Davis on the Cotton Confederacy

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 20, 1861

The so-called President of the pretended Government, formed by the Seceded States, is a personage, as we have before stated, with good reputation for ability and more claims to respect for prudence and reason than most of the Southern politicians of his school. In his Inaugural Address, speaking to the world upon the great event of the age, it was to be expected that he would try, and that he, if any one, would be able to show, what were the real reasons for the separation, and what were the present plans and future prospects of his insurgent constituency, respecting both domestic and foreign policy. Let us see what a case he, the chosen one of treason's chosen, has made out for its excuse and its success.

Mr. DAVIS's first statement, after the usual personal prelude, is that the objects of the old Union were to establish justice, insure domestic tranquil[l]ity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty; and that because these ends were not attained, through the fault of the North, the Gulf States have taken their present course. As regards "establishment" of justice, where is there now, or where is there likely to be, a court of judge Lynch, or the success of mob law, except in the secession district? Is there any place within our borders where "domestic tranquil[l]ity" has not always existed as fully as in any nation of history, except in the very States of the cotton league, and does it not now reign everywhere else? "Provide for the common defence!" While they remained they were ever defended from enemies, but we were never defended against their own violence and treason; and now the means provided them for the "common defence" are turned against us. As regards their own "general welfare," they have had the rule of the nation from the beginning until now, all the fat places, and a disproportionate number of honors, and their idea of general welfare is, that they should forever be the drivers and we the horses. Their "blessings of liberty" are, by the avowal of their adherents, likely to end in a monarchy, or still more liable to vanish in a military despotism, which would be a decided improvement on the present reign of terror. This is the indictment brought against the Union, but we cannot believe it "a true bill," or that the remedy is not much worse than the alleged disease.

Mr. DAVIS does not go into any argument about the legal right of Secession, simply confining himself to the easy obiter dictum, in a few varied phrases, meaning the same thing, that it is all correct. No quotations from the Constitution, allusions to its framers and expounders, or anything more is vouchsafed. Secession is right, because Secession is right. Q. E. D.

The Presidential pretender, however, most solemnly, perhaps Pecksniffianly, goes on to say, that "He who knows the hearts of men, will judge of the sincerity with which we labored to preserve the Government of our fathers, &c." It is rather hard to realize that. There is good reason to believe that, for years past, there has been an organized conspiracy on the part of Southern politicians to break up the Union for their selfish personal purposes, with or without reason applicable to their fellow citizens. Indeed, even now, can any man tell what is the actual cause or what are the genuine causes of the present Secession? If any one on the side of treason has done this intelligibly or in aught but general terms of abuse, we have never heard or read such a statement. Southerners have declared that it was not the election of LINCOLN; not the alleged non-execution of the fugitive slave law; not the personal liberty bills; not anything but the old notion of the reason why "Dr. FELL" was unpopular. Mr. DAVIS certainly does not give any clue to answer this question. He does not pretend that those who wished so much to save the Constitution, ever made any appeal in any proper manner, to the authorities established by the instrument itself. The thing was concocted long before the late election. Its result was just what the conspirators desired and worked for in the Charleston and Baltimore Conventions, and the deed was done in holes and corners, by caucuses and mobs, with riot, precipitation, and crime.—That was a rather singular way to show a devotion to the Union, for which the Almighty is invoked.

The inaugural goes on to aver that in secession "the rights of person and property have not been disturbed," and that his friends "are doubly justified by the absence of wrong on their part, and by wanton aggression on the part of others." This is somewhat rich. Even if the conspiracy were not proven by which the treasury was made bankrupt and the Government defrauded, the North disarmed, and the South furnished with weapons conveniently piled at defenceless points, there is enough patent in the face of day to give the lie to such a boast. For this purpose, we may even forego the argument on the capture of forts and taking of arms not belonging to the takers, allowing it for the moment on their excuse of necessity to prevent attack on themselves. But private property has been grabbed by wholesale—the goods of the poor fellows and their wives who escaped from Moultrie and the yard at Pensacola. Private vessels have been repeatedly seized. The officers of Revenue Cutters have been tampered with in the most dishonorable manner. Sick sailors of the mercantile marine have been wantonly turned out of their hospital beds by hundreds, to the disgrace of humanity, and a crime has been committed against the whole civilized world by the darkening of lighthouses and removal of buoys. The last news states that a merchant schooner has been recently sunk, perhaps from this very act. But again, what is the robbery of the Mint at New Orleans but a sordid, mean, private theft, defenceless on any ground whatever? Mr. DAVIS, your secession business reeks with corruption and wickedness, so you needn't brag about observing the rights of "property;" and as to those of "person," it would be a slightly insane act for any non-traitor to go among your law-abiding constituents just now, even with the most innocent purposes. Tar and feathers would be the lightest token of welcome.

The speaker goes on to boast and brag about fighting, and about there being no domestic trouble arising out of the late act, and other such nonsense; and then makes what he considers the greatest hit of the whole—stating that the pride of his Confederation is the prevailing "homogenity."—Whatever Mr. DAVIS means by this big word, it is hard to tell. If that the whites in the Gulf States came from the same nation and blood, it is very absurd, for there is no district wherein the descent is more varied. Neither can he mean that there is much "homogenity" between the whites and the about equal numbers of blacks—nor that there is much sameness of interest between the many poor whites and the comparatively small class of slaveholders. If he means anything, it is that cotton is the great, almost the sole product of his new realm. Now, it shows very little knowledge of political economy for his excellency to congratulate himself upon what is a serious evil. A nation is prosperous from the variety of its productions, and from the multifarious adaptability of its resources, not from the fact that but one article is raised for export, not for home use, and that its people know but one art, the cultivation of a particular plant. There is to be a rivalry for the Confederation in the cotton production; there may be great fluctuations in its demand and price, and they may be cut off from any market. What, then, becomes of "homogenity?" There will be a famine and a howling in the new empire. It is not, and never can be, independent. If shut off from the world it would soon be like a scorpion in a ring of fire, and sting itself to death in horrible social convulsions. So much for "homogenity."

On the whole, the production of the selected Chief of the Confederation has shown no cause for secession, no excuse for anything, no plans or policy, and no common sense. The speech is emphatically Buncombe, except what is puerility, and laughable error, except what is a sad presage of dangerous insanity.