Thursday, August 22, 2013

What Are We To Do?


The following essay by Joseph Addison Turner of Georgia summarized the fear of servile insurrection faced by Southerners in mid-1860, and presented practical solutions to deal with the threat.  To better understand the reason why the American South did not return to the Union in early 1861 after Northern promises that slavery would be forever protected, the issue of incessant Northern incitement of servile insurrection is a most important one. This passage is taken from DeBow's Review, Volume XXIX, July 1860, pp. 70-77. 

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman

North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission

"Unsurpassed Valor, Courage and Devotion to Liberty"

"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

What Are We To Do?

"In view of the Harper's Ferry affair, and the developments that have followed it, a question of grave import presents itself to the Southern people.  What steps are we to take to effectually resist the spirit and the attacks – the actual invasions, of Northern abolitionism?  It is our intention to discuss this question calmly and dispassionately, with all the reason, all the judgment, which nature has allowed us.

[To] those who are our determined and uncompromising enemies, who are ready to apply the torch of the incendiary to every house in the sunny South, who are all the time compassing heaven and earth to obtain the means necessary to kindle a servile war, and to raise the assassin's knife against every Southern breast – to which we have no word of explanation, farther than to say, that in meting out justice even to you, we would let reason and not passion direct.

In order to protect ourselves and our families, we must first find out who are they that threaten us.  What we are called on to guard against now – this very day, this very hour – is the host of abolition emissaries who are scattered abroad throughout the length and breadth of our land, who permeate the whole of Southern society, who occupy our places of trust and emolument.

Let us examine for a moment, the plans of these people. [The] Yankees who come among us as teachers, preachers, merchants, drummers, peddlers, etc., are base, bitter, malignant abolitionists, bearing in their hearts a determined and implacable hatred toward us and our institutions; always seeking every opportunity to instill the poison of their opinions into the minds of our slaves; working silently, slowly, insidiously, but constantly, till, as they imagine, they shall be able to kindle a fire of servile insurrection, which shall wrap in flames and involve in ruin the whole broad expanse of our now happy and prosperous Southern country.

It is folly – it is willful blindness – any longer to shut our eyes to the fact.  The danger is in our midst, and we must meet it, now.

On the maps found in John Brown's possession, were certain marks, designating certain localities all over the Southern country – in Georgia, as well as other States.  What mean these marks? They at least indicate that abolition emissaries have been on these spots, and have cast an evil eye – an eye of blighting – upon these portions of our beloved soil.  These our homesteads have been polluted by the tread of vile murderers, who have, doubtless, partaken of our hospitality, while they were taking counsel how they might assassinate us.  Which of them are wolves in sheep's clothing, which of them are worthy of hanging as traitors, we cannot often determine.

We must patronize home industry. At the risk of doing injustice to a great many Northern men who come among us, merely with the view of improving their private fortunes, and who attend strictly to their own business, leaving us to manage ours, we must set our faces against immigration into our borders from the North.  Especially must we frown upon all itinerants and stragglers from beyond Mason and Dixon's line.

Let us in no instance, trade with a fresh Yankee merchant, employ a raw Yankee teacher, or mechanic, or in any manner tolerate a Yankee peddler. Let them all be placed under a ban.  Let them all be watched, and let them know they are objects of suspicion.

Southerners should also content themselves within their own limits. Let those who have money to spend distribute it, in future, among their own friends and neighbors. For those who have the means and the leisure to make a tour every summer . . . there are numberless places of interest in our own borders.

On the other hand, it cannot be denied that many of our Southern teachers and mechanics are so idle and worthless that they allow these shrewd, hard-working Yankees to slip in before them and bear off the palm on all occasions.  It is the great fault of Southern people that they are too proud to work! The truth is, all of us – employers and employees, capitalists and laborers, rich and poor, producers and consumer -- all have acted wrong, and it remains for us to reform."

(The Cause of the South, Selections from DeBow's Review, 1846-1867, Paskoff and Wilson, editors, LSU Press, 1982, pp. 213-219)