« PreviousContinue »
pointed by the same shall remain in office until their successors are appointed and qualified, or the offices abolished."
On the 12th of February the convention, having under consideration the question relating to the occupation of forts, arsenals, navy-yards, and other public establishments within the domain of the sovereign States of the Confederacy, and hitherto under the government of the United States, resolved that they should be under the charge of the new government; and the president of the convention was requested to communicate this resolution to the governors of the several States. This action was offensive to the South Carolina leaders, and the Charleston "Mercury" declared that Fort Sumter belonged to South Carolina; that after two efforts to obtain peaceable possession and its submission for two months to the insolent military domination of a handful of men, the honor of the State required that no further intervention from any quarter should be tolerated, and that this fort should be taken, and taken by South Carolina alone.
On the 13th the convention took the initiative and commenced preparation for war by instructing the military and naval committees to report plans for the organization of an army and navy.
Mr. Davis, who was at his home near Vicksburg when informed of his election, made a series of twenty-five speeches on his way to Montgomery. He was formally received at the railway-station amid the thundering of cannon and the enthusiastic shouts of the people. In his response, he said that the time of compromises had passed; that they asked nothing, wanted nothing, and would have no complications. "Our separation," he said, "from the old Union is complete, and no compromise, no reconstruction, can now be entertained." He declared that they would maintain the position they had assumed, and "make all who oppose us smell Southern powder and feel Southern steel."
On the 18th of February the inaugural ceremonies took place in front of the State House. In his inaugural address to the excited and enthusiastic thousands before him, Mr. Davis declared that if "passion or lust of dominion should
cloud the judgment or inflame the ambition of those States, we must prepare to meet the emergency, and maintain, by the final arbitrament of the sword, that position which we have assumed among the nations of the earth." He recommended the immediate organization of the army and navy, and reminded them that privateering, "the well-known resources of retaliation upon the commerce of an enemy, will remain to us." Robert Toombs of Georgia was appointed Secretary of State; Charles G. Memminger of South Carolina, Secretary of the Treasury; Leroy Polk Walker of Alabama, Secretary of War; Stephen R. Mallory of Florida, Secretary of the Navy; John H. Reagan of Texas, Postmaster-General; and Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana, Attorney-General.
Mr. Davis, in his inaugural, had declared that secession was the will of the people; that union with the States from which they had separated was neither practicable nor desirable; that where homogeneity did not exist, antagonisms were engendered, that must and should result in separation. Mr. Stephens more fully developed this antagonism between freedom and slavery in a speech, on the 21st of March, to the citizens of Savannah. As was natural, the secessionists were very anxious to justify their course, especially to their slaveholding brethren, and if possible to secure their co-operation. In pursuance of this purpose, the South Carolina convention received and considered reports on the three following subjects: "The Address of the People of South Carolina assembled in Convention, to the Slaveholding States of the United States"; "Declaration of the Causes which justify Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union"; "Report on Relations with the Slaveholding States of North America." The papers were long and elaborate, and entered largely into allegations against the Federal Union, with the adduction of reasons for accepting the conclusion that there could be safety for the South only in separation. The speech, however, of Mr. Stephens, beside his eulogy of the new constitution and of its superiority over the old, embodies in smaller compass, in more compact form, and with more philosophic precision than elsewhere found the assumptions of the secessionists and the underlying principles of the
new slaveholding empire. Perhaps nowhere else is revealed with more startling form and phrase the "method" of that "madness" which could characterize theirs as "a species of insanity" whose only offence was that they believed, with the fathers, that" all men are created equal," and with the Apos tle, that God hath made of one blood all nations of men," and could proclaim it as something to be vaunted that their new government was "founded upon exactly the opposite ideas," and that its foundations were laid and its corner-stone rested" upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man."
"But not to be tedious," said Mr. Stephens, " in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other, though last, not least. The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution,- African slavery as it exists among us, and the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and the present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this as the rock upon which the old Union would split.' He was right. What was conjecture with him is now a realized fact. But whether he comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the Constitution, was the prevailing idea at the time. The Constitution, it is true, secured every essential guaranty to the institution while it should last; and hence no argument can be justly used against the constitutional guaranties thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races.
This was an error. It was a sandy foundation; and the idea of a government built upon it, when the storm came and the wind blew, it fell.
"Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This our new government is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It is so, even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many so late as twenty years ago. Those at the North who still cling to these errors with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind, from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is, forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises so with the antislavery fanatics; their conclusions are right if their premises are. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights, with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just; but their premises being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the Northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery; that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics, — that the principle would ultimately prevail; that we, in maintaining slavery, as it now exists with us, were warring against a principle, ,- a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of man. The reply I made to him was, that, upon his own grounds, we should succeed; that he and his associ
ates in their crusade against our institutions would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.
"In the conflict thus far, success has been on our side complete, throughout the length and breadth of the Confederate States. It is upon this, as I have stated, our social fabric is firmly planted; and I cannot permit myself to doubt the ultimate success of a full recognition of this principle throughout the civilized and enlightened world.
"As I have stated, the truth of this principle may be slow in development, as all truths are, and ever have been, in the various branches of science. It was so with the principles of Galileo. It was so with Adam Smith, and his principles of political economy. It was so with Harvey, and his theory of the circulation of the blood. It is stated that not a single one of the medical profession, living at the time of the announcement of the truths made by him, admitted them. Now they are universally acknowledged. May we not, therefore, look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgment of the truths upon which our question rests? It is the first government ever instituted upon principles in strict conformity with nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of enslaving certain classes; but the classes thus enslaved were of the same race, and their enslavement in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature's laws. The negro, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material, the granite, then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it; and by experience we know that it is best not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it