Letter from Howell Cobb to the People of Georgia, Dec. 6, 1860
Letter of Hon. Howell Cobb to the People of Georgia
On the Present Condition of the Country.
To the People of Georgia:
I have received numerous communications from different portions of the State, asking my views on the present condition of the country, accompanied with the request that they might be placed before the public.
It is impossible to answer each of these communications and I have therefore taken the liberty of addressing my reply to the people of the State, asking for what I have to say that consideration only which is due to convictions deliberately formed and frankly expressed.
The whole subject may properly be considered in the discussion of the following enquiry: Does the election of Lincoln to the Presidency, in the usual and constitutional mode, justify the Southern States in dissolving the Union?
The answer to this inquiry involves a consideration of the principles of the party who elected him, as well as the principles of the man himself.
The Black Republican party had its origin in the anti-slavery feeling of the North. It assumed the form and organization of a party for the first time in the Presidential contest of 1856. The fact that it was composed of men of all previous parties, who then and still advocate principles directly antagonistic upon all other questions, except slavery, shows beyond doubt or question, that hostility to slavery, as it exists in the fifteen Southern States, was the basis of its organization and the bond of its union. Free-trade Democrats and protective-tariff Whigs; internal improvement and anti-internal improvement men; and indeed all shades of particans, united in cordial fraternity upon the isolated issue of hostility to the South, though for years they had fought each other upon all other issues. The fact is important because it illustrated the deep-rooted feeling which could thus bring together these hostile elements. It must be conceded that there was an object in view, of no ordinary interest, which could thus fraternize these incongruous elements. Besides, at the time this party was organized, there was presented no bright promise of success. All the indications of the day pointed toward their certain defeat. So deep, however, was this anti-slavery sentiment planted in their hearts, that they forgot and forgave the asperities the past, the political differences of the present, and, regardless of the almost certain defeat which the future had in store for them, cordially embraced each other in the bonds of anti-slavery hatred, preferring defeat under the banner of Abolition to success, if it had to be purchased by a recognition of the constitutional rights of the South. The party has succeeded in bringing into its organization all the abolitionists of the North, except that small band of honest fanatics who say, and say truly, that if slavery is the moral curse which the Black republicans pronounce it to be, they feel bound to dissolve their connection with it, and are therefore for a dissolution of the Union. Such I may denominate the personnel of the Black Republican party, which, by the election of Lincoln, has demonstrated its numerical majority, in every Northern State except New Jersey.
I have said that the circumstances which marked the origin and organization of this party show that there was an object in view, of no ordinary character. To see and appreciate that object properly, we must refer to it first and most important declaration of principles, which occurred in 1856, at the time of the nomination of Mr. Fremont to the Presidency:
“Resolved, That, with our republican fathers, we hold it to be a self-evident truth, that all men are endowed with the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and that the primary object and ulterior designs of our Federal Government were, to secure these rights to all persons within its exclusive jurisdiction; that as our republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that no person should be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, it becomes our duty to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it for the purpose of establishing slavery in any Territory of the United States, by positive legislation, prohibiting its existence or extension therein. - That we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature of any individual or association of individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory of the United States, while the present Constitution shall be maintained.
“Resolved, That the Constitution confers upon Congress sovereign power over the Territories of the United States for their government, and that in the exercise of this power it is both the right and duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism - polygamy and slavery.”
There can be no misapprehension of the doctrine here announced. It is as plain and explicit in its language as it is false and infamous in its teachings. Upon its announcement, the people of the Northern States were asked to pass their judgment upon its truth and correctness. The response may be found in the votes of nearly a million and a half of the northern people, in favor of the election of John C. Fremont, its advocate and representative; and I may add that the election of Mr. Fremont upon this doctrine was only defeated by the personal popularity of Mr. Buchanan in the State of Pennsylvania. In that memorable canvass, the doctrines thus announced by the Black Republican party were boldly and earnestly defended by the supporters of Fremont everywhere. If there was any departure from the standards thus formally and officially erected, it will be found in the more offensive and extreme doctrines of the men who advocated his election, and spoke as by authority for the party of which they were the most active and efficient representatives. I will not weary you with a tedious detail of their infamous sentiments, to be found in the editorials and speeches of almost every advocate of Fremont’s election in 1856. They are too familiar to every casual reader of that remarkable canvass, and can never be forgotten. If these doctrines and principles have ever been disclaimed or repudiated, either by Mr. Lincoln or any responsible man of his party, I have not seen or heard of it. Though they were not repeated in the same language by the Chicago convention, which nominated Lincoln, they were virtually endorsed, with the addition of a repudiation of the decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case, as will appear in the extract below from the platform of 1860, and have, both by Mr. Lincoln and his leading supporters, been defended and elaborated in the most emphatic language, and with the most embittered spirit:
“7. That the new dogma, that the Constitution, of its own force, carries slavery into any or all of the Territories of the United States, is a dangerous political heresay, at variance with the explicit provisions of that instrument itself, with contemporaneous exposition, and with legislative and judicial precedent; is revolutionary in its tendency, and subversive of the peace and harmony of the country.”
“8. That the formal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom. That as our republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that “No person should be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” it becomes our duty, by legislation, whenever such legislation is necessary, to maintain this provision of the constitution against all attempts to violate it; and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory of the United States.”
Can there be a doubt in any intelligent mind, that the object which the Black Republican party has in view is the ultimate extinction of slavery in the United States? To doubt it, is to cast the imputation of hypocracy and imbecility upon the majority of the people of every Northern State, who have stood by this party through all its trials and struggles, to its ultimate triumph in the election Lincoln. I am sure that no one can entertain for them, individually or collectively, less personal respect than I do, and yet I do give them credit for more sincerity and intelligence than is consistent with the idea that on obtaining power they will refuse to exercise it for the only purpose for which they professed to seek it. I do believe that, with all their mealiness(?) and duplicity, they do hate slavery and slaveholders quite as much as they say they do, and that no argument addressed to their hearts or judgments, in behalf of the constitutional rights of the South, would receive the slightest consideration. What might be affected by an appeal to their fears and cupidity, I will not now stop to discuss.
In the nomination of Mr. Lincoln for the Presidency, the Black Republicans gave still more pointed expression to their views and feelings on the subject of slavery. Lincoln had neither the record nor the reputation of a statesman. Holding sentiments even more odious than those of Seward, he was indebted to the comparative obscurity of his position for a triumph over his better known competitor. By the boldness and ability with which Mr. Seward had advocated the doctrine of the “higher law” and “the irrepressible conflict,” he had exhibited to the public a character so infamous, that even Black Republicans would not hazard the use of his name. To find a candidate of the same principles and less notoriety was the great work to be performed by the Chicago Convention. That duty was successfully discharged in the selection and nomination of Mr. Lincoln.
He had placed on record his calm and solemn declaration on the subject of slavery, sentiments which remain to this hour without retraction, or even modification, by himself. In the pamphlet copy of his speeches, revised by himself, and circulated throughout the Presidential canvass by his supporters, we find the following clear and unequivocal declaration of his views and feelings on the subject of slavery:
“I did not even say that I desired that should be put in course of ultimate extinction. I do say so now, however: so there need be no longer any difficulty about that. It may be written down in the great speech.”
“I have always hated slavery, I think, as much as any abolitionist. I have been an old line Whig. I have always hated it, but I have been quiet about it until this new era of the introduction of the Nebraska bill began. I always believed that everybody was against it. and that it as in the course of ULTIMATE EXTINCTION.”
“We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this Government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will “CEASE TO BE DIVIDED: IT WILL BECOME ALL ONE THING OR THE OTHER. Either the opponents of slavery will ARREST the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ULTIMATE EXTINCTION, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South.”
Commenting on this, he afterwards said:
“I only said what I expected would take place. I made a prediction only; it may have been a foolish one, perhaps. I did not even say that I desired that slavery should be put in course of ultimate extinction. I do now, however, so there need be no longer any difficulty about that.
“If I were in Congress, and a vote should come upon a question whether slavery should be prohibited in a new Territory, in spite of the Dred Scott decision, I WOULD VOTE THAT IT SHOULD.”
“What I do say is, that no man is good enough to govern another without the other man’s consent. I say this is the leading principle, (?) ANCHOR of American Republicanism. Our Declaration of Independence says:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, - that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, DERIVING their just power from the consent of the governed.
“I have quoted so much at this time merely to show, that according to our ancient faith, the powers of government are derived from the consent of the governed. Now, the relation of master and slave is, pro tanto, a violation of this principle. The master not only governs the slave without his consent, but he governs him by a set of rules altogether different from those which he prescribes for himself. Allow all the governed an EQUAL VOICE IN THE GOVERNMENT; and that, and that only is self-government.”
Again, in a speech delivered in Chicago, during the last Presidential election, which we find published in the Illinois State Journal, the state organ of the Black Republican party of Illinois, on the 16th of September, 1856, Mr. Lincoln said:
That central idea, in our political opinion, at the beginning was, and until recently continued to be, the equality of men. And, although it was always submitted patiently to, whatever inequality there seemed to be as a matter of action necessity, its constant working has been a steady progress toward the PRACTICAL EQUALITY OF ALL MEN.
“Let past differences as nothing be; and, with steady eye on the real issue, let us re-inaugurate the good old central ideas of the Republic. We can do it. The human heart is with us; God is with us. We shall again be able, not to declare that all the States, as States, are equal; nor yet that all citizens, as citizens, are equal; but renew the broader, better declaration, including both these and much more, that all men are created equal.”
Yet again, in a speech at Chicago, on the 16th of July, 1858, Mr. Lincoln said:
“I should like to know if, taking the old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are created equal upon principle, and making exceptions to it, where will it stop? If one man say, it does not mean a negro; why not another say, it does not mean some other man? If that declaration is not the truth, let us get the statute book in which we find it, and tear it out. Who is so bold as to do it? If it is not true, let us tear it out. [Cries of “No no!”] Let us stick to it, then; let us stand firmly by it, then.
Let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the other man - this race and that race and the other race being inferior, and therefore they must be placed in an inferior position - discarding the standard that we have left us. Let us discard all these things, and unite as one people throughout this land until we shall once more stand up declaring that ALL MEN are created equal. I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms UNTIL THERE SHALL NO longer be a doubt that ALL MEN ARE CREATED FREE AND EQUAL.”
In these declarations Mr. Lincoln has covered the entire abolition platform - hatred of slavery, disregard of judicial decisions, negro equality, and, as a matter of course, the ultimate extinction of slavery. None of these doctrines, however, are left to inference, so far as Mr. Lincoln is concerned, as we see he has avowed them in the plainest and clearest language. They are not exceeded by the boldness of Seward, the malignity of Giddings, or the infamy of Garrison. It was the knowledge of these facts which induced his nomination by the Republican party; and by the free circulation which has been given to them in the canvass, it would seem that Mr. Lincoln is indebted to their popularity for his election. The insincerity of his disavowal of the doctrine of negro equality, when pressed to the wall, after the solemn declarations I have quoted, is too transparent to require remark.
Such, then, are the sentiments and principles which an overwhelming majority of the North have indorsed by their votes for the man who announced and defended them.
In this inquiry into the doctrines and principles of the Black Republican party, we cannot leave unnoticed the announcements which have been made to the country by their ablest recognised leaders. Gladly would I turn from the nauseating recital; but to learn and appreciate the truth of the case, we must look to the whole record no matter how steeped in infamy, or covered with falsehood. I affix to these extracts the names of the Senators who uttered them - names, I regret to say, to familiar to all the readers of American politics.
Thus, these antagonistic systems are continually coming into closer contact, and collision results. - Shall I tell you what this collision means? They who think it is accidental, unnecessary, the work of interested fanatical agitators, and therefore ephemeral, mistake the case altogether. It is an IRREPRESIBLE CONFLICT between opposing and enduring forces, and it means that the United States MUST AND WILL, sooner or later, become entirely a slaveholding nation, or entirely a free-labor nation. Either the cotton and rice fields of South Carolina, and the sugar plantations of Louisiana, will ultimately be tilled by free labor, and Charleston and New Orleans become marts for legitimate merchandise alone, or else the rye fields and wheat fields of Massachusetts and New York must again be surrendered by their farmers to slave culture and to the production of slaves, and Boston and New York become once more a market for trade in the bodies and souls of men. It is the failure to apprehend this great truth that induses so many unsuccessful attempts at final compromise between the slave and free States, and it is the existence of this great fact that renders all such pretended compromise, when made, VAIN and EPHEMERAL. - Mr. Seward.
“The interests of the white race demand the ULTIMATE EMANCIPATION of all men. Whether that consummation should be allowed to take effect, with needful and wise precautions against sudden change and disaster, or be hurried on by VIOLENCE, is all that remains for you to decide.” - Mr. Seward.
“Slavery can be limited to its present bounds; it can be ameliorated. IT CAN BE, AND IT MUST BE ABLOISHED, and YOU and I CAN and must do it. The task is as simple and easy as its consummation will be beneficent, and its rewards glowing. It only requires to follow this simple rule of action: to do everywhere and on every occasion what we can, at any time, because at that precise time, and on that particular occasion, we cannot do more. Circumstances determine possibilities.”
“Extend a cordial welcome to the fugitive who lays his weary limbs at your door, and DEFEND HIM as you would your paternal gods.”
“Correct your own error that slavery has any Constitutional guarantees which may not be RELEASED, and ought not to be relinquished.”
“You will soon bring the parties of the country into an effective aggression upon slavery.” - Mr. Seward.
“What a commentary upon the history of man is the fact, that eighteen years after the death of John Quincy Adams, the people have for their standard bearer Abraham Lincoln, confessing the obligations of the HIGHER LAW, which the Sage of Quincy proclaimed, and contending for weal or woe, for life or death, in the IRREPRESIBLE CONFLICT between freedom and slavery. I desire to say that we are in the LAST stage of the conflict, before the great triumphal inauguration of this policy into the Government of the United States.” - Mr. Seward.
“In what I have done, I cannot claim to have acted from any peculiar consideration of the colored people, as a separate and distinct class in the community, but from the simple conviction that all the individuals of that class are members of the community, and, in virtue of their manhood, entitled to EVERY ORIGINAL RIGHT ENJOYED BY ANY OTHER MEMBER. We feel, therefore, that all LEGAL DISTINCTION between individuals of the same community, founded in any such circumstances as color, origin, and the like, are hostile to the genius of our institutions, and incompatible with the true theory of American liberty. SLAVERY and oppression must CEASE, or American liberty must perish.
“In Massachusetts, and in most if not all, the New England States, the colored man and the white are absolutely equal before the law.
“In New York, the colored man is restricted as the right of suffrage by a property qualification. In other respects the same equality prevails.
“I embrace, with pleasure, this opportunity of declaring MY DISAPPROBATION of that clause of the Constitution which denies to a portion of the colored people the right of suffrage.
“True Democracy makes no inquiry about the color of the skin, or the place of nativity, or any other similar circumstance or condition. I regard therefore, the exclusion of the colored people, as a body, from the elective franchise, as INCOMPATIBLE with true Democratic principles.” - Mr. Chase.
“For myself, I am ready to renew my pledge, and I will venture to speak in behalf of my coworkers, that we will go straight on, without faltering or wavering, until every vestige of oppression shall be erased from the statue-books—until the sun, in all its journey from the utmost eastern horizon through the mid-heaven, till he sinks behind the western bed, shall NOT BEHOLD THE FOOT-PRINT OF A SINGLE SLAVE in all our broad and glorious land.” - Mr. Chase.
“Language is feeble to express all the enormity of this institution which is now vaunted as in itself a form of civilization, enobling, at least, to the master, if not the slave. Look at it in whatever light you will and it is always the scab, the canker, ‘the bare bones,’ and the shame of the country; wrong not merely in the abstract, as it is often admitted by its apologists, but wrong in the concrete also, and possessing no single element of right. Look at it in the light of principle, and it is nothing less than a huge insurrection against the eternal law of God, and also the denial of that divine law in which God himself is manifest, thus being practically the grossest lie and the grossest atheism. Barbarous in origin; barbarous in its law; barbarous in its consequences; barbarous in spirit; barbarous wherever it shows itself. Slavery must breed barbarious, while it develops everywhere, alike in the individuals and in the society of which he forms a part, the essential elements of barbarism.”
“Violence, brutality, injustice, barbarism, must be reproduced in the lives of all who live within their fatal sphere. The meat that is eaten by man enters into and becomes a part of his body: the madder which is eaten by a dog changes his bones to red, and the slavery upon which men live, in all its five-fold foulness, must become part of themselves discoloring their very souls, blotting their characters, and breaking forth in moral leprosy. This language is strong; but the evidence is even stronger. Some there may be of hapy (sic) natures, like honorable Senators, who can thus feed and not be harmed. Mithridates FED ON POISON and lived; and it may be there is a moral Mithridates who can swallow without bane the poison of slavery.” - Mr. Sumner.
“Send it abroad on the wings of the winds that I am committed, fully committed, committed to the fullest extent, in favor of immediate unconditional abolition of slavery, wherever it exists under the authority of the Constitution of the United States.” - Mr. Wilson.
“If all men are created equal, no can rightfully acquire or hold dominion over, or property in another man, without his consent. If all men are created equal, one man cannot rightfully exact the service or the labor of another man without his consent. The subjugation of one man to another by force, so as to compel revoluntary labor or service, subverts that equality between the parties which the Creator established. - Mr. Seward.
“All this is just and sound; but assuming the same premises, to wit: that all men are created equal by the law of nature and of nations, the right of property in slaves falls to the ground, for one who is equal to the other, cannot be the owner or property of that other. But you answer that the Constitution recognizes property in slaves. It would be sufficient, then, to reply, that this constitutional obligation must be void, because it is repugnant to the law of nature and of nations.” - Mr. Seward.
“It is written in the Constitution of the United States, in violation of divine law, that we shall surrender the fugitive slave. You blush not at these things, because they are familiar as household words.” - Mr. Seward.
“The Supreme Court can also reverse its spurious judgment more easily than we can reconcile the people to its usurpation.”
“The people of the United States never can, and they never will accept principles so unconstitutional and abhorrent. Never, never. Let the court recede. Whether it recedes or not, we shall reorganise the court, and thus reform its political sentiments and practices; and bring them into harmony with the Constitution and the laws of nature.” - Mr. Seward.
Similar extracts from the same and other equally high authorities might be produced to an indefinite extent. I have confined myself to Senators - men high in authority, and who bring to the support of their doctrines unquestioned evidence of the sanction and approval of the people they represent. All of these Senators have been endorsed by re-election to the Senate, and by elevation to other posts of honor and distinction. Some, if not all of them, are indebted for their position and popularity, to the very avowals upon which I am commenting. It is worse than idle to say that the people condemn these doctrines, and that they are the extravagant ebullitious of excited partizans (sic). This is impossible. Otherwise these sentiments would not be repeated and reiterated, in and out of season, by these Senators, and always with more than usual emphasis and bitterness as the time for their re-election approaches. Nor would State Legislatures continue to return them to Congress of the people did not approve and sanction the doctrines thus announced by those chosen to represent them.
In the other branch of Congress, the Black Republican representatives have gone even farther than Senators, in their abuse and denunciation, not only of the institution of slavery, but of slaveholders. No language is deemed too harsh - no epithet too coarse - no denunciation too bitter, in the estimation of these men, to be applied to the people of the South. The official record of Congress is filled with the most inflammatory appeals, not only to the people of the North, but to the slaves of the South, inciting insurrection, stimulating revolts, encouraging arson and murder, and denouncing slaveholders as pirates and barbarians. I shall not stop to make quotations from these speeches. It is only necessary to open any volume of the Congressional Globe for the last few years, and turn to the speech of any Black Republican on the subject of slavery, and you will find ample evidence of the truth of the statement.
To such an extend has this habit, on the part of members of Congress, of abusing people of the South gone, that a citizen of a Southern State cannot visit the Capitol of this country, and linger for an hour in its halls during the session of Congress, without hearing language and epithets applied to himself and section, of the most offensive and insulting character. The venerable, men, of all sections, who served in Congress twenty-five and thirty years ago, listen to these dissensions and read them in the papers with equal astonishment and mortification. I will not pause to comment upon this State of things, but will proceed with my inquiry into the principles and objects of this party.
While these announcements are being made in the halls of Congress, and by those who have been commissioned to speak for the people of the North, it is not strange that the public press should be filled with similar sentiments, only clothed, if possible, in more vulgar language. I simply allude to the fact, without intending to weaken the argument by bringing to the witness stand the lower order of Black Republicans, of the class of Webb, Wentworth, Greely, &c. They simply do the bidding of wiser heads. With them it is thrift. With the others it is sentiment - passion - power; and the fact that so many instruments can be found to do the menial work is only evidence of the extent to which the doctrines and principles have taken root in the popular heart.
There is one dogma of this party which has been so solemnly enunciated, both by their national conventions and Mr. Lincoln that it is worth of serious consideration. I allude to the doctrine of negro equality. The stereotyped expression of the Declaration of Independence that “All men are born equal,” has been perverted from its plain and truthful meaning, and made the basis of a political dogma which strikes at the very foundations of the institution of slavery. Mr. Lincoln and his party assert that this doctrine of equality applies to the negro, and necessarily there can exist no such thing as property in our equals. Upon this point both Mr. Lincoln and his party have spoken with a distinctiveness that admits of no question or equivocation. If they are right, the institution of slavery as it exists in the Southern States is in direct violation of the fundamental principles of our Government; and to say that they would not use all the powers in their hands to eradicate the evil and restore the Government to its “ancient faith,” would be to write themselves down self-convicted traitors both to principle and duty.
These principles have not only been declared in the impassioned language of its advocates and defenders, but have at length found their way into the statue books of ten of the Northern States.
Every good citizen, North and South, admits that the Constitution of the United States in express terms requires our fugitive slaves to be delivered up to their owners, when escaping into another State. Congress has discharged its duty in passing laws to carry out this constitutional obligation; and, so far, every Executive has complied with his oath of office, to see this law duly executed. The impediments thrown in the way by lawless mobs, the threats of violence to which the owner has been on different occasions subjected, and the expense to which both the Government and the owner have been put are matters of small consideration compared with the more pregnant fact that ten sovereign States of the Union have interposed their strong arm to protect the thief, punish the owner, and confiscate the property of a citizen of a sister State. Such are the laws passed by these Northern States to defeat the fugitive slave act of Congress and annul a plain provision of the Constitution of the United States.
These laws are the legitimate fruit of the principles and teachings of the Black Republican party, and have therefore very naturally made their appearance upon the statue books of States under the control and in the hands of that party. Their existence cannot and should not be overlooked by those who are desirous of knowing what this party will do on the subject of slavery whenever they have the power to act. I call attention to them not only as an important item in the evidence I am offering of the principles and objects of the Black Republican party, but for the most important purpose of presenting a plain and palpable violation of the constitutional compact by ten of the sovereign parties to it. These very States are among the loudest in their demands for unconditional submission on the part of the South to the election of Lincoln. The inviolability of the Union is the magic work with which they summon the South to submission. The South responds by holding up before them a Constitution basely broken - a compact wantonly violated. That broken Constitution and violated compact formed the only Union we ever recognized; and if you would still have us to love and preserve it, restore to it that vital spirit of which it has been robbed by your sacrilegious hands, and make it again what our fathers made it - a Union of good faith in the maintenance of constitutional obligations. Do this, and the Union will find in all this land no truer or more devoted supporters than the ever-loyal ones of the South. This, however, the Black Republicans will not do, as the facts I am now developing will show beyond all doubt or question.
In the election which just transpired, the Black Republicans did not hesitate to announce, defend and justify the doctrines and principles which I have attributed to them. During the progress of the canvass I obtained copies of the documents which they were circulating at the North, with a view of ascertaining the grounds upon which they were appealing to the people for their support and confidence. With the exception of a few dull speeches in favor of a protective tariff, intended for circulation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and still fewer number of pitiful appeals for squandering the public lands, the whole canvass was conducted by the most bitter and malignant appeals to the anti-slavery sentiment of the North. Under the sanction of Senators and Representatives in Congress the country was flooded with pamphlets and speeches holding up slave-holders as “barbarians, more criminal than murderers,” and declaring unhesitatingly in favor of immediate and unconditional abolition in every state in the Confederacy where it now exists - doctrines which are the necessary and legitimate consequences of the universally recognized dogmas of the Black Republican party. It is worse than idle to deny such are the doctrines and principles of their party because all of them have not reached that point of boldness and honesty which induce men to follow principles to their legitimate conclusions. One thing at least is certain: The managers of the canvass believed that such doctrines were popular, or they would not have spent both their time and money in giving them such general circulation to the exclusion of all other matter. The election of Lincoln in response to such appeals show that these men properly understood popular sentiment of their section, to whom alone they appealed for votes to elect their candidate.
From these doctrines, principles and acts of the Black Republican party I propose to extract the aims and object of the party. It will be borne in mind, that I rely upon a declaration of their principles: 1st. As made by their national convention. 2d. As contained in the deliberate and repeated declarations of their successful candidate for the Presidency. 3d. As announced by their most honored and trusted leaders in the Senate of the United States. I invite attention to the following propositions, as plain and legitimate objects proposed to be carried out to the extent of their power.
First. That slavery is a moral, social and political evil; and that is the duty of the Federal Government to prevent its extension.
Second. That slavery is not recognized by the Constitution of the United States; and that the Federal Government is in nowise committed to its protection.
Third. That property in slaves is not entitled to the same protection at the hands of the Federal Government with other property.
Fourth. That so far from protecting, it is the duty of the Federal Government, wherever its power extends, to prohibit it, and therefore it is the duty of Congress by law to prevent any Southern man from going into the common territories of the Union with his slave property.
Fifth. That slavery is such an evil and curse, that it is the duty of everyone, to the extent of his power, to contribute to its ultimate extinction in the United States.
Sixth. That there is such a conflict between slave and free labor that all the states of the Union must become either slave or free; and as all Black Republicans are opposed to slavery and slave States their policy and doctrines look to all these States becoming free, as not only the natural but desired result of the “irrepressible conflict.”
Seventh. That the Declaration of Independence expressly declares and the Constitution recognizes the equality of the negro to the white man; and that the holding of the negro in slavery is violative of his equality as well as of that “ancient faith,” which Mr. Lincoln says is violated in the present relation of master and slave in the Southern States.
Eighth. That the Southern States do not stand upon an equality with the non-slaveholding States, because, whilst it is the recognized duty of the General government to protect the latter in the enjoyment of all their rights of property and would especially be required to protect their citizens from any act of confiscation in the common territories of the Union, it would be the duty of the same General government not only to withhold such protection from the citizen of a Southern State with his slave property in the common domain, but to exercise that power for his exclusion from that common territory.
Ninth. That the admission of more slave States into the Union is rendered a moral if not a physical impossibility.
To appreciate the full impact of these doctrines and principles of the Black Republican party, they should be looked at in connection with the constitutional rights and guarantees claimed by the Southern States. They are briefly:
1. That the Constitution of the United States recognizes the institution of slavery as it exist in the fifteen Southern States.
2. That the citizens of the South have the right to go with their slave property into the common territories of the Union, and are entitled to protection for both their persons and property from the General Government during its territorial condition.
3. That by the plain letter of the Constitution the owner of a slave is entitled to reclaim his property in any State into which the slave may escape, and that both the General and State Governments are bound under the Constitution to the enforcement of this provision; the General government by positive enactment, as has been done; and the State governments by interposing no obstacle in the way of the execution of the law and other Constitution.
I decline to enumerate other constitutional rights, equally clear, because I prefer to confine myself in this argument to those which have been fully recognized by the highest judicial tribunal in the country. No law and Constitution-abiding man will deny that the rights here enumerated are within the clear provisions of the Constitution, and that the South is fully justified in demanding their recognition and enforcement. Otherwise we are asked to pay tribute and give allegiance to a government which is wanting either in the will or power to protect us in the enjoyment of undoubted rights. I apprehend it is equally clear that the antagonism between those recognized rights and the doctrines and principles of the Black Republican party is plain, direct and irreconcilable. The one or the other must give way. Surely no right-minded man who admits the existence of these rights claimed by the South will say she ought to yield. It only remains to enquire whether the Black Republican party will recede from its position and thus end the “irrepressible conflict” which their doctrines have inaugurated. Those who indulge the hope that such will be the case are, in my honest judgment, greatly deluded. The boldness and earnestness with which this party have avowed their principles, the sacrifices they have made to secure their triumph, the deliberation with which their position has been taken, the clear and emphatic committals of their conventions, their candidate and all their leading men; the solemn acts of their State Legislatures - all indicate with unerring certainty that there is no reasonable hope of such a result.
I know that there are those who say and believe that this party is incapable of exercising the power it has obtained without breaking into pieces, and they look confidently to its overthrow at an early period. It may be that a cool philosophy located at a safe distance from the scene of danger may reason plausibly upon the chances of overthrowing a party so utterly unworthy of public confidence; but men looking to the security of property, and fathers and husbands anxious for the safety of their families, require some stronger guarantee than the feeble assurance of partisan speculation to quiet their apprehensions and allay their fears. This may be the case; but unfortunately for the future peace and security of the South, the causes which may lead to its dissolution and defeat arise outside of the slavery question. So far from the question of slavery leading to such a result, it is the only subject upon which the party thoroughly harmonizes. Hostility to slavery is the magic word which holds them together; and when torn to pieces by other dissensions, hatred to the South and her institutions swallows up all other troubles and restores harmony to their distracted ranks. On this point we are not left to mere conjecture; the history of the party in the ten nullifying States affords practical proof of the fact. In which of these States did the Black Republican party lose power in consequence of their acts repudiating the fugitive-slave law and nullifying the Constitution of the United States? So far from their anti-slavery legislation being an element of weakness, it has proven in all these States the shibboleth of their strength. In New York and Pennsylvania the corruptions of this party were so palpable and infamous that their own press cried out against it. Those of the party who made pretension of honesty felt the shame and humiliation brought upon them; and yet, when the Presidential battle was won, hatred to the South and her institutions swallows up all, and these acts of fraud and corruption were forgotten and forgiven in the greater and more absorbing feeling of hostility and hatred to South and her institutions. Shall we close our eyes to these historical facts and indulge the vain hope that these men will play a different part, simply because they are transferred to a new theatre of action?
I do not doubt that the Black Republican party will be guilty of similar and greater frauds in the Federal government; nor do I doubt that their wrangling and quarrels over the offices and patronage will plant in their party the seeds of strife and dissension which would lead ordinarily to their speedy downfall and overthrow; but I feel assured by the teachings of the past that the magic word of anti-slavery will again summon them to a cordial and fraternal reunion to renew and continue the war upon slavery, until they shall have accomplished the great object of their organization - “its ultimate extinction.”
What are the facts to justify the hope that the Black Republicans will recede from their well defined position of hostility to the South and her institutions? Are they to be found in the two millions of voters who have deliberately declared in their favor of those doctrines by their support of Lincoln? Is the hope based upon the fact that an overwhelming majority of the people of every Northern state save one cast their vote for the Black Republican candidate? Is it drawn from the fact that on the fourth of March next the chair of Washington is to be filled by a man who hates the institution of slavery as much as any other abolitionist, and who has not only declared but used all the powers of his intellect to prove that our slaves are our equals and that all laws which hold otherwise are violative of the Declaration of Independence and at war with the law of God - a man who is indebted for his present election to the Presidency alone to his abolition sentiments - and who stands pledged to the doctrine of “the irrepressible conflict,” and indeed claims to be its first advocate? Or, shall we look for this hope in the whispered intimation that, when secure of his office, Lincoln will prove faithless to the principles of his party and false to his own pledges, or in his emphatic declaration of May, 1859, that he would “oppose the lowering of the Republican standard by a hair’s breadth,” or in the public announcement made by Senator Trumbull of Illinois, since the election, in the presence of Mr. Lincoln, that he, Lincoln, would “maintain and carry forward the principles on which he was elected,” at the same time holding up the military power of the United States as the instrumentality to enforce obedience to the incoming abolition administration, should any Southern State secede from the Union; or in the prospect of a more efficient execution of the fugitive slave law, when the marshals’ offices in all the Northern States shall have been filled with Lincoln’s abolition appointees; or in the refusal of Vermont, since the election of Lincoln, by the decisive vote of more than two to one in her Legislature to repeal the Personal Liberty Bill of that State; of shall we look for it in the doctrine of negro equality which finds among its warmest supporters the brightest lights of the Black Republican party; or in the announcements solemnly made by conventions, speakers, papers, and all other organs of the party that the recognized rights of the South to equality and protection of slave property shall never be tolerated; or in the fact that the party is not only sectional in its principles but sectional in its membership, thereby giving to the South the promise of such boon as she may hope to receive from Black Republicans in their newly assumed character of guardians and masters; or in the warning voice of their ablest statesman that the decisions of the Supreme Court in favor of our constitutional rights are to met not with reason and argument for reversal but with the more potent and practical remedy of “reorganization of the Court,” by adding a sufficient number of abolitionists to reverse existing decisions; or in the pregnant fact developed by the census return now coming in, that the numerical majority of the North is steadily and rapidly increasing, with the promise of still further increase by the addition of more free States carved out of that common territory from which the South is to be excluded by unjust and unconstitutional legislation; or in such manifestations of Northern sentiment as led to the nomination by this party of John A. Andrew for Governor of Massachusetts after he had declared his sanction and approval of the John Brown raid; or in the election of that same Andrew to that office by seventy thousand majority after he had declared in his anxiety to abolish slavery that “he could not wait for Providence” to wipe it out, but must himself undertake that duty with the aid of his Black Republican brethren; or shall we be pointed to the defiant tones of triumph which fill the whole Northern air with the wild shouts of joy and thanksgiving that the days of slavery are numbered and the hour draws nigh when the “higher law” and “hatred of slavery and slave holders” shall be substituted for “the Constitution” and the spirit of former brotherhood; or to the cold irony which speaks through their press of the “inconvenience” of negro insurrections, arson, and murder which may result in the South from the election of Lincoln. In none of these, not of the other facts to which I have before referred, can anything be found to justify the hope suggested by those confiding friends who in this hour of gloom and despondency are disposed to hope against hope.
Turning from these indications in the political world to the more quiet and peaceful walks of social and religious life, let us pause for a moment and look to the pulpit, the Sunday schools, and all the sources of Christian influence, for one cheering beam of light. Unfortunately wherever you find the presence of Black Republicanism it is engaged in this work of educating the hearts of the people to hate the institution of slavery. The pulpit forgets every other duty and doctrine to thunder its anathemas against this institution whilst the Sunday-school room is made the nursery of youthful Abolitionists. This hope we are asked to adopt will find in this sources no encouragement or support. On the contrary nothing has contributed more to the creation of that bitter feeling of hatred which now pervades the two sections of the country than the religious teachings of the North. It has broken social relations, severed churches, and now threatens, in company with its political handmaid, Black Republicanism, to overthrow our once happy and glorious Union.
I refer to the one other source upon which the South is asked to rely, and will then close the argument. We are expected, in view of all these facts, to rely for our safety and protection upon an uncertain and at best trembling majority in the two Houses of Congress, and told, with an earnest appeal for further delay, that with a majority in Congress against him Lincoln is powerless to do us harm. I doubt not the sincerity of those who present this appeal against Southern action; but their confidence in its merit only shows how superficial has been their consideration of the subject. It is true that without a majority in Congress Lincoln will not be able to carry out at present all the aggressive measures of his party. But let me ask if that feeble and contantly-decreasing majority in Congress against him can arrest that tide of popular sentiment at the North against slavery which, sweeping down all the barriers of truth, justice and constitutional duty, has borne Mr. Lincoln into the Presidential chair? Can that Congressional majority, faint and feeble as it is known to be, repeal the unconstitutional legislation of those ten nullifying States of the North? Can it restore the lost equality of the Southern States? Can it give to the South its Constitutional rights? Can it exercise its power in one single act of legislation in our favor without the concurrence of Lincoln? Or can it make Christians of Beecher, Garrison, Cheever and Wendell Phillips, or patriots of Seward, Chase and Webb? Can that majority in Congress control the power and patronage of President Lincoln? Can it stay his arm when he wields the offices and patronage of the Government to cement and strengthen the anti-slavery sentiment which brought his party into existence and which alone can preserve it from early and certain dissolution?
Can it prevent the use of that patronage for the purpose of organizing in the South a band of apologists - the material around which Black republicanism hopes during his four years to gather an organization in Southern States to be allies of this party in its insidious warfare upon our family firesides and altars? True but over-confiding men of the South, may catch at this congressional majority straw, but it will only be to grasp and sink with it.
The facts and considerations which I have endeavored to bring to your view present the propriety of resistance on the part of the South to the election of Lincoln in a very different light from the mere question of resisting the election of a President who has been chosen in the usual and constitutional mode. It is not simply that a comparatively obscure abolitionist, who hates the institutions of the South, has been elected President, and that we are asked to live under the administration of a man who commands neither our respect or confidence, that the South contemplates resistance even to disunion. Wounded honor might tolerate the outrage until by another vote of the people the nuisance could be abated; but the election of Mr. Lincoln involves far higher considerations. It brings to the South the solemn judgment of the majority of the people of every Northern State - with a solitary exception - in favor of doctrines and principles violative of her constitutional rights, humiliating to her pride, destructive of her equality in the Union, and fraught with the greatest danger to the peace and safety of her people. It can be regarded in no other light than a declaration of the purpose and intention of the people of the North to continue, with the power of the Federal Government, the war already commenced by the ten nullifying States of the North upon the institution of slavery and the constitutional rights of the South. To these acts of bad faith the South has heretofore submitted, though constituting ample justification for abandoning a compact which has been wantonly violated. The question is now presented whether longer submission to an increasing spirit and power of aggression is compatible either with her honor or her safety. In my mind there is no room for doubt. The issue must now be met, or forever abandoned. Equality and safety in the Union are at an end; and it only remains to be seen whether our manhood is equal to the task of asserting and maintaining independence out of it. The Union formed by our fathers was one of equality, justice and fraternity. On the fourth of March it will be supplanted by a Union of sectionalism and hatred. The one was worthy of the support and devotion of freemen - the other can only continue at the cost of your honor, your safety, and your independence.
Is there no other remedy for this state of things but immediate secession? None worthy of your consideration has been suggested, except the recommendation of Mr. Buchanan, of new constitutional guarantees - or rather, the clear and explicit recognition of those that already exist. This recommendation is the counsel of a patriot and a statesman. It exhibits an appreciation of the evils that are upon us, and at the same time a devotion to the Constitution and its sacred guarantees. It conforms to the record of Mr. Buchanan’s life on this distracting question - the record of a pure heart and a wise head. It is the language of a man whose heart is overwhelmed with a sense of the great wrong and injustice that has been done to the minority section, mingled with an ardent hope and desire to preserve that Union to which he has devoted the energies of a long and patriotic life.
The difficulty is, there will be no response to it from those who alone have it in their power to act. Black Republicanism is the ruling sentiment at the North, and by the election of Lincoln has pronounced in the most formal and solemn manner against the principles which are now commended to the country for its safety and preservation. As a matter of course they will spurn these words of wisdom and patriotism, as they have before turned their back upon all the teachings of the good and true men of the land, or else they will play with it in their insidious warfare to delude the South into a false security, that they may the more effectually river their iron chains and thereby put resistance in the future beyond our power. They have trampled upon the Constitution of Washington and Madison, and will prove equally faithless to their own pledges. You ought not - cannot trust them. It is not the Constitution and laws of the United States which need amendment, but the hearts of the northern people. To effect the first would be a hopeless undertaking, whilst the latter is an impossibility. If the appeal of the President was made to brethren of the two sections of the country, we might hope for a different response. Unfortunately, however, Black Republicanism has buried brotherhood in the same grave with the Constitution. We are no longer “brethren dwelling together in unity.” The ruling spirits of the North are Black Republicans - and between them and the people of the South there is no other feeling than that of bitter and intense hatred. Aliens in heart, no power on earth can keep them united. Nothing now holds us together but the cold formalities of a broken and violated Constitution. Heaven has pronounced the decree of divorce, and it will be accepted by the South as the only solution which gives to her any promise of future peace and safety.
To part with our friends at the North who have been true and faithful to the Constitution will cause a pang in every Southern breast; for with them we could live forever, peaceably, safely, happily. Honor and future security, however, demand the separation, and in their hearts they will approve though they may regret the act.
Fellow-citizens of Georgia, I have endeavored to place before you the facts of the case, in plain and unimpassioned language; and I should feel that I had done injustice to my own convictions, and been unfaithful to you, if I did not in conclusion warn you against the danger of delay and impress upon you the hopelessness of any remedy for these evils short of secession. You have to deal with a shrewd, heartless and unscrupulous enemy, who in their extremity may promise anything, but in the end will do nothing. On the 4th day of March, 1861, the Federal Government will pass into the hands of the Abolitionists. It will then cease to have the slightest claim upon either your confidence or your loyalty; and, in my honest judgment, each hour that Georgia remains thereafter a member of the Union will be an hour of degradation, to be followed by certain and speedy ruin. I entertain no doubt either of your right or duty to secede from the Union. Arouse, then, all your manhood for the great work before you, and be prepared on that day to announce and maintain your independence out of the Union, for you will never again have equality and justice in it. Identified with you in heart, feeling and interest, I return to share in whatever destiny the future has in store for our State and ourselves.
WASHINGTON CITY, December 6, 1860.