Monday, May 04, 2009

Some More Random Comments and Footnotes on the times leading up to Secession

"I have no apologies to make for having one week been a member of the American Party; for I think native-born citizens of the United States should have as much protection, as many privileges in the their home native country, as those who voluntarily select it for a home. But all secret, oath-bound political parties are dangerous to any nation, no matter how pure or patriotic the motives or principles which first bring them together. No political party can or ought to exist when one of its corner-stones is opposition to freedom of thought and to the right to worship God "according to the dictate of one's own conscience," or according to the creed of any religious denomination whatever. Nevertheless, if a sect sets up its laws as binding above the State laws, wherever the two come in conflict this claim must be resisted and suppressed at whatever cost."

Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, Chapter XVI (1885, reflecting on 1856). In this passage, Grant goes on to say that he voted for the Democrat, Buchanan, over the Republican, Fremont in the Election of 1856 (the first election where there was a Republican Party), because Grant, like so many others, feared the threat of secession from the South. The American Party candidate, former President Millard Fillmore, won only one state, Maryland, but was a major factor in the election.


The following quote is from Stephen A. Douglas and he made it in the first Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858. Douglas made similar quotes in several of the debates. Thanks to quotes like these, Douglas was not considered conservative enough to run as the Democratic Presidential candidate, even though Douglas managed, and had an income interest in, a plantation in Mississippi. However, Douglas believed that people had the power to vote on whether or not slavery should be legal in their own neighborhoods. This liberal apostasy became too much for the South to bear.

[When revisionist historians try to paint Lincoln as a racist (as if there is only one flavor of racist), it is best to remember that Lincoln was a professional politician, running against people like Douglas. Douglas was a mainstream Northern politician. Lincoln, of course, lost the Senate election to Douglas.]

Anyway, the Douglas quote --

"I believe this Government was made on the white basis. I believe it was made by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and I am in favor of confining citizenship to white men, men of European birth and descent, instead of conferring it upon negroes, Indians, and other inferior races.

"Mr. Lincoln, following the example and lead of all the little Abolition orators, who go around and lecture in the basements of schools and churches, reads from the Declaration of Independence that all men were created equal, and then asks, How can you deprive a negro of the equality which God and the Declaration of Independence awards to him? He and they maintain that negro equality is guaranteed by the laws of God, and that it is asserted in the Declaration of Independence. If they think so, of course they have a right to say so, and so vote. I do not question Mr. Lincoln’s conscientious belief that the negro was made his equal, and hence is his brother; but for my own part, I do not regard the negro as my equal, and positively deny that he is my brother, or any kin to me whatever."


I have the slightly off-beat opinion that a main reason the South left the Union is that the South, not the North, created a strong Federal government, even back then, 150 years ago. They created it, in large measure, to protect slavery, and they created it on the belief that that they set things up so that the South would never lose a major election. Then, the South lost an election.

In this view, States Rights meant that the Declaration of Independence, and the provisions of the U.S. Constitution that refer to "We, The People" were not relevant. In this view, the United States in 1860 was a Confederacy of States, and States Rights meant that what the states wanted and needed was the most important thing that the Federal government was supposed to worry about.

And some states wanted and needed slavery.