Why Did Jefferson Davis Start the War?

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Location
Right here.
First of all, Jefferson Davis was not a fool, nor was he an idiot. He had a first-class mind with decades of political experience. A West Point graduate, a hero of the Mexican War, and a former Secretary of War, Davis did not take the issue of going to war lightly, and he wouldn't make the decision to go to war on a whim, or simply because his pride was wounded. The viewpoint that Lincoln maneuvered Davis into firing on Fort Sumter presupposes a Jefferson Davis with no such intellectual abilities. It presupposes a master strategist Lincoln and a Davis with no strategic forethought or abilities at all. After all, the confederates had plenty of warning about the resupply effort from Crawford, Roman, and Forsyth, who were reporting back to Davis from Washington nearly every day.

Let's look at the situation Davis was in. Secession had been stopped at seven states. The nascent confederacy was relatively tiny. "At the very least, as the most modest of the Southern imperialists envisaged it, the full-grown Confederacy would have to include Virginia, Maryland, and other slaveholding states of the Upper South and the border." [Richard N. Current, _Lincoln and the First Shot,_ p. 131] The Virginia convention voted 89-45 against secession on 4 April. "Thus, in early April, it appeared that (unless something drastic were done) the Confederacy was doomed to carry on, if possible, as a mere string of seven states, an aborted empire.

"What was worse, it appeared that, given time, one or more of the seven might abandon the Confederacy and return to the Union. If, in the lower South, true Unionists or 'reconstructionists' were few, they were nevertheless too numerous to suit the thoroughgoing, fire-eating secessionists. Especially in Alabama, the home state of the Confederate government, reconstructionism in one guise or another seeemed a threat to Southern independence. The outstanding secessionist, William L. Yancey, a resident of Montgomery, had failed to win election to the Confederate Congress. In one Alabama town this 'fire-eater' had, in a sense, actually eaten fire: he had been burned in effigy. 'We are in danger,' the _Charleston Mercury_ warned (March 25), 'of being dragged back eventually to the old political affiliation with the states and people from whom we have just cut loose.' " [Ibid., pp. 132-133]

Time was not on their side. The Mobile Mercury said, "The country is sinking into a fatal apathy and the spirit and even the patriotism of the people is oozing out under this do-nothing policy. If something is not done pretty soon, decisive, either evacuation or expulsion, the whole country will become so disgusted with the sham of southern independence that the first chance the people get at a popular election they will turn the whole movement topsy-turvy so bad that it never on earth can be righted again." [Quoted in Current, Ibid., p. 134]

In their Joint Resolution, the Virginia Assembly, without a single negative vote in both houses, said,

"JOINT RESOLUTION concerning the position of Virginia in the event of the dissolution of the Union. Adopted January 21, 1861.

"Resolved by the General Assembly of Virginia, That if all efforts to reconcile the unhappy differences existing between the two sections of the country shall prove to be abortive, then, in the opinion of the General Assembly, every consideration of honor and interest demands that Virginia shall unite her destiny with the slave-holding States of the South." [OR Series IV, Vol. I, p. 77]

Virginia was on record as saying she would join the confederacy if and when a war started.

Davis had advisors who were urging him in that direction as well. L.Q. Washington wrote, "I fear the present Virginia Convention will not pass an ordinance of secession unless a collision or war ensues; then public feeling
will force them to it. There is a majority of old Federal submissionists,
who got in by pretending to be resistance men." [OR Series I, Vol I, pp. 263-264]

"One Alabamian had warned Davis, 'Unless you sprinkle blood on the face of the Southern people they will be back in the old Union in less than ten days.' A sprinkle of blood, too, should bring the fencesitters--Virginia and the other border states--into the Confederate fold." [W. A. Swanberg, _First Blood: The Story of Fort Sumter,_ p. 286]

There are the words of Virginian Roger Pryor, who, speaking to a Charleston audience on April 10, 1861, said, "But I assure you that just as certain as tomorrow's sun will rise upon us, just so certain will Virginia be a member of the Southern Confederacy; and I will tell your Governor what will put her
in the Southern Confederacy in less than an hour by Shrewsbury clock. Strike a blow!" [Ibid.,_ p. 289]

That same day, Davis received a telegram from Louis T. Wigfall, urging, "General Beauregard will not act without your order. Let me suggest to you to send the order to him to begin the attack as soon as he is ready. Virginia is excited by the preparations, and a bold stroke on our side will complete her purposes. Policy and prudence are urgent upon us to begin at once." [Wigfall to Davis, 10 Apr 1861, quoted in Richard N. Current, _Lincoln and the First Shot,_ p. 151]

Davis was already looking to start the war at Fort Pickens in Florida, knowing in advance the Federals were not going to attack.

"It is scarcely to be doubted that for political reasons the U.S. govt. will avoid making an attack so long as the hope of retaining the border states remains. There would be to us an advantage in so placing them that an attack by them would be a necessity, but when we are ready to relieve our territory and jurisdiction of the presence of a foreign garrison that advantage is overbalanced by other considerations. The case of Pensacola then is reduced [to] the more palpable elements of a military problem and your measures may without disturbing views be directed to the capture of Fort Pickens and the defence of the harbor. You will soon have I hope a force sufficient to occupy all the points necessary for that end. As many additional troops as may be required can be promptly furnished." [Jefferson Davis to Braxton Bragg, 3 Apr 1861]

"This letter indicates that Davis was willing to start the war. He would have liked to do precisely what Ramsdell claimed Lincoln did--maneuver the enemy into firing the first shot--but the Confederate President considered such a scheme, in his own words, 'overbalanced by other considerations.' Davis counseled action--'your measures may without disturbing views be directed to the capture of Fort Pickins'--and the tone of his letter implied that he expected Bragg to take the fort should he fire the first shot." [Grady McWhiney, "The Confederacy's First Shot," _Civil War History,_ Vol XIV, No. 1, March, 1968, p. 12]

In the cabinet meeting, Toombs warned Davis that firing on Fort Sumter would inaugurate the Civil War.

"Mr. President, at this time it is suicide, murder, and will lose us every friend at the North. The firing upon that fort will inaugurate a civil war greater than any the world has yet seen." [Robert Toombs to Jefferson Davis, quoted in W. A. Swanberg, _First Blood: The Story of Fort Sumter,_ p. 286]

But Davis knew this anyway. He had predicted a civil war earlier. "When Lincoln comes in he will have but to continue in the path of his predecessor to inaugurate a civil war" [Jefferson Davis to Franklin Pierce, 20 Jan 1861]

Davis went ahead and ordered the fort reduced.

It was actually a good strategic move. It immediately brought 4 additional states into the confederacy, including, most critically, Virginia, and there had been a possibility of bringing a total of 7 in. Had all those 7 come
into the confederacy, there would have been no way for the Union to prevail. Lincoln knew the border states were crucial. So did Davis. It unified the confederate populace and suppressed thoughts of reconstructionism as they rallied around the confederacy. The malaise talk of March and early April ceased at once and was replaced with patriotic exhortations and renewed recruiting of young men into the army.

I think if we look at the total situation, the viewpoint that Davis ordered the firing on Fort Sumter to bring the upper south and the border states
into the confederacy fits the entire situation, whereas the viewpoint that Davis was merely passively reacting to bold, brilliant strategic moves made by Lincoln until he finally had to attack because there was no alternative is a misrepresentation of Davis and does him a great disservice.

Regards,
Cash
 

larry_cockerham

Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011
Honored Fallen Comrade
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Location
Nashville
Cash, good post. Have you considered John C. Calhoun and his buddies? One of the things I must do next is delve into Davis' history. His must have been a somewhat complex situation to say the very least.
 

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
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Location
Right here.
Cash, good post. Have you considered John C. Calhoun and his buddies? One of the things I must do next is delve into Davis' history. His must have been a somewhat complex situation to say the very least.

Calhoun's major influence was in providing the philosophical underpinning for secession through his extreme state rights theory. Using that theory as a last-ditch effort to preserve slavery was Calhoun's brainchild. In my opinion, no single person did more to bring on the Civil War than His Satanic Majesty, John C. Calhoun.

Regards,
Cash
 

Freddy

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Dec 19, 2006
Location
Worcester, MA
Calhoun's major influence was in providing the philosophical underpinning for secession through his extreme state rights theory. Using that theory as a last-ditch effort to preserve slavery was Calhoun's brainchild. In my opinion, no single person did more to bring on the Civil War than His Satanic Majesty, John C. Calhoun.

Regards,
Cash
As Andrew Jackson predicted in 1833.

Tariff Merely the Pretext
Andrew Jackson
Reverend A. J. Crawford
Washington, May 1, 1833.

I have had a laborious task here, but Nullification is dead; and its actors and courtiers will only be remembered by the People to be execrated for their wicked designs to sever and destroy the only good Government on the globe, and that prosperity and happiness we enjoy over every other portion of the World. Haman's gallows ought to be the fate of all such ambitious men who would involve their Country in Civil War, and all the evils in its train, that they might reign and ride on its whirlwinds and direct the storm. The Free People of these United States have spoken, and consigned these wicked demagogues to their proper doom. Take care of your Nullifiers; you have them among you; let them meet with the indignant frowns of every man who loves his Country. The Tariff, it is now known, was a mere pretext - its burden was on your coarse woolens. By the law of July, 1832, coarse woolen was reduced to five per cent., for the benefit of the South. Mr. Clay's Bill takes it up and classes it with woolens at fifty per cent., reduces it gradually down to twenty per cent., and there it is to remain, and Mr. Calhoun and all the Nullifiers agree to the principle. The cash duties and home valuation will be equal to fifteen per cent. more, and after the year 1842, you pay on coarse woolens thirty-five per cent. If this is not Protection, I cannot understand; therefore the Tariff was only the pretext, and Disunion and a Southern Confederacy the real object. The next pretext will be the Negro or Slavery question.
My health is not good, but is improving a little. Present me kindly to your lady and family, and believe me to be your friend. I will always be happy to hear from you.

ANDREW JACKSON




http://adena.com/adena/usa/cw/cw267.htm
 

Elennsar

Colonel
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Location
California
While I would rather not - in face of Cash's statement to the contrary - call Jefferson Davis an idiot, the short term gain of four states (and the possibility of three others - maaaaaybe four if one is imaginative and counts Delaware) - was considerably outweighed by the bloody war.

Had the Confederacy been prepared - in leadership more than materially - for what it would take to win the war - it would have been a good idea.

But when the Confederacy was as short (entirely lacking in?) as it was Washingtons and Franklins and similar, it was an act of folly to assume that it could effectively apply the resources it had to winning such a terrible conflict as an open and publically displayed attack on Sumpter.

I don't think Davis was manipulated into doing it. I believe he was overconfident that the gains outweighed the costs and grossly unprepared as a leader to effectively determine how to handle the situation.

Being a great secretary of war for an army of 16,000 in peacetime, and being an effective commander in chief for an army of a million is such a huge gap that previous experience would be pitifully insufficient preparation. If taken too seriously, it would actually be worse than no experience at all, for it would lead one to assume that one knew more than one actually did - a very normal human error.

Davis, for a variety of reasons, had an inferior mind for the task that he faced as compared to Lincoln's.

Not because Davis was an idiot, but because his strengths were not the ones needed and his weaknesses were a terrible hindrance for someone bearing his responsibilities.
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
While I would rather not - in face of Cash's statement to the contrary - call Jefferson Davis an idiot, the short term gain of four states (and the possibility of three others - maaaaaybe four if one is imaginative and counts Delaware) - was considerably outweighed by the bloody war.

Had the Confederacy been prepared - in leadership more than materially - for what it would take to win the war - it would have been a good idea.

But when the Confederacy was as short (entirely lacking in?) as it was Washingtons and Franklins and similar, it was an act of folly to assume that it could effectively apply the resources it had to winning such a terrible conflict as an open and publically displayed attack on Sumpter.

I don't think Davis was manipulated into doing it. I believe he was overconfident that the gains outweighed the costs and grossly unprepared as a leader to effectively determine how to handle the situation.

Being a great secretary of war for an army of 16,000 in peacetime, and being an effective commander in chief for an army of a million is such a huge gap that previous experience would be pitifully insufficient preparation. If taken too seriously, it would actually be worse than no experience at all, for it would lead one to assume that one knew more than one actually did - a very normal human error.

Davis, for a variety of reasons, had an inferior mind for the task that he faced as compared to Lincoln's.

Not because Davis was an idiot, but because his strengths were not the ones needed and his weaknesses were a terrible hindrance for someone bearing his responsibilities.

Davis was certainly not an idiot. His term under Polk shows him, in the opinion of many, as one of the most intelligent and efficient Secretaries of War the US ever had. (Compared to John B. Floyd, Buchanan's Secretary of War, who many historians believe might actually have been as incompetent as is often claimed.)

In many ways, the Confederacy might have been better off if Davis was Secretary of War and someone else was President. The problem becomes "who else?", because there really doesn't appear to be anyone at the top of the Confederacy who could have handled the job as well as Davis did (Toombs? One of the Cobbs? Stephens?) and who could be elected (there goes Benjamin, who might have had more brains and ability for the job).

To look at it another way, suppose Davis had somehow remained a Kentuckian during his life and had remained loyal to the Union. Suppose Lincoln had reached out and made him Secretary of War in 1861 instead of Cameron. Is the North better off with Davis on the Linclon team?

I'd argue yes. Leaving political schmoozing aside, Davis had far more ability than Cameron, was far more honest and more diligent. He had all the good qualities of Cameron's eventual replacement, Stanton, with few of his drawbacks (Stanton's initial reactioon to most crises seems to have been a flight of panic before he settled down -- Jefferson Davis was not one to panic). I think you would have seen a much more efficient US military in 1861-62 if Davis had been organizing it -- and I doubt Jeff Davis would have put up with some of the nonsense McClellan was putting out. His long familiarity with soldiers and the personalities involved would have been worth an army corps all by itself.

Tim
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Calhoun's major influence was in providing the philosophical underpinning for secession through his extreme state rights theory. Using that theory as a last-ditch effort to preserve slavery was Calhoun's brainchild. In my opinion, no single person did more to bring on the Civil War than His Satanic Majesty, John C. Calhoun.

Interesting trivia: the Fire-Eater Rhett split with Calhoun somewhere back in the early 1840s, because Rhett was moving to protection of slavery as the reason for secession. Calhoun's movement to that position occured, but a bit later, IIRR.

Tim
 

Elennsar

Colonel
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Location
California
I am not entirely sure I agree - but I do strongly agree that his talents were better for a "secretary of war" than a president.

Better than Stanton? I'm not sure. Better than Cameron? Definately.

Unfortunately for the Confederacy, none of its political leaders had the qualities necessary to successfully make the Confederacy one of the examples of how "Revolutions have succeeded despite the odds against them".
 

cash

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Right here.
Interesting trivia: the Fire-Eater Rhett split with Calhoun somewhere back in the early 1840s, because Rhett was moving to protection of slavery as the reason for secession. Calhoun's movement to that position occured, but a bit later, IIRR.

Tim

Calhoun first used nullification as a vehicle for protecting slavery. It was what was actually behind the Nullification Crisis.

Regards,
Cash
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Calhoun first used nullification as a vehicle for protecting slavery. It was what was actually behind the Nullification Crisis.

Yes, that's so. The split with Rhett was more about the issue of publicly taking the position that protection of slavery -- by itself -- was enough to justify secession. Calhoun was still involving other issues, like the Tariff.

Tim
 

OpnDownfall

Cadet
Joined
Aug 28, 2006
Trice brings up a great 'What If..." question that would have entertained many future historians (and probably the source of a great many psychiatric studies). The efforts of Jefferson Davis as Union Sec'y of War, trying to bring George B. McClellan to heel.
 

Glorybound

Major
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Indiana
As Andrew Jackson predicted in 1833.

Tariff Merely the Pretext
Andrew Jackson
Reverend A. J. Crawford
Washington, May 1, 1833.

I have had a laborious task here, but Nullification is dead; and its actors and courtiers will only be remembered by the People to be execrated for their wicked designs to sever and destroy the only good Government on the globe, and that prosperity and happiness we enjoy over every other portion of the World. Haman's gallows ought to be the fate of all such ambitious men who would involve their Country in Civil War, and all the evils in its train, that they might reign and ride on its whirlwinds and direct the storm. The Free People of these United States have spoken, and consigned these wicked demagogues to their proper doom. Take care of your Nullifiers; you have them among you; let them meet with the indignant frowns of every man who loves his Country. The Tariff, it is now known, was a mere pretext - its burden was on your coarse woolens. By the law of July, 1832, coarse woolen was reduced to five per cent., for the benefit of the South. Mr. Clay's Bill takes it up and classes it with woolens at fifty per cent., reduces it gradually down to twenty per cent., and there it is to remain, and Mr. Calhoun and all the Nullifiers agree to the principle. The cash duties and home valuation will be equal to fifteen per cent. more, and after the year 1842, you pay on coarse woolens thirty-five per cent. If this is not Protection, I cannot understand; therefore the Tariff was only the pretext, and Disunion and a Southern Confederacy the real object. The next pretext will be the Negro or Slavery question.
My health is not good, but is improving a little. Present me kindly to your lady and family, and believe me to be your friend. I will always be happy to hear from you.

ANDREW JACKSON


http://adena.com/adena/usa/cw/cw267.htm


Thanks for the post Freddy. I'm not up on the Nullification Crisis like I want to be. I had no clue that Andrew Jackson himself was, even at that early date dealing with attempts at secession. He did a great job circumventing Calhoun's manipulations and clearly saw the true meaning behind the tariff. Good for Andy.



Lee
 

Freddy

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Dec 19, 2006
Location
Worcester, MA
Thanks for the post Freddy. I'm not up on the Nullification Crisis like I want to be. I had no clue that Andrew Jackson himself was, even at that early date dealing with attempts at secession. He did a great job circumventing Calhoun's manipulations and clearly saw the true meaning behind the tariff. Good for Andy.



Lee
You are welcome, but I forgot to highlite this part of Andrew Jackson's letter.

"the Haman's gallows ought to be the fate of all such ambitious men who would involve their Country in Civil War, and all the evils in its train, that they might reign and ride on its whirlwinds and direct the storm.
 

Baggage Handler #2

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 6, 2008
Location
Old Northwest Territory
Pretty much the same reasons why Americans started the Revolutionary War.

Interesting premise: "The colonists, having held sway in both houses of parliament and having had a heavy influence with HRH for the last 80 years, lost ground in the important parliamentary elections of 1775 and so began shooting."

Wait, no, that wasn't it at all. Drat.
 

Elennsar

Colonel
Joined
May 14, 2008
Location
California
Interesting premise: "The colonists, having held sway in both houses of parliament and having had a heavy influence with HRH for the last 80 years, lost ground in the important parliamentary elections of 1775 and so began shooting."

Wait, no, that wasn't it at all. Drat.

So, does this mean that the Charleston Tea Party of 1858 never happened? You know, when they dressed up like Cherokee and dumped the tea into Charleston harbor?

How disappointing.

Next thing you'll do is tell me the Charleston Massacre is a hoax too...

:frown:
 

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Right here.
Pretty much the same reasons why Americans started the Revolutionary War.

FELLOW CITIZENS: Eighty-six years ago the fourth of July was consecrated and distinguished among all the days of the year as the birthday, of American liberty and Independence. The fathers of the Republic recommended that this day be celebrated with joy and gladness by the whole American people, to their latest posterity. Probably not one of those fathers ever dreamed that this hallowed day could possibly be made to witness the strange and portentous Events now transpiring before our eyes, and which even now cast a cloud of more than midnight blackness over the face of the whole country. We are the observers of strange and fearful transactions.

Never was this national anniversary celebrated in circumstances more trying, more momentous, more solemn and perilous, than those by which this nation is now so strongly environed. We present to the world at this moment, the painful spectacle of a great nation, undergoing all the bitter pangs of a gigantic and bloody revolution. We are torn and rent asunder, we are desolated by large and powerful armies of our own kith and kin, converted into desperate and infuriated rebels and traitors, more savage, more fierce and brutal in their modes of warfare, than any recognized barbarians making no pretensions to civilization.

In the presence of this troubled and terrible state of the country, in the appalling jar and rumbling of this social Earthquake, when sorrow and sighing are heard throughout our widely extended borders, when the wise and brave men of the land are everywhere deeply and sadly contemplating this solemn crisis as one which may permanently decide the fate of the nation I should greatly transgress the law of fitness, and violate my own feelings and yours, if I should on this occasion attempt to entertain you by delivering anything of the usual type of our 4th of July orations.

The hour is one for sobriety, thoughtfulness and stern truthfulness. When the house is on fire, when destruction is spreading its baleful wings everywhere, when helpless women and children are to be rescued from devouring flames a true man can neither have ear nor heart for anything but the thrilling and heart rending, cry for help. Our country is now on fire. No man can now tell what the future will bring forth. The question now is whether this great Republic before it has reached a century from its birth, is to fall in the wake of unhappy Mexico, and become the constant theatre of civil war or whether it shall become like old Spain, the mother of Mexico, and by folly and cruelty part with its renown among the nations of the earth, and spend the next seventy years in vainly attempting to regain what it has lost in the space of this one slaveholding rebellion.

Looking thus at the state of the country, I know of no better use to which I can put this sacred day, I know of no higher duty resting upon me, than to enforce my views and convictions, and especially to hold out to reprobation, the short sighted and ill judged, and inefficient modes adopted to suppress the rebels. The past may be dismissed with a single word. The claims of our fathers upon our memory, admiration and gratitude, are founded in the fact that they wisely, and bravely, and successfully met the crisis of their day. And if the men of this generation would deserve well of posterity they must like their fathers, discharge the duties and responsibilities of their age.

Men have strange notions now[a]days as to the manner of showing their respect for the heroes of the past. They everywhere prefer the form to the substance, the seeming to the real. One of our Generals, and some of our editors seem to think that the fathers are honored by guarding a well, from which those fathers may have taken water, or the house in which they may have passed a single night, while our sick soldiers need pure water, and are dying in the open fields for water and shelter. This is not honoring, but dishonoring your noble dead. Nevertheless, I would not even in words do violence to the grand events, and thrilling associations, that gloriously cluster around the birth of our national Independence. There is no need of any such violence. The thought of to-day and the work of to-day, are alike linked, and interlinked with the thought and work of the past. The conflict between liberty and slavery, between civilization ad barbarism, between enlightened progress and stolid indifference and inactivity is the same in all countries, in all ages, and among all peoples. Your fathers drew the sword for free and independent Government, Republican in its form, Democratic in its spirit, to be administered by officers duly elected by the free and unbought suffrages of the people; and the war of to-day on the part of the loyal north, the east and the west, is waged for the same grand and all commanding objects. We are only continuing the tremendous struggle, which your fathers, and my fathers began eighty-six years ago. Thus identifying the present with the past, I propose to consider the great present question, uppermost and all absorbing in all minds and hearts throughout the land.

I shall speak to you of the origin, the nature, the objects of this war, the manner of conducting, and its possible and probably results.


ORIGIN OF THE WAR
It is hardly necessary at this very late day of this war, and in view of all the discussion through the press and on the platform which has transpired concerning it, to enter now upon any elaborate enquiry or explanation as to whence came this foul and guilty attempt to break up and destroy the national Government. All but the willfully blind or the malignantly traitorous, know and confess that this whole movement, which now so largely distracts the country, and threatens ruin to the nation, has its root and its sap, its trunk and its branches, and the bloody fruit it bears only from the one source of all abounding abomination, and that is slavery. It has sprung out of a malign selfishness and a haughty and imperious pride which only the practice of the most hateful oppression and cruelty could generate and develop. No ordinary love of gain, no ordinary love of power, could have stirred up this terrible revolt. The legitimate objects of property, such as houses, lands, fruits of the earth, the products of art, science and invention, powerful as they are, could never have stirred and kindled this malignant flame, and set on fire this rebellious fury. The monster was brought to its birth, by pride, lust and cruelty which could not brook the sober restraints of law, order and justice. The monster publishes its own parentage. Grim and hideous as this rebellion is, its shocking practices, digging up the bones of our dead soldiers slain in battle, making drinking vessels out of their skulls, drumsticks out of their arm bones, slaying our wounded soldiers on the field of carnage, when their gaping wounds appealed piteously for mercy, poisoning wells, firing upon unarmed men, stamp it with all the horrid characteristics of the bloody and barbarous system and society from which it derived its life.

Of course you know, and I know that there have been and still are, certain out of the way places here at the north, where rebels, in the smooth disguise of loyal men, do meet and promulgate a very opposite explanation of the origin of this war, and that grave attempts have been made to refute their absurd theories. I once heard Hon. Edward Everett entertain a large audience by a lengthy and altogether unnecessary argument to prove that the south did not revolt on account of the fishing bounty paid to northern fisherman, nor because of any inequalities or discriminations in the revenue laws. It was the Irishman's gun aimed at nothing and hitting it every time. Yet the audience seemed pleased with the learning and skill of the orator, and I among the number, though I hope to avoid his bad example in the use of time.

There is however one false theory of the origin of the war to which a moment's reply may be properly given here. It is this. The abolitionists by their insane and unconstitutional attempt to abolish slavery, have brought on the war. All that class of men who opposed what they were pleased to call coercion at the first, and a vigorous prosecution of the war at the present, charge the war directly to the abolitionists. In answer to this charge, I lay down this rule as a basis to which all candid men will assent. Whatever is said or done by any class of citizens, strictly in accordance with rights guaranteed by the constitution, cannot be fairly charged as against the union, or as inciting to a dissolution of the Union.

Now the slaveholders came into the union with their eyes wide open, subject to a constitution wherein the right to be abolitionists was sacredly guaranteed to all the people. They knew that slavery was to take its chance with all other evils against the power of free speech, and national enlightenment. They came on board the national ship subject to these conditions, they signed the articles after having duly read them, and the fact that those rights, plainly written, have been exercised is no apology whatever for the slaveholders' mutiny and their attempt to lay piratical hands on the ship, and its officers. When therefore I hear a man denouncing abolitionists on account of the war, I know that I am listening to a man who either does not know what he is talking about, or to one who is a traitor in disguise.


THE NATURE OF THE REBELLION.
There is something quite distinct and quite individual in the nature and character of this rebellion. In its motives and objects it stands entirely alone, in the annals of great social disturbances. Rebellion is no new thing under the sun. The best governments in the world are liable to these terrible social disorders. All countries have experienced them. Generally however, rebellions are quite respectable in the eyes of the world, and very properly so. They naturally command the sympathy of mankind, for generally they are on the side of progress. They would overthrow and remove some old and festering abuse not to be otherwise disposed of, and introduce a higher civilization, and a larger measure of liberty among men. But this rebellion is in no wise analogous to such. The pronounced and ****ing peculiarity of the present rebellion, is found in the fact, that it was conceived, undertaken, planned, and persevered in, for the guilty purpose of handing down to the latest generations the accursed system of human bondage. Its leaders have plainly told us by words as well as by deeds, that they are fighting for slavery. They have been stirred to this perfidious revolt, by a certain deep and deadly hate, which they warmly cherish toward every possible contradiction of slavery whether found in theory or in practice. For this cause they hate free society, free schools, free states, free speech, the freedom asserted in the declaration of independence, and guaranteed in the constitution. Herein is the whole secret of the rebellion. The plan is and was to withdraw the slave system from the hated light of liberty, and from the natural operations of free principles. While the slaveholders could hold the reins of government they could and did pervert the free principles of the constitution to slavery, and could afford to continue in the union, but when they saw that they could no longer control the union as they had done for sixty years before, they appealed to the sword and struck for a government which should forever shut out all light from the southern conscience, and all hope of Emancipation from the southern slave. This rebellion therefore, has no point of comparison with that which has brought liberty to American, or with those of Europe, which have been undertaken from time to time, to throw off the galling yoke of despotism. It stands alone in its infamy.

Our slaveholding rebels with an impudence only belonging to themselves, have sometimes compared themselves to Washington, Jefferson, and the long list of worthies who led in the revolution of 1776, when in fact they would hang either of those men if they were no living, as traitors to slavery, because, they each and all, considered the system an evil.
 

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Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Right here.
THE CONFLICT UNAVOIDABLE.
I hold that this conflict is the logical and inevitable result of a long and persistent course of national transgression. Once in a while you will meet with men who will tell you that this war ought to have been avoided. In telling you this, they only make the truth serve the place and perform the office of a lie. I too say that this war ought never to have taken place. The combustible material which has produced this terrible explosion ought long ago to have been destroyed. For thirty years the abolitionists have earnestly sought to remove this guilty cause of our troubles. There was a time when this might have been done, and the nation set in permanent safety. Opportunities have not been wanting. They have passed by unimproved. They have sometimes been of a character to suggest they very work which might have saved us from all the dreadful calamities, the horrors and bloodshed, of this war. Events, powerful orators, have eloquently pleaded with the American people to put away the hateful slave system. For doing this great work we have had opportunities innumerable. One of these was presented upon the close of the war for Independence; the moral sentiment of the country was purified by that great struggle for national life. At that time slavery was young and small, the nation might have easily abolished it, and thus relieved itself forever of this alien element, the only disturbing and destructive force in our republican system of Government. Again there was another opportunity, for putting away this evil in 1789, when we assembled to form the Constitution of the United States. At that time the anti-slavery sentiment was strong both in church and State, and many believed that by giving slavery no positive recognition in the Constitution and providing for the abolition of the slave trade, they had given slavery its death blow already. They made the great mistake of supposing that the existence of the slave trade was necessary to the existence of slavery, and having provided that the slave trade should cease, they flattered themselves, that slavery itself must also speedily cease. They did not comprehend the radical character of the evil. Then again in 1819 the Missouri question gave us another opportunity to seal the doom of the slave system, by simply adhering to the early policy of the fathers and sternly refusing the admission of another State into the Union with a Constitution tolerating slavery. Had this been done in the case of Missouri, we should not now be cursed with this terrible rebellion. Slavery would have fallen into gradual decay. The moral sentiment of the country, instead of being vitiated as it is, would have been healthy and strong against the slave system. Political parties and politicians would not as they have done since, courted the slave power for votes and thus increased the importance of slavery.

THE FIRST PALPABLE DEPARTURE FROM RIGHT POLICY.
The date of the Missouri Compromise forms the beginning of that political current which has swept us on to this rebellion, and made the conflict unavoidable. From this dark date in our nation's history, there started forth a new political and social power. Until now slavery had been on its knees, only asking time to die in peace. But the Missouri Compromise gave it a new lease of life. It became at once a tremendous power. The line of thirty-six degrees, thirty minutes, at once stamped itself upon our national politics, our morals, manners, character and religion. From this time there was a south side to everything American, and the country was at once subjected to the slave power, a power as restless and vigilant as the eye of an escaping murderer. We became under its sway an illogical nation. Pure and simple truth lost its attraction for us. We became a nation of Compromisers.

It is curious to remark the similarity of national, to individual demoralization. A man sets out in life with honest principles and with high purposes inspired at the family hearthstone, and for a time steadily and scrupulously keeps them in view. But at last under the influence of some powerful temptation he is induced to violate his principles and push aside his sense of right. The water from the first moment is smooth about him, but soon he finds himself in the rapids. He has lost his footing. The broad flood, resistless as the power of fate, sweeps him onward, from bad to worse, he becomes more hardened, blind and shameless in his crimes till he is overtaken by dire calamity, and at last sinks to ruin. Precisely this has been the case with the American people. No people ever entered upon the pathway of nations, with higher and grader ideas of justice, liberty and humanity than ourselves. There are principles in the Declaration of Independence which would release every slave in the world and prepare the earth for a millennium of righteousness and peace. But alas! We have seen that declaration intended to be viewed like some colossal statue at the loftiest altitude, by the broad eye of the whole world, meanly subjected to a microscopic examination and its glorious universal truths craftily perverted into seeming falsehoods. Instead of treating it, as it was intended to be treated, as a full and comprehensive declaration of the equal and sacred rights of mankind, our contemptible negro-hating and slaveholding critics, have endeavored to turn it into absurdity by treating it as a declaration of the equality of man in his physical proportions and mental endowments. This gross and scandalous perversion of the true intents of meaning of the declaration did not long stand alone. It was soon followed by the heartless dogma, that the rights declared in that instrument did not apply to any but white men. The slave power at last succeeded, in getting this doctrine proclaimed from the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States. It was there decided that "all men" only means some men, and those white men. And all this in face of the fact, that white people only form one fifth of the whole human family—and that some who pass for white are nearly as black as your humble speaker. While all this was going on, lawyers, priests and politicians were at work upon national prejudice against the colored man. They raised the cry and put it into the mouth of the ignorant, and vulgar and narrow minded, that "this is the white man's country," and other cries which readily catch the ear of the crowd. This popular method of dealing with an oppressed people has while crushing the blacks, corrupted and demoralized the whites. It has cheered on the slave power, increased its pride and pretension, till ripe for the foulest treason against the life of the nation. Slavery, that was before the Missouri Compromise couchant, on its knees, asking meekly to be let alone within its own limits to die, became in a few years after rampant, throttling free speech, fighting friendly Indians, annexing Texas, warring with Mexico, kindling with malicious hand the fires of war and bloodshed on the virgin soil of Kansas, and finally threatening to pull down the pillars of the Republic, if you Northern men should dare vote in accordance with your constitutional and political convictions. You know the history, I will not dwell upon it. What I have said, will suffice to indicate the point at which began the downward career of the Republic. It will be seen that it began by bartering away an eternal principle of right for present peace. We undertook to make slavery the full equal of Liberty, and to place it on the same footing of political right with Liberty. It was by permitting the dishonor of the Declaration of Independence, denying the rights of human nature to the man of color, and by yielding to the extravagant pretensions, set up by the slaveholder under the plausible color of State rights. In a word it was by reversing the wise and early policy of the nation, which was to confine slavery to its original limits, and thus leave the system to die out under the gradual operation of the principles of the constitution and the spirit of the age. Ten years had not elapsed, after this compromise, when the demon disunion lifted its ugly front, in the shape of nullification. The plotters of this treason, undertook the work of disunion at that time as an experiment. They took the tariff, as the basis of action. The tariff was selected, not that it was the real object, but on the wisdom of the barber, who trains his green hands on wooden heads before allowing them to handle the razor on the faces of living men.

You know the rest. The experiment did not succeed. Those who attempted it were thirty years before their time. There was no BUCHANAN in the Presidential chair, and no COBBS, and FLOYDS in the Cabinet. CALHOUN and his treasonable associates were promptly assured, on the highest authority that their exit out of the Union was possible only by one way and that by way of the Gallows. They were defeated, but not permanently. They dropped the tariff and openly adopted slavery as the ostensible, as well as the real ground of disunion. After thirty years of persistent preparatory effort, they have been able under the fostering care of a traitorous Democratic President, to inaugurate at last this enormous rebellion. I will not stop here to pour out loyal indignation on that arch traitor, who while he could find power in the Constitution to hunt down innocent men all over the North for violating the thrice accursed fugitive slave Bill, could find no power in the Constitution to punish slaveholding traitors and rebels, bent upon the destruction of the Government. That bad old man is alread6y receiving a taste of the punishment due to his crimes. To live amid all the horrors, resulting from his treachery is of itself a terrible punishment. He lives without his country's respect. He lives a despised old man. He is no doubt still a traitor, but a traitor without power, a serpent without fangs, and in the agony of his torture and helplessness will probably welcome the moment which shall remove him from the fiery vision of the betrayed and half ruined country.
 

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Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Right here.
THE CONDUCT OF THE WAR.
To-day we have to deal not with dead traitors, such as James Buchanan, Howell Cobb, Floyd, Thompson and others, but with a class of men incomparably more dangerous to the country. They are our weak, paltering and incompetent rulers in the Cabinet at Washington and our rebel worshipping Generals in the field, the men who sacrifice the brave loyal soldiers of the North by thousands, while refusing to employ the black man's arm in suppressing the rebels, for fear of exasperating these rebels: men who never interfere with the orders of Generals, unless those orders strike at slavery, the heart of the Rebellion. These are the men to whom we have a duty to discharge to-day, when the country is bleeding at every pore, and when disasters thick and terrible convert this national festal day, into a day of alarm and mourning. I do not underrate the power of the rebels, nor the vastness of the work required for suppressing them. Jefferson Davis is a powerful man, but Jefferson Davis has no such power to blast the hope and break down the strong heart of this nation, as that possessed and exercised by ABRAHAM LINCOLN. With twenty millions of men behind him, with wealth and resources at his command such as might pride the heart of the mightiest monarch of Europe, and with a cause which kindles in every true heart the fires of valor and patriotism, we have a right to hold Abraham Lincoln, sternly responsible for any disaster or failure attending the suppression of this rebellion. I hold that the rebels can do us no serious harm, unless it is done through the culpable weakness, imbecility or unfaithfulness of those who are charged with the high duty, of seeing that the Supreme Law of the land is everywhere enforced and obeyed. Common sense will confess that five millions ought not to be a match for twenty millions. I know of nothing in the mettle of the slaveholder which should make him superior in any of the elements of a warrior to an honest Northern man. One slaveholder ought not longer to be allowed to maintain the boast that he is equal to three Northern men: and yet that boast will not be entirely empty, if we allow those five millions much longer to thwart all our efforts to put them down. It will be most mortifyingly shown that after all our appliances, our inventive genius, our superior mechanical skill, our great industry, our muscular energy, our fertility in strategy, our vast powers of endurance, our overwhelming numbers, and admitted bravery, that the eight or ten rebel slave States, sparsely populated, and shut out from the world by our possession of the sea, are invincible to the arms, of the densely populated, and every way powerful twenty free States. I repeat, these rebels can do nothing against us, cannot harm a single hair of the national head, if the men at Washington, the President and Cabinet, and the commanding Generals in the field will but earnestly do their most obvious duty. I repeat Jeff. Davis and his malignant slaveholding Republic, can do this union no harm except by the permission of the reigning powers at Washington.

I am quite aware that some who hear me will question the wisdom of any criticisms upon the conduct of this war at this time and will censure me for making them. I do not dread those censures. I have on many occasions, since the war began, held my breath when even the stones of the street would seem to cry out. I can do so no longer. I believe in the absence of martial law, a citizen may properly express an opinion as to the manner in which our Government has conducted, and is still conducting this war. I hold that it becomes this country, the men who have to shed their blood and pour out their wealth to sustain the Government at this crisis, to look very sharply into the movements of the men who have our destiny in their hands.

Theoretically this is a responsible Government. Practically it can be made the very reverse. Experience demonstrates that our safety as a nation depends upon our holding every officer of the nation strictly responsible to the people for the faithful performance of duty. This war has developed among other bad tendencies, a tendency to shut our eyes to the mistakes and blunders of those in power. When the President has avowed a policy, sanctioned a measure, or commended a general, we have been told that his action must be treated as final. I scout this assumption. A doctrine more slavish and abject than this does not obtain under the walls of St. Peter's. Even in the Rebel States, the Confederate Government is sharply criticized, and Jefferson Davis is held to a rigid responsibility. There is no reason of right or of sound policy for a different course towards the Federal Government. Our rulers are the agents of the people. They are fallible men. They need instruction from the people, and it is no evidence of a factions disposition that any man presumes to condemn a public measure if in his judgment that measure is opposed to the public good.

This is already an old war. The statesmanship at Washington with all its admitted wisdom and sagacity, utterly failed for a long time to comprehend the nature and extent of this rebellion. Mr. Lincoln and his Cabinet will have by and by to confess with many bitter regrets, that they have been equally blind and mistaken as to the true method of dealing with the rebels. They have fought the rebels with the Olive branch. The people must teach them to fight them with the sword. They have sought to conciliate obedience. The people must teach them to compel obedience.

There are many men connected with the stupendous work of suppressing this slaveholding rebellion, and it is the right of the American people to keep a friendly and vigilant eye upon them all, but there are three men in the nation, from whose conduct the attention of the people should never be withdrawn: the first is President Lincoln, the Commander in chief of the army and navy. The single word of this man can set a million of armed men in motion: He can make and unmake generals, can lift up or cast down at will. The other two men are MCCLELLAN, AND HALLECK. Between these two men nearly a half a million of your brave and loyal sons are divided. The one on the Potomac and the other on the Mississippi. They are the two extended arms of the nation, stretched out to save the Union.

Are those two men loyal? are they in earnest? are they competent? We have a right, and it is our duty to make these inquiries, and report and act in reference to them according to the truth.

Whatever may be said of the loyalty or competency of McClellan, I am fully persuaded by his whole course that he is not in earnest against the rebels, that he is to-day, as heretofore, in war, as in peace a real pro-slavery Democrat. His whole course proves that his sympathies are with the rebels, and that his ideas of the crisis make him unfit for the place he holds. He kept the army of the Potomac standing still on that river, marching and countermarching, giving show parades during six months. He checked and prevented every movement which was during that time proposed against the rebels East and West.

Bear in mind the fact that this is a slaveholding rebellion, bear in mind that slavery is the very soul and life of all the vigor which the rebels have thus far been able to throw into their daring attempt to overthrow and ruin this country. Bear in mind that in time of war, it is the right and duty of each belligerent to adopt that course which will strengthen himself and weaken his enemy.

Bear in mind also that nothing could more directly and powerfully tend to break down the rebels, and put an end to the struggle than the Insurrection or the running away of a large body of their slaves, and the, read General McClellan's proclamation, declaring that any attempt at a rising of the slaves against their rebel masters would be put down, and put down with an iron hand. Let it be observed too, that it has required the intervention of Congress, by repeated resolutions to prevent this General from converting the Army of the Potomac from acting as the slave dogs of the rebels, and that even now while our army are compelled to drink water from muddy swamps, and from the Pamunky river, forbidden by George B. McClellan to take pure water from the Rebel General LEE's well. Let it be understood that Northern loyal soldiers, have been compelled by the orders of this same General, to keep guard over the property of a leading rebel, because of a previous understanding between the loyal, and the traitor General. Bear in mind the fact that this General has, in deference to the slaveholding rebels, forbidden the singing of anti-slavery songs in his camp, and you will learn that this General's ideas of the demands of the hour are most miserably below the mark, and unfit for the place he fills. Take another fact into account, General McClellan is at this moment the favorite General of the Richardsons, the Ben Woods, the Vallandighams, and the whole school of pro-slavery Buchanan politicians of the north, and that he is reported in the Richmond Dispatch, to have said that he hated to war upon Virginia, and that he would far rather war against Massachusetts. This statement of the Richmond Dispatch in itself is not worth much, but if we find as I think we do find, in General McClellan's every movement an apparent reluctance to strike at Virginia rebels, we may well fear that his words have been no better than his deeds. Again, take the battles fought by him and under his order, and in every instance the rebels have been able to claim a victory, and to show as many prisoners and spoils taken as we. At Ball's Bluff, McClellan's first battle on the Potomac, it is now settled, that our troops were marched up only to be slaughtered. Nine hundred and thirty of our brave northern soldiers were deliberately murdered, as much so as if they had each been stabbed, bayoneted, shot, or otherwise killed when asleep by some midnight assassin, for they were so ordered and handled, that they were perfectly harmless to their deadly foes, and helpless in their own defense. Then the battle of Seven Pines, where General Casey's Division was pushed out like an extended finger four miles beyond the lines of our army, towards the rebels, as if for no other purpose than to be cut to pieces or captured by the rebels, and then the haste with which this same Division was censured by Gen. McClellan, are facts looking all the same way. This is only one class of facts. They are not the only facts, nor the chief ones that shake my faith in the General of the Army of the Potomac.

Unquestionably, Time is the mightiest ally that the rebels can rely on. Every month they can hold out against the Government gives them power at home, and prestige abroad, and increases the probabilities of final success. Time favors foreign intervention, time favors heavy taxation upon the loyal people, time favors reaction, and a clamor for peace. Time favors fevers, and pestilence, wasting and destroying our army. Therefore time, time is the great ally of the rebels.

Now I undertake to say that General McClellan has from the beginning so handled the Army of the Potomac as to give the rebels the grand advantage of time. From the time he took command of the Potomac army in August 1861 until now, he has been the constant cause of delay, and probably would not have moved when he did, but that he was compelled to move or be removed. Then behold his movement. He moved upon Manassas when the enemy had been gone from there seven long days. When he gets there he is within sixty miles of Richmond. Does he go on? Oh! no, but he just says hush, to the press and the people, I am going to do something transcendentally brilliant in strategy. Three weeks pass away, and knowing ones wink and smile as much as to say you will see something wonderful soon. And so indeed we do; at the end of three weeks we find that General McClellan has actually marched back from Manassas to the Potomac, gotten together an endless number of vessels at a cost of untold millions, to transport his troops to Yorktown, where he is just as near to Richmond and not a bit nearer than he was just three weeks before, and where he is opposed by an army every way as strongly posted as any he could have met with by marching straight to Richmond from Manassas. Here we have two hundred and thirty thousand men moved to attack empty fortifications, and moved back again.

Now what is the state of facts concerning the nearly four months of campaign between the James and the York Rivers? The first is that Richmond is not taken, and in all the battles yet fought, the rebels have claimed them as victories. We have lost between thirty and forty thousand men, and the general impression is that there is an equal chance that our army will be again repulsed before Richmond, and driven away.

You may not go the length that I do, in regard to Gen. McClellan, at this time, but I feel quite sure that this country will yet come to the conclusion that Geo. B. McClellan, is either a cold-blooded Traitor, or that he is an unmitigated military Impostor. He has shown no heart in his conduct, except when doing something directly in favor of the rebels, such as guarding their persons and property and offering his service to suppress with an iron hand any attempt on the part of the slaves against their rebel masters.


THE POLICY OF THE ADMINISTRATION.
I come now to the policy of President Lincoln in reference to slavery. An Administration without a policy, is confessedly an administration without brains, since while a thing is to be done, it implies a known way to do it and he who professes his ability to do it, but cannot show how it is to be done, confesses his own imbecility. I do not undertake to say that the present administration has no policy, but if it has, the people have a right to know what it is, and to approve or disapprove of it as they shall deem it wise or unwise.

Now the policy of an administration can be learned in two ways. The first by what it says, and the second by what it does, and the last is far more certain and reliable, than the first. It is by what President Lincoln has done in reference to slavery, since he assumed the reins of government that we are to know what he is likely to do, and deems best to do in the premises. We all know how he came into power. He was elected and inaugurated as the representative of the anti-slavery policy of the Republican party. He had laid down and maintained the doctrine that Liberty and Slavery were the great antagonistic political elements in this country. That the Union of these States could not long continue half free and half slave, that they must in the end be all free or all slave.
 
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