"The Southern Confederacy - What Secession Means," 1861

From The Harrisburg (Pa.) Telegraph, February 23, 1861.

      "Secession is at last enthroned in the Cotton States says the Springfield Journal. Jefferson Davis has been inaugurated as the first President of the Southern Confederacy. He has made his speech and defined the position of his new Republic. True, he calls it merely a `Provisional Government,' but there it is, full fledged according to the idea of those who have at length got it into existence, after the treasonable plottings and sectional agitations of thirty years. But what is it that they want, and what is the pretext for this attempt at overthrowing the government under which they have lived for the greater part of a century in a peace and prosperity rarely paralleled in the history of mankind? Well may call this `a revolution unprecedented in the history of nations,' for never before did this number of sane people thus undertake to destroy a government, the power of which they had felt only in the blessings which it had conferred upon them. Mr. Davis has the audacity to declare that the Union has failed to secure the great objects for which it was professedly established, that is `to establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.' Yet all the world knows that if the Union has f ailed in any of these objects, it was because those who are now making this charge would have it so. They can not point to a single instance in which the government of the Union has denied them justice, interfered with their domestic tranquility, or infringed upon their liberties. If any of these things have been done it has been by themselves, and their great complaint at this time is, that they are not permitted to make slaves of the white freemen of the North, as well as the black natives of Africa, and their own dusky posterity.

      This is undoubtedly the mainspring of the monstrous conspiracy and attempt at dismembering this great and beneficent government; that is to say, that ambitious Southern leaders find that they can no longer be at the head of our National affairs and monopolize the power, honors and offices of this Government, as they have done for the greater part of national existence. Calhoun and his followers became aware of this in 1830 - they then saw the handwriting of destiny inscribed upon the wall of our national edifice in the growing power of the free North which was steadily swelling beyond their power to control. It is notorious that Calhoun's disappointed ambition turned all his feelings to wormwood and shaped his whole subsequent policy for the dismemberment of our national Union. Thomas Jefferson, as with the clear vision of prophecy, has given us the rationale and working of this disturbing element in our national life. In his `Notes on the State of Virginia,' chapter 18, he has pointed out the disturbing influence and danger of slavery in a Republican Government. He there says: `There must, doubtless, be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people, produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it, for man is an imitative animal... The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose rein to the worst of passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities... And with that execration should the statesman be loaded, who, permitting one-half of the citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other, transforms those into despots, and these into enemies, destroys the morals of the one part, and the love of country of the other.'

      There you have the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson - not Jefferson Davis - the true origin of the Southern Confederacy. The immortal author of the Declaration of Independence was perfectly convinced that slavery was utterly incompatible with the spirit and existence of a Republican Government. The man who is in the habit of exercising absolute power from day to day, is unfitted for submission to the wholesome restraints of law - regards its application to his restraining as degrading and disgraceful. Hence, we have a solution of otherwise amazing and inexplicable spectacle of whose States, by a common impulse of phrenzy, throwing aside their allegiance to a government which they had so often and so solemnly sworn to support, and the great mass of their population excited to madness against their Northern brethren, ,who had done them no other injury than that of calmly asserting their right to choose for themselves a Chief Magistrate and representatives in Congress who would properly represent their settled convictions of duty and policy. We will not insult the freemen of the North by the suspicion that they will ever tremble at the cracking of Southern whips, or be driven from the course of right and justice by the furious ravings of men who have been utterly blinded by their passions, which have been carefully excited by the leaders for their own ambitious purposes."



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