Speech of Senator Albert Gallatin Brown of Mississippi, Dec. 12, 1860

Albert Gallatin Brown was born in South Carolina in 1813 but moved with his parents to Mississippi as a child. Taking up the law as a profession, he entered politics, serving first in the state legislature (1835-39) and then briefly becoming a Congressman in 1840. After a brief stint in the state judiciary, he was elected governor in 1843, returned to Congress in 1848, and finally became a United States Senator in 1854. An uncompromising proponent of Southern rights, Brown resigned from the Senate in 1861 to join the Confederacy. Sen. A. G. Brown

Mr. President, I cannot vote for the resolution introduced by the Senator from Kentucky; and I desire, in a single word, without making a speech, to state the reason. Things have reached a crisis. The crisis can only be met in one way effectually, in my judgment; and that is, for the northern people to review and reverse their whole policy upon the subject of slavery. I see no evidence anywhere of any such purpose. On the contrary, the evidences accumulate all around, day by day, that there is no such purpose. In their newspapers, in the action of so many of their Legislatures as have assembled, in the speeches of their Senators, with but one or two exceptions, we have accumulated evidence that there is no purpose on the part of the northern people to reverse their action or their judgement upon this question. The southern states do not expect that they are going to do it; and, having despaired of that reversal of judgement and that change of conduct, they are proceeding in the only mode left them to vindicate their rights and their honor. I cannot vote for the resolution of my friend from Kentucky, because it would be an intimation --- darkly given, it is true, but yet an intimation --- to my State which is moving, that there is a hope of reconciliation. I do not believe there is any such hope. I see no evidence upon which to base a hope. I see, through this dark cloud that surrounds us, no ray of light. To me it is all darkness, midnight gloom. I therefore, standing here as one of the Senators from my State to report faithfully what is going on, will hold out no false hope. I will not say to them, even by implication, that I believe that which, upon my soul, I do riot believe.

If the same spirit could prevail which actuates the Senator who has just now taken his seat, [Mr. Dixon] a different state of things might be produced in the next twenty days; but we know that is not the spirit of Republican Senators; it is not the spirit of Republican Representatives; it is not the spirit of the dominant party. They have forced the matter to the present crisis, and they mean to stand by their arms. We have registered our oaths in high Heaven that we will not submit. Submission, to us, is the deepest dishonor that ever fell upon a free people. I'will not, while things are progressing as they now are in my State, intimate to the people there that I have any hope of a different course. On the contrary, to-day, speaking in this presence, under all the solemnities of this occasion, with all the responsibilities which surround me, I say to them, there is no hope that this matter is to be remedied.

We have heard what the Senator from New York has said; we have heard what the Senator from New Hampshire has said; we hear in private discourse what others say. We read your newspapers. We have noted the fact that the great leading journal of New York, next to the Tribune --- I speak of the Albany Evening Journal --- proposed something which looked to a reconciliation; and the electoral college of that great State assembled a day or two after, and rebuked them for it. If any thirty-five men in the State of New York understand the public sentiment of that great State, the members of the electoral college are the men. They understand it better, perhaps, [than] the two Senators and thirty-three Representatives. They rebuked that journal for holding out the olive branch for an instant.

Are these evidences that there is any disposition on the part of the Republicans to abandon any part of their programme? No, sir; what was said only yesterday, as reported to me by a Republican member of the House, is true: "We never mean to ground our arms until we have emancipated the last slave in America." That is their purpose, disguise it as they may; and we never mean to sink down to that position. Better, ten thousand times better, that we separate in peace; but if that cannot be done, then we must separate in war. To be under your domination we cannot and will not. Calmly, deliberately, dispassionately, the southern people have made up their minds to that.

Gentlemen talk about making appeals. I make no appeals, because I will not appeal where I know my appeal is to be rejected. I will not make appeals that my own friends will read as a hope that this difficulty may be reconciled. I prefer to present them the plain stubborn facts as they are; to tell them that Republicanism has shown no disposition to recede, and we stand face to face, and all that is left to us is either a peaceable or a violent separation.

I deem it hardly necessary, Mr. President, to say a word on the resolution introduced by my friend from Missouri. It is sufficient, perhaps, for me to say that the resolution, coming from that quarter, amazed me. That a southern Seneator, representing a State even as much exposed as Missouri, should deliberately, in times like these, propose to arm the Federal Government for the purpose of protectitng the frontier, to establish military posts all along the line, struck me with astonishment. Why, sir, if they are only to protect the line, the whole army of Russia would be insufficient. If they are to make incursions into the States, North and South, and capture those who are supposed by military judgement to have offended against the laws, how far are they to go, and what are they to do when they get there? I see in that proposition the germ of of a military despotism, established in advance of the period whean we can sufficiently have vindicated our honor and position. I want no military force on the frontier, or anywhere else, to compel American citizens or American States to do their duty. If the States will not make their own citizens obedient to the laws of the country there is no power left to make them obedient. It belongs to each State, for itself, to compel obedience to the laws on the part of its citizens, and not to the Federal Government by its military force. I do not know what is to become of these armies, or what is to be done with these military posts. I fancy that, in the hands of the enemy, they might be turned against us; they would hardly ever.be turned against the North. I, sir, for one, believe as my colleague believes,that this Union was founded in affection, and can only be maintained in affection; that if the same spirit in which it was founded could be made to prevail, it would go on, prospering and to prosper, as it did during the first half century of its existence; but, if sectional hate has sprung up, you cannot extinguish it by acts of Congress or by resolutions. You might as well undertake to extract a cancer with a mustard plaster as to root up this political disease by means like these.

If it be true that the northern people have been taught in the schools and the churches following the advice delivered to them by the Senator from New York [Mr. Seward] more than twelve years ago, when he told them, "slavery must be abolished, and you and I must do it," and that the mode to do it was to begin in the schools and in the churches; if this kind of teaching has so seized on the minds of the northern people that the rising generation, and even the young and active generation, have learned to hate the southern people with all the bitterness with which you have taught them to hate us, is it not nonsense to bring forward resolutions like these with the hope of remedying the evil? It has taken you twenty-five years to teach your people thus intently to hate us. If I could believe that you would go to work in earnest and unteach them in twenty-five years to come, I would wait for it; but I see no evidence of this. Your teaching is going on; it is going on now in your newspapers, in your churches, and in your schools; and even your gray-headed Senators go home and inculcate it. We have been driven to a position where it is absolutely necessary for us to take care of ourselves. I will hold up no false lights to the State which I represent. I will tell them the plain and stubborn truth, and let them act, as I think they ought to, for themselves. I hope they will act like men and freemen; and whatever their action may be, I shall stand by them for good or for evil. If Senators on the other side have propositions to submit which look to reconciliation, I will consider them; but they must be propositions which, in my judgement, strike at the root of this evil, not mere propositions for delay, such as that introduced by my friend from Kentucky. I can understand why a lawyer in court who has been driven to the wall may file an affidavit for delay, or put in a plea, for delay; but I cannot understand why a Southern Senator in the present condition of affairs puts in a plea, or an affidavit, or makes any application for delay. We are better prepared to defend ourselves now than we shall be next year. The people are ripe for it. Let them go on. Hold out no delusive hopes. Let them meet the issue as it is, and I undertake to give my judgement that they will meet it successfully.