Mrs. Eugenia Dunlap Potts
Lexington, Ky., Chapter U.D.C.
ASHLAND PRINTING CO. LEXINGTON KENTUCKY.
The Old South
Read Before the Lexington Chapter U.D.C., February 14, 1909, By Eugenia Dunlap Potts, Historian.
No pen or brush can picture life in the old Southern States in the ante-bellum days. The period comprehends two hundred and fifty years of history without a parallel. A separate and distinct civilization was there represented, the like of which can never be reproduced. Socially, intellectually, politically and religiously, she stood pre-eminent, among nations. It was the spirit of the cavalier that created and sustained our greatness. Give the Puritan his due, and still the fact remains. The impetus that led to freedom from Great Britain, came from the South. A Southern General led the ragged Continentals on to victory. Southern jurists and Southern statesmanship guided the councils of wisdom. The genius of war pervaded her people. She gave presidents, cabinet officers, commanders, tacticians and strategists. Her legislation extended the country's territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
A writer aptly says: "For more than fifty formative years of our history the Old South was the dominating power in the nation, as it had been in the foundation of the colonies out of which came the Republic, and later in fighting its battles of independence and in forming its policies of government. * * * Whatever of strength or symmetry the republic had acquired at home, or reputation it had achieved abroad, in those earlier crucial days of its history, was largely due to the patriotism and ability of Southern statesmanship. Why that scepter of leadership has passed from its keeping, or why the New South is no longer at the front of national leadership, is a question that might well give pause to one who recalls the brave days when the Old South sat at the head of the table and directed the affairs of the nation."
There was the manor and there was the cabin. Each head of the house was a potentate in his own domain—an absolute ruler of a principality as marked as in feudal times, without the despotism of the feudal system.
The plantation of the old regime was tastefully laid out for beauty and productiveness. Flower gardens and kitchen gardens stretched away into the magnificence of orange trees, shady avenues and fruitful plants. Unbroken retreats of myrtle and laurel and tropical foliage, bantered the sun to do his worst. Flowers perfumed the air; magnolia bloom and other rich tree flora regaled the senses; extensive orchards yielded fruit of all kinds adapted to the soil and climate; vineyards were heavy with much bearing. Fields were carefully cultivated, till such a thing as the failure of crops was almost unknown. It was largely supplied with sheep and their wool, with geese, ducks, turkeys, guinea fowls, and every variety of poultry without stint. Eggs were gathered by the bushel, myriads of birds clouded the sun, and daily intoxicated their little brains with the juice of the black cherry. Herds of cattle were luxuriously pastured by Pompey and his sable mates.
There were quantities of rich cheese, fresh butter, milk and cream. Vast barns were gorged with corn, rice and hay; hives were bursting with honey; vegetables were luscious and exhaustless; melons sprinkled and dotted many acres of patches; shrimp and fish filled the waters; crawfish wriggled in the ditches; raccoons and opossums formed the theme of many a negro ditty. Carriages and horses filled the stables, and splendid mules were well-fed and curried at the barns. High up on the cypress trees hung the grey moss with which the upholsterer at yon market place replenished his furniture vans. The farm produce alone yielded six or seven thousands a year, while the plantation crops of cotton, sugar, and rice were clear profit. Rows of white cabins were the homes of the colored citizens of the community. An infirmary stood apart for the sick. The old grandams cared for the children. Up yonder at the mansion house Black Mammy held sway in the nursery; Aunt Dinah was the cook; Aunt Rachel carried the housekeeper's keys; while Jane and Ann, the mulatto ladies' maids, flitted about on duty, and Jim and Jack "'tended on young marster and de gemman." Such hospitality as was made possible by that style of living can never repeat itself in changed conditions. Grant that these conditions are improved. Grant that the lifted incubus of slavery has opened the doors for the march of intellectual and industrial progress; the fact remains that the highest order of social enjoyment, and of the exercise of the charming amenities of life, was blotted out when the old plantation of Dixie land was divided up by the spoils of war.
It is interesting to read of the first attempt at a sugar crop in Louisiana by a Frenchman named Bore in 1794. His indigo plant, once so profitable, had been attacked and destroyed by a worm, and dire poverty threatened. He conceived the project of planting sugar cane. The great question was would the syrup granulate; and hundreds gathered to watch the experiment. It did granulate, and the first product sold for twelve thousand dollars—a large sum at that time.
The maker of the cotton gin worked another revolution in commerce, and rice proved to be an unfailing staple. Armies of negroes tilled the soil, and were happy in their circumscribed sphere, humanely cared for by the whites.
Enter the home and lo! a palace greets you. Massive mahogany furniture, now, alas! in scattered remnants, meets the eye at every turn. Treasures and elegant trifles of many lands attest the artistic taste of the owners. Gorgeous china, plate and glass are there in everyday use. Fruits of the loom in rarest silk and linen, embellish the chambers and luxury sits enthroned. The chatelaine, gracious and cultured, is to the manner born: and from season to season she fills her house with congenial people who are invited to come, but not, as with present house parties, told when to go. As long as they found it comfortable and convenient the latchstring was out. A guest was never permitted to pay for anything; expressage, laundry and all incidentals were as free as air. The question of money, nowadays impertinently thrust forth, was never hinted at in the olden time. It was considered bad form, and the luckless boaster of "how poor he was" would have been properly stared at as a boor as well as a bore.
For pastimes men had fishing and hunting, and for women there were lawn games and indoor diversions. Speaking of the women of the South a writer aptly said: "They dwell in a land goodly and pleasant to the eye; a land of fine resources, both agricultural and mineral; where may be found fertile cotton fields, vast rice tracts, large sugar plantations, bright skies and balmy breezes. The whole land is plowed by mighty rivers, is ribbed by long mountain chains, and washed by the sea."
Fitting environment, we add, for the gorgeous residences, notably in Georgia and South Carolina, built by the nobility and gentry of the republic, and inherited by the descendants of the old colonial aristocracy. What wonder, that they held themselves aloof from the manual laborer, black or white, and that they were uncontaminated by the attrition of commercial competition. In the summer the family sought the cooler climate of old Kentucky or Virginia, or farther north to Saratoga, Long Branch, or some one of the then attractive resorts. They travelled in state, frequently bringing the family coach, and never without a retinue of servants. What a sensation they made! And money flowed like water. The young men, rich and idle, paid court to pretty girls, sure of a welcome from both parents and daughters, for to marry a Southern planter was to achieve a social victory for all time to come. The mechanical and athletic age had not yet dawned. The accepted escort must be a professional man, or else lord of a domain such as I have described. Pride and prejudice blinded judgment, and the aristocracy of merit alone was unappreciated.
And yet the Southern woman, even of great wealth, could not afford to be idle. She was not, save in exceptional cases, the useless, half-educated, irresponsible creature she has been represented. Some there are always and everywhere whose lives are given over to fads, fancies and frivolities. But the true mothers were priestesses at the home altar, and kept the sacred fires bright and burning. Their duty was to keep others busy, and to direct and oversee the vast domestic machinery of the home.
Their views were somewhat narrow, for as yet the bright sun of woman's emancipation was barely peeping over the horizon. Their minds did not grasp the vexed questions of theology, politics, or economics. They accepted the faith of their fathers, and shifted all burdens to stronger shoulders. They were eminently religious and charitable. Ways and means were at hand, and they did not bother their brains with isms and ologies. Regular attendance upon the nearest church, and reverence for the clergy, were prominent in their creed.
Education for the masses was not provided, as it is now; but the majority of the better class were finely educated, either at Northern schools, or by the governess, and tutor at home. In many cases where the wife was widowed, she nobly and intelligently arose to the management of business affairs. If misfortune came, and the woman felt obliged to earn a livelihood, it did not occur to her to seek it behind a counter or in a workshop as we do in this generation. She was inclined to walk in the old paths, and follow old customs. They believed their own skies were bluest, their own cornfields greenest, their tobacco finest, their cotton the whitest on earth. They were devoted to old friends, to old manners and customs, and gloried in their birthright.
In the line of literary productions the South was backward. Augusta Evans Wilson's remarkable novels, Beulah, St, Elmo, and others, were read and re-read, not for any lasting good, but for passing interest, and largely for the glamour that invested a Southern writer. Madame Le Vert produced "Souvenirs of Travel," among the very earliest of books on European scenes. Marion Harland's works were read, and possessed the selling quality notwithstanding the bitter taste left by her humiliated heroines. Caroline Lee Hentz, Mrs. Holmes, Mrs. Southworth, and a small army of essayists in the field, clamored for recognition; but time was when to see the Southern woman in print was an innovation displeasing to the household gods. Time came when the slumbering faculties were stirred into splendid and successful activity. The depth of the natures hitherto unsounded arose to the new demands right valiantly. We behold its fruits in the rearing of splendid monuments, the erection of noble charity institutions, the endowing of colleges, the equipment of missionaries, the awakening of wide philanthropies, and in the higher lines of Christian endeavor. The men who shouldered arms, from father to son, to defend their States rights, were the same who, in times of peace, knew no burdens of life save those they voluntarily assumed. The women who sewed night and day upon garments for field and hospital, were the same who were wont to employ their white hands with fragile china and heirloom plate, or dally with needlework in the morning room. These were the mothers who, standing by the slaughtered first-born, gave his sword to the next son, and bade him go at his country's call. There was the spirit of heroism not surpassed by the heroes of the sterner sex. They suffered privations and terrors without a murmur.
To visit one of these ante-bellum homes was a privilege indeed. And something of the spirit of the canaille of the French revolution must have animated the foreign hordes, who, not content with confiscating these captured palaces, ruthlessly cut and destroyed the richness and elegance they were beholding for the first time in their commonplace lives. It was not the spirit of conquest, but of vandalism, that animated them. Wanton destruction and not spoliation, common in war tactics, was their watchword. A domain fairer than Elysium opened to their astonished gaze, whenever they penetrated some sylvan grove where stood the plantation manor house.
Alas! for the old plantation days! Alas! for the easygoing spirit that marked the times! The long, pitiless, hot sun-days were not inspirers of extraordinary energy. Yankee thrift was as pigmy play to these owners of bursting coffers. The hurry and bustle of our Northern neighbors was an unknown quantity in their economy. It is to the forcible wresting from the South of their inherited institutions, of the machinery which made their social order possible, that the land of Dixie owes the prosperity and thrift of to-day. Evil was done and good came therefrom. Years of wasted substance and enforced poverty were groped through, till at last the day-star rose upon new industries. Hands and feet and awakened faculties spring to the keynote of progress, and "Our days are marching on."
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(Here were inserted in the manuscript twenty pages from the diary of the Historian, written when, as a school girl, she visited with her parents some of the sugar plantations of Louisiana. They give the picture by an eye-witness of the social and commercial life in the South; but while, perhaps, interesting in the reading of a paper, are not necessary, in print, to the theme.)
Future generations may hug to themselves the consolation that we were pulled down only to be built up again in greater prosperity, under a different order of things. The tears and woes of the old South may change into smiles and good cheer, forgetting the glory that once encircled us like a radiant halo. But many there are who feel that "Such things were, and were most dear to us!" These look back with brimming eyes, and force down the rising sob, as they sorrowfully murmur.
"My native land, good night."
Read March 14, 1909.
In my first paper I endeavored to present a picture of the sunny Southland in the ante-bellum days, when wealth and culture and hospitality were the watchwords of the hour—before the invasion of hostile hordes had vandalized the sacred old traditions, and crumbled the household gods in the dust.
But long before the tocsin of civil war had sounded there were mutterings of thunder in the halls of Congress, and the cloud, at first no bigger than a man's hand, was yearly gathering force, till it finally burst in a cyclone of passion and prejudice and tyranny, and swept all before it in one besom of destruction. That the question of slavery lay at the root of the dissension cannot be doubted by any who are conversant with the political history of the United States. The tariff rulings had their weight, as did the unfair division of new territory: but the main issue was negro slavery, which, always a stumbling-block to the North, had most violently agitated the whole country for eleven years before the appeal to arms.
Negro laborers were brought to Virginia and sold as slaves, fifty years after the first cargo landed at Jamestown. In the year 1619, a Dutch vessel brought over twenty negroes to be thus held in bondage. To the men who watched the landing of this handful of Africans it was doubtless an unimportant matter, yet it was the beginning of a system that had an immense influence upon our country. In those days few persons in the world opposed slavery. Even kings and queens made money out of the traffic. But for tobacco slavery would not have taken such a hold on America. When it was found that the negro made the cheapest laborer for cultivating the plantation many more were imported.
They were also employed in the New England and Middle States, largely as household servants, the soil not being favorable to the production of rice, indigo, cotton and sugar, which were the staples of Southern agriculture. Moreover, the African is not physically adapted to the northern climate. He was especially liable to tubercular disease—hence he was sold to the Southern planters, except in a few cases where the Puritan spirit caused his emancipation.
In the year that Harvard College was erected, 1636, the first slave ship built in America was launched at Marblehead, Mass. It brought a large cargo of slaves to be sold to the settlers. During the one hundred years preceding 1776, millions of slaves had been imported to the States. King George III favored the institution, and forbade any interference with the colonies in this matter. The horrors of slavery in Massachusetts, as recorded by reliable documents of the period, far exceed all that has been charged against the South, by Uncle Tom's Cabin, or any other records of fact or romance. The Encyclopedia of Political Economy and United States History, Vol. 3, page 733, has the following taken from the New York Evening Post:
"During the eighteen months of the years 1859-60 eighty-five slave ships (giving their names) belonging to New York merchants, brought in cargoes annually of between 30,000 and 60,000 African slaves, who were sold in Brazil, there being great demand for them in that country, owing to new industries. Old Peter Faneuil built Faneuil Hall with slave money, and many other fortunes were thus made."
Thomas Jefferson says in his autobiography that though the Northern people owned very few slaves themselves, at the time of the writing of the Declaration of Independence, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of slaves to others. In 1761 Virginia and South Carolina, alarmed at the rapid increase of slaves, passed an act restricting their importation, but as many persons in England were growing rich from the trade the act was negatived, or vetoed. While providing in the Constitution of the United States for the Southern planters to hold slaves, the North thought that the laws that were in the course of events to be passed for prohibiting their foreign importation, would so work out so that the institution would die a natural death. They little dreamed that economical and political conditions were destined to fasten it upon the South. At the framing of the Constitution slaves were held in all the States except Massachusetts, and she had only very lately abolished the institution. The South owned twice as many, by reason of her special agricultural products, and even at this early day the slavery question became sectional. Mason's and Dixon's line, which was an imaginary boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland, was recognized as the division line between the free and slave states.
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(Here are omitted several pages illustrating the utter absence of affinity between the two sections of the country, introduced in the manuscript as social, not historical, matter.)
During the Revolutionary war it was deemed expedient to enlist the colored race as soldiers. In Rhode Island they were made free by law, on condition that they enlisted in the army, and this measure met with Gen'l Washington's approval. After the Declaration of Independence, in 1777, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts freed their slaves and permitted them to vote, "provided they had the requisite age, property and residence." The 15th Amendment of a later day was an outrageous document, framed regardless of any such qualifications, but giving the ignorant black man rights even above the white citizens.
In order to induce the Southern States to accept the Federal constitution in the beginning and have the country become a Union of States, the opposers of slavery had to compromise the use of terms, and take measures that seemed expedient. They fondly hoped as time rolled on, to legislate the freedom of slaves. But the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney, in 1793, immensely increased the value of slave labor, and forever fastened the institution upon the southern planters, so far as future legislation was concerned. It had been so difficult to separate the cotton fiber by hand, requiring a whole day to one pound, that it was only a minor product; but now the wonderful source of revenue made possible by the new invention, caused the importation of many more slaves, and cotton growing in a million acres became king of the marts. The planter would not willingly give up his property honestly acquired, and plainly permitted by the constitution.
Slavery was a constant obstacle to the perfect Union of States. In 1790 during the second session of the first congress, the Quakers and the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, through Benjamin Franklin, its President, prayed Congress to restore to liberty those held in bondage. The question was debated in the House in a warm, excited manner. Members from South Carolina and Georgia argued that slavery, being commended by the Bible, could not be wrong; that the Southern States would not have entered into the Confederacy unless their property had been guaranteed them, and any action of the general government looking to the emancipation of slavery would not be submitted to. They said that South Carolina and Georgia could only be cultivated by negro slaves, for the climate, the nature of the soil, and ancient habits, precluded the whites from performing the labor. If the negro were freed he would not remain in those States; hence all the fertile rice and indigo swamps must be deserted and would become a wilderness. Furthermore the prohibiting of the slave trade was at that time unconstitutional. James Madison poured oil on the troubled waters by stating that Congress could not interfere according to constitutional restrictions, "Yet," he said, "there are a variety of ways by which it could countenance the abolition; and regulations might be made to introduce the freed slaves into the new states to be formed out of the Western territory." (In parenthesis I remark that if Madison could have looked down the years, he would have found that even though emancipated, the negro will not leave the white settlements. Take our own little city of Lexington where some 17,000 of them are congregated, living in discomfort and poverty in most cases; yet their nature is to depend in some fashion upon their white neighbors and employers.)
It was finally decided in the House that Congress could not prohibit the slave trade until the year 1808—that Congress had no authority to interfere in the emancipation of slaves, or in the treatment of them within any of the States. This last resolution which is of great historic importance, may be found on page 1523 of the II Vol. of Annals of Congress.
Washington wrote to David Stuart in June 1790: "The introduction of the Quaker memorial respecting slavery was, to be sure, not only ill-timed, but occasioned a great waste of time."
In 1793 the Fugitive Slave law was passed, whereby a runaway slave captured in a free State, must be returned to his owner. As the new States were admitted into the Union they came in for the most part alternately free and slave States. This was done to preserve the balance of power in Congress.
The great aggressive Abolition movement that led eventually to the Civil War, had its birth in 1831. Fanatics like John Brown, and Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, fanned into flame the sparks that had so long-smouldered, till the helpless negro was dragged from his havens of peace and comfort. If he felt bitterness towards the whites, what was to prevent his rising in insurrection and slaying them all? There were plantations where 600 or 700 slaves were governed by two or three white owners. They occupied little villages and had no care upon earth. They had their pastimes and religious worships. "The courtly old planter, highbred and gentle, the plantation "uncle" who copied the master's manners; and the broad-bosomed black mammy, with vari-colored turban, spotless apron, and beaming face, the friend and helper of every living thing in cabin or mansion, formed a trio we love to remember." The black woman cared more for her white nursling than her own child. This seems unnatural, but it was true; and many of us recall the times that the mistress of the house had to interfere to prevent the kitchen mother from cruelly whipping her naughty offspring. Some relic of ancient African barbarism still lingered in their untutored minds. We loved our colored playmates, and their sable mothers and fathers. Many a winning story of "way down upon de ole plantation" has been truthfully told. Will S. Hays has immortalized it in song.
A Southern writer has thus portrayed the Xmas time: "For weeks beforehand everything was full of stir and preparation. Holly and mistletoe and cedar were being put about the rooms of the big house to welcome home the boys and girls from school. Secret councils were held as to the Xmas gifts to be given to everyone, white and black. The woodpile was loaded with oak and hickory logs to make bright and warm the Christmas nights. The negro seamstresses were busy making: new suits for all the servants." The King was in the parlor counting out his money—to pay out for gifts of the season—and the queen was in the kitchen dealing bread and honey—to paraphrase Mother Goose. Into the stately plantation home, with its lofty white columns, its big rooms, and its great fireplaces, poured the sons and daughters, grandchildren, uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces. Assembled around the groaning board, the patriarch asked the divine blessing and the twin spirits of christianity were rife in the land. There was only a fitful sleep for the small boys and girls, who were up at peep of day, stealing: from room to room crying "Christmas Gift!" Out on the back porches waited the negroes in grinning rows to follow the example. All week the cabin fires burned brightly and constant was the rejoicing over their treasures, not forgetting the grand eatables and the big bowl of egg-nogg.
Negroes are a religious as well as a superstitious race. At midnight Saturday it was their custom to ring the great plantation bell, and spend the next several hours in exhorting, praying and singing their curious, doleful hymns. The whites gave them instruction and training along these lines. Heart and conscious were alike cultivated—not alone the sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. Statistics show that there were 466,000 slaves belonging to churches in the South: Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and other sects. So the owners of these christianized people thought that they were doing missionary work in saving them from the cannibalism of heathen Africa. Both men and women were taught trades and useful occupations. There were tanners, shoemakers, blacksmiths, farmers, gardeners, horticulturists and carpenters among the men. The women could sew, cook, card, spin, weave, knit, wash, iron, in fact what they produced in this way would put to shame the acquirements and accomplishments of free labor. Many of the older negroes refused to be freed, when the mighty proclamation came. They would not withdraw from the protection of "Old Marster." Look at the product of these two generations of freedom. What is he? Well we know the painful answer.
But while the buying of slaves for domestic, or field service, was legitimate, the man who pursued the traffic as a business, and purchased merely to sell again, was despised. He was termed a "nigger-buyer," and was a pariah in the lowest sense of ostracism. It was claimed that there was a distinction with a very great difference. Three or four servants for ordinary household duties were deemed sufficient. On a farm more hands were needed, and the plantations further south required several hundred. The refractory slave of Kentucky and the border states, was sold "down the river" in commercial parlance, where the discipline of the rice, sugar, and cotton plantations kept in check his evil inclinations. There might have been cases of cruel punishment, but the rule was kindness—if for no other reason, the master would not injure that which stood for money, for property. The expense of keeping slaves was enormous. Where is the laborer of to-day who is furnished his house, clothing, doctors, medicine, and not a little pocket money on occasions?
The South employed her laborers to produce the great staple of cotton, which was to clothe mankind. They were properly clothed, fed and made comfortable. In addition, they were cared for when sick, and there existed the warmest affection for the majority of them. The world can nowhere show human beings as care-free in bondage as were the negroes of the ante-bellum days. Judge the Southern owner by the rule and not the exception. As well judge a town by its halt, maimed, blind, diseased and lawless citizens, as the slave owners by occasional acts of oppression to be found on the plantations. But it was the "Down east" Yankee overseer who was cruel—not the master. It was the African in New England who was denied religious teaching, and even baptism. There was no sympathy there, to quote from a writer, for the poor creatures transplanted from their native sunny clime, dying by hundreds from disease on the bleak Northern shores. It was merely a question of profit and loss. They were sold to the South as fast as they could be shipped. Even when the great hue and cry for freedom led the Northern Senators to legislate for the cessation of foreign slavery in 1808, these great philanthropists rushed over some 5,000 slaves to sell to the South before the limited date could come around. Many prominent rich men of New England made their money by this traffic, then pulled a long face of condemnation for the Southern planter, whose money had been paid over to swell the Northern coffers.
IT IS WORTHY OF NOTE THAT THE SOUTH NEVER OWNED OR SAILED A SLAVE SHIP.
In 1861 Mr. C.C. Glay, of Alabama, made a bitter speech in the United States Senate. Part of his arraignment was that not a decade had passed that the North had not persecuted the South on account of her slaves.
"You denied us Christian communion because you could not endure slave-holding. You refused us permission to sojourn, or even pass through the North with our property. You refused us any share of the lands acquired mainly by our diplomacy and blood and treasure. You robbed us of our property and refused to restore it."
The speaker went minutely into the outrages perpetrated by the Abolition party. The list of oppressions had reach a crisis. Meanwhile the cotton and the cane went on in Dixie land, to the weird ditties and the quaint folk-lore of the happy-go-lucky race. So the outbreak of the war found the American slave in the height of his prosperity, unmindful of so-called wrongs, and utterly unfit for the boasted freedom that was thrust upon him. The cruel decree was carried out, and millions of helpless beings were turned adrift without rudder or compass, to bemoan the loss of the good old times when they were provided with the comforts of life they were nevermore to know. With the moral question of slavery this paper has nothing to do. Facts, and facts alone, dictate the record. But who has been, and who is now, the friend of the erstwhile slave? The Northerner or the Southerner? Says one: "We have freed you, but we don't want you." Says the other: "We did not free you, but we will take you and make you comfortable. We love your people—you, who have rocked us on your faithful breasts—who have interlarded our very speech with your dialect, and who were our playmates in the joyous days of youth. We have laid your hoary heads in honored graves, and will treasure your memory till the final hour when death shall make all men equal."
Read April 11, 1909
We seem not to have been a happy family during our first one hundred years as a Union of States. We quarrelled frequently among ourselves, and like the dissatisfied children of the household there was oft-threatened disruption. If you do not treat me fairly I will leave home, said the stubborn Northern child, no less than the warm-hearted Southern offspring. And they stood alike in the attitude of going out the door the moment the provocation became unbearable. The right of secession and the thought of secession was frequently in the mind all along the infant years of the Republic. But the word "Secession" did not become a familiar term until the early sixties. Then the greeting was "Hello! old Secesh!" or "Are you secesh?" One might have thought that this awful thing the South had done was heard of for the first time, and had birth alone in the brains of the fiery aristocrats who tore themselves away from their plebean cousins; whereas history shows, as I have said, that every State believed it had a right to secede from the general government by the wording of our constitution, so when the pressure grew too close the terms, "Southern Rights," and "Secession," became the slogan of battle and sounded the tocsin of war.
Let us begin at the beginning and get at the actual situation. The thirteen original colonies were as follows: Virginia settled by the English, called the cavaliers, in 1607, became a royal colony in 1624. Massachusetts, settled by the Puritans in 1620, became a royal colony in 1629; New York, called Amsterdam, settled by the Dutch in 1623, became a royal colony in 1688; the English were in New York in 1664. New Hampshire, settled by Puritans in 1729, became a royal colony in 1679; Maryland, settled by Catholics from England, in 1632, became a royal colony in 1691; Connecticut, settled by Dutch and English in 1633, became a royal colony in 1662; Rhode Island was settled in 1638, and never became a royal colony. She was excluded from the New England federation because she harbored all kinds of religions. She especially reserved to herself a State government alone, and a right to secede in any case. So this terrible crime of secession had birth in that pious, patriotic north that so bitterly condemned the states of Dixie Land for clamoring for a future right.
Delaware, settled by Swedes in 1638, became a separate colony, owned by William Penn, in 1703. North Carolina, settled by Virginians and Quakers in 1653, became a royal colony in 1729; New Jersey settled by the English in 1665, became a royal colony in 1702. Pennsylvania, settled by Germans, Dutch and Scotch-Irish in 1681, was given by King Charles II of England, to Wm. Penn in 1770. South Carolina, settled by French Huguenots and Germans in 1691, became a royal colony in 1729. Georgia, the last English colony, was settled by the English in 1732 and had her royal charter in 1762.
I have given the colonial dates in regular order of chronology. A more convenient division may be made thus: the New England colonies were Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island, all belonging to England except Rhode Island.
The middle colonies were New York, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, two belonging to England, and two to Wm. Penn. The Southern colonies were Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, all belonging to England. Brought together by common cause were English, French, Germans, Dutch, Swedes, Quakers, Episcopalians, Catholics and all desired forms of religious worship. Wise legislation indeed was needed to harmonize these conflicting elements and dispositions merely on general principles. But when grave questions came then trouble began. What was to the commercial interest of one section seemed to militate against the prosperity of the other, and the glorious ending of the war for independence was soon clouded by the acts of Congress concerning the polity of the United States.
The African Slave Trade, begun by the North for purposes of profit, became a bone of contention till the year 1808, when the law was passed against the further importation of foreign slaves. Those already owned and employed must on no account be disturbed. They might increase and multiply adlibitum on their own plantations, but they were the legitimate property of their owners. Even when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Act, he said that he had not the right as President to do it, but that it must be done as a war measure. By depriving the southern soldier of his laborers, the homes must go to waste and the strife most cease.
Politically each of the original colonies was independent had its own assembly and its own governor. From the very first this idea of State sovereignty was inherent, and consequently it was granted. The royal colonies sent all legislative acts to England to be approved or vetoed by the king. It must have required patience to await the going and returning of the documents across the "vasty deep" in that day. These royal colonies so governed by the king, were New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Virginia and Georgia. In the proprietary colonies, or those granted by royalty to individuals, the owner appointed the governor, but the king exercised the right of veto in Pennsylvania and Delaware, but not in Maryland. The charter colonies were Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. These held charters from the king permitting a complete government by themselves. At this time black slaves were in all the states. Even after the New England States had grown rich by the selling of the negroes to the south, where the climate suited their natures, they kept up the traffic in white slaves who, too poor to pay their passage to the new land flowing with milk and honey, sold themselves, hoping to buy back their freedom in the, perhaps near future.
When the constitution of the United States was framed many compromises were made. The framers had to select words with extreme care lest some State might refuse to join the federation. A notable compromise, and the very first quarrel, was the one just quoted in reference to placing the limitation of the slave trade as far ahead as 1808. The next disagreement was about the war debt. This was called the Assumption. The general government had contracted a debt of $54,000,000 and the States, about $25,000,000. This was in 1790. Alexander Hamilton proposed that the government assume the whole debt. Hence the word "assumption." The south argued that each state should pay its own debt. That if the general government assumed the State debts it would be taking away the sovereign rights that had been guaranteed them, viz: the right to do as they pleased with what was their own, and that national legislation had nothing to do with the question. About this time they were looking about for a site upon which to build the national capital. Sectional spirit ran high. New England declared that her states would secede if the South succeeded in defeating assumption and in getting the capital, too. So a compromise was effected. The Assumption bill passed, and the south got the capital, after the seat of government was established at Philadelphia during ten years. In this year, too, many petitions to abolish slavery were forced upon Congress. After a heated debate the fiat went forth that Congress could not take action till 1808.
Next came the adding of ten amendments to the constitution, all for the purpose of protecting State rights. Thomas Jefferson became the leader of the Republican party, afterwards known as Democrats, and not to be confounded with the Republican party of to-day. There was a most bitter wrangle over the wording of the Constitution, during which even President Washington received abuse. Threats of breaking up the Union were heard on all sides.
Then there was a quarrel over the National Bank question. The first one was established at Philadelphia in 1791, and the United States became a stockholder. The purpose was to furnish a safe currency, and one that would be uniform throughout the States.
In 1791 Vermont, a part of New York, was admitted, a free state. In 1792 Kentucky, cut off from Virginia, entered as a slave state, and in 1796 Tennessee, given up by North Carolina, came in as a slave State. Our government was involved in trouble with other countries in regard to territory, but this sketch has chiefly to do with our disputes as a family.
While John Adams was President, the successor of Washington, the Alien and Sedition Laws created a stir in the country. The Federalists gave the President power to send out of the country all foreigners whom he considered dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States. They feared that these foreign citizens, by their free speech and writings might involve us in a war with Great Britain. This was the Alien Law. The Democrats contended that they had a right to bring over all the foreigners they pleased and make them citizens. The Sedition Law condemned to fine or imprisonment any writer of false, scandalous, or malicious statement against the government, Congress, or the President. The Democrats urged that this law took away freedom of speech and liberty of the press. Virginia, by James Madison, and Kentucky, by Thomas Jefferson, passed resolutions which have become famous in political history. Each set of resolutions proclaimed the Union to be only a compact between the States. They declared the Alien and Sedition laws to be unconstitutional, null and void. Virginia actually strengthened her military forces, and made ready for secession as far back as this date, 1799. The laws were not passed.
In 1803 Ohio, the 17th State, was ceded by Virginia, and was admitted—the first state carved from the Northwest Territory, and employed free labor.
The purchase of Louisiana from Napoleon in 1803 caused much discussion and interest. It comprised a vast area equal to the whole United States. Exploring expeditions were sent out to find what the unknown territory was like. Whenever there was a question of an acquisition to the Union the slave question was also in agitation. We next hear of secession when the Embargo Act was passed. In 1807 congress, in order to avoid the war with Great Britain which was fated to come five years later, enacted that no American vessel should leave the country for foreign ports. New England, where commerce was still the chief industry, suffered most. She threatened to secede, and both Massachusetts and Connecticut proclaimed the right to nullify the law. Two years later the act was repealed and again the Union was saved. Truly Uncle Sam had restive children who could not be driven, but who might at times be coaxed into a good humor.
Now came the quarrel between the State Banks and the National Bank. The National Bank charter expired in 1811 and congress refusing to grant another, it had to go out of business. In 1812 Louisiana, a slave state, came in to make the eighteenth addition.
When war with England was declared in order to protect our commerce, again the New England States wanted to secede. Bells were tolled, business was suspended, flags were at half-mast, and the war was condemned in town meetings—from the press and the pulpit. They believed it would ruin rather than protect commerce. So they wanted to run away by themselves. When the administration called for militia these states refused to obey.
The Hartford Convention, just after our successful war with Great Britain, proposed some amendments to the Constitution, and justified secession as a remedy for an uncongenial union, but one that "should not be resorted to except when absolutely necessary." They confirmed the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions. The Democrats openly charged that the object of the convention was disunion. The Federalist party went to pieces. A new National Bank was established—in 1816—to continue twenty years. In 1817 Indiana, the second State from the Northwest Territory, became a member of the Union, with free labor. She was the 19th State, and asked permission to hold slaves, but Congress prohibited slavery north of the Ohio river. The North had ere this freed or sold her slaves, but the institution was legalized in the Southern States. There were now nineteen States and five territories, viz: Mississippi, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, and Alabama. Emigration poured into the West. Each section of the young republic watched its own prosperity with jealous interest. The Tariff question caused excited sectional feeling. A tax on foreign goods for the sake of revenue only had satisfied everybody; but a protective tariff was unpopular with the South. The North, having manufactories, was glad to protect her infant industries. The South had no manufactories—only agricultural products, and her representatives combatted the measure with zeal (Explain). This tariff bill has always caused opposition, and a glance at the daily doings at Washington shows that it is still a bone of contention.
Mississippi was admitted as a state in 1817 with slaves; Illinois in 1818, free; and Alabama, in 1819, slave, making twenty-two states, eleven free, and eleven slave states—an equal division. In 1819 Florida was bought from Spain.
The greatest quarrel came when Missouri was talked of as a State. The South wanted her left free to choose slave labor; the North feared that this would give the Southern legislators control of the Senate. There were numerous slaves in Missouri Territory, and she wanted to retain them as a State. So angry were the debaters, and so heated the feeling, that it was feared the country would go to pieces. This was as far back as 1819. Maine, cut off from Massachusetts, now wanted to come into the Union. As she would be a free labor State, the Southerners would not vote for her admission unless Missouri could have slaves; hence the Missouri Compromise Bill, of which we have all heard. Senator Jesse B. Thomas, of Illinois, proposed this compromise. The terms of it admitted Missouri with slaves, but prohibited slavery in any other portion of the Louisiana Purchase north of a certain specified latitude, which was the Southern boundary of Missouri. This quelled the matter for many years, but most of us have seen the celebrated steel engraving, where Henry Clay stands speaking on this question, and pouring oil on the troubled waters. His powerful oratory so often saved the country from dissension that he was termed the Great Pacificator. The gifted triumver, Henry Clay from Kentucky, Daniel Webster from Massachusetts, and John C. Calhoun from South Carolina, had labored through years to reconcile the national vexed questions. All three died in the early fifties, and remembering the results of their mighty genius, there were many to say, ten years after that if they had lived there would have been no war, save perhaps another war of words in Congress. But their patriotic heads were laid low, and there were none to take their places. The two sources of dissension, slavery and the tariff, were always on hand to make a stormy session, so that a detailed history of the wrangling among the North, South and West would be a tedious transcription. What suited one section was adverse to the best interests of the others. The South abided strictly by the wording of the Constitution. The North was ever ready to put a liberal construction on its meaning, and naturally they took issue.
In 1824 the Tariff question became so untenable that some of the Southern States rebelled outright, and protested through their legislatures against the measure as unconstitutional. Some favored secession; others advocated nullification, and this was what was done. They nullified the law and refused to stand by it. Clamor for State rights was heard on every side. But they did not take this step till they had waited two or three years for Congress to give relief by reducing the tariff. In 1832 the crisis came; nullification was pronounced by South Carolina, and she forbade the collection of tariff duties in her own State. She also declared that if the United States used force, she would withdraw from the Union and organize a separate government. Andrew Jackson, who was President, determined to enforce the tariff law in the State, and asked Congress for the power to use the army to sustain the law. Volunteers had offered in South Carolina, and the country stood aghast at the prospect of civil war. Here again Henry Clay's eloquence saved the day. He proposed the measure of gradually reducing the tariff through a period of ten years till it would provide only for the expenses of the government. This removed the cause of trouble, so South Carolina rescinded her act of nullification.
The South had continually yielded up portions of her immense territory to the Union, and thus far there had been an equal balance of power in the legislative voting of the two sections. The annexation of Texas raised a stormy conflict. The South hoped for a division of this large tract into five slave states. The North, as usual, wished to obtain the lion's share. In 1835 Arkansas was admitted a slave State. In 1836 Michigan came in with free labor. After the Mexican War the retrospect showed that since the Declaration of Independence the North had possessed herself of nearly three-fourths of all the territory added to the original states. She fought the annexation of Texas because it would be slave-holding. In 1845 Florida was admitted with slave labor. In the same year Texas came in as a slave State. In 1846 Iowa came in with free labor; in 1848 Wisconsin, also free. When California applied for admission in 1850 there was such bitter antagonism that it was universally feared the Southern States would secede from the Union. Should she be a free state there would then be no other State to offset it with slaves. It was finally decided to leave the choice to California herself. Henry Clay was again at hand to effect a satisfactory compromise. In a former paper I have referred to the Fugitive Slave Law, whereby runaway slaves should be captured and sent back to their owners. But about a decade before the war, a great Abolition wave had begun to flood the country. Thurlow Weed, William Lloyd Garrison, Parson Brownlow, John Brown and Mrs. Stowe, by the power of tongue and pen and printing press, endeavored to stir up the North to the pitch of fanatical desperation, and the slaves to revolt against their masters. It was not for the sake of the Union. Perish the Union, if only the slaves were freed. Drive out the Southern States if they refused to abolish them. Their acts and their words were the extreme of anarchy and tyranny.
Jealousy had long formed a vindictive element in their breasts. And how could the two sections be wholly fraternal? They had come from, not only different stocks of population, but from different creeds in religion and politics. There could be no congeniality between the Puritan exiles who settled upon the cold, rugged and cheerless soil of New England, and the Cavaliers who sought the brighter climate of the south, and who, in their baronial halls, felt nothing in common with roundheads and regicides.
In 1859 the tragic raid of John Brown at Harper's Ferry—his execution—and the startling effects of the open outbreak against slavery put the Southern States on guard. When the next presidential election came on it was apparent from Mr. Lincoln's debates with Mr. Douglas, what the future policy of the government would be. When he therefore, won the election, the south withdrew her representatives from Congress, and her states from the Union. Secession, so long threatened by both sections in turn, had come at last. Everything had been done on the floor of the House to harmonize the issues, but without avail.
On December 20, 1860 South Carolina passed the ordinance of secession. On January 9, 1861, Mississippi followed; Florida, January 10; Alabama, January 11; Georgia, January 19; Louisiana, January 26; Texas, February 1; Virginia, April 17; Arkansas, May 6; North Carolina, May 20; Tennessee, June 8.
To sum up the Causes for the secession of the South:
1. The State had always been supreme: each was a distinct sovereignty, not subject to the general government in matters of their own home rule.
2. The interests of the South were injured by the burden of tax for the benefit of the North.
3. The Republican party had determined that slavery should not be admitted in the territories—the Republicans were in power, and foreseeing further interference in their rights, the South thought the time had come to form an independent government.
4. The North refused to accept the compromise proposed by Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, which might have averted the war. Nor would she consent to submit the matter to a vote of the people; hence there was no chance for harmony. The aggressive measures of the North were such as no self-respecting State in the South could endure.
It had come to be a habit in Congress, to insult the South because she held slaves.
Reason and right alike succumbed to prejudice and hatred, and the dissatisfied States, weary of wrong and oppression, sounded the note of separation; and from every throat burst the refrain;—
We are a band of brothers, Native to the soil, Fighting for the property, We've gained by honest toil.
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Hurrah! Hurrah! for Southern rights hurrah! Hurrah! for the Bonnie Blue Flag That bear a single star.
The Southern Confederacy
Read May 11, 1909
More than a hundred years ago the American States rebelled against the tyranny of England, the mother country, and formed a Confederacy of and among themselves to work together for their own welfare and prosperity. It was granted by their Constitution, and by the States, that each or any individual State had the right under provocation, to withdraw from the pact.
Not quite fifty years ago the Southern States of this Union, having endured provocation after provocation, withdrew from their Northern oppressors, and formed themselves into the Confederacy, whose brief existence ran red with the best blood of her chivalrous land. War was not contemplated. A peaceable separation was desired. A peace conference was held to which representatives of the States were invited. Measure after measure was proposed, so that war might be averted. All were rejected. The recusant States must be whipped back into submission to the autocrats that would direct their affairs. With restricted territory, a minority of population, and home interests directly opposed to those of the over-riding North, what was there to hope for but continuous degradation? Our leaders have been accused of precipitating the war for their own personal ambition. It was another "Aaron Burr conspiracy." Let us hear what they had to say about it.
Jefferson Davis, the fearless soldier and upright citizen—the man who by reason of his supreme fitness was a little later, chosen President of the Confederacy, said in his last speech before the United States Senate:
"Secession is to be justified upon the basis that the States are sovereign. When you deny us the right to withdraw from a government which threatens our rights, we but tread in the paths of our fathers when we proclaim our independence. I am sure I but express the feelings of the people whom I represent, toward those whom you represent, when I say I hope, and they hope, for peaceable relations with you, though we must part. This step is taken, not in hostility to others, not to injure any section of the country, not even for our own pecuniary benefit; but from the high and solemn motive of defending and protecting the rights we inherited, and which it is our sacred duty to transmit unshorn to our children."
Alexander Hamilton Stephens, of Georgia, Vice President of the Confederacy, was a Whig, and like others of the leading statesmen, loved the Union. When the North began to control the new territories, and thus denied the South her legitimate share in the government thereof, Mr. Stephens made a long and powerful argument in the House of Representatives at Washington, some years before the Secession. He said in part:
"If you men of the North, by right of superior numbers, persist in ignoring the claims of the South, separation must follow; but why not in peace? We say as did the patriarch of old, "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee * * * for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me If thou will take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand then I will go to the left." In other words if we cannot enjoy this public domain in common, let us divide it. This is a fair proposition. * * * Unless these bitter and sectional feelings of the North be kept out of the National Halls, we must be prepared for the worst. Are your feelings too narrow to make concessions and deal justly by the whole country? Have you formed a fixed determination to carry your measures by numerical strength, and then enforce them by the bayonet? If so the consequences be upon your own head. You may think that the suppression of an outbreak of the Southern States would be a holiday job for a few of your Northern regiments, but you may find to your cost, in the end, that 7,000,000 of people, fighting for their rights, their homes, and their hearthstones, cannot be easily conquered. I submit the matter to your deliberate consideration."
Mr. Stephens, in a speech before the Georgia legislature opposed secession, but said: "Should Georgia determine to go out of the Union, whatever the result may be, I shall bow to the will of my people. Their cause is my cause, and their destiny is my destiny."
These speeches and sentiments do not savor of stirring up strife—of leading the South into rebellion "so that I may be king, and thou my standard bearer." There could be no treason in doing what the Constitution of the United States permitted. And so every speech of farewell made by Southern representatives, was one, first of pleading for redress—then of sincere regret that self-respect and justice forced the rupture. The South never desired war, or bloodshed. The North defied possible war, believing that within a month, at least, any resistance must certainly be conquered. "We can easily whip them back." Well, it was done, but not so easily. Not till years of carnage had wrought their destiny.
John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, Vice President of the United States, was termed the arch-traitor of all. His published speeches are in the same spirit of regret, and of affection for the Union. In burning words he showed how the Northern representatives were trampling down the Constitution, and in eloquent remonstrance he pointed the way of escape from threatened disaster. After leaving Congress he entered the Confederate army as Major General, and served as Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Davis.
Robert Toombs, of Georgia, was Secretary of State. In his speech before the U.S. Senate in January, 1861, he reminded his hearers that the Southern States had hundreds of sympathizers among the men of the North, "who respect their oaths, abide by compacts, and love justice."
"The brave and patriotic men of the South appealed to the Constitution, they appealed to justice, they appealed to fraternity, until the Constitution, justice, and fraternity were no longer listened to in the legislative halls of their country, and then, sir, they prepared for the arbitrament of the sword. And now you see the glistening bayonet, and you hear the tramp of armed men from your Capitol to the Rio Grand. And all that they have ever demanded is that you abide by the Constitution, as they have done. What is it that we demand? That we may settle in present or acquired territories with our property, including slaves, and that when these territories shall be admitted as States they shall say for themselves whether they wish to have free or slave labor. That is our territorial demand. We have fought for this territory when blood was its price. We have paid for it when gold was its price. New England has contributed very little of blood or money."
The senator goes on to specify what further measures the South demanded, in sharp, incisive terms, but this extract suffices to show that our leaders used every power of tongue and moral suasion to stave off bloodshed.
Houston, Governor of Texas, in a public speech advised constitutional means—anything in reason to prevent war.
Robert E. Lee, the great, the good, was cut to the heart at the impending calamity. One of his friends said: "I have seldom seen a more distressed man." Lee said: "If Virginia stands by the old Union so will I. But if she secedes, then I shall follow my native state with my sword, and, if need be with my life. These are my principles and I must follow them."
Many public men in the North urged peaceable secession, notably, Horace Greely. Foreign eyes were turned anxiously toward America. The South was sending out millions of pounds of cotton every year, of which the greater part went to England. A London paper of this decade said:
"The lives of nearly two million of our country are dependent upon the cotton crops of the States. Should any dire calamity befall the land of cotton, a thousand of our merchant ships would rot idly in dock; ten thousand mills must stop their busy looms; two thousand mouths would starve for lack of food to feed them."
In 1860, a Southern Senator said in congress;
"There are 5,000,000 of people in Great Britain who live upon cotton. Exhaust the supply one week, and all England is starving. I tell you COTTON IS KING."
But the die was cast. The ordinance of secession of South Carolina unanimously passed December 20, at a quarter past one o'clock. Great crowds were outside the hall of conference awaiting results. The Charleston Mercury issued an extra, of which six thousand copies were sold. The chimes of St. Michaels pealed exultant notes; bells of all other churches simultaneously rang. The gun by the post-office christened "Old Secession" belched forth in thundering celebration. Cannons in the citadel echoed the glad tidings; houses and shops emptied their people into the streets; cares of business and family were forgotten; all faces wore smiles—joy prevailed. Old men ran shouting down the streets—friend met friend in hearty hand clasp—the sun shone brilliantly after three days of rain—volunteers donned their uniforms and hastened to their armories. New palmetto flags appeared everywhere. Everyone wore a blue cockade in his hat. Great enthusiasm was shown at the unfurling of a banner on which blocks of stone in an arch typified the fifteen Southern States. These were surmounted by the statue of John C. Calhoun, with the Constitution in his hand, and the figures of Faith and Hope. At the base of the arch were blocks broken in fragments representing the Northern States. A scroll interpreted the allegory to mean a Southern Republic built from the ruins of the other half of the country.
The sentiment of the community was shared by boys firing noisy crackers and Roman candles. The patricians of Charleston drank champagne with their dinners. That night there were grand ceremonies, with military companies, bonfires, and glad demonstrations. The sister states soon caught the infection, and sharing in the hope of independence, they too withdrew from the Union.
On February 4, 1861, delegates from the seceded states—Virginia, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee, had met at Montgomery Alabama to organize the government of the Confederate States. The President and Commander-in-chief, Jefferson Davis, was inaugurated at the State House. Montgomery, February 18, 1861 and again at Richmond, Virginia February 22, 1862.
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Inauguration of Jefferson Davis
The Congress of Delegates from the seceding States met at Montgomery, Alabama, on February 4, 1861, and prepared a Provisional Constitution of the new Confederacy. This Constitution was discussed in detail, and was adopted on the 8th. On the next day, February 9, an election was held for the selection of Chief Executive Officers, Jefferson Davis, born in Kentucky, but a resident of Mississippi, being elected President, and Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia, Vice President. While these important events were transpiring Mr. Davis was at his home, Briarfield, in Mississippi. It was his preference to take active service in the field, but he bowed to the will of his people, and set out for Montgomery to take the oath of office, and assume the tremendous responsibilities to which he had been assigned in the great drama about to be enacted. On his way to Montgomery he passed through Jackson, Grand Junction, Chattanooga, West Point and Opelika. At every principal station along the route he was met by thousands of his enthusiastic fellow-countrymen, clamoring, for a speech. During the trip he delivered about twenty-five short speeches, and his reception at Montgomery was an ovation. Eight miles from the capital he was met by a large body of distinguished citizens, and amid the huzzas of thousands and the booming of cannon he entered the city.
From the balcony of the Exchange Hotel he addressed, shortly after his arrival, the immense throng that filled the streets. February 18th had been chosen for the day of the inauguration, and as the time drew near the excitement increased. The ceremony was carried out with all the solemnity and ceremony that could be thrown about it. The military display was a beautiful one, and the martial maneuvers of the troops seemed to portend a victorious issue. A platform was erected in front of the portico of the State House, and standing with uplifted hand on this eminence, while all the approaches were filled with vast crowds of people, Jefferson Davis took the oath of office.
As the hour of noon approached an immense procession was formed, and to the music of fife, drum, and artillery it moved toward the Capitol building. On the platform awaiting the arrival of Mr. Davis were the members of Congress, the President of that body, the Governor of Alabama and Committees, and a number of other distinguished persons. Round after round of cheers greeted Mr. Davis. After being seated on the platform the Rev. Dr. Manley arose and offered an impressive prayer. President Davis arose and read his inaugural address; then turning, he placed one hand upon the Bible, and with the other uplifted, he listened to the oath. His face was upturned and reverential in expression. At the conclusion of the oath, in solemn, earnest voice, he exclaimed: "So help me God!" He lowered his head in tears, and hundreds wept as they viewed the solemn scene. Thus was officially launched upon a tempestuous sea the Confederate Ship of State.
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Order of Procession.
Military Escort of Montgomery Fusileers, Capt. Schenssler; Montgomery Rifles, Capt. Farriss; Eufaula Rifles, Capt. Baker; Columbus (Ga.)Guard, Capt. Sims.
President-Elect, Vice President and Chaplain in an open carriage, drawn by six horses.
Congressional Committee on Ceremonies.
Commissioners to the Government from States other than the States of the Confederacy.
Ministers of the Gospel, all in carriages.
Citizens in carriages and on foot.
The Department of State, of Justice, the Treasury, War, Navy, Post-office the various military corps, with officers and attaches—all in short, that it takes to form and conduct a government, was ordered from the best picked material. A Constitution was framed like that of the United States, in the main; but the unsatisfactory clauses that had wrought such havoc in the halls of Congress, were changed for the better.
There were in the Confederate service one commander-in-chief, seven generals, nineteen lieutenant-generals, eighty-four major-generals and three hundred and thirteen brigadier-generals. The roster of the Union greatly exceeded these numbers.
When all the departments were organized ready for the administration of the new republic, commissioners were sent to President Lincoln at Washington to negotiate for an equitable transfer of southern forts, and for terms of an amicable separation. They were refused audience. Every method known to national and international arbitration was attempted without success; so when the strife was precipitated, the south had no resource left but to resist by arms, no matter how overwhelming the odds of the invading section.
On April 12, 1861, General Beauregard, learning that a fleet was forcing its way into Charlestown harbor to join Major Anderson at Sumter, opened fire upon the fort. The North charged the war was thus inaugurated by the South. The South believed its action was necessary for self-defence. However that might be, it was the onset of battle—of the greatest Civil War the world has ever known. President Lincoln and President Davis both called for troops. Mass meetings were held in every part of the country North and South. The roll of the drum and the shrill fife of the march were heard in every direction. Muster rolls were drawn up, drills were in progress in hall and on the green. Every youth rush to take up arms. After the great Confederate victory at Bull Run, some one wrote:
"They have met at last—as storm—clouds Meet in heaven; And the Northmen back and bleeding Have been driven. And their thunders have been stilled, And their leaders, crushed or killed, And their ranks, with terror thrilled, Rent and riven."
They had indeed met. And they met and met again. Throughout the length and breadth of the prolific country where cotton was king, the honest achievements of a hundred years were ground into dust by the engines of destruction.
The North came on as invaders; the South stood firm as defenders; and in all the histories of the struggle this fact should be pre-eminent.
Of the hundred battles fought only that of Gettysburg was on Northern soil. The beautiful lands of the garden spot of earth, as I have said, were torn and pillaged and ruined, not alone by the fortunes of civilized warfare, but by the ghastly horrors of cruelty and needless vandalism. It is not the purpose of this paper to fight those battles over. The strife lasted four years. The population of the North was 22,000,000; that of the South 9,000,000, of whom three and one-half millions were slaves. The North was four times as great in numbers as the South.
The North had three times as many armies. The South could not get enough small arms for many months. All foundries for cannon, and all except two powder mills were in the North. The North had food and provisions in abundance. The South planted cotton and tobacco, but could not even in times of peace, raise enough food, but were accustomed to buy from the North and from Europe.
The Union had a treasury and a navy: the Confederacy had neither. The North could renew supplies from abroad. The Southern ports were blockaded and many necessaries of life were shut off. The Confederacy set to work to make arms, ammunitions, blankets, saddles, harness, and other necessities. Bells from churches and halls, dinner bells, plantation and fire bells, along with stray pieces of metal, were melted and cast into cannon. Old nails were saved and blacksmiths made of them clumsy needles, pins and scissors.
For coffee was used burnt rye, okra, corn, bran, chickory and sweet potato peelings. For tea, raspberry leaves, corn fodder and sassafras root. There was not enough bacon to be had to keep the soldiers alive. Sorghum was used for sugar.
The women and girls helped in every possible manner. Silk dresses were made into banners, woolen dresses and shawls into soldiers' shirts—carpets into blankets—curtains, sheets, and all linens, were made into lint and bandages for the wounded. Soft white fingers knitted socks, shirts and gloves, to keep the cold from the men in the trenches. Calico was $10 per yard quite early in the strife. Homespun was made upon the old colonial wheels and looms that had been kept as souvenirs and curios. Buttons were obtained from persimmon seeds with holes pierced for eyes. Women plaited their hats from straw or palmetto leaf, and used feathers from barnyard fowls.
One mourning dress would be loaned from house to house as disaster came. Shoes were made of wood, or carriage curtains, buggy tops, saddle tops or any thing like leather. There were thin iron soles like horse shoes. They were patched with bits of old silk dresses. For little children shoes were made from old morocco pocket-books. Flour was $250 per barrel; meal, $50 a bushel; corn, $40 a bushel; oats, $25; black-eyed peas, $45; brown sugar, $10; coffee, $12; tea, $35 a pound; French merino or mohair sold at $800 to $1,000 a yard; cloth cloak, $1000 and $1500; Balmoral boots, $250 the pair; French gloves, $125 and $150. The stores came to be opened only on occasions.
Salt was the most difficult of all the necessities. The earth from old smoke houses was dug up and boiled for the drippings of ham and bacon—these being crystallized by a primitive process.
Newspapers were printed on coarse half-sheets. Every scrap of blank paper in old note books, letters or waste was utilized. Wall paper and pictures were turned for envelopes. Glue from the peach tree gum served to seal the covers. Poke berries, oak balls, and green persimmons, furnished ink.
The devotion of the people was sublime, always dividing with their neighbors; and the refugees were noted for heroic acts. The negroes were faithful in guarding the families, all of whom were left unprotected, and in working the plantations. Nowhere in the annals of nations has such fidelity been known.
Two negro men belonging to an army officer's widow who lived with her young daughters on an Arkansas plantation, conveyed $50,000 in gold in the cushions of an ambulance to Houston, Texas—a place of safety from marauding troops, who burned the house and cabins, and captured the live stock. The Yankees would not molest escaping negroes. These were faithful to their trust. Similar instances are legion. Leal and true, always and everywhere.
The memory of those hardships cannot die until all the survivors are dead. Fertile fields and pleasant villages were destroyed by great armies. Two billions of dollars in slaves were swept away. Cotton, the chief staple, was burned, or captured. Wealth placed in Confederate bonds, was lost forever. Of the 1,000,000 men in the southern army, three fourths were killed; 400,000 were crippled; and no estimate was made of the wounded who recovered. The cost of the war was $8,000,000. Men and horses perished of starvation and disease. The Southern Confederacy died, not for lack of the will and of the spirit to fight on—for not even Washington's ragged troops at Valley Forge endured greater sufferings or displayed greater heroism. The Confederacy died of exhaustion.
I have said that the women of the South gave all their energies and ingenuities to the cause. They shared the burdens of conflict. They encouraged and stimulated the men by their sympathy and cheerful fortitude. To their country they gave their dearest and best, and bore up bravely in defeat as well as in victory. With silent courage they faced privation and danger. They nursed the sick and wounded; took charge of farms and plantations. With wonderful resource they supplied the growing deficiencies in domestic affairs. They cared for and directed the thousands of negroes left dependent upon them. They never lost their trust in God, or in the righteousness of their cause though their loved ones languished in prison, or lay dead on the battle field. Their patriotism and womanly fidelity will be held in honor while the world lasts.
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And the women refugees from the Border States suffered in addition, the cutting off of news from those they left behind them. Letters went by chance messengers through the lines, or around by Liverpool, England, and finally, by special indulgence, in one-page missives, unsealed, by flag-of truce, via Newport News and Norfolk, Va.
Sometimes months of silence elapsed. Oftener the letters were lost. In many cases they straggled in after two, or three years.
Forty-four years have dragged their slow lengths since the last roll-call. We, the survivors and descendants, have buckled on the armor of faithfulness and are honoring the memory of our martyred heroes. We are rearing monuments to perpetuate their deeds of valor. We are cleaning their revered names from aspersion. We are striving to educate the generations to come in the true history of their marvelous struggle for the inalienable rights of every free-born American. How sublime that struggle! How undaunted their attitude! How unsurpassed their fortitude amid the upheaval of their colossal ruin! The conquered banner's tattered folds hang on the wall her standard-bearer lies in the dust—the sod is green above the heads of her valiant leaders—her rank and file sleep in many an unknown grave. We are in the cooling valleys of peace, where refreshing lies, and above us waves the flag of the old, old Union our people once loved so well. So mote it be. We were loyal to the powers that were; we are loyal to the powers that be. Good citizenship is now, as ever, the watchword of the South. We do not forget our martyrs. Upon our devoted heads rests this sacred duty of consecration. Let us cling together in a cause so noble. Let us merge all thought of self in the glorious work that lies before us.
And what of our beautiful, our historic southland about which the halo of poesy so lovingly lingers? Nature and man have wrought a mighty restoration. Through the grand old States of Virginia and South Carolina, whose annals contain names which will ever adorn the pages of history, down into the prosperous States of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, through Louisiana, unrivaled in fertility, on to the vast expanse of Texas, whose coming wealth and power may not be measured, there arise prophetic voices from field, forest, mine, and workshop, fortelling the grand stirring into life of extended commerce, enterprise, and capital. Her products have increased and multiplied in kind and in variety, till we hear in the Senate chamber of Congress an eloquent plea for the protection of her interests in the country's political economy. We hear from the lips of the Kentucky Senator a full recognition of our worth, our greatness and alas! the tardy acknowledgement of our rights.
These beautiful States are swept by the ocean and mountain winds, and nurtured by the glowing sun and gentle rains. The palmetto and the cypress and the lordly live oak, stand above the glowing orange grove and fragrant magnolia bloom, and the grey moss on the trees, wearing the uniform of the men in grey, wafts a solemn requiem above their narrow beds. The light of prosperity spreads transcendent radiance over the land. The throb of commercial triumph pulsates in the hum of the factory, in the smelting furnace, and ascends in the soft twilight from the rich furrows of her incomparable fields; while the salt sea billows, as they rock her shipping, and dash against pier and wharf, add their exultant voices in prophecy of still greater prosperity.
May advancing wealth rebuild her mansions and fill her coffers, and fittingly crown the efforts of her ambition, and of her genius. May she never lose the aspirations that have made her people through sunshine and storm, a lofty and noble race.