Table of Contents:
To the people of the Congressional District Comprising the counties of Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, Charles City, James City, York, Warwick, Elizabeth City, and the Cities of Richmond and Williamsburg.--Fellow-Citizens: On the first Wednesday in November, as you are aware, there will be an election of members of the House of Representatives in the First Congress of the Confederate States, under the permanent Constitution. I am a candidate for your suffrages. Our Government is too new, and the troubles of the country too engrossing just now, to invite or even justify political dissensions and party divisions. That the free and independent people of the Confederate States will, sooner or later, organize themselves into separate parties, with opposing principles, arising from an inevitable conflict of opinion, neither the teachings of history nor reflection upon causes and consequences will permit us to doubt. But while party spirit, involved in the very essence of our Republican institutions, is as incident to the elective franchise as is the agitation of the air to the elements that compose it, there are bounds beyond which, instead of promoting the blessings of constitutional liberty, it begins to pervert and destroy them. Those bounds are the delicate and dangerous lines of distinction between principle and prejudice. Under the old Government the cankerworm of corruption ate out the very vitals of the Constitution, amid the din of party strife and the clamor of demagogues disputing over the public plunder. Under the new Government let us strive to avoid all such suicidal excesses. Let us endeavor to exemplify freedom, free from the elements of their own decay.--Let us, at the outset at least, be all united in the council chamber as we are in the field, in a common effort for the common cause of our common country. Let us have no parties until we have some legitimate basis for an opposition of principles. The disruption of the Union obliterated all party issues among the Southern people, and brought us all together in defence of the liberties bought by the blood, and transmitted to us by the wisdom, of the great and good men of the first American Revolution. Our second era of independence is at hand, and it behooves us as patriots, worthy to illustrate the sublime struggle in which we are engaged, to forget and forgive all our old political differences and party feuds — with clasped hands of brotherly love to congratulate each other on our separation from the North, and to remember only that the foe of the South is the foe of us all. The dismemberment of the Union is doubtless looked upon by the advocates of monarchical rule in Europe, as conclusive proof of the falsity and failure of free institutions. And perhaps even in our own midst there are desponding patriots, who allow themselves to doubt that the great theory of self-government can never be permanently demonstrated in practice. But to my mind this separation of the States, although attended with a fierce conflict of arms, affords the strongest evidence we have ever had of the capacity of one people, at least, to appreciate and maintain constitutional liberty as it existed in the days of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. Had the South been satisfied simply with the name of a free Government, she had only to connive at the violations of the Constitution by the North, and to-day, instead of war, she would have had peace; instead of offering her brave men by thousands as sacrifices to the God of battles, she would have them engaged in the industrial arts at home; instead of deserted rivers and silent harbors, we should have our water-courses still whitened with the wings of commerce and our ports busy with the hum of mercantile labor. Had we loved liberty but in name, instead of abandoned dwellings, homesteads burnt, the town of Hampton in ashes, and fertile acres filled with ungathered grain and rankling weeds, on the borders of Virginia, we should to-day have our homes and household gods unpolluted by the vandal hands of Lincoln's hirelings, our granaries filled with this year's products, and our fields freshly ploughed for the autumn seed. But all this sad contrast we cheerfully, joyously look upon, and hold our lives ready for the sacrifice, too, whenever our country may demand them; for we are struggling in the cause of Christian freedom, and though life and property have a price, our principles have none. The Southern people saw the Constitution — that sacred charter of their liberties — perverted and prostituted by the usurpations of Federal power. They determined to withdraw from their unholy alliance with the North, and to brave even extermination sooner than stand tamely by and quietly look upon the destruction of their free institutions. The non-slaveholding States had become cancerous excrescences upon the body politic. The South has drawn her sword, and lopped them off forever. The Government of the United States is no longer Republican. Its Presidential chair is a despot's throne. Tyranny untrammeled and undisguised stalks at noon-day and at night, in low places and in high places, wherever the sceptre of Lincoln sways. No habeas corpus or trial by jury, no rights of person or of property, no liberty of speech or of the press is now recognized in the North. The last lingering vestige of the good Government our fathers gave us has disappeared in the non-slaveholding States. The South has taken the Constitution to herself; and in the Confederate States alone are the vestal fires of freedom burning still. What the jewel is to the casket containing it — what the Bible is to the Christian religion — what the soul is to the body, so was the Constitution to the Union. The South cherishes the Constitution; the North shouts madly over the Union still. So let it be. Our independence is established, and must soon be acknowledged. Their demoralization as a free people is inevitable, but not yet complete. With a proper regard for the checks and balances of our system of Government, and an undeviating adherence to the Constitution, the Southern people need not fear for the permanence of their institutions. Let us studiously avoid all compromise of principle under the seductive plea of expediency. Let each State of the Confederacy stand by the Constitution as a sacred covenant, under any and all circumstances. That Constitution is itself a common compromise, by which we are all pledged to abide. It is the embodiment, in its last analysis, of the safest political code that can possibly be made consistent with self-government; and it should be as inviolable in our polities as is the Bible in our religion. Let us make it the touchstone of every public measure now and forever, and the Confederate States will never cease to illustrate to the world the safe and simple philosophy of the founders of the first American Republic. Each State of the Confederacy is a distinct sovereignty within its separate sphere. The General Government is the creature of the States, converging to a focus, and reflecting back the borrowed light of each for the common good of all. Let the whole system be sustained on the principles of its original organism, and there is no danger of its decadence from any cause. The institution of negro slavery — that great social, moral, and political blessing — conservative safeguard of Republican Government — special boon of Providence to the Southern States, and god-send to the African race — is like a sheet-anchor to our ship of State. Let us maintain it, though the world say nay, and trust to the increasing intelligence and experience of mankind yet to convince all the people of the earth that freedom for the white man and slavery for the black man are inseparable correlatives in the social and political nomenclature of nature. While favoring the earliest acceptance of a just and honorable proffer of peace, I am uncompromising in my advocacy of a vigorous maintenance of the war, with all the men and all the money our Confederacy can command, until our independence shall be unequivocally acknowledged, and every right we contend for shall be fully conceded. But, in the height and heat of the struggle, let us not be unmindful of the first objects which we are aiming to attain. Revolutions are dangerous only when laws are disregarded. We have burst the bonds of the Union that we may preserve the principles of the Constitution. Therefore, let us zealously guard against the evils we are endeavoring to avoid. Let us never lose sight of the civil law, but maintain it intact under all circumstances, and on all occasions. And when the storm subsides — when the winds have lulled, and the waters are calm — our new ship of State will be found staunch and stout, the Constitution still her chart, and the true flag of freedom floating proudly from her mast-head. In our political course let us run into no extremes — commit no excesses. Our Government has all the elements of a sound and safe Republic. Let no political Phæton seize its reins. Let no artful demagogue or unreasoning zealot betray us into self-destruction by an abuse of our blessings. We are fighting for liberty, and we must be guided by law. I have now only to say to the people of the District, if they think proper to make me their representative, my best energies shall be devoted to their interests and rights. It would give me pleasure to address the people of the District from the ‘"hustings,"’ but I am now on active duty in camp, and shall probably be unable to do so. oc 8--1t* Baker P. Lee, Jr.
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.