Gov. Joe Brown's Reply to Alabama's Commissioner




This can be found in OR Ser. IV, vol. 1, pp. 18-19

Gov. Joe Brown

Milledgeville, January 5, 1861.

Commissioner of the State of Alabama:

DEAR SIR: On my return from Savannah this day I find your communication accompanying your commission from His Excellency the Governor of Alabama, which you did me the honor to send by express, but which was not received till after I had the pleasure of a private interview with you. The gallant and noble stand taken by your State in the passage of the resolutions recited in your communication, for the protection of the rights and the vindication of the honor of the State of Alabama and the other Southern States, excited the just admiration of all her Southern sisters. Alabama, in common with the other pro-slavery States, had long endured the injustice and insults of the Black Republican party of the North. That party is now triumphant, and is about to seize the reins of the Federal Government. To this the States of the South can never submit without degradation and ultimate ruin. While Georgia may be said to be the mother of Alabama, she is proud of the noble conduct of her daughter; and will not claim to lead, but will be content to follow in the path of glory in which her offspring leads. We feel well assured that your State will not be intimidated nor driven from her high position. While many of our most patriotic and intelligent citizens in both States have doubted the propriety of immediate secession, I feel quite confident that recent developments have dispelled those doubts from the minds of most men who have, till within the last few days, honestly entertained them.

Longer continuance in a union with those who use the Government only as an engine of oppression and injustice cannot, it seems to me, be desired by any party in the Southern States. Conciliation and harmony among ourselves are of the most vital importance. Let us, if we have differed in the past, meet each other with just forbearance, and the path of duty will, I trust, be plain to all. The Federal Government denies the right of a sovereign State to secede from the Union, while it refuses to make any concessions or to give any guaranties which will secure our rights in future. If we yield this right we become the subjects and the pro-slavery States the provinces of a great centralized empire, consolidated and maintained by military force. The sovereign State of South Carolina has resumed the powers delegated by her to the Federal Government on account of the violation of the compact by the other contracting parties. Her right to declare herself independent is denied, and military coercion is boldly threatened. Shall we yield the right of secession and see her whipped back into the Union? Never! Since she seceded her course has been moderate and dignified. She did not occupy the most impregnable fort in her harbor, which she could have seized without the loss of a single man, because she had pledged her faith not to do so, in consideration that the Government at Washington would make no change in the military status of the forts, but would permit all to remain as it was at the time she seceded. She kept her faith. What was the conduct of the Federal Government? Its agent who commanded Fort Moultrie violated the pledge given by his Government. The Government disavows his conduct, but refuses to keep its faith by remanding him to his original position. The result will probably be the loss of much of the best blood in South Carolina before the fort can be taken. In my opinion, other Southern States should not be deceived by trusting to such a government in future.

In view of the threats of coercion which are made by Northern Senators and Representatives, and the probabilities that the like policy now meets with the sanction of a majority of the Cabinet, the South can look in future only to her own strength, the justice of her cause, and the protection of the Almighty Ruler of the Universe for her safety and independence. Prompted by these considerations, I have seized and occupied Fort Pulaski, the stronghold in this State, with a sufficient number of troops and other ample provision to secure it against successful assault. Till the convention of this State has acted and decided the question of Georgia's future dependence or independence, I shall hold the fort at all hazards, and by force if necessary. I am glad to learn by a telegram just received from His Excellency the Governor of your State that he has taken the same precautions for the protection of the people of Alabama against the assaults of our common enemy, and I sincerely trust the Executive of each and every Southern State in the Union will at once adopt the same policy, and let us all co-operate in a common defense. So far as the returns have been received at this office they indicate beyond a doubt that the people of Georgia have determined by an overwhelming majority to secede from the Union so soon as our convention meets and has time to consummate this important step, which can alone preserve the honor, the rights, and the dignity of this State in the future. I trust that Alabama will not hesitate, but will act promptly and independently, relying, as I know she may, upon the cordial cooperation of Georgia in every hour of trial. The people of the proslavery States have common institutions, common interests, common sympathies, and a common destiny. Let each State, as soon as its convention meets, secede promptly from the Union, and let all then unite upon a common platform, co-operate together, and "form a more perfect union." Our cause is just, and I doubt not, should we be attacked, that the God of Battles will protect the right and drive far from us the scattered hosts of an invading foe. I regret the necessity which compels me to prepare this response in so short a period. I have no time to revise it. You will please say to His Excellency Governor Moore that it will afford me much pleasure to receive intelligence at the earliest moment after the convention has placed Alabama in the high position which Georgia, by a vote of her people, has determined to occupy so soon as her convention has time to assemble and deliberate.

I am, very truly, your obedient, servant,