Senator Wigfall on the Cause of Discontent
Despite assurances by Northern politicians that the proposed 13th Amendment (and signed by Lincoln) of 1861 would guarantee slavery in the South would not leave the Union, the South chose a new federation in which their taxes would be spent to enrich themselves.
Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402
Senator Wigfall on the Cause of Discontent:
"Said Senator Louis Wigfall, of Texas, March 4th 1861 in the United States Senate, only a few hours before Mr. Lincoln’s inauguration:
It is early in the morning and I hope I shall not say anything that may be construed as offensive. I rise merely that we may have an understanding of this question. It is not slavery in the Territories, it is not expansion, which is the difficulty. If the resolution which the Senator from Wisconsin introduced here denying the right of Secession, had been adopted by two-thirds of each branch of this department of the Government, and had been ratified by three-fourths of the States, I have no hesitation in saying that, so far as the State in which I live and to which I owe my allegiance is concerned, if she had no other cause for a disruption of the Union taking place, she would have undoubtedly have gone out. The moment you deny the right of free government to the free white men of the South, they will leave the Government. They believe in the Declaration of Independence.
In the "address of the People of South Carolina, assembled in convention…to justify the passage of the South Carolina Secession Ordinance of 1860, it is declared that (excerpted): "The one great evil from which all other evils have flowed is the overthrow of the Constitution of the United States. The Government of the United States is no longer the Government of Confederated Republics, but of a consolidated Democracy. It is no longer a free Government, but a Despotism. It is, in fact, such a Government as Great Britain attempted to set over our Fathers; and which was resisted and defeated by a seven years struggle for Independence. The Revolution of 1776 turned upon one great principle, self-government—and self-taxation, the criterion of self-government.
The Southern States now stand exactly in the same position towards the Northern States, that the Colonies did towards Great Britain. The Northern States, having the majority in Congress, claim the same power of omnipotence in legislation as the British Parliament. "The General Welfare" is the only limit of legislation of either; and the majority in Congress, and in the British Parliament, are the sole judges of the expediency of the legislation this "General Welfare" requires. Thus the Government of the United States has become a consolidated Government; and the people of the Southern States are compelled to meet the very despotism their fathers threw off in the Revolution of 1776.
The consolidation of the Government of Great Britain over the Colonies, was attempted to be carried out by the taxes. The British Parliament undertook to tax the Colonies to promote British interests…Our fathers resisted this pretension. And so the Southern States, toward the Northern States, in the vital matter of taxation. They are in a minority in Congress. Their representation in Congress is useless to protect them against unjust taxation; and they are taxed by the people of the North for their benefit, exactly as the people of Great Britain taxed our ancestors in the British Parliament for their benefit. For the last forty years, the taxes laid by the Congress…have been laid with a view of subserving the interests of the North. The people of the South have been taxed by duties on imports, not for revenue, but for an object inconsistent with revenue—to promote, by prohibitions, Northern interest in the productions of their mines and manufactures.
The people of the Southern States are not only taxed for the benefit of the Northern States, but after the taxes are collected, three-fourths of them are expended at the North. This cause…has made the cities of the South provincial. Their growth is paralyzed; they are mere suburbs of Northern cities. The agricultural productions of the South are the basis of the foreign commerce of the United States; yet Southern cities do not carry it on. Our foreign trade is almost annihilated….by gradual and steady encroachments on the part of the people of the North, and acquiescence on the part of the South, the limitations in the Constitution have been swept away; and the Government of the United States has become consolidated, with a claim of limitless powers in its operations.
A majority in Congress, according to their interested and perverted views, is omnipotent. Numbers with them, is the great element of free Government. A majority is infallible and omnipotent. "The divine right to rule in Kings," is only transferred to the majority. The very object of all Constitutions, in free popular Government, is to restrain the majority. Constitutions, therefore, according to their theory, must be the most unrighteous inventions, restricting liberty. None ought to exist; but the body politic ought simply to have a political organization, to bring out and enforce the will of the majority. This theory is a remorseless despotism."
(The Great Conspiracy, Its Origin and History, John A. Logan, A.R. Hart & Company, 1886)