Those Prescient Northern Democrats
Antebellum Southern Democrats were not alone in seeing the ominous threat posed by the meddling, puritanical abolitionists of New England. After abolishing the African slavery their fathers grew rich promoting, the abolitionists have held sway in government and now are spreading democracy across the globe to those who have no idea what it is, and will kill anyone who dares stand in their way.
Northern Democrats like Samuel "Sunset" Cox of Ohio were on to the New Englanders’ game, and they are still with us today.
Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402
Those Prescient Northern Democrats:
“The results of Republican rule were clear, therefore. America would become an unacceptably restrictive society with a dominant, snooping, interfering government, forcing conformity to a narrow set of behavior patterns. “We think New England, when it tries to regulate the morals of the whole world, and prescribe them drink and diet…when preachers assume to be statesmen, and direct the affairs of the country, it is no wonder that the country goes rapidly to ruin and destruction…They are narrow and short sighted in their views, and they are intolerant, illiberal and cruel in their method of carrying them out.” Appearing before the Democratic Union Association in January 1863 in New York City, Congressman Samuel S. Cox (delivered a) speech entitled “Puritanism in Politics.”
“Puritanism is the reptile,” he began, “which has been boring into the mound which is the Constitution, and this Civil War comes in like the devouring sea.” The policies of the federal government were now dominated by the “arrogant, selfish, narrow and Puritan policy” of New England. This was not temporary. It was something “bred in the bone” thereof, and therefore harder to master. New England bigotry “ever strives to cure men’s morals by legal penalties.” Puritans could not leave anyone or any institution with which they disagreed alone. Rather than yield their demanded “censorship over the morals” of the South, they precipitated civil war. Their inflexible hatred and “insane propagandism” against slavery had led to war. Once war began they still could not leave anything be.
They were using the authority of the government to centralize power and make all others conform or be destroyed. “The miserable fanatics of 1691-2, who hunted out little girls and poor old men and tried them for witchcraft…have their imitators in the zealots of today—those minions of power who spy about to accuse and arrest those who differ with them in politics.” Their history is filled with “cruelties…practiced by the prejudiced dyspeptic Puritans…” They were zealots incapable of restraint, flexibility, or compromise, and in a pluralist society they were destroyers. This was the malignant force that had to be destroyed before the Union could be restored and the nation made free again.
Prolonged and loud cheering greeted Cox’s remarks in the hall. His words were a battle cry summarizing a belief that had shaped the Democratic creed for the past decade: the threat to individual and political liberties set by the meddling, interventionist, puritan fanatics now controlling the Republican party and who used the government to further their designs. The trouble with the Republican party, the New York World summed up, “is that it not only claims to discuss, but to decide, not only to tell a man that smoking is a nasty pernicious practice, but to knock the cigar out of his mouth.”
Obviously, if the Republicans continued in power they would ultimately destroy every shred of democratic choice and free behavior in the name of their conception of the right. That was the ultimate threat. As Vallandigham put it…If Lincoln is reelected, “our republican government is gone, gone, gone, and ere it is again revived we must pass through anarchy in its worst form.” But the Republicans did not care. “I believe old Lincoln feels as Sampson did at the gates of Gaza willing to destroy his country, his party, himself, (and) if he can, his opponents.”
(A Respectable Minority, Joel H. Sibley, WW Norton & Company, 1977, pp. 75-77)