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Question on Confederate Constitution

I know it's long and I've probably posted this before, but this is really interesting reading. I don't quite understand what he means in about the 19th paragraph about the "very features of the Constitution of the Southern Confederacy --which perpetuate the control of the educated and wealthy few, over the uneducated and working many -- & are most repulsive to us" Wasn't it pretty much like the original Constitution?

A few paragraphs up, around the 15th is reference to the Mercentile Interest that's interesting too.


Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois.
Stephen A. Hurlbut to Abraham Lincoln, Wednesday, March 27, 1861 (Report on visit to South Carolina)
From Stephen A. Hurlbut to Abraham Lincoln1, March 27, 1861

Dr Sir

In compliance with the suggestion made on Thursday last -- I left for Charleston on night train of Friday & arrived in the usual course on Sunday morning at 8. A. M. (24th) Col. Lamon2 who started with me continued company until our arrival at Charleston when we separated he to the Charleston Hotel & I to the house of my sister.

We noticed nothing of particular moment on the Road except the activity in preparation & shipment of material of war and projectiles at Richmond for the South.

We passed on our down trip two open platform cars fully loaded with shells of 8 and 10 inches -- and on our return we met four other cars similarly loaded all bound for the City of Charleston-- I noticed at the R R Depot at Charleston eight iron mortars newly landed.

On Sunday morning I rode around the City, visiting especially the wharves and the Battery so as to view the shipping in port & the Harbour.

I regret to say that no single vessel in port displayed American colours. Foreign craft had their National colors, the Flag of the Southern Confederacy and of the State of South Carolina was visible every where -- but the tall masts of Northern owned Ships were bare & showed no colors whatever.

Four miles down the Harbor the Standard of the U. States floated over Fort Sumpter the only evidence of jurisdiction and nationality.

The Sandy banks of the Islands which form the harbor were lined with fortifications abundantly manned and placed on strong points to command the Channel.

I learned from one of the Pilots an acquaintance in former years that the vessels sunk to obstruct the Ship Channel had not had that effect but had been swept out by the force of the current, making but a slight alteration on the Bar.

On Saturday Sunday night I passed by the Charleston Hotel & was quickly joined by Col. Lamon whose person was still unknown-- We went to the residence of James L. Petigru3 to whom I had the honor of introducing Mr L-- By his advice Mr. Lamon, who strongly desired to visit Fort Sumpter and was provided with a Post office appointment -- presented his card to Gov. Pickens on Monday morning and was kindly & respectfully received. He will report his own acts & observations as I saw him no more from Sunday evening until we met on the train on Monday night.

As my object was to have a fair degree of publicity to the fact of my being in the City as a private person upon a last visit to my relatives -- I attended church on Sunday afternoon and met many of my old acquaintances and friends-- In the evening I was favored with visits at home from many others and on Monday I called upon all that I could think of of any prominence and position. By appointment I met Mr Petigru at 1. P. M. -- & had a private conversation with him for more than two hours--

I was at liberty to state to him, that my object was to ascertain and report the actual state of feeling in this City & State. Our conversation was entirely free and confidential. He is now the only man in the city of Charleston who avowedly adheres to the Union.

Col. Grayson4 formerly Collector and in Congress -- George S. Bryan -- James M. Gray and a very few others stood out in favor of Union until within three weeks, but they have surrendered and at this day Fort Sumpter is the only spot where the U. States have jurisdiction and James L. Petigru the only citizen loyal to the Nation.

I also saw many of the leading spirits upon the other side -- Wm. D. Porter Prest of State Senate -- A. H. Brown, member of the State Convention -- Wm H. Trescott & others formerly intimate acquaintances.

I saw many representatives of the Mercantile Interest -- some heavy Importers & Jobbers, others engaged in forwarding & commission business-- Enough at all events to be fair representatives to my mind of their several classes. From these sources I have no hesitation in reporting as unquestionable -- that Separate Nationality is a fixed fact -- that there is an unanimity of sentiment which is to my mind astonishing -- that there is no attachment to the Union -- that almost every one of those very men who in 1832 held military commissions under secret orders from Genl Jackson and were in fact ready to draw the sword in civil war for the Nation, are now as ready to take arms if necessary for the Southern Confederacy.

Many of them are civil or military officers now.

There is positively nothing to appeal to-- The Sentiment of National Patriotism always feeble in Carolina, has been Extinguished and overridden by the acknowledged doctrine of the paramount allegiance to the State.

False political economy diligently taught for years has now become an axiom & merchants and business men believe and act upon the belief -- that great growth of trade and expansion of material prosperity will & must follow the Establishment of a Southern Republic. They expect a golden era, when Charleston shall be a great commercial emporium & control for the South as New York does for the North.

Neither is it of any use to appeal to the people -- meaning by that term the class of voters engaged in laborious occupations.

The very features of the Constitution of the Southern Confederacy -- which perpetuate the control of the educated and wealthy few, over the uneducated and working many -- & are most repulsive to us, are most agreeable to them-- In truth there is not in South Carolina any people or any popular thought, or power of popular will--

There may be now, there certainly will be in the hereafter a People in Georgia and Alabama & perhaps in Northern Mississippi -- but there is none in So. Carolina

The power in that state and in the Southern Confederacy is now in the hands of the Conservatives -- of men who desire no war, seek no armed collision, but hope and expect peaceable separation, & believe that after separation they the two sections will be more friendly than now.

But it is equally true that there exists a large minority indefatigably active and reckless who desire to precipitate collision, inaugurate war & unite the Southern Confederacy by that means. These men dread the effect of time & trial upon their Institutions, they fear the pressure of Taxes & the burdens of Government & know well that there are causes of difference between the several States which will be obliterated by that common sympathy and common danger which war would produce.

These are the men who demand an immediate attack upon the forts.

The new Revenue Laws of the Confederacy appoint Inspectors on the lines of Rail Roads & collect duties there.

Under these Laws a ship heavily freighted belonging to Capt Wiseman of Charleston with papers issued by a Southern Collector and under the flag of the Confederacy sailed some ten days since for Havre. It is confidently expected by them, that the Flag and papers will be recognized. The Seceding States are "de facto" a Nation, they exercise to day every prerogative of sovereignty and within their limits are readily and cheerfully obeyed.

They are seeking to make treaties abroad they are seeking to annex Territory to the West & North of Texas -- they are soliciting a separation of Northern Mexico -- they have an army -- they are endeavoring to construct a Navy -- they have Revenue Laws & will enforce them, they have courts of Admiralty Jurisdiction, they have appointed a Judge at Key West -- and the United States have on the mainland only Fort Sumpter in a state of impending starvation & locked up from relief, and Fort Pickens as yet open -- with the fortresses at Key West and the Tortugas.

If then this be the state of facts as I believe it is except as to the State of Texas and perhaps Alabama & Louisiana -- if this be all the foothold the Government has -- if there be no people to whom they can appeal nor any sentiment they can touch -- if the Congress of the U. States has neglected to vest in the President the power to act so as either by force to maintain, or with the gracefulness of conscious strength to yield jurisdiction -- it is a most serious question what is left for the administration to do in the premises?

The question is actually in my judgment one involving Peace or War, with this unfortunate contingency that it is by no means certain that any thing less than unqualified recognition of absolute Independence, and of course unqualified surrender of Jurisdiction will satisfy, and this as I understand the Constitution can be done neither by the President nor Congress, but only by a National Convention.

The Administration alone should not in my judgment bear this burden.

The Legislative Department by whose past neglect the Executive is shorn of necessary means -- should bear its portion of the Responsibility.

But as this will require time, and as it is certain that the North will not be united on any one policy -- those difficult questions will must be temporarily met as they best can be.

I have no doubt that a ship known to contain only provisions for Sumpter would be stopped & refused admittance Even the moderate men who desire not to open fire, believe in the safer policy of time and Starvation

At present the garrison can be withdrawn without insult to them or their flag-- In a week this may be impossible and probably will.

If Sumpter is abandoned it is to a certain extent a concession of jurisdiction which cannot fail to have its effects at home and abroad.

Undoubtedly this will be followed by a demand for Pickens and the Keys of the Gulf.

To surrender these if Pickens has been or can be reinforced tarnishes the National honor and the U. States cease to be a respectable Nation.

At all hazards and under all circumstances during this stage of proceedings any Fortress accessible by the Sea, over which we still have dominion, should be held & if war comes, let it come.

As these states have created a Postal Department and the Post Office Department of the United States finds them only a burden, the cessation of Post Office facilities will be a relief to the Union, and a burden upon them, & although to a certain extent a surrender of authority, yet as authority in fact has ceased to exist the measure demands consideration.

The two Revenue Systems must clash at the Border and up and down the Mississippi, and whether peace or war exists the exigencies of this branch of the public service must be soon provided for.

If the President shall determine to call an Extra Session, an opportunity will be afforded in the Proclamation to express the views of the administration.

It is my deliberate judgement from long acquaintance with the people and the Country of So Carolina & from them in a modified form with the other Seceding States -- that the attempt to fulfil the duties of the Executive office in enforcing the Laws & authority of the U. S within their limits will be War in fact. War in which the Seceding States will be united and the others disunited War which alarmists at the North and Disunionists in the Border States will avail themselves of to work further mischief. War in which the United States after crushing out the Revolution, can do nothing further than to receive back into our National family an angry disgraced, sullen and dangerous people.

I solemnly believe that the Seven States are irrevocably gone -- except perhaps Texas and Louisiana as to which I have no information. They have not gone out on the Negro question -- their leaders in frank conversation do not say so. They have set up housekeeping for themselves and the only possible cure is to let them bear the burdens of housekeeping.

Nor do I believe that any policy which may be adopted by this Government will prevent the possibility of armed collision.

If these States remain "de jure" parts of the Republic -- the U. States are responsible for them to foreign governments -- and from every quarter especially from Mexico there is danger of complaint of violation of treaty stipulations.

An immediate increase of the effectiveness of Army & Navy -- the encouragement of organization for defence along our Territorial Frontier -- a fitness and preparation for that state of active hostilities into which we are liable to be precipitated at any moment are vital to the Nation

Increase of effectiveness at the Custom Houses of the Interior on the Mississippi and Ohio the control of imports by Rail Road from the South as well as by the Rivers, are among necessities to be provided for soon, or we shall be flooded from the South with goods imported under their Tariff.

There is strong division at the South as to the Border States. I do not think their rulers want them in the Confederacy There are too many white men in the Border States in proportion.

Eastern North Carolina which within a few years has become a great cotton country and is tributary to Charleston they do want -- but not the State. So with Eastern Virginia.

If by any means, by National encouragement, canals could be opened as they should be from Norfolk into Eastern North Carolina which would constitute that port the market -- the great national advantages of Norfolk as a seaport would draw that country to it

In the hands of any but Virginians and North Carolinians this would long since have been done-- There has been some attempt at it, but the attempt itself is a failure.

I have ascertained while at Charleston from our only friend and our many enemies -- that this whole matter of Secession could have been stopped in the bud, by prompt and gallant action on the part of the late administration. If the Harbour of Charleston had been seized and held by a proper military & naval force -- the rebellion would have died out, but our few friends unsupported by the Government dwindled gradually away, and, the course of disunion unchecked, Rebellion has assumed the stature and dignity of Revolution fulfilled and accomplished.

Treason was abetted by our own high functionaries and every impediment sedulously removed from its path.

It is impossible to expect from this administration that they can restore at will, the lost habit of obedience, the patriotism worn out -- the power whose prestige over the minds of men has been willfully thrown away and abandoned by its immediate predecessor.

I cannot close without repeating to the President, that this is a time to expect and be prepared for the worst, & that any yielding that the times may enforce has infinitely more value when it comes from a Government strong in fact and conscious of its strength -- giving not from any suspicion of fear -- but with the sense of power. And if no yielding takes place so much the more necessity for the most ample preparation.

I should also state that no person except Mr Petigru is aware that I have the most distant connection with the Executive & that to keep this position as soon as Mr Lamon became known I left him to himself

Very Respy

S: A: Hurlbut

March 27, 1861

" Turn over,"

P. S. -- I take the liberty of suggesting two or three propositions

1 -- May not the Revenue for the Gulf States be collected at Key West & the Tortugas? They command the Gulf.

2. If Congress declare the Ports of Entry in the Seceding States abolished, pro notice of that fact to foreign countries with Blockade by sea will be the most effectual and least warlike restraint that can be imposed.

3. This Rebellion being in fact an "industrial" rather than political affair -- is it not wise policy to stimulate in South America & Central America the production of Cotton, the monopoly of which article is the power and at the same time the curse & will be the final destruction of the South.

S: A: H

[Note 1 ID: Stephen A. Hurlbut, a native of South Carolina, moved to Illinois in 1845 and became a Whig political associate of Abraham Lincoln. In March 1861, Lincoln sent Hurlbut to Charleston, South Carolina in order to get a firsthand account of affairs there. During the Civil War, Hurlbut rose to the rank of major general despite charges of corruption.]

[Note 2 Ward H. Lamon]

[Note 3 ID: James L. Petigru, a prominent lawyer and politician in Charleston, South Carolina, was an opponent of nullification in the 1830s and opposed South Carolina's secession from the Union in 1860.]

[Note 4 ID: William J. Grayson, a South Carolina lawyer and politician, served as a Whig in Congress (1833-37) and as Collector of the Port of Charleston (1841-43).]

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