Correspondence between Commissioner John G. Shorter of Alabama and Gov. Joe Brown of Georgia
|John Gill Shorter was born in
Monticello, Georgia, in 1818, graduated from the
University of Georgia in 1837, and moved to Eufala,
Alabama, shortly thereafter. He entered state politics in
1845, winning a seat in the state senate. He eventually
became a state circuit court judge, a post he held for
nine years. He was appointed by Gov. A.B. Moore to be
commissioner to his native state of Georgia, in which
capacity he wrote the following letter to Gov. Joe. Brown
(see the Official Records, Ser. IV, vol. 1,
pp. 16-17; Gov. Brown's reply
is on pp. 18-19). In August, 1861, after brief service in
the Provisional Congress of the Confederacy, Shorter was
overwhelmingly elected governor of the state, but then
was defeated for re-election in 1863. At the end of his
term he retired from public life and returned to his law
practice in Eufala, where he died in 1872.
We present two documents here: the document by which Gov. Moore appointed Shorter as commissioner to Georgia (found in OR Ser. IV, vol. 1, p. 55), and Shorter's letter to Georgia Gov. Joe Brown. Brown's reply to Shorter is also on this web site.
Montgomery, Ala., December 21, 1860.
Whereas, the election of Abraham Lincoln, a Black Republican, to the Presidency of the United States by a purely sectional vote and by a party whose leading and publicly avowed object is the destruction of the institution of slavery as it exists in the slave-holding States; and whereas, the success of said party and the power which it now has and soon will acquire greatly endanger the peace, interests, security, and honor of the slave-holding States, and make it necessary that prompt and effective measures should be adopted to avoid the evils which must result from a Republican administration of the Federal Government, and as the interests and destiny of the slave-holding States are the same, they must naturally sympathize with each other, they therefore, so far as may be practicable, should consult and advise together as to what is best to be done to protect their mutual interests and honor:
Now, therefore, in consideration of the premises, I, Andrew B. Moore, Governor of the State of Alabama, by virtue of the general powers in me vested, do hereby constitute and appoint Hon. John Gill Shorter, a citizen of said State, a commissioner to the sovereign State of Georgia, to consult and advise with His Excellency Governor Joseph E. Brown and the members of the convention to be assembled in said State, as to what is best to be done to protect the rights, interests, and honor of the slave-holding States, and to report the result of such consultation in time to enable me to communicate the same to the convention of the State of Alabama to be held on Monday, the 7th day of January next, if practicable.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the great seal of the State to be affixed in the city of Montgomery this 21st day of December, A.D. 1860.
A. B. MOORE.
MILLEDGEVILLE, GA., January 3, 1861.
His Excellency Governor JOSEPH E. BROWN,
Governor of the State of Georgia :
SIR: I beg leave to hand you herewith a commission from His Excellency Andrew B. Moore, Governor of the sovereign State of Alabama, and attested by the great seal of the State, under date of December 21, 1860, by which I have the honor to be constituted and appointed a commissioner to the sovereign State of Georgia, with authority to consult and advise with Your Excellency as to what is best to be done to protect the rights, interests, and honor of the slave-holding States. No duty more agreeable to my feelings could have been laid upon me at this trying hour in the history of our country than that of a delegate from Alabama, the beloved State of my adoption, to Georgia, the beloved and honored State of my nativity. The unnatural warfare which, in violation of the Federal compact and for a long series of years, has been unceasingly waged by the anti-slavery States upon the institutions, rights, and domestic tranquillity of the slave-holding States, has finally culminated in the election of an open and avowed enemy to our section of the Union; and the great and powerful party who have produced this result calmly awaits the 4th day of March next, when, under the forms of the Constitution and the laws, they will usurp the machinery of the Federal Government and madly attempt to rule, if not to subjugate, and ruin the South. In anticipation of such a contingency and in advance of any of her sister States, the General Assembly of Alabama on the 24th day of February, 1860, solemnly declared that---
To permit a seizure of the Federal Government by those whose unmistakable aim is to pervert its whole machinery to the destruction of a portion of its members would be an act of suicidal folly and madness almost without a parallel in history; and that the General Assembly of Alabama, representing a people loyally devoted to the Union of the Constitution, but scorning the Union which fanaticism would erect upon its ruins, deem it their solemn duty to provide in advance the means by which they may escape such peril and dishonor, and devise new securities for perpetuating the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity.
In stern pursuance of this purpose the General Assembly adopted, among others, the following resolution:
That upon the happening of the contingency contemplated in the foregoing preamble, namely, the election of a President advocating the principles and action of the party in the Northern States calling itself the Republican party, it shall be the duty of the Governor, and he is required forthwith, to issue his proclamation calling upon the qualified voters of this State to assemble on a Monday not more than forty days after the date of said proclamation, at the usual places of voting in their respective counties, and elect delegates to a convention of the State, to consider, determine, and do whatever, in the opinion of said convention, the rights, interests, and honor of the State of Alabama require to be done for their protection.
And the same General Assembly, on the 25th day of February, 1860, in response to resolutions received from the State of South Carolina, inviting a conference of the Southern States, adopted these additional resolutions:
1. Resolved, That the State of Alabama, fully concurring with the State of South Carolina in affirming the right of any State to secede from the confederacy whenever, in her own judgment, such a step is demanded by the honor, interests, and safety of her people, is not unmindful of the fact that the assaults upon the institution of slavery and upon the rights and equality of the Southern States, unceasingly continued with increasing violence and in new and more alarming forms, may constrain her to a reluctant but early exercise of that invaluable right.
2. Be it further resolved, That in the absence of any preparation for a systematic cooperation of the Southern States in resisting the aggressions of her enemies, Alabama, acting for herself, has solemnly declared that under no circumstances will she submit to the foul domination of a sectional Northern party; has provided for the call of a convention in the event of the triumph of such a faction in the approaching Presidential election, and, to maintain the position thus deliberately assumed, has appropriated the sum of $200,000 for the military contingencies which such a course may involve.
3. Be it further resolved, That the State of Alabama, having endeavored to prepare for the exigencies of the future, has not deemed it necessary to propose a meeting of deputies from the slave-holding States, but, anxiously desiring their co-operation in a struggle which perils all they hold most dear, hereby pledges herself to a cordial participation in any and every effort which, in her judgment, will protect the common safety, advance the common interest, and serve the common cause.
In obedience to the instructions of the General Assembly, and in accordance with his own loyal heart and manly purpose, His Excellency Andrew B. Moore, Governor of Alabama, ordered an election of delegates by the people on the 24th day of December last. These delegates, 100 in number, will assemble in convention at Montgomery on Monday next, the 7th instant, and there and then will speak the sovereign voice of Alabama. There may be found an honest difference of opinion and judgment as to the time and mode of secession from the Federal Union, whether the State shall move at once, for herself and by herself, or await the action and co-operation of Georgia and adjoining sister States who have with her a common interest, but that the convention will fully maintain the high and patriotic resolves of the General Assembly, and thus proudly vindicate the rights and honor of Alabama, I do not for a moment entertain the shadow of a doubt. Events now transpiring must, at an early date, unite all loyal sons of the South in the defense of the South. We should make haste to be ready for the conflict which is well nigh upon us. "Delay is dangerous; hesitation, weakness; opposition, treason." We honor the gallant State of South Carolina, which accidental and fortuitous circumstances have placed in front of the battle, and Alabama will stand by and make common cause with her and every other State which shall assert her independence of an abolitionized Government. Alabama sends greetings to her mother, glorious old Georgia, the Empire State of the South, one of the immortal thirteen which suffered and endured and triumphed in the Revolution of 1776, and Alabama invokes her counsel and advice, her encouragement and co-operation. Having similar institutions, kindred sympathies, and honor alike imperiled, will not Georgia unite with Alabama and sister States in throwing off the insolent despotism of the North, and in the establishment of a Southern confederacy, a government of homogeneous people, which shall endure through all coming time, the proudest and grandest monument on the face of the earth? I shall proceed hence to the capital of Alabama to report the result of my interview with Your Excellency to the Governor of Alabama in time for him to lay the same before the convention on Monday next; and I shall feel grateful for the honor of being made the medium of bearing any communication which Your Excellency may be pleased to make.
With high consideration, I am, Your Excellency's obedient servant,
JNO. GILL SHORTER.