Page images

should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of his ordinances, or to question them. For his own purposes he has made one race to differ from another, as he has made one star to differ from another in glory.'

"The great objects of humanity are best attained when conformed to his laws and decrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else. Our Confederacy is founded upon laws in strict conformity with these laws. This 'stone, which was rejected by the first builders, is become the chief stone of the corner' in our new edifice. I have been asked, What of the future? It has been apprehended by some that we would have arrayed against us the civilized world. I care not who or how many they may be; when we stand upon the eternal principles of truth, we are obliged to and must triumph."

Speaking further of the future, and of the prospects of the new Confederacy, he said: :


"Our growth by accessions from other States will depend greatly upon whether we present to the world, as I trust we shall, a better government than that to which they belong. If we do this, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas cannot hesitate long; neither can Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri. They will necessarily gravitate to us by an imperious law. We made ample provision in our Constitution for the admission of other States. It is more guarded- and wisely so I think than the old Constitution on the same subject, but not too guarded to receive them so fast as it may be proper. Looking to the distant future, and perhaps not very distant either it is not beyond the range of possibility, and even probability, that all the great States of the Northwest shall gravitate this way, as well as Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, etc. Should they do so, our doors are wide. enough to receive them; but not until they are ready to assimilate with us in principle. The process of disintegration in the old Union may be expected to go on with almost absolute certainty. We are now the nucleus of a growing power, which, if we are true to ourselves, our destiny, and our mission,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

will become the controlling power on this continent. To what extent accessions will go on, in the process of time, or where it will end, the future will determine. So far as it concerns States of the old Union, they will be upon no such principle of reconstruction as is now spoken of, but upon reorganization and new assimilation. Such are some of the glimpses of the future as I catch them."

The convention authorized Davis to accept one hundred thousand volunteers for one year, and to borrow fifteen millions of dollars. On the 11th of March the permanent constitution was adopted. It was in fact the Constitution of the United States, with sundry alterations and omissions providing for the government of new territory; recognizing, to its fullest extent, in its preamble, the doctrine of State supremacy; and prohibiting the enactment of any law" denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves." South Carolina and Florida opposed the clause prohibiting the African slave-trade. John Forsyth of Alabama, Martin J. Crawford, and A. B. Roman were appointed commissioners to Washington; William L. Yancey, R. A. Rost, A. Dudley Mann, T. Butler King, were appointed commissioners to visit Europe in the interests of the insurrection; while other commissioners were appointed to visit other slaveholding States in behalf of secession and the new Confederacy.

Such were the initiative facts and the summary process with which the new government was launched forth on the stormy sea of rebellion and war, and by which it was so soon to be engulfed and destroyed; such was the philosophy, as enunciated by one of its ablest and most brilliant thinkers, on which was based the projected slaveholding empire of the Western World, and by which its claims were urged; and such were the confident expectations and hopes of its leaders.



[ocr errors]

Secessionists at first in a minority. - How their numbers were increased. - The Comte de Paris. His testimony. - Demoralizing influence of slavery. — The process. Three classes. · Conditions of Rebel success.

[ocr errors]

bination, preparation. - Central cabal.

[ocr errors]


- Co-operation, comLetter of Judge Evans. - VolunContingencies. - Virginia. —


teers. Violence, or the crushing-out process. Solicitude concerning her course. - Visit and estimate of Memminger. — Governor Letcher. Legislature. - Convention against secession. - Address of Stephens. Ruffin and Pryor. Convention succumbs. - Treaty. Richmond made the capital. — Letter of Mason. — West Virginia. Admitted by Congress.-Tennessee. - Vôte against secession. - Coercion opposed. — Legislature. Yields. - Popular vote. - East Tennessee. Brownlow. North Carolina. Appoints commissioners. - Joins the Confederacy. - Arkansas. Texas. Union meeting. · Address of governor. — Conflict. - Final success of the secessionists.

No intelligent and adequate estimate of the Rebellion and its causes, immediate and remote, can be formed without special note of the small proportion of the people of the South who were at the outset in favor of that extreme measure. Even in the six States which first seceded, South Carolina possibly excepted, there was far from a majority who originally gave it their approval. In the remaining five the proportion was much smaller; though this large preponderance was overcome by able, adroit, and audacious management. By means illegitimate and indefensible, reckless of principle and of consequences, a comparatively few men succeeded in dragooning whole States into the support of a policy the majority condemned, to following leaders the majority distrusted and most cordially disliked. As no sadder and more suggestive commentary was ever afforded of the utter demoralization of slaveholding society, and of the helpless condition of a community that accepted slavery, and accommodated itself to the

only conditions on which it could be maintained, it seems needful, to an intelligent apprehension of the subject, though it will be necessary to anticipate events somewhat, that notice should be taken here of the process by which this was done.

How, then, could such an object be accomplished? How could such a result be secured? How came it to pass that this comparatively small number could persuade whole States to support a policy that not only was, but was seen to be, suicidal? How could a class of men who despised the colored man because he was colored, and the poor whites because they were poor, inspire the latter with a willingness, an enthusiasm even, to take up arms, subject themselves to all the hardships and hazards of war, for the express purpose of perpetuating and making more despotic a system that had already despoiled them of so much, and was designed to make still more abject their degradation? A summary and substantial answer might be that it was by the adoption of the same principles and of the same policy by which the Slave Power had dominated and so completely controlled the nation for the preceding two generations; only aggravated and made more intolerant in the immediate communities where slavery was domiciled and had become the controlling social as well as political element. But there was an individuality and a specific character about this last and dying effort of slaveholding control that may justify and call for a more detailed account, even though it require the reproduction of some facts and features thereof of which mention has been already made. Nor does it seem amiss, in this connection, to introduce the words of another, a foreigner, who thus records the impressions of one who made his observations uninfluenced at least by Northern prejudices and prepossessions.

The first item or element in the answer now sought must be looked for in the mental and moral condition of Southern society. Alluding to this point in his recent History of the Civil War in America, the Comte de Paris, says: "Notwithstanding all that has been said on the subject [slavery], our people, who fortunately have not had to wrestle with it, are not aware how much this subtle poison instils itself into the

very marrow of society. . . . . But the effects of the servile institution upon the dominant race present a spectacle not less sad and instructive to the historian and philosopher; for a fatal demoralization is the just punishment that slavery inflicts upon those who expect to find nothing in it but profit and power." Proceeding to demonstrate how this demoralization "is the inevitable consequence of slavery, and how, by an inexorable logic, the simple fact of the enslavement of the black corrupts, among the whites, the ideas and morals which are the very foundation of society," and showing that "it is among what are called good slave-owners that we must inquire into the pretended moral perfection of slavery, in order to understand its flagrant immorality," he adds, with a pungent pathos that cannot but flush with shame the cheek of every thoughtful American, "What a deeply sorrowful spectacle for any one who wishes to study human nature to see every sense of righteousness and equity so far perverted in a whole population by the force of habit, that the greatest portion of the ministers of all denominations were not ashamed to sully Christianity by a cowardly approval of slavery; and men who bought and sold their fellow-beings took up arms for the express purpose of defending this odious privilege, in the name of liberty and property." Alluding to another phase of slaveholding society, he directs attention to the fact that "the servile institution, in violating the supreme law of humanity, which links indissolubly together those two words, labor and progress, and in making labor itself a means for brutalizing man, not only degraded the slave, but it also engendered depravity in the master; for the despotism of a whole race, like the absolute power of a single individual or an oligarchy, always ends by disturbing the reason and the moral sense of those who have once inhaled its intoxicating fragrance."

Speaking of the "falsehood" of slavery as having "become the basis of society," of the increase of its influence and power resulting from the prosperity produced by "the extraordinary impulse given to the cultivation of the sugar-cane and the cotton-plant, and of the change in Southern sentiment from regarding the system, with the fathers, as "a social



« PreviousContinue »