Andrew Jackson Hamilton.

Speech of Gen. A. J. Hamilton, of Texas, at the war meeting at Faneuil hall, Saturday evening, April 18, 1863 online

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Saturday Evening, April 18, 1863.








Saturday Evening, April 18, 1863.


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Ladies and Gentlemen of the City of Boston :

At the instance of some of your fellow-citizens,
I have consented to detain you briefly, this evening,
upon the subject of the existing war in our country.
It is the subject now engrossing the attention of
every lover of the country, and all minds are more
or less engaged in the inquiries pertinent to the
existence of such a state of things in our country.
Among other questions are these : How is the
Rebellion to be dealt with ? Will our Government
succeed in its effort to crush it out '? What will
the result be to us, and to the rebellious States, if
the Government should fail to suppress the rebel-
lion 1 What was the cause, or causes, of the
rebellion ; and among the causes, which were the
most prominent 1 It is but natural, I say, that
these questions should be asked ; it is also proper,
that if there be those who can answer them, or
any of them, they should be answered. And it is
first, perhaps, the duty of every citizen, before
determining in his own mind what the result of
the eff"ort on the part of the rebels is to be, to
satisfy his mind as to the cause of the rebellion.

I have long since satisfied my mind upon the
subject. Indeed, 1 was satisfied as to the causes
which were leading in that direction before the
rebellion commenced. I may not be able to satisfy
you ; I am sure I shall not be able, on this occasion,
to present to you the evidences that I have had
which have brought me to a conclusion upon this
subject. Time will not permit me to deal with
them, if I could remember them all. Let it suffice
that I announce to you here, to-night, that if any
of you believe that it was on account of the con-
viction, on the part of those who are engaged in
the rebellion, that the Government of the United
States, or the people of the United States, or any
portion of them, had determined to make war
upon the institution of slavery, you are deceived,
and have been deceived. If you believe that it
was in consequence of the conviction resting upon
the minds of the people of the South, or any
respectable portion of the people of the South,
that there was a spirit abroad at the North which
was at war with the institution of slavery, to the
extent that it would not permit you to do justice
to them, that had led you to the determination not
to permit the people of the South to be at peace
with you, because of the existence of that institution
among the people of the South, again you have
been deceived. And, least of all, was it that the
people of the South had any right to complain of
the Government of the United States, so far as its
action on the slavery question was concerned, or
that they dreaded any hostile action on the part

of such Government to that institution, at any
future period of time.

I know that these were the arguments used in
the South, and so do you ; but if I had not had
cause to believe that these were not the real motives
that prompted to the rebellion, long before it
occurred, I should be at no loss now to determine
that these were mere pretexts to be used at the
South ; because the leaders in the rebellion do not
permit you or I to remain any longer in doubt.
They tell you and I, and they tell the civilized
world, that it was not because of any injustice they
had suffered at your hands, or at the hands of the
Government, on account of the institution of
slavery, that they determined to separate from you
and establish a new government. On every hand,
the evidences are now being furnished to you, and
to everybody, through their public men at home
and through their public agents abroad, and through
the medium of the Southern press, that these were
not the causes at all ; that they were simply the
pretexts used, as all men every where who engage
in the work of overthrowing a government, and
especially a liberal government, have to engage
in it under the pretext that their object is the
security and perpetuity of the liberties and institu-
tions of the people.

If they were to disclose, at the outset of an
undertaking like this, the real object, that it is to
overthrow the Government and substitute in its
place one less liberal, the declaration, as a matter
of course, would defeat the very purpose in view.

But they tell you, as they have told the people
of the South, that although they used all these
arguments for the purpose of inflaming their
minds, and inducing them to aid in the rebellion,
the real motive was because they (meaning the
few, who do the thinking for the many) had
learned from Mr. Calhoun, more than thirty years
ago, and from his immediate disciples since, that
there was a natural antagonism between slavery
and free government that would ultimately compel
one or the other to go to the wall.

They tell you now, vauntingly, that the great
New York statesman must not claim the credit of
first discovering that there was an " irrepressible
conflict" between free and slave labor. They say
they knew it, and had long understood it, before
he uttered it. They say, in so many words, that
their cause of quarrel was not because you had
to prevent the operation of the Fugitive Slave Law
wronged them by legislation, having for its object
in the States where slavery does not exist, though
this was one of the arguments urged upon the
people of the South. They say it was not because
you denied, any of you, the right of the people of
the South to inhabit, equally with you, the territo-
ries of the Union ; that it was not because you
claimed for Congress the constitutional power to
prohibit slavery in the territories. They say they
knew well that they never could inhabit those
territories with their negroes, under any circum-
stances, because the climate and soil were such
that slave labor could not be made profitable.

They say it was not because you claimed for Con-
gress the power to abolish slavery in the District
of Columbia ; but they say it was in truth because
they felt profoundly convinced of the fact, that the
natural antagonism between free and slave labor,
of which I have already spoken, would in the end,
without any design on your part, have the effect to
crush slavery out.

They go on to argue in this way : — " We quarrel
with the people of the North, if quarrel you can
call it, because they constitute a Democracy. The
organization of society there is different from what
it is in the South. The people of the North are a
Democracy, because all men there are free, and all
participate in the government alike — all are equal
under the laws. It is also true that a majority of
the people of the North are laboring men, and that
being true, it requires no argument to establish the
third position, and that is, that the government at
the North is in the hands of the laboring class.
Our theory at the South is," they say, " that all
labor, to be safe, to be conservative, so far as the
perpetuity of government is concerned, and at the
same time profitable to society, must be controlled,
must be owned. We believe, also, that where
government is in the hands of the majority of
the people who are laborers, it cannot be stable
and lasting — that it will run into anarchy ; hence
we have cut loose from the North, because they are
a Democratic people, because the Government of
the Northern States is eminently Democratic. We
are not willing to trust the existence of slavery in


a union with this great democratic element, because
we are convinced that it cannot survive in contact
with that democratic element."

This, I say, is the popular doctrine at the South,
to-day. No sooner had the revolution been accom-
plished— (when I say accomplished, I mean to the
extent of the organization of a Government, and
putting its machinery in full operation, an army
organized and in the field, and the masses of the
people disarmed and in the power of the revolu-
tionary party)— no sooner, I say, had this been
accomplished, than this doctrine was broadly enun-
ciated ; first, perhaps, publicly, in an elaborate
letter to the Charleston Mercury, written by Mr.
Spratt, of South Carolina, who participated as
largely as any man in that State in this revolution,
to Mr. Perkins, of Louisiana, who was a member
of the first provisional Congress, as they called it,
of the Confederate States. In that letter, Mr.
Spratt used all these arguments to which I have
referred, and then said: "To sum it all up, you
know, as well as I, that these were the lessons with
which Mr. Calhoun and all the great teachers
educated the public mind of the South preparatory
to the very step we have now taken. You know,
quite as well as I, that the pretexts we used to
inflame the public mind were necessary to be used,
because we dare not, in preparing for this revolu-
tion, announce our real object, which would have
been defeated if it had been understood ; but now
that it is accomplished, we may speak plainly to
each other, and you or I ought to be ashamed of

any Southern statesman who will pretend, now,
that it was because of any subject of quarrel
relating to slavery in the Congress of the United
States in years past — any that we have been in
the habit of alleging as the cause,' through the
public press of the South, or as leaders of the
political sentiment of the South. It is proper,
now, that we should drop all disguise, and assert
the deliberate purpose we have in view, which is
the organization of a government of a totally differ-
ent character from that of the United States, from
which we have just sundered ourselves. We design
to establish a government where the democratic
principle will not control. To that end, we have
cut loose from the North ; but still, we have not
accomplished the full work. Here, in our midst,
there is a strong democratic element left. You
have not, so far, in the convention at the South,
been true to the interests and objects of those who
inaugurated the revolution. "We expect you at
once to organize a government upon a different
principle from that of the government from which
we have just severed ourselves. We expect you to
limit the right of suffrage, and confine it to the
hands of the men who control and direct the labor
of the country, because, (to use his own language,)
among the people from whom we have separated,
the government is in the heels of society, because
it is in the laboring class ; we intend to place it in
the head of society, where it ought to be — in the
hands of the men who direct the labor ; and we
will accomplish that object, although it may involve


the necessity of another revolution in the South,
and although that other revolution may be bloodier
than the one in which we are now engaged. Yet
we will have it ; and in that last revolution, we
will get rid of the last remnants of democracy, and
we will have what we intended in the outset, a
slave aristocracy."

It is admitted in that letter, as all the public
presses of the South now admit, that the principle
is not only true in respect to African labor, but to
all labor, everywhere ; that it ought to be owned
and absolutely controlled by the few ; that, in short,
the laboring class ought to be mere beasts of bur-
den, " hewers of wood and drawers of water,''
having no business to participate in government,
and that it is a foolish thing to undertake to
elevate men above the condition in which Provi-
dence has placed them.

If you need further evidence, take the only

political periodical published in the South for the

ten years previous to the commencement of the

rebellion, De Boivs Revieiv ; a periodical that was

in the hands of every planter and slave-holder in

the South, and which had advocated, for five years

preceding the rebellion, these very doctrines, and

strongly attacked the principle of democracy in

government, and argued for the substitution, in the

place of that, of the power of the few over the

many. I repeat, that that Review was in the hands

of almost every slave-holder in the South. It was

the political text-book among that class, but was

scarcely ever found in the hands of any man not

of that class.


Such have been the teachings of the few who
have been prepanng the public mind of the South
for a series of years past. Is it necessary to refer
you to what was disclosed in the letter of Mr.
Yancey, that was made public by accident a few
years ago, where he deliberately said (not expecting
the letter would be published so soon) that the
object of the Southern leaders was " to instruct the
public mind and fire the Southern heart, so that,
availing themselves of some favorable moment, and
using some plausible pretext, the Cotton States
might be precipitated into revolution ?' That was
his declaration ; and no scheme for the overthrow
of government, no conspiracy ever organized in
the history of the world, was ever carried out
more successfully than this has been, so far.

In order to accomplish this object, the people of
the South, as a matter of course, had to be deluded.
They were really, at heart, on the side of the Gov-
ernment ; and I may add, their hearts are really,
this night, with . the Government of the United
States (applause) ; but they were made to believe,
very many of them, that they had been wronged,
or, if not they, their neighbors, the slave-holders
of the South, had really been wronged and greatly
wronged. It will not be inappropriate to refer
briefly to the past history of the country, by way
of determining how far it is true, as it has been so
often charged in the South for years past, that the
people of the North have really been aggressive in
their spirit towards this institution in the South.

I believe that the first great trouble which


occurred in the National Congress, upon this slavery
question, happened in 1820, on the application of
Missouri to be taken into the Union as one of the
States. She had provided for the existence of
slavery in her constitution, and there were those in
Congress who did not believe, as the fathers of the
government did not believe, that it was a good
institution. They believed that the framers of the
Constitution, while they permitted the existence of
slavery, still did it in such form, and imder such
circumstances, that those who attempted to follow
the lead of the great men engaged in that work
might well be justified, under the Constitution and
in their own consciences, in resisting any further
spread of the institution of slavery. But, it was
insisted on the other hand, that Missouri had a
right to admission, without reference to that feature
in her constitution. It was said, that provision
had been made in the Federal Constitution for the
introduction of new States. It was replied, that
that was true, but there was a condition annexed
to that exercise of power by Congress, and that
was, that the form of government of the States
seeking admission must be Hepublican, and it was
not strictly Eepublican if the institution of slavery
was provided for. To that it was replied, that the
argument could not be sound, because States had
been admitted with the institution of slavery since
the adoption of the Federal Constitution.

The quarrel waxed warm ; but at last, in the
interest of the slave-owners of the South, it was
provided, by way of settling the difficulty, that


thereafter, in all territory north of 36° 30' north
latitude, slavery, or involuntary servitude, except
for crime, should never be permitted ; but south of
that line, it might or might not exist, as the people
of the territory should determine for themselves,
when they came to organize a State government.
It was said then by the South, and the declaration
was repeated for thirty years, " That is all wc
desire. North of that line, it can never exist,
because it can never be profitable ; south of that
line, it is admitted that we may have slavery, if
the majority of the people who come together for
the purpose of framing a State constitution desire
the institution." Was this treating the South with
less than friendship "? If concession is implied by
that compromise, who were the parties making the
concession, and for whose benefit was it made '?

All was peace for a long time ; but after awhile
the country was disturbed again because there were
parties at the North who thought they had a right
to petition Congress to abolish slavery in the Dis-
trict of Columbia, and it was instantly asserted by
the Southern leaders, Mr. Calhoun at their head,
that Congress had no right to receive such petitions.
And why 1 No one denied the fact, that under the
Constitution the people have a right peaceably to
assemble and petition the Government for a redress
of grievances. But it was said, this petition asks
Congress to do an unconstitutional thing. It was
replied — and be it said, to the eternal honor of
the " old man eloquent," that, among the great
actions of his life, he stood forth and took this


ground (applause) — " I do not stop to inquire
whether what is asked of Congress is within its
power or not. I demand that the constitutional
right of the people to petition Congress for redress
of what they conceive to be a grievance shall be
respected. When you receive the petition, you can
do what you choose with it ; you can lay it upon
the table, or make such other disposition of it as
in the wisdom of the majority of this body may
seem meet. But you do commit an infraction of
the Constitution, when you deny the right of
petition. It is their right to petition, and their
right to judge whether what they petition for is a
thing that can be done by Congress. When you
have received it, it is for you to judge whether you
can do the thing you are asked to do ; but, at all
events, you must receive the petition." The history
of the country records how that controversy ended.
It is enough to say, that it did not end contrary to
the wishes of the people of the South. Those
petitions "svere for a long while excluded from both
branches of Congress.

But soon there was a more serious difficulty
than these. Texas was acquired. And under what
circumstances 1 1 believe it is a part of the his-
tory of the time, that the party which elected James
K. Polk to the Presidency urged his claims mainly
upon the ground that he was in favor of the annex-
ation of Texas, while the opposing candidate had,
in a published letter, said to the world that he did
not think it proper, under the circumstances, that
Texas should be admitted. The parties advocating


the claims of Mr. Polk all urged his election upon
the ground that it was well known that Texas was
in such a condition that, if the United States Gov-
ernment did not come to her relief by making her
part and parcel of the United States, she must of
necessity fall under the protection of France or
England, both of whom were skillfully manoeuver-
ing for that object, and offering any terms to the
young and weak Eepublic that it might think
proper to demand, and exacting but one condition,
namely, the extinction of slavery within the Re-
public of Texas. It was urged throughout the
South, I repeat, that it-was necessary to elect James
K. Polk, in order to secure the annexation of
Texas, to the end that more slave territory might
be annexed to the country, and thus the institution
be more securely protected where it already existed ;
because, if the Republic of Texas fell under the
guardianship of either France or England, with
the institution annihilated, we of the South would
have to meet not only whatever opposition existed
in the Xorth to the institution of slavery, but the
more active and deadly hostility of a foreign power.
In the election of James K. Polk, and the annexa-
tion of Texas, if there was any concession made
by any party to any xoarty, it was a concession made
in the interests of slavery.

When, in consequence of the war with Mexico,
growing out of that annexation of Texas, addi-
tional territory was acquired, there was again
trouble. It became necessary to organize a gov-
ernment for the people inhabiting that territory.


In 1850, California, part of the territory acquired
from Mexico, suddenly presented herself one. morn-
ing, (gold having heen discovered the evening
before,) knocking at the doors of Congress for
admission as a State. There was no question but
there were people enough in that territory to entitle
her to admission; there was no question of the
necessity for the organization of a State, govern-
ment ; but it was opposed in Congress, and why 1
It is true, that Mr. Calhoun did not say, in his
place in the American Senate, " I oppose the
admission of California, because she has ignored
the institution of slavery," but the whole world
understood that that was the real cause of his
opposition, and the opposition of all those who
followed his lead in cither branch of Congress.
It was said by him, " I oppose it, because the
mode in which California has presented herself is
irregular. There has been no Enabling Act passed
by Congress, authorizing her to form a State con-
stitution and present herself for admission." It
was replied, " It is not necessary that that should
be done. Other States have been admitted with-
out Congress making any provision in the nature
of an Enabling Act, as you call it, authorizing
them to form a State government." It was further
replied, that the Constitution of the United States
does not prescribe the mode or manner of intro-
ducing new States, or in what manner they shall
make application for admission. The simple pro-
vision is, that Congress may admit new States,
and the only condition annexed to that is, that the


form of their government shall be Eepublican.
It was further said, that there is no law upon the
Statute-Book that prescribes the manner of the
introduction of new States ; and further, that there
is not one word in the Constitution of the United
States as to how a Territorial government shall be
organized, or how the transformation from a Terri-
torial to a State government shall take place.
But Mr. Calhoun replied, " The earlier and better
precedent is the one that I demand that California
shall follow. She ought to have procured from
this Congress an Enabling Act authorizing her to
form a State constitution, and make herself a State
in the regular way."

But that was not the only quarrel growing out
of the territory acquired from Mexico, in conse-
quence of the question of slavery. The question
of the organization of the territories of New
Mexico and Utah came up, and there was a party
in the country which said, " Let us provide that
slavery shall not exist in any of this territory em-
braced within the territorial organizations." There
were many reasons urged for this. Among others,
it was said that there was a principle which, by
custom and usage, had come to be public law, in
modern times, that where territory was acquired,
either by purchase or conquest, of a neighboring
government, which territory was inhabited by people
having laws for the security and control of society
and for the protection of property and life and
liberty, these laws, in the organization of a govern-
ment for the people inhabiting such territory, were


to remain unchanged, except so far as they might
be found to conflict with some law or usage of the
Government acquiring such territory. It was said
that it was well known that the Government of
Mexico had in her organic law, in her Constitution,
provided affirmatively that slavery should never
exist in her territories. Hence slavery was pro-
hibited in the territory of New Mexico when we
acquired it, and that could not be said to be incon-
sistent with any law, custom, or usage in the
United States Government ; for although it has
tolerated the existence of slavery in some States, it
has also tolerated its prohibition in others. It
simply has nothing to do with it. Hence it was

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Online LibraryAndrew Jackson HamiltonSpeech of Gen. A. J. Hamilton, of Texas, at the war meeting at Faneuil hall, Saturday evening, April 18, 1863 → online text (page 1 of 4)