Secession a Necessary Path to Reunion
Below, Senator Robert M.T. Hunter of Virginia addresses the United States Senate on January 11, 1861. Senator Hunter was correct that the North would not take the freedmen northward to live free among them; they would be used by the North as substitutes for white northerners in the ranks, and given land in the South to keep them from moving northward to compete with Northern labor.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
Secession a Necessary Path to Reunion:
“But, Mr. President, I say that if coercion were right, it is impossible. I acknowledge that you may make a civil war which will produce immense disasters in both sections of the country; I acknowledge that you can inflict immeasurable evils and great calamities upon both the contending sections; but as to supposing that either one could subdue the other so as to place it under its yoke, and impose its laws upon it, I do not entertain the idea for an instant.
Why, sir, how would this war of coercion be waged? It would take $100,000,000 yearly, for you cannot wage it with less than a hundred thousand men; and where would you get this sum? Not from imports; for what would the imports for the northern portion of the Confederacy be when you took from them all that comes in return for the exports of the South?
You would have to sustain the war by loans and direct taxation; and is it to be supposed that the people would bear such burdens in such a cause as that? [Would] they submit to such a scheme of taxation for the purpose of enforcing their yoke upon other people – for the purpose of depriving those other people of the right of self-government?
Whose would be the commerce that would be preyed upon? Not the Southern commerce. That would go in foreign bottoms. The commerce to be preyed upon by privateers would be the commerce of the other section of the Confederacy.
You could not steal our negroes. Your own people would not allow you to take them and set them free among them, to enter into competition with them for labor and wages. How could you carry on such a war, sir?
And what would you get in return [for the naval blockade]? Would the customs that you thus collected pay the expense of the blockade? Would they pay half the expenses of the blockade? It is manifest they would not.
I say then, Mr. President, that it is idle to talk of coercion. But suppose you could succeed – I put the question to you now – suppose you had succeeded according to your utmost wishes; supposed you had conquered the South; that you had subjugated the entire section; that you had reduced those States to the condition of dependent provinces; how would you exercise your power? Would you repeat the experiment of the British West Indies – of the Island of Jamaica? Would your people stand by to see the cultivated fields return to the bush, the white man gradually reduced to the level of the negro, and the negro remitted to his primitive condition of barbarism? Would the great interests of civilization and humanity permit such a result?
[Why] not cede back the forts to those States that claim to have seceded, and to have withdrawn from this Confederacy? What do you want with them? What do you want with the forts in the harbor at Charleston? If you do not mean to coerce South Carolina, they are of no use to you; if you do mean to coerce her, you ought not to have them.
The whole thing lies in a nutshell; because, if you do mean to use them for the purpose of coercion, you light up the flames of civil war, and there is no telling when those flames will be extinguished……
Secession does not necessarily destroy the Union, or rather the hopes of reunion; it may turn out to be the necessary path to reconstruction. The secession of the Roman people to the Sacred Mount did not destroy Rome. On the contrary, it led to a reconstruction of the constitution, to the tribunitian veto, to new securities for the equality and liberty of the people. The Roman Government became more permanent and powerful than before, and the Roman people benefited from the change.
I say, therefore, that, so far as I can weigh the question, it is no more a question of Union, but of reunion. To produce reunion, it is essential that the Southern States should be allowed to take that position which it is obvious they are going to take, in peace. You must give too, all the time you can, and offer all the opportunities you may, to those who desire to make an effort for the reconstruction of this Confederacy.
Sir, I say I am one of those….I also believe that the interests of mankind, our own interests, and he interests of our confederacies, would then require that we should reconstruct the old Union if we can, or rather construct a new Union on terms of equality and of justice.”
(The Politics of Dissolution, Marshall L. DeRosa, editor, Transaction Publishers, 1998, pp. 253-258)