Confederate Secession documents


Slavery was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back and the most recent schism between the North and South. Since it was the most recent it was what the states cited as, basically, the last disagreement between them.

The slave state vs free state issue had little to do with slavery but more to do with who controlled the House and Senate and how the export tariffs and import duties aimed against the agrarian South could be implemented. The free states were already in the majority and the tariffs and duties were in a state of constant escalation from about 1843 onward which, by 1860, resulted in a situation in which the Southern states were paying about 70% of the Federal revenues while only 10% was being reinvested in the South.

By 1860 most "great" plantations were either bankrupt or on the verge of bankruptcy and the sudden voice of the tiny minority of abolitionists seemed to be the final effort to totally improverish the South by eliminating the labor force needed to try to keep the old system afloat in the face of Federal taxation. It came to the fore.

However – and here is the big "however" – what happened shortly after secession and the issuance of those statements of cause negates the contention that the Suthern states seceded over slavery and that slavery was the primary cause of the war.

Corwin Amendment –

"Article Thirteen: No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State." – Submitted to the Senate by Corwin and supported by President-Elect Lincoln as the proposed 13th Amendment to the Constitution as voted on by that body on February 28th, 1861. The Senate voted 39 to 5 to approve this section passed by the House 133-65 on March 2, 1861. Two State legislatures ratified it: Ohio on May 13, 1861; and followed by Maryland on January 10, 1862. Illinois bungled its ratification by holding a convention.

Oct 27, 2006 12:40 pm US/Central

"145-Year-Old Lost Lincoln Letter Discovered

Sent Before Civil War, Letter Said Amendment Should Be Ratified To Prevent Ban On Slavery

(CBS) RALEIGH, N.C. Researchers have made an amazing discovery in North Carolina.

They found a 145-year-old lost letter written by Abraham Lincoln, showing that before he pushed to abolish slavery, he sent letters to each state governor seeking to prevent slavery from being outlawed.

The letter was discovered in the Illinois state archives, and it is one of five such letters known to exist. It is now on display in Raleigh, N.C.

Lincoln wrote to the governors of each state before the Civil War, encouraging them to ratify a proposed 13th amendment to the constitution, proposed by Rep. Thomas Corwin of Ohio, which would have guaranteed and protected slavery in states where it was already permitted.

But the Civil War prevented the states from making the amendment valid."

Later, in December, 1862, in his State of the Union report (they were not speeches in those days) Lincoln offered gradual compensated emancipation with slavery lasting until1900.

On both occasions the South was not swayed to reconsider secession even when they could have either permanently protected slavery without armed conflict or when they could have had 38 years to gradually end slavery after armed conflict had started. Obviously, to the South, the preservation of slavery was not the real issue despite the words of the secession documents.

As to Alexander Stephens’ speech, the following:

Recollections of Alexander H. Stephens edited by Myrta Lockett Avary, Originally published by Sunny South Publishing Company and Doubleday, Page & Company, 1910, Louisana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1998, pages 173-175.

"What I Really Said in the Cornerstone Speech
Alexander Hamilton Stephens

As for my Savanna speech, about which so much has been said and in regrd to which I am represented as setting forth "slavery" as the "corner-stone" of the Confederacy, it is proper for me to state that that speech was extemporaneous, the reporter’s notes, which were very imperfect, were hastily corrected by me; and were published without further revision and with several glaring errors. The substance of what I said on slavery was, that on the points under the old Constitution out of which so much discussion, agitation, and strife between the States had arisen, no future contention could arise, as these had been put to rest by clear language. I did not say, nor do I think the reporter represented me as saying, that there was the slightest change in the new Constitution from the old regarding the status of the African race amongst us. (Slavery was without doubt the occasion of secession; out of it rose the breach of compact, for instance, on the part of several Northern States in refusing to comply with Constitutional obligations as to rendition of fugitives from service, a course betraying total disregard for all constitutional barriers and guarantees.)

I admitted that the fathers, both of the North and the South, who framed the old Constitution, while recognizing existing slavery and guarnateeing its continuance under the Constitution so long as the States should severally see fit to tolerate it in their respective limits, were perhaps all opposed to the principle. Jefferson, Madison, Washington, all looked for its early extinction throughout the United States. But on the subject of slavery – so called – (which was with us, or should be, nothing but the proper subordination of the inferior African race to the superior white) great and radical changes had taken place in the realm of thought; many eminent latter-day statesmen, philosophers, and philanthropists held different views from the fathers.

The patriotism of the fathers was not questioned, nor their ability and wisdom, but it devolved on the public men and statesmen of each generation to grapple with and solve the problems of their own times.

The relation of the black to the white race, or the proper status of the coloured population amongst us, was a question now of vastly more importance than when the old Constitution was formed. The order of subordination was nature’s great law; philosophy taught that order as the noraml condition of the African amongst European races. Upon this recognized principle of a proper subordination, let it be called slavery or what not, our State institutions were formed and rested. The new Confederation was entered into with this distinct understanding. This principle of the subordination of the inferior to the superior was the "corner-stone" on which it was formed. I used this metaphor merely to illustrate the firm convictions of the framers of the new Constitution that this relation of the black to the white race, which existed in 1787, was not wrong in itself, either morally or politically; that it was in conformity to nature and best for both races. I alluded not to the principles of the new Government on this subject, but to public sentiment in regard to these principles. The status of the African race in the new Constitution was left just where it was in the old; I affirmed and meant to affirm nothing else in this Savannah speech.

My own opinion of slavery, as often expressed, was that if the institution was not the best, or could not be made the best, for both races, looking to the advancement and progress of both, physically and morally, it ought to be abolished. It was far from being what it might and ought to have been. Education was denied. This was wrong. I ever condemned the wrong. Marriage was not recognized. This was a wrong that I condemned. Many things connected with it did not meet my approval but excited my disgust, abhorrence, and detestation. The same I may say of things connected with the best institutions in the best communities in which my lot has been cast. Great improvements were, however, going on in the condition of blacks in the South. Their general physical condition not only as to necessaries but as to comforts was better in my own neighbourhood in 1860, than was that of the whites when I can first recollect, say 1820. Much greater would have been made, I verily believe, but for outside agitation. I have but small doubt that education would have been allowed long ago in Georgia, except for outside pressure which stopped internal reform."

I hope this has helped.

"The first law of the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true. Moreover, there shall be no suspicion of partiality in his writing, or of malice." – Cicero (106-43 B.C.)

We simply ask that all act upon the facts of history. We invite your questions.

Your Obedient Servant,

Colonel Michael Kelley, CSA
Commanding, 37th Texas Cavalry (Terrell’s)
"We are a band of brothers!"

". . . . political correctness has replaced witch trials and communist hearings as the preferred way to torment our fellow countrymen." "Ghost Riders," Sharyn McCrumb, 2004, Signet, pp. 9

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