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Jefferson Davis Explains Southern Secession...

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by AmBu, Dec 30, 2008.

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  1. AmBu

    AmBu Banned

    Dec 10, 2008
    At the close of the war each of the thirteen colonies was acknowledged by Great Britain to be a free and independent State. The Confederation of these States embraced an area so extensive, with climate and products so various, that rivalries and conflicts of interest soon began to be manifested. It required all the power of wisdom and patriotism, animated by the affection engendered by common sufferings and dangers, to keep these rivalries under restraint, and to effect those compromises which it was fondly hoped would insure harmony and union. Inspired by this spirit of patriotism, and confident of the continuance of good-will between the States, Virginia ceded to the confederated States all that vast Northwestern Territory out of which five States and part of a sixth have since been organized. These States increased the preponderance of the Northern section over that of the section which made the gift, and thereby destroyed the equilibrium existing at the close of the War of Independence.

    By the operation of the Missouri Compromise, and the appropriation of all land obtained from Mexico, it may be stated, with approximate accuracy, the North monopolized more than three-fourths of all the territory acquired by the United States since the Declaration of Independence.

    Nor was this all. By a perversion of the constitutional provision for imposing taxes on imports, the agricultural South was heavily burdened for the benefit of the manufacturing North; while the power of the majority was used to appropriate to the Northern States an unequal share of the public disbursements. These combined causes—more land, more money, more work for special industries—all served to attract immigration to the North, and, with increasing population, the greed grew by what it fed on.

    This was clearly shown at the first Republican Convention, held at Chicago, May 16, 1860, to nominate a candidate for the Presidency. It was a purely sectional body. Not a single delegate represented any constituency south of the famous political line of 36° 30'. Contrary to all precedent, both candidates were selected from the North. Mr. Lincoln, the candidate for the Presidency, had publicly announced that the Union "could not permanently remain half slave and half free." A fictitious issue was presented. The most fanatical foes of the Constitution were satisfied that their ideas would be the rule and guide of the party.

    The Republican, or Lincoln-Hamlin party insisted that " slavery can exist only by virtue of municipal law;" that there was no law for it in the Territories, and that " Congress was bound to prohibit it or exclude it from any and every Federal Territory." In other words, it asserted the right and duty of Congress to exclude the citizens of half the States of the Union from territory belonging in common to all, unless on condition of the abandonment or sacrifice of property distinctly and specifically recognized as such by the compact of Union.

    The conservative power of the country was thus divided into three parts, while the aggressive was held in solid column. The result was foreseen by all careful observers, and attempts were made to unite the friends of the Constitution by the withdrawal of two of the candidates, but Mr. Douglas declared that the scheme was impracticable, and declined to cooperate.

    The result was the election—by a minority—of a President whose avowed principles were considered fatal to the harmony of the Union. Of the 303 electoral votes, Mr. Lincoln received 180; but of the popular suffrages—4,676,853 votes, which the electors represented—he received only 1,866,352, or a little over one-third. This discrepancy was owing to the system of casting the State votes as a unit, without regard to the popular majorities. Thus, in New York, the total popular vote was 675,156, of which 362,646 were cast for the Lincoln electors and 312,510 against them. New York was entitled to 35 electoral votes. On the basis of the popular vote, 19 of these would have been cast for Mr. Lincoln and 16 against him. But, under the State unit system, the entire 35 votes were cast for the Republican candidates, thus giving them not only the full strength of the majority, but of the great minority opposed to them also. So of other Northern States, in which the small majorities on one side operated with the weight of entire unanimity; while the virtual unanimity in the Southern States counted nothing more than a mere majority might have done.



    The indignation with which the result of the Presidential election was received in the Southern States proceeded from no personal hostility to the President-elect, nor from chagrin at the defeat of the Democratic candidates, but from the fact that the people of the South recognized in Mr. Lincoln the representative of a party professing principles destructive to " their peace, their prosperity, and their domestic tranquillity."

    No rash or revolutionary action was taken by the Southern States. The measures for defence adopted were considerate, and were executed deliberately. The Presidential election occurred in November, 1860. Most of the State legislatures assembled soon afterward in regular session; although, in some cases, special sessions were convoked for the purpose of calling State Conventions to be elected expressly for taking such action as should be deemed expedient in the existing circumstances.

    It had always been held that such Conventions possessed all the power of the people assembled in mass ; it was through such Conventions that the consent of the several States to the formation of the Union had been conveyed ; and by such Conventions, therefore, could that assent be revoked. The time required for the deliberate and final process also precluded the danger of precipitate or premature action, and gave opportunity for due reflection by the Federal Government and the people of the Northern States.

    The character of the President in power now became an important factor in the situation. Mr. Buchanan's freedom from sectional asperity, his long life in the public service, his conciliatory disposition, his love of peace, and his reverence for the Constitution, were guarantees that he would not

    The popular movement in the South was tending rapidly toward the secession of the planting States ; yet they were all represented in the House and Senate, except South Carolina, when Congress assembled, on December 3, 1860. Hopes were still cherished that the Northern leaders would appreciate the impending peril and devise means of allaying the apprehension of the South. But this hope was soon dispelled by the Congressional debates, which showed an arrogant determination to reap to the uttermost the full fell harvest of a sectional victory.

    Senator Crittenden, of Kentucky, introduced a joint resolution, known afterward as "the Crittenden Compromise," proposing, in the interest of peace and Union, certain amendments to the Constitution—among them the incorporation, into the Constitution, of the Missouri Compromise line. The proposed olive branch was contemptuously rejected. Action was delayed from time to time, on various pretences, until the last day of the session, when it was defeated by seven votes.

    Meanwhile, before the final vote was taken, seven States had withdrawn from the Union and established a Confederacy of their own.

    Other resolutions, with a similar purpose, met practically a similar fate. In the debates on these resolutions I argued that our Government is an agency of delegated and strictly limited powers; that its founders did not look to its preservation by force; that the chain they wove to bind these States together was one of love and mutual good offices. " They had broken the fetters of despotic power; they had separated themselves from the mother country upon the question of community independence; and their sons will be degenerate indeed if, clinging to the mere name and form of free government, they forge and rivet on their posterity the fetters which their ancestors broke. ... I cling not merely to the name and form, but to the spirit and purpose of the Union which our fathers made."

    In these debates one Whig (Mr. Crittenden), and the Northern Democrats generally, co-operated with the States- rights Democrats of the South; but the so-called Republican Senators of the North rejected every proposition which it was hoped might satisfy the Southern people and check the progress of the secession movement.

    Similar efforts for an adjustment met a similar fate in the House of Representatives. No wonder, then, that, under the shadow of the failure of every effort in Congress to find any common ground to restore amity between the sections, the close of the year should have been darkened by a cloud in the firmament, which had lost even the silver lining so long seen, or thought to be seen, by the hopeful.

    As an historical fact, negro slavery existed in all the original thirteen States. It was recognized by the Constitution. Owing to climatic, industrial, and economical—not moral or sentimental—reasons, it had gradually disappeared in the Northern States, while it had persisted in the Southern States. The slave-trade was never conducted by the people of the South. It had been monopolized by Northern merchants and carried on in Northern ships. Men differed in their views as to the abstract question of the right or wrong of slavery; but, for two generations after the Revolution, there was no geographical line of such differences. It was during the controversy over the Missouri question that the subject first took a sectional aspect; but long after that period Abolitionists were mobbed and assaulted in the North. Lovejoy, for example, was killed in Illinois in 1837.

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  3. AmBu

    AmBu Banned

    Dec 10, 2008
    Part Two

    These facts prove that the sectional hostility which first appeared in 1820, in the Missouri controversy, and again broke out on the proposition to annex Texas, in 1844, and reappeared after the Mexican war, never again to be suppressed until its fell results had been fully accomplished, was not the consequence of any differences on the abstract question of slavery. It was the offspring of sectional rivalry and political ar

    In 1803 and 18n, when the Louisiana Purchase, and afterward the admission of the State of Louisiana, created threats of disunion from the representatives of New England, it is not pretended that the existence of slavery was the ground of opposition. The complaint then was not of slavery, but of the " acquisition of more weight at the other extremity of the Union." It was not slavery that threatened a rupture in 1832, but an unjust and unequal tariff.

    Of course, the diversity of institutions contributed to the conflict of interests. I am stating general principles, not defining modifications and exceptions with the precision of a mathematical proposition. The truth remains, intact and incontrovertible, that the existence of African servitude was in nowise the cause of the conflict, but only an incident of it. In the later controversies, however, its effect as a lever in operating on the passions, prejudices, and sympathies of men was so potent that it has darkened the whole horizon of historic truth.

    I have not attempted, therefore, and shall not permit myself to be drawn into any discussion of the merits or demerits of slavery as an ethical or even as a political question. Such discussion would only serve to divert attention from the genuine issue involved.

    As to the institution of negro slavery, it was entirely subject to the control of the States. No power was given to the General Government to interfere with it; but an obligation was imposed to protect it. Its existence and validity were distinctly recognized by the Constitution in the apportionment of direct taxation and representation, in the provision for extinguishing the slave-trade, and in the article providing for the rendition of fugitives from service and labor.

    All Federal and State officials were required to take an oath to support the Constitution; yet the halls of Congress were utilized as breastworks from which assaults were made upon these guarantees. The legislatures of various Northern States enacted laws to hinder the execution of the provisions made for the rendition of fugitives from service; State officials lent their aid to the work of thwarting them ; and city mobs assailed the officers engaged in the duty of enforcing them. The preamble to the Constitution declared the object of its founders to be " to insure domestic tranquillity;" but now (in 1860) the people of a portion of the States had assumed an attitude of avowed hostility, not only to the provisions of the Constitution itself, but to the " domestic tranquillity " of the people of other States. Long before the formation of the Constitution one of the charges preferred against the Government of Great Britain, as justifying the separation of the colonies from that country, was that of having " excited domestic insurrection among us." Now the mails are burdened with incendiary publications; secret emissaries have been sent, and, in one case, an armed invasion of one of the States has taken place for the very purpose of exciting " domestic insurrection."

    It was not the passage of the " Personal Liberty Laws," it was not the circulation of incendiary documents, it was not the raid of John Brown, it was not the operation of unjust and unequal tariff laws, that constituted the intolerable grievance; but it was also the systematic and persistent struggle to deprive the Southern States of equality in the Union, and generally to discriminate against the interests of their people, culminating in their exclusion from the Territories, the common property of the States, as well as by the infraction of their compact to promote domestic tranquillity.

    The argument with regard to the Territories need not be repeated. Yet one feature of it has not been specially noticed, although it occupied a large share of public attention at the time and constituted an important element in the case. This was the manner in which the action of the Federal judiciary thereon was received in the Northern States.

    In 1854 the well-known " Dred Scott Case" came before the Supreme Court. It involved the question of the status of the African race and the rights of citizens of the Southern States to migrate to the Territories, temporarily or permanently, with their slave property, on a footing of equality with the citizens of other States with their property. The long discussion of this question had been without any satisfactory conclusion ; but all parties had united in declaring that a decision by the highest judicial authority in the land would be accepted as final.

    After long and patient consideration of the case the decision of the Supreme Court was pronounced by Chief-Justice Taney, seven of the nine Judges who composed the Court concurring in it. The salient points established by the decision were, that persons of the African race were not and could not be acknowledged as " part of the people," or citizens under the Constitution; that Congress had no right to exclude citizens of the South from taking their negro servants or any other property into any part of the common territory, and that they were entitled to its protection therein; and, finally, as a consequence of this principle, that the Missouri Compromise of 1820, in so far as it prohibited the existence of African servitude north of a designated line, was unconstitutional and void.

    Instead of accepting the decision of this then august tribunal as conclusive of a controversy that had long disturbed the peace and was threatening the perpetuity of the Union, it was flouted, denounced, and utterly disregarded by the Northern agitators, and served only to stimulate the intensity of their sectional hostility.

    What resource for justice, what assurance of tranquillity, what guarantee of safety, now remained for the South ? No alternative remained except to seek, out of the Union, that security which they had vainly endeavored to obtain within it. The hope of our people may be stated in a sentence: it was to escape from injury and strife within the Union; to find prosperity and peace out of it.

    A Short History of the Confederate States of America

    Jefferson Davis
  4. Baggage Handler #2

    Baggage Handler #2 2nd Lieutenant

    May 6, 2008
    Old Northwest Territory
    Wasn't there another thread started about this same random collection of words?

    In that thread JD got hammered pretty hard for being playing fast and loose with facts, a surprising inability to do basic math, and a boatload of unsubstantiated assertions.

    Not sure why tonight will end differently. It's still pretty weak stuff obviously staged to exonerate the author and make some others feel good about themselves.
  5. Freddy

    Freddy 2nd Lieutenant

    Dec 19, 2006
    Worcester, MA
    Davis' explanation for secession is interesting in that he mentions slavery at least a half dozen times.

    "The truth remains, intact and incontrovertible, that the existence of African servitude was in nowise the cause of the conflict, but only an incident of it."

    If Davis really believed the above then he was simply ignorant. However, Davis could not get around talking about slavery. Davis should have been honest with his readers and himself by admitting that slavery brought about the war.
  6. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

    Feb 20, 2005
    Near Kankakee
    I believe Handler is correct. If we are to be force fed Jeffy, let it not be at the expense of bandwidth.


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