previous next

To Sir Charles Lyell, Bart.

Boston, November 27, 1860.
My dear Lyell,—You will be glad, I think, to hear something about the state of affairs in the United States, from somebody with whom you are so well acquainted that you will know how to measure what he says. . . . . All men, I think, are satisfied that our principles of government are about to be put to the test as they never yet have been. The sectional parties, that Washington and Hamilton foresaw as our greatest danger, and which Calhoun, Clay, Webster, and J. Q. Adams died believing they would break up the Union, are now fully formed. . . . From the time of Calhoun, or from the announcement of his dangerous and unsound doctrines, that is, from 1828, to 1832, the people of South Carolina have been gradually coming to the conclusion that it is not for their material interest to continue in the Union. Nearly all have now come to this persuasion.1 . . . . They care little whether any other State goes with them; so extravagantly excited have they become . . . . The State most likely to go with them is Alabama. Georgia is very much excited, and very unsound, as we think; and Florida, a State of less consequence, is quite ready to go . . . . . South Carolina, however, is the only State about which, at this moment, there seems little or no doubt. But property everywhere is the great bond of society; and in our slave-holding States the negroes constitute an extraordinary proportion of the wealth of the people. . . . . This property, which, at the time when the Constitution was formed, existed in nearly all the States, we all promised should be secured to the South by the return of their fugitive slaves, and without this promise the Constitution could not have been formed at all. The slave States are now in a minority, and several of the free States have enacted laws to prevent the return of these fugitives. This is the main, substantial ground of their complaints. But it is not the only or chief ground. They believe themselves in danger; and many of the leading men all through the South believe that if there were no danger in the case they should be better out of the Union than they are in it.

All this, as you at once perceive, is neither legal nor logical. The

1 The passages omitted consist of amplifications and citations of facts, which seem needless now, and occupy much space.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Charles Lyell (2)
John C. Calhoun (2)
Daniel Webster (1)
Columbia Washington (1)
William Hamilton (1)
Henry Clay (1)
Bart (1)
John Quincy Adams (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
November 27th, 1860 AD (1)
1832 AD (1)
1828 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: