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Doc. 230. secret history of the rebellion.1

Letter from ex-gov. Thomas, of Maryland.

House of Representatives, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 1861.
To the Editors of the Baltimore Clipper:
gentlemen: A friend to-day directed my attention to an article in which there are some errors, which I beg permission to correct.

Gov. Pickens, of South Carolina, at the meeting of Southern members of Congress, held in the room of the Committee of Claims, in February, 1837, did not propose that resolutions “should be offered to Congress, and if they were not adopted, then every Southern man should leave the capitol,” and I regret to discover that I was understood to make such a declaration, recently, in the Front street Theatre. That the occurrence referred to by me, in my remarks before the audience in the theatre, may not be misunderstood, please allow to me space for a brief explanation.

In February, 1837, the day next succeeding that on which the votes for President and Vice-President had been counted, as I entered the Hall of the House of Representatives, I met Gen. McCoy, of North Carolina, who said to me: “Why are you not in the room of the Committee of Claims?” I inquired for what purpose ought I to be there? Gen. McCoy said: “There is a meeting of all the members of the House from the slaveholding States.” Without knowing by whom or for what purpose the meeting had been called, I proposed to go and hear what was to be done. When we entered the room together, we found from sixty to seventy members present, Gen. Chambers, of Kentucky, being in the chair, and Mr. Harrison, of Missouri, acting as Secretary. Gov. Pickens was speaking, and was urging the adoption of a resolution which had been submitted. Soon after he closed his remarks, I made inquiry of the Chair as to the object of the meeting, when the resolution was read. I could not now repeat, word for word, the whole resolution, but remember very distinctly its import. The resolution, in substance, declared that no gentleman who represented in Congress slaveholding constituents, ought again to take his seat in the House of Representatives until resolutions, satisfactory to the South on the subject of Slavery, had been adopted.

The instant this resolution was read, influenced by incidents that had prior to this come under my observation, I saw, or at least I thought I saw, one of the objects of the meeting, and asked permission to take part in the proceedings, which was granted.

To unmask the objects of the meeting, I inquired whether, if the House did not gratify our demands, any one present was prepared to say what step was next to be taken? Were we Southern Representatives to retire from Congress and notify our constituents that the Government was a failure, and that a Southern convention ought to be called to form a new Constitution? Having asked these questions, I paused for replies, and as no one undertook to point out the path which we were to pursue, beyond the adoption of the resolution before the meeting, I protested against its adoption, with great earnestness, as a measure leading, necessarily, to secession of the whole Southern representation — reminded the meeting that we were seventy in number — if we deserted our seats in the House, the remaining members might not satisfy our demands on the subject of Slavery, and we could not then, without dishonor, return. I spoke against the authority of members of Congress to initiate measures of such revolutionary character — announced my determination to resume my seat in the House and hold it to the end of my term of service, and to leave to the people of the United States themselves to decide when measures ought to be adopted with a view to change the old, and form a new Government.

As no gentleman undertook either to answer my interrogatories or reply to my remonstrance against the proposed proceeding, I moved an adjournment, sine die, which motion was seconded by Mr. Craig, of Virginia, and the meeting was dissolved.

After adjourning, the members of the meeting resumed their seats in the House, where resolutions on the slavery question, which had been prepared by Mr. W. B. Shepherd, of North Carolina, and Mr. J. R. Ingersoll, of Philadelphia, were offered, and were voted for by every member of the House, excepting three or four of those who were then known as Nullifiers.

This, in substance, I think, was the statement made to the meeting at Front street Theatre. It is proper I should say now, if I did not then, that I have no reason to suppose that there were many persons in this meeting of the members of Congress, who were not trusted any further than I was in the purposes for which it was assembled. Looking to it then, as I did, in connection with many, very many other incidents which had come under my observation, I believed it to be one of the means relied upon to continue that agitation which had commenced with the nullification of the tariff laws, and is now shaking the very foundation of the Government.

Very respectfully,

1 see page 251, documents, ante.

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F. W. Pickens (2)
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Hezekiah Thomas (1)
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