Quotes Leading Up to the War


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thea_447

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There are so many voices from the past who warn of the consequences of the war that was certainly coming that I thought it would be best to have a thread devoted entirely to such men who had a huge impact on their various regions.

The war didn't just suddenly appear out of whole cloth with the firing on Fort Sumter. Politicians, learned men, ordinary men, all, preceded the horror of four years of war.

Let us hear from some of those long silenced voices who still call out to us over the years. And again, step back and wonder: How is it that war could not be averted?

I will begin this thread with Robert Barnwell Rhett.

We know very little of Rhett's early years except that he came from a family of fifteen children and his father was an accomplished scholar, a barrister from London and his mother was a distant relative of John Q. Adams! In 1828, in the tariff struggle, he revealed the temper and qualities which would characterize his entire public life. When others hesitated, he spoke sharply for open resistance and rejoiced at the glorious inalienable right of a people to throw off an oppressive government. He praised revolution as the "dearest and holiest word to the brave and the free." By the late 30's, he asked: "If a Confederacy of the Southern States could now be obtained, should we not deem it a happy termination?"

After 1848 Rhett had hoped that the North would go the distance in abolishing slavery in the territories and the District of Columbia but he said to his people, "You have tamely acquiesced until to hate and persecute the South has become a high passport to honor and power in the Union."

And after the Nashville Convention, he openly proclaimed himself a disunionist.
"Let it be that I am a Traitor. The word has no terrors for me...I have been born of traitors, but, thank God, they have been Traitors in the great cause of liberty, fighting against tyranny and oppression. Such treason will ever be mine whilst true to my lineage. No, No, my friends! Smaller States before us struggled successfully, for their independence, and freedom against far greater odds; and if it must be, we can make one long, last, desperate struggle, for our rights and honor, ere the black pall of tyranny is stretched over the bier of our dead liberties. To meet death a little sooner or a little later, can be of consequence to very few of us..." (Robert Barnwell Rhett, Laura A. White, p.109.)
 

unionblue

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"Some of you laugh to scorn the idea of bloodshed as the result of secession, but let me tell you what is coming...Your fathers and husbands, your sons and brothers, will be herded at the point of the bayonet...You may after the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, as a bare possibility, win Southern independence...but I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of state rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction...they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South."

Texas Governor Sam Houston, before his resignation.

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unionblue

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"The great principle which lies at the foundation of all free government is that the majority must govern; from which there can be no appeal but to the sword. That majority ought to govern wisely, equitably, moderately, and constitutionally, but govern it must, subject only to that terrible appeal.

If ever one or several States being a minority can, by menacing a dissolution of the Union, succeed in forming an abandonment of great measures deemed essential to the interests and prosperity of the whole, the Union, from that moment, is practically gone. It may linger on in form and name, but its vital spirit has fled forever!"

Henry Clay of Kentucky, US Senate, February 2, 1832.

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hawglips

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"The one great evil, from which all other evils have flowed, is the overthrow of the Constitution of the United States. The Government of the United States is no longer the Government of Confederated Republics, but of a consolidated Democracy. It is no longer a free government, but a Despotism."

--The SC Address to the Southern States, Dec. 24, 1860
 

hawglips

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"Mr. RHETT said that the secession of South Carolina was not the event of the day. It is not simply the election of Mr. Lincoln which is the cause. This matter had been gathering in the head for thirty years. Some of the most gigantic intellects and patriotic statesmen have participated in the events. The secession of South Carolina is only the consummation of the labors of such men as Calhoun, McDuffie, and others. The election of Mr. Lincoln, and the sectional organization at the North, was the last straw on the back of the camel."

(SC secession debate 12/24/1860; Transcribed from the Charleston, South Carolina, Courier, Dec. 25, 1860, by Ben Barnhill, Furman University)
 

cash

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"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery."

-- Mississippi Declaration of Causes

"I wish, Mr. President, to express the feelings with which I vote for the secession of Alabama from the Government of the United States; and to state, in a few words, the reasons that impel me to this act.

I feel impelled, Mr. President, to vote for this Ordinance by an overruling necessity. Years ago I was convinced that the Southern States would be compelled either to separate from the North, by dissolving the Federal Government, or they would be compelled to abolish the institution of African Slavery. This, in my judgment, was the only alternative; and I foresaw that the South would be compelled, at some day, to make her selection. The day is now come, and Alabama must make her selection, either to secede from the Union, and assume the position of a sovereign, independent State, or she must submit to a system of policy on the part of the Federal Government that, in a short time, will compel her to abolish African Slavery."

-- E.S. Dargan to the Alabama Secession Convention, 11 Jan 1861

"What was the reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secession? This reason may be summed up in one single proposition. It was a conviction, a deep conviction on the part of Georgia, that a separation from the North-was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery. This conviction, sir, was the main cause. It is true, sir, that the effect of this conviction was strengthened by a further conviction that such a separation would be the best remedy for the fugitive slave evil, and also the best, if not the only remedy, for the territorial evil. But, doubtless, if it had not been for the first conviction this step would never have been taken."

-- Henry Benning of Georgia to the Virginia Secession Convention, 18 Feb 1861


"Louisiana looks to the formation of a Southern confederacy to preserve the blessings of African slavery, and of the free institutions of the founders of the Federal Union, bequeathed to their posterity."

-- George Williamson to the Texas Secession Convention, 11 Feb 1861
 

hawglips

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John C. Calhoun, "...the question is, whether ours is a government resting on the sovereignty of the States, or on the unrestrained will of a majority."
 

hawglips

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"When certain sovereign and independent states form a union with limited powers for some general purpose, and any one or more of them, in the progress of time, suffer unjust and oppressive grievances for which there is no redress but withdrawal from the association, is such withdrawal an insurrection? If so, then what advantage is a compact of union to states? Within the Union are oppressions and grievances: the attempt to go out brings war and subjugation. The ambitious and aggressive states obtain possession of the central authority which, having grown strong in the lapse of time, asserts its entire sovereignty over the states."

"Whichever of them denies it and seeks to retire is declared to be guilty of insurrection, its citizens are stigmatized as "Rebels", as if they revolted against a master, and a war of subjugation is begun. If this action is once tolerated, where will it end? Where is constitutional liberty? What strength is there in bills of rights-in limitation of power? What new hope for mankind is to be found in written constitutions, what remedy which did not exist under kings or emperors? If the doctrines thus announced by the government of the United States are conceded, then look through either end of the political telescope, and one sees only an empire, and the once famous Declaration of Independence trodden in the dust as a "glittering generality," and the compact of the union denounced as a "flaunting lie."

"Those who submit to such consequences without resistance are not worthy the liberties and rights to which they were born, and deserve to be made slaves."

--- President Jefferson Davis
 

hawglips

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"History affords us many instances of the ruin of states,
by the prosecution of measures ill suited to the temper and
genius of their people. The ordaining of laws in favor of one
part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another,
is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. ... These
measures never fail to create great and violent jealousies and
animosities between the people favored and the people oppressed;
whence a total separation of affections, interests, political
obligations, and all manner of connections, by which the whole
state is weakened." --Benjamin Franklin
 

hawglips

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JEFFERSON DAVIS FIRST ADDRESS TO THE CONFEDERATE CONGRESS:
"We protest solemnly in the face of mankind, that we desire peace at any sacrifice, save that of honor. In independence we seek no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which we have been lately confederated. All we ask is to be left alone -- that those who never held power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms. This, we will, we must resist to the direst extremity. The moment that this pretension is abandoned, the sword will drop from our grasp, and we shall be ready to enter into treaties of amnesty and commerce that cannot but be mutually beneficial. So long as this pretension is maintained, with a firm reliance on that Devine Power which covers with its protection the just cause, we must continue to struggle for our inherent right to freedom, independence and self-government."
 

hawglips

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"As to my own position, I hope to see the Union preserved by granting the South the full measure of her constitutional rights. If this can not be done, I hope to see all the Southern States united in a new confederation and that we can effect a peaceable separation. If both of these are denied us, I am with Arkansas in weal or woe. I have been elected and hold a commission of captain of the Volunteer Rifle Company of this place and I can say for my company that if the Stars and Stripes become the standard of a tyrannical majority, the ensign of a violated league, it will no longer command our love or respect but will command our best efforts to drive them from our state.

I am with the South in life or in death, in victory or in defeat...... I believe the North is about to wage a brutal and unholy war on a people who have done them no wrong, in violation of the Constitution and the fundamental principles of government. They no longer acknowledge that all government derives its validity from the consent of the governed. They are about to invade our peaceful homes, destroy our property, and inaugurate a servile insurrection, murder our men and dishonor our women. We propose no invasion of the North, no attack on them, and only ask to be left alone."
--Major General Patrick Cleburne
 

hawglips

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" The real causes of dissatisfaction in the South with the North, are in the unjust taxation and expenditure of the taxes by the Government of the United States, and in the revolution the North has effected in this government, from a confederated republic (a voluntary union of states) to a national sectional despotism."

--November 1860 editorial in the Charleston Mercury
 

hawglips

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"There is another lying back of it--with which this is intimately connected--that may be regarded as the great and primary cause. This is to be found in the fact that the equilibrium between the two sections in the government as it stood when the Constitution was ratified and the government put in action has been destroyed. At that time there was nearly a perfect equilibrium between the two, which afforded ample means to each to protect itself against the aggression of the other; but, as it now stands, one section has the exclusive power of controlling the government, which leaves the other without any adequate means of protecting itself against its encroachment and oppression."

-- John C. Calhoun, The Causes of the Endangered Union speech, 1850
 

unionblue

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"Secession! Peaceable secession! Sir, your eyes and mine are never destined to see that miracle. The dismemberment of this vast country without convulsion! The breaking up of the fountains of the great deep without ruffling the surface! Who is foolish-I beg everybody's pardon-as to expect to see any such thing? Sir, he who sees these states, now revolving in harmony around a common center, and expects to see them quit their places and fly off without convulsion may look the next hour to see the heavenly bodies rush from their spheres and jostle against each other in the realms of spave without producing the crush of the universe. There can be no such thing as peaceable secession. Peaceable secesion is an utter impossibility."

Daniel Webster, March 7, 1850.

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unionblue

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"It is a great mistake to suppose that disunion can be effected by a single blow. The cords which bind these states together in one common Union are far too numerous and powerful for that. Disunion must be the work of time. It is only through a long process, and successively, that the cords can be snapped, until the whole fabric falls asunder. Already the agitation of the slavery question has snapped some of the most important and has greatly weakened all the others..."

John C. Calhoun, The Causes of the Endangered Union speech, read by Senator James Mason of Virginia, March 4, 1850.

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unionblue

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"And, sir, I must take occasion here to say that in my opinion there is no right on the part of any one or more of the States to secede from the Union. War and dissolution of the Union are identical and inevitable, in my opinion. There can be a dissolution of the Union only by consent or by war. Consent no one can anticipate, from the existing state of things, is likely to be given; and war is the only alternative by which a dissolution could be accomplished. If consent were given-if it were possible that we were to be seperated by one great line-in less than sixty days after such consent was given war would break out between the slaveholding and nonslaveholding portions of this Union-between the two independent parts into which it would be erected in virtue of the act of seperation. In less than sixty days, I believe, our slaves from Kentucky, flocking over in numbers to the other side of the river, would be pursued by their owners. Our hot and ardent spirits would be restrained by no sense of the right which appertains to the independence of the other side of the river, should that be the line of separation. They would pursue their slaves into the adjacent free States; they would be repelled; and the consequence would be that, in less than sixty days, war would, be blazing in every part of this now happy and peaceful land."

Henry Clay, Feb. 5 & 6, 1850.

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whitworth

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Neo-Confederates

One in the modern era has a difficult time supporting one's "heritage" when faced with the truth of slavery.
The right to own slaves was a constitutional right in the Confederate States of America Constitution. It was an expressed right with no provision to ban it in future years. Slavery was never included in the U.S. Constitution as a constitutional right. The Confederacy expanded slavery and its rights with secession.

The Confederacy lost the war, interestingly, because it had so much of its capital tied up in slaves. It never had the ability to logistically supply its army and navy adequately.
Without slavery, there was no need for a long and bloody war. Many a Confederate private recognized the rights of slaveholders with their reference to a -Rich Man's War and a Poor Man's Fight. Exemptions from military duty were given to owners of twenty or more slaves.

Margaret Mitchell said it better than anyone in her book -Gone With the Wind - "Why, all we have is cotton and slaves and arrogance..."
 

ole

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Whitworth:

Agree almost entirely with your insightful post. Thank you.

"Almost" in that Article IV, Section 2, Paragraph 3 states: "No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due."

This one is the sticker. It looks like it applies to those apprenticed to a tradesman and bond-servants (those assigning themselves to labor for a period in return for some stipend -- most notably, passage), but "held to service and labor" equally applies to slaves. The acknowledgement in this paragraph of the implied ownership -- for a defined or indefinite period -- of a person's labor apparently gives slavery the benefit, at least, of constitutional sanction.

Upon this paragraph is based the slave-owners' contention that labor-ownership could not be constituionally denied in any state -- hence the clarifications issued in the Dred Scott case and the Fugitive Slave Law.

One of the sharpest bones in the pile is that a territory was not a state -- it was Federal property. As such, the government could, within constitutional restrictions, do whatever it had in mind to do until the territory became a state.

I particularly appreciated your observation that "The Confederacy lost the war, interestingly, because it had so much of its capital tied up in slaves." I've frequently maintained that the slavocracy had no currency but cotton and collateral. Anything they had to spend was borrowed based on those two factors.

And a special thanks for the quote from "GWTW." It works, doesn't it?
Ole
 

thea_447

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Resuming the theme of this thread: Quotes leading up to War I offer this:

John Randolph, in calling the Constitution a dead letter said:

"I have no faith in parchments, sirs, I have faith in the power of the commonwealth, of which I am an unworthy son....
If , under the power to regulate trade, you prevent exportation; if, with the most approved spring lancet you draw the last drop of blood from our veins; if, secundum artum, you draw the last shilling from our pockets, what are the checks of the Constitution to us? A fig for the Constitution! When the scorpion's sting is probing us to the quick, shall we stop to chop logic? There is no magic in the word Union."
 

thea_447

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Robert J. Turnbull published The Crisis or Essays on the Usurpations of the Federal Government in which he declared :

"DISUNION [he spelled it with capital letters], better that it should come now, than some twenty years hence when our trade shall have been destroyed, our policy crumbled to ruins, our citizens ruined, and our spirits broken down by wrongs upon wrongs heaped upon us, by a Government in the hands of manufacturers, fanatics and abolitionists." (The Crisis or Essays on the Usurpation of the Federal Government, by Brutus ) (Charleston, 1827)
 

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