Skip to main content


Show more

Southern Independence: An Address Delivered by James Spence [Recommended Reading]

Southern Independence: An Address Delivered At A Public Meeting in the City Hall, Glasgow
Complete Speech
James Spence

26th November, 1863.

The Requisitionists, whose invitation led me to Glasgow, have requested me to revise the following address, for the purpose of publication. In doing so, I have collated the newspaper reports and added a few sentences requisite to render the argument more complete or clearer to readers unfamiliar with the subject I have added, too, some notes, which are given as an appendix, in order not to interrupt the reading of those who may not be critically disposed. I take this opportunity to tender my thanks to many whom, I trust, I may now call friends; and to say that I think those who were present in considerable number, and strongly opposed in opinion, offered no opposition that was beyond the limit of dissent fairly to be expected at a public meeting. 

Mr. Spence, on rising, was received with prolonged applause, intermingled with some hisses from the Northern party. When these had subsided he proceeded thus: - I thank you, gentlemen, for your cordial reception, and I may say that I am rather pleased than otherwise to hear a few hisses. I am glad we have some of Northern sentiment amongst us, for I think a little opposition adds to the life and interest of a meeting, as a dash of acid gives a zest and finer flavour to fruit.- (Cheers.) And I recommend you, when you hear anyone hissing, just to let him hiss, for generally when you call for order you make more noise than that you wish to stop. - (Laughter.) This is a very large hall, and I rather fear my voice may not reach to its extreme end. If this prove so I shall be glad to be informed of it. I was told to-day in your good town, by a Scotch friend, that one difficulty you would  experience in hearing me to-night would arise from my English brogue. - (Loud laughter.) Now, this is a difficulty I cannot overcome, and so you must bear with it as well as you can. (Cheers.) 

Gentlemen, I received the requisition alluded to by your Chairman with much pleasure. That requisition was signed by two hundred of your citizens, .and invited me to address you on the subject of Southern independence. I am here in response to it; and I feel pleasure in addressing this great assembly, for I am glad to witness the interest you take in a subject in which, in my judgment, it is time that this country should form and pronounce a decided opinion. Though all but a stranger to your city, I am not unaware of its claim to speak with a voice of influence and authority on any great public question. You have in this community a rare, I think an unequalled, combination of the elements of commercial, manufacturing, and mineral industry. But these elements would have remained latent and unknown; the Clyde might still have borne but skiffs and waterfowl upon its breast that coal and iron ore would have lain unseen and imprisoned in the earth, but for the energy and skill which have converted your once shallow river into a great seaport, and made your city - as a seat of manufactures, an emporium of commerce, and a great centre of the iron trade - unrivalled by any known to me in this combination and variety of industrial success. - (Hear !) I feel, therefore, that any opinion you may express upon a subject on which you have means of information not common to the whole country, will carry weight in every other part of the kingdom. - (Loud cheers.) 

Before I enter on the subject I am hear to speak upon, I wish to clear the way by removing one or two misconceptions which exist, I am told, in some minds. I wish to see public opinion aroused on this great, I was going to say this vital question, and I wish to see that active public opinion influencing the policy of the Government. But let no one imagine that this desire has any political object. - ("Hear, hear," and some hisses.) You won't find it very easy to put me out of good humour. - (Cheers.) Gentlemen, so far from urging this movement in any feeling of hostility to the Government, I do not even complain of the line of inaction pursued up to a certain time. I think it would have been unworthy of the dignity and character of this country had we evinced any eagerness to derive advantage from the dissensions or afflictions of another people. We have not done so. But just as I think it would have been wrong to be eager or hasty, so I hold it unwise to be obstinate and inactive when the time has come to move. And so far from hostility to the Government, there are few, if any, who more warmly admire the illustrious and venerable statesman - like whom none here will live to see another - who is now at the head of the Government, and whose name, for more than half a century, has been associated with the progress and identified with the renown of our country. - (Applause.) 

The other subject to which I will allude at once is slavery. Gentlemen - (Ah, ah!) - our friend here is in a great hurry. Now, I am quite sure he will find that I am as earnest an opponent of slavery as himself. - (Loud cheers and hisses.) I suppose the gentlemen who are hissing are advocates of slavery - (laughter and cheers) - for don't you see that they object when a man declares himself an opponent of slavery - (laughter) and I believe I am twice as earnest an opponent of slavery as that gentleman. He objects to it for one reason - I have two reasons against it. He objects to it for its own sake - so do I; but I have another reason, for I believe it to be injurious to the white people of the South. - (Loud cheers.) I think it proper to allude to this subject at once, because you will soon find that I am not going to speak on the subject of Southern independence as one halting between two opinions. My convictions upon it are clear and strong, and you will find, when I enter into the details of the question, that one reason why I advocate Southern independence is because, in my judgment, there is no other issue of the war that affords so reasonable a hope and prospect of the extinction of that evil. - (Loud cheers and hisses.) 

And now to proceed with our subject. You all know that the United States were originally the thirteen colonies that revolted from this country. You are aware that the Northerners, who now regard rebellion as so unpardonable a crime, are themselves the sons of rebels. - (Cheers and some laughter.) Well, have it the other way, and consider that it was King George III. who was the rebel and that they were the loyalists. And perhaps I may say something that will hurt these gentlemen more, for 1 will tell you that they were not only rebels but slaveholders too; for at the period of their revolt, with one exception, all the Northern States held slaves. ("Hear, hear!" - and " That's something new.") As colonies, each was as perfectly distinct from and independent of the rest, as Canada is now of British Columbia. When they became independent, each naturally became an independent State or Power, and was acknowledged by this and other countries as such. For the purposes of the war, however, it was very necessary that they should act together, and a union was formed, for which an elaborate Constitution was provided, called "Articles of Confederation." In this instrument each State is distinctly declared to be free, sovereign, and independent; and you have it thus on clear record that there is nothing in the nature of a Union, or in the fact itself, to prevent each State being a Sovereign Power. - (Cheers.) Some years after the close of the war it was found necessary to revise this first Constitution, and provide a more effectual administration. But the Constitution was declared to be perpetual, and it was forbidden to alter it without the consent of all the States. Two of these - North Carolina and Rhode Island - refused their assent, and in consequence the other States broke the terms by which they were bound, and seceded from those which adhered to them. Hence the present Constitution and Union not only originated in rebellion, but, strange to say, are the offspring of secession. 

The second Constitution thus formed, and which now exists - exists as regards its letter, for its spirit had long been departed from - was a compact or treaty of the very closest alliance, entered into by those Sovereign States, each of its own free will. Its principle is to commit to a common agent those functions of government which could better be performed by one agent for the whole than by each State for itself. Apart from these, the States retained all other functions in their own hands. It may perhaps not be known to all who are present that each one of these States has its own separate constitution, its own distinct government, its own peculiar laws, its military force, and the power of life or death over its citizens. All that governs the life of man, his property and its inheritance, his education, his conduct or misconduct, his whole daily walk and conversation, these are under the laws of the State, and the Federal Government has no more power over them than that of France. Each State is therefore a sovereign community, governing itself except as regards those matters which, in common with the rest, it committed to the general agent. Now, in taking this existing Constitution, you come at once to the very remarkable fact that there is not a word in it to forbid any of the States retiring from it, as they had done from its predecessor. Do not suppose for a moment that the able men who framed it were likely to forget so important a point. They themselves had just seceded. It was a contingency immediately before them, and yet, as I have observed, there is not a single word to be found in the Constitution that forbids in any way the retirement of any one of the States from the compact. The reason was this - and all these facts are on record - that if they forbad the retirement of a State it was necessary, as a matter of common sense, to provide some power that should prevent that retirement; and when it was proposed in the Convention of Philadelphia, which framed this Constitution, that this power of coercion should be provided, it was absolutely and unanimously rejected as being utterly opposed to the principle of the compact, which was that of free-will. - (Cheers,) Hence you are brought to this fact, that the coercion which is now attempted, and, indeed, practised by the North against the Southern States, has not only no warrant in the Constitution, but is the wrongful exercise of a power which was deliberately excluded from it. - (Loud cheers and some dissent.)  

Gentlemen, I think it will be obvious to all of you that when Sovereign States enter into a compact for certain denned purposes, if some of them break the terms of that compact, it must be competent to the others to retire from it. - (Hear, hear f) This is plain, I think, to the reason of any man. You cannot deny it, unless you deny the sovereignty of the State; and you cannot deny the sovereignty of the State so long as you admit that the system is a Federal system. If those States, when the Union was formed, had all been fused into one, there would have been no right of secession, because each would have been but the province of a single power; but the very term Federal proves that the Union was framed on the basis of their remaining in a condition of co-equal authority, and 
therefore, as I have said, when the compact entered into is broken by some, the others have the right of retiring from it. - (Cheers.) Xo man who has the pleasure of addressing an audience in Scotland - a country so famed for logical research - (cheers and ironical laughter) - you see we are going to make a pleasant evening of it - (laughter and renewed cheers) - must, I say, feel an inclination within him to enter upon a logical inquiry into this right of secession. - (Hear, hear!) But the subject is one which would not be suited to an audience so large as this, or to time to limited as ours. Lest, however, you should suppose that my opinions are peculiar on this subject, I will tell you that a Northern writer who was an intimate friend of George Washington, who was an eminent legal authority and a profound admirer of the Union - William Rawle - says, in his work on the American Constitution, that the right of secession is inherent in the Federal system of America. (2) 

And, if any of you are inclined to dispute that the right of secession is inherent in the Federal system, I will show you where that right, possessed by the Southern States, can be traced even to higher authority. - (A Voice, "No, no.") Gentlemen, my friend here is dissatisfied that the right of secession should come from any other source than the Federal compact, but I must tell you that it can be traced to a still higher source, the Declaration of the Independence of the United States. - (Hear, hear!) That Declaration of Independence is the fountain-head of all American political principle, and therein it is stated that, whenever a Government no longer attains certain ends, and amongst them the pursuit of happiness, it is " the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to 
institute a new Government." - (Cheers.) Now, to say that a people have a right to abolish a Government, and yet have no right to secede from it, is really as absurd as to say that if you differ with a man you have a right to destroy him, but no right to leave his company. - (Cheers and laughter.) And you will find in the very passage from which I have just read, that all just Governments are based on the consent of the governed. - (Hear, hear!) Now, here is another lofty principle; but what do you find the practice of the present day resulting from it. 

Is it upon the consent of those eight millions of men in the South that it is now attempted to base that Government which fire and sword are employed to force upon them 1 Why here you find at once, not only a deviation from the principles laid down in the most solemn instrument which a people ever subscribed, but you find that the action is exactly the reverse of that profession. - (Cheers and some hisses.) I would offer a little bit of advice to these gentlemen on the opposition side of the house. They know that when this address is over, I am prepared to stand in the pillory and answer their questions. - (Loud cheers.) Now 7, might they not be content with inflicting that amount of punishment which I expect to receive at their hands '] - (Laughter.) And, furthermore, if they perpetually blow off their steam in this hasty manner - (a laugh) - they may not have enough of it left when they want it. - (Great laughter.) 

It is asserted by the supporters of Northern action, that these declarations of that famous instrument were intended to apply to the whole of a people, and not to a part of it. This is but a lame argument. The Colonists who made the Declaration were only part of a people; and more, they were only part of the Colonists; for some refused to join them, and are part of our empire to this day. And, on this point, let me read you the words of an authority of some weight in these times, Mr. Abraham Lincoln. - (Great cheering and hisses.) On the 12th January, 1848, he thus spoke in Congress: "Any people, anywhere, being inclined, and having the power, have a right to rise up and shake off the existing Government, and form a new one that suits them better. - (Cheers and laughter.) This is a most valuable, a most sacred right - a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing Government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionise, and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit." Now, I doubt whether there is a man to be found in this hall whose ingenuity would enable him to frame a form of words that would offer greater attractions to the spirit of rebellion - that could incite it with greater ardour, and in more directions, than the terms which I have just read to you. - (Cheers.) And I ask you if it is not lamentable, if it is not painful, to find men not only prepared utterly to repudiate the principles they have professed, but to use fire and sword in destroying that very right at the hands of another people, which they have themselves practised and inculcated. And Mr. Lincoln is not only an inciter of rebellion, but a Secessionist of the very deepest dye. - ("Hear, hear I" and hisses.) This you will be surprised to hear; but you will very soon find it to be true, - (loud hisses,) - too true for the gentlemen who are hissing. - (Loud laughter.) The Constitution of the United States does not prohibit the secession of a State; but it does prohibit the secession of part of a State from the rest of it. - (Hear, hear.) It says: " No new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State." In the face of this, when Western Virginia seceded from the rest of that State, Mr. Lincoln approved of this secession, because it told in his favour, and gave his party a number of votes in Congress. As an excuse for this war, we heard of an oath to maintain the Constitution; but the moment there was an advantage to gain by breaking the Constitution, we hear nothing more of that oath. Thus, any one who seeks it may find an authority for the very grossest form, either of rebellion or secession, in Mr. Abraham Lincoln. - (Cheers and hisses.) 

Now, gentlemen, if you take these facts and deal calmly with them, I think many of you will shrink from expressing your sympathy with principles worked out in practices such as these. - (Cheers.) The Southern States have right upon their side. They simply do what Northern slaveowners did before them, and have taught them to admire ever since. But you may ask whether, admitting the right, there was sufficient ground to exercise it? The immediate causes of complaint were these: - Many of the Northern States passed Legislative Acts, called " Personal Liberty Bills," the object of which was to defeat and nullify an express clause of the Constitution. They, therefore, deliberately broke the Federal compact. I don't say at this moment whether in the principle involved in those laws they were right or wrong; but I do say that this was a breach of the Federal compact, committed by those States. - (Cries of " What is the law V and " Name the law I") I beg to remind these gentlemen that any one has the privilege, when my address is ended, of putting any question he may think proper, through the chairman. - (Cheers.) There is an old proverb, that "you cannot both eat your loaf and have it and if you question me to death now I shall not live to be questioned at the right time. - (Laughter.) One of the objects of the Constitution, as stated in its preamble, was "to ensure domestic tranquillity." Now, for a long series of years several of the Northern States, or their people, had adopted a practice of reviling and vilifying the people of the South, and when this system at length bore fruit in an armed invasion of Virginia, accompanied by murder and an attempt at servile insurrection, they applauded these acts. Now, is that the way to maintain domestic tranquillity? - (Cheers.) Finally, the Northern States elected a President of a purely sectional character. Some of you may say that it was because of the defeat of their candidate that the Southern States seceded. - (A Voice: "So it was.") That is a perfect delusion. There were four candidates, one of whom only, Breckenridge, was that of the South; and if Douglas or Bell had been elected, the Southern candidate would have been defeated, but no secession would have ensued. The reason why the election of Mr. Lincoln aroused such feeling was the fact that it was a purely sectional one. - (Hear!) No such event had occurred before. That election drew a line right across between the North and South; it was no longer a contest of parties but of people. Hitherto the struggle had been political, that election made it geographical; and owing to the enormous influx of emigration into the Northern States, and the preponderance it had given to that section, it became, thereupon, plain to the Southern people that they must either submit to a state of hopeless, everlasting minority, or exercise their right of withdrawing from the Federation. - (Cheers.) 

But although these were the immediate and superficial causes of the explosion, others far deeper and more important had long been preparing it. The great cause of this convulsion, that which overrides all others, is the fact that the people of the North and South are two people, distinct and in many respects antagonistic. That is the root of the whole evil - (A Voice, "No, no.") They sprang, indeed, originally from the same race, but they differ now widely even in blood; whilst in all other attributes - in manners, feelings, tastes, interests, and pursuits, the people of Virginia and the people of Massachusetts are more opposed than any two races of Europe. This was so from their earliest existence, and gave an entirely different tone to their character and their action. Virginia, as a colony, was ever loyal to the Crown; nay, when at home a King was carried to the scaffold Virginia never wavered in spirit from her faithful allegiance to the throne. - (Cheers and murmurs.) Massachusetts and the other Northern States were from their birth turbulent, arrogant, and seditious. - (Hisses and cheers.) An intense and selfish fanaticism marked that people from the first, as it does this day. And whatever difference originally existed has been largely widened under the action of time. In the South, with the exception of Louisiana, in which there is a population of French origin, the people are of almost purely British descent. In the North, owing to the enormous influx of Celts and Germans, the blood is now more than half foreign to our own. That the Southerners are a separate people is proved by the very fact that they desire a separate government. Take any people who are really one - take the French, and conceive, if you can, any force that would tear them asunder. There is no stronger political or natural power than the cohesion of a people who are really homogeneous. - (Applause.) If the mere fact of speaking the same language and having some blood in common, made them one people or prevented their being two, that argument would prove that the Canadians are part of the same nation. They speak the same tongue; they spring from the same race; they are more closely in contact than the Southerners, and yet the very name of a Yankee is repulsive to them. Hence you see that the possession of some attributes in common is no proof of national unity. This is not an attempt to divide one people into two, but to compel two people to be one. 

And, indeed, have you not had proof enough within your own knowledge that these are two people? Contrast their conduct throughout the war. In the North, merriment and feasting, satins, diamonds, and shoddy wealth; in the South, fasting, and penury, and sorrow. - (Great cheering.) In the North, the hiring, the bribing of mercenaries to sacrifice their lives in the South, the foremost of the land giving their own. In the North, bluster, speeches, dispatches, the things called sermons from the men called ministers of religion; in the South, calm, silent resolution. In the North, a spirit of cruel ferocity and a thirst for devastation; in the South, a simple desire to defend their homes and be let alone. In the North, every principle of constitutional liberty trampled underfoot - every cherished doctrine repudiated; in the South, those laws and principles the guide of action. In the North, such men as Butler and Pope, Turchin and M'Neil, Milroy and Hooker; in the South, such men as Ashby and Stuart, as Lee and Beauregard, as President Davis the statesman, and Stonewall Jackson the hero. - (Loud applause.) 

Hence, you see with your own eyes not only that these are two people, but that they are widely different and opposed. And all the declamation you have heard about preserving a nation's life and cutting a nation into two is a mere rhetorical artifice or delusion. As I have already said, this is not an attempt to cut one nation into two, but to force two nations to be one. It is this fact - that the Southerners are another people, and the natural desire which it creates to have an existence and a Government of their own - that is the chief cause of this convulsion. But there is another, in the conviction which has long pervaded the South, that the Union was worked to the profit of the North and their ow T n loss. All who are familiar with Southern literature know it to be full of bitterness on this topic; and when you consider that the immediate cause of the revolt of those thirteen colonies from this country was a duty of 3d. per lb. on tea, you can readily imagine that the tariffs which have been imposed on the Southern people must have produced a considerable amount of feeling. - (At this stage an attempt was made in the west gallery to expel a gentleman who had been rather demonstrative, and loud cries issued from all parts of the hall to turn him out.) Oh, no, let him stop; let him have the chance of being converted. - (Loud laughter.) 

Gentlemen, the advocates of the North will tell you in reply to this that the Southern States voted for many of those tariffs, and that the Northern States voted against them. But they forget to tell you that these were occasions when duties were reduced, and when the Southerners supported and the Northerners opposed the reduction of the duties. They will tell you, too, that if they had been earnest on this subject they would have carried the Western States, whose interests were identical with their own. Do you think the Western States, in their present policy, have been directed by their own material interest. You see them blindly following the lead of the East, without so much as a thought or a voice of their own; and when you are told that the South has been indifferent on this tariff question, those who tell you so assume that you are ignorant of American history, and prepared with open mouth to swallow anything that may be put into it. I say this because any one who has given the slightest consideration to the subject knows that the Union was on the very brink of being shattered on this point alone. You cannot forget the time when South Carolina nullified the Tariff Bill and armed to resist it, and I believe that if such a man as Mr. Lincoln had been in the presidential chair at that period, the Union would then have come to an end. - (Hisses and applause.) It so happened that a Southern statesman, Jackson, a man of firmness and judgment, was President, and he, while maintaining the law, removed the ground of complaint by the gradual reduction of those obnoxious duties, and so postponed for a time the disolution of the Union. 

Now, gentlemen, we won't keep these friends of ours any longer in impatience, but we will come to the question of slavery. - (Hear, hear!) You will perhaps be surprised that I do not term it one of the causes of the war. You have been told that it was the sole cause and I tell you, on the contrary, that it was the strongest imaginable reason against secession. - ("No, no," hisses and applause.) No, you say, well perhaps the negative opinion so loudly expressed by the gentleman on my right, may deserve greater attention after he has heard my argument. - (Applause.) Now, in the first place, how could slavery be the cause of this movement when slavery was never attacked I I admit that on a superficial view you may think otherwise. Slavery has been mixed up with the movement, and Federal advocates have cunningly interwoven the two. But the party which is now in power, and whose accession to power precipitated this convulsion, published a declaration, or as it is called in America "a platform," the Chicago platform, and in that declaration of the President's party it is expressly stated that the maintenance inviolate of the exclusive right of each State over its own domestic institutions was essential to that balance of power on which the integrity of the Union depended. Therefore, gentlemen, you will see that the great political party now in power denounced the idea of disturbing it. Then, there is another great authority to support my assertion, for the Federal Congress in 1861 passed an Act, the first step in the process of amending the Constitution, the intent of which was to render slavery in the States irrevocable forever, so far as the Federal power could affect it. We come to another great authority. Mr. Lincoln stated in his inaugural address that he had neither the right nor the inclination - that is his own word - to interfere with slavery in the States. So, then, you are told to believe that a people are fighting to defend what the enemy had not even an inclination to attack. 

Now, this is not the first convulsion that has occurred on the same soil - there was another in its character very similar to the present - in which the rebels were slave owners - mark you, Northern rebels and slaveowners - and in which they hoisted the flag of independence precisely as you see now. Was slavery the cause then? Why, we, the opponents, were the greatest slaveowners and slave-traders of the world - we who are now so intensely virtuous, so full of that cheap virtue that needs no self-sacrifice and requires no self-control. Slavery clearly was not the cause on that occasion. And there have been two occasions when steps were taken to break up the Union. The first was by the virtuous New England States, when they found the war of 18 14, ruinous to their interests. They called a convention at Hartford - a flag appeared with only five stars upon it; and doubtless, had the war continued, the Union would then have been broken up by those Northern States now so very eloquent about cutting a nation into two. Was slavery the cause of the movement then? Or take the other occasion to which I have referred, when South Carolina nullified the Tariff Bill - Had slavery anything to do with that? And I will ask you to pass for a moment from the past to the future. California, with Oregon and the other Pacific regions, are larger than all Western Europe. Is there any person in this assembly who doubts that when this great region comes to be peopled by ten or fifteen millions of men, they will decline to be ruled by a Government 2,500 miles distant- a Power that frequently must be affected, if not guided, by interests opposed to their own 1 Everyone knows that the day must come for a great and separate Power on the Pacific. But those are Free States, and when they separate from the other Free States will slavery be the cause? 

Now, gentlemen, I have shown you that in both the wars and on all the other occasions when the Union was threatened with disruption slavery had no part whatever - (hisses and cheers) - but I am prepared to go much further than this. I say that if slavery had been the first object of Southern thought, they would have clung to the Union with the most desperate tenacity. Let us take a case. Suppose any one of you were a Southern slave-owner, with 300 negroes, and that their protection was the chief object of your thoughts.; and suppose a person had come to you and said, "We are going to secede from the Union, and you must join us and vote for secession. What would have been your reply 1 You would have said, "Do you take me to be mad? What? abandon the Union, which is my shield against the world, my protection against revolt, the fostering mother of the institution on which my all depends! And what will be the first fruit of your secession? Northern armies will invade you, with a host of fanatics in their train; they will seize your negroes as spoil, incite them to turbulence; possibly even to rise upon you. " No," you would say, "go to someone without slaves or without sense; but do not ask me to commit such an act of suicide." This is clearly the language any sensible man would have used, if slavery were his chief consideration. And, remember, Virginia and other border States seceded after war was practically declared by Mr. Lincoln, and when it was clear that the immediate consequence of the act would be to make their soil the battle-field, and bring down Northern armies into the midst of their negroes. To say that any State would have taken such a course in order to protect slavery, is really as absurd as to say that a man would set fire to his house in order to protect his furniture. - (Laughter and applause.) (3) 

But perhaps you will say that although slavery was not attacked in the States, its extension into the territories was opposed. You are told that if excluded from the territories, and confined within the States, slavery would die out. Now, the slave States are twenty times as large as England, and if slavery could not find room to live in that vast expanse, how did it live and flourish in our little islands in the West Indies? Everyone who is familiar with the United States knows perfectly well that the question of slavery in the territories, was a purely political question, and had nothing to do with its moral or social aspects. It was simply a struggle for votes in the Senate of the United States, a struggle whether the new State to be admitted should be on the side of the North or the South. Lest you should be dissatisfied by receiving this as mere assertion, I can give you one or two facts to prove it. There are territories into which the South has had power to take negroes for many years. If they had the desire to extend slavery, they would have taken their negroes into these territories - into the great territory, for instance, of New Mexico, which, after being open to the entrance of slavery for twelve years, was found to possess exactly a dozen slaves. Here you see at once the absurdity of the thing. I challenge any one to take the map of the United States, and show me one territory into which a Southerner would take his slaves if it were open to him to-morrow. What conceivable advantage could he have in taking his negroes into regions 1,000 or 1,500 miles from any sea-port. It is a mere absurdity, therefore, to say that the moral question of slavery was concerned in this struggle, which was simply and solely a political struggle for the balance of power. 

There is another subject to which I think it necessary to allude, for I hear it often, as a popular and parrot-like cry of the Northern advocates: "Why, is not slavery declared to be the corner-stone of the new Confederacy." Well, it is perfectly true that a Southern orator stated that the difference of race and the inferiority of one race to another was the corner-stone of the system. But did you ever before hear of such a thing as taking a metaphorical expression of an orator, and making eight millions of people responsible for it I Mr. Stephens made a most able speech against secession, and you might just as well assert that the people of the South are opposed to secession because he argued against it. Now, leaving metaphor for fact, every man knows, or ought to know, where to find the cornerstone of a Confederacy. There is but one thing to which that epithet will apply, and that is its Constitution. Now, in the Constitution of the Southern States, there is not a single principle in support of slavery that is not really embraced in the old one. Strange to say, the only new principle is opposed to slavery, and that is the absolute prohibition of the slave-trade. There is not one word to prevent any State freeing its slaves to-morrow, and remaining a member of the Confederacy as before. Not one word in it could prevent the whole from emancipating and becoming entirely a free Power, and, as a free Power, living happily under that Constitution of which you are told slavery is the corner-stone. - (Great applause.) What do you think of the capacity of men who take up the sound of a phrase, and have not penetration enough to discern the sense of it, or the limits of its application 1 - (Hear!) (4) 

Well, I have endeavoured to show you that slavery was not the cause of this war, and is not the object for which the South is fighting - that secession occurred, not in consequence, but in spite of slavery. Let us now turn to another question; let us consider - what you are so frequently told - whether the object of the North, in pursuing this deplorable war, be really to emancipate the negro. Now, gentlemen, it is perfectly true that there does exist in the North a small band of men possessed of remarkable talents and great powers of speech, who have lashed themselves up, upon this question, into a condition of passionate enthusiasm, and who, to gratify that selfish passion, are not only hounding on this bloodshed, but are prepared to exterminate men of their own race, and to level every restraint of law or humanity. Such a sect there is, and they are sincere; all fanatics are sincere; but they are a mere handful of men amid the twenty-one millions of the North. I ask you when you judge of a nation, whether you take the minority or the majority, with whom resides political power? If you take the majority, you will find that they regard the negro with aversion and pursue the war, some for the sake of Southern trade; some because they fear that separation now would lead to further secession in the future; but infinitely the greater number because, unhappily, through the evil effects of the Union on the character of the American people, a boastful ambition which has no bounds has become the leading characteristic of the Federal mind, and their idea of greatness being the gross one of greatness in size, they shrink from any reduction of their dominion. - (Hear, hear!) 

Now, gentlemen, if the real object ol the North were to free the negro, why not do it where they have the power. - (Cheers.) Over the whole of what are called the free States, President Lincoln now wields despotic power. - ("No, no," and cheers.) Over the whole of those so-called free States no man can act, or speak, or write, or think and utter his thoughts except at the risk that the minions of Mr. Lincoln may seize him in the dead of night, hurry him away to a dungeon, and keep him there during his pleasure. I know those who have been thus treated. He has, therefore, ample power, and is not very nice in the use of it, and if his object were to free the slaves, would he not proceed with those that are within his reach I - (Hisses and applause.) Gentlemen, you have all heard of Fort Warren, and I, knowing those who have been immured in that political dungeon, may be permitted to speak with some warmth on this subject. Why, if he wishes to free the negro, does he not free those within his reach. - (Hear, hear!) He has all the slaves in Delaware, in Maryland, in Missouri, and in Kentucky absolutely in his power, but does he free them? - (Cheers.) But let me not do him the injustice to say he has practised any hypocrisy on this point. These are the pretensions of his supporters, it is they who invent this hypocritical pretext. Let us hear what he says himself. (5) 

On this subject, personally, he has been honest enough throughout the war, as I will show you by some of his declarations. I have already referred to his inaugural address, in which he stated that he had neither the right nor the inclination to interfere with slavery in the States. He held himself to be bound by the Chicago platform of his party, which reprobated any such attempt. Again, in his letter to Horace Greeley, he stated that he would free the negroes, or some of the negroes, or none of the negroes - (great laughter and applause,) - just as it would save the Union to free them, or some of them, or none of them. Can words go any further I Again, the other day, he wrote a letter to the Democratic Committee of Springfield, Illinois, in which he said, "You go on fighting with me to save the Union, and when we have reached that point, if I wish you to go on fighting for anything further, it will be an apt time to say then you will not fight to free negroes." Over and over again, in all forms of words, Mr. Lincoln has told you his object was to save the Union, and nothing else. But some of you perhaps may be inclined to remind me of his proclamation. He told you himself that was not directed against slavery on moral or social grounds, but was purely a measure of war. "I issued it," he said, " to save the Union." And here let me say a word or two about this proclamation. I know its effect has been to delude many minds in this country. But I should like to tell you what Cassius Marcellus Clay said on this subject. Cassius Marcellus Clay - (laughter) - a few days after, indeed, I think the very night, that the proclamation was issued in Washington - was serenaded there, and made a speech on the subject. He, Cassius Marcellus Clay - (laughter) - did not stop to consider what effect this proclamation would have in freeing four millions of blacks in the South in whom there was scarcely a vestige of humanity left. These are his words and show how the negro stood in his estimation; but he thought "no King, no aristocracy, no House of Commons, no Chamber of Deputies could stand for a moment" arrayed against this great principle." Its object, therefore, was not the negro, but to throw dust in the eyes of Europe. - (Applause.) 

And how could that proclamation by any possibility have benefitted the negro race, unless excited by it they had risen in servile insurrection. It was addressed to the whole of them, except those States or parts of States where it suited the convenience of Mr. Lincoln that slavery should remain. It was addressed to thousands remote from the reach of any of the Federal forces to which they could fly for shelter; and the only possible means by which these could avail themselves of the proclamation was by marching to them over the bodies of their masters. On such work as this I will read to you the words of an American, not of the present but of a by-gone day, one of the great men - Channing - (cheers) - one of the noblest names in American literature - (understand I mean the real Channing, not the present bearer of the name.) Channing was one of the most earnest opponents of slavery ? but on such work as that of the present day he wrote thus: - "Were our national Union dissolved, we ought to reprobate as strongly as we do now the slightest manifestations of a disposition to stir up a servile war. Still more, were the free and the slaveholding States not only separated, but engaged in the fiercest hostilities, the former would deserve the abhorrence of the world and the indignation of Heaven were they to resort to insurrection and massacre as means of victory. Better were it for us to bare our own breasts to the knife of the slave than to arm him with it against his master." - (Loud applause.) 

These are the words - the noble words of an American and a Unionist. Contrast their spirit with that of the present day. It is a good thing - it would be a great thing, to terminate slavery, but it is not permitted to us to hew out blessings with the axe of crime. Once adopt the principle that the end will justify the means, and you may light again the fires of Smithfield, or remount the racks of the inquisition. We are bidden to love one another, and in that scope of affection to embrace all the family of mankind. But what think you of the Federal love for the negro that accompanies hatred for the white man, and appeared the other day in companionship with the offer of a reward of 25 dollars for the scalp of any slaughtered Indian! Where are those red men now? Once they were lords of that soil, a noble though a savage race. What did Northern love do for them 1 Did they so treat the Indian that the negro may safely be committed to their tenderness? - (Hear, hear! and murmers.) He is gone - the last poor dregs of his race, hunted out and slaughtered down, are crawling away out of memory. He is gone! His mounds are there; his graves are there; the names he gave to the stream and mountain cling to them still; but he is gone - men, women, children, all are gone, decimated, extirpated, improved, off the face of the soil! - (Loud cheers, again and again repeated.) And now there comes a question of another race. The negroes and coloured men sent a deputation to Mr. Lincoln some months ago. He told them to their faces that they were an inferior race - (cheers) - that the country was required for the white men, and as they could not live together the black must go. - (Cheers, and cries of "Oh, oh.") He proposed to begin at once to ship them off to Central America, or any other spare ground, where they might be shot down like rubbish. - (Hear, hear!) This is now the prevailing sentiment in the North. The negro is the cause, they say, of all this mischief, and must be got rid of. So when the day of triumph and power shall come, the negro is to be improved away after the Indian. But this is not all. There is a third race. You had lately here a meek apostle of Federal Christianity. - (Groans and cheers, which continued several minutes. ) You will all recollect that rev. gentleman was asked why they did not let the South go; he replied: - "Let them go; why, we want them to go - let them go as soon as they please, but they must leave the territory; that belongs to us." Here is a pretty sequence for you. The red man is gone; on him your philanthropist has done his work. The black man is doomed. Mr. Lincoln bids him depart. A third race is to follow. - (Hear, hear!) The people of Virginia - that was a great State before most of those in the North were thought of - kinsmen of our own - fellow-citizens of George Washington, the patriot, and Stonewall Jackson, the hero - (cheers) - the grand old dominion - the mother of Presidents - the ancient abode of loyalty and hospitality - the parent of what has been bravest and purest and best in American history - her men and women and children are to follow the race that is gone and the race that is doomed, that Northern speculators may sell her soil for building lots, or come and fatten on its fertility. - (Applause.) 

And now let us quietly consider this great, grave subject of slavery, not in the heat of excitement, but as calm, thoughtful men. It is there, a great, terrible fact; four millions of negroes, a population greater than that of the Union at the date of Independence. Who is to blame for it 1 Not the people of the South. They never invented slavery, they took no part in the slave trade; on several occasions they protested against it. It was we, the people of Great Britain, who took these negroes from Africa, and planted that slavery there. - (Hear, hear!) The wrong is our wrong, and if there be any sin it lies at our own door. - (Cheers.) They simply inherit the legacy we bequeathed. And is it not painful to every just or generous mind to hear men in this country abusing and villifying the people of the South for that which was our own act? Suppose some man had knocked out by accident the eye of a youth, and you found the fellow abusing the sufferer for his blindness, would you not feel contempt and indignation at conduct so unjust and so base?  In what does the conduct differ of those who, well knowing that we created the evil, turn round to denounce the sufferer 1 Instead of this, is it not our duty to speak in tones, not of recrimination but of humility - to endeavour to atone for our own evil conduct - to make amends for our own guilt, and to offer the hand of aid and sympathy to those whom we placed in this position. - (Loud cheers.) (6) 

And what is it you now hope for, you who are advocates of the North? What is the summit of your wishes? Is it your object to arrive at the emancipation of the negro by some act that shall destroy and level the whole fabric of society at a blow 1 Why, gentlemen, consider the condition of thesenegroes - for our object in desiring their emancipation is to ameliorate that condition. You desire his emancipation, to benefit and bless the negro. I tell you that the great majority of the negroes - those on the plantations - have never had a thought for their living; they are provided with everything, and have no more idea how to work their way in the world than so many children. - (Hisses and cheers.) Now, I will read to you a few words from a countryman of your own, a Scotchman, Mr. Stirling, who wrote letters from the slave States, in which he strongly opposed slavery. He observes: - "Any sudden and wholesale manumission would be at once dangerous to the master and disastrous to the slave. The deliverance of the South must be a growth - a gradual progress towards enlightened and efficient industry. No philanthropic juggle, or legislative sleight of hand, can transform a horde of helots into a nation of noble workers." Now, gentlemen, here is the experience of one who studied the country, and who tells you what would be the effect of the rash measure which some of these advocates would have you to desire. 

The problem how to effect such a change in the condition of so vast a multitude, without anarchy or industrial paralysis, is the largest and most difficult ever presented to the mind of the statesman. Nevertheless, when I reflect on the wonders the people of the South have accomplished - when I consider how they have raised and equipped great armies - how they have created manufactures apparently out of nothing - what self-devotion they have displayed - what calmness in the Senate and heroism in the field - I am convinced there is hardly a task that, in reason, could be proposed to them which they are not able to accomplish. - (Cheers.) 

But what ended slavery amongst ourselves? It was not the result of an invasion. Do you think that if the people of France had invaded us to force emancipation upon us, we should have assented? Nay, you know better: in that case we should probably have been slave owners to this day. - (Cheers.) That which ended it with us was a calm conviction of duty. Carry this conviction to the Southern mind and you will gather from it the same fruit. - (Cheers.) I ask you, have you ever heard of a country or a people more ready, more willing, to make sacrifices? You have seen them give their property to the torch - you know those women of the South have arisen from the grave of one child to equip another for the war. They have given all that was precious, all that was beloved, upon their country's altar. Think you they will shrink from another sacrifice when they feel it to be required? - (Cheers.) No; they will make it, not at the instigation of abuse or the dictation of a foe, but as we did when, under God's blessing, the light burst in upon us and the scales fell from our eyes ; and we rose to a nobler view of man's duty to man; and we went out and made the sacrifice. - (Loud cheers.) 

Well, gentlemen, I am afraid I am going to trespass too long upon your time - (cheers, and cries "Go on") - and therefore I must hasten to consider the question of Southern independence. You cannot give your minds to the consideration of this question without, at the same time, reflecting upon the consequences of a failure on the part of the South to achieve that independence, or in other words, of Northern success. Now, the first result of Northern success would be a war with this country, and there are circumstances I can conceive under which the people of the South, filled with resentment, and charging us with their ruin, might for a time not only be brought to sympathise, but to join with the people of the North in these hostilities. - (Cheers and hisses.) Gentlemen, all of you, no doubt, remember that we are here to consider this great political question, and I presume that here, as citizens, we cannot omit some thoughts of our own country. Now, it must be familiar to all of you, that scarcely a speaker in the North has alluded to the Trent affair without stating that the day shall come to avenge it or to the prizes of the Alabama without asserting that we shall be made to pay for them. Mr. Chase, when, the other day, he expressed a wish to shake this country by the hair - (loud laughter) - told you that he thought when the bill should be presented you would think it best to pay it. I do not expect this course of events. I have faith in the victory of the South. But you cannot weigh the future without considering the possible issue of Northern success - an issue in which the Federals would jeer their well-meaning friends, and we should be, as politicians, the laughing-stock of the rest of the world. 

And there is another crime we have committed; we have not sympathised with them. Undoubtedly there is an important section of this community who, unhappily, as I think, have been completely deluded by the hypocritical professions of the North. - (Cheers and hisses.) But I tell you that number does not include a single one of those great names which have been associated for half a century with our own glorious history of slavery suppression. No; they are men of more discernment- (cheers) - men like Lord Brougham. - (Loud cheers.) Those birds are too old to be caught with chaff. (Laughter and cheers.) And, gentlemen, a war with this country would be an absolute political necessity for the North. It would give them an opportunity of withdrawing the mind of the people from the history of the dismal past. - (Cheers and hisses.) When the reaction from the present excitement comes, it will be terrible indeed. - (Hear, hear!) The amount of debt, the bankruptcy, the amount of recrimination, the impeachments, the anarchy - such evils men will struggle to stave off by the excitement of a new war. The war party, too, must replace the old war with a new one or perish. - (Cheers.) And, therefore, I tell you that those who are urgent now for Northern success, if they could only succeed, are labouring to bring about a war between that country and our own. 

Further, you must consider what are the consequences of the prolonged continuance of this deplorable war! When you come to reflect upon them you will find them formidable indeed. We are placing the greatest branch of our commerce - the cotton trade - on a purely fictitious basis, We see one effect of this to-day in the derangement of finance, to which it has largely contributed. We are stimulating our people in India and other countries to divert their industry to cotton, on the basis of an artificial price, and at the risk of ruin on the terrible reaction of peace. You would consider it exceedingly dangerous to be building a costly structure on the foundation of a quicksand, and such is the process we are performing now. I regret to see a disposition to get rid of our operatives in many parts of this country, the bone and sinew of the land, in order to suit the convenience of the moment. I deplore such a policy) if you disperse them, you are dispersing the strength of the country, and the elements of our future wealth. Again, we are compelling the Southern people, under pressure of the blockade, to become a manufacturing people. This will assuredly engender a spirit of protection, and ruin the most brilliant prospect ever opened to our commerce. That is an evil consequence which will result from a continuance of this war. But, in addition, I see an evil more formidable still. You are filling the breasts of the Southern people with resentment. 

They regard us, and naturally, as the barrier to recognition by other and willing Powers. Half of that Continent is filled with ineradicable enmity or jealousy - is it wise statesmanship to spread this sentiment over the whole? And let us consider the consequences of a prolongation of this struggle to the well-being of the people of America themselves. Can you conceive any disaster, either to the North or the South, whether moral in the one direction or material in the other, to compare with them. The Americans the other day were a commercial people, they are now becoming a military people. You know what the effect has been in Mexico of a taste for drums and a horde of generals. There is an evil even beyond this. The natural tendency of great republics is to end in military despotism. Even by this day, within three years, the North would have sunk to this had a man arisen of sufficient capacity to play the despot. - (Cheers.) Let the war go on, and the man will appear. Already the noble rights of free speech and a free press are treated with contempt. Already that glorious bulwark of freedom, the writ of Habeas Corpus, is not only swept away, but there are even those who have jeered at it. What is the use of men dreaming dreams when we have such facts before us? And in the South can any one doubt the evils there 1 can any one picture the suffering there, cheerfully borne though it be Great districts that were a scene of prospering industry are given back to desolation. You have heard of a region as large as all Lancashire drowned by a single act of ruthless barbarity. In some quarters the poor negroes, driven from their homes, are huddled together, and perishing of want and disease. I say this not from Southern but Northern accounts. And the best blood of the land is going down into the grave. If this war should continue for a few years more, you may have the greater part of the country thrown back into silent desolation - desolation but not silent; no, the widowed and the orphans will remain. - (Hear, hear!) 

And now, gentlemen, can any of you reflect upon the consequences of a protraction of this war, either on the one hand to the people of America, or on the other to the people of this country, without being anxious that some effort should be made to terminate so disastrous a strife. Neutrality does not necessitate inaction. You will remind me that the policy of this country is one of non-intervention ! that you will not intervene, that you will not go between the two parties, that you will not take a part yourself. No one has urged or advised any such course, no one has counselled this. It is well known that there are European Powers anxious to move on this subject, who have been restrained by the inaction of this country. At first it was proper for us to see whether the Government which the people of the South had appointed would be able to maintain the position it had taken up. So long as a doubt existed it was a fair objection to recognition that although de facto a Government existed yet, in the course of hostilities the fact might be extinguished. But when at the end of three years - years which have witnessed so indomitable a spirit, so ardent a patriotism, so united a people - I say that at the end of three years of trial, the day has come for us to consider what should be done for these kinsmen of ours, exposed to this invasion of fire and sword. - (Loud cheers.) 

Gentlemen, you are told that you have no right to consider the independence of the South attained, because a certain point of its territory is occupied by the North. This argument is a mere confusion of ideas, a confusion of the attributes of independence with the incidents of war. In any war between two Powers one must invade the other - they cannot fight in the air. And the one that invades the other must occupy more or less of its territory. If, then, this occupation were a denial of independence, some power would cease to exist in every war that occurs. Independence is not contingent on such circumstances. It is the reverse of dependence - it implies that a country is not dependent on any other for its laws, its Government, its defence. On whom does the South depend? And how is this war to cease, until Europe bids it cease I Wars do not cease from material but moral exhaustion - from the conviction that the object sought is unattainable. What can be conceived so certain to produce that conviction on the Northern mind as recognition of the South by Europe. That is a verdict never yet reversed. And in refusing this we incur a terrible responsibility for all the future blood that is shed. Yet I do not urge recognition. All that I do urge is that our Government should enter into relations with the other Powers of Western Europe, and that they, in their united wisdom, decide as to the measures most likely to influence a restoration of the blessings of peace.  

Our inaction is indeed convenient at the moment; it saves responsibility, and excuses irresolution. But this country did not attain its place amongst nations by a policy of inaction. It was not by doing nothing that we made ourselves what we are. And our eminence will hardly be maintained if we are always to leave it to another power to regulate the destinies of the world. Upon an American question it is the duty of this country not to follow, but to lead. It is our duty as men to hold out a hand when the voice of outraged humanity implores it; it is our duty as politicians to consider the balance of power in the New World as well as the old; it is our duty as citizens to give some regard to the interests of this country, and the danger threatening it in the future; it is a duty we owe to our traditions to respect the desire for self-government expressed by a powerful people; and it is a duty which this country - the parent of America - owes to her descendants, to make an effort to assuage the tempest by which they are torn, and restore to them the blessings of peace, on the only basis on which it can ever endure - and that is, the independence of the South. - (Loud and prolonged cheers.) 

After a number of questions had been put to and answered by Mr. Spence, it was moved by Mr. William McAdam and seconded by Air. G. W. Clark: "That in the opinion of this meeting, the war in America is an injury to the world, and that the present aspect of the contest affords no hope of its early termination, unless by means of the moral action of Europe. We, therefore, earnestly hope that the Government of this country will enter into communication with the other European Powers, to concert with them the best means of bringing about peace; and that a memorial be presented to Government expressing these sentiments." 

This resolution was carried by a large majority, and the meeting terminated. 

James Spence, Southern Independence: An Address Delivered at a Public Meeting in the City Hall, Glasgow (London: R. Bentley, 1863), complete speech.


Popular posts from this blog

Was Secession Legal for the Southern States?

Was Secession Legal for the  Southern States? By Dr. Richard Lee Montgomery

     Any time you might hear anything about American history, specifically from the 1860s, there is much conversation about slavery, taxes and States’ rights! And yes, each of these topics are worthy of discussion but discussing any one of them often leads to overlook a most fundamental question: “Do people or a state(s) have the right to live under abuses by its government or are there tools by which its people can throw off such abuses or even withdraw from an abusive government?” I want to focus of the issue of the right of secession.
     Many people heatedly condemned the secessionists when the first Seven States seceded from the United States in 1861, viewing it as unauthorized or as unconstitutional. And yet, no such
disparaging remarks are made about the Secession of the Thirteen Colonies from the British Empire in 1776—or the Secession of Mexico from the Spanish Empire in 1810—
or even the Secession of Te…

Origin of the Confederate Battle Flag

[The facts concerning the origin of the battle flag contained in this article are derived from a speech by General Beauregard before a special meeting of Louisiana Division, Army of Northern Virginia Association, December 6, 1878.—EDITOR.]
This banner, the witness and inspiration of many victories, which was proudly borne on every field from enemy. General Beauregard was momentarily expecting help from the right, and the uncertainty and anxiety of this hour amounted to anguish.
Still the column pressed on. Calling a staff officer, General Beauregard instructed him to go at once to General Johnston, at the Lewis house, and say that the enemy were receiving heavy re-enforcements, that the troops on the plateau were very much scattered, and that he would be compelled to retire to the Lewis house and there reform hoping that the troops ordered up from the right would arrive in time to enable him to establish and hold the new line.
Meanwhile, the unknown troops were pressing on. The day was s…

Little Sermons In Socialism by Abraham Lincoln by Burke McCarty

WE do not claim that Abraham Lincoln was a Socialist, for the word had not been coined in his day. We do not claim that he would, if he had lived, been a Socialist to-day, for we do, not know this. We do claim, and know, however, that Abraham Lincoln was in spirit to the hour of his death, a class conscious working man, that his sympathies were with that class, that he voiced the great principles of the modem constructive Socialism of today, and that had he lived and been loyal and consistent with these principles which he always professed, he would be found within the ranks of the Socialist Party. BURKE McCARTY.
Away back in 1847 Abraham Lincoln uttered the following revolutionary language.
In the early days of our race the Almighty said to the first of our race, "In the sweat of thy  face shalt thou eat bread." And since then, if  we except the light and air of heaven, no good thing has been or can be enjoyed by us without  having first cost labor. And in as much as most go…