William Russell Smith.

The history and debates of the Convention of the people of Alabama, begun and held in the city of Montgomery, on the seventh day of January, 1861; in which is preserved the speeches of the secret sessions and many valuable state papers online

. (page 17 of 47)
Online LibraryWilliam Russell SmithThe history and debates of the Convention of the people of Alabama, begun and held in the city of Montgomery, on the seventh day of January, 1861; in which is preserved the speeches of the secret sessions and many valuable state papers → online text (page 17 of 47)
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Uered to by this Convention: as it will be vindicated, protect
ad defended by bej sens, if need be, on the tented held.

Mu. Yami;', Bsid '•

Thai be concurred with his aolleagoe as to the propriety of eii-

tering into negotiations, and having these questions equitably and

►eably settled. He also concurred with him >" the opinion

that the Government at Washington was a Government de faoto,

with which we could negotiate. I believe, however, that it is not
a Government dt /tare. 1 cannot vote for the resolution, however,
for several reasons, the chief of which is that, on the 4th of Feb-


ruary, a Convention of the seceding States will assemble ; and
that Convention will have jurisdiction over the whole question,
and will lie the proper authority to make negotiations with the
Government at Washington, as to all the public property in all
the seceding States.

The example of South Carolina is not one in point. There had
been an understanding between the Governmental Washington
and that of South Carolina, that the military status of the forts in
the harbor of Charleston should be preserved unchanged. This
understanding was violated, and the whole military power of the
United States, in that harbor, was concentrated in Fort Sumter.
commanding the whole harbor. Though South Carolina, at once.
p6ssessed herself of all the other forts, yet Fort Sumter over-
looked and commanded them all. South Carolina then sent Com-
missioners to Washington to negotiate upon that change in the
military status of the United States troops in the harbor. The
President refused to receive them, save as citizens of South Caro-
lina, and referred their communications to Congress. The second
Commissioner sent to Washington by that State, according to the
beal information we have, was to obtain the withdrawal of the
Unit I Sta troops from Fort Sumter. The President has re-
fused to receive him, a-* a Commissioner, and the telegraph informs
us that Col. Hay no has returned to Charleston.

Now, Mr. President, Alabama occupies an entirely different po-
sition. There is no such military exigency now pressing on Ala-
bama, and therefore the example of South Carolina is not exactly
in point.

There is. however, another view, Mr. President Alabama is
not alone interested in this property. Our sister Seceding States
have equities in all the property in this State, lately held by the
United States. Alabama does not represent all the rights in this
property, and therefore she cannot settle those rights by negotia«
Bat in less than two weeks there is every possibility that
the Convention will assemble here that will represent all the inter*
>f tli" seceding States in this property, and in like property
in all of those Sta -

That Convention then will embody the representation of all in-
sta in the property oatside of the Federal Union, and will tale
jurisdiction of the question, and doubtit tiate with the

Governmental Washington upon the subject

In the event that this resolution passes, your Commit
might be found to have progressed in his negotiation, and agrei d
upon the basis of negotiation, and have nearly completed his la-
- : and at that point should a Commissioner from the Southern


Confederacy arrive in Washington to negotiate on the subject! it
would he found, perhaps, that the Alabama Commissioner had
proceeded upon the basis that hi^; State Mas alone interested, and
bad Otherwise so complicated the whole matter, a-; to render a
satisfactory solution difficult, if not impossihle.

1 am for peace, Mr. President, and the only peaceful solution of
this question is to recognise not only the equitable rights of the
seceding States, hut of every State of the late Federal Union.
The forts are built on land, the title to which Alabama never held.
The public lands were ceded to all the States by Georgia, and
Military Stoics and Custom Houses were made or purchased at
the common expense of all the States. It is true, in withdrawing
our State from the Union, all this property can he claimed by us;
aud if the sword is drawn, may be retained by the sword. Hut if
wc Confederate with other States, we must recognise the equity
that each held in this property when members of the same Union.
And if we are determined to negotiate with the United States, we
must also recognise the equitable rights of every member of the
late Confederacy.

The most expedient mode of doing this, is to carry on the. nego-
tiation through the Federal authority of the Southern Confederacy.

Mr. Jemisos said :

< lentlemen speak contemptuously ofcrpc/iscs. Wemav sothink
and SO speak here, but the people will think of expenses. There;
is an old saying that " many micklea moke a mucklf" I tell this
Convention that we are now running up a formidable bill for the
tax-payers. We have already incurred expenses rashly, and
without necessity. We have a large number of troops in Flor-
ida; they might as well be in the .Moon, at present, for all prac-
ticable purposes. The expense of a measure is, ot course, a
secondary consideration, when that measure is an absolute neces-
sity, or even when good sense and wisdom seem to favor it.
But in this case there seems to me to be not the slightest neces-
sity. It will amount not only to a waste of money, but of time.

The gentleman from Montgomery [Mr. Yancey] is right on
this subject. Diplomatists move slowly and with great deliber-
ation. The two or three weeks which remain between this time
and the time when our Provisional Government will, in all
probability, be in full operation, would hardly suffice to procure
our Commissioners an introduction into the presence Chamber
of the President.


It seems to nie there is no more propriety or necessity in pur
sending a Commissioner to Washington now, than in sending of]'
Ministers to all the other Courts in Christendom.

The amendment of the gentleman from Tuscaloosa [Mi-.
Smith] was adopted, and the Resolutions passed. [For Mr.

Judge's Mission and its results, see Appendix.]


Ma. Earnest, from the Committee on Enrollments, made the

following report :

The Committee on Enrollments, to whom was referred the
Engrossed Ordinance, withdrawing the State of Alabama from
the Union of the United States, and who reported the Ordinance
as correctly enrolled oh parchment, in pursuance of a Resolution,

have instructed me to make this supplemental Report —

Thai a copy of said Ordinance, written with indelible ink by
M r. Joseph B. ( So6de,of Montgomery, has been furnished the( Som-
mittee. which being a neat and correct copy of said Ordinance,
they recommend that this copy be adopted as tin- original, and
tiled iii the office oi the Secretary of State, and that the former
copy of" said Ordinance assigned, be deposited in the Historic
Society of the State of Alabama, at the University of said State.
Ht Tuscaloosa. W. S. EARNEST, Chairman-.

Resolved, That this Convention deeply appreciates the spirit of
zeal, patriotism and disinterestedness that induced Mr. Joseph
B. Goode, of Montgomery, to voluntarily Engross upon parch-
ment the Ordinance of Secession, as adopted on the 11th Janu-
ary, 1801.

Resolved, That this Convention hereby lenders its most hearty
thanks to Mr. Goode for the elegant and creditable manner in
which he has Engrossed the Ordinance — it being (as near as cir-
eumstances would admit) a perfect specimen of Penmanship*

Upon motion, th •• report was concurred in. and the Resolu-
tions adopted.

And, mi motion, the Convention adjourned till 10, A. M. to



Mij. Dowdsli asked a suspension of the Rules, to offer the
following Resolution :

Resolve/?, That it is the opinion of this Convention that the
Navigation of the Mississippi should remain free to the people of
the States and Territories lying upon it and its tributaries, and
no obstruction to the enjoyment of this privilege should be

offered, except for protection against a belligerent and unfriendly

N < .1 granted.

Mic ( iii.cuitisT. Chairman of the Gommfttee on Foreign Rela-
tions, made the following report:

The Committee on Foreign Relations, to whom was referred
a Resolution instructing them to enquire into the expediency of
sending Commissioners to New Mexico and Arizona, for the
purpose of securing the annexation of those Territories to the
Southern Confederacy as. new States, have had the same under
consideration, and instructed me to Report, that they deem it
inexpedient for the Convention to take any action thereon, as
the same more appropriately belongs to the Southern Congress.

Mr. Watts, Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary and
Internal Affairs', to which was referred " An Ordinance in relation
to the Collection of Debts, &c., reported that the Committee had
had the same under consideration, and had instructed him to re-
port ihc accompanying Ordinance, and recommend its adoption
as a Substitute for the one referred :


lie it Ordained by the people df Alabama in Convention as-
sembled. That full power to confiscate Property belonging to
enemies at war with the State of Alabama is hereby invested in
the General Assembly of this State. And the power to suspend
the collection of Debts, and all obligations to pay money due or
owing persons, artificial or natural, in the non-slaveholding States
of the United States of America, may be likewise exercised by
the General Assembly of this State, in any manner they may
see proper; any provisions in the Constitution of the State t<>
the contrary notwithstanding.


Mr. Shortridor moved to refer the Report and Ordinance to
the Committee on Printing, and make it the special order for
Friday at 12, M.

Mr, Lewis offered the following Resolution:

Resolved, That the Ordinance and amendments now before the
Convention be referred to the Committee on the Judiciary with
instructions to report an Ordinance giving the Legislature the
war-making power until the formation of a Southern Confede-

Mi;. ( ociikan- moved to lay the whole matter on the table,
■jui withdrew his motion to enable

Mr. Comsmam to offer (he following;

Be ii ordained by the people of Alabama in Convention as-

pmbled, That the collection by law of any and all Debts due, to

ritizens of non-slaveholding States which have passed "Personal

Libert) Bills," or tendered aid to the General Government to

n e a seceding State, be suspended for nine months.

Mr. Watts said:

The original Ordinance which was referred to the Committee
undertakes bom to confiscate the property within tfte borders of
Alabama, belonging to the citizens of anv of the Liberty-Bill
states. Ihe Substitute Ordinance of the Committee proposes
to give, to the Legislature the power to do this whenever it may
become necessary. He preferred greatly this course. Let the
Legislature act upon this subject at the proper time.

Mi:. Siiortridge said :

Mr. President— h occurs to me -die Ordinance reported by the
v hairman of the Judiciary does not meet the question boldly
and fully. Ihe Legislature of New-York, as we are officialh
informed, has actually tendered to the Government at Washing-
ton ten millions of money, to aid in the attempt to subjucrafe
the seceding States. It is understood that Massachusetts, Maine
and Ohio, and perhaps other Northern States, have adopted sim-
ilar coercive measures. This action on the part of those States
amounts to n declaration of war on Alabama. It, therefore be-


comes this Convention, if it would preserve its own dignity and
the honor of tin- State, to meet this hostile legislation in the
raosl emphatio and decided manner. This is done, it seems to
me, in the first section of the Ordinance 1 bad the honor to intro-
duce. It provides that the doors of our Courts shall be closed
against the collection of such debts as ma) be due from our citi-
zens to citizens of such States as have assumed this warlike atti-
tude, or have passed the so-called Liberty Bills, or have judicially
denied the right of transit, to persoas owning slaves, with their
property. The amount of indebtedness due from the South to
the North amounts to several hundred millions of dollars. The
people of Alabama owe probably as much as eleven millions in
the City of New-York alone. Whilsl I do not propose to violate
the law of nations, I insist that, tinder 'the circumstances which
surround us, we should hold in abeyance this immense debt. To
pay it now would be to drain us, and to bestow upon our ene-
mies the means and the sinews of war. In view, too, of the
pressure existing in monetary affairs, as a measure of relief, it is
entitled to serious consideration. If the merchant is indulged by
his creditor, he can indulge those indebted to him.

The substitute offered by the Committee proposes to leave the
question to the Legislature on the happening of an actual war.
1 wish the Convention to act on things already developed, and to
act promptly. 1 wish to let the States of the North know that
we are willing to meet the issue which they have presented. 1
wish them to know that so long as the obnoxious laws remain
unrepealed, and the. hostile judicial decisions remain in force, to
which 1 have alluded, that neither the comity of nations, nor a
regard for peace and tranquility, can make us quail, when our
honor is involved.

In the second section of the original Ordinance, it is proposed

to release the citizens of Alabama from their indebtedness to

Northern creditors only when those creditors endeavor to evade,

by a transfer or assignment of their evidences of debt, the pro-

; ions of the first section. This was deemed necessary to give

:'ir and effect to those provisions, and reaches, and was only
intended to reach such creditors as attempt fraudulently to creep
into our Courts.

I do not pretend, Mr. President, that the original Ordinance
is perfect. It was drawn hastily, and in the midst of' multiplied
labors. It was intended to be more BUggestive than otherwise,
in the hope that wiser and abler heads than mine, after examina-
tion and reflection, would aid in bringing it as near perfection as
may be.


Jt will also be perceived that it is contemplated to leave the
Bubject, by my Ordinance, ultimately in the hands of the Legis-
lature. But now is the time fop this Convention to make the
proper reply to New-York, and this is the. body on whom 'this

duty devolves. Let us not temporize, nor (ear to look dangers
and difficulties like these full in the face.

With regard to those sections which contemplate confiscation
in the event of actual war. 1 see no great difference in principle
between the original Ordinance and that reported by the Com-
mittee. I am, therefore, indifferent whether they are adopted
imir by the Convention or not. It may he time enough when
hostilities have commenced, to proceed to the extreme of eon-
fiscal ion.

Mr. Jones, of Lauderdale, said :

Mr. Preaidmt — The substitute of the gentleman from Mont-
gomery, (Mr. Watts,) proposes to confiscate all debts due by

the citizens of Alabama to citizens of the Northern States at war
with this .State. 1 must confess, sir, that I did not like the propo-
sition when it was first read at your Clerk's table, nor was my dis-
like at all removed by the remarks of the mover of the substi-
tute under consideration. 1 am opposed, sir, to every descrip-
tion of robbery. But when it is proposed to inaugurate a new
Republic by perpetrating a flagrant outrage upon our just credit-
tors, 1 must signify my dissent, and ask to stand acquitted by
the record from any participation in the deed.

Who. let me ask the gentleman from Montgomery, are the ene-
mies of Alabama? If I do not greatly misunderstand the law,
whenever a government declares war upon Alabama, every citi-
zen of that Government, whatever may be his private opinions.
becomes ed inatanti an enemy to our State, and must be treated
as Such under the rules of war.

If this be true, and the President of the United States should
attempt to " enforce tlie lav' 1 (which is only a honeyed phrase
t'or invasion and subjugation.) then the merchant of New York
City becomes, by the legal construction of this amendment,
tie- enemj of Alabama, notwithstanding he has recognised our
Constitutional rights, braved the whole abolition pack of his
State, and wasted time and money, and lost political caste at homo
in defense of our property. This amendment, then, proposes to
do what 1 believe a great wrong. It is not only wrong in mor-
als, but it is charly contrary to sound policy.

I think I may safely say that nineteen-tweutieths of the. debt
of Alabama, due to the North is due to our political friends.


Indeed, it is no great compliment to Southern merchants to
suppose that they nave traded to any extent with the enemies of
Southern Institutions; ami if they have not, then, it is clear, that
nearly the entire debt is due to those true men of the North,
who are now the sheet-anchor of our hope to over-awe the Abo-
lition army, that would invade, to coerce at, and thus involve us
in an unnatural fratracida] war.

These Northern men have a deep merit in preserving peace.
They are men of Commerce ; and Commerce never fails to ele-
vate the mental horizon, and expand the range of vision ; it is,
and ever has been the sworn foe of bigotry and fanaticism.
These merchants have comprehended our constitutional rights.
■ml acknowledged and defended our equality. Ttaey clearly see
the priceless value of our productions, and stand aghast at the
reckless folly of that pestilent set. that would strike down the
production of the great staple upon which the industry, the pros-
perity, the very civilization of the age depends.

Then, sir. for years these merchants have carried on an exten-
sive and lucrative trade with the Southern people. They have
found our people honest, liberal, and punctual ; they have trusted
our merchants up to the very hour of Secession, relying on our
spotless. imcoiTiipted integrity. Then, let our honor be sustained
— let these debts be paid to the last farthing. But if this sub-
stitute must pass, let us change its caption to "An Ordinance to
concentrate the entire North against the State of Alabama." This
will be a much more fitting caption, and better adapted to the
practical results of this measure. It, is also unnecessary and pre-
cipitate. By the Ordinance of Secession, you have destroyed
the Federal Courts, and the foreign creditor will be driven to
seek his remedy in the State Courts. It is now certain (and I
deeply regret it,) that the present Legislature will pass some sort
of Stay Law, by which the collection of all debts will be delayed.
Thus, time will be given to learn the policy and temper of the
Northern people on the subject of coercion. In the mean time
the $11,000,000, due front our people to the North will be held
as a hostage for peace. This is certainly a wiser course than
hasty absolute confiscation as proposed by the amendment. But
honest, prompt payment is better than either.

1 hope the Convention will place the seal of its disapprobation
both on the Ordinance and amendment, that, standing, as per-
haps we do. on the verge of a great revolution, in the progress of
which the old land-marks of truth and justice may be lost sight
uf, wii!l not at the outset demoralize our people by the perpetra-
tion of an act, which public necessity does not demand, and sound
morality cannot justify.


Mr. Smith, of Tuscaloosa, said:

Mr. President — The subject ot' confiscation, as presented in
this Ordinance, is one of the most interesting, as it is one of the
most important questions that will come before this Convention.

The deliberate a*cf of confiscation, by the war-making power of
a State, is regarded, am'ongsl civilized nations, as equivalent to a
declaration of war.

It is not the custom of nations to confiscate the property of
any, except their actual enemies — enemies in war; not of a po-
litical enemy merely, nor of one that may hereafter become an

Some States, of a tyrannical power, exercise the right of con-
fiscating the property i^ their own citizens, for treasons and
other offences; but the Question raised here lias reference only
to the confiscation of the property of the State's enemies.

Sir. I maintain, that, in a bclligerant sense, we have no enemies.
And 1 Understand it to be the desire of this Convention that we
should not so govern our movements here as to create enemies.
As I deprecate hostilities, so I deprecate any action whatever,
upon this question, at this time, as premature. There is no ne-
cessity for this action yet. Do youwish to provoke retaliations?
Set the example here, and your own citizens who own property
at the North will lie the first to suffer; for m matters of money
And property, the people of the North arc amply able to protect
themselves; and they arc proverbially as keen and sagacious in
their apprehensions as they are quick in the exercise of their re-

Mr. Watts:

If the gentleman from Tuscaloosa, [Mr. Smith,] will read the
Ordinance, he will sec that he docs not interpret it properly.

Mr. Smith :

The language of the Ordinance is not as distinct as is stated by
the gentleman from Montgomery, [Mr. Watts.] There will be
left in it. an open question for the Legislature. The Ordinance
ought not to carry on its face a doubtful meaning. An ingenious
constructionist could strain a power which it might not be our in-
tention to give. At the proper time, in order to restrict the power
proposed to be conferred, I will offer a proviso, "That the powers
hereby conferred on the General Assembly shall not be exer-

] v " rOB) KM' DIBATK4 Of

: except in case of actual war. or until hostilities shall have
been commenced.

The gentleman from Lauderdale, [Mr. Jones] has the true con-
ception of this subject He histoid vim tli;it tlii> confiscation
would reach our friends first. How true is this; let us pursue this
idea: In the city of New York, in the late election for President,
uur friend* carried the polls by nearly forty thousand votes! In
the State lit' New Fork, in tin- same election, wo were defeated by
less than forty thousand majority. We have in the State of New
York, «i 18.0UO voting friends — nearly hull' the Stale — nearly
enough voting friends to make four States as populous :is Alabama!
Ami it should not lie forgotten that, in the city of New York,
where our friends are forty thousand majority, is due the hulk of
the Suuthcru debt, and due to our friends. This debt might he
confiscated, under the power you propose to confer upon the Leg-
islature, by this Ordinance.

In connection with the idea of the number of our friends in New
York, 1 will refer to another Subject: A lew days ago, we received

a communication from the Governor of Alabama, transmitting to
us the New York Resolutions, in which the Legislature of that
State had offered aid to the General Government With an appro-
priation of 10, 000,000 of dollars, for the unholy purpose of co-
ercing the seceding States. I was not surprised at the feeling »f
indignation that seised the Convention, when the subjeot of the
Resolutions was disclosed. 1 was not surprised that the reading
of the execrable document was brought suddenly to a dose, and
that it was consigned to the oblivion of silent contempt. No man
could read it or hear it read, without feeling his blood burning his
veins. Bat notwithstanding the hostile character of the docu-
ment; in our more qutel an I reflecting moments, we cannot forget
that those Resolutions expressed but the opinions of a dominant
majority; an accidental power, which in a Bingle turn of the
wheel of political fortune, might be hurled from its position. The
triumph of party is transient. There is no stability in parties.
There is no tenure so uncertain as political power. Especially is
this true in New York. Ten years of its history will show as
many political revolutions. Yesterday there may have been one
hundred thousand marjority one way, to-day there may be two
hundred thousand majority the other way. And I verily believe
that in the next election, the revolution which is uow working its
rapid wheels in that State, will hurl this Black Republican party

Online LibraryWilliam Russell SmithThe history and debates of the Convention of the people of Alabama, begun and held in the city of Montgomery, on the seventh day of January, 1861; in which is preserved the speeches of the secret sessions and many valuable state papers → online text (page 17 of 47)