What is South Carolinas grievance? The Personal-Liberty Bills?
A. Yes, they constitute a grievance. And yet not much of one. Some of us even the men of the Mercury school, I mean do not complain of the Union because of those bills. They say that it is the Fugitive-Slave Law itself which is unconstitutional; that the rendition of runaways is a State affair, in which the Federal Government has no concern; that Massachusetts, and other States, were quite right in nullifying an illegal and aggressive statute. Besides, South Carolina has lost very few slaves.
Is it the Territorial Question which forces you to quit us?
A. Not in its practical issues. The South needs no more territory; has not negroes to colonize it. The doctrine of No more Slave States is an insult to us, but hardly an injury. The flow of population has settled that matter. You have won all the Territories, not even excepting New Mexico, where slavery exists nominally, but is sure to die out under the hostile influences of unpropitious soil and climate. The Territorial Question has become a mere abstraction. We no longer talk of it.
Then your great grievance is the election of Lincoln?
And the grievance is all the greater because he was elected according to all the forms of law?
If he had been got into the Presidency by trickery, by manifest cheating, your grievance would have been less complete?
Is Lincoln considered here to be a bad or dangerous man?
A. Not personally. I understand that he is a man of excellent private character, and I have nothing to say against him as a ruler, inasmuch as he has never been tried. Mr. Lincoln is simply a sign to us that we are in danger, and must provide for our own safety.
You secede, then, solely because you think his election proves that the mass of the Northern people is adverse to you and your interests?
Q. So Mr. Wigfall of Texas hit the nail on the head, when he said substantially that the South cannot be at peace with the North until the latter concedes that slavery is right?
A. Well, I admit it; that is precisely it.
What is this telling us? That South Carolina seceded to protect the rights of slavery? Not exactly. It seems that this gentleman was afraid. A fear that seems to be over the real possibility that the institution of slavery would be used as a tool against the South and its institutions if controlled by the Republicans. These Southerners saw themselves in danger from slavery inself and those who wish to see THEM and slavery destroyed. Until the North quit its crusade to crush out Southern culture and the demonization of its peoples the South could never relax enough to contend with its own problems.