Just for Curiosity: Pre-War Newspaper Comparison

alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, December 3, 1859.

Pettus Speech Continued-

Pettus views the growing hostility as being waged by a sectional majority against a Southern minority. That majority is seeking nothing less than the destruction of the South. In Pettus’ mind, the abolitionists have already set the goal by defining the issue as an “Irrepressible conflict.” The terms, then, have been clearly set out by the Black Republicans without offering the South any other alternatives.

If a sectional majority wins the presidency, then what options do the Southern States have to protect themselves against it, especially if the issue at stake has already been deemed by that majority to be “Irrepressible”?

In such a contest, whatever defense the South uses to protect itself will be deemed as endangering the Union.

Pettus then addresses the peoples’ concerns about threats to the Union if any sort of defense is used by the South. He asserts that it is an unavoidable risk that must, out of necessity, be taken:

“But should it endanger the Union, must we stand still while our enemies are actively prosecuting a war upon us, and be deterred from adopting any vigorous measures of necessary defence by the fear that the form of government might be endangered?”

In a contest deemed irrepressible by the Republicans, Pettus sees only two options: “a disgraceful and ruinous subjugation, or a triumphant resistance. . . my council is to begin now to prepare to meet it; and if peaceable means cannot prevent the meddling Yankees from laying hands on our institutions, repel their attacks by force; and if the Union fall in the conflict, it will only crush those who are the authors of this strife.”
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alan polk

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Thanks for posting this treasury of information.
Thanks for viewing. I’ve tried to limit interpretation, but sometimes it is necessary to condense the issues. But because of its complexities (at least to me), I’m cognizant of my vulnerability to misinterpretation. In this light, feel free to comment on the articles, especially if you think any assumptions made by me regarding content is off target.
 

alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, December 3, 1859.

Pettus Speech Continued (final section).

Governor Pettus warns Mississippians of the danger of holding too sacred the concept of a Union.

“If our strongholds are garrisoned only by those who hold the Union so sacred that it must not be endangered by any measures of necessary self-defence,” then the South’s fate, according to Pettus, is sealed.

“I am aware,” Pettus says, “that I touch rudely the most cherished sentiments of some of my fellow-citizens who have been taught to regard the Union as the paramount political good, and who believe that the Union of these States cost all the sacrifices made by the sires of the Revolution.”

However, Pettus states that he “draws a different lesson from the history of that conflict. The fact that looms up on our visions, great and palpable as a mountain, is this - that ‘the battles of the Revolution were fought, not that the colonies might be united, but that the colonies might be free,’ and perish my name among men if ever I am found setting the form of government above the freedom of this people.”

The Revolution, then - at least from Pettus’ perspective- was a war for which the concept of freedom was fought for, and that freedom was held as being the paramount issue. It was not a war waged over what form in which that government might subsequently take.

It is this right to their freedoms guaranteed under the formation of the government that Pettus thinks Southerners should unite and defend. And if the warnings of that united South are not heeded, and if a sectional majority gains the presidency, then action by the South will be required to establish their freedom to form separately.

Pettus declares, then, that if Republicans take control of the government, that he “shall regard the institution of slavery so seriously threatened as to justify and demand a calling together of all the States interested in its perpetuation, for the adoption of such measures as the Representatives of the Southern States may deem necessary for the preservation of that right which was bought for us by the blood of our Revolutionary sires, and which we cannot surrender without pecuniary ruin and political degradation - the right to govern ourselves.”

Pettus closes by encouraging Mississippians to send their best men to maintain the “inalienable right of self-government,” even if that means defending those rights - already purchased by their Revolutionary sires - by means of war.
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alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, December 3, 1859.

Below: Malcolm Haynes, State Treasurer elect, visits Yazoo City

By December, all the cotton had been harvested and the folks in Yazoo City had time to shake out a party whenever they pleased, I guess.

Haynes the politician came into town around 10:00 on a Monday night and boarded in a local hotel. Folks found out, got a marching band together and then commenced to his hotel to serenade him until he came out and delivered a speech. I guess that’s as good a reason to throw a party on a Monday night as any.

Nonetheless, he appeared out of his hotel door and gave them what they wanted: A speech; and the pertinent part of it dealt with the core issue that had been driving the South toward separation from the North.

“We were created equals in the Union, and we would brand ourselves as dastard and renegade sons of noble sires, if we hesitated to preserve that equality, even though it should be at the price of the Union itself.”

“The South must not take another ‘step backward.’ She must plant herself on her Constitutional Rights, the right of protection of her property in the Territories, and boldly meet the issue on that question, with the North.”

At its conclusion, everyone removed to the hotel lobby and continued with the impromptu, Monday night party.
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alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, December 3, 1859

Below: According to this electoral count published in the paper, the end of Southern influence and power on the national scene was all but over.

I can only imagine what a Yazoo planter’s opinion of the future, or others across the South, was when these numbers stared them square in the face.
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alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, December 3, 1859.

Below: Advertisements listed inside the newspaper giving an idea of antebellum Yazoo City.

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The above casket advertisement reminds me of the mysterious “Lady in Red” found on Egypt Plantation in Mississippi in 1969. The casket she was found in sounds an awful lot like these advertised. Here is a write up about “Lady in Red” from Atlasobscura.com:
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The New York Herald, December 2, 1859

Below: The Herald prints Governor Gist’s (cousin of State Rights Gist) message to the South Carolina State Legislature favoring disunion if a Republican wins Presidency.

It is posted here in two parts.

Governor Gist’s message begins with grievance against the Vermont Legislature that had recently affirmed several resolutions that not only stated Congress had a right to prohibit slavery in the Territories but that it also had a duty to exercise that right. Moreover, the Vermonters vowed to continue resisting the admittance of new slave states into the Union and also declared that the Dred Scott decision “has no warrant in the constitution, and is not binding upon Vermont or the people of the United States.” Gist informs the South Carolina Legislature that this same sentiment is shared by “all of the non-slaveholding states.”

According to Gist, the “entire Northern people are arrayed against us, and [are] pledged to our destruction.”

The purpose of the North, says Gist, is to reduce South Carolina and the South to colonial vassalage as soon as possible by the following means:

- refusing slave states into the Union;
- establishing underground railroads to assist slaves to escape;
- prohibiting Southerners from carrying slaves into the common Territories;
- attempting to instigate slaves to insurrection; and
- furnishing slaves with arms to murder Southerners on their own soil.

According to Gist, Brown’s Raid is “the first act in the drama to be performed on a Southern stage.”
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The New York Herald, December 2,1859

Below: Gist Message Continued-

To Governor Gist’s mind, the attempts at compromise between the North and South have run their course, and to continue to do so would prove devastating to South Carolina:

“Can we, then, any longer talk about moderation and conservatism and statesmanship and still hug the delusive phantom to our breast that all is well, and that the Democratic Party, upon whom we have too confidentiality relied, will work out our salvation by platforms and resolutions?”

The same circumstance applies to the Executive: “We have sunk very low indeed,” Gist declares, “if our liberties are to depend upon the fortunate selection of a candidacy for the Presidency who, on account of his popularity, or his mysterious manner of expressing his opinions, makes himself acceptable to both sections, or is what is generally termed as available.”

Gist gets to the core of the problem facing those states who maintain the same rights and peculiar institutions as South Carolina, and quotes George McDuffie, of Nullification days, to press home the point:

“‘[We] are a permanent miniority on all questions affecting those rights and institutions, and, whoever may exercise the powers of the Chief Magistracy, they will be exercised in obedience to the will of the adverse majority.’”

This majority, says Gist, now views the slaveholding states as “enemies and aliens, rather than brethren of the same family, and heirs of the same inheritance by the North.”

It only takes a quick glance at the electoral college chart in one of the posts above to see that the power dynamics had shifted to the free states by 1859.

The critical question to be asked by South Carolinians, is what can they do to “save her institutions from destruction, and afford safety and security to her people?”

To this, Gist admits he has no satisfactory answers. What he does suggest, however, is that the best course of action, perhaps the last course available, is to unite with the rest of the South.

Through a united South, South Carolina and the rest of the slave states can “enforce equality in the Union, or maintain our independence out of it.”

From Gist’s perspective, the election of a Black Republican to the Presidency will mark the actual manifestation to power of this gathering majority that despises the South and its institutions. This majority will undoubtedly strike at the safety and security of the minority section of the country. They will then work to extinguish the vital principles that give life to the Constitution, leaving it but a mere form of what it was. Under this, South Carolina and the greater South must “consent to occupy an inferior and degrading position, or seek other safeguards for her future security.”

To Gist, there is no other way to square it: South Carolina must seek to unite with the rest of the South to protect its interests.

Thereupon, the South Carolina Legislature passed the following resolutions:

- to prepare means by which South Carolina can consolidate with other slaveholding states to form a Southern confederacy;
- to authorize the Governor to forward this resolution to various other Southern Executives; and
- to “gather information as to the condition of the State arsenal, arms, ammunition, number of men enrolled in the State militia, the styles of arms, etc. (This last was offered but it is not clear of its final determination).

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The New York Herald, December 2, 1859

Below: Demonstrations in New York in response to John Brown’s execution in Virginia.

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Below: Handbills posted in and around Boston, Massachusetts in angry response to John Brown’s execution. Directed toward Virginia, they are religious in nature and vicious in tone.
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alan polk

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The New York Herald, December 2, 1859.

Below: Description of the Navy steamship Mohawk’s operations and seizure of suspected slave ship off the coast of Cuba.

The Mohawk was commanded by Tunis Craven, who would go on to command the Tecumseh at the Battle of Mobile Bay where he was killed in action.

In 1859, the USS Mohawk conducted operations in the Caribbean where it attempted to intercept and seize slave ships. It often cruised off the coast of Cuba, where it boarded vessels from America, Spain, England and France.

Near the port of Sagua, Cuba it spotted a suspected slave ship hidden behind a reef. Boarding the ship, his men found the ship abandoned; it was “riding at one anchor, rigging cut, sails loose and everything about the decking in confusion, showing marks of hasty abandonment. Below were a large number of water casks, but no slave deck, that having been removed. Fire was burning in the galley stove and the coppers were still hot. She had not been abandoned by the crew evidently but a few hours; but the slaves had probably been taken ashore the day before. The stench from the hold was testimony sufficient to satisfy [the crew] that it was a slaver if there had been no other indications of the nefarious traffic on the deck.”

The suspected slave ship was towed by the Mohawk to Key West, Florida and turned over to the United States Marshal where forfeiture proceedings were set to begin. “The proceeds of the sale will be divided equally between Captain Craven, his officers and crew and the United States.”


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The Yazoo Democrat, January 7, 1860

Below: Senator Slidell’s “Cuba Scheme.”

It is reported that US Senator John Slidell, the future Confederate diplomat to France, plans to reintroduce a senate bill proposing “the commercial acquisition of all the countries south of us on this continent, by authorizing the negotiation with them of reciprocal commercial treaties, and the establishment of steam mail facilities, between our ports and theirs, for the encouragement and equalization of trade.”

This seems to be an alternative between military acquisition and direct purchase of Cuba, with the additional hope of acquiring other countries as well.

It is hoped that such a policy will “Americanize [the countries] by our commercial connections with them, and then if political acquisition is desirable, it will be of easy accomplishment. When we control the commerce of this continent,” the article states, “the Monroe Doctrine will be practically realized.”

This scheme, according to Slidell, is much cheaper than acquisition of countries through armed conflict by “making a connection with them for their interests, and it will require no astute diplomatist to negotiate their political acquisition.”

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alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, January 7, 1860

Below: A Summary of President Buchanan’s Speech.

In several parts below-

The article does not indicate where or when the speech was delivered. However, and as the writer of the article states, the core subject of the President’s message dealt with the “slavery question.”

Buchanan insists that the present “excitement” over the issue of slavery began with ideas generated in “high quarters” that involved issues subversive to the Constitution and the Union.

These “ideas” and “announcements” eventually took hold among partisans who then took the concepts further by carrying them “into practical effect.”

Therefore, these concepts given over to political action have created a threat where “the people of fifteen states may come to feel that their property and personal safety are in danger within the Union.”

This has brought about the perception that even political advantage under this Union fails to protect the South and, therefore, creates a space wherein “self-preservation will carry them out of it.”

According to the article, President Buchanan remains hopeful that “the people, awakened by recent events to the perils of our time, will furnish the corrective, and try means within the constitution, restore its principles, and cause these excitements to die away, as other controversies have done before.”

Buchanan then turns his attention to slavery in the Territories, wherein he is very explicit .....
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