After a productive trip to the Arkansas History Commission in Little Rock recently, the Arkansas Toothpick has unearthed some very interesting documents that will lend relevance to the “150 Years Ago…” column for the next several weeks.
The first document we wish to share with the public is a quite interesting and lengthy speech delivered in a solemn voice to the 1860 Arkansas House of Representatives in December, 1860 during the 12th General Assembly of the Arkansas Legislature. Due to the extended length of this week’s primary source, it will be broken into two seperate posts, neither of which will be block quoted.
Due to the nature and unquestionable politics of Arkansas Governor Henry M. Rector, recently elected to office in November, 1860, the editor chooses not to offer even one word of intrepretation, as I believe the reader will find the following words from proverbially “beating around the bush” as to Arkansas’ fate:
From “The Old Line Democrat”, December 13, 1860:
…my convictions touching the abstract legal right as a State to secede from the Federal Union, coupling with that assertion of right, the opinion, that notwithstanding there was a clear legal right, and cumulative moral wrong on the part of the North, to justify the exercise on this right. Still, so long as there was even a remote hope that by compromise and concessions made by the Northern States; the Union could be preserved and held together; that it was the duty of every patriot in the land, every functionary of the Government; every citizen, rich or poor, slaveholder or non-slave holder, the son and daughter, with parent, the parent with child, to labor for, and conserve their course and conduct to this end.
The providence of nations and the destinies of the world seem to will it otherwise.
The wisest and best government that had ever been allotted to man, has fallen a prey to the madness and fanaticism of its own children, for I am convinced, that the Union of these States, is this moment practically severed, and g one forever. It seems to be impossible, upon casual reflection, that it can be so, and we realize it, only by the stern inflexibility of facts patent and palpable as when the mantle of death spreads itself upon the fair form and features of some beloved one of earth preparatory to an eternal farewell, never, never again to return!
I utter these sentiments in tones of solemn reverence, for I feel that I am chronicling events portentous of a gloomy future for my country men- for the raising generation- many of whom cluster around my own fireside.
But duty prompts me to announce to you, what I conceive to be, “the state of Government”- which is, I repeat, that the Union of the States, may no longer be regarded as an existing fact- making it imperatively necessary, that Arkansas should girdle her loins for the conflict, and put her house in order.
I will not stop to discuss the remote causes, in retrospect, that have brought about this state of things, but proceed to look at patterns as they now present themselves before the country.
In the States of South Carolina and Mississippi, the people have decreed through primary assemblages, a unanimous determination to secede from the Union.
The Legislatures of South Carolina has assembled, and called a convention of the people, to meet on the 17thy or 18th inst., to prepare the frame work for appropriate and independent government.
The Legislature of Mississippi convened in session, extraordinary by the Executive, has announced unanimously, an unqualified determination to separate from the Federal Union.
The sentiments expressed by the States of Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, reiterate the same determination.
It is not madness to suppose that great governments and people, like those referred to, will degrade themselves in the eyes of the world, by retrograde and submissive action.
But among the Southern States, Maryland, Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee are disposed to be conservative.
So is Arkansas, if I am advised of public sentiment.
But they and she must make a choice. Shall Arkansas remain in the Union when her sisters of the South have declared for a separate nationality?
Suppose Missouri remains in the Confederacy, and Louisiana does not of which is Arkansas the naturally, with which is her common interest, to whom must she look to in the future for common sympathy and support? Can she exist in the future without a brotherhood and fraternal feeling with the Cotton growing States? Missouri may divest herself of slave labor-Arkansas never can. Without it, her fertile fields are deserts, and her people penniless and impoverished. The the status, the destiny, the fortune, right or wrong of the cotton States is her legacy. She can have no Northern sympathies, no Northern affiliation, even in the Union, nor for the sake of it, after those having like climate and productions, seeking a common market, through a common channel, have gone out of it.
With the mart and channel of Southern commerce, in the possession and control of the States of Louisiana and Mississippi, what would be the condition of Arkansas, should she determine to adhere to the Union- as will Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland? They may dispense with slave labor, and induce thereby a community of interest with the manufacturing and grain growing States of the North; we cannot. Providence has dispensed other blessings to this latitude; and it is our salvation and duty to guard them. Thus presenting to you in a few hastily prepared passages, the condition of the government to my mind. The enquiry is what shall Arkansans do? what will you, my fellow citizens, recently returned by the sovereign people as chosen guardians of their dearest rights do, to preserve and protect inviolate the liberty, independence and honor of your countrymen; each hour evolved being fraught with important events; the time drawing near when the inauguration of a hostile and fanatical administration will prove less auspicious to the free and independent action of the Southern States, than is now the case, under a President whose Southern sympathies have made him a martyr in our cause. Shall we prove laggarts and listlessly sleep upon the watch tower of our peoples liberties? Shall we stare fate in the face, trifle with sad realities, and commit our country to a fatuitiuos inanity.