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Slavery a Bar to foreign aid.

I should feel inclined to think that it is the dream of a dreamer, and that the correspondent of the Washington Post has dreamed it, for I have known all the most prominent men of the South and many others who might well come within the designation of ‘some of the ablest men,’ and never heard any one of them as much as hint at such a venture. Indeed, many of them knew too well that the institution of slavery proved the greatest bar to every hope of foreign assistance, and that the establishment of a new slaveholding community with the aid of a foreign power an absolute impossibility. But apart from this negative objection, I am able to give information of a positive nature which will point to the same conclusion.

I have said that while I was at Shreveport, preparing for my journey, Governor Allen had imparted to me a scheme he was then revolving in his mind. I will now disclose it. Seeing that the South could not replace its fallen combatants, whereas the North disposed of an ever-increasing army of foreign mercenaries; moreover, that whenever the Federals obtained temporary possession of Southern soil, they kidnapped the negroes and pressed them into military service, Governor Allen's idea was to arm the negroes, and as a consequence to give them their freedom. I remember his very words: ‘Of course,’ he said, ‘we must give them their freedom.’ Such a plan is obviously incompatible with the notion of a retrocession of Louisiana as a slaveholding community, and some interesting conclusions can be drawn from it.

In the first place, it shows that a prominent Southern man, thoroughly acquainted with all the conditions of political and social life in the Southern States, felt a perfect confidence in the loyalty of the black population. Many Northern men would, [334] no doubt, have considered the arming of the slaves as a risky undertaking on the part of the South.

But the history of the war bears out Governor Allen's confidence. During the four years the contest lasted no negro outrage or disturbance arising out of the circumstances has to my knowledge been recorded, nor is it possible to deny that the total want of effervescence in the black population in times where every facility for revolt was afforded them bears testimony to and throws light upon the way in which the institution of slavery was understood and put into practice in the Southern States.

On the other hand, it is impossible to admit that Governor Allen should have brooded over such a scheme as I have stated had he not conceived at least the possibility of its adoption, and this points to the conclusion that the leading minds in the South were, to his knowledge, very far from identifying slavery, in the abstract, with the Confederate cause. In corroboration of this inference I would recall:

1. A proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, issued at the beginning of the war. In it he tried to bribe the Southern States back into the Union by the promise of the maintenance of slavery, and failed.

2. A speech by President Jefferson Davis, delivered, I believe, in 1864, and at Atlanta, Ga. In it he expressed the following sentiments (I quote from memory): ‘There are some who talk of a return to the Union with slavery maintained, but who would thus sacrifice honor to interest.’

With this quotation I will close my narrative. The plain statement of facts it contains will, I have no doubt, convince any unbiased reader that the supposed scheme of a retrocession of Louisiana never had any foundation in fact. Indeed I should not have thought it necessary even to contradict such a myth were it not that my silence might have been misinterpreted and allowed some cloud of suspicion to hover over the memory of departed friends. Their unsullied honor and untarnished fame are, however, in themselves proof against attacks which, be they base or futile, must inevitably recoil upon their authors, exposing them to ridicule or contempt.

C. J. Polignac. Villa Jessie, Cannes, France, April 17, 1901.

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