Causes of the War. Great speech of Hon. Joseph Wheeler, of Alabama. Slavery and States rights. [from the Richmond, Va., Dispatch, July 31, 1894.]Opposition of the Southern colonists to slavery, and their devotion to the Union—Advocates of secession.
On Friday, July 13th, 1894, the House of Representatives being in Committee of the Whole, on appropriations and expenditures, and having under consideration the bill to remove the charge of desertion standing against Patrick Kelleher, late private, Company C, Thirty-eighth Illinois Volunteers, Mr. Wheeler, of Alabama, as a member of the Committee on Military Affairs, made a speech which has since attracted wide-spread attention. The discussion, which became animated, led up to the causes of the late war and its immense expenditures, and Mr. Wheeler brought out some startling historical facts. He said: I did not intend or desire to enter into any discussion about the war, but in reply to the question of the distinguished gentleman from New York, General Curtis, I will say that these expenditures were caused by events which I deplored. The armies causing these immense expenditures were raised for reasons with which I was not in sympathy, and I regretted very much that they were raised. (Laughter and applause). I never thought them necessary, because I believed then, as I believe now, that our appeals should have been heeded when we went on our knees at the Peace Congress, in Philadelphia, to beg for arbitration and peace, and to beg that some  guarantee should be given that the Constitution of the country should be regarded.
Zzzchief-justice Chase in the peace Convention.Chief-Justice Chase told our southern people, in his great speech of February 6, 1861, that neither he nor any of the leaders of the Republican party, could guarantee to the South that the party coming into power would obey the clause of the Constitution which pledged protection to the property of the people of the South. Mr. Chase said: The result of the national canvass which recently terminated in the election of Mr. Lincoln has been spoken of by some as the effect of a sudden impulse or of some irregular excitement of the popular mind; and it has been somewhat confidently asserted that, upon reflection and consideration, the hastily-formed opinions which brought about the election will be changed. I cannot take this view of the result of the presidential election. I believe, and the belief amounts to absolute conviction, that the election must be regarded as a triumph of principles cherished in the hearts of the people of the free States. We have elected him (Mr. Lincoln). After many years of earnest advocacy and of severe trial we have achieved the triumph of that principle. By a fair and unquestioned majority we have secured that triumph. Do you think we, who represent this majority, will throw it away? Do you think the people will sustain us if we undertake to throw it away? I must speak to you plainly, gentlemen of the South. It is not in my heart to deceive you. I, therefore, tell you explicitly that if we of the North and West would consent to throw away all that has been gained in the recent triumph of our principles, the people would not sustain us, and so the consent would avail you nothing. Mr. Chase, in that speech, with great force, gave the South to understand that the Northern States would not, and ought not, to comply with the obligations of the Federal Constitution. He said if the leaders attempted an enforcement of that part of the Constitution which the South demanded, the people of the North could not sustain them, and they would be powerless.  But he said we may do this: We admit the contract, we admit the constitutional contract, and we may regard it similar to cases in chancery where circumstances have arisen that make a party unable to comply with his contract, and, therefore, the court decrees pecuniary compensation. There were many reasons which brought on the conditions which culminated in the war, which necessitated the vast expenditure of money which is exhibited in the table. The doctrine of States rights, protective tariff, internal improvements, and in fact all the questions upon which the Democratic party differed with their political opponents, entered into the question; but as history seems to contend that the existence of slavery was the main cause, I will comply with my friends' request, and, from a southern standpoint, give some reasons which come to my mind, and in doing so I beg that every one present will believe me when I disclaim any feeling or any disposition to censure any one or any section. I know all, and especially I know the soldiers, will accept my statements in the same good feeling in which they are uttered, and will appreciate the propriety of a southern man calling attention to historical facts, which refute allegations made upon this floor, that the responsibility of the war rested altogether upon the southern people. When the people of the South settled on the shores of Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, they had no intention of encouraging or even tolerating the institution of slavery. The thrifty New England seamen, in their voyages to the Indies and other countries, saw its practical operation, and solely with the view of profit in the transportation and sale of the African, they, with characteristic energy, urged upon all the Colonies the great advantages which would result from utilizing this character of labor. Their friends in the North readily acceded to their importunities, but not so with those of the South.
Zzzsouthern Colonies opposed slavery.Oglethorpe and his colonists were possibly the most determined in resisting the importation, sale and use of African slaves; and for twenty years they were successful in the enforcement of the law which prohibited the landing of slaves in Georgia. Finally, together with the other Southern States, they succumbed, and the New England  ship owners amassed fortunes by plying the business of buying negroes in Africa, transporting them to the United States, and selling them for the most part to southern people. The evil of this traffic soon became apparent to the people of the South, and when the Constitution was framed in 1787, the South demanded that the fundamental law of our land should inhibit this traffic of importing human beings from Africa. The South was resisted by the New England slave-traders, and as a compromise, it was agreed that the trade should be restricted, and after the year 1800, entirely prohibited, but, by the persistency of New England, the provision was finally extended to the year 1808. It has been charged that the opposition of southern slave-holders, which was manifested in the convention to the continued importation of slaves, was attributable to their desire to maintain the value of the slave property they already possessed, but contemporaneous writing clearly shows that the mass of these people were actuated by no such selfish motives. Very soon the people of the North found that their climate was not adapted to slave labor, and as the Constitution prohibited the continuance of the profitable business of catching or buying negroes in Africa and selling them to the people of the South, they ceased to have any interest in this class of property. I do not say that the lack of pecuniary interest actuated any one, but about this time there commenced what history will record as a war upon the institution of slavery.
Zzznorthern States nullify the Constitution.Instead of upholding and enforcing the constitutional guarantee which I have read, many States of the North enacted laws making it a criminal offence for any official to comply with his oath of office and comply with the terms of the Constitution, so far as it affected this question. This was done against the protest of such great men as Edward Everett and Daniel Webster. This precise question was discussed by that great statesman, Daniel Webster, in his Buffalo speech of May 22, 1851. He said: Then there was the other matter, and that was the fugitive-slave law. Let me say a word about that. Under the provisions of the Constitution, during Washington's administration, in the year 1793, there was passed by general consent a law for the restoration of fugitive slaves. Hardly any one opposed it at that period; it was thought to be necessary in order to carry the Constitution into effect;  the great men of New England and New York all concurred in it. It passed and answered all the purposes expected from it till about the year 1841 or 1842, when the States interferred to make enactments in opposition to it. We see here that Mr. Webster states that these laws, enacted by Northern States, nullifying this constitutional provision, commenced as far back as 1841 to 1842. He continued: Now I undertake, as a lawyer, and on my professional character, to say to you and to all, that the law of 1850 is decidedly more favorable to the fugitive than General Washington's law of 1793.* * Such is the present law, and, much opposed and maligned as it is, it is more favorable to the fugitive slave than the law enacted during Washington's administration in 1793, which was sanctioned by the North as well as by the South. The present violent opposition has sprung up in modern times. From whom does this clamor come? * * * Look at the proceedings of the anti-slavery conventions in Ohio, Massachusetts, and at Syracuse, in the State of New York. What do they say? That, so help them God, no colored man shall be sent from the State of New York back to his master in Virginia. Do not they say that? And, to the fulfilllment of that, they pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Their sacred honor! They pledge their sacred honor to violate the Constitution; they pledge their sacred honor to commit treason against laws of their country. We see here that Daniel Webster charged that the agitators against slavery were guilty of pledging their honor to violate the Constitution. He said they pledged their sacred honor to commit treason against the laws of their country. If possible, Mr. Webster was even more emphatic in his great speech at Capon Springs. This devoted patriot said: The leading sentiment in the toast from the chair is the union of the States. The union of the States. What mind can comprehend the consequences of that union, past, present, and to come? The union of these States is the all-absorbing topic of the day; on it all men write, speak, think, and dilate from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof. And yet, gentlemen, I fear its importance has been insufficiently appreciated. Again, speaking as a constitutional lawyer, Mr. Webster said: How absurd it is to suppose that when different parties enter into a compact for certain purposes either can disregard any one provision,  and expect, nevertheless, the other to observe the rest! I intend, for one, to regard and maintain and carry out to the fullest extent the Constitution of the United States, which I have sworn to support in all its parts and all its provisions. It is written in the Constitution— ‘No person held to service or labor in one State under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.’ That is as much a part of the Constitution as any other, and as equally binding and obligatory as any other on all men, public or private. And who denies this? None but the Abolitionists of the North. And, pray, what is it they will not deny? They have but the one idea; and it would seem that these fanatics at the North and the Secessionists at the South are putting their heads together to devise means to defeat the good designs of honest, patriotic men. They act to the same end and the same object, and the Constitution has to take the fire from both sides. Mr. Webster then told his hearers that if the Northern States persisted in their refusal to comply with the Constitution the South would no longer be bound to observe the constitutional compact He said: I have not hesitated to say, and I repeat, that if the Northern States refuse, wilfully and deliberately, to carry into effect that part of the Constitution which respects the restoration of fugitive slaves, and Congress provides no remedy, the South would no longer be bound to observe the compact. A bargain cannot be broken on one side and still bind the other side. I say to you, gentlemen in Virginia, as I said on the shores of Lake Erie and in the city of Boston, as I may say again in that city or elsewhere in the North, that you of the South, have as much right to recover your fugitive slaves as the North has to any of its rights and privileges of navigation and commerce. Mr. Webster also said: I am as ready to fight and to fall for the constitutional rights of Virginia as I am for those of Massachusetts. Then followed the election of Abraham Lincoln upon a platform which clearly informed the southern people that the guaranties of the Constitution, which they revered, and the doctrines of State rights  and other principles of government, which they cherished, were to be ignored, and that they were to be deprived of the greater part of their property, and all possibility of continued prosperity. The South was of necessity alarmed. They were seized with the fear that the extreme leaders of the Republican party would not stop at any excess, that they would not be satisfied with depriving them of their property, but that, so far as possible, they would place the ignorant slave not only upon equality with, but even above his former master. It was but natural that such an impending fate horrified the people, and that measures to avert it were contemplated and discussed.
Zzzsouthern people devoted to the Union.The southern people loved the Union with a devotion which had no precedent in the history of the world. It was a work very largely of their creation. Their blood and treasures were freely given to secure its independence. The South gave to that sacred cause the voice and eloquence of Patrick Henry, to arouse the people to action; the pen of Jefferson, to write the Declaration that we were a free and independent people; the sword of Washington, to win the battles which made us one of the nations of the earth; and it also furnished Chief-Justice Marshall, to proclaim the principles upon which American jurisprudence and civil liberty are founded. They were southern with Washington who crossed the Alleghanies, one hundred and forty-one years ago, to defend the pioneers who were braving the dangers of the western forest. They were southern men who, under Captain Gorman, hastened to the defence of Massachusetts at the first sound of battle at Concord and Lexington. In the war of 1812 the South gave her undivided support to the flag, and largely contributed to the success of our arms. The last battle of that war was fought by a southern general, with southern men, on southern soil. In the Indian wars the South always furnished her full share of soldiers, and in the Mexican war the killed and wounded from the Southern States in proportion to population was about three times that of the States of the North. In the war of 1861-‘65 the South furnished 640,000 to the Federal army, a larger number than it furnished to the Confederate army. This was the only period during which there was any division of sentiment on this point among the southern people, for since 1865 they have been as devoted to the flag and the Union as the people of any part of our land.  The people of the South did not wish to give up the benefits of a government to the establishment of which they had so largely contributed. They were loyal and law-abiding, and refused to follow the example of the participants in the Shay rebellion in New York, the whiskey rebellion in Pennsylvania, the Dorr rebellion in Rhode Island, and the Hartford convention rebellion in Connecticut; but they reluctantly succumbed to the conviction that the party about to take control would have no respect for their rights. For more than half a century they had been taught by their northern brethren that when the people of a State found that it was not to their advantage to remain in the Union it was not only their privilege but their duty to peacefully withdraw from it.
Zzzsecession advocated by Massachusetts.Ninety years ago the people of Massachusetts expressed themselves in favor of the principle of secession by the enactment of the following resolution in the Massachusetts Legislature: That the annexation of Louisiana to the Union transcends the constitutional power of the Government of the United States. It formed a new Confederacy, to which the States united by the former compact are not bound to adhere. It is clearly shown by the history of the times that the people of New England were very pronounced in their expressions that the Constitution recognized the unquestioned right of a State to secede from the Union. At the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of Washington, April 30, 1839, ex-President John Quincy Adams delivered an address which was received with great approval by the people. In that speech Mr. Adams said: But the indissoluble union between the several States of this confederated nation is, after all, not in the right but in the heart. If the day should ever come (may Heaven avert it!) when the affections of the people of these States shall be alienated from each other; when the fraternal spirit shall give way to cold indifference, or collision of interest shall fester into hatred, the bands of political asseveration will not long hold together parties no longer attracted by the magnetism of conciliated interests and kindly sympathies; and far better will it be for the people of the disunited States to part in friendship from each other than to be held together by constraint. Then will be the time for reverting to the precedents which occurred at the formation  and adoption of the Constitution, to form again a more perfect union by dissolving that which could no longer bind, and to leave the separated parts to be reunited by the law of political gravitation to the centre. It is very evident that Mr. Adams and the people of New England generally regarded these views as the correct interpretation of the original compact which bound the people together. I will call attention to the fact that three years later, January 24, 1842, he presented a petition to Congress from citizens of Haverhill, Mass. I read from Congressional Globe, volume XI, page 977: Monday, January 24th.—In the House. Mr. Adams presented the petition of sundry citizens of Haverhill, in the State of Massachusetts, praying that Congress will immediately adopt measures favorably to dissolve the union of these States. First. Because no union can be agreeable and permanent which does not present prospects for reciprocal benefit; second, because a vast proportion of the revenues of one section of the Union is annually drained to sustain the views and course of another section, without any adequate return; third, because, judging from the history of past nations, that union, if persisted in in the present state of things, will certainly overwhelm the whole nation in destruction. There was a strong manifestation against receiving the petition, and by some it was denounced as treason and perjury. On page 980 Mr. Adams spoke in his own defence and in favor of the petition. He said: I hold that it is no perjury, that it is no high-treason, but the exercise of a sacred right to offer such a petition, and that it is false in morals, as it is inhuman, to fasten that charge on men who, under the countenance of such declarations as I have here quoted, come and ask of this House a redress of grievances. And if they do mistake their remedy, this government should not turn them away, and charge them with high-treason and subordination of perjury; but ought to take it up, to weigh the considerations which can be urged in their favor; and if there be none but those which are so eloquently set forth in the pamphlet I have quoted, these should be considered. If they have mistaken their remedy, the House should do as the gentleman from Kentucky (Mr. Marshall) told us he was ready to do—admit the facts. Mr. Gilmer, page 983, introduced the following resolution: Resolved, That in presenting to the consideration of this House a  petition for the dissolution of the Union, the member from Massachusetts (Mr. Adams) has justly incurred the censure of this House. The following resolution was also introduced by Mr. Marshall, of Kentucky: Resolved, therefore, That Hon. John Q. Adams, a member from Massachusetts, in presenting for the consideration of the House of Representatives of the United States a petition praying the dissolution of the Union, has offered the deepest indignity to the House, of which he is a member; an insult to the people of the United States, of which that House is the legislative organ; and will, if this outrage is permitted to pass unrebuked and unpunished, have disgraced his country, through their representatives, in the eyes of the whole world. Two weeks were exclusively devoted to Mr. Adam's trial, at the end of which the entire proceedings were laid on the table. I find the following note on page 236 of the Globe. The trial of Mr. Adams, to the exclusion of all other business, commenced on the 25th of January, and terminated on the 7th of February, when the whole proceedings were laid on the table, without deciding a single point. The expenses of the House during that time, thus wasted, exceeded $26,000. The failure on the part of the House to even censure Mr. Adams was construed by many as an admission that Mr. Adams's construction was correct. This sentiment in favor of secession continually gained strength, and five years later the Legislature of Massachusetts passed another secession resolution. I read from ‘Acts and resolutions passed by the Legislature of Massachusetts in the year 1844,’ page 319: 1. Resolved, That the power to unite an independent foreign State with the United States is not among the powers delegated to the General Government by the Constitution of the United States. 2. Resolved, * * * That the project of the annexation of Texas, unless arrested on the threshold, may drive these States into a dissolution of the Union. 3. Resolved, That his Exellency, the Governor, be requested to transmit a copy of the foregoing resolves to each of the Senators and Members of the House of Representatives of this Commonwealth in the Congress of the United States.  4. Resolved, That his Excellency, the Governor, be requested to transmit a copy of the same resolves to the Executive of the United States and of the several States. Approved by the Governor, March 15, 1844. A year later, February 22, 1845, the Legislature of Massachusetts celebrated Washington's birthday by passing still another secession resolution. I read from the same volume, pages 598 and 599: Resolved, That Massachusetts has never delegated the power to admit into the Union, States or Territories without or beyond the originial territory of the States and Territories belonging to the Union at the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. Resolved, * * * and as the powers of legislation granted in the Constitution of the United States to Congress do not embrace the case of the admission of a foreign State or foreign Territory by legislation into the Union, such an act of admission would have no binding force whatever on the people of Massachusetts. Resolved, That his Excellency, the Governor, be requested to transmit copies of the preceding report and resolves to the President of the United States, the several Senators and Representatives in Congress from this Commonwealth, and the Governors of the several States. Approved by the Governor, February 22, 1845. I beg to call special attention to the second resolution, and also to that part of the third resolution which directed the Governor to transmit copies of the resolution, etc. All this was a part of the history of our country when Mr. Lincoln was elected by the solid vote of the States of the North, opposed by the solid vote of the States of the South. A large part of the northern press contended that the States of the South had a full right to secede if the people desired to withdraw from the Union, and it was common to see in the northern press the words, ‘Erring sisters go in peace.’
Zzzthe Northern press Advocates secession.Mr. Lincoln's election was fully known on the evening of November 8, 1860, and the next morning, November 9th, Mr. Greeley's New York Tribune contained the following: