goose, as well as each of his advisers, thinking to preserve the Union by his course, or whether he became apprehensive that the Union men were about to gain strength enough in the South to stay Secession and he desired to drive us all into rebellion, in order to make a crusade against slavery and desolate our section. In the former case he is a fool:—in the latter—a devil. He could have adopted no policy so effectual to destroy the Union. Since the issue of that great proclamation, it is unsafe for a Union man in even N. C. to own he is for the Union. The feeling is to resist to the death. Union men feel that just as they had got so they could stand on their legs, Lincoln had heartlessly turned them over to the mercy of their enemies. We feel that his co-operation with the Secessionists left us no alternative but to take arms against our neighbors, or to defend ourself against his aggression.

I am still a Union man, but for military resistance to Lincoln, believing that Lincoln and his cabinet have acted on their mistaken impression that their policy was the best for the preservation of the Union, and that they do not intend to proclaim servile insurrection. If the latter is the design the South can be conquered only by extermination. If his purpose be, as le says, to respect property and discountenance rebellion or insurrection among our servile population, and our people become satisfied of this, many of our people will not willingly take arms.

I see no hope of any good and stable government except in the United government we are pulling down. It can not be united by war. If peace be immediately made, it will soon re-unite, with an anti-secession clause.

Write me again soon. The Quakers here will not believe your statements as to your Quakers volunteering and the floating of the Stars and Stripes over a Quaker Church. 

SOURCE: J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, Editor, The Correspondence of Jonathan Worth, Volume 1, p. 145-8

Friday, August 9, 2019

Diary of to Amos A. Lawrence: November 7, 1860

Lincoln chosen president by immense majorities in almost all the free States. Breckinridge comes next in electoral votes; then Bell, and Douglas last. Andrew chosen governor of Massachusetts by an immense majority.

SOURCE: William Lawrence, Life of Amos A. Lawrence: With Extracts from His Diary and Correspondence, p. 156

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Various Senses of the Term Servants.

The terms evedh, in the Old Testament, and doulos in the New, clearly synonymous, and we believe, invariably translated servant or bondman, are evidently used with great latitude of meaning, and freedom of application. The fundamental signification seems to be, One who is in some respects subject to the will of, and acts for another. Hence the phrase, servant of the King, is an honorable title, denoting a courtier, or other high officer. The King of Syria, in his letter to the King of Israel, styles Naaman his servant, although he was a great man with his master, and chief commander of his army. A servant of God in scripture language, is one devoted to his service; especially one distinguished for piety and holiness, as was the case with Moses, Joshua, David and Paul. In the New Testament, the epithet servant of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ is a title of honor commonly given to the teachers of the christian religion, and particularly to the apostles themselves. In some few instances, the epithet, servant of God, is given to men whom, though not willingly obedient to him, he uses as instruments in accomplishing his purposes. The king of Babylon is thus denominated.

The term servants, is however very generally applied to persons of humble condition, who, either with or without their consent, were subject to other individuals as their masters; and occupied in menial employments. Among those were several classes. Some were hired servants. These, however, were not designated by a qualifying term joined with the ordinary word for servants, but by an entirely different name. One hired to do sevice for another during a set time and for a stipulated price, the Hebrews denominated sakir, and the Greeks misthios: Names significant of their peculiar condition as hired. Persons of Hebrew origin were liable under the Levitical law to be reduced to servitude on account of failure to pay, either ordinary debts or sums in which they had been amerced for crimes committed. Not only the insolvent debtor himself, but his family with him, were liable to be seized and sold by the creditor, in order that by their services the money due might be obtained. On this custom is founded that parable of our Lord which says of the delinquent, who owed ten thousand talents and had nothing to pay, that his creditor “commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and payment to be made.” This kind of servitude, however, might not continue at the longest over six years. Deut. 15: 12. Servants of a still lower order were obtained both by conquest and by purchase from among the neighboring nations. These were to serve, not merely for six years; but for life, or at least unto the year of jubilee: and their children inherited the condition of their parents. The mere fact that they were purchased, does not prove that they were held as articles to be used only for the benefit of the owner, and to be sold again at his pleasure; any more than the fact that they were in the habit of purchasing wives, proves the same thing in regard to them. Boaz says, “So Ruth, the Moabitess, the wife,” that is widow, “of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife.” The prophet Hosea remarks respecting his wife, “So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for a homer of barley, and an half homer of barley.” Jacob bought his wives, Rachel and Leah; and for want of money paid for them in labor at the rate of seven years apiece. Their wives were in a sense, their money. Are we to infer that they were in the common sense of the term property, merchantable in the market? They were purchased of their fathers not as merchandize but as wives; to perform the duties and enjoy all the rights and privileges of that condition. So heathen servants were bought either of former masters, or of their parents, or, for any thing that appears, of themselves, to occupy the place, and perform the duties of their peculiar station; their duties and rights being prescribed and established, under the Levitical dispensation, by very merciful laws. That they were held as chattels, like beasts of the field, subject to be sold from one to another for purposes of gain, as slaves are among you, we can find no sufficient evidence in the Bible. The conquerers of the Hebrews ‘cast lots for the people, they gave a boy for a harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink,’ but were accursed of God for so doing.

Now since the term servants is used with such latitude of meaning, what proof does the mere fact, that the patriarchs had servants, afford, that they were slaveholders, in the received sense of that term? Has not many a gentleman in England, in the British West Indies, and in the free States of this Union, servants — some expecting to remain for life, some hired for a short season only, and some occupying important stations, as farmers, manufacturers, and stewards of their households, to whom they, without fear, commit their most valued treasures? Are these men on this account to be denominated slave holders? With indignation they would repel the charge. That either Isaac or Jacob ever bought, sold, or held, a human being as a slave, you have furnished no certain evidence; nor have we been able to find any.
_______________

Continued from: Reverend Silas McKeen to Thomas C. Stuart, August 20, 1839

SOURCE: Cyrus P. Grosvenor, Slavery vs. The Bible: A Correspondence Between the General Conference of Maine, and the Presbytery of Tombecbee, Mississippi, p. 37-42

Monday, April 8, 2019

Gerrit Smith’s Speech on the Rebellion and the Draft: Oswego, New York, July 29, 1863

I am embarrassed at the very outset. For I recollect that I am an abolitionist; and I recollect that in the public esteem he who is an abolitionist can not be a patriot. How then can I get a hearing from you? For surely you are not willing to hear any other than a patriot on National affairs. I must propitiate you if I can. I will try the power of a confession to that end. My confession is — that if a man can not be a patriot whilst yet an abolitionist, he should cease to be an abolitionist — that he should renounce his abolition if it at all hinders him from going for his country. I add that I go no longer for the Anti-Slavery Society, nor for the Temperance Society, no nor for my Church, if they go not for my country.

But what is it to go for one's country? Is it to go for her right or wrong? It is not. The true man goes for nothing in himself that is wrong. The true patriot goes for nothing in his country that is wrong. It is to go for all her boundaries, and to yield up no part of them to her enemy. It is to be unsectional — and to know no North and no South, no East and no West. It is to go for the unbroken and eternal union of all her sections. It is to love her with that Jewish love of country, which takes pleasure in her very stones and favors even the dust thereof. How very far then is he from going for his country who would surrender a part of her to appease the men who have rebelled against her And let me here say that he does not go for her who, for the sake of securing the abolition of slavery, would consent to dismember her. Another way for going for one's country is to cling to her chosen form of government — in a word, to her Constitution. I do not mean that it is to prate for her Constitution and to affect a deep regard for it, whilst sympathizing with its open enemies — ay, and to affect this regard for the very purpose of thereby more effectively serving those enemies. It is, as in our case who have so excellent a Constitution, sincerely to value and deeply to love its great principles of justice, liberty and equality — those very principles which caused the Southern despots to make war upon it and fling it away — those very principles which caused the Northern sympathizers with these despots to hate it in their hearts whilst yet their false lips profess to love it. To go for one's country is also to make great account of her cherished names and of all that is precious in her institutions, traditions, and memories. But of all the ways of going for one's country that of going against her enemies is at once the most effective and the most evidential of sincerity and earnestness.

Let us glance at some of our duties in this crisis.

In the first place, we are to stand by the Government. Not to stand by it is not to stand by the country. Were the Government unfaithful I would not say so. But it is faithful. It is intent on saving the country. And it is not the weak Government which it is accused of being. In both Houses of Congress the cause of the country has many able advocates. There are strong men in the Cabinet. The President is himself a strong man. His Pro-Slavery education is almost the only thing in him to be lamented. That education is still in his way. It was emphatically so in the early stages of the war. It entangled him with the Border Slave States, when he should have been free with the Free States. Nevertheless, I take pleasure in both his ability and honesty; and this I do notwithstanding I did not vote for him and that I never voted for his party. Some of the richest and sublimest comments on the Declaration of Independence which I have ever read are from his pen. His letter to the officers of the Albany Democratic Convention, is a monument of his vigorous common-sense, of his clear and convincing logic, of his reasonableness and moderation, of his candor and frankness. On the whole, Washington always excepted, we have had no President who is to be more esteemed and beloved than Abraham Lincoln.

I said that not to stand by the Government is not to stand by the country. Every man who in time of war busies himself in slandering the Government and weakening the public confidence in it, is among the meanest and worst enemies of the country. How base and pernicious the slander that the Government is no longer prosecuting the war to save the country! A State Convention in Pennsylvania — and that too, at the very time when the State was invaded and her capital threatened — improved upon this slander by deliberately resolving that the Government avows and proclaims that the saving of the country is no longer its object in the war. What wonder that there should be mobs against drafting soldiers when there are such incitements to such mobs —when there is so much industry and so much art to persuade the people that the drafted soldiers are to be used, not for the one legitimate purpose, but for some sinister or party purpose! These mobs, though they fill us with sorrow, do nevertheless not surprise us. For we see them to be the natural and almost necessary fruit of those incessant declarations by unprincipled politicians that the Government has turned away from the object of saving the country, and is now calling for men and money where with to promote other and odious objects. Upon these knavish and lying politicians rest the blame and the blood of all these mobs.

In the second place, we are to insist on the immediate and unconditional submission of the rebels. Nothing short of this would suffice for their humiliation and their good. Moreover, nothing short of this would save our Government and our country from being deeply and indelibly disgraced — ay, totally wrecked and ruined. Therefore there must be no armistice, no terms. To bargain with them; to give them time; to make concessions to them; to purchase peace from them; to make any peace with them, whilst as yet they have arms in their hands, would be to leave them with even a more incorrigible spirit than they now have, and it would also be to leave ourselves without a nation. That which would be left to us would be but a nominal nation — and it would be liable to be broken up in a twelvemonth. What is more, neither the world, nor we ourselves, could ever have any respect for it. A nation that is compelled to yield to traitors may be respected by both other nations and itself. But a nation which has power to overwhelm the traitors, and yet is too corrupt or cowardly to wield it, must be, ever after, a stench both in its own and in others' nostrils. In the light of what I have just said it is not too much to add that whilst Americans who counsel peace on any lower terms than the absolute submission of the rebels are traitors, those speakers and writers in foreign lands who do likewise are hypocrites, because they well know that what they counsel for our nation they would, were it counseled for their own, promptly and indignantly reject.

In the third place, we must not be speculating on what is to be done with the rebels after they shall be conquered. Such speculation is wholly unseasonable and it but tends to divide us. Whilst as yet the rebels are unconquered, we can not afford to be divided. The needless, foolish, guilty, and exceedingly hurtful differences among us are what alone make our conquest of the rebels uncertain. When we shall have conquered them, then we can talk to our heart's content of what should be done with them and their possessions. Besides, we know not now in what mood they will be then; and therefore we know not now what it will be proper for them to receive at our hands. If they shall be impenitent and defiant, we shall need to impose very careful restrictions upon them; but if penitent and humble, then we can risk being trustful and generous toward them. And then, too, notwithstanding their enormous crimes against their country — against. earth and heaven — we shall gladly look upon our sorrowful Southern brethren as our brethren still.

In the fourth place, we must insist that other nations shall let us alone. Ours is a family quarrel, and none but the family can be allowed to meddle with it. We can tolerate neither intervention nor mediation. We shall repel both. Mediation, proffered in however friendly a spirit, we shall regard as impertinence; and intervention, although bloodless and unarmed at the beginning, we shall from the beginning construe into war. And here let me add, that whilst we very gratefully acknowledge, the able advocacy of our cause by many distinguished men of Europe, and no less gratefully the true, intelligent, and generous sympathy with it of the masses of Europe; and that whilst we would not discourage our citizens from going abroad to plead that cause; we, nevertheless, are entirely convinced that the work to be done for our country is to be done in it — to be done by earnest appeals from Americans to Americans, and by hard blows from a loyal upon a disloyal army.

Let us now pass on to consider what should be the character of our opposition to the rebellion. I said that the rebels must be unconditional in their submission. I add that our opposition to the rebels must also be unconditional. The surrender of ourselves to our high and holy cause must be absolute. We must stipulate for nothing. We must reserve nothing in behalf of our Democratic, or Republican, or Abolition, or Temperance, or any other party — nothing in behalf of any individual interests. Nay, we must make no conditions in behalf of either the Constitution or the country. We have now but one work. The putting down of the rebellion is the supreme duty which America owes to herself, to mankind, and to God. Is it said that recent events have given us another work to do? the work of putting down and keeping down mobs? I answer that these mobs are nothing more nor nothing less than Northern branches and Northern outbreaks of the Southern rebellion, and that the rebellion ended, the mobs will also be ended. This, by the way, being the true character of these mobs, the Federal war power is as clearly bound to lay its restraining hand on those who get them up as on any other parties to the rebellion. It should spare no traitorous press, because of its great influence, and no traitorous politician because of his high office, when it is clear that they have been at work to generate the passions and prejudices, the treason and anarchy which have resulted in disturbances, so frightfully marked, in some instances, by fire and blood.

These mobs, by the way, aside from their destruction of innocent and precious life, are not to be regretted. Nay, they are to be rejoiced in, because they reveal so certainly and so fully the animus of the leaders of this “Northern Peace Party,” and therefore serve to put us more upon our guard against these desperate leaders. I am not at all surprised at hearing that many an honest man, who had sympathized with this party, is so far enlightened by these mobs as to turn away from it forever.

The motto of every man among us should be: “Down with the Rebellion at whatever cost!” It must go down, even though Constitution and country go down with it. If the rebellion is to live and triumph, then let all else, however dear, die.

Not Constitution nor country, not our farms nor our merchandise, not our families nor our own lives, could be any longer of value to us. Are there Republicans who, in this trial hour of integrity, are intent on keeping their party in power? then are they false to their country. In time of peace let there be parties to represent the different views in regard to the proper character, and conduct of the Government. But in time of war to cling to party is treason to the country. For then the great question is, no longer as in time of peace, how the Government shall be shaped and administered, but the infinitely greater one — whether we shall have a country to govern. Are there Democrats who, at such a time, are intent on getting their party into power? False to their country are they also. Is it their plea that they are talking for the Constitution? I answer, that their talk should be against the rebels. This talking for the Constitution, whilst not talking against the rebels, is but hypocrisy. Are there Abolitionists who say that they can not help put down the rebellion unless the Government will pledge itself to put down slavery? Let me say, that with such one-idea men I have no sympathy. Like the sham Republicans and sham Democrats I have referred to, they are but workers for the rebels. To all who feel this unseasonable and treasonable solicitude for party, let me say that the true doctrine is: “Come what will of it to the Republican, or Democratic, or Abolition, or any other party — though they all go to flinders and be reduced to a heap of ruins — the Rebellion, nevertheless, shall be put down!” Moreover, notwithstanding our differences in other relations and other respects, we are all to be brothers and close fellow-laborers in the work of putting down the Rebellion. The laborers in this work we are not to know as Democrats, or Republicans, or Abolitionists, or Temperance men, but only as anti-rebellion men. During the greater part of my life I have tried to do something against slavery and drunkenness. But in this great battle against the Southern rebels and their Northern allies, whose success would, in its results, be the entire overthrow of free Government, not only here and in Mexico, but wherever it exists, I am ready to fight alongside of all who will fight alongside of me: with, if you please, the biggest drunkard on the one side and the biggest pro-slavery man on the other. Whilst I am against all who are for the rebels, I am for all who are against them. Until the Rebellion is crushed we should know but two parties: the one made up of those who, in standing by and strengthening the Government, prove themselves to be the friends of the country; and the other made up of those who, in assailing and weakening the Government, prove themselves to be the enemies of the country. Are there, I repeat, Abolitionists who, in such a time as this, stand back and refuse to join in putting down the Rebellion save on the condition that slavery also shall be put down? If there are, then are they also among those who embarrass the Government, and then are they also to be numbered with the enemies of the country. If there are such Abolitionists, I am persuaded they are few. But whether they are few or many, let me say that it is very little to their credit to let the crime of slavery fill the whole field of their vision and blind them to the far greater and more comprehensive crime of the rebellion. Will they reply, that the rebellion is but slavery — slavery in arms? Then upon their own ground they should be helping to put it down, since the putting of it down would be the putting down of slavery also.

I referred to Mexico. If our rebellion shall succeed, her fate is sealed. If it should fail, then it may even be that Napoleon's is sealed. I say not that our Government would be disposed to meddle with him. But I do say that our people would be. Tens of thousands of our disbanded troops would hasten to Mexico to make common cause with their outraged republican brethren. I add, that whilst despots everywhere would exult in the triumph of our rebellion, despots everywhere will tremble at its overthrow.

Some of my hearers may think, because I said we must make no conditions in its behalf, that I am not suited with the Constitution. I am entirely suited with it. I have always opposed changes in it, and probably always shall. No Democrat even has spoken or written so much for it just as it is as I have. Let not a word in it be altered. It is exactly what we want of a Constitution, both in peace and war. Governor Seymour says, in his Fourth of July speech that the Government has suspended it. If it has, it has done very wrong. I do not see that it has in even the slightest degree. But there are some things which the Governor and I see with very different eyes. For instance, the Governor and the men of his school see that the blame of the war rests chiefly upon the North. On the other hand, I see that every particle of it rests on the South. They say that our talking and legislating against slavery annoyed the South; and we, in turn, say that her talking and legislating for it annoyed the North. But we deny that the annoyance did in either case justify war. As to the talking — it must be remembered that our Southern and Northern fathers agreed upon a Government, which tolerates talk — talk even against good things — against things which, if that be possible, are better than even slavery. So the South should not make war upon us because we talk against her slavery; and we should not make war upon her because she stigmatizes our noble farmers and noble mechanics as “the mudsills of society.” Then, as to the legislation, it must be remembered that whilst we were willing to have the constitutionality of ours passed upon by the Supreme Court of the United States, she threatened to murder and actually drove from her the honorable men whom we deputed to visit her for the purpose of getting her consent to such a testing of her pro-slavery legislation. Truly, truly do I pity the man who is so perverted as to divide the blame of this war between the North and the South. The North is not only mainly but entirely innocent of it.

I eulogized the Constitution. Let not the eulogy be construed into my overrating of a Constitution. I frankly say that if I thought that our Constitution stood at all in the way of our most effective prosecution of the war, I should rejoice to have it swept out of the way. The country is more than the Constitution. I would not exchange one of her majestic mountains or rivers for all the Constitutions you could pile up between earth and heaven. God made the country. But man made the Constitution. The loss of the country would be irreparable. But if the Constitution is lost, we will j, upon his inspirations of the human mind for another.

I spoke disparagingly of one-idea men. There is a sense in which I wish that all of us were one-idea men. I would that all of us might be one-idea men until the Rebellion is put down. To put it down — this, this is the one idea of which I would have every man possessed to the exclusion of every rival idea. For the sake of no other idea would I have conditions made with this paramount idea. Were we all such one-idea men the North would triumph speedily — and so grandly too as to win the admiration and esteem even of the South. And then would the North and the South again become a nation — not, as before, an inharmonious and short-lived one, but a nation at peace with itself, at peace with every other nation, and therefore a permanent nation. God grant us this glorious and blessed future! And he will grant it, if we are so manly and patriotic, so wise and just, as to postpone every other claim to that of our country and every other duty to that of putting down the Rebellion.

Let us now take up the Conscription Law. Some say that it is unconstitutional. I can not see any thing unconstitutional in it — though perhaps I could were I a lawyer. Some go so far as to deny that the Constitution gives Congress the right to compel persons to defend the country. All I can say is, that if it did not give the right, it should not have empowered Congress to declare war and raise and support armies. For thus to have empowered it was in that case but to mock it. It was only to seem to give much whilst really giving nothing.

For one, I do not look into the Constitution for proof that the National Legislature has the right to compel persons to fight the battles of the country. It is enough for me to know that this vital right inheres in a National Legislature — that the supreme power of a nation necessarily has it — and that a Constitution which should deny or in the slightest degree restrict it, would be fit only to be thrown away. For the credit of the Constitution, I am happy that it recognizes and asserts the right. But the Constitution does not create it. My refusal to look into the Constitution for the origination of this right rests on the same principle as that by which I am withheld from looking into the Bible for the origination of the parent's right to take care of his children. It is, I admit, one of the merits of this best of books that it recognizes the right and enjoins its exercise. But the right is older than the Bible. It dates as far back as the time of the first parent. It is an inherently parental as the other is an inherently national right.

It is also said that the Conscription Law favors the rich, and oppresses the poor. The National and State militia laws do so; but the Conscription Law spares the poor and spares not the rich. Members of Congress, Postmasters, and a score of other classes, making in all no very small share of the men, are, under those laws, exempted from military service; whilst under the Conscription Law none but poor men are exempted, save only the Vice-President, the Heads of Departments, the United States Judges, and the Governors of the States. And now mark how numerous must be the several classes of the exempted poor.

1st. The only son of the widow dependent on his labor.

2d. The only son of aged or infirm parents dependent on his labor.

3d. One of the two or more sons of such parents.

4th. The only brother of orphan children not twelve years old dependent on his labor.

5th. The father of motherless children under twelve years of age dependent on his labor.

6th. Where there are a father and sons in the family, and two of them are in the army and in humble positions in it, the residue not exceeding two are exempt.

Now, was there ever a law less sparing of the rich and more tender to the poor? And yet this law, so exceedingly honorable to the heads and hearts of its makers, is denounced as oppressive and cruel by demagogues who, to get themselves into power, would destroy the popular confidence in the Government and destroy the country also.

But, it is held, that the commutation or three hundred dollar clause is oppressive to the poor. It is, on the contrary, merciful to the poor. But for it the price of a substitute might run up to three or four times three hundred dollars — a price which a poor man would scarcely ever be enabled to pay. The three hundred dollars, however, many a poor man can, with the help of friends, be able to raise. But why not, it may be asked, have favored the poor by making the maximum no more than fifty or a hundred dollars? This, instead of favoring, would have but oppressed the poor. For the Government, not being able to procure substitutes at the rate of fifty or a hundred dollars, would have been compelled to repeat its drafts. And thus tens of thousands of poor men who had paid their fifty or a hundred dollars in order to keep out of the army would after all be obliged to enter it.

Alas! this clamor against the unconstitutionality of the Conscription Law! How sadly it betrays the prevailing lack of patriotism! Had there been no unpatriotic person amongst us, there would have been not only nothing of this clamor, but not so much as one inquiry into the constitutionality of the law. The commonness of this inquiry indicates how commonly the love of country must be very weak in the American bosom. Why is it so weak 2 Some say it is because of our characteristic or Yankee greed of gain; and some say it is because of our long-continued and soul-shriveling practice of persecuting and outraging an unfortunate race. . . . Some ascribe it to one thing and some to another. But whatever the cause, the effect is obvious.

Oh! how base must they have become who, when rebels are at the throat of their nation, can hie themselves to the Constitution to see how little it will let them off with doing against those rebels — how little with doing for the life of that nation! Our noble Constitution should be used to nourish our patriotism; but alas! it is perverted to kill it!

I have noticed the action of the authorities of several of the cities of our State, in regard to the Conscription Law. In some of them this action is very bad. The sole object of the law is to raise an additional force for completing the destruction of the Rebellion. Now, the city of New-York and some other cities would take advantage of its humane feature of commutation to defeat this sole object of the law. For they would take advantage of it. to buy off the mass of their drafted citizens. This wholesale buying violates to the last degree the spirit of the law; deprives the country of the benefit of the legitimate and intended effect of the law; and saves the Rebellion from being crushed by the faithful and fair carrying out of the law. If one city may resort to this wholesale buying, so may every other; so may every county, and so may every State; and so may the Conscription Law be rendered unavailing.

I admit the duty of the wealthy to avail themselves of this commutation clause to save, here and there, from going to the war the man to whom it would be a peculiar hardship to go. I also admit that every city, disposed to do so, can very properly vote the three hundred dollars to every drafted man who serves or to his substitute. I care not how much the cities help the soldiers. The more the better. I am glad that Oswego voted ten thousand dollars two years ago, and five thousand last spring to the families of her soldiers. Let her vote hereafter as much as she pleases to the soldiers and their families. I will pay cheerfully what share of the tax shall fall on my property in the city; and more cheerfully would I take part in voluntary contributions. I have sometimes heard the remark that neither the rich nor the poor should be allowed to procure substitutes. The remark is both ill-natured and foolish. Among the drafted will be both rich and poor men, who ought to be spared from going to the war. I am not sorry that so many rich men have gone to the war. Nevertheless, let as many rich men as will remain at home to continue to give employment to the poor in manufactories and elsewhere, and to maintain a business and a prosperity which can be heavily taxed to meet the expenses of the war. Men of property should be heavily taxed to this end; and my only objection to the Income Tax, is that it is not more than half large enough. It should be six and ten instead of three and five per cent.

But I must close. How unreasonable, how unpatriotic, how wicked to murmur at this draft! The South, to serve her bad cause, is, at this moment, responding to the call for absolutely all her able-bodied white males between the ages of eighteen and forty-five; whilst the call to serve our best of all causes is for not more than about one seventh or one eighth between those ages. And yet we murmur at the draft; and in a few localities there is a rabble so far under the sway of traitorous demagogues, as to resist it with force and arms. These demagogues, by the way, as silly as they are wicked, instead of seeing in this resistance only another argument with the Government for proceeding promptly, very promptly with the draft, flattered themselves that the Government would succumb to the mobs and abandon the draft; would surrender to anarchy instead of maintaining law.

Our people need to be loyally educated. When they are, they will be eager to serve their imperiled and beloved country in any way, however expensive or hazardous. I rejoice to see that in many parts of the country the draft is met in a cheerful and patriotic spirit. May this spirit soon obtain everywhere.

The love of country — the love of country — that is what we lack. Would that we had somewhat of that love of country which Robert Emmet felt for his dear Ireland; somewhat of that love of country which awakens the sublime utterances of Kossuth for his dear Hungary; somewhat of that love of country which stirs the great soul of Garibaldi, as he contemplates his still, but not-ever-to-be, disunited Italy; somewhat of that love of country which arms her young men, ay and her young maidens too, to battle for their down-trodden and dear Poland! Let us have somewhat of such love — and then when our bleeding country makes her call upon us, we shall not pause to inquire whether it is couched in Constitutional words; but we shall hasten to obey it, simply because it is our country that makes it, and our country that needs our obedience.

SOURCES: Octavius Brooks Frothingham, Gerrit Smith: A Biography, p. 259 (excerpted); For the full text of the speech: Gerrit Smith, Speeches and Letters of Gerrit Smith (from January 1863, to January 1864), etc, Volume 1, p. 35-44 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Alexander H. Stephens to the Editor of the Federal Union,* August 30, 1848

Clinton, Ga. 30th, Aug., 1848.

Mr. Editor: In passing through this place, I have just seen your paper of yesterday's date which contains some enquiries addressed to me, to which I cannot hesitate to give a prompt reply “in such reasonable length and respectful terms” as to secure, I trust, a place in your columns.

And that I may be distinctly understood, I will give the entire communication and my answer to each enquiry in order:

To The Hon. A. H. Stephens:

It is known to you, that your motion to lay upon the table the “Compromise bill”1 of the Senate, during the late session of Congress, has produced considerable excitement in this district. You have been nominated as the Whig candidate for re-election. If you should have opposition, it is scarcely to be doubted that this bill will be the main issue involved in the canvass. It is therefore eminently desirable that your sentiments should be clearly understood as to what are the rights of the South and how far they are affected by the bill. A careful perusal of your speech has left our mind in doubt as to your opinion upon several essential points. We therefore venture respectfully to propound to you a few interrogatories, to which we ask a reply.

I. Do you believe that Congress has the right under the Constitution, to prohibit slavery in the territories belonging to the United States?

To your first enquiry I answer, that I do not believe that Congress has the right, either in honor, justice or good faith, to prohibit slavery in the territories belonging to the United States and thus to appropriate the public Domain entirely to the benefit of the people of the non-slaveholding states — and hence I have uniformly voted against the Oregon bill which contained a section excluding slavery, notwithstanding most if not all my Democratic colleagues have repeatedly voted for a bill organizing a Government there with such exclusion — and notwithstanding Mr. Polk has lately signed a bill which contained such an exclusion.

So far as New Mexico and California are concerned, and towards which your enquiries are doubtless mainly directed, there is no express provision in the Constitution which applies either directly or indirectly to them. They are to be considered as acquired by conquest, and there is no article or clause in the Constitution that relates in the remotest degree to the government of conquests. I do not believe that the framers of the Constitution contemplated that such a contingency would ever happen — and hence the silence of the Constitution upon that subject. But as the Supreme Court of the United States have repeatedly held the doctrine that the power to make conquest does belong to the General Government, though not expressly granted, it is not my purpose to say anything upon that point now. The only point in your enquiry relates to the government of the conquest, and to that point I answer explicitly that I consider the conquest, according to the best authorities upon the laws of nations, as belonging to the people of the United States — to all the citizens of the United States, the South as well as the North. When the treaty is fully complied with these provinces will constitute a public domain acquired by the common valor, blood and treasure of all. And in the government of them the rights and interests of the South should be looked to, guarded and protected as well as the North by all proper and necessary laws. Until they are admitted into the United States the government of them must devolve upon Congress or such territorial legislatures as may be created and authorized by Congress. And any legislation by Congress or by the territorial legislatures which would exclude slavery would be in direct violation of the rights of the Southern people to an equal participation in them and in open derogation of that equality between the states of the South and North which should never [be] surrendered by the South. And I hold also that any legislation by Congress or by the territorial legislatures which does not secure and protect the rights of the South as fully and as completely in the enjoyment of their property in slaves as it does the rights of the people of the North in the enjoyment of their property in these territories is manifestly unjust, in violation of the rights of the South, and a surrender of that equality between the different members of this confederacy which shall never be made by my sanction.

Your second enquiry is in the following words:

II. From your replies to Mr. Stanton of Tennessee, on pages 10 and 11 of your speech, we clearly infer that it is your opinion that the Constitution of the United States does not guarantee to the slaveholder the right to remove with his property into any territory of the United States and to be protected in the undisturbed use and enjoyment of his slaves as property. Do we properly construe your meaning?

And in reply you will allow me to say that you seem greatly to misapprehend my answer to Mr. Stanton. The purport of my answer to him was (I have not the speech before me) that the Constitution did secure and guarantee the rights of the master to his slave in every state and territory of the Union where slavery was not prohibited by law. But that it did not establish it in any territory or State where it was so prohibited. And the same I reaffirm. It is too plain a question to admit of argument. It is one of those truths which under our system of government may be considered as a political axiom. Everybody knows that the Constitution secures and guarantees property in slaves in Georgia and in all the slave States, but that it does not secure the use and enjoyment of such property in New York or any of the States where slavery is prohibited.

Your third question is in the following words:

III. If the right spoken of in the 2d question does exist under the Constitution in reference to territory generally, does it exist in relation to New Mexico and California?

And in answer to it I say that I hold that the Constitution does secure and guarantee the rights of the master to property in his slave in all the territories belong to the United States where slavery is not prohibited. With regard to the territories, the same principle holds which is applicable to the states. I do not maintain the position that slavery cannot be maintained without positive law. But I say that according to all the decisions of all the courts I have ever seen in all civilized nations, it cannot be maintained and protected where it is prohibited by express law. In all the states of this Union where it is not prohibited, the Constitution secures and protects it; but in those states where it is prohibited it does not protect it further than to provide for the recapture of runaway slaves — and the same principle I have no doubt from the decisions of the Supreme Court would by that tribunal be held to be applicable to the territories. By the Missouri Compromise slavery was prohibited from all that portion of the Louisiana cession out of Missouri, North of 36:30 degrees of North latitude. Slavery by that Compromise was in effect abolished in all that territory. For by the laws in force in the territory at the time of the acquisition slavery was recognised and had existence. There is a large territory now unoccupied which is embraced in the provisions of that Compromise and from which by that Compromise slavery is prohibited. And can any man believe that if a slaveholder should carry his slave into that territory where slavery is prohibited, that the Supreme Court of the United States would recognise his right and protect him in holding his slave there?

It is not my purpose now to speak of the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise — I am speaking of it as a practical question under the decisions of the Supreme Court; and according to principles settled by that Court, does any man believe that the rights of the master would be protected by that Court in that territory, or any other territory of the United States, where slavery is prohibited, until the prohibition is removed by competent authority, any more than in a State where slavery is prohibited? In New Mexico and California slavery was abolished and prohibited by express law at the time of the conquest. And according to the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, which no man can gainsay or deny; (I mean the fact of the decisions; I do not now speak of their correctness), all the laws which were of force at the time of the conquest will continue in force until altered by competent authority, except such as were inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States or the stipulations of the treaty. Is the prohibition of slavery by the local law of any state or place inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States? If it is, those laws of New Mexico and California will become abrogated and necessarily cease to operate upon the final fulfilment of the treaty stipulations. But if the prohibition of slavery by the local law of any state or place is not inconsistent with the Constitution according to the decisions of the Supreme Court, they will of course remain of force until altered by competent authority. My own opinion is, that neither the existence of slavery or non-existence of it by the local law of any place is inconsistent with any provision of the Constitution. The Constitution extends over states where slavery exists as well as where it is prohibited. Slavery depends upon the law of the place, which may be either written or unwritten. And where it exists the Constitution protects it, but it does not establish it where it is prohibited.

I have heard some argue that the laws in New Mexico and California prohibiting slavery there were similar to the laws concerning the establishment of religion. I consider the cases totally different. for this plain reason: An established religion is inconsistent with an express provision of the Constitution.

But the non-existence or prohibition of slavery by the local law of any State or place is not inconsistent with any provision of the Constitution. It is in vain for any man to attempt to deceive himself or others upon this point. And it is worse than in vain to attempt to make the Southern people believe that any right was secured to them by the late proposed Compromise bill which without any legal protection referred the matter to the Supreme Court. The only right it pretended to secure was the right of a law suit — and that existed without the Compromise just as amply and as fully as it did under it. And under the circumstances if any man can suppose that the Court, at the end of the suit, would decide in favor of the rights of the Southern people, he cannot doubt but that the same decision would be made even if the Wilmot Proviso were passed.

But to proceed to your fourth question, which is as follows:

IV. We infer from the tenor of your speech that you do not believe the right exists in relation to New Mexico and California, because of the decrees of 1829 and 1837 abolishing slavery throughout the Republic of Mexico. If so, what right of the South is surrendered by the Compromise bill, and how is it surrendered?

To this I answer that your inference is entirely wrong. I do believe that we of the South have a right to an equal participation in this acquisition, notwithstanding the decrees and acts of Mexico abolishing and prohibiting slavery in New Mexico and California — and a right that I never intend to abandon or surrender by my vote. It is the right which belongs to us as a portion of the conquerors of the country. It is public property, belonging as I have said before to all the citizens of the country — to the people of the South as well as the North. It is common property, and the principles applicable to it are well expressed by Vattel, as follows:

All the members of a corporation have an equal right to the use of the common property. But respecting the manner of enjoying it, the body of the corporation may make such regulations as they think proper, provided that those regulations be not inconsistent with that equality of right which ought to be preserved in a communion of property. Thus a corporation may determine the use of a common forest or a common pasture, either allotting it to all the members, according to their wants, or allotting each an equal share, but they have no right to exclude any one of the members, or to make a distinction to his disadvantage, by assigning him a less share than that of the others. (Vattel's L[aw of] Nations], 113.)

These are the principles I hold: Congress has no right to exclude the South from an equal share, and it is the duty of Congress to see that the rights of the South are as amply protected as the rights of the North. And it was this right of legal protection for the property of the South that was surrendered in that bill. If Congress has the power to declare exactly how far the interests of the North shall be protected, if they have the power to extend the Missouri Compromise line, they certainly have the power to say in clear and distinct words that up to that line on the South the rights of the South shall be protected — and not after prohibiting us from going North of that line leave us to contest with the Courts our rights on the South of it. This is what the Compromise bill did. It excluded us from the whole of Oregon, and left us to the Courts to decide whether we should be allowed to carry and hold our property in New Mexico and California. For such a Compromise I shall never vote.

Your fifth question is as follows:

V. If by virtue of the Constitution of the United States, we have not the right to carry our slaves into these territories, we ask, upon what principle do you claim it, in behalf of your constituents? Do you claim it, upon the broad principle of justice arising from the fact that It is the fruit of common blood and common treasure? If so, do you expect Congress, constituted as it now is, or is hereafter likely to be, will ever recognise this principle of justice, and by positive legislation authorise the extension of slavery into those territories?

And in answer I say, that I do claim it “upon the broad principle of justice arising from the fact that it is the fruit of common blood and common treasure. And I do expect that Congress constituted as it is will recognise this principle of justice when the South presents an unbroken front, as it ought to do, against paying one dollar for the territories unless this justice is awarded to them; and you will here permit me to bring to your mind a reminiscence not inapplicable on the present occasion. When the annexation of Texas was at first started by Mr. Tyler, by a treaty which left this question of vital importance to the South unsettled, I opposed it. I was then bitterly assailed by the paper which you now conduct for opposition to this great Southern measure upon all occasions when I addressed the people of Georgia. In 1844, I declared that I was in favor of the annexation of Texas upon proper principles — but I was utterly opposed to the Tyler treaty for several reasons, the main one of which was that the slave question was left open in it, the rights of the South were not secured by it, and that I should never vote for any plan of annexation that did not settle this question in the compact of union and secure these rights in terms clearly and distinctly defined. This position I maintained in your own city, and if you will turn to the files of the Federal Union and examine an editorial of the first week in July, 1844, I think you will see that this position of mine was alluded to and it was denounced as amounting to a total opposition to the whole measure and it was said (I quote from memory) that I was insisting upon what never could be obtained. But I had taken my position firmly, not to be deterred by any fears or alarms or denunciations. And from that position and its success a profitable lesson may now be learnt. I made a speech in Congress when a plan for annexation similar to the Tyler treaty was offered, in which I maintained the same position and stated the only grounds upon which I should vote for annexation. They were the same grounds which I had advocated throughout 1844. Seven Southern Whigs stood by me — we held the balance of power in the House. And when all other plans offered (and there were a number) failed (neither of which secured the rights of the South), then Mr. Brown (after conference with me and others) offered his with the Missouri Compromise in it; and that passed by my vote and the other seven Whigs, and it could not have passed in the Committee of the Whole House without our votes, as the proceedings of the House will show. The firm and inflexible course I and seven other Southern Whigs took upon that question secured the rights of the South and obtained the establishment of the Missouri Compromise, which it was said by the Federal Union could never be obtained. And if a similar course shall be taken and maintained by all parties at the South, the same Compromise or one as good can be obtained again. I have taken the same stand now and I intend to maintain it in defiance of all assaults and denunciations that may be made against me from any and every quarter.

The sixth and last of your enquiries, is as follows:

VI. If you should be of opinion that we have the constitutional right to carry our slaves into these territories, would you sooner risk the recognition and vindication of that right before Congress where there is a decided majority in both branches against us, or before the Supreme Court where it is well known that a majority of the Bench are from slaveholding States?

We are aware, that you deprecate in very strong terms any reference to the complexion of the Supreme Court upon this subject. Tour deprecation may be the result of a sentiment which we by no means condemn. Yet we do not agree with you in its application in this instance. The South are in a minority, we fear a doomed minority, on this subject, and we are therefore disposed to vindicate our rights by all honorable means. We certainly should not refuse to accept justice because the tribunal to whom we apply are supposed to be favorable to our cause. With all deference to your views on this point, we must be indulged in the belief that your indignation savors more of transcendentalism than of sound, practical statesmanship.

To this I answer that I consider the reference of this subject to the Supreme Court as a total abandonment of the question by the South. According to repeated decisions of that court upon the principles involved in it, I cannot see how any man can look upon it in any other light. But I will here say, that I am opposed to referring any political question to that court. And as a Representative in Congress, as long as I shall have the honor of remaining there, I shall never avoid responsibility by turning any question over to the Supreme Court or any other body. I shall, as I have heretofore done, maintain the equal and just rights of my constituents upon all questions; and I shall demand that they be clearly and distinctly recognised by Congress, that they may be amply protected by all others before whom they may come for action; and when these rights are left to the courts to determine, by my sanction they shall be so clearly set forth and defined that the courts shall be bound to protect them, in their decisions. And I say to you and the people of the 7th. Congressional District, that I shall never return as your and their Representative and tell them I have secured their rights by getting an act passed which will enable them to carry their slaves to California and New Mexico to encounter a law suit whenever they get there, which will cost more than their slaves are worth. If I can never get a better compromise for them than such an one as that, I shall never agree to any at all. They have that right independently of any thing I can do for them, and that is a right which no act of Congress can deprive them of.
_______________

* From the Federal Union, Milledgerllle, Ga., Sept. 12, 1848.
1 The Clayton compromise hill.

SOURCE: Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, Editor, The Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1911, Volume 2: The Correspondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, and Howell Cobb, p. 117-24

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Bible Must Settle The Question

You say, “on the subject of slavery, we are willing to be guided by the Bible, the unerring word of truth. Where it condemns we condemn, where it approves we approve; we are not unwilling for the whole world to know our views on the subject of slavery.” We were heartily glad to hear this, because we can, and do, without qualification, reciprocate your declaration, and feel that on one main point to be attained in the settlement of this great controversy between the churches of the slave and of the free States, we are already perfectly agreed. The word of God, rightly understood, must settle the matter—

There must also be established laws of interpretation of which we shall mutually approve; which, if duly regarded, must bring us to the same result. Here then we are happy to meet you, and in union with you, would gladly bow down in humble, fervent prayer, to the author of the Bible, for the effectual teaching of his Spirit that we may be guided in the way of truth, of righteousness and peace. You believe that the Bible justifies such slaveholding as is commonly practised in this country. We as firmly believe that it does not, but is entirely opposed to it. You have ingenuously assigned the reasons of your belief, referring us to the particular portions of scripture on which it is founded. We have carefully examined every one of those passages, and aimed to weigh impartially all your arguments founded on them, and yet dissent entirely from the main conclusions to which you have come. With becoming deference we would inform you wherein we think your reasoning incorrect, and why we believe the Bible, instead of justifying, particularly condemns the practice in question. And from the evidences we have already had of your magnanimity and fairness, we cannot but hope, that you will not only give us a candid hearing, but see cause to come to the same conclusions with ourselves.
_______________

Continued from: Reverend Silas McKeen to Thomas C. Stuart, August 20, 1839

SOURCE: Cyrus P. Grosvenor, Slavery vs. The Bible: A Correspondence Between the General Conference of Maine, and the Presbytery of Tombecbee, Mississippi, p. 31-3

Friday, January 18, 2019

Journal of Amos A. Lawrence, November 5, 1859

Old Brown convicted. He made a brief speech that was worthy of the best of the early reformers. To-day I was told that his wife was in Boston, and I went with Dr. Webb to the American House to see her. She appears well. She is a large, strong woman, good-looking, and when young she must have been handsome. She feels the loss of her two sons and the critical situation of her husband very much. She says that it is a matter of religious conviction with her husband; that he would make the same attempt again if set free. I admire the old man; but considering that three persons were killed by his party, I do not see how he can escape death, even had the occurrence been in a free State. He will be lauded by the abolitionists as a martyred hero, and he does resemble that. His death will hasten the removal of slaves from Virginia.

SOURCE: William Lawrence, Life of Amos A. Lawrence: With Extracts from His Diary and Correspondence, p. 132

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Gerrit Smith to the callers of the Kansas Convention at Syracuse, New York, May 31, 1856

I wish the convention would go with me in voting slavery to death. But I tell you, gentlemen, with all my heart, that if the convention is not ready to go with me in voting slavery to death, I am ready to go with it in putting slavery to a violent death. . . Concluding that your convention will decide to fight rather than to vote against slavery, I hope it will originate a movement as broad as our whole State, and taxing the courage, energy and liberality of every part of the State. I hope to hear that it has adopted measures to raise one million of dollars and one thousand men. I will not doubt that both can be readily obtained. If they cannot be, then are the people of New York so degenerate and abject as to invite the yoke of slavery on their own necks.

A word in regard to the thousand men. They should not be whiskey drinkers, nor profane swearers. They should have the purity and zeal of Cromwell's armies, and, therefore, would they have the invincibility of those armies.

For myself, I am too old, and too ignorant of arms, to fight. I scarcely know how to load a gun, and I am not certain that I ever saw a Sharpe's rifle, or a revolver, or a bowie knife. I could not have encouraged others to fight, had not slavery invaded the free State of Kansas. Which of the Free States it will next seek to conquer, I cannot conjecture. Hitherto I have opposed the bloody abolition of slavery. But now, when it begins to march its conquering bands into the Free States, I and ten thousand other peace men are not only ready to have it repulsed with violence, but pursued even unto death, with violence. Remember, however, that antislavery voting — real, not sham anti-slavery voting — would have prevented all need of this.

I said that I am unfit to fight. Nevertheless I can do something for the good cause. Some can give to it brave hearts and strong arms, and military skill; others can give to it the power of prayer with Him who shall break in pieces the oppressor; and others can give money to it, — the cheapest indeed, and least meritorious of all the gifts — nevertheless indispensable. I am among those who can help the cause with this poorest of gifts. It is true that my very frequent contributions during the past year in aid of our suffering people in Kansas, have exhausted my current means. Nevertheless, I authorize you to put me down for ten thousand dollars of the million.

SOURCES: Octavius Brooks Frothingham, Gerrit Smith: A Biography, p. 232-3 which states this letter was published in the in the Syracuse Daily Journal, Syracuse, New York, May 31, 1856.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Thomas Smith* to Howell Cobb, June 27, 1848

Versailles [indiana], June 27, ’48.

Dr. Sir: Knowing the tax imposed by business, ceremony, and a little real friendship, on Members of Congress, I have refrained writing to many friends that I really wished to. Under this state of feeling I would not write you or trouble you now if I did not think and fear that a momentous political crisis was about developing that is destined shortly to shake our political fabrick. In this Confederacy the Democratic party, long in the ascendant, has had to conciliate and compromise sectional interests and feelings. In this spirit the Slavery question has been put on the ground of non-interference on the part of the Genl. Govmnt. On that basis the democratic party has planted itself. If it can maintain that position, it is the only position that it can maintain in the free states, and is there a Southern man so blind as not see it and so uninformed as not to know it?

To drive us from this ground, the Whigs and abolitionists have agitated for the last 10 or 15 years. Their denunciation of the South, Southern dictation and Southern influence, has been fierce, and their appeals have been powerful and pathetic in favour of the poor negro. To meet these arguments and such invective has required all the talent and forbearance of the Democratic party. The Democratic free-state creed commends itself strongly to the sober sense of community, and those that attempt to overturn it can't but show the incendiary's torch and the assassin's knife— “in their fury the hope of the Union is lost”. The Democratic South in our conventions, in Congress, and at the ballot box has shown the same conciliatory spirit, — in making our last and former nominations they have been foremost in favor of free-state men. But in the nomination of the present Whig candidate it is manifest to all the people, and they can't but see the finger of the South in it, and the dictatorial and domineering spirit they have shown in forcing their man upon the Convention.

It has forced some fears upon the Democrats, as well as confusion and dismay into the Whig ranks, and utter disgust into the abolition breasts. The consequence of all will be to very much widen the breach between the free and slave states of the Union. In the late Whig convention the South showed neither quarter nor respect to the North. She gave not a vote for a Northern man. . . .

But the point to which I wish to call your attention is this: the fear amongst the democratic party is that the South may so far unite on the nominal Whig candidate as to give him all the South, in disregard of the friendly spirit the free states have always shown you. If this shall be the case I cannot doubt that much democratic sympathy will be lost you, and a falling off amongst your friends in these states, that time can never cure. Because it is so plain the nomination of Taylor is a Southern Whig trick, against the feelings of the Whig party, to catch up other than Whig votes in the South, and against the sense and sentiment of the nation, that union of effort of all parties will be made against the South before his term of office, if elected, shall expire. You know that North nothing but a free-state union of effort is wanting to disfranchise the South, so far as the Presidential office is concerned; and what so well calculated to produce that result as such palpable tricks as the South has just perpetrated in the nomination of a man without talent and the independence to speak out boldly his opinions and his party fealty.

In taking such a man at such a time it must be there is something impure in it. Something behind the curtain. But it will out. If the old General shall ever be called by the people unanimously or spontaneously to the Presidency, he will find the need of opinions and fixed principles. His administration, or that of any man, must proceed upon fixed principles, and the better they are matured the better he will bear up under the responsibilities of the office.

You are aware that every Whig in Congress and out of it in all the free States in the Union by their votes, speeches and action in the primary assemblies, amongst the people, and many of the democrats, are committed to the principles of the Wilmot Proviso, and if Taylor is elected, unless they back out from their present position, which they dare not do, it will be engrafted upon the legislation of the next four years. In this great contest the South brings their General into the field unarmed. His anxiety to lead the motley forces of federalism compels him to put on the no-party badge, and to command without a sword or the armor the Constitution has put upon him for his own protection and that of the States. Mr. Jefferson says: the President's negative was given him for his own protection, the protection of the States and the judiciary, against the aggressions of Congress. But I presume as he has voluntarily divested himself of the protection the Constitution in [vested] him with, to get office, he expects to put it on in the heat and smoke of the battle. Let him not think so. If he does it, he will be shot down by his own forces and confederates; and if Tyler was denounced a traitor, he will be justly denounced an arch traitor. It is distinctly understood he will veto none of the people's measures.

Of the success of the Democratic Ticket, Cass and Butler, in this region there is no room to doubt. I have never seen in favor of any democratic ticket so ardent a spirit manifested by the party. I think in this county there is not a dissenting voice. Indiana may be set down for Cass and Butler by a large majority over all opposition. Even should Hale run, and Mr. Van Buren lead the Barnburners, we can beat them all.

I wish to know from you, my dear sir, what Georgia will do in the premises.

I have bored you with a very prosing long letter.

Our very best respects to your Lady and friends.
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* Congressman from Indiana, 1839-1841 and 1843-1847.

SOURCE: Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, Editor, The Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1911, Volume 2: The Correspondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, and Howell Cobb, p. 111-3

Monday, September 24, 2018

Hopkins Holsey to Howell Cobb, December 31, 1847

Athens, Ga., Dec. 31st, 1847.

Dr. Sir: I avail myself of a leisure moment to reply to your communication of the1 ——. Your favor in sending to this office the National Intelligencer is duly appreciated, in as much as the editor of the Union admits that his reports of the proceedings of Congress, thus far, have not been accurate. I find this to be the case particularly in regard to Mr. Giddings's instructions to the Judiciary Committee relative to the slave trade in the District of Columbia. These instructions as reported in the Intelligencer open up the whole question of property in slaves; and the double vote of Mr. Winthrop, in first deciding the tie vote against the South, and afterwards upon the correction of the Journal repeating his position, is peculiarly unfortunate for the Southern Whigs. It is also an unlucky omen for them that Northern Democrats were the only members from the non-slaveholding states, voting against the agitation of the question. In the other wing of the Capitol a similar mishap seems to have befallen them almost at the same time upon the movement of John P. Hale on the same subject, in the disposition of which I observe all the Northern democratic Senators voting with the entire South to lay the question of reception on the table, and all the Northern Whigs voting against it.

Previous to this conclusive demonstration by the Northern Democrats in both Houses came the resolutions by Mr. Dickinson of New York, which assume the same ground taken by Mr. Dallas in Pennsylvania last summer. Satisfactory as this position must be to us in all respects (leaving out the absolute monomania of the Calhoun faction) it becomes us to ascertain, before we adopt it as the basis of our action in the next campaign, whether the Northern Democracy will rally to its support? This is the all important preliminary question to be decided before we can properly solve that other question, whether we should take the basis of Mr. Buchanan or Mr. Dallas. I perceive in your letter the expression of a belief that our Northern friends will come to the support of Dallas and Dickinson and Cass ground. By the bye, this is the first and most gratifying intimation that we have here of Gen. Cass's position. Resuming the question which of these two propositions, leaving the matter to be settled by the Territories or adopting the Missouri basis, will best unite the Northern Democracy, I can only say at this distance you have a better opportunity of judging than I can possibly have as to the actual state of things North. If our friends there are of the opinion that they can stand better upon one of these propositions than the other, of course we should let them have their own way. They are certainly better judges than we can be of what they may be able to effect. It is needless to say to you that the Southern Democrats will be satisfied with either position.

You will however agree with me that great caution should be observed by us in weighing the evidences of the state of Northern feeling. Buchanan, Dallas, Cass are all for the Presidency; and may not the fact that Mr. Buchanan having broken ground on the Missouri basis have operated upon the other two to vary their positions from his, and thus mislead us? Both of the latter have numerous friends who will adhere to their positions, and could we be assured they were sufficiently numerous to give tone to the Northern Democracy, the question would be settled. But I apprehend that the surer data of conjecture on our part should be laid deeper in the nature of things than the mere personal or immediate political attachments to individuals, however prominent they may be.

Upon a survey of the whole ground, I must express to you my strong apprehension that our Northern friends can not be brought to any other position with half the strength that they would rally to the Missouri basis. You will perceive that I treat it alone as a practical question. Let me now assign you a few reasons. First, the Herkimer men in New York will not yield to Mr. Dickinson's or Dallas's ground. Their pride, their passions, are all enlisted against it. Secondly, the Democrats of New Hampshire occupy the same ground as the Radicals of New York. If we adopt the Missouri basis may we not yet hope that both of these States will yet be saved? The ground of my hopes may be found in Clingman's speech. It is difficult to convince our Northern friends that Congress has not the complete control of this question. You know how they stood in relation to the constitutional power over the District. The Missouri basis will enable them to retain their constitutional prepossessions and yet to seek refuge from an unjust, unequal or destructive exercise of the power.

The South on the other hand may retain its constitutional opinions and yet yield to the Missouri basis for the sake of peace and harmony. This idea that constitutional questions may not be compromised is all fallacious. In Mr. Jefferson's letter to Mr. Cartwright on the powers of the state and federal governments, speaking of questions of this nature he says, “if they can neither be avoided or compromised,” etc.

There is however another and more conclusive view in favor of occupying the compromise ground to which I ask your attention. Henry Clay holds the card in his hand which he is yet to play upon this subject. He will wait for us to shew our hands. If he finds we have adopted Mr. Dickinson's ground — he will himself trump us with the Missouri Compromise, and win the game m spite of us! Clingman's speech shews how easily it could be done. Mr. Clay is the father (if I mistake not) of that Compromise. He will rally his party to it and kill us with the word Union. We might struggle in vain. The Democratic party of Georgia is already committed, in the convention of last spring. Our press, with but one exception, are committed also. Virginia is committed, South Carolina even is now committed by a unanimous vote to abide the Missouri line. Leading politicians all through the South are committed. We can not war against a position which we have already sanctioned." If the issue should be formed by the two parties in this manner, Mr. Clay would sweep through the non-slaveholding States with irresistible power, and find none but a partial check, at least in the South. I am therefore of the opinion that, strengthened as the Compromise has been by the recent developments in the South, and strong as it must be in the nature of things North, that we should never relinquish it. We must occupy it in the Baltimore Convention or the Whigs will, and kill us off at the South with our men weapons. You will have observed also in the recent democratic meeting at the Museum in Philadelphia that the Missouri line was adopted. This is at least evidence of the state of feeling and opinion among our Northern friends. It was unanimously adopted.

The Herkimer men will send delegates to the convention. So will the Conservatives. Both delegations should be admitted. The Ultras will eventually find so strong a current against them, that they would fain compromise. But if that word is not to be known in the Convention, they will return home enemies to the party. This will probably be the case with the N. Hampshire delegation also. It may also be the case with Maine and Rhode Island. Besides, the Compromise is so intimately blended with the idea of preserving the Union that hosts of men of all parties, North and South, will follow the banner upon which it may be inscribed. If we do not write it upon ours, the Whigs will upon theirs, and we must fall under its influence.

P. S. — The Ultras, North, says that Dallas's proposition virtually excludes Union. That's their feeling—we must respect it, though erroneous. Exclusion either way would weaken the bonds of Union, and thus our own shaft would recoil upon us.
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1 Blank in the original.

SOURCE: Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, Editor, The Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1911, Volume 2: The Correspondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, and Howell Cobb, p. 91-4