Slavery caused The Civil War
“Slavery, of all property in the world, most needs the protection of a friendly government. As well commit the lamb to the protection of the wolf, as slavery to the protection of a Government hostile to it.”
The following is a speech by the delegate, T. J. WHARTON, from Mississippi (a slave state) to the Tennessee legislature to encourage Tennessee (a sister slave state) to secede from the Union of the United States of America January 1861 and form a “Southern Confederacy” of slave holding states:
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Senate and of the House of Representatives of Tennessee —Returning to my native State, after many years residence abroad, I am profoundly grateful for the cordial reception extended to me by his Excellency, the Governor, and the assembled Representatives of the people.
I know, however, and am proud to acknowledge that the compliment is not intended for me personally, but for the State which I have the honor to represent on this occasion. In her name, and by her authority, I come to commune with you in reference to the fearful political crisis which has befallen our common country, in the hope that the co-operation of Tennessee may be secured in the effort to preservethe rights, the honor and independence of the slaveholding States of this Confederacy.
I am charged, in the language of my commission, to inform your honorable body, and the people of the State you represent, that the Legislature of Mississippi has passed an act calling a Convention of the people of the State to consider the present threatening relations of the Northern and Southern sections of the Confederacy, aggravated by the recent election of a President upon principles of hostility to the States of the South, and to express the earnest hope of Mississippi that Tennessee will co-operate with her in the adoption of efficient measures for the common defence (sic) and safety of the States thus threatened. That Convention assembled on the 7th inst., and is now in session deliberating upon the action contemplated by the Legislature in the act which called it into being.
I am charged also to present certain resolutions adopted, almost without a dissenting voice, enumerating the grievances of which they complain, and prescribing the remedy for the same. Each of the measures thus adopted has received the sanction of the people, in an election held on the 20th ult (sic).
A popular majority of not less than 18,000, and a majority in the Convention of from 60 to 70, have cordially endorsed the action of the Legislature in the premises.
Notwithstanding the differences of opinion that exist amongst us as to the character of the remedy proposed, there is but one sentiment as to the necessity of prompt and efficient action. That unanimity of sentiment prevailed even before the recent startling events which have occurred in South Carolina. Probably there is not in the State a man who does not feel that the argument is exhausted; that it is in vain longer to remind the dominant majority of the North of their repealed violations of the Constitutional rights of the South, of the consideration upon which the South acquiesced in the compromise measures of 1850-51, which at the time convulsed and so nearly dissolved the Union.
The most distinguished leaders of the party opposed to the immediate and separate secession of the State, unhesitatingly denounced the election of Mr. Lincoln as a declaration of war against the Southern States, and indignantly repelled the thought of submitting to it.
Indeed, they pointed to the necessity of a Southern Confederacy, and only sought the co-operation of Southern States, and to secure that recommended that a Convention of such States should be held.
Her sovereign voice can only be inferred from the known and declared sentiments of the delegates who hare been elected. In a few days, if not ere this, the Convention will give expression to it in the most solemn and authoritative form. When that has been done it will be the command of the sovereign, which, like the fiat of the Omnipotent, challenges the obedience of every citizen.
That obedience will be rendered, not grudgingly, but with alacrity. Already the public mind is expecting it, and is prepared for it.
Forgetting all past political dissensions, her sons will gather round her standard, and vieing (sic) with each other in demonstrations of loyalty and affection, there swear eternal fidelity to her sacred cause.
Without repeating the almost innumerable instances in which the anti-slavery sentiment of the North has invaded the constitutional rights of the people of the South, many of which are set forth in the preamble to the resolutions adopted by the Legislature of Mississippi, I may say its aggressive spirit has culminated in the recent Presidential election.
It is not the mere election of Lincoln—insulting as that of itself would be, in view of the offensive sentiments he has uttered. and is known to entertain—which has awakened that tornado of popular indignation which is now sweeping over the South. It is not the mere platform, upon which he was nominated—infamous as that is to the Southern man but it is the determined, aggressive spirit of Abolition, underlying and sustaining the party which has secured his triumph and the overthrow of the Constitution. It is the unappeasable hatred which that party cherishes, and has ever cherished, for slavery and the slaveholder, that proclaims to us that there is an “irrepressible conflict” between them and us. It is that the Chair of State, once occupied by Washington, is to be desecrated by the chief of a party which has risen upon the principle of denying to the citizens of fifteen sovereign States that equality of rights secured to them in the common property of all the States. It is that an institution existing at the formation of the Constitution, and now the foundation of the wealth, prosperity and happiness of twelve millions of people, is to be outlawed, and the moral sentiment of the world invoked to make it, and those who tolerate it, hateful. It is that the President elect owes his triumph to such a party, that he has pandered to such a sentiment, and that the Government is to be administered for such a purpose, that the State of Mississippi has resolved —whatever may be the issue—fearlessly to appeal to the God of battles, the justice of her cause, and the arbitrament of mankind. Come what may, though it should cost every drop of blood and every cent of property, she will never submit to the domination of such a party and of such a chief.
In that appeal, she invokes no sympathy or compassion. She has fully counted the cost of resistance. She has not rashly taken her position. A necessity too stern and imperious to be disregarded, demands that she should assume the, guardianship of her own rights and honor. She will never consent that either shall be under the control of a government hostile to her and hers. She ardently desires the co-operation of her sisters, having a common interest and destiny. She defies and despises the malice of her foes. She has sent commissioners to all the slaveholding States to invite their co-operation in defense of common rights against a common enemy. She bids me, as her representative, say to her chivalrous sister, Tennessee, that she has too often illustrated her heroism in arms, and her wisdom in council, to doubt that, as upon the deathless plains of Chalmette and at the storming of Monterey they stood shoulder to shoulder, they will be separated now when the holiest cause that ever inspired the human heart, summons them to the conflict.
Mississippi knows and appreciates the loyalty to the Union which has ever distinguished her sister. The sentiment has an abiding place in her own bosom. To it she is ready to sacrifice everything which a proud sovereign State may or dare sacrifice of ease, comfort or convenience. Her honor and constitutional rights she may not, dare not surrender. For the honor of the National Government, she has sacrificed hecatombs of her best sons. To vindicate her own honor she is ready to sacrifice her last son, and herself disappear from the map of nations. She bids me say that “she loves and cherishes the Union; that she remembers, with the kindest feelings, our common origin, with pride our common achievements, and has fondly anticipated the common greatness and glory which has seemed to await us; but that origin, achievements and anticipation of coming greatness, are to us as nothing compared to this question that it is to us a vital question; that it involves not only our liberty, but what is greater (if to freemen anything can be) existence itself.” So, viewing it and despairing of a returning sense of justice with her haughty and victorious foe, she has determined to welcome death rather than submission. She considers a dissolution of the Union a great though not the greatest calamity. In the language of her own warrior statesman, the fearless, the chivalrous Davis.
“She would cling tenaciously to our constitutional government seeing as she does, in the fraternal union of equal States the benefit to all, and the fulfillment of that high destiny which our fathers hoped for and left it for their sons to attain. She has seen the national flag surrounded by the flags of foreign countries and the pulsations of her heart have beat quicker with every breeze which displayed its honored stripes and brilliant constellation. She has looked with veneration on those stripes, as recording the original size of our political family, and with pride upon that constellation, ay marking the family’s growth. She glories in the position her own star holds in the group, but sooner than see its lustre (sic) dimmed; sooner than see it degraded from its present equality, she would tear it from its place, to be set even on the perilous edge of battle, as a sign round which her bravest and best should gather to the harvest home of death.”
What has transpired since the election to encourage the hope that the dangers apprehended from the triumph of the Black Republican party are disappearing or diminishing? Whilst prayers and supplications are going up from the hearts of patriots that He who stilleth the tempest and rules in the armies of men, would disperse the dark storm-cloud which overshadows the land whilst the silent watches of land; whilst the silent watches of the night have attested the zeal of venerated statesmen to concert measures to preserve alike the Union of the States and the rights of the South, what indication have our enemies given of a willingness on their part to recede from the position which has caused all the danger? Go to their organs—of the public press—and to their speakers on the floor of Congress, and catch the haughty contempt with which they treat a suggestion that their platform shall be modified, or the offensive State enactments of which we complain, repealed. They are themselves ready to denounce their chosen chief as a traitor, if in the policy upon which he shall administer the government, he fail to carry out the platform on which lie was nominated, or should, for a moment, yield to the “insolent demands of a hateful slave oligarchy.” Catch the exultant note with which they hailed his election, as the final overthrow of slavery.
Hear the swelling chorus borne on every breeze to every laud proclaiming the first triumph of the party which should, at no distant day, inaugurate the reign of equality of all races and colors, and the universality of the elective franchise. Look at their President elect, whose silence since his election, and during the canvass, has been as profound as it is ominous. Read his last last deliverances to the public ear. As late as the I6th of April, 1859, he said: “This is a world of compensation, and he who would be no slave must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves and under a just God cannot long retain it.” But once during the canvass was his voice heard, which was when he spoke at his own door to his neighbors and friends. At Springfield the last of July, or early in August, he was put forward very unexpectedly, and spoke with less than his accustomed caution. He said: “My friends you will fight for this cause four years hence, as you now fight for it though I may be dead and gone.”
Commenting upon this speech a distinguished son of Pennsylvania, loyal to the constitution as a compact between the States, said: “There is, then, to be no repose, no settlement, no fidelity under his administration. The ‘fight’ is to go on—nay, it is to be stronger then than now. Not content with victory of the compact North over the stricken and insulted South, the arms are not to be laid aside—the array is not to be broken—peace and conciliation are not even hinted. Domestic slavery, driven by a triumphant Executive and Congressional majority from the Territories, is to be beleagured (sic) in the States. It is to exist by sufferance—it is to be destroyed by compression, and the varnished, plausible and deceptive Republicanism of 1864 is to become the aggressive Abolition of 1864. So says Mr. Lincoln, if his language has any meaning:
In order that you may see what will be the policy of his administration, I state Mr. Lincoln’s position in his own words. He says:
“It is my opinion, it (the slavery agitation) [their commentary not mine] will not cease, until a crisis has been reached and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the house to fall. But I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course to ultimate extinction or its advocates will push it forward until it shall become alike lawful in all the States old and new, North as well as South.
Again he says:
“I embrace with pleasure the opportunity of declaring my disapprobation of that clause of the Constitution winch denies a portion of the colored people the right of suffrage.”
“True Democracy makes no inquiry about the color of the skin, or place of nativity, or any other circumstance or condition. I regard, therefore, the exclusion of the colored people, as a body, from the elective franchise, as incompatible with true Democratic principles.”
And yet again, with still greater emphasis, and explicitness:
“That no man is good enough to govern another man, without the other’s consent. I say this is the leading principle—the SHEET ANCHOR of American Republicanism.
The master not only governs the slave without his consent, but he governs him by a set of rules altogether different from those which he prescribes for himself. Allow all the governed AN EQUAL FORCE IN THE GOVERNMENT, and that, and that only, is self-government.
For more on Lincoln and Slavery see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln_and_slavery
I advert to these extracts to show how vain and delusive the hope that a remorseless fanaticism, which has fastened its fangs in the vitals of the Constitution, will, in the flush of triumphs, stay its hand from farther and yet haughtier demands. Never, in the history of nations, has such a spirit paused or taken a step backward. It is unappeasable. It shows no Quarter. It takes no prisoners. It wages a war of extermination, more relentless than a war of races or of castes. It must be met with brave hearts and stout arms, and crushed out, or its desolating sweep over organized Governments will be more fearful than the unchained winds which rend forests and scatter fleets. Nearly a quarter of a century ago, when this voracious demon was in its swaddling clothes, and the nurses in charge made their first requisition upon Congress in the shape of Abolition Petitions, Mr. Calhoun raised his prophetic voice in words of wisdom and warning, which, if heeded, would have arrested the terrible catastrophe now imminent and unavoidable. He then declared that aggression should not be met by concession; that those who acted upon the principle that it should, were prepared to become slaves; that if an inch was conceded, concession would follow concession, compromise would follow compromise, until our ranks would be so broken that effectual resistance would be possible. He counseled that the enemy should be met on the frontier with a fixed determination to maintain our position at every hazard. Tracing the subsequent history and career of that spirit of oppression which had seized the Northern mind, he undertook to predict, that however sound the great body of the non-slaveholding States then were, that in the course of a few years they would be succeeded by those who will have been taught to hate the people and institutions of nearly one-half of this Union, with a hatred more deadly than one hostile nation ever entertained towards another. He said it was easy to sec the end. By the necessary course of events, if left to themselves, we must become finally, two people. It is impossible, under the deadly hatred which must spring up be- tween the two great sections, if the present causes are permitted to operate unchecked, that we should continue under the same political system. The conflicting elements would burst the Union asunder, as powerful as are the links which hold it together. Abolition and the Union cannot co-exist. As the friend of the Union, I openly proclaim it. and the sooner if is known the better. The former may now be controlled, but in a short time, it will be beyond the power of man to arrest the course of events. We of the South will not, cannot surrender our institutions. The subversion of them will drenched the country in blood, and extirpate one or other of the races. I quote his words, and as I repeat them who is not struck with the inspiration of his utterance, and the fulfillment of his prediction? What heart does not send up the prayer, “I would his counsels and warnings had been heeded.” But they were regarded at the time as the sickly abstractions of a dreamer and metaphysician.
Men. in their impotence to reach the height of this great argument, not gifted with his far reaching sagacity, adopted the opposite policy. “Others, for a while, seemed struggling ‘neath their arguments, he, from above, descending stooped to touch the loftiest thought.”
I have purposely avoided a discussion of the remedy proposed in the resolutions adopted by the Legislature of Mississippi. I know full well the sentiment which has long prevailed in Tennessee on that subject. I could not hope to change it, and I would not be understood as presuming to dictate. Besides, practical results are more to be desired than discussions of abstract propositions. It will make no difference as to the form of the remedy, or the name by which it is called, if we are animated by the same determined purpose, to maintain the rights of the South at whatever hazard or cost. We may find ourselves borne along by the current of events, and forced to defend what we might be unwilling to aid in producing.
My first and great concern, the chief object indeed of my mission, is to know that Tennessee, like Mississippi, will bear all. brave all but never submit to be ruled over by a Black Republican Administration. Events are crowding upon each other with startling rapidity. The Rubicon is already passed. Nulla retrorsum vestigia, is inscribed upon every shield and every helmet. South Carolina—aptly demonstrated the Harry Perey of the Union—has Hung to the wild winds free her banner of State independence, and back from the Spirit land comes the cheering war cry which nerved the arms and hearts of her Sumpters and Marions, her Pickens and Rutledges, now echoing in tones of thunder in the ears of their descendants—
“Strike, till the last armed foe expires, Strike for your altars and your fires,
Strike for the green graves of your sires––God and your native land.”
Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida. Texas, will catch the swelling refrain, and high above the croaking voice of submission, they will pledge hearts and hands to South Carolina—together march to victory and independence, or when the “last torch of liberty shall burn then sleep the night of death.” Aye, and Tennessee will enter the grand carnival—not with slow and measured tread, but with all her banners waving and ready to charge with all her chivalry. Before I could doubt it, I should have to obliterate the brightest pages of my country’s history—ignore the undying laurels with which fame decked the brow of the immortal Jackson, on the plains of Chalmette and the more recent, but undying harvest of glory which were gathered by her sons amidst the storming of Monterey. If such a doubt were forced upon my mind—as a native of the State—I would throw myself upon her bosom, and in the language of another. I would exclaim: Oh Earth, Earth, Earth! as did the Hebrew Prophet when wearied out with the perversity of his countrymen, he turned to his native soil and adjured that, to see if he could not arouse within it some answering spirit. If such an appeal was made to the soil of Tennessee in such a case, it seems to me that the very genius of the place would spring forth, and trumpet-tongued, sound the call, which from the topmost height of her mountains to the depths of her valleys would summon her sons to the rescue.
That something must ho done, and speedily done, aye, before the reins of Government shall pass into the hands of our haughty and insolent foes, the tamest submissionists admit. Yielding to the sentiment of resistance, which wells up from the great popular heart of the South, her statesmen and patriots—men of wisdom and prudence who “hold the helm when passion blows the gale.” have exhausted every effort to restore peace to a distracted country.
Their very prayers and supplications on behalf of the Constitution, and the co-equal rights of the States have been insulted and derided by our enemies whether addressed to a throne of grace or to their own adamantine hearts. If appeals are made to their sense of patriotism—if they are reminded of a common ancestry and a common revolutionary struggle, of the purer days of the Republic, when Washington and Adams, Jefferson and Hancock, and their illustrious compeers, met at the same shrine and presented their offerings on the same altar, with pharisaic piety they turn away disdaining fellowship with slavery, and slaveholders. When reminded of their breaches of faith in the observance of solemn covenants and violations of plain provisions of the Constitution, and exhorted not to drive us to extremities in the defence (sic) of our rights, our exhortations are denounced as threats. A paper wielding, perhaps, a wider influence over Northern sentiment than any other, and which, from the part taken by its editor in securing his nomination, may be presumed to express the feelings of Mr. Lincoln, and the party of which it is the accredited organ—(the New York Tribune) repels with ridicule all such appeals. The only answer made to the South is to justify all that has been said and done by the party. It protests that they have elected a President by honest legal votes, on the largest poll ever known, and after the most heated canvass ever had in the country—that they have done just exactly what (hey had a right to do, what they ought to have done, and what should have given peace and prosperity to the Union, and that all the distress and danger now existing spring from the fact that, the factions they have fairly beaten, insist that they shall repudiate their principles and surrender the just fruits of their triumph, or that they will break up the Union. It hails with acclamations of rejoicing the failure of the committees of Congress to devise any plan of adjustment. It throws back upon the South the responsibility of all the dangers which exist, and denounce it for treason and disunion.
Why talk to such people about new guarantees, amendments of tho Constitution, &c.? In the first place, we know how they would he met; crimination and ridicule are the reply they make; denying that the evils complained of exist—but, if they do, that they are of our own creation. In the second place, what reason have we to suppose, if our demands were accepted, that the amendments and new guarantees would he more faithfully observed than the plain provisions of the Constitution and the Fugitive Slave Law have been?
They have been educated, for the last forty years, in the nurseries, in the Sunday schools, from the pulpit, at the bar, in the legislative halls, and from the hustings to loathe slavery and the defenders of it. This has all to be undone. It is impossible to “eradicate the sentiment from the minds and hearts of the present generation. With the masses, the sentiment has been engendered by religious fanaticism, and by appeals to their prejudices. They have been taught that slaveholders disdain labor, and look with contempt upon the laboring classes, regarding them alike, whether white or black, as an inferior caste in society. With the leaders, it originates in a contest for political supremacy, and a jealousy of the influence which the South has exercised by her wisdom in council and her heroism in arms.
Of what avail would all the constitutional compacts in the world be when coming in contact with a sentiment such as that imbedded in the hearts of the people? All laws depend for their efficacy and enforcement upon the consent and loyalty of those who administer them, and those for whose government they were intended.
Such being, then, the sentiment and feelings of the party which will be charged with the administration of the Government after the 4th of March, what safety or protection will there be for Southern men and property, seeing that new guarantees cannot be obtained, and if they could be, would never be observed.
Slavery, of all property in the world, most needs the protection of a friendly government. As well commit the lamb to the protection of the wolf, as slavery to the protection of a Government hostile to it.
Besides, all these propositions involve delay, and delay now is fatal. It is not wonderful, indeed it is most natural, that up to this time we should have held back—that we should have tried to keep others back until the wisest and most prudent counsels had calmly surveyed the whole field, and had failed to discover a remedy for the disorders prevailing. That much deliberation was due to the sacred trust committed to us, and to the cause of human liberty throughout the world. But events of the past few days admonish us that but little time remains for deliberation and decision. Some may deplore the course of South Carolina as precipitate and ill-advised—others may regard it as unjust to her sisters, having an equal interest and a common destiny with her—others again, may hail it as the magic wand which shall extract the forked lightning from the storm cloud and convey it harmless to the earth, or, as “a bright Iris o’er the boiling surge.” Whatever may be the view taken of it, whether approved or condemned, her lone star has been unfurled and proudly courts the breeze. Mississippi has sent her word of cheering. “On ye brave, who rush to glory or the grave. Wave, South Carolina, wave, all thy banners wave, and charge with all thy chivalry.”
God grant that Tennessee, the synonym of patriotism and dauntless heroism, true to her own high instincts, her historic renown, and the fame of her illustrious chieftain, who has rendered her own and his name immortal, may also arm to the teeth and resolve to the death in defence (sic) of her gallant sister, the Queen of the Atlantic!
What said the illustrious ex-President Fillmore in his speech at Albany, in 1855, when contemplating the very event which has occurred—the election of a sectional President—and which, though not the cause, is the occasion of the wide-spread excitement at the South: “can they,” (referring to the people of the North,) “have the madness, or the folly, to believe that our Southern brethren would submit to be governed by such a Chief Magistrate? Suppose that the South, having a majority of the electoral votes, should declare that they would have only slaveholders for President and Vice-President, and should elect such by their suffrages to rule over us at the North, do you think you would submit? No, not for a moment. Do you believe that your Southern brethren are less sensitive on this subject than you are, or less jealous of their rights? If you do, let me tell you you are mistaken; and therefore you must see that if this sectional party succeeds, it leads inevitably to the destruction of this beautiful fabric reared by our forefathers.” Again, in his speech at Rochester, the same season, referring to the same event, he said: “the success of such a party with such an object, must be a dissolution of the Union,”
What said the Hon. Mr. Vallandigham, member of Congress from Ohio? “I tell you, as a Western man, and I tell the gentleman from Tennessee, (Mr. Nelson.) that when you of the South shall have attained the numerical power and strength in this Union, and shall organize a Southern party on a Southern basis, and, under the forms of the Constitution, shall elect a Southern President, for the purpose of controlling the vast power and patronage and influence of the Government by action or non-action, for the advancement of Southern interests ; and above all, for the purpose of extending slavery into States now free. I will meet you as the Irish patriot would have met the invaders of Ireland—with a sword in one hand and a torch in the other; dispute every inch of ground—burn every blade of grass, till the last intrenchment of independence shall be my grave. I will not wait for an overt act. What! Do I not know that fire will burn; that frost will congeal; that steel and poison will do their work of destruction to the human system: and shall I await the slow process of experiment to ascertain their rational and inevitable effects?” This was spoken in answer to the question whether the South would be justified in resisting the election of a Northern sectional candidate on a sectional platform.
I quote a passage from a single other Northern statesman, (Hon. Caleb Cashing,) on the same point. After arguing to them the practical result of the election of such a candidate, he say: “I repeat, confidently, if Mr. Lincoln is elected, the Republicans will have to break up at once, or attack the domestic rights of the South. What, then, will the people of the Southern States, attacked in their constitutional rights, their domestic peace, their property, and their persons do? What will they do? Will they passively submit to be conquered subjects of New England ? No. I do not hope, believe or doubt what they will do. I know they will defend themselves to the uttermost—first with constitutional means, in fine, with all the means of defence (sic) which God and nature have committed to them ; and if they were not to do it, they would be recreant to the blood of Washington, of Henry, of Carroll, of Rutledge ; they would be unworthy of the name of American.”
The issue is made. We could not avoid it if we would. We fearlessly appeal to God, to our consciences, and to the enlightened opinion of mankind to vindicate our course. If war result. the responsibility will not be upon us, but upon those who are intent upon the overthrow of our constitutional rights. If “we must pass the dread ordeal—if the tocsin of civil war is sounded, and the land is drenched with the blood of brothers, “I trust in God that there is a redeeming: spirit in the Constitution which will be seen to walk with the South through the flames, and preserve her unhurt by the conflagration.”
Slavery was a way of life in the south. Slavery was referred to as “That Peculiar Institution,” or “The institution of African Slavery. Slavery was also referred to as “That institution vital to Southern Interests.”
Transcription and commentary by Roger Mills.
For more information see the following link: https://archive.org/details/duke_libraries?and=subject%3A%22Secession%22
Or watch this 9:54 clip on youTube for an overview of the history of slavery in America: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jc1RbUxQv4E