Southern Historical Society. cn.

Southern Historical Society papers (Volume 14) online

. (page 53 of 61)
Online LibrarySouthern Historical Society. cnSouthern Historical Society papers (Volume 14) → online text (page 53 of 61)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


failed to win independence because our sacrifices ceased, our purpose
faltered, and our strength was divided. Kind judge, let this sad
chapter be short !

But above all things we have least to dread in history on the merits
of the issues which divided the contending parties. The Southern
States and people must stand before the bar of history responsible
for secession. The Northern States and people must stand before
the same bar responsible for coercion and reconstruction. Weighed
upon !)rinciple, by authority, and by effects and consequences, which
of the two positions is the more inimical to the Union, to constitu-
tional government and to liberty ?

When the States formed the Union, several of them, especially
New York and Virginia, expressly reserved the right to withdraw as
a condition of ratification. This reservation, by a well-established
rule of construction, enured to all the parties to the Union. But no
State recognized coercion to preserve the Union as a right or power,
in the Feder.il Government, either express or resulting. So, in the



Address of Hon. B. H. Hill. 501

very stipulations which made the Union, secession finds a justifica-
tion, and coercion none.

From 1787 to i860, the ablest statesmen in America, both in the
North and in the South, conceded the right of secession to the
States. Some insisted it was a constitutional right, inhering in the
sovereignty of the States, and conditioned in the terms of the com-
pact. Others denied it was a constitutional right, but said it was
only a revolutionary right, to be exercised for cause, and that infidelity
to the terms, or the purposes of Union, would be sufficient cause to
justify the act. But no accepted statesman. North or South, Whig
or Democrat, ever contended or claimed that coercion was a right,
either constitutional or revolutionary, during all that period. So,
upon the authority of all our great statesmen, including the very
framers of the Constitution, secession will stand in history acquitted
and justified, while coercion, upon the same authority, must be con-
demned as criminal and without excuse.

Secession, consummated, would have divided the Union; the seced-
ing States forming a new Union, and leaving the old Union in undis-
turbed enjoyment of the States remaining. Coercion, consummated,
would first destroy the chief character of the Union, by making it a
Union of force, instead of a Union of consent. In the next place,
coercion, consummated, would destroy the Union and substitute con-
solidation instead. The very word, union, implies the combination
of separate wholes for a common purpose. The moment you
destroy the separate identity of the members, that moment Union
ceases, and unity — consolidation — is accomplished. To destroy, is
a greater crime than to separate or divide, and therefore, coercion is
a greater crime against the Union than secession.

Again: Secession did not interfere with the rights, or attack the
sovereignty, or lessen the dignity or importance of the States. Its
real great purpose was to rescue all these from the consequences of
threatened consolidation. But coercion, in its very nature, asserts
dominion over the States, and must destroy them. Suppose we con-
cede that secession would destroy the Union. Which is the greater
crime, to destroy the Union, the creature of the States, or the States
which created the Union ? But I have shown that coercion destroyed
the Union as well as the States. Then, again, the Union of the States
was formed to secure the blessings of liberty. Secession could not
even impair the liberties of the people. It interfered, in no way
whatever, with the rights or privileges of the Northern States and
people. It sought only to make more secure the rights, liberties and



502 Southern Historical Society Papers.

privileges ol the Southern States and people. But coercion, in de-
stroying the Union, and making a consolidation, and in destroying
the States, can have no logical result but in the destruction of all the
liberties of all the people North and South. Will our people never
perceive the patent truth that coercion must work consolidation, and
that consolidation must destroy the identity and powers of the States
and the liberties of the people? To coerce a State, is necessarily to
enslave the State, and to enslave the State is necessarily to enslave
the people of the State. Nothing but the roar of cannon, in the hands
of unreasoning physical power, can silence this logic of liberty.

Here, then, great impartial judge of the future, we rest the law of
our case. Secession did not destroy the Union, nor the States, nor
the liberties, the Union of States was formed to secure. It only pro-
posed to divide the Union, in order to rescue the States and the liber-
ties of the people from destruction and overthrow. But coercion is
the ruthless criminal which has consolidated the Union, enslaved the
Slates, and destroyed the liberties of the people !

Secession invaded no State, interfered with no right, lessened the
privileges of no man. Coercion laid waste the States, enslaved the
people, murdered their sons, despoiled their daughters, desolated
their hoines, and burnt up their property !

And what is Reconstruction ? It is the practical application of
coercion. It is logic turning to facts. It is coercion at its work.
It is the torch of the incendiary, the knife of the assassin, the fire-
arm of the bandit, sending death-blows to the life of the State, to
the heart of society, and to the hopes of civilization, that ignorance
and vice may be exalted, and intelligence and virtue degraded !

Do 1 exaggerate ? Look at South Carolina and answer. See the
land of Marion and Sumter, of Rutledge and Pinckney, of Calhoun
and Butler, the prey and sport of rioting thieves and gluttonous plun-
derers whose orgies continue days, months and years in the face of
the nation and under Federal protection !

Look at Louisiana ! Behold a sovereign State sentenced to the
chain-gang by telegram from Washington, to work at hard labor
under negro and carpet-bag drivers !

This, this, is the fruit of coercion ! These are the works of recon-
struction !

Have the people of America no shame? Has the God of heaven
no wrath ? If coercion and reconstruction shall continue, tlieir fruits
will mul;if>ly, until all the people, in agonized remorse, shall cry out:
Surely several unions were better than one Empire, and divided
liberty more to be desired than concentrated despotism !



Address of Hon. B. H. Hill. 503

Is iliere a possible remedy for these evils? I should be uncandid if
I did n )t confess to you I doubt it. There is no resurrection for dead
Republics, and few have ever been restored to vigor and health after
reachinii: our present state of decline. I fear our people have not
more intelligence and virtue than those whose histories we are but
repea'ing. But for one I am willing to make the effort, and I exhort
our Southern people to cherish no feeling inimical to success, and
omit no duty that may promote it. We have more interest in re-
storing constitutional government than any other people ; for if
despotism shall come over all, North and South, there is reason to
fear that serfdom of the South to the North will be our darkest portion,

Y'iu know I never regarded secession as wise in act, for however
legal or just it may or may not have been, as an abstract right I never
believed it would prove practicable as a remedy. I have never
doubted that a belligerent collision between centralism and constitu-
tional Federalism would, sooner or later, come. But by the States
i7i the Union, and for the liberties of the people, was always my
favorite plan to make the fight. But, for the sensitiveness of slavery,
we mij^ht have made that fight only in the Union. Let therefore
secession and slavery be buried out of sight, and, though late, let us
make one more determined effort in the forum of reason and at the
ballot-box to save the treasures we are losing. We should not pull
down the temple our fathers built, because thieves and money-
changers desecrate it. Rather, under the inspiring memories of 1776,
let us wake up the sleeping god of patriotism, and cast out the de-
SDoilers, and consecrate the temple anew to the equality ot the States
and to the liberties of our children !

There is but one beginning for this work. We must elevate the
statesmanship of the country. In all Republics an imbecile states-
manship has succeeded a civil war, and we have not escaped the
scourge. It is because men at such times rise into power on passion
and hate, and not by merit and worth. If you would purify states-
manship you must elevate it. Men of intellect, alive with ambition
to lift up a falling State, are more apt to be moral, patriotic and
honest, than hypocritical imbeciles who, dead to the capacity of this
higher ambition, are alive only to trade, and barter in blood, religion
and prejudice, in order to reap puffs, perquisites and salaries!

In order to elevate our statesmanship, two things, in my opinion,
are indispensable. In the first place, our people must abandon the
insane habit of placing men in high civil positions simply because of
military talents or success. Lee was right. It is contrary to the



504 Southern Historical Society Papers.

very genius and safety of Republican institutions to place their civil
administration in the keeping of men of military aptitude and train-
ing. Brave fighting is no evidence of able statesmanship. It is
usually evidence of the very contrary. Otherwise, Captain Jack was
the foremost statesman of this age, and, instead of being hanged,
ought to have been made President or Senator for life. If this habit
shall not cease, we shall not have a civil statesman for President this
generation. In Congress, too, we have generals, and colonels, and
captains, and lieutenants, sufficient to make a small army, and
scarcely statesmen enough to form a good committee. I will not al-
lude unkindly to General Grant. However much wrong he may
have done otherwise, we, in Georgia, owe him a debt, of which I have
personal knowledge, and I shall never speak of him unkindly. But
I am speaking of a great principle, and if General Grant had adopted
and acted upon the grand truth uttered by Lee, he would have lived
deeper in the affections of his people and higher in the esteem of
mankind than all the battles he has won, and all the presidential terms
he can receive can ever secure for his name.

The second thing, indispensable to the elevation of our statesman-
ship, is the reduction of congressional salaries. Upon principle, the
legislators of a country, who have in their hands the purse of the peo-
ple, ought not to have the power to help themselves. I believe
Franklin was right when he desired by constitutional provision to
prohibit compensation to members of Congress. I am very sure the
propositions of others in the Convention to fix the amount of the
compensation in the Constitution — so that the members could not in-
crease their own pay — was full of wisdom. Madison uttered a truth
when he said it was an indecent thing for members to fix their own
compensation.

Then, again, high congressional salaries are wrong and hurtful in
policy. They excite the merely mercenary, with desires to secure
the seats. This begets scrambling and trading in every election.
Men of high ability will not be parties to such contests. Thus mer-
cenary men get control of the Congress, and as they are chiefly
moved by a passion that is insatiate — if the salary were a hundred
thousand dollars — they would use the ofiice to double the sum. This
will finally reduce our statesmanship to one governing standard —
use money to get office, and use office to get money. With few ex-
ceptions, Congress is now but a sad congregation of negroes, knaves
and imbeciles, and no people ever won, or preserved, or recovered
either liberty or right under such civil leaders. You cannot scatter



Address of Hon. B. H. Hill. 505

a flock of carrion birds by railing at them, but if you burn up the
stinking carcass that attracts them they will scatter themselves. So
we shall never get rid of these creatures from Congress by portray-
ing their characters. They cannot see the mischief they are doing,
and, if they could, they have not manhood enough to be made
ashamed. But abolish the high salaries that tempt and feed them,
and they will leave the places that furnish to them no other allure-
ments. If high salaries continue, the greatest age of American states-
manship is in the past. We shall never have another Clay or Web-
ster or Calhoun in the National Councils. These great men served
willingly on a salary of fifteen hundred dollars and less. The But-
lers and Chandlers— with their negro and carpet-bag allies — all but
the spawn of a mad revolution — need seven thousand five hundred
dollars to support their dignity ! It is sad to see a Republic dying
as other Republics have died, and the people still unable to see the
evils which work death until life is extinct.

But one comfort the Southern people and their children must ever
have. Whether constitutional government shall continue or fail —
whether the States shall remain or be obliterated — whether liberty
shall be recovered, or die the death that knows no waking, we shall
be vindicated! If the Union of the States under constitutional
government, and securing the blessings of liberty, be recovered and
perpetuated, the work can only be done by returning to the great
principles for which we struggled. The general government must be
restrained within the limitations of its constitutional delegated powers,
and the States restored to the unrestrained control of their domestic
aflfairs, under their reserved rights or Union, States and liberty must
perish. If this glorious work shall have success, then the rejoicings
of according States, and happy millions from the Atlantic to the Pa-
cific, and from the lakes to the Gulf, will syllable forever the halle-
lujahs of Southern triumph !

But if blindness, madness, hate and ambition shall continue, coer-
cion and reconstruction, as accepted and approved principles of
Federal administration, then the wail that shall come up from the
universal wreck of Union, States and liberty, will drown the thunder
in loud vindication of Southern wisdom and fidelity. The graves of
Davis and Lee will become Meccas ibr journeying, sorrow stricken
pilgrims of right for ages to come, and the future historian, reviewing
the records your care shall have preserved, will write the epitaph for
the Confederate dead. These were the last heroes of freedom in
America I



606 Southern Historical Society Papers.

Address Delivered by Governor Z. B. Vance, of North Carolina, Before
the Southern Historical Society, at White Sulphur Springs, West Vir-
ginia, August i8th. 1875.

[This address of the distinguished War Governor of North Caro-
lina should have been pubH^hed in the earlier issues of our Papers,
but for our failure to secure the manuscript.

We give it now as the utterances of an able and patriotic actor in
the great drama, without, of course, endorsing all of its statements
and opinions.]

In consenting to accept the invitation of your Society to deliver an
address to this meeting, I have thought I could not do better than to
give you such information as I could gather in regard to North Caro-
lina and the great struggle between constiiuiional principles and a
physical Union. If in doing so, I shall appear somewhat in the
character of a champion of my own State, I yet hope to be pardoned,
both because such a position is not unbecoming a true son of the
soil, and because it is almost the only theme with which I could deal
yithout the consumption of more time and searching of records than
my engagements would possibly permit. I am induced to attempt
this theme also because that, owing to the reluctance with wnich
North Carolina went into the secession movement, and because there
was a considerable Union feeling still kft there, which made some
manifestations of itself during the war, an impression has been sought
to be made that she did not do altogether as much for the cause of
the Confederacy as she might have done. And those who have as-
sumed to write histories on the conflict, so far, have either designedly
fed this unjust impression by a studied silence on the subject, or else
they have been too much trammelled by the necessity ot local pane-
gyric to give ample motive to the whole South. I desire to remove
this impression, and to lay open the way for the truth of hisiory.
Confessing frankly that the great leaders of the war were furnished
by other States, whose glories are the common properly of the whole
South, I desire to show what is true, that in the number of soldiers
furnished, in the discipline, courage, and loyalty, and difficult service
of those soldiers, in amount of material and supplies contributed, in
the good faith and moral sujjport ot her people at large, arid in all
the qualities which mark self sacrifice, patriotism, and devotion to
duty, North Caroling is entitled to stand where her troops stood in
battle, behind no State, but in the front rank of the Confederation,
aligned and abreast with the best, the foremost and the bravest.



Address Delivered by Governor Z. B. Vance. 507

And I regret exceedingly that many of the facts and figures I shall
give you are reproduced from memory, though I am quite sufe they
will approximate exactitude. My familiarity with all the affairs of
the State during the last three years of the war was such as to enable
me to state facts with reasonable certainty. The principal records of
the State, covering that period, in the Executive department, were
seized and carried to Washington by the Federal authorities in 1865,
where they yet remain. And, though efforts have been made to that
end, the officials would neither return the original nor permit copies
to be made for the use of the State. No doubt such a course was
designed to serve some great and wise State policy, though exactly
what it was, beyond the pleasure of irritating and disoblij^ing our
people, I have never been able to see. But so it is ; we are utterly
without official records in North Carolina concerning the most eventful
period in our annals of two hundred and ninety years.

It may be said that there were only eleven States wholly commit-
ted to the late war — Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Geor-
gia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and
Tennessee. Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri were only partially
engaged, the great majority of their people remaining with the Union.
Of these eleven, North Carolina occupied the following po^-ition at
the beginning of the war: In extent of territory she was the seventh;
in total population she was (hejifth; in white population the third —
Virginia and Tennessee only exceeding her ; in wealth she was the
seventh; in the value of all farm products the fourth; in the production
of cotton the ninth; in the production of corn the fourth; of wheat, rye
and oats the third, and in the number of horses and cattle the fourth.
In manufactures of all kinds she was the third; in the production of
iron and material of war, about fourth, and in root crops, fisheries
and naval stores, the first of the eleven.

Such, in brief were her capacities and resources for sustaining a
war as compared with her associates. Her material condition was in
all respects good. Average wealth was considerable, and prosperity
and comfort abounded. Her credit was excellent and her State
schemes of internal improvement were advancing cautiously and
prudently. The cultivation of cotton was advancing northward and
that of tobacco was coming South; manufactures were growing and
industry diversifying — the surest road to wealth — and everything
indeed was moving on a solid basis. Politically, whilst our people
were loyal to Southern institutions, they were eminently conservative
and attached to the Union of the States. In considering what North



508 Southern Historical Society Papers.

Carolina did or did not do, in the war, this fact of her Union pro-
clivities should never be forgotten. She was the last to move in the
drama of secession, and went out at last more from a sense of duty
to her sisters and the sympathies of neighborhood and blood than
from a deliberate conviction that it was good policy to do so. So
late as February, 1861, her people solemnly declared, by a majority
of many thousands, that they desired no Convention to consider the
propriety of seceding. But after the fall of Sumter and the procla-
mation of President Lincoln calling upon her for troops, she hesitated
no longer. On the 20th of May, 1861, eighty-six years aiter her first
Declaration of Independence of Great Britain, she repealed the ordi-
nance by which she became a member of the American Union, and
took her stand with the young Confederacy. None stood by that
desperate venture with better faith or greater efficiency. It is a
proud assertion which I make to-day when 1 say that, so far as I
have been able to learn. North Carolina furnished more soldiers in
proportion to white population, and more supplies and material in
proportion to her means, for the support of that war, than any State
of the Confederacy. I beg you to believe that this is not said with
any spirit of ofifence to other Southern States, or of defiance toward
the Government of the United States, but simply as a just eulogy
upon the devotion of a people to what they considered a duly, in
sustaining a cause, right or wrong, to which their faith was pledged.

The records of the Adjutant General's office of the State,
will show that North Carolina sent into the service of
the Confederacy as volunteers, men at the outset, - 64,636

There were recruited by volunteers from time to time, - 21,608

And by conscripts, . _ . . . 18,585

Making in all, .-. - - 104,829

regular troops f^om North Carolina in the Confederate

service.
Besides these there were regular troops in the State

service, -... - 3,203

Militia on home duty, - - - 2,962

Junior Reserves, - ... - 4,217

Senior Reserves, - - - - - 5.686

Troops from North Carolina serving in regiments of other

States not borne on our rolls, - - - 3.103



Total of all grades, - - - 121,038



Address Delivered by Governor Z. B. Vance. 509

Of this number 107,932 were regular soldiers in the Confederate
service, 3,203 were regular troops in the State service, and the re-
mainder what may be termed " Land-wehr," doing garrison duty,
guarding prisoners, arresting deserters, etc. These were organized
as follows:

Sixty regiments of infantry; six regiments of cavalry; three regi-
ments of artillery; two regiments of reserves — Total, seventy-one.

Four battalions of artillery; four battalions of cavalry; three bat-
talions of infantry ; nine battalions of reserves — Total, twenty, and
thirteen unattached companies, and eleven companies borne on our
rolls serving in regiments from other States. These figures are
official.

I do not know but what my assertion might be amended so as to
claim that this is not relatively but positively more troops than any
State put into service. At all events, I shall be glad if this brings
fortli the records of any sister State, and will submit when fairly
beaten.

According to the report of Adjutant-General Cooper, the whole
number of troops in the Confederate service was 600,000, of which
North Carolina furnished largely more than one-sixth; one fe/i^k
would have been about her share. Her total white population was
in i860, 629,942 ; of this she sent to the army more than one man
to every six souls ! How they demeaned themselves in the field the
bloody records of killed and wounded in all the great battles of the
war bear melancholy testimony. In many of the severe conflicts on
the soil of Virginia— notably in that of Fredericksburg — a large
majority of the casualties of the whole army were in the North Caro-
lina troops, as appeared by the reports in the Richmond papers at
that time. One regiment, the Twenty sixth North CaroHna, at the
battle of Gettysburg, which went in nine-hundred rank and file, came
out with but little over one hundred men fit for duty. They lost no
prisoners. One company, eighty-four strong, made the unprece-
dented report that every man and officer in it was hit, and the orderly
sergeant who made out the list did it with a bullet through each leg-
The regiment commanded by General George B. Anderson (then



Online LibrarySouthern Historical Society. cnSouthern Historical Society papers (Volume 14) → online text (page 53 of 61)