North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial


Political Prelude to War: 1790-1860

The following passages highlight the political events and turmoil which

led to two distinct countries -- North and South -- emerging from the time of

North Carolina's ratification of the United States Constitution. 

From that time period in American history, it was accepted without question

that the individual States had created the federal office in Washington as their

agent with strictly limited and delegated authority -- and anything not

expressly delegated was to remain the authority of each State. 

By the end of Thomas Jefferson's life, he saw the increasing encroachments of the

federal agent's power as another "fire bell in the night" which would lead to a

an eventual confrontation between States and the agent.


North Carolina State House


The Revolutionary Cause

"The history of the Revolution is written as if those who were fighting it were striving to

achieve a strong central government for Americans.  This is a lie promoted during the 19th century. 

It was true of some Revolutionary soldiers like Hamilton and Marshall.  But it was not true of John Taylor,

James Monroe, and St. George Tucker of Virginia, Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina, Thomas Sumter

and Andrew Pickens of South Carolina, or James Jackson of Georgia. 

These and many others had fought the Revolution to get out from under a government that was levying

taxes and sending troops and bureaucrats to restrict the liberty and prey on the property of Americans. 

They did not want to establish a government that had too much power and was too remote from the

people even if it was an American government. 

And, while New Englanders who had served three inactive months in the militia lined up to claim federal

pensions for Revolutionary War service, the Southerners refused to accept money taxed from the people

for doing their duty."

Dr. Clyde N. Wilson, speaking of North Carolinian Nathaniel Macon and his time.


Early North Carolina Political Thought

States' Rights in North Carolina Prior to 1847

“North Carolina emerged from the Revolution imbued with a strong particularistic spirit.

Emphasis upon and interest in State matters absorbed the energies of political leaders.

The result was that the State took little interest in the affairs of the Confederation.

When the Congress invited the States to send delegates to Philadelphia in 1787 for the

purpose of revising the Article of Confederation, the General Assembly appointed a delegation

of five to represent the State.

The North Carolina delegation represented the views of the conservative minority in

the State which desired a strong central government….[but it] was not representative

of the views of the majority of North Carolinians who were apparently well-satisfied with

the government provided by the Articles.

It is not to be supposed that the North Carolina delegates, though they desired a

stronger Union, favored a genuine national government rather than a confederation of

States. Although they favored strengthening the powers of the central government,

they did not intend that North Carolina should lose her sovereignty as a State.

Upon completion of the new Constitution, provision was made for its ratification by

conventions in the States. The anti-federalists, led by Willie Jones in the northeast,

Timothy Bloodworth in the southeast, Judge Samuel Spencer, Joseph McDowell and

Thomas Person in the central and western counties, campaigned vigorously.

They denounced the federal judiciary, declared that the poor would be burdened with

taxation, pointed to the lack of provisions guaranteeing the rights of individuals, and

criticized the failure to protect the rights of the States. Public opinion crystallized

on the issue of ratification. The anti-federalists were successful and elected a large

majority of delegates to the convention. The farmers of North Carolina looked

upon the Constitution as an instrument designed to aid the commercial interests.

In the debate over the clause making the Constitution, the laws of the United States,

and all treaties made under the authority of the United States the supreme law

of the land, Timothy Bloodworth….declared that the new Constitution “would sweep off

all the constitutions of the States,” would be “a total repeal of every act and constitution

of the States,” and would produce “an abolition of State governments.”

On this point the Federalist leaders adhered to sound State sovereignty doctrine,

holding in general that the new Constitution was a compact between the States.

Both William R. Davie and Richard Dobbs Spaight, members of the Philadelphia convention,

declared that the new government intended a stronger Union

without destroying the sovereignty of the States.”
(The Secession Movement in North Carolina, Joseph Carlyle Sitterson, UNC Press, 1939, pp. 23-25)


A Government of Expressly Delegated Powers

The following quotes present a North Carolinian view of the political development of the

United States in a chronological order. These views are helpful in understanding the conservative

nature of North Carolinians and how they perceived the increasing sectionalism that split the

Founders' republic into two separate countries by 1860.


North Carolina's James Iredell on State Sovereignty

“The ideal of an efficient central government was a strong cement for binding together

the many groups comprising the Federalist party. [But], in forming the federal compact the

individual States had yielded much of the essence of sovereignty, but it was important to

resist further concessions, and nowhere was this resistance more emphatic than in the South.

The doctrine of State rights was first enunciated in the February term of the Supreme Court

in 1793 by [Justice James] Iredell’s dissenting opinion in Chisholm vs. Georgia. Chisholm,

a citizen of South Carolina, had brought an action against the State of Georgia, by service

of process upon the governor and attorney general. Holding that the State was sovereign,

the Georgia officials refused to appear. A majority of the court ruled that unless Georgia

caused her appearance to be entered by the next term, judgment should be rendered

against her by default. Iredell’s argument turned not so much upon the exact words of

the Constitution as upon the implication to be derived from

the historical origins of the Constitution.

One of the objections made by George Mason of Virginia in 1788 to the ratification

of the Constitution was:

“The Judiciary of the United States is so constructed and extended as to absorb and destroy

the judiciaries of the several States.”

Iredell’s answer to Mason at that time was:

“With the mere internal concerns of a State, Congress are to have nothing to do;

in no case but where the Union is in some measure concerned, are the

Federal courts to have any jurisdiction.”

The State’s, in Iredell’s opinion, were completely sovereign in every respect where they had

not delegated expressly some of these sovereign powers to the Federal Government. About

the same time John Marshall of Virginia had declared: “It is not rational to suppose, that the

sovereign power shall be dragged before a court.”

While Iredell’s opinion did not prevail with the majority of the court, it did mark out the path

that was taken by the eleventh amendment, quickly proposed and ratified, declaring: The

judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity,

commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another State, or by

citizens or subjects of any foreign State.”

(North Carolina, The Old North State and the New, Volume I, Archibald Henderson,

Lewis Publishing Company, 1941, pp. 441-442)

Nathaniel Macon’s Conservative Influence:
“Macon Manor was the birthplace in 1758 of Nathaniel Macon…[whose] first schooling

was directed by Charles Pettigrew, afterwards designated bishop of the Protestant

Episcopal church of North Carolina; but like other men of his State Macon finished his education

in the Presbyterian college of New Jersey, better known as Princeton. During most of the years

of the Revolution he studied law, but never followed that profession, being more of a planter.

At the age of twenty-three he took his seat in the North Carolina Senate from Warren county.

[Macon regarded] Thomas Jefferson as his ideal…[but Macon] was first of all a North Carolinian

and afterwards a nationalist. His close associates besides Willie Jones were Thomas Person,

Matthew Locke, Griffith Rutherford, and Timothy Bloodworth …These with a few others were

the men who prevented North Carolina from ratifying the Federal Constitution in the

Hillsboro Convention of 1788, and after the brief resurgence of Federalism in 1789, quickly

resumed political control of the State.

The rank and file of North Carolina people had no difficulty comprehending Macon.

More than any of his contemporaries he was their spokesman. Macon and Willie Jones and

a few others were not sufficiently in awe of the great Washington to allow the adulation paid

to the Father of our Country to pass uncriticized. Toward the close of Washington’s second term

an effusive address was prepared by the House, but twelve members voted against the

resolution of its presentation, on the ground that the address was too laudatory.

Macon was one of those who opposed it, and another was a man who had studied law at

Salisbury and was now the first representative from the new State of Tennessee, Andrew Jackson.

(North Carolina, The Old North State and the New, Volume I, Archibald Henderson,

Lewis Publishing Company, 1941, pp. 446-447)


The Fundamental Sectional Economic Conflict:
“The most fundamental American political division had been revealed in the conflict of Jefferson

and Hamilton in the first days of the US government. Jeffersonians, largely though not entirely

Southern, believed that the “consent of the governed” founds its bottom line in the will of the

people of each State, that the federal government was one of specific and limited authority

explicit in the Constitution, and in general that government governed best when it governed least

and, unlike the monarchies of the Old World, left the people to peacefully enjoy the fruits of their labor.

From the beginning Hamiltonians, largely affluent Northerners, had see the federal government

as a tool, the powers and activities of which were to be stretched and expanded at every

opportunity, and the Constitution as a springboard of power which was to be reinterpreted at will.

The government should be used to develop the American Union into a great and rich nation by

encouragement of profitable business enterprise in the manner of the British Empire.


Northern Factory Child Labor

Such a government would, in their view, strengthen the country and increase general prosperity

through policies that would, not incidentally, further empower and enrich influential Northern-centered

interests. Fundamental to these conflicts was a basic regional division in the American economy.

The South produced an immense majority of foreign exports – tobacco, cotton, rice, sugar – without

which there could have been no foreign trade. Part of the Northern economy was mercantile – involved

with the carrying trade in Southern products. But after the War of 1812 the Northern economy was

increasingly industrialized as an outlet for surplus capital and population. That economy could produce

nothing which was not produced by the more advanced British industry. Northern industrialists thought

they needed tariffs (taxes) on imports so the price of British goods would be raised and Northern goods

could be sold at great profit for just a little less than the taxed imports. This was presented as the

“American System,” a boon to the whole country, purportedly increasing the

wealth and strength of the nation.

Thoughtful Southerners quickly perceived the tariff forced them to pay higher than market prices

for manufactured goods and, by discouraging reciprocal trade, depressed the European market

for Southern produce. Why should Northerners sell their products in a home market artificially

protected by the government, while the price of cotton, on which so much of the national economy

depended, was decided in a completely open world market over which the producers had no control?

“Why should the government pay the expenses of one set of men and not of another?” asked

John C. Calhoun [of South Carolina]. He further pointed out that the benefits of the “American System”

went entirely to the wealthy class of the North and not to Americans in general. Besides, the

Constitution allowed the federal government to levy taxes in order to support itself, not to

provide unconstitutional favours to some people at the expense of others.”
Dr. Clyde N. Wilson



The War of 1812:
After 1810 Congress was dominated by a group of “War Hawks,” chiefly from the West and South,

and spearheaded by Henry Clay of Kentucky, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

These “agrarian imperialists” publicly proclaimed their intention of annexing Canada. Clay told Congress:

“The conquest of Canada is in your power,” and he asserted that the Kentucky militia

could “place Montreal and Upper Canada at your feet.”

President Madison was not eager for war, but the War Hawks, who stressed nationalism,

neutral rights, Canada, and Indian atrocities in the Northwest finally achieved their objective

and Congress on June 18, 1812, declared war on Great Britain by a close vote of 19 to 13

in the Senate and 79 to 49 in the House.

North Carolina had no conspicuous War Hawk. Richard Stanford, who had urged war two years

earlier, voted against it along with Representative Pearson and McBryde. Both senators

voted for the war declaration. One group in Pearson’s Salisbury district condemned his

action as “flagrantly improper,” while another group defended his vote by saying that

the war was “unwise, premature, and unnecessary.” William Gaston, a successful Federalist

candidate for the House of Representatives in 1812, declared that the war

“was forbidden by our interests, and abhorrent from our honour.”

Although the War Hawks had boasted that Canada…could be captured easily in two months,

there was no ground basis for such optimism. Weakened by Republican economy, the regular

army had less than 7,000 men, and many of its top-ranking officers were of Revolutionary

vintage. The navy was not much better prepared, containing Jefferson’s “mosquito fleet” of

about 200 small ships, and sixteen rather formidable frigates. The United States treasury was

almost empty when the war began, Congress having failed to recharter the

Bank of the United States in 1811.

The State’s quota of militia in 1812 was 7,000 men and was raised largely by volunteers on

a county basis. These men were organized into eight companies, four of which were sent to

protect the lower Cape Fear and the other four to Beaufort. In 1814 President Madison called

for 7,000 more men from the State, and this quota was raised largely by draft.

Most of these recruits were sent to aid other States.

While Republicans had not been very outspoken against the declaration of war, they criticized

its management, particularly the “indifferent conduct” of military and naval operations and

the failure to protect North Carolina’s coast. {Nathaniel] Macon was not enthusiastic about the

war and Stanford and Kennedy were openly hostile. David Stone, ex-Governor and then

United States Senator, voted against the direct tax and other measures for prosecuting the war.”

(North Carolina, History of a Southern State, Lefler & Newsome, UNC Press, 1954, pp. 294-297)


New England’s Hartford Secession Convention
“Going back to 1796 we find the Hartford Courant assailing the South....that the union would

be an impossibility for any long period in the future. “We have reached a critical period in our

political existence…The Northern States can subsist as a nation, a republic,

without any connection with the Southern.”

Several of her [New England’s] more reckless ministers of the gospel preached secession from

the pulpit. The Sentinel, the Repertory, and the Boston Gazette advocated it, and declared

the union already practically dissolved. Regarding herself as entirely separated from the Democratic

administration and its war [of 1812], New England established a regular system

of trade with the public enemy.

The British army and navy were supplied with cattle and provisions driven over the line

from Canada. Everything possible was done to defeat the war loan of the government.

The British ministry, thinking a great opportunity might have arrived, sent a Canadian lawyer,

John Henry, to New England to report how near the country was ripe for revolt

and union with Canada.

An English fleet blockaded the whole of our coast except New England. The Democratic

Congress passed the Embargo Act of 1813 because they believed that New England,

unblockaded, was trading with Great Britain and supplying with provisions the fleets and armies

that were invading America.

[The] Massachusetts legislature, by an overwhelmingly large vote, called a convention of

all New England. A picked body of the most respectable and conservative Federalists, twelve

from Massachusetts, seven from Connecticut, four from Rhode Island, two from New Hampshire,

and one from Vermont, met in what has ever since been known as the Hartford Convention of 1814,

which sat with doors closed and discussed the troubles of the time.

[The Convention saw] the Democratic administration [as] dividing up the country into districts

for calling out the militia, and leaving the calling of them within the discretion of the President,

[which] was a violation of the Constitution, by which the militia could be converted by the President

into a standing army to destroy the liberties of the States.

They go on to say : “That acts of Congress in violation of the Constitution are absolutely void,

is an undeniable position. [In] cases of deliberate, dangerous and palpable infractions of the

Constitution, affecting the sovereignty of a State and liberties of the people, it is not only the right,

but the duty of such a State to interpose its authority for their protection, in the manner best

calculated to secure that end. (Dwight, History of the Hartford Convention, p. 361.)

(The True Daniel Webster, Sydney George Fisher, J.B. Lippincott Company, 1911, pp. 125-131)



British Emancipation Proclamations:
[The] proclamation of Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane [who] commanded “His Majesty’s Ships

upon the North American Station”…promised that unhappy settlers, meaning the slaves of

the Southern States, would be welcome aboard British vessels, freed from bondage, and sent

to British possessions in North American and the West Indies, “where they

will meet with all due encouragement.”

[Southern planters were] reminded of the similar pronouncement issued [1775] by the

[Virginia Royal Governor] earl of Dunmore during the Revolution. In [their] mind it was,

once again, a dangerous emancipation proclamation that might well lead to violent insurrection…

[and] Admiral Cochrane’s proclamation was far more realistic than Lord Dunmore’s.


James Murray, Earl of Dunmore

[Along the Southern coast] Admiral Sir George Cockburn’s instructions to the commanding

officers of [his] three ships were “to bring back with them such Negroes as may be willing to

join our standard,” and this they did. An interested observer…reported the “seducing” of the

slaves was done by the naval officers and not by the Royal Marines. [He] told of British naval

officers who were shameless in soliciting the slaves, even going so far as to tell them the queen

of England was a black woman.

In 1816 the Major [Butler] expressed his irritation: “It is strange a Nation holding many millions

of People in slavery in India, should become Knight Errants in freeing black slaves not their own.”

(Major Butler’s Legacy, Five Generations of a Slaveholding Family, Malcolm Bell, Jr.,

UGA Press, 1987, pp. 170-186)

Judge William Gaston


North Carolina’s Constitutional Convention of 1835:
“Sir…I owe no allegiance to any men or set of men on earth, save only to the State of North Carolina,

and, so far as she has parted with her sovereignty, to the United States of America.”

Judge William Gaston

The conservatism of North Carolina was well illustrated in this convention. Its sessions were held

at the climax of the Jacksonian era in national politics, yet none of the amendments proposed

to the organic law was in any sense radical even at that time. Again and again members arose

to state that Carolina had enjoyed peace and security for sixty years under the old Constitution,

and asking why any change should be made.

The choice of the venerable Nathaniel Macon of Halifax as president of the convention was

a tribute to a man who had had intimate contact with many of the framers of the

Constitution of 1776. Other conspicuous figures…included John Branch of Halifax, a former

governor; John Owen, from Bladen, also a former governor; Weldon N. Edwards, who had

succeeded Nathaniel Macon in Congress and who a quarter of a century later was to serve

as secretary of the Secession convention.

The incumbent governor, David L. Swain of Buncombe, was a member, and Guilford sent

John M. Morehead, who in a few years was to become governor. Either then or later conspicuous

in the public life of the State were Daniel M. Barringer of Cabarrus, Richard Dobbs Spaight of Craven,

Kenneth Rayner of Hertford, Asa Biggs of Martin, Alfred Dockery of Richmond, Edward T. Broadnax

of Rockingham, William B. Meares and Thomas I. Faison of Sampson, Henry Seawell and

Kimbrough Jones of Wake and James Wellborn Wilkes.

Nathaniel Macon…was not sympathetic with the views of the progressives in the convention.

Any plan of internal improvements in which the Government was to take a part he disapproved,

claiming that such improvements ought to be the work of individuals since the cost would be less

than if done by the Government. His philosophy was that of the good life rather than

of abundance of material goods.

This body of North Carolina men was not stampeded into the extremes of Jacksonian Democracy.

Proposals were made for annual sessions of the Legislature in order to keep a “check on

the Federal Government”….[and] John Branch insisted that a constant watch should be kept

on Federal power. “The powers of the general Government are constantly increasing; and

American liberty depends on the preservation of State rights and State powers.”

Conservative though he was, Nathaniel Macon defended annual elections and annual sessions

of the Legislature because of their very tendency to stir up discussion.

“This,” he said, “is a talking government.”

(North Carolina, The Old North State and the New, Volume II, Archibald Henderson,

Lewis Publishing Company, 1941, pp. 85-92)

Senator Robert Strange


Agricultural Interests Over Paper Money – an 1838 View
“If no check is put to the progress of events, no one will attain to wealth and honor, who does

not receive them at the hands of the bank aristocracy….And yet the paper system is applauded

to the skies, as the wing upon which England has soared to her present prosperous height…but

I have thought, and still think, that we owe all these things to the enterprise and industry of

our citizens, and the abundant resources with which it has pleased Heaven to bless our country.

And this brings me to the consideration of another evil of the paper [money] system, and that is,

its tendency to call men off from the most productive employments to those which are less so,

or not so at all; drawing them off from the cultivation of the soil to become speculators, bank

officers, shopkeepers, and livers upon their wits.

All values are created by the spontaneous production of the earth, by human labor, by animal

procreation, or by some or all of these united. The spontaneous production of the earth is,

of course, the most profitable to him who can avail himself of it of any other; and the

production of the earth, combined with human labor, furnishes at last the basis of all wealth.

Every thing, therefore, which has a tendency to divert a considerable portion of a nation from

agricultural pursuits, by turning them to speculation, professions, merchandise…where that

nation possesses a suitable field for agricultural pursuits, has, as a general rule, the effect of

diminishing the wealth of that nation. I conclude that Congress has not the right, and if it had,

it would not be expedient for it to undertake the creation and regulation of a common paper

medium through banks…

Sir, I have little hope that the paper system will soon be arrested…Its swiftly moving car may

roll on; but let it not drag after it every thing dear to the earthly hopes of man. Let the inflated

balloon ascend if it will; but let it not, in its ascent, wrench from their foundations

the institutions of our country.

(Speech of Robert Strange of North Carolina on the Independent Treasury Bill in the

US Senate, 6 March 1838, Congressional Globe, 25th Congress, 2d session, Appendix, 145-54)




Legal Status of Negroes in North Carolina
“Not least among the services of William Gaston were his leading opinions that helped to

define the legal status of the Negro. In State vs. Manuel in 1838 he held:

“Slaves manumitted became freedmen, and therefore, if born within North Carolina, are

citizens of North Carolina, and all free persons born within the State are born citizens of the State.”

Nowhere in the United States at the time were the terms “citizen” and “voter” interchangeable,

so that denial of the ballot to the Negro citizen was not an indignity upon his race.

[In] the case of Will, a slave who had killed his overseer in self defense…[and] when Gaston

wrote the opinion of the court he declared:

“It is certain that the master has not the right to slay his slave, and I hold it to be

equally certain that the slave has the right to defend himself against the unlawful attempt

of his master to deprive him of life.”

The law and morals governing the relations of master and slave, here and in other portions

of the South, tended to confirm the principle that the master owned a slave, not “body and soul,”

but the slave’s labor. From birth to death the slave owed the obligation of working service, but

on the other hand the slaveowner owed the obligation, also for life, of feeding and clothing

and humane care. Out of that paternalistic concept and practice of the late ante-bellum era

came the persisting attitude of the characteristic Southerners of later generations, an attitude

of natural kindness toward the Negro people.

The basic concept just defined was the result of two centuries of experience and adjustment

between the whites and blacks, and obviously it had a wide range of variation in actual practice.

As a concise definition, its approximate truth must be assumed at the outset of any discussion

of the slavery issue in the South.”

(North Carolina, The Old North State and the New, Volume II, Archibald Henderson,

Lewis Publishing Company, 1941, page 192)


Federal Surplus Funds Distributed to the States
“The national debt had actually been extinguished at the beginning of 1835, and in less than two

years a surplus of forty millions had been piled up in the [US] treasury. Most of the accumulations

were the result of public land sales, while the inrush of revenues was also swelled by the tariffs

on imports. The problem was to get rid of the surplus by some constitutional method. Congress

could not appropriate it except for definite purposes as prescribed in the Constitution, and it

was rendered an interference with State sovereignty for Congress to name specific purposes for

which the States should expend their shares. The bill that passed Congress in June, 1836, directed

that the surplus above a reserve of five million dollars be “deposited” with the several States,

each State’s share to be in proportion to its representation in both houses of Congress.”

(North Carolina, The Old North State and the New, Volume II, Archibald Henderson, Lewis Publishing

Company, 1941, pp. 115-116)


Daniel Webster Visits North Carolina
“The Hon. Daniel Webster and family arrived at this place yesterday in the cars at a little before

2 o’clock. [a committee of citizens] through Governor Dudley proffered the hospitalities of

[Wilmington] to Mr. Webster and his family. At the request of the committee appointed by

the magistrate of police [Col. John MacRae], Mr. Webster will meet the citizens of Wilmington

at the Masonic Hall this morning at eleven o’clock.”

“Early in May, 1847, Daniel Webster visited Wilmington as a guest of Gov. Edward B. Dudley.

The late Col. Thomas C. McIlhenny, always a welcome guest of Governor Dudley, often entertained

me by the recital of important local events of his earlier years, and upon one occasion described

the visit of the great Commoner while he was also a guest at the Governor’s mansion.

The colonel said he was much impressed by the great size of Mr. Webster’s head and the powerful

penetration of his searching eyes, and by his fancy for the Governor’s Madeira, of which he kept a

pipe of superior quality. After drinking all of the dining room supply, Mrs. Dudley having withdrawn,

Mr. Webster laid an affectionate hand upon the colonel’s shoulder and said: “Young man, show

me where the Governor keeps that wine,” and being led to the cellar, he greatly reduced the

contents of the cask with much enjoyment, but not altogether with satisfaction, because he

seldom knew when he had enough.”
(Chronicles of the Cape Fear, James Sprunt, pp. 217-218)


“We Must Live Independent of Northern Products”
“The true course of the Southern people is to unite as one man, to sustain those of both parties,

whether here or in the [former slave trading] States, who are standing by their rights; and to put forever

from their fellowship and confidence the Whigs of the non-slaveholding States. The question is one of

existence, and cannot be postponed.

The South must also look more and more to the development of her resources, and to building

up seaports and markets within her own limits. To this end, systems of internal improvement

should be pushed forward, and agriculture, mining, manufactures, and the arts generally promoted

and encouraged. We must learn to live, as far as possible, independent of Northern fabrics, Northern

commercial advantages, and Northern products. The North so wills it – there is no other safe course

for us as a people.

As we grow weaker in the [former slave trading] free States and in Congress we must grow stronger

at home. As we decline there we must increase here, else when “the evil day” comes it will find

us divided and defenseless before our enemies.”
(Editorial, North Carolina Standard, 24 May 1854)

Continuing Inconclusive Political Struggles:
“From the War of 1812 up to the Polk administration of 1844-1849, US politics had consisted

largely of conflict between Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian policies, as indicated by continuing

inconclusive struggles over the national bank, national debt, federal expenditures, the tariff,

subsidized “internal improvements,” and the disposition of the vast public domain of

Western lands. By the later 1840’s Polk and the Democratic party had

seemingly settled many of these questions.

In the Walker Tariff of 1846, taxes on imports had been brought down to a level

which did not force Americans to pay higher prices to politically favored Northeastern

manufacturers. Polk’s independent treasury had seemed to kill off the “national bank” project

for good, establishing the long-desired Jeffersonian goal of separating the control of the

currency from the power and profit of private banking interests. And the president had

vetoed as unconstitutional a multi-million dollar “Rivers and Harbors” bill which had

contemplated federal subsidy of hundreds of local “improvement” boondoggles,

largely for the Great Lakes States.”
Dr. Clyde N. Wilson

Political and Economic Trends – the 1850’s
The tariff of 1846, in its low level of rates and absence of discriminatory duties, approached

the ideal tariff from the standpoint of the South. It was an economic adjustment which

should properly be associated with armistice in sectional controversies culminating in the

Compromise of 1850. The equitable tariff was at least one factor in the widely distributed

prosperity which spread over the nation during the succeeding decade.

The war with Mexico was followed by a great outpouring of national wealth and a turning

of enterprise in many new directions. Political trends seemed to follow the economic trends.
But even before western expansion had gotten fairly under way, the South was at a disadvantage

in trade and manufacturing. In colonial times Southern planters were regular debtors to London

merchants. Early in the nineteenth century the financial capital had shifted to New York.

[Thomas Hart] Benton in 1828 ascribed the cause to the tariff.

Expenditure, he said, “flows northwardly in one uniform, uninterrupted and perennial stream.

This is the reason why wealth disappears in the South and rises up in the North. Federal legislation

does all this. It does it be the simple process of eternally taking from the

South and retuning nothing to it.”

Toombs, of Georgia in 1860 denounced the Northern States for having, through legislation,

monopolized at the beginning of the Union the business of shipbuilding and of the coasting trade.

The South was contributing to the cost of maintaining lighthouses and improving harbors, which

was in effect, he charged, a Federal subsidy to the shipping interests.

“Even the fishermen of Massachusetts and New England,” continued the Georgia statesman,

“demand and receive from the public treasury about half a million dollars per annum as a pure

bounty in the business of catching cod-fish.”

The North, at the very first Congress, demanded and received bounties under the name

of protection, for every trade, craft and calling which they pursue, and there is not an artisan

in brass, or iron, or wood, or weaver or spinner in wool or cotton, or a calico-maker, or iron master,

or a coal owner, in all the Northern or Middle States, who has not received what he calls the

protection of his Government on his industry to the extent of from fifteen to two hundred

per cent from the year 1791 to this day.”

(North Carolina, The Old North State and the New, Volume II, Archibald Henderson, Lewis Publishing

Company, 1941, pp. 180-181)


The Plutocratic North and Democratic South:

“The northeast section of the United States had already assumed its modern outlines

of a capitalistic-industrial society where the means of production were either owned or

controlled by relatively few. That is to say, New England and the middle States were fast

becoming in essence a plutocracy whose political ideology was still strongly democratic;

but the application of this democratic ideology was being seriously hampered by the

economic dependence of the middle and lower classes upon those who

owned the tools of production.

Turning to the South which was primarily agricultural we find the situation completely

contradictory to what has usually been assumed. While the plutocracy of the East owned

or controlled the means of production in industry and commerce, the so-called slave

oligarchy of the South owned scarcely any of the land outside the black belt and only

about 25 per cent of the land in the black belt. Actually, the basic means of production

in the black belt and in the South as a whole was well distributed among all classes

of the population.

The overwhelming majority of Southern families in 1860 owned their

farms and livestock. About 90 per cent of the slaveholders and about 70 per cent of

the non-slaveholders owned the land which they farmed. The bulk of slaveholders

were small farmers and not oligarchs. While taken together they owned more slaves

and more land than the big planters, taken individually the majority of slaveholders.

In other words, the average Southerner like the average westerner possessed

economic independence; and the only kind of influence that could be exercised

over his political franchise by the slave oligarchy was a strictly persuasive kind.

The South then, like the Northwest, not only held strongly to the democratic

ideology, but also had a sound economic foundation for a free government.

During the first twelve years of the government under the Federal Constitution,

the commercial-financial aristocracy of New England, with the aid of the same

classes of people scattered throughout the urban centers of the seaboard, controlled

the national government through the instrumentality of the Federalist party.

[New England] with its compact, homogenous population, its provincial outlook,

thinking, talking, and acting as if it were the United States; its way of life, its

economic system, and its people the only true American; while the remainder of

the country, the people, and their interests and ways of life were alien and un-American.

Most of the laws enacted during the control of the New England Federalists were

considered by the South and much of the middle States as being for the sole benefit

of the commercial and banking interests of the East, and as injurious,

even ruinous, to the agricultural sections.”

(The Fundamental Cause of the Civil War, Frank L. Owsley, excerpt, Address to

Southern Historical Association, November 8, 1940)




The North Senses Triumph
“During the overheated politics of the 1850’s, Presidents [Franklin] Pierce and [James] Buchanan

and the Supreme Court all tried to encourage moderation and keep an even hand. But the

aggressive new face of the North sensed triumph and would not be satisfied. It is in this

sense that the conflict leading up to secession was “about” slavery.

It is now established with almost Soviet-rigour that the War to Prevent Southern Independence

was “caused by” or “about” slavery. It is, in fact, absurd to attribute such an immense and

revolutionary event to one cause. Earlier generations of historians, more objective and learned

than the current crop, wrote about clashing economic interests and cultures and political

ambitions and agitations as among the causes.

The emphasis on slavery these days is not the result of some new historical wisdom or

newly discovered truth. Rather, it is the result of Americans today being obsessed with race

and victimology, of the unfortunate tendency of many Americans to sugarcoat acts of

aggression with idealistic rationalizations, and an intensification of the “blame the South”

theme that has been chronic throughout American history.
(Dr. Clyde N. Wilson)


Higher Law Treason:
“[Future President] Franklin Pierce addressed a Union meeting in Manchester [New Hampshire]

in November 1850. His speech reveals his true sentiments on the most important issue of his time.

When several Baptist ministers “hissed” at his remarks in favor of the Union, Pierce responded

that the “feeble demonstration of moral treason to the Union, to humanity, to the cause of civil

liberty would disturb neither him nor the meeting.” He declared, “If we are precipitated into a war

by fanaticism, we cannot conquer. Both sections of the country may be immolated. Neither could

come out of the contest short of ruin.”

Pierce was consistent in believing the preservation of the Union was more important than

any one issue. The New Hampshire Patriot reported Pierce’s speech: “Who did not deplore

slavery? But what sound-thinking mind regarded that as the only evil which could rest

upon the land? The [abolitionist] men who would dissolve the Union did not deplore slavery

any more than he did….The resort to disunion as an experiment to get rid of a political evil,

would be about as wise as if a man were to think of remedying a broken arm by cutting his

head off.” Pierce closed with the shout, “The Union! Eternal Union!”

When Senator [William H.] Seward of New York followed [Daniel] Webster’s [7 March 1850]

speech with one in which he declared that there is a “higher law” than the Constitution and

that God was opposed to slavery, the Patriot editorialized, “If Mr. Seward’s doctrine were

to be endorsed by the people at large there would be an end not only of the Union

but of every rational form of government”…..Webster would later call the “higher law” doctrine

“Treason, treason, treason!”
(Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire’s Favorite Son, Peter A. Wallner, Plaidswede Publishing, 2004, pp. 168-169)


Republican Defeat of Crittenden Compromise:
“From Buffalo, on January 18, 1861, [Horatio Seymour] wrote Senator [John J.] Crittenden

of Kentucky in support of his scheme of compromise. It was in his opinion that this

“great measure of reconciliation” struck “the popular heart.” James Ford Rhodes fortified

one’s belief in the good judgment of Seymour when he studied the defeat of Senator

Crittenden’s proposals. In view of the appalling consequences the responsibility of both Lincoln

and [William] Seward for that defeat is heavy, if not dark – in spite of all that historians of

the inevitable have written of “this best of all possible worlds.”

The committee to which Crittenden’s bill for compromise was referred consisted of

thirteen men. Crittenden himself was the most prominent of the three representatives

from the Border States. Of three Northern Democrats, [Stephen] Douglas of Illinois,

was the leader; of five Republicans, Seward was the moving spirit. Only two men sat

from the Cotton States, [Jefferson] Davis and [Robert] Toombs. Commenting on

the fateful vote of the committee, Rhodes observed:

“No fact is more clear than that the Republicans in December [1860] defeated the

Crittenden compromise; a few historic probabilities have better evidence to support

them than the one which asserts that the adoption of this measure would have

prevented the secession of the cotton States, other than South Carolina, and the

beginning of the civil war in 1861…It is unquestionable, as I have previously shown,

that in December the Republicans defeated the Crittenden proposition; and it seems to

me likewise clear that, of all the influences tending to this result, the influence of

Lincoln was the most potent.”

Two-thirds of each House…recommended to the States a compromise thirteenth

amendment to the Constitution, as follows: “No amendment shall be made to the

Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere,

within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held

to labor or service by the laws of said State.” Conservative Republicans voted with

the Democrats to carry this measure of which Lincoln approved in his inaugural address.

“As bearing on the question on whom rests the blame for the Civil War,” observes Rhodes,

this proposed thirteenth amendment and its fate is of the “highest importance.”
(Horatio Seymour of New York, Stewart Mitchell, Harvard University Press, 1938, pp. 223-224)


A Timeline of Political Events to 1861



Gentlemen Versus Religious Zealots:
“The difference between the Southern civilization and the Northern,” says Thomas Nelson Page,

“was the result of the difference between their origins and subsequent surroundings.”

Then he tells the familiar story of how the Northern colonies “were the asylums of

religious zealots” who came in search of freedom and became themselves

“proscriptors of the most tyrannical type.”

To the Southern colonies, on the other hand, came “soldiers of fortune and gentlemen

in misfortune . . . In the first ship-load of [Virginia] colonists there were “four carpenters,

twelve laborers and fifty-four gentlemen.” The Southern settlers “came with the consent

of the crown, the blessings of the Church, and under the auspices and favor of men

of high-standing in the kingdom.”

With the best blood of England in their veins and the best of the Old word traditions

in their cultural equipment, they produced a civilization “as distinctive as that of Greece,

Carthage, Rome or Venice”; one that “made men noble, gentle and brave, and women

tender, pure and true…..It was, I believe, the purest, sweetest life ever lived.”

Page acknowledges, as many other traditionalists do, that the Southern planters were

not wholly of Cavalier blood. They represented, he says, “the strongest strains of many

stocks – Saxon, Celts, and Teuton; Cavalier and Puritan.”
(The South Looks at its Past, Benjamin Burks Kendrick and Arnett Alex Mathews, UNC Press, 1935, pp. 17-18)

Rhode Island’s Profitable Industry:
“Soon after its settlement, Bristol (Rhode Island) people began to engage in commerce

with the West Indies and the Spanish Main. The first recorded shipment (November 6, 1686)

consisting of a number of horses, was consigned to the “Bristol Merchant,” bound for Surinam,

British Guiana. Slave trade was introduced in Rhode Island about 1700, and Bristol was

not slow in joining Newport and Providence in this highly profitable industry.

It has been estimated that over a fifth of the total number of slaves crossed the Atlantic

to British American in Rhode Island vessels, and that of this fifth Bristol slavers carried

the largest share. Horses, sheep, pickled fish, onions, carrots, etc. made up the cargo on

the outward voyage, and coffee, molasses, sugar, rum and tropical fruits were imported.

The outbreak of the Revolution struck hard at the prosperity of this flourishing commercial

town. After the war the people of Bristol rebuilt the town and commerce was soon

revived, especially the slave trade with Africa and molasses and rum trade with Cuba.
(Rhode Island, Guide to the Smallest State, Louis Cappelli, Houghton Mifflin, 1937, pp. 184-185)


Resisting the British & New England Slave Trade:
“On account of the dangers of navigation off the coast of North Carolina . . . ships engaged

in the African slave trade seldom, if ever, brought their cargoes direct to the colony.

Relative to these conditions, [Royal] Governor Burrington said:

“Great is the loss this country has in not being supplied by vessels from Guinea with Negroes.

In any part of the province the people are able to pay for a shipload; but as none come directly

from Africa, we are under necessity to buy the refuse, refractory, and distempered Negroes

brought in from other governments.”

Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that that on occasion the early planters sent

cargoes of tar and pitch to New England to be sold and the proceeds to be invested

in young Negroes. English merchants and factors from about 1770 to 1776 did not hesitate

to sell Negroes to South Carolina planters on liberal terms, and during those years

the colony prospered…”

On the eve of the Revolution an attempt was made to prohibit the slave trade. The Provincial

Congress in session at New Bern [North Carolina], August 27, 1774, resolved, “We will not

import any slave or slaves, nor purchase any slave or slaves imported or brought into this

province by others from any part of the world after the first day of November next. This

resolution was passed in conformity with a resolve of the Continental Congress, and its

enforcement was designed to strike a blow at British [slave] commerce.

The first impressive protest from any considerable body of citizens in the colony against

the African slave trade was registered by the freeholders of Rowan County [North Carolina]

in 1774. They placed themselves on record…in the following resolution:

“Resolved that the African slave trade is injurious to this colony, obstructs the

population of it, prevents manufacturers and other useful emigrants from Europe

from settling among us, and occasions an annual increase of the balance

of trade against the colonies.”
(Slaveholding in North Carolina, An Economic View, Rosser H. Taylor, UNC Press, 1926, pp. 21-22)


Abolition in the South:
"The American Revolution swelled the ranks of the tiny Southern free black population.

In the years following the Revolution, the number of free Negroes increased manyfold, so

that by the end of the first decade of the nineteenth century there were over 100,000

free Negroes in the Southern States . . . The free Negro caste had grown from a fragment

of the colonial population to a sizable minority throughout the South.

[In] the North, abolition met stiff opposition. In Rhode Island and Connecticut, which

had the largest proportion of Negroes in New England, antislavery forces could enact

only gradual-emancipation laws. Pennsylvania enacted a gradual-emancipation act in 1780,

but, despite of its many Quakers, never legislated immediate abolition. Lawmakers in

New York and New Jersey, where the ratio of blacks to whites was three times that

of Pennsylvania, repeatedly rebuffed antislavery forces and refused to enact even

gradual emancipation for another twenty years. Significantly, emancipation laws

in both New York and New Jersey compensated slaveholders for their property.

Only after property rights were satisfied were human rights secured.

In 1782, Virginia repealed its fifty-nine year-old prohibition on private acts of manumission.

Slaveholders were now free to manumit any adult slave under forty-five by deed or will.

North Carolina slaveholders could free their slaves...for meritorious service and with the

permission of the county court.

Liberalized provisions for manumissions were extended to the new States and territories

of the South. Kentucky adopted the Virginia law in 1792, and the Missouri Territory accepted

a similar rule in 1804. Almost immediately slaveholders took advantage of the greatly

liberalized laws. Throughout the South, but especially in the upper South, hundreds of

masters freed their slaves. Although manumission at times had nothing to do with

anti-slavery principles, equalitarian ideals motivated most manumitters

in the years following the Revolution.

Beginning in 1792, the revolt on Saint-Domingue sent thousands of refugees fleeing

toward American shores. Most were white, but among them were many light-skinned

free people of color who had been caught on the wrong side of the ever-changing

lines of battle . . . [though Southerners] feared the influx of brown emigres. The States

of the lower South, ever edgy about slave rebellions, quickly barred West Indian free

people of color from entering their boundaries, and other States later followed

their lead. A mass meeting in Charleston urged the expulsion of "the French Negroes" . . .

In Savannah, nervous official barred any ship that had touched

Saint-Domingue from entering the harbor."
(Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South, I. Berlin, New Press, 1974, excerpts pp. 15-36)

Jefferson on Massachusetts:
“We are completely under the saddle of Massachusetts and Connecticut, and they

ride us very hard, cruelly insulting our feelings, as well as exhausting our strength

and subsistence. Their natural friends, three eastern States, join them in a sort of

family pride, and they have the art to divide certain other parts of the Union,

so as to make use of them to govern the whole.” (to John Taylor, 1798)

“Could the people of Massachusetts emerge from the deceptions under which they are kept

by their clergy, lawyers and English presses, our salvation would be sure and easy. Without

that, I believe it will be effected; but it will be uphill work. Nor can we expect ever

their cordial cooperation, because they will not be satisfied longer than while we

are sacrificing everything to navigation and a navy.” (to Edmund Pendleton, 1799)
(The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1900, page 544)


New England Federalists and Secession Doctrine
“The final political phenomenon to arise out of the North-South competition of the

1790s was the doctrine of Secession. It represented the death rattle of the Federalist

party. The pivotal year was 1800 when the Democratic leaders Jefferson and Burr

succeeded in putting together a coalition of the have-nots of the country – the

agriculturalists of the South and the proletarians of the Northern cities.

They won control of the nation.

The Federalist party survived another sixteen years, although it never again

won control of the House, Senate or presidency. It did not take defeat well.

Barely three years after the Democratic rout, Northern Federalists began arguing for

the secession of the New England States from the Union. There was nothing understated

about their secessionist position. It was widespread, and if it could not be done

peaceably, they said, it should be done violently.

Listen to one of the many secessionists, Josiah Quincy III, scion of the New England

Quincy’s, future mayor of Boston and future president of Harvard University. In 1811 he

was a thirty-eight-year-old congressman standing opposed to the

admission of Louisiana as a State:

“It is my deliberate opinion,” he said, “that if this bill passes, the bonds of this union

are virtually dissolved, that the States which compose it are free from their moral

obligations, and that as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some

to prepare, definitely, for a separation; amicably if they can; violently if they must.”

One man who listened carefully that year was a freshman congressman from

South Carolina. He was John C. Calhoun, who had been taught the secessionist

doctrine in the law schools of New England, who had listened to it in the Congress,

and who would one day carry it back down South . . . . Meanwhile, it is an unfair

stroke that history has identified the South with secession when in fact the earliest

and clearest arguments against it were proposed by Jefferson and Madison.

The creators of secession doctrine, and the teachers of it from 1800 to 1817,

were New England Federalists.”
(The Natural Superiority of Southern Politicians, D. Chandler, Doubleday, 1977, pp. 114-116)


King Numbers or King One, Both Play the Despot:
“[John] Tyler’s career in the House of Representatives during the years 1817 to 1820

was not distinguished. In his maiden speech in the House he laid down the political

principle which would govern his voting on important issues. He would never,

he said, attempt to court popular favor. “Popularity, I have always thought, may aptly

be compared to a coquette---the more you woo her, the more apt she is to elude

your embrace.” On the contrary, he would listen to no “mere buzz or popular clamor”

from the voters of his district, only the “voice of a majority of the people,

distinctly ascertained and plainly expressed.”

And he would close his ears to the majority voice if his constituents ever demanded that

he violate the Constitution. “If instructions go to violate the Constitution, -- they are not

binding -- and why? My constituents have no right to violate the Constitution

themselves,” he said, “and they have, consequently, no right to require me to do

that which they themselves cannot.” “The barking of newspapers and the brawling

of demagogues,” he once said, “can never drive me from my course. If I am to go

into [political] retirement, I will at least take care to do so with a pure

and unsullied conscience.”

After the emergence of Andrew Jackson onto the American political stage, Tyler came to

fear the potential power of the people. Throughout the remainder of his long political

life he worried lest the establishment of a “mere majority principle” in government

wreck the country, subvert the Constitution, and reduce the social order to mobocracy.

As he summed it up in 1851, in opposing a further broadening of the suffrage in the Old Dominion:

“One word more. The opinion is deeply seated with me that no government can last for

any length of time, in consonance with public liberty, without checks and balances.

Without them we rush into anarchy, or seek repose in the arms of monarchy. We can

neither trust King Numbers or King One with unlimited power. Both play the despot.

By the first, the minority is made the victim; by the last, the whole people…The majority

principle may lead to the establishment of a branch of the Legislature in which the

full voice of the “political people” may be heard, while at the same time those

having the deepest stake in the community [the property holders]…may very

well insist upon being protected by some wholesome check over the action

of the mere numerical majority.”
(And Tyler Too, Robert Seager II, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1963, pp. 61-62)


From Political Harmony to War
“The Whig party . . . was one of the most unusual political groups in American history.

Often called an “organized incompatibility,” it resembled a multicolored patchwork quilt

covering the nation with as many shades of opinion as patches. A coalition of

Southern planters, Northern merchants and manufacturers, and Western farmers

was embraced by the flexible party structure which took form around 1834.

The Whig party started as an opposition party and, because of its heterogeneous nature,

it remained largely so, achieving the most success at the polls when it presented no

specific aims or platforms.

The merger of its component parts began in the late 1820’s when Jacksonian Democracy

threatened to change the United States from an aristocratic republic to a government

of the masses. The fact that Andrew Jackson was philosophically a States-rights advocate

but a strong nationalist when he believed the Union was in danger opened the Whig

ranks to strange bedfellows. The Tennessean’s threatened use of force against

South Carolina in the nullification crisis alienated Southern States-righters, while

his opposition to the National Bank and federally-assisted internal improvements

angered broad construction nationalists in the North and West.

With the exception of South Carolina, which became solidly Democrat under the

leadership of John C. Calhoun, every Southern State developed a two-party system.

The crisscrossing of Whig party interests North and South prevented for about two

decades the rise of any strong, purely sectional political group. The impact of

[Northern] slavery [agitation], however, proved stronger than party ties. In the

mid-1850’s, it destroyed the Whig party and gave birth to the Republican party,

sectionalized in the North. Most Southern Whigs joined the Democratic ranks and

faced the secession crisis in solid phalanx with their former political enemies.
(Robert Toombs of Georgia, William Y. Thompson, LSU Press, 1994, pp. 26-27)


Thomas Clingman’s Ominous Warning
“While pleading with his fellow Southerners [in 1844] not to unduly magnify the

importance of the abolitionist threat, [North Carolina Congressman Thomas L]

Clingman candidly informed his Northern listeners that if an antislavery majority ever

did come to power, “this Union will be at an end . . . Whenever a large portion of

the North should determine that they can no longer abide by the present form

of the Constitution . . . the Union must be dissolved.”

Clingman’s ominous warning was not tantamount to a threat of secession, since he also

expressed confidence that “there is too much good sense at the North to give up this

glorious Union for the sake of abolishing slavery in these ten miles square [District of

Columbia].” The congressman had made it clear, however, that his unionism was

contingent on the willingness of Northerners to play fair with the South

on the “main question.”
(Thomas Lanier Clingman, Fire Eater from the Carolina Mountains, T. Jeffrey, UGA Press, 1998, pg. 45)

A Disruptive Force Against National Unity and Sectional Harmony
“On August 8 [1846], shortly before the adjournment of the first session of the

Twenty-ninth Congress, a young Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania named

David Wilmot arose in the House. To a bill appropriating money for the President’s use

in prospective negotiations with Mexico, he proposed an amendment stipulating that

slavery be excluded from any territory acquired from Mexico.

There thus was raised an issue that most politicians hoped had been laid to rest with

the Missouri Compromise. The House twice approved the Wilmot Proviso, but each time

it failed in the Senate, where the South still had equal representation . . . but it kept

popping out as a disruptive force to national unity and sectional harmony.”
(Robert Toombs of Georgia, William Y. Thompson, LSU Press, 1994, pg. 40)

A Northerner’s View of Slavery:
“This much must be conceded, that the Northern States were just as responsible for the

existence of slavery as were the Southern States . . . and it grew stronger in the

Southern States after the invention of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, simply because it

was enormously profitable, and property and slaves correspondingly valuable.

Sometimes the question is asked, “Were not the slaves better off under slavery than

they are now under freedom?” I think a candid answer to that question demands us

to say than some were better off under slavery than they are under freedom.

The abolition of slavery acted on the colored race like a wedge, forcing some down

and some up. Those who were fit for freedom, prepared to embrace and make the most

of the opportunities offered them as free man, rose. But some were not fit for freedom.

Now that is no reflection upon the colored race. We have a very large proportion of

the white race that are not fit for freedom. We have innumerable numbers of men and

women that we are compelled to confine in institutions and keep as wards of the

State, or they destroy themselves and everybody else.

If slavery was an utterly evil institution, with no alleviating features, how are we

to account for the fact that when the Confederate soldiers were at the front

fighting, as they thought, for their independence, the Negroes on the plantations

took care of the women and children and old people, and nothing like an act of

violence was ever known among them?

I have seen at Charleston, S.C., a monument erected by former slaveholders and

their descendants in grateful acknowledgment of the fidelity of those slaves who

remained upon the plantations and cared for their women and children while

they were at the front, and I understand that the Confederate veterans

are also to erect another such monument.

Certainly such kindly feeling between master and slave shows that there must

have been something good in the institution of slavery. So we should not look

back at the institution of slavery as a reign of unalleviated wickedness and

horror, but remember that it had within itself, in spite of its many abuses

and intolerable horrors, much that was good.

A letter from President [William Howard] Taft was also read by Dr. Stowe:
The White House, Washington, D.C.

“I am not one of those who believe that it is well to educate that mass of

Negroes with academic or university education. On the contrary, I am firmly

convinced that the hope of the Negro is in his industrial education throughout

the South and in teaching him to be a better farmer, a better carpenter, a better

machinist, and a better blacksmith than he is now, and to make more blacksmiths

and more good farmers than there now are among the Negroes.”
(Son of Harriet Beecher Stowe Address at Fisk University. Confederate Veteran, July, 1911, pp. 326-327)


Southern Whigs Versus Southern Democrats:
“John C. Calhoun, fearful of the Northern majority and scornful of compromise, had come

to Washington determined to organize a Southern party which, under his leadership,

would hold the line against Northern aggressions. The Democratic leader’s “Southern

Address” was an able paper, cataloguing the transgressions of the North against the

institution of slavery, calling on the South to defend itself, and warning that if

not arrested the antislavery movement would lead to abolition,

the ultimate of Southern horrors.

[Robert] Toombs [stated that]: “the Union of the South was neither possible nor

desirable until we were ready to dissolve the Union; that we certainly did not intend

to advise the people now to look anywhere else than to their own government for

the prevention of apprehended evils; that we did not expect an administration

which we had brought into power would do any act or permit any act to be done

which it would become necessary for our safety to rebel at . . . that we intended

to stand by the government until it committed an overt act of aggression upon

our rights, which neither we nor the country expected.”

Having foiled Calhoun’s Southern Rights movement, the Southern Whigs in the House

rallied around a plan by which they hoped the slavery controversy would be put to rest.

Introduced by William B. Preston of Virginia, it called for the admission of all the territory

acquired from Mexico as a single State as soon as was constitutionally possible. The new

member of the Union would be undoubtedly free. But only one State would be added

to Northern strength, and furthermore it was highly unlikely that slavery could ever

flourish in the arid Southwest anyway. Additionally, the prickly Wilmot Proviso would

be bypassed by this legislation, as the State could determine its own institutions.

Zachary Taylor was singularly ill-equipped for the office of the President . . . Although

competent as a professional soldier, he was practically devoid of any knowledge of politics.

He had never voted nor held public office; for that matter he did not appear to be

sure of his own political affiliation until shortly before he was elected to the presidency.

Championed by the Southern Whigs, he proved to be a source of embarrassment to them.

The old soldier had been nationalized by long army service and held no particular

affection for the South and its peculiar institution.

In the months following his inauguration in March [1849], it seemed clear that the

Northern, antislavery wing of the [Whig] party was gaining ascendancy over

Taylor. Particularly was William H. Seward, New York senator and Wilmot Proviso

enthusiast, emerging as a permanent fixture at the President’s elbow.

In the wake of the anti-Taylor feeling sweeping the South, the influence of Calhoun’s

Southern Address, and the demand that California for admission as a free State,

elections both State and congressional went badly for the [Southern] Whigs.

It was not unusual for Northern newspapers at this time [1850] to dismiss somewhat

intemperate Southern pronouncements on union and disunion as mere bombast.

Undoubtedly there was more heat than light in some cases, but often the hard-core

determination of Southerners to resist what they termed aggression was not

apprehended by the North.”
(Robert Toombs of Georgia, William Y. Thompson, LSU Press, 1994, pp. 51-59)

Henry Clay Seeks Compromise; Taylor Threatens Invasion
“On January 29, 1850, Clay introduced a set of compromise proposals in the Senate

designed to settle all controversies of a sectional character. The Kentuckian called for

the admission of California as a free State, the erection of territorial governments in

the remainder of the Mexican cession without restrictions on slavery, a satisfactory

settlement of Texas claims, the abolition of the slave trade but not slavery in the

District of Columbia, a more effective fugitive slave law, and a declaration by Congress

that it did not have the authority to interfere with the interstate slave trade.

Clay’s “Omnibus Bill,” the focal point for debate in the Senate and later in the House,

became the hope of moderates in both parties and throughout the country. The battle

here initially centered around an attempt by the supporters of the [President] Taylor

plan to get California into the Union without compensation to the South, which stood

to lose equality in the Senate with the admission of the Western State.

Leading the fight to block the measure were Toombs, [Alexander H.] Stephens, and

Thomas L. Clingman of North Carolina, who explained that they were opposing the entrance

of California until some settlement were made establishing the principle of that Congress

could not exclude slavery from the territories.

The Southern Whigs were anxious to bring the President into accord with their plan of

compromise. On February 23, Toombs, Stephens and Clingman called on Taylor and

argued strongly against his “California without compensation” plan. The President

refused to budge, and in their frustration the congressmen talked loosely of secession

and disunion. Taylor replied wrathfully that if necessary he would place himself at

the head of the army to see that the laws were obeyed, and that he would

not hesitate to hang them if they became involved in rebellion against the United States.”
(Robert Toombs of Georgia, William Y. Thompson, LSU Press, 1994, pp. 60-61)

The South Will Stand by the Constitution and Laws
Four days later Toombs continued the battle in the House to protect Southern rights

in the territories. Toombs said the South did not demand that slavery be established

in the territories. In fact, he had no quarrel with the right of a people in drawing up

a State constitution to exclude slavery. But until this time, he said, “we ask

protection against all hostile impediments to the introduction and peaceable

enjoyment of all our property in the territories . . . “

Heating up a bit as he neared the end of his allotted hour, Toombs said:

“In this emergency our duty id clear; it is to stand by the Constitution and laws, to observe

in good faith all of its requirements, until the wrong is consummated, until the act of

exclusion is put under the statue book; it will then be demonstrated that the

Constitution is powerless for our protection; it will then be not only the right, but

[each Southern State’s duty] to resume the powers which they have conferred

upon this Government, and to seek new safeguards for their future security.”

A moment later he concluded, “When the argument is exhausted we will stand by our arms.”

Toombs’ speech was well-received by the press. The editor of the Richmond Times called

it “able, eloquent, and moderate,” one that “commanded the attention of every member of

the House. The effort will cause him to be held in higher estimation than ever.”

The Washington correspondent of the New York Sun was also impressed by the

statesmanlike restraint of the Georgian, whom he called the “ablest man

of either party from the South.”
(Robert Toombs of Georgia, William Y. Thompson, LSU Press, 1994, pp. 60-63)


North Carolina’s Viewpoint on Compromise
“Within the North Carolina congressional delegation, most of the controversy centered

on the first three points of the [compromise] package. The Democrats and a majority

of the Whigs opposed granting Statehood to California unless its southern border

was drawn at the Missouri Compromise line. North Carolina Democrats also opposed

[Henry] Clay’s idea of organizing the remaining territories according the principle

of nonintervention. Like popular sovereignty, nonintervention was an ambiguous

doctrine susceptible to different sectional interpretations.

Its Southern adherents believed that nonintervention meant that both the local and

the national legislatures would refrain from interfering with slavery during the territorial

phase. Northern devotees argued that nonintervention applied to Congress alone and

did not preclude a territorial legislature from excluding slavery prior to Statehood.

North Carolina Democrats distrusted nonintervention and demanded, instead, the

extension of the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific and an explicit acknowledgement

of the right of Southerners to carry slaves into territories south of that line.

Most of the State’s Whig congressmen also preferred and extension of the compromise line

over intervention, but they were willing to accept the latter if they could not get the former.

The Texas boundary question was closely tied to the territorial issue. Tar Heel Democrats

objected to transferring fifty thousand square miles from a slave State to a territory

where the status of slavery would be indeterminate. They would consent to an exchange

only if they were assured that slaveholders would have the right to bring

their property into New Mexico.”
(Thomas Lanier Clingman, Fire Eater from the Carolina Mountains, T. Jeffrey, UGA Press, 1998, pg. 81)


Last Cries for Compromise and Saving the Union
On March 4 the dying and disillusioned Calhoun presented the ultimatum of [Southerners]

who rejected the admission of California, called for equal treatment of the South in

the territories, and demanded constitutional safeguards for the rights of the

minority South within the Union.

Three days later, [Daniel] Webster delivered his famous Seventh of March speech

advocating compromise [and] courageously called on the North to cease its antislavery

agitation, pointing out that it had already won the battle of the territories since they

were ill-suited by nature to the spread of slavery. Webster’s effort brought him

nothing but vituperation from his own people . . . “
(Robert Toombs of Georgia, William Y. Thompson, LSU Press, 1994, pp. 63-64)



Rejecting the Time-Honored Spirit of Compromise
“[John A.] Gilmer turned to Republicans in the [US House] chamber.
“I would say to my Northern friends . . . that you have it in your power . . .

to crush this [talk of disunion] out in one hour.” Simply allow both sections equal

rights in the territories and there would be “a speedy end to the ambitious schemes

of disunion politicians.” The endless debate was no more than “an excuse for agitation”

that accomplished nothing.

“I incline to the opinion that in the future, as heretofore, soil, climate, and productions

would settle the question of slavery in the Territories, if peace and quiet were restored.

After all that has been said and done, Congress has never made a free State out

of any Territory that nature intended for a slave State, and has never made a slave

State out of territory where free labor could be profitably employed.”

Gilmer pleaded with his Republican colleagues to consider any compromise, any

concession that might deprive secessionists of their arguments. Southern fears were

real and would continue to be exploited if Republicans kept silent or ignored the problem.

“You say you have elected your President constitutionally,” said the North Carolinian.

“I admit it. You express wonder and surprise that the South should be alarmed at this.

Now, let me reason with you . . . Suppose the positions of the two sections of the

union were reversed; suppose the [Southern] States were eighteen, and the [Northern]

States fifteen; suppose the [Southern] States had a majority in this House . . .

[and the Senate and electoral college, and nominate a Southern president and

vice-president, and all adopt] a resolution intimating that it is in the power of

Congress, as well as the duty of Congress, to provide that no more free States

shall be admitted into the Union . . .

[S]uppose all these things were to happen, and then speeches, assurances,

and telegrams, should be freely circulated throughout your country, that the South

intended to make all the States slaveholding States: I submit to you, my Northern

friends, would you not be very much warmed up against that Southern movement,

and begin to feel that you were but small folks in this Government? Would

you not feel like looking out for yourselves, at least to the extent

of asking for some guarantees?”

Settlement of every sectional dispute was within reach if only the time-honored

spirit of compromise could be revived. “Is it possible that the sons of American fathers

cannot agree on this trifling matter?” What would the Founding Fathers do under

these circumstances? Would they let matters go on until blood was shed? Should

compromise fail and conflict come, Gilmer knew it would be his duty to stand

by North Carolina.

“I want men gentlemen North and South to mark my words: when . . .

this country should be laid waste; when shipping in our ports shall be destroyed,

when our institutions of learning and religion shall wither away or be torn down;

when your cities shall be given up for plunder and for slaughter; when your sons

and my sons, your neighbors and my neighbors, shall be carried from this bloody

field of strife; and our mothers, our sisters, our wives, and our daughters,

shall assemble around us, and, with weeping eyes and aching hearts, say:

“Could you not have done something, could you not have said something,

that would have averted this dreadful calamity?

I want to feel in my conscience and in my soul that I have done my duty.”
(Taking a Stand, W. Cisco, 1998, White Mane Books, pp. 97-98)


Demanding Political Equality or Independence
“The President, under the influence of Seward, a non-compromiser, was still insistent

on the passage of his own [California admission] program, and had come to be very

jealous of Henry Clay. It appeared that the White House had solidified in its obstinacy

to a solution on any terms but its own.

[Speaking on the admission of California on 15 June 1850, Toombs said:]
“I claim the right [of the South] to enter [the territories] with all her property and securely

to enjoy it. She will divide with you if you wish it, but the right to enter all or divide I shall

never surrender. In my judgment, this right, involving, as it does political equality, is worth

a thousand such Unions as we have, even if they were a thousand times more valuable as this.

Deprive us of this right and appropriate the common property to yourselves, it is then

your government, not mine. Then I am its enemy, and I will then, if I can, bring my children

to the altar of liberty, and like Hamilcar, I would swear them to eternal hostility to your

foul domination. Give us our just right, and we are ready, as ever heretofore, to stand by

the Union, every part of it, and its every interest.

Refuse it, and for one, I will strike for independence.”
(Robert Toombs of Georgia, William Y. Thompson, LSU Press, 1994, pp. 64-65)


Secession or Revolution
“To modern readers, the debate between the proponents of the “right of secession”

and the advocates of the “right of revolution” might seem a hollow controversy about

a meaningless abstraction. For antebellum Southerners, however, the practical implications

of the two competing viewpoints were quite different. For those who believed secession

was a constitutional remedy, it followed that a State might peaceably withdraw from the

Union whenever it believed that the terms of the compact had been violated.

On the other hand, Southerners who invoked the right of revolution regarded disunion

as an extraconstitutional option that could be justified only in cases of severe and

intolerable oppression. They acknowledged, moreover, that those who resorted to the

right of revolution could not expect their oppressors to acquiesce peacefully. Like the

thirteen colonies, they most likely would have to fight in order to vindicate their rights.

As the events following Lincoln’s election in 1860 would graphically reveal, that

acknowledgement made the Southern revolutionists considerably more inclined than

their secessionist counterparts to search for alternatives to disunion.”
(Thomas Lanier Clingman, Fire Eater from the Carolina Mountains, T. Jeffrey, UGA Press, 1998, pg. 80)


The Limit of Federal Authority
“[Toombs and Stephens visited President Taylor] on July 3 . . . As later told by Stephens,

one specific complaint made to the President at this time concerned his determination to

send Federal troops to occupy the territory in dispute between Texas and New Mexico.

Shortly after this, the Georgia congressmen met Secretary of the Navy William B. Preston . . .

and talked in terms of impeaching the President if troops were sent to Santa Fe.

When Preston asked who would impeach him, Stephens replied, “I will if nobody else does.”

On the morning of July 3 there had appeared in the National Intelligencer a news item

suggesting that an armed clash between the military forces of Texas and the United States

in the Santa Fe area was imminent. Stephens objected to this and . . . wrote the editors,

from his desk in the House, that the “first Federal gun that shall be fired against the people

of Texas, without the authority of law, will be the signal for the freemen from the Delaware

to the Rio Grande to rally to the rescue.”

The death of Zachary Taylor [on 9 July] broke the political logjam holding back the adoption

of a compromise plan. After the accession of Millard Fillmore, handsome New Yorker and

professional politician who understood the necessity of compromise in statecraft, events,

after one false start, took their natural course. Reflecting the desire of the majority

of the American people, Congress moved fairly evenly toward the termination of the national crisis.

Ironically, Toombs was brought face to face with one of the problems involved in the

sectional crisis . . . the loss of . . . slaves. A New York abolitionist and newspaper publisher,

William L. Chaplin, was able to entice two slaves away from Toombs and Stephens and

conceal them briefly in the capital city. Police were successful, however, in capturing

the fugitives as they tried to leave town by carriage.

The Compromise of 1850, on which the house put its stamp of approval by September 17,

provided for: the admission of California with a free-State constitution; the creation of two

new territories, Utah and New Mexico, with the troublesome slavery question buried

under the principle of congressional non-intervention . . . the abolition of the slave

trade but not slavery in the District of Columbia; and a drastic new fugitive slave law.”
(Robert Toombs of Georgia, William Y. Thompson, LSU Press, 1994, pp. 68-71)


1850's View of Traditional American Foreign Policy
“[Toombs spoke] at a congressional banquet at Willard’s Hotel in commemoration of Washington’s

birthday [in 1852] and took this occasion, along with other speakers present, to attack the

Hungarian rebel chieftain, Louis Kossuth, who was in the United States enlisting money

and support for the continuation of the struggle against Austrian domination. In strongly

conservative . . . terms, he condemned the solicitations of the popular revolutionary,

saying Kossuth wished the United States to “turn knight-errant, imitate the knight of

La Mancha [Don Quixote], and travel up and down the world, revenging or righting

the wrongs of all injured nations.”

The United States, should not, he said, interfere with the institutions of another country,

in view of the difficulty it was having agreeing on the proper principles of its own internal

policy. Let it look after its own affairs and steer clear of European entanglements.

Those nations who desired to be free had only to will it.

The New York Daily Times, ardent Kossuth champion, deplored the addresses, saying that

the “mantle of Washington was [being] made to protect the interests and the political crimes

of despots of Europe.” The Kossuth rage continued for some time in the United States

but finally evaporated when it appeared the Hungarian wanted active intervention

by the United States in Europe, something traditional American policy opposed.”
(Robert Toombs of Georgia, William Y. Thompson, LSU Press, 1994, pp. 82-83)


Fictionalized Antislavery Agitation
“The potency of literature in the governance of men’s minds was forcibly shown when in

1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe published her Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a work of popular fiction which

set up a Christian martyr in black skin as hero, idealized the Negro, exaggerated his unhappiness

in the South, and presented harrowing pictures of brutality. The book was universally

read, 100,000 copies being sold within two months and 300,000 within a year.

The South considered the book a slander, regarding it not incorrectly as an abolitionist tract.

The significance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, as of similar mass attacks upon the popular mind,

lay in the fact that the conflict of sections was becoming increasingly dramatized.

Issues were becoming emotionalized; slogans were reducing public sentiment to

stereotyped patterns; social psychology was approaching a hair-trigger instability.

To this factor of mass psychology William H. Seward made a fateful contribution. Speaking at

Rochester, New York, October 25, 1858, he said: “Shall I tell you what this collision means?

It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it means that the

United States must and will, sooner or later, become either entirely a slaveholding nation,

or entirely a free-labor nation.”

A year after the speech was delivered old John Brown of Osawatomie broke out with an

insane attack upon slavery in Virginia; and the sensitive mind of the South put the two

together: Seward, the Republican spokesman, was preaching the “irrepressible conflict”;

John Brown was giving the illustration of it in blood and servile war!”
(The Civil War and Reconstruction, J. G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, pg. 169-170)


A New Political Party Needed
“In a letter published in the Washington Republic on 10 May 1852, Clingman . . . was calling

upon Southerners to abandon their old party allegiances and join together in resisting the

encroachments of the antislavery North. Unlike [Calhoun], he envisioned a new party that

would encompass not only Southern but also “the national men of the North” – Democrats

and Whigs who would renounce the antislavery elements contamination both parties and join

their fellow Southerners in defense of the Constitution and the Union.
(Thomas Lanier Clingman, Fire Eater from the Carolina Mountains, T. Jeffrey, UGA Press, 1998, pg. 89)

“On December 15 [1852], Toombs wrote Crittenden a short letter commenting on the

[presidential] election and the future of the Whig party. He pronounced the election, in typical

overstatement, as on e in which the “nation, with singular unanimity, has determined to

take a man [Pierce] without claims or qualifications, surrounded by as dirty a lot of

political gamesters as ever Cataline assembled, rather than the canting hypocrites who

brought out Genl Scott. The decision was a wise one,” Toombs thought.

The country could never achieve peace and security with the likes of “Seward, [Horace]

Greeley and Co.” in positions of influence. Unless the Whig party rose to meet the

standards of the Democrats, low as they were, it deserved no resurrection and would have none.”
(Robert Toombs of Georgia, William Y. Thompson, LSU Press, 1994, pp. 88-89)

The Young America Movement
“[The 1854] Young America [movement] leaders were not Southern radicals but

nationalist Northern Democrats like Stephen A. Douglas. Indeed, by 1855, Clingman

was identifying himself with “what is called the party of progress, or . . . Young America.”

The proponents of young America justified an expansionist foreign policy on national,

rather than sectional, grounds. In their view, the United States was divinely ordained

to spread its republican institutions throughout the Western Hemisphere. That nationalistic

vision was closely connected with Douglas’s doctrine of popular sovereignty or congressional

nonintervention. As Clingman explained in the speech announcing his conversion to the

principle he had opposed so vehemently in 1850, if the residents of each community were

allowed to determine for themselves the character of their local institutions with

interference by Congress, the United States would continue to expand in territory

without being “disturbed with agitations about slavery.”
(Thomas Lanier Clingman, Fire Eater from the Carolina Mountains, T. Jeffrey, UGA Press, 1998, pg. 103)

Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854
“[This] act terminated the four-year period of relative quiet after the Compromise of 1850

and unleashed a sectional storm which was never allayed and which eventuated in war

in 1861. As steered through congress by Stephen A. Douglas, a Northern Democrat, the

act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and divided the remainder of the Louisiana

Purchase into Kansas and Nebraska territories, leaving the question of slavery in each

to be decided on the principle of popular sovereignty or local self-government –

by the settlers themselves.

The [Act] . . . which legally opened to slavery a region from which it had been

excluded since 1820, precipitated a political revolution in the North. Northern Whigs,

the free-soilers and many antislavery Democrats formed the new Republican party . . .

and declared that there must never be another slave territory or State.

Most of the new settlers in Kansas were from near-by States, particularly the slave

State of Missouri. But antislavery leaders in the North were determined that the territory

should be free soil [and exclude blacks], and urged Northerners to migrate to Kansas.

Particularly active in this respect was the New England Emigrant aid Society, eager

to colonize Kansas with free-soilers, and incidentally to make a profit out of selling

equipment and supplies to them.
(History of a Southern State, North Carolina, Lefler & Newsome, UNC Press, 1954, pg. 412)


The Dred Scott Case
“The Dred Scott decision was hardly in essence a judicial controversy at all. In the form in

which it was brought before the United States Supreme Court it was only nominally a case

at law involving an immediate issue as to personal or property rights to be determined

by court decree. Whatever the decree, it had been predetermined by the parties

to the suit, who were not bona fide litigants with opposite interests, that the Negro

and his family should be set free.

As the personal servant of Dr. John Emerson, a Federal army surgeon, Scott accompanied

his master while on military assignment at Rock Island, Illinois, and at Fort Snelling, in

Federal territory north of the line 36 [degrees] 30’. He had thus resided in a free State,

and later in a portion of Federal territory in which slavery had been prohibited by the

Missouri Compromise law of 1820. While at Fort Snelling he was married; in 1838 Dr. Emerson

returned with him to Missouri.

In 1846, Dr. Emerson, having died, Scott instituted suit [sponsored by abolitionists] for

his liberty against Mrs. Emerson in a lower Missouri court at St. Louis [and the case eventually

rose to the Supreme Court].

Two important questions were “decided,” or rather, announced as decided, by the majority of the Court:

first, that a Negro “whose ancestors were . . sold as slaves” cannot become a member of the

political community created by the Constitution and be entitled to the rights of Federal citizenship;

second, that the Missouri Compromise law, prohibiting slavery in part of national territory,

was unconstitutional.

It is because of these two fundamental points in the decision that the case possesses historical

importance. In developing the argument to support these points [Chief Justice] Taney

declared that Negroes were not citizens of the several States at the time of the adoption

of the Constitution and that the language of the Declaration of Independence did not embrace

them as part of the “people” of the United States.

There was at this time no constitutional definition of Federal citizenship, but the Constitution

(Article IV, sec. 2) provided that the “Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges

and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”

Taney, however, drew a distinction between “citizenship which a State may confer within

its own limits, and the rights of citizenship as a member of the Union.” A man might be a citizen

of a State, he declared, but it did “not by any means follow . . . that he must be a citizen

of the United States.” Though the general rule was that Federal citizenship resulted from State

citizenship, yet, said he, there was a limit to this rule, for “no State can . . . introduce a

new member into the political community created by the Constitution of the United States.”

“It cannot,” he said, “introduce any person, or description of persons, who were not intended

to be embraced in this new political family, which the Constitution brought into existence, but

were intended to be excluded from it.”

He therefore concluded that “Dred Scott was not a citizen of Missouri within the meaning of the

Constitution of the United States, and not entitled to sue in its courts, and consequently that

the circuit court had “no jurisdiction of the case.”

Stressing the fact that slaves were property, and invoking the fifth amendment, which prohibits

Congress from taking property “without due process of law,” Taney declared that the “only power

conferred upon Congress by the Constitution in the matter of slavery in the territories was “the

power coupled with the duty of guarding and protecting the owner in his rights.” The [Missouri]

Compromise act, he declared, was “not warranted by the Constitution” and was “therefore void."

Six of the nine justices concurred both as to the denial of citizenship to Negroes and the

unconstitutionality of the Missouri Compromise act . . . “
(The Civil War and Reconstruction, J. G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, pp. 148-154)


Whiggery in Descent, Republicans Emerge
“There were no towering figures in the Senate when Toombs became a member. Calhoun,

Webster, and Clay were gone . . . his new colleagues [were] Stephen A. Douglas [; and]

arrogant Charles Sumner of Massachusetts; . . . and the muffled voice of Seward

[of New York]”; tough, hard-working Ben Wade and the stately Salmon P. Chase

of Ohio; John Bell, a man of moderation as befitted a senator from the border State

of Tennessee; the smooth, sophisticated Louisianan, Judah P. Benjamin, whom listening

to was “like listening to music . . .”; and later, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi . . . “

[On] January 23, 1854, a bill was introduced in the Senate by Douglas (chairman of the committee

of territories) which was to result in the destruction of the Whig party, the birth of the Republican

party, and a rekindling of the sectional controversy climaxing in secession and civil war. Douglas’

measure called for the organization of two new territories, Kansas and Nebraska, with the

question of slavery being left to the territorial inhabitants . . . with “popular sovereignty”

being the best solution for determining the status of slavery.

Southern congressmen lined up almost solidly behind the bill, as a furor erupted in the North

over the proposed violation of a “sacred compact” (the Missouri Compromise) between the sections.

On January 24, the day after the presentation of the Nebraska bill, there appeared in the press

 . . . entitled “Appeal of the Independent Democrats in Congress to the People of the United States”

. . . [designed] by its author, Salmon P. Chase, to arouse widespread Northern fears, [and] it bitterly

denounced the measure as a violation of a compact, a betrayal of Northern rights, and a scheme

to exclude free soilers from a vast area of the West. The “Appeal” and Douglas’s subsequent

attack on it opened up one of the most heated debates in congressional history. Out of it came

a grouping of all the antislavery elements into a new political organization, the Republican party.”
(Robert Toombs of Georgia, William Y. Thompson, LSU Press, 1994 (original 1966), pp. 95-97)


Whig Party Dissolution
With the Whig disparate coalition disintegrating, many found affiliation with old foes repugnant.

Some of them drifted into the Know-Nothing or American party, which was gaining momentum

on the political scene. The Know-Nothings had originated out of native hostility to the largely

Catholic immigration of the 1840’s from Ireland and Germany. Operating on a platform endorsing

the maintenance of a Protestant America against malevolent foreign influences, various

secret organizations had coalesced into a national group which went into politics in the early 1850’s.

The Know-Nothing movement was initiated in 1854 and within a year had become a decisive

factor in State politics. Some railed against the Pierce administration as ”an adjunct of

German Jews, Red Republicans, and Infidel Scotch.”

Many Southerners were opposed to the Know-Nothings since they were a secret organization

in a country where freedom of speech and liberty of the press were cardinal principles, and

where religious toleration flourished. Robert Toombs wrote on 6 June 1855:

“The true policy of the South is to unite; to lay aside all party divisions. Whigs, Democrats

and Know-Nothings should come together and combine for the public safety. If we are wise

enough to do this, and present one unbroken column of fifteen States united for the

preservation of their own rights, the Constitution and the Union, and to uphold and

support that noble band of patriots at the North who have stood for the Constitution

and the right against the tempest of fanaticism, folly and treason which has assailed them,

we shall succeed. We shall then have conquered a peace which will be enduring, and

by means which will not invite further aggression.”
(Robert Toombs of Georgia, William Y. Thompson, LSU Press, 1994 (original 1966), pg. 102)


Whig Demise in North Carolina
“By early spring [1855], the Whig party in North Carolina was rapidly giving way to a new

and potentially more powerful organization – the American, or Know-Nothing, party.

At first glance, [Clingman’s] North Carolina mountain region might have seemed infertile soil

for a party dedicated to curbing the political influence of Catholics and foreigners,

both of whom were practically nonexistent in Clingman’s district.

Nonetheless, many westerners proved susceptible to dire warnings that their democratic

system of government was being threatened by hordes of immigrant criminals and paupers

who owed primary allegiance to the Pope. With their rallying cry of “Americans should rule

America,” the Know-Nothings made impressive gains not only among the Whigs but also

among clergymen and others who had not previously been involved in politics.

In order to attract Democratic support, Know-Nothing leaders self-consciously disassociated

themselves from the Whigs and boasted that their party had “arisen upon the ruins, and in

spite of the opposition, of the whig and democratic parties.”

In his first public address at Franklin (North Carolina] on 18 March 1855 . . . [Clingman] declared

himself to be an “independent outsider” rather than a Democrat, [and] condemned the

Know-Nothings for their secrecy, their irresponsible appeals to religious prejudice, their

unconstitutional attempts to combine church and state, and their

affiliations with Northern abolitionists. “
(Thomas Lanier Clingman, Fire Eater from the Carolina Mountains, T. Jeffrey, UGA Press, 1998, pp. 105-106)

Slavery and American Society
“Fundamental to Toombs’ consideration of the institution of slavery per se was his firm belief,

and that of most Southerners, in the superiority of the white race. When the African and Caucasian

coexisted in the same society, the subordination of the African was the “normal, necessary

and proper condition, and that such subordination is the condition best calculated to promote

the highest interest and greatest happiness of both races, and consequently of the whole society. . . “

Toombs was not concerned with the question of whether the African had been removed from his

home and placed in bondage. England and the Christian world had already made that an

accomplished fact for the Southern States at the time of their independence. It was their duty

to devise a practical modus vivendi for the various elements of society which would secure

the greatest happiness for all concerned.

As Africans were ‘Unfit to be trusted with political power, incapable as freemen of securing their

own happiness, or promoting the public prosperity,” their slave status was recognized and

perpetuated. Toombs pointed out numerous benefits to the slave in the Southern States:

protection of life, provision for food, clothing and shelter, and benevolent treatment when

old or infirm. Although the slave was not paid in wages, the slave was compensated in

kind, “the necessaries and comforts of life, which frequently meant greater compensation

than the free laborer received.”

Thus the perennial conflict between labor and capital over the division of the earning of labor

was avoided. Toombs recounted some of the charges frequently made against the peculiar institution.”
(Robert Toombs of Georgia, William Y. Thompson, LSU Press, 1994, pp. 105-106)


The Abolitionist Republicans
“Clingman was aware that an aggressive [colonial] movement in Central America might well

provoke a reaction from Great Britain, whose aim was to prevent the United States form extending

its power in that region. He believed that Britain was giving aid and encouragement to the

American abolitionists in order “to keep us in an eternal agitation about this question of

slavery to the neglect of great national interests.”

As the presidential campaign of 1856 commenced, Clingman . . . discredited the Republican party

by linking them to the alleged British conspiracy to undermine the American republic. Clingman

[accused] the British of engaging in a deliberate plot to destroy the economy of “her great

commercial rival . . . [by] forc[ing] the United States to emancipate her slaves.” He then

. . . denounced the abolition managers of the North as “unprincipled . . . cowardly, mean

and malicious.” Their object, he claimed, was nothing less than “the total abolition of slavery,

the raising of the Negroes to equality with us, and the amalgamation of the white and black races.”
(Thomas Lanier Clingman, Fire Eater from the Carolina Mountains, T. Jeffrey, UGA Press, 1998, pg. 109-110)


North Carolina and the Presidential Election of 1856
“In 1856, [William W.] Holden, Clingman, and the radical Democrats urged the secession of

the Southern States if Republican John C. Fremont were elected president. The governors of

North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia met in Raleigh with Holden and other Democratic

leaders and discussed the proper course of action in the event of a “Black Republican”

victory. But the immediate crisis passed with the triumph of the Democratic candidate,

[James] Buchanan, over his two opponents, Fremont and Millard Fillmore,

candidate of the American party.”
(History of a Southern State, North Carolina, Lefler & Newsome, UNC Press, 1954, pg. 419)

John Brown Incites Slave Insurrection in 1859
“Then John Brown, after raising a considerable sum of money in Boston and elsewhere

and obtaining a supply of arms, on Sunday, October 16, 1859, started on his mission.

With a force of seventeen whites and five Negroes, he captured the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry,

expecting the slaves to rise and begin the massacre of the white slaveholders. The [the

Virginia militia and United States] military was able to prevent that, and Brown was

tried and executed. Then, throughout the North, John Brown was said to have gone

straight to heaven – a saint!

In the Senate, Stephen A. Douglas, pursuant to the Constitution, introduced a bill to punish

those people who seek to incite slave insurrections. “Abraham Lincoln, in his speech at New

York City, declared it was a seditious speech” – “his press and party hooted at it.”

“It received their jeers and jibes.” (See page 663, Stephen’s Pictorial History).

Then came the election of President. The party of Negro insurrections swept the Northern States.

The people of the South had realized the possible results. With the people and the State

governments of the North making a saint of a man who had planned and started to murder

the slaveholders – the whites of the South – and the Northern States all going in favor

of that party which protected those engaged in such plans, naturally there were in every

Southern State those who thought it best to guard against such massacres by separating

from those States where John Brown was deified.

When the news came that Lincoln was elected, the South Carolina Legislature, being in session,

called a State Convention. When the Convention met, it withdrew from the Union. In its declaration

it said: “Those States have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes;

and those who remain have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until now it has secured to its

aid the power of the common government.”

[In late August 1862 . . . Lincoln thought that by threatening to free the Negroes at the South

he might help his prospects in the war. There were those [in Chicago] who deemed it a barbarity

to start an insurrection of the Negroes. The French paper at New York said: “Does the Government

at Washington mean to say that, on January 1, it will call for a servile war to aid in the conquest

of the South? And after the Negroes have killed all the whites, the Negroes themselves

must be drowned in their own blood.”

Charles Sumner in his speech at Faneuil Hall said of Southern slaveholders: “When they rose

against a paternal government, they set an example of insurrection. They cannot complain

if their slaves, with better reason, follow it.” And so the North was for the insurrection!

It was feared that the Government would not seek to prevent John Brown insurrections,

and the better to guard against them, the cotton States withdrew from the Union.”
(A Southern View of the Invasion and War of 1861-65, Captain S.A. Ashes, Raleigh, NC, 1935, pp. 46-47)


John Brown’s Raid and North Carolina:
“Scarcely had [President James Buchanan] returned to Washington [from visiting North Carolina]

when John Brown made his raid on Harper’s Ferry. The story of the reaction of the North and

the South toward Brown’s raid and his subsequent execution is too familiar to need repetition.

The raid itself frightened the South, since no man could tell how far Brown’s conspiracy

extended; but the South had no doubt of its ability to handle that phase of the problem.

What most alarmed and horrified the Southern people was the expression of Northern sentiment

toward the criminal; and the extent to which the anti-slavery fanaticism might go was borne in

upon Southerners by Emerson’s exclamation that Brown “has made the gallows

as glorious as the cross.”

North Carolina, of course, fully shared the sentiments of her sister Southern States. There was a

general demand for military preparations; new military companies were organized; and Governor

Ellis requested the War Department to send and additional supply of arms to the Federal arsenal

at Fayetteville. The political effects were equally as great. The [Raleigh] Standard declared

that unless the South could be assured of protection in the Union it would have to “sunder

the bonds,” and the Register echoed the sentiment. In December the Council of State resolved

that, “If we cannot . . . enjoy repose and tranquility in the Union, we will be constrained,

in justice to ourselves and our posterity, to establish new forms . . . [of union].”
(North Carolina, Rebuilding an Ancient Commonwealth, Vol. II, R.D.W. Conner, AHS, 1929, pp. 124-125)


The Abolitionist Threat to the South:
"On the wall of my study hangs one of the John Steuart Curry etchings of old John Brown

of Ossawattomie, sword and revolver belted at his waist, a suppliant Negro face close to

the grim holster, and behind him a Kansas cyclone knifing down from the darkling sky. The

imagery is noble, heroic. But my Grandfather Carter would not admire it, were he alive,

for he was one of the nervous young militia-men from near-by Charles Town, who circled

the Harpers Ferry arsenal and waited for Robert E. Lee and the marines to come

and drag out John Brown's body.

To my grandfather, John Brown was an insane murderer and the father of murdering sons,

who sought to loose an old horror upon the Virginia countryside; the horror of the slave

revolt, the burning dwelling, the ravished wife, and the slain householder. John Brown was

no hero, no martyr to my grandfather who sniped at the arsenal windows.

Inside as prisoner was Colonel Washington, the first president's great nephew . . .

Dead in Harpers Ferry were three other citizens, kindly, decent men too, and one of them a

free mulatto. This was no test of the rightness of slavery, this was murder and rapine; and

behind old John Brown's handful of white and Negro followers blew a dank wind from the North,

the breath of the Abolitionists, Higginson, Sanborn, Smith, Parker Douglas, and the evil rest,

whispering rebellion in the night. These men of New England had encouraged and given

money for muskets and sabers to John Brown of bloody Kansas, and now the red, fallen

leaves of the Virginia October were redder still. So believed my grandfather, no defender

of slavery but of his hearth and State; nor did his opinion change throughout life.

Southern anger and mistrust did not begin or end with Harpers Ferry. A thousand slaves

might be docile, but there would always be one to listen to the uncertified stranger; and the

Southern white man, counting up the more than two hundred slave uprisings through which

the Negro protested his chains, remembered that half of them had been incited by a white

conspirator, the fanatic from beyond. For slavery there is no defense, and long ago there

were ardent spokesmen for freedom even within the slave South.

But rebellion was not academic; rebellion was Denmark Vessey aloose on the flaming

countryside, and Gabriel enrolling his thousands in the woods beyond Richmond, and

Charles Deslondes, the free mulatto of San Domingo, killing and burning on the road to

New Orleans. Rebellion lurked behind the whisper of a stranger, the tract of the

abolitionist, the speech in Washington; Southern mistrust of the intervener was born and

nurtured in an armed camp. If they would just leave us alone, said the moderate men

and the worried men of the South together; if they would just leave us alone we would

work out our own salvation. But not with a pistol at our heads and a torch at the door.

But the South was not let alone and war is not an abstraction of justice when it is fought

among the ruins of a man's home. My grandfather's mistrust of the Yankees, vindicated at

Harpers Ferry, was not lessened by the bullet that maimed him at Harpers Ferry.

Nor was it lessened for anyone in the South, anywhere."
(Southern Legacy, Hodding Carter, LSU Press, 1950, pp. 120-122)

Abolitionist Hands Drenched in Blood:
“In the job of molding public opinion, [William Lloyd] Garrison needed help. The need of a

platform personality to carry the cause directly to the people was answered, unsolicited,

by Wendell Phillips. At a meeting in 1837, young Phillips rose from the audience, denounced

the murderers of Elijah Lovejoy, the antislavery editor, of Alton, Illinois…..A Bostonian once

reported that during a Phillips speech he had heard a man in the audience applauding,

stamping his feet, and exclaiming enthusiastically,

“The damned old liar! The damned old liar!

Phillips strove to foster a public opinion hostile to slaveholding…..Phillips battleground was

the Northern mind. His eye was on the North, though his shots appeared to be aimed

at the South. To arouse Northern awareness of danger, Phillips emphasized the political

threat of the South by pointing to its wealth and its continued success in Washington.

For all practical purposes, Phillips said, the slave power was the South; there could be no

other South until the North created one. The image of the South which Phillips labored to evoke

in the Northern mind embodied deformities that were designed to call up repugnance, anger

and fear. It violated the cherished ideals of the North. He conjured up a land of whipping posts

and auction blocks, a feudal society in which newspapermen, politicians, and clergymen were

vassals. “The South is the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.”

Phillips . . . often spoke of the possibility of armed rebellion in the South. “I can imagine the

scenes of blood through which a rebellious slave-population must march to their rights.”

The agitator must continually intensify his attack if he is to maintain the appearance of vitality.

With the years, Phillips grew more vitriolic. In 1853, surveying the achievements of the

abolition movement, he said: “To startle the South to madness, so that every step she

takes in her blindness, is one more step toward ruin, is much. This we have done.”

Nothing shows more clearly that Phillips had become a victim of his own program. By this time

he could summarize his view of the South in one image: the South was “one great brothel where

half a million women are flogged to prostitution, or, worse still, are degraded to believe it honorable.”

By the time of the [John Brown] Harpers Ferry incident, Phillips was able to say that Brown

had more right to hang [Virginia] Governor Wise than the Governor had to hang Brown.

As Phillips grew more outspoken, some of his listeners became indignant, and the

abolitionists were forced to form bodyguards.”
(The South in Northern Eyes, 1831 to 1861, Howard R. Floan, McGraw-Hill, 1958, pp. 11-14)


Charles Sumner of Massachusetts
“Of all the earnest, high-minded men and women who helped to drive a wedge between

the North and the South during the years between the Mexican War and the Civil War,

no one was more bent on forcing the issue than the famous senator

from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner.

[An advocate of pacifism], In the first important speech of his life, a patriotic

address delivered in Tremont Temple on July 4, 1845, he had astounded his audience,

accustomed to a conventional recital of the stirring deeds of the Revolution, by

denouncing in scathing terms the misguided patriotism which glorified deeds of war.

Sumner drove his point home by comparing the cost to the nation of the Ohio, a ship-of-the-line

then lying in Boston Harbor, with the annual expenditure of Harvard College. It was not a tactful

speech considering that the officers of the Ohio had been specially invited to grace the occasion,

but then Charles Sumner was not a tactful man.

His lack of tact was as notorious as his lack of humor or his unconscious arrogance. Unlike most

of the political figures of his generation, he was very much at home in Europe. Sometimes he

wearied his friends at home by telling them of all the distinguished people he had met abroad

in the course of his travels and yet, beneath the European veneer, there was a moral fervor

about Sumner, a “sacred animosity” against evil, to quote his own words, that stamped

him unmistakably as a New Englander.

In 1849, as Chairman of the Peace Committee of the United States, he had issued an address

recommending that an American delegation attend the Second General Peace Congress to

be held in Frankfort. Representatives of the leading nations of Europe were to present plans

for the revision of international law and for the establishment of a World Court. Sumner,

who was known as one who believed that war was an outdated method of settling disputes,

was chosen as one of the delegates to the Congress, but at the last moment he declined.

[T]here was something ironic in the fact that the champion of arbitration in 1850 stood out

resolutely against sending any delegates from Massachusetts to [former President John Tyler’s]

Peace Convention held in Washington on the eve of the war [in 1861]. In his frantic search

for a compromise, Senator [John J.] Crittenden found no one more stubborn, more determined

not to yield an inch, than Senator Sumner. [Sumner] . . . insisted that concessions

[to the South] would settle nothing. “Nothing,” said Sumner, “can be settled which is

not right. Nothing can be settled which is against freedom. Nothing can be

settled which is against divine law.”
(No Compromise!, Arnold Whitridge, Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1960, pp. 120-126)


Senator Stephen A. Douglas on War, and Alternatives:
"In a speech in the Senate, March 15, 1861, Mr. Douglas had reduced the situation to

the following three alternative points:

1. The Restoration and Preservation of the Union by such Amendments to the Constitution

as will insure domestic tranquility, safety and equality of all the States, and thus restore

peace, unity and fraternity to the whole country.

2. A Peaceful Dissolution of the Union by recognizing the Independence of such States as

refuse to remain in the Union without such Constitutional Amendments, and the establishment

of a liberal system of commercial and social intercourse with them by treaties

of commerce and amity.

3. War, with a view to the subjugation and military occupation of those States

which have Seceded or may Secede from the Union."

As a thorough Union man, he could never have agreed to "A Peaceful Dissolution of the Union."

On the other hand he was equally averse to War, because he held that "War is Disunion.

War is final, eternal separation." Hence all his energies and talents were given to carrying

out his first-stated line of policy."
(The Great Conspiracy, John A. Logan, A.R. Hart & Company, 1886)


That The Union Not Be Abandoned To Its Enemies:
"On the fifteenth of November (1860), following [Howell] Cobb, [Robert] Toombs and

[Alexander] Stephens, [Georgian Benjamin H.] Hill appeared before the Assembly and made

an eloquent argument against immediate secession or any precipitate action. The speech

is primarily a closely reasoned appeal for moderation and a plea that passion and prejudices

be discarded in the face of the imminent crisis.

"What are our grievances?" asks Hill; and then he proceeds to enumerate them, outlining

the discriminatory policies and propaganda of the Republican party and laying special emphasis

on the nugatory action of various free-State legislatures, affecting the fugitive slave laws.

Hill represents the Republican party as the really disunionist party, and quotes from various

abolitionists who damn the Union and Constitution because they permit slavery.

The grievances, then, are plain, and agreed of all Southern men.

Moreover, Hill believes the redress of grievances is not so hopeless a prospect in the

immediate future. But suppose, for the sake of argument, redress of grievances within the

Union is impossible, surely it is worth the effort; and all are agreed . . . that if such redress

fails, then secession must come. But what are the remedies then, which are proposed

within the Union. First, the demand must be made by all the Southern States that the laws

protecting slavery and requiring the rendering up of fugitive slaves must be enforced.

The demand can be made as an ultimatum if need be. If necessary, let the federal

government enact a force bill against any recalcitrant Northern State refusing obedience,

as was done against South Carolina in 1833. Let the wrangling about slavery cease,

and the entire machinery of government, if necessary, be put behind

the enforcement of existing laws.

And Lincoln must come to this view. His only strength is in the law; he is bound by oath to carry

out the law. A Southern president had once coerced a Southern State; now let a Northern

president coerce a Northern State, if it comes to that. Hill insists that such a resolute attitude

has never been taken by the Southern States, and he pleads that the Union not be

abandoned to its enemies without making this effort to save it . . . He asks: "Is this Union good?

If so, why should we surrender its blessings because Massachusetts violates the laws of that Union?

Drive Massachusetts to the duties of the Constitution or from its benefits . . . Let us defend

the Union against its enemies -- not abandon it to them.

On December 6, Cobb, in an address to the people of Georgia announcing his resignation

from Buchanan's cabinet, averred that: "the Union formed by our fathers, which was one

of equality, justice and fraternity would be supplanted on the 4th of March by a Union

of sectionalism and hatred---the one worthy of the support and devotion of free men,

the other only possible at the cost of Southern honor, safety and independence."

This was followed up on December 23 by Toombs telegram to the Savannah Morning News,

after the failure of the Crittenden Compromise: "I will tell you upon the faith of a true man that

all further looking to the North for your constitutional rights in the Union ought to be

abandoned. It is fraught with nothing but ruin to yourself and posterity."

Secession and Reconstruction, H. J. Pearce, Jr., University of Chicago Press, 1928, pp 43-45)



Lincoln the Candidate
“As for Lincoln, he avoided speeches during the campaign, allowing the contest to be

conducted, with a well-filled party chest, by managers and campaigners, with vociferous

parades and demonstrations, reminiscent of the roaring campaign for Harrison in 1840.

Nor was the slavery issue greatly emphasized by the Republicans.

Free land and citizenship were offered to the Germans; the promise of homesteads was

extended to the West and the agrarian element in general; protection for American industry

[high tariffs] was strongly urged in the manufacturing regions of the East; alluring prospects

of American commercial expansion were led out as the happy result of Lincoln’s election;

meanwhile in those regions where the prohibition of slavery in the territories was not

a vote-getting issue, it was subordinated or ignored.

While the South was fearing the worst from Lincoln, he made practically no effort to

reassure them. [The] representation of Lincoln as a “black Republican” and an enemy

of the South continued throughout the campaign with no public effort on Lincoln’s

part to correct the impression.”
(The Civil War and Reconstruction, J. G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, pp. 180-181)


Presidential Election of 1860
“The former Whigs, who had no party organization after 1854, were alarmed at the danger

of disunion and hastily reorganized the Whig party in 1859 in an effort to elect congressmen

and other public officials who were friendly to the Union. The Whigs elected four of the

State’s eight representatives in Congress. In the presidential election they supported

John Bell and the new Constitutional Union party whose platform simply endorsed the

Constitution and the Union.

In the national [Democratic] convention at Charleston, the State’s delegates supported the

Southern platform that the federal government must protect slavery in the territories; but,

led by William W. Holden, they refused to follow the Southern delegations in their bolt

of the convention when it adopted the Northern platform of congressional noninterference

with slavery in the territories. The Charleston convention adjourned without nominating

a presidential candidate.

The North Carolina Democratic delegation bolted the later Baltimore convention, which nominated

Stephen A. Douglas as the candidate of the Northern Democrats, and at a later convention

at Richmond aided in the nomination of John C. Breckinridge and the adoption of a Southern

platform. The Republican party, which had nominated Abraham Lincoln,

had no electoral ticket in North Carolina.

Breckinridge was regarded in North Carolina as the nominee of the regular official Democratic party,

and he won the entire electoral vote of the State – but by the barest popular majority of 48,539

to 44,990 for Bell and 2,701 for Douglas. In the nation, with four parties in the contest,

the Republicans won the . . . electoral vote of every Northern State except New Jersey

and elected Lincoln by a majority of the electoral but a minority [39%] of the popular votes.”

[When the votes were cast on November 6, it was found that Lincoln had 180 electoral

votes; Breckinridge 72; Bell 39; and Douglas 12.]
(History of a Southern State, North Carolina, Lefler & Newsome, UNC Press, 1954, pp. 420-421)


The Core of the Anti-Republican Argument
“Thurlow Weed had been predicting since November [1860] that if the Republicans could

make the Union rather than slavery the central issue of the [sectional] crisis, a united North

would rally behind him. He . . . did not hesitate to urge Lincoln to take advantage of the

sudden outburst of patriotic fervor. From New York he told the president-elect,

“We shall have a United north – a condition about which I have been filled with solicitude.”

[But] the imminence of war stirred a desperation for peace . . . and conciliationist leaders launched

another offensive, spearheaded once more by Senators Crittenden and [Stephen A.] Douglas.

Despite Republican opposition . . . the encouragement they had had been receiving across

the North and Upper South convinced them that Northern public sentiment was behind

compromise, particularly the Crittenden plan.

With that support in mind, the two senators issued a joint letter assuring concerned Southerners

that their rights could be secured in the Union. On January 3, citing numerous reports of massive

public sympathy for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, Crittenden asked the Senate to refer

his amendments to the people, to be decided upon in national convention. He also sought

to attract Republican support by adding two propositions drawn from Douglas’s failed

proposal: a national ban on black voting and officeholding, and federal subsidization of

black colonization to Africa.

[Douglas] charged the [uncompromising] Republicans with “attempt[ing] to manufacture partisan

capital out of a question involving the peace and safety of the country.” Worse, they refused

to help resolve the horrific crisis even though it was their own actions that had caused it . . .

[and attacked them] for being naïve ideologues: for all their talk of upholding the Constitution

and enforcing the laws, he stormed, they had to deal with the basic fact

that “the revolution is complete.”

“In my opinion South Carolina has no right to secede,” he declared, “but she has done it.”

The question now was not how to prevent disunion but how to reverse it – by force of arms

or by a peaceful resolution of sectional differences?

Here Douglas reached the core of the anti-Republican argument.

“Are we prepared in our hearts for war with our own brethren and kindred?” he demanded.

“I confess I am not . . . I will not meditate war, nor tolerate the idea, until every effort at

peaceful adjustment has been exhausted . . . I am for peace to save the Union.”
(Lincoln and the Decision for War, Russell McClintock, UNC Press, 2008, pp. 111; 115)


Alexander H. Stephens Strived to Maintain the Union:
“The [Cincinnati] speech was intended as a solemn warning not only to his constituents

and people of the South, but the whole country, that in his opinion the peace and

prosperity of the country depended upon a strict and inflexible adherence to the

principles of the adjustment measures of 1850 upon the subject of slavery, as carried

out and expressed in the Democratic Baltimore platform of 1852, with the additional

plank inserted in the Cincinnati Convention of 1856.

It was well known then that Mr. Stephens had serious apprehensions that those principles

would be departed from in the next Democratic Convention to be held in Charleston the

following year. It was also known that he did not finally determine to withdraw from Congress

until after a personal interview with Mr. [James] Buchanan, in which he had urged the President

to cease his warfare against Mr. [Stephen] Douglas, and the support of the paper known as

his organ in Washington in insisting upon the insertion of a new plank in the next Convention,

asserting it to be the duty of Congress to pass acts to protect slavery in the Territories,

and not to leave that subject, as the Cincinnati platform had done,

with the people of the Territories.

Mr. Stephens most urgently urged the President that if he continued to pursue the line of

policy he was then following there would be a burst-up at Charleston, and with that

burst-up of the Union – temporary or permanent – “as certainly as he would break his neck if

he sprang from that window” [of the reception-room at the White House, in which they were

conversing] “or as the sun would set that night.”

Mr. Buchanan seemed surprised at this opinion, but was unshaken in his determination to adhere

to the policy he was then following. Mr. Stephens, in taking leave, told the President that his

object in seeking the interview was to know if his purpose was as stated, and if that was so,

his own intention was, not to be allowed to return to the next Congress.

He had spent sixteen years of life in striving to maintain the Union upon the principles of

the Constitution; this he thought could be done for many years to come upon the principles

set forth in the Cincinnati platform. The Government administered on these principles he

thought the best in the world; but if it was departed from, he saw nothing but ruin ahead.

He did not wish to be in at the death; but if disunion should come in consequence of this

departure, he should go with the people of his own State.

Another fact connected with the retirement of Mr. Stephens from Congress may be noted here.

When leaving Washington, with a number of other Southern members, on the beautiful morning

of the 5th of March, 1859, he stood at the stern of the boat for some minutes, gazing back

at the Capitol, when some one jocularly said, “I suppose you are thinking of coming

back to those halls as a Senator.” (It was known that he had announced his intention

not to return as a Representative.)

Mr. Stephens replied, with some emotion, “No; I never expect to see Washington again,

unless I am brought here as a prisoner of war.” This was literally fulfilled in the latter part

of October 1865, when he passed through Washington on his way to his home as

a paroled prisoner from Fort Warren.”
(Life of A. H. Stephens, Johnston & Browne, J.B. Lippincott & Company, 1883, pp. 347- 348)


A Minority President Elected
“Inasmuch as Lincoln’s opponents received almost a million votes than did Lincoln, it is evident

that he was a “minority President.” It seems but a corollary of this to say that he won merely

because of a division among his opponents.”
(The Civil War and Reconstruction, J. G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, pg. 182-183)


Lincoln and Republicans Reject Compromise and Peace
The election of a sectional Northern president [hostile to Southern institutions] created

alarm and despair for the future in North Carolina, but it was not considered sufficient reason

for dissolving the Union. However, Lincoln’s election fired the South to action.

Only a minority group of radical Democrats led by Governor [John W.] Ellis favored the

secession of North Carolina because of Lincoln’s election. Governor Ellis recommended

to the Democratic legislature in November, 1860, a conference of Southern States,

the calling of a State convention, and military preparations. Viewing such a convention

as unnecessary and as a secessionist scheme to take the State out of the Union, the

Unionist Democratic legislature declined to call a convention.

But events within and outside North Carolina in the winter of 1860-1861 steadily weakened

the unionist majority and strengthened the Secessionist minority. Disunion was an accomplished

fact and it was clear that no compromise proposal could be adopted by Congress because

the Republicans opposed every compromise and concession of the South. A congressional

committee, headed by Senator John Crittenden of Kentucky, submitted six constitutional

amendments and two resolutions to Congress, the adoption of which might have averted or

postponed the sectional conflict, but the Republicans in Congress rejected these proposals,

largely on President-elect Lincoln’s advice.
(History of a Southern State, North Carolina, Lefler & Newsome, UNC Press, 1954, pp. 421-422)

Buchanan Assigns Blame for America’s Dilemma:
"In his message of December 3, 1860, President Buchanan said to Congress, and virtually

to the people of the North (p. 626 Vol. 5, Richardson):

"The long continued and intemperate interference of the Northern people with the question

of slavery in the Southern States has at length produced its natural effects. I have long

foreseen and often forewarned my countrymen of the new impending danger. The immediate

peril arises not so much from these causes as from the fact the incessant and violent

agitation of the slavery question throughout the North for the last quarter of a century

has at length produced its malign influence on the slaves and inspired them with vague

notions of freedom. Hence a sense of security no longer exists around the family altar.

This feeling of peace at home has given place to apprehension of servile insurrections.

Many a matron throughout the South retires at night in dread of what may befall herself

and children before the morning. Self-preservation is the first law of nature and has been

implanted in the heart of man by his Creator for the wisest purpose. But let us take warning

in time and remove the cause of danger."

It cannot be denied that for five and twenty years the agitation of the North against

slavery has been incessant. In 1835 pictorial hand-bills and inflammatory appeals were

circulated extensively throughout the South of a character to excite the passions of slaves,

and in the language of Genl. Jackson, to stimulate them to insurrection and produce

all the horrors of a servile war.

At the Presidential election in 1860 the Republican Party was greatly agitated over the Helper Book

which instigated massacre. Lincoln and Seward would not say that they were for massacre,

but the Abolitionists had the vision of the X-ray and could see

through such false pretenses.

The doctrine of both-"the irrepressible conflict" of Seward and "a house divided against itself

cannot stand" of Lincoln, pointed directly to bloodshed. TheAbolitionists voted for Lincoln,

and Wendell Phillips, who rejoiced at his election, said in a speech at Tremont Temple,

Boston, a few days later:

"There was a great noise at Chicago, much pulling of wires and creaking of wheels,

then forth stept Abraham Lincoln. But John Brown was behind the curtain, and the cannon of

March 4 will only echo the rifles at Harper's Ferry. The Republican Party have undertaken

the problem the solution of which will force them to our position. Not Mr. Seward's "Union

and Liberty" which he stole from Webster's "Liberty first" (a long pause) then "Union afterwards"

(Phillips, Speeches and Lectures, pp. 294, 314).

(A Southern View of the Invasion and War of 1861-65, Captain S. A. Ashe, Raleigh, NC, 1935)


Buchanan's Role in Initiating War:
"[Former President James] Buchanan had firmly endorsed the war policy since the attack

on Fort Sumter and in September, 1861, sent a letter to a Democratic political meeting in

Chester County (Pennsylvania). He emphasized in this message that the war would have

to be loyally sustained until the bitter end and urged the Democrats to stop wasting their

time on a futile demand for peace proposals.

The minute he saw this letter, [Jeremiah] Black wrote:

"Your endorsement of Lincoln's policy will be a very serious drawback upon the defense

of your own. It is vain to think that the two administration can be made consistent.

The fire upon the Star of the West was as bad as the fire on Fort Sumter; and the taking

of Fort Moultrie & Pinckney was worse than either. If this war is right and politic and wise

and constitutional, I cannot but think you ought to have made it. I am willing to

vindicate the last administration...but I cant do it on the ground

which you now occupy."

" . . . Buchanan would not agree with Black that there was anything but a superficial

similarity between the threatening incidents at the end of his Administration and the sustained

bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12. He also disagreed with Black's view that the

war itself was unconstitutional, that Lincoln started it, and that it ought to be stopped

as soon as possible by a negotiated peace.

" . . . As to my course since the wicked bombardment of Fort Sumter," he told Black,

"it is but a regular consequence of my whole policy towards the seceding States. They had

been informed over and over again by me what would be the consequence of an attack

upon it. They chose to commence civil war, & Mr. Lincoln had no alternative but to

defend the country against dismemberment. I certainly should have done the same

thing had they begun the war in my time, & this they well knew."
(President James Buchanan, A Biography, P. Klein, American Political Biography Press, 1962, pp. 416-417)


Slavery is but an Accident in this Quarrel:
“John Moncure Daniel had one last official duty to perform in Washington: a farewell visit

to the Department of State, to which he had reported for almost eight years. His mission

to Italy had formally ended on January 28 [1861], when President [James] Buchanan

had signed the warrant for his recall.

One day in February Daniel paid a call on the new secretary of state, Jeremiah Black,

a Northerner who had taken office only two months earlier, after the resignation of Lewis Cass.

Black had been the U.S. attorney general and a successful lawyer in Pennsylvania. Daniel’s

great-uncle considered him the ablest member of Buchanan’s cabinet.

Three years after their 1861 meeting, John Daniel recalled that he had expressed Southern

sentiments to the new secretary of state. The two had talked about the troubles that

were approaching, and Daniel had alluded to the matter of slavery. According

to Daniel, Black had replied:

“Sir, slavery is but an accident in this quarrel. Slavery is only the John Doe and Richard Doe

case, in which this mooted question is to be decided – whether your States shall continue

their sovereignty and self-government, or the Northern majorities shall govern you and all

of you as they please and according to their own separate interest. If they had not

the point of slavery convenient, they would try it on other points just the same.”
(Pen of Fire, John Moncure Daniel, Peter Bridges, Kent State University Press, 2002, page 161)

Lincoln’s Tariff War:
“Dr. Tyler shows how Lincoln refused to see the Confederate Peace Commissioners,

and goes into the matter of the reinforcement of Fort Sumter, in which Lincoln persisted,

although warned by his Cabinet that it surely meant civil war.

Beginning the war, as Lincoln unquestionably knew the reinforcement, or attempt threat,

of Fort Sumter meant, was due, says Dr. Tyler, to the determining influence of the tariff.

“There was a Confederate tariff of 10% to 20 % and a Federal tariff of from 50% to 80%,

and fears of the successful operation of the former excited fears in the bosoms of Lincoln

and his cabinet and the Republicans generally.

Considering the enormous interests that centered around the tariff and the fact that in

1833 the tariff question had actually pushed the country to the verge of war, this

explanation is not at all unreasonable. As early as March 16, Stanton, not yet aligned

with the Republicans, had noted the apprehensions of that party, and the New York

Times of March 30 had observed: “With us it is no longer an abstract question, one of

constitutional construction or reserved or delegated power of the States to the

Federal government, but of material existence and moral position both at home and abroad.”

The apprehension had grown, weakened the opposition in the cabinet and induced Lincoln to take

tentative action in ordering the preparation of a fleet for Fort Sumter. Final action was the result

of the concourse at Washington of seven, or as others have it, nine governors of high tariff

States, who waited upon Lincoln and offered him troops and supplies.

In the interview . . . on April 4 . . . with the delegates from the Virginia Convention . . .

and the deputations from each of the five Christian associations of Baltimore, who spoke

for peace, on April 22, Lincoln asked: “And what is to become of my revenue if I let the

government at Montgomery with their ten per cent tariff, go on?”
(John Tyler and Abraham Lincoln, A. H. Jennings, Confederate Veteran, June 1929, pp. 212-213)


Lincoln Abandons Southern Unionists
“In [North Carolina] wrote [Jonathan] Worth, the Union sentiment was largely in the

ascendant and gaining strength until Lincoln prostrated us. Congress having refused

to pass the force bill [against South Carolina], we felt that the President could abandon

Sumter and Pickens without any sacrifice of his principles, but in conformity with the

Legislative will. He induced the whole South so to believe.

The assurance of Seward to Judge Campbell seems to have been made with deliberate

duplicity . . . He [Lincoln] did more than all the secessionists to break up the Union,

but whether he did this, not being statesman enough to comprehend the effect of his

measures; or whether his purpose was to drive all the slave States into rebellion,

thinking he could bring against us men enough, with the aid of servile insurrection, to

overthrow us and abolish Slavery, we are in doubt . . . I infer . . . that Lincoln’s

measures have united the North.

The[y] have certainly united North Carolina [for secession].”

“[Worth added a short time later that the] voice of reason is silenced. Furious passion

and thirst for blood consume the air . . . the very women and children are for war.

I think the annals of the world furnish no instance of so groundless a war – but . . .

let us fight like men for our own firesides.”
(The Civil War and Reconstruction, J. G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, pp. 256-257)


A Doctrine Utterly Subversive of the Constitution
“[In January 1860, John C. Breckinridge] . . . still had more than a year to serve as

Vice President of the United States. Within the month past the General Assembly of

Kentucky by an overwhelming majority had elected him to the Senate of the

United States for the six years beginning March 4, 1861.

Neutrality caught the fancy of most Kentuckians, though the Southern Rights element was

at first reluctant to accept it. In succession, however, the House of Representatives on

May 16 (1861), the governor on May 20, and finally the Senate [on May 24] . . .

assented to that policy.

For himself, he took the position that he was making a record of protest against the

unconstitutional measures with which the majority party was fighting an

unconstitutional war. Certain it is that had the Republicans accepted his criticisms

as valid they would have been forced to abandon the conflict.

During the [legislative] session he made four principal speeches. On July 16 he spoke

vigorously against the joint resolution “to approve and confirm” various “acts, extraordinary

proclamations and orders” performed or issued by the President since March 4

“for suppressing insurrection and rebellion.” Breckinridge urged that if Congress had the

“power to cure a breach of the Constitution or to indemnify the President against

violations of the Constitution and the laws,” it might in effect “alter the

Constitution in a manner not provided by that instrument.”

He attacked the specific acts of the President [as unconstitutional such as] the

establishment of a blockade of Southern coasts, the authorization of the suspension of

the writ of habeas corpus by various military commanders, the waging of war and

raising armies without any act of Congress, arbitrary interference with freedom of

the press, and the arbitrary imprisonment of private citizens.

Looking for a justification of the President’s acts, Breckinridge assumed that it would be

found in the necessities of the case. He denied indeed that there was any genuine

necessity for the acts of which he complained, but, more fundamentally, he argued

that the “doctrine [of necessity] is utterly subversive of the Constitution . . . [and]

of all written limitations of government. Thus he concluded that only the powers

actually granted in the Constitution may be exercised by the government,

whatever the emergency.

Expanding an argument which he had used at Frankfort on April 2, he predicted that

unless current tendencies were checked, the result would be “to change radically

our frame and character of Government” by establishing a centralized regime without

any effective limitation upon its powers. [He argued] that he and many other conservative men

counted “the Union not an end, but a means – a means by which, under the terms

of the Constitution, liberty may be maintained, property and personal rights

protected, and general happiness secured.”

When asked, near the end of the session, what he would do [with] a hostile army

encamped but a few miles from the national capital, Breckinridge declared flatly that

he would abandon the war; that he did “not hold that constitutional liberty . . . is not

bound up in this fratricidal, devastating and horrible contest. Upon the contrary,

I fear it will find a grave in it . . . Sir, I would prefer to see these States all reunited

upon true constitutional principles to any other object that could be offered me in life; . . .

But I infinitely prefer to see a peaceful separation of these States, than to see endless,

aimless, devastating war, at the end of which I see the grave of

public liberty and of person freedom.”
(Breckinridge in the Crisis of 1860-1861, Frank H. Heck, Journal of Southern History, August, 1955, pp. 338-341)


In God's Name, Let Them Go Unmolested
“Congressman [William G.] Whiteley [of Wilmington, Delaware] served on the Committee

of Thirty-Three and signed a minority report of that Committee. The minority report was

signed by five congressmen, all from either Southern or border States. Whiteley and

these congressmen advocated peaceful secession. They believed that:
“ . . . the doctrine of the indissolubility of the general government has no foundation

in the public law of the world . . . ”

Also, . . . ”that no power has been conferred upon the general government,

by the Constitution . . . to keep a State in the Union.” They became specific when

they stated that: “You cannot coerce fifteen sovereign States . . . That a separation,

which has become inevitable, shall be bloodless.”

Whiteley signed a statement advocating the secession of all slaveholding States,

including Delaware. Specifically, it proposed that there should be no war, but peaceful

separation. Succinctly, they stated their position:

“Whether any State has or has not the right to seceded under the Constitution,

it is a matter of fact that four States have already seceded; and that in a few short

months – perhaps weeks – all of the other slaveholding States will have in like manner

seceded, with the purpose of maintaining their new position, by force of arms,

if no adjustment is made of the differences between them and the non-slaveholding States.”

After the firing on Fort Sumter, William G. Whiteley held to his previous position.

On June 27 at a mass meeting in Dover he stated:

“In God’s name, let them go unmolested . . . Would Delaware give money or men

to hold States as conquered provinces? . . . Could the South be subjected? Never!”
(Secession Movement in the Middle Atlantic States, W. Wright, Associated University Press, 1973, pp. 86-87)

Becoming A Pale Copy of Our Elders:
“In Washington, the field was left free to the partisans of the Union and also to the

men of the Republican party -- the party that led Lincoln to the presidency --

because of the departure of most of the Senators and Representatives of the

seceded States. Therefore, Congress and the Cabinet are in almost complete

agreement as to the necessity of waging war to its bitter end.

The Confederates are to be treated as rebels -- as if they were the subjects of a monarchy

instead of the citizens of a republican confederation. In a word, they have to be

vanquished by arms, in the style familiar to old Europe.

This great determination, coinciding with the ascension of the Republican party to power,

marks the beginning of a new era for American society. It launches her on a road -- from

which her founders and older statesmen would certainly have withdrawn -- filled with dangers,

but which might also lead her to supreme greatness. Mr. Lincoln and his friends seem to have

decided to go ahead without worrying too much about the somber predictions of the Democratic

party, which lost the last election, and which evokes, at every turn, the memories of

the past -- Washington, Jefferson, Monroe and Jackson.

“What are you doing?” the Democrats inquire. “You trampled down the fundamental principle,

basis of our success and power---the principle which recognizes the freedom of each State

within the confederation, just as each citizen is free within each State. By riveting the State

to the confederation, with an indestructible chain, by denying the State a right to secede,

you prepare the way for the enslavement of citizens by society and for the destruction

of individualism. No liberty is sacred to you any longer.

In the name of the public good you are changing the American republic into something

similar to what the Convention made of the French Republic (the ideal of political and

administrative unity). We will become a pale copy of our elders rather than the precursors

of a new humanity. The military element responsible for your triumph will be needed to

keep you in power. You are going to travel the same road as the French Revolution,

and you will be lucky if you can also find, under the scepter of a soldier of genius, order

and glory in obedience instead of the degrading catastrophes illustrated before your

eyes by the military regimes in Mexico and the South American Republics.”

All these historical prosopopoeias leave Mr. Lincoln’s friends rather cold. I suspect them

of being rather ignorant of what is called philosophy of history. Without worrying too much

about general principles, they run to where the house is burning and throw onto the fire

all that they can lay their hands to in order to put it out. Their financial inventions

to raise money would cause laughter even among the most ignorant in economics.”
(Prince Napoleon in America, 1861, Camille Ferri Pisani, Indiana University Press, 1959, pp. 44-46)




Copyright 2014, North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial