L. Q. C. (Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus) Lamar.

Letter of Lucius Q. C. Lamar, in reply to Hon. P. F. Liddell, of Carrollton, Mississippi online

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Online LibraryL. Q. C. (Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus) LamarLetter of Lucius Q. C. Lamar, in reply to Hon. P. F. Liddell, of Carrollton, Mississippi → online text (page 1 of 2)
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Washington City, D. G.,

December 10, 1860.

My Dear Sir :

Your letter, of. the 4tli instant, requesting me to give yon
my " views as to the best method of concentrating the efforts
of all the friends of a real and bona fide resistance in Missis^
sippi, and the South, to Black Republican rule," is before me.
Apart from my disposition to oblige an esteemed friend, the re-
lations which, exist between the people of Mississippi and my-
self as one one of their representatives in the Federal Con-
gress, the uniform kindness and confidence I have experienced
from the poi-tion that form my immediate constituents, and
the necessity I feel for frank and open-hearted communication
with them, are additional reasons for complying with your

The result of the recent Presidential contest has infiict^d a
dangerous, perhaps a fatal wound on the confidence of the
southern States in the integrity of the Federal Government.
I have not supposed that the Federal Executive would al-
ways command the support, or inspire confidence and esteem
among all the peoples of the Union. The framers of the Con-
stitution did not anticipate that we should always have a wise,
faithful, and patriotic President.

■\Ye may reasonably expect that delusions will often exist
in rcsi»cct to the Avorth of a nominee for that ofiice, and that
parties and demagogues may sometimes succeed in debauch-
ing or misleading the popular judgment in favor of an un-
worthy candidate. There is, iii our Constitution, important
checks upon the Presidential power, and the tenure of office
is not so long as to enable a vicious man, unassisted, to do ir-
reparable mischief, even in the full possession of that power.
The people of the South understand fully the nature and
functions of the Federal Government. They do not need to
be taught that its legitimate structure furnishes them_ ample
and efticient means of checking the vices of Executive ad-
ministration, protecting themselves against the hostile and
unconstitutional purposes of the existing incumbent, and of
even repairing such violations of the fundamental law as may,
during his term of service, be beyond their control. _ The per-
sonal character of Mr. Lincoln, and his political opinions (ex-
cept so far as they represented that armed doctrine which men-
aces our peace, and was contrived for our degradation and dis-
honor) has not formed with them the subject of either inquiry
or interest. The stern protest which has spontaneously leaped
from the hearts of the southern people, simultaneous, and yet

witlioiit auv concert, free from revolutionary excesses or party
recklessness, indicates a thorough knowledge of the real ex-
tent and depth of the grievances inflicted upon them, and
shows a political maturity in that people, adequate to evolve
the proper remedy and tirmly to apply it.

Let us look at this event in its mildest aspect, dissociated
from the sectional hostilities in which it originated, and apart
from the purposes which it was designed to accomplish. It
is the first step towards the subversion of American represen-
tative liberty.

There is, as you know, a northern and a southern theory of
the Constitution ; the latter regarding the United States as a
confederacy of States, sovereign, independent, and equal ; the
former regarding it as one political community — a consoli-
dated republic, in which a majority of the people govern
under the forms of the Constitution. Either theory may be
adopted for the purpose of my argument. Let us, for the
sake of argument, adopt the latter. ' It is an essential condi-
tion of representative liberty, that the powers of Government,
(of \yhich the choice of rulers is not the least important,) be
distributed through the entire mass of the nation. This is the
poiiit from which all representative liberty starts, and to
which it must return. That the central authority must derive
its nutriment, and draw its force from all the parts of the en-
tire body of society, so that, by their reciprocal independence,
they can counteract the tendency of any one part to usurp
the sovereignty of the whole. It is required that all the parts
should seek and contribute to legitimate rule in common;
and, if any part, whatever be their number, insulated from
the rest, assumes the common Government over the others by
virtue of a prerogative which it arrogates to itself as its ex-
clusive possession, the result is not Hberty; it is tyranny un-
mixed. Test the recent Presidential election by "this princi-
ple. The northern States— or if you prefer the expression—
the northern people, have usurped an entire branch of the
Government, to the exclusion of the southern people. I do
not wish to be understood as saying that the southern people
have been deprived of the privilege of depositing their bal-
lots and having them counted with all the formalities of law.
My proposition is, that the inincixM, not the form of repre-
sentative Government, has been violated. The policy of
a conquering power has ever been to disguise its grasp upon
the liberties of a people under the sameness of external forms;
not to startle the people by any striking alterations, but to
cheat tlicm by respect for their usages and customs into ac-
quiescence in the control which it covertly assumes over their
public affairs. The Greek Republics retained all their forms
ot municipal government : the freedom of legislative and ju-

dicial proceedings iinclianged,Vliile all Greece lav, at the feet
of -Philip, a subjugated nation. This is the relation which the
southern people, if they quietly submit to this election, will
sustain to the Executive department of the Government on
the 4th day of March, 1861. They will live under a Chief
Magistrate whose power touches them at every point, penetra-
ting into their States, their towns, cities, villages, and settle-
ments, their business arrangements, and family relations — a
Chief Magistrate elected, in no part hy them^ but over them,
by another people widely distant from them in locality, and
still more widely distinct in passions, prejudices, interests,
civil and domestic institutions, than they are in geographical
position. The obligation to submit and live under a Chief
Magistrate thus elected, one Presidential term, implies the
obligation to do so under an indefinite number of terms — for-
ever. The right of the Xorth to place the Executive Depart-
ment in. such a relation to the southern people, involves the
right to place all the departments of the Government in that
relation. But would that be representative liberty ? Liberty
does not exist where rights are on one side and power on the
other. To be liberty, rights must be armed with vital powers.
A people cannot be'free, who do not participate in the con-
trol of the Government which operates upon them. If it is ,
irresponsible to them, if they cannot contribute to the check
upon its operations, they are not a free people, but subjects,
dependent for their rights and interests, upon no power in
themselves, but upon the moderation and justice of in-espon-
sible rulers; or upon those revolutionary remedies which con-
stitute no part of the machinery of civil society. Such will
be the condition of the southern people if they remain in the
Union until after the ith of March next. You will observe
■that it is a matter of no importance to the people of the South;
whether Mr. Lincoln was elected according to the forms of the
Constitution or in disregard of those forms. Had he been
appointed by the Governors of the northern States, or nomi-
nated by the Crowned Heads of Europe, his selection as Chief
Magistrate would have been, in either case, no more in disre-
gard of the wishes, interests, and feelings of the entire South,
than his election has actually been. When one of the vital
principles of a political system has been destro^^ed, society, in
all its elements, is thrown into disorder. Li this election^ the
Democratic element of our Government shares the fate of the
representative idea. Mr. Lincoln is elected by a minority of
nearly a million votes— the South being thus subjected to all
the terrors of a passionate Democracy, and the tyranny of a
selfish oligarchy. It may be said that this is a mere tempo-
rary 'displacement of the political forces, and that another
Presidential election will readjust them, and restore the har-
monious operation of our political system. ♦

But onr people caanot shut their eyes to tlie fact, that this
revolution in the Government only manifests and embodies a
mightier moral revolution., Trhich has for fifty years upheaved
the bosom of northern society — a revolution which has never
gone backward, and whose very law is progression. They
cannot but see, in this election, the sword of empire drawn
by a fanatical majority section, in a contest which cannot be
declined, and yet, on the issue of which, the existence of the
minority section is staked ; that it is a movement impelled by
a fanaticism, whose footsteps have never been seen in volun-
tary retreat ; that it is a victory secured by the citizens of
States whose Legislatures have solemnly recorded their deter-
mination that no oath shall bind them to observe the constitu-
tional compact in respect to slavery. They are convinced
that this anti-slavery fanaticism is rife at the l^orth, and that
society, in all its elements, is surcharged with the deadly
poison; that it infect-s their literature, pervades their juris-
prudence, is the animating spirit of their theology, is taught
in their academies and schools, and they behold the J^arty
which represents iliis, spirit, entrenched, (by overwhelming
majorities in all their States save one,) in the departments of
the Federal Government, armed with the sword in one hand,
and the purse in the other.

According to the theory of the Constitution which prevails
at the South, ours is a Confederacy of independent and equial
States. A Confeder«cy of itself, in the absence of any ex-
press stipulation is an implied recognition of, and friendliness
to the suljsistiug institutions of its various members. By this
election, the non-slaveholding States have seized upon the-
powers of a common Government, with the declared purpose
■that th'ese States shall not continue part slaveholding., and
part non-slaveholding. There is no proposition better estab-
lished than that the overthrow of the civil and domestic in-
stitutions of one people by an external or foreign power, is,
in eifect, a conquest and subjugation of the former. The
Southern people ar© law-abiding, long-suffering and averse
to rash innovations ; but where the alternative is presented,
of a change in their political relations, or an overthrow of
their political institutions, they will not hesitate.

Such an election (in vifew of all the circumstances attending
it) in my judgment not only justifies but imperatively de-
mands of the Southern States to take measures for their se-
curity. I believe this sentiment is entertained from Mason's
and iDixon's line to the Kio Grande ; and that hundreds of
thousands in the northern States, who have opposed in vain
the unrelenting hostility of our persecutors, regard \L with
, a^jprobation. There is of course a diversity of o])inion as to
the extent of the measures to be taken, "rhere is a lar.o-e class

in the more northerly qf the slaveholding States who will >e
content with measures of vigilance, and who look to a re<»r-
ganization of parties which will modify the action of tfee
Federal Government, or insure the overthrow of the party
which has succeeded in the present election. The friends of
the Constitution and the Union in the northern States, they
think, compose a larger class than the Presidential election
indicates. They have a natural dislike to what they deem
extra Constitutional or extreme measures, and are willing ,to
abide the issue of the election. I think that in the more
soutliern States the time has passed when parties can com-
mand contidence. They rather fatigue contempt. A second
class fully recognize the existence of an arrogant and con-
tumelious disregard of their obligations by the Kew England
States and Wisconsin and Michigan, in relation to the law for
the extradition of fugitive slaves, and that self-respect re-
quires that notice should be taken of their measures of nu^i-
fication. They are ready to make a demand for redress, a»d
to put it in the power of these States to take measuresto
place the Union on Constitutional foundations. They require
time lor considtation among the southern States and^ for a
change of sentiment at the North, so that before resorting to
the extreme measure of Disunion they shall have exhausted
every other remedy. A tliii'd class, — considering the long
agitation that has existed upon the subject of slavery, its fa-
tal effects upon the society of the United States, andthfeir
conviction that there will be no suspension or pause in the
agitation, and that the conflict is indeed irrepressible, and
ai-ises in the antagonism that exists in the political and social
ideas of the two sections, and that the predominance of tie
anti-slavery idea in the politics of the northern States, tes
been and will be suflicient to prevail against the opposition
of the entire South, even in combination with their friends
in the North — are in favor of secession. But considering all
the evils that belong to any disruption of the Government,
and ai)preciatiug the value of the existing Union, are willing
to return to it with loyalty, if they can iind adequate guaran-
tees for tlieir security from further collision and strife. Tltis
class would expect amendments to the Federal Constitution,
so that the conditions of slavery in the States and Territories,
and in all places of Federal jurisdiction be placed beyoad
cavil or-dispute, and that the 'slaveholding States should mu-
tually guarantee their own rights, so that in the event of the
renewal of another slavery agitation the remedy will be plain
and adequate. There is a fourth class of energetic, resolute
and high spirited men who consider the Federal Government
a failure, the connection of northern and southern State* as
unnatural, and the independence of the latter a supreme


good — these are for immediate, unconditional and even ab-
rupt secession. Tlie first class is diminishing in numbers and
influence, and the fourth class is increasing. This class is
dominant in one State, commands perhaps a majority in one
other, and is very influential in all. It is possible that all
the classes, which favor some action, would be brouglit to
act in concert if they only understood one another s opinions.
In my judgment this long continued and rancorous agita-
tion, which has divided our churches, rent asunder political
parties, diminished and embittered the intercourse of society,
unfitted Congress for the performance of the functions im-
posed by the Constitution, the incendiary dispositions mani-
fested, in its course, by the representative men of the north-
ern States, and the habitual attack upon the foundations of
our society by men occupying public stations of the highest
trust and responsibility, have estranged the majority of the
southern people from their nothern connection, and they
would prefer a Union among themselves, other conditions
being equal. That is, if a Southern Confederacy could be
formed without war, or violent change in existing 'conditions,
thepopular mind would receive no shock. The people would
anticipate more of security and happiness than in the present

The corruption of the State and municipal governments
I^orth, the magnitude of their cities, and the consequent dis-
order and crime and disparity of condition among the in-
habitants, the increase of heterogeneous populations, their
red republicanism, infidelity and anti-christian ideas, the in-
temperance and violence and indecorum of the northern
clergy, and the anarchy of opinions upon all questions of so-
cial interest, and the want of any sound public opinion furnish
strong evidence that sooner or later society there will expe-
rience a general overturn. But the distrust of northern insti-
tutions and the dislike of northern manners are not active or
stimulating emotions, and show themselves rather in the want
of any anxiety to disturb or restrain this movement. > If the
formation of a Southern Confederacy, to extend from the Del-
aware or the Susquehannah to the western line of Xew Mex-
ico,_ or to include California were adopted, I believe a large
majority of the southern people would be rejoiced. I believe
that the patience of the/people with New England and some
of the western States, is exhausted. In my opinion it is the
duty of all the members of the southern States, in the present
emergency, to maintain a large, liberal, and magnanimous
course of conduct to one another. "To be subject one to
another is the lesson of wisdom in this conjunction of aflairs.
It is not necessary for me to declare to what class of those I
have enumerated I now belong, for I shall not enlist as a par-

tisan of any opinion, in any part of this contest. I shall re-
sign my own opinions with facility wlienever I can perceive
that good can be accomplished. What I desire to have
what I desire to represent and cooperate with, is the sonnd'
sound and deliberate opinion of the people of Mississipp
fiist and then of all the southern States after a candid, im-
partial and deliberate review of the whole subject, and hav-
ing reference to a 1 their responsibilities, to themselves, their
ancestors, and their posterity.

Bat I feel it my duty to say, that I think acquiescence on
the partof the South m the results of the late Presidential
contest, IS fraugjit with more danger to the safety of her soci-
ety, the stability of'her institutions, the freedom of her citi-
zens, and the lives of her people, than can possibly attend
any of the plans of resistance to Black Eepublican rale
^ Upon the stability of slavery in the southern States, as an
institution of society, government, and property, entitled to
the recognition and protection of the Federal Government
at home and abroad, and the right to carry our property
npon the common territoires of the Union, and to enioy
It there, without bar or hindrance from any quarter, I am pre-
pared to advise firmness. Believing, as I'did, that a vast ma-
jority of the southern people prefer a Union of the southern
btates to the existing connection with the Is^orth— provided
such a result could be secured without radical changes in
tJieir fundamental system, or shock to existing conditions— I
submitted, for the consideration of tlie Legislature of our
State the plan to which your letter refers. It is intended to
avoid the penis that attend transitions from dismembermen-
to reorganization, and also the evils of provisional govern-
ments. °

The leading feature of that plan is the adoption of the pre-
sent Government either by a General Convention of the
Southern States, or by commissioners appointed by their au-
thority, who shall provide that the Constitution of the United
States shall remain in full force and effect among the States
withdrawing; that tlie laws and decisions of courts which are
now of force in the Eepublic of ]S[orth America under the
authority thereof, shall be adopted as a body of laws for the
Federal^ Government about to be established ; that the people
of the States so withdrawing will bind themselves to observe
and sacredly carry out the stipulations of all treaties subsisting
between the United States of Korth America and foreign
Governments anterior to the date of said ordinance, until such
treaties are changed or altered, or are disregarded by such
nation with this Government about to be established. As the
first step in this direction I submit for your consideration the
ordinance which I think the people of Mississippi should
adopt in tlieii- Convention of the 7th of January.


An ordinance of the convention of the people of Missis-
sippi, assembled at the Capitol of the State, at Jackson, pur-
suant to the election of the people pursuant to an act of the
General Assembly of the State of Mississippi, entitled, &c.,

Whereas, on the 1st day of March, 1817, the Congress of
the United States passed an act entitled "An Act to enable
the western part of the Mississippi Territory to form a consti-
tution and State government, and for the admission of such
State into the Union on an equal footing with the original
States;" and,

"Wheeeas, on the loth ofv^ngnst, 1817, the people of Mis-
sisssippi, by a convention called for the purpose, did form for
themselves a constitution and State government, and by ordi-
nance then did consent to become a member of the Federal
Union, on an equal footing with the original States ; and,

"Whereas, on the 10th December, 1817, by resolution of the
Congress of the United States, the State of Mississippi became
a member of the Federal Union, and has remained such from
thence hitherto ; and,

Whereas, for sufficient causes, in the opinion of this con-
vention, the said Federal Union should be dissolved.

Be it tlierefove ordained by the authority of the people of
Mississippi, in convention assembled, that the ordinance of
the loth day of August, 1817, by which the State of Missis-
sippi consented to become a member of the Federal Union,
be, and the same is hereby repealed, and that the State of
Mississippi resume all the rights, powers, and functions therein
conveyed, and be divested of all the restraints and duties con-
tracted in favor of the said Federal Union, and from hence-
forth be a free and independent State.

Sec. 2. Be it further ordained., That the State of Missis-
sippi hereby consents to form a Federal Union with the States
of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Car-
olina, Georgia. I'lorida, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas,
Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri, and the Territory of ]!*^ew
Mexico, and the Indian Territory west of Arkansas, under the
name and style of the United States of America, and accord-
ing to the tenor and effect of the Constitution of the United
States, adopted September 12, 1787, saving and excepting
such parts thereof as embrace other portions than the States
above named.

Sec. 3. Be it further ordained, That tlie laws enacted by
the United States, under the said Constitution, from 1780
until the day of the sitting of this convention, and all treaties
made under the authority of the same, shall be obligatory


upon the people of Mississippi, in so far as they are applica-
ble, in the same manner as if this ordinance had not been
made until the termination of the first Congress of the Gov-
ernment hereinafter mentioned.

^Sec. 4. Be it further ordained, That all officers of the
United States, within the limits of Mississippi, shall remain
in ofiice, and perform the same functions therein, until the
Federal Union hereby ordained shall be fully organized and

Sec. 5. That all the regulations, contracts, and engagements
made by the United States of America shall continue to be
binding as before upon the State of Mississippi, and that pro-
vision shall be made for the fulfillment of the obhgation in
respect thereof.

Sec. 0. That the Governor of Mississippi shall perform all
the functions of President of the United States, under this
Constitution, within the limits of Mississippi, until the organ-
ization of the Federal Union referred to in the second section
of this ordinance.

Sec. 7. The accession of nine of the States mentioned in
article two is requisite to give this ordinance effect, and for
the establishment of the Constitution between the States rati-
fying the same.

Sec. 8. That it shall be the duty of the Governor, immedi-
ately after the event described in the last preceding article,
to direct an election of members to Congress in each of the
Congressional districts, and also to direct the election of elec-
tors of President and Vice President at the same time, under
all^ the regulations, except as to time, as are contained in the
existing laws.

It will be observed that the plan proposed aims at no
change in our form of Government^ but seeTis to 'protect ex-
istimj forms from destruction. It proposes to give us our old
glorious Constitution in vigorous operation, strong enough to
suppress domestic violence and repel foreign invasion, safe, in


Online LibraryL. Q. C. (Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus) LamarLetter of Lucius Q. C. Lamar, in reply to Hon. P. F. Liddell, of Carrollton, Mississippi → online text (page 1 of 2)