Gov. Moore's letter to the Alabama legislature

From: "The History and Debates of the Convention of the People of Alabama", William R. Smith (Montgomery, Ala: White, Pfister, & Co, 1861; reprint Spartanburg, SC: Reprint Company Publishers, 1975), pp. 13-17. My thanks to Justin Sanders for sending me this.

Gov. A.B. Moore


Montgomery, Nov. 14,1860.

GENTLEMEN : I have received your letter of the 12th inst., asking for my construction of "the Joint Resolutions of our last Legislature, for the call of the Convention of the people of the State." You particularly desire to know when I consider myself authorized to issue my Proclamation for the call of a Convention—"whether upon the election of Electors by the people of the several States, or when said Electors cast their votes for President." You also ask me to inform you, if consistent with my ideas of public duty, "when that Proclamation will be issued, and upon what day you [I] will order the election for the delegates to the Convention."

I fully agree with you, that "these are questions of deep interest to the people of the State," and having, after mature deliberation, determined upon my course in regard to them, and not considering it inconsistent with my public duty to communicate that determination to you, with leave to publish it, I unhesitatingly do so.—The intense, interest and feeling which pervade the public mind, make it not only proper, but my duty.

After stating a long list of aggressions in the preamble to the Joint Resolutions referred to, the first resolution provides "that upon the happening of the contingency contemplated in the foregoing preamble, viz: 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 hereby required forthwith to issue his proclamation," &c.

The Constitution of the United States points out the mode of electing a President, and directs that "each State shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in Congress." See Art. 2, Sec. 1.

Art. 12, Sec. 1, of Amendments to the Constitution, provides that the Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by ballot for President and Vice President." Under these provisions of the Constitution, the people of the several States vote for electors and these electors vote for President. It is clear to my mind that. a candidate for the Presidency cannot constitutionally be elected until a majority of the electors have east their votes for him.

My Proclamation will not, therefore, be, issued until that vote is cast on the fifth day of December next. I regret that this delay must occur, as the circumstances which surround us make prompt and decided action necessary. There can be no doubt that a large majority of the electorial vote will be given to Mr. Lincoln, and in view of the certainty of his election, I have determined to issue, my Proclamation immediately after that vote is cast. I shall appoint Monday, the 24th day of December next, for the election of delegates to the Convention. The Convention will meet on Monday, the 7th day of January next.

The day for the election of delegates has been designated in advance of the issuance of the Proclamation in order that the minds of the people may be at once directed to the subject, and that the several counties may have ample time to select candidates to represent them. Each voter of the State should immediately consider the importance of the vote he is to cast. Constitutional rights, personal security, and the honor of the State are all involved. He must decide, on the 24th of December, the great and vital question of Submission to the Abolition Administration, or of secession from the Union. This will be a grave and momentous issue for the decision of the people. To decide it correctly, they should understand all the facts and circumstances of the ease before them. It may not be improper or unprofitable for me to recite a few of them.

Who is Mr. Lincoln, whose election is now beyond question? He is the head of a great sectional party calling itself Republican: a party whose leading object is the destruction of the institution of slavery as it exists in the slaveholding States. Their most distinguished leaders, in and out of Congress, have publicly and boldly proclaimed this to be their intention and unalterable - determination. Their newspapers are filled with similar declarations. Are they in earnest ? Let their past acts speak for them.

Nearly every one of the non-slaveholding States have been for years under the control of the Black Republicans. A large majority of these States have nullified the fugitive slave law, and have successfully resisted its execution. They have enacted penal statutes, punishing by fine and imprisonment in the penitentiary, persons who may pursue and arrest fugitive slaves in said State. They have by law, under heavy penalties, prohibited any person from aiding the owner to arrest his fugitive slave, and have denied us the use of their prisons to secure our slaves until they can be removed from the State. They have robbed the South of slaves worth millions of dollars, and have rendered utterly ineffectual the only law passed by Congress to protect this species of property. They have invaded the State of Virginia, armed her slaves with deadly weapons, murdered her citizens, and seized the United States Armory at Harper’s Ferry. They have sent emissaries into the State of Texas, who burned many towns, and furnished the slaves with deadly poison for the purpose of destroying their owners.

All these things have been effected, either by the unconstitutional legislation of free States, or by combinations of individuals. These facts prove first that are not only in earnest and intent upon accomplishing their wicked purposes, but have done all that local legislation and individual efforts could effect.

Knowing that their efforts could only be partially successful without the aid of the Federal Government, they for years have struggled to get control of the Legislative and Executive Departments thereof. They have now succeeded, by large majorities, in all the non-slaveholding States except New Jersey, and perhaps California and Oregon in electing Mr. Lincoln, who is pledged to carry out the principles of the party that elected him. The course of events show clearly that this party will, in a short time, have a majority in both branches of Congress. It will then be in their power to change the complexion of the Supreme Court so as to make it harmonize with Congress and the President. When that party get possession of all the Departments of Government, with the purse and the sword, he must be blind indeed who does not see that slavery will be abolished in the District of Columbia in the dock-yards and arsenals, and wherever the Federal Government has jurisdiction.

It will be excluded from the Territories, and other free States will in hot haste be admitted into the Union, until they have a majority to alter the Constitution. Then slavery will be abolished by law in the States, and the "irrepressible conflict" will end; for we are notified that it shall never cease, until "the foot of the slave shall cease to tread the soil of the United States." The state of society that must exist in the Southern States, with four millions of free negroes and their increase, turned loose upon them, I will not discuss—it is too horrible to contemplate.

I have only noticed such of the acts of the Republican party as I deem necessary to show that they are in earnest, and determined to carry out their publicly avowed intentions—and to show that their success has been such as should not fail to create the deepest concern for the honor and safety of the Southern States.—Now, in view of the past and our prospects for the future, what ought we to do? What do wisdom and prudence dictate?-- What do honor and safety require at our hands?

I know that the answer that I shall give to these questions may subject me to criticism by those who do not view these matters as I do; but feeling conscious of the correctness of my conclusions and the purity of my motives, I will not shrink from responsibilities in the emergency which presents itself. It would be criminal "in those entrusted with State sovereignty" not to speak out and warn the people of the encroachments that have been made, and are about to be made upon them, with the consequences that must follow.

In full view, and, I trust, a just appreciation of all my obligations and responsibilities, officially and personally, to my God, my State, and the Federal Government, I solemnly declare it to be my opinion, that the only hope of future security, for Alabama and the other slaveholding, States, is secession from the Union.—I deplore the necessity for coming to such a conclusion. It has been forced upon me, and those who agree with me, by a wicked and perverse party, fatally bent upon the destruction of an institution vital to the Southern States—a party whose constitutional rights we have never disturbed, and who should be our friends yet they hate us without a cause.

Should Alabama secede from the Union, as I think she ought, the responsibility, in the eyes of all just men, will not rest upon her, but upon those who have driven her in self-defence, to assume that position.

Has Alabama the right peacefully to withdraw from the Union, without subjecting herself to any rightful authority of the Federal Government to coerce her into the Union? Of her right to do so, I have no doubt. She is a Sovereign State, and retains every right and power not delegated to the Federal Government in the written Constitution. That Government has no powers, except such as are delegated in the Constitution, or such as are necessary to carry these powers into execution. The Federal Government was established for the protection, and not for destruction or injury of Constitutional rights. A Sovereign State has a right to judge of the wrongs or injuries that may be done her, and to determine upon the mode and measures of redress. The Black Republican party has for years continued to make aggressions upon the slaveholding States, under the forms of law, and in every manner that fanaticism could devise. and have now gained strength and position, which threaten, not only the destruction of the institution of slavery, but must degrade and ruin the slaveholding States, if not resisted. May not these States turn aside from the impending danger, without criminality? If they have not this right, then we are the slaves of our worst enemies. "The wise man foreseeth the evil and turneth aside." A wise State should not do less.

If Alabama should withdraw from the Union, she would not be guilty of treason, even if a Sovereign State could commit treason. The Constitution says: " Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering, to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." The Federal Government has the right to use its military power "to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions." If a State withdraws from the Union, the Federal Government has no power, under the Constitution, to use the military force against her, for there is no law to enforce the submission of a sovereign State, nor would such a withdrawal be either an insurrection or an invasion. We should remember that Alabama must act and decide the great question of resistance or submission, for herself. No other State has the right or power to decide for her. She may, and should, consult with the other slaveholding States to secure concert of action, but still, she must decide the question for herself, and cooperate afterwards.

The contemplated Convention will not be the place for the timid or the rash. It should be composed of men of wisdom and experience—men who have the capacity to determine what the honor of the State and the security of her people demand; and patriotism and moral courage sufficient to carry out the dictates of their honest judgments.

What will the intelligent and patriotic people of Alabama do in the impending crisis? Judging of the future by the past, I believe they will prove themselves equal to the present, or any future emergency, and never will consent to affiliate with, or submit to be governed by a party who entertains the most deadly hostility towards them and their institution of slavery. They are loyal and true to the Union, but never will consent to remain degraded members of it.

Very respectfully, your obd’t serv’t,