Selected Quotations from 1830-1865

(copied from Causes of the Civil War)

bulletHenry L. Benning, Georgia politician and future Confederate general, writing in the summer of 1849 to his fellow Georgian, Howell Cobb: "First then, it is apparent, horribly apparent, that the slavery question rides insolently over every other everywhere -- in fact that is the only question which in the least affects the results of the elections." [Allan Nevins, The Fruits of Manifest Destiny pages 240-241.] Later in the same letter Benning says, "I think then, 1st, that the only safety of the South from abolition universal is to be found in an early dissolution of the Union."
bulletAlbert Gallatin Brown, U.S. Senator from Mississippi, speaking with regard to the several filibuster expeditions to Central America: "I want Cuba . . . I want Tamaulipas, Potosi, and one or two other Mexican States; and I want them all for the same reason -- for the planting and spreading of slavery." [Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 106.]
bulletSenator Robert M. T. Hunter of Virginia: "There is not a respectable system of civilization known to history whose foundations were not laid in the institution of domestic slavery." [Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 56.]
bulletRichmond Enquirer, 1856: "Democratic liberty exists solely because we have slaves . . . freedom is not possible without slavery."
bulletAtlanta Confederacy, 1860: "We regard every man in our midst an enemy to the institutions of the South, who does not boldly declare that he believes African slavery to be a social, moral, and political blessing."
bulletLawrence Keitt, Congressman from South Carolina, in a speech to the House on January 25, 1860: "African slavery is the corner-stone of the industrial, social, and political fabric of the South; and whatever wars against it, wars against her very existence. Strike down the institution of African slavery and you reduce the South to depopulation and barbarism." Later in the same speech he said, "The anti-slavery party contend that slavery is wrong in itself, and the Government is a consolidated national democracy. We of the South contend that slavery is right, and that this is a confederate Republic of sovereign States." Taken from a photocopy of the Congressional Globe supplied by Steve Miller.
bulletKeitt again, this time as delegate to the South Carolina secession convention, during the debates on the state's declaration of causes: "Our people have come to this on the question of slavery. I am willing, in that address to rest it upon that question. I think it is the great central point from which we are now proceeding, and I am not willing to divert the public attention from it." Taken from the Charleston, South Carolina, Courier, dated Dec. 22, 1860. See the Furman documents site for more transcription from these debates. Keitt became a colonel in the Confederate army and was killed at Cold Harbor on June 1, 1864.
bulletMethodist Rev. John T. Wightman, preaching at Yorkville, South Carolina: "The triumphs of Christianity rest this very hour upon slavery; and slavery depends on the triumphs of the South . . . This war is the servant of slavery." [The Glory of God, the Defence of the South (1861), cited in Eugene Genovese's Consuming Fire (1998).]
bulletFrom the Confederate Constitution:
bulletArticle I, Section 9, Paragraph 4: "No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed."
bulletArticle IV, Section 3, Paragraph 3: "The Confederate States may acquire new territory . . . In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and the territorial government."
bulletFrom the Georgia Constitution of 1861:"The General Assembly shall have no power to pass laws for the emancipation of slaves." (This is the entire text of Article 2, Sec. VII, Paragraph 3.)
bulletFrom the Alabama Constitution of 1861: "No slave in this State shall be emancipated by any act done to take effect in this State, or any other country." (This is the entire text of Article IV, Section 1 (on slavery).)
bulletAlexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy, referring to the Confederate government: "Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery . . . is his natural and normal condition." [Augusta, Georgia, Daily Constitutionalist, March 30, 1861.]
bulletOn the formation of black regiments in the Confederate army, by promising the troops their freedom:
bulletHowell Cobb, former general in Lee's army, and prominent pre-war Georgia politician: "If slaves will make good soldiers, then our whole theory of slavery is wrong." [Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 835.]
bulletA North Carolina newspaper editorial: "it is abolition doctrine . . . the very doctrine which the war was commenced to put down." [North Carolina Standard, Jan. 17, 1865; cited in Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 835.]
bulletRobert M.T. Hunter, Senator from Virginia, "What did we go to war for, if not to protect our property?"
bulletAlfred P. Aldrich, South Carolina legislator from Barnwell: "If the Republican party with its platform of principles, the main feature of which is the abolition of slavery and, therefore, the destruction of the South, carries the country at the next Presidential election, shall we remain in the Union, or form a separate Confederacy? This is the great, grave issue. It is not who shall be President, it is not which party shall rule -- it is a question of political and social existence." [Steven Channing, Crisis of Fear, pp. 141-142.]
bulletDuring the 1830's occurred the Gag Rule controversy in Congress, during which Southern politicians tried to block even the presentation of petitions on the subject of slavery. The following quotes come from speeches made in the House and Senate during this time, taken from William Miller's book, Arguing About Slavery:
bulletJohn C. Calhoun, Senator from South Carolina: "The defence of human liberty against the aggressions of despotic power have been always the most efficient in States where domestic slavery was to prevail."
bulletJames H. Hammond, Congressman from South Carolina: "Sir, I do firmly believe that domestic slavery, regulated as ours is, produces the highest toned, the purest, best organization of society that has ever existed on the face of the earth."
bulletHammond again, from later in the same speech: "the moment this House undertakes to legislate upon this subject [slavery], it dissolves the Union. Should it be my fortune to have a seat upon this floor, I will abandon it the instant the first decisive step is taken looking towards legislation of this subject. I will go home to preach, and if I can, practice, disunion, and civil war, if needs be. A revolution must ensue, and this republic sink in blood."
bulletHenry Wise, Congressman (and future governor) from Virginia: "The principle of slavery is a leveling principle; it is friendly to equality. Break down slavery and you would with the same blow break down the great democratic principle of equality among men."
bulletFrom the diary of James B. Lockney, 28th Wisconsin Infantry, writing near Arkadelphia, Arkansas (10/29/63): "Last night I talked awhile to those men who came in day before yesterday from the S.W. part of the state about 120 miles distant. Many of them wish Slavery abolished & slaves out of the country as they said it was the cause of the War, and the Curse of our Country & the foe of the body of the people--the poor whites. They knew the Slave masters got up the war expressly in the interests of the institution, & with no real cause from the Government or the North." [This diary is on-line at:]


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