Wrongs of HIstory Righted
November 13, 1914 — Savannah GA
My object this evening is not to stress the omissions of history, but rather to urge that some of the wrongs that have already entered history be righted. We of the South have borne too long and too patiently the many misrepresentations concerning us, and we cannot afford to be patient longer. There is hope that some of the omissions may enter future history, but what hope can there be of these misrepresentations ever being righted if we neglect to do it now? They have condemned us; they are condemning us; and they will continue to condemn us, if we longer remain indifferent. Let us remember what Dr. Curry said, “If history as now written is accepted it will consign the South to infamy.”
When sons and daughters of Veterans write articles for newspapers and magazines, condemning the principles for which their Confederate fathers fought, and even stand for a changed Constitution that will overthrow the very bulwark of the South — state sovereignty — it is full time for the Daughters of the Confederacy and Veterans to become insistent that the truths of history shall be written, and that those truths shall be correctly taught in our schools and colleges.
So long as we send our Southern boys to Harvard to be taught “The Essentials of American History” of Dr. Albert Bushnell Hart, so long may we expect them to question the principles for which their fathers fought. Now understand, I do not object to Dr. Hart, who is a scholar of renown, teaching the Hamiltonian theory of the Constitution to his Northern boys, for that is as they should be taught, but our Southern boys should be sent to Southern universities to be taught the Jeffersonian theory of the Constitution. And so long as we have teachers in our educational institutions who have been taught by Dr. Hart, or by teachers who believe as Dr. Hart teaches, so long may we expect our sons and our daughters to be untrue to the South and the things for which the South stands.
The responsibility is yours, mothers and fathers, to know the training your children are receiving; to know by whom taught, whether true or false to all we hold dear. Only in this way can be stem the tide of falsehoods that have crept in, and are still creeping into the newspapers in our homes, into the books in our libraries, and into the textbooks that we are allowing to be used in our schools.
I understand that in one of our leading universities of the South during the past year two of the professors stated in their classrooms that the South had never produced a great man. Think of it! A section which gave the author of the Bill of Rights, the author of the Declaration of Independence, the author of the United States Constitution, the author of the Monroe Doctrine; a section that gave the commander of the forces of the Revolution, the leaders both on land and on sea of the War of 1812, both leaders of the War with Mexico, the leaders North and South in the War between the States, and the men most prominent in the Spanish-American War; a section that gave the first President of the United States, indeed gave twelve Presidents to the United States, as well as the President of the Confederate States; a section that gave a Robert E. Lee, and a Stonewall Jackson; a section that gave an Edgar Allan Poe and a Sidney Lanier; a section that gave a Matthew Maury and a Crawford W. Long — yes, a section that gave Woodrow Wilson, the man of the hour and the man of the age, said to have never produced a great man!
Where could these men have been educated but in some anti-South atmosphere! Shall such men as these be allowed to teach the youth of the South true history?
My object tonight is to urge you, Daughters of the Confederacy, to aid in having these wrongs of history righted, and when I urge you to do this, I urge you to do it without bitterness or prejudice or narrowness. As we demand truth and justice, that we must give. Let us be careful to rule out of our Southern textbooks anything that is unjust to the North, and justice compels me to say that wrongs to the North have at times entered into some of our books by Southern writers. Then, too, let us in our search for truth be ever ready to give authority for every statement we make, and require the same of others.
While there are many misrepresentations concerning us in the history which antedates the sixties, yet in my limited time tonight I must confine these misrepresentations to the period which pertains to the War between the States. And, Daughters, I mean the War between the States.
OURS WAS NOT A CIVIL WAR, so let us correct that wrong first. The United States was a Republic of Sovereign States. We were not a Nation until the surrender left it impossible for a state to secede. A civil war must be in one state between two parties in that state. If we acknowledge that ours was a Civil War, we acknowledge we were a Nation, or one State in 1861 and not a Republic of Sovereign States, and therefore had no right to secede. This is what the North would like us to acknowledge.
It was not a WAR OF SECESSION as some would have us to call it. The Southern States seceded with no thought of war. They simply wished to have a government where their rights, reserved by the Constitution, should be represented. The war was caused by the North attempting to coerce us back into the Union, contrary to the Constitution, and for no reason save that the states of the South demanded their rights. If we call it a War of Secession we admit the seceding states brought on the war.
It was not a WAR OF REBELLION, for sovereign states cannot rebel, therefore secession was not rebellion. This is acknowledged now by all thinking men.
It was not a WAR OF SECTIONS. The North did not fight the South, for brothers were arrayed against brothers in many cases. There were many men of the South who enlisted on the Union side. There were many men of the North who enlisted on the Southern side. Both North and South were contending for a principle and not because they hated each other.
It was the WAR BETWEEN THE STATES, for the non-seceding States of the United States made war upon the seceding States of the United States to force them back into the Union. Please call it so, and teach it so.
A wrong to be righted must be the CAUSES THAT LED TO THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES, for injustice is too often done us by ascribing wrong motives to our secession.
These causes far antedate the firing on Fort Sumter, so unfairly said to have begun the war. To really get at the root of the matter, we must go back to that Constitutional Convention in 1787, after the Treaty of Paris had left the Colonies free, sovereign and independent States.
Two political parties were formed at this Convention — the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. The Federalists, standing for a centralized government, were led by Alexander Hamilton, claiming that all states owed allegiance to the Federal government as the absolute head of the Nation. Now it was perfectly natural for Alexander Hamilton to take this view of the Constitution and think we were a Nation, for he was foreign born — a native of the West Indies. His father and mother before him had served a king, and while he had been sent at an early age to America to be educated, yet this love for and belief in monarchy was an inheritance.
The Anti-Federalists, later called Republicans, but far different from the anti-South party of the same name today, organized in 1854, were led by Thomas Jefferson, standing for local self-government, and the right of any state to withdraw from the Union of States, when a right reserved to it by the Constitution was interfered with. It was perfectly natural for Thomas Jefferson to have this view of the Constitution. The plantation life in the old South made every planter a law to himself, and it was this that has made Southern men ever so tenacious of their State rights. You may say, Thomas Jefferson was in Paris in 1787 and not at that Constitutional Convention. That is true, but he had well instructed Madison, Henry, Randolph and Pinckney concerning the points to be stressed before any new document was signed by Southern States. The Constitution was not fully adopted, you must remember, until after Jefferson’s return.
Climate and heredity made the two sections different from the very first — the Northern colonies standing for trade, manufactures, and commerce; the Southern colonies standing for agricultural pursuits and export — but so long as a balance of power was maintained, when voting time came, all went well.
The question of slavery did not enter into the platform of the two parties at all, for all states owned slaves, the right given by the Constitution, and they saw no harm in slavery. It is true the slave trade was a source of deep concern on the part of the majority of the states, and the Sovereign States seemed really more concerned about this than the Northern. Georgia was the first state to legislate against the slave trade; the Carolinas legislated against it as early as 1760; Virginia, in 1778, and in all “the old mother state” legislated against it 32 times. Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence had a protest against the slave trade, and John Adams of Massachusetts, advised that it be stricken out. Massachusetts was the first state to legislate in favor of the slave trade. New Jersey was the last state to legislate against it, and New York never did legislate against it, so really Massachusetts and New York were carrying on the slave trade in violation of the United States law as late as 1860.
At a glance one may see how unjust have been the accusations concerning the South in regard to the question of slavery. The trouble really between the two political parties was caused by a different interpretation of the Constitution as to what rights were reserved to the States, and whether the Union of States was a Nation or a Republic.
The invention of the cotton gin undoubtedly led to the war. On account of a cold climate, unfavorable to the negro’s physical make-up, as well as because manufacturing interests were unsuited to negro labor, the Northern States sold their slaves, in large part to the Southern planters. This gave free labor in the South, and hired labor in the North. Great prosperity came to the South when cotton could be so easily raised and ginned, and there threatened to be an over-balance of voting power by the slave States. Sectional jealousies were engendered and contentions then began.
In 1803 when a Southern President and a slaveholder, Thomas Jefferson, secured the purchase of the Louisiana Territory, that large extent of acres, more than double the area of the other States at that time, Massachusetts was filled with alarm and threatened to secede and form a Northern Confederacy, and Josiah Quincy advised it on sectional grounds. When Jefferson assured them that he was not a President of a section but the President of the whole country, and that he would not violate the Constitution by giving one section an advantage over another, Massachusetts’ fears were quieted.
When in 1811 trouble arose about the United States Bank, the legislature of Pennsylvania agitated nullification as justifiable by the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. Why later was Calhoun villified for his nullification views? Again, there was trouble in 1812 when the New England States threatened to form a Northern Confederacy if war with England was declared. The South said there would never be freedom from England on sea unless war was declared, and only the great victory at New Orleans prevented the withdrawal of the New England States at that time.
Then in 1820 when Missouri asked to come in as a slave State, and because Missouri was cut out of the Louisiana Territory, Massachusetts feared too much power to slave States and again threatened to withdraw. Thomas, of Illinois, offered a compromise measure to forbid any State about 36° 30’ latitude holding slaves. This bill was finally amended to except Missouri. In Northern histories, and Southern histories have followed their lead, it has been over and over again stated, and I have myself often made the same mistake, that Henry Clay was responsible for this amendment. It worried me greatly, for it was a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution, and a flagrant interference of State’s rights. I hated to think a Southern man was responsible for it. You may imagine my delight when upon reading the Life of Henry Clay I found that he denied having anything to do with it. He was the Speaker of the House at the time and took no part in the debates on the floor. Eminent statesmen of the South felt the injustice of this compromise and did not hesitate to say so. John C. Calhoun never was reconciled to it. But it was finally accepted, just for the sake of peace.
In 1828 and again in 1832 and 1833 Tariff Acts were passed which were unjust to the South and a direct violation of the Constitution, because they favored one section over another. These Acts were such an interference with our States’ rights that Calhoun stood for nullifying them — hence he was called “The Nullifier.” I have never been able to understand why Calhoun should have been so villified when he proposed a Southern Confederacy at this time and nothing was said when Massachusetts and the New England States proposed a Northern Confederacy.
John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, was one of the real prophets of the age, for everything he warned us against has actually come true, and had we heeded him many valuable lives might have been saved. The “child of secession” was really born in that contest between Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina and Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, over the Foot Resolutions.
The unequal disbursement of the funds in the U.S. Treasury was also felt to be unjust to the South. The South was paying into the treasure two-thirds of all the money there; yet the veterans of the Revolutionary War were paid three times the amount in pensions in the North that they were in the South; the appropriations for roads, harbors and rivers amounted to five times as much for the North as the South and the money expended for internal improvements ten times as much; twenty-three lighthouses were in the North to ten in the South, and eighteen custom houses in the North to one in the South. The sea coast of the South was 3,000 miles in extent, and that of the North only 900 miles, yet five harbors were in the North to one in the South. Under these circumstances what could the South expect in just legislation?
In 1854 when Texas asked to come into the Union as a slave State, Massachusetts said then she must withdraw, for that would give too much slave territory. When war was declared with Mexico the North had few men comparatively to volunteer and when the cause was won by Southern arms the North, by legislation, tried to manage it so that the South should have no part of the acquired territory as slave territory. In 1847 the Wilmot Proviso was proposed, but fortunately did not become a law, but it showed the tendency of the Northern mind. In 1849 gold was discovered in California and the North wanted it to be a free State. By the Missouri Compromise it should have been half slave territory as half of the State was below the degree of latitude prescribed by the Compromise. Trouble was brewing when “The Peacemaker,” Henry Clay, proposed his Omnibus Bill in 1850. This included the “Five Bleeding Wounds,” namely:
Let California come in as a free State.
Let Utah and New Mexico come in free or slave as they desire.
Let the slave trade be excluded from the District of Columbia.
Let Texas be paid for the territory claimed by New Mexico.
Let the Fugitive Slave Law be enforced.
Now this virtually repealed the Missouri Compromise, but still it was violating States’ rights. However, it was passed in the interest of peace.
While the South knew that some of these measures were unjust, yet to get back her slaves, for at this time 30,000 had been hidden from their owners, she was willing to adopt the compromise measures that grew out of this bill. Many Southern statesmen protested against it, and it only postponed the war ten years.
In 1852 Uncle Tom’s Cabin appeared. This was such a misrepresentation of the institution of slavery in the South that it brought just indignation to Southern people. It was so subtly written that it made the abolition sentiment stronger at the North, and really had much to do in bringing on the war, and much to do in keeping England, France and other European countries from recognizing the Southern Confederacy. The South felt this injustice keenly.
Then in 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Bill proposed by Stephen Douglas passed. This led to Squatter Sovereignty, another violation of the Constitution and an interference with our States’ rights. There is no doubt that John Brown’s Raid grew out of this bill. The first gun fired in this raid may be said to have been the first gun of the War between the States.
John Brown was “an insurrectionist, an invader of States, an encourager of arson, and a murderer” — and this is quoting entirely from Northern authority. I could never understand how God-fearing men from the pulpits in the North have said that next to the Son of God John Brown was the greatest of martyrs. It has taken all the grace of Christianity for the South to forgive and forget this. However, the Federal Government quickly punished this offender, and also decided in favor of the South when the Dred Scott case came to trial. So we began to take hope that at last the South could fall back upon her reserved rights and be protected.
Another offense then came. The slave trade was being openly violated and no action was taken by the Federal Government to prevent it. It had been decided by law that the slave trade should cease in 1808, and yet as late as 1857 it was known that 75 slave ships had sailed from Massachusetts ports, and between 1859 and ’60, it was known that 85 slave ships left New York, sent out by merchants carrying 60,000 slaves to Brazil. As late as 1857 the Chlotilde was sent to Mobile, Ala., with 175 slaves, and the following year the New York Yacht Club sent the Wanderer to Brunswick, Ga., with 750 slaves, and the next year it returned with 600 slaves and sailed up the Satilla and Savannah rivers and sold this cargo in violation of the law. An attempt was made by Georgia to prosecute two Georgians who were accused of encouraging the transaction, but they could not be convicted for complicity in the scheme. If the Federal Government ever punished Massachusetts and New York for violating the law it is not so recorded.
But the act which brought things to a crisis was the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, without even a popular vote of the North, but by the vote of the fifteen States which had stood for these repeated violations of the Constitution and continued interferences with States’ rights, and the States which took out the “Personal Liberty Bills,” advocating a law higher than the Constitution so that they might still hide our slaves. By this time (1860), 50,000 slaves had been hidden from us. Unfortunately, the Democratic party split, having three candidates in the field — a warning that we must hereafter heed¾and allowed Lincoln to be elected on the small vote of 1,831,000. There was nothing for the South to do but secede. She saw nothing but continued violation of the Constitution by the North dominated by the policy of these fifteen States and their candidate. How could she be blamed for seceding?
DID THE SOUTHERN STATES SECEDE WITH ANY THOUGHT OF WAR? No, they simply wished to peacefully withdraw and form a government which would respect their rights as reserved by the Constitution. It would have been a stupid thing for seven States to think of fighting all of the other States in the Union. The North had the army; the North had the navy; the North had all of the arms. The South had no arms except the small number of guns that Secretary Floyd had asked for, fearing another John Brown might rise, and those Jefferson Davis, then Secretary of War, had asked for to quell the Indian uprisings. Even then the full quota of arms which rightly belonged to the South had never been asked for.
Does it not seem in reason, if the South had had a thought of war at this time she would have demanded her full share of arms and ships? The South had no materials to manufacture munitions of war. That is, she did not know that she had sulphur, saltpetre, nitre and other needful things lying undiscovered beneath her soil, but she knows it now; she then had few manufactories; she only had one Powder Mill, that at Augusta, Ga., she did not own a ship, yet her Southern men in command of ships (there were 43 captains and 62 commanders in all from the South), when the States seceded, surrendered their commissions to the U.S. Government and came home to cast their lot with their States. Had they dreamed of war, they could have brought their ships south as they had a right to do. She did not have a shipyard where a ship could even he repaired. She had only 9,000,000 people from which to draw an army, and 4,000,000 of these were her slaves, while the North had over 31,000,000 and the whole world from which to draw recruits. Think of war? No, she never dreamed of it. Some few of her statesmen feared it, but when suggested, Robert Toombs of Georgia, said he would willingly drink every drop of blood which would be shed by war.
The South only desired to take possession of the things which were rightfully hers. Texas demanded her forts and arsenal; so did Louisiana her custom house and fort; Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Georgia their forts and arsenals; but when South Carolina demanded Fort Sumter, to the surprise of South Carolina, it was refused. Governor Pickens at once sent a request to President Buchanan to allow the fort to be surrendered peaceably. Assurances were given that this would be, and yet the Star of the West was sent with 200 men and arms to hold the fort. The first thing that the Confederate government did was to send a committee of three to Washington to ask the peaceable surrender of Fort Sumter. They waited there three months until President Lincoln had been inaugurated and then made the request. He refused to see the committee, but through Seward, and Seward through Judge Campbell, sent to them assurances that “faith with Fort Sumter would be kept.” Now Lincoln and Seward both knew that when this message was sent, seven vessels filled with armed men had already sailed to garrison the fort. When time sufficient had elapsed for the vessels to land, then Lincoln wired Gov. Pickens that he had sent these men to Sumter peacefully if allowed to land, otherwise resistance would be made. Fortunately a storm prevented the vessels reaching the fort as soon as had been expected, so General Beauregard telegraphed for permission to demand the surrender of the fort. This permission was granted by the Confederate government. Anderson said he must wait for orders from headquarters. Beauregard answered that if the fort was not surrendered by a certain time it would be fired upon. It was not surrendered, so was fired upon. The firing of the first shot at Fort Sumter did not bring on the war, but the act which made the firing necessary declared war. The call of President Lincoln for 75,000 troops to coerce the South, without Congress’ consent was a violation of the Constitution. Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas resented this and quickly seceded. Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland wished to secede, but were not allowed to vote on secession. This act of Lincoln calling for troops was in itself a declaration of war.
WAS SECESSION REBELLION? The very fact that President Davis and the leaders of the South could not be brought to trial disproves this. Chief Justice Chase said, “If you bring these leaders to trial it will condemn the North, for by the Constitution secession is not rebellion.” Wendell Phillips said, and he was no friend of the South, “Looking back upon the principles of ’76 the South had a perfect right to secede.” Horace Greely said so, Lincoln himself said so, and Daniel Webster had said so.
I wonder how many present here realize that there have been eight distinct secessions in the United States and very many threatened ones.
1. The thirteen colonies seceded from England and formed a Perpetual Union under the Articles of Confederation in 1776.
2. The thirteen States seceded from the Perpetual Union and formed a Republic of Sovereign States in 1787.
3. Texas seceded from Mexico and became a Republic in 1836.
4. The Abolitionists, led by William Lloyd Garrison, seceded from the Constitution at Framingham, Mass., and publicly burned it, calling it a “league with hell and covenant with death,” the assembled multitude loudly applauding.
5. Eleven States seceded from the Union in 1861 and formed a Southern Confederacy.
6. The North seceded from the Constitution in 1861 when she attempted to coerce the eleven States back into the Union.
7. Under President McKinley in 1898 the United States forced Cuba to secede from Spain.
8. Under Roosevelt in 1905 the United States forced Panama to secede from Columbia.
Why should all of these secessions be justifiable save the one by the South in 1861?
WAS THE WAR FOUGHT TO HOLD OUR SLAVES? Ah! how often have we of the South had this cast into our teeth and often by some of our Southern people. Yes, it is full time this wrong should be righted.
Had the vote been taken in 1860 there would have been more votes against the abolition of slavery in the North than in the South. There were 318,000 slaveholders or sons of slaveholders in the Northern army, men who enlisted from the Border States, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, besides those from Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. There were only 200,000 slaveholders in the Southern army. Only five men out of every one hundred owned slaves in the South.
There were many men among the leaders of the Northern army who owned slaves themselves or were sons of slaveholders or had married women who owned slaves. Among these may be mentioned General Whitfield Scott, Commodore Farragut, General George H. Thomas, General Grant; President Lincoln’s wife came from a slaveholding family, and Stephen Douglas’s wife was a very large slaveholder, while many of the leaders on the Southern side did not own slaves. General Lee had freed his. General Stonewall Jackson never had owned one until husband and wife begged him to buy them to prevent separation. General Albert Sidney Johnston never owned a slave, and General William M. Browne, a member of President Davis’s staff never owned a slave. No, the war was not fought to hold slaves, but a few selfish Southern people may have thought so.
General Grant said, “If I thought this war was to abolish slavery, I would resign my commission and offer my sword to the other side.” The North had no thought of fighting to abolish slaves, then why should the South be troubled on that score? President Lincoln sent word to General Butler that the war was not to be fought with any idea of freeing the slaves. President Lincoln was only concerned about the extension of slavery in the new territory, and frankly confessed to Horace Greely that if the Union could be preserved with slavery he would not interfere with it. It was the preservation of the Union he so ardently desired. He had no love for the negro in his heart. Don Piatt, who stumped the State of Illinois for him in his presidential campaign in 1860, said in one of his speeches that Lincoln had no love for the negro, “Descended from the poor whites of the South he hated the negro and the negro hated him, and he was no more concerned for that wretched race than he was concerned for the horse he worked or the hog he killed.”
WAS SLAVERY A CRIME AND WAS THE SLAVEHOLDER A CRIMINAL? How little the people living today know of the institution of slavery as it existed in the South before the war. I long for the eloquence of our silver-tongued orator, Benjamin H. Hill, that I might paint the picture as I remember it.
If the roll call were taken of the children in the South to-day they would in large numbers be found to be abolitionists, intense and fanatical, and in full sympathy with the Northern side. Why? Because from childhood they had been taught by teachers who believe this, and have been fed on such children’s books as The Elsie Books, Louisa Alcott’s stories, and kindred ones, besides being allowed to see moving picture shows of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Sheridan’s Ride, Contest between Merriman and Monitor, and the like. Whom can you blame for this, parents, but yourselves?
Slavery was no disgrace to the owner or the owned. From time immemorial all civilized nations have been slaveholders. White, brown and black have been slaves.
Who was responsible for slavery in the United States? Spain and England.
What colony first owned slaves? The Jamestown colony.
Was there any colony or State of all the thirteen which did not own slaves? Not one. In 1776 were 500,000 slaves in America and 300,000 were in the Northern colonies.
What was the condition of the Africans when bought to this country? Savage to the last degree, climbing cocoanut trees to get food, without thought of clothes to cover their bodies, and sometimes cannibals, and all bowing down to fetishes — sticks and stones — as acts of worship.
What laws became necessary when they reached this country? Very rigid and in the light of the present day civilization excessively cruel. A strong argument for the civilizing power of slavery would be to compare these colonial laws with the laws off 1860.
How did the Cavaliers regard slavery? They were very thankful to have a part in such a wonderful missionary and educational enterprise.
How did the Puritans regard slavery? They thanked God for the opportunity of bringing these benighted souls to a knowledge of Jesus Christ.
How did the Quakers regard the institution of slavery? They were always opposed to the holding of any human being as property, although it is stated that William Penn did once own slaves.
DOES THE BIBLE CONDEMN SLAVERY?
It certainly does not. God gave to Abraham the most explicit directions what he should do with his slaves bought with his own money, and what he should do with the ones he owned by right of capture. (Gen. xvii.) Then our Lord healed the centurion’s servant and said not a word about it being a sin to hold him in bondage. (Matt. viii.) And Paul sent Onesimus, the runaway slave, back to his master with apologies, but said nothing to Philemon about freeing him, but rather offered himself to pay his master for the time Onesimus had stolen from him. (Phil. i:18.) And Titus was the pastor of a slave church. Paul wrote him to exhort those slaves to be obedient to their masters, not to answer back again, and not to steal, but to adorn the doctrine of God their Savior in all things. (Titus ii:9, 10.) See also Eph. vi:5, 6, 7, 8.
Did the slaveholder in the South take an interest in the religious condition of the negro?
He certainly did. More negroes were brought to a knowledge of God and their Savior under this institution of slavery in the South than under any other missionary enterprise in the same length of time. Really more were Christianized in the 246 years of slavery than in the more than thousand years before.
In 1861 there were, by actual statistics, in the seceding States 220,000 negro Baptists, 200,000 Methodists, 31,000 Presbyterians, 7,000 Episcopalians, and 30,000 belonging to unclassified Christian churches.
The negro race should give thanks daily that they and their children are not today where their ancestors were before they came into bondage.
Was the negro happy under the institution of slavery? They were the happiest set of people on the face of the globe, — free from care or thought of food, clothes, home, or religious privileges.
The slaveholder felt a personal responsibility in caring for his slaves physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually. By the way, we never called them slaves, they were our people, our negroes, part of our very homes. I do not remember a case of consumption, or I should say now tuberculosis, among the negroes in the South. I do not recall but one crazy negro in those days. Hospitals and asylums cannot now be built fast enough to accommodate them.
I am not here to defend slavery. I would not have it back, if I could, but I do say I rejoice that my father was a slaveholder, and my grandfathers and great-grandfathers were slaveholders, and had a part in the greatest missionary and educational endeavors that the world has ever known. There never have been such cooks, such nurses or mammies, such housemaids, such seamstresses, such spinners, such weavers, such washerwomen. There never have been such carpenters, blacksmiths, butlers, drivers, field hands, such men of all work as could be found on the old plantations. Aunt Nanny’s cabin was a veritable kindergarten where the young negroes were trained to sew, to spin, to card, to weave, to wash and iron, and to nurse; where the boys were taught to shell peas, to shuck corn, to churn, to chop wood, to pick up chips, to feed pigs, to feed chickens, to hunt turkey, duck, guinea, goose and hen eggs and to make fires, and to sweep the yards.
Did the negroes hate their owners, and resent bondage? I need only to call to mind what happened when John Brown tried to make them rise and murder their masters and their master’s children. I need only call to mind what happened when their masters went to battle, leaving in absolute trust “Ole Miss” and the children to their protection. I need only call to mind what happened after they were free that made Thad Stevens’ Exodus Order necessary in order to tear them from their old owners. I need only call to mind the many mammies who stayed to nurse “Ole Marster’s” children to the third and fourth generation.
Compare the race morally to what it was then. “Ole Marster” never allowed his negroes to have liquor unless he gave it to them. Crimes now so common were never known then. While the negro under the present system of education may know more Latin and Greek, it does not better fit him for his life work. It is true the negro did not go to school under slavery, but he was allowed to be taught, if he so desired. I have in mind a young aunt who taught three negro women every night because they wanted to read their Bibles. I have in mind my mother on the plantation surrounded every Sunday afternoon teaching to the negro children the same verses of Scripture, the same Sunday school lesson, the same hymns that she taught her own children.
As in family life a child must be punished if disobedient, so in plantation life a negro had to be punished if disobedient. Even admitting that some overseers were cruel, will the most exaggerated cases of cruelty compare with the burning of the witches at Salem or the awful conditions of the captured Africans on the slave ships, or the fearful conditions in the sweat shops of Chicago and New York today? The slave was the property of the slaveholder and a selfish reason would have protected him if there had been no higher motive.
No, the slaveholder was no criminal and slavery under the old regime was no crime. In all the history of the world no peasantry was ever better cared for, more contented or happier. These wrongs must be righted and the Southern slaveholder defended as soon as possible.
JEFFERSON DAVIS VS. ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
Another wrong that must be righted is this glorification of Abraham Lincoln which redounds to the villification of Jefferson Davis. Our children are having too much of it in their text-books, too much of it in the newspapers, too much of it from the pulpits.
Had President Davis died in the cold, damp cell with manacles upon him, and had President Lincoln lived, Davis would have been the saint and Lincoln the sinner. It is not fair or just because Lincoln was the martyr that attributes which he did not possess should be given to him and handed down as truthful history.
I am perfectly willing to have President Lincoln receive the praise he justly deserves, for he was a remarkable man, and I would not detract one iota from what is his due. At the same time I am not willing to ascribe attributes to President Davis which he did not possess, for he was remarkable enough without them. Both men had their weaknesses and neither should be canonized.
Lest I should be accused of partiality when their lives are placed in parallel lines, I shall only quote from the friends of each. Both had enemies, vindictive and prejudiced; both had friends, loyal and true. This contrast truthfully and faithfully drawn will throw much light upon unwritten history. If injustice to either has been done, it has not come from any desire or intention on the part of the historian, for it is truth only that is sought.
Jefferson Davis was born in Christian County, Kentucky, June 3rd, 1808.
Abraham Lincoln was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, February 12, 1809.
There was a difference of eight months in their ages; they were born about 100 miles apart in the same State — both men Kentuckians of Southern birth.
Jefferson Davis came from a home of culture, refinement, luxury and religious influence.
Abraham Lincoln came from a home of poverty, no refinement, no culture and little religious influence.
Jefferson Davis had every educational advantage in youth. His first teacher was a loving, devoted Christian mother. He was then sent to an academy, then to college, then to West Point. His ambition was to became a great military leader.
Abraham Lincoln lost his mother when quite young. He attended school for a very short time. Thomas Lincoln’s second wife was a very good woman and treated the lad kindly. He was sent from home at the age of nine, and then began the struggle for life. He did all kinds of hard work; he split rails, he worked on a ferry, he clerked in a store, and had no time for study except at night after a hard day’s work. Often no light by which to study save the light from the fire. His ambition made him struggle on to acquire an education under the most adverse circumstances. His desire was to become a great political leader, and if possible the President of the United States.
Jefferson Davis in personal appearance was tall, erect, lean, with features very pronounced, and determination stamped on every lineament. He was always well groomed, perfectly at ease in his manners whether in the cabin of the lowly, the home of the wealthy, or the White House of the Confederacy. He always enjoyed social life.
Abraham Lincoln was tall, with stooping shoulders, thin and bony, with prominent features, but with determination written upon every lineament. He was never well dressed, his clothes having the appearance of being thrown at him. He was always ill at ease, whether in the cabin of the lowly, the home of the wealthy, or the White House of the United States. He hated social life; if possible, avoided it.
Jefferson Davis had little humor in his nature, and resented a practical joke. Life was always very serious to him. He was dignity personified, and his soldierly bearing forbade even his most intimate friends getting very close to him.
Abraham Lincoln loved jokes, indulged in them very frequently, and often his jokes were none too refined. His friends felt very near to him and enjoyed thoroughly his humor.
Jefferson Davis was very happy in his married life. His first wife was the daughter of President Zachary Taylor, his second wife was Miss Varina Howell, the daughter of a United States officer. His home was in Mississippi on a large plantation, surrounded by every comfort to make his life a joy. Children came into the home-neat, and his children were obedient, talented and loving. Sorrow later came from the loss of two of his boys, but he knew the source of comfort and did not rebel.
Abraham Lincoln’s married life was not happy. He had three romances connected with his early days. One, Amy Rutledge, belonged to his own social circle. Had he married her possibly his whole life would have been changed, but unfortunately she died while attending school. His other loves were Mary Owens and Mary Todd. He really loved neither, but in turn addressed each, become engaged to both, but advised both not to marry him, as he did not belong to their social set. It is said that Mary Owens jilted him, which greatly mortified him, but Mary Todd agreed to marry him. The day, January 1, 1842, was appointed, the bride and attendants were waiting at the church, but no bridegroom appeared. It is said that his most intimate friends were never able to account for Lincoln’s behavior upon this occasion. Mary Todd forgave him, however, and married him one year later. It was a most unfortunate marriage, for she was not suited to make him happy, and while children came into the home, there was no real joy, for that can only come from a perfectly congenial atmosphere. He, too, lost one of his sons while living at Springfield, Ill., and he became very morose and melancholy, for Herndon and Lamon both said Lincoln had no Christian faith to sustain him.
Jefferson Davis was a slaveholder, and his father before him owned slaves. He was a kind master and his negroes were devoted to him. Even after they were free, when their former master returned home from two years’ confinement in prison, they climbed about his carriage, calling to him affectionately, “Howdy, Mars Jeff, howdy. We sho is glad to see you.” Then falling back and wiping the tears from their eyes they were heard to say, “Lord, don’t he look bad,”
The testimony of his body servant, who was with him when captured, if we did not have that of Judge Reagan and other of the cabinet members, would be sufficient to refute the awful falsehood of General Wilson’s telegram, that he was disguised in a woman’s dress when arrested. This faithful servant said, “When we heard the Yankees coming we were skeered to death, but old Boss he walked just as straight as if he was walking the streets of Richmond with Lee and Jackson. He was the bravest man I ever saw. I was sho the Yankees was going to hang him, but if he ever flinched nobody ever saw him. Folks may say what they please, but Mars Jeff sho was brave.”
Abraham Lincoln belonged to the poor white class in the South, who hated the negroes and they hated him. He was no abolitionist, and this is from his own testimony. His wife came from a slaveholding family, but probably owned no slaves at the time of her marriage.
Both men served in the Black Hawk War. Lieutenant Davis mustered into service Captain Abraham Lincoln of the militia. Neither distinguished himself in any way during this war. Davis later entered the Mexican War and won great renown. At Monterey he was wounded, at Buena Vista he was a hero, and later led the troops into Mexico City with great bravery. In his military life he was known as a fine disciplinarian, and while his soldiers feared him and dared not disobey him, they thoroughly respected him.
Jefferson Davis ran for the legislature and was defeated, afterwards was elected, became United States Senator, then a member of President Pierce’s Cabinet, as Secretary of War. He successfully reorganized the army, and was the first to suggest the trans-continental railway. He then became United States Senator under President Buchanan, and made a very long speech on State Sovereignty. When he heard his State, Mississippi, had seceded, he returned to cast in his lot with her. He was made Major General of the army, just what he most desired. When the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States met at Montgomery, Ala., he was chosen President without opposition. He did not seek or desire this honor, but ever went where duty called him.
Abraham Lincoln also ran for the legislature and was defeated, but afterwards elected. He became a member of Congress in 1846. Then in 1860 was a candidate for United States President on the Republican ticket upon an anti-South platform, and was elected,
President Davis served one year as President of the Confederacy, was re-elected for the second term of six years and did the best he could combating overwhelming odds. When General Lee surrendered, he was rapidly making his way to join the last division of the army under Kirby Smith in Texas, when he was captured at Irwinton, Ga., and taken prisoner to Fortress Monroe to await trial. A reward of $100,000 was offered for his capture. He was put in chains and treated with great indignities. Is it to be wondered at that he felled to the floor the blacksmith who came in to rivet the chains? He remained in prison two years. The United States authorities did not heed the requests from Judge Reagan, of Texas, and General Howell Cobb, of Georgia, for an immediate trial, which they knew would exonerate him, or greater leniency in the treatment of him. When it was discovered that a trial would condemn the North, by a statement from Chief Justice Chase to this effect, he was released from prison under bond, and Horace Greeley said, “I will go on his bond that the North may seem to be magnanimous.” He returned to him home at Beauvoir, Miss., a gift from a devoted friend and admirer, Mrs. Sarah Dorsey. There he lived until his death, which occurred in New Orleans in 1889. He was buried in New Orleans, and his body later removed to Richmond, Va.
As Bishop Gailor said, “For twenty years he bore the obloquy of treason at the hands of those who were afraid to try him in a court of justice. For twenty years he was disfranchised and denied the rights of citizenship. Yet he never sued for pardon, nor ever asked a favor. Lonely and crushed, with a heart broken, his life was desolated in its prime. But through it all God gave him the courage of the finest manhood, and the purest purpose, and he died, as he lived, a Christian, praying for the welfare and happiness of his people. Truly he was a man without a country, yet he had a country in the hearts of his loyal Southern people — and in that country he ruled an unconquered king.”
The soldiers, who had not agreed with him in many things during the war, realized later what he had borne for the South, and turned to him then in loving affection. At Macon, the last reunion that he was able to attend, some of the soldiers thrust into his hands an old tattered and torn battle flag. Taking it in both hands, he buried his face in its folds. Strong men sank to the ground and leaned on each other’s shoulders, weeping like children. They felt then, as they feel now, that while the cause was not lost, the principles for which they contended being admitted Constitutional by all right-thinking men the world over, the life of their chief had been sacrificed for it, and their hearts were breaking.
Abraham Lincoln was afraid to go to Washington, so said his friend Lamon, so intense was the feeling against him; this feeling he feared more from his enemies at the North than at the South. Lamon, as a detective, accompanied the President, who insisted upon going in disguise. His friends felt this was a cowardly thing to do, and reproached him for it. He served four years, and was re-elected over McClellan for another term, then he was foully assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. His body was carried to Springfield, Ill. President Davis’s first exclamation upon hearing the news was, “This is the worst blow that could have befallen the South.”
There was a very striking likeness in many ways between these two men, which has led some to falsely suggest some degree of kinship between them.
Both believed in the constitutional rights of the States.
Both believed in the right to hold slaves by the Constitution.
Both were opposed to social and political equality for the negro.
Both believed it would be disastrous to free negroes among their former masters.
Both believed only in educating the negro along industrial lines.
Both believed in the preservation of the Union, if possible.
Lincoln believed and urged the colonization of the negro. Davis believed in the gradual emancipation of the negro. He thought the South was the logical home of the black man, and that the Southern people better understood him and were most ready to make excuses for his shortcomings. He believed that in the South the negro could always find sympathy, protection, religious instruction, work and a home.
It has always seemed to me that when birthdays are being celebrated in the South the negroes had far better celebrate Davis’s birthday than Lincoln’s. He was their truest friend. Besides, it was Henderson’s Thirteenth Amendment after Lincoln’s death that freed them. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not free all the negroes, and was only made to punish the seceding States. The negroes have been kept in such ignorance along these lines, and their false worship of Lincoln is pathetic.
Did President Davis have any trouble with his Cabinet? He certainly did. Alexander Stephens, his Vice-President, frequently disagreed with him. Some of his cabinet resigned. Some accused him of being imperious and partial. George Vest said, “Had Davis’s Cabinet stood by him notwithstanding they did not agree with him, the Confederacy would not have failed.” Some of President Davis’s generals felt that he favored pointedly West Point men over others better fitted to command.
Did Lincoln have trouble with his Cabinet? He certainly did. Ben Wade and Henry W. Davis issued a manifesto against him. Sumner, Wade, Davis, and Chase were his “malicious foes.” Lincoln was forced to appoint Chase to the office of Chief Justice in order to remove him from the Cabinet, for he was said to be “the irritating fly in the Lincoln ointment.” Stanton called Lincoln “a coward and a fool.” Seward said he had “a cunning that amounted to genius.” Richard Dana said, “The lack of respect for the President by his Cabinet cannot be concealed.” He was called “the baboon at the other end of the avenue,” and “the idiot of the White House.” Had not Grant succeeded in gaining a victory at Vicksburg, a movement to appoint a Dictator in Lincoln’s place would have gone into effect. His Cabinet had lost confidence in his policy.
Was Davis honest and true to his convictions? If by honesty is meant taking graft or accepting bribed, he certainly could never have been accused of either. If by honesty is meant true to any principle which he knew to be right, whether it was expedient or not, he most undoubtedly was honest, and true to his convictions.
Was Abraham Lincoln honest and true to his convictions? If by being honest you mean taking graft and accepting bribes, he certainly was honest, and won the title of “Honest Abe.” But if by being honest is meant true to the things be believed, then Lincoln was not.
He wrote Alexander Stephens before he was inaugurated that the slaves would be as safe under his administration as they were under that of George Washington. Did he change his mind when expedient? He told a friend in Kentucky that if he would vote for him every fugitive slave should be returned. Was it expedient to return any? At Peoria, Ill., in 1854 he said, “I acknowledge the constitutional rights of the States — not grudgingly, but fairly and fully, and I will give them any legislation for reclaiming their fugitive slaves.” Did he? He said the slaveholder had a legal and a moral right to his slaves. Was he honest when he violated the Constitution by freeing some of them?
He believed at one time it would not be constitutional to coerce the States, and then later he believed it would. A friend asked why he changed his mind. He replied, “If I allow the South to secede, whence will come my revenue?”
In 1848 and in 1860 Lincoln said the Southern States had a right to secede; in 1861 he said they would be traitors and rebels if they did secede.
No, Lincoln’s convictions of right or wrong changed whenever expedient.
Did President Davis ever violate the Constitution? If he did his worst enemies have never been able to discover it. Secession was not a violation of the United States Constitution. When a President of the United States offered to give him the highest office in militia military service, an honor he most desired, he refused because he said that was a gift from the State, not the government.
Did Lincoln ever violate the Constitution? Sumner said when Lincoln reinforced Fort Sumter, and called for 75,000 men without the consent of Congress, it was the greatest breach ever made in the Constitution and would hereafter give any President the liberty to declare war whenever he wished without the consent of Congress. In his inaugural address Lincoln said he had no intentions to interfere with the slaves, for the South had a legal right by the Constitution to hold them. Why then did he issue his Emancipation Proclamation to free the South’s slaves? Did he not violate the Constitution when he sanctioned the formation of West Virginia, a new State taken from Virginia without Virginia’s consent? Did he not violate the Constitution when he suspended the writ of habeas corpus, May 10, 1861, in the Merriman case? Yes, Lincoln violated the Constitution whenever he desired.
Was Jefferson Davis humane? He certainly was. When the soldiers were returning victorious from the first Battle of Manassas, and President Davis went out to meet them, he said that he commended their humane treatment of those 10.000 prisoners of war as much as he commended their valor, great as it was. When he was urged to retaliate for alleged cruelties to our prisoners at the North, his reply was, “The inhumanity of the enemy to our prisoners can be no justification for a disregard by us of the rules of civilized war and Christianity.” The Richmond Examiner paid that this humane policy of the President would be the ruin of the Confederacy. His heart went out in agony over the suffering of the Andersonville prisoners, and his inability to help them because of the refusal to exchange prisoners, and to send medicines.
Was Abraham Lincoln humane? When Alexander Stephens, a personal friend, went on to Washington to plead for a renewal of the cartel to exchange prisoners, owing to a congested condition at Andersonville beyond the power of the Confederate government to relieve, he put this request on the score of humanity and friendship, not as a political measure; the request was refused. When President Davis, Colonel Ould and General Howell Cobb pleaded for an exchange of prisoners at Andersonville on the plea of mercy, as the stockade was overcrowded and the water conditions bad, was the request granted? When six of the prisoners were paroled in order to go to Washington to plead for exchange, was their request even given a fair hearing? When Colonel Ould begged that medicines, which had been made contraband of war, should be sent to their own surgeons to use only for their own men, was not that request denied? When Colonel Ould asked that a vessel be sent to take the sick and wounded home, because of the lack of room, lack of cooking vessels to prepare the returned that the vessel would be filled with well men to complete that number, and although this answer went in August it was December before the vessel was sent, and that after many, many had died. When General Cobb sent the prisoners to Florida the Federal officers refused to receive them, but they were left there anyway. Was Sheridan’s treatment of the women and children in the valley of the Shenandoah, or Sherman’s treatment of them in Atlanta, or in his March through Georgia, or at the burning of Columbia, or Butler’s treatment of the women in New Orleans humane? Yet Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief of the army, allowed it and never once reproved it. No, Lincoln was not humane. Nevertheless, this quality has been given to him in full measures since his martyrdom.
Did Lincoln intend to free the slaves when war was declared? Certainly he did not. In his speech at Peoria, Ill., he said:
“Free them and keep them here as underlings? That would not better their condition.
“Free them and make them socially and politically our equals? My own feelings will not admit this, and I know the mass of whites North and South will not agree to this. We cannot make them our equals.
“Free them and send them to Liberia would be my first impulse, but I know if they were landed there today they would perish in ten days.
“If all earthly power were given to me I do not know what to do with slavery as it exists in the South today.
“A system of gradual emancipation seems best, and we must not too quickly judge our brethren of the South for a seeming tardiness in this matter.”
Does this seem that he had the Emancipation Proclamation or anything like it in his mind at that time?
Was Lincoln magnanimous? Yes, Lincoln was magnanimous, for there is no doubt that Grant’s magnanimity to Lee was Lincoln’s thought, not Grant’s. One who was present when Grant went to consult Lincoln about this testifies to this fact.
Was Lincoln highly extolled by his friends Herndon and Lamon before his martyrdom? No, they saw many faults in their friend Lincoln which were quickly expunged from later editions of their books. The first copies of these books were rapidly destroyed. Rare copies of them are, however, still to be found.
What were Lincoln’s views about colonization?
From the time of his election as President he was striving to find some means of colonizing the negroes. An experiment had been made of sending them to Liberia, but it was a failure, and he wished to try another colony, hoping that would be successful. He sent one colony to Cow Island under Koch as overseer, but he proved very cruel to the negroes and they begged to return. He then asked for an appropriation of money from Congress to purchase land in Central America, but Central America refused to sell and said, “Do not send the negroes here.” The North said, “Do not send the negroes here.” It was then agreed that a Black Territory should be set apart for the segregation of the negroes in Texas, Mississippi and South Carolina — but Lincoln was unhappy, and in despair he asked Ben Butler’s advice, saying, “If we turn 200,000 armed negroes in the South among their former owners, from whom we have taken their arms, it will inevitably lead to a race war. It cannot be done. The negroes must be gotten rid of.” Ben Butler said, “Why not send them to Panama to dig the canal?” Lincoln was delighted at the suggestion, and asked Butler to consult Seward at once. Only a few days later John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln and one of his conspirators wounded Seward. What would have been the result had Lincoln lived cannot be estimated. The poot negroes would possibly have been sent to that place of yellow fever and malarial dangers to perish from the face of the earth, for we had no Gorgas of Alabama to study our sanitary laws for them at that time.
By the way, another wrong of history should be corrected just here. John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln because of no love that be had in his heart for the South, but because Lincoln and Seward had failed to pardon a friend of his, and failing in this promise that friend was hanged. Vengeance was vowed and vengeance was taken. There was not a true man of the South who would have tolerated such a deed as Lincoln’s assassination.
What was Lincoln’s Reconstruction Policy?
Lincoln’s idea was to restore all the seceding States to their rights, extracting a promise that they would not secede again, and that they would free their slaves, because he had promised that in his Proclamation, then punish President Davis and the leaders. He would never have stood for Thad Stevens’s policy, and Thad Stevens and his crowd knew it and rejoiced at Lincoln’s death.
Now when Southern young men say “The South as well as the North is ready to admit that Lincoln is the greatest of all Americans,” it is full time to call a halt. These young people have been taught to canonize Lincoln, and they must now be taught that Lincoln can never measure up to many of our great men of the South, especially to our Robert E. Lee, a man who in every department of life measured up to the highest standard. Whether as son, husband, father, soldier, teacher, master, citizen, friend, scholar, or Christian gentleman, he presented the most rounded character found in all human history. Lord Wolseley said of him: “He was a being apart and superior to all others in every way; a man with whom none I ever knew, and very few of whom I ever read are worthy to be compared; a man who was cast in a grander mould and made of finer metal than all other men.”
Now am I willing to place Lincoln ahead of our Jefferson Davis. Our Davis never stood for coarse jokes, never violated the Constitution, never stood for retaliation¾Lincoln stood for all these. Nor was he even as great as many of the great men of the North. He cannot be compared to our Woodrow Wilson. Many times Lincoln had an opportunity to make peace and he made war. Twice our Woodrow Wilson had an opportunity to plead for peace and he did it. Many times Lincoln had an opportunity to show loving kindness to humanity and many times he failed. Never has there been an opportunity for our President to show loving kindness to those in distress that he has failed.
Another wrong that must be righted is that BARBARA FRIETCHIE MYTH. Our children are reciting that poem by Whittier and are being taught that our great and good Stonewall Jackson was not only discourteous, but actually revengeful and cruel. We cannot allow this to longer remain unrighted.
I have in my possession a copy of a letter from John G. Whittier written in 1892 in which he acknowledges that he was mistaken in the name of the place where the incident took place and the person mentioned in the poem who waved the flag. He says that a United States soldier returning from the war told him the incident, and said that it happened in Maryland when Jackson’s troops passed through. He supposed that it took place in Frederick, because Jackson passed through that city, so wrote to the postmaster there to inquire the name of the person connected with the flag waving. The postmaster replied that he had never heard of the incident, but that it sounded very much like Barbara Frietchie, for she was a very patriotic old woman who had lived there at that time. The name struck Whittier as suitable for a poem, so upon that authority only he wrote it.
I have in my possession a copy of a letter from a nephew of Barbara Frietchie, written in 1874, saying that at the time Stonewall Jackson passed through Frederick, Md., he was attending to his aunt’s business affairs, and he knows positively that she was not able to leave her bed, much less to mount a casement to wave a flag.
I have in my possession a copy of a letter from Dr. Zacharias, her pastor, saying that the day before Stonewall Jackson passed through Frederick, he was administering, as to a dying woman, the last communion. He said he knew positively that Barbara Frietchie was not able to go to a window to wave a flag, even had Stonewall Jackson’s men passed her home, which they did not.
I have in my possession a chart giving Jackson’s line of march in Frederick and the location of Barbara Frietchie’s home, which was quite off the line. And yet the women of Frederick, knowing these facts, have erected a monument in the streets of that city and lately unveiled it to this falsehood in history.
The U.D.C. Daughters of Frederick protested. The Veterans of the U.C.V. in Frederick protested. The Daughters and Veterans of Maryland protested, and the Baltimore Sun protested, but nothing could stop it. The testimony of an old woman over 75 years old, whose memory is known to be failing, has been taken, rather than more reliable testimony. She is a niece of Barbara Frietchie, and has been fed upon this story so long that she really believes it, when her own brother’s testimony disproves it. There is nothing to do but to let it be branded in history as a monument to an untruth. The mayor of Frederick was asked why he allowed it to be erected, and he said, “Because it will bring many visitors to our city.” Yes, it is a monument unique in history, but does it honor, as a monument should, the memory of any one? I know Whittier would have resented it, for while we didn’t agree with him on the slavery question, he was a man of deep religious convictions and a man who abhorred a sham. If Barbara Frietchie was so patriotic she would not desire an honor that falsified facts.
Another wrong to be righted and one as much misunderstood by some of our Southern men and women as by those of other sections. I refer to the misrepresentations regarding ANDERSONVILLE PRISON, and the unfair trial given to Major Wirz, and the attempt to implicate President Davis in the atrocities, so-called, at Andersonville.
It will be needless to rehearse all the story, especially here in Savannah, for it was a Savannah woman, Mrs. L.G. Young, who wrote the resolutions to introduce in the Georgia Convention U. D. C. when it met in Macon, 1905, to erect a monument to exonerate the name of Wirz and to defend the President of the Confederacy. It was Miss Benning, of Columbus, Ga., who seconded it. It was a Savannah woman, Mrs. A.B. Hull, who was President of the Georgia Division when the monument was being erected, although it was unveiled under Miss Alice Baxter’s administration. We can hear testimony to endless and vile vituperations hurled at us for daring to defend Major Wirz and the Andersonville atrocities. But we know that we were right and the truth of history would sustain us; and we knew the attacks came from ignorance of the facts in the case, so we tried to forgive and forget all that was said. We were sorry to stir up strife and bitterness, but right is might and must prevail.
When Senator Blaine in the United States Senate Chamber January 10, 1876, cast reproach upon President Davis for the horrors at Andersonville, it was by good Providence that a member of that Senate was Benjamin H. Hill, the confidential adviser of President Davis, and he knew every step that had been taken in the whole affair, and why it was taken. Mr. Hill answered Mr. Blaine.
That was a most remarkable speech. It refuted every accusation brought against Wirz or Davis, and silenced their defamers for a time at least.
I wish I could give Senator Hill’s speech in full, but I have not the time or memory to give it, and you have not the time to listen to it. Turning to Mr. Blaine, he said: “Mr. Blaine, you said Mr. Davis was the author knowingly, deliberately, guiltily, and wilfully of the gigantic crime and murder at Andersonville. By what authority do you make this statement? One hundred and sixty witnesses were introduced during the three months’ trial of Captain Wirz, and not one mentioned the name of President Davis in connection with a single atrocity. It is true that two hours before Captain Wirz’s execution, parties came to Wirz’s confessor saying if Wirz would implicate President Davis his sentence would be commuted. What was Wirz’s reply? ‘President Davis had no connection with me as to what happened at Andersonville. Besides, I would not become a traitor even to save my life.’
“You say, Mr. Blaine, that the food was insufficient and the prisoners were starved to death. The act of the Confederate Congress reads thus: ‘The rations furnished prisoners of war shall be the same in quantity and quality as those furnished to enlisted men in the army of the Confederacy.’ That was the law that Mr. Davis approved.
“You say, Mr. Blaine, that Mr. Davis sent General Winder to locate a den of horrors. The official order reads thus: ‘The location for the stockade shall be in a healthy locality, with plenty of pure water, with a running stream, and if possible with shade trees and near to grist and saw mills.’ This doesn’t sound like a den of horrors, does it?”
He then rehearsed the efforts of Vice-President Alexander Stephens, Colonel Robert Ould, General Howell Cobb, Captain Wirz, and others, who time and time again interceded for the exchange of prisoners on any terms and finally on no terms at all, if only they would receive them beyond the borders of the State, and, how every offer was rejected. He showed how medicine, made contraband of war, was denied to be used for their own men. He showed how no act of the Confederate Government was responsible for any horrors that existed at Andersonville, but that all blame must rest wholly with the war policy of the Federal Government. When General Grant was urged to exchange, his answer was, “If we commence a system of exchange we will have to fight until the whole South is exterminated. If we hold those caught they are as dead men.”
Mr. Hill continued: “You say, Mr. Blaine, that no prisoners in Northern prisons were ever maltreated. I do not care to unfold the chapters on the other side. I could produce thousands of witnesses from my own State of Georgia alone, to refute this statement.”
Yes, Mr. Hill could have told of the horrors of Elmire, Rock Island, Fort Delaware, Camp Chase, and others. And he could have told how the health of Alexander Stephens, our Vice-President, was injured by confinement in Fort Warren, the dampness bringing on an attack of rheumatism from which he never recovered, and which left him a cripple for life. He could have told them how our Sidney Lanier was never a well man after that confinement in a Northern prison. He could have told of those 600 prisoners at Fort Delaware who were placed under the fire of their own men, and guarded by negro soldiers, and he could have told of horror without end that were heaped upon our prisoners in a spirit of retaliation simply.
Mr. Hill continued, “You say, Mr. Blaine, that President Davis starved and tortured 23,500 prisoners in Southern prisons. Who, Mr. Blaine, starved 26,000 prisoners in Northern prisons? Mr. Stanton, your Secretary or War, gives these statistics, and I feel sure you will believe him, will you not? He says twelve per cent of our men died in your prisons and only nine per cent of your men died in ours. There were far more Northern men in our prisons than Southern men in your prisons. Why was this per cent of death greater at the North?”
Then turning to Mr. Blaine, Senator Hill said, “No, Mr. Blaine, I tell you this reckless misrepresentation of the South must stop right here. I put you on notice that hereafter when you make an assertion against the South you must be prepared to substantiate full proof thereof.”
President Davis sent General Lee under a flag of truce to urge, in the name of humanity, that General Grant agree to an exchange of prisoners. The interview was not granted.
This is General Lee’s testimony as expressed in a letter to a Philadelphia friend, who wished his view of the Andersonville affair:
“I offered General Grant to send into his lines all of the prisoners within my Department (Virginia and North Carolina), provided he would return man for man. When I notified the Confederate authorities of my proposition, I was told, if accepted they would gladly place at my disposal every man in our Southern prisons. I also made this offer to the Committee of the United States Sanitary Commission — but my propositions were not accepted. — R.E. Lee.”
I wish I had time to tell you my conversation with Dr. Kerr, of Corsicana, Texas. He was one of our surgeons at Andersonville, and gave me some such valuable history concerning the conditions there. He says to his certain knowledge thirteen of the acts of cruelty brought against Captain Wirz, and accepted as truth, although absolute proofs were given to the contrary, took place when Captain Wirz was sick in bed, and some one else in charge of the prisoners. Yes, Wirz was a hero and a martyr.
Dr. Kerr says that Wirz was called hard-hearted and cruel, but he has seen the tears streaming down his face when in the hospitals watching the sufferings of those men. Not a man ever died that he did not see that his grave was distinctly marked so that his mother could come and claim that body. Did any one at Northern prisons ever do that for our Southern boys’ mothers?
If the soldiers hated Wirz, as was said in the trial, why did they not kill him, for they had ample opportunity, as he never went armed. He did not even carry a pocket knife. He once laughingly said to Dr. Kerr that he had an old rusty pistol, but it would not shoot.
I have in my library a copy of a set of resolutions which those six paroled prisoners drew up when they returned from Washington, exonerating the Confederate authorities of all blame connected with the horrors of Andersonville prison life, and testifying to the fact that the insults received at Stanton’s hands were far harder to bear than anything they ever had suffered at Andersonville.
I have in my library a book written by one of the prisoners exonerating Captain Wirz and the Confederate authorities. I have in my scrap book a copy of a letter from some of the prisoners sent with a watch which they presented to Captain Wirz as a token of their appreciation of his kind treatment of them. Mrs. Perrin, his daughter, has many testimonials of this kind.
There was never any trouble about lack of provisions at Andersonville, as have been so often stated. There was an abundant supply of the rations that the soldiers and prisoners needed, but the trouble came because of the over-crowded condition of the stockade. It was made for 10,000 and in four months 29,000 were sent. There were 8,000 sick in the hospitals at one time and no medicines. There were not enough vessels in which the food could be properly prepared and served, and the Confederate authorities were powerless, for they did not have vessels with which to supply this need, nor money with which to buy them.
There were many bad men among the prisoners called “bounty jumpers,” and they were killed by their own men, yet Captain Wirz was accused of their murder. Dr. Kerr said when Captain Wirz paroled those six prisoners to send them North to plead for exchange, he turned to him and said, “I wish I could parole the last one of them.” At the surrender he went to Macon, relying on the honor of General Wilson’s parole. Imagine his surprise when he was arrested. He was taken to trial, condemned upon suborned testimony and hanged November 6, 1865. That was the foulest blot in American history, and Mrs. Surratt’s death for complicity with John Wilkes Booth may be placed beside it.
If any one questions the truth of these facts, they can be found verified in the volumes called The War of the Rebellion, in the Congressional Library, in Washington, D.C., put there by the United States authorities.
I have also a copy of a letter from Herman A. Braum, of Milwaukee, Wis., who was a prisoner at Andersonville. After paying a tribute to Captain Wirz and exonerating the Confederate authorities he says, “I believe that there is nothing so well calculated to strengthen the faith in popular government as the example given by the Confederacy during the war, its justice, humanity, and power. On this rests the historic fame of Jefferson Davis.”
I wish I had the time to take up some other wrongs and try to right them. I had intended to say something of the Hampton Roads Conference, the Sumner-Brooks caning, and the false history about the Monitor and Merrimac. But I have detained you too long already, and I must save these for another time.
As I said before, whatever wrongs are righted, they must be righted in the proper spirit.
I know perfectly well what the young people of today will say: “We are tired of hearing of these old issues, don’t resurrect them.” We have listened to this too long from the young people, and we have allowed them thereby to grow up in ignorance of the truth regarding our history. We must not listen to them any longer. Justice to the living, memory of the dead, a desire that truth may prevail over error and falsehood makes me urgent to right these wrongs of history now.
Our friends from the North do not object to the truth of history provided we are fair and just. We may expect them to disagree with us at times, but that is perfectly natural for they have never heard of many of the things we claim. They, too, have been often wronged in our Southern history and we must be ready to help them to right their wrongs also. Whatever is done, let it be done in the spirit of truth and peace and love and good will.
It is all right, as President Wilson said, to plan a Lincoln Highway, and it is all right to plan a Jefferson Davis Highway. We should honor the distinguished men of our land. Enough is not done along this line. Foreign countries put us to shame. But the Lincoln Highway will not obliterate the Mason and Dixon line, as the President suggests, for that is not a line of locality or mere boundary, but it is a line of heredity. Just as long as there is pure Puritan blood in the veins of some and pure Cavalier blood in the veins of others, there will be a difference in the thoughts and ways of the people. We cannot be alike if we would. This need not cause a difference that would lead to misunderstandings, however. God grant that never again in the history of our country shall jealousies, bickerings, selfish contentions and political injustice drive us apart. Today we stand, and desire to stand a reunited people, all sections prosperous, happy, at peace and united. Yes, united in energies, in common interests, in resources, in courage and in patriotism, dependent the one upon the other.
The eyes of the world are on us. There is no doubt that our country is the greatest, the noblest, the mightiest of all the countries of the globe, and we must rejoice at it and keep it so. We should be thankful that we are under a leader who stands for peace and whom the whole world respects, a leader who had come to us “for such a time as this”; a leader who knows no section, but who, knowing the right, dares to maintain it — a leader who has the love of the world in his heart, and would if he could have war to cease and peace and love and harmony prevail throughout the entire world.
Source: Four Addresses: Mildred Lewis Rutherford (Birmingham, AL: The Mildred Rutherford Historical Circle), 1916, pp. 49-82.