Henry Clay Warns of the Abolitionist Threat
The cause of the War Between the States was slavery agitation on the part of abolitionist fanatics in the North. They advanced no practical or realistic plan to emancipate the African slaves left in the American South, and despite their New England fathers being the slave-traders responsible for those slaves being here, did nothing purchase their freedom with the profits of that nefarious trade.
The question to ask today is this: Why did the abolitionists plunge this country into a war which cost a million American lives, desolated the entire South and destroyed our Constitution, instead of offering to purchase the freedom of the 3.5 million Africans in the South and absorb them all into the cities and farmlands of idyllic New England? Henry Clay saw the threat, but New England would not listen to reason.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Henry Clay Warns of the Abolitionist Threat:
"Abolition should no longer be regarded as an imaginary danger. The abolitionists, let me suppose, succeed in their present aim of uniting the inhabitants of the free States, as one man, against the inhabitants of the slave States. Union on one side will beget union on the other. A virtual dissolution of the Union will have taken place, while the forms of its existence remain. The most valuable element of union, mutual kindness, the feelings of sympathy, the fraternal bonds, which now happily unite us, will have been extinguished for ever. One section will stand in menacing and hostile array against the other. The collision of opinion will be quickly followed by the clash of arms.
I will not attempt to describe scenes which now happily lie concealed from our view. Abolitionists themselves would shrink back in dismay and horror at the contemplation of desolated fields, conflagrated cities, murdered inhabitants, and the overthrow of the fairest fabric of government that ever rose to animate the hopes of civilized man. Nor should these abolitionists flatter themselves that, if they can succeed in their object of uniting the people of the free States, they will enter the contest with a numerical superiority that must insure victory. All history proves the hazard and uncertainty of.
But if they were to conquer, whom would they conquer? A foreign foe—one who had insulted the flag, invaded our shores, and laid our country waste? No sir, no sir. It would be a conquest without laurels, without glory; a self, a suicidal conquest; a conquest of brothers over brothers, achieved by one over another portion of the descendants of common ancestors, who, nobly pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, had fought and bled, side by side, in many a hard battle on land and ocean, severed our country from the British crown, and established our national independence.
I beseech the abolitionists themselves, solemnly to pause in their mad and fatal course. Amid the infinite variety of objects of humanity and benevolence which invite the employment of their energies, let them select one more harmless, that does not threaten to deluge our country in blood."
(Speech before the US Senate in February, 1839. The Works of Henry Clay, Putnam & sons, 1904, Vol. I, pp. 227-229)