The Great Conspiracy

“Every man must be for the United States, or against it. There can be
no Neutrals in this War; only Patriots or Traitors! [Cheer after
In a speech made in the United States Senate, January 31, 1862, Senator
McDougall of California–conceded to be intellectually the peer of any
man in that Body–said:

“We are at War. How long have we been at War? We have been engaged in
a war of opinion, according to my historical recollection, since 1838.
There has been a Systematic organized war against the Institutions
established by our fathers, since 1832. This is known of all men who
have read carefully the history of our Country. If I had the leisure,
or had consulted the authorities, I would give it year by year, and date
by date, from that time until the present, how men adversary to our
Republican Institutions have been organizing War against us, because
they did not approve of our Republican Institutions.

“Before the Mexican War, it is well known that General Quitman, then
Governor of Mississippi, was organizing to produce the same condition of
things (and he hoped a better condition of things, for he hoped a
successful Secession), to produce this same revolution that is now
disturbing our whole Land. The War with Mexico, fighting for a Southern
proposition, for which I fought myself, made the Nation a unit until
1849; and then again they undertook an Organization to produce
Revolution. These things are history. This statement is true, and
cannot be denied among intelligent men anywhere, and cannot be denied in
this Senate.

“The great men who sat in Council in this Hall, the great men of the
Nation, men whose equals are not, and I fear will not be for many years,
uniting their judgments, settled the controversy in 1850. They did not
settle it for the Conspirators of the South, for they were not parties
to the compact. Clay and Webster, and the great men who united with
them, had no relation with the extremes of either extreme faction. The
Compromise was made, and immediately after it had been effected, again
commenced the work of organization. I had the honor to come from my
State on the Pacific into the other branch of the Federal Congress, and
there I learned as early as 1853, that the work of Treason was as
industriously pursued as it is being pursued to-day. I saw it; I felt
it; I knew it. I went home to the shores of the Pacific instructed
somewhat on this subject.

“Years passed by. I engaged in my duties as a simple professional man,
not connected with public affairs. The question of the last
Presidential election arose before the Country–one of those great
questions that are not appreciated, I regret from my heart, by the
American Nation, when we elect a President, a man who has more power for
his time than any enthroned Monarch in Europe. We organize a Government
and place him in front as the head and the Chief of the Government.
That question came before the American People.

“At that time I was advised of this state of feeling–and I will state
it in as exact form of words as I can state it, that it may be
understood by Senators: Mr. Douglas is a man acceptable to the South.
Mr. Douglas is a man to whom no one has just cause of exception
throughout the South. Mr. Douglas is more acceptable to Mississippi and
Louisiana than Mr. Breckinridge. Mr. Breckinridge is not acceptable to
the South; or at least, if he is so, he is not in the same degree with
Mr. Douglas. Mr. Douglas is the accepted man of a great National Party,
and if he is brought into the field he will be triumphantly elected.
MATURED. EVERYTHING IS PREPARED, and the election of Mr. Douglas would
only postpone it for four years; and Now when we are PREPARED to carry
out these things WE MUST INDULGE IN STRATAGEM, and the nomination of Mr.
Breckinridge is a mere strategic movement to divide the great
conservative Party of the Nation into two, so as to elect a Republican

“That is a mere simple statement of the truth, and it cannot be
contradicted. Now, in that scheme all the men of counsel of that Party
were engaged. * * * I, on the far shores of the Pacific understood
those things as long ago as a year last September (1860). I was advised
about this policy and well informed of it. * * *

“I was at war, in California, in January (1861) last; in the maintenance
of the opinions that I am now maintaining, I had to go armed to protect
myself from violence. The country, whenever there was controversy, was
agitated to its deepest foundations. That is known, perhaps, not to
gentlemen who live up in Maine or Massachusetts, or where you are
foreign to all this agitation; but known to all people where disturbance
might have been effective in consequences. I felt it, and had to carry
my life in my hand by the month, as did my friends surrounding me.

“I say that all through last winter (that of 1860-61) War had been
inaugurated in all those parts of the Country where disturbed elements
could have efficient result. In January (1861), a year ago, I stood in
the hall of the House of Representatives of my State, and there was War
then, and angry faces and hostile men were gathered; and we knew then
well that the Southern States had determined to withdraw themselves from
the Federal Union.

“I happened to be one of those men who said, ‘they shall not do it;’ and
it appears to me that the whole argument is between that class of men
and the class of men who said they would let them do it. * * * When
this doctrine was started here of disintegrating the Cotton States from
the rest of the Confederacy, I opposed it at once. I saw immediately
that War was to be invoked. * * *

“I will not say these things were understood by gentlemen of the
Republican Party * * * but I, having been accepted and received as a
Democrat of the old school from the olden time, and HAVING FAST SOUTHERN
THING DETERMINED UPON. * * * I was advised of and understood the whole
advised, made war against it. * * *

“War had been, in fact, inaugurated. What is War? Was it the firing on
our flag at Sumter? Was that the first adversary passage? To say so,
is trifling with men’s judgments and information. No, sir; when they
organized a Government, and set us at defiance, they commenced War; and
the various steps they took afterwards, by organizing their troops, and
forming their armies, and advancing upon Sumter; all these were merely
acts of War; but War was inaugurated whenever they undertook to say they
would maintain themselves as a separate and independent government; and,
after that time, every man who gave his assistance to them was a
Traitor, according to the highest Law.”

The following letter, written by one of the most active of the Southern
conspirators in 1858, during the great Douglas and Lincoln Debate of
that year, to which extended reference has already been made, is of
interest in this connection, not only as corroborative evidence of the
fact that the Rebellion of the Cotton States had been determined on long
before Mr. Lincoln was elected President, but as showing also that the
machinery for “firing the Southern heart” and for making a “solid South”
was being perfected even then. The subsequent split in the Democratic
Party, and nomination of Breckinridge by the Southern wing of it, was
managed by this same Yancey, simply as parts of the deliberate programme
of Secession and Rebellion long before determined on by the Cotton Lords
of the Cotton States.
“MONTGOMERY, June 15, 1858.

“DEAR SIR:–Your kind favor of the 13th is received.

“I hardly agree with you that a general movement can be made that will
clean out the Augean Stable. If the Democracy were overthrown it would
result in giving place to a greedier and hungrier swarm of flies.

“The remedy of the South is not in such a process. It is in a diligent
organization of her true men for prompt resistance to the next
aggression. It must come in the nature of things. No National Party
can save us. No Sectional Party can ever do it. But if we could do as
our fathers did–organize ‘Committees of Safety’ all over the Cotton
States (and it is only in them that we can hope for any effective
movement), we shall fire the Southern heart, instruct the Southern mind,
give courage to each other, and at the proper moment, by one organized,
concerted action, we can precipitate the Cotton States into a

“The idea has been shadowed forth in the South by Mr. Ruffin; has been
taken up and recommended in the Advertiser under the name of ‘League of
United Southerners,’ who, keeping up their old relations on all other
questions, will hold the Southern issues paramount, and influence
parties, legislatures and statesmen. I have no time to enlarge, but to
suggest merely.

“In haste, yours, etc.

At Jackson, Mississippi, in the fall of the same year (1858) just after
the great Debate between Douglas and Lincoln had closed, Jefferson Davis
had already raised the standard of Revolution, Secession and Disunion,
during the course of a speech, in which he said: “If an Abolitionist be
chosen President of the United States, you will have presented to you
the question of whether you will permit the Government to pass into the
hands of your avowed and implacable enemies? Without pausing for an
answer, I will state my own position to be, that such a result would be
a species of revolution by which the purposes of the Government would be
destroyed, and the observance of its mere forms entitled to no respect.
In that event, in such a manner as should be most expedient, I should
deem it your duty to provide for your safety, outside of the Union with
those who have already shown the will, and would have acquired the power
to deprive you of your birthright, and to reduce you to worse than the
Colonial dependence of your fathers.”

The “birthright” thus referred to was of course, the alleged right to
have Slaves; but what was this “worse than Colonial dependence” to
which, in addition to the peril supposed to threaten the Southern
“birthright,” the Cotton States of Mississippi were reduced?
“Dependence” upon whom, and with regard to what? Plainly upon the
North; and with regard, not to Slavery alone–for Jefferson Davis held,
down to the very close of the War, that the South fought “not for
Slavery”–but as to Tariff Legislation also. There was the rub! These
Cotton Lords believed, or pretended to believe, that the High Tariff
Legislation, advocated and insisted upon both by the Whigs and
Republicans for the Protection of the American Manufacturer and working
man, built up and made prosperous the North, and elevated Northern
laborers; at the expense of the South, and especially themselves, the
Cotton Lords aforesaid.

We have already seen from the utterances of leading men in the South
Carolina, Secession Convention, “that”–as Governor Hicks, himself a
Southern man, said in his address to the people of Maryland, after the
War broke out “neither the election of Mr. Lincoln, nor the non-
execution of the Fugitive Slave Law, nor both combined, constitute their
grievances. They declare that THE REAL CAUSE of their discontent DATES

And what was the chief cause or pretext for discontent at that time?
Nothing less than the Tariff. They wanted Free Trade, as well as
Slavery. The balance of the Union wanted Protection, as well as

The subsequent War, then, was not a War waged for Slavery alone, but for
Independence with a view to Free Trade, as set forth in the “Confederate
Constitution,” as soon as that Independence could be achieved. And the
War on our part, while for the integrity of the Union in all its parts–
for the life of the Nation itself, and for the freedom of man, should
also have brought the triumph of the American idea of a Protective
Tariff, whose chief object is the building up of American manufactures
and the Protection of the Free working-man, in the essential matters of
education, food, clothing, rents, wages, and work.

It is mentioned in McPherson’s History of the Rebellion, p. 392, that in
a letter making public his reasons for going to Washington and taking
his seat in Congress, Mr. James L. Pugh, a Representative from Alabama,
November 24, 1860, said: “The sole object of my visit is to promote the
cause of Secession.”

From the manner in which they acted after reaching Washington, it is not
unreasonable to suppose that most of those persons representing, in both
branches of Congress, the Southern States which afterwards seceded, came
to the National Capital with a similar object in view–taking their
salaries and mileages for services supposed to be performed for the
benefit of the very Government they were conspiring to injure, and
swearing anew the sacred oath to support and defend the very
Constitution which they were moving heaven and earth to undermine and

[As a part of the history of those times, the following letter is
not without interest:

“OXFORD, December 24, 1860.

“MY DEAR SIR:–I regretted having to leave Washington without
having with you a full conference as to the great events whose
shadows are upon us. The result of the election here is what the
most sanguine among us expected; that is, its general result is so.
It is as yet somewhat difficult to determine the distinctive
complexion of the convention to meet on the 7th of January. The
friends of Southern Independence, of firm and bona fide resistance,
won an overwhelming victory; but I doubt whether there is any
precise plan.

“No doubt a large majority of the Convention will be for separate
Secession. But unless intervening events work important changes of
sentiment, not all of those elected as resistance men will be for
immediate and separate Secession. Our friends in Pontotoc, Tippah,
De Soto and Pauola took grounds which fell far short of that idea,
though their resolutions were very firm in regard to Disunion and
an ultimate result.

“In the meantime the Disunion sentiment among the people is growing
every day more intense.

“Upon the whole, you have great cause for gratification in the
action of your State.

“The submissionists are routed, horse, foot, and dragoons, and any
concession by the North will fail to restore that sacred attachment
to the Union which was once so deeply radicated in the hearts of
our people. What they want now, is wise and sober leading. I
think that there might be more of dignity and prudent foresight in
the action of our State than have marked the proceedings of South
Carolina. I have often rejoiced that we have you to rest upon and
confide in. I do not know what we could do without you. That God
may preserve you to us, and that your mind may retain all its vigor
to carry us through these perilous times, is my most fervent

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