1861 – INTO A LOGICAL ABYSS

A SUMMARY RESOLUTION PASSED BY THE NORTH CAROLINA SENATE IN THE 1860 – 1861 SESSION

DETAILING THE UNACCEPTABLE THREATS TO THE STATE’S SOVERIGN PROPERTY RIGHTS IN SLAVES, PERCEIVED BY NORTH CAROLINA’S LEADERS, IN THE POLITICS AND POLICIES OF THE FEDERAL UNION

The 1860 – 1861 session of North Carolina’s General Assembly, Senate and House of Commons, was consumed by preparations for war, secession, party politics, shrill ordinances, angry personal, verbal attacks by representatives and confusion about how to proceed. The ordinances, introduced and passed by representatives, centered on: [1] attacking the “Black Republican Abolition Disunion Party of the Northern states”; [2] threatening secession if the black Republican Abraham Lincoln is elected president of the United States; [3] “rattling sabres” threatening the North and the Federal Union if they attempt to force lower South seceding states back into the Union; [4] arguments that the Constitution does not contain provisions that allow the central government to take military action against a seceded state; and [5] extensive and repeated arguments about the guarantees, contained in the Constitution, assuring the inviolate right of white men and groups in the Southern states to own slaves as protected property under the law. In their view, and additionally, this right to own slaves had been further guaranteed by the political compromises between the sections during the formation of the Union in 1789, the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Compromise of 1850, especially the guarantees on enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. They were outraged that certain Northern states had passed and were passing laws in violation of the above guarantees to the South. In these ordinances the North is frequently referred to as a region increasingly governed by fanatics. “Fanatics”, in this context, is a reference to the abolitionist of the North. In reading these ordinances the “West” as a section never appears. It seems that, in 1860 – 1861, North Carolina’s leaders view the Midwest and beyond as an indistinguishable part of the North and best described as “Yankees”. Obviously, no one born, raised and settled in the Mid and Far West considered themselves “Yankees.” These ordinances were primarily initiatives by individual representatives.

An interesting part of the Senate resolution below is the assertion that the splitting of the several religious denominations into North and South was primarily caused by the Northern churches straying from the teachings of the Bible, the Savior and God. It contends that abolition, in part, triggered this moral decline of the Northern churches and caused their Southern brethren to break the bonds of unity binding them to protect the faith. It is fascinating that they felt the need, in this particular resolution, to make this argument.

In large measure, the Senate Resolution offered below integrates a substantial part of the concerns and threats found in their individual actions during the legislative session of 1860 – 1861.

The immediate reference in the North Carolina Senate’s resolution worries about the threats to Southern rights presented by the “Black Republican Abolition Disunion Party”. It is clear that their primary concern was the danger presented by abolition to the soverign rights of Southern slaveholders to slave property.

The references to “northern fanaticism” apply, exclusively, to the abolitionist, those who advocated the abolishment of slavery and, of course, stoked the Southern fear of a national government that would put an end to their labor system in which slaves were property, to be bought and sold for a profit, like livestock.

This brief is from North Carolina’s slaveholding elite (in 1860, the state’s legislature consisted of representatives, 85% of whom were slaveholders and 36% were planters (men who owned at least 20 slaves or more). Only about 29% of the population were slaveholders

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“Whereas, The American people belonging to the thirty-three States, known as the American Union, under the form of government designated among nations at the United States of America, containing a population in the aggregate of more than thirty millions of people, in the midst of unparalleled prosperity, in November last, found themselves suddenly surrounded by evils destructive alike of their happiness and prosperity, and which threatened a total disrupture of the Union of the States. It becomes the duty of the American people to inquire into the causes of those evils and to suggest remedies, through their legislatures and conventions, to remove them and to restore peace, harmony and prosperity; therefore

Be it Resolved, That in the opinion of the General Assembly of the State of North-Carolina, those evils are principally, if not entirely, attributable to the conduct and policy adopted and proposed to be adopted by the BLACK REPUBLICAN ABOLITION DISUNION PARTY OF THE NORTHERN STATES OF THE CONFEDERACY. By a system of education persevered in, sustained by the teachings of the pulpit for more than a quarter of a century, the religious sentiment of northern people, founded upon the difference between hired and slave labor, became perverted and assumed the position of hostility to their southern brethren, alike subversive of the principles and teachings of the Bible and the compromises of the constitution. The [end of page 1] difference of opinion founded upon this religious sentiment between the people of the northern and southern States, led to criminations and re-criminations between the clergy and the Christians they represented, as well as the political representatives of the people in and out of Congress. Notwithstanding the constitution secured to every portion of the confederacy civil and religious liberty, a FANATICAL SPIRIT LED TO THE DENIAL OF BOTH TO THE PEOPLE OF THE SOUTHERN STATES and instead of being permitted to exercise their own opinions the right to think and act for them was assumed by the fanatics of the north. This finally led to the establishment of a strong opposition, founded upon a geographical division between the northern and southern christians. The former claimed the right to change the principles established by our ancestors, embraced in the federal compact, and sustained by the Bible, on which the church and State government were established. After many years of forbearance, and after every effort had been made, without success, by southern Christians, embracing the most popular denominations of Baptist, Methodist and new-school Presbyterians, they were forced to the necessity to obtain and maintain Christian equality, by withdrawing or seceding from their northern brethren and to reconstruct their churches to embrace only the southern people, agreeing with each other upon religious sentiments sustained by the Bible, which, to a great extent, had been repudiated by their northern brethren. The separation and reconstruction of the church governments, left each to the liberty of conscience and enjoyment of their own religious faith and principles, free from the molestation of each other and ended the criminations and recriminations that had so long existed between the parties. Severing the religious ties which had existed from the foundation of the government, shook the political union to its centre and called forth its greatest friends, in 1850, to effect a compromise to prevent a disrupture of the government, founded upon the same geographical division adopted by the christian churches. It [end of page 2] was then known and stated by the friends of the union, including the distinguished Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, in favor of the compromise, and John C. Calhoun against it, the former believing that it would, and the latter believing that it would not answer the purpose of saving the union – that the political ties that bound the north and south together, after being weakened by the severance of the churches COULD NOT LONG BE PRESERVED UNLESS THE NORTHERN FANATICS AND DISUNIONISTS would cease their agitation and comply with the requirements of the federal compact. It was seen by those great and good men that a union between sovereign states, founded, as the preamble to the constitution proves, ‘to form a more prefect union,’ establish justice, insure domestic tranquility provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of library to ourselves and posterity, could not be maintained by a perversion of those objects under the influence of northern fanaticism. But the echoes of the measures of 1850, passed by Congress to save the Union, celebrated by rejoicings of the friends of the Union, had scarcely died away on the ears of the American people, before the abolition disunionists renewed the political agitation, not only in the States north but in the Congress of the United States – not only the same denunciations of the southern people, the same denial of their social and political rights, but attended by aggressions on their property which the constitution required them to protect. Under their influence the seats in the legislatures and in Congress, of the friends of the constitution and the Union, were vacated and filled by rabid abolition disunionists, whose popularity was measured by their constituents in proportion to their ability to coin new epithets and heap abuse upon the social and political rights of the southern people. But not only was this measure resorted to alienate the affections of the northern people from their southern brethren, but they were arrayed against them upon the doctrine of not only inequality politically, but socially. To accomplish [end of page 3] these objects of hostility to the southern people, combinations were formed between the same northern divines who had separated the churches and the political abolition disunionists to invade the rights of the southern people under the federal compact. Every means in their power was resorted to effect these objects. Northern literature, northern newspapers, and northern books, such as the ‘Helper’s Impending Crisis,” filled with falsehoods, slanders and libels, were circulated by the million to corrupt the public mind, pervert their sense of justice, destroy their love for the Union, and bring them to approve negro equality with the white race, repugnant to the social and political condition of the southern people and the invasions of their rights. To accomplish these ends, hired emissaries were employed to distribute those books and pamphlets in direct violation of not only the rights but the laws of the southern people, whose homes and firesides were thus assailed by those who should have been their friends. Under this feeling of fanaticism, insurrections among the negroes were justified, with the horrors of rapine and murder. This abolition disunion party endorsed the books containing those teachings, to the extent of more than sixty members of the party in Congress, and their principal men out of it. But not only were the commission of those crimes advised and justified, but armed bands furnished with Sharpe’s rifles, penetrated the southern country, and murdered the peaceable unarmed inhabitants. And this same black republican disunion party mourned the death of such of those murderers who, with John Brown, fell in this cause of hostility to the southern people, and used State authority to protect such of the murderers as escaped into the free States, with the exception of Pennsylvania, whose governor, not being an abolition disunionist, surrendered them up to the governor of Virginia, in accordance to the requirements of the constitution.

It is to these invasions of the rights of the southern people in the past history of the party, and the prospect of their [end of page 4] continuance in the future, by the perversions of the principles of the Constitution and subversion of the government of the United States to the purposes of the party, under the control of sectional, abolition disunion leaders, brought on the American people, with the intelligence of the election of president in November, the dangerous evils by which they now find themselves surrounded.

TO THIS PARTY, THEREFORE, IS ATTRIBUTABLE THAT ALARM THAT SEIZED UPON THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THE MOMENT IT WAS SUPPOSED THAT THE CONTROL OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WAS, ON THE 4TH OF MARCH NEXT, TO BE TURNED OVER TO ABRAHAM LINCOLN, THE AUTHOR OF THE IRREPRESSIBLE CONFLICT THAT WAS TO BE KEPT UP BETWEEN THE NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN STATES; WHOSE PLATFORM, PREPARED BY HIS PARTY, WAS IN VIOLATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE SOUTHERN PEOPLE, AND WHOSE DECLARATIONS, AS WELL AS THOSE OF THE LEADING MEN OF THE PARTY, justified the conclusion that instead of the government being administered as designed by its founders, it would be in accordance with BLACK REPUBLICAN PRINCIPLES; and others assumed to carry on the irrepressible conflict between the north and the south, even by making the Federal Government, under the assumed name of Union, the means of waging war, by the aid of the north against the southern States. It is these apprehensions that have caused the southern people to seek safety and equality out of the Union, which they have good reason to believe they could not obtain in it. And while North Carolina so far has adopted no means beyond what was deemed necessary for the defense of her citizens, she regrets the necessity that has caused all the States, from her southern borders to the Rio Grande, to determine on the withdraw of themselves from the Union of our fathers. And not only do the people of North Carolina regret the withdrawal of those States, but, THAT AFTER HAVING BEEN FORCED OUT OF THE UNION BY THE BLACK REPUBLICAN, ABOLITION, DISUNION PARTY OF THE NORTH, that threats should now be made to use the power of the Federal Government, and use [end page 5] the army and navy created for the protection of all the American States and people to coerce those States for refusing to submit quietly to a perversion of the government, and its prostitution to the base purposes of disunion fanatics, under power not derived from the consent of the governed, not derived from both sections, but one section of the Union: not derived from the friends, but the enemies of the Union; not derived from a majority, but from a little more than one-third of the American people.

Resolved, That to the foregoing causes is attributed the sudden destruction of public and private credit, that with the news of the election of Abraham Lincoln, came on the American people; which produced the back suspensions; sacrificed the mercantile and manufacturing interests; threw thousands of our best citizens out of employment, or reduced their wages to a pittance barely sufficient to sustain the lives of themselves and their families, who are now suffering with cold and with hunger. They have no right to blame their southern brethren, but the abolition disunionists of the North, for their present condition. To the same cause is attributable the reduction in the price of land, produce, and property of every description, which has taken place, said to amount to more than five hundred millions of dollars in the aggregate of loss in the last two months to American citizens [referring to the secession of the lower southern states]. A larger sum than has been expended in the war of the revolution, and all subsequent wars waged in defence of the nation since the formation of the government. If the anticipation of the subversion of the government, the separation of the States, civil war and its horrors, be sufficient to produce the effects, it is difficult to foresee what it will be when these evils are realized.. To guard against these, the people of North-Carolina, while they are still friends to the constitution and the union of their fathers, to constitution and the union of their fathers, and retain all their attachments to their friends, and the friends of the constitution and union of their fathers, and retain all their attachments to their friends, and the friends of the constitution and the Union in the northern States, they are forced to adopt resolutions which they deem necessary by a border State for their [end page 6] protection and safety, as well as the safety of the southern seceding States.

Resolved, That no powers appear to have been conferred by the States upon the federal government to wage war upon the seceding States, and admitting that such power had been conferred, the use of it could not fail to sever forever the northern from the southern States.

Resolved, THAT THE PEOPLE OF NORTH CAROLINA CANNOT AND OUGHT NOT TO SUBMIT TO THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BY ABRAHAM LINCOLN, OR ANY OTHER PERSON UPON THE PRINCIPLES OF THE BLACK REPUBLICAN PARTY, WHICH ARE REGARDED AS SUBVERSIVE OF THE GOVERNMENT.

Resolved, That the resignation of Abraham Lincoln, or his and his party’s repudiation by the American people, expressed through their conventions and legislatures, would be the most effectual mode of preserving the Union, by re-construction, on a firm and equitable basis, embracing only such States as repudiate the disunion doctrines of the black republican party.

Resolved, That the Governor of the State be authorized to furnish copies of these resolutions not only to our representatives in Congress, but also the Governors of all the thirty-three States that formerly composed the Union, to be laid by them before their respective Legislatures.”

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