The Negro and the Nation: A History of American Slavery and Enfranchisement

By George S. Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI
FACE TO FACE

To understand the meaning of secession and the Civil War which followed it, we must fathom the thoughts and feelings of the opposing parties. Let us suppose two representative spokesmen to state their case in turn.

Let the Secessionist speak first. The Secessionists were not at first a majority of the people of the Southern States, but it was their view which prevailed. What that view was we know certainly and from abundant evidence,--the formal acts of secession, the speeches of the leaders in Congress and at home, the histories since written by the President and Vice-President of the Confederacy, and countless similar sources. This, substantially, was the Secessionist's position:--

"This Union is a partnership of States, of which the formal bond is the Constitution; the vital principle is the enjoyment by each section and community of its rights; and the animating spirit is the mutual respect and good-will of all members of the Union. The Northern people have violated the provisions of the Constitution; they have infringed the essential rights of the Southern communities, and threatened to invade them still further; and they have displaced the spirit of mutual good-will by alienation, suspicion, and hostility. The formal bond of the Union being thus impaired, and its vital spirit lost, we propose explicitly and finally to dissolve this partnership of States, and reorganize our Southern communities in a new Confederacy.

"We charge you of the North with explicit violation of

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