Memorable speeches, moving letters, and key reports are among the vital documents in this collection of historic records from the American Civil War. Even the most dedicated history buffs may find something new in this compendium, which ranges from familiar items such as the Gettysburg Address to private reflections that include Stonewall Jackson's message to his wife after the Battle of First Manassas and excerpts from the diary of a Confederate soldier at the siege of Vicksburg.
Other highlights include "The War and How to End It," a lecture by Frederick Douglass; Robert E. Lee's farewell to the Army of Northern Virginia; and an eyewitness account of the clash between the Monitor and Merrimack. Selections by commanding officers from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line include Ulysses S. Grant on the battle at Shiloh, Joseph Hooker's account of Antietam, and James Longstreet's Wilderness Campaign report. These and other documents offer students of American history and Civil War devotees a wealth of essential reading in a compact, modestly priced anthology.
About the Author
An English professor at the City University of New York's Kingsborough College, Bob Blaisdell is the editor of numerous Dover Thrift Editions and many other books. He has published essays about his own experiences as a teacher and regularly reviews books for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Christian Science Monitor.
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The Civil War
Great Speeches and Documents
By Bob Blaisdell
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
"Sovereignty of South Carolina"
The Address of the People of South Carolina, Assembled in Convention, to the People of the Slaveholding States of the United States (December 21, 1860)
South Carolina had threatened secession for many years and, finally, after Abraham Lincoln's election in November, went through with it, leading the secession movement. "A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States whose opinions and purposes are hostile to Slaveryj" wrote the authors of "The Declaration of Causes Which Induced the Secession of South Carolina." After South Carolina, ten other states ≪(went South," into a new confederacy.
The South Carolina politicians in Charleston who drafted "Sovereignty of South Carolina" justified their decision to secede by a presentation of the history of the United States. The North — that home of "negro fanaticism" — had trampled on South Carolina's rights, just as Great Britain had done to its colonies in the eighteenth century. South Carolina was seceding, its slaveholding legislators wrote, without any irony, because "We prefer ... our system of industry, by which labor and capital are identified in interest, and capital, therefore, protects labor, by which our population doubles every twenty years; by which starvation is unknown, and abundance crowns the land; by which order is preserved by an unpaid police, and the most fertile regions of the world where the Caucasian cannot labor are brought into usefulness by the labor of the African, and the whole world is blessed by our own productions. All we demand of other peoples is to be let alone to work out our own high destinies."
It is now seventy-three years since the Union between the United States was made by the Constitution of the United States. During this period their advance in wealth, prosperity, and power, has been with scarcely a parallel in the history of the world. The great object of their Union was defense from the external aggressions of more powerful nations, now complete, from their mere progress in power. Thirty-one millions of people, with a commerce and navigation which explores every sea, and of agricultural productions which are necessary to every civilized people, command the friendship of the world. But, unfortunately, our internal peace has not grown with our external prosperity. Discontent and contention have moved in the bosom of the Confederacy for the last thirty-five years. During this time, South Carolina has twice called her people together in solemn convention, to take into consideration, the aggressions and unconstitutional wrongs, perpetrated by the people of the North on the people of the South. These wrongs were submitted to by the people of the South, under the hope and expectation that they would be final. But these hopes and expectations have proved to be void. Instead of being incentives to forbearance, our submission has only instigated to new forms of agression and outrage; and South Carolina, again assembling her people in convention, has this day dissolved her connection with the States constituting the United States.
The one great evil, from which all other evils have flowed, is the overthrow of the Constitution of the United States. The government of the United States is no longer the government of confederated republics, but of a consolidated democracy. It is no longer a free government, but a despotism. It is, in fact such a government as Great Britain attempted to set over our fathers, and which was resisted and defeated by a seven years' struggle for independence.
The Revolution of 1776 turned upon one great principle, self-government and self-taxation, the criterion of self-government. Where the interests of two people united together under one government, are different, each must have the power to protect its interests by the organization of the government or they cannot be free. The interests of Great Britain and of the colonies were different and antagonistic. Great Britain was desirous of carrying out the policy of all nations toward their colonies, of making them tributary to their wealth and power. She had vast and complicated relations with the whole world. Her policy toward her North American colonies was to identify them with her in all these complicated relations, and to make them bear, in common with the rest of the empire, the full burden of her obligations and necessities. She had a vast public debt; she had a European policy and an Asiatic policy, which had occasioned the accumulation of her public debt, and which kept her in continual wars. The North American colonies saw their interests, political and commercial, sacrificed by such a policy. Their interests required that they should not be identified with the burdens and wars of the mother country They had been settled under charters, which gave them self-government, at least so far as their property was concerned. They had taxed themselves, and had never been taxed by the government of Great Britain. To make them a part of a consolidated empire, the Parliament of Great Britain determined to assume the power of legislating for the colonies in all cases whatsoever. Our ancestors resisted the pretension. They refused to be a part of the consolidated government of Great Britain.
The Southern States now stand exactly in the same position towards the Northern States that our ancestors in the colonies did towards Great Britain. The Northern States, having the majority in Congress, claim the same power of omnipotence in legislation as the British Parliament. "The general welfare," is the only limit to the legislation of either; and the majority in Congress, as in the British Parliament, are the sole judges of the expediency of the legislation this "general welfare" requires. Thus, the government of the United States has become a consolidated Government, and the people of the Southern States are compelled to meet the very despotism their fathers threw off in the Revolution of 1776.
The consolidation of the government of Great Britain over the colonies was attempted to be carried out by the taxes. The British Parliament undertook to tax the colonies to promote British interests. Our fathers resisted this pretension. They claimed the right of self-taxation through their colonial legislatures. They were not represented in the British Parliament and therefore could not rightfully be taxed by its legislature. The British government, however, offered them a representation in Parliament; but it was not sufficient to enable them to protect themselves from the majority and they refused the offer. Between taxation without any representation and taxation without a representation adequate to protection, there was no difference. In neither case would the colonies tax themselves. Hence, they refused to pay the taxes laid by the British Parliament.
The Southern States now stand in the same relation towards the Northern States in the vital matter of taxation, that our ancestors stood towards the people of Great Britain. They are in a minority in Congress. Their representation in Congress is useless to protect them against unjust taxation; and they are taxed by the people of the North for their benefit, exactly as the people of Great Britain taxed our ancestors in the British Parliament for their benefit. For the last forty years the taxes laid by the Congress of the United States have been laid with a view of subserving the interests of the North. The people of the South have been taxed by duties on imports, not for revenue, but for an object inconsistent with revenue — to promote, by prohibitions, Northern interests in the productions of their mines and manufactures.
There is another evil in the condition of the Southern towards the Northern States, which our ancestors refused to bear towards Great Britain. Our ancestors not only taxed themselves, but all the taxes collected from them were expended among them. Had they submitted to the pretensions of the British government, the taxes collected from them, would have been expended in other parts of the British empire. They were fully aware of the effect of such a policy in impoverishing the people from whom taxes are collected, and in enriching those who receive the benefit of their expenditure. To prevent the evils of such a policy was one of the motives which drove them on to Revolution. Yet this British policy has been fully realized towards the Southern States by the Northern States. The people of the Southern States are not only taxed for the benefit of the Northern States but after the taxes are collected, three-fourths of them are expended at the North. This cause, with others, connected with the operation of the General Government, has provincialized the cities of the South. Their growth is paralyzed whilst they are mere suburbs of Northern cities. The basis of the foreign commerce of the United States are the agricultural productions of the South; yet Southern cities do not carry it on. Our foreign trade is almost annihilated. In 1740 there were five shipyards in South Carolina to build ships to carry on our direct trade with Europe. Between 1740 and 1779 there were built in these yards twenty-five square-rigged vessels, besides a great number of sloops and schooners, to carry on our coast and West India trade. In the half century immediately preceding the Revolution, from 1725 to 1775, the population of South Carolina increased seven-fold.
No man can for a moment believe that our ancestors intended to establish over their posterity exactly the same sort of government they had overthrown. The great object of the Constitution of the United States, in its internal operation, was, doubtless, to secure the great end of the Revolution — a limited free government — a government limited to those matters only which were general and common to all portions of the United States. All sectional or local interests were to be left to the States. By no other arrangement would they obtain free government by a Constitution common to so vast a Confederacy. Yet by gradual and steady encroachments on the part of the people of the North, and submission on the part of the South, the limitations in the Constitution have been swept away, and the government of the United States has become consolidated, with a claim of limitless powers in its operations.
It is not at all surprising, whilst such is the character of the government of the United States, that it should assume to possess power over all the institutions of the country. The agitations on the subject of slavery in the South are the natural results of the consolidation of the government. Responsibility follows power; and if the people of the North have the power by Congress "to promote the general welfare of the United States" by any means they deem expedient — why should they not assail and overthrow the institution of slavery in the South? They are responsible for its continuance or existence, in proportion to their power. A majority in Congress, according to their interested and perverted views, is omnipotent. The inducements to act upon the subject of slavery, under such circumstances, were so imperious as to amount almost to a moral necessity. To make, however, their numerical power available to rule the Union, the North must consolidate their power. It would not be united, on any matter common to the whole Union — in other words, on any Constitutional subject — for on such subjects divisions are as likely to exist in the North as in the South. Slavery was strictly a sectional interest. If this could be made the criterion of parties at the North, the North could be united in its power, and thus carry out its measures of sectional ambition, encroachment, and aggrandizement. To build up their sectional predominance in the Union, the Constitution must be first abolished by constructions; but, that being done, the consolidation of the North to rule the South by the tariff and slavery issues, was in the obvious course of things.
The Constitution of the United States was an experiment. The experiment consisted in uniting under one government different peoples, living in different climates, and having different pursuits of industry and institutions. It matters not, how carefully the limitations of such a government be laid down in the Constitution, its success must at least depend upon the good faith of the parties to the constitutional compact in enforcing them. It is not in the power of human language to exclude false inferences, constructions, and perversions in any constitution; and when vast sectional interests are to be subserved, involving the appropriation of countless millions of money, it has not been the usual experience of mankind that words on parchment can arrest power. The Constitution of the United States, irrespective of the interposition of the States, rested on the assumption, that power would yield to faith — that integrity would be stronger than interest; and that thus the limitations of the Constitution would be observed. The experiment has been fairly made. The Southern States, from the commencement of the government, have striven to keep it within the orbit prescribed by the Constitution. The experiment has failed. The whole Constitution, by the constructions of the Northern people, has been swallowed up by a few words in its preamble. In their reckless lust for power, they seem unable to comprehend that seeming paradox that the more power is given to the General Government the weaker it becomes. Its strength consists in its generality and limitations.
To extend the scope of its power over sectional or local interests, is to raise up against it opposition and resistance. In all such matters, the General Government must necessarily be a despotism, because all sectional or local interests must ever be represented by a minority in the councils of the General Government — having no power to protect itself against the rule of the majority. The majority, constituted from those who do not represent these sectional or local interests, will control and govern them. A free people cannot submit to such a government. And the more it enlarges the sphere of its power, the greater must be the dissatisfaction it must produce, and the weaker it must become. On the contrary, the more it abstains from usurped powers, and the more faithfully it adheres to the limitations of the Constitution, the stronger it is made. The Northern people have had neither the wisdom nor the faith to perceive that to observe the limitation of the Constitution was the only way to its perpetuity.
Under such a Government there must, of course, be many and endless "irrepressible conflicts" between the two great sections of the Union. The same faithlessness which has abolished the Constitution of the United States, will not fail to carry out the sectional purposes for which it has been abolished. There must be conflict; and the weaker section of the Union can only find peace and liberty in an independence of the North. The repeated efforts made by South Carolina, in a wise conservatism, to arrest the progress of the General Government in its fatal progress to consolidation, have been unsupported, and denounced as faithless to the obligations of the Constitution by the very men and States who were destroying it by their usurpations. It is now too late to reform or restore the government of the United States. All confidence in the North is lost in the South. The faithlessness of half a century has opened a gulf of separation between them which no promises or engagements can fill.
It cannot be believed, that our ancestors would have assented to any union whatever with the people of the North, if the feelings and opinions now existing among them, had existed when the Constitution was framed. There was then no tariff — no negro fanaticism. It was the delegates from New England who proposed in the convention which framed the Constitution, to the delegates from South Carolina and Georgia, that if they would agree to give Congress the power of regulating commerce by a majority, they would support the extension of the African slave trade for twenty years. African slavery existed in all the States but one. The idea that they would be made to pay that tribute to their Northern confederates, which they had refused to pay to Great Britain; or that the institution of African slavery would be made the grand basis of a sectional organization of the North to rule the South, never crossed their imaginations. The union of the Constitution was a union of slaveholding States. It rests on slavery, by prescribing a representation in Congress for three-fifths of our slaves. There is nothing in the proceedings of the convention which framed the Constitution, to show that the Southern States would have formed any other Union; and still less that they would have formed a Union with more powerful non-slaveholding States having a majority in both branches of the Legislature of the government. They were guilty of no such folly. Time and the progress of things have totally altered the relations between the Northern and Southern States since the Union was established. That identity of feelings, interests, and institutions which once existed, is gone. They are now divided between agricultural and manufacturing, and commercial States — between slaveholding and non-slaveholding States. Their institutions and industrial pursuits have made them totally different people. That equality in the Government between the two sections of the Union which once existed, no longer exists. We but imitate the policy of our fathers in dissolving a Union with non-slaveholding confederates, and seeking a confederation with slaveholding States.
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