Southern Love of Liberty
Both James Madison and James Monroe expressed the opinion “that to coerce a seceding State would be suicidal to freedom.” Had the New England States seceded as they wished several times in the early 1800’s to pursue their more perfect union, “no blood would have been shed to force them back into a Union she detested.” Under Lincoln’s reconstituted and misnamed Federalist party in 1861, the fraternal Union of the Founders came to an end.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Southern Love of Liberty:
“In the convention of 1787 the question of secession and coercion was up for discussion.
It certainly would provide for the destruction of the principles of liberty itself. Looked at in the lurid light of the 60’s, one expression…of President Madison will make the reader pause and reflect a moment. The “feeble debility of the South could never face the vigorous activity of the North.”
The Republican party had inherited from its progenitor, the Federal [party], the above idea of the South’s feeble debility. Members of that party invited United States Senators and Congressmen to take their wives and daughters out to see the first fight of the war, especially to “see rebels run at the sight of Union soldiers.” Everybody knows how the rebels ran at Bull Run.
Republican officers of the Union army have expressed their opinion of the South’s “feeble debility.” General Don Piatt, a Union officer, on this subject has this:
“The true story of the late war,” wrote General Piatt in 1887, “has not yet been told. It probably never will be told. It is not flattering to our people; unpalatable truths seldom find their way into history. How rebels fought the world will never know; for two years they kept an army in the field that girt their borders with a fire that shriveled our forces as they marched in, like tissue paper in a flame. Southern people were animated by a feeling that the word fanaticism feebly expresses. (Love of liberty expresses it.)
For two years this feeling held those rebels to a conflict in which they were invincible. The North poured out its noble soldiery by the thousands, and they fought well, but their broken columns and thinned lines drifted back upon our capital, with nothing but shameful disasters to tell of the dead, the dying, the lost colors and the captured artillery. Grant’s road from the Rapidan to Richmond was marked by a highway of human bones. The Northern army had more killed than the Confederate Generals had in command.”
“We can lose five men to their one and win,” said Grant. The men of the South, half starved, unsheltered, in rags, shoeless, yet Grant’s marches from the Rapidan to Richmond left dead behind him more men than the Confederates had in the field!
The Reverend H.W. Beecher preached a sermon in his church on the “Price of Liberty”…[and] astonished his congregation by illustrations from the South:
“”Where,” exclaimed the preacher, “shall we find such heroic self-denial, such upbearing under every physical discomfort, such patience in poverty, in distress, in absolute want, as we find in the Southern army? They fight better in a bad cause than you do in a good one; they fight better for a passion than you do for a sentiment. They fight well and bear up under trouble nobly, they suffer and never complain, they go in rags and never rebel, they are in earnest for their liberty, they believe in it, and if they can they mean to get it.”
“Lincoln’s low estimate of humanity,” says Piatt, “blinded him to the South. He could not understand that men would fight for an idea. He thought the South’s [independence] movement a sort of political game of bluff.”
Hannibal Hamlin said: “The South will have to come to us for arms, and come without money to pay for them.” “And for coffins,” said John P. Hale, with a laugh. “To put a regiment in the field,” said Mr. Speaker Banks, “costs more than the entire income of an entire Southern State.”
It was not long before the men of the North found that the South’s soldiers supplied themselves with arms and clothing captured from Union soldiers.”
(Facts and Falsehoods Concerning the War on the South, 1861-1865, George Edmunds, Spence Hall Lamb, 1904, pp. 117-119)