11 FEBRUARY 1861
RESOLUTION INTRODUCED BY REPRESENTATIVE BURTON CRAIGE, of Salisbury, Rowan County, NC, in the United States House of Representatives on 11 February 1861 entitled “RECOGNITION OF THE SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY.”*
From: Edward McPherson, POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DURING THE GREAT REBELLION, A CLASSIFIED SUMMARY OF THB LEGISLATION OF TUB SECOND SESSION OF THE THIRTY-SIXTH CONGRESS, THE THREE SESSIONS OF THE THIRTY-SEVENTH CONGRESS, THB FIRST SESSION OF THE THIRTY-EIGHTH CONGRESS, WITH THE VOTES THEREON, EXECUTIVE, JUDICIAL, AND POLITICO-MILITARY FACTS OF THAT EVENTFUL PERIOD; TOGETHER WITH THE ORGANIZATION, LEGISLATION, AND GENERAL PROCEEDINGS OP THE REBEL ADMINISTRATION; CONTAINING THE PRINCIPAL POLITICAL FACTS OF THE CAMPAIGN OF 1864. Second Edition. [Washington, D. C: Philp & Solomons. c. 1865.]: 89
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1884, by Philp & Solomons, in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States for the District of Columbia. With a chapter on the church and the rebellion, and the proceedings of the second session of the thirty-eighth Congress. [Edward McPherson of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Clerk of the House of Representatives]
RECOGNITION OF THE SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY.
Introduced on “February 11, 1861 [by] Mr. Burton Craige of North Carolina, offered in the House of Representatives, the following resolution, which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on his motion:
Whereas, the States of South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana have seceded from the Confederacy of the United States [the Federal Union], and have established a Government under the name of “the Confederacy of the United States South;” and whereas it is desirable that the most amicable relations should exist between the two Governments, and war should be avoided as the greatest calamity which can befall them:
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That the President of the United States be, and is hereby, required to acknowledge the independence of said government as soon as he is informed officially of its establishment; and that he receive such envoy, ambassador, or commissioner as may or shall be appointed by said government for the purpose of amicably adjusting the matters in dispute with said Government.”
It was not reported from the Committee.
Representative THOMAS RUFFIN, of Haw River, Alamance County, NC, spoke on the floor, nine days later, on 20 February 1861 – in the U. S. House of Representatives, stating that secession was the best remedy for the Southern states, who legally recognized slavery, for the protection of their most valuable property interest; namely, the ownership of slaves. At this late date, slavery was the only state’s right, domestic or Southern institution mentioned by Representative Thomas Ruffin in his speech about the motivation for North Carolina and the other Southern states to secede from the Federal Union.
* BURTON CRAIGE, was a wealthy lawyer, who would eventually be the floor leader at the Secessionist Goldsboro Convention held on March 22, 23 and 24, 1861 and the floor leader at the North Carolina Secession Convention held in the House of Commons in Raleigh, NC beginning on 20 May 1861. At the convention, he introduced the secession amendment, written by Judah Benjamin, upon request of North Carolina’s secessionist governor JOHN W. ELLIS, a wealthy planter also from Rowan County. On May 20, 1861, the Secessionist Convention vote to secede from the United States and join the Confederate States of America. Overnight a parchment secession ordinance was drafted for the one hundred twenty delegates to sign the next day with considerable celebratory pomp and circumstance. Naively, they failed to see the four hellish years of war on the horizon and the pervasive destruction of home and hearth that would descend on their families and neighbors. For example, a son of Martin County delegate Asa Biggs was killed on 8 April 1865, near Appomattox, the day before Lee surrender his army.
THOMAS RUFFIN, from Haw River, Alamance County, North Carolina Representative in the United States Congress and former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, on the state’s reason for seceding:
“Sir, the day for a settlement after long years, has come. The time must not be procrastination. If the slaveholding states of this Union are not coequal with other members of the Confederacy [the Federal Union], it is high time that it was known. Equality has been denied them. That denial has superinduced the fatal malady of which the Government is now perishing. No hollow truce, no temporary expedient of patched-up congressional compromise, will avail now. The disease has passed that stage. I may almost say, sir, that it is immedicabile vuluus, not to be cured by the nostrums of empyricism; neither can the magic charms and mystic incaptations of political charlatanry drive it from the surface back into the vital organs, again to make its appearance as a corroding ulcer upon the body politic. Illusory legislation, contrived and adopted in the exigencies of the times, has heretofore been tried and failed of its purpose.” He summarizes the legislative compromises of 1820 and 1850 by the United States government and their failure to protect slave property in the Southern states, emphasizes that as of February, 1861 six (Southern) states have seceded to recover their sovereignty and then proclaims: “It becomes us to deal with facts as they are. It is useless and absurd not to discuss the right of a state to secede; it is idle to speculate on the abstract right of secession; for this great remedy of sovereign States has been asserted and exercised, even to a practical application; and secession – a word that has heretofore so often shocked the nerves of a certain class of timid politicians in the South – is something that they have seen carried into practice, and secession itself has become un fait accompli . . .From my first entrance into public life, I have been an advocate of the right of secession . . .In this connection, I would state that, in my judgment, the time has come for the Southern states yet in the Union, [who recognize] recognizing the institution of slavery, should proceed to carry out this inestimable remedy of secession, and to seek, outside of the present Union, such associations as would afford them the protection denied them within it.”
from: a Speech by Thomas Ruffin, on 20 Feb 1861, in the United States House of Representatives on “States Rights and State Equality” Also, he was a delegate, representing Alamance County, to the May 1861 North Carolina Secession Convention in Raleigh and a representative of the state to the Virginia called Peace Conference in Washington.
Clearly, the top jurist in North Carolina, one of the state’s four or five most powerful political leaders and a person expert on intergovernmental relations and its history in the Union since 1789 states the view, held by the overwhelming majority of men serving in the North Carolina Senate, House of Commons and Secession Convention, as of late February 1861; namely, that secession is being used by the states south of the Potomac because it uniquely offers them, especially when they exercise it in concert, the maximum protection for slave property. Also, in his speech above, he identifies slavery as THE primary institution unifying the Southern states in a common culture. Further, this revealing, determinitive speech is prior to Lincoln’s call for troops, the firing on Fort Sumter and, most importantly, two months prior to North Carolina’s secession from the Union. This speech occurred not only before the Old North State seceeded but also before Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia withdrew from the Union. Finally, the preference of the Southern ruling class for secession to protect their most valuable property investment is obvious since it was the only option they presented to the middle and lower class citizens of the South, including North Carolina. This singular approach, perfected in the lower South and advocated by the new Confederate government, eventually appeared in the upper South conventions in the form of secession resolutions penned by Judah Benjamin. At the time of Thomas Ruffin’s speech, 85% of the men serving as representatives in the North Carolina legislature owned slaves.
These speeches and attempted legislative actions by North Carolina’s representatives in the United States Congress seem coordinated by the state’s secessionist elite. This coordination appears clearly in their correspondences, at the time, with each other. By February, 1861 they are pointing out that the United States has no legal right to prevent Southern secession, something that will be determined by politics not constitutional argument. Second, the Southern states have either seceded or are in preparation for such action. The secessionist in the Upper South are restrained by two party politics, a condition that did not exist in the one party dominance in the states of the Lower South. Secession by North Carolina is certainty by February, 1861. This fact is proven most conclusively by the full scale millitary preparation passed by the state’s legislature and implemented by secessionist governor John W. Ellis. Achieving that goal required them to engage in more manipulations, scare tactics and alarms than had been necessary in the Lower South. They achieved their goal and the long dark night of suffering began.