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[511] former class, though few at first, had been steadily gaining from the latter. Each of these were constantly, openly saying, “Give us our rights in the Union, or we will secure them by going out of the Union.” When, therefore, they received messages of sympathy and cheer from their Northern compatriots in many arduous struggles, they could not but understand their assurances of continued and thorough accord as meaning what was implied by like assurances from Southern sources.

Among the captures by Gen. Grant's army, during his glorious Mississippi campaign of 1863, were several boxes of the letters and private papers of Jefferson Davis, found in an out-house on a plantation between Jackson and Vicksburg. Several of these letters were given to the public by their captors, many of them bearing the signatures of Northern men of note, who have never denied their authenticity. These letters throw a clear light on the state of Southern opinion which induced the Secession movement of 1860-61, and are therefore essential contributions to the history of that period. As such, a portion of them will here be given.

So early as 1850, James Buchanan (not yet President) wrote to Mr. Davis, complaining that “the South ” was disposed to be too easily satisfied, with regard to her ‘rights’ in the territories. In this “private and confidential” letter, dated Wheatland, March 16th, he says:

So far from having in any degree recoiled from the Missouri Compromise, I have prepared a letter to sustain it, written with all the little ability of which I am master. You may ask, why has it not been published? The answer is very easy. From a careful examination of the proceedings in Congress, it is clear that Non-Intervention is all that will be required by the South. Webster's speech is to be the base of the compromise — it is lauded to the echo by distinguished Southern men — and what is it? Non-intervention; and Non-Intervention simply because the Wilmot Proviso is not required to prevent the curse of Slavery from being inflicted on the Territories. Under these circumstances, it would be madness in me to publish my letter, and take higher ground for the South than they have taken for themselves. This would be to out-Herod Herod, and to be more Southern than the South. It could do no good, but might do much mischief.

The truth is, the South have got themselves into a condition on this question from which it appears to me now they cannot extricate themselves. My proposition of the Missouri Compromise was at once abandoned by them, and the cry was Non-Intervention. They fought the battle at the last Presidential election with this device upon their banners. The Democracy of Pennsylvania are now everywhere rallying to Non-Intervention. They suppose in doing this they are standing by the South in the manner most acceptable to their Southern brethren. Our Democratic journals are praising the speech of Webster,1 because all the appearances are that it is satisfactory to the South. It is now too late to change front with any hope of success. You may retreat with honor upon the principle that you can carry your slaves to California, and hold them there under the Constitution, and refer the question to the Supreme Court of the United States. I am sorry, both for your sakes and my own, that such is the condition in which you are placed.

I say for my own sake, because I can never yield the position which I have deliberately taken in favor of the Missouri Compromise; and I shall be assailed by fanatics and free-soilers as long as I live, for having gone further in support of the rights of the South than Southern Senators and Representatives. I am committed for the Missouri Compromise, and that committal shall stand.

Should there be any unexpected change in the aspect of affairs at Washington which would hold out the hope that the publication of my Missouri Compromise letter would do any good, it shall yet be published.

In this spirit, Northern aspirants and office-seekers had for years been

1 Mr. Webster's deplorably famous speech of March 7th, 1850.

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