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I concede that no greater calamity can befall any people than that of a war among themselves; and if I could believe it likely that the Union could be broken into fragments without having constant and interminable forays between the Slave and Free States, I might possibly bring my mind to the conclusion that it would be better to give up the Union than have war between the general government and the Southern or Cotton States; but there lies the question, are we not to have the Union entire, or is there not to be war of some description? It is my belief that one or the other is unavoidable; and if so, which is the better and the wiser course to adopt—to have a war that will be of short duration, or one that is to be perpetual and interminable, until the substance of all parties is wasted away?
But let us estimate, as wise men should and will, all the cost in advance, and calculate the probable result. Suppose the fifteen Slave States should secede, what are our means or our powers of resistance or defense ? Can any state live without commerce? Suppose the government of the United States, which will assuredly be in possession of the navy, should station a single frigate at the Capes of Virginia, is not the commerce of Virginia and Maryland effectually blocked up? then one to Charleston, another to Savannah, another to the Bay of Mobile, and still another to the mouth of the Mississippi, leaving the Free States on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers with the facilities of railroad, lake, and canal communication with New York; I simply inquire, what would be our condition ? Where is our navy to drive them off? What would become of all the productions of the South — the cotton, rice, sugar, flour, tobacco, etc. ? Would we not be checkmated and conquered without the power to strike a blow? Do the impetuous secessionists of Virginia stop long enough to reflect upon such a condition of things ? or do the sober-minded, reflecting men of the state think they are not worthy of consideration? If it is deemed necessary for our honor and safety to leave the Union, let us take time to prepare for what will inevitably follow. If the Cotton States can establish their independence, let them do it, and fix their form of government; then, if we like it better than our own, we can unite with them, but let us not be guilty of the madness of burning down the house in which we live until we are sure of removing to a better one.
As it is, I am clearly of opinion that the true policy of Virginia is to have nothing to do with the controversy that South Carolina has chosen to wago with the general government, but let her attend to her own business and we attend to ours, and remain in the Union as long as it can be done with safety and honor to the state; and when these can no longer be retained in the Union, then let us go out like men, and, asserting the broad right of revolution, let us all be united, and shrink from no consequences that may follow. I am respectfully yours,
JOHN M. BOTTS.
I must confess here to an error in my calculation. As no instance in history could be found in which a gigantic war was carried on for any length of time without a dollar of money, and without credit in any market in the world, so I never dreamed that it could be done here to the extent it has been. I had no conception then that the government was to issue its hundreds of thousands of millions of Treasury-notes, payable six months, and two years after the happening of an event which was sure never to take place, and that any respectable portion of the people could be made to believe it was as good or better than gold, and that the few who had wisdom enough to know that it could never be worth a farthing, and refused to take it in exchange for their labor or produce, would have their property seized by the government for its own use, and the party thrown into prison for disloyalty. But all this I have seen now, and shall be better posted hereafter if another rebellion and civil war shall come in my time, which I hardly expect to see, for I think the present generation and several others that will follow it will be satisfied with the experience they have had in this; but it may be of some service to future generations to know what may happen under the administration of those who go into rebellion simply for the purpose, as Mr. Jefferson Davis acknowledged in his interview with the two quasi-commissioners of peace, Messrs. Jacques and Kirke, as published in Mr. Davis's organ and other Richmond papers without denial or contradiction, solely to get rid of majorities ;" or, in other words, that the minority, or to come exactly at what he meant, that the selfish politicians and greedy office holders should rule and control the people with the iron hand of a detestable despotism.
My next effort was an appeal to the moderation, forbearance, and magnanimity of the North, made under a conviction of the truth of the old proverb, that it is better to humor a fool than encounter his wrath ;" for I found the whole South getting to be, not simply foolish, but insane upon this question of secession ; and, in reply to an invitation to a dinner at the Astor House, New York, given by the "New England Society' in commemoration of the landing of the New England Pilgrims, I made this appeal; but those to whom it was addressed unfortunately did not look at the question in all its magnitude-they did not attach sufficient importance to the events then in progress. Perhaps they would have thought and acted otherwise if they had been located where I was, and could have foreseen what has followed, as I thought I did at the time.
MR. BOTTS'S NOMINATION FOR THE STATE CONVENTION
A convention was called by the State Legislature, which itself had been convened in extra session by Governor Letcher. Richmond was entitled to three representatives. A number of the Union men called on me in person to become a candidate, to which I gave my assent. They asked who I could recommend to be associated with me. I named Mr. William H. M'Farland, with whom I was not then on speaking terms, and Mr. Marmaduke Johnson, not so much because he was my friend as that he and Mr. M‘Farland had, at the dinner given to the Presidential Electors a short time before, given, as I thought, the most unmistakable evidence of a steadfast and reliable devotion to the Union and the platform upon which we had carried the state for John Bell. Accordingly a card was addressed to the three gentlemen thus indicated, and I extract the following from my response. The other two gentlemen simply accepted. I was defeated; to accomplish which, very large sums of money were said to have been and, no doubt, were subscribed. Mr. George W. Randolph, late Secretary of War, beat me, I think, some two hundred and odd votes, his friends swapping off votes with the peculiar friends of Messrs. M'Farland and Johnson. All this is of no other consequence now than to show how matters were worked to bring about my defeat. Mr. M‘Farland and Mr. Johnson were elected, as I have said, and both afterward voted for the Ordinance of Secession.
The following is from my card in the Richmond Whig of January 25, 1861:
“The absence of all right on the part of one state to separate herself from the other thirty-two, when no pretense is set up that there is a correlative right on the part of the thirty-two to separate themselves from the one, is, to my mind, an incomprehensible logical absurdity, that I have already argued in your presence during the late canvass, and which need not be repeated here.
“That the time has arrived when the public voice and, indeed, the public welfare, demands that there shall be a satisfactory and final adjustment of all questions of discord between the two sections of the country, in order that we may live in peace hereafter, no one will dispute. The ques
tion is, what ought to be satisfactory to us, the Southern section, constituting as we do the complaining party in the case ?
"For myself, I am prepared to insist upon every jot or tittle of right that the security or the honor of Virginia will entitle her to claim under the Constitution as it is. I am willing to vote for and take as much more as the North may be disposed to yield. If I have not heretofore claimed as much as others, it was not because I was unwilling they should obtain and enjoy it, but because I did not believe that it would be granted, or that we were entitled to demand it as of right, and therefore I never have, and never will consent to make the existence or the destruction of this government dependent upon any abstract or impracticable question that may or may not arise outside of the Constitution, such as is now proposed, of guaranteeing slavery by constitutional amendment in all territories hereafter to be acquired south of 36° 30', whether in Mexico, South America, or the Sandwich Islands.
“There is nothing that I can do that I will not do to avert the utter desolation that will assuredly follow in the train of disunion, rebellion, and
I will go as far as any man alive will or can go to settle, by compromise and conciliation, every question of disturbance in our national councils. I am even free to say that there is no compromise that has been or can be proposed that will prove satisfactory to the North and South and restore harmony to the country, that will not meet with my cordial support, and, except as a matter of curiosity, I would agree never to inquire what compromise had been adopted, for I have no interests in this government that are not identified with those around me, and whatever will satisfy them will satisfy me. I do not set myself up as a maker of laws or a maker of constitutions, to which all others must bend and yield; nevertheless, I am not without my own views as to the proper mode of adjustment of all questions of constitutional interpretation, which could be done by making a case on each disputed point for the immediate decision of the Supreme Court, which is the tribunal established by the Constitution for that purpose, and then we could see what party it is that is not willing to live under the present form of government fairly and properly administered.
"I do not believe that, since the world was in a state of chaos, there ever was, or that there ever will be again so general and universal an upheaving of society, so ruínous and desolating a disturbance of all the social, moral, political, and industrial elements of a people for such slight and insufficient cause as this country now exhibits to the gaze of the as
tounded nations of the earth, every one of which causes, by prudence, discretion, and forbearance, if taken out of the hands of selfish and aspiring or disappointed politicians, and intrusted to the people at the polls, as is now proposed by the Crittenden and Bigler resolutions, may be settled amicably, harmoniously, and satisfactorily in the Union, and under the Constitution, within the next sixty days; while there is not one that will not be a thousand-fold aggravated when we go out of the Union, leaving the Constitution, the laws, the whole organization of the government, the army, the navy, the Treasury, the public lands in all the states as well as all the territories, in the full possession of the Republican party, from whose apprehended designs the secessionists are for running off, and leaving behind them all they claim.
“ After the events of the John Brown affair, just one year ago, and the scenes through which we are now passing, let us never again have a word to say about the excitability of the French, who, compared with us, are an immovable and unimpressible race of people.
“Now, I believe I constitute a fair type or specimen of what is the actual condition of every man in the Southern States, in a legal, political, and constitutional sense; and I find myself in the full, free, and perfect exercise of every blessing and of every right.of a personal nature that I have enjoyed since I came into the world. I am also in the possession and enjoyment of whatever property I may own, and nobody, as far as I know, proposes to disturb or dispossess me of it; nor can any human being thus dispossess me except by due course of law. How long this state of things may continue Omniscience only can tell. But is there any one, in these particulars, in a worse condition than I am ? If there is-if the instance can be presented of any one man, out of the ten millions of the white population in the Southern States, who is laboring under any oppression, wrong, injustice, or grievance, that can not be redressed in the Union, and which can be redressed out of the Union, then I will pledge myself to vote for disunion whenever the question comes up; but if no such person can be found, I will never consent to give up this government, the work of men whose like we ne'er shall look upon again, for any other government which the destroyers of this are likely to substitute in its stead. I will not destroy the house in which I live, and which protects me from the blasts and storms of winter, when not one brick is burned nor a stick of timber cut with which to erect another. I will not tear down the works of Washington, of Madison, of Franklin, of Carroll, of Morris, and of Pinckney, to take upon trust the clumsy machinery