Correspondence between Gov. A. B. Moore and Alabama's Commissioner to Delaware
WASHINGTON, D.C., January 8, 1861.
Excellency A. B. MOORE,
SIR: In the discharge of the duties imposed by your appointment of commissioner from the State of Alabama to the State of Delaware, I prepared and delivered in person to His Excellency William Burton a communication in writing, which I requested should also be submitted to the Legislature, then in session, and a copy of which I herewith transmit to you. The health of my family prevented me from spending as much time with the Governor and Legislature as it was my wish and intention to have done. No reply to my communication has been received. I was assured that the State of Alabama had the sympathy of many of the citizens of Delaware in this trying emergency, although the members of the Legislature, not having been elected in view of the present crisis, would not probably give expression by a majority vote to this sympathy. From the best information which I received, I have no hesitation in assuring Your Excellency that, whilst the people of Delaware are averse to a dissolution of the Union and favor a convention of the Southern States, perhaps of all the States, to adjust and compromise if possible existing difficulties, yet, in the event of dissolution, however accomplished, a large majority of the people of Delaware will defend the South. An effort will be made to procure the call of a convention by the Legislature, which it is hoped will be successful; and then the people of Delaware can decide their own course according to their own conceptions of the requirements of honor, safety, and right. It gives me pleasure to report to Your Excellency my cordial reception by the officers of the Executive Department of the State of Delaware, and my very agreeable intercourse with them and many of the members of the Legislature.
I have the honor to remain, very truly, yours,
DOVER, DEL., January 1, 1861.
SIR: I have the honor to transmit to you the accompanying papers, including a commission from the Governor of the State of Alabama, appointing the undersigned commissioner to the sovereign State of Delaware "to advise and consult with His Excellency Governor William Burton and the members of the Legislature or State convention, as the case may be, of said State, as to what is best to be done to protect the rights, interests, and honor of the slave-holding States." With a due appreciation of the delicacy and responsibility of the trust confided, and from an earnest desire to discharge its duties in the manner most conducive to the harmony and co-operation so eminently proper in present emergencies, I address Your Excellency this communication and request that it be submitted to your Legislature. The necessity of such consultation and of the appointment of a commissioner for the purpose expressed implies that these rights, interests, and honor are endangered. The causes which have produced, upon the part of the people and Governor of the State of Alabama, this not merely apprehension, but conviction of danger, are indicated in the accompanying commission. In the succession of party triumphs and defeats which have marked the political history of the country, the power and patronage of the Executive Department of the Federal Government will on the 4th of March next pass for the first time under the control of a purely sectional party, which has succeeded by a purely sectional vote. The principles and purposes of this party, as defined in its platforms and by its leaders and presses, are too well understood to render it necessary for me to recall them in detail to the notice of Your Excellency. The fact that it is a sectional party includes the additional fact that its aim will be, by all the means of legislation and of the administration of the Government, to promote and foster the interests and internal prosperity of one section, and to debase the institutions, weaken the power, and impair the interests of the other section. Its animus, its single bond of union, is hostility to the institution of slavery as it exists in the Southern States. Its members, numbering nearly two millions of voters, as evidenced by the late Presidential election, have been collected from all the other various political organizations, and although disagreeing totally upon other important political principles, have nevertheless ignored all these, and been molded into a compact mass of enmity to this particular institution, upon which depend the domestic, social, and political interests of fifteen States of the Union, and which institution was recognized, respected, guarded, and protected by the convention which framed the Constitution and by the people of the States by whom it was ordained and established.
The slave-holding States, notwithstanding the vastness of their interests at stake, will be either unrepresented in the Cabinet councils of the incoming Administration or represented by men who sympathize with this party in its purpose. The same policy will be pursued by the Executive Department which the President-elect recommended in a public address, when, after having declared the ends to be accomplished, he said:
To do these things we must employ instrumentalities; we must hold conventions; we must adopt platforms, if we conform to the ordinary custom; we must nominate candidates, and we must carry elections. In all these things I think we ought to keep in view our real purpose, and in none do anything that stands adverse to our purpose.
Those men who direct the sentiment, purpose, and action of this party have notified the people of the slave-holding States that the past policy of the Federal Government is now to be wholly changed; that those principles which have secured our present respect abroad and our past internal prosperity are to be superseded by others which are adverse to the true theory, nature, and designs of the federal government. Mr. Lincoln has left us in no doubt as to his policy. In the address before alluded to, which he delivered at Cincinnati in September, 1859, he emphatically declared:
I think we want, and must have, a national policy in regard to the institution of slavery that acknowledges and deals with that institution as being wrong. Whoever desires the prevention of the spread of slavery and the nationalization of that institution yields all when he yields to any policy that either recognizes slavery as being right or as being an indifferent thing. Nothing will make you successful but setting up a policy which shall treat the thing as being wrong. When I say this I do not mean to say that this General Government is charged with the duty of redressing or preventing all the wrongs in the world, but I do think that it is charged with preventing and redressing all wrongs which are wrongs to itself. This Government is expressly charged with the duty of providing for the general welfare. We believe that the spreading and perpetuity of the institution of slavery impairs the general welfare. We believe, nay, we know, that that is the only thing that has ever threatened the perpetuity of the Union itself. The only thing which has ever menaced the destruction of the Government under which we live is this very thing. To repress this thing is, we think, providing for the general welfare.
He may suppose that the people of the slave-holding States will be satisfied with the assurance that he does not intend to interfere with slavery in the States; but, in thus supposing, he supposes further, that they have not the manhood and honor to assert and maintain, or do not possess the intelligence to understand, their rights in the Territories or wherever else the jurisdiction of the Government extends, and that they are willing to surrender all the outposts, and leave the citadel unguarded, liable to first covert then open attacks. Notwithstanding this assurance, common sense and experience, our knowledge of human nature and all history, teach that, believing slavery to be a moral and political evil, a wrong to the Government, and that these States cannot exist half free and half slave, Mr. Lincoln will exert all his powers, influence, and patronage "to place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction." From these principles and this avowed policy the following propositions may be correctly deduced:
The success of "Republicanism" ignores the sovereignty and disregards the rights of the States by disallowing the concurrent majorities established by the Constitution and perverting the powers of the Federal Government to the redressing of what it may consider to be a wrong in the social, domestic, or local institutions and regulations of any of the States, and by converting that which was intended to be a federal republic into a consolidated, centralized power, a despotism of numbers. Its success destroys the equality of the States by a denial of common and equal rights in the common territories; by the effectual exclusion of any representative voice on behalf of the slave-holding States in the management of a co-ordinate department of the Government, and by the declared intent to administer that department in a manner hostile to their peace, safety, and prosperity.
Its success subverts and defeats the ends of the Constitution. Instead of forming a more perfect union it has dissolved the Union by compelling the secession of one of its members and the anticipated secession of others. Instead of establishing justice it denies justice to fifteen of the States by refusing to admit any more slave States into the Union, and by the enactment of laws to prevent the rendition of fugitive slaves. It endangers instead of insuring domestic tranquillity by the possession of the channels through which to circulate insurrectionary documents and disseminate insurrectionary sentiments among a hitherto contented servile population. It neglects instead of providing for the common defense by permitting within the limits of some of the States the organization of plans for the armed invasion of others, and by refusing to surrender the criminals when fugitives from justice. It disregards and impairs instead of promoting the general welfare by compassing the destruction of an inestimable amount of property with all its direful consequences. It will rob us of instead of securing to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty by the extinction of a great domestic and social institution, by the overthrow of self-government and the establishment of an equality of races in our midst. Its success overthrows the fundamental principles of the Revolution by denying the freedom of property. This freedom of property is the corner stone of social happiness. As has been said:
The rights of life, liberty, and property are so intimately blended together that neither can be lost in a state of society without all; or, at least, neither can be impaired without wounding the others.
To maintain the value of property and realize its fullest advantages there must be guaranteed permanence, security, and protection. "Republicanism" proposes to place the right to property in slaves under the ban of a consolidated, centralized General Government, and threatens to employ all its powers and resources to the consummation of the single purpose of destroying this single species of property. When this shall be done, the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" must be involved in common ruin, for the admission of sovereignty in a government admits the universal claim of governmental sovereignty to despotic power over all these, whether it is in form a monarchy, a democracy, or a republic. From these considerations Your Excellency must concur in the opinion expressed by the Governor of the State of Alabama, that---
The success of said party and the power which it now has and will soon acquire greatly endanger the peace, interests, security, and honor of the slave-holding States, and make it necessary that prompt and efficient measures should be adopted to avoid the evils which must result from a Republican administration of the Federal Government.
You cannot be surprised that, in the opinion of the people of Alabama, the time has arrived when imperious necessity and self-preservation require them to exercise their right to abolish the present Government and institute a new one, laying its foundation in such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. I am impressed with a sense of this necessity, and contemplating the possible success of this party, the General Assembly of Alabama at the session of 1859-'60 adopted joint resolutions by which it was made the duty of the Governor, upon the election of its candidates for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency, to call a convention of the people 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." The Governor, by authority of said joint resolutions, and with the full concurrence of his own opinion, did, on the 6th day of this month, issue a proclamation calling said convention to assemble on the 7th day of January next. Commissioned to advise and consult with Your Excellency, it would be improper to declare at this time and in this communication what, in my opinion, will be the action of that convention. I will simply suggest that the hope of obtaining new and sufficient guaranties, by way of constitutional amendments or otherwise, has abandoned the hearts of all, even the most moderate Southern men. The expressions of Republican presses and the representative men in and out of Congress, the futile efforts of the Senate and House committees, and the persistent silence of Mr. Lincoln have extinguished the last ray of such hope. But even if new guaranties could be obtained, they can bring no sense of security to the Southern mind; they would prove a temporary and delusive truce, a broken reed to pierce hereafter. The slave-holding States have never complained of the insufficiency of the Constitution or of the want of additional and further guaranties. They have asked no more than the faithful observance of those which are contained in the present Constitution. New guaranties will be utterly valueless without an entire revolution in the public temper, prejudices, opinions, sentiments, and education of the people of the non-slave-holding States. Laws passed in compliance with such new guaranties for the security and protection of property in slaves will avail nothing where their execution depends upon the Republican appointees of a Republican President.
Speaking from what I am assured is the determination of the people of the State of Alabama and from what I know to be the opinion of her Governor, they do not propose to violate any section or clause of the Constitution in this movement. Whilst Alabama continues a member of the Union the people and Chief Executive intend, as it is their proud boast to have ever done, to regard and observe that instrument as a sacred compact. Hence the State of Alabama, being in the Union and prohibited by the third clause of the tenth section of the first article of the Constitution, does not propose co-operation in the sense of entering into any agreement or compact with another State or States to abolish the Federal Government or to secede from the Union. After the State has seceded by separate State action, this prohibition of the Constitution no longer restrains or operates upon the sovereign right "to contract alliances, and do all the other acts and things which independent States may of right do." This sufficiently answers the objection, so constantly urged, that several of the cotton States are determined to precipitate the act of secession, and disregard the situation and interests of their sister slave-holding States by refusing to meet them in convention. The people of Alabama recognize the right of the people of each other State to decide upon any infraction of their rights by the Federal Government, and to determine the mode and measure of redress.
The people of Alabama, however, also understand and will observe the comity which should exist between sovereign States, and especially between the slave-holding States. They fully appreciate the position and condition of the border slave-holding States, and are willing and ready to engage with them in a defense of common rights and safety. Identity of interest is a bond of sympathy. Similar dangers suggest the propriety of similar and simultaneous action, as far as practicable. The withdrawal of all the slave-holding States and the organization of a Southern confederacy would possess a moral, political, and physical power which no government would dare to oppose. Yet the people of Alabama will not assume or pretend to dictate to the intelligent, brave, and patriotic people of the State of Delaware what course their safety, interests, and honor require them to adopt, believing that they are competent and have the right to decide by and for themselves. They ask only to advise and consult together.
To secure such consultation, in order to be informed of the views and opinions of the citizens of other States and to show a due respect for these views and opinions, at the same time avoiding any semblance of a violation of the Constitution, the Governor of Alabama has appointed a commissioner to each of the slave-holding States. It will be my pleasure to advise and consult with Your Excellency and the members of the Legislature, so far as may be agreeable and practicable, and to communicate the views and purposes of Your Excellency and the sentiments and desires of the people of Delaware to the Governor of the State of Alabama by the time of the meeting of the State convention.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir,
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