Speech of Henry Benning to the Virginia Convention
|Henry Benning was a prominent
secessionist politician from Georgia who also served long
and well in the Confederate army. Born in 1814 in
Columbia County, and educated at the University of
Georgia (graduating first in his class), Benning worked
as a lawyer and served six years as a justice on the
Georgia Supreme Court. A delegate to Georgia's secession
convention, he was selected by that body to serve as a
commissioner to the Virginia secession convention, in
which capacity he delivered this speech on Feb. 18, 1861,
immediately after Fulton
Anderson's speech. The text is taken from the Proceedings
of the Virginia State Convention of 1861, vol. 1,
Benning served as colonel of the 17th Georgia, eventually being promoted to brigadier general in command of a brigade of Georgia regiments in the Army of Northern Virginia. He fought at Second Manassas, Antietam, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and a host of other battles, and was part of the army that surrendered at Appomattox Court House.
I have been appointed by the Convention of the State of Georgia, to present to this Convention, the ordinance of secession of Georgia, and further, to invite Virginia, through this Convention ' to join Georgia and the other seceded States in the formation of a Southern Confederacy. This, sir, is the whole extent of my mission. 1 have no power to make promises, none to receive promises; no power to bind at all in any respect. But still, sir, it has seemed to me that a proper respect for this Convention requires that I should with some fulness and particularity, exhibit before the Convention the reasons which have induced Georgia to take that important step of secession, and then to lay before the Convention some facts and considerations in favor of the acceptance of the invitation by Virginia. With your permission then, sit, I will pursue this course.
What was the reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secession? This reason may be summed up in one single proposition. It was a conviction, a deep conviction on the part of Georgia, that a separation from the North-was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery. This conviction, sir, was the main cause. It is true, sir, that the effect of this conviction was strengthened by a further conviction that such a separation would be the best remedy for the fugitive slave evil, and also the best, if not the only remedy, for the territorial evil. But, doubtless, if it had not been for the first conviction this step would never have been taken. It therefore becomes important to inquire whether this conviction was well founded.
Is it true, then, that unless there had been a separation from the North, slavery would be abolished in Georgia? I address myself to the proofs of that case.
In the first place, I say that the North hates slavery, and, in using that expression I speak wittingly. In saying that the Black Republican party of the North hates slavery, I speak intentionally. If there is a doubt upon that question in the mind of any one who listens to me, a few of the multitude of proofs which could fill this room, would, I think, be sufficient to satisfy him. I beg to refer to a few of the proofs that are so abundant; and the first that I shall adduce consists in two extracts from a speech of Lincoln's, made in October, 1858. They are as follows: "I have always hated slavery as much as any abolitionist; I have always been an old line Whig; I have always hated it and I always believed it in the course of ultimate extinction, and if I were in Congress and a vote should come up on the question, whether slavery should be excluded from the territory, in spite of the Dred Scott decision, I would vote that it should."
These are pregnant statements; they avow a sentiment, a political principle of action, a sentiment of hatred to slavery as extreme as hatred can exist. The political principle here avowed is, that his action against slavery is not to be restrained by the Constitution of the United States, as interpreted by the Supreme Court of the United States. I say, if you can find any degree of hatred greater than that, I should like to see it. This is the sentiment of the chosen leader of the Black Republican party; and can you doubt that it is not entertained by every solitary member of that same party? You cannot, I think. He is a representative man; his sentiments are the sentiments of his party; his principles of political action are the principles of political action of his party. I say, then; it is true, at least, that the Republican party of the North hates slavery.
My next proposition is, that the Republican party of the North is in a permanent majority. It is true that in a government organized like the government of the Northern States, and like our own government, a majority, where it is permanent, is equivalent to the whole. The minority is powerless if the majority be permanent. Now, is this majority of the Republican party permanent? I say it is. That party is so deeply seated at the North that you cannot overthrow it. It has the press, it has the pulpit, it has the school-house, it has the organizations-the Governors, Legislatures, the judiciary, county officers, magistrates, constables, mayors, in fact all official life. Now, it has the General Government in addition. It has that inexhaustible reserve to fall back upon and to recruit from, the universal feeling at the North that slavery is a moral, social and political evil. With this to fall back upon, recruiting is easy. This is not all. The Republican party is now in league with the tariff, in league with internal improvements, in league with three Pacific Railroads. Sir, you cannot overthrow such a party as that. As well might you attempt to lift a mountain out of its bed and throw it into the sea.
But, suppose, sir, that by the aid of Providence and the intensest human exertion, you were enabled to overthrow it, how long would your victory last? But a very short time. The same ascendancy which that party has gained now, would be gained again before long. If it has come to this vast majority in the course of twenty-five years, from nothing, how long would it take the fragments of that party to get again into a majority? Sir, in two or three Presidential elections your labor would be worse than the labor of Sisyphus, and every time you rolled the rock up the hill it would roll back again growing larger and larger each time until at last it would roll back like an avalanche crushing you beneath it.
The Republican party is the permanent, dominant party at the North, and it is vain to think that you can put it down. It is true that the Republican party hates slavery, and that it is to be the permanent, dominant party at the North; and the majority being equivalent to the whole, as I have already stated, we cannot doubt the result. What is the feeling of the rest of the Northern people upon this subject? Can you trust them? They all say that slavery is a moral, social and political evil. Then the result of that feeling must be hatred to the institution; and if that is not entertained, it must be the consequence of something artificial or temporary-some interest, some thirst for office, or some confidence in immediate advancement. And we know that these considerations cannot be depended upon, and we may expect that, ultimately, the whole North will pass from this inactive state of hatred into the active state which animates the Black Republican party.
Is it true that the North hates slavery? My next proposition is that in the past the North has invariably exerted against slavery, all the power which it had at the time. The question merely was what was the amount of power it had to exert against it. They abolished slavery in that magnificent empire which you presented to the North; they abolished slavery in every Northern State, one after another; they abolished slavery in all the territory above the line of 36 30, which comprised about one million square miles. They have endeavored to put the Wilmot Proviso upon all the other territories of the Union, and they succeeded in putting it upon the territories of Oregon and Washington. They have taken from slavery all the conquests of the Mexican war, and appropriated it all to anti-slavery purposes; and if one of our fugitives escapes into the territories, they do all they can to make a free man of him; they maltreat his pursuers, and sometimes murder them. They make raids into your territory with a view to raise insurrection, with a view to destroy and murder indiscriminately all classes, ages and sexes, and when the base perpetrators are caught and brought to punishment, condign punishment, half the north go into mourning. If some of the perpetrators escape, they are shielded by the authorities of these Northern States-not by an irresponsible mob, but ,by the regularly organized authorities of the States.
My next proposition is, that we have a right to argue from the past to the future and to say, that if in the past the North has done this, in the-future, if it shall acquire the power to abolish slavery, it will do it.
My next proposition is that the North is in the course of acquiring this power to abolish slavery. Is that true? I say, gentlemen, the North is acquiring that power by two processes, one of which is operating with great rapidity-that is by the admission of new States. The public territory is capable of forming from twenty to thirty States of larger size than the average of the States now in the Union. The public territory is peculiarly Northern territory, and every State that comes into the Union will be a free State. We may rest assured, sit, that that is a fixed fact. The events in Kansas should satisfy every one of the truth of that. If causes now in operation are allowed to continue, the admission of new States will go on until a sufficient number shall have been secured to give the necessary preponderance to change the Constitution. There is a process going on by which some of our own slave States are becoming free States already. It is true, that in some of the slave States the slave population is actually on the decrease, and, I believe it is true of all of them that it is relatively to the white population on the decrease. The census shows that slaves are decreasing in Delaware and Maryland; and it shows that in the other States in the same parallel, the relative state of the decrease and increase is against the slave population. It is not wonderful that this should be so. The anti-slavery feeling has got to be so great at the North that the owners of slave property in these States have a presentiment that it is a doomed institution, and the instincts of self-interest impels them to get rid of that property which is doomed. The consequence is, that it will go down lower and. lower, until it all gets to the Cotton States-until it gets to the bottom. There is the weight of a continent upon it forcing it down. Now, I say, sir, that under this weight it is bound to go down unto the Cotton States, one of which I have the honor to represent here. When that time comes, sir, the free States in consequence of the manifest decrease, will urge the process with additional vigor, and I fear that the day is not distant when the Cotton States, as they are called, will be the only slave States. When that time comes, the time will have arrived when the North will have the power to amend the Constitution, and say that slavery shall be abolished, and if the master refuses to yield to this policy, he shall doubtless be hung for his disobedience.
My proposition, then, I insist, is true, that the North is acquiring this power. That being so, the only question is will she exercise it? Of course she will, for her whole course shows that she will. If things are allowed to go on as they are, it is certain that slavery is to be abolished except in Georgia and the other cotton States, and I doubt, ultimately in these States also. By the time the North shall have attained the power, the black race will be in a large majority, and then we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything. [Laughter.] The majority according to the Northern idea, which will then be the all-pervading, all powerful one, have the right to control. It will be in keeping particularly with the principles of the abolitionists that the majority, no matter of what, shall rule. Is it to be supposed that the white race will stand that? It is not a supposable case. Although not half so numerous, we may readily assume that war will break out everywhere like hidden fire from the earth, and it is probable that the white race, being superior in every respect, may push the other back. They will then call upon the authorities at Washington, to aid them in putting down servile insurrection, and they will send a standing armv down upon us, and the volunteers and Wide-Awakes will come in thousands, and we will be overpowered and our men will be compelled to wander like vagabonds all over the earth; and as for our women, the horrors of their state we cannot contemplate in imagination. That is the fate which Abolition will bring upon the white race.
But that is not all of the Abolition war. We will be completely exterminated, and the land will be left in the possession of the blacks, and then it will go back into a wilderness and become another Africa or St. Domingo. The North will then say that the Lord made this earth for his Saints and not for Heathens, and we are his Saints, and the Yankees will come down and drive out the negro.
Sir, this is Abolition to the cotton States. Would you blame us if we sought a remedy to avert that condition of things? What must be the requisites of any remedy that can do it? It must be one which will have one of two qualities. It must be something that will change the unanimity of the North on the slavery question, or something that shall take from them the power over the subject. Any thing that does not contain one of these two requisites is not a remedy for the case; it does not come to the root of the disease.
What remedy is it that contains these requisites? Is there any in the Union that does? Let us take the strongest that we have heard suggested, which is an amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing the power of self-preservation, of dividing the public territory at the line of 36 deg. 30 min., giving the South all below that line. I know that remedy has not been thought of as in any degree practicable. But, let us look at it. Suppose they grant us the power of self-preservation suppose they give to each Senator and member the veto power over any bill relating to slavery. That is putting it strong enough. Would that be sufficient now, to make it protective? I say it would not, and for two reasons. The first is that the North regards every such stipulation as void under the higher law. The North entertains the opinion that slavery is a sin and a crime. I mean, when I say the North, the Republican party, and that is the North; and they say that any stipulation in the Constitution or laws in favor of slavery, is an agreement with death and a covenant with hell; and that it is absolutely a religious merit to violate it. They think it as much a merit to violate a provision of that sort, as a mere stipulation in favor of murder or treason.
Well, sir, a people entertaining this opinion of a covenant of that sort, is beyond the pale of contract-making. You cannot make a contract with a people of that kind, because it is a bond not as they regard it, binding upon them. That being so, how will it be any protection to us, that our senators and representatives shall have the power of saying this bill shall not pass. Suppose the bill to pass giving protection to slavery, they would say hereafter, we proclaimed from the mountain tops, from the hustings, from the forum, and wherever our voice could be heard, that we did not regard stipulations in matters relating to slavery as binding upon us. We recognize a higher law, and will not obey these stipulations-you might have so expected from our proclaimed opinions beforehand.
The next reason is this, the North entertains upon the subject of the Constitution the idea that this a consolidated Government, that the people are one nation, not a Confederation of States, and that being a consolidated Government the numerical majority is sovereign. The necessary result of that doctrine when pushed to its natural result is, that the Constitution of the United States is, at any time, subject to amendment by a bare majority of the whole people; and that being so, it becomes no matter what protection the Constitution may contain, it would be changed by a majority of the people, because a stipulation in the Constitution can no more be binding upon those who may choose subsequently to alter it, than the act of a legislature upon a sub-sequent legislature. Thus it is they will have the power to change the Constitution, alter it as you will. The President elect has proclaimed from the house tops in Indiana that a State is no more than a county. This is an abandonment in the concrete of the whole doctrine. How, then, can we accept any stipulation from a people holding the opinions that they do upon the question of slavery, and the obligations of government. The proposition which I have already adduced for argument sake, is infinitely beyond anything that we have a hope of obtaining. Then I assume that if this be true, it must be true that you can get no remedy for this disease in the Cotton States of the Union.
The question then is, would a separation from the North be a remedy? I say it would be a complete remedy; a remedy that would reach the disease in all its parts. If we were separated from the North. the will of the North on the subject of slavery would be changed. Why is it now that the North hates slavery? For the reason that they are, to some extent, responsible for the institution because of the Union, and for the reason that by hating slavery they get office. Let there be a separation, and this feeling will no longer exist, because slavery will no longer enter into the politics of the North. Does slavery in the South enter into the politics of England or France? Does slavery in Brazil or Cuba enter into the politics of the North? Not at all; and if we were separated, the subject of slavery would not enter into the politics of the North. I say, therefore, that this remedy would be sufficient for this disease in the worst aspect of it. Once out of the Union, we would be beyond the influence of the yeas and nays of the North. Get us out, and we are safe.
I think, then, that this conviction in the mind of Georgia-namely, that the only remedy for this evil is separation-was well-founded. She also was convinced that separation would be the best, if not the only remedy for the fugitive slave evil and for the territorial evil. It may be asked, sir, if the personal liberty bills, if the election of Lincoln by a sectional majority, had nothing to do with the action of Georgia? Sir, they had much to do with it. These were most important facts. They indicated a deliberate purpose on the part of the North, in every case in which there was a stipulation in favor of slavery, to obliterate it if it had the power to do so. They are valuable in another respect. These personal liberty bills were unconstitutional; they were deliberate infractions of the Constitution of the United States; and being so, they give to us a right to say that we would no longer be bound by the Constitution of the United States, if we choose. The language of Webster, in his speech at Capon Springs, in your own State, was, that a bargain broken on one side, is broken on all sides. And in this opinion many others have coincided. And these Northern States having broken the Constitutional compact gives us cause to violate it also if we choose to do it. The election of Lincoln in itself is not a violation of the letter of the Constitution, though it violates it in spirit. The Constitution was formed with a view to ensure domestic peace and to establish Justice among all, and this act of Lincoln's election by a sectional majority, was calculated to disregard all these obligations, and inasmuch as the act utterly ignores our rights in the government, and in fact disfranchises us, we had a full right to take the steps that we have taken.
Now, I ask the question, Georgia feeling this conviction, what could she have done but to separate from this Union? Was she to stay and wait for Abolition? Sir, that was not to be expected of her? She did the only thing that could have been done to ensure her rights.
The second branch of my case is to lay before the Convention some facts to influence them, if possible, to accept the invitation of Georgia to join her in the formation of a Southern Confederacy.
What ought to influence a nation to enter into a treaty with another nation? It ought not be, I am free to say, any higher consideration than interest-material, social, political, religious interests. I am free to say that unless it could be made to appear that it was to her interest, she ought not to enter into it. And it shall be my endeavor now, to show that it will be to the interest of Virginia materially, socially, politically and religiously, to accept the invitation of Georgia to join the Southern Confederacy-and, first, will it be to her material interests?
Georgia and the other cotton States produce four millions of bales of cotton, annually. Every one of these bales is worth $50. The whole crop therefore, is worth $200,000,000. This crop goes on growing rapidly from year to year. The increase in the last decade was nearly 50 per cent. If the same increase should continue for the next decade we should have, in 1870, six million bales; in 1890,1 nine million of bales, and so on. And, supposing that this rate will not continue, yet we have a right to assume that the increase, in after years, will be very great, because consumption outruns production, and so long as that is the case, production will try to overtake it.
You perceive, then, that out of one article we have two hundred millions of dollars. This is surplus, and a prospect of an indefinite increase in the future. Then, we have sugar worth from fifteen to twenty millions of dollars, increasing every year at a pretty rapid rate. Then, we have rice, and naval stores, and plank, and live oak and various other articles which make a few more millions. You may set down that these States yield a surplus of $270,000,000 with a prospect of increase. These we turn into money and with that we buy manufactured goods, iron, cotton and woolen manufactures ready made and many other descriptions of goods necessary for consumption. Then we buy flour, and wheat, and bacon, and pork, and we buy mules and negroes; very little of this money is consumed at home; we lay it out this way.
Now I say, why will not Virginia furnish us these goods? Why will not she take the place now held by New England and New York, and furnish to the South these goods? Bear in mind that the manufactures consumed by the South are manufactures of the United States. They have now got the whole market by virtue of the tariff which we have laid on foreign importation. Will not Virginia take this place? I ask, is it not to the interest of Virginia and the border States to take this place? Most assuredly it is. Now I say it is at her own option whether she will take it or not. I dare say she can have the same sort of protection against the north that she has against Europe. That being so, and inasmuch as the same cause must produce the same effect, the same cause that built up manufactures at the north, will operate similarly in Virginia.
Then the question is, will you have protection necessary to accomplish this result? I say I think you will. I do not come here, as I said at the outset, to make promises; but I will give my opinion, and that is that the South will support itself by duties on imports. It has certainly begun to do that. We have merely adopted the revenue system of the United States so far, and are now collecting the revenue under an old law. Our Constitution has said that Congress should have the power to lay duties for revenue, to pay debts and to carry on the government, and therefore there is a limit to the extent that this protection can go, and within that the South can give protection that will be sufficient to enable you to compete with the North. We have got to have a navy, and an army, and we have got to make up that army speedily. It must be a much larger army than we have been accustomed to have in the late Union-it must be large in proportion to the armv that it will have to meet. These things will require a revenue of about 10 per cent, which will yield an aggregate of about $20,000,000, and with this per cent, it would be in the power of Virginia to compete, in a short time, with all the nations of the earth in all the important branches of manufacture. Why? Because manufacturing has now been brought to such perfection by the invention of new machinery. The result will be the immigration of the best men of the North; skilled artizans and men of capital will come here and establish works among you. You have the advantage of longer days and shorter winters, and of being nearer to the raw material of a very important article of manufacture. I have no idea that the duties will be as low as 10 per cent. My own opinion is that we shall have as high duty as is now charged by the General Government at Washington. If that matter is regarded as important by this Convention, why the door is open for negotiation with us. We have but a provisional and temporary government so far. If it be found that Virginia requires more protection than this upon any particular article of manufacture let her come in the spirit of a sister, to our Congress and say, we want more protection upon this or that article, and she will, I have no doubt, receive it. She will be met in the most fraternal and complying spirit.
What is the state of the cotton trade? The North by virtue of their manufactures buy our cotton. They then take our cotton to Europe; they buy for it European manufactures; they take these manufactures and carry them to Boston, New York or Philadelphia, whence they distribute to us and all over the continent. But this all depends on the fact that they have manufactures to buy the cotton with. New York, Boston and Philadelphia, in fact, fatten upon the handling of cotton, and I ask why it is you do not avail yourselves of the advantages which these possess; why do you not take the place of New York, engage in manufactures, sell us your goods, take our cotton and send it to Europe for goods, and thus make this city the centre of the earth? I know that in the outset foreign imports would come direct to our ports, because you have not the manufactured goods to buy the cotton with, and we would have to send the cotton direct to Europe. But after a while you would have a monopoly of our trade having all the facilities to build up a manufacturing business extensive enough for the requirements of the whole country.
What would be the effect of this? Your villages would grow into towns, and your towns would grow into cities. Your mines would begin to be developed, and would throw their riches over the whole land; and you would see those lands enhanced, which you have now to give away, almost, for nothing.
I say, then, it is in your power, by joining our Southern Confederacy, to become a great manufacturing empire. If you do not consider our organization as it is now made good enough, go down to Montgomery, and say, change this in such and such a form, and I venture to assert that they will meet you in the spirit in which you go. As things now stand, there is a great drain of wealth from the South to the North. The operation of the tariff, which at present averages about 20 per cent, is to enhance the prices of foreign goods upon us to that extent; and not only foreign goods, but domestic goods, as they will always preserve a strict ratio with the price charged for foreign imports. The South is thus heavily taxed. What the amount of tribute is which she pays to the North in this form, I have not accurately ascertained. It is difficult to find out how much tribute she pays in this form, but, from a rough estimate which I have made out myself, putting the amount of goods consumed by the South at $250,000,000 annually, though a Northern gentleman puts it at $300,000,000; but putting it at $250,000,000, the tribute which the South pays to the North annually, according to the present tariff [20 per cent] amounts to $50,000,000. Then there are the navigation laws which give the North a monopoly of the coasting trade. The consequence of this monopoly is that it raises freights, and to that extent enhances the price of goods upon us. There is the indirect carrying trade, in which they also have a monopoly. Instead of our goods coming to us direct, they now come by New York, Philadelphia or Boston. Last year the amount of goods that came to the South by this indirect route was about $72,000,000 which were not carried at a less cost than $5,000,000, which, of course, had to be paid by us. In the matter of expenditures we have not more than one fifth allotted to us, whereas we ought to have one-third. In 1860 the expenditures were $80,000,000, and the proportion of this which is lost to us by an unjust system of discrimination amounts to nearly $20,000,000. This is a perpetual drain upon us.
Mr. BFNNING then referred to the drain in the matter of fugitive slaves, and proceeded to ask what would Virginia gain by joining the Southern Confederacy? What, said he, is the state of things now on the border? Is it such as to prevent the escape of slaves? It is not. There is a remedy for this. The state of things on the other side of the line should be such that slaves would not be induced voluntarily to run off, and if they did, that they would again soon gladly return. If you were with us, it would become necessary, in order to collect our revenue, to station police officers all along the border, and have there bodies of troops. It could be easily made part of the duty of these officers to keep strict watch along there and intercept every slave, and keep proper surveillance on all who may come within the line of particular localities. Is not that arrangement better than any fugitive slave law that you could get? Most assuredly it is. If we were separated from the North, the escape of a fugitive slave into their territory would be but the addition of one savage to the number they have already. [Laughter.]
Separate us from the North, and the North will be no attraction to the black man-no attraction to the slaves. It is not from a love for the black man that they receive him now; but it is from a hatred to slavery. and from a hatred to the owners of slaves.
Is not this a better remedy than anything that you can get out o Congress or in any form of legislation?
As regards the Territorial evil, I will show that the remedy for that too, is in separation. We want land, and have a right to it. How are we to get our share of it? Can we get it in the Union? Never. Put what you please in the Constitution, you never can get one foot of that land to which you have so just a claim. Why Kansas tells the reason. The policy of the Black Republican party is to have this land settled up by those who do not own slaves. Their policy is the Homestead bill. You can enjoy all these things if you join us; and not only that, but you can enjoy them in peace. Cotton is peace. It is an article of indispensable necessity to the nations of the world, and they cannot obtain it without peace. Whenever there is war they cannot have it, and will therefore have peace. join us, therefore, and you will have the advantage of enjoying all those benefits in peace.
Suppose you join the North, what can they give you? Nothing. They will maintain, in the matter of manufactures, a competition that will destroy you. You cannot go into any market in the world and compete with them. They have the start of you, and you cannot catch up. How will it be with agricultural enterprise? Manufactures give the most active stimulant to agriculture, and when you cannot build up manufactures, you must suffer in your agricultural pursuits. Then there is the social and religious aspect of the question. Go with us, and the irrepressible conflict is at an end. We are the same in our social and religious attributes. We have a common Bible; we kneel at the game altar, break bread together, and there can be no difficulty between us on this score.
Then there is the political question. Suppose you join us, and also the other border States, which they will, if you come in. We shall have a territory possessing an area of 850 or 900,000 square miles, with more advantages than any similar extent of territory on the face of the earth, lying as it is between the right parallels of latitude and longitude, having the right sort of coast facilities, and abounding in every production that can form the basis of prosperity and power.
Mr. BENNING referred to the probability of the Pacific States forming a distinct Confederacy after a separation shall once occur, and then discanted briefly on the general corruption which seems to exist at the North, where men make politics a profession, requiring property to be taxed for their support. He instanced the enormous burdens amounting to nearly $2,000,000 a year, to which the city of New York is subjected through the corrupting influences of politicians, and deduced from this state of things the decay and ultimate disintegration of the North after she shall have been cut off from the rest of the Union, and circumscribed with the narrow limits of her own unproductive inhospitable area.
If, said he, you join in the Southern Confederacy, you will become the leader of it as you are now. You will have the Presidency and Vice Presidency and other advantages which it is unnecessary here to mention.
Join the North, and what will become of you? In that, I say, you will find yourself much lower than you stand now. No doubt the North will now make fine promises, but when you are once in, they will give you but little quarter. They will hate you and your institutions as much as they do now, and treat you accordingly. Suppose they elevated Sumner to the Presidency? Suppose they elevated Fred. Douglas, your escaped slave, to the Presidency? And there are hundreds of thousands at the North who would do this for the purpose of humiliating and insulting the South. What would be your position in such an event? I say give me pestilence and famine sooner that that.
As regards the African slave trade, we have done what we could to expel the illusion which is said to deter some timid persons from uniting with us. Our State has given her voice against it, and so has Alabama, and finally the Convention at Montgomery has placed the ban upon it by a Constitutional provision. Suppose we re-open the African slave trade, what would be the result? Why, we would be soon drowned in a black pool, we would be literally overwhelmed with a black population. If you open it, where are you going to stop? There is no barrier to it but that of interest, and that will never be a barrier until there will be more slaves than we want. But go down to Montgomery and we will stipulate with you, and satisfy you, I have no doubt, upon that, as upon all other questions. What danger is there in your going with this Confederacy? You will have, with the other border States, a population of eight millions, while we will have only five. What danger is there then with such a preponderance in your favor?
I heard another objection urged to your joining us, and that is, that we held out a threat in the way of a provision in our Constitution that Congress shall have power to stop the inter-State slave trade. I do not hesitate to say to you, that in my opinion, if you do not join us but join the North, that provision would be put in force. I think that these States would do all in their power to keep the border States slave States. It would be a mere instinct of self-preservation to do that, and I think that it would be done. But is this to he regarded as a threat held out to deter you from joining the North? You might as well say that a provision in respect to a tax is a threat against you.
After meeting the objection urged against the seceding States for seceding without consultation with the border States, with the argument of necessity, he closed with an expression of thanks to the Convention, and submitted the Ordinance of Secession passed by Georgia, which was read by the Clerk.