Lee and His Cause
By John R. Deering
THE GREATEST CALAMITY THAT CAN BEFALL A STATE IS FOR ITS PEOPLE TO FORGET ITS ORGIN.—WILLIAM E. GLADSTONE.
WE CANNOT ESCAPE HISTORY.—ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
UPON OUR PART, IT WAS A JUSTIFIABLE WAR.
The Confederate cause was as good as the support it had; it couldn't be so now, of course, for the case is altered, the law is different; the amendments are ratified and respected; but then the Constitution had not a line in it against secession, and all analogy favored it. Secession had been frequently threatened, and once, had been actually practiced. Rhode Island is doubly distinguished, though she is the smallest of the States, she was once the champion of “State's rights.” She was the last to enter “The Union,” but she had been the first to secede from “The Confederation.” She had
entered that “Perpetual Union,” in 1781, but in less than five years, in 1786, she kicked out of it, and recalled her delegates from its Congress; nor did she re-enter the family of States for four long years, or until 1790; not until she had waited two years and seven months after the adoption of the Constitution, and over a year and one-fourth after it had been ratified by the other twelve States, and was in full operation; yet no attempt was ever made to coerce her. Rhode Island's ratification was on May 29th, 1790, and even at that late day, such was her fear of imperilling her precious sovereignty that she expressly reserved the right to withdraw again, if her welfare should require it; declaring “that the powers of government may be reassumed by the people whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness.” Could South Carolina have claimed any more? Certainly, she never enacted any more, although she had more abundant provocation.
When the Louisiana Purchase was proposed in 1803, there was in the Northeast a strong dissatisfaction, because—“The influence of our part of the Union (New England) must be diminished by the acquisition of more weight at the other end.” Mr. Tracy, of Connecticut, gave terse and timely expression to the Northern view and their opposition to this territorial addition, when he declared that it would result in “absorbing the Northern States and render them insignificant in the Union.” Moved by that consideration, the Legislature of Massachusetts in 1804, resolved—“That the annexation of Louisiana to the Union transcends the power of United States' Government. It forms a new Confederacy, to which the States united by the former compact are not bound to adhere.”
Ten years before this, Dr. Fisher Ames of Boston, a member of the Massachusetts Convention, which in 1788 had adopted our Federal Constitution, the orator, statesman, and friend of Washington, confessed that, “The spirit of insurrection has tainted a vast extent of country besides Pennsylvania.” And Governor Oliver Wolcott of Connecticut, in 1796, dreading the election of Jefferson, boldly advocated disunion. He said—“I sincerely declare that I wish the Northern States would separate from the Southern the moment the election of Jefferson shall take place.” How is that for a son of Yale—a, judge of law, a Major-general in the Army, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence?
In 1805, Governor Plumer of New Hampshire acknowledged that the New England patriots entertained the purpose of breaking up the Union. The scheme was to be made good by putting a suitable man at the head of a military force strong enough to accomplish it. This conspiracy of 1803–4 was announced to all men by no less a person than John Quincy Adams over his own name—so says Dr. J. L. M. Curry and several others. A denial of it has never been heard.
Colonel T. Pickering, who was a member in good standing of Washington's Cabinet and his Postmaster General, and Secretary of State, and also a Senator from Massachusetts, was troubled somewhat over the political situation, but saw a hopeful solution. He writes—December 24, 1803,—“I will not yet despair. I will rather anticipate a new Confederacy, exempt from the corrupt and corrupting influence and oppression of the South. There will be (and our children, at farthest, will see it) a separation. The white and black population will mark the boundary.” This prospect was in nowise discouraging, for the prognosticator could see neither fire nor blood. He says, “The principles of our Revolution point to the remedy—a separation. That this can be accomplished, and without spilling one drop of blood, I have little doubt.” Such views sound strangely enough now, and down South, but one hundred and four years ago, and in the loyal (?) State of Massachusetts, they struck, with responsive moral effect, the great New England heart!
The admission of Louisiana came under discussion in 1811, when one Senator said: “If this bill passes, it is my deliberate opinion that it is a virtual dissolution of the Union; that it will free the States from their moral obligation, and as it will be the right of all, so it will I be the duty of some, definitely to prepare for a separation, amicably if they can, violently, if they must.” This sounds like South Carolina, but it was the speech of Honorable Josiah Quincy of Boston, and the first distinct advocacy of disunion, just fifty years before the South enacted it. An objection was raised, but no dispute made of the right. A Southern member, Mr. Pointdexter objected, that, “The suggestion of a dissolution of the Union is out of order.” The point was decided by the Chair against Mr. Quincy, but when an appeal was taken to the House, Quincy was endorsed by a two-thirds vote; so it was not out of order in the Congp"ess of the United States in 1811, to avow the doctrine of even “violent” secession, provided only that it be done by sons of Massachusetts. In support of his position, Mr. Quincy said—“Is there a principle of public law better settled, or more conformable to the plainest suggestions of reason, than that the violation of the contract by one of the parties may be considered as exempting the other from its obligations? Suppose in private life, thirteen form a partnership and ten of them undertake to admit a new partner without the concurrence of the other three. Would it not be at their option to abandon the partnership after so palpable an infringement of their rights?”
When the Federal Secretary of War issued in 1812, a call for troops from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, to fight against Great Britain, their governors sent him a stern refusal, and the Legislature of Connecticut in supporting the Governor, “Denounced the war, and declared that Commonwealth to be a free, and sovereign and independent State, and that the United States was not a national, but a Confederated Republic.” And this novel doctrine was solemnly sanctioned by the Supreme Court of the dear old, Nutmeg State! Here we see the same doctrine held and avowed and judicially sanctioned in 1812 by Connecticut that was taught by Calhoun and acted upon by South Carolina in 1860—fifty years later!
Although made to resist the so-called “right of search,” and to punish the unlawful seizure of American ships and seamen by British Captains, “the War of 1812 was generally and bitterly opposed by all New England;” at least after she felt its effects upon her commerce. The Canadian campaign was denounced “as cruel, wanton, senseless and wicked”—as “so fertile in calamities, and so threatening in its consequences, as being waged with the worst possible views, and carried on in the worst possible manner, forming a Union of wickedness and weakness, which defies for a parallel the annals of the world.” Such sentiments would now consign to infamy any Southern Legislative body, but this record is opened here only because of some other sayings and doings necessary to be noticed.
The “Hartford Convention” met, December 15th, 1814, whilst Washington City was in British hands, and our Executive Mansion and Capitol lay in heaps of ashes. For three weeks it brooded over disunion measures. It failed to hatch out an ordinance of secession, but the fault was not the Convention's. The failure was due to Jackson's victory over the English at New Orleans. These original secessionists did however pass resolutions asserting a State's right of interposition, and, as President Roosevelt says, “So framed its action as to justify seceding or not seceding, as events turned out.” On this point, the Convention itself said—“If secession should become necessary by reason of the multiplied abuses of bad administration, it should if possible, be the work of peaceable times, and deliberate consent.” Another deliverance of this remarkable body is noteworthy. The record reads—“It is as much the duty of the State authorties to watch over the rights reserved as it is of the United States to exercise the powers delegated.” And then, to cap the climax, we have this—“In case of deliberate, dangerous, and palpable infractions of the Constitution, affecting the sovereignty of the State and liberties of the people, it is not only the right, but the duty of each State to interpose its authority for their protection.” We are favored with still another wholesome utterance by the same high authority, namely, —“When emergencies occur which are beyond the reach of judicial tribunals, or too pressing to admit of the delay incident to their forms. States which have no common umpire must be their own judges, and execute their own decisions.”
Among many interesting items, this orthodox assembly handed down to coming generations this deliberate decision—“that Custom duties collected in New England should be paid to the States within whose borders they were collected, and not to the United States.” Mr. John Fiske, M.A., LL.D., historian, graduate of Harvard and native of Hartford, Connecticut, says, “that this would have virtually dissolved the Union.”
The temper and intention of these able and honored leaders of public opinion may be learned from the published testimony of Governor Plumer of New Hampshire. He writes, “I am certain that, upon retiring early one evening from dining with Aaron Burr, Mr. Hilhouse said in an animated tone, ‘The Eastern States riiust and will dissolve the Union, and form a separate Government of their own: and the sooner they do this the better.’ I think that the first man who mentioned the subject of a dismemberment was Samuel Hunt, a representative of New Hampshire. But there was no man with whom I conversed so often, so freely and fully as with Robert Griswold. He was, without doubt, or hesitation, decidedly in favor of dissolving the Union, and establishing a Northern Confederacy.”
This “treasonable convention”—as John Quincy Adams calls it—representing, by the amplest Legislative authority, the Five New England States (Maine was not a State then), did not believe the times quite ripe for their movement, and so adjourned to meet in Boston, on June, 1815, to hear the report of its commissioners who had been sent with complaints to Washington. The expected report didn't come. The re-assembling never happened. Peace put an end to the project. Otherwise the first secession ordinance would have been put to the credit of Massachusetts, and not of South Carolina!
This same spirit prevailed and showed itself in the North, again and again without rebuke. On January 24, 1842, John Quincy Adams and Joshua R. Giddings presented petitions from citizens of Massachusetts and Ohio, asking Congress to take steps toward the peaceable dissolution of the Union. These petitions were stoutly opposed by Mr. Gilmore of Virginia, and Mr. Marshall of Kentucky, who brought in resolutions censuring Mr. Adams for presenting them; but after two long weeks of sharp discussion, the House by a big majority laid on the table the resolutions, thus showing that the movers had done no wrong and the petitioners asked nothing treasonable or unlawful. Mr. Adams was a bold defender of the right of secession. In a speech made in 1839, before the New York Historical Society, among other such statements is this—“Under these limitations have the people of each State in the Union a right to secede from the Confederated Union itself.” Did Messrs. Davis, Toombs, Rhett or Yancey ever say more?
The admission of Texas was claimed to fully justify disunion. The acquisition of Florida also, while less resisted, “resulted in our getting less territory from Spain than she was ready to yield, just to avoid irritating New England.” The chronic trouble was a territorial one—to put it in the words of George Bancroft, a Massachusetts man, a graduate of Harvard, the most laborious and elaborate historian of our country, a man who spent fifty years upon his ponderous volumes—the trouble was—“An ineradicable dread of the coming power of the Southwest lurked in New England, especially in Massachusetts.” Only the treaty of peace with old England, signed at Ghent by Henry Clay in 1814, presented the formation of a New England Confederacy with its Capital at Boston. Believe me, there were men once who deplored the peace made at Ghent!
Again in 1844, Charles F. Adams introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature a resolution almost the same as that of Mr. Quincy in 1811, and said—“Massachusetts is determined to submit to undelegated powers in no body of men on earth, and the project of the annexation of Texas, unless arrested upon the threshold, may tend to drive these States into a dissolution of the Union.” Adopted. Of such utterances the half has ne'er been told! ne'er been told!
Four years before the Charleston Convention met to dissolve the bond that connected South Carolina with the other States, a secession convention sat in Worcester, Massachusetts, and on January 15, 1857, “Resolved, That the sooner the separation takes place, the more peaceable it will be; but that peace or war is a secondary consideration. Slavery must be conquered; peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must.” Henry Ward Beecher is recorded as saying—“It will be an advantage for the South to go off.” In celebrating the glorious Fourth, July, 1854, William Lloyd Garrison “publicly burned a copy of the United States Constitution with the words—THE UNION MUST BE DISSOLVED.”
Horace Greeley's great paper, the New York Tribune, in an editorial of November 9th, 1860, said—“If the Cotton States shall decide that they can do better out of the Union than in it, we insist on letting them go in peace. The right to secede may be a revolutionary one, but it exists nevertheless. Whenever a considerable section of our Union shall deliberately resolve to go out, we shall resist all coercive measures designed to keep it in. We hope never to live in a Republic where one section is pinned to the residue by bayonets.”
The next year in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the most rabid of politicians,—Wendel Phillips, declared—“The States that think their peculiar institutions require a separate government have a right to decide that question without appealing to you or me.” Alas! for his logic. For long years after this, he supported every bloody attempt of government to deny to eleven sovereign States the very right that he himself had allowed. The number and variety of such sayings is about endless, and as I am not making a book, but only a speech, I desist.
The right to secede, so freely asserted, and so strongly held by the North, was not prohibited by any word of the Constitution. In the “Articles of Confederation” it had been plainly denied. The last sentence in that document is this—“That this Union be perpetual!” But the Constitution has no such declaration. The duration of the Union was left by its authors to the future free choice of the States that had voluntarily entered it. The limitations of the Constitution bear chiefly upon the powers of the Federal Government. Consider the Tenth Amendment—“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.” Now, since the power to secede isn't denied by the Constitution to the States; and since the power to coerce a State is nowhere delegated to the Federal Government; it follows that its exercise was optional and perfectly lawful. The Declaration of Independence had been made and signed by the colonies acting separately and as sovereign powers, [“]not by the people as a whole, nor by a majority of the whole people.” Their independence had been acknowledged by Great Britain, not as the independence of a new “nation,” but as the freedom of separate and sovereign States, each receiving recognition by her colonial name; and the Constitution had been framed, not by “a mixed multitude,” or a sectional majority, or by a popular vote of citizens of all the States, but by a vote of the States, as such, each State casting one vote; and this action of each State was later ratified in her own convention of her own delegates, and of her own free will. The freedom of the South came not by the grace of Yankee Doodle, but by the proclamation of King George, the Third, and he granted it to Virginia—not to an “entire nation,” but severally, to each State—to Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and the others.
Knowing that these States, thus “united,” were free and sovereign when they were still separate colonies, when they won their independence, when they adopted severally and separately the Constitution, our statesmen supposed that they were still as legally and morally free to go out, as they had been to come in; and that it lay in their own breasts to abide in, or depart from, the Union. That they had enslaved themselves when they ratified the Constitution, was not dreamed of; that they had made unconsciously a great governmental machine of higher power than they themselves possessed, would have been scouted as nonsense, since the creature cannot be greater than its creator! If the power to do doesn't imply the power to undo, they believed it did. That the Federal Government, the servant of all, of only delegated powers, for specific purposes, had become the sole sovereign, with inherent rights, superior to those of the States that gave it being, would have seemed to them absurd and impossible! The Declaration of Independence was not made by a Nation, or by a Union, but by thirteen separate and sovereign colonies. Foreign powers—France, in 1778, Sweden in 1783, and the Netherlands, in 1782—had entered into treaties with them, not as one “national government,” but with each as a sovereign State. And Great Britain did not acknowledge their independence as a “united people,” but as politically distinct and sovereign States, designating each by her chosen name. Roger Sherman, of Connecticut, said in the Convention of 1787: “Foreign States have made treaties with us as confederated States, and not as a National Government.” Now, if these States, so united, had that character when they declared their independence, when they won their freedom, when they severally ratified their Constitution, pray when, and how did they lose it? They not only had this sovereignty, but were zealous to keep it When in their Conventions they agreed to unite as States, they “reserved” to themselves all rights and powers not delegated to the Federal Government; and some asserted in plain terms the right to resume them, whenever their welfare called for it. This was the saving clause of the ratification of the Constitution by Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, North and South Carolina and Massachusetts.
The last named, in her State Constitution, has embalmed for coming ages a declaration of her immutable faith in her own inviolable and supreme sovereignty worthy of world-wide fame. It runs as follows—“The people of this Commonwealth have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign and independent State; and do, and shall forever hereafter exercise and enjoy every power and jurisdiction and right which is not, nor may not hereafter be, by them, expressly delegated to the United States.” “O! Jew, I thank thee for that word!” No clearer, sounder political doctrine was ever sent forth by man: and this was ordained and published in MassiiChusetts, A.D. 1792, five years after her ratification of our Federal compact. In the Union she is still asserting sovereign and independent statehood!
The thought of an actual secession from the Union by an aggrieved State may not have had any large place in the minds of those who made our Constitution, but the idea of failure in duty, and of nullification of law did occur to some persons and a proposal to give Congress the power “to call forth the force of the Union against any member of it failing to fulfill its duty” was actually made and voted down, Mr. Madison moved to postpone the question. This was agreed to by a unanimous vote, and the matter never came up again. George Mason, (whom Thomas Jefferson said, was the wisest man that he ever knew), speaking of the use of force, asked;—“Will not the citizens of the invaded State assist one another, until they rise up as one man and shake off the Union altogether?” In the Convention of New York, Alexander Hamilton declared: “To coerce the State is one of the maddest projects that was ever devised. What picture does this idea present to our view? A complying State at war with a non-complying State: Congress marching the troops of one State into the bosom of another! Here is a nation at war with itself! Can any reasonable man be well disposed toward a government which makes war and carnage the only means of supporting itself? A government that can exist only by the sword? But can we believe that one State will ever suffer itself to be used as an instrument of coercion? The thing is a dream! It is impossible!” Alas! In 1861, this dreadful dream became an awful reality.
Long before May 14, 1787, the date of the Convention that framed our Federal Constitution, and in that Convention, as well, and ever since it, there were, and there are still, two governmental ideas and two opposing political parties supporting them. At different times, these have had different names, leaders, motives, methods and ends to be gained, which of course led to the adoption of different policies according to the different purposes to be served. Alexander Hamilton was the gifted leader of one of these parties, and Thomas Jefferson was the sagacious statesman representing the other. The first party favored the establishment of a strong, centralized, national, Federal Government. The second as sincerely contended for the sovereignty of the States, which were soon to become politically united. With the first, the Union was to have superior strength and real supremacy. With the second, the States were to retain and exercise their free, independent and sovereign rights, the power of local self-government. They were to remain, as before, each one politically unhampered in the control of her own domestic concerns, as free within the league, as she had been without it, except as to certain powers specified and delegated in the compact to the Federal Grovemment for the common welfare. From the earliest times there had existed among the States a widespread distrust of government and fear of oppression from it, engendered, it may be, by colonial experience of British tyranny. In the smaller States, this grew later into a deep dread of interference by the more powerful States, and great carefulness to guard against it is abundantly manifest. The constitutional provision of equal power in the Senate for every State is evidently due to this natural feeling. This fear increased as legislation and experience in the Union developed diverse interests and sectional antipathies. Conflict was natural and seemed unavoidable. Geographical position, soil, climate, pursuits, domestic habits and environment, religious notions and political institutions, social antecedents and racial affinities, commercial interests and foreign immigration—all these combined to bring forth and foster the mutual dread, aversion and jealousy which ended in our sectional struggle—our fratricidal war. The North was most dependent upon trade and commerce, fisheries, mills, mines and manufactories. The South was most interested in cattle, sheep, hogs, horses, grain, rice, sugar, cotton, indigo, tobacco and other farm products. It was rural in taste, habit, interest, everything. The North was urban, given to trading and making things, to moving and money getting. Our people loved nature and cultivated the soil, raised horses, followed the dogs, handled the guns, founded families, and lived like lords, whether in cabins or manor-houses, and called these abodes—“home-sweet home.” In the North, a mixed multitude united in trades-union, guilds and lodges; in the South, a native, homogeneous people, widely separated, and personally, independent, lived largely alone, and each as he liked. One had negro slaves and cared kindly for them: the other sold him those slaves, and despised and denounced slavery!—having found it quite unprofitable!
These local and constitutional differences produced diverse domestic, social and industrial demands: and these led to legislation intended to protect and promote the welfare of each section. And so, a political struggle was engendered. The questions of territorial expansion, protective tariffs, and African servitude brought on at length the “irrepressible conflict.” Upon both sides it was a struggle for power—“The balance of power”—to be wielded for local, material interests, to preserve domestic peace and secure sectional glory. The North fought for supremacy. The South contended for the Constitution which was her only hope of salvation.
Both sections claimed support in the Constitution. The North contended that the Federal Government was made by “the people of the United States;” that the adoption of our Constitution merged the States into a “NATION,” and gave to its Congress supreme power. Daniel Webster said: “The Constitution itself, in its very front, declares, that it was ordained and established by the people of the United States in the aggregate.” He refers to the “Preamble,” but it declares no such thing! He put in just what “the Fathers” had carefully left out of it, viz. “in the aggregate.” True, it says. “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, etc.” But this “people” is the people composing the several States, and not the whole mass of citizens Hving in all the geographical extent of the Union. The South holds that the Constitution is a compact made by free and sovereign States, each one of whom approved it by her own individual vote; that this contract was ratified later by the people of each State, in her Convention assembled, and that in so doing no State surrendered her rights or power of self-government, except as to such powers as were specified in the document, and which were granted by the framers of it to the Federal Agent, for the defense, welfare and happiness of all the States.
There arose, of course, the question of origin and intention of the Constitution itself. How, and by whom, was it made, and what is its meaning? History alone can answer, and it does answer, and its answer is an ample, clear, complete vindication of the political action of our people, and of their struggle to maintain it on a thousand bloody fields.
When the great Convention at Philadelphia had ended its immortal work, the original document was entrusted to a “Committee on Style,” that the i's should be dotted, and the t's crossed; that the grammar and rhetoric should be perfected, in order that the mind of the makers should be exactly expressed. Now, in reviewing the “PREAMBLE,” a verbal difficulty came to mind. As it was first drawn, the Preamble contained the name of every State that had engaged in its construction; but according to its express terms, the Constitution needed the consent of only nine States for its adoption, and to give it legal operative force: and hence the Committee naturally and rightly judged that the Preamble should contain only the names of those States which would sanction and accept the paper. It seemed to the Committee grossly improper to insert in the compact the names of parties that might not afterwards agree to it. But which of the Thirteen would agree to it? No human being could foresee. So, rather than risk a guess, and probably miss some State which would ratify the work, and rather than leave an ugly and unexplained blank in the head-piece of the instrument, the Committee decided to substitute for the several names of States the phrase—“We, the people of the United States, &c.,” leaving to time and to the action of the States, to add the proper signatures belonging thereto. If the Fathers of the Republic had been prophets as well as patriots, they would have surely said—“We, the States of America, do ordain, &c, &c.” Alas! they were not inspired. Having done its work, the Committee laid it before the House, on September the twelfth, 1787, and it was adopted without dissent. The rough original of the Preamble, containing the name of every State, had been already unanimously approved, on August the sixth, and for over a month had remained unaltered; now, is it at all probable that the little verbal change made in one phrase could have been accepted by the Convention without dispute or division, if it was to work the Monstrous Machine imagined by Mr. Webster? Had such an effect been even suspected at the time it would have created consternation, and the record of it would remain. I can find in the account no resistance whatever. Nor can I believe that, at the last moment, the wicked attempt was made to destroy the liberty of the States by fusing into one political mass Thirteen separate Sovereignties which for four months had fought for their inherent political rights. If such action could have transformed these States into a “NATION,” and if that was done, pray how came the trick to be turned without a word of protest from the mighty men who from the first had feared such a fate? How could so many earnest, eloquent men sit in solemn silence and witness and consent to the death of State Sovereignty? Of course, they never did it. No such attempt was ever allowed or thought of.
The reason for the use of the phrase—“We, the people of the United States”—was just this —Nine States could form the compact, and put into full force the Constitution; but no body could tell which nine would do so. The framers, therefore, could consistently name no State: but rather than leave a suspicious blank on the fair face of the immortal Document, they met the demand by using the words—“We, the people of the United States,” the sense being,—we, the people of such States as shall hereafter ratify and ordain it. Nothing else could have been done. How could the Convention have left in the Preamble the name of Rhode Island, for example, when she had no representative in the Convention Hall, and when its wonderful work did not find acceptance with that cautious little Commonwealth for several anxious years, and only then by the very slim majority of two votes out of sixty-six that wtere cast? Even New York, urged on by the powerful influence of Alexander Hamilton, assented by a majority of only three votes—thirty to twenty-seven. The phrase is explained and justified by every circumstance in the case, except to such men as are wilfully blind. But Oh! what things are words. “Out of one foolish word may start a thousand daggers,” says Jeremy Bentham. Ah! these few fateful words—what “woes unnumbered” sprang from them!
But words are things and a small drop of ink,
Falling, like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.
So Byron thought and wrote! Should we not think? It is claimed that the adoption of the Constitution made of us a consolidated “NATION.” This is clearly disproved both by the mode of its ratification and the specified condition upon which it wlas to become operative. It must be ratified by the peoples of the States, and it required nine such ratifications to give it validity among them. If we are, or ever were, “one people” en masse, then we must have been made so by a majority vote of the whole population. And that vote must have overruled any miinority, no matter where cast or by whom counted. Did such election ever occur? Where, when, how, and by what means and authority was any such vote ever taken? The only action ever had in reference to the Constitution was the action of the States, each in her own time, and place, and manner, and in words of her own choosing, and by delegates of her own selection. If that wasn't the modus operandi of our making as these “United States,” let those who know some other declare it. If the majority of the entire population might, and did, establish our Federal Government over the whole land, why was the assent of only “nine States” made necessary to its ordination and operation? And why did George Mason, William Grayson and Patrick Henry resist so stoutly in the Virginia Convention its ratification even after the necessary “nine” had approved it? According to the theory of Webster, Story, Motley, Bancroft, Everett and Curtis, the Constitution was even then the law in Virginia, and it was treasonable conduct to oppose it, for it had been already ratified by Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina and New Hampshire, while the Virginians were yet weighing it in the balance of liberty. Who are to be trusted as expounders of the Constitution, the men who made it, or those who called themselves to the task of interpretation sixty years afterwards? Mr. Madison made this reply to Patrick Henry when he stood in opposition to Virginia's adoption of it because of this very Preamble: “Who are parties to the Constitution? ‘The people’—but not the people as composing one great body, but the people as composing thirteen sovereignties: were it a consolidated government, the assent of a majority of the people would be sufficient for its establishment, and as a majority have adopted it already, the remaining States would be bound by the acts of the majority, even if they unanimously reprobated it: were it such a government, it would be now binding upon the people of this State, without their having had the privilege of deliberating upon it; but sir, no State is bound by it, as it is, without its own consent.” And “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, in the same strain replied,—“The Constitution is now submitted to the people of Virginia. If we do not adopt it, it will always be null and void as to us.” This is quite conclusive. This at once silenced Henry and Mason and Grayson. It doesn't leave a grain of sand for Webster or Motley or Story or Everett or Bancroft or Curtis to stand on.
Is our Government national, or is it a co-partnership of equal and sovereign States? “That is the question.” Having heard Webster, may we not now listen to Washington? General Washington, our ow!n glorious Washington, the President of the Philadelphia Convention and the First Chief Magistrate of our Union should surely have known the nature of the government that he was to administer and that he had helped to make. In writing to Count Rochambeau, on January 8, 1788, he says: “The Constitution is to be submitted to conventions chosen by the people in the several States and by them approved or rejected.” Who knew, Washington or Webster? General Lafayette also had from Washington on April 28, 1788, this line—“The people of the several States (not of the entire country, nor “in the aggregate”) retain everything they do not by express terms, give up.” Did they ever in express terms, or otherwise, give up their sovereignty, or their right to rule and regulate their own internal affairs? NEVER!
A fact very significant of the nature of our government is recorded by Dr. J. L. M. Curry, to wit: “At one time in the progress of framing the Constitution, the words—‘National Government’ were used twenty-six times in a committee report. Next day Mr. Ellsworth of Connecticut moved to strike out the words, ‘National Government’ and to use the words—‘Government of United States.’ This was unanimously agreed to, and the term ‘National’ forever disappeared from our great Charter; leaving us, beyond all doubt, a Government that is Federal and not National.”
The theory of the centralizationists was stubbornly advocated by Webster, and later by Story, Everett, Bancroft, Motley and others, but Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge, a Boston politician and orator, a Harvard graduate, a Senator from Massachusetts, biographer of Alexander Hamilton, Daniel Webster, editor of the North American Review and historian-at-large, confesses that—“It was probably necessary, at all events Mr. Webster felt it to be so, to argue that the Constitution, at the outset, was not a contract between the States, but a National instrument. Unfortunately the facts were against him. When the Constitution was adopted by the votes of the States at Philadelphia, and accepted by the votes of States in popular conventions, it is safe to say that there was not a man in the country from Washington and Hamilton on the one side, to George Clinton and George Mason on the other, who regarded the new system as anything but an experiment entered upon by the States, and from which each and every State had the right peaceably to withdraw, a right which was very likely to be exercised.” Certainly this conclusion is one from which Mr. Lodge can never be dislodged; for facts are more than “stubborn”—they are eternal!
Mr. Webster and Justice Joseph Story both of the same loyal State virtually admit that if our Constitution be a compact between the States, the States would have the right to withdraw from it at pleasure; “even” says Webster (in his debate with Calhoun in 1833), “Although it might be one of its stipulations that it should be perpetual.” To prove the right of secession then according to this great interpreter of the Constitution, it is only necessary to establish the fact that the Constitution is a “Compact.” A single sentence from the act of ratification by Massachusetts of the Federal Constitution is quite conclusive. She “acknowledges with grateful hearts the goodness of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, in affording the people of the United States the opportunity deliberately and peaceably, without fraud or surprise, of entering into an explicit and solemn compact with each other, &c.” This testimony of the Massachusetts Senator, Lodge, and of the Bay State itself, sitting in deliberate and peaceful counsel is heavy evidence against Daniel, “the great expounder;” but it is positively shocking to see him refute himself! In 1819, December 15, he presented in the United States Congress a Memorial from citizens of Boston, endorsed by himself as chairman of the Committee, in which he speaks of the States as enjoying “the exclusive possession of sovereignty over their own territory.” He calls the United States—“the American Confederacy.” He says, “The only parties to the Constitution, contemplated by it originally, were the Thirteen Confederated States.”
In his famous speech at Capon Springy, Virginia, delivered over thirty years later, Webster declared: “I have not hesitated to say, and I repeat, that, if the Northern States refuse wilfully and deliberately, to carry into effect that part of the Constitution which respects the restoration of fugitive slaves, and Congress provide no remedy, the South would be no longer bound to observe the Compact. A bargain cannot be broken on one side and still bind the other side.” Had Webster lived but ten years longer, he must have become a secessionist, or shown himself very inconsistent indeed. If he could rise from the dead, and confront his Capon Springs speech, he would scarcely deny, at any rate, “the compact” contained in it. “But neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.”
That Alexander Hamilton was a pretty good believer in strong government was never questioned. Yet he clearly recognized the States as sovereign parties to the contract. In the “Federalist,” he writes—“Every Constitution for the United States must inevitably consist of a great variety of particulars, in which thirteen independent States are to be accommodated in their interests or opinions of interest. Hence the necessity of moulding and arranging all the particulars, which are to compose the whole, in such a manner as to satisfy all the parties to the compact.” Are not these parties, “The Thirteen Independent States?” Again, he calls the new Union, “The Confederacy”—himself using capitals for emphasis.
But why record men's names to determine a point that is plainly established by the Document itself? The VIIth Article should end all controversy. “The ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the same.” Not between the inhabitants of all the territory—not between the various communities or municipalities of this continent; but “between the States so ratifying.” The States are the parties, and it is their ratification that “establishes” the compact.
To show that the true doctrine is absolutely invulnerable, and positively indubitable, I add just one more fact of record—in the Philadelphia Convention, on July 23, 1787, it was Gouverneur Morris, of Pennsylvania, who “moved that the reference of the plan (of Constitution) be made to one General Convention, chosen and authorized by the people, to consider, amend and establish the same.” Oh! what a time that was for a Webster! He might have won immortality by seconding the motion.
Of all human history, that was the fateful hour in which to advocate and ordain a government for the mass, and by the mass. But—The Convention didn't want that. They wouldn't have it, and no man came to the rescue. Mr. Morris' proposal did not reach a vote. The record is, “not seconded,” and ̶the Father of the Constitution,” Mr. Madison, makes the record. And he too speaks of the New Union as “Confederated States.” Madison! Think of it! and Morris of Pennsylvania!
In view of these facts and declarations by the authors of the Constitution, how strange and absurd is Mr. Lincoln's theory of March 4, 1861 that, “The Union is older than any of the States, and, in fact, it created them as States.” How could the adoption of the Constitution create States, when according to the document itself, nine States, acting as such, must first accept it to give it any legal force? Consistency here would require the “States” to enact the Constitution, which must give them being, before they themselves could have existence!!
The question was once asked Mr. Lincoln—“Why not let the South go?” He exclaimed—“Let the South go! Where then shall we get our revenue?” The President knew far more of the practical benefits of our tax and tariff systems than of the fundamental principles of the Federal government.
Mr. Lincoln should certainly have credit for his clear understanding of one point, and for his perfectly positive and distinct avowal that he would not act contrary to his convictions in regard to it. In passing, I wish to accord him this honor. I refer to his statement in his first inaugural address, concerning his position upon the slave question. He said, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” Whether Lincoln was in this sincere, or simply shrewd, can not, of course, be known until all hearts are made manifest. The thing that we do know is—within about eighteen months, he emancipated by his own proclamation all the slaves living in the seceded States! As a “war measure” it was not unwise; as regards the Constitution, it was utterly without reason or
right. He himself said, “I have no lawful right to interfere with the institution of slavery.” Then how came he to be clothed with the lawful right to do it, on or before “September 22nd, 1862;” and who gave it to him? Echo answers—Who? Two billion of dollars' worth of slaves were made free without compensation or lawful right, according to the “Encyclopedia of the United States History,” by Harper Bros., 1902.
Slavery was not the cause of the war, “any more than the tax on tea was the cause of the American revolution;” but it was the occasion of secession, for it was the matter that the Abolitionists could never let alone. Some seventy years ago, they presented through John Ouincy Adams in Congress, in one day, five hundred and eleven petitions for the abolition of slavery. It had existed from the beginning in every colony and was popular in Massachusetts a century before the Declaration of Independence. Those pious people had bought cargoes of slaves of the Dutch, and had sold into bondage their Pequod Indian prisoners; but bye the bye, they found it more lucrative to trade their gin and rum for black men in Africa, and to sell these black cargoes to planters in the Carolinas and Georgia, and so it was done. The Constitution expressly recognized this property, which the Dutch in 1619, and later the English and the Puritans, had sold us, and provided for the safe return of all fugitives to the State from which they had fled. (Article IV, Section 2.) New England, moreover, had a fugitive slave law in 1643; or 145 years before the Federal Constitution was adopted. But returning slaves to her soil is one thing; and her returning them to us is quite another thing!
Bad as Southern slavery may have been, it was our inheritance. Mr. R. E. Lee, Jr., well says—“Slavery was the South's calamity and not her crime.” It descended upon us from the Pilgrim Fathers and our old English ancestors, and in spite of its evils, it was the mildest form of servitude ever found among men. I shall not apologize for the dead institution. I cannot defend its Dutch promotors, or New England dealers, but I will say that, it did for the negro far more than any other labor system had ever done for any other savage since the world was! It gave him soap and made him wash. It redeemed him from barbarism and idolatry, made him human, gave him a home and told him of Heaven. It clothed and fed him. It protected him in his ignorance, fostered him in infancy, trained him in youth, cared for him in sickness, sheltered and comforted him in old age, and at death grave him Christian burial. It restrained his passions, reformed his indolent, indecent habits, created his conscience, inspired his faith and filled him with hope. It tolerated no idleness, insolence, intemperance, disorder or lawlessness. It made no paupers, or beggars, or tramps, or rapists of women and children, turned out of home no widows, orphans, or worn-out parents. It promoted peace, quietness and good government. It trained black men and women for useful living as no industrial schools have ever done before or since, and did it without expense or demoralization of master or servant! State laws, with regard for social standing and self-interest, all combined to prevent cruel treatment of these bond servants, and, indeed, rendered it quite rare; the idle, insolent and vicious alone feeling the lash. The negro who did his work even moderately well and behaved himself, did not lack food or fire, or friends, or home, or clothes, or medicine or the protection of law. He had baker and butcher, tailor and shoemaker, doctor and preacher, without money and without price. The master was no monster. The servant was no terror. And lighter labor seldom obtained as great comforts. The spirit, and example, and discipline of Mistress and Master—not to mention their humanity, sympathy, kindness, refinement and Christian conduct in the plantation home—operated to create a bond of friendship in the family—a measure of confidence in the owner and a degree of trustworthiness in the slave—that was the wonder and admiration of all who had knowledge of it. During the war, it stood the test of money and power—of fire and sword—of offered freedom and promised fortune!
And it was not considered criminal to be a slaveholder even in New England in those brave old days. The Puritans both held and sold slaves. Dr. Charles Hodge, Princeton President, and great teacher of Theology, even as late as the year 1860, was constrained to confess, at the risk of his place and popularity, that—
When Southern Christians are told that they are guilty of a heinous crime, worse than piracy, robbery, or murder, because they hold slaves, when they know that Christ and his Apostles never denounced slave-holding as a crime, never called upon men to renounce it as a condition of admission to the Church, they are shocked and offended without being convinced. The argument from the conduct of Christ and his immediate followers seems to us decisive upon the point that slave-holding in itself considered is not a crime.
Rev. George Whitefield, the eloquent Wesleyan Evangelist, held in his orphanage and on his farm in Georgia, in 1775, seventy-five negroes, which he left by will to the Countess of Huntington. Bishop Berkley, of Rhode Island, was also a slave-owner. The famous preacher and theologian, whose great name is still good to conjure with, the mighty Jonathan Edwards, with other property, left a negro boy. (The “bill of sale” for him may still be seen.) Those pious people bought and sold slaves without the least regard to ties of blood. And one historian says—“The giving away of little negroes as soon as weaned was then a common civility, much as it now is for one to present his friend with a puppy.” A Boston paper of that period has this advertisement, “A likely negro woman about nineteen years old and child about sixteen months, to be sold together or apart.” Such notices were very common. The same author gives other advertisements as illustrations of the fact that the Puritans preferred to buy rather than to rear their slaves. It was a cheaper and, well—that is reason enough. This notice is from the Continental Journal, March 1st, 1781—“To be sold an extraordinary likely Negro Wench, seventeen years old. She can be warranted to be strong, healthy and good natured, has no notion of Freedom, has always been used to a Farmer's Kitchen and Dairy, and is not known to have any failings, but being with child which is the only cause of her being sold.” Child-slaves were sold by the pound, in New England, as pigs and other live stock are now.
A French refugee in “the cradle of liberty,” writes home, “You may also here own negroes and negresses, and there is not a house in Boston, however small may be its means, that has not one or two.” The State of Georgia gave to General Anthony Wayne of the Quaker State, a rice plantation in token of appreciation of his heroic services during the war with England, and this led the veteran to borrow $20,000 “with which to stock his plantation with negroes.” Why not, if it was right to sell Pequot Indian prisoners as slaves, and to send them away to the Bermudas, and if the Puritans had done that, one hundred and fifty in a batch, with the orphan and widow of Philip, their mighty Chief, how could it be wrong for “Mad Anthony” to buy thirty or forty negro field-hands to raise rice in Georgia,
seeing that they had all been reared as slaves, and not like the Indians born freemen? General Wayne was no better man than General Washington, and he had about 300 bond slaves, bom in his house and bought with his money.
Massachusetts, always aggressive, had done much more than send away her aboriginal American freemen to be sold into slavery. She was the pioneer for all who penetrated the African jungle to capture and transport as slaves to free America the native children of the dark Continent. One of the first ships that she ever launched and employed in this business was christened, “Desire”—a name expressing well the colonial feeling for the uplift of a degraded race, and—for the revenue arising therefrom! This philanthropic adventure, this infant industry, required no protective tariff or subsidy for its encouragement. It flourished from the first, for it had the prayers of the saints and “the Colony was the principal in the business.” At the start, the stolen negroes were sold in the West Indies, but later along all our Southern coast line. New York shared honors and profits with New England in thus doing good to the “brother in black,” and they (so says their historian) “practically monopolized the traffic for many years.” A hundred years later, when experience had shown slavery to be unprofitable in the North, and that free negroes were a “dead-weight” and nuisance among them, idle, improvident and vicious, we can see a strong antipathy developing for everything connected with slavery. Legislation now turned against it, and State by State, it was outlawed. The poor negro became himself an object of disgust, suspicion and petty persecution. There was scant room for him. In Connecticut, Miss Prudence Crandall's negro girls' school was mobbed, and so damaged that she had to give it up. The Legislature, on May 24, 1833, passed a “black law” by which all such Christian efforts were “practically prohibited.” The ringing of bells and firing of cannons gave vent to the public approbation. The godly lady-teacher who had been locked up in prison was released, but her house was set on fire, and the opposition so strongly shown that she abandoned her educational efforts. Two years earlier, a negro male school in New Haven had encountered the same fate. In New Hampshire, “Noyes Academy” for negroes was closed out, because “the respectable people of the town were so incensed” that they pulled down the house. No “common schools” would admit colored children. All public conveyances were closed against them. On steamers and sail-boats they had to go as steerage or deck-passengers, or not go at all. The “Jim Crow” apartment was found even in God's house, and Sambo and Dinah must take back-seats. In Boston, “The cradle of Liberty,” an Ethiopian pew-holder had his own pew-door nailed fast to keep him out for the awful crime of failing to “change his skin.” In the great church of Dr. Storrs, no pew-deed might be made except “to respectable white persons.” The color line was drawn as distinctly in Boston as in New Orleans! and drawn in His house with whom there is “no respect of persons!”
But with this spreading and deepening aversion for the person and presence of the negro, strange as it certainly is, there began to come a lot of legislation in favor of his freedom. Whether this was due to sympathy with Sambo, or to antipathy for his master, or both, “deponent saith not.” To free the other man's slave may have seemed easier to the brother who had sold his own, and also more obligatory. In the year 1808, the American traffic in slaves from foreign shores ceased by legal limitation, and any person caught engaged in it was to be deemed guilty of piracy. In 1820, in the adoption of the Missouri compromise, the geographical extension of slavery beyond 36° 30′, north latitude, wtas prohibited. In Virginia's Convention of 1830, but few votes were lacking to procure prospective emancipation. And many a philanthropist and Christian had arranged to free his slaves whenever the laws should allow him. Such was the tenor of the will of Mrs. Lee's father concerning his family servants, and five years after his death, in 1863, his executor. General R. E. Lee, sent all these dark-skinned dependents through his military lines as freedmen and women, at liberty to go wherever they liked. It is now certain, and never denied that slavery would in the course of events have been peaceably abolished, and with just legal compensation of owners, but for the rabid utterances and wicked antagonisms excited by the abolition leaders throughout the North.
Dr. Hunter McGuire, the Chief Surgeon of General Jackson's Division, has published the statement that both Lee and Jackson “were in favor of freeing all the slaves in the South,” and of paying for them after our independence had been achieved. He also makes this declaration—“I know that I am within proper bounds when I assert that, there was not one soldier in thirty who owned, or ever expected to own, a slave.” A recent official report declares that “more than 80 per cent, of our Confederate soldiers owned no slaves.” It is everywhere known that General Joe Johnston never owned a slave, although something of a Southern soldier. And it might as well be known that General U. S. Grant did own slaves until they were made free by Mr. Lincoln's proclamation. In the light of such facts how supremely absurd does the saying of a Northern historian sound, namely, “Slavery was the cause of the war, just as property is the cause of robbery.” Granting, however, that this historian is correct in assigning the motive of the robbery, it can scarcely be claimed that the South fought so long and so hard for the property held by only one in thirty of her gallant defenders. The historian is clearly an ignorant person or a worse character.
Mr. Webster said, March 7, 1850, “The South in my judgment is right and the North is wrong.” In July, he declared, “The prejudice against the Southern labor system all originates in misinformation, false representations, and misapprehensions, arising from labored efforts made in the last twenty years to pervert the public judgment and irritate the public feeling.” Mr. Webster was Senator for Massachusetts.
In the year 1852, a book called—“UNCLE TOM'S CABIN”—was published by Mrs. Harriett Beecher Stowe of New England. “Designed to illustrate the horrors of African slavery,” and skillfully constructed so as to appeal strongly to the reader's imagination, conscience and prejudice, this story had an enormous run. In five years, its sales amounted to a half million copies. It was “pushed” by every agency known to the trade, the church and the Abolition party. It found credulous readers among all classes and in all countries. There was in it as much money as morals, and the money as well as the morals met in the North a long-felt want. The novel later was dramatized and made a “piteous spectacle” for gaping crowds. Then, of course, actors, artists, managers, lecturers, reviewers, publishers, newspapers, bill-posters, and the like, began to hear the cry of the downtrodden children of Ham and to feel very keenly the awful crime of slave-holding. Tender translators next took up the tale of woe and soon its powerful pathos was felt throughout Germany, France, Italy, Austria, England, Ireland, Scotland—in fact, all over Europe, and in Asia, as well as throughout the American continents, by means of some twenty-odd versions.
There are some beautiful characters, and touching scenes, and wholesome truths in the book, and it is aimed at the reader's very heart, and that from an unsuspected vantage-ground; but it isn't fairly characteristic of the times or the domestic institution of which it treats. Its mistakes are due doubtless to ignorance and passion and not to evil intention. It has mis-statements of fact, law, character, condition and sentiment. In general, the negroes were not abused, but well treated and contented. They cared little for freedom; and not a few of them after their emancipation and some residence in the North, returned to live and die as servants among their own Southern white folks. Mr. George Lunt, an eminent Boston lawyer, in his “Origin of the Late War,” confesses that,—“The negroes were perfectly contented with their lot, and in general they were not only happy in their condition, but proud of it.” Even Mrs. Stowe's anti-slavery slave-owner and hero, Mr. Augiiste St. Clair, whilst he argues against the institution because of its abuses, says, in answer to the question—“But why didn't you free your own slaves?” “They were all well satisfied to be as they were.” Already some States had passed laws to restrain and punish negligent and cruel masters. Courts were given power to prevent harsh treatment and the separation by sale of slave families. Many eminent, eloquent and influential Churchmen were advocating the repeal of such laws as forbade the teaching of slaves to read (which laws had been made in self-defense only and to limit somewhat the effect of abolition books, tracts and papers circulated secretly among our servants.) The Gospel was being everywhere freely preached to them: hundreds of missions were established: multiplied thousands of humble, honest, happy converts had been gathered into the Church of Christ, many planters were building chapels and supporting pastors to minister in spiritual things to their faithful and beloved servants. All these were notable facts, but they have no mention in Mrs. Stowe's famous book: nor has that other undeniable and stupendous fact, that the poor, degraded Southern slave was being so speedily, cheaply, thoroughly and generally trained and qualified for the active and complete citizenship and rulership with which he was to be so soon endowed by Northern power and wisdom, and all this through the conscientious care and personal example and affection of his faithful master and mistress. When the war was ended, the Northern people endorsed most fully Sambo's fitness for the ballot and for Gubernatorial honors and Senatorial seats, but Mrs. Stowe denies to his quondam teachers their well-earned meed! Shocking! Shameful!
This Connecticut saint, whilst wilfully ignorant of the Negro himself, and scarcely better informed as to the domestic system which she sets herself to depict, and as bitterly prejudiced against the people among whom she had never lived, but was resolved to represent to all mankind, this saint did invent a story of cruelty and crime that so admirably suited the anti-slavery periodical in which it was first published and so successfully served the political party and political purposes for which it was conceived and issued as to obtain for her a literary immortality. Some books of fiction are said to be “founded upon fact.” Uncle Tom's Cabin hasn't much foundation of that sort. It is a mean caricature. It slanders the South. Its characters are angels and demons. Its title should have been—“The Sins and Sorrows of Our Inter-State Slave Traffic, Duly Exaggerated and Highly Colored for Political Purposes.” Its incidents are quite exceptional, its actors are overdone, its situations well nigh impossible, its theology is unscriptural, its conclusions erroneous, its consequences calamitous. I was born in the family of a slave-owner and grew into manhood in a populous slave State, and traveled over and resided in the farther South, and yet I have never seen a slave chased by bloodhounds or chained or handcuffed or branded or starved or scourged or sold at auction. I suppose such sights did now and then happen, but that they truly represent our domestic life, I deliberately and positively deny.
The evil consequences of “Uncle Tom's Cabin” can never be fully set forth. If its purpose had been to inflame human and diabolical passions until all regard for truth, justice, order, law, love, unity, peace and good will should be banished from American breasts—if its object had been to bring into open contempt the laws of the land, the decisions of its highest courts, and the sacred compacts of the Constitution itself—and all these to overthrow the system of domestic servitude in the South—Then it was a woeful and wondrous success! The Northern people were wrought into a frenzy: The Southern, in feeling at least, bitterly resented the outrage, and all classes came to realize that the dreaded end was drawing on apace.
Mrs. Stowe spent much time in Florida during her declining years and became more fully acquainted with her brother in black. She found him less desirable than she once thought. An intimate friend of hers is quoted as saying, in her own words, and of her own great book,—“That story had its origin in the brain of a romantic girl, fired by the stories told by my father and my uncle. I did not know the negro then, or it would never have been written.” An able editor and devoted friend of the black race, in commenting upon this declaration, sagely remarks—“In the harsh attitude of her old age, when she is said to have reached a point where she would not allow a negro to do anything for her, she was albout as far from really knowing the negro as in the romance of her youth.” And he is surely correct.
But books and songs and sermons and prayers were all too tame and slow. The popular craze demanded heroic deeds, an inspiring example! This prolonged agitation by abolition authors and orators caused, several years subsequently, a strange and savage attempt to free the negroes and lead them in a concerted uprising against their unsuspecting masters. This crazy and wicked effort was known as the “JOHN BROWN RAID.” Brown was a monomaniac and a murderer from “Bloody Kansas.” He gathered a band of eighteen Northern ruffians white and black, and a sum of money furnished by sympathizers in the North amounting to about $4,000; his store of arms consisted of two hundred rifles, commonly called “Kansas Bibles,” and “Beecher Bibles” (because bought by his church); two hundred revolvers, and
nine hundred and fifty long, strong, double-edged blades, fastened on the end of hoe-handles (made in Ohio) for the use of the negroes who should join his crusade—they being, of course, unfamiliar with fire-arms. With this force and outfit. Brown imagined that he could invade Virginia and overthrow slavery! At midnight on Sunday, October 16, 1859, he captured Harper's Ferry, arrested sixty of the chief citizens, seized the United States Arsenal, and sent forth his conspirators to liberate the poor down-trodden darkies. Not a negro could be induced to join the band of emancipation patriots; and one poor servant was shot for refusing to do so. But the citizens and troops hastily called out, drove Brown and his followers into the village engine-house. At the command of the Federal War Office, Colonel R. E. Lee, who was on furlough, came from his home at Arlington, took charge of the defense, and (as is related in his own memorandum) on “Tuesday about sunrise, with twelve marines under command of Lieutenant Green (accompanied by Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart) broke in the door of the engine-house, secured the robbers and released the prisoners unhurt. All the conspirators were killed or mortally wounded but four, John Brown, Aaron Stevens, Edwin Coppie and Green Shields (black). Had the prisoners removed to a place of safety and their wounds dressed.”
These brutal and misguided fanatics were given able counsel, a fair trial, a Review by the Supreme Court, were convicted of the crime of murder, and hanged—December 2nd, 1859. In the treasonable and murderous assault, five men had been slain and nine wounded, but the legal execution of the felons occasioned a storm of indignation throughout the North. Brown was cannonized as “St. John, the Just,” and was placed next to our Lord in the catalogue of nmrtyrs. In many Northern cities eloquent eulogies were pronounced, funeral dirges sung, church bells tolled, minute guns fired, and houses and halls draped in deep mourning to express the widespread sympathy for the “martyr who had yielded up his life on the altar of human liberty.”
Judge J. S. Black, the great Pennsylvanian, says, “They applauded John Brown to the echo for a series of the basest murders on record. They did not conceal their hostility to the Federal and State governments, nor deny their enmity to all laws which protected white men. The Constitution stood in their way, and they cursed it bitterly. The Bible was quoted against them, and they reviled God, the Almighty himself.”
In its immediate, local, personal effects, Brown's silly and futile assault upon the State of Virginia was scarce worthy of record. No servile war was started. No slave was set free. No “Provisional Government” was established. No “War Department” was organized. No other armed expedition was sent into the field. The red-handed assassin and “Commander-in-Chief,” John Brown, was quietly hanged by the Commonwealth of Virginia, as he richly deserved to be for the five murders that he had committed in her borders and for several other cold-blooded deeds done in Kansas. It was the general and profound feeling excited in the North by his execution that startled the Southern people like a fire bell at night. It was declared in public prints and mass meeting addresses that the death of the “New Saint will make the gallows glorious like the Cross.” Such language from Ralph Waldo Emerson, applauded by the culture and conscience of a multitude in Boston, admonished the South in tones and terms unmistakable that “the irrepressible conflict” foretold the year before by the leader and idol of the party, W. H. Seward (later Lincoln's Secretary of State), was now on. No man could doubt now that our “House was divided against itself.” The whole world was advertised that, “the Union could not permanently endure half slave and half free.” And these public demonstrations and inflammatory speeches mightily aided in causing that prediction of Lincoln to come to pass. As evidence and illustration of the State of the public mind at the North, at this time, take the testimony of an intelligent and representative man who was then studying his profession in their midst. He gives this short statement of his experience. “I myself saw the demonstrations of the Northern people on that occasion, happening at that time to be living in Philadelphia. It was instantly plain to me that I was in an enemy's country. The Southern students around me saw it as plainly as I did. It took but a dozen sentences to open the eyes of the least intelligent. It was only to say—‘Come on boys, let's go,’ and three hundred of us marched over on our own side of the line.” It must have been a clear case, and a very strong feeling, that induced these three hundred bright, best men from Dixie to abandon their lecture-rooms and turn their backs on professional honors, and follow Dr. Hunter McGuire to the Southland to escape from it. It was that feeling—wide spread and ever deepening—that brought on the war, not “property” in negroes. The seeds of abolitionism sown so diligently for thirty years had ripened at last, and the harvest must be reaped. It was evident that,—“In the North, there is a higher law than the Constitution which regulates our authority over the domain. Slavery must be abolished and we must do it. The times demand, and we must have, an anti-slavery Constitution, an anti-slavery Bible, and an anti-slavery God!”—That was their slogan!
This declaration of principles and purposes had been strikingly summarized and exemplified as far back as 1844, by “The American Anti-Slavery Society,” which boldly cast aside the Constitution and denounced it as “a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell.” In full accord with this view, and faithfully reflecting this feeling, many Northern governors refused to give up upon legal requisition the fugitive slaves hidden in their States' borders, and Federal marshals were often mobbed for arresting runaways in Northern cities, whilst fourteen State Legislatures “nullified” the Constitution by passing “personal liberty laws.” It availed nothing that these “laws” were declared to be unconstitutional again and again by the highest Federal courts, and by the Supreme Court of the United States. Passion ruled, not law. The Supreme Court of the United States also decided that under the Constitution, we might move into the territories and be protected with our property, but Lincoln said, that “he didn't care what the Supreme Court decided he would turn us out anyhow”—and yet in the Hampton-Roads Conference (1865), he admitted that, “The people of the North were as responsible for slavery as the people of the South.” In one single State (New York), in one single year, 1850, one single Abolition society aided to escape from their lawful owners one hundred and fifty-one fugitives. On May 1st of that year, Chairman Garritt Smith had this report of work done read in open session in New York City, remarking—“For that, you know, is our business.” By such means, from 1810 to 1861, it is estimated by Chief Justice Taney of Maryland, that $28,500,000 worth of negroes were enticed to leave their lawful owners. It was thus that my own “Black Mammy” was lured from the parsonage in Covington, Kentucky, whilst I had yet much need of her!
There was another cause that contributed powerfully to produce the discontent which at last resulted in disunion—a cause as provoking as any that has been named—a cause far older than the Harriet Beecher Stowe book, and yet as recent as the John Brown raid, and even more costly to the South—a cause of more widespread influence, if not of so sudden and shocking effects, than of both those combined—the enactment by Congress of PROTECTIVE TARIFF LAWS. For years unnumbered, these had been the means of financial and commercial disparagement and depletion of the South. The Federal Constitution conferred upon Congress the power “to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States.” Under this authority, in the year 1816, duties unjust and oppressive to the South, were first made legal, and such are being still collected. The system had its origin in a benevolent design to provide for the debt left upon us by the War of 1812, and also to indemnify certain Northern patriots for services rendered and losses sustained during and after that successful struggle. These New England mechanics and merchants had invested capital in manufacturing plants and war materials which the welcome but unexpected peace had rendered of little further use and much diminished value. The consequent fall in prices of such goods threatened these citizens with heavy losses, and it was to prevent greater depreciation of values that the tariflf of 1816 was proposed and enacted. At the outset, the motive was sympathetic and patriotic; in the progress of
commerce and legislation, it became selfish and sectional; and in the end, the effort brought on a bloody, wicked and fratricidal war. To this day, it has operated to enrich immensely the Northern States, and as steadily to reduce the South. As President Davis says—“It presented the not uncommon occurrence of a good case making a bad precedent.” Well, the mischievous precedent has been faithfully followed and a blind man might now see in the ever-increasing vigor of the system its destined immortality. Why not? The North man loves money and has the votes!
The whole history of tariff legislation is a
striking illustration of that memorable saying of the great Kansas jurist, Justice Miller—“Of all the powers conferred upon Government, that of taxation is the most liable to abuse.” A Southern man can scarcely help adding that, of all the abuses of power ever exercised in making law in our great Republic, the most odious and hurtful to the South has been that used to fasten upon us those duties which give to individual business and sectional interests high protection at the expense of the general public and the general good.
In our early years—from 1789 to 1816— import duties gave, of course, some incidental protection, yet Mr. Clay, and even Mr. Calhoun, did not refuse them their support, as measures contributing to the country's defense, and made necessary by the conditions and consequences of the recent war, but not destined like the “brook” to run on forever. The system is sometimes called “the American,” and had for its father Mr. Clay of Kentucky, but the Confederate Admiral Raphael Semmes has, with far finer descriptive discrimination and much better perspective view, styled it “the System of Spoliation.” The underlying patriotic impulse of the statesmen of that day was to foster, for a time, certain “infant industries,” and not to inaugurate for centuries a scheme of taxation that should rob one section of our country to adorn, enrich and strengthen the other. The sin and shame of the latter-day politicians is, by it, to shut out all foreign goods from our home markets and thus enable the Northern manufacturer to sell us his own wares at his own prices. Nobody can call him unnatural, but his policy can hardly be regarded as patriotic or tending to bind us more closely to him. And the framers of the Constitution never contemplated such a perversion of its powers. Had it been foreseen, the Article allowing it would never have been adopted.
The North had many and deep harbors, fleets of boats and ships, capable and hungry-seamen, immense and cheap water-power, much invested capital, thousands of skilled workmen and inventive mechanics, she needed only the Southern raw materials at the lowest prices, and that we should buy her manufactured goods at the highest figures, and she would become rich and strong—no matter what the South should say or do. The result has not disappointed her. But the long lane may have its “turn!” “The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceeding fine.”
The South, although always agricultural, was always ready to favor tariffs for revenue, and it was only when duties were so laid as to pay bounties, subsidies, and promote private gain and sectional glory, that she resisted, and resisted in vain. The majority ruled. One such bill was under consideration in 1828, called “the Bill of Abominations,” when Mr. Drayton, of South Carolina, moved that the title be amended to read—“An Act to increase the duties upon certain imports for the purpose of increasing the profits of certain manufacturers;” his object being to bring, in this way, the validity of the law to the test of the Supreme Court of the United States. His motion was defeated, of course. The tariff lords wanted no judicial decision upon their scheme for pecuniary gain and sectional aggrandizement. The bill was so wisely worded as to pass for a revenue measure, and thus to escape possible legal examination, while it was in reality a scheme for protection. Is it to be wondered at that a sovereign State should bethink herself of “nullification” as a remedy, when no other was left her? Isn't self-preservation a right of Sovereignty as well as a law of Nature?
It has been often asserted by Northern politicians that the South favored these tariff rates until 1828, but the records of Congress show the charge to be untrue. The memorials for them came from the North; the speeches made against them wtere all from the South. The votes for them were almost all from the North. In 1818, eight Northern States supported it. The six Southern States were strongly against it. In 1824, only Massachusetts and New Hampshire voted against it. While the two Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were unanimously opposed to it. So, too, “in 1842, the South was largely against the protective act of that year.” Had the case been otherwise, the South would not have cut out of the Confederate Constitution the “General Welfare” clause, which had been for fifty years the stronghold of the protectionists; nor would she have prohibited all “Bounties from her Treasury, and all Duties on Importations from foreign nations, to promote or foster any branch of industry.” Such facts refute ten thousands of misrepresentations. Indeed, her whole history in the Union, and her experience under the system disprove the falsehood.
Senator Benton, of Missouri, although no friend of slavery, gave in the United States Senate, in 1828, this double reason for the persistent opposition of the South to such ruinous legislation—“I feel for the sad changes that have taken place in the South during the last fifty years. Before the Revolution, it was the seat of wealth as well as of hospitality. Money, and all it commanded, abounded there. But how now? All this is reversed. Wealth has fled from the South and settled in the regions North of the Potomac. And this in the face of the fact that the South, in four staples alone, has exported produce since the revolution, to the value of eigfht hundred millions of dollars; and the North has exported comparatively nothing. Such an export would indicate unparalleled wealth, but what is the fact? In the place of wealth, a universal pressure for money was felt—not enough for current expenses—the price of all property down—the country drooping and languishing—towns and cities decaying—and the frugal habits of the people pushed to the verge of universal self-denial for the preservation of their family estates. Such a result is a strange and wonderful phenomenon. It calls upon statesmen to inquire into the cause. Under Federal legislation the exports of the South have been the basis of the Federal revenue. . . . Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia, may be said to defray three-fourths of the annual expenses of supporting the Federal Government; and of this great sum, annually furnished by them, nothing, or next to nothing, is returned to them in the shape of Government expenditures. That expenditure flows in an opposite direction. It flows northwardly in one uniform, uninterrupted, and perennial stream. This is the reason why wealth disappears from the South, and rises up in the North. Federal legislation does all this. It does it by the simple process of taking eternally from the South and returning nothing to it. If it returned to the South the whole, or even a good part of what it exacted, the four States south of the Potomac might stand the action of the system, but the South must be exhausted of its money and property by a course of legislation which is forever taking away and never returning anything. Every new tariff increases the force of this action. No tariff has ever yet included Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia, except to increase the burdens imposed upon them.” This double back-action principle for keeping poor the South is, like the poor themselves, always with us, and there seems no help for us.
Dr. Albert Taylor Bledsoe, referring to the question raised by Senator Benton, says: “How did slavery produce this wonderful transformation? How did slavery work all this ruin? Slavery, it is well known, existed before the Revolution as well as afterward; and accompanied the South in the palmiest days of her prosperity, as well as in the darkest and most dismal houf of her adversity. Hence, it wass not, and could not have been, the one cause of so great and so sudden a change. And besides, instead of having ceased to produce, the fair and fruitful South qontinued to pour forth, in greater abundance than ever, the broad streams of national prosperity and wealth. Hence she was impoverished, not because the fountains of her former supply had been dried up, or even diminished in volume, but because the great streams flowing from them did not return into her own bosom. Into what region of the earth then, did these streams empty themselves?” Let every landscape, harbor, sea coast, mountain side, lake front, and city park, stately corner, and public higfh way, decorated and protected by Federal treasury funds answer it. And if any tourist wonders at the startling contrast seen throughout the Sunny South, let him be told in tones of hypocritical pity, “Ah! You behold here the blight of slavery. The thrift that you saw in the North was due to the invigorating, glorious air of freedom! What a sad thing it is that the South was so long cursed with slavery!” Comrades, don't that make you weary and feel the need of prayer?
But it wasn't freedom alone, that adorned, strengthened, enriched, peopled and glorified the North. The almighty dollar played its part. Yankee Doodle wanted many things—wider roads, higher bridges, bigg;er tunnels, deeper harbors, longer canals, additional light-houses, more buoys, locks, docks, dams, forts, arsenals, smoother highways, safer travel, cheaper transportation, easier post-routes, handsomer cities, parks, historical gates, groups, arches, monuments, statues, and the like; and as votes make the laws, and the laws make money, and money makes every improvement, why should she not have all the improvements that heart can wish, and money buy? Have them, she will! The South—well—she may have as Dr. Bledsoe says—“The crumbs that fall from the rich man's table!”
The South took up arms not to extend slave territory, not alone to keep the blacks in bondage, not for the balance of power, not for commercial supremacy, not to destroy the Union, but to maintain her political rights, especially the original, inherent, sovereign, blood-bought right of local self-government—to escape the centralization of power in the Federal Government which was now determined to reduce the Southern States to a condition of political helplessness. The North tried to load down the South with the odium of slavery as the cause of secession and war, but it was only the circumstance that brought on the explosion, the fuse that fired the magazine; the dynamite was deep hidden in the political doctrines of the sections which were diametrically opposed and antagonistic. General Lee must have known for what he fought, and he writes of the war as “our struggle for State rights and Constitutional government.” Would Lee be ignorant of it or lie about it? After the overthrow of General McClellan in the “Seven Days Battles,” in front of Richmond, the Confederate Chief in an address of congratulation to his victorious army, refers to their humane treatment of their (ten thousand) prisoners, as “the fit crowning glory to your valor,” and then in a single line, speaking for himself and all Southern soldiers, says, “you are fighting for all that is dearest to man.” Did he mean the negroes that the Yankees had unloaded on us? Who can think it?
General Order No. 16, To the Army of Northern Virginia, wtas issued July nth, 1863, just a week after the fight at Gettysburg. I suppose by that time General Lee had learned for what he was fighting. It runs—“Let every soldier remember that on his courage and fidelity depends all that makes life worth having, the freedom of his country, the honor of his people, and the security of his home. Soldiers, your old enemy is before you. Win from him honor worthy of your cause, worthy of your comrades dead on so many illustrious fields.” Was Lee ignorant of the objects of the war, or was he unable to state them?
The responsibility of the North for the war
is avouched by Abraham Lincoln himself. “It is you, Medill, (of the Chicago Tribune), who is largely responsible for making blood flow as it has. You called for war until you had it. I have given it to you. What you have asked for you have had. Now you come begging to be let off from the call for more men, which I have made to carry on the war that you demanded. You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” So says Miss Tarbell in “Lincoln's Life.” Query, If Medill is responsible, how can Davis and Toombs be?
The immediate cause of the war, the act that brought on the trouble was an attempt by the Federal administration to reinforce and provision Fort Sumter. This fort, commanding the harbor, was within the domain of South Carolina. The State had withdrawn from the Union by the formal and unanimous actiion of her people in Convention assembled. The fort was held by soldiers of the United States. These were expecting reinforcements. A fleet with arms and provisions was waiting in the nearby waters. Eleven ships carrying twenty-six guns and two thousand four hundred men from the North had gone to strengthen the garrison “peaceably if permitted, forcibly if they must.” That “overt act” began the war! The firing of Beauregard was merely the natural consequence. The Southron fired first, the Northman had drawn first. Our shot was in self defense, to prevent being taken in front and rear. The only question arising is, was Beauregard under obligation to wait for his foe to strike him down—was not the armed attitude and hostile intention of his enemy ample provocation to justify “the shot that was heard around the world?” The people of Dixie think it was. But let us look more closely into the question.
On February 18, 1861, Jefferson Davis and Alexander H. Stevens were inaugurated President and Vice-President. Mr. Davis at once named his cabinet and complied with the convention's instructions, &8220;to send duly accredited commissioners to Washington to establish friendly relations and to adjust all matters of public property, public debt, etc., so as to avoid war, and upon principles of right, justice, equity and good faith”—so read their credentials. Previously, and at once upon her secession. South Carolina had sent commissioners for the same purpose. Their special mission had been to treat for Forts Moultrie and Sumter in Charleston Harbor, and which, ceded by South Carolina to the Government, in trust, and for the defense of Charleston, by law, reverted to the State upon her secession. Sumter was then unoccupied and Major Robert Anderson with sixty-three men, lay in Fort Moultrie. Before these commissioners could see President Buchanan, Major Anderson, acting under orders, spiked his guns in Moultrie, and by night moved his garrison to Sumter, which with stronger walls and surrounded by
water was more easily held. (This was itself a warlike act, in a time oŁ peace, and done by “night,” too.) After one fruitless interview with the President, who declined to receive them or their communications, the commissioners returned home, having effected nothing. The appointment and instructions of these two) commissions clearly indicates the peaceable intentions of the South. Further proof is found also in the early and earnest efforts of Virginia to promote “pacific settlement” by inviting all the States to a Peace Congress to meet in Washington, February 4, 1861. Twenty-one States responded, but it all ended, to quote Senator Chandler, of Michigan—“In thin smoke.” That gentleman was strongly opposed to any compromise, had urged his State “to send stiff-backed men or
none,” and argued that “without a little blood-letting, this Union will not be worth a rush.”
That the South did not desire or expect war is further apparent from her defenseless condition. She had no army and no weapons, nor was there a powder mill, or rifle factory in all the seceding States, so that afterwards, some regiments were armed with pikes only, and others with flint-locks and shot guns! Many thought that sober and wiser counsels would prevail in the North; so that the States might soon return to the Union; others felt that the separation was permanent, but would be peaceable; only rabid extremists talked of war. In the North as well, there was no thought of battle or bloodshed. From the platform, through the, press, in great centers, in Congress, and even by the President, the opinion had been widely and strongly expressed that a war of coercion was unconstitutional, unjust and impossible.
The question of coercion had long ago been
incidentally passed upon and legally settled by the highest court known to our political system. In the contest over rendition between Ohio and Kentucky, being tried by the United States Supreme Court, speaking of the powers held respectively by State and Federal Gk>vemments, Mr. Chief Justice Taney, in giving the Court's decision said: “While admitting that the Constitution is mandatory on the Governors, there is not a line in it which gives power to the General Government to compel a State to do anything.” This opinion was as widely accepted as it was judicially well founded.
The fact is that, so far from possessing or even claiming to possess, “The power to compel a State” to remain in the Union, our General Government had held all along, and had for many years actually taught the doctrine of the lawfulness of secession. This fact has been clearly established by many competent witnesses. Large credit for the knowledge of it is due to Col. Robert Bingham, superintendent of Bingham School, Asheville, North Carolina. By recent painstaking, and persevering correspondence, he has proven quite fully that, since 1825 and probably to 1840, “Rawle's View of the Constitution of the United States” was a text-book in the Military Academy at West Point, where the future commanders of the armies of the Republic are thoroughly instructed in both the science and art of warfare. This evidence I will give in part here, for the sake of the light it throws upon the question of the right of peaceful secession, as well as on the matter of the guilt or innocency of the crimes of treason and rebellion in the conduct of the greatest soldiers in the armies of the Southern Confederacy. Having Rawle's work in my own library, I can certify to the correctness of the quotations given below. But first of the author, book, students, etc. Hear these witnesses.
(From the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy.)
HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY,
WEST POINT, N.Y. Nov. 18, 1904.
* * * In the forthcoming Memorial Volume of the Military Academy now being printed will appear the following note regarding the book:
342, 731 R., 20 RAWLE (WILLIAM): A view of the Constitution of the United States of America. Philadelphia, 1825, 1v., O.
The text-book, of the law department from — to —. The copy of this book owned by Library, United States Military Academy makes it very probable that it was used as a text book.
(Signed) A. L. MILLS, BRIG.-GEN.,
(From the Librarian of the United States Military Academy.)
LIBRARY, UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY,
WEST POINT, N.Y., Nov. 23, 1904.
* * * The copy of Rawle (William): “A View of the Constitution of the United States of America;” Philadelphia, 1825; 1v., O., owned by the Library, U.S.M.A., contains Ms. notes which make it very probable that this book was used as a text-book at the Military Academy, inasmuch as there is a list of sections and lessons marked. The book contains no information as to just the period during which it was used as a text-book, nor have we been able to find this out up to the present time.
(Signed) EDWARD S. HOLDEN,
(From the Librarian of Congress).
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS,
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 1904.
* * * I find on examination of the Annual Catalogues of the West Point Military Academy that no text-books appear to be named until A.D., 1842.
(Signed) A. R. SPOFFORD.
(From a Great-grandson of Wm. Rawle).
211 S. SIXTH STREET,
PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 13, 1904.
* * * The book entitled, “A View of the Constitution of the United States of America” was written by my great grandfather. * * * The book was, I think, the first author, after having studied law in New York under the Royul Attorney General and later in the Middle Temple in London, was admitted to the Philadelphia bar, September 15, 1783. He was therefore of an age to appreciate the doings of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which sat in this City where he resided. Doubtless he attended its sittings, although I do not find among his papers any statement to that effect. The work, I have always understood, was for many years used as a text-book at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
(Signed) WM. BROOKE RAWLE.
(From John Rawle, Grandson of Wm. Rawle).
NATCHEZ, MISS., Jan. 27, 1905.
* * * In re, William Rawle, my grandfather, I am aware that his view on the “Constitution of the United States” was used as a text-book at West Point, but I do not recollect in what years it was. Gen. R. E. Lee, et al., said that they were taught by that book while at West Point. * * * General Lee told Bishop Wilmer, of Louisiana, that if it had not been for the instruction he got from Rawle's text-book at West Point he would not have left the Old Army and joined the South at the breaking out of the late war between the States.
(Signed) JOHN RAWLE.
(From Joseph Wilmer, a Son of Bishop Wilmer).
RAPIDAN, VA., Feb. 10, 1905.
* * * I have a distinct recollection of my father's statement that Greneral Lee told him that “Rawle” was a text-book during his cadetship at West Point. * * *
(From Mrs. M. J. Leeds, Granddaughter of William Rawle).
NEW ORLEANS, LA., Jan. 19, 1905.
* * * I am positive that the work of my grandfather, William Rawle, was used as a text-book at West Point I have heard this from my own father, Judge Edward Rawle, who died in 1880, a son of the author of the book.
(Signed) MRS. M. J. LEEDS.
(From Judge G. L. Christian).
CHRISTIAN & CHRISTIAN LAW OFFICES,
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE BUILDING
RICHMOND, VA., Dec, 1904.
* * * I have frequently heard Generals D. H. Maury and Fitzhugh Lee state the fact that “Rawle on the Constitution” was one of the text-books used at West Point when they were students there. I have also heard the same statement iterated and reiterated time and time again without any suggestion that there was any question about it. I saw General Lee last night, and he again told me that there was no doubt about this being the fact.
(Signed) GEO. L. CHRISTIAN.
(From General Fitzhugh Lee)
NORFOLK, Va., Dec. 5, 1904.
* * * My recollection is that Rawle's View of the Constitution was the legal text-book at West Point when Generals Lee, Joseph E. Johnson and Stonewall Jackson were cadets there, and later on was a text-book when I was a cadet there.
(Signed) FITZHUGH LEE.
(From General Dabney H. Maury).
In Vol. 6, p. 249, So. Historical Papers:
* * * It (Rawle) remained as a text-book at West Point till —; and Mr. Davis and Sidney Johnston and General Joe Johnston and General Lee and all the rest of us who retired with Virginia from the Federal Union, were not only obeying the plain instincts of our nature and dictates of duty, but we were obeying the very inculcations we had received in the National Schools. It is not probable that any of us ever read the Constitution or any exposition of it except this work of Rawle, which we studied in our Graduating year at West Point. I know I did not. * * *
(Signed) DABNEY H. MAURY.
(From Charles Francis Adams.)
ADAMS BUILDING, 23 COURT STREET,
BOSTON, Dec. 8, 1904.
* * * Herewith, under another cover, I send a copy of a publication of mine (The Constitutional Ethics of Secession), which bears very directly upon the point made in your letter. On page 16, in Note 1, may be found all I know on the subject of Rawle's View of the Constitution, and the use of its as a text-book at West Point.
You will note I there state as a fact that his View was the text-book in use at West Point prior to 1840. * * * I remember that, at that time (two years ago) I looked the matter up with the utmost care, corresponding with the librarian and authorities at West Point, and also with at least one legal authority in New York. The result and my conclusion, are set forth in the note.
(Signed) CHAS. F. ADAMS.
From “The Constitutional Ethics of Secession,” by Chas. Francis Adams. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, 1903, pages 16–17:
“(1) Much has been written and said, and still more declaimed, as to the peculiar and exceptional allegiance due, in case of attempted secession, to the National Government on the part of the graduates of the Military Academy at West Point. It is, however, a noticeable fact that anterior to 1840 the doctrine of the right of secession seems to have been inculcated at West Point as an admitted principle of Constitutional Law! Story's Commentaries was first published in 1833. Prior to its appearance the standard text-book on the subject was Rawle's View of the Constitution. This was published in Philadelphia in 1825. William Rawle, its author, was an eminent Philadelphia lawyer. A man of twenty-nine at the time the Constitution was adopted, and already in active professional life; in 1792 he was offered a judicial position by Washington. Subsequently he was for many years Chancellor of the Law Association of Philadelphia, and principal author of the revised code of Pennsylvania. He stood in the foremost rank of the legal luminaries of the first third of the century. His instincts, sympathies and connections were all national. Prior to 1840, his ‘View’ was the text-book in use at West Point.”
From “The Republic of Republics.” Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 4th Edition, 1878, Preface, p. V:
“Another event of great historical interest in which Judge Clifford participated, was a solemn consultation of a small number of the ablest lawyers of the North in Washington a few months after the war upon the momentous question as to whether the Federal Government should commence a criminal prosecution against Jefferson Davis for his participation and leadership in the war of secession. In this council, which was surrounded at the time with the utmost secrecy, were Attorney-General Speed, Judge Clifford, Wm. Evarts, and perhaps half a dozen others, who had been selected from the whole Northern profession for their legal ability and acumen, and the result of their deliberation was the sudden abandonment (of the idea of a prosecution) in view of the insurmountable difficulties in the way of getting a final conviction.”
Republic of Republics, page 44:
The above work (Rawle's View) was a text-book at West Point when Lee and Davis were cadets there.
Footnote 1, p. 33:
They (Davis and Lee) were at West Point during the administration of John Quincy Adams, who, as late as 1839, essayed to teach the whole American people that, “the people of each State have a right to secede from the confederated Union.” These are his very words.
(“The Republics of Republics” is understood to have given some of the lines of defense by Jefferson Davis' counsel if the case had been brought to trial, and to have had the approval of Mr. Davis himself. The book is very highly spoken of by Charles O'Connor, one of Mr. Davis' counsel, and one of the most distinguished lawyers in the United States in his day, who wrote to the author in 1865 (see page IV), * * * “with so admirably prepared and so overwhelmingly conclusive a brief (as his book) my task (of defending Mr. Davis) would be easy indeed.”
If there were “insurmountable difficulties in the way of getting a final conviction,” it stands to reason that, the defense “would be easy, indeed.”
The following letter explains itself:
4117 Pine Street,
PHILADELPHIA, March 25, 1884.
Dear Col. Bingham: While the question of Jeff. Davis's trial for high treason was pending, Mr. Wm. B. Reed, counsel for the defense, was a member of my brother's congregation at Orange Valley, N.J. He told my brother, after it had been decided that the trial was not to take place, that if the case had come to trial the defense would have offered in evidence the text-book on constitutional law (Rawle's View of the Constitution) from which Davis had been instructed at West Point by the authority of the United States Government, and in which the right of secession is maintained as one of the constitutional rights of a State. You are quite at liberty to refer to me for this statement, which is given according to the best of my recollection.
L. W. BACON.
(Rev. Dr. Bacon's present address is Assonet, Mass.)
This cloud of witnesses, living and dead, men and women, Northern and Southern, military and literary, establishes satisfactorily at least nine points; namely: 1st—That Wm. Rawle did write and publish in 1825, in Philadelphia, “A View of the Constitution.” 2d—That he was a very able man, thoroughly competent, and fevorably situated to execute his task. 3rd—That his book does teach the right of secession. 4th—That it was an accepted authority in that day. 5th—That it was a text-book in the course at West Point, where it remains still, and yet showing the class-lesson marks. 6th—That General Lee was then, and for years afterwards there as cadet and student. 7th—That in 1861, he defended the cause of Virginia and the South rather than fight for “the Union,” and this because of the instruction given him at West Point. 8th—That the Federal Grovemment knowing these facts, and that they would be brought out by counsel in court if President Davis should be put upon trial for treason, decided not to try him, thus denying him the opportunity to vindicate himself and his co-patriots of the Southland. 9th—That Lee himself said that he would not have left the old Army and joined the South, but for the instruction that he had received from “Rawle's View of the Constitution.”
In the face of these facts how monstrous would have been the attempt to punish for treason Mr. Davis or General Lee, who had only put into practice the doctrine taught them at West Point! And how cruel to accuse President Davis of it, imprison and indict him for it, and then deny him a hearing in which he might prove himself innocent! How would such a record as this have looked on the page of History? Cadet Jefferson Davis taught at West Point in 1825 the lawfulness of secession. The said Davis practices in 1861 the said doctrine with the people of Mississippi. The United States Government charges with treason the said Davis, and tries him at Richmond, Virginia, in 1866 for doing what it had taught him was lawtful when he was at West Point. And the said Davis was acquitted for the sole reason that the jury could
“find no fault in him”?
The extracts from “Rawle's View” need no preface or explanation. He says: “If a faction should attempt to subvert the government of a State for the purpose of destroying its republican form, the national power of the Union could be called forth to subdue it. Yet it is not to be understood that its interposition would be justifiable if a State should determine to retire from the Union.” (p. 289). “It depends on the State itself whether it will continue a member of the Union. To deny this right would be inconsistent with the principle on which all our political systems are founded, which is, that the people have in all cases the right to determine how they shall be governed.” (p. 289). “The States may then wholly withdraw from the Union.” (p. 290). “We have associated as republics. Possessing the power to form monarchies, republics were preferred and instituted.”
“If a majority of the people of a State deliberately and peaceably resolve to relinquish the republican form of government, they cease to be members of the Union.” (p. 292). “The secession of a State from the Union depends on the will of the people of such State.” (p. 295). “In any manner by which secession is to take place, nothing is more certain than that the act should be deliberate, clear and unequivocal.” (p. 296). “The people of a State may have reason to complain in respect to the acts of the general government; they may, in such cases, invest some of their own officers with the power of negotiation, and may declare an absolute secession in case of failure. The secession in such cases must be distinctly and peremptorily declared to take place, and in such case, as the case of unconditional secession, the previous ligament with the Union would be legitimately and fairly destroyed.” (p. 296). “It was foreseen that there would be a natural tendency to increase the number of the States. It was also known that a State might withdraw itself.” (p. 297). “Secessions may reduce the number of the States to the smallest integer admitting combination.” “To withdraw from the Union is a solemn, serious act.” “Whenever it may appear expedient to the people of a State to withdraw from the Union, it must be manifested in a direct and unequivocal manner.” (p. 298). And also “this right (of secession) must be considered an ingredient in the original composition of the general government, and the doctrine heretofore presented in regard to the indefeasable nature of personal allegiance is so far qualified in respect to allegiance to the United States. It was observed that the reciprocal relations of protection and allegiance might cease in certain events, and it was further observed that allegiance would necessarily cease in case of the dissolution of the society (the Union in that case) to which it was due.” (p. 289–290).
But I was speaking of the collision at Sumter. This changed things and precipitated the struggle. For this, the South has been universally blamed, but the facts are these:—The fort belonged to the Federal Government, was built and held in trust for the defense of Charleston; the site belonged to South Carolina and had been ceded in trust to the Government on condition that it should be used for that purpose. When the secession of the State put that defense out of the question, commissioners were sent, as we have seen, to treat for the transfer of the fort. They were repulsed. As soon as the Confederacy was established, another commission was sent to adjust these property rights and treat for the transfer of Sumter, the only fort yet held by the United States Government. Mr. Lincoln had been inaugurated meanwhile and the commissioners had to deal with his Secretary of State, Mr. W. H. Seward. Negotiations were conducted through Justices Nelson and Campbell of the Supreme Court of the United States, because Mr. Seward declined to see the commissioners himself. Nelson urged Seward to refrain from any policy of coercion, on the ground that such “is serious violation of the Constitution.” On March 15, Mr. Seward authorized Judge Campbell in writing to tell Mr. Davis that “Before a letter could reach him, he would learn by telegraph that the order for evacuation of Sumter had been made.” This word was sent. March 20th, Campbell again saw Seward, who told him that “The delay in the evacuation of the fort was accidental,” and repeated his assurance that the garrison would be withdrawn. Campbell says, “I repeated this assurance in writing to the commissioners, and informed Mr. Seward in writing, what I had said to them.” March 19th, the day before this renewed assurance was given, a special envoy had left Washington for Charleston to obtain information and devise means by which Sumter might be—not evacuated, but reinforced! And Mr. George Lunt of Massachusetts says—“It was intended to draw the fire of the Confederates”—a silent aggression to produce an active aggression.
Pledging “pacific purposes,” Captain G. V. Fox, sent from Washington by Lincoln, was allowed by Governor Pickens to visit the fort, where on the parapet, at night, of March 21st, he had a private interview with Major Anderson, matured his plan, submitted, and had it approved by President Lincoln, and was sent to New York to arrange for its execution. Anderson strongly opposed the attempt to reinforce him: he “at once earnestly condemned it”—so says Major General S. W. Crawford, U.S. Army—[“]said it was too late; agreed with his superior. General Scott, that an entrance by sea was impossible, and said that the coming of reinforcements would bring on a collision and inaugurate a civil war, and to this he manifested the most earnest opposition.” The belief was now general on both sides that the garrison would be withdrawn, and Major Anderson had given his official instructions as to the disposal of the property. (See the “Genesis of Civil War” by Crawford.)
On March 25th, Col. Ward H. Lamon, another envoy, sent by Lincoln, “informed me,” says Governor Pickens, that he had come as confidential agent of the President “to arrange for the removal of the garrison.” After a visit to the fort, and his return to Washington, he wrote the Grovemor that he “hoped to return in a few days to withdraw the command.” This was on March 30th, fifteen days after Mr. Seward's original assurance of evacuation, and ten days after his explanation that the delay in doing it was “accidental.” On April ist, Campbell again saw Seward, who gave him the statement in writing for the Commissioners—“The Government will not undertake to supply Sumter without notice to Governor Pickens.” As this assurance was very different from the others, Campbell asked him, “Whether I was to understand that there had been a change in his former communications?” Seward answered, “None.” On April 7th, in view of continued rumors of hostile preparations of the Government, Campbell again wrote Seward, asking whether “the assurances given wiere well or ill founded?” Seward wrote back—“Faith as to Sumter fully kept. Wait and see.” Yet the day before this, Mr. Lincoln had sent one of Seward's officials, a Mr. Chew of the State Department, to notify Governor Pickens that “An attempt will be made to supply Sumter with provisions only, but no attempt will be made to throw in men, arms or ammunition.” And yet, in spite of this promise, and against the protest of several cabinet officers, of the Commander-in-Chief of the army, and of Major Anderson himself, a squadron of eleven vessels with twenty-six guns and 2,400 men had been ordered by Lincoln to be ready to sail on April the sixth and appeared off the mouth of Charleston Harbor on April 11th, but was prevented from entering by a storm. The news of the coming fleet having reached the Confederate Government, it sought to obtain possession of Sumter before the reinforcements reached it, and April 11th was spent in dispatches between Major Anderson and General Beauregard, in which the latter asked the evacuation of the fort, and offered every facility for the removal of men, and arms and property. The former regretted that “sense of honor, and of obligation to my Government, prevents compliance,” and sent thanks for what he calls “the fair, manly, courteous terms proposed and for the high compliment to me.” April 12th, expecting the fleet any moment to enter the Harbor, Beauregard sent word to Anderson that he would open fire. Thus the South fired the first gun. The student of the above facts will judge for himself, who began the war, and whether or not, it was treason and rebellion or necessary self-defense. Hallam, the great English Historian, says—“The aggressor in war, that is, he who begins it, is not the first who uses force, but the first who renders force necessary.”
To aid my hearer's judgment, and to vindicate my countrymen now gone to the bar of God, I here recite one additional fact as evidence, from the lips of a witness never impeached, and upon authority that will not be questioned. In his “Life of Lee,” Dr. H. A. White of the Washington and Lee University, notes the fact that, “an ordinance of secession submitted to the Virginia Convention, March 17th, was rejected by a vote of ninety to forty-five.” Just two to one against it. The new President, the successor in the seat of Washington, requested at once an interview with some representative of the Convention. On April 4th, Mr. J. B. Baldwin, President of the Convention, and who had voted against the secession of Virginia, on March 17th, was sent to Washington and had a conference with Lincoln. He wtas greeted by the President with the assertion that he had come too late. So he has stated under oath. Lincoln would not listen to his pleadings that he should yield the Southern forts, and so preserve peace. Now remember this—On April 4th, Lincoln declares—“It is too late.” But
on April 7th, his Secretary of State, Seward being urged in writing by Judge Campbell to say whether the assurances so often given the Commissioners were well or ill founded (as to the removal of the garrison from Sumter), replied in writing—“Faith as to Sumter fully kept. Wait and see.” The question is who told the truth? Light is thrown on it by other undeniable statements and facts of record. The next day, an official note, unsigned and undated, was handed Governor Pickens in Charleston, South Carolina, by Mr. Chew, of the State Department at Washington, who said that it was from Lincoln, and had been given to him by the President of the United States, on April 6th, or only a day before the assurance of Seward that, as to Sumter, “faith would be fully kept.” The paper said—“I am directed by the President of the United States to notify you to expect an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only: and that, if such an attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms or ammunition will be made without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort.” This shows clearly that Lincoln told the truth to Mr. Baldwin on April 4th in saying that “It is too late.” He had already ordered the invasion of Charleston harbor by armed men and ships.
Here is disclosed a scheme to gain time by misleading the Confederates until an armed fleet fully provisioned could be sent into the Charleston Harbor to supply and reinforce the little garrison. The President played his part, and the Secretary played his, and one seems about as honest and honorable as the other. But, my hearer, “wait and see!” On the 12th of April, a second Committee was sent from Richmond to see the President, and ascertain definitely his policy. On the 14th day of April, Mr. Lincoln's reply in writing to the Committee was “distinctly pacific and he expressly disclaimed all purpose of war.” The next day, the Committee left for Richmond, and the same train that bore them took also Lincoln's requisition upon the Governors of the States for an army of 75,000 men to subjugate the South! Now, here is Lincoln giving personal assurance of “pacific” intentions—disclaiming expressly all purpose of war, on April 14th—when on April 6th, he had sent Governor Pickens word that an attempt to provision Sumter would be made, and on April 12th, the hostile Federal fleet of eleven vessels, twenty-six guns, and 2,400 men were just outside the harbor and coming in! Did it require all those men and cannon to land the bread-stuffs for sixty-three soldiers, or were they sent to garrison and hold the fort against the city and State for whose defense it had been built and equipped?
Return to Lee and His Cause