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In Their Own Words

December 06, 1860

Howell Cobb Letter Supporting Secession

From Washington, D.C., Howell Cobb released a letter to the people of Georgia, in which he laid out what he perceived as the evils of the “Black Republican” party, and stated that the only response to them, in his eyes, was secession. Here is an excerpt from the letter:

…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. …