Letter from Mississippi's Commissioner to North Carolina

Jacob Thompson was born in North Carolina in 1810, graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1831, and was admitted to the bar in 1835. Subsequently he moved to Mississippi and began a political career. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1838, at the time of the secession crisis he was serving as President Buchanan's Secretary of the Interior, a post he did not resign until after his mission to North Carolina. During the Civil War he served as a staff officer to Generals Beauregard and Pemberton, and was a member of the Mississippi legislature. In 1864, Jefferson Davis named him as Confederate commissioner to Canada, in which capacity he was involved in several shadowy plots. After the war he lived in France for a while before returning to the United States, where he died in Memphis, in 1885. He is supposed to have embezzled large sums of money from his mission to Canada.

This text was taken from the December 22, 1860, issue of the Raleigh State Journal, and was sent to me by Prof. Charles Dew.

Raleigh, N.C., Dec. 1860.

To His Excellency, John W. Ellis,

Governor of the State of North Carolina:

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I have been duly appointed a Commissioner from the State of Mississippi to the State of North Carolina. I have been instructed by the Governor of Mississippi, to report myself, in person, to your Excellency and through your kind offices, to inform the people of this Commonwealth "that the Legislature of Mississippi has passed an act calling a Convention of the people of the State, to consider the threatening relations of the Northern and Southern sections of the United States; aggravated by the recent election of a President upon principles of hostility to the States of the South, and to express the earnest hope of Mississippi that North Carolina will co-operate with her, in the adoption of efficient measures for the common defence and safety of the South."

It affords me great pleasure to accept this appointment, and to obey these instructions; yet I most sincerely regret the public necessity which impels my adopted State to ask for the counsel and co-operation of my native State. Common dangers threaten the peace, honor, and safety of both; and it is certain that an unresisting submission to the aggressive and hostile policy of the Northern States will inevitably involve both in a common humiliation and ruin. The crisis demands action. It is unbecoming a free people to close their eyes to the issue forced upon them, and to cry peace, peace, when there is no peace. The antagonism of opinion, upon the questions growing out of the recognition by the Constitution of the right of property in slaves, so long and angrily discussed, has at last culminated, in the adoption, by a majority of the Northern people of the doctrine of the "Irrepressible Conflict." The leading idea of this creed is that the Union of these States cannot endure, half of them slave-holding, and the other half non-slave-holding. This conflict is to be inaugurated under the forms of the Constitution on the 4th of March next, and if adhered to and carried out, the assertions of its most violent advocates that "Freedom is triumphant" and "that slavery is overthrown," are self evident propositions.

It is admitted that each State must decide for herself, both the mode and measure of redress for present and prospective grievances. One destiny, however, awaits all the slave-holding States of this Union, and fate has indissolubly linked their fortunes together: Therefore, it is meet, and wise, and proper and expedient, that they should consult and advise together, for their common defence and general welfare. Thus the hasty and precipitate will be checked, the laggard and spiritless aroused to action, and a universal confidence will be felt, that our rights will be secure, and our government placed on the safest and surest foundation.

Mississippi is content with the compact which our fathers formed. The Constitution of the United States already affords guarantees which are ample for our security. But they are found on parchment only. The people of the Northern States have not kept faith with us. Not only have a majority of the non-slaveholding States rendered all legislation for our protection nugatory and inoperative by State enactments, but on the 6th of November last, a majority of the people of all the free States endorsed a platform of principles in direct conflict with the Constitution and the decisions of the Supreme Court, and thus the will of a numerical majority --- a majority trained from infancy to hate our people and institutions, are to be substituted in their stead.

The Executive and Judicial departments of the government, and the Senate of the United States have always held that property in slaves was recognized by the Constitution, and therefore, under a common flag was entitled to protection. The dominant party denying this proposition, and thus, by their construction, the Constitution will be changed, this common Government will be revolutionized, and instead of throwing its broad shield over all the citizens of all the States, protecting each and all equally in the possession and enjoyment of their rights of property, it will be perverted into an engine for the destruction of our domestic institutions, and the subjugation of our people.

The question which is now submitted both to Mississippi and North-Carolina, is this, shall we sit quietly down without a murmur, and allow all our constitutional rights of property to be taken away by a construction of the Constitution which originates in hostility and hatred, or shall we, as men who know their rights, bestir ourselves, and by a firm, united and cordial "co-operation," fortify and strengthen them, that they may be transmitted unimpaired to our children, and our children’s children, throughout all generations. Wisdom dictates that all the questions arising out of the institution of slavery, should be settled now and settled forever.

A people jealous of their liberty will detect danger while it is yet afar off and provide the remedy. If ever there was a people answering this description the past glorious history of North-Carolina will point out your fellow-citizens as that people.

I bear this message of Mississippi to you, and through you, to the people of North- Carolina; and I hope that you will allow me to inform Mississippi that North-Carolina is fully alive to the importance of the present crisis, and "will co-operate with her in the adoption of efficient measures for the common defence and safety of the South."

I have the honor to be, with great respect,

Your obedient servant,

J. Thompson

Commissioner from Mississippi.