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1856 - US presidential race -
Slave States "focus group" remarks

We all have the benefit of much more information now - and most of us greatly increased leisure to examine it - than did people long ago. It grows increasingly difficult for the typical contemporary reader in a culture that uses the Internet to understand the beliefs of persons of a distant past.

It is therefore useful to let these ghosts speak for themselves, while at the same time providing contemporary cross-references. We hope the excerpts below do justice to the people quoted, and they are judged no better or worse than they ought be. They grew up in a different world than did we.

Artist's recreation of a man born Hiram Ulysses Grant voting in 1856. This sketch is a deception intended as propaganda. The caption relates something certainly true in one sentence and something certainly false in the next, a common method of promoting credence in a lie.

The text below dates not from 1856, but nearly three decades later. But since it focuses on the election of 1856 in Missouri, it bears examination, all the more so because of the celebrity of its author and the "death-bed" nature of the testimony.

In the late summer of 1854 I rejoined my family, to find in it a son whom I had never seen, born while I was on the Isthmus of Panama. I was now to commence, at the age of thirty-two, a new struggle for our support. My wife had a farm near St. Louis, to which we went, but I had no means to stock it. A house had to be built also. I worked very hard...

While a citizen of Missouri, my first opportunity for casting a vote at a Presidential election occurred. I had been in the army from before attaining my majority and had thought but little about politics, although I was a Whig by education and a great admirer of Mr. Clay. But the Whig party had ceased to exist before I had an opportunity of exercising the privilege of casting a ballot; the Know-Nothing party had taken its place, but was on the wane; and the Republican party was in a chaotic state and had not yet received a name. It had no existence in the Slave States except at points on the borders next to Free States. In St. Louis City and County, what afterwards became the Republican party was known as the Free-Soil Democracy, led by the Honorable Frank P. Blair. Most of my neighbors had known me as an officer of the army with Whig proclivities. They had been on the same side, and, on the death of their party, many had become Know-Nothings, or members of the American party. There was a lodge near my new home, and I was invited to join it. I accepted the invitation; was initiated; attended a meeting just one week later, and never went to another afterwards.

I have no apologies to make for having been one week a member of the American party; for I still think native-born citizens of the United States should have as much protection, as many privileges in their native country, as those who voluntarily select it for a home. But all secret, oath-bound political parties are dangerous to any nation, no matter how pure or how patriotic the motives and principles which first bring them together. No political party can or ought to exist when one of its corner-stones is opposition to freedom of thought and to the right to worship God "according to the dictate of one's own conscience," or according to the creed of any religious denomination whatever. Nevertheless, if a sect sets up its laws as binding above the State laws, wherever the two come in conflict this claim must be resisted and suppressed at whatever cost.

Up to the Mexican war there were a few out and out abolitionists, men who carried their hostility to slavery into all elections, from those for a justice of the peace up to the Presidency of the United States. They were noisy but not numerous. But the great majority of people at the North, where slavery did not exist, were opposed to the institution, and looked upon its existence in any part of the country as unfortunate. They did not hold the States where slavery existed responsible for it; and believed that protection should be given to the right of property in slaves until some satisfactory way could be reached to be rid of the institution. Opposition to slavery was not a creed of either political party. In some sections more anti-slavery men belonged to the Democratic party, and in others to the Whigs. But with the inauguration of the Mexican war, in fact with the annexation of Texas, "the inevitable conflict" commenced.

As the time for the Presidential election of 1856--the first at which I had the opportunity of voting--approached, party feeling began to run high. The Republican party was regarded in the South and the border States not only as opposed to the extension of slavery, but as favoring the compulsory abolition of the institution without compensation to the owners. The most horrible visions seemed to present themselves to the minds of people who, one would suppose, ought to have known better. Many educated and, otherwise, sensible persons appeared to believe that emancipation meant social equality. Treason to the Government was openly advocated and was not rebuked. It was evident to my mind that the election of a Republican President in 1856 meant the secession of all the Slave States, and rebellion. Under these circumstances I preferred the success of a candidate whose election would prevent or postpone secession, to seeing the country plunged into a war the end of which no man could foretell. With a Democrat elected by the unanimous vote of the Slave States, there could be no pretext for secession for four years. I very much hoped that the passions of the people would subside in that time, and the catastrophe be averted altogether; if it was not, I believed the country would be better prepared to receive the shock and to resist it. I therefore voted for James Buchanan for President. Four years later the Republican party was successful in electing its candidate to the Presidency. The civilized world has learned the consequence. Four millions of human beings held as chattels have been liberated; the ballot has been given to them; the free schools of the country have been opened to their children. The nation still lives, and the people are just as free to avoid social intimacy with the blacks as ever they were, or as they are with white people.

The Memoirs of General Ulysses S. Grant
by Ulysses S. Grant


...In preparing these volumes for the public, I have entered upon the task with the sincere desire to avoid doing injustice to any one, whether on the National or Confederate side, other than the unavoidable injustice of not making mention often where special mention is due. There must be many errors of omission in this work, because the subject is too large...

The first volume, as well as a portion of the second, was written before I had reason to suppose I was in a critical condition of health. Later I was reduced almost to the point of death, and it became impossible for me to attend to anything for weeks. I have, however, somewhat regained my strength...

With these remarks I present these volumes to the public, asking no favor but hoping they will meet the approval of the reader.





Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant), 1822-1885, was the 18th US President (1869-1877), twice the nominee of the Republican Party. During the American Civil War he commanded Federal forces as a general, becoming the army's supreme military commander (1864-1869).

The following is excerpted from a December 1856 letter written by a Virginia-born army officer to his wife. It discusses a speech by "lame-duck" President Franklin Pierce.

...The views of the Pres: of the Systematic & progressive efforts of certain people of the North, to interfere with & change the domestic institutions of the South, are truthfully & faithfully expressed. The Consequences of their plans & purposes are also clearly set forth, & they must also be aware, that their object is both unlawful & entirely foreign to them & their duty; for which they are irresponsible & unaccountable; & Can only be accomplished by them through the agency of a Civil & Servile war. In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy. This influence though slow, is sure. The doctrines & miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years, to Convert but a small part of the human race, & even among Christian nations, what gross errors still exist! While we see the Course of the final abolition of human Slavery is onward, & we give it the aid of our prayers & all justifiable means in our power, we must leave the progress as well as the result in his hands who sees the end; who Chooses to work by slow influences; & with whom two thousand years are but as a Single day. Although the Abolitionist must know this, & must See that he has neither the right or power of operating except by moral means & suasion, & if he means well to the slave, he must not Create angry feelings in the Master; that although he may not approve the mode which it pleases Providence to accomplish its purposes, the result will nevertheless be the same; that the reasons he gives for interference in what he has no Concern, holds good for every kind of interference with our neighbors when we disapprove their Conduct; Still I fear he will persevere in his evil Course. Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who Crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the Spiritual liberty of others?"

Robert E. Lee, 1807-1870, was a career US Army officer and the most successful Confederate general during the American Civil War. A slave owner, he opposed state secession, until his home state of Virginia seceded. Before inheriting more slaves through the demise of his wife's father in 1857, Lee freed most of his own slaves and offered to pay expenses for those desiring to emigrate to Liberia.

The quotations below date not from 1856, but eight years later, a year before Confederate defeat in the Civil War. They are the words of the governor of Georgia (whose service began the year after 1856 and spanned the entire Civil War). While not the remarks of a voter in 1856, such a man in Georgia might have shared at least some of the same notions expressed herein.

Governor Brown offers the following legal theory for the origin of the Civil War.

He holds that the States retained sovereignty even after the Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation, i.e. that the Constitution is a breakable treaty between equal and independent nations and creates no perpetual superior power to which they and their inhabitants all owe loyalty first.

Brown then alleges inadequate enforcement of the terms of that treaty, viz., by implication, lack of proper cooperation with the Fugitive Slave Act and the Supreme Court decision Dred Scott vs Sandford (1857). He holds such a breach abrogates the treaty which the Constituition represents, and (implicitly) in the absence of a "separability clause," such breach absolves Georgia from any further moral or legal obligation to respect any other clause of that same compact.

The Governor explains that the Confederate States undertook no harm to those States electing to remain within the Federal Union, but that President Lincoln declared Georgia in "rebellion" and set forth invasion armies. Georgia cannot be in rebellion, claims Brown, because it owes the Federal Union no fealty in the first place: Federal invasion is aggression by an alien nation.

Brown's proximate disagreement with Lincoln seems to turn on the territoriality of Federal property in Georgia which Georgia seized, turning mere words about self-determination into acts. Brown no doubt implicitly holds such forts are the eminent domain of a sovereign State of Georgia, and hardly things which should be at the disposal of a dangerous alien power like an angered Federal Union, while Lincoln (as had Buchanan - who resupplied forts under siege) would no doubt maintain they are the enduring property of a national government to which its component Georgia owes subordination.

Brown affirms the right of any State (with the consent of its voters - adult white men all in those days) to abolish slavery at its own discretion and join with the Federal states, or equally so to retain slavery and join with the Confederacy.

Governor Brown:
I have said, the South is not the guilty party in this dreadful carnage... Our sole object from the beginning has been to defend, maintain and preserve our ancient usages, customs, liberties and institutions, as achieved and established by our ancestors in the revolution of 1776... The Constitution was a compact between the thirteen States, each of which had been recognized separately, by name, by the British King, as a free sovereign and independent State.

One of the express covenants in the written bond, to which the Northern States subscribed, and without which, as is clearly seen by reference to the debates in the Convention which formed the Constitution, the Southern States never would have agreed to or formed the compact, was in these words:

"No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."
Massachusetts and other abolition States, utterly repudiated, annulled and set at naught this provision of the Constitution; and refused either to execute it or to permit the constituted authorities of the United States to carry it out within their limits. ...when Massachusetts refused longer to be bound by the Constitution, she thereby dissolved the union between her and Georgia...

In exercising their undoubted right to withdraw from the Union, when the covenant had been broken by the Northern States, [the Confederate States]... sought no war--no strife. They simply withdrew from further connection with self-confessed, faithless Confederates. They offered no injury, to them--threatened none--proposed none--intended none...

Having completed his preparations for war and refused to hear any propositions for a peaceful adjustment of our difficulties, President Lincoln issued his proclamation declaring Georgia and the other seceded States to be in rebellion, and sent forth his armies of invasion...

Nor could one of the Sovereign States be in rebellion against the government of the United States. That government was the creature of the States, by which it was created, and they had the same power to destroy it at pleasure which they had to make it...

If it is a question of strife, whether Kentucky or Maryland, or any other State, shall cast her lot with the United States, or the Confederate States, there is no mode of settling it so justly, with so little cost, and with so much satisfaction to her own people, as to withdraw all Military force from her limits, and leave the decision, not to the sword, but to the ballot box. If she should decide for herself to abolish slavery and go with the North, the Confederate government can have no just cause of complaint... But if she should decide to retain her institutions and go with the South, as we doubt not she will, when the question is fairly submitted to her people at the polls, the Lincoln government must acquiesce.

Governor Brown attributes to President Lincoln motivations for making war: Not restoration of the Union or support of the Constitution, but abolition of slavery, and even more yet: uncompensated manumission, repudiation of self-government and subjugation - even extermination - of white Southerners. Brown posits manumission would lead those freed to become barbarous, with the ultimate result they would be exterminated from what Brown calls the place of their comfortable and contented tenure under slavery.

Brown's attitudes reflected the intensifying racism of his day. For example, Georgian Alexander H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy, said this in his "Cornerstone" speech of March 21, 1861:

The prevailing ideas entertained by [Virginian Thomas Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away... Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error...

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery - subordination to the superior race - is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

And such attitudes were not sole province of secessionist leaders. In the 1857 decision Dred Scott vs Sandford, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, a Slave State (Maryland) Catholic, writing for the majority, offered that African-Americans, free or slave, could not be citizens of any state, because, (contrary to Stephens) the drafters of the Constitution had viewed them as:
beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.
But not all white people concured; indeed, these words were a source of outrage. For example, a man born in Slave State Kentucky had written in late 1855 that
As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal except negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty.
The man, Abraham Lincoln (like Know-Nothing Millard Fillmore, an ex-Whig) was runner-up for the Vice Presidential nomination of the new Republican Party in 1856.

Today, people have different ideas about the nature and source of either "civilization" or "barbarism". Not everyone agrees yet, but one modern school of thought is expressed here.

Historical note on racial attitudes during the American War of Independence or "Revolution": Both sides would eventually arm slaves (and free negros) as soliders, as related here. Perhaps failing to recall this, near the end of the Civil War, Georgia's General Howell Cobb declared:

If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong.

Governor Brown:
Whatever differences of opinion may have existed at the commencement, among our own people, as to the policy of secession, or the objects of the federal government, all doubt has been dispelled by the Abolition Proclamation of President Lincoln, and his subsequent action. Maddened by abolition fanaticism, and deadly hate for the white race of the South, he wages war not for the restoration of the Union--not for the support of the Constitution, but for the abolition of slavery, and the subjugation and as he doubtless desires ultimate extermination of the anglo-Norman race in the Southern States. Dearly beloved by him as are the African race, his acts are prompted less by love of them, than by Puritanic hate for the Cavaliers, the Huguenots, and Scotch Irish, whose blood courses freely through the veins of the white population of the South. But federal bayonets can never reverse the laws of God, which must be done, before the negro can he made the equal of the white man of the South. The freedom sought for them by the abolition party, if achieved, would result in their return to barbarism and their ultimate extermination from the soil, where most of them were born, and were comfortable and contented, under the guardian care of the white race, before the wicked crusade was commenced...

The real objects of the war aimed at, from the beginning, were, and are not so much the deliverance of the African from bondage, as the repudiation of the great American doctrine of self-government, the subjugation of the people of these States, and the confiscation of their property.

But the existence of Georgians opposed to the Confederacy is testified to by Governor Brown, who in his youth lived in Union County, to which region of the state he refers in these remarks:

Governor Brown:
I am informed that a number of persons in the portion of our State, adjoining to East Tennessee, have lately removed with their families within the lines of the enemy; and carried with them their movable property. Those persons have never been loyal to the cause of the South; and they now avail themselves of the earliest opportunity to unite with the enemies of their State.

Governor Brown places guilt for the destruction of the war on the leaders of the party opposite, which he said destroyed the Union by threatening the legitimate property rights of Southerners. He cites the awesome toll it is taking on white Federals and Confederates both, and even the impact on blacks.

Governor Brown:
The moral guilt of this war rested then in its incipiency neither upon the people of the South nor upon the Democratic party of the North, or upon that part of the Republican party who were deluded and deceived. But it rested upon the heads of the wicked leaders of the Republican party, who had refused to be bound by the compacts of the Constitution... Many of the more fanatical of them denounced the Constitution. because of its protection of the property of the slaveholder...

The abolition party having when in power, in their respective States, set at naught that part of the Constitution which guarantees protection to the rights and property of the Southern people, and having by fraud and misrepresentation obtained possession of the federal government, the Southern people in self-defence were compelled to leave the Union in which their rights were no longer respected. Having destroyed the Union by their wicked acts and their bad faith, these leaders rallied a majority of the people of the North to their support, with a promise to restore it again by force... The government in the hands of the abolition administration is now a despotism as absolute as that of Russia...

What have been the abolition achievements of the administration? The most that has been claimed by them, is, that they have taken from their owners, and set free; 100,000 negroes. What has this cost the white race of the North and South? More than half a million of white men slain, or wrecked in health, beyond the hope of recovery, and an expenditure of not perhaps less than four thousand millions of dollars. What will it cost at this rate to liberate nearly 4,000,000 more of slaves? Northern accounts of the sickness, suffering and death, which have, under Northern treatment, carried off so large a proportion of those set free, ought to convince the most fanatical, of the cruel injury they are inflicting upon the poor helpless African.

Governor Brown decries the trampling of Habeas Corpus by the tyrannical executives leading both the Federal and Confederate central governments - resonating with the (anti-Jacksonian) Whigism he professed in earliest political life.

Governor Brown:
The Habeas Corpus that great bulwark of liberty, without which no people can be secure in their lives[,] persons or property,.. has been trampled under foot by the Government at Washington which imprisons at its pleasure whomsoever it will...

Those who are unfriendly to State sovereignty, and desire to consolidate all power in the hands of the Confederate Government, hoping to promote their undertaking by operating upon the fears of the timid, after each new aggression upon the constitutional rights of the States, fill the newspaper presses with the cry of conflict... Let not the people be deceived by this false clamor. It is the same cry of conflict which the Lincoln Government raised against all who defended the rights of the Southern States against its tyranny. It is the cry which the usurpers of power have ever raised...

I cannot withhold the expression of the deep mortification I feel at the late action of Congress, in attempting to suspend the privilege of the writ of Habeas Corpus, and to confer upon the President powers expressly denied to him by the Constitution of the Confederate States... Instead of the legality of the arrest being examined in the judicial tribunals appointed by the Constitution, it is to be examined in the Confederate Star Chamber; that is, by officers appointed by the President... What justification exists now for this most monstrous deed, which did not exist during the first or second year of the war... which is intended to make the President as absolute in his power of arrest and imprisonment as the Czar of all the Russias? ...And what will we have gained when we have achieved our Independence of the Northern States, if in our effort to do so, we have permitted our form of government to be subverted[?]

Message of His Excellency Joseph E. Brown, to the Extra Session of the Legislature, Convened March [10th], 1864, upon the Currency Act; Secret Sessions of Congress; The Late Conscription Act; The Unconstitutionality of the Act Suspending the Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus, in Cases of Illegal Arrests Made by the President; The Causes of the War and Manner of Conducting It; And the Terms upon Which Peace Should Be Sought, &c.

© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.

Joseph E. Brown was Georgia's Governor from 1857 to 1865, and one of its U.S. Senators through the 1880's. An ardent secessionist, in April 1862 he nonetheless directly and openly challenged Confederate military concription, the first national draft in American history. During the Civil War, he had constant disagreements with Confederate President Jefferson Davis, whom he saw as an incipient tyrant. A one-time Whig, Democrat Brown became a "scalawag" Republican during post-war Reconstruction, and ended political life as a Democrat again.

The text below dates not from 1856, but over six decades later. But since it focuses on slavery, which played a vital part in the election of 1856, it bears examination - again, all the more so because of the celebrity of its author and the "final-reckoning-age" nature of the testimony. Like the man above, the following person actively supported the struggle of the Confederacy - even if, as a woman, she could not vote in any election of those times.

When I received the Congressional Record, bearing date July 16, 1917, I found Hon. Ben Tillman of South Carolina recorded therein and discussing slavery in the nation. He uses the following words: "Slavery was a curse and the Civil War was necessary to destroy it. Nothing else could have done it because of the profit there was in it..."

...It is only human nature to defend the actions and opinions of our forbears, ...But this belated confession gives me a text for my present writing, and I propose to set down the very words employed by Georgia's political leaders, when Georgia followed South Carolina out of the Federal Union in the winter of 1860-61. I own a complete copy of the proceedings of the Secession convention...

As a preamble I will also say that Georgia, in General Oglethorpe's time, discounted and discredited African slavery, but the "profit in it" overcame these prudential considerations. After the Yazoo Fraud was finally settled, the inrush of slaveholders to the Carolinas and Georgia became very great, and the new comers brought along their slaves that they owned in Maryland and Virginia under the laws prevailing in the early colonies.

I will not attempt to record in this connection the opposition that northern states early evinced towards the abolition agitators. The "profit in it" and the sale of negroes to Southern owners made business lively. The abolitionists were frequently rotten-egged in the state of Massachusetts in their attempts to secure a hearing. Perhaps I am justified in saying that abolition oratory continued to be distasteful to the public so long as there were slaves to sell to southern planters and until the "profit" in them became nil. [The US Constitution immediately (1787) ended the importation of slaves by foreign ships and abolished importation entirely twenty years hence (January 1, 1808).] These abolition agitators did not become popular until the politicians enlisted the northern churches in this work of reform. When the preachers and the politicians joined forces the row began in dead earnest, and grew apace. ...The preachers of the Southern [Methodist] church quoted the Bible, when they took slavery for a pulpit discourse. Our Southern bishops owned slaves and vigorously defended the institution by voice and pen.

Slave property increased rapidly. Child bearing sometimes began at twelve years and frequent births made a heavy per cent of "profit."... It was nothing out of the common for a planter to pay twelve hundred dollars for a young, stalwart negro man, and a girl who brought easily eight hundred or a thousand dollars on the court house block might be relied upon to bear a healthy slave child once in two years...

As I look back on that time of eager slave buying, I am amazed at the lack of foresight in a business way. Every nation that was civilized had abandoned domestic slavery except Brazil, when our people were apparently confident that it was a permanent thing, commanded by the Bible and ordained of God.

There were abuses, many of them. I do not pretend to defend these abuses. There were kind masters and cruel masters. There were violations of the moral law that made mulattoes as common as blackberries. In this one particular slavery doomed itself. When white men were willing to put their own offspring in the kitchen and corn field and allowed them to be sold into bondage as slaves and degraded them as another man's slave, the retribution of wrath was hanging over this country and the South paid penance in four years of bloody war...

The abolitionists were the best hated people ever known within my knowledge and the slave owner had no mercy when the abolitionists in the pulpit discussed him. It was a time of madness... We Southerners claimed almost divine right to the ownership of chivalry but it would have outlawed the most consecrated preacher known to that era of our history if he had dared to say that a slave woman had divine right to own her own liberty or direct the lives of her own children. Some of the finest educators, pious and godly men threw up their positions in the South early in the struggle and returned to northern latitudes after becoming residents in Georgia.

...the break came, and the Southern States pulled out and set up for themselves. We, in the South, honestly believed we could engineer a peaceable separation. There is no doubt of the sincerity of the belief. It was not an attempt at revolt or insurrection or anything else but a resolute intention to own slaves and regulate slavery just as our forbears had been doing for nearly a hundred years.

So it happened that South Carolina went out first, followed by Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Georgia saw she was up against a tremendous proposition and as I am only concerned to prove that it was slavery and nothing but slavery that made Georgia secede, I find in the records of the Georgia Secession Convention certain indisputable facts, and nothing but facts, will furnish reliable history...

The majority was with the "fire-eaters" and they overrode the large minority. There were tens of thousands of Union-loving people in Georgia, but they had no chance in that convention. [The 1860 census showed Georgia had slightly more than a million inhabitants, including just shy of 600 thousand free persons in about 110 thousand families; cf. page bottom.] They were forced into a four-year bloody war to defend the institution of domestic slavery, and they lost their slaves, their real estate and personal property, lost their surplus money and lost their lives in many cases. Excepting those who retained their lands by self denial and self-sacrifice, this section was swept bare by war destruction...

I heard the cannon in Rome, Georgia, twenty-five miles away, when Georgia seceded... In the spring of 1864 it was evident that Cherokee Georgia would be overrun by the Federal army. The Confederate troops were at Dalton, and Gen. Sherman was preparing to leave Chattanooga. We decided to refugee southward, secured an old farm four miles from Macon to make a crop and left our home with fifteen colored slaves in charge. I never saw the home any more until August, 1865...

Sherman's army and Wheeler's cavalry overran us in the month of November, 1864. When it came to foraging one side was nearly as bad as the other. Sherman had so little opposition that he chose his own direct route to Savannah. The Confederacy was cut in two and a line of lone chimneys marked the burned path he made from Atlanta to the sea...

Major-General Howell Cobb, commander-in-chief of the military forces of the State of Georgia... had been one of the most active fire-eaters in the secession convention... Not a corporal's guard did he bring forward in Macon to meet the advancing foe; and yet as commander-in-chief of all of Georgia military forces he could have called to the colors every boy and man from sixteen to sixty in that section by conscription...

Although the state had sent many thousands to army service and had borne with patience the failures, mistakes and defeats that had been forced on her by lack of statesmanship, yet in the hour of her deepest humiliation the commander-in-chief of Georgia's reserves had nothing, not a man to offer to stand between her innocent women and what an invading army might inflict upon them.

...did the Lord Almighty punish the slave owners by sending on them the awful struggle that ended in complete destruction of the South and the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives? Any reader of history will agree with me that the negro question is not half settled. Our fifty years of hard experience since the Civil War demonstrates one fact only, that the negro is in the United States to stay and according as he is dealt with, depends our own peace or disaster in his association with the whites.

...Going into war as we did to preserve the institution of domestic slavery, we risked everything and lost everything by the venture, and we also lost the sympathy of the outside world because of our slavery contention...

There never was a more loyal woman in the South after we were forced by our political leaders to go to battle to defend our rights in ownership of African slaves, but they called it "State's Rights," and all I owned was invested in slaves and my people were loyal and I stood by them to the end. Like General Lee, I could not fight against my kindred in a struggle that meant life or death to them. Nevertheless I am now too near to the border land of eternity to withhold my matured conscientious and honest opinion. If there had been no slaves there would have been no war. To fight for the perpetuation of domestic slavery was a mistake. The time had come in the United States to wipe out this evil...

We had a Methodist camp ground on our plantation in 1860... there were neighbors and friends inside our tent armed to the teeth waiting for midnight to go out quietly to suppress a "rising" that had been reported to them late in the afternoon. The dread of negro insurrection and social equality with negroes at the ballot box held the Southern whites together in war or peace. That "rising" was a false alarm but the terror of these risings made Southern fathers and husbands desperate as to remedies. It is the secret of lynching instead of a legal remedy. It was "born in the blood and bred in the bone," and a resultant of domestic slavery in the Southern States. It was at the bottom of the East St. Louis riots. It is working like leaven in a thousand localities where unsuspecting people live today. Therefore I affirm that the negro question is unsettled and the end is still out of sight. This irritating side of the slavery issue is still rampant throughout Georgia, and spreading in north and west...

We must also chronicle the lack of statesmanship after the Southern politicians were convinced that they had unwisely rushed Georgia into secession... For more than fifty years this subject... has retarded the South's progress after the slavery issue was settled so far as slave ownership was concerned. It has been stirred and exploited in every national election. If the ownership of slaves was a curse to the South, according to Mr. Tillman, the enmities and injustices of Civil War hatreds, along with sectional animosity and race evils, have been a curse to the entire Union. And the end is not yet. As I write these lines there is bloody race conflict in Pennsylvania...

The children of the Southern States are being unwisely taught by Southern agitators, women as well as men, that the political issues of the Civil War are still germane and worthy of adoration. They are instructed to call the Lost Cause a glorious cause. They resent any change in public opinion, because the change would mean their own retiracy to back seats in politics and from public attention. They are barnacles on the ship of state, and they have inoculated hatred to "D-n Yankees," as a creed to be eulogized and fostered.

The curse of slavery is still following hard upon the footsteps of our nation's progress because of hybrid races of mulatto and mestizo varieties. Every nation that has a recorded history went to decay when honorable marriage was trampled upon and the South went to defeat because of violations of the moral law... I remember well a noted home in Middle Georgia where a rich man lived in open alliance with a colored woman and where Governors and Congressmen were often invited to dine and where they were glad to go... There were other men of distinction in Georgia who also defied the marriage law of the state by keeping up two households on the same plantation, one white and the other colored, and both women were afraid to make public outcry... Therein lay the curse of slavery.

It is continually urged that "Southern civil war soldiers were not thinking of their slaves because few of them had any." It is a serious arraignment, because those who had no slaves were finally forced to go, because of rigid conscription laws, and very few of the large landowners who urged on the war were killed on the battle fields. They were active as a rule in legislation passed by the secession convention, and as herein shown devoted to slaves and slavery and its perpetuation and protection...


Country Life in Georgia
In the Days of My Youth
Addresses Before Georgia Legislature Woman's
Clubs, Women's Organizations and other
Noted Occassions

Widow of Hon. W. H. Felton

Copyright - 1919 by Mrs. Felton

Printed by Index Printing Company
Atlanta, Ga.

© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.

Rebecca Latimer Felton, 1835-1930, the first woman Senator, was a long-time resident of Cartersville, Georgia and her people have given their name to our village of Felton in Haralson County. Her views on "miscengenation" reflect the overwhelming disposition of her society in her time. (Compare to modern surveys charted below.) Her husband, William Harrell Felton, 1823-1909, had been a Whig before the Civil War, as had her parents, and it is not unreasonable to suppose their household voted for one-time Whig President Millard Fillmore in the election of 1856.

[Personal aside: Mrs. Felton dedicated the book in which the material above appeared so: IN LOVING [memory] OF MY BELOVED FRIEND, THE LATE MRS. RUSSELL SAGE, OF NEW YORK CITY. The greatest woman philanthropist in the known world... Your web page editor is a 1969 graduate of Russell Sage Junior High School. His mother also made a business of keeping in good order more than one home located in the Forest Hills Gardens community, the creation of Mrs. Felton's friend Mrs. Sage. Russell Sage, first elected as a Whig, was still a congressman in 1856, but later made a fortune in finance and railroads he left entirely to Mrs. Sage.]

How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes? - Dr. Johnson (a social acquaintance of Georgia founder General Oglethorpe) in Taxation No Tyranny (1775)

Using data from the 1860 census, the map below shows, by county, the percentage of the population held in slavery. Slave distribution was highly uneven between the Slave States, as well as within each state. In Haralson County, less than 1 person in 13 was a slave; free labor massively dominated. Note the virtual absence of slaves in that part of Georgia which Gov. Brown reports (cf. above) was never was sympathetic to his cause. Such was typical in the Slave States. Despite the great residential mobility of Americans compared to people in many other nations, the 1860 distribution of slaves is strongly reflected in the ancestry geography Georgians report to this day, as shown here.

Adolph von Steinwehr.
Map Showing the Distribution of Slaves in the Southern States

(Click on image above to see all Slave States together)

Escaped Georgia slave John Brown, slave name: Fed/Fred

    Slave bill of sale    

Missouri 1856

Slave holders USA (1850)

Masters holdingQuantity
1 slave68,820
2 to 4 105,683
5 to 9 80,765
10 to 19 54,595
20 to 49 29,733
50 to 99 6,196
100 to 199 1,479
200 to 299 187
300 to 499 56
500 to 999 9
1000 and over2
1 or more slave347,525

Fraction of free families with slaves (1860)

(* 100)
SOUTH CAROLINA267015864246
NORTH CAROLINA3465812509028
Fraction of slaves in the population (1860)

Besides four million negro slaves, the United States in 1860 included half a million free negros, with roughly equal numbers in the Free and Slave States. There were about 11,000 free negros in New Orleans, among whom an amazing 3,000 owned negro slaves. "Negro" meant anyone with any known African heritage, however small, the so-called one-drop rule.