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But the territories are now the common property of the Government, and in a division of the Union, we should be entitled to our legitimate share in the division, over which, thenceforth, the South would have exclusive jurisdiction, to the exclusion of the meddlesome and powerloving North.
Charleston Mercury, September 18, 1860.
52. Result of the Election (1860)
BY REPRESENTATIVE JOHN SHERMAN
As representative, senator, and cabinet officer, Sherman enjoyed an unbroken political career of forty-three years. The letter from which this extract is taken was addressed to his brother, W. T. Sherman, then in Louisiana. It shows the views of a young, but prominent, Republican statesman. - For Sherman, see John Sherman's Recollections. Bibliography: Channing and Hart, Guide, § 207.- For the views of an older Republican statesman, see No. 65 below.
MANSFIELD, OHIO, Nov. 26, 1860.
ELL, Lincoln is elected. No doubt, a large portion of the citizens of Louisiana consider this a calamity. they believe their own newspapers, what is far worse, the lying organs of the Democratic party in the free States, they have just cause to think But you were long enough in Ohio and heard enough of the ideas of the Republican leaders to know that the Republican party is not likely to interfere directly or indirectly with slavery in the States or with the laws relating to slavery; that, so far as the slavery question is concerned, the contest was for the possession of Kansas and perhaps New Mexico, and that the chief virtue of the Republican success was in its condemnation of the narrow sectionalism of Buchanan's administration and the corruptions by which he attempted to sustain his policy. Who doubts but that, if he had been true to his promises in submitting the controversy in Kansas to its own people, and had closed it by admitting Kansas as a free State, that the Democratic party would have retained its power? It was his infernal policy in Kansas (I can hardly think of the mean and bad things he allowed there without swearing) that drove off Douglas, and led to the division of the Democratic party and the consequent election of Lincoln.
As a matter of course, I rejoice in the result, for in my judgment the
administration of Lincoln will do much to dissipate the feeling in the South against the North by showing what are the real purposes of the Republican party. In the meantime, it is evident we have to meet in a serious form the movements of South Carolinian Disunionists. These men have for years desired this disunion; they have plotted for it. They drove Buchanan into his Kansas policy; they got up this new dogma about slave protection; they broke up the Charleston Convention merely to advance secession; they are now hurrying forward excited men into acts of treason without giving time for passion to cool or reason to resume its sway. God knows what will be the result. If by a successful revolution they can go out of the Union, they establish a principle that will break up the government into fragments. Some local disaffection or temporary excitement will lead one State after another out of the Union. We will have the Mexican Republic over again, with a fiercer race of men to fight with each other. Secession is revolution. They seem bent upon attempting it. If so, shall the government resist? If so, then comes civil war, a fearful subject for Americans to think of.
. . . I know we will have trouble this winter, but I intend to be true to the moderate conservative course I think I have hitherto undertaken. Whatever may be the consequences, I will insist on preserving the unity of the States, and all the States without exception and without regard to consequences. If any Southern State has really suffered any injury or is deprived of any right, I will help redress the injury and secure the right. They must not, merely because they are beaten in an election, or have failed in establishing slavery where it was prohibited by compromise, attempt to break up the government. If they will hold on a little while, they will find no injury can come to them unless, by their repeated misrepresentation of us, they stir up their slaves to insurrection. I still hope that no State will follow in the wake of South Carolina. If so, the weakness of her position will soon bring her back again or subject her to ridicule and insignificance.
It may be supposed by some that the excitement in the South has produced a corresponding excitement in the North. This is true in financial matters, especially in the cities. In political circles, it only strengthens the Republican party. Even Democrats of all shades say, The election is against us; we will submit and all must submit. . . .
The Sherman Letters, 1837-1891 (edited by Rachel Sherman Thorndike, Nev York, 1894), 85-88 passim.
CHAPTER IX-DOCTRINE OF SECESSION
53. A Southern Opponent of Secession (1860)
BY ALEXANDER HAMILTON STEPHENS
Down to the Rebellion, Stephens's political career was nominally that of a Whig, but he usually advocated or voted for such measures as harmonized with his own doctrine of pro-slavery and states'-rights. He believed in the abstract right of secession, but declaimed against the expediency of nullification in 1832 and of secession in 1860. When his state seceded in 1861 he followed, and became vice-president of the Confederacy. This extract is from an extemporaneous speech delivered before the Georgia legislature. For Stephens, see Johnston and Browne, Life of Alexander H. Stephens; on Lincoln's interest in the speech, Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, III, 270–273. — Bibliography: Channing and Hart, Guide, § 205.
ELLOW CITIZENS: I appear before you to-night at the request of Members of the Legislature and others, to speak of matters of the deepest interest that can possibly concern us all, of an earthly character. . . . Had I consulted my personal ease and pleasure, I should not be before you; but believing that it is the duty of every good citizen, when called on, to give his counsels and views whenever the country is in danger, as to the best policy to be pursued, I am here. For these reasons, and these only, do I bespeak a calm, patient, and attentive hearing.
My object is not to stir up strife, but to allay it; not to appeal to your passions, but to your reason. Let us, therefore, reason together. It is not my purpose to say aught to wound the feelings of any individual who may be present; and if in the ardency with which I shall express my opinions, I shall say anything which may be deemed too strong, let it be set down to the zeal with which I advocate my own convictions. There is with me no intention to irritate or offend. . .
The first question that presents itself is, shall the people of Georgia secede from the Union in consequence of the election of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency of the United States? My countrymen, I tell you frankly, candidly, and earnestly, that I do not think that they ought. In my judgment, the election of no man, constitutionally chosen to that
high office, is sufficient cause to justify any State to separate from the Union. It ought to stand by and aid still in maintaining the Constitution of the country. To make a point of resistance to the Government, to withdraw from it because any man has been elected, would put us in the wrong. We are pledged to maintain the Constitution. Many of us have sworn to support it. Can we, therefore, for the mere election of any man to the Presidency, and that, too, in accordance with the prescribed forms of the Constitution, make a point of resistance to the Government, without becoming the breakers of that sacred instrument ourselves, by withdrawing ourselves from it? Would we not be in the wrong? Whatever fate is to befall this country, let it never be laid to the charge of the people of the South, and especially to the people of Georgia, that we were untrue to our national engagements. Let the fault and the wrong rest upon others. If all our hopes are to be blasted, if the Republic is to go down, let us be found to the last moment standing on the deck with the Constitution of the United States waving over our heads. Let the fanatics of the North break the Constitution, if such is their fell purpose. Let the responsibility be upon them. I shall speak presently more of their acts; but let not the South, let us not be the ones to commit the aggression. We went into the election with this people. The result was different from what we wished; but the election has been constitutionally held. Were we to make a point of resistance to the Government and go out of the Union merely on that account, the record would be made up hereafter against
But it is said Mr. Lincoln's policy and principles are against the Constitution, and that, if he carries them out, it will be destructive of our rights. Let us not anticipate a threatened evil. If he violates the Constitution, then will come our time to act. Do not let us break it because, forsooth, he may. If he does, that is the time for us to act. I think it would be injudicious and unwise to do this sooner. I do not anticipate that Mr. Lincoln will do anything, to jeopard our safety or security, whatever may be his spirit to do it; for he is bound by the Constitutional checks which are thrown around him, which at this time render him powerless to do any great mischief. This shows the wisdom of our system. The President of the United States is no Emperor, no Dictator - he is clothed with no absolute power. He can do nothing, unless he is backed by power in Congress. The House of Representatives is largely in a majority against him. . . . Is this the time, then,
to apprehend that Mr. Lincoln, with this large majority in the House of Representatives against him, can carry out any of his unconstitutional principles in that body?
In the Senate he will also be powerless. There will be a majority of four against him. . . .
My countrymen, I am not of those who believe this Union has been a curse up to this time. . . . There is nothing perfect in this world of human origin; nothing connected with human nature, from man himself to any of his works. . . . And it is so in our Government. But that this Government of our Fathers, with all its defects, comes nearer the objects of all good Governments than any other on the face of the earth, is my settled conviction. .
... Have we not at the South, as well as the North, grown great, prosperous and happy under its operation? Has any part of the world ever shown such rapid progress in the development of wealth, and all the material resources of national power and greatness, as the Southern States have under the General Government, notwithstanding all its defects?
Mr. Toombs. In spite of it!
Mr. Stephens. My honorable friend says we have, in spite of the General Government; that without it I suppose he thinks we might have done as well, or perhaps better than we have done. This grand result is in spite of the Government! That may be, and it may not be; but the great fact that we have grown great and powerful under the Government, as it exists, is admitted.
. . . It is true, there is no equal part of the earth with natural resources superior, perhaps, to ours. That portion of this country known as the Southern States, stretching from the Chesapeake to the Rio Grande, is fully equal to the picture drawn by the honorable and eloquent Senator, last night, in all natural capacities. But how many ages, centuries, passed before these capacities were developed to reach this advanced stage of civilization? . . .
It was only under our Institutions as they are, that they were developed. Their development is the result of the enterprise of our people under operations of the Government and Institutions under which we have lived. Even our people, without these, never would have done it. The organization of society has much to do with the development of the natural resources of any country or any land. . . . Look at Greece! There is the same fertile soil, the same blue sky, the