A letter to Jefferson Davis
|This letter appears in the Official Records, Series IV, vol. 3, pp. 1041-1042. I have not been able to identify the author. North Carolina's governor at the time of secession was named John W. Ellis, but he died in 1861 at the age of 41. The letter is almost breath-taking in its vision of Confederate victory, given the time in which it was written.|
RALEIGH, N. C., January 29, 1865.
SIR: It is not to be presumed that the press of public duty leaves you much time to read private letters, nevertheless I suppose that should you find a moment's leisure you will not object to hearing the views of your countrymen, however humble, who are struggling with you for independence. How this war can be successfully managed, brought to a speedy and honorable end, bringing us independence, are questions that are upon every tongue. I propose to give you my plan briefly: Declare by law that every soldier who has or will enlist in our Army, and who at the time of such enlistment was not a slave-owner or land-holder, shall receive a bounty or pension at the end of the war, upon being honorably discharged, of one negro slave and fifty acres of land. I will state it thus: We have 3,500,000 slaves. We have probably enrolled 1,000,000 of men. Half these men are slave-owners, leaving 500,000 who do not own them. I would give one slave to each such soldier and fifty acres of land, and if he died in the service, to his representatives. Thus you spread the institution. You make every family in the Government interested in it. You do away with the doctrine that this is the rich man's war and the poor man's fight. And if the war is to continue you can make the slaves the very means of our defense --- declare by law that all negroes captured from the enemy shall belong to the captors by general orders --- declare to the enemy that all who will desert and enlist in our Army, take the oath of allegiance and fight in our cause, shall have a negro and fifty acres of land upon being honorably discharged, and shall further have all the negroes which they can capture from the enemy, to be their own property at the end of the war. Lincoln has tempted thousands of men into his Army by offering reward. I now propose to outbid him, and as we have the most alluring means we shall get the most men. If we make it to the interest of the world to fight on our side, men from all quarters of the globe will take up arms in our defense. We can reduce Grant's and Sherman's armies one-half in numbers by desertions if we offer them the bait. We can enlist men from all quarters of the United States if we make it to their interest to come. In a word, we can buy out the armed forces of Lincoln, secure their service on our side. We can command thousands of men from Ireland, Germany, Poland, Austria, England, and France by offering them a home in the sunny South and a servant. We will thus avoid the trouble of arming slaves. We will remove the prejudices against the institution and bring all the world up to its support from interested motives. The slave-owners can well afford to give up to the soldiers who have and will fight to maintain the institution 1,000,000 of slaves to secure forever the other 2,500,000. The mode of getting the land and negroes to pay these bounties with would be by taxation in kind, by general laws to purchase, by donations to the Government, by capture, by enslaving the free negroes in the South, by taxation and contribution by State Legislatures if needed. With this system of laws wisely and properly regulated our people can be satisfied. Many of our farmers and mechanics can be released and sent home to attend to the industrial pursuits, and an army of 500,000 men can be put at General Lee's disposal to march where he pleases, and feed them on the front instead of looking to his rear for supplies.
Hoping, sir, that the wish of your heart, the independence of the South, may be speedily consummated,
I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
J. W. ELLIS.